Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Press the Meet

Obama, Bitterness, Meet the Press, and the Old Politics

by Robert Reich

I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 61 years ago. My father sold $1.98 cotton blouses to blue-collar women and women whose husbands worked in factories. Years later, I was secretary of labor of the United States, and I tried the best I could - which wasn’t nearly good enough - to help reverse one of the most troublesome trends America has faced: The stagnation of middle-class wages and the expansion of povety. Male hourly wages began to drop in the early 1970s, adjusted for inflation. The average man in his 30s is earning less than his father did thirty years ago. Yet America is far richer. Where did the money go? To the top.

Are Americans who have been left behind frustrated? Of course. And their frustrations, their anger and, yes, sometimes their bitterness, have been used since then — by demagogues, by nationalists and xenophobes, by radical conservatives, by political nuts and fanatical fruitcakes - to blame immigrants and foreign traders, to blame blacks and the poor, to blame “liberal elites,” to blame anyone and anything.

Rather than counter all this, the American media have wallowed in it. Some, like Fox News and talk radio, have given the haters and blamers their very own megaphones. The rest have merely “reported on” it. Instead of focusing on how to get Americans good jobs again; instead of admitting too many of our schools are failing and our kids are falling behind their contemporaries in Europe, Japan, and even China; instead of showing why we need a more progressive tax system to finance better schools and access to health care, and green technologies that might create new manufacturing jobs, our national discussion has been mired in the old politics.

Listen to this morning’s “Meet the Press” if you want an example. Tim Russert, one of the smartest guys on television, interviewed four political consultants - Carville and Matalin, Bob Schrum, and Michael Murphy. Political consultants are paid huge sums to help politicians spin words and avoid real talk. They’re part of the problem. And what do Russert and these four consultants talk about? The potential damage to Barack Obama from saying that lots of people in Pennsylvania are bitter that the economy has left them behind; about HRC’s spin on Obama’s words (he’s an “elitist,” she said); and John McCain’s similarly puerile attack.

Does Russert really believe he’s doing the nation a service for this parade of spin doctors talking about potential spins and the spin-offs from the words Obama used to state what everyone knows is true? Or is Russert merely in the business of selling TV airtime for a network that doesn’t give a hoot about its supposed commitment to the public interest but wants to up its ratings by pandering to the nation’s ongoing desire for gladiator entertainment instead of real talk about real problems.

We’re heading into the worst economic crisis in a half century or more. Many of the Americans who have been getting nowhere for decades are in even deeper trouble. Large numbers of people in Pennsylvania and across the nation are losing their homes and losing their jobs, and the situation is likely to grow worse. Consumers are at the end of their ropes, fuel and food costs are skyrocketing, they can’t go deeper into debt, they can’t pay their bills. They aren’t buying, which means every business from the auto industry to housing to even giant GE is hurting. Which means they’ll begin laying off more people, and as they do, we will experience an even more dangerous downward spiral.

Bitter? You ain’t seen nothing yet. And as much as people like Russert, Carville, Matalin, Schrum, and Murphy want to divert our attention from what’s really happening; as much as HRC and McCain seek to make political hay out of choices of words that can be spun cynically by the mindless spinners of the old politics; as much as demagogues on the right and left continue to try to channel the cumulative frustrations of Americans into a politics of resentment - all these attempts will, I hope, prove futile. Eighty percent of Americans know the nation is on the wrong track. The old politics, and the old media that feeds it, are irrelevant now.

Stolen from Common Dreams


Deflect and redirect seems to be pretty popular these days. With my fellow frogs in the economic frypan we, day by day, creep ever closer to financial oblivion and the diversion is not helping one bit. By focusing on the horserace for the 08 presidential bid the real problems get shoved into the background.

We all go on with our daily lives as unemployment skyrockets to the Moon, foreclosures, high fuel cost, bankruptcies and enough personal strife among American citizens to fill a thousand boxcars, we dwell on the insane platitudes thrown out by the 'spin doctors'. Rather pathetic isn't it.

It is not unusual however considering the attention being paid to the trillion dollar enterprise of fascist billionaires called the Iraq war. Both it and the economy have been shoved to the side in favor of political banter and hi-jinks, oh yes and American Idol. Pablum for the masses to keep their attention drawn away from the sinister goings on by the Fed, the Treasury Dept. and last but not least the 'House of Pain' the White House.

Not surprising when you take into account the intellect of the average American could not fill a soup bowl. One nation under-educated with TV and Wally Mart for all. And don't forget the 27% that think monkey boy can walk on water and do no wrong.

We can do better, but can we before it is too late for us frogs.

Not likely.



DEN said...

Am I the only one that sees something very wrong with the chimp glomming onto the Popes' cassock and acting like he is the big man for doing so?

To see that stupid jerk grinning like some attention deficit addled child because he was first to meet the Pope is sickening, in fact that entire family makes me physically ill to watch as they horn in on what would otherwise be a religious experience.

Acting the fool is his specialty, hope the Pope tells him to FO!

DEN said...

April 4, 2008 | A former Navy officer named Matthew Diaz came to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, eating lunch just a few miles from the Pentagon and only steps from the White House -- those mighty institutions whose imperial will he defied by upholding the legal rights of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he served as a deputy legal counsel.

During the winter of 2005, sometime after he realized that the government was ignoring the landmark Supreme Court decision affording counsel and due process to every alleged terrorist in the military prison, Lt. Cmdr. Diaz printed out and mailed all of their names to civil rights attorneys in New York. That act ultimately resulted in his imprisonment in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., and the forfeiture of his military job and pension, and may yet lead to the permanent loss of his license to practice law.

But Diaz had come to the nation's capital on April 3 to be praised, not buried -- as this year's winner of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, which is named after the late soldier and journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam 40 years ago this month. Sponsored by the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute (where I serve as director of a fund supporting investigative journalism), the Ridenhour prize recognizes the bravery of whistle-blowers who uphold American values regardless of personal risk.

@ Salon

What has happened here in America is unprecedented. We are a Nation of torturers and thugs, at least that is how we are represented by the chickenhawks in DC.

Real tough on easy pickings.

micki said...

Den -- according to The Independent/UK, in some indirect way, perhaps Pope Benedict has told Bush to FO:

The Pope and Mr Bush have been sharply at odds over the war in Iraq, however. When he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict acidly dismissed the idea of the Iraq conflict as a "just war". This did not stop Mr Bush declaring himself "in awe" of him when they met at the Vatican last summer. The President's effort to ingratiate himself continues today with a White House reception for 2,000 prominent Catholics, followed by a banquet.

Oddly, however, Pope Benedict will not be attending the dinner in his honour. Instead, on his 81st birthday, he will spend his time at the huge Catholic Basilica in north-east Washington, keeping a respectful distance from Mr Bush. The Pope will also travel to New York to speak at the UN, but he is steering clear of the Catholic stronghold of Boston – the scene of some of the Church's worst child sex scandals.

The White House explains the Pope's absence from the banquet in his honour as a scheduling clash. But a more likely reason is the Pope's desire not to become too closely associated with a discredited president who needs all the help he can to help Republicans hold on to the White House.

Catholics are an important swing vote in this year's election and are being targeted by both parties. The Democrats were shocked to lose Catholic support to Mr Bush in 2004 and do not want a repeat this year.

I think it's very impressive that Benedict decided to NOT break bread with Laura and George. No one tells King George, "NO!" :-))

DEN said...


Combined, the top 50 hedge fund managers last year earned $29 billion. That figure represents the managers' own pay and excludes the compensation of their employees. Five of the top 10, including Mr. Simons and Mr. Soros, were also at the top of the list for 2006. To compile its ranking, Alpha examined the funds' returns and the fees that they charge investors, and then calculated the managers' pay.

The Wall Street Journal adds:

Those who know the hedge fund business won't be particularly surprised that there were so many outsized successes. Hedge funds make the most money when there's a lot of volatility in the markets, and 2007 provided that with the roller coaster credit crunch. The glaring caveat is that hedge funds can make money in those roiling markets as long as they can stay in business. The markets are fickle, and the threat is that today's successful strategy can be tomorrow's liquidation, as the collapse of Peloton Advisors proved. As they say in those fund documents: Past results are no guarantee of future returns.

The top ten earners, as reported by Alpha Magazine, are as follows:

1 John Paulson, of Paulson & Co., earned $3.7 billion

2 George Soros, of Soros Fund Management, earned $2.9 billion

3 James Simons, of Renaissance Technologies Corp., earned $2.8 billion

4 Philip Falcone, of Harbinger Capital Partners, earned $1.7 billion

5 Kenneth Griffin, of Citadel Investment Group, earned $1.5 billion

6 Steven Cohen, of SAC Capital Advisors, earned $900 million

7 Timothy Barakett, of Atticus Capital, earned $750 million

8 Stephen Mandel Jr., of Lone Pine Capital, earned $710 million

9 John Griffin, of Blue Ridge Capital, earned $625 million

10 O. Andreas Halvorsen, of Viking Global Investors, earned $520 million



While the rest of the country was going bankrupt and losing their homes, these a-holes were raking in record profits, that is obscenity defined.

micki said...

I 'spose y'all have heard that the WH played The Battle Hymn of the Republic for the Pope's visit.

I do believe that Mark Twain's version (1901), The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated has more application to reality:

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps—
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom—and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich—
Our god is marching on.

* NOTE: In Manila the Government has placed a certain industry under the protection of our flag. (M.T.)

ò¿óarol said...

We taxpayers are kicking in for a party for 2000 people...and the Pope is skipping it. The Pope is a Democrat? Good, but someone should have canceled that expensive party! I love how presidents would cut something that's for us before they'd ever stop having so much company at the frickin' White House!

David B. Benson said...

Soak the rich!

ò¿óarol said...

We watched Frontline, Hajji. Every time the reporter said there are downsides to a plan and would say what they were, we laughed. I would take just about ANY of the five plans.

Well, except for maybe Japan's. I think that's the place that expected everyone to cough up $750 a month. I don't know anyone that could afford that.

I didn't like it that Germany allowed the rich to bow out of their plan. That's a recipe for disaster in my opinion.

Jeanne said...

Hey guys,
Den I agree with you on the pope visit. The funny thing is I think the pope agrees with you too. Can you imagine what the pope thinks about Iraq? And the whole torture thing? I think the pope is here for the people of America. Bush is something he tolerates.

DEN said...

Jeanne, yes, he is being gracious and resisting stirring anything up, might say something later when he is home.

Like it is a circus and the clown is the ringleader, the big act is the Pope.

Must be the third ring with the Iraq war and the economy running in rings one and two.

Sick bunch they are.


Hajji said...


That'a a Twain right up there with his "War Prayer"... perhaps even a bit more bitter... how much closer could he have come to "God DAMN America" than that?

Carol, Good Q & A with the reporter from "Sick Around the World at WAPO today."

Spot on, actually.

Now back to the debate.


Hajji said...

What the hell was that little clip, from Constitution hall, where the guy said, "Hillary raised a lot of questions...blah, blah, blah..." the crowd was about to attack Charlie and George, but they promised, "There'll be more when we come back..."

But then...nuttin'...


Hajji said...

What the hell was that little clip, from Constitution hall, where the guy said, "Hillary raised a lot of questions...blah, blah, blah..." the crowd was about to attack Charlie and George, but they promised, "There'll be more when we come back..."

But then...nuttin'...


Hajji said...

...but I must say that tonight was the first time I felt like even Hillary had a chance against McSame.

She did well...was served early with the "Stay home and Bake Cookies...Stand by your man." warning and stuff stayed pretty civil...with the exceptions of Farrakhan, Weathermen, etc....

Obama is still, of course, a stronger candidate...and is far more convincing as a thoughtful, fluid, and galvanizing leader...with a far better chance to effect not just a change in the hues of American government, but a compass-spin in American foreign policy and domestic recovery.

...and so I go.


Jeanne said...

How are things in health care? I had one lady tell me today that the co pays are getting to be too much and she has to decide if how serious the issue is before she goes to the doctor. Now that's a country with great preventative medicine. Something has to get really bad before the patient comes in.

A thirty dollar co pay is ok until you become the patient that has to go to the doctor every month. Plus the medicines.

Jeanne said...

I loved the story about Diaz. I love hearing about honorable people. Can you imagine the courage that took? Can you imagine the moment when he finally decided to mail the names? What was going through his head? I bet that moment is burned into his memory.

micki said...

Not quite apples to apples Hajji -- Samuel Clemons was a humorist, writer, lecturer, and satirist and Rev. Wright is a preacher.

So, the distinction is important in context.

Mark Twain was opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land. He was not making pronouncements from the pulpit, in the name of Christianity.

micki said...

Jeanne, glad you had time to drop in. Always great to hear from you.

I have faith that your book is moving along.

Namaste. said...

I believe that on 4-13 MTP, Tim Russert allowed a travesty by not calling Mike the-sexist-Murphy on his reference to Senator Clinton using the "riding on a broom" comment. This is sexism-pure and simple. Russert should have disavowed the comment; free speech should not protect sexist-Mike Murphy from good taste. It is so important, evidently to NBC, to let tired old men like Murphy be sexist, rather than show respect for the first woman presidential candidate. Why is sexism acceptable? Because MTP has been on the air for 40 years?

Alan said...

Yeah, the Pope dissed Dubya. I'm sure that was just for show though. I mean, he's an old family friend and business associate. Can't remember if it was Neil or Marvin Bush, but I think it was with Marvin who 'worked' with him.

Hajji said...


Marvin Bush was a "Hitler Youth" too?

-Go Figgur


"Christianity" and its "patriotic" spokespeople encouraging, praying for glorious war was exactly the sort of lawn leavings that Mark Twain was stepping in when he set about penning "The War Prayer" and his "Battle Hymn".

...and its stench still lingers.

Why, exactly, should there be some distinction between someone speaking from a lecturn with a bible upon it, a cross in front or row of law books behind and a university shield before?

Are you saying there's no place for satire, humor and social commentary in a church?

Are you suggesting that a preacher has some special mission to refrain from pointing out the same inconsistencies and hypocrisies as those Sam Clemons did?

Or are you saying a preacher has a special power, and when he invokes devine damnation on a Nation, it means more than a satirist, humorist, lecturer or "perfesser"?

If so, I disagree.



6am between two 14-hour ER shifts is no time from me to reflect on the state of health care.

I've posted all the $4 and free medical formularies from Wally World and other pharmacies for the Docs to peruse when prescribing. I find they reference the list frequently.

The ER is somewhat beyond the reach of the drug reps and their influence and the Docs are now taking a patient's insurance and ability to pay when implimenting non-emergency treatment.

Good for patients, and good for prices.

There's no co-pay demand in our ER (and I'm not sure we have any real way to take payment!)

Anyone whose health requires frequent visits to the same doc, or a staircase to specialists should always broach the subject of repeated co-pays with the office manager.

They've got families in the same situation, and know well your plight. They're not gonna refuse treatment, and pass up the big insurance money for the loss of your co-pay.

Most will (not so) gladly waive the co-pay, unless insurance somehow demands it. And don't forget to ask for samples of medications and all the educational material you can glean.

I HAVE heard of some medical offices who use the co-pay as a tool to discourage the less fortunate from going to the doc. I've reported a few to our Medical Staff Officers... They DO follow through!

-time to make the doughnuts!


JoJosho said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DEN said...

"Why is sexism acceptable?"

His mother might think differently, obviously an idiot.

micki said...

Hajji -- my comment addressed context -- I even used the word context.

The setting, the environment, the conditions, in which something is said does throw light on the meaning (and/or the interpretation) of the words. You may not agree with that assessment, but that is a fact.