Catapulting the Propaganda: Tender Sensibilities and Faux Outrage

When a foreign official accuses another nation of engaging in Goebbel-esque propaganda campaigns, it’s sure to make news. Yesterday, Brazil’s trade minister accused “rich nations” (read: the U.S.) of using Joesph Goebbel’s infamous strategy of repeating lies enough times that the lies become conventional wisdom. The Bush administration reacted sharply – but didn’t deny the accusations, only the reference.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Faux outrage always amuses me, particularly when it’s projected for media / public consumption. Here’s how it works: someone (say, a politician) will make an outrageous or insulting accusation; hyperbole to emphasize a point. Someone on the opposite side of the political fence takes public umbrage – “Gasp! How can you say that? Oh, my tender sensibilities!” – without disputing the main point of the accusation.

Such an occasion occurred yesterday at World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. According to reports, in advance of a WTO meeting this week, Brazil’s trade minister Celso Amorim accused “rich countries” of engaging in Goebbel-esque propaganda in attempting to ram through the Doha trade accords:

Brazil sought to play down a spat with the United States on Sunday that threatened to sour a week of key World Trade Organisation talks after its foreign minister likened arguments of rich countries to Nazi propaganda. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters on Saturday that “misinformation” about the WTO talks recalled the comment of Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels that a lie repeated often enough will be accepted as truth.

A spokesman for U.S. trade chief Susan Schwab said Washington regretted the comment. “We are here to negotiate on substance and that kind of venomous name-calling does not have a place in these talks,” spokesman Sean Spicer said on Sunday…

By way of background, the Bush administration has been trying to hammer out an overarching WTO deal (many core issues in dispute, at least in terms of agricultural trade).

In the end, though, Celso Amorim probably accomplished what he intended to do with such inflammatory remarks. He made the point that the U.S. is controlling the WTO “message” in a manner that does little more than amplify the interests

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Innocence Lost: The Path From Purity To Pragmatism

The attainment of morality is an elusive construct. Attempting to define the morality of a society is even more complex. Often, the combatants seeking to instill morality believe, with certainty, that the end justifies the means. In truth, cohesion often requires the concession of purity.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

AshesOfInnocence.jpg

Many Americans like to look at Europe as an example of the moral decay we can expect if we continue to alter our values and ignore our long standing Christian principles. Implicit in this belief, amongst many on the religious right, is the presumption that one’s morality is directly correlated with one’s sexuality…and that goes beyond any consideration of one’s orientation. It also includes a belief that sexual activity is only acceptable under the umbrella of a marriage. That means that sex before marriage is unacceptable and it also infers that both parties are expected to be virgins.

Along with these sexual mores and our disdain for Europe is a growing belief that Islam is an unacceptable religion…or at the very least a religion that will not lead to salvation and therefore it cannot lead to one’s admittance into heaven. Fortunately, life often provides the contrasts and comparisons necessary to illuminate the absurdity and/or hypocrisy of our beliefs…and our predisposition to judge others while ignoring the need for self-examination.

An article in The New York Times provides the backdrop for some measure of reflection…and an illumination of the slippery slope that moral certainty often becomes. The prevalence of Islamic immigrants in Europe has served to pit a strict religious ideology against a far more secular society…and that has led to some rather convoluted interpretations of propriety.

It seems that a number of the Islamic women (note that we don’t focus on the Islamic men) who have partaken in the sexual freedoms afforded by European culture now find themselves in the unenviable position of being unacceptable marriage partners. Islamic teaching require that a bride be a virgin, and should that not be the case, she can be rejected and the marriage can be nullified

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Daniel DiRito |

Hot News: Fumo to Quit the Race

We’ve got corruption on the Democratic side here in PA, but there might be good news soon. Vince Fumo, the subject of a 139 count indictment and arguably one of the most powerful men in Philadelphia politics, has quit the nominating race for his own State Senate seat. Anne Dicker’s chances went way up!


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The story is in both papers this morning, though last night it was only a rumor. Vince Fumo, beset by legal and health problems, is backing out of the Democratic nominating race for his State Senate seat.

The Inquirer: Fumo will quit race, sources say

The Daily News: Fumo exits Democratic primary

Here’s a bit from the Daily News, which seems to have a bit more of the story:

Fumo, 64, still recovering from a heart attack 10 days ago, plans to announce his decision this morning at a news conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, according to an informed source. The Daily News broke the story online last night.

At Fumo’s side today will be Gov. Rendell, who said last week that he would support Fumo for another term if the senator asked for his endorsement.

Fumo faced three challengers in the Democratic primary on April 22, and perhaps a more difficult test next September, when he is scheduled for a federal trial on a 139-count corruption indictment. Even if he won the primary, he’d have to endure a general-election campaign with daily headlines coming out of his federal trial, revolving around charges that he benefited personally from the operations of a nonprofit community group called the Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods.

So we are down to three in the race for the State Senate. Anne Dicker, who gets my support, Larry Farnese, who should be running for Babette Josephs’ seat, but inexplicably entered this race, and Johnny “Doc” Dougherty, the head of the electricians union and a power amongst the local pols. Yeah, Doc represents the machine, and the way Philly plays out nowadays, that has both benefits and drawbacks. There are movements

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Steven Reynolds |
Category: Philly

Sarah Palin and Michael Steele Snubbed Together

Hoosier anti-choicers are gathering, and inviting two prime speakers, Sarah Palin and Michael Steele. Both have had rough times lately, with Palin’s volcano trumping Michael Steele having to kiss Rush Limbaugh’s big fat ass. The big snub is at the gathering, where the POPE’S representative is staying home.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Poor, poor Sarah Palin and Michael Steele! Along with Bobby Jindal, these two are attempting to become Vice Leaders of the Republican Party to help the real leader, Rush Limbaugh. All three are sort of competing for the role of Vice. (I suppose the role is open with Larry Craig out of the Senate.) But Sarah and Michael have had some troubles lately.

Sarah, for instance, just had Redoubt, a volcano, erupt in her back yard, spreading ash to the north of Anchorage and disrupting the airport there as well as Elmendorf AFB. This is a major volcano. Now, I’m not sure she can see it like she can Russia, but it is in her state, and that sure has to be unlucky and all. Of course, she promised not to take a whole bunch of that stimulus money, and like Bobby Jindal, she mocked money for volcano monitoring. Yes, nature, in the form of Redoubt the volcano, has defied Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal. Still, if this turns into a disaster, she can depend on the kindness of strangers, just like Sarah Palin will depend on strangers to pay her legal fees.

Michael Steele, on the other hand, has also had a rough time of it. Michael Steele defied King Rush, the dictatorial leader of the GOP, and then had to go and make nice. He caught some flack for redecorating his offices, which he claimed were a bit too masculine, or something like that. (Did he hire these guys, or is that too cliche for a Republican?) Michael Steele can’t seem to get anything right, even getting suggestions he should defect to the Democratic Party, though, as I mentioned earlier, we don’t want him.

Poor Michael and Sarah are both having a bad time of it lately, but now it has gotten worse. According to an exclusive report

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Steven Reynolds |

McCain-Palin: The Perils Of Promoting The Past As Prologue?

John McCain’s decision to attach the imagery of Bill Ayers to Barack Obama is reckless. By casting this election as a continuation of the ideological conflict that characterized the unrest during the era of the Weathermen, John McCain may well be fomenting the reemergence of radicalism.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

It seems to me that a significant question will emerge in the aftermath of the 2008 election. The crux of that question has been framed by the inflammatory rhetoric of the McCain-Palin campaign in recent days. In its effort to sway voters and win this election, the McCain campaign has chosen to ignite animosities that will undoubtedly linger beyond November 4th…animosities that have the potential to unleash the very kind of violence that typified the groups and individuals the McCain campaign has attempted to link with Barack Obama.

At the core of the conflicts that marred the sixties and

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Daniel DiRito |

Newt Slams Obama on Faith, Ignores Real Americans Dying

Newt slammed Barack Obama for appointing a gay former Methodist Minister to his Office of Faith-Based Partnerships. He pandersd to the extremist gay-hating wing of the GOP. We’re not surprised. This ignores Americans in pain, not just gay Americans, but even the mother of an 11 year old boy, a suicide taunted with hate of the gay.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

As usual, it is all about the GAY! Newt Gingrich knows if his comeback is to be successful, he needs to pay homage to the radical Christian extremists who whine about gay marriage and gay anything. So he’s slamming Barack Obama’s appointments to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Newt is slamming the appointments, but he’s really slamming the gay, and he’s got a lot of support ont he extremist anti-gay wing of the Republican Party. Here’s what Newt had to whine about, from CNN:

Newt Gingrich said Tuesday the Obama administration is “intensely secular” and “anti-religious,” the former House Speaker’s second hard-hitting criticism of the new administration this week.

In an interview with FOX News, Gingrich said he strongly disagreed with Obama’s choice of Harry Knox – an outspoken activist for gay rights – to the White House advisory council on faith-based initiatives.

“I think their goal is to have a very secular America in which government dominates everything,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you put an anti-religious, left-wing zealot on a faith-based group? It’s a perfect pattern for this administration.”

Since 2005, Knox has served as the director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. He is also a former Methodist pastor.

Newt evidently missed the list of people Obama appointed. (Here’s the list, Newt, since you obviously haven’t read it.) It’s got a ton of people who are quite religious. sure, Newt might not like that there’s a Hindu on the list, and he might not agree with the politics of Jim Wallis, but that doesn’t mean those folks are irreligious, as Newt claims. Knox isn’t irreligious either. But he is gay, and Newt attacking his appointment with falsehoods is par for the course. Newt himself is converting to Catholicism as a serially divorced man, so the hypocrisy of him defending religion falsely is rich, rich, rich.

More scandalous is the ugly politics of attacking gay people in this country. Why scandalous? Such attacks and ugliness lead to an environment where real people, real Americans, are hurt. Sirdeaner L. Walker is one of those Americans. She came home Monday in Springfield, MA on Monday to find her 11 year old son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hanging by an extension cord. The boy had been taunted at school. He’d been called gay by the other kids. Repeatedly.

America’s tragedy, and the Republican Party’s shame is that they treat gay and lesbian citizens as if they were trash. In doing so these “leaders” give license t

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Steven Reynolds |

The GOP Price of Living (and Dying)

Those of us of a certain age have seen the economy expand, then contract, then expand again on many occasions. Things have changed, though – from Reagan’s “revolution” to GHW Bush’s “voodoo economics” through the unprecedented wealth transfer that has happened during Bush II’s reign, there’s a fundamental difference. In that difference lies the reason that I’m a progressive Democrat…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

The BeavI’m old enough to remember when the nuclear family was really the American dream: 2.2 kids, a house with a modest mortgage, mom met the kids at the school bus stop in the afternoon because she didn’t work outside the home, dad came rolling in later in the afternoon, dinner was served, homework was done, then maybe some TV (3 VHF channels and a couple of UHF “independents”). Rinse, spit, repeat.

The promise of technology and automation was never that Americans would lose their jobs to machines, but that the machines would make the jobs more efficient and lead to a better quality of life for everyone. LBJ’s “Great Society” was a product of progressive thinking – that yes, indeed, it was possible for the previous generation to leave the next generation just a little bit better off, and so on and so on.

In the past, I’ve ranted about how there was a palpable shift in the overall demeanor of big business back in the early days of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Perhaps I was a bit closer to it (“the shift”) at the time because of the point that I was at in my career – I’d been with the same employer for a couple of years, making a pretty good wage, and I was the sole breadwinner in the family. That was my role; that was the real role in life I thought I was supposed to play. But I could sense, even back then, that something was terribly amiss. I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Something strange was happening in the work place that augured an uncertain future.

Allow me to use a personal story as a segue into a larger discussion on why I’m a progressive Democrat.

The company I worked for during the Reagan years made a very rapid transformation from a truly “family oriented” employer, to a “bottom line” company. Harvard Business School was just starting to churn out Michael Hammer-cloned MBA graduates using the “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap model of business education. The heady days of merger and acquisition really got cranking around the time of Reagan’s second inauguration. The atmosphere in the workplace shifted dramatically in the space of what felt like just a few short months. In fact, the change was so dramatic that, even in the quasi-professional / technical role that I filled, it was becoming obvious that the only way to survive was for those in my technical specialization to organize with a local labor union. And so we tried – I tried. I was very active in the effort.

I was active in the effort for several reasons, but the most important was that the HBS graduates were starting to fling around the specter of competition and deregulation and corporate survival as if to generate a self fulfilling prophecy. And, to a degree, the HBS’ers did just that. What a union offered, even a professional / technical union, were rules that the company and employees had to live by. I reasoned that, without a legally binding employment contract, non-represented, non-management employees were flying by the seat of their pants and without a net.

In the long run, I was right.

The company used a couple of really shady tactics, aided and abetted by a Reagan-reconstituted National Labor Relations Board ruling, to defeat the organizing effort, and the union local was not prepared well enough to respond. The threat of layoffs never emerged for the rank and file union members in the company, but the professional and technical specialties started to be purged in the late 1980′s, as folks like me began to simply make too much money.

As my salary and 401K grew, I clearly recall sitting at my kitchen table one night and amortizing the value of my salary and benefits 20 years into the future. I somberly recognized that evening that the company couldn’t sustain me and hundreds of my coworkers into the future. At some point, even a modest three or four percent increase per year in a fairly decent salary becomes like compounding interest to the bean counters in a company – and it was clear that something had to give. So the professional ranks started taking hits in terms of layoffs, “performance-based” firings, and early retirement package offerings to those in the organization who held the corporate institutional memory.

Here’s an example of how quickly the changes occurred, and why I worked so hard in the union organizing effort.

At one time, the technical and professional folks made time and a half for overtime (because the company would never compensate their professional people less than their union workers, don’tcha know…). Out of the blue, the non-represented technical workers were required to put in at least 45 hours a week to qualify for time and a half. The uncompensated five hours per week was euphemistically dubbed “professional time”. And then one day, word came down from the executive suite that overtime was completely gone for the professionals. You worked what you had to in order to get your job done, no matter how long it took or how much additional responsibility you had to assume because the guy’s desk next to you was suddenly vacated late on a Friday afternoon (the favorite time to issue pink slips), and there was no replacement for him or her.

But you know who didn’t go? The company never touched the union rank and file, because of the contract. There are still guys working for the company in union positions who were there when the great middle management purge of 1990 took place.

I was fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall, and started doing some serious programming work on the side back then, and that led to my ability to leave the company on my own terms in the mid-90′s. After all, computers were where the big money was, Tim Berners-Lee was rolling out the HTTP protocol, and the dot com boom was just getting underway. My services were in pretty high demand, and I brought not only my computer experience to a booming market, but my mature business acumen. It was a great combination that worked for awhile, and I made a pretty good living. And then the dot com bust hit.

Makin' the NutBy the time I was forced back into the job market in the early part of this century, even though my skills were at their peak, my earning power was not. The conservative mantra was, “well, you work whatever you have to work at. McDonalds, whatever. There’s no shame in working hard.” Indeed. It got to the point where I took one of the first jobs that I was offered that was even remotely reasonable in terms of compensation. And then that job was “mergered and acquisitioned”, even though it was in the non-profit sector. The last several years have been a struggle, having come down from positions of both authority and responsibility. In the business climate that I was unfortunate enough to experience, at a certain age, it’s impossible to regain career traction, and you settle for the best job that’s available in order to make ends meet.

I know I’m not alone in my tale, and that there are many out there like me. My real income has declined significantly since the mid-90′s. In fact, I was 1040–²ing more per year in 1995 than I am today. And I’m working harder today than I ever did in my life, for a relatively thankless employer whose executive battle cry at the end of every quarter is: “We’re not making the numbers!! Panic! Panic!!” So, the sales force forward-sells our product line to make this quarter’s numbers at the expense of bookings at the beginning of next quarter. It’s an endless cycle of stupid business decisions that leads to bargain basement deals for our customers, less revenue for the company, and a repeating of the cycle again at the end of next quarter.

The company that I work for in 2008 is by no means exceptional in the modern corporate world. There is no “quality of life”, so to speak. I’m tethered to a cell phone and a computer 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, and I spend my time reacting to business crises rather than getting a break from the bonds. I am literally doing the same work that three people did 20 years ago. But my employer thinks this is ok. (The customers don’t, but that’s another story for another day.)

This is the life that the Republican Party brought to me, and why I’m such a strong progressive, even if I’m getting a bit long in the tooth. I’m angry. I’m angry with the business climate that has upended my life and that of millions of others like me. I’m angry that I’m good enough at what I do that I’m the “go-to” guy when there’s a steaming pile of business shit that someone else has left for me to clean up, but there’s no one to back me up when I have a less than stellar day at the office. I’m angry that at this point in my life I’m locked into a fairly dead-end position because of the paycheck, but more importantly, benefits that I can’t (again, at this point of my life) afford to be without.

In the past year, I’ve seen one of my closest business associates hang it up because it just wasn’t worth it anymore – he bailed out early when he had the opportunity, even as he was somewhat unsure of his financial future. Another (15 years younger than me) had a heart attack just before Christmas. He was back at his desk last week. He’ll never make it to retirement. Another is opting for early retirement in March rather than spend another minute with her nose stuck to the grind stone.

The nuclear family is a dream of the past. There are so many among us (thankfully, I’m not yet one of them) who have to work two and three jobs just to pay the mortgage, electric bill, and put food on the table because real wages have declined so precipitously in years recently passed. But the GOP thinks that’s all right, in fact, they’re proud of it. They think it’s just peachy that mom and dad have to work themselves to the point of exhaustion, and then on the other hand they wonder why the nuclear family has disintegrated.

There is more than just a mortgage crisis at hand, and I don’t think anyone in a position to say so really wants to admit it in polite company. There is a very real family financial liquidity crunch that is underway, and sooner than later, the crunch is going to affect all of us. The unprecedented wealth transfer from poor and middle income families to the uber rich is nearly complete. The folks at the bottom of the GOP-led financial pyramid scheme are nearly bled dry, and the pyramid is about to collapse. To sustain itself a little longer, the folks at the top of the pyramid will have to start an Amway-style ritual of financial cannibalism amongst themselves. I think that (to an extent) this is exactly what we’re seeing in the stock markets and big financial houses as the true meltdown begins. Is this is how it starts?

An executive of a collapsed subprime mortgage lender jumped to his death from a bridge Friday, shortly after his wife’s body was found inside their New Jersey home, authorities said.

The deaths of Walter Buczynski, 59, and his wife, Marci, 37 – the parents of two boys – were being investigated as a murder-suicide, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office…

[He] was a vice president of Columbia, Md.-based Fieldstone Mortgage Co., a high-flying subprime mortgage lender that made $5.5 billion in mortgage loans and employed about 1,000 people as late as 2006.

However, it has since filed for bankruptcy and now has fewer than 20 employees. The company had recently filed court papers seeking approval to pay about $1.1 million in bonuses that would be divided among Buczynski and other staffers so the company could wind down its lending operations and go out of business…

Even in the last throes of corporate failure, the bosses reward themselves.

It’s only speculation, but perhaps this tragedy happened in part because the Buczynski’s were embroiled in some intractable sort of financial difficulty. Still, for each VP of a failed company that can’t take the personal pressure any longer and leaps from a bridge, how many more bodies and destroyed lives from the lower rungs of the economic pyramid have they left in their wake as they pursued the Republican holy grail of financial success and “A-list” cocktail parties?

When consumers stop spending, the economy is going to crash hard. Signs already point to a significant contraction in consumer spending, which is why George Bush today offered up a

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Jim Bunning, (R-KY) Has Bad Taste

Jim Bunning (R-KY) spoke out about Ruth Bader Ginzberg’™s cancer this weekend, actually predicting he imminent death. There is no excuse for a grown man being so crass. But he is a Republican, and there are many examples of such ugly behavior from that side of the aisle, so many that this should not surprise us one bit.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I’™m willing to say it, that a comment implying anyone is dying soon is in very poor taste. That’™s what he said Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’™s Lincoln Day Dinner. Evidently predicting the death of someone he doesn’™t care for. . . he knows yhat will plat to his base? From the Louisville Courier Jounal:

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning predicted over the weekend that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’™s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges ‘œand that’™s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘¦ has cancer.’

‘œBad cancer. The kind that you don’™t get better from,’

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Bushie Kyle Sampson Claims Ignorance of the Law

It wasn’™t just Monica Goodling who broke the law in the DOJ and appointed career attorneys based on political criteria. Kyle Sampson also broke the law, though in his case he’™s making the usual whiney excuses, such as the notion that he, a member of the Justice Department, didn’™t KNOW the law he was sworn to uphold.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Our own Daniel DiRito has an excellent article about the lawbreaking of Bush Justice official Monica Goodling, a marginal lawyer, at best, who was empowered to make huge decisions in the Bush Justice Department under Albert Gonzales. This case will be part of the Bush legacy of both incompetence and politicization of our government’™s functions, a shameful legacy indeed, for surely the Justice Department is designed to serve all Americans, and not just Republicans. But it is the incompetence I write about today, and not Monica Goodling. In separate stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times, Kyle Sampson’™s lawyer, Bradford Berenson, gives a couple whiney excuses for Sampson’™s behavior, excuses that show Sampson himself was incompetent to fill his role in the Bush Justice Department. First, in the Washington Post

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

George Bush Becomes Pro-Choice

Some of the phrasing in George Bush’™s speech looks like it could have come out of a NARAL brochure. Is George now a pro-choice guy? Nah! I’™m thinking this is just one more example of the patented incompetence of the Bush team.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Mr. Bush has spent seven years doing exactly what Republicans accuse liberals of. He’™s not raised taxes, for sure, but he’™s spent our tax dollars like a drunken Yale cheerleader. He’™s not dismantled the military, but he’™s misused time and time again. And Bush has certainly not called for abortion on demand, but here he is, in the 2008 State of the Union speech, his last important speech, supporting the main tenet of the pro-choice crowd. From the White House transcript of the SOTU (my emphasis):

To build a future of quality health care, we must trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions and empower them with better information and better options. We share a common goal: making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. (Applause.) The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer choice, not government control. (Applause.) So I have proposed ending the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer. This one refor

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |
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