Nov 122010
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This is a different type of blog post for me. It’s born of the frustration encountered at Huffington Post when trying to get a comment approved by their censors. When my posts are blocked, I typically scour the text in search of anything objectionable, make edits to anything that could possibly give cause to censorship, and repost. But in spite of this effort, I’ve had many times in the past when I could not for the life of me determine what their issue was with my post. Today is one such occurrence.

The topic of the article is the new Whitehouse position stated by David Axelrod yesterday regarding the extension of the Bush tax cuts. This was a very popular topic with a huge number of comments of which I posted several.  One particular comment was in response to an individual who posted asking the question, “Why do Democrats act as if the government is the owner of the citizens’ income and can hold a blank check on our earnings?” My response was to assert that we live in a democracy, that the government belongs to us all, and that it’s our only means to “address excesses and exploitation by the upper class.”

A response to my post was given by the person to whom I had commented. That response conveyed certain assertions with which I did not agree and, in my opinion, was based on assumptions that I find to be erroneous. The text of that comment is as follows:

The equality that will happen for ALL AMERICANS under the plan the left has is equal poverty and equal misery.

You cannot reward failure and punish success and increase innovation and the quality of life. It has never worked and will not work if you change the name to “progressive.”

Of course there are differences in intelligence, skills, knowledge, abilities, attitude, willingness to work and other factors. Each and every one of those creates differences in contribution.

In a fair society, you are compensated for your contribution. The liberal idea of equal wealth distribution ignores the differences in contributions and is doomed to fail.

The mistaken belief that government can create equal outcomes is foolish. The result of liberal’s attempts is to bring civilization down to the lowest common denominator. It happens every time you try and create social justice. The only way for liberals to succeed is to punish success and human nature then creates poverty and misery.

I attempted to respond in a respectful way, but even after a series of earnest attempts at editing was unable to get the Huffington censors to accept my post. The following is the text of my last attempt:

“reward failure and punish success” Success and failure at what? To make money? Now, there’s an appropriate metric with which to measure the worth of a person. It’s actually the core flaw in conservative thinking and the source of much suffering in the world.

“increase innovation” That’s just patent falsehood. Our ruling class system retards innovation in order to sustain the status quo. Just look at energy consumption and infrastructure in the U.S.. We’re still married to fossil fuels at the cost of the people and planet because it serves the needs of those stuffing their pockets with oil money. Innovation is in green technologies and alternatives, which are suppressed because of the threat of competition.

“In a fair society, you are compensated for your contribution” So CEOs really contribute 300 times more than average workers? By what measure? It’s the conservative idea of distribution of wealth that ignores all factors of contribution except monetary. Is that moral?

“The result of liberal’s attempts is to bring civilization down to the lowest common denominator.” Quite to the contrary – it’s the conservative ideals that are base, that focus on the worst characteristics of humanity.

For conservatives to succeed, the majority of people, as well as the planet itself must pay the price. John Kenneth Galbraith best summed up the conservative ethic: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

I ask for your critique and honest feedback. Is this comment disrespectful? Is it inappropriate as a response to the comment that preceded it? Does it warrant being censored? Is it appropriate for Huffington Post to censor without feedback as to cause?

And on substance: what are your thoughts on the debate?

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Nov 102010
The Obama administration has decided to begin publicly walking away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the war in Afghanistan in an effort to de-emphasize President Barack Obama’s pledge that he’d begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, administration and military officials have told McClatchy

Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

Hamid Karzai with U.S. Special Forces during O...
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Who knows if there’s any truth in this story. Many of us, on both the left and right, are waiting to hear such news, so this fits our expectation. But the Whitehouse denies the rumors, and there’s really no compelling reason to embrace the speculation.

Personally, I have little doubt that the withdrawal will eventually be delayed. The forces behind continuing the war are simply too powerful. But for now I’ll keep hoping that the schedule stays relatively intact. Most Americans want the war to end, and President Obama needs to keep that in mind. He can ill afford to stretch it out and slap the face of the people who elected him.

The fact is that this war is unwinnable. We’ll not be in a measurably better situation for withdrawal in 8 more months, or in 8 more years. We’re not going to establish a healthy democracy in Afghanistan. Hell, we can’t even achieve that here at home. There’s simply no excuse for staying. America is crumbling, and while we “can’t afford” to invest in our people and infrastructure, we willingly fritter away $190 million every day on a useless war.

This is just another face of the American Wealthfare State. Afghanistan is a goldmine where government dollars are fed to fat-cat defense contractors whose minions outnumber military personnel on the ground. They exploit low-wage foreign laborers, Third Country Nationals (TCN) as they’re called, for massive profits on contracts that are awarded without bids. Guaranteed profits and no competition — there’s nothing like a nice cost-plus government contract where you’re free to run up the costs and in turn increase the profits?

Whether it’s Goldman Sachs, WellPoint or Halliburton, our federal government can always afford more money for the rich. That all-important deficit seems only to matter when it comes to helping the American people.

Read the entire Article at McClatchy

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Nov 102010
Rat on a Money Bag
Image by laverrue via Flickr

Article first published as GOP vs. Dems; No Compromise Equals No Solutions on Technorati.

Politics can be very complicated, or at the very least confusing. Case in point: what is it about the Republican pronouncement of “NO COMPROMISE” that President Obama and the congressional Democrats don’t understand?

Did they miss it when John Boehner, the presumptive Speaker of the new Republican controlled House, announced that, “This is not a time for compromise?”  Perhaps they misunderstood high-ranking Republican House member, Mike Pense of Indiana, when he said, “Look, the time to go along and get along is over,” even though he reemphasized, stating, “If I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”

Is it possible that the President took Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” as some sort of conservative jest?

It’s hard to tell what the President hears when congressional Republicans throw down the gauntlet and demand that he move in their direction. But, in response to the wave of emboldened Republicans taking intransigent positions against any sort of compromise, President Obama told the nation, “I believe there’s room for us to compromise and get it done together.”

The saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Fool me over and over again, and maybe the people who believe I’m actually being fooled are the ones being hoodwinked. Is President Obama really so foolish as to believe that the Republicans will engage in open, good-faith negotiations, or is he merely a performer in a stage show written and produced to convince the American people that somebody in Washington wants the status quo to change?

When the President spoke in Cleveland in September, he came out swinging. He artfully painted the Republicans as the champions of the very wealthy and articulated a plan for the extension of the Bush tax cuts that drew a line in the sand, defining $250,000 of taxable income as the divide between the middle-class and upper-crust. It was the perfect issue for the closing weeks of campaign 2010, but cowardly Democrats backed away in fear that the Republicans would paint them as tax-and-spend liberals.

Well, not only did the Democratic retreat fail to impress any independents, but it also ensured that there would be no resurgence of enthusiasm within progressive ranks. In fact, the real story of Election 2010 wasn’t the great turnout of Republican supporters, but rather that blacks and young voters stayed home. If even half of those who poured out to the polls in 2008 had been moved to vote, the election results would have been much different.

But whatever the case, the 2010 election is over, the Democrats got their collective butts kicked, and the Republicans have already started Campaign 2012. Republican leaders now insist that the election was a refutation of President Obama’s policies and promise a Republican led Congress that will focus on jobs and the deficit.

Americans rightfully rejoice that the promised focus is exactly where it should be, but in what has become the united chorus of one-trick-pony conservatives, the legislative remedy being offered is the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, fed by their new found sense of power, Republicans have become more intractable regarding any compromise on the wealthfare benefits and now insist that the extensions for the rich be made permanent.

Prior to the election, Republicans seemed amenable to a potential decoupling of the cuts along the lines suggested by President Obama. The notion was that cuts for the top 2% might be extended for a limited time period while those for the bottom 98% were made permanent. But according to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, there will be no such compromise. In a recent interview, Cantor told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that the election gave the GOP a mandate to hold fast and accept only an extension of all cuts.

Just how the Republican leadership can reconcile their position on the tax cuts with their promise to focus on either jobs or the deficit is the subject of some serious snake oil peddling.

According to Cantor, it’s all about clearing up that “uncertainty“ the Republicans keep talking about: “We’ve got to put certainty back into the game and get these tax rates to stay the same.” But of course this is complete nonsense, since whichever way the cuts are decided, once the decision is made, the uncertainty is removed.

To the man, each of the Republican leaders has also associated the cuts for the top 2% with small business, claiming that 50% of small business revenue will be affected. Sadly, the small businesses they’re referring to are large hedge funds, law offices, and billion dollar companies like Bechtel and Koch Industries. These are the clients of the Republican Party, not the 98% of all small businesses that make less than $250K.

The sad truth is that no respectable economist believes that cutting taxes for the rich will do anything to create jobs. That horse just doesn’t run anymore — not since the results of 8 years of the Bush presidency where such cuts were a mainstay were tabulated and found to be severely lacking. The worst job creation record since the 1940s and the first decline of median household income of any cycle since 1967 are not sound arguments for repeating the policy.

And where the tax-cuts-create-jobs argument is no more than a con-job, even that bar is too high when discussing the impact on the deficit. Virtually all reputable economists agree that tax cuts are the worst form of economic stimulus, and cuts for the rich the worst of all. The Republicans are essentially without even a distorted con to explain away the $700 billion cost of the tax cuts for the top 2% over the next 10 years.

The cuts the Republicans are fighting for won’t create jobs but will add significantly to the deficit. These “fiscal conservatives” espouse fiscal responsibility and feign help for small business and middle-class America but willingly sacrifice both for the wellbeing of their corporate overlords. And the Democrats respond by offering compromise.

Just what part of slam dunk, hanging curve, lob-ball pitch do the Democrats not understand?

The Democrats need to go back on November 15 and work to pass the extension of the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250K during the lame duck session. It’ll be interesting to watch the Republicans argue why the very rich need the cuts and explain to the American people why increasing the deficit for those who don’t need the money makes sense. Their argument promises to be a mind-numbing spectacle of double-talk and diversion.

This is a win-win for the Democrats — any compromise is just once again playing into Republican hands and allowing them to set the agenda and color the conversation. The Democrats need to accept the fact that the Republicans who would not negotiate in good faith while in the minority are certainly not going to do so now. They need to figure out that the Republican campaign for 2012 has already begun and launch their counteroffensive. If they’re not willing to do so, they might as well just start packing their bags now.

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