12.28.2010

Saluting 2010's' 'Most Admired'

Traditionally, I have closed out each blogging year by saluting the persons Americans most admire.

Gallup has released its 64th annual “Most Admired” lists:

MOST ADMIRED MAN OF 2010:

President Barack Obama, the runaway favorite, has topped the list for three consecutive years, as do most sitting presidents, who have been No. 1 for 52 out of 64 years.

Results shown in percentages:

1. Barack Obama 22
2. George W. Bush 5
3. Bill Clinton 4
4. Nelson Mandela 2
5. Bill Gates 2
6. (tie) Pope Benedict XVI 2
6. (tie) Rev. Billy Graham 2
8. (tie) Jimmy Carter 2
8. (tie) Glenn Beck 2
10. The Dalai Lama 1

MOST ADMIRED WOMAN OF 2010:

Hillary Rodham Clinton has won the No. 1 ranking for nine consecutive years and 15 times overall since 1992. The order of the top six women in 2010 is identical to 2009.

1. Hillary Clinton 17
2. Sarah Palin 12
3. Oprah Winfrey 11
4. Michelle Obama 5
5. Condoleezza Rice 2
6. Queen Elizabeth II 2
7. Angelina Jolie 1
8. Margaret Thatcher 1
9. (tie) Aung San Suu Kyi 1
9. (tie) Laura Bush 1
9. (tie) Barbara Bush 1

A FEW FACTS

• The Rev. Billy Graham has made 54 appearances in the top 10, nearly doubling Ronald Reagan’s 31. Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II tie for third place with 27 appearances each.

• Queen Elizabeth II holds the record for women with 43 years in the tpp 10. “Winfrey enjoys both high ranking and longevity on the list, ranking second or third each year since 1997 (although never No. 1), and placing in the top 10 every year since 1988.”

• Hillary Clinton “joins Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as first ladies whose strong popularity has extended well beyond her husband's presidency, although, given Clinton's post-White House political career, perhaps for different reasons.”

• First ladies do well on the list, typically appearing in the top three positions at some point during their White House years. First ladies who have achieved the top spot include Clinton, with six No. 1 rankings in Bill Clinton's two terms as president; Nancy Reagan, who achieved it three times in Ronald Reagan's two terms; Barbara Bush, who achieved it twice in her husband's single term; and Rosalynn Carter, who tied for or placed first in three years during her husband's single term.

• No first lady has won the top overall ranking since Laura Bush in 2001.

SOURCE: GALLUP

***

DemWit will return on 2 January 2011 with a special post by Father Tim Farrell, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Farmington, New Mexico.

Happy New Year!

12.24.2010

Santa Claus came early!

At a time when we were all busy with Christmas cards and letters and last-minute shopping, Santa Claus came early for Americans.

What happened in our nation's capitol this last week will have a positive effect on every U.S. citizen.

Apparently some Republican lawmakers decided it didn’t look so good to continue voting “no” on every piece of legislation, and they are to be commended in helping to pass a strong and beneficial Democratic agenda.

Since you might have missed the full impact of the flurry of activity on Capitol Hill – which some have dubbed “a Christmas miracle” - DemWit presents this CNN recap of what was accomplished by a “not-so-lame duck Congress:”

THE DREAM ACT

In what President Obama called his “greatest disappointment,” the legislation failed a procedural vote in the Senate. The bill would have offered a path to citizenship to some illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children.

THE TAX DEAL

Signed into law Friday, 17 December. The compromise worked out by Obama and Senate Republican leaders extended Bush-era tax cuts to everyone for two more years while also extending unemployment benefits for 13 months and reducing the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year, all intended to bolster the slow recovery from economic recession. Here's what's in the bill and what it means for you.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSION

Signed into law Friday, 17 December. The unemployed will get a 13-month extension of the deadline to file for additional unemployment benefits – which go as high as 99 weeks in states hit hardest by job losses. The benefits were part of the brokered tax deal but don't affect everyone: Residents in at least five states won't have access to the same level of unemployment benefits as their peers nationwide because the unemployment rates there are improving. So, according to federal law, the jobless there can't receive checks for as long as those in harder-hit states. Unemployed? Will you benefit?

FOOD SAFETY ACT

Passed by Congress on Tuesday, 21 December, sent to Obama to sign. A major food safety bill that passed the House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year before stalling because of a procedural problem won final approval Tuesday and now goes to Obama to be signed into law. The bill, designed to increase government inspections of the food supply in the wake of recent deadly foodborne disease outbreaks, originally passed with wide support in both chambers after originating in the Senate. However, it needed approval again because it violated a constitutional requirement that bills raising revenue be initiated in the House. The Senate passed its version of the Food Safety Modernization Act on Sunday, and the House voted 215-144 for final approval.

‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’ REPEALED

Signed into law Wednesday, 22 December. Obama signed a bill repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military. Obama promised to repeal the ban during the 2008 presidential election. However, it will take a series of actions to make the policy end, and no one at the Pentagon seems to know when that actual date might be. Over the next several weeks, military officials need to examine and rewrite a series of policies, regulations and directives related to the current law.

GOVERNMENT FUNDING

Signed into law Wednesday, 22 December. Obama signed a bill that will maintain most funding levels for the federal government for another 10 weeks, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. Both chambers of Congress agreed on a resolution authorizing government funding through March 4. The previous law funding the government – a so-called continuing resolution – expired at midnight Tuesday.

9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS HEALTH BILL

Passed by Congress on Wednesday, sent to Obama to sign. A compromise bill to provide free medical treatment and compensation to first responders of the September 11, 2001, attack won final approval Wednesday from the House and Senate. The bill has been sent to Obama to be signed into law. And it is one some first responders said they never expected to see enacted – one responder called the passage "bittersweet" and better than any other Christmas gift.

NEW START TREATY

Approved by Congress on Wednesday, 22 December, sent to Obama to sign. The Senate voted Wednesday to approve the new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, was cleared with the help of solid Democratic support as well as the backing of several Republican senators. The treaty would resume inspections of each country's nuclear arsenal while limiting both the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers. It still needs the Russian parliament's approval. Obama signed the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April.

SOURCE: CNN. COM

***

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY AND HEALTHY 2011!

12.21.2010

A call for civility

To paraphrase Ross on “Friends:” “I was on a break!” (See sidebar at left.)

Dropping back into the blogosphere to call attention to an exceptional discussion going on over at Parsley’s Pics.

Friend Leslie’s post, “How the Far-Left Mirrors the Right,” merits your attention as does the lively discussion in her comments zone.

I am certain DemWit's readers will want to add their two cents HERE.

12.11.2010

Bad week for the little guy: a chronology

AND, SO IT BEGINS

Wednesday, December 1 (The New York Times 12/1/10): All 42 Republican senators sign a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada threatening to block any legislation until Bush-era tax cuts are extended for all Americans, including the wealthiest. The move came within 24 hours of President Obama’s meeting with senior Republican Congressional leaders, expressing hopes for “a new dialogue.”

HOUSE DEMS EXTEND TAX CUTS FOR THE LITTLE GUY

Thursday, December 2 (CNN 12/2/10): “The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure 234-188 to allow tax cuts instituted under President George W. Bush to expire this December 31 for Americans' incomes above a quarter-million dollars annually. The tax cuts for incomes below that would continue, and the bill would also maintain the current Alternative Minimum Tax limit for two years. Most Democrats backed the legislation, while Republicans resoundingly opposed it.”

REPUBLICANS BLOCK TAX CUTS FOR THE LITTLE GUY

Saturday, December 4 (CNN 12/4/10): “Two Senate procedural votes on Democratic measures to extend George W. Bush-era tax cuts for people who are not super wealthy failed on Saturday, preventing the measures from moving forward. …. Both votes garnered the support of 53 senators, but the Democrats needed 60 votes to end debate.”

OBAMA PUTS 2012 ON THE LINE FOR THE LITTLE GUY

Monday, December 6 (The New York Times 12/6/10): “President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.”

“I am not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.”
- President Barack Obama, 6 December 2010

WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE LITTLE GUY

What the lower- and middle-class workers would get in Obama’s deal: WHITE HOURSE FACT SHEET

OBAMA’S STRATEGY & MISSTEPS

Shaw Kenawe at “Progressive Eruptions” brilliantly explains Obama’s strategy and his missteps HERE.

KNEE-JERK REACTION: FIGHT AND FORGET THE LITTLE GUY

Monday, December 6: The left-wing blogosphere goes ballistic in knee-jerk reaction claiming Obama made a deal with the Devil and calling fellow Democrats and economists who are defending the president’s action “Obama apologists.”

CLARIFYING THE ESTATE TAX PROVISION

The sticky wicket in the Obama compromise is the estate tax. According to CNN: “The estate tax, which expired this year, is scheduled to be reinstated at a higher rate of 55 percent next year, with an exemption up to $1 million. A bill that passed in the House a year ago set the threshold for the exemption at $3.5 million and the tax rate at 45 percent, while the provision in the tax deal exempts estates up to $5 million and sets a lower rate at 35 percent.”

OBAMA STRONGLY DEFENDS COMPROMISE

Tuesday, December 7 (The Associated Press, 12/7/10): "With fellow Democrats balking, President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that a compromise with Republicans on tax cuts was necessary to help the economy and protect recession-weary Americans. He passionately defended his record against Democrats who complain he's breaking campaign promises. … He staunchly defended his decision to deal with the GOP in order to extend about-to-expire tax cuts for all Americans.”

VOICE OF THE LEFT SLAMS OBAMA

Tuesday, December 7 (MSNBC 12/710): Keith Olbermann of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” a leading booster of Obama’s bid for the White House, excoriates the president on tax-cut compromise HERE.

EMPOWERED GOP BLOCKS $250 FOR SENIORS

Wednesday, December 8 (The Associated Press 12/8/10): “Bill to award seniors $250 is defeated by Republicans.”

HOUSE DEMS NIX OBAMA TAX PACKAGE

Thursday, December 9 (CNN 12/10/10): “House Democrats voted Thursday against considering the tax package that President Barack Obama negotiated with Republicans, raising questions over the president's influence in his own party. ..."

NEW HOPE FOR THE LITTLE GUY

Thursday, December 9, 2010 (CNN 12/10/10): “... Later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, released the first version of legislation to implement the negotiated deal and said the Senate would vote Monday to open debate on it. The Senate version made public by Reid was largely the same as the deal announced by Obama, but it added extensions of some tax breaks intended to spur green energy investment.”

GOP FILIBUSTER BLOCKS AID TO 9/11 RESPONDERS

Thursday, December 9 (CNN 12/10/10) : “A Senate bill to provide medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who were first on the scene of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks failed to get past a Republican filibuster Thursday."

SANDERS’ MARATHON OPPOSITION

Friday, December 10 (CNN 12/10/10): Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) spoke out against Obama’s compromise in the Senate chamber for eight hours and 35 minutes – a speech cnn.com subjectively compared with Jimmy Stewart’s in Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” According to Senate rules, the speech was not a filibuster.

BILL CLINTON, AS EVER, FOR THE LITTLE GUY

Friday, December 10 (The New York Times 12/10/10): President Obama meets with former President Bill Clinton for 90 minutes. In an impromptu news conference with a hastily assembled White House Press Corps, Mr. Clinton praised the president's willingness to compromise as "a principled decision" and defended the deal:

“I have reviewed this agreement that the president reached with the Republican leaders. The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the most Americans.

“In my opinion, this is a good bill, and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it. We all see this differently. But I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country.

“There are a lot of fights worth having, but this holds the promise that after the fights are over, we will be able to find principled compromise on those as well. To me, that’s worth doing.”

Read “Bill Clinton Holds Forth on Tax Plan, for Starters,” Michael D. Shear, The New York Times, December 10, 2010.

OBAMA: DEMS COMING AROUND ON PLAN

"I think it is inaccurate to characterize Democrats at large as feeling, quote unquote, betrayed, I think Democrats are looking at this bill and you've already had a whole bunch of them who've said this makes sense, and I think the more they look at it, the more of them are going to say this makes sense."
- President Barack Obama

A WORD FOR MY FELLOW AMERICANS

If nothing is done before December 31, 2010, your taxes will go up. This has been a week of hysteria, hyperbole, homily and harangue across the liberal/progressive blogosphere. Tax cuts for the wealthiest remain, as President Obama so aptly noted, the GOP’s “holy grail.” If you need a touchstone for Democratic philosophy, listen to these words:

“Democratic priorities remain clear: to provide a tax cut for working families, to create jobs and economic growth, to assist millions of our fellow Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and to do this in a fiscally sound way."
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

12.09.2010

The Howard Beale in Olbermann

“I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE.”

Remember the meltdown?

I have read the transcripts of Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comments” for 14 months now, because I don’t have TV and cannot view videos online. I read these transcripts, because at some point before I gave up TV I realized that one day this MSNBC commentator might just self-implode much like Peter Finch’s character Howard Beale in “Network.”

I first became aware of Olbermann’s propensity for skewing truth during the 2008 presidential campaign when he was the head cheerleader for candidate Sen. Barack Obama and took every opportunity to vilify my choice, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This was a man who banned from his program his faithful nightly guest, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, for daring to state the obvious about Obama’s pre-election hubris.

Granted, there is some truth in Mr. Olbermann’s 10-minute program-closing diatribes, but quite often they are over-the-top, overtly emotional  showmanship. You know, kind of like Glenn Beck’s. Mr. Olbermann doesn't want you to know facts so much as he wants you to feel his words right down to your toes. He wants you to get up, open a window and start screamig.

Before the boob tube went blank, I heard Olbermann accuse a sitting president of the United States of America of being a “traitor.” There was a time in the not-too-distant past when that word would have prompted a duel or a hanging.

Even after detecting patterns in Olbermann’s teleprompter shock and awe, I was completely unprepared for, yea, stunned by his total excoriation of the man he so dedicatingly boosted into the Oval Office.

I was not so emotionally fired up, though, to fail to note his failure to cite a few facts.

DemWit is on the record, even back during the presidential campaign, defending Obama against lies and distortions. I have applauded his desire to be – unlike George W. Bush – president of all Americans. Over the last few days I’ve authored posts either attempting to cut through the BS surrounding the tax-cuts issue or defending the president’s unwillingness to let lower- and middle-class Americans become “collateral damage” in Washington warfare.

I am deeply interested in DemWit readers’ opinions - pro and con - on Mr. Olbermann’s latest comment, his words about our president. I am trying to keep my wits about me, and I need your input.

You may view a video of Countdown’s “Special Comment” HERE. The transcript follows:

Special Comment: Obama Turned His Back on His Base

by Keith Olbermann
"Countdown With Keith Olbermann"
MSNBC, 7 December 2010

With the tax-cut deal, the Democrats lost their chance to stop the GOP from taking unfair advantage of the middle class.

OLBERMANN: Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the tax compromise.

To paraphrase Churchill, again, let me begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: "that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road. We should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of American politics and policy have been deranged, and that the terrible words have, for the time being, been pronounced against this Administration: "thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.

In exchange for selling out a principle campaign pledge, and the people to whom and for whom it was made, in exchange for betraying the truth that the idle and corporate rich of this country have gotten unprecedented and wholly indefensible tax cuts for a decade, in exchange for giving the idle and corporate rich of this country two more years to accumulate still more and more vast piles of personal wealth with which they can buy and sell everybody else -- In exchange for extending what he spent the weeks before the midterms calling tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to people who have proven, without a scintilla of doubt, without even a fig leaf of phony effort to make it look like they would do otherwise, that they will keep the money for themselves -- In exchange for injecting new vigor into the infantile, moronic, disproved-for-a-decade three-card Monte game of an economic theory purveyed by these treacherous and ultimately traitorous Republicans, that tax cuts for the rich will somehow lead to job creation, even though if that had ever been true in the slightest, the economy would not be where it is today -- In exchange for giving tax cuts for the rich which the nation cannot afford, and extending their vintage through the next election and thus promising, at best, a reenactment of this whole sorry, amoral, degrading spectacle during the 2012 presidential campaign, when the sides will be climbing over each other to again extend these cuts -- In exchange for this searing and transcendent capitulation, the President got just thirteen months of extended benefits for those unemployed less than 100 weeks. And he got nothing, absolutely nothing for those unemployed for longer, the 99ers.

This the administration is celebrating, taking the victims of Republican economic policy, taking the living breathing proof that the Bush tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs, and putting economic bull’s-eyes on their backs as of next December. On the one hand, unaffordable tax breaks for the beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts, made ever more permanent as they threaten to suck four trillion dollars out of government revenues in the next decade.

On the other hand, an insufficient dead-end unemployment solution for Americans who would actually work for a living, a solution made ever more temporary. And we are hearing nothing about those 99ers, even though the numbers of them will balloon from two million to four million or more by next December even with this deal, even though just last Thursday, the President's own Council of Economic Advisers reiterated the reality that the easiest way to create jobs and keep jobs is to make sure that the unemployed continue to have money to spend. The unemployed, unlike the rich whom this president has just bowed to, are, in fact, the job creators. They do not have investment portfolios to expand. They do not have vast savings into which to stuff the government checks. They have to spend the money. And the Council reported last week that when someone becomes a 99er, his or her household loses at least one third of its income. And where the 99er was the sole breadwinner, that's four households out of 10, they lose nine-tenths of their income.

The economy is surprisingly simple. If business and the rich won't spend, and the middle class can't spend, the only factor left to keep pushing money into the insatiable maw of capitalism is the government. So, should the government give the money to the rich who keep it, or to the not rich, who spend it? Apparently this President does not know the answer to that question, even though he has his own Council of Economic Advisers.

Mr. President, for these meager crumbs, you have given up costly, insulting, divisive, destructive tax cuts for the rich, and you have given in to Republican blackmail, which will be followed by more Republican blackmail. Of course, it's not just tax cuts for the rich that you've given up. There is also your new temporary payroll tax holiday, establishing a precedent that the way money is pumped into Social Security should be negotiated and traded off, and making it just that much easier to gut Social Security later. And, oh, by the way, in the middle of a crisis over making temporary Republican tax cuts permanent, you give the Republicans another temporary Republican tax cut that they can come back later to blackmail you into making permanent. Well, sir, at least that's the end of it. Except, of course, for the estate tax, what Republicans so happily call "the death tax," which will be reduced from its 2009 levels.

Huh?

The money given by one dead rich person to some living rich persons will not be taxed up to $5 million. More than $5 million and it's 35 percent, which is less than it was under the tax laws of President Bush's last fiscal year. Sir, you have given undeserved tax breaks, and you have carved them a little more deeply into the stone of law, to rich people, living and dead.

And you want me to tell them which Democrat proposed this estate tax giveaway part?

Blanche Lincoln! Blanche Lincoln, repudiated by nearly half the Arkansans in her own party, and then repudiated by 63 percent of the voters in Arkansas. Mr. President, you're listening to Blanche Lincoln? What? Were Bob Beckel and Pat Caddell unavailable? This president negotiates down from a position of strength better than any politician in our recent history. It is too late now to go back and ask why the President, and why the wobbly Democratic leadership, whiffed on their chance to force John Boehner to put his money where his mouth was. In September, Boehner said if he had no other option, of course he would vote to extend tax breaks only for the middle class.

So, the President and the Democrats gave him another option, naturally.

But didn't extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy became necessary to get Republican support for extending the jobless benefits? Nonsense. Five times in the last two years, the Republicans have gone along with extending those jobless benefits, and they've done it without being bribed with tax cuts for the rich.

Even now, Boehner's September confession, and the GOP's unwillingness to take the blame for killing off jobless benefits offered an alternative blueprint for this President: Let the law expire as scheduled in 24 days. Let all the tax breaks go. And when the Republicans take over the House and try to pass them anew, if they somehow are not stopped in the Senate, veto anything that does not keep tax cuts for the middle class and unemployment benefits as the dog, and perks for the rich as the tail.

The GOP is still terrified of being blamed for cutting off the unemployed. You take that fact and you break them with it. There is only one possible rational explanation for this irrational and childish transaction. There are Republicans and Tea Partiers who are still intent on cutting off their noses to spite their faces, the "Blind Rage Conservatives" for whom any compromise is disaster, just as for this president apparently no compromise is disaster.

Maybe the reason the administration's numbers don't really add up in this deal is that the administration was too busy instead counting votes, and there really are enough on the far right to sink it, and the President winds up having his cake and eating it too. He proposed what he can call a "tax compromise" and then he can have it derailed publicly and embarrassingly by the Republicans. Maybe the political calculus here exceeds both in priority and quality the real calculus. But I deeply doubt it.

Yesterday, I had an exchange with a very senior member of this administration who wanted to sell me on this deal. I pointed out that that was fine, except that, as I phrased it to him, "frankly, the base has just vanished." "Well," he replied, "then they must not have read the details."

There, in a nutshell, is this Administration. They didn't make a bad deal. We just don't understand it. Just as it was our fault, Mr. President, for not understanding your refusal of even the most perfunctory of investigations of rendition or domestic spying or the other crimes of the Bush administration, or why you have now established for those future administrations who want to repeat those crimes, that the punishment for them will be nothing.

Just as it was our fault, Mr. President, for not understanding Afghanistan. Just as we didn't correctly perceive, sir, the necessity for the continuation of Gitmo. Or how we failed to intuit, President Obama, your pre-emptive abandonment of single payer and the public option.

Or how we could not have foreseen your foot-dragging on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Just as we shouldn't have gotten you angry at your news conference today and made all the moderate Democrats wonder why in the hell you get publicly angry so often at the liberals who campaigned for you, and whether you might save just a touch of that sarcasm and that self-martyrdom for the Republicans.

And, of course, Mr. President we totally betrayed your administration by not concluding our prayers every night by saying "thank you for preventing another Great Depression; you are entitled to skate along on your own wonderfulness indefinitely.

And if you get less than you could have on health care reform or taxes, well, that'll be OK; we're happy to pay 10,000 bucks for a $300 car because, hey, it could've been 20,000, right?

And because we only expect you to do one thing correctly during a presidency, and you know you had pretty much cleared that obligation when it proved that you were, indeed, not John McCain." We are very sorry.

In some sense, the senior member's remark about how we "did not read the details" is not utterly absurd. We have enabled this President, and his compromises spinning within compromises. And now there are, finally, those within his own party who have said "enough.”

In the Senate, the Independent, Mr. Sanders has threatened to filibuster this deal. He deserves the support of every American in doing so, as do Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Conyers and the others in the House. It is not disloyalty to the Democratic party to tell a Democratic president he is wrong. It is not disloyalty to tell him he is goddamned wrong. It is not disloyalty for the 99ers and the 99ers-to-be to rally in the streets of Washington. It is not disloyalty to remind the president that he was elected by people to whom he had given a clear outline of what he would do for them, and if he does not steer out of the skid of what he is doing to them, he will not only not be re-elected, he may not even be re-nominated. It is not disloyalty to remind him that we are not bound to an individual.

We are bound to principles. If the individual changes, or fails often and needlessly, then we get a new man. Or woman. None of that is disloyalty. It is self-defense. It is the acknowledgment that, as my hero Thurber wrote, you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards. That is what the base is saying to this President about his presidency. "Well, then, we must not have read the details."

The Churchill quotation, as opposed to the quotation from that very senior member of your administration, Mr. President, is from October 5th, 1938.

I don't want to make any true comparison to the historical event to which it related. The viewer can go ahead and look it up if they wish. I will confess, I won't fight if anybody wants to draw a comparison between what you've done with our domestic politics of our day to what Neville Chamberlain did with the international politics of his. The rest of what Churchill said, paraphrased, but only slightly paraphrased, bears repeating again. The terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against this administration: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting." And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and political vigor, we arise again and take our stand for what is right.

Good night and good luck.

***

Mr. Olbermann, it is apparent from your comments that this rage against the president has been building for some time now. Is it fair, sir, that you can change your mind while blasting Barack Obama for changing his?

***

DemWit welcomes your comments.

12.08.2010

Elizabeth Edwards, 1949-2010

Her legacy, in her own words:

"You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times, and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human.

"But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know."

12.07.2010

The double fork

On December 7, 1941, Americans woke to “a date which will live in infamy.” This morning many who voted for President Barack Obama would mark today’s date in similar terms.

They need to stop and think.

The president of the United States of America has not been checkmated by a Republican gambit. He has not found himself in a stalemate. He has been caught in a double fork, Loosely interpreted: he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

And he did it - for lower- and middle-class Americans.

DemWit recommends this New York Times article for a clear understanding of both Obama’s dilemma and his willingness to compromise.

And, if you don’t remember anything else about this whole tax-cuts game, remember these words:

“I am not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.”
- President Barack Obama, 6 December 2010

12.06.2010

Rating the presidents

John Fitzgerald Kennedy remains the U.S. president in the last half century who is perceived to be the best.

USA Today/Gallup has released its annual survey rating the presidents of the last 50 years.

Two interesting changes:

Jimmy Carter has moved down the list, while Bill Clinton has moved up.

George H.W. Bush’s rating fell while his son was in office, but has rebounded.

Here is this year's ranking:

1-John F. Kennedy (D) – 85%
2-Ronald Reagan (R) – 74%
3-Bill Clinton (D) – 69%
4-George H. W. Bush (R) - 64%
5-Gerald Ford (R) - 61%
6- Jimmy Carter (D) – 52%
7-Lyndon Johnson (D) - 49%
8- George W. Bush (R) – 47%
9- Richard M. Nixon (R) – 29%

Perhaps the most interesting position on the list, in my opinion, is that of Lyndon B. Johnson. Although Johnson followed Camelot, he implemented both social and civil rights reforms which are noteworthy. Vietnam was Johnson’s Waterloo. Noted presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin has always insisted Johnson is underrated.

Dubya, I presume, thanks God for Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. Not that DemWit would ever say, “I told you so.”

12.03.2010

Cutting through the tax-cuts BS

Recent polls showed that some 60 percent of Americans deem extension of the Bush-era tax cuts a priority. Why is that? Because they do not know the facts, and they have been scared into thinking their own taxes will go up.

DemWit worked through the night to cut through the tax-cuts BS, and this post is for liberals, progressives and conservatives alike.

A COUPLE OF FACTS

Fact 1:

"We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college."
- President Barack Obama, State of the Union message, 27 January 2010

Recalling that moment: Democrats applauded. Republicans sat in silence. Obama turned to the Republicans, smiled and quipped, “I thought I'd get some applause on that one."

Fact: The non-partisan factcheck site Politifact examined Obama’s tax-cut claims and found them to be “true.”

Why is it that the very people who have benefited from these tax cuts don’t seem to have any idea the Obama administration and Democrats extended them?

Fact 2:

The Republican Party wants to extend $700 billion in tax cuts to 3 percent of the wealthiest Americans – those voters George W. Bush called his “base” – while they vote against extending benefits to the unemployed. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is right to call this position “grossly unfair.”

JOURNALISTS: COUNTER LIES WITH FACTS

CNN reported this in its main article on House Democrats extending tax cuts for Americans making $250,000 a year or less:

“All 42 Senate Republicans vowed Monday to prevent a final vote on any other legislative business in the lame duck session until Congress has ‘prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.’"

That quote is a lie aimed at scaring Americans, and CNN’s reporters should have countered it with facts.

TAX CUTS FOR WEALTHY WON’T CREATE JOBS

The CNN article states, “Several economic studies have indicated that the wealthiest people - the top 3 percent who make more than $250,000 per year - are more likely to invest tax cuts in stocks or other assets than to create jobs. And, Democrats point out, many large American corporations are posting record profits without sinking that money into payroll.”

REPUBLICAN FEEDBACK

House Minority Leader John Boehner called the House Democratic vote “chicken crap” - and thus inspired this DemWit all-nighter! Boehner is apoplectic because he knows this Democratic vote will benefit all Americans - including the wealthiest 3 percent, who, after all, will get the cuts on their own income up to $250,000. The minority leader’s ticked off because the GOP’s scare tactics and threats to obstruct legislation didn’t phase the Democrats.

Taxes are essential to a strong American government. Count how many times the word appears in the Constitution. Leave it to a Texas Republican – one Rep. Jeb Hensarling – to say, "No taxes on nobody. It may be bad grammar but it's great economics."

SO, WHAT DO THE BAD OLD DEMOCRATS WANT?

In attempted negotiations with Republicans on tax-cut policy, Democrats want:

• Extension of unemployment benefits without having to find offsets to pay for them

• Extension of college tuition tax credits set to expire at the end of the year

• Extension of so-called ‘make work pay’ tax credits which expire December 31

• Tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed workers

OBAMA’S CONCESSION

Around 1 a.m. ET, I read that President Obama is willing to negotiate – to extend tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for Republican support for extending unemployment benefits and “a variety of tax breaks for low-wage and middle-income workers.” (LINK)

DEMWIT CONCLUDES

Mr. President, you have made it clear that you want to work in a nonpartisan way to bring beneficial programs to the American people - only to be vilified by the opposition. You have stuck by your principles despite your own disgruntled base. It would be wise, sir, to be skeptical of 42 Senate Republicans who put their signatures to paper stating they won’t budge on a damn thing until you cave in to greed.

I appreciate that Washington politics is a game of give-and-take, and that’s as it should be. But, there’s nothing riding on what these yokels do, except the economic future of this country.

I want to trust that they know better than I what is best for America, but sometimes I wonder.

Above all else, dear reader, hasn’t it become clear by now which American political party has the well-being of lower- and middle-class Americans at heart?

12.02.2010

A Google shocker

Ever Google yourself? A search of my name turned up 406,000 results, which, of course, includes everyone in the world with my last name or either of my initials. Interestingly, the top entry was a post about my fear of flying which appeared in my archived blog, “I See My Dreams.”

Persons with my name include a writer of books on badminton for women and girls, a minister of the Gospel and an Ohio bar and grill owner.

In keeping with DemWit’s mission to chronicle “the absurd” and “the downright mystical,” read HERE to find out what happened to a Florida college student who decided to Google himself.

12.01.2010

A cure for losing battles

I am an anomaly in my circle of family and longtime friends and have even met with downright hostility from a couple of cousins when describing my blog as “liberal.”

Blogging is not easy. Some days there is absolutely nothing to inspire the written word; on other days I cannot type fast enough. Some days I will spend hours on end in research to bring to DemWit something of utmost importance only to discover it seems to be important only to me. Other days I’ll whip something out in 10 minutes and inspire a dozen reader comments.

I’ve had bloggers tell me they are discouraged, and I am reminded of a scene in “All the Presidnt’s Men.” In one of their parking-garage meetings, “Deep Throat” tells Bob Woodward, “I was at a party once, and (G. Gordon) Liddy put his hand over a candle, and he kept it there. He kept it right in the flame until his flesh was burned. Somebody said, ‘What's the trick?’ And Liddy said, ‘The trick is not minding.’"

But, sometimes I do mind.

In DemWit’s sidebar I describe myself as “constant learner,” and primarily this blog is a learning experience. I believe a key motivator for all bloggers is the opportunity to share information. A blog is a research and writing laboratory, and readers’ comments contribute greatly to its impact.

I wince sometimes when a comment completely misses a post’s point or it’s apparent the commenter hasn’t bothered to read its content. Losing a few faithful readers who disagreed with an expressed opinion hasn’t been pleasant. I wish I had Truman’s little plaque atop my monitor to remind me that “The buck stops here.”

All in all, I like being here. And, I love it when you join me.

Several weeks ago I began to suffer from the “fighting a losing battle” syndrome. No ideas. No inspiration. No easy solutions. I came online, opened my email inbox and had the following note from my niece Debra:

“‘A blind person asked Swami Vivekanand, ‘Can there be anything worse than losing eyesight?’ He replied, ‘Yes, losing your vision!’ That is what impresses me about you every day: you stay focused on the future. You never lose your vision. You are an inspiration to all who have the pleasure of knowing you. I love you, Deb”

To quote John Wayne, reacting to a standing ovation at the 1979 Academy Awards - his last public appearance: “That’s about the only medicine a fella’d ever really need.”

Debra’s first grandchild, a beautiful little girl named Riley, is eight months old.

Here’s to the future, Riley!

11.29.2010

Nightmare before Christmas

This post has nothing to do with a flooded apartment or a roaring toothache (circa Christmas 2009), just four brief news items to set your spine a'tingling.

Nightmare before Christmas

The headline caught my eye this morning: “Another GOPer wants to defeat Obama.” I clicked on the link and felt a chill. Remember neoconservative war hawk John Bolton, who, when undersecretary of state, was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by Dubya? Bolton, who very undiplomatically announced he was going to the UN to kick ass and straighten that whole bunch out, now thinks he’s what this country needs. The American Enterprise Institute fellow and Fox News contributor basically says Obama is a wimp on foreign policy and national security, so he is considering a run for the White House in 2012. God forbid! Read Bolton’s remarks about the president HERE. (BTW, DemWit readers know I cannot see photos, and I hope I have the right one with this item. If it’s really, really scary, that’s the one.)

The winter of our discontent?

From USAToday/Gallup, 24 November 2010 (LINK): “Americans are as likely to want Tea Party-backed Republican members of Congress to have the most influence over federal policies as they are to prefer President Barack Obama, although no more than 28% choose either. They name Republican leaders in Congress next, at 23%, and Democratic leaders last, at 16%.”

Murdoch’s iNsatiable hunger

I confess I didn’t know what an iPad is until my friend Jenny said her granddaughter is giving her one for Christmas. Now comes word (HERE) that Rupert Murdoch is going to furnish the world another outlet for his propaganda: a daily digital newspaper, cleverly named “The Daily,” which iPad owners can read for a subscription price of 99 cents a week. Jenny’s not buying: she’s too iNtelligent.

Sarah’s syntax

After all that “gloom and doom” how about a good laugh? Go HERE to read advice from Sarah Palin and Fox News’ Sean Hannity on what constitutes good, ethical  journalism. Sarah, really ticked off at Katie Couric for asking her relevant questions during her veep campaign, tells Hannity: “I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting," Which, of course, equips her to construct such sentences as: "I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism.”

11.24.2010

Bringing hope to Uganda's orphans


Children at Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in Nyaka, Uganda, in Africa, pray as they begin their school day. Father Tim Farrell's parish joined forces with Jackson Kaguri to found the school. All children, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim, are welcomed here if they are orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.

***

On September 18, I received the following note from my longtime friend Father Tim Farrell, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Farmington, New Mexico:

“I head for Uganda and Rwanda, Africa, next Sunday. Pray for all of us. It is me along with five parishioners, five women. A thorn among the roses! We have a 22-hour flight (including an overnight stop in Dubai), and after a night in Kampala, we will drive nine hours by safari van to Nyaka, Uganda, where the AIDS Orphans' School is. It is a tiny village near the Inpenetrable Forest with gorillas and tree-climbing lions. There is no electricity there and luckily, due to the great generosity of my parishioners, the town now has running water. So, it will be unique. I will let you know how all of it goes in my update in late October when I return.”

To commemorate the Thanksgiving holiday, here is Father Tim’s report, dateline Uganda:

NYAKA, Uganda -- Many children who attend Nyaka AIDS Orphans' School rise and leave before dawn and get home from school after the sun has set. They live miles away and make the great effort to attend the school because it gives them hope for life itself, Stephen Kagaba, headmaster, explained.

These children, he says, are orphans due to the scourge of AIDS, which has killed thousands and thousands of Ugandans. In a real sense, Nyaka School is the 250 children’s only light.

My parish of Sacred Heart has supported Nyaka School for almost a decade, and I was privileged recently to see what the school is doing to change the lives of these children. Though we raise several thousand dollars a year in a special collection for the school, I did not understand how this could help so many children. Mr. Kagaba, though, said that "with the money you send, we are able to educate and feed all these children." My question, as pastor, was, what would happen to these children if our parish did not support the school?

Mr. Kagaba shook his head sadly: "You have seen the children along the sides of the roads? That would be our children who are going to Nyaka School. They would be worse than slaves. Many of them would die at an early age. These children who are orphans become street children. They work for the rich people herding their goats and cows, and their lives are full of stress and hopelessness. They are mistreated. They die very young, overwhelmed by life. But because you support Nyaka School, all these children get breakfast and lunch each day and they get a good education. In our district with 250 schools, Nyaka is a miracle. We are in the top three schools. The children who come here come free of charge, due to the kindness of Sacred Heart and other people who care. They have real futures. The other schools in the district do not supply meals. The children come to school hungry and go home hungry. Not the children of Nyaka School."

I was privileged to attend classes with the children and was so encouraged by the strong education they are receiving. These children in Grades P1 through P7 are learning so much. These children who would be forgotten on the sides of the roads of Uganda without the school have futures not only in Secondary School but in colleges.

While I was visiting along with five parishioners (Rosie Gomez, Margaret Zamora, Becky Schritter, Jayme Childers and Katie Pettigrew) , we all were able to interact with the children and see the educational and emotional foundations being laid in these children who have known so much tragedy in their young lives. Early each morning the children gather in the school courtyard for prayer, singing and reports from the school and from around the country. They are fed porridge for breakfast and then the day begins, a day filled with classes, physical education, a full lunch, camraderie with each other and lots of playtime.

As one teacher said, "It is hard to make them go home when school lets out at 5 p.m. This is their family here, and when they go home many do not get to eat. They are too poor. Many go home to dark houses with grannies who are sick and old. They go home far away from the school."

And they go home to places often with no lights, not even candlelight.

Nyaka School has become the pride of the community as well. The school, through Sacred Heart Parish contributions, has been able to build a water system which is now used for the entire village area. Because of the success of Nyaka, the parish and others have helped to open another school at Katumba, about an hour or so away by car. As well, the Nyaka Foundation is building little homes for the "grannies" who are taking care of the orphan children or who live out so far and in such poverty that they are literally dying from neglect.

Jackson Kaguri, whose vision brought about the two schools and the "granny program" says that the grannies are presently living in small huts with leaking roofs and housing not only themselves but the goat and the chickens. “These women are dying from neglect, and so the Foundation is presently planning to build new homes for these elders of the surrounding areas," he explained.

He said that amazingly the homes can be built for around $700 each. "That amount of money saves an elderly person and gives them dignity in their twilight years," he said.

Our visit to Nyaka reinforced our belief that with a little money and a lot of heart, we can help bring hope into a place devastated by the AIDS crisis. The children and the grannies are that hope. At both ends of the age spectrum, I saw hope shining forth.

I was able to visit the children in their homes along with the grannies who are about to enter their homes. They are so proud of who they are and what they have in their futures.

One evening as I and the group from Sacred Heart were driving back from a far distant granny's new home, the sun was setting around 7 p.m. and I saw a small girl in her purple Nyaka uniform still walking home in the dying light. She smiled and waved at us, and I thought, "What a heart this child has! She walks all this way in the darkness of morning and in the fading light of dusk. Why? Because Nyaka School is not only her hope, it is her life. She'll get up tomorrow morning and walk back to school."

As one of my group said, "They walk to school in the darkness, they walk home in the dark. Nyaka school is their only light."

(To find out more about the Nyaka Foundation, visit its site on Facebook.)

11.23.2010

Fed up with stupid!

Paul Krugman knows a little more about the economy than DemWit. With each new op-ed column, Krugman’s warnings about our economy grow stronger. His crystal ball conjures things most of us cannot foresee.

So, when I saw the headline on his column yesterday, my back stiffened as I sat up and took notice.

Now, the right would have you believe Paul Krugman is not to be believed. After all, he appears in (gasp!) The New York Times. He holds a Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. That would make him, according to right-wing TV pundits, one of “the liberal elite.” And, he was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics for setting up a unique new model to measure such things. Oh, but the right would have you believe the Nobel committee is anti-American. Or, so they’ve been told.

Come on, people, aren’t you fed up with stupid?

What’s it going to take for Americans to listen to an informed and  reasonable argument about where our economy is headed? A good place to start is reading Krugman’s current column:

There Will Be Blood

By PAUL KRUGMAN

New York Times Op-Ed, 22 November 2010

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be — after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued.

Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize.

Some explanation: There’s a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they’ve done it before.

Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America’s role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson “can’t wait.” And he’s what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water’s edge — but that was then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.

How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern.

My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.

It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.

***

The above column is reprinted for the sole purpose of sharing information, which, of course, doeesn’t mean a damn if the people who need to read it don’t.

But, “one day a lemming will fly!”

11.22.2010

A reminder

I was a 21-year-old secretary eating lunch at “Nick” Nicapopadopalous’ Greek restaurant. Two blocks away in the newsroom of the Clarion-Ledger and Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, bells were going off on the teletype machine to mark a “bulletin” – the newswire service’s designation for its most significant breaking news.

Twenty years later I would be working as an editor in that newsroom.

One day as I left work I spotted in a trash bin a rolled up length of old yellow teletype paper . Fishing it out, I tucked it under my arm. Relaxing after work with a cup of coffee, I reached across my dining table for the 20-foot scroll of paper, unrolled it and began to read:

Bulletin … Bulletin … Bulletin

President shot

Bulletin … Bulletin … Bulletin

President Kennedy shot in Dallas

Bulletin … Bulletin … Bulletin

President Kenndy shot in Dallas motorcade

Words poured forth down the yellow paper in staccato phrases.

I’ve kept the bulletin as a reminder to never forget.

11.18.2010

On considering atheists

Anne Perry’s fictional detective Thomas Pitt, when asked to define “blasphemy,” says, “I think it is jeering at other people’s beliefs, making them doubt the possibility of good and making reverence appear ridiculous. Whose God it is doesn’t matter. It isn’t a question of doctrine, it’s a matter of trying to destroy the innate idea of diety, of something better and holier than we are.” (Half Moon Street, 2000)

***

I neither question the beliefs of atheists nor label their beliefs as disbelief.

What I question is their need to attack the beliefs of others.

Millions of people around this world find solace and strength and peace in their religious beliefs and great comfort in the power of prayer. Why would any reasonable human being deny them this?

Granted, throughout history religion has been both a catalyst for war and persecution and a suppressor of advanced knowledge. Anyone versed in history could never deny this. On the other hand, religion also has at its foundation moral precepts, and like many atheists, many who adhere to faith are both moral and pursuers of wisdom.

The search for knowledge has not been limited to those who deny the existence of a supreme being. And to deny that no knowledge has been advanced by adherents to religion is prejudice.

To quote Miss Perry in “Brunswick Gardens:” “Calmness and reason should always prevail over emotion, self-indulgence or any kind of indiscipline.”

Why then the need of atheists to be militantly opposed to organized religion? Why then must religious persons be militantly opposed to atheism?

I recently quoted famous lawyer Clarence Darrow who said he was not an atheist, because he could no more prove there is not a God, than he could prove there is. Darrow, who, according to his biographer Irving Stone, believe in God, was one of this country’s greatest crusaders for human rights and equality, and, reading the transcript of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, no one could ever accuse him of stifling knowledge.

I am a Christian, an adherent to the true teachings of Jesus Christ. I am both aware of and heartbroken that His teachings have been so misconstrued and distorted. I find fanaticism and fundamentalism in any religion deeply disturbing, for therein lie both the suppression of wisdom and disdain for others' beliefs.

Through the Internet I have had the good fortune to meet many atheists who are both moral and diligent workers for the betterment of society. I also have the insight gained from in-depth discussions with a beloved relative about his atheism. The only demand we have made on each other is that we expect respect.

Speaking for myself – and not for any religion which has greatly distorted and maligned its own teachings - I am offended by terms like “Christianistas” and “Jesusistanis” and by such statements as “Prayer doesn't work in elections any better than elsewhere.” I don’t care to read any Web site which says of Christians: “The core of their faith being based on an un-dead Jewish Zombie.” Such attacks are not just myopic, they are downright meanspirited.

How can one person determine what inspires another person? How can one person define another person's spirituality?

Like Darrow, I cannot prove there is a God. I cannot prove there is no God. It is equally difficult to convey the meaning of “faith.”

Perhaps this quote, again from “Brunswick Gardens,” comes close: “The essence of faith is courage and trust without knowledge.”

I have always been a strong supporter of separation of church and state, and I believe it is best not to bring religion or athesim into the political arena.

I am willing to respect any person’s convictions. I just demand respect in return. And the common decency of refraining from mockery.

As Ms. Perry opines: “It is all very well to preach what you believe to be the truth, but when it shatters the foundations of someone else’s world, it isn’t very clever. It doesn’t help. It only destroys.”

11.16.2010

Woman up! She's a-comin'

I have just read the most delightful commentary on the future of American politics if females have anything to do with it.

The writer, Donna Trussell, is a poet, fiction writer and former film critic. She’s a fifth-generation Texan who knows the “Steel Magnolias” wiles of women as well as their increasing impact as stand-alone warriors against gender suppression.

Donna throws out facts right and left. Here’s one: last year, for the first time in U.S. history, more women than men earned doctorates.

There are delicious quotes, such as this one from the late Ann Richards, who governed Texas and delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention:

"Twelve years ago Barbara Jordan, another Texas woman, made the keynote address to this convention, and two women in 160 years is about par for the course. But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."

Donna debunks Sarah Palin’s “Mama Grizzly” anti-feminist feminism claim, saying, “You can't play the sweet, deferential Christian grandmother while you sharpen your claws on programs benefiting women, children and the elderly.”

This article sounds a tocsin for the “parade of rural white men” responsible for the fact that “You have to go back to 1966 to find the same number of state legislature switches. You have to go back to 1928 to find this many state legislature seats filled with Republicans.”

Females are about to make a positive impact on the politics of this land, Donna asserts. She makes a powerful argument in “GOP’s Rural White Guys: The Night They Drove New Dixie Down.” Read it HERE and enjoy!

11.14.2010

Beck outdoes anti-Sorosism freaks

Satan, thy name is Soros, so say some of the craziest, most self-serving right-wing propagandists and politicians of our day.

DemWit, leaning heavily on the “fair use notice,” presents the following commentary in its entirety, because

1) It’s just so darn clever, and
2) Blog readers recoil at the idea of actually clicking on a link.

***

Beck's bizarre, dangerous hit at Soros

By Michael Wolraich, Special to CNN
November 14, 2010

CNN editor's note: Michael Wolraich is a founder of the political blog dagblog.com and the author of "Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual.

New York -- Creepy medieval puppets hung from the ceiling on the set of the "Glenn Beck Program" -- a conquistador, a squire, a witch, and a bearded guy who looked like a cross between Santa Claus and the Fiddler on the Roof.

"Make no mistake, we are watching a show," Beck gravely told his audience. That much was obvious enough, but Beck did not mean his own television program. "You have to see who's behind the puppets," he continued, "Who is choosing the puppets and the players? Who's the puppetmaster? George Soros."

George Soros is an 80-year-old Jewish billionaire. Born in Hungary in 1930, he survived the Holocaust and eventually immigrated to the United States, where he made a fortune as a currency speculator and became an international philanthropist. After the Iron Curtain collapsed, Soros donated generously to Hungary and other Eastern Bloc countries, funding scholarships, university endowments, and science grants.

In return for his generosity, anti-Semites in the new Hungarian parliament accused him of participating in an international Jewish conspiracy to bankrupt Hungary in order to restore communist rule -- despite the fact that Soros had been an ardent opponent of Hungary's communist regime.

Anti-Sorosism first arrived in the United States in the late 1990s, courtesy of renowned crackpot Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche has published a number of articles in his comically misnamed journal, the Executive Intelligence Review, accusing Soros of devious manipulations ranging from an attempt to start World War III to running drugs for Queen Elizabeth II's drug cartel.

But LaRouche's audience is small, and most Americans paid little attention to George Soros. In 2003, everything changed. Infuriated by the policies of George W. Bush, Soros sent his philanthropy homeward, donating $23 million to political action groups during the 2004 election. Suddenly, George Soros became the most powerful, evil mastermind in the world.

First, the influential conservative magazine NewsMax ran a story that cribbed LaRouche's conspiracy theories and accused Soros of secretly plotting a "regime change" in the United States. Then Fox News host Bill O'Reilly discovered that Soros' foundation had donated to the ACLU and therefore reasoned that the billionaire and the civil liberties organization were conspiring to destroy Christmas.

When former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay ran into trouble for ethics violations, he blamed Soros for masterminding critical coverage by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, Time magazine, and Newsweek. And former speaker of the House Dennis Hastert insinuated to an incredulous Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that Soros got his money from drug operations. (Hastert did not mention Queen Elizabeth II, however.)

Glenn Beck, as usual, trumped them all. He told his audience that Soros has a five-step plan:

1. Create a "shadow government" under the guise of humanitarian aid.
2. Take control of the media.
3. Destabilize the state by building anti-government sentiment. (Yes, Beck attacked his opponent for building anti-government sentiment.)
4. Subvert the American electoral system.
5. Take over the world, of course.

Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories are no less bizarre and inflammatory than those of LaRouche, but his nightly audience numbers in the millions. Earlier this year, Americans voted Beck their second favorite television personality after Oprah Winfrey.

In consequence, he is far more dangerous. It must be a great sorrow to George Soros, who having survived the Holocaust now finds himself the subject of the same kind of conspiracy theories that the Nazis used to demonize the Jews.

The big bad "Jewish masterminds" of Hitler's day were the Rothschilds, a family of bankers who have featured prominently in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories since the 1800s. Like Soros, they have been accused of controlling the media, instigating war, overthrowing governments, and of course, taking over the world.

But in 21st Century America, a popular television host cannot outright espouse anti-Semitic ideas. Thus, Glenn Beck took pains to present himself as a friend of the Jews. According to Beck, it was George Soros who was the anti-Semite.

Soros had survived the Holocaust by, at 14, pretending to be the godson of a non-Jewish Hungarian official. Since the official's responsibilities included confiscating Jewish properties, Beck implied that Soros had cooperated with the Nazis. This accusation too echoes Lyndon LaRouche, who has published articles calling Soros "a small cog in Adolf Eichmann's killing machine" and "a Nazi beast-man seizing Jewish properties."

Welcome to the "Glenn Beck Program," where Jews are Nazis and those who exploit ancient anti-Semitic conspiracy narratives are friends of the Jews.

Beck himself said it best,

"There are a few working parts to a puppet show. There is the puppet master. Here. There is a stage. There's the audience. There are the strings to each puppet. And then there's the story. There is also why? Why is the story? Why is the show happening? What is the puppet master? What is his motivation? Is it for the money? Is it for entertainment? Is it personal gain? What is it?"

What is it, Mr. Beck?

CNN editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Wolraich.

LINK TO ORIGINAL

11.12.2010

Issa damn shame!

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, scream, throw up or bang my head against a brick wall.

False accusations and hypocrisy affect me that way.

I call your attention to the two items atop “fyi” in DemWit’s sidebar.

The second item is just rhetoric from a self-aggrandizing blowhard.

The top item merits the attention of every DemWit reader, regardless of political persuasion, Its contents take false accusations and hypocrisy to new heights and, in my opinion, constitute a very real threat to America’s future.

And, America asked for it.

I think I’ll throw up.

BJ UPDATE: I have moved the two articles from the sidebar to this post:

The first is an item from CNN’s “Political Ticker” about Newt Gingrich’s 10-Year Plan for America, in which he says, “We must REPLACE the left.” LINK

The main article DemWit calls to your attention is one from the right-wing site, NewsMax:
"White House Braces for Hundreds of GOP Probes of Fraud, Waste," 9 November 2010: LINK

11.11.2010

A little girl's pride in military







‘ROY
 AND
 SIS’






Front: Elowease (cousin), 16; Betty Jean (‘B.J.’), 3; Martha (sister), 15; middle row: Sarah (aunt), 18; Ruth (friend), Mary (sister), 17; back row: Leroy (‘Roy’ - brother), 19, in his Navy uniform; and Gilbert (cousin’s husband). Younger brother Isaac was born shortly after this family portrait. Photo: 1945.

This column was published in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail, 29 August 1987:

A little girl grew up with pride in the military

By B. J. Trotter

Recently I made what our boys in white would call “one helluva mistake.”

I identified a group of sailors in a photograph pertaining to the USS Stark incident as marines.

I received a friendly note from a chief petty officer, retired, U.S. Navy, advising me, “Marines would never dress like sailors, nor would sailors permit them.”

The feedback from my boss, an ex-Navy man, was somewhat sterner.

I regret the error. I know a sailor when I see one.

My appreciation of our men in service goes back as long as I can remember. An early photograph, a favorite, was made the day my brother Roy came home from the Navy. In it I am a happy, cotton-topped, 3-year-old, posing with Roy and family and wearing one of his white sailor hats.

Roy had been stateside and was being shipped out for combat duty when WWII ended. He experienced the horrors of war in Corpus Christi, Texas, when two PVMs – sea planes – collided, and Roy was a rescue team member who helped retrieve 25 bodies and rescue four survivors.

My mother gave Roy a lucky silver dollar when he left to join the Navy. He brought it home to his “Sis,” and I have it still as a reminder of his service to his country.

I have other reminders. Two brothers-in-law have shared their memories of that war and long ago cemented my appreciation for things military.

Paul sailed aboard aircraft carriers, the USS Hornet (commissioned after the first Hornet was sunk) and the USS Tarawa, and on what he calls a “tin can,” the destroyer USS O’Hare.

A Kamikaze pilot changed Paul’s looks. His suicidal strike came in too close for comfort under the ship, and my brother-in-law claims his hair turned gray overnight.

Along with gray hairs, Paul brought back another souvenir, a kaleidoscope made from a spent shell’s casing. Despite its lovely changing colors, it left an unpleasant metallic smell on my fingers. But, the little girl could see no contrast of patriotism’s beauty and war’s ugliness in the toy.

Brother-in-law Harold was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne, Rainbow Division. Harold met America’s enemy coming over a hilltop in western Germany. He was among the first Americans to enter Germany just prior to Hitler’s suicide and the fall of the Third Reich. The 101st parachuted into Germany, marched 50 miles and took the first town.

Shot in the eye with a wooden bullet – with supply routes cut off, the Germans were out of ammunition - Harold’s souvenir of the war was a Purple Heart. The German soldier who shot Harold was killed by his buddy, who retrieve a watch and a wife's or sweetheart's photo from his body and handed them to Harold, sad souvenirs.

I learned early that “War is hell” from sneaking looks at his Rainbow Division albums with photo after photo of boxcars filled with emaciated and naked dead men – victims of the Holocaust.

I also learned early that this country must be pretty special for men to endure so much to protect it.

Their tales of war served me well in later years. When I entered college at age 34, I opted to take ROTC. This choice was not some patriotic gesture on my part: I wanted to get out of Tennis and Badminton 101. I could never see the ball or birdie!

Despite my pointed questions – “Why doesn’t this military textbook include the air raid on Dresden, Germany?” – I won the Military History Award.

One thing has impressed me most in the four decades since those guys went off to war: their memories of their military days have remained with them – living not in protest, but in pride.

I grew up with their pride, and it didn’t take a chief petty officer, retired, or a boss to remind me of that.

***

2010 UPDATE:

Brother-in-law Paul died in 2008 at age 86. He was a retired postal worker and National Guardsman, recepient of the three highest honors bestowed by the Mississippi National Guard. Paul was the very definition of a good man and always did for others. He was a skilled baker of beautiful cakes and made wedding cakes as gifts for the young brides in his church. He spent his last couple of years having the time of his life with friends in an assisted living facility.

Brother-in-law Harold was a dynamic salesman – a Buick Salesmaster – who died of complications from Alzheimer’s. I could always count on Harold for help.

My brother Roy, now 84, was a car salesman, civic leader, ski club president and Grenada (Miss.) Reservoir water rescue team founder. A deadringer for Frank Sinatra, Roy is ever jolly and fun-loving. We have wonderful phone chats, trips down memory lane, and he still calls me “Sis.”

Good fathers all.

The little girl, now a retired newspaper editor, is 68 and today fully understands the expression, “Hate the war; love the warrior.”

11.10.2010

One woman

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still alive as of this posting.

In 2006, in her hometown of Tabriz, Iran, the now 43-year-old mother of two received 99 lashes after being sentenced as an “adulteress.”

Sakineh received international attention early this year when she was sentenced to death by stoning.

According to AVAAZ, Iran “accused her of adultery and sentenced her to stoning despite the fact that the alleged adultery took place after her husband’s death. They sentenced her to death for the murder of her husband even though she had already been acquitted, and another man convicted and sentenced for the murder. They even arrested her son and lawyer and forced the rest of the legal team into exile.”

Sakineh’s stoning sentence was a “subjective judicial ruling allowed where no conclusive evidence is present.”

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and AVAAZ collected more than a million signatures, which forced Iran to change the stoning sentence to death by hanging.

Sakineh still sits in jail awaiting hanging. Human rights groups are claiming that Iran now wants a way out of this case, a way to save face, and are raising funds to assemble “an elite legal team” toward this end.

Should the fate of one woman matter? When that woman has become the symbol of injustices around the world, yes, it does.

11.08.2010

Beyond the brouhaha

If there’s anyone out there who still cares about ethics in journalism and who doesn’t break out in a rash when reading anything longer than a tweet, this one’s for you.

In 11 years of fighting online for truth, justice and the American way, the subject I’ve written most about is journalism ethics.

Late Sunday night, masked by a headline about Keith Olbermann’s return to the air Tuesday, David Bauder of the Associated Press delivered the clearest analysis on the subject I’ve read in some time.

Along the way I’ve probably offended some by stating, “MSNBC is the left’s Fox News.” One could argue that MSNBC, unlike Fox, delivers truth. But, that’s not my point.

As Mr. Bauder points out, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish objective reporting, aka news, from opinion – in this age of so-called “advocacy journalism."

Advocacy journalism is an oxymoron. The blurring of the line between news and opinion should be unacceptable to professional journalists, and it should be unacceptable to consumers of news.

Let me point out here that I believe one of the problems to be the advent of specialized reporting where, quite naturally, persons are hired with degrees in certain fields, Thus, you have "journalists" who have never had a course in journalism ethics, journalism history, journalism law or, for that matter, journalism 101.

My argument is and has always been: if the news organization you choose supports your points of view, you are not interested in news; you are looking for validation.

For this reason I gave up TV a year ago and am very grateful that most major newspapers have online sites where news and opinion are still clearly delineated.

DemWit recommends that you read Mr. Bauder’s analysis HERE. If anything good came out of the whole “What’s up with Olbermann?” brouhaha, it might just be this one article.

Otherwise, go tweet!

11.05.2010

The death of democracy?

DemWit sadly notes that two honest champions of both Wall Street reform and campaign finance reform - Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) – targets of attack ads, lost their bids for re-election Tuesday.

***

Here’s a word the far-right – and conservatives who went along with them on November 2 - might want to learn: plutocracy.

plu•toc•ra•cy (n.)
1. Government by the wealthy.
2. A wealthy class that controls a government.
3. A government or state in which the wealthy rule.

The big joke of the week is that some Americans think a grassroots movement has swept candidates into office. You know, those salt-of-the-earth patriots who contributed their nickels and dimes to fight big government.

What these candidates really represent is a group of malleable buffoons bought by big bucks from big business. Millions of bucks funneled through their campaigns – as Patton said, “like grease through a goose” – to other big businesses – the corporate media.

So, with vicious attack ads across America, Americans got the worst representatives money could buy.

All this was made possible, of course, by the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). This decision is, in a nutshell, “a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. The 5–4 decision, in favor of Citizens United, resulted from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, and whether the group could advertise the film in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image, in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act.”

This “free speech” ruling opened the floodgates for corporations – foreign and domestic – to pour millions of campaign dollars into innocuously named front groups.

In the first general election since SCOTUS’ ruling, American voters were sold a bill of goods – and our democracy is on its way to becoming a plutocracy.

If you don’t know what leader manipulated wealthy businessmen on his rise to power, you had damned well better brush up on your history.

FOR FURTHER STUDY:

“Tea Party Vows to Block Campaign Finance Reform,” a news analysis by Zach Carter of The Media Consortium, an independent media group, 4 November 2010: LINK

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), wikipedia: LINK

Plutocracy, wikipedia: LINK

11.04.2010

Mo, baby, you're brilliant!

You know, Mo, I once read somewhere that when the Communist Party uses a word it should be interpreted as “meaning the opposite.”

I thought of this as I read your New York Times column, “Republican Party Time” (11/2/10) and the words of the Speaker-to-be.

Disbelief turned to anger, and anger turned to tears as I read his words about the “liberal media elite” and the immorality in the Democratic Party and how “the elites in the White House were snuffing out the America of his boyhood.”

Then I got to the end of you column where you revealed your “dirty little secret,” and I gave out a hearty Chris Matthews “Ha!”

Brilliant!

You made me realize that America has been through bad times before and no doubt will go through them again. But, there are good times, too. This country does go through periods of sanity, and the great programs and policies which have actually benefited Americans, by and large, have come in times when there was a Democrat in the White House.

I needed the reminder, Mo. “God help the Republic,” indeed!

Read Maureen Dowd’s little bit of genius HERE, then read it again. You’ll love it!