Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Gridlock and Bedlam


It’s scary, but I’m starting to agree with my pessimist friend.

Donald KaulBy Donald Kaul

My friend Richard is a little crazy and very smart. He spends his days filling the Internet with screeds and rants on his favorite subject — the continuing collapse of our society. I’d tell you his last name, but if you wrote him, you’d get his scary emails too.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent effort after the stock market had a bad-hair day.

“As I’ve said all along, it’s Depression II. The stock market is catching on. Dow is down 4.5 percent today. Has a long way to go (down) to get to a reasonable value considering the fundamentals…Corrupt and disintegrating governmental systems here and in England. Gridlock. Incompetence everywhere…”

Did I mention that he is an angry old man? He seems to have caught the zeitgeist, however: that vague feeling of terror caused by being at the mercy of mysterious forces we can’t control.

To scroll through a good newspaper (there are still a few) is to be confronted with one horror story after another.

If the “Arab Spring” isn’t threatening to go sour on us, the Israelis and Palestinians are making rude Italian gestures at each other in the United Nations. Every time the Greek government blows its nose, financial markets throughout the Western world get pneumonia. Pakistan’s military is preparing its country for war, quite possibly with us — even though we supply them with weapons and money. Every other month or so Congress goes to the brink of shutting down the government and with it the economy, which is already dead in the water and sinking, slowly.

In 18th-century London people used to go to Bedlam, the city’s mental institution, to amuse themselves by gawking at the insane, sometimes paying a penny for a special peek. Today we watch Republican presidential debates.

So far we have heard cheers for both executions and America’s shortage of health insurance. There have been boos for a soldier who served in Iraq because he was gay. During each of those appalling moments, no candidate raised his or her voice in protest.

We have seen Mitt Romney and Rick Perry back away from their most noble achievements as governors simply to appease the unappeasable.

We have witnessed Michele Bachmann make a fool of herself time after time with no one, apparently, noticing.

What an awful bunch. It’s like an early round of “American Idol.” I suppose Romney is the least worst of them. If elected, he’s likely to abandon his current positions as readily as he did most of his previous positions.

Barack Obama has been no great prize either. He holds his great achievements — the health care bill and the rescue of the auto industry — at arm’s length, as though he doesn’t want them to stain his suit.

The world has begun the fourth year of a financial crisis with no end in sight. Our leaders not only don’t have the answers; they don’t seem to know the questions.

I don’t agree with everything my friend Richard says, but I’m beginning to share his rising sense of panic.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Columbus Day Questions


On this Columbus Day, let’s consider the discrepancy between how newcomers are celebrated in our history but ostracized in our society.

By Sara Joseph

Many of us will never forget that famous elementary school rhyme: “In fourteen hundred ninety-two / Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” At the time, it’s not likely that we would have sensed any looming controversy behind those grade school lessons. With Columbus Day just around the corner, however, it’s worth asking whether affection for the holiday is really a serious case of misguided nostalgia.

Columbus Day celebrates the “discovery” of the Americas. But it’s clear that the continent had already been inhabited by well-established indigenous communities.

The people who already lived in the region welcomed the first European immigrants with curiosity and open hearts and minds. But it soon became clear that the explorers sent by European royalty had come to dominate, defeat, and destroy.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus wrote of the native people he encountered: “They should be good servants…they can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them.”

Columbus is credited with forging the first links between American and European civilizations. But whether the manner in which these cultures collided merits commemoration as a federal holiday is doubtful at best.

Throughout most of the Americas, schoolchildren don’t remember Columbus Day with cutesy images of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. In fact, it’s often called by an entirely different name: Dia de la Raza (Latin American Heritage Day). This is a way to recognize indigenous roots in the Americas. It also serves as a tribute to the lives and civilizations lost in the name of slavery and European expansion — beginning with Columbus’ arrival in 1492.

Today, Latin American and Caribbean schoolchildren that migrate to the United States are unlikely to receive a hero’s welcome. In fact, they are often forced to live in the shadows as their parents struggle to survive. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann recently went so far as to mock Rick Perry’s statement that anyone with a “heart” would want to protect the rights of immigrant children to an education — even if they were brought to the United States “through no fault of their own.”

Migration across what’s now the U.S.-Mexican border has existed for centuries. The reality is that this history was marked by periodic shared interest in promoting immigration. But as economic and anti-narcotic policies initiated by Washington have increased pressure on Latin American people to migrate, immigration has become a hot-button issue for people across the political spectrum.

To many, the flow of immigration seems daunting. Bachmann recently proposed a solution: “Build a barrier, a fence, a wall…every mile, every yard, every foot, every inch will be covered on that southern border.”

But spending billions on border militarization hasn’t stopped undocumented migration. In fact, one of the only notable outcomes of beefing up the border has been more death, danger, and lives lost in the desert.

Ideally, every October we would celebrate the coming together of the cultures of the Americas. Sadly, the legacy of cultural domination and separation continues with border militarization as a tenet of our foreign policy.

According to President Barack Obama, it is Columbus’ “intrepid character and spirit of possibility that has come to define America, and is the reason countless families still journey to our shores.”

To whom is Obama referring if not the immigrants who come to the United States for a chance to support their families? On this Columbus Day, let’s consider the discrepancy between how newcomers are celebrated in our history but ostracized in our society — and what we can learn from a modern analysis of Columbus’ story.

For a quick read about the people native to my own part of this country, go HERE.

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JackieBaggers and The Freedom Hole


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So You Think You Can be President?


Likening Social Security to a Ponzi scheme was the least crazy thing Perry said during the recent debate among Republican presidential candidates.

Donald Kaul By Donald Kaul

 In a country with a functional political system, Rick Perry‘s presidential candidacy would be laughed out of the room.  I mean, really. This is the 21st century, right? It’s the information age.

 Is it reasonable to take seriously a candidate who doesn’t believe in evolution, is contemptuous of  even the possibility of climate change, and calls the chairman of the Federal Reserve a traitor for attempting to help the economy?

It…is…not.

Gov. Perry’s dismissal of global warming is especially ironic. His state, Texas, is in the midst of the hottest weather and longest drought in its history. Fittingly, when Perry led a mass prayer meeting to ask God for relief, God answered by giving him the biggest wildfire in the state’s history.

You might imagine that the “lamestream media” — the aggressive left-leaning press that exists largely in the fevered imaginations of the hard right — would characterize him as a fool and buffoon.

It…does…not.

It considers him a legitimate candidate, a worthy opponent for President Barack Obama. Actually, he’s dumber than Michele Bachmann.

Perry doesn’t get an entirely free pass, of course. Following a recent debate among leading GOP presidential hopefuls, the media got on him (naturally) for his least crazy statement — his calling Social Security “a Ponzi scheme.” You would have thought he’d insulted Nancy Reagan.

(DonkeyHotey / Flickr)In reality, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, of a kind. It was sold as an insurance program, but it never was. It depends on people putting money into the system faster than other people take it out. That’s classic Ponzi.

But Social Security isn’t the theft kind of Ponzi. It’s one that simply recognizes that younger generations have a societal responsibility to help support older generations. That responsibility is becoming heavy, however.

When Social Security began in the 1930s, there were far more workers than retirees, and the retirees didn’t, as a rule, live all that long. Providing them with a minimal lifetime income was a cinch. That’s no longer the case. We can now see a time when each worker will be supporting a single retiree, who in turn expects to keep driving around in his or her RV. Not going to happen.

My solution would be to raise or even eliminate the cap on payroll tax contributions. That way, a guy who makes $30 million-a-year would pay the same percentage of his income into Social Security as the guy who cleans his office. (I guess I’m just a flat-taxer at heart.) In any case, something has to be done, and we’re not doing it.

Overall, that Republican debate was kind of depressing, inspiring an “Is this all there is?” feeling.

Mitt Romney continued his imitation of the job-seeking teacher who, when asked if he believed the earth was round, said: “I can teach it round and I can teach it flat.”

Bachmann didn’t do much. The rest of them were…the rest of them.

Folks, we’re trying to pick someone who might become the next U.S. president. There’s no sign so far that Republicans actually care which candidate would make the best president. They just want the thrill of a contest. I thought that’s what “So You Think You Can Dance?” was for.

The day after that Republican debate, Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on the economy where he laid out a program that would create jobs, cut taxes, and might do some good.

The Republicans of course were dismissive, even though he promised to travel the country hitting them over the head with their reluctance to provide jobs for workers instead of tax cuts for people who don’t need them.

All of which is fine. But his solution, while welcome, is still too timid. It’s better than nothing but where was this speech and this program last year?

We’ve officially got 14 million Americans unemployed, and the total number of people who are out of work, have given up looking for work, or are scraping by with part-time jobs when they want to work full-time is an estimated 25 million. Yet these guys keep playing games.

None of this would be happening if the news media were still alive.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. – www.otherwords.org

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GOP Extremists


Are these people for real?

  • Rick Perry says Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and “monstrous lie.”
  • Michele Bachmann joked that God sent Hurricane Irene to warn against federal spending. Aren’t jokes supposed to be funny?
  • Eric Cantor says disaster relief must be offset with other spending cuts.

 I believe in Social Security, workers’ rights, and helping the middle class. Republicans pander to the far right daily with ludicrous statements and attacks on President Obama. These statements motivate Tea Party voters like nothing else. It’s not enough to criticize them – we need to fight back!

They’ll have outside help – Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers will make sure of that.  If we don’t all stand together now, they will gain an edge – and we saw in 2010 what happens when they do.

They’ve got their Big Oil benefactors. We’ve got half a million grassroots donors. Keep fighting on the ground, on the air and online.
Perry, Bachmann and Cantor don’t speak for me!

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