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The Barack Hussein Obama 2011 State of the Union Drinking Game! (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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The Barack Hussein Obama 2011 State of the Union Drinking Game!
Raging Moderate, by Will Durst

NEEDED TO PLAY:

• Four taxpayers of any sex: One rich, white banker- type wearing dark suit with loosened tie. Two ordinary folks wearing jeans; one in a blue or flannel work shirt, the other in a white shirt, sleeves rolled up. One poor, bedraggled person wearing clothes that look like they were retrieved from the bottom of a rodeo dumpster behind the animal-performer stalls.

• One living room with a TV tuned to the State of the Union Address.

• One shot glass per person. Everybody brings own, scattering array on coffee table in front of TV. Banker gets first choice for use during game. White shirt picks next, then work shirt. Banker pockets last shot glass as well, and Rags either rents it from him, steals a replacement from the kitchen or drinks out of own cupped hands.

• Ante up 25 bucks. Cash. Except Banker, who tosses in an I.O.U., and Rags who everybody just avoids eye contact with.

• Three packages of steamed Vienna Beef Chicago-style hot dogs in the middle of table with butter-grilled buns, tomatoes, onions, and some of that weird, neon-green relish on the side.

• One bottle of bourbon.

• A large stash of beer in cans on ice. Rags gets whatever is on sale, like Heileman’s Old Style Ice Light Dry. Banker gets import of choice. Jeans get whatever they want, but have to buy all the beer, bourbon, hot dogs, condiments, and carry the groceries by themselves.

RULES OF THE GAME:

• Every time Barack H. Obama mentions bipartisanship, everybody has to drink two shots of beer. If he talks about the lessons of Tucson, the last person to throw their arms in the air, fall to their knees and shout “Hallelujah!” has to drink one entire beer.

• Everybody has to drink two shots of beer whenever John Boehner appears to cry. One shot of bourbon if he breaks down sobbing, and disappears entirely from view.

• Every time Barack H. Obama says “Democratic leadership,” the first person to stop laughing is exempt from drinking two shots of beer.

• If either Vice President Biden or the Speaker of the House Boehner is seen nodding off on camera, last person to start singing “Wake Up, Little Susie” has to drink three shots of beer.

• If the president says the state of the union is good, but could be better, the last person to eat a fully accoutered hot dog has to drink one shot of bourbon.

• Whenever the president defends ObamaCare, everybody drinks two shots of beer. If he mentions Congress voting to repeal it, everyone drinks a whole beer and throws hot dogs at the television. The first person to hit Nancy Pelosi in the head is exempt from having to drink two shots of bourbon.

• If the president relates a touching, heartfelt story of a supporter who was denied a decent education, Rags gets to kick everybody else once. Twice, if the subject of the anecdote is in the audience. Three times, if he/she is sitting next to a two-star general.

• Every time President Barack Obama talks about his resolve and adopts a frowny look with his brow all furrowed and stuff, drink one shot of beer.

• If the chief executive winks at or points at Michelle, all four players swordfight with hot dogs. Whoever is left with an intact weenie does not have to eat an entire shot glass full of that weird green relish.

• If the president mentions the Chinese president by name, the last person to ask “Hu Dat?” has to drink two shots of beer.

EXTRAS:

• Optional: Have all players drink with left hand. Unless left-handed. If they are caught drinking with dominant hand, they must watch the entire Republican response and no drinking allowed.

• If the Dancing Baby from Ally McBeal appears on the screen at any time, stop drinking immediately.

• Banker takes home money, shot glasses and bourbon. The I.O.U. is discarded.

• Leftover beer and hot dogs go home with Rags after he/she finishes washing the dishes.

San Francisco-based political comedian Will Durst writes sometimes; this is an example.
Copyright ©2011, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. His column is licensed to run on TMV in full.


The Moderate Voice

Obama at 53% Means Nothing for ‘12 (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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Obama at 53% Means Nothing for ‘12
by Taylor Marsh

Pollsters on “Daily Rundown” today said that it will take another poll to know whether Pres. Obama’s 53% is going to stick. If you’re looking to 2012, I’d caution everyone to understand the NBC/WSJ poll means nothing. The President and his team have real challenges going forward, because the midterms turned states upside down and will make the electoral map Obama Inc. is facing much rougher than ‘08. There’s a reason he’s headed to Wisconsin next week after the SOTU and it’s not happenstance.

Obama’s conservative instincts to win back Independents and the “broader middle” as it’s called is what drove him to make the short-sided tax cut deal in December. With Bill Daley on board and Obama already signaling to Wall Street about “dumb” regulations, the President’s move to the Right seems set to continue, though it’s a mistake, because the path to solidifying his 53% lies elsewhere.
From an Elective Eve survey:

The other numbers in that poll show the backing any politician gets from voters when talking about “strengthening” Social Security, instead of following the Republicans’ austerity path.

Obama made the mistake by not fighting against the upper 2% Bush tax cuts in December as well, because the American public was behind him on that, too, same with the public option. So Democrats should be worried whether the White House even senses or cares about these signals.

If you had any doubt just look at how Pres. Hu Jintao is being feted.

With Bill Daley the Obama bubble will only increase, because to Obama Inc. what they want is a second term and it seems clear they’re willing to sacrifice Democratic principles as an ode to the Right to get it. This is not surprising, but it is the reason a lukewarm base should be guarded against at all costs, because the White House can’t depend on Sarah Palin to be the only thing that revs them up.

From RJ Eskow over at Campaign for America’s Future:

The President and the party still have some very strong relationships: suburban voters, unmarried women, and African Americans are still very solid. And the President’s negatives have dropped sharply since the election. But two core constituencies, the young and union members, are crumbling.

The picture’s even bleaker among key groups of swing voters. Congressional Democrats are trailing by 23 points among white non-college voters, and Obama’s losing them to Sarah Palin by 22 points (and to Romney by 21). Obama’s losing white seniors to Palin by 8 points, to Romney by 25 points, and other Democrats are losing them by 16 points. Congressional Democrats are losing rural non-South white voters by 31 points, and Obama trails both Palin and Romney (losing to Romney by 26 points).

Obama’s bump in the NBC/WSJ poll should not be misinterpreted, thinking that moving Right is the reason he rebounded. His compassion after the Tucson domestic terrorism tragedy, coupled with good post Christmas good feelings that come with the New Year, both buoyed Obama. This was confirmed today by the pollsters on “Daily Rundown.”
If the Democrats buy into the Right’s austerity push it will further erode the differences between the two parties, which Pres. Obama already represents. From RJ Eskow:

Should Social Security benefits be cut? White seniors said no, by 48% to 36%, and the “don’t cut” voters felt much more strongly about their position. White non-college voters said “don’t cut” by 55% to 35%. Voters in districts that turned Republican in 2010 opposed cuts by 57% to 34%. Even suburban voters were oppo(s)ed, 60%-34%.

The voters were strongly in favor (57 percent) of “a plan to invest in new industries and rebuild the country over the next five years.” By contrast, only 52 percent approved of “a plan to dramatically reduce the deficit over the next five years,” and with less intensity of support than expressed by those who wanted investment.

Other ideas sound good to voters until they’re told what’s involved: They liked the idea of adopting the recommendations of a “bipartisan deficit commission,” supporting it 56% to 19%. But when they were told what the recommendations were, they opposed them by 54% to 34%. 55% were opposed to raising the retirement age and 57% were opposed to reducing benefits for people now entering the workforce.

Would this be a “move to the middle”? 52% of independents and 55% of Republicans oppose raising the retirement age. People under 50 oppose it by a 22-point margin, women oppose it by a 19-point margin, suburbanites oppose it by a 14-point margin, and people in districts the GOP picked up last year opposed it by 14 points. For other benefit cuts the opposition was even greater. The margins were 25 for under-50’s, 27 points for women, 26 points for suburban voters, and 23 points in GOP pick-up districts.

So why are we still talking about this?

People still think the country is going in the wrong direction. There’s a reason. Republicans aren’t listening to the people on health care, and President Obama seems to be following them on austerity.

With both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee showing strong initial signs of strength for ‘12, both men having a sunny side that gets people elected, Obama following the Right is the wrong way to go. He needs to stand apart from Republicans in strengthening a foundational tenet of the Democratic Party, not work to carve it away on the notion it’s somehow practical when it’s actually political suicide.

Besides, if Pres. Obama gets a second term, with a Republican Congress, something that is very possible, he can do whatever he wants, which I believe is making “practical” changes to Social Security so he can be touted as the one who “saved” it.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This is cross posted from her blog.


The Moderate Voice

Ronald Reagan — Our First Black President? (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Ronald Reagan — Our First Black President?
by Michael Reagan

Who was the first black president?

Two decades before the election of Barack Obama, novelist Toni Morrison dubbed Bill Clinton “our first black President.” She even said that Clinton was “blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.”

Well, I could make an even stronger case for my father, Ronald Reagan, as “our first black president” — but I won’t make that claim. I don’t want to diminish the justifiable pride African-Americans take in having a president who is genetically and culturally black. Our first black president is Barack Obama.

But the past two years have made one thing clear: Ronald Reagan was a far better friend to black Americans than Barack Obama has been. Just compare the Reagan and Obama records. Under Obama, black unemployment rose from 12.6 percent in January 2009 to 16.0 percent today. This means that black unemployment has increased by more than one-fourth since Obama took office.

And the Reagan record? African-American columnist Joseph Perkins has studied the effects of Reaganomics on black America. He found that, after the Reagan tax cuts gained traction, African-American unemployment fell from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989. Black-owned businesses saw income rise from $ 12.4 billion in 1982 to $ 18.1 billion in 1987—an annual average growth rate of 7.9 percent. The black middle class expanded by one-third during the Reagan years, from 3.6 million to 4.8 million.

Before he was elected, in speech after speech, my father said that his economic plan would improve the lives of African-Americans. In a February 1977 CPAC address, he said, “The time has come for Republicans to say to black voters: ‘We offer principles that black Americans can and do support. We believe in jobs, real jobs; we believe in education that is really education; we believe in treating all Americans as individuals and not as stereotypes or voting blocs.’”

My father understood that, while African-Americans may vote Democratic, they live as conservatives. Like all Americans, black Americans want to succeed, they want to be free, and they want to maintain strong families.

During the Great Depression, Dad played football for Coach Mac McKinzie at Eureka College in Illinois. During a game trip to a nearby Illinois college, the team was scheduled to stay in a hotel—but the hotel manager refused to give a room to Dad’s two black teammates, William Franklin “Burgie” Burghardt and Jim Rattan.

Coach McKinzie angrily replied that the entire team would sleep on the bus that night. Dad spoke up and offered an alternative: Why not send Burgie and Jim to the Reagan home in Dixon, just 15 miles away? Dad’s parents, Jack and Nelle Reagan, would welcome his teammates — and the whole team would get a good night’s rest.

In his autobiography, “An American Life,” Dad recalled, “We went to my house and I rang the bell and Nelle came to the door. . . ‘Well, come on in,’ she said. . . . She was absolutely color-blind when it came to racial matters; these fellows were just two of my friends. That was the way she and Jack had always raised my brother and me.”

Burgie was Dad’s best friend on the team — he played center and Dad played guard — and he recalled the incident as well. Shortly after Dad’s inauguration in 1981, liberal columnist Mark Shields interviewed Burgie, who was then a retired college professor. Burgie recounted the story exactly as Dad would later tell it in his book, including the warm welcome from Jack and Nelle Reagan.

As Shields related in a November 2010 column, the incident took place “in an America where, overwhelmingly, blacks and whites did not break bread together or sleep under the same roof. In 1981 — some eight months before his death — Burgie still remembered that Reagan had not hesitated to invite Rattan and him into his family home. . . . [Ronald Reagan’s] teammate and lifelong friend William Franklin Burghardt could and did eloquently testify: The Gipper was free of racial prejudice in his personal life.”

My father was educated in a racially color-blind setting at Eureka College. In March 2009, when Mikhail Gorbachev toured the Ronald Reagan Museum at Eureka College, he seemed especially impressed by Dad’s 1932 Eureka yearbook which showed a photo of an African-American woman, Willie Sue Smith, on the same page as my father’s senior picture. Gorbachev was surprised to see a black woman in an American college yearbook of that time.

I think I know why Gorbachev was surprised. In my travels in Eastern Europe, I talked to many who once lived under communism. They told me that the Communist schools required students to read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Students were taught that this book accurately portrayed racism in America today. When Gorbachev saw a black woman in Ronald Reagan’s graduating class, it contradicted everything he’d been taught about life in America.

Dad’s alma mater led the way in promoting racial equality — yet much of America lagged behind in race relations. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed us toward a new era of racial harmony, in which all Americans would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

In a White House Rose Garden ceremony in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill honoring Dr. King with a federal holiday on the third Monday of January every year. On Dr. King’s birthday that year, my father said, “Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. . . . Where others — white and black — preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence.”

On this anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday, less than a month before the hundredth birthday of Ronald Reagan, it’s fitting to note that Ronald Reagan did more to improve the lives of African-Americans than any other president since Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that America’s first black president has made life worse for us all — and especially for black Americans.

History does not judge presidents by the color of their skin, but by the content of their policies.

Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his website at www.reagan.com. ©2011 Mike Reagan. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate and his column is licensed to run on TMV.


The Moderate Voice

Revolt in Tunisia: When Arab Regimes Do (And Do Not) Tremble (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Revolt in Tunisia: When Arab Regimes Do (And Do Not) Tremble
by Barry Rubin

May the good Lord protect us from news analysis and Middle East experts. Is the Arab world really in shock over the Tunisian upheaval? Is this really a symptom for a coming upheaval in the Arab world?

Perhaps I’m wrong but a note of caution is in order. I think the answer is “no.”

Let’s begin by looking back at far bigger shocks that have made Arab regimes tremble.

First, there was the fall of Communism and the Soviet bloc. The Soviet Union was the superpower patron of many Arab regimes, their source of weapons and diplomatic support, their supposed protector from Israel and the United States.

Yet more than that, it was a basic role model-especially for political and economic organization-for a number of these regimes-most obviously Egypt, Iraq, and Syria but also for others as well. I don’t mean they copied it exactly by a long shot. But the statist, single-party rule, government control over wide swathes of life is how they functioned for decades. If you’re interested, I wrote a book on this called Modern Dictators.

How did the regimes respond then? By tightening up and killing off real hope of democratic reform. And they did quite well for themselves. I wrote about it in “How Arab Regimes Dealt with the Democracy Challenge.”

There was also another time when (some) Arab regimes trembled, the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979. Indeed, they are still trembling at the prospect of overthrow by a revolutionary Islamist movement. These groups now form the principal opposition in most Arab countries-but not, as we shall see, in Tunisia-and elements of them are quite ready to use violence. Indeed, this is the most important conflict not only in the Arab world but in the Middle East altogether.

And there is a third occasion when (radical) Arab regimes tremble: the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Might the United States also overthrow them? This applied especially to Syria and Libya but others felt it also. As totally unlikely as this seemed in Washington it was not so unthinkable in Arab capitals. But they got over it when it became clear that there was no such threat. I discussed how Syria dealt with this in my book, The Truth about Syria. Libya reacted by surrendering all of its nuclear ambitions.

So Arab regimes begin to tremble sometimes. But when the going gets tough the tough don’t tremble very long. They take counter-action.

Now are the events in Tunisia a new occasion for Arab regimes to tremble? Well, maybe a tiny bit for a tiny moment. The fact is that Tunisia has been a special case among Arab regimes for decades. It is the most Europeanized, the place where women have the most equality, and the Islamist movement is proportionately weakest. It is also the only country that has had just two rulers in 55 years.

Here’s an excellent article on why the Islamist movement in Tunisia is weaker by Aziz Enhaili and Oumelkheir Adda.

Compare this to neighboring Algeria where the Islamists built a power base in part on similar material grievances to those that motivated the Tunisian riots, won an election, were then confronted by the military, and the result was an incredibly bloody and vicious civil war in which tens of thousands of people were killed.

Also compare this to Palestinian politics where corruption and incompetence led to the rise of Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip by force. Let’s face it, if not for massive Western aid and Israel security assistance to the Palestinian Authority-which does not repay this with any flexibility in negotiating, by the way-Hamas would probably be ruling the West Bank by now, too.

That is the kind of scenario faced in various ways by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and other Arab countries. That is what they fear, not a citizens’ spontaneous uprising that is easily defused by some minor changes at little cost in casualties.

The weakness of the Islamists-and in some ways Tunisian regime’s the less totalitarian approach, which at times was quite brutal but not so systematically so as some others-left the door open for moderate pro-democratic forces in a way that hasn’t happened in any other Arabic-speaking country.

If you are interested in the remarkable story of how Tunisian Islam has differed so drastically from that in other countries, read my article about that here or a longer article by Lafif Lakhdar, “Moving From Salafi to Rationalist Education.”

This factor gave more “secular” politics space, a space which in Egypt and Jordan, for example, is filled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

At any rate, there is no reason to believe that the events in Tunisia signal a regime change but only a partial leadership change.

What does it mean for other Arab countries? It calls to their attention the stress of serious economic difficulties given international problems and local mismanagement. The signal is that governments have to ease up a bit on their masses regarding pricing of basic commodities and other services. An obvious case in this regard is Jordan. But Jordan is crisscrossed by East Banker/Palestinian and pro-regime/Islamist factors that make it quite a different situation.

Remember that the notable thing about the Tunisian upheaval was that it was a spontaneous rebellion against an incompetent and corrupt government that had followed roughly the same policies for 55 years without a single serious challenge. Spontaneous rebellions are not going to happen if there are people clamoring to organize them for a specific political agenda beforehand. (The closest thing to that happening before was in Iran in 1978, but that’s another story also.)

Incidentally, the thing to watch now is whether the Islamists profit from the discontent and the partial opening up of civil society to become much stronger. In that case, a future crisis might follow the pattern more common now in the region.

Incidentally, a senior U.S. diplomat told me about a meeting he had with Tunisia’s (up until hours ago) president many years ago:

“I remember his telling me that he fights Islamism by increasing the number of government projects in districts where the Islamist movement might be getting stronger.

“As for Islamism he told me the following: ‘They brainwash people. They brainwashed my mother. She called me and said: ‘I thought I raised you to be a good Moslem. Why are you against God?’ I had to tell her: ‘You raised me to be a good Moslem and I am still a good Moslem. Don’t believe what these people tell you.’ But the brainwashing goes on and we have to deal with it.”

Leaving aside the future of Islamism in Tunisia, though, this is not a turning point in Arab or Middle Eastern political history. It will, however, take its place as a precedent that will affect the thinking of governments, Islamist oppositions, and the small pro-democratic movements. It gives the governments cause to make adjustments, the Islamists ideas about posing as “good government” activists, and the democrats some hope for the future.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org. You can read and subscribe to his blog at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.


The Moderate Voice

Has The American Dream Drifted North? (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Has The American Dream Drifted North?
by Tina Dupuy

Imagine a handsome young family complete with kids living in a stylish two-story home in a quiet neighborhood. The parents work quiet middle-class jobs. Dad is a city bus driver. Mom is a secretary. Their house is brimming with consumer goods: a couple of mammoth-sized televisions, a drum set for the kids and high-end furniture. Mom’s closet is bursting with her ample wardrobe. Dad has a motorcycle. Combined they make just under $ 90,000 a year.

They are being featured on a show running on CNBC, now in its ninth season called Til Debt Do We Part. And like most people on television shows, they have a problem and they need to go on television to fix it. Apparently Mom and Dad have been heavy-handed with their credit cards. They owe $ 60,000. The matronly host Gail Vaz-Oxlade gently lays down the law: They have to live within their means. Pay down credit cards. Pay into a savings account. Save for their children’s education. The message this self-proclaimed Dollar Diva has for the couple is they are drifting apart and debt is the culprit.

Gail puts up on the screen the family’s budget, what they spend on whatnot a month. Their housing expenses for their posh suburban home are a reasonable sum. Their transportation costs are relatively low. Dad has to sell the motorcycle. Mom has to spend less on clothes. The parents need to spend more time with each other. All problems are then solved.

While watching this program I was amazed at the lack of grit for a reality show. This is no Hoarders airing dirty laundry and years worth of neglect and filth. This is a couple with a standard of living far better than any I’ve ever seen for what they do for a living. It’s like they’re Alice and I’m the one Through the Looking Glass.

Then Gail handed the couple a wad of bills to illustrate they were going to be paying for things in cash from now on. The money? Canadian. These are Canadians. Their budget is manageable for one because they’ve chosen to not buy supplemental insurance and rely on the government to provide all of their health care.

This couple and most of the couples on the show don’t pay for health care out of their family budgets. The average family in America spends around $ 15,000 a year or around 22% of their income on health care. That amount will apparently pay most of a mortgage on an enviable home in the greater Toronto area.

Most notable, the show doesn’t delve into any sob stories about getting diseases and therefore having debt. There are no staples of the only-in-America saga of losing your health, then your health care and then your house (there’s a fix to this in the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare that has yet to go into effect). The debt is all from spending money on things they want. Simply because they want them. Which makes these spendthrift Canadians seem more American than Americans.

It’s the way Americans want to see ourselves; careless, reckless, Wild West, rogue spenders buying everything because we can. Buying is our birthright. It’s freedom. Freedom of a free market – which makes even a 33% APR sound liberating. Of course we’re more along the lines of Wal-Mart sharecroppers, completely at the mercy of colossal businesses with fewer choices and even less power muttering to ourselves that at least we aren’t slaves. It’s the land of the free. Someone told us so.

Are Canadians living the American Dream?

When did Canadians out Norman Rockwell us? From the perspective of my couch they seem to be living very well with the evils of socialism. Canada consistently outranks us in quality of care and that impacts our quality of life. They have lots of guns and low gun violence. Their banks didn’t cause a housing bust so their economy is comparatively doing fine.

Plus, call me paranoid, but I think they’re looking down on us.

© Copyright 2010 TinaDupuy.com Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and fill-in host at The Young Turks. Her column is licensed to run on TMV in full.


The Moderate Voice

Has The American Dream Drifted North? (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Has The American Dream Drifted North?
by Tina Dupuy

Imagine a handsome young family complete with kids living in a stylish two-story home in a quiet neighborhood. The parents work quiet middle-class jobs. Dad is a city bus driver. Mom is a secretary. Their house is brimming with consumer goods: a couple of mammoth-sized televisions, a drum set for the kids and high-end furniture. Mom’s closet is bursting with her ample wardrobe. Dad has a motorcycle. Combined they make just under $ 90,000 a year.

They are being featured on a show running on CNBC, now in its ninth season called Til Debt Do We Part. And like most people on television shows, they have a problem and they need to go on television to fix it. Apparently Mom and Dad have been heavy-handed with their credit cards. They owe $ 60,000. The matronly host Gail Vaz-Oxlade gently lays down the law: They have to live within their means. Pay down credit cards. Pay into a savings account. Save for their children’s education. The message this self-proclaimed Dollar Diva has for the couple is they are drifting apart and debt is the culprit.

Gail puts up on the screen the family’s budget, what they spend on whatnot a month. Their housing expenses for their posh suburban home are a reasonable sum. Their transportation costs are relatively low. Dad has to sell the motorcycle. Mom has to spend less on clothes. The parents need to spend more time with each other. All problems are then solved.

While watching this program I was amazed at the lack of grit for a reality show. This is no Hoarders airing dirty laundry and years worth of neglect and filth. This is a couple with a standard of living far better than any I’ve ever seen for what they do for a living. It’s like they’re Alice and I’m the one Through the Looking Glass.

Then Gail handed the couple a wad of bills to illustrate they were going to be paying for things in cash from now on. The money? Canadian. These are Canadians. Their budget is manageable for one because they’ve chosen to not buy supplemental insurance and rely on the government to provide all of their health care.

This couple and most of the couples on the show don’t pay for health care out of their family budgets. The average family in America spends around $ 15,000 a year or around 22% of their income on health care. That amount will apparently pay most of a mortgage on an enviable home in the greater Toronto area.

Most notable, the show doesn’t delve into any sob stories about getting diseases and therefore having debt. There are no staples of the only-in-America saga of losing your health, then your health care and then your house (there’s a fix to this in the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare that has yet to go into effect). The debt is all from spending money on things they want. Simply because they want them. Which makes these spendthrift Canadians seem more American than Americans.

It’s the way Americans want to see ourselves; careless, reckless, Wild West, rogue spenders buying everything because we can. Buying is our birthright. It’s freedom. Freedom of a free market – which makes even a 33% APR sound liberating. Of course we’re more along the lines of Wal-Mart sharecroppers, completely at the mercy of colossal businesses with fewer choices and even less power muttering to ourselves that at least we aren’t slaves. It’s the land of the free. Someone told us so.

Are Canadians living the American Dream?

When did Canadians out Norman Rockwell us? From the perspective of my couch they seem to be living very well with the evils of socialism. Canada consistently outranks us in quality of care and that impacts our quality of life. They have lots of guns and low gun violence. Their banks didn’t cause a housing bust so their economy is comparatively doing fine.

Plus, call me paranoid, but I think they’re looking down on us.

© Copyright 2010 TinaDupuy.com Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and fill-in host at The Young Turks. Her column is licensed to run on TMV in full.


The Moderate Voice

The prophetic voice

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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(Scott)

mlk.jpg

When Martin Luther King, Jr. brought his nonviolent campaign against segregation to Bull Connor’s Birmingham, he laid siege to the bastion of Jim Crow. In Birmingham between 1957 and 1962, black homes and churches had been subjected to a series of horrific bombings intended to terrorize the community. In April 1963 King answered the call to bring his campaign to Birmingham. When King landed in jail on Good Friday for violating an injunction prohibiting demonstrations, he took the opportunity to meditate on the counsel of prudence with which Birmingham’s white ministers had greeted his campaign. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was the result.

Reading the “Letter” nearly fifty years later is a humbling experience. Perhaps most striking is King’s seething anger over the indignities of segregation:

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

In addition to King’s witness, King’s prophetic call permeates the “Letter.” Why did King presume to come from Atlanta to Birmingham? King writes:

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

King’s prophetic call must have been both a source of strength and of concern. His strength was manifest; he rarely let his concern show. Perfection is not a condition of the prophet’s call, and King was both imperfect and aware of his imperfections. His unbending strength is all the more remarkable.

It is difficult to comprehend that Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 39 years old at the time of his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968, or that the prospect of his death weighed so heavily on his mind. He seems too young to have accomplished so much, or to have maintained his judgment under such trying circumstances. The magnitude of his own trials must have had a deep impact on him.

In the speech he gave in Memphis the day before his assassination, he movingly recalled his first confrontation with death:

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?”

And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you drown in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

Here he paused to look back on what he had achieved with the time he had been granted:

And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream. And taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, been in Memphis to see the community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

Looking beyond his accomplishments, he likened himself to Moses, the prophet par excellence, and testified to the source of the prophet’s voice:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

(First posted on Martin Luther King Day 2005.)




Power Line

The prophetic voice

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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0

(Scott)

mlk.jpg

When Martin Luther King, Jr. brought his nonviolent campaign against segregation to Bull Connor’s Birmingham, he laid siege to the bastion of Jim Crow. In Birmingham between 1957 and 1962, black homes and churches had been subjected to a series of horrific bombings intended to terrorize the community. In April 1963 King answered the call to bring his campaign to Birmingham. When King landed in jail on Good Friday for violating an injunction prohibiting demonstrations, he took the opportunity to meditate on the counsel of prudence with which Birmingham’s white ministers had greeted his campaign. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was the result.

Reading the “Letter” nearly fifty years later is a humbling experience. Perhaps most striking is King’s seething anger over the indignities of segregation:

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

In addition to King’s witness, King’s prophetic call permeates the “Letter.” Why did King presume to come from Atlanta to Birmingham? King writes:

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

King’s prophetic call must have been both a source of strength and of concern. His strength was manifest; he rarely let his concern show. Perfection is not a condition of the prophet’s call, and King was both imperfect and aware of his imperfections. His unbending strength is all the more remarkable.

It is difficult to comprehend that Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 39 years old at the time of his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968, or that the prospect of his death weighed so heavily on his mind. He seems too young to have accomplished so much, or to have maintained his judgment under such trying circumstances. The magnitude of his own trials must have had a deep impact on him.

In the speech he gave in Memphis the day before his assassination, he movingly recalled his first confrontation with death:

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?”

And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you drown in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

Here he paused to look back on what he had achieved with the time he had been granted:

And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream. And taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, been in Memphis to see the community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

Looking beyond his accomplishments, he likened himself to Moses, the prophet par excellence, and testified to the source of the prophet’s voice:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

(First posted on Martin Luther King Day 2005.)




Power Line

Civility? Maybe. Maybe Not. (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 16-01-2011

Tags: , , , ,

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Civility? Maybe. Maybe not.
by Prairie Weather

James Fallows has been asking his readers to email him their thoughts on civility. Some excerpts:

In the private sector people are mostly polite because it’s good for business and crucial to getting things done. The harshness that we find in the public political discourse is the result of self-selection: only the nasty and the really thick-skinned opt to engage in political life. I and many others are turned off by the nastiness and choose to disengage from the public discourse. I confess that I have abandoned the future of my country to the nastiest people around, both Democrats and Republicans.

To which I’d say that it’s the private sector and the media greed machine that promotes incivility. Incivility gets ratings! Which the next emailer seems to recognize:

Talk of your opponent as someone with different views, beliefs or opinions that you think are wrong, but not as a bad person.

That to me has been the most damaging thing in our politics in the last 30 years; people cannot simply disagree with their opponent. They have to somehow paint the other person as being a bad person as well. This eventually leads to the kind of crackpot rhetoric we see from Beck and Limbaugh and Palin …

So turn off channels carrying those jerks. Seriously. And:

…Avoid equating your opponents and/or their programs to historical figure, acts, movements, or periods that are widely understood to be examples of evil unless you could make the case for the analogy with a straight face to a credentialed academic historian knowledgeable about the time period.

To put it another way, get educated! One benefit of education is the ability to be skeptical but civil.

Does everyone in politics, in fact, have “the best interests of Americans at heart”? It would be surprising if they did. American politicians are not, in general, less selfish, greedy, or corrupt than people in any other field or any other country. And if someone in public office is behaving in a selfish, greedy, or corrupt way, it doesn’t help to pretend that he or she is merely a well-intentioned-but-misguided patriot.

In other words, get rid of the fake-o goody-goody “everything is beautiful” stuff that came out of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. My response to those who ask why the ’80’s through the present day has been an era of so much anger and disillusion is to point at the overdose of artificial sugar America fed itself a decade earlier. We’ve been having a diabetic reaction ever since.

I like best of all this response to Fallows’ request for ideas.

How about we simply go back to manners. Remember manners? Emily Post? Handshakes, where people look each other in the eye, hats off in buildings, boys, etc. Let’s easy up on the profanity.

Boycott bombastic, self-serving media outlets, and take the time to call, email, text companies who advertise with those outlets, and or boycott those companies. My wise and sage 94 year old father would say, “hit them in their wallets”.

Of course, it’s hard to be civil to people who hate Fox and who are scornful of entertainment-news but quote it and support their advertisers. If you want to be civil and do something about the sources of incivility, get rid of your TV subscription. People do that when they’re serious. They “hit them in their wallets” even though that means a change in personal habits.

You’re either part of the solution or you’ve decided to remain another of America’s problems. One response to the Fallows challenge has this:

An adult should know what is civil and not civil, by one’s own standards, when one experiences it in one’s own and others’ behavior. Having this sense is as important as having “civility” defined. The same concept applies to “shame.” Chinese say: To possess a sense of shame is akin to having courage.”

“…Sense of shame akin to having courage?” Of course, I immediately thought of George W. Bush. Here we go again…!

This is cross posted from Prairie Weather’s blog.


The Moderate Voice

Voice Of The Copts: Coptic Christians Support For Israel

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 15-01-2011

Tags: , , , , ,

0

Ashraf Ramelah President, president of the group Voice of the Copts, gave release a statement on the support of Coptic Christians for Israel:

Statement By Ashraf Ramelah President,
Voice of the Copts

Regarding Public demonstration of Copts on January 9, 2011 in Milan, Italy We are appalled at the Copts’ rejection of fellow protesters who were draped in the Israeli national flag as a show of solidarity with Israel and the Jews.

We strongly condemn the actions of those Coptic Christians (mostly immigrants living in Italy) against the Italian citizens who joined them for the same fight against a common enemy.

This display of anti-Semitism has no place in our struggle for freedom in the world today.

Voice of the Copts stands together with the Jews of Israel and Jews around the world to confront the vicious attacks stemming from a religious and political ideology aimed against each and every one of us who are non-Muslim.

Furthermore, as Christians we stand upon the Biblical precept that we are grafted into the promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a legacy which serves as the basis of our support of the Jews and their inheritance, and we join with them in their suffering.  

Those of us who live in Egypt or have loved ones there may in fear or ignorance act out against the Jews, but these sentiments are in no way right or acceptable and will surely lead to devastating results for Copts, politically and religiously.

In addition, as Israel is a sovereign state recognized by the entire world, including the Egyptian regime, Copts have a choice to either align themselves with Islamic hatred or to align themselves with the official stance of their government. There is absolutely no justification for the former, for even if this position actually serves to reduce the Islamic bomb attacks, shootings and kidnappings which take place regularly against Copts, which it clearly does not, it is unconscionable.  

We thank God for Israel, the one free democratic country within the Middle East. We pray for their prosperity and safe-keeping. May America and European countries continue to support and strengthen Israel!

Technorati Tag: and .


Daled Amos

The Passive Voice

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 14-01-2011

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0

(Eugene Volokh)

There’s a new post at the Faculty Lounge on the passive voice (thanks to Prof. Sam Levine for the pointer). Here’s my thinking on the substantive question (as opposed to the question of whether law review editors are overeager to replace passive voice with the active), from my Academic Legal Writing book.

Many people recommend that you turn the passive voice — “The action was done by this person” (the object was verbed by the subject) or just “The action was done” — into the active voice, “This person did this action” (the subject verbed the object).

This is generally good advice. Passive voice often makes writing less direct: “Passive voice should be avoided by you” is worse than “Avoid the passive voice.” It also sometimes conceals responsibility, as in the famous “Mistakes were made” used as a substitute for “We made mistakes.”

But if your discussion focuses more on the object than on the subject (the actor), you might want to use the passive voice, which has a similar focus. If you’re writing about the USA Patriot Act, for instance, the passive sentence “The Act was adopted shortly after the September 11 attacks” may be better than the active “Congress adopted the Act shortly after the September 11 attacks.” The passive voice properly focuses the discussion on the Act, rather than on Congress.

* * *

Also check out this post by Prof. Mark Lieberman (Language Log)




The Volokh Conspiracy

Credit Where It’s Due: Jon Stewart’s Voice of Reason

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 14-01-2011

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Andrew Potter at Mediaite took a serious swipe at Jon Stewart this week, dragging “The Daily Show” host over the proverbial coals for not doing his job in the wake of the Tucson massacre:

[Stewart] …instead of taking sides, placing blame, and ultimately doing the satirist’s crucial job of holding a mirror up to power, … took the safest route imaginable and blamed the media…

To quote Stewart: “Really? Really?”

Stewart did place the blame — on the deranged shooter himself, exactly where it should be. Unless he’s got some evidence to the contrary, Potter should come to the same reasonable conclusion. But it looks like he has other sampler platter items to fry, all while trying to shield what is perhaps the most pervasive entity in American culture-the media-from social criticism. Absurd.

The media represents significant power in this country and it is the last thing that should be exempt from scrutiny. In a classic conundrum, to fight power you must amass power. The media has been a powerful influence for a long time; it is not some romantic “truth to power” enterprise. Much of the media has descended into partisan cliques whose legitimacy erodes more each day. Has the media forgotten that with power comes responsibility, not an exemption from criticism? Do J-Schools teach this, or only as it relates to left wing agendas? Stewart did the safe thing … Really? I disagree; chugging the commentariat Kool-Aid is the safe thing, not going against it. Railing against the right, conservatives, Sarah Palin, guns… that’s the easy thing to do … telling your own that they are acting like buffoons takes much more conviction and a much larger pouch.

Also problematic in the above statement is the idea that Stewart blamed the media. Stewart was merely making a point and a pretty astute one: some in the media (since it is made of individuals who exercise free choice) often express themselves in somewhat deranged ways, something Potter apparently agrees with as evidenced by him taking shots at Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly.  Stewart was accusing some in the news media/commentariat, not of the murders, but of making reckless claims in the wake of a national tragedy … exactly as any honest person would. There are no larger forces at play that are able to compel somebody to act with as much forethought as the Tucson shooter did, unless you find the plot to “Zoolander” plausible. Judging by some of the loony theorizing taking place recently, it seems like many in the media do. Perhaps we should start calling Glenn Beck “Little Cletus.”

Potter then throws the cheese sticks and mushrooms into the deep fryer. A partisan jab on gun control:

Gee thanks Jon. You know what would be nice? If Republicans weren’t hell-bent on gutting every serious attempt at legislation that would keep semi-automatic pistols with 30-round clips out of the hands of lunatics.

Really? Really?

If a lunatic wants a gun, he or she is going to get a gun. There are approximately 300 million (yes, million, a whole bunch of frickin’ zeros) firearms in the United States, including 100 million handguns. They will continue to exist. The horse is out of the barn. The cat is out of the bag. That ship done sailed. No use crying over spilled milk. One lunatic going postal does not warrant reactionary caterwauling over gun policy. This is a free society and part of that means private gun ownership. There is no way around that, unless we can get Mr. Peabody and Sherman to take us back in time to eliminate the invention of firearms entirely… or turn this country into the Soviet Frickin’ Union. People would then most likely begin complaining about the number of spikes on the end of each flail and cudgel.

On this issue of media blame, Potter is either confused or calculating. Stewart and Victor Davis Hanson—who also draws Potter’s ire for allegedly “mocking” any attempt to tie the Tucson shooter to the American Right—are not blaming the media for anything other than becoming a living, breathing Onion parody. Stewart and Hanson are criticizing the media for their irresponsible and sickening blame hustling in the wake of a terrible tragedy. This is exactly what they should be doing in our free society. All reasonable Americans want is an honest debate and honest reporting, not partisan scat like Potter presents here. In this instance, Stewart offered that; Potter does not.

The fact is that the media turned this latest episode into a conjectural, partisan, ultimately damaging circus. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage and others were all absurdly branded as somehow at least partially responsible for this tragedy. I don’t think any reasonable person would claim that such accusations are above scrutiny, yet Potter chucks the chicken wings and toasted ravioli into the bubbling oil, calling Stewart a:

failed satirist, the TV-host equivalent to a dying stand-up comedian picking on the fat guy in the front row…

Really? Really?

If the media is indeed the “fat guy” in the front row, it definitely needs to be picked on more often so it will stop inhaling partisan Twinkies and “truth to power but only if it’s GOP” pies like they’re about to be confiscated by the New Food Police. Obviously the media isn’t getting any more responsible so perhaps it’s time to open up a big ol’ can of tough love on it like Bill and Bess Gluckman and say, “You’re fat; lose some weight” … from both sides of the aisle. Stewart’s right on this one, and he gets a lot of credit for saying what he said, especially considering he’s part of what he’s criticizing. In layman’s terms, that takes balls… big balls.

I’ll even humor this a little further, since it is apparently absurd to deny a connection between the Tucson massacre and the “right wing”. If a connection simply must be made, which is more likely, that the deranged Tucson shooter saw that map on Sarah Palin’s facebook page (did he even have a facebook account?), paid close attention to Tea Party rhetoric (he attended Democrat functions, right? Hardly Tea Partyish, no?), or that he heard some of the inane histrionics from the likes of Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz or any of the other hyperbolic left wing pundits who saturate our airwaves daily? Unless you have the IQ of a waffle slathered in butter pecan syrup, the better odds are on the latter, who have spewed some of the most vicious, hateful rhetoric I have ever heard in mainstream media. The mistake many in the media made is to tie this idea in with the Tea Party and the right wing, as Potter does here, immediately making the whole thing a partisan hack job. So, even though blaming the right wing or political rhetoric at all is asinine to begin with, even when humored, it doesn’t stand up to even moderate scrutiny. I’ve heard more sound prosecutorial arguments from Dan Fielding on Night Court.

Either way, the reasoning is idiotic and I’d be a loon also for promoting such an idea. One man is responsible for the crime: the criminal himself. Case closed, end of story. Stewart hit the spike squarely on the head. I can honestly say for the first time listening to Stewart I said to myself, “Right on, brother. Well done.”

Therefore … game, set, match: Stewart, Hanson and anyone else who is criticizing the media regarding this episode, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 (yes, a five setter, that’s why dudes used to get paid more than chicks at the Grand Slams).

Really.


Big Journalism

Arizona on My Mind (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 14-01-2011

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The tragedy in Arizona this weekend has generated an ocean of comment on both sides of the border. In The New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote:

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming overwhelmingly from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michelle Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the GOP.

In The Toronto Star, James Travers saw plenty of blame to go around: “In Ottawa as in Washington, the result is that abuse is now the common tongue of policy debate. Invective and vitriol are heaped on those who reach different conclusions.”

Rush Limbaugh attacked Sheriff Clarence Dupnick for fanning a left wing conspiracy aimed at shutting down free speech. And Sarah Palin’s spokeswoman — not Palin herself — suggested that the cross hairs on her electoral map were meant to be taken metaphorically, not literally. Both pundits deny any responsibility for what happened. And they are both right. Neither is legally culpable. The man with the gun is in custody.

But what both Limbaugh and Palin appear absolutely ignorant of is the truth which Abraham Lincoln felt in his very bone marrow — that words can be used as weapons; and that democracy works best when citizens are guided by their “better angels.” He stuck to that conviction throughout the Civil War. He said it best at his second inaugural:

With malice toward none; with charity toward all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who has done the battle, and for his widow and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations.

It’s worth remembering that when invoking the name of the Creator, Lincoln never claimed that God was on his side. He did, however, hope that he was on God’s side. We suffer from the delusion that we are the instruments of righteousness. Certainly Limbaugh and Palin suffer from that disease. We need to find an antidote. We could start by practising a bit of humility.

Canada’s Owen Gray grew up in Montreal, where he received a B. A. from Concordia University. After crossing the border and completing a Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, he returned to Canada, married, raised a family and taught high school for 32 years. Now retired, he lives — with his wife and youngest son — on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. This post is cross posted from his blog.


The Moderate Voice

Air Raid (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 14-01-2011

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Air Raid
by Peter Funt

During a recent radio interview I was asked why it is that conservative broadcasters are so much more successful than their progressive, or liberal, counterparts.

The question was particularly intriguing considering its source: the host of a progressive radio show in Central California.

In terms of audience size, the canyon between right and left on radio’s political spectrum is huge. Top conservatives – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage – reach a combined audience of roughly 50 million listeners a week. The most successful liberal talk hosts, such as Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes, each pull about 3 million weekly.

The story is the same on cable-TV where Fox News Channel – with Hannity, Beck and Bill O’Reilly leading the charge – attracts twice as many viewers in prime time as liberal-leaning MSNBC – featuring Schultz, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

November’s election results notwithstanding, the political imbalance on radio and cable has little to do with the way the population splits to the left or right. The major parties have roughly the same number of ardent supporters year to year, and the fluctuations in voting numbers simply do not track with the radio and TV ratings.

Some say the success of conservative radio can be traced to 1987 when the Reagan administration put an end to the Fairness Doctrine, making it easier for broadcasters to be one-sided. Others cite the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which led to mega-chains of stations and the widespread duplication of successful formats – including conservative talk radio – which gradually took over the stronger radio outlets in most markets.

But such arguments really overlook the simpler truths of the matter: conservative broadcasters serve an audience that is often angry and easily stirred, that wants to be reinforced more than challenged, and that doesn’t always feel compelled to slavishly adhere to the facts of a matter.

More importantly, conservative broadcasters across the dial are vastly more entertaining than their liberal counterparts. Limbaugh and Beck are polished performers, with enough shtick in the tank to keep truckers engrossed over the long haul, or to rouse tired shift workers on the drive to and from home. Indeed, the daring diatribe of the right is so compelling that it often seems as if the most dedicated listeners of conservative broadcasters are their progressive competitors.

Over the years Keith Olbermann has gradually made his MSNBC program unwatchable as he obsessed over whatever outrageous statement Limbaugh had made on radio earlier in the day. Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz, each highly acclaimed on radio, emulated Olbermann’s style when they came to cable and they, too, became tedious to watch. Right-wing broadcasters, on the other hand, don’t dwell on what left-wing hosts are saying – they and their listeners couldn’t care less.

Worse, some liberal commentators have taken to name-calling and other tactics that they find so reprehensible in rants by the right. When Schultz calls Limbaugh “The Drugster” and House Speaker John Boehner “The Tan Man” he his taking the battle to the street, where he can’t ever win. When Schultz says he doesn’t want Republicans as guests because he “doesn’t care” what they have to say, and refers to them as “bastards” out to destroy the American dream, he’s surrendering in the war of words that his listeners want him to fight with eloquence.

The host who was interviewing me about all this, a fellow named Hal Ginsberg, has coined a slogan for his progressive outlet, KRXA: “Think for yourself.” And therein, I believe, lies much of the problem for on-air liberals. Their audience [ital] does [end ital] prefer to think for itself – it doesn’t need the recurrent ramblings of broadcasters to show the way, at least not at great length.

A better slogan for progressives might actually be: “Speak for yourself.” Which is why liberal radio works better for those behind the microphone than for those expected to sit and listen.

©2011 Peter Funt. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate and is licensed to run on TMV in full.


The Moderate Voice

North Dakota: Voice mail at synagogue mentions “special package” and jihad

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 12-01-2011

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Those pesky Methodist extremists seem to be at it again. “FBI investigating call to Fargo synagogue,” from AP, January 12:

FARGO, N.D. (AP) – The FBI is investigating a suspicious voice mail left at Fargo’s synagogue.

Police said a caller with a Florida-based area code left a phone message at Temple Beth El last week mentioning a “special package” and jihad….

Jihad Watch

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