Friday, September 18, 2009

All That Populist Anger

The anger exploding all over this country isn't populism.  It's hate and fear masquerading as democracy. 

David Brooks's column in the New York Times today disputes this and calls the anti-Obama protests a populist movement.  David's right that there's always been struggle between the haves and the have nots in America.  But he's wrong when he says it's a conflict between "educated urban elites" against those hard working townie people.  The protesters have good reason to be upset but they're channeling their righteous anger in the wrong direction.  There is a huge problem in this country but it wasn't caused by President Obama.

It wasn't Barack Obama who fused the powers of Wall Street and the rich corporations with our government.  That happened a long, long time ago.  It got worse when Reagan called government the problem not the solution and then proceeded to weaken the unions, destroy social welfare programs and cut taxes for the rich.  And got even worse when Clinton and Bush deregulated Wall Street and gave even more tax cuts to the rich.

This is about rich people sucking the life out of poor people.  It's about insurance companies letting people die to make a profit.  It's about Wall Street investors making huge bonuses by playing Russian roulette with our economy.  It's about deregulation and globalization and free market conservatives sending our jobs overseas.  Being rude to the duly elected president of the United States and denying he's a citizen and dressing him as a witch doctor in a protest poster has nothing to do with populism.  It's racism.

These sycophants, like Brooks, and the screaming, scheming blowhards, like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Fox News, who are egging those people on, don't speak for ordinary, hardworking people.  They represent the very corporations and money interests destroying the middle class and turning America into a third world nation.

If this is a populist movement, I guess, this time, I'd rather not be one of the people.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Joe Wilson Already Receives Government Healthcare

I hate to give more publicity to the disrespectful moron who called the president a liar the other night, but I was outraged when I read this, although with people like this, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

As a retired National Guard colonel, Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina receives TRICARE, a government health care program provided to active and retired servicemen and women and their dependents and paid for by the Department of Defense.

Here's what good old Joe said according to Newsweek:

"As a 31-year Army Guard and Reserve veteran, I know the importance of TRICARE," he said in a press release. "The number of individuals who choose to enroll in TRICARE continues to rise because TRICARE is a low cost, comprehensive health plan that is portable and available in some form world-wide." He went on to call TRICARE "world class health care," concluding on a personal note. "I am grateful to have four sons now serving in the military, and I know that their families appreciate the availability of TRICARE," he said.
Government health care is fine for himself and his four sons but not for the rest of us.  I'm so sick of this kind of hypocrisy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's School Message Scrambles the Right Wing

The noise coming from the extreme nutball right over President Obama's message to school children really got on my nerves.  Is there no place these blowbag radio and TV talk show hosts won't go, no American institution they won't stoop to attack?

Using school kids like that?  Really?

Fox News reports that the Democrats did it too.  (The Democrats did it too!  Ha ha!)  It's true that when George H.W. Bush, the father, announced a similar speech, the Democrats accused him of using government money to play politics and improve his image.  The difference is that in 1991 there were no calls to keep kids out of school.  No overwrought parents calling the principal because they feared the president of the United States would use their precious darlings for some kind of zombie mind control.

Both sides are more than capable of following a political agenda.  What's unforgivable is when teachers and principals are suddenly thrust into a game of partisan tug a war over the kids. 

What kind of sick mixed message are these parents sending their kids?  The president wants to tell them to stay in school and they turn it into a skit from the Colbert Report.   What happened to respect for the office, if not for the man? 

Even former first lady, Laura Bush defended the president, which I thought was pretty classy, and kind of cool.  

If you missed the speech, because you were at recess or something, you can read the full text of it here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nutballs and Hope

The health care debate rages on. It seems that President Obama is getting ready to sell us down the river when he gives his health care speech next Wednesday. If he decides to jettison the Public Option, it will be a betrayal of the worst kind. I really believe that without some kind of government-backed plan, the reform we're hoping for will not happen.

How did all this get out of hand? The president started out so well, with support from Congress, public opinion far in his favor, and a fair wind blowing in his sails. Then the sweltering heat of August hit and it all seemed to go down the tubes.

I cringe watching these awful town hall meetings. When was America taken over by rude, ill-informed, mean-spirited, selfish people? How in the world are we going to take it back?

If President Obama turns against us and sides with the lobbyists, the corporations and the crazy nutballs screaming for him keep his government hands off their Medicare, I don't have a lot of hope for the rest of his presidency. And up until this point, hope was all we had.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Knockin' em Back at the "Table of Equality"

This New York Times picture of President Barack Obama sitting on the White House lawn, sipping beer and chatting about race relations with Professor Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley, the policeman who arrested him last week, made me think of another incident that involved an invitation to sit at the White House table.

On October 16, 1901 the newly-elected President Theodore Roosevelt invited black leader Booker T. Washington to dine with him at the White House. This simple act ignited a firestorm of resentment and bigotry. Outraged Southern newspapers maligned the president and questioned his wisdom and patriotism for "mingling the races." Hate mail and death threats came pouring in. South Carolina Senator Benjamin Tillman said, "The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that n****r will necessitate our killing a thousand n****rs in the South before they will learn their place again."

These two tables, a century apart, symbolize the progress America has made on its slog through the mire of race relations. We've come a long way and we still have far to go but at least we're talking.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blame it on Jack Bauer

It scares me that U.S. interrogation policy during the Bush administration was more influenced by Jack Bauer from the TV show "24" than it was by the U.S. constitution.

The legal team that established U.S. policy, along with people like Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, thought they were setting a prudent, rational course for America when they cited the TV show in legal opinions and allowed military personnel to follow the example of the gung-ho, take-no-prisoners-and-follow-no-rules TV character in places like Guantanamo.

Slate Magazine's Dahlia Lithwick wrote that Jack Bauer was "the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine" and "the most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy."

Didn't these people realize the real world is not a prime time TV show and real people were suffering real consequences while they were busy playing super-spy?

Even the Supreme Court got into the act. In 2007, Justice Antonin Scalia defended Jack Bauer's torture of terrorists to save Los Angeles. "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" he asked at a judicial conference in Canada. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?”

A Supreme Court Justice using the plot of a TV show to justify torture?

Next stop, "The Twilight Zone."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Celebrating the Real Mother's Day

Did you know a day to celebrate motherhood was first proposed by social activist Julia Ward Howe, best remembered for writing the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic?

Howe, a writer, poet, playwright, abolitionist and feminist, was sickened by the horrible bloodshed during the American Civil War and by the Franco-Prussian War that devastated Europe in the 1870's.

In 1870, she issued a Mother's Day Proclamation urging women of all nations to call for an end to war as a means of settling national differences:

"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, 'Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.'"

Beginning in 1872, Howe initiated a Mothers' Peace Day, "dedicated to the advocacy of peace doctrines," to be observed on the second Sunday in June. An invitation to the event said it was a day "to speak, sing and pray for those things that make for peace." Mothers' Peace Day was celebrated by Howe's friends and followers each year until her death in 1910.

Howe had campaigned unsuccessfully to have her concept of Mother's Day recognized as a national holiday. Instead, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May as Mothers' Day in the U.S, "a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country." The holiday's pacifist origins were ignored, in favor of more sentimental considerations.

But if you think about it, a day calling for peace is much more in line with the true meaning of motherhood. Who suffers more in times of war than the mothers who are called on to sacrifice their children?

The greatest tribute we can give to the mothers of the world is to do everything in our power to work for just and lasting peace.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy International Workers Day!

On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers across the United States walked off their jobs to demand an 8-hour work day. Demonstrators paraded in the streets. The Chicago police tried to crack down on the protesters and the peaceful demonstrations erupted into the violence that became the Haymarket Massacre. Despite the brutality, the workers achieved their goal and the 8-hour work day came to be accepted.

Government, business leaders and the media, frightened at the prospect of an empowered citizenry demanding fair, safe working conditions and social justice, undermined the growing labor movement and characterized its leaders as foreign born, bomb-throwing radicals. The history and significance of May Day was subverted and buried.

Though, in the United States we no longer acknowledge the contributions of the strikers, International Workers Day is a national holiday in many other countries. Today hundreds of thousands of workers in Europe and Asia and throughout the world turned out to celebrate this day.

"When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then. "
Lucy Parsons, labor leader, social activist and anarchist

Thursday, February 26, 2009

All for One and One For All

I knew we were in trouble back in 1996 when the conservatives ridiculed Hillary Clinton for saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."

Bob Dole and other Republicans scoffed at the idea. Following the lead of their exulted leader Ronald Reagan, they downplayed the importance of our social bonds and suggested that only the rights and responsibilities of the individual mattered. Instead of community, they promoted self interest. Welfare mothers, social programs, who needs them? We needed rugged individualism, tax cuts and that frontier spirit.

It's been down hill ever since. With our focus fixed on individual need and individual greed, we've blithely careened along this collision course to ruin.

We must come to our senses and realize that we need each other. People do better living in groups. That's what makes civilization possible and and what makes it preferable to living alone. We band together because, when the night is long and cold, it's a great comfort to have friends huddling with you around the campfire.

Hillary's point when she evoked the proverb in her book and at her speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention was that we need to pool our resources and our strengths, to accomplish communally that which would be near impossible alone.

It's time to rediscover this spirit. Today, we must come together to get ourselves out of this massive economic ditch we've landed in. President Obama's economic stimulus and mortgage rescue plans are heading in that direction. You bail out your neighbor today in the hopes that your neighbor will be around to bail you out when you hit a rough patch tomorrow.

America has always managed this crazy balance that pits the needs of the group against the needs of the individual. As a country, we're strongest when we foster both.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nothing on My Hands But Time

Most mornings I lie in bed and try to convince myself there's a reason to get up. I trudge out of my bedroom dazed, blinking at the new day, wondering how in the world I got here.

If you've ever been unemployed, you know how scary and disorienting it can be. The activity that defined your life and gave you purpose has been ripped away and you must find something to fill the gap. You know you should remain motivated and positive. You know this small setback is really a great opportunity, a chance to move forward, to reach out and grab a brighter future with both hands--but you know, you just don't have the energy.

For the past six years, working at my former job, I've often wished I had more time to do the things I wanted--exercise, walk in the park, sit in a coffee shop and drink expensive coffee while watching other people with time on their hands do the things they want. Now that I have the time, I can't. I feel paralyzed. Numb.

I'm supposed to be job hunting, of course. But since there's a glut of folks in LA doing the same the thing, it's not easy. Thus far, the prospects haven't been great. I do what I can.

Meanwhile, I should take the time to smell the flowers and read the morning paper. Maybe I could take in a weekday matinee or browse a museum, or go down to the beach and look out at the ocean.

Maybe I'll sign up for an arts and crafts class. Then I could use the want ads to make an origami butterfly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just Another Day in Obama's America

The unemployment roles are growing. The banks are failing. The economists are predicting dire consequences.

Down at the Capitol, the Republicans are lying and protecting their own interests, the Democrats are jockeying for position and the voters are sick of it all.

According to the Republicans, we can't afford to fix our schools, or pave our streets or shore up our bridges and dams. We can't afford to feed the hungry or care for the sick. We can, however, always afford more bombs. And more torture devices. (They must be cheap.) We can afford more tax cuts for the wealthy because that unsteady breed always seems to need more and more of our tender care.

The man responsible for fixing it all is being underestimated and second-guessed by cut-rate pundits and newscasters grasping at anything that resembles controversy, just to fill up dead air.

On the jobs front, Mr. Obama still has openings for a Commerce Secretary and a Health and Human Services Secretary, if you still haven't sent in your resume.