Brain, Washed In The Blood

“I firmly believe that God kept me for a reason much bigger than I ever would have dreamed or imagined.”

—Herman Cain

Herman Cain, by God, is movin’ on up.

Now that he has won a straw poll in Florida and improved his standing in the polls, Herman Cain, known to Palinistas as “Herb,” is enjoying a jumbo Classic Combo pizza of publicity.  And as was the case with other recent Republican presidential candidates who were suddenly thrust into the media spotlight, Cain couldn’t resist saying something dumb:

African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view.

That’s dumb because he goes on to say:

This whole notion that all African-Americans are not going to vote for Obama is not necessarily true. I believe a third [of African-Americans] would vote for me, based on my own anecdotal feedback. Not vote for me because I’m black but because of my policies.

So, African-Americans are brainwashed but not so brainwashed as to ignore Herman Cain.  I think I get it. Good luck with getting their votes now, Herb.

What I don’t get is why God can’t seem to get his act together. First he sends us Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain, who, as you will learn, God saved from cancer presumably to lead the free world.

Cain’s brainwashing charge is interesting coming from a washed-in-the-blood Baptist preacher who admits that he has “been in the church all my life.”  Think about that.  All-my-life. The man is 65 years old. Is it possible that Mr. Cain—who said in May,”This country needs a leader, not a reader“—sitting in those church pews, may have had his brain scrubbed clean of all ability to think for himself?  Or perhaps his brain has been programmed to interpret events in strange ways?

He told CBN:

So my faith is a big part of who I am and at my church now, which is the same one I grew up in, I’m one of the Associate Ministers there because I was called to the ministry. Sometimes when people are called to the ministry they think that God wants them to give up something else. But God has done some magnificent things with my life, especially what he has done in terms of my health.

“Called” to the ministry. Is that a sign of a laundered brain? And what do we make of that what-God-has-done-in-terms-of-my-health stuff? Remember, after the audience gave him a cancer-surviving ovation, what he said in a recent GOP debate about his health? He’ said he’d be dead now if Obamacare had been in effect when he learned he had cancer in 2006 .  Remember? But he said more than that:

If [I] had been under Obamacare, and a bureaucrat had been trying to tell me when I could get that [CT] scan, that would have delayed my treatment. I was able to get the treatment as fast as I could based upon my timetable, and not the government’s timetable. That’s what saved my life.

That’s what saved my life.”  On a stage during a debate, Herman Cain said that access to expedited cancer treatment saved his life.  But back in March he described it differently and even more disturbingly, at least for a presidential candidate.  I will quote his story in full because in terms of brainwashing one can’t find a better example of how a mind, molded by years of conservative religious indoctrination, can interpret events in spooky ways. 

As you read the following bizarre account, from a video interview (posted below) on the Christian Broadcasting Network, think about this same man sitting in the Oval Office and interpreting unfolding events in, say, the Middle East, and also think about the fact that a lot of folks would say “Amen” to the account:

In 2006, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I had cancer in my colon and cancer in my liver. I had to go through chemotherapy. The surgery required removal of 30 percent of my colon and 70 percent of my liver. And then I had to go through some more chemotherapy.

That was nearly five years ago and I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. God said ‘Herman, not yet’.” My question was, ‘Lord why are you keeping me here?’ Now let me tell you why I know God kept me here. Let me give you why I know God kept me here to do something that I never envisioned.

When I started thinking about running for president, I thought about Noah. Noah didn’t know how to build an ark. I started to think about Moses. Moses resisted going back leading the children out of Egypt. The Bible is full of people—Joshua didn’t want to lead the children into the Promised Land. God spoke to Moses and encouraged Moses—you must talk to our son Joshua—and he did and that gave him the strength.

When I was first detected that I had stage 4 cancer I had to go and get a second opinion. The doctor that was recommended was a doctor in Savannah, Georgia, three hours away from Atlanta. I resisted. I said, ‘Why do I need to go all the way to Savannah and I live here in Atlanta with all these hospitals and doctors here. I know I have cancer. I know what we need to get done. Let’s get on with the program.’  You know that business mentality.

And so the friend of mine said, ‘I think you want to go see this doctor. His name is Dr. Lord.’ I said, ‘What? L-O-R-D?’ Yes. He was a colon cancer specialist. Dr. Lord gave me my second opinion.

When I went to MD Anderson Cancer Center and I had to go through orientation with my wife in terms of how to navigate through this big medical facility, we went into the orientation office and the lady that was supposed to give us our orientation, she was busy with some other new patients. So the lady at the counter said to keep you and Mrs. Cain from waiting, I will give you your orientation so you won’t have to wait.

I said, ‘Well thank you. How nice I didn’t know they had good customer service at a big medical facility but they do.’ So we go into the conference room and she put all the materials down that we were supposed to go through. And she started to tell us about what we needed to do, how I could get my blood work done the night before. I said, ‘Wait a minute. You’ve been so nice. What is your name?’ She said ‘Grace’. I said, ‘Do you spell it the same way as you spell it in Amazing Grace?’ She said, ‘Yes.’

A lady named Grace. My wife and I looked at each other and I said, ‘Thank you Lord.’ He’s with me on this journey. I’m not done yet. I was randomly assigned an oncologist and a surgeon. The surgeon’s name is Dr. Abdullah. He’s from Lebanon. That made me a little nervous initially but only to find out that he’s a Christian. He’s a Christian. And when I went in to see Dr. Abdullah, he was explaining to me how he was going to remove a part of my colon and a part of my liver in one operation.

I’m going, ‘Doc you must be a miracle worker. How are you going to do that’? The colon is on the left. The liver is on the right. How are you going to do that with one incision?’

He said, I do it all the time. I’m going to start in your sternum and I’m going to make an incision in the shape of a “J”. As in J-E-S-U-S? He said yes. A Jesus cut. I said, ‘thank you Lord.’ God said ‘not yet’ and He gave me these signs along the way that let me know that He was with me.

And I firmly believe that God kept me for a reason much bigger than I ever would have dreamed or imagined. Whether that is ultimately to become the President of the United States or not, I don’t know. I just know at this point I am following God’s plan.

You get two plans in life: yours and God’s. Now mine was to become a successful businessman and I was able to do that. And I believe that God allowed me to become a successful businessman because He had something else in mind beyond that successful business career.

The reason I’m here today and the reason I believe that I’m going to be successful from this point forward. There was a song that a songwriter who was a good friend of mine when he was alive, he wrote a song called ‘God is on my side’. I’ll never forget it. 

Noah…Moses…Joshua…Dr. Lord…A Lady Named Grace…Dr. Abdullah The Christian…The Jesus Cut…”God is on my side.”  Put them all together in a brain “washed in the blood” and you have a man who an increasing and disconcerting number of Republicans want to become President of the United States.

“Cash Warfare”

The “leaderless resistance movement” known as Occupy Wall Street, in case you haven’t noticed, has been scaring conservatives for almost two weeks now.

Related to that, there was a brilliant, must-see opening segment on Thursday night’s Rachel Maddow Show:

More Bad News From The Class War Front

As if we needed any more examples of how the middle class has been on the wrong end of the class war over the last generation or so, a disturbing story on NPR this morning began like this:

As companies have been moving away from traditional pension plans, they have been shifting employees to new retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, that transfer the cost — and the risk — to workers.

The reason for the shift, according to the companies themselves, is because the traditional pension plans were “unsustainable.”

Except that it turns out they weren’t unsustainable.  Ellen Schultz, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of, Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder And Profit From The Nest Eggs Of American Workers, says that those companies that had pension plans for their employees “were well-prepared” for the increasing cost of not only the pensions but of “high health care costs for the retirees.”

Schultz told NPR:

The plans were in fact significantly overfunded. They had more than enough to pay every dime for every person currently employed and already retired.

What happened?  Hey, we’re talking about corporations here.  We all know what happened. In order to increase profits and bump up executive compensation to more-money-than-God levels, the companies “used assets in the plans to pay for other things.” And thus:

Schultz says there was a massive transfer of wealth over the past two decades, from a multitude of retirees to a small number of executives. But while she calls her book Retirement Heist, she concedes that nothing that happened was illegal.

“When you have a properly funded plan, it doesn’t matter how many retirees you have or how long they live,” Schultz says. “It’s not the fact that you have a lot of retirees; it’s the fact that you have abused the pension plan.”

If you want to learn how some of this abuse has taken place, check out an article Schultz wrote three years ago for The Wall Street Journal  that goes into detail about how some companies screw their would-be pensioners. 

Think about it: You work many years for a company, deferring justly-earned compensation until retirement, and when you are ready to pack it in, voilà, you find your pension has been devalued because the honchos in the company have used the pension fund to supplement the benefits of—who else—other honchos.

Read all about it and then come back and tell me how Obama is starting a class war.

The Fight To Save The Post Office Continues

Postal unions and the employees they represent were disappointed a couple of weeks ago when President Obama basically sided with the Bush-appointed majority on the USPS Board of Governors on the issue of six-day delivery. 

The Obama Administration, which recently has been on a job-creating mission, is ready to give the USPS the ability to kill Saturday delivery—and kill thousands of jobs along with it. The National Association of Letter Carriers estimates the job loss would amount to 80,000 full and part-time jobs, including 25,000 city carrier jobs.

All of it unnecessary.  And dumb.  As I have tried to make clear (here and here), Congress created much of the mess the USPS finds itself in and Congress can fix it, but these aren’t ordinary times.  And with the President on the wrong side of the issue, it’s going to be that much harder.

Still, the fight to save the Postal Service from its ham-fisted managers and Congress and now the Obama Administration continues, and I present three recent segments from The Ed Show, which should fire up those postal employees who may be a little down and out:

The Cosmic Uppity Negro

“Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”

—Revelation 22:7

“An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation.”

—William James

 

So, President Barack Hussein Obama has now been very publicly described as,

…a great antagonist expected to fill the world with wickedness…

That, of course, is part of the dictionary definition of the word “antichrist,” which was shouted at President Obama at a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Monday, aptly held, it turns out, at the House of Blues:

The Christian God is the only and only true living God. The creator of heaven and the universe.

Jesus Christ is God! Jesus Christ is God! Jesus Christ is God! Jesus Christ is the son of God!

You’re the Antichrist!

Oddly, this came on the heels of a New York Times article on Obama and the antichrist charge, and within an hour or so of an Obama/Antichrist segment presented on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. 

And even more spooky strange for me, the next day after the zealot in Los Angeles identified Obama as the Antichrist, I received in my mailbox a pamphlet inviting me to a “FREE Prophecy Seminar” here in Joplin on Saturday.  Wow, now that’s timing.

The FREE six-day seminar—”ARMAGEDDON: Understanding Amazing Prophecies“—is being held at the local Seventh Day Adventist Church, although the identity of the church is not made clear in the brochure.  What is made clear in the brochure is that if I go to the church on the fifth night—Thursday—I am in for a treat:

The Antichrist Revealed!

Discover 10 clear clues that identify who it is.

Damn! The guy in Los Angeles took all the fun out of going on Thursday! I already know who it is!

In any case, this really is a serious matter.  Mainly because in order for Barack Obama to actually prove to some Biblical literalists his bona fides as the Antichrist-Beast, he has to begin by killing the Two Witnesses.  (If you don’t know who the Two Witnesses are, relax. Nobody does—yet.  And, no, it’s not Penn & Teller.) 

After Obama-Beast kills the Two Witnesses, he will then demand that the world worship him, which won’t be that hard since, according to conservative Republicans, many of us already do.  Then, for the hell of it, Obama-Beast gets himself killed.  But not to worry. He is then miraculously resurrected.  That’s how things work in the Bible.

Next, with the help of another Beast-like figure—Mormon Mitt Romney maybe?—Obama-Beast will seize control of world commerce and, you guessed it, this is where 666 or the Mark of the Beast comes in:  If you don’t have I LOVE BARRY or a suitable equivalent stamped indelibly on your forehead, you don’t eat. It’s that simple.

Finally, there will be a gazillion people killed at Armageddon, and Obama-Beast, the Cosmic Uppity Negro, will get his comeuppance.

Some version of this end-times prophecy schematic is believed by a large number of Americans—mostly Republicans—who may or may not believe Obama is at the center of it, but who definitely believe we are in The Last Days.

I know that because I used to be one of them.

_________________________________

Here is a great “Rewrite” segment from Lawrence O’Donnell last night:

Chris Christie, GOP Savior, Struggles Against Bruce Springsteen, For God’s Sake

With once-conservative darling Rick Perry’s campaign cracking like Newt Gingrich’s bed slats, the darling de jour of the Republican Party, Chris Christie, has come to Missouri.

If you watch cable television, the chatter over whether Christie will mount his necessarily huge steed and come in and rescue the Republicans from national embarrassment is incessant.  It tires the ears, frankly. 

Christie has repeatedly and emphatically stated he is not going to run because he is not “ready” to run—something which his New Jersey poll numbers indicate, in terms of his job performance:

Approve:   43%

Disapprove: 53%

Here is how he matches up against local potential opponents:

Head to head against Bruce Springsteen?  Really?

All that bad news is from the state that knows him best, mind you.  But here in Missouri, at least some folks know a little something about him, especially his attacks on unions. FiredUp!Missouri posted the following picture of union supporters greeting Christie in St. Louis:

Christie was in town to speak at the Missouri Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner on Monday and this morning at a breakfast for Ann Wagner, former state party chairman, who is running for Congress in the 2nd District against Crazy Ed Martin.  (By the way, Sean at FiredUp!Missouri claims the increasingly contentious race between Wagner and Martin is “the odds-on-favorite for the most entertaining primary of the 2012 cycle.”  If you want to know why, look here and here.)

In any case, Christie is out and about raising money for Republicans, which keeps the speculation going about his intentions.  I know one GOP candidate, though, who absolutely hates this development: Newt Gingrich.  Right now, he has no competition in the post-debate all-you-can-eat buffet competition. 

The U.S. Economy: “If We Get The Politics Right, The Engineering Isn’t That Difficult”

ABC News’ This Week was quite depressing on Sunday, with some of the talk focused on the economic mess in Europe and the mischief it is causing here in the United States.

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of the mammoth investment firm, PIMCO, commented on the phrase used last week by the Fed’s Ben Bernanke to describe things: significant downside risk”:

EL-ERIAN: …this was the only — only the third time that we could find that they use the word “significant” before “downside risk,” right? The first time was in September ’08…

AMANPOUR: So that had a psychological impact, as well as everything else?

EL-ERIAN: Oh, huge. I mean, that’s why we wiped a trillion dollars — I mean, if you want to know what it means for the 401(k), they’ve basically lost 6.5 percent of their savings over the week. We need to move quickly on a number of areas, and it has to be the U.S. having the Sputnik moment, realizing that the time has come for political unity, Europe having a moment of truth, and China helping out.

That was sort of the theme for the discussion: getting our political act together so we can actually, well, act.  Later, Christiane Amanpour pushed it further:

AMANPOUR: So just to go to Mohamed’s point, Secretary Geithner said this week, “We’re seeing a terrible wave of politics get in the way of governments doing what is necessary and essential and urgent for the economy. We have a political system that looks manifestly broken, and it makes people nervous about the future.”

I mean, to add to that, I’m already hearing, you know, it’s — it’s all over the place that people — Capitol Hill right behind me — are concerned that even this relatively minor thing that they’re having a big argument about right now, FEMA and disaster, is causing this gridlock. So how they can do the heavy lifting if they can’t do the light lifting?

EL-ERIAN: The image that you always have to keep in your mind is that the global economy and the markets are in the backseat, and the policymakers are on the front seat. And what is happening on the front seat is the following. First, the drivers are very erratic. Secondly, they’re not even looking through the windscreen; they’re arguing with each other.

In that situation, people get very nervous. In that situation, you lose confidence. That is true for Europe. That is true for the U.S.

We have two distinct issues. We have a political issue and an engineering problem. In Europe, both are very hard. In the U.S., it’s mainly political issue. If we get the politics right, the engineering isn’t that difficult.

Now, on the one hand El-Erian’s comment, that the engineering to help fix things “isn’t that difficult” to do, is really quite uplifting, even though there wasn’t time on the program to go into much detail. 

It’s just that other part he mentioned—”if we get the politics right“—is so utterly depressing because it is so utterly undoable.  American voters put Tea Party extremists in charge of the House of Representatives last year and gridlock, brinksmanship, and ideologically-created “crises” are now the norm in our politics.

And El-Erian’s metaphor—that policymakers are in the front seat of the car, driving erratically and arguing with each other instead of looking at the road—doesn’t quite capture the reality of the thing.  Yes, policymakers are in the front seat arguing, but the drivers—Mr. Obama and the Democrats—are trying to keep the damn car on the road and the Tea Party Republicans in the passenger seat are trying to grab the wheel and run the car back into the ditch, just so they can get the keys and drive.

Fortunately, and to change metaphors, despite all the dysfunction, despite the slow-growth economy, the flights to investment safety are still landing in the airports of long-term U.S. Treasuries.  We are still the safest bet in the world. Bloomberg reports that since the end of June there has been a rally in that market, with long-term securities “returning 24.9%.”  And the report says:

That’s the biggest quarterly gain since at least 1978, when the Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes began tracking the debt.

The Bloomberg article began with this:

Betting on Ben S. Bernanke has been the most profitable trade for government bond investors in 16 years, defying lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad who said the Federal Reserve chairman’s policies would lead to runaway inflation and the dollar’s debasement.

Treasuries due in 10 or more years have returned 28 percent in 2011, exceeding the 24.4 percent gain in all of 2008 during worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. Not since 1995, when the securities soared 30.7 percent, have investors done so well owning longer-dated U.S. government debt.

That’s the good news.  The full faith and credit of the United States is still the one thing shaky-kneed investors can count on. And that is despite the bad news: There is no sign that those Republican policymakers in the passenger seat will stop trying to grab the wheel and push Obama out of the car.

Billy Long Gets A New Name

Remember when Bill Clinton was dubbed Slick Willie?  He can now move over and make room for Slick Billy.

As the dreadful prospect of yet another budget battle in Congress looms over us, thanks to Frank Morris and NPR we have Southwest Missouri’s own congressman, Billy Long, giving us his not-reassuring assurance that Joplin will continue to receive disaster aid following our record-setting tornado. 

Morris reported that Long, “a Tea Party stalwart who ran for Congress as a man fed up with Washington,”  is full of praise for the place today, including Washington residents Barack Obama and Janet Napolitano and, uh, Nancy Pelosi:

“The president came in, he was great. [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano came in, she’s been great,” he says. “[House Minority] Leader Pelosi came up to me on the floor, hugged me and said, ‘Billy, anything the people of Joplin need they’ll have.’ “

Napolitano was here in Joplin on Thursday and praised Long back:

“He’s worked well with our office, with our shop,” she said. “When he was asked about FEMA, to rank it shortly after the fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, he said he’d give it a 12.”

FEMA has, according to the story, provided “close to $100 million” to help clean up the mess, some of which still remains, and “an additional $19 million plus on rent and home repairs.”

But the story does not reveal whether Long, given the current fight over disaster relief at the center of the budget impasse in Congress, will side with those who are demanding budget offsets for FEMA funding or whether he will treat that emergency funding like it has been treated in the past: in times of disasters, we don’t fight over disaster relief.

Morris tells us that, “Long insists the tornado hasn’t altered his views” on government generally, despite his praise for FEMA particularly:

“Budgeting is about priorities,” he says, “and you certainly have to prioritize for situations like this.”

Long says he’s confident that whatever tough choices may have to be made, Uncle Sam’s not going to skimp on helping people laid low by a natural disaster.

Okay. But what about the offset problem?  What are the “tough choices”? Will Long vote to provide disaster relief without strings attached?

Once again, nobody knows. He ain’t sayin’ or he ain’t been asked.  That’s why we can now call Colonel Ozark Billy Long simply: Slick Billy.

 

[h/t: Busplunge]

Jethro, Get The Truck!

Joe Scarborough said this morning that Rick Perry looked “lost” in last night’s debate.

That’s one way to put it, I suppose. Most of the time Perry reminded me of Jethro Bodine, nephew of Jed Clampett.  You may remember that with his sixth grade education Jethro had a wide-ranging aptitude: he could have been a brain surgeon or a double-naught spy or a famous Hollywood producer.

Or, in the case of Rick Perry, the President of the United States. 

Watching Perry last night was like watching Jethro do his “cyphering” routine:  “Three-goze-inta-nine-three-times… ”  Uncle Jed once said of Jethro—or was it Rick Perry?—”If brains were lard, his wouldn’t grease too big a pan.”

That’s not really fair, though. Perry was smart enough to throw yet another entitlement program under the bus last night: George W’s Medicare Part D.  That pretty much takes care of the welfare state as far as Perry is concerned.

But to illustrate just why Rick Perry’s Jethro-esque grasp of the issues would be no match for Obama in the general election, follow this:

BRET BAIER: Governor Perry, if you were president, and you get a call at 3 am telling you that Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons, at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?

PERRY: Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with — and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.

For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16’s, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

Today, we don’t have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.

Now, obviously Perry had studied a couple of 3 x 5 index cards with a few facts about the region on them, but he didn’t have the slightest idea of how to answer Baier’s question.  And as for Bret Baier, despite the fact that the Fox questioners ask several follow-up questions throughout the night, and despite the fact that Baier had no trouble interrupting President Obama when he interviewed him sometime back, Mr. Baier did not follow up and ask Perry just what the hell he was talking about.

And that’s how journalism works at Fox.  In fact, the whole night, with a couple of exceptions, was a tribute to right-wing extremism, both in the choice of questions and in the responses.

Fox did stray from the Tea Party reservation, though, when it played a clip of Stephen Hill, a soldier serving in Iraq.  Hill asked:

HILL: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?

There were boos from the audience. Boos, for God’s sake!  An American soldier was booed by a few folks in a Republican audience and not one—not one—candidate on that stage could manage to condemn the booing. 

Santorum went on to stutter something about how he would reinstitute the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, policy, but I ask yet again: Why is there such a thing as a gay Republican?

As for Mitt Romney, by default he was the clear winner of whatever that was last night.  It’s not hard to look presidential among so many unpresidential contenders.  He lied about Obama several times, but he did refrain from calling the President a socialist, and even though Romney demagogued the immigration issue to death—good luck in the general with that one, Mitt—he managed once again to favorably contrast himself to Perry.

For me, the worst moment of the night was one that involved a discussion of what “fair and balanced” journalist Chris Wallace called “Obamacare,” as if that were the official name of the program:

WALLACE: Mr. Cain, you are a survivor of stage 4 colon and liver cancer. And you say, if Obamacare had been…(APPLAUSE)…and we all share in the happiness about your situation. But, you say if Obamacare had been in effect when you were first being treated, you would dead now. Why?

Now, Herman Cain, given the pale-faced candidates and the pale-faced crowd, looked like a member of The Lonely Negro Society in that huge room, but he did manage to shamelessly exploit his unfortunate bout with cancer this way:

CAIN: The reason I said that I would be dead under Obamacare is because my cancer was detected in March of 2006. From March 2006 all the way to the end of 2006, for that number of months, I was able to get the necessary CAT scan tests, go to the necessary doctors, get a second opinion, get chemotherapy, go — get surgery, recuperate from surgery, get more chemotherapy in a span of nine months. If we had been under Obamacare and a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan that would have delayed by treatment.

My surgeons and doctors have told me that because I was able get the treatment as fast as I could, based upon my timetable and not the government’s timetable that’s what saved my life, because I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. And now I’m here five years cancer free, because I could do it on my timetable and not a bureaucrat’s timetable.

This is one of the reasons I believe a lot of people are objecting to Obamacare, because we need get bureaucrats out of the business of trying to micromanage health care in this nation. (APPLAUSE)

Never mind that profit-minded bureaucrats are at this very moment micromanaging the health care system. The truth is that Herman Cain is fabulously wealthy—and thus has nothing to fear from any insurance program, good or bad—and if it were up to him and those on the stage, nearly 50 million Americans would not have insurance at all. 

Every single Republican wants  to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—the real name of Obamacare.  And yet Mr. Wallace never bothered to ask Herman Cain what would happen to any American without insurance, if they were afflicted with the kind of cancer he had.

That seemed like an obvious question to me, but then I’m not a Fox journalist.

“Chaos”

Last week, I gave kudos to Sen. Roy Blunt for supporting disaster relief without strings attached.  In case you forgot, Blunt actually was one of 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to approve a $7 billion funding bill for FEMA, which has been critical for our recovery here in Joplin and elsewhere.

My Blunt kudos may have been a case of premature ejaculation (don’t panic: “a short sudden emotional utterance“).

Discussing the possibility of the Senate voting on an amended version of the House temporary budget resolution—which failed to pass, but more on that later—Fox “News” reported:

The House is scheduled to pass it’s [sic] bill Wednesday and head out of town Thursday. Reid has said he intends to try to amend that bill to plus up disaster aid to $6.9 billion. Whether or not he will have the votes, again, remains to be seen. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who’s state was ravaged by a tornado in May, would not commit Tuesday to supporting Reid’s move, as he did previously.

So, my premature kudos for Blunt I officially, uh, withdraw.

Now to the House: With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, House teapartiers, in an unholy alliance with Democrats, put a political chiv in the back of Speaker Boehner by not voting for the Continuing Resolution to fund the government through November 18. 

Boehner, who has never really been in operational control of the House, was understandably upset over the kids in the House Tea Party letting him down, even after he threatened them. But he promised there would not be another fiasco over the budget, like the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that.

In any case, here’s how Roll Call reported Boehner’s shallacking:

The House threw the appropriations process into chaos today, voting down a stopgap funding resolution that conservative Republicans and virtually all Democrats opposed.

Chaos.”  And what is at the heart of that chaos?  Disaster funding.  FEMA.  Offsets.  

Republicans have played games with disaster funding and Democrats refuse to join them. Democrats in the House oppose the inadequate funding of FEMA in the CR and refuse to support the budget offsets that involve cutting off funds for a valuable loan program for advanced technology vehicles that has been a real job creator.

For his part, Boehner only needed 18 more Republicans to pass his CR, but 48 Republicans, mostly extremists, voted against the resolution because it followed the discretionary spending levels of the infamous debt-ceiling deal instead of a slightly lower amount previously passed in a separate House budget resolution.

By requiring FEMA funding to be subject to a debate about offsets, as Tea Party Republicans and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have done, we are in chaos.  This is exactly why from the beginning of the disaster recovery in Joplin I tried to ask my congressman, Ozark Billy Long, what his position on offsets and disaster funding was. 

And of those few who have tried, nobody has been able to get him to answer definitively. He voted for Boehner’s CR, with its stingy funding for FEMA and its offsets for disaster relief, and unfortunately that doesn’t tell us whether he will vote for a resolution that does not contain offsets.

I guess we’re just supposed to wait and find out, because I still have not had a response from Long’s office to my question.

And, too, I suppose we’re going to have to wait and see how Roy Blunt will vote on disaster relief.

In the mean time, no more premature short and sudden emotional utterances from me.

Mark MacPhail and Troy Davis, R.I.P.

“I have had faith all this time in the system we have, I think you have to.”

— Sgt. David Owens, first officer on the scene of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail

 

The government killed Troy Davis Wednesday night.

But before we get to the controversy surrounding Troy Davis’ death, let’s look at the man he was convicted of killing in 1989: Mark MacPhail.

The son of an Army colonel, Mark MacPhail joined the military and became an Army Ranger.  After marrying, after a life of moving around, he decided to leave the Army and settle down.  He eventually became  a Savannah police officer.  He was 27 in 1989, with a 2-year-old daughter and a weeks-old son, which he worked two jobs to support. It was his second job—working security at a Greyhound bus terminal connected to a Burger King—that put him in harm’s way in the early morning hours of August 19.

MacPhail heroically intervened in the pistol-whipping of a man in the Burger King parking lot and was shot—executed really—and Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of his murder, by a jury of seven blacks and five whites, who deliberated for less than two hours. 

Davis has always proclaimed his innocence, as he did on Wednesday night just before the state of Georgia killed him:

I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.

Now, I don’t claim Troy Davis was innocent.  And I’m not going to claim that the death penalty is immoral.  But in my mind this case is not so much about the innocence or guilt of Troy Davis or even the death penalty.

It is about the quality of the American justice system and how we define that quality.

The doubts, some reasonable and some not, surrounding this case are significant.  And the mere fact that the U. S. Supreme Court gave Davis a rare chance in 2009 to “prove his innocence,” tells me that there is no way the government should kill a man when so much doubt exists.

The Innocence Project has noted that there have been 273 “DNA exonerations” since science gave us a trustworthy tool to help administer justice.  Of those exonerations, 17 of them were of convicted killers who sat on death row.  Unfortunately, DNA evidence is present in only 5% of criminal cases, says Barry Scheck, a director of the Innocence Project. 

Thank about that.  If only 5% of the cases are subject to DNA examination, and if there have been 273 mistaken convictions that were overturned by DNA evidence, how many other innocent people have been convicted of crimes in our justice system?

In the Troy Davis case, there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, so DNA science was of no help.  There were, though, eyewitnesses.  And seven of them have in one way or another recanted their testimony.  Scheck points out that,

Misidentification was a factor in 75% of the 273 DNA exonerations. In 38% of these mistaken identification cases, multiple eyewitnesses misidentified the same person.*

Anyone who has ever cracked a book on human psychology or has had to prepare any type of case based on eyewitness testimony, understands the unreliability of eyewitness accounts.  So, it’s not that hard to believe that people would recant their testimony after some time has passed, and it’s not that hard to believe that those people could have been mistaken at the time of their original testimony.

Which is why I will claim, apart from any argument about the death penalty per se, that it is immoral for the government to mix up a chemical soup and kill a man under circumstances like those present in the Troy Davis case—even if he did kill Mark MacPhail.

A decent respect for our system of justice should compel us to avoid as much as possible making irreversible mistakes.  No prosecutor, no judge, no jury, can resurrect Troy Davis from the dead some years from now, should some evidence surface—as it has in many other cases—that he was in fact innocent. 

Spencer Lawton, the district attorney who secured Davis’ conviction in 1991, said he was embarrassed that the execution has taken so long:

“What we have had is a manufactured appearance of doubt which has taken on the quality of legitimate doubt itself. And all of it is exquisitely unfair,” said Lawton, who retired as Chatham County’s head prosecutor in 2008. “The good news is we live in a civilized society where questions like this are decided based on fact in open and transparent courts of law, and not on street corners.”

Who would disagree with that?

But I would guess that every prosecutor who managed to get guilty verdicts in those 273 cases that DNA evidence later overturned also believed those cases were “decided based on fact in open and transparent courts of law.”

The point is that if there is physical evidence to test, science can help us determine what the facts really are in cases like the murder of Mark MacPhail. And whatever one thinks of the morality of the death penalty, if there is no physical evidence—if we are relying merely on circumstantial evidence and error-prone eyewitness accounts—the government should not be in the business of pre-meditated killing.

_____________________________________________

* Amazingly, according to the Innocence Project:

False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 25 percent of cases.  In 35 percent of false confession or admission cases, the defendant was 18 years old or younger and/or developmentally disabled. Twenty-two of the first 265 DNA exonerees pled guilty to crimes they did not commit…Informants contributed to wrongful convictions in 19 percent of cases.

Obama The Taxcutter

While I was researching a column I was writing for the Globe, I came across some comments made by candidate John McCain during the second presidential debate:

…nailing down Sen. Obama’s various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. There has been five or six of them and if you wait long enough, there will probably be another one.

But he wants to raise taxes….

Sen. Obama’s secret that you don’t know is that his tax increases will increase taxes on 50 percent of small business revenue. Small businesses across America will have to cut jobs and will have their taxes increased and won’t be able to hire because of Sen. Obama’s tax policies.

Now, there’s nothing new about Republican candidates trying to scare the bejesus out of well-off taxpayers by claiming Democrats like Obama, if elected, will take their stuff. But after Mr. Obama has been in power for 32 months, must Republicans lie about the actual facts?

Yes.

Commenter John McKnight directed me to Steve Benen’s column in which he quotes the shameless Richard Shelby, Senator from NoObama, also known as Alabama:

“Oh you mean his big tax increase and all that? Absolutely, I have a lot of reaction to it. We’ve seen this movie before. It’s like the son of stimulus. It’s always more taxes and not enough cuts.”

Of course, like nearly every group of loosely-related words that find their way out of Shelby’s mouth, these words aren’t true. “Always more taxes,” says Shelby.  That’s not even remotely true, as Benen points out with a handy graph from the Tax Policy Center:

So, you can see that John McCain’s campaign assertion and Richard Shelby’s recent statement was and is false.

Now, if Shelby and the Republicans want to argue that President Obama has bought into their supply-side tax-cutting nonsense way too much, I will listen to that.

Deliberate Subversion

No one who has watched our politics since January of 2009 can deny that Republicans have done everything possible to see to it that Barack Hussein Obama is a failure as a president.  That’s not even arguable at this point.

What may be arguable is the language one uses to describe this reality.  I have called it sabotage. You may call it something different.  But what do you call what Rick Perry did yesterday in New York? 

I mentioned it in my piece on the Palestinian state dilemma.  Perry, in front of foreign nationals, fanatical right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset, accused President Obama of siding with terrorists against Israelis and betraying our long-term ally. 

It’s not just that Rick Perry is, as Democrats argued back, dangerously naive and misinformed on the Israeli-Palestinian issue—he is that, for sure—it’s that he is so willing to sabotage the President at a time when the stakes are so high, when there is so much to lose, and in the company of foreigners.

As NBC’s Chuck Todd remarked this morning, what would have happened in 2004 if John Kerry or Howard Dean, while campaigning in a primary and running to unseat  George W. Bush, had done what Perry did yesterday?  Well, we know what would have happened. As it was, without any such thing, John Kerry, war hero, was made out to be a traitor to his country.

But we have another example of the continuing sabotage.  On Monday, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and Jon Kyl all signed a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke—who, you remember, was the subject of Rick Perry’s treason invective—urging the Fed to “resist further extraordinary interventions in the U.S. economy.”

Now, just why might Republicans be interested in telling another Republican—Ben Bernanke—not to do anything that might help the economy?  Remember what Rick Perry said in August:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous in my opinion.

So, I don’t know what some folks call this kind of behavior on the part of Republicans, but I call it sabotage: deliberate subversion.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, R.I.P.

A statement released from President Obama on this momentous day began:

Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed.  As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.  As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

A video on YouTube I saw last night that touched me deeply follows. The young man is from Alabama and is stationed in Germany:

Obama, The Jewish Problem, and Christian Zealots

Christian conservatives claim to love Israel—some seem to love it more than their own country—but they may someday love it to death.

Simply put, if there is ever to be a sustainable, at-peace democratic Jewish state, there has to be a sustainable, at-peace democratic Palestinian state. The destinies of these two peoples are woven together, a reality each has to eventually recognize.

But that reality is not one which American Christian conservatives—the driving force behind the hard-line nature of the Republican Party’s positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations—can recognize. It’s all right there in the Bible, don’t you know.

It’s got to the point that if President Obama dares to even criticize the weather in Israel, he has forsaken the Jews in the minds of GOP Bible-thumpers.  Never mind, as John Heilemann pointed out a few days ago, that Obama is as good a friend as Israel has had among recent presidents and may be, at the proper viewing angle, “every bit as pro-Israel as the country’s own prime minister.”

As Obama and that prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the rest of the United Nations gather in New York, the talk of the town and the world is the pending, or potentially pending, request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to have the U.N. recognize “Palestine” as a new member state.

As it stands, 3.5 million Palestinians live in the Abbas’  West Bank, without basic civil rights. 

Netanyahu—whose governing coalition in Israel, as John Heilemann notes, is “held together by far-right nationalist, fundamentalist, and even proto-fascistic elements“— complains that pushing for unilateral statehood is wrong and not conducive to a negotiated settlement between the parties. 

But the problem is those negotiations have stalled, and their history hasn’t been all that successful you may have noticed.  As far as unilateral actions, Gideon Levy points out the “mother of all unilateral steps” is the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in disputed territory.

Levy also points out that the Palestinians at this point seem to have only three options:

♦ “to surrender unconditionally and go on living under Israeli occupation for another 42 years at least”

 ♦ “to launch a third intifada”

♦ “to mobilize the world on their behalf”

Since they seem to have picked the third option, Levy says that constitutes “the lesser of all evils from Israel’s perspective.” Makes sense to me.

But not to Netanyahu, who many observers believe doesn’t ever want a Palestinian state.  And, unfortunately, it will fall to President Obama to cover for the intractable Israeli leader.

It’s easy to understand the dilemma Mr. Obama faces here. Netanyahu’s failure to seize the several opportunities he has had to achieve progress has put the President in a no-win situation. As Tzipi Livni, leader of the largest party in the Israeli Knesset, put it:

Friends of Israel no longer understand Israel’s policies or what it wants. The prime minister is not believed.

This government’s diplomatic stupidity is putting the US in a corner. America is making sure we won’t be isolated, but what is our government doing? The time has come for the prime minister to stop preventing a diplomatic process. If he does, a vote in the UN won’t be necessary and we will be able to remain a Jewish, democratic state. Netanyahu can still make decisions to prevent the vote in the UN. It’s still not too late.

Failing any last-minute effort by Netanyahu to undo the damage he has done, Obama and the United States will likely veto any effort by the Security Council to honor Abbas’ request for statehood.

Despite the logic of the Palestinian position that Gideon Levy outlined, if Mr. Obama supports that logical Palestinian position, he risks alienating even further an important constituency: the Jewish voter.

As Heilemann points out in his piece, Obama’s approval rating among Jewish voters is falling, from 83 percent after his inauguration, to 55 percent now. Heilemann quotes a “prolific fund-raiser” as saying,

We have a big-time Jewish problem.

And let’s not forget that the meme pushed by the right-wing in this country is that Obama’s loyalty is not to our ally, Israel, but to the other side.  Rick Perry, evangelical fanatic, followed Mr. Obama to New York today and, in the words of The Guardian:

The confrontation over the Palestinian bid to win recognition of a state at the United Nations has shifted to the US presidential race as Rick Perry, the leading Republican contender, accused Barack Obama of appeasing terrorists and betraying Israel…

“The Obama administration has appeased the Arab street at the expense of our national security,” he said.

These things are what Netanyahu—who last May publicly tried to humiliate the President and lied about his position on the 1967 borders—would say, if he were free to do so.  Leave it to a Christian zealot, who wants to be President of the United States, to accuse the current president of appeasing terrorists and betraying an ally. 

There is just no shame among American Christian extremists, but neither that, nor the so-called Jewish problem, should stop Mr. Obama from doing the right thing in New York and support some kind of recognition of Palestinian statehood via the United Nations, should it come to that. With input from the U.S. and Israel, the process could be shaped to serve the interests of a long-term settlement.

As Joel Brinkley pointed out, Obama has much to lose and little to gain by a U.S. veto of the Palestinian request for statehood:

Think about it. Even as Israel’s traditional patron state, the United States is making tenuous gains in the Arab world by participating in NATO’s action in Libya and providing aid to rebel groups in Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere.

With the veto, all of that would be undone. The United States would be a pariah once again. In fact, Saudi Arabia, another of Washington’s traditional allies in the region, is warning that it would curtail relations with America and pursue policies that are anathema to Washington.

And besides all that, remember Gideon Levy’s statement of the Palestinian logic: Surrender, launch yet another intifada, or appeal to the world for recognition.

If the United States stands in their way, a possible result—despite Abbas’ pledge not to “return to intifada“—may be more violence, more killing, and a continued threat to a democratic Israel.  Abbas may not be able to control the outcome of a conspiracy between Israel and the U.S. to deny him statehood through the U.N.

If Christian zealots truly love Israel—apart from their Bible-based fatalistic notion that the End of Time is wrapped up in Israel’s unalterable fate—they and Obama should tell conservative Jews a tough truth: it is time to recognize the legitimacy of a Palestinian state, if only for their own good. 

Heilemann sums up the matter precisely:

Given the demographic realities it faces—the growth of the Palestinian population in the territories and also of the Arab population in Israel itself—our ally confronts a fundamental and fateful choice: It can remain democratic and lose its Jewish character; it can retain its Jewish character but become an apartheid state; or it can remain both Jewish and democratic, satisfy Palestinian national aspirations, facilitate efforts to contain Iran, alleviate the international opprobrium directed at it, and reap the enormous security and economic benefits of ending the conflict by taking up the task of the creation of a viable Palestinian state—one based, yes, on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

“We Need Other People”

I want to share what Globe blogger Jim Wheeler—not a liberal like me—wrote about our social nature in the context of today’s politics.  A better critique of libertarianism-teapartyism you won’t find (echoes of John Rawls’original position“):

A couple of years ago I found myself getting interested in the Libertarian point of view, just as you are, but I have come to change my mind. You know, it is appealing from the viewpoint of someone who has already found some measure of security in the existing structure of life, and that appears to include you because you say you don’t really need Medicare and Social Security.  But, there’s a different perspective I wish you would consider.

Human beings, as we all know, come in a full spectrum of qualities, smart to dumb, attractive to ugly, strong to weak, altruistic to selfish, honest to crooked. But at the end of the day, as we age and as we succumb to the vagaries of fate, we eventually find ourselves in the care of others. We are social creatures through evolution and we need other people.

So isn’t it not only arrogant, but actually impractical to declare one’s-self independent of others, even excluding one’s family? Nobody knows what really awaits us as we trudge through life, whether disease (like cancer, stroke or heart attack), natural disaster (like tornados, hurricanes or lightning), or accident (like automobile crashes or falling off a ladder), or loneliness when our loved ones die (my personal greatest fear). And when something does happen, we depend not just on other individuals but the systemic structure of society such as hospitals, hospice, churches, social services. Hell, even seeing the postman once a day can be a big plus. Is it not in your own best interest to see that the quality of that social structure for everybody is as good as it can be?

“We Have The Guns,” Says Republican “Establishment” Darling

The Tea Party, said conservative commentator George Will on Sunday, is the Republican “establishment” today.  If that doesn’t scare you, let’s look at one of the Republican Party establishment’s leading spokesman, teapartier Andrew Breitbart.

Speaking to a sparse Tea Party gathering in Lexington, Massachusetts, last Friday, the $60-a-head Republican establishment was treated to this (Pensito Review provided a partial transcript below):

BREITBART: I must say that in my non-strategic — ‘cuz I’m under attack all the time — if you see it on Twitter, the tolerant call me gay. And it’s just like, they’re vicious, the death threats and everything. And so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should, and in those unclear moments, I always think to myself, “Fire the first shot. Bring it on.”

Because I know who’s on our side. And they know that. They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war. They cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. So — [Laughter.] I’m not kidding. They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line because they know what they’re dealing with.

And I have people who come up to me in the military, major named people in the military, who grab me and they go, “Thank you for what you’re doing, we’ve got your back.”

And so they understand that. These are the unspoken things we know, they know.

They know who’s on their side. They’ve got Janeane Garafalo. We are freaked out by that. [Garbled.] When push comes to shove, they know who’s on our side. They are the bullies on the playground, and they’re starting to realize — What if we were to fight back? What if we were to slap back?

You know, these union thugs. These public sector union thugs — I’m just waiting — bring it on.

I am sick of it. I am sick of this Trumka guy. I’m sick of this John Sweeney. I’m sick of the SIEU. I’m sick of them going to people’s homes, executives’ homes and showing up and the media not think — you don’t think there’s a problem with that?

Katie Couric. What if we went to Katie Couric’s house? What if the tea party showed up at Katie Couric’s and scared the living crap out of her teenaged kids? And that’s what they do because they know the mainstream media won’t cover it.

And so, there’s just a part of me that wants them to walk over that line.

What Wimpy Journalism Looks Like

On Morning Joe this morning, Mark Halperin was a guest blabber.

Halperin, who serves as a senior political analyst for Time magazine and as an MSNBC contributor, said this about President Obama and his recent moves on jobs and the deficit:

He’s still going to have to find a way to get John Boehner to do business with him to get anything done.

After I coughed up my breakfast burrito over that one, I heard Halperin offer up the idea that Republican talk about wanting to work with the President to get things done is “somewhat disingenuous.”

Somewhat disingenuous?  Somewhat?  That’s like saying Charles Manson is somewhat psychopathic or that Newt Gingrich is somewhat chubby.

Nothing could be more obvious—except in the commentary of TV journalists like Mark Halperin, who hyperextend their journalistic spines trying to appear fair and balanced—than the fact that Republicans don’t want to work with President Obama. They have even had the rocks to say so. Out loud.  Where even Mark Halperin could hear them. 

Yet, Republicans are only “somewhat disingenuous.” Such is the state of much TV journalism these days.

And that is just one of ten thousand examples of this kind of journalistic malpractice.  On Sunday, the venerable Meet the Press, now fronted by the unvenerable David Gregory, featured an appearance by Mitch McConnell, who famously said last October:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

McConnell is no less committed to that plan this year, and the David Gregorys of the media world help him in his efforts with interviews like the one on Sunday, which began with this question to McConnell:

GREGORY: Let me start with you and ask you whether this presidential plan on a millionaire’s tax rate is something that you could support?

Now, before we get to McConnell’s response, let’s first think about the question.  David Gregory knows very well that McConnell will never in a quadrillion years support Obama’s plan.  He knows that because McConnell has said so, repeatedly.  So, why even ask him this question?  Oh, you might say, this crafty journalist is just laying the ground work for some real journalism to come later.  Let’s see:

McConnell: Well, you know we had that vote, David, a couple of years ago, when the Democrats basically owned the Congress.  They had overwhelming control of the Senate and the House, and it was defeated then. So, I would simply go back to what the president said last December in signing a two-year extension of the current tax rates: it’s a bad thing to do in the middle of an economic downturn. And of course the economy, some would argue, is even worse now than it was when the president signed the extension of the current tax rates back in December. I think what he said then still applies now.

Mitch McConnell is a skillful politician. This wasn’t his first Meet the Press rodeo. He’s ridden a lot of bulls through the years and Gregory is one he could ride all day, while sipping a Mint Julep and thumbing through a copy of The Prince.  Notice how the Minority Leader pivoted from Gregory’s question to asserting that Obama is contradicting himself?  Wow, that’s nice form. 

And it’s really easy for McConnell because he doesn’t have to worry much about having to defend what he did. Gregory’s follow-up question ignored what McConnell actually asserted and went on to ask him an obviously prepared second question:

GREGORY: What’s unfair, though, about making richer Americans pay the same tax rate that middle-income Americans do?

Now, even though McConnell didn’t mention anything about fairness, Gregory ask him about it. Any other time that would be a good question—but not as a follow-up to what McConnell asserted previously.  This would have been a great time for Gregory to nail McConnell on his party’s recalcitrance and its stonewalling.  Remember what he asserted:

1. That Democrats had previously voted on Obama’s tax idea and rejected it.  Gregory could have asked, “Okay, Senator, when did Democrats vote down a tax on the rich?  What are you talking about? Democrats were too chicken to vote on a millionaires’ tax.”

2. That Democrats “basically owned Congress” and that they had “overwhelming control of the Senate and the House.”  Gregory could have said, “Okay, Senator McConnell, you know that Democrats didn’t have the 60 votes needed to break your party’s constant filibusters in the Senate.  And even with the two independents—one a reliable Democratic vote and one not—Democrats only had those potential filibuster-breaking 60 votes for a very short time in July and September of 2009. How can you say Democrats had “overwhelming control” of the Senate when you know they didn’t?

3. President Obama essentially sided with Republicans about raising taxes being “bad” for the economy.  Gregory could have mentioned that Obama only caved in on the tax issue last December because Republicans had a gun to the head of the unemployed and the economy.  Or, perhaps more journalistically, he could have asked a question this way:  “Now, Senator, do you really think Mr. Obama agrees with your economic policy, and, if so, why do so many in your party call him a socialist?”

Pursuing any or all of those lines of questioning would have been the thing to do, it seems to me.  But then I’m not a big-time, wealthy TV news man, who has been seen defending the worst of conservatives.

As for Gregory’s real follow-up question about the tax fairness issue, McConnell proceeded to insult Warren Buffet, lie about the potential effect on small businesses, and assert that there was “bipartisan opposition” to Obama’s tax policy already.

And what did Gregory do?  Like he always does, he moved on.

Where is Tim Russert when you need him?

It’s Only Called Class War If We Fight Back

More than a week ago, economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich gave a speech at the “Summit for a Fair Economy” in Minneapolis and addressed several “downright bald-faced lies” told by conservatives and Republicans about the economy.  He ended his speech with this:

The greatest enemy we have is mass cynicism. When people really get to the point where they think nothing can be done, then the other side wins. That’s what they want by the way. That’s what they want…[The other side] wants government at all levels to function so badly that people say government can’t work…they also want politics to be so bad and so paralyzed that most Americans say nothing can be done…

It’s easy, when they are scared and disorganized, for people to be subject and vulnerable to demagogues who come along and say to them, “You know…the reason you’re in trouble is because of government, or it’s because of immigrants or it’s because of the poor or it’s because of blacks,” or it’s because of a number of scapegoats that are always offered up, the same scapegoats.

But in reality, we are all struggling over a smaller and smaller share of a bigger and bigger pie. And they are deflecting and diverting attention from the story which is that more and more of the income and wealth is going to big corporations and to the very, very super rich in this country and that is what has to be reversed and that is why we have to take back America.

Class warfare?  Yes, that’s what it is called if someone on our side fights back.  Pay attention today to the criticism of President Obama today as he announces his debt-cutting plan that includes taxes on the rich.  His plan has already been called class warfare by Republicans this past weekend.  Ask yourself why it is called class warfare if a champion of the middle class and poor decides to fight back?

Finally, as ammunition in the effort to fight back, here are some of Reich’s compact responses to the “downright bald-faced lies” told by the Right:

“DOWNRIGHT BALD-FACED LIE” #1: Giving tax cuts to the rich and corporations will trickle down to everyone else

A lie! it has not happened; it has never happened. They don’t need more tax cuts. Big corporations are now sitting on more than 2 trillion dollars of cash. There are higher corporate profits now than we have seen in 35 years. ‘s not happened and The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than it’s been since before the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“DOWNRIGHT BALD-FACED LIE” #2: Shrinking government creates more jobs

I debate a lot of…conservative economists and others on television who keep on saying this and I keep on saying, “Tell me your theory. How is it that if you lay off teachers and social workers and firefighters and police officers, that you have fewer people building the roads, building the highways, building the infrastructure, fewer people rebuilding our schools, fewer people doing all of the public’s work, how can that create more jobs?”

And the answer I get is, “Government always gets in the way.”  I say, “But tell me exactly how is it that if you shrink government you’re going to get more jobs, particularly when consumers are holding back because they can’t do it?”

And the answer I get is, “Government always gets in the way.”  In other words, there is no intellectual basis for the ideology…If you shrink government you get fewer jobs…

“DOWNRIGHT BALD-FACED LIE” #3: Taxing the rich hurts the economy

Under Dwight David Eisenhower—who nobody would call a socialist, I don’t believe—["Some would now," said someone in the audience]—some would now? Yes—the top marginal income tax rate on the top earners was 91%.  And even with deductions and tax credits, that still meant that they were paying an effective tax rate of hugely higher than they are today.  And yet the economy grew faster.

That lie about trickle down, the lie that we must not tax the rich because that would deter them from working hard and investing and creating jobs is nothing but a bald-faced lie, based on ideology rather than facts.

“DOWNRIGHT BALD-FACED LIE” #4: Medicare and Social Security and other spending is the cause of the long-term debt problem

It’s not! The long term debt out there is because of rising health care costs. Medicare is the most efficient system we have…the administrative costs of Medicare are so tiny relative to private insurance, that what we really need, if we want to get Medicare and medical costs down in the future, is Medicare for all.  And then we can move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy-outcome system…

“DOWNRIGHT BALD-FACED LIE” #5: Social Security is a Ponzi scheme

Can you imagine the irresponsibility—putting partisanship to one side—I’ve never heard a public official running for national office who lies through his teeth by saying that the Social Security system is a Ponzi [scheme]—I was a trustee of the Social Security trust fund, I know exactly what the actuaries project.  For the next 26 years Social Security is purely solvent, completely solvent; there’s no problem. 

Beyond 26 years the only reason there is a problem with potentially being to pay out everything Social Security owes beyond 26 years… is because of rising inequality, because so much money has gone to the top that the portion of income subjected to Social Security taxes is not going to be enough.  And that’s why the easiest most direct response to the post-26 years from now is to raise the cap on incomes subject to Social Security.

“DOWNRIGHT BALD-FACED LIE” #6: Tax reform should include raising taxes on even the poor

Real tax reform is that we’ve got to expand the earned income tax credit…we’ve got to reduce taxes on the middle and lower middle, and we’ve got to increase taxes on the top—and more tax brackets…go back to where we were before.

Admittedly, this was Reich’s weakest response, as I don’t believe tax rates on the middle income need to come down any further, but otherwise his speech was flawless.

Here is the video:

Racial Inequality: An Assault On White Americans?

The following is a rather lengthy piece, probably too long for the Internet these days, but for anyone interested in the problems we still have with inequality in America, particularly racial inequality, you will hopefully find it worth your time should you undertake the task of reading it. 

I was listening to NPR on Saturday morning and I heard this:

The Pew Research Center recently found that the median white household has net assets worth 20 times that of the median black household and 18 times that of a Hispanic family — assets such as housing, savings and investments, minus any debt.

So, I went to the Pew Research Center site and found that its analysis was based on 2009 government data on wealth in America.  Indeed, the data demonstrated that there is an alarming disparity between the net worth of whites compared to blacks and Hispanics and that the gap has increased dramatically since 2005. 

And as the following chart demonstrates, just as we might expect, an economic downturn—the Great Recession in this case—is much harder on those who have less than on those who have more*:

Now, I want to explore a typical know-nothing conservative response to the Pew Research Center analysis from a website that represents mainstream conservatism these days: RedState.com.  The Chairman of the Board of RedState is Erick Erickson, a CNN—I repeat, a CNN—commentator.  Here is part of a published response to the Pew study of income disparity between whites and black and Hispanics:

This whole charade about racial inequality is just another assault on white Americans who get up and go to work every day and pay taxes and do the right thing. You know, like those Tea Party people. Tens of millions of blacks, on the other hand, have been taught by the Democrat party to be irresponsible, live on the dole, have no cares about illegitimacy or sloth, and complain like hell about their lot in life. Because that is what the Democrats teach to all Americans.

Southwest Missouri’s congressman, Ozark Billy Long, once had posted on his 2010 campaign website (the page has since been scrubbed) that liberals “wish to do away with the moral center of our nation.” Perhaps what he meant by that is similar to what the writer on RedState meant, I don’t know.

But I do know that the RedState writer represents a lot of folks on the Right, a lot of white folks who believe that those “irresponsible” blacks are the way they are because they are morally deficient.  And they believe that they are morally deficient largely because of liberalism.  Here’s more from the RedState-published writer on the Pew Research Center study:

This is a sham. Go and listen to older blacks talk about their lives in the 1930s or 1940s or 1950s before their “civil rights” were granted. Many of them talk wistfully and longingly about a world of close families and safe communities where blacks cared about one another. Because despite their lack of many rights in those years, blacks had four things that liberals and the Democrats have since destroyed – they had their strong families, their businesses, their churches and their morals.

Today the Democrat party has wiped out all four and reduced tens of millions of black Americans to dependency, irresponsibility, violence and stupidity.

The implication here, which one confronts much too frequently, is that blacks were much better off as victims of Jim Crow, or better yet, slavery, than they are as victims of liberal do-gooders who coddle them and want them to have “civil rights.”  Who can forget what Republican congressman Trent Franks, one of the most conservative members of the House, said last year:

Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery.

Or who can forget the Iowa Christian group, Family Leader, that talked some Republican presidential candidates into signing its pledge which included:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

The brazen claim  underlying all this nonsense is that liberals are to blame for not only the economic condition of minorities, particularly blacks, but liberals are also to blame for the deterioration of the black family and community.

It so happens that I have been re-reading some old books, some from the 1960s, written by my one-time intellectual hero, William F. Buckley.  Surely even RedStaters would welcome the father of modern conservatism—their own political father in so many ways—into their Tea Party?  Well, I’m not so sure.

In 1965 Mr. Buckley acknowledged that white people—white people!—were indeed morally responsible for contributing to what he called “the helplessness and despair that breed ignorance and lawlessness [among so many Negroes].” In his 1966 book The Unmaking of a Mayor, Mr. Buckley quoted without contradiction a 1965  New York Times article about him:

He [Buckley] said that Negroes should be given opportunities to advance to justice and to “the kind of special treatment that might make up for centuries of oppression.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the famous Tulsa-born Democrat and sociologist that Republican conservatives admire—Buckley was and George Will is a fan—spent a lot of time thinking and writing about blacks in America. In a famous report in 1965 for the Department of Labor, he described the beginnings of the “liberal’ efforts—it was the Kennedy-Johnson Administrations—on the part of the federal government to achieve “Negro equality.”  Notice the dates:

First, beginning with the establishment of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and on to the enactment of the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962, the Federal government has launched a major national effort to redress the profound imbalance between the economic position of the Negro citizens and the rest of the nation that derives primarily from their unequal position in the labor market. Second, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 began a major national effort to abolish poverty, a condition in which almost half of Negro families are living. Third, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the end of the era of legal and formal discrimination against Negroes and created important new machinery for combating covert discrimination and unequal treatment.

So, you can see that the liberal efforts at the federal level to comprehensively right historic wrongs done to black folks didn’t begin in earnest until 1962.  The problem for RedStaters and other teapartiers is that the deterioration in black communities they blame on liberals had begun well before 1962

In The Unmaking of a Mayor, Buckley quoted at length a passage from Beyond the Melting Pot, an influential book on race and ethnicity published in 1963 by Nathan Glazer (another sociologist that conservatives admired and still admire) and Daniel Moynihan.  Again, pay attention to the date:

The rate of illegitimacy among Negroes is about fourteen or fifteen times that among whites. When we find such an impossible situation as that discussed in the New York press in 1960, in which babies are abandoned in hospital by their mothers, and live there for months on end, for there is no room for them anywhere else, most of them are Negro children…

More Negro children live apart from parents and relatives; more live in institutions; more live in crowded homes; more have lodgers and other related and unrelated persons living with them.

Broken homes and illegitimacy do not necessarily mean poor upbringing and emotional problems. But they mean it more often when the mother is forced to work (as the Negro mother so often is), when the father is incapable of contributing to support (as the Negro father so often is), when fathers and mothers refuse to accept responsibility for and resent their children, as Negro parents, overwhelmed by difficulties, so often do, and when the family situation, instead of being clear-cut and with defined roles and responsibilities, is left vague and ambiguous (as it so often is in Negro families).

An impartial reader can see that the problems in the black community, however one characterizes them, existed before—as I am about to argue,  long before—the popular efforts by liberals, both Democratic and Republican, to help them.  

I am persuaded that the effects of slavery—the protracted and utter disregard for even  the most basic human rights of blacks—are still present today, albeit in subtle forms.  Slaves were often not allowed to marry and those who were married were not legally protected from forced separation, and couples were often separated for sale.  Children were also often similarly separated from their parents. This abject powerlessness over family stability, while not infecting each and every black man or woman at the time or in the future, undoubtedly had a profound effect on the evolution of black social behavior after the Civil War.

The extreme negative socialization that slavery represented simply cannot be ignored in any analysis of the cultural condition of black folks then or now. Add to this the economic powerlessness of post-war “liberated” blacks, who though technically free were in reality still prisoners of their past and strangers in an unwelcoming society.  Thus, the integration of blacks into the larger white culture was bound to be difficult and troublesome, despite the fact that exceptions abounded and still abound to the rule.

Which leads us to 21st century America, where the effects of years of domination, years of unstable socialization and acculturation are still apparent, still active, still in need of remediation.

We can accept the fantastical notion, expressed by RedStaters and other conservatives, that pointing out the disparity in incomes and wealth between whites and blacks “is just another assault on white Americans who get up and go to work every day and pay taxes and do the right thing.”

And we can accept the criticism that,

Tens of millions of blacks…have been taught by the Democrat party to be irresponsible, live on the dole, have no cares about illegitimacy or sloth, and complain like hell about their lot in life.

Or we can accept the fact that millions of Americans—of Americans—are still in need of, in the words of the father of modern American conservatism, “the kind of special treatment that might make up for centuries of oppression.”

What that treatment might entail going forward—Moynihan and Glazer came to believe that government could not effectively address what they considered to be the behavioral causes of the social dysfunction they saw—is a subject for real debate, as opposed to blaming liberals for a problem that originated in the institution of slavery, an institution the defense of which, as the The New York Times pointed out more than 150 years ago, “should be regarded as ‘conservative.'”

__________________________________

* As further confirmation of the intuitive fact that the rich suffer less during bad times than do the poor—and a fact that supports President Obama’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy—the Pew Research Center analysis also found:

During the period under study, wealth disparities increased not only between racial and ethnic groups, but they also rose within each group. Even though the wealthiest 10% of households within each group suffered a loss in wealth from 2005 to 2009, their share of their group’s overall wealth rose during this period. The increase was the greatest among Hispanics, with the top 10% boosting their share of all Hispanic household wealth from 56% in 2005 to 72% in 2009. Among whites, the share of wealth owned by the top 10% rose from 46% in 2005 to 51% in 2009. These trends indicate that those in the top 10% of the wealth ladder were relatively less impacted by the economic downturn than those in the remaining 90%.

Remarks And Asides

An amazing coincidence in the news, or is it?

♦ House Speaker John Boehner says that Republicans are from a different planet.

♦ Scientists have discovered a new planet orbiting two stars. The planet is quite frigid—too cold for life—and is about 200 light years away from earth-bound reality.

That pretty much describes the Republican Party.

___________________________

Speaking of John Boehner, not only has he rejected Mr. Obama’s call for taxes on the rich to pay for the new jobs program, Boehner has presented a jobs program of his own: No new taxes, reform the tax code, and end excessive government regulations.

Why didn’t the rest of us think of that?

Oh, I know why.  See the item above.

___________________________

And Boehner says, “Hell no, I’m not having any fun!”  That makes 300 million of us, John.

___________________________

Rick Perry has been hammered by Michele Bachmann for indulging in crony capitalism. Alas, it is true. Former staffers and appointees of Perry have cashed in on their relationship with the government-hating governor. But doggone it! Crony capitalism is the only reason why government-hating Republicans run for office in the first place! They’re not socialists, for God’s sake.

___________________________

Speaking of God, who, when he isn’t busy keeping the universe from collapsing into the Big Crunch, occasionally wrestles with GOP presidential candidates.

One of his past opponents was Rick Perry, who spoke recently at the University of Iron Age Thinking, also known as Liberty University, and said:

…what I learned as I wrestled with God was I didn’t have to have all the answers, that would be revealed to me in due time, and that I needed to trust him.

At some point during the wrestling match, Perry got impatient and dropped God to the canvas with a flying clothesline and pinned him down until God told Perry all the answers to the nation’s problems.

Then Perry got up and ran for president.

___________________________

Speaking of Rick Perry and running for president, the wrestler’s Ponzi scheme comments about Social Security don’t seem to bother Republicans all that much, at least right now (36% say they “don’t know enough to say”). 

But 32% of independents are “less likely” to support him against 12% who are “more likely” to support him.

For his part, Perry is not backing down (if you’d wrestled God and survived to tell Jerry Falwell’s kids about it, would you back down? ).  Stone Cold Rick Perry from Austin told a fawning Time magazine:

If you want to call it a Ponzi scheme, if you want to say it’s a criminal enterprise, if you just want to say it’s broken –they all get to the same point.

Well, not exactly. Unless you’re Dick Cheney, normally criminal enterprises land you in jail. That’s sort of why they call them “criminal.” And Ponzi schemes and other such criminal enterprises aren’t “broken” such that they can be fixed. So, no, they all don’t “get to the same point.”

Boy, where’s God when you need him? Oh, yeah. He’s still on the canvas.

Better, Worse, Or Same?

I realize that some folks need to justify their jobs sometimes, but what I saw on MSNBC this morning was taking it a little too far.

Bloomberg did a stupid poll, perhaps one of the stupidest polls in the history of polling, and, stupidly, MSNBC felt it newsworthy enough to broadcast. 

As a contest, I present two screenshots of the stupid poll: One is the real stupid poll and the other is a fake stupid poll.  To enter the contest, write your guesses on the back of a $50 bill, just under “In God We Trust,” and mail it to The Erstwhile Conservative.  Enter as many times as you wish.

Thanks and good luck!

Sign Of The Times

Blunt And McCaskill Team Up

Kudos to Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, who voted on Thursday for federal disaster relief for Missouri and elsewhere without strings attached.  

They rejected the view, first put forward by House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor just after the EF-5+ tornado hit Joplin, that such relief can only be provided if other cuts are made to the budget. That idea has no precedent in FEMA history.  Money for such disasters has never been the center of a political fight.

On Monday, a Senate Republican filibuster—I repeat: a Republican filibuster—temporarily defeated the disaster aid bill, but Majority Leader and Democrat Harry Reid brought it up again on Tuesday—I repeat: a Democrat brought it back up—and the filibuster was broken, thanks to a handful of Republicans, including Blunt.

The final vote on Thursday for the $7 billion aid bill was 62-37.  And noteworthy is the fact that not one single Republican senatorial neighbor of Missouri voted for disaster relief.  Not one. 

Also noteworthy is the stunning fact that neither Republican senator from Mississippi voted for the bill—despite the fact that Mississippi received around $10 billion in FEMA money after Hurricane Katrina, all of it provided without a fight over the budget. 

Now, we find that on Wednesday, House Republicans introduced a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the entire government through the middle of November—the fiscal year ends on September 30—and in that resolution they not only propose insufficient disaster relief funds ($3.65 billion), they also propose paying for part of it by cutting a successful loan program that has helped the U.S. auto industry hold on to jobs here at home.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, whose state is trying to come back from its own economic disaster, said:

It’s outrageous that House Republicans are pushing a plan that would drive advanced technology jobs overseas, and that they are trying to ram it through by attaching it to disaster relief. These loans have helped businesses in Michigan and around the country build the products of the future here at home.

Michigan congressman Gary Peters said:

…House Republicans have shown that they don’t care about manufacturing jobs in places like the Greater Detroit Area.

Whether one agrees with Stabenow or Peters or others who object to cutting the loan program for the auto industry, the point is that we shouldn’t be fighting over the budget when it comes to federal aid for recovery from events like the Joplin tornado, horrific flooding around the country, earthquakes, or hurricanes.

If there is one thing we should be able to agree on, it is helping each other through emergencies.  And picking a fight over how to fund FEMA just further divides us.

How To Talk To The Tea Party

Here’s the way some future historian might describe our times:

Millions were still unemployed; lavish government expenditures had not restored prosperity; the budget was unbalanced, and the national debt was mounting; taxes and government restrictions alarmed businessmen; many conservatives saw constitutional government in danger.  There were signs also of restiveness in Congress.

That future historian was Eugene Roseboom writing in 1957about the 1936 presidential election, which essentially was a referendum on the New Deal and the form of democratic socialism that it represented.

And for the record, still in the midst of the Great Depression, the unemployment rate in 1936—after three and a half years of Franklin Roosevelt’s first administration—was a staggering 16.9%.  Think about that.

Roseboom included in his brief analysis of that first post-Social Security election a look at  the Republican Party platform of 1936, which began:

America is in peril. The welfare of American men and women and the future of our youth are at stake. We dedicate ourselves to the preservation of their political liberty, their individual opportunity and their character as free citizens, which today for the first time are threatened by Government itself.

Here are some of the charges leveled in the platform against FDR and his administration:

♦ “The rights and liberties of American citizens have been violated.”

♦ “It has insisted on the passage of laws contrary to the Constitution.”

♦ “It has dishonored our country by repudiating its most sacred obligations.”

♦ “It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the depression.”

♦ “It has destroyed the morale of our people and made them dependent upon government.”

♦ “Appeals to passion and class prejudice have replaced reason and tolerance.”

♦ “The New Deal Administration has been characterized by shameful waste, and general financial irresponsibility. It has piled deficit upon deficit. It threatens national bankruptcy… We pledge ourselves to: Stop the folly of uncontrolled spending. Balance the budget—not by increasing taxes but by cutting expenditures, drastically and immediately.”

If that doesn’t sound familiar, you haven’t been paying attention.

For his part, FDR didn’t shrink from the fight with the reactionaries. If Mr. Obama and 2012 Democrats want to know how to talk to the country, how to defend government from the Tea Party hordes, they could do no better than heed the 1936 Roosevelt—”the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them“—as he accepted the Democratic Party nomination.

Roosevelt said:

…government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster…

And:

Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted on different scales.

Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

It’s no accident that the leading candidate in today’s Republican primary is a man named Rick Perry, whose icy indifference to the value of Social Security in particular and government programs in general is stunning, though not surprising or new. 

Perry recently said he will “work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.” Such would-be presidential philosophy, which the other GOP candidates obviously share—is rooted in or at least resonates with the reactionary Republican response to Social Security and the New Deal in 1936.

The antithesis of that philosophy, as Roosevelt bellowed in Philadelphia loud enough for us to hear these 75 years later, amounts to this:

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor – other people’s lives…

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government… The royalists of the economic order have…maintained that economic slavery was nobody’s business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live…

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.

That’s what government does on behalf of the ordinary American citizen: takes away the power of those who would enslave us, whether abroad or at home.

The 2012 election cycle, which is upon us, will be President Obama’s last chance to become a truly transformative president.  He must not only defend his first term accomplishments—from averting an economic meltdown to health care reform to financial reform to a dead bin Laden—but much more important he must vigorously and vociferously defend the role of government in the lives of ordinary people. 

He must demonstrate that he is outraged by what the leaders of the patron party of the moneyed class have done to the country, as a consequence of their hatred for him. Of that party and of that moneyed class, FDR famously said in October of 1936:

We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

Despite two and a half years of deliberate and constant obstruction of  his efforts to fix the economy—sabotage by any other name—despite the attempt to gain politically from such citizen-damaging obstruction, we have yet to see Mr. Obama express appropriate outrage at what has happened, at what is happening still.

Despite constant attacks that he is destroying the country and undermining our system, Mr. Obama has largely ignored the damaging criticism.  A Republican presidential candidate said during the last debate:

We know that President Obama stole over $500 billion out of Medicare to switch it over to Obamacare.

Where’s the outrage over that?  Stole? When faced with similar lies, lies which undermine public confidence in our system, Roosevelt didn’t mince words about the people who perpetrated them:

…they attack the integrity and honor of American Government itself. Those who suggest that, are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy. Let them emigrate and try their lot under some foreign flag in which they have more confidence.

Can anyone imagine Mr. Obama saying that?

No, and that’s the point.

[Obama as Roosevelt image from Time magazine, Nov, 2008]
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