Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is the Debt?

At a Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire on Monday, December 21st, an audience member asked Republican Presidential candidate Governor Chris Christie about the National Debt, claiming that Barack Obama had tripled the Debt in his seven years in office.  Governor Christie, without attempting to correct the man’s exaggerated figure, claimed that Obama had added to the debt more than every other President combined; in other words, he had doubled – not tripled – the Debt, still a potent charge.   But here is the truth: Presidents Reagan and Bush I more than quadrupled the Debt, from $998 billion to $4,411 billion, President Bush II more than doubled the Debt, from $5,807 billion to $11,910 billion.  President Obama took over a Debt at $11,910 billion and the Debt stood at $18,151 billion at the end of the last fiscal year, September 30th, 2015, an explosion of 52%, not 200%, not 100% (but he has only been responsible for 6 years of budgets so far).  And while President Bush II only had surpluses as far as the eye could see to overcome, President Obama had a deep recession to fight (and additional government spending is every serious economist’s response to a recession).
Politicians lie, even with numbers that are easily verified.  But politicians don’t expect you to care enough to hunt down the truth.  So, I am happy to do that for you. 
And, by the way, here is the SOURCE of my numbers.  I wonder what the governor’s source was.
And Governor Christie knows he told a whopper.  The alternative is: he is ignorant and he doesn’t care.  Which is worse?
For what it's worth, this is not an anti-Christie post, it is a post aimed at setting the record straight re: taxes and the National Debt.  All Republicans have put these untrue facts out there.  Democrats lie too, but Republicans – the party of fiscal responsibility – like to emphasize the fiscal irresponsibility of President Obama, and they don’t seem to care that it is just not true.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Big Deal Dates in "Recent" US History

This blog post is just an exercise in historical silliness.  There is no way you could come up with this personal list of big deal dates if you asked Google or Bing.  It is just MY list, 13 events.

November 4th & 5th, 2008
Barack Obama wins the American PresidencyThe world went crazy, the worldcelebrated, America had elected a black man President, America had grown up!  Even in the USA, Obama had a 76% approval rating following his inauguration, so even conservative Republicans were glad for America (for a short while).  It was quite an event, you could feel it!

September 11th, 2001
September 11,” “9/11,” Muslim terrorists destroy the World Trade Center.  Need I say more?  This was the first time our nation (Hawaii was not a state when Pearl Harbor was attacked) had been attacked since the British made war on us twice between 1775 and 1815.  We are vulnerable and we have never recovered our sense of security.

July 20th & 21st, 1969
Neil Armstrong walks on the Moon“The Eagle has landed” happened on July 20th and Armstrong took his walk (“That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”) on the 21st.  I remember watching it on a huge TV screen somewhere in Central Park in New York City, but that may be a mythological memory.  Once again, a world changing event, the dawn of space exploration, Star Trek, here we come!

November 22nd, 1963
JFK is Shot.  We had radios on in the US Army motor pool and we knew within seconds that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas.  Many of us suspected then (and many still do) that Cuba had something to do with the assassination.  The free-spirited sixties came to an abrupt close on this day in 1963.  Life has never been the same since, they lost their innocence that day.  And the “culture wars” that began back then are still being played out, and the children of JFK are not doing too well at all.

October 4th, 1957
Sputnik.  The real beginning of the Space Age.  The Soviet Union had beat us into space and we did NOT feel very “exceptional” that day.  President Eisenhower then authorized the National Defense Education Act, a program that subsidized young Americans who wanted to go into math and science and technology, a program that jump-started a generation into space (and personal computers and the Internet and smart-phones for everybody).

May 8th / August 15th, 1945
V-E (Victory in Europe) and V-J (Victory in Japan) Day.  World War II is over and the good guys won!  Yeah for the Free World and its new leader, the USA!  Americans younger than 50 have no idea of the scale of World War II.  The fatalities were some 70 to 85 million souls, and our own casualty list numbered over 400,000.  The number of American men in uniform (16,000,000!), the number of men in theaters of combat, was 20% of the male population of the whole country; whereas since then (Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq-Afghanistan) we have not budged past 2% of the male population (less than 1% today).  With the exception of the Revolutionary era, the Civil War, and the Great Depression, World War II was the biggest test our nation has ever had to endure.  It was a big deal and few are alive today who know this in their bones.  Most of you – most of US – are lucky to never have experienced such a world.

December 7th, 1941
Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese!  FDR proclaimed it “a date which will live in infamy.”  While we had remained officially neutral from the war’s start (September 1st, 1939, Germany invaded Poland), we were not totally caught by surprise as the administration was waiting for a pretext to take an isolationist USA into a world war.  And Japan provided it.  We were all in by the next day, when we declared war on Japan.  “The Greatest Generation” is a clear reference to the men and women who fought in this war; and it was an expression of profound gratitude that their grown-up sons felt they owed their fathers before they passed.  This awful war – six years of world-wide carnage – was one of the most formative events in our nation’s recent history, in many contradictory ways.

November 1st, 1938
The Match Race.  The thoroughbred Match of the Century, between the upstart Seabiscuit and the blue-blood Triple Crown winner, War Admiral.  The underdog, an “old” 5 year old thoroughbred from the West, upset the greatest thoroughbred of his time that day, conclusively.  Why am I including such a trivial event in this list?  It was the middle of the Depression, and the race was a matchup, not just of two great horses, but of two kinds of Americans: the little guys who were suffering and their capitalist overlords.  Nonetheless, many bosses gave their employees the day off.  And, in 1938, a horse, Seabiscuit, garnered more column inches of newstype than any man, FDR and Hitler included.  A phenomenon.

October 30th, 1938
Halloween in America.  Europe is at war.  But the United States is still playing a waiting game.  Orson Welles, a brilliant 23 year old radio actor, and his Mercury Theatre, put on a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds that caused a minor panic among its many American listeners, some of whom actually fled the comfort of their own homes and ran for the hills.  Read about it.  What does it prove?  That Americans are gullible, that we believe everything we hear, no matter how unlikely.  Or maybe this is true of human beings in general.  We Americans, we humans, have dark souls.

October 29th, 1929
Black Tuesday.  The stock market collapses.  The Great Depression begins.  September 1929 through August 1945, the extent of the Great Depression and World War II, was a time that most if not all of my readers can barely imagine.  People worldwide live today like we lived then, just it is so far from the modern American experience that it remains a fantasy for most of us.  But it was real.  25% unemployment.  Sounds like 75% were untouched.  Most Americans were touched directly, went jobless, at one time or another.  It took until 1954 – 25 years with a war to thank – for the market to return to its giddy Roaring Twenties heights.

May 20th – 21st, 1927
Charles Lindbergh flies solo across the Atlantic Ocean, New York to Paris, in The Spirit of St. Louis (which can still be seen in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum (you walk beneath it as you enter the museum from the National Mall)).  An amazing feat of derring-do, a fitting and heroic symbol of the Roaring Twenties.  As an aside, Lindbergh was criticized in the late 1930’s for being a friend of fascists as he worked to keep us out of the European war.  Until Pearl Harbor – when he went all in, and flew 50 combat missions.

July 21st, 1925
The Scopes Trial.  The Monkey Trial.  The Trial of the Century (one of many trials to be thus honored).  Charles Darwin.  Creationism.  The ACLU.  William Jennings Bryan.  Clarence Darrow.  H.L. Mencken.  What a cast!  What a show.  Tennessee won, in actual fact, as John Scopes was found guilty of teaching Evolution in his high school biology class, which had recently been made illegal by the midget minds of the Tennessee legislature.  But, of course, Scopes and Darrow and Darwin and science really won.  Mencken had a field day.  Read his commentary.  The United States is home to more Evolution deniers than any other Christian nation in the world.   God bless our freedom of belief!  God bless Clarence Darrow for his non-belief!  And H.L. Mencken for his Satanic tongue!

September 14th, 1901
Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt sworn in as President.  The Rough Rider takes the reins of the Presidency and the Progressive Era begins.  I confess I do not know how to collapse this into a few sentences.  Read about the first Roosevelt, he is as fascinating as FDR, as Lincoln and as Jefferson.  What a bundle of contradictions, but none of them half-lived.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

A brief history of the evolving character of the American people can be seen in 3 or 4 broad, but deep, brush strokes on a large canvas.  Those strokes are: the Revolutionary period (1763 – 1804), the Civil War (1861 – 1865), and the Great Depression and the Great War (1929 – 1945).

A Jewish friend of mine …

A Jewish friend of mine wrote this and I thought it deserved being seen.
Someone in the <deleted for the sake of anonymity> group argued that we are a Christian Nation. As a Jew, I would say that makes me just a bit uncomfortable. Not to mention that historically, it made Irish and Italian Catholics uncomfortable, too. If we are a Christian Nation, we are a Nation of Salem Witch trials, of Pilgrims who fled religious intolerance only to practice it themselves, of Christians who justified killing the red (native-born) savages for not converting to Christianity, and of Christians who dressed in white robes to go on lynching rampages. Neither “Jesus,” nor “Christ,” nor “Christian,” nor “Christianity,” nor “Bible” are mentioned so much as one time in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, or even the Federalist papers; not once (you don’t believe me, check it out). Our Constitution is the only constitution in the Christian world not to mention God even one time. The word God only appears in the Declaration and only when it is surrounded by deistic modifiers like Nature’s God. All of our Founding Fathers (Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Paine) were deists, men who believed in a creator God who after he set the world in motion left it alone. To many modern-day American Christians, a deist might as well be an atheist. John Adams called Jefferson an atheist during their campaign for the Presidency, and Jefferson, whose Jefferson Bible strips the story of Jesus of all its miracles leaving only his speeches, did not bother denying it. Not only were they not recognizably Christian (by today’s standards), most of them were Free-Masons.
Christian Nation? No, America is NOT a Christian Nation, and thank God for that!

My Jewish friend likes to remind me that we used to call America a Judaeo-Christian nation when we were growing up. Now we are looking at a Syrian Muslim refugee invasion! And Donald Trump has gone bonkers!! But the President calls for us to be generous Christians and to let 10,000 (that is 1 per 30,000 Americans) Syrian refugees into the country. And it is not like we will just let them all in to scatter to the highways and by-ways of our land without extensive vetting. There are reasons to be concerned, dozens of reasons to be concerned, and we will debate these reasons for the next 200 years, just as we are still debating whether we are a Christian nation 200-plus years after all our Founding Fathers resoundingly said NO. We need to be careful what messages we send to the world, we need to be especially careful that we don’t prove what radical Islamic jihadists (call them what you will) will say about us to their moderate Muslim co-religionists: “Americans hate you, America is Christians and Jews and they all hate you, they hate every Muslim, and you have no place there among Islam’s sworn enemies; join us in our jihad against the infidel West.”  And for those of you who really believe we are or ought to be a Christian Nation, what is the difference between you and those who want to establish an Islamic caliphate across the entire Middle-East?

Not only is it the right thing to do – to welcome these unfortunate men, women and children who are fleeing the terrors of their own homeland, and not without vetting them properly – it is the wise thing to do, too. 

So, buckle up.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Allah Revisited

In a piece that I called Katy Perry & Allah, I probably sounded like an enemy of Muslims.  I suggested that American Muslims needed to get used to being discriminated against, at least individually and personally (rather than officially by the government).  But my whole drift was that they could not expect to have their prophet Mohammad respected, not as they wanted him to be, not by the American people.  Because individual freedom of expression is America’s creed (not just YOUR freedom, but everyone’s); what makes us American more than anything else, is our RIGHT to offend, to blaspheme, to insult, to disparage.  And I was suggesting that this lack of “respect” was part of a period of indoctrination that might last a hundred years or more; ask a black man how long it will last that they won’t respect you, and he will say with some justice: “it never ends, white Americans are all alike, bigoted as hell.”  Seen the movie The Gangs of New York yet?  I recommend it, it will give a real face to American intolerance.  But it will allow you to breathe easier about it.  Really!

So what am I here for this time?  To associate myself with President Obama’s sentiments, and not with Donald Trump’s.  And to honor the New York tabloid Daily News (NOT a liberal rag) for its graphic eloquence!