Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Sunday likened the upcoming U.S. election to World War II.
While the candidate's comments to a packed First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Georgia were somewhat vague, NBC news noted that he "seemed to compare President [Barack] Obama to [Adolph] Hitler."
The former Pennsylvania senator told his supporters that this election was like World War II, "where our closest ally, Britain, was being bombed and leveled."
"And America sat from 1940 when France fell to December of '41 and did almost nothing," he explained. "Why? Because we're a hopeful people. We think, 'You know it will get better. Yeah, I mean, he's a nice guy. It won't be near as bad as what we think. You know, this will be OK. You know, maybe he's not the best guy.' After a while, you found out some things about this guy over in Europe and maybe he's not so good of a guy after all. But you know what? 'Why do we need to be involved? We'll just take care of our own problems, just get our families off to work and our kids off to school and we'll be OK.'"
The candidate added: "Sometimes, sometimes it's not OK."
As BuzzFeed pointed out earlier this year, it's not the first time Santorum has compared his opponents to Adolph Hitler.
During a 2005 speech on the Senate floor, the then-senator blasted Senate Democrats for complaining that Republicans were trying to stop them from filibustering President George W. Bush's judicial appointees.
"It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942: 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It's mine,'" he said.
Over the weekend, Santorum also said that Obama's theology was not "based on the Bible." He later clarified that he wasn't questioning if the president was a Christian.
There's that "extreme" word again. "Extreme" headwinds, "extreme" weather. Gee, you don't suppose there's a connection of some kind:
Dozens of Continental Airlines flights to the East Coast from Europe have been forced to make unexpected stops in Canada and elsewhere to take on fuel after running into unusually strong headwinds over the Atlantic Ocean.
The stops, which have caused delays and inconvenience for thousands of passengers in recent weeks, are partly the result of a decision by United Continental Holdings Inc., the world's largest airline, to use smaller jets on a growing number of long, trans-Atlantic routes.
United's strategy works when the winds are calm, and it allows the airline to operate less expensive aircraft with fewer cabin-crew members to an array of European cities that wouldn't generate enough traffic to justify larger planes.
But by pushing its international Boeing Co. 757s to nearly the limit of their roughly 4,000-nautical-mile range, United is leaving little room for error when stiff winds increase the amount of fuel the planes' twin engines burn.
Last month, United said, its 169-seat 757s had to stop 43 times to refuel out of nearly 1,100 flights headed to the U.S. A year earlier, there were only 12 unscheduled stops on roughly the same volume of 757 flights.
[...] "Headwinds returning from Europe are more extreme than we have seen in 10 years," said a United spokeswoman. For the past decade, December headwinds averaged 30 knots, according to United data. But last month, the winds averaged 47 knots, and, on the worst 15 days of the month, 60 knots.
The winds didn't abate this month. In the first eight days of January, United said it made unplanned refueling stops on 14 flights on the six routes most prone to refueling, including four on the Stuttgart-Newark run, four on Paris-Washington Dulles and two each on Stockholm-Newark and Barcelona-Newark. Those routes tend to be nearly as long as the plane's maximum range.
At a campaign stop in South Carolina yesterday, Senator John McCain refers to Mitt Romney as President Obama. Friday morning he said Santorum and Romney (instead of Gingrich) don't share his views on eliminating earmarks.
This is an interview I did with The UpTake.
The Occupy movement has successfully put the economic injustice plaguing the United States on televisions across America, says Tina Dupuy, a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist and managing editor of Crooks and Liars.
The reason that most Americans were unaware of these issues before the Occupy movement caught fire this fall is that 60 percent of us get our news exclusively from local news sources. Those 30-minute local news segments devote a full 10 minutes to commercials and two minutes to “teasers” of stories to come. That leaves very little time for real news about real issues. Dupuy says that newscasters too often fill the gap with trivial stories such as reports about “Dancing with the Stars” or news of a cat stuck in a tree in Germany.
“We don’t have a real broad knowledge of issues that affect us, like the housing bubble or about what our local and national government is doing,” says Dupuy. “But at least now the local news is showing protest signs of what economic injustice is. They’re being forced to cover these issues and cover the raids, arrests and encampments and have the protestors on television talking about these issues.”
“Now we’ve seen our local news talk about the homeless population, talk about people who aren’t able to find jobs, talk about students who are now sharecroppers to banks because they have $200,000 in student loan debt — debt they can’t renegotiate.”
This last week we've seen how Washington's elites are able to suppress popular opinion, work against the public interest, and wrap it all up with a bow so that it looks like "democracy in action." It's not. What we're seeing isn't democracy, and it isn't a free press either. It's merely another cynical ploy to rob Americans of government programs they both need and want.
The latest assault is on Medicare. The "Ryan/Wyden plan" is a perfect case study in the cynical workings of an antidemocratic machine - a machine whose cogs are lazy journalists, whose gears are selfish politicians, and whose levers are pulled by the wealthy and powerful.
I held my fire on this for a few days, to see if more details would emerge on the proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Paul Ryan, who were initially (and deliberately vague) on its specifics. That turned it into Rorschach test for observers, and where the Washington Post sees a butterfly I usually see a vampire bat.
But Malcolm Gladwell would be pleased: It turns out that the first "blink" impression of Ryan/Wyden is the right one. It's a Medicare-killing publicity stunt that undermines the financial security of the 99 percent. And if you happen to be reading this in the Nation's Capital, please note: The "lefty" position on Medicare is supported by most Republicans.
Let's not kid ourselves. Unless we act quickly and aggressively, the Machine will succeed in killing Medicare.
We've seen this software before. It's been run against Social Security, jobs, and other government services that are both popular and effective. Here's how it works:
- Concept: An intellectually thin but highly-funded network of corporate-funded and billionaire-backed "think" tanks draft a proposal that would eviscerate a popular government program.
- Rollout: Congressional Republicans act in lockstep to implement the think tank's policy by gutting something that's typically supported in overwhelming numbers by Democrats and independents - and which is often backed most registered Republican voters, too.
- Blowback: The backlash from aggrieved citizens comes from all across the political spectrum, but is spun by compliant media figures as a reflexive hostility to "new ideas" from "ideologues" and "extremists" on the left.
- Sellout: A cynical, self-serving Democrat sees an opportunity to curry favor with billionaires, corporations, and media outlets by endorsing the radical moves the Republicans have proposed.
- Spin: The media uses that Democrat's endorsement as proof that the corporate position is actually that of "responsible" and "moderate" politicians in both parties.
The software has a political side effect, too: The distinction between Republicans and Democrats is blurred a little more, depriving Democrats of a winnable election issue.
Think of these five steps as a computer program you can run in almost any situation. The only variables are the program that is to be killed, the Democrat that'll do the dirty work, and which media outlet will deliver the machine's message this time. Plug in those three items and the program pretty much runs itself - or, as they used to say in the tech world, it "executes."
This time around the government program is Medicare, the Democratic hack who's willing to undermine it for selfish reasons is Ron Wyden, and the media outlet is (who else?) the Washington Post. Here's how the five steps played out this time around:
- Concept: Rightists in think tanks like the Heritage Foundation designed a system that dismantles Medicare, replacing it with vouchers that would provide less and less medical coverage with each passing year. The dovetails nicely with the rightwing Peterson Foundation's twenty-year jihad against so-called "entitlements," Social Security and Medicare, which have very little fiscal relationship to one another.
- Rollout: Congressional Republicans dutifully encoded this radical scheme into a proposal called the "Ryan Plan," after Rep. Paul Ryan, who was chosen to present this idea as if it were his own. Their voted nearly unanimously for Ryan's plan, placing their party in an extremely vulnerable position with voters (while ingratiating it to many high-dollar corporate and individual campaign donors).
- Blowback: The Machine media tried to claim it was not a plan to end Medicare, a radical reality inversion which had an hallucinatory effect on your correspondent. But no Orwellian inversion could conceal this plan's true nature or protect Republicans in Congress from a public backlash. That's why so many Republican representatives ran into a hailstorm during the next recess.
- Sellout: Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon dutifully stepped up to play the 'Democratic hack' role that's been played by so many of his colleagues, co-authoring a modified 'Ryan/Wyden plan' that was nothing more than a diluted version of Ryan's radicalism.
- Spin: And now - with a predictability that should be astonishing, but isn't - the Washington Post is celebrating Ryan as a shining example of true bipartisanship in action.
How would we recognize real bipartisanship? It's what you'd see if a few Republicans heeded the wishes of their own voters by crossing the aisle to oppose the Ryan plan, sincepolls show that 56% of registered Republicans are against a voucher system. But that ain't gonna happen. And if a single Republican on the Hill strays from corporatist/Republican orthodoxy, you can be they won't be the subject of a laudatory editorial in the Washington Post.
What's more, if voters are told that plans like Ryan/Wyden won't cover all the costs currently covered by Medicare, overall opposition to the idea rises to 84%. But who's going to tell them that - the Post?
Don't hold your breath.
Call it the "Uni-Party," the alignment of corporate-funded politicians from both parties who serve a narrow elite. Corporate Washington's company paper is the Post, and its editors can usually be counted upon to toe its party line. Like the five-part plan, the Uni-Party's editorials follow a strictly preprogrammed algorithm.
It starts with Orwellian wordplay, which the Post happily provides in the title of its editorial: "Healing Medicare." (Ryan/Wyden would heal Medicare, I suppose - the same way cutting my head off would cure this headache.)
"In the maelstrom of dysfunction and partisanship better known as the 112th Congress," it begins - and let me stop right there for a second. Since when is partisanship a bad thing. One party advocates a policy, another opposes it, and voters choose. The Uni-Party hates that, so it stigmatizes it by calling it names. I call it "democracy."
"it is always surprising and gratifying when lawmakers from opposing parties manage to work together. That is particularly true when their collaboration involves an issue as politically charged and substantively complex as Medicare ..."
It's very important that cynicism be rewarded with praise and good press, as well as lavish campaign donations. Politicians can't serve the Machine if they can't get reelected, after all. The editors continue:
"Some will read the last sentence and chuckle knowingly about its seeming naivete."
Not at all. The editors aren't naive at all. They just think we are.
The rest of the proposal comes straight out of the software: "Jump-starting the conversation" is a favorite phrase, because it's code for "introducing radical conservatism into the debate." I doubt they'd praise anyone for suggesting, oh, I don't know, the confiscation of homes and property of rich bankers. Ryan/Wyden is at least that radical, but the Post probably wouldn't praise a revolutionary socialist for "jump-starting a conversation" about the economy, would it? Would they call it a "serious proposal"?
The editorial ends by slamming the White House for "stomping" on Ryan/Wyden, an act that resembles the killing of an insect, and which most Republican voters are likely to applaud. We can only add that if stomping doesn't work, the Administration can always try hitting it with a rolled-up newspaper. The Post will do nicely.
Some people are giving this radical scheme cover by saying we'll still have access to public-sector Medicare, as well as private plans. But that's how Medicare works today. The big difference is that, under Ryan/Widen, total expenditures would be sharply capped without any way of controlling runaway medical costs. So those costs would be shifted to seniors more and more with each passing year.
Others are pointing out that the public/private competition would resemble the "public option" under Medicare. But why is an "option" only acceptable when it undermines a public system? As a former health insurance exec myself, I know how easy it would be to game and undermine this kind of program under a fixed budget and without clearly defined benefits.
What happens next is critically important. As Nate Silver noted, the public's opinion on this topic is highly malleable. Misinformation from media outlets like the Post can affect the fate of Medicare, and the failure of Democrats to forcefully repudiate Wyden will further weaken its chances
Things aren't looking good. By presenting a united front, which they rarely do anymore, Democrats have been able to get their message across about Medicare and the Ryan Plan. But the Machine is always looking for new recruits, and it always seems to find willing Democrats. Conrad on health care, Durbin on Social Security, Wyden on Medicare ... it doesn't take more than one or two to cloud the issue and undermine a vital and popular program.
No wonder most Americans are disgusted with this Congress and don't believe it will act effectively to protect their interests. The dissatisfaction is widespread among Republicans and Democrats and is most pronounced among independents, 57 percent of whom voted for Democrats last time around.
In the long run Medicare will need saving - from the devastating impact of for-profit medicine on our health economy (and on our health). That will take aggressive cost control measures. Those measures could include new provider reimbursement plans, along with a highly robust public option that restricts private-sector gamesmanship. But first Medicare has to be protected from crazy schemes and stealth attacks like the Ryan/Widen plan.
If politicians and the public don't strike back hard against scams like "Wyden/Ryan," make no mistake about it: Medicare will die, and the Machine will begin locking onto its next target.
Seasoned activists frequently talk about how movements are successful when they embrace a “diversity of nonviolent tactics,” that take advantage of all kinds of talents and risk levels. Occupiers in DC have embraced this philosophy with particular zeal, engaging in out-of-left-field spectacles like guerilla barn raisings, as well as a much more traditional piece of the agitator’s toolkit, the hunger strike. On December 8, a small group of protesters affiliated with Occupy DC announced they would abstain from consuming any calories until DC was democratized.
This was not the fuzzily-defined, objective-less protests you may have heard about in the ol’ lamestream media. Adrian Parsons, Kelly Mears, Sam Jeweler, and Joe Gray had extremely specific, if ambitious, demands:
Full budget autonomy. Congress is overburdened and often stalemated by its responsibilities to the rest of the country. Yet, the D.C. Government cannot spend its own tax dollars without the approval of Congress. A bill proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) would free DC’s local budget from Congressional control. We urge Congress to pass this bill free of any “riders” restricting how DC spends its own money. Letting D.C. take control of its own budget would free time for Congress to attend to national issues, while giving D.C. the local democracy that is a given to every other American.
Full legislative autonomy. Eliminate the requirement for congressional review of new District laws. This red tape subverts democracy and adds bureaucratic inefficiency to the processes of both Congress and D.C. government. We urge Congress to pass the District of Columbia Legislative Autonomy Act of 2011, H.R. 506.
Full representation and voting rights in Congress. The people of D.C. do not have a vote in the House or in the Senate. This deprives more than 600,000 Americans of an empowered voice in our national legislature. This unjust situation has allowed members of Congress who were not elected by the people of the District of Columbia to impose policies upon the citizens of D.C. that are not supported by the people. We urge Congress to pass H.R. 266, the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act of 2011.
Propelled by the energy of the Occupy movement, the strikers managed to catch a lot of attention. They got sympathetic coverage The Post, survival tips from Dick Gregory, and they convinced Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison to read their declaration into the House record and engage in a 24-hour solidarity strike. But the strike also took a toll. As the strikers grew increasingly weak they decamped from their tent in McPherson Square to a sympathetic church and were mostly confined to wheel chairs. Doctors threatened serious long-term consequences if they continued, and family members pleaded. Over the weekend, Gray, Jeweler, and Mears all broke their fast, having collectively lost roughly 95 pounds in a week and a half.
Adrian Parsons is still going strong though. As of last night he was lucid and jocular as ever, despite looking increasingly threadbare. On Friday he was arrested for blocking Independence Avenue in front of the Longworth congressional office building. He couldn’t be booked because his blood sugar levels were too low and he refused to take glucose, so he was confined to a hospital bed before he could get his ticket written. But he’s shown no signs of stopping soon, and another occupier has committed to joining the fast for as long as Parsons continues.
I got a chance to talk to Jeweler about a day after he had broken his fast. He was still feeling weak, but he was managing to keep mashed potatoes and hummus down. Despite having fallen short of his (perhaps slightly unrealistic) goal of affecting a constitutional change in the status of the District, he feels good about what was accomplished.
“We’ve definitely woken up the city and brought the issue back to the table” he said. He added that as the strikers patrolled congress over the past week and a half, they encountered staffer and even members who didn’t understand DC’s demi-democracy. So the consciousness raising was important.
“It was a long shot, but sometimes long shots work,” reflects Gray.
Both noted that the strike isn’t over as long as Parsons keeps going. Meanwhile, the former hunger strikers are moving on to new tactics. Recognizing that DC has very little leverage over Congress, they’re circulating a petition around the country in the hopes of collecting 601,000 signatures – one for every resident of the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, more established activists for DC voting rights are re-energized and are planning a more escalative campaign for the coming year.
In a lot of ways, the hunger strike might be a microcosm of the physical occupations themselves. It’s daring and inspiring, but it’s also nearly impossible to sustain and does little to put pressure on the real centers of power. Both are sparks that will be defined by the extent to which the heat and light they initially produce can be channeled into real change.