Why Are Neoconservatives Taken Seriously?

Comedian D.L. Hughley wonders why neoconservatives like Dan Senor are asked for their opinion on any foreign affairs issue considering they were part of the greatest foreign affairs disaster of my generation.

From last weekend’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO:

Neoconservatives really have no guilt, or even feel like they should share in the responsibility of their failed adventure in Iraq.

And many of them are hiding out in the Jeb Bush camp just waiting for their second chance.

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How The Real MLK Would View Baltimore

This Facebook meme scrolled across my Facebook last week:


I’m quite enjoying the revisionist history MLK rather than the MLK who was viewed with vile hatred during the final years of his life.

And while we’re on the subject of how King would’ve viewed the rioting that occurred in Baltimore last week, let’s read his actual words.

King appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes with Mike Wallace in 1966 to discuss why some in the black community were choosing violent disobedience versus King’s belief of peaceful civil disobedience:

I will agree that there is a group in the Negro community advocating violence now. I happen to feel that this group represents a numerical minority. Surveys have revealed this. The vast majority of Negroes still feel that the best way to deal with the dilemma that we face in this country is through non-violent resistance, and I don’t think this vocal group will be able to make a real dent in the Negro community in terms of swaying 22 million Negroes to this particular point of view. And I contend that the cry of “black power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.

King gave context and understanding as to why some chose to riot. Frustration. Powerlessness. Voicelessness. King didn’t condone it, mind you, but he understood it. He indicated riots are the result of American failing to hear the “unheard.”

This part is particularly poignant:

WALLACE: Even Sen. Jacob Javits asked the question recently. He said that he was a slum resident, but he and some of his fellow Jews were able to make it out of the ghetto on the lower East Side of New York. The same thing is true with lots of Irish, Italians, and he asked the question why the Negro finds it so difficult to make his own way up out of the ghetto? You did.

KING: Number one, no other racial group has been a slave on American soil. It’s nice to say other people were down and they got up. They were not slaves on American soil. The other thing is that the Negro has had high visibility, and because of the prejudices existing in this country his color has been against him. It’s been against him and they’ve used this to keep him from moving up. In the final analysis, when you say to a man that you are in this position because of your race or because of your color, you say to that man that he can never get out of it. Other racial groups have been able maybe to change their accent or to change their names, but the Negro can’t.

Hmm, if I didn’t know better, King is sounding a lot like Sharpton there.

King highlighted mass poverty, injustice, and inequality to an America that didn’t want to hear of it. America thought the Civil Rights Bill would be enough. King didn’t stop there. He agitated an America that wanted to push gross injustices under the rug.

While he most certainly would’ve denounced those who rioted in Baltimore, King would’ve used the event to highlight the inequality happening in our nation’s streets. While explaining how the rioters were the “numerical minority,” King would force America to focus on how the Drug War, the criminal justice system, abusive cops, and wealth inequality have all combined to form a kind of Amalgamation Of Despair for many black Americans.

That was the real MLK.

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You can click below to hear me expand on some thoughts written by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich about millions of Americans feeling the system is working against them. The rough transcript is below the sound file.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote of how millions of us feel powerless. We feel powerless to enact or facilitate real change. We feel powerless that our voices aren’t being heard because big money is controlling our political system. We feel powerless because we’re tired of getting kicked around.

Reich described how Americans, who are both workers and consumers, are getting squeezed. One person he talked with said they’ve lost so much hope that they’ve quit voting because those in power aren’t listening anyway.

Wrote Reich:

The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.  

A large part of the reason is we have fewer choices than we used to have. In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it or leave it.

I heard a protester in Baltimore this week echo similar sentiments. After calling for the ouster of the Baltimore mayor and Maryland Governor for that city’s ills–exacerbated by the death of Freddie Grey who died somehow after being arrested by Baltimore police–the interviewer asked the protester if they voted. She answered no. Flummoxed, the interviewer asked, “Why not?” She responded, and I’m paraphrasing, that she works all day long, has to pick up her kids and get food on the table. She doesn’t have time to vote or else her pay gets docked, plus, she said it’s not like they’re listening to us anyway.

While the riots are deplorable and done by a group of bad apples, after learning of the constant distrust between the police and public in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, New York, and several other cities, it’s remarkable there aren’t other similar scenes we witnessed last week.

Thanks to cell phones, numerous examples of police abuse are being documented for the whole world to see. While not all police are bad, and have to work a tough job, there seems to be something a systemic problem within police ranks. Whether it’s the South Carolina shooting of Walter Scott, the physical abuse of Floyd Dent in Inkster, MI, or the death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore, it’s obvious there are bad apples within the police ranks throughout the country.

Heck, we’ve learned that the city of Baltimore has paid over $6 million dollars in court settlements due to charges of police abuse against its citizens!

Yet, the American press didn’t care about why cities across America are sitting in abject poverty. The press didn’t care why cities across America have poor avenues of education. The American press didn’t want to explain how this country’s hyper-active justice system sends many people to prisons in Baltimore–and the United States–leaving millions of Americans behind the eight ball to even better their lives once they get out. And thanks to draconian drug enforcement laws, many of these Americans can’t even vote!!! We say if you’ve done your time, you can re-enter society. Yet we’re doing all we can to make former prisoners feel like constant outsiders who stand no real hope of reformation.

The American press only cares about cities like Baltimore or Ferguson whenever there’s a riot. It’s sensational and it’s fun TV. It allows clowns like Geraldo Rivera on Fox News to point to a few destructive kids and charge that THEY ARE THE ONES TO BLAME FOR OUR TOUGH LIVES. Pay no attention to how destructive policies are decimating, not just our cities, but our suburbs and rural areas! A disappearing manufacturing base thanks to debilitating trade deals, and years of flawed economic policies and criminal policies have hurt this country.

But see, guys like Geraldo don’t want you to pay attention to the causes of abject poverty and inequality. He would rather pit us against each other when we should be together when governmental policies drag people down rather than lifting them up.
The people of Baltimore feel like nobody is listening to them. Naturally, there’s going to be anger and destruction. We’ve seen it in the past and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Heck, our country was started via a riot! The Boston Tea Party was a riot!

Can you imagine the news coverage for that event? Can you imagine Geraldo asking how destroying imported tea will result in positive change?


But I digress.

Again, rioting doesn’t solve anything. It does illustrate frustration, however, and that frustration is growing not just in the cities, but throughout the country.

President Obama denounced the riots last week, and then said we must pay attention to cities like Baltimore a lot more, not just when a pharmacy is on fire. Yet, as Obama said that, he’s working hard behind the scenes to pass the TPP Trade deal with several Asian countries which will just further perpetuate the shrinking middle class, and hurt those who’ve got very little.

Trade deals like the TPP–and its earlier siblings like NAFTA and CAFTA–work real well for those at the top. In fact, many policies seem to really benefit those at the top, while those benefits just aren’t trickling down to the rest of society, for some reason. The Wall St. bailouts are just a perfect example. And after those bailouts, I don’t recall Geraldo asking, “Where are the Wall Street Leaders to fix the systemic problem of the Street’s gambling culture?”

While the top one percent have enjoyed a massive influx in their bank accounts, wages have remained stagnant for the rest of the country. Yet, politicians and those at the top argue that we must sacrifice more by cutting back on social security, Medicare, or fixing our infrastructure.

I think the reason why this Tuesday’s ballot initiative to fix the roads in Michigan is in serious trouble is simple: After experiencing tax raises during the last five years, the middle class isn’t all fired up to vote for a sales tax hike to pay for new roads. It’s not that Michiganders don’t grasp how bad our roads are, it’s just that the state legislature didn’t do its job and wants the citizens to fix everything they’ve done wrong.

We’ve elected these people to do a job, and what has happened is that over the years, they have steadily drained this state’s financial resources. The money has gone to businesses in the form of tax breaks and incentives, and to make up for those losses, they have put the burden on we the people, with the poor, the elderly and the children taking the brunt of the damage. Over and over and over again they have done this, and now they want to do it some more. It’s confirmation that the elected officials in Lansing don’t care about the people of this state, they only care about who can make them money.

People are feeling powerless. They are angry whether it be in cities like Baltimore or states like Michigan with little hope of experiencing real change.

Robert Reich concludes in his piece:

But a growing sense of powerlessness in all aspects of our lives – as workers, consumers, and voters – is convincing most people the system is working only for those at the top.

That sums it up.

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Refusing To Learn Mistakes Of The Past

Vietnam WarEd Kilgore had a brief write-up marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

Indeed, there has long been a sort of semi-secret conviction among conservatives that we lost in Vietnam strictly because of a lack of national will, or perhaps a “stab in the back” by war protesters. The last time I became aware of it was during one of those debates over a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq in 2005 or so when I happened to be watching CSPAN and a bunch of Republican House members were going on and on about being unwilling to repeat the mistake made by cutting-and-running in Vietnam.

How could anyone who remembers how rapidly the South Vietnamese regime collapsed when it was no longer being propped up by the U.S. military make such an argument? I still don’t completely understand, other than to wonder anew how people think destroying a country is an acceptable means of “saving” it.

During our misguided journey to–and subsequent occupation of–Iraq, I felt like the so-called “Best and Brightest” of our leadership in Washington failed to learn the mistakes of the Iraq War. Like the Gulf Of Tonkin, the rationale for the Iraq War was filled with deception and hubris. And then when the believers of the war realized things weren’t going the way they envisioned, they dug-in-their-heels, hoping a positive conclusion would result.

More bombings. More troops. More firepower. More. More. More. If only we had more, things would be different. Or so we were told back in the 60’s, and in the aughts.

The Vietnam War was sold as a way to stop the next domino from falling. If communism took over Vietnam, it would take over Southeast Asia and end up walking through Main Street America!!!

The Iraq War was marketed as a way to prevent the next “mushroom cloud,” or to “drain the swamp” of terror. If we disposed of Saddam, then liberty and freedom would sweep through the Middle East and defeat terror. If we fought them there, we wouldn’t have to fight “them” here.

Once the flowering dreams of both wars began to fade into the ugly reality of death and destruction, The Believers couldn’t leave either quagmire without “honor.”

Despite these glaring foreign policy disasters of the last 50 years, The Believers are back with swords in hand, pointed toward Iran.

It’s utterly astonishing how we’ve failed to learn from the past. I suppose that’s why I wonder how our country would look if President Kennedy had lived through November 22, 1963. Sure, we’ll never truly know if JFK had been able to completely stop the war machine built by the military industrial complex. While he privately doubted our ability to change the outcome in Vietnam, he still increased the number of “advisers” to protect the the South Vietnamese. If he had won the 1964 election, could he have taken-on the popular-held belief of the Domino Theory? Could he have won another battle against the sacred cows in the military industrial complex, as he had during the Cuban Missile Crisis? And if he started to win and prevent the country from entering the quicksand of Vietnam, would his opponents had revealed his many extramarital affairs to either bribe him or kick him out of office?

We’ll never know.

One thing we do know: We did become fiercely engaged in Vietnam, and the our country would never be the same.

Forty years later, we became deeply engaged in Iraq, and our country will never be the same.

Today, the same people want to become deeply engaged in Iran, and, well, maybe things are exactly the same after all.

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Not Caring About Us

Average AmericansMy “Pat Political Point from last Sunday concentrated on how our policymakers concentrate on the affluent, while leaving the rest of us behind. The Estate Tax repeal, minimum wage, gaps in Obamacare, and the TPP are just a few of the many examples in which the elites are out to protect each other.

It’s time for that to end!

“The Fight For Average Americans.” The Pat Politcal Point from the 4/26/15 edition of WSGW’s “First Day

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Ringo Finally Gets Respect

Ringo StarrThroughout my life, I’ve tried my best to defend Ringo Starr as one of Rock n’ Roll’s greatest drummers. It’s been a fruitless fight at times quite honestly, but I try my best.

Names like Neil Peart, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, and John Bonham immediately come to mind as some legendary drummers who are or were technically better than Ringo. I would never argue that Ringo was the most talented or technically sound rock drummer, but Ringo remains one of rock’s greatest and influential drummers. That’s why I think it was about time he alone deserved to be honored at last week’s Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony.

No, Starkey didn’t have a tremendous post-Beatles career, although he did have a few chart-toppers in the 1970’s. His solo career paled greatly in comparison to Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. Yet his contributions to to popular music cannot and should not ever be minimized.

Patrick Berkery from Salon argues quite effectively on how Ringo made the Beatles a complete group:

But with the melodies, imagination and studio innovation the Beatles had at their disposal, they didn’t need a virtuoso drummer to help get their songs across — just one that knew his role as part of the ensemble, which Ringo did.  Live, he drove the band (there’s no better example of this than the Live at the BBC collection), and in the studio he glued all that boundary-smashing creativity together with a song-first sensibility that evolved with the sophistication of the songwriting. People like to mention how in the space of a couple of years Lennon and McCartney went from writing bubblegum-y love songs like “She Loves You” to deeper fare like “Nowhere Man.” But don’t forget Ringo matriculated from backbeat-focused playing to the more adventurous patterns of songs like “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “She Said, She Said” in fairly short order as well.

I would say listen to a song like “I Feel Fine” to hear Ringo channel the the drumming stye of “What’d I Say” from Ray Charles, and how his wild-drumming performance put the finishing touch on Lennon’s trippy and enigmatic “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Subtlety was Ringo’s best weapon, which what makes songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “A Day In The Life,” “If I Fell,” “Ticket To Ride,” and “For You Blue” some of the group’s best numbers. Knowing exactly when to utilize a musical fill, or change-up the beat without the listener realizing it is why I always give Ringo the respect he should command.

A perfect example of what I’m talking about is “I’m So Tired,” from The Beatles (The White Album). John Lennon’s tale of insomnia is beautiful on its own, but Ringo’s drumming hammers home the point of the song. Listen to how Ringo deftly changes the beats from the first chorus to the second. Ringo’s “tap-tap-tap-tap” on the snare drum during the second run-through of the chorus helps convey Lennon’s frustrations:

And that’s why Ringo will forever be one of the greats!

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