“The Hounds Of Racism” Are Howling

As right-wingers begin to think the unthinkable, that Barack Hussein Obama just might serve another four years, we can expect the nastiness to escalate.

From The Washington Post:

RICHMOND — Virginia Republican Party officials on Tuesday ordered their Mecklenburg County affiliate to remove photos portraying President Obama as a witch doctor, a caveman and a thug from its Facebook page.

No racism there, right? The local GOP chairman initially refused to take down the photos, but I noticed today the Facebook page is dead. Defiant racists aren’t what they used to be, I suppose.

We’ve all seen the witch doctor photo, and here are the other two mentioned:

Classy stuff. But that’s just some rednecks in rural Virgina, so Republicans don’t want us to worry about it. It doesn’t reflect the party’s views about Mr. Obama, they say.

Okay. But maybe this does, from the lips of Romney surrogate Newt Gingrich:

He happens to be a partial, part-time president. He really is a lot like the substitute referees in the sense that he’s not a real president. I mean, he doesn’t do any of the things president do; he doesn’t worry about any of the things president’s do…he’s a false president…

Hmm. Not only is that disrespectful, but it sort of sounds like the old Georgian is calling our first African-American president a loafer. But that was on Tuesday. On Wednesday John Sununu, another Romney surrogate, clarified it for us, which I present from Fox “News”:

There. That’s better. The scary socialist Negro is lazy to boot!

As I always do in these cases, I will highlight with a box Romney’s response to such less-than-subtle racially-charged remarks uttered by his surrogates:

Oh, I forgot Romney fashions himself as a “No Apology” kind of guy.

In any case, I offer you an excellent observation by Geoffrey Dunn about how a lot of this dark stuff started with Sarah Palin:

when Palin accused then-candidate Obama of “palling around with terrorists” and of not being “a man who sees America as you see America,” she unleashed the hounds of racism in this country and in the Republican Party. She became the first serious candidate for national office since George Wallace to give both body and voice to the vulgarities of American right-wing talk radio and the pernicious racism that fuels it.

The “hounds of racism” are running quite free these days, and apparently Mitt Romney, who has had problems with dogs in the past, either can’t or doesn’t want to put them back in the kennel of shame where they belong.

In fact, Romney has often sounded like a hound himself, talking about “free stuff,” as in if you want free stuff “vote for the other guy.” And along those lines, I noticed today that Rush Limbaugh was playing a tape over and over—and over—of some hysterically sounding black woman yelling something about a phone. Immediately, I knew where to turn, since Matt Drudge is the source for a lot of Limbaugh’s material. Sure enough:

As I followed the link, I found a YouTube video recorded at a “Romney Event” near Cleveland, which had only 317 views when I watched:

Now, Limbaugh, who is one of those white-angst howling hounds unleashed by Sarah Palin, started talking about “Obama phones” and a website dedicated to telling folks like the woman above how to get their “free phones.”  Of course this plays into all the themes advanced by Republicans against our pigmented president: socialist, giver-of-free-stuff, all-around champion of the “permanent under class,” in Limbaugh’s phrase.

And that permanent under class, in the minds of a lot of Republican voters, looks like the woman above. That’s the point of those photos on that Virginia GOP website; that’s the point of Gingrich’s and Sununu’s comments; that’s the point of Drudge and Limbaugh promoting heavily that weird video.

In order to win, Romney has to get as many nervous whites to vote for him as he can, since he has lost any hope of getting much support from folks of color. That’s why he doesn’t say anything to shut down the obvious appeals to white angst by his official and unofficial surrogates.

That woman and her free “Obama phone” is just one more example for worried whites to consider in November, as conservatives see it. It turns out, though, that Obama had nothing to do with the free phones provided to low-income folks. The earliest version of the program was signed into law by, uh, Ronald Reagan!

But that fact won’t stop folks like Limbaugh, who said today that the phenomenon of people voting for Obama “is not about hard work.”

Go talk to the cell phone lady,” he said.

The Problem Is That Romney Hasn’t Attacked Obama’s “Ideology.” Huh?

He’s defined by liberalism or Marxism, socialism, whatever you want to call it.”

Rush Limbaugh

lthough this may cause you to upchuck your last meal, today Rush Limbaugh said he was “near orgasm” over Charles Krauthammer’s latest column. Okay, I’ll give you time to get that thought out of your mind.

Back? Good. What could Krauthammer say that would so delight Limbaugh? Oh, not much, except that he thinks Romney Hood ought to attack Obama not only on his “stewardship” of the economy, but on his “ideology.” Yep, Krauthammer thinks Obama, who has been called a socialist, Marxist, and communist by Republicans, hasn’t been hammered enough on his alleged radical ideas. If only Romney will “make the case” that Obama is a lefty, he will win back the White’s House. He wrote:

The ideological case…is not just appealing to a center-right country with twice as many conservatives as liberals, it is also explanatory. It underpins the stewardship argument. Obama’s ideology — and the program that followed — explains the failure of these four years.

(Try to ignore that last comment about “failure,” because Krauthammer suffers from “too many years of neurologically hazardous punditry,” a charge he once made against Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman.  Go to The Center for American Progress and listen to Michael Linden explain the success of the stimulus.)

Krauthammer said this is “a center-right country with twice as many conservatives as liberals.” I hear that nonsense a lot. And it almost always comes from folks like Krauthammer, who then go on to explain just how far left Mr. Obama has gone. At the end of his column, Krauthammer wrote:

If Republicans want to win, Obama’s deeply revealing, teleprompter-free you-didn’t-build-that confession of faith needs to be hung around his neck until Election Day. The third consecutive summer-of-recovery-that-never-came is attributable not just to Obama being in over his head but, even more important, to what’s in his head: a government-centered vision of the economy and society, and the policies that flow from it.

Now, it probably never occurred to someone as smart as Charles Krauthammer gets credit for being*, but someone with less brainy talent can easily see that if the country is “center-right,” if truly there are “twice as many conservatives as liberals,” and if Mr. Obama is a wild-eyed leftist in over his head, then there’s  no way that we ought to have seen this headline in today’s Washington Post:

Three polls show Obama widening lead over Romney

The story:

Three polls released in the last 24 hours show President Obama widening his lead over the former Massachusetts governor to as much as nine points. The surveys of registered voters, all conducted sometime between Aug. 2 and 8, also have Romney’s unfavorable ratings headed north. Two of the polls show his support among independents slipping.

The biggest surprise among those three polls perhaps was the Fox “News” poll, which shows Romney Hood trailing the left-wing Marxist by 9 points.

Krauthammer, of course, would attribute that spread to an ignorant public, who, despite four years of incessant ranting from folks like him, doesn’t yet know that the guy they favor is such a radical. It would never occur to him and other conservatives that a possible majority of the voting public simply might not buy into the often deranged attacks on their president.

And speaking of derangement, Krauthammer, who was trained as a psychiatrist, famously and churlishly bragged about discovering a new psychiatric illness among selected liberals in 2003 that he labeled “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” Since self-diagnosis of mental disorders may be problematic for obvious reasons, and given the presidential polling trends, I would suggest that Mr. Krauthammer get to a doctor before November 6.


*Even smart people make dumb mistakes. In the column, Krauthammer noted:

The Congressional Budget Office reports that Obamacare will incur $1.68 trillion of new expenditures in its first decade.

If you follow that link he provided, you will find that the actual estimate from the CBO is 1.168 trillion, which means Krauthammer overstated the number by, oh, a half a trillion!

The Absolutely Safe Place

Next month, in case you are interested, there is a tribute to freaky fanaticism going on in Washington, D.C.

The event, officially known as the 2012 Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing, is being presented by a group called the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Here are some of the confirmed speakers at what most certainly will be an Obama hate-fest worthy of the name:

Dick Morris, Grover Norquist, Senator Rand Paul, Dinesh D’Souza, Herman Cain, Governor Bob McDonnell, James O’Keefe (remember him?), Senator Mike Lee, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance, Congressman Tom Price (GA), Congressman Pete Sessions (TX), Southern Baptist moralist-in-chief Dr. Richard Land, and a host of other right-wingers.

Now, first of all, you know everybody’s in for a toesuckin’ good time when Dick Morris is involved. But beyond the dactyl dishes, with all those reactionary Obama-haters in attendance there will certainly be much talk about how Obama loathes God, is destroying the country, and is an all-around wicked feller.

I know there will be such talk because, well, God didn’t tell Ralph Reed (yep, Jack Abramoff’s BFF is back!) to start the Faith & Freedom Coalition until—you guessed it—the summer of 2009! Let me see…what  happened just before that? Oh, yeah, the anti-Christ took office!

In any case, the FFC says it is dedicated tofree markets and free minds” and restoring moral values—uh, hopefully not Ralph Reed’s moral values—in our once-great land. Reed described his newest way to make money without doing manual labor as a “21st century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids…with a sprinkling of the NRA.”  

Oh, my Allah! Religious freaks with machine guns! What could be worse?

But even without guns these folks are some strange cats. Mother Jones reported recently on some of their activities:

Gary Marx, the executive director of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, sent out a fundraising letter this month urging people to sign a petition fighting Obama’s “war on religion,” writing: “The Obama Administration’s actions are evidence of a pattern of hostility towards religious institutions and an antipathy to uphold and protect the nation’s most fundamental founding principles.”

I told ya: Obama hates God and is trying to destroy the country!

It is too bad, though, as Mother Jones points out, that the Obama administration has been downright friendly to churchy folks:

When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous. Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama’s stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the US Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from. The USCCB, which has been such a vocal critic of the Obama administration, has seen its share of federal grants from HHS jump from $71.8 million in the last three years of the Bush administration to $81.2 million during the first three years of Obama. In fiscal 2011 alone, the group received a record $31.4 million from the administration it believes is virulently anti-Catholic, according to HHS data.

That’s some war on religion. But beyond all the noise about Obama’s non-existent war on the faithful is the more important charge that our President has “an antipathy to uphold and protect the nation’s most fundamental founding principles.”

Time out for a definition: Antipathy = “a feeling of intense aversion, dislike, or hostility”

You see, these theologically-crazed folks don’t just have policy or philosophical differences with Mr. Obama, they believe he intensely dislikes America and is somehow trying to undermine it.

Talking this nonsense does damage not only to the President, but to the country. Consider this question, which reportedly was part of a survey Ralph Reed’s group recently sent out as part of a fund-raising (imagine that) letter:

How much danger do you think liberty is in right now as a result of President Obama’s policies, actions and agenda for America’s future?

  • More serious that the threats we faced in World War II from Nazi Germany and the Japanese because the attack on liberty is from our own government.
  • More serious than the threat we faced from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
  • More serious than the Civil War.
  • All of the above.
  • Serious, but not as serious as the threats to liberty listed above.
  • President Obama is not an enemy of liberty.
  • Undecided.

That an organization, Christian or otherwise, would even seriously offer up Obama’s presidency as a possible threat to our liberties “more serious” than those posed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is, well, beyond polite words. What must their children think of America?

These people are sick. Their minds are poisoned not only by religious fanaticism, but by a Bible-size hatred for Barack Hussein Obama.

I’ll end with an excerpt from Sunday’s New York Times, concerning the marvelous and daring escape from house arrest in China by a blind human rights lawyer and dissident named Chen Guangcheng:

Friends said Mr. Chen’s subterfuge was months in the making. In recent weeks, they said, he stayed in bed continuously to convince his minders that he was too weak to walk, or to try to leave.

As part of the plan, his wife stayed behind to distract the guards stationed outside the front door.

After he scaled the wall outside his home, he hid somewhere before making his way to a predetermined pickup spot almost a day after leaving home…

According to Hu Jia, a well-known dissident and AIDS activist who met with him in Beijing last week, Mr. Chen, who had arrived in the capital on Monday, spent the subsequent three days protected by a loose network of supporters who made sure he slept in a different apartment each night.

Mr. Hu, who has been under constant surveillance, said the network consisted of five people. After several frantic days, he said, “It was decided that there was only one place in China that is absolutely safe, and that’s the U.S. Embassy.”

Get that, all you right-wing Christian paranoiacs? “There was only one place in China that is absolutely safethe U.S. Embassy.” And at the top of the chain of command of that absolutely safe and liberty-loving place is none other than Barack Obama.

Remarks And Asides

Mittens and his mate say that even though poor old Seamus loved the ride, they won’t ever put another dog on top of their car, at least so long as there is a campaign to run (reminds me of Romney’s weird admission: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake. I can’t have illegals“).

Now, if we can only get them to be so kind to the poor, working moms, and Medicare recipients.


Jon Walker at Firedoglake.com makes the point that states—particularly Republican-controlled states—are dragging their feet on creating insurance exchanges as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

This whole problem could have been avoided if Democrats had gone with a national exchange like in the original House bill; but instead, Democrats foolishly insisted on going with the Senate’s idiotic approach of using a state-based exchange. It is likely that several states will not be ready to implement the law in 2014 forcing the federal government to step in to try to fill the voids.

Of course if voters put Republicans back in charge next year, we won’t have to worry about all those state-size voids in 2014 or any year thereafter.


Despite overwhelming public support for the idea, the Buffett Rule went down on Monday even though it won a majority of Senate votes. Explain that to your bright-eyed kids as you simultaneously tell them about our wonderful and “democratic” political system.


From the Why-Obama-Is-Not-A-Wild-Eyed-Liberal file:

The Obama administration on Wednesday decided not to move forward with an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination among federal contractors that is a top priority for the LGBT community.

Now, from the Wild-Eyed-Liberals-Overreact-To-A-Bad-Obama-Decision file:

This is a truly pathetic time for Obama to start showing some executive restraint… I hope the LGBT community and the broad progressive community appreciate the full irony of this decision. Obama officially thinks it is appropriate to use his executive power to buy a drone from a government contractor and use that drone to execute you without trial, but he won’t use his executive power to tell that same contractor they can’t fire you for being gay.

No doubt there is some juicy irony in this misguided decision, but have these good liberals taken a look at the alternative lately? Huh?


Speaking of irony, leave it to Fox “News” host Chris Wallace to at least attempt to properly place in context the near-lie told by the Romney campaign about the job losses among women just after Obama took office in January of 2009 (Wallace’s attempt was only a half-hearted one, it turns out).

Wallace mildly challenged senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie on the grossly incomplete claim that 92% of job losses under Obama were jobs held by women. CBS’s Bob Scheiffer and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos simply tossed the claim out there (Stephanopoulos did it twice!) like it was legitimate.

Sadly, Stephanopoulos, a former Clintonite who tries like hell to make conservatives appreciate him, has been at this stuff a long time. He asked Obama a Sean Hannity-generated question about Bill Ayers in the 2008 debate, but still the right-wing will show him no love.


Yet another conservative constitutional scholar has sided with Obama on the constitutional legitimacy of the Affordable Care Act and has done so on traditionally conservative grounds:

I recognize that many persons believe the health mandate is very bad legislative policy. But the appropriate judicial response to such a complaint has long been clear. The Court was admirably forthright about the point in its ruling in Munn v. Illinois in 1876: “For protection against abuses by the Legislature, the people must resort to the polls, not the courts.”

We will soon find out who the true conservatives on the court are.


Finally, the alleged cheapskate Secret Service agents involved in the scandal over hookers at the Pley Club in Cartagena, Colombia, ought to be ashamed of themselves. If you are out to have “a little fun and flesh” (as The New York Daily News put it) and all that is said about you is, “They had huge egos,” then you are a real loser.

A “Federally Dictated Confection” or a “Life Changing” Car?

Sometimes conservatives just flat-out lie through their gold teeth.

Take, for only one instance, Charles Krauthammer, a Fox-stained conservative who gets much credit for smarts. A couple of weeks ago he wrote a column titled, “Obama’s oil flimflam,” filled with the usual Obama-should-drill-drill-drill-and-oh-yeah-he-should-build-the Keystone-pipeline and all will be well at the gas pump.

Now, this Krauthammer column was nothing out of the ordinary in the sense that it contained the requisite Obama-bashing that conservatives crave like chocolate. But it also contained this paragraph:

…Obama offers what he fancies to be the fuels of the future. You would think that he’d be a tad more modest today about his powers of divination after…GM’s suspension of production — for lack of demand — of another federally dictated confection, the flammable Chevy Volt.

You may have noticed there is a link embedded under the words Chevy Volt. Go ahead and follow it. I’ll wait.

Now, if you bothered to read that Washington Post story you know that GM did suspend production of the Chevy Volt, but the story also carried this paragraph:

GM executives have said the recent frenzy over a Volt battery fire in crash tests has hurt sales. On the merits, the fires weren’t a huge concern — the Volts only caught fire days or weeks after extreme lab testing, and according to a government investigation they’re no more likely to catch fire than gas-powered automobiles. Still, panicky headlines ensued. Conservatives started denouncing the company (Rush Limbaugh called GM “a corporation that’s trying to kill its customers”). And GM needed to retrofit new vehicles. Add that up, and GM sold only 603 Volts in January, down from 1,520 in December.

I ask a question: That deceitful and hateful statement from Limbaugh about GM “trying to kill its customers” differs in what way from Krauthammer’s lies about the “federally dictated” and “flammable” Chevy Volt?  The answer is that it doesn’t differ at all. Both Limbaugh and Krauthammer are lying about the car, mainly because it fits their narrative about Obama and about the government and about socially important corporations that happen to need government help to survive.

Less than a week after Krauthammer’s column came out, a right-winger and former GM honcho, Bob Lutz (“The Volt was my idea,” he has written), wrote a column for Forbes titled, I Give Up On Correcting The Wrong-Headed Right Over The Volt.  He noted Krauthammer’s falsehoods and then he wrote this:

Now, Krauthammer is a smart, highly educated and well-informed individual. I have to assume he knows the truth. The fact that he persists in the myth of Volt combustibility and Obama-conception of the vehicle cannot be in error.

I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

So, Mr. Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?

Besides Limbaugh and Krauthammer, some of those right-wingers that Bob Lutz is forced not to take seriously are Mittens, George WillStuart Varney, Neil Cavuto, Eric Bolling, Matt Drudge, Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly. Those last two the conservative Lutz categorized as members of “the rabid, sadly misinformed right” and “the loony right.”

Another conservative appeared last week on the normally IQ-sapping Fox and Friends and sang the praises of the Chevy Volt, but before he did Texan Lee Spieckerman said this:

I love oil. I’m a drill, baby, drill guy…I love Fox “News” and feel like I’m kind of attacking my own family here because I love O’Reilly, I love Neil Cavuto, I love Eric Bolling, but like a lot of my fellow conservatives, they seem to have kind of a fetish for demonizing the Volt, and they’re perpetuating this myth that the Volt was some kind of Obama administration green-energy fantasy…that was forced on General Motors during the bailout.

It had been in development two years before Obama was elected, and it was championed by one of the greatest car executives in American history, Bob Lutz, who is a conservative and a climate-change skeptic…the tax break for buying the Volt was implemented by the Bush administration…

During the segment, Fox put up this graphic, which is the least it could do since it has greatly contributed to the misinformation out there about the Volt:

The Volt was the 2011 North American Car of the Year and was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year and is the 2012 European Car of the Year, but it is fairly expensive—even with the $7,500 tax credit it’ll set you back $32,000—and that, no doubt, is the biggest factor in its lackluster sales to date, even taking into consideration the lies told about it on Fox and elsewhere.

Lee Spieckerman summed up the vehicle nicely when he said:

There are probably 10 inventions over the past 150 years that were life changing for Americans, and I think the Volt has the potential to be one of those things. I mean, a car that runs on American electricity derived from American sources. What will those crazy lefties think of next?

This crazy lefty is thinking of a way to harness all of the energy that is going into the massive misinformation operation that is Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. If there were only a way to put Mittens’ lies in my gas tank, I wouldn’t need what is now a Fox-endorsed Chevy Volt.

Obama Is Still “The Other”

From the beginning of the Age of Obama conservatives developed and propagated a narrative about him that is all too familiar to us today, which says something sad about the state of the country, beyond our economic troubles.

Barack Hussein Obama is not one of us, goes this powerful, if false, narrative.  He doesn’t share our values, our view of things.  His eyes don’t see what we see. He is a stranger, an alien, a trespasser. This narrative plays out on cable news, on blogs, on talk radio, and I have witnessed its power in local discussions with conservatives. 

Since the birther foolishness now has validity only in Trump-like minds,* there are two basic lies that conservatives use to keep the Obama-as-other narrative alive:

LIE #1: Barack Hussein Obama doesn’t love America This lie has been expressed in many forms, from the in-your-face charge by Dinesh D’Souza (backed up by Newt Gingrich) that Mr. Obama  really does, in fact, hate America, to the only slightly less offensive form by Mitt Romney—spoken as he launched his campaign for Obama’s job:

I believe in that America. I know you believe in that America. It is an America of freedom and opportunity. A nation where innovation and hard work propel the most powerful economy in the world. A land that is secured by the greatest military the world has ever seen, and by friends and allies across the globe.

President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.

A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.

Never mind that even before Romney uttered those words in June, Politifact had already given Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating for the same “apologize for America” charge Romney included in his book, No Apology.  Romney, knowing how important to conservatives is the Obama-hates-America meme, doesn’t mind repeating an obvious lie to help whitewash his past sins as a “moderate” Republican.

This first lie turned up again recently—where else?—Fox “News” Channel.  The IQ-killing morning show, Fox and Friends, used a WikiLeaks cable to claim that during his visit to Japan in 2009,  President Obama had planned to apologize for dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima.  The serial piffle pouring from these three stooges—my apologizes to Larry, Curly, and Moe—can only be appreciated by watching them deliver it.  Here ’tis:

Needless to say, the apology offered by Steve Doocy the next day wasn’t an apology, only a “clarification.” In any case, the damage was done—or in the case of keeping alive the Obama-as-other narrative—the job was successful.

LIE #2: Barack Hussein Obama is not a “real” Christian.  This lie, too, is expressed in many forms familiar to us, from the assertion that he is deceiving us and he is not a genuine follower of Jesus (sadly summarized here), to more subtle forms like acknowledging that he may be a “professing” Christian, but he “embraces un-biblical values,” as pastor Robert Jeffress recently said.

Other forms of this lie are manifested in ways like the following, from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh on October 14:

President Obama has deployed troops to another war, in Africa, ladies and gentlemen.  Jacob Tapper, ABC News, is reporting that Obama has sent 100 US troops to Uganda to help combat Lord’s Resistance Army…

Now, up until today, most Americans have never heard of the combat Lord’s Resistance Army.  And here we are at war with them… Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians.  They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.  And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them…

So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda…

Some staffer eventually made Limbaugh aware of the true nature of the LRA, and this is what Limbaugh said afterward:

Is that right? The Lord’s Resistance Army is being accused of really bad stuff? Child kidnapping, torture, murder, that kind of stuff? Well, we just found out about this today. We’re gonna do, of course, our due diligence research on it. But nevertheless we got a hundred troops being sent over there to fight these guys — and they claim to be Christians.

You see? The overriding idea—more important than the fact that the LRA kidnaps, tortures, rapes, and murders—is that Obama is going to war against these people obviously—to Limbaush and his true-believing listeners—because “they claim to be Christians” and Obama sides with the Muslims.

There are no words, publishable on a blog associated with a family newspaper, to describe this kind of stuff. But it sends shivers down my American spine to think that every single day millions upon millions of my fellow citizens willingly surrender their minds to cretinous or crude propagandists on Fox and conservative talk radio.

And the biggest spine-convulsing shiver of them all comes when I remember that I used to be one of them.


* Sunday’s Parade magazine article on faltering Rick Perry featured this exchange:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

Hope, Optimism, And The Democratic Party

After years of living in the conservative Republican wilderness, I proudly admit to being a partisan Democrat these days.

Saturday night here in Joplin, I was privileged to hear the Missouri State Treasurer, Clint Zweifel, speak at a local Democratic Party fundraiser.  What I was most impressed by was Zweifel’s theme of optimism. He had the unmitigated cheekiness and cheeriness to say that Democrats were, uh, optimists.

Well, it is easy these days not to be optimistic, to be sure.  The economy is sputtering, our capitalist system is sickly, Tea Party Republicans have made it impossible to govern the country responsibly, and—let’s face it—many people believe Democrats will lose control of the entire government next year.

But  Mr. Zweifel is right, of course. Democrats are the optimists, and the Democratic Party, with all its flaws, is the clichéd party of hope, and that hope is generated by a simple fact, as Harry Truman once said:

…the Democratic Party is the people’s party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interest, and it always has been and always will be.

The people’s party.  If that isn’t optimistic, then what could be in this democracy of ours?

Mr. Obama said on Sunday, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

..at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings.  He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain.  He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships.  (Applause.)

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.  As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.”  They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing.  Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.

Some uncomfortable truths need to be spoken to Americans, and Mr. Obama, lately finding his voice, has begun to speak them, even as some “creative tension” emerges from the Occupy Wall Street protests. Spoken of Dr. King, but really reflecting Obama’s vision, the President said:

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain.  He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country — (applause) — with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another.

As I have pointed out a thousand times, the worst sin of Tea Party Republicans has been the demonization of government, which really is the demonization of “our common commitments to one another,” of “We the People.” And because the Democratic Party is the party of the people, as Truman said so long ago, that is why Democrats are, and must be, optimists.

I want to repeat something Mr. Obama said on Sunday:

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.  As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” 

That is the message Obama should be bringing to Americans, as we move into the 2012 election season. We can’t pretend there are no differences between one side and the other because to do so is an admission that things can’t change and get better. 

Out of fear of being called “divisive,” we can’t pretend that extremist Republicans in Congress have done no harm to the country.  And we can’t pretend that turning over the White House and the entire government to Republicans next year won’t have harmful consequences.

The 1948 election in many important ways is relevant to the one awaiting us next year.  Harry Truman faced certain defeat, as is well-known. But he didn’t talk about “false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.” He told the truth about Republicans, including their responsibility for the worst economic crisis in our history, the Great Depression. In his nomination acceptance speech, he said:

The situation in 1932 was due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States. The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people, and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do.

The things they failed to do.”  Mr. Obama ought to put that in every speech he utters from now until November 2012. Republicans have, indeed, failed to do anything to help mitigate the second-worst economic crisis in our history, a crisis also largely “due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States.”

I don’t care if it vexes every political pundit on cable television, Mr. Obama needs to remind the country how we got into the mess we’re in, and “the things Republicans have failed to do” to help fix it.

As he faces pessimism about his party’s chances to win next year, the President can take comfort from the fact that Mr. Truman overcame a noisy fracture in his own party—including a nasty fight with southern conservative Democrats over, what else, civil rights—and shocked the world with his victory over heavily favored Republican Thomas Dewey.

Following that note of unexpected triumph, I want to end with Truman’s unapologetic defense of his party’s raison d’être from his 1948 speech accepting the nomination:

In 1932 we were attacking the citadel of special privilege and greed. We were fighting to drive the money changers from the temple. Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few.

Optimism. Pure optimism.

I’m Rooting For Radical Rick

Republicans are giddy over Rick Perry.

Me, too.

While most liberals and Democrats are upset with the intemperate Texan, I am excited. Remember during the 2008 campaign when that crazy lady in Minnesota stood up at a McCain rally and said, “Obama is an Arab“?

And remember when McCain grabbed the microphone from her and sort of tried to de-Arab Obama?  McCain said,

No ma’am.  He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.

Well, if that same thing happened during the 2012 election with Rick Perry as the nominee, we might have this happen:

WOMAN AT PERRY RALLY: Obama is an Arab.

PERRY: No ma’am. He’s not in love with America, that’s for sure. But an Arab? No ma’am.  Now, he is a socialist the troops don’t respect, and you can count on it when I’m president that the military will respect me, a white guy from the great state of Texas.  There won’t be a black cloud hanging over the country.

You see?  That could happen.  Wait.  It already has happened, sort of.

Perry has already—just a couple days into the primary campaign—questioned Obama’s love for America and his bona fides as Commander-in-chief.  And the underlying, as of yet unspoken, foundation for such things is this:


And to top it all off, Perry said this about Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know 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 treasonous in my opinion.

Treasonous?  What could he mean by that?

He told reporters, who ask him if he thought the Fed was playing politics on behalf of Obama:

If they print more money between now and this election I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on.

Now, think about it.  If Bernanke’s actions help Obama, Bernanke is “almost” committing treason.  That must mean that Obama is an enemy to the country, right?  Helping The Scary Negro remain president is tantamount, or “almost” tantamount, to betraying the country.

Perry is merely saying out loud what a lot of Republicans say among themselves.

Thus, as the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s dubious job record in Texas (by the way, why is Obama responsible for all the unemployment in the rest of the country, but not responsible for the employment in Texas?);

As the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s constitutional hostility toward Social Security and Medicare;

As the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s fondness for trickle-down economics, which has miserably failed Texas and the country;

I am rooting for Radical Rick to become the GOP nominee because he represents an embarrassingly large swath of the Republican Party these days, and the American people will have no clearer choice of visions for our country. 

If Americans want George Bush on Rovian steroids, if they want Sarah Palin with a Texas twang, if they want a pale-faced zealot who is dangerously certain of God’s calling and purpose, Rick Perry is their man.

And if fifty-percent-plus-one of the country want that kind of America, the rest of us will just have to suffer.  But it’s time we find out what kind of country we will have.

Remarks And Asides, Debt Ceiling Edition

Obama still insists on a debt ceiling deal that goes beyond the 2012 election and Speaker John Boehner has newly offered a deal to, what else, raise the debt ceiling for only six months, so as to embarrass the President and gain political advantage later on during the 2012 election cycle. 

Now, that’s responsible governing.

And Tea Party spokesman Eric Cantor is in favor of the short-term proposal, apparently saying to the GOP House caucus that Obama’s insistence on a long-term deal is “purely political and indefensible, ” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Problem is, as Think Progress points out,  Eric Cantor opposed such a short-term deal just a short term ago, saying, “Putting off tough decisions is not what people want in this town.”

The Keystone Kops were more competent than this bunch of GOP “leaders.”  By the way, it has now been more than 200 days since the House Republicans took over, promising jobs, jobs, jobs.  They haven’t even offered a jobs bill, let alone produced a single job outside of Grover Norquist’s TV-booking secretary.


Meanwhile, feeling left out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi)—who agree that Boehner’s short-term offering is a “non-starter“—offered yet another proposal:

In an effort to reach a bipartisan compromise, we are putting together a $2.7 trillion deficit reduction package that meets Republicans’ two major criteria: it will include enough spending cuts to meet or exceed the amount of a debt ceiling raise through the end of 2012, and it will not include revenues. We hope Speaker Boehner will abandon his ‘my way or the highway’ approach, and join us in forging a bipartisan compromise along these lines.”

There you have it. In order to protect Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from ravenous Republicans, as well as preserve the turtlish economic recovery, if not the economy itself, Democrats are willing to concede game, set, and match to the Republicans.

Except that the game, set, and match in which Republicans in the House appear to be interested involves the very social programs that Democrats vow to protect—with support from large majorities of the American people.


Related to all this is Teresa Tritch’s post on Saturday in The New York Times, which featured these two graphs, a study of which will reveal “How the Deficit Got This Big,” the title of Tritch’s piece:



Finally, as the world turns, foreign markets were down as the U.S. appears to be ungovernable, gold—the currency of uncertainty—hits  a record high, and the so-called safe haven paper currency of choice is decidedly not the U.S dollar, at least today, for obvious reasons.  

Once upon at time, before the advent of the Tea Party, the following was true:

When the world is in turmoil, investors have usually had one automatic response: Put money into dollars, viewed as the global safe harbor.

What does the world do when the turmoil is in the home of the ultimate safe haven for investors?

Well, no one is panicking yet, but the clock is ticking.  Either today, after trading in the U.S. begins, or sometimes this week, Wall Street will send a message to the GOP: Stop the madness.

Divided Loyalties

Ninety-seven percent of House Republicans and all but seven Republicans in the Senate have essentially taken two oaths, which I present below in both chronological order of execution and in order of primacy:

1.  To support and defend Grover Norquist in his effort to reduce government sufficiently so that he can “drown it in the bathtub.”

2.  To “support and defend the Constitution,” which includes the pledge to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office” on which they enter.

It is increasingly clear that Republicans, at least in the House, are not willing to discharge the duties of their office, faithfully or otherwise, but are willing to flush the country down the toilet in a spasm of misplaced loyalty to a life-long, wealthy right-wing activist, who stupidly said in 2009:

When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21.

That’s the mental state of a man who is the most powerful Republican in the country.

Norquist’s ongoing claim to fame is his Americans for Tax Reform, which self-claims that it “was founded in 1985…at the request of President Reagan,” and which is responsible for the worst American domestic mischief of the past 30 years, outside of the 9/11 attacks.*

Here is the mission statement of this quasi-religious group:

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.

We believe in a system in which taxes are simpler, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today.  The government’s power to control one’s life derives from its power to tax.  We believe that power should be minimized.

Now the sentiments expressed in that mission statement are supposedly the same sentiments that voters held as they swept into power the Norquistas in the Tea Party movement who now control the Republican Party.

Or are they the same sentiments?

Nate Silver, now with The New York Times, analyzed just-released Gallup poll data and came up with the following, in terms of people’s preferences for the proper mix of taxes and budget cuts as part of the deal to reduce the deficit: 

Silver also noted, incredibly, that “there is a larger ideological gap between House Republicans and Republican voters than there is between Republican voters and Democratic ones.”  He illustrated that ideological gap this way:

As you can see, House Republicans, with their anti-tax oath, have positioned themselves on the extreme, right where Grover Norquist, himself an extremist, wants them.

Unfortunately for Democrats, as Silver points out,

the mix of spending cuts and tax increases that Mr. Obama is offering is quite close to, or perhaps even a little to the right of, what the average Republican voter wants, let alone the average American.

And still that’s not good enough.

Mr. Obama has reportedly offered, under one ($2 trillion) scenario, a mix of 83% spending cuts to 17% tax increases.  The other scenario ($4 trillion)involves somewhere between 75 and 80% spending cuts.

Hopefully, this exceedingly generous and base-vexing offer is far as Obama will go.  But it appears fairly obvious that unless he is prepared to meet Republicans on the extreme, nothing he offers will cause House Republicans to get up off their collective knees, bent in loyalty to an anti-government fanatic, and fulfil their oath to do the right thing for their country.


* Interestingly, Norquist, who is married to a Muslim, has been viciously attacked by conservatives like Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller and David Horowitz for his supposed connection to unseemly Muslim leaders, possibly including the Muslim Brotherhood. Don’t you just love these crazy folks?  Never mind that Norquist was in fact associated with a true criminal, former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, something that doesn’t seem to bother right-wingers.

President Obama, Are You Listening?

As I said on Thursday, the government shutdown in Minnesota eerily calls to mind the larger national fight over the budget, which also features Republican recalcitrance on raising taxes on the rich.  But it may also be the microcosm of national Democratic resolve to call the Republican bluff on the debt ceiling issue.

Here is how the Associated Press reported the Minnesota story late Friday night—under the headline,  “Vulnerable feel the pinch of Minn. gov’t shutdown“:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The blind are losing reading services. A help line for the elderly has gone silent. And poor families are scrambling after the state stopped child care subsidies.

Hours after a political impasse forced a widespread government shutdown, Minnesota’s most vulnerable residents and about 22,000 laid-off state employees began feeling the effects on Friday. With no immediate end in sight to a dispute over taxes and spending, political leaders spent the day blaming each other for their failure to pass a budget that solves the state’s $5 billion deficit.

Get that? The blind, the elderly, and the poor. Now, you tell me who a majority of independent voters in this country will blame for the hardships suffered by the blind, the elderly, and the poor, should it come to that on the federal level?

You tell me which party is historically associated with protecting the blind, the elderly, and the poor? 

And you tell me which party is historically protective of the welfare of public employees?  Republicans? Are you kidding?

Governor Mark Dayton, after attempts at compromising with the uncompromising, rejected a last-minute offer to temporary avoid the mess because he wisely saw that it was only postponing the inevitable: Republicans absolutely refuse to consent to any tax increases on those who can afford it—Minnesota’s top 2 percent of income earners—no matter whom it hurts, the blind, the poor, or the elderly.

And in May, with this shutdown looming, what were Republicans in the Minnesota legislature doing?  They were passing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage!  Does this social-issues-trump-economic-issues stuff sound familiar?

Governor Dayton has suggested that Republican legislators take some time over the next few days and listen to their constituents, presumably and hopefully those whose income is somewhat less than a million bucks.  And a couple of weeks ago, he said this about his Republican colleagues:

The only solution they offer is for me to give in entirely to them.

Campaigns can rely on rhetoric, but governing requires facing reality. The responsibilities of shared leadership require compromise, which means agreeing to some things you don’t agree with. A “My Way or No Way” attitude makes it impossible to govern responsibly — or to govern at all.

If the Republican legislators continue to demand to have it all their way or no way, Minnesota’s state government will have to shut down on July 1. The effects of the shutdown on many Minnesotans’ lives will be very hard. But far worse would be the hardships that the Republican budget would impose on even more people during the next two years….

What does it say about politicians who would rather protect the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans than serve thousands of our citizens with serious needs?

That’s tough talk.  And it is tough talk that our Democratic President should pay attention to.

Eric Cantor: “I quit.” John Boehner: “Who, me?”

House Republican majority leader Eric Cantor is quitting half way through the infamous debt ceiling negotiations at the White House.

Cantor, in the spirit of the former half-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, stayed around long enough to do only the fun stuff: cutting what he claims is trillions from the federal budget.  The rest of the job—negotiations over revenue increases—will fall on the shoulders of Cantor’s boss, Speaker John Boehner.

Cantor said,

I believe that we have identified trillions in spending cuts, and to date, we have established a blueprint that could institute the fiscal reforms needed to start getting our fiscal house in order. 

That said, each side came into these talks with certain orders, and as it stands the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases. There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.

The good news in Cantor’s statement is that it appears that Democrats are hanging tough on the issue of taxes, something many of us didn’t think possible.  The bad news is that no one knows what “trillions in spending cuts” means at this point.

Cantor claims—falsely—that, “there is not support in the House for a tax increase.”  John Boehner made the same false claim on Thursday.  What they mean is that there is not support on the Republican side of the House for a tax increase.  But most people forget that there are 192 Democrats wandering around the House side of the capitol, most of whom would certainly be open to revenue increases.

That means that Boehner cannot claim there is not support in the House for a tax increase, unless he admits that there is no way he could get a handful of Republicans to join Democrats to do the right and rational thing and vote for some kind of revenue increase. 

Right now there are 432 occupied seats in the House, meaning 217 is the magic majority number.  Assuming some very small number of Democrats behave like conservative tea partiers, Boehner would only have to come up with somewhere around 30 votes on his side of the aisle to get a deal passed that included tax increases.

Now, think about that.  We are talking about the debt ceiling and the full faith and credit of the United States.  We are talking about default and a potential economic catastrophe.  We are talking about geezers not getting their Social Security checks.  We are talking about international embarrassment.

Yet, John Boehner can’t come up with 25 or 30 Republican votes to save the day? Huh?

What kind of leader is he? What kind of party has the GOP become?

And that’s just the House side.

Over in the Senate, it is far from certain that rational behavior on the Republican side is any more reliable than in the tea party-dominated House.  Mitch McConnell is placing the burden all on President Obama:

Where in the world has the president been for the last month? What does he propose? What is he willing to do to reduce the debt and to avoid this crisis that is building on his watch? He’s the one in charge.

Forget the fact that Mr. Obama established the debt-ceiling talks in the first place and that Democrats, according to Cantor, have been agreeable to “trillions” in spending cuts.  We just aren’t dealing with serious people here. 

Once upon a time, the dynamics of these kinds of negotiations would always feature a lot of grandstanding, but in the end, we could count on there being enough serious and rational people who would do the right thing for the country.

One wonders these days if there are any serious and rational people left in the Republican Party.

The bottom line is that Democrats need to stand their ground and continue demanding a more balanced approach to addressing our debt problems. And if the Republican Party wants to risk an unprecedented economic meltdown—and have the blame for such a disaster follow them for a generation—then there is little Democrats can do to stop them, short of surrendering.

And for now it looks like Democrats have no plans to surrender.

I said, “for now.”  We are, after all, talking about Democrats.

Remarks and Asides

Newt Gingrich’s staff has divorced him.


Rush Limbaugh, conservatism’s coronating coroner, has pronounced Mitt Romney’s presidential ambitions dead.  The killer was Romney’s outrageously mainstream views on climate change and energy efficiency.  Reuters reported Romney, in a rare moment of consistency, said to a crowd in New Hampshire:

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

Bye-bye nomination,” said climate-science denier and radio climatologist Limbaugh.  The good news for Romney is that Rush once pronounced Obama’s presidential ambitions dead in 2008. So, don’t take any shit, Mitt!


Speaking of Mitt, for strategic reasons he has decided not to compete in the decidedly undemocratic Iowa Republican straw poll this August.  You know, that’s the poll in which, thanks to the media and the deep pocket$ of hopeful candidates, a handful of extremist conservatives get disproportionate attention and nominate either an extremist loser like Pat Robertson (1987) or, God help us, George W. Bush (1999). 

Just to put things in perspective, the victory in the poll for George W, which he said, “jump-started our grass-roots organization for the main event, the Iowa caucuses,” was achieved by purchasing—literally, purchasing—the votes of 7,418 zealots.  Those are the folks we first have to thank for the costly disaster in Iraq and the costly disaster in our economy. 

The folks we have to thank last for those costly disasters are, of course, the Republicans on our laughingly impartial Supreme Court, who put W in office.


The state of Alaska is ready to release thousands of emails emanating from the fingertips of Sarah Palin during what the AP reports as “her first two years as governor.”  First two years?  That must be sort of an inside joke among those AP types.  Always kidding around like that.

In any case, I’m just guessing here, but I bet that we will find, upon release of the 24,000 pages of emails, that Sarah Palin is really an accomplished policy wonk. 

I’m betting that those emails will be filled with much technical analysis of the economic trends in Alaska, the United States, and the world.  I’m betting there will be back-and-forth on such macroeconomic issues as inflation/unemployment in terms of expectations-augmented Phillips curve equations, or how price and wage spirals relate to inflationary expectations. 

Stuff like that.

What? You don’t think so?  Have some faith. After all, she was the Republican VP nominee last time.  Jeeze.   


Finally, speaking of brilliant conservatives, there’s this report:

A new Tennessee law makes it a crime to “transmit or display an image” online that is likely to “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress” to someone who sees it. Violations can get you almost a year in jail time or up to $2500 in fines.

Get that? I guess I’m gonna have to stop sending this to my conservative Tennessee friends:

Pick Your Medicare Metaphor

Apparently, there was a testy exchange between Paul Ryan and President Obama yesterday at the White House, during the House GOP-Obama budget discussions, which involved all but one member of the House Republican caucus.

The issue was related to how to properly describe the conservative plot to kill Medicare.  You see, Republicans say they believe it is in the best interests of the country to euthanize the Medicare program, sort of to put it—and the country, presumably—out of future misery. 

That mercy-killing, if you will, doesn’t sit well with the American people.  They sort of don’t want to see Medicare die at the hands of gleeful Republicans.  And those Republicans, who recognize that their plan isn’t popular, sort of want the Democratic Party to help them get away with the caper by not calling it what it is.  They also want Democrats to sort of join them in some way—perhaps by agreeing to a plan to drastically cut Medicare—so that the killing looks like a bipartisan job. 

It amounts to this: When Medicare is finally put to eternal sleep, Republicans would like for Democrats to be on the other side of the bed to help say goodbye.

The truth is that Republicans fear they will suffer mightily at the polls next year unless Democrats come to their political rescue by agreeing to something on Medicare that will let Republicans off the hook, a hook almost all of them are hanging on due to their vote for Ryan’s budget plan.

I heard a GOP congressman from Texas last night essentially say that Republicans aren’t “married” to the Ryan plan and were willing to listen to Democratic ideas.

Yes, I bet they are.

That same congressman also said he didn’t like to hear the plan mischaracterized.  I’m sure he wouldn’t like my “euthanize Medicare” metaphor, and he said didn’t appreciate the metaphor of “throwing grandma under the bus.”


Okay.  I’ve got one that better describes the situation.  I agree that Republicans aren’t really trying to throw today’s grandmas under the bus. Republicans are actually trying to gather up all the current grandmas and herd them onto the bus.  Then that bus full of current grandmas will roll over the backs of all the future grandmas, who Republicans are throwing under the bus.

There. That’s better.

How Fox Is Hurting America

As if a thinking person needed any more reason to see the Fox “News” empire for what it is, try the following video clip of conspiracy tramp—and “official blogger for the Republican National Convention in 2008—Pamela Geller, from her appearance on Eric Bolling’s “show” on something called FOX “Business” Network.  I said “business” network.  Most of us know, though, that the real business of Fox is destroying President Obama.

I warn you, if you have one cell of decency in your body and you love your country, this will piss you off:

In case you don’t know much about Pamela Geller, besides her Sharia-law-is-coming crusade against Islam, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about her blog, Atlas Shrugs:

Controversial postings on “Atlas Shrugs” have included a number of false claims,[47][48] including that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (who is Jewish) supports Nazi ideology (accompanied by a fake picture of her in a Nazi uniform),[49] a video suggesting that Muslims have sex with goats, a doctored photo showing President Obama urinating on an American flag[12] and false claims that Obama’s mother was involved in pornography and that Obama “was involved with a crack whore in his youth”.[50][51] Geller has also posted accusations against President Obama of anti-Semitism and doing the bidding of “Islamic overlords,” while her site posted a posting by another writer who, inter alia, suggested without any evidence that the President is the “love child” of Malcolm X (Geller herself says she does not believe that Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, and never did).

Geller is, come to think of it, a perfect fit for Fox.

Ozark Billy Says “No” To Victory

All of our local Missouri representatives voted for the Boehner-Obama-Reid agreement on a short-term resolution to keep the government running until a final vote on the 2011 budget later this week. 

All except one. 

Ozark Billy Long, as the Springfield News-Leader reported, was one of only 28 Republicans who simply couldn’t say yes to a substantial victory for the GOP.  Long joined his auctioneer brother and union-hater Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, along with other Republican stars like Michele Bachmann, Joe Barton, Louis Gohmert, and Steve King. When you cast a vote with those folks, you know you have arrived in Republican Looneyville.

But Ozark Billy ran into a little trouble explaining his vote:

“They rattled off more different numbers than an auctioneer [sic] Friday night in explaining what had been agreed to,” Long wrote in an e-mail to the News-Leader.

“I voted against the one-week stop gap continuing resolution Friday night because it didn’t fund the troops for the rest of the year and didn’t cut enough spending. We need to quit using our fighting men and women as political pawns.”

Let’s forget for a moment that Ozark Billy apparently couldn’t digest all the “more different numbers” thrown his way Friday night, so he just said to heck with it, pardner.  And let’s forget the fact that the bill Long criticized because it “didn’t cut enough spending” wasn’t suppose to cut spending. It was designed to only fund the government through the end of this week, until the House and Senate can vote on the real deal. 

I’m not sure what Billy thought he was voting on, but clearly he was confused about the nature of the budget deal.

Additionally, the resolution Long didn’t vote for early Saturday morning not only didn’t fund the troops for the rest of the year, it didn’t fund anything for the rest of the year. That wasn’t its purpose. 

And Long’s statement, “We need to quit using our fighting men and women as political pawns,” is quite interesting, since that’s exactly what he and his Republican colleagues tried to do on Thursday, when they passed a stopgap measure that would have funded the government through April 15 and the Defense Department through the end of the fiscal year. 

And Long voted for that bill, which most certainly was using the troops as pawns in the budget game.  Here’s what House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said during floor debate on the measure:

If you vote against this bill, you are voting against the troops, who are engaged in three wars.

One of Ozark Billy’s handlers tried to clean up the mess a little bit with a lame explanation that was reported this way:

Bret Funk, spokesperson for Long, said the proposed resolution that will be voted on before Thursday is supposed to fund troops for the full year; Long favored a bill the House voted on earlier in the week that guaranteed funding for troops so they wouldn’t be left as pawns in the budget negotiations.

The truth is that Long is lost in Washington.  With all those “more different numbers” and confusing resolutions and budget dealing, he’s just out of his league.  But if you ever need to sell off grandma’s old furniture or grandpa’s old farm equipment or other second-hand goods, Ozark Billy, southwest Missouri’s most famous auctioneer, may be able to help you.

The Obama Anti-Doctrine

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.”

Barack Obama, Address to the Nation on Libya

Because I resent the often-superficial analyses that networks typically present after major presidential speeches, I here present a relatively lengthy review of President Obama’s outstanding speech on Libya, which couldn’t have been clearer on all of the outstanding issues, despite Republican criticisms to the contrary.  I hope interested and thoughtful readers will endure this analysis.

The first bit of clarity:

In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. 

That process took a mere 31 days, said the President, compared to the more than a year it took to protect civilians in Bosnia during the 1990s. And, he said,

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and—more profoundly—our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. 

The clarity, though, in Obama’s speech was not just in what the U.S. and its international partners have accomplished or in America’s embrace of people suffering under oppression, but in how future potential interventions will be managed in matters that involve limited U.S. interests intersecting with humanitarian concerns. 

It is in the expression of how Obama views these potential interventions which constitutes what I will call the Obama anti-Doctrine.

I call it anti-doctrine because typically one thinks of a doctrine as a dogmatic set of beliefs that apply in all reference frames. Obama’s willingness to project American power, however, is not so rigid that it applies in every conceivable situation, thus it can be fairly described as an anti-doctrine, which has the following three legs:

1. International cooperation

2. Limited engagement

3. Pragmatic use of American power

Obama expressed all three legs of this anti-doctrine in this one paragraph from tonight’s speech:

It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs.  And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action.  But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.  In this particular country —Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.  We had a unique ability to stop that violence:  an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.  We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

1. International cooperation: “an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves

2. Limited engagement:  “We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground. “

3. Pragmatic use of American power: “America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs.  And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action.”

There you have it.  As much as it may vex those who demand a one-size-fits-all foreign policy, Obama announced a set of principles that are flexible enough to both allow action in Libya and restraint in Yemen and other places. In short, a brilliant formulation of the practical rules that should govern the use of American power in gray situations that don’t directly involve our vital, black-and-white national interests, situations that materialize all too frequently these days.

Obama expressed in full his vision of the difference between our vital national interests and interests that don’t directly affect our national survival:

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe.  And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform.  I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests.  That’s why we’re going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold.  That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country. 

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are.  Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security — responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce.  These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us.  They’re problems worth solving.  And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act — but the burden of action should not be America’s alone.  As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action.  Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves.  Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all. 

As I listened to Republican criticisms of the speech (and some Democrats’), I was struck by the fact that many of them either didn’t pay attention to it or didn’t read it or only determined to hear what they wanted to hear. Many of them wonder what the end game is; they wonder about the fate of Qaddafi.  But Obama addressed that issue:

We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power.  It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power.  But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi’s side.  With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

The burden is on the Libyan people, not the American people.  What could be clearer than that?

Finally, President Obama—try for just one second to imagine Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin or most of the other GOP putative candidates for president giving this speech—tried to set this Libyan conflict in a regional context:

Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time.  Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries.  There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes.  And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed.  The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed. 

The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change.  Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. 

A difference, indeed.

Remarks And Asides

Dear God,

Please talk Donald Trump into running for president. I take back everything I’ve ever said about Your Party, about Michele Bachmann, about Sarah Palin, even about Anson Burlingame.  Just please let him run and let the GOP pick him as its nominee.  Pretty please?




Everybody’s making a big deal out of Newt Gingrich’s egregious flip-flop on what to do in Libya. First he can’t wait to go in, then when Obama goes in, he says he shouldn’t have gone in.  If a man can’t make up his mind about which woman with whom he wants to live happily ever after, why should anyone think he can make up his mind about which dictator we should bomb?


A new Pew poll shows that “nearly half (47%) of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 37% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win the 2012 election.”  The overview of the Pew survey, though, says,

In part, Obama is benefitting from the fact that the GOP has yet to coalesce behind a candidate.

All the more reason, God, to get Donald Trump to run.  Please?


Speaking of Republican candidates for president, Herman Cain, famous for broiling Whoppers for Burger King (actually, he’s somewhat famous for running Godfather’s Pizza), attended a rally of home-schoolers yesterday in Des Moines. 

Along with other candidates present, he, of course, trashed the public school system, obligatory behavior for anyone wanting to be the GOP nominee.  But Cain, an African-American Tea Party favorite from the South, said something I found interesting. He reportedly denounced all government involvement in education and then said this:

That’s all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way.

The “old-fashioned way“?  Hmm.  Was he talking about the real old-fashioned way, back when there were no schools, no books, and no teachers?  That far back?

Or was the 65-year-old Herman Cain, who admits to a working-class pedigree, talking about the old-fashioned days in the 1950s when he would have spent his formative years in Georgia public schools?  

The old-fashioned way in those days in the South was to segregate-then-educate kids like Herman Cain, and despite the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, some parts of Georgia did not even begin to integrate the schools until 1970.

According to Professor Michael Gagnon,

In defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, The Georgia School Board required public school teachers to sign a pledge that they would not teach in integrated schools in 1955 or they would lose their teaching license.

Is that the old-fashioned way the GOP candidate for president pines for?


Finally, James O’Keefe, the scoundrel whose creative video edits have killed ACORN and wounded NPR, while simultaneously giving Sean Hannity a Viagra-like boner, is in debt.  In fact, he claims he’s in debt up to $50,000.  Fifty G’s.  He has sent out a fund-raising email to supporters, saying he had to finance much of his wonderful work on the credit card:

We made a lot of sacrifices—personally and financially —because we fight for what we believe in.

It’s not clear to me how he can both claim he has sacrificed financially and yet beg others to pay his bills, but in any case, I am setting up the James O’Keefe Relief Fund here at The Erstwhile Conservative.  Just send in your donations and I will be sure he gets the money. No amount is too small.

Trust me at least as much as you trust him.

Libya: It’s Harder Than You Think

It appears that Qaddafi is well on his way to repelling the rebel assault in Libya.

This morning on Morning Joe I heard lefty Nicholas Kristof say the following about the Obama Administration’s position:

Question: What is now holding back the United States from acting in a forceful way, in a way that shows leadership, maybe even out front, but with the support of others?

Kristof: Part of the problem is that we have stalled too long.  I mean a no-fly zone would have been, I think, quite effective three weeks ago, I think, probably would have been very effective. At this point, when… Qaddafi has been able to move all of his artillery right next to Benghazi, there’ much less that we an actually do.  And so now the administration is talking about going way beyond and actually attacking tanks and having a “no-move” zone in eastern Libya, which actually makes me kind of nervous.

Question: Was there an opportunity missed here? What happened?

Kristof: Absolutely. Absolutely.  They were so nervous about a no-fly zone that they missed that opportunity. There was a real window here, when we could have moved in with, I think, minimal costs and peeled off the Libyan military from Qaddafi, but that window at this point has pretty much closed.

A bona fide lefty who thinks Obama should have acted sooner and that the “costs” would have been “minimal.”  Hmm. I’m not sure why he thinks that.

Now, let’s turn to the Right.   National Review was initially opposed to direct intervention in Libya, and wrote of the so-called no-fly zone strategy:

If we are serious about limiting his ability to massacre his countrymen, the no-fly zone would have to become a no machine-gun zone, too — in other words an honest-to-goodness military intervention to affect events directly on the ground. Deploying our air power while Qaddafi continued to kill with impunity would make us look more ineffectual rather than less. For now (perhaps this will change if Qaddafi begins to consolidate his position on the strength of his air force), the no-fly zone seems a classic case of looking for lost keys under the streetlight; it’s the handiest way for us to intervene, not the most effective.

That was written on February 28.  Yesterday, the same editors wrote this:

Qaddafi is a murderer of Americans with whom we still have a score to settle. If he survives after we and our allies sought his ouster (even if ineffectually), he will be even more unpredictable; he would be foolish not to restart his WMD programs as insurance against foreign intervention against his regime in the future.

Uh-oh. The Right talking about WMDs again? I suppose you know what is coming next:

All this means that we should want the rebellion against Qaddafi to survive. We initially opposed a no-fly zone, but circumstances have changed. We should establish both a no-fly zone and a no-drive zone in the approach to the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi to prevent Qaddafi’s armored vehicles from entering the city.

Make no mistake about this: That “no-drive zone” means war. And just how long would it be before that strategy would mean American troops on the ground in Libya?  Well, National Review’s conservative editors think of everything, don’t they? Try this:

We are not talking of a military operation comparable to taking and occupying Baghdad in 2003. If we check Qaddafi’s offensive, then we can consider other options. Perhaps we will only want to do what’s necessary to maintain the rebels’ enclave so they can fight another day; perhaps we will want to undertake decapitation strikes against the regime in Tripoli; perhaps we’ll want to use the threat of such strikes to try to bargain Qaddafi out of the country.

Or perhaps we will get ourselves involved in a mess that we can’t get out of. 

Even if we stopped Qaddafi’s advance into eastern Libya, namely Benghazi, then what?  Help the rebels overthrow him? We know next to nothing about the motives of the rebels. We don’t know they would be better or worse than Qaddafi himself.  We don’t know that if they were to overthrow him that they would establish a Madisonian democracy or call up Glenn Beck for instructions on how to establish a caliphate.

Besides all that, there is evidence that tribal loyalties were much misunderstood in the West and that the rebel strength was vastly overrated.  This point is made very well in an article by Vivienne Walt at Time, who quoted Mustafa Fetouri, of the Academy of Graduate Studies in Tripoli, as saying,

The West’s interpretation was very, very stupid. They just gambled on the wrong thing, and made a huge, stupid mistake.

The Time article continued:

One crucial error by Western leaders, says Fetouri, has been to downplay Libya’s complex web of tribal loyalties, which has helped to keep Gaddafi in power for more than four decades — an impressive achievement, given several assassination attempts and years of Libya being an international pariah under stiff economic sanctions. Some tribal alliances date back decades to the bloody rebellions against the Italian colonial forces before World War II, and even some tribal leaders who hold grudges against Gaddafi, for having failed to deliver services or cutting them out of certain privileges, rushed to his defense once the antigovernment demonstrations in Benghazi became an armed rebellion. For those people, says Fetouri, “they will die for Gaddafi, because he belongs to their tribe.”

And because the rebels adopted the same flag used by the much-despised monarch that Qaddafi overthrew in his 1969 coup, it became much easier for him to enlist volunteers, as Time put it, “to fight to hold Libya together.”

It turns out, as G. K. Chesterton told us long ago, that it matters what flag one flies.  Time:

That flag, says Fetouri, “represents the misery my country lived through as puppets of the West.” He cites one of his relatives — no fan of Gaddafi — who traveled 400 miles (640 km) to join the government forces against the rebels; he had driven from the Bani Walid area, the heartland of the Warfalli tribe southeast of Tripoli, which has long been the bedrock of Gaddafi’s support. Fetouri, who says he himself had been tempted to join the antigovernment protests before they morphed into an armed rebellion, asked his relative why he was “fighting for Gaddafi.” He said the man told him “it was about Libya the country, not Gaddafi.”

Thus, we are likely watching Qaddafi retake the territory he has lost, unless the West does something. 

I confess, I’m torn here.  Like a majority of the American people, part of me thinks we should not get involved. Mind our own business.  We’ve invaded two countries over there, enough is enough.

But part of me also believes that if we could help the rebels without a long-term commitment, we should.  We should be on the side of so-called freedom fighters, particularly since the Arab world is asking us to. What that involves militarily, I don’t know.  But I do know it should not involve putting one American on the ground to possibly die in someone else’s civil war.  Not now, not this war.

Some good folks are urging President Obama to act now.  They seem to know better than he does what is involved both in terms of his personal legacy as president and in terms of America’s larger legacy.  The New Republic writes that Bill Clinton “waited tragically too long” to intervene in Bosnia in the mid-1990s:

When Slobodan Milosevic and his Bosnian Serb allies launched their war of “ethnic cleansing,” while “the West”—which is always to say, first and foremost, the United States—wrung its hands, many tens of thousands of innocent people were murdered and raped before President Bill Clinton finally found the resolve to mix air power and diplomacy to bring the genocidal violence to a halt.


Qaddafi is the kind of neighborhood bully that Slobodan  Milosevic was. And he must be met by the same kind of principled power. For America to do less than that now—less than the minimum that the Libyan rebels and the Arab neighbors are requesting—would be to shrink into global vacillation and ultimately irrelevance. If Barack Obama cannot face down a modest thug who is hated by most of his own people and by every neighboring government, who can he confront anywhere?

It’s a lot easier to write that kind of stuff than it is to have to actually make a real decision, no doubt.  As for me, I can live with whatever limited intervention the President decides to undertake, or I can live with his decision not to intervene. But I won’t measure his presidency by this decision one way or the other.  It’s just not that simple.

And I don’t think that America’s global reputation hangs in the balance over what to do about Libya.  It’s not that simple, either.

What is simple to understand, though, is that being president these days is an especially tough job.  And I remain confident that the right man for these times is holding that job.

Trout Fishing Is For Socialists

“The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”

G. K. Chesterton, 1922

As the budget battles continue between radical Republicans and increasingly limp Democrats, Gene Lyons’ column in Saturday’s Joplin Globe offered a reason for the good guys to stiffen up: socialized fishing. 

The Globe titled his piece,

Uncle Sam’s not broke, and we need him

Now, that header had to jar regular conservative readers of our paper, especially when Lyons used a local example of the small ways government makes life better, even for heavily Republican areas like southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas:

In Arkansas, where I live, trout fishing is both a major pastime and a source of tourist income. Although rainbow trout are a cold-water species not native to the state, world-record fish are taken frequently. Just writing about it makes me want to load my gear and head for Calico Rock.

Anyway, whether you know it or not, these are government trout. Your tax dollars created and maintain this matchless resource.

Lyons went on to describe how that happened, which had to do with dams built in the White River basin by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and to generate electricity for both Arkansas and Missouri customers. 

The “string of picturesque lakes” that resulted also “became a magnet for real-estate developments and resort communities, transforming one of the nation’s historically poorest regions.”  He continued:

No government dams, no Branson, Mo., is one way of thinking about it.

Forget for a moment that the existence of Branson may be the one unassailable argument in favor of killing government meddling. Lyons’ point is that the federal Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the fish hatcheries “that keep it all going.” And Obama wants to cut that agency’s budget:

Trout can’t breed in dam tailwaters and must be constantly restocked. Should hatcheries close, the fish would soon vanish. So would the economic benefit to dozens of communities along the White and Little Red Rivers.

He points out that resort operators claim “they pay more in taxes than the cost of operating the hatcheries,” and Lyons wonders out loud about the motives of the Administration:

So did some Obama political appointee decide: “To hell with Arkansas. They didn’t vote for us anyway. Let them ask the tea party to pay”?

It could be.

Well, an interesting survey would be to ask those in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas who benefit from the fish hatcheries if they voted for Mr. Obama and how they feel about socialized fishing. Or perhaps Gaston’s White River Resort could rename its fish-catching course, “Marx’s Guide to Fly Fishing,” or “How to Fish Like a Socialist.”  Or they could sell bumper stickers that read:

If you caught a fish, thank a liberal

In any case, Lyons points out that,

Contrary to…Tea Party dogma, American prosperity has always depended upon countless such examples of public-private synergy. There are similar stories all across the country.

He ends with a point my hammering-hand never gets tired of driving home—and something Democrats have chosen to ignore for now.  Understanding the following is essential to understanding how to begin to fix our budget problems:

Meanwhile, measured as a percentage of GDP, federal tax revenue is at 14.4 percent—the lowest since 1950. (The 40-year average is 18 percent.) Marginal income tax rates on the McDuck class ["Donald Duck's tightwad zillionaire relative"] top out at 35 percent—compared to 50 percent under President Reagan.

Only Mexico and Chile, among industrial nations, pay less.

Happy fishing, comrades!

Huckabee, Hickabee

The field of potential Republican candidates for president is, to be kind, a pitiful lot, but some of them are just plain dumb.

Let’s look at Mike Huckabee, who led all comers in a new Winthrop University poll of Southern voters with almost 22%.

Huckabee, whose appeal is primarily among white evangelical voters, is set to undertake a book tour of the South next week, where his recent stupid statements on Barack Obama’s childhood will, no doubt, serve him well.

A few days ago, on a right-wing  whack job’s radio show,  Huckabee got caught up in the whack job’s invective about Obama’s birth certificate and managed to move the conversation down from there. For those who haven’t read the exchange between Huck and Steve Malzberg, here it is in all its colossal idiocy:

MALZBERG: Don’t you think it’s fair also to ask him, I know your stance on this. How come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth cer – why Mr. Obama did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It’s one thing to say, I’ve — you’ve seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?

HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits –

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

Now, obviously Huckabee’s basic facts are all wrong: Obama didn’t grow up in Kenya.  And he therefore didn’t grow up with his father and grandfather there. In fact, he didn’t grow up with them at all, anywhere. He only met his father one time, and he spent most of his childhood in Hawaii, as everyone outside the South and the Republican Party knows.

And Huckabee’s attempt to subsequently explain his idiocy is even worse than the original statements, because he had ample time to think about the explanation.  A spokesman first said Huckabee simply “misspoke,” claiming Huckabee meant to say Obama grew up in Indonesia.  Now, you can go back to that conversation and substitute Indonesia and you will find this:

But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Indonesia with an Indonesian father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Indonesia is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

You can see how dumb it was to say he misspoke and meant Indonesia. That turns Obama’s father and grandfather into Indonesians and moves the Mau Mau Revolution out of Kenya, which is kind of strange since that’s where it happened and since the Mau Mau anti-colonialists were most definitely Kenyans, unless they all forged their birth certificates, which is just as likely as Obama forging his.

But then to make it worse, Huckabee published a statement on his blog, not only reaffirming that he meant to say Indonesia instead of Kenya, but claiming that he always knew there was no issue with Obama’s birth certificate and then blaming the New York Times for sensationalizing the story!  He then compared Obama’s “57 states” gaffe to his Kenyan gaffe, as if they were somehow qualitatively the same.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  But that’s what you get when you play in the sandbox with idiot birthers. 

Besides the obvious, my problem with all this, in terms of Huckabee’s qualifications to lead the country, is that even if he in fact believes there is no issue with Obama’s birthplace, why didn’t he tell Malzberg that?  Why did he allow himself to get caught up in the spirit of that wacky moment?  Why didn’t he have the guts to set him and his listeners straight? What kind of bleeping leader is that?

The truth is that Huckabee, like so many Republicans and so many Southerners, wants to keep alive the notion that Obama is “the other,” not one of “us,” not a real American.

It’s shameless, and it should disqualify Huckabee from doing anything outside his Fox “News” gig.  Unfortunately, though, for so many Republicans, it makes him more attractive.

[photo: Timothy Devine]

Obama’s Socialist Chickens Are Coming Home To Roost

You may not have noticed it, given the propensity of media outlets to accentuate the economic negatives, but domestic manufacturing is improving. 

First, though, let’s review. During the Bush years almost 4½ million manufacturing jobs disappeared.  Oh? Don’t believe me?  Would you believe Patrick J. Buchanan?  Two years ago Buchanan, who isn’t exactly Eugene Debs, wrote:

Beginning and ending in recession, the Bush presidency added a net of 407,000 private sector jobs over eight years, less than 51,000 a year, the worst eight-year record since 1927-35, which includes the first six years of the Great Depression.

By January 2009, the average workweek had fallen to 33.3 hours, the lowest since record keeping began in 1964.

From Jan. 31, 2001, through Jan. 31, 2009, 4.4 million manufacturing jobs, 26 percent of all of the manufacturing jobs in the United States, disappeared.

Semiconductors and electronic component producers lost 42 percent of their jobs. Communications equipment producers lost 48 percent of their jobs. Textile and apparel producers lost, respectively, 63 percent and 61 percent of their jobs.

As a source of American jobs, manufacturing, for the first time in our history, fell below health care and education in 2001, below retail sales in 2002, below local government in 2006, below leisure and hospitality, i.e., restaurants and bars, in 2008.

Between this unprecedented loss in manufacturing capacity and jobs, and the $3.5 trillion in trade deficits in manufactured goods alone, run up by George W. Bush, the correlation is absolute.

Of course, Buchanan, ever pessimistic, saw our national doom in the numbers:

These statistics, these realities — factories closing in the United States, manufacturing jobs being outsourced in the millions to China and Asia, enormous, endless trade deficits in goods — testify to a painful truth: America is a receding and declining world power.

Not so fast, Pat.  Perhaps there is some hope for us yet. From the AP today:

U.S. manufacturers are finally adding jobs after years of shrinking their payrolls. They added 136,000 workers last year, the first net increase since 1997. And in January, the manufacturing sector added 49,000 jobs – the most in any month since August 1998.

From the Financial Times last week:

US manufacturing activity expanded last month at the fastest rate since 2004 on the strength of robust new orders and production, offering hope that the sector will add momentum to the economic recovery…

The US manufacturing sector has shown growth for the last year and a half, with activity accelerating steadily during the last six months. Fourteen of the 18 industries that ISM tracks grew in January.

“This only confirms that the US is at the leading edge of the global pick-up in manufacturing,” said Alan Ruskin, strategist at Deutsche Bank.

Wow! How can that be in the Age of Obama?

And from CNN yesterday:

Demand for capital equipment in the US is starting to pick up strongly, manufacturers say, boosting confidence in the health of the economic recovery and raising hopes of a revival in American industry.

St. Louis County-based conglomerate, Emerson, is cited as telling its investors,

that it expected non-residential investment in the US to grow by 8-9 per cent this year; as much as the average for emerging markets.

Honeywell executive David Cote is quoted as telling the Financial Times:

I do believe the US economy is more resilient now. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’re on the comeback trail.

Wow!  With a anti-colonialist Kenyan in the White House?

And Caterpillar, “the world’s largest manufacturer of earthmoving equipment,” will spend more than $1.5 billion “in the U.S. to build capacity.”

And this:

Eaton, the Ohio-based manufacturer of industrial equipment and components, has said it expected its US sales to grow faster than its international sales this year. Sandy Cutler, Eaton’s chief executive, told the FT that demand was “far stronger than people had thought it would be”.

Oh, I know that Republicans—who instead of jobs are currently focused on the old abortion debate—will take credit for this resurgence.  Just their calming, pro-business presence in Washington, as newly installed controller of 1/2 of 1/3 of the federal government, is enough to account for this release of pent-up investment, right? 

But we know the truth: Some of the socialist policies of the anti-capitalist, America-hating, African usurper in the White House are finally coming home to roost.

Obama At The Chamber

From Real Clear Politics today:

“If we’re fighting to reform the tax code and increase exports, the benefits cannot just translate into greater profits and bonuses for those at the top. They have to be shared by American workers, who need to know that opening markets will lift their standard of living as well as your bottom line,” President Obama told the Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning.

He also told them this:

We cannot go back to the kind of economy — and culture — we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn’t translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class.

And this:

And if we as a nation are going to invest in innovation, that innovation should lead to new jobs and manufacturing on our shores.  The end result of tax breaks and investments can’t simply be that new breakthroughs and technologies are discovered here in America, but then the manufacturing takes place overseas.  That, too, breaks the social compact.  It makes people feel as if the game is fixed and they’re not benefiting from the extraordinary discoveries that take place here.

And this:

Even as we eliminate burdensome regulations, America’s businesses have a responsibility as well to recognize that there are some basic safeguards, some basic standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation.  Not every regulation is bad.  Not every regulation is burdensome on business.  A lot of the regulations that are out there are things that all of us welcome in our lives.

A bewildered gathering of the Lords of Business chuckled, I’m sure.

Egypt: The View From The Paranoid Right

Since nearly every sensible thing that can be said has been said this weekend regarding the upheaval in Egypt, I thought I would look in on what the right-wing is saying.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are so far playing it safe, essentially approving of the Obama administration’s cautious response to the crisis. But it’s only Monday.

Unfortunately, Egypt is not observable from Wasilla, so Sarah Palin hasn’t yet tweeted her foreign policy advice to the world.  But it’s only Monday. I’m sure after she catches up on her weekend reading, she will offer up some profound analysis.

Bill Kristol, a Fox “News” neocon who agitated for war against Iraq as early as 1998 and who has urged the U.S. to launch a military strike against Iran, has not yet called for invading Egypt and ousting Mubarak.  That’s always a good thing, but it’s only Monday.  

Kristol, who always knows what we should do in every tricky situation, did say the Administration was “a little slow in reacting to events and said a couple foolish things.”  Apparently, patience and deliberation is not a virtue in the Kristol family.

Speaking of a lack of patience and deliberation: The Glenn Beck News Service, The Blaze, featured this headline:

The story, written by Jonathon Seidl and complete with a Goldline ad, is one of those “connecting the dots” specials, which are the forte of the paranoid Right. It seems that the American Left, some of whom rallied this weekend in support of the Egyptian people, is encouraging the uprising because,

the power vacuum that would result from a government collapse would make the country a prime target for a socialist takeover.

Even though the protests in Egypt have been decidedly unrelated to Western politics, that’s not the way it is seen through the eyes of fearful right-wingers, at least when it comes to the motives of those Americans who support Egyptian freedom:

Is it really about democracy, then, as some of the signs suggest?

Not really. The reality seems to be closer to something like this: when a revolution opposes a leftist dictator, leftists and socialists ignore it. When a revolution opposes an American ally (particularly an ally as pivotal to U.S. security as the Egyptian alliance is) leftists and socialists support it. Succinctly put, the groups have a vested interest in the current American system being defeated (a goal shared by leftist dictators). That’s why they can support Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and even Hussein, but rally against someone such as Mubarak.

In the same vein, Red State, a popular right-wing site operated by Erick Erickson, now a CNN commentator, featured this headline:

The story takes the Beckian view one step further and involves the Obama administration in the plot to make Egypt and the Middle East a socialist paradise:

For all the lack of clarity on where the Obama administration stands, one thing is becoming more and more clear: Signs are beginning to point more toward the likelihood that President Obama’s State Department, unions, as well as Left-leaning media corporations are more directly involved in helping to ignite the Mid-East turmoil than they are publicly admitting.

Meanwhile, Dick Morris, another Foxinating right-winger who sees an Islamic terrorist hiding behind every crisis tree, is urging the U.S. to “send a signal to the military that it will be supportive of its efforts to keep Egypt out of the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists.He wrote:

The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran…

Now is the time for Republicans and conservatives to start asking the question: Who is losing Egypt? We need to debunk the starry eyed idealistic yearning for reform and the fantasy that a liberal democracy will come from these demonstrations. It won’t. Iranian domination will.

It appears that some on the Right, who night and day lie and stoke fear about Obama’s imaginary disregard for the freedoms of Americans, don’t mind if he helps squash the yearnings of Egyptians who want liberty—and jobs—in their own land.

We really run the risk of some Iranian style regime emerging in the end here,” foreign policy expert Sean Hannity said on Friday.

And even though the real experts discount that possibility (the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly represents around 20% of the population), it doesn’t matter. What matters is that however the situation in Egypt ends, Obama will have either done too much or too little.  He will either have sided with the Egyptian dictator or sided with the Muslim Brotherhood or engineered a socialist revolution.  

And to think it’s only Monday.


The Real Job Killers

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

Matthew 7:16

President Obama’s op-ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal has once again caused some on the Professional Left to question his committment to old-fashioned liberalism.

Lynn Parramore wrote:

Today in the WSJ we catch a glimpse of the administration’s stance on regulation, and it’s not a pretty picture…

The op ed, with its neo-liberal celebration of America’s great ‘free’ market (never mind that what we’ve got is a market captured by oligopolies) perpetuates the specious proposition that if we could just rein in the evil regulators, everything would be much better.

In the op-ed Obama tried to assure American businesses—which have criticized him mercilessly—that he and his administration have received their message about regulation:

…we are…making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

Who could be against that? Obama argues for regulatory equilibrium:

…throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.

Yet many on the right have criticized Obama for stifling growth through excessive regulations.  Obama addressed that criticism at the end:

Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars.

Yes, we have all heard the rhetoric: Too much job-killing regulation.

But it’s hard to argue with this: The business-hating socialist—President Obama—is presiding over an almost unprecedented Age of Prosperity, at least if you happen to own stock in a company listed on the S&P 500:

And the Commerce Department, in case you forgot, reported two months ago that annualized third-quarter profits for American businesses amounted to about $1.7 trillion, the highest ever recorded.  Ever. Really.

But don’t forget about those darn job-killing regulations.

Again, Lynn Parramore from the left:

Free market fundamentalists have been pushing the idea that regulation is the enemy through a variety of dishonest arguments, from the notion that regulators ‘just don’t understand’ fancy financial instruments and should stay out of it to the particularly offensive canard that regulators kill jobs. Never mind that it was the unregulated financial sector that threw millions out of work in the Great Recession. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of free market mythology, people lost their jobs because the darned government just wouldn’t stop abusing big business.

And from the right: The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested last week that due to the Republican takeover of the House, the Obama administration is “likely to turn to the regulatory agencies.” He followed that with this:

The resulting regulatory tsunami poses, in our view, the single biggest challenge to jobs, our global competitiveness, and the future of American enterprise.

Wow!  The “single biggest challenge“?

And as Reuters reported last month, Ivan Seidenberg of the Business Roundtable,

has been critical of the Obama administration in the past, charging that its zeal for regulation was creating uncertainty that was making it harder for businesses to raise capital and create jobs.

Oh, yeah?  Then why did I read in The New York Times that multinational companies operating—and creating jobs—in China tolerate a regulatory system much more onerous than ours?

The article revealed that companies like General Electric are reluctant to criticize the Chinese for manifestly unfair trade practices for fear that Chinese regulators will punish them for their insubordination. As the Times put it—and you should read this carefully:

Chinese laws are often just a few pages in length, even on complex industrial or financial subjects. That leaves broad discretion to regulators on enforcing regulations that may help some companies and penalize others.

Regulators also have the authority in every industry to approve foreign investments, and even demand a say in details like what equipment will be purchased by foreign investors for their factories. Regulators have long used their involvement in the minutiae of corporate management, and their ability to delay even minor decisions, as a way to discipline companies for taking stances at odds with Chinese policy.

Now, some anti-regulatory apologist needs to explain to me just how campanies—that  supposedly have trouble raising capital to do business in America—can raise capital to compete in an environment like that?  We are, after all and for God’s sake, talking about China, an authoritarian—some say totalitarian—state.

In another Times article, China Drawing High-Tech Research From U.S., we find that despite the potentially punitive regulatory structure in China, American high-tech businesses are now rushing there to do business. 

Much of the rush is based on the gargantuan market available.  “China has become the world’s largest auto market,” the paper said.  “The country is also the biggest market for desktop computers and has the most Internet users,” it continued. And then it pointed out:

Not just drawn by China’s markets, Western companies are also attracted to China’s huge reservoirs of cheap, highly skilled engineers — and the subsidies offered by many Chinese cities and regions, particularly for green energy companies.

Ahh.  There it is: cheap labor. You see, a multitude of regulatory sins can be overcome by cheap labor. And in China, even the engineers work for beer money.

But it’s not just cheap labor that attracts American businesses. Gifts from the Chinese government help a lot.

In yet another Times article we have the story of Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts company that is (was) the third-largest maker of solar panels in America. The company achieved that distinction partly through assistance from the government of Massachusetts in the form of $43 million.  But that wasn’t enough:

…now the company is closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China. Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in China.

Much higher government support“?  The Times interviewed the chief executive of Evergreen Solar, Michael El-Hillow, and reported:

Mr. El-Hillow said that he was desperate to avoid layoffs at the Devens [Massachusetts] factory. But he said Chinese state-owned banks and municipal governments were offering unbeatable assistance to Chinese solar panel companies.

Factory labor is cheap in China, where monthly wages average less than $300. That compares to a statewide average of more than $5,400 a month for Massachusetts factory workers. But labor is a tiny share of the cost of running a high-tech solar panel factory, Mr. El-Hillow said. China’s real advantage lies in the ability of solar panel companies to form partnerships with local governments and then obtain loans at very low interest rates from state-owned banks.

We can expect Mr. El-Hillow and Evergreen Solar to soon sell their Chinese-manufactured solar panels back to us.  Hopefully, there will still be someone here with money to buy them.

Is this what it has come to? Is this what American businesses want from us?  We have to stop regulating them and slash the wages of our workers and subsidize profit-making ventures through low-interest loans or else?  Or else these capitalist patriots will pick up and move to a Communist country where they can “partnership” with an autocratic government that has unlimited power to destroy them through regulation?

Let me quote again the original Times story about the threat to American businesses China represents:

[Chinese] regulators have long used their involvement in the minutiae of corporate management, and their ability to delay even minor decisions, as a way to discipline companies for taking stances at odds with Chinese policy.

As I listen to the complaints about “excessive” regulation on American business here at home—I have actually heard conservatives say that too much American regulation forces companies to move to China!—and as I think about why President Obama felt it necessary to reassure businesses that he means them no harm, I wonder why American companies are killing jobs here at home and fleeing to an authoritarian land.

No, I don’t really wonder. For too many capitalists, profits trump patriotism every time.


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