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By Jose Rodriguez

As a Catholic I am embarrassed and ashamed.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has come out in opposition to President Obama’s health care reform efforts, despite its long-standing support for health care reform. In fact, the USCCB has long supported health care reform that includes a single-payer system to cover the uninsured, the poor, and illegal immigrants. Yet, in the last couple of months, the USCCB has come out against the current health care reform bill.

The USCCB has aligned itself with Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Hannity by asserting that the current health care reform efforts would encourage euthanasia of the elderly, deny health care to the disabled, and would force tax payers to pay for elective abortions and bar doctors from invoking the conscience clause. The accusations read as though they were copy and pasted from Sarah Palin’s facebook page. They are advancing paranoid arguments against what is inarguably the most important health care legislation in the last fifty years. But why?

One can only speculate, but it might be partisan, it could be ignorance (they have not read the bills), or it could be any number of things.

This is tragic, as far as I’m concerned. I have been proud of my church’s stance on science (particularly evolution), Global Climate Change, the poor, and advocating for a more just and fair global economy. Universal health care was another issue my Church supported, which made me proud to call myself a Catholic. However, the USCCB’s current mental status has me quite concerned.

But the USCCB, which does not have any authority whatsoever, has come under fire from Bishops from around the globe. An editorial on a Catholic British website has chastised Bishops in the U.S. for their failure to stand up for a basic pro-life issue: universal health care. The Tablet editorial argues that the Bishops in the United States are wasting an opportunity where they “could play a central role in salvaging Mr Obama’s health-care programme.” Instead, the U.S. Bishops are trying to advance an anti-abortion agenda when everyone has agreed that the bill should be neutral on this issue, “rather than the more general principle of the common good.” As the editorial notes, nearly 50 million Americans are without health care, and this tragedy is only likely to worsen, as the health care industry is “[sensing] a threat to their profits” and are spending 1.5 million dollars a day to kill health care reform. Rather than attend to the poor, the USCCB has decided that they would rather turn this reform effort into a battle over abortion. The Tablet editorial makes a great point, however: the “National Health Service, one of the great forward strides for social justice, had no Catholic blessing,” yet is one of the most enduring and popular government programs in England.

This is clearly a dereliction of duty.

It has been clearly documented that the current health care reform effort does not force tax payers to fund (directly or indirectly) elective abortions. Nor are there any death panels for the elderly or disabled.

I can’t believe that the USCCB actually believes this! All they have to do is read the bill! Again are the Bishops lazy? Are they politically motivated? Are they this ignorant? What is the deal?

Republicans have come to the conclusion that Americans want health care reform, and they have come to the conclusion that a majority of Americans and American doctors support the public option. Despite months of promoting lies, and encouraging people to attend and disrupt town hall meetings in order to create the impression that a majority of Americans oppose any health care reform, 73% of doctors support either a single-payer system (10%) or a mostly private system that includes a public option (63%), and 77% of Americans support a public option. And I know what you’re thinking: “How can that be? What was the poll question?” Well, here was what SurveyUSA asked: “In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance–extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?”

So, faced with overwhelming support for health care reform (including the public option) from Americans and doctors, Republicans have started arguing that the health care bill will pay for elective abortions. There is not a single grain of truth to this argument, which apparently does not matter to the USCCB.

Let’s deconstruct this nonsense…

In an op-ed for National Review (an ultra-Conservative publication), on July 23, 2009, Minority Leader John Boehner wrote that President Obama was trying to expand abortion by sneaking it through his health care reform effort and would force American tax-payers to fund abortions. Boehner also accused the President of trying to undermine organizations (like the Catholic Church) that do not support or perform abortions by making it illegal for them to deny abortion services. The biggest lie (which he labels a “fact”) is this: “This public plan, like all plans, will be required to classify abortion as an “essential benefit,” forcing American citizens to directly subsidize abortion-on-demand with their tax dollars.”

These baseless accusations have energized anti-abortion advocates, like the Catholic Church, into opposing what is an essential and basic pro-life issue.

It is important to remember that the Hyde Amendment (passed in 1976) bans the use of federal funds for elective abortions. This law does not apply in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in mortal danger. So, before any substantive discussion can begin, we must remember that it is against the law to do what John Boehner is suggesting President Obama wants to do. President Obama, who has admitted that he is pro-choice and has a 100% rating with NARAL, has said that he thinks “we… have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.” This statement, though it goes against his own personal beliefs, is consistent with the law and consistent with
public opinion. In a recent Rasmussen poll, 48% of Americans do not want tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, while only 13% think that any health care bill should use tax-payer funds to cover abortion. 32% of Americans believe that there should not be a requirement either way.

What Minority leader John Boehner (and the USCCB) does not understand is that most private health insurance policies already cover abortion, whether or not people realize it. This would not change under any health care reform bill, thus making it abortion-neutral. But there’s more.

While there are five different health care bills in Congress right now, H.R. 3200 is the most talked about. H.R. 3200, for instance, has an amendment authored by Lois Capps (D-Ca), which specifically prohibits tax-payer funds from being used to pay for abortions. The bill is only seven pages long, and it is triple spaced, so it should not take long to read, however, no one cares to read it. And those who have, have consciously twisted her language to fit their narrow view.

The Capps Amendment would not require abortion coverage to be part of the minimum benefits package, as many claim it would. It would be up to the insurer whether or not the plan covers abortion… as it stands now. I will simply quote the bill:

“The Health Benefits Advisory Committee may not recommend under section 123 (b) and the Secretary may not adopt in standards under section 124(b), the services described in paragraph (4)(A) or (4) (B) as part of the essential benefits package and the Commissioner may not require such services for qualified health benefits plans to participate in the Health Insurance Exchange.”

This seems pretty straightforward, but, again, there are people who want to twist and fabricate. The bill clearly states that abortion coverage is not required for the minimum benefits package in order to “participate in the Health Insurance Exchange.” In section two, Capps goes further: “VOLUNTARY CHOICE OF COVERAGE BY PLAN.-In the case of a qualified health benefits plan, the plan is not required (or prohibited) under this Act from providing coverage of services described in paragraph (4) (A) or (4)(B) and the QHBP offering entity shall determine whether such coverage is provided.”

The amendment authored by Lois Capps is straightforward (again) in preventing tax-payer funds from being used to cover elective abortions. The Capps amendment requires insurers to segregate the cost of abortion coverage from the premiums, which would be paid for by the insured, not tax-payers. The public option may or may not include abortion coverage, but, again, the cost of that would be paid out of the pocket of the insured, not the tax-payers. Again, here are the words from the amendment:

“(T)he plan shall provide assurances satisfactory to the Commissioner that- (A) any affordability credits provided under subtitle C of title II are not used for purposes of paying for such services; and (B) only premium amounts attributable to the actuarial value described in section 113(b) are used for such purpose.”

The Capps amendment also defers to the Hyde amendment, which prohibits tax-payer funds from being used to pay for abortion services. It clearly states, in no uncertain terms, that the bill would have “No EFFECT ON FEDERAL LAWS REGARDING ABORTION.” Um… that includes the Hyde amendment, in case you are a Republican or an American Catholic Bishop.

Despite the concerns of the USCCB (raised by John Boehner in his op-ed), the health care proposals would not make it illegal to deny abortion services. The Capps amendment makes this point clearly, if they would only take five minutes to read the damn bill:

“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to have any effect on Federal laws regardin- (A) conscience protection; (B) willingness or refusal to provide abortion; and (C) discrimination on the basis of the willingness or refusal to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortion or to provide or participate in training to provide abortion.”

How can this be any clearer? Notice that it says, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed,” yet that is exactly what Boehner, the GOP, and the USCCB are doing: CONSTRUING!

Another point of concern for the GOP and the USCCB is that Obama is creating “death panels.” This has been refuted time and time again, yet there is this persistent element in our society who refuses to accept… oh, I don’t know, facts? The elderly and the disabled will not be subjected to any “death panel.” It’s as pure and simple as that.

The section that has been mis-represent by Sarah Palin, the GOP, and the USCCB, is on the establishment of a Comparative Effectiveness Research Center, which will “conduct, support, and synthesize research” that looks at “outcomes, effectiveness, and appropriateness of health care services and procedures in order to identify the manner in which diseases, disorders, and other health conditions can most effectively and appropriately be prevented, diagnosed, treated, and managed clinically.” This is no death panel. This is not a scheme to promote euthanasia for the elderly or disabled. Instead, the CERC will study which treatments are the most effective, thus providing patients and doctors better information and tools for sustaining and extending life, not ending it ASAP. Beyond that, the CERC would only make recommendations about the best methods, not make requirements. The bill makes that absolutely clear: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.” Again, there is that word “construed.” Does the USCCB or GOP not have access to a dictionary?

The bill also allows seniors to have end-of-life counseling with their doctor, which would be tax-payer funded. Despite the ridiculous claims made by Sarah Palin, these would be voluntary sessions, not mandatory. “It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, etc.,” Obama said. “So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything.”

The “Advanced Care Planning Consultation” in Section 1233 is not a scheme to encourage patients to pull their own “plug”. It is actually supported by AARP, which is a group that advocates for senior citizens. On the AARP site, they devote a page to debunk the absurd notion that end of life counseling is a back-door for euthanasia. They write that “Several studies in recent years have found that when doctors have end-of-life discussions with patients and families, patients have less anxiety.” The study found that “Less aggressive care and earlier hospice referrals were associated with better patient quality of life near death,” whereas those who failed to engage in those discussions “experienced worse quality of life, more regret, and were at higher risk of developing a major depressive disorder.” In other words, as people age it becomes increasingly important to know the available options. One doctor even expressed that it is in the best interest of the doctor to keep the patient alive in order to avoid lawsuits. So, for those who cannot comprehend morality, there are also financial reasons to extend the life of patients.

But beyond the needs of the patient, the counseling is also important for the family, who often argue or agonize over what their loved one would want, in the event that they are incapacitated. Having a clearly defined living will prevents the hand-wringing and guilt: the will of the patient is clear and decisive, even if it means a kidney transplant for an unconscious 89 year old man.

At this point, it is hardly worth debating with the lunatic/ paranoid fringe, with which the USCCB has aligned itself. All the facts are known, they are out there, but they choose to expose themselves to conspiracy theories, which only serve to support their fears. In an excellent editorial in today’s LA Times, Gregory Rodriguez argues that it might not be useful to try to educate people who cling to conspiracy theories. He cites a study in which conservatives, when presented with information proving that there were no WMDs in Iraq, believed even more strongly that there were WMDs in Iraq. Instead of putting down these buyers of misinformation and rumors, Rodriguez writes: “Rumors and conspiracy theories often supply simplified, easily digestible explanations (and enemies) to sum up complex situations. However crass, they’re both fueled by a desire to make sense of the world.”

He may very well be right.

I am heartened, however, to see that not all Catholics have given themselves over to madness.

Chris Korzen of Catholics United has come out strong against the USCCB, Stop the Abortion Mandate, Family Research Council, and the Catholic League, who have been promoting lies and misinformation, not to mention misrepresenting Catholic teachings. Korzen, on the Catholics United site, writes “The Family Research Council’s continued effort to distort the facts leads one to wonder whether the group’s true intent is to derail health care reform,” said Korzen. “Instead of issuing misleading attacks and inciting fear, the Family Research Council would do better to support efforts aimed at implementing abortion-neutral policies in health care reform legislation.” Catholic Charities, a non-profit Catholic organization that provides food and clothing to the poor, has been fully committed to health care reform saying “Health care reform: We can’t wait!” Though it maintains that it will not support any bill that extends abortion rights, it seems to enthusiastically support the current reform efforts, implying that it does not support the wild accusations of the USCCB.

There is also some indication that there is a schism between U.S. Bishops. Bishop Michael Sheehan told the National Catholic Reporter that the anger against Obama among U.S. Bishops comes mostly from a small minority, but the majority of centrist Bishops do not want a public fight over health care, so they have not spoken up. The Catholic News Service also reported that U.S. Bishops were glad to hear from President Obama, in his speech before a joint session of Congress, that his proposal would not allow for tax-payer funded abortions. “We were gratified to hear that federal funds would not be used for abortions and that conscience protections would be maintained,” Sister Carol Keehan said. “We were pleased to hear him say we were going to move on now. There are too many people … who need this kind of (health care) assistance. We believe it is long overdue. It is a moral and economic imperative and we were pleased to hear him put it in those terms.”

This was not an easy blog to write. I love my Church. I am pained to see what is happening from conservative Catholics in the hierarchy, who are using their position to advance their own personal, partisan beliefs. But it makes me angry, too. I am pro-life. I oppose abortion, I oppose the death penalty, I support the environment, and I support social justice. But you know what? I also support the truth. I do not support lies or fabrications, no matter who is telling them.

I pray that they come out of their intellectual darkness, and into the light of truth.


By Jose Rodriguez

Yesterday, September 24, 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the United Nations. It was an impassioned speech, an angry speech, that he opened with a rebuke to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was also a rebuke to the United Nations, who allowed Ahmadinejad to speak at the UN the day before. The Iranian President had recently denied the Holocaust’s existence, which prompted Netanyahu to spend a great deal of his time presenting documents proving the existence of the Holocaust, and even more time talking about the threat of anti-Semitism to Israel’s existence.

While Netanyahu is absolutely correct in demonstrating the truth about the Holocaust, and while he is absolutely correct in describing anti-Semitism as evil, he is wrong in attempting to portray Israel as an underdog, vulnerable to the evil Muslims and Arabs that surround them. The truth is that Israel is the strongest nation, militarily, in the region; and the truth is that Israel has the strongest ally possible: the United States.

A common theme appears in Netanyahu’s speech that is part of the Israeli psyche– that there is always the possibility that another Holocaust could occur. It is so indelibly burned into their collective consciousness, especially since Israeli politicians continually invoke those memories, that the Israelis live in perpetual fear. It does not matter that in every military engagement since 1948, Israel emerged victorious. It does not matter that the U.S. has, for the most part, delivered military weaponry to support Israel in its wars. The truth is that the Holocaust will never, never, be replicated because the world community, and the United States in particular, would never, never, allow such an horrific event.

Netanyahu rebukes the United Nations for allowing Ahmadinejad a platform to speak, as though it would be better to simply deny him an ability to speak at the UN, a right that every world leader has, whether we agree with them or not. Ahmadinejad’s speech, on the contrary, gave many countries the opportunity to get up and leave, demonstrating their solidarity with Israel and their disgust with the filth and lies emanating from Ahmadinejad’s mouth. The French delegation led about twelve other delegations, including the United States, in a walk-out during the Iranian President’s speech, symbolizing their extreme disagreement with Ahmadinejad and their unwillingness to dignify his speech with their presence.

Another chunk of the speech was dedicated to the Palestinians, who he described, as Abba Eban once did, as participants who willingly miss opportunities for peace. This is patently false, and extremely offensive. He began by citing the failure of the Palestinian leadership, in 1948, to accept the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states. While this is an accurate statement, it nonetheless is false in its implications. The fact is that Palestine belonged to the Palestinians, and had belonged to them for 2,000 years (some Palestinians would argue that they have been there far longer, since they trace their roots to the land as far back as Abraham, as the Jews do). The Palestinians constituted a majority in Palestine— roughly 1.35 million Palestinians, whereas there were only 650,000 Jews. They had been promised, since the end of World War 1, their own state. The British Mandate was intended to provide the Palestinians the necessary guidance and support they would need in order to reach full statehood. However, there had been a substantial immigration of Jews into Palestine, who intended to take the land away from the Palestinians. As the Peel Commission suggested in 1937, and the UN carried out in 1948, the land of Palestine was to be divided without the approval of the Palestinians, who constituted an overwhelming majority of the population and had historical ties to the land thousands of years old. However, by 1949, the Palestinians had been driven from their land, and the Jews constituted a majority in a land where they previously had been a minority.

So, naturally, they opposed the partition of Palestine (especially since the UN plan allocated more land to the Jews than the Palestinians) on grounds that they had natural rights to statehood that were being usurped by colonial powers (i.e., Britain and the U.S.). But it was too late for the Palestinians. The full and horrific extent of the Holocaust came to light, and out of sympathy and guilt, the UN created a homeland specifically for the Jews, and ran roughshod over the inherent right of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in their own land.

I know that this is a topic that inflames people’s passion. In the U.S. we are so reflexively supportive of Israel that if anyone is even remotely critical of the state then they are accused of being anti-Semitic, or any other horrible pejorative they can think of. A great deal of this, I suspect, is that they do not know enough about the region or its history to intelligently debate the subject. So, they revert to name calling in order to cut off any discussion. It is wrong and it is not right. It is un-American, quite frankly. Ironically, in Israel, people have this debate every day and it is an honest and open debate, yet we in this country cannot.

Because people are so ignorant of the facts and of history, I put try to put it in the simplest of terms: How would you like it if the UN, without our consent, were to partition the United States? How would you feel if the UN said, “We’re going to give over half of the United States to the Native Americans, a quarter to the Mexicans, and the U.S. can live in the remaining quarter”? I don’t think too many Americans would appreciate that. In fact, if you think the TEA Party people are pissed, just wait and see how many more people would be equally pissed, if not more, if the UN did this to us.

And, again, he defended the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces, who waged an aggressive and indiscriminate war against the people of Gaza. Granted, as he stated, there were elements of Gaza (Hamas) who were firing rockets into Israel, threatening the safety of Israeli citizens. However, there is a prevailing rule in International Law regarding proportionality and protection, at all costs, of civilians. According to Israeli Human Rights group B’tselem, IDF killed 1,387 people, with 773 civilians killed, including 320 children under the age of 16 and 109 women over the age of 18. Only 330 people killed were active combatants, and another 248 were Palestinian security forces, most of whom were killed on the first day as a result of aerial bombing. B’tselem could not determine the status of 36 people.

Only 13 Israelis were killed during the war: 5 were soldiers in Gaza, 3 were civilians killed by rocket fire, 1 was a security officer in Israel killed by rocket fire, and four were killed in friendly fire. Though this is not to demean the lives lost, it is, nonetheless, an example of the disproportionate use of force by the IDF.

Part of the anger and resentment in Gaza stems from Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has crippled their economy, stymied the freedom of movement, and denied Gazans important resources, such as medicine, food, and fuel. The Pope has even expressed his desire to see the embargo lifted: “Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted.” This anger has, obviously, manifested itself in violence.

Be assured, this violence is not aimed at the overthrow or destruction of Israel, but is intended to show the Israelis the price of occupation. It is also, in their eyes, an act of self-defense.

And finally, Netanyahu asserted that Palestinians have never recognized Israel’s right to exist, which, again, is patently false. It is Israel who has never recognized the right of Palestinians to exist. It is hardly worth noting since it is so obvious, but I will list just a few examples to make the point.

* On December 14, 1988, after several attempts to satisfy the U.S.’s definition of accepting the right of Israel to exist, Arafat held a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. There, he said, “We want peace…we are committed to peace, and we want to live in our Palestinian state and let others live.” He outlined several key points: The PLO accepted UN Resolution 242, the PLO promised recognition of Israel, and the PLO also renounced terrorism.

* In 1993, Yassir Arafat wrote a letter to then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In the letter, Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, formally recognized the right of Israel to exist. In the letter, Arafat wrote: “The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” That sounds pretty definitive and unambiguous. He went even further: “In view of the promise of a new era and the signing of the Declaration of Principles and based on Palestinian acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid.”

* More recently, in 2002, President Bush made a feeble attempt at brokering a peace agreement through his “Roadmap for Peace.” As a pre-requisite for negotiations, the Palestinians had to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The fact that negotiations were undertaken proves that President Bush must have been assured that the Palestinians met that requirement. The Palestinian negotiators also put out this statement: The “Palestinian leadership issues [an] unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.”

The bottomline is that the balance of power is in favor of Israel. They have unlimited U.S. military and economic support, they have control over the territories, they are the ones who can simply pull back to the pre-1967 lines. The Israelis argue that a pull back would endanger them, and they point to Gaza as proof. However, if they were to allow the Palestinians to create their own state, as they are entitled to, then there would be no more grievance. Arab states all across the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, and including Hamas, have already stated that they would recognize Israel’s right to exist if they allowed Palestinians to have statehood and if they pulled back to their pre-1967 lines.

It’s that simple.

So long as there are hardliners, like Netanyahu, who keeping moving the field goal posts back, and insisting that any future Palestinian state must bend to the will of Israel, there can be no solution.

In the end, there may have to be an imposed settlement, whether they like it or not.

This is a “commerical” that I put together as an example for a media literacy unit for the AVID class that I work in. The students then wrote and put together their own commercials, which were really well done. Unfortunately, I cannot put them up. The commercial takes place in the 1950’s, and plays off of the commercialism, communist fears, and all-American stereotypes that represent the decade. Many thanks to my lovely wife for playing the role of the mom, and many thanks to her cousin Jamie for playing the role of Susie. Hope we did okay!


By Jose Rodriguez

President Barack Obama spoke today to at the United Nations. His speech urged the world to take stronger action on the threat of Global Climate Change; he insisted that the United States is no longer beholden to the “go it alone” mentality that dominated the Bush administration; and he reminded that all nations must be aggressive in their economic policies in order to prevent a backslide into economic ruin.

He also spoke firmly on the issue of Middle-East peace. He affirmed that he would continue to work for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. He called on Palestine to rein in their militants, while reminding Israel that their settlements were not legitimate in the eyes of the United States. While aware that the peace process would be difficult, and that it would require Israel to recognize Palestinians have legitimate claims, and that it would require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist.

There came a moment when the President reminded the UN body that we are “all God’s children.” He stressed that we all have the right to live in dignity, and that it was not acceptable for Gazans to have to live without clean drinking water. It was a not so subtle reminder that there is a moral component in bringing about a lasting peace to the people who live in the Holy Land.

The President of the United States has my full support on this issue.

On Tuesday, the President met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As acknowledged in the speech, the President knew that it would be difficult to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This was demonstrated on Tuesday when Netanyahu refused to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank, only agreeing to a time- limited freeze. Mahmoud Abbas, who had refused to meet with Netanyahu until he halted all settlement building, allowed himself to be photographed shaking hands with Netanyahu, though that was a moment of embarrassment for him. They see Obama as even-handed, something they have not seen from previous Presidents, so Abbas (as a token of goodwill) agreed to the photo-op.

The President, after meeting both leaders, demonstrated his annoyance and impatience : “It is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations; it is time to move forward… Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. So my message to these two leaders is clear: despite all the obstacles, all the history, all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward.” The way forward will be difficult as Netanyahu and Abbas have different goals: Abbas wants complete independence and statehood, whereas Netanyahu wants to maintain the occupation with limited Palestinian self-rule.

Afterward, Netanyahu claimed that Abbas had given up his preconditions (an implicit self-congratulatory remark, since he did not have to stop all settlement construction) and agreed to negotiations; Abbas has said that negotiations must be on final status issues, including the refugee problem and the issue of Jerusalem. On this issue, Abbas has the full support of President Obama, who insists that negotiations will include the refugee problem, borders, Jerusalem, and guaranteed security for Israel. Netanyahu, like every one of his predecessors, would prefer to kick that can down the road and only speak about future topics for future final status negotiations.

While Netanyahu seems to have won this round of diplomacy, there are signs that the President’s patience is growing thin and that he will compel the Israelis to be honest participants in negotiations. According to aides within the Obama administration, the President reminded Abbas and Netanyahu that the upcoming negotiations will be based on past agreements, including Oslo and the Clinton parameters.

There are also rumors that President Obama will summon both leaders to Washington D.C. to begin final status negotiations. However, Netanyahu, who has seen his poll numbers rise as he has defied President Obama, may not be willing to play ball. The failure of any upcoming negotiations would only further erode Abbas’ authority, as his numbers have fallen due to a failure to bring about any concessions or promises from Israel in the last decade. That has happened because Israel has refused to make any significant movement toward peace, as President Bush was not particularly interested in peace in the Middle-East and he was content to just allow the Israeli government to do whatever it pleased.

In the end, it might very well be that the Obama administration will have to impose a settlement on both parties, whether they like it or not.


By Jose Rodriguez

Barack Obama ran for President promising to bring “change” to Washington D.C., which turned out to be a winning promise. Even though Americans elected him to bring that change, there has been a shrill and loud portion of our society, motivated by partisan hatred, who have stopped at nothing to block his efforts to bring the change that Americans elected him to enact. Change is a frightening prospect for this segment of society, who respond with scurrilous allegations: Obama is really a Muslim; he hates America; he’s a socialist; he was not really born in this country; he’s a Nazi; he wants to kill old people; and on and on and on. People, like Rep. Joe Wilson, want to engage in that form of demagoguery in order to uphold the status quo. They want to shout down the President during an important speech, calling him a liar or contradicting him.

But Joe Wilson is not the first Wilson to shout at a President advocating for change during a speech.

In late November 1995, President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. President to make an official visit to Northern Ireland. More so than any President before or since, Bill Clinton was heavily involved in the Irish peace process; Clinton even appointed former Maine Senator George Mitchell to be the first Special Envoy to Ireland (George Mitchell is now the Special Envoy to the Middle-East, where he hopes to broker a peace deal). The conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland seemed so intractable that no previous President wanted to expend any energy finding a solution. President Clinton, however, had made bold promises to the Irish community in the United States, and he intended to keep them. By going to Ireland, he hoped to jump start the failing negotiations between Catholics and Protestants, who had been locked in conflict (known as the Troubles) for decades. Before long, not only had Clinton fallen completely in love with the Irish, but the Irish fell head over-heels in love with the Clintons (Hillary benefited from this love during her Presidential run in 2008). That the leader of the free world would come and meet with Irish leaders and everyday people was an immense honor for them. Protestants and Catholics alike flocked by the thousands (culminating in a speech attended by 100,000 people in Dublin) to see and hear the President of the United States, who was there to advocate for change and peace.

While a majority of Irish on both sides of the conflict wanted change and peace in Northern Ireland, fringe elements within both communities wanted to uphold the status quo. They were the loudest and most violent, so they were successful, for decades, in prolonging the conflict. These people criticized the President’s visit, saying that he had no business being in Ireland, and that he certainly had no business interfering in the on-going negotiations.

However, as Clinton got out into the public, shook hands, hugged hundreds of people, shared stories, and even accepted a few beers (which the Secret Service quickly poured out), the Irish public were very warm and receptive to Clinton and his message of hope. The Irish flocked to Clinton by the droves, swarming him and enveloping him, wanting to touch him and be in his presence, as though they could be infused with his energy and power. In reality, it was the President who was feeding off their energy, driving him for nearly 48 hours with virtually no sleep. The Secret Service was alarmed by this obvious inability to maintain security, but the President was more than eager to drown himself in the sea of people. This was, as he put it, the happiest time of his life.

While in Ireland, President Clinton stopped at the Mackie factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was owned by a Protestant, but he employed Catholics and Protestants. This place was, ostensibly, a symbol for peace and co-existence, but many of the employees either belonged to the IRA or for Protestant para-militaries in their time off. Before Clinton spoke, two children gave speeches that told of their suffering, but also called for peace. After young Cathy Hamill brought the room to tears with the story of her father’s murder, Clinton took the stage.

President Clinton, wagging his finger and clenching his fist, proclaimed, “only you can decide between division and unity, between hard lives and high hopes. You must say to those who would still use violence for political objectives: ‘You are the past, your day is over!'” This was a bold statement, considering that those people were in the room with him. It was also an obvious play on the famous IRA slogan, which said “Our day will come.” Clinton was challenging these people to turn their backs on the past and to move forward toward change, toward peace.

Not everyone was receptive to his message of change.

Cedric Wilson, a Protestant leader of the Northern Ireland Unionist party, shouted, “Never!”

As Clinton promised to “walk with” them if they chose to “walk the path of peace,” Wilson continued to heckle President Clinton: “Never!” “Those who showed the courage to break with the past,” Clinton said, “are entitled to their stake in the future.” Again, Wilson shouted, “Never!” Clinton pointed out Wilson, the heckler, who stood for the past, not the future of Ireland.

“Peace must be waged with a warrior’s resolve– bravely, proudly, and relentlessly– secure in the knowledge of the single greatest difference between war and peace; in peace everybody can win.” The President received a standing ovation that seemed to last forever. The people of Ireland were resolute: they were rejecting the Wilsons of the world.

In the end, due to the tireless efforts of Clinton, Mitchell, and the interested parties in Ireland, there was a negotiated peace in Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement (April 10, 1998) was not only supported by the Irish governments and the British government, but it was also supported by the Irish people through a referendum. The people made a
choice for peace, rather than protracted violence and conflict. Though in recent years groups in Ireland have tried to re-ignite the Troubles, the people have held fast to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. Hillary Clinton has even appointed Declan Kelly to be the U.S. Special Envoy to Ireland, and she plans to visit Northern Ireland next month to review the peace process and to give a speech about the threat to peace posed by para-military groups in Ireland. This focus on Ireland is a break from the Bush administration, who largely ignored Ireland and left the U.S. participation in the peace process to the State Department. Had they continued Bill Clinton’s level of involvement, the situation in Ireland might be less perilous.

In the end, in a round-about sort of way, there are Wilsons in our world who shout “You lie!” or “Never!” to people who are interested in change, or in making progress. They are defenders of the status quo. As our country struggles to make sense of the health care bills in Congress (while continuing to be raped by insurance companies), we should all, at least, agree that we want to move forward– that we all want change and progress.

And we should all agree to ignore all the Wilsons of the world.


By Jose Rodriguez

Okay, how about we start with some TEA Party basics.

The people who organized the nationwide TEA Party protests originally were upset about the increased spending of the Obama administration and the creation of TARP (which was established by the Bush administration, not the Obama administration). Their rallying cry was “Taxed Enough Already!” At the tax day protests, in over 800 cities, there were people dressed in 18 century colonial attire; other people tossed tea into rivers and harbors, in a silly attempt to emulate the acts of the Sons of Liberty over 230 years ago in Boston Harbor. Get it? Tea Party? Boston Tea Party?

Here’s the problem.

The Sons of Liberty were protesting the imposition of taxes by the British government. These taxes were then sent back to England. It was colonialism. Not only were the American colonists upset by the taxation, but they were angered by the imposition of taxes without representation. So, in other words, they were not bothered by taxes: they were bothered by the fact that they had no say in the taxation and that their tax dollars went to benefit a small country across a large body of water.

This is not happening now. We enjoy full representation, representation that has found it necessary to tax certain items since the creation of the Constitution and who also found it necessary to collect income tax since 1861. And our tax dollars are not going to benefit some colonial overlord in a far away land, but they are benefiting us here in the United States. So… there is no way to compare them to the Patriots who wrested our Independence from the British empire.

These TEA Parties have been described as “astroturf“; in other words, they are not a true “grassroots” movement, but are manufactured by partisan conservative groups. What is the reason for this characterization?

Well, how about the fact that the TEA Parties were organized by Freedomworks, a conservative political advocacy group established by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The TEA Parties have also been heavily covered by Fox News, who has regularly portrayed the protesters as “real Americans,” implying that those who support the President are not “real Americans.” Fox has given ample time to the protesters and the screamers and the deathers, as well as providing a forum for lies and myths. These protests are not a spontaneously created movement, but have been created by the rich, the wealthy, interest groups, and conservative partisans seeking to bring the President of the United States to his “Waterloo“.

Does that mean that all the people at these rallies and protests are political agents? Does it mean they are willing pawns for larger interests?

No.

I would say all these people are really upset about the appearance that government is growing too big, that it is overreaching, and that they are going to be overtaxed. However, these people get their information solely from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News. They are also readers of conservative blogs, or blogs that deal with lies and scare tactics. They probably are recipients of mass e-mails that are sent out by people trying to manufacture conspiracies. These people are not willing to seek out alternative information, nor are they willing to challenge what their ideological icons say, or to check the facts behind their bold statements and accusations. They are moved to action based on lies, myths, distortions, and their own ignorance.

Now, there has been a lot of talk that these protesters are “overwhelmingly” racist. Of course, all the conservative talking heads (who have encouraged these protesters) cry foul. Glenn Beck likened the accusation of “racist” to crying fire! in a crowded theater. Sean Hannity responded to the racist accusation by saying: “”[T]hese are despicable tactics. It’s all designed to silence critics. It’s all designed to intimidate. It’s all designed to shut down opposition.” Rush Limbaugh put his two cents in, of course: “Any criticism of an African-American’s policies or statements or misstatements is racist, and that’s it. Therefore, the question: Can this nation really have an African-American president?” Charles Krauthammer even described Democrats as being “desperate,” which he thinks is why many have accused the right of indulging in racism to shoot down the President’s health care reform efforts.

I do not agree that the “overwhelming portion” of protesters are racist. There is inarguably a small portion of the protesters that are racist, and that is quite obvious. All one has to do is look at some of the signs carried at the 9/12 TEA Party in Washington D.C.:

Beyond that, the signs were also outrageous and ridiculous. This proves that the “overwhelming portion” were not racist, but extremist and crazy:

The political climate is becoming hostile. Words often times lead to actions, which can have violent and deadly consequences. These protests are a forum for hate speech. It appeals to the worst in all of us, particularly our anger against those who are not like us. They serve to divide American’s against one another, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are all biased and prejudiced, and there are political talking heads who want to exploit those prejudices for their own political ends, or for their own aggrandizement. We should reject these hate mongers and expose them for what they are: opportunists.

Do not forget that political extremism exists on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum.

Lee Harvey Oswald was a self-avowed communist who hated President Kennedy for his policies against Cuba and communism in general. On the day of his death the Dallas Morning News ran an ad from the American Bible Society that blasted Kennedy’s “softness” towards global “Godless” communism. This sentiment was common in the south, particularly in Texas. That political hatred and demonization, from left and right, ended with President Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

About one hundred years before, John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater after the end of the Civil War. Wilkes was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and hated President Lincoln because he had the audacity to wage a war to free African Americans from their bondage and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Booth was a racist, who hated abolitionists. He even attended the hanging of John Brown, who is yet another example of political extremism leading to violence and murder.

James Earl Ray shot and killed Martin Luther King jr, because he was angered by King’s efforts to bring civil rights to African Americans and to force the south to integrate. He was a racist who used politcal grievances to justify this violent act.

Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, was enraged by Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s support for Israel, so he killed the Senator at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was also drunk (according to Sirhan), but he was obsessed with Kennedy for quite sometime and had long determined to “eliminate” Senator Kennedy before “June 5th.” He was successful.

In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish radical named Yigal Amir. Amir justified the killing of Rabin because Rabin was engaged in the Oslo Peace process with the Palestinians. Amir, like many on the right in Israel and the U.S., do not believe in working towards peace with the Palestinians, and instead believe in perpetuating violence. In his case, there were also religious motivations for killing Rabin, who he accused of surrendering the Holy Land to the Palestinians.

I can go on and on and on and on and on about this. There is no end to the examples of political opponents using violence to advance their own causes. There is a very real possibility that this can happen in our time. There is a very real possibility that our country will descend into race wars if this President is killed by a racist TEA bagger, believing that he is acting justly and morally by killing the President of the United States.

I guess the bottom-line is this:

Whether these people are racists or not, there nonetheless is a significant level of hatred and anger from a fringe element in our society. We should all be concerned and afraid that this situation, with a single violent act, could throw our country into a tail-spin, the likes of which have not been seen since the civil war.

Now… can we get back to the Health Care debate, please?


By Jose Rodriguez

When Reza Khan took power in 1926, and crowned himself Shah of Persia, he began a process of Westernization and modernization. Mostly, however, these were efforts designed to strengthen his own power. Fearing the influence of the religious establishment, the Shah discouraged religious identification, and took steps to reduce the participation of the ulama in society. The Shah imposed a forbidding women from wearing a chador or a hijab and mandated that people wear Westernized clothing. Another step he took, which angered the religious clerics, was the allowance of men and women to socialize in public places and Universities. This allowed women to pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, judges, or any other professional employment they desired. The Shah was trying to bring his nation into the twentieth century, which included an insistence that foreign countries refer to Persia as Iran.

As is often the case in Iranian history, his rule was interrupted by foreign interference. In 1933, he granted Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later known as Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) a renewed oil contract, extending their agreement to 1993 and provided the Iranian government 21% of the profits. To the dismay of Iranians, it also meant that Iranians would have to house foreign technicians, engineers, consultants, and advisers. While Iranians would be employed, they were not compensated as well as the foreign experts nor were they provided decent housing. Less than a decade later, as World War 2 raged on, the British and Soviets invaded Iran because they feared an imminent German invasion. Reza Shah was furious with the decision and demanded they leave. A few days later, the Shah abdicated his throne in protest. In order to keep his dynasty alive, however, he crowned Muhammad Reza, his son, the new Shah of Iran. Reza Khan fled to South Africa, where he died three years later in exile.

The young Muhammad Reza Shah, the spoiled son of a Cossack army officer, took control of the Iranian monarchy in 1941. He, like his father, wanted to transform Iran into a great nation. Unfortunately, he was hamstrung by external and internal forces. Internally, his nation was divided. Taking advantage of the occupation of foreign powers and the young Shah’s inexperience, several opposition groups formed among the religious establishment, the Army officer corps, and Marxist groups. The ulama, long ignored by the monarchy and denied any influence in Iranian society, began to grow in support and started demanding a greater role in government. They also started a campaign to urge women to re-don the veil, to end the mixing of the sexes, to end the education of girls in public schools, and to generally reverse all the changes made under Reza Shah‘s rule. Another prominent opposition group was the Army officer’s corps, who saw an opportunity to challenge the Shah‘s rule. A group of Marxists also vied for power. The Tudeh party sought land reform and greater political rights for women. The young Shah was off to a precarious start.

Adding to his vulnerability was the struggle for influence between the British, Soviets, and the Americans. The British, veterans at the colonial business, mostly supported the existing institutions, so long as they did their bidding. The Soviets were a major supporter of the Tudeh party. To oppose the Soviets and their surrogate, the United States supported the Army officer corps. This political crisis lead to the obvious question: who was in charge?

In 1943, a charismatic and well liked man named Muhammad Mossaddegh was elected to the Majlis, the Iranian legislature. Educated in Paris, a strong supporter of democracy, he was placed under house arrest in the 1930’s for criticizing Reza Shah. In 1949, Mossadegh created the National Front, a group devoted to the interests of the peasants and the middle class, secularism, opposition to the growing power of the monarchy at the expense of democracy, as well as opposition to foreign powers in Iran. The National Front was a collection of parties that supported the rise of Mossadegh.

Mossadegh’s primary issue, which gained him tremendous support, was his opposition to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. AIOC was heavily invested in by the British, though they also employed many Iranians. But the profits from Iranian resources went into British pockets, which was a serious source of grievance. This issue gained popular support, including support from many of the ulama. Due to the efforts of Mossadegh, in 1951 the majlis nationalized Iran’s oil, which infuriated the British and Americans, who benefited from Iran’s oil. Mossadegh was soon named Prime Minister; unfortunately, the British and Americans imposed sanctions and began a global boycott of Iranian oil. Iran’s economy plummeted. Despite the setback, Mossadegh held strong and broke off diplomatic ties with Britain.

In 1952, in an attempt to enforce the Constitution of 1906, Mossadegh took power over the military, introduced land reform, and limited the Shah’s power. However, his changes were frightening the conservatives and those who supported the monarchy, which included the officer corps and many in the ulama. Also, as the economy deteriorated due to the punishment inflicted by Britain and the U.S., the National Front deteriorated as different factions began to compete for power. The Tudeh Party, for instance, began to take advantage of rising unemployment and unhappiness, and they found that their influence was on the rise. It was the army officer corps, however, who took steps to destroy Mossadegh.

The British and U.S. government welcomed the interest of the army officer corps in developing a plan to remove Mossadegh from power. In August 1953, the United States dispatched Kermit Roosevelt (the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt) to inform the Shah of plans for a coup d‘etat. The CIA would be heavily involved, he promised, with millions of dollars at their disposal. The CIA, under direction from Roosevelt, paid money to newspapers to run libelous headlines denouncing the Prime Minister, calling him a homosexual and a “Jew”. They also organized mass protests in Tehran to oppose Mossadegh’s rule. Within four days, Mossadegh was arrested by the Royal Army, and was immediately replaced by a new Prime Minster, who was loyal to the monarchy. The Shah was restored to power. The relieved Shah praised Roosevelt, saying, “I owe my throne to God, my people, my army, and to you.” Thus, as American control over Iran began, so too did the disdain for the U.S. in the Iranian heart.

The Shah was not interested in losing his power again, so he took steps to retain that power. He quickly put the former Prime Minister on trial and put him in jail; he moved to restore diplomatic ties with Britain; and he reopened Iran’s oil to foreign companies, provided Iran received 50% of all profits. The U.S. rewarded the Shah’s good behavior by granting him diplomatic and economic support, some $500 million dollars between 1953-1963. The Soviet-supported Tudeh Party was disbanded, as was the National Front. The Shah also created a Gestapo-esque security force known as the National Intelligence and Security Organization, otherwise known as the SAVAK. The SAVAK was advised by the U.S. and Israel, who had a keen interest in keeping Iran under its thumb. The SAVAK repressed Iranians, shut out political debate, and ensured that gatherings did not contain political opposition sentiment towards the monarchy. On college campuses across Iran, the SAVAK spied on students and prevented any serious debate about the political state of the country, breaking up protests before they started. Similar efforts were underway throughout the streets of Iran. Any activity seen as being even remotely hostile to the monarchy was suppressed violently, with the participants put on trial for sabotage and jailed for years. This was the reality in Iran until 1979.

There were, however, periods of unrest. One of the more notable periods occurred between 1960-1963. A fiery Ayatollah by the name of Ruhollah Khomeini began to rally his followers in opposition to the Shah, who he condemned for his efforts at secularization. The SAVAK arrested Khomeini in June 1963, detained him for a short period of time, but forced him into exile after a number of angry protests. The Shah was compelled to exile the Ayatollah in 1964, who fled to Turkey, Iraq, and then Paris. The Shah was frightened by the ability of the Ayatollah to rally the public through religious invocations and appeals to the public’s disdain for foreign interference in Iran’s government. The Shah had to change in order to stay in power.

Beginning in 1963, the Shah introduced what he called the “White Revolution” (“white” because it was a bloodless revolution). Though the Shah wanted to Westernize the his nation, he was not willing to democratize his government. The revolution had 12 points, which included a land reform proposal, literacy program, and an effort to improve Iran’s roads and railways. The White Revolution succeeded in raising Iran’s literacy rate to 80%, which was carried out by the armed forces who were required to spend 15 months teaching people in rural areas how to read. It also provided 92% of sharecroppers their own land, though most failed to subsist on their crops, let alone make a profit. Most people during this time fled the country side to urban areas. The roads and railways in Iran also improved, which improved communication and manufacturing. This allowed Iran to become a major industrial player, though the Iranian people were still forced to accept low wages, keeping them impoverished.

The profit from oil revenues greatly improved the people’s access to public schools, universities, and hospitals. This had a positive impact on the public.

As part of the revolution, the Shah encouraged women to participate in public life. Women were allowed into public schools and universities. They were also allowed to become professionals: lawyers, judges, teachers, and doctors. In terms off equality before the law, they still had a long way to go, but there was some progress. Women, for example, were allowed to prevent their husbands from taking a second wife. But they were also allowed to be in mixed company, and they were encouraged to wear Westernized clothing. The hijab (veil)and chador were banned, a move that upset the religious conservatives who sought to keep women subjugated. Thought society in general was still patriarchal, there were reforms that benefited women and advanced their rights.

Despite the gains and improvements, the Iranians still were not thrilled with the Shah. He was still regarded as a puppet for foreign interests, and they did not appreciate their dominance in Iranian markets. The Bazaars bore the brunt of their dominance, which affected the ability of the merchant class to grow. The bottom line for many was that the Shah was still maneuvering to retain his power, regardless of the people’s wishes.

In 1971, the Shah declared that the White Revolution was a success. To celebrate, he threw a lavish party in Persepolis to commemorate their 2,500 year Persian history. Price tagged at $300 million dollars, the impressive and extravagant ceremony drew condemnation from many, including the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini denounced the ceremony’s blatant waste of money, and invoked the suffering of the millions of poor Iranian peasants. “The crimes of the Kings of Iran have blackened the pages of history… what happened to all the gilded promises, those pretentious claims… that the people are prosperous and content?” the Ayatollah raged from Najaf.

From 1971 until 1979, the Shah was coming under tremendous pressure from the ulama and Marxist groups, who cultivated a growing sense of dissatisfaction among Iran’s poor. In a move designed to increase his control over Iran’s anemic democracy, the Shah limited the number of political parties to one: the National Resurgence Party. He also increased the SAVAK’s activities, including more brutal oppression, more arrests, and wide-spread censorship. Despite his efforts, his control was slipping through his fingers and revolution was well under way.

In January 1978, Iranians watched as U.S. President Jimmy Carter, champagne in hand, toasted the Shah and hailed Iran as an “island of stability.” Unfortunately, that was not the case. Soon afterward, the religious establishment began a series of protests, which provoked the government into wide-spread crackdowns. Mosques became a place for anti-government expression. The Ayatollah, however, was directing much of the dialogue and protests from exile. By the summer of 1978, the Muslim clerics had turned the public against the Shah, and in favor of the Ayatollah.

The loose coalition of secularists, clerics, and Marxists was finding itself directing the imminent fall of the Shah. Huge numbers of people met in Tehran to protest the Shah’s rule and to advocate for his overthrow. These protests led to more violent and deadly clashes with government forces, resulting in a tremendous number of protesters killed. This event, known as Black Friday, led to strikes that brought the Iranian economy to a stand-still and for growing calls for Khomeini to take the reins of power. The protesters ignored the Shah’s demand that people not march in Tehran, despite the deaths of 700 protesters. All of this culminated on December 12, 1979, with a march that drew 2 million people. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Shah knew he had to flee. On January 16, 1979, the Iranians took to the streets to celebrate the Shah’s departure. He left, with a box of Iranian soil, in exile. He died of brain cancer a year later.

On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini arrived in Iran for the first time in 16 years. He immediately took control of the state, declaring that they need to cut off the hands of Iran’s enemies. Little did the supporters of the revolution realize that they had overthrown a tyrant in favor of a more vicious, conservative, intolerant, and religious tyrant. The relative freedoms they had secured during the Shah’s rule were now gone, and a new Islamic Republic was in charge.


By Jose Rodriguez

Man, I wish I were Rob Miller, a Democrat who is challenging South Carolina’s Republican Representative Joe Wilson in 2010. Since President Obama’s speech last night, Miller has raised $200,000 from 5,000 donors. Wilson has even provided Congress a rare moment of unity– both sides of the aisle have denounced Wilson’s rude outburst. Senator John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 Presidential contender, was on Larry King last night and called Wilson’s comment “totally disrespectful” and said he should apologize. House Minority Leader John Boehner said in an interview that “his behavior was inappropriate.” There is also speculation that Boehner and the Minority Whip Eric Cantor want Wilson to apologize on the House floor. I’m not even going to bother quoting Democrats, who were naturally demanding an apology.

Wilson has since apologized, though his apology was insincere and forced. President Obama has also accepted the apology and has urged the people to move on beyond the bickering.

But what did Wilson say that has earned him the scorn of sensible people?

President Obama refuted the false assertion that the Health Care reform bill would cover illegal immigrants. Well, that was simply too much truthiness for Rep. Wilson, who could not contain his disdain for facts: “You lie!”

Thank you, South Carolina for providing us with more political absurdity!

The media has been covering this outburst, and his subsequent apology, but they have not really analyzed the substance of his ridiculous remark. The bottom line is that Joe Wilson is the one who lied, not the President.

Quite simply, section 246 on page 143 specifically excludes “undocumented aliens” from receiving “affordability credits” to pay for health insurance. A racist and anti-immigrant group known as Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has come out with a fact deprived statement claiming that so-called illegal immigrants would receive “taxpayer-funded health care benefits,” which is, as President Obama responded to Wilson during his speech, “not true.” The bill (HR 3200), in fact, does not change the status quo. As it stands now, illegal immigrants can purchase their own health insurance through private insurers. On August 25, 2009, the Congressional Research Service reported that the House bill “does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens participating in the Exchange—whether the noncitizens are legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently.” So, FAIR is correct in asserting that illegal immigrants would be able to participate in the insurance exchange, but it is simply not true that they would be getting, essentially, free health care. They would have to purchase their own health insurance and they would not be able to receive “affordability credits” to off-set that purchase. In other words, they would assume the full cost of health insurance, with no assistance from tax-payers.

Also, just to underscore the absurdity of the claim, section 246 is titled “NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.” Can it be any clearer?

There is a silly notion out there that the public option would essentially be free health care for the poor and lazy, at the expense of hard-working, rich, white people. The fact is, the public option, if it passes, would not be a free ride for the poor. In fact, they would be mandated to purchase health insurance. More than likely they would choose the more inexpensive not-for-profit government provided health insurance option. They would, however, if they are really poor, be able to receive government subsidies to purchase their health insurance.

So, no free ride for legal citizens or for illegal immigrants.

Now, whether or not not paying for undocumented immigrants is moral or financially sound, that is a different argument. Remember, if they continue to visit emergency rooms without health insurance, we will still be stuck with their hospital bills. It makes better sense to pay to cover them so that they receive better preventitive care. Paying for hospital visits and check-ups is far cheaper than paying for very expensive treatments that are completely preventable if caught early enough.

Another idiot making an ass of himself is Rush Limbaugh, the drugster.

He is trying to make a big fuss over the President’s new number: 30 million. The President used the figure “30 million” when referring to the number of people who are uninsured. Though the Census Bureau estimates that the figure is closer to 46.3 million, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stated that the figure does not take into account undocumented immigrants. So, the White House argues, the actual figure of uninsured Americans is somewhere in the 30 millions. As the Census reported on today, the number of insured Americans rose to 46.3 million, up from 45.7 million. As the President lamented in his speech, that includes the 17,000 people who lose their insurance everyday. Whether or not the figure is 46.3 million or roughly 30 million, the fact is that we have a moral obligation to provide every American access to health insurance.

And, finally, another embarrassing moment has come from GOP Chairman Michael Steele. Steele has taken issue with the President’s use of a letter from the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The letter was delivered, after his death, to the President. Though health care reform was Kennedy’s life issue, Steele characterized the letter as a “political tool.” The moment in the speech was an emotional one as the President seemed to struggle through those words, the Vice President wiped a tear from his eye, and Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, sat crying in the audience. “This cause stretched across decades,” he wrote. “It has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. … In the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.”

Here is the entirety of the letter:

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me — and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles — there always have been — and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat — that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will — yes, we will — fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign — and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend — and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,
(Ted)

As the President said, after decades of stalling, it is time to move forward. It is now time to bring about health care reform.


By Jose Rodriguez

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Glenn Beck is a racist. He’s also a communist and a fascist. And he hates America.

There. I said it. And I feel much better for it.

What’s my proof? Well, I have tons of made up facts and paranoid delusions to support my assertions. Isn’t that how Beck and his kind operate? No facts; only baseless assertions supported by “facts” that have been twisted and perverted to fit his narrow view of the world.

In the last few months, Beck has waged a jihad against a single individual: Van Jones. Now, why in the world would this little, paranoid, anglo be so interested in an environmentally conscious African American, working for an African American President? Hmmm…

Glen Beck is a racist.

Not really, but he is.

No, that’s not the reason (though Beck has had no problem calling the President a racist). It turns out that Van Jones is the founder of an advocacy group called Color of Change, which has been running a successful campaign to force advertisers to drop their sponsorship of Beck’s show on the Fox network. So far, 57 have jumped the crazy ship lollypop. What caused the group to start their campaign? Beck’s racist comments: President Obama is “a racist” and has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” Well, that sounds like totally rational and legitimate debate.

Or not.

But Beck was beating this drum before the Color of Change campaign, on July 23rd and July 28th. On July 23rd, Beck devoted a small amount of time on Jones’ efforts to create a “green” economy, which would create “green” jobs. He also described Jones as a “communist.” I know, I know– what a horrible person, right? Trying to give people jobs in the private sector while combating Global Climate Change sooooooo makes him a communist. On July 28th, Beck had on his show an “expert” named Phil Kerpen from the conservative think-tank Americans for prosperity. These two nut-jobs went on to weave a complex and convoluded conspiratorial web of lies and speculation, one that included Color of Change, the Apollo Alliance, and ACORN. These progressive groups, who advocate for social justice and equality, are apparently communists who want to overturn the system.

Here is a bit of their idiotic conversation:

BECK: OK. So, Wade Rathke, ACORN, Tides Center, they decide that they’re going to fund and create Apollo. One of the founders is the guy who went to jail — this is during the Rodney King thing — he went to jail and he was just a black nationalist. He came out a communist and he also then started looking into the green movement, and he is the guy who said, “Hey, if we tie labor and ACORN and Greenpeace together, we’ve got a super- powerful group, Apollo.”

Is it true Apollo helped design the stimulus package?

KERPEN: They did. They put out a draft stimulus bill last year in 2008. It included almost everything that ended up being in the final stimulus bill. Harry Reid has thanked them for helping design the final stimulus package that was enacted into law. And they brag on their Web site that they helped design this thing and push it through.

I love it when people who are trying to help the poor and disadvantaged are branded as communists who hate freedom and America.

Glenn Beck is a racist. Yeah, I know I said it earlier, but I was joking. Now I’m serious. He may not know he’s a racist, but he is– at least on a sub conscious level. Not only has he called our first African American President a racist with deep seated hatred for white people, but he is also curiously focused on Jones’ early years, trying to portray him as a radical black nationalist. Even his attacks on Color of Change and ACORN, groups that are aimed at bettering the lives of minorities in urban areas, seem to be racially motivated. He sees dark skinned people rising to positions of power and he is scared shitless.

Let’s take a moment to evaluate the charge that Van Jones is a communist. Here is a video clip of Beck on the O’Reilly Factor. Notice that O’Reilly asks Beck if Jones renounced his early radicalism. Notice, too, that Beck doesn’t answer the question:

Why does Beck avoid answering the question? Because Jones did renounce his early views.

Certainly, Jones did brand himself as a communist. When he was jailed(improperly) following the riots of the Rodney King trial, Jones encountered revolutionary people with radical ideas. “I spent the next ten years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary… I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th. By August, I was a communist.” This is the quote that Beck refers to constantly. Unfortunately, he never mentions the rest of the story.

After working in 2000 against Prop 21 (designed to impose stricter sentences on criminals) he faced a tremendous inner struggle when the Proposition passed and his revolutionary group imploded. As Eva Paterson (a mentor to Jones in his early years) wrote, “I counseled him to rethink his tactics and to work for change in wiser ways. In time, he jettisoned his youthful notions and moved on to seek more effective and attainable solutions.” Jones looked around and saw that there were other ways to achieve social progress: “I realized that there are a lot of people who are capitalists — shudder, shudder — who are really committed to fairly significant change in the economy, and were having bigger impacts than me and a lot of my friends with our protest signs.” So, Jones renounced his radical ways and accepted a different path: “Now, I put the issues and constituencies first. I’ll work with anybody, I’ll fight anybody if it will push our issues forward. … I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” It was also at this time that Jones turned to God and returned to his Christian faith. Within the last year, Jones also published a book titled, “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can fix Our Two Biggest Problems.” Note that the book is a capitalist approach to solving our unemployment problem as well as our Climate Change problem.

Another of Beck’s otrageous claims is that Jones is a convicted felon, who was part of the race riots following the Rodney King trial. While it is true that Jones was arrested, his characterization is false and dishonest.

Here is Eva Paterson’s description of the event:

On May 8, 1992, the week AFTER the Rodney King disturbances, I sent a staff attorney and Van out to be legal monitors at a peaceful march in San Francisco. The local police, perhaps understandably nervous, stopped the march and arrested hundreds of people — including all the legal monitors.

The matter was quickly sorted out; Van and my staff attorney were released within a few hours. All charges against them were dropped. Van was part of a successful class action lawsuit later; the City of San Francisco ultimately compensated him financially for his unjust arrest (a rare outcome).

So, it is completely false and wrong for Beck to continue to portray Jones as a felon.

Van Jones is an individual who has made it his life’s work to fight for social change, social justice. His tactics and beliefs were radical and revolutionary, but he has long since change his ways, though social change and justice are still his goal. He is someone who has a powerful presence, who empowers people to become the chage they want to see. It was this work, particularly his efforts to create a “green” economy that caught the eye of the Obama administration. Despite Beck’s claim that Jones is a “Green Jobs Czar,” Jones is really nothing more than a low-level advisor. The term “Czar” is one that has been used by the media, though never used by the Obama administration. Beck loves using the word, as though it implies some level of shady business. In reality, Jones is an intelligent, passionate, and dynamic individual who wants to make a difference.

Check out the following video:

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  • Thank you, #PeytonManning for throwing that interception to give the #Cowboys that win. What happened, bro? 3 years ago
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