Thursday, September 29, 2011

GOP Audience Applauds As Christie Mentions Firing Of Gov't. Workers

How is it that the Republicans claim to be the "values" party? The values held by their supporters certainly seem perverse. At the Republican presidential debates, the audience cheered the 234 executions under Rick Perry, yelled "Yeah!" at the idea that an uninsured individual should be left to die, and booed a gay soldier putting his life on the line in Iraq. In the latest episode, attendees at a speech by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) applauded his account of Reagan's firing thousands of air traffic controllers. Watch:

Christie: In August of 1981, the air traffic controllers, in violation of their contracts, went on strike. President Reagan ordered them back to work, making clear that those who refused would be fired. In the end, thousands refused, thousands were fired. [applause]

We recall Speaker John Boehner's aplomb regarding Federal job losses: "So be it." Boehner knows that public employees are servants of an evil government, unlike those who work for the private sector, which always has citizens' well-being in mind. From this perspective, the Koch-supported Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) handed out tax breaks to corporations, creating a budget crisis, and then used that crisis as an excuse to bust public service unions–striking a blow against another force for evil.

Remember, however, that the Republicans claim that now is not the time to raise the taxes of anyone, including those of the "job creators"–even though, with an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, they don't seem to be "creating" many jobs. Wouldn't it behoove the Republicans to feel that now is also not the time to cheer the firing of anyone?

Republicans are not only cheering the glorious public sector firings of the past; they're actively pursuing more. Think Progress cites the following: Republican budget cuts have forced 500,000+ public workers to lose their jobs; candidate Mitt Romney has promised to lay off more; the GOP is calling for massive cuts to the postal service; 19 of 20 metropolitan areas with the strongest economic recovery have added government jobs, while 13 of the 20 weakest have lost them.

These firings, of course, have a dire effect not only on the workers, but on their families as well. Think of this the next time you hear that the Republicans uphold "values"–including "family values."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Elizabeth Warren Rebuts GOP On “Class Warfare”: “Nobody Got Rich On His Own”

Elizabeth Warren, former White House financial reform adviser who is challenging Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, gave an excellent example of a fighting progressive. In a recent appearance, she reminds us how the Bush administration got us into the current debt crisis, with its tax cuts for the rich, two simultaneous wars and an unfunded prescription drug program. Warren then rebuts the Republicans' charge of "class warfare," stating that the wealthy have benefited from the efforts and taxes of others and need to give back their fair share. Watch:

Warren: I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.' No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along. (h/t: Talking Points Memo, SOG City Oracle)

To thank Elizabeth Warren for standing up for progressive values, visit CREDO Action. To contribute to her campaign, visit Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts.

With Taxes Cut For "Job Creators," Where Are The Jobs?

One of the most absurd pieces of rhetoric that the Republicans currently use is "job creators." We can't raise taxes on the wealthy, we're told, because they use their money to "create" jobs. This argument has been used by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner. It was invoked as a reason to add not one penny of revenue as part of the debt ceiling deal.

What amazes me is that the Republicans speak of "job creators" without embarrassment. The disconnect is just so obvious. If cutting taxes results in jobs, where are the jobs? Today I read about huge job losses hitting the nation's cities and the South. Two paragraphs on a Georgia city struck me:

Union City, with a population of 20,000, now calls itself the place “Where Business Meets the World” and has been trying to lure companies by pointing out its low business taxes, various incentive programs and proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Steve Rapson, the city manager, said that the challenge there, as in much of America, has been to get employers to hire again. “It’s hard to get your mind around what can you do as a city to encourage future jobs and jobs growth,” he said.

So here's a small city that has low business taxes. Why, then, is it hard to "get employers to hire again"? The answer, of course, is lack of consumer demand. If consumers are not spending, companies are not going to hire. If demand rises, hiring will rise. Jobs will not simply be "created" when cash is shoveled at the wealthy (Moody's Analytics tells us that the wealthy generally save rather than spend their tax cuts). That's why the emphasis should be on stimulus and jobs, not the deficit–and why simply cutting is disastrous. When Roosevelt cut spending in 1937, we went back into the Depression until World War II. Clinton increased taxes in 1993 and the economy boomed; Bush cut taxes in 2001, which contributed to our current mess.

So what do we get for maintaining tax cuts for the wealthy? Well, we have to cut programs for education, health, energy and jobs. What should we call it when the needs of the middle class and poor are disregarded for the sake of the wealthy? We can use another bit of rhetoric the Republicans are fond of–but I believe that we can use it more accurately. We can call it "class warfare."

(Image: David Horsey)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Did Police Use Pepper Spray At Wall St. Protests "Appropriately"?

During the protests on Wall Street against corporate political influence, greed and bailouts, one high-ranking police officer appears to be using pepper spray against women who posed no threat. One of them, Chelsea Elliot, said, “Out of all the people they chose to spray, it was just me and three other girls. I’m not pushing against anybody, or trying to escape.” NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne said that the spray was used "appropriately," adding, “Pepper spray was used once after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier — something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.” Watch the video from and see whether you think the spray was used "appropriately"–or whether, as James Fallows commented, it was an unprovoked abuse of power:

Monday, September 26, 2011

NYT On Death Penalty: "An Indefensible Punishment"

The execution of Troy Davis despite serious doubts about his guilt ought to start a national dialogue about the death penalty–one that, I would hope, leads us to abandon it. The bottom line with the death penalty is the possibility–or inevitability–of executing the innocent. In this regard, one also thinks of the widespread doubts about the conviction of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas–the state whose governor, Rick Perry, was applauded at a GOP presidential debate due to his death penalty record. One also thinks about the Death Penalty Information Center’s count of 138 people freed after being wrongfully convicted. In addition, there are gross and consistent disparities in the application of capital punishment–and given that the punishment is final, such unequal application of the law cannot be justified. An editorial in today’s New York Times considers all these factors and comes to an inescapable conclusion. From “An Indefensible Punishment":

...[Juror] biases are driven by race, class and politics, which influence all aspects of American life. As a result, they have made discrimination and arbitrariness the hallmarks of the death penalty in this country.

For example, two-thirds of all those sentenced to death since 1976 have been in five Southern states where “vigilante values” persist, according to the legal scholar Franklin Zimring. Racism continues to infect the system, as study after study has found in the past three decades.

The problems go on: Many defendants in capital cases are too poor to afford legal counsel. Many of the lawyers assigned to represent them are poorly equipped for the job. A major study done for the Senate Judiciary Committee found that “egregiously incompetent defense lawyering” accounted for about two-fifths of the errors in capital cases. Apart from the issue of counsel, these cases are more expensive at every stage of the criminal process than noncapital cases.

Politics also permeates the death penalty, adding to chances of arbitrary administration. Most prosecutors in jurisdictions with the penalty are elected and control the decision to seek the punishment. Within the same state, differing politics from county to county have led to huge disparities in use of the penalty, when the crime rates and demographics were similar. This has been true in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas and many other states.

So far, under this horrifying system, 17 innocent people sentenced to death have been exonerated and released based on DNA evidence, and 112 other people based on other evidence. All but a few developed nations have abolished the death penalty. It is time Americans acknowledged that the death penalty cannot be made to comply with the Constitution and is in every way indefensible.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Conservatives Dismayed By Inarticulate Perry, Insincere Romney

Following the Republican presidential candidates' debate on September 22, two conservative media outlets were dismayed by the two front runners, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. The Weekly Standard was in a panic, expressed by its commentary, “Special Editorial: Yikes”:

...Early on, we received this missive from a bright young conservative: “I'm watching my first GOP debate...and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!” As the evening went on, the craziness receded, and the demoralized comments we received stressed the mediocrity of the field rather than its wackiness. As one more experienced, and therefore more jaded, observer wrote: “I just thought maybe it’s always this bad...they’re only marginally worse than McCain and Bush.”

...But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him. And Mitt Romney remains, when all is said and done, a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare. He could rise to the occasion as president. Or not.

Red State also criticized Perry's inability to communicate and Romney's smooth-tongued insincerity:

...Perry’s third debate performance regressed from steady-if-unspectacular to has-problems-communicating. I am sure that many conservatives who watched the debate were unfavorably reminded of the last Republican President, and wondered whether they really wanted to spend another 4 or 8 years carrying water for someone who is incapable of defending himself from a hostile press in an articulate manner.

...[Romney] will sound good in the debates, he will push all the right buttons and say all the right buzzwords, but it will be anyone’s guess as to whether he really means them, or whether he will pull an abrupt about-face two years (or less) from now...

Ideally, we would have a candidate with the requisite experience, capable of beating Obama, who could both be trusted to keep his/her word and defend his position eloquently, but that candidate was not on stage last night...

Rachel Maddow: In “Republicanland,” Facts Bear No Relation To Reality

Rachel Maddow points out that the Republican presidential candidates conduct debates based on an assumed set of “facts” that are simply not true. In the alternative universe of “Republicanland,” Ben Bernanke is the most inflationary head of the Fed; Obama’s stimulus created no jobs; Social Security is a failure. Maddow wonders how legislation on jobs or other critical issues can take place if it involves a party that traffics in such falsehoods. Watch:

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de Kooning Retrospective At MOMA: Between Abstraction And Figuration

"de Kooning: A Retrospective" at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, is a comprehensive exhibition spanning Willem de Kooning’s entire career, filled with around 200 pieces that cover the museum's entire sixth floor. Dutch-born de Kooning is one of the major abstract expressionists from the “New York School,” the movement that received international prominence in the 1940s and 1950s, though the artist continued working through the 1980s.

The show amply demonstrates that de Kooning could not simply be defined as an abstract artist. The interplay of the figurative and the abstract is a running theme in his art, as evidenced by “Woman I” (1950-1952) above. de Kooning’s “Woman” series of paintings was controversial because of the very use of the human figure at a time when critics were promoting the abstract. The "Woman" series was also criticized as misogynistic; however one receives them, these paintings retain their raw power decades later.

The exhibit presents decades of an ever-changing career, including his early still lifes and figures composed as an art student; his black-and-white abstractions; the frenetic, slashing paintings he produced living in New York City; the luminous, bright works that followed his move to eastern Long Island; the stripped-down bands of color that he employed in the last phase of his work. "de Kooning: A Retrospective" gives this 20th century artistic giant the broad overview he deserves.

For MOMA's multimedia on the exhibition, click here; for the New York Times review, click here; for the Times' "Seven Eras of Willem de Kooning," including images and audio, click here.

"de Kooning: A Retrospective" continues through January 9, 2012, at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY, (212) 708-9400.

Republican Audience Members Boo Gay Soldier Serving In Iraq

Does something ugly have to happen at every Republican presidential debate? At one, the audience cheered the 234 executions that have occurred on Rick Perry's watch. At another, they yelled "Yeah!" at the question of whether an uninsured individual should be left to die. During the most recent debate, Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq, asked the candidates whether they'd "circumvent the progress made by gay and lesbian soldiers in the military." After audience members booed Hill, Rick Santorum, who has not served, stated that "sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military"–as if Hill were asking for sexual activity–and distorted the right of gays to serve as a "special privilege." The audience applauded, and not one candidate objected to the booing or thanked Hill for risking his life as a soldier. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Eva Cassidy Sings “Autumn Leaves”

Eva Cassidy sings the most beautiful rendition of “Autumn Leaves” I’ve ever heard–a perfect interpretation of the haunting lyrics. This performance reminds us how much we lost when this outstanding vocalist and guitarist passed away much too young at 33.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis Execution Underlines Ultimate Injustice Of Death Penalty

While there are many valid arguments against the death penalty, there is one that is the most compelling: the possibility of executing an innocent individual. Troy Davis was executed despite the fact that his conviction did not meet the legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The legal system failed Davis in the most grievous way, taking his life and giving him no further recourse.

Davis was convicted primarily due to eyewitness testimony. Yet seven out of nine witnesses recanted, including six who cited police pressure to incriminate the defendant. One of the remaining two witnesses, Sylvester Coles, may be the killer. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime and the ballistics evidence was unreliable, as conceded by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Three jurors subsequently expressed doubt about Davis’s guilt. Does all of this add up to “beyond a reasonable doubt”?

It is this zeal to execute, as evidenced by the Republican audience cheering Rick Perry’s capital punishment record at a presidential candidates' debate, that sealed Davis’s fate. If Davis were imprisoned, at least his family and supporters could have continued to press his case. At the debate, Perry stated that he didn’t struggle with the innocence of any of the executed-despite widespread doubts about the conviction of one executed Texan, Cameron Todd Willingham. Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois repealed the death penalty due to the wrongful conviction of 20 people. The Death Penalty Information Center counts 138 people who were freed after being wrongfully convicted. Due to this possibility, The Innocence Project is dedicated to exonerating such individuals.

Despite serious doubts about his guilt, the state of Georgia strapped Troy Davis to a gurney and injected him with poisons. There is one way to insure that this does not happen again: joining the rest of the civilized world and abolishing the death penalty.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obama Grows A Spine After Discovering GOP Won’t Compromise

President Obama is threatening to veto any debt-reduction plan that doesn’t include increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations. His new aggressiveness is based on a finding that many in his frustrated base knew all along: today’s GOP is too extreme to respect his willingness to compromise. Instead, they took it as weakness, especially his preemptive compromises. Wasn’t it enough when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that his driving goal was to make Obama a one-term president? Or when the Republicans, during the debt ceiling negotiations, were ready to drive the economy off the cliff to avoid raising any revenue from some of the wealthiest people on earth? Obama’s new stance will not result in Republican willingness to bend. But it will further define both who the Republicans are and sharpen the choice before the American people:

Faced with falling poll numbers for his leadership and an anxious party base, Mr. Obama did not just propose but insisted that any long-term debt-reduction plan must not shave future Medicare benefits without also raising taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations.

He uncharacteristically backed up that stand with a veto threat, setting up a politically charged choice for anti-tax Republicans — protect the most affluent or compromise to attack deficits. Confident in the answers most voters would make, Mr. Obama plans to hammer on that choice through 2012, reflecting the fact that the White House has all but given up hopes of a “grand bargain” with Republicans to restore fiscal balance for years to come.

...Mr. Obama also seems to have given up on his strategy of nearly a year, beginning when Republicans won control of the House last November, of being the eager-to-compromise “reasonable adult” — in the White House’s phrasing — in his relations with them.

...Indeed, Mr. Obama’s new tack in pressing the deficit-reduction framework and $447 billion jobs-creation plan that he wants — not trimmed to draw Republicans’ votes — reflects the conclusion he has drawn from the past 10 months: Republicans will oppose almost anything he proposes, even tax cuts.

Stewart Pulls A Bachmann Face

Parodying Newsweek’s controversial “Queen of Rage” front cover of Michele Bachmann, Jon Stewart does “The Queen of Nice.” Which one looks more nuts?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rep. John Fleming’s Lament: Only $400K Left After Feeding Family

Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican and Tea Party member, complained to MSNBC’s Chris Jansing about Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy. After taking care of business expenses and feeding his family, Fleming has maybe “$400,000 left over.” Jansing pointed out to Fleming, whose businesses made $6.3 million last year, that lamenting tax increases while netting $400,000 is “not exactly a sympathetic position.” Fleming responded that “class warfare’s never created a job.” Watch:

Alan Grayson Predicted The GOP's "Let Them Die" Attitude

I still miss Alan Grayson, former Democratic representative from central Florida and a genuine fighting progressive. Following a Republican crowd’s call to let the uninsured die at a recent presidential candidates' debate, one must say that two years ago, Grayson accurately characterized the GOP's attitude toward health care: "Don't get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly." Watch:

(h/t: MoveOn.Org)

Paul Ryan Criticizes "Class Warfare," Fights For The Wealthy

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) used discredited right-wing rhetoric to criticize President Obama's call for $1.5 trillion in tax increases, the bulk of it on the wealthy:

Democrats talk about having millionaires pay their "fair share" -- Republicans talk about "class warfare."

That's the term Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., used to describe President Obama's proposed "Buffett Rule," which would set a higher tax rate for millionaires.

"Class warfare might make for good politics, but it makes for bad economics," Ryan said on Fox News Sunday.

Ryan said higher taxes -- part of the debt reduction plan Obama plans to roll out Monday morning -- will hurt job creators and create further uncertainty in the economy.

"Class warfare"? Ryan himself is a class warrior–but for the wealthy. He put forth a plan to dramatically cut Medicare and Medicaid while reducing the top tax rate from 25% to 35%–a shift of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the rich. Ryan's plan would also double seniors' health care expenses. He defends tax cuts for the wealthy, which result in cuts to education, health, energy and jobs programs and have added around $2 trillion to the national debt over 10 years. Ryan isn't for all tax cuts, however; he's opposed to payroll tax cuts for the middle class.

"Job creators"? This is the same empty slogan used by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in explaining his opposition to Obama's jobs bill. If tax cuts to the wealthy created jobs, how do we explain an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent (Aug. 2011)? Do Ryan, Cantor and the rest of the GOP really believe this snake oil they're peddling?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rep. Steve King: Unemployment Benefits Created "A Nation Of Slackers"

Why do we have an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent (Aug. 2011)? According to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the primary problem isn't jobs being shipped overseas or the lack of consumer demand. No, suddenly almost one out of every ten decided to have a grand ol' time on what he calls the "slacker rolls." Further, even though Moody’s Analytics has confirmed that unemployment checks are an economic stimulus (every dollar spent on benefits produces $1.61 for the economy), King doesn’t want to be confused with the facts. And though he calls for putting people back to work, the Republicans oppose the infrastructure bank proposed by Obama that would do so. Watch as King tells us the reason we have so many unemployed: the benefits themselves have created “a nation of slackers":

King: United States of America borrows money and hands it to people and tells them, you don't have to work for this. You don't have to produce anything for this. We just want you to spend it. That's your patriotic duty, to take the money that we borrowed from the Chinese, and the debt burden we put on our grandchildren, and put it in people's hands and say it's a patriotic thing, take your food stamps and take your rent subsidy and heat subsidy and your unemployment check, and go engage in commerce, that's patriotic. Um, no? [...]

The former speaker of the House, Speaker Pelosi, has consistently said that unemployment checks are one of those reliable and immediate forms of economy recovery, that you get a lot of bang for your buck when you pay people not to work, and they will go out and spend that money immediately, therefore we should pass out unemployment checks and stimulate the economy. That statement is ridiculous where I come from, Mr. Speaker. To pay people not to work, and somehow in that formula it stimulates the economy. [...]

The 80 million Americans that are of working age but are simply not in the workforce need to be put to work. We can't have a nation of slackers and then have me have to sit in the Judiciary Committee listening to them argue that there's work that Americans won't do, so we have to import people to do the work that Americans won't do, and borrow money to pay the welfare of people that won't work. That is a foolish thing for a nation to do. We've gotta get this country back to work and get those people out of the slacker rolls and onto the employed rolls. (h/t: Daily Kos)

Maher And Olbermann Try To Reach "Typical Republican Voter"

Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann try to communicate with a "typical Republican voter." But regardless of the facts they present to him on taxes, the deficit, Social Security, health care reform and the debt ceiling, they simply can’t get through. Seems he lives in a bubble. Watch:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Artist Ends Interview On Fox By Dissing Station

NYC artist Jay Shells, interviewed on Fox about his “street etiquette” sign campaign, ended the segment with a surprise diss. Watch:

Shells: It’s ironic that I’m here, actually; I was going to do a sign that said, 'Fox News Lies' and put that up. But it got bumped for the ‘clean up after your horse,’ so I couldn’t do it. So I’m stuck with the ‘clean up after your horse.’ It’s not as popular, but I think it’s funnier.

Fox News lies”? Is there any truth to suchclaim?

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Happy Birthday B.B. King

Yesterday was the birthday of B.B. King, listed as number three of the 100 Greatest Guitarists by Rolling Stone, which praises his “uniquely eclectic vision of the blues, blending the intricate guitar language of country blues, the raw emotion of gospel and the smooth finesse of jazz." At 86, King still maintains an amazingly active tour schedule. Above, B.B., which stands for "Blues Boy," is joined by Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Jimmie Vaughan in a crowd-pleasing performance of "Rock Me Baby" at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, Dallas, Texas, 2004. Happy birthday to this national musical treasure, also known as the "Ambassador of the Blues."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Judge Demands Joe Walsh Explain $100,000 Child Support Debt

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Tea Party favorite, recorded a video in which he lectures Obama on fiscal responsibility, stating, “I won’t place one more dollar upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money.” Walsh, however, seems not to feel the same responsibility toward his own kids. He’s a deadbeat dad who owes $100,000 in child support. Walsh skipped a court hearing on the matter–and now he has some “ ‘splainin’ to do”:

A Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in his child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering the Tea Party favorite to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind in child-support payments.

Cook County Circuit Judge Raul Vega also wanted to know why Walsh wasn’t in court Wednesday — the McHenry Republican’s ex-wife, Laura Walsh, was there — and initially said he expected him to show up for the next hearing.

In court, Walsh’s attorney, Janet Boyle, asked Vega “for what purpose” he wanted the congressman in court.

Vega gave her a puzzled look — to which Boyle responded: “Mr. Walsh is a U.S. congressman.”

“Well, he’s no different than anyone else,” the judge replied.

Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.

...last year, when she saw he had made a $35,000 contribution to his own congressional campaign, she became suspicious about his claims that he had no money. She had her attorney file the motion that Vega granted on Wednesday.

After Wednesday’s court hearing, Laura Walsh spoke about having to shoulder the financial burden of three children — two of them now adults — on her own for the last several years.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” she said. “We get through one day at a time.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ron Paul Didn’t Insure Campaign Manager, Who Died Owing $400,000

At the last Republican presidential debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what should happen to an uninsured young man who becomes ill. Paul responded, “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody…” Did Blitzer’s question stir pangs of conscience in the libertarian Paul? He, after all, did not provide insurance for the late Kent Snyder (shown left of Paul), his 2008 presidential campaign manager who was integral to his political career:

…Back in 2008, Kent Snyder — Paul's former campaign chairman — died of complications from pneumonia. Like the man in Blitzer's example, the 49-year-old Snyder was relatively young and seemingly healthy when the illness struck. He was also uninsured. When he died on June 26, 2008, two weeks after Paul withdrew his first bid for the presidency, his hospital costs amounted to $400,000. The bill was handed to Snyder's surviving mother who was incapable of paying. Friends launched a website to solicit donations.

According to the Wall Street Journal's 2008 story on his death, Snyder was more than just a strategic ally: He was the only reason Paul thought he ever had a shot at the presidency in the first place.

"It was Kent more than anyone else who encouraged and pushed Ron to run for president," said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Mr. Paul. "Ron would not have run for the presidency if it had not been for Kent. Ron was really hesitant, but Kent drove him forward."

And so, what started in February 2007 with one laptop in Snyder's Arlington, Va., apartment, quickly grew into a $35 million campaign employing 250 people. In the fourth quarter of that year, Snyder raised a stunning $19.5 million for Paul — more than any other Republican candidate had raised at the time.

After his campaign manager's death, Paul wrote, "…Kent sacrificed much for the cause of liberty…" Indeed, he exemplified Paul’s disdain for "[taking] care of everybody."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GOP Audience: Let Uninsured Die

During the first Republican presidential debate, the crowd erupted in cheers at the fact that Texas has executed 234 inmates under Gov. Rick Perry. The GOP crowd also showed their bloodthirstiness during the second debate when Wolf Blitzer questioned Ron Paul about a hypothetical 30-year-old without health insurance who becomes ill. Blitzer asked, “Are you saying that society should just let him die?” Listen as crowd members yell “Yeah!”:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern: Gays More Dangerous Than Terrorists

Rep. Sally Kern (R-OK) has infamously said that minorities don't work as hard as whites, women don't want to work as much as men and homosexuality is “the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.” Kern recently spoke to Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality while promoting her book, "The Stoning of Sally Kern." Kern again said that homosexuality is worse than terrorist attacks because "It's something [young people] have to deal with every day." Her comments were made on Aug. 31, shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Listen:

Kern: ...which has destroyed and ended the life of more people? Terrorism attack here in America or HIV/AIDS? In the last twenty years, fifteen to twenty years, we’ve had maybe three terrorist attacks on our soil with a little over 5,000 people regrettably losing their lives. In the same time frame, there have been hundreds of thousands who have died because of having AIDS. So which one’s the biggest threat? And you know, every day our young people, adults too, but especially our young people, are bombarded at school, in movies, in music, on TV, in the mall, in magazines, they’re bombarded with ‘homosexuality is normal and natural.’ It’s something they have to deal with every day. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with a terrorist attack every day, and that’s what I mean... It’s more dangerous, and yes I think that it’s also more dangerous because it will tear down the moral fiber of this nation. We were founded as a nation upon the principles of religion and morality, if we take those out from under our society we will lose what has made us a great nation, we will no longer be a virtuous people, which we see happening already. And without virtue this nation will not survive.

Beyond Kern's bigoted remarks, there are factors at least as disturbing. Regarding the racist statement, the Oklahoma House had to be pressured to reprimand Kern. She has not been reprimanded for the anti-gay remarks; the words above, then, are perfectly acceptable to today's GOP. Apparently they're also acceptable to those who vote for Kern.

Monday, September 12, 2011

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Has Obama Awoken From "Bipartisan Fantasies"?

On issue after issue, President Obama has pre-emptively caved without getting anything in return. He seemed to think that the Republicans would appreciate his reasonableness and compromise, forgetting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) main goal: to make him a one-term president. Obama, however, took steps in the right direction by presenting a forceful jobs speech and campaigning in GOP areas for it. E.J. Dionne Jr. (left) hopes that Obama has finally learned just how extreme today’s Republicans are–and that he’s given up illusions of bipartisanship and will fight hard for his agenda:

...the GOP sees the solution to the [economic] crisis in the measures its right wing has always favored: gutting regulation; keeping taxes on the affluent low; cutting government programs; and stopping Ben Bernanke and the Fed from doing anything to put the unemployed back to work that might risk the tiniest bit of inflation and thus dilute, even momentarily, the wealth of the already wealthy.

...Up to this point, Obama has acted as if nothing much had happened in the Republican Party. He kept talking about bipartisanship and tried not once but twice to make a big deficit deal with John Boehner. Quite predictably, both efforts blew up in his face.

The president seems to have awoken to the danger he faces. In his speech to Congress, he pointedly addressed those who believe “that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own.” He added: “That’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.”

But that is precisely who most of the Republican Party now thinks we are.

The president has offered eloquent defenses of the role of government in the past, only to revert to bipartisan fantasies that, in the end, always make him look weaker. The central question — for his jobs plan and his future — is whether this time he sticks with an analysis of the nature of our political fight that sees it as it is, not as he wishes it were.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pondering God’s Message To Bachmann

God, working in customarily mysterious ways, has told multiple Republican candidates to run for president–or so they claim. Manhattan Mini Storage, known for its thought-provoking ads, ponders the theological implications of the "calling" from the Almighty that Michele Bachmann says she received.

Obama Recovers Fighting Mojo With Jobs Speech

I’m sure I’m not alone in greeting President Obama’s jobs speech with a sense of “It’s about time!” Instead of soaring rhetoric, there were practical proposals that both parties have embraced in the past. Obama recovered his fighting mojo, repeatedly demanding that Congress pass his bill:

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans - including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.

The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.

Can the Republicans be counted on to support legislation they've supported in the past? No. Witness their current opposition to cap-and-trade, a Republican idea. No matter. If the GOP balks, they'll make their distorted priorities clear. Obama included a few justifiable digs at right-wing ideology:

...I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy...

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone's money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own - that's not who we are. That's not the story of America.

Finally, instead of just relying on television and phone calls, Obama has taken his appeal on the road–and to GOP areas. The president is taking steps in the right direction that should continue.

If you missed the speech, watch it above in its entirety.

The Robberies Of 9/11

Weeks after the Towers fell, one of my children worried that “robbers” were going to invade our apartment. I realized that part of her childhood, the illusion that the world is a safe place, had indeed been robbed.

I also remember the long streaks of smoke that filled the sky and lingered for days, and the accompanying stench. Photos and descriptions of missing loved ones filled Grand Central Station and Ground Zero. The hole at Ground Zero was walled off, but one saw what one could. The vultures were down there too, hawking 9/11 “souvenirs.” I had a different perspective across the East River on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There I sensed the gaping hole in the skyline.

I saw more flags displayed around the city than ever before. I put a little flag in my car’s rear window and a passerby said, “Thank you for that.” Walking by a firehouse, also in Brooklyn Heights, I said, “Thank you, guys” to the firefighters.

I felt that I was living on the front line of a threat that might strike at any time, above or under the ground. Perhaps a bridge would be blown up while I was driving on it. Perhaps a blast would occur on the subway. The best coping advice I heard was on a local news broadcast. Someone interviewed on the street said, “Stay in the present moment, go with the flow.”

A colleague of mine who was working at the World Trade Center managed to escape, walking for miles. Two others I know lost loved ones, one a firefighter who, like so many, went to rescue people and never returned. The senseless loss of so many thousands, of course, was the most horrendous robbery of all–a crime against humanity.

There was a unity then, a shared sense of outrage, courage, sadness, vulnerability and fear. The unity didn’t last.

The Bush administration used 9/11 to launch an invasion of Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with this atrocity. The Patriot Act included measures that amounted to an unprecedented intrusion on civil liberties, including accessing library records. In our “war on terror,” we became a nation that sanctioned and employed torture, still defended today by Dick Cheney.

The country became at least as polarized as during the Vietnam war era, if not more. The political divisions have only grown since, epitomized by a dysfunctional political system and constituencies whose assumptions of what this country is about have nothing in common. In that way, too, 9/11 robbed us all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Adopt A “Job Creator”

Losing sleep over the plight of CEOs and investment bankers, those who may suffer marginal percentage losses–or have to downgrade from a corporate jet to commercial first class? The following appeal explains how the wealthy use their Bush tax cuts to create the millions of new jobs we see all around us. Open your heart and give a little to those who have so much. Remember: more is always needed. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Stewart And Wood's “Gasoline Alley” Unplugged

Rod Stewart and Ron Wood perform a fine acoustic version, complete with mandolin and slide guitar, of “Gasoline Alley.” The song, jointly composed by Stewart and Wood and the title track of Stewart’s second album (1970), reflects the classic theme of return to one’s roots. The two were band mates in The Small Faces, so their performing together at the Unplugged Concert, Los Angeles, May 1993, represents a return to their own musical roots.

Friday, September 9, 2011

“Pro-Life” GOP Crowd Cheers Perry Execution Record

At Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, the audience erupted in perhaps the loudest applause of all when a moderator stated to Gov. Rick Perry, “Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.” First, one must question a supposedly “pro-life” audience reacting this way. Second, even if one supports the death penalty, it is profoundly disturbing to hear a bloodthirsty crowd cheering at a “winning” execution record. Watch:

Perry’s statement that he hasn’t struggled with the possible innocence of any of the executed–in my mind the ultimate argument against capital punishment–denies questions about the conviction and execution of one Texan, Cameron Todd Willingham. His flawed trial was explored in an outstanding article by David Grann in the New Yorker. The questions about Willingham's possible innocence are ongoing, yet apparently Perry is sleeping well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Paul Krugman: Time To Reverse Failing Conservative Fiscal Policies

Conservative economic orthodoxy states that the way to revive the economy is to slash government spending, cut taxes and deregulate. Well, we've been implementing this formula. Deficit cutting has taken precedence over jobs, the debt ceiling agreement included not one penny of added revenue and the benefits of stimulus have been discounted. One recent, telling result? Zero job growth in August. Unemployment means less consumer demand–the ultimate cause for economic stagnation. Paul Krugman (left) comments on the failure of right-wing fiscal policies and calls upon Obama to make a bold proposal and shift the main focus from the deficit to jobs:

…the past year has actually been a pretty good test of the theory that slashing government spending actually creates jobs. The deficit obsession has blocked a much-needed second round of federal stimulus, and with stimulus spending, such as it was, fading out, we’re experiencing de facto fiscal austerity...

...somehow the private sector hasn’t responded to these layoffs by rejoicing at the sight of a shrinking government and embarking on a hiring spree.

…when McClatchy Newspapers recently canvassed a random selection of small-business owners to find out what was hurting them, not a single one complained about regulation of his or her industry, and few complained much about taxes…

So short-run deficits aren’t a problem; lack of demand is, and spending cuts are making things much worse. Maybe it’s time to change course?

…we should have a lot of job-creating spending on the part of the federal government, largely in the form of much-needed spending to repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. Oh, and we need more aid to state and local governments, so that they can stop laying off schoolteachers.

… I’m personally prepared to cut Mr. Obama a lot of slack on the specifics of his [jobs] proposal, as long as it’s big and bold. For what he mostly needs to do now is to change the conversation — to get Washington talking again about jobs and how the government can help create them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Americans Unaware Of Income Inequality Surge

PBS NewsHour's first chapter on income inequality in America opened with Warren Buffet speaking about his recent patriotic call for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes–which outraged, of course, Fox News and the oil magnate and right-wing activist Charles Koch. Regardless, income inequality in the U.S. is surging to the point that it is worse than Uganda's and similar to that of the Ivory Coast and Pakistan, and a threat to democracy. Yet most Americans are unaware of the extent of inequality. A NewsHour correspondent took a survey regarding the distribution of wealth. No one, except for “two presumably low-income workers,” suspected that that the richest one-fifth owns 84 percent of the nation’s wealth. In fact, the share of national income that has gone to the upper 0.1 percent has risen by 10 percent over 30 years. Watch:

These findings confirms Buffet’s statements that the rich have won the class war, and that they should pay more taxes to the country to which they "owe their good fortune."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Reminder: What Have Unions Done For Us?

This Labor Day takes place at a time when unions and labor rights are under assault, in great part through reactionary Republican governors like Scott Walker (WI), Rick Scott (FL) and Paul LePage (MI). It's no coincidence that the weakening of unions comes at a time when workers are losing ground. While enjoying this weekend, let's remember the many benefits that labor unions have struggled for and brought us–and that must be preserved. Watch this video from Rebuild The Dream and MoveOn:

Remembering David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Delta Blues Master

In a year in which we’ve lost Pinetop Perkins and Eddie Kirkland, another founding father of the blues recently passed away, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, 96. This outstanding guitarist and singer played with many other blues greats, including Robert Johnson. The film clip above is from the blues documentary “Lightning in a Bottle” (2004), shot at Radio City Music. Edwards is shown playing "Gamblin' Man" and talking about his start as a musician. The first 33 minutes of the documentary "Honeyboy and the History of the Blues" (2010) can be viewed here. From the NY Times obituary:

David Honeyboy Edwards, believed to have been the oldest surviving member of the first generation of Delta blues singers, died on Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 96.

...Mr. Edwards’s career spanned nearly the entire recorded history of the blues, from its early years in the Mississippi Delta to its migration to the nightclubs of Chicago and its emergence as an international phenomenon.

Over eight decades Mr. Edwards knew or played with virtually every major figure who worked in the idiom, including Charley Patton, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He was probably best known, though, as the last living link to Robert Johnson, widely hailed as the King of the Delta Blues. The two traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.

...Field recordings he made for the Library of Congress under the supervision of the folklorist Alan Lomax in 1942 are the only documents of Mr. Edwards’s music from his years in the Delta.

Citing the interplay between his coarse, keening vocals and his syncopated “talking” guitar on recordings like “Wind Howling Blues,” many historians regard these performances as classic examples of the deep, down-home blues that shaped rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll.

Mr. Edwards was especially renowned for his intricate fingerpicking and his slashing bottleneck-slide guitar work.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Harry Potter And The Deathly Deficit

Cartoonist Ruben Bolling presents an imaginative spinoff of the "Harry Potter" fantasy series. In it, young Harry is introduced to logic-defying fiscal conservatism, including the crazy views that tax cuts increase government revenue and, when applied to the wealthy, create jobs, and that funding Planned Parenthood causes the deficit to skyrocket. What Harry learns is so preposterous that even he is skeptical of the magic, otherwise known as Republican voodoo economics (cartoon available in larger version):

What Is "Hip"?

Hip: The History by John Leland. 421 pp. Harper Perennial. $14.99 (paperback)

Asked to define jazz, Louis Armstrong famously said, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” The same is said to apply to the word “hip.” On the back cover of this book is a quotation from Joe Levy of "Rolling Stone": "What is hip? If you have to ask, ask John Leland." I wish I’d written that. Regardless, I agree.

This is not a frivolous account of trendiness but a fascinating study showing how outsiders, creative thinkers and artists have influenced American culture from the start. One of the most prevalent themes is "hip" as a hybrid phenomenon brought about by a black and white exchange. Expressions of this exchange are seen in minstrel shows, the blues, jazz and the coded language of black slaves, which gave rise to hip talk that befuddled the “squares.” Leland focuses on the most influential periods of “hip,” which primarily took place in urban settings: the American Transcendentalists, the Greenwich Village bohemians, the Harlem Renaissance, the bebop jazz movement, the Beat Generation. Leland admittedly gives short shrift to the Sixties counterculture, viewing it as an offshoot of earlier influences.

“Hip” rebels against mainstream society, refusing hierarchy, rigid morality, fixed definitions and living for the future as opposed to the present. On the other hand, it is not immune to a symbiotic relationship with commercialism. Mass media has played a key role in transmitting the innovations of musicians and writers; advertising has capitalized on consumers’ need to be trendy, live for today and express oneself. The line between communicating one’s vision and “selling out” can indeed be thin.

Leland considers other influences on “hip”: drugs, the Internet, hip-hop, an increasingly multi-ethnic American society, cartoons, tricksters, outlaws and the struggles of women artists. “Hip: The History” demonstrates that “What is hip?” is a question well worth asking.

Readers interested in further exploring the black-white American cultural exchange should read my review of “Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s” by Ann Douglas. For more on the Greenwich Village bohemians of the early 20th century, I recommend “American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century” by Christine Stansell.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

GOP Raffles Glock In AZ County Associated With Massacre

The Republican Party in Pima County, Arizona, is holding a raffle whose prize is a Glock. Last January in Tucson, located in Pima, Jared Lee Loughner used a Glock in a massacre that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ):

The Republican Party in Arizona's Pima County, which is represented by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), is in the midst of a fundraising raffle, $10 per entry.

The prize: the same model of gun that delivered a near-fatal blast to the Democratic lawmaker's skull outside a Tucson grocery store in January.

...The local party sent out its e-newsletter late last week advertising the raffle. On the third page of the seven-page document, a large illustration of the gun appears with the headline "Help Pima GOP get out the vote and maybe help yourself to a new Glock .40."

The winner of the gun will also receive a case, three 12-round magazines and grips for the firearm.

"Tickets will go quickly for this firearm!" the blurb in the newsletter warns.

The $1,250 raised from the raffle tickets will go toward get out the vote efforts for the party.

The gun is a Glock 23, an updated model of the Glock 19 Jared Loughner used during his January 8, 2011 shooting spree that killed six and injured 13 others, including Giffords.

Facing a wave of criticism, what did the Pima County Republicans do? They added a second gun.

Obama Overrules EPA, Bows To Polluters

In a move that cheers industry polluters and Republicans and frustrates environmental and liberal groups, President Obama has decided not to upgrade air quality standards. The president cited the cost to jobs, a contention that studies show is subject to question. Instead, inadequate Bush-era standards will remain in place, at a terrible risk to public health. The administration counsels waiting until a 2013 review–assuming the president is re-elected. One factor it should consider is public support for environmental protection. In the meanwhile, this abandonment follows other administration anti-environmental moves:

President Obama abandoned a contentious new air pollution rule on Friday, buoying business interests that had lobbied heavily against it, angering environmentalists who called the move a betrayal and unnerving his own top environmental regulators.

The president rejected a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have significantly reduced emissions of smog-causing chemicals, saying that it would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Business groups and Republicans in Congress had complained that meeting the new standard, which governs emissions of so-called ground-level ozone, would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

...The administration will try to follow the more lenient Bush administration standard set in 2008 until a scheduled reconsideration of acceptable pollution limits in 2013...

...Reaction from environmental advocates ranged from disappointment to fury, with several noting that in just the past month the administration had tentatively approved drilling in the Arctic, given an environmental green light to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas and opened 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.

Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, “Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much-needed — and long-overdue — ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.” The center is a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Bill McKibben, an activist leading a two-week White House protest against the pipeline project which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, said that the latest move was “flabbergasting.”

“Somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008,” he said.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Neko Case Performs "Hold On, Hold On"

Singer-songwriter Neko Case performs "Hold On, Hold On," an autobiographical song whose lyrics express a determined independence from romantic relationships.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rick Perry Prays

Zina Saunders, animator and illustrator, presents Rick Perry praying in a cartoon video that alludes to the Texas governor's prayer event, held in league with his extremist allies. The presentation also undercuts Perry's so-called "Texas miracle"–something you'll hear about ad nauseam if he becomes the Republican presidential candidate. This "miracle" is a farce, especially in the matter of jobs, which have been outpaced by unemployment in Texas. For more on Perry, the video transcript contains links pertaining to his destructive record and regressive vision. Watch Perry pray for what's near and dear to him: