Why do I continue to be amazed?

July 16, 2010

In this morning’s (Fri 7/16) West Chester Daily Local, a letter writer defended the Obama administration against talking point charges that it is eradicating freedom, has sold its soul to the Socialists–the usual tripe.  Along the way, the letter writer made the point that the Obama administration has had 18 months to respond to the messes left behind by George W. Bush’s administration.

Although I ought to know better by now, I couldn’t help but read the comments section.  Out of 8 comments, every single one of them accused the letter writer of blaming Bush for Obama’s mistakes.  It’s become another Republican talking point to respond to every mention of Bush with, “He hasn’t been President for a long time now.  You can’t keep blaming him for all your problems.”

We’ll set aside for now the fact that we’re right.  George W. Bush came very close to destroying the United States, and to expect Obama to fix that in 18 months is ridiculous.  We’ll also forget, momentarily, that one reason the Obama administration hasn’t been more effective is that the entire Republican party is devoted to making sure Obama can’t get things done without gigantic fights.

Even with those set aside, what still rings the loudest is how unbelievably, ridiculously full of shit Republicans are, accusing us of “blaming Bush” for everything when, to this day, they still routinely blame Bill Clinton for problems that he had nothing to do with.

John Stewart did a segment on this on his June 30 show.  Here’s the link to it–

http://www.gotchamediablog.com/2010/06/daily-show-fox-friends-blame-clinton.html

Stewart documents example after example of Republicans blaming Clinton, even as recently as just a few weeks before the segment.

So apparently it’s OK to blame a President who hasn’t been in office for TEN FREAKIN’ YEARS for problems HE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH, but it’s not OK to blame a President out of office for 18 months for problems his administration was uniquely responsible for.

I changed my mind; this doesn’t even rise to the level of hypocrisy.  It’s simple lying.  It’s almost enough to make me rethink my commitment to free speech–not quite, but almost.  The First Amendment protects unpopular speech, but I’m not so sure any more that it should protect people who knowingly, willingly, and obviously lie about everything.

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Jobs and the stimulus

February 27, 2010

Early this week, in an exchange of letters to the editor in the West Chester Daily Local, a regular (as in often) conservative writer named Anthony Oleck responds to praise for the stimulus bill with this letter:

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There’s a big difference

Stephanie Markstein, in her letter to the editor, wrongly asserts that the stimulus package was supported by “the greatest economists in the nation (and) all agree that, not only was it the right thing to do, but the only thing that has kept us out of a full-blown depression.”

You are confusing TARP with the boondoggle stimulus package. Economists mostly agreed that TARP, the bailout for the banks, was necessary to avert a full-fledged financial collapse.

Stimulus is nothing but a piggy bank for pork … plus it has not worked.

Obama said we needed it to keep unemployment below 8 percent, he passed it and unemployment immediately went to over 10 percent.

As far as the “saved jobs” he keeps touting … the stimulus may have saved and certainly did add government jobs, with big benefits and big pensions that we and our children will pay for from here to eternity … those are just the jobs we should be losing to help stimulate our economy and reduce our taxes.

Stimulus is a huge slush fund for Democrats to pay back their union friends.

Anthony J Oleck

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I wrote a response that the Daily Local (understandably) declined to publish, and I want to post a revised version of it here because I think the discussion is worth continuing.

A version very similar to what I sent the DL:

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Only somebody who hates the Democratic Party as much as Anthony Oleck does could believe that: (1) the stimulus is bad because it’s creating good jobs with good benefits; and (2) the cost of private sector versions of those jobs wouldn’t be passed along to consumers anyway.

Oleck’s argument is a strawman at its worst.  At a time when what we need most is to put people to work at decent wages and with decent benefits, complaining about who actually hires them reveals his true agenda–to attack Democrats no matter what they do.

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To be more explicit (since I’m no longer bound by the DL’s length limits…

Stephanie Markstein, to whom Oleck is replying, is actually correct.  The huge majority of economists supported the stimulus.  Those who didn’t were universally conservatives who reject any form of government intervention in anything besides abortion/birth control, and/or prayer/creationism in schools, and/or …  Most critiques of the stimulus from economists without neoconservative axes to grind critiqued it for being too SMALL, not too big, a critique I agree with.

The evidence is clear, and getting clearer every day, that stimulus has in fact kept unemployment from getting worse.  Yes, the number of unemployed has gone up during the Obama presidency, but to pin that on the stimulus is short-sighted at best, disingenuous (read, a lie) at worst.  There was no doubt that the economy hadn’t bottomed out yet (in fact probably still hasn’t).

As I note in my original letter, Oleck reveals his real agenda in his letter.  He doesn’t care the least bit about people; he wants only to attack Democrats.  The simple facts of the matter are that more jobs are better than fewer, and more jobs that pay reasonable salaries and benefits are better than fewer.  The “free market” (read, unregulated orgy of exploitation) has had plenty of chances to hire and pay workers.  Instead, corporations have downsized and off-shored, leaving millions of capable workers in this country in the lurch.  These are the people Oleck trusts to fix the very problem they’ve created, out of the goodness of their hearts?  Ridiculous. How could anybody who cares about people decry the creation of good jobs?

Oleck’s claim that the stimulus was a payoff to labor unions is just a gratuitous cheapshot at unions and the President.  Given the President’s unwillingness to push EFCA; to use recess appointments to put capable members on the NLRB; to push for taxing the very health plans that unions have fought hard to earn; it’s very clear that Obama is no friend of organized labor.  He’s not as hostile to it as most Republicans are, but his track record shows, without question, that he’s the last person who would “pay off” the unions.

After years of neo-conservative babble and hostility towards labor and laborers, Oleck’s position shouldn’t surprise me, and it doesn’t.  However, it’s incumbent upon those of us who actually give a sh*t about anybody but ourselves to lay bare the truth behind these arguments.  I don’t think Oleck is malicious in his intentions, but he (and people like him who articulate these kinds of positions) show without a doubt that they don’t much care about what happens to the huge majority of their fellow citizens.  They don’t much care about people who can’t get work because the “free market” has ruined the job market for its own profit.  They don’t much care about people who have to choose between rent, food, and medical treatment.  They don’t much care about anything except attacking a President whose positions, when seen through the lens of reality, are much closer to their own then they’d ever want to admit.

[UPDATED SUN, 2/28]

WordPress’ “related posts” links sent me to this entry on somebody else’s blog.  It’s an excellent compendium of all the Republicans who voted against the stimulus but then asked for stimulus money.  Across the board, they argue that it’s appropriate to accept money they voted against, without recognizing that their own “principled stands” get compromised in the process.

http://thegreatspot.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/you-lie/


Obama and Socialism redux

February 10, 2010

Dear Tea Party Activists:

When are you going to get this?  I’m not talking about the Republicans in Washington, DC, or the ones who write the talking points memos.  I’m talking to you, the “activists,” the ones who believe you’re the vanguard of a revolution.

It’s hard to be the vanguard of revolution when you’re such buffoons.  Here’s a simple example of how flagrantly wrong you are–

Barack Obama is not a socialist.  He’s not anti-capitalist.  He doesn’t advocate workers’ controlling the means of production.  He doesn’t advocate government control of much of anything.

Your leadership keeps telling you contradictory things, both of which you continue to repeat willy-nilly.  On the one hand, they tell you Obama is a socialist.  On the other, they tell you he’s in bed with the banks, financial planners, pharmaceutical companies, and insurers.  If your IQ is above 20 or so, you ought to see the problem with that.  It’s NOT POSSIBLE to be both anti-corporate and in bed with corporations at the same time.

I would agree, without a second’s hesitation, that the second claim is true.  Obama is as or more pro-corporate than George W. Bush or any Republican has ever been.

So, before you hit the streets with signs accusing Barack Obama of taking two contradictory positions, open your damn eyes.  This isn’t complicated at all.

UPDATED 3:26 PM 2/10/2010:

As if you needed more evidence showing how pro-corporate Obama is (which obviously you do, or you’d quit calling him a Socialist)–

http://www.alternet.org/economy/145628/is_obama_committing_political_suicide_president_calls_obscene_wall_st._bonuses_%27part_of_the_free_market_system%27

In this article, Obama equates high salaries for talented professional athletes with large bonuses for “savvy” bankers.


President Obama and the House Republican Caucus

January 30, 2010

So, I didn’t watch this meeting yesterday (Fri, 1/29) but have read several articles reporting and analyzing it.  And I’ve read some of the transcript, and understand that I may have to update my thinking about this once I’ve gotten through it all.

In the meantime, though…

First reaction: I’m glad they did this, and did it on live TV.  There’s so much (mutual) sh*t-talking among our major parties these days that it seemed important to get them face-to-face, in a room, in front of cameras to see how PrezO and the Rs would react to each other in real time.  Whatever else I have to say about this, now or later, it’s a (sadly) momentuous event in US political history, and I agree strongly with the calls for more of it, with both Republicans and progressive Democrats.

Notice that because I’m echoing the call for PrezO to meet with progressive Democrats, I’m contending (and will until almost all his policy stances change) that Obama IS NOT A PROGRESSIVE, much less a socialist or any other such nonsense.  The jury has long been in agreement on this, and the only people who say otherwise are those who are saying it simply to be inflammatory.

At any rate, although I don’t have especially high hopes that one meeting will change the tenor of Washington politics, I do think a couple of things about the outcomes of the meeting.  First, I think PrezO clearly established himself as the voice of reason, at least up against the barbaric attacks he’s faced in the last year and change.  That was already true, of course.  Even though I disagree with his policy positions on almost everything, he’s certainly more reasonable (as a listener, thinker) than just about anybody else in the public domain right now.

When Republican opponents of healthcare reform, for example, accuse him of turning a deaf ear to “the American people” (who they routinely proclaim to speak for, even though almost every single national poll disputes this notion), they’re simply lying.  It’s very clear that he wanted a very different package, had he been able (well, willing) to script this process himself; instead, he sold various pieces of the package to a variety of constituencies in the name of being open-minded, fair, and committed to democratic practice.  Whether that’s exactly why he did it we’ll never know, of course, but to accuse him of “not listening” is, not to put to fine a point on it, bullshit.

A second outcome from yesterday’s meeting (I hope): a retreat from the brinksmanship (apologies for the gendered term!) that has passed for discussion/debate in the last 5 years, maybe longer, in this country.  Not that I expect the Republican party machinery to ratchet down their (so far successful, depending on how you measure such things) strategy of complete negation.  But it seems, from the reports I’ve seen, that even some Republicans demonstrated a sense of calm reasonability during the meeting.  We’ve suspected all along that there were still members of the party who think the Tea Partiers and Palinites are dangerous, wrong, and need to shut up; a couple of them might have shown their faces publicly yesterday.  Let’s hope the Michael Steele/Rush Limbaugh/Fox News machine doesn’t flush them all down the Memory Hole once again.

One problem I’ve had with coverage and some discussion of this event: I see too many Democrats and PrezO supporters proclaiming it a “beat down,” a “victory,” a “smash,” and other fightin’ words.  This troubles me on two levels.  First, while the reptilian core of my brain likes to exact painful revenge just like most people do, I like to think that what we saw was instead the first real moment of actual exchange that PrezO’s been calling for since he started his campaign.  Second, and closely related, I don’t imagine that PrezO himself would either use these kinds of terms, or be happy that anybody else is, to describe what happened in Baltimore yesterday.  That is, even if in the dark recesses of his brain he enjoyed the clear control he exhibited over the Rs, he’d NEVER say so out loud, and he wouldn’t want anybody else to talk about it that way either.

It serves no purpose except to re-inflame the exact nastiness that made it so newsworthy in the first place.

Short version–I strongly recommend, especially to PrezO supporters and Democrats, that you BACK OFF a little from the victory dance many of you seem to be doing.  That kind of oppositional discourse does little except to reinforce itself; as many of us pacifists say, violence only gets more violence.  Same principle here, folks.


Obama takes a bow

November 17, 2009

As I put it on my Facebook page when I posted this there a few minutes ago…  Today’s most egregious entry into the who-give-a-shit-o-sphere…

In case you missed it (because you weren’t watching CNN or Fox), President Obama took a deep bow while meeting the Emperor of Japan.  Wow.  Apparently he’s violated some rule of imperial machoness by doing so.  Gee.

To see how inflamed people are getting, start here:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/11/obama-emperor-akihito-japan.html

Then Google “Obama bow Japanese Emperor” and watch the flames spread like wildfire.

C’mon people.  This is as, if not more, ridiculous than anything I’ve heard out of you wingnuts since the election.


Town Hall meetings

August 11, 2009

So today, for the first time, I saw Obama supporters step over the line in an attempt to respond to Freedom Watch and the Tea Baggers’ disruptions at town hall meetings.  What CNN didn’t comment on, when they showed the clip, was how totally furious the Obama supporter was.  And I don’t think it was the security that was not-very-gently leading her out the door.  She seemed like she was headed straight for the conservative contingent, and wanted to tangle with them.

Probably best that she wasn’t able to; it sure wouldn’t be very helpful for the first blood to be drawn by somebody who’s ostensibly on the same side I am.  I don’t want any blood drawn, of course, but the fury emanating from the right on this issue isn’t much different from the fury that emanates from anti-abortion activists; seems like the right has adopted that page from the playbook.  Infuriate your opposition, and then jump up and down celebrating when one of us acts on it.  Lovely.

I appreciate what the Dems are trying to do as they respond to this madness in their own meetings–to call the tension out, make a point of asking for some decency (civility is just too much to ask for these days, I guess), and do the best they can to keep the meetings moving while assholes try to shout them down.  It makes the assholes look really bad, as if they didn’t already.  Unfortunately, the people who need to be convinced that the assholes are assholes won’t be convinced even by direct evidence.  Not sure what to do about that.

By the way, a public shout-out to CNN, who hasn’t handled this whole mess very well.  But today, Rick Sanchez actually got on the air and explained to viewers that most of what the Freedom Watch people and the Palinites are spewing is just wrong.  I’m not sure it’ll make a huge dent in the problem, but at least somebody tried.  It’s a start.


Vandalism and bumper stickers

August 4, 2009

A while back, I think on the blog but maybe on Facebook, my old college friend Lee and I had a conversation about, in part, acts of vandalism and simulated violence committed by members of various political persuasions.  I think it was on the blog, if I remember correctly, in reference to one of my posts about Sarah Palin whipping crowds up into violent frenzies.  Anyway, Lee and I have known each other for a long time, and while our exchanges occasionally get a little testy, they’re generally pretty respectful and, I hope, interesting to people whose commitments aren’t as entrenched as ours.

With that in mind… it’s been a strange week around my neighborhood.  I was out with the dog about 7 am last Monday or Tuesday, when I noticed a neighbor’s car that had been vandalized.  My neighbor has a Mercedez that had, until recently, an Obama sticker that was partially covering the Hillary Clinton sticker she’d put there originally.  I don’t know for sure that she was making a specific point by leaving the Hillary sticker partially visible, but I expect so–she doesn’t seem like somebody who’d be sloppy enough just to leave a misapplied sticker the way it was.  Anyway, her passenger-side rearview mirror had been all but snapped off, and the stickers were gone.  I couldn’t help but think those were related in some way.  A few days later, I noticed her car parked in the parking lot my landlord owns (there are more spaces than residents, so she rents out spaces to other people).  Not only was the passenger side mirror broken, but now the driver’s side mirror was broken (smashed, but still attached) too.

In the 6+ years I’ve lived in this neighborhood, I can count on one hand the number of vandalism incidents we’ve had; that’s probably the main reason I believed the vandalism to her car was politically motivated.

As it turns out, if it was motivated by her bumper stickers, than the vandal(s) is an equal opportunity property destroyer.  My neighbor’s next-door neighbor was a McCain supporter; he had stickers on both his pickup truck, which he uses for work, and his BMW, which is usually parked on the street (we have very little off-street parking in West Chester).  I didn’t see it, but apparently both the mirrors on his BMW got smashed as well, and the McCain stickers have been removed from both the car and the truck.

I’m no police investigator, but it seems hard to imagine that these acts weren’t politically motivated.  There are plenty of expensive cars in the neighborhood.  There are plenty of cars with visibly expensive things to steal inside of them.  There isn’t anything that pins these 3 vehicles together except that they’re the only 3, at least the only 3 that are around the neighborhood all the time, that had election stickers on them.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe not.  Anyway, whoever you are, you’re an idiot.  If you’re trying to prove anything, all you’re proving is that you’re an idiot.  If there’s some kind of ideological statement getting made here, it’s being buried by foolishness.  Give it up.