Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

There's a reason Limbaugh is on the radio and not TV

Rush Limbaugh: Conservative hero, misogynist, and wellspring of hate. The fact that he frequently makes derogatory comments about many women's appearance or weight is astounding. Anyone who takes this creep seriously has no place in an adult conversation.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Do Republicans know that the Post Office is in the U.S. Constitution?

Nothing against the hard-working employees of UPS and FedEx, but those private companies had a hard time making deliveries this Christmas. The U.S Post Office is a better alternative--despite the fact that Republicans have been trying to kill it.

Before anyone claims that e-mail is killing the Post Office, please get the facts. The Republican Party has actively sabotaged and obstructed the Post Office, causing about 99% of its current problems.

Our founders established the Post Office in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the Constitution because they knew that communication between citizens enhances the public good and shouldn't be exploited for private profit. Once again, Republicans have ignored the lessons of our founders.


Monday, December 23, 2013

What if?

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, "Hell is other people." Today's right-wingers all too often show us that "Hell is willfully ignorant people."


Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's a Wonderful, Liberal Life!

Henry Potter put profits above people. George Bailey put people above profits. If Potter were a real person alive today, he'd watch Fox News, donate to right-wing organizations, and vote a straight Republican ticket. America loves this movie because, at our core, we are a nation that embraces liberal values.


Friday, December 13, 2013's "Lie of the Year" is "half true" ... PolitiFact, you're fired! just lost all credibility when they named President Obama's "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" as their "lie of the year."

First, PolitiFact actually rated Obama's statement "half true." They named their "lie of the year" based only on an online poll, not on the actual analysis of the statement.

All of the other choices in the poll, mostly outright lies by Republicans, were rated "false" or "pants on Fire." Why is a "half true" statement even one of the possible choices for "lie of the year"? How does a reputable fact-checking organization let an online poll determine its "lie of the year" instead of actual analysis of the statement? How can a statement be the "lie of the year" when it's "half true"?

Second, less than 2% of insured people had their policies cancelled by their insurance company.

Third, most of the cancelled policies were junk policies with little coverage and high costs that were sold after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the insurance companies knew they wouldn't meet the legal minimum requirements for acceptable policies that kicked in this year.

Fourth, most of the reports of people angry about their policies being cancelled were lies from the right or sloppy journalism. The people whose policies were cancelled could usually get better policies at less cost under the Affordable Care Act.

Fifth, if people already had purchased those junk policies before the Affordable Care Act was passed, they could keep them--just as the president said.

Here are just a few of the much bigger right-wing lies about health-care reform that PolitiFact had to choose from:

- Obamacare exempts Muslims. (pants on fire)
- Obamacare exempts members of Congress. (false)
- Obamacare will question your sex life. (pants on fire)
- Obamacare means forced home inspections by government agents. (pants on fire)
- Doctors who went to American medical schools won't accept Obamacare. (pants on fire)
- The IRS will administer Obamacare, know all your personal information, and deny health care to conservatives. (pants on fire)

Earlier this year, a study of PolitiFact's findings showed that Republicans lie far more often than Democrats.

Yet PolitiFact let an online poll choose Obama's statement, which was an exaggeration at worst, as the "lie of the year."  PolitiFact's ridiculous selection of the president's statement as "lie of the year" simply gives credibility to a Republican Party that bases much of its politics and policies on dishonesty.

We desperately need fact-checkers in our world of dishonest public figures and sloppy journalists, so when a big-name fact-checker such as PolitiFact gets its "lie of the year" so wrong, it damages public discourse in countless ways. In the words of Rachel Maddow, "PolitiFact, you're fired."


Update: Adding further embarrassment to PolitiFact's lie of the year for 2013 is the fact that PolitiFact could have check its own rulings to see President Obama's overall honesty.  

All politicians, pundits, and activists stretch the truth to some extent. But President Obama has been remarkably honest, according to PolitiFact itself.

PoltiFact has checked the president 500 times over his career, more than twice as often as any other politician, and he has been rated "half true," "mostly true" or "true" 73% of the time, a far higher percentage than most other politicians or media figures.

Anyone who thinks the president is some kind of pathological liar is misinformed.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

An Optimistic Look at 2013

I recently told a friend that I planned to write about the good news of 2013, and he asked, "Was there any?" Actually … yes.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a liberal. But sometimes I have to help define "liberal" in the wake of decades-long right-wing attacks on the term. Liberalism is optimistic at its core, which is at odds with current political pessimism. But liberals see the good in people and the potential for good government as "we the people." Yes, we see the reality that not everything in the world is wonderful, but we don't ignore the positive.

And 2013 saw far more positives than the typical news reports would lead us to believe.

Topping the year's list of good news is Obamacare. Yes, that's correct. Obamacare is good news! The over-criticized website is vastly improved after only two months. Consumer Reports calls it "terrific." The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the law has already saved hundreds of billions of dollars more than originally predicted. And, best of all, the insurance exchanges are helping Americans all over the nation get affordable coverage.

In blue states that cooperated with the new law by setting up state exchanges and accepting the federally funded Medicaid expansion, Obamcare has thrived. Even in red state Kentucky, where the governor is a Democrat, the law is a big success. Hundreds of thousands of uninsured people nationwide have already signed up for insurance, and millions more will follow.

Now that people are actually getting insurance through Obamacare, Republicans in Congress might finally abandon their nonsensical fake-repeal efforts. It's one thing to vote nearly four dozen times for symbolic repeal, but it's completely different to try to take actual health insurance away from people who vote.

Can you imagine the positive impact if Republicans had helped instead of obstructed, and if the media had done its job? Initial reports about the people being hurt by Obamacare were a combination of sloppy journalism and right-wing propaganda. The thousands of Obamacare "good news" stories hardly get covered because they don't fit the narrative that "If it bleeds, it leads." Attacks generate ratings far better than reporting that a government program is actually helping people.

The good news is that the attacks were debunked within days. The people wailing about losing their coverage got better policies for less money through Obamacare. In the reality where human being actually live outside the 24-hour news cycle, the vast majority of Americans will pay less or be unaffected under Obamacare. Only 1-3% of Americans might have to pay more--while getting far better coverage than the junk policies they had before. Unfortunately, the media counts on people remembering the attacks and ignoring the corrections.

The law has actually been providing good news for several years now, curbing insurance company abuses with common-sense regulations, such as 80% of premiums go toward actual heath care, not being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and women not being discriminated against or forced to pay more for insurance. Basic regulations might not be as gripping a headline as made-up death panels, but they're fantastic victories for everyday citizens trying to navigate the David and Goliath world of health care.

Despite the negative media narrative, the public is actually optimistic about Obamacare. A recent CNN/ORC poll showed that 54% of Americans favored the law or wanted it to do more, while only 40% opposed it. More good news about the start-up of Obamacare is that people are again discussing single-payer reform, something that has a far better chance to become a reality in the foreseeable future because of Obamacare's 2013 advances.

There's other good news on the foreign policy front, as the nation overcame extremely difficult circumstances in Syria and Iran. The media would have us believe that President Obama lucked into the Syria deal or that the Iran deal was just an attempt to distract from initial problems with Obamacare. That's just unrealistic pessimism.

In reality, both the Syria and Iran deals resulted from long-term diplomatic efforts conducted outside media scrutiny. The president, Secretary of State John Kerry, and countless diplomats worked against deep resistance to broker groundbreaking deals and avoid the military actions so many right-wing voices have cheered.

The early benefits are heartening: Syria's chemical weapons facilities have already been destroyed, and Iran recently invited independent nuclear inspectors into their nation, outcomes even the most optimistic observers wouldn't have predicted. These are victories far more meaningful than a million bombs dropped on foreign soil.

In judicial matters, the Supreme Court made a landmark marriage-equality ruling, taking some of the sting out of the terrible Voting Rights Act decision. Several new states have followed our New England lead by legalizing same-sex marriage. The court's ruling was especially important because it should pave the way for legalization in more states. Also, federal benefits are now legally guaranteed to same-sex couples no matter where they live. Even Texas now recognizes same-sex couple military benefits, something that would have seemed impossible just a year ago.

At the voting booth, the 2013 off-off-year elections saw much good news at the state and local levels. Democrats swept statewide elections in the swing state of Virginia, defeating a slate of far-right candidates. New York elected a liberal mayor, as did Charlotte, Dayton, and Houston. New Jersey residents were confused enough to reelect Republican Chris Christie, but they resoundingly overturned Christie's earlier veto of a minimum wage increase.

In economic news, the unemployment rate just dropped to 7%, the lowest since the economic crash five year ago. The nation has had 45 straight months of private sector job growth, a start contrast to the millions of jobs lost as the economy fell like lead through pudding at the end of the Bush presidency. And the stock market seems to hit a new record high every other day.

The economy should and could have been far better this year, as it should have been in previous years. The 2013 improvements would have been far greater if Republicans had not obstructed every job-creating measure simply because they view economic improvements as a political victory for the president instead of something everyone wants and needs.

The year 2013 has been a bit like the classic question of whether the glass is half full or half empty. Republicans believe the glass once contained shining water on a hill but is now contaminated by socialist fluoridation. The tea party variety of Republican believes lazy, brown-skinned poor people, aided by their Kenyan president, are drinking all their hard-earned water. Liberals see 2013 as a glass half full. Yes, we see a layer of scum on top of the water, but that's what the 2014 elections should be all about: skimming the scum.

One aspect of being an optimist is that you must be a realist first. Yes, the reality of 2013 had many shortcomings. I won't name them here because they dominated the media's fascination with negativity. When optimists see the reality of 2013's problems, we acknowledge that bad things happened, but we go a step further and ask how we can solve those problems. Being a liberal optimist isn't about making up good things--it's about accomplishing good things.

Nelson Mandela once said, "I am fundamentally an optimist." After 27 years of unjust imprisonment, he had every reason to turn to pessimism. Being optimistic about 2013 is hard work, no doubt, considering everything that needs improvement. But liberals are optimists who never shy away from the hard work of making the world a better place.

And here's one last bit of good news: Right here in my hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, one of the most liberal places in the country but with its own stubborn pockets of old New England conservatism, our most progressive candidates swept every city council election for the first time in years. If that's not reason to celebrate, I don't know what is.


John Sheirer is the author of the book Tales of a Real AmericanLiberal and an administrator of the popular Facebook page by the same name. His new book is Libby Speaks: The Wit and Wisdom of the World's Wisest Dog. He can be found at

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Click here for some help with the "crazy uncle" discussions at your Thanksgiving table.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Boehner Gets Obamacare!

For years, Republicans kept asking, "If Obamacare is so great, how come Congress exempted themselves from it?"

Like so many other Republican claims about the Affordable Care Act, that's an outright lie. The Speaker of the House, who tried to repeal the law more than 40 times, just signed up for it. The sign-up process took him less than a day.

Whenever Republicans talk about Obamacare, there's a very good chance they're lying. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Joe Biden (one day late)!

Happy birthday, Joe Biden!

Remember his "chocolate" bullets letter? Classic Biden.

Dear Vice President Biden,
I have a great idea to help make the country safer, better and the best. I think guns should shoot out chocolate bullets. The no one will get killed and on one will be sad.

Dear Myles,
I and sorry it took me so long to respond to your letter. I really like your idea. If we had guns that shot chocolate, not only would our country be safer, it would be happier. People love chocolate.
You are a good boy,
Joe Biden


Friday, November 15, 2013

Comparing MSNBC and Fox News is like comparing apples to rotten apples.

Republicans love to say that MSNBC is left-wing and Fox News is right-wing, as if the two are equally biased.

There's a technical term for that kind of comparison: bullsh*t.

MSNBC is a news network with left-leaning, reality-based opinion shows in the evening. Fox News is Republican propaganda. Anyone who doesn't understand the difference is accepting the big lie that allows Fox News to tell hundreds of smaller lies every day.

Check out a prime example where a Fox News talking head forgets that their bias is supposed to be sort of a secret.,, and all debunk Fox News lies on a daily basis.

For a detailed examination of the Fox News propaganda business model, check out the book The Fox Effect.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When Fringe Becomes Mainstream

Two guys recently set up posters on a local street corner showing President Obama with a Hitler moustache. They yelled at passing cars that President Obama was a foreign, Nazi, mass-murdering terrorist who should be impeached and sent to prison. Between shouts, they pushed flyers at glaring pedestrians.

I walked up and politely asked what evidence they had for their claims. "It's all in here," one guy said, shoving a flyer toward me.

"I'm asking you as one human being to another," I replied. "When did the president commit mass murder?"

I looked into his face until he finally made eye-contact. He couldn't answer my question--literally couldn't answer. Both guys actually stopped talking and looked embarrassed, suddenly more interested in studying the sidewalk than talking with me.

Because I didn't know the next time I'd be face-to-face with people voicing such ridiculous views, I asked some simple follow-up questions: "Where did you get your information? Do you know that I found five factual errors in just a ten-second skim of your flyer? Who's paying you to be here? Are you trained to ignore people who ask reasonable questions? Do you really believe this stuff, or is this just performance art?"

But they turned their backs and resumed yelling their nonsense with slightly less gusto. Either they were ashamed of what they were saying or they were ashamed of their inability to defend their accusations.

Our nation is full of people who inhabit the fringe of public opinion. Unfortunately, many aren't limited to yelling on street corners. Radio host Alex Jones rants about the Aurora and Newtown shootings being "false flags" staged by the government. Glenn Beck spins tales of impending government concentration camps. Rush Limbaugh--well, everything he says is a farcical froth of belligerent misinformation.

Lunacy exists, and I suppose it always has. When I was a kid, some crackpots claimed that Blacks and Jews would come from the city to our farms and imprison or kill us. Back then, though, most of those people didn't have powerful microphones. They just whispered their crazy theories in church basements to people too polite to tell them to screw off.

Unfortunately, there's not much difference between the street-corner guys yelling about Obama and many "mainstream" Republicans these days. More and more, they sound like church-basement whisperers of my youth. Prominent Republicans make frequent guest appearances for Jones, Beck, and Limbaugh as if they're on the nightly news and not legitimizing unhinged ignorance.

Many current Republican positions are so absurd that no one should take them seriously. Tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down to the middle class. Poor people are lazy. More guns leads to fewer gun crimes. Government is evil. Smaller government is always better--unless you're gay or pregnant, in which case government must be big enough to invade your most private places.

And then there's the litany of lies about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. One after another--from death panels to socialism to the IRS carting us off to jail--these lies all get debunked. That doesn't stop Republicans from repeating them and creating more.

Republican representative Joe Barton said in a Congressional hearing that a secret message in the Obamacare website strips Americans of their medical privacy. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who once said Republicans should stop being "the stupid party," recently told six lies about Obamacare in less than a minute on national television. In his defense, he never claimed that Republicans shouldn't be "the lying party."

Republican are now led by far-right reality deniers like shutdown champion Ted Cruz and serial-plagiarist Rand Paul. They spread their lies on propaganda-enabling Fox News and are rarely challenged by sloppy journalists in the mainstream corporate media. Long-time conservatives get primaried out of office by Tea Party neo-confederates who campaign on birther jokes and gun conspiracies. Twenty-seven Senate Republicans recently voted to condemn their two-week-old votes to avoid a debt default, denouncing even their own temporary sanity.

Some of my Republican friends on Facebook post charts to prove that Obama caused the recession in 2008. When I point out that Obama took office in 2009, they reply, "spoken like a true liberal," as if they've made a winning persuasive point. They use "liberal" as a safe word to make me stop hurting them with sadistic facts. Then they tell me that God will punish me, but their cringe-worthy spelling would make any higher power blush.

Some Republicans compare liberals to Saul Alinsky (repeating a name they probably don't know but have heard their right-wing media role models use), or they just accuse us of being crazy or dishonest when we cite facts. I generally ask them to look up "projection" in a dictionary of psychological terms. As my father once said, "Some people should flush the B.S. in their own toilet before they start sniffing around their neighbor's bathroom."

We live in a free country where we can all voice our views--but freedom requires responsibility. The jerks with the Obama-as-Hitler poster couldn't answer basic questions. Members of Congress blather about secret computer codes. Facebook friends post obvious falsehoods and flail against facts. 

When people abuse freedom of speech with ignorance and outright lies, they just look like fools. Our country deserves better.

Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.


Seriously, gun people?