Archive for November, 2009

Trolling for Assassins

By Steve Klinger

The new slogan bouncing around the Internet is also showing up on bumper stickers, T-shirts, caps and teddy bears (check out www.zazzle.com).

It simply says, “Pray for Obama. Psalm 109:8.”

The psalm itself reads, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

That’s ominous, but maybe it only implies a wish that Obama not be re-elected. Pretty tame stuff, and fairly harmless for a $4.45 bumper sticker, you say.

In the context of  American politics, harmless isn’t the word that comes to mind. Even more troubling is the verse immediately following the psalm referenced: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” Are we going too far to stir those words into the brew?

I guess it depends if your religious fanatic cup is half empty or half full. Actually, recalling the history of violence in this country, much of it in the name of Christianity (from lynchings to assassinations), my cup runneth over. Given the religious right’s glee over the recent slaying of abortion doctor George Tiller, and a presidential campaign tinged with threats of violence, followed by a summer of simmering tea parties, I’m reading the tea leaves right now and they look a little bloody.

Free speech? Protected speech? Sure, and the guys toting weapons outside the town hall meetings were just exercising their 2nd Amendment rights, and Tim McVeigh was just spouting off when he wore a shirt to the federal building in Oklahoma City that said sometimes the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants.

It’s all well and good until the unthinkable happens, and then a nation is suddenly wringing its hands once again and asking why no one did anything to stop it.

I shouldn’t say “a nation” but rather “most of a nation,” for it is abundantly clear that beyond the solid minority that wishes Obama would be defeated in 2012 there is a hard-core fringe that hopes he has a close encounter with a widow maker right here in 2009. To stimulate that smoldering, irrational anger and cloak it in biblical language is to send a wakeup call to the crazies author Frank Schaeffer calls the American Taliban. A former fundamentalist firebrand, Schaeffer ought to know what makes them tick, so my ears perked up when he said tonight on The Rachel Maddow Show that this particular marketing campaign is deadly serious and totally sinister. Said Schaeffer, “They’re trolling for assassins.”

And it says a lot about the Republican Party and those religious and secular leaders on the right who have been silent in the storm of ugly innuendo and blatant threat, assenting by their refusal to condemn what is obviously a movement to seize power in this country by whatever means necessary, bloody or otherwise.

It also says a lot about those on the left who are too busy tearing Obama to shreds to worry about the hellish nightmare that would be unleashed on this country if he were to be assassinated. When will those on both ends of the spectrum grow up and see that the danger is precisely from the extremities? And right now, from where I sit, Obama’s failings, and they are many, can’t hold a candle to the ugliness lurking beneath the fundamentalist mantle.

Where are those self-righteous Americans who criticize Muslim leaders for not more forcefully denouncing their extremist minorities? Their silence about the hatred festering at the edge of their own movement right here in Amurrica speaks volumes about their hypocrisy — and their complicity in what is waiting to happen.

Leave a Comment

The Missing Link

By Thomas Wark

The late David Rosenbaum of the New York Times, one of the longest-serving true journalists  in the nation’s capital, was a master at reading, digesting and analyzing the important legislation in Congress.

Oh, how we need him today!

The House of Representatives has passed a massive (nearly 2,000 pages) bill designed to provide health insurance for Americans regardless of their ability to pay, and prohibit some of the worst practices of the private health insurance industry such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or family health history.

I wonder if any single legislator who voted late Saturday night for or against the bill had read and understood it the way David understood the legislation he wrote about so clearly and lucidly.  I doubt it.

The media accounts don’t really tell us much, either, and what they do say is suspect given today’s media reliance on spin, sound bites, handouts and propaganda. So it’s hard to work up much jubilation because our elected representatitives — at last!at last! – seem to have taken a meaningful step toward giving our citizens the kind of health care that citizens of most other civilized democracies have long taken for granted.

I share the feelings of my friend and sometime contributor, Mort Persky: “Lord, I hope it’s a good bill that leads to an even better bill, but gotta be highly skeptical.”

Until we can flyspeck the thing, neither he nor I will know if it’s a “good bill,” nor will our fellow citizens.  The mindless lemmings of the right will parrot Limbaugh and Beck and Boehner and other Republican meatheads, prattling about “government takeover” and what-all, as if they actually knew something about the bill.  But their vacuous barnyard leavings don’t matter.

What matters is whether some of our elected representatives actually read every line of the legislation, and its Senate counterpart when that emerges, with as much thought, care and objectivity as David Rosenbaum once did.  If that were to happen, perhaps another Republican mind or two would see what Rep. Joseph Cao, a first-term Republican from New Orleans, saw: that the importance of health care transcends party politics.  He voted “yes” last night. Thirty-nine Democrats, including the whore who represents my district, voted against health care for all. There are like-minded whores in the Senate.

Will any of them see the light of reason?  Most of them won’t even bother to read and analyze what they’re ranting against.

Would that David were still around to tell them.

Read more of Thomas Wark’s blogs at bordellopianist.blogspot.com

Leave a Comment

Of invertebrates, donkeys and ideologues

By Steve Klinger

Democrats seem to be coming from all directions to oppose sweeping health care reform. Our own CD2 Congressman Harry Teague was one of 39 Democrats to vote against the House bill that squeaked through by a 5-vote margin late last night. Teague’s district has a rate of 25 percent of its non-elderly residents currently uninsured, and he’s taken relatively little campaign money from big drug or insurance companies, but none of that stopped the freshman legislator from voting no.

Teague has said publicly that he’s concerned about the cost of the reform bill. Sure he is; he’s worried about the cost of supporting it when next year’s election pits him against  Republican Steve Pearce, who held the seat before his unsuccessful run for the Senate. Teague figures, maybe correctly, that he’s already in trouble with conservatives for voting in favor of the House energy bill, with its cap-and-trade provisions – a real non-starter in the oil-and-gas country that makes up a goodly chunk of the district.

But Harry needs to wake up and realize he will never out-conservative Pearce. He’s got people right now by the thousands in his district who are suffering physically and economically and need health care reform in the worst way. If he’s going to go down, he may as well do so trying to improve the lot of his constituents instead of worrying about re-election or buying into red herrings like the sudden concern with the deficit.

Of course, Teague isn’t unique. Invertebrates dominate the Democratic Party, and they always slink away when the most critical issues come to the floor.

Another dominant characteristic of Democrats is their icon of the donkey, or jackass, exquisitely personified by Joe Lieberman. Technically an independent after Connecticut Democrats disowned him a few years ago, Lieberman took his revenge by not only supporting but campaigning for John McCain for president. John McCain. And Sarah Palin.

He even spoke at their convention. Senate Democrats were poised to oust him from a couple of committee chairmanships, including the powerful Homeland Security Committee, but the very Democrat he spurned the most – Barack Obama – told caucus leaders to spare Joe. After all, Joe said he wanted back into the fold, he was so contrite, and he would potentially be the 60th vote in giving Democrats the supermajority needed to end debate on important issues (like health care reform?). Need we say more?

But Joe, ever-grateful to his own ego, is now showing his gratitude by proclaiming he will vote to filibuster any Senate health care bill with a public option. The most self-serving senator in recent memory explains that he will do so as “an act of conscience” because the authors of the bill really intend to undermine the insurance industry in the long run. Joe deserves to be disowned for the turncoat ingrate he is, not to mention his appallingly unenlightened views on foreign relations, homeland security and health care. And if both he and his chief enabler, Harry Reid, met with some misfortune in a dark alley, methinks few progressives would mourn.

Speaking of progressives, Dennis Kucinich joined with 38 Democrats and 176 Republicans in voting no on the House health care reform bill. Readers of this blog will recall that I once endorsed Kucinich for president and have often quoted him and praised his ideological purity. I gave Dennis a Grassroots Press T-shirt once when he campaigned in Las Cruces.  But dammit, Dennis, this is not the time to stand on abstract principle!

In an op ed explaining his No vote (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/11/08-0), Kucinich cites a lot of impressive facts about the burden the insurance industry places on the cost of health care.  He correctly notes that insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. But he never explains why those companies are, like him, against the bill if indeed, as he argues, it helps the insurance industry.

Dennis doesn’t even mention the repugnant amendment allowed by the House leadership, which excludes almost all abortions from publicly paid coverage under the reform legislation. His objection to the bill seems to be that it is too weak, despite its public option, and therefore not worthy of passage. Well, yeah, we wanted a single payer bill, or a strong public option, but the House bill does offer some sweeping reform, including eliminating the pre-existing condition restriction, it does have a public option and it is a reasonable first step toward a movement leading to universal coverage.  Why else would virtually every breathing Republican oppose it?  What is the alternative to not supporting it? I’m not hearing one, Dennis.

That’s because the politically possible alternative is no health care reform, which means the deaths of at least 17,000 Americans each year, the suffering and the bankruptcy of many thousands more, the triumph of Republicans aiming to retake Congress, and a heavy blow to Obama’s re-election prospects. Not that BHO hasn’t disappointed us in many ways. But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good, not here, not now, especially not in a nation with the most unfair health care system in the western world.

So show a little backbone, Harry; get lost, Joe, and come down off the cross, Dennis, we need the firewood.

Comments (1)

Profits for Fat Cats

By Steve Klinger

We all knew that forces on the right would try to recapture the City Council in the upcoming election, but we didn’t know quite how distasteful their tactics would be — and with plenty of complicity from the local media.

The newly minted Building Industry Association (BIA) of Southern New Mexico (formerly the LCHBA) had proclaimed its intent to install a more business-friendly council when David Roewe arrived from Vancouver, Wash. to become executive director and then launched a so-called Jobs for Las Cruces PAC. In a fund-raising letter dated Sept. 14 the PAC solicited donations for the “upcoming election” but then didn’t file a campaign report with the city showing any contributions raised or made to candidates it had endorsed, including incumbents Gil Jones (Dist. 5) and Dolores Archuleta (Dist. 3) and challenger Jim Harbison, running against Sharon Thomas in Dist. 6. The letter stated that the committee had “raised more than $20,000 for the upcoming election” at a fundraiser on Aug. 27.

Roewe was quoted in the Las Cruces Sun-News as saying that the money the group raised was not for the city election but rather was “for other races, such as the legislative races, gubernatorial elections and others like that next year.” He reiterated that stance to Heath Haussamen and added, “We raised money. Did we use the city election as a gathering ground? Oh hell yes. … We used it as a rallying point,” he said. “You do whatever you have to do to raise funds. … This is a call for the business community to get up.”

In other words, don’t bother Roewe with details such as charges of misrepresentation as long as the end justifies the means. Would you buy a used car from that man?

Meanwhile, Roewe and Harbison have denied any connection with an unsavory push poll reported by numerous District 6 residents, wherein respondents were asked whom they would support if they learned one of the candidates (presumably Sharon Thomas) was “an extreme environmentalist.”  Harbison said in an e-mail to Grassroots Press, “I guarantee you I have nothing to do with this effort and do not have any idea who is behind it. I have received the same ‘telephone survey’ at my home and found it somewhat offensive.” Roewe ignored our request for a comment, though he denied any connection with the poll elsewhere.

Hmmmm. The calls were made by J2Global Communications from Washington, DC, and if supporters of Harbison didn’t initiate what had to be an expensive campaign measure such as this, then who did?

In districts 5 and 6 voters received garish color flyers proclaiming that candidate Gill Sorg and/or incumbent councilor Thomas support changing city laws to allow chicken-raising within city limits. One with a vivid depiction of a hen read: “radical Sharon Thomas is on record wanting us [chickens] in your backyard.” But Thomas told Grassroots Press the allegations are untrue. She explained, “The request for urban chicken keeping came from Nathan Small on behalf of a group of people in his district who want to have a few chickens. That request was discussed in two city council work sessions. Most residents of District 6 do not want chickens, so we tried to find a way for Nathan’s group to do so without making chicken keeping generally allowed across the city.”

The Sun-News and the Las Cruces Bulletin have each in their way abetted the effort to reverse the progressive direction of the council. In a story written by Steve Ramirez on Oct. 25, the Sun-News logged campaign contributions reported in the three contested races and went to great lengths to quote Roewe and the candidates as they issued denials of making or receiving any PAC contributions. No responses to these denials from their opponents’ camps were included.

An endorsement editorial in the previous day’s issue threw the Sun-News’ support to Archuleta, Jones and Harbison, making the inconsistent argument that the first two should be re-elected because of their track record as incumbents, but that challenger Harbison would be better than Thomas because of his community involvement and “slightly more pragmatic view” of the priorities and needs for the district. What, smart growth, clean energy, open government and planned infrastructure aren’t pragmatic?

In its Oct. 30 edition, the Bulletin carried a story by reporter Todd G. Dickson that went to even greater lengths to advance the pro-business candidates. After putting the word progressive inside quote marks several times, as if he were dealing with a novel and questionable piece of terminology, Dickson provided a heavily biased narrative of the campaign and recent city history, characterizing criticism of Harbison especially as not being about issues, and also including the following bit of inflammatory rumor-mongering: “Supporters of Archuleta and Jones counter that the challengers are getting voter organizational support from groups such as MoveOn.org and ACORN (the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now).”

Meanwhile the real issues of what kind of growth these candidates would bring to Las Cruces remain obscured. We know Jones has been closely associated with developer Philip Phillipou in the past, and that he and Harbison, as darlings of the Building Industry Association, would almost certainly be supportive of that group’s stance against raising impact fees to developers to pay for infrastructure costs. (Actually we at Grassroots Press don’t know what their positions are precisely because both candidates failed to respond to our candidate questionnaire.)

Olga Pedroza, with a distinguished history of social and economic advocacy for disadvantaged New Mexicans, has spoken loud and clear about advancing green jobs and industries in Las Cruces, retrofitting homes in existing neighborhoods and moving toward alternative heating and electricity in the city. Dolores Archuleta, while strong on veterans’ issues, neighborhood watch groups and Superfund cleanup in her district, shows no similar proactive vision for the city as a whole.

Gill Sorg is highly focused on past infrastructure failures in District 5 and environmental/quality-of-life issues such as dust abatement, flooding and drainage. He is forward-looking about planned growth and sustainability.

Sharon Thomas has shown strong leadership qualities in her two years on the council, spearheading efforts to ensure thoughtful development and bringing her own expertise plus an ability to access outside experts and resources to focus on projects ranging from bicycle lanes to solar installations and future annexations.

If you live within city limits and haven’t voted yet, be sure and head to the polling place on Tuesday. A handful of votes may determine whether Las Cruces continues on its recent enlightened course of more sustainable development or reverts to the gung-ho growth model and lack of accountability fostered by the previous council and administration. If the cynical and odiferous (dare we say “chickenshit”?) tactics of the “business-friendly” candidates and their supporters are at all indicative of what direction Las Cruces would take should they be victorious, we want no part of it. Do you?

Oh, and forget “Jobs for Las Cruces.” How many times does the right expect ordinary folks to fall for their doublespeak when what they always mean is “Profits for Fat Cats”?

Leave a Comment