The Political Hurricane Show: Pseudo-patriotism and the religious bigotry in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: Listen to the podcast here!
The Political Hurricane Show: Pseudo-patriotism and the religious bigotry in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: Listen to the podcast here!
“There is an irony that the most anti-gay [groups] are Al Qaeda and the American Right-Wing” Former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank
The above quote doesn’t really have much to do with Infowars, Alex Jones and their conspiracy theories, but it does draw an interesting connection. And, after all, it’s just funny. Sometimes it’s good to start out with a little humor before we address a very serious subject.
We all know now that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two Boston Marathon bombers were essentially a pair of “losers” who have fully experienced their ten minutes of shame.
Many right-wingers have been chasing shadows, focusing on the non-existent Al Qaeda and Russian connections. However, as we know, the only connection to Al Qaeda our homegrown lowlifes have is them visiting the al Qaeda website Inspire magazine, where they learned to make the pressure cooker bombs.
What the mainstream media is not talking about is that according to a recent AP interview with the Boston Marathon bomber’s uncle, “Tamerlan took an interest in Infowars, a conspiracy theory website. Khozhugov said Tamerlan was interested in finding a copy of the book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the classic anti-Semitic hoax, first published in Russia in 1903, that claims a Jewish plot to take over the world.”
That’s right, Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website Infowars taught the two losers to distrust and outright hate the U.S. government so much that they no longer were able to give a rat’s ass about the U.S. population.
Alex Jones’ site, Infowars has been stoking anti-government conspiracies to gullible readers for years. Infowars steady stream of misinformation has been radicalizing both right-wing nutcases and Muslim terrorists alike.
This weekend, perennial bigot New York Congressman Peter King suggested we forgot “political correctness” and begin profiling the entire Muslim community. Given King’s logic, perhaps we should also be profiling the entire right-wing movement, especially the sheeple that listen to Alex Jones and Glenn Beck?
After all, according to journalist Peter Bergen and the New America Foundation, since the September 11, 2001 bombings to the end of 2012, there were no successful bomb plots by jihadist terrorists in the United States. However, Jihadists did kill 17 people in the United States in four separate incidents during this time. All of the incidents involved guns, which the NRA wants to make more available to terrorists, including Nidal Hassan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood which killed 13 people. On the other hand, racist, bigoted, religious, and anti-government right-wing extremists have killed 29 people in the same period.
Following-up on the most recent ricin letters mailed to President Obama, Mississippi Senator Wicker, and a retired Mississippi judge, James Everett Dutschke was arrested. Dutschke is a martial arts instructor and former Republican politician. He was charged with, ”knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin.”
Like the Boston Marathon bombers, the true motivations for committing such a despicable terrorist act is unknown. Nonetheless, the very fact that Dutschke is a Republican leads me to believe he may likely hold some delusional extreme anti-government right-wing beliefs, like those spewed out on a daily bases at Infowars. Dutschke has denied the charges leveled against him and has claimed, “I’m a patriotic American.”
Of course, the “Patriot Movement” is filled with folks that share delusional extreme anti-government beliefs which have at times spilled into racism, bigotry, and even violence. Although most so called “Patriots” do not become violent criminals.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center , “Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines. Antigovernment groups do not necessarily advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, though some have. Many warn of impending government violence or the need to prepare for a coming revolution.”
We know Alex Jones and Infowars influenced the Boston Marathon bombers. We know right-wing extremists have killed more Americans than jihadist in the last 10 years. The question is, if Representative Peter King is so concerned about the roots of terrorism in the U.S. than why hasn’t he calling for the infiltration of so-called Patriot groups, anti-abortion organizations, and pro-gun militias? After all, the right-wing poses a greater threat to the safety of everyday Americans than a few self-radicalized pimply faced homegrown jihadists.
California has long been considered the epicenter of the nation’s worst housing crises in generations. In order to stem the tide of foreclosures, last year Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Homeowner Bill of Rights. The Homeowners Bill of Rights is essentially a series of related bills meant to protect homeowners from some of the most egregious practices by the banks. Most notably, the bills ban lenders from robo-signings and dual-track foreclosures.
Dual-tracking is a common practice where the lender proceeds with foreclosure while negotiating with the owner to save their property. On its face, dual-tracking is akin to negotiating in bad-faith.
“Californians should not have to suffer the abusive tactics of those who would push foreclosure behind the back of an unsuspecting homeowner,” Governor Brown said after signing the bills into law. “These new rules make the foreclosure process more transparent so that loan servicers cannot promise one thing while doing the exact opposite.”
However, loopholes in the Homeowner Bill of Rights laws appear to allow banks to continue to dual-track on homes going through a short-sale. Earlier this month, I witnessed this reprehensible practice first hand.
A few months ago, I began the process of buying my first home. After looking at a few dozen homes in the area within my price range, I made an offer for a charming craftsman style two-story home in Forestville, California. After seeing the home, briefly talking with the homeowner, and learning about her condition, I offered her the full asking price plus closing fees.
I came with a pre-approved letter from my bank (for an amount twice the value of the home) and a 20% down payment. My offer was, as both of our agents would refer to it, extremely “clean.”
The homeowner (I’ll call her Jane) needed to sell the house quickly. She had lived in the house since the mid-90’s. Unfortunately, Jane became ill and had fallen onto hard times. She told me her medical bills had essentially wiped-out her saving and she found herself no longer able to pay the mortgage.
Jane was planning to move into a friend’s home. She had no other option. Her deed-in-leiu offers were turned down by the bank. In order to avoid bankruptcy she needed to sell the house. Remarkably, her bank gave her 7 days to find a buyer with a clean offer. As soon as the house went on the market I put in my offer. Jane accepted my offer immediately. Then came the wait. For nearly two weeks her bank went silent.
The following weekend, I decided to visit the home and take a walk around the neighborhood. Outside the house, Jane was packing up a truck with her final belongings. Seeing my arrival, she approached me nearly in tears.
“I guess you know?” Jane said.
“Know what?” I asked.
“I’m really sorry. I wanted to have a family who would love this house as much as I have. The bank says they are putting the home up for auction in a couple days”, she replied.
I Immediately sent an email to my agent who contacted Jane’s agent who then sent us the following response:
“Bank is giving me some difficulty, saying so close to sale date & investor had initially rejected a deed-in-leiu. I pointed out I met their criteria of bringing them an offer within the 7 days as set by them. I also brought up the fact that by all appearances, they were “dual tracking” this loan all along. I was placed on hold for a few minutes, then my phone person came on to tell me we were bumping up the chain and a supervisor was going to attempt to get a resolution. We will have to see as I held the dual tracking card until the last. I will be calling them tomorrow in the later afternoon as requested.”
The next day we officially received the bad news:
“We have been turned down for the short sale. I was actually turned down Fri. morning, but I brought up the fact that appearances are that this loan was “dual-tracked” all along, which became illegal in California as of 1/1/13. That bought me a little time as they claimed a supervisor was taking the package back to the investor. Again turned down. My client is devastated but not surprised.”
While the Homeowner Bill of Rights limit banks from some of their practices, loopholes still allow mortgage servicers to simultaneously negotiate a short-sale while foreclosing on a borrower. This is exactly what happened to Jane.
Lawyers on a free online legal advice site have been asked, “Shall I sue the banks for dual-tracking my home during short-sale negotiations?” The following quotes are from three attorneys responding to such questions:
“The first question of any potential claim, how were you harmed? Of the dual tracking arguments, the weakest argument involve short sales. After all, the homeowner is not entitled to a short sale. A short sale is subject to bank approval, and the bank doesn’t need to approve or consider it. Even if the bank acted in bad faith, there is still the problem of damages, or harm…Unless you have something in writing from the bank stating they would halt foreclosusre to allow the short sale to proceed, it is unlikely you have any claim a court would accept.”
A second attorney wrote, “The Homeowner Bill of Rights, which took effect this January, does not apply to short sale negotiations. The bank can’t foreclose on you while reviewing you for a modification.”
A third attorney continued, “There are several exceptions to the new law and one exception to the provisions which prohibit dual tracking is that the loan application must be ‘complete.’ Unless and until you have submitted a complete loan package dual tracking is permitted.”
Collectively, the above attorney comments pretty much sum up the problems with the new laws regarding dual-tracking foreclosures in California. Jane’s bank, Ocwen, established with Jane a criteria of 7 days for a clean offer on the short-sale. All the while they simultaneously foreclosed on her and put the house up for auction. By all appearances, Ocwen had no intention of accepting any offer to help Jane out of her foreclosure. The bank seemed to have no interest in Jane’s situation and the harm a foreclosure would inflict on her.
In spite of the new homeowner protections enacted into law this year, unless Californian’s insist on even stronger homeowner protections, the banks will continue to exploit loopholes and act in bad faith with impunity.
This past week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released their annual spring report on Hate and Extremist groups in the United States. While “hate groups” have essentially leveled off, white supremacists groups like the neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic groups like the Nation of Islam, “extremist groups”, antigovernment “Patriot”groups often tied to militias, are on the rise.
According to the SPLC’s spring 2013 Intelligence Report, “Capping four years of explosive growth sparked by the election of America’s first black president and anger over the economy, the number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment “Patriot” groups reached an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012, while the number of hard-core hate groups remained above 1,000. As President Obama enters his second term with an agenda of gun control and immigration reform, the rage on the right is likely to intensify.”
The SPLC states that core “Patriot” ideology circles around, “Fears of impending gun control or weapons confiscations, either by the government or international agencies… As a result, many antigovernment activists believe that being well armed is a must. The militia movement engages in paramilitary training aimed at protecting citizens from this feared impending government crackdown.”
One conspiracy theory the recent report highlights is known as Agenda 21, “The latest and most dramatic example of that may be the completely baseless claim that Agenda 21 — a United Nations sustainability plan that was signed by President George H.W. Bush but has no mandatory provisions whatsoever — is part of a plan to impose socialism on America and strip away private property rights” (emphasis added).
That claim has been pushed heavily by, among others, the John Birch Society, a conspiracist Patriot organization that was exiled from the conservative movement a half century ago after claiming President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Communist agent (see story, p. 24).”Last year, the Republican National Committee passed a plank opposing Agenda 21 and describing it as a “destructive and insidious scheme” to impose “socialist/communist redistribution of wealth.” The state of Alabama passed a law barring any policies traceable to Agenda 21 without “due process.”
Although the SPLC’s recent report didn’t name Alex Jones by name, this is where the master conspiracy theorist enters the picture. RationalWiki.org describes radio host/con-man, “Alex Jones (b. 1974) is a radio personality who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like. He is one of the very few people to make Glenn Beck look sane and rational in comparison. And that is all you really need to know about him.
His radio program is typified by frequent use of the Imperial March from Star Wars while he rants about the impending roundup and execution of Americans by the New World Order (NWO) in the next week or two. He has been predicting this for well over a decade now. We’re still waiting.”
The same type of people that follow Alex Jones and Infowars today could have been conned into drinking the Kool-Aid by Jim Jones or other cult leaders before the internet.
The SPLC does have a file on Alex Jones, “Alex Jones knows how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
“Every week from his studio in Austin, Texas, he dives into red-faced tirades exposing the forces that threaten to enslave all human life on the planet. The conspiracy always boils down to about the same thing: eugenics operations, the militarization of the police, a cabal of wealthy corporations and the United Nations involved in a fiendish plot to control the world.
Jones has accused the federal government of involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks, said that the Branch Davidian cultists in Texas were purposely murdered by authorities, claimed that FEMA is secretly building concentration camps for liberty-loving citizens, and issued a series of videos with hair-raising, B horror-film titles. A sampling: “911: The Road to Tyranny,” “Police State 3: Total Enslavement,” “The Masters of Terror: Exposed,” “New World Order: Blueprint of Madmen” and “The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off.””
Jones is a political charlatan that preaches the apocalypse all the while pawning video manuals on how-to-survive the impending government take-over and FEMA concentration camps. In many ways, Alex Jones is the mouthpiece for the Patriot movement. Folks like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have nothing on Jones, and he knows it. Yesterday, on Jones’ primary website, InforWars.com, writer, and Jones’ disciple, Kurt Nimmo proudly compared MSNBC’s host Lawrence O’Donnell’s audience with The Alex Jones Show and he can’t help himself in throwing in a comparison with Limbaugh’s and Becks influence as well.
Nimmo writes, “On an average day, Larry’s show draws a paltry 240,000 viewers while the Alex Jones Show routinely gathers an audience in the millions. “The Alex Jones Show is carried on over 70 AM and FM radio stations across the United States, Shortwave, and XM Radio,” writes Rachel Woodhouse. “Jones draws a bigger audience online than Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck combined,” Alexander Zaitchik writes in Rolling Stone.”
The numbers from the SPLC are staggering, “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) count of 1,360 Patriot groups in 2012 was up about % from the 1,274 active in 2011. And that was only the latest growth spurt in the Patriot movement, which generally believes that the federal government is conspiring to take Americans’ guns and destroy their liberties as it paves the way for a global “one-world government.” From a mere 149 organizations in 2008, the number of Patriot groups shot up to 512 in 2009, jumped again to 824 in 2010, and then skyrocketed to 1,274 in 2011 before hitting their all-time high last year.”
Jones does not shy away from promoting the bogus Agenda 21 conspiracy. His website Infowars declares , “The already evident abuses of world government bodies (under various names and sub-organizations) is masked by declarations of respect for the environment, for human rights, and other lofty ideals. In reality, however, there are ruthless control freaks manipulating the terms of our enslavement. Real life measures for carbon tax schemes, energy austerity, food management, species & habitat management, re-wilding (land seizure) takeovers and more have been vehicles for eugenicist-banker led agendas– indeed ambitious components of Agenda 21 that are changing the rules of the game to the eternal detriment of freedom.”
What did the SPLC say of Jones’ rhetoric again?
“Every week from his studio in Austin, Texas, he dives into red-faced tirades exposing the forces that threaten to enslave all human life on the planet. The conspiracy always boils down to about the same thing: eugenics operations, the militarization of the police, a cabal of wealthy corporations and the United Nations involved in a fiendish plot to control the world.”
The SPLC highlights the fact that Timothy McVeigh shared “Patriot” movement beliefs. The SPLC counts “over 100 domestic radical-right plots, conspiracies and racist rampages … since the Oklahoma City bombing left 168 men, women and children dead in 1995.” This comparison
Infowars writes, “It’s obvious the establishment cannot compete and is rapidly losing its once indomitable advantage. In response to this dangerous situation, it has resorted to a last ditch “B” plan – a juiced-up effort to characterize a viable political opposition as violent redneck racist terrorists wending their way toward another Oklahoma City event. For the elite, the only option is to portray Alex Jones as the new Osama bin Laden and the patriot movement as a domestic al-Qaeda.”
Jones claims the liberal media elites are attacking the Patriot movement and Alex Jones because they are losing ratings and the war on ideas. Like Glenn Beck, Jones fails to realize his radical alternative reality fantasies can incite violent reactions from one or more of his less stable listeners. One recently example of this is the case of Glenn Beck follower Bryon Williams. A couple years back, Williams got caught in a gun battle with police on a Northern California freeway, not far from my house.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle the, “5-year-old parolee, described by his mother, Janice Williams, as angry at leftwing politicians.” She said her son had been watching news and was upset by “the way congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items.” Janice Williams went on, “eventually, I think we’re going to be caught up in a revolution.” But she said she had told her son many times that “he didn’t have to be on the front lines.”
Williams was stopped by the California Highway Patrol with a truck full of guns and ammo on his way to shoot-up the liberal philanthropic organization the Tides Foundation and the local office of the ACLU. According to Williams’ mother, her son was heavily influenced by Glenn Beck on Fox News. Beck had placed the Tides Foundation at the center of his own NWO conspiracy theory.
There should be no doubt, Jones and the so-called “Patriot” movement are playing with fire. One day, and I fear not too far in the near future, antigovernment extremist groups will inspire another Timothy McVeigh nutcase.
There will always be good reason not to trust our government. In fact, a healthy dose of mistrust in the government is good. Stock-piling weapons and preparing for a “Second American Revolution” to overthrow the U.S. government borders on sedition and treason. In 1791 George Washington used the army to put down an armed insurrection during the anti-tax Whiskey Rebellion and such behavior by the idiot Patriot movement will surly suffer the same fate.
What’s more likely, as the SPLC aptly points out is some deranged lone wolf follower of Alex Jones will take matters in his own hands and we have another Oklahoma City bombing or massacre because they wholeheartedly believe in the apocalyptic world-view Jones is offering for only $19.95 in the two DVD series.
(families of Sandy Hook (Reuters)
Yesterday, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page,
“I am appalled by MSNBC’s reporting morals, for editing the news with the purpose of sensationalizing the polarizing topic of gun control for their own agenda, and misleading people about what really happened during a hearing about gun control in Hartford, Conn. . .
There was no ‘heckling’. A question was asked by Neil Heslin, the father of six year old Jesse Lewis who sadly perished in the tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shooting. There was no response to this open question directed toward the audience during his heartfelt testimony. Complete silence. After this respectful silence, Mr. Heslin stated that ‘not one person can answer that question’. It was then that people with opposing views spoke up with their answers.
No matter which topic a news outlet is reporting about, the whole story should be told. It is tragic that some news agencies feel the need to create news rather than report it. The fact that MSNBC chose this tragedy to showcase their sensationalistic agenda is unconscionable. Shame on MSNBC. I don’t subscribe to television service, but if I did, I sure would not trust anything reported by MSNBC.”
It wasn’t just MSNBC that was being criticized for using the word “heckled” when characterizing the interruption of Mr. Heslin’s congressional testimony. The Huffington Post and several liberal/progressive websites also used the word “heckle” to describe the event.
Media opinion blogger Erik Wemple of the Washington Post agrees with my friend and has spilled a half gallon of ink on his blog explaining why he thinks MSNBC and Piers Morgan of CNN were wrong to label the event heckling. Wemple has called Morgan’s use of the word, “Misleading, at the very best: Heslin, as explained here, actually invited members of the audience at a meeting in Hartford to rebut his testimony.
Here’s the relevant transcript:
Heslin: “I don’t know how many people have young children or children. But just try putting yourself in the place that I’m in or these other parents that are here. Having a child that you lost. It’s not a good feeling; not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”
Crowd/Alleged Hecklers: “Second Amendment shall not be infringed”
Public official: “Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”
Wemple goes on to point out, “MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell votes in favor of the “heckling” interpretation. He said on last night’s show, “Heckling’s when you say something stupid from the audience. And when a speaker rhetorically or directly asks an audience why you need 30-round magazines and assault weapons, and you yell a response which is basically ‘I think the Second Amendment says I can have them,’ you have not answered the question about why you need them.’
Clever thing that O’Donnell has done here — redefine the term “heckling” to apply narrowly to what happened in that hearing room. In doing so, he bypasses a more common definition, one that doesn’t help his case quite as much.” The more common definition Wemple provides by Merriam-Webster states, “Heckle: to harass and try to disconcert with questions, challenges, or gibes”
Wemple goes on to point out the audience showed great restraint throughout the majority of the testimony and therefore the disruptive comments were not intended to heckle Mr. Heslin. However, the crowd (two or more in the audience) was disconcerting and challenged Mr Heslin. Let’s also keep in mind comments were not permitted from the peanut gallery. Wemple’s argument that the audience showed great restraint prior to the outburst doesn’t hold a lot of weight given the fact that they were required to and had they not they would have been thrown out .
Whether it was fair to call the inappropriate outbursts heckling or not is really more about a media personalities working to improve their ratings, sell papers, or get clicks on their articles than any real scandal or breach in media ethics. It’s simply a game of semantics played out by media elites in order to create news out of a non-news grammatically technical sidebar. Much to do about nothing.
Victim heckling, the most sickening of all heckling, has been all too common amongst the right-wing. Certainly both the political left and right are guilty of heckling. In fact, some organizations, like the liberal anti-war group Code Pink, make heckling their trademark. It is one thing to heckle a politician or authority figure. However, it is entirely a different thing to heckle a victim. Unfortunately, this type of victim heckling has become all too common a tactic coming from the right-wing.
While many may take issue with whether Mr. Heslin was actually heckled while giving testimony, there is no doubt that many of the family members of those that lost their loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary have been heckled and harassed by a vicious group of right-wing zealots.
One of the many articles on the conspiracy theories circulated by the right-wing that has resulted with the harassment of the Sandy Hook families can be found in a recent article by Salon. One egregious examples of this harassment would be the attacks on the Parker family. The parents of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, have received dozens of threatening phone calls and letters from the Christian right-wing accusing them of faking their own child’s death. Here is how Salon explains the Emily Parker conspiracy attacks:
“The girl in question is Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old who was shot multiple times and killed at Sandy Hook. But for conspiracy theorists, the tears her family shed at her funeral, the moving eulogy from Utah’s governor, and the entire shooting spree are fake. Welcome to the world where Sandy Hook didn’t really happen.
There are dozens of websites, blog posts and YouTube videos extolling the Emilie Parker hoax theory. If you Google her name, the very first result is a post mocking her father for crying at a press conference after the shooting…”
Because victim heckling has become such a common tactic for the right-wing, it should come as no surprise that liberal leaning media elites were quick to use the word heckling in the inappropriate interruption of Mr. Heslin’s testimony.
As I’ve pointed out, this victim heckling is now part of the right-wing’s playbook. Remember when the Affordable Health Care Act was being proposed and Teabaggers verbally attacked the uninsured, terminally ill, and disabled? If you don’t, here is a video that might help jog your memory. All over the country the right-wing heckled victims. It’s becoming a common practice. For more examples of right-wing victim heckling and harassment check out this article I published in back April of 2010.
In response to the criticism, MSNBC has reviewed the use of the word heckle in their programs and determined, “Our team reviewed the unedited clip and determined that it was heckling. The distinction was made because the shouts did not directly address the question being posed and were disruptive.
I agree. But whether my friend and I or for that matter the media wordsmith intelligentsia agree or not on the definition of heckling really means squat. What matters is how we treat one another. Whether we learn to listen and respect opposing opinions or we descend into believing it is right to attack the victims of ill fortune to promote an agenda remains to be seen. The real story here is not whether MSBNC breached journalistic ethics by choosing to use the word heckle to describe the event. The real story that should come out of this is if it ever right to attack the victims of hardship just because you disagree with their perspective or personal ideology.
Alan Cooke, AKA the Wild Irish Poet, is a gifted young artist with a bright future ahead of him. Cooke is a writer, stage actor, film maker, voiceover artist, photographer, and (of course) a poet. At 34, Cooke has already received his first taste of success. In 2009, Cooke won an Emmy Award for Best Writing for a Documentary for this collaborative film Home.
Over the course of the last few days, I have had the opportunity to exchange Facebook messages and emails with Cooke. I was interested in learning more about this thirty-something artist. In particular, I am interested in the artist journey. I’m fascinated with artists, activists, thinkers, and generally movers and shakers of all strips. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to know about their childhood, the places they’ve been, and the adventures they’ve had. I want to know their stories.
Cooke’s writings delicately laces (sometimes a bit sentimentally) the seemingly instinctual desire to understand one’s own home and the journey one takes in the mysterious adventure of life. Often his work is an exploration into what we already know of ourselves (our past) and what we can only image as possible for our future. All the while, Cooke meticulously observes his surroundings with eloquence.
When reading Cooke’s poetry and prose you will often image yourself walking next to the artist as he is engaged in a conversation with his audience. His writing is often delivered as a monologue, yet you feel like he is talking directly to you. When listening to his audios, you don’t want to say a thing, for fear of interrupting him because he is spilling his soul out to you. Somehow, Cooke’s narratives often come out both reflective and inspirational at the same time.
Cooke’s audio reading of Naked in New York, based on the narrative from the film Home, can be purchased at www.wildirishpoet.com. In addition, for the holidays, at the same link, Cooke is offering a fantastic download of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, in which Cooke uses no less than 15 unique voices to narrate the story. But now I’m giving too much away. I’ll let Alan Cooke tell us his own story.
DW: For those that are not familiar with your work, the places you called home play a huge role in your poetry and prose. Please tell us a little bit about your background. Where were you born? Where did you grow-up? What was it like for you growing up?
AC: I was born in Dublin , Ireland, a place called Kilbarrack. A working class area close to the ocean. It was filled with character and light and many memories. I forget that I had a childhood filled with the streets. Filled with so many extraordinary moments wrapped in ‘normality.’ I played for many hours everyday. No computers ,no phones, no internet, no distractions. Only friends.. nature.. the sky.. the ocean.. the smells and sights and sounds of a childhood. We did not have much. But I never thought about what I had or did not have in terms of materialism. It is like an infection in the world now. Measuring my material worth and gain. I had football and cycling and climbing and walks. I always loved to walk for hours. Anywhere. Even the same places over and over again. I think I got my love of wandering as a child. The idea of your feet guiding you into the unknown. The idea of your senses as a boy touching the universe when you lay down on the grass in a field. Or walked up a hill. Looking back now I see and understand more the notion of freedom. The idea of no responsibilities. The world is around you but not like when you are an adult when the world, its darkness and sadness starts to seep into your soul. As a child I was filled with joy. I sometimes wonder if a child could see what life is like as an adult would rob them of their innocence? Being Irish growing up and looking back was something special. I feel the Irish with all their inner strife have some boundless quality of play in their hearts and I have tried to retain that as an adult.
DW: I understand you have worked as a stage actor. Was acting a dream of yours as a kid? Did you formally study theater in college? Can you tell us about some of the plays you most enjoyed performing in?
AC: I never dreamt of careers as a kid. I was too much enjoying being in the moment. I studied acting when I was 23. I saw a notice on a board and went and read and something clicked. I was always good at being funny and doing voices. I did not realize till later that I was a keen observer of the human condition. So all these qualities lent themselves to me finding acting something I could express myself very deeply in and easily. I have done Shakespeare and some one man shows and shows for kids and some heavy classical stuff. I do not have a favorite. Each one brought out something deep inside me. Acting on stage is like sculpting in 3 dimensions. It aligns all these deep and dark faculties within. It can be like a live alchemical explosion in your veins that bursts out through words and movements. It is as once simple and utterly complex and mysterious. The idea of pretending to be a human is in itself an oxymoron!.
DW: Other than home, the journey seems to be a central theme in much of your work. Can you tell us why you decided to go to New York? What did you learn from your experience in New York? Why did you leave the Big Apple and go back to Ireland?
AC: I had just finished a play. I went to New York to visit a friend two weeks after the towers had fallen. I arrived on the A train. I arrived in the darkest hour. I was naive but that is a beautiful thing when you cross the ocean to do something new. I feel looking back something within me was calling out to leave home. Something within was laying out an unknown road. Looking back even though I wrote my book Naked in New York about my experience there I still find it remains a mystery as to why I packed my suitcase and just left. I think it is all part of an ancient human yearning to explore and tread over boundaries into the new. New York broke me many times. The grand eloquence of 10 million people and all their woes and dreams and fears and energies shifted my spirit into places I could not even comprehend. New York is a tough town. For those who have lived there we know. For those yet to try I say… beware but dive in. It has all the most beautiful and ugly aspects of the human condition. I learned an enormous amount about my limitations, my expectations, my ideologies, my fears and my dreams. I strove for greatness, I fell to the depths of my own shame and weaknesses. I learned to be fearless and also when to respect something more powerful than you. New York can be a city of rough hewn dreams of a hades and a nightmare. It depends on the roll of the dice. I left New York because I felt I had experienced 40 years of living in 6. I was burnt out and exhausted. I need to go back to Ireland and lick my wounds. I was a changed man. I was filled with so much of the city, I needed a place to come to write it all out. The madness, the wonder, the joy and the moments, the billion moments that still resonate with me today. So I came back. I live in the west of Ireland and there I wrote three books. One about New York ‘ Naked in New York’ One about Ireland ‘ The Spirit of Ireland, an Odyssey Home.’ And a dark thriller which I just finished.
DW: Your 2009 film Home , which you collaborated on with director Dawn Scibilia, was a grand success, winning two Emmy’s. Essentially, the film is a montage of interviews with immigrants and native New Yorkers woven with your own thoughts and reflections of life in New York and strikingly beautiful images of the city. This is a two part question, (a) how did you approach interviewing your guests on the subject and (b) can you please explain your writing process during the making the film?
AC: HOME was a collaboration that was borne out of frustration from a newly graduated film maker and a frustrated actor ( me). We just set out wandering the streets of New York and with no script or firm idea we created a landscape of moments. It was like painting blind on a canvas. But the canvas was an enormous metropolis filled with the most diverse nationalities on earth. I wrote the text as I went along. It poured out of me. Sometimes I would see an image. Some fragment of a second, like a man weeping along in the cracks of the sidewalk or a small bird bathing in a bath of oily water that would inspire me to write long and sometimes metaphorical monologues to tie the whole film together. We approached famous people as well as ordinary people with no expectations. It was not too long after 9-11 and the city was an open wound, yet it was still filled with spirit. We wanted to create a homage to the city. An uplifting poem. We were led by our instincts, innocence and maybe some kind of destiny to many beautiful people from all walks of life. But on the star front we really never expected to get Woody Allen or Liam Neeson, or Mike Myers and people of that caliber. But it happened because I believe if you are following your path doors will open. Many doors of wonder and possibility. And that was HOME. It was a dream realized and unfolding as we went along towards some predetermined fate.
DW: Since your return to Ireland you have been busy. I believe you recently you finished the film The Spirit of Ireland, which you describe as, “an epic new film about all what is beautiful, sad, powerful, poetic, and heroic about Ireland and its people”. The only thing I might add is “political”. Certainly your piece The Rising’ Speech for Ireland and The World reads like an Occupy Ireland manifesto. Can you talk about the current political conditions in Ireland, including the economy, your own views, and why you wanted to write this piece?
AC: Well sadly I began making the Spirit of Ireland but it remains unfinished. It still needs funding. I wanted to take another odyssey around my own country. I was lost coming back to Ireland so I took to wandering again. Ireland was ‘booming’ awash with cheap money and cheap souls. It was filled with snarling greedy faces and a rush to become materially seduced and hypnotised. It was a dark time. Though soon all that would break apart. We are now left with a shattered nation. There was and is some very dark forces at work in the economic world. Men who create fiscal revolutions with the pen. The gun is no longer needed. Lives can be devastated with the flick of a pen. Ireland fell foul to I believe terrible corruption. There is a flicker of light. I think and I hope there is still something in the Irish that is mysterious and noble and grand and poetic. We have lost our way but I think there is still light in our hearts. We just need to face our past, our wounds, our shame and our hardship and stand tall as warriors. I have had some extraordinary experiences here in the west. A white horse coming to my door. Hawks following me. Wild birds living in my letterbox. Hard white winters and lonely evenings and summers filled with rain and wind and endless sunsets. I have been transformed again here. And I believe when you come back you see your old home for what it truly is.
DW: Your podcast interviews on The Wild Hour Show are fascinating. Can you share with us how you go about preparing for an interview, how long have you been doing these shows, and what do you want to accomplish with these podcasts?
AC: The Wild Hour Show started with the idea of trying to create original culture and to bring back conversation and non corporate radio. It is amazing what you can do with a MAC and some strong ideas. I started the first podcast with a 2 hour conversation with a novelist and it grew from there. I have done ten of them and they have travelled around the world. It is another outlet of expression for me. The response has been amazing. I get to exchange words and views and passions with other artists and to shine a light on what is I believe important subjects that was not in the mainstream media but also to give people a break from the endless corporate messages of the modern world. We are all burned out to some degree and people like to come to a programme or radio podcast that is like listening to two people in a bar talking about life.
DW: Can you please share with us a little bit about your audio recordings. I believe earlier in the year you read Edger Allan Poe’s The Raven and recently you have released the complete audio presentation of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Is it true you used 15 unique voices to tell the famous holiday tale?
AC: Well it is like I have come full circle. The very first creative project I did was when I was 16. I recorded a funny story making my own sound effects and doing all the voices. Now we come to my life many years later. I have recorded a lot of poems, audio books, audition pieces and narratives I wrote with my Mac book. I always need to be expressing myself. It is in my heart and soul. Then last year I started recording A Christmas Carol. I found it to be deeply creative and fun. I got to play all the 15 voices in the play and to edit and create the entire story myself. It felt very empowering. I self directed it and created my own vision of the story. I have always been a very strong mimic and have a powerful and flexible voice. So I got to unleash all of those talents in one sitting. And I think A Christmas Carol is very timely considering the enormous greed and selfishness in the world right now. It is a timeless morality fable to remind us of what is important in our lives.
DW: Finally, I know this question is cliché but I’ll ask it anyway, what advice would you provide to other writers, actors, and aspiring artists? What are your thoughts on the mainstream avenues to get your work out verse the alternative media avenues like blog sites and YouTube?
AC: I would say, Expect hardship and mild insanity. But also expect extraordinary moments. Expect poverty and maybe wealth. I would say do it if you heart yearns for it. I would say never give up and never compare your success of lack of it to others. I would say carve your own road regardless what others tell you. It can be an amazing ride. Sadly a lot don’t make it. But if you have talent, heart, and courage it is possible. It is always possible…I have launched so much of my work alone. My main website you can download my audio book, watch all my Youtube narratives. Order HOME my Emmy winning New York film. You can now also download and listen to A Christmas Carol. I think as artists we all need maximum publicity and exposure. It is the most important element. Most struggle to market their creative projects. But I think one can feed the other. I think the advent of blogs and Youtube and other types of self-marketing have enabled those without a voice to finally have one. You can write a book, market and launch it all sitting in front of your laptop. That is a form of power and democracy. Art is power. History is filled with The Chaplin’s and the Picasso’s who were great self-promoters. They would probably love this era. I think amazing things are coming to us in this world despite the doom and gloom. There is an beautiful era arriving soon. I think an old way of living is dying and I think artists will regain their proper place in society again. No longer marginalised but actually as bardic poets and dreamers leading us to a better place in ourselves and our humanity. So I keep pushing forward with all my crazy dreams till that day comes.
You can buy and downloading or CDs of Alan Cooke narrate A Christmas Carol and Naked in New York, a literary odyssey memoir at www.wildirishpoet.com. Buy the Emmy winning film Home at www.homethemovie.com. Also, to support or donate to Cooke’s most recent project go to www.thespiritofirelandfilm.wordpress.com. To listen to his podcasts and make a donation visit www.thewildhourshow.wordpress.com.
“I have been fortunate enough to connect with a Voodoo Madame. I had a gentleman post on my book’s page and outline why I’m going to Hell…this bodes well for the ‘Fables’. The past two months have played out like a Fellini film, and I love it. In a past life, most writers must have been circus performers and we understand the show must go on, and we document the experience.” – Hunter S. Jones
The quote might explain why Hunter S. Jones, writer of the blog Exile on Peachtree Street and author of the novella Fables of the Reconstruction, barrows her namesake from Hunter S. Thompson. Like Thompson’s Gonzo journalism, Jones makes herself a central character in her own blog. Jones describes herself as a “Writer of erotica, curiosa, rock n’ roll, fiction,…enlightened rogue and mischief maker extraordinaire. I’m the one your mother warned you about”. After reading Jones debut book and blogsite, Thompson’s influence on Jones becomes apparent.
Jones’ writings explore the subterranean worlds of indie music, mysticism, and erotica. Over the years, Jones has written articles on indie rock bands, fashion, history and the arts. But, I’ll let Jones tell us her story:
DW: I’d like to know a little bit about your background. Can you please tell me when you were born, where were you raised, and how you ended up in Atlanta?
HSJ: I was born in Tennessee and grew up on a farm outside of Nashville. I was shipped off to Nashville to attend church schools at a fairly young age. However, as my mom says – ‘That didn’t work”. I’ve spent most of my life in Tennessee and Georgia, except for one ‘lost summer’ in Los Angeles. Mostly, my career has been in corporate promotion and marketing. I moved to Atlanta two years ago because I wanted to be part of a more vibrant energy and see what would happen.
DW: When did you start writing and what formal education do you have in the arts?
HSJ: I have written my entire life. I ran the school paper in high school and also a major force on the university paper. I continued to write, for any number of independent magazines and websites, covered indie rock, fashion, environmental concerns, the arts and historical features.
As for formal training? I have a degree in History as well as British and American Literature. Additionally, I have Master Level studies in Creative Writing and I have a Master’s Degree in Negotiation and Conflict Management. Now that is a true art form!
DW: Being from Nashville, please tell me about the music scene and the bands that have influenced you.
HSJ: Nashville is known for country music. Sure, I know the music of all the greats such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Mother MayBelle Carter. You can’t be alive right now and not be influenced in some way by Johnny Cash, no matter what age you are.
However, my parents felt that if I listened only to country music, I would always be stereotyped, so I was exposed to the energy of rock & roll. Not a bad thing. Fortunately my misspent youth involved the rough and tumble Nashville that witnessed the clash between the rise of indie music against the major music corporations. It was great!
The bands that have always influenced me are the rock bands – the bar band – that play in clubs and develop their own sound. That is what inspires and influences me.
DW: Please tell us why music plays such a big role in your writings and why you would like to write a music column?
HSJ: Music is everywhere. The next door neighbor may be an insurance salesman, and at night he will be performing at the local open mike night singing and playing guitar. These talented people carry their instruments in their cars and trucks in case someone wants to have a party. Music surrounds you – it’s in the churches, at parties and in the air at night. It’s all I’ve ever known. Even nature sings in Tennessee.
DW: Mysticism and erotica also play a large part in your writings. Can you please share your thoughts on this fusion?
HSJ: Shakespeare said “If music be the food of love, play on.” I’ll go with that answer, please.
DW: What inspired you to write the novella Fables of the Reconstruction and are there any short stories you’ve written that helped lay the foundation for this story?
HSJ: Fables of the Reconstruction began as a short story and developed into a novella. It’s a book – a very strange little book. Like most artists, the basic concept appeared to me in dreams. The historical and supernatural aspects took many hours of research. Simply put – I have a very bizarre imagination. It can currently be purchased on Amazon.com in ebook format only.
DW: In Fables of the Reconstruction you write about Voodoo and the goddess Pomba Gira . Can you please tell us about your research into this subject and something about Pomba Gira?
HSJ: I love history, so that’s the historical angle of the Fables books. Also, I could understand the zombie dead- but-not-dead concept because of what I’m going through with an Achilles injury. (I live in Midtown Atlanta but I can’t do anything-basically I’m merely existing until I can live a ‘normal’ life, so I understand the undead concept.)
Put all those things together, add advice from a zombie expert from Glasgow, Scotland, dust on some magic voodoo powder (Haitian voodoo does involve zombie beliefs), thank the Goddess of the guitar first (I am from Nashville) and next thing you know, you have written a very strange but imaginative story.
Pomba Gira – the Goddess of the guitar – is actually a Brazilian voodoo Goddess however she was oftentimes the primary result of my research as I studied Haitian and Creole voodoo. Therefore felt she should be acknowledged. I gave her the introduction to the book, just as her invocations are done in actual rituals.
DW: Other than the music column, what’s next for Hunter S. Jones?
HSJ: There’s a super-secret project in the works for Spring 2013 – I’ll let you know more in the next few weeks. The contracts are in place and the announcement will be made soon. In the meantime, I plan to release my first in a series of short stories. The series is called Tales of a New Amsterdam. The first short story is titled The Legend.
And, early 2013 will see Fables Series Book 2 – Reconstruction of the Fables. There are lots going on Dean. Thanks again for inviting me to your blog site. Your interest in my work is appreciated. Likewise, I look forward to learning more about you and Expats Post.
What does the pathetic short film which stirred-up anti-American protests world-wide, that terrorist attack on the Libyan consulate in Benghazi which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent attack on President Barack Obama’s response to the riots and assault, and this past week’s “Values Voter Summit” have in common? Answer: Right-wing extremist ideology running amok. (Due to the length of this article, I’ve divided this piece up into two parts).
This all started when what is reported to be an Egyptian born Coptic Christian Right-wing extremist living in the U.S. created a hateful anti-Muslim “film” (if you can call it that) which depicted the prophet (if you want to call him that) Mohammad as a bumbling idiot behaving in the most depraved manner imaginable. I’d provide a link to the video but the entire 15 odd minute video clip is so completely demented and clearly meant to be provocative that it is not worth watching. However, if you feel the need to watch this video clip you can easily search YouTube or Google and find it. Needless to say, the obvious purpose of the film was to incite anger amongst the most extreme factions in the Muslim communities. Soon after an Arabic translation of the film was released, anti-American protest broke-out. In Egypt, hours before the protests begun, the U.S. embassy in Cairo released a statement:
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
Hours later, as protests in Egypt and attacks on Libyan consulate were still underway, Republican leader Mitt Romney condemned President Obama for the early morning statement made in Cairo, falsely claiming the statement was the presidents “first response” to the ongoing assaults on Americans abroad. Romney stated in a press release: “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
While many politician and pundits criticized Romney for attacking the president of the United States for a response Obama had not yet made public, many in the Right-wing mainstream media continued to spread the bigger lie woven into Romney’s statement. Romney suggested that the Cairo statement, and thus the Obama Administration, was sympathizing with “those who waged the attacks”. The next day, Romney went on the airways can continued the attack on Obama, claiming the Cairo statement was “akin to an apology”. The next day, Politifact.com pointed out Romney accused the President of the United States of “apologizing” five times in his brief statement. Romney called the Cairo statement an effort to “apologize for American values,” said it was “effectively apologizing for the right of free speech,” and described it as “what appeared to be an apology for American principles.”
Politifact determined that the Romney, the screeching Right-wing, and the Republicans were all engaged in a “pants on fire” lying campaign. More than ever before, lying has become an acceptable “family value” for religious Right-wingers of all strips (more on this at the end of the article). Numerous “apology experts” looked into Romney and his henchmen’s rhetoric to see if the Cairo statement and the Obama Administration were actually apologizing. Overwhelmingly the experts disagreed with the Right-wings attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the President of the United States. Here is just one of the comments made by the “apology experts”. Again, I quote Politifact:
“Lauren Bloom, an attorney and business consultant who wrote The Art of the Apology, said that Romney is “once again allowing his emotional allergy to apology to interfere with his judgment.”
Bloom said that “if there’s anything more central to American values than respecting each individual’s right to worship as he or she pleases, I’d be hard-pressed to say what it might be. The statement that ‘respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy’ not only is true, but is as clear an expression of one of our most cherished values as I can imagine.”
She said the embassy statement is “not an apology — quite the contrary, it’s a confirmation that the American people recognize the right to worship freely and will not accept religious bullying in the name of free speech. To say that someone who deliberately insults others in the name of religion has acted wrongly isn’t an apology — it’s simply a recognition that those insults go too far.””
During the last few days, America’s Right-wing mainstream media, primarily Fox News and talk radio, have been scrupulously spreading this lie about the Cairo statement across our national airwaves. In blind support for Romney Fox has featured prominent anti-Muslim bigots. The most notorious Right-wing bigot featured nationally on Fox this week was Pamela Geller. Geller has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (an organization that tracks hate groups) as the “anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead…Geller has mingled comfortably with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists, defended Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic and denied the existence of Serbian concentration camps”.
While fact-checkers and honest Americans condemned Romney’s attack on Obama and the Cairo embassy personal, Geller and Fox News doubled-down on their inciting rhetoric. This time, their intended audience was not Muslims extremists in the middle-east, rather the Right-wing extremists that follow Fox News across America. Geller belligerently declared the Cairo embassy’s statement an example of president Obama “sanctioning the blasphemy laws under the Sharia. Under the Sharia, Islamic laws, you cannot insult or offend Islam. And Obama is submitting the United States to that”.
Of course Geller’s deranged comments on Fox News comments have proven by experts and fact-checkers to be completely baseless. But that doesn’t stop Fox “news” form promoting extremists propaganda. Unfortunately, since Obama’s election, Fox News has specialized in giving voice to demented, racist Right-wing bigots who are openly willing to promote false attacks on the president of the United States, provided they further the political agenda of their fascists leaning oligarchic overlords.
For years now, Right-wing extremist media, including Fox News, have continuously pushed the lie that Obama is a secret Muslim. Credible fact-checkers have looked into this deception have repeatedly ruled Fox News, Geller and company, and other racists shamelessly continue to spread yet another “pants on fire” lie. Whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew, the truth never stops Right-wing religious extremist from spreading lies and fear in the interest of advancing their radical political agendas.
And that is the common thread between all the big events that have occurred in this past week. Yet this common thread was not highlighted by any in the mainstream media. Never once was the fact that religious Right-wing extremist ideology was woven into every one of the main events. Whether it was the film, the protests, the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney’s comments, or the so called “Values Voters Summit”, religious Right-wing extremist played a significant role in the story. In part two of this article, I will continue to expose the common thread with the Libyan attacks that killed a U.S. Ambassador, the recent so called “Values Voters Summit”, and Romney’s campaign strategy in the upcoming election.
Don’t be fooled by the two giant U.S. National Debt clocks at the Republican convention. The clocks were as disingenuous as the crazed Right-wings attack dogs, like my new Facebook ‘friend’ I’ll call “Chili”. Soon after posting a comment on my Facebook page about how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stated in his convention speech that when it comes to the debt, “It doesn’t matter how we got here”, I pointed out that Republicans have been refusing to talk about “why the debt clock is ticking” and the policies behind the numbers. Soon after, Chili came to my Facebook page for the first time ever and went right into blaming President Obama for the national debt. In the past, I had sent Chili a few links, on a mutual friend’s page, proving that Obama has spent less than any other president in the last 60 years and his policies can attribute to only a small part of the overall national debt. However, Chili dug in his heals and continued to blame Obama for the debt and belittle me with lines like “Man…the fantasy world you live in”, your comment is “crap”, and you “lie”.
However, this article is not about the rabid attacks by folks like Chili used to deflect the debate away from the real issue. This article is about the question I posed on Facebook that invited Chili to attack me. I wrote, “Republicans don’t want to talk about why THEIR national debt clock is ticking. That is because the Republicans created that much of that debt and are now trying to blame it on Obama. Shame on Christie and the Republicans for deflecting their responsibility”. Chili countered my statement with the following comment, “The facts are Obama during his term has put this nation in larger debt th[a]n any other president! PERIOD! None of you[r] excuses rebuttals those are the facts!” Chili’s response is typical of Republicans and clearly the way they want to frame the debate. They claim “Obama has put this nation larger in debt than any other president”. Really? The fact that Obama actually inherited this massive debt from policies passed by congresses and signed into law by previous presidents doesn’t factor into any of Chili’s response. I find the Right-wing line of attack blatantly dishonest.
According to a published paper analyzing the federal deficit by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush’s policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade — that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years”.
The next day at the Republican Convention, Vise Presidential candidate Paul Ryan gave a speech widely denounced for its blatant falsehoods. Included in the speech, Ryan boldly stated when it comes to the debit we should not about “inheritance”. There is a good reason why the Republicans don’t want to talk about inheritance. According to the Center for American Progress, two-thirds of the national debt can be directly attributed to the legacy of George W. Bush and the Republican polices. In fact, 40% of our current debt is a result of tax cuts for the rich and the unfunded wars the Republican put on American’s credit card. Essentially, W. Bush and the Republicans kicked the cost can for the two previous wars onto Obama’s ledger, and now they perfidiously claim “Obama put the nation into debt”
The Center for American Progress goes on to attribute roughly 16% of the current national debt to Obama’s policies. This debt mostly came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (otherwise known as Obama’s Stimulus Bill). It is important to note, that in spite of what Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the rest of the rabid Right-wing say, the Stimulus bill helped create around 1.5 million jobs, kept unemployment from exploding into double digits, and is widely agreed by economists to have had a positive effect on the economy.
So, if Obama’s policies created roughly 16% of the deficits, what are the policies that created the bulk of the debt? As The Center on Budget and Policy Priority points out, the three main reasons why we have the current national debt are, 1) Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. 2) Two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 3) The economic downturn.
Chili’s “ultimate point” has been, “Obama had two years with a democratically controlled congress to change the tax cuts to undo the things that “Bush” did. When do we start to hold Obama accountable?” Obama should be held responsible for the policies. And Obama policies added a total of %16 of the current debt.
Republicans claim they are all about “personal responsibly” until they have to be held responsible and accountable for their own actions. Then, they immediately begin to blame Obama and the Democrats for their own actions. The debate about what policies are actually “responsible” for the current national debt is a perfect example of the Right-wings attempt to deflect responsibility. Republican’s seem to refuse to admit that Obama and the Democrats worked to “undo” the Bush Tax Cuts and the Republicans have worked feverishly to block Obama’s from raising taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year and more.
Even if Obama was successful in ending the Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, according to Noble Economist Joseph Stiglitz, the Republican policy during the W. Bush era was to have China (instead of American tax payers) loan us the money for the last two wars and let the bill come due on Obama’s watch. This ended up adding roughly $3 trillion with interest to our current national debt. That is Trillion with a T. Yet, Chili and the Right-wing liars continue to underhandedly claim Obama “got” us here?
While we can debate the cause of the economic downturn, one word sums it all up, “deregulation”. It was the deregulation of the banking industry and the complete lack of oversight that created the Great Recession of 2008. In typical Right-wing fantasy world fashion, Chili wants to blame the Democrats and the fact that Bill Clinton signed into the law the Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as the main cause for the economic downturn. The 1930’s Glass-Steagall Act prevented banks from getting involved with risky investment banking/brokerage house schemes. This was, after a hard lesson learned from the Great Depression.
While the repeal of Glass-Steagall was one important deregulatory factors that led to the economic collapse during the last year of the W. Bush administration, it was in no way the only factor. The use of credit default swaps and derivatives greatly expanded during the W. Bush administration. Bush’s hands off approach to regulating the banks, essentially allowed the banks to engage in often illegal and outright fraudulent behavior, turned our entire economy into a house of cards. As we all know, according to most economists, as a result of this perfect storm of deregulatory factors, in 2008 our national economy collapsed and our national debt grew by roughly 20%.
Republicans and the rabid far Right don’t want Americans to have an honest conversation about the national debt. They don’t want to talk about the debt Obama inherited or how we got here to begin with. If we did, we would have to talk about fact that the Bush’s tax cuts for the rich has added more to the national debt than any other factor. In fact, Republicans would have to admit that nearly all the national debt was created by Republican policies. The very same policies the Republicans are now campaigning on, more tax cuts for the rich and more deregulation of the banks. As the Center for American Progress has pointed out, “As for the deficit’s cause, the single most important factor is the legacy of President George W. Bush’s legislative agenda”. The Republicans 2012 political platform calls for more of the same failed policies that created this whopping national debt in the first place.
It has been widely reported that according to the Congressional Budget Office the Romney/Ryan budget plan will add another 3.127 trillion to the national debt. The Republican scheme relies heavily on more Bush tax cuts for the rich, far more than Obama’s proposed budget plans. Romney’s and the Republicans insistence on ever greater tax cuts for the rich is actually the number one cause for the current national deficit.
Speaking on DemocracyNow! last week, Matt Taibbi explained how Mitt Romney made his personal fortune by helping put our nation in debt, “So, when Mitt Romney or Bain Capital, when they want to go take over a company like KB Toys and they borrow $300 million to do it, and that new debt becomes the debt of KB Toys, when KB pays the debt service, the monthly service on that debt, that service is deductible. And if that were not true, if they did not have that deduction, these deals would not be economically feasible. They wouldn’t be possible. I spoke to one former regulator from the SEC, who worked both in the SEC and as an accountant at a Big Four accounting firm, and he reviewed a number of these deals in both a public and private capacity. And he said, without that deduction, he’s never seen a deal that would have been economically—a private equity deal that would have been economically feasible. So, this entire business model depends upon a tax break”
In other words, while Romney and company have been amassing great personal fortunes, they have been sticking the bill to the American taxpayers. No wonder Romney and the Republican want to expand tax cuts for their billionaire sponsors. This also explains why the Republicans don’t want us to have a national dialogue on the facts underlying the debt. As one Republican/Romney pollster declared “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” The Republican’s political strategy has clearly been to avoid the facts and deny the nation an honest debate as how “how we got here”. Instead, their strategy has simply been to blame Obama.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet two very kind gentlemen from the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima (SVCF). They had just flown into the United States from Narita, Japan. I volunteered to pick them up at San Francisco International Airport and drive them up to Sebastopol, California. It just so happened that my small town was their first stop in a brief national lecture tour.
Yastel Yamada, President of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, and his associate “Tak” Okamoto are in the U.S. to promote a controversial, yet courageous proposal. Essentially, the SVCF is calling on the Japanese government and the Tokyo Energy Power Company (TEPCO), owners of the dangerously crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, to permit retired, senior citizens with technical experience and know-how to be allowed immediately to contribute to the clean-up efforts at the plant, effectively putting their lives on the front lines in the battle to contain this unfolding disaster.
In addition, the distinguished gentlemen from the SVCF are calling for the TEPCO to relinquish its leadership role in the crisis clean-up and turn the project over to an “International Inspection Team” with a “centralized and unified Project Management”. The members of the SVCF argue that the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is too great for one corporation, with their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders, to protect the nation and the world from the real and potential dangers.
This link, USA_Yamada_20120728.pdf is a copy of the full speech and accompanying slides Yamada presented in Sebastopol on Sunday, July 29, 2012. To understand better the ongoing situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Lynda Williams, an instructor in physics at Santa Rosa Junior College, and I have put together a list of interview questions/FAQ for Mr. Yamada. The following is an excerpt from our list of questions:
Q: Please say your full name, your title and the organization you work with.
My name is Yastel Yamada, president of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, a group of retired engineers and workers who are volunteering to cleanup Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Our intention is to work together with present site workers including TEPCO’s employees and not proposing technical plans. Our focus is for older workers to replace a part of the younger workers who would be exposed to the most dangerous radiation.
Q: Please tell us about the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima (SVCF). How and when did you form this organization?
Immediately after the earthquake and tsunami happened and I learned that all of the power sources at Fukushima Daiichi had been damaged and explosions had taken place, I discussed with my engineering friend the situation and we came to the conclusion that the nuclear fuel must have molten down and serious radioactive contamination must be on site. We realized that for the containment and cleanup, there would be serious radiation exposure for the workers and great risk to their health. It is better for older people to do the cleanup because there is less risk to radiation exposure than for younger people. And then in the beginning of April I sent my message to almost 2500 persons inviting volunteers to join the SVCF. Currently there are over 600 members in the Corps including engineers, scientists, technicians, and others.
Q: Please tell us why you think seniors should do this work?
There are three reasons:
1) Radiation damages DNA when cells are split. Cells split more often in young people who are growing. But in elder persons there is less cell division and therefore less risk to DNA damage due to radiation.
2) Even if DNA is damaged and causes cancer, elder person may have less life time left. He/she may die before the cancer appears.
3) Aged persons have almost no chance to make children and give them genetic birth defects due to the radiation.
Q: Please tell us what is the current state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant? There are six reactors at the site, what are the current conditions of each of these reactors and what needs to be done?
Units 1, 2, and 3 are all critically damaged by nuclear fuel meltdown and highly contaminated with radioactivity so much that humans cannot enter the buildings. The Primary Containment Vessel (PCV), which contains the reactor and nuclear fuel, is damaged and leaking water. The PCV must be repaired before starting the removal of the nuclear fuel. This will take ten years. It will take will take an addition 10 years to complete the nuclear fuel debris removal. The reactors need to be continuously cooled by water for the twenty years.
Unit 4 was not operating at the time of the Tsunami and there was no nuclear fuel in the reactor vessel. Therefore the PCV is not of concern. However, there was an explosion that severely damaged the building containing the spent fuel pool, which has 1535 nuclear fuel rods. Only the spent fuel removal from the pool is the major task, which could be completed within 4 years.
Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 are scheduled to be cleaned up, and dismantled with no future possibility to restart.
Units 5 and 6 were stopped normally and cooled properly but there is so much contamination on the site that I believe there is no chance to restart them.
Q. Please talk about your engineering experience with nuclear power in Japan.
I am not a nuclear engineer but we have over a dozen in the SVCF. I worked as a project management engineer and built steel plants from design to construction to commission. With that background I am able to understand what has happened at Fukushima and what will be needed in the cleanup project.
Q. Please explain your thoughts about nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster.
As president of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, I can not comment on nuclear power in general only focusing on the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup. The reason is because there are many different opinions within the SVCF about nuclear power but we all agree on one thing, that to cleanup Fukushima has immediate importance.
Q. What is your personal opinion about nuclear power in general.
On this tour I am representing SVCF and not myself.
Q: I understand the Japanese Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that owns and operates Fukushima Daiichi have refused your generous offer to voluntarily work at the crippled plant. What is the status of the situation?
The Japanese government says “Proposal of SVCF is welcome.” but TEPCO says they have no room to accept SVCF members. It is very complicated but we feel that if the government and TEPCO are pressured by the US and international community, they will have to accept us. This is the purpose of our tour in the US, to ask the people to make your voices heard to pressure the Japanese government to let SVCF help cleanup Fukushima Daiichi and protect young workers.
Q: How many cities do you plan on visiting on this tour?
In three weeks we will be traveling to Sebastopol, Ukiah, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, NY, and Los Angeles.
In his prepared speech, Mr. Yamada states, “Japan’s Government and bureaucracy are quite conservative, but, unfortunately very sensitive to pressure from the USA. Your voice may be a much stronger punch than ours”. Yamada and his organization are calling on Americans to contact their members of congress and the White House and encourage them to put pressure on the Japanese government to force TEPCO to give up oversight and control of the Fukushima clean-up to an independent International Inspection Team.
Article originally published at Expats Post.