Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting the August Bile Out of The System

August seems to be the cursed month for President Obama. The Gallup poll records the highest gap for Republicans--10--in their history tracking elections. (The highest for Democrats was 32% around the time of Watergate.) But it should be noted that a Gallup poll in August 2008 had McCain at 54 to Obama's 44%. It was one of the only that showed McCain ever ahead. The University of Buffalo predicts the Republicans will take the House and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball also has the Republicans taking the House with a team more far right than New Gingrich's in 1994. Larry Sabato writes that there is even a chance that Republicans will take the Senate. Nate the Great Silver is being coy about his House numbers. He believes the Gallup poll is an outlier but that the Democrats' fortunes have sunk in the last month. Most agree with my prediction that Republicans will sweep state houses in the Midwest.

Larry Sabato predicts we are in for two years of nothing getting done in Washington. Given the severity of the problems facing the country, this is a disaster in the making. Even more so because Republicans are now signing on to Ryan's "Blueprint for the Future", which will raise taxes significantly on the lower and middle classes and cut dramatically taxes on the wealthiest and corporations. It will also cut social security benefits and severely restrict Medicare, which now serves 50 million Americans. Objective analysts of the plan say it will further increase the national debt.

Candidates like Sharron Angle should be reason enough for Democrats to get out to vote. The Christian Reconstructionist backed by Karl Rove's American Crossroads came out yesterday against public education. She already has come out against social security, unemployment insurance, the Department of Education and the EPA. Of course, she is for repealing Obamacare. The Alaskan teabagger Miller has already questioned the constitutionality of social security and Medicare. (This issue was decided by courts years ago. But with the Roberts Court, who knows?)

The Majority of Republicans believe Barack Obama wants to institute Sharia Law in the United States and that he sides with Islamic fundamentalism. Last summer he wanted to install death panels to pull the plug on grandma. As a result I back both. Pulling the plug on grandma would save health costs and reduce our national debt and Sharia Law would eliminate the interest payments on my considerable credit card debt. So, my wife would have to wear a headscarf.

Tonight President Obama speaks to the nation for an allotted ten minutes graciously allowed him by the national networks to announce the official end of the combat in Iraq. Republicans already beat him to the punch in speeches today that praised President George W. Bush and claimed that he was responsible for the conditions that allowed us to leave. The Republicans went on to berate the President on Israel, fighting terrorism and the Afghanistan War. Which we all know they would be better at since we saw the excellent foreign policy of the previous eight years.

Only Sunday, President Obama spoke to the residents of New Orleans on the fifth anniversary of Katrina. Besides the Administration's commitments to the Gulf region on the BP oil spill, people neglect to mention its bolstering efforts at reconstruction after the Katrina disaster. Through the stimulus package and other programs, the single-spaced list of programs just aimed at Katrina-related reconstruction runs two full pages. But local polls in Louisiana give credit to Bobby Jindal and not Barack Obama.

This phenomenon is frustrating to read and hear about. Jonathan Alter in an article "The Illustrated Man" documents the on-going smearing of the President and his apparent inability to escape the targeting by Fox News and the Right, despite a lengthy and impressive list of achievements that have affected every American.

Former Clinton adviser and toe-sucker Dick Morris promises when the Republicans take power they will successfully close down government. He promises his Fox audience this time he will support it and it will work. Democrats are now scrambling around to figure out how the Administration can play small ball if Republicans come back into power. Some believe that the lunacy of the right will be on display with House investigations into Acorn, the New Black Panther Party and the TARP ballouts, even though that was Bush's program. This , they're convinced, will create a reaction from the American people that will propel the Democrats back in 2012. Remember those were prosperous times and America was not at war. The mood of the country may not be with the Democrats on this. Fox News had not even been invented yet and internet blogging was in its infancy. Already we see other news agencies like CNN and even MSNBC cowed by the Right, chasing conservative audiences.

What's dangerous now is that there really is only one rational party in the United States. The Republicans have deliberately made the choice to be anti-rational because this is effective in creating historic amnesia. Their agenda has become so radical, the Left must blush. They are the first de-constructionists in our political system,re-writing all of American history from its origins to today to provide validation for their wholesale assault on our system. It is no mistake that the Republican reaction is to roll-up the advances made by the New Deal during the Great Depression and to thwart the implementation of the range of new reforms created by the Democrats. Their appeal must be emotional because their policy prescriptions as outlined recently by Tan Man Boehner and the Mitch McConnell will only make the social and economic situation worse by several factors.

There is a reason for this intensity on the part of the Republicans. Their Southern strategy is now being extended to the rest of the country. While Barack Obama was elected with the most popular votes in American history, they have taken every effort to de-legitimize him as President. They are defending what they perceive as aggrieved white people, who have lost their jobs and are protesting at the urgings of the corporations and billionaires the very social services government provides. If George W. Bush destroyed the American peoples' trust in government, this only validates that government can't do anything. Therefore, government must be destroyed. The Republicans know that they have alienated every single demographic group with the exception of white males in this country. This is their last chance to put a stake in the system before they look at a generation in the desert. The mid-terms are being waged as a cultural war with the religious Right acting as a vanguard for the Republicans, who have embraced anarchy as the Koch Brothers proudly proclaimed. Policy solutions are purely secondary to them at this point. Remember this is their last chance to vindicate their worldview.

Remember the Republicans have sought to make every major piece of reform attempted by President Obama his Waterloo. They have failed at every level. But they have succeeded by obstructionism to allow other elements that are needed for America's economic recovery. This obstructionism is blamed on Democrats and not Republicans as polls repeatedly point out. The Democrats' job is to reverse this trend as much as possible before the election.

President Obama will be spending labor day with the AFL-CIO, which has stepped up to the plate in an admirable fashion in recent months. He has to use this occasion to lay out some new economic strategies and to outline the stark choices in the days ahead. We are not talking about George W. Bush coming back but people who are the most rightwing in modern American history. And he should also give the progressives a gift--Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Protection Agency. Even if she can't get confirmed, it's worth fighting for.

This week, President Obama will be the host of peace talks between Bibi Netanyahu and Abbas. Even though American and Israeli policy for the past 20 years supports the creation of a Palestinian state, American commentators such as George Will and others now argue against such an idea. While the initial face-to-face talks may not produce earthbreaking results, it's clear that some deals are on the table. Netanyahu actually has put together a serious negotiating team on several sensitive issues. If the talks are somewhat successful, we might be absent a President after January, while he spends his time globe-trotting either for peace agreements or to repair our shattered relations with the rest of the world. If you can't get anything done at home, go abroad.

When Congress comes back from vacation, the issue of the Bush tax cuts takes center stage. The Washington Post and CNN have written that Democrats do not have the 60 votes to kill the tax-cuts for the wealthy. Notice how soon we got conditioned to the idea of 60 votes being the threshold for anything to get done, even though all the bills being hung up would pass with overwhelming majorities--just not the sacred 60 number.

It's true the tax issue will have to be deftly played. The Republicans have already ginned up the argument that these will be Obama's tax hikes, even though they are set to expire anyway in 2011. The problem facing the Democrats is that they must fight for the middle-class tax cuts, make it overt and repeat it over and over that is what they are doing. But if the filibuster holds, they must argue that the tax cuts for the wealthy must be paid for. This is the real dilemma Democrats face. None of the tax cuts under Bush were paid for--that's why they have to be phased out according to law. The Republicans want the tax cuts for the wealthy but they must be paid for out of severe cuts from the discretionary or social spending in the budget. Which is just what the Republicans want. They want to use the tax cuts for the wealthy to reduce any support for the middle class in the America. It's pure robbery and the Democrats must call them on it and beat them up with a club with it. If the American people actually fall for the Republicans on this, may God have mercy on their souls because they will undermine their own welfare. Be assured neither party will cut anything from defense to pay for these tax cuts.

Thank God, August is over. But I don't think the fever has broken yet.

Beck Goes Over The Line

Of course, he always does. But in the back story to Glenn Beck's emergence as a revivalist preacher is how he has offended his new religion--The Church of Latter-Day Saints or the Mormons. He went over the line of what Mormons believe is permissable--he questioned the content of President Obama's religion. Mormon missionaries are taught never to do this and Mormons have made a practice to refrain from questioning others' religious beliefs. They have spent the last century trying act as a normal Christian church and to be accepted as such. Beck's attack on President Obama as someone who believed in "liberation theology" was not only ignorant about the subject but opened the floodgates on Beck and his Mormon religion. The hot button line was "Most Americans do not recognize the Christianity of Barack Obama."

The Mormons actually produced a DVD of Beck talking about his conversion in typical emotional style as if they had netted a big fish. I remember the days when Beck was a Neil Boortz' libertarian and he talked about his conversion and his fondness for all the Mormon businessmen around Mitt Romney.

But once Beck got his Fox television show, the Mormon romance with him showed signs of cracking. For example, Beck famously attacked proponents of a "social gospel". He urged everyone to run from any church that talked about "social justice". Progressives noted the response of people like Jim Wallis of the Sojourners and Union Theological Seminary, which sent Beck a syllabus on Christianity. But little noticed was the statement by the head of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, which emphatically proclaimed that Mormons believed in a social gospel.

I noted this past week that the Mormon church again issued a statement criticizing radio and television commentators about slandering politicians as corrupt and laying doubt about our political system. I tend to think part of the so-called apolitical tone of Beck's rally was directly related to this admonition.

But he stepped in it again on the Chris Wallace interview following the rally when he "amended" his statement about Obama being a racist by saying he misspoke. The President ,he claimed, was steepedin "liberation theology", which he said Pope Benedict said was "demonic". Perhaps Beck was trying to make up for the lack of Catholics (or any other mainstream denomination) at his rally. But the "liberation theology" of the black church is not the "liberation theology" of the Catholic Church, which emerged in the late 1960s in Latin America. They have similarities but the black liberation theology is not based on Marxist categories.

LDS has tried to keep a low-political profile as witnessed in their attempts to try and fight the the release of the names of those who funded Prop.8 in California. LDS members were assigned to every district of California to coordinate behind the scenes the anti-gay marriage proposal with strict instructions to appear behind the scenes. Ironically, Glenn Beck told Bill O'Reilly he didn't oppose gay marriage, a statement that brought criticism from evangelicals.

But consider the basic demeanor of Mormons in political life--Harry Reid, the Udalls, Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch. They are pretty low-key and try to avoid raising religious issues. The reason for this is the history of persecution of Mormons in this country. That's why I take Orrin Hatch's support for the Park 51 Islamic Center and for islam in general as a shot across Beck's bow since he railed on against the "mosque at Ground Zero"--"How dare you build a mosque after you murdered thousands on 9/11".

Mormons had blogged about why Mitt Romney didn't support the Islamic Center since LDS members were sensitive to issues of religious freedom. But also they were sensitive to some of the core religious issues surrounding islamophobia. Like Mormonism, evangelicals consider Islam an "apostasy", because the final word is Jesus Christ and there are no prophets after his coming--the book on revelation is closed. A leading American evangelical called Islam, "the perfect religion for pedophiles". an accusation made against Mormons in the 19th and early 20th century in America. Mormons are considered by many American Christians a cult because they believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and they continue to have prophets in their hierarchy. Like Beck's "Restore America's Honor", Mormons believe their mission is to restore a form of pure Christianity that has been lost, misunderstood or bastardized over the centuries. While theyaccept the Bible, they supplement it with the Book of Mormon, which tells that story of Jesus' time in North America and the lost tribe of Israel--the American Indians. For Mormonism to be true, it is axiomatic for the Book of Mormon to be true--which becomes a problematic issue.

So when Beck opens questions about the nature of President Obama's Christianity, he invites questions of his. What Beck neglects to tell his listeners is that, according to LDS, President Obama, his wife and children and all his grandparents and great-grandparents are "saved" because the Mormons baptized them by "proxy" shortly after the President's election. I will defer to my old professor Dr. Krister Stendhal, the late dean of Harvard Divinity School, who thought that the practice of "proxy baptism" by Mormons was a lovely tradition to confer on someone the gift of your tradition.

However, LDS got into trouble with the Jewish community when they started proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims as a tribute to those killed. One of the little mentioned aspects of Mormonism is its homage to Jewish traditions both in its sacred literature and its tradition of temple building. Joseph Smith was well-known for his almost fanatical love of Judaism.

The response to Beck from evangelicals not linked to his choir at the rally was blistering. They warned Christians not to accept Beck's Jesus or face eternal damnation. Others spoke of the false prophets Jesus warned about when referring to Beck's religion. And still others weighed in that Mormonism doesn't recognize the Trinity and believes Jesus is the brother of Lucifer. That's why some evangelicals during the 2008 Republican primaries said that a vote for Romney was a "vote for Satan." Pretty tough stuff. If Romney ever did get to the presidency, you can bet that Tim Lahaye would invite a new anti-Christ in Mitt Romney, having failed with Mikhail Gorbachev.

One of the most fascinating responses to Beck has been from progressive Mormons (yes, there are such people.) They recoil from the attacks on President Obama as a socialist. They point out that all of the early Mormon experiments in Utah territory started as socialist and that communes were the ideal form of social organization. They also note that all the major businesses in Utah started as cooperatives and that the largest department store in Salt Lake City was a cooperative until it was privatized in the 1990s. Early Mormon economic experiments also included a sensitivity to the environment. Hence a Stewart Udall could emerge from their ranks.

It remains to be seen whether the Mormon hierarchy cracks down on Beck as some Mormon bloggers are suggesting they do. But it's clear Beck crossed the line with his co-religionists.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck's Tent Revival

How do we spell chutzpah? Glenn Beck told the audience at his rally yesterday that someday Washington would build a monument to yesterday's event. He demurred this morning when asked whether he and Sarah Palin would run for the Presidency in 2012. Did it keep Beck's PR machine going? Of course. Was it politically meaningful? No. It was a rather dull affair both for the watcher and the attendee. Depending on whom you would believe, attendence ranged from the CBS aerial estimate of about 85,000 to a larger, but perfectly realistic 150,000. I found anything such as the MSNBC estimate of 330,000 and the more outlandish Michelle Bachmann's 1 million totally out of the ballpark.

The whole affair was a display of American civil religion as scripted by Mormons and radical fundamentalist Christians. If you didn't know the background of players like David Barton or some of the speakers, you would believe this was simply a tent revival meeting on the Mall and, for the most part, it was. Like much of what Beck produces, this event was incoherent and its ultimate purpose was thoroughly unclear.

What struck me was the deliberate absence of overt politics from every speaker and Beck's strange interludes of emphasizing the "positive and the good" of America and not the scars of the country. When this was unfolding during yesterday's three hours, I remember that the head of the Mormon Church in the United States only recently issued a proclamation, close to a fatwa in that sect, that chastised radio and television producers for constantly criticizing our political leaders saying they were crooks or dishonest and called on these people to focus on the positive and the good. Yesterday, Beck's rhetoric was noticeably changed and today he apologized for having called Obama a "racist". I felt all yesterday that someone had called Beck to account.

The mythology of yesterday's events are well-known from the 1950s propaganda of Americanism. We are a country founded under divine will and have a role to play as an instrument of God's. Yesterday, as every speaker "testified", the country was under the protective cloak of Jesus Christ. This is the mainstreaming of Christian nationalism, which was the project of the organizers. Only at the very last minute did Beck mentioned Jews or Moslems, but very reluctantly. At the finale, he rolled out several dozen religious leaders, representing all Christian faiths and a lonely rabbi, who it turns out was an associate of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But throughout the day, the speakers were from the radical fundamentalist churches. There were no speakers from any mainstream Christian churches or any other religion.

Besides its monotony, I can't believe the teabaggers were thrilled by the event. While the stage was multi-ethnic, crowd counters only found 100 African-Americans in the audience. Teabaggers who came had their confederate flags, posters that said Martin Luther King was pro-Communist and the t-shirts with the usual anti-Obama slogans. They came for redmeat but Beck didn't deliver. Al Sharpton, who had a protest march across town, made an astute observation that Dr. Martin Luther King came to Washington to petition the government to protect the rights of African-Americans against the states and local governments. But Beck's followers are just the reverse--wanting to again assert state's rights against the federal government. Absolutely true but the rodeo clown couldn't deliver.

The more important part of the Beck invasion was the event held on Friday at the Kennedy Center where the whole gamut of sponsors were entertained by Beck and Sarah Palin. At that event, the whole alliance of Domionist preachers, Rev. Hagee, and the other radical fundamentalists were in full display with the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks and the NRA. That is the new "conservative alliance" working on the mid-term elections. Their presence was suppressed in the Saturday event. But you can catch this crowd in events leading up to the election. For instance, Lou Engle, the homophobic fundamentalist minister, is convening a massive rally in Sacramento with some benign title using "values". This rolling revival meeting has been travelling through the country with Newt Gingrich and David Barton as the leading sponsors. Like Friday's dinner, the emphasis is on how this administration is "secularizing" America.

Even after listening to three hours of yesterday's program, I can not tell you what Restore America's Honor means. And why now? The program began with presentations by the Special Operations Foundation, which provides scholarships to the children of dead soldiers and assistance to wounded combat veterans. The first part of the program glorified the military as a force for good in the world and rolled out veterans who had been mutilated in battle. But their stories were tinged with the futility of our recent wars. The bravery and courage displayed by these men were in avoiding being massacred and escaping losing situations. This reminds me of one of Beck's first rallies, which was held at the Alamo. The most recent history of the Alamo based on all the known documents portrays our courageous Texans, actually being killed separately as each tried to escape. There was this strange note to yesterday's commemoration of veterans. There was no heroics for vanquishing an evil foe but individual courage in escaping disaster.

Sarah Palin was very muted in her presentation. She made it clear that she was told to avoid political remarks and speak only as a mother of a serviceman. She did get a dig in on Obama saying we have to restore America , not transform it like "someone wants to do." But this was pretty tame stuff. She invoked Abraham Lincoln and admitted that slavery really had been a scourge on the land and she praised Martin Luther King. When she introduced a former Vietnam POW, she made mention of John McCain, which drew absolutely no applause from the audience. And she got her religion in by saying God's Providential hand is guiding the United States.

Glenn Beck's gimmick for the event was to reproduce George Washington's Merit of Honor, which Washington awarded to revolutionary soldiers for good deeds and FDR revived as the Purple Heart. The first on Faith was presented by an American Indian from Oklahoma, who was a "covenant warrior"--i.e. a fundamentalist Christian--and who called on all Indians to leave the reservations and accept Christ and be an American. The prescence of the Indian was a nice touch of Mormon influence as our Indians are the lost tribe of Israel.

If you were not watching, you would not get that the Faith award was given to a protege of David Barton, Christian revisionist. The award went to African American Baptist preacher C.L. Jackson, who had been chosen by Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry to minister to the Texas Department of Corrections. David Barton had been the second in command at the Texas GOP during this period. Rev. C.L. Jackson was chosen because he had been at Dr. King's "I have a Dream" rally.

Hope was the most peculiar Award. Tony LaRussa of the St.Louis Cardinals presented the award to Albert Pujoles, an Hispanic who is vocal against the Arizona anti-immigration law.

The Mormon card had to be played. Throughut the day, as Glenn Beck m.c'd the event, he would come dangerously close to stating Mormon theological beliefs. It's remarkable self-discipline that he never actually went over that line. But he had to send a message home to Salt Lake City. The Charity award went to Jon Huntsman, a billionaire Mormon, who has donated over $2 billion to charity. Ironically, the award was accepted by an African-American named Emma Houston, who proudly testified to Jesus Christ. Huntsman claimed he couldn't make it because of a marriage in his family. But you wonder whether it wasn't because his son is Obama's ambassador to China.

The program then segued into Martin Luther King, Jr. whom Beck spoke about. Long parts of the "I have a Dream" speech were played over the loudspeakers. Beck even quoted from King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. And this led to Beck's catch of the day--Dr. Alveda King, the estranged niece of Martin's family. Fundamentalists love Alveda because of her anti-abortion stance and her campaign against same-sex marriages. But I'm not sure the teabaggers liked to hear her full social program. She introduced several African American Baptist pastors and we listened to several gospel singers.

When Alveda King speech opened with her tesimony to Jesus but then she decided she had to keep parts of Dr. King's legacy alive and the audience clearly didn't anticipate this as an event of the head teabagger. Alveda quoted Martin that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." She called us to lay aside the lies about people and recognize we are one human race. She called on America to repent and reject racism. She mentioned the high rate of imrpisonment of her "brothers and sisters". And she mentioned Martin's speech about coming for a check that had been marked "insufficent funds" on the promise to African American Americans. She did her little rendition of what her dream was. The first out of the box was "an end to white privilege"but instead the idea of "human privilege". The crowd was totally quiet.

But she regained her audience by mentioning America's moral poverty and saying that marriage was threatened and all children in their mother's wombs are threatened. Then Alveda said that she would know her dream would be realized when prayers in schools was restated.

Throughout the day, a narrator would read some pious, partiotic narrative to make way for the next segment on the show. The one introducing Beck talked about America as mankind's last hope and that the New World was founded by faith. And that mankind always searched for a better way. So the narrator urged the audience that to "restore America" it was ok to believe again.

The audience had problems actually hearing Beck's final statements because he delivered it in a low voice in contrast to his melodramatic posturing on radio and television. The whole theme of his speech was to synthesize David Barton's pseudo-history of the founding of America as a narrative of Christian history. Subtext throughout the program was a revisionist history of American Christianity, particularly the fundamentalists, claiming they resisted slavery. A huge cloud hangs over the American Christian church during the period leading up to the civil war. While evangelicals in England outlawed slavery because of their agitation, their American brethern provided theological justification of slavery in the South.

Beck read the whole Gettysburg Address and claimed Lincoln was "baptised" at Gettysburg. This would come as a surprise to Lincoln scholars, who note how Lincoln paid a political price in his early career for being irreverent and a known agnostic. Beck also totally over-read the influence of evangelical preachers on the Founding Fathers--a pure Barton invention. He then likens Moses, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington emphasizing that "God is the Answer".

The AP reporter picked up that Beck basically plagiarized Barack Obama in whole paragraphs of his speech by urging his audience that one man can make a difference and often lapsing into Obama's own language.

Beck started talking about the pioneers, admitting he would have gotten stuck at the first river. But as he talked, it was clear the narrative in his mind was the Mormon exodus across the West to Salt Lake City. He didn't elaborate but left it that he would have stayed in Denver. The audience would not have a clue what he was talking about. He caught himself in time.

Then he gave a list of old saws, bromides and platitudes. He urged his audience to "get the poison of hatred out of us", worried about "the growing hatred in the culture" (which, of course, he's not a part) and urged Americans to look to God and to Love. He even gave a little riff on how he isn 't a hate monger, just the guy who warned about the iceberg before the Titanic sank. Paradoxically, he urged his audience to defend those who disagree with them.

A constant theme was that America was at a Crossroads. I didn't know whether that was coded language about Karl Rove's PAC or what. In the manner of Farwell, Pat Robertson, and Jeremiah Wright, Beck claimed that 9/11 was a 'wake-up call from God", not an attack by Islamic terrorists.

The remedies for this are simple prayer, tell the truth and give to charities. He made a pitch for tithing, which fundamentalists and Mormons are supposed to do. He told his audience his whole life had been a lie and then urged everyone to go to "God's Bootcamp". Then he introduced the 240 pastors as a New Black Robe army. He claimed the allusion was to the British's hatred of the clergy during the American revolution--curious since the British had a "religion" tax to support churches.

He then commited another whopper with the story of John Newton, as slave ship owner, who changed his ways and wrote "Amazing Grace", which we were treated to, complete with bag pipes. No mention that Newton ripped off the tune from a Negro spiritual.

And then for all us fans of Oral Roberts, he did the money miracle bit. He said he had spent over $3 million and it looked like he couldn't donate to the Special Operations Fund as promised--something critics have been noting from the beginning. He prayed to God and said He had to come through. And, sure enough, two days later $600K arrived. Oral had been more inventive, telling his flock that if they didn't come up with $5 million God would smite him dead. Miraculously, they got it together and Oral Roberts lived another day.

The whole event ended with a prayer from a seriously burned Vietnam vet, who had become a minister. In his introduction of the pastor, Beck told Vietnam Vets he was finally welcoming them home. Gag. Then Dan Reever, the pastor, began the prayer by thanking God for the President of the United States. Which must have driven the teabaggers wild.

There are so many observations one can make about this whole event, especially about the meglomania of a Glenn Beck. But when you come right down to it, it resembled old Tent Revivals of the past, just with a little more showbiz. But bad showbiz at that. But I can't imagine anyone was moved or persuaded by any of this. In a way, it showed the old American civil religion in tatters and not really in a position to restore itself. I was struck throughout by the extreme limits of ideology. There was no there there. Christian nationalism might whip up some people for a short period of time but it has no viability or even emotive force. Maybe because it ultimately can not make the overt racial appeal that Hitler did. Even in trying to coopt Dr. Martin Luther King, Beck and his cronies had to bend and diversify the participation on stage and thereby dilute and defuse his and their message whatever it is.

How long Beck can go on until he disintegrates is anyone's guess. But for a Tent Revival, it failed because it lacked any religious imagination. As a political pep rally, it failed because movements can't run on old, soiled cliches and bromides.

One question I had throughout the event was that if our rights are given to us by the divine, then when they are taken away does the divine intervene to restore them. The whole event left a long string of questions.

Frankly, I was re-assured by the whole lameness of the show. While Beck tried to co-opt everything in sight, he couldn't do it with any finesse or umph. There was no resonance in the whole production. The tea baggers will go home deflated, knowing they have been abandoned by their leaders. I noted that the great build-up to Saturday's event was supposed to be Beck's Plan for the next 100 years of America. No mention. No suggestions. No Plan.

The carnival moves on.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bummer Friday

Beautiful weather but the zeitgeist is getting funky.

Dana Milbank doesn't take kindly to Glenn Beck showing up in town. The early videos of his arrival show the short-sleeved munchkin surrounded by security dressed as secret service types and white women reaching out to shake his hand. But Milbank is writing a book about Beck and doesn't think highly of the new messiah. He reminds readers that it has just been over a year since Beck called the first-African-American president a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people." Beck says that Obama is "moving all of us to slavery". He accused Obama of seeking "reparations" from white America, seeking to "settle old racial scores". This is also a chronic theme of Rush Limbaugh's rantings.

Beck has spoken about "radical black nationalism" in the White House and "Marxist black liberation theology" influencing Obama. He has also determined that the New Black Panthers have "ties to the White House in a myriad of ways" and are part of Obama's "army of thugs". Where do I join? Beck choose the date of his rally because of "divine providence". Like Sharron Angle running for Senate. Like Jan Brewer running for Arizona. Does God now have alzheimer's?

Beck now believes the civil rights movement was distorted by civil rights leaders, who may have known King personally but purposely distorted his ideas. Over the last century, Beck says, "no man has been free,because we've been progressive." He argues the anti-tax conservatives are the "real civil rights movement." Well done, Dana.

Ken Mehlman, the man who ran George W.'s 2004 campaign, has discovered he is gay. This is a man who presided over the Republican Party when it ran anti-gay referenda in every state to boost the turnout and encouraged the passage of DOMA in Congress. He is now saying he was quietly trying to persuade Republicans to go easy on the Gay. It's simply not believable. Now he wants to support the cause of same-sex marriage. He is in a long line of gay conservatives beginning with Roy Cohn, who run the Republican Party. There is a wonderful book there or else a piece for a psychology journal.

Nate "The Great" Silver is making me nervous. Do you remember when he was "poblano" over at the Daily Kos? Nate appeared on Hardball and started talking about "wave" elections and mentioned Speaker Boehner. This coming week, we'll see what Nate has produced.

Chris Van Hollen , who is handling the Democratic House elections, claimed this morning that the Democrats will hold both houses of Congress.

But Joseph Bafumi, Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien , all reputable political scientists, have done their preliminary House predictions by running a 1,000 computer simulations. They predict Republicans will take back the House with a majority of 229 seats to 206 for Democrats. They do include all the necessary scholarly caveats. But still...

If Republicans win back the House, they plan to do what I wrote about before--investigate the Obama Administration from soup to nuts. Politico reports today that Republican staffers are already researching the areas of these probes. Of course, a major one will be the DOJ's handling of the so-called New Black Panther voting intimidation case. You see white people are being intimidated now from voting like with ACORN. So we will have several investigations to prove Barack Obama is an African American and to link him to the more ephemera of African American culture.

One of the heroes of New Orleans is back in the news. "Brownie", the former head of FEMA and horse breeder, told the press that President Bush hid how horrible Katrina was from the American people. Brownie is heading to New Orleans to "celebrate" the five-anniversary of the disaster. The crime of the Government's response to Katrina was that FEMA for several consecutive years ran practice sessions on exactly this precise level Hurricane striking this precise city. The plans for this particular disaster were upgraded nearly every year beginning in the Clinton Administration. And yet nothing suggested by these run-throughs was ever carried out on the days it happened or weeks afterward.

Richard Trumpka, the AFL-CIO's President blasted Sarah Palin at a union gathering in Alaska. Not to be outdone, Palin called union leaders "thugs", the new refrain from the Republicans, and said that union members were better off supporting conservatives. Because you know, they would be better off if the auto industry had failed and the rest of their homes would face foreclosure. The good news this year is that all the unions are coordinating to raise their stake in the mid-terms to $100 million. While it can't outgun the some $400 million being pledged by conservative groups, the money comes with people to organize and get out the vote. Apparently, the Democrats' ability this year to run an effective get-out-the-vote campaign has caused Karl Rove to panic and he's scrambling to raise significant funds for a GOTV effort of his own since the RNC's effort is bankrupt.

So far, I've been impressed by how prepared the Democrats have been in blunting GOP attacks. They seem to be playing more offense at this stage than defense and have so far neutralized the negative ads run by Republicans. The Republican candidates provide a target rich environment for the Democrats to hang them by their radical right-wing agendas.

Some of the candidates are truly astonishing for both their character and their ideas. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for governor of Florida, had the honor of paying a $1.5 billion fine for Medicare fraud by his hospitals. Several candidates openly support banning abortion even in the case of rape and incest. Sharron Angle said that teenage women just have to make lemonade out of lemons. One of the best candidates is running against Russ Feingold. He claims he is a self-made millionaire, who started in business after graduating from high school. Turns out he married a very wealthy woman, was given a department of the family business to run, and also never graduated from high school. Rick Miller in Alaska may have won as a teabagger with Sarah Plain's endorsement and has the most anti-Alaskan campaign of them all. He wants to stop the pork from going to Alaska. They get roughly $2 for every $1 they contribute to the national economy. He could really run on "Vote for Me and You will Die."

The Congressional Budget Office is preparing for a war if Republicans win in November. They announced that any repeal of the Medicare provisions in the healthcare bill will cause about $450 billion in additional deficit. This raises the issue about pay-go rules. For instance, if the Republicans actually want to keep the tax cuts for the rich, Congress this time--unlike last time--has to pay for them. The actual cost of the tax cuts for the rich is roughly twice the cost of the healthcare reform bill for all of America. Now, we know Republicans will not cut defense so the tax cuts for the wealthy have to be paid for by cuts in anything the lower or middle classes might get. If you analyze this, Pat Ryan in his "Blueprint for the Future" actually gave the game away. His plan called for cutting taxes for the wealthy and raising them for everyone else. He also listed entitlement programs that would have to be cut. That's what the end-game of the GOP tax-cuts for the rich actually means. And I believe that's why the GOP leadership is trying to push Ryan off to the side for now. They are afraid that their whole gig will be up.

An idea for Democrats: Make the real cost of the tax-cuts for the rich explicit. They have to be paid for and the rest of America must subsidize the wealthy. It is true that the deficit would increase but I don't think that's how it would play out this time with pay-go. Of course, all the tax cuts, including for the Middle Class, have to be paid for through pay-go rules. So watch this space for what actually goes next year.

Fidel Castro wants you to know that Bin Laden is a bought and paid for CIA agent.

Our anti-corruption effort in Afghanistan seems to have run into a few roadblocks. It seems that all the corrupt Afghan officials that need to be removed are paid CIA agents.

I Have A Scheme*

*Kudos to John Stewart for his takedown of Glenn Beck and also to Stephen Colbert for his slam on Beck's martyr complex.

Carnival barker Glenn Beck has been whipping up interest in the two-headed lady, who will appear tomorrow at his Destroy Honor rally. Strange white people--and I mean very strange looking people-- are showing up here in Old Town with signs for the rally in their cars with Midwest license plates. Remember the organizers warned people to stay away from Maryland and the black sections of D.C. Instead they are urged to come here to Northern Virginia. As I wrote before, evangelicals are beginning to freak out about Beck's recent public turns toward Mormon theology, saying that Beck is trying to make America into a Mormon country. Other evangelicals supportive of Beck issued this morning a pastoral letter saying that you don't have to be "de-Christianized" to attend the rally. The Koch family, the nation's largest polluters, are bankrolling the hotels and transportation for the attendees.

This morning's CNN poll showed that only 29% of Americans back the Teaparty people with a large majority against. That's good news.

Gene Robinson at the Washington Post was rather sanguine about the affair , reminding people that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King are forever immortalized in our history so that Beck's egofest shouldn't threaten anyone. Gene did remind everyone that the original march on washington for Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream Speech" was aimed at jobs and poverty. A. Phillip Randolph spoke on that very subject at the event.

While Gene is right that no one should be upset by this nonsense, this event is another unsettling episode over the last two years of the right trying to re-write history. It follows in the long line of radical right opposition to very basic amendments of our Constitution and the loony-tune elimination of the wall between church and state advocated by the Beckites. The emergence of this extreme view of American history indicates some deeper sickness at work.

So who should I turn to for some answers? Luckily, there is a wonderful new book of James Baldwin's uncollected writings The Cross of Redemption (Pantheon, 2010). This volume is a companion volume to the Library of America's collection of James Baldwin's essays. Even after all these decades,his prose is eloquent, his wit acerbic and his observations penetrating. In two of his essays, Baldwin recalls his terse meeting with Robert F. Kennedy over civil rights where Bobbie told Baldwin that the United States would have a black President in 30 years. Well, he was only off by 10. Most of the essays and speeches were written in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the awful aftermath of the assasinations had been felt and Richard Nixon re-emerged with his Southern strategy and the country was torn by Vietnam. From the modestly hopeful essays of the early 1960s, Baldwin plunges into despair and he expresses concern that white Amerca was in fact beyond redemption.

Several essays resonate to this day about the obliviousness of white Americans to the history of the United States. Baldwin many times argues that the problem in race relations in particular is that white lacks any true identity. "They don't know who they are." is a refrain heard throughout his writing. He makes the point that "the white" is a fabrication by people who abandoned their own past to belong to the United States and that amnesia of their roots has fueled their racism. Having lived in France, which was supportive of black artists in those days, Baldwin drew sharp contrasts with how he was treated there and how he was treated in the States, particularly in the South. In his testimony before Congress on creating studies in black history and culture, he emphasized that this shouldn't be done just for black Americans but for whites. "My history is your history and until you understand that you can't make progress."

It's all well and good to invoke the periods of nativism to understand this bizarre focus on illegal immigrants or this anti-Islam rage but there is some deeper pathology. Hatred and fear of President Obama isn't simply the old racist theme. It has a new twist. His African roots mean he is not our "darkie" but he's from one of those who escaped being enslaved by whites. And even worse he is a product of miscegenation. This is where the "birther", "Muslim" themes come from. He's totally other. The other you can't control or who does not understand what it is to be controlled by the whites.

You only have to read the body language of the Senate Republicans to get the message. Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions is a prime example of this. The President "that boy" must wait and learn how to behave according to our rules. It is also not a coincidence that all the CEOs speaking at Aspen likened Obama to Mussolini (they actually loved El Duce) and Hitler. If this were not true, you would hear about his Pilgrim ancestors and hear more that he received the largest popular vote in American history, a fact you only heard on election night and not a day after. How insulting is it to have a group of well-meaning Christian ministers write a letter affirming the President's Christianity? Who would dare do such a thing for Richard Nixon or even Ronald Reagan, both of whom never went to church? And why is it that the media so happily plays along?

This time there is a larger agenda than just to race-bait. This is the old bait-and-switch. Rev up the racist sentiment, while we pick more white pockets. A large piece of the American artifice collapsed in the last decade. We have seen all those who own America come out of the woodwork in the last 18 months to ensure their continued privilege. But the raw price of this is devastating and places at risk the survival of the country as we've known it. The last hurrah of the golden horde is here. That's why we are seeing the constant historical revisionism , the review of the constitution itself and the full scale attack on the whole idea of government itself. We are simply not brave enough to discuss the economic reality of the country and what we need to do to create a liveable society for everyone.

Yet we will remain deluded as people try and convince the public that Social Security is at risk and that the national debt isn't fixable so we must destroy the remains of a social welfare system. For this we need the new history of how the white Christian America was duped by "progressives" into creating a social welfare state. And we are actively helped out with this project by extraordinarily wealthy people like the Koch family and other billionaires, who must like the amusement of getting a whole subculture to act as their ministrel boys in the Tea Party Movement. The final looting has begun. And these poor souls will act as lemmings willingly jumping off the cliff for the sake of individual liberty and freedom.

We should have seen this coming. A tentative attempt by conservatives was made in 2008 when the economic system was collapsing . At that time, I received e-mails suggesting that George Soros, Charles Schumer and Barney Frank were at fault for the sub-prime mortgage crisis and that Soros was speculating wildly on the market. In short, the Jews did it. But that soon died because it was obviously uncouth. So then it was all those minorities who got subprime mortgages. The e-mails even threw in Jimmy Carter as a culprit because he outlawed "redlining", the practice of not selling real estate to blacks. Now amnesia sets in and all this is really just a Big Recession, which requires more tax cuts and shrinking the size of government. I had been waiting for any Republican to stand up in the last few months and admit that the white boys screwed up --and almost fatally. It will never happen.

So it makes sense to make whites become victims. You even get a choice. White Christians can believe they are persecuted because of their views on gays. White nationalists can lament the wave of Latinos coming into the country. And all whites can believe they are victims of a "racist" President--constantly warring with his identities--who hates the private sector. Take your pick. When the white boys go wild, they really go wild!

What is actually hopeful in reading James Baldwin is that he describes much of this as it happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when there was a civil war in this country of sorts. And we managed to survive that and move on for a generation. He would have understood perfectly where the attacks on President Obama were coming from. In many of his essays, he talks about the white Southerners' fears of blacks, the fear something was going to be taken away from them. Bayard Rustin always said that race was the 'burr under the American saddle" but he also indicated that it was economics that was the basis for all this conflict. It's too bad we haven't come farther in that understanding.

Recommended reading:
"We Can Change the Country"
"The Use of the Blues" (gratuitous)
"What Price Freedom"
"The White Problem"
"The Price May be Too High"
"On Being White..and Other Lies"
"The Nigger We Invent"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Case You Forgot--"I Have A Dream Speech"

Don't accept any substitutes or let a little Mormon guy fool you.

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous day break to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead, of honoring this sacred obigation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds".

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great value of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit pasth of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads to the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be quilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and agin, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horros of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel can not gain lodging in the motels of the highway and the hotels of the cities. We can not be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can not be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream>'

I am no unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest--quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair,I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down togeher at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification"--one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls wiill be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight:" and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day--this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing
with new meaning:

My country' tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountaains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at Last! Free at Last!
Thank God Almighty,we are free at last!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Political Mayhem and HooHaw

Nate the Great Silver at www.fivethirtyeight.com at his new digs at the New York Times has his new Senate model up and running. He called all 35 Senate races in 2008 correctly. His finaly tally today is Democrats lose 6 to 7 seats. Democrats 52.4; Republicans 47.1 and Other .5 I love the fractions. In future posts, we'll get to the specific races. Next week Nate promises the House predictions--I shudder.

One observation I have is that earlier this week Beltway pundits wrote op-eds predicting a possible Republican take-over of the Senate. Somehow no one cares to base any of this on empirical evidence. To do that, the Republicans would have to win all of the 10 seats, where they seem to have a possibility. So a Republican take-over of Congress would mean the GOP would have to win all 10 Senate seats that are possible and all 40 of the Democrats vulnerable seats. If they did that, be very scared. It would mean that the political universe of the United States had radically changed within the last 18 months and that we face a fascist threat--which we may anyway.

Usually mild-mannered Norm Ornstein of AEI, after John "The Tan Man" Boehner's exposition of the Republican economic program yesterday commented that Tan Man and Eric Cantor are the Homer and Bart Simpson of Congress "merely content to play adolescent antics and games". From the neoconservative Kingdom, that smarts. Norm also mentioned that all of the Republican moderates in the House could have caucused in Mike Castle's closet. He said that the politics of Congress after this election will be worse. The moderates on both sides will be obliterated. He mentioned that Castle would be going on to the Senate.

After beating the drum on deficit and the national debt, the GOP has scared its own base. A CNN poll suggest that only 50% of Republicans want to extend the Bush tax-cuts for the rich. As for tax-cuts for those making under $250,000, 69% of liberals support that approach, 53% of moderates and only 36% of conservatives. More conservatives want to extend the tax cuts for the very rich than for the middle and lowe-income brackets , even though all economists agree that the reverse positions would actually stimulate the economy.

Just to play the Devil's Advocate, let's say the Republicans take back the House. How much trouble would new members cause for the Tan Man? Particularly if they come from the two dozen African-American members recruited by Michael Steele? While we see the ethics problems with Rangel and Waters on the Democratic side, the whispers around town say that the Tan Man has several serious ethics problems with Republicans but he said he deals with those "privately." If in the majority, these would not be private any more. How long under these circumstances would a majority actually survive? Boehner has frequently had to tell the "Family Values" members to stop partying with women lobbyists.

I urge everyone to read Jane Mayer's piece "Covert Operations" in the new New Yorker on the role of the Koch Brothers in trying to undermine the Obama Administration. Both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow last night had segments on their show about how the Koch brothers bankroll the Tea Party and organize fake astro-turf groups to lobby against regulations and anything that might affect climate change so as to protect their financial interests. As the book Radicals for Capitalism describes, the Koch brothers are self-proclaimed radical libertarians, who not only want to eliminate the social welfare state but also the government itself. They differ slightly from their father, who was a founding member of the John Birch Society and was involved in the FDR as a socialist campaign.

Washington awaits Glenn Beck's Dishonor Valor rally, where he will unfold his Mormon Libertarian vision of America which will reclaim the Civil Rights Movement for white supremacists. One organizer has printed out a helpful map of Washington warning attendees where black people hang out and what metro lines to take to avoid people of color. There are also addresses of Democratic leaders of Congress, which you may want to call or shoot. Martin Luther King's son had a classy op-ed in today's Washington Post reminding readers of his father's commitment to social justice and hinting that Beck's rally was a sign of disrespect.

Beck will racially heal the country with voices of tolerance . Sarah Palin has just supported Dr.Laura after her Tourette's rant of the "N" word. Ted Nugent , who hailed Dubuque as a "real white city", will join them on stage. And Michelle Bachmann, Christianist from Minnesota, wants her followers to be "armed and dangerous". This is sort of like Hitler trying to co-opt the message of Mohatma Gandhi.

Political conservatives are growing disenchanted with Glenn Beck for abandoning the 9-12 project, which he started. The Christian Right is getting a bit dispturbed by people like David Barton, Christian revisionist, for defending Beck. What the fundamentalists have been noticing and average viewers wouldn't get is that Beck is increasing introducing themes of Mormon theology into his shows.

This is most evident when he started a spontaneous rant on American Indian civilization. He accused the Smithsonian of covering up the true facts of a discovery in the Ohio mounds of the Ho-Ho-Kum culture. Beck claims that a piece of pottery was found there which was inscribed with bold printed Hebrew. This piece he says contains the Ten Commandmants. Then he quotes approvingly from Thomas Jefferson's speculations of where the Indians came from. All interesting stuff but you would have to know that Mormon theology says that the American Indians were descended from an Israelite tribe, who travelled to North America before Columbus. All of what he said about the Ho-Ho-Kum mounds is nonsense but widely believed by Mormons.

Beck says his address will be based on some talking points because he doesn't want to interfere with the "Spirit". Now remember the Koch industries' front-ground Americans for Prosperity are providing cut-rate packages for people to attend the Beck rally. There will be Tea Baggers there. Now Beck in his last shows suggested that William Penn's method of dealing with American Indians may be a model for our racial cooperation. I think there may be some suprises for Beck's free-market fundamentalist fans on Saturday. He's going to weave a Mormon interpretation of the origins of America together with a homily on the Founding Fathers and suggest America never was the same after the first generation of revolutionary founders. By the end you might see steam come from the fundamentalists ears. By the end , Beck may just piss everyone off.

Those Not Busy Being Born Are Busy Dying

*Bob Dylan

Since the news story was Vice President Joe Biden responding to the Tan Man's bizarre Republican economic ideas, you would have missed the gist of what Biden and Energy Secretary Steve Chu told the press. First, Vice President Biden reported on the effect of the Recovery Act has had on the economy. The CBO that day issued a report that the stimulus funds had created 3.3 million jobs--almost the amount President Obama predicted at the beginning--and that its effect would peak this year and taper off in 2011 and 2012.

But the real essence of the presentation was, in less diplomatic terms, the economy of 20th Century America is dead and that the stimulus package contained the seeds of our future economy. Steven Chu mentioned--a fact that has escaped every reporter to date--the largest commitment by the United States to scientific research and development in our history. He also mentioned that stimulus funds had provided the seed money for innovations in clean energy, new forms of transportation and medical research. Of the whole $814 billion package, over $100 billion has been committed to science, technology and innovation projects. What he didn't say was that of the clean energy projects, the government provides 25% and the private sector 75%. So you have a multiplier effect.

The Biden report on the Recovery Act mentions that by the end of 2011, we will have doubled the renewable energy capacity of solar, wind and geothermal sources so that it would be sufficient to power 16.7 million homes or 55 million electric cars for a year. That sounds impressive but solar power now accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation, while wind power produces almost 2 percent. The manufacturing goal is to double the renewable equipment like wind turbines and solar panels, which means the jobs stay in the United States.

Dr. Steven Chu suggested that these scientific developments would have a quantum effect. He mentioned that by 2015 the cost of solar power would be on the par with common grid electricity and that the cost of electric car batteries is expected to fall by 70 percent between today and 2015 and will be competitive with regular batteries. He suggested then that the actual cost for solar panels and these batteries will fall dramatically. He also made note that we know how to make a smart power grid, which would dramatically cut the inefficiencies in our system and save enormous energy costs. Dr. Chu also mentioned the anticipation of huge medical advances in the next few years because of this research money. He claims that we all can get in five years a human genome sequence of ourselves for $1,000. Neat, I'll get one to go along with the electronic photos of my retina. A whole new source of artistic inspiration.

While people don't perceive the recovery, unless you are like me end driving on highways under perpetual reconstruction, the seeds of our future economy are being planted and by an excellent farmer, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Chu. This is still not a substitute for an Energy Bill, but it is the type of stealth actions the Obama Administration are taking to secure our future. Hearing Joe Biden speak, reminded me of the politicians who used to extol America's creativity and innovation and marvel at the wonders of science. Somehow these people died off.

Buried in the report and the comments was a throwaway line about extending broadband to rural areas. Previously, I wrote how this initiative by President Obama will have a similar effect as FDR's Rural Electrification program, which brought rural America into the 20th century. Interestingly, this part of the stimulus package is being implemented by the US Department of Agriculture.

The pace of developing this new economy is hampered by the obstructionism in Congress over the issue of net neutrality and the energy bill. The general idea was to use the stimulus money as the seed capital for the new economy and to reinforce this with larger expenditures in later bills. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem likely given our current political framework.

What does becomes clear is that the new economy is coming, while we watch the painful death of the old one. I don't think we will see the visible effect of this for about ten years. Until that time, we will have the old economy, which is no longer efficient or productive, limping along with unemployment staying in the 7.5-9% range. The economy is simply not producing enough jobs to replace those lost by the Recession.

One of the intriguing things about these clean energy projects is how decentralized they are. Gone are the days of the Hoover Dam and the TVA. Instead, these innovations will be adapted and modified by the American people into different lifestyle configurations. Already the spin-offs from our space programs have generated products that have made living off the grid a viable alternative for thousands of Americans. For a good read on this movement, read Nick Rosen's Off The Grid (Penguin, 2010), which examines both younger and older generations who have managed to live a middle-class lifestyle removed from urban areas. With broadband in rural areas of America, we might see this type of movement accelerate. Rural America became de-populated in the 1990s with the collapse of family farms. One of the pernicious effects of this was the rise of the militia and white supremacy movements in the country. But a return to rural life with modern technology could become a safety valve for our society. The same goes for urban homesteading and the rise of urban farming.

Observers are aware that China is making rapid progress in all these areas of alternative energy sources and new technologies. But the competitive advantage of the United States is that while they are advanced in their hardware, we have the cultural software that will allow us to apply these technologies to reinforce our own social and national identity. The noise you hear are the dying cries of the defenders of the status quo and the financial interests who got us into this mess. Even with our wounded political framework, there is nothing these guys can do to stop it. That may be the real reason you have American conservatives basically give up on the idea of self-government--the world they dominated has collapsed and largely because of their own actions. The tragedy is that the pain of our current economic situation was unnecessary and man-made. But it allows us a clearer view of the future.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Notes on the National Debt

We saw Dick Armey accuse Mitch McConnell of being a coward this Sunday for failing to sign on to Congressman Ryan's "Blueprint for a Banana Republic". Governor Steinholm just owned Dick Armey on both Social Security and Medicare. We should expect this nonsense to heat up through the elections and beyond. Senator Cornyn has introduced a bill to eliminate the section of the Heathcare Reform that established a panel to keep Medicare costs in check. The war on the remaining social welfare system is on!

So let's talk about the National Debt--$11+trillion inherited from the Bush-Cheney years. Conservative ideologues want to use this as a mandate to destroy the rest of government, except for the national security/ terrorist complex.

If you can visualize the solution, the problem is solved. Or as the Prophet Mohammed said, "The words of a scholar are worth far more than the blood of martyrs." OK, that's not quite relevant but a good quote anyway.

Number One--The McColm Social Security Plan that calls for the end of the cap on the FICA tax allows everyone alive today, including my two month old grandneice, social security, and even some of the next unborn generation. It would last through 2175. Problem solved.

Number Two--Medicare costs will be controlled by the present Healthcare Bill but the easiest solution is Howard Dean's proposal to allow all Americans to buy Medicare. This creates competition to the health insurance industry and through actuarial tables lowers health care costs in Medicare and also health costs nationally. The overwhelming Medicare costs are the last year of life. Medicare for All solves Medicare. Problem solved.

Number Three--The number one cause of current deficits is the Bush tax cuts. While I'm all for the Democrats trying to get Middle Class tax cuts, if we eliminate all of the tax cuts, we would be dramatically cutting the annual deficit and the national debt in the long-run. Problem solved.

Number Four--The Third Rail of American politics is the $1.2 trillion a year military/ terrorist budget. Eliminate just half America's 770 bases around the world and we save $125 billion a year. We are now creeping to a balanced budget with the tax cuts eliminated. 18% of our national debt is attributed to military pensions and healthcare for retirees. For the high rank personnel, make pensions dependent on wealth, since hundreds of generals earn more in the defense industry, and get older military retirees to pay more for their Tricare. We haven't even begun to phase out obsolete weapon systems. But even forgetting that, we should have a War Tax to pay for any real extended combat like the Vietnam War phone tax. Since we no longer have a draft , there is really no disincentives for Congress to vote against any conflict. Public opinion virtually doesn't matter. But if they must pass a tax to back up their pro-war vote, they might experience some hesitancy. It would condition our political culture not to opt for war as the first option, not the last. Problem sort of solved.

If we let Paul Krugman crunch the numbers, you would find that these proposals would push our deficit to less than 4% of GDP by the year 2020. And that's as good as you are going to get. And we still get to spend some money on Americans, who are in real need, and we don't have to de-develop as proposed by Congressman Ryan. Problem Solved.

Next on the agenda is to revitalize the economy. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Guinea at the Last Manatee on Friday

In case, you were following the large metallic object, you may have missed that 6 in 10 Americans now oppose the Afghanistan war or three times the amount who believe President Obama is a Muslim. A Majority feel that the Iraq War will be viewed as a failure and a mistake, while 42% hang tough that it was a success.

Franklin Graham, the spawn of Billy, said that "The President's problem is that he was a born a Muslim. He carries the seed of Islam... His father gave him an Islamic name... He has renounced the prophet Muhammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ." What can one say? Now you know why his father insisted on meeting President Obama alone at their house and kept Franklin outside. President Obama was not born a Muslim except in the eyes of people like Daniel Pipes. His father gave him his own name, not a Muslim name. His father was an atheist and an alcoholic. Members of his tribe were Muslim. His mother was a Unitarian and he never was raised as a Muslim. Graham makes it like he converted to Christianity. And President Obama has never said ,"Boo, about the prophet Mohammed" and " he was never renounced Islam" because he never had to. Franklin also mentioned that Muammar Qaddafhi believes Obama is Muslim. The last time I heard Qaddafhi was at the AU heads of state summit meeting where he proclaimed himself "the King of Kings".

Andrew Mitchell, not the brightest bulb, said the President brought it on himself because he isn't seen going to church like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. First off, when did you see George W go to church and Bill went to avoid the Monica Lewinski episode. But the media is awful lazy here not having seen the Obamas go to the Anglican Church across from the White House and on another Sunday to the AMZ Baptist Church where Dr. King had preached. I have and I don't keep track of such things.

During the last campaign. Colin Powell finally fed up with this nonsense said what if he were Muslim. Shouldn't Muslim-Americans grow up believing they can become President someday? Where did this recent hate of Islam come from? And what ever happened to Jeremiah Wright , who said "The Chickens have come home to roost?" This is wrecking Glenn Beck's narrative that the President is a follower of black liberation theology.

Let's flash backward to Germany just prior to WWII. German Jews did not live in ghettoes. They were one of the most assimilated groups in every part of German society. They held positions within government, universities, banks,business and the military. Three of Hitler's commanding officers in WWI were Jewish. And yet the Nazis could make Germans forget this reality and purge them first with segregation and then with liquidation. And the Nazis did this with the full compliance of the German judicial system, which were not as yet replaced by Nazis. Judges educated in democracy and the Western rule of law complied with requests to persecute the Jews.

Here in the United States as I wrote a few posts ago, Muslim-Americans are one of the most assimilated groups in our society, universally members of the middle class and possessing higher education. They have been advisers to President, served in our military,been at the forefront of medical breakthroughs, designed some of our best known buildings like the Hancock Building in Chicago and are professors in nearly every discipline in our universities. The more everyday Muslim-Americans own local businesses which we go to everyday. Why do we presume Islamophobia can't become our anti-semiticism. After all Hitler's anti-semiticism as he made clear in the first edition of Mein Kampf came from America.

We saw pockets of anti-Muslim actions after 9-11. But now with the Iraq war winding down, Obama liquidating Al Qaeda, we see the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment during a time of economic stress. We had the teabaggers hold protests against the mosque in southern California where they urged people to bring dogs. We have the church in Gainesville, Florida say they are going to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11. A planned mosque in Tennessee has generated protests and one in Wisconsin has also met with protests. The lower Manhattan project has just become the vocal point of this hate today. All generated from nothing. When Park 51 was announced in December, the New York Times wrote a favorable article, which quoted Christian and Jewish leaders in Manhattan as saying this community center would help reconciliation. Now the iman,who took trips for both the Bush and Obama administrations to speak about religious freedom in the United States, is somehow linked but not really to Hamas, and Iran and the Gaza Flotilla. And the poor man is a Sufi to boot.

Do we really want a frank and open discussion about radical Islam? Do we want to discuss the Saudi's fundamentalism of Wahabism? Do we want to discuss America's role in disseminating it? Do we want to understand our covert role in creating the Muslim Brotherhood? Or what about Al Qaeda itself? We got attacked by our own creation. The chickens really did come home to roost.

Interfaith groups both in New York and in California are now trying to tamper down this hate. Let's hope they succeed because I fear one lighted match and we could have the beginnings of a religious war. Dr.King said, "Violence turns day into the darkest night."

Speaking of religious wars, Dave Barton, Christian revisionist, is defending his buddy Glenn Beck before evangelicals saying that the Mormon Beck is more Christian than Jim Wallis of the Sojourners, Catholic Nancy Pelosi and Methodist Hillary Clinton. Barton has looked into Beck's heart and seen Putin. Beck is getting ready for his Distort Honor Rally next weekend, which he says is like the coming of Baby Jesus. Bill O'Reilly joked with Beck that he thought only abut 10,000 people would come. Beck told his television audience 100,000. The rally's organizers asked for permits estimating 300,000. No doubt, Fox News will say 2 million came and it surpassed Obama's swearing-in.

Sister Sarah Palin has alienated black evangelicals because of her defense of Dr. Laura, who let loose with a torrent of the "N" word. Listening to the tape, it's something you can't believe. It makes Don Imus and his "nappy-headed ho's" sound grandfatherly.

The Mid-Terms. The Cook Political Report raised its House forecast "from a Republican net gain between 32 and 42 to a gain between 35 and 45 seats, with the odds of an outcome larger than that range greater than the odds of a lesser outcome." In short, Republicans need a net turnover of 39 seats to take control of the chamber. So Cook is predicting that there should be more movement in this direction as we approach election day.

Maybe Cook is right but I still have doubts. I've seen the internal Republican House gameplan. It focuses on 40 Democratic seats that are shaky. But it also concedes 5 Republican seats. Now maybe the idea is that you aim at 40 for certainty but believe the tsunami is larger. But I can't see them sweeping all 40, which means they come up short. Of the computer projections, I've seen I 've seen two that have the GOP take the House by one seat.

If you want to follow a great discussion on generic vote and its meaning, check out www.fivethirtyeight.com where Nate the Great takes out after Pollster.com for projecting large gains for the GOP with 95% certainty. As Nate argues, their range is 21 to 70, which would indeed make it into 95% certainty but it doesn't mean very much in terms of actual projections.

I have also seen Senate projections of 52-54 Democrats in the Senate. The Democrats face the certain turnover in North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana and Delaware. Yet, they can pick up some Republican seats. Matt Iglesias fantasizes that the Senate would be 49-49-1, with the old gang of 20 determining policy. Can you imagine this siuation and a one-seat majority by the GOP in the House? Talk about mayhem.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, Rand Paul blew his brains out in eastern Kentucky. Rand Paul opined that drug enforcement was not really an issue in Kentucky. This was only days after he dismissed forcing a co-ed to get stoned at a party at Baylor and worshiping the Aqua Buddha. Well, virtually every newspaper in Kentucky denounced him and most importantly every paper in eastern Kentucky, which is a Republican stronghold. That region has been dealing with a meth epidemic the last few years that have ravaged whole communities. His remarks caused the Police to endorse the Democrat Jack Conway, who has inched ahead in the polls. The lesson is that ideologues can be done in by local realities.

In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak is fighting Pat Toomey. Polls showed Toomey opening up a lead but then he slipped and talked about his ideas for reforming and privatizing Social Security that are contained in a book. Those ideas don't go over very well in Pennsylvania and have moved the race into a toss-up.

Republican congressman Mark Kirk was a dead certain winner to take Barack Obama's old seat in Illinois but his constant lying about everything has taken a toll. Even with a Green Party candidate in the race, the Democrats still have an edge.

Queen Meg Whitman is zooming to break the self-finance record set by Mike Bloomberg. But her constant television ads are producing a backlash with more people saying they don't like her the more she appears on television. Polls show Governor Moonbeam and Whitman are tied. However, Carly Fiorina has jumped out to a five-point lead over Barbara Boxer, which indicates this will become a nail-biter.

Dino Rossi in Washington appeared to be inching toward Patty Murray but he also shoots himself in the foot believing most people living in Washngton State earn more than $250,000 and extolling the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The race is now Murray by 4 but Rossi has shown he simply can't pick up independents.

Sharron Angle--bless her heart--is not backing away from her position to phase out Social Security. In her first campaign for office as a member of the schoolboard, she objected to a local football team wanting to break its losing record by wearing black jerseys paid for by the players. She objected because the color was that of Satan. But what's scary is that Harry Reid's re-election is still so close.

The other one of God's chosen Jan Brewer crowed about how she had succeeded in attracting a large solar energy project to Arizona. The problem is that it is paid for by stimulus money and the project was lobbied for by a Democratic representative. And the newspapers noticed.

The bad news is that I've been watching the House races in Ohio and 5 incumbent Democrats do look like they will lose.

I anticipate after Labor Day that the Democratic Party will come out gang-busters. The coordination among the various Democratic organizations has been strong. Even Tom Delay, the Fixer and former Republican mastermind, warned Republicans that the Democrats have a far stronger ground game and get-out-the vote effort than the GOP. In fact, Republicans are complaining that everything is pretty much adhoc this year as the RNC is in such disarray.

Why Obama is not FDR and the Stealth Mormon

Progressives have complained that President Obama has not acted as forcefully as FDR in handling the nation's economic crisis. Economists like Paul Krugman and Bruce Barlett complained that the stimulus package was too small and that more needs to be done to create jobs to spur an economic recovery. One post at Democratic Underground yesterday put this in perspective. In the 74th Congress, the second one of FDR's first term, the Democrats had 69 Senators and in the following Congress, they had 76 Senators, making the New Deal basically filibuster proof. Likewise, for LBJ's Great Society, which passed Medicare and the major civil rights legislation, Democrats held 66 Senate seats in the 88th Congress and 67 in the 89th. While Republicans backed civil rights legislation, they opposed Medicare. Likewise, Republicans opposed the New Deal, the creation of Social Security and unemployment insurance. And, during the Obama administration, they seem to have reverted to this negativity on social and economic policy.

Hidden from view these days as all the so-called GOP presidential contenders have moved off on the Muslim Center in lower Manhattan is Mitt Romney, whose spokesperson criticized it in a short press handout. Instead, Mitt has surfaced with an attack on Obama's economic policies. Mitt wants corporate tax rates to match others in the developed world. This would be great if American corporations actually paid taxes. He wants to preserve Bush's tax cuts for everyone. A majority of Americans don't, according to the latest CNN poll. He wants to allow businesses to write off capital investments in 2010 and 2010. He argues we should eliminate all capital gains taxes and bank interest for families earning less than $250,000. And he wants to balance the budget. Oh, and he says, cough, he would "restructure entitlement programs", which he doesn;t list.

Mitt earned his vast wealth by specializing in corporate takeovers, which ended up eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Mitt is the corporate favorite in 2012 and he has positioned himself with his operatives in the Republican Party to "game" the primary schedule now that it has been changed from the winner-take-all policies of the past. Mitt has also gotten rid of his many homes because he saw how devastating it was to McCain being linked to 14 residences. While teabaggers claim the credit for Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, it was the result of Mitt's operatives.

As I have posted many time, I believe Sarah Palin and the Christian Right are now the base of the Republican Party. I don't think Palin can have the nomination just by asking because of her recent performance leading up to the 2010 elections. I still don't think she has the discipline to wage a long campaign, which the new rules demand. Aware of how sensitive evangelicals have been to his Mormonism, Mitt Romney last year created a committee to coordinate activities with the Christian Right and to dampen concerns about his own religion, which they view as a cult.

Mitt Romney has been working quietly to raise funds and let all the other minor candidates to get out in front on Obama bashing. Mitt's vulnerability is on the health mandates and the Massachusetts health plan he enacted and Obama took ideas from. By 2012 some of these issues will have been decided on the healthcare bill.

Why should Mitt be optimistic about his chances for the nomination in 2012? During this election, Republicans will probably win the following state houses: Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and maybe Minnesota. During my radio commentaries last campaign, I said the election would be determined from a line from Minnesota through Pennsylvania. Luckily for President Obama, the Democrats held Ohio and most importantly the position of Attorney-General so Republicans could not suppress the minority vote as they did in 2004. Next time the whole situation will look differently. Republican governors will control the whole Midwest and that area is allergic to Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Palin's addition to the ticket doomed McCain in Iowa, Michigan and eventually Pennsylvania. For the Republicans to have a shot at 2012, they need to win some of these states.

Romney has historic ties to Michigan through his father, who was Governor and earlier a president of a major car company. On paper, it looks like he could compete in the Midwest better than any other candidate. He owns the Morman empire in Utah, Idaho, parts of Colorado and Nevada. And he has the money support from Texas. Romney's problem area is the base region of Republican support--the South. That's why he was so quick to financially back to next Governor of South Carolina.

When the dust settles, Romney can win because in Republican circles his family's name is golden and he has already competed once before, a GOP habit. He also seems to be part Nixon with a hiatus from politics and part Reagan with his black hair and economic policies. He also doesn't appear threatening and is soothing. He will still have to pacify the religious Right. Despite all the blather about Momma Grizzlies and Republican women, Republicans long for white authoritarian men as leaders and Romney would be forced to shore up the South and the evangelicals. Here in August, 2010, I think he would pick former Governor Mike Huckabee as his Vice President for a warm and fuzzy appeal.

President Obama road to re-election will be a little more difficult because he will have the liability of the office and will not be energizing the population as he did during the Democratic primaries. He may be forced to run a more traditional campaign. Over 73% of Democrats want to re-nominate him so the viability of a challenge seems remote. This means that Democratic turnout in primaries will be less, voter intensity less, and the great leaps in voter registration made by Democrats in 2008 neutralized. While the young, Latinos, African-Americans, women and labor will be his base and give him enormous advantages, the arithmetic for getting to the winning number in the electoral college might be different than 2008. This will be interesting to watch. One thing is sure is that the commentators will miss a new pattern just as they missed the last one.

The President's Vacation

20% of Americans now believe President Obama is a Muslim. This is the same percentage of Americans who admit to peeing in pools and the same number who believe extraterrestrials are already among us. Not surprisingly, the uptick in the Muslim thought coincides with his support for the Muslim Center--sort of near the Twin Towers site. Ground Zero in my lexicon is Hiroshima. Sadly, the White House actually felt compelled to issue a statement about the President's Christianity and details of his daily devotion and prayers. The Miami Herald ran a piece on the ministers who spiritually advise the President, one of whom married the Bush girl. I long for the day that a President tells people his or her religion is none of anyone's business.

Now Michael Gerson,W's former speechwriter, pens a piece today lamenting the rapid demise of President Obama and his failure to create a non-partisan atmosphere in Washington. Gerson quotes the Nation about Obama's lack of producing results. Astonishing chutzpah. But this is the line from Republicans. R. Emmett Tyrell writes in the American Spectator a piece of how Obama is worse than Jimmy Carter. O what potential lost!

Let's hear it for Eugene Robinson and his column in today's Washington Post, which points out that President Obama is on a quiet winning streak right now. Robinson reminds everyone that expectations for Obama on his inauguration were absurdly high. Robinson writes,even if Obama had done back flips across the Potomac River, people would still ask why he hadn't found a cure for cancer, solved the Arab-Israeli conflict and ushered in an age of universal peace and prosperity.

This past week, the last American combat brigade in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait. Commentators questioned why Obama didn't do a version of getting in a flysuit with a codpiece and proclaiming "Mission Accomplished". The Left either felt the White House had muffed a photo opportunity or were snarky like Dennis Kucinich who said you're not out until you're all the way out. Just a FYI, there are still 2,500-5,000 soldiers still linked to the combat operation who will be coming home in a week. By September 1, President Obama will make the official announcement that the combat phase has officially ended. He promised he would end the Iraq War in this timeline and he did so two weeks early. He also said he would wind down the war responsibly and is stationing 50,000 troops in training Iraqis for another year. He has fulfilled a difficult campaign promise.

What do we hear from the conservatives and Republicans? Crickets. Only MSNBC covered the withdrawal in any depth and the great heroes returning did not receive coverage from the right-wing echochamber. Silence about their number 1 project of the last 7 1/2 years.

Conservatives and the Left have created a drumbeat about Social Security. The President said he was not going to "privatize" Social Security as long as he was President and would maintain the benefits. He went further and said that with only a few adjustments the program would be strengthened and last another 75 years. Hardly, the sound of major alterations.

You knew something was up that caused George Will to chide the Obama White House about lecturing Israel about peace. On September 2, the so-called Quartet of Powers announced that Israelis and Palestinians would begin direct peace talks in Washington with President Obama presiding.

Much to the consternation of the neo-conservatives, who have been using the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran to pressure President Obama to act against Tehran, the administration informed Tel Aviv that Iran was having trouble with its nuclear program and couldn 't even get around to thinking about a bomb for a year.

President Obama made a commitment that troop withdrawals would begin next summer from Afghanistan. General Petraeus has been lobbying the Hill to make the timetable more flexible . For now, he has been shut down by the White House.

President Obama continues to be criticized for the BP oil disaster. But the well is now contained and BP has been forced by the President to put up $20 billion to guarantee Gulf Residents compensation for their damaged livelihoods. The administration also ramped up its response operation and effectively found ways to keep the oil from the shore, although the total environmental damage remains unclear.

Then we had the announcement this week that General Motors would start selling stock again on Wall Street and begin paying back the government bailout. President Obama's much-criticized bailout of the auto industry saved nearly 17% of the U.S. economy. His bet has paid off but you don't hear much about that here in D.C.

And, Gene Robinson, is right. The President didn't do the popular thing but he did the right thing by defending the constitutional right of the construction of the Muslim Center in lower Manhattan.

So what disaster will strike while President Obama is gone? The good news is that Congress is out of session so he doesn't have to jet in and sort out a late minute glitch in a bill. But something will happen.

We're just lucky we have an over-achieving Black man cleaning up the mess left by the White boys. I think that's the heart of the argument.