01/24/2011 04:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Our Civil Cold War

Political horror film: Sarah Palin is put into a time machine and unleashed on John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. "How's that 'civility's not a signy of weakness' workin' out for ya', Mr. President?" In the week that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of JFK's "Ask Not" speech, the firing of Keith Olbermann and the enduring vitriol of Rush Limbaugh only serve to remind us how far backwards we continue to spiral out of control.

The JFK remembrance at the Capitol was met with the Republican spin-machine's best. The front page of news lite, USA TODAY, and the AP newswire featured well-placed stories of the the 30th Anniversary of Ronald Reagan's swearing in, rather than any play on the day of events scheduled in D.C. The same people with the power who silenced JFK and who have spent hundreds of millions trying to shut down Barack Obama make their presence felt still.

Reagan's call for the moron's morning in America, the patriotic drum-thumping puppet show ushered in by Limbaugh and his legions of Right radio reactionaries along with the fear-fanning Moral Majority put the powerful interests of big oil, big weaponry, and the corporatocracy on the road of reversing as many of the changes for equality and social justice as possible. Changes brought about by FDR and those who believed in the Great Society who came after him.

We have spent more than thirty years making more on doing less, building less, and being less than we ever were before. From Emperor's-New-Clothes investment instruments like credit default swaps to off-shoring jobs to the steroid-riddled remnants of our over-priced contests of sport, America is a shriveled shell of its post WWII self.

Long gone are the days when we were not going to engage in the speculative excesses of the 1930s, the days when we could build anything, lead the world as a better example of democracy and tolerance, and when Ted Williams didn't need a needle in his butt to take the hide off a baseball screaming into outer orbit faster than Sputnik.

You would think, after the nadir of Republican corporate empire building, ending in George W. Bush's free-market capitalist orgy, that we might revisit the words of JFK, directed at the Cold War, but so appropriate to the current Civil Cold War:

So let us begin anew - remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

This week has proved to be anything but the model of an America on track to brighter days.

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Comcast received the clearance to buy NBC from General Electric, and just days later Keith Olbermann, one of the leading voices for counter-spin of the Fox News political machine, is being shown the door at MSNBC.

NBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said the Comcast merger had nothing to do with the decision. Comcast, seeing the rising tide of rumors to that effect put out this statement early Saturday morning:

"Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties, including MSNBC," the statement said. "We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal's news operations. We have not & we will not."

Yet one has to wonder, purely from a financial standpoint why, even if Mr. Olbermann turned out to be the news diva of all time, the Network would terminate a ratings driver who collected hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition to reinstate him just a few weeks ago.

It may be that the network is using the remarks of President Obama, to make a shift in tone. Mr. Obama called out the media at the Arizona memorial service last week for those killed in the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt:

"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do," he said, "it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

The Cardinal Richelieu of the Republican radio realm, Rush Limbaugh, ignored that call this week as did his cadre of calculating compadres over at Fox News. It was a home run for Stephen Colbert to mock so artfully:

Step back for a moment and look again and LISTEN to these people. These sycophanatic simpletons are the voice of America? America has been reduced to the childish jabber of Rush Limbaugh? What level of greatness will we ever have if these people represent our best thinking?

Will we listen to the wise words of President Obama, or the empty rhetoric of John Boehner, a man whom Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi aptly referred to as "[T]he quintessential example of the kind of glad-handing, double-talking, K Street toady who has dominated the politics of both parties for decades... a five-tool insider who can lie, cheat, steal, play golf, change his mind on command and do anything else his lobbyist buddies and campaign contributors require of him to get the job done."

Kennedy's lesser-known call on Americans which came before the catchier "Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country..." is one that applies to our generations today:

Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are - but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" - a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

  • Guantanamo is open. Tyranny lives.
  • We enrich the rich, and millions remain without a job. Poverty lives.
  • We try to establish some baseline of universal health care, and the Republicans vow to extinguish it, with many of those who would be served best by that blindly cheering them on. Disease lives.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Americans work around the world at borders, and in combat, policing the world to keep the weapons plants at Lockheed Martin churning out machines of destruction. War lives.

Right now, we ask more what we can't do for our country than what we can do, because we have a media cancer that seemingly will never end.

Olbermann is out. Limbaugh lives, and the Republic is slowly dying.

My shiny two.