Is this your America?

If you will allow me the “audacity of hope,” it is my hope that every voting-age American who did not watch the GOP debate last night will sit down and give it full attention when it re-airs on CNN Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

Watch it, then remind yourself: one of these men might be the next president of the United States.

While the candidates themselves had no control over the questions, and CNN and YouTube vetted them, they were posed by Americans via YouTube video.

It is apparent that, contrary to what I had thought, “God, gays and guns” are still main concerns of those who will vote Republican.

So prevalent was the issue of “illegal immigration,” I found myself thinking of Charlton Heston, staring down at the Statue of Liberty protruding from the sand, and screaming, “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you!”

Other questions were primarily about God (“Do you read and believe the Holy Bible?” and “What would Jesus do?”), gays, the 2nd Amendment and guns, abortion, torture and 9/11 and the Islamic Jihadist threat to America.

They were about a mindset.

The loudest booing came when Ron Paul attempted to explain jihadists hate us because of our policies toward the Middle East for the last several decades, and when Rudy Giuliani dared to suggest some gun ownership must be regulated.

The one question on Iraq – shouldn’t the U.S. establish permanent bases and remain there indefinitely to protect the region? – created a verbal tap dance onstage.

At times, Ron Paul seemed the only voice of reason, then he had to go and say we have to get government out of our lives, while pointing out the necessity of things only a federal government can do – such as “rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.”

As one post-debate panelist said, “What you didn’t hear was the name George Bush. They are trying to distance themselves from him, yet, with the exception of Ron Paul, they agree with him on almost every issue.”

These issues did not come up: education, health care, energy, global warming, the economy, Iran.

During the post-debate coverage a group of “undecided Republicans” remained undecided, could not pick a debate winner and expressed interest in one overriding criterion: who can beat Hillary Clinton.

I don’t have a problem with that, as I support the one person I believe can defeat this less-than-illustrious field – and restore this nation’s soul.

Watch Saturday night. If you are conservative and Republican or liberal and Democrat, ask yourself if what you see represents your own ideals, your own hope for your country.

This might just be the most important two hours you will spend before Election 2008.

Watch it like your future depends on it.


An inconvenient distinction

Ran across “Sean Hannity’s America” on Fox News the other night, and Sean was blathering away about how all the great scientists on Earth – the ones who really count – are refuting claims of global warming.

Sean went on to make the same mistake so many do – not recognizing there is an inconvenient (for them) distinction between “weather” and “climate.”

Time to recycle my blog post of 28 February 2007:

Hume-idity & snow jobs

My friend Richard, in a phone chat Saturday, was complaining about snow, ice and zero temps in Akron, Ohio. I hated to tell him I had my central air running here in South Carolina.

We were talking about the “weather.”

The right-wing and particularly Fox News are trying desperately to convince folks that “global warming” is a tree-hugger hoax.

Fox anchor Brit Hume just can’t get enough of those “it’s snowing, there’s global warming” jokes. On a recent show, he reported that a theater had canceled the showing of Al Gore’s “An Inconventient Truth” due to snow, then reacted to his own joke with a hee, hee and a yuck, yuck.

Hume was talking about the “weather.”

These naysayers neglect to tell their followers and/or audiences that there is a difference between “weather” and “climate.”

The 14 February 2007 edition of the Progress Report, Center for American Progess, explains the two terms:

“To understand why the current cold snap across the United States is occurring during a global warming trend, one must first understand the distinction between climate and weather.

“Climate is the ‘composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness and winds, throughout the year, are averaged over a series of years.’ In other words, climate refers to recorded history.

“Weather, on the hand, is current events; it refers to the ‘state of the atmosphere at a given time and place.’ Weather is a snapshot of the climate at any one instant. Although the two are related, their relationship is indirect. ‘The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time ... says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change.’” LINK


Update on the former AG

My lasting impression of former Attorney General John Ashcroft is the image of the sneer on his face as he whipped out a memo written by 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick during those crucial hearings. Turned out Ashcroft was wrong about the memo, and both Bush and Cheney apologized for the AG’s action during their session with the Commission.

The look on Ashcroft’s face that day was, in my opinion, pure evil. Funny how little things like that stay with you.

So, what’s the former AG doing now?

Article: “Justice Department Awards Ashcroft $52 Million Contract,” LINK.


The year that changed America

Erstwhile broadcast journalist and writer Tom Brokaw is making the talk-show rounds promoting his new book, “Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today.”

In a recent appearance I heard Brokaw explain how 1968 changed America for the next four decades.

On 11 June 2007, I wrote a post about former President Bill Clinton’s observations on how that year changed American politics.

For its timliness, I repeat it here:


My current book on tape is Bill Clinton’s “My Life,” and I am so impressed with his writing style, as amiable and down-home funny as his political style.

Clinton has just described one of the most tumultuous summers in our history – 1968 – and the violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The great dividers in the nation were racial conflict and Vietnam.

The Chicago violence unfolded while Clinton was on a trip to Shreveport, La., with his mother’s boyfriend. As he watched on TV Mayor Daley’s police force beating youthful protesters in Grant Park, Clinton says his Southern upbringing clashed with his progressive ideals. This young college kid, who would leave for Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in the fall, says he saw his beloved Democratic Party crumbling before his eyes.

Hubert Humphrey won the Party’s nomination over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, choosing Senator Edmund Muskie as his running mate. Bobby Kennedy had been killed after winning the California primary, and Senator Edward Kennedy rejected the pleas of young idealists to seek the nomination. Alabama Governor George Wallace was set to wage a third-party campaign.

At the conclusion of Chapter 13, devoted to the politics of this explosive summer, Clinton writes:

“The feeding fanaticism of the left had not yet played itself out, but it had already released a radical reaction on the right – one that would prove more durable, more well-financed, more institutionalized, more resourceful, more addicted to power, and far more skilled at getting and keeping it.

“Much of my public life has been spent trying to bridge the social and psychological divide that had widened into a chasm in Chicago. I won a lot of elections, and I think I did a lot of good, but the more I tried to bring people together, the madder it made the fanatics on the right.

“Unlike the kids in Chicago, they didn’t want America to come back together. They had an enemy, and they meant to keep it.”

Later, in Chapter 14, Clinton describes 1968 as:

“… the year that broke open the nation and shattered the Democratic Party. The year that conservative populism replaced progressive populism as the dominant political force in our nation. The year that law and order and strength became the province of Republicans, and Democrats became associated with chaos, weakness and out-of-touch, self-indulgent elites. The year that lead to Nixon, then Reagan, then Gingrich, then George W. Bush. The middle-class backlash would shape and distort American politics for the rest of the century. The new conservatism would be shaken by Watergate, Its public support would be weakened as right-wing ideologues promoted economic inequality, environmental destruction and social divisions, but not destroyed.

“When threatened by its own excesses, the conservative movement would promise to be kinder and gentler or more compassionate, all the while ripping the hide off Democrats for alleged weakness of values, character and will.

“And, it would be enough to provoke the painfully predictable, almost Pavlovian reaction among enough white middle-class voters to carry the day.

“Of course, it was more complicated than that. Sometimes conservatives’ criticisms of the Democrats had validity, and there were always moderate Republicans and conservatives of good will who worked with Democrats to make some positive changes. Nevertheless, the deeply imbedded nightmares of 1968 formed the arena in which I and all other progressive politicians had to struggle over our entire careers.

“Regardless, those of us who believed that the good in the 1960s outweighed the bad would fight on, still fired by the heroes and dreams of our youth.”


Two geniuses – skilled at propaganda – became the architects of conservative populism: Lee Atwater and his protege Karl Rove. Atwater, who died from a brain tumor at the young age of 39, apologized and asked forgiveness for his deeds before death. Rove’s influence continues in Bush’s White House.

Update: Karl Rove is now writing a column for Newsweek, in which he continues to give the GOP pointers on how to win. So far, he hasn't apologized for anything.


Spitzer: 'Fix it'

Remarks by Governor Eliot Spitzer Washington, DC November 14, 2007 (LINK)

Over the last two months, I have been advancing a proposal that I believe would improve the safety and security of the people of my state by addressing the fact that New York is home to one million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving on our roads unlicensed. After serious deliberation and consultation with people I respect on all sides of this issue, I have concluded that New York State cannot successfully address this problem on its own. I am announcing today that I am withdrawing my proposal.

Here in our nation's capital, I wanted to talk briefly about the failed federal immigration policy and what that has meant for states like New York.

I suggest to you what everyone already knows. The federal government has lost control of its borders, has allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to enter our country, and now has no solution to deal with it.

When the federal government abdicates its responsibility, states, cities, towns and villages still have to deal with the practical reality of that failure. And we face that reality every day in our schools, in our hospitals, and on our roads. In New York, that means one million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving without a license and without insurance, and all of whom are living in the shadows with no real identity.

While states lack the ability to fix our immigration laws, we do have the obligation to try to address some of their negative consequences. And so, many of us have tried.

In New York, we announced a comprehensive proposal to allow New Yorkers to choose from three secure licenses. This was a practical response to both the new federal travel requirements and the old federal inaction. It would have enabled us to keep our Upstate economy viable; meet the demands of federal travel requirements; make our roads safer; and bring more New Yorkers into the system, helping law enforcement officials fight crime and terrorism.

It would have restored the practice of licensing immigrants who do not have social security numbers, something New York had done for years, something eight other states -- both "red" and "blue" states -- do right now and something I continue to believe is principally the right thing to do to make our roads safer and our state more secure.

I continue to believe that my proposal would have improved an unsatisfactory situation. But I have listened to the legitimate concerns of the public and those who would be affected by my proposal, and have concluded that pushing forward unilaterally in the face of such strong opposition would be counterproductive.

Leadership is not solely about doing what one thinks is right. Leadership is also about listening to the public, responding to their concerns and knowing when to put aside a single divisive issue in favor of a larger agenda.

I am here today to respond to the vast majority of New Yorkers of good will who have heard my best case and yet still disagree with my proposal.

As New Yorkers, we respect that people from all over the world come to this country to work hard and to live the American dream, just like all four of my grandparents. We respect the hard and sometimes backbreaking work of those who participate daily in our economy. But at the same time we are troubled when people violate our immigration laws.

It does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic. It is also clear that, even if I could convince the public of the utility of our cause, the legislative process and any number of mounting obstacles would have prevented us from moving forward. The result would have been the defeat of this proposal and, even worse, a roadblock to solutions on so many important issues - like revitalizing our economy, lowering the cost of health care while improving quality and access; restoring excellence to our education system, and reducing property taxes. It is for these reasons that I will not move forward with this plan.

Indeed, a consequence of the federal failure is that Americans and New Yorkers are demanding a comprehensive solution. Piecemeal reform, even if practical, is unacceptable. It fails to address the many important, competing interests and values. I underestimated that sentiment in putting forward this proposal.

Beyond the crisis of illegal immigration that I have tried to address in some small way, please allow me this brief observation about another crisis - the crisis of political discourse in this country that was on full display these past two months.

While people of good faith opposed my plan for fair reasons, some partisans unleashed a response that has become all too familiar in American politics. In New York, forces quickly mobilized to prey on the public's worst fears by turning what we believe is a practical security measure into a referendum on immigration.

Political opponents equated minimum-wage, undocumented dishwashers with Osama Bin Laden. Newspaper headlines equated a drivers' license for an undocumented migrant laborers with a "Passport to Terror" and a "License to Kill." Based on the New Yorkers I speak to each and every day, I feel confident in saying that this rhetoric is wildly out of step with mainstream values -- doing nothing to offer solutions and everything to exploit fear.

In his new book, political analyst Ron Brownstein calls this a crisis of "hyperpartisanship," a crisis which has "unnecessarily inflamed our differences and impeded progress against our most pressing challenges."

Nothing reflects the result of hyperpartisanship more than the current immigration debate, which has become so toxic that anytime a practical proposal is put forward, it is shot down before it can even be weighed on its merits.

The consequence of this fear-mongering is paralysis.

Here are the facts:

Tomorrow, undocumented workers will not stop driving.

The federal government is not going to deport one million undocumented workers from New York by the end of this year, any more than it did last year or the year before.

And we can be sure that those who beat their chests the loudest will still have no solution at all.

As Attorney General, I often had to step into the enormous vacuum left by a federal government that did not embrace its most fundamental responsibilities. Whether it was ensuring fair play in the markets, protecting the environment, enforcing labor laws or product safety, time and again, the Attorney General's office was forced to step into the void left by federal inaction.

As Governor, it has not been much different. Whether it's health care, climate change, education or, in this case immigration, states are feeling the brunt of federal abdication and conscious neglect of a problem that is crying out for a solution.

But what I have learned here is that, while there are times when states should be laboratories, immigration is not one of them. It's too complex and too macro a challenge to be solved by a patchwork of state policies. But the reality of 14 million undocumented immigrants nationwide and one million in New York isn't going away. So my challenge to the federal government is this: fix it. Fix the problem so the states won't face the local impact.

With that, I look forward to getting back to an agenda that addresses the needs of all New Yorkers.

Thank you.

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Some final thoughts

"Let her and falsehood grapple; whoever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter." ~ John Milton in his great plea for a free press, "Aeropagitica."


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But, it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else." ~ Teddy Roosevelt, Kansas City Star,7 May 1918


“I don’t want to hear about politics for at least a week. I want only sun, light, air and peace.” ~ Josef Goebbels, vacationing on the Baltic, as recorded in his diary. (This was right after Hindenburg had initially denied the chancellorship to Hitler and embarrassed him with a published communiqué.)


And, finally:

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.” ~ Source Unknown


Drowned-out answer

Cable news’ frenzy over Hillary Clinton’s answer to Tim Russert’s question in the most recent Democratic debate apparently drowned out his follow-up question to Barack Obama.

I haven’t heard this reported. Have you?

From the debate transcript (LINK):

BRIAN WILLIAMS, “NBC Nightly News:” Senator Obama, why are you nodding your head?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I was confused on Senator Clinton’s answer. I can’t tell whether she was for it or against it, and I do think that is important. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.

Immigration is a difficult issue, but part of leadership is not just looking backwards and seeing what’s popular or trying to gauge popular sentiment; it’s about setting a direction for the country. And, that’s what I intend to do as president.

TIM RUSSERT, ‘Meet the Press:” Are you for it or against it (drivers licenses for illegal immigrants)?

OBAMA: I think that it is the right idea, and I disagree with Chris (Dodd) because there is a public safety concern. We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer.

That doesn’t negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.


Clearly, Barack Obama gave the SAME answer as Hillary Clinton, but his answer was drowned out by cable hosts and analysts waiting to pounce on the campaign’s front-runner.

Now, please read the next post for the rest of the story.

Creating reality

For decades schools of journalism have kicked around Marshall McLuhan’s theory, “The medium is the message.”

Over the last few months, we have seen the medium of cable news doing what it does best: creating reality.

On 25 May 2007, my post, “The silence is deafening” (LINK) concerned “the new silent majority.” The premise of the post was: the MAJORITY of Americans do not have a voice in the media.

As an example, I noted that major polls, taken during the Senate debate on “immigration reform,” showed 60 to 80 percent of Americans support “a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

MSNBC had Pat Buchanan on ‘round-the-clock, almost every program, stating that “the overwhelming majority of Americans do NOT support amnesty for illegal aliens.” Pat tends to throw out a lot of unsupported statistics.

Of course, Lou Dobbs was doing his nightly thing on CNN.

Between the two of them they started a cable news drumbeat – you know, reporting “there is a great public outcry” - that developed a MYTH exactly the opposite of what major polls were showing.

Let’s take a look at what Americans were saying at the time:


“The same thing is true for illegal immigration. A solid majority of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for a number of years to stay and apply for citizenship if they have a job and pay back taxes. Critics call that ‘amnesty.’ ”




“These sentiments were captured in an early March Gallup poll, which asked: ‘Which comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States? Should the government deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time?’

“Fifty-nine percent think illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S. and possibly become citizens if they meet ‘certain requirements,’ while 15 percent favor allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. for a limited time, and 24 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be deported.”

Fast forward: a “google” search shows most recent polls on this issue are yielding the same results.

On 2 November 2007, in an article following the Democratic debate in Philadelphia, the Washington Post reported (LINK):

“Polls suggest that most Americans want to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country and create ways for them to obtain citizenship, but party strategists say the voters who care most about this issue are those angry about illegal immigration and want to hear a tougher message.”

So, America’s “new silent majority” is being drowned out by an angry 20 percent and two numbnuts with microphones.


'Demagogue in Denim'

In the pre-dawn hours Turner Classic Movies aired a film which, upon fresh viewing, seems as relevant today as when it was released 51 years ago.

A denim-clad, charismatic drifter, discovered in the drunk tank by a radio producer, rises to phenomenal success by appealing to the American masses.

Behind his hokey and homespun humor lies a megalomaniac, evil to the core, who pushes a fascist agenda onto an unsuspecting and uninformed mass audience.

Director Elia Kazan had the singular talent of squeezing gut-wrenching, primal-scream performances from his actors. It seems unlikely that the man who crafted the acting skills of Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront” and James Dean in “East of Eden,” arguably extracted some of filmdom’s most riveting scenes from the man who played the sheriff of Mayberry.

“A Face in the Crowd” (1956), with equally flawless performances by Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau and Lee Remick, moves easily into today’s genre of right-wing talk radio and TV giants and ideology-bent politicians.

The film, born in the midst of McCarthyism, translates to a world of mass hysteria, fearmongering, nationalism and empire building. With a new viewing, Andy Griffith’s Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes becomes the more frightening, more dangerous persona embodied in the 24/7 world of right-wing punditry.

The demise of a tragic man with Shakespeare’s “tragic flaw” comes only when a duped public wakes up to truth.

I highly recommend this movie. If you’re in for a weekend video fest, experience it along with Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. Be prepared for revelations.