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GOP Wants To Be Sure Women/Idiot Children Understand What Rape Is and Get Permission Slips For Pretty Much Everything March 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org

The surreally awful news in the war on lady parts just keeps coming. An Idaho legislator wants women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and “counselling;” if she was raped, her doctor should make sure she was really raped and not just a participant in “normal relations in a marriage.” Alaska’s State Rep. Alan Dick (really) wants women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound and a written permission slip from the guy who, you know. Arizona wants to make it nigh on impossible to get an abortion, but if you make it through all the legislative hurdles you should have to watch an abortion. Then again, the author of the Arizona bill requiring women to prove to their bosses they are using birth control pills for non-slutty reasons, or get fired, is rewriting the bill because apparently, bewilderingly, some people got upset. Funny: Why don’t we feel better?

 

Large Portion Of GOP Thinks Obama Is Racist, Socialist, Non-U.S. Citizen: Poll February 2, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Right Wing.
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(Roger’s note: I generally do not post news about the Republican Party.  Discussing any subject with Republicans is like trying to dialogue with three year old about nuclear physics: your counterpart to the discussion has virtually no rational grasp of the reality of the matter under consideration.  The article posted below only goes to prove my point.  I should go without saying, however, that Obama’s policies are not necessarily supportable just  because wacko Republicans believe that he is a raving socialist; or that there is any justification for his pandering to the military, the war profiteers, and the country’s corporate masters.  What we cannot ignore though is the radical neo-fascist fringe that has captured control of the Republican Party and a large segment of the mass media; while their ideas and beliefs border on the comic absurd, the consequences are no less dangerous than they were from the Nazi clowns who ruled Germany.)
Published on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 by Huffington Postby Sam Stein

A new poll of more than 2,000 self-identified Republican voters illustrates the incredible paranoia enveloping the party and the intense pressure drawing lawmakers further and further away from political moderation.

[The numbers speak for themselves -- a large portion of GOP voters think that President Obama is racist, socialist or a non-US citizen -- though, when considering them, it is important to note that a disproportionate percentage of respondents are from GOP strongholds in the South (42 percent) as opposed to the Northeast (11 percent). Also note that this is a poll of self-identified Republicans, which means that independent Tea Party types are not included. ]
The numbers speak for themselves — a large portion of GOP voters think that President Obama is racist, socialist or a non-US citizen — though, when considering them, it is important to note that a disproportionate percentage of respondents are from GOP strongholds in the South (42 percent) as opposed to the Northeast (11 percent). Also note that this is a poll of self-identified Republicans, which means that independent Tea Party types are not included.

The numbers speak for themselves — a large portion of GOP voters think that President Obama is racist, socialist or a non-US citizen — though, when considering them, it is important to note that a disproportionate percentage of respondents are from GOP strongholds in the South (42 percent) as opposed to the Northeast (11 percent). Also note that this is a poll of self-identified Republicans, which means that independent Tea Party types are not included. 

Nevertheless here are some of the standout figures as provided by Daily Kos/Research 2000:

  • 39 percent of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached, 29 percent are not sure, 32 percent said he should not be voted out of office.
  • 36 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, 22 percent are not sure, 42 percent think he is a natural citizen.
  • 31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a “Racist who hates White people” — the description once adopted by Fox News’s Glenn Beck. 33 percent were not sure, and 36 percent said he was not a racist.
  • 63 percent of Republicans think Obama is a socialist, 16 percent are not sure, 21 percent say he is not
  • 24 percent of Republicans believe Obama wants “the terrorists to win,” 33 percent aren’t sure, 43 percent said he did not want the terrorist to win.
  • 21 percent of Republicans believe ACORN stole the 2008 election, 55 percent are not sure, 24 percent said the community organizing group did not steal the election.
  • 23 percent of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States, 19 percent aren’t sure, 58 percent said no.
  • 53 percent of Republicans said they believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama.

During his appearance at the House Republican retreat last Friday, Obama explained that it was hard to forge bipartisan consensus when lawmakers were trashing his health care bill as a “Bolshevik plot”. These poll numbers show that the gulf preventing bipartisan consensus extends well beyond health care. How does a Republican lawmaker explain to his or her die-hard base that it is important to work on legislation with a racist, socialist president who is illegally holding office only because of the help of ACORN?

“This is why it’s becoming impossible for elected Republicans to work with Democrats to improve our country,” said Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos. “They are a party beholden to conspiracy theorists who don’t even believe Obama was born in the United States, and already want to impeach him despite a glaring lack of scandal or wrongdoing. They think Obama is racist against white people and the second coming of Lenin. And if any of them stray and decide to do the right thing and try to work in a bipartisan fashion, they suffer primaries and attacks. Given what their base demands — and this poll illustrates them perfectly — it’s no wonder the GOP is the party of no.”

© 2010 Huffington Post

Get Ready for the Obama/GOP Alliance November 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Iraq and Afghanistan, Right Wing.
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Published on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 by CommonDreams.orgby Jeff Cohen

With Obama pushing a huge troop escalation in Afghanistan, history may well repeat itself with a vengeance. And it’s not just the apt comparison to LBJ, who destroyed his presidency on the battlefields of Vietnam with an escalation that delivered power to Nixon and the GOP.

There’s another frightening parallel: Obama seems to be following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who accomplished perhaps his single biggest legislative “triumph” – NAFTA – thanks to an alliance with Republicans that overcame strong Democratic and grassroots opposition.

It was 16 years ago this month when Clinton assembled his coalition with the GOP to bulldoze public skepticism about the trade treaty and overpower a stop-NAFTA movement led by unions, environmentalists and consumer rights groups. How did Clinton win his majority in Congress? With the votes of almost 80 percent of GOP senators and nearly 70 percent of House Republicans. Democrats in the House voted against NAFTA by more than 3 to 2, with fierce opponents including the Democratic majority leader and majority whip.

To get a majority today in Congress on Afghanistan, the Obama White House is apparently bent on a strategy replicating the tragic farce that Clinton pulled off: Ignore the informed doubts of your own party while making common cause with extremist Republicans who never accepted your presidency in the first place.

“Deather” conspiracists are not new to the Grand Old Party. Clinton engendered a similar loathing on the right despite his centrist, corporate-friendly policies. When conservative Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey delivered to Clinton (and corporate elites) the NAFTA victory, it didn’t slow down rightwing operatives who circulated wacky videos accusing Clinton death squads of murdering reporters and others.

For those who elected Obama, it’s important to remember the downward spiral that was accelerated by Clinton’s GOP alliance to pass NAFTA. It should set off alarm bells for us today on Afghanistan.

NAFTA was quickly followed by the debacle of Clinton healthcare “reform” largely drafted by giant insurance companies, which was followed by a stunning election defeat for Congressional Democrats in November 1994, as progressive and labor activists were lethargic while rightwing activists in overdrive put Gingrich into the Speaker’s chair.

A year later, advised by his chief political strategist Dick Morris (yes, the Obama-basher now at Fox), Clinton declared: “The era of big government is over.” In the coming years, Clinton proved that the era of big business was far from over – working with Republican leaders to grant corporate welfare to media conglomerates (1996 Telecom Act) and investment banks (1999 abolition of the Glass-Steagall Act).

Today, it’s crucial to ask where Obama is heading. From the stimulus to healthcare, he’s shown a Clinton-like willingness to roll over progressives in Congress on his way to corrupt legislation and frantic efforts to compromise for the votes of corporate Democrats or “moderate” Republicans. Meanwhile, the incredible shrinking “public option” has become a sick joke.

As he glides from retreats on civil liberties to health reform that appeases corporate interests to his Bush-like pledge this week to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, an Obama reliance on Congressional Republicans to fund his troop escalation could be the final straw in disorienting and demobilizing the progressive activists who elected him a year ago.

Throughout the centuries, no foreign power has been able to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, but President Obama thinks he’s a tough enough Commander-in-Chief to do it. Too bad he hasn’t demonstrated such toughness in the face of obstructionist Republicans and corporate lobbyists. For them, it’s been more like “compromiser-in-chief.”

When you start in the center (on, say, healthcare or Afghanistan) and readily move rightward several steps to appease rightwing politicians or lobbyists or Generals, by definition you are governing as a conservative.

It’s been a gradual descent from the elation and hope for real change many Americans felt on election night, November 2008. For some of us who’d scrutinized the Clinton White House in the early 1990s, the buzz was killed days after Obama’s election when he chose his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a top Clinton strategist and architect of the alliance that pushed NAFTA through Congress.

If Obama stands tough on more troops to Afghanistan (as Clinton fought ferociously for NAFTA), only an unprecedented mobilization of progressives – including many who worked tirelessly to elect Obama – will be able to stop him. Trust me: The Republicans who yell and scream about Obama budget deficits when they’re obstructing public healthcare will become deficit doves in spending the estimated $1 million per year per new soldier (not to mention private contractors) headed off to Asia.

The only good news I can see: Maybe it will take a White House/GOP alliance over Afghanistan to wake up the base of liberal groups (like MoveOn) to take a closer and more critical look at President Obama’s policies.

Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). His latest book is Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.

Republicans in Desperation Over Obama Releasing More Bush Torture Memos April 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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By Scott Horton, The Daily Beast. Posted April 9, 2009.

www.alternet.org

If the president releases more Bush torture memos, Republicans are promising to “go nuclear” and filibuster his legal appointments.

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.

Barack Obama entered Washington with a promise of transparency. One of his first acts was a presidential directive requiring that the Freedom of Information Act, a near dead letter during the Bush years, was to be enforced according to its terms. He specifically criticized the Bush administration’s practice of preparing secret memos that determined legal policy and promised to review and publish them after taking office.

But in the past week, questions about Obama’s commitment to transparency have mounted. On April 2, the Justice Department was expected to make public a set of four memoranda prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel, long sought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy organizations in a pending FOIA litigation. The memos, authored by then-administration officials and now University of California law professor John Yoo, federal appellate judge Jay Bybee and former Justice Department lawyer Stephen Bradbury, apparently grant authority for the brutal treatment of prisoners, including waterboarding, isolated confinement in coffin-like containers, and “head smacking.” The stakes over release of the papers are increasingly high. Yoo and Bybee are both targets of a criminal investigation in a Spanish court probing the torture of five Spanish citizens formerly held in Guantánamo; also named in the Spanish case are former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and three other Bush lawyers. Legal observers in Spain consider the Bush administration lawyers at serious risk of indictment, and the memos, once released, could be entered as evidence in connection with their prosecution. Unlike the torture memos that are already public, these memos directly approve specific torture techniques and therefore present a far graver problem for their authors.

The release of the memos that the Senate Republicans want to suppress was cleared by Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counsel Greg Craig, and then was stopped when “all hell broke loose” inside the Obama administration, according to an article by Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff. Newsweek attributes internal opposition to disclosure of the Bush-era torture memos to White House counterterrorism adviser and former CIA official John O. Brennan, who has raised arguments that exposure of the memoranda would run afoul of policies protecting the secrecy of agency techniques and has also argued that the memos would embarrass nations like Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt, which have cooperated closely with the CIA in its extraordinary renditions program. Few informed independent observers, however, find much to credit in the Brennan objections because the techniques are now well-known, as is the role of the cooperating foreign intelligence services—any references to which would in any event likely be redacted before the memoranda are released. Moreover, the argument that the confidence of those engaged in torture—serious criminal conduct under international and domestic law—should be kept because they would be “embarrassed” if it were to come out borders on comic.

The Justice Department source confirms to me that Brennan has consistently opposed making public the torture memos—and any other details about the operations of the extraordinary renditions program—but this source suggests that concern about the G.O.P.’s roadblock in the confirmation process is the principle reason that the memos were not released. Republican senators have expressed strong reservations about their promised exposure, expressing alarm that a critique of the memos by Justice’s ethics office (Office of Professional Responsibility) will also be released. “There was no ‘direct’ threat,” said the source, “but the message was communicated clearly—if the OLC and OPR memoranda are released to the public, there will be war.” This is understood as a threat to filibuster the nominations of Johnsen and Koh. Not only are they among the most prominent academic critics of the torture memoranda, but are also viewed as the strongest advocates for release of the torture memos on Obama’s legal policy team.

A Republican Senate staffer further has confirmed to me that the Johnsen nomination was discussed at the last G.O.P. caucus meeting. Not a single Republican indicated an intention to vote for Dawn Johnsen, while Senator John Cornyn of Texas was described as “gunning for her,” specifically noting publication of the torture memos.

No decision was taken at that Republican caucus meeting whether to filibuster or not, though Cornyn was generally believed to support filibustering Johnsen and potentially other nominees. Johnsen has met recently with moderate Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, both of whom are being lobbied heavily by colleagues and religious right groups to oppose her nomination.

Both Koh and Johnsen are targets of sustained attacks coming from right-wing lobbying groups. The Daily Beast previously reviewed the attacks on Johnsen, while Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has catalogued the recent attacks on Koh. Former Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson recently endorsed the Koh nomination, calling the Yale dean “a man of great integrity.” But connecting the Obama nominations to the Bush torture memos escalates the conflict toward a thermonuclear level.

Scott Horton is a law professor and writer on legal and national-security affairs for Harper’s magazine and The American Lawyer, among other publications.

Health-Care Reform Could Kill the GOP December 6, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Political Commentary.
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“…for most of my lifetime, prominent Democratic leaders have been chucking liberalism itself for the sake of immediate tactical gain.”

This is a quote from the article posted below that appeared in the Huffington Post.  Although the article focuses on the issue of universal health care, it raises much wider issues.  After one reads the article, one cannot help but asking the question: Why is this the case?  (Why does the right tend to implement its agenda when elected to government, while the left has a marked tendency to waffle and back track?)

My comments continue after the article.

 

Huffington Post, December 3, 2008

 Thomas Frank

 Can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan? Ask any Republican worth his salt and the answer will be an unequivocal yes. Ask a Democrat of the respectable Beltway variety and he will twist himself into a pretzel denying it.

For decades Republicans have made policy with a higher purpose in mind: to solidify the GOP base or to damage the institutions and movements aligned with the other side. One of their fondest slogans is “Defund the Left,” and under that banner they have attacked labor unions and trial lawyers and tried to sever the links between the lobbying industry and the Democratic Party. Consider as well their long-cherished dreams of privatizing Social Security, which would make Wall Street, instead of Washington, the protector of our beloved seniors. Or their larger effort to demonstrate, by means of egregious misrule, that government is incapable of delivering the most basic services.

That these were all disastrous policies made no difference: The goal was to use state power to achieve lasting victory for the ideas of the right.

On the other side of the political fence, strategic moves of this kind are fairly rare. Instead, for most of my lifetime, prominent Democratic leaders have been chucking liberalism itself for the sake of immediate tactical gain.

Former President Bill Clinton, who is widely regarded as a political mastermind, may have sounded like a traditional liberal at the beginning of his term in office. But what ultimately defined his presidency was his amazing pliability on matters of principle. His most memorable innovation was “triangulating” between his own party and the right, his most famous speech declared and end to “the era of big government,” his most consequential policy move was to cement the consensus on deregulation and free trade, and many of his boldest stands were taken against his own party.

The results were not pretty, either for the Democrats or for the nation.

Still, conservatives have always dreaded the day that Democrats discover (or rediscover) that there is a happy political synergy between delivering liberal economic reforms and building the liberal movement. The classic statement of this fear is a famous memo that Bill Kristol wrote in 1993, when he had just started out as a political strategist and the Clinton administration was preparing to propose some version of national health care.

“The plan should not be amended; it should be erased,” Mr. Kristol advised the GOP. And not merely because Mr. Clinton’s scheme was (in Mr. Kristol’s view) bad policy, but because “it will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests.”

Historian Rick Perlstein suggests that this memo is “the skeleton key to understanding modern American politics” because it opens up a fundamental conservative anxiety: “If the Democrats succeed in redistributing economic power, we’re screwed.”

In the Clinton years, of course, it was the Republicans who succeeded. And the Democrats’ failure — the failure to deliver national health care that is, not the act of proposing national health care — was a crucial element, in Mr. Perlstein’s view, in the Republican Revolution of 1994. Assessing the accomplishments of the “party of the people” after those first months of Clintonism, middle-class Americans were left with what? A big helping of Nafta. Mmm-mmm.

Fourteen years later, we find ourselves at the same point in the political debate, with a Democratic president-elect promising to deliver some variety of health-care reform. And, like a cuckoo emerging from a clock, Mr. Kristol’s old refrain is promptly taken up by a new chorus. “Blocking Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Survival,” proclaims the headline of a November blog post by Michael F. Cannon, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of Health Policy Studies. His argument, stitched together from other blog posts, is pretty much the same as Mr. Kristol’s in 1993. Any kind of national medical program would be so powerfully attractive to working-class voters that it would shift the tectonic plates of the nation’s politics. Therefore, such a program must be stopped.

Liberal that I am, I support health-care reform on its merits alone. My liberal blood boils, for example, when I read that half of the personal bankruptcies in this country are brought on, in part, by medical expenses. And my liberal soul is soothed to find that an enormous majority of my fellow citizens agree, in general terms, with my views on this subject.

But it pleases me even more to think that the conservatives’ nightmare of permanent defeat might come true simply if Democrats do the right thing. No, health-care reform isn’t as strategically diabolical as, say, the K Street Project. It involves only the most straightforward politics: good government stepping in to heal an ancient, festering wound. But if by doing this Barack Obama also happens to nullify decades of conservative propaganda, so much the better for all of us.

Thomas Frank’s column, The Tilting Yard, appears every Wednesday at OpinionJournal.com

Continuation of remarks by Roger Hollander:

 The answer to this question (Can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan?) I believe, is both simple and complex.  Complex in its detail with respect to the myriads of forms in which decisions are made in a capitalist democracy; but not that hard to understand in its broadest terms.

Follow the money.

The Republican agenda, again broadly speaking, is very much in tune with the objectives of corporate America, the military-industrial complex, the financial industry, etc; in other words, with capital.  If it goes to extremes, as with the current Cheney/Bush administration, some Republicans may take a longer perspective and believe that it needs to be reined in.  Nevertheless, no one could seriously argue that the Republican Party is much more than a front for organized capital.

Is the Democratic Party then, the opposite, its foil?  Dream on.  Because even in a capitalist democracy the power structure must at times respond to popular demands, the Democrats have taken the advantage of this by being the repository for such phenomena.  But within strictly defined limits.

Bob Dylan wrote, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”  Now I have nothing against money per se, I use it all the time.  It’s one of my best friends.  But what we are talking about here is enormous concentrations of money that exert an influence through campaign contributions and lobbying that cannot possibly be matched by any one or ones who represent the general interest. 

To go back to the original question, “can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan,” if we assume by “wise” that we mean the general interest, than from that perspective the answer in no.  Lobbyists have been referred to as the fourth branch of government.  The metaphor is useful to the extent that it demonstrates the colossal power of corporate and military lobbyists; but in effect the influence of lobbyist permeates all branches of government.  My favourite example of the effective lobbying is the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which tightened the restrictions regarding doing business with Cuba, and was apparently actually written by staff at Bacardi and passed on the legislators who introduced it.

Of course the most obvious example of the Democratic Party’s winning representation in support of popular sentiment only to renege on its promise is the Iraq War (or, rather, the invasion and occupation of Iraq).  In the 2006 mid-term elections, the Democrats were able to gain control of both Houses of Congress based upon their support of enormous public sentiment for an immediate or prompt withdrawal.  With that power and authority under its Beltway belt, the Democratic Congress proceeded to approve every budget request for the war and went so far as to allow for its escalation, which was thinly disguised by the Orwellian use of the word “surge.”

Thomas Frank, the author of the posted article on which I am commenting, identifies himself as a Liberal.  We all know that the past two decades have been dominated for the most part by Conservative ideas and policies: anti-labor, anti-welfare, anti-environmental protection; pro-war, pro-corporate, pro-rich, etc.  But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the results of polling American voters, which consistently support universal health care, environmental protection, more equitable taxation, etc.; that is, the Liberal agenda!  But the Democratic Party (Clinton 1992-2000; Congress 2006-2008; Obama 2008?????) for a variety of reasons is neither willing nor able to give Americans what we want.

Two factors, not entirely unrelated to “money,” should be mentioned as means by which the general will and interest are thwarted in our capitalist democracy: manipulation through massive spending on public relations and influence bordering on control of the mass media; and manufactured crises or the appropriation of actual crises (this well documented in Naomi Klein’s blockbuster, “The Shock Doctrine”) to scare us into accepting unpleasant medicine.  The current economic crisis is being used, for example, to give Wall Street and its supporters in BOTH parties the opportunity to maintain its advantages while millions of Americans lose their homes and/or their jobs).

In effect the United States is a one party democracy with two branches: the Democrats and the Republicans.  Wikipedia lists 210,000 entries for the word “Republicrat.”  The notion is not original with me.  Look at the political spectrum.  The Republican Party pretty much represents every interest almost to the extreme end on the right side.  On the left side, the distance between the left wing of the Democratic Party (with the exception of a tiny handful such as Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Boxer) and say Ralph Nader (whose policies on the environment, the war, corporate taxation, regulation of the financial industry are virtually congruent with public opinion) and Noam Chomsky – both of whom are no where near to being criminally mendacious or as irresponsibly and ludicrously extremist as the Bill O’Reillys and Rush Limbaughs – is gaping.

Going back to the money, Barack Obama has tried to create the illusion that his massive campaign contributions came largely from ordinary Americans making relatively small donations.  While it is true that much of the Obama movement has been fuelled by the enthusiasm of American youth and liberals, and small contributions have been considerable; nevertheless, the bulk of the nearly trillion dollars in his war chest came from similar sources as were traditional for both parties.  Once the band wagon gets rolling, the big boys know when to jump on.

And going back to health care, Canada provides an excellent example of the thesis stated by Thomas Frank.  In 1942, Tommy Douglas was elected Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan, and introduced the first democratic socialist government in North America.  In 1962 Saskatchewan, after a “fight to the death” with the North American medical establishment and the provinces’ physicians, introduced universal health care, another first for the western hemisphere.

In that same year, a Conservative (!) Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, established a Royal Commission to study health care in the country, and that Commission, headed by a former Supreme Court Judge, Emmett Hall, recommended nationwide adoption of Saskatchewan’s model of public health insurance, which led to the introduction and passage of the Canada Health Act in 1966 under a minority Liberal government, headed by Lester B. Pearson.  Thus Canada became the only country in the Americas, apart from Cuba, to offer its citizens universal health care.  And it did so under the political pressures that were a consequence of Saskatchewan’s successful and enormously popular and socially beneficial initiative.

It is also interesting to compare the results of leftist governments coming to power via democratic election versus those coming to power via revolution.  I have not made a comprehensive study of this, but will just name some examples.  In Europe, in the second half of the last century, two avowedly socialist governments came to power in France (under François Mitterrand) and Greece (under Andreas Papandreou).  Neither of the two governments were able (or willing) to deliver on their promises from the standpoint of either domestic or foreign policy.

On the other side of the ledger, during roughly the same time period two socialist governments came to power in the Americas though armed revolution: the July 26 Movement (under Fidel Castro) in Cuba, and the Sandinistas (under Daniel Ortega) in Nicaragua.  In the early years of both revolutions, their governments made huge inroads in eliminating illiteracy and in introducing free education (in Cuba up to and including university level studies) and universal health care, along with other progressive social programs.  Although the Cuban government has ossified into a Stalinist style dictatorship (though not nearly as brutal) and had to withstand the hardships imposed by the US blockade, it has been able to maintain these social programs.  In Nicaragua, the Sandinista government was seriously disabled by the US supported Contras.  The major targets of their terrorist attacks incidentally, were schools and clinics.  It lost power in a democratic election and recently has regained it.

I’m not saying that these examples necessarily prove anything, they are anecdotal , but I think it is worth pondering.

The example with which I am personally most familiar has to do with the Province of Ontario in Canada, where I resided for many years and where I served on the Municipal Council of Metropolitan Toronto as a elected Councillor for seven years.  In 1990 the New Democratic Party (NDP), which originally considered it socialist, but over the years evolved into a non-socialist leftist social democratic opposition, won a large majority in the provincial parliament and its leader, Bob Rae, became Premier of Ontario.  

The very first thing that Rae did upon being inaugurated was to travel to New York and speak on Wall Street to assure that they had no fears from his government.  Although his government was mildly progressive in some areas (a large percentage of women in the cabinet, some environmental protection), on the whole it could not be distinguished from traditional Liberal or Conservative governments when it came to protecting corporate interests and other instruments of capitalist control (policing, for example, where the Rae government failed to implement effective civilian oversight). It’s most notorious legislation was blatantly anti-labor.  It introduced what it called the “social contract” for government workers, a measure whereby they could accept voluntary roll backs or the government would do it for them.

Ironically, the Rae government was attacked viciously by the right and the corporate media as if it had in fact introduced a democratic socialist progressive policy agenda.  It was soundly defeated after a single term in office despite its efforts to appease capital.  It may as well have implemented its “radical” platform and left the province with a progressive legacy.  Instead,the Rae government was replaced by the government of Conservative Mike Harris, who did not hesitate to keep his promises to deregulate, privatize, and drastically reduce social and environmental programs.  He left office in disgrace, but his legacy remains.  Not only that, his major advisors and cabinet members are now effectively in charge of the Conservative government of Canada under Stephen Harper, another rightist who more or less “keeps his word” when it comes to his regressive policies on labor, social programs, taxes, environmental protection, etc.

A final and unpleasant irony.  One of the major arguments coming from the right when progressive measures are on the table is that such things as taxing business or increasing government spending on social programs (which involves more taxation) have the effect of driving business out of the jurisdiction.  If we increase corporate taxes or increase costly benefits and wages in X state or Y province, business will abandon them and move elsewhere.

When the Woodrow Lloyd (successor to Tommy Douglas) government introduced universal health care before the Saskatchewan parliament in 1962, the right and the medical establishment went ballistic.  Saskatchewan doctors went on strike and threatened to leave the province.  The opposition used this to play on latent racism by raising the specter of having to be attended to by “foreign” doctors, who would be brought to the province to replace the good White Saskatchewan docs.

Of course, as we have seen, exactly the opposite occurred.  When the general public in one jurisdiction can see that progressive social programs can actually work in another, it puts enormous pressure on their governments to act in a similar way.  No political party, no matter how far to the right, would dare suggest that the Canada Health Act be repealed (although they do their best to hack away at it whenever they get the chance).

Those of us from the Vietnam era remember the phrase “domino effect.”  It was used to frighten Americans into believing that if Vietnam remained a Communist state, all of Asia (if not the entire world) would follow.  In this case it was a bogus argument, but as the Republicans seem to be well aware, the Democrats actually being able to achieve a workable universal health care plan for the country could cause other dominos to fall (Kyoto, disarmament, affordable higher education, etc.) and undermine what the Republicans have so laboriously built up in the way of firewalls against progressive domestic and foreign policy. This “Chicken Little” strategy along with the enormous lobbying influence on both parties of the AMA and the private health insurance industry (of whom Hillary Clinton had become the major beneficiary in the Senate) is what Barack Obama and his Democratic Congress has to face if they are serious about universal single payer health care.  Place you bets.

A final word about universal health care.  Plans that involve the Byzantine network of private health insurance are probably doomed to failure once in operation for a variety of reasons not the least of which is cost and unworkable bureaucracy.  The weakness of existing single payer health plans such as that of Canada is that, while the coverage is “socialized,” the costs remain private.  In Canada the government negotiates with the Medical Association on a schedule of fees, but cost containment remains a serious problem.  In Canada drugs and dental care are not covered.  In the US, when the drug benefit was introduced to Medicare, it specifically prohibited the government from negotiation with the pharmaceutical industry for lower prices.  In Great Britain, where the National Health Service represents genuine “socialized” medicine in that it is government “owned and operated,” pressures to limit services in order to contain costs persist, of course, because costs are directly related to taxation. 

This takes us to the question of the role of the state in a capitalist society and what might things be like if and when capitalism were replaced with genuine democratic socialism, a minor issue but one which I will leave for future discussion.

 

 

 

David Duke Helps Son of ex-Klan Leader in Fight for Palm Beach County Republican Seat December 1, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in U.S. Election 2008.
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Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, December 01, 2008

 

WEST PALM BEACH — — Derek Black says “of course” he will attend a meeting Wednesday for new members of Palm Beach County’s Republican Executive Committee. Never mind that the party chairman says Black’s “white supremacist” associations are not welcome and he will not be seated.

“I was elected,” Black, 19, says.

Brandon Kruse/The Post

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Don Black, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, has stepped in to defend the appointment of Derek Black, his son, to the Palm Beach County Executive Committee after local GOP officials sought to bar him from the process on a technicality.

Brandon Kruse/The Post

enlarge

David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, has stepped in to defend the appointment of Derek Black to the Palm Beach County Executive Committee after local GOP officials sought to bar him from the process on a technicality. Black is the son of former Klansman and Grand Wizard Don Black.

Brandon Kruse/The Post

enlarge

Derek Black can’t be seated with county GOP members because he didn’t sign an oath, the chairman says.

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Sporting a black hat, the son of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black was seated last week in a restaurant off Southern Boulevard. Sitting next to him was one of his supporters: David Duke, former Louisiana state legislator and another former KKK grand wizard.

“We’re going to fight,” Duke said. “I know Derek Black is going to fight for his constitutional liberties. That’s why I’m here, because I want to assist Derek.”

Sorry, says county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein. In the qualifying period in June, Black didn’t sign a loyalty oath pledging he would not do anything injurious to the party. And that’s not the only problem.

“He participates in white supremacist activities,” Dinerstein said. “We’re the party of Lincoln. We’re the party that says we don’t judge anybody by the color of their skin.”

Derek Black’s response: “I’ve told (Dinerstein) I’m not a white supremacist; that’s an insult. I would describe myself as a white person who is concerned about discrimination against white people.”

A community college student who was home-schooled in West Palm Beach, Black once contributed a kids page to his father’s Stormfront Internet forum around the time he was 12. The page included puzzles, games, animated Confederate flags and white-pride songs. He has since helped with his father’s Internet audio broadcasts.

But did voters really have any idea who he is?

Duke leaned in.

“Irrelevant question,” Duke said. “He got the votes. He won election.”

Black says he campaigned around the district for the seat. Executive committee members elect the county party chairman and help determine where the party spends its money.

He said he answered any questions voters asked, but mostly talked about issues.

“I talked about immigration,” he said. “I talked about the presidential campaign. That was the biggest issue. This was back in August, July. Most of them weren’t happy with (Sen. John) McCain turning out to be their candidate. It did come up a few times that I didn’t like McCain.”

He continued: “A large part of the district, the Republican part of the district, is Hispanic, Cubans. They’re the ones I’ve gotten the most public support from. Walking down the street, going to Publix, it was old Cuban men who slapped me on the back and told me to fight the system.”

Duke, who lives in Louisiana, said he won’t be in West Palm Beach for the Wednesday meeting, but he conducted an Internet broadcast with Don Black from the restaurant. The Grateful Dead’s Truckin’ blared over the eatery’s music system in the background. In the broadcast, the men took Dinerstein to task: He has “chutzpah” to take an “anti-democratic” position, Duke said.

It’s a line Duke has used before on his Web site: “Sid Dinerstein, a Jewish-extremist loyalist to Israel, has the chutzpah to think that he has the right to deny Derek Black his legally elected office because he doesn’t like Mr. Black’s views.”

At least four books and dictionaries have defined Stormfront as the Internet’s first “hate” site dating back to 1995. Stormfront’s site link on a Google search comes with this description: “Racialist discussion board for pro-White activists and anyone else interested in White survival.”

Barack Obama’s election has helped drive up Stormfront traffic to record levels, Don Black said.

Duke said the historic election has helped galvanize support for the causes he believes in: “Obama enables people to see more clearly. It makes it clear we’re losing control of our country.”

But Don Black said press reports of threats against Obama on the Stormfront forums have been exaggerated. He said he suspects one contributor, who hadn’t posted in six years, was deliberately trying to stir up trouble for the site recently. He said he does not condone violence and wants a “peaceful revolution” that ends racial preferences for minorities and promotes the civil liberties of whites.

Echoing what Duke and his father say about themselves, Derek Black says he never uses the term “white supremacist.”

His case goes like this: He says he won 62 percent of the vote in his district (published reports put it at 58 percent at the time). The oath is a technicality that should not overturn an election, he contends. He says he is prepared to hire a lawyer to explore legal options if he is not seated.

When party leaders realized who he is, they scrambled to bar him within days of the August vote. Dinerstein said he has the backing of the state party.

“The loyalty oath is very important, and folks do need to sign it on time,” said Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Erin VanSickle.

But Derek Black said he’ll keep up the fight for the seat, even if his opponents want to shun him as viper’s brood.

“I thought it was amusing. I’m accused of having a past when I’m 19,” he said.

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