Group Receives 'Tsunami of Vile Hate' After ABC Exposé on U.S. Military 'Jesus Rifles'

by Brad Friedman

Anti-Semitic email, threats sent to Mikey Weinstein, founder of Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Rifle sight contractor Trijicon reportedly describes group as 'not Christian'; MRFF responds with threat of possible legal action...

And what they will never tell you on Fox "News," and probably not even on CNN or MSNBC, etc., is
contained in the following three emails sent to Mikey Weinstein of the Nobel Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), following an ABC News exposé last week on the bible verses
that are encoded on the rifle scopes made by Trijicon, Inc., and used by our military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first disturbing email below is from a U.S. soldier who happens to be a Caucasian Muslim, horrified
by the dangers of having such verse referenced on military equipment used in the Middle East, particularly
in the event of capture. The soldier shares an appalling alleged account of his superior officer's description
of the weapon as the "the Fire Arm of Jesus Christ." All the better, said the officer according to the soldier,
than what they might have received, since "Uncle Sam had seen fit not to give us a 'pussy "Jewzzi"
(combination of the word 'Jew' and Israeli made weapon "Uzi").'"

That account is then followed by two very short, anti-Semitic threats sent to Weinstein in regard to the
same matter, following ABC's report. Moreover, a senior company executive is said to have described
MRFF as "not Christian" to ABC, according to a letter threatening legal action sent to the company by
the non-profit organization which counters that it's allied with thousands of Christian troops and organizations.
All three of the email missives are horrifying, though none of them are likely to receive the time of day in
the bulk of the cowardly corporate media, where the real cause and effect of the Rightwing's modern day politicized religious agenda is rarely broached in any way, shape, or form...

I should add that the horrors illustrated by these emails are likely very well known by public officials on the Right, who also abhorrently turn a blind eye to it all, in favor of the political gain it offers them.

I continue in amazement that anyone of the Jewish persuasion (which I am) in the U.S. would continue to
delude themselves about the true heart of Republicanism, simply because of claims by the GOP in support
of Israel. They may support Israel, my friends, but not for the reasons they've convinced you of. The folks behind the politicization of Christianity, and the use of Jesus Christ as a political bludgeon, hate Jews only slightly less than they hate A-rabs. That so many supporters of the GOP, due to their stand on Israel, still
either fail to see it, or simply turn a blind eye, continues to amaze me.
The two hate mails below are a fairly representative sample of a "tsunami of vile hate," as Weinstein
described it, many of which were reviewed by The BRAD BLOG, that the group has received since ABC's report. Another one of MRFF's board members, "a highly decorated former Vietnam USAF chopper
rescue pilot" with "so much shrapnel in his legs that he sets off the metal detectors at airports," according
to Weinstein's characterization, has tried to help him respond to some of the incoming emails. The board member writes of "A disconnect that any thinking person having experienced it would believe they were whisked back in time to the 12th Century in which religious ignorance reached it's peak and reigned over torture, genocide and all forms of tyranny."

"I soon found that my erudition had little effect on their extreme views," he said in regard to his attempts to answer the incoming emails politely with facts and reason. "It was like trying to enforce table manners at a crocodile feeding frenzy."

And finally, he admits defeat against the "tsunami." "Even though in the forefront of addressing religious misdoings for a number of years," he wrote, "I was still aghast, taken aback, astonished, chagrined and most
of all scared by the vehemence displayed by American Dominionists."
Read the emails...

From: [last name redacted for privacy]
Date: January 14, 2010 9:47:17 PM MST
To: Mikey Weinstein
Subject: "Spiritually Transformed Into The Fire Arm of Jesus Christ"

To: Mikey Wenstein and MRFF:

I am a U.S. Army infantry soldier with the rank of [rank withheld]. I am married with children. I am stationed
at Fort [installation name withheld]. I have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. I have been awarded medals for direct combat engagement as well as for injuries and wounds received in hand-to-hand combat.
I am a Muslim American. My family converted when I was very young. I am caucasian and have a last name
that does not sound ethnic. Therefore, few of my fellow soldiers know that I am a Muslim. My wife comes from
a Christian tradition but rarely practices or attends church. I have witnessed terrible religious persecution in
the my [number withheld] years in the Army. Most of it comes from "angry" conservative Christians in my unit chains of command and occasionally from my fellow infantry soldiers.
I am very familiar with the Trijicon ACOG gunsights and have often had them as part of my personal weapons; both my M-4 and my M-16. In my first 2 deployments I saw and experienced no incidents regarding the New Testament bible quotes that are written on the metal casing of the gun sights. Many soldiers know of them and are very confused as to why they are there and what it is supposed to mean. Everyone is worried that if they
were captured in combat that the enemy would use the bible quotes against them in captivity or some other
form of propaganda.
As an American soldier I am ashamed that those bible quotes are on our primary weapons. As a Muslim American I am horrified. As one who swore his oath to the Constitution, I am driven to fight this Christian insanity but I know if I try to do so in a visible way that I will suffer at the hands of my military superiors.
I am of low enlisted rank and can be crushed easily. I am prepared to suffer, but I am not prepared for my
wife and children to suffer. So I have reached out to MRFF because there is nowhere else safe to go to try to fight this thing of disgrace.
There are many other soldiers who feel as I do. Many are Protestant and Catholic and they fear reprisal just
as much as I do for trying to stand up to the Christian bullies in uniform who outrank us. But if you try to
fight back, you are not "asking" for trouble, YOU ARE IN TROUBLE from the start. And if you are a Muslim American, the hatred is always just below the surface and ready to explode at a moment's notice. After the
Fort Hood shootings, it was so bad, even for a low profile Muslim like me, that I had to ask MRFF for help.
Nothing in my first 2 deployments prepared me for what happened with the Trijicon ACOG gun sights during
my 3rd deployment to Afghanistan. I will never forget the day it occurred. It was morning and there was a mandatory formation of several companies. A very senior NCO was yelling at us which is not that unusual.
He asked a private what it was that he (the private) was holding in his hand and the private said it was his "weapon" several times to which the senior NCO replied "and what ELSE is it"?

Finally, the senior NCO said that the private's rifle was also something else; that because of the biblical
quote on the ACOG gunsight it had been "spiritually transformed into the Fire Arm of Jesus Christ" and that
we would be expected to kill every "haji" we could find with it. He said that if we were to run out of ammo,
then the rifle would become the "spiritually transformed club of Jesus Christ" and that we should "bust open
the head of every haji we find with it.'"He said that Uncle Sam had seen fit not to give us a "pussy 'Jewzzi' (combination of the word 'Jew' and Israeli made weapon 'Uzi') but the "fire arm of Jesus Christ" and made specific mention of the biblical quotes on our gun sights.

He said that the enemy no doubt had quotes from the Koran on their guns but that "our Lord is bigger than theirs because theirs is a fraud and an idol". As a Muslim and an American soldier I was fit to be tied but
I kept it in. There were many Afghans, both civilian and military, on base within earshot of what was being yelled at us and I can only wonder in shock what they must have thought.
This senior NCO was apparently also the head person of a conservative, crazy Christian group called the "Christian Military Fellowship" and made a big deal about the importance of joining to everyone. He told
us all that we MUST read a book called "Under Orders" in order to make it through this combat deployment
and said he had many copies for everyone. Some of my friends went and got their copies. I refused.
Finally, this senior NCO ended his yelling by warning us that if we did not "get right with Jesus" then our
rifles would not provide spiritual strength despite the bible quotes on our ACOG gunsights and that we
would be considered "spiritual cripples" to our fellow units and soldiers. He didn't say it in so many words,
but the message was clear; if anything bad happened in a combat situation, it would be the fault of anyone
who had not accepted Jesus Chris in the "right way".
I have never felt so ashamed and scared in my life. I have never hated myself so much for not speaking out.
So I thought of my wife and children and endured. Every time I looked at my rifle with that Trijicon ACOG gunsight/scope with the biblical quote from the book of John (8:12), it would make me sick. If I had tried to protest, it would have made me dead. And if I'm dead I'm of no use to my wife and children.

And here are just two of the hate emails. There are, as I said, many more...
From: Shane [last name redacted for privacy]
Date: January 18, 2010 7:13:27 PM MST
Subject: Task Force Patriot

I am amazed with the zealotry with which you attack this poor group of old veterans. I am not amazed, though, that you are a jew.

You do not fool me, I've done my research on you and your "organization". You are no better than the ACLU and are just one small part of the effort of those that would destroy this great nation from within.

I will see you in the streets.

Shane [last name redacted for privacy]

From: Curt [last name redacted for privacy]
Date: January 22, 2010 6:32:59 PM MST
To: Mikey Weinstein
Subject: Re: The American Muslim - Do Bible Verses on Rifle Scopes Represent Christianity?

You really love to see your name in print, don't you? In the name of God, get OVER yourself! This is the most caterwauling godless jews and pedophile mohammedans have done since the Knights Templar retook Jerusalem.

You're pathetic scum. Go circumcise your neck. Oh, and would that wall be the one that the Zionist jews built
in Jordon?
Drop dead,

Since ABC's report, Trijicon, which enjoys nearly $1 billion in Pentagon contracts, has announced plans
[PDF]> to remove the bible codes from the gun sights they provide to the U.S. Military in the future, and
will provide "100 modification kits to the Pentagon to enable the removal of the references that are already
on products that are currently deployed."
According to the U.S. military's "General Order Number 1," troops are supposedly prohibited from proselytizing or promoting any faith or religious practice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obviously, that order is frequently ignored. Trijicon has been a U.S. military contractor for nearly two decades.
In a response to ABC, Trijicon's Director of Sales and Marketing, Tom Munson, reportedly responded by referencing MRFF as "not Christian." The group has taken exception to that description, as explained in a
letter to the company shared with The BRAD BLOG, from an attorney whose office has been retained by MRFF. The group is now considering legal action in response to what they regard as "slander" and an attempt
to "defame the Foundation or anyone associated with it."
As noted in the legal letter from Mathis & Donheister, P.C.:
Referring to the Foundation as a group which is "not Christian" is not only inaccurate and shamelessly false,
but demonstrably contrary to fact. Approximately 96 percent of the Foundation's nearly 16,000 active duty military clients and enumerable additional supporters are in fact practicing Christians by faith. To state
otherwise not only slanders the Foundation, but also all of its clients. Further, the Foundation's largest
supporter is the California Council of Churches IMPACT, which is comprised of 5,500 Christian congregations, 21 distinct Christian denominations, and, directly and indirectly, millions of individual Christians.

In the meantime, the hate from the Right seems to be increasing by the day. The BRAD BLOG recently
shared a spate of death threats and other attacks sent to the government watchdog organization (VR) from Fox "News" readers after Fox had run an article misrepresenting VR's
campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR.]

Just days later, Matt Drudge's protege and poodle Andrew Breitbart, publisher of the far Right, Tweeted a death threat against a climate scientist. After I responded to Breitbart's
tweet with my own, daring to counter him with facts about global warming, he echoed the death threat
against me this time.

For more News From Underground, visit
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Fight now or 'kiss your country goodbye' to Exxon, Wal-Mart

By Sahil Kapur

Inaction will create 'Congressman from Wal-Mart'

WASHINGTON -- Responding to the Supreme Court's ruling Thursday to overturn corporate spending limits
in federal elections, progressive firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) immediately highlighted a series of
moves to "avoid the terrible consequences of the decision."

"If we do nothing then I think you can kiss your country goodbye," Grayson told Raw Story in an interview
just hours after the decision was announced.
"You won't have any more senators from Kansas or Oregon, you'll have senators from Cheekies and Exxon. Maybe we'll have to wear corporate logos like Nascar drivers."
Grayson said the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling -- which removes decades of campaign spending limits on corporations -- "opens the floodgates for the purchases and sale of the law."

"It allows corporations to spend all the money they want to buy and sell elected officials through the campaign process," he said. "It allows them to reward political sellouts, and it allows them to punish elected officials who actually try to do what's right for the people."
Fearing this decision before it became official, Grayson last week filed five campaign finance bills* and
a sixth one on Thursday. Grayson said the bills are important to securing the people's "right to clean government."

The bills have names like the Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act and the Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act. The first slaps a 500 percent excise tax on corporate spending on elections, and the second mandates businesses to disclose their attempts to influence elections. More details are available on the congressman's Web site:

"These bills will save us from drowning in corporate money and special interest money," Grayson said. "They should have been passed a long time ago but after the Supreme Court opened those floodgates, I think it's imperative we get these things done."
Reforming campaign finance laws has been a daunting task, as senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ) have made concerted attempts and failed.
"I'm very optimistic," Grayson said. "I discussed the bills with the leadership when I filed them, which was a week ago in the case of the first five."
"The bills are short and readable, which frankly is pretty unusual these days," he said. "The longest one is four pages long and there are six of them."
Grayson has created the Web site to gather petitions in support of his bills. On Friday at 8:30 AM EST there were nearly 40,000 signatories.
'Worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case'

The first-term congressman from Florida had an ominous view of the consequences of embracing the decision.

"Anytime Exxon feels like it, Exxon can go and claim one of the 435 Congressional districts in this country, and drop $100 million in cash to pay for ads to knock off anybody they don't like. To them, that's an insignificant amount of money."
Grayson even likened the ruling to the 1857 pro-slavery Dred Scott case, arguing the two are "bad for pretty much the same reasons."
"We now today have a Supreme Court decision that essentially says only corporations have Constitutional rights," he said. "The rights of the rest of us to clean government is somehow overlooked by the Founders, according to this Supreme Court."
The decision supports "this bizarre conception that the Constitution is for the benefit of the powerful, and nobody else," he added.
Grayson's critique echoes the viewpoints of many others who believed campaign finance laws were already too permissive to special interests before Thursday's ruling.

"I think few people would say that what we really need in America is more corporate interference in the political process," he said.
Reforming campaign finance laws will be a tricky process for Congress because both Republicans and Democrats receive weighty campaign contributions from wealthy corporations.
While few Democrats have acted in recent years to change campaign finance laws, Grayson predicted his party will now be more interested in the issue.
"This just happened, that's why you're not hearing enough," he said. "You're going to hear a lot. I'm pretty confident that these bills will draw a tremendous amount of Democratic support."
Inviting his opponents to support his effort, Grayson said: "I'm hopeful that in the end there are principled Republicans who will actually join the effort, because nobody really wants to become the congressman from Wal-Mart."
GOP 'smiling' at the decision

Never one to pull a punch from Republicans, Grayson questioned the intentions of the ruling's backers.
"In the same way that Republicans always do their best to suppress voter turnout in elections, the Republicans are doing their best here to increase the amount of corporate cash," Grayson said. "They are, in essence, a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America."

GOP elders -- including party chair Michael Steele, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- praised the verdict, hailing it as a defense of free speech.
"For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process," McConnell said. "With today's monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups."
"Freedom won today in the Supreme Court," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN).
But Republicans were not unanimous in their support -- McCain and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) criticized the outcome.
"McConnell is the head of the Senate Republicans, and he knows that a decision like this means a huge amounts of cash from special interests, which Republicans are more than happy to support," Grayson said.
"Everyone in the political process will have to knuckle under their corporate masters or face the consequences, and maybe Mitch McConnell is happy about that but I have to think that ordinary Americans are going to be pretty unhappy."
The decision was criticized by President Obama and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Feingold.
"I think most elected conservatives are already bought and paid for by special interests so this just makes it official."
His view of independent conservative voters who back the ruling?
"What conservatism seems to mean to them, when you get down to it, is simply offering comfort to the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted," Grayson said.

Tell Democrats To Grow A Pair

After one bad Senate election, most Democrats in Washington are on the verge of full-fledged retreat and everything we've fought for together hangs in the balance.

They have signaled they are open to dramatically scaling back health care reform. The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee says he might gut the financial reform bill to appease Republicans. And on top of all that, the Supreme Court just opened the floodgates of corporate cash on politics!

Retreat is exactly the wrong message for Democrats to take from recent election losses. The lesson from Massachusetts is that voters want more change -- not less. It's time for Democrats to stand up to corporate interests and fight for working families by passing healthcare reform and taking on Wall Street.

So Democracy for America members are joining with our friends at MoveOn in organizing emergency rallies nationwide on Tuesday to demand Democrats show backbone and leadership -- starting with passage of real healthcare reform.


We need a big turnout to show Democrats we're still waiting on them to deliver the change we voted for on healthcare and everything else.

Make no mistake; Democrats still have the ability to pass healthcare reform and other progressive legislation. Even after last Tuesday's election loss, Democrats still have larger majorities in Congress than Republicans ever did under George W. Bush.

All Democrats in Washington need is to show some backbone. It's up to us to demand they use it, because progressives don't retreat -- we lead.


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Tell Democrats To Grow A Pair

After one bad Senate election, most Democrats in Washington are on the verge of full-fledged retreat and everything we've fought for together hangs in the balance.

They have signaled they are open to dramatically scaling back health care reform. The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee says he might gut the financial reform bill to appease Republicans. And on top of all that, the Supreme Court just opened the floodgates of corporate cash on politics!

Retreat is exactly the wrong message for Democrats to take from recent election losses. The lesson from Massachusetts is that voters want more change -- not less. It's time for Democrats to stand up to corporate interests and fight for working families by passing healthcare reform and taking on Wall Street.

So Democracy for America members are joining with our friends at MoveOn in organizing emergency rallies nationwide on Tuesday to demand Democrats show backbone and leadership -- starting with passage of real healthcare reform.


We need a big turnout to show Democrats we're still waiting on them to deliver the change we voted for on healthcare and everything else.

Make no mistake; Democrats still have the ability to pass healthcare reform and other progressive legislation. Even after last Tuesday's election loss, Democrats still have larger majorities in Congress than Republicans ever did under George W. Bush.

All Democrats in Washington need is to show some backbone. It's up to us to demand they use it, because progressives don't retreat -- we lead.


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The Obama Record

(January 20, 2009 December 31, 2009)

Robert P. Watson, Ph.D.

Lynn University

There is a lot of misinformation circulating on talk radio, at town hall meetings, in the blogosphere, and around office water coolers about President Obama not accomplishing anything in his first year in office. It is time to set the record straight with a list of Obama's initiatives for 2009.

Ordered the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act; Bush era limits on accessibility of federal documents have been overturned

Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible
Placed limits on lobbyists' access to the White House
Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
Signed a measure strengthening registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists
Ordered that lobbyists must be removed from and are no longer permitted to serve on federal and White House advisory panels

Held many more press conferences and provided the media with far more access than his predecessor
Held more "town hall" events to inform and engage the public than previous administrations
The White House website now provides information on all economic stimulus projects and spending, along with an unprecedented amount of information on our government

Ended the Bush era practice of circumventing established FDA rules for political reasons
Ended the Bush era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results

The Obamas did not use the $100,000 authorized (to all First Families) for the refurbishment and redecoration of the White House's private living quarters; they paid for it out of their own pockets

The Obamas reused Christmas ornaments from previous White House trees rather than buy new ones
Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000)
Urging Congress to return to the pre-Bush practice of "Pay-Go" (whereby each dollar of spending is offset by a dollar in cuts or in revenues)

National Security
Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane (which wasn't even used in Iraq/Afghanistan) and other outdated weapons systems

Closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay
Attempting to house terrorists at a new federal "super max" facility in the US
Cut the expensive missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010
Cancelled plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic
Replacing long-range, expensive missile systems with more efficient smaller systems
Increased US Navy patrols off the Somali coast in response to pirating
Established a new cyber security office and appointed a cyber security czar
Ordered the first nation-wide comprehensive cyber threat assessment
Iraq & Afghanistan
Began the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
Authorized the use of more unmanned warplanes/drones (Predator, Reaper, etc.) in Iraq/Afghanistan
Authorized the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, which had been pending for months during the previous administration [March 2009]

Changed the US military command in the Afghan conflict
Tasked the Pentagon to reorganized US policy in Afghanistan; 30,000 additional troops are being deployed, the US is prioritizing the training of Afghan forces and civil government while developing agriculture and infrastructure, aerial bombing has been limited, etc.

Ordered the Pentagon to send additional helicopters to assist marines and special forces in Afghanistan
Increased special forces searches for, and unmanned drone strikes on, Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan
Ended the Bush era "stop-loss" policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date
Military & Veterans
Ordered that families of fallen soldiers can have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives back in the US

Ended the Bush era "blackout" imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier's family

Ended the Bush era "black out" policy on media coverage of war casualties full information is now released
Ordered better body armor to be procured for US troops
Funding new Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (needed because of susceptibility of hummers to roadside explosives)
Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel
Improving housing for military personnel
Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses
Ordered that conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other neglected military hospitals be improved
Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military (initiated by Bush but abandoned after the war in Iraq began) 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force… this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.

Ended the Bush era practice of awarding no-bid defense contracts
Improving benefits for veterans as well as VA staffing, information systems, etc.
Authorized construction for additional health centers to care for veterans
Suspended the Bush-era decision to purchase an expensive fleet of Marine One (helicopters) from foreign sources
Ordered a review of the existing "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military
Foreign Policy & International Relations
Closed the Bush era "secret detention" facilities in Eastern Europe
Ended the Bush era policy allowing "enhanced interrogation" (torture) and the US is in compliance with Geneva Convention standards

Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks (Bush withdrew from them) and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols

Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic
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Massachusetts voters head to the poll

As he battled brain cancer last year, the late Democratic senator Ted Kennedy "privately asked the governor and legislative leaders to change the succession law to guarantee that Massachusetts will not lack a Senate vote when his seat becomes vacant." The legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick (D) complied, changing the law so that Patrick could appoint an interim senator who would serve until a special election. On Aug. 20, 2009, Patrick named former Kennedy aide Paul Kirk, announcing that Kirk "will not seek the open seat in the special election coming up in January." Today, Massachusetts voters head to the polls to pick Kennedy's first elected successor. When Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Democratic primary last December, Talking Points Memo's Eric Kleefeld declared that her victory was "close to a win in the general election itself" because of Massachusetts' Democratic tilt. But in the last few weeks, Coakley's Republican opponent, State Sen. Scott Brown, has turned the race into a heated contest and drawn ahead of Coakley in the latest pre-election polls. With Brown promising to become the 41st vote needed to sustain a Republican filibuster of health care reform if he wins, the down-to-the-wire race in Massachusetts has put the future of health care reform into serious question.

THE DYNAMICS OF THE RACE: As the race has moved from an expected win for Coakley to a toss-up that leans toward Brown, pundits and politicians have offered various theories about why the race to succeed Kennedy has taken such a dramatic turn. Some Democrats are pointing fingers at Coakley for "running a sluggish campaign" that "effectively ceded to her opponent the day-to-day news coverage" until the final week of the campaign. Republicans are trying to paint the election as a referendum on President Obama's effort to reform the health care system. Though the race certainly has implications for health care, it is hard to say that the issue is the determining factor, considering Massachusetts' unique position as a state that has already overhauled its health care system in much the same way that Obama intends and the fact that some polls have found majority support in the state for Obama's plan. "Massachusetts is completely unique, because the health reform law passed a few years ago," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told the Washington Post. "It makes it an imperfect example and impossible to extrapolate." But the race is an indicator of the political environment a year into Obama's presidency. A Suffolk University poll released last week found that while 55 percent of Bay Staters have a favorable opinion of Obama, just 48 percent approve of the job he is doing. With unemployment topping 10 percent nationally and 8 percent in Massachusetts, there is a strong "'throw out the bums' mentality" in both the country and the Bay State.

OPTIONS GOING FORWARD: Facing the prospect of a Brown win tonight, Democrats have begun putting together "a plan to salvage their hard-fought health care package." "Certainly the dynamic would change depending on what happens in Massachusetts," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters yesterday. "[It's] just a question about how we would proceed. But it doesn't mean we won't have a health care bill." "The Congress will find a way to pass health care reform because they know they absolutely have to do that having gotten this far," said Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday. "There are a variety of different paths." If Brown wins, one option is for Democrats to rush to vote on a bill before he is sworn in, which Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has called the "hurry-up-and-stall strategy." Both Podesta and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have raised the possibility of using the reconciliation process in the Senate to avoid the need for amassing 60 votes to block a filibuster, which would put "health care's fortunes in the hands of the Senate parliamentarian, who could strike out key sections of bill because they aren't germane to the budget." According to the New York Times, however, White House and Democratic congressional leaders "have begun laying the groundwork to ask House Democrats to approve the Senate version of the bill and send it directly to President Obama for his signature." But that could be a difficult vote to put together in the House as "House Democrats have voiced a number of complaints with the Senate measure."

THINGS CHANGE: National conservatives are hoping that a Brown victory would boost their efforts to obstruct the progressive agenda. "If this health care reform bill doesn't pass, it is the end of the Obama agenda," added House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) yesterday. On Sunday, Fox News' Brit Hume asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) if it would be "better for the Democrats and worse for the Republicans if the bill passes or if it fails." "What's important is it would be good for the country if it failed," replied McConnell. "I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way," McConnell told Hume. "Whether it passes or whether it fails, it will be a huge issue not just in 2010 but in 2012." But if health care reform does pass -- extending coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans while reducing the deficit -- the political dynamics would likely be very different than McConnell claims. As Podesta pointed out on Meet The Press, when Massachusetts passed its universal health care legislation "a majority of the people, having watched the sausage making, were against the bill by the time it finally passed," but "today, 80 percent don't want to see it repealed. So things change."

From Think Progress

How America's Demented Politics Let the GOP Off the Hook for Their Giant Mess

By Bill Moyers and Thomas Frank, Bill Moyers Journal

Editor's note: In the following interview Bill Moyers and Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter With Kansas" and "The Wrecking Crew," talk about why conservatives can get away with blaming Obama for the past decade of conservative failures. 

Bill Moyers: There were hands in the air in Washington this week, but it wasn't a stickup. The new Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, appointed by Congress to find out how America got rolled, began hearings this week. These four are not the victims of one of the greatest bank heists in history - they're the perpetrators, bankers so sleek and crafty they got off with the loot in broad daylight, and then sweet talked the government into taxing us to pay it back. 

Watching that scene on the opening day of the hearings, it was hard enough to believe that almost a year has passed since Barack Obama raised his hand, too -- taking the oath of office to become our 44th President. Even harder to remember what America looked like before Obama, because we've also been robbed of memory, assaulted by what the Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz described as a "fantastic proliferation of mass media." We live in a time "characterized by a refusal to remember." Inconvenient facts simply disappear down the memory hole, as in George Orwell's novel, "1984." 

President Obama's made plenty of mistakes during his first year, and we've critiqued them frequently here on the JOURNAL, but hardly anyone talks any more about what happened in the years before. He inherited from George W. Bush the biggest financial debacle since the Great Depression, along with two unpopular and costly wars, and a dysfunctional and demoralized government. 

It's important to remember those years, a time that has been characterized by the historian Thomas Frank, as "A Low, Dishonest Decade." He's here to talk about them with me. Thomas Frank is editor of the recently relaunched BAFFLER magazine, a literary journal; a contributing editor of HARPER'S; a weekly columnist for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; and the author of ONE MARKET UNDER GOD, the bestselling WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? and his latest bestseller, THE WRECKING CREW, now out in paperback. Good to have you back. 

THOMAS FRANK: It's my pleasure, Bill. 

BILL MOYERS: How is it that the people who are responsible for the mess that Obama inherited are getting away with demonizing him when he's only had less than a year to clean it up. Let me show you just a sample of commentators railing against the President. 

RUSH LIMBAUGH: President Obama and the Democrats are destroying the US economy. They are purposefully doing it, I believe. 

GLENN BECKThis is a well-thought out plan to collapse the economy as we know it. 

JONATHAN HOENIGThe president has, I think if you listen to what he says, a hatred for capitalism. Where do jobs come from? They don't come from the government, they come from the profit seeking self-interest, from what I hear and see, the President never misses an opportunity to smear and [no audio] slap! 

RUSH LIMBAUGH: This guy is a coward. He does not have the gonads or the spine to even stand up and accept what he's doing! All of this is his doing. He cannot even probably say, you should like this -- you may not like this, but I'm telling you it's the best thing for you, it's the best thing for me. No! He knows it's a disaster, he has to slough this off, on his previous-- or his predecessor, the previous administration. 

SEAN HANNITYIt's his stimulus. It's his record deficit spending. He quadrupled the debt in a year. You know, how many more are the Democrats going to say, "Well, it's George Bush's fault"? This is Obama's economy now. 

BILL MOYERS: What goes through your mind as a historian when you watch that? 

THOMAS FRANK: Well, that is America for you. I mean, that is the, sort of the demented logic of our politics. Is that now-- Obama's been President for a year. And he will come before the public in the fall, you know, having to defend all of these terrible things. That's how our politics works in this country. 

BILL MOYERS: But you called it demented. I mean, you know, demented means crazy, mad. Mad and crazy enough to cause us to forget the world before Obama?

THOMAS FRANK: I'll give you an example what I mean. So, I was on a radio show the other day with a tea party leader, you know, one of these protest leaders. And he seemed like a good guy. But what he did say that struck me was he said he was really against monopoly, you know? And we're laboring under all these monopolies, all these concentrated powers here in America. And what we need to do is get back to free markets. And then we can do away with that. And it was mind-blowing. 

Because if you look back any further than the Obama Administration, since, I mean, 1980 in this country, we have been in the grip of, you know, of this pursuit of ever-purer free markets. That's what American politics has been about. That's what has delivered this, you know, the awful circumstances that we find ourselves in today. And to think that that's what's missing, that's what we need to get back to, is-- 

BILL MOYERS: That's more than nostalgia. What is that? 

THOMAS FRANK: Well, that's the disease of our time. You know, that sort of instant forgetting. 

BILL MOYERS: But what does it do to our politics when the very spokesmen for what some people have called a decade of conservative failure. I mean, remember before Obama, they turned a budget surplus into a deficit. They took us to war on fraudulent pretenses. They borrowed money to fight it. They presided over a stalemate in Afghanistan. They trashed the Constitution. They presided over the weakest economy in decades-- 

THOMAS FRANK: Not weak for everybody. 


THOMAS FRANK: Some people did really well. 

BILL MOYERS: Okay, they compiled the worst track record on jobs in decades. And they ended up with the worst stock market in decades. I mean, it was a decade of conservative failure. And yet, Obama's their villain? 

THOMAS FRANK: Think of all the crises and the disasters that you've described. And I would add to them things like the, what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And the Madoff scandal on Wall Street. And, you know, on and on and on. The Jack Abramoff scandal. The whole sordid career of Tom DeLay.

All of these things that we remember from the last decade. I mean, some of them that we're forgetting. Like who remembers all the scandals over earmarking, anymore? And who remembers all the scandals over Iraq reconstruction? All that, you know, disastrous, when we would hand it off to a private contractor to rebuild Iraq. And it would, you know, of course, it would fail. 

Those things have all sort of been dwarfed by the economic disaster and the wreckage on Wall Street. But I would say to you that all of these things that we're describing here are of a piece. And that they all flow from the same ideas. And those ideas are the sort of conservative attitude towards government. And conservative attitudes towards governance. Okay? 

BILL MOYERS: That government is a perversion. 

THOMAS FRANK: Government is-- yeah, government is a perversion. And to believe that the federal government can be operated, you know, with all of its programs, can be operated well and do things that are good for the people, is, as you say, is a perversion. 

And they look at someone like Barack Obama and it makes them seethe. Because that's, you know, that's what he's trying to do. What conservatism in this country is about is government failure. Conservatives talk about government failure all the time, constantly. And conservatives, when they're in power deliver government failure. 

BILL MOYERS: Not merely from incompetence, you say, but from ideology, from philosophy, from a view of the world. 

THOMAS FRANK: And sometimes from design. 

BILL MOYERS: From design? What do you mean? 

THOMAS FRANK: Not always from design, but often. The Department of Labor, for example, the conservatives when they in office, routinely stuff the Department of Labor full of ideological cranks. And people that don't believe in the mission. 

And the result is that it doesn't-- they don't enforce anything. Towards the very end of the Bush-era, the Department of Labor had been whittled down. It was a shell of its former self. And at the very end of the Bush Administration, one of the government accountability programs did a study of the Department of Labor. And, I'm smiling, because it's kind of amusing. It was like an old spy magazine prank. 

They made up these horrendous labor violations around the country and phoned them in as complaints to the Department of Labor to see what they would do, okay? They responded to one out of ten of these, you know, where they called in as like, "Well, we got, you know, kids working in a meat packing plant during school hours. You know, can you, you going to do anything about that?" "No." Or you look at something like the Securities and Exchange Commission. These guys are supposed to be regulating, you know, the investment banks, okay? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, that sort of thing. These guys were so under-funded, and not just under-funded, but you had people in charge of it who didn't believe in regulating Wall Street. 

BILL MOYERS: So, they made the Securities and Exchange Commission a laughing stock, if you will. They really did. 

THOMAS FRANK: Right. Well, there's these horrible stories that came out. Once Bush was out, there was a study done of the SEC, as well. These people didn't even have like their own functioning photocopiers, okay? So, we're talking about the lawyers that are supposed to be protecting us from Wall Street. And they have to go stand in line at Kinko's to do their own photocopying. And they're going up against the best paid, you know, best educated lawyers on planet Earth, who represent the investment banks. And they're supposed to be defending us. 

BILL MOYERS: The curious thing about this is that you and I and my audience knows that our ancestors believed that capitalism needed to be supervised. But when the conservatives came to power, they begin to muzzle the watchdog. 

THOMAS FRANK: Yeah. Well, or you know, do away with it altogether, de-fund it. Look, the beginning in the 1980s, President Reagan came to office and came to power, and you remember the kind of rhetoric that he used to use in denouncing the Federal workforce. He hated the Federal workforce. And this is an article of faith among conservatives. 

There's something called the pay gap that they used to talk about a lot in Washington, D.C. Which is, back in the '50s, '60s, and up into the 1970s, Federal workers were paid a comparable amount to what people in the private sector earned. Okay? So, if you're a lawyer working for the government, you got about as much as a lawyer working in the private sector. 

Not as much, because government benefits are considered to be much better. Okay. Under Reagan, you had this huge gap open up between Federal workers and the private sector. I asked around. And I found out a government attorney makes $140,000 a year on retirement. After he's been there all his life. In the private sector law firm in Washington, you'd be making $160,000 starting salary. That's first year. Right out of law school. 

BILL MOYERS: So what's the consequence of this pay gap you described? Or, do we get inferior government because of it? 

THOMAS FRANK: Absolutely. It keeps the best and the brightest out of government service, unless you're really dedicated to a cause. 

But let me go one step further with this, Bill. When I say this is done by design, I'm not exaggerating. And this is one of the more surprising things that I found when I was doing the research for "The Wrecking Crew," is that there's a whole conservative literature on why you want second-rate people in government, or third-rate. 

I found an interview with the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1928, where he said-- this quote, it's mind-boggling to me. But he really said this. "The best public servant is the worst one." Okay? You want bad people in government. You want to deliberately staff government with second-rate people. Because if you have good people in government, government will work. And then the public will learn to trust government. And then they'll hand over more power to it.

And you don't want that, of course. Your Chamber of Commerce. And I thought, when I first read this, "That's a crazy idea. I can't believe that sentiment." And then I found it repeated again and again and again. Throughout the long history of the conservative movement. This is something they believe very deeply. 

BILL MOYERS: It comes out of a definitive way of seeing things, right? 

THOMAS FRANK: Yes. And we can summarize that very briefly. That the market is the, you know, is the universal principle of human civilization. And that government is a kind of interloper, if not a, you know, criminal gang. And getting in the way. 

BILL MOYERS: But we saw with this collapse and this bailout, we saw the failure of that. 

THOMAS FRANK: Of course. 

BILL MOYERS: And yet there's no sense of contrition. What's amazing to me, and you wrote this, that the very people who brought us this decade of conservative failures, the party of Palin, Beck, Hannity, Abramoff, Rove, DeLay, Kristol, O'Reilly, just might stage a comeback. 

THOMAS FRANK: I think they might. I think there's a very strong chance of that. 

BILL MOYERS: After only 11 months out of power, because of the record. I mean-- 

THOMAS FRANK: Look, well, the stuff-- 

BILL MOYERS: --it's crazy. 

THOMAS FRANK: --the stuff we've been talking about here today. The stuff in "The Wrecking Crew," that's all forgotten. The financial crisis had that effect of-- that stuff is now off the-- down the memory hole.

BILL MOYERS: Do you really think they believe that unfettered capitalism, unregulated markets, will deliver an ideal democracy and prosperity for everybody? 

THOMAS FRANK: No, I don't. I think that they believe that, and to some degree, they're sincere in that belief. But the conservative movement in Washington, I'm not talking about grassroots voters in Kansas here. I'm talking about the conservative movement in Washington. And the whole constellation of think tanks and lobby shops and not-for-profits. And, you know, newspapers and fundraisers and all of this stuff. 

They believe this is an industry, okay? This is an industry that churns out this product. And one of the things that, I mean, it's one of the things that they're doing now is they excommunicate George W. Bush, deeply unpopular, so therefore, not a true conservative, right? So, that way they get to start over fresh. The problem with George W. Bush, the reason we're in such a deep hole is that we never went far enough. 

As Tom DeLay has said, in his newspaper column, and I'm paraphrasing here. The problem with conservatism isn't that it was tried and failed. It's that it never really got-- we never really tried it in the first place. So, what we have to do -- and I've heard, conservatives have said this. "What we have to do is go back and deregulate all the way. We have to, you know, slash government. We have to tear that thing down. That's what it's all about." 

And the amazing thing about this. This allows them to represent themselves as dissidents against the sort of established order in Washington. Even though they ran the established order for years and years and years and years. 

BILL MOYERS: Here's something else that's bizarre to me. And I wonder what you think about it, as a historian. I mean, right after the failed terrorist threat of Christmas, Obama's critics went to work scrubbing what happened when the Bush White House was out to lunch in the weeks and days leading up to 9/11. 

I mean, you know, there were terrorists sneaking into the country. There were warnings from the intelligence community about something-- an attack on an American city coming. And that's all been flushed down the memory hole. Giuliani goes on the air and says, "We didn't have any terrorist attacks when Bush was President." 

THOMAS FRANK: Yeah, and that's another-- we also forget the anthrax episode which happened right after 9/11. Look, this is not an argument that I have made. That other people have-- that all of these things need to be added to the list of government failures. And if you want to talk why does government fail? You know, there's two answers out there. 

One is the conservative answer. Government fails because that's the nature of government to fail. And if you want to look a little bit deeper, you know, why does government fail? Because government has been systematically destroyed. When we, whether you're talking about the, you know, the pay gap and making-- deliberately making government an unattractive career option. Or you're talking about outsourcing. 

This is another conservative strategy for dealing with the state. If you hate and despise government employees. And you understand them as, you know, unbelievable human wickedness, right? What do you do about them? Well, the answer's obvious. And at the same time, you believe in the market. You believe that private industry does everything better. You outsource the Federal workforce. 

BILL MOYERS: Have we reached a stage where you make things bad enough that people despair and then you manipulate their despair into-- to your own advantage in the next election? 

THOMAS FRANK: It's a cynical town, Washington, D.C. And the conservative movement tends to be deeply, deeply, deeply cynical about government. Now, it's also, I mean, deeply idealistic about the market. I mean, the market can do no wrong, almost by definition. But government they regard as a criminal gang. I mean, many, many conservatives have compared-- oh, they always do, compare government to criminals. All the time. 

Taxation is a form of theft. It's as bad as a mugger in the street saying, "Give me your money." And America is pretty much unique among the nations in that our political system, half of our political system is basically dedicated to the destruction of the government from within. I don't know any other country where that's the case. But there's plenty of countries where government works really, really well. I mean, even, for God's sake, in India, you know, which we don't think of as being an advanced industrial society, their banks didn't all go bust in the latest downturn. Now, why is that? 

Because their equivalent of the Federal Reserve was not, you know, deregulating, stopping enforcement. They weren't doing any of those things. They were keeping a very tight lid on it. Government can work. It works all the time. 

BILL MOYERS: You wrote "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Let me ask you to broaden that canvas and ask, with the answer to the question, what's the matter with America that we tolerate all of this? 

THOMAS FRANK: I think a large part of it is that-- well, it's the chronic historical forgetting, you know? We just elected Barack Obama in this-- you know, he had quite a mandate. You know, biggest majority of any President since Reagan. And now a year later, and the public is already turning on him. And that's a part of the problem. 

But, you know, another part of it is that the conservative argument about government and freedom is very compelling when they say that something like, you know, the national, you know, any proposal for a national health program is a violation of our freedom. Americans don't like to hear that their freedom is being violated. That is a hot button argument. Now, the obvious-- look, there's an obvious response that Democrats could make. Which is no, this is a way of growing our freedom. This will actually expand human freedom, not limit it. They never say that. 

BILL MOYERS: Why? So, part of the problem with America is the Democratic Party? 

THOMAS FRANK: A huge part of the problem, because look, the conservatives have for decades now made their-- the whole point of their party is to attack government, attack the state, encourage cynicism about government. And then wreck it when they're in charge, right? 

Democrats never defend the state. They never come out and say, "No, no. It's important to have, you know, government. It's important to have a Department of Labor. These are, you know, having government actually-- a good government increases your freedom. It doesn't ruin it." They never fight back consistently. 


THOMAS FRANK: I think they're-- some of them do. You've got members of Congress here and there that do. But by and large, the prominent leading Democrats in our society don't do that. Why is that? Because I think that would get them in trouble with their funders. I mean, the power of money is huge in the political system. You know, despite all the efforts that have been made over the years to get money out of politics. It's still immensely powerful. 

BILL MOYERS: The book is Thomas Frank, "The Wrecking Crew." The literary journal is "The Baffler." Congratulations on both of them. And thanks for being with me on the Journal. 

THOMAS FRANK: It was my pleasure. 


Bill Moyers is president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

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