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Paul Ryan

If you are at all like me, then you probably check Politifact.com on a regular basis. Recently, Politifact announced their “Lie of the Year”: Republicans voted to end Medicare. Sadly, the site’s “Lie of the Year” was not a lie at all. I was quite perturbed by this. I was not alone. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote a brief op-ed on this subject. And it has been all over the Daily Kos. The pundits on msnbc have been all over this story, too. David Weigel, over at Slate, gave Politifact quite the thrashing. To add my voice to the choir, I e-mailed the Politifact staff. You can do the same here: truthometer@politifact.com

Below is my e-mail:

To the Politifact Staff,

Generally speaking, I have held your site in high regard. While I haven’t always agreed with your findings, I could always find that the reasons and research those findings were predicated on were solid. 
Not so this time.
I know you’ve gotten an e-mail full of complaints from people like me, so I’ll try to be brief. My e-mail is just one of thousands crowding your inbox, I’m sure. But here’s the problem with your self-defense: I’m not in the echo-chamber. True, I do check the liberal blogs, and I do watch msnbc. However, I also watch Fox News on a daily basis. And though it makes my brain hurt, I try to listen to Rush and Beck almost daily. I also read a multitude of newspapers. I consume more news from a variety of sources than anyone I know. So, to toss me in with the rest of the liberals caught in an “echo-chamber” really pisses me off, pardon my French. The facts are the facts, I’m afraid, and you’ve simply gotten them wrong. Big time.
I will agree that Democrats may have been a bit too eager to demagogue and jump on the Ryan plan in order to win the special election in New York and to improve their odds in the House for this upcoming election. The video that shows “grandma” being wheeled off a cliff is a perfect example of the hysteria that you correctly identified.
However, you have equated that hysteria to a lie– the lie of the year, in fact. The demagoguery was over the line, to be sure, but it was rooted in the fact that Paul Ryan’s plan did end Medicare as we know it.
Let’s start by asking ourselves, “What is Medicare?” Well, Medicare is single-payer government health insurance, which is guaranteed to any American over the age of 65. For those who have paid into it all of their working life, most services under Part A are free. For Part B, there is a nominal monthly premium. Medicare pays doctors and hospitals directly on a fee-for-service basis. There are gaps, unfortunately, in Medicare, which means that sometimes seniors have to pay out of pocket. Medicare, like Social Security, has been a life-saver for poor seniors, who might otherwise have died prematurely as a consequence of inadequate access to health care services.
So, what then did Paul Ryan’s plan do to Medicare? In short: it ended Medicare as we know it.
Even in your own analysis of the Ryan plan you essentially make the case that Medicare as we know it will cease to exist, instead becoming a privatized venture. Paul Ryan’s plan removes the federal government from playing a role in providing health insurance and replaces it with private health insurers. Seniors would receive a voucher, hardly generous, with which they could go into the insurance market and purchase health care. And because under the Ryan plan the vouchers do not keep up with inflation, seniors end up paying more for their health care than under the current plan. By 2022, a fact you know well and have reported, Seniors would have paid $12,500 more per year for health care services. Whether you want to admit it or not, this might make it so that some seniors are left uninsured. What is neglected by you and by Ryan is the fact that the administrative costs of private insurers would actually contribute to higher health care costs, which means seniors will end up paying more money out of pocket. Obviously, Ryan is willing to sacrifice the poor in order to shrink government and slash the budget. Ryan’s plan effectively robs Peter in order to pay Paul. In other words, in order to save the federal government some money, Ryan’s plan would take money out of Medicare and shift health care costs onto seniors.  Seniors would shoulder the burden of finding a private insurer, paying more money out of pocket because the vouchers would not be sufficient to meet their health care costs, and they would be beholden to the whims of the private health insurance market. This is not Medicare, not matter how you try to rationalize it, folks.
What Paul Ryan does is destroy Medicare in order to protect it. It does not make sense– it is indefensible. Sure, you can call the Ryan plan “Medicare”, which is basically the heart of your claim that Democrats have made the lie of the year, but the plan really is not Medicare. You can call it a ham sandwich if you like, but it is not Medicare as we know it. So, you can take some measure of comfort in adhering to some bizarre parsing of semantics, but for senior citizens in this country and for people who look to the federal government to protect those who are the most vulnerable the Ryan plan is not Medicare. It creates a Medicare zombie: sure, that might be the corpse of your loved one walking about, looking for brains, but it is no longer that same warm, caring, protective person that you knew. I know it is a crude metaphor, but it holds true.
I know you won’t change your minds, especially now, but you should be aware that you are wrong and that there are people fact checking you and holding your feet to the fire.
Thank you,
Jose Rodriguez
political pictures - paul ryan - The Week on The Office
political pictures - paul ryan - Trixy Ryan

By Jose Antonio Rodriguez 

“The Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy,” said Vice President Joe Biden, according to Politico, during a two-hour meeting with angry House Democrats. In a CBS interview, the Vice President denied using the “terrorism word”. Kendra Barkoff, Biden’s spokesperson, added further clarification: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.” The closed-door caucus meeting took place amidst the scramble to pass a deal to raise the debt limit before the August 2nd deadline, a deal that some Democrats called a “Satan sandwich”.

The perpetually thin-skinned Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska and John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate during the 2008 election, immediately took offense to the comment. “To be called a terrorist because of our beliefs from the vice president, it’s quite appalling, it’s quite vile,” she said during a Fox News interview. Of course, she herself is quite famous for casually throwing around the “terrorism word”. During the 2008 election, Palin famously accused then-Senator Barack Obama of “pallin’ around” with terrorists, a reference to the fact that Obama sat onChicagoeducation boards with a former member of the Weather Underground named Bill Ayers. Indeed, Palin resurrected those allegations, saying, “He didn’t have a problem palling around with Bill Ayers back in the day when he kicked off his political career in Bill Ayers’ apartment… You know, shaking hands with Chavez and saying he doesn’t need any preconditions with dictators… wanting to read U.S. Miranda rights to alleged, suspected foreign terrorists.” She added that, if she and her ilk were actually terrorists, “heck, shoot, President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us, wouldn’t he?”

It should be added that Paul O’Neil, a Treasury Secretary for President George W. Bush, made remarks similar to the ones that House Democrats made during the meeting with Vice President Biden: “[The] people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really — they’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk.”

But how far off the mark are Paul O’Neil and the angry Democrats? Not that far.

The U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism as: “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” The TEA Party backed freshmen in the House, elected in 2010, have threatened to shut down the government and throw it into default. More recently, they have shut down the Federal Aviation Agency, resulting in the furlough of 74,000 people, the halting of about 200 construction jobs, and causing the federal government to lose out on roughly $30 million a day in revenue. In every instance, these TEA Party backed members of the House have held the American people hostage, threatening to inflict economic violence if their narrow political, ideological demands are not met. Their efforts have supporters in conservative corners and from the Facebook page of the former Mayor of Wasilla. “Don’t retreat,” Sarah Palin routinely reminds her supporters. “Reload.” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, had this to say about the tactics of the House Republicans: “If you hold one-half of one-third of the reins of power in Washington, and are willing to use and maintain that kind of discipline even if you will bring the entire temple down around your own head, there is a pretty good chance that you are going to get your way.”

This is not the first time our government has been threatened by right-wing zealots, however.

In the elections of 1994, Republicans took control of the House and Senate. Led by Newt Gingrich and motivated by his “Contract with America”—or, as Democrats termed it, the Contract on America—right-wing ideologues in Congress sought to reshape the government by gutting programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, and programs for the poor, such as Head Start, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Contract withAmerica also outlined an ambitious agenda, which included legislation for a balanced budget amendment and term limits.  Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House, even threatened to not raise the debt ceiling. These right-wing freshmen were operating on two assumptions: (1) that the American people had provided them with an historic mandate to carry out their agenda and (2) that President Bill Clinton would cave in to their demands.  After all, the American people just overwhelmingly swept the Republicans into power for the first time in over forty years. On the second point, they believed that President Clinton was politically weakened by scandals, which were manufactured by ultra-conservative Clinton-haters and fueled by a pliant media; they also believed that he was without convictions of any kind and lacked moral fortitude. By the end of 1995, they would be proved wrong on both fronts.

On the night of November 13, 1995, hours away from an impending government shut down, Republican leaders of Congress met with President Clinton in order to craft a last minute budget deal. Just a few days earlier, the Republican controlled Congress sent the President a budget that inflicted draconian cuts to entitlements and programs that millions of Americans depended upon. They also sent him a bill to raise the debt ceiling for another thirty days. The President, much to the surprise of the Republican leadership, vetoed both bills. During the tense, last minute negotiations in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Speaker Gingrich made conciliatory statements, while the zealous Dick Armey (now the leader of the TEA Party group Freedomworks) verbally attacked the President. Armey accused the President of fear-mongering, saying that he “could hardly get” his mother-in-law “into a nursing home, you guys have scared her so much.” President Clinton, who still nursed resentment over Armey’s claim that Hillary Clinton was a Marxist, lashed out at Armey: “I don’t know about your mother-in-law, but let me tell you, there are a lot of older women who are going to do pretty darn bad under your budget.” The President was feeling his blood boil. “So don’t expect any pity from me.” Armey, in a moment of petulance, retorted that the Republicans would shut down the government and effectively endClinton’s presidency. “If you want to pass your budget,” the President said with a glance to Bob Dole, who was planning to run for the presidency in 1996, “you will have to put somebody else in this chair!” As if to signal that the meeting was now over, the President declared that he didn’t “care if I go to five percent in the polls. I am not going to sign your budget. It is wrong. It is wrong for the country.”

At midnight, the government shut down began. Nearly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed and the lives of millions of Americans were inconvenienced. In order to prevent default, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin borrowed $61 billion from retirement funds and employed some financial gimmicks, a move that elicited cries for his impeachment from Republicans who preferred that the country be thrown into default. Briefly, the government shut down ended, and it appeared that there would be a budget deal. But the Republican lead Congress continued to send the President bills that unnecessarily inflicted economic pain on the most vulnerable Americans. So, it was not to be, and the government was shut down for a second time. The American people were angry. The poll numbers for Republicans (and Gingrich in particular) plummeted, while the President’s poll numbers skyrocketed. In some polls, his numbers were almost 70% among likely voters over the age of 50. The American people rejected the extremism of the right-wing ideologues and supported President Clinton’s defense of programs that helped millions of Americans keep their heads above water. They rewarded him for not caving in to the demands of over-zealous Republicans, who were holding the American people and the economy hostage. In early January 1996, a contrite Gingrich apologized toClinton, saying, “We made a mistake. We thought you would cave.” On January 6, the government was back in business.

It is difficult not to look back over the last year and see that President Obama has, time and time again, been rolled by House Republicans, lead by Speaker of the House John Boehner. He has caved in to the demands of the TEA-orists, who have threatened to wreak economic violence if their demands are not met. In the wake of the recent debt limit deal, Speaker Boehner has boasted that he got 98% of what he wanted. Emboldened, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted that his party would continue the tactics that have allowed them to cut spending and risk government default. “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this— it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming.” The deal allows the debt ceiling to be raised until early 2013, but it cuts nearly a trillion dollars in discretionary spending over the next ten years and creates a bipartisan committee, which will be tasked with cutting an additional 1.5 trillion dollars.  The TEA Partiers have thrown sanity into the wind. Though they brought the nation to the brink of economic devastation, many refused to vote for the deal that provided them with virtually everything they wanted and virtually nothing that the President wanted. These are people who will not take yes for an answer.

Not everyone is thrilled about the deal. Obviously, Democrats are enraged. Some progressive groups, such as MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, are threatening to withhold support for the President’s 2012 campaign. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, has described the debt deal as an economic “disaster”, warning that it will make our deficit problem worse and “takeAmericaa long way down the road to banana-republic status.” Lawrence Summers, a former economic advisor to President Obama, said that there is a “one in three chance” that there will be a double-dip recession. Standard & Poor, a major credit rating agency, has also responded to the debt deal by downgradingAmerica’s top credit rating. In a statement following the downgrade, S&P cited a dysfunctional political system and a failure to produce a credible, balanced plan. “The majority of Republicans in Congress,” a representative from S&P said, “continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.” The American people, according to recent polls, also strongly dislike the deal. According to a CNN poll, 52% of Americans disapprove of the debt deal. The poll also found that three out of four Americans would describe elected officials as “spoiled children”. A New York Times/CBS News poll, for example, has Congress’s approval rating at a dismal 14%. Speaker Boehner’s disapproval rating is at 57%, ten points higher than the President’s. Public approval of the TEA Party is at a mere 20%. There are signs of hope for the White House in the polls, however. According to the latter poll, the American people trust President Obama over the Republicans with economic issues. They also blame Republicans for the crisis, believing that they refused to compromise. Despite all the drama, President Obama still stands with a 48% approval rating.

 

At some point, President Obama is going to have to take a stand and draw a line in the sand.  During the debt ceiling negotiations, he warned Rep. Eric Cantor: “Don’t call my bluff.” Yet, when they called his bluff, President Obama caved. In 1995, President Clinton demonstrated that he had conviction and moral fortitude. He held firm, risking his political career, and refused to be rolled by the right-wing zealots who were trying to gut government programs and remake the country in their image. When the dust settled, President Clinton not only succeeded in his 1996 election, but his fiscal discipline resulted in a balanced budget and a projected surplus in the trillions of dollars. Today, President Obama faces an equally fanatical and nihilistic group of TEA Party backed Republican freshmen who are willing to blow up the economy. Unfortunately, the TEA-orists have learned that they can get their way if they take hostages. This is a fundamental fight for the future of our country. President Obama needs to decide if he has the conviction to risk his poll numbers and his Presidency in order to preserve our way of life and win the future.


 

 

 

By Jose Rodriguez

 

  

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, out of 11 potential options for Congress, rated unemployment extension as the most likely to stimulate the economy. The least likely: extending the Bush tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. Furthermore, the CBO estimates that every dollar spent on unemployment benefits will generate up to $1.90 in economic activity. Others, such as the Labor Department, argue that there is $2.00 worth of economic activity for every spent dollar. It is a basic fact that people who are unemployed spend every dollar in unemployment insurance that they receive, which fuels economic activity. Conversely, tax cuts for the rich tend to only generate somewhere between 10 and 40 cents of economic activity for every dollar, because the rich tend to save their money, not spend it.

            Not extending unemployment benefits would have a deleterious impact on the already slow pace of economic recovery. With current low demand and excess supply, failure to extend unemployment benefits would further contract the economy and make it even more difficult for employers to hire new workers. The CBO estimates that the economy could see a 1% decline in GDP growth and up to one million additional people could lose their jobs. It goes without saying that we would have hundreds of thousands of people fall into poverty. A recent report by the Census Bureau found that over one out of three people cannot “make ends meet” at a basic level. Not extending unemployment insurance to Americans suffering from unemployment during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression would be a moral outrage.

 

 

The suggestion, posited by many conservatives, that people are simply too lazy to get a job would be laughable were it not so incredibly offensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report last August that indicated that there were five job seekers for every job listing. More specifically, there were 14.6 million people who were unemployed, but only 2.9 million job openings. Those numbers have shifted somewhat in recent months, but the ratio is constant. The misconception that the unemployed are simply lazy reflects a world view that suggests Americans are spoiled and feel entitled. The reality, in this economic crisis, is that Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water. They are struggling to survive. So, the notion that cutting off aid to lazy, spoiled Americans will get them back to work is completely false. Americans want to work, but there are simply not enough jobs.

 The American economy is a consumer driven economy. And right now, Americans do not have the money to consume as much as they used to, which has driven demand downward. Now, corporations are sitting on $1.8 trillion. They claim that they have not invested that money for two reasons: there are excess supplies of goods, so there is no need to invest; and their confidence in the economic outlook is keeping them from making any risks in future investments. Others, such as myself, believe that there is a political dynamic, as well. Corporate America has not been happy with the Obama administration’s attempts to regulate the economy, or his desire to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Under President Bush, regulations were ignored, regulators were in bed (in some cases literally) with the people they were supposed to be monitoring, and corporations could count on President Bush to side with them. Fareed Zakaria, in a Washington Post column, made this case, as well. In discussions with business leaders, he found that most of them complained more about President Obama than their economic or financial concerns. He found that most of them felt similarly: “… [President Obama] has almost no private-sector experience, that he’s made clear he thinks government and nonprofit work are superior to the private sector. It all added up to a profound sense of distrust.”

It is an agreed fact that during periods of economic booms generous unemployment benefits reduce the incentives for people to find employment. However, we are not currently in a period of economic success. We are crawling out of the bowels of an economic crash. In 2003, in testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, Alan Greenspan made comments about unemployment benefits which can be applied to today’s debate about the issue: “Unemployment insurance is essentially restrictive because it’s been our perception that we don’t want to create incentives for people not to take jobs. But when you’re in a period of job weakness, where it is not a choice on the part of people whether they’re employed or unemployed, then obviously you want to be temporarily generous. We ought to be temporarily generous. And I think that’s what we have done in the past and it has worked well. […]I think that because it is stringent in normal periods, that one should recognize that people who lose jobs not because they did anything and can’t find new ones, you have a different form of problem, which means that you have to allow the unemployment system to be much broader and, indeed, that’s what we need to do.” People who now find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own should not be left out to dry. Not only is it morally indefensible, it is economically unsound.

                                              

Tonight I watched Doubt, a wonderful movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams. It’s a movie about a Catholic Church located in the bronx during the mid-1960’s. A Priest (played by Hoffman) is accused by a nun (Streep) of having an improper relationship with an altar boy. Never was there any indication of wrong doing. In fact, the Priest had been the boy’s sole protector and role model. However, the nun despised the progressive Priest and threatened to ruin his vocation with this accusation. In the end, it’s a film about faith, love, and change…

At least that’s how I interpreted it, but what do I know? I’m only college educated. After watching the film, which centers around a theme of child abuse committed by a Priest, a sensitive subject for Catholics like myself, I decided to see what other Catholics thought of the film. I was shocked to see that many would not even see the film, thinking that it was another Hollywood attack on the Church. The Catholic blogs that reviewed the film were generally dismissive. I only read one Catholic review that was mostly positive. However, one reviewer in particular got under my skin.

Here’s her review, which can be found at InsideCatholic.com:

Of Certainty and Doubt
by Joan Frawley Desmond
12/16/08

The implosion of Catholic religious orders in the 1970s shook the foundations of the Catholic Church in America, threatening both the financial viability of parish schools and the transmission of faith and morals to subsequent generations. Decades later, the clergy sex-abuse crisis produced another earthquake from which the Church has yet to recover.
Most Catholics view these two developments as entirely separate. But John Patrick Shanley, the screenwriter and director of the newly released Doubt — the film adaptation of his award-winning, off-Broadway play of 2004 — draws out the clear and subtle connections between the exodus of nuns and the unchecked abuses of clerical predators.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t succeed half as well as the play. The spare plot works better on stage, and Meryl Streep’s interpretation of the central character occasionally drifts into caricature. Still, Shanley’s meditation on the seismic shift in Catholic culture that converged with the Second Vatican Council helps us understand why an era that began with so much promise ended in such darkness and confusion.
Like the play, the action in the film occurs almost entirely within the confines of St. Nicholas School in the Bronx. The time is the mid-1960s, and the pervading mood is somber, brooding. Elsewhere in this prosperous nation, young America’s desire for increased spontaneity and creativity fuels the steadily growing pressure for social change.
Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the school principal, is unimpressed by such youthful naiveté. Evil exists; original sin is not to be casually dismissed. Her sense of threat remains unshaken, and thus she repels the introduction of ballpoint pens and secular Christmas songs with continued vigor.
She wears her uneasy, suspicious nature like an uncomfortable hair shirt, barking out reprimands to the students and revealing little concern for their emotional life. The declining standards for student penmanship and the Christmas pageants deeply trouble her. Yet they are mere precursors for something or someone more dangerous — a coming, but still undefined force that will undermine the ordered existence of her school.
When Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) arrives in the parish and begins spouting newfangled ideas about a more compassionate Church, the principal smells trouble. Before long, Sister James (Amy Adams), the credulous young eighth-grade teacher, reports that Father Flynn requested a private meeting with an eighth-grade boy, who subsequently returned to class with alcohol on his breath.
Sister Aloysius rushes to the barricades. But what can she actually do, lacking both hard evidence or ultimate authority? Technically, Father Flynn is her superior in the parish; the pastor is unlikely to move against a fellow priest without solid proof.
The principal’s sole weapon remains her “certainty.” She confronts Father Flynn with her suspicions. He denies any wrongdoing, but offers a curiously muted explanation of his actions. Then, the priest turns the tables on the principal, putting her judgmental attitude on trial.
Father Flynn dismisses Sister Aloysius as a “dragon.” He is eager to discard the mantle of clerical authority in order to establish closer bonds with the students. The generational fissures surface slowly, and the future promises to inflict more damage on Sister Aloysius brittle psyche than on the easy-going disposition of her opponent. But is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or simply a creature of his time?
The principal’s next step is to call in the boy’s mother (Viola Davis). Shockingly, mom doesn’t want “trouble,” and begs Sister Aloysius to protect her son from any gossip or disciplinary actions that might force his departure from the school. “What kind of mother are you?” Sister Aloysius asks, as she grapples with something disturbing and novel — a parent who rejects her moral authority.
Consumed by a driving sense of responsibility for protecting her domain, the nun resorts to morally questionable tactics that appall Sister James. Yet, as Sister Aloysius tracks her prey with ferocious energy, the audience is left to speculate about the absence of such determination within diocesan chanceries that received complaints about abusive priests. Clericalism has been identified as one reason for the foot-dragging; the clubby world of priests is crudely evoked in the film.
Trendy, progressive ideas about guilt and responsibility also shaped episcopal decisions to schedule therapy sessions for sexual predators, rather than impose punitive measures that isolated them from children. Sister Aloysius, Shanley suggests, would never be seduced by faddish methods that contradicted the fundamentals of Christian realism.
Shanley touches on an additional explanation for the unchecked abuse of minors: a lack of courage on the part of Church authorities who feared confronting evildoers. Sister Aloysius’s own struggles underscore an unpleasant truth: Opposing evil is both morally and spiritually dangerous. This kind of combat is not for sissies, and it can poison the soul of the prosecutor.
Shanley shows considerable respect for Sister Aloysius. Her guile, passion, charity, and courage are on display here. At one point in the story, another nun who is going blind meets with an accident. If her disability is discovered, she could lose her place at the school. Sister Aloysius comes to her friend’s rescue, telling Father Flynn that most nuns trip on their robes and regularly fall like “dominoes.”
The incident reveals Sister Aloysius’s own brand of Christian compassion. But it also hints at the coming exodus of women religious. Despite her considerable moral authority and worldly experience, Sister Aloysius holds little real power to protect her students. Father Flynn possesses a bit more power, but not much wisdom. Could Sister Aloysius, that tower of certitude, become one of the “dominoes”?
Shanley leaves that question for his audience to decide. But Doubt evokes a haunted time before “the deluge.” Sharp-eyed parochial school principals sensed danger, but could do only so much to protect their charges.

——————————————————————-
Joan Frawley Desmond has written for the Wall Street Journal, First Things, and the National Catholic Register, among other publications.”

I was so outraged by the review, that I was literally compelled to write a response. The following is my response to the movie and to the review:

I do not think that we watched the same movie.

What I watched was a film about a conniving, self-righteous, vindictive nun, who took it upon herself to violate her vows, the Church’s hierarchy, and common decency by destroying a good Priest’s reputation. She had no proof, whatsoever, that Father Flynn was involved in an inappropriate relationship with the boy, yet she had her certainty. She regarded her own opinion as the final word– she was judge, jury, and executioner, as it were. Joan Frawley Desmond, the movie reviewer, lamely views Sister Aloysius’ prudish and conservative disposition as entirely proper, while seeming to cast a negative light upon Father Flynn, as though it were Priests such as him who molested alter boys. As Desmond put it, he was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I humbly suggest that it is people like Sister Aloysius and Joan Frawley Desmond who are the problem with the church, not Father Flynn.

Put the film in the proper historical context. The boy was an African-American, who had been chased from his previous school and, at that moment in time, had no hope for his future. Besides a violent home life, society at large was not entirely eager to accept African-Americans as equals. After-all, it had only been ten years previous when the Supreme Court made its famous Brown V. Board of Education ruling, and only a few years after the Supreme Court ruled again that schools had to immediately desegrate. This was a time of social change: a young President had been slain in public, Civil Rights were making legislative progress, and it seemed that the country was moving in a more tolerant direction. For some, like Joan Frawley Desmond and Sister Aloysius, tolerance might as well be a four letter word. But it is those sort of Calvinist and Puritanical tendencies our society has been trying to escape ever since our Founding Fathers created a country rooted in reason and Enlightenment principles. It took real “passion, charity, and courage” for Father Flynn to come to the boy’s aid and to show him the love he did not receive from home or society.

Father Flynn was a good man. His sermons were passionate. He was eager to engage and relate to the students, and he demonstrated love for them– love which our Lord demands we show to all people, especially children. But Father Flynn represented the winds of change. As our nation is currently experiencing, change is hard to accept for some. Sister Aloysius was not willing to accept that change was upon them. Father Flynn stood against the system, which Sister Aloysius jealously defended, that divided the clergy from the flock. We are all God’s children, and we are all called to serve him. The boy, who was also a victim of Sister Aloysius’ trickery, spoke to Father Flynn about his desire to enter the Priesthood, seeing Flynn as a mentor and a good male role model. It may very well be that the boy, after seeing the carnage wrecked upon Father Flynn, decided against joining the Priesthood. It may very well be the same sort of carnage that now prevents our young men from entering the Priesthood.

In the final analysis, it may very well be that this film is a form of Rorschach. For people like Joan Frawley Desmond and Sister Aloysius, this film demonstrates the “courage” of some to stick to their parochial and troglodytic ways, even if it involves ruining the life of an innocent man and an innnocent boy; for others, like myself, this film demonstrates the difficulty of bringing change to a system that is unwilling to evolve, and how that system would rather step away from God, our Father, in order to maintain the status quo. Father Flynn’s only crime was that he cared too much, unlike Sister Aloysius, the Warden, who’s crime was hate and villainy.

In closing, I would call the reviewer’s attention to the beautiful opening of the film. Father Flynn begins mass with a wonderful sermon about doubt. It is at this point that it is obvious that Sister Aloysius has a problem with him. She even interrupts the nuns’ rivetingly silent dinner to seek their thoughts on Father Flynn’s sermon. Why? It is obvious. She is jealous that Father Flynn is so passionate and strong in his fidelity to God, because, as we learn in the final twenty seconds or so of the film, Sister Aloysius has doubts. Her faith in God is weak. It almost seems as though there is an inverse relationship between her vindictiveness and the unwavering faith of Father Flynn. While her final words of the film express her doubt in God, Father Flynn’s final words are one of acceptance– acceptance that God has superior knowledge (more superior, one would assume, than Sister Aloysius’), and as such God’s judgement should not be questioned.

Father Flynn is content with the winds of change at his back, while Sister Aloysius is left crying in the snow, her inferior, Sister James, feeling both contempt and pity for her. Who is better off?

This was a really good movie, and I recommend it for everyone, especially Catholics. Below, I’ve added the trailer. Take a look!


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

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

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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