Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fox News Propagandizes Against Employee Free Choice Act

Media Matters has compiled studies and a video presentation, shown above, that exposes the campaign by Fox News to propagandize against the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation has a better chance of passage under a Democratic president and Congress.

Following a decades-long slide in union membership, the Employee Free Choice Act would help employees form a union more easily and deter the activities of anti-union employers. The bill gives workers the right to unionize as soon as a majority signs cards stating that they want to do so. It must be emphasized that workers would also have the right to hold a secret-ballot election. It's their free choice–whether to use the cards or a secret ballot–one that companies would have to honor.

Media Matters cites a New York Times article that states, "Union officials say they do not dislike the secret ballot, but rather the lengthy, expensive, adversarial campaign before the vote in which companies often fire union supporters and use videos, large meetings and one-on-one sessions to pressure employees to vote against unionizing."

Fox News is disseminating the falsehood that the Employee Free Choice Act "abolishes" the National Labor Relation Board's secret ballot election process. Karl Rove stated that the act "...[takes] away the working man's right to a secret ballot." Paul Gigot refers to "...this ban on secret ballots..." Fred Barnes states that the pending legislation "...would allow unions to organize without allowing a secret ballot..."

Amazing how these commentators, who consistently parrot the Republican corporate, anti-union line, are suddenly concerned about the "working man's right." What they're really concerned about is the right of businesses to manipulate and intimidate employees who want to unionize. Media Matters cites studies that make this case, including one by Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education at Cornell University, that "...examined more than 400 NLRB certification election campaigns in manufacturing plants between January 1, 1998, and December 31, 1999, and found that 25 percent of employers fired at least one worker for union activity and that 51 percent of employers told employees that their plant might close if workers unionized."

With a decision pending on the Employee Free Choice Act, employers at least know that they have Fox News battling for their right to continue firing activist workers and threatening plant closings when employees attempt to unionize.

Jim Martin Ad: Saxby Chambliss Voted Against Veterans' Health Care, G.I. Bill

Yesterday I posted about Saxby Chambliss, Republican senator from Georgia, and his refusal to disavow his disgraceful 2002 ad that juxtaposed photos of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein with Max Clelland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam. I also commented on Chambliss's lack of support for veterans' issues.

Today I came upon the ad above from the website of Jim Martin, Chambliss's Democratic opponent in the December 2 runoff race. The site presents the following information regarding Chambliss's abysmal record on veterans' affairs:

• Since Joining The Senate In 2003, Chambliss Has Voted Against Increased Funding For Veterans’ Health Care Programs At Least 23 Times.  (For all 23 dates, click here.)

• In 2008, Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted against the new GI Bill for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. (The Post-9/11 GI Bill: Fair Education Benefits for Veterans second vote.) The emergency supplemental funding bill included an expansion of benefits to veterans, service members and some veterans’ families wishing to pursue an education. The new "transferability" provision offers current service members who agree to remain in the military for ten years the opportunity to transfer their GI Bill benefit to their spouse or children. The expanded education benefit offers new veterans and their families much needed opportunities to get ahead. 

Click here to download the Congressional Report Card from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in pdf.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: David Byrne And Talking Heads

David Byrne was the leader of the outstandingly innovative American New Wave rock band Talking Heads (1974-1991). They're shown above performing "Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)" in the highly acclaimed concert movie "Stop Making Sense" (1984), directed by Jonathan Demme. In 2004, Byrne performed the same song in Holland, adding strings and vibes in a rendition that still rocked:

Over the past year, Byrne transformed the Battery Maritime Building in downtown Manhattan into a cast-iron orchestra in a project called "Playing The Building" and designed nine sets of colorful bike racks that were temporarily installed throughout the city. Learn more about Byrne's projects at He's one of the most creative individuals on the planet.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saxby Chambliss Defends Reprehensible 2002 Attack Ad Against Max Clelland

In the Thanksgiving ad above, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia states that he's "praying for...our troops who can't be with their own families." Praying for the troops is fine, but I'm chagrined to hear such sentiments from Chambliss, involved in a senate runoff vote on December 2 against Democrat Jim Martin. 

Chambliss ran a shameful ad in 2002 that displayed photos of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Max Clelland, Chambliss's opponent, who supposedly didn't "have the courage to lead" because he disagreed with Bush's Homeland Security policies. Clelland, however, had the courage to put himself in harm's way in Vietnam and become a triple amputee, losing both legs and an arm.

After Chambliss won the senate seat, John McCain said, "I'd never seen anything like that ad. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield–it's worse than disgraceful. It's reprehensible."

McCain, though, seems to have made peace with the reprehensible. He's campaigning for Chambliss. As for Chambliss, he's reprehensibly unrepentant. Speaking to Andrea Mitchell, he defends his slimy attack ad as "truthful in every way":

Chambliss, in  addition, won't match his prayers for our troops with actual support for them. Here's a message from Vet Voice, "the online voice of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans":

Chambliss has similar habits to McCain, claiming to support the military while his votes show different. Like McCain, Chambliss voted against troops having more time at home between tours. Like McCain, Chambliss voted many times against increasing health care funding for vets, including after the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital came out. Like McCain, Chambliss even voted against funds for armored vehicles, military equipment repair and for adequate body armor and bullet-proof vests for our troops in Iraq. Chambliss voted against the new Webb-Hagel GI Bill (which McCain only supported after it was obviously going to pass). So it shouldn't be surprising Chambliss is getting McCain's support now in a run-off.

Chambliss never had to worry personally about veterans' benefits; he received five student deferments, in contrast to Vietnam veteran Jim Martin. On his Web site, Martin has also pointed out Chambliss's terrible record on veterans' issues. Considering Chambliss's treatment of with Max Clelland in particular and veterans in general, he doesn't deserve a prayer of a chance toward victory. To contribute to the Jim Martin campaign, click here.

Why Did These Individuals Die In Mumbai?

Pictured above are, from left, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, and Alan Scherr and his daughter, Naomi. The Holtzbergs were among five held hostage and killed in a standoff at the Mumbai headquarters of Chabad, a Hasidic Jewish movement. Rabbi Holtzberg was the movement's envoy in the city. The Scherrs were members of the Synchronicity Foundation, a Virginia meditation group. They were murdered as gunfire broke out while they were dining at the Oberoi, a Mumbai hotel.

As of this writing, at least 183 people have been killed in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. To more fully appreciate the senselessness of such carnage, I focused on these 4 individuals. All of them were involved in peaceful pursuits that served their spiritual needs and those of their communities. Who could possibly want them to die and for what purpose?

But such considerations are beyond those who engage in terror. Their targets are not individuals but a faceless Other, whether defined as a hated nationality, religion or ethnic group. But Gavreil and Rivka  mattered to their now-orphaned two-year-old son. Alan and Naomi mattered to wife and mother Kia Scherr.

And what about those who had nothing to do with the slaughter, but happen to share the terrorists' nationality, religion or ethnic group? After such terrible events, there are always revenge attacks against the innocent, who also become the hated Other. 

There's also the danger of politicians using the events as rationales to declare war on unjustifiable pretexts, suspend civil liberties or engage in torture. These, however, are larger considerations. Right now I'm thinking about four individuals: Gavriel, Rivka, Alan and Naomi. And those who were close to them. We can multiply their tragedies among all of the victims. Who could possibly want them to die and to what purpose? I have no answers.

Employee Trampling Death Calls Into Question Wal-Mart's Commitment To Safety

A Wal-Mart worker, Jdimytai Damour, was trampled to death by a mob of 2,000 surging into an outlet in Valley Stream, NY, to take advantage of "Black Friday" sales (an appropriate name in retrospect). Even while the store was being cleared, some objected to leaving after waiting in line for so long. They tried to continue shopping.

This tragic event makes a shameful comment about those who place consumerism above human life. Are the crazed shoppers who took part in the melee now horrified–or are they excusing themselves for being one among many? One can also question Wal-Mart's own commitment to employee and customer safety. From the New York Times: was unclear how many security workers it had at the Valley Stream store for the opening on Friday. The Green Acres Mall provides its own security to supplement the staffs of some large stores, but it did not appear that Wal-Mart was one of them.

Wal-Mart has successfully resisted unionization of its employees. New York State’s largest grocery union, Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, called the death of Mr. Damour “avoidable” and demanded investigations.

“Where were the safety barriers?” said Bruce Both, the union president. “Where was security? How did store management not see dangerous numbers of customers barreling down on the store in such an unsafe manner? This is not just tragic; it rises to a level of blatant irresponsibility by Wal-Mart.”

...Mr. Damour’s father, Ogera Charles, 67...was angry that no one from Wal-Mart had contacted him or had explained how his son had died.

Wal-Mart is notorious for its negative impact on local businesses, poor health care coverage and low wages, as detailed in Wal-Mart Watch. It is also, as the excerpt above states, known for its union-busting (click here for my article, "Wal-Mart Warns Workers Against Obama"). Perhaps if it were unionized, an official like Bruce Both would have demanded provisions to keep an employee from being trampled to death–something Wal-Mart should have prevented in the first place and must prevent in the future.

Does The Appointment Of Clinton Veterans Undercut Obama's Message Of Change?

At a press conference on November 26, President-elect Barack Obama addressed concerns that placing Clinton veterans in key economic positions undercuts his campaign theme of change. Obama presented a buck-stops-here message:

But understand where the vision for change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me. That’s my job–is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure that my team is implementing it.

Obama responded to the same issue raised in a New York Times editorial pointing out that under Clinton, Lawrence Summers, Obama's choice for director of the National Economic Council, championed the deregulation that led to the financial industry meltdown. The editorial concluded:

Mr. Obama must challenge and question his advisers’ recommendations and decisions. He has chosen tough advisers. He must be even tougher than they are.

Nate Silver of expresses confidence that Obama will do just that:

In the case of Barack Obama, however, I would argue that there is not as much need to worry about tactics. If his campaign was any indication, Obama is not much of an outsourcer–he will dictate the tone of his administration.

Based on proposals from Obama's Web site, Silver feels that the new president will have a liberal agenda in terms of domestic and economic policies and a centrist one in terms of defense if he does two out of three of the following: rolls back the Bush tax cuts, decreases Pentagon spending (which contradicts the defense centrism) or discovers that the economy recovers more quickly than anticipated. I recommend reading Silver's analysis: click here.

Whatever his mistakes in terms of deregulation, Clinton handed Bush an economic surplus. Bush is handing Obama an exploding deficit and a tanking financial industry. Were Obama to appoint neophytes, he'd be criticized for doing so under dire economic conditions. Hiring veterans, he's asked, "Where's the change?"

Ultimately Obama has no other choice than to bring in experienced hands, and it's no surprise, as he stated in his press conference, that they come from the previous Democratic administration. Those who are worried about retreads in Obama's cabinet need to give him the chance to implement the change he promised and recently reaffirmed.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Candace Gingrich Addresses Her Brother Newt Gingrich's Anti-Gay Comments

Newt Gingrich recently warned on The O'Reilly Factor, "There is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us." He clearly does not have the same perspective as his sister Candace Gingrich, a gay rights activist with the Human Rights Campaign. In the video above, she speaks with Keith Olbermann about the denial of civil rights embodied in the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban in California and the struggle for marriage equality.

Candace Gingrich also wrote a public letter criticizing her brother's distorted and hateful remarks. The opening paragraphs:

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protestors of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O'Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, "There you go, again."

However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked.

The truth is that you're living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it is -- and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past.

Candace Gingrich's entire eloquent, powerful letter is worth reading in its entirety. To do so, click here.

Merry Hanukkah From George And Laura Bush

We know that the Bush administration screwed up Iraq, Katrina, the economy...but can't they even send out the right cards for their annual Hanukkah reception for Jewish community leaders? From the New York Post:

The message reads that the [Bush family] "requests the pleasure of your company at a Hanukkah reception," written beneath an image of a Clydesdale horse hauling a Christmas fir along the snow-dappled drive to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

And, no, it is not a Hanukkah bush. A close look at the wagon reveals the message "White House Christmas Tree 2008."

In the background, the White House windows are festooned with Christmas wreaths.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Liberals Say, "Thank You, Sarah Palin!"

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

In response to the "Thank You Sarah Palin" ad produced by the conservative group OurCountryPac, 23/6 has produced a liberal expression of gratitude for Alaska's governor. This Thanksgiving, we should all be grateful that the prospect of Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency proved so frightening that she became a drag on the Republican ticket.

Conservatives Link Obama To Market Decline–But Not To Rebound

On November 13, right-wing commentator Brian Maloney wrote an article on his blog Radio Equalizer titled, "Barack's Market Wipeout: Talkers Vindicated: Obama's Election Panics Wall Street." Maloney's own panic is evident in first paragraph: 

The concept couldn't be simpler: an already-weakened economy is dealt a punishing body-blow by the election of America's first seemingly-socialist president. Faced with business conditions that are likely to deteriorate much further than expected, Wall Street throws in the towel and global markets collapse.

The article contains an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal editorial "A Barack Market" (11/13/08):  

The substance of what Mr. Obama has promised for the economy is bearish for stocks... What markets want to see from Mr. Obama is a sense that the seriousness of this downturn is causing him to rethink the worst of his antigrowth policies.

Since these dire warnings, Obama has held three consecutive press conferences to announce an Economic Recovery Advisory Board and the appointments of Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Lawrence Summers as director of the White House National Economic Council. The market has reacted favorably. The Milwaukee Sentinel (11/24/08) quotes Rick Burling, portfolio manager with Red Granite Advisors in Milwaukee: 

Also encouraging to investors, Burling said, are President-elect Barack Obama's plans to move rapidly on a large economic stimulus effort and his announcements of future appointments to key government financial posts.

The Boston Herald also had good news following Obama's announcements: 

"Help is on the way," [Obama] proclaimed Wednesday at his third news briefing on the economy this week. Fifty-five days away from taking office, he declared he would have an economic plan ready for action "starting day one."

Investors’ improved spirits kept pace. The Dow Jones industrials climbed 247 points, marking the first time since last spring that the average had risen for four straight sessions.

So did Maloney, who linked Obama's election with Wall Street jitters, now correlate the president-elect's announcements with the market rebound? Well, he actually seems to have overlooked that point. Above his "Barack's Market Wipeout" article, Maloney has placed just one line: "*** UPDATE: MARKET FINALLY GETS TEMPORARY RELIEF RALLY, LET'S HOPE IT HOLDS! ***"

It isn't only Maloney, however, who has stopped connecting the dots, as shown in the Media Matters video above. Conservative commentators Dick Morris, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh also blamed Obama for the post-election stock market decline. Fox commentators, of course, were falling all over each other in their gloomy assessments.

How many of these right-wing talking heads are now following their own logic and connecting the market rebound with Obama's plans and appointments? Wouldn't intellectual honesty require them to do so?

Slate And Letterman On The Palin Turkey Interview

Slate has produced the "outtakes" of the Sarah Palin interview in which she pardons a Thanksgiving turkey yet carries on the exchange while turkeys are being slaughtered in the background. In the new version above, the Alaska governor's obliviousness is satirized to outrageously grotesque effect. 

Meanwhile, David Letterman presented Palin's Top Ten Excuses for her gaffe:

Olbermann Exposes Myth Of Auto Workers' Average $70/Hr. Salary

On "Countdown," Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person In The World" for November 26 was Andrew Ross Sorkin and The New York Times for starting the myth that the average worker at General Motors earns an average of $70 per hour.

This falsehood has been perpetuated mainly by right-wing commentators, who are always ready to condemn labor unions and the workers they represent but have little to say about skyrocketing CEO salaries, along with fat bonuses that are rewarded no matter how poorly industries perform. In the case of the auto industry, it wasn't the workers who made the poor business decisions to keep producing gas guzzlers and ignore the need for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Olbermann cites the Center for Automotive Research, which states that the average salary for an auto worker at GM, Chrysler and Ford is actually $28 per hour. The outlandish $70 per hour is arrived at by adding the current hourly wages plus the health benefits and pensions of current and retired workers plus money paid to surviving spouses of deceased workers, then dividing the total by the number of active workers. The number derived is $70–clearly a distorted way of reaching an average salary. 

Even if one adds in health benefits and pension, one does not reach $70 per hour from a wage of $28. This distortion, however, serves the needs of those who want to continue weakening the labor movement in America.

Alan Colmes To Leave "Hannity & Colmes"

Alan Colmes is leaving Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" at the end of the year. He'll remain at the network as a commentator and possibly host a weekend program. His 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. radio show will remain on the air.

Many progressives thought of Colmes as the token liberal who played second fiddle to right-wing blowhard Sean Hannity (see my post on Hannity, 11/3/08). For some, he sold out by his very presence on Fox. While Fox is ultimately a propaganda organ of the Republican party, I view Colmes' representation of the liberal perspective there as a case of it's-a-dirty-job-but-someone-has-to-do-it. While I didn't watch "Hannity and Colmes"–I'd become too dependent on Maalox watching Hannity–I saw enough of Colmes' interviews in the blogosphere to know that he was a sharp questioner of conservatives. I featured two of his exchanges, one with Michele Bachmann (11/19/08) and the other with a conservative panel (8/22/08) on the John Edwards scandal.

I recommend Colmes' blog Liberaland and his witty and incisive radio show, clips of which can be heard on the blog. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lieberman Denies His Own Comments On Obama's Readiness To Lead

The rush to denial continues. First Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota denied that she was concerned that Barack Obama "may have anti-American views" and that the news media should "do a penetrating expose" into the "views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America." Yet she did make these statements to Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball.

Now we have Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut telling a Hartford, CT, Fox affiliate that he never suggested that Barack Obama was "not ready to lead." Watch his denial on the video above, in which he tries to couch his previous statement in terms of who was "better ready to be the president." While he preferred McCain, Lieberman now declares that he "never felt Barack Obama was unready." The video ends with Lieberman's statement on Meet The Press: "Is, notwithstanding his celebrity status, Barack Obama ready to lead? And my answer is no."

It would be one thing if Bachmann and Lieberman acknowledged their previous statements and said they went overboard in the heat of the campaign. Instead, they have the effrontery to explicitly deny–i.e., lie about–what they so clearly said on video and which is preserved on YouTube for everyone to watch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Princeton Proposition 8 Defends Traditional Sidewalk Values

Inspired by the passage of California's Proposition 8, which rescinded gay marriage rights, Princeton University students have joined together to keep freshmen off the sidewalks. They are protecting the rights of those who have traditionally used the sidewalks prior to the freshmen's arrival, namely sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduate students and professors.

Chris Simpson, organizer of the effort, explained, "Princeton Proposition 8 comes from the action that took place in California...which did something very similar. It used the common understanding of a traditional value of the community and allowed the majority of the people to come together to vote to suppress the will of a minority that was trying to really upset things in a way that was harmful. So by allowing the majority to take away the rights of the minority, California set a precedent that we are thrilled to be continuing here."

As a compromise, Simpson agreed that freshman can walk in the gutter or on the grass.

Supporter Rachel Thorman affirmed, "Freshman are a major problem in our class, and I don't want to have to teach our children non-traditional sidewalk values."

To read more about Princeton students' valiant defense of traditional sidewalk values, click here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama Announces Two-Year Economic Recovery Plan

In his weekly address to the nation as President-Elect, Barack Obama stated that he has directed his economic team to develop an Economic Recovery Plan to save or create 2.5 million more jobs by January 2011. Obama called for rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, modernizing schools and developing alternative energy technologies.

These efforts represent a monumental task–but at long last we have a president who represents the priorities of the American people and wants to overcome problems instead of ignoring or creating them.

Obama Ad Supports Jim Martin For Senator Of Georgia

Barack Obama's ad above asks us to support Democrat Jim Martin in his race to unseat Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Martin and Al Franken, involved in a recount in the Minnesota Senate race, represent two votes that could push the Senate toward a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.

Obama states that Martin supports a middle-class tax cut, health care for all and ending the war in Iraq–certainly not the priorities of Chambliss, who is busy trying to avoid testifying in the case against Imperial Sugar, the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit involving a plant explosion that killed 14 people.

In 2002, Chambliss ran disgraceful ads questioning his opponent Max Clelland's patriotism and accusing the latter of being soft on Osama bin Laden. The supposedly "unpatriotic" Clelland is a decorated veteran who lost an arm and two legs in the Vietnam war. Chambliss has a record of non-support for veterans.

You can support Jim Martin right now. Simply click here.

What Is Saxby Chambliss Trying To Hide In Imperial Sugar Case?

Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, competing with Democrat Jim Martin in a runoff race for the Senate to take place on December 2, recently pushed aside a camera when a reporter asked him about his refusal to honor a subpoena. Referring to the camera, Chambliss stated, "You can take it away now."

The subpoena involves a victims' lawsuit against Imperial Sugar, which sought Chambliss's help in avoiding blame following a plant explosion that killed 14 people. Chambliss has received financial support from Imperial Sugar and a total of $21,ooo this election season from the sugar industry. He perfectly epitomizes Republican priorities, which is why Martin must prevail.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee asks what Chambliss is trying to hide in the following ad:

Gail Collins' Wonderful Suggestion: Bush And Cheney Resign Now

Given the vacuum of leadership that the Bush administration represents, the dire problems it has caused and the destructive endgame it has in store for the country, columnist Gail Collins has proposed an excellent out-of-the-box proposal: Bush and Cheney should resign now. Wouldn't that be a wonderful Thanksgiving gift for an anxious nation?

Excerpt from "Time for Him to Go" (November 22, 2008):

Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning.

Seriously. We have an economy that’s crashing and a vacuum at the top. Bush — who is currently on a trip to Peru to meet with Asian leaders who no longer care what he thinks — hasn’t got the clout, or possibly even the energy, to do anything useful. His most recent contribution to resolving the fiscal crisis was lecturing representatives of the world’s most important economies on the glories of free-market capitalism.

Putting Barack Obama in charge immediately isn’t impossible. Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. In fact, just to be on the safe side, the vice president ought to turn in his resignation first. (We’re desperate, but not crazy.) Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become president until Jan. 20. Obviously, she’d defer to her party’s incoming chief executive, and Barack Obama could begin governing.

It probably won't happen, but we can dream, can't we? Especially when every day left with this crew is a day too long. To read the entire column, click here.

Bush Administration Goes Out With Domestic Agenda Of Destruction

Not satisfied with the amount of destruction that it has wrought over the past eight years, the Bush administration is working on as many reckless proposals as possible before its time runs out. Think Progress is keeping track of the disastrous agenda, under the title "Bush's Backward Sprint to the Finish."

The initiatives would start in 60 days, making it difficult for the incoming president to reverse them. Given Obama's election, they clearly do not reflect the priorities of the American people. But since when has the Bush administration ever taken that into consideration? We only need to recall Dick Cheney's famous response to Diane Sawyer's observation that two-thirds of the population don't think that the Iraq war is worth fighting. Here it is, in its entirety: "So?"

The Bush administration's final domestic agenda of destruction includes:

Health Care

• Cutting back Medicaid.
• Allowing federally funded institutions to turn down abortion requests for moral or religious reasons


• Making it harder to take paid time off.
• Allowing truck drivers to work 14 hour days.


• Allowing mining near the Grand Canyon.
• Allowing federal agencies to discount global warming when assessing risks to endangered species.
• Weakening the Endangered Species Act.
• Eliminating environmental reviews of fishing regulations.
• Allowing more emissions from power plants.
• Opening protected wilderness areas to energy development.
• Letting factory farms voluntarily decide if they need permits to discharge waste into waterways.
• Altering the definition of solid waste.

Civil Liberties

• Allowing guns in national parks.
• Broadening law enforcement monitoring abilities.


• Protecting political appointees by shifting them to permanent posts.

To review the report in detail on the Web, click here. To download a PDF of the report, click here.

Conservative Talking Heads Live In "Center-Right" Alternative Universe

In the video above, Think Progress has produced a compilation of right-wing commentators who are marching in lockstep with their latest talking point: "America is a center-right country." Their aim is to warn President-Elect Obama not to enact a liberal agenda. Excerpts:

FRED BARNES: In a center right country, I don’t think American people really want the liberal agenda. But they may get it anyway because they’re upset during the financial crisis. [Fox News, 10/11/08]

PAT BUCHANAN: The country is center right. As you can tell by the fact Obama’s been moving to the center as fast as he can. [MSNBC, 10/16/08]

JOE SCARBOROUGH: The country is not center left. It is center right. This country is more conservative than it was when we took over in 1994 after two years of calamitous Democratic rule. It is a center-right country. [MSNBC, 10/29/08]

Also from an interview between Time Magazine and current Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner:

BOEHNER: America is a center right country.

TIME: Still?

BOEHNER: Yes, no question. When you look at all the exit polling, Americans don’t want bigger government, they don’t want higher taxes. And frankly, I think the Congress is still a center-right Congress.

What alternative universe is Boehner living in? Congress is center-right despite the second straight election of a Democratic majority? As for the rest of the right wing talking heads, how is it that this supposedly center-right country elected a president who clearly stated that he wants to extend health care, raise taxes on the wealthy, end the war in Iraq, uphold abortion rights, support the minimum wage, promote stem-cell research, develop alternative energy and back the Employee Free Choice Act?

Perhaps we're better off if the Republicans convince themselves of their own narrative and remain completely detached from reality.

ACLU Announces Challenge To Proposition 8

The American Civil Liberties Union has announced that it has joined with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal in filing a lawsuit challenging the validity of Proposition 8, which rescinded gay marriage rights, in the California Supreme Court. 

The ACLU explains the reasoning behind the lawsuit at its Web site:

The lawsuits allege that, on its face, Proposition 8 is an improper revision rather than an amendment of the California Constitution because, in its very title, which was "Eliminates the right to marry for same-sex couples," the initiative eliminated an existing right only for a targeted minority. If permitted to stand, Proposition 8 would be the first time an initiative has successfully been used to change the California Constitution to take away an existing right only for a particular group. Such a change would defeat the very purpose of a constitution and fundamentally alter the role of the courts in protecting minority rights. According to the California Constitution, such a serious revision of the state constitution cannot be enacted through a simple majority vote, but must first be approved by two-thirds of the legislature.

The article also notes the California Supreme Court's argument when it originally recognized the right of gays to marry:

In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court held that barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and violates the fundamental right to marry. Proposition 8 would completely eliminate the right to marry only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group.

This entirely logical argument raises an important question: how is it that the population is allowed to vote on this issue and, through its decision, violate equal protection and the right to marry? 

In the case Loving v. Virginia, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anti-miscegenation laws, which prevented interracial marriage, were unconstitutional. Would it not have been outrageous to subject such laws to a vote? Subjecting gay marriage rights to a vote is no less outrageous.

Muslim Americans Denounce Al-Zawahiri Insult To Obama

Directly contradicting the stereotype of Muslim-Americans as a disloyal fifth column, U.S. Islamic leaders denounced the offensive and absurd attack by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, against President-Elect Barack Obama. Al-Zawahiri, in the English translation, referred to Obama and Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as "house slaves."

Imams from the African-American Muslim community in New York called the comments ""an insult" from those who have "historically been disconnected from the African-American community generally and Muslim African-Americans in particular. We find it insulting when anyone speaks for our community instead of giving us the dignity and the honor of speaking for ourselves."

The Council on American Islamic relations also issued a statement that said, in part, "As Muslims and as Americans, we will never let terrorist groups or terror leaders falsely claim to represent us or our faith. We once again repudiate al Qaeda's actions, rhetoric and world view and re-state our condemnation of all forms of terrorism and religious extremism." 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Palin Pardons Turkey, Speaks While More Are Slaughtered

Can Sarah Palin ever be taken seriously? Just after pardoning a turkey in Wasilla, she was yammering away to a local TV interviewer while turkeys were being slaughtered in the background. So be forewarned before you watch the video.

Palin expressed appreciation for "so many good Americans who are just desiring of their government to kind of get out of the way and allow them to grow and progress and allow our businesses to grow and progress." This typical Republican rhetoric is completely out of touch with the concerns of thousands of Americans. 

It would be nice if the national mood were one of looking forward to growth and progress. In reality, millions are just hoping they can hang on to their homes, jobs and health insurance–and wouldn't mind at all if the government started developing the "green" job opportunities associated with alternative energy and establishing a national health care system. In part, those are the reasons the Obama-Biden ticket prevailed over McCain-Palin.

Palin, like the rest of her Republican colleagues, is as oblivious to these realities as she is to the plight of the turkeys.

Senate Gives Standing Ovation To Convicted Felon Ted Stevens

Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted of seven felony counts of violating federal ethics laws and unrepentant to the point of trying to retain his Senate seat, which he lost to Democrat Mark Begich. Part of his conviction was based on the underwriting of $250,000 in home renovations by an oil-services company owner and Alaskan power broker. Stevens' blatant corruption is therefore directly related to his former official position.

Regardless, the Senate saw fit to pay tribute to Stevens and give him a standing ovation. Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada was among those who sang his praises. Does it reflect well on the Senate to give this respectful farewell to someone who so clearly disgraced the institution?

Tom Daschle: "Our Competitiveness Is At Stake" If We Don't Reform Health Care

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is Barack Obama's choice as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The pick of the knowledgeable Daschle reveals the president-elect's seriousness in extending health care for all Americans.

In the brief interview above with Steve Clemons of The New America Foundation, Daschle discusses the economic repercussions of failing to reform health care, a concern recognized by an increasing number of business leaders. Daschle makes an urgent case: "We've got to recognize that our system is broken, and unless we fix it soon, a lot of our companies are going to be broken too... If we do nothing, health care costs for the typical American will double in the next 10 years."

Kathleen Parker On The Republicans' God Problem

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker broke ranks with the Republican ticket during the presidential campaign by writing that Sarah Palin should bow out. Parker now contends that the Republican party has tied its policies too closely to religious beliefs and that it is marginalizing itself by appealing to a shrinking constituency. Excerpts from her column "Giving Up On God":

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

...To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

...Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they've had something to do with the GOP's erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University's Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.

Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can't have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

To read the entire column, click here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Representative Michele Bachmann Can't Distinguish Reality From Urban Legend

Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota had a near-death experience in terms of her political career after she told Chris Matthews that Barack Obama "may have anti-American views." Channeling Joseph McCarthy, Bachmann also called on the news media to "do a penetrating expose" into the "views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or anti-America."

Speaking to Alan Colmes on Tuesday night, Bachmann is shown in the video above denying that she made these statements:

Colmes: You said you were concerned during the campaign that Obama had anti-American views and you said the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.

Bachmann: Actually that’s not what I said. It’s an urban legend that was created and that’s not what I said.

Colmes: I have the tape at my website

Bachmann: What I called on, Alan, was for the mainstream media to do their job. They failed to vet Barack Obama the way they had John McCain. That’s what I was calling for.

Let's go to the video tape. Judge for yourself whether Bachmann's statements as cited by Colmes are an "urban legend":

Lieberman Granted Amnesty For Treachery

The Democrats on Tuesday voted to let Joe Lieberman keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, a decision that had the backing of President-elect Barack Obama. I understand that they're trying to be pragmatic and not push Lieberman into the Republican camp. They want every vote they can get on the major issues ahead, particularly with the possibility of gaining a filibuster-proof majority with elections still to be decided. 

Still, Lieberman spoke recently about a filibuster-proof Democratic majority being a threat to the nation's security. In addition, how reliable a vote is he? He stood against the Democrats on the Iraq war and torture. How did he rationalize waterboarding? "It is not like putting hot coals on people's bodies." So because it isn't hot coals, the acute panic brought on by the sensation that one is about to drown isn't torture.

Lieberman gave what was called in the CNN video above a "carefully hedged mea culpa":

...some of the statements — some of the things that people have said I said about Senator Obama are simply not true.

There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly. And there are some that I made that I wish I had not made at all.

And, obviously, in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that. And now it’s time to move on.

Will Lieberman become more faithful to Obama out of gratitude? It's hard to tell. Still, the overall effect of Lieberman's amnesty is a negative one for the Democratic party. The lesson learned? After supporting the Republican president, his war of choice in Iraq, torture, and the Republican presidential candidate; speaking at the Republican National Convention, and trashing the Democratic presidential candidate, there are no consequences. The loss of a spot on the Environment and Public Works Committee is a slap on the wrist. Not the best way to enforce even a modicum of party discipline and loyalty.

Wanda Sykes On Proposition 8: "They Pissed Off The Wrong Group Of People"

Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes spoke about Proposition 8 at a rally sponsored by the LGBT Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. She spoke about the galvanizing effect of the passage of the proposition, in terms of motivating gays and their supporters to fight for equal marriage rights.

Sykes also spoke about the fallacy of calling a gay identity a choice: "Are we saying that if being gay is a choice that people are straight because they chose not to be gay?" The reason, of course, that it's called a choice is that it gives those who despise gays a reason to blame them for their orientation.

This "choice" business is nonsense. Personally, I can't remember a point in my life when I decided to be a straight male. One's sexuality is too instinctive to be based on a rational decision. So why is this straight male so outraged by the passing of Proposition 8? Because it is so blatantly based on prejudice and a denial of civil and human rights.

By the way, you can catch Wanda Sykes in the outstanding and curmudgeonly TV comedy, "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama Pledges To Close Guantanamo, Stop Torture

Barack Obama, speaking to CBS on Sunday night, reiterated his pledge to close Guantanamo Bay and stop torture. Such moves are essential to restoring good international relations with the world and our own moral standing. 

America clearly went astray when it crossed over to the "dark side," as Dick Cheney put it, or viewed the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," as Alberto Gonzalez stated, and adopted such practices as waterboarding and shipping captives to lands that torture (known as "extraordinary rendition"). In addition, we weakened our case against the torture of our own soldiers. It is heartening to hear Obama's intention to uphold American democratic values and human rights.

Gingrich Raises The Evil Specter Of "Gay And Secular Fascism"

Newt Gingrich received a sympathetic hearing by Bill O'Reilly on Fox–no surprise there–as he pinpointed the menace we all face:

Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank -- for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school.

So gay people fighting for their equal rights to marriage is "gay and secular fascism" imposing its will. Exactly who is imposing on whom? Aren't gays the ones whose rights are subject to a vote–and whose rights were just rescinded by Proposition 8 in California?

Note how the "threat" is explicitly couched in terms of religion. Are we making laws according to theocratic standards or according to the separation of church and state and equal protection under the law? Right wing cultural warriors like Gingrich and O'Reilly represent the American version of the Taliban.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Political Analysts: Obama's Diplomatic Stance Aids Iraq Withdrawal Plans

The following paragraph stood out for me in a report on the Iraqi cabinet's approving a security pact calling for a U.S. pullout by the end of 2011:

Several political analysts suggested that Iranian opposition to the pact had softened because of the American presidential election victory of Senator Barack Obama. He has suggested a more diplomatic approach to Tehran and has described a withdrawal timetable from Iraq faster even than the one laid out in the security agreement, though recently he has qualified that stance.

“If George Bush’s presidency were going to continue on through 2012, I think people would be a lot more concerned,” said Karim Sadjadpour, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Having this administration really lightens the blow for the Iranians.”

Apparently Obama's willingness to use diplomacy in foreign affairs is already making an impact even before the president-elect takes office. He has increased the level of trust required to allow the American withdrawal to proceed. 

Had John McCain won the election, that would, in effect, have meant the continuation of George Bush's presidency. McCain's empty rhetoric about "victory" would have kept tensions and mistrust about American intentions high, making withdrawal that much more difficult. And, of course, McCain disdained talk about withdrawal.

Leahy And Sanders Say No To Lieberman's Chairmanship

The Democrats are voting by secret ballot on Tuesday on whether to keep Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Lieberman spoke at the Republican National Convention on John McCain's behalf; consistently undercut Barack Obama, as shown in the video above; supports Republican Senator Norm Coleman in his contest against Democratic contender Al Franken, and has backed the war in Iraq. 

For these reasons, Senators Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have called for the chairmanship to be taken away. Sanders said, "To reward Sen. Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country. Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not 'change we can believe in.' "

Exactly what do wavering Democrats think they will gain with Lieberman? Besides campaigning for Republicans, he has also lurched to the right on both foreign and domestic issues. To read the details in "Joe Lieberman: The Progressive Who Lost His Way" by Think Progress, click here.

The report quotes Lieberman as complaining that progressive bloggers have added "vituperation toxicity" to politics. On this issue, I'm glad to add my share.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Auto Industry Collapse Would Be Disastrous In Today's Economy

Does it really make sense to follow the advice of Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and let the auto industry collapse?

"They're not building the right products," Shelby said. "They've got good workers but I don't believe they've got good management. They don't innovate. They're a dinosaur in a sense."

Columnist Bob Herbert outlines the consequences, especially dire in today's volatile economy:

It’s not just General Motors or Chrysler or Ford. The U.S. auto industry is the cornerstone of American manufacturing. It supports millions of jobs, directly or indirectly, in a vast array of businesses.

Start with the thousands of parts in each vehicle. They are produced by suppliers across the country, from one coast to the other. Those supplies have to be manufactured, packaged and transported. Truck drivers, railway systems and shipping companies are involved.

And, of course, there are dealers everywhere. And the auto repair industry. And the insurance industry. And vast systems of advertising supporting every kind of job you can imagine, from messengers to accountants to filmmakers and beyond. All of that advertising funnels absolutely crucial revenues to television, magazines, newspapers — you name it.

If G.M., which is on life support, or Ford or Chrysler were to go bankrupt, the reverberations would kill the jobs of entire armies of American workers. It would undermine the standard of living of hundreds of thousands of families and shutter the entrances of untold numbers of small and intermediate businesses.

Unlike Shelby's defeatist stance, Herbert advocates crafting a plan that calls for both rescue and reform:

This whole matter needs some intensive thought. At the moment, Washington has tremendous leverage over the failing auto industry. The government should craft a rescue plan that is both tough and very, very smart. That means dragging the industry (kicking and screaming, no doubt) into the 21st century by insisting on ironclad commitments to design and develop vehicles that make sense economically and that serve the nation’s long-term energy security requirements.

Barack Obama made the same point in his "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday:

For the auto industry to completely collapse would be a disaster in this kind of environment. So my hope is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all of the stakeholders coming together with a plan — what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?

One thing's for sure: allowing the auto industry to collapse is not part of a sustainable economic recovery.

Thousands Protest Denial Of Gay Marriage Rights

Organized by Join The Impact, thousands in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere across the country on Saturday rallied against the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which rescinded the marriage rights of gays. Of course, this is more than a gay rights issue; it is also a civil and human rights issue.

Heather Baker, special education teacher from Boston who addressed the crowd at Boston's City Hall Plaza, put it perfectly: "We are the American family, we live next door to you, we teach your children, we take care of your elderly. We need equal rights across the country." 

The video above is from the Boston rally.

Obama Speaks On Economic Priorities In First Address As President-Elect

Barack Obama will be releasing his weekly address, as president-elect and as president, on the radio and the Web. 

How refreshing, in this first address, to hear the president-elect speak about "long-term investments that we've neglected for too long." The investments include rebuilding our infrastructure, developing a green energy economy and extending health care to all.

Here's something to remember on Thanksgiving: after eight disastrous years under the Bush administration, we finally have a president who's focused on the priorities of the American people.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rachel Maddow: Strip Lieberman Of His Chair Of Homeland Security And Government Affairs

As shown in the video above, Rachel Maddow made a strong case for stripping Joe Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. 

Maddow stated that while campaigning for John McCain, Lieberman talked about how much he feared for the safety of the country if the Democratic ticket prevailed. While Lieberman did virtually nothing to investigate the mishandling of Katrina, he may decide to hound an administration headed by a president he said was "dangerously naive" and wants "retreat on the field of battle."

She also said that while the Democrats may want Lieberman as part of an effort to reach a filibuster-proof 60 Senate seats, Lieberman will not vote with them on such contentious issues as Iraq and torture. In addition, he agreed with right wing talk show host Glenn Beck that a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate is a threat to the country's survival.

Maddow's compelling conclusion should be seriously considered by the all Democrats who have been angered by Lieberman's treachery and are wondering whether he will really strengthen the party's agenda:

Listen, Democrats, you have lost Lieberman anyway. I f you boot Lieberman out of his chairmanship, I know you probably won't get your 60 votes. But you do get a guy who politicized national security and homeland security in a disgusting fashion during this election, you do get him out of one of the most important security jobs in the government. And you do get your political soul and your political dignity back. And you probably get the satisfaction of seeing Joe Lieberman trying to run for re-election as a Republican next time around in New England. And that would probably be hilarious. 

Obama Meets Redneck Supporter

This photo remains as one of my favorites from the presidential campaign. The outstretched arms and smiles evoke the inclusiveness and sense of hope that Barack Obama inspired among individuals from all walks of life.

Secret Service: Palin Demagoguery Provoked Death Threats Against Obama

Sarah Palin's demagoguery was related to death threats against Barack Obama, according to The Secret Service. As reported by The Economic Times:

The defeated Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been blamed by the Secret Service for provoking a spike in death threats against US President-elect Barack Obama.

During the bitter election campaign, the Alaskan governor had questioned Obama's patriotism and accused him of "palling around with terrorists," citing his links with the sixties radical William Ayers.

Palin's demagogic tone may have unintentionally encouraged white supremacists to plan attacks on the future president of the US.

The Secret Service warned the Obama family last month that they had seen a dramatic surge in threats against the Democratic leader, coinciding with Palin's attacks, the Daily Telegraph newspaper has reported.

The latest details of the increase in threats to Obama come as a report by a top think tank last week had warned that he is a high risk target for racist gunmen.

...The verbal attacks by Palin on Obama had provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling "terrorist" and "kill him" until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric, the British daily said.

Palin's irresponsible, incendiary rhetoric offers one more reason among many that she is completely unqualified from ever running for a national office again.

Hundreds Of Racist Incidents Take Place Since Obama's Election

Despite the milestone represented by the election of America's first African-American president, the ugly specter of racism is still all too prevalent throughout the country. Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes, said that there have been hundreds of racist incidents since Barak Obama's electoral victory. As reported by the AP, here are some of them:

• Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

• At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."

• Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

• Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.

• University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

• Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

• Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

• A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

• In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Barack Obama's campaign actively sought to include people of widely diverse backgrounds united in their quest for change. These racist incidents come not as a result of any divisive actions on the candidate's or campaign's part; they occur simply because Obama is an African-American. Apparently there are scores of lunatics out there who simply can't come to terms with that fact. May the Secret Service never relax their guard, even for a millisecond.

Matthews Denounces Right-Wing Hack's Hypocrisy

After MSNBC's Chris Matthews made the case that Barack Obama should push a bold program in his first year, Republican strategist Todd Harris counseled caution. Matthews responded angrily to this blatant right-wing hypocrisy. The dialogue:

Matthews: It seems to me that he's got one chance to get everything done. Ronald Reagan taught everybody that. Get it done the first year or don't talk about it. ... He's got to do it. He can't say, 'I'll put it off till after the year after next.' ... Do you think this guy can survive as president if all he does is do a little tax cuts and push SCHIP and removes the ban on stem cell?

Harris: Big doesn't need to be conflated with liberal. I think it's important that people not lose sight over what this election was and what it wasn't. What it was was a historic victory for Barack Obama. What it was not was a wholesale realignment of American politics to the left.

Matthews: You guys are so -- you speak with a forked tongue, Todd! George Bush won with less votes than Al Gore -- you talk about mandates. [Bush] came in there and did exactly what he wanted to do. He cut taxes for the rich across the board. ... He took us to war in Iraq. The idea that you should pussyfoot if you're a Democrat, but if you're a Republican go in there whole hog -- you have a totally two standards here! Republicans should take advantage of every victory and call it a mandate. Democrats should go in there and be very cautious. 'Gee whiz, I'm sorry for being here, I hope we don't offend the conservatives.' "

Matthews is right. For the past eight years, did any conservative counsel Bush that he was pursuing a hard right wing agenda as if he had won a mandate, when in fact his elections were achingly close (and, in 2000, actually involved the theft of the election with the collusion of the Supreme Court)?

The majority who voted for Barack Obama by a clearly more sizeable margin than Bush ever received want a change in taxes, diplomacy, energy, health care, war and other major issues. Harris is following the right-wing talking point that America is a "center-right country" and that Obama should not veer too far off of the course we've been on for the past eight years. No matter how much conservatives like Harris try to spin it otherwise, Obama pledged much more than minor adjustments to the Bush administration's disastrous policies.

"The Bush Effect": A Cautionary Tale

Keith Olbermann of "Countdown" pointed out how George Bush serves as an example for other leaders of what not to do in foreign affairs. 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was trying to persuade Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia not to pursue the overthrow of the government of President Mikheil Saakashvilli of Georgia during the Russian-Georgian conflict in August. The dialogue took place in the Élysée Palace and was recently reported by the Times of London:

Putin: I am going to hang Saakashvilli by the balls.

Sarkozy: Hang him?

Putin: Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.

Sarkozy: Yes, but do you want to end up like Bush?

Putin (following a pause): Ah, you have scored a point there.

Nice to know that, in his own way, George Bush helps to make the case for restraint and diplomacy in world affairs.

Israel's Netanyahu Imitates Obama's Web Site, Not His Diplomatic Stance

Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel's Likud Party is ahead in polls tracking candidates vying to serve as the country's next prime minister. The New York Times reports that his Web site is a stylistic imitation of the one used by Barack Obama during the latter's presidential campaign.

Though Netanyahu and Obama reportedly established a personal rapport during two meetings, they have little in common in terms of diplomacy. Mr. Netanyahu is a hawk who is not interested in negotiations with the Palestinians or in a two-state solution. Netanyahu's campaign slogan, "Together We Can Succeed," is a variation of Obama's "Yes We Can," and he is positioning himself as an agent of change. But is there any validity to that claim?

Netanyahu contends that he wants to build up the Palestinians' economy and put their national aspirations on the shelf. But it is those aspirations that are the Palestinians' core issue; it is not for Netanyahu to deny the principle of self-determination and decide otherwise. Yet he states that he is an agent of change compared to Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party, by virtue of the fact that she wants to continue talks.

Netanyahu's disdain for diplomacy resembles George Bush's. Netanyahu would not work toward a two-state solution and would support West Bank settlements. Those are not the policies of an agent of change; they're a blueprint for further cycles of stagnation and confrontation.

Right-Wing Talking Point Following Obama Victory: America A "Center-Right Country"

In a panic following Barack Obama's victory, media conservatives such as Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh are suddenly proclaiming that America is a "center-right country."

America has just elected a candidate who has been against the war in Iraq from the start, wants to extend health care for all, is determined to restore progressive taxation, upholds a woman's right to choose, supports stem cell research, wants Colombia to improve its human rights record prior to a trade agreement, is committed to alternative energy and advocates a greater role for diplomacy. 

It's fairly strange for O'Reilly and Limbaugh to immediately follow the victory of such a candidate with the conclusion that America is predominantly center-right, a view echoed by conservative commentators Bill Kristol and Karl Rove. Let's also not forget the drubbing the Republicans received in the House and Senate in both the 2006 and 2008 elections. What about Democratic gains among Hispanics, young people and independents? Then there's the growing political marginalization of the South. Shouldn't the discussion be whether there's a growing progressive trend in the country?

O'Reilly gave the latest right wing talking point on The Daily Show: "We're a center-right nation because we respect traditions in America." 

I believe that host John Stewart answered correctly: "The tradition in America is a progression of individual freedoms. You know what the tradition of America would say? Gay marriage is the next step in the progression. That's the tradition of America. You're misrepresenting the tradition. Your idea of the tradition is a mythological Ozzie-and-Harriet thing." Here's the dialogue on video:

Now listen to Rush Limbaugh state, "Obama, in the last three weeks of this campaign, was running as a conservative. Tell me the last liberal you ever heard promising a tax cut for 95 percent of the American people":

Limbaugh disingenuously skips one key point: Obama has also pledged to raise taxes on the wealthy, anathema to conservatives who seek to give the most economic benefits to those who need them the least.

The righties represented here loathe Obama's stances outlined above. So they seek to warn him not to do anything different from the Bush administration's failed policies. But it's not going to work. Obama clearly stated his positions and the American people voted him into office by a healthy margin. The American electorate is intelligent enough to realize that they weren't supporting a "center-right" platform.