Preaching to the choir about the GOP

I read to Swamp Rabbit part of Charles Pierce’s reaction to the Republicans’ successful effort last Wednesday to block a Senate vote on whether to raise the minimum wage to $10.10:

Can we just drop the pretense now and admit that one of our two major political parties is perfectly fine with pauperizing the American middle-class in order to “redistribute” wealth upwards? Can we please lay the myth of the Republican moderate to rest, at least on this issue?

“Depends who Pierce means by ‘we,'” Swamp Rabbit said.

Exactly. If he means those of us who are aware the country has become a plutocracy, then he’s preaching to the choir. Educated paupers have known for a long time that “pauperizing” of the middle class is a tactic being used by the rich to make themselves even richer, and that there are no Republican “moderates” on this issue.

However, if Pierce is referring to poor and nearly poor voters who helped elect the very pigs who blocked the minimum wage vote, then the answer to both of his questions is “not yet” — not by a long shot. It would take a lot more money and messaging to get through to those who, even in these hard times, can’t see that Republican office holders invariably advance the interests of the rich at the expense of everyone else.

The definition of insanity — and of denial — involves doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And so it is that many uninformed working people continue to vote for the likes of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others who are destroying the social safety net and further enriching the 1 percent.

“‘Uninformed’ don’t quite say it,” Swamp Rabbit said, right before he hopped out of the shack and into the swamp. “You mean stupid.”

And liberal commentators such as Pierce continue to state the obvious about Republican office holders rather than propose strategies for convincing working people to stop voting against their own interests.

Clarifications: The Democratic Party as it currently exists is only marginally more pro-worker than the GOP. A $10 minimum wage is better than no increase, but it’s still a disgrace. Also, the term “middle-class,” as used by Pierce and many others, is applicable to fewer Americans every year. “Formerly middle-class” is a more accurate tag for those whose incomes can’t keep up with the cost of living.

Footnote: For what it’s worth, here’s where to register your support for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s call for a $10.10 minimum wage:

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There’s corrupt, then there’s Christie

Swamp Rabbit was hopping mad about the persistently chilly weather. “Can’t even take my Easter swim, that pond scum out there is colder than ice cream!” He’d been hunkering down in the shack all day, nursing a bottle of Wild Turkey he found under the woodpile. For laughs I showed him an article by Ryan Lizza that tells all you want to know and more about New Jersey’s corrupt Gov. Chris Christie.

Yes, I know — calling an NJ politician corrupt is like calling an NFL player large and fast. You’re probably wondering what the news value of such a story is. But Christie is conspicuously corrupt, a hog monster of hubris, and Lizza does a good job of tracing the slimy trail he left while bullying his way to the governorship.

The rabbit turned the pages of the New Yorker and said, “No thanks, this article is even longer than that dumb-ass book you been writing. Where’s my copy of OK! magazine?”

I read some of the highlights to him, just to amuse myself: Christie works for years as a Republican lobbyist; ingratiates himself with George W. Bush’s people; is named U.S. Attorney for New Jersey; uses his office to ingratiate himself with Democratic power brokers; runs as an “anti-corruption” candidate and is elected governor; cancels construction of a hugely important NJ-Manhattan rail tunnel in order to honor an irresponsible campaign promise; installs cronies at the Port Authority of NY and NJ; tries to strong-arm certain Democratic mayors into endorsing his bid for re-election; is re-elected and gets caught up in the bridge scandal that might end his career.

Lizza uses good quotations from politicians who know Christie, including this one from former NJ Gov. James Florio, explaining how Christie’s talent for driving wedges between different blocs of working-class voters in order to win elections:

In the past, when we had difficult times, people would look for scapegoats — Jews, Catholics, Irish — and Christie provided public workers, teachers, and the civil-service system.

“Tell me, rabbit,” I said, “how does an anti-populist become so popular? How does an obvious scumbag get elected governor twice?”

“Them’s big questions,” the rabbit replied. “Why don’t you save ‘em for your book, Odd Man? At least when you’re writin’ I don’t have to listen to you runnin’ your mouth.”

Footnote: The most recent bomb dropped on Christie was the report that he awarded lucrative pension management contracts to hedge funds that contributed to his campaign. Screw workers by cutting their pensions, then screw them again by turning over pension management to big-time gamblers — that’s Christie.

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Adelson is like a stream of bat’s piss

The Republican governors’ suck-up to Sheldon Adelson was like a certain Monty Python skit.

What would Alexis de Tocqueville think of democracy in America in 2014? How would Thomas Jefferson describe it? I doubt that either man would know what to make of the fact that one mind-numbingly greedy gnome might have the power to anoint the next Republican nominee for president.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, you weren’t watching the news last weekend when a small group of Republican governors, and ex-governor Jeb Bush, went a-courtin’ multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson at a Republican Jewish Coalition event. It was an extraordinary display of groveling. Even my friend Swamp Rabbit, who can drink a bottle of Wild Turkey and not even belch, was retching as he read a Politico story that explained why the potential presidential candidates were jousting to win the casino magnate’s shriveled little heart:

…The new big-money political landscape — in which a handful of donors can dramatically alter a campaign with just a check or two — explains both the eagerness of busy governors to make pilgrimages to Las Vegas, and the obsession with divining Adelson’s 2016 leanings.

All manner of national media flocked to Adelson’s Venetian casino and resort hotel, which hosted the RJC meeting. But reporters were kept away from Adelson by coalition staff, as well as casino and personal security, and his team turned down interview requests, including for an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

As Adelson whizzed around his Venetian kingdom on a motorized scooter during the retreat, he was often trailed by GOP operatives, politicians and fellow donors eager to assess his state of mind, advise him on what he should do or just lavish him with praise and gratitude…

The governors seemed to be vying for the Most Obsequious Reactionary award as they took turns making speeches. John Kasich repeatedly referred to Adelson as Sheldon, as if the two men grew up in the same ‘hood, back in the day. Scott Walker, showing he could be as big a whore for Adelson as he is for the Koch brothers, told the RJC crowd that he lights a menorah during Hannukah and named one of his sons Matthew because the name means ‘gift from God’ in Hebrew. Chris Christie made the faux pas of the weekend by telling Adelson and his fellow Zionists about a scary helicopter ride he took over Israel’s “occupied territories.”

Christie’s remark reminded me of a classic Monty Python skit: Oscar Wilde, at a dinner party with the Prince of Wales, runs out of aphorisms. He says, “Your Majesty is like a stream of bat’s piss” and then has to come up with an explanatory line to get back in the royal’s good graces. Too bad for Christie that no one was there in Vegas to provide a witty follow-up that might have kept him in the race for Adelson’s money.

“The fat man is on a serious losin’ streak,” the rabbit said of Christie, stating the obvious. “He’s a lot better at bullyin’ than he is at suckin’ up.”

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Obama to EU: Frack, baby, frack

Ukraine ‘crisis’ is a business opportunity.

From Common Dreams:

Speaking after a meeting with European leaders at the [European Union]-US summit in Brussels on Wednesday, President Barack Obama suggested that the U.S. is open to exporting fracked shale gas, once promised as the source of American “energy independence,” to the EU and urged the EU to open up its own fracking reserves amid energy fears related to the crisis in Ukraine. Environmental groups have warned these policies will do nothing by way of energy security and everything for global environmental destruction and climate chaos.

I showed the whole story to Swamp Rabbit, who was sitting by the wood stove, filing his teeth with a reed, waiting for spring. It’s still too cold for him to jump into the swamp.

“I don’t know, rabbit,” I said. “It’s hard to believe Obama thinks Russia annexing Crimea was as bad as — was even in the same league with — the United States invading Iraq and blowing it to hell. Maybe he’s just looking for an excuse to open up new markets for the fossil fuel industry.”

The rabbit rolled his eyes, I think. It’s hard to tell, they’re like little black marbles.

He said, “You really think so, Odd Man? I’ll bet there ain’t nobody else in the whole world had such thoughts. You must be one of them strategic geniuses. A Richelieu, or somethin’.”

I ignored his sarcasm and opened a window in the shack. I said, “What’s really depressing is that Obama used to talk about boosting wind and solar power. He called climate change a fact. He made speeches against fossil fuels. Now he sounds like a cheerleader for the fossil fuel industry — a fracker backer. Who is this guy? I thought I was voting for a Democrat, not a closet Republican.”

“That’s what’s great about this here country,” the rabbit said. “These days, when you vote for the one party, you get the other party, too.”

Posted in climate change, environmentalism, globalization, humor, Iraq war, Obama, world-wide economy | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pro-union Democrats an endangered species

Alice with Sen. Fred Dodo, the only remaining  elected Democrat who is pro-union

Alice with Sen. Fred Dodo, the last remaining elected Democrat who is pro-union

Swamp Rabbit is a big fan of Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor during the Bill Clinton years, long-time economics professor and a high-profile advocate for workers’ rights. I’ve noted elsewhere that Reich often writes variations on the same column and seems to be preaching to the choir, but there’s no denying his knack for spelling out the extent to which American workers are being robbed by the owner class:

…Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker got paid $35 an hour in today’s dollars. Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, and the typical Walmart workers earns $8.80 an hour.

Does this mean the typical GM employee a half-century ago was worth four times what today’s typical Walmart employee is worth? Not at all. That GM worker wasn’t much better educated or productive. He often hadn’t graduated from high school. And today’s Walmart worker is surrounded by digital gadgets – mobile inventory controls, instant checkout devices, retail search engines – making him or her highly productive.

The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well…

But Reich and other prominent labor union advocates aren’t getting through to the people they want to help, even when the stakes are high, as they were a few weeks ago when the United Auto Workers, fighting intense anti-union propaganda, failed to persuade enough workers to vote to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Was the UAW outspent and outsmarted by the owner class, or have American workers simply become too scared to ignore the likes of Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ruthless liar who warned that VW would scuttle plans to build another plant in Chattanooga if the drive to unionize the first one was successful?

And where were the elected Dems — the big guns — who should have been publicly denouncing Republicans for trying to intimidate workers?

Reich hasn’t tried to answer those questions, as far as I know. However, he has suggested he might run for president (!) unless Democrats make income inequality a priority issue in the 2016 presidential race. He said, “I think, though, if we don’t get a candidate or a set of candidates in 2016 who are taking this issue with the seriousness it needs to be taken, I think that there will be a lot of people — Elizabeth Warren, others, maybe even me — who will toss our hats in the ring, because it has to be addressed.”

Swamp Rabbit took a swig of Wild Turkey and said, “I’d vote for Reich, he’s really smart. Him and me’s the same height and we got the same sorta face hair.”

“Reich won’t run,” I replied. “He’s just hoping to get someone elected who will fix things by keeping the government from turning into an oligarchy.”

The rabbit chuckled. “A little late for that, don’t ya think? A handful of plutocrats own most of the capital and almost all the politicians. They done broke the unions and the tax system. Ain’t no jobs, anyway. Who’s gonna fix that?”

“I don’t know, rabbit. What about Hillary Clinton?”

He choked on his bourbon and fixed me with a dirty rodent look.

“Sorry,” I said. “Bad joke. Let’s start over.”

Clarification: Yes, I’m exaggerating. Pro-union Democrats aren’t quite extinct. I’d vote for Warren or Sherrod Brown or Bernie Sanders. (The latter, tellingly, isn’t even a Democrat.) Which high-profile politicians am I leaving out?

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Top o’ the mornin’ to you!

charms 2

Swamp Rabbit was in a foul mood. “Snow on St. Patrick’s Day,” he muttered. “And no food in the shack. It’s the end of the world, I tell ya.”

“The end of the world for you if you don’t shut up,” I said.

I dragged myself outside and jogged down the snowy road that winds through the swamp and out to the highway. Three more miles of jogging and I was at the SuperFridge, searching for something edible to steal. I grabbed carrots and bricks of cheese and canned tuna, then looked for a treat for the rabbit. I’m trying to wean him off the Wild Turkey again.

All around me were green tinsel flowers and Mylar balloons, each emblazoned with a maniacal image of a leprechaun. Pallid, doughy customers waddled between a St. Pat’s layout — boxes of Oh Ryan’s Irish Potatoes and Lucky Charms cereal — and a wall display of boxed Trojans and other condoms. Lay off the sweets, I wanted to tell them. Use more Trojans.

Each Lucky Charms box bore the same crazed leprechaun image that was on the balloons. A cross between Frodo Baggins and Gollum, pushing sugar-coated oats and multicolored, marshmallow-y bits shaped like stars and clovers, and so on. Customers pawed and fondled the boxes. I wanted to steal one, but it was too bulky to fit under my skimpy coat.

Back at the shack, I looked up Slavoj Zizek’s notes on Coca-Cola and read them to Swamp Rabbit as he ate his carrots:

…Coke has the paradoxical quality that the more you drink it, the more you get thirsty. So, when the slogan for Coke was ‘Coke is it!’, we should see in it some ambiguity — it’s “it” precisely insofar as it’s never IT, precisely insofar as every consumption opens up the desire for more…

“It’s the same with Lucky Charms,” I said. “The more you eat, the more you get hungry. They’re magically delicious. Living on them would be like living on nothing. Bring me another bowl of nothing, I can’t get enough of it!”

“Put a lid on it, Odd Man,” the rabbit said, washing down his last carrot with Wild Turkey. “Lighten up a little.”

“You dumb rodent.” I said. “Why do you drink that stuff?”

“It’s magically delicious,” he said, already in a better mood. “Like Lucky Charms, but with a kick.”

He took another swig and added, “Just the thing for St. Pat’s Day.”

Footnote: Almost forgot — it’s the 50th anniversary of the invention of Lucky Charms. Another reason to celebrate!

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Tweedledum, Tweedledee spar on NPR

My friend Swamp Rabbit and I get a kick out of Republicans who complain of National Public Radio’s “liberal bias,” a strange charge given the fact that NPR rarely veers from the “he said/she said” style of reporting and commentary, even when he and she, or he and he, are voicing the same narrow point of view. In this case I’m referring to conservative David Brooks and liberal E. J. Dionne, who appear together with moderator Robert Siegel to share their opinions on hot news stories. This week Brooks and Dionne took turns agreeing that Russia is the Great Satan and should be penalized in some way by the United States if Crimea becomes part of Russia again.

The transcript:

Siegel: On Ukraine and Russia, does it appear that politics is stopping at the water’s edge? And if so, is U.S. policy sound? David Brooks, you first.

Brooks: I think so. I give the Obama administration an A for what they’ve done so far. They’ve been tough. They’ve been out front. They’ve really been cracking down in a slowly but very rigorous way against the Russians. They’ve taken clear sides. You know, I’d love to see every Russian oligarch have their kid kicked out of British prep school or something like that. That would end the crisis in a week.

But they’re doing that sort of thing. They’re freezing assets, they’re stopping visas, they’re raising money to help the Ukrainians. It’s a comprehensive policy which I think is getting pretty broad support.

Siegel: E.J.?

Dionne: It ought to be bipartisan, and on the actual steps being taken, it is – it is broadly bipartisan. There is still all this sniping at Obama, as if there were a whole lot more that we could do than we are doing. But I think there’s a toughness here and that Putin will pay a price, and I think he may pay the biggest price in the long term in Ukraine because he’s lost a lot of friends that he might have – or he’s lost for Russia a lot of friends that Russia might have had.

Siegel: Even though we expect a referendum on secession of Crimea to take place on Sunday…

Dionne: A phony referendum, it should be said, under occupation.

These guys could finish each other’s sentences. Why bother with a segment that purports to present different perspectives when both commentators are Washington, D.C. insiders who never stray far from so-called centrist positions? God forbid they should present Russia’s perspective on the Ukraine before they trot out the anti-Russian cliches.

“Ain’t no liberal bias on NPR, just mainstream drift,” Swamp Rabbit said as we sat on the porch and looked out at the swamp. “If you ain’t Tweedledum, you damn sure better be Tweedledee, or you don’t get no airtime.”

Clarification: This is not to imply the commentators are always mirror images of one another. Dionne is a standard-issue liberal; what you see if what you get. But Brooks is the Earnest Weasel, an apologist for the rich and corrupt posing as a moderate and a moralist, a hypocrite of the first order.

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