Posts from — August 2010
Retired, irrelevant, I sit at my computer in a small Florida town and write blogs about the way the world is going. Just another old codger letting off steam. And for what?
What does it matter to me personally?
I will be gone in a few years no matter who is in the White House, or who runs what country – anywhere.
And in the meanwhile, nothing much will change for me. Nobody is really going to take away the Social Security stipend that’s deposited in my bank account each month. Social Security might be “reformed,” or “privatized,” even abolished. But not for me. For my grandsons, Jonathan and Adam, perhaps. Possibly for my children. But not for those of us already sucking on what an official recently referred to as the government’s teat.
The Democrats might lose control of the Senate and even the House of Representatives in November. President Obama might be defeated in 2012 – if he runs again, and I am beginning to doubt that he will.
Sarah Palin might become president of the United States, with Glenn Beck as her running mate. Or Newt Gingrich might shake off the mud of his disgrace to take the reins of power. Or some other slick con artist might persuade the American people that they have the balm to soothe the irritation created by a swarm of lies.
It’s a revolting prospect, of course. But nothing much would change in my personal circumstances because of it.
But what about you, whoever you are?
Do you have a stake in what happens in Washington DC?
You might look around you and dismiss the sound and fury of politics as meaningless theater. Or you might indulge in the emotional luxury of rooting for one party or another, despising those who would dare to root for some other “team.” Or those who belong to some other race. Or those who follow some other religion. Or those who disagree with your other beliefs, whatever they might be.
But, as Shirley Sherrod (lower photo) so astutely observed, that’s not what politics is about.
In America, Canada, Jamaica, Britain, France, Germany… wherever you are reading this … politics is about money and who gets how much of it.
The eternal battle is not between ethnic, religious or cultural groups but between the rich and the poor.
The rich know this. But, apparently, the poor don’t.
That’s one reason the rich stay rich – and get richer.
In 1986 Forbes Magazine listed 140 billionaires around the world. By 2007 the total had risen to 946. And the number has increased exponentially since then. These people (most of them men, of course) control trillions of dollars. And they use their wealth to ensure government policies that help them get even richer.
Jane Mayer of The New Yorker recently detailed the part played in today’s American politics by David Koch, the founder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which is a driving force behind the Tea Party movement, and his brother Charles. The bottom line is that these two billionaires are putting their monetary muscle behind a no-holds-barred war to defeat President Obama.
David and Charles Koch (top photo) have used their billions to block “progressive” policies for years. And they are now among President Obama’s most effective – yet almost invisible – opponents. For example, as health care reform protesters descended upon Washington recently, few were aware, as they were greeted with doughnuts and coffee, and provided with protest signs, that one of the billionaire brothers had paid for the meals, the buses and the guides.
Using their deep pockets to promote “causes” designed to keep voters worked up, rich and powerful people like the Koch brothers have created a conservative “groundswell” in America,
This crusade has been going on for years, with the founding of “think tanks” such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, endowment of conservative college programs and – more recently –the encouragement of a swarm of right-wing web sites.
And the billionaire activists saw a unique opportunity with the election of America’s first black president. They knew many white Americans would find Barack Obama an irresistible target.
How dare this black man become so educated? So urbane? So charismatic? How dare a black family move into the White House?
And, to put the icing on the cake, Obama’s father was a Muslim.
It didn’t take much to get bigoted white voters screaming for a return of “their America.”
Sadly, this has become the main theme in the Republican Party’s playbook.
By distracting the poor and middle class with threats of Muslim mosques, Hispanic invaders and a black “Socialist” president, they hope to obscure the real issue – the eternal struggle between the “haves” and “have-nots.”
A struggle in which the rich always seem to win and so many of the poor seem eager to help them.
August 30, 2010 4 Comments
My mother used to tell me the story of Bedward. And when I read those news stories about Glenn Beck’s rally or see video clips of him promoting it, Bedward’s story springs to mind.
If you’re a Jamaican of a certain age, you will have heard Bedward’s name. He is mentioned in a folk song about the “sly mongoose” that stole our chickens and was always so hard to catch.
“Mongoose go down a Bedward kitchen,
Tek out one o’ him big, fat chicken,
Stuff it inna him waistcoat pocket,
And there’s another folk song about Bedward:
“Dip dem Bedward, dip dem
Dip dem in the healing stream
Dip dem deep but not too deep
Dip dem fe cure bad feeling.”
According to my mother, there was a real person named Bedward.
He styled himself some kind of prophet – or he might even have claimed to be the returning Messiah. Anyway, he told his followers he was going to ascend to Heaven and take them with him. So they sold (or gave away) their worldly possessions, and assembled at Race Course on the appointed day.
Some of the supporters erected a platform for Bedward, and he climbed up on it. After the obligatory mumbo jumbo, he leaped toward Heaven – and fell to earth breaking his leg.
The dejected followers went home and tried to get their belongings back. But, according to my mother, the people who had bought them – or who had been given them – said a deal was a deal.
Anyway, that’s how my mother told the story. I looked it up on the Internet once, and there really was a man named Bedward.
And there’s a play about Bedward that’s staged in Jamaica from time to time. In the top photo above, actor Winston Bell plays the role of the “prophet” in a 2003 revival.
One account I read in The Gleaner said Bedward was arrested and locked up as a lunatic.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that turned out to be true. In those days lunacy was against the law in Jamaica. (Sometimes when I listen to people like Glenn Beck (lower photo), I wonder if lunacy shouldn’t be against the law in America today.)
This latter-day Bedward is a goofball if ever there was one. Yes, he has a lot of followers, but so does every crackpot that comes along. Think Jonestown. Think Haley’s Comet. Think David Koresh.
They come and go – the “false prophets” we are warned about in the Gospels:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
I don’t know what kind of clothing Glenn Beck is clad in. Fox News pays him enough to buy the best. But inside he sure is a ravening wolf. A crazy ravening wolf.
In the video clips I’ve seen, he has promoted today’s rally by comparing himself to Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and even Jesus Christ.
I would not be surprised if a bolt of lightning were to strike him down as he stands on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, on the anniversary of MLK’s immortal “I have a dream” speech, and blasphemously proclaims himself the savior of mankind.
Or maybe he’ll just fall and break his leg – like Bedward.
August 28, 2010 5 Comments
I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. That you must creep before you can walk. That half a loaf is better than nothing. That sometimes you must take a step back to take two steps forward.
My mother told me all that.
And I have borne these ancient truths in mind as I have watched President Obama settle for one lukewarm compromise after another.
I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I want him to succeed. I want America’s first black president to leave a glorious legacy of triumph.
And I have made excuses for him as items on his agenda have faltered time and again.
But my mother also told me that a man is known by the company he keeps.
And therein lies the rub.
Would a “transformative” president surround himself with the likes of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner? Would he have appointed Ken Salazar to head the Interior Department? Or picked one of those notorious Emmanuel brothers from the underbelly of Chicago politics as his chief of staff?
If change is what he is after, these are not the people to bring it about.
Of course, I know he thinks he needs people who “know the ropes” to get anything done in Washington DC.
And I know he has had to negotiate with fellow-Democrats who vehemently oppose the kind of change he promised us.
But why on earth would a president who campaigned the way Obama did appoint a man like Alan Simpson (photo above) as co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform?
Simpson, a Republican, has spent his career looking for ways to undermine Social Security.
As a Wyoming senator and chairman of the Social Security subcommittee, he has been at the epicenter of several efforts to torpedo Social Security and Medicare over the years.
So it came as no surprise on Tuesday when he trashed Social Security recipients.
In an offensive email to the executive director of National Older Women’s League, Simpson said Social Security is “like a milk cow with 310 million tits.”
He has since apologized for his rude language but not for his contemptuous description of Social Security recipients.
I find his remark personally insulting. I paid into Social Security for many years, and I am legally entitled to the monthly allowance I now receive. I don’t see myself sucking at the government’s teat.
I am deeply disappointed that this is the kind of human being chosen by a president I campaigned and voted for.
It’s getting harder and harder to see Obama as an agent of hope and change.
August 27, 2010 2 Comments
I can’t say I’ve known Bill McCollum for the past 30 years, but I’ve known about him. Maybe not for quite 30 years, but it seems that long. He comes from a town called Brooksville, which reminds me of the Old South – you know, dogwoods and azaleas blooming in the spring, antebellum homes, that kind of thing.
It’s not really Old South, of course, because it’s in Florida, and that’s not what I call “the South.”
Florida is actually a mish-mash, where South meets North, and East meets West – sometimes with less that felicitous results.
The populace is made up of the descendants of Crackers from the Carolinas and Georgia … retirees and “snowbirds” from Canada and other places “up North” … immigrants – legal and illegal – from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and the rest of Latin America … left-over “guest workers” and others of us from the Caribbean … In effect, we’re a motley crew from all over, including Europe and Asia, and who knows where elese?.
But the people who run Florida – the part of Florida where I live, anyway – are still the Good Ol’ Boys. They’re white, inbred, not too smart, and they wouldn’t know an ethic if it bit them on the leg. And, especially around here, they’re Republican. True, a few Democrats get elected occasionally. And, once in a while, the Democratic establishment lets a token black politician into the corridors of power. I guess they wouldn’t want to look as if they’re hogging the show.
The situation wasn’t much different when I lived in Miami, except that a lot of political bosses hailed from Cuba.
McCollum is one of the Good Ol’ Boys – Floridian by birth and a Gator by the grace of God (as some University of Florida graduates are wont to brag). And I see him as the prototype of an establishment toady. At UF he participated in all the “right” extracurricular stuff, and throughout his career he has taken care of the “right people.”
But compared to someone like Rick Scott (photo above), the guy is a knight in shining armor.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Scott is not in prison.
When Scott was its CEO, Columbia/HCA pleaded guilty to the nation’s largest Medicaid and Medicare fraud and ended up paying a record fine of $1.7 billion dollars.
Why wasn’t he tried as an accessory to fraud? Or even as the main perpetrator of the fraud? I guess he knew someone – or knew someone who knew someone. That’s often the way things work in Florida.
After McCollum pointed out the crime during the primary campaign, he didn’t bat an eye. He coolly “accepted responsibility” and continued to spend more than $50 million to blanket the state with ads.
Scott wasn’t even banned from the health care business. A former partner in the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush, he now runs an investment firm and owns, among other things, a chain of walk-in urgent-care clinics in Florida called Solantic (which is reportedly also being investigated for Medicare “irregularities”),
He lists his net worth at $219 million. I guess when you have that kind of money, and every expectation of making more, spending 50 million to get nominated as the Republican candidate for governor is a perfectly normal thing to do. What seems odd is that Florida’s Republicans actually let themselves be persuaded by his ad blitz. They nominated Scott over McCollum by a wide margin yestrday..
And, if he defeats Democrat Alex Sink in November, Scott will be in a position to steer a lot of cash to his business interests.
I don’t think he’s making any bones about that. As soon as he heard he had won the nomination, he started flooding the airwaves with ads blasting the new federal health care legislation. And the ads are as trashy as you would expect them to be.
They feature “horror stories” from Canada and the United Kingdom, telling of patients who supposedly suffered long waits for surgeries, couldn’t get the drugs they needed, or had to come to the United States for treatment.
Now, I lived in Ontario for 20 years, and I have a son, brother, sister and numerous other relatives living in that province. And we all have received great health care from the Canadian system. I doubt that any of the stories in the ads are true and I suspect the “patients” are actually paid actors.
But you wouldn’t expect a guy like Scott to let the facts spoil a good campaign, would you?
He is using $5 million of his own money and up to $15 million more from supporters to try to build resistance to any government-run program. And he has picked the infamous group that masterminded the “Swift boat” attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry to run the show.
Surely, you know what he’s up to. He is trying to get rid of inconvenient regulations that would hamper his ability to rake in profits as a health care provider. And he doesn’t care who knows it.
Even before the primary campaign, he was funding a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, which spent about $600,000 a month on ads in March and April and ratcheted up its buy for May to more than $1 million,
He also gave $11.3 million to Let’s Get to Work through his wife, Annette.
In a CNN interview, Rick Sanchez summed up Scott’s resume this way:
Some would argue, and it would be hard to say they’re wrong, that you would be the poster child for everything that’s wrong with the greed that has hurt our current health care system…. How much more wrong can you be than what you just said? Not only is your company screwed up – and you just admitted to it – and you’re saying, look at all the other companies, they did the same thing! That doesn’t sound to me like a sterling system that we have, does it?
Scott’s only defense was that “no one went to jail.”
No, if Floridians generally are as tolerant of blatant disregard for ethics and the law as the republican primary voters are, this unabashed blackguard won’t go to jail; he’ll end up in the governor’s mansion.
August 25, 2010 3 Comments
I know, it’s Primary Day in Florida, and you think I am going to write something about politics. Think again. I am fed up to the back teeth with American politics. I might feel better tomorrow, but today I want none of it. Maybe I’ll go back to Jamaica and join that new political party that’s going to solve everything.
Or maybe I’ll look at beauty queens.
You are welcome to join me.
Four score and eight beautiful young women took the stage for the Miss Universe 2010 Pageant last night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. Miss Mexico won, but guess who came second.
Maybe I’m prejudiced, but I don’t see where Jimena Navarrete of Mexico (photo above, middle) is any prettier than our Yendi Philipps (photo above, left). Maybe I am writing about politics, after all.
If that picture of Yendi doesn’t make you homesick for Jamaica, I don’t know what would.
Australia’s Jenista Campbell took third, the Ukraine’s Anna Poslavska got fourth, and Venus Raj from the Phillippines placed fifth.
How do the judges decide which of these lovely young women is the loveliest? In my book they are all God’s gift to a poor bemused male species that doesn’t have much else to cheer about. I agree with Irving Berlin – “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody.” And if that makes me a political Neanderthal, so be it.
And, no, I am not going to do what the Toronto Sun did when its women readers complained about its daily “Sunshine Girl” feature back in the crazy Seventies. They added a “Sunshine Boy” feature so as to be fair and balanced. Yech!
I don’t care what we do to our bodies (or faces), guys, we just don’t cut it as eye candy. To me, those body builders are just as homely as the rest of us – but with a bunch of weird looking muscles. Sorry ladies.
Anyway, enough about “Sunshine Boys,” we’re talking about the fair sex, here.
And those beauty queens are fair indeed. I know, it’s demeaning to have them parade about on stage to be judged like cattle, etc., etc. But, hey, if they don’t mind, why should I?
Of course, today’s media would never be content to treat a beauty pageant like the eye candy it is. They have to generate some “controversy.” Remember Miss California’s remark about same-sex marriage last year?
I wonder what became of Carrie Prejean. She was all over the news for a while, making a career out of her “gaffe.”
Not to be outdone, the “news” in Yahoo this morning is not about who won or who placed second. It’s about the “fatal mistake” Miss Phillippines (photo above, right) made. Asked what her worst mistake was in her life so far, Venus allowed as how she couldn’t think of any – not anything “major,” anyway.
So, according to the writer, the judges refused to give her the crown, even though she was “the crowd favorite.”
It’s become mandatory to have a “controversy” in every news story these days – even reports of eye candy. That’s one reason American politics has degenerated into an ugly scrum.
But I said no politics today.
I’ll just enjoy the scenery.
August 24, 2010 1 Comment
If I let myself think about America’s future, I tend to get depressed. I see the world’s most powerful democracy teetering on the edge of a precipice with a frenzied mob of bigots and buffoons about to give it a push. And, if America tumbles, the rest of the world – the Western world, anyway – is sure to follow.
China will most likely inherit the earth. But there won’t be much worth inheriting – not for a long, long while.
But that’s a topic for another time. Today, I am enjoying a glimmer of hope. It’s not much, but it’s a welcome change from the miasma that shrouds the news these days.
The story that brightened my morning is out of Minnesota, where Target and its corporate retail cousin Best Buy are under siege. The reason?
Target gave $150,000 and Best Buy $100,000 to support far-right Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. His website defines marriage as a “union between one man and one woman,” and he is a big fan of an aggressively anti-gay “Christian” rock band. (A band member is quoted as saying Muslim countries that execute homosexuals are “more moral than even the American Christians.”)
The companies’ fat donations were made legally possible by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that frees corporations to spend unlimited amounts on elections.
The ruling is expected to precipitate an unprecedented barrage of right-wing ads during this year’s congressional campaign. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for one, is poised to become a conduit for a flood of corporate money.
The Chamber already is a powerful lobbying force in Washington and has emerged as one of President Obama’s most vitriolic critics. And Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue is reportedly preparing for what he said would be “the largest, most aggressive” campaign effort in the group’s 100-year history.
This kind of power is frightening. It puts the public at the mercy of a rapacious and oppressive corporate culture dominated by right-wing zealots.
But here’s where I found a glimmer of hope.
The right wing is mostly made up of old (white) folks – leftovers from the Eisenhower generation who yearn for a return to pre-civil rights America. And they are in a tizzy right now, what with a black family occupying the White House and vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard.
Younger Americans are far more more color-blind.
I’ve been worrying that young and “progressive” voters might stay home in November, conceding the elections to the codgers and the goons. But the Target story gives me hope that the progressive elements in American society might not be ready to abandon the fight. It looks as if the youth and liberals are fired up and ready to go – in Minnesota, anyway.
They have organized a boycott of Target and are drawing a strong online following, with such initiatives as petitions and viral videos.
A video of an impromptu musical protest at one Target store is a hit on YouTube, where it has already attracted more than half a million views.
You can watch the video here:
You may have noticed how young those protesters are. It makes me think that the codgers might not have the floor to themselves this election season, after all.
I know, as I said, it’s not much. But it’s something. And who knows where it might lead?
August 21, 2010 1 Comment
This blog will be hard for Jamaican (or Canadian) readers to understand. The election of judges is totally foreign to anyone in the British Commonwealth. Under the justice system inherited from the British, judges are appointed.
But not in America. At least not always.
In the U.S., a lot of people on the government payroll are elected. Even some judges.
And in a country of more than 330 million people, where nobody knows anyone outside of a tight circle of friends and fellow-employees, the election system is driven by paid advertising. So far, I haven’t noticed any ads for local judges. And I don’t think I’ve received fliers in the mail recommending any of them. All I know about the candidates is what I read in the newspaper.
So, when I go to vote, I just mark “yes” to re-elect the incumbent judges, whoever they are, unless I’ve read something scandalous about them recently.
That leaves a lot of room for mistakes. You might recall a recent blog about the judge in Louisiana who quashed an offshore oil drilling moratorium while owning stock in some of the companies involved.
And the world of judicial campaigns is changing – for the worse.
Thanks to a service called Truthout, I’ve learned a recent Supreme Court ruling is having quite an impact on that world. And, sadly, it looks as if the American judicial system is becoming even more vulnerable as a result.
The Truthout article, by Mike Ludwig, quotes a new study that finds special interests are pouring millions of dollars into judges’ election campaigns – probably in expectation of favorable rulings.
Here’s an excerpt from Ludwig’s piece:
Fund raising for state judicial campaigns has more than doubled from $83 million in the 1990s to $206 million from 2000 to 2009, according to report, which calls the increase in spending “pronounced and systemic.” In the past decade, 20 of the 22 states that hold Supreme Court elections had their most extravagant judicial campaign seasons to date.
You might think that the caliber of candidates in judges’ races is so high that contributions from special interests would be immaterial. I mean, what decent judges would let campaign contributions influence their rulings?
How about West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin (photo above, right)?
According to Ludwig, Justice Benjamin received a $3 million contribution from Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship (photo above, left). You remember Blankenship? Some two dozen miners recently died in one his coal mines after a slew of safety violations. That Blankenship.
Then, Ludwig, says:
Once elected, Justice Benjamin refused to recuse himself, and ruled in a lawsuit filed against Massey Energy by another company, in which Massey stood to pay $50 million in damages. Benjamin ruled in favor of Massey Energy in the 3-2 decision.
The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which made a landmark 5-4 decision in Caperton v. Massey June 2009 against Massey Energy and Blankenship. The majority opinion stated that due process and “a serious risk of actual bias” required the recusal of Justice Benjamin.
Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court justices are appointed, not elected. So opportunities for corruption aren’t as blatant at that level.
Still, as Ludwig points out, while the Massey case set an important precedent, “special interests have continued to fight for – and win – the right to use financial muscle to influence judicial elections.”
Private interests are using the First Amendment to justify massive spending on political campaigns. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, striking down a longstanding ban on corporate financing of campaigns for federal office after hearing arguments alleging that limits on corporate campaign funding violate free-speech rights.
As Mark Twain observed, Americans have the best government that money can buy. The best justice system. too.
August 20, 2010 No Comments
I watched last night as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann did their war correspondent bit on MSNBC, reveling in the departure from Iraq of the last U.S. combat brigade. At first it looked like the departure of all American combat troops, but the Pentagon said there were actually five or six thousand combat personnel still hanging around over there.
That’s in addition to the 50,000 or so American troops who will be staying behind to train Iraqi forces. The last of the U.S. “combat” troops are actually scheduled to come home at the end of the month. When will the 50,000 “trainers” come home? Who knows?
But Rachel and Keith still made quite a fuss about this “historic moment.” If you didn’t know better, you might have thought it was the end of America’s ongoing military adventures. But I’m sure you know better.
There’s that thing in Afghanistan for instance. General Petraeus has been making the media rounds, preparing us for an extension of the American occupation there. Meanwhile, there’s a “secret war” going on in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – drone strikes, covert actions, that kind of thing.
Gotta find those terrorists and kill ‘em before they come over here and kill us, don’t ya know.
It seems America is destined to be at war forever. Not because of the threat of terrorism. Not because of imperialist ambitions. And certainly not because of a mission from God to bring “democracy” to the oppressed people of the world.
I think it’s because of the economy.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich pointed out in a recent article that reducing “defense” spending would mean a massive loss of jobs in several American states. And loss of jobs means loss of votes for the politicians representing those states. So, any attempt to cut back on America’s military industrial spending will meet with stubborn resistance in Congress.
Reich observes that almost four million Americans are directly employed by either the military or military-related companies and corporations. This makes the military-industrial complex “America’s biggest – and only major – jobs program.”
Defense spending has spiraled out of control in America. The New York Times described the situation this way:
There has been a feeding frenzy at the Pentagon budget trough since the 9/11 attacks. Pretty much anything the military chiefs and industry lobbyists pitched, Congress approved – no matter the cost and no matter if the weapons programs were over budget, underperforming or no longer needed in the post-cold-war world.
Commenting on the recent attempt by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make common-sense cuts in the defense budget, Lawrence Davidson writes in “Reader Supported News”:
In total, the U.S. spends close to a trillion dollars a year on “national defense” and “national security” related items. There is so much redundancy, inefficiency, and sheer fluff in all of this that Reich concludes that “national security is a cover for job security.”
One could probably cut the entire array of defense related expenditures by one quarter to one third and never lose a beat of one’s security-related heart. That would be a quarter to a third of a trillion dollars that might be spent on schools, mass transit, health care, parks, sewer and water systems, alternative energy, job training and retraining, low-cost housing, the arts, fixing potholes, ad infinitum.
In other words, funding all the things that help make up a vibrant civilization. But the advocates for such things, even the paid ones in Washington, seem not to be able to compete.
In March 2005, 750 scientists at the National Institutes of Health lamented that money for basic research into infectious diseases was going instead into “bio-terror research.” Things have not improved since then. But how many of us really care? Not the vast majority of those employed by the military-industrial complex. Locked into their “me first” localism, they can proclaim that they have theirs, and the rest of us can go to … the unemployment lines.
As for those unemployment lines, well, they’re getting longer again. An AP report today reveals that the number of jobless applying for benefits reached the half-million mark last week for the first time since November.
Imagine how many people would be out of work if we didn’t have those terrorists to worry about.
August 19, 2010 1 Comment
As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, “I laugh because I must not cry.” And today I am laughing with Jon Stewart, who put America’s mosque “debate” in perspective on “The Daily Show” on Monday.
I don’t know who came up with this episode. But whoever did it, is a genius (in my opinion, anyway). I’ll provide a link to the video at the end of this blog so you can watch it – in case you didn’t catch it on Monday.
According to Wikipedia, Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) does some of the writing, and the other writers include Ben Karlin, former editor of The Onion, and former Onion contributor David Javerbaum.
There have been many Daily Show gems over the past decade or so. In addition to shelves full of awards for comedy, The Daily Show has been nominated for several news and journalism awards.
Indeed, I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might be the two most trusted commentators on television today. What with Fox News abandoning all pretense of being “fair and balanced” by contributing a million dollars to get Republican governors elected and even so-called “liberal” pundits providing a soap box for the likes of Tom Tancredo, Michele Bachmann, Sarah You-know-who, Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay (in the name of “fairness,” I suppose), I am obliged to turn to the Comedy Channel to clear my head from time to time.
And I am indebted to the Comedy Channel for demonstrating the total absurdity of the Great Mosque Debate.
This issue is so specious as to be unworthy of comment. But comment it is getting – in spades. Even President Obama weighed in – both for and against the mosque, apparently.
First of all, there is no mosque. And the non-mosque isn’t at “Ground Zero.” And the man responsible for planning to build whatever it really is has nothing to do with terrorism. And…
I know it’s useless to cite the facts when the right-wing noise machine gets hold of an “issue.” But, for the record, here they are (thanks, in large part, to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann):
The planned 13-story building is a community center with such amenities as a library, a basketball court and – yes – two prayer rooms. It is two blocks away from the site of the Nine-Eleven attacks. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is behind the project (photo above, right), is a progressive Muslim who has no record of advocating terror. There is an existing Muslim center nearby and it was there before the World Trade Center was built.
So what triggered this furious debate?
According to an article by Justin Elliott in Salon.com, here’s what happened:
To a remarkable extent, a Salon review of the origins of the story found, the controversy was kicked up and driven by Pamela Geller, a right-wing, viciously anti-Muslim, conspiracy-mongering blogger, whose sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.
Elliott observes that the right-wing noise machine wasn’t about to pass up such a juicy topic. He writes:
Geller appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show. The Washington Examiner ran an outraged column about honoring the 9/11 dead. So did Investor’s Business Daily. Smelling blood, the Post assigned news reporters to cover the ins and outs of the Cordoba House development daily. Fox News, the Post’s television sibling, went all out.
Within a month, Rudy Giuliani had called the mosque a “desecration.” Within another month, Sarah Palin had tweeted her famous “peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate” tweet. Peter King and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty followed suit — with political reporters and television news programs dutifully covering “both sides” of the controversy.
Geller had succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.
Is this a great country or what? Where else would a nutty nobody like Pam Geller (photo above, left), spewing a pack of vicious lies, spark a controversy that would eventually involve the nation’s president?
It’s enough to make you weep. Or you might want to laugh instead. If you do, click on this link to The Daily Show:
August 18, 2010 1 Comment
Sometimes, when I contemplate the things that some American “conservatives” say, I recall a line from The Merchant of Venice.
You might remember it. Portia tries to appeal to Shylock’s better nature, saying he “must be merciful,” but Shylock will have none of it. “On what compulsion must I? Tell me that,” he responds.
It seems the vitriolic resentment of American “conservatives” springs from the same mind-set as Shylock’s. Gone is the pretense of “compassionate conservatism” touted by George W. Bush in the 2002 presidential campaign. Today’s conservatives claim the right – even the obligation – to reject compassion.
They demand the right to be merciless. Indeed, some of them demand the right to be subhuman. Their lack of humanity is their own business, they insist. As free Americans, they don’t have to comply with commonly accepted concepts of decency.
To me, that makes them trolls. But obviously they don’t care what I think. They wallow in their trolldom and even brag about it.
A recent poll of conservative bloggers (as reported by Andrew Leonard in Salon.com today) lists the 25 worst Americans of all time and guess who tops the list?
Followed by Barack Obama and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
According to the conservative bloggers, these three U.S. presidents are worse than “all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent and crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks” in America’s history.
Obviously, these bloggers could not be serious. Or could they?
In my book, Roosevelt, Carter and Obama (photos above) head the list of caring presidents. They had the humanity to feel the pain of America’s “sufferers” and tried to do something about it. They said, in effect, “then must the state be merciful.”
And the conservative reply is, “On what compulsion?”
They do not have the humanity to recognize, as Portia did, that “the quality of mercy is not strained.” Nobody forces human beings to merciful. It comes naturally – to humans. With subhumans, on the other hand, it must be forced. And when they are forced to show mercy – or when mercy is shown by the country in which they live – the trolls go berserk.
And incredibly, these berserk trolls have the unmitigated gall to blacken the names of men like Roosevelt, Carter and Obama, men whose shoes they are unworthy of cleaning.
On my list of the worst Americans ever, the “conservative” politicians, their supporters and their bloggers lead all the rest.
August 17, 2010 3 Comments