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Campaign Manifesto #3: On The Road, Defending Social Security February 28, 2011

So it’s Day 3 of my fake campaign for Congress, and we’ve run into our first obstacle

The Fake Campaign, as you may recall, is fake headed for Wisconsin, to show solidarity, and we’ve fake hitched a ride on a delivery truck headed for Rush Limbaugh’s Florida broadcasting studios—but we fake found ourselves caught up in the all-too-real Giant Grip Of Winter that has seized the Midwest over the past week.

We’re back on the road now, but we were stuck for darn near a half-day there at Wall…and if you know anything about South Dakota, you know there are really only two things to do in the City of Wall: you can shuffle back and forth between Gold Diggers and the Badlands Bar, partaking of numerous intoxicating liquors along the way…or you can head on into Wall Drug (the same one that’s on all those bumper stickers and signs) and partake of the finest display of Giant Jackalopia on the planet.

The Campaign, naturally, chose Jackalopia—and that’s why today’s Manifesto is all about the fake impromptu 5-cent-coffee-fueled Social Security Town Hall that we held in the Wall Drug Mall for several hours while we waited for I-90 to reopen.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, grass grows by Itself.

–From the Zenrin Kushu, attributed to Toyo Eicho

I-90, the main route from West to East (if your fake trip begins in Seattle, as ours did), was closed at Wall, South Dakota for about 24 hours this week, but this particular delivery truck just absolutely has to be in Florida by Monday…and the delivery is so important that to get us back on the road we now have a special escort of two South Dakota Department of Transportation snowplows and two 2011 “new and improved” South Dakota Highway Patrol Dodge Charger Pursuits (now with longer lasting brakes!) to make sure we get to the Wisconsin line in the shortest time possible.

With the weather being what it is, Jenna and Tendei, our driving team, have been earning their money, in a big way, this trip, and for the moment Tendei is asleep, while Jenna and I mull over the conversations we had tonight, me and the caravan of Wall Drug customers who gathered, first by the snake-oil salesman (that’s not hyperbole, either: they actually have an anamatronic snake-oil salesman), then out in front of the Western bookstore, and finally over by one of the 5-cent coffee stations.

It was my fault: standing next to the snake-oil salesman got me thinking about all the lies we hear every day about Social Security…which I mentioned to the 30-something couple standing next to me, young son in tow.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the next words out of his mouth are going to be: ‘I’ll never see a dollar of my Social Security anyway, so who cares how they fix it?’.”

He looked back at me, all surprised: “We’re not ever going to see any; they tell us that all the time.”

“Yeah, I know…but it’s a big ol’ load of hooey, and I’ll tell you why: Social Security is funded by payroll taxes that are, for the most part, paid out as they’re collected, that means there’ll always be money that we will use to pay benefits, unless we just quit collecting that money altogether, which is not likely.”

We were beginning to gather a few others around us (hey, we were all stuck there—nothing else to do…); that means my gestures were getting a bit bigger—but there’s a nice echo in there, and you can be heard.

“The way things work now, if nothing changes, there will be enough money to pay out all the benefits we expect to pay until 2037. After that, if the ‘pessimistic projection’ plays out, even if nothing else changes, we can still pay 75% of what we expect to pay for about 50 years after that. We only look out 75 years at a time, so we don’t have a projection that goes out past 2084…but, pretty much, as long as we keep collecting the money, we’ll still be able to pay the benefits.”

I looked over at a 40-ish couple that had come over to listen: “What about you two? Right now there’s a lot of talk about ‘fixing’ Social Security by making you wait longer to retire or by making sure cost-of-living increases don’t really keep up with inflation. Don’t y’all feel like if they do that, you’re just getting screwed?”

It was almost like Parliament and “Question Time” in there for a second (which is not a George Clinton reference) as the 15 or so folks listening began to “harrumph” in agreement.

“Well how about if I were to tell you that I could fix this problem, and that I could do it without raising the retirement age or messing with your cost-of-living…and that I could do this in a way that gives every person in this room a tax cut at the same time…and that, even though I’m running for Congress, I’m not a snake-oil salesman?”

About two lives ago I used to be a failed stand-up comic (true!), and it is possible to know when the crowd is turning—and this was one of those moments.

The 40-ish husband looked at me and said, basically, that I did sound like a Congressman—and not in a good way.

“I know you don’t believe me, but listen to this: if you turn a wrench or carry a tray or do anything that makes under, basically, $105,000 a year in wages, all your income is taxed for Social Security…but if you make a million a year, you don’t pay any tax at all on the last $890,000…and if that income was taxed, we wouldn’t have a Social Security problem.

Now you don’t hear much about this back in Washington, and there’s a couple of reasons why: right off the bat, this President and this Congress don’t want to be accused of ‘raising anyone’s taxes’; beyond that, 2012 is coming fast, and both the President and the Grim Weeper are trying to be the one who can look at the voters and say: ‘I’m The Slasher, and I will cut the deficit and balance the budget faster than the other guy’.

Lots of people think cutting Social Security will somehow cut the deficit and reduce the debt, even though it has nothing to do with it at all, and some of them figure that if they campaign around cutting everything that government does it’s gonna help their political future, and that includes cutting benefits for people just like you, instead of just funding Social Security with a flat tax for everyone…even the rich.”

This argument, I might add, was starting to gain traction.

“Look at where we are right this very second: standing in front of a Western bookstore…and if you go in there you’ll see stories of how people died of starvation and how land barons ruled counties with an iron fist and how we fought range wars with imported hired guns and shootouts in the streets.

Is that what we want to go back to?

It’s not what they wanted. The pioneers didn’t just build isolated ranches, they built towns, and towns with a schoolhouse, so that the kids on those ranches didn’t have to rely on a home school education. They had a Sheriff or a Marshal and a Town Council and a Judge, because they knew that they had to create some rules and establish some government.

Some towns in the Wild West, and you know I’m telling the truth about this, didn’t even allow guns inside the town limits…just like when Wyatt Earp was the Marshal in Dodge City and you had to check your guns if you were going north of the railroad tracks.”

You know what? This was working: the crowd began to nod with me, and I figured while I had the advantage I’d press the thing home:

“Now a lot of people probably think the fix is in, and what’s the point…but I don’t agree. There was an effort at the beginning of this Congress to force these cuts by threatening to stop providing any money for the Government at the beginning of March if the ‘Wrecking Crew” didn’t get their way, and the Tea Party folks came in here with a big ol’ war cry about ‘shut it all down’ and all that…but now that March 4th is actually drawing close, and the public is starting to figure out what’s up, the message is suddenly all about ‘maybe we can extend the funding after all’.

That tells me that the people who think cutting everything in sight because it looks good are finding out it doesn’t always look good to just go around cutting everything in sight.

Tell ya something else. A lot of the people who want to change Social Security want to change it into a system that rewards people who manage Social Security accounts, not the people who own the accounts, and if you look at what ‘privatizing’ the system is all about, that’s what it is: it’s just a plan to get more money out of you in the form of fees and charges, which is going to be a great big reward to great big political donors who have been trying to make this happen since the 1980s.

So here’s the reality: there is enough money in the system to pay for you and your kids to have benefits, even if no changes are made, and if you just make Social Security a flat tax, even for the rich, we are pretty much guaranteed to have every dollar we need until at least 2084, and we don’t have to cut benefits or raise the retirement age, or do any of that crazy stuff…and we don’t have to give up our hard-earned money to big banks and Wall Street in the form of new fees and charges on your Social Security accounts.

So I came here in a truck, and it has to be in Florida in a couple days, and my driver friend is walking over here, and that means I gotta go, but I hope I told you something about Social Security you didn’t know a while ago…and if any of you are fake voting for a fake Congressional candidate in 2012, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.”

And with that, I fake shook a few hands, jumped in our fake truck, and headed off to Wisconsin.

 

2nd Amendment Foundation And Black Community Agree To Joint Gun March, Rally April 7, 2010

New York (FNS)—In an effort to help dispel concerns of racism, Terri Stocke, President of the Second Amendment March, agreed to coordinate with members of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Coalition in an effort to encourage more members of the Black community to bear arms and to carry them publicly.

In return, members of the Black community have agreed to flood the 2nd Amendment March, scheduled for April 19, 2010, in Washington, DC, with hundreds of thousands of heavily armed residents of Chicago’s South Side and New York City’s Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods.

“We hope that the Black community understands that 2nd Amendment rights apply to all Americans” Ms. Stocke told the crowd outside Mr. Sharpton’s offices.

She went on to tell the crowd: “We have all heard the saying, “Freedom isn’t free”. Of course, that phrase means that the freedoms that we enjoy today are the result of the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers and mothers who pressed onward in the face of great hardship — continuing to stand and fight for what they knew to be right — to create these United States that we call home. Freedom ISN’T free. It requires the willingness to remain vigilant, to take action, and to make sacrifices when necessary to ensure freedom for our children and our childrens’ children.

Now is the time to press onward to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is preserved as intended by our forefathers — not as interpreted by legislators and lawmakers who enact laws that infringe on your right to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

Ms. Stocke and the Revs. Sharpton and Jackson went on to announce their new combined program to ensure that every member of the community that could possibly qualify would be able to obtain and carry guns.

“We have said for some time that if everyone had guns, we’d all be safer” Ms. Stocke intoned to the exultant crowd, “and as of today, we at the 2nd Amendment Foundation will do everything in our power to create an environment where each and every citizen of the Harlem, Bed-Sty and South Side communities are free to carry their weapons at all times, in order to create a safer New York and a safer Chicago.”

Ms. Stocke’s website, AmmoLand.com, will also join the effort, by sponsoring the expansion of the National Shooting Sports Foundations “First Shots” program into urban environments.

“By expanding the number of armed citizens in these communities, we can stop the police from acting as tools of an oppressive Government, and provide an opportunity for these Citizens to regain control over the forces that have been Treading On Them.

Eventually we hope to spread this effort to more cities, including, Detroit, Houston, and Oakland.”

Father Dick Timoneous, interviewed in the crowd, suggested this would be just the thing the 2nd Amendment March needed: “I can just imagine the jubilation that will be on the faces of that all-White crowd on April 19th when tens of thousands of Black people, all heavily armed, descend on the march, proving that when everyone is armed, we’re all safer.”

The event will take place at the northeast corner of the Washington Monument grounds, April 19, 2010, from 10 AM to 4 PM, and everyone is encouraged to attend.

 

On Assigning Blame, Or, “So, You Think I’m Retarded?” March 1, 2010

LANGUAGE WARNING: Today’s story is uncharacteristically blunt, and from this moment forward we will be using lots of inappropriate language in making our points.

Gentle Reader, you have been officially…warned.

With that in mind, if you take offense when confronted with language strong enough to knock a fuckin’ buzzard off a shitwagon, please stop reading now.

It is by now fairly well known that Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, had a bit of a blow-up with liberals who were ready to start running ads against “blue dog” Democrats who were working very hard to shut down the health care reform effort.

Now we’re not gonna get in the middle of that argument today; instead, since we’re finally getting a chance to talk, I figured me and Rahm could get a few other things out of the way that have been on everyone’s mind for the past year or so.

“…What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.

He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy…”

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War

So…Rahm, buddy…here’s the thing:

In January of 2009 you came into the White House having just beaten down both the Republicans and Hillary Clinton, and baby, y’all were on a roll.

Reforming health care was the top priority of 59% of the population, you had a 75+ seat majority in the House…and of course, to quote your boss, there was that “largest Senate majority in a generation”.

Y’all were appointing smart people to take over agencies, and the President gave that speech in Cairo—and even though people had their misgivings about the way the bailout and the stimulus came together, we were still right there with you.

And then, in May…remember when y’all promised to get a heath care vote done by August? If I recall correctly (and I do), the President said:

“…We’ve got to get it done this year. Both in the House and the Senate. We don’t have any excuses. The stars are aligned.”

And then for some reason, you decided it would be a smart idea to spend a couple of months letting Ben Nelson and Charles Grassley, who were both happy to let you know they were against this thing from the beginning, run the show.

“…When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare…”

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“…and then the C.H.U.D.S. came at me…”

Homer Simpson

And then came the Tea Parties. For a solid month we were bombarded with images of uninformed people carrying signs demanding we protect Medicare while at the same time demanding Government stay out of health care, people who see Obama as the new Hitler, and people who apparently think Socialism, Fascism, Communism, and Vegetarianism are all different flavors of the same political junk food.

In other words, fuckin’ retards.

And just to make things perfect, the Republicans couldn’t wait to jump on the retard train: Sarah Palin quit being a Governor so she could turn her interest in “Death Panels” (and her desire to never be a quitter…) into a gig at Fox—and Rick “Goodhair” Perry, the Governor of what might be the most “Rah Rah America!” state in the Nation, suggested that making Texas into its own country might be the smartest way to save these United States.

I loved it.

I knew what was about to happen: the classic “pincer move”, where you let the enemy race into the trap, and then slam the door behind them, locking them in a box from which they cannot escape.

And the best part was, they had made it so easy that a politician with even a moderately high degree of mental acuity could spring the trap. All the President had to do was to go to the States where these politicians live, stand up on a platform, with cameras running, preferably in the early part of the daily news cycle, and do one of these two things:

–Either put his arm around [insert politician’s name here]’s shoulders and tell the giant crowd how the President and [again, insert name] are going to fight the insane Republicans and the evil insurance companies together, “No matter how much they try to stand in our way…”

–Or go to the same podium and give this speech: “I’m going to fight for you, all the way, and I want you to call [insert name here] and demand that they join the fight, too.”

For extra effect, you could have sent him to one of those free clinics the viewers of Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” were paying for.

Repeat this process a dozen times or so, and the next thing you know you own the news cycle, and the enemy is crushed and disorganized.

This is Politics 101, and it’s just as effective at moving along reluctant Democrats as it is reluctant Republicans.

But that never happened, Rahm, did it?

Instead, as far as I can tell, you let the fuckin’ retards kick your ass for the past eight months.

You didn’t even really try to organize your friends: for example, where was the coalition-building process while all of this was going on? Did it ever occur to you to try to get gay activists and youth activists and healthcare activists together to help move this process along?

Had you been on the ball here you could have organized a “Counter Tea-Party” for every single one of those stupid “patriotfests”…and now, when you need support to move issues that matter to the gay community, you haven’t built up the kind of trust that would have been enormously helpful in keeping the GaYTM open and available, as it was in 2008.

Only in the past ten days or so have y’all finally figured out what Alan Grayson seems to have known all along: an aggressive, in-your-face Democrat will not only survive, but thrive—even in Florida.

And that’s the part I don’t get: you came in here enormously popular, with every advantage, with Republicans who were falling all over themselves to make your life easy, with the facts on your side, and a public who wanted to go along with the program.

And despite that, you let yourself get beaten down by idiots, you failed to spring the obvious trap, you never tried to really engage with your friends at critical times, and now you find yourselves in a tough election environment having to play catch-up, when it’s the Rs who should be running for cover while your guy is pulling a 65% approval rating, or something similar, and Democrats expand that Senate majority to 63 or 64 seats.

And if all that wasn’t enough, now you have to sit here and listen to people like me, the proverbial “overfed, long-haired, leaping gnomes” of politics, tell you something you should have known all along.

Which finally brings me to the part I really don’t understand: how did our situation get so turned upside down that you are viewed as the big-time highly-paid political genius…and somehow, the people who thought you would easily digest the pre-chewed political snack food that was being served up to you on a silver platter became the fuckin’ retards?

It’s a question I can’t answer, Rahm…but you better figure it out, and fix it—quickly—or the next three years are going to suck a lot more than this one did.

 

On Pots And Kettles, Or, Peter King: Tool Of Terrorism, Victim Of Irony January 10, 2010

As a result of a recent event involving an aircraft and underpants Representative Peter King (R-Not From Iowa), the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, has again come forth to bring his expertise on questions of international terrorism to the national debate.

King, a Congressman who represents a district that straddles New York’s Long Island (NY-3), previously served as the Comptroller of Nassau County and a member of Hempstead, New York’s Town Council, which wouldn’t seem to be the kind of résumé that would give you much credibility in this arena—but Mr. King is a special case.

You see, Mr. King knows a great deal about terrorism…from the inside…because for many years the personal cause that drove his life was to be an active and public supporter of a terrorist group.

And that’s why, today, we’ll be connecting the dots between Congressman King and the Irish Republican Army.

“If this is a war on terrorism, then this person should not be treated as an ordinary criminal.”

–Peter King, on Good Morning America, January 6, 2010

When King says don’t treat them like an ordinary criminal, what he really means is that he supports a variety of interrogation methods for those who might be terrorists. In fact, in an interview with Politico last August King took offense to the very idea that Attorney General Holder would even investigate CIA interrogation practices:

“It’s bulls***. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on…”

In the same interview King defended the practice of threatening the family of those being interrogated as well as the use of a power drill as a tool of coercion, both practices that qualify as torture under US law:

“Why is it OK to waterboard someone, which causes physical pain, but not threaten someone and not cause pain?”

He’s so fervent about stopping terrorism that, in a 2001 WABC interview, King even offered his support for the use of tactical nuclear weapons against terrorists.

And just the other day, he wondered why a terror suspect would even be allowed to fly at all.

With all due respect, Congressman…they allow you to fly, don’t they?

The (mostly Catholic) Irish Republican Army (and its political wing, Sinn Féin) has been seeking to unite Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland for nearly a century. This has been challenged by the (mostly Protestant) Ulster Volunteer Force, who want to continue Northern Ireland’s status as a separate entity within the United Kingdom.

It is reported that the IRA killed more than 2000 people from 1972 to 2002 (in fact, they apologized for those killings); the British Army response includes the events that were the inspiration for the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Among the most famous of the IRA’s terror attacks was a 1974 bombing targeting the House of Commons in London and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin, in 1979.

Americans have been among the victims of IRA bombings; the recently departed Bush Administration made a deal for compensation for some of those victims.

The IRA had a foreign policy, as well, including a relationship with Libya’s Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi that was well underway as early as 1973, involving, at a minimum, the illegal importation of weapons and Semtex explosive into Ireland.

Americans played a major part in the fundraising support for the IRA’s campaign of terror—and prominent among those Americans…was…wait for it…(not yet a Congressman) Peter King, who, ironically, had his telephone calls monitored due to his status as a terrorist sympathizer by the same intelligence establishment he now oversees in his Congressional capacity.

How sympathetic was King? Consider this comment, from a 1982 speech King gave at pro-IRA rally in Nassau County, New York:

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.”

(Now Congressman) King was on the dais for the 28th Annual Irish Northern Aid Testimonial Dinner in 1999 (NORAID being the IRA’s US fundraising arm). In 2005 the Bush Administration ordered such fundraising stopped; this because the IRA, in the Administration’s view, was still involved in criminal activity in Ireland.

According to Federal Election Commission records NORAID’s publicity director, attorney Martin Galvin, has only contributed to one Federal political campaign from 1979 to 2008—Peter King’s. This is the same Martin Galvin that reportedly supported the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, which was eventually designated by the US State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization”.

NORAID gave back to King as well. In 1985 they arranged for King to be named Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade—which, in New York City, is about as big a deal as a politician could ever hope for.

King is also reported to have frequented a Belfast bar known as an IRA hangout, the Felons Club.

An Irish judge once refused to allow King to attend a trial for an IRA member because the judge felt King “…was an obvious collaborator with the IRA.”

By the way, this is the same Peter King that once told John McCain he:

“…shouldn’t shy away from raising the Ayers connection, to raise questions about Obama’s judgment.”

(Remember William Ayers? He’s the terrorist that Sarah Palin wanted everyone to know Obama was “palling around with” during the 2008 campaign.)

The American fundraising was driving the political leadership in the UK to fits, including former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, according to notes taken by her staff in 1979, felt that:

“The Americans must be made to realise that for so long as they continued to finance terrorism, they would be responsible for the deaths of US citizens as well as others…The Americans must be brought to face the consequences of their actions.”

So at this point I could end the story by yelling: “Hypocrite, hypocrite, big stinky-butt hypocrite!”…or by suggesting we get all Cheney on the guy and waterboard him to see what other IRA plots he may still be aware of…but the fact is, the picture is a lot more complex than what’s been presented up to this point.

There is reporting that suggests King was willing to meet with representatives of both Sinn Féin and the opposition Ulster Unionist movement, and that his efforts not only helped the Irish peace process, but came at considerable personal risk.

He was also closely associated with Bill Clinton’s efforts to promote peace in Ireland, an unusual partnership for a Republican Congressman and a serving Democratic President in the “modern era” of post-Watergate politics.

And it wasn’t just King—Teddy Kennedy, Alfonse D’Amato, and [insert the name of virtually any “downstate” New York politician here] were working the same rallies and knew some or all of the same people King knew—and were hoping to harvest from the same community of voters and donors and volunteers.

And that’s how we get to the great irony of today’s story:

There is one man in American Government who has literally “palled around” with terrorists—in their own bar, back home in Belfast—and he wasn’t content to just pal around with the terrorists, he went further and actually helped the terrorists fundraise on US soil…for years…despite the fact that the terrorists were also attacking Americans.

And if that wasn’t enough, he kicked it up a notch and palled around with two opposing groups of terrorists, and in doing so, actually made the world a better place.

And yet, in today’s Republiteabag Party Express© environment, when he might be able to apply some of that Irish experience to this conflict, he can’t…which is too bad, because if he did something big, bipartisan, and statesmanlike, right now, it might give him the best shot he’ll ever have at becoming a Senator…in a time when Republiteabaggers badly need a few seats.

In fact, if he was able to tell his own Party this story, it might be the best thing he could do to get more than one new Senator elected…but, ironically, he can’t, because if he ever promoted his own history, he would be rejected by his own Party…as a “dagblessid terr-ir-ist”…which would mean that the guy who once told John McCain to exploit a terrorist connection…might well be outed as one by McCain’s former running mate.

Which, my friends, is some pretty deep irony.