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Stagecraft: Our Presidential Contest Has Devolved Into Little More Than A Fake Wrestling Match

11:46 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

For those on the Left, one of the most frustrating aspects of this Presidential election has been following the narratives of both establishment parties, each aligned with the other in their complimentary fictions, as they deceive the American voters into believing there is an actual choice to be made here.

Beyond the rhetorical divide, the actual differences between Obama and Romney are minor, if not downright trivial. Each candidate, regardless of how he has actually governed in the past, uses the talking points from his party’s platform to tap into the ideological preferences of his base. The contest is little more than a theater of deception.

Romney, who governed like a Clintonian Democrat, now speaks in ways that appeal to his base, which continues to drift rightwards a la Tea Party.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented what would become the blueprints for Obamacare, and offered generous subsidies for those in his state who couldn’t afford it. He embraced a pro-choice position, favored gun control, was pro-gay-rights. He opposed the flat tax, was critical of Bush tax cuts. He believes in global warming, and has supported ‘cap and trade’ policies.

Whereas Romney has been forced to move rhetorically to the right, Barack Obama, who himself has governed from right-of-center, needs to reestablish his own cred with his liberal base, and is thus, only too happy to accommodate Romney in aligning their fictions.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that both candidates have had to overcome with regards to their respective bases is in trying to convince them that there actually are fundamental differences between their visions for America’s economic model.

The Obama campaign was the first to seize on a distinction when it released a video showing Mitt Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser expressing disdain for Obama voters, suggesting they are “dependent upon government” and feel entitled to handouts.

But this video revelation actually enhanced the far-Right cred that the Governor had been so desperate for. You might think his own campaign planted the video. In fact, he proudly wore the video revelation around like a medalThe Tea Party won’t see me as a RINO anymore, he likely surmised.

Seeing this as the perfect red meat issue needed to re-energize his base, Romney pivoted to the hot-button ‘Socialism’ charge. He charged Obama with being another Socialist-minded liberal who wants to take money from those who work hard and succeed, to then redistribute it to those who don’t.

After unearthing a 1998 video showing a young Obama expressing that he believed in “redistribution at a certain level,” Romney pounced:

“He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America,” Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. “There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seconded that description of Obama, and now all GOP surrogates are on message, making the ‘redistribution’ buzzword the central theme in Romney’s campaign.

But of course this depiction of Obama couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama has actually governed like a starry-eyed Milton Friedman disciple. Bloomberg News decided to investigate Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge, and here is what they found:

If President Barack Obama is trying to spread the wealth, he doesn’t have much to show for it. [...]

[S]ince Obama took office in January 2009, wealthy Americans have continued to pull away from the rest of society. In the aftermath of the recession, income inequality in the U.S. reached a new high in 2011, Census Bureau data show.

Even as the president has decried the hollowing out of the middle class, the fortunes of labor and capital have diverged on his watch. Quarterly corporate profits of $1.9 trillion have almost doubled since the end of 2008, while workers’ inflation- adjusted average hourly earnings have declined.

“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” said Anne Mathias, director of Washington research for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”

But, forget reality — back to the fantasyland that is our Presidential Election.

Knowing his progressive base sees the U.S. economy through the 1% vs 99% prism and views his last 3 1/2 years as a monumental sellout to the 1%, Obama likely sees an opening in Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge. This Republican accusation may be exactly what he needs to energize his own base. Perhaps it can help him to get his populist mojo back.

And the theater just continues on and on …

But make no mistake about it, whichever candidate wins — be it Obama or Romney — things will continue right along this Neoliberal road we are on, and the firmly-entrenched 1% will have their man.

UPDATE:

Author edit: In response to commenter who questioned the validity of my statement re: Mitt Romney’s alleged support of gay-marriage when Governor of Massachusetts, and after further review myself, I have decided to remove the following statement: (he implemented same-sex marriage by executive fiat).

Confidential Memo Outlines Right-Wing Coordinated Propaganda Campaign To Crush Wind Power Energy

5:04 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

The Guardian recently obtained a confidential strategy plan co-written by John Droz, a senior fellow at conservative think tank American Tradition Institute (ATI), to spearhead a national propaganda campaign against wind farms as a green energy alternative to fossil-fuels.

Wind Power. Photo by Luis Alves.

Photo by Luis Alves.

One of their primary objectives is to “cause subversion” in the message of the wind power industry “so that it effectively becomes so bad no one wants to admit in public they are for it (much like wind has done to coal, by turning green to black and clean to dirty).”

They plan to join forces with the fossil-fuel industries (including oil and coal), as well as with right-wing think tanks (including ALEC and Americans for Prosperity — both funded by the billionaire Koch brothers) to procure financing and to counter findings by the wind industry. Experts will be selected to provide testimony to government agencies, as will key people who are capable of interfacing with the media.

They plan to utilize the tea party, anti-tax groups, business organizations, property rights advocates, and they recommend creating “controversy to spark ideas” and to “get people talking.” The memo states “public opinion must begin to change in what should appear as a ‘groundswell’ among grass roots.” And this appearance of a ‘groundswell’ will “reach the elected officials and policy-makers” in such a way as to compel them to abort their wind power initiative.

It is reminiscent of the national health care reform debates, when the Tea Party stormed Town Hall meetings — shouting, interrupting, threatening — giving the appearance of a serious ‘groundswell’ of opposition to government intervention into health care. Of course, poll numbers, did not substantiate the impression the Tea Partiers and right-wing media left on our intrepid Democratic politicians. A majority of Americans (including the highly coveted Independent voters) were polled as being very much in favor of a public option.

The strategy memo goes further into how they would have hands-on coordination with the tea party and other groups:

Read the rest of this entry →

WATCH: Bill Maher Pans Jon Stewart’s ‘Restore Sanity’ Rally’s False Equivalency Theme

1:16 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

I love Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and was ecstatic their “Restore Sanity” Rally was so successful.  But I have to agree with Bill Maher here as he comically nails the Rally’s major flaw:  Its main theme, in attempting to be bipartisan, created a false equivalency between the Right and the Left.

ENJOY:

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Alan Greenspan To GOP: Let Bush Tax Cuts Lapse

12:31 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

The former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, is now rebuking the popular GOP Supply-Side talking point (as recently trumpeted by Mitch McConnell) that tax cuts increase revenues, and therefore help reduce deficits:

They should follow the law and let [Bush's tax cuts] lapse,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” citing a need for the tax revenue to reduce the federal budget deficit. [...]

Greenspan, in a telephone conversation after his Bloomberg TV interview was taped, said his position is that all the expiring Bush tax cuts should end, for middle-class and high- income families alike.

Ending the cuts “probably will” slow growth, Greenspan, 84, said in the TV interview. The risk posed by inaction on the deficit is greater, he said.

“Unless we start to come to grips with this long-term outlook, we are going to have major problems,” said Greenspan, who led the U.S. central bank from 1987 to 2006. “I think we misunderstand the momentum of this deficit going forward.”

Here, he more or less lays responsibility for the huge deficit problems we now face at the doorsteps of the Bush Administration:

Greenspan said reducing the deficit is “going to be far more difficult than anybody imagines” after “a decade of major increases in federal spending and major tax cuts.”

Ironic, this coming from the guy who foolhardily endorsed Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, thereby helping to lay the ground work for the massive deficit expansion.

Regardless, this will hopefully take some of the wind out of the GOP/Tea Party sails — these self-proclaimed ‘fiscal warriors’. After all, they have championed two grotesquely incompatible positions: debt reduction AND tax cuts.

Tax cuts have long been the cornerstone of the Republican platform due to their obvious political popularity. But the GOP has recently made debt reduction their ‘call to action’. After they bequeathed a tumultuous economic disaster to an incoming President Obama, the GOP knew he would be forced — as was called for by every credible economist in the world — to increase federal spending to keep the country from spiraling into a full blown depression. It gave the GOP a quick recipe for attack: “Obama is just another big spending ‘socialist’ Democrat, intent on creating runaway deficits”. They hoped to shift at least some of the blame for the staggering deficits they created onto him. Disingenuous?–obviously, but they knew their low-information (propaganda devouring) base would swallow it, hook, line and sinker, and they did.

But a week ago their credibility as self-proclaimed ‘deficit hawks’ was called into question by none other than Chris Wallace (their own mascot) on The Fox News Channel (their home field). And the ensuing fallout continues to reverberate across the main stream media and blogosphere.

The Washington Post recently posed the following question to the GOP:

The issue is whether the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended, adding another $678 billion to the deficit over the next decade. The tax cuts, it’s worth remembering, passed originally in 2001 with the argument that the surplus was so large that rates could be cut with budgetary room to spare. Now that the fiscal picture has deteriorated so badly, the questions remains: How are you going to pay the $678 billion? And if you don’t, how are you going to justify the added damage to an already grim fiscal outlook?

If the GOP hopes to have any chance at recasting themselves as ‘deficit hawks’ to anyone left of their wing-nut base, they will have to address this glaring contradiction. They cannot continue to defend tax cuts for the rich, and still claim they intend to be fiscally prudent next time around.

Is The Coffee Party Shilling For The DNC?

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

I was intrigued by the news that a counter-Tea Party movement was formulating on the Left, calling itself the Coffee Party. I envisioned a group perhaps better educated than the misguided Tea Partiers, though driven by a comparable populist angst. After all, many on the Left feel royally duped by their supposed change-agent, President Barack Obama.

He has broken A LOT of promises — ones which were VERY IMPORTANT to his once energized supporters, leaving them thoroughly demoralized. Here are just a few of Obama’s broken promises:

  • He would not come to Washington and cut back door deals with entrenched interests — there would be complete transparency during health care negotiations (on C-SPAN), and everyone would get a seat at the table. Nope.
  • He would not allow lobbyists and those with conflicts of interests to serve in his administration.
  • A public option would be a key component of any health care bill, and he promised not to mandate that Americans purchase health insurance from ‘for profit’ health insurance companies. He then did the very opposite once elected.
  • Americans would be able to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and priced lower outside the U.S., and to allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices. Nope, instead he cut a back door deal with the Pharmaceutical Industry agreeing to ban it.
  • As President, he would recognize the Armenian Genocide (he used very strong language on this matter). However, once elected he refused to acknowledge it as genocide (when asked by reporters) in Turkey, and he then proceeded to lobby Congress this week to deny a vote on Resolution 252 that would have made such an acknowledgment.
  • He would close Guantanamo Bay immediately, and to restore habeas corpus. Nope, he plans to keep suspects imprisoned indefinitely without trial, and Guantanamo Bay remains open for business.
  • He would reject the Military Commissions Act, which allowed the U.S. to circumvent Geneva Conventions in the handling of detainees. Nope.
  • In the spirit of transparency he would amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. Nope.

So naturally, I would have expected to see some of this mentioned on the site of this new ‘grass routes movement’ calling itself the Coffee Party. On the contrary, they don’t seem to advocate for a single issue or policy proposal; the group seems completely void of substance.

Take the Coffee Party’s Mission Statement:

The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

“Cooperation”?! That sounds A LOT like “BI-PARTISANSHIP” to me. You know, the term Obama uses as a means to promote corporatist (anti-populist) policies under the cover of “a need to compromise with Republicans or ‘Centrists’.” Let’s face it, President Obama has rhetorically opted for bi-partisanship as a means to crush meaningful change since the very first day he took office. And yet this Coffee Party is ironically parroting Obama’s key talking point in their ‘grass routes’ mission statement? Could this group be shilling for Obama’s political arm — the now crumbling Organizing For America?

There’s nothing in that Coffee Party’s mission statement that suggests a move towards populism or an effort to pull Obama further to the Left (back towards the promises he ran on). Wouldn’t that be the equivalent to what the Tea Party is trying to accomplish from their end? Aren’t Tea Partiers, as delusional as they may be, trying to pull Republican politicians towards populist policies important to them?

Whereas Tea Partiers seem disenchanted with both the Republican party and the government, Coffee Partiers seem contented with the Democratic Party and the government. The only issue that seems to resonate with the Coffee Party is Republican obstructionism. In fact, I couldn’t find a single criticism of the President, nor a mention of Democratic betrayals on their entire site. Some ‘grass routes’ movement!

The group asks every Coffee Party member to sign the following Civility Pledge:

As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.

It appears this group is more interested in making a statement about the ugliness they see at Tea Party gatherings than they are in actually promoting policies that might improve Americans’ lives. Their elected Democratic representatives (who control all branches of government) have been selling them out for one year now by putting entrenched interests above their own, and Coffee Partiers don’t have a single thing to complain about with regards to their own party?

Watch this video (off their home page) which the Coffee Party is using to sell themselves, and then tell me if you believe these people are issue-driven:

If this were a Tea Party video, you’d hear a lot of passionate — admittedly crazy-sounding — angst about how their party and government is disappointing them. Tea Partiers joined together as a ‘grass routes movement’, because they feel very strongly about specific issues. The Coffee Party doesn’t seem to stand for anything, beyond getting together to sip lattes.

Surely they must have a strong feeling about some issue of importance to Americans (in the midst of two wars, a horrific recession, and a government that is no longer responsive to the people)? Issues drive movements, not Kumbaya coffee gathering. It’s as if the DNC itself has choreographed a “grass routes movement” void of the populist fervor that once drove Organizing For America.