Saturday, January 24, 2009
In the election of 2008, Senate and House Democrats virtually swept their Republican opponents and appreciably increased their majorities, while Barack Obama won the presidency on his message of hope and change. The takeaway? Voters were fed up with the status quo; tired of partisan politics and all the nastiness and inertia that crippled Washington. But did Republicans get the message? If listening to conservative radio is any indication, the right has completely missed the wake-up call.
The crop of right-wing talking heads is quite a shameful bunch. Remarkably, after their precious party got its ass kicked on November 4th, they're engaging more than ever in the same rude, divisive smear tactics that brought them down just three months ago. They act like a bunch of sore-losing spoiled brats who only seem able to express themselves through derisive name-calling and ad hominem attacks. They cloak themselves in God and country yet are so sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, intolerant and polarizing that it would make Jesus' and the Founding Fathers' heads spin.
These hate-mongers are also delusional, as if they've been living in a bubble for the past eight years. They still cling to the standard GOP rhetoric about how giving tax breaks to the wealthy--"those who create the jobs," as Sirius's Andrew Wilkow insists--will save the economy despite the fact that this strategy has so clearly not worked. They claim, as does Fox's John Gibson, that "Bush won the war," and call anyone who disagrees with them "morons." They ridicule the climate change movement because we've recently had sub-zero temperatures, as if global warming is supposed to mean an end to Winter. They claim that America has shifted further to the right, despite every election and polling statistic proving otherwise. They suffer from classic projection, claiming, as does WABC's Mark Levin, that "libs are hate-mongers and propagandists...who reject evidence and reason." Sounds more like Republicans he's describing, doesn't it?
What it all boils down to is that their message of cynicism and hate has been soundly rejected by voters. They're like the angry, resentful high-school nerds who didn't get invited to the cool party. So they bash and trash. Makes them feel better. But it only serves to keep them further on the outside looking in. And it's killing them.
So who are these evil-doers of the airwaves? There's Mike Church, the self-proclaimed "King Dude," whatever the heck that means. A more appropriate moniker would be "King Whiner." This guy is one of the nastiest, mean-spirited, bigoted and ignorant spinheads there is. He calls Democrats "commie lib bastards" and regularly spews a littany of derogatory pet names for those he so clearly despises: "Nazi" Pelosi, "Wrong" Emmanual, Diane "FrankenFeinstein," Katie "Whoric," Claire MamaCaskill" and "Franklin DelanObama." Of our new president, Church "wishes that Obama becomes an absolute undeterred miserable failure." Nice. Church is a pathetic Rush Limbaugh-wannabe who sounds as if he spends half his days obsessively studying his obnoxious blowhard hero's speaking style and mannerisms.
Then there's Wilkow, the Sean Hannity-wannabe who, like Church, has thankfully had his partisan blathering limited to Sirius Satellite, radio's equivalent of Siberia. Wilkow is such an angry, resentful guy that he has no idea how embarrassing he comes off when he bashes talk show hosts with national fame and major network programs. He claims to be above the fray and repeatedly promises not to engage in "snark and sarcasm" but then seconds later trashes people like Jon Stewart and Rachel "Meaty-Fingers" Maddow. Pretty safe to assume he disparages them so often because he is incredibly jealous of their mainstream accomplishments. I cringe for him when he rants about all the "network opportunities" he's been offered but has turned down. Yeah, why host the Oscars or have a nightly program on MSNBC when you can do the morning show on Sirius?
Wilkow also shamelessly crucifies the Obamas, declaring that Michelle looks like transvestite entertainer RuPaul and that "it's just a matter of time before Barack Obama cheats on his wife with one of those P.O.A. (piece of ass) interns" running around the White House. He has a general disdain for "intellectuals," and defines them as "someone who sips fancy wine with his pinky out." That's a pretty narrow view of people who have depth of knowledge and intellectual curiosity. I recently emailed Wilkow to ponder how awful his childhood must've been for him to harbor such hostile, narrow-minded, racist views of anything or anyone with a brain.
Next on the list is Mark Levin, who screams and yells like a shrill schoolmarm. If ever there's a radio host who seriously needs a sedative it's Levin. Obama's officially been in office four days and Levin's already deemed him "a failure." Nothing like giving our new president a chance.
On Friday's program a listener challenged Levin to explain how the country's still tilted to the right despite the electoral college and popular vote results and increased House and Senate majorities for Democrats. Like a cornered rat with his back to the wall, Levin unleashed a vicious diatribe against liberals about how they hate their country, love taxes, are faithless and support terrorism. Hey Mark, we're sorry we let our facts get in the way of your outrageously small opinions. Levin also has a thing for Maddow, referring to her as Rachel "Madcow." He calls our new Secretary of State "Hillary Rotten Clinton, AKA Her Royal Thighness." What are we, in the eight grade here? And in an act of supreme hypocrisy, he ends each program--after vilifying everyone on the left--by playing ten minutes of "America the Beautiful" and other patriotic songs. Sorry Mark, the music doesn't make the man. You're a horribly mean-spirited myopic little bully who's about as truly patriotic as Timothy McVeigh. The bombs you drop are just not as lethal, but you have the same hatred for the establishment and for anyone who disagrees with your ignorant, bigoted views.
Stepping up a bit in recognition are Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Is there really anything left to say about the oxy-contin-addicted Limbaugh that hasn't already been said? Wait, I got it: he played the parody song "Barack the Magic Negro" on his show last year. The old bloviator even topped himself with that one.
Hannity's drive-time syndicated radio show and nightly television program make him and Limbaugh the grand-poobahs of conservative hate-speak. He and his listeners nauseatingly greet each other with "You're a great American" but together they'd strip liberals of their rights and freedoms and send them all off to Gitmo if they could...all while Hannity's theme song, "Let Freedom Ring," played in the background. Nothing like denigrating your fellow Americans while cozily draped in the flag.
Hannity also bizarrely still drinks the Bush kool-aid: "George Bush was principled and history will prove him to be a great president...at least he didn't sell his soul." No, but he sold ours.
Despite his outsider approach, it's the in-crowd that Hannity clearly craves. He was genuinely upset recently when he learned, on-air, that Obama held a luncheon for America's leading conservatives at the home of George F. Will. In attendance were the pillars of the right-wing's Fourth Estate, including David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Lawrence Kudlow, Rich Lowry, Bill Kristol and Peggy Noonan. Hannity was extremely offended over not having been invited. But what does he expect with his penchant for partisan hectoring and incendiary rhetoric. Hannity belonged at that table as much as Perez Hilton. With his ego terribly bruised, he accused Obama of "targeting wishy-washy conservatives." But oh how he wishes he were one of them.
What Hannity doesn't get is that it's a new day in Washington. In American politics. Obama's lunch mates, whatever their viewpoints, comprise the Republican intelligentsia; they're creative, curious thinkers who make Hannity look like the debate team's waterboy. They're the kind of people Obama's wisely enlisting in his quest to bridge the partisan gap, help spread his message, and help him ultimately get things done. Hannity, like Limbaugh, Levin, Wilkow, Gibson, Church etc, offer nothing constructive. Nothing productive. They're yesterday, and as their hardline conservative bases get smaller and smaller, so too shall their voices become more and more obsolete.
And that's the whole point. The gathering at Will's house was another "cool kid" party that Hannity and his angry, polarizing cohorts weren't invited to. They should get used to it because, in this new Obama spirit of bi-partisanship, where hope and change rule the day, there's gonna be plenty more parties like this where their polarizing little cold, wet noses will be pressed up against the window.
There is at least one redeeming value to all these right-wing rebel-rousers: they've given me a newfound appreciation for Fox's Bill O'Reilly, who by comparison actually does sound--and I can't believe I'm saying this--fair and balanced. Wow, there is hope for us all yet....
Friday, January 23, 2009
As we predicted here Wednesday, New York's Gov. David Paterson will appoint upstate Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Hillary Clinton in the United States Senate. Paterson will make the announcement at a press conference Friday at noon in Albany.
Gillibrand, 46, represents the state's 20th Congressional District, which serves all or part of Columbia, Dutchess, Delaware, Essex, Greene, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties. Much speculation circled around Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, but the Governor went with the relatively unknown Gillibrand, who's proven she can be an aggressive campaigner who can defeat Republicans on their own turf, skills which the Democratic Party will be expecting when she runs for re-election in 2010. It's no small feat that she was the first Democrat in 28 years to be elected in her district. Other candidates included Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, teachers' union president Randi Weingarten and Congressmen Steve Israel.
Gillibrand, who was elected in 2006 in a stunning upset against 4-term incumbent Rep. John E. Sweeney, currently serves on the Armed Services and Agriculture committees. She opposes gun control, social security privatization, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the government's bank bailout (TARP), and a measure that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants. She supports extending tax cuts for the middle class, stem cell research, the Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act, and the 2008 Farm Bill.
There's been some chatter about Gillibrand's stand on gay marriage, but Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Cappelle fully supports her selection as NY's junior Senator: "After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples."
Gillibrand is a smart, effective and passionate Democrat; a woman who will give honor to and build on the accomplishments and legacy of her successful predecessor.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The NY Times reported Wednesday evening that Caroline Kennedy will remove herself from consideration for the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who is about to be confirmed Secretary of State in the new administration of President Barack Obama. Kennedy is reported to have cited her uncle Ted Kennedy's health problems as her primary reason for exiting the process. Analysts are speculating that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will soon be named by Gov. David Paterson to replace Clinton.
Cuomo's a likely candidate for sure, but my money's on Kirsten Gillibrand, the 46-year-old two-term representative of the state's 20th Congressional District, which serves all or part of upstate's Columbia, Dutchess, Delaware, Essex, Greene, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties. She's a formidable politician and aggressive campaigner. She was the first Democrat in 28 years to beat a Republican in the district. And she's the first woman to win the seat. She's clearly demonstrated an ability to win. Running for re-election in 2010, she'd almost certainly carry the five boroughs, Long Island and her native Upstate. This surely makes her a very attractive candidate for Paterson and the Democratic Party.
And besides, we plugged her and she was a great guest back in 2006 on The Ostroy/DeLaite Show on Manhattan's Time-Warner Cable, so we're pulling for her.
I want to be black. There. I've said it. After 49 years of relatively uneventful yet loyal Caucasianhood, I'm ready to trade in my membership card in this increasingly obsolete club. I mean, is there anything duller than being white right now? Now black....that's the new white!
Think about it. In today's America, Blacks dominate sports, and black culture rules in movies, television, music and fashion. And now, with our newly sworn-in President Barack Obama, blacks own the White House too and have become the welcome new face of politics. As a white kid growing up in NY's outer borough of Queens amid the racial turmoil of the sixties and seventies, I never thought I'd live to witness this incredible day; this awe-inspiring, historic new era in our nation's great evolution. And I'm damned jealous. Seems like black folks are having all the fun! I want to be black! Being white these days feels about as relevant as being at a Sunday night bingo session at a rural Elks Lodge. I want to be in the fun club!
In all seriousness, blacks truly deserve this exciting moment in the sun, for they have been crapped on in this country for hundreds of years. My God, how far we've come. Just 50 years ago blacks we're hung from trees, beaten in the streets, and denied access to "white" restaurants, bathrooms and other public establishments. Jump to 2009 and we have a 46-year-old black man named Barack Hussein Obama elected president while iconic symbols of black culture past and present--Beyonce, Usher, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to name a few--perform for our new leader on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The same steps where, 46 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during a most violent and tumultuous time in America's history, delivered his plaintive plea for racial equality and unity in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
As I watched the inaugural festivities Tuesday I couldn't help notice the faces of older blacks--some crying--and wondered just how incredible this day must be for them. I noticed the young black Secret Service agent smiling proudly--uncharacteristic of the typically emotionless presidential protectors-- as Obama winked as he walked passed him on the Capital steps as he shook hands after his swearing-in. I noticed all the children, and thought how wonderful that they get to grow up in a new America, one where they will be largely free of the racial stereotypes and limitations that generations before them so painfully endured.
Yes, on this joyous, emotional and historic day and on those to come, I want to be black. I feel black. Today we are all black. And I'm very proud of our great nation in its pivotal moment in history. Once again, as it has so many times in the past, America has demonstrated its true greatness. Better days are ahead...
Monday, January 19, 2009
It's being called The Miracle on the Hudson. A commercial jet with 155 passengers lands in the middle of the Hudson River after allegedly hitting a flock of geese, sucking them into and destroying both engines. Incredibly, the plane remains intact, everyone aboard survives, and its heroic captain, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, is hailed for his selflessness, and for being the most calm, cool and collected dude since Sean Connery's James Bond.
But the events that transpired in the frigid waters off Manhattan last week transcend more than just a near-tragedy. They've come to represent the greater paradoxical symbolism of disgraced financial Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff and our wretched past, with that of the new American Idol Sullenberger, and the brighter future that lies ahead. The fairy-tale saga of US Airways Flight 1549 is about how one crisis-plagued year ended an era of unprecedented selfishness, corruption and greed, with President Bush and Madoff leading the way, while a new year and a new dawn begins with change, hope and heroism, ushered in by Sully and President-elect Barack Obama. Call it fate, kismet, or any other New Age-y tag you prefer, but there's some sort of higher power at work here. And Sully's not just a courageous pilot who brilliantly saved his passengers' lives. He's the new poster-child for everything that's good about America. About what America stands for. And what our great nation can be when led by men and women of honor, integrity and valor. Yes, America is about the Sully's, not the Madoff's.
Since 2001 when Bush & Company took control of America's political system, the nation's been plagued by a debilitating disease. A crisis of confidence both at home and abroad. The U.S., under the Busheviks, became morally, ethically, politically and financially bankrupt. And in what seemed like a most fitting end to this miserable chapter in our history, Madoff bid us adieu with his unfathomable $50-billion Wall Street crime of the century.
And then along came Sully, who biblically glided onto the Hudson like a religious superhero who's charges seemingly walked on water as they defied death. Who will ever forget the imagery of that comatose plane floating so peacefully on the fatefully tranquil Hudson while its freezing, frightened passengers stood on its outstretched arms-like wings as they awaited their rescue. To be sure, this was so much more than just a heroic pilot and a disabled jet avoiding disaster. The whole miraculous episode serves as a metaphor for the hope and change we'll be celebrating Monday on Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, and the dream he had for America, as well as the historic Obama inauguration the following day, and the long-overdue realization of King's dream that his ascent to the presidency symbolizes.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The NY Post on Saturday called for the extermination of New York's geese population as an airline safety precaution in the wake of Thursday's ditched US Airways miracle jet in the Hudson River. In an article with a blaring headline "Hey, Geese, Get the Flock Out," the conservative newspaper blamed the near-tragedy on what it called a "double-goose hit," and irresponsibly challenged officials to "Round them up and get rid of them! Or even kill them if you like....Kill the geese before they down another NY jet."
As expected, New York-area geese expressed outrage, and are calling for the immediate resignation of editor-in-chief Col Allan and Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
"This is a highly offensive overreaction to the extremist behavior of a few radical geese believed to be affiliated with the terrorist organization FPMB (Fowl Play Martyrs Brigade), whose bird-strike suicide missions seek to bring down jets," said Anser Shelduck, spokesman for VAGINYA (Violence Against Geese in New York Area). "The majority of NY's geese are decent, law-abiding fowl. They have a general respect for anything that flies and make a point of staying out of airplane flight paths. Calling for the wholesale extermination of an entire species, as the Post has done, is reprehensible and, well, really sucky."
Negative reaction to the Post's inflammatory piece was loudly heard across America, and has attracted the attention of several celebrity activists.
"I'm not exactly sure why, but I've always loved those birds," said actor Ryan Gosling. "I feel a special kinship with them. Shame on the Post."
"This is horrible," said NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
"I hope the ASPCA's all over this," said former NY Yankees reliever Goose Gossage.
The Post's Allan and Murdoch declined comment.
Monday, January 12, 2009
So after eight years of presiding over one of the dirtiest, nastiest, most divisive partisan political machines in U.S. history, President George W. Bush has decided it's now time for Republicans to make nice-nice and not offend anyone, especially those pesky immigrants conservatives love to hate. Bush apparently believes he can repair his disastrous legacy by blathering on in a last-ditch PR campaign consisting of a series of meaningless interviews to softball-throwing stooges on Fox and other friendly outlets. Spare us the parting wisdom, George. No one gives a shit about what you have to say. Just leave already.
"Look, obviously we got whipped in 2008, and there will be a new wave of leadership arriving on the scene," said Bush in an interview with Fox News' Brit Hume which aired over the weekend. "But it’s very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward-looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent." Oh, there's that word compassionate again. Didn't we hear it ad nauseum during the 2000 PR campaign? Unfortunately, the only compassion the Busheviks seemed to have was for those who lied, manipulated, abused, tortured, and trampled on the Constitution. All in the interest of preserving power.
How dare Bush suggest what the GOP should be doing now to help heal American politics. From day-one, he was the chief architect, surrounding himself with other corrupt, self-serving egomaniacal war-mongering oligarchs who drove a partisan wedge so deep into America's political system that it will take much of Obama's time in office to undue the damage. The names Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Gonzalez, Fleisher, McLellan, Abramoff, Libby and countless others will go down in history as the most inept team since the '62 Mets. That Bush, who tapped Lee Atwater protege Karl Rove to lead the administration's junkyard-dog political operation, now offers the "inclusive" olive-branch is infuriating.
In his chat with Hume Bush took time to pat himself and his Dr. Evil henchman, VP Dick Cheney, on the back for its success both in Iraq and with fighting terrorism. "I would hope that the team that is, has the honor of, serving the country will take a hard look at the realities of the world and the tools now in place to protect the United States from further attack. They will find that with a considerable amount of care and concern for civil liberties, for example, that I have put in place procedures that will enable the professionals to better learn the intentions of Al Qaeda, for example."
Exactly what type of crack is this dude smoking? You wanna talk "realities of the world?" True, it's been 7 years since the 9-11 attacks on U.S. soil and there's been no incidents since. But let's not forget it was eight years between the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 and the second, catastrophic one. Al Qadea has certainly proven that it's slow and methodical in its planning. That said, there's been a significant increase in major acts of terrorism all over the world, and Bush's vanity war in Iraq has been a PR nightmare, creating much anger and hatred towards the United States as well as serving as a recruitment tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Throw in some good old fashioned Bushevik torture and illegal wiretappings and I suppose you have the "care and concern for civil liberties" that Bush bragged about to Hume (have I mentioned yet that I can't stand this president and obsessively count the minutes until January 20th?).
The Bush Self-Aggrandizing Tour continued with his defense of his resoluteness and certitude over the war: "During the darkest days of Iraq people came to me and said, you’re creating incredible political difficulties for us. And I said, oh, really, what do you suggest I do? Some suggested, retreat, pull out of Iraq. I didn’t compromise that principle for the sake of trying to bail out my political party, for example." Yes, of course, Bush & Company would never have put politics and party before country. Texan please....
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Unlike any other nation in history, Israel was founded after millions of its brethren, Jews, were butchered in mass genocide by another nation. No people have suffered 2000+ years of brutal persecution--including Pogroms, the Crusades, the Holocaust and Arab terrorism--like the Jews. And no nation besides Israel has on or within its borders enemies who publicly avow its absolute and violent destruction.
The mantra "Never Again" is something Jewish people live with every minute of every day, especially those living in Israel. Jews of every age, even those born after WW II, are haunted by images of concentration camps, ovens and mass graves. They remember how the world stood idly by and watched as six-million were slaughtered like animals. "Never Again" means that Jews would no longer be a passive partner in their own death. The existence of Israel in particular would come to symbolize strength and survival, and ensure that the enemy of the Jewish people would be dealt swift and decisive blows. Which is why Israel's invasion of Gaza is completely understandable and justifiable. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni describes the conflict in the Gaza Strip as "the right of self-defense of a state."
The violence in Gaza is not borne out of a new found crisis. Rocket and missile attacks into Israeli border towns by Hamas, the terrorist group elected to power in Palestinian elections in January 2006, have been ongoing since 2001, increasing over 500% since that time. Hamas's mission is clear: its charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, to be replaced with a Palestinian Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. There's no gray area here. Destruction. How do you negotiate with an enemy who will only accept wiping you off the face of the Earth?
Criticism of Israel's strikes into Gaza centers on proportionality. The debate is over how much retaliation is necessary and/or justified. To quote a very smart and concerned young college student I had the pleasure of meeting this week, "when you get shot in the foot, do you shoot them back in the head?" Yes, that's exactly what you do when your enemies have been trying to literally annihilate you for centuries. How exactly should Israel proportionately address this non-stop barrage of rockets into its country from a terrorist group hellbent on its destruction? How should Israel attempt to protect its people, long-term, if it merely acts defensively in a tit-for-tat manner, minimally answering each rocket with another rocket of its own? That would be a horribly naive response given history.
Colin Powell, a decorated war hero, four-star Army general, and former Secretary of State has outlined in what has informally been recognized as "The Powell Doctrine," that when a nation is engaging in war, it should harness every resource and tool to wage decisive military action against its enemy so as to minimize U.S. casualties and achieve a quick resolution to the conflict by overpowering the the weaker force into capitulation. That's precisely what Israel is attempting to do now in Gaza. Strike quick, strike hard and eliminate the enemy threat in an effort to secure its homeland. It's terribly unfortunate that civilians are getting killed, but I suppose that's the collateral damage when a cowardly enemy uses it's citizens as human shields. Israel is striking at Hamas's base of operations. But if that stronghold is centered in densely populated civilian neighborhoods, only Hamas can be blamed for the resulting casualties.
Let's keep in mind history. It is not the Israelis who blow up buses full of innocent people, detonate suicide bombs at restaurants and nightclubs, kill school children or throw old people off of cruise ships. To the contrary, no nation has made more concessions over the years to its arch enemies than Israel. It's given the Sinai back to Egypt, and returned parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank to the Palestinians. It was also ready to make peace with Yassir Arafat and the PLO in a historic deal with then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton at Camp David in 2000, a deal which would have created a Palestinian homeland with its capital in Jerusalem. A deal which Arafat was widely criticized for rejecting. But in order to achieve real peace, Israel needs a rational, committed statesman-like partner in the process. That partner is not Hamas.
The situation in the Middle East, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been volcanic since the Jewish state was founded 60 years ago. There's been periods of relative calm, followed by frequent violent and deadly eruptions, including many multi-nation wars. The current escalation is no exception. It is just another example of the cyclical tumult that faces this region of the world. Let's hope President-elect Barack Obama can enjoin the parties in a substantive negotiation process that can ultimately, and finally, lead to a lasting peace...if that's truly possible given the centuries-old emotional and cultural schisms that have plagued these nations like a disease. The question is, what will Obama's position be towards Israel and its desire and need to defend itself, and will he support this new action in Gaza...and if so, for how long? And if not, can Israel go it alone without the U.S. behind it? Interesting times ahead....