Republicans Say Jump, Democrats Say How High?

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

—Jeremiah 13:23

It was all grins and giggles today, after President Obama met at the White House with leaders of both parties.  While the atmospherics may have improved—even Mitch McConnell said, “there’s no reason we can’t find areas of agreement“—there is in fact no reason to believe that Republicans have suddenly changed their focus from defeating Obama to enabling him.

The problem with the nicey-nice rhetoric coming from the Democratic side—meaning Mr. Obama—is that it comes at a bad time, at least for efforts by Congressional Democrats to actually do what President Obama says he wants done: to pass a middle class tax cut extension that doesn’t include the rich.

“Top-ranking aides in the Senate” have told HuffPo’s Sam Stein that,

Senate Democrats have come to the fragile conclusion that they should and will hold a solitary vote to extend rates for the middle class while letting those for the wealthy expire.

In the House, Lucia Graves reported today that Democrats “intend to put forward a bill that fulfills the platform the president campaigned on,” which would include,

a permanent extension of tax cuts for married couples earning up to $250,000 and for single people making up to $200,000. It would also make the president’s childcare tax credit and the earned-income tax credit permanent.

However, even as some Congressional Democrats seem to be hardening their spine, Mr. Obama appears to be in Kumbaya mode.  He truly believes that the American people deserve a working government, and he is set to make it work, even if it means compromising before negotiations begin, which essentially is what he said today. 

Mr. Obama also suggested—and Republicans agreed to—a meeting on the tax cut issue, with one member from each caucus in both chambers, along with Tim Geithner and OMB head Jacob Lew. The purpose of the group will be to find a compromise position on the Bush-era tax cuts.  The presence of Tim Geithner doesn’t give much hope to liberals, I’m afraid.

That, in all likelihood, is the end of the line for those Democrats who want to take and hold the better moral and fiscal ground on the issue.  Now, it’s likely just a matter of how high Republicans will ask Democrats to jump.

[NBC News photo]

Will The Last Democrat Out Turn Off The Lights?

Shannon McCaffrey reports on a disturbing, but not surprising, result of the 2010 election:

Staggering Election Day losses are not the Democratic Party’s final indignity this year. At least 13 state lawmakers in five states have defected to Republican ranks since the Nov. 2 election, adding to already huge GOP gains in state legislatures. And that number could grow as next year’s legislative sessions draw near.

These 13 state lawmakers, frauds all, did not abandon the Democratic Party for any other reason than the lust for power.  These people ran as Democrats, took Democrats’ money, and got elected as Democrats. Yet, today, less than a month after the election, they are Republicans.

And in some cases, the switches made a significant impact:

In Alabama, four Democrats announced last week they were joining the GOP, giving Republicans a supermajority in the House that allows them to pass legislation without any support from the other party. The party switch of a Democratic lawmaker from New Orleans handed control of Louisiana’s House to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction.

Shameful and disgusting.

Since I was once a bull-headed conservative, I can understand switching political allegiances due to disagreements with a party’s philosophy. But despite what these opportunistic scoundrels say, there wasn’t much of an ideological component to their betrayal of the Democratic Party.

Democrats, including Barack Obama, campaigned on an aggressive agenda in 2008, some of which they actually tried to convert into law.  After assuming office in 2009, they never “moved left” one inch, in terms of what they ran on to get elected in 2008. And the turncoats who defected to the GOP knew all that.  The only thing that has changed since then is that Republicans made substantial gains this time, and that means a period of wandering in the political wilderness, something that phony Democrats just can’t tolerate.

McCaffrey writes:

Most of the party swaps are in the South, where GOP rule is becoming more entrenched and Democrats – many of them already more conservative than their counterparts elsewhere – are facing what looks like a long exile in the minority.

The prospect of a “long exile” is unacceptable to people who never cared much about anything except “relevance,” or to put it more starkly, power. And it’s no accident that most of the disloyalists were in the South, The Land of Betrayal.  Remember the Civil War?

In any case, I write all of the above to make a point about those who still retain the Democratic label but appear to be backing away from the principles it is supposed to represent. I speak of President Obama and certain members of the still Democrat-controlled Congress.

If anything should differentiate Democrats from Republicans, it is the issue of extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. Not only have Democrats been on the fiscally responsible side of this argument—that the wealthiest Americans should see their rates go back to Clinton-era levels—but a majority of Americans agree with them. And everyone, except ideologically-poisoned Republicans, understand that giving rich folks tax cuts has almost no stimulative effect.  It’s simply just a giveaway to a Republican constituency.

Yet, I hear talk everyday that Democrats are ready to compromise on the issue, despite the fact that they still run the bleeping government.  It’s really just incomprehensible to me.  Oh, I understand the dynamics of next year’s mix of Tea Party Republicans and weak-kneed Democrats, but this isn’t next year.  It’s now.  And Democrats still have an overwhelming advantage in the House and the Senate.

At the very least, Democrats should put up a bill that includes tax relief for only middle class Americans and force Republicans to vote against those tax cuts. Republicans claim that Democrats don’t have enough votes in their own caucus to pass such a bill.  Let’s find out. Rather than talk about compromising with Republicans, Obama should be twisting the arms of his fellow Democrats.  That’s what leaders do.  If the middle class is worth fighting for, then, by God, fight.

It’s the same for extension of unemployment benefits. Republicans refuse to extend them for nearly two million Americans. Why isn’t President Obama on television every damned day pointing out what Republicans have done to folks who lost their jobs because of Republican policies?  I don’t get it.

And now Democrats are talking about trading tax cuts for the wealthy for an extension of unemployment benefits.  Are you kidding me?  The Republicans are holding the unemployed—and the economy—hostage and Democrats are willing to pay the ransom?  Huh?

When Republicans were walloped in 2008, they didn’t go running to the Democrats to compromise. Even though voters turned away from them in droves, Republicans doubled-down on the philosophy that brought the nation to its economic knees, hoping against hope that the public’s understanding of the causes of the Great Recession could be muddled by overblown rhetoric against Obama and Pelosi and Reid.

Unfortunately, that strategy worked because of a slow-recovering economy and because too few Democrats were willing to defend Democratic principles in the face of Tea Party resistance. And after what Obama did yesterday, I don’t hold out much hope that Democrats are up to any kind of fight for what is right.

President Obama, desperate to impress anyone who will listen that he is serious about deficit reduction, said he was freezing pay for federal workers, including underpaid people who care for our veterans and pick up trash in our national parks.  Yeah, that’ll show ‘em. Mr. Obama said his pay freeze will save about $2 billion in 2011. That’s about .0005 of the projected 2011 budget. Get that? That’s 5/100 of 1%!

And besides the mere symbolism of it all, the federal pay freeze nonsense was a Republican idea, based on a faulty notion that government workers are overpaid and underworked. If Democrats, who are supposed to be the party of good government, won’t stand up for government workers, including many at the top who could earn more in the private sector, then who will?

If President Obama and the Democrats can’t do better than this, when they still have a majority in both houses of Congress, what will the next two years be like?

Maybe those Democratic state legislator-defectors have a point.

Richard Lugar To Republicans: “There are still thousands of missiles out there. You better get that through your heads.”

Yesterday, The New York Times ran a friendly profile of Senator Richard Lugar, who passes for a reasonable Republican in the Obamaphobic Caucus, despite his nearly complete agreement with his party’s recalcitrance the past 21 months.

Saying Lugar “is standing against his party on a number of significant issues at a politically dangerous time to do so,” the Times overstates the case a little bit.  Here is its list of “significant issues”: 

Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.

That last one, the New START treaty, is definitely a significant issue, in terms of our national interests.  Lugar, who I suppose does deserve some credit for putting his country ahead of his party—a rare move for a Republican senator these days— has recently called on his fellow obstructionists to stop obstructing passage of the treaty, but so far, they are staying in anti-Obama mode.

Senator Lugar has even tried playing the patriot card:

Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty. Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now.

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe they simply see their primary duty as hurting Barack Obama, so as to follow the lead of their leader, Mitch McConnell, whose number one stated goal is to defeat the President next election.

For his trouble, in his 2012 primary, Lugar will likely be challenged by far right teapartiers, who just don’t like it when a Republican dares credit Obama with getting something right.  As our old and dear Missouri friend John Danforth said,

If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.

Now, that’s coming from a man who brought us Clarence Thomas, who puts the far in far-right conservatism, as he enjoys his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

In any case, it’s unlikely START will be ratified in the lame-duck session, and it’s also unlikely Republicans will pay any price for it, since Mr. Obama is not in the mood to put up much of a partisan fight these days. 

The President will likely say a few things about the failure of START and then move on to more attempts to compromise with Republicans. 

For a smart guy, he is a slow learner.

Theocracy Or Bust

From the bend-over-here-it-comes department:

TOPEKA, Kan. — Although fixing the economy is the top priority, Republicans who won greater control of state governments in this month’s election are considering how to pursue action on a range of social issues, including abortion, gun rights and even divorce laws.

John Hanna at HuffPo points out that our neighbors, Kansas and Oklahoma, are far more conservative after the November elections:

The tension is particularly visible in Kansas, where the victory by Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage, has created strong expectations among evangelical supporters.

A similar scenario is taking shape in strongly conservative Oklahoma, where a Republican governor will replace a Democrat, and to a lesser extent in Michigan, Wisconsin and several other states.

All of this means, of course, that evangelical Christians will have a good chance of turning those states into quasi-theocracies.  And they won’t wait too long, as this quote exemplifies:

“We’re not going to spend the next 18 months doing nothing but economic issues,” said Wisconsin Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman, an advocate of tougher abortion restrictions.

Hanna points out that Republicans won all statewide races on the ballot in Kansas and have a 92-33 advantage in the House. Couple that with the election of Sam Brownback, a Christian fanatic, as governor, and the question, “What would Jesus do?” will finally have an answer in Kansas politics.  About the only thing that has stopped religious zealots from turning Kansas (my home state) into an evangelical Vatican has been the presence of Democratic governors.

Brownback, at one time a resident at the now-famous C Street Center, owned by a group of Christian extremists called The Family, was a co-sponsor of the Constitution Restoration Act, which, of course, doesn’t restore the Constitution at all.  But here’s what it does do, according to Wikipedia:

…the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity’s, officer’s, or agent’s acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government. In other words, the bill would limit the power of the federal judiciary specifically in religious liberty cases. The bill also states that judges or other court officials that listen to cases that meet said criteria are to be impeached and convicted.

The Constitution Restoration Act is considered by some to be part of a movement of so-called Christian dominionists*, who in the extreme version believe biblical law should exclusively govern society and in a slightly milder form believe, according to sociologist Sara Diamond,

that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.

Wikipedia continues:

Diamond declared that this concept “has become the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right” (p. 138, emphasis in original). In 1995, she called it “prevalent on the Christian Right”. Journalist Chip Berlet added in 1998 that, although they represent different theological and political ideas, dominionists assert a Christian duty to take “control of a sinful secular society.”

None of this should come as a surprise, especially in Oklahoma, which has already been the nation’s leader in terms of Talibanic governance.  This time Oklahoma voters exorcised even more Democratic legislator-demons and will have a Republican governor to oversee the transition to a brand of politics that Tulsa’s Oral Roberts would be proud of.

Oh, for a while the evangelicals will tolerate some backsliders among their new politicians.  Hanna quotes Shawnee, Kansas, Republican Owen Donohoe as delicately saying Sam Brownback’s legislative agenda “may not be as conservative as we wish.”  But such grace won’t last forever.  I know evangelicals and they won’t tolerate a failure to enact their holy agenda for too long.  After all, the fate of America as a Christian nation is at stake.

Abortion rights (what’s left of them) and gay rights will definitely be the target of the Christian Taliban as evangelicals and fundamentalists attempt to take their country back and turn it into a theocracy, one state at a time.

And Kansas and Oklahoma represent the low-hanging fruit of that Crusade.

_______________________________

*For more on Sam Brownback’s connection to the dominionist movement and controversial pastor Lou Engle, see here and here.  The short of it is that Brownback apparently lived with Lou Engle for a time and attended “several events” with him, according to Right Wing Watch, which then writes:

So let’s ask Brownback again just which of Engle’s views concern him the most:  Is it his Dominionism? or his view that homosexuality should be criminalized? or his fear that President Obama is unleashing demons upon this nation? or that universities are conditioning students to accept the Mark of the Beast? or maybe that Satan has gained control over the US government?

You get the idea.

Al Gore And The Ongoing Attack On Science

Al Gore, who, democratically, beat George Bush in the 2000 presidential election, has revealed just how political politics is by admitting his support for the ethanol industry—and the government subsidies that still help to maintain it—was much more related to his desire for higher office than it was related to ethanol’s effect on the environment.  According to Reuters, Gore said,

One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.

Gore, whose vote in 1994 broke a tie in the Senate over authorization of ethanol production, was among many politicians in the 1990s who just couldn’t say no to farmers, especially those who grow corn.  According to Reuters, 41% of the U.S. corn crop—and 15% of the world’s—will be used to produce ethanol.   And American taxpayers subsidized its production last year to the tune of almost $8 billion.

Yet, most scientists have come to understand that grain-based fuels just aren’t all that environmentally friendly. Gore himself said, “The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.”  Some believe that ethanol production may actually have a larger carbon footprint than fossil fuel.

So, naturally all this will lead to conservatives making the argument that Al Gore, the leading voice on global warming, is just as wrong about climate change, as he was about ethanol.  And conservatives will argue that government is the problem, as Andrew Cline did at The American Spectator:

The great ethanol error would’ve been corrected quickly had the market been left in control. It was only the misguided hand of government that grew this problem to global proportions, and perpetuates it still…

The bottom line is this: If we cannot base our environmental policies on the pronouncements of Al Gore, should we really be passing costly, far-reaching mandates that force people to behave as Al Gore would want them to? Wouldn’t it be better to let the market decide, and leave Al Gore to investing heavily in biofuel companies?

Let the market decide.”  That will resonate among those who fail to understand that Al Gore’s past surrender to his political ambition does not in any way diminish the fact that our best guide to understanding the environment and the impact of certain human activity—including government policies—on the environment still rests with science in general, and in the case of global warming, with climate scientists in particular. 

Gore didn’t base his support for ethanol on science.  He based it on politics.  And the science relative to climate change is solid: The planet is warming and mankind has something to do with it.

But Gore’s honest admission will only continue the assault on science and “the experts” that conservatives long ago undertook as part of their mission to muddle the mind of the public on global warming and what to do about it. Unfortunately, it appears that the muddlers are winning. According to the Pew Research Center:

Much of the erosion in understanding of the global warming issue has been among Republicans and some Independents, but “Tea Party Republicans” are especially hostile to the evidence.  Pew asked those who either agreed with or disagreed with the Tea Party what their opinions on global warming were.  Here is the opinion of those who agreed with the Tea Party:

Al Gore deserves a lot of blame for extolling—without solid science—the value of ethanol production years ago as part of a personal political calculation, but even more blame goes to anti-government, anti-regulatory conservatives who have dumbed-down the public understanding of current climate science as part of a collective political calculation.

Happy Thanksgiving Tom DeLay And Roy Blunt!

I wonder what Roy Blunt is thinking today.

Tom DeLay, who was once on top of the political world, is now a convicted felon.  Along with Jack Abramoff and others convicted of wrongdoing during the heady days of the GOP congressional majority, which was not that long ago, DeLay can now take his rightful place in the lineup of Republican rogues, who thought they were untouchable, in terms of political reality (which hit DeLay in 2005) and in terms of the law (which hit him today).

From the AP:

Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge, although prosecutors haven’t yet recommended a sentence…

Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose tough tactics earned him the nickname “the Hammer,” used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

Speaking of the Hammer, it was in 2003 that DeLay christened Roy Blunt—by literally passing to him what turned out to be a tainted hammer—as the Republican Whip, after DeLay became the Majority Leader.  That year, 2003, was an eventful year for Blunt.  From Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—which rated Blunt as one of “the 13 most corrupt members of Congress“:

In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed his new role as Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. Rep. Blunt’s provision would have made it harder to sell tobacco products over the Internet, and would have cracked down on the sale of contraband cigarettes. 

In addition, Rep. Blunt’s son Andrew lobbies on behalf of Philip Morris, a major client he picked up only four years out of law school.  Notably, Altria is Rep. Blunt’s largest campaign contributor, having donated more than $270,000 to political committees tied to him. 

In 2003, Rep. Blunt also helped his lobbyist son Andrew by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp… Andrew Blunt lobbies on behalf of UPS in Missouri, (in addition to Philip Morris)11 and UPS and FedEx have contributed at least $67,500 to Rep. Blunt since 2001…

Rep. Blunt has ties to uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is the subject of criminal and congressional probes. In June 2003, Mr. Abramoff persuaded Majority Leader Tom DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by Speaker Hastert, Whip Roy Blunt, and Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, that endorsed a view of gambling law benefitting Mr. Abramoff’s client, the Louisiana Coushatta, by blocking gambling competition by another tribe.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Abramoff has donated $8,500 to Rep. Blunt’s leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs. 

Roy Blunt, who worked closely with his “friend” and now convicted felon Tom DeLay, was sent to the United States Senate with the blessing of Missouri’s tea partiers, who supposedly were “fed up” with Washington insider politics and deal-making.  Uh-huh.  Representative-elect Billy Long, the feddest of the fed-up crowd, even donated money to Blunt. Stay tuned for more hypocrisy, as Long’s legislative career begins.

Here are three videos featuring Roy Blunt and Tom DeLay. The first is Blunt assuming the job as Whip in 2003.  The second is of Blunt defending the Hammer, after DeLay was forced to resign his leadership post in the wake of the charges brought against him in Texas in 2005, which resulted in his conviction today (Blunt is at 2:15).  The third is a tribute to DeLay by Blunt, in which he praises his “friend.” 

Enjoy watching your new Senator! 

Thanks to Sean at FiredUpMissouri for lifting these from C-SPAN and posting them on YouTube.

A Thanksgiving To Remember For Business

Yet again, I heard another Washington “insider” arguing this morning on TV that Obama sorely needs to repair his relationship with the business community.  They think he is an enemy of business, don’t you know.  But mostly, they just think he talks mean about them.

This time it was the Washington Post‘s Steven Pearlstein, who repeated the Obama-needs-to-suck-up-even-more-to-business nonsense, but it has been a recurring theme for quite some time on the cable shows.  Apparently, chronic whining from people who are taking a disproportionate share of the economy pays off in more ways than one.

Not only do these people want all the bleeping money in America, they want good press on top of it. And, generally, they get it courtesy of the so-called liberal media.

But the truth is that the era of Obama has been berry, berry good to business.  And here’s why:

The New York Times reported yesterday that,

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.

It’s fair to ask, just what have those increased profits brought to the rest of America?  Not much. From The Atlantic:

From the Wall Street Journal this summer:

The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that nonfinancial companies had socked away $1.84 trillion in cash and other liquid assets as of the end of March, up 26% from a year earlier and the largest-ever increase in records going back to 1952.

 

But wait, there’s more!

TARP, which began under Bush and continued big time under Obama, saved the financial industry and the economy, by most accounts.  Does Obama hate business?

The GM/Chrysler rescue not only saved the American auto industry, but businesses big and small that are dependent on the success of the American car companies.  Does Obama hate business?

The Recovery Act, the economic stimulus bill so hated by Republicans, resurrected economic growth:

And the growth for the 3rd quarter of this year was revised upward to 2.5%.  That’s five straight months of growth.

Again, does Obama hate business?  Or is it just that business hates Obama?

Motor Trend Dope-Slaps Conservative Icons

Show Me Progress turned me on to an article on Motor Trend by Todd Lassa

Mr. Lassa does some rhetorical violence to Rush Limbaugh and George Will for their comments on the Chevy Volt, which Motor Trend named its 2011 Car of the Year.

Right-wingers hate General Motors and wanted to see it die because of the union thing, you know.  So, naturally, the Chevy Volt makes a good target, especially if conservatives can convince enough folks not to give it a try when it becomes available.

Limbaugh said,

…of all the cars in the world, the Chevrolet Volt is the car of the year? Motor Trend magazine, that’s the end of them. How in the world do they have any credibility?

Lassa responded,

So, Mr. Limbaugh…assuming you’ve been anywhere near the biggest automotive technological breakthrough since…I don’t know, maybe the self-starter, could you even find your way to the front seat? Or are you happy attacking a car that you’ve never even seen in person?

…our credibility, Mr. Limbaugh, comes from actually driving and testing the car, and understanding its advanced technology.  It comes from driving and testing virtually every new car sold…We test, make judgments and write about things we understand.

Commenting on things they understand is a fairly high standard to inflict on right-wing talk radio hosts.  I mean the only thing they understand well is a fairly simple version of conservative dogma, which they pump out constantly to eager conservative listeners, no matter the facts.

And it’s not just blatherers on the radio who are guilty. For instance, an intellectual of the conservative movement, George Will, had written,

General Motors, an appendage of the government, which owns 61 percent of it [not anymore, alas], is spending some of your money, dear reader, on full-page newspaper ads praising a government brainstorm – the Volt, Chevrolet’s highly anticipated and prematurely celebrated (sort of) electric car.

A “government brainstorm“?  You mean, among his other talents, Obama can design cars?  What a guy!

Except, that the car was not a government brainstorm at all.  Lassa:

GM designed the Chevy Volt after its failed experiment with the EV1, which was its attempt to respond to a California mandate.  States rights, you know…

It unveiled the Chevy Volt concept at the 2007 Detroit auto show.  That means GM began working on it before the November 2006 elections, when the Republican Party had majorities in the House and Senate, before President Bush had signed a single veto.  Bob Lutz [GM design chief], who famously decreed, “Global warming is a crock of shit,” introduced the car two years before Bush gave GM its first bailout from TARP pocket change.  This was two-and-a-half years before Obama’s Automotive Task Force forced GM into bankruptcy.

Lassa wasn’t finished with Limbaugh and Will, though.  To Rush he said:

You’ve made two king’s ransoms by convincing legions of dittoheads to tune into you every day.  I wonder, do you ever ride in anything that’s not German or Anglo-Saxon? Do you have any idea how powerful IG Metall [German metalworkers’ union] is, and of the size of Germany’s social safety net?

And for Will:

My esteemed colleague, Johnny Lieberman, got a copy of Will’s hit piece on the Volt, and responded thusly: “A bit of flag waving is in order—but instead, Will chooses to be a partisan clown and gets everything wrong.” 

And for both Limbaugh and Will:

You and Will don’t even worry about being un-American, anymore.

That, my friends, is a dope slap.

Fox On Fox

From the Fox Broadcasting Company’s The Simpson’s:

Why It’s Not Okay To Refer To The President As “Boy,” Even If You’re Not A Racist

I wrote a column that appeared in the November 19 edition of the Joplin Globe.  The column was a response to another Globe blogger, Geoff Caldwell, who had criticized me in the paper for, among other things, claiming that the mid-term election was largely about the economy.  Naturally, I countered Geoff’s criticism with what I judged were relevant facts.

But for anyone who has ever read the “discussion” section that accompanies articles on the Globe website, most of the comments on the column I wrote were predictable, if mostly unenlightening. 

There were a few positive comments, which I appreciated very much.  But most were quite negative, including these:

DAVE wrote:

I confess that Graham is consistently wrong. I confess that Graham isn’t going to ever be right. I confess that after reading Graham accuse another of racism, my first two confessions are proven correct. I confess that I think reading Graham is tiring.

a reader wrote:

Graham has no basis for argument except to insinuate racism on someone else. Man, this is lame and juvenile writing.

Observation wrote:

Duane has become some sort of obsessed and juvenile character concerning all this. I can not believe that the first thing he does is somehow make up and attribute racism to Caldwell. You see what some minds resort to when they lack the truth. This is amazingly childish.

Not Surprised wrote:

I hope you’re not surprised that Duane would resort to a thinly disguised accusation of racism, Geoff. It’s the typical Alinksy ‘Rules for Radicals’ stuff. If you’re getting your butt handed to you by the facts, attack the messenger. It doesn’t matter whether the attack is true, it only matters that you get the accusation out there to get others thinking about it. Make them spend time defending themselves against the accusation. The more you make them defend against it, the more you can turn the topic to what you accused them of and distract others from the original topic where they destroyed you with the facts. It’s scummy, but then scummy is right up Duane’s alley…

So, you get the point.  I confess to one and all that I have never read Saul Alinsky, although I wish I had the time.  Since the right hates him so much, he must be worth reading.  But I digress.

Here is how someone writing under the name of Geoff, presumably Geoff Caldwell, responded:

Geoff wrote:

Duane,
I’m used to you distorting the facts and re-writing history to support the liberal cause but calling me racist crosses the line bud.

Now, I don’t know for a fact that this is the real Geoff Caldwell, but it doesn’t really matter for my purposes here.  What matters is just why all these folks would accuse me (falsely, of course) of labeling Mr. Caldwell a racist?

Well, because that’s one way the right-wing has of deflecting criticism of their use of language, when they are talking about our president. 

Mr. Obama has suffered many indignities since he assumed office, including incessant questions from the non-fringe right-wing about his birthplace and his patriotism.  Even his wife’s patriotism has been challenged, again and again. He and his family have been the subject of racist e-mails that to this day circulate around the country, with many of the circulators claiming they are not racists for participating, since the e-mails are “jokes.”

Which leads me to how I began my column that so offended the right-wing sympathizers who read the Globe:

I was grateful that in his post-election analysis last Sunday  (Globe, Nov. 14) blogger Geoff Caldwell managed to avoid the use of “O boy” and “Bama Boy” as references to President Barack Obama.

Geoff’s pale-faced sense of humor tends to have an Old South edge to it, and I commend him for dispensing with the disrespectful — dare I say, racially charged — epithets for Mr. Obama he has sometimes used on the Internet.

Now, it doesn’t take a Saul Alinsky to figure out that I never called Mr. Caldwell a racist.  But I mentioned that some of the language he has used in reference to President Obama was disrespectful and racially charged, and somehow that is the same thing as claiming Geoff wears a funny-looking hood at night and has a peculiar affection for flaming crosses. 

In truth, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea whether Geoff Caldwell is a racist in his heart of hearts. Unless he specifically identifies himself as such, or unless he uses language that leaves no doubt, I can only comment on the nature of the language he selects when identifying our African-American president.

And here are only two examples, which appeared in the comments section of this blog recently, and which served as the source for those in my column:

I’ll take the Koch brothers over Bama Boy and your ilk any day.                              –Geoff Caldwell, 10/15/2010

Get a grip DB, as much as Frank tries to explain it away he was neck deep in this mess and the Dems planted all the seeds that caused the initial crisis and now Oboy continues it with his government expansion and mounting debt.                             –Geoff Caldwell, 10/23/2010

Given our nation’s history with slavery, I don’t know how any American can use the term “boy” as a reference to our black president—or any other African-American—and not expect someone to call him on it.  

Language evolves along with the people who speak it and write it, but there is no doubt that the term “boy” has always been derogatory when applied to black men.  And there is no doubt it is still offensive today.

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch less than three weeks ago:

ATLANTA • In a certain context — and every Southerner knows what it is — the word “boy” is one of the oldest and most demeaning of racial epithets. During the civil rights struggle, black men sometimes wore placards stating simply, “I am a man.”

Now, a black Alabama man is pursuing a discrimination lawsuit against his employer, Tyson Foods, and has offered evidence that the white plant manager who denied him a promotion had once referred to him as “boy.”

Referring to a grown black man as “boy” is without a doubt a pejorative.  Otherwise, why use it?  What would be the point? In a Sociology textbook published in 2006, we find this:

Throughout the period of Jim Crow segregation in the American South, Black men, regardless of their age, were routinely referred to as “boy” by Whites.  Calling a grown man a “boy” is an insult; it diminishes his status by defining him as childlike.

Obviously, it is within the context of dominant and subordinate group relationships that such terms are offensive.  A black adult can often call another black adult a “boy” without offense, but a white cannot do so. It’s the same with the “N” word.  That’s Sociology 101.

And if you don’t understand that as a writer, or if you bristle at someone pointing it out to you, perhaps you are in the wrong business. 

Finally, as this case and others prove, right-wingers are hypersensitive to anyone pointing out that some of the language they use about President Obama is racially charged or racially offensive.  If only they were as sensitive to how African-American citizens—and most white folks, too—react to the unending demands, from well-placed right-wingers, for Mr. Obama to prove his citizenship.  Or hear them question out loud his love for America. 

Or read references to him like BamaBoy or Oboy, written by a local blogger and columnist.

Good News For Male Prostitutes: Pope Sprinkles Holy Water On Condoms

I read in the Joplin Globe on Sunday that Pope Benedict XVI gave his it’s-sort-of-okay blessing on condom use for a certain class of sinners: male prostitutes.  Given the history of his flock of priests, that’s probably a good place to start.

In what was characterized by the Associated Press as a “stunning comment,” His Popeness said it could perhaps, possibly, maybe, conceivably, represent “a first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”  It seems that if a male prostitute has the desire to use a condom with “the intention of reducing the risk of infection,” that might be good enough for the Vicar of Christ, Christ Himself obviously not available for comment on the matter.

I want to applaud the Supreme Pontiff for stepping out of the dark ages into the merely darkish age of what passes for enlightenment in today’s Church. I see his bold move as representing “a first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility” for him and his Church.

Meanwhile, because of the Holy Father’s and his Church’s general teaching on artificial contraception—it’s a real no-no, in case you don’t know—millions needlessly suffer and die every year.

Millions.

Here’s the way the argument against artificial contraception goes:

1) The Church is charged with making sure as many people as possible end up in heaven, where there is no need for contraception since there won’t be any sex.  Instead, there will be endless games of badminton, and if you’re a good boy and girl and never use a condom or a birth control pill, when you pass on, you can play badminton against the reigning champs of the Cloud Nine Shuttlecock League: The Pedophile Priests.  Word has it, they haven’t lost a match in almost 1700 years!  Word also has it, after a grueling match, you should always let the priests shower first!

2) Users of artificial contraception are violating the laws of nature (if men were meant to wear condoms, they would have been born with wings, or something like that), the teaching of Scripture (“Thou shalt not wear raincoats while knowing someone in a biblical sense“—Leviticus 27:35) and the Church (the Pope says nobody no one except well-intentioned male hookers can wear rubbers), and are, therefore, sinners who will die and go to hell. 

Apparently, the price paid for limiting your offspring or protecting yourself from AIDS and other diseases, while experiencing God-ordained pleasure, is much greater than the price paid by priests, who while preying on the young, at least have the good sense not to use any artificial encumbrance.  Just remember, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

3) Therefore, the Church is holy and just in demanding that its followers, if they abstain from abstinence, do not use non-natural remedies for disease prevention or for contraception.  If its followers don’t like it, to hell with them. 

Uh, except the male prostitutes.  I almost forgot.

Why Obama Is Not A Lefty

I expect right-wing media in this country to say ridiculous things about Barack Obama, like, say, he is a communist, a socialist, or just an average leftist who is way out of touch with “mainstream” America.  On the adult-less right, anyone slightly left of Rush Limbaugh is a muddle-headed moderate, a leftist sympathizer, or worse.

But one even hears such talk among those who are not committed reactionaries.  On Morning Joe, for instance, it is a given among many of the regular guests that Obama has governed from the far left and voters smacked him down this November for doing so.

Uh, well, no.  He has not only not governed from the far left, a good case can be made that he has, in so many ways, governed from either the center-right, or, sad to say, the right-right.

Here are some examples of Obama’s often-conservative governance:

Health Insurance Reform

Obama’s signature accomplishment to date is health insurance reform, the Affordable Care Act.  He is proud of that achievement, as all Democrats should be, since it cost them a lot to get it passed.  And Republicans say they are committed to repealing it and replacing it with God only knows what.  In fact, tea partiers absolutely hate it and give it as an example of Obama’s fondness for socialism.

Except that it’s not. It’s not even close.

I heard today that the health insurance companies, normally fond of Republican enthusiasm for exclusively protecting corporate interests, are lining up to urge Republicans to slow down in their efforts to repeal health insurance reform.  From NPR:

“No one has said what this bill would be replaced with,” said Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “But doing away with this would certainly be the wrong thing. … People have been gearing up for some time, well before this actual bill got passed, to make these changes locally, and have invested a lot.”

The truth is that the Affordable Care Act may have helped save the private insurance company from the profit-killing effects of a growing number of uninsured Americans.  According to Jonathan Oberlander at the University of North Carolina:

“Usually we think of the health industry as being in alliance with Republicans and opposing more government intervention in the health care system,” Oberlander says. But you have to ask why did the industry support the health reform law in the first place?”

He says the reason is that the more people there were without health insurance, the more that threatened the industry financially. In other words, its entire business model was about to fall apart.

So, we can conclude that the new health care law, with its insurance mandate that will drive many new customers into the arms of the private insurance industry, is far from being a left-wing dream.  And besides all that, the basic structure of the Affordable Care Act is very similar to what Republican Mitt Romney approved of when he was governor of Massachusetts.  In fact, it is more conservative than RomneyCare, as Jonathan Chait points out.

And largely forgotten is the health care overhaul legislation offered by Republicans in 1993 in response to Clinton’s attempt to reform the system.  It has striking similarities to what eventually passed this year.  For a comparison, go here and look for yourself.

There’s simply no way the new health insurance reform law can be interpreted as a move to the far left.  Sorry.  But, then, I don’t expect members of the media, especially on sound bite political shows, to mention that very often.

The War in Afghanistan

Obama has tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan and has exponentially increased the number of drone strikes in Pakistan.  He has, essentially one-upped the Bush administration, so much so, that as Politico points out, Mr. Bush had good things to say about Obama’s strategy:

“I strongly believe the mission is worth the cost,” Bush wrote in “Decision Points,” which comes out Tuesday. “Fortunately, I am not the only one.”

He expresses gratitude that Obama “stood up to critics by deploying more troops, announcing a new commitment to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and increasing the pressure on Pakistan to fight the extremists in the tribal areas.”

Again, sorry pundits.  Obama’s war policy is Dick Cheney on steroids.

Financial Reform

Other than health care reform, there isn’t anything the left-wing of the Democratic Party has been more upset about than the financial reform legislation passed this year.  The left claims the law won’t do much to stop the practice of using “too big to fail” as an excuse for bailing out Wall Street gamblers.  In this, they have common agreement with many tea partiers. 

Even an admittedly liberal bright spot in the reform law—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—has received criticism because President Obama refused to fight to install Elizabeth Warren—a hero on the left—as its head.  They fear that without her in charge, the “Banksters” will have their way with Obama’s rather conservative Treasury Department.

So, even financial reform turns out to be a frustratingly moderate approach to reigning in an out-of-control financial industry.

The Stimulus Plan and Lower Taxes

The New York Times reported recently:

In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last month, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know. As Thom Tillis, a Republican state representative, put it as the dinner wound down here, “This was the tax cut that fell in the woods — nobody heard it.”

The tax cut nobody heard of was in the Recovery Act stimulus plan passed by—and only by—Democrats.  It was a $787 billion bill (CBO now estimates it will cost $814 billion). Of that total some $275 billion (now projected at $290 billion) was for tax cuts for 95% of Americans. Get that?  Tax cuts.  For cutting taxes. You know, those things Republicans believe are major stimulants of economic growth, at least when Republican propose them.  When Democrats propose them, they somehow fail to stimulate growth, but that’s another subject.

Tax cuts comprised about 36% of the Recovery Act stimulus plan and it received ZERO Republican votes.

Now, it is widely known that President Obama and the Democrats took the approach of including such massive tax cuts in the stimulus bill—despite there being arguably better ways to spend the money—in order to get bipartisan support.  In other words, they made the bill much more conservative—and thus less effective—than it needed to be, since Republicans didn’t support it anyway.  Most people on the left believe the bill was too small and wrongly designed to appeal to Obama-must-fail Republicans. 

So, we can conclude that much of the stimulus package represented essentially Republican tax-cutting ideas, hardly part of any leftist agenda I’ve ever heard of.

The GM Revival

Remember last year when the right-wing told us that Obama was fulfilling his desire to socialize America by stepping in to save General Motors?  Never mind that the GM bailout begun under Bush.  And never mind that Congressional Republicans had no problems bailing out bankers.  It was just union workers they had a problem helping.  As John McCain said, the GM-Chrysler bailout, “was all about the unions.”  Except that the unions were forced to sacrifice, too. 

And in the end, yesterday’s IPO, the second largest in history, saw Obama’s socialist stake in GM drop from 61% to around 33%.  Damn! I bet he’s pissed about that:

We are finally beginning to see some of these tough decisions that we made in the midst of crisis begin to pay off.

Okay, so he’s not pissed.  Why not?  Why isn’t he furious that he doesn’t actually control GM anymore?  Because he’s not a bleeping socialist, that’s why.

Anyway, leave it to the Wall Street Journal to put in perspective the GM comeback and the government’s role in it:

The most important step may have been the government’s efforts to stock GM with a new management team, to shake up its corporate culture and refocus the company on making money.

Making money?  Obama wanted GM to make money?  Huh?  What kind of left-winger is he?

Small Business Tax Relief

Including the Recovery Act, Obama has cut taxes on small businesses eight (8!) times since he sat his socialist keister in the Oval Office.  Additionally, eight (8!) more small business tax cuts have been stalled in the Senate because of Obama-must-fail Republican recalcitrance.

The Employee Free Choice Act

Despite widespread fear among the business class, Obama hasn’t done one damn thing to get the EFCA passed. It’s hard to remember now, but when Obama-the Communist assumed office, the EFCA was the Holy Grail for organized labor. So much for Obama’s radical agenda for unions, which, the right told us, would destroy America.

Budget Deficits and Debt

Who was it that appointed the deficit reduction commission?  Oh, yeah.  It was that radical spender, Barack Obama.  And he will have to answer for it, as Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson make the rounds and explain to us that although the wealthy made off with billions and billions at Wall Street casinos, and although the financial system had to be bailed out by taxpayers, the pain of budget cuts will fall on average Americans, who will have to work harder and longer for less.  Rah, rah, Comrade Obama!

Free Trade

Despite resistance from the left, particularly unions, Obama is pursuing free trade policies and trade agreements with trading cheaters all over the globe.  

War On Drugs

California had on its ballot this November an initiative that would have legalized marijuana. Surely, every leftist in America, and most libertarians, favored the measure. Yet, the Obama Justice Department made it clear that it opposed Proposition 19 and that it would “vigorously enforce” all federal laws related to dope smoking, no matter the outcome.  No one can possibly argue that a McCain-Palin administration would have acted differently.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Despite favoring repeal of the military’s ban on openly homosexual service, President Obama had a chance to end the policy by simply refusing to appeal a federal judge’s decision last month that prohibited the government from enforcing or applying the ban.  Of course, it turns out that the administration did appeal the decision, thus irking homosexual activists everywhere. 

Why would he do that?  Because he takes his job as head of the executive branch seriously.  And the executive branch is charged with enforcing the law, whether the president likes it or not. That, my friends, is conservative governance.

Guantanamo Bay

It’s still open.  Any questions?

 

It’s A Strange Question, If Sarah Palin Or Donald Trump Is The Answer

America is in a strange place, if both Sarah Palin and Donald Trump think they can become president. 

Ms. Palin, who celebrates her self-described commonness, and Mr. Trump who revels in his self-described uncommonness, each have the nothing-better-to-do media types infatuated with whether one or both will run to become the Most Powerful Person On Earth

Think about that.

I’ve already said that Sarah Palin will not run for president in 2012.  Her goal is to keep speculation alive long enough to accumulate sufficient cash to purchase Alaska, so she can have it all to herself.  And right now she is able to routinely separate enough gullible commoners from their disposable income that someday that dream may come true. Good for her.  But president?  Come on.  Nobody believes that, even if she really wanted to go for it.

That leaves us with Donald Trump.  What is it about rich jerks like The Donald, who think the world pines for their pomp and longs for their leadership?  Nature kicked Trump out of the safety and comfort of his mother’s womb into the safety and comfort of a womb of wealth.  His father was a prosperous New York real estate developer.  Go figure.

Yet, despite such a head start in life, Mr. Trump managed to get himself in financial trouble in the 1990s (remember “junk bonds”?). From a 1991 article in Time:

Meet Donald Trump’s bankers. Like the characters in the fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, a gaggle of major financial institutions has finally been forced to admit, after lending Trump billions of dollars, that there’s a lot less to the emperor — or at least his empire — than the banks had believed. Not quite nine months after bailing out Trump with a rescue package that gave him $65 million in new loans and eased credit terms on his bank debt, Trump’s bankers last week stopped the game. Already more than $3.8 billion in the hole and sliding perilously close to a mammoth personal bankruptcy, the brash New York developer had no choice but to accept the dismantling of his vast holdings. Meeting round the clock at secret Manhattan locations, Trump’s lawyers and bankers by week’s end had begun to hammer out a complex series of agreements on the distribution of some of his assets.

However, unlike you and me and most of the world, Trump was simply too big to fail completely.  He was so far in debt, his creditors had to cut him a deal in order to keep from losing even more money than the hundreds of millions they reportedly lost on his ambitions.  And through it all, The Donald kept his humility in check:

…despite his desperate situation, Trump, who has always prided himself on his mastery of dealmaking, once again seems to have come up with a strong hand. Pooh-poohing any notion that he was cornered, Trump insisted last week that the talks were friendly. “I have a great relationship with the banks,” he said, adding airily, “The 1990s are a decade of deleveraging. I’m doing it too.”

Yeah, it’s nice to have a “great relationship with the banks.”  I certainly have a great relationship with my bank: Everyone there knows where I live and if I don’t make my car payment, they will send someone out to check on me, and then they will tow my car away.

Donald Trump’s life, past and present, is God’s way of rubbing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s terrible truth in our face: the rich are, indeed, different from you and me.

Trump has confessed to us that he is thinking about running for president, as a Republican, of course.  I recommend everyone watch his interview with George Stephanopoulos.  You will find that he is willing to start a trade war with China, that he finds Sarah Palin interesting and he likes her, but you won’t find out his position on abortion rights, because he’s not ready to reveal that piece of information just yet.  He was asked,

Are you pro-choice?

Trump: I don’t want to discuss, right now, but you will be shocked when I give you that answer…I’m gonna make a decision and when I make a decision I’ll let you know about that. But I think you’ll probably be surprised.

Everyone knows you can’t win a Republican primary and be pro-choice on abortion, so, no doubt, Mr. Trump has to figure out not what he believes, but what he needs to believe.  He’s flexible. How thoughtful.

He confirmed his presidential ambitions this morning on Morning Joe.  Mika Brzezinski, who falsely represents political balance on the show, asked him this question:

So, this frustration you feel, is that why you were thinking of running for president, and would you run as a Republican?

TRUMP: Well, I am a Republican—I’d run as a Republican. And I haven’t decided—I’d prefer not running. I’m having a great time, as you know, doing what I’m doing. 

Yes, like his party comrade Sarah Palin, The Donald doesn’t really want to run for president.  He’s got better things to do. Both of these stunningly patriotic Americans suggest that their lives are full of wonderful things, like grizzlies and Fox “News” and skyscrapers and casinos and lots and lots of cash, but they would give it all up—except the cash—just to be our leader, if we really, really needed them.

When Joe Scarborough asked him this morning to rate Barack Obama as a leader, in his typically Trumpish way, Trump said:

Well, you know, I respect him, I like him, I think he is wonderful in many ways.  I think he has not been good for business and honestly and very sadly the world does not respect this country, and therefore I assume the world does not respect our leader.  He’s a nice man, I think he’s totally over his head.

Barack Obama is a nice man.  But he’s bad for business.  He’s over his head.  And The Donald knows this because, as he told Stephanopoulos,

I have many people from China that I do business with, they laugh at us.  They feel we’re fools.  And almost being led by fools.

There you have it.  A man who thinks he can be president bases his opinion of our country’s standing in the world, and our President’s ability to lead, on what his Chinese business friends tell him about America. 

As I said, America is in a strange place these days.

The National Debt: Let’s At Least Ask Who Dunnit

My friend Juan Don has turned me on to a chart created by Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, who used to be a budget analyst for the Pentagon and who is famous for criticizing what Wikipedia calls, “the reckless pursuit of costly complex weapon systems by the Pentagon, with disregard to budgetary consequences.”

About the painful choices that will soon have to be made relative to our present revenue and spending imbalance, Spinney asks:

So, as a first cut into a complex issue, perhaps it is time for the angry masses to ask which political party put them into the fiscal straight jacket that is setting them up for this horrible choice?

Here’s the chart that serves as that “first cut into a complex issue”:

James Fallows posted Spinney’s chart on The Atlantic website, and here is the explanation:

To be clear: the middle column is how much overall federal debt grew, or shrank, as a share of gross domestic product during each administration, and the right-hand column is the average annual rate of growth or reduction during that administration. As Spinney said in a note to me, “The idea of this column is simply to show the average annual change for the period covered in the first column — so you can compare one term administrations to two term administrations in terms of their annual performance.  The first row of the second column says, for example, that the average debt burden ratio declined by 4.7% during each year of the Truman administration.”

When the economy is growing faster than the debt, that administration looks “green.” When it isn’t, red. The chart may give a slightly unfair boost to Harry Truman, whose administration coincided with the end of huge outlays and borrowing for World War II. Otherwise…

My Favorite Billionaire

This morning on CNBC, Warren Buffett, one of the richest capitalists in the universe, told the somewhat astonished free-market-friendly hosts of Squawk Box that if it weren’t for the intervention of the government during the economic crisis in the fall of 2008, he would be eating Thanksgiving dinner at McDonald’s this year.

Buffett was on the show defending his op-ed piece in the New York Times, in which he thanked “Dear Uncle Sam” for saving not only his own company, Berkshire Hathaway, but “all of corporate America” and “300 million Americans.”  He wrote,

There was no hiding place. A destructive economic force unlike any seen for generations had been unleashed.

Only one counterforce was available, and that was you, Uncle Sam. Yes, you are often clumsy, even inept. But when businesses and people worldwide race to get liquid, you are the only party with the resources to take the other side of the transaction. And when our citizens are losing trust by the hour in institutions they once revered, only you can restore calm.

Hooray, for one rich capitalist who gets it. 

Buffett was also asked about the extension of the Bush tax cuts this morning.  I will quote him at length:

Unless we get more money from the wealthy people, we’re not gonna get our revenues back up to 19% or something like that of GDP.  I think the vast majority of Americans should not pay more taxes—if anything they should pay a little less—and I think people at the top should pay more.

The IRS released the figures for the highest  individual tax returns just a couple of months ago, and the average income was $358 million.  Now, if you take 400 times $358 million, you come up with $1.4 trillion of income for those 400 people.  And their average tax rate was under 17%, the lowest it’s ever been…

If you ask me what should happen with the tax code, it should hit people with huge incomes a lot harder and it should not be hitting people down below harder…

I’m gonna have a lot of capital gains this year…it’ll be in the tens of millions and when I get all through, I will have a tax rate—counting payroll taxes—of about 16 or 17 percent.  And the average for the other people in the office is going to be over 30%.  And that’s dead wrong.

On the tax issue, Buffett is one billionaire who understands what some Democrats are starting to forget.

He also weighed in on the Simpson-Bowles deficit-cutting proposal, particularly the tax-restructuring part of it.  Buffett believes, like everyone, that we will soon have to deal with the debt problem, and he has something of an idea as to what should be the proper amount of government revenue and spending and the ratio between the two, in terms of the GDP:

We’re taking in a little over 15% of GDP and we’re spending a little over 25%.  That gap has to narrow in the foreseeable future to something not greater than 3%… [The Simpson-Bowles plan] is only a sound plan, if it brings revenues up from the present 15 and a fraction percent up to something like 19%.  If you have expenditures of 21 and revenues of 19, that will work fine for this country over time…

There is no magic, you’re gonna have to raise more revenues and you’re gonna have to cut expenses.

As for the future, Buffett is bullish on America, as anyone who has ever listened to him would expect.  He says the economy “is getting better,” and when asked what the government can or could be doing about increasing job growth, he said,

I don’t think the government is nearly as big a factor in that as what I call the regenerative capacity of capitalism…Since the country was started, we’ve probably had 15 recessions, most of the time we didn’t even know what fiscal or monetary policy was—the terms hadn’t been invented—but we came back from those.  We come back from everything.  And we’ll come back from this one.  It won’t be next week or next month.  I mean, the sort of cardiac arrest that the country experienced, you  don’t get out of the hospital in a day or a week or a month…

Asked about the trend toward government policies that embrace austerity, which could harm the recovery, Buffett replied:

This country has faced lots of interesting problems over the past years.  We have gone through civil wars, world wars, Great Depressions…the country will work over time, but that doesn’t mean we get the right answers every day or every week…If they don’t get it right the first time, they’ll get it right the second time…

Let’s hope he’s right, as the fight over what to do next—if anything—begins.

The CNBC appearance, in two parts, can be heard here and here.

Slimy Republican Politics In The Name Of Jesus

Yesterday’s Joplin Globe carried a story on the issue of fake caller IDs used during this year’s election by the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee.

Known as “spoofing,” the idea is to use reputable caller IDs—say, from hospitals—as a disguise to get people to answer the phone.  People then find they are listening to a recording saying nasty things about Democrats. Most folks obviously are more likely to answer a call when the ID reads “St. Luke’s,” as opposed to reading, “slimy Republican political operative.”

One such slimy political operative, Tom Smith, works for the state of Missouri as the legislative director for Joplin’s own, Ron Richard.  Mr. Smith owns Survey Saint Louis and Survey Missouri.  A victim of stolen identity, St. Luke’s Health System, alleged that one of Mr. Smith’s companies was the source of the automated calls and sued to have the practiced stopped, four days before the election.

Although Mr. Smith eventually settled the lawsuit by paying St. Luke’s attorney’s fees, he claims he didn’t know anything about the bait-and-switch practice until he read about it in the media.

Yep, that’s what he said.  But, if so, why settle the suit?

One thing Mr. Smith can’t deny, though, is the content of the robo calls.  His company produced the following attack on Democrat Courtney Cole (which I posted last month):

Female voice: This is an urgent alert for all Christian families. Before you vote you should know that state representative candidate Courtney Cole has taken hundreds in campaign donations from a representative of the hard-core pornography industry, including gay pornography.

“By allowing her Democratic campaign to be funded by those who are involved with and support hard-core pornography Courtney Cole clearly does not share our Christian family values.

“On election day stand up for what’s right and decent by voting no on Courtney Cole. Paid for by House Republican Campaign Committee, Inc.”

Similar disgusting calls were made to folks in other districts, including the 21st, where Democrat Kelly Schultz was a victim.  Republicans in Jefferson City knew Schultz very well, since she worked in the state capitol for eleven years, most recently as a legislative assistant to Rep. Sara Lampe, of Springfield.  But that didn’t stop some Republicans, including an aid to Ron Richard*, from attacking her, in the name of Jesus and family values.

And before I hear from someone who says, “Democrats do this stuff, too,” please be prepared to show me where in Missouri that Democrats used religious robocalls to smear Republicans?

That’s what I thought.

__________________________

*Perhaps someday, before hell freezes over, some local reporter will ask Ron Richard what he thinks about such things and what he thinks about his aid, Tom Smith, and his tactics.  Or what he thinks about his close colleague, Steve Tilley, who leads the House Republican Campaign Committee that paid for the robo calls. 

My money is on hell freezing over.

But we do know that the Kansas City Star reported last year that Tom Smith made “almost $500,000” via his political consulting business, which this year produced the robo calls above.  As an AP story put it,

Richard said he doesn’t have a problem with Smith’s side job as long as he doesn’t work on campaigns during the legislative session. 

The Domestic Truman Doctrine: Fight Like Hell For What Is Right

As we brace for the lame-duck legislative section, which will feature wounded Democrats and wound up Republicans, I want to note a couple of things coming from the mind of the excellent columnist for The New York Times, Frank Rich.

Last week he attempted to put some fizzle back in fast fizzling Democrats, including president Obama, who sometimes sound like they are succumbing to the idea that Democratic ideas aren’t worth a vigorous defense:

In the 1946 midterms, the unpopular and error-prone rookie president Harry Truman, buffeted by a different set of economic dislocations, watched his party lose both chambers of Congress (including 54 seats in the House) to a G.O.P. that then moved steadily to the right in its determination to cut government spending and rip down the New Deal safety net. Two years after this Democratic wipeout, despite a hostile press and a grievously divided party, Truman roared back, in part by daring the Republican Congress to enact its reactionary plans. He won against all odds, as David McCullough writes in “Truman,” because “there was something in the American character that responded to a fighter.”

Well, maybe there was.  And maybe there still is.  In any case, this week Rich pointed out the opponent in today’s fight: Republicans who vow “to fight to the end” to award the richest of the rich huge windfalls through extending the Bush tax cuts.

Mr. Rich says that Americans tend to like a lot of rich folks because we “admire and often idolize success.”  We particularly like those who create a lot of good-paying jobs.

But the liberal columnist says that “the wealthy Americans we should worry about” are “those who take far more from America than they give back” and “are all but certain to cash in on the Nov. 2 results”:

The Americans I’m talking about are not just those shadowy anonymous corporate campaign contributors who flooded this campaign. No less triumphant were those individuals at the apex of the economic pyramid — the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground. The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

And it’s not that Democrats are innocent of all charges for this state of affairs:

How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”…

The authors’ answer to that question and others amounts to a devastating indictment of both parties…

America’s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap…Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election.

As Hacker and Pierson point out in their book, that bidding war began during the Carter administration, which is when Democrats first yielded to a new and powerful coalition of big-money interests that “launched a diversified attack,” including influencing public opinion through “orchestrating a campaign of op-ed pieces and magazine articles,” “grassroots mobilization,” and the targeting of “moderate Democrats,” many of whom represented “suburban districts that had traditionally been Republican.”

Sound familiar Tea Party fans?

Some have argued that Truman’s “comeback” after the devastating 1946 midterms had more to do with “rapid growth” in the economy leading up to the 1948 election than with Truman’s adversarial stance against the Do-Nothing Congress of his day.

Whatever the truth is, it couldn’t hurt President Obama and his fellow Democrats to channel the give ‘em hell spirit of a fighting Harry Truman, as they finish legislative business this year and begin anew the next. 

And then hope like hell the economy catches fire.

The Glenn Beck Paradox, Part 2

I wrote the following in response to some very thoughtful comments on my post, “The Glenn Beck Paradox.”  If  philosophy-talk is not your idea of a good time, then avoid the following:

_____________________

To all,

I just love these philosophical discussions.

First, of course it is good advice not to just put trust or faith in any one person or idea, but to seek out all the information one can in a finite period of time.  But at some point, one has to stop looking and make up one’s mind.  G. K. Chesterton said,

The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

The point of the post was to raise the sticky issue of epistemology (“What is knowledge and how do we come to know what it is we think we know”) in the context of someone (Beck) who clearly wants people to take his word for things, despite his urging them not to.  That is one of the oldest tricks in the Book of Demagoguery.

Despite Beck’s pleading, “Don’t take my or anyone else’s word for anything,” I was simply trying to point out that there are limits to skepticism.  Even science makes assumptions about the universe which cannot be proven, and without those assumptions, we would not have “knowledge” in the sense most of us use the word.

Fundamental among the assumptions of science would be the “real” existence of the physical universe (and other minds).  Science also assumes natural causation (the root of most conflicts between religion and science).  Scientific reasoning assumes that explanations for things happening in our universe can and will only be found in nature itself.  And, further, the evidence supporting those explanations will only come from the natural world, which, science assumes, has an operating consistency we would call predictability or “order.”

Oddly, none of these assumptions in science can be proven by science.

But notwithstanding the epistemological (and causation) problems in science, I raised the epistemology issue in the Beck post because it has always been a mystery to me how we come to know what we believe we know. 

Given the fact that none of us have infinite time to explore issues, how do we come to sound conclusions?  How much do we need to read and from what sources?  How much weight do we give a particular source?  Don’t we naturally give more weight to sources who share our worldview?  But, then, why do we have that worldview in the first place?  Where do we actually get our basic views?  Our opinions?  Even our assumptions?

I realize a lot of folks know the things they know because their truth meters are calibrated by their parents or priests or pastors.  But I know a lot of people who have rejected their childhood training, some radically so.  What’s the difference between those that do and those that don’t?

These things have fascinated me even before I did a 180 degree turn, as far as my political (and for the most part, my religious) views are concerned.  I can tell you what real-world events I think (I “assume”) led me to change my mind about conservatism, but I can’t tell you how those events actually “caused” that change, if in fact they really did.  Lots of people confront things that challenge their philosophy, but they don’t change their views.  They mostly stick with them.  Why is that?

I was so fascinated by this topic that I once e-mailed Alvin Plantinga, the great Christian philosopher, who is a first-class thinker and who is credited with rehabilitating theism’s respectability among professional philosophers.  I had understood his explanation of a belief in God as a “properly basic belief,” but I wondered how he could also consider confidence in the veracity of the Bible as a properly basic belief, too.  He referred me to a chapter in one of his books, in which he explains how the “conditions” for such a basic belief can be met.  Is he right?  Beats me.  Wish I knew.  I can only say I don’t believe he is.

But I do believe we have to have some sort of confidence that we can reason our way to justifiable beliefs and that what we then believe corresponds to the way things are, which in turn leads us to the way things “ought” to be.  

I am at present reading Sam Harris’ new book, The Moral Landscape, in which he argues that not only can science “determine human values,” it is our only reliable guide for doing so.  I started out as being somewhat skeptical of his claim, but I am becoming more convinced.  Again, how does such “convincing” work?  Beats me. Wish I knew. I can only say I am coming to believe he is right.

Finally, I believe in the power of scientific reasoning because it appears to represent the best hope we have of not only discovering valuable and useful knowledge about the universe, but about ourselves.

Oh, I do believe something else: Glenn Beck doesn’t have the foggiest idea what scientific reasoning is, and his lack of understanding is infecting others, as this audio clip demonstrates:

Joplin Republican Challenges Ozark Billy

It didn’t take long for the word “hypocrisy” and “Billy Long” to get married.

The right-wing blog, Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom, has alerted us to the fact that Ozark Billy has begun his 2012 campaign—he’s already started to recruit interns to help with his reelection —despite the fact that Billy said he was “not a career politician” and would be a “citizen legislator.”  

BBCW also made mention of local Joplinite Will Lynch, who worked for 7th District hopeful Jack Goodman during the Republican primary earlier this year :

Will Lynch, a former Republican staffer and Mizzou law student with an Abraham Lincoln beard from Joplin, is calling Congressman-elect Billy Long a hypocrite on Twitter. Lynch claims Long said during one of the major campaign events that politicians are “more worried about getting reelected” than anything else. Lynch has called out for people to find the sound bite.

Lynch himself also tweeted in regards to Long’s reelection efforts, “There’ll be a primary if I have to run myself…”

Full disclosure: I have known Will Lynch for a long time and I like him very much. Very much.  He and I had a long conversation this summer about politics, which, honestly, amounted to me lecturing him about why he shouldn’t be a Republican.  But Will stood his ground and defended his views as much as it is possible for a Republican to defend the indefensible.

And I will say this.  If Will someday decides to get in the race for our 7th District congressional seat, he will be a formidable candidate.  He is a good and decent young man, intelligent and committed to serving the people.  And unlike Ozark Billy, he would not be an embarrassment to our corner of the world.

I just wish to God he were a liberal Democrat.

Bush Rats Out A Rat

Not enough has been made of what George Bush revealed about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Bush’s new book.  Here is the passage that confirms McConnell’s hyper-partisanship and his tendency to politicize every issue under the American sun:

In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching, my friend Mitch McConnell came to the Oval Office. The senior senator from Kentucky and Republican whip had asked to see me alone. Mitch has a sharp political nose, and he smelled trouble. 

“Mr. President,” he said, “your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress.” 

Mitch had a point. Many Americans were tired of my presidency. But that wasn’t the only reason our party was in trouble. I flashed back to the Republican congressmen sent to jail for taking bribes, disgraced by sex scandals, or implicated in lobbying investigations. Then there was the wasteful spending, the earmarks for pork-barrel projects, and our failure to reform Social Security despite majorities in both houses of Congress.

“Well, Mitch,” I asked, “what do you want me to do about it?” “Mr. President,” he said, “bring some troops home from Iraq.”

To date, Mitch McConnell has not denied that this episode took place. And it’s not possible for him to deny what he was saying publicly about Democratic efforts to get Mr. Bush to change course, at the same time McConnell was urging Mr. Bush to withdraw “some troops” for political reasons:

“The Democrat leadership finally agrees on something — unfortunately it’s retreat. Whether they call it ‘redeployment’ or ‘phased withdrawal,’ the effect is the same: We would leave Americans more vulnerable and Iraqis at the mercy of al-Qaeda, a terrorist group whose aim — toward Iraqis and Americans — is clear,” said McConnell, the Republican whip.

Now, it is fair to ask how a man can retain his credibility after publicly accusing Democrats of advocating policies that “would leave Americans more vulnerable,” while he was privately urging President Bush to basically follow those same policies, just to make sure Republicans didn’t lose “control of the Congress.” 

Yet, as I said, very little has been made of this stunning revelation.  Of course, it’s just possible that the revelation is just not that stunning, when it comes to Mitch McConnell.

Read Democrats’ Lips: Tax Cuts For The Rich

Huffpo reported today:

President Barack Obama’s top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board, temporary continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.

In a sadly Rumsfeldian moment, David Axelrod, probably President Obama’s closest adviser, defended the move this way:

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. “The world of what it takes to get this done.”

Such a breathtaking reversal—Obama was only a few weeks ago campaigning on the issue of allowing extensions only of the middle class Bush tax cuts—is not surprising, I suppose. Many in the Democratic Party have misinterpreted the defeat of House Democrats last week: “Voters just want us to work together to get things done,” they seem to think was the message.  So, it’s not all that shocking that some on our side are willing to retreat on this and other issues.

But what is surprising is the willingness to concede defeat even before the beginning of the upcoming debate—especially since Democrats still control both bleeping houses of Congress until next January.  Many of us out here in the non-D.C. parts of the country wonder just what good is it to have a substantial majority in the House and Senate—many of them lame ducks with nothing to lose—if you can’t do something that a large majority of Americans support?

Oh, I understand the filibuster cow paddies left all over the floor of the United States Senate by Republicans, which make it hard for Democrats to take a step without getting poop on their penny loafers, but why not at least force Republicans to actually conduct the filibusters on the Senate floor? 

Why not force them to stand up, hour after hour, day after day, and hinder passage of middle-class tax cuts, just so Republicans can ensure that rich folks have another $100,000 to deposit in their swelling bank accounts?

As for President Obama, here’s what he said less than two months ago at the CNBC town-hall meeting:

…the GOP wants, essentially, to write checks of $100,000 and more, at taxpayer expense, to all the millionaires and billionaires. This is irresponsible,” the president said, “and I won’t do it.”

Obama said, “You can’t give tax cuts to the top two percent and lower the deficit at the same time – not when that tax cut costs $700 billion.”

Read my lips:I won’t do it,” he said.  Hmmm.

Axelrod did try to assure us that the White House is not going to back down on protecting the health insurance reform legislation:

“I’m not going to prejudge what they are going to do,” Axelrod said of Republican opposition to the legislation. “But I will tell you this — we are firm in our commitment, we are willing to work with people to improve this plan. We are not going to stand for those who want to undermine it and destroy it.”

Read my lips:We are firm in our commitment,” he said.

Uh-oh.  Here we go again.

The Glenn Beck Paradox

“One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true.”

—Paul the Apostle, Titus 1:12,13

 

I heard Glenn Beck say yesterday morning that we shouldn’t trust anyone—including him—to tell us the truth.  Do your own homework, he pleaded. 

Now, I have heard Beck make similar statements, as he continues to plow new ground in the fields of folly, which are his radio and television shows. Here is an example from last year:

So do I ask you to trust me? Nope. Instead, I ask you to do something that this whole broken system of government and media has taught you not to do: trust yourself. Empower yourself. Take charge of your own life. Don’t take my or anyone else’s word for anything. Read, question every angle and trust your gut.

But, I wonder.

If you follow Beck’s advice, aren’t you violating his “don’t trust me” suggestion?

And just how can you do your homework, empower yourself, take charge of your own life, if you don’t trust anyone?  At some point don’t you have to believe something someone else says?  And even if you were able to learn something without trusting the testimony of others, how would you persuade anyone to believe that you know what you’re talking about, if everyone followed Beck’s advice not to trust anyone?

In the Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis said,

You cannot go on seeing through things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. . . . If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as not to see.

Glenn Beck telling folks to not take his or “anyone else’s word for anything” may just be an exercise in false humility.  Or it may be that the Beck Paradox is just too deep for me to understand, sort of like the words of the Apostle Paul, who in order to support his claim that all Cretans were liars, cited as truth the word of a Cretan philosopher, Epimenides.

Deep.

Just Call Him Ozark Billy

I’m not much into titles,” Billy Long told Gannett news, “I want people to call me Billy.”

Okay, Billy.  Here we go.

As an example of why it is so difficult to unseat incumbents in congressional districts like ours—one-sided love-fests that local media often perpetuate through too-friendly reporting—one can read the Gannett article in the Springfield News-Leader (Gannett is its owner) about Billy Long’s transition to Washington.  It begins like this:

Southwest Missouri’s best-known auctioneer is about to trade in his bullhorn for a new title, a cramped office and lessons in House decorum.

But to Springfield’s new Rep.-elect Billy Long — who ran on the slogan “Fed Up” because he said he was sick of all the spending, insider deals and liberal politics — the chance to make a difference is worth having to sell his business and take a pay cut.

Get it?  The theme is that Billy Long is sacrificing for us in order to curb spending, stop “insider deals,” and, above all, do something about those nasty liberals, those people who he said on his campaign website, “wish to do away with the moral center of our nation.”

The big news in the puff piece—this piece takes puffing to a new level—has to do with Billy’s hat:

He hasn’t decided whether he’ll wear it for the freshman class photo, which is taken outside on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, or his official portrait that will be posted on his website, although he’s leaning yes on the latter.

I am filled with considerable angst, wondering which way Billy will go on this issue. And I’m surprised that someone in local television or radio—Joplin or Springfield—hasn’t developed a poll question that asks 7th District residents whether Billy should or shouldn’t wear his hat for the photo.  Sometimes, and sadly, that is the depth of local reporting on our local candidates.

Perhaps national reporters will be a little harder on Ozark Billy. Recently, our new representative “took issue” with this characterization in the Washington Post last week:

To see how Tuesday’s midterm rout will change the face of Congress, look no farther than the Bible Belt of southwest Missouri. Voters there replaced Rep. Roy Blunt, a savvy insider, with Billy Long, a smack-talking auctioneer with no college degree but a pithy slogan: “Fed Up.”

Smack-talker?  A definition from the urban dictionary:

…a person who no matter the situation talks shit. A smack talker will never admit fault or reverse their comments because of course a smack talker knows everything about everything.

I’m sure the Post meant that comment in the nicest possible way, but Billy isn’t having it:

“I’m not a ‘smack-talker,’ I’m more of a colloquial talker,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of Ozark sayings. I use a lot of Billyisms, as I call them. But I’m sure not a smack-talker.”

Okay.  So, we can expect “a lot of Ozark sayings” and “Billyisms.”  I, for one, can’t wait for those, but in the meantime, here is an example of what we may expect, should Ozark Billy meet a less-friendly reporter in our nation’s capital:

REPORTER:  Congressman Long, Democrats are…

OZARK BILLY:  Uh, you can call me Billy, ma’am.

REPORTER: Okay, Billy.

OZARK BILLY: And may I say, ma’am, you look prettier than a glob of butter meltin’ on a blueberry pancake. You’re hotter than a pig’s butt in a pepper patch!

REPORTER: Excuse me?

OZARK BILLY: Come on, now. Don’t you dill my pickle. You’re finer than frog hair split four ways.

REPORTER: Huh?  Never mind. Democrats are saying that Republicans, particularly the freshman class, have promised much and delivered little.  What do you say to that?

OZARK BILLY: All I can tell ya is that I’ve been busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kickin’ contest up here.  Some of them Democrats would complain if you hung ‘em with a new rope. Some of ‘em could start an argument in an empty house.  They’d gripe with a ham under each arm. They’re as low as a snake’s belly in a wagon rut and slicker than snot on a door knob. But if brains were lard, they couldn’t grease a very big pan! They couldn’t piss their names in the snow!

It just sounds like to me that some of them are as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs, worried about losing their seats next time.  I cornered me one of ‘em the other day and you should’ve seen him. Why, he was redder than a turkey’s ass in poke berry time.  I mean that New York liberal could talk your arm off and curse you for being crippled, but when I was through with him he walked away like an old hen with a broken egg inside. I jumped on him like a duck on a junebug.  I told him he looked like the east end of a west-bound horse and if I had a dog as ugly as him, I’d shave his ass and make him walk backwards. I said if he ever messed with me I’d kill him and tell God he died.

REPORTER: Uh, thanks Congressman, I mean, Billy.

OZARK BILLY: Don’t mention it, ma’am. And by the way, do you know where a man can get something to drink around here?  I’m drier than a nun’s—

REPORTER: Help! 

Obamaphobia: A Memetic Plague

Liberals just have to face it.  A lot of folks over there at the Republican “News” Channel are just plain sick, when it comes to hating President Obama. 

I mean, it’s not just about the right-wing political philosophy that the channel pushes 24-7.  That’s bad enough.  But that in itself doesn’t make them sick.  It’s more about the strange way in which people on that “news” channel interpret even the most innocuous events, if there is a way to interpret them to bring condemnation on Mr. Obama.

And I’m not talking about the recent hysteria caused by false claims on the right that Obama’s trip to Asia was going to cost more money than Fox spends on Glenn Beck’s hypnotist (to train him to keep a $traight face, as he $uggest$ the End of America for the gazillionth time).

No, I’m talking about this morning for instance.  On “Republicans and Friends,” the popular morning show on the Republican “News” Network, there was a segment on President Obama’s rather thoughtful answer to a question from a student in Mumbai, India.  The question:

Q: Hi, good day, sir. Hi, my name is Anna and I’m from St. Davis College. My question to you is, what is your take on opinion about jihad, or jihadi? Whatever is your opinion, what do you think of them?

Now, before we get to Mr. Obama’s answer, let’s look at a couple of screen shots from “Republicans and Friends” this morning:

 

President Praises Islam” and “President’s Remarks: Refuses to Condemn “Jihad” While in Mumbai.”  Okay.  With such captions, and given the discussion during the segment, one would think Obama had joined in on a jihad against America.  But, again, before we get to his answer, let’s look back a bit.

In 2005, President George W. Bush gave a Veterans Day speech, just one speech among many he gave during his presidency.  But remember:  This one was on Veterans Day.   The speech was commemorating our veterans.  And in that context, Mr. Bush mentioned jihad and the need to see it not as “madness” or insanity, but as “a clear and focused ideology“:

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews — and against Muslims, themselves, who do not share their radical vision.

Get that?  Mr. Bush, in the context of a Veterans Day speech, told us not to confuse “Islamic radicalism” with “the religion of Islam.”  He went on to say this:

Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses.

Here’s how earlier this year the Associated Press reported on the difficulties of using appropriate language related to our war against radicals, who in the name of religion wish to do us harm:

But the Bush administration struggled with its rhetoric. Muslims criticized him for describing the war against terror as a “crusade” and labeling the invasion of Afghanistan “Operation Infinite Justice” — words that were seen as religious. He regularly identified America’s enemy as “Islamic extremists” and “radical jihadists.”

Karen Hughes, a Bush confidant who served as his top diplomat to the Muslim world in his second term, urged the White House to stop.

“I did recommend that, in my judgment, it’s unfortunate because of the way it’s heard. We ought to avoid the language of religion,” Hughes said. “Whenever they hear ‘Islamic extremism, Islamic jihad, Islamic fundamentalism,’ they perceive it as a sort of an attack on their faith. That’s the world view Osama bin Laden wants them to have.”

Okay.  Now, we can get to part of Obama’s answer to the jihad question and the weird but predictable reaction to it on the right:

Well, the phrase jihad has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations. But I will say that, first, Islam is one of the world’s great religions. And more than a billion people who practice Islam, the overwhelming majority view their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm peace and justice and fairness and tolerance.  I think all of us recognize that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified.

Wow!  How could President Obama say such things, especially since George W. Bush had already said them time and time again?  What was he thinking?

Sean Hannity:

Why couldn’t he just say, ‘Jihad killed 3,000 Americans, it is the belief or the false use of God to justify killing and murder and war’? Why didn’t he say that?

Bill-O:

So once again, Mr. Obama dodged the girl’s question and failed to answer about the jihad. Whenever, whenever the president is faced with the worldwide problem of jihad, Mr. Obama delivers platitudes.

Newt Gingrich:

I think this administration is in such total denial about who’s trying to kill us and what their motives are that it’s dangerous to the country. And the president today, in this particular performance, was following up on this continuous denial.

Continuous denial“? “Dangerous to the country?” The truth of all this is that many folks on the right-wing do have a sickness.  They hate President Obama so much that it affects everything they see and hear. 

Despite the fact that Obama is pursuing a much more aggressive war than President Bush pursued against the extremists who did us harm on 9/11; despite the fact that he is fast dissipating his moral capital through an exponential increase in drone attacks in Pakistan—sometimes killing innocents—and despite the fact that his answer to that question on jihad would be heard by countless Muslims around the world; people like Newt Gingrich can say that the President, “is in such total denial about who’s trying to kill us and what their motives are that it’s dangerous to the country.”

Well, no, it isn’t Mr. Gingrich. But what is dangerous to the country is that disturbed people like you and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and other Obama-sick commentators are spreading a memetic plague to millions of Americans every day.

A Word Of Praise For George W. Bush

I have listened to the talking heads for a couple of days now, as President Bush and his understandably faithful former employees try to rehabilitate his (mostly) deservedly dismal image by way of his new book. 

And I have heard nearly everything covered.  But until someone sent me this article from the Detroit News, I missed Bush’s defense of his decision to first begin the auto bailout:

Former President George W. Bush defended his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler in the waning days of his term, saying he “had to safeguard American workers and families from a widespread collapse.” In his new book, an advanced text of which was obtained by The Detroit News, Bush discloses he decided in early November 2008 to save GM and Chrysler — far earlier than was publicly known — and privately told his successor he would save the automakers in an Oval Office meeting.

Bush’s $17.4 billion bailout—which he took from TARP funds—was essential in keeping GM and Chrysler afloat until more substantial help via the Democrats would come:

“I told Barack Obama that I wouldn’t let the automakers fail,” Bush writes. “I won’t dump this mess on him.”  […] Bush said he “believed strongly that government should stay out of the auto business. Yet the economy was extremely fragile and my economic advisers had warned that the immediate bankruptcy of the Big Three could cost more than a million jobs, decrease tax revenues by $150 billion and set back America’s GDP by hundreds of billions of dollars.”

It’s somewhat refreshing to know that despite philosophical objections, Mr. Bush did the right thing, despite opposition from more philosophically committed and less adaptive Republicans in the Senate.  Mr. Bush, it seems, ran into the first wave of Republican recalcitrance—which would later haunt Barack Obama—when he proposed “a $25 billion retooling program to fund the auto bailout—that passed the House but was blocked by Senate Republicans“:

“I had hoped we could convince Congress to release those loans immediately, so the companies could survive long enough to give the new president and his team time to address the situation,” Bush wrote. But “the Senate wouldn’t budge.”

He said the decision to tap the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — was frustrating – but became “the only option.”

“Nobody was more frustrated than I was. While the restrictive short-terms were better than an outright bailout, it was frustrating to have the automakers’ rescue be my last major economic decision.”

But in the end, Bush said, he had little choice.

“With the market not yet functioning, I had to safeguard American workers and families from widespread collapse. I also had my successor in mind. I decided to treat him the way I would like to have been treated if I were in his position.”

I will confess something here.  If more Republicans displayed the kind of I-don’t-care-if-it-violates-my-philosophy-people-will-suffer attitude that a retiring George W. Bush displayed, we wouldn’t have much to fear as Americans going forward. 

But they typically don’t display such wisdom.  In fact, if W. Bush had shown more of that kind of attitude in 2001, perhaps he wouldn’t have needed to bailout anyone in 2008.

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