Sunday, September 30, 2012

What would John Lennon say...

This morning, I woke up thinking about Wednesday's first presidential debate, and this song from John Lennon came to mind:

(if the link doesn't display, cut and paste and put in your browser)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Is there...

Is there a gene for this?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Skinny Cat

Dreamt there was a skinny cat sleeping by the side of my bed. The cat was slim as an earthworm, and desperately needed a meal. When I looked around my house, I couldn't find any cat food anywhere, so I braved the traffic on Ventura Blvd., and stumbled into a market.

"Where is your cat food?" I asked one of the workers in the market. "It's on aisle 16," thus began my quest to find aisle 16. All I could find was aisle 15 and aisle 16. Went back to the same worker and said "There is no aisle 16. You sent me looking for food on an aisle that doesn't exist," so she searched the market with me and there, on aisle 17, was a shelf labelled "Cat Food," but the shelf was empty.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Mitt Tells the Truth"

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Like everyone else, we watched the movie of the week – that clandestine video from Mitt Romney’s fundraiser in Florida. Thanks to that anonymous cameraperson, we now have a record of what our modern day, wealthy gentry really thinks about the rest of us -- and it’s not pretty.

On the other hand, it’s also not news. If you had reported as long as some of us have on winner-take-all politics and the unenlightened assumptions of the moneyed class, you wouldn’t find the remarks of Romney and his pals all that exceptional. The resentment, disdain, and contempt with which they privately view those beneath them are an old story.

In fact, the video’s reminiscent of our first Gilded Age, back in the late 19th century. The celebrated New York dandy Frederick Townsend Martin summed it up when he declared, “We are the rich. We own America. We got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it.”

And so they do, as that glitzy gathering in Florida reminds us. You could see and hear one of the guests ask Mitt Romney what they could do to help. The governor answers, “Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars, because the president’s going to have about $800 to $900 million. And that’s – that’s by far the most important thing you could do."

He’s being truthful there, because money rules these campaigns. And if there were more secret videos from other candidates, we would see them in equally compromised positions, bowing and scraping in their infernal pursuit of campaign cash, bending over backwards to suffer the advice that the privileged think their money entitles them to give.

And we mean both parties. Not far from us the other night, at a Manhattan fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ©, President Obama joked, “If somebody here has a $10 million check -- I can’t solicit it from you, but feel free to use it wisely.” At least we think he was joking -- Obama and Romney alike now shape their schedules as much around moneymaking events as rallies and town halls. Even though a state may be a lost cause when it comes to votes, if there’s money to be made they’ll change the campaign jet’s flight plan and make a special landing, just for the cold hard cash.

This is a racket, plain and simple. A new report from Moody’s Investor Service says that all that spending by the parties, corporations, Super PACs and other outside groups will push political ad spending up this year by half a billion dollars -- 25 percent higher than 2010 – the biggest increase in history. That prompted the CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves, to lick his chops and tell an investors conference last December,“There’s going to be a lot of money spent. I’m not saying that’s the best thing for America, but it’s not a bad thing for the CBS Corporation.” Yes, the media giants and the TV stations they own are in on the racket.

So are all those highly paid political consultants who as part of their fees skim a percentage of the cost of local TV airtime, usually around ten percent. The pickings are better than ever, thanks to all the dark money being thrown around since the Citizens United decision. One Democratic consultant has called it “the greatest windfall that ever happened for political operatives in American history.” You bet it is: By the time the primaries were over this year, the top 150 political and media consultants already had raked in an estimated $465 million – or more. When Election Day finally rolls around, chances are that number will have at least doubled.

So we can’t stop reporting on this, even though we’re often told: “Please change the subject. Everyone’s tired of this one.” Don’t be so sure. There’s a groundswell for rooting the money out of politics, as Americans come to see that this is the one reform that enables all other reforms. Two polls released in the last few days report large majorities – as many as eight in ten – are in favor of clamping down on the amount of money that corporations, the super-rich, and those shadowy outside groups are pouring into the campaigns. It’s up to all of us to put a sign on every lawn and stoop in the land: “Democracy is not for sale.”


Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Personhood and Victimhood

Over the past couple of years, a movement has arisen in this country to endow embryos with certain entitlements, such as the so-called right to life. There has been a cry for a "personhood amendment." This measure argues that human life begins at fertilization as do certain constitutional entitlements. A big proponent of the bill is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and it has also received a nod from vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The Personhood Amendment was derailed by voters in Mississippi, and didn't even make it to the ballot in Colorado.

Similarly, in 2010, the Supreme Court gave corporations certain constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, in its historic Citizens United ruling. After all, as the Republican presidential nominee has said, "corporations are people, too."

The highest court awarded First Amendment rights to corporations, thus granting the kind of personhood proposed for fetuses to big business. Citizens United cleared the way for the nomination of a presidential candidate who is the embodiment of corporate personhood, Mitt Romney, who will ensure that big business has unfettered access to undisclosed campaign contributions, without federal oversight, for generations to come. If elected president, Mitt Romney will ensure not merely a corporation's right to free speech, but to privacy. Many say the democratic process itself, has fallen victim to this Supreme Court ruling, but more about victims later.

This week, as The Washington Post reports, a leaked videotape of Romney at a recent fundraiser surfaced and was published by Mother Jones reporter, David Corn, in which voters were treated to what Romney calls "off the cuff" remarks. Off the cliff is more like it.

In the space of little more than a minute, the former Msssachusetts' governor said that a staggering 47% of Americans don't pay taxes, are intent on taking what he terms government handouts, think that they're entitled to health care, food, housing and, most of all, that nearly half of those who would be his constituents were he to be elected president regard themselves as "victims."

This was a closed-door, invitation only event, Romney didn't expect his remarks to leave the room and, in a separate segment of the video, he joked that he would have had better odds of getting elected if his parents were Mexican instead of Americans living in Mexico.

Taken in context of these remarks, it is difficult not to think that Mr. Romney's notion of many Americans seeing themselves as "victims" can also suggest federal government efforts at reparations to African-Americans for slavery. It's not as if, as NPR reports, this would be the first time such a suggestion were made.

Isn't it ironic that a candidate who refuses to release more than one full year of tax returns has the audacity to call attention to who pays federal taxes, and how much.

Shortly after release of the video, Romney held a press conference in which he defended his remarks arguing that they were taken out of context, and that they were intended to explain his political strategy to donors. He implied that he was merely stating the obvious, and reminding his financiers who his base is.

Those of us who have been paying attention to the creeping cynicism about the Obama presidency, and that born again renegade group of John Birchers, aka the Tea Party, already know who Mr. Romney's base is. They are the folks who want to take food stamps away from children, Aid to Dependent Families away from single mothers, Medicaid away from the disabled, and ultimately tax social security.

They are the folks who would like us to think of unemployment, social security, and state disability insurance as government handouts and not money that is taken out of our paychecks whether we pay federal taxes or not. These are the folks who call it an "entitlement" when government money goes to the poor, and a federal subsidy designed to bolster business when government money goes to BP, Lockheed Martin, and WalMart.

Mr. Romney also said that he and the president have a different "approach" than he has with the implication being that their visions are essentially the same, and all that's different is their strategy. Indeed, he is quite wrong. Were he to take the oath of office in January, 2013, Mr. Romney would raise income taxes by $2,000 a year on working families. The president has lowered taxes on 95% of Americans. Were Romney to become president, and/or were his party to assume leadership in both houses of Congress, the defense budget would not shrink as it has under President Obama, but instead be raised exponentially.

And, more importantly, we'd have Archie Bunker in the White House, a guy who thinks that millions of unemployed are a bunch of bums lolling around in a perpetual state of victimhood, who sleep in with one eye open for their next government handout.

Defense contracts to Halliburton, XE, BP, Lockheed Martin, GE, et. al are not considered government handouts. These contractors are "entitled" to the millions funneled their way.

If you haven't watched that video yet, please do so. Listen closely to how the fellow who represents the Republicans best pick for president of the United States says the word "entitled." Listen to his inflection. Listen to it once, and then listen to it again. Whether you are a member of the 47% of Americans who do not pay federal taxes, including those retirees who are collecting social security, or not, as long as you're part of 98% of America, you will feel more than a pinch if the Democrats lose this important presidential and congressional election. If Romney wins, you'd better keep your hands on your wallet.

If he is elected in November, you may expect to see Mitt Romney dressed as Santa Claus in the White House this Christmas handing out bars of gold to CEO's of fortune 500 companies. Forget regulation, the banks and big business can again return to their crap game regulations be damned. Know that this is his "approach;" to turn the New Deal into the New Dealers.

Romney et al. put the rights of fetuses and corporations before the rights of working people.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Arabian Sea

Had a dream last night that I was traveling abroad, and I had a meeting that required me to go to another country. My travel guide said I had to cross the Arabian Sea to get there.

After a frantic search, I found a cab driver who said he'd take me, and we got into his taxi and drove across the water. As I've always been afraid of water, I covered my eyes soon after the cab hit the water. The cab driver was a heavy smoker, but he kindly agreed not to smoke in the car.

When we reached the shore, I asked him, "Tell me one thing. Did we drive under the water?" And he said "No, this car is able to drive on water." The cab fare was only $13.50!

I got out, and inspected to see if there was any damage. The cab appeared to be a Mercedes sedan, and it had only a watermarks as if it had driven through snow. It was some kind of miracle, the car and I both survived the deluge.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Can Congress Come Out and Play?"

By Michael Winship

With just a couple of weeks left in September, members of the House and Senate hurried back to Washington after their August recess and the party conventions, ready to get some legislating done and impress their constituents before they head back home for the final stretch of their reelection campaigns.

Yes, I’m auditioning for a job at The Onion.

Members hustled back to the capital all right, not to get much accomplished for the good of the nation but to party down at events designed to scrape every last nickel of campaign contributions from the jam pots of cash held by K Street lobbyists and special interests.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that as of this past Monday, House Democrats had 184 events scheduled through the end of the month — that’s according to a directory from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Their GOP counterparts, according to a list from the National Republican Congressional Committee, have more than 110 breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners and receptions on the calendar. That doesn’t include scores more Senate fundraisers and intimate industry-focused events not logged on the official lists.”

At Politico’s “Influence” tip sheet, a Seinfeld fan dubbed this crass carnival of campaign loot “A Fundraising Festivus for Do-Nothing Congress” and proceeded to list a page and a half of events — just the tip of the cold cash iceberg.

There are so many fundraisers scheduled — from meals, briefings and receptions to wine and whiskey tastings — lobbyists are overwhelmed with invitations. Their dance cards are full. What’s more, many influence merchants already have maxed out on the legal limits allowed for giving money directly to candidates and political parties. Others, like Larry O’Brien, founder of the OB-C Group, “held back a few thousand dollars that he can donate to PACs this round,” he told Roll Call:

“’I always found some last-minute desperation, so I thought it made some sense to keep a little bit of resources for this point in the cycle,’ he said. ‘And I will be utilizing those funds over this next two-week period.’”

If you were wondering what this money can buy — campaign contributions like the swag being scooped up in Washington this month — simply look to the skies: Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, one of the most expensive projects in the history of defense spending. The Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets blog notes:

“The F-22 was built to fight a Soviet jet that was never produced, and despite American involvement in two wars, the stealth fighter has yet to fly a single mission — in part because of cost. Each hour of flight costs almost exactly as much as the median American household earns in a year, about $50,000. Adding to that, the F-22 has been plagued with problems — most notably the troubling possibility that the jet is suffocating its pilots. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once ridiculed proponents of the F-22 for suggesting that the jet might be used to go after Somali pirates.”

This week, the non-partisan watchdog POGO — the Project on Government Oversight — issued a report on the same day a House subcommittee hearing investigated the F-22’s troubled flight path:

“All but one of the 25 subcommittee members have received contributions in the current election cycle from individuals or political action committees associated with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-22…

“On average, members of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces have received $6,130 this election cycle from Lockheed employees or political action committees, POGO found.”

Witnesses testified to the subcommittee that the F-22 is safe to fly. “It was kind of a pro forma hearing,” POGO’s Ben Freeman told US News and World Report. “As someone who’s looking for legitimate oversight of the F-22 it was disappointing. The result of this hearing was largely that the House bought into what the Air Force was saying about the F-22.”

In the POGO report, Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics says:

“This is a classic example of one of the unfortunate realities of our system: Members of various congressional committees depend inordinately on campaign contributions from the very interests they are supposed to be overseeing. If there are problems with this aircraft, will the actions of the lawmakers be tempered by the fact that their campaigns are partially funded by the companies that are making the aircraft?”

Good question, but one that will be lost over the next couple of weeks in Washington as the most important query becomes, “To whom do I write the check?”


Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at the think tank Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public television series, “Moyers & Company.” Check local listings and

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Whenever I see a bolt of lightning, I think, "here comes my new lover."

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Parallel Park

Last night, I dreamt I was trying to parallel park on a left turn lane.

What a perfect metaphor for my life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Promises vs. Empty Chairs

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan avoid being accused of breaking promises by not making them. There is nothing specific in either Romney or Ryan's nomination speech, and their party's platform was dredged up from before the Civil War.

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm a sucker for aspirations. That the Obama presidency aspired to do things it was unable to completely accomplish is a good thing, at least there was promise. Promise is a thing that pertains to the future. The obstructionist party seems to be a bit dyslexic when it comes to aspiration. They look to the past for inspiration. Like Clint Eastwood, the GOP would like to go back to the days of the Invisible Man. We are no longer a country in which people of color will magically disappear so that plantation owners can run away with their votes, and there is no going back.

For those who have become cynical about the process because of what they regard as abandoned campaign pledges, it's better to have a leader who takes a risk, goes out on a limb, makes a promise (even one that the insider politics of Washington won't allow him to keep) than a hollow executive branch with a pair of empty suits running the ship of state to ruin using the same failed compass they inherited from generations of failed Republican leadership.