Posts Tagged With: rush limbaugh

THE GOLDEN SHOWER

Last week, at one of his campaign rallies, Trump made the bold prediction that if he stood in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York, and randomly shot someone dead in the street, there would still be no diminishment of support among his followers. And he’s absolutely right. So strong is the blind faith among his growing mass of adherents, that there is literally no act that Trump could perform that would in any way dissuade his fanatical adherents from supporting him. Or as one columnist put it, if Trump were on stage at a large campaign rally, and suddenly began to urinate on people in the first row, those in the back would come surging forward to also benefit from this “golden shower.” Awhile back, when Hillary Clinton was slightly late returning from a bathroom break during one of the Democratic debates, Trump called it “disgusting.” Which is understandable since Trump is rich enough to where he can hire someone to go to the bathroom for him.

In any event, I thought it would be interesting to attempt to understand what motivates this fanatical following for someone essentially espousing a neo-fascist imperative. In a nutshell it can be boiled down to talk radio and Fox News. For 25-30 years these sources have been poisoning the airwaves with a steady drumbeat of hatred and vile rhetoric directed against progressives, liberals and Democrats. Now, after 3 decades of all this vitriol, which has leached huge volumes of poison into the American mainstream, such efforts are finally paying dividends for the haters; which include Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the male side and Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham on the female side. To say nothing of all the Rush and Laura wannabes that broadcast from every city in the country. To also say nothing of the daily bile put forth by Fox News against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats in general. These broadcasters command millions of devoted viewers and listeners, who then spread this venom amongst friends and families and others throughout their neighborhoods. Sort of like a rippling effect in a lake. Who better to take advantage of all this poisonous hate circulating throughout the country than a neo-fascist demagogue such as a Donald Trump.

As I’ve written before, one of the most venom, rage filled such broadcasters is named Michael Savage, who calls his program the Savage Nation. His real name is Michael Wiener, but I guess the Wiener Nation wouldn’t sound all that imposing. He also claims to have millions of devoted listeners.  Anyway, his speech is so filled with pure, undiluted, outright hatred toward Obama and the Democrats, that England saw fit to put him on a list banning him from entry into that country. Others on that list are mostly serial killers and terrorists. But in this country he has total freedom of the airwaves. (Maybe it’s time to re-think that freedom of speech thingy in the first amendment.) None of this bothered Trump, however, who went on the Savage Nation and thanked Michael for his strong support. Another fine bromance, similar to the one Trump established with Vladimir Putin, the tyrant dictator of Russia.

In the 1920s, when Adolf Hitler, was first starting his quest for power, most Germans considered him a fringe crackpot. After all, Germany was not some backwater, hicksville country. To the contrary, most Germans were well educated, and Germany had a rich culture of music, literature, art, and philosophy. Hitler blamed the multitude of Germany’s problems on a small minority of Jews, who were mostly shopkeepers. Similar to the way Trump has blamed virtually all the woes in this country to undocumented Hispanics. Who, at less than 11 million, now comprise about 3.5% of the U.S. population of over 320 million. Who the vast majority of Americans never have any contact with. As I’ve said, most Germans in the beginning considered Hitler part of the lunatic fringe. But through demagogic persistence, and through the force of Hitler’s dominating personality, more and more Germans began to fall in line with Hitler’s message of hatred toward Jews. More and more Swastika arm bands began showing up in the public square. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, today in this country, we have another fascist purveyor of hate, also with apparently over-powering demagogic abilities that convince large numbers of people to follow him down his rabidly destructive pathways. All set in motion by nearly 3 decades of vitriol and venom emanating from talk radio and Fox News, who planted the seeds that make Trump’s landscape so fertile. During the 1930s, after Hitler took power, the Nazis conducted huge parades through German cities where thousands or tens of thousands of  gleeful Germans would line the boulevards to show their adoration of Der Furhrer. But by the 1940s, when these same cities were being bombed into heaps of rubble, the blinders finally fell away from German eyes. Lets hope it never quite comes to that, after Trump takes command in the Oval Office.

 

 

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TALK RADIO

Most of you are probably unaware that there used to exist in radio and TV land something called the “Fairness Doctrine.” This was a rule established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and applied to all companies seeking licenses to broadcast on radio and TV. The rule required that TV and radio stations holding FCC issued licenses be required to devote some of their broadcast time to controversial issues of public importance. It also required that equal time be devoted to both sides of, say, a political controversy. For example, if a Rush Limbaugh type ranted for an hour on the radio demonizing liberals and Democrats; another hour had to be set aside for some one to talk in favor of the liberal position, and in turn castigate conservatives and Republicans. Broadcasters were required to  actively determine the full spectrum of views on any given issue, and to present those people best suited toward representing both sides being discussed. Additionally the rule required that broadcasters alert any public figure of the fact that they, or their views were being attacked on the air; and allow them equal time to rebut those accusations. The “Fairness Doctrine” originated back in 1927, and was further strengthened in 1949 with the advent of commercial television. It had thus been around for quite some time as we headed into the 1980s; and it seemed to work reasonably well.

Come the Reagan era in the 1980s, the “Fairness Doctrine” was increasingly being challenged in the courts as being an infringement on the first amendment’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. The FCC began to reconsider this rule in the mid-1980s, after Congress passed a resolution expressing its disapproval. The FCC then revoked the rule in 1987, and, thereby, opened the floodgates of what is called “talk radio” in present day vernacular. Democrats were completely clueless as to the havoc that dissolving the “Fairness Doctrine” would wreck on their political fortunes and aspirations. But without the requirement of having to broadcast both sides of all controversial or political issues, the door was open to any looney-tunes, crackpot with a reasonably good speaking voice, and the ability to master the art of demagoguery. The first one on the scene was Rush Limbaugh, who until the late 1980s, was basically a small time radio sports and news broadcaster. But with the “Fairness Doctrine” gone, Rush, ever the opportunist, realized “thar was gold in them thar hills” of bashing and demonizing Democrats and progressives. With demagogic skills approaching that of a Josef Goebbels, (if you don’t know who he is, look it up in your Funk&Wagnalls), Rush developed a loyal audience of millions tuning in every day to get their 3 hours of first Clinton and then Obama demonization. When a Republican became President, such as George W. Bush, Rush’s format would switch to protective coating of each dumb decision they made, such as the Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, or the whole Iraqi invasion fiasco. But, as I’ve said, millions bought his drivel, which made Rush a very, very wealthy man.

Not long after, other opportunists such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and hosts of other Rush wannabes joined the right-wing whacko parade, each seeking to outdo the others in demonizing what they consider to be their political enemies. Using, perhaps 5-10% fact, and 90-95% fiction, each uses the same basic format steeped in demagoguery to make a good living off the gullibility of millions of adherents. One such lunatic deserves special mention, because even the lunatic-fringe considers him too unhinged to be allowed recognition in polite society. His name is Michael Wiener; but he changed it to Michael Savage, and hosts a radio program called the “Savage Nation.” After all, I guess the Wiener Nation wouldn’t sound quite so fearsome. In any event, his bellicose rantings against Obama, the Democrats, liberals, minorities, environmentalists, etc. are so vile and hate-filled that Great Britain has put him on a list banning him from entry into their country. The other names on this British list are known terrorists, serial killers, or recognized criminals. He’s the only one on that list that talks on the radio for a living. Yet, we, in this country, allow him freedom of the airways to spread his filth and poison. Ain’t democracy wonderful.

The most disturbing aspect of all this, is not the fact that there are so many unhinged lunatics freely pounding away on the radio, and TV also, (Fox News.) The most disturbing aspect is that millions of Americans are not only rabid fans of all this right-wing drivel, but apparently can’t get through their days without listening to a steady stream of such demagogic lunacy. One might say, to be fair, that there are also left-wing zealots on the radio and TV airwaves. That may be true; but apparently they can’t perform nearly as well as the right-wingers do, and no prominent name stands out on the left side of the spectrum.

So why does all this matter in current day realtime. Because Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and all their wannabes are basically shills for the Republican Party. Republican fortunes over the past 25 years have improved vastly, in no large part due to these right-wing broadcasts on talk radio. Tomorrow we have an election coming up, in which all the pundits have predicted that the GOP will win the Senate and increase their majority in the House. To say nothing of electing more Governors and state legislators. We’ll have a total Republican Congress that basically despises President Obama, and Democrats in general. Won’t life be fun then. Look for lots of Government shutdowns, as well as more extreme hyper-partainship, polarization and dysfunction. One might be well advised to examine how we painted ourselves into this corner in the first place.

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THE STUPID BOWL

I was wondering how many people paid thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to buy a ticket to attend what was probably the worst super bowl game in history. I realize that most everyone is comp’d when obtaining super bowl tickets; either as a bonus or reward by companies they work for, or by other organizations they may be associated with. And for movie stars in attendance such as Michael Douglas or Alec Baldwin, shelling out a few thousand is no big deal. But among the tens of thousands in attendance, I’m sure there are some that actually bought tickets they could ill afford; only to watch Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos humiliate themselves beyond credulity. The irony of watching Manning, who was awarded the National Football League’s MVP trophy the day before the game, along with his Denver teammates, so thoroughly embarrass themselves before a world-wide audience of billions, was certainly not lost on most football fans. You knew the game was going south in a hurry for Denver when 12 seconds after kick-off they incurred a safety, an occurrence that rarely happens in any football game. In any event, I feel that the several hours out of my life that I spent watching the game on TV will be time that I, unfortunately, will never be able to recoup.

I did notice that, in all the pre-game festivities, there was suddenly a political discussion injected into all the forced giddiness. It seemed so out-of-place, especially to all those multitudes that were trying so hard to convince themselves about what a swell time they were having during all the pre-game hoopla. But there it suddenly was, an interview that Bill O’Reilly from Fox News was having with President Obama. While the interview was contentious, a certain decorum was maintained. Since Fox News is certainly the biggest Obama basher and vilifier on TV, the interview primarily consisted of O’Reilly attacking the Obama Administration for all its supposed screw-ups and misdeeds; and Obama defending himself with the usual politician’s doublespeak and vagueness. One of O’Reilly’s main contentions was that Obama has been a divisive president who has failed to  accommodate Republicans in trying to push through major legislation. Obama didn’t defend himself all that well against this accusation so I thought I would do it for him. Here’s what he should have said in that interview.

Soon after Obama was elected President in 2008, but weeks before he was sworn into office, Rush Limbaugh, who claims a listenership in the millions, bellowed forth on his radio program that: “I WANT HIM TO FAIL.” I’m sure Rush was merely expressing the sentiments held by his fellow hard-core, right-wing lunatics.

Right after Obama took office, while he was still adjusting his chair behind his desk in the Oval Office for its comfort level, Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, publicly stated that the GOP’s number one priority was to defeat Barack Obama for re-election in 2012. Not to work for the American people who were facing the most serious economic crises this country had seen since the Great Depression, but to defeat Barack Obama’s re-election bid. Not to help the millions of workers that were suddenly thrown out of their jobs, or to assist the millions of home-owners whose mortgages went under-water, or who were having their homes foreclosed by the banks. Oh no, this was just incidental stuff. Defeating Obama the next time around was far more important. Of course, as we all know, that didn’t quite work out so well.

Shortly after finding his way to the Oval Office, President Obama invited Republican leaders to the White House and laid out his agenda for them. He told them that they could join with him in trying to resolve the dismal economic conditions that he had inherited, or they could become the party of Rush Limbaugh and oppose just about every one of his key initiatives. Sadly, as we know, the GOP chose the latter, and continues to do so to this day.

Again, right after Obama took office in 2009, the Tea Party movement was formed to oppose every single Obama initiative. If he was for it, they were against it. It was comprised primarily of extreme right-wing anarchists, racists, or those that were delusional enough to believe that Government spending could be slashed back to the levels that existed when Calvin Coolidge was president. (Read my piece on “Returning To The Days Of Silent Cal” for further info.) The Tea Party became a potent enough force of obstructionism, however, to give Republicans control of the House; but its mind-numbing political blindness did cost the GOP several Senate seats. Now the GOP is rather fractured in trying to appease Tea Party extremists while also trying to appear as a rational political entity. An oxymoron if there ever was one.

As a result of such crude and obvious Obama hatred and obstructionism, the President has understandably shied away from trying to engage Republicans in any form of compromise or togetherness on major issues. This has naturally led to a divided Government of gridlock, hyper-partisanship, dysfunction, and polarization. In short, a situation where nothing meaningful can be accomplished. Aren’t you happy to be living in such joyous times? Are we having fun yet?

Not that I’m saying that Obama has been any great shakes as President. He pretty well screwed up the health-care initiative, his foreign policy is beyond weakness, the economy is still limping along, and the employment picture, while improving, is still in the doldrums. If you want legitimate criticism, those are the areas that should be up for discussion. But its more fun for the GOP and Tea Party to engage in mindless Obama bashing and demonization.

One last item about the Super Bowl. We all saw former quarterback great Joe Namath flub something as simple as the coin toss. There’s a fascinating story about Broadway Joe as he was known in his heyday, and perhaps, next time around I’ll write about him.

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CAPITOL FISCAL FOLLIES

In 1907, a young man in Chicago named Florenz Ziegfeld decided that his career path would be that of a show business producer. He started with a light and inexpensive song and dance revue, for the summer season in Chicago, with emphasis on holding costs down, since he had little capital to begin with. But not even Ziegfeld could have imagined the the momentous impact his creation would experience. It was a huge hit from the beginning, and soon Ziegfeld would attach his name to what became as the “Ziegfeld Follies.” As he acquired more money the show became a more lavish and opulent spectacle. By the 1920s, this extravaganza was the smash hit of Broadway. But what really made the “Ziegfeld Follies” such a mammoth event were its showgirls, a collection of eager dancers and chorus-line singers all wearing dazzling costumes. Ziegfeld advertised them as the most beautiful girls in the world. Many huge show biz stars, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker, and Marilyn Miller got their career-starts in the “Ziegfeld Follies.” The show finally had to shut down in 1931 as the icy tentacles of the Great Depression were beginning to wrap themselves around the American economy and start plunging it into the deep freeze.

This is sort of a long way around to observing that the fiscal follies currently going on in our nation’s capitol, far exceed the extravaganzas put on by Flo Ziegfeld. Especially as it pertains to the theater of the absurd. As good a showman as Ziegfeld was, he couldn’t match the looney-tunes, dysfunctional antics currently underway in the U.S. Congress, even as we speak, (or write, as the case may be.) Two events explain this fascinating kerfuffle. The first is that the Government’s fiscal year ends September 30, a week from now. The Constitution has words to the effect that the Government cannot spend a farthing (or a nickel if you prefer) unless the funds are appropriated by an act of Congress. So far, Congress has appropriated nothing for the new fiscal year, about to start on October 1. The primary hold-up is in the House, where Republicans have a majority and are refusing to pass fiscal 2014 appropriations  unless all funding for Obamacare, (the President’s signature universal healthcare legislation) is stripped from the appropriations bill. Of course, it’s pure fantasy that the Democratic majority in the Senate, or the President, will agree to such shenanigans and extortion. But House Republicans are adamant that no new funding will occur unless resources for Obamacare are deleted. Even if it means shutting down the Government with all its ensuing consequences. Like military and civilian Government personnel, contractors and debt-holders not getting paid. Like no new food stamps, or housing assistance or other benefits to the sick or poor being issued. You know, fun stuff like that.

Senate Republicans also refuse to miss out on these entertaining follies. Senators, led by the four horse of the tea-party apocalypse, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, whom I’ve written about before, are also threatening to filibuster any appropriations bill that contains funding for Obamacare. Please do not disturb the ivory tower of self-delusion these four choose to dwell in. So here we are, one-week away from a total Government shutdown, with all its disastrous consequences, that could very well send our fragile economy into a devastating tailspin. But as these follies gather momentum, they do make for excellent theater of the absurd. It should be pointed out, however, that we are the only country in the world, from first to fourth rate, that is willing to shut their Government down over budgetary battles. Not even the weakest or poorest banana republic would entertain such thoughts.

If, by some miracle we can avoid a a Government-shutdown through lack of appropriations legislation; shortly thereafter comes the debt-ceiling fiasco, as Congress lurches from one phony crises to another. The debt-ceiling, unlike the appropriations process, is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. Instead, in a fit of self-imposed masochism, Congress enacted legislation saying the Government cannot exceed an arbitrary debt-ceiling without Congressional approval. We are estimated to bump up against the current debt-ceiling around mid-October. Since we are borrowing about 40 cents out of every dollar we spend, it would seem rather imperative that Congress raise the debt-ceiling. If not, the Government once again shuts down. And once again, Congressional Republicans are holding the Government hostage, by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling unless all funding for Obamacare is erased. Since the Mafia has made blackmail and extortion so profitable, Republicans, I assume, figure, why not employ these same tactics.

Now we all know that Republican vitriol and hatred directed against Barack Obama, is almost legendary. To deprive the GOP out of 2 presidential election victories is unforgivable in most tea-party and Republican circles. To say nothing of the race issue that I won’t get into at this time. So what better way to seek revenge than depriving Obama of his signature legislated achievement. Plus they know that if Obamacare, flawed though it may be, is allowed to function for 2-3 years, it will become as popular as Medicare or Social Security. Then even the tea-party lunatics will not be able to advocate for its dissolution.

One other factor is in play. There is a whole group of far-far right-wing looney-tuners that would really like to see the Government shut down. The Rush Limbaugh/ Glen Beck/ Sean Hannity types with their millions of followers are practically frothing at the mouth, or drooling all over themselves, in anticipation of a Government shutdown. Instead of visions of sugar plums, such anarchists thrill at visions of such an event. Even Flo Ziegfeld, as good a showman as he was, would have hard time producing theater follies to match the current ongoing antics in our nation’s capitol.

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HERE’S TO PRESIDENTIAL LOSERS (PART III)

This is the last one in this series, I promise. We left off last time when Jimmy Carter assumed the Presidency in 1976 after a narrow win over Gerald Ford. Interestingly, Carter is still alive today and pushing near 90, while Ford made it well into his 80s, before saying sayonara. Being president seems to promote longevity. In any event, Carter’s presidency is often deemed a failure by most historians, but like Nixon, he did make some significant accomplishments.

James Earl Carter started off the 1976 race with like a 30 point lead over Ford according to reliable polling data. This was primarily due to how adversely the Watergate scandal had affected the GOP. By election day, however, Carter appeared to be in over over his head and entire lead had evaporated, leaving him to win by the slimmest of margins. He did this by carrying every southern state except Virginia, in a complete role reversal of today’s voting patterns. This occurred because Carter was a southern Governor with evangelical religious beliefs. Now, a Democrat can’t get elected dog catcher in the deep south. His presidency was marred by a poor economy, as evidenced by high rates of inflation and fairly high unemployment. They called it stagflation at the time. Nevertheless, there was considerable achievement.

Carter, using personal diplomacy, managed to pull off a peace treaty with Israel and Egypt, who had been in a virtual continuous state of war since Israel’s founding in 1948. In what came to be known as the Camp David accords, Carter got both sides to not only make peace, but to establish diplomatic relations, which was unthinkable in the Arab world at that time, and even to this day. He also turned over control and ownership of the Panama Canal to Panama where it belonged, despite the howls of protest from the Rush Limbaugh-types, that such action would allow Red China and Russia to invade and conquer the U.S. at will. These accomplishments paled, however, because during Carter’s presidency, the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the country was taken over by the fanatical mullahs that run the government to this day. One of their first actions was to invade the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and take all personal assigned there as hostages. As negotiations for their release dragged on and on, Carter authorized a daring covert rescue attempt. But 2 of the rescuers’ helicopters crashed in the air over Iran during this botched attempt, killing all on-board. It seemed to symbolize all the ineptitude of the Administration, and doomed Carter’s chances for re-election.

In 1980 Carter ran for re-election against a second-rate movie actor, who had managed to become Governor of California, named Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan talked as a tough conservative, but had a huge gift of gab, including a lot of self-deprecating humor, and had actually governed California as a moderate. In any event, due to the poor economy, the botched hostage rescue, and Reagan’s highly skilled campaign abilities, Carter lost the election in a landslide. Reagan set out to quickly change the political landscape by sharply increasing Defense spending, cutting social spending, and significantly reducing income taxes, especially for the wealthy. In the end, his cuts in social spending were modest and around the fringes, but his Defense  increases and tax cuts sharply led to huge deficit spending. The accumulated deficit from George Washington through Jimmy Carter was one trillion dollars when Reagan took office, but mushroomed to four trillion in the following 12 years, or a 300% increase. Today Republican candidates for President all hail Reagan as their model, but the truth is that the tea-party dominated GOP would never allow Reagan to be their candidate. He had too much common sense and pragmatism. Reagan eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease which started appearing late in his second term.

Reagan was followed into the presidency by his Vice-President George H. W. Bush, a very decent, honest and down-to-earth individual. The year was 1988, and the Democrats put up the Governor of Mass. named Michael Dukakis to oppose Bush. But like the George McGovern candidacy and the Carter years, the Democrats and Dukakis went into a full incompetency mode, and Bush won the election easily. His 4 years in office were generally unremarkable, but he did agree with Democrats to a small increase in income tax rates, for which his was branded a traitor by right-wing Republicans. He also led us into the first Gulf war against Iraq, when Saddam Hussein tried to take over oil rich Kuwait. Bush was successful in freeing Kuwait, but he let Saddam stay in power, which we paid for dearly soon after.

In 1992 the economy experienced a slight down-turn, and it cost Bush his re-election bid to another southern Democrat Governor named William Jefferson Clinton. Clinton ran on a platform of: “It’s the economy, stupid,” and the country seemed to believe him, as he won easily despite a reputation of sexual affairs outside of marriage. The 8 Clinton years (he won re-election in 1996 against a hapless Bob Dole) were probably the best era of peace and prosperity in my lifetime, and I’ve been around over three-quarters of a century. We had a booming economy, low interest rates, low inflation, and except for a relatively brief scuffle with Serbia, the absence of war.  Of course, in Clinton’s second term, the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted, and Clinton became only the second president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. But Clinton survived the scandal, and because the times were so good, his approval ratings were through the roof when he left office. To this day, there are still those that bemoan the fact that he’s no longer president.

I’ve already written about how the election of 2000 was taken away from Clinton’s Vice-President, Al Gore, despite his winning at the polls, and how this led to the second Gulf war with Iraq and the ensuing huge loss of life and destruction. George W. Bush, son of the former president, George H.W. Bush, assumed the Oval Office, only to be hit with the tragic events of 9/11, eight months later. He is a decent man like his father, but he got us into a highly questionable second war with Iraq which took about eight and a half years to extricate ourselves from. Under his presidency the prescription drug benefit was added to Medicare, another huge accomplishment on the road to try to achieve universal health care. But the economy took a huge hit starting in 2007 and the country soured on the second Bush presidency. This paved the way for the first black president elected to the Oval Office in 2008, Barak Obama. We all pretty much know how it’s turned out since then. In 2013, either Obama will be back in office, or we will have the newly elected Mitt Romney.

In any event let’s drink a toast to those that made it, but , more so to those that tried and failed. How much different would our lives be, or would the nation’s affairs be, if the other guy had won instead. It would be interesting to theorize about it.

 

 

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