Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy - Jeb Bradley on Social Security

In 2002, when Jeb Bradley ran for Congress, he said he was against privatizing Social Security. A funny thing happened after he went to Congress. He went from being a moderate Republican state legislator to a conservative Republican Congressman. In 2005, after being elected to a second term, President Bush decided that Social Security "reform" would be the centerpiece of his legacy. Apparently invading a country that was no threat to us, or creating the largest deficit in US history wasn't enough for him. Bush now set his sights on privatizing (destroying) Social Security. He set about getting the faithful aboard the privatization train. Jeb Bradley wasn't leaping on board fast enough, so Bush came to NH for a hit and run visit at Pease International Tradeport. Both of our US Senators were there. Jeb Bradley wasn't invited - to a presidential visit in his district.

Big snub.

The event was billed as a town hall meeting, even though no one was allowed to ask any questions. The event was limited (in true George Bush style) to the party faithful, to ensure no dissent. White House description of the "town hall" meeting to discuss strengthening Social Security. Strengthening is a euphemism, just as privatizing is. What Bush and his cohorts have in mind is dismantling and destroying the most successful anti-poverty program in our nation's history. Jeb Bradley got the message behind that big snub, and began to change his tune about Social Security. At town hall meetings, he discussed the need to have all the options on the table. The only option ever mentioned was Bush's plan. It was hugely unpopular. I know, because I was at most of those town hall meetings. Bradley refused to take a position on Bush's plan. He would not, despite the best efforts of thousands of constituents say whether or not he would protect Social Security from being destroyed. He refused to take a stand, right up to the bitter end. He was on the NHPR show, The Exchange" about a week before election day, and would not make his position clear, even in the face of uncharacteristically strong questioning by Laura Knoy.

The plan to privatize Social Security proved to be extremely unpopular with the voters. Many excuses have been made as to why Jeb Bradley lost the election to grassroots candidate Carol Shea-Porter. The unpopularity of the war, the unpopularity of Bush, etc. I believe that one of the great unsung reasons for the Bradley loss was his non-stance on Social Security. Carol Shea-Porter ran a better, stronger campaign that flew under the wire. UNH poll meister Andy Smith never gave Shea-Porter a chance. On election day, he was on NHPR predicting a big victory for Bradley. You may have noticed his polling shows the same kind of results this time. I'm not sure why we should take any poll with a 6% margin of error very seriously.

Bradley's been off the radar for the last two years. During that time, NH has voted in a civil union law (Bradley was against any kind of legitimizing for same gender relationships), voted to refuse to participate in the REAL ID program (Bradley voted for it). Things are changing in NH. Has Bradley learned from his loss? Has he listened to the winds of change?

This video: WMUR Commitment 2008 may provide an answer to that question. The video is both of the NH-01 GOP primary candidates answering the question, "What will you do to protect Social Security?" Bradley doesn't tell us. We learn that his children will be of retirement age when Social Security goes bankrupt. Given Jeb's multi-million dollar stock portfolio, it's unlikely that the kids will be worried about eating cat food or living under bridges when they're old. What Jeb tells us is not his position on protecting Social Security. Instead of taking a stand, he tells us we need to have a discussion on increasing the returns of the money we put into Social Security. What a wimp. What a wimpy, fraidy-cat answer. Bradley isn't brave enough to take a stand in favor of privatization, knowing how unpopular it would be with voters - so he wimps out on answering at all.

Imagine if Bush and company had gotten their way, and turned the Social Security Trust Fund over to Wall St? How might things be looking today for NH seniors?

One thing is certain. We can't rely on Jeb Bradley to protect Social Security. We can't even rely on him for a straight answer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Shea-Porter Statement on Financial Bailout Vote

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter released the following statement after voting against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act:

“Our economy has been battered by eight years of a financial wild west on Wall Street. There was no oversight and no accountability. I thought it was a mistake for the Administration to ask Congress to vote on a $700 billion bill to bail out Wall Street with only a single week to consider the proposal and a single day to review it. The Administration asked Congress to give up its Constitutional power of the purse and hand over a blank check for $700 billion. Congress said no.

“While I believe it is essential to address our credit and liquidity crisis, I voted against the Bush Bailout. I could not support the bill because it did not address the fundamental problem in our economy that caused the crisis in our financial institutions.

“I voted against the bill because it gave the Secretary of the Treasury -- a political appointee -- unfettered control over the execution of the bailout program. If the bill had passed, the Secretary of the Treasury would have had absolute authority to decide which securities to buy, from whom to purchase, and how much to pay. The Secretary of the Treasury would have also had absolute authority to decide who he would hire to manage the assets he purchased.

“More than four hundred economists, including three Nobel Laureates, appealed to Congress to slow down and make sure we got this right. Congress took about 8 months to draft and pass the legislation establishing the Resolution Trust Corporation -- and this only involved about $100 billion of taxpayer money. Certainly, Congress needs more time than one week to invest $700 billion of taxpayer money in a bailout.

“American taxpayers need a better bill, a better plan, and better protection. That is why I voted to stay in Washington and continue working on this bill. That is why I voted against this bill.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Campaign Insanity

Last week, John McCain assured us that the fundamentals of the economy were basically sound. This week, he’s suspending his presidential campaign to ride his white steed into Washington to save the US economy. One thing is certain; a McCain presidency wouldn’t be dull. No Canadian bacon at breakfast? Bomb Canada!

McCain is suspending his presidential campaign to deal with the financial crisis that he and his cronies helped create. Despite his near miss with the Keating Five, McCain has been shilling for deregulation for years. We just never learn. Sure we learned for a little while, after the Depression, but no matter how many times the free market zombies are slain – they keep coming back to life to tell us that the market works, and deregulation is the key. Now we the taxpayers are being told that we’re going to bail out the financial sector – bail out companies that are failing. We can’t have single payer health care, because that would be socialism – but bailing out Goldman Sachs? We have to do that to “save the economy.” In other words, corporate socialism is essential to our nation. Single payer health care, however, would be the end of us all, it would be….socialism, the next thing to godless Communism.

McCain is suspending his campaign, and has asked to postpone the first presidential debate, because of the financial crisis. Barack Obama has said that now, more than ever, the American people need to hear from the candidates, seeing as how one of them will be responsible for cleaning this mess up. One wonders if, at the first sign of multiple crises would McCain suspend his presidency?

We are looking at a very old man who wants to be president. An old man who has had serious health problems, yet won’t release his medical records. This should tell us something. This old man has recently hired a makeup artist who works on the TV show “American Idol”. He’s paid her over $5,500 for makeup so far. The media that raked John Edwards over the coals for a $400 haircut is surprisingly quiet about McCain and his makeup. Of course when he’s on TV without makeup, he looks a decade older, and shockingly unhealthy. Somehow I’m certain that 5.5 years in a POW camp is the answer to any questions about all that spackle.

It’s long past time to question McCain’s judgment. The Keating Five. The joke he told about Chelsea Clinton. The joke he told about a woman enjoying rape. The cover-up of his wife’s criminal behavior when she was stealing drugs from her non-profit. The angry insults he snarled at his wife in front of reporters in 1992 (too obscene to print). The endless flip flopping on everything he ever held dear, just to become president. In the middle of the Democratic Convention, he panicked, and picked Sarah Palin, a completely unqualified woman, to be his vice president. Now, in the face of a debate, he’s suspending his campaign and bailing out on the debate. It’s clear that the Senate doesn’t need his help – he’s missed 60% of the votes this year. He told us himself that he “didn’t know much about the economy” only a few months ago. Running away from the debate seems to be motivated solely by fear. We are a shallow people. The contrast between a calm, young, tall, elegant man and a frenzied, old, short, stumpy man won’t be pretty. Still – if he’s going to single-handedly turn the economy around, why not send his running mate to the debate? Is this a man who has the judgment and temperament to be president?

We are told that Sarah Palin is ready on day one to be president – yet she isn’t allowed to speak with the press or hold press conferences. Palin is a gift that keeps on giving: the pregnant teenaged daughter, Troopergate, the road to nowhere, the bridge to nowhere, and now Thomas Muthee, the minister who hunted witches in Kenya. There is footage on YouTube (footage that was scrubbed from the Wasilla church website) of Muthee praying over Palin, imploring Jesus to put her in the governor’s mansion, and get her all the money she needed to get there, and to keep her safe from witches. The Palin family is a traveling episode of the Maury Povich show.

One can only imagine the media frenzy that might ensue if there were footage of Obama with a witch doctor. On Fox every night, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are still trying to turn Obama’s acquaintance will Bill Ayers into something, still trying to eke out a little more interest in the Reverend Wright story – even though both were played out months ago. Oddly, despite their claims of fairness and balance, a lot of information is missing from their “news” programs. Earlier this week, a kid who was kicked out of school for wearing a tee shirt calling Obama a terrorist’s best friend, was on Hannity’s show, with his father. Hannity went into a tirade and started questioning the kid about Obama and Bill Ayers, even though it was obvious the kid didn’t know what he was talking about. The good news is, that if Obama wins in November, Hannity’s head may explode and put us all out of his misery.

"We should be able to deliver bottled hot water to dehydrated babies." –John McCain, Kenner, Louisiana, June 3, 2008

This was published as a Conway Daily Sun editorial Sept. 26, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Gender Card

Raising our Expectations

The seemingly endless presidential campaign has taken on some real wackiness in recent weeks. The Democratic National Convention sent McCain into such a panic that he decided to pick a running mate on the basis of gender, which certainly shored up his sagging old white guy campaign. It’s also created a level of media hysteria from the right that would be amusing if the future of the country weren’t at stake.

The Republican Convention was quite an event. Every speaker that got on stage told the story of John McCain and his 5.5 years in a POW camp. This is a story that the media had led me to believe that McCain was reluctant to talk about, so it came as something of a surprise to me to find that he only talks about it whenever he opens his mouth. After days of hearing the story, John McCain got on stage on the final night to tell us his own version of his experiences with enhanced interrogation techniques.

There were endless speeches about hating public education, hating socialism, hating the taxing of the wealthy, hating Social Security, hating anyone who thinks about changing our health care system, hating “Democrat elites” and in particular, hating community organizers.

Rudy Guiliani and Sarah Palin both sneered contemptuously about community organizers. Right wing blowhard Sean Hannity seethes with rage about community organizers every night on his “news” show. NH’s own Fergus Cullen, the head of the NH GOP has jumped on the anti-organizer bandwagon. Who are these loathsome people, these….organizers?

Without community organizers, Sarah Palin would be home chained to a stove and birthin’ up an even bigger family. From the Declaration of Sentiments at the Senecca Falls Convention to Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party, women organizing in their communities and states are the reason that women have the right to vote today. Community organizers in Montgomery, Alabama fought for the end of segregated buses in 1955, when the bus boycott began. This was a triumph of community organizing. It took a year, but they won. I have worked as a community organizer. In 2004, I was one of many who worked to get unregistered voters in NH to register and vote. I knocked on doors all summer in Berlin. In November of that year, Berlin had a 92 percent voter turnout. I don’t accept the contempt of Sarah Palin or Fergus Cullen. Their snide comments about community organizers should enrage every person who organizes a blood drive, a soup kitchen, or a walk for cancer. Those who sneer at community organizers are themselves elitists.

The GOP attempts to position itself as the party of the REAL people, which is why so much was made of small towns, as though people from small towns are wrapped in a special kind of American flag painted by Norman Rockwell, that ensures they are brimming with apple-cheeked wholesomeness. It’s the “Democrat elites” we have to fear. One almost has to admire the bold mendacity of the GOP, turning a guy who was brought up in a single parent family, a man who exemplifies the Republican bootstrap meme, a man who put himself through college as being some kind of elitist. Yet the man who had everything handed to him on a silver family platter and married his way into the rest is presented as being a regular John. A week before the GOP convention McCain couldn’t remember how many houses he owned. His wife wore an ensemble to the convention that was valued at $300,000 – but we’re supposed to believe they’re just regular folks. It’s that uppity arugala eater who is the REAL elitist.

We Americans spoon that stuff down like ice cream. We wouldn’t think of hiring a neurosurgeon who was a “C” student – but we elected a president who was proud of being average. Sarah Palin is presented to us as a hockey mom, which is supposed to reassure us that even though she’s one of us, she’s qualified to be the leader of the free world. So what that a month ago she asked what the vice president does – she can field dress a moose! Yeah! Turn Putin over to her! Yeah! Drill, baby, drill! USA! USA!

In 2000, the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush president. In 2004 he was elected for his second term. We were told that Americans thought he was the guy they’d most want to have a beer with, as though that were a good reason to vote for him. (Think about everyone you’ve ever sat next to in a bar – would you vote for them?) In those two terms, Bush has invaded a country who didn’t attack us, borrowed billions to finance an endless war on a vague concept, justified torture, justified secret prisons, justified wiretapping of US citizens, allowed thousands to die in New Orleans, has not kept his promise to help rebuild, has destroyed the US economy, cut spending on alternative energy sources at every opportunity, and besmirched the reputation of United States in countries around the world. That’s what the C student, the average guy did for us – and the GOP is telling us to repeat that behavior by voting for John McCain.

John McCain is selling the same failed policies of the Bush administration, the same failed policies he’s supported for the last 8 years. He’s trying to tell us that even though he’s pushing the same agenda, the results will be different with him at the helm. We’re also supposed to ignore the fact that even though Republicans claim to hate affirmative action, they’ve just engaged in the most blatant affirmative action promotion in recent history! Sarah Palin is not ready for prime time, and we all know it. The next president is going to have a lot to shovel for the next four years, trying to clean up the mess Bush and his henchmen are leaving us with. We need to aim higher – to expect better than average for our country. This is no time to settle for less.

“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” Winston Churchill

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dear Sarah,

September 4, 2008
An open letter to Sarah Palin,

Dear Sarah,

Congratulations on becoming the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republican Party in the upcoming election. It is a great thing to see a woman on the GOP ticket. Your candidacy is a truly historic event.

Still -let us not mince words. You were selected because of your gender. The GOP decided that you would appeal to female voters, especially middle aged white women. Women like me.

I watched your speech last night. You emphasized your small town experience and lifestyle as part of your appeal. I’m from an even smaller town than you are. I’m a wife, and a mother. We have some things in common.

You lost me when you ridiculed Barack Obama’s experience as a community organizer. I’m a community organizer, Sarah. I spent much of 2004 knocking on people’s doors in NH, to get them to register to vote. It was a non-partisan effort. Much of my work was in the city of Berlin, NH, which has a population of approximately 10,000 people. In 2004, Berlin’s voter turnout was 92% in most wards, thanks to community organizers. I don’t view the work we all did to ensure participation in the democratic process as being something that you, or your party should dismiss as unimportant, or contemptible.

Community organizing has a long, proud tradition. Community organizers started the Civil Rights movement. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a triumph of community organizing – and done without modern technology. The people of Montgomery met at night after work, in churches and planned their strategy. After a little over a year, they won the fight, and buses in Montgomery were no longer segregated.

Another triumph of community organizing is responsible for you being where you are today. Without the women’s suffrage movement, you would never have even been Mayor of Wasilla. You would be home, having babies, with no right to own property, no right to sign a contract, and no right to vote. You would be chattel. Beginning with the Declaration of Sentiments, that proclaimed “all men and women are created equal” to the very end, where Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party ensured the passage of the 19th Amendment, you owe your presence on the national stage to those women. Some of those women were jailed and tortured to win you the right to vote. Those women -those community organizers you spoke of last night with such seething contempt.

I don’t accept your contempt, Sarah. I don’t accept your glib premise that somehow community organizing is a sport for elitists. I’m betting that the community organizers of the Red Cross would agree.


Susan Bruce
Jackson, NH (population 835)