How Have We Come To This?

It has been clear for a long time that there is no statement, no deed, no effort by President Obama that the Republicans would applaud, or even acknowledge as worthwhile. But last week they cheered, en masse, America’s loss of it’s Olympic bid just because they saw it as an embarrassment to Obama. Today, they booed our President’s award of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

At what point do you just call it unAmerican? Unpatriotic? Shameful? These people are an embarrassment to this country.

Democrats Poised to Blow It – Again

Will Rogers was fond of saying, “I belong to no organized party. I’m a Democrat.” I don’t know whether to take heart from the fact that the Democrats’ current lack of focus and direction is not a new phenomenon, or to be discouraged by the fact that they’ve been this undisciplined for at least eighty years. It doesn’t much matter, I guess.

medical-symbolWhat does matter is that the Democratic Party is setting the stage to squander, once more, an opportunity to pass the first real healthcare reform legislation since 1965. If this comes to pass, and reform fails yet again, history demonstrates that it will be another generation or more before the window opens again. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands more Americans will die simply due to lack of access to adequate healthcare. Nearly forty-five thousand lives a year will continue to be lost until we finally do something about it. And it will not be the fault of the Republicans.

The Republican Party, as an institution, has never favored healthcare reform. It doesn’t view healthcare as a right, and therefore sees no role in it for government. They managed to get it removed from Franklin Roosevelt’s original Social Security legislation in 1935. They defeated it again, in the late 1940s, when Harry Truman urged congress to mandate healthcare for all Americans. Finally, in 1965, Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law, and it was generally believed that they were just the first step to universal health coverage. The political and fiscal toll of Vietnam, however, squashed that possibility.

For twenty of the next twenty-four years, the Executive Branch was helmed by Republicans, and serious healthcare reform was not raised again until 1993, when Bill Clinton was elected President. The Republicans, along with their traditional allies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the American Medical Association, mustered all the money, pressure, propaganda, misinformation, half-truths, lies, and demagoguery they could bring to bear. Fear triumphed over reason, and healthcare reform was smothered in its crib. Lost for another sixteen years.

It was in this atmosphere, and with this history, that the Democratic Party sallied forth in 2009 on a quixotic quest to rally bipartisan support for major healthcare reform. In control of both houses of Congress, and the Executive Branch for the first time in fourteen years, and without the need for Republican votes, they have all but slain healthcare reform on the altar of bipartisanship. And it was completely unnecessary.

Because the Republicans see killing healthcare reform as crucial to embarrassing, and hopefully crippling, President Obama, there is no healthcare bill that will garner Republican support, even if they know for a certainty that it’s the best thing for America. Everything is secondary to diminishing Obama. Add to this the fact that most Republicans, like many Democrats, are financially beholden to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, there is no reason for anyone to expect Republican votes in favor of any healthcare reform that is not fully supported by the healthcare industry.

Everyone knew this, or should have known it, at the outset. The only thing achieved by catering to Republican demands was delay. Delay that gave opponents of reform time to raise the time-honored specters of “socialized medicine” and “government intrusion” and a few new ones, like “death panels.” And while all the typical Republican sleight-of-hand and fear mongering certainly hasn’t helped to advance the debate, it will not ultimately be what guts reform. The Democrats will accomplish this all by themselves.

Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has also accepted approximately 3.5 million dollars from insurance and other health industry contributors, almost three and a half times the amount accepted by the average senator. With the help of a handful of “Blue Dog” Democrats, his committee will be responsible for producing a healthcare reform bill that is little more than a huge gift basket to the healthcare industry. The elected senators and congressmen who are most opposed to real reform, Democrat or Republican, are the ones who have taken the most money from the industries that would be affected by it. Pardon my cynicism for seeing a connection.

The bill about to emerge from the Senate Finance Committee will leave millions of Americans still uninsured. It will subsidize some low income Americans, but not nearly everyone who cannot afford coverage. It will not include a public option for those who do not have and cannot afford coverage on the open market. It will not address the cost of premiums, or deductibles, or copayments, or care, or medications. The bill, in its present form, will not protect Americans with “preexisting conditions” and it will leave the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to continue business as usual at the expense of the American people.

The good news for Republicans in all of this is that they should retake control of one or more branches of the government, and rightfully so. The American people gave the Democrats large majorities in both houses, and the presidency, because the Republicans under George Bush and Dick Cheney had forfeited their right to govern. They had, as Americans saw it, done such a poor job that it was time to give the other side an opportunity to show what they could do.

When Republicans were in charge, they did what they wanted. All the whining and crying from Democrats didn’t even slow them down. Their attitude was, “We won. We’re the majority. Shut up and sit down.”

If the Democratic majority, with a Democratic president, cannot come together to produce the cornerstone legislation that was promised to the American people, and that a large majority of Americans still want and expect, then they will forfeit their right to govern. And they cannot blame the Republicans for the failure of healthcare reform. The Republicans were doing what they always do. Anyone who was surprised by it is a fool. It is up to the Democrats to ignore Republicans and do what they know is right. So far, they haven’t shown a willingness to do that. And if they can’t fix it, they will pay the price.

David Perkins

40 Years Ago the Flying Circus Came to Town

Forty years ago this week marked the launch of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on British television. The show was later picked up by the PBS station in Dallas, Texas, and eventually spread across the United States and the rest of the world. Television comedy was forever changed. The Parrot Sketch was not part of the first Python program, but is a longtime favorite of mine, and as such, is included below for your nostalgic pleasure.

Has A GOP Savior Stepped Forward?

Well, maybe it’s going to be Lindsey Graham, GOP senator from South Carolina, who will stand up and call out the “Four Horsemen.” Graham made news by saying what no other conservative Republican has wanted to say – the birthers are crazy. He also called them nuts. Should we hold out hope that this will spark a trend? Or, should we be taking bets on when he will apologize and “clarify” his remarks?

Presumably, Graham was including Lou Dobbs, who has been one of the birthers biggest allies, and was chastised by the president of CNN and told to drop the issue. Dobbs had also been called an embarrassment to CNN by present and former staffers over his support of the birthers.

Graham also called Glenn Beck a cynic, which is what you call someone like Beck who says things that might be called crazy, but when you’re making the money he is by doing it, you call it cynicism.

Here’s part of what Graham had to say at the “First Draft of History” conference sponsored by The Atlantic:

As for the fringe elements of the right (the birthers, for example) Graham said Republicans have to call them out — have to police their own ranks.

“We have to say that’s crazy,” Graham said when The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg asked him about the conspiracy theories that have sprung up on the right.

“So I’m here to tell you that those who think the president was born somewhere other than Hawaii are crazy. He’s not a Muslim. He’s a good man,” Graham said.

When asked how he communicates that sentiment to the conspiracy theorists themselves, Graham was blunt: “When I go to town-hall meetings, say, ‘You’re crazy.’ In a respectful way”–a comment the audience seemed to enjoy….

Talk radio contributes to the right’s less constructive tones, Graham suggested, drawing a parallel between the conservative airwaves and the left’s When asked about Glenn Beck, the newest conservative-commentary phenom (though, as Graham noted, Beck isn’t necessarily a voice of the conservative clique, but rather his own beast), Graham said:

“Only in America can you make that much money crying…I mean, you know, what [do] I think about Rush Limbaugh? Well, I think he makes hundreds of millions of dollars being able to talk on the radio.”

But the real question, according to Graham, is: “how many people in my business are going to be controlled by what’s said on the radio or in a TV commercial … Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party as far as I can tell. He’s aligned with cynicism, and there’s always been a market for cynicism.”

According to CBS, “Graham lauded Mr. Obama for energizing young people and also engaging Hispanic voters, which he said Republicans had turned off with rhetoric on immigration ‘coming out of certain quarters of our party.’”

Thanks to:

Jay Bookman

Today – Only, You Know … Before

Mary-Hopkin-Those-Were-The-Da-61469On This Day –

1954, Elvis Presley released his second single on Sun Records, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” a song made popular in 1948 by Wynonie Harris.

1964, The Temptations begin recording “My Girl” which went on to be their first number one and the first of fifteen Top Ten hits.

1965, “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire topped the charts and stayed there for a week.

1967, The Beatles record “Fool On The Hill” in London at Abbey Road Studios.

1968, Welsh singer Mary Hopkin was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with “Those Were The Days.”  Hopkin had signed to The Beatles’ Apple label after appearing on the UK television talent show Opportunity Knocks.

1970, Ringo Starr releases his solo album “Beaucoups of Blues”

1970, the first episode of The Partridge Family premiered on television, featuring Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce.

Born On This Day –

1943, Gary Alexander, guitar, vocals, The Association, (1967 No.1 single ‘Windy’).

1945, Onnie Mcintyre, Average White Band, (1975  No.1 single ‘Pick Up The Pieces’).

1946, Jerry Penrod, bass player, Iron Butterfly. Their 17-minute  ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ became a Top 30 hit.

Died On This Day –

1980, John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin, died at age 32.

Something You Didn’t Know –

In 1967 the BBC banned The Beatles “I Am The Walrus” from any airplay on radio and TV, convinced the song contained a drug reference somewhere in the lyric. Wow, ya think?

Who Will Save The Republican Party?

With almost all Republican legislators, with any inclination toward statesmanship, having retired or planning to retire, who, in the Republican party, elected or not, will find the strength of character and the political courage to wrest control of the party from the clutches of the lunatic fringe and bring the debate, on the conservative side, back into the mainstream of what used to pass for civilized politics? The survival of a robust two party system depends on someone stepping up and risking his or her career.

While the Republican party is currently owned and operated by the four-man partnership of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity, there are legions of “junior partners” scattered throughout radio, television, and the blogosphere who follow them closely and repeat the day’s mantra with zeal and purpose. It is clear, however, that the CEO and President is Limbaugh himself. The agenda has less to do with improving the lot of the Republican party, or the American people, than it does with improving the ratings of the partnership. By keeping their listeners angry, fearful, and suspicious, ratings stay high and their positions as hate merchants to the far right remain secure.

Anyone who doubts Limbaugh’s power need only look at the handful of elected and appointed officials who dared disagree with him. On January 28, 2009, Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia had to take back his comments of the previous day, which mildly defended the Republican leadership against charges from Limbaugh that they were being too meek in dealing with the Democratic agenda. His statement of apology was filled with sycophantic praise for Limbaugh aimed at soothing the great one’s ruffled feathers, and assuring “grassroots conservatives” that he is one of them.

Then, on February 25th, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina commented in an interview that “anyone who wants the president to fail is an idiot, because it means we’re all in trouble.” While he did not apologize directly for his sin, he tap danced vigorously, and later that same day, issued a statement pretending that he had not known of Rush Limbaugh’s publicly declared hope that Obama would fail. He, as we would later learn, had bigger issues to apologize for.

Only three days later, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele opined on CNN that Rush was just an entertainer. “Incendiary” and “ugly,” for sure, but still only an entertainer. Two days later Steele, hat in hand, completely retracted his remarks in a telephone interview. It was an abject, embarrassing, on-air boot licking that sent Steele back to his post with his testes in a cigar box. And so the list goes on. Now, no elected Republican dares to cross one of the self-appointed guardians of true conservatism.

Sometime, within the next few weeks, we should see Bill O’Reilly revive his annual campaign against the bogus, but crowd-pleasing, war on Christmas. There is no war on Christmas but O’Reilly, who operates from the No Fact Zone, has never let that hamper his yearly rage against the “secular progressive agenda” whose main goal is to remove Christmas, Christianity, and spirituality from the public square. He rails against retailers who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and points to this as evidence of a vast secular conspiracy to kill Christmas. He knows this is not the case, of course, but it’s something to keep his followers outraged and distrustful throughout, what is supposed to be, a season of love and peace. You can’t let those anger muscles atrophy over the holiday season.

The trend toward “Happy Holidays” by retailers is simply the beloved free market at work. It is strictly a financial decision aimed at possibly broadening the holiday message to include all those folks who don’t celebrate Christmas. They’re trying to add to the Christmas honey pot, not kill it. They’d be insane to try to kill the one cash cow they have traditionally counted on for one-third to one-half of their yearly revenue.

The real zealots, who protest exposure to any religious symbols anywhere; Christmas trees, stars of David, crosses, and even Santa Claus, have always been there. They are not new. They are not a threat to religion or spirituality. And they are not the reason O’Reilly wages his yearly tilt at the secular progressive windmill. It’s just one of many a red herring in the fish tote of radical right broadcasting. They continually stoke the fear that something is about to be taken away from their loyal flock, and especially threatened are God and the Christian way of life. These people are cynical and deliberate vendors of anger, unrest, and hate that may one day turn into violence – for which they will shirk any culpability.

The idea that God and Christianity are endangered species in this country would be almost laughable if the Limbaugh “partnership” and its many allies didn’t keep the fear and anger attached to it so agitated. God has never been more omnipresent in American life, particularly in politics. We are the most religious of the western democracies, and over 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. There is no other modern industrial country on the planet where election to public office depends, not only on a public declaration of a belief in God, but an absolute oath that you are a Christian.

As often as it is repeated, as widely accepted as the idea is, and as much as some in our society want it to be true, The United States of America was not founded as a Christian nation, rooted in the Holy Bible. and based on Judaeo-Christian theology. It simply isn’t true, and this development in American politics goes against one of the most important tenets set down by the founders in the Constitution; No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The freedom to believe in and worship God is not in danger in this country. The freedom to believe in a non-Christian god or gods, or to believe in no god at all, is what is in danger. The founding fathers didn’t care if you sought spiritual comfort in the Holy Bible, the Torah, the Koran, or a John Deere manual. It has no bearing on one’s worth as a human being or one’s fitness for public office. God and Christianity are only under attack in the minds of some members of the fundamentalist Christian right, and those who would seek to keep them angry and afraid.

I know. I’ll report to the stake, matches in hand, as soon as I’ve finished writing this post.

So, that brings me back to my original question. While Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, and Hannity, the self-appointed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, carry on in the proud tradition of Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, Cleon Skousen, and the John Birchers, where is our modern day Joseph Welch, or Ed Murrow, or William F. Buckley, Jr?  Who will rise up to call these demagogues out, to label them for what they are, and tell rank-in-file Republicans and conservatives that these men preach false values and seek to capitalize on manufactured fears? The party can well afford to lose the 10% on the lunatic fringe that this would cost them, and they’d be better for it. They could then begin again to attract the millions of Americans lost to the Ind and Dem columns as a result of surrendering the party to its most extreme elements.

Frank Schaeffer recently said, “A village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.” In this case, Limbaugh, Beck, et al. is the village idiot, and the Republicans have completely rearranged the party agenda to accommodate them. It’s as if the Democrats were bending over backward to please Lyndon LaRouche. If someone doesn’t step forward soon to strip Limbaugh and his partners of their control, the Party of Lincoln will continue to shrink until it is a tiny, all white, all southern, shadow of its former self. And that would be a tragedy for the American political system.

David Perkins

How To Stalk Your Kid At College

If you’d like to keep an eye on your son’s or daughter’s every move while they’re away at college, here’s the advice you’ve been looking for. Caution: May be harmful to your relationship with your offspring.

Who Changed Glenn Beck’s Life?

If you’d like to know more about where Glenn Beck’s current conspiratorial political philosophy came from, meet Cleon Skousen, a fascinating revisionist historian who wrote the bible on which Glenn Beck rests his sociopolitical soul. The article below is excerpted from

Meet the man who changed Glenn Beck’s life

Cleon Skousen was a right-wing crank whom even conservatives despised. Then Beck discovered him

By Alexander Zaitchik

Sept. 16, 2009 | On Saturday, I spent the afternoon with America’s new breed of angry conservative. Up to 75,000 protesters had gathered in Washington on Sept. 12, the day after the eighth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, sporting the now familiar tea-bagger accoutrements of “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirts, Revolutionary War outfits and Obama-the-Joker placards. The male-skewing, nearly all-white throng had come to denounce the president and what they believe is his communist-fascist agenda.

Even if the turnout wasn’t the 2 million that some conservatives tried, briefly, to claim, it was still enough to fill the streets near the Capitol. It was also ample testament to the strength of a certain strain of right-wing populist rage and the talking head who has harnessed it. The masses were summoned by Glenn Beck, Fox News host and organizer of the 912 Project, the civic initiative he pulled together six months ago to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell.

In reality, however, the so-called 912ers were summoned to D.C. by the man who changed Beck’s life, and that helps explain why the movement is not the nonpartisan lovefest that Beck first sold on air with his trademark tears. Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite “death panel” wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing “socialism.” In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Beck’s favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, “The 5,000 Year Leap.” A once-famous anti-communist “historian,” Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and ……

Read this article in its entirety at

Dear Austin – A Letter To My Son

It comes to pass, in every parent’s life, that a child will begin preparations to leave home. Some will be off to college, some will go to the military or other national service, and many will just strike out to seek their fortunes in whatever field has captured their imagination.

It’s at this moment, when the preparation begins, that most parents will realize that all those heart-to-heart talks they always intended to have with their offspring somehow never took place. Or, at the very least, that many of them managed to slip through the cracks. I blame basketball, but that’s my cop-out.

It was in this environment, of not-quite-panic, that I sat down at my computer to make up for missed opportunities. I had no idea what I was going to say to my son, but I knew I had to say something.

Learn more about: Dear Austin – A Letter To My Son

The Bush Economic Legacy

This new Census Bureau report, I’m sure, will be met with cries of, “You lie!” by disciples of the Bush-Cheney regime. After all, they haven’t let facts cloud their judgment up until now. And everyone knows you can’t trust government reports unless their findings are in your favor. Republicans in congress generally regard the U.S. Census Bureau as a fair and non-partisan agency. I’m sure the folks at Census will now be pilloried as lackeys of the Obama administration.

The article below, by Ron Brownstein, is reprinted here from the You can follow the included links to read, or participate in, the debate taking place on their blog.

David Perkins

Sep 11 2009, 10:41 am by Ronald Brownstein

Closing The Book On The Bush Legacy

Thursday’s annual Census Bureau report on income, poverty and access to health care-the Bureau’s principal report card on the well-being of average Americans-closes the books on the economic record of George W. Bush.

It’s not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride.

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country’s condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton’s two terms, often substantially.

The Census’ final report card on Bush’s record presents an intriguing backdrop to today’s economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama’s combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush’s two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.

Economists would cite many reasons why presidential terms are an imperfect frame for tracking economic trends. The business cycle doesn’t always follow the electoral cycle. A president’s economic record is heavily influenced by factors out of his control. Timing matters and so does good fortune.

But few would argue that national economic policy is irrelevant to economic outcomes. And rightly or wrongly, voters still judge presidents and their parties largely by the economy’s performance during their watch. In that assessment, few measures do more than the Census data to answer the threshold question of whether a president left the day to day economic conditions of average Americans better than he found it. If that’s the test, today’s report shows that Bush flunked on every relevant dimension-and not just because of the severe downturn that began last year.

Consider first the median income. When Bill Clinton left office after 2000, the median income-the income line around which half of households come in above, and half fall below-stood at $52,500 (measured in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars). When Bush left office after 2008, the median income had fallen to $50,303. That’s a decline of 4.2 per cent.

That leaves Bush with the dubious distinction of becoming the only president in recent history to preside over an income decline through two presidential terms, notes Lawrence Mishel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The median household income increased during the two terms of Clinton (by 14 per cent, as we’ll see in more detail below), Ronald Reagan (8.1 per cent), and Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (3.9 per cent). As Mishel notes, although the global recession decidedly deepened the hole-the percentage decline in the median income from 2007 to 2008 is the largest single year fall on record-average families were already worse off in 2007 than they were in 2000, a remarkable result through an entire business expansion. “What is phenomenal about the years under Bush is that through the entire business cycle from 2000 through 2007, even before this recession…working families were worse off at the end of the recovery, in the best of times during that period, than they were in 2000 before he took office,” Mishel says.

Bush’s record on poverty is equally bleak. When Clinton left office in 2000, the Census counted almost 31.6 million Americans living in poverty. When Bush left office in 2008, the number of poor Americans had jumped to 39.8 million (the largest number in absolute terms since 1960.) Under Bush, the number of people in poverty increased by over 8.2 million, or 26.1 per cent. Over two-thirds of that increase occurred before the economic collapse of 2008.

The trends were comparably daunting for children in poverty. When Clinton left office nearly 11.6 million children lived in poverty, according to the Census. When Bush left office that number had swelled to just under 14.1 million, an increase of more than 21 per cent.

The story is similar again for access to health care. When Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million. By the time Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 per cent.

The trends look the same when examining shares of the population that are poor or uninsured, rather than the absolute numbers in those groups. When Clinton left office in 2000 13.7 per cent of Americans were uninsured; when Bush left that number stood at 15.4 per cent. (Under Bush, the share of Americans who received health insurance through their employer declined every year of his presidency-from 64.2 per cent in 2000 to 58.5 per cent in 2008.)

When Clinton left the number of Americans in poverty stood at 11.3 per cent; when Bush left that had increased to 13.2 per cent. The poverty rate for children jumped from 16.2 per cent when Clinton left office to 19 per cent when Bush stepped down.

Every one of those measurements had moved in a positive direction under Clinton. The median income increased from $46,603 when George H.W. Bush left office in 1992 to $52,500 when Clinton left in 2000-an increase of 14 per cent. The number of Americans in poverty declined from 38 million when the elder Bush left office in 1992 to 31.6 million when Clinton stepped down-a decline of 6.4 million or 16.9 per cent. Not since the go-go years of the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations during the 1960s, which coincided with the launch of the Great Society, had the number of poor Americans declined as much over two presidential terms.

The number of children in poverty plummeted from 15.3 million when H.W. Bush left office in 1992 to 11.6 million when Clinton stepped down in 2000-a stunning decline of 24 per cent. (That was partly because welfare reform forced single mothers into the workforce at the precise moment they could take advantage of a growing economy. The percentage of female-headed households in poverty stunningly dropped from 39 per cent in 1992 to 28.5 per cent in 2000, still the lowest level for that group the Census has ever recorded. That number has now drifted back up to over 31 per cent.) The number of Americans without health insurance remained essentially stable during Clinton’s tenure, declining from 38.6 million when the elder Bush stepped down in 1992 to 38.4 million in 2000.

Looking at the trends by shares of the population, rather than absolute numbers, reinforces the story: The overall poverty rate and the poverty rate among children both declined sharply under Clinton, and the share of Americans without health insurance fell more modestly.

So the summary page on the economic experience of average Americans under the past two presidents would look like this:
Under Clinton, the median income increased 14 per cent. Under Bush it declined 4.2 per cent.

Under Clinton the total number of Americans in poverty declined 16.9 per cent; under Bush it increased 26.1 per cent.

Under Clinton the number of children in poverty declined 24.2 per cent; under Bush it increased by 21.4 per cent.

Under Clinton, the number of Americans without health insurance, remained essentially even (down six-tenths of one per cent); under Bush it increased by 20.6 per cent.
Adding Ronald Reagan’s record to the comparison fills in the picture from another angle.

Under Reagan, the median income grew, in contrast to both Bush the younger and Bush the elder. (The median income declined 3.2 per cent during the elder Bush’s single term.) When Reagan was done, the median income stood at $47, 614 (again in constant 2008 dollars), 8.1 per cent higher than when Jimmy Carter left office in 1980.

But despite that income growth, both overall and childhood poverty were higher when Reagan rode off into the sunset than when he arrived. The number of poor Americans increased from 29.3 million in 1980 to 31.7 million in 1988, an increase of 8.4 per cent. The number of children in poverty trended up from 11.5 million when Carter left to 12.5 million when Reagan stepped down, a comparable increase of 7.9 per cent. The total share of Americans in poverty didn’t change over Reagan’s eight years (at 13 per cent), but the share of children in poverty actually increased (from 18.3 to 19.5 per cent) despite the median income gains.
The past rarely settles debates about the future.

The fact that the economy performed significantly better for average families under Clinton than under the elder or younger Bush or Ronald Reagan doesn’t conclusively answer how the country should proceed now. Obama isn’t replicating the Clinton economic strategy (which increased federal spending in areas like education and research much more modestly, and placed greater emphasis on deficit reduction-to the point of increasing taxes in his first term). Nor has anyone suggested that it would make sense to reprise that approach in today’s conditions. But at the least, the wretched two-term record compiled by the younger Bush on income, poverty and access to health care should compel Republicans to answer a straightforward question: if tax cuts are truly the best means to stimulate broadly shared prosperity, why did the Bush years yield such disastrous results for American families on these core measures of economic well being?

–National Journal researcher Cameron Joseph contributed.

To follow the online debate at the Atlantic, click this link: Bush Legacy Report

I Am A Proud Texan

When I was about ten years old, I was having a conversation with my grandfather about all the wondrous places I would visit when I grew up. I talked, in particular, about Australia and told him that I might even move there. Other than kangaroos and koalas, I’m sure I knew nothing about Australia. But, I was gonna live there.

Texas-flagHe thought about this for a moment, as he sucked on his pipe. We sat in a wooden park bench type swing that hung by two chains from the ceiling of his front porch. This is where he came every afternoon to smoke his pipe and to heckle passersby on the sidewalk. Finally, after he’d analyzed my announcement over a few draws on the pipe, he said, “Mike,” (back then I was still called Mike) “you’re a Texan.”

“I know.” I said, wondering what this had to do with our discussion. “Well,” he continued, “you’re a Texan and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.” He puffed on the pipe a little more. “Now, you can go to Australia if you want to. And you can even stay there. Live there for the rest of your life. But if you do, and even if you live to be a hundred, when somebody asks you where home is, you’ll still say Texas.” He could see that I didn’t really understand. “Now, I can’t tell you why that’s true,” he said, “only that it is.”

Well, Bampa was right. At first glance, it doesn’t make much sense that he was right. Thirty-four of my sixty years have been spent in California. My personal history has been written mostly outside of Texas. But my tribal history, my ancestral history, going all the way back to 1836, is in Texas. Almost all of the places in this world that I revere are in Texas. When I meet another Texan, in any part of the world, we are instantly kindred. And when asked where I’m from, I still say “Texas.” And so, in that light, my grandfather wasn’t really the whacked-out old coot that I thought he was on that day, fifty years ago.

Texans, in exile or not, take Texas personally. We indulge in unearned glory when a fellow Texan accomplishes something good, or when some great event takes place in Texas. More so, I think, than citizens of other states, and I’m no exception. When we’re dismissed by the uninformed as crackers and rednecks, I hasten to point out that Texas has produced Nobel laureates, presidents, astronauts, renowned writers and thinkers, musicians and composers, scientists and statesmen. And, of course, the multiple Super Bowl winning Dallas Cowboys. I name names. I cite dates. And I point out these things as if they are somehow proof that I’m not a redneck. Insecurity anyone?

Conversely, when some uncommonly abhorrent thing happens in Texas, or is committed by a Texan, we all feel the weight of it. In 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy, there was outrage and despair throughout the country and the world. But nowhere was the pain more sharply felt than in Texas. It is a stain on our legacy that will live as long as the heroics at the Alamo.

In 1998, when James Byrd, Jr. was dragged to his death by chains behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, we again found ourselves in the same ugly spotlight. That this could happen at the dawn of the twenty-first century was a shock. That it happened in the United States was a national humiliation. That it had taken place in Texas made my heart ache.

Now, there are a handful of preachers, none from Texas as far as I know, praying for the death of Barack Obama. These are men of God, ordained ministers in the Southern Baptist Convention praying for, and urging their congregations to pray for, The President of the United States to “get brain cancer and die, and go to hell.” These loathsome appeals are being echoed from pockets of the lunatic fringe everywhere, some even from Texas.

I confess that I am not a “person of faith” and I’m certainly no biblical scholar. But I’ve still got a few snippets of vacation bible school floating around on some small island of my brain, and I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of divine intervention Jesus would have led his congregation to pray for. And I have to ask, how is this different from any fatwa, issued by any ayatollah, that calls for a death as retribution for sins against Islam? Why is radical Christianity less scary to us than radical Islam?

Meanwhile, on the steps of the capitol in Austin, several hundred people gathered to assail the president as a socialist, a communist, a nazi and worse, and to demand that Texas secede from the United States. As their justification, they perverted the U.S. Constitution and the Holy Bible into a twisted and unintelligible rationalization that should make Texans and Christians everywhere cringe. While I know it appears that I’m conflating these two issues, I realize they are separate. It does seem, however, that they encompass many, though not all, of the same people.

I guess my question about all of this is; where is the outrage? Why aren’t we disgusted, or at least angry. Remember 2003, when Natalie Maines told a concert audience that she was “embarrassed” by George W. Bush? We were shocked, revolted, and appalled. This was the President of the United States she was talking about, and you just don’t do that! Never mind that an entire cottage industry had sprung up, during the previous presidency, dedicated solely to the hourly bashing of the democratically elected president.

We held rallies. We burned tapes and CDs. We flooded radio stations with phone calls and threatened boycotts. We bombarded the Dixie Chicks with hate mail and death threats. We unleashed the demagogues of right wing talk radio to smite them down, and we would be satisfied with nothing less than the de facto end of their careers. We hadn’t seen so much shit hit the fan since John Lennon compared the Beatles to Christ! And we would not rest easy until we had taken their livelihood away from them. Then, we heaved a collective sigh of relief, and basked in the glow of a job well done. The irony here, of course, is it only took another year or two before most of us were embarrassed by George W. Bush.

So, now that we have members of a mainstream Christian religion praying for the death of the president, and angry mobs threatening violence, if necessary, to gain independence for Texas as a sovereign republic, where is our outrage? The strongest response I’ve seen from the Southern Baptist Convention only says that this kind of thinking is outside the mainstream of their beliefs. That’s really good to know, but it’s hardly a condemnation, and the governor of Texas has embraced the right wing secessionist loons for fear of losing their votes. Where is our anger, or at the very least, our embarrassment?

If you’re a Baptist, you should be embarrassed by these people. If you’re a Christian, you should be embarrassed by these people. If you are a person of any faith, you should be embarrassed by these people. If you’re a person of conscience, if you’re a proud citizen of Texas, or of this country, or the world, you should be embarrassed by these people!

So, yes, Bampa turned out to be right. I’m a Texan, and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.
But I have to tell you, as a Texan, I’m embarrassed.

David Perkins

Obama The Charlatan

Well, I guess the outrage from the right wing was justified after all. The speech President Obama delivered to our school children today was clearly designed to plant the seeds of socialism, so that they may grow up to create the Peoples Republic of America, and end capitalism once and for all in this country. If you didn’t hear that in his speech, then you just weren’t paying attention. It was there. You just had to listen between the lines. He’s crafty, that Obama guy! He’s not fooling anyone with that “wash your hands” crap. Thank God for Glenn Beck.

Road Song: A Review

I’d never heard of Rob Ickes until hearing a snippet of Road Song on radio a few days ago. (Yes, some people still listen to radio.) Ickes is the long time dobro player for Blue Highway, a contemporary bluegrass group who’s work had also escaped my attention before now. Road Song is Ickes’ fifth solo release on the ResoRevolution label and is strikingly unconventional, at least as far as I’m concerned.

RoadSongWhen you think of instruments that might accompany a jazz piano, your mind doesn’t necessarily jump straight to the dobro. But that is Road Song in a nutshell; jazz for dobro and piano. In truth, Michael Alvey’s piano is the accompaniment here. While it is an almost equal collaboration, the dobro is the focus of this album. The only other addition to the mix is the voice of another artist I’d not heard of until now, RobinElla, who sings on three of the ten tunes included here. Her roots are also in country and bluegrass, but she brings a subtle Billie Hollidaylike touch to the ballads on this release. The other seven tunes are strictly dobro and piano, and they work beautifully together.

In fact, listening to this music strongly reminds me of the first collaboration between French jazz pianist Claude Bolling and classical flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who’s album Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio broke new musical ground in 1976 and stayed on the top of the charts for two years. While Road Song is not quite that profound, it is still a fresh and innovative treatment of a handful of jazz classics, and even an old Hank Williams song, You Win Again, which includes RobinElla’s vocal. The dobro, in place of guitar, on Wes Montgomery’s classic West Coast Blues, is a little disorienting at first but quickly feels right, and swings just as hard. The same goes for Duke Ellington’s Take The A Train. Rob Ickes clearly knows what he’s doing, no matter the genre.

I happen to be an avid jazz fan, but you don’t have to be to love this music. Something about the unusual juxtaposition of dobro and jazz piano takes it to a place that even non-fans will appreciate. While this is still jazz, to be sure, it’s crossover potential is ripe and it should have broad appeal outside the genre. This album is available as a CD or a download on Amazon, although the CD for this title has a 1 to 3 week shipping window. Do yourself a favor and sample a few tracks online. You’ll probably decide that it’s something you need in your library.

David Perkins

Gather Your Thoughts Beautifully

A new site is getting a lot of national attention for a new twist on a vintage theme; be kind to the planet. In the interest of full disclosure, the co-owner of Plum Journals (or co-plum, as she likes to call herself) is an old personal friend of mine, but that’s not why I’ve decided to give her site a plug. Besides, she hardly needs my help. I just happen to think it’s something visitors to this site might like to know about. I’ve also added it to my list of sites that I consider to be among the best, most interesting, and in this case, most eco-friendly uses of the web. I’ve put a link to Plum Journals under “Some of the Best Stuff”  in the panel to the right.

Plum Journal LogoSo, what is a Plum Journal? In a sentence, it provides an easy and attractive way to keep a journal, or diary if you prefer, right on the desktop of your computer. No paper (unless you choose to print it out) or pen required. Now, the truth is, you can keep a journal in the word processor of your choice. Why should you spend nine bucks to keep it in a Plum Journal?

Well, one look at the time and talent that went into the designs at Plum Journals will answer that question. They are beautiful. It’s the difference between writing in a college ruled spiral notebook and writing on fine linen stationery. There’s something tranquil about it. You don’t get the tactile pleasure that comes with fine stationery, but you don’t get that with Microsoft Word either.

Okay, another disclosure here; I don’t keep a journal. I’d like to. I’ve tried to. But I don’t have the discipline to keep an active journal. And an entry every three or four months falls more into the category of random note taking than journaling. But, if you keep a journal or a diary, or think you’d like to, and you’d love a beautiful and convenient way to do it, this could be for you. And depending on when you decide to give it a try, their free trial offer may still be going on. If not, what the hell, it’s only $8.95 if you pay full freight. Skip a double mocha latte one day. You’ll be a better person for it.

According to you can keep your Plum Journal on your computer desktop, or on a USB flash drive, making it completely portable from one computer to another. They are platform independant, which means you can use them on a Mac or a PC, and once downloaded, you don’t need internet access to use them.

They are a gorgeous, paperless, and “green” alternative to traditional paper journals and diaries. On your desktop, they have the same look and feel of a real book. The pages even turn! So if you love your planet, and you love to journal, give my friend, Karen, a visit at

David Perkins

Lies of Mass Destruction

If you’ve ever wondered why people tenaciously hold on to patently absurd beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a new study to be released in the September issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry documents a phenomenon called “motivated reasoning.” Sharon Begley of Newsweek explains in the following article.

Lies of Mass Destruction

by Sharon Begley, reprinted here from Newsweek (

The same skewed thinking that supports a Saddam-9/11 link explains the power of health-care myths.
By Sharon Begley | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Aug 25, 2009

Not being a complete idiot (contrary to the assertion of many readers I’ve been hearing from), I was not exactly surprised at the e-mails I got in response to my story analyzing why the myths about health-care reform—even the totally loony ones, like death panels—have gained such traction. One retired military officer called me “nothing more than an ‘Obama Zombie’ that has lost touch with reality,” while a housewife sweetly suggested that I sign up for “socialistic medicine” and die, the sooner the better. (My kids get upset when people wish me dead, but hey, they’ll survive.) But now I think I understand people who believe the health-care lies—and the Obama-was-born-in-Kenya lie—even better than when I wrote that piece.

Some people form and cling to false beliefs about health-care reform (or Obama’s citizenship) despite overwhelming evidence thanks to a mental phenomenon called motivated reasoning, says sociologist Steven Hoffman, visiting assistant professor at the University at Buffalo. “Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief,” he says, “people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.” And God knows, in the Internet age there is no dearth of sources to confirm even the most ludicrous claims (my favorite being that the moon landings were faked). “For the most part,” says Hoffman, “people completely ignore contrary information” and are able to “develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information.”

His conclusions arise from a study he and six colleagues conducted. They were looking at the well-known phenomenon of Americans believing that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Some people, mostly liberals, have blamed that on false information and innuendo spread by the Bush administration and its GOP allies (by former members of the Bush White House, too, as recently as this past March). (As Dick Cheney said in June, suspicion of a link “turned out not to be true.”) But the researchers think another force is at work. In a paper to be published in the September issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry(you have to subscribe to the journal to read the full paper, but the authors kindly posted it (on their Web site here), they argue that some Americans believe the Saddam-9/11 link because it “made sense of the administration’s decision to go to war against Iraq . . . [T]he fact of the war led to a search for a justification for it, which led them to infer the existence of ties between Iraq and 9/11,” they write.

For their study, the scientists whittled down surveys filled out by 246 voters, of whom 73 percent believed in a Saddam-9/11 link, to 49 believers who were willing to be interviewed at length in October 2004. Even after the 49 were shown newspaper articles reporting that the 9/11 Commission had not found any evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, and quoting President Bush himself denying it, 48 stuck to their guns: yup, Saddam Hussein, directly or indirectly, brought down the Twin Towers.

When the scientists asked the participants why they believed in the link, they offered many justifications. Five argued that Saddam supported terrorism generally, or that evidence of a link to 9/11 might yet emerge. These counterarguments are not entirely illogical. But almost everyone else offered some version of “I don’t know; I don’t know anything”—that is, outright confusion over the conflict between what they believed and what the facts showed—or switched subjects to the invasion of Iraq. As one put it, when asked about his Saddam-9/11 belief, “There is no doubt in my mind that if we did not deal with Saddam Hussein when we did, it was just a matter of time when we would have to deal with him.” In other words, holding fast to the Saddam-9/11 belief helped people make sense of the decision to go to war against Iraq.

“We refer to this as ‘inferred justification,'” says Hoffman. Inferred justification is a sort of backward chain of reasoning. You start with something you believe strongly (the invasion of Iraq was the right move) and work backward to find support for it (Saddam was behind 9/11). “For these voters,” says Hoffman, “the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.”

For an explanation of this behavior, look no further than the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance. This theory holds that when people are presented with information that contradicts preexisting beliefs, they try to relieve the cognitive tension one way or another. They process and respond to information defensively, for instance: their belief challenged by fact, they ignore the latter. They also accept and seek out confirming information but ignore, discredit the source of, or argue against contrary information, studies have shown.

Which brings us back to health-care reform—in particular, the apoplexy at town-hall meetings and the effectiveness of the lies being spread about health-care reform proposals. First of all, let’s remember that 59,934,814 voters cast their ballot for John McCain, so we can assume that tens of millions of Americans believe the wrong guy is in the White House. To justify that belief, they need to find evidence that he’s leading the country astray. What better evidence of that than to seize on the misinformation about Obama’s health-care reform ideas and believe that he wants to insure illegal aliens, for example, and give the Feds electronic access to doctors’ bank accounts?

Obama’s opponents also need to find evidence that their reading of him back in November was correct. They therefore seize on “confirmation” that he wants to, for instance, redistribute the wealth, as in his “spread the wealth around” remark to Joe the Plumber—finding such confirmation in the claims that health-care reform will do just that, redistributing health care from those who have it now to the 46 million currently uninsured. Similarly, they seize on anything that confirms the “socialist” label that got pinned on Obama during the campaign, or the pro-abortion label—anything to comfort themselves that they made the right choice last November.

There are legitimate, fact-based reasons to oppose health-care reform. But some of the loudest opposition is the result of confirmatory bias, cognitive dissonance, and other examples of mental processes that have gone off the rails.

Healthcare Reform is in Danger

Real health care reform is in danger right now because some Democratic senators like Montana’s Max Baucus crave “bipartisanship.” But in DC, “bipartisanship” doesn’t mean policies that Republican and Democratic voters back home support. It means “whatever watered-down reform insurance companies will let Republican senators vote for.”

Chuck Grassley, the main Senate Republican negotiator, has taken over $2.9 million from health and insurance interests that oppose reform. He’s also said he won’t support a public option because it would beat private insurance in the marketplace! So why are some Democrats still negotiating with Grassley and letting him water down reform — instead of going on offense? One word: “bipartisanship.”

According to a national Quinnipiac poll in August, 40% of Republicans and 64% of independents support the public option. In Iowa, the latest Des Moines Register poll showed 36% of Republicans and 56% of independents. For context, 36% of Senate Republicans would be 14 votes — huge “bipartisanship.”

Thanks to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee for the information in this post. You can learn more about their mission at

The Liars Win A Round

The noise, and the half-truths, and the lies have taken a toll on healthcare reform. The provision for medicare to reimbuse for the cost of creating a living will, or other end-of-life counseling, has been removed from the draft under consideration by the U.S. Senate soley because of the lies that twisted it into something it was not, a secret plan to kill off old people and the disabled in order to save medicare dollars.

Opponents of healthcare reform, on the right, deliberately and knowingly lied and misrepresented this provision in order to stoke fear and anger and opposition in the elderly and their families. None of them actually believe the bullshit they’ve been spreading, which makes their part in this even more despicable. It might be less offensive if they did believe it. At least then we could assume that they were just stupid, but too many of them have gone on record in the past, in support of advance directives and living wills, for us to genuinely believe that they are now afraid of the “possible consequences” of such documents.

In April of last year, then Governor Sarah Palin declared Healthcare Decisions Day in Alaska specifically for healthcare providers, nursing homes, hospice facilities, and doctors, to raise awareness in their elderly patients of the great benefits of having an advance directive on healthcare. She extolled the virtues of living wills, and urged everyone to avail themselves of this opportunity to learn more about them. You can even download the Alaska Advance Directive forms from the state website. Does Alaska have its own Death Panel?

Earlier this year, Newt Gingrich wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post praising the many benefits of advance directives for the elderly, noting that the most expensive care people generally receive was at the end of their lives, and that only by having a living will could patients be certain they would not receive medical measures that they did not want. He even estimated, in his article, that this could save medicare as much as 33 billion dollars a year. You think he was also including the savings realized by the involuntary “offing” of your grandmother?

Now, of course, what Saint Sarah of Wasilla was promoting last year has somehow morphed into government “death panels” and a part of a healthcare system that is “downright evil.” And former Speaker of the House, the Newt, has decided that we cannot be expected to “trust the government” just to pay for your doctor’s time without also coercing him to kill you for the greater good. These people will say whatever they think will get them the most press coverage, and the most mileage with their base, regardless of the truth, and regardless of whether or not they even believe what they’re saying. It makes Palin’s admonition to the press to “stop makin’ things up” even more ludicrous than we already knew it was.

I still have great hope for this country, and the prospect that we will acheive meaningful healthcare reform in this administration, but it will only happen if the congress and the administration finally give up the idea of bipartisan support. The negotiators for the Republicans, like Chuck Grassley, are not bargaining in good faith. They are only involved to slow down the process, and eventually kill it. They are not going to vote for any bill, regardless of how many of their watered down ideas are included in it. So we may as well move on without them.

Besides, when, over the previous eight years, did the Republicans give a damn about bipartisan support for anything they did. They did what they wanted. They were proud of it. And they did not apologize for the fact that it was one-sided rule. I think it’s time the Democrats took a page from that book.

David Perkins