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Posts tagged Nancy Pelosi

Not One Damned Dime

The good news is that latest plan to grab $700,000,000,000 out of tax victims’ wallets in the name of bail-out capitalism has failed, at least for the time being.

Part of what’s heartening about this, other than the basic fact, is how much public fury about all these past bail-outs, and this new rotten plan on top of it, has defeated the Pelosi-Bush coalition’s ambitions to ramrod this stinker through as quickly as possible. The obvious fury, combined with the sensitivity of an election season, hobbled the bipartisan Leadership gang in their abilities to whip other members into rank-and-file. This may be another sign of important cracks in the pillars that hold up the ruling coalition. It’s certainly an opportunity that we ought to seize.

The bad news is that the pols, even (or especially) those who did the most to scotch the deal, all have A Plan for a new and better deal to put in its place. And every plan is stupider than the last. Paulson is still demanding a plan that works, because Weβ??ve got much work to do and this is much too important to simply let fail. Peter DeFazzio (D-Occupied Oregon) objected to the bail-out deal on the grounds that What we are considering today is still built on the Paulson-Bush premise that buying up Wall Streetβ??s bad bets will solve the liquidity problem. But then he turns back around and suggests We can do better. We should start again on a new package, apparently because a new plan for buying up Wall Street’s bad bets at taxpayer expense will somehow improve on the old one. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who also voted against the bail-out bill, insists that Inaction has never been an option, but [Treasury chief Henry] Paulsonβ??s plan should never have been our only option. Democratic and their Progressive enablers have repeatedly hinted that they’d be willing to accept a multibillion dollar bailout if it’s attached to partial nationalization of the firms being bailed out, or re-regulation of financial corporations, or new entitlement programs, or, even better, a combination of all three.

This is a losing approach — because there’s clarity in a simple demand of No–hell no! that you lose amidst the complicated details of everyone’s latest Great New Plan, once you start horse-trading and concede that it might be O.K. in principle to grab billions of dollars out of working people’s pockets and give it to a bunch of hat-in-hand robber barons begging to go on the government dole, if it can be tied to advancing your other political goals. It’s also the wrong approach, because no matter what strings you might manage to attach, there is no justification whatsoever for this massive act of robbery from working folks. If the things that Progressives want to get are really worth getting, then they should fight to get those things done on their own; there’s certainly nothing to be gained by hitching them up to this act of plunder. If they cannot practically be got except by conceding to this massive privateering raid, then they are not worth the cost of getting them, and we ought to talk about ways that we can get the things that we really want, outside of the stifling limitations of electoral politics.

There’s remarkably little I could say that wouldn’t just amount to copy-and-paste from what I’ve already said. The stupidity and evil of robbing $700,000,000,000 out of the pockets of working folks, use it to bail politically-connected financial corporations out of their ill-conceived high-risk investments and speculations, and to do so with the explicit purpose of using government force to artificially insulate and stabilize the economic status quo from market reality, should go without saying. So should the right response to make.

No bail-outs. No sweetheart loans. Under no condition. No excuses and no deals. Kill this bug dead, and replace it with nothing.

If the prevailing business model for high-stakes investment banking or mortgage-lending is really viable, then these guys can suck it up and get to work and make their way through this mess the same way that all of us who the government considers small enough to fail are doing. If, on the other hand, their business model can’t survive without having the government repeatedly come around and seize trillions of dollars from working folks who don’t have the money to give and then force them to cover the costs of the money-men’s own stupid mistakes, and to cushion the poor usurers from the reality that nobody really wants to keep buying what it is that they have to sell–well, then, let it die, for God’s sake. Don’t run around finding New Deals or Main Street Bail-outs or any other stupid gimmick to try to tie in along with some tweaked or polished version of Paulson’s Endangered Capitalists Act. We can talk about ways that we can work together to help ourselves and our neighbors and fellow workers make it through these tough times–through practicing radical solidarity, through building alternative institutions, and through organizing grassroots mutual aid. All without wasting billions or trillions more on propping up the dinosaurs of inflation-driven politically-connected go-go finance capital.

Let the robber barons clean up their own mess, or let them hang out to dry if they can’t hack it. Not one damned dime from workers’ pockets to Wall Street. Period. End of political program.

See also:

House of Representatives rejects war funding bill

I just heard about this via e-mail a few minutes ago:

An unusual coalition of antiwar Democrats and angry Republicans in the House today torpedoed a $162.5 billion proposal to continue funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year, eliminating, for now, the one part of the controversial bill that had seemed certain to pass.

Instead, House members voted to demand troop withdrawals from Iraq, force the Iraqi government to shoulder more war costs and greatly expand the education benefits for returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict.

The surprise on war-funding left antiwar activists on and off Capitol Hill exultant and Democratic leaders baffled. House leaders had broken the war-funding bill into three separate measures, the first to fund the wars, the second to impose strict military policy measures opposed by President Bush, and the third to fund domestic priorities, including expanded education benefits and flood control work around New Orleans.

But that legislative legerdemain became the plan’s undoing. Democratic leaders knew that many members of their caucus, who have vowed not to approve another penny for the Iraq war, would reject the supplemental appropriation for the conflicts, but they expected Republicans to push it through. [Utterly despicable. –R.G.] Instead, 131 House Republicans voted present on the measure, incensed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a few of her lieutenants had drafted the war bill largely in secret.

. . .

The House actions were a dream come true for the antiwar movement.

It is time now for Americans to be heard and for this Congress to move forward with the safe redeployment of our troops, exulted Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) who called on the House to use the $162.5 billion in war funds for domestic priorities.

For the first time ever, the U.S. House has now taken decisive action to bring this war to a close, declared Alan Charney, program director of the antiwar group USAction.

When the Senate takes up the bill, its version will include war funding, but prescriptions on troop withdrawals and torture will probably fall to a GOP filibuster.

— Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post (2008-05-16): War Funding Bill Stalls in House

I suppose what’s most likely is that the funding will be re-added in conference committee, or a new emergency funding bill will be thrown together while the party whips are lashed extra-hard and the warhawk Republicans kiss and make up with the doughface Democratic leadership. But there is a glimmer of hope today that there wasn’t yesterday, shining through the cracks in the both the War Party coalition (of leadership Democrats and warhawk Republicans), and in the ruling majority. I don’t know whether this is just a stumble, or the beginning of a real fall, for the bloody-handed, doughfaced Democratic leadership. I’m too cautious to expect a fall, but I do hold out a little hope. And when they do fall, you can expect them to fall fast and hard. Stay tuned on this one.

See also:

Gosh that’s tough

In a footnote on a generally appalling post, devoted entirely to abusing anyone who might have the temerity to hold the doing-worse-than-nothing Democratic Congressional majority in general — or Nancy Pelosi in particular — to account on matters of principle (a post which makes itself completely impossible to reply to with anything other than more abuse and facile sarcasm, because the post does not, at any point, identify any particular person or action that is being targeted, and so offers no basis for serious discussion), Anthony McCarthy has this to add:

Volunteering in a political campaign, seeing what they go through, Iβ??m sick and tired of hearing people run down our [sic] politicians. They are just about all dedicated to pubic service. Few moderate to liberal Democrats serving in elective office at the national level couldnβ??t be enjoying a much more comfortable and profitable life pursuing a wealth-making career. With considerably fewer headaches. You think itβ??s such a bed of roses, try getting yourself elected. Try dodging the bullets and balancing the pressure groups.

It must be so hard on them.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is out there trying to dodge metaphorical bullets. If she doesn’t make it past those metaphorical bullets, then, sometime in early 2009, she’ll be demoted to a mere Representative, or might even have to look for a new well-paying white-collar job. Meanwhile, near Mosul, a woman and a child failed to dodge some actual bullets, when U.S. soldiers opened fire on their car.

They died.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A woman, a child and two gunmen were killed by U.S. forces conducting a military operation targeting al Qaeda in northern Iraq, the military said on Sunday.

It said U.S. forces fired on a car carrying suspected militants that refused to stop near the northern city of Mosul on Saturday.

… Iraqi and U.S. troops launched a major offensive in northern Iraq on Saturday against al Qaeda militants in the region.

— Dean Yates and Sami Aboudi, Reuters (2008-05-11): Two civilians killed in U.S. operation in N.Iraq

Those non-metaphorical bullets were paid for by the United States government. The reason that they keep getting paid for is that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi keeps on voting for the government to keep paying for it, and has used her considerable power and influence, both under parliamentary rules and through back-room party politics, to make sure that her fellow Democrats in Congress also go on voting to keep paying for it. (She is about to do her damnedest, along with her other political cronies, to do this yet again, and is trying to figure out how to ramrod the bill through Congress as quickly as possible.)

This war would be over if Pelosi didn’t choose to spend the past year and a half safeguarding her political career at the cost of perpetuating a murderous and disastrous occupation, which she herself recognizes as a bloody failure. The reason for this disgusting policy, forcing me and millions of other antiwar Americans to pay hundreds of billions of dollars over this past year and a half, for a war now almost universally recognized as a catastrophic mistake and an unrelenting failure, is that doing anything different is widely thought, among Democratic power-brokers like Pelosi, to be political suicide. (That’s the melodramatic metaphor that politicians and their enablers like to use to describe an act that will probably cause you to lose some measure of political power that you’d otherwise have some hope of seizing and holding onto. Thus it is endlessly used to justify, or excuse, politicians who sacrifice the very things that they supposedly wanted the power in order to achieve for the sake of the power itself. Thus, by rhetorically equating a hold on political power with life itself, power is treated as if it were an end-in-itself rather than what it is, a mere means to further ends, which are always more important.)

Let me tell you a story about something that happened less than 40 years ago. On April 9, 1970, the New York Assembly passed a new abortion law, which repealed almost all government restrictions on a woman’s right to choose abortion. The vote was extremely close. In fact, it was so close that the final round of floor voting resulted in a 74-to-74 tie. Without a tie-breaking vote, the repeal bill would be defeated, and the New York state government would go on coercing women in the name of forced pregnancy. But just before the clerk could declare the bill officially defeated, an upstate Assemblyman named George M. Michaels got up and took the microphone. He was a Democrat representing a conservative district, and while he was personally pro-choice, he knew that most of his constituents were anti-abortion, and would be outraged by a vote for the abortion bill. Here is what he did.

George Michaels (voice shaking): I fully appreciate that this is the termination of my political career…. But Mr Speaker, what’s the use of getting elected, or re-elected, if you don’t stand for something? … I therefore request you, Mr. Speaker, to change my negative vote to an affirmative vote.

So the bill passed. Abortion was completely decriminalized. But Michaels was right: it was the termination of his political career. He was running for re-election that year, and within weeks of the vote his political party formally announced that they were abandoning him. Two months later, Michaels was defeated in the Democratic Party primary. George Michaels’s political career was over. But abortion is still legal in the state of New York.

It’s one of the most admirable and important things an elected politician has ever done in the United States. And it was a deliberate act of political suicide.

Those who would never think of doing something like that, who dismiss the very idea of political suicide out of hand, with a shudder or a sneer, and who make self-pitying pleas about how much it would cost them to take some kind of stand — which is to say, sanctimonious excuses for clinging to power, no matter how much they sacrifice and betray in order to keep it — are worth less than nothing as political allies.

Further reading:

And now they bring up you.

Here’s the opening of a MoveOn fundraising letter that I got just before going out of town last week. I’ve cut it off at the point where I stopped reading:

From: Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn.org Political Action <moveon-help@list.moveon.org>
Subject: 60 votes to win
Date: 3/19/2008 6:46 AM

Dear MoveOn member,

It’s happened again and again this year, on every issue we care about. Iraq. Health care. The climate crisis. Strong bills have sailed through the US House, only to stall in the face of Republican obstruction in the Senate. Republicans are on pace to double the Congressional record for the most filibusters.

Here’s the good news: Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats next year, compared to just 12 for the Democrats. Democrats could gain as many as 60 seats in the Senate, enough to break Republican filibusters and usher in a new era of progressive reform.

We’ve got a plan to take advantage of every seat that’s in play, make even more races competitive, and create a progressive majority that will last for a generation. But it’s going to take sustained support from you to pull it off and there’s no time to waste. Can you contribute $15 per month (you can cancel at any time) from now through Election Day?

Last year, the Senate Republicans obstructed numerous bills including stalling health insurance for the children who need it most and blocking a time-line to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Now look at some of the proposals from the Democratic presidential candidates that will almost certainly take 60 votes in the Senate to pass:

  • No more blank checks in Iraq

. . .

I stopped reading here because this is a lie.

It does not take 60 votes in the Senate to pass No more blank checks in Iraq. It does not take a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate — any more than it takes a veto-proof majority in the House — to halt blank-check funding for the Iraq War.

It doesn’t take positive legislation of any kind at all to halt funding for the Iraq War; all that it takes is a lack of any more laws to keep on funding it, whether in the form of regular budget line items or in the form of the repeated off-the-ledger infusions of cash which go to fund the Occupation’s perpetual state of emergency. Republican Senators can’t filibuster a non-bill and neither can President George W. Bush — or any President who might succeed him — veto it. It doesn’t take 60 Senators or 290 Representatives to stop bills from passing. All you need is a simple majority, which the Democrats already have, and have had for the last year and a half, and with which they have done worse than nothing over and over again.

The reason that those blank checks keep getting written, with Democrat Harry Reid and Democrat Nacy Pelosi’s signatures right by the X, is because the Democratic leadership, so-called, doesn’t give enough of a damn about ending the war to take on the political costs of blocking funding for it. The only reason that they could possibly think that doing what they want depends on having a larger majority than they already have is if what they want to do is something other than halting war funding.

The Democratic leadership clearly wants a larger majority in Congress, and they are going to keep on giving George Bush every dollar he asks for unless and until they get that larger majority. They don’t need the larger majority to stop sending him the money, so one of two things must be true. Either the Democratic leadership is waiting until they consolidate more political power so that they can pass a plan which will prolong the war rather than ending it, or else they are waiting until they consolidate more political power because they don’t want to end the war until after they’ve fully exploited it as a campaign issue in the upcoming Congressional and Presidential elections. In either case, the strategy is despicable. And in either case, it’s shameful to see a putatively antiwar group repeating their opportunistic lies.

No union with war-mongers, spiritually or politically.

Further reading:

Reformist overtures

Saturday I got a letter from the Las Vegas Area Democratic Majority Drive, an attempt by the Democratic Congressional leadership–which already has a majority but has been doing nothing or worse with it–to drum up money for an even bigger do-nothing majority through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Here’s the letter I got:

From the Las Vegas Area Democratic Majority Drive

Dear Mr. Johnson,

As 2007 comes to a close, the Democratic Party is working night and day to overcome President Bush’s misguided policies and stubborn resistance to our ideals and policies, but if we keep working together and keep fighting, we can continue to make progress, taking America in a New Direction.

That’s why I’m asking you to join other leading Democrats in the Las Vegas area in supporting the Democratic Majority Drive with a generous gift of $15, $25, $35, $50 or more today.

In the face of fierce resistance from President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress, the Democratic Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has already strengthened House ethics rules and passed landmark legislation–repealing billions in oil industry tax breaks … lowering student loan interest rates … reducing prescription costs for people on Medicare … funding stem-cell research … raising the minimum wage … and holding the Bush Administration accountable for its disastrous policies on the war in Iraq.

But despite public support for these initiatives, President Bush is vetoing key parts of our agenda for change. Meanwhile, the Republicans are already targeting newly elected House Democrats — many of whom won in Republican-leaning districts — hoping to regain their stranglehold on the House in 2008. That’s why your support now is so vital.

As the official campaign arm of Democrats in the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is our nation’s only political committee dedicated to strengthening our Democratic Majority in the House–by standing with Democratic lawmakers targeted by the GOP … recruiting strong challengers to take on vulnerable Republican incumbents … providing our candidates with financial and strategic assistance … and running political ads in their districts.

With your support today, we will be able to stay on the offense to increase our Democratic Majority and help elect a Democratic president in 2008. Your help will be critical to providing the resources needed to mobilize Democratic field activists early and turn out voters in key districts.

Mr. Johnson, the elections of 2006 were the first critical steps toward a Democratic victory that strengthens and expands our Majority in Congress and takes back the White House. Now I ask you to help finish the job and win an even bigger victory in 2008–by joining other Democratic leaders in the Las Vegas area in supporting the Democratic Majority Drive.

Thank You,

Rep Chris Van Hollen
DCCC Chairman

I marked the enclosed contribution form $0.00 and referred them to this enclosed letter, which I mailed them today, postage courteously paid by the D.C.C.C.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen
Chair, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
P.O. Box 96039
Washington, DC 20077-7243

Dear Rep. Van Hollen:

Yesterday I received a direct mail solicitation from you as part of the Las Vegas Area Democratic Majority Drive, asking me to donate money to the D.C.C.C. I am writing to inform you that, under the present conditions, I cannot donate in good conscience, and I have joined a Democratic Donor Strike against both the D.C.C.C. and the D.S.C.C. (http://www.democrats.com/donor-strike-2007).

While I have contributed both votes and campaign donations to Democratic candidates in the past, I have been deeply disappointed by the refusal of Democratic leadership and the Democratic-controlled Congress to live up to the promises that brought them into the majority in the 2006 elections. In your fund-raising letter, you write that the Democratic Party is working night and day to overcome President Bush’s misguided policies, and claim that the Congressional Democrats have already been holding the Bush Administration accountable for its disastrous policies on the war in Iraq. But under the control of Democrat Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Democrat Harry Reid in the Senate, the Democratic Congressional leadership has repeatedly shown, by its actions, that either it agrees with the Bush administration’s misguided policies, or else will do nothing to check them. For example, every penny of funding for the catastrophic war on Iraq must be approved by the Democratic Congress, and if you refuse to continue funding the war, President Bush has no power to continue it. Yet the catastrophic war in Iraq rages on because Congressional Democrats have supported Bush’s demands for unconditional and unlimited emergency funding to continue this appalling war over and over again. They have faced no fierce resistance from President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress, because they continue to capitulate to every demand of Bush and the Republican war hawks. That is not even a failure; it is complicity.

In light of the Democratic leadership’s actions, I will not support, or donate money to, either the D.C.C.C. or the D.S.C.C., under any conditions, unless and until the Democratic-controlled Congress stands up to the Bush administration and accomplishes these four goals:

  1. Restricting any new Iraq funds to a safe and immediate withdrawal of U.S. troopsβ??not another penny for occupation or the Bush-Maliki enduring security guarantees;

  2. Passing legislation explicitly prohibiting any use of funds to plan or execute a pre-emptive attack on Iran, and repealing the post-9/11 Authorization of Use of Military Force that Bush and Cheney believe authorizes them to attack Iran or any other country they please, as well as to wiretap all our calls and emails without warrants;

  3. Fully restoring key civil liberties by strictly outlawing warrantless wiretapping and torture, closing Guantanamo, and restoring habeas corpus;

  4. Completing the investigation of White House crimes by using inherent contempt to compel testimony by current and former White House officials

If my help will be critical, as you claim in your letter, then I urge you and your fellow Democrats in Congress to make that help possible by demonstrating your commitment to these four goals. And I mean demonstrating your commitment by deeds, not by words. You can begin immediately by refusing to allow Congressional Republicans to attach tens billions of dollars in unconditional funding for the war on Iraq to the 2008 defense budget. I urge you to do so.

Sincerely, etc.

No union with war-mongers, spiritually or politically.

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of [Babylon], my people, that ye not be partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

— Revelation (KJV), 18:4

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