Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Pavolvian Christmas Award

One of the first things you learn in Psychology 101 is the "Pavlovian response mechanism," or the "Pavlovian conditioning response." Most of us have heard of this phenomenon whether we've taken a class in psychology or not.

Just to refresh your memory--and mine as well--let's go over Pavlov's findings, and how he came to discover that certain behavior can be conditioned in dogs (and by extension humans) by manipulating actions and the environment.

"Ivan Petrovich Pavlov studied medicine in Russia and Germany, accepting posts in St. Petersburg as a professor in pharmacology and physiology. In 1889 Pavlov began experiments with dogs that proved their reflexes could be conditioned by external stimuli. Specifically, after they were conditioned by the ringing of a bell at feeding time, they would reflexively salivate upon hearing the bell, whether or not food was present. In 1904 Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for his work on digestive physiology, but he is most widely known today as an early influence on behavioral psychology."

In my own life, I've seen the power of "conditioned reflex," but this reflex wasn't induced directly but indirectly. We say people "push our buttons," but what we're actually saying is this: At various times in our life, we have--directly or indirectly--allowed the actions, behaviors, words, or attitudes of others, to trigger certain prescribed responses.

When the environment is suitable for such responses (certain stimuli is present), a prescribed behavior follows as certainly as night follows day.

For most of us, these responses go unchallenged, and unexamined. Were we to scrutinize them we'd fine that many of what we call normal or natural responses to stimuli in our environment are really nothing more than "conditioned responses," prescribed, almost automatic, reactions that come to the fore when certain things, or events occur in our environment. We're a great deal like the salivating dog in Pavlov's experiment--reacting to the "ringing bell" of our own making, whether the bell is heard as words, behaviors, or other stimuli in our environment.

But what does all of this have to do with Christmas? Believe it or not, this is a Christmas story, despite our delving into the mysteries of human and animal behavior, and our departure into the realm of human psychology.

Just to prove it, let me make a casual observation. The lovely Christmas card that's appended to the top of this blog entry is the Obama family official White House Christmas card, featuring the beloved First Dog Bo. Would you believe over at Fox News the card has become the subject of some controversy, nothing short of a "Pavlovian conditioned reflex response"?

In an article entitled, "No Christmas in White House Card," [1] the author--referencing the card--writes facetiously and humorously:

"It's all pretty non-controversial. Boring, even. Unless, of course, you're Fox News—in which case the bookshelf is filled with Lenin's B-sides, the Constitution is burning in the fireplace, Winston Churchill's bust is conspicuously absent, Bo has become dependent on the federal government for handouts, and the empty seat is a stirring reminder of President Obama's nonexistent leadership. I'm exaggerating, but only slightly."

Several of Fox News' talking heads--even one as neatly coiffed as Sarah Palin's--weighed in on the Christmas card:

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told Fox News & Commentary that she found the card to be a bit unusual.

"It's odd," she said, wondering why the president's Christmas card highlights his dog instead of traditions like "family, faith and freedom."
Palin said the majority of Americans can appreciate the more traditional, "American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree."

As for the Obama card, she replied, "It's just a different way of thinking coming out of the White House."

As Pavlovian conditioning responses go, the Fox News one is comparatively a light-weight one, and not deserving of much attention other than to say that Fox and Company are in the GOP spirit this year--that is, Grinches On Parade.

The response that won my Pavlovian Christmas Award this year is not the Fox News Pavlovian attack on Obama, but the public response to the new Air Jordans that went on sale just days before Christmas, creating some troubling scenes from coast to coast, as anxious shoppers do whatever it takes to buy this pricey footwear.

You can watch some of it here", but videos aren't in short supply if you have the time to Bing or Google them.

In this season that celebrates the birth of Jesus, Joy, Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men, we find our perennial villain, "conditioned response," lurking among Christmas decorations, scores of presents, festive colors, fake Santas, and merry carolers ready to pounce upon unsuspecting Christmas shoppers at the first sign that something they've been conditioned to do--"shop till they drop, and buy till they die"--reaches a fever pitch when items, as generally desirable as a pair of new Air Jordans, are placed within their immediate reach.

We have seen this buying craze with other items, and we have become witness to yet another soul-numbing impulse compliments of capitalism and the crass commercialism that undergirds it. And--can we say honestly--we want to share this "blessing" of the American Way with the rest of the world?

Are we sure?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kingsize Rhetoric and New Government

On Sunday night, in almost the same timeslot as Sunday Night Football, Larry King aired a Special on CNN. It was called "A Dinner with the Kings". Larry King and his wife hosted the event, and Wolfgang Puck plied his culinary skills in the creation a multi-course meal fit for Kings.

If you didn't have the good fortune of watching the special, you can sample some of the fare here.

Many of the invited guests are arguably kings in their own right, having achieved crowning successes in their respective fields, from sports to television, from the world of fashion, music, and the Internet, to television host.

Tyra Banks, Shaquille O'Neal, Quincy Jones, Russell Brand, Seth MacFarlane, Jack Dorsey, Conan O'Brien--all royal standouts in their various industries, were seated, not around a Round Table, but an oblong one.

The guests responded to questions that Larry passed to them, first to one, and then to another, as one would pass a dish laden with food--after helping oneself--from one person to another.

Of the several questions that were passed from guest to guest, one, perhaps more than others, left a bitter taste in the mouth, and contributed to a likely case of indigestion.

Larry asked one guest: "What gets you angry?"

It was Conan O'Brien's answer to the question that would have had me reaching for a handful of Tums, or an Alka-Seltzer, had I been there:

"I think entitlements is my least favorite. I can't stand it when people think that they're entitled to something. I think our culture is very entitled. I honestly don't think I'm entitled to anything. I come from a culture where you get what you can...and you're grateful for it--but I don't think I deserve anything...we [his family] didn't feel any entitlement. I think in America there's a lot of I'm owed this and this."

O'Brien's statement came from a classic Republican/conservative recipe, a potluck dish secreted in to compete with a dish from one of the world's greatest chefs, Wolfgang Puck.

After the "entitlement" statement, O'Brien revealed: His mother became a lawyer, and his father was successful in his own right. It's easy to slam "entitlements" when your life has had the auspicious beginning that a upper-class upbringing can afford.

Larry King with a followup question asked: "Where does this come from [this sense of entitlement]?"

O'Brien responded: "I don't know where that comes from."

As the camera panned them, Tyra Banks and Shaquille O'Neal appeared visibly uncomfortable with the subject, perhaps prompting Larry King, after a couple of more responses from his dinner guests, to quickly changed the subject.

But not before Russell Brand garnished the topic with a biting remark of his own, interpreting "entitlements" as it may relate to consumerism, and not as it may relate to people's expectations from the government and others in society. Harking back to the question, "Where does this come from [this sense of entitlement]? he said:

"I don't know where that comes from...because you're told that you're nothing unless you can consume, unless you can purchase. People see these products and they want them. People are being accidentally marketed to who can't afford the products that they're being sold, they're being told they should have, that they deserve, because you're working, just do it....And there's been a void created, a spiritual void."

Not to be outdone, Seth MacFarlane added a pungent spice of his own to the evening's meal: It comes from "every politician on the planet saying, 'You know what, you're getting screwed, you deserve more, how are you, why are you, tolerating this.'"

Now, I'm willing to admit: O'Brien and MacFarlane may not have had the Arab Spring or the various Occupy Movements and their foreign supporters in mind when they made these statements, perhaps sprinkling a bit too much hot sauce on them, but neither did they answer the question that the host posed:

"Where does this come from [this sense of entitlement]?"

The term, "entitlement," has various definitions:

1. The act or process of entitling.
2. The state of being entitled.
3. A government program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group: "fights . . . to preserve victories won a generation ago, like the Medicaid entitlement for the poor" (Jason DeParle).
The last definition Red Eye would refer to as "earned benefits," and rightfully so, as the term "entitlement" has been muddied by the likes of Frank Luntz.

Rather than argue whether a "sense of entitlement" is prevalent throughout the world (which is absurd), or whether the Occupy Movement or the Arab Spring, or the unrest we see in England, or Greece, is symptomatic of this (which it's not), let me answer the question that the host, Larry King, or his several guests failed to answer to my satisfaction.

My answer will focus on "entitlement" as it pertains to this country, and not as it may be considered in other parts of the world.

To the question--"Where does this come from [this sense of entitlement]?"--I have this answer: It comes from our Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution. Entitlements, loosely defined, are Rights, pure and simple. Entitlements are what one has a right to expect from a government that has established itself as sovereign over the lives of those that fall within the sphere of its governance.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Over the past several decades, our federal and state governments have become "destructive of these ends," and a growing number of the people (especially those in the Occupy Movement) are exercising their rights--entitlements afforded them by their Constitution--"the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government," one that hasn't been corrupted by special-interest money.

And there are other Rights, entitlements, at the people's disposal. They're called the Bill of Rights:

Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition
Right to keep and bear arms
Conditions for quarters of soldiers
Right of search and seizure regulated
Provisions concerning prosecution
Right to a speedy trial, witnesses, etc.
Right to a trial by jury
Excessive bail, cruel punishment
Rule of construction of Constitution
Rights of the States under Constitution [1]
Over a Wolfgang Puck meal, Conan O'Brien assured us that he didn't feel entitled: "I honestly don't think I'm entitled to anything."

Well I do! And I'm not reticent to say so.

I'm entitled to the social contract that was drawn before I was born, one that I didn't have a hand in writing, but which has governed my actions, and those of many of my fellow Americans since its inception--the United States Constitution.

Because I pay taxes, I'm entitled to a government that actually works for the people and not corporate special interests that have more legislators and judges on their payroll, and in their pocket, than did Al Capone at the height of his infamy.

Because I vote, as a civically-minded member of my city, state, and nation, I'm entitled to have my vote count and not suppressed; I'm entitled to representatives--those who I helped elect to office--who will do their utmost to represent me and other constituents to the best of their ability, putting in more time to carry out the people's business than their own.

Because I live in the country in which I pay taxes, I'm entitled to a livable environment--clean air and clean water--and regulatory agencies that actually take steps to make sure that my air is breathable, and my water potable, and a Congress that stands with me against corporate polluters, rather than with them, patiently waiting for just the perfect moment to dismantle them and scuttle their live-saving mission.

Because I worked to become a contributing member of my community, I'm entitled to a government that works to be a contributing force in the lives of its many constituents, by assuring "that We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal [by affirming equal rights for all, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual preference], that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life [by making health-care universal, and available to all], Liberty [by insisting that no one is above the law, and that all participate in the defense of this country, and help pay for the cost, regardless of social status] and the pursuit of Happiness [by providing opportunities to all, using a criterion of inclusion, rather than exclusion]. [2]

We may never achieve the status of kingliness in this lifetime that would satisfy Larry King's criterion sufficiently to be invited to his home for a royal dinner, or partake of a seven-course dinner created by the incomparable chef, Wolfgang Puck, but we can all do our part to elevate our government so that it is self-correcting, continuously monitoring and rectifying an errant system which is more vested in promoting social, political, and income inequality, where a few arrogate to themselves through their wealth, the people's power, than standing with the 99 percent.

When government fails the people, we the people are entitled by history, and by duty, "to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to [what] shall seem most likely to effect [our] Safety and Happiness."

[1] Read more about your Bill of Rights.

[2] See GrannyStandingForTruth latest blog entry

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's in a Name?

It's hard to admit, but I never really cared all that much for my name. I honor it because the one who named me is someone I dearly love and cherish. Over the years, I have taken on nicknames, and nom de plumes that I believe represent who I am more accurately than my given name.

I suspect that I'm not alone. I wouldn't be shocked to learn that there's been more legal name changes, more uses of substitute names, aliases, and sobriquets, than there are actual baby names in books designed to help you give your newborn the perfect name in combination with a given surname.

Shakespeare may have been the first to ask the question, using the voice of Juliet in his tragedy, Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet."

Nevertheless, there's one who may disagree with Shakespeare. One who has built a career on changing the names of things, guaranteeing that even the sweet smell of a rose may lose its attractive fragrance, if only an appropriate name may be found, and applied.

That someone is Frank Luntz, political consultant and pollster.

Wikipedia says in part the following about Luntz in a brief bio:

Luntz's specialty is “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.”...

Luntz frequently tests word and phrase choices using focus groups and interviews. His stated purpose in this is the goal of causing audiences to react based on emotion. "80 percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think." "If I respond to you quietly, the viewer at home is going to have a different reaction than if I respond to you with emotion and with passion and I wave my arms around. Somebody like this is an intellectual; somebody like this is a freak."

If you conclude from this that Luntz' goal is to shape the perception of others using the persuasive power of words that are charged with just the right emotions, and invoking just the right imagery, you'd be right. Just so that no one will mistake his aim, Luntz gives this description of his methodology:

Luntz discussed his use of the term, "energy exploration" (oil drilling). His research on the matter involved showing people a picture of current oil drilling and asking if in the picture it "looks like exploration or drilling." He said that 90 percent of the people he spoke to said it looked like exploring. "Therefore I'd argue that it is a more appropriate way to communicate." He went on to say "if the public says after looking at the pictures, that doesn't look like my definition of drilling—it looks like my definition of exploring—then don't you think we should be calling it what people see it to be, rather than adding a political aspect to it all?" Terry Gross responded: "Should we be calling it what it actually is, as opposed to what somebody thinks it might be? The difference between exploration and actually getting out the oil—they're two different things, aren't they?"

Recently, Luntz made headlines again, this time before the Republican Governors Association, and on the subject of the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS):

The Republican Governors Association met this week in Florida to give GOP state executives a chance to rejuvenate, strategize and team-build. But during a plenary session on Wednesday, one question kept coming up: How can Republicans do a better job of talking about Occupy Wall Street?

"I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death," said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation's foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."

Luntz offered tips on how Republicans could discuss the grievances of the Occupiers, and help the governors better handle all these new questions from constituents about "income inequality" and "paying your fair share."

Yahoo News sat in on the session, and counted 10 do's and don'ts from Luntz covering how Republicans should fight back by changing the way they discuss the movement.

1. Don't say 'capitalism.'

"I'm trying to get that word removed and we're replacing it with either 'economic freedom' or 'free market,' " Luntz said. "The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we're seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we've got a problem."

2. Don't say that the government 'taxes the rich.'
Instead, tell them that the government 'takes from the rich.'
"If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But "if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes."

3. Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the 'middle class.'
Call them 'hardworking taxpayers.'
"They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers. We can say we defend the 'middle class' and the public will say, I'm not sure about that. But defending 'hardworking taxpayers' and Republicans have the advantage."

4. Don't talk about 'jobs.' Talk about 'careers.'
"Everyone in this room talks about 'jobs,'" Luntz said. "Watch this."
He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a "job." Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a "career." Almost every hand was raised.
"So why are we talking about jobs?"

5. Don't say 'government spending.' Call it 'waste.'
"It's not about 'government spending.' It's about 'waste.' That's what makes people angry."

6. Don't ever say you're willing to 'compromise.'
"If you talk about 'compromise,' they'll say you're selling out. Your side doesn't want you to 'compromise.' What you use in that to replace it with is 'cooperation.' It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you're selling out those principles."

7. The three most important words you can say to an Occupier: 'I get it.'

"First off, here are three words for you all: 'I get it.' . . . 'I get that you're angry. I get that you've seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system."
Then, he instructed, offer Republican solutions to the problem.

8. Out: 'Entrepreneur.' In: 'Job creator.'

Use the phrases "small business owners" and "job creators" instead of "entrepreneurs" and "innovators."

9. Don't ever ask anyone to 'sacrifice.'
"There isn't an American today in November of 2011 who doesn't think they've already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to 'sacrifice,' they're going to be be pretty angry at you. You talk about how 'we're all in this together.' We either succeed together or we fail together."

10. Always blame Washington.

Tell them, "You shouldn't be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it's the policies over the past few years that have created this problem."

Don't say 'bonus!'

Luntz advised that if they give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a "bonus."
"If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you're going to make people angry. It's 'pay for performance.'"

Christians are told that the devil is always busy, but I suspect that the devil has nothing on Republicans. They never seem to rest, never seem to take a break from the battle, continually devising ways to defeat their mortal enemy--Democrats.

It could be that Democrats are strategizing to the same extent as Republicans, deploying some of the same undermining, deceptive practices, but I doubt it.

Republicans are a breed apart, calculating and devious to a flaw, not reticent to do whatever it takes to maintain a political edge--and no detail is too small to exploit, whether it's descending upon liberal blogs with a swarm of anonymous locusts to attack liberals and the president, coordinating their attacks with the use of ALEC, or attempting to enact voter suppression laws, "[s]weeping new laws — including an end to same-day registration and cuts to early voting — could disenfranchise millions of voters in 2012."[1]

If we're to defeat a Republican take over of this country, we need to know the party's methods, and work harder than they do to impose a political ideology that works for the 99 percent as well as the 1 percent.

You can be sure: Republicans are willing to use legislation, our language, and our emotions--and not so much our intellect--to achieve their ends. We don't have to operate in the same fashion as they do, but we do have to be willing to expose their tactics, and deploy a counterattack to their attacks, lest the whole nation ends up in an oversize body bag.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Black-eye Friday?

Have big retail stores found a way to curb the enthusiasm of thousands of Occupy Movement protesters who may have plans in the making to disrupt what is usually considered their blackest day of the year--Black Friday?

Unfortunately, it seems that way.

With the possibility of business-disrupting protests becoming a growing reality, already these big retailers may be mobilizing an army of lawyers to help protect their bottom line, and send a chilling message to those who may be contemplating sit-ins and other protest tactics to bring attention to how corporations--multinational and otherwise--have conspired with congress to keep the people of this nation captive to crass commercialism and to the might of their congress-corrupting dollars.

In an article titled, "Could Occupy Wall Street protesters be sued for Black Friday tactic?" the dreary prospect is raised, and it offers those who would love to see an ignominious end to the movement yet another weapon--besides police in riot gear, armed with rubber bullets, gas canisters and pepper spray--with which to deploy to defeat this inconvenient movement.

They can also bring lawsuits seeking damages, says John Banzhaf, a legal expert who teaches a class called "Torts R Us.”

Yes, Occupy protesters contemplating illegally squatting in “publicly traded” stores such as Neiman Marcus and Wal-Mart on Black Friday, might want to check to see if the stores are litigious before sitting down in front of a pallet of children’s toys. If the store owner is so inclined, lawsuits seeking damages could be in order.

Yes, a lawsuit seeking thousands of dollars could be filed, says Mr. Banzhaf, who has been called “a legal flamethrower” and teaches at George Washington University Law School.

“It could be a deterrent,” he says. “No one wants to have a huge judgment hanging over one’s head, you can be asked embarrassing questions in court – no one wants to go through that.”

He says the lawsuits can be aimed at a group, if they are organized, or even an individual who can be sued for the total amount of damages. If the damages are intentional, he says, a court could impose punitive damages as well. “Punitive damages are usually more than ordinary damages and that would act like a deterrent as well,” he says.

Banzhaf says he doesn’t know of any lawsuits brought against protesters so far, but he thinks they could eventually happen.

“It will only take one lawyer who gets stuck in an illegal demonstration and suffers a business loss,” says Banzhaf. “Or, perhaps some people can’t get into an office because protesters are blocking the way [and] decide they want to do something about it.”

Banzhaf, who says he is a big proponent of First Amendment rights, says the lawsuits would only deal with illegal activities. “At a university, you have a right to sit-in, to write, to walk around – but not to block people from coming into classrooms.”

One thing that characterizes the Occupy Movement, and has harried its detractors from the very beginning, is that it's near impossible to identify its leadership. As long as the movement remains amorphous (once seen as a negative, but now a blessing), and without discernible leaders, it minimizes its chances of facing litigation from those entities it would highlight for promoting egregious acts against the public good.

The movement would do well to elicit the help of other protest groups--those, for example, seeking to protect the environment from polluters who would would rape it for profit. The ACLU may be persuaded to step in as needed, as well as other sympathizers in the legal community, individuals and well as legal agencies with the necessary expertise to advise and represent the protesters.

For all its potential to derail the movement, litigation may not be the magic bullet to the head of the movement that some detractors may be pinning their hopes on.

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, thinks Banzhaf’s idea is “a real stretch.”

Mr. Ratner, who has acted as a legal observer for the Occupy movement, says civil disobedience has been a hallmark of protest in the country practically since the Revolutionary War. During the civil rights era, Americans sat in at Woolworth’s lunch counters to protest discrimination. Animal rights activists have been known to participate in civil disobedience.

“I would consider this a misuse of a lawyer’s time and a misunderstanding of protest in this country,” says Ratner.
Read the complete article here.

Recently, we saw what the threat of law suits can do in certain cases, practically silencing the women accusing Cain of sexual harassment, notwithstanding the credibility of their claims:

In general, [Atlanta attorney Lin Wood hired by Cain]...said anyone considering making public accusations of wrongdoing against another person should carefully consider the wisdom and potential consequences in taking such action.

"Anyone should think twice before you take that type of action," Wood said. "And I think it's particularly true when you are making serious accusations against someone running for president of the United States, but I think it's equally true if you are making those accusations against your next door neighbor."

Asked to respond to Wood's "think twice" comment, Kraushaar's lawyer, Bennett, said: "I have not heard his statement, but statements of that nature could intimidate or discourage women from reporting sexual harassment."

And the ploy seemed to have worked: "The two public accusers — Bialek and Karen Kraushaar — had planned to hold a joint press conference, but on Thursday Kraushaar decided against it."

It's my hope that no matter what challenges are thrown their way, the Occupy Movement will remain amorphous enough, flexible enough, and nimble enough (which in hindsight seems more by design than happenstance), to morph into whatever form necessary so that the movement will continue to be a thorn in the side of those who have been a thorn in our side for years.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Pappafication of the Presidency

In a recent NPR interview, David Frum, a former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush, (hat tip to Greg L at said the following about President Obama:

"The president is overwhelm. I don't think he's the man for the job.

"But He's not leading the country on the path of socialist ruin as matter of policy and intention. And the danger of thinking so--that's a very powerful way to mobilize followers and raise money...but it also traps you. Because when you mobilize people to that extent, the leaders find themselves unable to lead.

And we saw that happen most dramatically this summer with the crisis over the debt ceiling, where suddenly Republicans who desperately wanted to make a deal, who understood the consequences, they were terrified, they wanted a deal and they couldn't--because they had a wall of people behind them that would not allow them to step back."

"We need a strong and forceful president."

I hear this criticism of the president crop up again and again. Looking back over the several previous White House administrations--Republican and Democratic--the criticism appears almost gratuitous, something that is said (almost casually) if you're a Republican, and you wish to keep your membership in the Republican party in good standing.

We mustn't forget: Bush I was slammed for lack of presidential fortitude: He was excoriated severely for not invading Iraq during Desert Storm, and deposing Saddam Hussien. Bill Clinton surrendered liberal values to appease a Republican congress, and mostly gave them what they wanted in order to appear "strong and forceful." We know, too, that his presidency, elevated by hindsight, was hamstrung by a sex scandal, one that Republicans exploited all the way to an impeachment. George W.Bush showed his Texas cowboy strength and force by embroiling this nation in two wars, squandering a huge budget surplus and enacting tax cuts in a time of war--bold but foolish actions that precipitated the huge federal deficits that're hounding the nation now.

I heard this criticism again when the congressional Supercommittee failed to reach consensus on a debt-reduction package. It as though the president is expected to take each member of the committee behind the woodshed and give them a good thrashing until they relent and give him what he wants. I call this the papafication of the presidency--where the president, to be considered an effective leader, must find a way or ways to coerce the legislation that's required from a fractious congress, or be considered weak and lacking force.

Without a willing congress, nothing gets done in Washington. What this president needed in order to be seen as "strong and forceful" was to know the dirt on each Republican in congress, and the will to expose it if each refused to give him what he wanted. Anything short of that, we have what we have now--stalemates, and obstructionism.

I agree that the "president is overwhelm." With what Obama inherited from George Bush, it would have been a daunting task for any president to overcome, especially when Republicans in congress are more interested in helping the president "fail" than succeed, doing nothing to stem unemployment, or boosting the economy, in hopes that their inaction will help them achieve their end.

With patriotism like that, one thing is clear: We're fighting the wrong "war on terror." The terror with which this nation must contend is inflicted from the Right, and from within the hallowed halls of congress. The Republican Party has done more to damage this country economically than has bin Laden and his merry band of jihadists.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a response to this "terrorism," and it's ironic that the full weight of our nation's police forces has been brought to bear to squash it. It's also telling that a large segment of this society is more supportive of the terrorism on the Right than in championing the efforts of OWS to bring this terrorism to an end.

Frum's statement above clearly places the lack of leadership squarely at the feet of Republicans. Their entrenchment--which, by the way, is of their own making--may garner party support, but it also paralyzes their will, and capacity, to do more than that.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Disappearing Act!

"Now you see them, now you don't."

Illusionists, such as David Copperfield, Criss Angel, and others, have thrilled us for years with their uncanny feats of magic, making objects disappear that defy logic and commonsense--in the case of Copperfield, the Statue of Liberty. But compared to the disappearing act yet to come, these illusionists have nothing on Life's greatest illusionist, Father Time.

For all of Father Time's illusionist skills, the Disappearing Act won't take place all at once, engulfed within a large cloud of gray smoke for effect, but gradually over a few decades--actually around A.D. 2041, says the Census Bureau.

At that time, this nation's white majority will have disappeared, and, for the first time in a long time, assume a minority status.

And not everyone is pleased with this Disappearing Act, and not everyone is clapping and cheering for what Father Time is about to wrought, chief among them, Patrick J. Buchanan, Republican.

To show his displeasure, Buchanan wrote a review of the coming A.D. 2041 event, writing it long before the event (the disappearing act) has had a chance to crystallize in the record books, and long before it has had a chance to register in the hearts and minds of the Americans of that day.

Back in June of this year, I advanced a thesis--one that I knew would require a book-length treatment if I were to substantiate my position--in the comment section of my blog. I'm going restate it here, and ask that you take a bite of it, roll it around on your tongue, and tell me if it has the taste of authenticity.

But before I do that, let's read a little from Buchanan's review on the Disappearing Act facing white America--an eventuality which Buchanan is now dreading, despite the prediction that it will occur years in the future. He titles his observations simply, .A.D. 2041 -- End of White America?

"John Hope Franklin, the famed black historian at Duke University, once told the incoming freshmen, "The new America in the 21st century will be primarily non-white, a place George Washington would not recognize."

In his June 1998 commencement address at Portland State, President Clinton affirmed it: "In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States." The graduates cheered.

The Census Bureau has now fixed at 2041 the year when whites become a minority in a country where the Founding Fathers had restricted citizenship to "free white persons" of "good moral character."

With publication today of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" this writer takes up what this portends. And while many on the left are enthusiastic about relegating the America of Eisenhower and JFK to a reactionary past, I concur with the late Clare Boothe Luce.

In this world, she said, there are optimists and pessimists.

"The pessimists are better informed."

Clever statement from Pat, sounding the alarm, but what, if anything, can be done to offset the inevitability of the white Disappearing Act? You'd think not much, given the coming population shift, and the ensuing "Incredible Shrinking White Population." But then you'd be wrong. That's where my thesis comes in. I've used every skill and my disposal, my intuition, and my reasoning, to reveal a plot to keep power--especially political power--in the hands of whites.

Next, Buchanan prepares his readers for the consequences of a white Disappearing Act, and what it means for our national economic superiority:

First, the end of a national Republican Party that routinely gets 90 percent of its presidential votes from white America.

California is the harbinger of what is to come.

Carried by Richard Nixon in all five presidential elections when he was on the ticket and by Ronald Reagan all four times he ran, California, where whites are now a shrinking minority, is a state where the GOP faces extinction. John McCain's share of the California vote was down to the Barry Goldwater level of 1964.

When Texas, where two-thirds of the newborns and half the schoolchildren are Hispanic, goes the way of California, it is the end for the GOP. Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, also critical to any victorious GOP coalition, are Hispanicizing as rapidly as Texas.

In every presidential election since Bush I in 1992, Hispanics have given 60-70 percent of their votes to the Democratic ticket.

For Hispanics, largely poor and working class, are beneficiaries of a cornucopia of government goods - from free education to food stamps to free health care. Few pay federal income taxes.

Why would they not vote for the Party of Government?

Second, the economic crisis of California, brought on by an outflow of taxpayers and a huge influx of tax consumers - i.e., millions of immigrants, legal and illegal - will be mirrored nationally.

For though the majority of immigrants and illegals comes to work, and work hard, most now come from Third World countries and do not bring the academic or professional skills of European-Americans.

Third, the decline in academic test scores here at home and in international competition is likely to continue, as more and more of the children taking those tests will be African-American and Hispanic. For though we have spent trillions over four decades, we have failed to close the racial gap in education. White and Asian children continue to outscore black and Hispanic children.

Can the test-score gap be closed? With the Hispanic illegitimacy rate at 51 percent and the black rate having risen to 71 percent, how can their children conceivably arrive at school ready to compete?

Should this continue for three decades, what will it mean for America if Asians and whites occupy the knowledge-industry jobs, while scores of millions of black and Hispanic workers are relegated to low-paying service-sector jobs? Will that make for social tranquility?

Affirmative action is one answer. But this is already causing a severe backlash, and the reason is obvious.

When affirmative action was first imposed, whites outnumbered blacks nine to one. The burden of reverse discrimination on the white community was thus relatively light. Today, however, not only blacks, but Hispanics and women - two-thirds of the entire population - qualify for affirmative action in hiring and school admissions.

And the burden falls almost entirely on white males, who are one-third of the country but three-fourths of the dead and wounded coming back from Afghanistan.

No where does Pat mention the Dream Act, which Republicans detest, and its power to close the education gap that he says exists between Latinos and whites. He suggests, further, that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have served primarily to reduce a large number of an essential class of whites, specifically white males, upon which this country will someday depend to fill its "knowledge-industry jobs."

For the sake of this country's future, it would have been better, he seems to say, if Latinos and blacks were the primary fighters in those wars, as they're more expendable than white males.

How close can you come, if you're Pat Buchanan, to saying that blacks and Latinos are intellectually inferior to Asians and whites, without crossing that line?

Pat had a few more things to say, or rather, lament over:

Can Western civilization survive the passing of the European peoples whose ancestors created it and their replacement by Third World immigrants? Probably not, for the new arrivals seem uninterested in preserving the old culture they have found.

Those who hold the white race responsible for the mortal sins of mankind - slavery, racism, imperialism, genocide - may welcome its departure from history.

Those who believe that the civilization that came out of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome and London to be the crowning achievement of mankind will mourn its passing.
Read more here.

Come now, Pat: Are you saying that we should forgive the "sins" of European people, because of what they built ("the crowning achievement of mankind"), and not condemn them for the harsh and brutal tactics that were used to erect these "crowning achievements"?

That the end justified the means?

Here's my contention: Plans are in the making to assure that, with the "passing of the European peoples," it will be business as usual in this country, that the torch of power and control will be passed forward, as it has for centuries, to its supposed rightful owners--European people.

From one of my favorite movies, Dune, we get this line of dialogue: "He who controls the spice, controls the universe." I'm going to make a point here by altering this familiar line from the movie somewhat: "He who controls the jobs, controls everything else."

Here's the full thesis that I promised a ways back. Let me know what you think.

A population shift is now taking place in this country, with a rise of Latinos, and a decline of whites.

The Latino demographic will, in a decade or two, wield most of the political power in this country, with whites falling precipitously to the back of the electoral bus.

What's needed to offset this shift is a new power dynamic assuring that whites will continue to assert their will over the political and social landscape.

Whites will "not go gentle into that good night...[but will] rage, rage against the dying of the light."

How do they preserve their once monopolistic power in the midst of this population shift? Simple. Transfer it to corporations. And this what we're now seeing take place, unabashedly, by the Roberts Supreme Court.

Corporations, recently raised to the importance, and stature of the individual, can now use their collective power to influence the outcome of elections and the passage of legislation.

They already have life's largest bargaining chip--jobs, the creation of the them, and the destruction of them.

Further, any regulations, or regulators that would challenge the new authority of corporations can be bought, or defeated, in some other way.

In addition, because unions support labor, they, too, will have to go in this new power paradigm. A weak, disorganized, labor force won't be able to challenge the power of the corporate purse.

Further, use everything at your disposal to weaken the hand of the Federal Government and those agencies that would stand in the way of the fledgling corpocracy.

I think all of this is by design, and is not happenstance. Look for more shifts of power from the people to the corporations--shifts that will dilute our democracy, and empower corporations.

[In response to a remark regarding the indoctrination of those on the Right, Republicans and conservatives, in preparation of this demographic shift, I had this to say:]

That's easy to do, and easy to understand, in light of the new power paradigm: Whites know that their historical position--Alpha dog, Massa, owners of white privilege--is quickly coming to a crashing end.

What good is a democracy, "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people," if you're not the people to whom it refers.

A race war would go a long way toward assisting whites in their struggle to hold onto what's slipping away.

They would, then, have an excuse to legally suppress minority groups that are threatening to be the majority and the ramifications that shift would entail.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Skin Deep?

I'm guest speaker over at Granny's place. Follow my latest blog entry, Skin Deep?, there.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"The Single Best Invention Of Life"

Those are nets hanging from those poles at Foxconn. They're designed to catch people as they jump from windows above--if they're lucky--to their deaths below. I was prepared to discuss another topic, but learning about the death of Steve Jobs of Apple fame, I decided to devote this blog entry to him.

Steve Jobs was not only an uncommon visionary, but an incomparable innovator (two achievements that will survive him), but because he used a company in China to assemble his products (Foxconn), his otherwise stunning reputation will always be scarred by this unsavory business arrangement:

"Terry Gou says he has no idea why so many of his employees are killing themselves. Gou is the founder and chairman of Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer — the maker of iPhones and iPads for Apple, computers for Dell, and countless other devices for well-known high-tech customers around the world.

"So far this year, 10 Foxconn workers have committed suicide. 'From a logical, scientific standpoint, I don't have a grasp on that,' Gou told reporters on May 27 at a press conference at the company's vast production facility in Shenzhen, China. 'No matter how you force me, I don't know.'

"Ask around among the more than 250,000 workers at the Shenzhen complex, and you'll find explanations. One 21-year-old assembly-line worker, who asked that his name not be used, says conditions at Foxconn make his life seem meaningless. He says conversation on the production line is forbidden, bathroom breaks are kept to 10 minutes every two hours, and workers get yelled at frequently."

And if I've inadvertently induced you into believing that it's Apple alone who has resorted to the Foxconn-Chinese connection to boost its bottom line at the expense of some Chinese workers, then let me disabuse you of that misapprehension, because there are others:

"One could argue that Foxconn --the Chinese factory that assembles Apple (AAPL) iPhones, iPods, and iPads, as well as the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360, the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle, Motorola (MOT) cell phones, and components for Dell (DELL) computers -- is the best known of all Chinese manufacturers, which is saying a lot." [2]

Because so many of Steve Job's iconic products were built under slave-like conditions, I've never purchased, or owned, one of his "insanely great" products--not the iPad, the iPhone or the iPod.

When I purchased my newest computer, it was after much research, and after receiving strict assurance that it was American made, using mostly American-made parts.

Actually, I'm not here to "bury" Steve Jobs under an avalanche of criticism, and denunciation, but to "praise him" for a Commencement address he gave on June 12, 2005 for Standford University graduates, touching ever so brilliantly on two of Life's most useful illusions--among other topics--one of which, for him, became an amazing "tool," what he termed, "the single best invention of life," to guide and direct his life, "to make the big choices," perhaps greater than the second illusion he encountered in Life, "failure."

Please give Jobs' address your utmost attention and thought: In it, he offers the distilled wisdom of a lifetime--a message that I'd love to share with the rest of the world--of how he managed to live Life fully, successfully, and richly, and how you can do the same.

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much. [3]




Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bonus That Keeps On Giving!

It was a historian, speaking from China, practically on the other side of the world, that taught me a thing or two about my own country, and some of its unspoken, and untaught history.

Interviewed by an American, this Chinese historian was responding to a question that the interviewer had posed.

The American asked about the supposed Tiananmen Square Massacre, presumably to prove that there were certain subjects that Chinese citizens were forbidden to discuss (Although it's likely that the violence associated with the movement occurred outside of the Square in the city of Beijing.).

To recap that bit of Chinese history, let me cut and paste a portion of a Wikipedia article:

The movement [for the continuation of "economic reform and liberalization"] lasted seven weeks after Hu's death on 15 April. Premier Li Peng, a hardline conservative, declared martial law on 20 May, but no military action took place until 4 June, when the tanks and troops of the People's Liberation Army moved into the streets of Beijing, using live fire while proceeding to Tiananmen Square to clear the area of protesters. The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, and the majority of estimates range from several hundred to thousands.[10] There was widespread international condemnation of the government's use of force against the protesters.

The Chinese historian responded to the American's question without equivocation, saying essentially that he wasn't afraid to discuss this black chapter in Chinese history (1989), but that America had a similar dark chapter of its own, of which only a few Americans are aware.

It was called the Bonus Army Movement.

The what? I remember thinking. What a strange name for a movement. And who were the people in this "Bonus Army"? And how in the Hell did we, in this country, have a response from our government that was similar to what occurred in China, even if it was on a lesser scale? From that moment, I knew that I wouldn't rest until I had the whole of the story. Here's what I learned.

Before I go further, let me tell you what the Bonus Army Movement was a precursor for: The integration of whites and blacks in the military; The taking of organized, mass grievances to the very footsteps of our nation's government, Washington D.C., the Capitol and the White House; and the G.I. Bill.

There's a series of You Tube videos that I would like for you to watch. They give actual film footage of our own Tiananmen Square. If you haven't seen them, you'll want to see all three of them. The history that the three videos represent, should be taught in every school, to every student, rather than the sanitized version that we were all subjected to.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish Defence League's (JDL) Motto became, "Never Again."

We can't say "Never Again," if we don't know what has gone before. Without that knowledge, we don't know what to be cognizant of, and how far governments are willing to go to suppress the actions of its citizenry.

To set up what you're about to see, here's a little historical background:

Six years after the end of World War I Congress enacted a bill that would reward veterans of the conflict a cash bonus for their service. However, the legislation stipulated that the veterans would not collect their bonus until 1945.

This delayed gratification was acceptable to the World War I veterans during the prosperous '20s but the onslaught of the Great Depression changed their attitude. Out of work, destitute, and with families to feed, the veterans organized a march on Washington in May of 1932 to force Congress to immediately pay their bonus. An estimated 15,000 made their way to the nation's capital and dubbed themselves the "Bonus Expeditionary Force."

Using scrap wood, iron and any other loose materials they could find, the veterans set up ramshackle camps throughout the city. The largest housed an estimated 10,000 people. They waited in vain for Congress to act. On June 17 the Senate voted against the House-passed bill that would have given the Bonus Marchers immediate payment of their benefit.

Having no other place to go, the majority of the Bonus Army remained encamped in the city, despite the fact that Congress had adjourned for the summer. Finally, President Hoover ordered the Army to forcibly remove the veterans. On July 28 a force of tanks and cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur stormed the camps and drove the veterans out. Their makeshift houses were then set ablaze.
More here.

Many economist believe that we might suffer a double-dip recession. If we can't dig ourselves out of the economic hole that Bush dug, we may very well find ourselves falling deeper into the hole, but one without a bottom--a depression. Were that to happen, this nation's government may resort to the unthinkable, if people take their grievance, as did the Bonus Army, within the shadows of our nation's institutions, our Capitol, and White House.

In the interest of revealing "actionable intelligence" to guide future behavior and actions, if the people of this nation are faced once again with similar actions from our government, let me offer the following three, timely videos for your illumination:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Win One For the Gipper."

In a nail-biting finish that saw Democrats fail to recapture the state senate in Wisconsin, winning only two of the six Republican seats that were up for recall, I'm reminded more of a basketball game, a baseball game, or even a football game between bitter rivals, than an actual political contest.

Democrats failed late Tuesday in their effort to gain control of the Wisconsin state senate as Republican incumbents won four of six recall elections.

The outcome was a big setback for Democrats, organized labor, and progressive groups who'd sought retribution against six GOP allies of Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier this year enacted a labor law overhaul that ended collective bargaining rights for many public sector workers.

The recall elections attracted millions of dollars of investment from both liberals and conservatives across the nation.

Most at risk as voting started Tuesday appeared to be three Republicans, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke, all of whom had barely won their races in 2008.

Kapanke and Hopper lost, but Darling won with 54 percent with most of the precincts counted, partly due to her outperforming her 2008 majority in heavily Republican Waukesha County.

In 2008, Darling had won her district by a mere 1,007 out of more than 99,000 votes cast. Her district went narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008.

Three other Republican lawmakers also survived the Democratic recall effort: Sen. Robert Cowles, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Sen. Luther Olsen.

With the split in Wisconsin’s Senate at 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats as the day began, a turnover of three would have changed party control.

Ronald Reagan, himself no friend of unions,[0] immortalized the saying, "Win one for the Gipper," a line he delivered in the movie, Knute Rockney, All American. [1]

Rather than take inventory of the direction in which coach Walker was taking the state at the behest of the front office (the Koch Brothers), it appears that Republicans, by the legion, turned out to support the Home Team, incumbent Republican candidates. Clearly, not all Republicans resorted to boosterism, but a sufficient number did to assure that the Wisconsin State senate would continue to fly the colors of the Home Team--Red instead of Blue.

In one hotly contested district, some believe that the win for the Republican incumbent was staged. That district's results, which should have been one of the first, was the last. To raise suspicions further, and a few eyebrows, the delay in tallying votes in that district came from one Kathy Nickolaus.

Kathy Nickolaus, the county clerk in question, has a "history of secretive and erratic handling" of results, says John Nichols at The Nation. She was responsible for skewed results in a 2006 Assembly race, and tallies votes on her home computer. What's more, she "apparently knew of this 'mistake' for 29 hours before reporting it." Who needs a conspiracy theory? "The facts raise the questions."[2]

Both Teams, Right and Left, will, from their trunk of expediency, unpack their smiley faces, and attach them to the Wisconsin results. For all the hurrahs of victory, the real losers, as usual, are the American people--those mired deeply in a morass of ideological quicksand, more vested in winning, regardless of the personal cost, and those with no ideological ax to grind, and with no demons to destroy, whose only goal is to pursue what's best for the American people, despite the canons of party politics.

Republicans--in Wisconsin and elsewhere--don't seem to understand: They're working against their self-interest, even as they struggle to reconcile the self-inflicted blows to their self-interest with a conservative philosophy that asks for nothing less than total commitment, even if that commitment kills them, and the nation in which they live.

The Wisconsin elections were seen as an early indicator (weather vane) of the direction political winds favored in the upcoming 2012 national elections. In that case, I say the Democratic Party will need its own "Gipper" to inspire and galvanize its base.

Despite the drive, to begin in November of this year, to collect more than half a million signatures of Wisconsin registered voters to recall Scott Walker, it will be pretty near impossible for Democrats to unseat Walker in a recall election, given the almost unanimous support for Republicans, and Republican ideological solutions (which have failed time and again), rather than what works, evidenced by the recent elections there, in a state known for it historical support of union ideals and collective bargaining.

Nevertheless, I'll do my part, and hope for the best, because I believe that the Scott Walkers of this nation (and we have several in our state and federal governments), would do whatever is in their power to crush the democratic process, and govern more from fiat, and threats, than consensus.

Primed to believe that the economy's descent into an economic Hades was caused by satanic union demands, onerous, and evil government regulations, and diabolically liberal, but misguided legislation to extend unemployment insurance for indolent, work-evasive, unemployed workers, Republicans, themselves, have crossed over to the "dark side" along with those they believe are possessed by the demons of liberalism.

This country is sliding into an economic Hell of its own making. Our wounds have been self-inflicted (consider the eleventh-hour raising of the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting, the resulting S&P AA+ downgraded rating, and the Dow's reaction to it, as well as to world-wide economic upheavals that we had a hand in creating). These wounds were inflicted so that one team (the Republican party) would be crowned the winner in a game where everyone loses, if the Home Team wins.

The nation's demon isn't liberalism, but a Republican ideology which is fiercely
fought for and defended by Right-leaning Fans, and the Home Team, one which has enshrined a dogma of small government, free trade, and laissez faire economics, although it's clear that these failed principles serve the special interests of major corporations more than people, some of which have shown by their actions, that they don't give a damn about anything but their profit margins, and the size of their executive bonuses.

When the chips were down, and their back was against the wall, and the momentum was felt to be on the side of their opponents, Wisconsin Republicans were told to go out and "Win one for the Gipper!"

Which they did. The score was 4 out of 6.

And the outcome: Those Fans who cheered and boosted the Home Team, actually lost the game. They lost by winning.




Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A "Special Comment" that'll K.O. You!

Keith Olbermann, now on Current, in one of his signature special comments, gives his impassioned analysis of the debt-ceiling deal recently struck by President Obama and Speaker Boehner.

The outcome of this deal was never in doubt: The president would capitulate, Boehner would get 98% of his demands (according to his assessment), and the Tea Party faction within the Republican party--actually operating as a third party aligned with the Republican party--get to keep all their marbles with which to play another day (as the deal didn't include any revenue increases, a "balanced approach" upon which the president insisted).

I'm convinced that had Speaker Boehner been able to move the Tea Party Caucus in the House, the president would have negotiated the "really big deal" with which he teased the Tea Party, and upon which they refused to bite. The deal presumably would have increased the age recipients could first begin to draw down their Social Security, and would have shaved a bit off the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) rate, in return for new revenues.

The Super Congress (a twelve member panel) that emerged from this deal, which the law gives the authority to recommend cuts, with triggers that could force cuts to the defense budget, and social programs, if other cuts aren't agreed to before the triggers take effect, is congress once again abdicating its duty to do the hard work of governance. No where in our constitution is there a provision for such a Super Congress, but that didn't stop one from being formed.

With cuts to the budget's non-defense, discretionary fund, it's very unlikely that congress will have the funds or the will to enact another stimulus program that went to states for shovel-ready infrastructure projects, shoring up bridges, repairing roads, and levees--to name a few.

Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) are, once again, organizing a March on Washington on Aug. 27th, with Co-host of the March Tom Joyner. The focus of the March will be on jobs, and the need for congress, now that the debt-ceiling isn't using up all the oxygen in our nation, to turn its collective attention to this pressing national emergency. Learn more here.

However, no jobs will be forthcoming from this congress. I've said this repeatedly. Reducing unemployment works for the president and against the Republicans who're staking out the White House in 2012. An improved economy and job outlook will assuredly give President Obama a clear path to reelection. To thwart this outcome, and to keep their promise to "take back the country," and to make President Obama a one-term president, Republicans have taken to doing some rather shady things (i.e. Koch brothers' financed absentee voter applications with erroneous return dates.).

Across the nation, Republicans are gearing up for the 2012 election with a vengeance, with strict voter I.D. requirements in place. Republican-controlled state houses are doing whatever else they can legally to suppress voter turnout, as a large turnout generally favors Democrats and incumbents.

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment can be watched by clicking on this link or, if you choose, you can read the full transcript below. Of course, you can do both, listen while you read. Regardless of how you tackle it, please take the time to absorb and measure his words. It's rare that we hear pundits from the Left speak with such candor, and with such insight.

I close, as promised, with a Special Comment on the debt deal.

Our government has now given up the concept of right and wrong.

We have, in this deal, declared that we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all political incumbents are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Re-nomination, re-election, and the pursuit of hypocrisy.

We have, in this deal, gone from the Four Freedoms to the Four Great Hypocrisies.

We have superceded Congress to facilitate 750 billion dollars in domestic cuts including Medicare in order to end an artificially-induced political hostage crisis over debt, originating from the bills run up by a Republican president who funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex by unfunded, unnecessary, and unproductive wars, enabled in doing so by the very same Republican leaders who now cry for balanced budgets - and we have called it compromise. And those who defend it have called it a credit to a pragmatic president who wins some sort of political "points" because, having stood for almost nothing here, he gave away almost nothing for which he stood.

It would be comical if it were not tragic.

Either way, it is a signal moment in our history, in which both parties have agreed and codified that the political structure of this nation shall now based entirely on hypocrisy and political self-perpetuation.

Let us start with the first of the Great Hypocrisies: The Committee. The Republican dogs can run back to their corporate masters and say they have forced one-and-one-half trillion dollars in cuts and palmed off the responsibility for them on this nonsensical "Super Congress" committee.

For two-and-a-half brutal years we have listened to these Tea Party mountebanks screech about the Constitution of the United States as if it were the revealed word and not the product of other - albeit far better - politicians. They demand the repeal of Amendments they don't like, and the strict interpretation of the ones they do, and the specific citation of authorization within the Constitution for every proposed act or expenditure or legislation.

Except this one.

Where does it say in the Constitution that the two houses of Congress can, in effect, create a third house to do its dirty work for it; to sacrifice a few Congressmen and Senators so the vast majority of incumbents can tell the voters they had nothing to do with this?

This leads to the second of the Great Hypocrisies: how, in the same breath, the Republicans can create an extra-Constitutional "Super Congress" and yet also demand a Constitutional Amendment to force the economic stupidity that would be a mandated balanced budget. Firstly: pick a side! Ignore the Constitution or adhere to it.

Firstly, pick a side, ignore the constitution or adhere to it. And of what value would this Mandated Balanced Budget be? Our own history proves that at a time of economic crisis, if the businesses aren't spending, and the consumers aren't spending, the government must. Our ancestors were the lab rats in the horrible experiments of the Hoover Administration that brought on the Great Depression, in which the government curled up into a ball while it simultaneously insisted the economy should heal itself, when, in times of crisis - then and now - the economy turns out to be comprised entirely of a bunch of rich people who will sit on their money no matter if the country starves.

Forgotten in the Republican Voodoo dance, dressed in the skins of the mythical Balanced Budget, triumphant over the severed head of short-term retrenchment that they can hold up to their moronic followers, are the long-term implications of the mandated Balanced Budget.

What happens if there's ever another… war?

Or another… terrorist attack?

Or another… naturaldisaster?

Or any other emergency that requires A government to spend a dollar morethan it has? A Constitutional Amendment denying us the right to run a deficit, is madness, and it will be tested by catastrophe sooner than any of its authors with their under-developed imaginations that can count only contributions and votes, can contemplate.

And the third of the Great Hypocrisies is hidden inside the shell game that is the Super Congress. TheSuper Congress is supposed to cut evenly from domestic and defense spending, but if it cannot agree on those cuts, or Congress will not endorse them, there will be a "trigger" that automatically cuts a trillion-two or more - but those cuts will not necessarily come evenly from the Pentagon. We are presented with an agreement that seems to guarantee the gutting of every local sacred cow from the Defense Department. Except if the Congressmen and Senators to whom the cows are sacred, disagree, and overrule, or sabotage the Super Congress, or, except if for some reason a 12-member Committee split evenly along party lines can't manage to avoid finishing every damned vote 6-to-6.

We're cutting Defense. Unless we're not.

The fourth of the Great Hypocrisies is the evident agreement to not add any revenues to the process of cutting. Not only is the impetus to make human budget sacrifices out of thepoor and dependent formalized… but the rich and the corporations are thus indemnified, again, and given more money not merely to spend on themselves and their own luxuries, but more vitally, they are given more money to spend on buying politicians, and legislatures, and courts, buying entire states, all of which can be directed like so many weapons, in the service of one cause and one cause alone: making bystatute and ruling, the further protection of the wealthy at the expense ofeverybody else, untouchable, inviolable - permanent.

The White House today boasted of loopholes to be closed and tax breaks to be rescinded -- later.
By a committee.

A committee that has yet to be formed.

There are no new taxes. Except the stealth ones, enacted on 99 out of 100 Americans by this evil transaction. Every dollar cut from the Safety Net is another dollar added to the citizen's cost for education, for security, for health, for life itself. It is another dollar he can't spend on making a better life for himself, or atleast his children. It is another dollar he must spend instead on simply keeping himself alive.

Where is the outrage over these Great Hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media, for whom access is of greater importance than criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don't buy newspapers or can't leapwebsite paywalls or could not afford cable tv?

Do you expect it to comefrom a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance, but only perceive how to get elected, or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves, who will merely calculate whether or not it's right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions?

Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country, with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, socialmedia, sports, and trivia?

Where is the outrage to come from?

From you!

It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.

It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the 'free press,' the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive DETAILS about exactly how the bankrobbers emptied the public's pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.

It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can't hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.

The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing ofhatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.

And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960's and early 1970's and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs - but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.

It is from an old and almost clich├ęd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you've got to get mad.

I cannot say to you, meethere or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.

Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not, do so.

Good night, and good luck.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"All we want are the facts, ma'am."

Dragnet's Joe Friday character used the statement, "All we want are the facts, ma'am," fairly often--not to be confused with a variant of it, "just the facts, ma'am," which he never used, but which has, over the years, been imputed to the Jack Webb character.

The need for facts permeates our society to such a degree, that we now have the Car Fox urging used-car buyers to ask for the CARFAX before buying a used car, with the now familiar demand, "Show Me the CARFAX!".

With politicians shading the facts, and shaving them to spin them for the consumption of their base, into cotton candy, or into a Castor-oil concoction, depending on whether they wish to repulse, or to entice, a new site was developed primarily to sift through their various claims, and expose them to the light of truth.

That site is politiFact. Unfortunately, I couldn't find on the site a slogan that equals that of CARFAX, or a phrase that's as catchy as the one used by Joe Friday. To correct this obvious oversight, and to assure that the site remains as trendy as possible, I created one: "PolitiFact: Where Facts and Politics Merge."

Okay, it needs work!

Recently, I spent some time prowling a few blogs (Now, that's an interesting image!). I wanted to see what issues were capturing, and captivating, the minds of black conservative bloggers. During my prowling, I came upon a black conservative blogger with an entry titled:
"The Debt Ceiling Debate - Liars and Losers on display"
I was moved to leave a comment in response to his entry, but learned that the blog employed comment moderation. Rarely do my comments slip pass the watchful eyes of the blog minder. For that reason, I don't take time to respond.

As these bloggers are careful to include only like-minded posts, other bloggers err in the other direction, permitting all kind of disgusting, racist, homophobic, misogynist, anonymous, and not so anonymous, comments in the interest of free speech, not realizing the simple truth--speech may be free, but not a platform.

What was once a great blog for liberal and progressive blacks to meet, talk, and vent, has now become a cesspool of fecal matter. Sensible, reasonable, thoughtful, and intelligent commenters (a few have stayed behind, holding their nose) have deserted the blog, for pastures that are better kept, free of noxious weeds, and more fit for intellectual grazing.

I digress, but not much. The black conservative blogger on "The Debt Ceiling Debate," provided this scathing, blistering, opening statement:

I have been watching the debt ceiling debate with absolute disgust. Seriously, I am on the verge of vomiting from the outright lies, distortions, political games and typical Washington foolishness. Never in my life have I witness such dysfunction!

First we have Obama who has now taken to flat out lying to the American people. Today on CBS News Obama was asked a straight forward question about whether or not Social Security checks would go out next month and here is what the Liar In Chief said:

CBS News: President Obama on Tuesday said he cannot guarantee that retirees will receive their Social Security checks August 3 if Democrats and Republicans in Washington do not reach an agreement on reducing the deficit in the coming weeks.

"I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News.
Undeterred, our blogger unleashes the full force of his rant, sparing no one he believed was responsible for allowing Democrats to dictate what is factual about the debt ceiling and what is not.

This is a bold face lie, plain and simple. The Social Security Administration claims to have $2.5 trillion surplus. Monthly expenditures for Social Security is about $60 billion. How then on God's green Earth can Obama say with a straight face that he cannot guarantee seniors will receive their on August 3rd?

Obama should be shown the door immediately for lying to the American people like this and CBS News should have their licence revoked for not calling Obama out on such a lie. It is absolutely disgusting!

Aside from a lapdog media, Obama is comfortable lying to the public because he knows he is dealing with a bunch of loser Republicans. The Republican leadership is a bunch of losers because they immediately went down the road of agreeing to raise the debt ceiling from the get go.

Back in January when they took control of the House, Republicans were quick to agree with the left's lie that calamity would befall the world if the debt ceiling was not raise. Now we have Republican leadership willing to abdicate it constitutional authority of the purse strings to the president in order to avoid political heat.

I don't believe that I ever called Bush a liar, although it's documented that he lied about many things. If I did, I'm pretty sure that I phrased it more delicately. I can say, however, with absolute certainty, that I never called Bush "Liar-In-Chief."

In my comment section, it's been discussed many times, how the news media fan the fires of anger, because this emotion, above all others, serves the agenda of government and of corporations that are busy extracting money from our economy at a rate that's both frightening to behold and contemplate.

Earlier, I mentioned PolitiFact. Had our black conservative blogger consulted that site, he might have modified his accusation (but I doubt it), and would have, perhaps, given the president the benefit of the doubt, as to whether the government will meet its legal obligation to seniors, and others who look to a government check once a month to live on.

After Rep. Joe Wilson bellowed his now infamous "You lie!" the ice was broken, and chunks of it has floated in Tea, and have since iced other, not so soft, drinks. We have yet another Joe, Rep. Joe Walsh, stirring the ice in his glass, telling President Obama to Quit Lying." And Sarah Palin scooping up several pieces of the ice, to call Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama liars in one of her Fox News interviews. If you want to see it, you'll have to endure a short commercial for the trouble.

Remember, our blogger accused President Obama of "flat out lying to the American people." So certain was he, he didn't bite his tongue, or moderate his statement,

As it turns out, it's not quite that simple--but then, very things are, especially when they're as complex as our federal government.

Rather than taking the president's word, or the word of Sarah Palin, or of either of the two Joes, PolitiFact subjected President Obama's remarks to very careful scrutiny, and concluded that he didn't lie, but that his remarks are only partially true, receiving a HALF TRUTH on the TRUTH-O-METER. A closer reading suggests that the Obama statement, depending on some very iffy technical stuff, may prove to be wholly true.

So here's what we have, according to PolitiFact:

Social Security is a mandatory program supported by a trust fund, so Social Security benefits don't have to be formally approved by Congress every year. However, Social Security Administration employees are paid through appropriated funds. The real question about a government shutdown was whether those employees would be kept from going to work and if so, whether the checks would sit idle rather than arriving in mailboxes nationwide. The rules that cover government shutdowns provide some leeway for federal workers to carry out core Social Security functions. This flexibility allowed checks to go out during a 1995 shutdown, even as less-urgent agency functions lagged.

However, the two scenarios -- a government shutdown caused by the absence of funding approved by Congress and a debt ceiling impasse that prevents new borrowing -- are different. So the consequences of one do not necessarily match the consequences of the other.

Will the issuance of checks need Social Security Administration employees to make it happen? If so, the issuance of checks might not take place, if a shutdown ensues from the "debt ceiling impasse that [will, in all likelihood] prevent new borrowing."

Here's more:

Delaying certain payments, even while making others, could ripple through the economy and drag down already weak economic growth. "Removing a portion of government spending from the economy would leave behind significant economic effects and would have an effect on" gross domestic product, CRS wrote.

There are also some specific technical challenges for shifting funding into and out of the Social Security Trust Fund, which our friends at the Washington Post Fact-Checker column looked into here.

Most of the experts we interviewed agreed that the federal government, if push came to shove, could probably find a way to prioritize Social Security or other payments, though none expressed absolute certainty. However, most of the experts also acknowledged practical challenges of using such tactics.

While he thinks the GAO's green light for payment prioritization carries significant weight, Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute added that "with so much being borrowed, it is hard simply to pick on a few programs" to continue in the face of a debt ceiling impasse.

Ronald M. Levin, a professor at the Washington University School of Law said, "I interpret the president to be saying, 'Stopping Social Security checks would be hugely costly, but other curtailments would also be hugely costly. ... Something will have to give, and I cannot responsibly guarantee that it won’t be Social Security.' That is not quite what he said, but to my mind it’s close."

Where does this leave us? The critics likely have a point when they say Obama is playing up the risk to the most sympathetic potential victims -- Social Security recipients, 23 percent of whom live in households that depend on the retirement system for 90 percent or more of their income. While it's not a certainty that the Obama administration could prioritize cutting checks to seniors, there's a reasonable shot that the administration could do it.

On the other hand, doing so would likely cause a lot of collateral damage to other American creditors, federal workers, students, Pentagon vendors and countless others -- and could also hamper the broader economy at a particularly sensitive time. The president is probably justified in saying that the possibility of an un-raised debt ceiling jeopardizes Social Security checks -- after all, it hasn't happened before, so no one knows for sure. But we also think the president probably has tools at his disposal to avoid the worst-case scenario for seniors that he expresses concern about. Acknowledging that there are a lot of uncertainties, we rate his statement Half True.
Read more here.

I think it's better for the president to express "uncertainty," rather than certainty, just in case he can't deliver--putting aside the possibility of earning political capital by equivocating. Saying that he can deliver, and learning later that he can't, would have a far greater impact on check recipients.

When you realize that this debt ceiling crisis has been purposely manufactured (all Congress had to do was simply pass what would have amounted to no more than a two-page bill to raise the debt ceiling), the catastrophic fallout could have been prevented.

If by defaulting, our credit rating tanks, this will have a long-term, deleterious effect, not only on the price government will have to pay for borrowed money, but the price that all American will have to pay to buy a house, a car, or new appliances, if they're compelled to buy them on credit.

As I prepare to publish this, House Speaker Boehner is preparing to speak. It appears that a breakthrough in the debt-ceiling talk has been negotiated.