Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our Better Nature

By Mustang Bobby.

After looking at the way things have been going in Washington and around the country for the last couple of years, it's obvious that the Republicans have come to the conclusion that they don't care if they hurt other people in order to accomplish their agenda.  That is all that matters to them, and if there's some collateral damage to those other people, well, that's just too bad.

Look at some of the things they've stood up against: healthcare reform, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, healthcare for the people made sick by responding to 9/11, extension of jobless benefits for those people thrown out of work by the recession the Republicans helped cause, tax relief for the middle class, aid to education and infrastructure, assistance to corporations that employ a large number of the middle class, immigration reform, food safety; the list goes on and on, and in every case the Republicans mounted a battle against them.

And in just about every case, the opposition wasn't based on practicality or the lack of need.  It was couched in abstract and hypothetical terms; health insurance is a privilege, gay people are icky, capitalism shouldn't reward bad decisions, no one should pay taxes to subsidize people who weren't born with trust funds, and what's wrong with finding a rat hair in your hot dog, anyway?  Man up!

This GOP philosophy is often braced up by their own hypocrisy; for example, the number of Republicans who applied for money for pet projects from the stimulus package they voted against is legion, as are those who rail against undocumented workers but have them cleaning their bathroom and trimming their lawn.  And if you look at the recent activity on Capitol Hill it's even more obvious.  The failure to repeal an odious and un-American bill such as Don't Ask Don't Tell in the light of the support of its repeal by the military brass, the troops on the ground, and just about everyone else, liberal or conservative, who knows what it's like to serve with gay men and lesbians is a case in point.  The opposition to repeal is based not on fact but on fear and an attempt to appeal to the ignorance and bigotry; always a safe bet in politics.

The same thing applies to the extension of jobless benefits.  It touches millions of people regardless of their politics; unemployed blue-collar workers who embrace Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber as well as the single mom trying to get by as a cart wrangler at K-Mart.  But if you can get on Fox News and tell the rest of the barely-employed that the people without jobs are lazy loafers who need to learn the hard lesson of an honest day's work for less pay, then of course you can justify claiming that it's really hard to make a decent living if the tax rate on everything you make over $250,000 is going up by three whole percent.

It's not that they are all intentionally cruel; they're just thoughtless and immature.  The natural instinct of a person who has achieved some sense of maturity and obligation to the world outside of themselves is to want to help others without trying to first think about what's in it for them or how they can possibly profit from it, and they just don't seem to get that there is more to being a citizen -- and a human being -- than being rich and famous.  And it's easy to be a bully, especially when you're dealing with an opposition that falls for the "Hey, your shoe's untied!" bit nearly every time.

History and human nature has proven that over time the better angels of our nature win out.  Progress against oppression and the platitudes of tradition and ossification has been made, sometimes swiftly, sometimes at a glacial pace, but always moving forward.  But it is hard to look far to the future and counsel patience when you see the solution and the promise just out of reach and it is kept that way by those who are doing it only because they can.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Just say Noh

By Capt. Fogg

When is a journalist not a journalist? It's a simple question with a very complicated answer and that answer has little to do with credentials or degrees. It can have nothing to do with whether the reporter reports the news or creates it from air like balloon animals at some kids' birthday party.
"Mr. Assange obviously has a particular political objective behind his activities, and I think that, among other things, disqualifies him as being considered a journalist."

said assistant Press Secretary Philip J. Crowley to assembled reporters at a December 2nd press conference. You'd expect gasps and guffaws and whispered comments like "what about Fox?" but I didn't hear any. Perhaps the disturbing idea of objective reporting was a touchy and disturbing subject for the assembled employees of corporate entertainment interests whose jobs depend on the proper slant and the ability to make headlines out of flimsy and innocuous or even non-existent words and deeds. No, says the political actor, the presidential mouthpiece, under US law, he's to be considered a "political actor."

Welcome to quantum politics, where things that are said and things that are appear and disappear like virtual particles in a vacuum; where things are sometimes their opposites and truth is relative and ephemeral.

So when political actor Glenn Beck gets teary eyed and hysterical about the proposed ability of the FDA to take poisonous, contaminated food off the shelves because if they can control what you eat, they can control your lives: so when worn out beauty queen and political actress Gretchen Carlson can pose as a news anchor and get her botoxed and painted face twisted around her rehearsed outrage that a year ago, Tulsa exercised our American freedom of religion and started calling its annual December parade a "holiday" parade, just what the hell is this journalism that it could include this foolishness but be contaminated by a hatred of secrecy and the objective of exposing a government that has villainously smiled and smiled and smiled at one lie after another while millions died in consequence.

So truth, as we can know it, is political since the concept resides in the heads of humans and not in the stones and gas and vacuum of the universe and no one can see the truth but through the filter of his mind. Just who then can we call a real journalist and why not then just make it up as we go along and accept it all as improvisational theater.

Too many people have compared it all to Kabuki, with it's exaggerated expressions and dramatizations, but it's really Bunraku, where puppets are manipulated about a darkling stage by shadowy figures dressed in black. Figures that the audience is trained not to notice.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Mama's gonna make all of your nightmares come true"

You can find a lot of clips of Roger Waters' tour of The Wall at YouTube, but most of them are of pretty poor quality. Here's one of the best I've found -- "Mother," from the Sept. 20 show in Chicago (just five days after it got underway here in Toronto, when I saw it opening night).

In addition to how it fits into Pink's personal (and universal) story (the overbearing mother who provides so many of the bricks in Pink's wall), there's another level to what the song is about, a political one, an Orwellian one: "mother" as the state, the state having us under constant surveillance.

Given what's happening to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (perhaps the essential political theorist/activist of our time), with the "state," including supposedly liberal democratic states like the United States, trying to suppress the truth and maintain its self-legitimizing authoritarian conspiracy, aided by an appallingly pathetic media establishment, a media co-conspiracy that advances the state's lies, it's deeply relevant to our current condition -- indeed, to the human condition generally.

And it's also, within the more personal context of The Wall, a simply incredible song, one of Pink Floyd's best.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Ambivalence, Idealism, and the Nobel Peace Prize

by Peter Henne

This time last year, I was
celebrating Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. What most impressed me with this speech was his emphasis on the ambivalence of world politics; we must strive to make the world better, but also realize that we will never completely succeed. For me—and I suspect many others—that ambivalence has turned into disappointment, in both domestic and international politics. Even with this jaded outlook, however, I could not help but be angered by the contrast between the stirring—but guarded—rhetoric of last year’s speech, and this year’s ceremony.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee gave the award to Liu Xiaobo, a pro-democracy dissident currently imprisoned in China. China did not allow Liu, his family, or his supporters to attend the ceremony, and the chair reserved for the Peace Prize recipient was left empty. The last time something like this occurred was, literally, in Nazi Germany.

Human Rights Watch's Nicholas Bequelin has a good piece in Foreign Policy on the incident, highlighting the extreme measures China has taken to prevent the award from resonating domestically. He argues that China's broad crackdown surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize will be counterproductive. Bequelin is right to commend the Nobel committee for their choice, but I'm not sure I agree that China's moves will ultimately harm its interests internationally.

This is due to the obvious fact of China's immense economic clout. Few countries--weak or strong--are willing to upset China and risk economic retaliation. This can be seen in the countries that boycotted the ceremony. Yes, Serbia reversed its decision to boycott under pressure to live up to European Union standards (it is currently a candidate for membership). But many other states went through with the boycott. These aren't just the usual anti-West/anti-American states either. It was no surprise that Cuba, Kazakhstan and Venezuela boycotted. But so did Iraq and Afghanistan, whose governments exist because of the United States. Then there were several states who have received significant aid and security assistance from the United States; this includes Colombia, Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

Examining this list of states can provide some insight into why they were willing to cross the human rights community. All of these states have significant trade ties with China, or want them. They are also, with the exception of the Philippines, non-democratic states, and thus have an incentive to dissuade dissidents. And the democratic outlier--the Philippines--is very close geographically to China, giving it an even greater interest in keeping Beijing happy.

We are thus witnessing the distressing convergence of economic interests, regime type, and security concerns. These represent three sets of pressures leaders face: the desire to maintain their country’s wealth, the fear of losing power to domestic rivals, and the need to protect the country. These often push in different directions: steps taken to ensure economic growth could increase domestic dissent, while security enhancements could undermine economic activity. In this case, they all point in the same direction: boycotting the ceremony makes China happy—which helps both a state’s economy and security—and sends a signal to would-be domestic critics. This makes it much more difficult to pry these states away from China than would be the case if they had to balance divergent interests.

There is little the United States can do to address the economic issues. China will likely keep growing, and its economic power will be difficult to undermine, or counter. And—as evidenced in the countries boycotting the ceremony—security guarantees will be of minimal effectiveness. This might be due to China’s lack of overt threats to its neighbors, or the fact that leaders in states like Afghanistan and Pakistan realize the United States needs them as much as they need the United States, giving them some freedom of action. There may be some potential when it comes to regime type, as the pressure to follow democratic norms could outweigh economic interests, as seen in Serbia’s decision.

Ultimately, this brings us back to Obama’s Nobel speech. The United States’ ability to improve the world is limited. Economic incentives, military actions, and pro-democracy rhetoric will not push the international community into demanding Liu Xiaobo’s release, or prevent other countries from following China’s lead. But that does not justify a cynical, amoral approach to world politics. Democratic norms and the promise of membership in an economic bloc brought Serbia around; it is this type of subtle, incremental change that will socialize states like China into a liberal international order. And it this nuanced approach to the world that so perfectly meshes with Obama’s strengths as a leader.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Nobody Asked Me, But...

(N.B. To my friends at The Reaction, "Nobody Asked Me, But..." is a regular weekly feature at my blog, where I round up ten interesting news tidbits of the day or week and make snarky little comments on. It eases me into the weekend. I normally don't crosspost these because, frankly, it's fluff and not even particularly interesting. Today, however, I made two exceptions. The second was to share this with you, and...)
By Carl
I'm going to break with tradition here and rant on a Friday.
1) What's it going to take????
When are we as a people, we as liberals, going to finally sit up and say "I've had enough!"
When are we going to go from compromise to this? When do we finally start making our government fear us by storming a barricade and threatening the establishment, if only figuratively?
The Teabaggers are right about one thing: this nation has gotten away from we, the people, and we want it back. Or we ought to.
It's not that the Teabagger message is wrong, at its face. It's that the message has been manipulated and distorted beyond anything any reasonable person could get angry about.
Teabaggers want taxes reduced. It sounds noble, but taxes are already at historic lows and we can't afford to keep them this low. Not if we're going to pay for a war and a half. Not if we're going to keep pumping money into a defense infrastructure that has shown itself to be inadequate to the wars we face. And nevermind the burden of Social Security and Medicare, programs I think are worth paying for.
Teabaggers want the deficit reduced, and that too is a noble goal, but they blame Democrats who want to prudently cover our spending with more tax income, as opposed to Republicans who want to keep borrowing to spend.
It's not the nation that's gotten away from us; it's politics that has. We get the government we deserve and right now, we don't seem to be very deserving.
Have we gotten complacent? Have the programs liberals have enacted in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries made us so complacent, so smug in the rightness of our cause, that we've forgotten how hard we had to fight for those things? Like the end of slavery. Like the vote for women and minorities. Like the end of Jim Crow. Like clean air and clean water. Like the end of the Vietnam War.
Have we forgotten how much blood we shed to achieve these?
Four dead in Ohio. The Little Rock Nine. Jim Zwerg. John Lewis. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Dr. Martin Luther King. Sojourner Truth. Rosa Parks. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Susan B. Anthony. We can trace a line through all these liberals to our world today, great men and women, Democrat and Republican alike, yet liberal and progressive to the core.
We are placated and mollified into submission, too timid to voice our concerns, lest we be painted "liberal" or worse. We've allowed a small core of spokespeople to advocate for us, but they are too easily mocked and ignored. Too, I suspect, they've allowed themselves to be bought out with the illusion of power and influence. Yes, I'm looking at you, Great Orange Satan, Atrios, Firedoglake, and other members of the professional left.
When in the HELL are you going to start speaking FOR us, not TO us????? When are you going to go on Olbermann or, yes, FOX and instead of mocking the other side or trying to smugly explain our side in a cool logical terms, PUT UP A FUCKING FIGHT!?
We WANT this fight, goddammit! Bush said to Al Qaeda, "Bring it on!"
I say to the right wing, "I'm right here, and if you're too scared to bring it on, let me bring it to you." Bring the pain. Bring the truth. tear the veil away, and show the world how this nation is being taken from us not by the good people in the rank and file of the right, OR the left, but by the stultified ruling class.
I look at this nation this way: America is a three legged stool. One leg represents free enterprise, truly free enterprise, that enriches the nation as it serves the people. Another represents proportionate and representative government, selected by the people to protect their interests as the individual governors see fit and who make laws that both govern and encourage business under that premise. The final leg is we, the people, who provide the energy for business and the intellect and passion for governance.
So long as those three are in balance, the chair will not fall over if you try to sit on it. So long as they remain separate and equal, we have a balanced and vibrant society.
Cut one leg short, though, and you have chaos. You have a nation about to tip over. Worse, you have the other two legs about to help it tip.
We are that short leg, my friends. We are the weakest link.
I am a liberal. To me, government should be as big as it needs to be to protect me from harm that I have no control over: harm from foreign military powers, harm from those who would wish to see me illed, harm from products and services that can harm me without my knowledge.
I don't bungee jump. I don't expect the government to protect me from bungee jumping, but I do expect them to establish safe standards for bungee jumping that ensures some reasonable control over those who enjoy the activity, and who, by staying out of the hospital, help contain my medical insurance premiums.
That's not a fucking lot to ask, is it? IS IT?
I am a liberal. To me, government ought to be big enough to keep up with Big Business, whose amoral capitalism is practically designed to harm those weaker than it is. Competition is good, but it forces companies to focus on economic return at the expense of being a good citizen.
And ever since government has colluded with business to determine that, indeed, it is a citizen of the United States, business ought to be forced to obey the same laws in kind that I am.
First, harm no one's quiet enjoyment of their lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness. Second, keep things clean around you. Third, pay your taxes.
Since Big Business has chosen not to behave in a neighborly fashion, government ought to step in and punish it, and not with "just a fine" but with real and effective criminal penalties.
I am a liberal. To me, no one should have the right to make obscene profits or take home enormous bonuses just because I was sick. If that means government provides for my healthcare coverage, so be it. I'm willing to pay a little more in taxes to them than a enormous unaffordable premium to some HMO.
I am a liberal. To me, the government ought not to declare war on any nation unless that nation has proven that it intends to do us harm. The responsible use of force is a sign of maturity. We train our policemen, and apart from a few yahoos, we train them very effectively, in how NOT to pull a gun on anyone. Our government ought to be that mature, too.
I am a liberal. To me, government's first and major concern should be the citizenry and the people living under it. We are the powerless ones, the ones who created a government to represent us against all enemies, foreign and domestic, real or a legal construct. Unions arose in this nation to battle the ever-growing Corporate Entity. That entity successfully colluded with friends in government, mostly Republican and exemplified by Ronald Reagan, to defang, deconstruct and destroy unions, which were the only obstacle to raping the American people.
I am a liberal. To me, it's an absolute atrocity on the order of slavery to realize that wages over the past thirty years, since that Reagan administration, have declined against purchasing power. A buck today does not buy as much as it used to, and that's OK, but that your salary hasn't even kept up with the devaluation of that dollar is hideous.
I am a liberal. To me, it is horrendous that all (wo)men are not created equal in a nation where that very phrase is the quintessential self-evident truth. We would deprive significant portions of our populace the God-given right to love and be loved by whomever they choose without harm or repercussion. Without having to hide it in a closet.
I am a liberal. To me, government ought to be just big enough to knock down illegitimate barriers to the rights and blessings we have secured for our progeny. No one's asking for a hand out, or even a hand up, but dammit, sirs, level the playing field! And if that means that, temporarily, someone is given an extra special chance at a job above me because of the hardships his ancestors endured in this nation, I choose to remain in this nation and abide by that history. It's called "patriotism". I love my country, and looking around me, I love my country more than those who would slam doors on immigrants and the poor and deprived because they fear for their own security.
To my friends on the right who oppose DREAMing or affirmative action, I say this: up your game, or up yours. Period. It's called "competition" and its what this nation was founded upon and if you think it only works for you, you are sadly mistaken.
I am a liberal. To me, religious freedom and tolerance means that we must not fear those who bring new ideas to the table, new traditions and new ways of describing God (or the lack thereof). It is government's job, just as it was in Selma and Birmingham, to remind the Christian majority that they are not being particularly Christian.
I'm sure there's more, a lot more inside me to rail about, but I need to close this and not monopolize bandwidth. I could rant for hours, days, and still not get to the heart of the matter here: government no longer expresses what I feel in my heart.
I leave you with this:
Man, I'm losing sound and sight
Of all those who can tell me wrong from right
When all things beautiful and bright
Sink in the night
Yet there's still something in my heart
That can find a way
To make a start
To turn up the signal
Wipe out the noise 
        - Peter Gabriel Signal To Noise
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I regret to give you this legislative update

I wrote a post-Thanksgiving blog post about the Republican's big "fuck you" to the disadvantaged in the United States, while insisting on less taxes for those who don't need it and contemporaneously insisting--in a contradictory fashion--that now is the time to address the federal budget deficit. Today we have an update on how the then-pending legislation ended up faring:

  • Increased spending on health care for 9/11 first responders: today Senate Republicans blocked the vote to end debate and allow the Senate to vote on it. If that's not anti-American, I'm not quite sure what is.
  • Child Nutrition Act: at the beginning of December the House passed the Senate version of the bill, that funded the $4.5 billion bill with a $2.2 billion cut in food stamps funding (a.k.a. robbing Peter to pay Paul--now inadequate nutrition will just be centered in the home rather than schools.)
  • Extension of unemployment benefits: blocked by Senate Republicans late last week....because it's not "paid for." Yet...
  • Republicans continued to insist on giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, they went a few steps further, first essentially blackmailing Congress by pledging to block every piece of legislation that came up--including issues of national security like the START Treaty--until they get their tax cuts, and second, going even further than that by agreeing to extend unemployment benefits so long as they get their tax cuts for the rich. Looks like the Republicans aren't actually all that interested in cutting the deficit after all, then, since the $75 billion tax cuts for the rich add billions onto the deficit, are far less stimulative than the $56 billion UI bill (they actually cost more than they stimulate), and there's no good reason to buy the Republicans' claim that the rich will use the cuts to add job, since jobs aren't created out of the goodness of people's heart but are added when they are economically necessary to businesses.
The GOPs true colors are blazing bold and clear--are Americans' eyes opened yet?

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Pelosi's last stand

By Creature

She's standing firm with the majority of her caucus and demanding changes to the tax deal before it comes to the floor. Maybe we'll get that game of chicken after all.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Obama's big gamble

Guest post by Nicholas Wilbur 

Nicholas Wilbur is an award-winning reporter and opinion columnist turned political junkie and critic. He is the founder of the blog Muddy Politics and lives in New Mexico.

(Ed. note: This is our second guest post of the week, after this one by Publius of The Fourth Branch, and I'm very happy to welcome Nicholas, a very fine blogger, to The Reaction. He's one of the best writers I've encountered in the blogosphere, and his analyses of the leading political issues of the day are consistently thoughtful and engaging. As he does in this post, he challenges us to think about an issue -- in this case, the tax deal -- from a perspective that may run counter to our own. Indeed, while I don't necessarily agree with his assessment of the deal, I find his take extremely persuasive. Yes, there are many good reasons to like the bill, and, yes, Obama is an astute politician. Anyway, I encourage you to check out his blog. And hopefully we'll have more of his posts here as well. -- MJWS)


Barack Obama campaigned on a message of hope, on the ideal that lawmakers could, if pushed, put aside their partisan politicking and actually work for the people, effectively "changing the way Washington does business."

As a master at spinning poignant prose into inspirational calls to action, he effectively utilized the anti-Republican sentiments of the populace without relying on the character assassinations and demagoguery that have become the norm in political election – that were, in fact, the core of his opponents strategy to dismantle his credibility, his leadership abilities and his eventual ascendance to the White House itself. Rather than riling the masses through fear and anger, Obama campaigned consistently for positive change – change to the Republican Party's economic agenda, its budget priorities and its foreign policy decisions, all of which proved disastrous for the middle class, for average income rates, and for American prosperity itself. He compared the results of these policies with the priorities of his own agenda, and he called on lawmakers of both parties to follow in his footsteps and end the political battles, the bickering, and the back-door deals that have plagued Washington for years.

Since his inauguration, President Obama has sometimes succeeded in passing progressive policies, and he has mostly failed in reaching consensus on how the political game is played. But through it all, there has not been a single instance when the president gave up on his convictions, his ideals, and his promise to govern fairly, from the middle, and from a moderate platform that favors what is right over that which is most popular.

Obama's announcement this week that he has reached a compromise with Republicans on the hotly contested issue of extending tax cuts for the rich proves yet again that the president will not abandon his ideals, even when faced with intense criticism from his supporters and often jeering mockery from his opponents.

It is a gamble that many believe will be crippling for Obama's re-election prospects in 2012.

And the skeptics may be correct.

By negotiating with Republicans on this tax cut issue, Obama has eliminated what has been – in recent elections and throughout history – the most powerful campaign tool in the political playbook: anger.

It's all but cast in stone that Obama's agenda is doomed come January, when Republicans take majority control of the House and are in charge of deciding what bills see the light of day on the House floor. Republicans have promised that few – if any – Democratic proposals will be considered in the House, and it's likely that Obama's agenda will be reduced to nostalgic ponderings of what could have been.

With the expectation of even more political gridlock through the next two years, Obama reached an agreement that would allow him to accomplish as much of his agenda as possible in the last few weeks of the year.

Top Republican lawmakers had promised that if Democrats were to prevent an extension of tax cuts for the rich, they would use the filibuster to quash any attempts to repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, to promptly ratify the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, to extend unemployment benefits to the two million recipients who cannot find work, and to consider the DREAM Act legislation, which would provide illegal immigrant children with a path toward citizenship by serving in the military or attending college.

With a compromise now reached, Obama will be able to check off all or at least most of these legislative priorities from his to-do list. On top of that, in exchange for a two-year extension of tax cuts for the rich, Republicans have agreed to allow continuation of several key tax cuts for the middle class, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

All things considered, it's not an unfair trade-off.

Come 2012, however, it may seem unfair beyond measure.

If this year's midterm election provides any insight into what riles and incenses the masses, the value of instilling fear and anger in the malleable minds of the electorate is priceless. It may not be honest; it may not be honorable; but it is, without question, effective.

Obama could have very easily said no to the Republican Party. He could have held firm against extending tax cuts for the rich by throwing Republican arguments back in their faces: "It's irresponsible to increase federal spending by $700 billion when the deficit continues to swell." "If millions of mostly middle-class federal employees are capable of sacrificing for their country in a time of economic uncertainty, so too can the millionaires sacrifice tax breaks that, the historic record proves, do nothing to help stimulate the economy." "If the GOP demands that unemployment benefits be paid for, then so too should tax cuts for the rich." 

Instead, he chose to say, "I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington."

It would not be a difficult task to demonize the GOP for holding the middle class hostage until millionaires are given a government handout. If the last two elections are any indication of what rallies the masses, it should be clear that anger and frustration inspire voter turnout more than support and gratitude of politicians who are already in office and policies that are already in place. 

People do not march on Washington and protest in the streets when they get what they want. In fact, I cannot think of one single instance in the entire history of the United States when the masses rallied to continue policies that were already enacted as law. The women's suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, even the emancipation of the country itself all began because the masses wanted freedoms their leaders were denying them, not freedoms they were already awarded. 

By denying the Republican Party an extension of tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts for all Americans likely would have expired. Unemployment benefits would have expired. Repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would have fallen by the wayside. And a slew of middle class benefits would have been taken away from those who needed them most.

Republicans would be to blame, the masses would be incensed, and Obama's second term would be all but guaranteed.

But that doesn’t seem to be how Obama operates.

Maybe he's looking forward to a hard-fought campaign (the assumption there being that the Republican National Committee nominates a presidential candidate who can actually give Obama a run for his money; i.e., not Sarah Palin). Maybe Obama is short-sighted and thinks any immediate benefits for the middle class are worth taking a few hits from the pundits for being a push-over, a panderer, a pansy-in-chief.

Or maybe Obama hasn't abandoned his 2008 campaign goals. Maybe he actually believes that the way Washington works both privately and publicly, particularly during election season, is disgusting and counterintuitive, even counterproductive.

Maybe Obama believes that, come 2012, the American people will look back over his first term and decide that – even without fear and anger as motivations – there's just as much incentive to vote for what is right as there was in 2008 to vote against what was wrong.

Maybe the president's relentless, ambitious, and continuous drive to change the way Washington does business, to rise above the status quo of daily politicking, and to do the right thing over the popular thing is admirable. Maybe that in itself is reason to cast a vote for Obama in 2012.

Maybe it isn't.

Maybe, for Obama, it doesn't matter either way.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

With tax deal, the Bush coalition is back

By Creature

A majority of Republicans ban together with just enough DINOs to pass crappy legislation. I've seen this play before and, if I remember correctly, the country ended up in a ditch. Insanity rules.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Amazon death watch

By Capt. Fogg

It's 10:57 Eastern Standard Time and I'm looking at the web page waiting for another salvo in what's being called a "Cyber War" by the media. Yes, them Wikileak bogey men are going to bring down Amazon, for some reason I can't imagine.

Three minutes until it's supposed to crash and I'm reading the news. Cyber Wars, bizarre sex crimes, intimidation of the public who might happen to read Wikileaks or express insufficient hate for Julian Assenge - and who is reading about the Citicorp bailout being paid back at interest to the substantial profit of the country? Who is reading about improvement in the job market?

11:00 and all is well at Amazon - and wow, that's a great price on that hand held GPS! Is it too late to update my Christmas wish list?

11:08 I hate to wait and I'm getting bored.

11:10 Hey listen, I know this is a Cyberwar and all that, but if I don't see some Shock 'n Awe I've got some other things to do.

11:13 You know what? Why don't I check back later. . .

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

House passes DREAM Act, a significant victory for Democrats

As you may have heard, the DREAM Act (in full, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), which would give undocumented young people a path to citizenship if they go to college or serve in the military, passed the House yesterday. The vote was 216 to 198. Needless to say, it was the Democrats who voted for it.

But what now?

It is highly unlikely that the legislation will pass the Senate, where anti-immigrant Republicans (and most of them take a hard line on undocumented immigration) will do all they can to block it and where Democrats will need 60 votes to override an expected filibuster -- if it even gets that far. Even if the Senate gets the tax deal done, Republicans have committed themselves to obstruction of all Democratic legislation, and they aren't about to give Obama a victory, particularly on immigration. In the GOP, after all, nativism rules, and in this case the marriage of nativism and partisanship is a match made in right-wing heaven.

Even if the legislation fails, though, Democrats will win the politics -- which, in the long run, is significant. As Janet Murguía writes at The Hill:

As the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is urging members of Congress to pass the "Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act." This sensible piece of legislation would allow undocumented kids who have grown up in this country the opportunity to achieve conditional legal status, and eventually earn the ability to apply for citizenship, if they attend college or serve in the military. Polls show the majority of the American public supports the measure. It has been supported by members on both sides of the aisle before, and we have an opportunity to see it pass this week.


For Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of the nation's electorate, the DREAM Act vote is a defining one. For one, a significant number of these children are Latino. But more importantly, with this vote Congress can reaffirm the fundamental principle that in America we do not punish innocent children. This issue is near and dear to Latinos because, though the majority of Hispanics are U.S. citizens, we are keenly aware of the devastating effects of congressional inaction on immigration reform and believe America cannot afford to lose another generation of young people who stand to contribute to its economic and social prosperity.

The time for excuses is over. The DREAM Act has been around for over a decade, and has been debated and supported by members of both parties. It is time for a vote, and no amount of excuses will hide which members chose to stand for innocent children, and which did not. And Latinos will remember exactly which side those members chose.

It isn't just that the legislation is broadly popular, or that the military supports it, it's that Latinos (or Hispanics, as the two terms are generally used interchangeably), perhaps the key emerging demographic in the U.S., see it as essential. As Murguía notes, this vote is "defining," meaning that it will be remembered. And what will be remembered is that Democrats supported the legislation and Republicans opposed it.

Of course, we already knew where the two parties stood on the issue of undocumented immigration, but this bill (and especially the divided vote in the House and a likely non-vote in the Senate as a result of Republican opposition) essentially crystallizes the issue in clear and media-friendly terms:

Democrats want to give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, Republicans do not.

Democrats want to give the children of undocumented immigrants a chance to make it in America, Republicans do not.

Consider the alternatives: While Democrats want to act humanely and to recognize the valuable contributions undocumented immigrants have made and will make, as Americans, to American society, Republicans prefer persecution, imprisonment, and deportation.

While Democrats want America to be a free and open society that welcomes newcomers and understands why so many people risk their lives to make it to America, Republicans want America to be a fortress largely closed off to the outside world except for the free trade of goods to allow the rich to get richer and internally to be a police state that targets the Other, building walls to keep people out and apart, protecting privilege as it effectively disenfranchises the vast majority of Americans, documented or otherwise.

Yes, the two sides are clearly defined and, with this vote, and with the DREAM Act generally, the choice is clear.

Even if the Democrats ultimately lose in Congress, they stand to gain immensely at the polls down the road -- and that, one hopes, will finally lead not just to a path to citizenship for young people but for the acceptance, inclusion, and full participation in American society of those who came to America to make a better life for themselves and their families, and who only want to share in the hopes and dreams of what is supposedly a great nation.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Can we get some DADT repeal, please?

First, it's the right thing to do.

Second, for Democrats (including the White House) it would go a long way towards winning back some support from the liberal-progressive base, particularly in light of the... oh, how shall I put it?... less-than-perfect tax deal.

And, lame-duckery notwithstanding, it looks like the Senate could very well get it done, if only it weren't for that ridiculous filibuster rule.

And it it weren't for all those obstructionist, hostage-taking Republicans, which is pretty much all of them. Even the supposed moderates won't do anything to break the GOP's monolithic partisanship.

As CNN reports, "a planned make-or-break vote on starting debate on repealing" DADT was postponed late today.

And why? 

It looks like Republican non-teabagging renegade Lisa Murkowski will vote for repeal, assuming a "free and open" amendment process, but chief hostage-taker Susan Collins, one of the few supposed moderates left, is holding out, demanding votes on 15 amendments (including 10 Republican ones) but also -- and here's what this is really all about -- that the tax deal be pushed through first. "Everyone on the Republican side wants to see the tax package completed first," she said.

Consider her line of reasoning: "If we're in the same situation that we are now, I don't see how I could vote for it. But I'm obviously going to think further. But frankly they won't get to 60 votes even if I did vote for it. So why not take the path that would lead to 60 votes."

This makes no sense, unless you realize what the Republicans are up to. Why would she vote against repeal now but for repeal if the tax deal is done first? Is she for DADT or against it? She's probably against it, or at least agreeable to repeal, but that hardly matters. What matters is leverage, her leverage, her power, and the power of her party, which she is placing before her own principles (if she has any at all other than the use of her anti-majoritarian senatorial prerogatives to their fullest extent in the service of her party (or whatever her self-interest happens to be at any given time).

So she could vote for repeal, she just won't. It's all just a game. She just refuses to admit it.

And, meanwhile, time is running out. And she's working on behalf of her party to run out the clock. Because, let's face it, the tax deal isn't going to get done quickly. There's too much opposition, in both parties, and a lot will need to be hammered out to get the votes.

So when will DADT be repealed? Well, not anytime soon. Because "the tax package" won't be "completed" before the lame-duck Congress is done. And then DADT repeal will be pushed back into the next Congress, where the votes will be even hardly to come by, given near-unanimous Republican opposition in what will be a Senate with a smaller Democratic majority.

Sure, maybe Collins reduces her demands and allows a vote to go forward (if Democrats can put together the necessary 60 votes), but, even then, we'd still be a long way off from repeal. After all, the vote today would just have been to start the debate, and there's hardly any guarantee the votes will be there on a final vote.

See what's going on? The Republicans won't even allow for debate until the tax deal is done. But even if they allow for debate, they may not vote for repeal -- most of them won't, of course, but even Collins might not, and Democrats might not get the 60 votes.

In other words, they want what they want without actually guaranteeing anything in return. That, presumably, is what they mean by compromise. Here's how Steve Benen explains it:

It's worth emphasizing that Collins just isn't being reasonable. Looking back over the last couple of decades, a total of 10 amendments is entirely routine for this defense authorization bill, and is actually far more than the number of amendments considered most of the time.

Why not just give in and tell Collins she can have unlimited debate? Because Republicans really are desperate to kill the legislation, and the most far-right members will keep offering unrelated amendments indefinitely, running out the clock on the lame-duck session, and derailing the bill.

[A senior Senate aide] told me, Collins is "basically asking for a unicorn for Christmas. We can't give her a unicorn."

So, is that it? Will Collins screw over gay servicemembers and blow off Pentagon requests over baseless procedural demands? That appears pretty likely.

There's also the matter of the "hostage strategy" -- Collins is part of a united GOP caucus that has vowed to kill literally every piece of legislation until Republicans are satisfied with the result of the tax debate. As of now, that includes DADT repeal.

Democrats are "still trying" -- even Lieberman is on board, promoting repeal -- but, given the way the Senate works, Republicans will likely get their way.

Which, as usual, is terrible for the country.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Ding dong the witch is dead

Finally, five weeks too late, failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer of Minnesota faces reality and concedes to Democrat Mark Dayton.

From the Star Tribune:

Republican Tom Emmer conceded the governor's race to DFLer Mark Dayton Wednesday, bringing an end to the disputed election and clearing the way for Dayton to take office on Jan. 3.

Emmer also waived his right to a recount, and the state Canvassing Board quickly certified the original election night results and declared Dayton the winner. The board signed the election certificate shortly after noon, making Dayton the governor-elect.

Those actions mean Dayton, a former U.S. senator, will become the first Democratic governor in Minnesota in two decades.

One of Dayton's first orders of business January 3 will be to sign an executive order opting in for federal health care money -- something outgoing wingnut wannabe Tim "hard times in the land of" Pawlenty has opposed in his ongoing quest to appeal to the Republican base in 2012.

Dayton inherits a $6.2 billion deficit, deteriorating infrastructure, lagging education and social programs, and a brand new GOP controlled legislature which will make it very challenging for him to undo the damage the last eight years of malfeasance have wrought.

Challenges notwithstanding, at least Minnesotans rejected Emmer's doubling down on the previous administration's failures.

Kudos to Emmer for concessions to reality. Unlike the Franken/Coleman recount, there were thousands of votes separating the candidates -- within the margin of a state funded mandatory recount, but at the upper end to the point that barring major failures previously undetected in the initial count, there was no way for him to win.

And Jeers to Best Buy and Target who contributed mightily to backers of Emmer's campaign, evoking a storm of protest by people who object to business interests buying elections. Minnesota law remains stronger on disclosure requirements, in many states and nationally, monied interests practically have carte blanche.

Does disclosure make a difference? Too early to tell, but I like to think so. If nothing else, you know what you're getting.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

If the condom breaks, it's gotta be rape.

By Capt. Fogg

Sitting in a doctor's waiting room for three hours yesterday morning, I had to listen to "Liberal" CNN chewing endlessly on the two stories of the morning: the terminal illness of Elizabeth Edwards and the sex crimes of Julian Assange. Whatever your opinion of the man and of Wikileaks; whether it's black and white or very mixed, as mine is, I think we have to disassociate the propriety of publishing government communications with what just might be another US government inspired crime of equivocation and slander.

CNN used the word rape, more times than I could count yesterday and true to their unjournalistic habits never once proposed to delve into exactly what acts, according to Swedish Law, the alleged rape of two " consenting" women consisted of, although they did establish the need to do so by repeating that both women had willingly had sex with the man from Wiki. A disturbing dissonance at least. It appears that in Sweden, it's rape, or more accurately even if more peculiar: "sex by surprise" not to use a condom, or even if the condom breaks, according to Swedish prosecutors. That's it and that means there are a hell of a lot of rapists out there, many of whom are gloating over the imprisonment of Mr. Assange for something that's a crime nowhere but Sweden. Even in that feminist paradise, it's only a $750. fine. So why is theUS so hell bent on extraditing him for something on the order of a speeding ticket and why are the media so intent on calling him a rapist?

So I'm going to suggest, in full expectation of the customary response, a conspiracy. It's not just that CNN and others are crying rape when it isn't, but CNN and others would have us completely oblivious to the identities of the willing but uncondomized women as though it didn't matter that they both may have ties to the US government, the CIA and organizations supported by them.

Is this another of the seemingly endless appeals to the end sanctifying the means and if so, can we call ourselves a free country when the laws are bent, spindled, folded and mutilated to create the crime? With all the synthetic furor in some conservative states, about applying foreign laws in the US, are the same conservatives gleefully doing just that in order to more readily conceal shady dealings? Can we call that rape too?

No, I'm not sure that Assenge was doing anyone a favor by revealing sensitive targets for terrorists, and if he was guilty of that, he's certainly no friend to the US, but the practice of trumping up charges and paying witnesses to make them is not new here and certainly not a foreign practice to political parties trying to cripple an opposing president, but there's a certain foul odor pervading the news reports and it's not just the smell of spilled beans. If one thing is sure, it's that we need some fresh air here and some real information before we can conclude that our "free" press is worth saving.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share