Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Speech Madness

How about a Presidential talk like this to students.....

"And to the C students I say you too can be president of the United States.

"A Yale degree is worth a lot, as I often remind Dick Cheney who studied here, but left a little early.

"So now we know, if you graduate from Yale, you become president. If you drop out, you get to be vice president.

"This is my first time back here in quite a while, I'm sure that each of you will make your own journey back at least a few times in your life. If you're like me, you won't remember everything you did here... [Dick Broadhead and I] both put a lot of time in at the Sterling Library, in the reading room where they have those big leather couches. We had a mutual understanding - Dick wouldn't read aloud, and I wouldn't snore......" Sis boom!

Yes, that was "W" talking to students at the 300th commencement of Yale University in 2001.

George W. Bush took pride in his smart aleck approach to education, and governing. He wore his lack of intellectual curiosity as a badge of honor.... and our country is still paying the price in Iraq and Afghanistan, in our trashed economy, in the failed government-mandated "No Child Left Behind" fiasco, in the gutting of standards from food safety to Wall Street regulatory oversight.

Yesterday another President talked to students. He told them how his mother made him study hard, and talked to them about their education....

"But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world -- and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education."

Just how did the far-right, family values, moral "decider" conservatives react to Barack Obama's talk over C-Span to students?... why they threw a hissy-fit and tried to stop such a speech. They boycotted, pressured their school administrators to not show the speech, kept their children out of school so they wouldn't be exposed to.... to what?

What was the reception in places say... like Texas, where recently conservative stumpers have been exhorting Texas to secede from the Union.... not the AFL-CIO union, but the United States of America. That Union. As the New York Times observed...

"The uproar over the speech erupted most vigorously, perhaps, in Texas, and some districts there reversed the opt-out procedure: the only students they allowed to watch the president were those whose parents called or e-mailed with explicit permission.

"J. W. Williams Middle School in Rockwall, Tex., used that system. The result was that 100 of the school’s 900 students filed into a library to see the speech projected on a big screen...."

Cooler heads in the GOP made belated attempts to support Obama's pep-talk to students, but it's hard to escape the obvious.... what the tea party-birther-secessionists on the right are protesting isn't the speech, but the man. The black man.

What is astounding is how the GOP leadership seems cowed by such over-the-top behavior. Perhaps they have just lost sight of their humanity... for if everyone around you is mad, then that becomes the new sanity.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Behind Iran's Election Results

On Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden hinted that Iran's election results last week didn't seem quite right... politicos shake their heads over the odor of corruption and huffing news outlets question their validity.

Of course, our own elections have been rife with questionable results.... think of the Supremes deciding the 2000 presidential contest.... while our hackable electronic ballot systems are nothing to brag about.

What we have here seems to be very wishful thinking, and an attitude of "do as I say, not as I do."

Americans want Middle East peace, they want President Ahmadinejad and his scary rhetoric shown the door.... just like we did to Bush/Cheney in 2004.... oh yes, we didn't do that to The Decider and Darth Dick. Instead, while the world held it's breath, we elected them to a second term, after they lied us into the worst foreign policy blunder in our nation's history, the war in Iraq.... the Middle-East-destabilizing war in Iraq.

Well, now we know how the world felt. According to the Washington Post, the rumors of Ahmadinejad's political demise were very premature. As reported by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty in "The Iranian People Speak," it appears the "election results in Iran may reflect the will of the people."

On what do they base such an outlandish statement.... on a scientific national poll conducted in Iran three weeks before the election. Ahmadinejad was the preferred candidate two to one, and those results reflect the election's results. The poll was "conducted by telephone from a neighboring country, field work was carried out in Farsi by a polling company whose work in the region for ABC News and the BBC has received an Emmy award." Oh.

That's not what we want to believe. Our instant-gratification conditioning hasn't the patience. But, closing our minds and living in a blame-game la-la land won't change the reality.... nor a system where all Iranian candidates are chosen by a non-elected supreme leader. Here is where the poll's results are very interesting, and encouraging. And, far from the expected safe answers one might expect in a country with an oppressive regime in power.

While preferring Ahmadinejad, for now, four out of five indicated in answer to the poll's questions that they wanted to elect the supreme leader, chose free elections and a free press as priorities, and 77 percent "favored normal relations and trade with the United States." Those weren't safe answers.

So, while choosing Ahmadinejad.... change is in the air. Isn't that what we should be talking about, and encouraging?

In Iran, there are now major protests by supporters of the opposing candidate. One thing all the ballyhoo has done is to evidently unsettle the supreme leader. He's now calling for an investigation into the election. But then, why not. He can't lose. He picked all the candidates.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The GOP is Icing Up

This great illustration appeared with "The Ice Age Cometh" by right-leaning columnist, Mike Murphy in TIME this week. His op-ed is chock-full of good advice that the pooh-bahs in the GOP will likely ignore.

Murphy is facing facts, "Saving the GOP is not about diluting conservatism but about modernizing it to reflect the country it inhabits instead of an America that no longer exists."

Murphy is referring to demographics, the surge of Latino and under 30 voters who are turned off, and away, by pitchfork-waving mobs chasing gays through the GOP countryside. Ditto-heads... tribal GOPers whose "radio dials are stuck on AM"... who viciously scrabble at the constitutional bastion between their church and the state. The "all men are created equal" state.

We are a two-party nation. We need a strong GOP with sound values. To survive, they must tune-out the hairy mammoth's clarion-trumpet.... and yes, even the musty Reagan yesteryear's moldy oldies. Or, as Murphy warns.... "A GOP ice age is on the way."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Friday is Iran's Defining Moment

There is an event this week that could spell the difference between a peaceful settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict, reduced tensions in the Middle East, and a halt to the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists; or.....

Escalating the current dangerous Israel/Palestine conflict, increasing tensions in the Middle East, while enabling the unstable ambitions of a nuclear-capable terrorist-funding regime. A regime headed by a holocaust-denying puppet of radical religious leaders.

There is an election scheduled for this Friday in Iran, and much of President Barack Obama's aspirations for Middle East peace, and curbing the bloody mayhem of jihad-inspired terrorism, rest on the outcome.

As reported in the Washington Post, "In Iran, Harsh Talk as Election Nears," by Robert F. Worth, this final week of Iran's presidential campaign, "has reached a level of passion and acrimony almost unheard-of in Iran."

As Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hurls fantastic accusations at his opponents, he is also ducking incoming fire, impassioned fire, and not from just his rivals, but also from long-suffering Iranians who are mad and not going to take it anymore.

For years Ahmadinejad has resorted to inciteful and false rhetoric.... from a constant refrain of threats against Israel, "to wipe them off of the face of the earth"..... and against any Western power that stands by Israel who "from now on will not see any result but the hatred of the people. You should not claim that we did not give a warning," he saber-rattles, to his oft repeated denial of the horrific WWII Jewish holocaust.

But, he also misled and terrorized his own people. In his last presidential campaign he promised the Iranians relief from poverty and a focus on domestic issues, what they got was a "police state" as one Iranian openly charged, and a foreign policy his leading opponent, reformist Mir Husein Moussavi, calls "adventurism, illusionism, exhibitionism, extremism and superficiality.”

This time, Ahmadinejad's hateful-rhetoric is backfiring.... unofficial polls suggest 54 percent of Iranian voters would support Moussavi, while Ahmadinejad lags at 39 percent.

So much rests on the result of Friday's election, and not just for the Iranian people. By showing Ahmandinejad the door, they can lop off the festering head of a regime bent on taking the people back to the zealous, social-freedom-eviscerating, hard-line piety of the 1979 revolution, and stop the plunge toward a nuclear abyss.

As one Moussavi supporter said, “ the beginning of the Islamic revolution we were all like Ahmadinejad, but we changed our path and our way. ” Another Iranian added that she was speaking on behalf of her friends, "We love our religion, but they have used it as a tool to take people’s rights.”

The good Iranian people can send a message to a hopeful world.... we're taking our lives and our country back. We chose peace over conflict, hope over fear. We're looking forward.

We wish them Allah's speed.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No "Bi" in GOP Partisanship

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

The Obama administration is failing to fully communicate to a panicky nation facing economic meltdown the fact that an obstinate GOP is crying wolf over a lack of legislative bipartisanship while refusing to conduct themselves in a bipartisan manner.

By Senate procedural rules, the minority party can hold up.... or frustrate.... any legislation by invoking a "filibuster" debate which means the measure under consideration has to get sixty percent, sixty votes, to end the filibuster and put the bill to a vote.

President Obama and Democrats have been watering down their economic stimulus legislation in the name of bipartisanship.... looking for bipartisanship participation, for those sixty votes, paring down job-creating spending programs and increasing tax cuts, the GOP's snake oil cure for all ills.

It's time to realize that for an all-politics-all-of-the-time GOP, there is no "bi" in partisanship. It's still their way or the highway. When time was of the essence as increasing unemployment hurtled unchecked toward depression levels, the Republican party looked to score points with their radical base.... good of the nation be damned!

Eugene Robinson's advice...."Roll Over Republicans" (WaPo) As he points out today, "Bipartisanship is safe and effective when used as directed. In the present circumstance, however -- dire economic crisis, hardheaded Republicans, time running out -- bipartisanship is doing more harm than good. President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress can no longer afford to let comity defeat common sense."

Robinson shares our anger over the end result of this begging-for-votes hijacking by a GOP bent on frustrating the process.... "One of the most effective items in the House bill was $79 billion to be transferred to state governments, which are hurting; in California, our most populous state, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is ordering furloughs of state workers. Any dollar given to the states will fly out the door by sundown. That $79 billion would have instant impact.

"But in the Senate, the ad hoc "gang" of moderate Republicans (all three of them) and conservative Democrats cut those state funds to $39 billion. It's wrong to see this as the normal give-and-take of legislative sausage-making, the usual trek down a well-worn path toward the golden compromise that everyone can live with. This is not, repeat not, a time for compromise. Meeting in the middle, which the Senate sees as its role in our democracy, renders the whole exercise potentially useless. If we don't get enough money into the economy, and if we don't do it soon, we risk wasting a king's ransom on a stimulus that's too puny to stimulate."

Robinson is onto something. Bipartisanship isn't working. The conundrum is how to get past or around the GOP grandstanding obstructionists.

Harry Reid, take note..... the next time the GOP Senators want to "filibuster," do it the old-fashioned way. Don't agree to a filibustering set-time debate .... make the naysayers stand up and talk all night, or however many days and nights they choose, so their filibustering impediment is seen by Americans for what it is. A cynical roadblock to progress.

Make the Republicans own their delaying tactics. Make them literally stand up and be counted as they impede and obstruct. Otherwise, these blackmailers will continue to impose their bullying tactics, in the guise of "debate" with cries of non-partisanship, on a nation desperate for government action.... now.

Robinson advises.... "Obama and the Democrats have public opinion on their side and the wolf at the door. Republicans need to get out of the way -- or get run over."

Hear! Hear!

Monday, February 09, 2009

"My Kingdom for a Horse....."

The current stimulus package making it's torturous way through both houses of Congress is like the saying..... what do you get when you ask a committee to put together a horse? A camel.

Nothing wrong with a camel, but the country needs a horse to start pulling us out of the economic ditch.

Paul Krugman's asks today in "The Destructive Center" (NY Times) .... "What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

"A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished."

The centrists in the Senate just created a camel, and President Obama seems unable, or unwilling, to fix it.

Krugman opines, "One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

"The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

"On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the 'flip your house to your brother' provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.

"All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering."

It was Obama who lifted the flap so the "lower taxes" camel could poke it's nose into his change-we-can-believe-in tent. We are in this economic mess because the GOP rich-get-richer trickle-up policies cost trillions and didn't work.... and according Pulitzer-winning economist Krugman and many others, this camel of a bill isn't the economic horse we need now.

MSNBC's Chuck Todd puts a fine point on this today in his "First Read" posting.... many ask just "how the Obama White House and the Democratic committees allowed themselves to get worked over by the Republicans.... how did a Republican Party that had turned a budget surplus into a projected trillion-dollar deficit get away with becoming paragons of fiscal responsibility? "

Krugman points out, "After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate.
Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts.

"Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate."

There's a lesson for Obama here. His high-minded attempt to build a bipartisanship tent ran into the "loyal" opposition's ideological take-no-prisoners stone wall.

Has Obama learned this lesson?

Evidently not. This weekend he was busy trying to saddle this unwieldy stimulus camel.... "Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands, the scale and scope of this plan is right,” he declared on Saturday.

As Krugman laments.... "No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finally.... It's Over!

Last night Bush The Decider wistfully bade farewell (WaPo).... trying to paint a good face on the stinking corpse of his administration with self-serving "I was willing to make tough decisions" legacy-speak.

Excuse me, but isn't the job of the president making tough decisions?

As Georgie piled on the lipstick, we were reminded that he never could color within the lines.... so now we're left to clean up the smeary mess of his eight years of misapplied ideology.

Which brings us to what he did right.

As Robert Creamer so pithily points out (Huffington) .... "History will record that George W. Bush made one critically important contribution to our country -- and to the entire world. He and his administration provided unquestionable proof of the bankruptcy of radical-conservative ideology, and set the stage for a qualitatively different progressive era in American politics.

"By assuring that all of the fruits of the growth of productivity in our economy went to the wealthiest 2% of our population, the Bush administration set the stage for the current economic collapse.

"By actually putting into practice the Neo-Conservative theories of pre-emptive war and unilateralism, George W. Bush demonstrated their failure more persuasively than could the most articulate progressive critic.

"By abandoning our historic commitment to due process and sinking into the dark world of torture, George W. Bush and his partner Dick Cheney isolated themselves from the growing worldwide commitment to human rights."

The last few weeks we have watched Bush and his Rovian enablers relentlessly apply his legacy lipstick. But a suffering nation knows the truth beneath the rosy facade..... "he will be remembered as the man who set the stage. He has played the Hoover to Obama's Roosevelt, the James Buchanan to Obama's Lincoln."

The omens are good.

Yesterday while Bush was trying to prop up the toxic remains of his poor judgment, lousy execution and disastrous outcomes, a skilled pilot guided (WaPo) his crippled passenger jet to a hard, but safe, landing on the Hudson River in New York.

Rescuers rushed in and with "level-headed teamwork" saved all the passengers.... "the weak and infirm, including an infant and an elderly woman in a wheelchair."

It's a good sign as next Tuesday Barack Obama takes over the piloting of our distressed nation that a reckless Bush administration put on course for a crash landing. With Obama's thoughtful leadership and a spirit of teamwork we can all come through.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A "Can Do" 2009

The Washington Post looks at 2009 today in "The New Year - There is good reason for trepidation, but also for hope."

Most of us know about the trepidation, so let's focus on the hope.

"A new presidential administration is on the way, full of ideas and vigor."

Ideas, vigor.... YES!

And just to put a fine point on president-elect Obama's resolve to move ahead, another WaPo headline tells us that on Monday "Obama, Pelosi to Discuss Scope of Economic Package."

"Sources said Obama and Pelosi will discuss the scope and timing of the economic recovery package, which Obama has said will be his first priority upon being sworn into office. Pelosi has said her goal is to have the legislation on the new president's desk and ready to be signed on Jan. 20."

Obama's thirst to get things moving with solid policies is more than the empty Texas boast we've come to expect. As WaPo editorializes.... "Policy will matter, and in this regard it is good to know that the president-elect is not given to following the tired formulations of the left, the right and the various shills and operators who dominate so much of what passes for public discussion. He is pragmatic, open-minded and thoughtful. But, as he knows, he will also have to take on some powerful forces, those aligned with his party and those in opposition, and that will take courage.

"And in the end, of course, it will be not just policy that saves us but, as always, the energy, imagination and desire of the people -- people who see opportunity where others do not and who have the freedom to pursue it.

"Some well-known words from Abraham Lincoln, delivered to Congress in December 1862, have been cited often in the past few months. They are worth citing once more on this day: 'The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.' "

Out with dogma, in with pragmatism... out with division, in with cooperation... out with pandering, in with courage.

Yes we can!