Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Yeah, I said it.  I haven't been writing much lately - for those who don't know, I am fighting prostate cancer that has moved to my bones.  Radiation treatment is done - chemo up next.  Needless to say, I haven't felt up to doing much but I did want to make a quick post for the holidays.  Hopefully I'll start feeling better as treatment progresses and will make more posts but in the meantime my best wishes to all this holiday season, no matter who or what you celebrate.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"We Can't Be Just Like Them" - We Might Win

I'm about to give up on my brethren on the left.  There's a disturbing subtext going around among a seeming majority of us even slightly left-of-center - fight the right but don't fight the right too hard.  After all, we don't want to be "just like them." 

Why the hell not?  In case you haven't noticed, "them" are winning again.

The conservative movement's heavy investment in media is paying off more and more while we stick to individual causes - so much so that the con take on any given issue is now the default position of most of the media.  I've essentially stopped watching cable and network TV news because of this.  Most any news show think they're balanced because they have on 2-3 conservative voices and a reporter as if a news reporter was the embodiment of liberalism.  Few actual progressives who could effectively argue against the current wave of rightwing talking points ever get TV facetime. 

If that wasn't bad enough, the media acts like the most important view of any issue is coming from the Republican Party, whether or not they are actually in power.  In a sane and truly balanced news culture, the party in power gets the most attention.  In this one, John McCain is to be found most often on "serious" news programs like "Meet the Press" and Sarah Palin is declared our national obsession.  The LOSERS of the 'o8 election are clearly the ones who matter to the mainstream media, not any of the Democrats who had won.  This has happened because, while we are signing online petitions and complaining amongst ourselves, "them" are complaining directly to media and threatening their sponsors when they see news they don't like and consider it "bias."  "Them" wins again.

The best evidence of how thoroughly the "them" has won is how Americans label themselves.  A stunning majority consider themselves to be conservatives with liberals coming in under 30%.  Look at the polling on individual issues without any labeling attached however and something interesting jumps out - most of those "conservatives" turn out to be very liberal.  Most want the tax cuts to the rich to go away, they support gays openly serving in the military, among those who say they don't like healthcare reform most of them say it's because it didn't go far enough.   And on and on....but don't you dare call them liberals.

And who, besides us brave few who understand what the term actually means and wear it as a badge of honor, would want to be a liberal anyway?  Dislike what they stand for as much as you want but the right has the image of getting it done and we liberal types look like we sure don't like what the right is doing and we'd do something about it if we'd ever get up the energy but it's just too much of a bother.  Oh, we'll yell about things among ourselves and sign a few things online but getting off our asses and computers and raising a real ruckus? 

Well, we sure hope somebody does that.  Someday. 

Besides, we'd rather spend our time going after a much safer target - our own people.  The conservatives just love it when we say how awful our leaders are be they in the House, Senate or White House.  "See?," the righties say, "(fill in the blank) is so bad and incompetent that not even the liberals like them!  Vote for us instead."  Of course, our beef with Democrats in Congress and the White House is completely different than theirs, but they don't have to mention that part - the damage is done and we look "fractured" while they look united and determined.  Then they go on to win 63 seats in the House.

Back to the "we can't be just like them" argument from the left.  There used to be a story making the rounds before progressive talk radio stations came into being about why liberal talk shows wouldn't make it.  The tale went on to say while liberals would hear something outrageous on a radio show, they'd just sadly shake their heads and drive on while a conservative would dive off the highway looking for a phone to call in and express their anger.  A story clearly pre-cell phone too but the point stands - if we show some spine and anger we'll be "just like them." 

I've discussed a few solutions to this in earlier posts and I'm far from alone in suggesting what to do next so I won't rehash them here.  I'll just wrap up by pointing out that unless we're willing to do more than bitch among ourselves and such we're going to be stuck with rightwing crazies setting the national agenda for long past the next election.  We're going to have to do what Harry Truman said to do - take the fight to them and never apologize for it - to turn things around.  We don't have to do that with falsehoods like "them" live on but do it we must.

No time like the present to get that started too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Progressives Really Need - A Cable Channel Of Our Own

After the election defeat this year, I'm reading tons of articles giving progressives advice on what to do to make a comeback.  Organize, start a movement, sign lots of online petitions, send this or that group money, teach, educate, etc. etc.  All doomed to failure if we can't get the word out beyond our own and right now, we can't.

Let's face facts here - all the left-leaning magazine articles and books in print and online aren't doing the job.  Sure, we read them, nodding our heads in agreement but the fact remains that the people who need this information aren't getting it -- in fact, they are avoiding it.  We moan and groan about Fox Noise, how the cowed-by-cons mainstream media has become not much more than a piece of the rightwing echo machine and how news channels on cable have become a parade of right-leaning radio talk shows with pictures peppered with a few actual news headlines crawling along the bottom of the TV screen.  

It's a bummer but, as Walter Cronkite used to say, that's the way it is.

What we need to combat this is to join the fray.  As radio talk show host Randi Rhodes says, nothing happens unless it happens on TV.  So let's get our asses on TV then.  My suggestion is to start a cable news channel that doesn't play at leaning left by tossing a few hours out of the broadcast day to the liberal viewpoint, get one going that actually is. 

Think of the benefits - we'd finally have a place to present our actual ideas instead of reacting to the conservative media's distortions of it.  Democrats and progressives would have a safe place where they can present their agendas without fear of being ridiculed after they go off the air.  All those news stories that we pass among ourselves could actually be seen by someone who has never heard of them and never would given our current media situation.  Less bubble boy and more about economic bubbles that are destroying our poor and middle class.

Make it splashy and entertaining too - there's no reason for any of this to be presented like a sleep-inducing lecture.  Shout about it if need be, you'd probably catch the people scanning the channels and give them some real information for once. 

We like petitions - let's start some urging people like George Soros to finance this and get it going.  George, the right is going to demonize you no matter what - you may as well give them a reason to do it.  As a foundation, I suggest naming it something that already has a sound reputation as a progressive stalwart - The Nation magazine or NationTV.  It wouldn't have to exist on donations to keep it on either:  as progressive radio stations have shown to advertisers, we liberals buy stuff too and are a market worth pursuing.  Then market the hell out of it so people will watch - no more word of mouth only.

Pass the word and let's get this going.  Our alternative is what just happened on election day - people who are voting based on unanswered myths and lies about Obama and the Democrats' agenda from the RNC and their paid or otherwise spokespeople.  The truth doesn't set anybody free if they don't know about it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What To Do About That Man In The White House

I have been a fierce supporter and defender of President Obama in the past.  I want to still do that but after the midterms it's becoming more and more difficult.  If the next two years are going to be a repeat of the last two, it'll be impossible.

What I mean by that is if Mr. Obama continues to try and reach out to Republicans (read: appease) then I'm done with him.  I defended the President to the left as a pragmatist but it appears I was wrong on that.  The President is an idealist - one who really thought he could unite the country all by himself.  Nothing wrong with that on its face but idealism has to be seasoned with reality for it to work.

The reality is that turning one's cheek only works twice.  The Republicans have shown time and time again that they are only interested in regaining power and they'll obstruct any and everything to get it.  To them, it's party over country and they don't care who they hurt as long as they can stop the Democrats then blame them for not doing anything.  Repeatedly saying that no matter what you'll "strive to work with" them only encourages them.  The days of bipartisanship are over - now it's time to fire up the machine and steam roll over them.

That this should have happened well before we lost the House and a ton of state legislatures should be self-evident.  The opportunities and advances we could have made beyond the impressive number of things the Democratic Congress accomplished is breathtaking but instead we wasted time trying to make conservatives, outside of our party and within, happy and willing to work for the good of the country.

So much for that idea.

What actions Obama and the Democrats can do now has been limited but still do-able.  There's still executive orders to make more advances and the veto pen to protect what progress we have been able to make.  Given the limits, it's time to jump on the bully pulpit and cable TV and start going on the offensive.  Call the Republican claims what they are - lies.  Point out the very real differences between the nutcases on the right and the fact that all the Democrats did was what they were elected to do in 2008.

This is going to have to start at the top with real leadership from the White House.  Professor Obama is going to have to become President finally and fight. 

If he is unwilling or unable to do that, then I say it's time to look for someone else to lead the party and the nation in 2012.  Primary challenges don't always have to be divisive and split the party - in order for that not to happen Democrats are going to have to be willing to say that if a primary challenger gets Obama turned into a fighter and going the right direction but loses the challenge then its mission accomplished.  That's what happened last election in the governor's race in Oregon.  Then-Governor Kulongoski seemed to be turning right and was challenged by two primary candidates.  Gov. Ted won the primary but got the message.  He emerged a better governor and candidate and his party primary opponents unified behind him to win him a second term.

President Obama was elected on a platform of hope and change.  The change is underway, the hope is that he finds the steel in his spine to get us through the next two years with minimal damage from the Tea Party crazies the Republicans have become.  This time President Obama really does only have two years to get this done.  If he does, he'll bring back the enthusiastic base who elected him in '08 but stayed home this year to win another term.

If he doesn't, and there is no challenge in the primaries, then pay close attention to the Republican presidential primaries.  It'll show us who our next President will be.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Election Day 2010 Post Mortem - The Democrats Go Spineless Again

We sure blew that one.  According to the polls showing us where voters actually stood when it came to issues (they still don't like Republicans and their ideas), this should have been another Democratic win.  Well, if you define "win" as keeping both houses of Congress that is.  I think we Dem types understood that we'd lose some seats but we apparently were hoping against hope that we'd pull it out at the end.  Then reality hit on Tuesday.

Reason #1
Too many of us stayed home and gave away the election by default.  29 million people who voted for Obama in 2008 couldn't be bothered to go to the polls this year.  The majority of people who did manage to schedule in a few minutes at a polling booth were the Fox Noise demographic - angry old white people.  They won. Surprise!

I put this down as yet another failure to know how our government works and not being taught Civics in school.  I know that it's sexy to get out to vote for someone charismatic and intelligent on a national level and it's hard to convey that passion onto Representative Huff N. Puff and Senator Speaks Alot locally.  It's also just as obvious that the vote avoiders don't get that in order for that national leader they were so hot for two years ago to get things done he or she needs a Congress that will pass the bills to do it.  From the opinion pages of major national newspapers to news channel chat to bloggers, Obama has been blamed for things that are the fault of Congress.  And here we are.

Reason #2:
This is a major one - the communication failure of the Democrats.  That's the nice way of putting it.  I'm calling it more the failure of the Democrats to call out the myriad of Republican lies they campaigned on.  There was an article that came out shortly before the election - Eight False Things the Public "Knows" Prior to Election Day  - that summed up the myths and outright falsehoods being pushed by the Republicans before election day.  What did the Democrats do to dispell them?  Not much if anything. 

You'd think that after Gore and Kerry we'd have learned by now.  Both presidential campaigns were slandered and smeared as expected by the GOP and both seemingly took the positions that such charges were ridiculous on their faces.  They both decided that voters would see through such nonsense on their own and so there was no need to dignify those claims against them with a response.  That might have worked back in the days of three TV networks and ranters such as Limbaugh, Beck etc. were considered cranky crackpots howling at the moon.  Now the right has bought up enough airtime and cowed what used to be the reliable mainsteam news media from even hinting that what they say may not exactly be on the up-and-up so that those charges are repeated enough that voters got the idea that the Democrats couldn't respond because the charges were true.

I think you know who won that argument and who lost.  It just happened again this year.

Reason #3:
The economy, stupid.  This has and will be discussed ad nauseum so no need to repeat it here.

You may have noticed a theme here in this posting.  I'm disappointed at how the election went but if there's anyone to be angry at, it's the Democrats.  What the Republicans did in this campaign is what they always do so there's no news flash there.  What I'm angry about is that the Democrats let them get away with it.  Again.

Of course, there was a small silver lining to all of this.  What the Republicans won this year was just one House of Congress.  We still hold control of the Senate and the White House so the crazier planks of the GOP Tea Party platform won't go anywhere.  Healthcare insurance reform won't be repealed, there will be no privatization/destruction of Social Security and Medicare, the Department of Education will continue to exist, public education will not be eradicated, etc. etc. What's most likely to happen over the next two years will be gridlock and not much of anything else, legislation-wise.

Cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.  Will the Democrats get it together to make a comeback in 2012?  That remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Teabag President - A Nightmare Scenario

Imagine, if you will, that things really do go South for the Democrats and the President.  The Republicans take over the House and Senate in November, ensuring that nothing meaningful is done about the Great Recession.  The economy stays in the tank, unemployment goes up and it's all blamed on Obama.  With no real ability to answer the charges thanks to conservative media and their water carriers in the mainstream media, we reach the 2012 election.

The Tea Party, empowered by their primary victories in 2010 and successful take-over of Congress, start turning their attention to the Republican primaries.  Traditional and even mildly moderate Republican candidates are attacked as RINOs as the TPers demand that the GOP nominee be one of them.  They win again.

Thanks to the bad shape of the economy, President Obama fails to win a second term.

The new Tea Party President starts acting on their agenda.  Social Security is partially privatized, aid to the poor and the unemployed is scaled back.  All the while, the new President issues denials that any of that actually happened and it is duly reported, unchallenged. 

The Tea Party supporters start talking about the nuclear threat from "communist" Russia (which, to them, is still the USSR).  They defeat efforts to dial back the American nuclear arsenal, which keeps Russia from doing the same.  All efforts to convince them that Russia is now a democracy with no designs on the United States falls on deaf ears as they denounce it as "liberal propaganda."  Tensions rise between the two nations.  Cries for a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the Russians grow from the neo-conservatives in and out of the administration.

US-Russia tensions grow even more.

Then it happens - an accident between US and Russian submarines destroys the American sub.  All hands are lost. The TPers and neocons scream that it is an act of war and it's repeated 24/7 on their cable "news" channels and websites. War fever spreads, The President reaches for the "football"....

Too much?  Not possible?  Guess again.

We have seen time and time again how information-resistant the far right Teabaggers are but we've kept our criticisms to domestic issues and their crazy positions on them.  There's no reason to think that the craziness would stop at our borders if they were ever to actually gain real power.  I don't think it'll ever get that far but then again, George W. Bush was President for eight years too.

It's not entirely impossible though.  Keep in mind that the current polling is showing that of the probable 2012 candidates for the GOP nomination, coming in second right now is....Sarah Palin

Imagine that hand on the nuclear button then tell me that you're going to stay home this year and not vote.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Can't Debate The Far Right



I've said this before and I repeat it here:  You can't debate the far right because you have to spend all of your time correcting the falsehoods they've been fed. 

I'm old enough to remember when political discourse was based on policy and actual facts.  Liberals and conservatives used to argue actual ideas based on real information that both agreed on.  It was good for the country too - no one has a lock on the truth or good ideas and debating those ideas helped us move forward.  To paraphrase what former Senator and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern said once:  We need both conservatives and liberals in America.  We need conservatives to slow down the exuberance of liberals and liberals to speed up needed change when conservatives slow things down too much.

Those days are gone.  Conservatism has been replaced by knee-jerk reaction from the right against any and everything the liberals propose.  Absolutely nonsensical claims from the right are now the norm, bolstered and fed by rightwing hate radio and TV.  I don't need to rehash them here - you all see and hear them everyday.  The fact that most if not all of what the far right claim as truth is easily debunked matters nothing to them - tell them the truth and you get back the lie, over and over.

The right is looking more and more cult-like as the days go on as well.  There was a book named Holy Terror written in 1984 just before the Religious Right took over the Republican Party.  The authors made the point back then that some Christianity was very cult-like in that its adherents could listen and see nothing but Christian materials (news, music, television, etc.) all day, every day if they chose to.  Thanks to the explosion of cable and the internet the rightwingers can now spend their day listening to rightwing talk, visiting rightwing "news" sites and finish their day watching Fox News if they choose.  All with not a single time having to deal with real news reporting or information.

And that's exactly what they do too.

If this described just the more fervent members of the "conservative movement" there would be not as much reason for concern.  Both sides have their extremes - I've heard a version of Glenn Beck's "FEMA camps" going back as far as the days of LBJ and Nixon coming from the left who breathlessly assured me that both Presidents were secretly building concentration camps for anti-war demonstrators.  My response then as now to such madness was to nod, smile and back away slowly. 

The dangerous part is that the nuttiness that used to confined to fringe groups that were dismissed and derided is now coming from Republican candidates and elected officials.  When people on the internet and out in the streets talk about Obama being a socialist and talk about secession and revolution just because an election didn't go their way needs to be watched but is mainly harmless.  The prospect that people who are or can be elected to propose and vote on actual laws acting to put that crackpot-ery into effect should scare the hell out of anyone with a lick of sense.

What to do?  Those of us with "a lick of sense" and more need to realize that we're not going to reach everyone, but everyone needs to know how the modern far right thinks.  Arguing with the idiot right is fruitless and a waste of time (although, admittedly, driving them even crazier is big fun):  they are absolutely convinced that they, and they alone, have the truth and everything to the contrary is "liberal propaganda."  Realize as well that the truth doesn't set anybody free - repeating it over and over and over until it sinks in does. 

Don't count on the Democrats to do this for us either - the Dems are and always have been timid when it comes to confronting the ridiculous right.  Don't count on the corporate media for help either - when they aren't pushing fluff, they continue to carry the GOP's water for a very good reason (for them):  the GOP is more likely to give them more goodies, tax and legislation-wise, than the Democrats.  What we need to do is blog, post, talk to our neighbors and get the facts out there.  Be our own media, as it were.

The most important thing to do this year?  GET OUT, VOTE, AND BRING YOUR FRIENDS.  I know some of us are disappointed that voting Democrats back into power in '06 and '08 hasn't brought everything we hoped it would, but it has done a lot of it.  Swallow hard if you must, but sitting home and letting rightwing nuts come to power by default is not an option.  Arguing may not work with the right but defeating them sure as hell does.  Then we can say to them what Dubya once said to one of his detractors:  "Who cares what you think?"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

WHY IT IS GOOD TO BE A CONSERVATIVE

(this came from my email and is too good not to share...)

- being a conservative means I can be selfish and not feel bad about it.


- being a conservative means all the problems of the world can be attributed to liberals.

- being a conservative means I never have to acknowledge flaws in my philosophy.

- being a conservative means anything a Democrat does is bad.

- being a conservative means I can pretend we only have a liberal media.

- being a conservative means I'm more concerned about protecting a definition than I am about protecting the rights of Americans.

- being a conservative means that I'm sorry if I offended you, but I'm not really sorry for what I actually said.

- being a conservative means I never have to try to solve any problems in the government because I insist government is the problem anyway.

- being a conservative means I can lay off workers to boost profits then complain about lazy unemployed people.

- being a conservative means I am staunchly pro-life and will put a bullet through the eyes of any liberal who challenges that.

- being a conservative means you folks are going to hell because you don't live your life the way *I* think you are supposed to live your life.

- being a conservative means you can blame problems on poor people instead of the rich ones (who actually run things).

- being a conservative means believing in spite and fear instead of hope and change.

- being a conservative means knowing for certain that gays and lesbians are worthless and weak, yet letting them marry would destroy civilization as we know it.

- being a conservative means you get to yell your talking points and write in all caps, especially the word "LIBRUL!"

- being a conservative means sometimes people have to starve if it proves my point.

- being a conservative means pretending the Republican party was born the night Ronald Reagan was elected.

- being a conservative means knowing that everything that was bad up to 2006 was Bill Clinton's fault; everything bad that happened from 2007 to 2009 was Nancy Pelosi's fault, and everything after that is Barack Obama's fault.

- being a conservative means even when I'm wrong, I'm right.

- being a conservative means getting my pension through the teachers union, even though I HATE unions.

- being a conservative means I can view all things I don't understand with contempt and not have to make the effort to change.

- being a conservative means I can accuse President Obama of being divisive because I didn't vote for him and he won anyway.

- being a conservative means being more concerned about the flag than the people and the country it stands for.

- being a conservative means I am not a racist -- black people are the real racists.

- being a conservative means the news I don't like hearing is just liberal propaganda.

- being a conservative means being against Social Security, Medicare and Civil Rights, because justice is "socialist".

- being a conservative means that if I just scream "JESUS!" the loudest, I don't have to actually live by any of his teachings.

- being a conservative means I don't have to think; somebody's taking care of that for me.

- and best of all, no matter how badly I screw up, I can always get a job at Fox News or a conservative "think" tank.

9/11, Nine Years Later - Haven't We Had Enough?

Today is the anniversary of 9/11.  The ninth anniversary.  I'm not turning on my TV to watch any of the ceremonies.  I'm not going to watch any TV specials about that horrific day - I've already seen them.  Don't I remember 9/11?  Of course I do.  How can any American forget?  None of us, I imagine.

I remember being woken up early for work by my late wife to the news.  I remember seeing the pictures on my TV of the damage from the first plane hitting one of the World Trade Center Towers and thinking it wasn't that bad (What was on my TV was a close-up of the damage with no sense of perspective as to how large that fiery hole in the building actually was).  I remember the horror of watching the second plane hit the other tower and realizing that this was no accident, this was a deliberate attack.  I remember the story of the passengers on another plane paying the ultimate sacrifice over Pennsylvania to prevent their jet from becoming another missile to be used to attack the White House or the Capitol building in DC. 

I remember something else as well - watching all of this from Oregon and not feeling much fear over it.  I remember going to work, delivering mail as a letter carrier, and the look of shock on the faces of people when I pulled my mail truck into a particular apartment complex to deliver their mail.  I remember this conversation with one of my customers too:

Customer:  "You're working today?"
Me:  "Of course, why wouldn't I be?"
Customer:  "Aren't you afraid because of where we're at?"
Me:  "You mean the state capitol?"
Customer:  "Yes."
Me:  "There's 50 of those across the country.  I think we'll be OK."
That was all nine years ago.  NINE.  YEARS. AGO.  Some people would like us to act like it just happened today.

I've never been to New York but from TV and other sources I understand that going to "Ground Zero" now means visiting a construction site, not the barren tangle of twisted iron it once was.   There will be a new skyscraper there to replace the two that collapsed, plus an underground mall and a memorial museum in remembrance of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date.  This is a good thing - it means that city is rebounding from the tragedy and mass murder it suffered. 

The ceremonies to remember the people who's lives were cut short on that day by hate will continue, as they should.  I have been to another, actual Ground Zero site: Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan - the site of the first atomic bombing.  The building that stood directly under the air burst nuclear bomb in World War II still stands there and there's a museum there as well.  They still hold ceremonies - religious and civic - to remember the people who died on that day too.

Let's not forget another anniversary date in American history:  April 19th, 1995.  That was when two American extreme right terrorists attacked  this country at Oklahoma City in what is still the largest act of domestic terrorism committed on American soil as well.  There's a memorial there as well as annual ceremonies to remember the people who died that day.

What's different between Hiroshima, Oklahoma City and the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon?  Only one of them still essentially shuts down a country to remember it.  This is not a good thing.

There's a difference between remembering and obsessing and we're getting very close to doing the latter when it comes to 9/11...if we haven't already reached that point.  Of course, there's benefits to some to do this:  political gain, for one - financial gain for others and sometimes the two overlap.  It's disturbing and ghoulish to use the deaths of over 2,000 people to try to get votes and sell seminars and DVDs on hating Muslims everywhere.

It's not just some Americans who are seeing the political gain here.  The constant selling of fear is just what the terrorists who attacked us wanted when they did their deed.  The people who flew airplanes into buildings in New York and into the Pentagon didn't do what they did in hopes of taking over America, they did it in hopes that we'd become so fearful that we'd bankrupt ourselves fighting them and step into traps they set (like, say, Iraq) so we'd be otherwise engaged and they'd be able to pursue other goals.  Look at the root word of "terrorist" - it means to invoke terror in others by attacking their victims to gain political goals. They aren't called conquestists. 

How do we really fight terrorism?  Be vigilant, do what we need to stop them if we can but stop being so afraid.  In it's entire, murderous history terrorism has never achieved the goals it set out to accomplish.  Not ever.  Personally, you and I have the same chance of being involved/hurt/killed in a terrorist attack now as we did prior to 9/11:  under 1%.  Those are very good odds in our favor.  Live your lives fearlessly. 

And finally, let us never forget the events of this date and those who were killed in it but don't make it the central point of our lives or our national policy.  It's time to let 9/11 go.

Monday, August 16, 2010

America - It Was A Nice Idea And Could Be Again

In my email today was a piece in the Wall Street Journal from Mort Zuckerman entitled The End of American Optimism that grabbed my attention.  He makes several good points (and some downright nasty ones, like how people "sitting around on the dole" should get off their lazy asses and train for new jobs.  I wonder if Mort is willing to help PAY for that training?) about how bad the economy is and how, if we aren't careful, lower expectations will be the new American norm. He ends with this:

But if the economic scene these days is daunting, the political scene is downright depressing. We have a paralyzed system. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem able to find common ground to address what is clearly going to be an ongoing employment crisis. Finding that common ground is a job opportunity for real leaders.
True enough, but what's really happening is that we are reaping what we've sown here. From politicians down to regular folk, we've sat around - fat and happy - and let our democratic republic slip into oligarchy.  Oligarchy is defined as a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few. Can anyone deny that is exactly what is going on here in the United States right now?  Oh, we still have our elections and our nominal representation but the current Great Recession is only hurting the middle class and the poor.  Massive layoffs are the norm, massive business failures are not - in fact, they are sitting on piles of cash now and refusing to hire. The rich are still getting richer while the unemployed have to beg for their barely-subsistence unemployment checks and food stamps are being cut.

This isn't a Republican versus Democrat issue either - both parties helped this come to pass.

Look around and the propaganda that got us here is breathtaking.  Paris Hilton and the Kardashians are celebrities simply because they are rich and they are not alone.  In the '90s, multimillionaire Ross Perot runs an independent campaign for President as a "man of the people" and gets a sizable chunk of the vote in '92 and '96.  "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" is on our TVs in the '80s.  We tune in to wealthy Donald Trump telling people "You're fired" as well.  Why did we buy into this?  We thought we could become rich too.

How's that workin' out for ya?  *wink*

There is a real danger here that's not being discussed - this discontent could become something more than just public grumbling.  Something violent and bloody.  The current mythology is that Americans will carry on and take what they get while staying true to what's been sold to us as "American values."  My suggestion is to read Howard Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States.  Discard his polemics and far left (awful) view of America and one thing stands out:  Our history is rife with people who didn't just decide not to sit there and take it, they went after the people who were giving it to them.  Courthouses burned, rich people were dragged from their mansions and beaten or worse.  This isn't taught in schools and it can happen again. If it gets bad enough, all those people with guns will eventually get it that their "enemy" isn't us liberals, it's the people who took away their livelihoods for nothing but the sake of a better profit margin. 

That way leads to real revolution and we may not like the America it produces.  Don't scoff - it can happen here and has many times in many countries much older than our near-300 years.

What to do?  Film maker Michael Moore makes the case that capitalism is an evil that needs to be replaced in his documentary, Capitalism A Love Story.  OK, but what we have as alternatives aren't much better.  Both Communism and socialism are Utopian failures that got started as a reaction to the excesses of the Industrial Revolution just as much as capitalism was a justification and celebration of them.  They all have one thing in common, however:  they are all outdated.

I'm no economist but surely someone, somewhere can come up with a new economics system that is equitable to all.  We probably won't see it in our lifetimes, but that's no excuse to not get started on one.  OK thinkers, get to work.  Our country is calling you to service and only our future is at stake.







 







Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Democrats Doing What Democrats Do Best

President Obama's Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, recently lashed out at some progressives and oh my did the fur fly. 

Speaking with Sam Youngman of The Hill, Gibbs said critics among what he termed the "professional left" would not even be "satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president."


"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it's crazy," Gibbs is quoted as saying.
Oh, the screams of outrage and the gnashing of teeth leading to us Democrats' favorite sport:  fighting among ourselves!  From Twitter to cable news channels, progressives decried Gibb's statement as proof that the Obama administration had abandoned them again!!

To them I say, calm the eff down. Gibbs wasn't talking about you, the grassroots who helped elect President Obama.  What he was talking about is what essentially makes up the left's Talking Heads Corps.  You remember them, the ones who were shouting "The healthcare bill doesn't do everything!  KILL THE BILL!."  That crowd.  Jane Hamsher and David Sirota, I'm looking at you

Gibbs has a point.

These very same people were solidly pro-Obama right up until he was elected now can't find anything the President has done right.  From financial regulation to health care reform and everything in between, they cry that none of it is good enough and it's all Obama's fault.  Iraq pull-out of troops?  Not fast enough.  He hasn't corrected 8 years of Bush Republican civil liberties abuses yet?  He must be just like Bush.  Afghanistan?  Obama is now an imperialist.  And on and on and on.

One has to wonder if these folks had such a good time (rightfully) going after Bush that they find it hard to reign in their inner attack dogs.  One also has to wonder if they are ignorant - willfully or otherwise - about the workings of their own government.  A lot of the AONDs (All Or Nothing Democrats) are blaming the President for things Congress has done.  Case in point:  "Obama has betrayed us by not closing Gitmo!"  Uh, guys?  Congress cut off the money to do that.  If I can remember that, writing from my house in Oregon, why can't you?

I'm no "Obamadrone" or whatever term the never-satisfied left chooses to describe liberals who have the audacity to continue to support the President we just elected two years ago...like me.  I'm not 100% happy with everything the Obama administration has done so far and I've written the White House directly to tell them so.  I am, however, very happy with most of the things he's done.  As Press Secretary Gibbs said it:

Gibbs's tough comments reflect frustration and some bafflement from the White House, which believes it has done a lot for the left.


In just over 18 months in office, Obama has passed healthcare reform, financial regulatory reform and fair-pay legislation for women, among other bills near and dear to liberals.

Obama is also overseeing the end of the Iraq war, with the U.S. on schedule to end its combat operations by the end of this month.

He's also added diversity to the Supreme Court by nominating two female justices, including the court's first Hispanic. Yet some liberal groups have criticized his nominees for not being liberal enough.

"There's 101 things we've done," said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.
That ain't too shabby, folks.  "What, are you saying we should never criticize President Obama ever?"  Not even close.  I do think the way you're criticizing the President could use some work.

I'm old enough to remember some of the lessons of the anti-Vietnam war movement.  One of them is this:  Pound the table and alienate the person sitting on the other side of it.  Mr. Obama said many times that we wouldn't agree with everything he did but if you gave him a good argument for your position he very possibly could change his mind.  He's done that twice since being elected.  That requires calmness and respect from the ones doing the arguing though.  He's also had a meeting where the people involved were telling him how wrong he was and how bad he was for doing it.  All that did was anger Obama, who left the meeting and dismissed the ones who jumped down his throat.

Hmm, I wonder which of the two was the better approach?  Toughie.

My suggestion:  Please, all of us should criticize the President and other Democrats when they fail to do what we want.  That pressure is good for the President and the country.  However, don't go into it telling them they're liars, traitors, failed to keep their promises, failures, etc. - that is the path to them hardening their positions and failure for us and any progressive movement.  No one responds well to being called names and everyone in an elected office is first a human being, after all.  Instead, tell them that if they do the right thing we're there for them, will support them and have their backs.  That is guaranteed to get their attention and give you a fair hearing.  Even if they still disagree, we all part as friends and might get the next one going our way.

If that's too much for the "disillusioned left and liberals", well keep a couple of things in mind: 

First, the righties see us bashing our President, fighting among ourselves and the headline in their blogs, newspapers, magazines and TV shows is "See?  Even the liberals don't like Obama!"   I'm not exaggerating about that either - I'm on a few email groups with rightwingers and my email is full of pieces saying just that.  Every day.

Second, dumping Obama and the Congressional Democrats isn't going to get us President Alan Grayson and a Congress full of Kucinichs and Weiners.  What it will get us is President Palin and Speaker of the House John Boehner.  Again, some history:  During the Vietnam era and the '68 election, bashing Hubert Humphrey by the left got us....Richard Nixon.  Demanding liberal ideological purity in '72 nominated George McGovern and gave Nixon a second term by a landslide.  Smacking Jimmy Carter around for being "too conservative" in 1980 gave us Ronald Reagan.  See a pattern here yet?

Let's not have history repeat itself, shall we?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Racism Matters To Me

I'm a middle aged white guy.  I have never been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, my national origin, religion, or anything else. I've never been turned down for service in any restaurant, hotel, motel and no one has turned me down for a job because of the way I look. So why would someone like me get so riled up over racism?

Oh, I've had racists take me for one of them more times than I care to count.  Maybe it's the fact that I don't scream in their faces when they show themselves for what they are that would cause a guy back in my college days to confide in me in a conspiratorial whisper that he "he used to go shoot up Nigger Town back home."  Maybe it's that I know that racism doesn't respond at all to reason or facts so I just let them rant themselves out as I sit there quietly.  Maybe it's just that I don't think someone's skin color or accent says any more about them than the color of their eyes.  I don't know - maybe I should walk around wearing this and that would stop:



but I doubt it.


I blame my concern over racism to a day back in high school.  Back then, we had school clubs and were alloted class times to meet.  I don't recall the name of the club I was in at the time, but the discussion was about the word "nigger."  Our faculty advisor was trying to make a point that it was just a word and its power was what we gave it.  OK, this went well with the white kids in the room including me then some of the black kids started to talk.

It was going about as you'd expect then it came to a quiet black girl and her time to talk.  She did something for me at least that had never happened before then: she gave a human face to what racism does to its victims.  She tearfully told us of a night during a family vacation.  They had driven all day, were very tired  and were looking for a motel for the night, only to be turned down time after time and told explicitly it was because of the color of her family's skin.  It was one thing to think of racism's effects in the abstract - we'd all read or at least heard of books at the time like "Black Like Me" and read of distant tenements where babies were being bit by rats.  She brought it home.

The tears, pain and humiliation on that young black face has stayed with me to this day.  That's when fighting racism became important to me - I vowed to do whatever I could to see to it that no other American had to go through what she did and worse ever again.

I'm fortunate in that that incident broke me out of my own, home taught bigotry at a young age.  What helped even more was, of all things, a class on racial tolerance when I was in the US Navy.  They were having racial "incidents" aboard ships and such at the time (early '70s) and this was their way of trying to ease the tensions.  They did the usual "let's be reasonable about this" routine but what stuck with me from that was a method they taught to make yourself see the person and not the color, etc. 

It works like this:  If you see someone who makes you uncomfortable based on the way they look, take that image, make that person looks change to something you are comfortable with in your head, then bring back what they really look like.  Try it, it works like a charm and has blessed me over the years to be open enough to have had a rainbow of friends and acquaintances that I might never have had otherwise. 

That "rainbow" paid off in an unexpected way for me.  My two sons, from infancy on, were also exposed to people of varying backgrounds and colors and as grown men now are pretty much bigotry-free.  One of my proudest moments as a father was when my son told me about something that happened at his apartment.  He is a huge fan of rap music and had a large poster of his favorite rapper on the wall at the time.  One of his friends brought a new guy with him to visit.  The new guy pointed to the poster and asked, "Who's the nigger?"

My son told him to turn around and leave, right now.  I was nearly popping the buttons off my shirt at how proud I was of my kid for that.

Racism is stupid and a waste of American human resources.  Just think, thanks to racism the man or woman who could have cured cancer could now be standing on a corner drunk or high.  It's getting better and rarer (or at least was until the election of a black President), but it's foolish to think it's entirely gone.  And that is a shame for us all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Most Disgusting Right Wing Viral Email Yet (UPDATED)

Keep in mind that Obama's mother died in 1995.  Words fail.


Subject: Nude, guess who




An interesting item. A famous porn star? A stripper? A layout in a cheap men's magazine? Perhaps a hooker?





Don't recognize her? Here's another view.





Still can't guess her identity? Well, here's one more picture.





Does she look familiar?


















This is Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro - Barack Obama 's MOTHER!



Can you imagine the widespread play these pictures would be getting by the mainstream media if this had been John McCain 's mother, or Sarah Palin 's mother?



But you won't ever see these pictures anywhere in a regular media outlet.





Oh, and keep reminding yourself that Obama is the first

BLACK President of the United States . Yeah, right.





forward to everyone ..... wait a week and forward again.....be sure and forward in NOV
We can't defeat these evil fucks enough.

UPDATE:  Thanks to the good folks I follow on Twitter, I now know this viral email is a fake.  The nude pictures of Obama's mother are photoshopped.  Still disgusting.



Friday, July 30, 2010

Racists' CYA Is A Fail

Dear White Racists:

Enough.  This ongoing bit of yours that everyone but you is a racist isn't working.  It never did.

You send out postcards and emails with images like these:



Then claim you didn't know they were offensive.  Uh huh.  Right.

Then when pushed on your racism, you start howling that people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and longtime civil rights groups like the NAACP are the real racists.  Bad news, boys - the NAACP started out with and still has white members and both Jackson and Sharpton have participated in demonstrations that included whites.  Both also campaigned with white audiences when they both ran for President.

Oops.

When that one blows up in your face, you go to your next fallback position - the "blacks do most of the crimes" shibboleth.  Studies time after time show that police go after blacks more than they do whites and blacks are more likely to do prison time than whites as well.  This feeds unbalanced reports on crime statistics. You go after more blacks then let more whites slide and of course it'll seem like blacks do more crime.  Pretty damn stupid position to take, bigots.

Then there's my personal favorite - blacks being "racist" to other blacks.  That one should immediately set off alarms and flashing "STUPID!" signs.  You see, there is an important component to racism that this claim fails on.  Let's go to the dictionary:


rac·ism   
–noun


1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.


2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.


3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

So, really.  Enough.  If racists are proud of their stands they should be proud to own the label that goes with it.  However, since it's still unaccepted in polite society to talk in racial epithets and push these hairbrained theories, they have to hide their racism and blame the victims of it. 

So, dear racists, embrace what you are.  Of course, you won't make many friends and the ones you do have will head for the hills to avoid you but keep this in mind:

Most of us already know what you are and don't think much of you anyway.

Have a nice, white sheet day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

OK, I Did It Again

Remember a post I did a while back about quitting the Democrats and joining the Working Families Party?

Well, at least that lasted longer than a month this time but I went back to being a Democrat.  Again.

It's not that I dislike the WFP but it seems...well...kinda quiet from them.  I'll root them on but in the meantime I need a party that can actually elect people and get things done.  They sounded so good, but as my best friend told me after I switched, "When will you ever learn?"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Sherrod The Final Nail In The Rightwing "Journalism" Coffin? Guess Again.

The tale of Shirley Sherrod and her smearing by rightwing hit man Andrew Breitbart is an amazing one.  In good ol' white resentment and race baiting style, a decades old speech by black US Department of Agriculture official Sherrod is edited to make her appear racist towards whites.  This is posted on Breitbart's site (you'll have to find that on your own, I refuse to link to it) and the fun begins.  Various other rightwing "media" echoes the "story" as the cowardly mainstream media does too.  Even the Obama administration gets into the fun, pushing hard for Sherrod to resign over it (which she did, being a loyal Obamaite) because she was "going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."  Even the NAACP denounced her.

It looked more and more like Breitbart had bagged another Obama administration scalp, with Sherrod joining Van Jones and ACORN on the spear.  The far right was celebrating and partying hearty.

Then something happened that the rightwing smear machine didn't count on:  the full video of the Sherrod speech popped up and guess what?  She wasn't bragging about getting whitey at all, she was talking about overcoming prejudices and doing the right thing!  UH OH!!

The NAACP backed off their denouncement of her fast enough to leave skidmarks on the road, saying they were "snookered" by the edited Breitbart tape.  USDA Secretary Vilsack and President Obama were on the phone to Sherrod, apologizing for pressuring her to resign and offering her another job at the USDA to make up for what they did.

In a perfect world, this would mean the end for Andrew Breitbart and people like him in the media.  Sherrod is threatening to sue and this would have killed whatever credibility Breitbart had.  He'd be left ranting to a few rightwing fringe visitors to his website and totally ignored by everyone else, if he could still afford the domain name fee.

However, as they say, what will really happen is that Breitbart will come through this unscarred and undamaged among his "base."  A few of his fellow rightwing media pals have made an effort to sorta kinda say what Andy B did was wrong and The Big B should apologize...as they move to pull a secondary smear based on Sherrod and her family acting on their claims in a USDA discrimination lawsuit settlement.

But thousands of farmers missed the original Pigford deadline, due to shoddy work by their own lawyers and inadequate promotion, among other reasons. In response to a decades-long movement to re-open the Pigford class, Congress passed another $100 million in the 2008 farm bill to help settle new claims; earlier this year, the Obama administration announced an additional grant -- called Pigford II -- of $1.25 billion.


But the money hasn't been doled out, because Congress hasn't given the okay yet. It missed a March 31 deadline. Then a May 31 deadline. Currently, the money for the new Pigford settlement resides in the war supplemental -- which Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last Friday would be up for a vote some time this week.

Harry Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, said it "remains unclear" whether the bill could pass with the settlement attached. The money was also included in the unemployment insurance extension; but the Pigford settlement, and other funds, had to be stripped in order to break a filibuster.

Conservatives immediately jumped on the Sherrod video -- issued by Breitbart in the wake of Reid's promise to bring the war supplemental (including the Pigford settlement money) to a vote -- to condemn the Pigford case.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), for example, tweeted immediately on Tuesday morning, after the Sherrod case hit the news, that many Pigford claims amount to fraud:

Shirley Sharrod fired by Vilsack 4 racism in her USDA position. America needs to know that, not all, but billion$ of Pigford Farms is fraud.
The Washington Times mused that Sherrod resigned because she was afraid the attention would expose "sanctioned conflicts of interest" arising from her own settlement -- though there was zero evidence to that effect. In fact, Vilsack has since acknowledged that her experience as part of the Pigford class makes her uniquely positioned to understand the historical challenges faced by the USDA. Fox News piled on, saying the settlement "thickens the plot."
If that wasn't bad enough, now the rightwing echo chamber's usual suspects are trotting out their "blame the victim" routine and trying to claim Sherrod is a "Marxist."

Beck: Sherrod "obviously has some sort of Marxist or redistributionist qualities to her." On the July 21 edition of his radio show, Beck stated that Sherrod "obviously has some sort of Marxist or redistribution qualities to her." He further said that Sherrod is "class warfare just not race warfare." On his Fox News show, Beck said Sherrod should have been made a "czar" because "she fits in" with the "Maoists" in the Obama administration.



Mattera: "Sherrod shouldn't be given her job back. The broad is a Marxist. I have no sympathy for her." In a July 21 post on Twitter, Human Events editor Jason Mattera wrote: "Sherrod shouldn't be given her job back. The broad is a Marxist. I have no sympathy for her."


Limbaugh: Sherrod supports "Obamunism," "the haves versus the have-nots and the need for redistribution." On the July 21 broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh said that Sherrod supports "Obamunism," "the haves versus the have-nots and the need for redistribution."


Crowley suggested Sherrod may be among "radicals, racists, socialists" in Obama administration. On the July 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News' Monica Crowley suggested that Sherrod may be among the "radicals, racists, socialists" that have been "stocked" in the Obama administration.


Hoft: Sherrod is "a communist, radical, socialist, terror-sympathizer." In a July 21 post on his Gateway Pundit website, Jim Hoft suggested that Sherrod is "a communist, radical, socialist, terror-sympathizer." Hoft further wrote: "White farmer-hater Shirley Sherrod is linked to Bill Ayers." He then highlighted a "must-read story" at the Illinois-Review and The Washington Examiner which he said "reveals that Ms. Sherrod's husband is a former honcho in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee back in the 1960's."
What shall we make of all of this?  First, Breitbart will have to wait a little while for his Sherrod smear to cool down before he's back on Fox Noise and the Tea Party speech circuit.  The right's wingnutosphere will try to smear Sherrod some more then move on to their next target.  The MSM will buckle under and report their next lie as a "real" news story.  The Democrats will continue to act like battered wives and won't say much, if anything.

Total damage to rightwing "journalism"?   Not a thing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Other America

Following my post about the great things about the United States to contemplate on the Fourth of July, now it's time to take a look at the not-so-wonderful segment of America.

These are the people who think the USA is for them and them alone.  These are the so-called "Real Americans" - the ones that define themselves and their worth to the nation in terms of race and privilege. They rage at the very concept that people who look and think differently could possibly be as patriotic and as valuable to the country as they are.  They allow a few who have a different hue than them in on the edges so the Real Americans can point at them in order to deny their real feelings, but those few have to pass some tough tests to get there.

We've always had them and their numbers are diminishing, fortunately.  Not so fortunately, like any other dying beast they can still do damage.

One of the things that Americans like to take for a given is that when bad things happen, we drop our differences and come together to help our fellow Americans out.  There are tons of examples to support that too, with everything from coin jars on store counters to help pay for treatment for someone suffering from disease to volunteers taking it upon themselves to pitch in to help repair the damage from catastrophes natural and otherwise.

There's another current coming from the RAs (Real Americans) seeking to destroy that American impulse to help other Americans when they need it.  And it's just plain mean:

They keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does. … What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job. … There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now.

What?  We are suffering through what is being called "The Great Recession" and the unemployed are nothing but lazy welfare bums now?  Those words are from the Teabag Republican challenger for Harry Reid's Senate seat in Nevada arguing against extending unemployment benefits to people who have been out of work for six months or more but she's far from being the only one with that sentiment.  This came next:

Ralston then asked, “if people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, as many have during this recession, Sharron Angle’s solution is to cut their unemployment benefits so low so they’re somehow gonna go out and find jobs that don’t exist?” “There are jobs that do exist. That’s what we’re saying, is that there are jobs.” Angle replied.
Ah yes, the old "But the newspaper classifieds are FULL of jobs!" argument (as false then as it is now) - but at least in the past it didn't include the concept that it was a good idea to have unemployed people have no income whatsoever to force them to go to work.  That's where the mean comes in.

Another example of the damage that can be done as the RAs get smaller and smaller is this charmer:

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that it's OK for Orlando to restrict the group feedings that have brought dozens of homeless people to Lake Eola Park.


In a case watched by cities and homeless advocates across the country, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed a 2008 ruling by a federal judge in Orlando who believed the city's rules were unconstitutional.

"We won on every single point. It's a complete vindication for the city," said City Attorney Mayanne Downs. "The point here was to protect Lake Eola Park. It's a very important part of our city's heritage and history, and all we wanted to do was to protect it from an unfair burden."

Advocates have continued to serve meals to large groups of homeless and needy people at Lake Eola Park since U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell ordered City Hall to stop enforcing its ordinance. In fact, in the nearly two years since his ruling, the regular feedings at Lake Eola have grown substantially, city officials say.

"Over 100 people have been gathering at the park every day, and it's really becoming a problem," said Commissioner Patty Sheehan, whose district includes the iconic downtown park. "It's gotten to the point where people are telling me they are no longer going to take their families to the park anymore."

The rules require advocates to obtain a permit for feedings of 25 or more people, and only two feedings a year are allowed in a given park. The City Council adopted the ordinance in 2006 after businesses and residents downtown complained that the feedings drew crowds of vagrants who caused problems outside the park.
So much for the RA's charity.  (h/t digbys)  Let's not only see to it that the homeless and the unemployed have no income, let's starve them too.  That'll show those lazy bastards a thing or two.

And here I thought doing charitable work was a good thing.

There are more examples but we'll stay with these two to demonstrate the diminishing RAs' lashing out and base meanness. If there's a silver lining to this cloud, it's the fact that the damage they do is limited to certain states and towns - their ability to do damage on a national level was taken away from them in 2008.

If the current nastiness from the RAs isn't a good reason to see to it that they don't get back the power to hurt Americans this November, I don't know what is.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July 2010

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays.  It's a time to step back from the usual partisan sniping and count our blessings for being a part of a truly amazing country, whether we achieved that through birth or naturalization.  Let's take a look at why our country is still the one that most of the world looks up to:

First, our Constitution....

As much as we argue over the meaning of this article or that amendment we take this astounding document for granted so much that sometimes we think that the world lives under it.  In much of the world, whatever foundation of law they go by springboard's off the idea that government grants rights and be happy for what you've got.  Our Founders set about setting up our Constitution from a different tack - we were born with the rights we have and therefore the government is restricted so they may not infringe on those rights.  In other words, the Constitution set up for us a constitutionally-restricted democratic republic designed to protect rights and not grant them.

Let's take one of our most treasured and basic rights protected by the Constitution:  freedom of speech.  We Americans take this for granted so much that sometimes we'll look at something going on in another country and criticize it on the basis of freedom of speech.  Well, those countries don't protect speech like we do.  If you are a resident of Canada or the UK for example, you can be fined and imprisoned for something called "hate speech."  If we lived under that, Rev. "God Hates Fags!" Phelps, Louis Farrakhan, Glenn Beck and others as well as some of us from time to time would all be in jail right now.  As someone said once: Freedom of Speech doesn't mean that we only protect speech we like, it was put in place to protect speech we absolutely hate.

Our diversity

Some of our friends on the right absolutely detest that word but it is one of America's greatest strengths.  Americans come in and from many colors and backgrounds.  There are certain bedrock ideas that we share as Americans and we do so by also celebrating where we came from as well.  The idea that we can do that in peace is the amazing part.  Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims and similar seemingly competing Americans live sometimes right next door to each other and there is no street warfare over it here unlike other countries. We are part "melting pot" and part mosaic:  Melting pot in that we all share American goals and ideals on a personal level - we all want to provide for ourselves and our families and keep them safe.  Mosaic in that we are a country made up of bits and pieces of differences that combined make up a beautiful picture.

Lastly for now,

We aren't done yet

America at its founding was called a "great experiment" in democracy and we're all still trying to perfect it.  As I do my political thing online and otherwise, one thing that strikes me is our patriotism.  We all love our country and want it to be even better than it already is.  Where the rhetorical battle comes into play is how we define "better" and the means to get there.  We've only come to blows over it once with the Civil War - something, despite the words from some, we are in little danger of repeating.

Have your barbecues, watch some sports and fireworks tonight - today is, after all, a birthday party.  We have a lot to celebrate too, but please keep in mind the words of a Vietnamese woman I talked with during my Navy days who sat me right down and told me this:  "Don't you DARE take what you've got in America for granted!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why I Left The Democratic Party...For Now

I took the plunge today and left the Democrats after 38 years.  I got tired of defending a party that would leave doctors and the unemployed high and dry.  I got tired of explaining why the Democrats blew their best chance in decades to use their majorities to finally give us a single payer health plan and gave us some weak regulations of health insurance companies instead.  I got tired of being in a party that folds to a minority party every chance they get despite winning a mandate in 2008 to change the failed policies and damage done by that minority party.

So I left the Democrats....again.

The last time the Democrats upset me enough to leave them was when they voted for the USA PATRIOT Act.  That time I changed my party to the Green Party USA.  That lasted less than a month.  The Greens have some great ideas but they have a huge problem:  they don't want to actually do anything about them, as far as I could see.  They put some candidates on the ballot from time to time but didn't seem to get the energy to campaign for them.  My experience with them was their idea of "action" was to get together, watch some taped documentary, discuss a few books, cluck their tongues about how awful it all was then go home.

The Greens fit in with a term I have -- The Useless Left.  You know them too, especially if you are a progressive.  They're the ones who organize marches, made the word "table" into a verb (Yes, really.  They no longer just sit at tables at some rally handing out literature and selling some buttons and T-shirts.  They are now "tabling.") and are great with the critiques of the political system and culture.  What they aren't so good at is what to do about all those problems.  They are the embodiment of putting the lie to "the truth shall set you free" which doesn't work if there isn't some real, meaningful action behind it.

They ran me back to the Democratic Party, where I worked for candidates that kinda sorta believed as I do until now.

Thanks to something called "fusion voting" passed into law here in Oregon, I started looking around for a new party to help out after the Dems showed themselves barely able to stand upright due to a lack of spine.

The new party I chose is The Working Families Party.  They are the first minor party I've seen that seems to understand what one can do with a minor party.  Most minor parties, at their most successful, put candidates on the ballot that get few votes but sometimes just enough to elect Republicans.  Their real hope is that by running those candidates they will get their ideas aired in the hope that a major party picks up on one or two of them and does something with it.

The WFP, a long-running party in New York thanks to that state's election rules, has passed on the losing candidate approach and has gone straight for the ideas.  Thanks to the new fusion voting system in Oregon, they go after specific legislation by co-nominating progressive candidates that will work to get their ideas into law.  After trying for 38 years to change the Democratic Party back into the party of working people and the  poor from within, I've decided I liked their ideas and to help them build the party into a force that will exert pressure on the Democrats from the outside.

They rarely run candidates so the Democrats will still probably get my vote in November but I feel I will have a club with the WFP to beat them back in line when they get the urge to follow the lure of corporate dollars over the people who elected them. Registering as a member of the party gives them the number of registered voters required by Oregon to have access to the ballot.

Here's where I make my pitch to my fellow Oregonians - especially independent voters and disaffected Democrats - to do as I did.  You wanted an alternative to the major parties, well this one may be our best shot.  

There are two ways to immediately support the Working Families Party.

  1. Change your party affiliation by re-registering to vote - something you can now do online here.
  2. If you do or don't do that, you can donate at least $24.00 or more to make you a dues-paying member of the WFP.  The $24.00 figure is a minimum annual donation.
Don't just sit back and complain about the major parties - do something about them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Helen Thomas Forced To Retire - Look At Who Gets To Stay

Today, 89 year old White House correspondent and columnist Helen Thomas was forced into retirement for saying this....once:

"Thomas told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to Germany and Poland.'"
A nasty comment without doubt but it comes from someone with no history of anti-semitism in her years covering 10 Presidents or any of her writings as a columnist after she resigned from reporting when cult leader Sun Myung Moon bought United Press International.  She did apologize for her remark and someone her age finally retiring isn't exactly news.  What is news is that it certainly looks like the retirement was forced, with her agent quitting and speeches she was scheduled to deliver being canceled.

There is no defense for what she said.  The only question that remains is why stop with her?

"We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say." --arguing that it would be better if they were all Christians

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband's deaths so much." -on 9/11 widows who have been critical of the Bush administration

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
All of that came from the mouth and writings of Ann Coulter.  Are there any cries for her to retire and shut up?  Well, a little bit over the years (she was fired by MSNBC, The National Review and various newspapers have dropped her column) but she's still getting paid for speeches, people buy her books, she is a guest on NBC's "Today" show and a regular on Fox Noise.

Then there's the Tea Party Leader, Glenn Beck:

"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus -- band -- Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, 'Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore,' and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, 'Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death.' And you know, well, I'm not sure." –responding to the question "What would people do for $50 million?"



"When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining."

"Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization...And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did. That's what Al Gore, the U.N., and everybody on the global warming bandwagon [are doing]."

"So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research. ... Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. ... The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening."
How about him - any condemnations of him from the right?  He off TV now?  Absolutely not.

Then there's this gem from the Leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh:

“To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s – if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.”

Yep, he's still around too.

Well, surely someone of the advanced age of Patrick Buchanan has been put out to pasture for remarks like these:

Buchanan referred to Capitol Hill as "Israeli-occupied territory." (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 10/20/90)


During the Gulf crisis: "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East -- the Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner' in the United States." (McLaughlin Group, 8/26/90)

In a 1977 column, Buchanan said that despite Hitler's anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was "an individual of great courage.... Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path." (Guardian, 1/14/92)

Writing of "group fantasies of martyrdom," Buchanan challenged the historical record that thousands of Jews were gassed to death by diesel exhaust at Treblinka: "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody." (New Republic, 10/22/90) Buchanan's columns have run in the Liberty Lobby's Spotlight, the German-American National PAC newsletter and other publications that claim Nazi death camps are a Zionist concoction.

Buchanan called for closing the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which prosecuted Nazi war criminals, because it was "running down 70-year-old camp guards." (New York Times, 4/21/87)

Buchanan was vehement in pushing President Reagan -- despite protests -- to visit Germany's Bitburg cemetery, where Nazi SS troops were buried. At a White House meeting, Buchanan reportedly reminded Jewish leaders that they were "Americans first" -- and repeatedly scrawled the phrase "Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews" in his notebook. Buchanan was credited with crafting Ronald Reagan's line that the SS troops buried at Bitburg were "victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps." (New York Times, 5/16/85; New Republic, 1/22/96)
No, he's still a regular "analyst" on the progressive and liberal MSNBC news channel.

This isn't about "silencing conservative voices" (and if you consider these people the voices of conservatism, it says a lot about where that movement really is).  It's not about the First Amendment and freedom of speech either - none of them will go to jail for what they say but nothing in the Bill of Rights says certain people have the "right" to be in newspapers or magazines and have programs on TV and radio.

What this is about is that the so-called conservatives dancing about in glee at Helen Thomas being forced into retirement should remember an old saying about people who live in glass houses and what they shouldn't be doing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Republic, If We Can Keep It

People are upset and angry at our government over this disaster in the Gulf.  No political party is particularly well-liked right now as both are seen as more concerned over the well-being of corporate interests during this oil blowout than our land and people. 

I'm not a huge fan of Ralph Nader but I keep remembering one thing he said during his runs for President, namely that voting between the Democrats and the Republicans means the choice is whether we go down on our left knee or right knee before corporate interests. This is what we get for allowing our employees in Congress to be sold to the highest bidder and allowing our country to become the oligarchy it is now.


I do mean we too: too many of us think that once we've voted our job is done. We've been propagandized and indoctrinated into being meek little sheepish followers for too long too.  Let's face it, the idea that the wealthy knows best isn't a monopoly of the right, it directs all of us by varying degrees and we dare not challenge them.   If this oil blowout had happened to most other countries, they wouldn't wringing their hands and sitting at home just watching -- there would be wall to wall demonstrations in the streets DEMANDING this be taken care of NOW. People would be PISSED and out of their houses showing it. What are we doing? Watching TV and saying, "Oh, how awful!"

There was a great editorial caroon I caught a while back about the news of massive demonstrations overseas over what the demonstrators saw as fixed and fradulent elections in Iran.  It mentions those protests over the cartoon, then shows two men's reaction to the stolen election that placed George W. Bush into the White House.  The talk balloons went along the lines of, "Did ya hear about how Bush stole the White House?"  "Yeah, that's awful.  So what are you doing tonight?"

Michael Moore had it right when he pointed out in one of his films that around the world, people demonstrate and agitate so much that their governments are afraid of its people and act so not to upset them. Here it's the reverse -- we hardly ever get out and do something about what we don't like and fear our government. We just hope our government does the right thing, when we can get away from our new cars and HDTVs and think about such things that is.

On this I give the Tea Party credit where credit is due.  Wrongheaded and angry as they are over false stories, they are at least going out of their houses and doing something about their issues.  What kind of impact they are having now is undeniable in that this group of people is now a part of our national discussion, even if they only represent about 2% of the country. 

Besides going out and having demonstrations and such, another thing about the TPers is that they stick to the issues they want to push.  About the only other one that does the same are the pro-immigrant groups.  The left has complained about not getting the same coverage as the Teabaggers since most of the time there have more people at their demonstrations and marches.  Very true.  Their problem is once the left has gathered, it can be hard to tell exactly what they are demonstrating about sometimes.  Having been to a few good-sized demonstrations from the left in the past, I've seen where it started out as opposing the war in Iraq then spread out to include marchers who supported Palestine, Mumia, 9-11 Truthers and all sorts of other things so much so that the original idea for the march got lost in the shuffle.

The message here isn't about who demonstrates and who's more effective at it though.  It is that we don't have to just sit there and take what's happening to our country.  I understand that doing that can be inconvenient at times what with work, family and other things demanding our attention.  However, you don't do any of that ALL of the time.  Take a little time and DO something for your country.  An hour or so may not sound like much but sometimes just that can do a lot.

You don't even have to wait for someone else to organize something for you to do either.  Get a piece of cardboard or whiteboard out, make a sign then find a corner and start waving it at passing cars.  Just that little act can have more impact on people than an entire day's worth of watching the news.  Those people driving by may not remember what some politician said on TV that day, but they will remember you.  Who knows, others may just join in with you.

Now that's being patriotic.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Announcement

After seeing how my article about my love of horror movies stuck out like a sore thumb in a political blog, I decided to make a new one where I can post about less serious topics like movies, TV and American culture. 

I would have added music to that list as well but I know next to nothing about current groups and tunes - my music kind of stopped around 1980. 

Anyhow, the new blog is called An Uncultured Slob and I hope you'll check it out and follow it as well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Obama And Race: A Different Take

OK, fair warning - I'm going to make some people very uncomfortable here and it's not going to be who you think. 

I'll also say upfront that I hesitate to take on racial issues:  I'm a middle aged white male who admittedly has a very limited understanding of what is called "the black experience in America."  I try to be empathetic but I have never suffered discrimination of any sort due to the color of my skin.  However, I am seeing a dynamic going on concerning our current President that I have to talk about.

The dynamic in question is what in drama is called "subtext" when it comes to that man in the White House. 

The reaction to Obama's election among the r-word set was totally expected (They get so upset when they get called racists so I'll try not to do it.).  Someone remarked that the r-worders considered it OK now to drop the public polite masks and wave that r-word flag high because with Obama's election "white guilt" was now dead and they wouldn't be hit so hard when they let their bigotry out to play.  Many examples abound that show that but one subtext is screaming out from them: 

Obama MUST be far left and secretly hates America because he's black. 

That's an old one too.  I used to be told directly and indirectly that black people couldn't possibly be patriotic about America.  I never have figured out how that worked either.  Were the r-worders saying that because they believe that the level of patriotic fervor increases the paler your skin is?  Was it their own admission of the "white guilt" that they decried and were they admitting that black people had been treated so badly in America that they think that blacks couldn't love the country that did that to them?   Who knows, deep thinking isn't exactly a requirement to join the r-word club. 

Like I said, unsurprising.

There is another side to that coin and you find it among the "disappointed in Obama" wing of the left.  With about everything the President does, someone on the left will pop up to complain that it didn't go far enough and was this what we voted for?   I, for one, don't know who they thought they were voting for either. Obama ran a centrist, barely liberal campaign of national unity and he's governing the way he said he would.  Some people thought he was something else even though his centrism was always right there to be seen and heard in position statements and speeches.  Subtext? 

Obama should be far left BECAUSE he's black.

Two sides of the same coin and both just as racist as the other.

Anyone squirming out there right now?  Well, the first of anything has powerful myths to overcome - good and bad. I don't think the racism on the (white) left is conscious or purposeful, however.  This stereotype is much more benign.   We love to poke holes in the mythology believed by the right and not so much when it comes to ourselves.

The example of a myth strongly believed by those of us white folk even slightly on the left that crashed to earth comes from my youth in the Sixties.  The running myth at the time was, since men had done such an awful job at it, when women ran things everything would be all better.  No woman would send another woman's sons to die in a war, the myth went, and since women were such mysterious, all-compassionate creatures intolerance and hatred would be a thing of the past. 

Then came women in power like Indira Gandhi who imposed a strong-armed dictatorship on her country.  Let's not forget Margaret Thatcher, aka "Britain's Reagan" who was never thought of as particularly cuddly and nurturing.  The myth died but the lesson learned was that gender doesn't dictate behavior and when it comes down to it, women in power really aren't any better or worse than their male counterparts.

I'm not saying that President Obama is so bad that the same lesson will apply to nonwhites -- I think he's doing as good a job as can be expected given the problems he was left to deal with and has accomplished so much in his first two years that he is being favorably compared to FDR. That ain't too shabby.  He's no Messiah (we never thought he was), he is human and will get things right and other things wrong just like any other (white) Democrat would if they were in office right now.  If some of our friends on the left can figure this out and see the man who was actually elected instead of the one they created in their heads, the same lesson will be learned though.

Should that happen and we start seeing that people are people regardless of outward pigment and other minor differences with no guarantee of anything, President Obama will have inadvertantly given the nation a gift that will dwarf even his most ambitious proposals and programs.