Time to Retreat

All this grimness.

A shutdown.  Name-calling in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  Plots and games.  Finger pointing and standoffs.  A public reading of Green Eggs and Ham on the taxpayer dime by Harvard grad and newly minted Senator Ted Cruz.  All of it resulting in our legislators stumbling home from their government offices stinking drunk and depressed beyond all normal measures.

Okay, I made up that last part.

But you gotta admit, things are bad.

No one is getting along.  The Republican Party is a model of turmoil, its Tea Party butting heads with, well, pretty much everyone, including moderate colleagues.  Democrats are ridiculing the entire lot.

Hmmm.   What to do?

Perhaps a retreat?  I know we’re in the midst of a crisis but if we don’t invest in a little levity in the hopes of uniting factions then the possibility of progress seems unlikely.

A retreat would take place in the wilderness, far from cameras and reporters. Luckily, I am meticulously familiar with retreat culture and thus can offer descriptions on how such a gathering would look:

No Social Media: If you’re going to get all zen and cozy with the enemy, the first rule is to disconnect. Brrreeaatthhee.  Hug a tree!  (Some Congress members actually do this, which is kind of funny and makes me wish a photographer would have gone.) Congress members and Senators abandon their trusty internet connections, Facebook accounts, and twitter feeds for a whole weekend, except for Senator John McCain, who is addicted to his poker app., has a big tournament scheduled, and is really good at concealing his phone via a camouflage case. Hardly anyone hyperventilates over this rule, although a few retreat to their alcohol stashes. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is known to openly text during Presidential addresses suffers severe withdrawal, as does special guest Anthony “Text My Wiener” Wiener.  Both are spotted entering the “medical” tent, which one rep claims is a casino.

Yoga: House Speaker John Boehner refuses to abandon child’s pose as well as his mega gavel. The Speaker softens when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi adopts a warrior position, the single stance he finds inspiring.  He admires her from his balled-up crouch, now sobbing uncontrollably.

Campfire basics: It’s not a retreat if you don’t learn to start a campfire. And what’s wrong with a little healthy competition?  The soft-spoken Arizonan Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks he’s a cowboy so he enters the fray but quickly tires without a podium to lean on. Ultimately, Lynne Cheney, new resident of the Wild Wild West, a.k.a. Wyoming, wins by distracting fellow competitors with bird calls she learned from her father; she then flicks her Bic at a pile of dry leaves. Cheney’s staff poses the winner near the burgeoning fire, a fake bearskin rug — complete with fake bear head — clenched in her fist.  This, they cheer, will make an excellent 2016 campaign poster.

Skeet shooting with Dick Cheney: Speaking of the elder Cheney, he makes a limited appearance to demonstrate the “skill” of skeet shooting.  During the demo, Cheney fires bullets into the hat brims of two newly elected Democrats.  The former Vice thinks this is the height of hilarity, given the hoopla over his prior hunting mishaps.  The rookie legislators dash off as Cheney guffaws and makes chicken sounds, showing off a bird call most people assumed he knew but no one knew he knew for sure. The brimless Dems wait until they are literally out of the woods before turning and calling Cheney a wise-ass blow hard who owes them new Hope and Change caps.

Campfire stories: The first evening, legislators circle up and share stories, as stories are known to foster bonding.  They make s’mores, too, as s’mores are known to be delicious and make the lawmakers feel even more like kids than does their usual behavior. The long-winded Ted Cruz is made to tell his story last, after the keg has been tapped.

Where is Waldo: Saturday morning, participants are given maps with clues aimed at helping them discover the whereabouts of Congressman Paul Ryan, last year’s budget wizard who mysteriously disappeared during this year’s financial talks. Clue: He is likely not running a marathon.  He could be. If he lied about it.  Or if a marathon was defined as p90x.

Wilderness Survival: Ted Cruz demonstrates (but only to other Ivy League grads) how to sneak an RV into prohibited areas so as not to have to camp with the “common man.” He elaborates on how to use adult diapers when facilities are scarce or you just have a whole lot to say or you are plotting to shut down the government. McCain, who is roughing it in a sleeping bag and eating raw snails, skips this presentation, calling Cruz a wilderness lightweight.

Sing along: Music is the theme of the second evening, even though House Republicans had pushed for a discussion of Obamacare. Camp songs, including the often-unifying Kumbaya, are featured.  A handful of legislators mistake the lyrics for “Come buy us.”  They love these lyrics so much they want to tweet them, but alas the rules prohibit this.  They drink instead, singing louder and more off-key.  Happiness reigns but Boehner says it must end at midnight.

Final Words: No preachers or benedictions here.  Instead wildly popular New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who blames the shutdown on the President (whom he can skunk in arcade games, just sayin’) is tasked with motivating his federal counterparts before they head back to Washington. “It’s simple,” says the Gov, who reportedly aspires to be more than Gov.  “Grow a pair!”  His voice expands to a growl, his face reddens until it seems he might inflate and sail off like a hot air ballon.  “Be a man! That goes for you women, too.  Do your f-ing job!”

Yeah, that’ll work.


Where’s the spine?

Mitt Romney, where are you?

Are you on the Sunday News shows? Nope.

Are you talking to reporters along rope lines?  Nope.

Did you tell a reporter who asked about your stance on gay marriage and equality that you’d rather talk about something significant? 

Are you a leader? Can you stand up for what is blatantly right and true?  Can you condemn wrong doing?

Okay, let’s be fair.  At times, Mr. Romney and President Obama do things that are purely political.  They are, after all, politicians.  Both did stupid things in their respective pasts. Mr. Romney reportedly bullied a peer in his prep-school class and tied the now-famous family dog to the roof of his car. President Obama smoked some dope and allegedly was cool towards women he dated.

I’m not condoning either man’s behaviors.  I’m just saying that young people behave stupidly.  They do things they often regret as adults.

What’s clear is that the President has matured, that he’s used his experiences — good and bad — to develop into a thinker and a leader.  A parallel type of evolution in Mr. Romney is not so evident.  He doesn’t quite meet the criteria of a leader. He wasn’t even able to reflect on the prep-school incident without a smirk and a giggle.

What’s more galling is the regular and repeated opportunities Mr. Romney has to lead and his deliberate dodging of such opportunities.  He’s an expert dodger.

This week: The Fair Pay Act, which would guarantee that employers have to substantiate any discrepancies in pay based on qualifications rather than gender, has been repeatedly panned by Republicans in both the House and the Senate.  It’s been rejected by the same Republican “leaders” who say they support equal pay for women.  Go figure. On it’s own, the lack of action and affirmation is a disgrace that should infuriate all voters and especially women.  But add to it Mr. Romney’s wimpy response — that he believes in fair and equal pay for women but doesn’t know what his stance is on the legislation. Really?!

It’s not rocket science, Mr. Romney.  You, who can stand to garner the female vote more than anyone, ought to realize this.  Any woman with half a brain (and, for the record, most of us possess WAY more) knows you are side-stepping the issue.  She knows you are falling in line behind your political cronies and deep-pocketed backers, rather than doing the right thing and standing up.  For her.

Last week: Mr. Romney huddled in the corner while his new bud, bully and half-wit extraordinaire Donald Trump, re-introduced the birth-certificate nonsense regarding President Obama. Oh, sure.  Mr. Romney quietly and practically inaudibly said he believes the President was born in America.  But he didn’t do what leaders do: he didn’t say, Enough is enough.

Last month: President Obama, risking his political standing in several states, announced his support for gay marriage. Mr. Romney countered by saying he was not in favor of same-sex marriage. What stood out even more, though, was Mr. Romney’s lack of a backbone when it came to the resignation of his foreign policy advisor, a homosexual man.  Rather than fight for this man’s continued tenure, Romney did what he is apt to do.  He stood back.  He let a good man go, for all of the wrong reasons. He made us wonder if he owns a pair.

We could go on: To Mr. Romney’s lack of a backbone toward Rush Limbaugh, who calls women who stand up for women’s reproductive rights “sluts.”  To his pandering to big-money types who believe in greed over all else. To his backing of the church, even when the church’s teachings and beliefs endanger women’s basic rights and health. To his continued practice of going into hiding when talk turns to doing the big interview or press conference.

Leadership means leading, Mr. Romney.

Time for a spinal implant.

Cogitating on Dumb Stuff in Politics


Here’s a rundown of questionable and stupid moves in national politics and related spheres during the past two weeks, and what some of us think about it all:

Mitt Romney singing every verse of “America the Beautiful.” Twice :  Stop it! Please? If you must sing to prove you can hold your own (not really) with the Crooner in Chief, can you, like the President, just give us a stanza rather than the whole bleeping song?

An irritated Rick Santorum, telling sick adults and the parents of ill children, to suck it up when it comes to the high cost of medicine:  Seriously?  You are siding with drug companies?  Do you know how much money these companies make and how much power they wield, much of it the result of questionable tactics? Are you naive? Are you heartless?  Are you on crack?!

Newt attacking the media for asking him about past infidelities: Um…Public Figure + Dumb Personal Decisions = Public Questioning and Humiliation.  Get used to it.

Mitt on saying he’s not worried about the poor: Dude! Do you realize the poor get a vote?

Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood: Saying the move isn’t political is like saying cigarette smoking isn’t harmful.

One Million Moms protesting J.C. Penney’s hiring of Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson, arguing the star’s homosexuality will drive customers away:  Wondering what you million moms will do when one of your million kids comes out to you?  Push him “back in”?!  Kudos to J.C. Penney for sticking with Ellen.

Donald Trump endorsing Mitt, after calling him a “small businessman,” and Herman Cain endorsing Newt, but saying he likes Mitt, too: Ego times four + Inauthentic times four = A whole lot of crazy.

Holiday Wish Lists of Politicos and Those They Rule

Herman Cain: A world without reporters and women who speak up.

We, the lowly Electorate: A Super Committee that is actually super, or occasionally super, or consistently adequate.  Okay, just a committee that produces. Something.

Newt Gingrich: A smidgeon of compassion. Okay, he probably doesn’t want this but, c’mon. Newt says Occupy Wall Street protestors should get a bath and a job?  Really, Newt? Are you telling us that you, who appears to have been named after an amphibian and who has one of the slimiest pasts of any candidate, ever, has never been in a tough spot, never in need of sympathy?  Pull-ease.

President Obama:  A Congress without a Tea Party, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor. And a Senate without the Mr.-President-I’ve-Drawn-A-Target-On-Your-Back Mitch McConnell. (Note to Senator McConnell from St. Nick: “That would qualify as nasty, Mitchie. Looks like coal for you.  Again.”) If Obama can’t have that, he’ll settle for some cool new apps for his iPad.

John Boehner:  A membership to Hollywood Tans and stock in Kleenex.

Maybe 30 percent of the top two percent of income earners:  A chance to contribute.  Really.  Just increase out taxes and take the flippin’ dough, already. We’ll put it on a plate in lieu of cookies and reindeer food. Santa can usher it away. The debate and suspense is killing us, not to mention our portfolios.

Occupy Wall Street Protestors:  Jobs, dude. Jobs!  Until then, respect. And maybe a smidgen of Woodstock-style loving.  Where’s the loving?

Mitch McConnell:  Steroids and a year-long supply of energy drinks so that he can grow big and run for President.  The power would be awesome. Lobbyists and big-league backers would shower him with gifts and cash.  Don’t forget the cash.  There’d be so much he could fill his Kentucky home and roll around naked in it.  What better fun over the holidays?!  And then there’s Air Force One.  What about filling that baby with fresh-off-the-press bills and playing at 30,000 feet? Who needs *&%$# Santa Clause?!

The Electorate:  A government made up of representatives who work for the common good.  Jane and Joe Middle-Class dream of feeding and housing their family, maybe sending a child or two to college.  If it means working three jobs, so be it; just provide the opportunities, will ya? Oh, and they’d like to believe that lawmakers in the nation’s highest offices wouldn’t knowingly run the country into the ground while saving their own backsides and those of the super-duper rich.

Donald Trump:  Since it’s impossible to give what he really wants — a kingdom where all the Whos in Whoville worship him — a reality check is in order.  Basically, this would occur in the form of a brave soul who would break to Trump the news that he doesn’t possess the intellect, journalistic training, non-biased thinking, or, frankly, the hair to be a successful debate moderator, let alone leader of the free world.

The Electorate: The ability to immediately end terms of elected federal officials who do not compromise, who act unethically, who ignore the plight of the suffering and common-sense solutions for creating jobs and protecting consumers (Hello! Are you listening Republicans who voted down the proposal to name a consumer advocate?).  You want to this place to run like a business, certain members of Congress (you know who you are)?  Fine. Do it. Do it the way honest-to-goodness businesses do it.  Or we’ll fire your asses.

Finally, a personal wish: To my friend, Miguel, who came to America a while back, from Bolivia:  I’m sorry you have to leave.  I’m sorry that working 15-hour days, six days a week at Dunkin’ Donuts AND McDonald’s wasn’t enough.  I wish there was something I could do for you and your family.  I wish you peace and rest and good fortune.  I wish you a joyful holiday season, despite the uncertainty that awaits you.  I hope that I’ll see you here again some day.  Stay strong.  Stay amazing.  Stay hopeful.

Best to all this holiday season and best to our nation in the new year.

Taking on the Politics of Friendship

Taking a brief respite from the fire-breathing, migraine-inducing world of national politics to ponder the politics of friendships.  Politics, in the general sense, refers to a set of beliefs or principles relating to a particular theory, group, or thing, like how the Republicans supposedly stand for smaller government. (Recent attempts to legislate women’s health, voting rights, and other matters raises questions about this so-called small-government viewpoint, but this will be taken up at another time).  The term can also be more rigidly applied to activities designed to improve or elevate one’s status.  So, with such definitions in mind, why not ponder relationships?

There hasn’t been a lot of study devoted to this topic.  Some argue there isn’t even an agreed upon criteria for what constitutes a true friend.  Hard to believe, seeing as friendships have been around for eons. But it would seem, according to a few thinkers, that there are certain friendships and decisions involving friends that are more political than others.

Take, for instance, the decision of whether or not to “friend” someone on Facebook.  Political?  Not always, but it can be.  Perhaps, for instance, you can’t stand someone who has sent a friend request.  He slurps his coffee, is a jerk at professional conferences, and makes fun of the people you date.  Still, you ultimately accept the request, not because you worry he and his friends will hate you forever if you reject him, but because you believe he’d be a good business contact. A  shrewd political maneuver?  Uh-huh.  Maybe you should consider a run for office.

So, you get the idea — friendships can be measured in degrees of usefulness or degrees of love, among other variables.

One thinker who attempted to sort it all out was Aristotle. He divided friendships into three types: the friendship of utility, the friendship of pleasure, and the virtuous friendship.  Wondering how you’d categories relationships in your life.

Friendships of utility occur mostly between the elderly and between those in middle or early life.  They involve individuals who are pursuing their own advantage, or, as we like to say, their own agenda. These “friends” do not spend much time together; often, they aren’t even fond of one another.  This is a relationship based on need and usefulness and it ends when the useful quality expires.   Friendships based on pleasure, according to Aristotle, are entered into mostly by the young, whose tastes change as often as the wind changes direction.  Fleeting romantic or erotic relationships fall into this category as do all friendships of the moment.  People who pursue friendships of pleasure seek gratification in the moment and are not concerned with building a lasting relationship. Finally, friendships based on virtue are the most authentic (and least political) type.  These, Aristotle wrote, are based on goodness.  Each party desires goodness for his friend and each loves the other for what he is. Aristotle maintained that such friendships last for as long as both individuals remain good. This is the most lasting and permanent type of friendship, for obvious reasons.

So where do you and your friends fall?



Rational Minds in Politics? It’s Possible

Call me crazy, but I think rational minds can prevail.  I think the only way around political  gamesmanship and absurdities is real talk, about real issues, by adults who put country ahead of party.

Occasionally, this actually happens, such as when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow met with the Republican Party’s Meghan McCain at the recent NRA Convention in Pittsburgh. Yes, a liberal and a conservative, under the same roof.  Surrounded by weaponry.  Yet both emerged unscathed.

Both women agreed that there isn’t a big difference in their thinking on some issues.  For instance, they both see little need for semi-assault rifles or extended magazines, such as the one that led to so much blood shed during the shootings, earlier this year, of an Arizona congresswoman and her constituents.

Perhaps if more straight-forward discussions were to take place, the federal ban on assault rifles that expired in 2004 could be re-instated.  And more lives would be spared.  Imagine that?

But sometimes rational minds don’t seem to be the ones that grab the spotlight.  Take Glenn Beck’s thrashing of Meghan McCain for her role in a skin-cancer public service announcement.  McCain’s face and bare shoulders are visible in the spot, which is called “Naked” because the thought is that people who go outside without applying sunscreen might as well be naked.  Both of McCain’s parents have had skin cancer.

Beck made fun of the advertisement and of McCain’s weight, saying his stomach was upset and making vomiting noises when discussing the PSA on his radio show this week.  Intelligent talk?  Adult behavior?  A way to affect real progress and meaningful change? You decide. (Oh, and Glenn?  Trying to remember the last time someone described you as “svelte”).

Finally, there’s the reaction to President Obama’s announcement about the killing of Osama bin Laden.  You’d think Republicans have a short-term memory problem by the way they are harping on the President for saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of his Sunday-night announcement or for giving a single interview to CBS’s “60 Minutes.”  Fox News is grousing about a victory tour.

Uh…guys?  Seriously?  Do you remember President Bush and his White House’s “Mission Accomplished” banner draped across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003, declaring an end to the war in Iraq?  Remember the flight suit that Bush wore to land on the aircraft carrier?  Remember the pomp and circumstance?  Remember the John-Kerry-can’t-keep-America-safe re-election scare tactics? Remember the fact that the war wasn’t really over?

President Obama made a tough call.  Luckily, it resulted in the elimination of the leading terrorist figure on the planet.  Can’t we just take a deep breath and, I don’t know, maybe allow ourselves to think of all of the families who were and will always be deeply and personally affected  by the tragedy of September 11th?  Can’t we be real, rational, caring, hopeful adults?  Just for a little while?


Trump the Bully Runs His Mouth, Not Country

Perhaps I should be writing about President Obama’s announcement regarding the deadly raid on Osama bin Laden, and his glowing praise of the countless men and women in our military and special investigative units who, over the past decade, have played a role in this victory.

Instead, I’m (reluctantly) focusing on bonehead billionaire Donald Trump, who loves himself more than life and who said he indeed plans to seek the office of President of the United States, although he hasn’t made a formal announcement.

Imagine the Donald delivering the news that Obama made regarding bin Laden.  It probably would have gone something like this:  “I’m so proud of myself for what has been accomplished.  I’m the first person who has done anything meaningful in the war on terror. No one else has been able to achieve this.”

Of course, he’d be spitting into the microphone and stabbing his finger in the air, his trade-mark comb-over flapping in the wind.

I mean, can’t you hear it?  The ego?  The gloating?  The glorifying of self?

Do I have a problem with the Donald running?

Nope.  Entirely his right….um….as long as he was born in the country and agrees to release his tax documents.  (Okay, and hire a stylist).

Do I think he’d make a good President?

Get real.

A good bully?  Absolutely.  (And yes, I realize the phrase “good bully” is oxymoronic).

Bullying is the Donald’s M.O.  Catch him using the F-word in a speech in Las Vegas. Listen to him muse about bossing China on business issues and the Middle East on oil prices, while saying little of substance about actual foreign policy and trade matters.

Witness him demanding the President’s long-form birth certificate — and when that’s produced — refusing to review it, then going on to question Obama’s stellar Ivy League academic record, without presenting a shred of evidence.  Instead, he gossips, pulling figures from his orifices or saying he read something in the press, but never once citing a source.  He is as slimy as a fish in the East River.

Finally, watch the Donald during an interview.  It’s a slap fest, with the Bully, i.e. the Trumpinator, interrupting and blaring, “Excuse me, excuse me” until he drowns out the interviewer.  Surprised his Aqua Net doesn’t collapse under all his self-generated hot air.

If the Donald can’t be in control, he can’t deal.  Look at how stone-faced he was at the Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night when Obama nudged back, making Trump the butt of jokes.  The Donald sat stone-faced throughout the speech and afterwards said he was surprised by the President’s words.

He can dish it out but he can’t take it.  That’s the psychology of bullies.  They have to be the aggressors because they don’t know how to be anything else. They are too insecure to handle scrutiny or to shoulder even a watered-down version of the barbs they heave towards others. They are cowards.  Wimps. Emasculated boors.

Which makes what the Donald forced the President to do last week all that more sad.

Don’t get me wrong; it was right for President Obama to come out with his birth certificate in an attempt to silence both Trump and the Birthers. He was spot on when he said that, we, as a nation, “do not have time for this kind of silliness.” The President, as usual, was the adult in the room.  But it was sad, nonetheless, that the opinions of conspiracy theorists had to even be acknowledged.  Sad that this kind of proof hadn’t been demanded of a president in years.  But now that there’s a black man in the White House, well…some in this country can hardly think straight.

So what can the rest of us do?  The ones who believe this President is honorable and intelligent and well-meaning?  The ones who believe he is a true leader?

What are we obligated to do in the face of remarks such as Trump’s?

The same thing one does when anyone is bullying another….Stand up! Say something.  Don’t sit by as morons like Trump mouth off.  Tell people you find him and his ilk offensive.  Call a senator.  Call the Republican National Committee.  Call your neighbor.  Boycott Trump’s show, his hotels, his golf courses, his casinos.

Do something.  This kind of maliciousness and obvious lack of both intellect and compassion are not what our country needs — now or ever.

Tom Goss on DADT and Social Justice

Some humans, it seems, use their powers for good.

This is certainly the case with Tom Goss, a young musician who is using both his art and his life to affect issues of social justice.  He has coordinated a breakfast program for the homeless and most recently, with the help of Matt Alber, has written about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  The result is a music video called “Lover.”

“For months, I heard stories from service members and their partners about the reality of military life, deployment, war, and being left behind.  However, when I turned on the news these stories were continually boiled down to a political discussion of numbers, forgetting that it’s people (and their loved ones) that lie behind the numbers,” Goss says via his website.

Goss passed through Washington, D.C. recently; he has upcoming shows in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.  Check his website to see if your town or city will be a stop on his tour.  And while, you’re at it, take a listen.

The acoustic rock that Goss offers up is easy to listen to.  His lyrics are a reminder that, for the most part, people just want to live, work, and love honorably, that deep-down, we’re all pretty much the same.  If Goss delivers a political message, it’s one of hope, acceptance, and love.

As his website bio reads: “Tom’s music remains a playlist for anyone on a journey from darkness to light.”



Lessons from Wisconsin

You’ve heard that the Republican Senate in Wisconsin abruptly approved a controversial measure aimed at restricting collective bargaining for public workers.  The move took nearly everyone by surprise except those who voted. It also set off a new round of protests.

Still, there are lessons to be learned on both sides. Perhaps these are best explored by reviewing some of the questionable behaviors of the past month:

1. Fourteen senators leaving the state as a means of postponing a vote on the fate of collective bargaining. I understand why they left. They were trying to buy time, hoping to create opportunities both for amicable discussion and for negotiating more reasonable terms before taking a vote. I even sympathize; I’m just not sure it was right. Being elected to state office would imply that one is meant to conduct state business inside state borders and not jump ship — even when the majority party doesn’t seem to be playing fair.

2. The Republican senators taking a vote on the bargaining matter without giving the required 24-hour notice. Seems a tad sneaky.

3. Governor Scott Walker saying his sole reason for targeting the unions was to balance the state budget. Then, after public-sector workers readily agreed to give concessions to help ease the deficit, Walker continued pushing to slash bargaining rights, a strategy that conveyed that the deficit was never his chief concern.  The Republican agenda was. The deficit was merely a guise.

4. Walker ignoring historically large turnouts by state workers for days on end as well as polls of Wisconsin voters, which repeatedly tilted in favor of the union protestors. If you’re elected to lead the people of Wisconsin, why would you not back things up a step or two and sit down to discuss a middle- ground solution? Why would you not take the concessions offered by the workers and move forward with more fiscal responsibility and support from the entire state?

5. The blogger who, posing as billionaire David Koch, taped a phone conversation with Walker. Sure, the tape revealed some unflattering tactics on Walker’s part.  Big surprise! But why, in this age when journalism is being accused of underhanded and irresponsible tactics on a regular basis, didn’t anyone in the media question such tactics? On rare occasions, it’s been necessary for a journalist to go under cover.  This wasn’t one of them.

There was also inspiration to be drawn from the events of the past couple of weeks: For one thing, regular people proved that their voices matter.  The protesters in Wisconsin have given the nation something to think about.  They’ve raised questions, not just about the fate of unions, but about the fate of the middle class and the growing gap in this country between the very rich and the very poor.  They’ve helped us to understand that protests can be waged in a civil manner. (And, I hope they will continue to be). I also hope that citizens speak with another force in the near future — their votes.


Wanted: Bachmann Fact Checker


Too bad every elected official isn’t assigned a mandatory fact checker, say a recent college graduate with a passion for government — and truth.  Said person would accompany the official on all addresses to constituents, colleagues, and the media.  Said person would carry a buzzer a la the type used on Jeopardy.  Every time the elected official, uh, misspoke, the fact checker would hit the buzzer.

This brings us to Michele Bachmann’s would-be fact checker, who, if he has half a brain, will pack extra batteries and work with an understudy.  Otherwise, he’ll end up with either a dead buzzer or carpal tunnel syndrome by the end of his first week.

Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, showed how outrageous she can get — and how little facts matter in her world — this past weekend on Meet the Press. Moderator David Gregory gallantly attempted to keep Bachmann on task, but the Tea Party’s chief talking head had her own agenda. As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pointed out, she seemed to deliver her lines in an almost trance-like fashion.

Bachmann’s singular theme centered on a “secret” $105 billion fund “hidden” inside “Obamacare,” or, as we regular people call it, the federal healthcare legislation.  Bachmann touted the $105 billion even when Gregory moved to new topics.  Will there be a government shutdown, he asked. One hundred and five billion, answered Bachmann, with a hypnotic gaze.

In our fact-checker fantasy, the buzzer is going off so often and so loudly that no one can hear Bachmann’s mantra.  It blares when she lifts a cue card showing the $105 billion figure (which she did in the real interview).  An extra-long buzz sounds when she charges that the aforementioned funds were inserted “unbeknownst to members of Congress.” (Also done in real life).

Come on, Ms. Bachmann.  Even innocent fact checkers know that every representative is privy to every morsel of information that is written into bills under consideration. BZZZZZZ!!!!

The real shame is that some gullible viewers will believe Bachmann’s corruption charges. Sometimes it’s easier to wrap one’s mind around a hair-raising fiction than the straight-forward, mundane facts.

Rather than seeking to advance this country’s opportunities via real work, honest talk, and cooperation, Bachmann is taking the low road. She is working for herself, not Minnesotans.

You might have heard she’s considering a presidential run.  Perhaps, should she actually toss her hat into that ring, she’ll opt for the truth, or at least for the occasional fair and balanced discussion.