A Growl-Worthy Story

When I read Nicholas Kristof’s column yesterday evening, I found myself growling.  Republicans in this country need to put their money where their mouth is.  Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words! By their actions, the Republican Party is proving that all their talk about supporting families is just that … talk.  Take a look at Kristof’s column and I think you’ll be growling by the midpoint.


Turning Child Care Into a New Cold War

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

June 5, 2021

For a country brimming with “pro-family” politicians, the United States sure is a tough place to raise a family.

We Americans like to think “We’re No. 1,” but one recent study found that the United States was the second worst out of 35 industrialized countries as a place for families. We ranked behind Bulgaria. Behind Chile.

Now we have a historic chance to support children and families, for President Biden’s American Families Plan proposes programs such as high-quality day care and pre-K that are routine elsewhere in the world. You might think that the “pro-family” Republican Party would be eager to translate platitudes into practical help. But you’d be wrong.

“You know who else liked universal day care?” tweeted Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican. She cited the old Soviet Union, apparently suggesting that there is something Communist about day care, and falsely claimed that participation would be mandatory under the Biden plan.

J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” warned, “‘Universal day care’ is class war against normal people.” Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, denounced efforts “to put Washington even more in the middle of your life, from the cradle to college.” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, railed at “lefty social engineering.”

In Idaho, a Republican state representative, Charlie Shepherd, explained that he was against a day care measure because “that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child.” He later apologized because his remarks “sounded” sexist.

This is sad because the G.O.P. is right to hail the importance of family. Having loving, supportive parents who read to children, hug them and help them with homework — that’s crucial for kids. One University of Minnesota study found that maternal attachment at age 3 was a better predictor of high school graduation than I.Q.

So Republicans are correct that healthy families make a healthy nation. Democrats sometimes are too reluctant to acknowledge the toll of dysfunctional families, for fear of blaming the poor for their poverty, but it’s difficult to have a serious conversation about improving opportunity and equity in the United States without acknowledging the complicated problems in many homes.

Some eight million American children — roughly one in eight — live with a parent with a substance abuse problem. Millions more live in a household with domestic violence. Others are latchkey kids who look after younger siblings because parents are working and no day care is affordable.

Families desperately need help. In other countries, they get it. In the United States, they get empty homilies about the importance of family.

As a poorer nation in World War II, the United States could afford to operate an excellent day care program to enable moms and dads to hold jobs in the war economy. A follow-up study found that children in that wartime day care went on to enjoy higher high school and college graduation rates and earned more money as adults.

As of 2019, only 34 percent of American 4-year-olds attended state-funded preschool, and an important new study underscores why America needs national high-quality pre-K. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Boston offered public programs for 4-year-olds but couldn’t meet demand, so a lottery was used to determine which children to accept.

Scholars have now found that the long-term effects of this random assignment were enormous. Children who had been accepted into pre-K were 18 percent more likely to enter college on time. They were more likely to graduate from high school and get better SAT scores, and were less likely to be incarcerated while in high school and disciplined as often. Effects were particularly strong for boys.

This new study is part of an enormous body of research showing that the greatest leverage we have to help people may be early in life, as brains are developing.

Skeptics say early childhood programs are expensive. Sure — but poorer countries can afford them. And educational failure and juvenile delinquency are even more costly, and also undermine American competitiveness around the world.

Senators say they care about crime. Well, here’s a way to reduce juvenile crime: Offer high-quality pre-K. They say they want to help young people attend college. So back the Biden plan for pre-K. In other words, this isn’t spending, but high-return investment.

It’s odd that Republicans perceive early childhood programs as a Democratic plot. One of the best states for early childhood programs is Republican Oklahoma, and Oklahomans don’t see pre-K as Communist but as common sense: If you don’t invest in children at the front end, you pay at the back end.

Biden’s effort to slash child poverty and create systems for day care and pre-K could be historic. It’s the most important policy issue of 2021. These initiatives would do for children and families what Social Security and Medicare did for the elderly.

So, please, Republicans, come to your senses: Helping children isn’t the first step to Communism. It’s a step to strengthening America’s families, and thus to strengthening America.

Yet Another Way Republicans Are Squashing Democracy

I was almost finished writing a post for this afternoon when this one by TokyoSand over at Political Charge caught my eye, and it is on a topic that is too important not to share.  Please take a minute or two to read her entire post about another way in which the Republican Party is working to rob us of a voice in our government.  Thank you once again, TS!

Restricting access to voting is one obvious way Republicans are making America less democratic, but they are also working behind the scenes to eliminate another way regular citizens can get their voices heard.

Because we are a representative democracy, the most obvious way to get our values and voices heard in our federal or state government is by electing politicians who hold our same values. But there’s another tool we have that lets us practice direct democracy — yes, a way to get something done that doesn’t require our politicians writing and passing a bill.

It’s the ballot initiative process.

Initiatives are when citizens propose a new law by collecting enough signatures and then putting it on the ballot so voters can make the final decision. Ballot initiatives are how grassroots groups got minimum wage increased in Arkansas and Missouri, and how Arizona and Montana legalized recreational marijuana, despite strong Republican majorities in those state legislatures.

Please read the rest of the post!

The $10 Lazies

I’ve mentioned before the criticism by Republicans of the extension of the additional $300 unemployment benefits passed by Congress (well, the Democrats/humans in Congress) and how the Republicans have been hyper-critical, saying it encourages people to stay home rather than get jobs. Republicans totally miss the mark there, and their math is deserving of an ‘F’ grade! Fellow-blogger Joseph Urban has written a post about how some Republican-led states are actually attempting to refuse the money! Methinks the courts will have something to say about this … at least I hope so … but meanwhile, people are in desperate need. Thank you, Joseph, for bringing this to the forefront and for your kind permission to share it here on Filosofa’s Word.

The Old Liberal

This Congress passed a bill giving all unemployed Americans an additional $300 a month to help them until they can return to the workplace. I t was part of the massive covid relief bill which had unanimous Democratic support. And unanimous GOP rejection. As in all laws the GOP does not like, many GOP-run states are simply refusing to enforce it. They are rejecting the additional monies which help the poorest working families in their states.

As of 2 days ago the following states, all with Republican governments, chose to not allow their unemployed citizens the additional funding. Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri have all told their poor unemployed: Sorry, no extra help for you. Yesterday, Ohio joined the parade.

To be clear, this money comes from the federal government. Which means most of it comes from the “blue” states which…

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Open Letter To Republican Members Of Congress

Dear Sir or Madam …

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few things that you have obviously forgotten.  You were not elected to the United States Congress to force your own will or vote for your own wishes, but rather you were elected to represent We the People, to vote in accordance with our wishes, not your own.

When you block legislation that would ensure we are all able to vote in elections, then you are not representing us, for nearly everybody in this country supports allowing everyone the opportunity to vote, to have a voice in our government.  You may remember that we pay taxes in order to have representation.  When you refuse to legislate gun laws that would make this a safer nation for us all, then you are not representing us, for the majority of people across the political divide have expressed a desire for stricter gun laws.

When you put the desires of a former president, whose whims should by all rights be irrelevant, ahead of the needs of the people you are hired to represent, then you do us all a disservice.  In the business world, when you do not do your job well, your boss will fire you.  We the People are your bosses, although you seem to have largely forgotten that, but we are forced to allow you to continue harming us until November 2022, which is the next date we can fire you.  And, of course, you are trying to ensure that those of us who are dissatisfied with your performance will not be given a voice on that day.

You are letting us down in every possible way, but the worst part is that you lie to us.  You tell us, as if we are children too ignorant to understand, that you are acting in our best interests, but you ARE NOT.  The 2020 election was a fair and honest election, as you are well aware, yet you keep lying to us, telling us that there was so much cheating that the former guy actually won.  Do you really think we are so stupid as to believe your lies?  Where’s the proof?  Show us the evidence.

You forget that it is We the People who pay your salaries, pay for your frequent trips home, and more.  It is not the NRA or corporate executives, though they may donate more to your re-election campaign.  You owe us, you do not own us.  I, for one, am so disgusted with your behaviour, your inattention to the people of this nation, and your lust for power, your greed, that I am just about ready to renounce my citizenship and leave this country forever.  But wait … I have done nothing wrong, it is you who are guilty of criminal neglect, of dereliction of duty, of lying, cheating, and stealing.

I have no illusions that you will find your conscience as you read this letter, for I think you sold it long ago, but I have had my say, and I will continue to speak loudly to fellow voters, to newspapers, wherever and however I can.  And I will help ensure that my fellow citizens are able to vote on November 8th, 2022, so that your efforts at voter suppression will be for naught.  I don’t know … I genuinely do not know how you sleep at night, how you live with yourself, for you are liars and cheaters … lying and cheating the very people who hired you and who support you.

Sincerely

Jill Dennison, voter & taxpayer


Note to readers:  This is the letter I have sent to my own Senator Rob Portman and Representative Warren Davidson.  I hope to also publish it as a ‘Letter to the Editor’ in my local newspaper.  Feel free to edit and use it if you wish.

What The GOP Looks Like In The 21st Century

Is there a single member of the former guy’s inner circle who isn’t in deep legal doo-doo?  First, there’s Giuliani whose home and office were raided by the FBI last week and who is in more than one pot of boiling water.  Then there’s Jared Kusher whose apartment company has been charged with repeatedly violating state consumer protection laws by collecting debts without required licenses, charging tenants improper fees and misrepresenting the condition of rental units.  Former Attorney General William Barr is being investigated for a possible conflict of interest in the case against heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., and the list goes on.  Hopefully, at the end of the day, charges and indictments come down against the former guy himself, for he is undoubtedly at the helm of most of these issues.  It is my fondest hope to see the former guy in an orange jumpsuit and behind bars for the rest of his life.

And yet, the GOP goes on, producing more, nastier criminal types like Kevin McCarthy, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Margie Greene, Matt Gaetz and more.  In my mind, I can almost hear Richard Nixon loudly asserting that, “I am not a crook!”  In truth, Nixon was no more a crook than some 90% of today’s GOP … but he paid the price, while today’s lot are applauded.  The difference?  Probably the likes of Fox ‘News’, the New York Post, and other Murdoch-owned outlets that wouldn’t recognize truth if it hit them in the patootie, and the influence of social media.  Compared to Nixon in 1973, today’s liars and crooks have nearly unlimited coverage ‘round the clock … Twitter, Fox, Newsmax, Facebook … they are all complicit in giving voice to the lies, to giving the crooks a megaphone with which to make their meritless case.  To be a star on Twitter or Facebook, you needn’t be honest or intelligent … you only need to have a huge number of followers, which you can get by being off-the-wall outrageous.  Integrity?  Not necessary.  Honesty?  Not a requisite.

You’ll hear, from many on all sides of the fence, that “both sides do it”.  No, my friends.  While the Democrats are not beyond party loyalty, and while no doubt they tell a lie or two here and there, they are in no way the accomplished Pinocchios that today’s GOP is home to.  One single example:  The GOP and its right-wing media arm have put out the completely baseless lie that Joe Biden is “coming to take your beef burger”!  Biden has never, to the best of my knowledge, even mentioned cutting beef consumption, and he’s a smart enough man to know he’d find his head on the chopping block if he did.  Now personally … my family and I eat beef maybe once a month, so I really don’t care if the powers that be stop slaughtering cows, but that’s just me.

But you’ll hear it on Fox, you’ll hear it out of the mouths of the Republican fools … and there is not a single element of basis in fact for that outright lie.  It bears as much merit as if the Democrats put out the lie that Republicans are going to force every person over the age of 18 to own a gun.  But see, we don’t need to make up lies about the Republicans, for they make themselves look bad every day without our help!  They think we sit around trying to find ways to make them look like idiots, but they’ve done that job for us!

But let us talk about substance … if the Republicans don’t like President Biden’s ideas, why don’t they come up with alternate policy proposals, meet at the table, and give a little, take a little, ending with a compromise that benefits the nation?  Why don’t they propose ways to ensure that everyone, regardless of employment, gender, ethnicity, or religion has affordable health care?  Why don’t they give us their ideas for how to repair the damage done to the Earth’s environment by humans?  Why don’t they propose ways to meet the challenges that face us in the 21st century?  Why?  Because they have none, because they are too busy being the party of racism, of negativity, of conspiracy theories, to actually propose meaningful, useful, legislation.  Does anybody doubt that they have spent more time promoting the Big Lie than thinking about how to help the people of this nation?

Republican Representative Anthony Gonzalez, when asked about the beating of Representative Liz Cheney by other Republicans because she stood by her beliefs in voting to impeach the former guy, replied …

“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes. She’s going to stand on principle. And if that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”

And that, folks, sums it up in a nutshell … if you have a conscience, if you are honest and a person of integrity, then you are “not the best fit” for today’s Republican Party.  Need I say more?

Racist Country

I don’t know about you guys, but I was NOT impressed with Senator Tim Scott’s speech on Wednesday night. He claims this is not a racist nation, but I see the evidence that it IS every day. Clay Jones of Claytoonz fame has done a sadly apt ‘toon and commentary on the subject … Thank you, Clay!

claytoonz

Cjones05022021

Republican Senator Tim Scott was chosen to deliver his party’s response to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress. In his speech, Scott said, “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

Republicans, who struggle with race, rallied around this message in hopes that we can finally stop talking about race so they’ll be left alone to create racist legislation.

If America is not a racist country, at the very least, the Republican Party is a racist party. Proof of this is they chose their one black senator to deliver the message that they’re not racist. It’s not like they said, “Hmmmm….which one of our many black members should we choose to deliver this address?” And to be a successful black Republican…

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We Need to Talk About Arizona

Just when you think the 2020 election is finally over, just when you think the Big Lie is finally put to rest, just when you think that things can’t get any crazier … they do get crazier.  Our friend TokyoSand tells us about the Republican-fueled craziness happening in Arizona …

We Need to Talk About Arizona

The Big Lie won’t go away. And now we have Republicans in Arizona who want to give the conspiracy theory new life.

You may have heard about an “audit” that is happening in Arizona. First off, I’ve put the word in quotes because there is nothing official about what is happening. As you will see, this is a partisan effort by the Republicans to cast doubt on the 2020 election.

The Arizona Republicans in the legislature are paying a Florida company named Cyber Ninjas (yes, seriously) to manually recount all of the ballots for Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county. They are only looking at the presidential and Senate races, which we all know were won by Democrats. Cyber Ninjas is owned by Doug Logan, who posted multiple tweets, hashtags, and memes spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election before deleting his account.

Read more …

Same Tune They’ve Been Playin’ Forever

Fox ‘News’ has some of the slimiest people in the industry working for them … ol’ Rupert Murdoch sure does know how to pick ‘em.  The only credible journalist at Fox is Chris Wallace, son of the long-esteemed Mike Wallace, and I often wonder why he doesn’t get a job at a more reputable network.  Among the worst of the lot is Tucker Carlson, a man who would argue with a tin can if it were marked “Democrat” or contained lima beans.

Charles M. Blow has written an editorial for the New York Times that I think bears reading if you want to try to understand the current white supremacist movement by the Republican Party to disenfranchise Black, Hispanic, Asian and immigrant voters.  The current push is nothing new, merely an upgrade of what white supremacists have always tried to do.


Tucker Carlson and White Replacement

This racist theory is rooted in white supremacist panic.

Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

On Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson caused an uproar by promoting the racist, anti-Semitic, patriarchal and conspiratorial “white replacement theory.” Also known as the “great replacement theory,” it stands on the premise that nonwhite immigrants are being imported (sometimes the Jewish community is accused of orchestrating this) to replace white people and white voters. The theory is also an inherent chastisement of white women for having a lower birthrate than nonwhite women.

As Carlson put it:

“I know that the left and all the gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters, from the third world. But, they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson continued, “Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.”

The whole statement is problematic. First, what is the third world? This label originated as a way to categorize countries that didn’t align with Western countries or the former Soviet bloc. It’s now often used to describe poor countries, or developing countries, and by extension, mostly nonwhite majority countries.

When Carlson worries about immigrants from the third world, he is talking about Hispanic, Asian and Black people who he worries will outnumber “current” voters. Current voters, in this formulation, are the white people who make up the majority of the American electorate.

Second, and revealingly, he is admitting that Republicans do not and will not appeal to new citizens who are immigrants.

But although white replacement theory is a conspiracy theory, the fact that the percentage of voters who are white in America is shrinking as a percentage of all voters is not. Neither is the fact that white supremacists are panicked about this.

White supremacists in this country have long worried about being replaced by people, specifically voters, who are not white. In the post-Civil War era, before the current immigrant wave from predominantly nonwhite countries, most of that anxiety in America centered on Black people.

Judge Solomon Calhoon of Mississippi wrote in 1890 of the two decades of Black suffrage following the Civil War, “Negro suffrage is an evil.”

Calhoon worried that white voters had been replaced, or outnumbered, by Black ones, writing: “Shall the ballot remain as now adjusted, the whole country in the meantime taking the chances of the rapid increase of the blacks, and leaving, in the meantime, the whites as they now are in those localities where they are outnumbered?”

Calhoon would go on to become the president of the state’s constitutional convention that year, a convention called with the explicit intention of codifying white supremacy and suppressing the Black vote. States across the South would follow the Mississippi example, calling constitutional conventions of their own, until Jim Crow was the law of the South.

The combination of Jim Crow voter suppression laws and the migration of millions of Black people out of the South during the Great Migration diluted the Black vote, distributing it across more states, and virtually guaranteed that white voters would not be outnumbered by Black ones in any state. The fear of “Black domination” dissipated.

Indeed, as extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was being debated in 1969, The New York Times made note of the fact that Attorney General John Mitchell, a proponent of a competing bill, was well aware that even if all the unregistered Black people in the South were registered, their voting power still couldn’t overcome the “present white conservative tide” in the South. As The Times added, “In fact, Mr. Mitchell is known to believe that Negro registration benefits the Republicans because it drives the Southern whites out of the Democratic Party.”

A reporter at the time asked an aide of a Republican representative, “What has happened to the party of Lincoln?” The aide responded, “It has put on a Confederate uniform.”

But now, in addition to Black voters voting overwhelmingly Democratic, there is a wave of nonwhite immigrants who also lean Democratic. And tremendous energy is being exerted not only by white supremacists in the general population, but also Republican office holders, to attack immigrants, curtail immigration, disenfranchise Black and brown voters and assail abortion rights.

One of the surest ways of preventing a Black person from voting is to prevent them from living. As The Times reported in 1970, Leander Perez, a man who had been a judge and prosecutor and “led the last stand against integration” in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, once famously linked Black birth control to racial dominance, stating: “The best way to hate a [expletive] is to hate him before he’s born.”

I would even argue that the bizarre obsession with trans people is also rooted in part in white anxiety over reproduction.

The architects of whiteness in America drew the definition so narrowly that it rendered it fragile, unsustainable, and in constant need of defense. Replacement of the white majority in this country by a more multiracial, multicultural majority is inevitable. So is white supremacist panic over it.

A Sensible Republican — Last Of A Dying Breed

The day of the sensible, reasonable, intelligent Republican seems to be long gone.  Way back when, I’ve even voted for Republicans, but I cannot picture ever doing so again, for the party has devolved into something ugly … a bunch who would rather burn down this nation than compromise, than meet Democrats on some middle ground.  John Boehner was one of the last Republicans for whom I had a great deal of respect, though I often disagreed with him.  He has written a book, due out on Tuesday, April 13th, that I have pre-ordered and plan to read.  What follows is an excerpt from that book, and I think you’ll be surprised when you read some of his words.

In the 2010 midterm election, voters from all over the place gave President Obama what he himself called “a shellacking.” And oh boy, was it ever. You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name—and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.

Retaking control of the House of Representatives put me in line to be the next Speaker of the House over the largest freshman Republican class in history: 87 newly elected members of the GOP. Since I was presiding over a large group of people who’d never sat in Congress, I felt I owed them a little tutorial on governing. I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way. Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected.

Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. Ronald Reagan used to say something to the effect that if I get 80 or 90 percent of what I want, that’s a win. These guys wanted 100 percent every time. In fact, I don’t think that would satisfy them, because they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.

To them, my talk of trying to get anything done made me a sellout, a dupe of the Democrats, and a traitor. Some of them had me in their sights from day one. They saw me as much of an “enemy” as the guy in the White House. Me, a guy who had come to the top of the leadership by exposing corruption and pushing conservative ideas. Now I was a “liberal collaborator.” So that took some getting used to. What I also had not anticipated was the extent to which this new crowd hated—and I mean hated—Barack Obama.

By 2011, the right-wing propaganda nuts had managed to turn Obama into a toxic brand for conservatives. When I was first elected to Congress, we didn’t have any propaganda organization for conservatives, except maybe a magazine or two like National Review. The only people who used the internet were some geeks in Palo Alto. There was no Drudge Report. No Breitbart. No kooks on YouTube spreading dangerous nonsense like they did every day about Obama.

“He’s a secret Muslim!”

“He hates America!”

“He’s a communist!”

And of course the truly nutty business about his birth certificate. People really had been brainwashed into believing Barack Obama was some Manchurian candidate planning to betray America.

Mark Levin was the first to go on the radio and spout off this crazy nonsense. It got him ratings, so eventually he dragged Hannity and Rush to Looneyville along with him. My longtime friend Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, was not immune to this. He got swept into the conspiracies and the paranoia and became an almost unrecognizable figure.

I’d known Ailes for a long time, since his work with George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s. He’d gone to college in Ohio, and since we had that connection, he sought me out at some event and introduced himself. Years later, in August of 1996, when I was in San Diego for the Republican National Convention, I ended up having dinner with Ailes and a veteran broadcasting executive named Rupert Murdoch. At that dinner they told me all about this new TV network they were starting. I had no idea I was listening to the outline of something that would make my life a living hell down the line. Sure enough, that October, Fox News hit the airwaves.

I kept in touch with Roger and starting in the early 2000s, I’d stop in and see him whenever I was in New York for fundraisers. We’d shoot the breeze and talk politics. We got to know each other pretty well.

Murdoch, on the other hand, was harder to know. Sometimes he’d invite me to watch the Super Bowl in the Fox box, or he’d stop by the office. Wherever he was, you could tell he was the man in charge. He was a businessman, pure and simple. He cared about ratings and the bottom line. He also wanted to make sure he was ahead of any political or policy developments coming down the line. He was always asking who was up, who was down, what bills could pass and what couldn’t. If he entertained any of the kooky conspiracy theories that started to take over his network, he kept it a secret from me. But he clearly didn’t have a problem with them if they helped ratings.

At some point after the 2008 election, something changed with my friend Roger Ailes. I once met him in New York during the Obama years to plead with him to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air. It was making my job trying to accomplish anything conservative that much harder. I didn’t expect this meeting to change anything, but I still thought it was bullshit, and I wanted Roger to know it.

When I put it to him like that, he didn’t have much to say. But he did go on and on about the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, which he thought was part of a grand conspiracy that led back to Hillary Clinton. Then he outlined elaborate plots by which George Soros and the Clintons and Obama (and whoever else came to mind) were trying to destroy him.

“They’re monitoring me,” he assured me about the Obama White House. He told me he had a “safe room” built so he couldn’t be spied on. His mansion was being protected by combat-ready security personnel, he said. There was a lot of conspiratorial talk. It was like he’d been reading whacked-out spy novels all weekend.

And it was clear that he believed all of this crazy stuff. I walked out of that meeting in a daze. I just didn’t believe the entire federal government was so terrified of Roger Ailes that they’d break about a dozen laws to bring him down. I thought I could get him to control the crazies, and instead I found myself talking to the president of the club. One of us was crazy. Maybe it was me.

I have no idea what the relationship between Ailes and Murdoch was like, or if Ailes ever would go off on these paranoid tangents during meetings with his boss. But Murdoch must have thought Ailes was good for business, because he kept him in his job for years.

Places like Fox News were creating the wrong incentives. Sean Hannity was one of the worst. I’d known him for years, and we used to have a good relationship. But then he decided he felt like busting my ass every night on his show. So one day, in January of 2015, I finally called him and asked: “What the hell?” I wanted to know why he kept bashing House Republicans when we were actually trying to stand up to Obama.

“Well, you guys don’t have a plan,” he whined.

“Look,” I told him, “our plan is pretty simple: we’re just going to stand up for what we believe in as Republicans.”

I guess that wasn’t good enough for him. The conversation didn’t progress very far. At some point I called him a nut. Anyway, it’s safe to say our relationship never got any better.

Besides the homegrown “talent” at Fox, with their choice of guests they were making people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars. One of the first prototypes out of their laboratory was a woman named Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann, who had represented Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District since 2007 and made a name for herself as a lunatic ever since, came to meet with me in the busy period in late 2010 after the election. She wanted a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee in the House. There were many members in line ahead of her for a post like this. People who had waited patiently for their turn and who also, by the way, weren’t wild-eyed crazies.

There was no way she was going to get on Ways and Means, the most prestigious committee in Congress, and jump ahead of everyone else in line. Not while I was Speaker. In earlier days, a member of Congress in her position wouldn’t even have dared ask for something like this. Sam Rayburn would have laughed her out of the city.

So I told her no—diplomatically, of course. But as she kept on talking, it dawned on me. This wasn’t a request of the Speaker of the House. This was a demand.

Her response to me was calm and matter-of-fact. “Well, then I’ll just have to go talk to Sean Hannity and everybody at Fox,” she said, “and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and everybody else on the radio, and tell them that this is how John Boehner is treating the people who made it possible for the Republicans to take back the House.”

I wasn’t the one with the power, she was saying. I just thought I was. She had the power now.

She was right, of course.

She was a conservative media darling and, by then, the conservative media was already eyeing me skeptically. She had me where it hurt. Even if I wanted to help her, and I sure as hell didn’t, it wasn’t a decision I had the power to make on my own. That power belongs to a little-known but very important group called the Steering Committee.

I knew there was no way the Steering Committee would approve putting Bachmann on Ways and Means. The votes just weren’t there. If I even pushed the issue, they wouldn’t have let me leave the meeting without fastening me into a straitjacket. But then, Bachmann wouldn’t go on TV and the radio to explain the nuances of House Steering Committee procedure. She’d just rip my head off every night, over and over again. That was a headache I frankly didn’t want or need.

I suggested the House Intelligence committee to Bachmann as an alternative, and mercifully, she liked it. It would be a good perch for anyone wanting to build up their foreign policy chops for a run for president, which she was already considering— Lord help us all. None too pleased was the man preparing to take up the gavel as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers from Michigan, an army veteran who had also served in the FBI. So I took my lumps from Rogers, and Bachmann took her seat on the committee.

The funny thing is, Michele Bachmann turned out to be a very focused, hardworking member—even though she spent a few months later in 2011 on a short-lived campaign for president. She showed up to the committee, did her homework, and ended up winning over her fellow members with her dedication. Mike Rogers was impressed—and I have to admit, so was I. The whole situation ended up working out well for everyone. As one of those old Boehnerisms goes, “Get the right people on the bus, and help them find the right seat.”

In January 2011, as the new Republican House majority was settling in and I was getting adjusted to the Speakership, I was asked about the birth certificate business by Brian Williams of NBC News. My answer was simple: “The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.” It was a simple statement of fact. But you would have thought I’d called Ronald Reagan a communist. I got all kinds of shit for it—emails, letters, phone calls. It went on for a couple weeks. I knew we would hear from some of the crazies, but I was surprised at just how many there really were.

All of this crap swirling around was going to make it tough for me to cut any deals with Obama as the new House Speaker. Of course, it has to be said that Obama didn’t help himself much either. He could come off as lecturing and haughty. He still wasn’t making Republican outreach a priority. But on the other hand—how do you find common cause with people who think you are a secret Kenyan Muslim traitor to America?

Under the new rules of Crazytown, I may have been Speaker, but I didn’t hold all the power. By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash. And now they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn’t even a House member. There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz. He enlisted the crazy caucus of the GOP in what was a truly dumbass idea. Not that anybody asked me.

Just A Few Thoughts …

I frequently write about the income disparity in this nation.  I’m not a fan of great wealth, see it as unnecessary hoarding while others do without, and I do support government-funded programs that help people in need.  One person often comments on these posts with his opposing view, saying the wealthy earned it, let them keep it … all of it.  Of course, there is a fallacy in that the majority of very wealthy people actually inherited most of their wealth and have not done much to earn it at all, apart from hiring wise people to advise them in their investment strategies to increase their wealth.  Recently this person, whose comments I largely ignore, said that if people simply learned to “invest more wisely”, there wouldn’t be poverty.

Wisely, I did not respond to his comment, for at that moment my answer would not have been calm and reasoned.  Obviously, this person has zero understanding of poverty.  WHAT is there to invest, if you cannot even afford to pay the rent, utilities, and have some left over to buy food???  Even for the average mid-range earner, investment opportunities are largely limited to an employer’s 401(k) plan, for at the end of the month there is little left over.

It is the ignorance born of wealth and entitlement that bothers me the most.  The wealthy don’t even attempt to understand the other 99% of the world … they live in ivory towers, sheltered and shielded from poverty, from the homeless, and even from the very people who are, by their labours, helping the rich get richer.  They oppose a substantial increase in the minimum wage rate, for that might cut into their own profits just a bit.  They oppose helping the poor, falsely claiming that they are poor because they are too lazy to work.  They oppose such healthcare programs as Medicare for All because they have access to the finest medical care available and don’t understand what it’s like for the family who cannot afford to take their sick child to a doctor this week.

Yesterday, I read that President Biden will soon unveil his promised infrastructure plan, the first part based on repairing roads, bridges and railways, and the second part focused on families and children.  Already, however, Republicans are calling it useless and a waste of money.  Why?  Because they don’t live in Flint, Michigan where the water is still not safe to drink.  Because they don’t, as a rule, drive over the unsafe bridges and on the highways filled with potholes … instead they travel by private jet or helicopter.  There can be no mistake … the Republican Party, once called the “Party of Lincoln”, is a party that exists solely for the wealthy and that is largely funded by the wealthy.  Lincoln would be appalled by what the party has become today … a bigoted, corrupt organization that is doing everything in its power to keep the poor “in their place” and to return Blacks to the days of Jim Crow.

The Republican Party claims to be in favour of ‘smaller government’, but this is a nation of 330 million people … just how small do they think the government can be, and yet serve those people?  Given that most every Republican in Congress is either well on their way to being a millionaire, or is already one, is it really any surprise that they have no comprehension how the rest of us live?  What does it take?  We pay their salaries out of our meager incomes, and in return we get … NOTHING.  They do not represent us, they represent the heads of corporations like Exxon-Mobil, Kraft Foods, AT&T, and so many others.  They represent people who have more money than you or I can even imagine, who have never struggled to pay the bills, buy food, or seek medical attention a single day in their lives.  And now, as they see their ship may soon run aground, they are doing everything in their power to take away our voice, our right to vote them out of office.  Rather than consider altering the party’s platform, becoming more humanitarian, supporting policies that help people and the environment, they cling to their old ways, cling to the plutocracy, and rob us of our right to participate in the government that we fund.

Rather than pay taxes that could fund such things as infrastructure, feeding the poor, building renewable energy facilities and more, the wealthy spend their money to buy politicians who will do their best to ensure none of these things that would help people can happen.  “Whatever it takes” to keep the poor from rising out of the ashes, to keep the working people from seeing a brighter future, the wealthy and the Republican Party will support it.  There are notable exceptions such as those who have signed on to the Giving Pledge, but they are the exception, not the rule.  Those born into wealth cannot understand what they have never known and it is easier to turn a blind eye than to see how the rest of us struggle.

I am against great wealth … it is the hoarding of money that could ultimately make so many lives so much better.  I make no apologies for my views, for I have experienced that which almost no wealthy person ever has … I have been without a home, I have had my electricity turned off because I couldn’t pay the bill, and I have been denied medical care when I hadn’t the money to pay.  Perhaps the Republican Party should have to live that way for a while and perhaps they would find a bit of humanity within their shriveled little hearts.  Until something changes, this nation cannot realistically be called the “United” States because we are not.