Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Flatster Warns That The Gap Between "You Lie" and "You Die" Is Narrowing

Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli, not a Palestinian. Rabin was vilified as a Nazi by his opponents in Israel prior to his murder. Do you hear echos in the howling of the loonies today? The Flatster does and so does this blogger. If this is (fair & balanced) dread, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Where Did "We" Go?
By Thomas L. Friedman

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I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish settler as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president “41,” will be remembered as our last “legitimate” president. The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater “scandal.” George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.

And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now — nation-building at home — we are in serious trouble. We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.

We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable. Ω

[Thomas L. Friedman became The New York Times' foreign-affairs columnist in 1995. He won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, his third (The earlier Prizes were awarded in 1983 and 1988.) Pulitzer for this paper. Friedman's latest book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, (2005) won the inaugural Goldman Sachs/Financial Times Business Book of the Year award. Friedman received a B.A. degree in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University in 1975. In 1978 he received a Master of Philosophy degree in Modern Middle East studies from Oxford.]

Copyright © 2009 The New York Times Company

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Copyright © 2009 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Listen To Wobegone Boy: Pass Real Healthcare Reform Already!

On the heels of the Senate Finance Committee (with a Donkey majority) vote against the public option in the Senate version of healthcare reform, this blogger received e-mail soliciting contributions to the Donkey effort to retain control of Congress in 2010. This blogger may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) led the vote against the public option. Joan Walsh reported that:

Between 2003 and 2008, according to the Washington Post, Baucus took $3 million from the health and insurance sectors, 20 percent of his total contributions. And he collected half of that money in just the last two years, as the committee he chaired began holding hearings on healthcare reform.

And, as if things weren't bad enough, this blogger's old young friend in the Valley of the Sun sent along a link to video of his congressman, Trent Franks (R-AZ), speaking to the Dumbo faithful at the "How To Take Back American Conference." If you're not gagging after viewing Franks. check out congresswacko Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at the same gathering of drooling knuckle-draggers. The Dumbos are howlin' at the moon and frothin' at the mouth and should be put out of their misery. If this is (fair & balanced) animal control, so be it.

[x Salon]
Cut Republicans Out Of Healthcare!
By Garrison Keillor

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Every so often, sitting down to your Cheerios, you open the New York Times to the crossword puzzle and find clues such as "_ Van Winkle" and _ of 1812" and "Buried in Grant's Tomb" and you finish the thing in five minutes flat feeling brilliant and unappreciated, some sort of national treasure, and then you spend an hour searching for your glasses and car keys and that brings you down smartly to earth. For some reason, you've parked your glasses in the top drawer of the bureau next to the pewter soup spoons and the car keys in an earthenware vase atop the clavichord.

The easy crossword threw you off stride. Up here in the North we believe that adversity is a stimulus of intelligence, so we don't want our kids stuck in the slow track in school, putzing around in the shallows, trapped in boredom and lazy thinking. We want the schools to push them, make them write whole sentences and paragraphs, grapple with calculus, learn about the Renaissance, and all the more so if they're bound to become truck drivers. What is so disheartening about politics is the putzing around in the shallows. The sheer waste of time — years, decades, spent on thrilling public issues in which the unconservative right fights tooth-and-nail against the regressive left and nothing is gained. It's like a tug-of-war between two trees.

The so-called cultural wars over abortion and prayer in the schools and pornography and gays, most of it instigated by shrieking ninnies and pompous blowhards, did nothing about anything, except elect dullards to office who brought a certain nihilistic approach to governance that helped bring about the disaster in the banking industry that ate up a lot of 401Ks, and all thanks to high-fliers in shirts like cheap wallpaper who never learned enough to let it discourage them from believing that they had magical powers over the laws of economics and could hand out mortgages by the fistful to people with no assets and somehow the sun would come out tomorrow. The anti-regulation conservatives enabled those people. We're still waiting for an apology.

And now here comes the Supreme Court, about to rule in the case of a little plywood cross erected, as it turns out, on federal land in the Mojave Desert as a memorial to war dead — could there be anything less pressing right now? But we shall have great legal minds wrangling over something that doesn't make a dime's worth of difference to anybody whomsoever.

Thirty-six years of bitter battle over Roe v. Wade and what has it gotten us? If the decision were overturned tomorrow, not much would change. The question would revert to the states, and some would permit the termination of pregnancy, others wouldn't. Meanwhile, the effect of the battle has been quite other than what the Catholic Church could have wanted, the unleashing of angry demons, the poisoning of the body politic.

Conservatives and liberals can agree on the basics — that the nation wallows in debt, that it is shortsighted of the states to cut back on the most essential work of government, which is the education of the young, and that somehow we have got to become a more productive nation and less consumptive — but the ruffles and flourishes of Washington seem ever more irrelevant to the crises we face. When an entire major party has excused itself from meaningful debate and a thoughtful U.S. senator like Orrin Hatch no longer finds it important to make sense and an up-and-comer like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty attacks the president for giving a speech telling schoolchildren to work hard in school and get good grades, one starts to wonder if the country wouldn't be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the healthcare system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off healthcare to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.

It's time to dump the dead-end issues that have wasted too much time already. Old men shouldn't be allowed to doze off at the switch and muck up the works for the young who will have to repair the damage. Get over yourselves. Your replacements have arrived, and you should think about them now and then. Enough with the shrieking. Pass healthcare reform. Ω

[Garrison Keillor is an author, storyteller, humorist, and creator of the weekly radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." The show began in 1974 as a live variety show on Minnesota Public Radio. In the 1980s "A Prairie Home Companion" became a pop culture phenomenon, with millions of Americans listening to Keillor's folksy tales of life in the fictional Midwestern town of Lake Wobegon, where (in Keillor's words) "the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all of the children are above average." Keillor ended the show in 1987, and 1989 began a similar new radio show titled "American Radio Company of the Air." In 1993 he returned the show to its original name. Keillor also created the syndicated daily radio feature "A Writer's Almanac" in 1993. He has written for The New Yorker and is the author of several books, including Happy to Be Here (1990), Leaving Home (1992), Lake Wobegon Days (1995), and Good Poems for Hard Times (2005). Keillor's most recent book is a new Lake Wobegon novel, Liberty. His radio show inspired a 2006 movie, "A Prairie Home Companion," written by and starring Keillor and directed by Robert Altman. Keillor graduated (B.A., English) from the University of Minneosta in 1966. His signature sign-off on "The Writer's Almanac" is "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch."]

Copyright © 2009 Salon Media Group, Inc

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