Tag Archives: President Obama

Too Little Too Late, Mr. Birther!

48093056-cachedtrump_tweet_birther_080612So now, just hours after Donald Trump couldn’t bring himself to admit to The Washington Post that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A. — some campaign flunky puts out a statement saying that Herr Trump actually believes that Obama is, in fact, born in America.

trump-fnc-birtherWell, let’s hear that from Donald J. Trump himself.

And then let’s hear him tell us what the hell this nonsense (or pack of shameless lies) was all about 5 years ago:


(CNN)
Possibly-serious Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is giving few details about the investigation he claims to have launched in Hawaii to get to the bottom of where President Obama was born, but the business mogul told CNN Thursday Americans will be “very surprised” by what he has found.

donald-trump-i-really-dont-know-if-obama-was-born-in-the-us“We’re looking into it very, very strongly. At a certain point in time I’ll be revealing some interesting things,” Trump said on CNN’s American Morning.Trump first claimed earlier this month he had sent investigators to Obama’s home state in an effort to find out if the president was indeed born there, as he says he was and several media organization’s independent investigations have confirmed.

trump-birther-tweet“I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump told NBC then.

******

C’mon mass media! Don’t let Trump skate on this one. What specific “interesting things” did he find out about Obama’s citizenship five years ago?

trumpbirtherWhat did his “people that have been studying it” really find? And why could they not “believe what they’re finding.”

Trump said all this crap.

The media must get Trump to say that Obama is a citizen with his own lips – and then ask the follow-up questions.

Make Trump back all his old statements up.

Or admit it was all a lie.

r-donald-trump-obam-birth-certificate-large570The Presidency of the United States is at stake.

I’m talking to you, Wolf Blitzer, Brian Williams, Lester Holt, Anderson Cooper, Andrea Mitchell – and maybe, just maybe, the last honest journalists on FOX News.

Hoist the Great Orange Demagogue by his own petard.

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Filed under History, Politics, Random Commentary, Truth

America Moves Forward.

DNC

1 Comment

July 28, 2016 · 9:13 am

With Trump As Nominee, The GOP Chickens Have Come Home to Roost.

Trump banner 1Trump banner 2Trump banner 318391145-mmmainFor more than fifty years, the Republican Party, has betrayed its distant, noble 19th century origin as ”the party of Lincoln” and has moved inexorably toward its degeneration into the party of Donald J. Trump: the rump repository of poor, ill-educated, mostly white, xenophobic anger and class resentment.

donald-trump-is-escalating-his-war-of-words-with-hillary-clinton.jpgTo those who aren’t students of political history, it may seem crazy that a vulgar, bloviating, serially insulting, spray-tanned, combed-over, shoot-from-the hip billionaire real estate mogul turned reality TV personality with zero political or government experience could seize the Presidential nomination of one of our nation’s two major political parties. But, if you’ve been paying attention since 1964 (or you’ve done the least bit of research), you wouldn’t be so shocked.

donald-trump-grow-upGiven trends in the Republican party over the past half century, The Donald’s domination of the Republican nominating process should not be a surprise at all: the blitzkrieg elevation of Trump 2016 was, if not inevitable, then certainly very, very, very possible.

With Trump as their standard bearer, whether Republicans like it or not, the chickens have come home to roost for the Grand Old Party.

The phrase “the chickens have come home to roost” means that the bad things someone did in the past have come back to bite them. They must deal with the consequences of dark deeds done long ago.

Malcolmx_3_0That expression has been fraught with heavy socio-political baggage, ever since Malcolm X used it in relation to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, saying that, “President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon.”

When he was widely excoriated for his remark, Malcolm X explained that he meant, “the hate in white men had not stopped with the killing of defenseless black people, but that hate, allowed to spread unchecked, had finally struck down this country’s Chief Magistrate.”

Regardless of whether you consider Malcolm’s statement offensive, his citing of “hate, allowed to spread unchecked” has resonance in the context of the current state of the GOP. Indeed, the Republican Party has gotten to this woeful point by deliberately stoking the fires of racial animus, anti-government paranoia, religious intolerance and anti-intellectualism to serve its narrow electoral purposes.

lbj_vra-1024x794The cancer in the GOP that has metastasized in Trump’s primary success began its rot decades ago with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965. These two landmark legislative victories for racial equality and egalitarian progress were passed by overwhelming Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and signed into law by a Democratic President.

c462524f2It’s been said that when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he turned to his press secretary and stated ruefully that the Democratic Party had just “lost the South for a generation.”

_6be8c97b_1379a104379__8000_00000134Indeed, this was the fateful moment for both major parties. Southern Democrats — “Dixiecrats” as they were called — finally bolted their party for the GOP, fueling the Republican Party’s transition from the anti-slavery “Party of Lincoln” into the “state’s rights”, anti-Federal government repository of white resentment and racism a century after Abraham Lincoln’s martyrdom.

From the mid-1960s to the 1980s – from Nixon to Reagan to Bush, the Republicans sought power by exploiting white, working class disaffection with the advancing Civil Rights movement and other progressive social advancements, from feminism to birth control, gun control and affirmative action. Among this new GOP coalition were Nixon’s “Silent Majority” and “Reagan Democrats” — religious conservatives, including formerly Democratic working class Catholics, who rallied to Republican rhetoric against reproductive rights, LGBT rights and other progressive social causes.

wallaceTo help keep the flames of anger stirred among their new coalition, Republican politicians were not above race baiting – sometimes in subtle ways and often in overt ways. The openly racist candidacies of George Wallace and former KKK leader David Duke were obvious overtures to racial prejudice.

reagan-neshoba-wideRonald Reagan was subtle.

When candidate Reagan touted “states rights” in a speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi during his 1980 campaign – many heard an unmistakable race-baiting dog whistle.

fp_neshoba_poster_350_297_c1Reagan and his staff no doubt knew that in June of 1964, just a few miles from where he spoke, three young civil rights workers (called “Freedom Riders) were murdered by white racists in one of the most infamous atrocities during the Civil Rights Movement.

Reagan’s choice of speaking venue that day was a continuation of Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”

KLBJ Billboard on August 15, 2011

KLBJ Billboard on August 15, 2011

The GOP has refined its Southern Strategy over the years into a less obviously racist but no less intolerant “God, Guns and Gays” strategy.

The moneyed Republican political elites cynically exploited these hot-button social issues to garner conservative votes. Yet, once they got those votes, GOP legislators rarely delivered on their fiery rhetoric. Tax breaks for the wealthy were what the Republican Party was truly all about.

vxkpya90rrs90ydsqtyeAfter more than five decades of this bait and switch, many in the GOP’s angry extreme right wing got wise to the game. The most zealous of the largely Southern, anti-government, anti-choice (and, yes, racist) base grew impatient with “establishment” Republican political hacks who talked big about outlawing abortion, relaxing gun laws, putting prayer back in schools, ending affirmative action and deporting illegal immigrants – but did little or nothing to advance that agenda. And while GOP candidates crowed, “jobs, jobs, jobs” – once in office, they concentrated instead on tax policy that favored the wealthy and large corporations.

2010-09-22_gopteapartyThus, the Tea Party was born. GOP seats in the House of Representatives — and some in the Senate — were soon occupied by a large bloc of true believers for whom compromise was a dirty word. So, we got dozens of attempts to limit a woman’s right to choose and overturn Obamacare and annual threats of government shutdowns — and why not?

If you’ve been told for decades that government can do any good, who cares if it shuts down?

0fa222556df6b621f1d0e7972623efd2After all, it was Reagan who said in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

This year, the GOP’s toxic sludge of anti-government rhetoric and subtle (and not so subtle) appeals to racism and intolerance have combined with their own constituency’s anger at the party establishment’s failure to deliver on social issues and jobs, jobs, jobs to produce the noxious nomination of political outsider Donald J. Trump.

ac.trump.morgan.borger.cnn.640x360Let’s not forget that Trump first seized national political attention in 2011 by questioning the citizenship of the first African-American President of the United States. The Donald was a champion of the “Birther” movement. It wasn’t a dog whistle to the racists in the GOP base: it was a trumpet blast.

partylincoln_500A year earlier, in an interview in The National Journal, doddering white Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Seriously. Old cracker McConnell’s number one goal was to delegitimize the first black President.

McConnell, of course, failed in his goal.

Just as the GOP establishment failed in its goal of stopping Donald J. Trump from winning the party’s nomination.

After all, one thing leads to another.

And Republicans only have themselves to blame.heres-what-donald-trump-supporters-really-believe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Throw Some Healing Water On The Sanders vs. Clinton Flame Wars.

Flame banner jpegTrumpAs the Donald Trump Traveling Faux Populist Political Circus winds its way rightward into a merry, malevolent maelstrom of venom, vitriol and violence, I must tear my gaze from that cable news-abetted car wreck for just a moment to address a caustic and cancerous growth on the left.

I freely admit that I spend way too much time nursing my political jones by surfing Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post, among other sites. I find that the website articles and diaries about the 2016 Presidential election provide valuable perspective that can’t be gleaned from the shallow, repetitive and all-too-predictable TV news outlets — obsessed as they are with endless horse race prognostication.

Snarky back and forthBut when I drill down into the comment sections on sites like Kos, TPM and HuffPost, I’m increasingly concerned about the alarming tendency of progressives to snatch defeat from the jaws of potential electoral victory. Even as The Donald is torching the Republican establishment and blasting its electoral hopes to smithereens, many liberal Democrats and progressives seem intent on setting their own house ablaze.H is a liar

asshat 2Reading the comments on progressive, left-leaning websites reveals an ongoing, self-destructive flame war between passionate supporters of the leading Democratic candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton.

H not fit for Prez 2It’s a disturbing fraternal fight, as “Bernie-bots” and “Clintonites” make critical mistakes of both an historical and politically practical nature.

06firstdraft-bernie-sanders-tmagArticleI’ll state right now that I support Bernie Sanders and his damn near revolutionary economic and social agenda. I would love to see him win the Democratic Party’s nomination. I can also state without equivocation that, should Bernie fail to win the nomination, I will support Hillary Clinton against whoever emerges from the GOP primary scrum.

That said, I’m no political Pollyanna. I know all too well that after a bruising primary fight it’s not always easy for a party to sing “Kumbaya” and come together. Just imagine how hard that will be for the Republicans this year. As I type this, Marco Rubio and John Kasich are both backing off their pledge to back Trump if he’s nominated.

2780922f-17d4-4a76-ab9a-a1fc65761d8dThat’s why I hate to hear Sanders backers say they’ll never vote for Hillary – and vice versa. Standing on principal is one thing: political suicide is another. Progressives should – and must – do better. That’s the practical part of my argument.

When a Hillary supporter sits out the general election because Bernie won the nomination (and vice versa), he or she may as well pull the lever for Trump or Cruz. That’s the reality of our nation’s current two-party system. (Until, of course, Trump fails to become the GOP nominee and launches his own Quixotic third-party bid.)

As I read them, there are two major threads in the Sanders vs. Clinton commentaries. Both are flawed.

Hope & Bernie jpegHillary Clinton, her surrogates, and many of her supporters in the blogosphere flame wars make the essential mistake of criticizing Senator Sanders and his supporters for their idealism. Rather than appeal to that beautiful, energized idealism with a message that can inspire young people and encourage frustrated but hopeful older progressives, Clinton and her campaigners too often drone on about being “practical” and “incremental” and chastise Bernie’s enthused base for wanting “pie-in-the-sky”.

Too many Clintonites view the Bernie-bots as callow youth, lacking the world-weary wisdom that Hillary has gained through her decades of experience. All too often, Hillary and her backers trot out the same stale arguments and dismissive language that the GOP has always used to denigrate progressive policy goals for education, health care and social services — saying that Bernie is “giving things away for free” and “buying votes with free stuff.”

newdealjpegIt’s sad to hear Democrats using Republican talking points. And it’s especially demoralizing to hear avowed liberals still using “socialist” and “Democratic Socialism” as dirty words. I would have thought that FDR’s New Deal would have ended that kind of talk. Wouldn’t it be better for those of us on the left to take advantage of Bernie’s candidacy to erase the stigma attached to “socialism”? It’s clearly not a dirty word to millions of young progressives – and 57-year old liberals like me.

$_35Bernie Sanders is running an aspirational campaign – much like candidate Obama did during his first run to the White House. Hillary and her base make a mistake when they dump on the dreamers. If we don’t reach beyond our grasp, we’ll never know how far we can go.

Take health care, for instance. Had Democrats aspired to a higher goal and put single payer on the table at the outset of the Senate negotiations – we might have done a lot better. We might have controlled the rapacious health insurance industry even more. We’ll never know because Democratic negotiators (in league with insurance companies) took a “practical” and “incremental” approach. Doubtless, Obamacare is far better than what we had before – but it might have been much better. As Bernie would say, “Just sayin’…”

H.pngAs for Bernie’s online legions, I’m often disappointed to hear shallow attacks on Hillary that betray a startling lack of historical knowledge. The worst of these is the constant charge that Hillary is a member of “the oligarchy” and therefore she can never truly represent progressive ideals and policies.

However, while it’s entirely appropriate to debate whether Bernie’s small-donor funded campaign makes him less beholden to special interests than Hillary’s financial support from Wall Street and big donors – it’s breathtaking historical naiveté to think that a member of the oligarchy cannot represent progressive, liberal interests.

1000509261001_1628429998001_BIO-Biography-13-World-Leaders-Franklin-D-Roosevelt-SFGet out your history books, Bernie-bots, and look up President Theodore Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

All three of these guys were members of the American oligarchy: born to very wealthy families, landed, connected, and raised in comfort and privilege. But what did they do?

GTY_theodore_roosevelt_sk_141229Teddy Roosevelt took on “the robber barons” of his time and broke up the Gilded Age corporate monopolies that dominated the American economy at the turn-of-the-century. They called this son of the oligarchy “The Trust Buster”.

In an economic situation much like that which led to the Great Recession of 2007, Teddy Roosevelt believed that Wall Street was acting unwisely. While greedy Wall Street financiers were living high off the hog, the working classes were getting the shaft. If cutting wages increased corporate profits — just do it! TR saw that this blatant exploitation of the masses could ignite a violent revolution: the kind that was roiling Europe. So in 1902, he launched an attack on the captains of industry, including JP Morgan, putting teeth into enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

1895155_origTeddy’s legendary battle against corporate greed and arrogance makes the 2010 Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act look very pale, indeed.

And then, of course, there was TR’s foundational work in environmental conservation and the growth of our great National Parks. Think he didn’t take on big mining, ranching and timber-cutting interests to preserve those awesome wilderness landscapes for the public?

78319-004-545F8CDD.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Q0DmgOlFcyFranklin Delano Roosevelt was also a member of the oligarchy. Both of his parents were members of wealthy old New York families on the social register – related by blood or marriage to 11 other former presidents: John Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, William H. Taft and, of course, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR’s fifth cousin. Now, that’s oligarchy for you.

fdr1But, did FDR’s wealth and connections make him the enemy of progressive values? Do I have to explain how he saved the nation after three successive Republican administrations drove America into the Great Depression? In that Herculean effort, FDR practically invented modern American liberalism with his New Deal – ambitious, progressive programs like the WPA, the Civilian Conservation Corps and that little thing called Social Security.

FDR was a Democratic giant, a champion of American progressive values – and a member of the oligarchy.

john-f-kennedyJFK was no FDR – but he was a progressive in his time, founding the Peace Corps and helping to advance the cause of civil rights and voting rights. Another son of great wealth and privilege, John F Kennedy may have been an oligarch, but he inspired a generation of young progressives – including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.Young B&H

So, let’s keep everything in perspective, my lefty compatriots. Keep your eyes on the electoral prize.

Douse the flame wars.Stop bashing

Let’s keep the contest for the Democratic nomination honest and respectful — with an informed appreciation for the role of liberal values in American politics, past, present and future.

At some point this summer, we’ll all need to come together.

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President Obama Shreds the Pundits.

121012_barack_obama_speaks_ap_328Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 1.25.45 PMPresident Obama made the following remarks at a recent fundraiser, calling out the false equivalency narratives spun by the insufferable, Beltway-blinkered poobahs of the pundit class. He should continue to say these things publicly and emphatically – just like Harry Truman would have – all the way up to the mid-term elections.

“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible.  And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. 

“But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. 

mitch-mcconnell“We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

john-boehner-sequester“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.

“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side. 

Barack Obama by Nitin Vadukul for Newsweek - 12/20/2004“There are no radical proposals coming out from the left.  When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy.  When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism.  We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…

“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago.  We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…

“Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system.  All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.

paul_ryan_s640x427“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true.  What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”

Now, I wish the mainstream Democratic Party position on climate change was more radical – and I don’t like hearing President Obama extolling an “all of the above” strategy, especially if that means we all get “fracked” in the process.

20090805_nancy-pelosi_33But, let there be no doubt. Progressives must get out the vote this fall. The only answer to our broken Congress is a Senate controlled by Democrats – and a House of Representatives in which Nancy Pelosi once again holds the gavel. Important issues like climate change, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, Wall Street reform and income inequality will never be addressed while Republicans are in a position to obstruct positive change.

clearly-john-boehner-wrote-this-press-release-before-the-jobs-report-came-outThen, in 2016, we must work to keep a Democrat in the White House – because our endangered democracy can’t afford another religiously biased, corporate stooge conservative on The Supreme Court.

But first – we’ve got to get that oversized gavel out of John Boehner’s hands.mitch-mcconnell1-e1365549079396

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The State of the Union Speech President Obama Can’t Give. Alas.

Fantasy state-of-the-union-speech.Tomorrow evening, January 28, 2014, President Barack Obama will stand before a special joint session of Congress to present the Constitutionally mandated State of the Union Address. As President Obama is a wise and circumspect orator, a skilled politician and a naturally conciliatory person, he will probably not give the kind of speech millions of progressives, liberals and Democrats would love to hear him give.

Barack ObamaWe will certainly hear a speech that will thrill us at times with ardent, engaging calls for tolerance, cooperation, hope and determination in confronting the many daunting challenges our nation faces in this turbulent age of promise and peril.

According to all the pre-speech hype from the TV talking heads, we are led to expect a “feisty” President to lay out an agenda that relies more on executive action than Congressional legislation. Confronted by historic levels of obstruction and inaction by the opposition party, particularly by the Republican majority in the House, Obama has little choice than to try to make progress on his own this year. Yet, I don’t expect him to be completely candid about why he has encountered so much Republican resistance.

In fact, there will be some large elephants in the room that will likely go unaddressed.

esq-obama-truman-2012-xlgThat’s because, as our country’s first black President, while Obama may be allowed to strike a “feisty” note, he can’t afford to appear angry or defiant – though his opponents will surely label him such (and worse) regardless of his actual demeanor. There’s too large, vocal and virulent a sector of the U.S. electorate (and political class) that can’t tolerate the mixed-race son of a black African father and a white American mother bluntly lashing out against a “do-nothing Congress” as President “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry Truman famously did.

Southern blacks were forced to appear humble and deferential in the presence of whites in the Jim Crow South. And now, despite all the progress we’ve made since the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s, a black Leader of the Free World is still not free to get righteously indignant and tell it like it is.

OB-UI781_ChrisC_G_20120828232704Everyone – even many liberal wise men – agree that President Obama can’t appear to be an angry black man. (Of course, you can’t be an angry woman, either.) But the same politicos and pundits admire tough-talking, shoot-from-the-hip, white public officials from Governor Chris Christie to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It’s a clear, shameful double standard.

10121657-largeNow, let me be clear. Racial animus isn’t the only reason I don’t expect President Obama to give ‘em hell in his State of the Union speech. It’s clear by now that he’s a natural bridge-builder and consensus-seeker. Obama’s not the kind of populist firebrand that some on the left hoped he might be in 2008 when they heard the soaring rhetoric of his inspirational Hope and Change campaign. I believe he’s sincere about trying to encourage a less divisive political atmosphere.

But Obama can’t clap with one hand — and the GOP refuses to extend theirs.

alg-signing-jpgSo, mindful of the complex reasons that President Obama can’t give the speech I’d love to hear, please indulge me in a bit of political fantasy.

Just imagine that an impassioned Barack Obama wrote the following words in an off-the-top-of-his-head, get-it-off-his-chest first draft. Then, after reading it back to himself, the calm and cautious peacemaker President was about to get out his red pen and start to temper his words – when I got someone to distract him so I could steal this draft off his desk…

TEXT OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S 2014 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

FIRST DRAFT

obama-2013-state-union-address_0Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans – including all you assault rifle-toting, Bible thumping, intolerant, government-hating folks and those of you who are still unable to get over the fact that I’m only half as white as the 43 Presidents who preceded me.

The state of our nation is nowhere near as good as it would be if my Republican opposition in Congress would actually do their job and work for the benefit of all Americans – instead of misleading their less educated, bigoted and utterly confused “low information” supporters into voting against their own economic interests by flogging hot button social issues like abortion and gay marriage while pursuing economic policies that favor corporations and the wealthiest one percent over the interests of the vast majority of middle class and working class Americans – let alone the neediest among us.

obama-state-of-union-preview-2013-620x432In the Gospels, Jesus talked a lot about how “it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” And he was always trying to help the poor and the sick and those oppressed. Somehow, I don’t think that Jesus would be trying to balance the budget by kicking needy families with children off food stamps – or denying unemployment insurance to working families during a hard, cold winter. Yet that’s what these supposedly Jesus-loving conservatives in the GOP – especially that wacko Tea Party bunch – are always pushing us to do.

In order to avoid a second, economy-damaging government shutdown, Democrats in Congress – and this President – were forced to ignore the explicit teachings of Jesus and take food out of the mouths of babies and deny much-needed help to workers who find themselves out of a job through no fault of their own. (And folks, these unemployed workers PAID into the system for years to make sure they were insured against an economic downturn.)

President-congressional-GOP-square-off-4GSSNDD-x-largeI want to particularly acknowledge the hard, flinty heart of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. If there’s a working man or woman in Kenosha, Racine or Walworth Counties who is still supporting Paul Ryan, I have no idea why. Wake up, folks! Look at the guy’s record. He’s all about corporations getting all the breaks, the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer – and the middle class footing the bill.

And what’s with that hair? Is he an Eddie Munster fan or what?

Sorry, Paul, just kidding — about the hair. The rest is, as Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, “just the facts.” You don’t remember Dragnet, Paul? It was on TV around the same time as The Munsters.

Now, I wish I didn’t have to talk like this. I’m a nice guy by nature. I encourage people to get along, and I think we can best solve our problems and meet the challenges we face through consensus building and common effort.

U.S. President Barack Obama Delivers State Of The Union AddressBut I’ve tried bipartisanship and compromise – and Republicans just won’t take “yes” for an answer. Let’s take Health Reform, for instance. Many in my party are in favor of the type of government-run, single-payer health care system that’s been successful throughout Europe and Canada. Barring that, many progressives hoped for at least a so-called “public option” – but what did I do?

What did the President that conservatives and Tea Baggers openly excoriate as everything from Stalin to Hitler to Mao — and as both a communist and a fascist do? Did I propose the Big Government system that the majority of my party wanted? No, I didn’t. Instead, I compromised by adopting an idea that was the brainchild of conservatives: the individual mandate. I took a huge political hit within my progressive base to seek a deal that would extend affordable health care to millions of uninsured Americans. And I did it by promoting a Republican idea.

21fd5639-6c8d-41a2-89ae-86f494ae73cbSo, how did Republicans respond to my bipartisan approach? Did they appreciate the political courage it took to disappoint so many Democrats and progressive independents in the pursuit of the greater good?

In the words of House Speaker John Boehner — “Hell no!”

My reward from the opposition party – that’s you, you Republicans and Tea Baggers — has been nothing but a constant shit storm of misinformation, vilification and obstruction – including that needless government shutdown.

And please don’t tell me that Democrats and Republicans play the game the same way — because the level of obstruction I’ve endured at the hands of the right wing in Congress is historic.

The truth is that there’s no historical precedent for the number of cabinet-level nominees that have been blocked or delayed by Republicans during my administration. Let me emphasize, my fellow Americans: this has never happened before.

chuck_hagelRepublicans in the Senate even filibustered my nomination of a Republican Vietnam War hero and former Senator, Chuck Hagel. In fact, Chuck was the first Defense Secretary candidate ever filibustered. Again, I reached out in a nonpartisan way – and got smacked in the face for doing it. But it’s not that I was hurt – it’s that America suffered from a needlessly slow and combative process in filling a job that’s vital to our national security.

Lately, Republicans have filibustered nearly every one of my Cabinet appointments. Guys, this is my team we’re taking about. A President gets to name his own team. Advise and consent. That’s your job, Senators. And, frankly, I’ve had enough of the “advise” and not enough “consent”.

2013-02-13-08_p021213ps1100sotuMy judicial nominees are also getting the shaft. They’re waiting exceptionally long periods to be confirmed. The average wait for circuit and district judges while I’ve been in the White House has been 227 days, compared with 175 days under President Bush. I’ve got one appellate judge who waited a year for her nomination to be voted on.

There have always been filibusters in the U.S. Senate, but they were rare.  Before 1960, there were only four times in U.S. history when Senators of one party had to muster a 60-vote super majority to end a filibuster. My so-called “loyal opposition” has used the tactic far more than ever before. Since 2007, the Senate Historical Office has recorded that Democrats have had to end Republican filibusters more than 360 times — an all-time record of which nobody should be proud.

This is not business as usual, my fellow Americans.

Mitch McConnell, John Thune, John BarrassoDuring the legislative fights to pass the landmark Civil Rights bills of the early 1960′s, the filibuster became a weapon used by the bigots opposed to ending segregation. Still, even in those charged and turbulent times, filibusters were rare — and the Senators had to take the floor and keep the floor by talking hour after hour. Today, Mitch McConnell (that turtle-looking guy with the grumpy face sitting on the Republican side of the aisle) just tells the Democratic Majority Leader that no GOP Senators are willing to allow a vote – or even a debate – on an issue. It’s filibuster by default.

Lately, Majority Leader Harry Reid has implemented some reforms that have unclogged the Congressional constipation regarding my nominees. Thanks, Harry. What the hell took you so long?

budget-battle.jpeg35-1280x960I know you were trying to be collegial. I understand. I’ve tried to be that guy, too. But enough’s enough, right? Glad you finally gave ’em hell, Harry.

So, why is it that Republicans aren’t willing to cooperate at all with my administration? Why did Majority Leader McConnell, the senior Senator from Kentucky, announce early in my tenure that his number one priority was to make me a one-term President?

why_mitch_mcconnell_is_worse_than_charles_rangel-1280x960Why wasn’t this eminent Republican leader’s first priority to improve the economy, repair our nation’s failing, outdated infrastructure and improve the lives of working Americans? Why was I his target?

I know I’m not supposed to say it – but sometimes I’ve got to wonder if that good old Southern boy just can’t allow himself to work side by side with a black President. Is that the problem, Mitch?

I’m just sayin’…

130212_obama_state_of_union_speaking_ap_605Look, America. This nation is not going backward. And I’m not going to give up. The arc of history bends toward freedom and tolerance – and the GOP must get on board and help us move forward into this new century – dealing with the problems of poverty and the obscene disparity of wealth in our nation, our global environmental crisis, the scourge of gun violence, malfeasance and amorality on Wall Street, and all the other issues that must be dealt with in order for America – and the world – to survive and grow in peace and prosperity.

But if my Republican friends continue to be the party of obstruction, intolerance and willful ignorance, they will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Starting with the mid-term elections later this year.

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union AddressI’m angry, America. I’m pissed. I’ve lost faith in the possibility of my Republican friends putting aside partisanship and idealogical extremism in favor of the general welfare. But I haven’t lost faith in you, my fellow Americans. I believe in the wisdom and goodness and tolerance of the vast majority of the American people who truly embrace the ideals our nation was founded on: freedom, equality and justice for all.

As President Abraham Lincoln said in his first Inaugural Address, at one of the gravest moments in our nation’s history:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Even you, Mitch.

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Filed under History, Politics

ObamaCare & Italy & Everything Else — Blog 2013: The Fourth Year In Review.

New Year'sObamacareitaly-banner-1 S&GFor my family and me, 2013 ended on an upbeat note with “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” — a raucous, sold-out celebration of comedy and rock & roll at 27 Live in Evanston, Illinois. The weather was bitterly cold but there was a delightful, enveloping warmth in our comic camaraderie with longtime friends, bandmates, fellow Northwestern University alums and members of The Practical Theatre Company.

P&EvaI even got to sing duets with my college roommate and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall (as Simon & Garfunkel, above) — and with my daughter, Eva.

We closed the evening with two spirited sets by Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, the band I’ve been playing with since the early 1980’s. There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than by rocking with your best buddies. All in all, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.

suess-graphic-cruz26nI’ll be candid. For some reason, 2013 was not a very prolific year for this blog. I don’t know whether it was the fact that the excitement of the 2012 Presidential election gave way to Congressional constipation courtesy of the recalcitrant, reactionary Tea Party bloc in the House of Reps — or that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act led to the dispiriting madness of the government shutdown. I managed to get off a few broadsides skewering the likes of Senator Ted Cruz (Tea Party, TX) — but the I should have written more in defense of President Obama and progressive politics. (Though my most commented-on post in 2013 was President Obama Goes to War.) Still, I resolve to do a better job of blogging on politics in 2014.

ItalyBThe highlight of 2013 was our family’s two-week trip to Italy and the provinces of Tuscany and Umbria in August. I tried to sum up the experience in an article entitled, Our Italian Adventure. I could easily have written a series of blog posts on each of the beautiful cities and towns we visited, the artwork we saw, the food we ate, and the people we met — but I stuffed the whole, glorious journey into one account. To make amends to my readers I promise that, before too long, I will post a link to the movie we shot on the grounds of Camporsevoli. Stay tuned…

2013 was the fourth year for this blog — and here are the year’s vital signs:

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted 164,472 views since it began four years ago. There were 34,572 visits in 2013. I’ve posted 299 articles since this blog began. This post is #3oo: certainly a notable milestone.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I am honored that 147 subscribers have now signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 43 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

The search terms that readers used most to find this blog were “Pearl Harbor”, “Occupy Wall Street”, “trial by jury”, “Bill of Rights” and “Pickett’s Charge”. And these are the posts that readers were most attracted to this year…

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2013.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower.

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution and it’s become one of the most-read posts in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day. Unlike the Pearl Harbor post, I haven’t re-posted this article every year — but readers still find it. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.” The shootings at Kent State should never be forgotten.

4. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

singerbanner1

There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

5. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

Though we didn’t hear much about it in 2013,  the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011. This post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of foolish, immature anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response? Without Occupy Wall Street, would the concept of the 99% and 1% have ever entered the Zeitgeist?

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan. In 2013, I write another book report on an excellent World War Two account, The Day of Battle, about the campaign to liberate Italy. A few weeks after I wrote that post, my family visited the American cemetery in Tuscany and paid our respects to the soldiers whose valor, sacrifice and victory are recounted in Rick Atkinson’s fine book.

7. LeBron: The King Moves Onlebron-banner-2

As a Cleveland native, I’ve often been asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers several years ago — and my friends and co-workers are usually shocked that I’m not upset or indignant or jilted, etc. And while the blogosphere hardly needed one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I wrote this post on July 9, 2010 to explain that LeBron James didn’t owe me anything. He’s a professional basketball player who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. The two NBA championships he’s won in Miami since I wrote this post have given LeBron all the scoreboard he needs.

8. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

9. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, do a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew”. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

10. The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins raceheader

This post recounted a sailboat race held on February 13, 2010.  It was a good thing that the race was being run the day before Valentine’s Day. Like golf, sailing is a sport that takes men out of the house for long stretches of time on the weekend. But sailboat racing is worse than golf because it’s never certain when you’ll be done. 18 holes of golf always take about the same amount of time to complete. The duration of a sailboat race depends upon the vagaries of the wind and conditions on the water. I don’t sail as much as I used to to — but I still love it. And I’ll continue to report on my sailing adventures in the new year.

So, that’s the best of 2013. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please keep posting your comments!

Here’s to another fine voyage in 2014!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was the #3 post in 2010. 24 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970

6. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

7. Growing Up in the Space Age

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

9. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Classics all. Can I retire now?

10. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and the Civil War Sesquicentennial is likely the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, first posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

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Filed under Adventure, Art, Comedy, History, Politics, Sailing, Sports, Travel