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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 21, 2008


Economic Spin and a "Rebate"

"The economic team reports that our economy has a solid foundation, but that there are areas of real concern. Our economy is still creating jobs, though at a reduced pace. Consumer spending is still growing, but the housing market is declining. Business investment and exports are still rising, but the cost of imported oil has increased."
-President Bush from his discussion on the economy and his new "Growth Package" idea

I wonder who this economic team consists of anyway? It Must be Pig One and Two of "The Three Little Pigs" story whose homes were blown down by a wolf with bad breath; and Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon series who plans to pay for the hamburger he eats today on next Tuesday.

"I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,"

Of course, we have a better chance of seeing Wimpy's promise come through before Bush's economy is ever as strong as he says it will be.

When The President says that "our economy is still creating jobs," one has to wonder whether his calculator is missing the minus key. After all, all one has to do is add the jobs created numbers from the jobs lost numbers to realize that jobs have actually had a "negative gain". In the past few month, the unemployment rate has ballooned from 4.6 to 5.0 percent. That's an increase of nearly ten percent of the working population, representing as many as five million American workers.

The rest of us call it a "job loss", President Bush, You still have to out your spin on it, just as you have to do with every policy and plan which you and your ilk have put forth. Let's face it, "spin" is all you have!

And as far as your out-and-out lie about Consumer Spending, just what constitutes growth in the Bush Spin Machine? Take a look at what the rest of us realize to be the truth:

"Consumers Retrench As Economy Weakens - Consumers Pull Back on Spending, Worry More About Debt As Economy Weakens"
-A real AP Headline dated today, Monday January 21, 2008, from an article by Eileen Alt Powell, an AP Business Writer

"Jobs are getting harder to find, while the crisis in the mortgage industry has made it more difficult for homeowners to borrow against their houses, closing down what has been a major source of extra cash in recent years. Consumers' budgets have been squeezed by rising food and fuel prices.
"Credit card balances surged through the fall months... Delinquency rates on consumer loans are rising,"
-The AP article

The economic signals "are flashing yellow,"
-Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com

It reminds me when George H.W. Bush's trip to the supermarket on his way to losing his campaign for re-election in 1992. On this particular occasion, President Bush (41) was astonished at the supermarket scanner, which all of us regular people had seen for many years prior. Just like his Daddy, this President is just out of touch. And if he isn't, then he is simply lying.

And as to the rise in "cost of imported oil", just what has your administration done to curb that problem, President Bush? Haven't you taken away the money to research alternate fuels right after your trip to the alternate fuel research facility? Didn't you allow your "base" supporters - the "haves and have mores" - to bilk us after Hurricane Katrina hit with a short-lived and manufactured gas shortage? And while that was happening, why did you keep the Strategic Oil Reserve full when your say-so would have eased the pain of oil prices, at least for the short term?

Now the rumor is that President Bush is going to push a "tax rebate" aimed at the middle class (those earning under $200,000 per year). That "rebate" will send $800 to single Americans and $1,600 to married American couples. This is a good idea and one that should have been instituted prior to, and instead of, the two Bush tax breaks for the rich.

A stimulus package that puts money into the hands of the middle class will stimulate the economy in sharp contrast to the millions of dollars given to his "base" of "haves and have mores". What would make it even better would be the removal of those same, targeted-to0the-rich Bush tax cuts and have those dollars thrown into the economy by sending them to the middle class. Enough of this trickle-down crap. It didn't work for Ronald Reagan's administration and it isn't working now.

$1,600 dollars will go to a new roof or a family vacation or a down-payment on a new car. $1,600 dollars will also pay down the credit card debt and home loans that are killing the middle class while allowing the banks to make a "killing". Imagine what $2,500 could have done.

President Bush is looking to save his legacy with spin. His presidency is more than just the lamest of ducks - it is a dead duck. And we have to hope he doesn't bring us all down with him.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

January 15th, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial cartoon that had appeared January 12th in the Washington Post. Titled “Madam President Meets the Bad Guys” and done by the Pulitzer-winning Pat Oliphant, it features Hillary Clinton as president, sitting behind a desk, sobbing, tears everywhere. Before her stand Osama bin Laden, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korean President Kim Jong Il, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf and some other unknown Arabs.

Sen. Clinton is saying “You guys are mean!” while bin Laden says “Aw...She’s sensitive. I had no idea.” Ahmadinejad says, “Oh my–was it something we said?” Kim Jong Il says, “I’d feel better if I attacked the South!” Musharraf notes, “I take off the uniform and put on the suit. Now she hates the tie!” Collective others say “Buy her flowers!” “I told you not to mention the pantsuit!” And down in the corner, Bill Clinton says, “This is when PMS goes nuclear!”

When I saw the cartoon in the Washington Post, I was stunned. When it was reprinted–days later and on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, no less–in the Inquirer, I was outraged.

PMS goes nuclear? In a respected daily newspaper about a sitting Senator and major candidate for president?

As a woman, there are few days when I am not made aware of how egregious sexism is in our society and others. But it is 2008, not 1808. A woman may well become president of the world’s most powerful nation. Editorial cartoons can poke fun on issues, but there are lines that should not be crossed, and portraying discarded cultural stereotypes as fact is one of those lines.

Does anyone think for a moment that the Washington Post or the Inquirer would feature an editorial cartoon in which Sen. Barack Obama was depicted in a singularly racist manner–dressed in overalls and eating watermelon while “shuffling,” for example? Rev. Al Sharpton would get the editorial board fired within days. And rightly so.

So why do it to a woman candidate?

Because they can. Because sexism is still not only accepted, but promoted in every aspect of American life.

The entire editorial boards of two major daily newspapers–and who knows how many others–approved this sexist cartoon and ran it. No one asked the question at either paper about whether or not this was over the line, inappropriate and parallel to unbridled Jim Crow-style racism. The boys got together, slapped a few knees and ran the cartoon.

Many people snicker when you say the word “sexism,” as if it’s something silly instead of something that ruins the lives of billions of women and girls worldwide. So let’s call it by it’s other name: Misogyny: the hatred of women based solely on their gender.

Misogyny pervades our society. The consistent over-the-top attacks on Hillary Clinton for being a *woman,* not for being a *candidate,* are but a tiny, if very public, vestige of that hatred.

The statistics speak for themselves. Two of the three major violent crimes in America are perpetrated almost wholly against women and girls: domestic violence and rape.

Turn on the computer and surf the Internet: sexism abounds in often violent pornographic images of women and in the sexualizing of little girls. TV, magazines, newspapers–women and girls are summed up as sex objects and little else. Look at the women in music videos, look at the women performing at half-time during football games. Look at movies: male nudity gets an NC-17-rating. Female nudity only gets PG-13, because it’s accepted that women are naked in films.

In addition to the violence and hyper-sexualizing, however, there are the limitations. Women still make only 69 percent of what men make for the same work. Education makes it worse: The higher up the corporate, academic or white-collar ladder one goes, the greater the chasm between what men are paid and what women make. Colleges and universities acknowledge that female applicants are expected to have higher test scores and grades than males. Only a few years ago, then-Harvard President Lawrence Summers said in all seriousness that women could not be as good scientists as men.

Throughout the world women and girls are sold into domestic and sexual slavery every day. Brothels are filled with girls as young as five. HIV afflicts one in five girls in Southeast Asia. In South Africa, raping infant girls is considered a cure for AIDS by men. Countless female infants have been eviscerated by these crimes in recent years. Female genital mutilation is practiced in countries all over the world. And while it predominates in the Middle East, Muslim nations and Africa, it is practiced here as well.

Throughout Southeast Asia, India and China, abortion clinics abound for sex-selection abortions. Female babies are aborted. In China, with its population control, one-child policy, female infants are abandoned on the roadside to die. In Saudi Arabia, Niger and other Muslim nations, women and girls can be stoned to death if they are raped.

There are worse places to be born female than in the U.S. But that doesn’t make the sexism in this country any more palatable for those of us who suffer with it daily.
Hillary Clinton is the first serious woman candidate for president in American history, a fact which itself bespeaks the sexism rampant in our nation.

Polls indicate that Americans are far more willing to vote for any man, including an African American, than they are for any woman. More complex polls asking why people would or would not vote for a woman for president elicit answers that reflect Oliphant’s sexism. People mention “hormones,” “tears” and “who would take a woman seriously?”

A majority of democracies in the world have already elected women leaders. India, Israel, the U.K., Germany–all have had women leaders, as have many others, including in Africa and South America, both notoriously sexist regions. Why not America?

I find the antipathy to a woman president astonishing, if not outright appalling. The commentary about Hillary Clinton has been so outrageously sexist, that I sometimes have to look at the calendar. Yes, it *is* the 21st century. And yet...

And yet there is a major commentator, Chris Matthews, on a major news network, MSNBC, calling Sen. Clinton a “she-devil.” He’s said that “modern women” like her are not appealing to “Midwest guys.” He said she’s only gotten votes because people feel sorry for her. He said she wanted to “smother the little senator [Barack Obama] in his crib.”

Matthews is not alone. It seems difficult for reporters and anchors to talk about Clinton’s presidential bid the way they do with the men. Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, for example, not only believes that women should answer to men, he has signed his church’s (Southern Baptist) proclamation to that effect. Are we expected to believe that a President Huckabee would treat women the same way he treats men, if these are his beliefs? Does no one remember the video of President Bush giving German Chancellor Angela Merkel a clearly unwanted shoulder massage at a G8 conference last year? Would Bush have done that to one of the male heads of state?

The hatred of women is deeply ingrained in our society and others. We might not stone our women to death in America, but we certainly place myriad limitations on them, all gender-based. And gender-biased.

Hillary Clinton has become a focal point for that hatred because she is the front-runner in the Democratic race for president. She embodies what many men say they hate about feminism: she’s smart, well-educated, has had a 35 year career in law, community activism and politics, in addition to being a wife and mother.

In short, she’s led a life like many men, only much harder, because there is no glass ceiling for men, no sexist restrictions, and they don’t raise the kids, too. She was one of only a handful of women in her class in law school. She’s experienced gender bias all her life. Throughout the campaign she’s been judged not as a candidate but as a woman: there have been articles about her breasts, thighs, clothes, hair, laugh, sexuality. A week before President Bush was wiping away tears in Israel, Clinton’s eyes filled with tears–but none were shed–on the campaign trail.

There were no cartoons about Bush’s tears, just about the ones Clinton never shed.

No male candidate has faced the personal assaults Clinton has.

There has been a lot said about how gender and race shouldn’t be issues in this election, but it’s absurd and even wrong to suggest that. Race has long been a matter of discussion in America–as it should be. African Americans are the second-largest minority group in the country and 11 percent of the population. Latinos are 17 percent of the population.

But more than half of all Americans are female. Which means over half of all Americans are discriminated against the minute they are born. Isn’t it time we started talking about that?

Turn on your TV any night and you will see images of women scantily dressed being tortured and murdered in the top-rated TV shows. CSI, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU–all of these shows depict the vivid, usually sexual, torture, rape and murder of women and teenage girls in prime time.

Meanwhile, in real time, women in our armed forces–like Marine Maria Lauterbach whose body was found buried in North Carolina last week–are being raped and even murdered by fellow servicemen. Women and girls are being taken off the streets by men, like the 15-year-old Kensington girl who was tortured and raped for 12 hours last week by a serial rapist.

The best-selling video game in America allows players the opportunity to rape, torture and murder women. Why are we surprised when men and boys realize those fantasies when they see women and girls solely as playthings?

This is how we view women collectively as a nation. Is it any wonder that respected newspapers think it’s still acceptable to apply Jim Crow-style stereotyping to a female candidate for president?

In order to change the way women and girls are treated, we have to talk about what is done to them from birth. The discourse includes Hillary Clinton, but it’s not about her, even though the public vilification of her has caused the tipping point on the issue of sexism. The discourse is about why, as a society, America hates women and treats them as if they are less valuable than men. Hillary Clinton is just the most visible example.

The question posed by the Oliphant cartoon is not how Clinton would handle “the bad guys.” We already know from looking at her public record that she stands up to bad guys very well.

The real question behind the cartoon is who *are* the bad guys? Because in 2008, for a newspaper of record to print such a shameful and archaic cartoon, assaults every woman in America. It says all women are nothing more than a monthly menstrual cycle and a clutch of hormones, that women are their biology and nothing more. That makes the editorial boards of both papers the bad guys.

Gender *must* be part of the discourse in this election because it has too long been the elephant in the room, unmentioned and unmentionable. It’s time for women and girls to be treated with equality and fairness in American society. We could start with an apology from the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer and move on from there.

In response to, "It may make for good GOP politics, but the lack of health care for every American is bad for every American, whether they have insurance or not," Robert Scardapane writes

I wonder whether it makes good politics anymore. I suspect this is the reason why many middle/working class Republicans have abandoned the GOP. The Republicans managed to get people to vote for them against their own interests by using deceptive framing (tax cuts ... but for whom?), hot button social issues such as gay marriage and pseudo-religious pandering. I think the electorate caught on explaining the dismal turn out for the GOP primaries.

From the Republican standpoint, using health care as a wedge is a good idea. They get to spurt out words such as "Liberal" and Socialist" which gets their supporters scared enough to get out their own vote. It also allows the Republicans to "inform" their supporters that their tax dollars are going to pay for illegal aliens and those too lazy to get a job. It allows the GOP to play not only class warfare, but race warfare as well.

And it has worked the last two elections.

In response to Barack Obama's statement, "(Ronald Reagan) tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, 'We want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing," Robert Scardapane writes:

I have to admit I was annoyed by Obama when he said that. He is plainly trying to draw in the "Regan Democrats". Is he completely wrong? Not exactly. After Vietnam and the Iran hostage crisis, Americans were feeling a bit "beat up". Reagan did bring a sense of optimism though it mainly "window dressing". I give him credit for at least not being a fool enough to cut taxes when it was clear that the economy was getting no better. Reagan also managed to actually strengthen social security.

But, on the balance, many bad trends started with Reagan (and to some degree Nixon). The economy became more globalized. Jobs became more vulnerable. The social safety net was weakened in many ways. The nation poured ridiculous amounts of money into defense.

In response to, "John McCain is now the guy to beat in the Republican party," Rhian writes:

No one in Arizona supports McCain. He has betrayed the citizens here by attempting to block all efforts to secure the border. He is however being funded by the GOP (NeoCon division) as the man most likely to expand the wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) till those who have already declared WWIII in their own jackass minds (like Kissinger, Rove, Rumsfeld for example) can actually let the cat out of the bag and issue a press release that informs the public.

In response to, "the rapidly rising cost of U.S. health care," Pat Thompson writes:

Due to for-profit hospitals, for-profit health insurance companies, and even medical groups which are owned by "Capital Health" and other such for profit companies. The average doctor isn't doing too well, unless he's a famous surgeon doing heart bypass operations, or a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. A recent NYTimes article on the former well respected and well paid professions -- doctors and lawyers -- shows these groups as hard working, with compensation and respect not keeping up with the costs of their education. With all the TV ads for prescription drugs, many doctors find they are being told by their patients what new drugs to prescribe for them. It's the pharmaceutical companies that are making the big bucks.

In response to, "banks that we (the American middle class) will be bailing out," Pat Thompson writes:

The interest they now charge use to be called usury and was illegal. 30% on credit card balances, and home mortgage that "adjust" to a payment that is so much higher that families lose their homes. Roosevelt started his presidency in 1933 with changes to the banking and mortgage laws that allowed banks to "call in" a loan -- pay up the entire balance or they take your home. Starting with the "deregulation" that Reagan endorsed, and this administration permitted, banks and credit card companies can gouge their customers any way they wish.

Recently, our credit card company called us up to "inform" us that they were raising our rate to 40 - yes, 40 - percent! We owed $800 on the card, told them to go to hell, and "informed" them that a check for that balance will be in the mail. It was them they said, "Wait! Let's talk." I own a home with a very small mortgage; have a very favorable credit rating; a pretty good job; and just one auto loan while owning two other cars outright.

I wonder how many Americans are paying that 40 percent?

In response to, "(Senator McCain) probably spent too much time in the sun himself," Pat Thompson writes:

Yes, he definitely did, but it was during the six years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison camp, in a cage out in the blazing sun. I am no fan of most of his policies. On the plus side, he is an outspoken opponent of torture, but otherwise he's a Conservative Republican, pro-war, and all the rest. But compared to the others, at least he earned whatever esteem he is held in.

In response to, "Reagan was probably the third worst President this country has ever had to endure," Pat Thompson writes:

I agree. Just as an aside, did you know that he voted for one of the best Presidents ever, Franklin D. Roosevelt FOUR TIMES. In 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. Reagan was a Democrat at that time, and also active in the unionizing of screenwriters, actors, etc. I think the Alzheimer's had set in early. Concerning Roosevelt, I heartily recommend reading, or listening to books on CD about his administration. He instituted so many changes that elevated the poor to the middle class, gave seniors an income (which we still enjoy today as Social Security), and then won the war against both the Nazi's and Japan in 3 and a half years, and actually created the middle class by giving all veterans of that war the chance to attend college for free, and buy a home through a VA mortgage. Everyone in my father's generation returning from WWII enjoyed those benefits. More people who had no chance of attending college were the first in their families to do so. More people were able to buy a home. This stimulated home building, creating all the suburbs. This created more jobs building appliances and furniture, etc. America then had more educated people, which created prosperity and the middle class of the 50's. It's going, going, gone...

In response to, "(Barack Obama's) vague 'hope' message may appeal to New Agers," Pat Thompson writes:

No, it is not the New Age people, who were mainly the baby boom generation, who are now getting older, and Hillary is more popular with people over 45. It is Gen X and younger who are being taken in with the rhetoric. The "uniter, not a divider" stuff even worked for Bush. But where are the specifics? You are so right, it is all very vague. Read his books, it's all about him. He admits he isn't the greatest father, finds juggling his career and his family difficult -- he can't walk and chew gum, while we all know many women (and some men) who very proficiently do it all. Like Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King's compatriots said "I'd love to see Obama President -- in 8 years". Let him fulfill his first Senate term. He has only been a Senator for two years, and spent one of them campaigning.

In response to, "have the American voters--even the ones most badly damaged by Reaganomics--been so badly brainwashed by mass media?" Pat Thompson writes:

The American people will get what they deserve, unfortunately. Most people pay little attention at all to politics. They get the little snippets on the evening news, maybe, or not even that. The Sunday morning TV shows, such as Meet the Press are watched mainly by the older generation. How many people watch C-Span, to hear the entire speech? And how many buy the books where each candidate is dissected, or even the books they write about themselves? The information is available, but people aren't interested. And the idea of being a Patriotic American, or a "good Christian" is how they define themselves. A good actor like Reagan fooled them, while he fouled up this country. Bush was the guy they'd all like to have a beer with. Giuliani was a "hero" on 9/11. Huckleberry is a "pastor" a man of God. The fact that their own interests as workers have gone down the drain doesn't connect.

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-Noah Greenberg