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 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 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.