Posted February 28, 2016 on 5:38 pm | In the category Politics, Press, Tea Party | by Jeff

“What it hasn’t inspired is much in the way of self-examination, or a recognition of the way that Obama-era trends in liberal politics have helped feed the Trump phenomenon.” Ross Douthat in the NY Times, 2/29/2016

N. Y. Times columnist Ross Douthat has joined a slowly growing chorus among pundits that suggests that Trump is the result of the quality of politics as practiced by both of America’s political parties. Douthat’s column is actually fairly hilarious as it suggests that Obama’s behavior both in his campaigns and his presidency have made a major contribution to the rise of a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic loudmouth, bullying conman who happens to be about to become the standard bearer of Douthat’s political party. It would be like blaming Churchill for producing Hitler.

But this theme is not going to go away and will most likely be pursued in more subtle ways by the likes of David Brooks, whose column – also in the NY Times (Feb. 26) – makes it clear that he believes the blame for Trump is shared among Trump’s mother and father, the Tea Party and the Tea party’s opposite side (whatever that actually is).

“…we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience” D. Brooks

Brooks is a well known academic wannabe who tends to cite strange right wing theorists like Charles Murray while presenting a fatuous line of thinking frequently aimed at blaming everyone except the Republican Party for the country’s political woes. In his column he devises a theory that Democrats and the Tea Party are to blame for what he calls “anti politics” that have poisoned the American political well. This allows Democrats to share the blame for the likes of Trump and lets the Republican establishment pretty much off the hook. So the Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans, and John Boehners are not really responsible for tying government into knots, for refusing to participate in governing, for poisoning political discussion.

As the Trump nomination becomes a reality we can expect a lot of this nonsense. Faced with the Republican Party’s capitulation to the monster they created they must find the words to place their monster into a context of political normalcy. And Douthat and Brooks will be there in our most important newspaper to help grease the skids. Buyer Beware!


Hucksters and Suckers: The Politics of Healthcare in America

Posted November 20, 2013 on 10:13 am | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Tea Party | by Jeff

For over four years we have been barraged with misinformation, disinformation, lies, and misrepresentations by the Republican party, its politicians and media hacks that has apparently convinced many Americans that a national attempt to bring down costs of health care AND to make it available to all is a bad thing.

America has the most expensive health care system in the Western world, with per capita costs 25 to 300% higher than other Western democracies’ plans. While one might assume that we get better results, one would be mistaken. Bloomberg News did a ranking of national Healthcare systems using data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health organization and the Hong Kong Dept, of Health (for Asian data). For any American who has bothered to look at facts beyond the political game shows played on their local TVs, the results are not surprising. The U.S. spends over $8500 per capita on health care; this is almost 4 times what Israel spends; almost 8 times what Hong Kong spends, almost three times what Italy spends, etc. See the chart at Bloomberg News.

There is no country that spends more but there is a boatload of countries that while spending less, get equal or even better results. The statistics for all of this are readily available to both American voters AND their congressional representatives and Senators. Bloomberg News’ study ranked the U.S. at 46th among nations for the effectiveness of their healthcare system. Among the countries ahead of them in the rankings were all the Western European countries, most of the advanced Asian countries, and some surprises that included Libya(!), Israel, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the list goes on. Every part of the world except most of Africa (beyond Libya) is represented. It is – and continues to be – for the U.S., a national disgrace.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – dubbed “Obamacare” by Republican and Tea Party hacks, is an approach to a problem that was clearly out of control. Costs were becoming prohibitive, significant parts of the population were unable to obtain affordable insurance, people with chronic, serious diseases were unable to get insurance, people that got sick soon found themselves dropped by their insurance companies and medical expenses became the most frequent driver of personal bankruptcies.

In this context the Republican party has spent the past four years lying about the ACA, promoting scare stories about its content, insulting in almost racist terms the President who initiated the plan, – in short doing everything possible to make the plan fail while presenting NO alternative plan. It has been a criminal – even traitorous – approach abetted by all Republicans, even those so-called guardians of moderation like Susan Collins of Maine. The lies have been obvious, easy to disprove by simple fact-checking, but abetted by a supine press willing to pass on the nonsense and lies without vetting or comment. The press should be ashamed for treating an issue of such fundamental importance to the public good as a crass political game.

This could not happen without a population too lazy and/or too stupid to seek and care about the truth, and a political party that has no interest in governing the country for the good of the country.. We are a country of hucksters and suckers.


Canucks cruise into offshore power

Posted October 13, 2013 on 1:27 am | In the category Canada, Immigration, Obama, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

September was one of the finest months for Canadians to demonstrate their rising power in the arena of foreign politics. The US government has shut down through the monty pythonish behaviour of  the so-callled pillars of democracy. John Cleese, where are you when the Ministry of Silly Walks would represent a  a crucial place  of stability and order in the otherwise dysfunctional pecking order of Washington D.C.?  I’ll tell you where you could ussefully demonstrate your walks.   Take a stroll  on the floor of the US Senate for 25 hours with Canadian-born Senator Tom Cruz, an expat Canadian currently living in Texas.   You could follow him as he paced about telling  you everything he knows about the awful socialist, maybe even Commie health care system in his northern  homeland, where every citizen – even Cruz, should he ever visit his homeland  – has the absolute right to free medical care, no matter who they are and what they earn.  And amazingly, he seems to know absolutely  nothing and says he didn’t even realize he was a citizen of another country, which disqualifies him from becoming US president.  He also says that he is ready  to replace President Obama, but looks like foreign affairs won’t be his strong suit.  Instead he rambled on about everything under  the sun except the tiny little step towards some sort of sanity that Obamacare would bring to the  the US medical system, which  as it is is adequate  for most of the middle and great for the upper class and non-existent for something like 45 million US citizens, who have no insurance at all if  they have any medical problem.

Meanwhile in another election in a far-off universe, the people of the Republic of Austria went to the polls, and gave a new party named after and led by Canadian auto-parts magnate Frank Stronach almost 10% of the vote.  His main strength  seemed to lie in the feeling that anybody from  a place like Canada would have to be a better leader than anyone currently involved in the chaotic dysfunctional political climate of the splendid imperial city of Vienna.   As if to prove the point, the major  right wing party received 21 % of the vote in Austria while the one with similar views on immigration and the European Union in Germany   received an almost invisible  percentage of the votes in last month’s German election, coming nowhere near the 5%  needed for entering parliament. So what do we make of it.  In a single month  a Canadian wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, another one  becomes a political force to be reckoned with in Austria, and a third one is a major mover and shaker  in the self-inflicted shutdown of the US government and considers himself to be a dark horse shot for President.  Watch out!   From Vienna to Stockholm to Washington D.C.  The Canuck are coming, the Canucks are coming!  If only they would take on Ottawa next.

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What’s the Matter with Maine?

Posted February 25, 2013 on 9:45 pm | In the category Healthcare, Politics, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” — Herman Melville

The short response to the question above is: Governor Paul LePage and the members of Maine’s Tea Party. They personify the political dynamics in Maine that led to the election of a governor who is now doing serious long-term damage to not only the people of the state. but also to the political culture of the state.

Lepage’s 2010 election was the result of the support of Maine’s Tea Party and, Maine’s historic pride in being strongly ‘independent.’ LePage garnered less than 40% of the vote in his election but since the majority of the vote was split between Independent and Democratic candidates, it was enough. So the people of Maine have a governor, elected by 38% of the voters, who is committed to an “ideology” created by Tea Party fanatics who have a slim grip on cause and effect reality and a demonstrated non-existent learning curve.

Among LePage’s antics:

  • removing  serious historic works of art depicting workers from the states Department of Labor building because of a written complaint from a “secret admirer” and complaints from unnamed business owners. Among the inflammatory works was one portraying Rosie the Riveter;
  • promising that when elected he would “tell Obama to go to hell” ;
  • hiring his wet-between-the-ears 22 year-old daughter to a $41,000 job with $15,000 worth of benefits AND a $10,000 housing allowance while she lived in the Governor’s mansion;
    hiring his brother-in-law to a $68,000 state job;
  • resisting the banning of BPA in baby bottle and other plastic containers because heating up plastic bottles only causes it to “give off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards…”
  • pushing legislation that would allow public funding of religious schools despite state constitutional issues;
  • and, offending many with his characterization of the Supreme Court decision to allow the Affordable Care Act to proceed as a decision that “has made America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the I.R.S.”;

He did a sort-of apology for the use of the term “Gestapo”

According to a recent report in the Boson Globe, he has joined those Republican governors who refuse to accept federal funding for an expansion of Medicaid; an expansion that would provide medical care to a significant number of uninsured citizens of Maine. This most recent step by LePage plays to his base of Tea Party fanatics in a state in which – unlike most states – unemployment is growing.

LePage’s leadership has resulted in Maine’s ranking last among all states in personal income growth and – again, according to the Globe – Maine’s median income is less than $48,000 and 27% of the state’s residents are already enrolled in Medicaid – compared to the national average of 20%.

The Globe provided examples of those who will lose benefits due to LePage’s actions and it is not pretty. The victims are the usual mix of the elderly, the uninsured seriously ill who cannot afford insurance, the working poor, etc. .

So one result of the Maine commitment to its treasured image of being populated by “rugged Independents,” is a political system that has allowed only 38% of the population to elect a Governor of tremendous mediocrity – even crass stupidity. It is their democracy and they can cherish it, but they will pay for this in many ways that will show up in very human terms while the Tea Party continues to work against their fellow citizens.

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The Financial Crisis for Dummies

Posted July 16, 2011 on 3:49 pm | In the category Economy, Europe, Politics, Tea Party, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Okay, here is the scoop. Please pick it up and move on to serious matters, like how to end the wars that are obviously part of the financial crisis. The European Union, founded on the idea of a common border and common currency, is falling apart. There is something rotten in the state of Denmark, as it has reinstated border controls on both its German and Swedish borders. Though nowhere near as draconic as the heavily-armed US outposts along the Canadian frontier, where all those dangerous outlaws are trying to press south, they nevertheless irritate their neighbours mightily. Hungary currently contributes the presiding president to the EU council and also unnerves its fellow members by acting contrary to EU rules on the question of ethnic minorities. Greece is living so far beyond its means that Sugar Daddy Germany has made clear it has run out of patience with request for further bank transfers. Ditto Portugal and Ireland, and more menacingly Spain and Italy. Who’s next? Well, even France has noticed that its bellicose response to poor Libya’s problems is costing way more money than it thought it would (which war doesn’t?) while gaining it no new friends on its former colonial continent since military success is not on the horizon while civilian deaths mount. The UK staggers along with a new scandal (welcome aboard Rupert) each week. Can you name the Prime Minister? There are some economic successes that should be mentioned: Germany, cruising along because of the quality of its expensive products and its unwillingness to get into wars, Switzerland, cruising along because of it secret bank system, Poland, the country that has gained the most from EU membership, and, amazingly, Estonia, which has the best financial report of them all.
And then there is the United States, the most powerful one of them all still – pace China – whose elected representatives seem incapable of dealing with elementary money matters such as overwhelming debt, war expenses and looming bankruptcy. The last will presumably not be allowed to happen, but I’m afraid the analysis of that possibility goes beyond the scope of the title of this rare foray of my brother Doug into higher economics.


The Strange Disconnect of the Tea Party

Posted April 5, 2011 on 5:34 pm | In the category Republican Party, Tea Party | by Jeff

Much of the attraction of the Tea Party to Americans has been its avowed commitment to downsizing the government and limiting government’s influence on our lives and the Republican Party has been pleased to play to this mythic tribute to the so-called stubborn independence of Americans.

Recently the woman who calls herself the leader of the Massachusetts Tea Party was on TV demanding the elimination of federal support for PBS because – and I could not make this up – Sesame Street was such a left leaning – possibly Communist show. Her immediate example was that first lady Michelle Obama had been on the show promoting more broccoli rather than cookies for the health of child followers of Cookie Monster. So here was an incidence in her mind of  an intrusive government forcing children to consider broccoli over cookies. (The irony that the Tea Party woman was quite fat and could have done with more broccoli and fewer cookies did not enter her limited mindscape.)

But while they claim to want freedom from government intrusion in their lives, Tea Partiers and their Republican soul mates are nonetheless committed to a strong and intrusive government role in limiting the rights of others, including gay Americans’ rights to serve in the military and to marry; women pregnant from rape or incest’s rights to choose abortion; artists’ rights to express non-conformist views of Christianity; Muslims’ rights to build cultural centers in their chosen locations; and American women’s right to ready access  to birth control information and resources.

The Tea Party is in reality a loose confederation of people intent on telling the rest of us what we can and cannot do in our personal lives and committed to a government bent on forcing their narrow-minded social agenda on the rest of us.

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State of Maine Union Blue

Posted March 25, 2011 on 2:29 pm | In the category Collective Bargaining, Politics, Tea Party, Wisconsin Governor | by Jeff

Yesterday’s NY Times reports that Maine governor Paul LePage has determined that a large mural in the state’s Labor Dept. Headquarters has too many depictions of workers – some of whom are – gasp – union workers.  A spokesperson for LePage claimed that the mural reminded him of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses,” and LePage has ordered the mural removed. Furthermore, the governor referenced anonymous complaints from business leaders that may or may not actually have been made to justify his action on the grounds that the Labor Dept. building needed to represent both employers and employees.

This is of course one more attempt to punish the middle class for the sins of the country’s investment banks, health insurers and outsourcing corporations. LePage is one more example – along with Governor Walker of Wisconsin  – of a small group of new right-wing, tea party-supported politicians intent on using unions as a whipping boy to cover up and shift responsibility for the country’s dire economic situation from the people whose greed is leading America towards becoming a banana republic oligarchy.

Maine’s reputation as a fair-minded, moderate state is at risk and its citizens are looking at a nasty, fruitless three and a half years of bombastic posturing by the man they elected on what must have been a very foggy day.

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American House: How Low Can It Go?

Posted February 20, 2011 on 1:35 pm | In the category Economy, Obama, Politics, Republican Party, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

When Americans went to the polls last November did the majority really vote for a decline in their quality of life? It would seem so as we see what their elected representatives in the House are choosing to eliminate or reduce. The initial attack in the House of Representatives targets virtually every nominally progressive program subject to discretionary funding. It attacks support for health programs, environmental programs (many also related to the health of Americans), arts and humanities programs, nutrition programs for pregnant women and infants, food supply regulation, student loan programs, clean water programs, public radio and tv and etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and will most likely enter many peoples’ consciousness only when they get a dose of salmonella, or have to drop out of college, or develop asthma, or have to rely on Fox and CNN for their TV news and analysis.

This opening shot is a sample of what seems likely to come. The scorched earth Republicans and Tea Partiers are intent on finishing the job – started during the Reagan years – of increasing income inequality in America, and reducing opportunities for those at the low end of the income ladder to climb out of lives characterized by inadequate educational opportunities for their children, over-priced and inadequate healthcare, and a public life devoid of art and culture.

The driving abstraction for these efforts is the “deficit”, and the Democrats (including President Obama) have joined with much of the national media and press in allowing the Republicans to determine that as the field of battle.  While many Republicans are not actually serious about reducing the deficit (witness their unwillingness to eliminate the Bush tax reduction for the richest 5% of Americans) they are dead serious about eliminating or seriously damaging virtually any program intended to improve the quality of life for all Americans.  The current budget reductions are a spit in the ocean of the deficit but even so those reductions will retard the economic recovery thus reducing tax revenue further and thus adding to the deficit. So be it for rational thought from this crew.

Lost in all the Republicans’ blather is the reality that the deficit grew enormously under Bush due to the bizarre choice of war in Iraq, the Bush tax reductions, and the costly Bush prescription drug program, which turned out to be a gift to the drug companies. So we face a future of declining quality of life while the people who created much of the deficit AND the people who destroyed a healthy economy through near criminal mortgage and hedge fund frauds continue to work their black magic.

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