The Fiz …a week in Oz

This week was full of high-profile fizzle, from the firing of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno to the comical debate flop of Rick Perry to Michele Bachmann’s bewildering stance on food stamps to the sexual harassment follies of Herman Cain…

The Fiz ... a week in Oz.Lionized for a career spanning more than four decades with more than four hundred wins, Joe Paterno committed himself and his team to excellence on the field and in the classroom, but nonetheless also committed crimes of cowardice.  His record of excellence will be forever marred by the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.  Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator who retired in 1999, was arrested on November 5, 2011 for sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.  In 2002 Paterno was informed by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant, that he had witnessed Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State shower facilities.  Paterno informed his superior, Athletic Director Tim Curley the following day, but did not notify law enforcement nor did he prohibit Sandusky from the Penn State football facilities thereafter.  Paterno fulfilled his legal obligations, but not his moral ones, and lost his legacy as a result when the abuse came to light.

At the Wednesday night Republican economics debate in Detroit, Rick Perry continued his streak of nationally televised brain farts.  Perry declared that he would cut three government agencies upon taking the office of president.  He named the Departments of Education and Commerce, but flailed for nearly a minute trying to remember the third.  Perry actually gave up; shrugged his shoulders; and said, “Oops.”  He acknowledged in the Saturday debate in South Carolina that his third choice is the Department of Energy.  Perry’s “Oops moment” deserves some ridicule for its absent-mindedness, but should be more noteworthy for its content.

The Departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy all play vital roles in American life, and to suggest otherwise is either dangerously naive, or politically calculated to pander to ignorance.  The Department of Education (ED) promotes equal opportunity of education for all American citizens by supplementing state efforts with federal funding, research, and analysis.  A major function of ED is providing student loans for college at affordable interest rates by cutting out the middle man, i.e. the banking industry.

Beyond developing and promoting American business initiatives both domestically and abroad (no minor task in and of itself), the Department of Commerce operates the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Census, the National Weather Service, and the Coast Guard.  That brings us to the Department of Energy (DOE), the agency in charge of national energy innovation, production, conservation, and waste management of all fuel resources, but specifically for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons for the Department of Defense.  Through its system of National Laboratories, DOE conducts more basic and applied scientific research than any other federal agency…  Serious brainpower that Perry himself is lacking.

Michele Bachmann said the following in the Saturday Republican foreign policy debate in South Carolina:

“What I would want to do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society.  [It] has not worked, and it’s put us into the modern welfare state.  If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps…  They save for their own retirement security.  They don’t have AFDC.  They don’t have the modern welfare state, and China’s growing.  And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with the Great Society, and they’d be gone.”  (

The Great Society was a 1960s Democratic social reform agenda whose primary objective was to eliminate poverty and racial injustice.  Some legislation and programs enacted by President Johnson include civil and voting rights acts, the Food Stamp Act of 1964, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Head Start, major amendments to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Endowment for the Arts, the creation of public broadcasting, the Department of Transportation, consumer protection laws, and various environmental conservation acts.  The AFDC hasn’t existed since the 1996 reform of welfare.

Michele Bachmann wants America to be more like communist China, which by the way actually DOES have programs for both social and medical insurance.  Hmmm…  Does Bachmann live in an alternate reality where she thinks communism is capitalism?  She is definitely somewhere over the rainbow…  Truly bewildering.  (

And last, but certainly not least, is our Tin Man Herman Cain, who is proving week by week that cold and heartless is a winning combination in the Republican primary field.  He first claimed ignorance, then forgot, then refuted allegations of sexual harassment lodged against him by MULTIPLE undisclosed women, two of which were settled by his former employer, the National Restaurant Association, to the tune of $45,000 and $35,000 separately.  Cain defended himself initially by disputing the trustworthiness of unnamed sources, who, bound by non-disclosure agreements, declined to publicly come forward.

Monday, however, new accuser Sharon Bialek entered the fray with renowned feminist lawyer Gloria Allred in tow.  Now Cain angrily refuses to answer questions about the sexual abuse allegations, and jokes about Anita Hill who famously accused Cain’s hero, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment in his 1991 confirmation hearings.

As if the sex abuse wasn’t enough evidence for the absence of a certain vital, blood-pumping organ, Herman Cain unabashedly admonishes the jobless to blame themselves for not being employed nor wealthy; supports the building of an electrified border fence that could kill illegal immigrants; discriminates against the followers of Islam; and callously defends his 9-9-9 tax plan as a way to broaden the tax base on the backs of the poor.

Like the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, and the Tin Man, these real people have very real character flaws.  The blunders of Paterno, Perry, Bachmann, and Cain have a very serious likelihood of derailing their Technicolor dreams.  It turns out that the Yellow Brick Road to Oz is also paved with good intentions…


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