Quotes to close a decade

DemWit brings you quotes to close out a decade, eight years of which were dominated by a president who surrounded himself with a cabal of neoconservatives hell-bent on empire building in the Middle East.

The following quotes are from White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in response to former Vice President (and neocon) Dick Cheney’s scathing criticism of the Obama administration.

Cheney, who has been more visible on the talk show circuit than he ever was in the White House, castigated Obama yesterday for “pretending we are not at war” and making our country “less safe” from terrorists.

This from an administration which so badly bungled our foreign policy that it came close to destroying the United States’ image in the world and whose unnecessary war in Iraq diverted our attention from the real threat - a diversion which cost us dearly in blood and treasure.

I choose these quotes from Mr. Pfeiffer, because I believe they mark a new direction for the next decade in how we handle the threat against not only us but the world.

Pfeiffer wrote on the official White House blog:

"It is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer."


"To put it simply: this president is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies (in Iraq) to be attacking the president."


"There are numerous … public statements that explicitly state we are at war (against al Qaeda). The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last administration – we are not at war with a tactic ("terrorism"), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered."


DemWit welcomes a new era and closes the old with a quote which defines Dick Cheney – one from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”


Most Admired 2009

President Barack Obama, by a wide margin, has topped USA Today/Gallup’s “Most Admired Man” list for the second year in a row.

The drama comes in the “Most Admired Woman” category, where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has won the distinction for the 14th time since 1993. The former first lady and New York senator barely edged out former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, 16 percent to 15 percent.


1- Barack Obama – 30 percent
2- George W. Bush
3- Nelson Mandela
4 -Glenn Beck
5- Pope Benedict XVI
6- Billy Graham
7- Bill Gates
8- John McCain
9- George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton
10- Tiger Woods (poll taken after scandal)


1- Hillary Rodham Clinton – 16 percent
2- Sarah Palin – 15 percent
3- Oprah Winfrey
4- Michelle Obama
5- Condoleezza Rice
6- Queen Elizabeth II
7- Margaret Thatcher
8- Maya Angelou
9- Angela Merkel
10- Elin Woods

"Since 1948, Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth II have been the two individuals with the most top 10 finishes on the Most Admired Man and Woman lists, with Graham doing so a record 53 times and the British monarch achieving that distinction 42 times."



Missed opportunities

"I don't think it's fair to lay this on President Obama or the Obama administration. A lot of these practices are ones that have been going on for quite awhile."

- Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, reacting to Republican charges the Obama administration is “soft on terror.”


“Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you.”

- Richard A. Clarke, then national coordinator for counterterrorism, apologizing to families of 9/11 victims, 9/11 Commission public hearing, 24 March 2004

This is not going to be a post about my revulsion to a nation brought to its knees by some lunatic with an explosive device. Nor is it going to be about fearmongering.

This one is about missed opportunities.

January 6, 1995 – Manila, Philippines. Ramsey Youssef and Abdul Hakim Murad are cooking up bomb chemicals in the kitchen of their apartment when a fire erupts. They run from the building. The acrid smoke attracts Manila police. While Youssef hides in a nearby karaoke bar, he sends Murad back to retrieve his Toshiba laptop, which has files about all his terrorist plans. Police capture Murad and the laptop. Among the plans on the computer, according to the then Manila police chief, were plans to fly commercial airliners into landmark buildings in the United States. The police chief says he gave all the information to the FBI, but the FBI denies there was information about terrorist plots on the computer.

Two years earlier, Youssef, the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, carried out the first attack on the World Trade Center. Both he and his uncle are now in custody.

- Paraphrased from National Geographic’s four-hour documentary, “Inside 9/11.”

Then Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet told the 9/11 Commission that during the summer of 2001 “the system was blinking red.” On August 6, a month before the 9/11 attacks, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) was headlined, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack in US.”

Missed opportunities.

Perhaps the biggest problem in this on-going plague is not airport security. The biggest problem, it seems to me, lies within the higher echelons of our government. How can a previous administration get away with outing a covert CIA operative, however peripheral its involvement? As recently as last month, Newsweek reported on “turf wars” between CIA Director Leon Panetta and the national intelligence czar, retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair.

Already Republicans are making this latest incident, in the words of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, “a political football.” Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, tweeted on Twitter that the White House is “stonewalling” on sharing data about the incident.

He’s disseminating information on Twitter?

You can bet President Obama is rethinking his SOTU address. To me, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Congressional hearings on the Detroit terror scare are being planned for early January.

Here’s a question they can answer:

Who will be the next high-ranking government official to say, “Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you.”?


Amen, Mr. Schaeffer

It’s serendipity to run across a piece of writing which says exactly what you’d like to say and says it so much better.

Thanks to Frank Schaeffer for his permission to reprint the following in its entirety. If it steps on any toes, sobeit!

Obama Will Triumph — So Will America

By Frank Schaeffer
December 21, 2009

Before he’d served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds - including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right-wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter - are sticking with our President. Why? - because he is succeeding.

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.

Obama’s steady supporters will be proved right. Obama’s critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe, the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition – from both the right and left.

As the President’s poll numbers have fallen so has his support from some on the left who were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election.

The left’s lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling “prophecy”- snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn’t have anything to do with it!

Here is what Obama faced when he took office- none of which was his fault:

# An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries

# Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral

# The worst economic crisis since the Depression

# America’s standing in the world at the lowest point in history

# A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war

# A health care system in free fall

# An educational system in free fall

# A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing)

# An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left

# A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush administration…

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President’s desk!

“Help” from the Right?

What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists - that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office - do to “help” our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn’t a real American, didn’t have an American birth certificate, wasn’t born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating “racist”, was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted “death panels” to kill the elderly!

They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized “tea parties” to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) “commentators” from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.

The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: “No!”

In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far right,combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent “bishops,” frontier loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs!

“Help” from the Left?

What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he’d inherited from the worst president in modern history!

Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President’s economic policies had “failed” before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office, they’d been “betrayed”! (Never mind that Obama’s vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president’s has been. Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!)

Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how "disappointed" they were that they’d not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the “change”? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!

And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond … “Governing”?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?”

The President’s critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure. Then, of course, there were the white, snide, know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn’t imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren’t as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn’t consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong!

The Obama critics' ideological ideas defined their idea of reality rather than reality defining their ideas—say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the President had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office… twice!

Meanwhile back in the reality-based community – in just 12 short months - President Obama:

# Continued the draw down of the misbegotten war in Iraq
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Restored America’s image around the globe
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Banned torture of American prisoners
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Stopped the free fall of the American economy
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt global warming
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Stood up for educational reform
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Won a Nobel Peace Prize
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial system of checks and balances
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good humor and patience
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Stopped the free fall of job losses
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the “blood of tyrants” needing to “water the tree of liberty”…
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

# Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Other than those “disappointing” accomplishments - IN ONE YEAR - President Obama “failed”! Other than that he didn’t “live up to expectations”!

Who actually has failed ...

... are the Americans who can’t see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart-ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this President to fail so they could be proved right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned “news” into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.

Here’s the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty “supporters” or hate-filled Republican detractors!

The Future Looks Good

After Obama has served two full terms (and he will), after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts - with a canny and calculating eye to the possible - succeeds (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning (they will be), after the doomsayers are all proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.

Just because we didn’t get everything we wanted in the first short and fraught year Obama was in office not all of us gave up. Some of us stayed the course. And we will be proved right.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, depending on your point of view) to everyone!

PS. if you agree that Obama is shaping up to be a great president, please pass this on and hang in there!

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of “Patience With God – Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism).”

Frank may be contacted at FrankSchaeffer.com




Attention, list lovers

DemWit loves lists, especially those which summarize the year or decade gone by. Here are a few I hope will inform and entertain you:


1. THE ECONOMY: “Despite a $787 billion federal stimulus package, much of the U.S. economy continued to sputter throughout the year. The jobless rate topped 10 percent, scores of banks failed, the federal deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion, and stocks fell to their lowest levels since 1997 before rallying. Yet investment banks' profits surged, triggering public anger and efforts in Washington to crack down on Wall Street bonuses.”

For details on the remaining stories, go HERE.










“Just missing the Top 10 was the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

“The war and political turmoil in Iraq was voted the No. 16 story, the first time since 2001 that Iraq was not in the Top 10.”


Did we ever decide what to call this decade now winding down? For the first eight years, at least, we could call it “The Double Oughts.”

Here’s a brief recap of Gallup’s “Decade in Review: Four Key Issues:”

“As 2009 draws down, a review of Gallup trends finds that satisfaction with the direction of the country plummeted this decade, the economy emerged as the top problem facing the nation, George W. Bush saw vast swings in his approval ratings, and congressional approval achieved a new high and a new low.”

Read more at GALLUP.com.


PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” was Sarah Palin’s Facebook assertion about “death panels.” Like, if healthcare reform passes, the government will, like, set up panels to decide if seniors and the disabled are worthy of healthcare. LINK

The top two runners-up: “A claim by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that John Holdren, President Barack Obama's top science adviser, "has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population" and “a claim by Orly Taitz that a birth certificate showed that President Obama was born in Kenya.”


On Yale’s Top 10 “Most Famous or Important or Revealing Quotes of 2009” (LINK) three were uttered by my fellow South Carolinians:

No. 1: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” yelled by a Simpsonville attendee at a healthcare town hall meeting.

No. 2: “You lie!” Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled this at President Obama during his address to Congress. The charge was in response to Obama’s statement that healthcare reform legislation would not cover illegal immigrants. (The quote, of course, made Wilson the darling of the GOP and a hero here in Conservative Land.)

No. 3: “The governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail” left a spokesman for S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford red-faced when it was revealed the gov was actually making whoopee in Argentina.


The birth of Jesus

The Gospel according to
St. Luke, Chapter 2:

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyre'ni-us was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David,)

5 to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 ¶ And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


To all my faithful readers of every faith and creed, I share the joy in my own heart at Christmastime and wish for all of us a good New Year.



The Monica-go-round

Word comes of a new book which is certain to appeal to prurient interests and establish its author as a branch of the U.S. Mint.

With a headline screaming “Monica Lewinsky,” one reviewer calls the book “a scholarly work.” Under the titillating title, "The Death of American Virtue" (Come on!), the 769-page book by Duquesne University law professor Ken Gormley, is deemed by the reviewer “well-researched.”

OK, go get all the juicy details HERE, then hit the backspace button for a few somewhat dull, but equally important FACTS on one facet of Gormley’s findings.

Now that you have read about the book, as I know any discriminating reader will, I’m going to brush aside the Monica bit – not that I excuse Bill Clinton’s actions, I don’t – and concentrate here on what the author apparently writes about Whitewater and Ken Starr. Remember that sideshow to the whole Monica Lewinsky–Linda Tripp saga?

I dug into my blog archives over at “I See My Dreams” and will recycle for your enlightment my post of 25 June 2007, also “well-researched” if I do say so myself:

Whitewater: case closed

Continuing to listen to Bill Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life.” I transcribed the following excerpt from the tapes, because its subject is going to come up again in the run-up to Election 2008, and I want you, dear reader, to be aware of the other side of the story. And, of what is revealed at the end of this post.

From Chapter 45:

“… (I)n mid-December the complete Whitewater story finally came out when the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) Inquiry from Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro was released. The report was written by Jay Stevens, who like Chuck Banks was a Republican former U.S. attorney, whom I had replaced.”

(See “RTC report exonerates Clintons,” Congressional Record, December 1995: LINK)

“It said, as had the preliminary report in June, that there were no grounds for a civil suit against us in Whitewater, much less any criminal action, and it recommended that the investigation be closed.

“This is what The New York Times and The Washington Post wanted to know when they called for an independent counsel. I eagerly awaited their coverage.

“Immediately after the RTC report was released, the Post mentioned it in passing in the 11th paragraph of a front-page story about an unrelated subpoena battle with (Ken) Starr. And, The New York Times didn’t run a word.

“The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Times ran an Associated Press story of about 400 words on the inside pages of their papers.

“The TV networks didn’t cover the RTC report, though ABC’s Ted Koppel reported it on “Nightline,” then dismissed its importance, because there were ‘so many new questions.’

“Whitewater wasn’t about Whitewater any more: it was about whatever Ken Starr could dig up on anybody in Arkansas or my administration.

“In the meantime, some Whitewater reporters were actually covering up evidence of our innocence. To be fair, some journalists took note.

“Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz wrote an article pointing out the way the RTC report had been buried. And, Lars Erik Nelson, a columnist for The New York Daily News, who had been a correspondent in the Soviet Union, wrote, ‘The secret verdict is in: there was nothing for the Clintons to hide. In a bizarre reversal of those Stalin-era trials in which innocent people were convicted in secret, the president and the first lady have been publicly charged and secretly found innocent.’

“I was genuinely confused by the mainstream press coverage of Whitewater. It seemed inconsistent with the more careful and balanced approach the press had taken on other issues, at least since the Republicans won Congress in 1994.

“One day, after one of our budget meetings in October, I asked Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming to stay a moment to talk. Simpson was a conservative Republican, but we had a pretty good relationship, because of the friendship we had in common with his governor, Mike Sullivan.

“I asked Alan if he thought Hillary and I had done anything wrong in Whitewater. ‘Of course not,’ he said, ‘that’s not what this is about. This is about making the public think you did something wrong. Anybody who looked at the evidence would see that you didn’t.’ ”


And, Starr’s investigation was about more than Whitewater. In early 1998, Starr won authorization to expand his investigation to include the Lewinsky scandal, and questions about Monica Lewinsky's relationship with Clinton quickly overshadowed Whitewater matters.

Of note: in late 1998, when Starr presented his case for impeachment of the president for his attempts to conceal the Lewinsky affair, he indicated that his office had NO impeachable evidence in the Whitewater matters.

Starr resigned in October 1999 and was succeeded by Robert W. Ray, the senior litigation counsel in Starr's office. In September 2000, Ray ended the Whitewater inquiry, stating there was insufficient evidence to prove that President Clinton or his wife had committed any crime in connection with the failed real estate venture or the independent counsel's investigation into it.

The final report was issued 18 months later.

In February 1999, CNN’s Terry Friedan wrote:

“Expenditures by Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office have officially surpassed the $40 million mark, according to new Justice Department figures. … The figures show that Starr's office, through the end of November 1998, had spent $40,835,000. … Those figures do not include costs incurred by Starr's predecessor, Robert Fiske, whose office spent about $6 million before Starr was appointed to lead the investigation.” LINK

There are continuing allegations that the Clintons murdered their longtime Arkansas friend Vince Foster, although his death was officially ruled a suicide, and there is the ongoing reduction of the amazing life stories of Bill and Hillary Clinton into a two-word summary: Monica Lewinsky.

I was telling a young friend how impressed I am with Clinton’s ability to recall life’s events and his skill at keeping the reader engaged, and her response was, “Has Slick Willy mentioned Monica?”

How sad, I thought, that such a life could be so trivialized by one tragic flaw, especially by those who do not care to read the rest of the story.


It's official: no COLA

It’s official. I’m looking at it in black and white under my videomagnifier: no COLA raise for 2010.

I suppose I had hoped for some last minute reprieve for those of us who really depend on the small yearly increase and the way it incrementally builds our income over a period of years.

Since there are angry claims afloat that this is the FAULT of the Obama administration and/or Democrats in Congress, I went looking for some answers on that point.

Social Security recipients around the country are receiving in the mail official notification of their 2010 benefit amount.

On the official form, between the beneficiary’s name and the calculation of monthy benefits, there is this:

“By law Social Security benefits increase automatically to keep pace with inflation. When there is a period of no inflation, the law does not permit an increase in benefits. Based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the Department of Labor, there was no rise in the cost of living during the past year, so your benefits will remain the same in 2010. The CPI is the federal government’s official measure used to calculate cost-of-living increases.”

Back in the spring, DemWit asked two questions:

1) If the Consumer Price Index is calculated in October, how could the AARP and financial news outlets have reported there would be no 2010 COLA raise as early as May 1, 2009?

2) And, how in the hell could they have reported that early that there also will be no 2011 COLA raise?

Apparently these early predictions are based on crystal ball readings of economics gurus, and nothing is official until the Trustees of the Social Security Administration say it’s so in October.

I found one of the clearest explanations of all this at – where else? – factcheck.org.

So, when you receive one of those circulated blame-game emails or hear someone trying to peg this on the Party in Charge, please send them HERE.

Later! BJ


Days of doing nothing

I honestly believe I came along at just the right time – 1942. The days of my childhood were a wonder – moments of happy play filled with imagination and creativity. Only those who are old enough will remember mud pies, paper-doll plays and adventures begun with the phrase, “Pretend like …”

In my opinion, new generations of children, my own included, have been overprogrammed, to fulfill some desire of parents, I suppose. Free time is filled with activities to make our children, as the Olympics slogan goes, “faster, higher, stronger” or mold a future Miss America.

Throw in TV, video games and too much homework, and there is no time to let children be children, to let the imagination play and creativity ignite.

Rejecting the idea of a second childhood at my age, I do yearn for days of doing nothing.

We bloggers are a hapless lot, spending unpaid hours in an endless endeavor to keep readers informed and entertained. Toward that end, we must keep ourselves informed. I gave up cable TV because I found little of value in my affordable plan's offerings, particularly so-called “cable news.” I can now tell you with authority that the Web’s the place to find opinion and plenty of it, but here, too, there is scant reliance for “real” news.

This past week life interfered with the news cycle, and this morning I yearn for Infidel753 to come to my Cooments Zone and tell me about the Copenhagen summit. I have no clue what all the current fuss about the “buy out” means. And, just what is it that Lieberman has done now to piss off the Democrats? (I assume it’s his stand on healthcare reform, but with him, who knows?)

As you come to DemWit throughout its author’s holy season, you might or might not find a post, for I will be, well, doing nothing.

Keep checking back, though, it only takes a renewed imagination and a tempting bit of chicanery to get my spark a-going!


Since you took the time to visit, I offer the brief post which follows, one written last week and bumped by other thoughts.

A mind-numbing quest

I never thought I’d say this about a classic, but I should have bought the Cliffs Notes.

I have just finished listening to the most boring book I’ve ever read. In its introduction by author and Yale professor of humanities Harold Bloom. I am told the book “is a mirror held up not to nature, but to the reader.” Oh, dear.

Yet, on lists of “Top 100 Books of All Time” and “Top 100 Classics,” this one ranks near the top - widely regarded as the first modern novel and described as one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written. One hundred of the world’s writers of modern fiction declared it the best fiction ever written.

The first part of the book does contain two novellas, which are quite entertaining and would have stood alone.

A word meaning “idealistic and urealistic about practical matters” was introduced to the English language as a result of the main character's adventures.

And, everyone thinks it’s clever to talk about “tilting at windmills.”

I’d love to see a survey of how many people actually finished this classic.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. English translation by Edith Grossman.

Dr. Grossman, whose 2003 translation has been highly praised, says Cervantes’ writing “gives off sparks and flows like honey.” “If my translation works at all,” she writes, “the reader should keep turning the pages, smiling a good deal, periodically bursting into laughter and impatiently waiting for the next synonym, the next mind-bending coincidence, the next variation on the structure of Don Quixote’s adventures, the next incomparable conversation between the knight and his squire.”

She tells me if I did not find the work “compelling” and “amusing,” the fault is hers. I honestly do not know if the problem lies with her, with me or with the writer, but the Library of Congress annotation tells me, “Unless you read Spanish you’ve never read Don Quixote.”

Ah, but I finished it before it finished me.

I am glad to be free of your prison, Cervantes, you Enchanter!


War and peace, 2009

During the night I read and thought about President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo. Rarely has a Nobel Peace Prize recipient spoken so much and so candidly about war.

I know a lot is lost in just reading a transcript. On the other hand, it gives the opportunity to pause and to reread and ponder what is being said.

On DemWit and in comments on others’ blogs, I have identified myself as a “realist” rather than an “idealist,” and I was intrigued that Obama brought up this distinction.

In fact, in my own insignicant way, I’ve argued some of the same points the president made throughout his speech. He, of course, did so more eloquently and convincingly.

Here are two quotes which struck me as most powerful in conveying his message:

“To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”


“But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But, I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice.”

Only the insane want war. Only the quixotic soul believes we can wipe it from the Earth.

As Obama turned his thoughts toward John F. Kennedy’s “gradual evolution” toward peace, he focused on nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, and economic security and opportunity.

How brave it was of Obama to end his speech with "love," for it is the most powerful weapon against war we human beings have.

Few of us do not remember learning the Golden Rule as children: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I pictured Obama as a father, using these words in addressing his audience in the same spirit as he has used them with his two little girls.

If every human being adhered to this simple rule, the world, if not a perfect place, would be a better place.

There is another word, as close to our hearts as “love,” which, in my opinion, shares its importance in working toward peace.

Let me share something from a book I read recently, “Too Far from Home” by Chris Jones.

When the space shuttle Columbia disintergrated in 2003, few of us realized three men – two Americans and a Russian - aboard the space station lost their ride home. With questions about when the shuttle would fly again, these men might have been confined in station beyond their human capacities.

As the trio’s time on the space station drew to a close, it was decided their only means of getting home was the untested Russian Soyuz spacecraft permanently docked there.

Their flight home was as perilous and their safe return as unsure as that of Apollo 13, yet the media – and the world – paid little attention to their plight, because the U.S. would within a month invade Iraq.

The spacecraft crash landed on its side on a Russian steppe 600 miles from its landing target with its positioning equipment damaged.

None of the three had really wanted to leave the peaceful, unharried atmosphere of “Station.”

As the Soyuz lay on its side, the American on the bottom looked out a tiny window and saw a single blade of green grass against the brown earth. “It’s beautiful, It’s beautiful.” he kept repeating.

In that single blade of grass he saw “home,” and home was not that Russian steppe; home was not America; home was Earth.

If only all nations could find unity in diversity and all peoples collectively feel the sense of home experienced by that American astronaut, peaceful solutions would abound.

If only …


Come hell or high water

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

At 4 a.m. Monday I was awakened by a sound which I shouldn't have been hearing in the middle of the night. Loud. It took me a minute to realize it was water. Ran to the bathroom and determined it wasn't coming from there. Having sprung from a deep sleep, my next thought was "Somebody's in my apartment and has turned on my washing machine." (As if.) I was scared to death to walk through the kitchen to the washer-dryer room, where I then experienced the sensation of waterboarding, Mr. Cheney, as a blast of water hit me in the face. It seemed a fire hose had been turned on my kitchen. The spray was coming from behind the washer, and I could not see where to turn it off.

So, I walked over to the phone and dialed 911. My theory was "I have to get someone to turn this water off." A very nice policeman came and did so. He then raced around my living room unplugging surge protectors (electonics, computer, videomagnifier) as all, with their array of outlets, were standing in water two inches deep, and we, of course, did not want to be electrocuted. Since my computer was on "stand by," I didn't even want to think about the state it might be in.

The policeman, drenched from head to toe, was so sweet, kept saying, "It'll be OK; it'll be all right."

I called my friend Charlie to come over and help me assess what was soaked. Answer: everything (oak sideboard, all my clothes which I keep downstairs, all my shoes, file cabinet, the bottom of my loveseat, you get the picture). I then woke my landlady to see if she had a Shop-Vac. “Let me think about this for a few minutes and call you back,” she said in a sleepy voice. A few minutes later, she called to say she had her daughter's car pool and couldn't get here until 9 a.m. Very kindly, she said she wanted to help.

After sloshing through cold water in soggy houseshoes and sobbing, “This is a nightmare,” at each new horror, I settled down to wait. Since I couldn't possibly have been more stressed, I then spent the next four hours listening to "Don Quixote."

My buddy Chris showed up at 8 a.m. to help me "see" what I would have to deal with. “This is a perfect case of you can’t win for losing,” he pronounced. Since I had taught him the Coleridge lines, I said, “No, it’s water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink!”

The landlady Lisa arrived on schedule, along with her Wonder Woman maintenance gal Dodie. Basically, they told me to sit on the loveseat and stay out of the way, then proceeded, for the next three hours, to dry out and clean the whole downstairs. They then ran to WalMart for hoses and fixed my washer. (Yes, Dodie moved the washer out.) When they left, I gushed eternal gratitude as the whole episode was not the landlady's responsibility. I'm in good hands with Kennedy Group!

Chris and I spent the rest of the day washing and drying clothes, tons of clothes; cursing the person who left the ashes in my iron hibachi, now filled with water; and putting things back in their proper place after all the cleaning. Proper places are very important to the visually impaired.

Minor miracles: the bottom drawer of my videotape library index, containing some 1,000 cards and sitting on the floor, was unscathed, and there had been only cans, jars and juice bottles on my flooded pantry floor.

Major miracle: I wasn’t electrocuted.

All was not well that ended well until I determined if my computer was OK. Friend Jenny took me to Office Depot early Tuesday morning for four new surge protectors, and, to make this long story short, everything was soon up and running, thank goodness. (Same sensation experienced by Kevin Bacon in the frozen command module in "Apollo 13.")

I have six folks I owe an awful lot to today.

And, I have six soggy pairs of Reeboks and seven equally soggy pairs of houseshoes drying out across my living room floor. Once they are dry, I can wash a pair at a time with other clothes, so as not to beat my washer to death, although I should for what it did to me.


Southern stocking stuffer

Here’s the perfect gift for book lovers with an interest in or curiosity about life in the South. Two things make this little book very special: it’s just $12 and one of its contributing writers is a friend to many DemWit readers, Clara Roberts, who comments here as “Tiny.”

“Southern Side Up” is a collection of short stories written by the Panhandle Writers Group of Florida.

The Santa Rosa Press-Gazette has this to say about what you will find in the book’s 194 pages:

“Readers will not be disappointed as they lose themselves in stories as short as 500 words to longer stories of intrigue, mystery or love. Touching and often funny memoirs give readers a glimpse into the lives of some of the authors. In between, you will find poetry and a delightful story you can read to your children or grandchildren about a talking dog who rode out a hurricane and became a hero.”

A special section contains 100-word stories about everyone’s favorite subject this time of year, food, and each writer includes a favorite recipe.

Clara is a charter member of the Panhandle Writers Group which now has more than 60 members and associates. In addition to several books, the group has produced four plays with another in the works.

Proceeds have gone to projects which brighten lives. One year the group set up a little “shop” at one school where children could select free gifts to give their parents and siblings. Backpacks have been filled with toiletries and snacks, with one novel in each, and distributed to the homeless.

Readers can purchase this gift that keeps on giving at the book’s Web site HERE.

The book, along with its table of contents, is also available on Amazon.com HERE.


Look for Clara’s stories: “Eulogy to Mr. Premio,” “Remodeling,” “A Socking Story” and “How to Survive a Recession.”


Reforming a corporate Scrooge

Not all college students are frat boys and jocks throwing keg parties. Comes a story of campus activists - downright Dickensian in its inspiration - to kick off the holiday season.

Thanks to DemWit readers Falzone for America and Katherine for sharing this tale of what a group of American youth did to change the corporate mindset and in the process change lives.

Our story begins:

“When we think of heartwarming tales, they tend to be of the sort like ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ where little Susan Walker gets the house she wanted for Christmas after all, or ‘It's a Wonderful Life,’ where George Bailey's neighbors and customers put self-interest aside to save his bank. Those are yummy treats of magical doings and brotherly compassion that the season inspires. But in real life happy endings don't often come so easily or tidily.

“I'm about to share one of the most cockle-warming stories of the year, even though its happy conclusion was a long, tough slog and about a decade in the making.”

Read this modern-day version of “A Christmas Carol:”

“Corporate Scrooge Has Change of Heart,” Robyn Blumner, The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 November 2009.


Do you hear the ringing of a bell? Either an angel is getting wings, or Frodo and the Men of Gondor are collecting Christmas kettle contributions for the Salvation Army.

Or, maybe it’s a church bell in a small Honduran town.


Hobbits, head to head

From yesterday’s Comments Zone:

Frodo, who cries at funerals, has left a new comment on your post "Bravo, Mr. President":

DemWit (aka Merry) to the penalty box for two minutes.
High-sticking over the blue line.

In Frodo's opinion, it would be hypocritical of him to affirmatively endorse an escalation of the unpleasantness in Afghanistan when he so decisively opposed the concept of preventative action in Iraq. In both cases the nebulous reference to the threat was sufficient to raise serious question in many minds. It is more than gut instinct about the lack of credibility by one President, and the good heart of another. It is about sending kids off to fight and perhaps die. That is, of course, the true concern of us all. Frodo is pleased and proud that so many have such doubts, and that they air them in front of everybody else.

That is why we try the murderers in open court.

That is why we are different from "Lisa, the howler monkey," from Dick Cheney, and yes (courtesy of Mr. Degan) from Gidget von Braun.

Even members of the Fellowship can disagree on how to destroy the Ring.

Posted by Frodo, who cries at funerals, to DemWit at 12/03/2009 9:24 AM


We all cry at funerals.

I’m not certain we disagree: I’m just trying to make sense of it all. For two years I have heard you extol Barack Obama, and I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Many times I have told DemWit readers “I am not anti-war: I am anti-the wrong war.” Homer, Tolkien and, yes, even J. K. Rowling acknowledge the ever-present struggle between good and evil.

I believe terrorists of any persuasion are evil.

Many times I have affirmed that, unlike Iraq, we had a mission when we entered Afghanistan. If that mission failed for eight years, it is because we lost sight of it when we invaded Iraq.

I am walking around this apt in a “fog of war” trying to sort all this out in my head, writing phantom posts that might never see the light of day. Where in this country, I ask myself, is the great leader who can satisfy every American? According to the great rallying cry, “Yes, We Can,” I thought we had found that leader.

But, when someone like Joe Galloway (link in sidebar), who knows the soldier’s heart and a hell of a lot more about Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan than I, says the following, who among our little lot here can fail to be heartsick?

“So billions more of the money we can't afford will be poured down the Afghan rat hole, and hundreds more fine young American men and women will die and thousands more will be injured or wounded in pursuit of an impossible dream.

“If this is the best the new president and his Congress can do, then God help us. We might just as well have kept George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for another four years. Those guys wouldn't have dashed anybody's hopes.”

BJ aka Merry, Errant Hobbit of the Fellowship


Bravo, Mr. President

I never thought an American president would have the cojones to say this:

“That's why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended -- because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own.”

This reference to the neoconservative goal of “nation building” or “empire building” by that cabal which surrounded George W. Bush and permeated his administration was, IMHO, the best line of the night for Barack Obama.

The nations of the world have always been able to count on the United States of America in times of peril, whether from attacks or natural disasters or simply humanitarian needs. Quite often as in the case of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, our outpouring of money and arms and assistance is met by hostility and bitter reprisal.

Bravo to a president who is courageous enough to say he’s interested in building our nation!


Please use the Comments Zone to express your opinion about Obama’s address on Afghanistan last night. If you didn’t hear the president, I have put the text in THE READING ROOM. This is a clear statement of U.S. policy looking forward. Thanks!


Obama's decision

I just purchased and watched again the DVD of National Geographic’s four-hour documentary, “Inside 9/11.” The documentary traces the roots of Islamic Jihad, the forming of al Qaeda (“The Base”), the carrying out of the attacks of September 11, subsequent terrorist attacks around the world and the capture of Kalid Sheikh Mohammed and others responsible.

Two weeks after the attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush, in a speech to the CIA workforce, said, “(I)f you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist; if you provide safe haven to a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist; if you fund a terrorist, you're just as guilty as a terrorist.”

Our mission in Afghanistan – unlike our reasons for invading Iraq – could not have been any clearer.

Since then more than 900 American and nearly 600 Allied troops have lost their lives attempting to carry out that mission.

Tonight our president will address our nation and the world about our continued involvement in a country where for most of its citizens war has been a way of life.

I recomment you read this CNN REPORT which examines all the considerations President Obama has weighed leading up to what he will say tonight.

I do not expect him to ask Americans not in uniform to make sacrifices in our daily lives. That kind of sacrifice faded with WWII. While Americans are in harm’s way on two war fronts, we at home paid homage to Black Friday.

I trust this young American president. I trust his judgment and his heart. Barack Obama is commander-in-chief of America’s armed forces and is far more privy to information essential to doing the right thing than are you and I.

Osama bin Laden defined the terms of the stuggle in October 2001 when he told Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, “This place may be bombed, and we will be killed. We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us.” (Source of quote: “Inside 9/11,” National Geographic)

So, to those on the far right who despise him and to the anti-war far-left which feels betrayed, I say, this is Obama’s decision to make and, in so doing, he freely accepts the burden.

That takes courage, no more than he expects of the men and women who serve under him and certainly no less than we should expect of each other.


Post-holiday posting

I’m glad I wandered over to friend Sue’s BLOG just now and found her post about Thanksgiving cooking and Christmas decorating. Sue tells her readers she just hasn’t had time to keep up with the news. I left her this comment:

OMG!!! I was so happy to read this post, Sue. I, too, have had a very busy last few days and have kept up with nothing in the news ('cepting Tiger). I had a post ready to go this morning, but had no idea about any folo information on its subject, so I scratched it. I then had a two-hour phone call from a friend who wanted to dump about her holiday with family. CRUNCH. The last thing I wanted to do this Monday morning was to come up with a blog post, so I am delighted to get your reminder that - to paraphrase John Lennon - life is what happens when you're blogging. Enjoy yourself, BJ


27 plus one

Sharing this from the staff at THE PROGRESS REPORT, Center for American Progress, 25 November 2009:


1. We're thankful President Obama is thinking long and hard about committing more troops and money to Afghanistan.

2. We're thankful President Bush feels liberated now.

3. We're (not) thankful Dick Cheney has elected to move from his undisclosed location to the media spotlight.

4. We're thankful Al Franken has gone from playing self-help guru Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live to helping rape victims receive justice from their employers.

5. We're thankful for the healing power of beer.

6. We're thankful there are some on the right who think Glenn Beck is "incoherent," "mindless," "erratic," "bizarre" and "harmful to the conservative movement."

7. We're thankful for long hikes on the Appalachian Trail.

8. We're thankful Michael Steele understands that he can't "do policy" and that no one has any reason to trust his "words or actions."

9. We're (not) thankful for "birthers," "deathers," "tenthers," or "tea baggers."

10. We're (not) thankful conservatives believe they love America so much that they can root for our President to fail and for our nation to lose out on hosting the Olympics.

11. We're thankful NFL players refused to "bend over and grab the ankles" for Rush Limbaugh.

12. We're thankful six companies have resigned from the Chamber of Commerce due to its denial of climate change science.

13. We're thankful Falcon "Balloon boy" Heene wasn't actually in the balloon.

14. We're thankful Lt. Dan Choi and Lt. Col Victor Fehrenbach bravely spoke out against Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

15. We're thankful Shep Smith doesn't always drink the Fox News Kool-Aid.

16. We're thankful more than 80 companies refused to lend their sponsorship to Glenn Beck's hateful rants.

17. We're thankful there are progressive organizations in D.C. lobbying for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

18. We're (not) thankful for the filibuster.

19. We're thankful that more than 20,000 of you stood up to Bill O'Reilly's harassment machine and called for impeachment hearings against torture advocate Jay Bybee.

20. We're thankful that Iran's authoritarian rulers live in fear of their own population.

21. We're thankful we'll no longer have to listen to nativist rhetoric on CNN and global warming skepticism on ABC News.

22. We're (not) thankful for bailed out CEOs who think they're doing "God's work" by doling out billions in bonuses.

23. We're thankful for the legacy of the Liberal Lion.

24. We're thankful Bill O'Reilly won't be following us home for Thanksgiving.

25. We're thankful a "wise Latina" sits on the Supreme Court.

26. We're thankful our boss helped rescue imprisoned American journalists in North Korea.

27. We're thankful for our readers and the support you give us.


I am thankful for each of you who keep coming back to DemWit and for your comments which add so much to this blog.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving! See you Monday!



Memories marred by murder

The home of one’s grandparents is a sacred place filled with memories. The Holcomb, Miss., home shown in the 1970 photo at top, was built in the first decade of the 20th Century and bu mid-century was the home of my grandparents, Samuel Franklin and Mary Ella Lindsey Timmons. After their deaths, my aunt, Kathleen Oakley, continued to reside there for many years until she moved to Tupelo to be near her daughters.

Throughout the 20th Century, the families which graced its spacious rooms added to the home’s provenance: Clark, Jackson, Timmons, Oakley and Clanton. The Clantons completed the restoration of the home begun by my aunt and her children.

Today, the wonderful old homes of Holcomb have been lovingly restored in this “bedroom community” situated between Greenwood and Grenada. For a wonderful bit of Americana, visit this small town’s Web site HERE.

The artist’s rendering above is of the main street I remember so well, and the Corner Grocery with the restored Coca-Cola sign once belonged to my aunt and uncle – a heaven of free Lance cookies, Eskimo Pies and Grapette drinks.

So, this, then, is a history of the place where I spent so many precious moments of my teenage years.

My memories were marred when word came from my older brother Roy that the current owner of this wonderful old homeplace, the Rev. Jimmy Stauddy, 69, a United Methodist minister and antigues dealer, and his caregiver, Martha Stoker, 47, were stabbed to death last week by an intruder. Stauddy, a former captain of the Grenada Police Department and intelligence analyst with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, was wheelchair-bound from the advanced stages of Parkinson’s.

Ironically, I am reminded of another senseless Holcomb killing, that Holcomb the small Kansas town where the murders of the Clutter family took place. When I read Truman Capote’s account, In Cold Blood, I couldn’t help recall another sleepy farm town, the peaceful little Holcomb of my youth.

I do not know the victims of this crime, but my heartfelt sympathy goes out to their families and neighbors in so many ways.



“Killings shake Holcomb,” Bob Darden, Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth, 17 November 2009

“Man arrested in double slaying,” Bob Darden and Tim Kalich, Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth, 20 November 2009


The Federal Reserve System

A little DemWit digging to bring readers information about the subject of my previous post, “The little committee that could.”

I readily admit a good deal of it is over my head, but, hopefully, this information will be helpful in understanding the U.S. House committee action discussed in the last post.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009:

Central banking authority of the United States. It acts as a fiscal agent for the U.S. government, is custodian of the reserve accounts of commercial banks, makes loans to commercial banks and oversees the supply of currency, including coin, in coordination with the U.S. Mint. The system was created by the Federal Reserve Act, which Pres. Woodrow Wilson signed into law on Dec. 23, 1913. It consists of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the 12 Federal Reserve banks, the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Advisory Council, and, since 1976, a Consumer Advisory Council; there are several thousand member banks.

The seven-member Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System determines the reserve requirements of the member banks within statutory limits, reviews and determines the discount rates established by the 12 Federal Reserve banks and reviews the budgets of the reserve banks. The Chairman of the Board of Governors is appointed to a four-year term by the president of the United States.

A Federal Reserve bank is a privately owned corporation established pursuant to the Federal Reserve Act to serve the public interest; it is governed by a board of nine directors, six of whom are elected by the member banks and three of whom are appointed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The 12 Federal Reserve banks are located in Boston; New York City; Philadelphia; Chicago; San Francisco; Cleveland, Ohio; Richmond, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; St. Louis, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri; and Dallas, Texas.

The 12-member Federal Open Market Committee, consisting of the seven members of the Board of Governors, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and four members elected by the Federal Reserve banks, is responsible for the determination of Federal Reserve bank policy to encourage long-term objectives of price stability (i.e., controlling inflation through the adjustment of interest rates) and economic growth. The Federal Advisory Council, whose role is purely advisory, consists of one representative from each of the 12 Federal Reserve districts.

The Federal Reserve System exercises its regulatory powers in several ways, the most important of which may be classified as instruments of direct or indirect control. One form of direct control can be exercised by adjusting the legal reserve ratio—i.e., the proportion of its deposits that a member bank must hold in its reserve account—thus increasing or reducing the amount of new loans that the commercial banks can make. Because loans give rise to new deposits, the potential money supply is, in this way, expanded or reduced.

The money supply may also be influenced through manipulation of the discount rate, which is the rate of interest charged by Federal Reserve banks on short-term secured loans to member banks. Since these loans are typically sought by banks to maintain reserves at their required level, an increase in the cost of such loans has an effect similar to that of increasing the reserve requirement.

The classic method of indirect control is through open-market operations, first widely used in the 1920s and now employed daily to make small adjustments in the market. Federal Reserve bank sales or purchases of securities on the open market tend to reduce or increase the size of commercial-bank reserves; e.g., when the Federal Reserve sells securities, the purchasers pay for them with checks drawn on their deposits, thereby reducing the reserves of the banks on which the checks are drawn.

The three instruments of control described here have been conceded to be more effective in preventing inflation in times of high economic activity than in bringing about revival from a period of depression. A supplemental control occasionally used by the Federal Reserve Board is that of changing the margin requirements involved in the purchase of securities.

The Federal Reserve has broad supervisory and regulatory authority over state-chartered banks and bank holding companies, as well as foreign banks operating in the United States. It is also involved in maintaining the credit rights of consumers. One of the longest chairmanships of the Federal Reserve Board was held by Alan Greenspan, who took office in August 1987 and held the post until January 2006.


What Is The Federal Reserve?

A History of The US Central Banking System

By Rebecca Turner , Suite101
Jan 28, 2008

What is the Federal Reserve?

It's an independent government organization that controls America's money supply.

What The Federal Reserve Does

As the central bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve has three key functions which revolve around managing the money supply:

* To adjust base interest rates
* To print and release new bank notes
* To remove existing notes from circulation

By controlling the amount of money in circulation, the Federal Reserve can make US currency either more or less valuable, thereby influencing the country’s economy on a multitude of levels.

How The Federal Reserve Was Founded

In 1907, rumours emerged that caused the latest of a string of large-scale bank runs. Fears of an economic depression shattered the confidence of the American people, who soon called for bank reforms.

A group of wealthy businessmen – led by J P Morgan, Paul Warburg and John D Rockefeller – intervened to pave the way for the establishment of a private central bank. With their connections, they soon put a banker-controlled plan to President Woodrow Wilson.

In a decision that would later come to haunt him, President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. In doing so, he effectively placed control of the US economy squarely in the hands of the private bankers, who would go on to create massive amounts of credit – backed by absolutely nothing.

(About suite101.com: “The world's most comprehensive independent online magazine: written and edited by professionals, trusted by over 24 million readers monthly.”)


The little committee that could

A very unusual event occurred in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, 19 November.

In a David v. Goliath rendering of people power, two so-called “wingnuts” went up against “one of those permanent power centers in this country that exert great power with very little accountability and almost no transparency.”

A House committee passed the Ron Paul/Alan Grayson amendment calling for a (gasp!) full audit of the Fed.

DemWit rarely shares a full article, preferring to hit the highlights and let the reader choose to move beyond this page via the appropriate link. But, this baby – from Salon.com – is just too good to condense.

So, leaning heavily on the “fair use notice” in my sidebar, here, then, is how a tenacious little group of representatives went up against The Washington Establishment and won the first skirmish in a battle for accountability and transparency:

The Washington establishment suffers a serious defeat

Approval of the Paul/Grayson bill to audit the Fed is both rare and important in several ways

By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com/Nov. 20, 2009

Something quite amazing happened yesterday in Congress: the House Finance Committee - in a truly bipartisan and even trans-ideological vote - defied the banking industry, the Federal Reserve, the Democratic leadership and mainstream Beltway opinion in order to pass an amendment, sponsored by GOP Rep. Ron Paul and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, mandating a genuine and probing audit of the Fed.

The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim has the best account of what took place, noting:

“In an unprecedented defeat for the Federal Reserve, an amendment to audit the multi-trillion dollar institution was approved by the House Finance Committee with an overwhelming and bipartisan 43-26 vote on Thursday afternoon despite harried last-minute lobbying from top Fed officials and the surprise opposition of Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had previously been a supporter.”

Grim details how key Committee Democrats such as Frank - who spent the year claiming to support an audit of the Fed in the face of rising anger over its secret and bank-subservient policies - suddenly introduced their own amendment (sponsored by Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt) that would have essentially gutted the Paul/Grayson provisions. Banking industry and Fed officials, as well as the Democratic leadership, then got behind that alternative provision as a means of pretending to support transparency while protecting the Fed from any genuine examination. Notwithstanding the pressure exerted on Committee Democrats to support that watered-down "audit" bill, Grayson convinced 15 of his colleagues to join with Republicans to provide overwhelming support for the Paul/Grayson amendment. As Grim notes:

“[Frank] urged a no vote, yet 15 Democrats bucked him, voting with Paul. Key to winning Democratic support was a letter posted early Thursday from labor leaders and progressive economists. The letter, organized by the liberal blog FireDogLake.com, called for a rejection of the Watt substitute and support for Paul.

“Grayson was able to show Democratic colleagues that the liberal base was behind them.

‘Today was Waterloo for Fed secrecy,’ a victorious Grayson said afterwards.”

The bill still faces substantial hurdles in becoming law, of course, but yesterday's vote has made that outcome quite possible, and it's worth noting several important points highlighted by what happened here:

(1) Our leading media outlets are capable of understanding political debates only by stuffing them into melodramatic, trite and often distracting "right v. left" storylines. While some debates fit comfortably into that framework, many do not. Anger over the Wall Street bailouts, the control by the banking industry of Congress, and the impenetrable secrecy with which the Fed conducts itself resonates across the political spectrum, as the truly bipartisan and trans-ideological vote yesterday reflects. Populist anger over elite-favoring economic policies has long been brewing on both the Right and Left (and in between), but neither political party can capitalize on it because they're both dependent upon and subservient to the same elite interests which benefit from those policies.

For that reason, many of the most consequential political conflicts are shaped far more by an "insider v. outsider" dichotomy than by a "GOP v. Democrat" or "Left v. Right" split. The pillaging of America's economic security by financial elites, with the eager assistance of the government officials who they own and who serve them, is the prime example of such a conflict. The political system as a whole - both parties' leadership - is owned and controlled by a handful of key industry interests, and anger over the fact is found across the political spectrum. Yesterday's vote is a very rare example where the true nature of political power was expressed and the petty distractions and artificial fault lines overcome.

(2) As Grim expertly describes, the effort to defeat the Paul/Grayson amendment came from all of the typical Washington power centers using all of the establishment's typical manipulative tools:

“The playbook in Washington often goes like this: When a measure that threatens the establishment builds enough momentum that it must be dealt with, it is labeled as ‘unserious.’ The Washington Post editorial board, true to the script, called Paul's measure ‘an unserious answer to a serious question.’

“And, it particularly rankles the center that a pair of ‘wingnuts’ [Paul and Grayson] are behind a successful effort to challenge the prevailing order.

“Step Two is for a ‘serious’ compromise to be offered. In this case, it was Watt's amendment. But, by the time the vote was called Thursday afternoon, committee members had seen through his measure, recognizing that it was not a compromise effort to bring real transparency to the Fed, but an attempt to further shut the doors.”

One can count on one hand the number of times that establishment attacks like this fail, but this time - at least for now - it did. And, it reveals a winning formula: where there is a strong and principled leader in Congress willing to defy the Party's leadership and the Washington establishment (Grayson), combined with leading experts lending their name to the effort (economists Dean Baker and James Galbraith), organizations standing behind it (labor groups), and a shrewd and driven organizer putting it all together (FDL's Jane Hamsher), even the most powerful forces and opinion-enforcers can be defeated, as they were here. Those progressive advocates' refusal to be distracted by trite partisan considerations, and their reliance on substantial GOP support to pass the bill (as hypocritical as the GOP's position might have been), was particularly crucial - and smart.

(3) Beyond the specifics, a genuine audit of the Fed would be a major blow to the way Washington typically works. The Fed is one of those permanent power centers in this country that exert great power with very little accountability and almost no transparency (like much of the intelligence and defense community). The power they exert has exploded within the last year as a result of the financial crisis, yet they continue to operate in a completely opaque manner and with virtually no limits. Its officials have been trained to view their unfettered power as an innate entitlement, and they express contempt for any efforts to limit or even monitor what they do.

In other words, the Fed is a typical Washington institution that operates un-democratically and in virtually total secrecy, and a Congressionally-mandated audit that they (and much of the DC establishment) desperately oppose would be a serious step towards changing the dynamic of how things function. At the very least, it would provide an important template for defeating the interests which, in Washington, almost never lose. At least yesterday, those interests did lose - resoundingly - and the importance of that should not be overlooked - Glenn Greenwald


John Gilbert Ludwig sentence

Demwit reported back in April the case of a prominent Greenville, S.C., businessman charged with murder when his Maserati crashed into a home killing a man.

According to WSPA-TV, “John Ludwig pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in a Greenville courtroom Monday morning (11/16/09), but will serve no jail time. Judge James C. Williams, Jr., sentenced Ludwig to five years probation, suspended to three years probation. Ludwig must also serve 500 hours of community service.”

Murder charges against Ludwig were dismissed.

Read the full report.


Today’s DemWit post follows.

The right to lie?

“I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I have no idea who first spoke these words, but I used to embrace them.

In today’s political climate of 24/7 say anything, I’m having second thoughts.

A couple of days ago I read a blog discussion about Sarah Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue: An American Life” - for days now the No. 1 “bestseller” on Amaxon.com . The post noted that some persons mentioned in Palin’s book are denying the veracity of the woman’s words.

Immediately, a Palin supporter pointed out that she has the “right to free speech.”

There is an ethical side to the claim of free speech. Of course, the Supreme Court has said free speech does not include yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater. And, there are libel and slander laws in place to protect persons from written or spoken defamation. The Court has ruled that “public figures” voluntarily put themselves in the spotlight and must prove “actual malice.” In any such lawsuit, truth is the best defense.

But, what about lies in the political arena, such as those in South Carolina which derailed John McCain’s bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination or the “swift-boating” which hurt John Kerry’s 2004 race?

Morally, is it a matter of free speech when persons lie in order to destroy an individual’s political ambitions? Are there moral connotations when persons spread outright lies to bring down anyone whose ideas they oppose? Did George W. Bush promote free speech when he allowed only supporters into his speeches and rallies, relegating those who opposed him to “free-speech zones” far from the venue in which he appeared?

In 2003, a federal court in Florida unanimously ruled that it is OK for Fox News to lie to its viewers. The defense argued there are no laws in the United States prohibiting media lies. A perfect defense.

I suspect when the Bill of Rights was adopted, guaranteeing basic freedoms, those who wrote the words had no idea how immoral politics and purveyors of opinion could become.

It is, after all, a question of right and wrong, isn’t it?

As long as lies are protected by the First Amendment, we must rely on the standard set forth in John Milton’s great plea for a free press, Aeropagitica:

“Let truth and falsehood grapple. Whoever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

An old Chinese proverb says, “A lie goes around the world while truth is still putting on its shoes.” That was never more true than today. I wonder what Milton would argue in a day of 24/7 cable news, the World Wide Web and No. 1 bestsellers?

I’m betting he would still believe in the power of truth.


'Failure is not an option'

For more than two decades 40-year-old Alva Williams of Upstate South Carolina has had a personal motto: “Failure is not an option.”

The Physical Abilities Test of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy is described thusly by WSPA-TV writer Robert Kittle:

“Recruits have to run around the outside of the half-court twice, then hop over two 18-inch obstacles, climb up a flight of stairs, down the other side then turn around and go up and down again, crawl under a pipe that’s three feet off the ground, jump over a 6-foot-wide “ditch”, jump over a 4-and-a-half foot fence, and then climb through a ‘window’ that’s about 4-and-a-half feet off the ground, then drag a 150-pound sandbag, finishing with another lap around the perimeter. And they have to do all that in under 2 minutes and 6 seconds.”

Alva finished this physical test on two occasions just seconds over the time limit. Joining the next class of recruits, he conquered the obstacle course with 17 seconds to spare.

On Friday, October 30, Alva graduated from the Academy with two distinctions.

He won the Courage Award.

And, he became the first person in the state, and possibly the country, to accomplish what he did.

Alva has an above-the-knee leg prosthesis. His leg was amputated follwing a football injury when he was 16.

He is now an officer with the Travelers Rest, S.C., police department, fulfilling his longtime dream.

Need a feel-good moment today? Read Alva Williams’ inspiring story, beautifully conveyed by WSPA’s Kittle. (Scroll below the video for the article.)

And, the next time you encounter some seemingly insurmountable obstacle, remember Alva’s motto.


'It's not personal, it's business'

Late Friday night I was feeling great. I had almost made it through Friday the 13th with no apparent problems. The New York strip steak I had for dinner was perfect. Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher had just been rescued from the cave in the book I’m listening to. Then, I received the following email:

Obama and his Muslim faith. A muslim president of a Christian nation is a scary thought.

Read this before it is removed. If the administration finds it they will remove immediately.

Watch the YouTube video, “Obama Admits He’s a Muslim.”.


"Jesus Christ," I said out loud, "hasn't this been laid to rest?" This email was offensive to me on so many levels and spoiled an otherwise perfect evening. How do you respond without saying “you are ignorant” to the person who sent it? How do you respond without seeming to attack Christianity?

I have chosen to respond on DemWit. To the person who sent the email I quote the line from "The Godfather" trilogy, "It's not personal, it's business." Here are a few facts:

1) I am Christian.
2) Barack Obama is Christian
3) The United States of America is not “a Christian nation.” While the majority of its citizens are of the Christian religion, the Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” The first part of this clause means America cannot be declared “a Christian nation.” The second means any citizen may worship freely in this country – Muslim, Jew, Christian – or even choose not to worship at all.
4) There is an overriding assumption in the email that all Muslims are evil. Islamic Jihadists are our enemies, an evil presence just as extremists in any religion are, including fanatical Christians.
5) It’s just plain stupid to assert the Obama administration would “remove” this YouTube video. It’s been up since September 2008, and it hasn’t been removed yet. And, it sure as hell didn’t have an impact on Election 2008.

I am on a dial-up connections, too slow to view videos, so I took a trip through Googleland and came up with the original interview from which the YouTube video was lifted out of context.

Obama did not “admit” on ABC to being a Muslim

Here’s the full exchange with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, making it perfectly clear that when Obama says “John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith,” he meant “John McCain has not claimed I am Muslim.” He’s referring to efforts to smear him, and both he and Stephanopoulos clear the statement up.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You mention your Christian faith. Yesterday you took off after the Republicans for suggesting you have Muslim connections. Just a few minutes ago, Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager, said they’ve never done that. This is a false and cynical attempt to play victim.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: You know what? I mean, these guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand. The …

STEPHANOPOULOS: The McCain campaign has never suggested you have Muslim connections.

OBAMA: No, no, no. But the — I don’t think that when you look at what is being promulgated on Fox News, let’s say, and Republican commentators who are closely allied to these folks …

STEPHANOPOULOS: But John McCain said that’s wrong.

OBAMA: Now, well, look. Listen. You and I both know that the minute that Governor Palin was forced to talk about her daughter, I immediately said that’s off limits. And …

STEPHANOPOULOS: But John McCain said the same thing about questioning your faith.

OBAMA: And what was the first thing the McCain campaign went out and did? They said, look, these liberal blogs that support Obama are out there attacking Governor Palin. Let’s not play games. What I was suggesting — you’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. And you’re absolutely right that that has not come …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Christian faith.

OBAMA: — my Christian faith. Well, what I’m saying is that he hasn’t suggested …

STEPHANOPOULOS: Has connections, right.

OBAMA: … that I’m a Muslim. And I think that his campaign’s upper echelons have not, either.

IN CONCLUSION, it took me 10 minutes to research this allegation. If the persons who pass this crap along would take a few minutes to verify it rather than spread bogus information, this would be a better world – and my contented evening would not have been interrupted.


Lou Dobbs' higher calling

At one time or the other, Lou Dobbs, who joined CNN at its inception in 1980, has met every criteria of DemWit’s description to your left.

Dobbs became a respected journalist anchoring CNN’s “Moneyline.” His reporting on the 1987 stock market crash earned him the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, the venue’s most prestigious honor. He won an Emmy for life achievement in 2005.

Morphing into an advocacy journalist, Dobbs became rabid in his reporting on certain issues. Night after night after night, he became more obsessive and egocentric. You could tune in any night and within one minute you heard the terms “broken borders” and “illegal immigrants.”

Ignoring major polls, Dobbs cited only those which backed his manic convictions.

Then, he joined the far-right’s “birther” movement, demanding that President Obama produce a "legitimate" birth certificate to prove his U.S. citizenship.

Both he and CNN have stated his departure last night from the cable network's nightly lineup was “amicable,” but it’s common knowledge that he has brought controversy to the network in recent years.

Anyone who quoted Lou Dobss to me was met with a pat answer: “Lou Dobbs is an idiot!”

In words similar to those of Sarah Palin, Dobbs sees before him some grandiose mission:

"Over the past six months, it has become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us, and some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day and to continue to do so in the most honest and direct language possible."

Problem-solving and honesty from a man who believes the president of the United States is an illegal immigrant?

Keep an eye on these wingnuts who are leaving their high-paying and prestigious positions to embrace a higher calling.

Read comments by Dobbs and CNN President Jonathan Klein HERE.

UPDATE: Media Matters for America's home page has full coverage of Lou Dobbs' departure from CNN, including "What Really Happened."


Honoring our veterans

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae


Graham crosses 'the climate Rubicon'

DemWit would like to commend South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham. Quite often, I disagree with Graham’s stance on issues and let him know about it. On the occasions he listens to his own conscience and swims against the conservative tide, he deserves kudos.

On one stance, Graham is in hot water with his fellow Republicans.

According to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) the party of “no” became the party of “no show” last week when Republican senators boycotted the legislative markup of a bill designed to produce clean energy and related jobs.

The nations of the world are looking to the United States for leadership as they prepare to gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December to develop the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. That global warming treaty was signed by every major nation except the United States, despite our country being one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions.

The Center for American Progress identifies the opposition in America:

“Fossil fuel companies, conservative business lobbying organizations and right-wing pundits have led the resistance. Exxon Mobil alone spent $7.2 million on lobbying in the last quarter - more than the total of the entire alternative energy sector or environmental organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which called for a 'Scopes monkey trial'
on climate science in August, suffered months of defections and outside pressure. Grudgingly accepting the need for action, the Chamber is still opposing 'targets and timetables' for reducing carbon pollution.” Particulary outspoken is Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who denies the existence of a global warming problem.

It takes a brave man to stand up to such opposition, and Sen. Graham is paying the price.

On 10 October 2009, Graham co-authoried a New York Times op-ed column with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) titled “Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation).”

According to The Progress Report of 5 November 2009, “Graham (on 4 November) rebuked senators unwilling to address carbon pollution, saying that he has ‘seen the effects of a warming planet.’ Graham called for the U.S. to ‘lead the world rather than follow the world on carbon pollution’ to ‘create millions of new jobs for Americans that need them.’

“Graham has ‘crossed the climate Rubicon,’ abandoning denialist conservative activists by recognizing the threat of global warming and working with Democrats. Conservative activists have accused Graham of ‘going to bed with John Kerry’ and making a ‘pact with the devil’ and called him a ‘traitor,’ ‘a Democrat in drag’ and a ‘wussypants, girly-man, half-a-sissy.’

It is not lost on me that all this absurd name-calling is playing off persistent whispering that Graham is gay. I mention this only to point out how dirty the right-wing fights.

The Progress Report continues, “The American Energy Alliance, ‘funded in part by oil and natural gas companies, utilities and other energy-industry firms’ and staffed by Republican operatives, is running ads in South Carolina accusing Graham of supporting ‘new energy taxes’ that will ‘further harm our economy and kill millions of American jobs.’

"But, Graham also has local supporters, who argue that ‘Graham is fighting for South Carolina's needs in the national energy debate.’ John Courson, a conservative South Carolina state senator and former Marine, shot back that ‘when you see all the ads attacking Lindsey Graham for supporting energy reform, just remember this: The special interest groups are protecting their own profits. Lindsey Graham is fighting for South Carolina.’

Beyond that, on this issue, Lindsey Graham is fighting for America, for the world and for the future. So, a tip of the hat today to my senator.


Murdoch defends Fox feuds

During a business interview via conference call from Sydney, Australia, Rupert Murdoch was asked about Fox News’ “feuds” with both MSNBC and the White House.

The News Corp chairman, 78, in a classic Faustian defense of his flagship enterprise claimed, “We did not start this abuse.”

Murdoch was referring to Keith Olbermann and others at MSNBC and to a White House attempt to ban Fox News from a pool interview. He said MSNBC started the feud, and Fox had to “retaliate.” Of the White House matter, Murdoch said Fox News’ competition came to its defense.

Interestingly, he added this about the White House, “"We haven't really had any continuing problem there at all. We cover them, and they have said publicly that we are absolutely fair in our reporting of the White House. They just don't like one or two of our commentators, which we understand."

You didn’t start this abuse, Mr. Murdoch? It’s OK, in your view, for Fox News to malign President Obama, falsely reporting on every aspect of his campaign and his presidency?

Nevermind that, aside from commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and a whole host of guests, all of whom repeatedly lie to viewers – a fact backed up by documentation – Fox News’ reporting is often nuanced and driven, right down to biased bottom-of-the-screen headlines.

So what if Keith Olbermann merely reports what your ratings-happy clowns say verbatim and then knocks their own words down with facts?

Could it possibly matter that Fox News won a lawsuit based on its only defense: that it’s OK to lie to its viewers? “In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.” (Read about the Florida case HERE.)

As a journalist, I can think of few actions more harmful to this country than falsifying the news to fit a political agenda.
Rupert Murdoch made a deal with the devil in amassing his media empire. At age 78, he might soon meet his dealmaker face to face.