After a good break in the mountains of Colorado, where I amazingly avoided being close to any of the fires, I’ve been back in Chicago for a couple weeks and am feeling overwhelmed by the heat and the news. Most years, that is pretty much every year before this one more or less, though it has been trending this way, there are an equal number of weather records for hot and cold. That is, across the country there are always records in certain locations for specific days. As you see on your local news, it was 92 today, the normal is 85 and the record is 97 in 1934, or something like that. There should be an equal number of new records set for hottest day on record and coldest day on record. And normally there are. But this year, of the thousands of records that have been set across the country, records for heat are outnumbering records for cold by about 10 to 1. Thankfully, we know it can’t have anything to do with climate change, because a senator–and they wouldn’t lie to us, would they–one James Inhofe of Oklahoma, has told us repeatedly that climate change is the biggest hoax every perpetrated on the American people. Sure is a hot hoax. My own counter theory is that senator Inhofe is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on America. A hoax in the sense that we are supposed to think of him as an elected senator representing his constituents in Oklahoma. While in reality he only represents the oil companies that have bought him his senate seat. So the idea that he is a representative of the people is a hoax.
In the Oh, the Outrage, the Outrage department, I was going to write a post on the latest outrage in Washington, that of the sudden revelation that the US Olympic uniforms were made in China. But before I got to it, Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune nailed it in a brilliant editorial titled “On the Olympic uniform issue, Congress wears the emperor’s new clothes.” He tells congress to put up or shut up. Exactly. All this faux outrage would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetic. The US Olympic team is entirely privately funded. They get no money from the government, which makes it oh so rich that all those congressmen are so outraged. Not outraged enough, mind you, to suggest that the government spend a little money to have the uniforms made in the US. Of course, this is against the backdrop of the political meme of the moment, outsourcing US jobs. Of course, for over a generation both parties have pushed through treaties and trade deals that ensured jobs would be moved overseas, and it was good, as least in Washington, if not for the actual people of the country. And now, since it is a good political issue to use against Mitt Romney, all of a sudden we are outraged that Olympic uniforms are made in China. Of course, virtually everyone in America could look through their closets–and that included those outraged congressmen–and they would find that the majority of their clothing was made in China. For most of America, that cheap imported clothing is the only choice, the only thing we can afford. I think Harry Reid has done some good, and his bumbling outrage about this, stating we should pile all these uniforms and burn them, and start over…well, that was at best embarrassing. He’s looking as old and doddering as John McCain. Need proof it’s a political football and not a real issue? The uniforms for the 2008 Olympics were also made in China and no one raised a peep because neither presidential candidate was linked to outsourcing US jobs at the time. Outsourcing is a real issue of importance, and it is good that it is finally being looked at in this election cycle. And it is still pathetic to see all this faux outrage. As if we weren’t embarrassed enough by congress to begin with. It’s so bad that even the Chinese are rightly embarrassed that we are politicizing the Olympics, which are supposed to be above all that.
The health care decision was a big win for the country and for Obama. It’s been interesting to see the right turn on Roberts. Jim Hightower had the most likely interpretation in my view. The one thing that too often gets lost in the discussion about the individual mandate at the heart of the matter is that along with whatever else it does, the main thing it does is guarantee millions of new customers for private insurance corporations. And Roberts, throughout his career, has always, and that means always, put corporate interests above those of the individual. Upholding the law guarantees lots of new money for the corporations that Justice Roberts serves above all else. The interesting thing about it all is that Roberts’ position is in most cases the typical conservative position. Of course, Obamacare is Romneycare, which has some good things and yes, is also a huge win for private insurance corporations. That’s interesting because it is making the conservatives twist themselves into ever more convoluted pretzels to explain why they oppose it.
Eric Zorn, a columnist in the Tribune that I like, has a very useful, concise list of “Ten things the GOP doesn’t want you to know about taxes.” He links to a fuller explanation of the points, which is worth reading if you’re interested, and mainly everyone who supports Obama should memorize the ten simple points and repeat them every time they talk to a conservative. The only way to combat their repeating lies 10,000 times is to tell them the truth 10,000 times. The ten points are things we know are true, that the evidence has shown are true, and that we have been saying all along, and need to say even more: 1. Obama has cut taxes for almost every working American, 2. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves, 3. Almost all working Americans pay taxes, 4. The GOP’s “job creators” haven’t created jobs, 5. Low capital gains taxes increase income inequality, 6. But they don’t increase investment, 7. The estate tax has almost no impact on family farms and businesses, 8. Income inequality is at an 80 year high (and what happened 80 years ago; oh yeah, the Great Depression), 9. The Federal tax burden is at a 60-year low, and 10. Republicans have never been specific about the trillion dollars in tax breaks they say they will end to offset the further tax cuts for the wealthy that they want.
Finally for today, while I still overwhelmingly support Obama for reelection over Romney, a story that broke in the last couple days further illustrates what has most deeply troubled me about the Obama administration. In 2008 he campaigned on transparency. Tellingly, I haven’t heard that mentioned this time around. And Obama has gone harder after whistle blowers than even George Bush did. If Bush had done exactly what this new story shows was done, the left and the independents would be deafening in their complaint. And because it is Obama, there will likely be near silence, and that is too bad, and not good for our democracy. We need to hold our politicians to standards, not adjust the standards by which side of the aisle a politician is on. Thankfully, there are sources that will report these stories. See the New York Times and the great reporting of Democracy Now. The story illustrates more than ever the dangers of the revolving door between government and industry. You can read the reporting for the details, and in a nutshell the story is this:
The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, approves new medical devices for use. They approved new devices for mammograms and colonoscopies. These new devices actually released dangerous amounts of radiation; some as much as 800 times the safe amount. They were approved because the FDA was looking out for the profits of the companies that made the products rather than looking out for public safety. But that isn’t the story. The story is that several scientists who work for the FDA didn’t like what was happening, and they started leaking information about these new devices to the press, wanting the public to know the truth. And then the FDA began spying on these scientists, their own scientists. The bugged their computers, installing key stroke recorders, and they monitored all their computer activity, intercepting all their emails. Federal agencies have pretty broad discretion to monitor their employees, and they may have crossed the line here as they do not have the right to monitor attorney-client communications or whistle blower complaints to congress, and it appears they may have done so here. I’ll be interested to see if the networks even mention this story. I’m sure Obama didn’t order it himself, and intentionally or not, he has overseen an administration as secretive as Bush’s administration was. We need transparency in government more than ever, and it’s doubtful we will get it from either candidate running for president. Doesn’t make voting less important, just illustrates that voting isn’t all we need to do.