bob herbert

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There’s a good Op-Ed by Bob Herbert this morning. It seems Conan O’Brien has been having fun making fun of Newark, NJ. Behind that laughter lies a nation full of urban tragedy. Our cities, as usual, are ignored and continue to suffer.

Here’s a couple comments, expressing better than I can how tragic this situation is:

I don’t know about Newark, but in college I had the opportunity to live four months in Dakar, Senegal, a city which we like to define as “third-world.” Back then I had this idea that I needed to see what “poverty” looked like. However, upon returning and moving to metro Detroit, I can see that there was no need to go half so far. Dakar is far better off than Detroit, with a comparable literacy rate (60%), fewer drugs, and far less violence. In parts of Detroit, poverty/unemployment/crime rates are through the roof, streets are abandoned, every other house is burned or falling in, every window broken, and empty sky scrapers crumble, condemned and overgrown with plants. You can’t believe it until you’ve spent time there.

Detroit is in appalling condition. I would never have believed that the United States of America, which brags and blathers so hard on the world stage, would allow such unthinkable destitution. The country that offered me so much privilege and even led me to assume that poverty was always elsewhere, that children were hungry in China and Africa but never here five minutes away, offers neither safety nor opportunity to so many children in Detroit.

Yet on every TV station there are self-worshiping blowhards in suits and ties frothing at their audiences of nervous middle-class mice about America, the “greatest country on earth.” What makes America great? Dakar is a wonderful place with serious trials and significant suffering, but also a lot of hope and spirit. Detroit is a toxic wasteland by comparison.

I share your concern, Mr. Herbert. But I don’t think Conan O’Brien is really the one in need of reprimand. In fact I almost appreciate his comments, for bringing at least a little attention to America’s dark secrets, and maybe even a little levity.

Thanks, m.s. from southeastern michigan.

And here’s another comment. This one from Kate Madison of
Depoe Bay, Oregon:

…”So what are we doing? While mulling the prospect of sending up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, we’ve stood idly by, mute as a stone, as school districts across the nation have bounced 40,000 teachers out of their jobs over the past year.”

YEAH! Conan O’Brien’s act is kind of like laughing at the funeral of a brutally murdered child–horrifying but understandable only as an act of total denial! WHAT IS WRONG WITH US that we are willing to think about sending many more of our young people into the horrific war in Afghanistan–denying completely that most will come home with PTSD (if they survive), just as they did in Iraq and Vietnam! Yet…..we LAUGH about the terror and poverty in a place like Newark that probably produces as much PTSD in its deprived, abused children as Afghanistan and Iraq combined!

Let us face it! We are a narcissistic, spoiled country, and we do not wish to see what is right in front of us everyday! If we did, we would never have let it happen in the first place!!!

Well, maybe we wouldn’t have let it happen, but it wouldn’t have been a sure thing, given inherent human selfishness.

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Bob Herbert has a sobering Op-Ed in the NYT this morning, The Ultimate Burden. He describes a book of color photos by photographer Peter van Agtmael of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how most Americans have conveniently put these two absurd, obscene conflicts out of their minds.

So, who the Hell in America does fight these wars? Answer: less than 1% of our population of 300 million, and where does that 1% predominantly come from? Certainly not from children of the upper classes, from children of the economically advantaged.

So, where’s the draft? Funny we can’t pass one, isn’t it? I wonder why that is?

Here’s the most popular comment to Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed. It says it all:

I wish we could pass a new Constitutional amendment that said that a Congressional vote authorizing a war or any other overseas military action would immediately trigger a draft of males and females between 18 and 25 and that the first young people drafted would be any 18- to 25-year-old children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews of members of the House and Senate, the Cabinet secretaries, and the president and his/her staff.

Would Bush have been so quick to authorize an invasion of Iraq if he had known that doing so would subject Jenna and Barbara to the draft? Would Hillary Clinton have voted for the Iraq War Resolution if it had meant that Chelsea would be headed for boot camp?

If the rich and powerful are not willing to send their own children into combat, then the war is bogus. Note that most members of Congress had a child or grandchild in the armed forces during World War II.

Thank you, pdxtran from Minneapolis, for that insightful comment.

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After reading Gail Collins’ Op-Ed (see previous post) in the NYT this morning I read Bob Herbert’s Holding On to Our Humanity and should have been utterly nauseated by the horrible crimes he describes happening in Darfur. That I wasn’t shows that I have become inured to hearing about this sort of thing. What can we do about it? I feel utterly impotent to act, to know what to do. How can mankind be so vicious to its own? I don’t know where to begin on this.

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Taxes are way too low in this country. They need to be raised, but only on the high income groups, and raised somewhere around where they were during our great post-World War 1 economic boom.

Here’s why:

Bob, while I agree with you, and respect Felix Rohatyn greatly, his being “one of the biggest supporters of the creation of an infrastructure bank” does not answer the question of whether the government (we) can afford it.

I’ve recommended readers subscribe to John Mauldin’s weekly E-Letter before. http://www.frontlinethoughts.com… While I disagree with Mauldin’s politics (Republican) and almost of his socioeconomic policies and prescriptions (e.g., blasting Obama on national healthcare), to get economic facts he offers a concentrated and readable dose for free. This past Friday’s letter begins: “As of this week, total US debt is $11.3 trillion and rising rapidly. The Obama Administration projects that to rise another $1.85 trillion in 2009 (13% of GDP) and yet another $1.4 trillion in 2010. The Congressional Budget Office projects almost $10 trillion in additional debt from 2010 through 2019. Just last January the 2009 deficit was estimated at ‘only’ $1.2 trillion.” Mauldin goes on to explain why this is an optimistic set of estimates, followed by data on Europe and “The Global Recession Gets Worse” that reminds of Mr. Brooks’ image today of the “disembowelment scene in ‘Braveheart.'”

Mauldin asks where is the money going to come from?
“The world is going to have to fund multiple trillions in debt over the next several years. Pick a number. I think $5 trillion sounds about right. $3 trillion is in the cards for the US alone, if current projections are right.” He then talks about why bond rates are rising in what appears to be a deflationary period and concludes this thought with “I think the bond market is looking a few years down the road and saying that $1-trillion deficits are simply not capable of being financed. And if the debt is monetized, then inflation is going to become a very serious issue.”

As much as I dislike Republicans, sometimes we have to know what the analytical and thoughtful among them are saying. Mauldin is not a Bush, or Cheney, or Limbaugh. The irony is that while his facts appear to be sound, and pale yours today, he never seems to even realize that he’s making an argument for national healthcare, a wealth tax, slashing military spending, and in various ways coming up with enough funds for such as an infrastructure bank.

Way down deep — perhaps not all that deep — guys like Mauldin and the superrich (he’s more their advisor than one of them, as best I can tell) are worried that when the music stops they will no longer have a chair. And they’re correct, I think. We simply cannot have a nation in Great Recession I and almost in depression — sure to come if we don’t act — that does not take some drastic steps. Since there is no surplus at the bottom, and consumer-spending our way out of the crisis cannot be done, there remains only the top to pay for getting us out. Given that they got us into this mess, why not require them to bail us out? Yes, I know, the American consumer went a little crazy. Perhaps really nutty crazy. But who aided and abetted them? And who gained from consumer madness? We all know who, including our politicians in bed with these irresponsible and greedy Masters of the Universe. Bring ’em down, before we all go down.

— Butler Crittenden, San Francisco, CA

My man, Butler Crittenden is at it again. See my earlier post, Response to Krugman.

The “Bob” who Butler is replying to is Bob Herbert who has a great Op-Ed, Our Crumbling Foundation, in the NYT today.

Butler agrees with Bob that it would be great to have a national infrastructure development bank to turn this economy around, but asks how are we going to pay for it? So why not increase taxes on the super rich who got us into this mess, and who are way under taxed compared with those in most industrialized countries?

And I agree with him! In fact I think it’s time for a mass revolt in this country!

Here’s another sobering response to Bob’s article:

How many times have we heard these concerns voiced before? Add them to the lengthy list of things we know we need to do in the U.S. that go unaddressed while we save the skins of corporate bankers with trillions in taxes on current and future generations. It is interesting how what now look like insiginificant tens of billions were unthinkable sums to spend on education, health, transportation and infrastructure, while all it took was one weekend’s thought to cough up hundreds of billions, trillions, when it came time to save the banks.

One of the lessons the right wing took from the rebellions of the 1960s is that a populace that is well paid, educated and free is a danger to their wealth and position. They will bring the whole house down on our collective heads rather than risk masses of Americans who are free from fear and ready to ask that the resources that they produce be put to good use rather than merely fill the coffers of the wealthy.

— Vincent Amato, New York City

Right on, Vincent!

But in reality what will we do? Sit back and do nothing.

Boy am I pissed. Is anybody else?

Let’s rise up, masses, and fire calls and letters at our senators and reps, form community groups of like minded people, send barrages of letters to our newspapers (newspapers?), hit the incredibly stupid right wing talk shows. Blast Limbaugh, Cheney, and all the other idiots on the right. Blast the mainstream media as well. As we know, they just go along with their corporate sponsors!

Boy, am I pissed. Is anybody else?

OK, I’ll let CJGC have the last word:

The question is whether good sense and an acknowledgment of our obligation to address our social and physical structural problems to prevent even more dire problems in the future is going to prevail over the small-minded bean counters who can’t see beyond the ends of their noses and those politicians who want nothing more than for Obama to fail.

It’s touch and go. A perfect example is serious reform of health care financing by offering a single payer option. It’s the only way to cover everyone and bring costs under control. So far only the health care industry and the health insurance industry have been invited to participate and Senator Baucus assures us that single payer will never pass.

“Yes we can and change we can believe in” have morphed into “No we can’t. The comfortable hold the reins of power so the rest of you just sit down and shut up.” Of course the comfortable are also going to fall into the holes they think they are just digging under our feet.
Are there special bridges for the defenders of the status quo so they won’t fall in the river too?

Yes, it should be a no-brainer. Sadly, many sitting in comfortable chairs don’t themselves have enough brains to notice. Too smug.

— CJGC, Cambridge, MA

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Please stop hacking away at the stimulus package. It’s already too small! Most estimates say we’re losing demand in this country at a rate of over one trillion per year.

Your efforts to cut things like $1.2 billion to help localities with law enforcement expenses, $5.5 billion in surface transportation grants, $5.2 billion in prevention and wellness aid, and $13 billion in state education funding, just because you think these aren’t “stimulative enough” is short sighted in my view. Certainly these programs are stimulative to some degree and besides they add up to a mere $25 billion out of the $800 to $900 billion program.

Please stop fiddling around the edges of this plan. Let’s get on with it! Pass the bill! Time’s a wasting, and the economy is rapidly sinking as we speak.

Sincerely,
Marden H Seavey
One of your constituents in the great state of Maine!
————————————————————-
Contact Senator Collins:
Washington, D.C. Office (202) 224-2523
Portland Office (207) 780-3575

UPDATE: No, Susan, you still don’t get it! Slashing $40 billion from aid to states is not going to hack it. Your pared-down acceptable-to-you $780 billion package is not going to make it through the Senate-House conference committee. Barack, you just need to yell louder at them! “What do you think a stimulus is?” the president asked, his voice rising. Spending, he said — to laughter from his audience — “is the whole point.” This, after a senile John McCain says, “This is not a stimulus bill; it is a spending bill.” (See Bob Herbert for more.)

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Bob Herbert has nailed it again. Yes, it does look like dimwittedness is on the march in America. “For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on “American Idol.””. And here’s Herbert’s last sentence: “The likes of John McCain and George W. Bush can do the craziest, most irresponsible things imaginable, and it only seems to help them politically.”

Does this show that more than half the American people are basically racist simpletons ready to follow demagogues at the drop of a hat? I’m afraid the answer is Yes.

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At last! Liberals are getting the praise they should be getting! Thanks to the Op-Ed, Hold Your Heads Up, in the NYT this morning by Bob Herbert! Let me say right out front: Anything good that’s happened in America has been the result of the actions of liberals!

Do I exaggerate? Not at all. I am sick and tired of the lousy media we have in this country supporting the claims of the right wing loonies, the poisonous mythologies they’ve been spreading, especially since that phony actor, Ronald Reagan got into power, but even before.

Well, Bob Herbert gives the many reasons why liberals are the ones that have been responsible for any greatness this country has achieved. He expresses it better than I. Give him a gander!

Oh, and here’s the link to the comments on his Op-Ed.

Also, Eric Alterman has a great book out, Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America. Eric’s another person proud to be a liberal. So, liberal friends, let’s not hide our heads under bushels of right wing propaganda! Let’s emerge into the daylight!!
YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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I think Bob Herbert of the NYT is right on this morning when he says the whole Sarah Palin thing is meant to be a distraction to draw attention from the success of the Democrat’s convention and Barack Obama’s great speech. Here’s a key paragraph from Herbert’s op-ed:

Here’s the deal: Palin is the latest G.O.P. distraction. She’s meant to shift attention away from the real issue of this campaign — the awful state of the nation after eight years of Republican rule. The Republicans are brilliant at distractions. Willie Horton was a distraction. The chatter about gays, guns and God has been a long-running distraction. And we all remember the Swift-boat campaign.

He goes on to say:

Respectful criticism of Sarah Palin is fine. But the great issues of this campaign loom like giant redwoods over the pathetic weeds of politics as usual and the myriad distractions that have turned one presidential election after another into a national embarrassment.

Herbert also uses pertinent quotes from Bill Clinton’s great speech at the Democratic National Convention, and even Roosevelt’s great depression oratory. Keeping our eyes and hearts on the real problems facing this country without being dragged away into constant discussion of distractions. like Sarah Palin, is the challenge!

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Racism is still rampant in America. The latest Rasmussen polls say 53% of Americans think Obama’s “dollar bill” remarks were racist while 22% think McCain’s Paris Hilton ad is racist. What a travesty! This disgusts me! It really should be the other way around. Clearly McCain’s ad comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears has the subtext message, “Watch out! This uppity Negro is gonna steal our white women.” Good old middle of the road David Gergen really hit the nail on the head today with this statement: ““When McCain’s camp calls Obama “The Messiah” and “The One”, he’s really calling him “upitty.” I’m from the South, and we understand what that means. That’s code.” Here’s the video, thanks to Talking Points Memo:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfXvK84MPqQ[/youtube]
So, is McCain going to become our next president by playing the race card? That’s what he’s doing and it may work.

UPDATE: Bob Herbert in the NYT on Saturday explains why the Paris Hilton and Britney Spears ad is racist: Running While Black.

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Nader Explained

Here’s a fine op-ed by Bob Herbert in the NYT on the phenomenon of Ralph Nader, how great he has been, and how he could yet, however unlikely, make a difference in the upcoming presidential race. That he will take more votes from the Democratic candidate than the Republican one — John McCain — goes without saying.

While expecting, or at least hoping for, no threat of the Nader candidacy to the Democrats, Brian Donohue creates some vivid metaphors casting in relief the effect of the Nader candidacy on anyone who has an anti-corporate message.

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