Our “Horse & Carriage” Economy

Our “Horse & Carriage” Economy

Ted Folkert

June 21, 2014

Please sing along: “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage, this I tell you brother, you can’t have one without the other.”

You remember that song that Sinatra and many others sang to us all those years. Maybe we can get David Basse to sing it for us.

Well, I am not one to lecture on the subject of “love and marriage”, but I always think about the “horse and carriage” as I incessantly read articles and hear commentary about income and wealth inequality. Love and marriage and horse and carriage seem to apply here too. The facts are what they are. If too much of the income is being captured by too few and too much of the wealth is owned by too few, the economy doesn’t work very well. It doesn’t produce enough jobs and doesn’t provide enough spending to create and maintain needed jobs. “You can’t have one without the other.”

If everyone has a job that pays enough to meet the family needs of food, shelter and clothing and then has a little left over for some discretionary spending, then the economy works quite well. If such is not the case, then it doesn’t work very well. History exemplifies this quite clearly, as do our leading economists. (unless you read Ayn Rand or listen to Tex Crude).

Most of the commentary on this subject evolves into finger pointing, name calling and stereotyping, all if which doesn’t help to resolve the problem of income and wealth inequality. Those on the right side of political idealism tend to call those who are reliant on assistance, such as unemployment insurance or other safety net programs, lazy and irresponsible, leaches on society, the 48%.

Those who are on the left side of political idealism tend to call the rich and powerful the rich and powerful, self-indulgent, self-serving, blood suckers and other disrespectful names, such as the Kook Brothers. Well, anyone who tries to approach the subject of the working class with an open mind knows that none of these stereotypes truly define those on that side of the spectrum. I have employed many people over the last 40 some years, most on the lower end of the wage scale, some somewhat better off. I can’t remember anyone who I employed, worked with, interviewed or interacted with socially who didn’t want to work, earn their way, enough to take good care of their family.

I can’t remember anyone who simply wanted to depend upon social programs for their survival. Where is the dignity in such an existence? Of course, there are those who experienced so much rejection that they gave up and succumbed to a welfare existence, but I doubt if it was ever their first choice. And that would probably be our fault, not theirs.

And anyone who tries to approach the subject of the rich and powerful with an open mind knows that these stereotypes are not true in most cases. Those who worked hard or had good luck, those who were in the right place at the right time, who took advantage of the system, shouldn’t be labeled either. They too are misunderstood. I have had the pleasure of knowing many of them and have represented them in business dealings and managed their assets. They are not villainous, they wanted to grow and prosper and many of them did. They deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor and to pass on some wealth to their loved ones.

Some of the wealthy choose to pass on some of their wealth to make life better for those who haven’t been so fortunate, particularly some of those who have attained massive wealth, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros and many others. The problem is that they are not creating enough jobs to keep the economy growing. Perhaps growing the economy is no longer capable of improving the condition of the working class. As the economy grows now the increases in income and wealth seem to all rise to the top. This isn’t just because the rich and powerful are greedy, it has many reasons – automation, the global labor pool, global competition in technology, manufacturing, pricing. Some of the problem can be attributed to the rentier class and the investment funds who are taking a big bite out of that society since the vast home foreclosure debacle became a great investment opportunity for investors with unlimited funds available. Many families cannot afford or qualify for home buying and must rent. The rentiers increase the rent enormously all over the country. The renters have less money for discretionary spending, so few jobs are created and new jobs create low wages because most jobs created are low-skill jobs.

None of the economists or politicians seem to have a viable solution to the jobs and livable income problem without income and wealth distribution. Those with the power to legislate choose austerity over rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, which would create good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad. They choose austerity over unemployment benefits, education, job training and other working class benefits that would grow the economy.

We have choices. We can leave our negligent leaders in office or we can elect new ones. We can leave the taxation system of regression as it is or we can elect leaders who will correct it. Whatever we choose, things will not likely get much better and they will likely get worse unless we redistribute some of the massive wealth accumulated by the few and increase the taxation on income.

Then we can pay for the infrastructure rebuilding and education enhancements that are mandatory in improving the opportunities for the young.

Otherwise we will not have good jobs and we will not have a sustainable economy. It’s like love and marriage, they go together like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other.

Think about it!

Convince someone today to help us elect better leaders, please!




A hundred years older and deeper in debt

Ted Folkert

June 8, 2014 – one hundred years after the start of the war that never ends.

Today we recognize the 100th anniversary of the murder of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian empire, and his wife Sophie, by Gavrilo Princip, a 19 year old Serbian, in the streets of Sarajevo.

What do we call this – the shot heard round the world?

What did it start – the war to end all wars? Not hardly.

What was the result to our planet – senseless evaporation of the precious resources that this planet provides us, enabling humans to live here and survive? Sad, but true.

This reminds me of the song that Tennessee Ernie Ford wrote and Johnnie Cash and Frankie Lane others sang to us – “Sixteen Tons” – “Another day older and deeper in debt, Saint Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go …”. David Basse could sing that one too.

Now we are 100 years older,deeper in debt and we have consumed and still consume massive quantities of the earth’s precious resources to manufactures and consume war equipment and material – day after miserable day and year after miserable year.

And it continues to grow as more and more countries find it necessary to arm and kill in order to make each other behave. And what do we accomplish – control of human behavior? Not hardly. There are more armed conflicts going around this planet at any given time you can count or be aware of. And it never gets better, only worse. The result for the planet the massive consumption of limited resources for warfare, resources essential for the survival of human habitation, buy simultaneously, in their use, the destruction of the climate and food sources essential to sustain life on earth.

What have we learned? – Apparently, not much. We still arm and shoot, maim and kill each and every day and each and every year, for territory, for power, for religious beliefs, for resources, for pride, for nothing – “doing God’s work with a sword”, as they say.

You and I can’t change it. We can’t convince the people of the planet to stop killing each other. We can’t convince the people of the world to discontinue the senseless destruction of our limited resources and destruction of the climate and food supplies of the planet for power or territory or religious dominance.

But we can start by electing better leaders here in this country – leaders who want to lead instead of piling up massive fortunes for themselves and commanding power over others. We call ourselves the leader of the free world. It is time we started leading. Leading the movement for the survival of the planet to sustain human habitation, not leading to possess the strongest military and the ability to destroy everyone on earth with our massive weaponry. We simply cannot keep others from killing each other, but we can lead by example, we can start to change the reasoning behind warfare, we can start by convincing others that we have an end in sight – the end of the planet that will support human life, a sight we do not cherish and one we all need to address before it is too late.

Think about it!

Convince someone today to help us elect better leaders. Please!

Robert Scheer – George W. Bush’s Horrifying Legacy

Up Close and Personal With George W. Bush’s
Horrifying Legacy

Robert Scheer, Editor, Truthdig.com

Posted June 16, 2014

The Iraq disaster remains George W. Bush’s enduring folly, and the Republican attempt to shift the blame to the Obama
presidency is obscene nonsense.
This was, and will always be, viewed properly as Bush’s quagmire, a murderous killing field based on blatant lies.

This showcase of American deceit, obvious to the entire world, began with the invented weapons of mass destruction threat that Bush, were he even semi-cognizant of the intelligence data, must have known represented an egregious fraud. So was his nonsensical claim that Saddam
Hussein had something to do with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, when in fact he was Osama bin Laden’s most effective Arab opponent.

Yet Bush responded to the 9/11 attacks by overthrowing a leader who had banished al-Qaida from Iraq and who had been an ally of the United States in the war to contain Iran’s influence in the region.
Instead of confronting the funders of Sunni extremism based in Saudi Arabia, the home of 15 of the 19 hijackers and their Saudi leader bin Laden, Bush chose to attack the secular leader of Iraq. That invasion, as the evidence of the last week confirms, resulted in an enormous boon to both Sunni extremists and their militant Shiite opponents throughout the Mideast.

How pathetic that Secretary of State John Kerry is now reduced to begging the ayatollahs of Iran to come to the aid of their brethren in Iraq. Or that the movement to overthrow the secular leader of
Syria, a movement supported by the United States, has resulted in a base for Sunni terrorists in Iraq and Syria of far greater consequence than the one previously used to plot the 9/11 attacks from isolated Afghanistan.

Imagine if Barack Obama had succumbed to his critics’ demands that he supply the insurgents in Syria with sophisticated weaponry? Those weapons would now be turned against the fragmenting Iraqi army
that the United States trained at an enormous cost. Or if he had chosen military confrontation with Iran instead of diplomacy in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, leaving the Shiite leaders of Iraq squeezed between enemies on two fronts. The elected government in Iraq has a chance to survive only because Obama gave peace a chance in choosing to negotiate with the government of Iran.

The only error Obama made in ending the U.S. military role in Iraq was not moving fast enough to disengage from Bush’s nation-building fantasies. Where is the evidence that it ever works, particularly in the Mideast? The United States has backed the military ruling class in Egypt for more than three decades, and the instant the much-hoped-for transition to democracy appeared, those same corrupt generals scurried for safety to the embrace of oil drenched Saudi religious fanatics. Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi is now gone, only to be replaced by militants given to an even harsher brand of oppression. Yet a bipartisan consensus of Washington politicians still
believes that the overthrow of the secular leader of Syria is somehow
consistent with the proclaimed goals of the war on terrorism.

It obviously isn’t, as the anti-Assad Sunni militants who now freely cross the border from Syria to Iraq waving flags in support of al-Qaida have attested. It is further evidence that dealing with terrorism in militaristic battle terms rather than as a social pathology to be
treated as an illness is a dangerous diversion. The war on terrorism is as irrational a concept as a war on cancer or the flu in that it assumes that the military arsenal is the deciding factor when it never is, for long.

The seeds of radical discontent throughout the world, but particularly in the Mideast, derive from myriad complex and intertwined causes. In this region, the obvious sources of tension in religious grievances, stagnant economies and frustrated nationalism — as with the
obviously legitimate demands of Palestinians and Kurds — have been wildly exacerbated down through the centuries by the imperial ambitions of non-regional actors. Those prisoners of imperial hubris always underestimated the resilience of the occupied and came to believe their own lies about being crusaders for enlightenment.

That is a dangerous delusion energetically asserted by the Paul Wolfowitzes and Dick Cheneys even now, as their mad schemes for a reinvented Mideast spectacularly disintegrate. In their minds, it
is still deeply felt that if only Obama had stayed the course of occupation, we would be greeted as liberators, while our corporations quietly sucked up their oil.

Presidential candidate Obama made clear his contempt for that neocon pipe dream. Once elected, in regard to winding down the Iraq War, he has not strayed far from that conviction, and on this he much deserves our support. This is so even if it means going through the next decades of our political life arguing about “Who Lost Iraq?” the way we once argued about “Who Lost China?” — ignoring that neither country was truly ours to lose.

Reparations for Egregious Crimes

Reparations for Egregious Crimes

Ted Folkert

June 9, 2014

The New York Times presents a compelling discussion regarding reparations we may or may not owe the descendants of former slaves for the egregious and deplorable crimes perpetrated against them for more than a hundred years, perhaps four hundred years.

There are many opinions, pro and con, on this matter which have been discussed, argued, considered and reconsidered for many years. The discussion deserves all of our attention and some consensus of a measure of redress of these grievances.

What better way of addressing this subject than providing the best of educational opportunities and health care for those who still suffer from the wrongful mindset of our ancestors. There is no question that the damage is still felt by the entire black community and the opportunities have not become equal to the challenge faced by racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is not a thing of the past, it still exists each and every day in each and every state and city of our nation.

Read the article and consider the discussion:


Some excerpts from the opinion of Randall Robinson, author
of “The debt – What America Owes Blacks”.

“For 246 years, captured Africans were shackled and packed
head-to-foot below-decks in slave ships that trailed blood and corpses across the Atlantic. Those who survived the brutal journey were forced to work under horrific conditions from dawn to dusk usually seven days a week.”

“Those who tried to escape were hunted down, tortured, and
often murdered. Males, for punishment, were often severed of their genitals. Women were systematically raped.”

“That American public and private fortunes were rested upon
their unremunerated toil meant nothing at all. That Harvard Law School had originally been endowed from the sale of slaves by its founder, Isaac Royall, for example, remains largely unknown to many who have gone there.”

“Today, young black men comprise more than half of America’s
prison population. While blacks commit 12 percent of nonviolent drug offenses, they make up 75 percent of those incarcerated for such offenses and usually serve sentences twice as long as whites do for the same crime.”

Read the article and consider the discussion:





Populist action – the only answer

Populist action – the only answer

Populism unleashed – comment from Jim Hightower,The HIghtower Lowdown

The only way we have ever gotten positive change, from the founding of our country until today, has been from populist movements or populist pressure from the proletariat.

Jim Hightower sees, “positive populist change coming from within the workaday people of grassroots America.”

He says. “.. a rebellion is steadily spreading against the unrestrained avarice and arrogance of today’s domineering corporate elite.” He continues, “except for important voices such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it’s not even discussed on the national stage, as though the powers that be think they might make it go away by pretending it’s not there.”

Read the Hightower Lowdown – www.hightowerlowdown.org.

He thinks there is a major rampage festering among us: unbridled and insatiable corporate power – that we are no longer fooled by “the cloak of civic virtue that the corporations have wrapped around themselves.” In other words. “who elected these manipulative profiteers to run our country and our lives and why should corporate rights be superior to human rights and the Common Good.”

He introduces us the three groups who are challenging corporate power:

United Workers Congress – www.unitedworkerscongress.org – consisting of: day laborers, domestic workers, farm workers, formerly incarcerated workers, guest workers, restaurant workers, taxi drivers, and workfare workers. Now the adjunct college professors have joined the coalition.

Global Exchange – www.globalexchange.org – is presently helping California cities and counties establish democratic control of fracking, food sovereignty, and setting standards for a sustainable city.

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – www.celdf.org – is providing legal expertise for the community rights movement.

Read The Hightower Lowdownwww.hightowerlowdown.org,

The quiet man – who taught by example

The quiet man – who taught by example

Homer Theodore Folkert – June 6, 1912

June 6, 2014

The man I admired most while growing up celebrates his 102nd birthday today – he’s not around in person but truly is in spirit.

A quiet but thoughtful man. A dedicated husband and father. A companion of his family anywhere they wanted to go or anything they wanted to do – and the go-to guy, whether you were right or wrong.

A man who taught modesty, courage and work ethic, not by lecturing, but by example.

A man who taught maturity, honesty, loyalty and perseverance, not by preaching, but by example.

A man who endured poor health as a child, poor hearing as an adolescent and adult, and poor cardio health as a middle aged man, but you would have never have heard it from him or thought it if you watched him work.

A man who ignored his handicaps and accomplished more with his keen mind, his strong hands and powerful arms and back, than most of us ever do in our lives, even with all of our good health and longer lives. He built his family a house with his own hands. I wouldn’t know where to start.

Happy birthday Dad, and happy father’s day on Sunday.

We all love him and miss him. Love was another thing he taught by example and didn’t need words to express. Another thing you would never have heard him verbally express, but you knew it was there and he felt it.

Lawrence Lessig – Super Pac to End Super Pac Power

Excerpts from:  http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-harvard-professor-super-pac-big-money-politics-20140523-story.html

Harvard professor’s ‘super PAC’ aims
to end power of ‘super PACs’

By: Maeve Reston

May 25, 2014

“Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is leading a
crusade to … to create a “super PAC” that would end the power of
super PACs by drawing enough Americans into the system to limit the influence
of big money in politics…”

 “ …. the
current political system is “legally corrupt”–with members of Congress spending
much of their time dialing for dollars, as outside groups flood each election
cycle with hundreds of millions of dollars through super PACs and other
devices, with little disclosure of their donors.”

Memorial Day – just a 3 day weekend

Memorial Day – just a 3 day weekend

Ted Folkert

May 26, 2014

Memorial Day is the day we think about those close to us who are no longer around. Of course as we age the number gets larger and the fragility of our own mortality becomes more apparent. Then it becomes more personal, more real. Even then, those we think of and remember are few in comparison to the number of those who had great meaning in our lives that we didn’t ever know – those who we should remember on Memorial Day – those who made the ultimate sacrifice – those who lost their lives in wars for independence, freedom, territorial pursuits, political retaliation, exhibitions of power, favors for our corporations operating in other countries, the making of warrior legacies for career politicians, and all of the other reasons that we put our kids in harm’s way after protecting them from harm throughout their growing-up years. These are of course the wars started by the rich and powerful and fought by the poor and powerless.

They talk about the “unknown soldiers.” That term is untrue and unfair. Soldiers were all known. They were known by their loved ones – their spouses, their children, their parents, their friends – they were known by their comrades – they are not “unknown.” No, they are just invisible, like the character in Ralph Ellison’s book. “The Invisible Man.” We see them but we can’t see them. We hear them but we can’t hear them. They are invisible. We see and hear their loved ones but they are invisible too.

Here are some numbers to think about:

Revolutionary War            25,000

War of 1812                       15,000

American Civil War         625,000

Mexican-American War   13,000

World War I                     116,000

World War II                    405,000

Korean War                        36,000

Vietnam War                     58,000

War on Terror                        7,000

Total                                 1,300,000 deaths, unnecessary deaths, lives destroyed.

Then we can add to the list probably 10 seriously physically injured for every death – 13,000,000. Then we can add to the list probably 10 seriously mentally injured for every death – 13,000,000. Then we can add to the list probably 10 family members affected for each of the above – spouses, children, other relatives whose lives were either damaged or destroyed 13,000,000. Now the number is up to 40,000,000 and that certainly isn’t all. How many are, or will be, affected by the civilizations, cities, towns, railroads, airports, ships, planes, other military equipment and above all, the resources, consumed and destroyed by all of these fruitless events.

Well, of course the thoughts now have become so large that we couldn’t possibly get our minds wrapped around it all.

If you want to get the feeling of it drive by the national cemetery in Los Angeles today, or any other day, and glance at all of the white crosses – acres and acres of them – and this is just one national cemetery. If you want to get the feeling of it stop by any VA hospital and glance around at the injured warriors – some old, some young. If you want to get the feel of it just drive around downtown Los Angeles or Venice Beach or any other major American city and look around. You will see it. You will see the results of the wars started by the rich and powerful and fought by the poor and powerless.

And in order to thank all of these fallen heroes, we throw them a bone, we send them some paltry sum of money, we ignore their families, we ignore their physical and mental damage which makes gainful employment difficult or impossible, we delay medical treatment – in other words we shirk our responsibilities as fellow Americans, as fellow human beings. We just go on with our lives and ignore the “unknown soldiers”, the “invisible” warriors, and the “invisible” people directly and adversely affected by the wars started by the rich and powerful and fought by the poor and powerless.

Think about it!

Think about it today – Memorial Day.

War on Workers – Lee Fang

Excerpts from: http://www.thenation.com/article/179616/look-who-folks-who-took-down-acorn-are-targeting-now

War on Workers

Look Who the Folks Who Took Down ACORN Are Targeting Now

by Lee Fang

“Right-wing operatives with links to
big retailers are going after worker centers like the Restaurant Opportunities

“In a presentation at the Drake Hotel in Chicago
last October, Joseph Kefauver addressed a conference of executives from
companies like Nike, Macy’s and Crate & Barrel, among other leading brands.
Kefauver, a key player in the rising cottage industry of lobbyists and
consultants hired by the retail sector, warned his audience that a new movement
was taking hold, one that could leverage the “exponential growth of grassroots
networks” to force change at corporations beyond the reach of traditional labor
unions. These activists, Kefauver explained in his PowerPoint presentation,
could create pressure in the media, throughout a supply chain, and even in the
policy and political arena, making them a threat to business’s bottom line unlike
any other. In addition, he noted ominously, these new groups are spreading
beyond the big cities and blue states and have established a “left-of-center
beachhead in traditionally conservative areas.”’

“The conference attendees were then asked to
consider the pushback. “How aggressive can we be?” one slide read. “How do we
challenge the social justice narrative?” queried another.”

“Kefauver is a former executive for public affairs
at Walmart and a former political action committee staffer for Darden Restaurants,
the parent company of chain eateries like Olive Garden and Red Lobster. As a
full-time consultant at firms that serve the restaurant and retail industry, he
is part of a phalanx of lobbyists and political operatives with a small but
focused goal: to destroy what has become known as the “worker center” movement.”

“Kefauver’s alarm at the rise of worker centers,
which he has repeated in talks with the US Chamber of Commerce and other
business trade groups, isn’t simply bluster. Just as conservatives aimed their
fire—to devastating effect—at organized labor and low-wage advocacy groups like
ACORN in the past decade, right-wing lobbyists and the businesses that pay them
are going after worker centers today because they recognize their potency. With
unions in decline—a fact celebrated in one recent ad targeting worker
centers—the “alt-labor” movement has helped jump-start a nationwide effort to
reshape working conditions for millions of Americans in low-wage jobs. The
question is: Can worker centers escape the fate of other, similarly situated
groups targeted by corporate smear campaigns?”

* * *

“Though many worker centers began as localized
efforts to combat poverty, the movement has rapidly spread and matured. These
groups still help low-wage workers find legal representation and understand
their rights at work. But many now coordinate their organizing with other
community groups or labor unions across multiple regions. As Kefauver’s
presentation suggested, worker centers are indeed organizing along corporate supply
chains to achieve their demands. And in many cases, it’s working.”

“Arise Chicago, a faith-based nonprofit that founded
a worker center in 2002, has helped win new safety agreements for hotel
workers; negotiate a new city ordinance to crack down on wage theft; and
mobilize Walmart employees for an unprecedented set of strikes aimed at hiking
pay and benefits. In Florida, the pioneering farmworker group the Coalition of
Immokalee Workers (CIW) has successfully pressed for a wide-ranging labor
agreement with major food companies to curb abusive working conditions. The
Restaurant Opportunities Center, which began as a New York–based group that
organized a small number of waiters and waitresses, is now a federation that
spans the largest restaurant markets in the country and has come to represent
an alternative for consumers seeking information about the industry.”

“With this success has come a new, all-out assault
by business. Many observers point to a full-page ad in The Wall Street
last July sponsored by Rick Berman, a longtime lobbyist for the
restaurant and agricultural industry, as the first major shot across the bow.
As The New York Times reported, Berman has since launched his own
website filled with negative information about worker centers and has appeared
regularly in the media to criticize the movement, particularly the Restaurant
Opportunities Center.”

“I think that businesses are going after worker
centers because they view them as much more effective than they used to be,”
says Janice Fine, an associate professor of labor studies and employment
relations at Rutgers University. Calling the increasing attacks on worker
centers a “backhanded compliment,” Fine notes that the centers are “no longer
looked at as local organizations.”’

“Some of the pushback has been overt. A Google
search for “OUR Walmart” produces as its first result a web page sponsored by
the retail behemoth, claiming that the group exists solely to benefit the
interests of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, one of its financial
backers. Fox News and conservative talk radio have taken to reporting on
worker-center-led demonstrations. Asked to describe a wave of fast-food
strikes, Mallory Factor, speaking on Fox & Friends, suggested that
the demonstrators were all paid to be there, calling them a “rent-a-mob, purely

“Some of the attacks, though, are less transparent.
This past November, about a month after Kefauver’s presentation in Chicago, a
group called Worker Center Watch launched a series of YouTube videos aimed at
discrediting the Black Friday protests staged by worker centers against big-box
retailers. One video depicted the activists as “professional protesters” who
“haven’t bothered to get jobs themselves.” Another video from the group alleges
that the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), OUR Walmart and other worker
centers are nothing more than union front groups designed to “make more money
for greedy union bosses.” The video closes with an appeal not to be “fooled” by
worker centers.”

“A week later, Worker Center Watch posted the
transcript of an audio recording from a private worker-center meeting in New
York that had been obtained by Breitbart News, the right-wing website founded
by the late Andrew Breitbart. The headline blared about the offensive “Santa’s
slaves” comments made by the organizers, though the actual recording was rather

“When contacted by The Nation, Worker
Center Watch refused to reveal its backers. However, records obtained for this
article show that Kefauver’s public relations firm, Parquet Public Affairs,
registered the website for Worker Center Watch. After I inquired about the
registration, the website hosting the record was concealed with a proxy.”

“Kefauver would not respond to multiple requests for
comment on what he does or who is paying him. But he was listed as a
“consultant” to the National Restaurant Association—the largest lobbying group
for the restaurant industry and the driving force against raising the minimum
wage—on a schedule posted by restaurant industry lobbyists for a meeting in San
Antonio several months ago.”

Read the article: http://www.thenation.com/article/179616/look-who-folks-who-took-down-acorn-are-targeting-now

Obama’s Pundit Problem – Eric Alterman

Excerpts from: http://www.thenation.com/article/179733/obamas-pundit-problem

Pundit Problem

Critics like Maureen Dowd of the Times live in an
Oz-like dream world.

Eric Alterman

May 7, 2014   |

It’s hard
to say that Maureen Dowd’s column is an embarrassment to political punditry
given the state of the profession, but it is rapidly becoming one to the
still-great newspaper that carries it, The New York Times.

To take
just one example, on April 30 Dowd penned a juvenile and intellectually
incoherent column
, obnoxiously headlined Is
Barry Whiffing? In it, she eschewed any form of evidence or common sense
to give voice to the now-platitudinous Beltway belief that Obama should just
fix everything already.
This view has come to be known as the “Green Lantern
theory” of presidential power, after the comic book superhero; according to
this theory, the reason Obama has not been more successful is that he has
failed to bring Congress to heel the way superior leaders like Lyndon Johnson
and Ronald Reagan did during their presidencies, through sheer force of will. ……………………………………………………….

There is
certainly no place like the one these pundits imagine Obama to be living in—one
in which the likes of Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Mitch McConnell, Ted
Cruz and Eric Cantor can be forced to behave responsibly by presidential fiat.
But Dowd, like so much of the punditocracy, writes as if she lives in just such
an Oz-like dream world. Here she is, for instance, discussing Republican
recalcitrance, which, naturally, she blames on Obama (as if those flying
monkeys were Dorothy’s fault): “It is his job to get them to behave. The job of
the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this
dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants
them to do. It’s called leadership.”

it’s called fantasy, but this view has become so common in the mainstream media
that the White House Correspondents’ Association should probably have given out
an award for it last week at its nauseating “nerd prom.” (Call it “The
Broder.”) That this fantasy has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked—most
recently by Norm Ornstein in The National Journal, who noted that “LBJ
and Reagan had willing partners from the opposite party; Obama has had
—has made no impression on the pundit corps, whose prejudices Dowd distills
in her columns.

In that
same column, Dowd, addressing the president, writes, “It doesn’t feel like
leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world,” and
instructs Obama on the dos and don’ts of proper presidential etiquette, based
apparently on her memorization of a pile of old Aaron Sorkin scripts:

“ …………………………………………………………………………………………

To help
her overcome her scary vibes, Dowd turns to the ultimate pundit cliché, the
baseball metaphor. Telling the president to “stop whiffing,” she writes: “An
American president should never say… ‘You hit singles; you hit doubles. Every
once in a while, we may be able to hit a home run’…. What happened to crushing
it and swinging for the fences? Where have you gone, Babe Ruth?” (If Dowd’s
editors did not apparently hate her guts, one of them might have let her know
that the Bambino “whiffed” fully 1,330 times during his career, or nearly twice
for every home run he hit.)

along the sports spectrum, Dowd instructs Obama to “take a lesson from Adam
Silver, a nerdy technocrat who, in his first big encounter with a crazed
tyrant, managed to make the job of N.B.A. commissioner seem much more powerful
than that of president of the United States.” (Note the use of the journalistic
weasel word “seem” here, used almost always when no evidence is present to back
up a journalistic complaint.) Does Dowd believe that a president somehow has
the power to fine Bashar al-Assad and/or Vladimir Putin $2.5 million and ban
them from their respective positions for life?

By way of
fair-minded expert sources, Dowd consults that disinterested observer, Mike
Murphy, while failing to note that his résumé includes stints as a campaign
strategist and media consultant for both John McCain and Mitt Romney. Murphy
helpfully explains that being president is “not like the campaign because you
have ‘bigger problems than a will.i.am song can fix.’” Next comes the surest
sign one can find that Dowd was facing a deadline without knowing how to fill
her 800-word quota: a shout-out to her buddy, New Republic literary
editor Leon Wieseltier
, who was making, by my count (according to the columns
available on NYTimes.com), his thirty-third appearance as the equivalent of a
Team Maureen relief pitcher.

What does
the great man
(whom David Brooks also saw fit to quote in his own column a few
days later) advise? Apparently, the “oppressed and threatened swaths of the
world are jittery and despairing ‘because the United States seems no longer
reliable in emergencies….’” (Note again the weasel word “seems.”) Nowhere,
alas, does Dowd appear to have inquired how Wieseltier sourced his scoop
regarding the feelings of the world’s “oppressed and threatened swaths,” nor
what these otherwise voiceless billions would like Obama to do to end the
violence in, say, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine or the US House of Representatives.

There’s no place like Washington…

 Read the article: http://www.thenation.com/article/179733/obamas-pundit-problem

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both. Louis Brandeis