Saturday, March 31, 2007


The Resurrection of Newt

He's not even announced he'll run yet. Just the same, folks on the Right are practically tripping and falling over each other to see who'll be the first to cast a presidential ballot for Newt Gingrich.

It's amazing to me that Gingrich, who left office under a cloud of shame in 1998, presumably never to be heard from again, has been resurrected as the next great hope to revitalize a moribund Reagan Revolution. I've watched this coming slowly, year by year. It started sometime around 2000 when he began cautiously rearing his head on the Sunday morning talk circuit. Apparently he was feeling his oats enough by Sept. 12, 2001, to boldly ascribe blame for the previous days' events on President Clinton, who had already been out of office nine months. Since then, he's become a fixture on the punditry circuit. His reinvention has been complete, it appears, as he poses as some sort of wise elder statesman, not the repugnant and foul ideologue who as speaker of the House ruled our nation as a twisted prime minister.

Since the Right, ever a crew of revisionists, seems to once again be reinventing history to suit its political agenda and get its man into the White House, let's revisit Newt's salad days, circa 1992-1998, and recall what sort of man he was in his prime and what we could expect from him as president.

* By his own admission, Newt is an adulterer and an incredibly hypocritical one at that. At the very same time he was leading impeachment proceedings agains President Clinton for lying about Monica Lewinsky, Newt was having an affair with his very own bimbo. That's old news from a few weeks ago. But it turns out that Newt is a serial adulterer not much different from Clinton. You can read all the salacious details here and here.

* We've heard the one about Newt presenting his first wife, Jackie, while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. The spinmeisters on the Right have insisted with great desperation that this never happened, but I'll just quote Jackie herself: "He walked out in the spring of 1980.... By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said, 'Daddy is downstairs. Could he come up?' When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from my surgery." Gingrich doesn't exactly deny, he just says he doesn't remember that. Not only that, but Jackie had to take Newt to court to get him to pay his fair share of household bills. These days Newt is on wife No. 3, a former Congressional aide, 20 years his junior, with whom he was having an affair during his marriage to wife No. 2.

* Newt, who led the charge against Democratic sleaze in 1994, spoke piously while mired in his own ick. Have we forgotten Newt's $4.5 million book deal with Harper Collins? The book publisher in question, which paid him the exhorbitant amount in 1994, was owned by Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing owner of the right-wing Fox and FoxNews channels. As coincidence has it, Murdoch also was facing some licensing issues at the time and was needing a little help from his friends in Congress.

* Then there was the GOPAC scandal. GOPAC was a political action committee that worked behind the scenes in a complex organization that Tom Delay would no doubt envy, designed to funnel taxpayers money into political organizations. For example, there was his charitable group designed to pay ghetto kids to read books, which actually was used to funnel contributions to his operatives. This was the last straw in a series of ethical breaches for which Newt was forced to resign from his speakership in 1998. How soon we forget all this.

* You remember the House banking scandal, don't you? Blame for that largely fell on Democrats (with a lot of justification), leading to their 1994 demise. What you may have forgotten or not even have known in the first place is that Newt bounced 22 checks himself.

Let's put aside this illusion once and for all that ideologues on the Right really care much about ethics and morality. This is all about power and an agenda in which questionable ends justify rotten means, and Newt Gingrich is just the latest example.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


A booming economy for some, perhaps

We read in this morning's New York Times that the income gap become rich and poor continues to widen exponentially. Collectively, the top 300,000 income earners in our country earned as much in 2005 as those residing in the bottom 150 million. The analysis concludes that on average, the top group earned 440 times as much as the bottom group. Also those top earners' incomes rose about 9 percent, on average, or an increase of $139,000. Meanwhile, those at the "bottom," which includes much of the middle class, saw their incomes drop an average .6 percent or $172.

Meanwhile, we hear that Circuit City will lay off 3,400 workers, about 8.5 percent of its workforce, and replace them immediately with lower paid serfs. Those same laid-off workers are invited, however, to apply for these new lower-paid positions. These workers' were earning "well above the market-based salary range for their role," a company official said. Apparently, the $2,17 million in compensation that Circuit City CEO Philip J. Schoonover earns, according to, is just and fair.

To steal from Bob Dole, "Where's the outrage?"

Saturday, March 10, 2007


The moral facade further crumbles

A big thanks goes out to Newt Gingrich and James Dobson, who further reminded us this week that the Right is concerned about family values and Christian uprightness only when such highminded standards are applied to the likes of Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Applied to their only favorite sons, conservatives are surprisingly flexible and situational in their sense of morality and ethics.

Exhibit A is Newt Gingrich's admission this week that he was cheating on his wife, even while leading the charge to prosecute President Clinton for lying about his own marital infidelity. But of course, it's not hypocrisy, Newt insists. This time it's different. "The President of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting judge," Gingrich said, showing a lack of any remorse or self-awareness.

Indeed, Gingrich's interview with James Dobson on the evangelist/psychologist's "Focus on the Family" radio show apparently was a celebration of the swell guy that is Newt Gingrich. The website of Focus on the Family, which ironically champions healthy families and marriages, seemed to have no problem with Gingrich's infidelity. Oh sure, Dobson disapproves of such carrying on, but as I looked at the site's home page crowing about this interview, it was clear that Dobson and his group were quite forgiving and saw Gingrich as sufficiently repentant of his sins and still worthy of a run for the White House. In fact, the broadcast in which Gingrich admits to cheating on his wife is titled "Rediscovering Our Nation's Spiritual Heritage." Apparently, a philanderer like Gingrich is fit to lead us to such rediscovery. It all seemed more as a calculated effort to unload some baggage in a manner timely and expedient for a presidential run than it did an honest moment of self-reflection and remorse.

We won't even talk about Gingrich's two divorces and the shady book deal that led to his 1998 resignation in disgrace from his Speaker's chair. The Right is outraged about shady book deals only when it's Jim Wright's shady book deal in question. As for divorce, take a look at Sean Hannity, who was confronted yesterday by a caller who pointed out that this year's Republican candidates together have more divorces under their belts than those godless Democrats. "I guess I have more compassion than you," Hannity said to the caller, in a rare display of understanding and sympathy toward others. You see, divorce is a pardonable sin to conservatives, partly because so many of their candidates' marriages have failed, even multiple times in the cases of Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani. Also, research has shown us that evangelical Christians are more likely to divorce than followers of any other religious tradition, even atheists. So of course, the Christian Right has oddly flexible views on the sanctity of marriage, but only so long as it's their own marriages that are failing, not the marriages of liberals.

Let's now turn to right-wing hypocrisy Exhibit B, Scooter Libby. Gingrich, who this week restated his outrage over President Clinton's lies, is oddly silent over Libby's conviction for lying in the investigation over the Valerie Plame leaks. The conservative punditocracy was anything but silent, however, this week, engaging in nothing but excuse-making. Local wannabe cool guys Jamie Allman and Smash (You know you're trying too hard when you call yourself Smash) went into a long diatribe about Libby's conviction on their morning show on wingnut fave 97.1 Talk.

Allman, former TV weasle and St. Louis Archdiocese PR hack who turned out to be a bigger horse's ass than Archbishop Burke (who'd a-thought that possible?), quoted heavily from the repugnant Anne Coulter in one of her rants, in essence whining, You think Libby was bad, well what about these liberals? Folks, I teach fifth-graders, and they're famous for deflection, finger-pointing and excuse -making. With a 10-year-old, anything goes to take the focus off of Little Johnnie's bad behavior and put it anywhere else so Little Johnnie doesn't have to consider that he might really be a turd. I expect it from 10-year-olds, but to hear it from adults... Well, I stand corrected. Coulter is anything but adult.

Allman, quoting from Coulter, went at length about how we liberals were picking on OxyContin abuser and prescription shopper Rush Limbaugh, how that mean ol' Democrat prosecutor in Texas was persecuting Tom Delay, the accused money launderer, political boss and friend of Jack Abramoff (Oh wait, I forgot, Delay is truly a fine Christian because his heart bleeds for Terri Schiavo). Allman even wanted to know why Ted Kennedy got a pass for Chappaquiddick. He must really have had to stretch if he's looking back to 1969 for ammo.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong. I'm sure liberals themselves have been plenty hypocritical. I've tried to avoid that here. I've declared my distaste for Clinton's poor morality on this blog many times. Back in 1994, I found myself eating plenty of crow and admitting that the Democrats deserved their terrible defeat for its years of corruption and power-mongering If I make an excuse for a liberal, I'll make sure it's a valid one, not just a gratuitous deflection because I'm not man enough to admit that my side is wrong.

And many conservatives are quick to show the same forthrightness and honesty - just not their leadership, which faces sad times. All their high-minded rhetoric has crumbled, a badly built facade turning to dust. In the end, many of these politicians and pundits show themselves as transparent and hollow. Ralph Reed was a greedy power-broker intent on defrauding Indian tribes. Ted Haggard was a meth-head with a taste for male prostitutes. I could go on. I'm truly sorry for the millions of sincere Christians taken in by these hucksters. It all sounded so good. The church was coming take over Washington. But in end, Washington took over the church, and we have nothing left but excuses. And boy, do we keep hearing excuses.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


The yahoos and rednecks win yet again

Give us your poor
Your tired
Your huddled masses
We'll piss on 'em
That's what your statue of bigotry says
- Lou Reed

I just finished reading an interview in the Riverfront Times, St. Louis' uneven attempt at alternative journalism, with Valley Park Mayor Jeffrey Whitteaker, who defends - hell, revels - in his hardline stance against illegal immigrants in his community. Whitteaker, who came out of nowhere last summer to champion a city ordinance to run out all the Mexicans, makes no bones about his feelings regarding the Great American Melting Pot:

"You got one guy and his wife that settle down here, have a couple kids, and before long you have Cousin Puerto Rico and Taco Whoever moving in," Whitteaker says in his profanity-laced interview. "They say it's their cousins, but I don't really think they're all related. You see fifteen cars in front of one house — that's pretty suspicious."

Some will say Whitteaker shows the guts to say what everyone else is thinking. He's certainly in good company these days. Michael Savage, railing on the subject last week on his show, blamed America's problems on the "Turd World," declaring, that these people are taking America "from the Metlting Pot to the Chamber Pot." Neal Bortz, neglecting to cite the slightest attribution, said that illegal immigrants murdered more Americans last year than the total number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks.

OK, then, let's talk immigration.

First of all, here's how I feel about the matter. Illegal immigration is a danger to our national security and places a strain on social services. Our federal government's refusal to do much about it for the past 30 years serves as the ultimate deriliction of our government's most basic responsibility. Nobody should cross our borders and live illegally in our country, and I'm all in favor of stopping people from doing just that. We certainly have the right to decide who comes and goes from this country, and I don't care what the politicians in Mexico say. Build the biggest damn wall from Brownsville to San Diego, and that will be just fine with me. Find and deport those living here illegally, and then once we've decided who does get to live here legally, let them know they should learn to speak English and integrate into our community.

So there. I share the same feelings as much of the rest of America. But I was hoping this would be a constructive national discussion filled with thoughtful conversation on how to balance the protection of the integrity of our borders with consideration for our nation's economic needs and a compassion for those from other places who simply wish a better life for their families.

But as usual, no such luck. The Jeffrey Whitteakers of America have once again won the day, drowning out any reasonable conversation with openly racist and xenophobic invective. We all know that such tendencies are sadly a natural part of the human psyche, and our society has worked hard to repress such speech. But increasingly it's OK once again to hate foreigners and immigrants, and I wonder how long it will be before this mutates into a hatred of anyone with brown skin, regardless of immigration status.

You see, a discerning, rational person is able to comprehend the dangers of unchecked immigration and wish to do something very real about those dangers without signing off on a campaign of hatred and suspicion of people who look, act and talk differently from those of us in the majority. But not many among us wish to be discerning or rational. That's for wimps in an age of hardline, draconian, black-and-white get-toughness. Most folks would rather not consider that most people who illegally enter our countries are otherwise honest, law-abiding folks who weren't as lucky as we are to have been born here and who simply wish to live better lives.

Instead, the Whitteakers in our midst wish to lump these foreigners in with the small percentage of illegal immigrants involved in criminal activities. Law-breakers! the get-tough types proclaim, in an attempt to equate swimming across the Rio Grande with murder or robbery or any number of truly serious crimes. Such distinctions are unimportant to xenophobes as they provide the rationalization they need to strip immigrants of their humanity and any sense of empathy the rest of us might feel for them. Just like rational discourse, empathy is for wimps and liberal marshmallows. Real men hate their neighbor.

So congratulations to Jeffrey Whitteaker and his talk-radio buddies. Once again, a tremendous opportunity for substantive, positive change in our country has been squandered. Instead, facing the prospect of such hardline madness demanded by an increasingly vocal group of haters, Congress will back down on the issue and illegal immigration, a very real problem in our country, will again go unsolved.

It appears that the yahoos and rednecks have won yet again.

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