Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


It’s The Oligarchy, Stupid!

Herman Cain just doesn’t get it.

His allegiance to the Horatio Alger myth makes him far too dismissive of real world problems facing recent college graduates. Cain demonstrated how out of touch he is when asked his opinion about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations now gripping New York and other cities around the country. Many of the protesters are young people from middle class backgrounds and with college educations.

Cain tore into the protesters. In his view, they are nothing but a bunch of whining, lazy losers who can’t muster enough gumption to grab their piece of the American pie.

“If you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself,” he chided, adding a finger-wagging explanation that his parents didn’t raise him to look enviously at those with more wealth.

“It is not a person’s fault because they succeeded,” Cain said. “It is a person’s fault if they fail.”

Cain doesn’t seem to realize that young people today do not lack initiative; they lack opportunity. They face the worst job market in decades.

But that is not the worst of it. Young people see a dysfunctional political system, in which policies that could alleviate widespread distress and help put the economy back on a path to growth have been declared off limits. They see a political system that makes them suffer — along with middle- and lower-income people of all ages — for the sake of the corporate interests whose money now dominates American government.

The classic Alger virtues — determination, focus and work ethic — worked for Cain (age 65) and fellow candidate Mitt Romney (age 64) when they were young in a world where America’s expanding economy was dominant. Young people today are no less entrepreneurial or driven than previous generations. The problem is that times have changed, and the Republican candidates might want to take note.

The lion’s share of the new wealth the United States economy has generated over the last few decades has gone to the very rich — the “1 percent,” as the Occupy Wall Street protesters put it. The rest of us have faced stagnating wages but spiraling costs for the things that are necessary for a secure middle-class life, including housing, education and health care. Many Americans have made up the difference by borrowing. And the fact that middle-class living standards have been maintained at all owes much to the fact that both spouses in a typical household now work — which actually makes families more susceptible to the risks of job loss.

These trends came to a head in the catastrophic aftermath of the real estate bubble. The balance sheets of average American families blew up. We’re now tapped out; millions are insolvent beyond repair. Our economy will not recover, will not return to normal, until average Americans get out of that hole.

But the widespread sentiment is — and if you listen to the protesters carefully, you’ll hear it — that the only ones who can count on a sympathetic hearing in Washington are the powerful business intersts, especially Wall Street. They, after all, own our government.

So put yourself in the place of one of the shiftless college graduates that Cain so disdains. A college degree has never been more necessary to gain a foothold in the middle class — and even a bachelor’s degree is becoming less valuable these days. So young people take on frightening levels of student loan debt, because what is the alternative? Now, however, many have no job and dim prospects and huge debts, and nothing is being done to mend the broader economy because one party — the party of Herman Cain — is dead set against it.

Cain and Romney and the rest of their party produce all sorts of flat-earth arguments against any government action such as public works and restoring taxes on the rich. They also label the Occupy Wall Street protests as “class warfare.”

The truth is, Americans respect wealth and tolerate a remarkable amount of inequality. But they are catching on that the playing field is tilted now more than ever, and that the financial arrangements we all must make are becoming more and more predatory. Something is wrong in America, and it’s not a failure of the work ethic. People feel themselves falling behind.

In 2012, if any candidate honestly addresses these truths, and convinces American voters that he will reclaim democracy from the forces of oligarchy, he will be our next president.

That person will not be Herman Cain.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at

(c) 2011, The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Media Services

Far-Right Intelligentsia Struggles To Come To Terms With Norway Tragedy

It’s been less than 2 weeks since the tragic terrorist attacks in Norway carried out by anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik, and already far-right commentators have started justifying them. The most recent and egregious example is a blog post from Pamela Geller — the conservative commentator who started the false “Ground Zero mosque” rumor last year — which implies that Breivik was justified in murdering teenagers at summer camp because they were not white.

On Monday, Geller posted a picture of the summer campers murdered by Breivik, along with this caption: “Note the faces that are more Middle Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.” The rest of the post pointed out that the teenagers were interested in politics and members of a political youth organization, “Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking,” similar to the “College Republicans” and “College Democrats” organizations in the United States.

Geller later edited out the racist line, but retained the information about the campers’ politics. Geller’s insinuation that the teenagers were a legitimate target because they supported a political party she dislikes has been a common refrain on the far-right. Last Thursday, former Fox News host Glenn Beck compared the terrorist victims to “the Hitler youth,” since they were politically active.

Geller may be blaming the victims to distract from her links to Breivik. Reports have emerged that someone — possibly Breivik — left comments on Geller’s site saying he was “stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment.” Geller prominently featured these comments, while keeping their author’s identity anonymous. Breivik was certainly familiar with Geller’s site, and cited her approvingly numerous times in his manifesto.

Meanwhile, other ultra-conservatives took to the opinion pages to defend Breivik’s views. Bruce Bawer, the author of such Islamophobic books “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within” and “Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom” was also referenced approvingly in Breivik’s manifesto. After the attacks, he wrote a piece published in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal that seemed less concerned with the victims of Breivik’s rampage than with the damage it could do to Islamophobic movements in Europe. Bawer says that once he learned one of his fans — rather than Al Qaeda — committed the attacks, “it was immediately clear to me that his violence will deal a heavy blow to an urgent cause.”

That cause, of course, is religious discrimination against Muslims in Western Europe. Bawer admits that the attack by an anti-Muslim terrorist on a government he felt was not discriminating against Muslims enough has made him fearful — of the government. “It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam,” he concludes.

Pat Buchanan, the former Republican presidential candidate best known for his Holocaust denial and hardline views on immigration, wrote an op-ed for the conservative website World News Daily. In the piece, Buchanan argues that “Breivik may be right.” Buchanan condemns Breivik’s violence, but argues that he was right to prepare for a religious war in Europe on the scale of the Crusades, “a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries.”

Buchanan also seems to approve of Breivik’s choice of targets, noting that he “chose as his targets not Muslims whose presence he detests, but the Labor Party leaders who let them into the country, and their children, the future leaders of that party.” Like Beck and Geller, he frames the campers killed in Utoya as dangerous political operatives, rather than innocent teenagers.

Herman Cain Tries To Make Nice With Muslims

He’s so, so sorry:

Herman Cain hosted a quiet meeting with a small group of Muslim leaders on Wednesday in an effort to rebuild relations frayed by his comments about not wanting to appoint Muslims to government posts and blocking the construction of mosques.

They discussed the supposed danger of the incursion of Sharia law, which has been referenced by many candidates campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, as well as the contributions of Muslims to American society, Marro said.

“I think he left the meeting with an entirely different view of what Muslims are and what mosques do,” Marro said. “If he was expecting to see secret nooks and crannies where people are plotting nefarious things, he would have been highly surprised to find there is nothing like that in ours — or other mosques across the country.”

Marro said he believed that they had achieved a complete turnaround in Cain’s positions.

“I would be flabbergasted if he ever repeated those statements and said that communities should be allowed to ban mosques,” He said. “I think that the meeting today has changed his mind 100 percent. From the tenor of the conversation, I can’t see him repeating such things.”

In a statement sent to reporters following the meeting, Cain apologized for causing offense to Muslims, but didn’t renounce his earlier comments.

“While I stand by my opposition to the interference of shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends,” Cain said. “I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.”

Marro said Cain’s statement was “as close to a heartfelt and sincere apology that I’ve seen from any politician anywhere.”

Democratic Congresswomen Criticize Tea Party Rep. Allen West for “Sexist” Remarks

“You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

So Republican Congressman and Tea Partier Allen West said of his colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz, representative of Florida’s 20th District and chairwoman of the DNC, in a widely circulated email that has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill.

It all started when Schultz delivered seemingly benign remarks regarding West’s support for the GOP’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan. “The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries — unbelievable from a member from South Florida,” she said during remarks on the House Floor. The plan, which makes raising the debt ceiling contingent upon massive cuts in spending and a balanced-budget amendment for the federal government, has virtually no chance of becoming law.

In response to her criticism, West wrote, “You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!”

Several Democratic congresswomen, including Carolyn Maloney of New York City, have written in outrage to the House leadership, demanding an apology from West, citing his “clearly sexist tone” and asking others to “disavow” his remarks “in the strongest of terms.”

So far, West has refused to apologize. On the contrary, he has attempted to utilize the growing outrage in order to raise money for his next election campaign, citing a “vast left wing conspiracy” against him in a fundraising email to constituents. In comments to Fox News, West insisted that he, not the Congresswoman, is the victim. “I’m not going to allow anyone take advantage of me and the niceness that I exhibit.”

Jury’s out on when we’ll get a chance to see more niceness from West.