I Could Play the Race Card but …


You will notice, effective today, the blog has a new name and a new look. Everything else will stay essentially the same but in keeping with the new tag line “Where no one is barred and everyone is grilled” I wanted to give a shout out to roughly a dozen folks who are “regulars” here. They make the comments section of the blog entertaining and sometimes downright frightening. The simple truth is no matter what I write in the essays, the comments section is where the action is. Unlike Jonathan Capehart (who I mention below) who gets hundreds of comments from hundreds of people and has little time to engage, I get hundreds of comments from a dozen people and I do my best to jump “into the fray” (the title of an old blog by the person who inspired the new title of this blog). The comments section has turned this “little slice of heaven”, to quote another regular, into more of a community than a blog. So every now and then, I won’t even write an essay. I’ll just throw a bit of red meat out there and let the assembled have at it. Without further ado, let’s open the bar for business. Drinks are on me.

Obama is Just Another Black Man

The steady stream of disturbing revelations about the Secret Service, culminating in the resignation of the department’s director, got me to thinking. Maybe the old saw from the liberal media and civil rights advocates about the relative worth of a black man being less than that of a white applied to the President himself? It wasn’t the first time this crossed my mind. I was flabbergasted when it was revealed years ago that the Secret Service were cavorting with prostitutes when they should have had their mind on protecting Barack Obama. The revelations of the past couple of weeks made me revisit my theory. A man shoots at the White House (and hits) and the SS bungles it. An armed man with a criminal record gets on the elevator with Obama and the SS bungles it. A man jumps the fence and gets deep into the White House — and the SS not only bungles it but lies about it. One has to wonder, maybe they really don’t take defending this man all that seriously?

The absence of such discussion in the media surprised me. The incompetence of the department was front and center in every report but just about no one broached race. That ended this week with a discussion of the matter on Bill Maher’s HBO forum and in an article by the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. Maher’s panel discussion focused on the added threat this President faces based on race. Capehart’s piece covered similar ground but went that extra step of wondering aloud if the SS was letting Obama come in harm’s way by commission, not omission. Capehart concluded that such doubt in the agency should not be contemplated because the Secret Service is not protecting Obama, they are protecting the Presidency and the very stability of our government.

I tend to agree with Capehart but an even more common sense reason dawned on me to abandon my concerns about racially motivated ambivalence on the part of the agency. My mind flashed back to December 14, 2008 when George W. Bush shared the podium with the Prime Minister of Iraq. A disgruntled journalist threw his shoe at Bush and the Secret Service rushed in front of the President to protect him and usher him to safety until the situation could be evaluated. Ehhh no, that is not how it happened. Bush dodged the shoe without a single eyelash twitch from the Secret Service and then ANOTHER shoe was thrown. After two shoes, we finally saw what appeared to be agents rush into the room behind Bush. Bush was still not escorted to safety pending an evaluation of the scene. I remember at the time being amazed at the incompetence of his security detail.

Contemplating this, I took my race card and placed it back in my breast pocket. There is no racial element to this latest round of dangerous negligence. It’s another chapter in a long gradual decline. This Keystone Kops impersonation is just the latest example of the degradation of standards in this country. It seems all of our institutions are failing. I don’t know what it will take to turn it around.

What do you think? The bar is open.

Two Myths about Paul Ryan

Only forty-eight hours into his anointment as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan is enjoying the riches of the legend making machine known as the politically skewed media. I think that Ryan Lizza’s profile of Paul Ryan in the New Yorker earlier this month should be required reading for folks of all political stripes. In it, two myths are busted, one that might gain traction if folks don’t know the facts and the other which is already a talking point for Democrats.

Paul Ryan Pulled Himself Up By His Bootstraps

Saturday night on a special edition of Hardball, Chris Matthews floated a notion of a middle class Ryan to centrist Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women. Michelle shot back how appealing it is to Americans to see someone who has “pulled himself up by his bootstraps”. According to the Lizza article, this is total nonsense.

Janesville, Wisconsin, where Ryan was born and still lives, is a riverfront city of sixty-four thousand people in the southeast corner of the state, between Madison and Chicago. Three families, the Ryans, the Fitzgeralds, and the Cullens, sometimes called the Irish Mafia, helped develop the town, especially in the postwar era. The Ryans were major road builders, and today Ryan, Inc., started in 1884 by Paul’s great-grandfather, is a national construction firm. The historic Courthouse section of Janesville is still thick with members of the Ryan clan. At last count, there were eight other Ryan households within a six-block radius of his house, a large Georgian Revival with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I grew up on the block I now live on,” Ryan told me recently. We were sitting in his new, more spacious Capitol Hill office, one of the spoils of being in the majority after the 2010 elections. “My aunt and uncle live across the street from me,” he said. “My cousin is next door, my brother is a block away.” Ryan’s line of the family strayed from the construction business, which is now run by his cousin Adam. His grandfather and father became lawyers instead. (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/08/06/120806fa_fact_lizza#ixzz23ROrOJTj)

Ryan grew up in a prestigious Janesville family, the inheritor of their influence and wealth. What feeds into the false myth is the tragedy that struck Ryan at age 16 when he went to wake his father up and discovered him dead. (Ryan’s grandfather and great-grandfather also died before age 60, leading Ryan to pursue an almost fanatic health regimen.) Clearly Ryan may have had to pull himself up by his bootstraps emotionally. He did not have to do so economically. When we look at the mansion that Ryan calls home, we realize the GOP is running two very rich guys for office. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Ryan, the Deficit Hawk

Although Ryan championed the privatization of Social Security during the Bush administration, in almost every other way he resembles your average Tea Partier. He only found economic-Jesus when Barack Obama entered the White House. Every big-ticket item responsible for the huge deficit that Obama inherited received a thumbs up from “fiscally conservative” Ryan:

Bush Tax cuts for the rich — Ryan says yeah!
War in Iraq with no way to pay for it — Ryan says yeah!
War in Afghanistan with no way to pay for it — Ryan says yeah!
Medicare Part D — Ryan says yeah!
TARP — Ryan says yeah!

Given the opportunity to oppose any of these items, Ryan passed. He now talks about how disappointed he was with the Bush spending and that he was frustrated at the time. His disappointment is certainly not reflected in his voting record. If Romney becomes President and the GOP spends like crazy, the same way it did from 2001 through 2008, will Ryan attempt to stop the tide of reckless spending or give up the fight in frustration?

Ryan says he has deeply held libertarian, Ayn Rand influenced economic beliefs. I take him at his word. The question is will he adhere to principle or cave to party pressure when the chips are down?


Photo credit: Adapted from The White House from Washington, DC (P022510PS-0748) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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The Marshall Plan Has Worked (aka Enough Already)

We as Americans seem to have a hard time knowing when the mission is truly accomplished.  Whether it’s George Bush’s premature “joculation” on the aircraft carrier or Obama’s failure to see we’ve done all we can do in Afghanistan, we just don’t seem to know when to quit.

To wit, in a commencement speech at Harvard University Wednesday, Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank spoke about the Marshall Plan and the fact that we still have troops overseas protecting Europe when the threat is long since passed.

For you deficit hawks out there, just think of how much of the debt we could pay down if we stopped policing crime free neighborhoods overseas.


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