Barack and Michelle Obama: Mr. and Mrs. Frustrated, Hopeful Every American


“I’ve been around long enough to remember presidential contests where the incumbent and his team were roundly shunned by presumed successors of the same party. Al Gore dodged Bill Clinton as much as possible in 2000, and in 2008, John McCain wisely steered clear of Dubya and his war-mongering, deficit busting tenure. This year is different. Because we have a sitting President empowered by the highest approval ratings of his second term, who cares about the progress through which he has led the American people and the threatening menace posed by an authoritarian demagogue aspiring to the White House. And he is married to a partner of equal rhetorical gifts and passion for her gender, our children and our country.

Hillary Clinton is going to make a fine Commander in Chief. She is smart, tough, experienced, empathetic and practical. But damn those Obamas are something else, aren’t they?”

Read the full post for Contemptor.



Let Them Eat Bitterness (August 12, 2010)


I live in a nice building in a not always so nice neighborhood. Two nights ago, an intoxicated member of the “99 Weekers” club took it upon himself to smash the exterior intercom unit of my residence with a baseball bat. “99 Weekers” is a cute name for a tragic situation facing growing numbers of Americans, who have exhausted the maximum unemployment insurance benefits available to them, 99 weeks, without the end result of finding new and meaningful employment.

These individuals don’t want a handout, they want a job, but with increasingly anemic private sector growth, face the prospect of finding themselves permanent members of the new underclass. Without income and with dwindling marketable skills, the disenfranchisement of these former members of the middle is slowly turning to misplaced anger, directed not at the government or corporations, who are ultimately responsible for the nation’s tailspin. Instead we are witnessing the beginning of a modern day class war, waged between the frustrated and desperate “have nots” and the perceived “haves.”

Let me be clear: I am not a “have.” I experienced a childhood of abject poverty marked by abuses and neglect of the most harrowing kind. Be that as it may, I get that my comparatively fancy rental can offer an easy target to a drunken individual who has spent another fruitless day looking for work. On his way home to face an expectant family, knowing he must check his ever diminishing manhood at the door once again, I can understand the urge to displace on an inanimate object. Intercoms can be repaired and I hope that this hasty act provided some form of comfort.

In discussing this incident with a co-worker, the subject of the palpably rising anger of ordinary Americans came up. My office mate astutely observed that we appear to be on the verge of a modern day French Revolution. Only viewed through the cracked prism of America’s toxic partisan politics “holy war,” we are miscasting the players with dangerous consequences.

For example, Michelle Obama is being pigeonholed by the right as the 2010 understudy to Marie Antoinette. The chum being tossed to the public by members of the Republican party, are the images of Michelle’s lavish private vacation to Spain that made the viral rounds last week. Mrs. Obama is a private citizen and does it come as a surprise to anyone that the first family has money enough? Before moving into the White House, both of the Obamas had thriving legal careers and a beautiful home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. If the First Lady can afford some time away from the relentless stress of being Barack’s wife, why should we draw erroneous conclusion that she is somehow ignorant of the suffering of normal Americans? This is a logical fallacy being peddled by those who would love it if we could be distracted enough to take our eyes off the real problem: legislative paralysis enabled by corporate kowtowing.

The real Marie Antoinettes in our story are people like former Nixon speechwriter and TV personality Ben Stein, who was quoted recently as saying “The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities…I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work.”

Out of touch much Mr. Stein?

Or how about GOP Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who called a $20 billion victims’ fund negotiated by the Obama administration for those who have been put out of work in the Gulf, and funded by BP, “extortion.”

No wonder our most currently beloved pop cultural hero is former Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, who assumed his rightful place in the media zeitgeist this week by engaging in the most flamboyantly fabulous resignation of all time. After being hit in the head with a piece of overhead luggage one time too many, Mr. Slater decided he couldn’t wait for the plane to taxi to the gate before telling passengers and co-workers where to stick it. Instead he grabbed the microphone and a beer, saying his piece before deploying the emergency slide – sailing out of the plane and into the hearts of millions of Americans – who applauded Slater’s actions with enthusiasm that only be described as wish fulfillment.

However what really crystallized the idea that we may in fact be headed toward a massive, violent populist uprising was a recent article I read by David Stockman, President Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. Yes, the following words came from a disgusted member of old guard, “true” and fiscally conservative Republicanism:

“The day of national reckoning has arrived…we will see a class rebellion, a new revolution, a war against greed and the wealthy….It’s a pity that the modern Republican party offers the American people an irrelevant platform of recycled Keynesianism when the old approach – balanced budgets, sound money and financial discipline – is needed more than ever.”

In other words, my building’s intercom box is only the beginning…

Just Say “NO” (September 30, 2009)

Well it took awhile, but the Obamas, both Barack and Michelle, have finally pissed me off. As most of you are aware, the decision regarding the hosting City for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be handed down this Friday morning. Chicago’s chances seem to be rather strong, and I have no doubt that a firm last minute push from the glamourous First Couple of the United States makes a compelling inducement. Michelle Obama is in Copenhagen as I write, smooching the behinds of the IOC:

I will lay my cards on the table. I am 100% against the Chicago Olympic bid, not the least because it is a ram-it-down-our-throats attempt by the corrupt King Daley to secure his legacy as the Best Mayor Ever. That certainly does not help matters, but I have what I believe are other solid reasons for withholding my personal support:

1. Chicago’s infrastructure: roads, bridges, the CTA – in large part decrepit, and certainly not able to welcome millions of international travelers.

2. The economy is still sluggish and the City is nearly bankrupt. They do not have the funds to fix #1.

3. The City’s plan, I mean “Chicago 2016’s” plan (a activist group of which King Daley is an honorary chairman) to secure private and Federal funding, without a local increase in taxes to pay for the Games, basically consists of a wish, a hope and a prayer.

4. When questioned about #3, Chicago 2016 representatives get defensive and try to limit inquiry by using the same sort of dissenters-as-unpatriotic rhetoric that would make Dick Cheney proud. How do I know this? Because I attended one of the organization’s community meetings and saw it myself.

5. The answer to the anticipated traffic congestion upswing is to shut off parking downtown and double the capacity of the CTA, not with more environmentally friendly trains, but with carbon monoxide burping buses.

6. The “eminent domain” displacement of many South Side residents in order to make way for Olympic village structures. The City “guarantees” this will not happen. However, I interviewed a women from Housing Bronzeville a few weeks back who has already been “unofficially” approached about relocating.

7. Finally, the most selfish reason of all: Chicago is a spectacular City, a place with a relatively affordable cost of living, a somewhat hidden gem behind the flashier New York City and L.A. The crowds, congestion, fame and waste of the Games will change all that forever.

My friend Tim argued last night that the benefit to Chicago, with respect to short- to medium- term job creation and economic stimulus, outweighs all the negatives. I am not sure of that. I have wanted and needed people in charge to convince me we are not just mortgaging our future to pay for a little bit of televised glory. I have seen and heard the City’s financial proposals. They are weak, and I am more than slightly afraid they will ultimately hit City residents where it hurts: in their homes and wallets.

I know there are strong feelings and disparate viewpoints on this charged topic. Please share.

Newt Gingrich and The Heritage Foundation Team Up to Fail in School Lunch Debate (May 30, 2014)


I always say that if you’re experiencing a listless workout, just queue up an edition of CNN’s Crossfire at the gym and hope for a Newt Gingrich day “on the right.” You’ll be in full Rocky Balboa mode in milliseconds.

Though the former Speaker’s conservative panel counterpart, S.E. Cupp, equals her colleague in aggravation, Gingrich is in possession of a unique sort of smarm that makes one sweaty with disdain. He knows that we know that more than what half of what he says is hypocritical, factless, partisan fame chasing (I wanted to use a rougher word). But he does it anyway. Because it gets attention. It would almost be admirable if it weren’t so infuriating and bad for the country.

Gingrich added another vignette to the story of his long, hackneyed career this week, with a truly remarkable piece of insincere sanctimony on Thursday’s edition of Crossfire. It was there that he partnered with The Heritage Foundation’s Genevieve Wood to spar with co-host Stephanie Cutter and Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The topic was that day’s vote by the House Appropriations Committee to roll back school lunch nutrition standards supported by First Lady Michelle Obama.

While Politico writers Helena Bottemiller Evich and Bill Tomson described the vote as an “unusually high-profile food fight with the White House,” the implications are far more serious. And this being the Republican Party of 2014, the Committee tried to sneak the maneuver through the back door, as a rider to a larger bill.

The Politico piece notes that the assault on childhood nutrition is part of a “fiscal 2015 agriculture spending bill…that would allow schools to opt out of nutrition rules requiring more fruits and vegetables, less sodium and more whole grain-rich products if they are losing money from the healthier meals.” I smell something fishy and it isn’t cafeteria sushi. Let’s hear from freedom fighter New Gingrich, courtesy of Crossfire transcripts:

“We’re debating Washington’s latest attempt to impose rigid uniformity on every aspect of our lives. In today’s case, school lunches.”

People, haven’t you heard? The Nanny State has run amok, and not only that, a few schools are losing money on these healthier lunches because it turns out that if left to their own devices, children would rather drink sodas and eat french fries than make green vegetable decisions. Who knew? This is a shocking violation of a child’s right to choose to stuff themselves full of garbage if that’s what Big Food, I mean they, want. Republicans can tell adult women what to do with their bodies but they’ll be darned if first graders will be given healthy diet support without their express consent. It’s un-American.

Cutter and Wootan wearily corrected the duo at every turn with observations such as this:

“Based on science, if kids eat healthier, they’ll do better in school. 90 percent of schools are already doing this…And today House Republicans are using ridiculous nanny state excuse to undo the standards. We’re spending $11 billion a year of taxpayer dollars on school lunches. Let’s not spend it on junk. That leads to higher rates of obesity and higher health-care costs.”

But it was almost impossible to permeate the delusions – of persecuted grandeur on Gingrich’s part and fiscal libertarianism on Wood’s. What else would we expect but faux stewardship from The Heritage Foundation as a defense for putting corporate interests ahead of the nation’s children? Take this gem from Wood:

“Let’s be clear. What are our schools’ No. 1 priority? It’s teaching kids how to read, how to do math. They’re already failing in that category. So now Michelle Obama thinks we need to come in and tell everybody how to eat.”

Of course Republicans are falling over themselves to pass spending bills to fund public education and help those failing schools, right? Oh wait, no. No they’re not. They’re gutting budgets in a push toward charter school privatization.

It was about the time that Gingrich and Wood started railing against food stamp spending and the other hot potato (pardon the pun), the spud lobby’s push to get on the approved WIC grocery list, that I had to step off the treadmill. Literally and metaphorically. The country is just not getting anywhere listening to the modern day Republican side of well, any issue that matters. They can’t even get behind healthy children and they expect us to swallow their lame and insulting dissembling. They’ve got to go.