9.29.2011

Good news if you missed it

I am listening to Mississippi writer Greg Iles’ “The Footprints of God” in which (spoiler warning) a dying billionaire is attempting to achieve immortality and God-like power by transferring his brain to a supercomputer. (A little closer to possible than in the days of "Open the pod bay door, Hal.")

In this book, Iles explains “The Mushroom Treatment:” “Keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit.”

Forget any perceived resemblance to Rupert Murdoch, Iles’ “Mushroom Treatment” has for too long been the goal of Fox News Channel. Given the cable news (I use the term loosely) network’s ratings and undeniable influence on its viewers (aka "fans"), the following is really good news from CEO Roger Ailes:

Roger Ailes: Fox News Is On A 'Course Correction' Away From Far Right

The Huffington Post/Jack Mirkinson (LINK)
September 26, 2011

Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has given one of his typically candid interviews to Newsweek. The interview was published Monday (9/26/11).

For a man who first made his name as a media guru for Richard Nixon, Ailes is often surprisingly forthcoming about Fox News and his opinions. In previous interviews, he has called NPR executives "Nazis" (he later apologized), said he didn't mind if people thought Glenn Beck was fired from the channel, and admitted that he wants both Bill and Hillary Clinton to join Fox News.

Behind the scenes, Ailes is reported to have clashed with Sarah Palin and told Beck to cool his more controversial rhetoric.

Monday's interview offered up more of Ailes' unvarnished opinions about his network and his employees. He made a big admission to Newsweek, saying that he has made a "course correction" at Fox News, veering it away from the hard-right line it took in the earlier days of the Obama administration. (Ailes offered a preview of this strategy in January, when he told Russell Simmons that he had ordered his anchors and pundits to "tone it down" in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.) Beck's departure, as well as a more nuanced approach to his most famous pundit, Sarah Palin, have been part of that strategy, Ailes said.

He also spoke openly about many of his anchors, saying that Bill O'Reilly "hates" Sean Hannity because he's jealous of his radio success (and thus confirming years of rumors about the animosity between the two).

Ailes also called Hannity "predictable" and said that he sometimes has to have a word with Shepard Smith when Smith says things that may not go over well with the Fox News crowd. (He didn't say whether he was referring to Smith's seemingly pro-union comments about the Wisconsin protests, or his saying that the killing of Osama bin Laden was illegal and that American foreign policy is on a dangerous path.)

BJ NOTE: The full Newsweek article is fascinating. Ailes discusses his relationships with GOP presidential hopefuls, including Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Good stuff! Read it HERE.

***

Thanks to frequent DemWit reader "Tiny" for keeping me on my toes and not letting this one get by me.

9.26.2011

A lingering question

There was a time when I ate, drank and slept sports – circa Brooklyn Dodgers through Archie Manning at Ole Miss. My interest waned when sports – college and professional – became all about big money.

So, it’s not surprising that the book I’m listening to has rekindled a lingering question. In Greg Iles’ “The Devil’s Punchbowl,” the evil that men do manifests itself in an illegal international dog-fighting ring. Iles’ descriptions of the brutality of these events, the breeding behind them and the bloodlust of spectators chills the soul. Tragically, a dog's "game" - the instinct to kill - depends on its loyalty to its master.

Iles' book is set in Natchez, Mississippi, in a state where participation in dog fighting is a felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

Anyone who gets off on watching animals bred for violence tear each other apart is sick – evil to the core. Could such a person change? Could Michael Vick?

To refresh your memory, Wikipedia says, “In April 2007, Vick was implicated in an illegal interstate dog-fighting ring that had operated over five years. In August 2007, he pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months in prison, followed by two months in home confinement. With the loss of his NFL salary and product endorsement deals, combined with previous financial mismanagement, Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2008. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank did not want Vick on the Falcons, and after attempts to trade him failed, Vick was released. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and was reinstated in Week 3 of the 2009 season.”

Now, just four years after Vick's guilty plea, I was stunned to learn recently that he had signed a six-year, $100 milliion contract with the Eagles.

The price of a quarterback.

How can anyone call this “sports”? This is no more sports than two pit bulks ripping each other’s throats out.

In a so-called civilized society the only thing that has changed since the days of the Colosseum is the price of the tickets or the big-screen TV.

9.23.2011

After-midnight madness

Why in hell am I doing this? The political blogging experience is a two-edged sword. You find yourself either preaching to the choir or leading horses to water they stubbornly refuse to drink. Either result is ineffectual.

Well, somebody’s gotta do it. Am I na├»ve enough to think I can change the world? No. But, if I can inform just one person who might otherwise miss something as important as this post, I’m willing to do what it takes.

There was a vote in the U.S. House Wednesday that got almost unheard of bipartisan support. The 195 to 230 vote killed a measure which would have robbed a successful job-producing program in order to fund disaster aid for Americans.

The jobs program has created 40,000 new jobs in 11 states, has the potential of creating 50,000 to 60,000 more and will save Americans millions of gallons of gasoline.

The Democrats voted against the measure for obvious reasons. Robbing Peter to pay Paul should not rob Americans of much-needed jobs or disaster aid.

The Republicans voted against the measure  because the $1.5 billion was not ENOUGH to steal from the jobs program.

So, after freely funding rebuilding programs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are holding back on disaster relief for Americans.

My God, I thought, people need to know these facts. So, why do they prefer to ignore them? I'm betting many Americans, including those who need jobs and those who need or will need disaster aid, are paying little attention to what goes on in the U.S. House.

Some who have read this far will think I’m feeding them a load of Democratic BS. I honestly wish I were.

Read the backstory HERE.

In a spate of after-midnight madness, House Republicans did it – passed a measure by a vote of 219 to 203 to keep the government running a little longer by cutting disaster aid to Americans.

Now, they are ready for a week-long break. But, Mr. Reid says not so fast, the Senate is prepared to forfeit a break to fight this measure.  Read this breaking story HERE.

There might come a day when those who represent us in Washington fight for Americans instead of having to fight each other. My money's on the Democrats.

9.19.2011

A pilgrimage most sacred

DemWit readers have followed Father Tim Farrell, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathoic Church in Farmington, New Mexico, on many travels. We have climbed with him to the top of Mount Sinai, walked the paths of his Irish ancestors and sat with him as he pondered genocide in Rwanda.

This spring Father Tim made that journey most sacred in the hearts of all of us: a trip “home,” in every sense of the word.

As I read the following account of Tim’s journey through the South, many quotes about “home” came to mind while trying to decide if his visits with family would be of interest to readers.

Of course they will, for so many of us, separated by distance and time from those we hold dearest, will understand. In quiet moments, we have all traveled the streets and backroads of our youth, sat with loved ones on porch swings, listened to the stories of our elders  and stood by sacred gravesides.

Here, then, is Father Tim’s latest pilgrimage:

It is quite cathartic to simply drive across miles and miles of America and have no real timeline. I started out on a very windy morning in late May heading first to Apache, Oklahoma. It was a bright, Spring day, and it felt good to be on the road without any plans to make for the day other than to reach my brother Mike's home by evening.

Hours on the open road open the mind, ease the stress and anxiety, allow a person to let worries dislodge and float away. I crossed into Texas heading for Amarillo, and the wind grew more severe. I looked at the rather ominous clouds forming. The radio was beginning to alert me to possible tornadoes in the area. By late afternoon across the southern Oklahoma border, the winds had died down but the clouds were now a sickish yellow and angry looking. Tornadoes had struck near Anadarko, Oklahoma, the radio reported, not far from where I was at that time, and a tornado was now heading for Oklahoma City. I kept looking up at the skies, a bit worried that I was in the middle of a real Oklahoma whopper of a storm. I prayed.

I made it to my brother's home without incident, but very happy to be settled in the midst of the storms. My brother Mike and his wife Kelly and their family live on my mother's childhood home in a tiny community called Boone, 30 miles from Lawton. My mother and father are buried nearby in a beautiful little cemetery. I spent two wonderful days visiting, drinking in the beauty of the farm. The old farmhouse where my mother and her siblings were raised still stands but is now in shambles. My brother's home is built down the lane from it. So many memories . . . On the morning I left, I stopped by my parents' graves at sunrise, and a golden glow fell upon their headstones, and I thanked God for giving me such wonderful parents. I asked them to help me in life. I always do. They always did, and they still do.

I drove on full throttle to Memphis, Tennessee, and stopped by to see Jeffrey Chiapetti. Jeff was a young man from my days as head of the youth group at Cathedral in Gallup. Our original plans were that we would have lunch. But I ran late, and his schedule for a later lunch fell through. Then we were going to have an early dinner, but I got in later still, so that fell through. I called Jeff and simply said, "Jeff, we'll do this another time." "No, Father, I want to visit with you, so just get off the Interstate, and we can visit in my store." Now, Jeff is quite a success story. He is manager of several I.O. Metro stores in the Southeast. I.O. Metro is an upscale interior design store. When I arrived Jeff and I had a wonderful visit, if a short one. He was hosting designer Vern Yip, and the television celebrity would arrive any minute. So I gave Jeff a blessing, we hugged, and I got out of the way. Jeff and the staff were dressed to the hilt. I, on the other hand, was scruffy from a full day of travel. Guess who didn't fit into this scenario?

I got into Tupelo, Mississippi., by late afternoon to my sister Mary's house. Mary and her husband Glenn have a son and two daughters. Van, my nephew, was in Florida with his buddies for a graduation outing. Could he really be a graduated senior in high school? Really? Along with the three children, there are four or five dogs, big and small. Glenn is a veterinarian and brings home the forgotten little ones no one else wants. There's a three-legged dog who is actually the leader of the pack, and then I really fell in love with the tiny one who had real attitude. Mary's home is situated on a large property where the dogs can run freely, and I'd sit outside with my sister, and we would visit and laugh. Daddy and Mama each have a tree in their memory. I remember Mama, who lived here in her last months, asking me if I thought we would plant a tree in her memory like Daddy's. I let Mary know, and there her tree is, standing proudly near Daddy's.

While in Tupelo, we visited Elvis Presley's birthplace, which is quite a nice memorial. His little home where he was born and raised is there. His first cousin who grew up with him gives the tour of the house, a sweet older lady with those Elvis Presley eyes. There is a little Church of Christ church there where Elvis used to worship and where he first performed publicly.

I travelled on in a couple of days to Louin, Missisippi, to visit my sister Ruth and my brother Joe, who live not too far from each other. It was two days filled with barbecue and long visits. Ruth has an enclosed porch where we would sit and watch the fireflies lighting up in the deep Mississippi darkness of the pine forests surrounding us.

I celebrated Mass that Saturday afternoon for Joe and Ruth and Jay, Ruth's husband. I anointed both Joe and Ruth who have been experiencing health problems. My priesthood is never put on a shelf, of course, and I love that aspect of my life. On Sunday morning I drove on through the fog-laden roads through some of the backroads of southern Mississippi, crossing over into Louisiana, my birth state, and headed down toward Baton Rouge. Around lunchtime, I stopped by a Cajun store where they served po-boys. Now, there is nothing like a po-boy from southern Louisiana. I got the shrimp po-boy, and it was such a huge, delicious sandwich that I ate part of it and then saved the rest for a snack. The Cajuns are simple folk who love life and show that love not only in their music, but in the way they make a simple sandwich.

I made it to Houston by evening and went over to my Uncle Eugene's home. He is in his early 90s now, the last surviving sibling of my mother's side. He is a gentle, thoughtful man, and he and I visited that evening for several hours, eating fried chicken he had picked up earlier. Doug, his son with whom he lives, sat and visited with us. Family is so therapeutic. Just visiting and eating is a healing enterprise.

I stayed the night, and the next morning I headed toward Dallas to visit my Uncle Marty, also in his 90s, my father's only surviving sibling. He and my Aunt Shirley live in Athens, Texas, and we had lunch together. We had a wonderful couple of hours and then off I headed for home. I stayed that evening in Wichita Falls, Texas, and then the next morning through Texas back to the Land of Enchantment.

Those quiet days of driving and visiting were a wonderful way to pray, to let go, to ponder, to come to peace, all wrapped into one. We all need a drive down the long road from time to time. We all need reconnecting with family. We all need the simple visits with loved ones along the way, no special itinerary. Just driving, looking in the rearview mirror, living in the now, looking to the future with hope, and letting go.

***

9.14.2011

'The Perry Tales'

Texans have long been known for stretching the truth, but I don’t see the latest tales coming out of Texas ending “happily ever after.”

Not when voters take the time to separate fact and fiction.

Jim Hightower is an author, a nationally syndicated columnist and a radio commentator. He is a Texan who knows Texas politics. According to his Web site:

“Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top.”

The eyes of this longtime Texas observer are upon the state’s governor, and before DemWit’s conservative readers get excited over presidential prospects, read on as Hightower pulls back the curtain on “The Perry Tales.” Thanks, Jim, for permission to reprint!

The Perry Tales
Rick Is Not Who He Says He Is

by Jim Hightower
31 Augsut 2011

Presidential wannabe Rick Perry is flitting all around the country — hither, thither and yon — spreading little "Perry Tales" about himself and the many wonders he has worked as governor of Texas.

His top Perry Tale is a creationist story about what he has modestly branded "The Texas Miracle." While the rest of the country is mired in joblessness, says the miracle worker, his state has added 1.2 million jobs during his 10-year tenure.

I've built "a job-creating machine," the governor gushed during one of his recent flits across Iowa, and a Perry PR aide smugly added, "The governor's job creation record speaks for itself."

Actually, it doesn't. Far from having the best unemployment rate in the nation, the Lone Star State ranks a middling 26th, behind New York, Massachusetts and other states whose "liberal" governments he routinely mocks.

Even more damning, Perry's Texas is not creating nearly enough jobs to keep up with its fast-growing population. Those 1.2 million new positions are 629,000 short of the jobs needed just to bring the state's employment level back up to where it was in 2007. Some miracle.

Worse, probe even a millimeter into the million-jobs number that he is sprinkling around like fairy dust, and you'll learn that Perry's jobs are mostly "jobettes" that can't sustain a family. They come with very low pay, no health care or pension, and no employment security, labor rights or upward mobility — many are only part-time and/or temporary positions.

Here's a particularly revealing stat that the Perry pixies don't want us to see: On his watch as governor, Texas added more minimum wage jobs than all the other 49 states combined. More than half a million Texans now work for $7.25 an hour or less. He can brag that he's brought Texans down into a tie with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers reduced to poverty pay.

Spreading even more fairy dust, Perry claims that his Texas Miracle is the result of him keeping the government out of the private sector's way. But peek behind that ideological curtain, and you'll find this startling fact: During Perry's decade, the greatest job growth by far has come from the public sector, which has more than doubled the number of new jobs created by the private sector.

One out of six employed Texans are now teachers, police officers, highway engineers, military personnel or other government workers — and many of these jobs were created with the federal money that Perry-the-candidate now loudly denounces. Indeed, he's running around ranting about President Obama's stimulus program, but he gladly accepted the third highest amount of stimulus funds taken by the 50 states. There's his miracle.

Interestingly, even his tea-partyish hatred — nay, loathing! — of big government's intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens turns out to be just another Perry Tale. In fact, there would be no Rick Perry without the steady "intrusion" of government into his life.

Local taxpayers in Haskell County put him through their public school system — for free. He and his family were dry-land cotton farmers, and federal taxpayers helped support them with thousands of dollars in crop subsidies — Perry personally took $80,000 in farm payments.

State and federal taxpayers financed his college education at Texas A&M, even giving him the extracurricular opportunity to be a cheerleader. Upon graduation, he spent four years on the federal payroll as an Air Force transport pilot who never did any combat duty.

Then, in 1984, Perry hit the mother lode of government pay by moving into elected office — squatting there for 27 years and counting. In addition to getting regular paychecks from taxpayers for nearly three decades as a state representative, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor, he also receives platinum-level health care coverage and a generous pension from the state, plus $10,000 a month for renting a luxury suburban home, a covey of political and personal aides and even a publicly paid subscription to Food & Wine magazine.

So when this taxpayer-supported lifer flits into your town to declare that he will slash public benefits and make government "as inconsequential as possible," he means in your life, not his.

Perry literally puts the "hype" in hypocrisy. Forget his tall tales and political B.S. — look at what he actually does.

***

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT JIM HIGHTOWER

9.10.2011

GOP caught in double fork

In a weekend when attention has turned to the past – 9/11 – and the present “threats” and “chatter” of another terrorist plot, I’m still working on the future.

I have read President Obama’s “jobs” speech and a number of reax articles, including a very thorough article on CNN.com this morning.

At the modern-day Tower of Babel known as Capitol Hill, reaction to Obama’s address to Congress is so varied it frankly gives me a headache, but it seems to me one thing is clear, the president has managed to turn the tables on the Republican-controlled House with his own double fork.

A double fork is a chess move where a player’s piece simultaneously attacks two of an opponent’s pieces, resulting in the capture of one of the pieces.

How does this relate to Election 2012?

On the one hand, according to the CNN.com article, House Republicans “unlike most Senate Republicans, face re-election races in 2012.” Possible support for Obama’s jobs plan “may stem from blunt messages they heard from constituents over the summer recess, as well as paltry public support according to recent polls.”

On the other hand, the GOP with a singular goal of defeating Obama in 2012 simply cannot let the president push through lesgislation which would put Americans to work and the country on a path to economic recovery.

If Washington fails to pass job-growth legislation now? Well, DemWit readers know what a stalemate is: that’s when nobody wins – in this case the American people.

9.06.2011

Lay off the red herrings

Pay attention in the GOP debates when Texas Gov. Rick Perry starts talking about doing away with “Obamacare.”

A Gallup poll released today, which surveyed 177,237 Americans daily from January to June 2011, has found that:

“Texas residents continue to be the most likely in the United States to lack health coverage, with 27.2 percent reporting being uninsured in the first half of 2011.”

(…)

“Eight of the 10 states with the highest uninsured rates in the country are in the South.”

They are, in order from the bottom up: Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina and Georgia.

Republican states where citizens have been convinced the country's healthcare woes are the result of so-called “Obamacare.”

Diagnosis: A bad case of dumbass. Recommended treatment: Lay off the red herrings.

UPDATE: CNN promo on GOP debate Sept. 7:

“Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clashed over job creation, health care”

For the record, the poll cited above found that Massachusetts tops the list of 50 states with the most citizens having health insurance.

Read the GOP debate wrapup HERE.

9.02.2011

'Annus horribilis'

In a year when Windsor Castle burned and her family was breaking up, Queen Elizabeth II bemoaned her “annus horrilibis.” The year 2011 is shaping up to be mine.

My problems have piled up so fast that I have reached the point where I would rather avoid emails or phone calls which ask, “How are you doing?” The debilitating act of complaining can erode the spirit, but, then, I’ve never really had that much to complain about. Until now.

So, without going into details – or additional details – about my woes, I’d like to mention some life lessons, which have helped me put them in perspective.

THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST – Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus championed the meek and the poor. There are some 700 mentions of the poor in the New Testament, more than any other subject., and 407 were spoken by Jesus.

MARIE – When I was a young woman my Sunday School class got involved with the county welfare department in a project which took us into a world of backwoods Mississippi poverty we could never have imagined. A friend and I took as our “project” Marie. I do not know if our efforts eventually helped Marie and her children, but they taught us about the downward spiraling cycle of ignorance and hopelessness.

THOSE STRANDED BY KATRINA – For five days, I sat in the comfort of my home and watched in horror those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, asking myself, “How can this be happening in America?”

DOROTHEA LANGE’S “MIGRANT MOTHER” – In 1979, I viewed the Dorothea Lange collection of photos made during The Great Depression. (See Library of Congress collection HERE.) I stood for a long time and looked into the face of Lange’s “Migrant Mother” (shown above) until her despair burned into my soul.

JOHN STEINBECK’S “THE GRAPES OF WRATH” – Now, having just listened to Steinbeck’s desperate saga of the Joad family, I add this reminder of what poverty is and that it really does happen in America. While a fictional family, the reality of the Joads comes alive in Lange’s photographic record. Steinbeck insisted a complete copy of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in the first edition of his book – the anthem from which his title came.

This post was to have ended here, but I received a forwarded email mocking so-called “street people.” More and more prevalent in the news are expressions of disdain for those less fortunate. The belief that their lot in life is the result of laziness should stir our wrath.

Then, I noted this recent editorial in The New York Times:

“The New Resentment of the Poor” points out that Republican candidates and leaders are painting a picture of America's working poor that is “factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong.” Don’t let lies prevail, when a few minutes of reading will equip you with facts. READ THE EDITORIAL

There really are haves and have nots in this country – those who have compassion for the less fortunate and those who apparently have none.

Before you leave this page, look once more upon the face of the Migrant Mother. Consolation for our own petty problems is written there.