Geoff’s World

Geoff Caldwell, another Globe blogger, just yesterday praised the newspaper for not publishing in its Sunday opinion section its usual “personalized attack piece,” in which, he says, the facts are “quickly lost in the diatribe.” Mr. Caldwell explains that such attack pieces are a “distraction” and put him “in a less than pleasant mood.”

Perhaps, being so sensitive, he shouldn’t read his own blog.

In one entry last Friday, the man who is distracted and distempered by attack pieces wrote this:

Tis that time once again when we take stock of the inane and foolish put upon us by those forced to navigate life with an amount of gray matter just slightly larger than that found in your average toad.

He also managed to wiggle into a sentence the phrase, “why won’t Darwin permanently evolve these idiots out of the gene pool?

He used the words “thug,” “environut,” and “looniest.”

In another piece the same day, he made the usual but curious conservative attack on Obama and the “teleprompter.”

He said the new administration has “mastered ‘situational doom.’

He said that Obama’s cabinet is a “basket of eggheads.”

But what must have really distracted and irritated Mr. Caldwell was his attack last Wednesday on Obama’s “performance” (as he called it) at his recent press conference. He wrote:

He talked about the Israeli/Palestinian mess, his video to Iran, and former enemies sharing a pint on St. Patrick’s day, but nary a word about Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror. Oh that’s right, I forgot, now that Obama’s in the White House there is no more “war” on terror.

If Mr. Caldwell had just waited a few days before he leveled this particular attack, perhaps he wouldn’t have had “the facts lost in the diatribe.” On Friday, Obama announced his Afghanistan plan, along with his commitment to continue pursuing the Taliban and al-Qaeda, which even Joplin conservatives have to admit are terrorists.

The plan, no doubt, will soon be endorsed by nearly all Republicans. Maybe that endorsement will include Mr. Caldwell, if he can recover from the bad mood in which his own–completely unfounded–attack on Obama must have put him.

Now, sarcasm has been a part of writing at least since the Ancient Greeks, and there’s nothing wrong with Mr. Caldwell, who bills himself as, “A captious cynic with a heart of snark,” using it to voice his displeasure. But there is something wrong with criticizing other writers for doing what Mr. Caldwell has done for many years now.

Lest one think that his penchant for writing “attack pieces” is of recent vintage, here is a sample of Mr. Caldwell’s writing from 1994:

On the investigative side, it has been learned by this reporter that quality of education, safety, or class arrogance had nothing to do with Mr. and Mrs. Clinton’s decision to enroll their daughter Chelsea in a private school. An informed source has confirmed that the real reason, was the school’s policy of allowing no mirrors on campus. Apparently, Hillary felt it would be too traumatic at such a tender age to allow her little bundle of joy to see just how ugly she really is. In a private statement Mrs. Clinton was heard to vow that she would keep Chelsea away from all mirrors until such time as she could handle the emotional stress of facing the fact she was her mother’s daughter.

In his blog bio, Mr. Caldwell writes that he “longs for the America he once knew“:

A time when civility, respect, and common sense ruled.

Maybe “civility” and “respect” have more elastic meanings in Geoff’s World. Or maybe way back in his idealistic America, it was okay for grown men to attack 14-year old girls for being “ugly.” Or maybe because the 14-year-old girl was the daughter of the President of the United States, that made it okay. If so, maybe Mr. Caldwell will find some physical shortcoming, real or imagined, in one or both of the Obama girls and write a piece about it.

Who knows. Maybe the Globe will publish it in its Sunday paper.
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COMMENTS:

Geoff Caldwell writes:

Monday, March 30, 2009, 05:45 PM

Well done, Duane, well done.
(That is of course if “well done” has now come to define distortion of fact and out of context quotes.)

I’d do your “line by line” but my back’s not what it used to be and to stoop that low would most certainly leave lingering pain.

No, you won’t see any of my sarcasm pieces in the Sunday opinion page. I don’t submit them for that as it wouldn’t be appropriate. (Something you might want to think about next time you submit one.)

BUT, on a positive note, I do absolutely, positively hope that someday you are able to write at least one original thought rather than just pulling out quotes and relying on others.

G’day

PS
Thanks for checking out TheCorner, I can always use the hits!
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JD writes:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 01:37 PM

You should note, Duane, that Geoff can’t be bothered with copping to the fact that his supposed longing for a return to a time of civility and respect is a sham.

You’re dealing with people who wouldn’t know either one if it bit them on the rear.

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Geoff Caldwell writes:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 05:51 PM

Nice try, but one cannot have “civil” discourse with those who refuse to acknowledge that 40 years of social engineering has not helped a soul in this great nation except for the politicians dishing out the dough. When I reflect upon that more “civil” time I reflect upon both sides compromising not one ramming it down the other for nightly news time or a few column inches. No this country was not perfect back then but we didn’t have the crime, disrespect and rampant stupidity that we do today.

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JD writes:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 02:31 PM

So petty namecalling and childish attacks are OK then. Alrighty. Glad you stopped by to clear that up, Geoff.

Disrespect and stupidity abound on both sides of the aisle these days. You both should take a few moments to consider why you feel the need to perpetuate it.

Dr. La Near and Mr. Heid

Surprise, surprise. Konrad Heid, a former bank president, is defending bankers again:

It’s easy to pick on those close at hand and highly visible, but the home mortgage debacle has its roots with government involvement, compliance regulations, where it “strongly encouraged” loans to be made to folks with limited repayment capacity. Government intrusion in the loan-underwriting process began almost 40 years ago, really picked up steam during the decade of the ’90s with “demands” by congressional edict added to “strong encouragement” from compliance mandates.

While nearly everyone this side of Sean Hannity is arguing that there wasn’t enough government oversight of the financial industry, Mr. Heid manages to argue that there was too much government involvement. He repeats the conservative fable that this crisis is largely the fault of the government forcing those poor bankers to loan money to the undeserving poor.

Dr.Richard La Near, another local conservative storyteller, has also blamed a substantial part of the crisis on the government, beginning with the Community Reinvestment Act, mandating loans to poor minorities:

Last January he wrote:

We must make loans on the basis of credit history, not skin color. And we must eliminate the moral hazard of ill-advised government policy producing perverse behavior such as creating a giant real-estate bubble by the improper channeling of our nation’s capital into the dream (but not entitlement) of home ownership.

Despite the nattering of these and other local conservative revisionists, the truth appears to be that the Community Reinvestment Act, an important part of the fight against pervasive poverty, is not to blame for the mess we’re in.

Even conservative David Horowitz had the guts to point out:

Contrary to conservative mythmakers, the subprime credit is not the cause of the current crisis and the Community Reinvestment Act is not its trigger.

He then cites the now-famous remarks by Randall Kroszner, a former Federal Reserve Governor, in explaining the relationship between the Community Reinvestment Act and the recent mortgage crisis:

Over the years, the Federal Reserve has prepared two reports for the Congress that provide information on the performance of lending to lower-income borrowers or neighborhoods–populations that are the focus of the CRA. These studies found that lending to lower-income individuals and communities has been nearly as profitable and performed similarly to other types of lending done by CRA-covered institutions. Thus, the long-term evidence shows that the CRA has not pushed banks into extending loans that perform out of line with their traditional businesses. Rather, the law has encouraged banks to be aware of lending opportunities in all segments of their local communities as well as to learn how to undertake such lending in a safe and sound manner.

Mr. Kroszner also explained that the Federal Reserve undertook a “more specific analysis focusing on the potential relationship between the CRA and the current subprime crisis.” He said the research focused on two basic questions:

First, we asked what share of originations for subprime loans is related to the CRA. The potential role of the CRA in the subprime crisis could either be large or small, depending on the answer to this question. We found that the loans that are the focus of the CRA represent a very small portion of the subprime lending market, casting considerable doubt on the potential contribution that the law could have made to the subprime mortgage crisis.

Second, we asked how CRA-related subprime loans performed relative to other loans. Once again, the potential role of the CRA could be large or small, depending on the answer to this question. We found that delinquency rates were high in all neighborhood income groups, and that CRA-related subprime loans performed in a comparable manner to other subprime loans; as such, differences in performance between CRA-related subprime lending and other subprime lending cannot lie at the root of recent market turmoil.

Here are some other interesting statements made by former Fed Governor Kroszner:

Only 6 percent of all the higher-priced loans were extended by CRA-covered lenders to lower-income borrowers or neighborhoods in their CRA assessment areas, the local geographies that are the primary focus for CRA evaluation purposes. This result undermines the assertion by critics of the potential for a substantial role for the CRA in the subprime crisis. In other words, the very small share of all higher-priced loan originations that can reasonably be attributed to the CRA makes it hard to imagine how this law could have contributed in any meaningful way to the current subprime crisis….

An overall comparison [of delinquency rates] revealed that the rates for all subprime and alt-A loans delinquent 90 days or more is high regardless of neighborhood income. This result casts further doubt on the view that the CRA could have contributed in any meaningful way to the current subprime crisis….

…we found essentially no difference in the performance of subprime loans in Zip codes that were just below or just above the income threshold for the CRA. The results of this analysis are not consistent with the contention that the CRA is at the root of the subprime crisis, because delinquency rates for subprime and alt-A loans in neighborhoods just below the CRA-eligibility threshold are very similar to delinquency rates on loans just above the threshold, hence not the subject of CRA lending….

The final analysis we undertook to investigate the likely effects of the CRA on the subprime crisis was to examine foreclosure activity across neighborhoods grouped by income. We found that most foreclosure filings have taken place in middle- or higher-income neighborhoods; in fact, foreclosure filings have increased at a faster pace in middle- or higher-income areas than in lower-income areas that are the focus of the CRA.

Finally, Mr. Kroszner summarizes:

Two key points emerge from all of our analysis of the available data. First, only a small portion of subprime mortgage originations are related to the CRA. Second, CRA- related loans appear to perform comparably to other types of subprime loans. Taken together, as I stated earlier, we believe that the available evidence runs counter to the contention that the CRA contributed in any substantive way to the current mortgage crisis.

Criticism of the Community Reinvestment Act, which was designed to reduce the “redlining” of poorer neighborhoods, feeds the ideological addiction of conservatives. Always eager to justify their misplaced faith in laissez faire economics, conservatives must blame this crisis on something other than the unrestrained greed of big-time players in the financial industry.

But ten thousand words from a former local banker and current finance professor won’t change the fact that this crisis is not the fault of the government trying to make life better for the poor.

Surrealistic Patriotism

I remember when the right wing raged against the Dixie Chicks.

Back in 2003, shortly before the Iraq war, the group’s lead singer and Texas native, Natalie Maines, said:

Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.

She made the comments while the Chicks were on tour in England.

Whatever one thought about Ms. Maines’ comments, and whatever one thought of the subsequent blacklisting of the Dixie Chicks by the mostly ultra-conservative country music establishment, the thrust of the criticism over the comments was that they were made on “foreign soil.” Many people believe that it is in bad taste—not to say “unpatriotic”—to criticize your government when abroad.

Now comes the right wing’s near-orgasmic delight in the comments of Daniel Hannan, a British politician and at present a Conservative Party Member of the European Parliament. Mr. Hannan’s caustic remarks toward British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which have been played and replayed on right wing radio and television, were made in France, shortly after Mr. Brown had given a speech to the European Parliament.

One would think that our fiercely consistent conservative commentators here at home would hesitate to embrace Mr. Hannan, since his remarks were made on foreign soil, in front of a mostly foreign legislative body.

But Rush Limbaugh, who has no fear his followers will hold him accountable for consistency, said this:

Yesterday in Strasbourg, France, a member of the European parliament, Daniel Hannan of southeast England spoke during the visit of the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He took it to Gordon Brown and left nothing on the table. This is exactly the kind of thing the opposition party in this country needs to be saying to President Obama.

Obviously, Mr. Limbaugh’s concept of patriotism has changed since 2003 or his concept is a distinctly American one. Just imagine if a Democrat, while overseas, criticized a sitting Republican president in the same way that Hannan, a Conservative Party member, criticized Gordon Brown. The subsequent right wing condemnation would be brutal and endless.

At the end of his attack, Mr. Hannan accused the leader of his homeland of being “the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.”

To which Limbaugh the Patriot said:

Hear, hear. Republicans in Washington could take a lesson from the bravery of this man.

The standards of the right continue to melt.

Redneck Republik?

Paul T. Butler, in today’s Globe, has indicated his concurrence with Dick Cheney’s recent assessment that Obama is a dangerous man for, among other things, planning to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

Now, Mr. Butler, who has previously indicated his pride in having sprung from “redneck” relatives, some of whom, according to him, were partly responsible for handing us our Republic, ought to have a little more pride in what sets that Republic apart from, say, the former Soviet Union. And he ought to dig a little deeper into the facts before he signs on with our former vice president.

In a story reported about a week ago, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican and the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told the AP that many of the prisoners held at Guantanamo were innocent, and the Bush administration knew they were innocent:

In his posting for The Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that “U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.”

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because “to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership.”

Mr. Wilkerson says that most of the remaining 240 prisoners still held at Guantanamo should be released, except for “two dozen” real “terrorists,” who should be put in “a high security prison like the one in Colorado, forget them and throw away the key.”

As to why Mr. Wilkerson is just now ratting out the Bush administration:

“I’m very concerned about the kinds of things Cheney is saying to make it seem Obama is a danger to this republic,” Wilkerson said. “To have a former vice president fearmongering like this is really, really dangerous.”

Fear is the currency of demagogues. Dick Cheney, who is a cultural hero to most people on the right-wing fringe, lacks the class to keep his mouth shut long enough to allow the new administration to assess the mess it has inherited.

Fortunately, not all former Bush administration officials are so classless. Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State, said the following on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

LENO: What do you make of Dick Cheney saying…? I know President Bush says he wants to remain silent and give Barack his opportunity. Uh, Vice President Cheney out there saying that Obama has made the U.S. less safe. Uh, we shouldn’t be closing Guantanamo Bay, uh, the interrogation methods… What is your opinion?

RICE: Look, these are difficult questions and difficult issues. My view is we got to do it our way. We did our best. We did some things well, some things not so well. Now, they get their chance. And I agree with the president. We owe them our loyalty and our silence while they do it, because I know what it’s like to have people chirping at you when they perhaps don’t know what’s going on inside. These are quality people. I know them. They love the country. And they won’t make the same decision perhaps that we did. But I believe they’ll do what they think is best for the country. And I’ll give my advice privately, and keep it to myself.

Finally, if Paul T. Butler’s distant relatives really did help defeat the British and establish our independence, then Mr. Butler should at least have some familial pride in the fact that we are a nation of laws, a nation that should not tolerate imprisoning innocents for years without recourse to justice, a nation that should set the example for the rest of the world (remember the Shining City on a Hill, Mr. Butler?).

And just endlessly repeating the term “enemy combatant” and applying it to someone does not make it true. Even if Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and Dennis Miller say so.
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COMMENTS:

Anson Burlingame writes:
 
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 02:39 PM
 
Mr. Graham, you have spurred me to action. If I can get Dave Woods and the IT department off their duff I will begin blogging in this section of the Globe online. I look forward to engaging you in public debate without word count restrictions such as guest columns. For starters, I have a question. Did you write as extensively and with such passion when you were an “Erstwhile Conservative”?

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Duane writes:

Thursday, March 26, 2009, 04:20 PM
 
I look forward to your blog. Good luck.

And, yes, I was as just as passionate as a conservative. Just ask anyone who knows me. But I didn’t write as extensively as I do now. Someteime I plan on writing an entry with quotes from some of my old letters to the Globe, etc. I receive some criticism from people who doubt I ever was a REAL conservative. Some people don’t like to believe that it is possible to deconvert from conservatism in the same way they don’t like to believe that you can deconvert from religious dogma.

RDG
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poetikus

Friday, March 27, 2009, 06:28 PM

Anson,
How in the world do you expect to “debate” with Graham? Debate, infers fact, logic, and reason, something his writings lack on all levels.

 

Rush Kabob

Yet another attempt to rationalize the ridiculous found its way into the Globe.

Steve Lopez defends Limbaugh’s, “I hope everything fails but conservatism,” remarks by claiming I “misrepresented” him in my columns.

Again, I know it is hard for dittoheads to accept the idea that Pope Limbaugh could possibly make a mistake. Planting his cavernous gluteal cleft in front of the golden EIB microphone and sermonizing three hours every day is the right-wing radio equivalent of speaking ex cathedra.

I also know that some people must have certainty and certitude in order to be happy. In many cases, just knowing there exists someone in this world who makes infallible pronouncements gives much comfort, especially when times are as uncertain as they are now.

But damn. Rush Limbaugh? The Pontiff of Poison Punditry? Surely, Mr. Lopez, you could put your faith in someone a little more reliable like, say, Jim Cramer, who does get it right once in a while.

While I won’t bother to defend my denigration of Father Limbaugh by further quoting him—one either accepts his words as spoken or attempts to reinterpret them—I would like to point out that Mr. Lopez, like most people who try to defend Limbaugh’s remarks, twists himself into a Rush knot, when he writes:

Granted, it would be great if President Obama’s stimulus plan would succeed and bring us out of the current economic situation, but at what expense? Should we desire that government take over more businesses and further intrude into our lives? I hope not.

Now, I have every right, after reading this excerpt, to be totally confused. Was Mr. Lopez for the plan before he was against it?

Limbaugh was at least honest when he essentially said, “Give me laissez faire capitalism or give me New Zealand.” And every Republican politician should be forced at gunpoint (God bless the NRA) to answer—without equivocation—the question, “Do you want Obama’s stimulus plan to succeed?”

And those who say “no” to that question, should be even more honest and admit two further things:

1.) Conservatives value their abstract principles more than the real economic health of the country.

2.) Conservatives will work to undermine liberal principles, so the policies based on those principles will fail.

Finally, Mr. Lopez accuses me of possessing “the typical anger and negativity” of “most liberals.” Well, after listening to literally thousands of hours of Limbaugh (again, mostly as a fan), I plead guilty to sarcasm, but not to anger.

Amazingly, people like Mr. Lopez are willing to listen to Rush Limbaugh skewer, like a medieval heretic, anyone who strays from his version of conservative orthodoxy, but those same people are offended when someone skewers the Pope himself.
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COMMENTS:

soapbox conservative writes:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 02:27 PM

I do believe people are missing the point about Rush’s comments about failure.

I believe that Obama has a sinister plan for the United States, and that is Socialism, or Fascism, since most so called Socialist states were or are in fact Facist.

I believe that Rush’s comments go along with my philosophy, he simply hopes that Obama fails in his attempt to create the United Socialist States of America out our Good Old USA.

Svengali, Jindali

While in Northeastern Louisiana this past weekend, I almost rubbed elbows with Bobby Jindal, future Republican candidate for president (according to intimate radio sources).

Near where I was staying, Gov. Jindal held an event to brag about his role in a politically useful action taken by the state government. As reported by The News-Star:

FARMERVILLE — Gov. Bobby Jindal received a hero’s welcome here Saturday afternoon, one day after he brokered a deal for Pilgrim’s Pride to sell its Farmerville chicken processing complex to Foster Farms of California and avert an economic disaster.

The $80 million sale, which the state will subsidize with $40 million, will save 1,300 direct jobs and as many as 300 local chicken growers’ farms.

As the story relates, not only will Louisiana buy half of the business and give it to Foster Farms, it will also kick in another $10 million toward capital improvements.

Do conservatives have a defense for Jindal?

Is it somehow better to save chicken growers than autoworkers?

Should taxpayers in Baton Rouge or New Orleans have to subsidize the poultry business in Northeastern Louisiana?

If the chicken growers were in a chicken-growers union, would Jindal still save them?

Just a month ago, Jindal gave the GOP’s response to Obama’s address to Congress. He said then: in a speech that could have been written by the Right’s Svengali, Rush Limbaugh:

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina — we have our doubts.

Apparently, Jindal, after an entire month’s reflection, determined that he—through the government of Louisiana—can rescue his constituents from raging economic storms, particularly if it makes him look “heroic.”

In a more philosophical mood, Jindal ended his February 23 response to Obama by apologizing for past Republican failures to live by their “principles,” including “limited government” and “fiscal discipline.” He then said:

In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and to create jobs.

I am sure the irony is lost on many hard-core, Jindalian conservatives that a few thousand jobs in Northeast Louisiana are now dependent on the government, but Democrats should never tire of reminding people that government, at all levels, has an essential part to play in our cultural health.

And when Democrats suggest that the government intervene in the economy to save or create jobs, conservatives will, no doubt, continue to call them socialists.

But now there is such a thing as Republican Socialism, and Bobby Jindal, the Barack Obama of the Right, is its new leader.

[Photo taken in Joplin, Mo., November 4, 2008]
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COMMENTS:

Anson writes:
Monday, March 23, 2009, 04:49 PM

Mr. Graham, as the Globe editorialized recently, “pork” is bad unless it is our pork. Until we fix that problem left and right will continue to take pot shots at each other while continuing business as usual to satisfy the cravings of all of us. Root cause – fix the cravings. No more pork chops for anyone would be a good start.

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Duane writes:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 12:50 AM

I appreciate your moderate attitude. However, I did not disparage Gov. Jindal for his “pork” project, as you call it. I disparaged him for his duplicity. I am in complete agreement with his state’s use of $50 million to save jobs.

It makes perfect sense, for the reasons outlined in the newspaper account, for the government of Louisiana to use its resources (which are really the resources of the people) where the free market has failed.

It makes no sense for someone to put his mug on national television, spouting conservative propaganda and badmouthing liberal policies, while he is negotiating a deal any Democrat would love.

RDG

Fear And Trembling

Chris Cagle’s latest letter to the Globe expresses the conservative critique of the motives of liberals in this statement:

Liberals see profits as an indication that something is wrong.

Now, perhaps Mr. Cagle knows liberals who “see” profits that way, in which case he needs a smarter set of liberal acquaintances, but I don’t know anyone who would regard making a profit as an inherently bad thing. What he may be hinting at, since he referenced “energy” companies, is that liberals have a tendency to think that excessive profits, extracted from consumers of energy, which is all of us, is another kind of “redistribution of the wealth.”

Normally, conservatives are opposed to redistributing the wealth, when the government is doing it. But they don’t seem to mind if the oil companies capture billions of dollars in large profits from everyone who is dependent on gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil to survive, much less prosper. This kind of redistributivism has conservatism’s blessing.

What liberals want, however, is a fairer distribution of the wealth, as much so as is within the government’s reasonably exercised powers to facilitate it. Is that such a scary idea?

I realize that conservatives, especially if they have been weened on right wing radio, tend to treat labels like ‘liberal” and “leftist” as synonyms. But people who want all of the private sector owned and operated by a central government tend to be leftists. People who want to regulate the private sector, within the constraints of a capitalist system, to ensure the greatest possible amount of social equity tend to be liberals.

Most Americans are economic liberals. Just try fiddling with Social Security.
But in the last 25 years, conservative yackers on the radio and lately on television, have successfully sullied the “L” word through fear, like the conclusion of Mr. Cagle’s letter:

All Americans who believe in rewarding hard work and sacrifice should be worried.

The implication–that there are some Americans who don’t believe in rewarding hard work and they are coming to take your money–is an appeal to the worst in our natures. It is the voice of demagoguery, and hopefully in the coming years it will be a voice crying in the wilderness.
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COMMENTS:

Anson Burlingame writes:
Friday, March 20, 2009, 10:27 AM
Mr. Graham, There is a good online discussion going on in response to the recent Globe editorial on “Poverty, Gangs and Violence” The basis of the discussion is how we as citizens should form our opinions. Check it out. I would be interested in your views on that point, “how to form an opinion”

 

Remarks And Asides

Gordon W. Thompson has written one sentence to the Globe:

Johnny Kaje’s remarks (Globe, Feb. 28) stating that women do not have a soul gland in their ovaries to bestow personhood status as an embryo is another example of an arrogant unbeliever mocking God.

Apparently, Mr. Thompson has discovered that women do in fact have a gland that secretes soul stuff, which helps the embryo develop into a full-fledged person. Maybe next time Mr. Thompson contacts the Mother Ship, he can obtain permission to reveal the cure for cancer.
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And Donald Miller has treated us to this little gem:

The croissant-eating wine-drinking liberal pukes can take everything now that we have a foreigner with their mind-set in the White House.

Another patriotic American, brought to you by Limbaugh, Inc. People around these parts sure do love America, so long as America looks and thinks like a Republican.
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On page 4A of Sunday’s Globe an interesting AP story, “Borrowing haunts churches,” shows how even God’s elect got caught up in the ways of the world. The story says:

Roland Leavell, president of Rives, Leavell & Co, a church bond broker in Jackson, Miss., said that firms specializing in church financing often aped their commercial loan counterparts, lending too much money without a thorough check of what their clients could afford.

I wonder how Republican apologists will blame Democrats for forcing religious financiers to loan money to unworthy churches?

Also, I wonder what the evangelical world is coming to:

The Evangelical Christian Credit Union, a major church lender with more than $700 million in loans last year, moved to foreclose on seven of its 1,100 loans in 2008, said Mark Johnson, the company’s executive vice president. The company has had “a noticeable increase” in late payments, and two more foreclosures are expected this year, he said.

Foreclosing on fellow believers? What would Jesus do?
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And on the same Sunday page, another story, “Pastor gives advice to grieving flock,” has the Reverend Al Meredith, whose Ft. Worth church ten years ago fell victim to a deranged killer, seeking to give advice to the latest church victims in Illinois. He tells them:

I don’t have three points and a poem on how to deal with tragedy. I don’t have any magic formula on how to emerge triumphantly.

So far, so good. Then Reverend Al adds:

If out of our tragedy God can use (that) that give hope and help to others, then its not worthless. It’s redemptive.

Let me get this straight: God is using one tragedy to help the victims of another tragedy? If God is busy “using” these sorts of things to help people, why isn’t he at least equally busy “stopping” the tragedies in the first place? Reverend Al’s comments are all too typical of those who are trying to make sense of the senseless via their religious dogma.

Again: If God is active in redeeming senseless tragedies, it is only fair to ask why he isn’t as active in preventing them.
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COMMENTS:

kaje writes:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 10:52 PM
Donald Miller’s line cracks me up every time I read it. “Croissant-eating?” Nothing says “elitist” like a pastry that any American anywhere can get at their corner mom-and-pop donut shop or WalMart. Maybe he thinks anything vaguely French sounding = elitist.

It’s just completely nonsensical. And the only other people I’ve ever heard call another person a “puke” are preteen children referring to their siblings.

(And I consider myself a connoisseur of childish insults!)

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Anson Burlingame writes:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 12:07 PM

Mr. Graham, In my view, God does not create or prevent tragadies. However the human spirit (soul perhaps) has the capacity to deal with the worst of them. Religion is a way to tap that resource. There are other ways as well. Go to an AA meeting some time and watch the “miracle” of recovery as an examples.

No Proper Quarrel

Tom Simpson, formerly of Carthage, contributes a column to the Globe regarding our “success” in Iraq. He says, “The war in Iraq is over. The good guys won.”

He wouldn’t be the first one to prematurely designate “mission accomplished” in Iraq, but Mr. Simpson does give us hope that things are improving. No doubt, after all of the devastation caused by our assault on their land, the Iraqi’s need good people like Mr. Simpson to help them restore their society, but I am disturbed by a couple of his pronouncements:

Iraq is a victory to those who oppose subjugation of a nation by dictatorship and violence.

Yes, we threw out the ugly dictator, who ruled by violence, but what of the other dictators ruling throughout the world? The implication of Mr. Simpson’s “thesis,” as he called it, coupled with his “nation building” advocacy, is that our role in the world is to make war on all such dictators and bring the world the gift of democracy. Otherwise, by what criteria do we decide which dictators we will kill and which we will permit to live, continuing the “subjugation” of their populations?

I would like to see the formula for figuring that one out.

Another troubling assertion by Mr. Simpson is:

Americans can take pride in our involvement in Iraq. It is an honorable mission to promote democracy, embrace individual freedom and assist millions of Iraqis to live in peace.

These two sentences don’t necessary connect. As Americans we can all attest that it is an “honorable mission” to promote democracy, freedom, and peace. But whether the war in Iraq should be a source of pride is another matter. If by “promoting democracy,” one means encouraging and supporting democratic institutions, that is one thing. If it means conquering other nations in order to impose our democratic ideals, that is another.

I realize the original justification for the war in Iraq was not the idea of “nation building,” but out of necessity it has evolved into a post-invasion rationale for it. Mr. Simpson’s use of the word “mission” evokes the words of the late J. William Fulbright, Missouri-born U.S. Senator from Arkansas:

Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God’s favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations – to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image. Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence. Once imbued with the idea of a mission, a great nation easily assumes that it has the means as well as the duty to do God’s work.

Conservatives, of all people, should be wary of using the idea of nation building to justify invading and occupying foreign powers, whether it is before or after the war is “over.” And the so-called neo-conservatives, who were largely responsible for the Iraq war, should suffer for their mistakes, not at the hands of liberals, but at the hands of other, more thoughtful conservatives, who should at least be as contemptuous of them as the neo-cons are of those who have questioned the legitimacy of the war.

All of which reminds me of another reference to Senator Fulbright, made by William F. Buckley, the father of modern conservatism:

One should not tire of repeating the fatalistic but wise maxim of Senator Fulbright, that the United States government has no proper quarrel with any nation no matter how obnoxious its domestic policies, so long as it does not seek to export them. As much was said by President John Quincy Adams when he stressed that Americans were friends of liberty everywhere, but custodians only of their own.

I don’t mind Mr. Simpson defending his valuable and necessary work on behalf of the Iraqi people, but he could do so without appealing to some misplaced national pride in the invasion and occupation of their country. Some us still question the wisdom of the “mission,” notwithstanding its alleged success.

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COMMENTS:

poetikus writes:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 11:55 AM

Is there no depth to your dimentia? This man is over there DOING and writing about it from EXPERIENCE and you have the gall to criticize? I have been on the internet since the old bulletin board days in the 90′s and seen thousands of kook sites since, but the so called erstwhile conservative definitely ranks at the top. Congratulations, you have taken idiot to an entirely new level.

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Anson Burlingame writes:
 
Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 12:19 PM

Mr. Graham, In my view, Mr. Simpson’s article lends a perspective to Iraq seldom if ever seen in the press. He deserves great credit for that as well as his work in that country.

I am very tired of the pro and con critiques on how we “got” into Iraq. The issue today is how to “get out” in as constructive way as possible. Mr. Simpson identifies some good ideas on that subject. Do you have any that balance “cut and run” or “stay the course?

And then of course there is Afghanistan. Any thoughts there?

La-di-da La Near

Dr. Richard La Near recently defended himself in the Globe. Apparently the Distinguished Professor took offense that someone much lower on the academic food chain would dare to criticize him. He wrote (never mind the grammar; his expertise is in Finance, not English):

Recent screeds questioning my economic expertise is beyond the pale.

Now, since the phrase “beyond the pale” commonly means “unacceptable behavior,” it is fair to conclude that Dr. La Near is at this point in his career beyond questioning. But honestly, I wasn’t questioning his know-how, economic or otherwise. I was questioning the application of his skills to the subject of political culpability for our economic woes.

He referenced an earlier column about Rush Limbaugh and talk radio in which I had written:

Richard La Near, under the guise of economic expertise, has spent seemingly a trillion words attempting to remove the Democratic mote from the eye of our economic crisis, while largely ignoring the beam of Republican blame.

My point about Dr. La Near then and now is that he offers us partisan, ideological conclusions, not objective economic analysis. He is an ideologue, as any reading of his writings will demonstrate. And only an offended ideologue can write a sentence like this:

Boy, did I pull the wool over the city of Joplin’s eyes when I computed the selling schedule (using modified duration) for the ill-begotten purchase of derivatives.

That sentence had me reaching for my disgronificator. But I managed to get the message: “I am a Distinguished Professor and you’re not.” Okay, I get it. Dr. La Near is no Jed Clampett. But forgive me, if I nevertheless think his opinions may be a bit, well, tendentious.

I have no doubt that Dr. La Near helped all of us in Joplin by unloading “ill-begotten” derivatives, but does that mean I have to accept his conclusion that our grave economic crisis is largely the result of Democrats forcing banks to loan money to poor minorities, so they could buy houses otherwise beyond their reach? It’s not the economic expert in Dr. La Near generating such nonsense; it’s the little Limbaugh inside his head forcing him to type such twaddle.

If I bring my car to Mike the Mechanic and he tells me I need new brakes, I ought to listen to him. But if Mike tells me that General Motors shouldn’t get any more bailout money, I’m not obligated to give his opinion more weight because he knows how to turn a wrench, especially if Mike has a particular distaste for Chevys. Knowing the nuts and bolts of automobiles is not the same as knowing whether it is ultimately prudent to allow a substantial part of the auto industry to fail. And knowing how to compute selling schedules, with or without using modified duration, is not the same as knowing whether it is ultimately beneficial to assist the poor in becoming homeowners.

My larger point is that ideologues, whether liberal or conservative, are frequently blind to reality. If you bother to research the Great Depression, you will find a startling fact: 80 years after the Great Crash the debate still continues over the causes and cures of the subsequent economic tragedy. Yet, with stunning certainty, Dr. La Near has already diagnosed the causes of our own economic troubles, and guess what? His diagnosis neatly fits with his conservative presuppositions, which is why I dared to point out that he uses his economic expertise as cover for his ideological opinions.

Consider the following quote taken from Dr. La Near’s column on January 31 of this year, supposedly a “treatise” on the cause of our “economic mess”:

We now have a Secretary of State whose husband (a former president) lied under oath (perjury), rented out the Lincoln bedroom, granted the most egregious pardon in presidential history, and set up a “wall of separation” for intelligence sharing between the FBI and CIA.

We now have a president who attended a church for 20 years where the minister spewed forth the most vile racist and anti-Semitic speech I have ever heard, was a political and professional associate of an avowed U.S.-born terrorist, and was politically and professionally associated with a notorious Chicago slum lord (now under indictment).

As we have banks that are “too big to fail,” we now have a president that is “too big to fail.” I realize that I now will be called a racist.

I reiterate that this is our penultimate “moral hazard.” I now know why the British played “The World Turned Upside Down” after their loss at Yorktown. I have never been so concerned about our culture, economy, and way of life, and I sincerely pray to God for guidance.

These nasty non-sequiturs were authored by a man who touts his expertise in finance and economics. While he is obviously entitled to these right-wing opinions, he is not entitled to any respect for them simply because he is a Distinguished Professor of Finance, nor do his credentials immunize him from criticism.

If a local liberal professor regularly wrote essays in the Globe that defended FDR and the New Deal or Barack Obama and his economic plan, right-wingers would be outraged and likely threaten the Globe with subscription cancellations. Such a liberal academic would be labeled and dismissed as an “elitist.” But conservatives have no problem with academics on their own side using their university credentials to promote conservatism.

And, truthfully, I don’t have a problem with it either; I just wish those academics had thicker skin, when someone dares point it out.

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COMMENTS:

poetikus

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 10:46 AM

Face it Graham, it’s not about “thicker skin” it’s about brains. Of which you have not.

Crazy For Conservatism

Frank Schaeffer, the youngest son of famous evangelical leaders, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, has written a book about his adventures in the big-time religion industry. Crazy for God is apparently Frank’s penance for all of the damage his once-doctrinaire theology has done to our culture.

For those who don’t know much about the Schaeffers, they were quite popular in the 1970s and 1980s, with a large following among conservative evangelicals and other fundamentalists. My first encounter with Francis Schaeffer was through his book, A Christian Manifesto, published in 1981. The thesis of the book was that modern America, ignoring its biblical roots, had become ungodly and it was up to Christians to reestablish Bible-based, absolutist morality by engaging in political activities, including civil disobedience, if necessary.

Arguably, Francis Schaeffer was the first prominent culture warrior, believing that “secular humanism,” with its alleged commitment to relative truth, was at war with biblical Christianity, with its assumed commitment to absolute truth. Imagine Bill O’Reilly or Rita Crowell with brains and you’ll have an idea where Francis was coming from. Schaeffer influenced many in the evangelical world to become activists against abortion, including Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue.

But Frank Schaeffer, who played a large role in making his father famous, regrets much of his efforts in promoting liberal-hating, which was the practical result of the Schaeffers’ ministry in America. The subtitle of Crazy for God is, How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. Throughout the book, which is often quite funny, Frank expresses his honest doubts about most things he once preached with certainty.

He also has much to say about the sanctimony and profitability of the Christian right, including unflattering characterizations of some evangelical stars:

James Dobson: “A power-crazed political manipulator cynically abusing his followers.” “The most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met.”

Pat Robertson: “A lunatic.” “Would have a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement.”

Jerry Falwell: “Unreconstructed bigot reactionary.”

But there is an interesting connection in Crazy for God to the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh and his “I want Obama to fail” remarks. In commenting on “the new breed of evangelical leadership” in the early 1980s, Mr. Schaeffer says:

Empire builders like Robertson, Dobson, and Falwell liked rubbing up against (or quoting) my father, for the same reason that popes liked to have photos taken with Mother Teresa.

What I slowly realized was that the religious-right leaders we were helping to gain power were not “conservatives” at all, in the old sense of the word. They were anti-American religious revolutionaries….

The new religious right was all about religiously motivated “morality,” which it used for nakedly political purposes.

Frank then goes on to reference the old radioman, Father Charles Coughlin, whom he calls a “pro-fascist ‘Catholic’ xenophobic hatemonger”:

Father Coughlin would have understood Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson perfectly: Begin a radio ministry, move steadily to the populist right, then identify the “enemy”—in Coughlin’s case, socialism and Roosevelt; in the new religious right’s case, the secular humanists and the Democrats.

The connection to Limbaugh, besides the obvious comparison to the polarizing Father Coughlin, is the following comment by Mr. Schaeffer:

The leaders of the new religious right were different from the older secular right in another way. They were gleefully betting on American failure. If secular, democratic, diverse, and pluralistic America survived, then wouldn’t that prove that we evangelicals were wrong about God only wanting to bless a “Christian America?”

In the same vein, many conservatives, led by Limbaugh, are “gleefully betting” on the failure of “liberal” policies because the success of those policies would prove that conservatives were wrong about God only wanting to bless a “Capitalist America.”

Perhaps someday a scion of right-wing radio royalty will have the courage to write his confessional:

Crazy for Conservatism: How I Grew Up as a Dittohead, Helped Poison America, and Lived to Take All of It Back.

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COMMENTS:

KCChieffan writes:
Monday, March 9, 2009, 03:20 PM

Rita Crowell with brains? Now that is something to think about.

The religious right is losing its influence due to the craziness of its leaders. Young people are abandoning the likes of Dobson and Robertson to pursue such “liberal” purposes as fighting poverty and global warming. It won’t be too long before they are a thing of the past.

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poetikus writes:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 02:31 PM

O’Reilly has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Marist College, a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University and another Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

R. Duane Graham?
A Master’s in BS from Hogwash College, Backwater, USA.

(Well I must confess, I don’t really know the “educational” attainments of Mr. Graham. BUT from his pained attempt at “writing” and constant personal attacks against those more articulate and successful than he I would venture a guess that he was either dropped on his head as a child, dropped but one too many pills in the 70′s, or is one of those truly unfortunate few that was just born a blithering idiot.)

Where the hell is Darwin when we need him, this guy’s been polluting the gene pool for how many years?

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kaje writes:

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 09:56 AM

Wait– I thought elitist academic types were hopelessly out of touch with the average American and that common sense from the Heartland was the only learning you needed?

MAKE UP YOUR MIND CONSERVATIVES.

Limbaugh, Liberals, And Lobotomies

Much of the negative feedback related to my two Limbaugh columns published in the Globe (found on this blog under “Rush Limbaugh and the Poisioning of America”) only serves to make my point about the ridiculous and often thoughtless stuff that contemporary, radio-based conservatism is made of.

In a rebuttal column, Allen Shirley criticized my reference to Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism, this way:

He relies upon the opinions of selected writers who lived in other countries and in other centuries, news reporters, and his own visceral dislike for anyone who dares to disagree with his definition of who real Americans are.

It is sad that Mr. Shirley has not only a negligent unfamiliarity with Edmund Burke, but also a proud indifference to him. This is a little like saying that Christians need not bother about the beliefs of Jesus Christ, who after all was just someone who lived in another country and in another century.

Some of the online responses were equal to Mr. Shirley’s brazen disregard for the rather simple idea that conservatives should spend more time reading books than getting their conservative ideas from Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Someone calling himself Ollie wrote:

Mr. Graham, I don’t know if you are deliberately misrepresenting what Rush has said or just mindlessly parroting some dishonest left-wing blogger. It doesn’t matter. I have actually listened to what Rush said; I understand exactly what he meant; and I agree with him wholeheartedly. Since you obviously have not listened to him, let me explain his meaning with an analogy you might understand.

Now as a 20-year listener to Rush, much of the time as a fan and dittohead, I must correct Ollie’s conclusion-jumping tirade, which was all too typical of online responders. The quote about Limbaugh moving to New Zealand, if Obama’s plan succeeds, was not taken out of context. I heard him say those things live on the radio. In fact, because the comments were so offensive to Americans, I was thinking Limbaugh would not publish them on his web site, and I wouldn’t be able to get an accurate transcript. But to his credit he did publish them—in all of their unpatriotic glory.

The fact is that Limbaugh meant exactly what he said, although recently he has tried to qualify the sheer unloveliness of his initial remarks by saying that he is merely trying to protect the principles of capitalism and liberty, as a distinctively American way of life. He has also said recently that of course he doesn’t want people to be hurt by the failure of Obama’s policies. But here is another sampling from his show on February 13, spoken by Rush a few minutes after his New Zealand comments:

I hope the stimulus bill fails. I hope it does exactly what we know it will do, blow everything to smithereens and not do one thing that has been promised.

It’s hard to imagine into what sort of context you could place all of the comments made on February 13 that would render them palatable to those of us who haven’t had a Limbaugh lobotomy. But fortunately for Rush, he doesn’t have to worry much about that. As many have pointed out, he only needs a few million listeners to keep him comfortably ensconced in his Attila the Hun chair atop the EIB Empire.

On Line Ollie did write something I found totally bizarre, even for a dittohead. He said:

Similarly when we hope that Obama fails to turn our country into a socialist cesspool, that does not make us unpatriotic. And while we’re on that subject, why is it that conservatives are routinely excoriated for calling liberals unpatriotic when they never actually do, but it’s fine for you liberals to call us unpatriotic whenever we disagree with you?

Conservatives never call liberals unpatriotic? Holy Hannidate, Ollie! You make me wonder whether you have ever listened to Limbaugh. During the Bush years, both Sr. and Jr., Rush labeled as unpatriotic anyone who dared question the propriety of Republican policies—once they had Mr. Limbaugh’s approval. And have you ever heard of Ann Coulter? How about her book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism? Ollie, would you consider her use of the words “treason” and “treachery” as at least a subtle indictment of liberal patriotism?

Some other recent books by conservatives:

Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
The Enemy at Home by Dinesh D’Souza
The Enemy Within by Michael Savage
Betrayal by Bill Gertz

Yes, Ollie, conservatives do call liberals unpatriotic, frequently. And I know it bothers many dittoheads when they hear someone dare to question whether Limbaugh, Hannity, and others, given their own rhetoric, really can be patriotic in a world governed by Democrats, liberal or otherwise.

Patriotism is easy when your particular worldview is ascendant. But when that worldview seems to be waning—and when it is in danger of dying—it is hard for some ideologues to generate any enthusiasm for the nation rejecting it.

Even if that nation is the place of your birth; even if that nation is the place where you amassed a fortune; and even if that nation is the greatest country on earth, an ideologue like Limbaugh can blurt out one sad day that he would prefer refuge in New Zealand than live in a nation where his ideology was abandoned.

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COMMENTS:

KCChieffan writes:

Monday, March 9, 2009, 03:47 PM

I wish Limbaugh would pack up and go to New Zealand, and while he’s at it, take Coulter, Hannity, Beck, Savage, and O’Reilly with him. Maybe they could set up a commune, but they couldn’t reproduce since all are males (Have you ever seen Coulter’s adam’s apple? Any breasts? It makes one wonder).

Some other observations:

Didn’t Bush and his cohorts say that anyone who disagreed with their decision to invade Iraq was unpatriotic? Remember “you’re either with us or against us?”

Tom DeLay and his puppet sidekick, Roy Blunt, made the same comments. Also, both of them stated that partisanship was fine. Go to firedupmissouri.com and get The Roy Blunt Story for eye-opening reading.

The Republicans are now the party of no, definite obstructionists.
With lapdogs like Allen Shirley, who would vote for Satan if he ran as a Republican (Cheney??), then perhaps they are destined for a minority role for a generation,

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