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THE OSCARS: “LINCOLN’S” LEGACY: PART TWO (END)

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2013 at 12:06 am

Argo was selected as Best Picture at the annual Academy Awards.  But it is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln that will be cherished far longer.

Among the reasons for this:

  • Daniel Day-Lewis’ brilliant portrayal as Abraham Lincoln; and
  • Its timely depiction of a truth that has long been obscured by past and current Southern lies.

And that truth: From first to last, the cause of the Civil War was slavery.

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, arguments over “states’ rights” or economic conflict between North and South didn’t lead 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1860-61.

It was their demand for “respect” of their “peculiar institution”–i.e., slavery.

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it.

But this was something that the North was increasingly unwilling to do.  Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln as President in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery-–and slaveholders-–as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers:

“It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands.”

It is to Spielberg’s credit that he forces his audience to look directly at the real cause of the bloodiest conflict on the North American continent.

At the heart of Spielberg’s film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  An amendment that will forever ban slavery.

But, almost four years into the war, slavery still has powerful friends–in both the North and South.

Many of those friends belong to the House of Representatives, which must ratify the amendment for it to become law.

Other members–white men all–are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.”

To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage–especially marriage between black men and white women.  Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks–or women–the right to vote.

After the amendment wins ratification, Lincoln agrees to meet with a “peace delegation” from the Confederate States of America.

At the top of their list of concerns: If they persuade the seceded states to return to the Union, will those states be allowed to nullify the amendment?

No, says Lincoln.  He’s willing to make peace with the South, and on highly generous terms.  But not at the cost of allowing slavery to live on.

Too many men–North and South–have died in a conflict whose root cause is slavery.  Those lives must count for more than simply reuniting the Union.

For the Southern “peace commissioners,” this is totally unacceptable.

The South has lost thousands of men (260,000 is the generally accepted figure for its total casualties) and the war is clearly lost.  But for its die-hard leaders, parting with slavery is simply unthinkable.

Like Nazi Germany 80 years into the future, the high command of the South won’t surrender until their armies are too beaten down to fight any more.

The major difference between the defeated South of 1865 and the defeated Germany of 1945, is this: The South was allowed to build a beautiful myth of a glorious “Lost Cause,” epitomized by the Margaret Mitchell novel, Gone With the Wind.

In that telling, dutiful slaves were well-treated by kindly masters.  Southern aristocrats wore white suits and their slender-waisted ladies wore long dresses, carried parisols and said “fiddle-dee-dee” to young, handsome suitors.

One million people attended the premier of the movie version in Atlanta on December 15, 1939.

The celebration featured stars from the film, receptions, thousands of Confederate flags, false antebellum fronts on stores and homes, and a costume ball.

In keeping with Southern racial tradition, Hattie McDaniel and the other black actors from the film were barred from attending the premiere.  Upon learning this, Clark Gable threatened to boycott the event. McDaniel convinced him to attend.

When today’s Southerners fly Confederate flags and speak of “preserving our traditions,” they are actually celebrating their long-banned peculiar” institution.”

By contrast, post-World War II Germany outlawed symbols from the Nazi-era, such as the swastika and the “Heil Hitler” salute, and made Holocaust denial punishable by imprisonment.

America has refused to confront its own shameful past so directly.  But Americans can be grateful that Steven Spielberg has had the courage to serve up a long-overdue and much needed lesson in past–and still current–history.

THE OSCARS: “LINCOLN’S” LEGACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2013 at 12:09 am

Argo won for Best Picture atthe 2013 Academy Awards ceremony.   But, in the long run, it will be Lincoln who is deservingly remembered–and loved.

Argo focuses on a humiliating episode that most Americans would like to forget.  On November 4, 1979, at the climax of the Iranian revolution, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage.

But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans managed to slip away and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador.  Knowing it was only a matter of time before the six were found and likely killed, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist offered a risky–and ultimately successful–plan to smuggle them out of the country.

While Argo wrings cheers from American audiences for the winning of this small victory, it cannot erase the blunt truth of the Iranian hostage crisis: For more than 14 months, American diplomats waited helplessly for release–while America proved unable to effect it.

By contrast, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln celebrates a far greater victory: the final defeat of human slavery in the United States.

And it teaches lessons about the past that remain equally valide today–such as that racism and repression are not confined to any one period or political party.

At the heart of the film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. An amendment that will forever ban slavery.

True, Lincoln, in 1862, had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This-–in theory-–freed slaves held in the Confederate states that were in rebellion against the United States Government.

But Lincoln regards this as a temporary wartime measure.

He fears that, once the war is over, the Supreme Court may rule the Proclamation unconstitutional. This might allow Southerners to continue practicing slavery, even after losing the war.

To prevent this, Congress must pass an anti-slavery amendment.

But winning Congressional passage of such an amendment won’t be easy.

The Senate had ratified its passage in 1864. But the amendment must secure approval from the House of Representatives to become law.

And the House is filled with men-–there are no women members during the 19th  century-–who seethe with hostility.

Some are hostile to Lincoln personally. One of them dubs him a dictator-–”Abraham Africanus.” Another accuses him of shifting his positions for the sake of expediency.

Other members–-white men all-–are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.”

To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage–especially marriage between black men and white women. Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks-–or women–-the right to vote.

To understand the Congressional debate over the Thirteenth Amendment, it’s necessary to remember this:  In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives.

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform.  Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.”

And until the 1960s, the South was solidly DemocraticDemocrats were the ones defending the status quo–slavery–and opposing freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

In short, in the 18th century, Democrats in the South acted as Republicans do now.

The South went Republican only after a Democratic President–Lyndon B. Johnson–rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.

Watching this re-enactment of the 1865 debate in Lincoln is like watching a rerun of the recent Presidential campaign.  The same mentalities are at work:

  • Those (in this case, slave-owners) who already have a great deal want to gain even more at the expense of others.
  • Those (slaves and freed blacks) who have little strive to gain more or at least hang onto what they still have.
  • Those who defend the privileged wealthy refuse to allow their “social inferiors” to enjoy similar privileges (such as the right to vote).

During the 2012 Presidential race, the Republicans tried to bar those likely to vote for President Barack Obama from getting into the voting booth.  But their bogus “voter ID” restrictions were struck down in courts across the nation.

In the end, however, it is Abraham Lincoln who has the final word.  Through diplomacy and backroom dealings (trading political offices for votes) he wins passage of the anti-slavery amendment.

The movie closes with a historically-correct tribute to Lincoln’s generosity toward those who opposed him–in Congress and on the battlefield.

It occurs during Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all….To bind up the nation’s wounds.  To care for him who shall have bourne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan….”

Listening to those words, one is reminded of Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the “47%: “

Well, there are 47% of the people who…are dependent upon government, who believe that–-that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Watching Lincoln, you realize how incredibly lucky we were as a nation to have had such leadership when it was most needed.

THE REAL “TAKERS”: THE RICH

In Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2013 at 1:08 am

Ann Coulter, the Republican version of the Miss America Nazi, was devastated by the November 6 defeat of Mitt Romney.

“People are suffering,” she whined. “The country is in disarray. If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.”

Actually, Coulter was right–but not in the way she thought she was.

The “takers” are not the “have-nots” who depend on government for assistance.  They are the “more-than-haves” who cheat the government of billions in lost tax revenues.

In 2012, Tax Justice Network, which campaigns to abolish tax havens, commissioned a study of their effect on the world’s economy.

The study was entitled, “The Price of Offshore Revisited: New Estimates for ‘Missing’ Global Private Wealth, Income, Inequality and Lost Taxes.”

http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.  Among its findings:

  • By 2010, at least $21 to $32 trillion of the world’s private financial wealth had been invested virtually tax-­free through more than 80 offshore secrecy jurisdictions.
  • Since the 1970s, with eager (and often aggressive and illegal) assistance from the international private banking industry, private elites in 139 countries had accumulated $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of unrecorded offshore wealth by 2010.
  • This happened while many of those countries’ public sectors were borrowing themselves into bankruptcy, suffering painful adjustment and low growth, and holding fire sales of public assets.
  • The assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments.
  • Local elites continue to vote with their financial feet while their public sectors borrow heavily abroad.
  • First World countries do most of the borrowing.
  • Of the $7.3–$9.3 trillion of offshore wealth belonging to residents of these 139 countries, the top 10 countries account for 61% and the top 20 for 81%.
  • The offshore industry has many levels of protection: Private bankers, lawyers and accountants get paid handsomely to hide their clients assets and identities.  These groups also maintain influential lobbies.
  • Bank regulators and central banks of most individual countries typically view private banks as key clients.  They have long permitted the world’s top tax havens and banks to conceal the ultimate origins and ownership of assets under their supervision, especially those held in off-balance sheet trusts and
    fiduciary accounts.
  • Although multilateral institutions like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and the World Bank are supposedly insulated from politics, they have been highly compromised by the collective interests of Wall Street.
  • These regulatory bodies have never required financial institutions to fully report their cross-­border customer liabilities, deposits, customer assets under management or under custody.
  • All conventional measures of inequality sharply understate the levels of income and wealth inequality at both the country and global level.
  • Less than 100,000 people, .001% of the world’s population, now control over 30% of the world’s financial wealth.
  • The impact on lost tax revenue may be huge–large enough to make a significant difference to the finances of nations.
  • Assuming that global offshore financial wealth of $21 trillion earns a total return of just 3% a year, and would have been taxed an average of 30% in the home country, this unrecorded wealth might have generated tax revenues of $189 billion per year.

Summing up this situation, the report notes: “We are up against one of society’s most well-­entrenched interest groups. After all, there’s no interest group more rich and powerful than the rich and powerful.”

Yet the study reveals two bright spots for countries fed up with being bled dry by those parasites whose allegiance runs only to their wallets.

  1. A huge pile at least $21 trillion of untapped financial wealth has been discovered–monies that can be called upon to help solve the most pressing global problems.
  2. A substantial fraction of this wealth is being managed by the top 50 players in the global private banking industry.

As a result, these findings allow nations’ leaders to:

  • Prevent the abuses that have lead to off-the-books wealth accumulation in the future.
  • Make use of the huge stock of accumulated, untaxed wealth that is already there, as well as the steady stream of untaxed earnings that it generates.

It was Stephen Decatur, the naval hero of the War of 1812, who famously said: “Our country, right or wrong.”

Billionaire tax-cheats like those uncovered in the above-cited report have coined their own motto: “My wallet–first and always.”

TWO TALIBANS: THEIRS AND OURS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law on February 25, 2013 at 12:01 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9 when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault has provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban has a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

According to unnamed sources, the Taliban dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  And it is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of women’s rights.

On February 4, two North Carolina state representatives introduced a bill to “clarify” state law to specifically prohibit the baring of women’s breasts.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 34, would make it a Class H felony to expose “external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.”

North Carolina law already forbids “indecent exposure,” but doesn’t specifically define breasts as “private parts.”

Accused violators could face one to six months in prison.

Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said, to some people, the issue might seem frivolous.  But “there are communities across this state, there’s local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.”

Rep. Rayne Brown

Brown said that she was prompted, in part, by the second annual topless protest and women’s rally in Asheville in August, 2012.  Asheville is about 130 miles from Brown’s own district.

Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Ahoskie, voiced concerns that the bill could affect people wearing “questionable fashions.”

“All we are doing is codifying the Supreme Court definition of ‘private parts,’” said House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. “That’s it. “

Stevens said using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect women against prosecution. “They’d be good to go.”

For Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleaveland, the issue was a laughing matter: “You know what they say – duct tape fixes everything.”

And, not to be outdone, the Wisconsin state legislature enacted a budget for 2011-2013 that eliminates funding to family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer women to a clinic that performs the procedure.

In a press conference, Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said that some 2,000 low-income women who rely on the clinics for cancer screening, breast exams, pregnancy testing, and other services would now be left out in the cold.

“They are small centers in small communities and they needed the state funding to make them financially viable,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Teri Huyck. “It’s terribly unfortunate for the women who live in these areas. Without the state support, we didn’t have a choice.

“None of these centers provided abortion services.  There is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions,” said Safar.

Due to the loss of $1.1 million in state funding, Planned Parenthood will close facilities in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano between April and July.

For those who believe women should control their own lives, the message should be clear: This will never be possible in some parts of the world.

And these include Islamic countries and those states controlled by Rightist Republicans.

It is pointless to expect those who believe they are God’s anointed to renounce their absolutist beliefs.  Or to cease trying to gain absolute power over others–especially women.

In Afghanistan, the United States is waging a losing battle to eliminate the freedom-hating Islamic Taliban.

It would do better to start waging war against the freedom-hating Rightist Taliban within its own borders.

THE MEDIA: WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 22, 2013 at 12:33 am

The mainstream media–fearing it will be labeled “partisan” and “leftist”–generally refuses to call the Right on its lies and slanders.

Meanwhile, Rightist organs–such as The Washington Times–continue spewing a McCarthyist brew of fear and smears.

Consider the July 22, 2012 editorial that appeared in The Washington Times: “President’s Socialist Takeover Must Be Stopped.”

Written by its columnist, Jeffrey T. Kuhner, it called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama.

Among his allged “high crimes and misdemeanors”:

The state is intervening in every aspect of American life–beyond its constitutionally delegated bounds. Under Mr. Obama, the Constitution has become a meaningless scrap of paper.

Kuhner didn’t object when the administration of George W. Bush:

  • Gave us an unprovoked war against Iraq founded on lies;
  • Authorized the use of torture;
  • Drafted laws that allegedly protected consumers and the environment–laws written by lobbyists for drug and oil companies; and
  • Gave us a “co-Presidency where Vice President Dick Cheney ruled as “power-behind-the-throne.”

[Obama conspired] to cause chaos for the Mexican citizens by letting…guns go into the drug cartels’ hands and terrorize the Mexican citizens. Forcing them to flee north across the border. Which would create a need for a refugee program for the fleeing Mexicans.

President Obama doesn’t need to create chaos in Mexico, which has always been a failed nation-state.  Nor does he have to encourage Mexicans to illegally enter the United States. 

The Mexican Government has long used its American border to free itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions. 

If Republicans win back Congress in November, they should–and likely will–launch formal investigations into this criminal, scandal-ridden administration….

Mr. Obama has betrayed the American people.  Impeachment is the only answer.  This usurper must fall.

Of course he’s a usurper: He defeated a Republican candidate for President in 2008!  Everyone on the Right believes the United States should be a one-party country–with Republicans’ being the only ones allowed to hold office. 

Of course Republicans should dominate the House of Representatives; the Senate; the White House; the Justice Department; the courts; the Pentagon. 

After all, if holding total power was good enough for the fascists running Adolf Hitler’s Germany, it’s certainly good enough for the fascists who burn to command America today.

Finally: It’s helpful to remember that the Washington Times is owned by the Unification Church of the late Sun Myung Moon (1920 – 2012).  Moon, in his role of self-styled “messiah,” lived well off the labors of his underpaid and brainwashed followers. 

Sun Myung Moon

In 1982, Moon was convicted of filing false federal income tax returns and conspiracy to subvert American tax laws.  It’s only natural that those who share Moon’s Rightist beliefs should consider themselves above the laws they intend to vigorously apply against everyone else.

* * * * *

The First Amendment of the United State Constitution specifically establishes a protection of “freedom of the press.”

Political reporters are empowered by their employers to learn–and report–all they can about the actual workings of the American political system.

And they are often given privileged access to those workings by influential men and women running for office or holding it.

This is no mere textbook exercise in high-school civics but a matter of deadly importance.

Democracy is founded on the belief that voters can effectively govern themselves.

But that belief works only when voters can learn the truth about the institutions that govern their lives–and about those who run those institutions.

Allowing members of one political party–in this case, the Republicans–to blatantly lie about their opponents and stir unwarranted fears in voters stands as a betrayal of the trust given those reporters.

Portraying the ruthless pursuit of absolute power by one political party–the Republicans–as merely “politics as usual” amounts to a similar betrayal of the public trust.

“Fascism,” warned Ernest Hemingway shortly before the outbreak of World War II, “is a lie told by bullies.”

Seventy-one years ago, the United States declared war on the lies and aggression of global Fascism.  Twelve million Americans served in uniform until Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were dead, and their legions utterly defeated.

Too many Americans believe that Fascism died in 1945 with Hitler and Mussolini.  It didn’t. 

The struggle against those who make a profession of lying and aggression continues.  It is the duty of the press to see that struggle for what it is–and to report it accurately and courageously.

To describe the efforts of a ruthless political party to gain absolute power as merely “politics s usual” is to mock the truth and abdicate the most important duty of a journalist.

The duty of journalists is to tell the truth,” wrote historian and political criitic Noam Chomsky, “Journalism means you go back to the actual facts, you look at the documents, you discover what the record is, and you report it that way.”

That is a philosophy of journalistic integrity that too many reporters have forgotten.

THE MEDIA: WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2013 at 12:05 am

On the December 12, 2012 edition of “Hardball,” MSNBC’s veteran political analyst Chris Matthews tackled a subject that few reporters have dared to confront:

How much of the mainstream press has allowed itself to be co-opted by the Right.

His guests that night were David Corn, of Mother Jones, and Joan Walsh, political analyst for Salon.

JOAN WALSH, POLITICAL ANALYST FOR SALON.COM: Right. The false equivalence.

Well, yes. I mean, there’s this constant false equivalence that we’re always trying to fight here, Chris. And I think you do a good job of it, but it’s really ingrained in the Beltway culture…

…To say that they’re [Republicans and Democrats] both as radical, they’re both–you know, even in the debt ceiling debate or in the fiscal cliff negotiations, that neither side will give and they’re both being unreasonable, and really not drilling down.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yes. I agree.

….Who can forget back in August, not a million years ago, when the Romney pollster, Neil Newhouse, said the following. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Yes.  I thought this…just showed their whole attitude towards reality, towards being vetted. It was sort of an arrogance that, We can say whatever we want to say.

And I think in years past–this is what’s changed–campaigns would not be so brazen. If they’re caught in a lie, they try to wiggle around it. They maybe feel some shame. But here was Neil Newhouse telling reporters–he said this at a breakfast meeting at the convention to a group of reporters…

CORN: … that, We don’t care what you say about our facts. We’re going to use them anywhere. Good example was what they said about Barack Obama changing welfare rules…so that people don’t have to work. And that’s what he was referring to…

MATTHEWS: You’ve got people like Michele Bachmann, who would say just casually that we should begin an investigation of members of Congress for their anti-American attitudes. That was followed up by Adam–Allen West, who’s just been defeated, Allen West saying there are 79 to 81 communists…

But nobody–you know, you would think that “The Nightly News” would come on….[or] The New York Times [would]–say,”Wait a minute. This is so frickin’ far out. This kind of claim goes back at least to Joe McCarthy.”

* * * * *

A major house organ of the Rightist press–The Washington Times–clearly has no intention of backing away from “frickin’ far out” charges against Democrats generally–and President Obama in particular.

On July 22, 2012, one of its columnists, Jeffrey T. Kuhner, authored a piece entitled: “President’s Socialist Takeover Must Be Stopped.”

From that editorial:

President Obama has engaged in numerous high crimes and misdemeanors.  The Democratic majority in Congress in in peril as Americans reject his agenda.  yet more must be done: Mr. Obama should be impeached.

COMMENTARY:  Of course!  Sending U.S. Navy SEALS to take out Osama bin Laden was certainly worthy of impeachment.  And so was taking out a traitorous American Al Qaeda recruiter–Anwar al-Awlaki–with a Predator drone.

Then there’s “Obamacare”: Ensuring that people other than millionaires get medical care is undoubtedly the most impeachable offense of all.

He is….assaulting the very pillars of traditional capitalism.

COMMENTARY: And what are these pillars? 

  • Greed and selfishness: “I’ve got mine and the hell with you, Jack.” 
  • Corporations shipping millions of jobs overseas, paying their foreign workers “coolie wages” and pocketing the profits themselves. 
  • CEOs cheat their country out of the taxes they owe and–through their lobbyists in Congress–force the poor and middle class to take up the slack in taxes. 
  • Meanwhile, millions of their formerly employed Americans struggle to survive. 

So it’s understandable why those CEOs should object to Obama’s demanding they live up to their legal and moral obligations to their country.

Obamacare’s most pernicious aspect is its federal funding of abortion.  Pro-lifers are now compelled to have their tax dollars used to subsidize insurance plans that allow for the murder of unborn children. This is more than state-sanctioned infanticide. It violates the conscience rights of religious citizens.

COMMENTARY: During the Vietnam war, millions of war-hating protesters objected to paying taxes which would finance the bombing and ravishing of a country that hadn’t attacked us.  But the IRS made no exceptions for them.

As for violating “the conscience rights of religious citizens”: When George W. Bush ordered the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, millions of Americans felt their consciences to be violated.  But the war continued. 

And for all of Kuhner’s rantings on the “murder of unborn children”: Right-wingers are notorious for caring about fetuses–until they come out of the womb.  But if the mother of that newborn baby can’t afford healthcare, food or shelter for her new arrival, that’s her tough luck.

Apparently, only Rightist Presidents are allowed to offend the consciences of others with impunity.

THE MEDIA: WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2013 at 12:00 am

The “liberal” press continues to allow itself to be co-opted by the Right.

Consider the following from the December 12, 2012 episode of “Hardball With Chris Matthews”:

Chris Matthews

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Start” with this tonight. Did you get the impression during the presidential campaign that the press was trying too hard to be even- handed?

Did you think the people delivering the news were pushing what we call balance at the expense of the obvious facts?

…. That the Democrats in this election were like Democrats going back to Jack Kennedy, but the Republicans were far to the right of anything we’ve seen from that party ever?

….So tonight we’re going to nail it. We go to the truth, and why was it the truth that dared not be reported in the mainstream media. Joining me now for a brutal autopsy is Joan Walsh of Salon and David Corn of Mother Jones, neither of whom can be charged with hiding what’s wrong with the right.

Here’s what Norm Ornstein, I guy I really respect, of AEI, the American Enterprise Institute, told the HuffingtonPost about the broadcast networks.

Quote, “I can’t recall a campaign where I’ve seen more lying going on, and it wasn’t symmetric, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top. It’s the great unreported big story of American politics. If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they’ve got to know what’s going on.

“And if the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame–they’re all equally to blame, then you’re really doing a disservice to voters and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.”

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Right.

MATTHEWS: And never caught that in the main news stories. Your thoughts about coverage. I hate to be a media critic, but we’re into it right now.

WALSH: Well, it’s–you know, it’s very important, Chris, because–it’s actually–I did read the whole piece. It’sy Dan Froomkin. It’s a really interesting piece, and you would enjoy it.

They are talking about newspapers. They are talking about magazines. They are talking about cable. It’s not just the broadcast networks….

And this is the amazing thing. When you read this Dan Froomkin piece, you get the sense that these men are so wounded by–now they are being treated as pariahs….

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  I wrote a piece beforehand which I think–which is very much in keeping with their thesis and what Dan wrote, saying that I thought the Romney campaign was much more foundational in its lies about Obama.

And by that, I mean that the core of [Romney’s] campaign [charges]…

Obama promised to lower unemployment below 8 percent.  Not true. Obama appeases. Not true. Obama went on an apology tour. Not true. Obama wants to cut $500 million — billion, excuse me, out of Medicare. Not true.

MATTHEWS: [Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney is claiming that President Barack Obama is] apologizing, but I’ll be a robust patriot. I’ll defend America against fact or–you know, against anything, foe or friend, because I’m a real American.

CORN: … [Romney’s] campaign was based on a lot of major, big, sweeping lies. Now, you can look at Obama and point out that he made a mistake or he misrepresented Obama’s policy in this way or that way, but his–you know, his overall case was not based on a series of falsehoods against Mitt Romney, while, indeed, that was true on the Republican side. And that’s the asymmetry.

And they point out that the media has a really hard time saying that.  It’s much easier to say everybody lies on both sides.

* * * * *

Millions of Americans see the struggles between Republicans and Democrats as “politics as usual,” as though both parties are equally guilty.

In fact, these struggles owe their origin to Right-wing efforts to gain total power over the government–and over the lives of all Americans.  And if they can’t attain this, they are determined to deny Democrats the ability to govern effectively or even protect the nation Republicans claim to love.

For example: In his February 12 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said that one of his top priorities was protecting America’s critical infrastructure from the growing threat of cyber-attacks.

There is good reason to be alarmed: Since August, 2012, the websites of American banks have repeatedly been attacked, reportedly by Iran.

Major U.S. media companies–The New York Times, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post–have all said the Chinese are behind sustained hacking attempts on them.

Yet in August, Senate Republicans helped kill the most comprehensive cyber-security bill to date, arguing it would’ve imposed too great a regulatory burden on business.

If a Republican President introduced such a bill, Rightists would vigorously support it and slander anyone who didn’t as an “America-hating traitor.”

THE MEDIA: WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

Today’s “lamestream media,” as Sarah Palin likes to refer to the press, are often accused of liberal bias.

But the Right has more often gotten a free ride due to media cowardice or indifference in reporting the truth about its lies and slanders.

Consider the case of Wisconsin U.S. Senator “Tail Gunner” Joseph R. McCarthy, the spiritual Godfather of today’s Republican party.

Joseph R. McCarthy

According to David Halberstam, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Best and the Brightest:  With the help of a compliant or even willing press,  McCarthy successfully exploited America’s postwar fears and uncertainties.

And the reason: After four lackluster years in office, McCarthy desperately needed an issue to ensure his re-election.  He saw rising fears of Communism as his ticket to not only that but vastly increased power.

“Around the country he flew,” wrote Halberstam, “reckless and audacious, stopping long enough to make a new charge…a good newsworthy press conference at the airport, hail-fellow well met with the reporters….

“The emptiness of the charge never [caught] up with him, the American press [was] exploited in its false sense of objectivity (if a high official said something, then it was news, if not fact, and the role of the reporter was to print it straight without commenting, without assailing the credibility of the incredulous, that was objectivity).”

McCarthy was always on the attack, always looking for new targets.  His charges didn’t stick–they couldn’t being utterly false.

But they left a lasting legacy of poison: “Where there was smoke, there must be fire.  He wouldn’t be saying those things if there wasn’t something to it” wrote Halberstam of how most Americans reacted during the “golden age” many now think of as the 1950s.

Not being content with small-fry targets, McCarthy accused high-ranking officials of the Truman administration of being Communists or at least Communist sympathizers.

Among these: Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Secretary of Defense (and later of State) George C. Marshall, the man considered by military historians as the “architect of victory” for American forces in World War II.

And how did the Republican party react?  With elation.

“The real strength of McCarthy was not his own force or brilliance,” wrote Halberstam.  “It was the acquiescence of those who should have known better….The press was willfully exploited by him; very few stood and fought.”

Halberstam pointedly observed that the famous “See It Now” anti-McCarthy broadcast by legendary newscaster Edward R. Murrow happened in 1954–four years after McCarthy began his Red-baiting career.

The Democrats refused to confront and refute his false charges.  And the Republicans were thrilled at the huge voter turnouts his charges were arousing–to vote Republican.

“When he had gone too far, then [Republicans] would turn on him, which they did.”

“Going to far” in this case meant “that he had begun to attack the Republicans themselves”–such as no less a figure than President Dwight D. Eisenhower himself.

Meanwhile, “the more he assaulted the Democrats, the better for [Republicans].  The Democrats were on the defensive, and the Republicans were the beneficiaries.”  An observer compared McCarthy to being “a pig in a minefield for [Republicans].”

McCarthy was by no means the only Republican to rise to influence by playing on Americans’ fears of the Red Menace.  Another was California U.S. Senator Richard M. Nixon, who claimed to be a “moderate” between McCarthy and more “respectable” Republicans.

Eventually McCarthy destroyed himself: He accused the top leadership of the U.S. Army of being a cabal of Communist traitors.

The televised “Army-McCarthy hearings” finally revealed him as the bully and liar he had always been, and his credibility vanished overnight.  His Senate colleagues at last found the courage to censure him.

While he was allowed to keep his seat, he was shunned–by reporters who had rushed to cover his every press conference and by Republicans who had fought to have their picture taken with him.

Increasingly taking to alcohol, he fell into depression and had to be hospitalized at Bethesda Naval Hospital, ultimately dying of alcoholism in 1957.

President Eisenhower, commenting upon McCarthy’s fall from grace, reportedly said that “McCarthyism” was now “McCarthywasm.”

Many Democrats sighed with relief, believing that the worst was now over.  But it wasn’t.

Republicans had learned that Red-baiting was politically profitable.  Their fear- and slander-mongering had put Eisenhower in the White House for eight years and elected and re-elected scores of Republicans to the House and Senate.

It had also put the Democrats on the defensive–especially on matters of foreign policy.  The false right-wing charge that President Harry S. Truman had “lost China” would haunt the Democratic party for decades to come.

America had not “lost China.”

Generalissimo Chaing Kai-Shek lost out in a duel for power with Mao tse Tung.  Americans, powerless to change the outcome, could only watch as spectators.

As a result, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson felt they must commit U.S. forces to a backward and insignificant country called Vietnam–to forestall the Republican charge: “Who lost Vietnam?”

THE MEDIA: WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2013 at 12:25 am

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

–John 8:32

The 2012 Presidential and Congressional races produced virtually round-the-clock press coverage.  Millions of words–in both print and electronic media–described countless angles of those campaigns.

And yet the mainstream media bungled the most important story of the election season.

That’s the verdict of political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, who have been tracking Congresds since 1978.

Click here: Dan Froomkin: How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign

A noted congressional scholar, Mann writes and speaks widely on American politics and policymaking.  His areas of specialty include campaigns, elections, campaign finance reform and the effectiveness of Congress.

His most recent book, co-authored with Norman Ornstein, is It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Ornstein is a longtime observer of Congress and politics. He writes a weekly column for Roll Call called “Congress Inside Out” and is an election eve analyst for CBS News.

According to Mann and Ornstein: GOP leaders have become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

“I can’t recall a campaign where I’ve seen more lying going on,” said Ornstein.  While Democrats didn’t always adhere to the truth, “it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top.”

Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney blatantly lied his way throughout the campaign.  Among his more noteworthy falsehoods:

  • Romney claimed that his tax plan wouldn’t reduce tax rates for the wealthy. Not only would it have done so, but that’s why so many billionaires were supporting him.
  • Romney initially opposed President Barack Obama’s bailout of General Motors. But when that resurrected the American auto industry, Romney claimed that he had always been for the bailout.
  • Near the end of the campaign, Romney said that Jeep was shipping jobs to China. The truth was that it was not–-and Jeep gave widespread publicity to that lie.
  • Romney repeatedly accused President Obama of “waving the white flag of surrender.”  In fact, Obama–not George W. Bush–was the President who got Osama bin Laden–and who has taken out far more Al Qaeda leaders through drone attacks.

Summing up Romney’s attitude toward the truth: ”We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

But the Republican party offered its own share of blatant lies as well, such as:

  • Federal spending doesn’t create jobs.
  • Obama has burdened business with an unprecedented level of new regulation.  Actually, Bush issued more final rules in his first three years than Obama did over the same length of time.
  • Democrats deliberately seek to make people dependent on government benefits as a means of winning votes.
  • Reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit.
  • Any new program or regulation amounts to a “government takeover” of some aspect of the economy.  Examples: The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

For voters to hold political figures accountable, said Ornstein, they must know the truth about those figures.

“If the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame–they’re all equally to blame–then you’re really doing a disservice  to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.”

By accusing both parties of waging “politics as usual” and thus creating “gridlock,” the media avoids the charge of taking partisan sides.

Their editors and producers were “concerned about their professional standing and vulnerability to charges of partisan bias,” Mann said.

For Mann, the revelatory moment came with what he called “the debt-ceiling hostage-taking.”  The Republicans would “do or say anything” to hurt Obama, even if it harmed the country and betrayed core Republican values.

But this is not the first or only time the Right has lied and smeared its way into power.

David Halberstam, the late Pulitzer-Prize-winning winning New York Times reporter, has chronicled past Republican lies and smears–and the refusal of the mainstream media to address and refute them.

In his 1973 bestseller, The Best and the Brightest, Halberstam described the step-by-step decision-making process that led to the catastrophic Vietnam war.

A major reason why Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon felt obligated to send thousands of U.S. servicemen to Vietnam lay in their fear of right-wing blackmail.

Foremost among those blackmailers was Wisconsin U.S. Senator “Tail Gunner” Joseph R. McCarthy.  On February 9, 1950, he flew into Wheeling, West Virginia, to begin his career as of slander and fear-mongering.

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 [persons] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist party, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping policy in the State Department,” charged McCarthy.

And, then as now, a compliant media–routinely accused by its right-wing critics of being “pro-liberal”–allowed those lies and slanders to go uncorrected.

“THE JACKAL” COMES TO L.A.: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2013 at 12:05 am

The unprecedented manhunt for cop-killer Christopher Dorner has important–and brutal–lessons to teach.

First, above everyone else, police look out for each other.

Robert Daley bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.  A  police reporter for the New York Times, he served for one year as a deputy police commissioner.

“The murderers of all patrolmen almost invariably were identified at once and caught soon after,” wrote Daley. “Organized crime was too smart to get involved in the type of investigation that followed a cop killing.

“A great many solvable crimes in the city were never solved, because not enough men were assigned to the case, or because those assigned were lazy or hardly cared or got sidetracked.

“But when a cop got killed, no other cop got sidetracked.  Detectives worked on the case night and day….Cops were all ears as far as murdered patrolmen were concerned; they heard details all over the city…and fed all this into the detectives who had the case.

“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men.  But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”

Although Dorner targeted only local police officers, the Federal Government quickly poured resources into the manhunt.  These included the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and even unmanned military drones.

Second, don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.

The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families.  A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards.  And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.

And those details stayed in place long after Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.

That was a lot of manpower and a lot of money being expended.

But if your bullying neighbor threatens to kill you, don’t expect the police to send a guard detail over.  They’ll claim: “We can’t do anything until the guy does something.  If he does, give us a call.”

And if your loved one is murdered, don’t expect the mayor’s office to offer a $1 million reward or the military to deploy drones to find the killer.

Third, the more status and wealth you command, the more likely the police are to address your complaint or solve your case.

Police claim to enforce the law impartially, “without fear or favor.”  But that happens only in TV crime shows.

If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.

But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, your case will almost certainly wind up in “the round file” (a wastebasket).

And it works the other way, too.  Anthony Bouza, former chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, notes in his 1990 book, The Police Mystique: “When cops deal with the poor (blacks, Hispanics, the homeless and the street people) the rubber of power meets the road of abuse.”

Fourth, don’t expect your police department to operate with the vigor or efficiency of TV police agencies.

“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

But in San Jose–a city close to bankruptcy–residents can’t get police to respond to break-ins because the police department is dangerously understaffed.

And neighbors in Oakland, fed up with a slow police response, or none at all, are banding together to protect their properties by hiring private security officers.

In San Francisco, if you’re assaulted and can’t give police “a named suspect,” they won’t assign the case.  As far as they’re concerned, the solvability rate is too low.

Fifth, the result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.

Surveys reveal that those who don’t need to call the police have a higher opinion of their integrity and efficiency than those who are the victims of crime.  Among those reasons:

  • Many police departments lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Files often get lost or accidentally destroyed.
  • Some officers are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
  • Police are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other officers or other police departments–and thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.
  • Even when police “solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest.  The perpetrator may cop to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence–or none at all.  Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.

But it is the witnessing of blatant inequities and hypocrisies such as those displayed in the Christopher Dorner manhunt that most damages public support for police at all levels.

When citizens believe police care only about themselves, and lack the ability–or even the will–to protect citizens or avenge their victimization by arresting the perpetrators, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.

Police depend on citizens for more than crime tips.  They depend upon them to support hiring more cops and  buying state-of-the-art police equipment.  When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding.

The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens looked only to themselves for protection.

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