January 10, 2011

The Responsibility of the Right for Arizona

Symbology

The blood has barely dried on the pavement, and we’re already seeing how the right is planning to respond to the hate and vitrol that they’ve been spewing for the past several years – going all the way back to “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” in the Bush years and by deeming anyone who dared question their motives “unpatriotic” all the way up to burning effigies and hurling homophobic and racist slurs at Congresspeople as they walked from office to office, and all the way up to this weekend’s tragic shooting in Arizona.

They’re approaching this from one main angle: the “yeah well you guys can be vitrolic too!” perspective. The goal is to generate a false sense of duality between the left and the right and somehow absolve their own hatred and anger of the responsibility they should feel towards the actions of the shooter in Arizona, Jared Lee Loughner.

Usually the arguments break down like this:
“The venomous rhetoric comes from both sides!” – A popular one, one that almost always breaks down when asked for examples. Why? Because it’s simply not true. No left-wing politician or public figure in the mainstream media have resorted to the same level of anger, hatred, and calls for open violence as the likes of Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and all of their respective cronies. There’s no doubt there’s extremism on both sides of the line, but only extremists on the right are proud to stand up in front of cheering masses and egg them on, then shake their hands.

“Democrats used a similar map in 2004!” – This one’s a smoke-and-mirrors tactic. By pointing to some similar map at some point in time when the political rhetoric was lower, there was no violent talk surrounding it, and no open calls for violence, the right feels they can somehow justify the existence of the “Take Back the 20″ map Palin had on her site, until her people guiltily started trying to scrub it from the Internet yesterday.

“The shooter was liberal/considered liberal by his friends!” and/or “He had books that implied he was more Libertarian/Anti-Government than anything!” – Another smoke tactic, avoiding the core issue – that regardless of the shooter’s personal political perspective (see the incredible piece at Chasing Evil: White Terrorism,) whether he was a registered voter of either party or what he may have said to his friends in high school, his violent behavior was very much part of an overall culture where polticial discourse in America is so far off the rails that it’s impossible for people who disagree with one another to do so civilly, and where people who feel they’re under-represented are so often told by the opposing party that there’s a coming “war.” To point – the fact that right-wingers almost immediately when President Obama took office started buying guns and ammunition, went back to the 90s-style back-woods militia training we saw under President Clinton, and started talking about how there were another “Civil War” coming. You don’t see that nonsense on the left.

“There’s no proof he was politically motivated!” – I beg to differ. The venerable Adele Stan posted a great piece at AlterNet called “How the Right’s Rhetoric Fueled the Actions of Arizona’s Mass Murderer,” and Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed in the New York Times called “Climate of Hate” point directly to the shooter’s political motivations.

“He’s just a nutjob/schizo/mentally ill person, there’s no proof this was political!” – This is another “shift the blame away from my validation of violence” attempt – another example of “I’m going to pretend everything I said yesterday doesn’t affect anyone and say he did this on his own in some kind of vacuum” reasoning that’s common on the right when confronted with the responsibility of their hatred becoming real. The right-wing blogosphere is aflame attacking all of the figures who survived the incident, claiming that the left somehow “planned to blame this on the right” from the get-go, or that the Sheriff or other public officials in Arizona are somehow to blame. Again, nothing could be further from the truth, and they all sum to being attempts at distracting us from the real issue here: the hatred and climate of violence that the right wing has fostered, many thanks to the Tea Party, over recent years.

To me, the creation of a false duality in an attempt to whitewash this hatred and violence, or worse to allow themselves to continue calling for open hatred and violence, is tantamount to being an accessory to these crimes. It is, to me, no different than placing the call for more Loughners to appear and take up arms against anyone the right is displeased with.

Here’s what Krugman had to say:

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

And yet – this is exactly what the right wing would love us to do – to quickly forget, move on, claim he’s just a nut working on his own and that no one really thinks that way. Sadly, it’s simply not the case, and there has been mounting evidence for the past several years to prove it. Here’s what really struck me in his piece, though:

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.


And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

There goes that false duality between the left and the right on this. Sure, conservatives can and will come up with isolated incidents of venomous outrage on the left that could potentially be classified in the same arena as what Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh say on the air every single day, but what they’ll never be able to do is come up with examples of progressives arming themselves in preparation for some kind of comiing war. They’ll never be able to turn up progressives burning effigies of congresspeople outside of their offices because of a bill they don’t like. They’ll never be able to turn up incendiary packages at post offices addressed to senators they dislike.

They’ll never be able to come up with the volume and type of vitrol that hits television screens, newspapers, and the airwaves every day from right wing pundits and politicians, and they’ll never be able to come up with it from mainstream figures that are generally accepted as representatives of that political faction. Why? Because it simply doesn’t exist.

Stan had this to say in her piece, which I think is incredibly well written and quoted:

So to those who would like to attribute Loughner’s actions to the Tea Party, I say, hold up; take a breath. But to those on the far right, and to the more mainstream right-wingers who fail to condemn the poisonous claims of the far right, I say, you’re hardly off the hook.

Had the vitriolic rhetoric that today shapes Arizona’s political landscape (and, indeed, our national landscape) never come to call, Loughner may have found a different reason to go on a killing spree. But that vitriol does exist as a powerful prompt to the paranoid, and those who publicly deem war on the federal government a patriot’s duty should today be doing some soul-searching.

On April 19, 2010 — the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City — Bill Clinton, who was president at the time of the attack, published an op-ed in the New York Times, both commemorating the dead and speaking to his fears of another such attack in the future. Note that the Oklahoma City attack came as right-wing leaders expressed outrage at the actions of federal law enforcement at Waco and Ruby Ridge, but also demonized federal workers as a class.

“As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters,” Clinton wrote, “we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.”

She then goes on to point out that at the same time President Clinton and others were mourning the loss of life in Oklahoma City, gun nuts and enraged Republicans and conservatives alike were massing in Washington DC to ready themselves for a “civil war” they said had already started. A fictional conflict they believed they needed to arm themselves and be ready to kill anyone who disagreed with them over.

So while we take stock and analyze this, and while we hope and urge our politicians to behave like adults and drop the hateful and vitriolic rhetoric (and leave it to the blogosphere, we do it the best without hurting anyone,) let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that there’s some kind of equality here, some kind of “there’s enough hate to go around.” It’s simply a lie, and an attempt by the right to fool themselves into not taking responsibility for this fog of anger they’ve used to their benefit – not only to get Tea Party representatives elected, but also to infect political discourse.

We, as a nation, would be better served if we took responsibility – how much is appropriate and where’s appropriate – for the nature of political discourse in America today, and that means not shoving your head in the sane or hiding from the nature of your own language, conservatives. And it means not letting it slide when you hear it and calling it out immediately as such, progressives.

November 9, 2010

Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat

One of the best pieces of post-election coverage that I’ve seen came from the San Francisco Chronicle, and was titled Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat; which lambasted progressive slacktivists who, instead of making sure they turn out to the polls each and every election like they should if they want to see true progressive motion in our country, stayed at home grumbling because Barack Obama hasn’t made the sky rain money and candy bars just yet and everyone isn’t holding hands singing yet.

Because I simply can’t cut up the op-ed, here’s the whole thing with all credit to the Chronicle and the piece’s author, Mark Morford:

Oh, now you’ve done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party’s newborn, hard-won ideas about Hopeâ„¢ and Changeâ„¢, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as “the long view”?

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren’t immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology?

Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

What happens is: Many kinds of fragmented, muddled, but still constructive Democratic progress might get stopped quite nearly dead, and even a few pieces of legislation we actually did gain get slapped around, threatened, stomped on the head like a scientist at a Rand Paul rally. Happy now?

Check it out, kiddo: This is not just any Republican party you allowed back into power; these mealy folks are not anything like the war-hungry, Bush-tainted army of flying monkeys and Dick Cheney moose knuckles you so wonderfully helped bury in the history books last election.

No, the GOP of 2010-2011 is even weirder, dumber, less interested in anything you even remotely care about; this GOP is infused like a sour cocktail with a bitter splash of the most cartoonish, climate change-denying Tea Party dingbats imaginable — most of whom think you’re an elitist, terrorist-loving, gay-supporting threat to “real” American values, btw — all led by a guy named Boehner who wears a bizarre, shellacked tan so fake and creepy it makes Nancy Pelosi looks like a supermodel.

And you made it all happen. Or rather, you failed to prevent it from happening, by not voting, by turning your collective back on Obama’s tough love, by getting all whiny and dejected like some sort of sullen teen vampire who can’t get laid.

Do you deny it? Did you see the polls and studies that said that most fresh-faced, Obama-swooning Dems like you are now refusing to support our beloved Nazi Muslim president because he didn’t wish-fulfill your every whim in a week? That he was, in fact, not quite the instant-gratification SuperJesus of your (or rather, our) dreams?

Of course you didn’t see any of that. Hell, I bet you’re not even reading this column right now. You’re probably back on Twitter, raging into the Void about, hell, who knows what? The Wolf Parade concert. Angry Birds. The People of Wal-Mart. Anything but politics, really.

But hey, whatevs, right? Screw it. Screw him. After all, the prez let you down. Conveniently “forgot” to include you in the dialogue, after a major election that you helped him win. Where were the outreach programs? The campus speaking tours? Weekly appearances on “The Daily Show”? Legal pot and gay marriage and discounts tickets to SXSW and Burning Man and Coachella? I want my goddamn political perks, and I want them now.

Hey, I understand. We’re an instant gratification culture, and you’re an ADHD generation. Who wants to hear that serious enviro legislation might take a decade or two to fully come to fruition? Who wants to hear about Obama passing rather amazing student loan reform? Or even financial reform? Or health care, the Iraq drawdown, saving a million jobs at GM, or all the rest of his rather astonishing achievements to date? Dude, so boring.

Of course, you’ve now learned the hard way that the hot flush of a major election is far more electrifying than the gray n’ meaty grind of actual governing. Obama flew into office on gossamer liberal wings, but the real halls of D.C. are a goddamn pigsblood slaughterhouse, brutal and depressing, full of gnarled legislative compromise. Screw that noise, you know?

And you know what? You’re right. Well, sort of. The Obama administration sure as hell could’ve done more to keep young activists inspired and involved. It’s an opportunity squandered, no question. Then again, dude was sorta busy unburying the entire nation, you know? And the twitchy Democratic party has never been known for its savvy cohesion. Maybe you can give him/them a break? Whoops, too late.

Look, I’m sorry. I know I’m being far too hard on you. Of course it’s not just you. It’s not completely your fault these dimwit Repubs were allowed to ooze back into a bit of power so soon. As many analysts have pointed out, this wasn’t a vote for the Republicans, but against the limp-wristed Dems who didn’t step up and lead with more authority and clarity of purpose. Truly, libs and independents of every age are frustrated Obama isn’t governing with the same kind of magical, balls-out visionary zeal that fueled his campaign.

And let’s not forget a shockingly unintelligent Tea Party movement that stands for exactly nothing and fears exactly everything, all ghost-funded by a couple of creepy libertarian oil billionaires — the leathery old Koch brothers — who eat their young for a snack. Who could’ve predicted that gnarled political contraption would hold water? But hey, when Americans are angry and nervous, they do stupid things. Like vote Republican. It happens. Just did.

But here’s your big takeaway, young Dem: It ain’t over yet. The 2012 election is just around the corner. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that two years whip by insanely quickly. Anything can happen, and usually does. You’ll have another chance. And probably another after that. Maybe more.

So here’s what you need to know, right now: Barack Obama is, and will continue to be, a bit of goddamn miracle. He’s simply as good as we’re going get for an articulate, thoughtful, integrity-rich Democratic prez in your lifetime. Period. To hamstring his administration out of spite and laziness is childish and sad. Check the accomplishments. Understand the process. Deal with the messiness.

It will never be perfect. It will never be giddy liberal nirvana, because it doesn’t work that way. Politics is corrosive and infuriating, de facto and by definition, even with someone as thoughtful as Obama in the Big Chair. Understand it. Deal with it. Get back in the game. If you don’t, we all lose.

Your choice, kiddo.

Absolutely fabulous, from top to bottom.

I know a lot of people take offense to being lambasted this way, and will inevitably claim that the tone of the article is too harsh and will drive people away from following politics and the political process, not wake them up to how important it is to participate. Frankly, I think we’re definitely at the point where we’ve been rewarded for participation in the process and now we need to be reminded that it is indeed a process – not an game of instant returns. It’s a process and we all need to keep participating, and we all need to keep fighting, or else what happened here will continue to happen.

[ Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat ]
Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

October 25, 2010

Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day

If you read Not So Humble at all, you know what’s at stake in the upcoming elections and how important it is for progressives and liberals everywhere who care about the future and continued progress of our country – incremental as it is – to get to the polls on November 2nd. The far-right wingnuts and Tea Partyists are definitely headed to the polls, and you bet they’re hoping you don’t go because they know full well they’re in the minority.

Do you need more convincing that a lot of the nonsense we’re hearing in the media amount to little more than right-wing talking points? Check out this fabulous list from Dave Johnson over at the Campaign for America’s Future that I have to lift in its entirety because they are, point for point, critical to be read together:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush’s last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama’s first budget reduced that to $1.29 trillion.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.

Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the “stimulus” was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the “stimulus” with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be “non-reviewable by any court or any agency.”) The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn’t work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.

Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.

Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.

Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8 ) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on “welfare” and “foreign aid” when that is only a small part of the government’s budget.

If people want to make this a referendum on President Obama, they’d do well to head over to one of our previous articles where we highlight the Obama Achievements Center – where, even if you don’t particularly think President Obama is progressive enough or effective enough, you have to acknowledge the things he’s done so far and ask the question of whether or not you’d get the same from John McCain if he had won the election.

Great example – President Obama participated in the It Gets Better Project. Would John McCain have done that? Would any of these Tea Party nuts who claim to defend the constitution but have never read it (Christine O’Donnel’s “where in the constitution is freedom of religion” and Sharron Angle’s “There’s a second amendment?” comment prove it) have participated? Never – they’re too busy blaming everyone else for the problems they and their financial backers caused while draping themselves in American flags and claiming to be “of the people.”

Be wary my friends, that Trojan Horse is right outside the door, and there are a lot of clueless people willing to let them in.

[ Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

September 27, 2010

The GOP’s Worthless “Pledge” to America

Ever since the media descended on that little hardware store that shall now live in infamy to listen to some of the Teapublican Party’s most worthless representatives unveil their so-called “pledge” to America, I’ve been itching to take it apart piece by piece. Thankfully, a number of other great writers have done so for me, and called out the pledge for what it is – at best a shell of empty promises the Republicans simply can’t keep, and at worst a malicious plan to cripple the American middle class, shovel tons of money into the hands of the Republicans’ best friends, and pull money back from the areas that the American government should be investing in most heavily right now, like education and job training.

But the Republicans, as always, see things differently – mostly through a lens of “I’ve got mine, you can go to hell,” which results in a legislative agenda that does nothing in the good times and actually reverses public progress and common good in the worst times; and that’s exactly what they plan to do.

Over at The Washington Monthly (and reposted at AlterNet) was a fantastic piece calling the pledge out as the sham that it was – snake-oil designed to make Tea Partiers and people who are disenchanted with the fact that this hole the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress during the Clinton Administration dug is deeper than they have patience for turn out to the polls:

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s tempting to think House Republicans deserve at least some credit for making the effort. After all, the GOP hasn’t even tried to craft a policy agenda in many years. The point of the “Pledge,” presumably, is to help demonstrate that congressional Republicans aren’t just the “party of no”; this is a new GOP prepared to reclaim the mantle of “party of ideas.”

But that’s precisely why the endeavor is such an embarrassing failure. The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas. The Republican Party that lost control of Congress four years ago has had an abundance of time to craft a policy vision that offered credible, serious solutions. Instead, we’re confronted with a document that can best be described as tired nonsense.

That sounds about right, but there’s definitely more:

Ezra Klein’s take was entirely in line with my own.

[Y]ou’re left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that’s already got too little of it.

You’re also left with a difficult question: What, exactly, does the Republican Party believe? The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt — but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to “greater liberty” and then, in the next, that it will protect “traditional marriage.” It says that “small business must have certainty that the rules won’t change every few months” and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong — debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government — and a solid promise to make most of it worse.

If Republicans set out to prove that they’re wholly unprepared and incapable of governing effectively, they’ve succeeded beautifully. That may have been obvious when there was an actual GOP majority and they failed on a spectacular, generational scale, but any hopes that the party has since learned valuable lessons quickly fade with the release of the “Pledge to America.”

Indeed, the moral of the story this morning is very likely the fact that Republicans probably shouldn’t even try. Last year, the House GOP released an alternative budget, which was so tragically pathetic, it neglected to include any numbers. Several months later, the House GOP released an alternative health care reform plan, which made no effort to actually improve a dysfunctional system.

In fact, the Republicans’ “pledge” would rob the coffers of K-12 education by millions upon millions of dollars thanks to drastic cuts in public education, but it wouldn’t strike a dime from tax breaks for the wealthy, the Defense Department’s budget, or their own salaries. How’s that for fiscal responsibility?

[ GOP’s New ‘Pledge to America’: A Pathetic, Destructive Sham ]
Source: The Washington Monthly (courtesy of AlterNet)

But the beat goes on: over at the Campaign for America’s Future, RJ Eskow calls out the “pledge” for pretending it’s fiscally sound and that it’s aiming at bloated government spending when it’s really a ruse for deep cuts to public programs that are unpopular with Republicans and their Tea Party ilk: programs like health care, education, and social services. He writes:

Once you strip away the rhetoric, the answer is simple: Off the top, their plan is a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich – at everybody else’s expense. Their “pledge” would slash needed spending, kill jobs and end any hope of growing the economy. It declares open season on the public’s health and safety with a deregulation agenda that would unleash BP, Goldman Sachs, and every other corporation whose risky behavior endangers us. It would lead to even more financial crashes and environmental disasters. Firefighters, cops,and teachers would be laid off in droves. The deficit would soar. We’d face a permanently stagnating economy. The middle class would wither away.

That’s the future they’re offering. It’s Bush on steroids, fattened up and ready to feast on … you. If you like today’s economy, you’ll love the one these guys are cooking up.

If this document wasn’t written by lobbyists then it was certainly submitted for their review and approval. And there’s a lot for them to love.

He doesn’t waste time diving right into some of the same laughable notions that came up in the Washington Monthly piece – things so laughable that they couldn’t possibly ever become public policy in America unless the American people like shooting themselves in the foot (although the rise of the Tea Party and the “ignorance is bliss” political movement gives me pause to wonder if they’re not the case):

Where would they cut, exactly? They don’t say. David Frum, a former speechwriter for George Bush, explains why: “Here is the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory. Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?”

Deadly unpopular things. At least Frum is honest enough to say out loud what other Republicans won’t: They’re going to subsidize their tax breaks for the wealthy by doing things the American people will hate. They won’t just cut the everyday functions of government that make our lives better. Returning government spending to “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels” also means ending the repair work that’s currently being done to fix what their policies have broken. That includes getting people back to work, providing loans for small businesses, and cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico.

But even though they slither past the specifics, the GOP leaders left some broad hints about their defunding priorities. In a graph that lists government spending, for example, the categories aren’t listed by size, or alphabetically. The ones at the top are the targets, and which figure prominently? The Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education, Justice … you see where this is going, don’t you? (Yes, the Justice Department’s on the list. Law enforcement isn’t always a convenient thing in their America.)

Their list of 2,050 different assistance programs singles out Federal funding to the states—states that are in desperate need of federal support to keep people working in the fiscal aftermath of GOP policies. They need Federal aid to avoid the kind of cuts they’ll be forced to make otherwise: laying off cops and teachers, slashing Medicaid, letting roads crumble, and shutting down emergency services, just to name a few.

Why not rename this pledge the “fire a cop, buy a banker his own private island plan”?

The Pledge also promises to give “small businesses” a tax deduction equal to “20 percent of their business income” – but, as Rachel Maddow and others have observed, their definition of “small business” includes giant corporations like Bechtel and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. That would mean another multibillion-dollar tax break for the wealthiest among us.

This “deficit-conscious” plan wants to expand the “military/industrial welfare state,” too. “We are a nation at war,” it says, calling to “fully fund” a missile defense system that’s already plagued with persistent test failures, laden with cost overruns, and which most experts don’t think is needed or can ever wok. What it can do, however, is transfer a lot of middle-class income to Boeing and Northrop Grumman. We’ve already spent more than $60 billion on the “Star Wars” missile program in the last eight years, in fact. Why, that’s nearly as much as the GOP intends to give to the top 25 billion-dollar-a-year hedge fund managers!

They dress their plan up with the usual mumbo-jumbo about government spending that’s “crowding out the private economy.” That may sound good, Tea Partiers, but think about: How does it do that, exactly? Every government employee buys things from private companies—from supermarkets, pharmacies, auto dealers, and yes, hardware stores. Makes no sense when you think about it.

And while their rhetoric’s pretty polished, they tried a little too hard to channel the Founding Fathers with lines like this one: “Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.” (Note for whichever lobbyist wrote that: “Agenda” is a business word, not an inspirational one. It doesn’t fit. It’s like writing “When in the course of human events we are called upon to write a Mission Statement …”)

Here’s the bottom line: They’ll raid your money to make their rich patrons even richer. The middle class will continue to wither away, and those manage to hold on will be worse off than ever. More and more people will slip into permanent unemployment, poverty, and penurious old age. More roads will crumble. More aging pipelines will explode in towns like San Bruno, Calif. This “pledge” is the oldest kind of promise in the world: the promise than con men make to their victims.

Remember, the Republicans made a lot of promises the last time they took control of the Congress. They promised to create more jobs, and their policies led to record unemployment. They promised to limit their own terms, then settled in for a long comfy stay in Washington. They promised that businesses would regulate themselves, and both the Gulf Coast and the Main Street economy were ruined.

Seriously people, remember this when you head to the polls. There may be no way to heal this wound in time for the elections, but there’s definitely time to stop the bleeding so we can continue the work of repairing the damage that these same people – and then the people who inspired the worst of them that are rising to influence – have caused and are eagerly planning to cause.

[ GOP's "Pledge" To Rob The Middle Class: No Jobs, No Health Care, No Security ]
Source: The Campaign for America’s Future

September 13, 2010

Since That Day

On September 11th, I retweeted something that I thought was particularly poignant, and had been posted to Twitter by Xeni Jardin, where she said:

Honoring 9/11 by refraining from maudlin “where I was” tweets, or using the event as a mule to carry the cause-burden of my choosing.

I absolutely agree with her. After seeing the woeful tearjerking by people all over Twitter and just about everywhere else on September 11th, people who were and always have been far from New York City and Washington DC, people who claim to have been “directly affected” but watched on their television screens from miles away, and people who to this day continue to use the attacks on that day as a prop for their own personal political causes and beliefs, I decided to keep quiet about my feelings about that day.

The day was complicated for me personally, but that’s not what’s important. The folks out there with the glittery animated GIFs of eagles crying as the towers fell and Facebook status updates like “Never forget: if you’ll never forget post this to your status,” and whatnot are more than likely people who had no direct involvement or impact from the attacks – they’re simply all too happy to use the event as a chest-thumping excuse for sensless – and selfish – nationalism.

Every year that progresses, I get more and more jaded at the people who seem to cling so deeply to that day, especially as their ranks grow and I know that none of them lost a loved one, none of them saw the planes that day, none of them heard the explosion at the Pentagon, none of them ran from the expanding cloud of dust in lower Manhattan, and none of them were likely even awake early enough on that day to see everything happen.

I’m not alone, either – I think there’s a growing number of us who are tired of seeing 9/11 being used as a justification for mindless hatred and anger that thinly covers the sadness of people who were so far removed from it that they don’t even know how to move on like those of us who actually were affected simply had to.

Something else I think was extremely poignant was tweeted by Clayton Cubitt, someone I don’t have the pleasure of knowing, but saw retweeted by a number of people I do know. He said:

America, we love you, but quit trying to drag us into your creepy 9/11 death cult. We chose life. -NYC

Washington, DC would like to co-sign that statement, please. Thanks.

William Rivers Pitt, like he always does, has something poignant to say on the matter. He shares his own story, but then nails it with this:

Nine years, four national elections, two wars and two presidents since that day, and where are we now as a nation? Broke, deranged and dangerous pretty much sums it up. We have Christian-Taliban pastors in Florida with filthy souls threatening to burn the Qu’ran, as if such an act had any meaning beyond a desire to make money, and a national news media apparatus all too happy to give them all the ink and air time he could ever wish for. We have seething crowds threatening arson and murder because a Muslim community center might get built next to a strip club on the site of a defunct coat store. We have national caricatures like Sarah Palin charging people more than $200 for the chance to meet with her on that day, as if she has any significance at all. We’ve got stabbings and beatings and firebombings, and this is nine years later.

We are a nation of euphemisms now. It’s not spying on the American people, it is “national security.” It’s not holding someone in a hellhole without charges or trial, it is “indefinite detention.” It’s not kidnapping, it is “extraordinary rendition.” It’s not murder or assassination, it is “targeted killing.” It’s not torture, it is “enhanced interrogation.” It’s not wildly and patently illegal and immoral on its face, it is “war.”

We are a lessened nation nine years later, and much of the damage has been done by our own hand. It is one thing for people to react with fear and rage after an outrageous act of violence. It is quite another for the leaders of those people to exploit that fear and rage for their own dark and greedy purposes, and nine years later, we are down in the ditch thanks to exactly that sort of behavior. Thousands of American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands more have been grievously maimed. Millions of civilians in those two countries have been slaughtered or shattered, but we may never know the true scope of the carnage, because “we don’t do body counts.”

Nine years later, one truth remains: America is an idea, a dream, a hope that has yet to be realized. Take away our people, our cities, our roads, our crops, our armies and navies and bombs and guns, take all of that away and there is still the idea, as vibrant and vital as it was when the Founders first put ink to parchment and changed the world. Everyone you know owns a heritage that began somewhere else; we are all different in so many ways, and all that binds us is the ink on that parchment and the ideas therein contained. We are all our brother’s and sister’s keeper, beholden to one another, all of us children of that idea.

Nine years ago, we were forced into an accounting of how dear that idea is to us, and were found wanting. Nine years later, we still are. The idea deserves better than what we have given to it. We can continue in this fashion, or we can summon within ourselves the will and wisdom to locate those better angels of our nature that are surely there, waiting for us.

The entire piece is much worth reading, and I strongly suggest you do.

[ Since That Day ]
Source: TruthOut

Hatred and Stupidity…But I Repeat Myself

William Rivers Pitt, writing for TruthOut, calls out Glenn Beck and his cohorts for the culture of hatred and fear that they’ve been generating in America today, and he’s on point, as usual. The terrifying thing is that even in the face of informed debate, their supporters still shove their heads in the sand and pretend that the truth isn’t staring them in the face – that the cult of personality around some of these far-right demagogues is not only destructive for them and their supporters, but also destructive for America.

2010 is shaping up to be the Year of the Hate Crime in America, thanks in large part to right-bent Republicans and their Tea Party allies who have nothing to run on in the upcoming midterms. Think about it; would you want to run for office as a Republican these days? Their dearest economic ideas gave us the current recession, their foreign policies resulted in a war we lost in Iraq and a war we’re losing in Afghanistan, their environmental designs have resulted in yet another oil rig detonation in the Gulf of Mexico, a great many of their supporters don’t believe in dinosaurs because the Bible doesn’t mention them, and their biggest national superstar is Sarah Palin, who by all appearances is so drastically stupid that she couldn’t figure out how to pour piss out of a boot if there were directions on the heel.

So, yeah, not much to hang your hat on there. In the absence of anything substantive to give the American people, the right has gone home to their mothership: sowing discord, fear and hatred to distract people from the fact that, while Republicans are good at campaigning, they are walking cancer cells to the body politic if and when they actually win.

This time around, the right’s weapon of choice against this republic is spreading hatred and fear of Muslims and Islam. September 11 happened nine years ago, so it may seem an odd topic to harp on after so much time has passed, but the Cordoba House controversy gave them an opening and they ran right through it. Of course, it started before that, pretty much as soon as President Obama first threw his hat into the ring for the 2008 election. Once the right figured out his middle name was Hussein, it was hats over the windmill, and their incessant blather about his background and religion has finally begun to bear bloody fruit.

I really couldn’t put it better myself, he’s absolutely tight. In the same way I pity the Republicans and what’s left of their party – having been eaten alive by the most radical and flag-waving-yet-truly-anti-American members among them, I pity the poor voters who actually think that these folks, draped in their flags, are actually a political alternative.

It’s actually terrifying what could happen to the Amercian people and to American society if these folks are allowed enough of a foothold that they make an impression on American politics – and in a lot of ways I’d feel worse for sensible Republicans who would find themselves crossing the aisle more often than not simply because the opposition to progress in America would be so poisonous and entirely lacking in desire to work collaboratively.

We’ve seen the stories in the media of right-wing nuts stabbing cab drivers shortly after asking them if they’re Muslim, we saw some of the most idiotic among us protesting a cultural center in lower Manhattan – and their idiocy would have been enough if they hadn’t all but violently assaulted a poor carpenter who was passing through the area because he had brown skin and was wearing a skullcap and they all assumed he was Muslim.

This is what it’s like to be Muslim in America, and the Tea Party thugs like it this way – it’s a way to reassert White, Christian, and Male privilege and authority – by creating new religious and ethnic underclasses that they can feel good about oppressing and that society lets them get away with because of the complexities of the issues. Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Gays and Lesbians – we’re all subject to the same anger, and we’re all exploited in different ways.

Whether Muslims are being denied the freedom to worship, Latinos are being denied the American Dream, African Americans are being told to be quiet when they’ve been offended because they’re somehow playing the “race card,” or gays and lesbians are being told that they for some reason don’t deserve the right to marry, partner, or make decisions together as a family unit, these are the indicators that America is facing a terrible and dangerous threat to our collective freedom: one we have to stand up and repel, even in small ways, every day. To do otherwise is to let the thugs win and to slide backwards into their so-called “Good Old Days,” where there was one face of America, and it looked like they do today – everyone else was relegated to the sidelines.

[ Hatred and Stupidity...But I Repeat Myself ]
Source: TruthOut

August 9, 2010

That “Change” is Working Out Great for Me, Thanks for Asking!

I’ve never been a fan of bumper sticker politics: I find it overall relatively crude and demeaning not only to everyone involved (both the person idiotic enough to put something like “Miss Him Yet?” on their car and the person who has to see it while they’re headed to work or home from it) but there’s been one little trend of short-memory and revisionist history among conservatives and Republicans that I feel compelled to note.

Admittedly, the Right’s attention span has always been short, and their capacity to revise history to make themselves look glowing (see Ronald Reagan) has always been remarkable, but President Obama has been in office for 18 months and not only are conservatives trying to pretend that he’s not still busy cleaning up the messes of the past 8 years (“hurr when will you stop blaming the last guy for what’s happening now, hrurr”) but also conveniently shaping today’s issues in short-term language (instead of properly pointing at the near 30-year history of American conservatism as responsible for the deregulation of our financial industries, energy industries, and transportation industries to the point where they’re only accountable to their shareholders and the desires of their executives to line their pockets – at the expense of the American people.)

Bumper stickers like “How’s that change working out for you” and “Miss him yet?” have been appearing on the cars of the angry, who want you and I to believe that the world may as well have ended 18 months ago and now we’re all picking through the smoldering ashes of our civilization. To those questions, I have two very simple answers:

* That change is working out great for me, thanks for asking!
* No, I don’t miss him at all – in fact, I’m happily on my way to forgetting he ever existed.

Starting at the very bottom, I’m particularly glad that I have a President who, while he isn’t perfect, is leaps and bounds more perfect than the last guy, and a President who I don’t have to worry will lock me up and waterboard me if I disagree with him and don’t march in lock step behind. Now I have a President who, as a matter of policy, doesn’t strip American citizens of their rights and due process just so they can be thrown in a dark cell until the powers that be can think of what do to with them. Again – our current Administration isn’t perfect on this point, but at least they’re willing to listen to suggestions and open to changing course – the last Administration would have simply called you “un-American,” “un-patriotic,” and thrown you in a cell just for speaking your mind.

The last Administration listened in on the phone calls of American citizens without a warrant, and the last Administration locked up American citizens for no reason. The last Administration was responsible for the Patriot Act, which while it hasn’t been repealed, has been used with significantly more caution and judgment than it had been in the past. The last Administration was obsessed with the State Secrets Act and shutting down human rights lawsuits just by invoking it.

So no, I don’t “miss him yet” at all, and that “change” has been a huge breath of fresh air.

Let’s move on to some more tangible examples though:

Would Mad King George have appointed two women to the Supreme Court? Likely not.

Would McCain have signed the Lucy Ledbetter Act, mandating equal pay for equal work? Never.

Would Bush Jr. have committed to drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, even if those plans are slow to take shape? Never – they would have said even talking about leaving would have emboldened our “enemy.”

Would the Little Bush or McCain ever strive to provide health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, pass a Patient’s Bill of Rights, put Medicare on sound financial footing, and cut near a trillion dollars from the budget defecit over the next 10 years by reforming the way Americans get and spend on health care? It would have been a laughable proposition.

Would McCain or Palin have signed an executive order mandating that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be repealed? Wouldn’t have even crossed their minds.

Would Bush Jr. ever thought to close Guantanamo, much less actually try? Never.

Would a Republican president ever have sought to re-vitalize the Civil Rights wing of the Department of Justice, ousting political appointments that sought only to minimize the amount of work the agency did by throwing out legitimate cases and complaints and marginalizing career lawyers who have fought for equal rights their entire lives? Nope.

Would McCain or Palin have fought to restore science and scientific analysis to its rightful place in American discourse, especially on such important topics as climate change, space science, and medicine? Never.

Would McCain or Bush Jr. be on nearly as solid terms with our allies as Obama is, and managed to completely turn around our antagonistic relationship with Russia the way he has? Never – we would have seen more bluster and saber rattling, and likely be in the middle of another war with another faceless enemy designed to make us afraid by now had we voted differently.

Would McCain ever have gleefully signed ethics reform into law that would ensure there were strong rules to make sure the the field day that Republicans had during their majority time in office prior to 2008 (remember the cascade of ethics and sex scandals coming out of Congress back then? Oh how soon the right wing forgets…) never happen again? Not a chance.

Would Bush Jr. ever have given woefully needed money to the American auto industry – even if it was unpopular – and then been able to stand behind them as, as happened last week, they all post revenue gains and profits as opposed to the record losses and debts they had over a year ago?

The economic downturn was in full swing when President Obama was elected, as were both wars and all of their issues – so blaming President Obama is only ad accurate as you can blame someone for not cleaning up someone else’s mess fast enough. Someone recently pointed to a story about the vast majority (something like 96%) of money slated for reconstruction in Iraq being unaccounted for, and snarkily commented about whether or not this was something that people would just blame President Bush for – to which I responded that yes, it is – it’s only the right that seeks to unload accountability for their own actions and leadership decisions onto the people that follow them. President Obama has accountability to cleaning up that mess, but he has no accountability for having made the mess in the first place.

To that end though, would Bush Jr. or McCain ever have pushed through legislation designed to stimulate the economy, fund thousands of new infrastructure projects, put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work, and, with time, eventually turn the job decline into a slow but steady job incline? Not at all – there would have been some tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans (like the Bush tax cuts being debated now in Congress – you remember, the ones that did nothing to stimulate the economy or create new jobs?) and the Republicans would have resorted to their old stand-by, that people who are unemployed somehow “want to be jobless” or “deserve it.”

Would Bush ever have had the gravitas or political will to push through a massive financial system reform bill into law that not only forces more accountability in the financial sector but also establishes a new government agency that the public can turn to for their own protection against those massive Wall Street entities? Never. Would McCain? Hardly – he may have handed over some more money to them, but never have fought on our behalf.

So when you ask me if that “change” is working out for me, I’m more than happy to say yes.

When you ask me if I “miss him yet,” I can answer with a smile and say “miss who?”

Because overall, there’s plenty of work left to be done, and we’re not out of the woods, and everything isn’t perfect, but I’m more hopeful now than I ever have been, and I’m confident that America is moving in the right direction under a leader who at least considers the best interests of the people and the nation over their own personal whim or delusional personal “calling.”

Yup, that change is working out for me just fine, thanks. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

July 26, 2010

Fighting Wars Won’t Make You a Hero

My father, who proudly served in the military (partially so I would never have to) has said this to me before: that not everyone who dons a uniform is a hero, and not every hero wears a uniform. And that just because someone’s served in the armed forces doesn’t make them a hero or someone automatically worthy of praise and respect – respect has to be earned by anyone to anyone, and the clothes they wear or the life they’ve chosen shouldn’t automatically grant that to anyone.

Part of the issue here is the gradual turn of our armed services into a “hero class,” where the civilian population automatically and immediately bows to any opinion offered by anyone who’s served in the military for any period of time for any reason. And while there is much to respect about someone who’s chosen to serve our country and potentially – at a moment’s call – put their lives on the line for our freedoms and liberties, that doesn’t automatically make them a “hero.”

William Astore describes this incredibly well, while balancing the appropriate respect and appreciation for the men and women of our military and the life that they choose to lead in service of their countrymen, with the immediate refutation of the “I was a soldier so I know how the world works and how things should be” mentality that I for one hear incredibly often from people on the political right.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone claim to have served during wartime as a way to not have to use facts or reality to base their political beliefs; someone who uses the fact that they either are in the service or were in the service as a way to automatically shut down a political debate.

I’ve said as much to people before: that being a solider doesn’t make you any more or less qualified to be a politician or even command a conflict any more than being a police officer makes you qualified to be a state governor or even be the police chief. Sure you have insight into one particular area of importance, but – as my dad would say – being a infantryman on the ground is admirable, but it doesn’t necessarily make you qualified to be a general.

It doesn’t preclude you from it, but it doesn’t automatically make you one – so saying “I know how the war should be fought/I know how all wars should be fought/I know whether war is right or wrong because I was in XXXX conflict” simply isn’t rational, or even remotely true, unless by saying “I was in XXXX conflict” you’re really saying “I was in command.”

Astore goes on though, pointing out that there’s more to the term “hero” than our culture has diluted it to be these days:

In local post offices, as well as on local city streets here in central Pennsylvania, I see many reminders that our troops are “hometown heroes.” Official military photos of these young enlistees catch my eye, a few smiling, most looking into the camera with faces of grim resolve tinged with pride at having completed basic training. Once upon a time, as the military dean of students at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, I looked into such faces in the flesh, congratulating young service members for their effort and spirit.

I was proud of them then; I still am. But here’s a fact I suspect our troops might be among the first to embrace: the act of joining the military does not make you a hero, nor does the act of serving in combat. Whether in the military or in civilian life, heroes are rare — indeed, all-too-rare. Heck, that’s the reason we celebrate them. They’re the very best of us, which means they can’t be all of us.

Still, even if elevating our troops to hero status has become something of a national mania, is there really any harm done? What’s wrong with praising our troops to the rafters? What’s wrong with adding them to our pantheon of heroes?

The short answer is: There’s a good deal wrong, and a good deal of harm done, not so much to them as to us.

To wit:

*By making our military a league of heroes, we ensure that the brutalizing aspects and effects of war will be played down. In celebrating isolated heroic feats, we often forget that war is guaranteed to degrade humanity. “War,” as writer and cultural historian Louis Menand noted, “is specially terrible not because it destroys human beings, who can be destroyed in plenty of other ways, but because it turns human beings into destroyers.”

When we create a legion of heroes in our minds, we blind ourselves to evidence of their destructive, sometimes atrocious, behavior. Heroes, after all, don’t commit atrocities. They don’t, for instance, dig bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies in an attempt to cover up deadly mistakes. They don’t fire on a good Samaritan and his two children as he attempts to aid a grievously wounded civilian. Such atrocities and murderous blunders, so common to war’s brutal chaos, produce cognitive dissonance in the minds of many Americans who simply can’t imagine their “heroes” killing innocents. How much easier it is to see the acts of violence of our troops as necessary, admirable, even noble.

*By making our military generically heroic, we act to prolong our wars.

I couldn’t put it better myself.

[ Fighting Wars Won't Make You a Hero ]
Source: TomDispatch.com (via AlterNet)

July 19, 2010

Racists Never Seem to Get a Break

Oh the poor Tea Party – they keep wanting to not be called racists, but they keep acting like racists! That AND their leadership is so busy whining and complaining that they’re being called racist that they can’t take the time to actively denounce racism in their ranks – which would probably go along way to discounting attacks that they’re racist. But then again, they can’t possibly denounce racism, because after all, the truth is? They’re not only racist, but they say and do racist things.

Now I make that distinction on purpose, because it’s critical to be able to tell the difference between someone who just said or did something that’s racist and someone who IS racist. Not everyone who says something that’s racist is a racist person – and it’s those people who can be told “listen, that’s not cool,” and they’ll understand if they’re approached non-defensively. But some people – like the leadership of the Tea Party thuggery – are so busy saying and being racist and then complaining when they’re called out on it that they simply can’t be educated to their own white privilege.

This tidbit by digby at AlterNet had me laughing:

It’s interesting that after the ACORN business and the past year of obnoxious rhetoric on the far right the mainstream media is suddenly waking up to the fact that the Tea Party might just, in fact, have a teensy racist bent.

This is from a well done article on the topic in the Kansas City Star:

For many tea partiers, racism is in the eye of the beholder.

Take Ron Wight, who stood with dozens of tea party activists at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in April, complaining about the Obama administration, its socialist agenda and being called a racist.

Those like him who complain about President Barack Obama are accused of racism, lamented the semi-retired music teacher from Lee’s Summit.

Then he added: “If I was a black man, I’d get down on my knees and thank God for slavery. Otherwise, I could be dying of AIDS now in Africa.”

Wight doesn’t consider that comment to be racist.“I wish slavery had never happened,” he said. “But there are some black people alive today who have never suffered one day what the people who were black went through in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Has somebody said something stupid or done something stupid? Yes, there have been incidents.

“But with everything that has been done in this country legally and socially for the black man, it’s almost like they’ve been given a great leg up.”

I think that exemplifies the most common modern form of racism — the white victim mentality, whether it means “they’ve been given a great leg up” or “they are all violent criminals and welfare queens,” the point is that racial minorities get all the breaks.

And no, these people don’t admit they are racists. Indeed, they deny it completely and claim that they are, in fact, victims of reverse racism. Just because they say it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

For an erudite discussion of this topic, I urge you to read this Ta-Nehisi Coates essay here.

That essay at the end goes into fabulous detail on why the NAACP is absolutely correct with regard to calling out the Tea Party for its racist motivations, members, and statements. Meanwhile, people in the Tea Party, like Wight above, claim they’re just exercising their “right to free speech” while spouting hate that’s been sugarcoated in their own white privilege.

On the bright side though, we get to all watch the Tea Partiers self-destruct by doing this.

[ Racists Never Seem to Get a Break ]
Source: AlterNet

June 21, 2010

Blaming Obama Is Easy and Irresponsible

I’ve said this a number of times – while the people on the right are frothing at the mouth and burning effigies and carrying their torches and pitchforks every time anyone who doesn’t feel exactly the way they do opens their mouth (to the point of cannibalizing their own), those of us on the progressive left have a job to do that we’re not doing very well right now.

I’m without a doubt a politics-over-person, belief-over-candidate progressive, but I’m not stupid – I know when I have a good thing and I know that there’s work required to make that good thing keep working for me. Right now, my fellow progressives, we have a good thing. President Obama may not be the panacea of progressive governance, but he’s not only the best thing we’ll get right now, he’s the best thing to come along for a long time.

And yet, many of us are beating him up for not being progressive enough, not moving fast enough, not ending the war fast enough, not giving us all the full boat of health care reform enough, not reforming our financial markets enough, not creating jobs fast enough, not giving us all cupcakes and ice cream enough – and it’s really got to stop.

We’re poised with politicians in office that want positive and progressive change in America, but right now they don’t think the American people have the backbone for it because they’re too busy getting beat on by progressives who want them to move faster while the rest of us in the center and the left and even many on the right are sitting back, complacent, with our hands folded.

Many of us thought we did all we had to do when we elected Obama and the majority of Democrats that we elected in 2008 and we sat back and essentially said “go forth and make the world a better place, we’ll be here when you’re done.” We have, and continue to forget that this is a participatory process, and we need to not only encourage our politicians to make progressive change, we need to create an atmosphere and environment in not just our political discourse and media, but in our communities where that change is welcome, celebrated, and wanted.

Writing for Reader Supported News, Scott Galindez echoes this point:

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other. – President-Elect Barack Obama

When President Obama accepted victory in Grant Park, he called on all of us to join him in ushering in the change we all were seeking. Did we answer the call? Have we rolled up our sleeves and fought for real change?

I would argue that very few did. Most of us celebrated and waited for Obama to do the heavy lifting. The country was facing a devastating financial crisis while conducting two wars. We were celebrating the victory, but not looking at the overwhelming challenges our new leader was facing. We expected sweeping change, but for the most part we left the battlefield and expected Obama to bring us that change.

It’s about time that we returned to that battlefield, and Galindez is absolutely right. He can’t do this without us – he never could, and although the sweeping changes that have already been made (Health Care Reform alone puts Obama in the same caliber as Presidents like Roosevelt, to be truthful) he can’t press the country forward and away from the distractions of things that will only serve to slow us down without the help of the American people. Whether it’s energy and climate change, jobs, financial market reform, or immigration, he won’t be able to do it without us.

Galindez goes on to address specific topics, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, climate change, energy, and finally financial reform, where he says this:

That has to change.

On that historic night in Grant Park, Obama also said:

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president.

He was right, many liberals and progressives disagree with many of Obama’s policies, but let us focus on what we agree on.

While it isn’t a perfect bill, millions of Americans will have access to health care that didn’t before, and millions more will not lose their health care coverage if they get sick.

Did you know that Obama signed legislation that forces banks to honor your lease if your landlord goes into foreclosure? I wonder if McCain or Bush would have done that?

While the financial reform legislation isn’t as strong as we wanted, it is more than we would have gotten from “Keating Five” McCain.

Then there is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that moves us closer to pay equity for women.

The list goes on, but too often we forget the gains and focus on the areas that we disagree on with the president.

Obama always said he couldn’t do it alone; the entrenched powerful interests in Washington are not going to just surrender. We need to support him when he is doing the right thing, and create a new political climate that allows him to change his policies when we think he is wrong.

I believe that he believes in the right things, but he can only achieve what the political climate allows. We have failed to provide the political climate for the change we believe in. It is time for us to organize and seize back the momentum for change.

Galindez apologizes for potentially offending anyone who may feel that they’ve been wrongly or inappropriately targeted by the post, but I won’t go that far. Frankly, I think the majority of Americans, especially us progressives, are perfectly happy cannibalizing Obama if he doesn’t align with us specifically on the issues that we want him to, or push as far as we want him to push.

And we desperately need to remember what our options were (McCain/Palin) and we desperately need to remember that we have a job to do here as well – and that job doesn’t entail all-out loyalty to the President, not the way the Republicans were under President Bush – but it does entail standing up for him so he can push forward even a little on the things that are important to all of us against those people who would tear him down and hold him back.

[ Blaming Obama is Easy and Irresponsible ]
Source: Reader Supported News