Monday, September 28, 2009

What Have We Learned?

With all of the recent discussion on Iran and their nuclear program, including President Obama's statements at the UN, it is only natural to begin to ask what lessons we learned from Iraq and how they are being applied to the current situation with Iran.

Glenn Greenwald has some good thoughts on this topic:

The reason such accusations deserve so much scrutiny is obvious: there is a substantial faction in our political culture which craves a military attack on Iran -- the same faction, more or less, that caused us to attack Iraq -- and will seize on anything to justify that. Anyone who doubts that should look at this creepily excited and chest-beating statement yesterday from Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, GOP Sen. John Kyl, and Sen. Joe Lieberman: Iraq War supporters all. Contradicting the 2007 NIE, they declare as an "inescapable conclusion" that "Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons." Their joint statement threatens "catastrophic consequences" against Iran and vows that "we are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop Iran's nuclear breakout." Just in case anyone is still confused by what they are threatening, they favorably cite a "bipartisan" report from former Senators Chuck Robb (D) and Dan Coats (R) which urges the President to begin preparing for military action against Iran, and lays out a detailed plan for what it would entail, beginning with a naval blockade and extending to "devastating strikes" against "assets" inside Iran that "would probably last up to several weeks and would require vigilance for years to come." That's what three key U.S. Senators are explicitly threatening.

In the absence of what they call "immediate" compliance, the Senators call for "crippling new sanctions against Iran." In The Washington Post today, AIPAC's most trusted House member -- Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D) -- similarly recommends sanctions that would "cause the Iranian banking system to collapse" and impose other severe economic hardships. So much for all of that oh-so-moving, profound, green-wearing concern for the welfare of The Iranian People. Time to bomb them or, at best, starve them until their government complies with our dictates. The Post Editorial Page repeats the same claim made for two decades about Iran ("officials say that when it is operational, it could deliver the material for a bomb in a year") and warns: "If it had not been discovered, the Qom plant could have given Iran the means for a bomb by 2011 without the world knowing about it. And if there is one clandestine facility, most likely there are others."

So we can all see where this is headed. Obama, to his credit, is one of the least inflammatory and fear-mongering establishment voices in all of this. And whatever else one might think of the whole Iran question, Obama officials -- just on a strategic level, in terms of negotiating tactics -- are infinitely smarter and more calculating than the ones who preceded them. They seem intent on formulating a negotiation strategy that will be most likely to resolve the matter through mutual agreement.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Naomi Klein Interviwes Michael Moore on his New Film

Just as a note, I will be travelling all next week and due to unpredictable service (and the fact that I will be on vacation), blogging will more than likely be light next week.

To the topic at hand, many of you are probably aware that Michael Moore has a new film that takes on Capitalism. As Moore has always been a lightening rod for his critics, it will be interesting to see how his new movie is perceived by the public. Author and journalist Naomi Klein recently had an opportunity to interview Moore about his new movie. The whole interview is a very interesting read and I recommend reading it in full here. I will post a few clips to wet your appetite:

Naomi Klein: So, the film is wonderful. Congratulations. It is, as many people have already heard, an unapologetic call for a revolt against capitalist madness. But the week it premiered, a very different kind of revolt was in the news: the so-called tea parties, seemingly a passionate defense of capitalism and against social programs.

Meanwhile, we are not seeing too many signs of the hordes storming Wall Street. Personally, I'm hoping that your film is going to be the wake-up call and the catalyst for all of that changing. But I'm just wondering how you're coping with this odd turn of events, these revolts for capitalism led by Glenn Beck.

Michael Moore: I don't know if they're so much revolts in favor of capitalism as they are being fueled by a couple of different agendas, one being the fact that a number of Americans still haven't come to grips with the fact that there's an African-American who is their leader. And I don't think they like that.

NK: Do you see that as the main driving force for the tea parties?

MM: I think it's one of the forces--but I think there's a number of agendas at work here. The other agenda is the corporate agenda. The healthcare companies and other corporate concerns are helping to pull together what seems like a spontaneous outpouring of citizen anger.

But the third part of this is--and this is what I really have always admired about the right wing: they are organized, they are dedicated, they are up at the crack of dawn fighting their fight. And on our side, I don't really see that kind of commitment.

When they were showing up at the town-hall meetings in August--those meetings are open to everyone. So where are the people from our side? And then I thought, Wow, it's August. You ever try to organize anything on the left in August?


NK: Coming back to Wall Street, I want to talk a little bit more about this strange moment that we're in, where the rage that was directed at Wall Street, what was being directed at AIG executives when people were showing up in their driveways--I don't know what happened to that.

My fear was always that this huge anger that you show in the film, the kind of uprising in the face of the bailout, which forced Congress to vote against it that first time, that if that anger wasn't continuously directed at the most powerful people in society, at the elites, at the people who had created the disaster, and channeled into a real project for changing the system, then it could easily be redirected at the most vulnerable people in society; I mean immigrants, or channeled into racist rage.

And what I'm trying to sort out now is, Is it the same rage or do you think these are totally different streams of American culture--have the people who were angry at AIG turned their rage on Obama and on the idea of health reform?

MM: I don't think that is what has happened. I'm not so sure they're the same people.

In fact, I can tell you from my travels across the country while making the film and even in the last few weeks, there is something else that's simmering beneath the surface. You can't avoid the anger boiling over at some point when you have one in eight mortgages in delinquency or foreclosure, where there's a foreclosure filing once every 7.5 seconds and the unemployment rate keeps growing. That will have its own tipping point.

And the scary thing about that is that historically, at times when that has happened, the right has been able to successfully manipulate those who have been beaten down and use their rage to support what they used to call fascism.

Where has it gone since the crash? It's a year later. I think that people felt like they got it out of their system when they voted for Obama six weeks later and that he was going to ride into town and do the right thing. And he's kind of sauntered into town promising to do the right thing but not accomplishing a whole heck of a lot.

Now, that's not to say that I'm not really happy with a number of things I've seen him do.

To hear a president of the United States admit that we overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran, that's one of the things on my list I thought I'd never hear in my lifetime. So there have been those moments.

And maybe I'm just a bit too optimistic here, but he was raised by a single mother and grandparents and he did not grow up with money. And when he was fortunate enough to be able to go to Harvard and graduate from there, he didn't then go and do something where he could become rich; he decides to go work in the inner city of Chicago.

Oh, and he decides to change his name back to what it was on the birth certificate--Barack. Not exactly the move of somebody who's trying to become a politician. So he's shown us, I think, in his lifetime many things about where his heart is, and he slipped up during the campaign and told Joe the Plumber that he believed in spreading the wealth.

And I think that those things that he believes in are still there. Now, it's kind of up to him. If he's going to listen to the Rubins and the Geithners and the Summerses, you and I lose. And a lot of people who have gotten involved, many of them for the first time, won't get involved again. He will have done more to destroy what needs to happen in this country in terms of people participating in their democracy. So I hope he understands the burden that he's carrying and does the right thing.

NK: Well, I want to push you a little bit on this, because I understand what you're saying about the way he's lived his life and certainly the character he appears to have. But he is the person who appointed Summers and Geithner, who you're very appropriately hard on in the film.

And one year later, he hasn't reined in Wall Street. He reappointed Bernanke. He's not just appointed Summers but has given him an unprecedented degree of power for a mere economic adviser.

MM: And meets with him every morning.

NK: Exactly. So what I worry about is this idea that we're always psychoanalyzing Obama, and the feeling I often hear from people is that he's being duped by these guys. But these are his choices, and so why not judge him on his actions and really say, "This is on him, not on them"?

MM: I agree. I don't think he is being duped by them; I think he's smarter than all of them.

When he first appointed them I had just finished interviewing a bank robber who didn't make it into the film, but he is a bank robber who is hired by the big banks to advise them on how to avoid bank robberies.

So in order to not sink into a deep, dark pit of despair, I said to myself that night, That's what Obama's doing. Who better to fix the mess than the people who created it? He's bringing them in to clean up their own mess. Yeah, yeah. That's it. That's it. Just keep repeating it: "There's no place like home, there's no place like home..."

Michelle Malkin: Obama "Doesn't like this country very much"

I saw a clip of Conservative author and commentator Michelle Malkin on Hannity last night and wondered if this kind of rhetoric is doing anything besides stirring up the base that already believes this nonsense:

Ah, the good old days of American Exceptionalism, when we forced our views on the rest of the world by invading countries that did not pose a threat to us. I can remember now how well that has worked out for us. Shame on Obama for asking the world for mutual cooperation to combat nuclear proliferation.

Sarcasm aside, Malkin is upset that Obama didn't mention our brave troops who have fought for freedom and upset that Obama didn't mention Neda (the woman who was shot on camera in Iran) when he was talking about innocent people rising up in Iran. She rambles on about how Obama is rejecting American Exceptionalism, how this is predictable because the people he associates with are sympathetic to dictators and how our enemies will think we are weaker because of this. In fact, she states that Obama is the "weakest of the weak leaders" in modern American history.

The kind of anger and hatred that Malkin likes to exude about anything and everything Obama is pretty amazing, even when it is hyperbolic or absent of fact. Especially considering that during the last eight years, Malkin supported many of the lawless policies of the Bush Administration. If you ask her about the last eight years, she will claim that she was "right there, leading the charge to blow the whistle on corruption and cronyism".

I tend to think that Malkin's motives fall more in line with what she said in a recent piece that discussed her book, over at the Daily Beast:

"To me that’s what makes this a compelling book,” Malkin says. “A sincere commitment to good government makes for some strange bedfellows. But I’ve been in bed with strange fellows – I shouldn't say that, ha ha ha—for my entire professional career.” She adds: “I like a good story. I think one of the misunderstandings about who I am and what I do is that somehow I do it because I just want to get on TV or it’s about the fame, or it’s about the ‘bomb-throwing.’…I’ve always thrived on digging up stories and shedding light on information that’s not getting out there.”

And if she’s getting rich in the bargain, so much the better. “I think that every good conservative capitalist pursues the profit motive.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Adrienne Carmichael, Founder of EarthSave Cincinnati

This past Sunday, members of EarthSave Cincinnati gathered in Newport, Kentucky at James Taylor Park for one of their traditional vegan potlucks. While EarthSave Cincinnati has a tradition of holding monthly vegan potluck gatherings, this potluck was specifically held as a 15th Anniversary Celebration that honored their founder, Adrienne Carmichael.

EarthSave Cincinnati is an organization with a mission of "eating plant-based foods, sharing concerns for our environment, compassionate treatment of animals and improved health." Their vision, as described on their website, states:

EarthSave is dedicated to helping create a better world by showing the powerful impact of our ordinary eating habits and promoting positive alternatives. We educate people about the dietary link to environmental degradation; encouraging sound nutrition, conservation of resources and sustainable agriculture. We show how an animal-based diet, and the factory farming which underlies it, causes enormous depletion and pollution of the natural world, suffering for the animals and danger to our own health.

EarthSave includes people of all kinds taking informed action to heal our lives and planet. Through books, audio and video tapes, speaking tours, local support and action groups, school nutrition and environmental programs, conferences, seminars, workshops and wilderness outings, we encourage a responsible approach to restoring balance, kindness and health to our society.

They hold monthly vegetarian potluck gatherings and bring in various speakers on the third Sunday of the month at Clifton United Methodist Church.

Back in January of this year, I had an opportunity to interview the Chair of EarthSave Cincinnati John Mooter about the organizations views on the incoming Obama Administration. As EarthSave Cincinnati is now celebrating their 15th Anniversary, I had an opportunity to speak with their founder, Adrienne Carmichael, about the history of the organization and what they are planning in their next 15 years.

CJ: EarthSave Cincinnati is celebrating the 15th Anniversary of its founding. Can you give some background on what led you to create an organization like EarthSave Cincinnati fifteen years ago?

AC: I moved from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1993 for a job. I had been treasurer of EarthSave Louisville and became a vegetarian in 1992 after watching the PBS documentary, “Diet For a New America” by John Robbins and reading his book by the same title. When I moved to Cincinnati I had trouble finding a vegetarian community so I started showing the video to people and asking them to start EarthSave in Cincinnati. No one took me up on the offer, so after a year I decided to get together my own money and go to the EarthSave Annual Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. It was here that I met the previously mentioned John Robbins who is also the founder of EarthSave International. I had an awesome time there and was so inspired that I came home and started the local chapter in Cincinnati. Once I had the idea of starting the group here it seemed like vegetarians came out of the woodwork to participate and we soon had a growing organization. I love the mission of EarthSave and the positive approach of John Robbins. EarthSave’s mission is to educate people about the powerful impacts our food choices have on our health, the environment and all life on Earth. The approach the group has is to empower people and support them in moving toward a more plant-based diet. One of the monthly events we have is a vegan potluck which includes a smorgasbord of homemade yummy, healthy foods that contain no animal products.

CJ: Can you describe some of the most memorable causes that EarthSave Cincinnati has been involved in over the 15 year history of the organization?

AC: The most memorable cause for me that ES Cincinnati has been involved with was the Healthy School Lunch Program which was started by ES International. This program worked with the public school food service to create vegetarian meals for the students. Our group worked with Cincinnati Public Schools to do a pilot program and it was a big success. We brought in Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!) who played music and preformed skits, as well as several speakers who talked to the students about their diets and how the food we eat affects the environment and our health and the animals. After the students heard all the information they were served the healthy school lunches provided by their food service and loved it! All servings were sold out in the program. Unfortunately, after the pilot we had a lot of difficulty dealing with Cincinnati Public Food Service in continuing the program. So it ended there but I believe the outreach we did, and that EarthSave International did around the country did make a difference.

CJ: On the website, the stated goal of EarthSave Cincinnati is to "promote eating plant-based foods, sharing concerns for our environment, compassionate treatment of animals and improved health." Can you speak to what you and the members of EarthSave Cincinnati feel is important for others to know about this living this kind of lifestyle?

AC: There are so many reasons to live this way. For starters, it’s a more rational way to eat. It’s important for the health of everyone in our society that we eat lower on the food chain. Animal products are often high in fat and cholesterol which can lead to heart disease and other health issues. Our health care system is burdened with too many incidences of preventable health problems from poor diets which contribute to rising health care costs nationwide. If people are serious about wanting a more functional health care system and lower costs, eating a more plant-based diet is a huge step in the right direction. Vegetables are often cheaper than animal products and provide a more readily available source of energy for our bodies without all of the bad fats and cholesterol that harm our health.

Then there is the issue of sustainability and responsible farming practices. My husband and I shop at Findlay Market every week and find the most beautiful, healthy, sustainably grown food available. There are so many markets in town now that people have no reason to shop at huge corporate stores that take away money from our small businesses and take very little interest in environmental issues. We need to be supporting local farmers who are making a real effort to farm responsibly and ethically.

Finally, there is the mistreatment of animals. These are living things with functional nervous systems, who feel physical and emotional pain like the rest of us. They live in complete misery for their short lives and then get sent off to slaughter. I won’t go into the whole story, but I would encourage everyone to research commercial farming practices. It’s disturbing, to put it mildly. I also believe it affects us on a deeper level to be eating something that has gone through so much suffering.

CJ: Around the time of the inauguration of President Obama, I spoke with the Chair of EarthSave Cincinnati, John Mooter. One of the topics that we discussed was the hope that your organization had for the new Administration to promote the values that your organization finds important. President Obama has been in office for almost nine months now. Are you encouraged when you see the President and First Lady take actions like planting a garden at the White House, or do you think that the Administration should do more to encourage citizens to move toward sustainable farming and eating habits?

AC: I’m encouraged, but I also hope to see more steps forward. Setting a good example, like planting a garden at the White House, is great, but I also feel our government should take a bigger role in regulating factory farming and addressing the human and environmental health issues associated with these practices. I highly recommend that people go see “Food, Inc.” We need to educate ourselves on what is happening with our food in this country. Right now, it is an ignorance is bliss situation. Most people don’t want to know because they know it is bad and they will have to make changes in their diets if they learn what is going on. However, more and more people seem ready to open their eyes and look at what is actually happening to these animals and the food that comes from them. How many more meat recalls are we going to have before people stop voting with their forks for unsustainable, disease-spreading animal products?

CJ: How has the City of Cincinnati changed over the last 15 years in regard to the attitude toward sustainable eating habits and commitment to green spaces? Do you think that the City is doing a good job at encouraging citizens to eat locally and to support local growers?

AC: I am so happy to see a lot of people at Findlay Market every time I go there. We have several friends who are local farmers and they are selling a lot of produce, bread, herbs, flowers, etc. When I first moved here and was eating a vegan diet, I had a very difficult time finding local organic food. There were just a few health food stores that I knew of and very few farmers’ markets. This has changed dramatically in this city to where there are markets all over town now. So yes, I think the city is doing a good job of encouraging citizens to eat locally and buy locally, but we need to stay on this path of a more sustainable food system and encourage the big corporations in town to support more sustainable practices too.

CJ: When I spoke with John Mooter back in January, he spoke about EarthSave Cincinnati's efforts as an educational group...bringing in speakers to talk to the group about a plant-based diet, city gardening, etc. Do you hope to see EarthSave Cincinnati continue in this direction or do you for see more of an activist/outreach role for the organization moving forward? Any partnerships with other activist groups that EarthSave is considering?

AC: I would like to see the group doing more outreach and continuing to have their amazing speakers monthly at the vegan potlucks. It’s an awesome place to be introduced to other people who are concerned about sustainability issues.

CJ: One of the areas in which EarthSave Cincinnati has been outspoken has been on the issue of promoting healthier school lunches within Cincinnati schools. Can you talk a little bit about the role of corporate interests in determining what food and drink products get placed in schools and how promoting healthier options can combat this influence?

AC: Well, the kids are going to eat whatever they learn is good from their elders, what they see in advertising, and what is there in front of them when they sit down to eat. I believe that the profit base for these corporations needs to change. It’s not sustainable, healthy or good for anyone to be drinking sodas full of high fructose corn syrup or eating pizza and hamburgers from fast food chains. If these companies are going to play a role in our children’s lunch rooms they need to change their products to be in line with our environment’s needs and those of the children in our schools. Best case scenario, we would keep these products and companies out of our schools altogether. Our tax dollars shouldn’t be paying for corporations to serve our children junk food just because it’s the cheapest option right now. All we are doing is passing the buck and paying more in health care when our kids end up obese and diabetic and suffering from heart disease down the road.

CJ: Within this past year a group titled "Protect our Water" has formed locally over the concern that the Cincinnati Water Works is being considered for a sale to an independent Water District. Does EarthSave Cincinnati have a position on who should control Cincinnati's water supply?

AC: I am not familiar with that movement and I am not sure where EarthSave Cincinnati stands on that issue.

CJ: Finally, what do you hope to see EarthSave Cincinnati accomplish over the next 15 years? In what direction do you hope to see the organization go?

AC: I’d like to see the organization get more attention like you are giving us here in the Beacon. The education that the group does is critical to our environment and health. I’d like to see us take on the school lunch program again and continue our awesome potlucks.

CJ: I thank you for your time.

This piece is crossposted here.

The above photo is courtesy of here.

Katie Couric Interviews Glenn Beck

The other day, I posted a preview clip of Katie Couric's upcoming interview with Glenn Beck. Here is the full interview:

Watch CBS Videos Online

The interview is very interesting and some of the highlights include:

- Beck connecting his former alcoholism with believing in "socially liberal" ideas.
- Beck's continued insistence that he was yelling just as loud about President Bush as he is about President Obama.
- Beck stating that he was angry about the passage of the Patriot Act.
- His statement that "If you are not afraid of your government...the government can become a nightmare."
- and his attempts to justify his calling Obama a racist because Obama views the society through the "prism" of a historical pattern of racism.

After watching this interview, it is still puzzling as to what Glenn Beck believes. Frankly, I don't think that he knows what he believes. Many of his answers went off on tangents and he often accused Katie Couric of trying to set him up. Paranoid is a good word to use in describing Beck's demeanor during this interview.

One of the most interesting moments comes at about the 23 minute mark in the interview when Couric relays a question from a Twitter user. The question asks what Beck meant by "White Culture" when he infamously said that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for White Culture". Beck initially says that he doesn't know and then proceeds to dance around the question. When Couric presses him, he then claims that she is attempting to trap into giving her a "sound byte". He even has a Sarah Palin moment when he claims that Couric is playing a "gotcha" game. Couric asks Beck if he should be able to defend the controversial statements that he makes and Beck continues to stay mum.

This exchange is important because it demonstrates that Beck has no clue what he meant by that statement. This response is a microcosm of Glenn Beck and shows him to be a man that is confused as to what he believes, paranoid, and someone who strings loosley connected questions and statements that only scratch the surface, but are presented as providing answers to deep and complex questions.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Schizophrenic Conservatism

One of the more interesting topics that I find myself coming back to is the continuation of various protest movements that have sprung up around the country in opposition to the Obama Administration. I wrote about the paradox in these protests here, discussed how Glenn Beck's crazy hypocritical antics are fueling them here, and highlighted a video that shows the kaleidoscope of issues that are being protested here. Just when you think that all of this can't get any more confusing, it does.

Glenn Beck is going to be interviewed on this evening by Katie Couric. A short clip has been released to promote this interview. Watch how Glenn Beck says that he doesn't like John McCain because he is some "progressive like Theodore Roosevelt" and how he thinks that McCain would have been a worse President than Obama or Hillary Clinton:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Astounding coming from the same guy who has devoted his show on Fox News to claiming that Obama is a Marxist and a racist. Couple that with the continued exposure of Beck as an outright hypocrite and you can't help but ask where on Earth he stand politically. For example (h/t dday), here is Beck (back when he was on CNN) talking about how Ron Paul supporters are terrorists:

Also note that in that video clip Beck says (of Ron Paul):

"It's really not the way I would go, tying in my movement with a historical terrorist attack, especially in post-9/11 America."

Beck is the same guy who started the 9/12 Project.

Here is another video (made by a Ron Paul supporter) that contains a video clip of Beck stating that he supports the $700 billion bailout that President Bush proposed as well as Beck's endorsement of the Patriot Act:

and in this clip from the other day, (can you guess what is coming?) Beck states that he was critical of Bush and "hated him" for the bailouts:

This is the guy who has been a driving force behind the tea-party and 9/12 Project protest movements that we have seen explode since President Obama took office back in January. He is a personality that literally cries on-air while delivering passionate speeches about how this country is falling apart, yet it is quite clear that what Glenn Beck believes (at least politically) shifts when he needs to attract ratings.

What Beck is promoting a brand of Schizophrenic Conservatism that has resulted in people showing up at large rallies claiming that they are against everything from health care reform to socialism to spending to illegal immigration to a "Muslim" taking over the country, etc.

Glenn Greewald weighs in on this confusion:

Increasingly, there is great difficulty in understanding not only Beck's political orientation but, even more so, the movement that has sprung up around him. Within that confusion lies several important observations about our political culture, particularly the inability to process anything that does not fall comfortably into the conventional "left-right" dichotomy through which everything is understood.


Ultimately, Beck himself is just a histrionic intellectual mess: willing to latch onto any hysterical accusations and conspiracy theories that provide some momentary benefit, no matter how contradictory they might be from one moment to the next. His fears, resentments and religious principles seem fixed, but not his political beliefs. Like the establishment leadership of both political parties, he has no core political principles or fixed, identifiable ideology. His description of himself as a "rodeo clown" might be the most perceptive thing he's ever said. Attempts to classify him on the conventional political spectrum are destined to fail, and attempts to demonize him as some sort of standard Republican bogeyman will inevitably be so over-simplified as to be false. Such efforts assume far more coherence than he possesses.

Far more interesting than Beck himself is the increasingly futile effort to classify the protest movement to which he has connected himself. Here, too, confusion reigns. In part, this is due to the fact that these "tea party" and "9/12" protests are composed of factions with wildly divergent views about most everything. From paleoconservatives to Ron-Paul-libertarians to LaRouchians to Confederacy-loving, race-driven Southerners to Christianist social conservatives to single-issue fanatics (abortion, guns, gays) to standard Limbaugh-following, Bush-loving Republicans, these protests are an incoherent mishmash without any cohesive view other than: "Barack Obama is bad." There are unquestionably some highly noxious elements in these groups, but they are far from homogeneous. Many of these people despised the Bush-led GOP and many of them loved it.

Add to all of that the fact that this anti-Obama sentiment is being exploited by run-of-the-mill GOP operatives who have no objective other than to undermine Democrats and return the Republicans to power -- manifestly not the goal of many of the protesters -- and it's impossible to define what this movement is or what is driving it.

This is exactly what we have seen in several of the videos that I have shot outside the health care protests that have taken place over the Summer. My video interview with Jim was a prime example of a protester who made several points that were loosely connected together under the umbrella of "we are being taken over by socialists."

This is not to say that some of the issues that are being voiced by protesters are not genuine. In fact, many of the issues transcend the mentality of left versus right. Many people, myself included, care about Wall Street's influence on the government, care about rampant government spending, and care about the erosion of our civil liberties. Greenwald is right to point out through these protests, the curtain has being pulled back on the countries inability to collectively analyze issues outside of the Beltway's typical "left vs. right" mentality. This mentality has certainly trickled down to the populous and end up making issues even more complicated in the long-run.

This kind of complication manifests itself when you mix legitimate concerns of citizens with interests that work hard to maintain the status quo. These interests include national media figures like Beck, the influence of party interests who are working toward the political goal of defeating Obama, and those who perpetuate so-called "facts" that end up being completely wrong. What results is more than a complete mess. What results is a movement that does not know whether they are coming or going, let alone where they stand.

This piece is crossposted here.

Will Ferrell is Standing Up...for the Insurance Companies

A nice bit of satire from the folks at Funny or Die and Moveon.Org:

Monday, September 21, 2009

FCC Gives Net Neutrality a Big Thumbs Up!

Net Neutrality had a big victory today:

Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski today proposed new Net Neutrality rules that would protect the open Internet on all wired and wireless networks. In a speech at the Brookings Institution, Genachowksi proposed rules that would prohibit discrimination of content or applications by Internet service providers and would ensure network management practices are transparent.

Genachowski intends to introduce a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the FCC’s October meeting to codify these two principles, in addition to the four open Internet principles that now guide the FCC's oversight and enforcement of communications law. FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have already indicated they support stronger Net Neutrality rules.

Here is a portion of the speech given by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski today at the Brookings Institue:

Notwithstanding its unparalleled record of success, today the free and open Internet faces emerging and substantial challenges. We’ve already seen some clear examples of deviations from the Internet’s historic openness. We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications (phone calls delivered over data networks) and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen at least one service provider deny users access to political content. And as many members of the Internet community and key Congressional leaders have noted, there are compelling reasons to be concerned about the future of openness.


The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts us at a crossroads. We could see the Internet’s doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised. Or we could take steps to preserve Internet openness, helping ensure a future of opportunity, innovation, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas.


In view of these challenges and opportunities, and because it is vital that the Internet continue to be an engine of innovation, economic growth, competition and democratic engagement, I believe the FCC must be a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet.


In closing, we are here because 40 years ago, a bunch of researchers in a lab changed the way computers interact and, as a result, changed the world. We are here because those Internet pioneers had unique insights about the power of open networks to transform lives for the better, and they did something about it. Our work now is to preserve the brilliance of what they contributed to our country and the world. It’s to make sure that, in the 21st century, the garage, the basement, and the dorm room remain places where innovators can not only dream but bring their dreams to life. And no one should be neutral about that.

This is extremely positive news. The plans that are outlined by Genachowski in his speech make good sense and are a good step to smartly regulate the Internet so that it remains an open forum for free exchanges of ideas and information. Media consolidation has taken its tole on democratic participation of the ordinary citizen and the Internet has been a place where many have taken refuge. It is vitally important to protect the Internet so that it does not go down the same road as other media.

The gatekeepers of the Internet (the companies that control access to the Internet) are in a position that will provide them with opportunities to choose profit over public interest and we need to act now in order to stand firm on the side of the public interest.

The FCC is also trying to involve the public in this process. They have created a website: in order to allow for people like you and me to weigh in on this issue. Everyone needs to keep the pressure on to make sure that the FCC follows through and stands on the side of democracy in the public interest.

Modern Day McCarthyism

This is an interesting video compilation that compares the McCarthyism of the past, with its recent resurgence into the public debate:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Video of the Tea-Party March on Washington

What exactly is being protested here?

Harvard Medical Center Study: Approx. 45,000 Die Each Year Due to Lack of Health Insurance

Harvard Medical Center has released a study that finds that almost 45,000 people die each year (in large part) because they lack health insurance. From Reuters:

"We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction ... than drunk driving and homicide combined," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.

Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.


Roughly 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week, up from 45.7 million in 2007.

Another factor is that there are fewer places for the uninsured to get good care. Public hospitals and clinics are shuttering or scaling back across the country in cities like New Orleans, Detroit and others, he said.

Study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler said the findings show that without proper care, uninsured people are more likely to die from complications associated with preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

I think almost everyone would agree that this is not an acceptable statistic for a country like the United States. Studies like these underscore why there is such an urgent need for meaningful health care reform. As the system currently exists, massive health care interests and drug companies are making record profits while millions of Americans lack the means to get basic health care coverage that would allow for earlier detection of diseases and other ailments.

I say "meaningful reform" because there are some current proposals on the table that are more interested in compromising adequate health care for citizens while allowing corporate interests to maintain their large profit margins. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus - (D-MT) released his Committee's long-anticipated bill earlier this week. Baucus insisted on keeping negotiations on the bill between his Committee's so-called "Gang of Six"(three Republicans and three Democrats) in order to produce a bill that could gain bipartisan support. The result? A "bipartisan" bill that no Republicans are supporting and that many others are finding fault with as well.


Republicans don't like it because... it's a health care bill. Democrats don't like it because... it's a bad health care bill designed to kowtow to Republicans who won't even vote for it. Health care advocacy groups don't like it because it "would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans - high-deductible insurance - without having to face competition from a public health insurer." A good reason not to like it! And unions don't like it because there's no employer mandate and it would "tax health plans."

Wendell Potter, former Communications Vice President for Cigna Health Insurance, was before House Steering and Policy Committee and he gave his feelings on the Baucus bill:

What motivated Baucus to put out a bill, that Wendell Potter says, should be called "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act"? Perhaps motivation comes from the health sector's large campaign donations to Baucus. From OpenSecrets:

According to OpenSecrets's data summarized in a Sunlight Foundation blog post yesterday, five former Baucus aides are presently lobbying on behalf of 27 different organizations with big stakes in the health care debate. These ex-staffers, either as in-house lobbyists or as part of private firms, are serving a comprehensive roster of tier-one insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and business advocacy groups such as Humana, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble. We've also profiled nearly two-dozen Baucus staffers that have gone through the "revolving door," which ranks his office as the No. 7 slot on the most action between service in Congress and the lucrative private sector.


Baucus has received more than $2.8 million from the health sector since 1989. Only individuals and PACs affiliated with the finance, insurance and real estate sector have given him more. Seven of Baucus' top donors over the past five years are part of the health care industry, including four insurers. Critics of the "public option" argue that government-delivered health care will threaten private insurers and drug makers. Last fall, Montana voters re-elected Baucus at a nearly 3-1 margin against perennial candidate Bob Kelleher, a staunch supporter of single payer health care. (Kelleher ran as a Republican for Senate in 2008, although he has previously run for office as a member of the Democratic Party and the Green Party.)

So really, Baucus spent all this time making concessions to the Republicans in order to get bipartisan support and now that the bill has been released, Republicans are saying that it isn't good enough and they are not going to support it.

No more compromises. Baucus' bill is simply inadequate to deal with the problems that this country faces. The public option is the compromise down from a single-payer system. Any type of meaningful reform must work hard to reduce the 45,000 deaths each year due to lack of health insurance and work toward a day when health care will be viewed as a human right.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Putting the Debate Over ACORN into Context

As ACORN is once again making news, it seems as though many Conservative voices in the media and in the blogosphere are poised to claim victory in demonstrating the vast network of corruption. NiceDeb is one voice of many that has posts like this up today:

Yes, ACORN is a thoroughly corrupt organization, and even stalwart libs can no longer deny it.

In recent days we’ve seen Congress finally take action in defunding ACORN. Now, private organizations, which have donated to ACORN “to make them go away” are being asked to stop funding the criminal organization (which Obama has been closely associated with). So that’s another revenue stream going going….hopefully gone, thanks to our young heroes, (who aren’t even through, yet. Next video to be dropped 9:00pm Eastern).

While conclusions are easy to jump to when you have been salivating at the possibility of putting this organization out of business for years, Anonymous Liberal encourages us to take a step back:

But even if you take these film-makers at face value and assume the worst, the reality is that ACORN has thousands of employees and the vast majority of them spend their days trying to help poor people through perfectly legal means (and receive very little compensation for doing so). Even before yesterday's Senate vote, the amount of federal money that went to ACORN was very small. This is a relatively insignificant organization in the grand scheme of things, but it's an organization that has unquestionably fought over the years to improve the lives of the less fortunate in this country.

That the GOP and its conservative supporters would single out this particular organization for such intense demonization is telling. In September of last year, the entire world came perilously close to complete financial catastrophe. We're still not out of the woods and we're deep within one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. This situation was brought about by the recklessness and greed of our banks and financial institutions, most of which had to be bailed out at enormous cost to the American taxpayer (exponentially more than all of the tax dollars given to ACORN over the years). The people who brought about this near catastrophe, for the most, profited immensely from it. These very same institutions, propped up by the American taxpayer, are once again raking in large profits.

But rather than focus their anger on these folks, conservatives choose to go after an organization composed almost entirely of low-paid community organizers, an organization that could never hope to have even a small fraction of the clout or the ability to affect the overall direction of the country that Wall Street bankers have. ACORN's relative lack of political influence was on full display yesterday, when the U.S. Senate (in which Democrats have a supermajority) not only entertained a vote to defund ACORN, but approved it by a huge margin (with only seven Democrats opposing).

Glenn Greenwald also speaks to how this acts mainly as a distraction:

If one were to watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh -- as millions do -- one would believe that the burden of the ordinary American taxpayer, and the unfair plight of America's rich, is that their money is being stolen by the poorest and most powerless sectors of the society. An organization whose constituencies are often-unregistered inner-city minorities, the homeless and the dispossesed is depicted as though it's Goldman Sachs, Blackwater, Haillburton and combined, as though Washington officials are in thrall to those living in poverty rather than those who fund their campaigns. It's not the nice men in the suits doing the stealing but the very people, often minorities or illegal immigrants, with no political or financial power who nonetheless somehow dominate the government and get everything for themselves. The poorer and weaker one is, the more one is demonized in right-wing mythology as all-powerful receipients of ill-gotten gains; conversely, the stronger and more powerful one is, the more one is depicted as an oppressed and put-upon victim (that same dynamic applies to foreign affairs as well).

It's such an obvious falsehood -- so counter-intuitive and irrational -- yet it resonates due to powerful cultural manipulations. Most of all, what's so pernicious about all of this is that the same interests who are stealing, pillaging and wallowing in corruption are scapegoating the poorest and most vulnerable in order to ensure that the victims of their behavior are furious with everyone except for them.

I think this is right on point. While I am in no way defending the actions of the ACORN employees that are depicted in the video tapes, context and perspective are too often overlooked in situations like these. The CEO of ACORN, Bertha Lewis, was on Democracy Now! this morning and stated that these two Conservative undercover operatives went to almost two dozen ACORN offices. She stated that they were told to leave, had the police called on them, or were turned away in two-third of their visits. She also stated that the applications for these two were never processed in any of the offices, which is proof that their vetting process works. I think that these two points are important to look into further in order to paint a more clear picture of the organization as a whole. It will help to show whether ACORN has some rouge employees or if this problem is more systematic than they are leading on.

It is also important to take the points of Anonymous Liberal and Glenn Greenwald into account as well. ACORN has received $53 million dollars since 1994 which is considerably less than other corrupt Wall Street institutions who have a much closer connection to the government and who have not had any funding cut off. Couple this with the recent treatment that conservatives have reaped upon Van Jones and other Administration officials and the full context of what is happening becomes a little clearer.

This is a more complicated situation than it initially appears and it is important to open up the discussion to put all elements of this ACORN issue on the table.

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, Has Died at Age 72

Mary Travers, the "Mary" of the famed folk-trio Peter, Paul, and Mary, died yesterday at the age of 72 after a long battle with leukemia.

From the AP:

Travers joined forces with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in the early 1960s.

The trio mingled their music with liberal politics, both onstage and off. Their version of "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem for racial equality. Other hits included "Lemon Tree," "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "Puff (The Magic Dragon.)"

They were early champions of Bob Dylan and performed his "Blowin' in the Wind" at the August 1963 March on Washington.

And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the American mainstream.

The group collected five Grammy Awards for their three-part harmony on enduring songs like "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" and "Blowin' in the Wind."

At one point in 1963, three of their albums were in the top six Billboard best-selling LPs as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.

It was heady stuff for a trio that had formed in the early 1960s in Greenwich Village, running through simple tunes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

They debuted at the Bitter End in 1961, and their beatnik look — a tall blonde flanked by a pair of goateed guitarists — was a part of their initial appeal. As The New York Times critic Robert Shelton put it not long afterward, "Sex appeal as a keystone for a folk-song group was the idea of the group's manager, Albert B. Grossman, who searched for months for `the girl' until he decided on Miss Travers."

Peter, Paul and Mary peaked in a time before I arrived on this Earth, but I vividly remember listening to their recordings growing up. I remember giving endless plays to their "10th Anniversary" cassette in my boombox which contained hits like "If I Had a Hammer", "Blowin' in the Wind", and "500 Miles". Their music had a kind of hypnotic effect as it was so easy to get lost in the lyrics and the fantastic harmonies of all their songs.

I also have vivid memories of watching countless PBS concert specials where the trio would reunite to sing their hits to old friends or to sing songs like "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Right Field" to new generations of children who would gather around the stage to watch them sing. They had the ability to transcend generations. To stand firmly against the tragic war in Vietnam and to get a new generation of children to sing along to "We Shall Overcome" in the 80's and 90's. It is the impact on the world that few are lucky enough to have and I am thankful that I have been able to know their music.

Jeffrey Weiss at Politics Daily writes:

For all the real turmoil of the politics of the Vietnam War, there was a gentleness in the politics of these songs and their singing that are about as far from current political discourse as one can imagine. They were a model for civil action that did not require violence.

How much did it matter that they sang "Blowin' in the Wind" with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? How much did it matter that so many of their wonderful songs were simple enough for even average guitarists to play (if not nearly as well)? Or that they passed along elements of the great folk music tradition that had nothing to do with politics to another and another generation?

It mattered to lots of us.

You unlucky souls who missed those concerts can easily find their music. Albums and videos are easy to locate and play. And Peter and Paul are apparently working as a duo these days. That's not bad.

But oh, what it was like to have all three of them weave you the sunshine right there in front of you.

Though I never saw them live, I do have a sense that I lost one of my earliest musical "friends" that I came know in my discovery of what music was all about. Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Glenn Beck's Crazy Antics Heat Up Once Again

Fox News host Glenn Beck has been on a roll again as of late. Despite losing 50% of his advertising dollars due to the boycott that has been orchestrated by Color Of Change, Beck's antics continue to raise eyebrows on a daily basis.

In this clip he is upset that he has been compared to Joe McCarthy for his recent efforts to "go after" members of the Obama Administration with who he disagrees:

One of the things that I find most striking about Beck, is his hypocrisy. There are two recent examples of this. The first happened on his show on the anniversary of 9/11. Beck cried (again) because we have not rebuilt a building to replace the World Trade Center since the 2001 attacks. He seems to think that it is government bureaucracy, special interests and political correctness that are getting in the way of building a new structure. In case you are wondering what all that means, I am sorry to tell you that he doesn't go into any detail:

While Beck enjoys getting sentimental on camera about a building and using 9/11 to push his 9/12 Project, one only need remember Beck's comments on his radio show in 2005 in regard to the 9/11 families, in order to fully see the just how much Beck really cares:

And now, yesterday, Glenn Beck is mad about Jimmy Carter stating that racism is a factor in some of the opposition to President Obama. In fact, he likens it to the same kind of "tactic" that the Taliban uses when they strap bombs to children. Think that is crazy? Well, he ups the ante by comparing Jimmy Carter to Osama bin Laden as well:

So Glenn Beck is mad at everyone getting called a racist yet I seem to remember someone calling Obama a racist and stating that Obama had a hatred for white people, only months ago:

The hypocrisy is astounding. It is amazing that anyone takes this man seriously.

Around the Horn: Reaction to Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) being Reprimanded by the House

The House of Representatives passed a "resolution of disapproval" yesterday against Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) for yelling "You Lie" during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last week.

Should anyone care, I think that this move was unnecessary and simply political. Was Wilson's outburst rude and inappropriate? Probably, especially considering that he did not have his facts straight. Do I think that the outburst is that big of a deal? Not really. After all, if someone stood up in a joint session and called Bush on his (actual) lies during the last eight years, I would have felt (as a reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog put it) "like I'd been given water in the desert."

Let's go around the horn with reaction from the blogosphere:

Sammy Benoit at The Lid:

Today Congressional Democrats took the day off from the problems facing our country to engage in politics. They spent the day debating how to slap congressman Joe Wilson for shouting "you lie" at the POTUS, a charge that was true but the timing and venue was inappropriate. Wilson had already apologized to the President, but the Democrats wanted Wilson to apologize to the entire congress on the house floor.

What makes this wasted day even more amazing is that this is the same Democratic Party congress that didn't have the time to read the Porkulus Bill, never read the full cap and tax bill, and wont promise to read the Obamacare bill, but they have the time to waste a day engaging in political silliness.


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Democratic Party-run congress, they have time to waste a full day on politics, or on hearings about baseball steroids but no time to read the bills they are about to vote on. This is the Democratic Party hope and change. Strange way of doing business.

Stephen Kral of Manolith:

What’s especially silly about this whole endeavor, though, is that the South Carolina Representative had previously apologized and the incident almost had been forgotten. Forgotten, that is, until he decided to recant his apology after discovering that, “Hey, I’m really popular all of a sudden.” I mean, who cares that his opponent raised record numbers the day after, or that those who now champion him also believe that our President wasn’t born in the United States and is, more than likely, a socialist-fascist-marxist-messiah-racist-terrorist-and-any-other-scary-’other’-type-thing-there-is-boogie-man? Apparently not Rep. Joe Wilson.

Which makes sense I guess. Joe the Plumber just wasn’t really working out anymore, and who knows, maybe Joe “YOU LIE!!” Wilson thought he could do just a little better. All that said, this whole admonished business is pretty silly, on both sides of the aisle. His outburst was rude and disrespectful (not to mention false), sure, but there’s no reason to waste a House vote admonishing him either. I mean, really. What end does this serve? (Other than perpetuating this story further, that is.)

Jesse Hathaway at Athens Runaway:

Why does Joe Wilson become the first Congressman in US history to be formally rebuked by the House, when...

William Jefferson was scientifically proven to be taking bribes...
dozens of Congressmen booed President Bush, on multiple occasions...
Barney Frank helped cause the economy to crash and was the boyfriend of the CEO of Fannie Mae, and had a brothel running out of his home...
Jack Murtha was proven to be lying about the US Marines' integrity and honor

Oh, right, Joe Wilson is a racist.


Note that in the "Around the Horn" entries, I post snippets from blogs that I may or may not agree with on the topic at hand so that readers can see reactions from various blogs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coverage of the National Tea-Party Protest in Washington

Reporter Max Blumenthal was in Washington D.C. this past weekend to check out the National 9/12 Project and Tea-Party movement's march on Washington's National Mall. He ran into some interesting people:

Jon Stewart also commented on this in his return to the Daily Show last night:

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What kind of party would be complete without fun exaggerations about how many people came to your party? Michelle Malkin apparently decided that it would be a good idea to exaggerate the total attendance by 1,930,000 people:

Malkin, citing fictitious press accounts, led the charge to falsely inflate the size of the crowd by 30 times. Malkin and company, desperate to dress up the tea party event as a mass movement, saw a relatively modest crowd of 70,000 GOP protesters and imagined it was 2 million strong. (She's a dreamer, I suppose.)

Worse, Malkin spent most of Saturday in denial, refusing to update her transparently false report, which meant the rest of the right-wing blogosphere also played dumb on a massive scale and kept excitedly repeating the manufactured claim. The scary part is that within the fact-free conservative blogosphere, lots of people still believe the 2 million nonsense, or are at least repeating it. They believe it despite the fact that nobody can point to any evidence to support it.


The conservative comedy of errors began on Saturday when Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, took to the rally stage and unfurled a massive lie. He told the crowd ABC News had reported that between 1 million to 1.5 million people had gathered to protest Obama's policies. (Later, a FreedomWorks flack conceded she had no idea know why Kibbe manufactured the claim about ABC News.)

Immediately, conservative activist Tabitha Hale (aka "pinkelephantpun") tweeted Kibbe's lie but added an additional 500,000 people to the tally: "ABC reporting 2 million people."

Seven minutes later, Malkin re-tweeted Hale's claim. Then, one minute after that, Malkin turned that tweet into part of her ongoing protest coverage. Intrepid "reporter" Malkin took an unsupported tweet and reported it as news.

Note that in her blog post there were no links for Malkin's utterly fantastic claim, no place on the Web where readers could go and confirm that D.C. police had pegged the crowd at 1.2 million or that ABC had made the staggering claim of 2 million. The lack of live links should have been a massive red flag for readers and fellow bloggers, especially when it was associated with such a controversial and news-breaking claim.

What an interesting summer this has been.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Interview with Amy Murray: Cincinnati City Council Candidate, 2009

Amy Murray is the past President of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council and has been endorsed as a Republican for her 2009 race for Cincinnati City Council. Murray is also President of The Japan Consulting Group and has previously worked for Procter and Gamble as well as Xavier University. Her website states that her objective in running for council is to "to make Cincinnati known as a top, American livable city - one where our children stay or choose to return to live."

CB: What is your position on ordinance 910-23, Cincinnati’s “anti-marijuana ordinance”? Should it stay on the books, or be repealed—and why?

AM: Possession and distribution of marijuana laws are already on the books here in Cincinnati. Other cities in the region do not have ordinances like this. I would recommend a review of the ordinance to determine if it has been effective or not.

CB: You recently signed a pledge with COAST not to raise taxes. COAST has a mission which claims it wants to limit taxes to the rate of inflation. However, the current system known as "property tax rollbacks" holds that portion of taxes at a rate that is actually below inflation, which means the City cannot keep pace with growing expenses. Do you support continuing the property tax rollbacks? Please explain your answer.

AM: As you mentioned, I will not support raising taxes. And I do support continuing the property tax rollbacks. It is important for the City of Cincinnati to live within its means, just as the taxpayers and their families have to do the same. When a family is having trouble keeping pace with growing expenses, it usually cuts its expenses, or finds other sources of revenue.

CB: What is your position on the debate between how to define "basic services"? Are swimming pools, rec centers, and other human services "basic"? Please explain.

AM: In the specific case of our city; Cincinnati neighborhood pools provide a healthy and safe way for many of our youth to occupy themselves during the summer months. In our current financial crisis it is all about smart choices and setting priorities. I would clearly see the pools as a priority and a good investment in our youth. I would consider basic services - Police, Fire, Sewer, Water and Trash.

CB: Do you support the local NAACP’s frequent petition drives, or do you think that organization is abusing City government? Please explain.

AM: Any local group is allowed to hold a petition drive if it wants to. That is one of the great freedoms we enjoy as Americans, as is outlined in the US Constitution.

CB: GOP Mayoral Candidate Brad Wenstrup wants undercover outside agents to spy on Cincinnati police to monitor their behavior. Do you think this a good idea? Why or why not?

AM: It is my understanding that this was not a correct quote. The Cincinnati Police Department has an Internal Investigations unit that already reviews alleged misconduct by officers.

CB: You say you want to offer tax relief to families who pay to send their kids to private schools. Why should families get a tax benefit because they have the resources to pay for what amounts to a fringe benefit (private education)?

AM: A strong education system is very important to keep and attract families and jobs to Cincinnati. Many cities are looking at innovative options to make education a reason that all families stay in the city. I am in favor of looking “outside of the box” and seeing what we can do to support education in Cincinnati.

CB: You say you want to reach out to the community councils. Can you explain with some specificity how you intend to create meaningful dialog with all 52 community groups?

AM: My background is with neighborhood councils. I was on my local council for 8 years and was President of the Hyde Park Neighborhood council. These community groups do so much for our city – zoning, beautification and youth efforts. This is critical work that City Council would not be able to do without the efforts of our Community Councils. I plan to reach out to the councils in 2 ways:

1. Open and transparent government – I will reach out to all community councils so that they have my complete contact information and feel comfortable contacting me as issues arise in the communities. I want to be known as the Council member to go to when you need community help and assistance. We may not always agree on every issue or every solution – but I will always be there to listen and offer support and solutions.

2. I plan on personally establishing regular times that are open for meetings with community councils – and I will attend community council meetings on an on-going basis.

CB: Would you support the implementation of a Domestic Partnership registry for the City of Cincinnati, as has been done in places like Toledo and Cleveland? Why or why not?

AM: I do not see this as a role for the City of Cincinnati. The state of California has a similar registry. If the state of Ohio were to follow suit, it would save the taxpayers money, by having one statewide office.

Photo is Courtesy of here

This is crossposted at the Cincinnati Beacon which you can find here.

Making Sense of the Paradox in the Protests

There have been a couple of good posts that I have read recently on the topic of the opposition to President Obama and all of the protests that have popped up since his election to the Presidency. It can be difficult to make sense of some of the mixed messages that we have seen out of these protests and when you take into consideration the support of national figures like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc. it really is a pretty weird scenario.

While there are some who are claiming that this rage and adamant opposition to Obama is unprecedented, Glenn Greenwald points out that this is merely standard operation procedure:

To see that, just look at what that movement's leading figures said and did during the Clinton years. In 1994, Jesse Helms, then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed that "just about every military man" believes Clinton is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief and then warned/threatened him not to venture onto military bases in the South: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He better have a bodyguard."

The Wall St. Journal called for a Special Prosecutor to investigate the possible "murder" of Vince Foster. Clinton was relentlessly accused by leading right-wing voices of being a murderer, a serial rapist, and a drug trafficker. Tens of millions of dollars and barrels of media ink were expended investigating "Whitewater," a "scandal" which, to this day, virtually nobody can even define. When Clinton tried to kill Osama bin Laden, they accused him of "wagging the dog" -- trying to distract the country from the truly important matters at hand (his sex scandal).

And, of course, the GOP ultimately impeached him over that sex scandal -- in the process issuing a lengthy legal brief with footnotes detailing his sex acts (cigars and sex talk), publicly speculating about (and demanding examinations of) the unique "distinguishing" spots on his penis, and using leading right-wing organs to disseminate innuendo that he had an abandoned, out-of-wedlock child. More intense and constant attacks on a President's "legitimacy" are difficult to imagine.


Nothing that the GOP is doing to Obama should be the slightest bit surprising because this is the true face of the American Right -- and that's been true for a very long time now. It didn't just become true in the last few months or in the last two years. Recent months is just the time period when the media began noticing and acknowledging what they are: a pack of crazed, primitive radicals who don't really believe in the country's core founding values and don't merely disagree with, but contest the legitimacy of, any elected political officials who aren't part of their movement. Before the last year or so, the media pretended that this was a serious, adult, substantive political movement, but it wasn't any truer then than it is now.

Frankly, it is hard to argue with these points. I think one of the main differences that we are seeing today is how much this strategy is being amplified by certain figures within the media. I am talking about the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world who have embraced the opposition to Obama and to government in general. What was once political opposition driven by political figures of the 90's, has now morphed into that same opposition being embraced by national media figures as well as their viewers/listeners thus these views are presented as a genuine populist uprising. What happened between the terms of President Clinton and Obama that allowed for the evolution of these tactics? 9/11 happened and the Bush Administration's strategy to politicize 9/11 happened. driftglass over at Crooks and Liars tries to offer some insight:

By selling 9/11 for a mess of wingnut pottage, the Right bought itself an anti-Liberal free-fire zone and two Presidential terms-worth of blank checks. Two terms of an alternately supportive and supine media. Two terms of catastrophe, corruption and treason protected from scrutiny by an ablative shield made out of solid "Why do you hate America?", and a promise that they could go on barebacking diseased monsters in the alley all night long, every night, forever and wake up each morning miraculously clean, virginal and still beloved in the eyes of God.

But they forgot that tempus just keeps fugiting along. And as time passed, the Right got so accustomed to butt-scooting their depravity all over the public square and never being called on it they simply stopped noticing that they were amassing a whole new post-9/11 public record so despicable and overflowing with Conservative atrocities that it positively dwarfed their antics during the Clinton Years.


In the few, short months since they lost, they have emptied out their entire store of raving invective and delusion.

Losing has left them insisting that that the legally elected President of the United States somehow isn't really the President. That he is a secret enemy. A Communist. A Hitler. A Muslim sleeper cell. A Chicago gangster.

Has left them swearing that "their country" has been stolen and that somewhere hidden in secret code in a 1,000 health care bill is a plan to murder senior citizens.

To understand how deep and relentless their addiction goes, you need only consider the recent example of Mrs. Katy Abram, who leaped into microcelebrity and the wingnut pantheon a month ago with her Clown Hall rant of “I don’t want my county to become Russia!” speech.

Mrs. Katy Abram wants the world to believe that, like a wingnut Sleeping Beauty, she somehow slept through 9/11.

Slept through two wars and the two trillion dollar bill they racked up.

Slept through tax cuts for the wealthy that added another few trillion to our debt.

Slept through Katrina.

Slept through Terri Schiavo.

Slept through the screams of the Constitution as Bush Administration fed it an inch at a time through the wood chipper (the same Constitution she is now so deeply concerned about that she has somehow become, virtually overnight, an “original intent” quote-spewing expert) only to be awakened in a sudden, patriotic fury by the sound of a Black Democrat taking the oath of office.

One of the points that driftglass is getting at is a question that I have often found myself muttering allowed as I watch these town hall meetings and protests. Where were all of these people during the last eight years? This is precisely what makes this situation so odd and so puzzling when you look at this issue from the surface. We now have a group within the population who are suddenly concerned about the expansion of federal power, concerned about the Constitution, and concerned about spending. There were not any tea-parties over the last eight years and those who did raise questions about the actions of the Bush Administration were laughed at and viewed as traitors. 9/11 was used as a rationale for supporting the government then, just as Glenn Beck is using 9/11 as a rationale for opposing the government now.

Glenn Greenwald breaks down this seemingly odd behavior (emphasis mine):

Just as was true for the 1994 crime bill, the right-wing fury over health care reform is motivated by the fear that middle-class Americans will have their money taken away by Obama while -- all together now, euphemistically -- "having someone else benefit." And this "someone else" are, as always, the poor minorities and other undeserving deadbeats who, in right-wing lore, somehow (despite their sorry state) exert immensely powerful influence over the U.S. Government and are thus the beneficiaries of endless, undeserved largesse: people too lazy to work, illegal immigrants, those living below the poverty line. That's why Joe Wilson's outburst resonated so forcefully among the Right and why he became an immediate folk hero: he was voicing the core right-wing fear that their money was being stolen from them by Obama in order to lavish the Undeserving and the Others -- in this case illegal immigrants -- with ill-gotten gains.

This is the paradox of the tea-party movement and other right-wing protests fueled by genuine citizen anger and fear. It is true that the federal government embraces redistributive policies and that middle-class income is seized in order that "someone else benefits." But so obviously, that "someone else" who is benefiting is not the poor and lower classes -- who continue to get poorer as the numbers living below the poverty line expand and the rich-poor gap grows in the U.S. to unprecedented proportions. The "someone else" that is benefiting from Washington policies are -- as usual -- the super-rich, the tiny number of huge corporations which literally own and control the Government. The premise of these citizen protests is not wrong: Washington politicians are in thrall to special interests and are, in essence, corruptly stealing the country's economic security in order to provide increasing benefits to a small and undeserving minority. But the "minority" here isn't what Fox News means by that term, but is the tiny sliver of corporate power which literally writes our laws and, in every case, ends up benefiting.


This is what is so strange and remarkable about these tea-party protests. The people who win when government acts aren't the poor, minorities or illegal immigrants -- the prime targets of these protesters' resentment. Their plight only worsens by the day. In Washington, members of those groups are even more powerless than "middle-income Americans." That's so obvious. The people who win whenever the federal government expands its power are the ones who, through their massive resources and lobbyists armies, control what the government does: the richest and most powerful corporations. And yet -- in an extreme paradox -- those are the people who are venerated by the Right: they simultaneously spew rage at what's happening in Washington while revering and defending the interests of the oligarchs who are most responsible.

What's really happening with these protests is that the genuine rage and not unreasonable economic insecurity of these citizens is being stoked, exploited, distorted and manipulated by movement leaders for entirely different ends. The people who are leading them -- Rush Limbaugh, the Murdoch-owned Fox News, Glenn Beck, business-dominated organizations of the type led by Dick Armey -- are cultural warriors above everything else. They're all in a far different socioeconomic position than the "middle-income Americans" whose anger they're ostensibly representing. Their principal preoccupation is their cultural contempt for various groups (illegal immigrants, the "undeserving" poor, liberals) and their desire to preserve the status quo whereby the prime beneficiaries of government policies remain themselves: the super rich and the interests that control Washington. It's certainly true that many of these protesters are driven by the standard right-wing cultural issues which have long shaped that movement -- social issues, religious fears, cultural and racial divisions, and hatred for "liberals" as Communist-Muslim-Terrorist-lovers. For many, all of that is intensified by the humiliation of being completely thrown out of power, at the hands of the first black President. But much of it is fueled by the pillaging of the corporations and Wall St. interests which own their government.

That's what accounts for the gaping paradox of these protests movements: genuine anger (over the core corruption of Washington and the eroding economic security for virtually everyone other than a tiny minority) is being bizarrely directed at those who never benefit (the poorest and most downtrodden), while those who are most responsible (the wealthiest and largest corporations) are depicted as the victims who need defending (they want to seize Wall St. bonuses and soak the rich!!).

The paradox that we are seeing is exactly as Greenwald describes and it helps to explain why everything seems like it is flipped on its head.