Monday, September 28, 2015

Week of 09/28/2015

The GOP’s In-House Coup
While the media was tripping over themselves about the presidential wannabes in their own perverted, over-hyped, self-gratifying fantasy football game, or going ga-ga over Pope Francis, the GOP launched their own coup d’etat.
Don’t worry; President Obama is still the President, much to the rage and the fury of the trailer park talk radio crowd.  Joe Biden is still the Vice-President.  The justices of the Supreme Court are still in place and as extremely polarized as ever.  And the United States Constitution is right where the conservatives left it... on the ladies’ room toilet paper dispenser in Rowan County, Kentucky.
But there was an uprising by the GOP, and it has cost one government leader their career.
It just happened to be one of theirs.
Just one day after Pope Francis made his historic speech to the joint session of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner shocked that same body when he announced that he was stepping down from both his role as Speaker and as the representative from Ohio.  The reason for this sudden turn of events?  Insurrection from within.
I know it seems strange, especially given that Boehner, the chain-smoking Jersey-tanned crybaby, has long been the symbol of hatred and opposition of all things Obama.  If Obama said that two plus two equals four, then Boehner would dismiss it as “Common Core propaganda”.  If Obama were to say that broccoli was good for you, Boehner would jump in front of the cameras and claim that broccoli was evil and Obama was carrying out some sort of master vegan plan.  If Obama said that even a broken clock was right twice a year, Boehner would be changing the hands on that clock so they never would be right. 
You get the picture?
So why, then, would Boehner, the point-man for all things Obama-hate, be the one forced out of office?
Because he’s actually the sane one of the bunch!
From the moment that the GOP took control of the House from the inept and incompetent Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2011, the extremist nutcases in the so-called “Grand Old Party” were salivating over what they thought they would be getting with Boehner in charge.  They thought they would be getting Obama impeached.  They thought they would be able to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.  They thought they would be able to erase everything that ever happened in human history starting from November of 2008.  And maybe they would even get the Nobel Committee to rescind Obama’s 2009 Award.
They didn’t get any of it.
Oh, they tried to dismantle and repeal and defund and otherwise shut down the Affordable Care Act.  In fact they pretty much set a record for the number of times they tried to do just that.  And they all failed.  Every single one of them.  Over and over and over and over again.  Bills get passed, they go to the Senate, they die before going to a vote, lather, rinse, repeat.
“Have you tried repealing Obamacare?  Now with more pizazz!”  “Excuse me, but have you repealed Obamacare today?”  “It’s 10PM, have you repealed Obamacare yet?”  “Knock-knock.  Who’s there?  Have you repealed Obamacare yet?”  “I’ll have a V-8 and repeal Obamacare.”  “Get a Dodge with a Hemi engine and repeal Obamacare.”  “Buy-one get to repealing Obamacare today!”  “Tonight on ABC it’s prime time to repeal Obamacare.”
Failure after failure after failure.
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  Well even hardcore criminally obsessive psycho-stalkers were looking at what the GOP was doing and saying “Dudes, get some help!  You’re sick!”
And yet, John Boehner would continually put yet another vote to repeal, dismantle, defund, degrade, or otherwise defeat the Affordable Care Act without a care as to what the American people thought of it.  Why?  Because his own party demanded it!
Boehner let the Congress hold the country hostage over budget deadlines.  Debt ceilings that used to be automatically raised without a single thought during the reign of the Bush Imperium were suddenly immediate points of contention that threatened the nation as a whole.  Funding deadlines would continually pop up and we didn’t wonder “if” the government would be shut down, but rather “when” and “for how long”.  Political brinksmanship for the sake of attention and to gratify the extremists in the GOP to make the nation pay for electing and re-electing Obama.
So why was Boehner ousted?
Because it still wasn’t enough for his party’s extremist nutcases!
Remember all of that talk about impeachment?  Boehner squashed any thought of that once he accepted the Speaker gavel.  Never mind that there hasn’t been a single crime that Obama supposedly “committed” that would lead to impeachment, unlike the GOP’s previous impeachment of Bill Clinton.  But that doesn’t stop the GOP crazies, who want Obama impeached from office because... it’s Obama.
And speaking of the Clinton name, how about Hillary?  The GOP thought they had her dead-to-rights over the terrorist attack on Benghazi, didn’t they?  But, no, she slithered past it.  And the whole thing with the personal server and her emails are ending up a dead issue as well.  That’s supposedly Boehner’s fault as well, because he supposedly isn’t “pressing the issue hard enough”.
Of course Boehner hasn’t been completely useless, unlike his immediate predecessor.  He tried something different to get Obama to behave...he filed lawsuits.  I’m waiting for those cases to show up on “The People’s Court”, but I’m guessing even that forum will say they’re too stupid to consider, and that’s pretty much the bottom of the barrel without handing it off to Maury Pauvich or Jerry Springer.
And Boehner has tried to plead his case to the American people.  It’s just that he’s on the pathetically losing side of the argument and he knows it, and he can’t defend the majority party without looking like the whiner that he is.  “I can’t get anything past the Senate.  I can’t get Obama to work with me.  The country is going to hell in a handbasket and nobody wants to work with us.  Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms, and it’s all Obama’s fault.”
Then Boehner does something that everyone except the GOP want him to do... and that is to work with Obama and work with the Dems in Congress to try to keep things moving to avoid government shutdowns and sequestrations.  And that, apparently, is the unforgiveable sin that did him in.
You see, the GOP extremist nutcases don’t want to “deal” with Obama or the Dems.  They don’t want to “negotiate”.  They feel they don’t have to.  They want everything done their way, they want it done yesterday, and if they don’t get their way, then they want the whole country to burn to the ground.  You see it in their rhetoric.  You see it in the letters to the editor and the columnists in local newspapers.  You hear it in talk radio listeners.  And the people they end up sending to Washington are channeling that crazy and thinking that they are entitled to have things their way.  This is political Burger King, GOP-style, and goddamn it, they’re going to have their Smokehouse-Double-Crap-K-Street-Whopper their way or they’ll shut the joint down.
And Boehner is not one of those Alabama-shack-two-dogs-on-the-porch loonies that consider Fox News to be too tame for their tastes.  John Boehner is an old guard politician; one of those people who thinks that he’s entitled to leadership by simply biding his time and waiting his turn.  He came in with Newt Gingrich and the original “Contract with America” crowd of the 1990’s, back in the day when you put the extremist talk away when you’re in Washington and you focus on getting the job done.  And Boehner saw what happened when you shut the government down over your party’s temper tantrums.  Do you really think someone like that wants to have it happen on his watch every three or four months, year after goddamed year?
Let’s get brutally honest here... for all that has been said about John Boehner as Speaker of the House, and I’ve said quite a bit over the years, his eminent departure from the halls of Congress is really not going to be a relief for anyone except for the extremists.  He’s not being forced out by the voters, as should be the case.  He’s being forced out by his own party, as part of an overall deal that will hopefully stave off yet another threatened government shutdown.  But after he leaves, then what?
It’s the guy (or gal) that will take his place after his departure that should make everyone concerned.  Boehner was forced out because he tried to strike a balance between the old guard and the nutcases.  The next person will probably not make that mistake.  That next person will probably pander to the nutcases, at least until the 2016 elections, and then see what the voters leave them with afterward.
The great fallacy is thinking that somehow the nutcase brigade has taken over the GOP.  But as a former card-carrying member of that party, I see things a little differently.  They’re not “taking over” the party.  Right now that’s all that they have left.  They are the GOP base.  They are the ones that show up at the primaries and caucuses.  They are the ones that the presidential wannabes are pandering to, bouncing crazy off crazy to produce even more crazy.
The most maddening part about this, the reason why you don’t have too many alarm bells sounding over this turn of events, is because the scripted response will come in the 2016 elections, when voters will most likely flip back to the Democrats.  The party players and bosses know that the extremist turn will end up alienating enough voters for them to choose the scripted alternative.  The Dems know this as well, which is why you don’t see too many of them panicking.  They know that the worst the GOP gets, the better things will be for them down the road.
By the way, don’t worry about Mister Boehner.  As a career member of Congress, he’s already set with a golden parachute that will guarantee he’ll never have to worry about money ever again.  And we’re all paying for that golden parachute through our taxes.  And if he feels the need to keep working, then he’s got his pick of K-Street political action committees and think tanks to join.  The circle of political life says that the politicians that cater to the lobbyists will leave to become lobbyists themselves.  Or he’ll get a cushy job at a law firm or at some university.  Or he’ll write a book and go on speaking tours.  Or maybe he’ll do all of the above.  Ironic, if not insulting, that while the taxpayers continue to struggle, career politicians like Boehner will be allowed to retire into a life of luxury, paid for by us.
Then again, this is what we mindlessly vote for over and over again.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Week of 09/21/2015

The Pope, Socialism, and Capitalism
So this week (as of this column’s posting date), Pope Francis will be arriving in the United States for the first time, and he is scheduled to be the very first leader of the Catholic Church invited to address Congress.
You would think that such a momentous occasion would be one that no Congressman would dare skip out on.  Any career politician, even non-Christians, would want to be there, not necessarily for what he has to say but just to be there when history was made.  The Catholic Church has been around in one form or another for centuries.  It pre-dates the United States multiple times over.  And yet, the leader of Roman Catholicism has never been to the floor of Congress before now.
And, no, President John Kennedy’s State of the Union speeches don’t count.  President Kennedy made it clear when he said that, even though he was a Roman Catholic, he was not there to be the Catholic leader of the country, nor was he there to represent the Catholic Church.
But apparently not everyone in Washington is excited over this historic visit by the Holy Father of Catholicism to the High Holy Church of Corruption and Entrenched Failure.
Congressman Paul Gosar from Arizona has announced that he will probably be skipping out on the Pope’s address to Congress.  But it’s not because it’s the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, or because it’s a religious leader of any stripe.  It’s not supposedly because of any perceived violation of the Separation of Church and State in the First Amendment; which the congressman’s peers refuse to acknowledge even exists, thanks to their C-street masters.
No, it’s not because of “The Pope”, but because of this specific pope.  It’s supposedly about Pope Francis and all that this pope is supporting.
You see, Pope Francis has been spouting some really “crazy” ideas ever since he took over from his now-retired-but-still-alive predecessor.  He’s been speaking out against income inequality.  He’s been speaking out against corporate greed and the obscene wealth foisted on business leaders.  He’s been talking about how the Church has been living high on the hog while the masses have suffered in poverty.  And he’s been talking about climate change.
In other words, the pope has been talking like an actual follower of the New Testament, and not as a pretender walking around in the Apostle Peter’s sandals.  What a novel concept... actually putting your money where your verses are!
Of course such thinking has been branded “communistic” or “socialistic” or just plain “liberal”.  Ironic, given how conservatives cling to the Bible like it’s their personal bullet-proof vest, and yet it’s just chock full of those “leftist” ideas.
And that is why Mister Gosar is planning on walking out on the Pope.  "When the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician,” he told a theo-conservative website, “then he can expect to be treated like one." 
Funny thing is that the Congressman from Arizona is supposedly not just a Christian, but a Roman Catholic.  And I seem to recall a little passage from the Book of Matthew on this particular subject.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
I guess the Congressman from Arizona has made it clear which “master” he truly serves.  And it’s not with the one that the Pope represents.
But this allows me to expose a deep, dark, and dirty secret between social justice and capitalism.
For the longest time, there has been this ongoing adversarial relationship between helping others and with helping yourself.  We’ve been framing it as a struggle between capitalism and either socialism or communism, although conservatives really don’t see the difference between the two.  Then again, they have a hard time telling the difference between atheism, Satanism, Islam, and Mormonism, not to mention they still think that the whole universe revolves not only around the Earth, but specifically around Wall Street.  I’m not saying they have an ego problem but... okay, I’m saying they have a serious ego problem.
But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just skip the whole communism thing and just show this as being between capitalism and socialism.  What has been passed off as “communism” has really been either socialism or oligarchism dressed up as “communism”.  Real “communism” as it was envisioned by its creators has been nothing more than just futuristic speculation.  Go ahead and read “The Communist Manifesto” if you don’t believe me.  So let’s just take that out of the equation and make this just between capitalism and socialism.
This big struggle between capitalism and socialism has been going on for generations now, and there doesn’t seem to be a prevailing winner between the two trains of thought during all of that time.  You get some group in power that gets greedy, another faction says that’s not right, they lead a revolution, they get put in charge, and then that group starts abusing their power, leading to the first faction to gain favor again, and the whole thing goes on and on.  They both claim to be concerned about the plight of the masses, they both make grand promises if they are allowed to be in charge, and they both end up failing miserably when it comes to following through on those promises.
That’s because of this little truth that has been kept from everyone...
The two factions – capitalism and socialism – actually need each other.
Let’s get brutally honest here... the adversarial relationship between the forces of capitalism and the forces of socialism has been a co-dependent relationship for as long as there has been a society.
Look at Cuba, where Pope Francis is visiting before coming to the United States.  Here was a country that was first ruled by a puppet for the sake of the wealthy.  Some group claiming to represent “the people” says “this isn’t right, there needs to be change”.  Fidel Castro and his brother orchestrate a revolution, they take over, they become the power, and they re-make Cuba into their images.  But now, well over fifty years later, it’s an image that is stagnant and slowly dying.  It’s trapped in the past.  They need to open up the gates.  They need capitalism coming in to breathe new life into it.
And then how long before people there will see what the United States – as the “great bastion of capitalism” – has to offer and they start saying “this isn’t right, there needs to be change”?  I’m sure there are plenty of people in America willing to be the capitalistic Castro for the Cuban people, ready to lead that country into a supposed new “direction” with promises of milk and honey for everyone. 
Sound familiar?
Look at our current U.S. President, Barack Obama.  Despite the lies and fiction spread by the conservatives and neo-conservatives, this supposed “Kenyan atheist Satanist socialist communist” has done far more to help Wall Street and the elites of this country far more than the GOP ever could!  Eric Holder, now-former Attorney General, categorically refused to prosecute any of the career corporate criminals that were behind the Great Recession, in direct violation of his department’s own policy on the matter!  Under Obama, the Dow Jones doubled, Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay went through the roof.  Profits climbed while the masses struggled to tread water.  The big banks got bigger and more powerful than ever.  He even found ways to write off millions of Americans that have been laid off and claim that he “lowered unemployment” when he really simply abandoned those unemployed masses and let them rot.  That’s far from being “socialist”!
Look at Obama’s “crown jewel”: the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”.  Despite the orchestrated lies spread by K-Street lobbyists on the subject, I challenge any conservative to find where the real “socialist” part of the ACA is.  I know the “fiction” of the ACA would be considered “socialistic”.  But there is no universal coverage.  There is no single-payer system.  It’s not “Medicare-for-everyone”.  Those are all fiction.  The reality is that people are now being forced to pay money to big corporate insurance companies regardless of whether they could afford to.  And the only “pain” is that those big corporations can’t “refuse” coverage like they used to, and they’re “forced” to accept all of that money.  Boo-hoo; would you like some cheese and caviar with your phony whine?  And that’s far from “socialism”.  That’s corporatism, plain and simple.  And you conservatives and neo-conservatives damn well know it!
But K-street and their conservative and neo-conservative lackeys are still belting out the fiction like Rosanne Barr singing the National Anthem over and over again.  Why?  Because it give them power over the willfully ignorant; the ones that choose to retard themselves.
Supporters of capitalism need socialism to serve as their boogeyman.  To keep their willfully ignorant myrmidons petrified that the “big bad socialists” will come marching in and take their hard-earned money away from them, even when it is their own mechanizations that are truly responsible for the plight of the masses.
And likewise, socialists need capitalism to serve as figureheads of greed and lust and gluttony.  They need capitalists to be every bit as ruthless and Machiavellian as they can so the socialists can show the evil that is being perpetrated and of the suffering of the masses so they can then pretend to offer the solution.
You know how people over in Afghanistan seem to be oblivious to which group is in power?  Doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the Taliban or the Russians or the British or whomever.  As long as they’re left alone, they don’t really seem to care who is in charge.  That’s because a lot of them have become so cynical about those in charge that it doesn’t really matter to them anymore. 
Ban music?  They’ll just hide the record players until the next batch decide that it’s okay.  Ban alcohol?  Keep it next to the record player and share it only with friends until it’s permitted again.  They know the truth.  They know that the person in charge today will be just like the person they replaced yesterday, and anything that is banned now will be okay tomorrow when that person is replaced.
They’ve known what I’ve come to discover... that the battle between the “haves and the have-nots” is staged.  The “plight of the masses” isn’t the cause.  It’s the prop.  Ideas like “capitalism” and “socialism” are just means to an end... which is always getting and keeping power.  Despite the rhetoric, the results end up being the same.
Now I know that some of you are ready to say “Well, that’s only because we haven’t had a ‘true believer’ in charge like the kind of people that I support”.  Well you are more than welcomed to continue to dream that beautiful, delusional dream of yours. In fact, you are encouraged to keep on dreaming that beautiful, delusional dream, because that’s the only way that your ‘true believer’ could ever make the kind of changes you want.   And I say that as a libertarian!  I know from experience that, despite all the talk about people “hating government”, they sure change their mind pretty quick when they’re the ones in charge or are the ones that need government to do something for them.
So I wish Pope Francis well on his trip to America, and I hope he gives a rousing address to Congress.  They can certainly use the change from the usual K-Street talking points they regurgitate for the CSPAN cameras.  And the Congressman from Arizona is more than welcomed to show just which “master” he serves by staying away from the Argentinian visitor from Italy.  I have no doubt that at some point later on he will ask for and get forgiveness for his arrogance.  That’s just the way Catholics roll.
But I hope nobody expects there to be any sort of political sea change because of the pontiff’s visit or because of what he has to say.  The game will continue to go on, and the rest of us will continue to suffer for the benefit of the few.