Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How The Wealthy Elites Stole Our Prosperity

Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their change ~ Thomas Jefferson (4/13/1743 to 7/4/1826) 3rd President of the United States (3/4/1801 to 3/4/1809). He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the co-founder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for 25 years.

Alan Greenspan served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006. This period of time covered the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. As Fed chairman, Greenspan worked to advance the interests of the upper-class at the expense of the interests of the rest of the nation.

During the Clinton years the economy boomed. Business did well and the real wages of workers began to rise. This worried the investor class. If wages continued to rise it would affect their profits. Sure, they'd still go up, but they deserved a BIGGER piece of the expanding pie. In early 1997, the sixth year of economic expansion, Alan Greenspan made a statement before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs meant to reassure the business community that he knew how to keep wages low.

Greenspan said that, while "the performance of the U.S. economy over the past year has been quite favorable", there was nothing to worry about because "workers fear of losing their jobs restrains them from seeking the pay raises that usually crop up when employers have trouble finding people to hire" (Wall Street Journal 1/27/1997). And Greenspan saw one of his main responsibilities as Federal Reserve Board Chairman to be to maintain "a high-enough level of worker insecurity [so] employees wouldn't demand pay raises and benefit increases" ("Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class" by Thom Hartmann, p.48-49).

Fed chairman is an influential and prestigious position. People listen to the top economist in the land, so when the Maestro advised that, in order to ensure continued good times, we needed to go after "wage inflation", the President and Congress listened. Under Greenspan the federal government abandoned previously held pro-labor positions. When businesses violated laws on illegal strikebreaking and hired permanent replacement workers, the agencies responsible for the enforcement of these laws declined to intervene (citations issued by the The International Labor Organization attest to this fact).

Immigration laws were inadequately enforced and people willing to work for less diluted the labor pool. Companies were encouraged to, and rewarded for, sending American jobs to low wage countries. Various "free trade" treaties were championed by both Republican and Democratic presidents and ratified by their respective Congresses. ("Power in The Global Arena", Lecture by Noam Chomsky, 5/1998).

The strategy worked. Profits soared (along with upper-class incomes) while pay for the middle class and the working poor remained flat (or went down). Throw the bush tax into the mix and it's easy to see why the economy is in the dumper. Economist Ravi Batra explains that, "a healthy economy requires that there is a balance between supply and demand. Here supply means the production of goods and services offered to entire society, and demand means society’s demand for such things. Thus, economic balance requires that [supply equals demand]. Without this balance, there is either high unemployment or high inflation".

In other words, Supply side economics and anti-wage inflationary policies lead to unemployment and recession. Because The average citizen (who is still employed) can no longer afford to purchase what is being produced (especially after they've mortgaged their home to the hilt and maxed out their credit cards).

I made this point on another message board in a recent discussion with an "Independent Moderate". I claimed that the solution to the problem we now face is for our elected officials to take steps to "ensure" wages rise. The Independent Moderate's incredulous response was to ask, "how do you ensure that people's wages increase? The government... not unless you're talking about the old East Germany... can't do that".

Does Willis Hart (the aforementioned Independent Moderate) think I was expressing my desire that the government step in and dictate to business what they pay their employees? If that is the case I'm surprised he didn't cite a Communist country as his example. The reason I wrote this post was to explain how, while remaining a democracy, our government can take steps to ensure that wages rise. Just as the adherents of "Greenspan-nomics" enacted policies ensuring wages remained low, polices can (and should) be enacted to ensure the exact opposite.

Progressive radio talk show host Thom Hartmann agrees that it is possible. According to Mr. Hartmann, "Government can set the rules of the game of business in such a way that working people must receive a living wage, that labor has the power to organize into unions just as capital can organize into corporations, and that domestic industries can be protected from overseas competition. When these rules are combined with a democratic form of government, a strong middle class will emerge. The middle class vanishes and we return to the con's Dickens-era form of economics, where the rich get richer and the working poor are kept in a constant state of fear and anxiety so the cost of their labor will always be cheap" (Screwed, p.50).

The cure for our economic ills is to re-adopt pro-labor, pro-middleclass policies and dump the Conservative policies that favor the wealthy. Repealing NAFTA, raising tariffs and penalizing corporations for shipping jobs overseas will encourage corporations who want to sell goods in America to hire Americans. This will bring jobs back to our country.

Passing comprehensive immigration reform backed up by a program like E-verify will drastically reduce unemployment. That and the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act will cause "worker insecurity" to evaporate and allow more workers to negotiate for higher pay. Throw in health care for all - by way of a public option - and the result will be increased prosperity for a majority of Americans instead of a select few.

For 40 years and counting the economic elites have been inflating their pay by depressing worker compensation. It's a transfer of wealth that has left 20% of the population holding 85% of the nation's wealth. This was not an accident. It was by design, and in my mind amounts to nothing less than thievery.

During the previously mentioned discussion with the Moderate Independent I asserted that the wealthy are "overpaid". The Hartster's response was to claim that I was "casually foisting" my value judgments on everyone else (Republicans and other Moderates like him, presumably). Willis conclusion was that was "ballsy" of me. No Willis, there is nothing "casual" about my conclusions.

I've done my homework on the matter and come to my conclusions based on an investigation of the facts. Actually I think you're the one who is "pretty ballsy" to suggest Liberals have reached their conclusions based on jealously and class envy... instead of a love of country and a desire to do what's in the best interest of a majority of it's citizens.

SWTD #57

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Liberal Cure For An Economy in Crisis

It would be easier to pay off the national debt overnight than to neutralize the long-range effects of our national stupidity ~ Frank Zappa (12/21/1940 to 12/4/1993) an American composer, electric guitarist, record producer, and film director.

The exchange below recently took place on a "moderate" blog I frequent. A progressive blogger that my "followers" most likely have heard of, LORD TRUTH 101 (what Joe Kelly called himself at the time), made an observation, and a Conservative blogger who frequents said moderate blog responded. BTW, the Con blogger (a guy who doesn't actually have his own blog) refers to President Obama as "Obie"... a term of endearment, I'm sure...

LORD TRUTH 101: I'd love to see real progressive policies enacted. Alas; the Right's propaganda machine is too powerful. The sheeple need their daily fix of lies.

Rusty Shackleford: just what do you consider "real progressive policies?" You guys continue to bitch and moan about Obie being too centrist yet you never ever say what these progressive wonderment cures actually are.

LORD TRUTH 101: Single payer national health insurance that takes the burden of health insurance expense off business. Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan. Actually enforcing labor law and safety regulations ... We've had 40 years of supply side nonsense that led to a 14 trillion dollar deficit. Your answer is keep doing the same thing. You're nuts dude.

My 2 Cents: I believe the most important thing we need to do is pass some serious campaign finance reform legislation. Without it the Republicans will just continue to buy the elections (Something they have been doing for some time, but made much worse by the recent Citizens United SCOTUS decision). Key to accomplishing that feat includes re-electing President Obama to a second term - so he can appoint 1 or 2 more Supreme Court justices - which will tip the balance of the court back to representing the people, instead of the wealthy and corporations.

Return to pre-Reagan tax rates (when the top bracket was 70 percent). Slash the military budget. Withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. Medicare for everyone (The health insurers should be put out of business). Lower the Social Security retirement age - this will free up jobs for younger workers and thus lower the unemployment rate.

End privatization - anything the private sector can do a profit the government can do for less. Withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. Bring manufacturing back to the US using tariffs and the tax code (penalize, not reward companies for shipping jobs overseas). Go after rich tax cheats who hide their money overseas. Pass Employee Free Choice legislation and abolish so-called "right to work" laws - this will put more money in the hands of workers (more of whom will be able to negotiate for fair pay) and stimulate the economy through the resulting increased demand (DEMAND drives an economy, not supply. Supply side economics IS nonsense).

Finally, reinstate Glass Steagall and the STET tax - and Nationalize the Fed. It's time to put an end to parasitic fat cat bankers making a profit off of controlling OUR money supply.

In short, I agree with my esteemed colleague LORD TRUTH 101 - people who vote conservative because they think the Con policies will work ARE nuts. We've been following them since Reagan was elected and they clearly haven't worked. What they have done is make the rich richer and everyone else poorer. Which actually was their goal - so actually they did work, just not for the majority of us.

See also: The big lie: Attacking the Debt is Good Politics by Steve Kornac, Salon 11/11/2010

Dead Link Notice (9/25/2014): The blog of Joe Kelly (AKA Joe Truth, AKA "Truth 101", AKA Joe Hagstrom) is no longer accessible and any link to it (above) now displays a error message that says the blog is "open to invited readers only".

SWTD #56

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hang Karl Rove by the Neck Until Dead

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself ~ Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (b. 2/14/1968, position held 7/15/2003 to 5/10/2006) describing his participation in the stonewalling of the press in the Valerie Plame investigation, as laid out in his book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" (published 6/2/2008).

An Excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 11/8/2010 (edited for brevity and clarity).

Thom Hartmann: [My wife] and I, over the weekend, went to see the movie Fair Game [the film adaptation of the memoir "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House" by Valerie Plame-Wilson starring Naomi Watts & Sean Penn]. ...There's a scene in the movie where Joe Wilson gets a phone call, and the voice on the other end says, "hey Joe, it's Chris Matthews. Karl Rove just called me and said said that your wife is fair game". It's the story of [the outing of former CIA undercover operative] Valerie Plame. I walked out of that movie going, "Karl Rove needs to be tried for treason and hung by the neck til dead". I mean, that's how I was feeling. I'm not calling for that ... I'm an opponent of the death penalty, but boy was I furious.

[The movie] just lays right out how Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Scooter Libby committed treason... TREASON against the United States of America. And George W. bush's complicity in that lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people and the destruction of our reputation around the world. The crime that was committed by these people is almost inconceivable. And the fact that they got away with it, and that [the Obama] administration isn't investigating and prosecuting them? I find amazing. Worse than amazed, I'm horrified.

My Commentary: I'm also an opponent of the death penalty, but I think, that in some cases, we should make exceptions. If any of the bush criminals are ever convicted, a future Republican president certainly could pardon them. That being the case, I believe, that if any of the treasonous bushies are ever convicted, that we should hang them all. Or give them a lethal injection, or death by firing squad - whatever they prefer. Remember that Scooter Libby, who was actually convicted, served no time in jail.

As for President Doofus, even though Scott McClellan implicated him in the Valerie Plame outing, I think it would might be easier to convict him for approving torture, a war crime bush admitted to in his just released presidential memoir, "Decision points". This is probably why we'll never get an investigation - this president committed so many crimes while in office that if there ever were a serious investigation his guilt would become apparent fairly quickly. And something, other than a pardoning would be demanded by the American people.

The precedent was set when Richard Nixon was pardoned, and now it has been confirmed by the Obama Administration. The United States does not hold presidents (or their administrations) accountable for the crimes they commit in office. It is American exceptionalism that allows the United States this privilege, however. Presidents of other countries (like president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, or president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, for instance) should still be worried about being held accountable for their crimes.

See also: People Died - No Justice for Plame-Wilson, the People Imperiled by Sue4theBillofRights, The Daily Kos 6/24/2009


SWTD #55

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ignorant Electorate's Conservative Confusion

Ignorant men don't know what good they hold in their hands until they've flung it away ~ Sophocles (497 BCE to winter 406 BCE) the second of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived.

"Well Look at this news!" was the title of a post on a Conservative blog I visited awhile ago. The news trumpeted by the Right-wing blogger was that "Conservatives Now Outnumber Liberals in All 50 States" according to a 6/15/2009 Gallup Poll. Obviously the wingnut believed the poll means the Republican party is on a verge of a comeback. In a few short days they'll retake the Congress and in 2012 the White House.

"I can't wait to see the liberal spin on this" the aforementioned disingenuous wingnut blogger proclaimed. I say disingenuous because, after I commented on a few of her posts she enabled comment moderation and told me to take my bullshit elsewhere. Her profile said "I'm glad you've stopped by!", although this sentiment apparently only applied to people who agreed with her.

I didn't provide a link to Mary Mary Quite Contrary's blog because it has since been deleted. Or, I assume this to be the case, since Blogger says, "blog not found". It probably has something to do with the fact that I started writing this post back in September of 2009 and never finished it - something I often do. I have a dozen or so partially completed posts.

Last Tuesday (10/19/2010) I read a Yahoo News story that says "more than half of likely voters see themselves as conservative, compared with 42% in 2006, the last midterm election, according to a Gallup Poll in early October". That line reminded me of this commentary which I never completed.

What Mary's post - and what anyone else who hears about how the electorate is more "conservative" now than ever before probably doesn't understand - is these Gallop poll numbers include people identifying as conservative Democrats and conservative leaning Independents. Either group (Independents more so than Democrats) could conceivably vote Republican. I laid out my fears regarding Independents with my 11/09/2009 post "It's Everybody Else's Fault". Now, only a few days from the midterms, it appears as though my worst fears are about to be realized.

"The biggest cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid people are so sure about things and the intelligent folks are so full of doubts" was the quote I opened my previously mentioned 2009 post with. According to the Yahoo News story "Tea party candidates vow to make a difference in Senate". The story also mentions 63-year-old "Louisville resident Sherry Gerst" who is voting for Rand Paul because "[she's] just absolutely sick of the Democrats". I believe this is comment represents the typical political ignorance of your average voter.

The Democrats who might vote Republican are of the same ilk as the morons we called "Reagan Democrats". These dummies betrayed their party by voting for the worst US president in history. It's easy to tell Sherry Gerst is one of the dummies who doesn't understand politics in the least - because she didn't say "I'm voting Republican because it's the party that best represents the political philosophies I hold". This is the ONLY question you should ask yourself when deciding who to vote for. You should NEVER vote for one party because you're sick of the other one!

This is why a total nut who says she has been mistaken for Asian and that she can't tell if illegal immigrants sneaking across our border in her recent campaign ad are of Hispanic heritage might actually defeat Harry Reid. I don't live in Nevada so I don't know why Nevadans (supposedly) hate Harry Reid so much - but, whatever the reason, electing a total wackjob like Sharron Angle will only make Nevada's problems worse.

So what we are faced with this midterm is a politically ignorant electorate voting for politically ignorant candidates. Christine O'Donnell, when "debating" her Democratic opponent Chris Coons on 10/19/2010 questioned whether the prohibition against Congress making any law respecting an "establishment of religion" was contained within the First Amendment. Later she says she high-fived her campaign advisors, believing she had nailed Coons in the debate because - get this - he (Chris Coons) didn't know what the First Amendment says!

These people believe that if one party isn't "getting the job done", then, perhaps we should give the other party a chance. Never mind the fact that the parties are diametrically opposed. Never mind the fact that the Republican's stated strategy has been to obstruct any and all legislation put forward by the Democrats - even if they previously voiced support (or even co-sponsored) said legislation. And, also never mind the fact that it was Conservative economic policies that caused the current recession.

How many times is the electorate going to be snookered into voting against their own best interests by snake-oil selling Right-wing con men? The "snake oil" I'm referring to being the fairy tale notions that supply side economics and outsourcing are sound economic policies, or that a belligerent foreign policy and wars of aggression make us safer. Or that we can solve the deficit problem by cutting non-military spending and taxes on the wealthy.

When asked specifically what spending they'll cut they usually have no answer. Carly Fiorina, who is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, was recently asked by Chris Wallace of Faux News what spending cuts she would support. Despite being asked seven times, she never answered. Fiorina (who wants to extend all the bush tax cuts) says she wants to "rein in out-of-control government spending", but "has no idea how" (according to a 10/17/2010 Think Progress article).

I don't believe this to be the case. Fiorina - like all Republicans - wants to cut entitlements. The reason they won't say this is what they want to do is because they know it will cost them votes. People LIKE Medicare and Social Security, and will vote against candidates who support cutting or increasing the age of eligibility for these programs.

So why the hell are the Republicans posed to make big gains in the upcoming election? The Alaskan teabagger candidate Joe Miller thinks Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional - as well as the minimum wage. Do people like the idea of working for slave wages while living in their cars?

An email I received in November of 2009 (when I originally started writing this article) from Newsmax declared "Reaganomics is dead". According to NewsMax, Reaganomics drove us deeply into debt is a proven method of building a healthy economy by "reducing the growth of government spending, reducing income and capital gains marginal tax rates, reducing government regulation of the economy and controlling the money supply to reduce inflation".

Reduce the growth of government spending? This is code for attacking entitlements. Referring to Social Security as a "ponzi scheme" or claiming that it is "bankrupt" are examples of this. Social security isn't a ponzi scheme, nor is it anywhere near being bankrupt. According to a press release issued by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders "The Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus that is projected to grow to more than $4 trillion by the year 2023".

The recent health care reform legislation is also being attacked by Republicans for the same reason. Several Republican fliers I received in the mail recently all attacked the Democrats running in my state/district because they supported "ObamaCare" and it's "$1 Trillion" price tag. Actually the cost of health care reform will be, as reported by CBS news, "$940 billion over ten years". It will also "reduce the deficit by $130 billion over ten years [and] $1.2 trillion dollars in the second ten years". Obviously referring to a bill's (extremely high) "price tag" when the bill actually SAVES money is absurd in the extreme.

Reducing income and capital gains marginal tax rates is Republi-speak for "supply side economics" which is a scam designed to shift taxes onto the backs of the middle class and poor. Reducing regulation? Do they REALLY think they can run on this again? They really DO think they can run on this again, despite the fact that Reaganomics caused the 2008 financial meltdown which lead to the current recession.

As for "controlling the money supply to reduce inflation" - certainly this sounds like a good idea? But current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke (who is a carryover from the bush administration) is currently considering increasing the money supply (the policy is known as "quantitative easing"). According to talk radio host Thom Hartman, "the environment right now is so deflationary that it looks like, and it looks like the Fed has agreed on this, that they can do QE, they can do this quantitative easing.

They can print more money, basically, and it won't produce an inflationary result. Instead it will simply stimulate the economy", because it "makes our exports cheaper which helps industries in the United States that export things". This is why the Chinese government undervalues their currency (we call it "currency manipulation" when they do it). The website "Economics Help" explains that "keeping a weak currency helps to boost demand for Chinese exports and therefore Chinese jobs".

The Newsmax email also asked the questions "how did we get so far off track?", and, "how do we find our way back?". Find our way back? To Reganomics? To this I say "no thank you". Reganomics has been proven wrong on all counts and should be relegated to the trash heap of history. The election of Barack Obama signaled that the American people have had enough of the bubbles and busts caused by Conservative economic policies. Or, I had hoped that people are waking up to that fact. Indications are that this midterm election will prove otherwise.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make regarding the Gallup Poll. I am convinced that when people indicate that they are "conservative" what they really mean is that they are concerned about the level of debt our nation is amassing. Heck, it worries me. What is doesn't mean is that they're eager to vote in favor of outlawing same sex marriage, overturning Roe v. Wade, tax cuts for the wealthy, corporate welfare, or declaring unemployment and social security unconstitutional - does it?

No, when people say they are "conservative" what they mean is they are fiscally conservative. It stands to reason that when people have to watch their own pocketbook more closely they believe the government should do the same. Unfortunately most voters don't realize that the rules which apply to their own personal finances don't apply to those of the government. Conservatives mock Democrats who they say believe we can "spend our way out" of a recession. What they fail to realize is that if the government "tightens it's belt" (as they must) there is absolutely nothing to stop a downward spiral from pulling the economy deeper into recession.

If you think tax cuts are the answer you couldn't be more wrong. Businesses aren't going to start hiring people because they got a tax cut. Businesses hire workers when there is demand for what they are selling. Supply side economics has cause and effect reversed - it says that if a business produces a product demand will magically materialize. The answer to this conundrum is deficit spending to stimulate the economy. The economic theory is known as Keynesian economics, and it was the Keynesian polices employed by the Roosevelt administration that pulled us out of the Great Depression (regardless of the Republican effort to rewrite history to deny Roosevelt and Keynes the credit they deserve).

Republicans claim the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 failed because unemployed rose above the eight percent the Obama Administration assured us it wouldn't. Obviously the forecast was incorrect, but that hardly means the stimulus failed! For some reason Republicans they think the American people will buy their claim that spending over 500 billion (the portion of the cost of the bill that wasn't tax cuts) created zero jobs.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers says the stimulus saved or created 3.6 million jobs. The main problem with the stimulus, according to economist Paul Krugman, was that it contained not enough direct spending (but the tax cut portion was to large).

The conclusion which can be drawn from the preceding facts is that Republican economic policies (AKA Reaganomics or "supply side economics") don't have anything to do with fiscal conservatism - they are all about redistributing wealth upwards. And to suggest that the Tea Party candidates are populists is a sick joke. They represent the interests of the wealthy elite the same as the Republicans. George W. bush certainly didn't practice fiscal conservatism, nor did his father, or the president before him, Ronald Reagan. They all grew the deficit by unprecedented amounts. Cons now say GWB was a "big government conservative" and after this election they'll be different.

A campaign commercial from the Right-wing advocacy group "Let Freedom Ring" asserts "it's time for fiscal sanity", and claims the way to achieve that goal is to "vote for candidates who will save us from national bankruptcy". Obviously they believe you should vote Republican tomorrow. But House Minority Leader John Boehner recently pledged that Republicans "are not going to be any different than we have been".

In other words, if placed back in power we can expect more of the same fiscal policies that crashed our economy (most likely starting with an extension of the bush tax cuts for the wealthy that will add 36 Billion to the deficit). Given that fact, why would anyone - including voters concerned about the level of debt - even consider voting the "party of no" back into power?

SWTD #54

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Taliban Truthiness

The truth is more important than the facts ~ Frank Lloyd Wright (6/8/1867 to 4/9/1959) an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, who designed more than 1,000 projects, which resulted in more than 500 completed works. Wright authored 20 books and many articles, and was a popular lecturer in the United States and in Europe. Wright was recognized in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as "the greatest American architect of all time".

"Independent" blogger Willis "Take No Prisoners" Hart (WTNPH) recently authored a post about Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson for his blog, Contra O'Reilly. The title of the post, "Lying About Your Opponent is Only Bad (Apparently) When Your Opponent Does It", makes the charge that the unabashedly Liberal Grayson is a liar.

The charge, as articulated by Willis in his post, is that "...Congressman Alan Grayson may in fact have committed a Breitbart".

WTNPH goes on...

Willis Hart: I'm referring to that latest over-the-top ad of his against his opponent, Daniel Webster ("Taliban Dan", he refers to him as). In this particular ad, footage is shown in which Mr. Webster is apparently quoting the Bible verse which says that women should in fact submit to their husbands. And, yes, even worse than that, the footage seemingly reveals Mr. Webster of being a proponent of this type of sentiment. Yeah, well, guess what, folks - I've in fact seen the entire clip and Mr. Webster doesn't even remotely subscribe to the sentiment. Grayson and his campaign flunkies flagrantly spliced and diced the tape to flat-out make the fellow look bad. (9/30/2010 AT 6:56pm).

Alan Grayson (DOB 3/13/1958) is an American attorney who is currently serving as a member of the US House of Representatives from Florida's 8th congressional district. He assumed office on 1/2/2009. His Republican opponent in the upcoming election is longtime Florida politician Daniel Webster (DOB 4/27/1949). Webster is a former representative in Florida House of Representatives (1980 to 1998), and member of the Florida Senate (1998 to 2008). He is the longest serving legislator in Florida history (28 years).

In September of 2010 the Grayson campaign began running a 30-second commercial calling Webster Taliban Dan and warning viewers that "Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom, in Afghanistan, in Iran and right here in Central Florida". (information condensed from Wikipedia. Both the ad and the full clip can be viewed here. The ad can be found on YouTube here).

A Congressman With Guts

I've been a fan of Rep. Grayson ever since he made headlines with his suggestion on the House floor that the Republican health care plan is simply to not get sick, but if you do you should die quickly. Republicans were outraged and demanded an apology. But according to Grayson donors agreed with his remarks and, of the $347,000 raised for his reelection campaign during the third quarter, much of it can be attributed to his comments made on 9/29/2009 during the debate preceding passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

A 4/19/2006 Wall Street Journal story, "Attorney Pursues Iraq Contractor Fraud" describes Grayson as "waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq". According to the article, "Mr. Grayson has filed dozens of lawsuits against Iraq contractors on behalf of corporate whistle-blowers". Grayson, an Iraq war critic, said, "the [bush] administration's botched handling of Iraq opened the door for corrupt contractors to improperly reap fortunes there.

Finding myself in complete agreement with Mr. Grayson's sentiments regarding the Iraq war, the bush administration, and health care, I concluded that Mr. Grayson was one of the good guys. Which is why I defended Rep. Grayson when the Hartster attacked him on 9/20/2010, saying Grayson is, "a fellow who could really use an intervention" and that, "he isn't as off the charts stupid as Bachmann... [but] I really don't think that the elevator is working all that well either".

I pointed out that Mr. Grayson has an impressive background. He completed his coursework at Harvard in three years, graduating in the top 5% of his class (summa cum laude). Four years after that he had earned a degree (with honors) from Harvard Law School, a masters in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a PhD in government (according to Wikipedia).

Willis fired back by arguing that "Ann Coulter's Cornell and University of Michigan Law [degree] is impressive. And so is Laura Ingraham's Dartmouth and University of Virginia Law [degree]". The implication being that these two may have impressive credentials but they're still nitwits - and so is Grayson. He then declared my comment to be "my-way-or-the-highway sentiment from a my-way-or-the-highway liberal".

I'm guessing "my way" is that all Democrats should agree with me or be labeled traitors or DINOs? I don't know. What is apparent is that my admiration of Mr. Grayson seriously ruffled the feathers of the proprietor of Contra O'Reilly. I think what set him off was my response to his assertion that Grayson is "not right in the head". I said, "perhaps that is how someone of high intelligence is perceived by someone of a lesser intelligence?"

But I phrased it in the form of a question, which makes it OK... because I wasn't saying Willis is stupid, just asking if that could, perhaps, be the explanation. I didn't say so on WTNP's blog, but I'll admit it here... Coulter and Ingraham, IMO, do qualify as being "not right in the head", and from a centrist perspective, Alan Grayson probably does appear looney (???). Personally I believe Grayson is speaking truth to power. According to the Wall Street Journal story I previously mentioned, Grayson's "car displayed bumper stickers such as Bush lied, people died".

Taliban To Far?

In any case, this may explain why Willis gleefully tore into Rep. Grayson after the story broke regarding his campaign's use of an "out of context" quote from Mr. Webster in the Taliban Dan TV ad. WTNPH has done this before. Viewing himself a "fair and balanced" moderate Democrat, Mr. Hart feels the need to attack MSNBC personalities Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow (who's reporting he recently referred to as "patently sleazy"). In his mind Keith and Rachel are the "liberal equivalent" of Faux News pundits Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly (or perhaps Laura Ingram for Rachel Maddow, since they are both women).

The point being they are all partisan liars (although Willis has said he has some respect for O'Reilly). So, when I proclaimed myself to be a fan of Mr. Olbermann, Willis responded with a post he called "A Response to W-Dervish's Impassioned Defense of Olbermann". In this post Willis claims it is a "fact that Mr. Olbermann ONLY gives one side to literally every story, doesn't EVER allow conflicting viewpoints on his show, doesn't allow people EVER to defend themselves and constantly refuses to debate people".

Naturally I disagree, although the purpose of this post isn't to defend Mr. Olbermann. The point is Mr. Hart has a history of attacking individuals I respect following a comment by me on his blog in which I reveal my admiration for said person. Although he probably would have attacked Mr. Grayson regardless. Perhaps he saw the piece on "The Daily Show" last night. That is where I first heard about the Taliban Dan ad. From the clips shown it appeared irrefutable that Grayson was guilty of approving a despicable and patently dishonest attack ad. I didn't see how I could defend Mr. Grayson given the facts. Certainly seeing as I had just attacked Andrew Breitbart for essentially the same thing, I can't un-hypocritically defend Grayson's ad, can I?

Obviously Grayson believes the way to keep his set in Florida's historically Republican 8th congressional district is through the use of audacious rhetoric that will garner national attention and motivate voters who agree with him to donate to his campaign and get out and vote for him. The "Taliban Dan" ad is indubitably an extension of that strategy.

There is no denying that it has attracted a lot of attention. It has worked so far, so this could be a good strategy. Certainly better than tacking to the Right in order to appease his voters. We all witnessed how John McCain flip flopped (in regards to positions he once held) in order to defeat primary challenger J.D. Hayworth.

I would have been quite disappointed if Grayson had gone that route in an attempt to retain his House seat. Even though the Tea Baggers apparently fell for McCain's reversals, I doubt Grayson could have fooled the voters into believing he isn't a "far left" Liberal. However, even though I admire him for these reasons, if Mr. Grayson is guilty of "pulling a Breitbart" certainly I must repudiate him?

OK, I thought... this looks bad. Maybe he already apologized? Nope. Grayson, when asked about an apology, said "of course not". Because he doesn't believe the ad "distorted Webster's views toward women". According to Grayson "People can argue in context, out of context forever, but the substance of the ad is demonstratively true".

Say what?

The Supposed Facts Obscuring the Genuine Truth

The St. Petersburg Times says "The commercial lifts a partial quote from a comment Webster made in 2007 in a seminar put on by the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), in which he urges listeners to have a Bible verse that they associate with their spouses". In the full video Webster says "not the one that says wives submit yourselves to your husbands", although, Webster adds, "she can pray that if she wants to, but don't you pray it".

In the unedited video Webster explains "[wives should submit to their husbands] - that's in the Bible, but pick the ones (prayers) you're supposed to do". After Grayson's spot aired Webster appeared on Fox News to clarify the issue. Webster said, "I was talking about the idea of praying for your wife, but don't pray to her the verses that say submit to me because THAT'S HER RESPONSIBILITY.

You as a man, as a father, and as a husband have responsibility. So I was saying you focus on your responsibility, not on hers" (YouTube link).

I think that definitely does clarify the issue. Webster believes a wife should submit to her husband. I don't know how much more proof anyone could possibly need beyond a person's own words. Willis' assertion that "Mr. Webster doesn't even remotely subscribe to the sentiment" is incorrect.

Webster's Fundamentalist Church

According to Politifact (A fact checking website operated by the St. Petersburg Times) "Grayson spokesman Sam Drzymala... describes [the IBLP] as a right-wing cult".

Politifact also reports that "Some of [the IBLP's] specific teachings are controversial. Among them, the Institute teaches that a mother violates Scripture when she works outside the home, that married couples are to abstain from sex 40 days after the birth of a son, 80 days after the birth of a daughter & the evening prior to worship, and that people should avoid rock and even contemporary Christian music because it can be addictive".

Furthermore, the IBLP believes "the man provides servant leadership and the woman responds with reverent submission", "a foolish wife will take matters into her own hands", "a wife is to stay beautiful for her husband", and "resistance or indifference to your husband's need for physical intimacy is the unspoken crushing of his spirit".

Politifact rates the Taliban Dan ad FALSE, however, the contributing editor of the Daily Kos, Jed Lewison, responds by observing "when those who are defending you nonetheless include a detailed accounting of your 30-year membership in a cultish group of religious extremists with radical views on the relationship between men and women, then you are way, way outside the mainstream".

Mr. Lewison further observes that the IBLP founder, Bill Gothard, believes that a wife, "has to realize that God accomplishes his ultimate will through the decisions of the husband, even when the husband is wrong", and "Gothard even advises a wife whose husband chastises her to say, God, thank you for this beating".

So, should we "reject Grayson's new ad as a Shirely Sherrod-style smear"? Mr. Lewison's conclusion is, "Webster's own words - from the speech cited in the ad - support the claim [that wives should submit to their husbands]".

The reporting by the MSM and The Daily Show had convinced me that Mr. Grayson was guilty of producing a Breitbart-style deceptively edited video. But after completing my investigation I was surprised to find myself in agreement with Rep. Grayson. The religious organization Webster belongs to clearly DOES believe wives should submit to their husbands. The founder of the institute has said as much, and Webster agrees with him, stating "I enjoy the advice he's given... I think it's been a major part of my life. I'm not ashamed of that. What he has said I believe to be the truth".

The Liberal Option

The consensus at Contra O'Reilly appears to be that Grayson is an asshole. I say he's warning the voters that his opponent is a religious fanatic. I stand by Mr. Grayson and, if I were a resident of the district, would have no problems what-so-ever voting for him. In fact, I would be overjoyed to do so. Where I live (Tennessee's 8th Congressional district) I have the "choice" of voting for Stephen Fincher (the Republican) or Roy Herron (the "Democrat"). There is also an Independent and Tea Party Candidate (although he dropped out).

A choice between three conservatives is a lesser of two evils situation. Herron supports renegotiating NAFTA, so that is a point in his favor - although he opposes a state income tax, thinks the health care bill was "too big", received an A+ from the NRA, believes we need to expand border security and is endorsed by the Conservative blue dogs.

If only I had the opportunity to vote for a true Liberal like Grayson! There would be a big smile on my face as I skipped into my designated polling place while humming "Oh Happy Day".

Ill-Advised, But Not "Out of Context"

That said, I believe using video clip was a mistake, because in the ad it does APPEAR that Webster was taken out of context. Did it occur to no one in the campaign that they would be nailed for that reason? Also, Webster is a radical Christian fanatic, which is bad enough. Comparing him to the Taliban was unnecessary hyperbole. It may have made a great attack ad, but after the Shirley Sherrod fiasco they should have known the full video would come out.

Even though in the Shirley Sherrod case the video WAS deceptively edited, and in this case the video edit was simply a bad idea - people generally don't get subtly. All the public heard was that Webster said husbands should NOT pray that their wives submit. They missed the part where he said it was because the wife should.

Usually I agree with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. I have noticed, however, their need to (at least) occasionally criticize the Left. Usually they are right when they do so, but this time they got it wrong. The Huffington Post also got it wrong. Post author Richard Herbert actually repeats the false allegation that the Grayson campaign was "caught editing a video clip to make Webster appear to say the opposite of what he really said".

FactCheck gets it wrong too, claiming Grayson is "using edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said".

But the ad WAS a spectacular backfire, as the Grayson campaign should have been able to predict it would be. That is the only thing I'm going to criticize Mr. Grayson for. Tom Gaitens, Florida director of the billionaire-funded Tea Party astroturfers FreedomWorks asserts, "it's [Grayson's] character to say foolish things, and he doesn't handle stress well. He'll see this poll and get more desperate".

Gaitens predicts a 10-point victory for Webster. Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service says, "they have the potential to be real spoilers in this race and could allow Grayson to squeak through". He's referring to the three other competitors running for the Florida seat - Tea Partier Peg Dunmire, Independent George L. Metcalfe, and write-in qualifier Florida Whig Party candidate Steven J. Gerritzen (for a grand total of FIVE candidates).

Religious Nut Wins Election?

I really hope this ill-advised ad does not cost Grayson the election. Because it would be a travesty if a Taliban-lite religious nut like Daniel Webster were to win the Florida 8th district election. An article on (John Birch Society owned) The New American website quotes Grayson campaign manager Susannah Randolph as saying, "As soon as they realize Webster sponsored a bill to outlaw divorce, opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest, and voted for cuts in funding to domestic violence shelters, they'll see he's incredibly anti-women".

Article author Raven Clabough responds by claiming Randolph's statement is "[a sad attempt] to justify the advertisement by refocusing attention on Webster's record of social conservatism". I wouldn't call labeling all those horribly anti-women's rights positions "social conservatism" a rebuttal or a denial, so I presume they're all true.

The issues page on Daniel Webster's official campaign website states, under "sanctity of life", "as affirmed in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life is our first right. Daniel Webster would support legislation that the Constitutional protections of life and liberty extend to the unborn". Granting Constitutional rights to zygotes and blastocysts would certainly outlaw abortion in ALL cases.

Since it is illegal to kill someone to save another's life, under Webster's proposed legislation there wouldn't even be an exception if the mother's death were likely. I think reasonable people on both sides of the abortion debate do agree this position is extreme and outside the norm.

The legislation Webster sponsored (in 1990) to "outlaw divorce" was Florida House Bill 1585, which would have created a voluntary "covenant marriage". Under the proposed legislation (which was never voted on) "men and women would have the option on their application for a marriage license to elect a covenant marriage. Under terms of the agreement, the [couple] would have to have their parents' permission and attend premarital counseling by a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor before proceeding.

As part of their marriage license, the [couple] would sign notarized documents declaring their intention to not seek a divorce for any reason except adultery. Physical or sexual abuse is not listed as grounds for divorce. Politifact (the source of the proceeding information) says the Grayson campaign assertion that this bill would have outlawed divorce is "half true".

I don't know for certain if Webster has ever voted for "cuts in funding to domestic violence shelters". I couldn't find any link which was not just the Susannah Randolph quote. However, before you dismiss it, take this into consideration: the quote was repeated multiple times on Conservative websites - and not once was it disputed. Most of the time it was ignored and the Conservative author immediately jumped to the conclusion that Grayson was lying because the clip was "out of context".

On only one website where I found the quote did the Conservative author respond. That was "The New American", where Raven Clabough calls cuts in funding to domestic violence shelters "social conservatism". If you can provide me with a link that says this is a lie please share - otherwise I will conclude that is it most likely true.

I think it is pretty clear (to me, at least) that the clip is not "out of context". Webster said husbands shouldn't say a prayer asking God to make their wives submissive - not that the wives shouldn't be submissive anyway. In fact, he said it was their responsibility! Webster says "it's in the Bible". It's also in the full video. Watch it yourself and you tell me how anyone could reach the conclusion that "Webster doesn't even remotely subscribe to the sentiment".

His church preaches it, he said it. In any case, whether or not likening Dan Webster religious views to those of the Taliban is valid, I believe the more important truth is Webster is a nut with views about marriage and women's rights that sane people find offensive.

Image: Democrat Alan Grayson and his Republican Opponent Daniel Webster.

See also: Grayson Knocks Taliban Dan Webster For Supporting Covenant Marriage by Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo 8/23/2010

SWTD #53, wDel #1

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tea Party Hearts Breitbart Lies

The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth ~ H.L. Mencken (9/12/1880 to 1/29/1956) an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, acerbic critic of American life and culture, and a student of American English.

Unqualified Candidates

If you're like me, you're probably asking yourself "how much longer will the Tea Party joke continue?" Wednesday night (9/15/2010) a lesser qualified and not quite as intelligent Sarah Palin wannabe and Conservative Christian nutjob by the name of Christine O'Donnell "defeated" her Republican opponent, nine-term US congressman and former Delaware governor Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican Primary. Her Democratic opponent in the November race for Joe Biden's old Senate seat will be moderate Democrat Christopher Coons.

O'Donnell, who has been accused of using campaign donations for rent and personal expenses, claimed a "big victory", even though only roughly 16% of registered Republicans in Delaware's closed primary cast their ballot for her (30,561 out of approximately 179,941). The fact that this is double the Republican turnout in the 2008 primary shows how much an influence angry idiots can have on an election.

The Tea Party apparently likes the idea of electing unqualified candidates to political office. Although I'm sure that isn't the way they'd state the case. I'd guess the Palin-endorsed O'Donnell is another "regular Jane" Tea Partiers mad at the "establishment" can relate to. Barack Obama is "professorial" and Liberals are intellectual elites who just don't understand them. The Tea Party Joes and Janes don't want someone to explain the issues to them, they want a dumbed-down message delivered by a charismatic Lonesome Rhodes everyman (or woman) who tells them what they want to hear, regardless of the facts.

Professional Liars

This explains why they turned out for the newly minted televangelist and huckster prophet Glenn Beck's sermon and book promotion "restoring honor" rally on 8/28/2010. And why they continue to place their trust in professional Conservative mud slingers like Andrew Breitbart. Most Democratic voters who follow politics know this is the slimeball who attempted to smear Shirley Sherrod with a deceptively edited video and got caught (7/19/2010).

But this wasn't the first nor the last manufactured video controversy Breitbart has been involved in. James O'Keef's undercover ACORN "sting" videos were used by Breitbart to launch his "Big Government" website (the videos were released between 9/10/2009 and 9/17/2009). The ACORN videos were found to be "heavily edited" deceptive splice jobs by investigating law enforcement agencies. In at least one instance an ACORN employee later called the authorities and filled them in regarding the illegal activities O'Keefe had described to him. No charges were ever filed against ACORN in connection with the videos.

Are we to believe Breitbart posts excerpts but never views complete videos? This is the lame excuse he offered when his Shirley Sherrod clips were revealed to be highly misleading. He offered no excuse or apology in regards to the ACORN tapes, but I suspect he viewed the complete tapes and was a participant in the editing process... in both cases. With his reputation (theoretically) on the line, it would be unlikely he would post any clip without viewing the complete tape. Breitbart's strategy clearly is simply to get the damaging video out there and hope the public doesn't notice (or care) when the "evidence" is debunked later.

It worked with ACORN, which no longer exists thanks to his efforts. I'm sure he expected the same results with the Sherrod tape... he just wasn't expecting to be outed as soon as he was. And, even though it was quickly debunked, there was damage done - the Obama administration was made to look foolish when US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack over-reacted and asked for Sherrod's resignation without investigating the veracity of the claims. Being caught lying means nothing to the operatives defending the Republican (and now Tea Party) noise machine. It's guerrilla (class) warfare, or what Rush Limbaugh refers to as "the drive-by media".

Accusing your enemy of using the very same tactics you are employing tends to deflate the criticisms against you - especially when you make the accusations before your enemy does. This explains why Glenn Beck claimed President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture", why Breitbart (attempted) to smear Shirley Sherrod as a "black racist", why the Tea Party members often carry signs stating the Obama Administration is racist, and why so many conservatives blogs display placards saying the same (see images below).

More Video Evidence?

This brings me to a third (or second, chronologically - see "Breitbart Deceptively Edited Video Timeline" below) Breitbart manufactured video controversy that you may have previously been unaware of. Or at least I was until my recent visit to "The Voltron Ruffian Blog" (VRB). As reported by the Huffington Post, a 3/20/2010 health care legislation protest rally turned ugly when several Democratic Congressmen were assaulted by Tea Partiers who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at Georgia Representative John Lewis and Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank.

Indiana Representative André Carson recalls that, "while walking with John Lewis and his chief of staff from the Cannon building, amid chants of Kill the bill he heard the N-word at least 15 times". Missouri representative Emanuel Cleaver reported that he was spat on by a protester. Democrat Heath Shuler of North Carolina (who is white) said he also heard the slurs.

Of course I'd heard about the "Kill the Bill" D.C. rally and the verbal and spitting assault on our Democratic House members - and Breitbart's offer of a $100,000 donation to the United Negro College Fund for any audio/video footage of the incident - but I wasn't aware that Breitbart actually found video footage proving the attack didn't happen as reported.

When I responded to the VRB post "Andrew Breitbart: The American People Are The 4th Estate", post author and VRB contributor Freedom Fan told me to "study the video evidence if you really care about the truth". According to Mr. Fan, "there is no question that Andre Carson and Eldridge Cleaver, The CBC, [and the] NAACP are liars". Freedom Fan described the incident as part of the Left's "Goebbels Big Lie Smear of the Tea Party movement as racists".

The video evidence, as one might expect, is of a different moment during the protest, and not of the moment when the racial slurs were uttered. Columnist Tommy Christopher of Meidaite correctly points out, "several crudely-shot 5 to 7 second video clips of poor audio quality [are not] proof positive that nothing happened that day". More importantly, "[we need] to go over the other evidence that the incident did occur, at least as told by the corroborating testimony of three credible eyewitnesses", notably "John Lewis [who] is a hero of the Civil Rights movement". Christopher concludes that "no video of the incident [is the] thinnest refutation possible".

Also, while no footage exists (or has been released) on which the racial slurs can be heard (possibly because of the poor audio quality of the Breitbart clips), the same cannot be said of the homophobic epithet hurled at Congressman Barney Frank. A 4/11/2010 Washington Post article reveals that "an ABC News video recorded the incident inside a House office building". The video "clearly captures a protester shouting, Barney, you faggot". The article does suggest that the spitting incident may not have been deliberate, but an accidental spraying by a rabidly screaming tea bagger. Fair enough, I say. It is believable that the loogies may have been unintentional.

However, while there may be no video on which the N-word can be heard being uttered, we do have the word of three respected members of Congress, "each of whom [has] little motivation to lie". It is NOT believable that the event was fabricated by the Left "to marginalize Tea Party supporters", as Breitbart claims. I think we have more than enough evidence to conclude that the incident happened as described by the Congressmen who were there. Breitbart was not present, and his video footage proves nothing.

Eldridge Cleaver (who Freedom Fan identified as one of the liars in his response to my comment) wasn't there either... because he has been dead for more than 12 years. Eldridge Cleaver was a leading member of the (original) Black Panther Party, and isn't related to Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver. I mention this identification of the wrong man as being present at the rally because it is the lie direct from Breitbart's lips. The fool can't even be bothered to get the genuine facts right in his mostly fabricated story - and Mr. Fan can't be bothered to do any independent research - instead using a known liar as his only source.

Breitbart: Tea Party Hero?

Freedom Fan concludes by saying "Andrew Breitbart is a national hero for calling the Libs' bluff and defending the honor of the decent folks in the Tea Party movement". First of all, the preponderance of the evidence has unequivocally proven Breitbart to be a unethical lying slimeball. Secondly, no one on the Left has ever claimed EVERYONE who identifies with the Tea Party movement is a racist (or a homophobe). I believe, while I strongly disagree with their politics, there certainly are decent people who have been deluded into believing Tea Party economics would solve America's ills.

Because of the recent NAACP resolution that condemed "extremist ELEMENTS within the Tea Party, and called for "Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches", Freedom Fan included the "current president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" Ben Jealous on his list of liars. However, when the Tea Party claims the NAACP resolution is without merit they deny ANY of it's members harbor racist sentiments. Not one single racist has ever attended a Tea Party rally? That REALLY is unbelievable.

As I pointed out in my 11/29/2009 post titled "The Racists Who Disagree With Us", Jimmy Carter was absolutely correct when he said the racists in the Tea Party are a "radical fringe element". The debate could be put to rest very easily. The Tea Party leaders could agree with the NAACP resolution and issue a zero tolerance policy for any racist language or signage. The reason they don't do this is because they are using the racists in their movement to their advantage (in their smear campaign against the Obama Administration).

Asserting that our President isn't Constitutionally eligible to serve because he was born in Kenya or that he has an "anti-colonialist agenda inherited from his father" - is an attempt to delegitimize his presidency. It is also thinly veiled racism. Those putting forth these cockamamie theories are telling their base that it's OK to use racist arguments against Obama, his administration, and all minorities - so long as your racism/bigotry is at least thinly veiled. Or not. Take a look at some of the signs these Tea Partiers carry. I wouldn't call them "thinly veiled" at all. Which is why they attack Obama and the Left for their "racism". To deflect criticism of their own racism.

Tea Party Loves Liars

And this explains why Tea Partiers like Freedom Fan are eager to believe a discredited moral cretin like Breitbart. The Breitbarts, Gingrichs and D'Souzas tell them what they want to hear - it's OK to associate with a movement that condones racism within it's ranks. It's OK to use whatever methods, no matter how vile, if they are effective in taking down your opponent. The Communist and Socialist accusations have been levied at Democrats for decades now, and despite the fact that their side favors plutocracy, the Communist/Socialist/Marxist charges have gained traction. They've conflated socialism with fascism to the point where their followers don't know the difference.

Under the Obama administration they've managed to conflate legitimate concerns over racism with attacks on the entire Tea Party movement. They actually believe the Left is attacking them by labeling policy disagreements racism! The Tea Party fancies itself an anti-establishment movement - but this simply isn't true. They are pawns of wealthy elites like the Koch brothers who are playing them for suckers. You can't get more "establishment" than the upper one percenters. Don't try making this argument to a Tea Partier, however. They honestly believe the billionaire-funded FreedomWorks (headed by establishment figure and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey) is "grass roots".

In other words they truly do admire daring liars and detest those who try to tell them the truth. I don't know how a rational mind could reach any other conclusion regarding anyone who would suggest Breitbart is a "national hero"... but these are the same people who buy into Frank Luntz's spin (although, I'd say Luntz is a tad classier than Breitbart). Andrew Breitbart is a morally repugnant sleaze merchant and exposed liar - and the Tea Party loves him for it. That, and the fact that they'd vote for someone as unqualified as Christine O'Donnel to represent them in the US Senate really speaks to just how gullible and misinformed these people are.

Breitbart Deceptively Edited Video Timeline
->9/10/2009 & 9/17/2009: Deceptively Edited ACORN videos released. Note: O'Keefe dresses as a pimp outside ACORN offices, but wears a dress shirt and pants inside.
->03/20/2010: Breitbart releases several crudely-shot 5-7 second video clips with poor audio quality which he claims "prove" nothing "racially charged" happened.
->7/19/2010: Shirley Sherrod is forced to resign from her position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the US Department of Agriculture after blogger Andrew Breitbart posts deceptively edited excerpts of Sherrod's address at a March 2010 NAACP event to his website.

Further Reading & Viewing
[1] Teabaggers Money to Be Had! by Grung_e_Gene, Disaffected And it Feels so Good (blog), 9/15/2010.
[2] American Thinker: "Obama's racism against whites is upfront, in your face racism" Posted by Media Matters staff 11/23/2009.
[3] Zazzle T-shirt: I'm a typical white person appalled by Obama's racism.

Images: Placards often found on Conservative blogs.


SWTD #52

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Republican Lies About Fannie, Freddie, And Frank

It's very clear what the priorities are. The Republicans are looking after the financial interests of the wealthiest individuals in this country ~ Ted Kennedy (2/22/1932 to 8/25/2009) United States Senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party. Serving almost 47 years, he was the second most senior member of the Senate when he died and is the 4th-longest-serving senator in US history (11/7/1962 to 8/25/2009).

I was recently made aware of the fact that the Democratic Representative from Massachusetts Barney Frank "admitted that Fannie and Freddie were largely responsible for the economic downturn". I read about this shocking admission on Lisa's brand new Conservative blog.

The post, titled "The Problem with Leftists" contained a link to a 8/19/2010 article on the "RealClearPolitics" website (RealClearPolitics is a political news and polling data aggregator). (Note: see update below regarding Lisa's blog.)

According to Wikipedia RealClearPolitics (RCP) claims to be "non-partisan" and that "their goal is to give readers ideological diversity". I'm not buying it considering they also describe themselves "as frustrated with what they perceive as anti-conservative, anti-Christian media bias". Playing the victim is a typical Con diversionary tactic. They claim they're being discriminated against when the actual bias is in their favor.

For instance - on the 8/22/2010 edition of "Meet the Press", when Mitch McConnell remarked that President Obama "says he's a Christian, and I take him at his word", host David Gregory offered no pushback.

What Gregory should have objected to was McConnell's use of weasel words to suggest that President Obama MIGHT be a Muslim, but Mitch McConnel isn't sure... all he can do is "take him at his word". President Obama is suspected of being a Muslim - even though he attended a Christian church for 20 years - because he spoke out in favor of upholding the Constitutional rights of all Americans; regardless of what religion they practice? The corporate media (in this case "Meet the Press" and David Gregory) is lending credence to Republican talking points by allowing them to frame the debate.

The biased RCP article, "Barney Frank: Fannie & Freddie Must Go" accuses Congressman Frank of "dissembling and denial", and the Left of "blaming heartless Republicans and Wall Street for the crisis caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac". Unfortunately for RPC these lies have been thoroughly debunked. Nobel prize winning Economist Paul Krugman, in a 5/31/2009 article titled "Reagan Did It", points out that "Reagan-era legislative changes essentially ended New Deal restrictions on mortgage lending - restrictions that... limited the ability of families to buy homes without putting a significant amount of money down".

Further deregulation shepherded through Congress by former Republican Congressman and McCain Campaign financial advisor Phil Gramm blew away the remaining FDR era protections. Republican deregulation caused the financial crisis, not Fannie and Freddie.

The problem with Lisa's claim that (according to the RCP article), Barney Frank "admitted that Fannie and Freddie were largely responsible for the economic downturn" - is that it's not true. RCP never states that Rep. Frank "admits" THEIR claim that "the crisis [was] caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" is accurate. The RCP article does contain several quotes from Rep. Frank, but none of them amount to an admission by Congressman Frank that Fannie and Freddie were responsible. This "admission" is one that Lisa either invented or imagined.

The RCP article quotes Rep. Frank as saying, "There were people in this society who for economic [reasons can't] be homeowners". If you apply for a loan but your income and/or savings suggest you won't be able to pay off the loan, clearly it is not wise for a bank to make the loan. This is simply stating what should have been obvious. Remember it was former President bush's "ownership society" that encouraged home ownership with new policies like the zero-down-payment initiative, "a government-sponsored program that allowed people to get mortgages without a down payment".

In another quote from the article Congressman Frank says he now believes that the two secondary mortgage market government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) "should be abolished". RCP's response is, "better late than never", and concludes that it is "refreshing to hear a member of the Democratic Party admit his mistakes". The mistake RPC thinks Rep. Frank made was "stopping GSE reform in the early 2000s, at a time when such a move might have prevented the financial meltdown".

This claim is utter nonsense, as the Republicans controlled Congress during this time (1/4/1995 to 1/3/2007). The Speaker of the House sets the the legislative agenda, and during this period both Speakers, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, were Republicans. According to Rep. Frank, "I did not try to stop them from passing legislation to control subprime lending or to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac". In his book "Financial Shock" economist Mark Zandi reveals that it was President Bush who "readily took up the homeownership baton... [and it was the] Bush administration [who] put substantial pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase their funding of mortgage loans to lower-income groups".

Rep. Frank says he "sought directly to regulate subprime lending", but the legislation he and Michael Oxley (R-OH) worked on, the Finance Reform Act of 2005, was "defeated because, in the words of Mr. Oxley, the Bush administration gave his efforts the one-finger salute". According to Media Matters, when the Democrats regained control of the House in 2007 Rep. Frank (who became the new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee), "sponsored HR 1427, a bill to create the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), granting that agency general supervisory and regulatory authority over Fannie and Freddie and directing it to reform the companies...".

President bush signed the bill on 7/30/2008, but only because it was clear by that time that there was a problem (the housing market peaked in 2006). Five weeks later FHFA seized temporary control of Fannie and Freddie.

bush's excuse was that "Wall Street got drunk", but according to Portfolio.com "bush neglected to add that he was behind the bar, pouring the tequila shots for most of the night, and refusing to cut off the drunks before they'd reached their limits".

The Republicans have some nerve thinking the American people will believe the Democrats were responsible for the housing bubble when they weren't in the majority when the Republicans, as part of the bush administration's "aggressive housing agenda", passed legislation like the American Dream Downpayment Assistance Act, the "Minority Homeownership Initiative", and (the previously mentioned) "Zero Down Payment Initiative".

Rep. Frank warned of the potential danger of a deregulated subprime lending market, but "House Republicans blocked any efforts to legislate against it" and "Alan Greenspan refused to use congressional authority he'd been given in 1994 to regulate it". The reason was because gouging lower-income minorities (and non-minorities) was very profitable for the fat-cat bankers pulling the administration's strings. Republicans looking out for the interests of the upper-class lead directly to the economic downturn - any other assertion is revisionist propaganda.

Instead of "admitting" Fannie and Freddie are to blame, Congressman Frank defended the two GSEs by pointing out that "private companies sold Fannie and Freddie loans or securities based on fraudulent documents", and that "these transactions created private profits at public expense". In other words, Fannie and Freddie are the VICTIMS of fraud, and the federal government should go after the banks that sold them the bad loans and attempt to recover some of the money they lost.

The reason why Rep. Frank is now in favor of abolishing the GSEs is because he believes there should be "no more hybrid private-public", and because "if we want to subsidize housing then we [should] do it upfront and let the budget be clear about that".

I agree completely. Fannie and Freddie suffered such huge losses because of the bush initiatives which were designed to increase the profits of their banker buddies, and because the GSEs had been partly privatized. If they had been acting in the public interest using a not-for-profit model - I think it is highly unlikely they would have been swept up in the derivative fever.

But because the GSE CEOs were seeking to increase their profits (and their bonuses) Fannie and Freddie didn't do their due diligence in researching the soundness of the loans they purchased. They were blinded by the profit motive in exactly the same manner as the other financial institutions that we bailed out. And let us not forget the fraud that Rep. Frank mentioned, which wouldn't have occurred either if not for Republican deregulation.

I agree with Rep. Frank that Fannie and Freddie should be abolished and REPLACED. Let the shareholders suffer some of the losses while the federal government puts a new, not-for-profit 100% public agency in charge of providing financial support to the secondary mortgage market. Homeownership is a good thing, and should be encouraged, but (obviously) should only be an option for people who can afford it. And we can do our best to make it more affordable by returning to the not-for-profit model Fannie Mae operated under after it's founding in 1938 until it "was converted into a private shareholder-owned corporation" in 1968 (by Democratic President LBJ, although for non-ideological reasons).

Unfortunately Fannie and Freddie being "partially private" allowed the Republicans to corrupt the institutions from within. If the Cons can't get rid of a popular government program they hate they will attempt to convert it into a money making vehicle for the wealthy elites. Which is exactly what the bush administration did - the wealthy bankers profited (and collected record bonuses) while the American taxpayer got shafted to the tune of (approximately) $248 billion.

When the hell are the voters going to wake up and realize that Republican thieves are robbing us blind? Their campaign to extend the bush tax cuts is just the latest example of their continuing reverse-Robin Hood master plan to destroy the middle class and create a land of gentry. Perhaps I'm being a wee bit hyperbolic, but significantly less so than Righties who claim the Obama Administration is plotting a Marxist "fundamental transformation" of our country.

1/13/2011 Update: Lisa deleted her blog and started over, creating a new blog with the same name... Originally I updated the link to her post with a link to the page as cached by Google, but the Google cache has since expired. Fortunately I copied down the text and have posted it in my comments section. You'll just have to take my word for it that I didn't make any alterations.

See also: America Without A Middle Class by Elizabeth Warren, The Huffington Post 12/3/2009.

SWTD #51