From Esquire.com It was a Biblical beatdown. Getty BY CHARLES P. PIERCE AUG 22, 2017 While the president* was fastening on his Serious World Leader face Monday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin, was facing a carefully tailored audience at a CNN “town hall” in Racine. Because Ryan is […]
Category Archives: Income and Wealth Inequality
On the eve of Thanksgiving, we prepare to celebrate that most American of holidays. Most of us will enjoy children and grandchildren, in-laws, extended families and dear friends. Most of us will sit together at tables heaped with the traditional roast turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry and other relishes, a token green vegetable, pumpkin and apple pies— well, you know, more than we can possibly eat.
Most of us, but not all of us. I was asked to write about hunger in America— a sobering experience. I met people at food pantries and soup kitchens; saw others lined up on the sidewalk, waiting for a lunch bag; and visited people who depend on Meals on Wheels for both sustenance and brief human contact.
On the farmstands, harvest colors of crimson and gold compete for attention. The leaves boast their last, gorgeous hurrah, and the bounty of the fields compensates for the lengthening nights and intensifying chill. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it anticipation of warm reunions with friends and family and the traditional groaning board.
But not for everybody.
I have to start with Carly Fiorina. I just can’t abide her condescension. Forever stabbing her finger at the audience, she presumes they know nothing and talks down to them as if they were still in elementary school. I don’t want to imagine such a mean-spirited scold in the White House. Fiorina accuses HRC of lying while she herself tells whoppers— touting, for example, her record as CEO, which alone should disqualify her. She twists everything, from Benghazi (Clinton and Obama lied) to Dodd-Frank (“how socialism starts”). Really?
The Donald is losing steam— his bubble has been pricked, and the hot air is leaking out. Nick Kristof tweeted, “Donald Trump raises the IQ of any room by leaving it.” Trump trumpeted his intimacy with Putin (they were on “60 Minutes” together), reminding me of Bush 43’s assertion that after looking Putin in the eye, he “was able to get a sense of his soul.”
Rand Paul landed a well placed shot, reminding Trump that China is not a party to the Trans Pacific Pact, as Trump implied, and that it will be to China’s advantage, not ours, if the TPP is not ratified. (Trump calls the treaty a “disaster,” the worst ever.)
Paul would not drag us into another war as Rubio and Trump are itching to do. They want to invade Iraq to eliminate ISIS. In truth, ISIS is a threat. It is trying to reestablish the Caliphate by beheading and crucifying non-believers. Right now, there is no good course of action for the dilemma in the Middle East. Allow ISIS to expand murderously and unchecked? Or put American boots on the ground again? Really? Remember what happened the last time we did that?
Much has been made of Ted Cruz’s “oops” moment when he enumerated four of the five government agencies he would eliminate, naming Commerce twice. Yes, I noticed it, but, much as I dislike Cruz, he clearly is smart (even if supercilious and oily) and he was nervous. His flub is way more understandable than Rick Perry’s blooper.
Philosophers were dinged, notably by Marco Rubio, who said we need “more welders and less [sic] philosophers.” As it turns out, philosophy majors make almost twice as much as welders. “Plato has the last laugh,” tweeted Nick Kristof. Rubio’s remark was a neat, tacit nod to the know-nothings’ disdain for the educated “elite.”
Rubio and Cruz once more reminded the audience of their humble beginnings and immigrant Cuban fathers. Enough, already! Better than dwelling on the plight of their immigrant origins, focus on the one percent and devise a plan to pull income inequality back down to pre-Bush and even Clinton levels. (What are the chances of that happening?)
Ben Carson visibly tried to keep his eyes open, as he must have been advised to do, but he still slumbered. When Egyptian archaeologists were asked what they thought of Carson’s assertion that the Biblical Joseph (of the coat of many colors) built the pyramids as storehouses for wheat, they reportedly said, “Do we really have to answer that?”
As for Jeb … he’s not the Jeb! he wants to be. It’s more like Jeb? (Nick Kristof)
What a difference! In this first Democratic debate, the candidates were polite, even warm, and always civil to each other. So used to Republicans’ bad-mouthing Hillary and Obama, ripping into each other and telling outright falsehoods (Carly Fiorina and Planned Parenthood doctored video). By contrast, last night’s Dem debate was for the most part optimistic and forward-looking.
The candidates were focused mostly on the issues, each trying to show how (s)he parted ways from the others. Yet they were not hesitant to agree with and even support each other. There was only one antagonist in the room, and that was the Republican obstructionist party. Yes, they attempted to score points, most notably Clinton remonstrating Sanders for not being strong enough against guns. (Do you agree with Sanders’ position on guns, the moderator asked her. “No. I don’t,” she rejoined.) The disagreements were sometimes direct, sometimes implied, but always cordial, not offensive. They were in agreement about the issues — guns, climate change, income inequality, the toxic effect of Citizens United — but they differed in their approaches.
I liked Martin O’Malley. He came across as well-informed and experienced, serious but easygoing and optimistic, especially in contrast to Bernie Sanders. The senator from Vermont was gruff, angry and exasperated. He is authentic and clearly cares deeply about problems of the middle class, income inequality, corporate greed and climate change, but I think he will antagonize voters who don’t already back him. Hillary Clinton was polished and well-prepared, articulate and perfectly at ease. When asked if she wanted to respond to a criticism from Lincoln Chafee, she simply said, “No.”
There were, however, two sour notes.
Chafee’s excuse for voting to repeal the Glass Steagall Act in 1999: “It was my first vote. I’d just arrived in the Senate, and my father had just died.” Challenged by moderator Anderson Cooper, he whined again. It was pathetic. He was looking for sympathy and garnered scorn.
Jim Webb complained at every opportunity that he wasn’t being given as much time as everyone else, that he had to wait 10 minutes before being given a chance to speak and was cut off too soon. When he was in the spotlight, he conveyed his discomfort at being on that stage with his rivals, all of whom were more progressive and relaxed than he was.
Chafee and Webb will surely drop out before long. They came in with poll numbers that scraped the bottom and didn’t do themselves any good. I’d like to see O’Malley keep going, but Hillary’s performance surely secured her place as the favorite with Bernie close behind to keep it interesting.
South African comedian Trevor Noah will replace Jon Stewart as host on “The Daily Show.” In his debut on the show last December, Stewart played the straight man as Noah compared race relations and poverty in Africa with conditions in the U.S. (watch the video, above). Guess who won?
In Africa Noah found a stretch of a superhighway and a shot of children in school that he compared with the F.D.R. Drive in New York City and children living in Detroit:
He also pulled in a clip of Nick Kristof saying
The United States right now incarcerates more African-American men as a percentage than apartheid South Africa did.
Right now the race gap in wealth between the average median white family and the median black family is eighteenfold. That’s greater than it was in apartheid South Africa.
“Africa is worried about you guys,” joked Noah. It was only partly funny.
In my last post, I suggested that the money concentrated in the hands of a few was corroding American democracy. Now, after thinking about the torture revelations and listening to Cheney and others defend them, I can no longer turn away from the reality that we are not who we think we are and perhaps never were.
Can the patriots who proclaim American exceptionalism ever see through the myths that we have been comforting ourselves with? The complacency of many regarding what is being accepted as the necessity of torture “to keep us safe,” is akin to denial or ignorance of the crucial role of slavery in creating American wealth and the scars that descendants of slaves still bear today. The scandal of welfare for Wall Street but not for the poor, the stowing of captives in dark holes, the 24/7 surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and emails, the bias of the Supreme Court, racist police brutality and mass incarceration for private profit are accepted and largely ignored. These belie the proud characterization of the U.S. as the “land of the free.”