IBI Watch 12/18/11

18 12 2011

Capitol Games   //

Analyze any of the challenges in today’s headlines – unemployment, wealth and income inequity, energy policy, environmental degradation, health care, and on and on – and it is hard to avoid this conclusion.  The root problem in all is money in politics.  Money doesn’t talk in today’s America – it shouts, with a gold-plated, Supreme-Court- endorsed bullhorn, with volume on high to keep the messages and lobbying flowing throughout our never-ending election cycle.  It does not have to be this way – it is simply the sum of choices we have made since 1980.  Of course, that does not mean that changing course will be simple.

Today’s Republicans are worthy of something like shock and awe.  They doggedly pursue a single purpose – more money and power in the unregulated hands of corporate titans.  Democrats are not dramatically better, but they at least make an effort on many issues to put other priorities in play against corporatism.  However, the Republicans, time after time, lock trunks and prevail.  The latest evidence – the battle over the extended Social Security tax holiday.  Of course, it is a tax cut, something that generally excites Republicans.  But there are problems.  This cut in particular means little to the true Republican constituency – the ones the Decider called ‘the haves and have mores.’  Democrats largely support the cut, and both sides want the credit for extending it. Aha – opportunity time for Republicans.  They have successfully tacked on measures that have no relation whatever.  The one that particularly concerns me is forcing a decision on the environment-shredding Keystone XL pipeline.  And the Democrats have already caved on their totally reasonable proposal – to RESTORE (my term, not universally accepted) some tax on the highest incomes in order to pay for the lost payroll tax revenue.  I propose this beastly aphorism for our times: “In any game of chicken between donkey and elephant, the elephant prevails, always.”  The third link in this group relates to another big-picture funding issue, with a similar outcome.  And the final is Paul Krugman’s speculation on where the maniacal focus on tax cuts is taking us.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/18/politics/congress-payroll-tax-cut-2/index.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57344706/senate-reaches-deal-in-extending-payroll-tax-cut/

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/749227/government_shutdown_averted:_$1_trillion_dollar_%27deal%27_cuts_irs_funding_for_affordable_care_act,_drops_millionaires%27_tax/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/opinion/gop-monetary-madness.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

My top issues are environmental – without clean air and water, and a well-preserved climate, we and our planetary home are toast in the long run.  But environmental concerns are left by the wayside, and are in any case a speed bump at best to the corporatist juggernaut.  Once again, Democratic support here ranges from lip service to outright passion, but is overwhelmed by Republicans’ unflagging opposition to what their favorite talking points call ‘job-killing regulation.’

http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/12/15/390462/house-gop-voted-191-times-against-the-planet-earning-worst-environmental-record-of-any-congress/

It comes as no surprise that the very wealthy think differently from most other Americans.  But how differently may surprise.  To the richest, it really is ‘all about me.’  The first link here digs into that ‘noble’ mindset and its political manifestations.  Second link – one of the most passionate decriers of plutocracy – Jim Hightower – details their influence.  He is right – if you are not outraged today, you are probably not paying attention (or you laughably believe you could someday be part of that one percent club!)  And at the third – a longish story definitely worth your attention – about the self-promoting founder of the cult of individualism.  As you will see, it’s debatable which cult was (and continues) to be superior – the greedy cult of me-first, or the self-important cult of Ayn Rand.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/the-politics-of-the-1-percent/#more-20281

http://www.alternet.org/occupywallst/153437/if_you_are_not_outraged%2C_you_are_not_paying_attention%3A_5_major_ways_corporate_elites_are_degrading_america/?page=1

http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/153454/how_ayn_rand_seduced_generations_of_young_men_and_helped_make_the_u.s._into_a_selfish%2C_greedy_nation/

We have the system we have allowed it to (d)evolve into.  But it does not have to stay this way.  Please read this fine excerpt from the preface to a new book on overcoming money politics.  Bill Moyers tells us how we can capitalize on the energy of the worldwide protests against corporate control, and rebuild our system as the founders really intended it – by the people for the people.  (And the PEOPLE does NOT include corporations – sorry Mitt!)  Both the Moyers article and the reason for it – Jeffrey Clements’ new book – are linked here.  And after you are inspired by that sorely missed PBS lion, I hope you will do as I did and sign onto the initiative to amend our Constitution.  I think that is the only way to make meaningful change happen in the long run.

http://www.alternet.org/story/153349/moyers%3A_why_%27we_the_people%27_must_triumph_over_corporate_power?akid=8000.174687.6maA71&rd=1&t=22

http://corporationsarenotpeople.com/

http://freespeechforpeople.org/

America’s Exceptional, All Right

It’s common to read – especially in right-wing circles – about American exceptionalism.  You know, that stuff about America being the world’s last hope, God’s country all of that.  The Tea Party especially loves this sentiment.  And it is true – but not necessarily for the right reasons.  For a chaser, check the animation at the last link.  It’s from the folks at The Center for a New American Dream.  It would be hard to argue that the USA is not exceptionally materialistic.

http://www.mnn.com/money/green-workplace/photos/the-10-best-countries-to-work-in/the-perfect-balance

http://247wallst.com/2011/12/06/countries-with-biggest-spread-between-rich-and-poor/

http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/the-world-s-happiest–and-saddest–countries.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-hipp/were-number-37_b_281979.html

http://www.newdream.org/resources/high-price-of-materialis

Bubble, Bubble, Here Comes Trouble

While we wrangle about how much money and power to concentrate in the sacred hands of the all-powerful job creators, Mother Nature is pushing back against our growth machine.  Our local truth-telling meteorologist, Paul Douglas, is lately speculating that this could be the winter without a winter, here in the Twin Cities of all places.  And lest we think – hey, not bad, little or no sub-zero temps, what’s not to like?! – dig just a little bit further.  We have pushed atmospheric CO2 all the way to 390 ppm, with no end to the rise in sight.  OF COURSE we are seeing dramatic shifts in climate patterns as a result.  Only the most magical thinkers of the pignorant (pretend-ignorant) pundits would expect anything else.  Read about the methane bubbling from the Arctic, where permafrost (perma as in it has been frozen since long before the dawn of civilization) is thawing rapidly, with global consequences.  The last link here foretells a debate that I just can’t wait to watch and guffaw at.  There is no one more proudly pignorant than the hoaxmeister himself, Senator James Inhofe.  Bring it on!

http://www.startribune.com/weather/blogs/Paul_Douglas_on_Weather.html

http://www.futurity.org/earth-environment/carbon-dioxide-the-global-heat-dial/

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/naomi-kleins-inconvenient-climate-conclusions/

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/giant-plumes-methane-bubbling-surface-arctic-ocean-163804179.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/17/science/earth/warming-arctic-permafrost-fuels-climate-change-worries.html?src=me&ref=general

http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/12/14/389096/21st-century-scopes-monkey-trial-ed-markey-and-jim-inhofe-to-debate-climate-science/

The Tin-Eared Party

One morning this week, I was listening to NPR Morning Edition in the background as I prepared for work.  They were running a feature on Rootin’-Tootin’ Pistol-Shootin’ Science Refutin’ Rick Perry.  The story included a campaign ad where the erudite former Texas governor told us how he really feels about gays.  Right, not positive.  Nothing new here – except the music they used to accentuate the tough, rugged, manly image of this particular presidential wannabe.  Change a note or two, and the score could have been right out of Aaron Copland.  The Village Voice also picked up on this latest unintentional hilarity pushed by the culture-challenged Party.  It’s right up there with Reagan using ‘Born in the USA’ as a campaign theme song, and the Decider professing his love for the music of John Fogerty.  Ever listen to ‘Fortunate Son?’

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/12/rick_perrys_ant.php

The True Spirit of Holiday Giving

It is nearly Christmas, traditionally a time of giving to the poor.  When your political message is based on greed, this presents some problems.  The first Stephen Colbert link is actually a year old, but just as apropos today.  At the second link, we take the message and its contradictions throughout the year.  Senator Al Franken gives us The Supply-Side Jesus.  Hilarious.  And at the last link, we explore the true spirit of giving.  And it is not even holiday-related.  You can’t say Derek Jeter is not one generous guy, many times over.  Hey, I think he even qualifies as a ‘job creator’ – Herman Cain is jealous.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/368914/december-16-2010/jesus-is-a-liberal-democrat

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK7gI5lMB7M

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/12/derek_jeter_hookup_swag.php

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”  – Vaclav Havel

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Mark Goldberg, Allyson Harper, Mike Nevala

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