The Bill Moyers Suicide Pill

I have a running joke with myself (and those few who share my sense of humor) about the perfect selections for hold music on a suicide hotline. Just the notion of being put on hold on a suicide hotline makes me chuckle. In any case, I settled on such gems as “Dust in the Wind”, “Alone Again, Naturally” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. In recent months, however, I have discovered another resource not part of my sick imagination but very real that the clinically depressed should steer clear of. It is the PBS series “Moyers and Company“.

Bill Moyers, a participant in and observer of Washington since the days of LBJ is every liberal’s dream documentary host. He wears his heart on his sleeve as he shines a light on various flavors of American injustice. I enjoy him. I find him intelligent and genuinely curious about the world around him. When you watch him interview a guest, you get the feeling he is learning something new right along with you. The problem with “Moyers and Company” is it is long on problems and rather short on solutions. At the conclusion of each installment I find myself shaking my head in despair. Just a sample of episode titles is enough to send you to a shrink: “America’s Political Breakdown”, “How Dollarocracy is Destroying America”, “Zombie Politics and Casino Capitalism” and the recent rebroadcast of “America’s Gilded Capital”.

In “America’s Gilded Capital”, Moyers interviews Mark Leibovich, the author of the Washington expose This Town. In the book (which I haven’t read) and the interview (which I did watch) Leibovich describes a Washington D.C. dedicated to job security. On every Congressman and Senator’s mind is first and foremost how to turn their time in government into some type of permanent gig, whether it be in government via reelection or outside of government in the private sector. The favorite private sector pastime of our elected officials is lobbying. Obama swore he would stop the “revolving door” of folks moving back and forth between government and lobbying firms, but his frequent exceptions have made the promise null and void. Leibovich describes a conversation he had with then Democratic  Senator Chris Dodd who insisted he would never join a lobbying firm but ended up heading up the MPAA which has a strong lobbying entity. Then there is the story of Evan Bayh who left the Senate fed up with Washington dysfunction only to whore himself out to the Chamber of Commerce. And if you thought bipartisanship in D.C. was dead, think again. It breathes deep where there is money to be made, case in point liberal pundit Steve McMahon of MSNBC and conservative mouthpiece Alex Castellanos of CNN who together worked for a company called Purple Strategies and made lots of money helping BP repair its reputation after the infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

This installment ended the way most episodes of “Moyers” end. This is just the way it is but we’ve done you a service by telling you about it.  Word to the wise, watch this show with a stiff drink in one hand and a bottle of Prozac in the other.

POSTSCRIPT

A few random thoughts: Some of my more loyal readers who disagree with everything I write had some fun with an old post of mine recently. The post was from 2008 and was entitled “America Says Enough”. It was written in the immediate afterglow of  Barack Obama’s election. The RL Blog “regulars” have had some fun mocking the piece in light of the 20/20 hindsight that shows Obama to be a bit in over his head, as demonstrated by his inability to shake off scandals, real and imagined, that have plagued him. Clearly the most recent example of gross incompetence is the botched technical roll-out of the ACA. Add to that the used car salesman rhetoric of “keeping your insurance and your doctor if you want to” and you have a beleaguered presidency that penetrates even the most rose-colored glasses.

With that said, I don’t take back a single word of what I wrote back in 2008. Back then Obama was a blank canvas upon which the right and left painted their worst nightmares and highest hopes respectively. But one thing I wrote in particular will never be sullied by Obama’s lackluster performance:

I can now look at my beautiful black daughter and tell her that she can be anything she wants to be, without exception, without caveat.

It cannot be underestimated just how many blacks like me never thought a dark-skinned man would be elected President in our lifetime. As much as I loved my country, I felt there were barriers that would not be breached for years, if not decades, to come. For anyone not to understand the emotion attached to seeing this barrier broken is to not understand the human condition.  As moved as I was back then, I still felt that if Barack Obama had been Barry Johnson, great-grandson of slaves, he would not have been nominated much less elected. The very exotic nature of Obama (which has ironically fueled the birther movement) made him acceptable to those who might otherwise have dismissed him. Nevertheless the cosmetics of this half-white, half-first-generation-American of immediate African descent, evoked a visceral reaction in many, including me, and I don’t apologize for it.

Cosmetics do not a great President make. With a four-year record to look back on, I wrote a very different piece in November of 2012. In my piece “Three Open Letters”, I offer the President advice rooted in the reality of his reelection and the imperfections of his administration. The piece in 2008 and the piece in 2012 were informed by the facts on the ground at that time and the accompanying emotions. I stand by both pieces.

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What I know about the problems in the Ukraine could fill not much more than this sentence but just on the surface, it is interesting to see a country whose leadership looks to “the dark side” (Russia) while its citizens want to align with the West. I’m just throwing darts here but could it be that social media and the democratization of information access makes it harder for a government to sell its agenda to its people?

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On Thursday’s installment of “The Daily Show”, Jon Stewart once again proves why he deserves every cent he earns. His take-down of Fox News’ war on Christmas coverage is classic in its humor and its truth. The Fox News coverage is so absurd that it is all Stewart can do to fit all the insanity into one segment. The ten minute segment can be found here and here and is worth a view.

Two unsettling things that Fox’s Megyn Kelly should remember: Santa Claus as we currently celebrate him, is neither white nor black — he doesn’t exist. Second, as Jon says, Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Jesus looked more like Mohamed Atta than a latter-day version of the Door’s Jim Morrison.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Sandy Writes the Last Chapter on Obama-Romney

Hurricane Sandy which devastated parts of the American Northeast earlier this week places in sharp contrast the differing visions and styles of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Let’s start with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In 2011, Romney said the agency should not be funded at the federal level and that emergency relief should be pushed down to the states or better yet, to the private sector. I can only hope that Governor Romney was thinking about non-profits in the private sector because we have seen time and time again that when profit is applied to human lives, suffering ensues.

The profit motive works for products. You make a better product than the next guy and sell it for as much as the market will bear. That is capitalism at its best. The profit motive does not work for human beings. You privatize education and only the rich get educated. You privatize health insurance and the sick lose their insurance or worse, can’t get any at all. You privatize the military and you get mercenaries accountable to no one and out of control. You privatize the prison system and you get perverse incentives to convict more folks to fill more prisons, to make more money. Mitt Romney, inebriated on his own wealth and out of touch with regular people, does not understand that money changes everything. When profit becomes a component in the equation, it invariably becomes the most important component and people suffer.

The power and importance of federal government intervention was demonstrated by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie whose state was torn asunder by Sandy. Within two weeks of trashing the President for incompetence, the Governor was forced to be honest this week and give Barack Obama his due, while putting the Romney campaign in proper perspective during days of tragedy.

As I watched Chris Christie at the Republican Convention in August, it was obvious he was phoning it in. It took a full half of his speech to go by before he even mentioned Romney by name. Christie is a straight shooter. He’s real. We all know the truth. Christie sold his soul for political expediency supporting a guy half-heartedly for the sake of the party. This week, Christie found his soul again. His exchange with that doofus Steve Doocy of Fox News was as close to an endorsement of Obama as we’ll ever get from Christie as well as a total dismissal of trivial Mitt.

Furthermore, Hurricane Sandy reminds us that not only do we not build and run our businesses totally on our own, but that we cannot rebuild them totally on our own. The Small Business Administration is offering loans to businesses that need to recover from Sandy. In times of crisis this nonsense about Obama’s supposed comment “you didn’t build that” is shown for the distorted lie that it is. In an Obama administration, we help each other and the government provides for the general welfare of the people as our Constitution intended. In a Romney administration it is each man for himself, relying on the kindness of charity.

Speaking of charity, Sandy also gave Romney another opportunity to be opportunistic. On Tuesday as the horror of Sandy’s aftermath was revealed to the nation, Mitt Romney chose not to cancel a campaign event in Ohio but instead, in the most half-assed fashion, convert the event into a “storm relief event”. Because the decision to turn pure politics into charity was made at the last-minute, vestiges of politics remained, such as press passes emblazoned with “victory rally” and a campaign video displayed to the audience on a jumbo-tron, two things you wouldn’t expect to see at a charity event. Just to make sure that the intended purpose of the event was achieved, a photo-op of Romney taking action, the campaign hedged its bets and bought supplies just in case the invited audience did not bring any donations. Then those participants who wanted to meet Mr. Romney were instructed to hand him their donation or take a campaign-bought donation and give that to Romney. Yes, you read that right. Rally participants were given campaign-purchased props to make it appear they were giving donations to Romney’s “relief effort”.   So, again, Mitt tries to win public favor through lies and deception.

In addition to the charity/campaign rally and its disingenuous image manipulation, a finer point emerged that the target of the donations, the Red Cross, is very clear that they prefer to receive money or blood donations, not supplies. Receiving supplies only adds to their logistical nightmares during a disaster. This was made evident in the Red Cross statement of thanks to the Romney campaign for their effort:

“The American Red Cross appreciates the support from the Romney campaign and is working with the campaign to process this donation of supplies,” Ann Marie Borrego, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We are grateful that both the Obama and Romney campaigns have also encouraged the public to send financial donations to the Red Cross. We encourage individuals who want to help to consider making a financial donation or making an appointment to give blood.” — from a CNN report.

Notice that Ms. Borrego doesn’t encourage folks to send canned goods. I have read some bloggers point out that some organizations like the Salvation Army do accept supplies. That’s all well and good but Romney didn’t target the Salvation Army. He targeted the Red Cross. Why didn’t his staff research the Red Cross preference? Why didn’t they call the Red Cross and ask “how can we help”? They didn’t do it because that would not have provided the good photo-op. Imagine photos of folks lining up to give Mitt Romney cash and checks! Not the image he wanted floating around a week from election day.

Sandy, a study in contrasts. While Barack Obama is doing his job working with a Governor who savaged him only within the past two weeks, Mitt Romney launches a phony relief effort against the backdrop of his disdain for FEMA which he considers an “immoral” waste of Federal money. Please note that the Romney campaign has walked back previous comments about FEMA. Just like they take two sides of every debate to take advantage of the moment.

One Last Lie Before Election Day

Romney is running ads in Ohio implying that auto production jobs at GM and Chrysler  are moving to China. It prompted the following responses from two companies.

“The ad is cynical campaign politics at its worst,” Greg Martin, a spokesman for General Motors, said in an interview late Tuesday. “We think creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back in this country should be a source of bipartisan pride.”

And in a note from the Chrysler CEO to his employees:

In an e-mail to employees on Tuesday, Chrysler’s executive, Sergio Marchionne, said that Jeep’s commitment to the United States was unequivocal. “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” he wrote. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

The campaign slyly takes advantage of the average American’s ignorance about auto manufacturing. It is common practice to manufacture autos at the place of sale. Sales of Chrysler vehicles will increase in China therefore necessitating new plants there. No US jobs are being exported. Romney’s ad leaves the impression they are.

This is probably my last post before Election Day. Whatever your politics, I urge you to vote. I already did. But please keep this in mind. Do you really want to reward Mitt Romney for a campaign that right up until the last moment has engaged in lies and deception?

If you are anything like me, this campaign season has worn you out. My heart went out to a little girl on YouTube named Abby who has taken all she can take. It’s time for this long battle to end. May the best man win.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Photo by VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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How To Produce Your Opponent’s Campaign Ad

Anyone who has been following the race for the GOP Presidential nomination has noticed that Mitt Romney, although the front-runner, just doesn’t seem to make his party happy.  So, the party keeps searching for someone with more of a pulse than Romney. Like clients of an online dating service, the GOP electorate reads the profiles and looks at the pretty pictures but then leaves the actual date dissatisfied. They’ve gone out with Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann and most recently Rick Perry and in each case the dating game did not result in a love connection.

With the odds 99.999% against Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan throwing their hat into the ring, only two names remain as possible alternatives to Mitt. One has repeatedly said he won’t run and the other repeatedly teases us that she might. However both have made statements on video that are tailor-made for their opponent to use should they decide to enter the race. Interestingly, their statements disqualify them for completely opposite reasons.

I’m Not Ready

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has offered Barack Obama the best possible campaign ad imaginable. Just look at these quotes from Christie:

“I don’t feel like I’m ready to run.”
“First you have to have it in your heart, you have to want it more than anything else … I don’t want it that badly.”
“You have to believe in your heart and your soul and your mind that you’re ready and I don’t believe that about myself right now.”
“You have to believe in your heart that you’re ready to walk into the Oval Office and lead the nation and I don’t feel that I’m ready.”

The Governor has been consistent in his message and heaven help him if he changes his mind because his quotes will be played in a continuous loop by the Obama campaign.

The Presidency Isn’t Big Enough For Me

Now, every time Alaska half-Governor Sarah Palin opens her mouth she provides fodder for opposing campaign ads but her latest salvo really takes the cake. In an interview with CNN’s Greta Van Susteren, Palin suggests that the presidency is just a title and that the role might “shackle” her. She wouldn’t be free to be that maverick rogue that we’ve all come to know and love. This should not surprise us since four years ago Sarah wasn’t sure the Vice Presidency of the United States would be a productive enough job for her.

If Sarah runs, all the DNC has to do is replay her dismissal of the importance of the Presidency over and over again.

I have clearly chosen the wrong avocation. I need to go work for the Democratic Party because the GOP would make my job so easy for me.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Photo credit: David Shankbone via Wikipedia

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