After midnight, why am I here?

February 20, 2010

I don’t mean that question in any existential sense.  I should be asleep.  My meeting tomorrow starts at 8:30 am, and I need a good breakfast beforehand (the hotel restaurant opens at 7 am), and I need to be awake for a while even before that.  So I should be crashed, but I’m not.  Maybe if I write a bunch of boring stuff, I’ll put myself to sleep :>.

The good news of the day (non-teaching-wise: teaching is always good news):

1.  Because Ann got off work a little early, and because Rainbow Cab messed up my reservation with them, I got to spend a couple of extra hours with my spouse before I took off for H’burg.  That’s a win!

2.  Routledge e-mailed JongHwa and me this morning that our Activism and Rhetoric manuscript has been shipped to their production facility in the UK.  Now it’s between us and the copy-editors, who we hope will find little to quibble about.  Still on track for August release, which will be just in time for the class I designed around the book.  More to the point, I believe at this point any of the potential logistical problems (like contributors not having signed their contracts) are solved.

3.  Two really cool advising sessions this morning.  I’m always happier (duh) when advisees come to sessions having thought about what they want and need.  Both advisees were prepared, but had interesting things to talk about, questions to ask (not the ones they could have answered for themselves).

4.  Sen. Arlen Specter has signed onto a letter circulating among Dems advocating passage of a healthcare bill with a public option, using the reconciliation process if they have to.  I’m stunned that Specter would sign onto it.  As I wrote on Rep. Mark Cohen’s Facebook wall, I’d like to be able to take this as an omen that Specter is actually enough of a Democrat to remember that years ago he supported legislation that’s almost identical to the Employee Free Choice Act!

The irksome stuff of the day is standard issue and not worth thinking about just now.

OK, that pretty much worked.  Zzzzzz……


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.

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.

Ranting about health care

August 2, 2009

I’ve made comments like this several times on my Facebook pages, but I need to put it here too…

Let me make this simple.  Anybody who opposes universal heath care (not universal health insurance, which doesn’t solve anything) has no moral ground from which to argue.  You (if you’re one of those people) quite simply don’t care whether people live or die.  Especially if you’re a “pro-life” conservative, the logic of your own position dictates that you should support open access health care for all.  If you’re so willing to go to the mat for fetuses, why not everybody else?

All the bullshit about “socializing” medicine is just that–bullshit.  And those of you who throw that word around know it.  “Government-run” does not equal “socialist.”  If it did, that would mean the entire defense industry (of which you’re so proud) is “socialist” since all its money comes from taxpayers via government contract.  If you’re really committed to privatization, you can start making that argument when you fully, unquestioningly support putting an end to corporate welfare.  In the meantime, you’re a hypocrite if you try to have this both ways.

The line about “healthcare rationing” is a hoax too.  Right now, people who have insurance, unless it’s really good insurance (and even then sometimes), have their care rationed.  The difference is that it’s rationed by organizations (health insurance companies) that have a priority other than your health.  Driven by profit margins first, it’s in their interests to make sure: (1) people stay sick so we need more health care for them to ration; and (2) people don’t get expensive treatments that cut into their profits.  Neither of those is good for any of us, unless you happen to be an owner of an insurance company.

This isn’t complicated, folks.  The ONLY people out there who have a serious interest in preventing universal healthcare are those who profit, at the expense of all the rest of us, on sickness.  Anybody who buys into the Republican and Bluedog Democrat hype about how universal healthcare would harm us just isn’t paying attention.  And before you (those who disagree with me) get your dander up, I know perfectly well that there are problems with government run systems elsewhere.  I also know that there are worse problems with the private system now.  Hands down, I’ll take a healthcare system that isn’t grounded in denial of coverage and the propagation of illness–that is, a system that’s designed to do exactly the opposite of what it says–over the current system any day.

And for the record, yes, this means I do NOT support the current legislation, even in its drafty forms, circulating in either house of Congress.  They’re both filled with giveaways to the criminals who have gotten us into this mess in the first place.

Single-payer, universal healthcare, without any qualification, is the only way to go.  It really is that simple.

Arlen Specter’s party switch

April 28, 2009

So the news is out today, news some of us have expected for a few years now–Arlen Specter has announced that he will run for re-election in 2010 as a Democrat.

One one level, this is great news (if he wins, that is).  His victory, along with Al Franken’s (once Norm Coleman shuts the f*ck up and goes home), gives the Dems that golden 60th seat in the Senate.  Of course, this is the Senate Dems we’re talking about, who if they had any spine whatsoever would told have told the Republican fillibusterers to go screw themselves, so maybe the supermajority won’t matter.  But still, better to have it than not (if you’re a Dem, that is).

The problem, however, is already clear from Specter’s party-switch announcement.  In that speech, he ALREADY has declared that he still won’t vote for EFCA.  I know it’s only one piece of legislation, but for goodness’ sake.  The only excuse he might have had for voting against it, as a Senator from one of the most pro-labor states in the US, is that he thought it would cost him primary votes against a more conservative opponent.  If that’s no longer a risk, then why vote against it?  I know, I know, some of you (Lee!) will see that he’s voting against it because it’s a bad bill, and gee, look, a guy with principles!  But that’s crap.

I guess a better way of putting it is this.  If you, Senator Specter, aren’t going to support legislation that Democrats and your constituents support, then what the hell do we need you for?  Be an independent, if that’s what you think you are, but the Democratic party doesn’t need ANOTHER member who refuses to acknowledge the demands of his/her constituents.

McCain and the Stimulus Package

January 27, 2009

Senator McCain says he won’t vote for the stimulus package as currently written.

So?  That’s why we didn’t vote for you.

I hope President Obama and Congressional Democrats seize this opportunity to show Republicans how utterly and totally Republican policy was repudiated in November’s election.  The Democrats simply don’t need Repubican votes to pass whatever package they want.  So the Republicans can bluster all they want.

Of course that won’t happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?