Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why Megyn Kelly Needs to Apologize

The fallout continues over Megyn Kelly's controversial "Santa and Jesus are white" declaration last week on her Fox News program "The Kelly File." Yet there's been no apology, only a terse defense of her statements as "tongue-in-cheek" while accusing her critics of having "knee-jerk" reactions and of "race-baiting."

Ya gotta love some conservatives. They make outrageous, offensive remarks and then when criticized for it they turn the tables and play the victim. Their logic is pretty convoluted: it's not the folks who actually make the racially insensitive comments who are the race-baiters, it's those who condemn them for it who are race-baiting:

"The fact that an offhand jest that I made during a segment about whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national firestorm says two things: race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country and Fox News and yours truly are big targets for many people."

She was referring to the Aisha Harris's piece in Slate last week suggesting that Santa Claus is not white and that he should actually be a penguin.

Kelly lashed out at her detractors, as have many readers of my blog last week on this subject, accusing liberals of having no sense of humor:

"Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this show but sometimes that is lost on the humorless."

Well Megyn, clearly we liberals have a different sense of humor than you conservatives. We find nothing funny about a white, blond Fox News anchor staring into a camera and unequivocally asserting to black children that Jesus and Santa Claus are white. The "humor" is lost on us. In fact, your comments were quite striking and absent the "jest" you cite. They were quite calculated and mean-spirited.

Kelly needs to apologize, just as she and other conservatives have demanded from countless liberals (Martin Bashir anyone??) who've made remarks they deem offensive.

To be sure, the Megyn Kelly Santa saga reminds us of something ugly and pervasive in our society today: that there's still a lot of white people around who vociferously defend other white people who believe everything white is right.

So yes Megyn, you're absolutely right about one thing: race is still an incredibly volatile issue in America. Aided in no small part by you and Fox News.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sorry Megyn Kelly, Santa Claus Isn't White

The insanity on Fox news reached new heights this week during a three-minute debate on "The Kelly File" over a controversial piece in Slate by Aisha Harris, "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore," which also suggested that Kris Kringle become a penguin instead.

Host Megyn Kelly, visibly perturbed, stared into the camera and delivered a stinging declaration:

"For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids."

But wait, there's more. Cupping her hands to her mouth as if she was telling us a secret she semi-whispered: "Jesus was a white man too...I mean, he was an historical figure, that was a verifiable fact, as is Santa...I just want the kids watching to know that."

To this I say...thank you Megyn Kelly, for not just bringing this supremely important issue to the forefront of America's fair and balanced news network, but for  establishing the facts, something for which you, your colleagues and your boss Roger Ailes pride yourselves on with great masturbatory fanfare. And as we all know, nothing says "verifiable facts" like "Fox News."

But then it gets even nuttier. Contemplating the penguin suggestion, an incredulous Kelly barked, "Ok, that's where she goes off the rails!"

Lending some scientific back-up was fellow Fox commentator Monica Crowley: "First of all, the penguin would never work, Megyn, because a penguin cannot lug all of those gifts around the world!"

That's right, Monica, only Santa can! But wait...we're talking about the same guy, right? The big old fat dude who toils for a year with a bunch of elves and then streaks through the sky in a reindeer-led sleigh while sliding down and back up chimneys to deliver presents to every Christian home in the world? That guy?

I hate to break this to ya Megyn, because clearly your love of the Kringlemeister runs deep, but Santa Claus is not real. He's a figment of our imagination and fantasy. Therefore, he can be whatever the heck we want him to be. Even a penguin.

But Kelly, so quick on her Caucasian feet, defended the status quo: "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change."

Yes it does, Megyn. Just because white people have concluded that Santa is white doesn't make it right, a fact or a status that's immune from change. It doesn't matter what he's 'always been.' I'm sure prior to 1865 there were a lot of white folks who said about slaves, "but they've always been slaves!"

To be sure, Kelly's Santa segment was great entertainment...even providing my all-time favorite Fox moment, which came at the end from Crowley: "You can't take facts and then change them to fit some sort of a political agenda." Talk about 'going off the rails'...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One Jew's Take on the "War on Christmas"

There's a "War on Christmas" being waged. At least that's what Republicans would like us to believe. There's even a new book about it, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, written by that great arbiter of social injustice, Sarah Palin.

Palin writes: “Amidst the fragility of this politically correct era it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored.”

She continues: "The war on Christmas is the tip of the spear in a larger battle to secularize our culture, and make true religious freedom a thing of America’s past. The logical result of atheism, a result we have seen right in front of our eyes in one of the world’s oldest and proudest nations, is severe moral decay.”

Of course, Palin is widely known for her intellectual curiosity, her objectivity, her distaste for inflammatory rhetoric and her adherence to facts. So we must ask, is The Wasilla Wonder onto something here?

On this eve of 'Thanksgivukkah,' a rare Hallmark phenomenon that won't occur again for another 70,000 years, I thought I'd give my personal perspective of what it's like being a Jew, surrounded by millions of allegedly battle-scarred Christians, during the mythical war-torn month of December.

If there's a war on Christmas it's certainly news to me. I live in New York, a city with more Jews per square inch than anywhere in the world except Israel. Yet this time of year it might as well be Vatican City given the sheer volume of Christmas zeal and excess. There are Christmas tree stands everywhere. Wreaths. Tinsel. Bells. Christmas music. We're inundated with red and green. With people beaming "Merry Christmas!" Asking "what are you doing for Christmas?" And, "what did you get your kids for Christmas?"

It's rare to find blue and white, the colors of Hannukah. Strain the eyes and you might find a small menorah somewhere. No one wanders the streets, the office, retail shops wishing strangers a "Happy Hannukah!" Strangers don't ask me what I'm doing for Hannukah, or what I'm getting the kids for Hannukah. What's even worse than the relative obscurity of Hannukah is the almost non-existence of Kwanzaa-related paraphernalia. It's all Christmas, all the time. If there's a "war on Christmas" taking place, it's the most lame war in the history of wars.

I dread this time of year. I dread it because I'm a Jew floating in a sea of religious insensitivity. I live in a country where many fight for school prayer, provided it's their religion's scripture. Where people fight to allow religious symbols in public spaces, provided the symbols belong to their chosen faith.  Where people ask "what's wrong with retailers posting 'Merry Christmas' signs in their windows?" But can they imagine how Jews feel then? If Christians are uncomfortable with the generic "Happy Holidays," guess how Jews feel seeing the very non-secular "Merry Christmas" everywhere we turn. And this is New York I'm referring to. Imagine how Jews feel this time of year in remote places like Laurel, Mississippi. Or Bute, Montana. Or Amarillo, Texas. 
To be perfectly honest, I love Christmas. Always have. Ever since I was a 10-year-old racing to my pal Phil's building to open his presents with him and his family. I do not hate or resent this beautiful holiday. What I resent is being told that, unless I want it incessantly crammed down my Jewish throat for 30+ days each year, that I'm waging a war against it. That because I want Christians to respect me and my beliefs it is somehow disrespectful, confrontational and offensive to pious folks like Palin.
To be sure, there are millions of Jews who secretly wish they could celebrate Christmas, and perhaps millions more who've actually crossed the line of assimilation to buy trees, "do their Christmas shopping" for their Jewish friends and family, and pretend for a few days that they're no different than the 99% of the rest of the world. They want to "belong."

And the truth is, Christmas is a much sexier holiday than Hanukkah. Gentiles have Santa Claus, Rudolph, trimmed trees and apple pie. We have a menorah, a dreidel and latkes. They have "White Christmas," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas." We have "Shalom Sesame: Chanukah Special," "Chanukah on Planet Matzah Ball" and Adam Sandler's "Eight Crazy Nights." They have the most celebrated holiday in the world, where an estimated $3-trillion is spent on gifts, and we have, well, our little Hanukkah.

So to my Christian friends, and especially to the war-weary Mama Grizzly up in Alaska, I assure you that no one wants to take away Christmas. And no one certainly is waging a war against it. Those of us who happen to be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist simply want you to enjoy your holiday merriment while accepting and respecting our chosen faith (or lack thereof) and realize that celebration this time of year comes in many colors....or perhaps no color at all.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Chris Christie Will Never Be President

The notion that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a virtual shoe-in for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 is largely based on the belief that the GOP, heretofore hijacked by the radical Tea Party fringe, has swung so dangerously to the right, resulting in humiliating defeat in election after election, that the party and its voters have finally learned their lessons. That they’re ready for the Big Guy now after years of chasing the intoxicating Guns, Gays and God loons.

The problem with that contention is that, with Republicans, ideology typically trumps logic, rational thinking and pragmatism. They start off intending to discuss the issues that concern most Americans—the economy, jobs, education—but almost immediately get sucked into a hyper-emotional vortex of abortion, gay-marriage, gun control and religion. They simply can’t help themselves.

But yes, in the very blue state of New Jersey Christie won a resounding re-election victory. He scooped into his big tent not just conservatives but independents, women, Hispanics, blacks and more than a few Democrats I suspect. So impressive was his win, for example, that he captured 12% more women than his female Democratic opponent.

But before we start imagining the Christies measuring the White House curtains, let’s get real here. New Jersey is not Iowa or New Hampshire. It’s not the Bible Belt, the Rust Belt or the Great Plains. Like Vegas, what happens in Jersey is more than likely to stay in Jersey. Christie is a larger-than-life Northeastern politician of Irish, Scottish and Sicilian decent. And while he’s working on losing weight, he’s still obese, and Americans really don’t vote for grossly overweight presidents. Nor do they want angry presidents. Christie has a reputation not just for being a “straight-shooter,” but for his often brash, insulting, combative behavior with reporters and anyone else who tends to question or disagree with him. There's simply too much footage available of him calling people "stupid" or an "idiot" and acting like a petulant 14-year old.

And while Christie indeed went through a private vetting process as a top vice-presidential pick for Mitt Romney in 2012, he’s yet to face the sort of microscopic public scrutiny he’d surely face if he declares his candidacy for the presidency. His mythical budgetary successes, as well as his overall record as governor, would face incessant dissection and analysis in the 24/7 news cycle. Additionally, who knows what kind of skeletons lay dormant in his closet. There have been suspicions of marital infidelity, cronyism and abuse of power. The sort of allegations that usually derail once-promising campaigns.

To be sure, Christie’s the GOP’s golden boy right now. The “Elephant in the Room,” as Time Magazine’s recent headline blared. He’s the omnipresent non-candidate, appearing on the talk shows, talking to CEO groups, taking the reins of the Republican Governors Association and acting as coy as a coyote when asked his future White House plans. But with renewed talk of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush considering a run, the Christie euphoria could end quickly. Many Republican insiders believe that the nano-second Bush declares, Christie’s history.   

Couple that with the fact that Christie's likely to face another crop of radical primary hopefuls like Rick Perry, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, and this so-called "moderate" may either get trounced by their Tea Party rhetoric or begin sounding like them, as Romney did, making his chances in the general election even more remote. 

“I’m going be me and if I ever decide to run for anything again and being me isn’t good enough then fine I’ll go home,” Christie told the Wall Street Journal last week.

And that’s just the problem for the Garden State’s Big Guy: being him likely won’t play North, South and West of the Jersey Turnpike. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Cheneys Eat Their Own

A public feud between sisters Liz and Mary Cheney which began last Summer took a new confrontational turn over the weekend as Liz appeared on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace and restated her opposition to same-sex marriage.

Liz, who's moved from Virginia to Wyoming to run for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Michael B. Enzi, 69, in a campaign marred by controversy, divisiveness and accusations of carpet-bagging, while costing the Cheneys old-time friendships like that of former Sen. Alan Simpson, has not spoken with her sister, an avowed lesbian, in several months.

After viewing the Fox interview, both Mary and wife Heather Poe responded through social media to Liz's statement that same-sex marriage is "just an area where we disagree."

On Facebook Mary wrote: "Liz, this isn't just an issue on which we're just wrong...and on the wrong side of history."

And then Poe posted: "I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protecting one but not the other. Yes Liz, in 15 states and the District of Columbia you on my sister-in-law."

Liz responded in an email to reporters: "I love my sister and her family and always try to be compassionate towards that. I believe that is the Christian way to behave."

That is of course if by "Christian way" she's referring to denying someone the freedom of choice and the right to love and marry whomever they wish.

Liz is reportedly angry that Mary's publicly aired their dirty laundry, charging her with hypocrisy because she had supported the re-election campaign of George W. Bush, who opposed gay marriage and supported a constitutional amendment banning it.    

Bu Mary Cheney is smart. She's taking a heated, emotional family rift which her sister wishes would remain private and thrusting it squarely into the nation's consciousness. She's casting a critical light on the narrow-mindedness, ignorance and intolerance that fuels that fight against same-sex marriage, forcing Liz to slam her homophobic stake into the ground, telling her 'You've made your bed now sleep in it.' And at the risk of derailing Liz's already-contentious Senate campaign, she's forcing her sister to woman-up to her public Tea Party pandering while suggesting her private views are much more liberal.

One can't help feel some measure of satisfaction in watching the Cheneys eat their own. To paraphrase Mary, this is a staunchly conservative family that many believe has been on the "wrong side of history" more than once. It is a family whose positions, for the most part, at their core deny Americans the kind of personal freedoms that Mary now fights for.

But Mary is in some way complicit in this war against gay rights and must take some responsibility for the homophobia that persists among conservatives. Mary's past support of people like Bush, who seek to legislate against her personal and sexual freedom, is indeed hypocritical. She did not have to help the anti-gay crowd gain even more power and influence. Other political scions like Ron Reagan Jr. have broken ranks with their conservative families rather than engage in such moral dishonesty. 

To be sure, the Cheneys are now experiencing what millions of average American families continue to experience in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Maybe "The Real Cheney's of Wyoming" reality show is a lesson to be learned not just for them, but for the millions of Republicans who wish to keep America stuck in the 1950's. What goes around comes around...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Obama's ACA Problem in a Nutshell

Imagine you're sitting at New York’s JFK airport waiting for a flight. An announcement comes over the PA system that the local air-traffic control system is down and will be shut for days. Your flight has been canceled, as have thousands of flights in and out of New York. This system failure causes tremendous anger, frustration and inconvenience. As such, there’s an immediate campaign by special interest groups (Amtrak, for example) to indefinitely delay U.S. air travel or even stop flying altogether. They claim that flying is no longer safe. That it’s destroying America’s transportation system, and perhaps even America itself. Well, this irrational scenario is exactly what’s playing out with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

A colossal glitch in the website has undermined the the October 1 roll-out, causing major embarrassment for the president over his signature health care law. Couple that with a provision in the law itself that's likely to result in millions of individually insured Americans (approximately 5% of total insureds) receiving cancellation notices from their providers--despite Obama's repeated, unequivocal promise that "if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance, period, no matter what,"--along with microscopic enrollment to-date, and you have the humiliating debacle of the past six weeks.

To be sure, the launch of ACA has been an utter public relations nightmare for Obama, who valiantly fought for years for its passage through Congress, its Supreme Court ratification, and its re-affirmation in the 2012 election. But make no mistake, there's no one to blame for ACA's current problems but Obama. From the start he failed miserably to successfully sell it to the American public, which is why a majority say they disapprove of it despite the overwhelming benefits they'll receive. He's allowed Republicans to frame the debate, portraying the law in the most negative light imaginable with incendiary partisan rhetoric. While Americans, the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle acknowledged the problems, it took weeks for Obama to issue an apology, but it was too little too late. The genie was already out of the bottle and it's hard to imagine how he can get it back in given that a majority of Americans now question his honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. A new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama's disapproval rating at 54%, matching the highs of former President George Bush.

And now six weeks after the roll-out several leading Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Bill Clinton, are calling for a fix. Clinton this week urged Obama to "honor his commitment" by amending ACA to allow people to keep their health plans. The chorus of disenchantment is growing bigger and louder with each passing day. 

But before we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water we must keep perspective and not let these relatively minor, fixable flaws overshadow the overall value of ACA, a law that's designed to benefit and protect 95% of Americans. In no way should we mitigate or lessen the short-term challenges and hardships faced by millions of Americans who have received insurance cancellations. But understanding ACA in its greater context is critical in the long-term. Like Social Security, Medicare and Bush's prescription drug plan, ACA will surely experience some birthing problems and growing pains, but over time Republicans will be proven dead wrong about its ability to provide expanded, improved and affordable health care for tens of millions of people currently without coverage, as well as enhance the coverage of those presently insured. It's just a shame that Obama has allowed and enabled right-wing obstructionists, whose only goal is to kill their hated "Obamacare" and replace it with nothing, to create the narrative of total failure.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The 'Obamacare Referendumb'

The Affordable Care Act: it's been legislated into law by both houses of Congress, adjudicated by the Supreme Court, reaffirmed in the 2012 presidential election, and once again in Tuesday's election results. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who's taken federal Medicaid expansion money, won big. Terry McAuliffe, an ACA supporter, won in mostly red Virginia over Tea Party extremist Ken Cuccinelli. Down in Alabama, mainstream conservative Bradley Byrne defeated the Tea Party's Dean Young.

So what do these results say to the "repeal" crowd of right-wing loons who claimed, as Cuccinelli had boldly declared, that Tuesday's contests would be a referendum on the health care law they derisively refer to as Obamacare? The message is clear: they are without question not only out of step with a majority of Americans but, to more critical consequence, losing the battle within the Republican Party itself. Conservatives are committing political suicide, and these narrow-minded, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-science, anti-education, anti-health care, anti-women, race-baiting, religious zealots are the Kevorkians, injecting a lethal dose of insanity into the establishment.

To be sure, the Republican brand has taken a beating these past few years, and risks dying altogether if the party's leaders cannot wrest back the reins from the irrational, out-of-control extremists within its ranks who've hijacked the GOP bus and recklessly driven it off a cliff. If not, Irrelevance and Obsolescence will become the party's new bumper-sticker.

As for the Obama-hugging Christie, who continues to thumb his nose at the crazies in his purview, I can hardly wait to see him at the 2016 debates squaring off against what is sure to be a crop of deranged opponents.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Are Liberals Just as Bad as Republicans When it Comes to Rhetoric and Spin on the Affordable Care Act?

No one's ever accused me of being a patsy for the Republican Party. To the contrary, I've been a staunch supporter of President Obama, Democrats and the liberal agenda. I've also loudly, vociferously and consistently criticized the GOP for driving a wedge into our political system with its self-serving, obstructionist tactics. But what I've been witnessing and personally experiencing this week regarding the Affordable Care Act controversy has me wondering if, in the end, liberals are no better than their conservative counterparts.

Talk to a passionate Democrat and they'll more than likely offer you this lofty opinion of themselves: "We're the smart ones. The rational and logical ones. The ones who care about others. We're better than they are." But are they? Perhaps Washington is broken not just because of Republicans, but because of Democrats as well. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango... and liberals have been dancin' up a storm this week. 

The liberal spin on the ACA mess is astounding, and mirrors the typical partisan tactics of the GOP. Let's start with how Democrats are giving Obama an inexplicable total pass on the bold, unequivocal promises he's made repeatedly about ACA:

"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

"And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.  No one will be able to take that away from you.  It hasn't happened yet.  It won't happen in the future."

Pretty clear, right? " matter what." Yet the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 10-million Americans will be forced into policy cancellations by their current providers (because their current coverage doesn't meet the new ACA standards) and have to buy new, possibly more expensive policies from these same insurers or from the ACA exchanges. So are liberals--who'd typically be outraged by this kind of blatant lie, misrepresentation or incompetence from a Republican--demonstrating outrage and demanding accountability? No. Instead, they're spinning like mad. Like Republicans. They claim that the new insurance will be better. Maybe so. But that still doesn't mitigate or excuse " matter what."

Then there's the condescending spin that these existing policies are nothing more than "substandard, worthless plans." Again, maybe so. But Obama never said "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan -- if we deem it to be adequate."

Perhaps the most egregious spin of all is this one: "Obama said if you like the plan you have you can keep it. He did not say if you like the plan you have they will keep you!" Really? This is the most fascinating parsing of words since the Bill Clinton days of "depends on what the definition of "is" is."

Self-righteous liberals now find themselves condescendingly lecturing people that they're too stupid to know that their current policies are dreadful and worthy of termination, and that they should in effect be thankful that these smarter liberals are forcing new, more expensive policies on them. To see liberals stoop to the same shameful, disingenuous spin levels of Republicans is quite disheartening.

It's been a rough week for ACA, Obama, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and with good reason. Within the administration's ranks, the media, at Congressional hearings and on Main Street they've been skewering on the hot seat and have been forced to profusely apologize for the health care law's botched roll-out. Yet so many liberals are holding firm in their belief that ACA is perfect and wildly beneficial while summarily dismissing the opinions and experiences of others who may be negatively impacted by it. That makes them no better than the myopic, fanatical Tea Party "patriots" whom they loathe.

Yes, Washington is indeed broken, as so is the American electorate. People have become so angry, polarized and drunk on the party Kool-Aid that objectivity has all but disappeared. There's no middle ground anymore. No ability to appear or sound rational or logical. No right and wrong. Just red and blue.

To be sure, Obama could find the cure for cancer and most Republicans will criticize him for it while defending the overall merits of this dreaded disease. Similarly, Republicans could be 100% spot-on about something and most liberals will swiftly and summarily dismiss it simply because it comes from the right. It's become almost impossible to have an intelligent political conversation because most people can't objectively discuss a policy subject without injecting convoluted, hyperbolic partisan rhetoric.

These Republibs, as I call them, will practically call you a traitor if you don't toe the party line 100%. I had one old friend tell me yesterday that I "should vote Republican then" simply because I acknowledged ACA's flaws (despite being an ardent supporter of it) and suggested that Obama re-attempt a bi-partisan dialogue for the fix. Sadly, we live in a culture now where "compromise" and "objectivity" have become bad words.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Are Republicans Right About the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act was ushered in with hyperbolic partisan fanfare, along with a bold promise from President Obama than anyone currently holding insurance would be able to keep their coverage and doctors, and that health care premiums would decrease not increase. But as we now know from the past several weeks, the rollout of ACA has been nothing short of a disaster. This includes the botched launch of the website; the fact that millions of people are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies; that premiums are, in many cases, increasing appreciably; that hardly anyone has been able to sign up for coverage, including, and especially, the 7-million young people needed to make guaranteed coverage work; to the likelihood that the deadlines for the individual mandate will probably need to be extended.

To say ACA’s problems have been an embarrassment for Obama is a colossal understatement. This is his signature law. He fought like an animal to have it legislated, adjudicated by the Supreme Court and affirmed in the 2012 presidential election against his opponent, Mitt Romney, who vociferously ran on its repeal. He then stood firm in the government shutdown showdown, sending House Republicans crawling back to their caucus room with their tails between their legs, their spirits broken and capitulating like the French army in WWII.

Obama now finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to deftly balance an appreciation for, and an acceptance of, his health care reform’s flaws while maintaining an upbeat, optimistic and steadfast defense of its ultimate merits and value. The president now promises a full website fix by November 30, a deadline which, even if met, would still present serious challenges in meeting enrollment deadlines.

Republicans have been demanding that heads roll, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’s most notably on the chopping block. Putting aside partisan loyalties and/or bitterness, do they actually have a point here? Are they right about ACA after all? With new reports this week claiming that the administration knew years in advance that millions would be losing their coverage, is it time for Sebelius, and perhaps others, to finally go? And are we headed for another bloody Benghazi-like “What-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it” witch hunt? Is the GOP justified in pursuing an intensified investigation into the program’s and the administration’s failures?

Perhaps it’s time for Obama to put his tail between his legs, admit monumental tactical and process failure, and attempt to start over with the full cooperation of both House and Senate Republicans. To be sure, ACA is not going away. It will become as bedrock an entitlement program as Social Security, Medicare and the Prescription Drug Plan. But at this point, and with each passing day, it’s becoming abundantly clear that it needs an overhaul, and a bi-partisan one at that, if it’s ever going to work successfully.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Tea Party Hates Obama Because He's Black

The examples are plentiful: Rep. Joe Wilson shouting "You Lie!" to President Obama from the House Chamber. Rep. Ted Yoho (FL) responding with "I'm not gonna comment" when asked if Obama's a "born American." Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) saying he doesn't want to be associated with Obama because "it's like touching a tar baby." Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) telling supporters "I stood 12 feet away from the guy, and couldn't stand being there." Or Sen. Dick Durbin recalling how a high-level Republican leader told the president "I can't even stand to look at you" at a recent White House meeting. And then there was Newt Gingrich's bizarre statement that we can only begin to comprehend Obama's actions if we understand "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." Do I even need to bring up Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh and other Republican leaders?

What does all this point to? A visceral hatred of Obama because he's black. Anyone who refutes this charge is either a racist themselves, monumentally naive, in supreme denial or all of the above. The Tea Party, and even many "mainstream" Republicans I'm sure, are sickened by the fact that a black man lives in the White House. With his black wife. And black children. These are bigoted people who grew up in an America where the only black people walking around the White House were servants. They're disgusted, angry, resentful and frustrated that a black man is the most powerful person in the world; a job that's been reserved for whites since the birth of America.

To be sure, the crippling polarization in Washington isn't a result of typical partisan differences. It goes so much deeper than that. It's rooted in an unprecedented level of bitterness, disrespect and the belief that Obama is neither American nor a legitimately elected president. They can't stand to be near him, or to talk with him, because, to them, he's no more qualified to be leader of the free world than the guy who shines their shoes at DC's Union Station.

Which is why they will never support anything he does, even if he discovers a cure for cancer. Which is why they quite calculatingly branded the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare." If you hate Obama, you gotta hate Obamacare, right? To them this law is nothing more than a black guy giving away hard-earned white money to poor, lazy blacks. And Obamacare is a sly symbol of that racial animus.

The blatant racism in America today is ugly. It's shameful. It's embarrassing. And it sure as hell exists.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The GOP Shutdown: One of the Worst Blunders in Political History

The radical Tea Party faction of the Republican Party last year hatched an ill-fated plan to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which it has derisively coined Obamacare. In the end, what it couldn't achieve legislatively, judicially and electorally it tried desperately to achieve through extortion: holding America and the world economy hostage by threatening and then forcing a government shutdown and bringing the country to brink of default on its debt.

This utterly misguided war was recklessly commandeered by de-facto Speaker of of the House Sen. Ted Cruz who, while uber-marginalizing the Speaker-in-name-only John Boehner, manically poured ideological fuel on the flames of the House crazies' obsession and delusion. But the demands fell on deaf ears. President Obama refused to negotiate on his signature health care reform and held firm like a rock.

When attempts to defund ACA failed, these rabid right-wingers sought a 12-month delay. Then a repeal of the Medical Device Tax. Then a ludicrous attempt to force the First Family and congressmen to buy insurance from the ACA exchanges. When all that failed the big capitulation came, as Obama stood tall while Cruz, Boehner, Eric Cantor and the rest of The Obstructionists slinked back into their holes carrying nothing but their broken spirits. The Senate unanimously (82-18) voted to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling, a bill which the neutered Boehner finally put to a House vote, handing an historically humiliating defeat to the GOP.

As Sen. John McCain lamented: "Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable."

Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked when he first knew this cockamamie scheme would fail. "We had extensive discussions in July about how the defund strategy couldn't possibly succeed." Admitting the toll this debacle has taken on his party, he frustratingly vowed that there'd be no more government shutdowns. "One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is there's no education in the second kick of a mule." 

What's astonishing is that what was so abundantly clear to GOP Senators was completely lost on their over-energized, under-strategized House counterparts. Logic, reason and maturity came from just one chamber. If Congress were a restaurant, House Republicans would be sitting at the kids' table.             

In the end, this embarrassingly botched strategy will surely go down as one of the most colossal miscalculations ever by a political party. Republicans were so rapacious and fanatical in their quest to kill or delay ACA that they actually missed one of the best opportunities to kill or delay ACA. Given all the technical glitches with the website, which has resulted in an embarrassingly plagued roll-out of the program, all the Tea Party loons needed to do was let the program define itself. But they acted like a bunch of spoiled rich kids who couldn't get their way and made the shutdown the only thing anyone talked about. They could've instead been sitting at their mahogany desks these past three weeks basking in ACA's botched launch. "See? We told you Obamacare's a failure!"

To be sure, there was a huge opportunity cost to Operation Shutdown. The GOP now has the lowest approval ratings in its history as it heads into the critical 2014 mid-term election cycle. Cruz took the party down a no-win path. He lacked vision and an end-goal. The Republican brand is now more tarnished, the party more fractured, than ever and he is squarely to blame. The Tea Party's irrational, irresponsible, reprehensible self-serving quest has been an affront to every American. It was an unnecessary waste of time and taxpayer money, and a shameful abuse of our legislative system, a snub at the Supreme Court and a disgraceful disrespect of the U.S. presidency.

Once again, in what has become a predictable inability to help itself, the Republican Party drove off a cliff, demonstrating an astonishing disconnect not just from the needs of average Americans, but from reality. Politico reports that Obama on October 2 asked Boehner why he shut down the government. "I got overrun," he said. If the future-ex-Speaker feels this way now, just wait till after next year's election.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Conversation with Ted Cruz

To Democrats and moderate Republicans, Ted Cruz is akin to the Antichrist...a demonic, destructive, self-aggrandizing maniac who just might destroy the global economy and the GOP in one fell Obamacare-hating swoop. But to right-wing extremists and Tea Party loyalists, he's a modern day Samuel Adams; a true American patriot and hero whose I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude makes them swoon more than Sarah Palin.

But there's something on which both sides can agree: Cruz is an enigma.  How is that this first-year Senator from Texas with the puppy-dog eyes and cartoon voice, who catapulted to overnight international infamy, has become the most feared man in Washington on both sides of the aisle?

And so I've imagined the following chat with the man so many people love to hate:  

Ostroy: Sen. Cruz, Might I congratulate you on being the first Senator to be hated by both Democrats and most Republicans.

Cruz: Why thank you! I've been working very hard to achieve that unique distinction.

Ostroy: Most people attribute the government shutdown and the looming debt-ceiling crisis almost exclusively to you. How and why have you gotten yourself into what Jon Stewart refers to as this colossal "Shutstorm?"

Cruz: It's all because of Obamacare. I've been one of the very few to aggressively oppose this welfare-state program which is destroying America.

Ostroy: "Destroying America?" Senator, that's a pretty dire, hyperbolic accusation. Can you please tell us exactly how Obamacare is destroying the country?

Cruz: No, I can't. Sorry.

Ostroy: What do you mean? You just made a broad-stroke attack on President Obama's signature health care reform. Was that just calculated fiery rhetoric?

Cruz: Yes, that's exactly what it is. You got me! Sounds good though, huh?!

Ostroy: You've said Obamacare is a disaster, and pointed to the recent problems--computer glitches and such--since its October 1st launch as proof that it's a failure.

Cruz: That's correct. There are millions and millions of people who've flocked to that website only to find that they couldn't access it. Couldn't even get online to get info or to register. So yes, it's an unmitigated disaster.

Ostroy: You're summarily dismissing the program's long-term merits and value because of near-term, temporary computer glitches? That seems terribly myopic. If "failure" is defined as initial website problems, will you then concede it's a success if, say, a month from now the site's easily accessible and millions of uninsured Americans have signed up?

Cruz:, how about those Cowboys!  But seriously, listen to the American people. They're telling you they don't like or want Obamacare. 

Ostroy: But what about those "millions and millions" you say who've been "flocking" to the site? As Stephen Colbert joked, "Too many people signing up is always the surest sign that nobody wants it." You realize your contention about what Americans want makes no sense, right?

Cruz: I do. Got me again! Dang, you're good!

Ostroy: And speaking of not making any sense, you're now calling for Obamacare's individual mandate to be voluntary. Voluntary mandate. Senator, you're starting to sound like Palin now. Do you realize how oxymoronic that is?

Cruz: Are you calling me a moron? The American people don't like that.

Ostroy: Let's talk about your visit this past weekend to the World War II Memorial in DC. You were protesting the site's shutdown, blaming it on Democrats who you, Palin and others accuse of causing the government shutdown. Isn't that a bit disingenuous Senator?

Cruz: It is.

Ostroy: Isn't that a patently false accusation in fact?

Cruz: You betchya! Oh, sorry. You hang around with that ditzy broad long enough you begin to sound like her!

Ostroy: You do acknowledge the fact that it is Tea Party Republicans in the House, led by your troop-rallying and sabre-rattling, that's responsible for it all, don't you? 

Cruz: Hell yeah! Why do you think I'm smiling all the time? I've been smiling more than Eric Cantor through this whole game!       

Ostroy: But that's just it, Sen. Cruz. It's not a game. 800,000 people have lost their jobs. Military families have lost benefits. Sick children can't get medical treatment. Our fragile economic recovery risks being hurled back into recession. The global financial markets could face catastrophic consequences.

Cruz: SHUT the front door! Really? I, er, um,...I....

Ostroy: America's standing in the world is being tarnished. We're an embarrassment overseas. The full faith and credit of the United States is being pathetically played by you and your henchmen like a bad poker hand. Do you have any idea what you're....

Cruz: ...I'm truly sorry, I....

Ostroy: ...doing to America? You're pissing on the Constitution, on the presidency, on Democracy...

Cruz: You're right. Jeez, you're so right. Excuse me for a moment. Betty...get me Speaker Boehner on the phone right away....!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Republican Terrorism

Consider this: a radical, militant organization commits threatening acts which place the United States on security lock-down. Or perhaps they hack into Wall Street's vast, intricate computer network, sending the stock markets and banking system into chaotic panic. Or they make hostile demands which, if not met, could bring down our financial system and the global economy.  We'd unequivocally label these acts terrorism. So why shouldn't we  consider the Republican Party's similar acts of extortion of the past week terrorism?

The GOP, and in particular its radical Tea Party faction led by "House Speaker" Sen. Ted Cruz and his second-banana Rep. John Boehner, has stopped the wheels of Democracy from turning by taking the government hostage over its obsessive, all-consuming hatred of President Obama and his signature health care reform, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they've derisively named Obamacare. Never mind that ACA is standing law which passed both houses of Congress, has been signed by the president, challenged and upheld in the Supreme Court and reaffirmed in 2012 by voters who re-elected the man responsible for it while summarily rejecting his challenger who opposed it.

Make no mistake: holding a gun to Obama's head while shutting the government unless he caves in to their demand of de-funding or delaying ACA is not just "treasonous," as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called it, but a despicable act of terrorism. The GOP is holding the American government, economy, people and political process hostage and, with the October 17th debt-ceiling deadline rapidly approaching, the threat of default has put the full faith and credit of the U.S. at grave risk. That this terrorism is domestic, and comes from within the Beltway, doesn't make it any less terrorism. It just makes it more shameful and unconscionable.

Republicans have irresponsibly and reprehensibly put party before country, using and abusing the levers of government in an ideological feeding-frenzy after forty-three failed attempts at killing ACA. And now with the government shut and ten days away from defaulting on its financial obligations, the economic impact could be "catastrophic," according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

"I'm telling you that on the 17th, we run out of our ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire," Lew warned.

The House's suit-clad terrorists could end this unprecedented, apocalyptic standoff by voting on a clean continuing resolution which would immediately re-open the government and serve as the framework for reaching a debt-ceiling deal. Obama and Congressional leaders claim the CR would pass with bi-partisan support. But Boehner refuses to allow the measure to reach the floor.

"The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit," the neutered Speaker said. 

Boehner won't allow a vote because he knows it'll pass. Though he more than likely would like to call a vote. But unfortunately these traitorous rebels are holding Boehner hostage as well. They've strapped him behind the wheel of the GOP crazy-bus, on Cruz Control, and sent him driving the party off a cliff.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Republican version of Suicide Bombing

A person walks into a foreign
cafe, a disco or a bus with explosives strapped to his or her body. In a flash there's horrific carnage and, soon after, a proud claim of responsibility by a fanatical group...all in the name of a heated cause which the violence is designed to further. But in the end this irrational, delusional, self-destructive act typically leaves a dead suicide bomber, innocent people killed and wounded, and a worsening, not a fix, of the root problem. That's what House Republicans, in particular the radical Tea Party faction, have done by shutting down the United States government. It's political terrorism at its worst.

All because they hate Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than they hate the president himself. And they hate their view of the 'welfare state,' a stomach-turning landscape where their hard-earned money is being used, or more so abused, to subsidize the needs of a lazy, shiftless mostly minority poor and middle class. So they refuse to pass an appropriations bill, threaten not to raise the debt-ceiling by the October 17th deadline, and in effect close the country. The collateral damage from this unconscionable behavior is being felt by everyone from the 800,000 furloughed government workers, to the National Guard and Reserves, and to the children who cannot get cancer treatment at the National Institute of Health.

Additionally, many intelligence and counter-terrorism experts, including Rep. Peter King (R-NY), former chairman and current member of the Homeland Security Committee, and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, said the shutdown has threatened America's security. A risk, Clapper said, which "will accumulate over time."

These "wacko birds," as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called grandstanding Tea Party poster-boy Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), apparently do not believe in Democracy and think they have a right to hold America's economy hostage--putting a gun to President Obama's head--by demanding the repeal or delay of his signature health care reform which has been passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, and re-affirmed in the last election by voters...who chose Obama over his repeal-obsessed rival Mitt Romney (whose health care reform in Massachusetts while he was governor, by the way, was the Heritage Foundation-created model ultimately used as a basis for Obamacare).  
"They won't even negotiate," charges House Speaker John Boehner and other conservative leaders. But that accusation is patently untrue. Obama and Democrats have conceded on single-payer, the public option, a one-year delay in the business requirement of ACA, and an agreement to adopt 100% of the cuts and spending in the $988-billion budget Republicans have sought (essentially, the Paul Ryan budget). As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others have said, the GOP's too stupid to accept 'yes.' Nothing can or will satisfy these right-wing loons, as the current fight is not over spending and cuts, but of their intense loathing of Obamacare and their unrelenting obsession with destroying it. 

"We've got divided government," Boehner said Wednesday following a nearly 90-minute meeting with Obama and Democratic leaders. No, Mr. Speaker, what we have is a divided GOP. Can't we bring back the good old days when Republicans were just a bunch of angry, rich, white elitist obstructionists instead of the certifiablyinsane, angry rich, white elitist obstructionists who rule your House today? Boehner lamented that what's happening in Washington right now, the seemingly impenetrable gridlock, is not the governance America's Forefathers intended. To be sure, our Forefathers did not envision a government in which one disgruntled party, obsessed over the majority's signature legislation which they've failed to repeal forty-three times, brings our nation and the global economy to the brink of financial disaster.

Republicans have pointed to Tuesday's computer glitches, caused by an onslaught of exchange website visits once ACA went into effect, is proof positive that the program's a disaster. And they're maintaining their claim that their fight is on behalf of the American people. That they're "listening" to the "overwhelming majority" who dislike Obamacare and want it defunded.  Right. As Stephen Colbert noted, “Too many people signing up is always the surest sign that nobody wants it.”

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

An Open Letter to House Republicans

Dear House Republicans:

Well, ya done did it. You shut down the government. Congratulations! Although I'm not exactly sure for what. But let me take a stab at it.

Maybe it's because you don't think the Republican Party is irrelevant enough. Or maybe it's because you want to speed up your complete obsolescence. Perhaps it's because you think your 10% approval rating is too high. Or maybe it's because you want to prove to Newt Gingrich that you're more reckless, irresponsible and crazier than he was back in '95. Or maybe you're all just too stupid to understand the economic implications of your unconscionable behavior. My guess? It's all of the above.

Celebratory cries of "Yay!" and "Yippee!" could be heard throughout the Republican caucus at midnight last night as Speaker John Boehner turned into an even bigger pumpkin. But let's be clear: this is no Cinderella story. There's no Prince Charming to save the day.

So now what, geniuses? Do you realize that the "Obama" of "Obamacare" is never going to throw his signature health care reform under the GOP bus? You do realize that you're at an impossible impasse, don't you? That you've boxed yourselves into a humiliating corner from which there is no way out except retreat? Have you thought of all this? Please tell us you've thought of all this. Because if you haven't then, yes, your brains have been marinating in crazy sauce.

It wasn't enough for you to be the most ineffective, do-nothing Congress in history. You had to attempt to overturn standing law by attaching your ideological insanity to a spending bill; law which makes your blood boil because you see it as little more than an arrogant black man using your hard-earned rich-white-folk-money to give free shit to a bunch of poor, lazy, shiftless blacks and Hispanics. Be honest. Just more welfare, right?

But I have some news for you. This isn't just about the poor or minorities. There's millions of middle-class people. White people too who desperately need health care. Who need help. Who want guaranteed coverage. Who are happy not to have lifetime caps. Who will no longer worry about being denied coverage over preexisting conditions. Who want to keep their adult children to age 26 on their policies. And guess what? Many of them are Republican. And Independents. And they live in your districts. And they vote. And they'll remember you in 2014 come election time. Together with their black and Hispanic brethren they'll remember how you acted like spoiled, angry, self-serving children who didn't give a rat's ass about them or America's fragile economy.

Remember the old adage: Be careful what you wish for.

Monday, September 30, 2013

An Open Letter to John Boehner

Dear Speaker Boehner:

Before I rip into you I must first admit that I do feel a little sorry for you. On the cusp of a likely Tea Party-led government shutdown at midnight Monday, you appear as feeble as the helpless substitute teacher unable to control the rowdy, disruptive kids in the back off the class. Like that classroom, your House has been hijacked by the bad kids. And there's nothing you seem to be able to do about it.

And that's just the problem. You are Speaker of the f'ing House, for Pete's sake. You're supposed to be the strongest, most powerful, influential figure in that Chamber. Instead, you're as impotent as a neutered mutt in a dog run. I'm not sure what's worse: the reckless, irresponsible antics of your renegade Congressmen who are hellbent on destroying America's economy because of their hard-on to kill Obamacare, or your humiliating lack of juice in keeping them in check. Either way, I blame you.

You and your party apparently have forgotten what Democracy means. The Affordable Care Act, or more pejoratively branded Obamacare by the right-wing spin machine, has been legislated, adjudicated and signed into law by a sitting United States president. It's been signature law since March 2010, and was a referendum in several elections. In 2012 voters were given a clear choice between the incumbent president who created this law and the Republican challenger who largely ran on repealing it. And Americans spoke, sending Mitt Romney back to sulk in his thirteen homes. What part of this democratic process don't you and your party understand? You don't get to call "do-overs" by extorting the process and holding America's economy hostage. Quite frankly, it's unconscionable that your members are careening towards shutting down the government tonight, and worse, threatening to send the U.S. into default on October 17th in the debt ceiling stand-off. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.                

What's also despicable, and hugely disingenuous, is the political rhetoric you guys are spewing. On the Sunday talks shows your talking heads accused Democrats of being the ones seeking a government shutdown, not you. You cited the revised "compromise" bill the House sent the Senate Saturday. Ya know, the laughable one where Obamacare wasn't defunded, but tabled for a year (and also stripped of the medical device tax which would be used to help pay for it). Predictably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said screw off and we'll see ya Monday at 2pm.  You weasels cried foul: 'See?! We're the ones compromising, and Dems won't even talk to us!'

Your idea of "compromise" is a joke. Modifying a ludicrously unrealistic, impassable bill to make it slightly less ludicrous and impassable is not a "compromise." If I demand the deed to your house and then the next day said, "Ok, I will only live there 50% of the time," that doesn't make me a compromiser. It actually makes me just as ridiculous. If Reid didn't come back to the "negotiating" table it doesn't mean Democrats are disrespecting the process. It just means you and your "compromise" are a colossal insult to them and every American and Reid won't dignify it, or you, by showing up to such an outrageously offensive charade.

I'm incredulous that you guys think you could load up your "revised compromise" bill with, literally, your party's entire platform... which voters have already soundly rejected. I swear, I think I even saw a demand that Ted Nugent be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Are you people insane?           

Wait, there's more. You guys cited how "hard" you've been working all weekend while Obama played golf and Dems didn't even show up to work Sunday. "He talks to Iran and Putin, but won't talk to Republicans." Yeah, there's a very good reason for that, and it's quite disturbing: unbelievably, Iran and Putin have been acting more sane than you lunatics!

And then there's the outright lies. The ones like "People are going to lose their existing coverage." Again, shame on you. You know darn well that Obamacare only applies to those currently without health care. It doesn't apply to those currently insured unless they choose to seek cheaper options on the federal and state exchanges.

Or how about this lie: "Obamacare is the biggest job killer;" that American business are only hiring part-timers because they don't want to have to cover full-time employees. Seriously? Or is it that American corporations (who are earning record profits, by the way) aren't hiring because productivity levels are the highest they've been in ages following the massive layoffs from the recession. Why hire more people when you can get the job done with less?  

And this one's my favorite, from Sen. Ted Cruz, the chief flame-thrower in the repeal movement and the man who gives you raging hemorrhoids: "The American people overwhelmingly reject Obamacare. They understand it's not working." Funny,  Obamacare doesn't start until tomorrow.

Ya know what, Mr. Speaker? I actually don't feel sorry for you anymore. That you've humiliatingly ceded control of your House to Cruz and his Tea Party henchmen makes you inept and not worthy of your leadership position. But there's still a few hours to change all that. The ball's in your court...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Why They Hate Obamacare So Much

Shut it down!! Shut it down!! Shut it down!!

Republican leaders from House Speaker John Boehner to whip Eric Cantor are threatening to shut down the government unless a resolution passes which keeps it afloat and defunds Obamacare. Clearly, the only thing these rapacious obstructionists hate more than Obama himself is his health care reform.

What it's clearly boiled down to is that Republicans are possessed by an overpowering psychological compulsion to repeal Obamacare even at great cost and harm to America and the GOP despite forty-one previously failed legislative attempts to do so. And now they can't stop. It's about raging, venomous, unprecedented partisan ego and out-of-control anger. The hope for logical, rational, country-first thinking has been decidedly killed off by a macro dose of hostility, resentment and fear; fear that Americans will ultimately grow to love Obamacare once they get a taste...and that there'll be no turning back. 

What I suspect also drives some of these rabid repealers is an unhealthy measure of racial animus. There are many on the right who still cannot get over their visceral disgust that a black man and his family are occupying the White House (it's called White House for a reason)...but it's Obamacare which really gets them frothing at the mouth. Ton them Obamacare translates to a black man taking hard-working rich white-folk money to give free shit to poor, lazy blacks.

But as reprehensible as the GOP's hate-campaign is, the level of ineptitude coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is even more disturbing. It's unforgivable how Obama and the administration have failed so miserably at conveying to average Americans the inherent value of his Affordable Care Act. Rather than falling in love with Obamacare, as they do their Social Security and Medicare, 53% actuallydisapprove of it. That Obama's allowed Republicans to frame the debate with incendiary, over-the-top rhetoric (Cantor claims it will have "horrific effects" on middle class families; Boehner calls it a "train wreck") is beyond comprehension. The most beneficial government program since the New Deal has somehow been turned into an apocalyptic nightmare. Incredibly, guaranteed insurance, no lifetime caps, no rejections for pre-existing conditions and the ability to keep children up to 26 on the family plan are perceived as a bad thingby more than half the country. 

The ultimate failure is that President Barack "Grand Bargain" Obama's been too busy these past five years kissing Republicans' asses, deluding himself into thinking he can achieve bi-partisan harmony in Washington while being embarrassingly oblivious to the realty that these same lawmakers hate his guts and everything he stands for. They have one unabated goal: to undermine him, his agenda and his legacy at every possible turn. And regarding his legacy, Obamacare will likely be what the president is remembered for most (aside from the historic significance that he's the first black president): that he had the vision for it, yet woefully lacked the skills and balls to sell it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dr Mr. Putin: How Dare You?

Dear Mr. Putin:
I read your NY Times op-ed Thursday. I have two questions for you: how dare you, and, what the hell were you thinking?

But I must admit, for about a nanosecond or two I thought, Damn, the guy's making a lot of sense here. As Elvis Costello wrote, 'What's so funny about peace, love and understanding'... right?

"We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement," you wrote. You discussed the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations, but noted "we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together."

But then just as quickly, the realities of the man behind the pen kicked into overdrive and I found myself literally saying out loud on a crowded subway train... Is he fucking kidding?! And then I realized that your piece was no joke, but rather a cool, calculated, duplicitous bit of political propaganda from an icy, manipulative, self-serving former KGB operative who smells a self-aggrandizing opportunity to advance his heretofore shitty standing on the world stage.

Jeez, Vlad, you head a country that places a higher value on ugly-ass '80's Bill Cosby sweaters than the rights of homosexuals. How dare you?

You think that Americans want or need a sermon from you on democracy, diplomacy, morality, faith, militarism and exceptionalism? You know what's truly exceptional? Your delusional, self-important rant and your belief that you have even a microscopic amount of credibility and respectability among the same U.S. citizens whom you hope and expect to impress and persuade with your disingenuous plea for civility and peace.

With your cold-war-era policies and matching steely personality, you support terrorists, you arm our enemies, you give asylum to our criminals and you consistently vote against us in the very United Nations you repeatedly cite as the arbiter of all things good and just. How dare you?

And speaking of the UN, that errant bastion of international law and diplomacy, which you hold in such high esteem, it has been an irrelevant, impotent, Jew-hating, terrorist-supporting embarrassment for decades. You write that "No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage." Might I inform you that that moment of obsolescence arrived may years ago, and not just because of any lack of leverage per se, but more so over a woeful lack of credibility, civility, rationale and fairness. You and your friends in China, the Middle East and elsewhere have turned its General Assembly and Security Council into a disreputable, mystifyingly inept, ineffective circus.

"My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust," you incredulously claimed. Really? This statement alone is an outlandish affront to every American, and one which clearly demonstrates the alternate universe in which you apparently live.

So spare us the self-righteous, sanctimonious pontificating. It's been a long, long time since we joined hands, arms and values to fight the Nazis. Sadly, your country has driven off a political, diplomatic and moral cliff since then. We'll continue to do just fine without ya.

Regarding your shamefully exploitative attempt to selfishly soar to moral high-ground in America's newspaper of record, you don't believe a single word you wrote nor do we... 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Republicans, Please Impeach Obama

There's a contingency of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives which seeks to impeach President Obama. I hope they succeed. Not because I am anti-Obama or sympathize with them on any conceivable level, but because such an action, if successful, would sound the death knell for the GOP.

With an embarrassingly low approval rating hovering in the mid single-digits, and with the party's overall image, brand and relevance in crisis mode, Republicans would seal their long-term obsolescence with such a self-serving, venomous partisan witch hunt while surely boosting Obama's political standing and currency (read: Bill Clinton).

Impeachment proceedings, legislated as punishment for cases involving High Crimes and Misdemeanors not as debilitating, resource-draining ideological retribution, would unequivocally prove to voters that the GOP's been hijacked by a paralyzed cabal of enraged, sore-losing malcontents whose unprecedented hostility towards the president is a brain-cell-eating disease that's rendered them rationally and intellectually impotent on the major issues confronting the nation such as the economy, employment, immigration, education and the environment.

As former Speaker Newt Gingrich can attest, Republicans would likely spend the next ten to twenty years or more (as these self-proclaimed "revolutionaries" did after Clinton's impeachment) in the political doghouse, watching enviously and regrettably as Democrats build another secular bull-run.

But fortunately for these rabid impeachment-chasers, including Sen. Tom Coburn (OK), Sen. James Inhofe (OK), Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (MI), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), articles of impeachment, if drafted, would likely never make it through the House, and even if it did, would surely be killed in the Senate.

To be sure, one could argue that, given their unyielding political strategy of polarization and obstructionism, the real treasonous behavior is that which has been perpetrated daily since January 2009 by House and Senate Republicans, who at any and all cost to America, have put party before country as they seek to thwart Obama's agenda and ultimately bring down his presidency.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Boycott Shmoycott

The Republican National Committee voted last week to boycott presidential primary debates held by television networks NBC and CNN if they continue with productions of a Hillary Clinton mini-series and documentary respectively. Yes, the party that gave us what felt like 842 debates in the 2012 primaries has decided to limit its participation this time to Fox News and possibly ABC and CBS.

And why? Because the GOP angrily charges that these productions will be "puff pieces," "extended infomercials" and a "thumb on the scales" in the upcoming 2016 presidential election for which Clinton is the presumed Democratic frontrunner. "Political ads masked as unbiased entertainment," the RNC draft resolution claims.

"We're done putting up with this nonsense," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. "There are plenty of other outlets. We'll still reach voters, maybe more voters. But CNN and NBC anchors will just have to watch on their competitors' networks. The media overplayed their hand this time."

Seems Priebus has finally figured out that the GOP stands a better chance of winning elections if it stops its candidates from actually speaking. And considering the last crop of GOP hopefuls, keeping these boneheads out of debates and off of mainstream television screens seems to be making more sense as well.   

But the RNC's position here is puzzling and counter-intuitive. For on thing, the results of the last election demonstrate a dire need by the GOP to expand its reach among voters not contract it. Shrinking its audience to largely Fox News does little to help broaden its base. The party's message (whatever that is) must be heard by more than the rabid conservatives watching Fox if its ever to rebuild its brand and expand its tent.  

Limiting its audience punishes the lesser-known, under-financed candidates who need as much free air-time as possible. What the party would be left with is a select group of elitists who have the visibility, name-recognition and wealth to fuel their own campaigns outside of the debate arena. 

The GOP, ironically, also runs the risk of having its debates themselves viewed as infomercials. Imagine a Republican debate, on Fox, and moderated by the likes of Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh (as the party wants). Who but the red-meat-gorging Foxies would want to watch that softball-filled farce?

Most perplexing is that Priebus is crying foul without even knowing the ultimate content of these productions; programs, mind you, which Clinton herself has said she prefers not be aired. Apparently she doesn't think hours of rehashed Bill/Monica, Hillary/Obama campaign drama (including charges of racist comments by her and Bill), Benghazi and more would amount to a free "infomercial" for her campaign. And she's right. It's reasonable to expect that both productions could dredge up enough semi-dormant Clinton controversy to negatively impact her. So for the RNC to go absolutely RepubliBonkers over programming which it knows little about seems monumentally ill-advised.   

Lastly, the RNC's actions really aren't much of a surprise. For years now, Republicans have attempted to subvert America's democratic election process in any way they can....limiting the public's access to candidates and disenfranchising voters. This strategy runs so counter to what previous elections have taught them. It's become truly fascinating to watch the GOP implode despite all it knows it needs to do to turn around its disastrous fate. Republicans simply can't help themselves.

In the end, Priebus' lame-stream media paranoia serves no purpose other than to fire up an already blazing base. It's an embarrassing waste of time and energy which will yield nothing. If NBC and CNN ultimately sponsor debates and extend invitations to the Republican candidates, you can be sure these media-hungry carnival barkers will take their desired place at the podium.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

John McCain is a Liberal?

I was at the gym early this morning and overheard a small group of men and women talking politics in between sets.

"A Hillary/Palin that's what I want to see!," one woman excitedly declared, although I got the sense she was simply teasing the others.

"Yeah, she's the real deal," echoed a beefy man in his 50's, clearly quite serious.

Then I heard something that stopped me mid-chin-up.

"I was gonna vote for McCain last time, mainly because of Palin, but changed my mind because he's a liberal," a 40-something guy said.

"Really?," asked the woman. "McCain's a liberal?" Incredulous, I muttered the same question to myself.

"Yup, calls himself a Republican, but he's nothing but a liberal," he said with utter disdain.

And that, my friends, is why the Republican Party as we know it is dead. When its constituents start referring to Sen. John McCain as a liberal you know the GOP bus has officially careened off the cliff.

Let's just visit McCain's record for a second, because perspective and context here is critical. He's a fiscal and military hawk. He voted for the Iraq war, pushed for the surge, and currently seems to want to invade every rogue country in the world. He supports lower taxes for individuals and corporations. He's pro-gun, anti-Obamacare, against gay marriage, is anti-choice and against public funding of abortion-related programs. He's even fairly vague on the subject of immigration. While he supports a two-step process of beefed up border security and overall reforms, it's hard to tell where he truly stands on the actual fate of the nation's 13-million undocumented citizens. And let's not forget he's the Dr. Frankenstein to Sarah Palin's, well, Frankenstein.

Welcome to 2013 Republican politics, where Tea Party crazies rule the day and former conservative icons like Ronald Regan, Bob Dole and Jack Kemp couldn't get themselves elected if they offered to pay for votes. We now live in an age of rabid extremism; a political climate that allows for hard-core, longstanding conservatives like former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar to be tossed from office for not being conservative enough...and for hard-core conservatives like McCain to be labeled liberal. The GOP's no longer a political party. It's now a cabal led by the likes of Palin, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and other conservakooks.

Compromise has become a filthy, dirty, stinkin' word. Republicans who attempt to meet Democrats halfway, even a quarter way, are attacked for being caving sellouts of "real" conservative values. Gone is the first rule of negotiating: no one can get everything they want, all the time.

Yes, welcome to modern day Republicanism. A perfect storm of Tea Party furor, ignorance and intolerance. Where candidates can surely get themselves elected on ideological absolutism, rabble-rousing rhetoric and fire and brimstone...but fail to get anything accomplished legislatively because it takes compromise to pass bills in Washington.

To be sure, sanity has left the building. Monomania has taken over. What the party stands for today is a far cry from the days of Reagan, Kemp, Dole, Alan Simpson and other ardent right-wingers who somehow managed to do their jobs and pass bi-partisan legislation. It's no longer the party of small government and low taxes. To be a Republican today, or more so a successful Republican, you have to preach to the lowest common denominator. You must be anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-women, anti-gun-control, anti-environment, anti-education, anti-science and anti-empathy...while, ironically and hypocritically, preaching the gospel of the good Lord.

With 'young turks' like Cruz, Rubio and Paul leading the GOP charge it all but ensures the party's further and deeper slide into irrelevance and ultimate oblivion.  

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Maureen Dowd is Wrong About Reince Being Right

In her New York Times op-ed Wednesday columnist Maureen Dowd writes "Reince Priebus says a lot of goofy things, but the chairman of the Republican National Committee has a point." She's referring to Priebus's latest diatribe in which he's accused NBC and CNN of being in the tank for Hillary Clinton, providing her with "puff pieces" and "extended commercials" through their planned mini-series and documentary respectively.

"Hillary tries awkwardly to airbrush her history, but everybody can use some professional help," Dowd continues. "By the time Hollywood is finished, Hillary could be fighting critics with the sexy charm and kickboxing skills of Catwoman."

So Priebus has his panties in a snit because he thinks, as Dowd suggests, that in these productions Clinton will come off looking like a super-human political goddess. But there are those who will argue that the former First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State and likely 2016 presidential candidate has as much, and maybe more, to lose by the films as she does to gain.

Let's remember one thing: while Hillary is wildly popular with the Democratic base, she's a veritable lightening rod with everyone else. She narrowly won the popular vote against Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries with 48%, and many of the 47% who voted for him can't stand her. Her approval rating has dropped 12% since last year (she's taken hits with men, independents and Republicans) and polls show that she's virtually even in head-to-head match-ups against each of the likely Republican candidates. She's certainly no shoe-in. 

Consider the controversies and scandals Hillary's been a part of, either directly or through her husband and former president Bill Clinton. There's TravelGate, Whitewater and the mystery shrouding White House staffer Vince Foster's death; the infamous "stand by your man" comments during the Monica Lewinsky affair; what some called racially insensitive comments by Bill and Hillary during the '08 campaign; and the Benghazi debacle. None of these moments from Hillary's past would benefit her to be showcased on television, and I suspect she's as pissed off about NBC and CNN's planned programming as Priebus.

While Dowd cites the television movie "Game Change" and how Julianne Moore's Emmy-winning performance cemented Sarah Palin's reputation as a bona fide dumbbell, the bigger point, and contradiction, is that Moore's radiant beauty did little to transform Palin's ignorance into "sexy charm." The movie only held a mirror up to the Wasilla Wonder and she did all the rest.

As for Priebus, he should stop whining like a 12-year-old about what the so-called liberal media does or doesn't do for Hillary Clinton. Let him call Rupert Murdoch and ask Fox Television to make all the movies they want about the Republican candidates. The trouble is, Murdoch's a fantastic businessman. He's not going to invest in films no one will want to see about people no one cares about.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WeinerGate 2.0: The Misadventures of Carlos Danger

He arrogantly used the pseudonym Carlos Danger as he trolled the Internet looking for high-risk, no-actual-sex sexual encounters with college-age women. With a few bold keystrokes and even bolder penis pics, he engaged in uber-graphic erotic chatter that would make a porn star blush. Of course, we're talking about New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, whose 2011 sexting scandal cost him his Congressional seat, a whole heap of voter respect, and nearly his marriage to Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

In the wake of that scandal he offered a half-hearted, calculating, politically-expedient mea culpa which included the warning that more instances of his online hijinks were likely to surface in the future. What no one expected is that he was referring to the sexting and shlong-selfies he'd continue to send out in the year after his resignation from Congress and after the birth of his son.

Earlier this week a new revelation surfaced that "Carlos" continued lying to voters, his wife and the media by sending out additional sexts and weiner-shots to at least one other young woman for over a year, and as late as last Summer. This time his partner-in-crime was a 22-year-old Indiana woman named Sydney Leathers. Weiner and Leathers. You can't make this stuff up.

In an effort at damage control, and with his saint-like wife by his side, Weiner spoke to reporters Tuesday in a hastily scheduled press conference, complete with all the usual insincerity and duplicity we've come to expect from him, to reaffirm his candidacy, the strength of his marriage, the support from Huma, and that he's a changed man.

"It's in our rear view mirror," Weiner said of his scandalous behavior. But I suspect that this latest episode in WeinerGate is likely to derail his once-promising campaign. Judging from recent polls, which had Weiner comfortably ahead of former front-runner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, voters seemed inclined to forgive his past indiscretions.

For a bright guy Weiner can't seem to stop making some mind-numbingly dumb decisions. He could've been one of those lucky bastards who, despite a humiliating fall from grace, was afforded a second chance. And he blew it. He misused and abused the public's trust and it's not likely he'll get a third chance. His lack of judgement and utter recklessness makes him unfit for office. There's a morality and integrity deficiency, and voters, especially the old Jewish and Italian kind who comprise a huge part of his Queens and Brooklyn base, can be unforgiving once they've crossed an important threshold. If Mr. Danger can't control the overpowering and dangerous impulses that he's clearly afflicted with then he can't be trusted to run New York City and exercise the kind of judgement and discipline that that monumentally important job requires. As crazy as this sounds, Weiner's actually making Eliot Spitzer seem like a pretty stand-up guy. And that's no easy feat.
To be sure, Weiner's candidacy is dead. It's just a short matter of time before he accepts his fate and pulls out (pun intended). The scandal is now dominating his media airtime and voter facetime, and it's become impossible for him to discuss the issues facing New York. Don't be surprised if he doesn't last the weekend...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wasn't Obama's Racism Speech One of Those "Conversations" Republicans Keep Saying We Need to Have?

Republicans are always pushing for national "conversations" about tough subjects like gun control and racism. And with good reason: it's a successful bait-and-switch strategy to keep them from ever having to actually do anything about these hot-button issues.

"What we need is an adult conversation," these empathy-bankrupt conservatives say when a violent monster shoots up a school, or when an over-zealous neighborhood-watch vigilante profiles, stalks and kills a black teenager. "Time for an honest discussion," they suggest with feigned sincerity when outrage and a demand for action comes from the left.

Yes, conservatives just love having conversations, except when it's with a black president talking openly and honestly about the kind of persistent racism in America that results in an unarmed black kid being shot dead by an armed white adult. Then they're not so keen on discussion.

Republicans have expressed anger and disbelief at President Obama over his remarks last Friday during an impromptu White House address on racism and the Trayvon Martin case. Obama spoke passionately about his personal experiences with racial profiling and discrimination in an effort to humanize the struggles black males face in everyday life.

The president's address clearly touched a raw nerve in conservatives, who ratcheted up their toxic rhetoric. Since Friday these rabid right-wingers have accused him of favoring blacks; ignoring black-on-black crime; race-baiting; and threatening the rights of gun owners.

"It is not surprising that the president uses it seems every opportunity he can to try to go after our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms," said Texas Senator Ted Cruz. "I think it is unfortunate that this president and this administration has a consistent disregard for the Bill of Rights." 

"President Obama is now our race-baiter in Chief," Fox News contributor Todd Starnes wrote on Facebook. "His remarks today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible."

"Unfortunately, President Obama is a fraud as a uniter," said former Cincinnati mayor and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is black. "He has been an inconsequential leader of the United -- underscore United States of America."

Fox's Sean Hannity used Obama's own words to wage a reprehensible attack against him, while essentially blaming Martin for his own death because of drug use:

"Now the president's saying Trayvon could've been me 35 years ago," Hannity said on his radio show. "This is a particularly helpful comment. Is that the president admitting that I guess because what, he was part of the Choom Gang and he smoked pot and he did a little blow -- I'm not sure how to interpret because we know that Trayvon had been smoking pot that night."

One conservative commentator on MSNBC's Hardball Friday night outrageously declared that Obama "is not a 'black' president." Well, he actually is, whether or not she or any other in-denial bigot wants to accept it.

Yes, white America, we have a black man in the White House. And he's the President of the United States, not the butler. So when an unarmed black teenager gets blasted in the heart at point-blank range by the deadly bullet of an armed white man's pistol under the most questionable and controversial of circumstances, and the killer is subsequently acquitted, this black president is going to speak out about it. But why is his commentary evidence, as Republicans claim, that "he's not the president of 'all' people?"

Just what do Obama's critics want? Is he supposed to pretend not to be black in order to appease white racists? Is he expected to be "presidential" and speak out when there's a hurricane, a plane crash, a school massacre or a movie-theater shooting, but avoid discussing anything impacting black people? Does discussing issues relating to blacks inherently make him biased or a race-baiter? What exactly does it mean when people demand that he be "the president for 'all' people?" Do blacks not count as people? Are they not a constituency? Is he precluded from being their advocate too because he's black?

Even more infuriating is when these racists who attack Obama claim that they have a more acute understanding of the injustices blacks experience in America and, worse, that blacks' perceptions about race and racism are overstated and outdated. To be sure, only a racist would deny that racism exists.

And look what happens when a black president attempts to have an "adult conversation" about race and racism. Look how quickly those on the right no longer want to talk. Theirs is the party that neither wants to legislate or communicate.

As an aside, when Obama's said "Trayvon could've been me 35 years ago," I wish he'd added the following sentence:"...and how many white Americans see a black boy and their first thought is, 'there goes a future president.'" That would've been a fitting punctuation on the Trayvon tragedy, and the realities that teens like him will continue to face until these empty "conversations" turn into action.