It's from the Wall Photos album of the Americans Against the Tea Party site on Facebook. Go and take a look. There is plenty there to make you think, hard, about what the roots of fascism actually look like.
the state level, with unemployment in some states well into the double digits and a public conversation now emerging about allowing states to declare bankruptcy. The state casualties are high: layoffs and furloughs, sharp cuts in services, and budgets that are often impossible to balance without curtailing or eliminating things that voters take for granted as essential.
One of the most publicly volatile of these is the current slashing of mental health services in some states, which reverberates with this month's awful events in Arizona. In some ways Arizona is a nightmarish microcosm of the national problem: Governor Jan Brewer, who has a schizophrenic son, has overseen major mental health care cuts even while acknowledging the crucial importance of these services.
But in truth, the nation's mental health crisis got rolling decades ago, when Reaganomics-inspired disinvestment in government turned huge numbers of mentally-ill people out onto the streets. They became, and still are, a significant portion of America's homeless population. And, from Susan Smith's 1994 murder of her two young children to Jared Loughner's arrest for this month's Arizona shootings, lack of mental health counseling has figured prominently in a slew of spectacular tragedies.
It's true that we often can't anticipate what an unbalanced person will do. And we cannot force everyone who needs mental health care to get it. But if we as Americans don't care enough to make mental health services affordably available to everyone, we are in no position to comfortably shift blame to "loose-cannon lunatics" when they do crazy, violent things.
Meanwhile, the House and the Senate fiddle and quibble about spending. And the states burn.
For years it has been a source of blazing chutzpah that alleged conservatives who oppose "socialist" federally-supported health care happily accept such taxpayer-funded coverage when they are elected to the House or the Senate. Moreover, their gold-plated coverage is worlds beyond the bare-bones federal health care help meekly proposed by President Obama for citizens.
So Credo has a link by which you can email your anti-health-care-reform congressperson the actual form they can use to cancel the "socialist" federal health coverage they now enjoy. Click it and let them put their health where their mouth is.
Yesterday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) acknowledged "naivete" on the part of President Obama and the Democrats in their having expected Republican cooperation on issues such as health care reform. Speaking on a Maryland radio program, Cardin conceded that Obama and the Dems lost precious inertia by dawdling with obstinate Republicans, and that Repubs have been far better at public messaging on health care reform than Dems.
That's not news. But it does get me to considering why Republicans are better at messaging. It's because they have to be – for the same reason that an ad agency has to be more clever and manipulative in selling an unneeded or unhelpful product than it would be in selling a product that actually works.
Think of the Repubs as the ad agency. They are selling bad products (e.g., tax cuts for the rich, status-quo corporate health care) that citizens would soundly reject if they understood them. So the brainy, witty ad creatives hunker down and craft deviously distractive (and false) messages: the jobs generated by lowering plutocrats' taxes, the Obama "death panels," the consumer benefits of a "free-market" menu of "health care choice," and so on.
Think of Obama and the Dems as the poor schlumps who don't understand that their product offerings are up against this amoral ace of an ad agency. The Dems actually offer a superior product, if sometimes marginally so. But they lack both fight and imagination. So they delude themselves into thinking that if they simply stand around and make polite remarks to the effect of, "Well, hey, if you look at our product you'll see that it's actually better," the public will flock to their side. But politics demands much more. It demands a passionate, rhetorically inspiring, relentless championing of one's case and a nonstop and stirring rebuttal of that of one's opponents.
This does not mean that Obama and the Dems need to descend to the Repubs' brand of mean, character-assassinating attacks – the kind of speech that the tragedy in Arizona ought to steer us away from. It means, instead, that the President and his party need to rise up in an uplifting FDR-style offensive: crusading for their best ideas and forcefully and methodically exposing the lies of the opposition.
Standing up for the public interest with passionate, bold conviction is not the same as character assassination. Some publicly-minded sales-pitch maven needs to pull aside the Obama team and explain this to them.
of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) and a number of others, we don't yet know whether the apparent assassination attempt on Giffords had anything to do with her having narrowly defeated a Tea Party candidate, and her having supported President Obama's health plan against the wrath of Tea Partiers, and her state having become the current capital of gun-toting wing-nut vigilante hysteria, and her having been placed literally in the crosshairs on Sarah Palin's people-to-get website.
As the story continues to unfold and the political demagogues who helped nurture such a climate in Arizona now utter somber platitudes about this "senseless tragedy," this excerpt from an AOL News item on Giffords' shooting provides some perspective:
"The Democrat narrowly defeated tea party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly to win a third House term in November. The election capped a year of heated political rhetoric directed at Giffords and other Democrats who supported the new health care law. In March, Giffords' congressional office in Tucson was vandalized after she voted in favor of the bill. Sarah Palin included Giffords on a list of Democratic candidates in the crosshairs for defeat in the midterm elections because of their support for the overhaul. When asked by the New York Post whether his daughter had any enemies, Spencer Giffords, 75, tearfully replied: 'The whole tea party.' Palin, whose map of targested Democrats was taken down soon after the shooting, posted condolences on her Facebook page, saying, 'On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.'"
The broad-daylight assassination of Salman Taseer, high-profile governor of Pakistan's Punjab Province, by one of his own bodyguards, apparently an Islamic militant, has blasted another bloody hole in the Obama Administration's fantasy that robot drones and widely-mistrusted American battalions have a prayer of altering the fundamental course of Pakistan and Afghanistan, two nations in which America refuses to confront the reasons for the public illegitimacy of the regimes it tries in vain to prop up.
Meanwhile, modern descendants of North America's most disastrous and violent tsunami of illegal immigrants -- centuries of invaders from Europe -- have grown ever more wickedly and delusionally selfish in their fervor to shut the gates behind themselves, most recently with a growing effort to deny citizenship to babies born in the United States whose parents came here illegally from the artificially-depressed and peril-wracked storehouse of desperately cheap labor to our south, otherwise known as Mexico.
At the White House, the Obama Administration has collapsed on the issue of Medicare coverage for end-of-life planning, doing a 180 to delete the provision, which had been hailed by doctors and hospice caregivers as a way of making end-of-life medical care both more humane and cost-effective. Any suggestions for names to be circulated for an alternative 2012 Democratic presidential nominee?
It's your country. Use it or lose it. And whatever you do, keep yourself grounded in things that are not subject to the decay and inevitable collapse of the unsustainable machinery that passes for current American normalcy.
and over the last five years prices of the most popular brand-name drugs skyrocketed 41.5 percent, while the consumer price index went up by only 13.3 percent, according to AARP.
Pharma companies, continuing to gorge on fat profits, tried to counter this latest incriminating news with the lame explanation that more consumers are saving money with cheaper generics.
Note that "saving money" with generics often means a customer's simply giving up fewer pounds of flesh at the pharmacy cash register.
<RANT> Hey, Fat Pharma: why do you suppose customers are flocking to generics in the first place, given that generics are sometimes not the equal of brand-name drugs? Could it be because of your brand-name price gouging itself? Could it be because your insatiable greed has rendered the American brand-name drug market completely dysfunctional? Funny, isn't it, how the prices set as "fair" by drug companies in the U.S. are often spectacularly higher than the same companies' "fair" prices for the very same drugs in other countries, including other industrialized nations.
The only folks for whom America's health care system now works are: 1.) Big drug and medical equipment manufacturers and their large shareholders; 2.) To a lesser degree, insurance companies, who do indeed profit but feel driven to screw policyholders because of the insane costs of drugs and private-sector medical care; and 3.) Rich people.
And oh, yes, senators and congresspersons, including those who call Obama a socialist, receive terrific health care -- at the expense of American taxpayers who don't.
It has now reached the point where the pharmacists and clerks where I pick up my bank-busting prescriptions heartily agree with me when I growl that American health care is completely broken.
It's not as if it's controversial to say it: a big, spit-soddened chunk of the rage of the anti-Obama far right is plain old racism.
I am as critical of President Obama's health care policy as anyone. To me it is an excruciating irony to see Obama now parading around the country vowing to never put the greedy insurance industry "back in the driver's seat" when, in fact, he and that greedy industry jointly crafted a bill that keeps private insurers solidly in said seat. The guy can talk a fight, without fighting one, better than perhaps any other politician I've ever seen. Just as absurd is the credulous way in which many journalists now accept and repeat the script that this legislation is a "sweeping" initiative worthy of near-awe as a political accomplishment when, in fact, it is nothing of the kind. It is, instead, a timid little dollop of increased industry regulation combined with a captive market bonanza for insurance companies. Honestly, I don't think most reporters for the New York Times or the Washington Post would know a truly transformative social policy if it bulldozed their houses. So easily impressed, they are. We may indeed be better off with this bill than without it -- which I think remains to be seen -- but that is like saying you are better off being mugged at gunpoint for most of your cash than for all of it. The tragedy is that so much more was feasibly doable had the Dems had the necessary nerve and political common sense.
But that is an argument about policy and politics -- which is not what is fueling the extremes we now see in the hateful heart of the far right. We're talking about a protester literally spitting on the face of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), a black veteran of the civil rights wars, as Cleaver walked past the crowd. We're talking about the N-word being spewed at Obama and at other black politicians by allegedly anti-health-reform mobs. Signs depicting Obama as Hitler. Websites calling for violence against the administration. The explosive growth of a "tea party" movement of "patriots" who slept through American history in high school and who dozed through the authoritarian and unconstitutional outrages of the Bush administration. A single timid step toward run-of-the-mill regulation of a rapacious industry being hysterically treated as a "government takeover" of health care.
Sure, the routine foam-in-the-cranium paranoia of the screaming rightie set -- some of which we saw in the Clinton years -- can explain some of the anger against the ideas that Obama (supposedly) represents. But it cannot begin to explain the extent or the extremes of it. Look into the bloodshot eyes of the nearly-all-white gangs of protesters you see hollering bloody murder outside the White House gates, and you will see the same thing that the abolitionists and the Freedom Riders and the voting rights marchers encountered in their respective struggles: a wild white fear that The Niggers Are Taking Over. This is the true source of the crazily personalized way in which the extreme "anti-health-care-reform" movement is waging its jihad against Obama.
As I have said, there is plenty of cause both on the reasoned right and on the reasoned left for informed dismay or disdain about the current state of so-called Health Care Reform. But the core of the fanatical Obama-is-a-Communist-who's-going-to-come-and-get-me camp is basically a trembling bunch of racist weenies who still have not accepted the 1960s, let alone the 21st Century.
Jimmy Carter, as is often the case, is one of the few prominent whites to utter such a truth in public. Plenty of his well-placed white peers, I am sure, acknowledge it in private, shaking their heads about the white peasantry. And many more of we black, brown and white citizens see it as well. It's plain as day what is going on here.
Marx may have been right, in Europe, about religion being the principal opiate of the miserable masses. But here in the New World, the most destructive mass addiction is of a different variety.
we've been screwed. Many of us, I among them, have said for months that the bill is a loser (even if it passes) because it consists almost exclusively of things that people dislike. It is poison to both the right and the left and questionable to the center because it poses government mandates that fail to serve the public interest; instead, its mandates for coverage simply prop up a dysfunctional private insurance system. And it leaves off the table the elements that some of the center and all of the left recognize as basic to real reform: price controls, streamlining of the industry's massive administrative waste and redundancy, a public option.
The resulting plan's unpopularity is not an accident, Fox and RNC misinformation and MoveOn.org desperation notwithstanding. Who would actually put forth such so-called "health care reform" except for insurance lobbyists and their friends in the Obama administration?
A piece by Lex at The Agonist describes, more incisively than most analyses I've seen, why this is so. An excerpt:
This is a bill that the insurance industry, for-profit hospitals and pharmaceutical companies will accept. They're willing to accept it because without the sorts of "reforms" contained in this bill they will experience catastrophic failure and massive amounts of popular ill will in the not too distant future. That's why it's accurate to call this a preemptive bailout rather than reform. At this point, the bill does not regulate insurance rates. It stipulates that you can't be denied coverage or limited in your use of insurance, but it does not regulate how much you'll pay for that coverage. It only says that you're required to purchase coverage. The end effect then is to entrench the current system so deeply that further reforms are unlikely to be successful...actual reform that is. Politicians may fiddle around the edges, but the system that delivers sub-optimal care at great cost is here to stay.
Further down in the piece, Lex addresses the politics of how the Obama team has dealt with the health care issue from the beginning:
It takes a great deal of gullibility to swallow the idea that this [bill] is the very best possible. It requires willful ignorance of the proceedings. Did they mobilize the activist base to push hard for the best possible options with the knowledge that some compromise would be necessary? Nope. They took all that off the table before beginning negotiations. Did they look around the world for all the different ways to address this issue and present them to the American people for debate? Nope. They held secret meetings with the industry they're supposedly reforming before the process started. Did a new president with a strong mandate, a deep pool of eager activists and fine oratorical skills ever make a pitch to convince the majority of Americans - of all political affiliations - that we can...and we must...do something about this issue that will put us on a strong social and economic future for the long term. Nope. He pretty much crafted this bill behind the curtain and then pretends that his hands are tied by recalcitrant Congresspeople from the GOP and the necessity of bipartisan warm fuzzies.
It galls me to no end to see President Obama now out on the stump passionately asking us to fight alongside him for a bad bill that came to be precisely because he was afraid to fight.
To paraphrase Tracy Chapman, "Give me one reason to trust you/And I'll turn right back around."
In U.S., 45% Favor, 48% Oppose Obama Healthcare Plan
Americans who oppose a "healthcare reform bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama" outnumber those in favor by 48% to 45%. Since September, sentiment has grown among opponents that the legislation would raise healthcare costs and not address real problems in the system.
I think this is why Obama and the Dem's tepid "health reform" porridge of the past year has been exactly the wrong thing to put on the table. It is the worst of both worlds: sticking Americans with the same old broken system while making enough small changes to inflame industry and anger reactionaries. Now, as things threaten to completely collapse, Obama is gamely and passionately putting on his fight face. But it may be far too late.