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Breakfast of Champions.



Responsibility in America is fading, and Glenn Beck’s cries of Nazism and fascism have nothing to do with the real thing, nor are they making America — or her people — better.


Kurt Vonnegut died three years ago yesterday. In 1973, when I was but eleven, he published “Breakfast of Champions.” It is, as Vonnegut wrote, “a tale of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.” It overwhelmed The New York Times. In “Is Kurt Vonnegut Kidding Us?,” the Times wrote,

“He makes pornography seem like any old plumbing, violence like lovemaking, innocence like evil, and guilt like child’s play.

“Mr. Vonnegut takes care of most of what is absurd and downright evil in American civilization–everything from Vietnam to sex, from war to massage parlors.”

The Times said Vonnegut “skewer[ed] everything that is absurd and evil in the rest of civilization–from Nazis to paranoia, from genocide to people bogged down in their various bad chemistries.”

It became one of his all-time best-selling books.

But in a sense, neither “Breakfast of Champions,” nor Vonnegut, have much of anything to do with this piece, except they told tales of “everything that is absurd and evil in the rest of civilization…” So, actually, in a sense, they have everything to do with this piece.

Yesterday deserves to not be forgotten. And then there’s that “those who forget the past…” cliché, too.


There was a war of cognitive dissonance in my head Saturday night. I was home watching Stanley Kramer’s Oscar-winning 1961 drama, “Judgment At Nuremberg” on TCM. My boyfriend sent me a text, saying, “Glenn Beck is being utterly ridiculous on Fox!” And then, “I highly suggest you watch. He’s convincing students why liberals are bad.”

So there I was. Switching back and forth between, “Judgment At Nuremberg” and “Glenn Beck.” Consider the irony. A show about the evils of Nazis and fascism, and a show about the evils of, well, “Nazis” and “fascism.”

Judgment At Nuremberg” should be required viewing for every student, certainly the ones Beck was brain-washing, but really, every American. There are several themes repeated throughout the film: “Everyone was doing it, we had no choice,” “We did not know,” “No one will take responsibility,” and “Everyone is to blame, so no one is.”

There are many parallels between Stanley Kramer’s work of fiction based on fact, and Glenn Beck’s work of fiction based on fact. And there is this one compelling difference: Kramer may have worked in the entertainment industry, but he was trying to teach America a truthful and honest lesson. Beck (the $32 million-dollar man,) admits he is an entertainer, and Beck has never taught anyone in America anything about truth or honesty.

(Don’t believe me? Let’s put Beck’s work to the truth meter. Actually, the “Poltifact Truth-O-Meter.” Of the fourteen statements non-partisan Politifact fact-checked, only one was rated “true.” The rest were rated varying degrees of “false,” up to and including two rated “Pants on Fire.”)

It’s no coincidence “Judgment At Nuremberg” was on Saturday night. Sunday was National Holocaust Remembrance Day. Civil rights activist and author David Mixner had a few words to say yesterday:

Nor should we forget that our country was among those that turned a number of Jewish refugees away from our shores and sent them back to Europe to face certain death. Or the fact that we were aware of the camps and did nothing to stop them from being built and becoming factories of death. That our military opposed diverting resources from the war for bombing the rail lines leading to the camps. Of course, one of the great moral dilemmas of the war was the debate about the morality of bombing the camps themselves, killing those inside, in an effort to save other lives. In our remembrance of this dark horror, we should always examine the key question that is posed in the United States Holocaust Museum, “What did we know and when did we know it?”

“What did we know and when did we know it?” It sounds like the questions asked during Watergate. And after we realized there were no W.M.D.s in Iraq.

The New York Times’ Frank Rich on Sunday, in “No One Is to Blame for Anything,” was asking the same question, and coming up with the same answers we heard in “Judgment At Nuremberg.” “Everyone was doing it, we had no choice,” “We did not know,” “No one will take responsibility,” and “Everyone is to blame, so no one is.”

Rich takes on the big banks, Alan Greenspan, the Vatican, (as Maureen Dowd did,) Tiger Woods, the Bush administration, and, to a degree, Barack Obama.

“I was right 70 percent of the time, but I was wrong 30 percent of the time,” said Alan Greenspan as he testified last week on Capitol Hill. Greenspan — a k a the Oracle during his 18-year-plus tenure as Fed chairman — could not have more vividly illustrated how and why geniuses of his stature were out to lunch while Wall Street imploded.”

“As he has previously said in defending his inability to spot the colossal bubble, “Everybody missed it — academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators.”

(But as I have said before, “No one could have predicted” is always false. Someone reputable, always, already has.)

Rich writes,

“Such is our current state of national fecklessness that the gold medal for prompt contrition by anyone on the public stage belongs, by default, to David Letterman.”

He continues:

“Former Bush propagandists will never lack for work in this climate. It’s remarkable how often apologists for Wall Street’s self-inflicted calamity mirror the apologists for Washington’s self-inflicted calamity of Iraq. In the case of that catastrophic war, its perpetrators and enablers almost always give the same alibi: “Everyone” was misled by the same “bad intelligence” about Saddam Hussein’s W.M.D. Hence, no one is to blame and no one could have prevented the rush to war.

“That, of course, is no more true than Greenspan’s claim that “everyone” was ignorant of the potentially catastrophic dangers in the securitization of subprime mortgages.”

“No top player in the Bush administration has taken responsibility for his or her role in selling faulty intelligence products without exerting proper due diligence. There have been few unequivocal mea culpas from those who failed in their oversight roles during the housing bubble either — whether Greenspan, the Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson or Timothy Geithner in his pre-Obama incarnation leading the New York Fed.”


Rich chose the Titanic as a metaphor for his piece, but he got the “why” wrong.

“If the captain of the Titanic followed the Greenspan model, he could claim he was on course at least 70 percent of the time too.”

The problem the Titanic had wasn’t that they were off course. They were on course. The problem was that they weren’t reading to the messages people were sending them. Same as Greenspan and the big banks. And Bush.

Rich should have used “Judgment At Nuremberg.” For many reasons, including that the Vatican plays a role in both yesterday’s and today’s atrocities. (And lest anyone accuse me of equating the Holocaust with the problems of today, let me firmly, and unlike the Vatican, answer that in no way am I.)


Rich reminds us of Obama’s Inaugural call for “a new era of responsibility.”

But responsibility is a word no one likes. It’s a word no one wants to understand. Ironically, it’s the very lack of responsibility that has led us to this disaster we call America in the twenty-first century.

I look around and all I see and hear these days is an appalling lack of responsibility. Glenn Beck’s irresponsible lies. The banking and insurance industry’s profit over people problem that has thrown this country and its people into devastation. Politicians’ greed and corruption. The past few weeks, the past few months, hell — the past decade is strewn with a total lack of accountability or responsibility.

But it’s that appalling lack of responsibility that comes in large part because we had a president who did things like tell us to go shopping after 9/11. Because we have a Church, as Maureen Dowd wrote yesterday, and as the Pope wrote decades before, that is more concerned with the “good of the universal church” than the children it should have protected. Because we have politicians who lie and cheat on their spouses and vote in the interests of corporations instead of constituents. And because we have a Supreme Court that just made that even easier.

No one, it seems, wants to act responsibly or be responsible. No one, it seems, wants to do the right thing.

Too few are willing to play by the rules. Too few are willing to take a stand. Too few are willing to open their eyes, dig for the truth, and realize that they have a responsibility that extends beyond their nose, beyond their front door, beyond their own self-interest.

Yes, perhaps I’m talking about the Republicans. But I’m also talking about the Democrats who are waiting — stalling — (until after the November elections?) to take on repealing DADT, dragging their feet on ENDA and the UAFA. Forget about even talking about repealing DOMA.

But it doesn’t end there. I’m also talking about you and me. I’m talking about playing by the rules and about taking on more responsibility that we might think is necessary — or fair. Because someone has to.

So why should the “average man or woman” take responsibility for what’s outside their front door? Why should we follow the rules, be good role models, help our neighbors, not run red lights, not lie, not cheat on our spouses — or our taxes?

Simple. Because it’s the right thing to do.

Because we’re better than our leaders.

We have to be. There’s really little choice left.

Of “Breakfast of Champions,” The Times wrote that Vonnegut,

“…wheels out all the latest fashionable complaints about America–her racism, her gift for destroying language, her technological greed and selfishness–and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful, and lovable, all at the same time.”

It would seem yesterday’s “fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful, and lovable” complaints about America have gotten far worse, and seem far less fresh, funny, outrageous, or lovable. Just more hateful.

It’s our responsibility to cure the causes of these complaints. And it’s our responsibility to fight those who perpetuate them, like Glenn Beck.

Responsibility. It’s the Breakfast of Champions.

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Reporters Reveal Some Republicans Don’t Understand What a Default Means – and Don’t Believe the Debt Ceiling Is Real



CNN’s Jim Acosta and John Avlon compared notes on Republicans speaking on raising the debt ceiling over the weekend only to realize that the far-right members refuse to support the deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

Acosta cited an interview he conducted Saturday with Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who said he’s voted for shutdowns and would vote again this week.

After ranting about cutting spending, Acosta said, “Well, you can have the argument about cutting spending during the budget and appropriations process, but as you know, Congressman, the U.S. has never missed making payments on its bills before. In the last 45 years, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 65 times. So, again, I go back to the question: is it responsible — I understand what you’re saying about how much your daughter spends, but we’re not talking about $15. We’re talking about the American economy. Is it responsible to be the deciding vote to send the country into default?”

Burchett claimed that the country wasn’t going to be sent into default. He crafted a conspiracy that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen kept changing the date the U.S. default would happen.

“Nobody is, as the young people say, nobody has provided the receipts. Nobody has called her into Washington and said, ‘Show us the math on this,'” he said.

Yellen works at the Treasury Department, which is in Washington.

Burchett also had his own math, saying that if they cut the budget spending to the 2022 levels, the country would be in a surplus. The House passed a massive defense spending package that would have required cuts from other places.

“All they’re doin’ right now is scarin’ people,” Burchett claimed. “They’re talkin’ about cutting programs that have no need other than political cronyism, we’re tellin’ our seniors — and the Democrats will, and I get it — they’re tellin’ the seniors they’re gonna be cut. Veterans are gonna be cut. And nothing can be farther (sic) from the truth. And that’s just the reality of politics.”

The reason Democrats were citing cuts to seniors and veterans goes back to the Republican Party budget bill that required cuts to seniors and veterans. That’s because returning to the 2022 budget levels means making cuts to increases already passed by Congress.

Acosta turned back to Burchett to ask if he believed the debt ceiling wasn’t real.

“I think the debt ceiling is — it’s just a creative thing to hold us into responsible — into check,” said Burchett.

Avlon cited Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who claimed he refused to sign a bill that would bankrupt the economy.

“Well, hold it right there,” said Avlon. “I mean, if you let the country default on its debt, that’s functionally the same thing.”

An annoyed Avlon was frustrated the process was even something allowed to happen.

“It’s a fact, Congress has to control the pursestrings. So, frankly, someone should figure out the 14th Amendment side of this because I think this is not the way we’re supposed to play ball, the greatest nation in the world constantly every couple of years when there’s a Democratic president flirting with defaulting on our debt because it’s fiscal policy by extortion,” said Avlon. “This is a win to the extent that we came up to a bipartisan agreement, but this is not the way the greatest nation in the world should conduct its fiscal policy. It’s ridiculous. And it didn’t happen when Donald Trump was president because Democrats worked with Republicans to ensure the debt ceiling was raised three times.”

See the discussion below or at the link here.

Image: GOP Rep. Tim Burchett


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‘Start the Kevin McCarthy Death-Clock’ After Biden Wins Debt Ceiling Battle: Rick Wilson



Appearing late Saturday night on MSNBC after it was announced that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had reached an agreement “in principle’ on a budget deal, former GOP strategist Rick Wilson claimed this could be the beginning of the end for McCathy’s speakership.

Sitting in on a panel with guest host Michael Steele, Wilson suggested that McCarthy’s decision to compromise with the president to avoid a default that would spin the economy into chaos will not go over well with far-right members of his House caucus who could make a motion to “vacate the chair” to express their displeasure.

Asked by host Steel about what comes next, Wilson stated it was a win for the White House which will not make conservatives happy.

RELATED: ‘Crazy cuckoo MAGA people’ could sink debt ceiling deal: Dem strategist

“Great night for Joe Biden, great night for the White House even though I think their messaging has been kind of tentative the past few weeks” the Lincoln Project founder began. “I think though we are now going to start the Kevin McCarthy death-clock. He has certainly got a very angry part of his caucus tonight who probably burning up his phone no matter how good it is for the country not to default.”

“It’s not going to please the chaos caucus in the GOP,” he added.

Watch below or at the link:


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Debt Ceiling: McCarthy Faces ‘Lingering Anger’ and a Possible Revolt as Far-Right House Members Start Issuing Threats



As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continues to negotiate a deal to avoid a debt crisis, members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are growing furious with him over broken promises he made to them.

According to MSNBC political analyst Steve Benen, with a slim GOP majority in the House, McCarthy is walking a tightrope to get a budget deal passed and may need help from House Democrats if members of his caucus refuse to go along with him.

As Benen points out, in order to win the speakership McCarthy agreed to an easier path for a motion to “vacate the chair” which could end his tenure as Speaker. That could come into play if the Freedom Caucus stages a revolt.

“… as the negotiations approach an apparent finish line, the House Republicans’ most radical faction is learning that it isn’t likely to get everything its members demanded — and for the Freedom Caucus, that’s not going to work,” he wrote in his MSNBC column.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump in danger of heightened espionage charges after bombshell report: legal expert

Citing a Washington Times report that stated, “[Freedom Caucus members] want everything from the debt limit bill passed by the House last month plus several new concessions from the White House,” Benen suggested far-right House Republicans are now issuing veiled threats.

In an interview, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) stated, “I am going to have to go have some blunt conversations with my colleagues and the leadership team. I don’t like the direction they are headed.”

With Politico reporting, “The [House Freedom Caucus] was already unlikely to support a final bipartisan deal, but lingering anger with Kevin McCarthy could have lasting implications on his speakership,” Benen added, “If this is simply a matter of lingering ill-will from members who come to believe that GOP leaders ‘caved,’ the practical consequences might be limited. But let’s also not forget that McCarthy, while begging his own members for their support during his protracted fight for the speaker’s gavel, agreed to tweak the motion-to-vacate-the-chair rules, which at least in theory, would make it easier for angry House Republicans to try to oust McCarthy from his leadership position.”

Adding the caveat that he is not predicting an imminent McCarthy ouster he added, “But if the scope of the Freedom Caucus’ discontent reaches a fever pitch, a hypothetical deal clears thanks to significant Democratic support, don’t be surprised if we all start hearing the phrase ‘vacate the chair” a lot more frequently.”

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