Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...Today, I spoke to a labor leader here in NJ. After chatting briefly about Chris Christie’s speech at the RNC, he launched into an attack on the president saying, among other things, that business can’t take another four years of Obama, and that we need Romney to fix the deficit. This was from a labor leader!

Why the hell has Democratic leadership failed so miserably in selling what the president has accomplished in the face of endless obstruction? Why was the tea party allowed to control the stimulus narrative?  Why do so few people understand what’s in the Affordable Care Act? Why don’t Democrats go to the mat to defend Dodd Frank every time some Wall Street huckster bemoans the evils of regulation? And the Keystone Pipeline? You’re kidding, right? Whoever the hell is running the communications show in Washington is doing a piss-poor job.

Frankly, the President deserves much of the blame. He should have taken his case directly to the American people as soon as he saw that the Republicans wanted only to throw him under a bus, the people’s interests be damned. Now he has to go hat in hand to the voters and plead for another chance. Do I think he deserves it? Yes, I do. But if he gets it he needs to kick ass and take names. Enough of this crap.

A labor leader voting Republican? Amazing.

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Imagine being very, very sick. Your chest hurts, you can’t catch your breath and every step feels like your last. With shaking hands, you dial 911 and, before long, you’re doing the emergency room thing.

Too bad, because the hospital you’re in has a dispute going on. Two groups of doctors, each having its own approach to patient treatment, are locked in a bitter struggle for prominence. No matter what one group does to provide patient care, the other group steps in to stop. The way the obstructionists see it, better patients should die than allow the caring group to look good. Outrageous, isn’t it. Except the very same strategy guides today’s Republican politics. The people don’t matter. The country doesn’t matter. Only beating Obama and gaining control of the government matters.

The poor don’t matter, either; nor does the middle class, or hungry children, education, pollution, financial regulation, women’s reproductive rights or even voting rights. Nothing matters but winning. That is why I wake up every day anxious to talk to anyone who will listen about the perils our nation faces from people who wrap themselves in the flag, carry a cross and who don’t give a damn about anything but themselves.

The people of America deserve better and unless we get better our democracy will be on life support.

It’s been a few months since I posted my last blog entry. It’s not like there’s nothing to write about. There’s toomuch to write about.

Take voter suppression. After the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, the Republicans are still attacking the foundation of democracy. In 2000 and 2004 it was the sanctity of the vote. Now it’s the right to vote using unneeded voter ID laws to protect against the red herring of all red herrings, individual voter fraud. Shame on them, shame on the courts, and shame Attorney General Eric Holder for not pushing back with the full force of his office. What will happen if the outcome of the 2012 election hinges on a single state, which it could well do, and Romney wins because of a suppressed vote?

If voter suppression is a solid punch to the gut, then Citizens United is an upper-cut to the chin. Historians could well look back on this Supreme Court ruling as the tipping point in America’s decent into fascism. The effect of this ruling will likely be to further consolidate political power in the hands of corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the people. Somehow the strict constructionists on the court found this to be consistent with the intentions of our founding fathers.

What’s really troubling is that rolling back Citizen’s United will probably require a constitutional amendment, an unlikely possibility since the very problem that Citizen’s United created…unfettered political spending…will be used to turn back any attempt to correct it. Short of a general strike and millions of American citizens taking to the streets in protest, how can a democratic America survive?

The stuff in this post is not meant to be an inclusive collection of things that challenge our democracy; that list would be far too long. Rather, it’s the stuff that keeps bubbling up, day after freaking day. Stuff like hate mongering. As soon as President Obama was elected it started. He’s not one of us; he channels his Kenyan father’s anti-colonial beliefs; he hates America and doesn’t understand how it works; he hates success, preaches socialism, and practices a different theology than real Americans. The Becks, Savages and Limbaughs serve up endless piles of this crap to their mindless, numb-nutted, lemming-like listeners who define themselves by what conservative talk radio hosts tell them to believe. Not incidentally, this is the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

When Reagan launched the culture wars he appealed to a large block of easily manipulated people who could be convinced to vote against their own interests providing the appeal was wrapped in a Christian/patriotic package. Return America to its Christian roots, they were told, by driving the elitist, baby-killing, welfare loving, gun-controlling, capitalism-questioning liberals and socialists out of government. Little by little, their patience was rewarded and in 2010 it blossomed into a full-blown crisis of governability.

Some would argue that we could do a lot worse than deeply religious people voting as a block and having a major influence on government. Well, the Taliban are deeply religious. How’s that working out for Afghani women? Religious zealots in Israel, who represent a sizable and very influential minority, attack women and girls who aren’t Jewish enough. And in the United States evangelical Christians conduct a never-ending campaign to revise history and biology curricula in order to conform the their intellectually bankrupt and toxically ignorant views of the world. Hearing these people claim some kind of moral high ground when they would have pregnant rape and incest victims carry fetuses to term is beyond crazy. This is not what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s what their forbears escaped from.

A few days ago I had a spirited conversation with a young man who shares few of my gripes. After going back and forth a bit, he hit me with a tried and true debate stopper. Regardless of the problems, he said, “America is still the greatest nation on earth.” What does that mean? I asked. Ducking the question he parried: “I take it you don’t think so.”

Our little exchange quickly devolved into a WTF moment. After all, how do you fix the greatest nation on earth?

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schw...

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was an especially tough weekend. The Trayvon Martin killing took me back to June 21, 1964 when three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were found lynched and mutilated near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

It also prompted recall of what happened to James Byrd, Jr., a Texan who, in 1998, was dragged by white supremacists behind a swerving truck for three miles until he finally died when his broken, battered and tortured body mercifully struck a roadside curb.

That isn’t to say that Trayvon Martin’s murder rises to the same level of horror as these cases…Trayvon got off easy with a bullet to the chest…but who can deny that his murderer, George Zimmerman, saw Trayvon as anything other than an outsider, an “other,” who didn’t belong were he, Zimmerman, found him. For that transgression Trayvon Martin lost his life.

But the bigger issue in this tragedy is the underlying narrative that turns a man like Zimmerman into an instrument of evil. It’s the same “not-one-of-us” narrative that killed the three civil rights activists and James Byrd Jr. and makes it okay for Rush Limbaugh to say that Michelle Obama is “guilty of uppity-ism”; that obsessively questions Barack Obama’s right to be president based upon imagined birth places; and, that allows Newt Gingrich to claim that President Obama “engages in Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior”, and makes Rick Santorum comfortable when he accuses President Obama of following a “non-bible theology” and that his agenda is “about some phony ideal, some phony theology.”

But, most dangerously, it’s a narrative that labels President Obama as the Antichrist, a belief held by nearly a quarter of all Republicans. In this hateful and toxic environment, is it any wonder that, according to a 2009 article in The Telegraph, “the rate of [death] threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush…”

One month ago, if President Obama, wearing a hoodie, had followed Trayvon Martin’s path, he might well have taken a bullet in the chest from George Zimmerman’s gun. He, too, would have been an outsider in Zimmerman’s sick and distorted mind…an “uppity Negro” who was where he should not have been.

In time, maybe George Zimmerman and the “stand your ground” law that protects him will be put on trial. Maybe something will change as a result. But I doubt it, because the NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) likes things the way they are. After all, fear is good for business. It sells guns and rallies Republicans behind their movement to unseat a black president.

PolitiFact | Reince Priebus says health care law could mean as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based insurance.

Listen to how he positions President Obama as “not one of us,” how he said recently that Obama believes in some kind of “non-bible theology,” or claims that global warmists (as he calls them) are involved in a worldwide liberal conspiracy to concentrate more power in the hands of government while reducing individual freedoms. Salon.com has a good summary of what dominionism is all about . I also recommend that you visit the Talk2Action web site and sign up for periodic news summaries regarding the activities of the religious right.  To say that Talk2Action is eye-opening is like saying a tornado is a wind storm. And a related site, Barry Lynn’s Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is nothing less than a tireless, 24/7 check on those who would transform America into something that the founding fathers wouldn’t recognize.

Of course, there are those on the right who will argue that the alleged threat to our democracy as posed by those of the dominionist/evangelical mindset is wildly overblown. And there are those on the left who will say that Rick Santorum has little chance of being elected president so why worry. Even if both of these positions turn out to be factually correct, it is also correct to say that whatever traction Rick Santorum has been able to muster is due to his appeal to a voting block that has no problem with a domestic and foreign policy agenda that is guided by god’s law, whatever that is. In that regard, consider these ongoing stories.

Intelligent Design aka Creationism
When the judge in the 2005 case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (Pa) ruled that Intelligent Design was not science (duh!), rational people who followed the case breathed a collective sigh of relief. I was one of them. What I didn’t realize was that the fight is hardly over. It will be fought again and again until intelligent design finds a foothold somewhere, perhaps in Missouri where, on January 10, 2012, a bill was introduced in the Missouri House that would require “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.” The lesson in this is that those who allow religious dogma to trump their own, god-given ability to think and reason believe they are on a never-ending mission to make the world “Christian.”  Frankly, I think that the whole lot of them, including Rick Santorum, are both nuts and dangerous.

Home Schooling
In view of the ever-unfolding saga of intelligent design, it is little wonder that evangelical Christians would latch onto home schooling. That way they don’t have to deal with the heresies of science and other annoying worldviews. “According to the documentary Jesus Camp, 75% of all home schooled children are Evangelical Christians.”  The author of the piece (I found it on answers.com) notes that he wasn’t able to verify the percentage, but it seems to mesh with other information. Ian Slater, the spokesperson for the Home School Legal Defense Association, notes that the “majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians. Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want.”

Not incidentally, Rick Santorum said he would home school his children if he is elected president, saying that “having a homeschooling family in the White House would certainly be a shock to the establishment.” It will even be a bigger shock to the rest of the world that American voters would elect this guy to be president.

Onward Christian Soldiers
“In the ’90s [the Air Force Academy] had a code of ethics that stated that no professional or commander will attempt to change or coercively influence the religious beliefs of their subordinates. And in ’05, the Secretary of the Air Force came out with a new code of ethics…which allowed proselytization in the military.”

How bad did it get? Damned bad, because the goal was to “convert Air Force cadets – future pilots with fingers on nuclear triggers – into religious zealots.” And, in a 2010 article in Truthout entitled “ ‘Underground’ Group of Cadets Says Air Force Academy Controlled by Evangelicals,’ the author, Mike Ludwig wrote: “An anonymous cadet at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA ) spoke out against alleged religious discrimination at the school last week, saying that some cadets must pretend to be evangelical Christians in order to maintain standing among their peers and superiors. In an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the whistleblower stated that he is part of an ‘underground group’ of about 100 cadets who cannot rely on proper channels to confront evangelical pressure.”

So let’s see…
We have a guy running for President of the most powerful county in the world who aligns himself with religiously fundamental group that believes that a Christian god is the only one that counts and who…just maybe…believes that the Crusades left some unfinished business to attend to. I’m a hell of a lot more frightened about Santorum than I am about Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Note about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Image via Wikipedia

Was it just the way things played out or was it a carefully crafted strategy brilliantly executed?

A year ago the prospect of a second term for Preside’snt Obama presidency looked problematic, at best. A lousy economy, high unemployment and intractable legislative gridlock will do that. And, to make matters worse, Obama’s base sent him to Washington to implement change, not compromise his way to the middle, as was evidenced by the way the health care bill was negotiated; give, give, give and get damned little back in return.

Then came the midterm elections. The house was lost and the incoming Republicans, most of them Tea Partiers, vowed to obstruct Obama at every turn even as he continued to play nicely with others. Frankly, it drove me nuts until the debate over the debt ceiling. It was here that the political calculus seemed to shift.

With the ultra-conservative ideology of the Tea Party holding sway over the House, with Majority Leader and Tea Party favorite Eric Cantor holding a gun to Speaker John Boehner’s head, President Obama held his ground, refusing to provide offsets for the debt ceiling increase. But it was something John Boehner said in a press conference that connected the dots for me. Boehner called on the President to display some leadership and to bring the sides together. In other words, he wanted the President to do what he (Boehner) wasn’t able to do within his own party. To say it another way, he wanted Obama to step into what had become an abyss of irreconcilable differences … differences that had Boehner swinging in the wind. Wisely, President Obama declined to do so in favor of allowing the inevitable dysfunction play out.

Had Obama set a trap going which actually began during the health care debate? Did he get the best deal he could get and, in so doing, keep a campaign promise? Did he wave a white flag during the midterm elections realizing that to do otherwise was a waste of political capital in the face of an overwhelming right-wing headwind against everything he stood for? Did he display an infuriating willingness to compromise with his political enemies in order to appeal to independents? Did he know that the Republican primary would turn out to be a bloodbath with no candidate emerging undamaged? And, most importantly…

…did he know that the Tea Party overreach at the federal, state and even local levels
would energize the Democratic base like nothing else ever could? (See Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Maine, etc.)

Of course, from my liberal outpost in the suburbs of north Jersey I can only speculate as to what the overarching strategy really was (or even if there was one), but if ever there was a time for a trap, this was it. I believe that the Republican Party correctly sees 2012 as the biggest election in generations and, perhaps the swan song of its conservative, trickle-down-economic ideology. The reasons are many but chief among them are increasingly unfavorable demographics as non-white populations continue to increase, and baby-boomers continue to age. That creates an all-in sense of urgency that will make the 2012 Presidential election the dirtiest and the most corrupt in the history of the Republic. Fortunately, the President appears to have recovered from a couple of tough years, while the other side looks like a bunch of monkeys trying to screw a football.