So, it's official. Disco is dead. The passing of Donna Summer brings to a close an era in American music that... well... if you didn't live through it, it's hard to explain. Especially the outfits people wore in public. And making John Travolta a movie star (although he did atone somewhat, by genuflecting to the 1950s immediately thereafter, in Grease).
Music history aside, it was a somewhat eclectic week in politics. The House -- in one of their rare moments when they actually meet and attempt to get something done -- passed a bunch of bills which have exactly zero chance of becoming law. Well, at least they had fun, right? Republicans were doing their usual clown routine out on the campaign trail, including questioning Obama's commitment to America and (once again) his birth certificate.
Sigh. The more things change, the more the clown makeup remains the same, I suppose. On a lighter note in clowning around, it seems arriving at a red carpet in a dog crate on top of a car is now chic. Heh.
Chicago is about to become "Protest Central" this weekend, for a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The G-8 meeting was also supposed to have happened in Chicago, but was instead hastily whisked away to Camp David in the Maryland mountains, where popular protest is impossible (Camp David is definitely not a "free speech zone," to put it in Orwellian terms). This likely won't deflate the balloon of protest in the Windy City, but we'll all just have to see what happens over the weekend.
House Republicans passed a budget bill which hikes spending further than what they already agreed to -- yes, you read that right, Republicans are spending too much money -- because it is the one budget item that they'll never ever consider cutting: the Pentagon. They'll happily slash money for the poor, for the retired, and for the hungry... as long as we can build Ronald Reagan's missile defense system to protect us against the Soviet Union (which, someone really ought to tell Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republicans, no longer actually exists).
Americans Elect suffered a spectacular failure this week. These were the Wall Street kids who wanted to play in the big presidential sandbox, by buying ballot access in all 50 states so that they could run a "balanced ticket" of one moderate Republican and one moderate Democrat. However, it seems Americans aren't all that interested in the pipe dream of the Beltway chattering class for some sort of non-partisan "centrist" ticket, and not enough people voted online for anyone -- not even, astonishingly enough, Ron Paul -- for them to qualify for the next round of voting. C'mon, guys, just end the window-dressing attempts and go ahead and offer the ballot access you've already won (in over half the states) to Michael Bloomberg, which was really the whole reason you created this fake-grassroots movement in the first place, OK? Stop pretending you weren't going to do this anyway, and just jump in with both feet.
Enough of this looking backward, though, let's move forward to the rest of this week's nonsense.
We've got to award an early Honorable Mention to all the folks in Wisconsin who are working hard to recall their odious governor. The matter is still very much up in the air, and the election is right around the corner. Wisconsin groups are doing the best they can with what they've got, and a story leaked out that they were a bit miffed at the lack of support from the national Democrats for their campaign. Since then, fundraisers have been announced, and support seems to now be a bit more forthcoming.
This is a big deal, not only for the people of Wisconsin, but on the national level, as well. This election is going to happen long before November, and it will be read as having national implications no matter which way the chips fall. If the recall fails, Republicans will crow and push anti-worker legislation even harder at the state level. If the recall succeeds, Democrats will chalk up a huge victory (only the third governor ever recalled in American history), and feel the wind beneath their wings nationally. So it really behooves Democrats in Washington to support this effort to the hilt, because the stakes are much larger than just one state.
But we have two Most Impressive Democrat of the Week awards this week, for Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey, who introduced a populist-anger bill they charmingly titled the "Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy" Act, or (... wait for it... drumroll...) the "Ex-PATRIOT Act." This measure was introduced over the outrage at the news that one of Facebook's founders, Eduardo Saverin, renounced his American citizenship to avoid paying taxes -- right before his company was about to go public. Not only was the bill appropriately named (for once -- Democrats usually aren't so good at this sort of thing), but Schumer got off a great line explaining the bill: "Eduardo Saverin wants to defriend the United States of America just to avoid paying taxes. We aren't going to let him get away with it." Good one, Chuck -- nice use of "defriend," there. Heh.
Whether the bill succeeds or not, it was a nice political stunt to see. It's easy to work up some populist outrage against this sort of thing, because it taps into what it means to be an American -- and also the differences between how an average American views his or her citizenship and how a billionaire views the same thing. It's not only a 99% argument, it is actually a 99.99% argument. And it's not often Democrats get to push the "American exceptionalism" button in such a fashion.
Schumer and Casey's timing was excellent, too -- because Facebook is guaranteed to be the top story in today's news. If I might be allowed to mix a few metaphors, it was striking while the iron was hot and using the sparks to light a fire in some political hay.
OK, maybe that was just a little too over the top, sorry for the lapse. It won't happen again. Well, at least not until the talking points.
Seriously, though, this sort of tactic is usually used quite well by Republicans, and usually bungled when Democrats attempt it. But it has to be said, Schumer and Casey did an excellent job this time. The move by Saverin is so outrageous that it is impossible to politically defend by anyone. The only question is whether the media takes note or not.
For their efforts, and for so successfully playing this political card, Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey are this week's two Most Impressive Democrat of the Week award winners.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently woke up this week and realized that the Republicans are abusing the filibuster in the chamber he is supposed to be running. Oh, sure, progressive Democrats had begged him to reform the filibuster rules back when they had a chance to -- with a simple majority vote -- over a year ago, but Harry wasn't convinced, back then. Now he has realized his mistake, and publicly said so on the Senate floor.
Well, good for you, Harry! It's a day late and a dollar short, but we always like to see people evolve in the right direction, politically. Maybe next time, you should listen a bit harder when progressive Democrats come a-knockin' at your door.
Since we can't very well hand Reid even a (Dis-)Honorable Mention for seeing the light, we will just mention it in passing and move right along.
Instead, we have to look back four weeks ago to find our Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week for this week, down in North Carolina. Back then, we handed out only a (Dis-)Honorable Mention to state party chairman David Parker. Parker was charged with badly handling a sexual harassment scandal against a state party official (not Parker himself), and the only reason he didn't get a MDDOTW was because Parker did the right thing, and handed in his resignation.
Now the news comes that the party committee who hires the party chairman actually voted to reject his resignation and reinstate him, much to the embarrassment of many Democrats -- especially those concerned with the upcoming national Democratic convention to be held in the state in only a few months' time. Parker then "unresigned" and accepted his job back.
So we've got a Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week not only for David Parker, but also for the Democratic Executive Committee of North Carolina. This is not what we need right now, folks. Parker himself, speaking to the press, summed the situation up much better than we could ever hope to do: "Well you crazy people, is this the Democratic Party or what?"
Sigh. Or what, indeed.
[Contact North Carolina Democratic Chairman David Parker on his official profile page (email address at bottom), and the North Carolina Democratic Party on their official contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]
Volume 211 (5/18/12)
Kind of a grab bag of talking points this week. As always, these are offered up to be used by all and sundry to advance the Democrats' positions and frame the issues the way they truly should be framed. Whether you're a politician on a Sunday morning chat show or just a guy hanging around the water cooler at work, try a few of these out in the coming week.
This is such an obvious one, I'm actually surprised nobody else seems to have thought about it. Why use a different term for Europe and the U.S., after all?
"Republicans' plans for our economy can be summed up as more budget cuts, all the time. But you know, we have a word for that sort of thing, when talking about other countries: austerity. The Republicans want to slash budgets with a meat axe, and impose austerity measures on every part of society except the wealthiest one percent, who somehow are exempt from all of this austerity. But you know what? They should take a look at Europe and see how austerity on steroids is working for them over there. America faced the financial crisis and passed Obama's plan. Europe went all-austerity-all-the-time. Guess which economy is growing now? Ours. We don't need to travel the road Europe is traveling, but if the Republicans get all the austerity they are hoping for, that's exactly what will happen."
Do you really want to go there, Mitt?
This one is also pathetically easy to connect the dots, one would think.
"I see that the people trying to elect Mitt Romney have been considering using Jeremiah Wright ads against President Obama. My question is: Do you really want to go there, Mitt? Do you really want to set the standard for attacks on a candidate's religion? Perhaps you are unaware of American history -- I would suggest you look up the Senate hearings on seating Reed Smoot, of Utah. A century ago, the United States Senate spent years taking 3,500 pages of testimony from 100 witnesses on every aspect of Mormonism they could think up questions to ask about. Do you really want to declare that we've returned to that era, Mitt? Personally, I thought America had evolved a bit since then, but you've already brought up Reverend Wright in an interview, so I guess you've decided that a candidate's religion is fair game. That's sad, and it's disappointing."
Republican War on Women continues
Once again, it's not even the odious laws which place the government between a woman and her doctor, but it's just the sheer disrespect Republicans can't help but showing in the process.
"House Republicans just barred a woman from testifying in a committee, once again. This time it was a stringent abortion law they wanted to impose on the District of Columbia, and the Republicans refused to extend a common courtesy the House normally shows to their own members. The House member from D.C., Eleanor Holmes Norton, was denied an opportunity to address the committee on a law which targets her district -- even though such testimony is normally allowed. It's not so much a bunch of old men trying to get between a woman and her doctor, as it is about basic respect -- and you can bet women voters are noticing this sort of thing."
Partisan games before women
GOP War on Women, continued...
"Instead of passing the bipartisan Senate version of the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, the House Republicans decided to play politics with the bill instead, to water down protections for women against violence. They are putting their own partisan gamesmanship ahead of protecting women, and I find it disgusting. Every other time the VAWA came up for renewal in the past, it would garner a bipartisan vote in both houses. This time around, the Senate passed it with a large bipartisan vote. But the House Republicans would rather play politics on a version of the bill which President Obama has already said he will veto, rather than joining with their Senate Republican counterparts in putting something in this country -- anything, in fact -- before their own desire to play partisan games. Shame on them for doing so!"
JP Morgan's near meltdown
Knock this one out of the park, while the iron's hot. Or, choose your own mixed metaphor -- but get this message out there.
"Republicans have been arguing for years that there's too much 'regulation' on Wall Street -- even after they almost destroyed the American economy because of little or no regulation on the insane risks Wall Street was taking. Republicans tell us over and over again, 'Just let Wall Street run like a casino -- it'll be no problem, because they'll regulate themselves.' This is hogwash, and what we are witnessing at JP Morgan should be seen as a canary in the coal mine. The Dodd-Frank regulations that Democrats passed have not been fully implemented yet. The regulations are still being written, and at every turn Wall Street bankers and their Republican buddies have been blocking everything they can, so that commonsense rules aren't applied to them. The Republicans fighting against these rules should take a long, hard look at JP Morgan -- which has paid millions to lobby against the rules -- and ask themselves if that is really what they want to encourage Wall Street to do again. Wasn't one financial crash enough for them? Then why are they bending so far over backwards to facilitate another?"
The Obama reelection team fired a salvo against Romney's experience at Bain Capital this week. This is smart politics, and we are likely to see more of it soon. Romney is perceived by the public as being some sort of financial private-sector guru who knows what to do about the American economy. Obama began to launch a full-scale frontal attack on this perception, which is good news. I have to admit, the core of this particular talking point came from an excellent blog post by Robert Creamer at The Huffington Post.
"Mitt Romney says he knows how to create jobs because of his private-sector experience at Bain Capital. But nothing could be further from the truth. Bain is not in the business of 'creating jobs' -- they are in the business of 'creating wealth' for their shareholders. They take over a business and use accounting tricks to insure that Bain makes money no matter what happens to the company. Sometimes the company does well, and hires people. Sometimes it goes bust, and lays everybody off. In either case, Bain walks away with millions of dollars. This is the experience Mitt Romney is supposed to bring to the White House? No wonder he pals around with people like Meg Whitman, whose own company is about to lay off over 30,000 people. Do you think Meg's salary goes down one dollar for destroying these jobs under her watch? Nope. That's the world these people live in -- whether the company and the jobs survive or not, they continue to line their pockets. America simply can't afford someone with this sort of outlook in charge of our economy. It would be an unmitigated disaster."
Good enough for me, good enough for my money
This one may cross some sort of line. Then again, it may not. Innocent deniability is the way to go, should Mitt Romney's name come up in response. You have to refrain from throwing in items like "an elevator for my cars" for this to work, however.
"I personally find it astounding that any sane person would voluntarily give up their American citizenship for any reason, and to hear someone do it just to save money is flat-out disgusting to me. These people live in a different world, apparently. They own multiple houses all over the world, they treat national borders as some sort of inconvenience, and they seek tax havens where they can live with others of the tiny fraction of the one percent who can afford such luxuries as a fluid concept of citizenship and national pride. As I said, to me this is outrageous, but then I've never had millions of dollars in a Cayman Islands or Swiss bank account, so I guess I see things differently. But I do know one thing: you could not pay me enough money to ever -- ever -- give up my American citizenship for any reason whatsoever. America's good enough for me, and it's good enough for me to keep my money in, as well."
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