Sep 16, 2010
Sep 15, 2010
I don't mean who should be the next speaker of the house. Presumably, if the Republicans score their election victory this year House Minority Leader John Boehner will recieve the speaker's gavel and become third in line for the presidency.
I mean who should become the leader of the Democratic caucus in the US House of Representatives?
Right now the House majority leader is Steny Hoyer, a veteran congressman from Maryland. If there isn't a total change in the Democratic leadership, he might remain as the Dem's leader. Hoyer, however, is unlikely to escape unscathed should the latest poll numbers hold.
Too many people among both the Democratic base and the moderates will want the heads of the two leaders who lost a massive majority. Like the Republicans in 2006, Democrats will want to start over.
The next most senior personality in the House of Representatives is Michigan Democrat and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, John Conyers, who currently serves as Majority Whip in the House. However, advancing Conyers to the party leadership would be a significant shift to the left for the Democrats at a time when they dominate the political center.
Rumor has it that representative Conyers is close to retirement as well.
So the next best thing we could do is consider who is most influential among House dems.
My short list, culled from the current committe chairs, is as follows:
James Oberstar has served in the US House of Representatives for 35 years representing Minnesota's 8th district. He is currently the chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. Since Infrastructure issues are going to dominate the appropriations debate in the House for the next 6-12 months, he is an obvious choice to lead the Democrats.
Ike Skelton is an outside choice due to his age (Skelton is in his late 70's) but as the Chairman of the House Armed Services committee, the moderate Democrat from Missouri should get a look from the House Democratic Caucus as a potential leader during their minority years.
John Conyers in addition to the qualifications listed above, Conyers represents Detroit, one of the epicenters of the economic crisis from which we are emerging.
Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is a strong liberal presence with leadership experience in the House. His 35 years of service in the US House are augmented by a six year career in the California State Assembly. Before ascending to the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the Bush years, vigorously questioning the policies and tactics of the Bush Administration.
Rick Boucher is a long-serving congressman from southwestern Virginia. He is currently running for his 15th term in the House. Not only is he an Appalachian congressman in a swing state, but he also chairs the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, a position of rising influence. Should the Democrats hold the House and one of the committee chairs retire, Boucher would be near the top of the list to move into a chairmanship.
I would be shocked if the next leader of the Democratic caucus does not come from one of these 5.
From the standpoint of electoral strategy, a moderate swing-state representative like Oberstar, Boucher, or Waxman would be best.
However, I like to think that the Democrats should follow the lead of the GOP and play to their base and put a firebrand like Waxman or Conyers in the driver's seat. A truly liberal Speaker of the House would be fun to watch, but such a thing has never happened in my lifetime.
Sep 14, 2010
If this scenario plays out, Nancy Pelosi would no longer be Speaker of the House (that position would go to Rep. John Boehner, (R-OH what a fabulous tan)) and her position among the leadership of House Democrats would likely be up for grabs.
Who should replace Speaker Pelosi as the leader of House Democrats?
On October 7th, 2010 we will mark the 9th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict. Recall that major US combat operations in Vietnam, considered a costly embarassment for the United States, only lasted 8 years (1965-1973).
One problem we now have in Afghanistan is that it is not immediately clear who our soldiers are fighting anymore. Originally the Taliban was an established militia and government that was easy for our allies in the Northern Alliance to target. After toppling the Taliban and establishing a new central quasi-democratic government in Kabul, the enemy became al Qaeda.
Then the Taliban began an insurgency, and Americans began to fight a resurgent Taliban operating from Pakistan and al Qaeda, also operating from Afghanistan.
The goal all along was to desstroy the operating and training bases of al Qaeda and to capture its leadership, goals that have only partially been accomplished due to the mobility of al Qaeda as an organization. Having no particular geographic base and no centralized leadership, it is impossible to use a large scale military operation to stop al Qaeda.
What then, is our purpose in staying in Afghanistan? To establish a stable Afghani state? It has never been done! Afghanistan is so balkanized with different ethnicities and languages that it becomes difficult to decide who exactly should run the country. This is why traditionally Afghanistan has been under the control of different tribal warlords who each controlled their own portion of the geography. The only unifying element in Afghanistan is Islam, and that is why the Taliban with their potent Islamist thought was able to exercise some control over the country.
I would posit that a non-Islamist government cannot stabilize and control Afghanistan. There are no unifying institution upon which to base such a government.
Historically, Afghanistan is where empires and military campaigns go to die. Alexander, the Raj, the Safavids, and the USSR all failed within Afghanistan.
There just aren't enough institutions in Afghanistan to repeat the successes we had in Iraq there. It is time to cut our losses and end combat operations there.
Sep 13, 2010
I don't think we're ready yet, and I'm not sure we'll ever be ready. To give some historical perspective, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor happened December, 2 1941 and it is an event mourned and commemorated to this day, 59 years later. Maybe in 50 years the memory of September 11, 2001 will begin to fade and life will return to normal, but even the Pearl Harbor attacks were not as traumatic to our national character as 9/11.
For one thing, 9/11 happened live before our eyes. Millions of Americans were tuned into networks like CNN and NBC when the reports of a third plane crashing in Washington, DC hit the airwaves. Many more watched as the towers fell into torrents of dust and debris. Pearl Harbor was something Americans heard about on the radio after the event happened. On 9/11 Americans watched thousands of their countrymen die in an instant. We suffer from a kind of national post-traumatic stress disorder, and our responses to the attack bear that out.
After 9/11 the United States embarked on two ill-concieved military operations in the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. The rights of habeus corpus and due process were suspended for Americans and foreigners alike. The largest expansion of federal power in decades occurred at the hands of a government that had just two years earlier run on conservative credentials. Prisoners of war, deemed 'enemy combatants' had their rights under the Geneva Conventions stripped and were subjected to imprisonment without term, renditioning to countries that would not protect them and torture of every degree in prisons.
A prison camp was established at the military base on Guantanamo Bay, a kind of 'ultra-max' facility for suspected terrorists.
Airplanes became harder to board. Air travel now requires a time consuming boarding process that strips airplanes of some of their efficiency and most of their convenience.
Our phones are being tapped without a judge's permission. Our homes can be searched without a warrant, we can be stopped and interrogated.
Our police and security personnel are racially profiling our fellow Americans. There are those among us that are burning Qurans and mosques.
At least we've gotten to the point where people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin can exploit 9/11's anniversary to boost their popularity.
I guess that is some progress.
Is it finally time for the US to get out of Afghanistan?
Sep 11, 2010
Our televisions are packed with tributes, memorials, documentaries and commentaries on terrorism, the attacks and the security apparatus in the US. Memorial services are being held in New York, DC, and Shanksville, PA where flight 93 crashed.
There is still a war being fought in Afghanistan.
There is still a hole in the ground in New York.
My question for anyone who cares is this: When will we finally let 9/11 go and rebuild?
I don't believe it can stand alone as the Tea Party suffers from divisiveness and decentralization that make in unsustainable as a national political movement. In other words, at some point in the coming months (likely after the election) the Tea Party will simply die.
For one thing the Tea Party is not a single movement, it is a coalition of national and regional organizations, often funded and run by conservative political action committees. Among these groups are the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, the Tea Party Express, the Tea Party Nation, The Tea Party Patriots and the National Tea Party Federation. Though these groups often share events they don't always share opinions and leadership. Clicking on their links will show you that they lack good Web site designers and copy writers.
Another issue with the Tea Party is that because of its essential disunity, it doesn't have any clear leaders. Certainly media personalities like Glenn Beck and tabloid queen Sarah Palin hold a great amount of influence in the movement, but in reality it was born out of popular discontent and that is one of it's problems. If an angry and less rational segment of society coalesces into a potent socio-political movement, they can have strong regional political influence, hence the smattering of right-wing fringe Tea Party candidates in some congressional, gubernatorial and senatorial elections this fall.
That is another problem with the Tea Party in the long term. Its membership exists to the right of most Republicans politically. The Republican Party will not win elections if it abandons the political middle and so it has good reason to jettison the Tea Party movement. On the other hand, the Tea Party is made up of the traditional Republican base, so every effort will be made to pull these people back under the GOP tent. In the long run, the Tea Party will shrivel up like the human appendix.
The final problem that the Tea Party faces in trying to become a viable political party is disunity on issues. Tea Party protestors originally echoes their namesakes in colonial America arguing against taxation by a government (nevermind that the Boston Tea Partiers were fighting taxation by a non-representative government, while today's Tea Party is taxed by officials WE THE PEOPLE elected). Now the Tea Party is fighting Ear Marks, Cap and Trade, Health Care Reform, Immigration and wants to usurp the power of the Supreme Court and determine the constitutionality of laws from the Oval Office and the floor of Congress.
The Tea Party in essence exists as an anti-American government movement. It would be hypocritical for them to operate as members of the government they oppose.
Sep 10, 2010
What do you think? Can the Tea Party stand on its own as a political institution?
I think the answer is undeniably yes. There is less economic uncertainty today than there was 2 years ago. The economy is adding more jobs than it is shedding. Thanks to the Health Care Reform passed by Congress more Americans than ever before will have access to quality health care from the best doctors and hospitals in the world.
The Obama administration has suceeded in ending combat operations in Iraq. It is moving forward on civilian and military tribunals for the enemy combatants imprisoned in Guatanamo Bay and focusing our military's efforts on establishing conditions for cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan. Most significantly, Israelis and Palestinians have returned to the bargaining table.
Despite one of the loudest and angriest opposition movements in American history, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama have suceeded time and again in passing strong compromise legislation that will raise the quality of life for the majority of Americans. We are safer from terrorist attacks than ever before and a concerted effort is finally being made to improve our infrastructure so we are more safe on our highways, in our airspace and on our rails.
I'm not completely sure where the criticisms of the Obama Administration have come from. He has been a textbook moderate president reaching for compromise solutions to our most heated controversies, and he has for the most part been successful at implementing his agenda.
When you look past the noise, the country is indeed a better place since Barack Obama became president. Could we do better? Of course. As Bill Clinton once said, we must always strive for a more perfect union.
Attentive readers will remember that Gingrich and the GOP congress forced a shutdown in 1995 during the successful administration of Bill Clinton. It ended up being a disaster for our country and a humiliation for the Republican Party.
I guess they didn't learn their lesson. Grim days ahead.
It is difficult to get fired up when your party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress. It is even more difficult to get fired up when your party has not offered many concrete plans for what it would do with another two years of power. Traditionally the party that hold the presidency experiences losses of seats in congressional election. This year should be no different.
Political gridlock has also created some malaise among Democratic voters. The base was disappointed with the compromises made in passing health care reform. Liberals wanted a public option and more strong progressive legislation. Many moderate and conservative Democrats, on the other hand, would have preferred that reform not pass at all.
Democrats don't even agree on the New York City mosque issue.
The media allows the GOP to dominate the rhetoric describing Democrats. Upon close examination most congressional Dems don't appear liberal at all. They destroy the stereotype of big government, big spending, tax-raising atheists that the Republicans perpetuate.
There is no easy way to define what a Democrat looks like or what he or she believes in.
That, indeed, is the difficulty of motivating the diversity of groups and interests withing the Democratic big tent. Candidates will always make someone unhappy with their statements and decisions. The only way to truly unite Democrats is against a common enemy, whether it be Bush-era policies or the specter of the Christian Right.
At this point Obama and congress have wasted too much time doing damage control and not spent enough time formulating policy and uniting the party against Republican opposition. November will be painful indeed.
Sep 9, 2010
So the question I put to everyone today, 8 weeks before yet another key election, is are we better now than we were two years ago?
I asked what the difference between hip-hop and rap was, a deviation from the normally political tone of this blog only tangentally related due to the tendency of many rappers to evoke political thought in their rhymes.
My dear friend Nick and I were discussing what this difference could be. There are acts that we associate with the term "rap" - Eminem, Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nas, 50 Cent, Beastie Boys, Ludacris. There are other acts that we deem "hip-hop" - Brother Ali, Jurassic 5, Blackalicious, Atmosphere, Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan.
What is the difference between these groups of artists? Both include white and black acts. Both include lyrical styles that run the spectrum from dark and violent to concious and educated, and often blur the two. Both use a mixture of complex and minimalist production styles.
The reality is that there is no difference between rap and hip-hop as far as the musical style is concerned. We call underground rappers hip-hop artists because they are more closely tied to the hip-hop cultural movement. Rap is just one element of that movement.
The 4 original elements of hip-hop were DJing (mixing both live and in the studio), breakdancing, MCing, and graffiti. With mainstream rap, record producers strip MCing away from it's base culture and package it for mass consumption.
Underground rap feels like hip-hop because it still has a stronger connection to its urban roots, when the youth involved in the subculture still breakdanced, beatboxed and tagged graffiti.
Sep 4, 2010
Tax cuts have never been shown to effectively stimulate the economy, but the Obama Administration may have specific targets in mind that would make it more beneficial than it would otherwise.
If we really want stimulus, it has to be infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.
What metric should we use to determine whether the economy is recovering?
Over the last few weeks the 24-hour news mavens have quoted all sorts of statistics to engender debate over the health of the economy. An alphabet of acronyms and abbreviations dominates every news show: GDP, CPI, CCI, RoI, BoT, GNP. A viewer is bombarded with quotes of the unemployment rate, exchange rate, consumer spending, home sales, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ, The S&P 500, and on, and on, and on.
In reality there is only one true measure of economic output: The gross domestic product (GDP).
The GDP is the sum of the market value for all the products and services created by an economy over a period of time. The word recession actually refers to two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. When we hear the word recession bandied about in the media it is more often than not misused.
I do not think that word means what you think it means!
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the government agency that measures GDP, the economy is still growing. We are no longer in a recession and the recovery is working. Anyone who says otherwise is either 'wishcasting' or making noise ahead of the November election. We won't even know if a second recession occurs until we have two more negative quarters - in other words it will be late February 2011 before we'd know if we were in a recession.
Remember also that the jobs we shed aren't going to be jobs that we get back. Like I've said before, cars and manufactured goods are not going to be where the American people butter their bread in the future. If we don't start educating ourselves and retasking to meet the demands of the new economic realities, we will be out of work, out of our homes and hungry.
One of my best friends in the history of my short life and in the expanse of the world was listening to good music with me tonight. We heard Pharcyde, Lyrics Born, Blackalicious, Eyedea and Eminem.
We engaged in the old debate of rap versus hip-hop. We all know that there are types of music that some people call RAP and other types of music that other people call HIP-HOP.
A nice conversation was had about whether rap and hip-hop, as forms of music, were actually able to be discerned from each-other. What do you think?
What is the difference between rap and hip-hop?
Sep 3, 2010
But Keith Olbermann is a turd.
And we're no less in debt, at peace or happy than we were before Glenn Beck lied and Keith Olbermann pointed it out.
Regardless of who you want to blame for the US's current economic misfortunes, there is a rational debate going on behind the scenes on two fronts - one, whether we are really as bad off as the media wants us to think, and two, what we can do to improve our fortunes. Whether the second dilemma is at issue depends on our answer to the first.
Today's question, then, has to do with the recovery:
What metric should we use to determine whether the economy is recovering? Jobs? GDP? The misery index? Consumer confidence?
Can we as a population, using elementary-school economic principles, imagine a scenario in the future where renewable energy sources may be more cost effective than fossil fuel?
We should absolutely be able to fathom that for a number of good reasons, all of which revolve around the law of supply and demand.
For those of us who don't know, the law of supply and demand states that for every product there is an equilibrium price that balances supply and demand, and this equilibrium is found at the intersection of the demand curve and the supply curve.
As supply increases, the price equilibrium will decrease. As supple decreases, the price will increase. The follow illustration shows this effect:
The current argument for fossil fuels is based on supply. There is currently a plentiful (though limited) supply of fossil fuels, especially in the United States. There isn't a compelling reason to abandon them unless we imagine our supply of fossil fuels dwindling. There is also a limited supply in renewable energy right now, driving up the costs. Simply stated, it is easy to see how in the near future the cost of the decreasing supply of using fossil fuels could exceed the cost of an increasing supply of efficient renewable energy resources.
The supply of resources like coal and oil could dry up because we run out of them. We also m,ay face a peak oil or coal situation, our ability to extract and refine non-renewable resources may no longer be able to keep pace with demand. Both would increase the cost of using fossil fuels.
As time goes on human beings will discover more efficient methods of harvesting the energy potential of the sun, the wind and other forces. This will drive down the cost of using renewable energy, increasing demand for it over fossil fuels.
Taking this into consideration, even without the efforts of environmental activists, the days of the coal and oil companies are already numbered.
It is also important that we not forget the other costs of using coal and oil combustion to fuel our vehicles and our power plants. Coal and oil are very labor intensive - renewable resources are not. Fossil fuels come with major infrastructural, environmental and health liabilities that solar, wind and hydroelectric electricity generation do not share.
Sep 2, 2010
They should hire me to think of this stuff.
Today's question is an easy one:
Can we as a population, using elementary-school economic principles, imagine a scenario in the future where renewable energy sources may be more cost effective than fossil fuel?
Aug 31, 2010
It isn't that they are bad, or that their ideas are bad - it is that they don't know how to communicate them effectively, and Democrats and the Obama administration have failed to do any damage control. Here we have a party that is being destroyed by its own open-mindedness. The kind of dissent that we have seen over the past two years in the Democratic ranks is not-so-easily tolerated within the Republican party.
As a result, the party controlling the US congress has invented its own gridlock.
Who, then, does the Obama Administration blame for the lack of progress on bills and federal appointments?
The Republican Party, of course!
Look, the Democrats blame Republicans for the current economic crisis - that is fair.
They blame Republicans for the poorly planned and executed operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - also probably fair.
They blame Republicans for the crumbling, obsolete infrastructure that hampers the development of business and industry around the US - most definitely fair.
But they can't blame the GOP for their own lack of progress. This is the Democrats' failure and they should own it.
One thing you can say about the Republicans is that their plans might drive this country into ruin, but at least they have plans and they will execute them even if it means making some creative edits to the constitution.
Americans are worried about the economy and their basic security and survival. At this time we have the Republicans giving an assured message that they will cut taxes and somehow that will fix all of our problems (never mind that cutting taxes has NEVER stimulated the economy, created jobs or fixed anything).
Can someone tell me what the Democrats are going to do?
Aug 29, 2010
However, the hate and negativity coming from the left wing has to stop.
Yes, I know Sarah Palin isn't going to win a Nobel Prize in Physics any time soon. I know Glenn Beck is a manipulative crybaby. And Bill O'Reilly is a bully. And Rush Limbaugh... well, he's Rush Limbaugh.
But raging on these guys because the last two years haven't panned out like we'd like is not constructive behavior.
Successful campaigns are not negative campaigns.
Yes, if you are a Democrat, you are going to lose big in November. If you aren't careful and proactive, you are going to lose control of the House of Representatives. You aren't going to curb your losses by lashing out at all things conservative.
When the Democrats won in 2006 and 2008 they ran on platforms with actual plans in them - it wasn't just anger at the failure of the Bush Administration to do much of anything. Remember the campaign of 'hope and change'?
Americans are afraid and insecure - the economy is terrible and the stimulus has not produced the results they wanted. People won't respond to tactics that stop at calling the other side stupid and wrong without offering anything in return.
You'll never defeat the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins of the world if you stoop to their tactics.
Aug 28, 2010
Why, again, will the GOP win in November?
There are still 10 weeks to ago. Gird your loins.
Aug 27, 2010
When we're not busy discussing mosques, terrorists and Sarah Palin's tweets, we should be talking about the economy and the budget.
Fears of a double-dip recession may come true as some Americans amplify their calls for budget cuts.
Is a recession any time to slash the federal budget? Has the US ever emerged from recession while reducing the budget?
Does anyone have any idea of the link between government spending and the health of our economy?
I'm now convinced that it is impossible for any clear conversation to be had regarding government spending and the deficit. All I end up hearing are wild veerings from Socialist Obama to B-B-B-Bush.
Yes, there is a problem with the American economy and the stimulus package as designed did not work.
Remember, though, that is our problem to work out - together. We are all Americans. Barack Obama is the President of all Americans, not just Democrats, and to say otherwise is treasonous. I don't care what other people said when Bush was here, I don't care about tit-for-tat. If we have to rehash every decision made in the history of the US to come up with someone to blame, we will never get anywhere.
It's time for all Americans to stop playing gotcha while our country crumbles around us.
Look. Some parents had to bring toilet paper to their kid's school when they started this year. Nothing says "superpower" to the world like your public schools not being able to pay for toilet paper.
Taxes are necessary for the government to exist. If you want to starve government until it dies on its own so you can keep more of your hard earned money, there are plenty of places in Africa where that situation exists - you are welcome to move there. If you are unwilling to do that, please stop ranting and railing about how the government steals your money.
It is only because of the government's protections that you are able to hold a job and make this money that is so sacred to you and its time to acknowledge that the people who make the most in our society benefit the most from the services of the government. Those benefits include the regular daily use things everyone gets (police protection, roads, etc.), but also the intangible benefits such as an educated workforce (produced by public education) and the research done at public universities.
There is not a person in the United States that can say they have earned everything on their own with no help from the government - not a single person. To make such a claim is to lie to yourself and to others and create a fantasy world where the aforementioned "no government" scenario actually works.
The flip side of that acknowledgement is that the money collected in taxes isn't a never ending fountain. There must be restraint in spending, but that cannot come all at once, and they can't come in easy ways. You can't wipe Social Security out tomorrow without literally stealing money from the people who have paid into it their whole lives. Reforms and modifications are completely rational approaches to large blocks of spending.
You also can't declare that defense spending is off-limits to cuts and expect to make any savings. Can you honestly look at the amount of money spent on defense and claim that it is good and right and justifiable? If you think you can, have you looked at how much the rest of the world spends on defense to compare?
Thank goodness they did not let the banking industry collapse. Arguing that the United States would be better without its major banks is like arguing that New Orleans was better in the days after Katrina. Madness.
Bailing out the American auto industry, on the other hand, was a major failure of the stimulus bills. Why save an industry that is doomed anyway? What a waste of money and time!
Our economy is not going to be the same as it was before.
The United States isn't going to be a center of global manufacturing, the population numbers just aren't there. If the gulfs of open space in this country are bridged by better infrastructure a stronger manufacturing base might be formed, but that is a big and expensive 'if'. We will not build cars, electronics, computers and furniture at the scale and efficiency of a power like China.
We can be the country that develops the new cars, the new electronics, the new computers. We can be the innovators. That is what the stimulus should have been about. New technology and new infrastructure. Workers can always re-educate, re-tool and re-task.
If we really want to stimulate our economy, a second stimulus is needed, directed solely at building infrastructure, clean energy initiatives and better public education.
Let's make an investment that every rational American will agree is worthy of our tax dollars.
Aug 26, 2010
What is surprising is that the heated reactions did not occur until July.
Plans for the Islamic center were released in December 2009 with hardly a peep in protest. Feisel Abdul Rauf, a moderate sufi cleric and peace activist is currently imam at Masjid al-Farah, a long-standing mosque in New York City that is also mere blocks away from the WTC site. Since buying what will be called Park 51, the site of the proposed cultural center, In July 2009, Friday prayers have occurred there in what was once the site of a Burlington Coat Factory.
People are protesting a mosque that already exists - for you don't need a dome, a minaret, or anything special to create a mosque, just a clean building with some hint for observant Muslims of what direction Mecca is in. That's it.
So where did this controversy come from?
The Republican Party. It is no coincidence that the controversy did not erupt until mere weeks before a general election that could very well decide the balance of power in the US House and Senate. After reading polling data that shows a majority of mis-informed Americans oppose the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero - the actual site of the attacks, the GOP started to spin the proposed cultural center as a new mosque built upon the very ruins of the twin towers - a total lie construed to take advantage of bigotry and racist anger.
It doesn't help that ideologues like Sarah Palin have been consistent in their opposition of the mosque, while more rational leaders like President Obama have been lukewarm or non-committal in their support.
Both would do well to remember that there is no constitutional or legal recourse to prevent the building of the mosque. We should be celebrating and honoring the rights of religious groups and property owners. The GOP is still calling themselves the party that supports the rights of private property owners, right?
Roger Ebert may be the only voice of reason left in this country.
Strangely enough, between 9/11 and today hundreds of mosques have been built in the United States. Many of them have been by peaceful men like Mr. Abdul Rauf (who was actually an anti-terrorism consultant for the FBI and a contributor to Fox News and the Bush Administration- IRONY!)
It is only now that widespread opposition to building Islamic cultural centers and mosques has come front-and-center to our national attention. Here in Kentucky there is now, suddenly, widespread opposition to the construction of new mosques when there was none before.
Ihsan Bagby, Islamic Studies professor at the University of Kentucky, draws the parallel between rabid Islamophobia and the racist Republican response to the election and presidency of Barack Obama.
"I really feel this rise in temperature against Muslims is somehow tied to the discomfort of segments of our country with (President Barack) Obama. Feeling that something has gone wrong, that at least 50 percent of the country voted for this black man.
There are significant pockets that are very uncomfortable with that. And I think that they can't whip on African-Americans. That is no longer tolerated. You can do it privately, but they can't get away with it publicly.
But you can get away with bashing Muslims and you can get away with bigotry towards Muslims. I almost feel like Muslims are a scapegoat here."
It is no coincidence that the old debate over the president's religion resurfaced simultaneously to the mosque debate. This is all about channeling racist anger into electoral politics, and it is clear what party is playing this dangerous and disgusting game.
Time for all of us who thought great progress was made in the election of President Obama to shuffle back to the drawing board.
Aug 12, 2010
In case you are wondering, I had a blast and returned in one piece. Lebanon is a beautiful country with friendly people and great food. I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to get acquainted with the Middle East and its culture. It is also the kind of place where you are welcome to talk about politics - there is little to fear from the people there, especially in times of relative peace.
Apr 29, 2010
I really stepped in it this time - now I have around 1,500 pages to read plus two languages to become acquainted with... plus I have to scrape up the money to buy myriad items like electrical outlet adaptors, travel clothes, luggage and other instruments that seasoned international travelers take for granted.
I also was forced to attend a 'pre-departure' orientation by the university's Education Abroad program. I had no idea what to expect as there are a lot of students who study abroad and I couldn't imagine an orientation tailored to the needs of someone traveling to a country branded by a State Department travel warning.
The orientation took the form of a panel discussion in which we were warned about travel safety and given common sense tips for the student traveler. Not all of these applied to me - for example, I do not think I will be bringing condoms with me to Lebanon. My wife would probably have some interesting questions for me if they were on my packing list (she is staying stateside).
I was actually surprised how helpful the discussion was - I picked up valuable information about how to travel with a laptop and other equipment I will need for my journalistic goals. The panelists warned me not to put my equipment in checked luggage because the handlers cannot be trusted to be careful with my equipment. So I had to go out and put down $100 on a good, large backpack that could accommodate my computer and all the peripherals I plan on bringing with me.
Here's a short list of what this trip has cost me so far:
- Passport, photo and fees: $115
- Backpack: $100
- Adaptor and converter for equipment: $50
- Registration fees: $160
Total as of today: $425
Apr 24, 2010
For another there is a big midterm election season coming up and it appears that the GOP's momentum may be slowing a bit. Given the recent success of Obama administration policies and positive economic data, anyone who is now prognosticating November's election results is out of their mind.
A good case in point is the Florida Republican Senate primary where arch-conservative Marco Rubio now holds a huge margin over moderate governor Charlie Crist after trailing by as much as 50 points just months ago. There are two game-changers at work as this race transitions from primary to general election: One is the potential for Crist to run as an independent with enough influence to split both the GOP and the Democratic electorate. Two is for an IRS investigation into Rubio's use of state Republican Party credit cards to turn up something serious.
There are senate and house races across the country that bear watching just like the one in Florida. Before the Beirut trip, I will take a look into all of them for you.
Apr 10, 2010
Romney or Gingrich as the frontrunners against Obama at this point.
Only because no one in their right mind expects Ron Paul to ever be taken seriously as long as he continues to advocate insane foreing policy.
The race problems plaguing the mainstream GOP are hard to hide. Tea Partiers, however, seem to revel in their own homogeneity.
Of course, the media mavens of the Republican elite have wasted no time in blaming the victims for the hatred of the right-wing movement. They also are going through great pains to distance themselves for the threats of violence against Democrats that their own media personalities have encouraged.
With the recent spate of conservative violence extending into the past week, most concerning is the diversion of conservative bigotry away from race, religion and sexual preference and into the political arena. Conservatives are now openly denying liberals their health care rights and are suggesting that discriminatory hiring practices are adopted to keep liberals out of their work places.
I would like to think that this will all blow over and we can settle our differences at the ballot box, but the newfound militancy of the right wing Tea Party fringe in the United States foreshadows a future with the potential for political violence.
Apr 9, 2010
Though Justice Stevens was appointed by Republican Gerald Ford, his decisions and opinions had drifted to the left over the last few years and he served as a counterbalance to the court's powerful conservative bloc led by Bush-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts. Obama now has his second opportunity to appoint someone young to the court who can carry on the president's legacy long after his term ends.
If recent debate over Obama's nominees is any indication, there is potential for a nasty battle over the next nominee as Republicans hypocritically stand poised to try to use the filibuster yet again, even though the current short list for the court seat is quite moderate by today's standards. I believe that such a conflict would work to the Democratic party's favor going into the election season as the majority of Americans would prefer to see ideological balance on the Supreme Court. It would be in this country's best interest for Obama to meet the party of negativity head on by nominating a strong liberal to the highest court in the land.
Apr 8, 2010
In the mean time, Steele can at least count Sarah Palin in his corner for whatever good her opinion is worth.
UPDATE: It gets even better as Newt Gingrich blames the 'elite media' for the crisis affecting the leader of the party of personal responsibility.
But a lot of liberals are. They cast a wary eye to extreme rhetoric that inspires violence in some. They question the stability of the anti-government protests from the same crowd that told them "Love it or leave it!" just a few years ago.
There is a lot of concern over the direction of political discourse in this country following the venomous opposition to the health care bill and the clear anger from those in the Tea Party movement.
As we approach midterm elections this year, I too am worried that another rebuke in the polls for this movement will inspire more of them to violent or revolutionary activity. Even in the recent days following the passage of healthcare we have seen opposition ridiculous to the point of Republican doctors denying Obama supporters the human right of health care.
But I am not afraid of them. Only 28% of Americans identify with the Tea Party. While that might account for a majority of Republicans, it does not have significant representation among independents and Democrats.
And they're nuts.
The Tea Party is the fringe.
If you listen to the Tea Party, which I have, you begin to realize that there is no single political issue that brings them together or motivates them. Nothing has changed since November 2008 to make them this angry except one thing: Barack Obama is our president.
They are a movement motivated by hate. Freewheeling, unfocused and irrational hate.
Given the history of conservative violence in the United States, I can see why some on the political left are alarmed. Especially when Tea Partiers are screaming racist and homophobic epithets at legislators and hurling bricks through windows.
When Sean Hannity calls them "Tim McVeigh wannabees" to an eruption of cheers.
When they are mailing envelopes filled with white powder and other disgusting objects to our elected representatives, they have entered a state of open revolt against the principles of democracy in the United States.
I'm not suggesting that all conservatives should be lumped in with the Tea Party, or that all tea-partiers should be counted among the violent fringe, but they certainly identify with them. Why else would they cheer at being linked to history's second biggest terrorist attack on US soil?
Tim McVeigh was a product of the modern militia movement who killed which has taken the American tradition of civilian militias and added political, religious and racist militancy into their beliefs. There are still some traditional militias that do not identify with the right wing or the politics of hate, but since the Oklahoma City bombings militias have increasingly identified with the extremist fringe. They are the heart of right-wing violence.
I think we can safely presume that much of the 28% that the Tea Party represents is the same group of people who opposed Obama before he even made a statement of policy due to his racial heritage. When they are fed 'red meat' (raw political speech, dripping with passion) by an opportunist politician, journalist, or business person they become an energized base, and that is why they represent such a force in the upcoming midterm elections.
See, the idea of midterm elections is that you run to your base. Participation is always down from the presidential election years, so the party that gets the most people to the polls will generally pull out the victory. One way to ensure a good partisan turnout is to energize your base. The Republican Party (and its defacto propaganda wing, Fox News) runs this play with perfection.
The problem this time is that Sean Hannity's "Wannabe Tim McVeighs" are all in one place - and with the recent Democratic electoral success's and Barack Obama's victorious presidential campaign, these people feel energized and marginalized -- like an animal who has been backed into a corner.
Even staunch Republicans - minus NewBusters.org - won't deny that right wing violence has become a growing issue in our culture, and few people will deny it's connection to bigotry. It isn't difficult to make a list of recent examples of conservative hate, violence and militancy against American citizens:
1) James Von Brunn, the lone-wolf terrorist responsible for the holocause museum shooting who had deep connections to the Obama birther movement.
2) The death of George Tiller and the Fox News connection to the assassination - and the totally dishonest denial of responsibility by the anchorperson who encouraged his murder.
3) The individuals who are driven to the purchase of firearms and quite possibly the use of such items - I have a personal concern here, I work with one of these folks and he knows I voted for Barack Obama
4) Remember Eric Rudolph? The guy who was responsible for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing - which was an international incident - also bombed abortion clinics and expressed a hatred of gay rights - all in the name of right wing causes.
5) James O'Keefe - he was the guy who successfully framed ACORN by posing as a pimp - with his girlfriend pretending to be a prostitute - asking for tax advice. Recently he was caught trying to illegally plant recording devices in Senators' offices.
6) The shouting of racial epithets to members of Congress as they marched to cast their votes for historic health care legislation - and the sleazy, low-brow tactics of the opposition ot health care reform - and the acts of violence against those brave enough to support the legislation. Of course, recall that during the debate over the legislation Republican politicoes issued tongue-in-cheek warnings to non-conservatives that they could face the wrath of the right-wing due to their positions. Then again, Democrats seem perfectly happy to make monetary lemonade from Republican lemons.
Look, honestly, I am not trying to equate all right-wing, conservative thought with violence or Fox News and the Republican Party with extreme rightist racist and separatist movements, but I am saying that the connections are close. This should be of concern to both liberals and mainstream Republicans alike. No one in the mainstream of America, left-wing or right-wing, wants to see the GOP equated with the Tea Party, neo-nazis, or terrorists.
That is why it is important - socially, politically, and electorally - that the GOP start to try to reclaim the political center now, instead of identify with extremist groups who could very well compromise our political system altogether. They need to reject the Tea Party and all it stands for, because it only represents another illegitimate rebellion to the American Constitution, no different from the Confederacy in the Civil War.
No one should want to be a "Tim McVeigh."
In my next blog, we'll discuss the Right Wing's attempts to revise American history by rewriting the textbooks in Texas. If you think I delivered some red meat in this one, wait until I tear into historical revisionism!
Apr 6, 2010
Despite Newt Gingrich's recent defense of Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, the accusations of misconduct at the RNC utterly destroy the chairman's credibility. Over the past few weeks embarrassing revelations about inappropriate spending at adult-oriented entertainment clubs combined with a slow response to answer these charges have dragged Steele's name into the mud, providing an easy target for Democratic critics.
Steele has not had many fans on the Right, either. Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly claimed that Steel does not represent the Republican Party and party rag The Washington Times has criticized Steele's ever-expanding honorarium for public appearances.
Now the RNC is facing a rash of resignations and a donor revolt. With its ability to raise money and coordinate campaigns greatly injured by Steele's presence, the responsible thing for the Republican leader to do is resign his position for the good of his party.
Apr 4, 2010
Head on over to 'The Steel Backbone' and take a look.
Apr 1, 2010
The following quote should be familiar to anyone who has read conservative commentary and letters to the editor during the health care debate. That exact line has been quoted ad nauseum by Republicans in their crusade against extending health benefits to the Americans who need it the most.
I am writing today to tell you that it is a dumb argument.
It is true that the Post Office is facing budget constraints and that Amtrak still requires a federal subsidy to survive. It is also true that the funds that are supposed to go to Medicare and Social Security have been raided by Congress so many times that there is doubt that the two major entitlement programs can survive this century.
However, it is not the government's fault that these cost overlays threaten these federal programs. Instead, it is the fault of the people who have been in charge of the government for the last 10 years. When Republicans make the argument that the government has failed to run Amtrak, the Post Office, Medicare, Medicaid etc. - correct them.
It is because REPUBLICANS have failed to run Amtrak, the Post Office, etc.
THEY are the ones who routinely underfunded these programs.
THEY are the ones who appointed grossly unqualified individuals to leadership positions in the government to appease their donors.
THEY are the ones who tried to kill Amtrak and the Post Office time after time.
THEY are the ones who raided the Social Security and Medicare trust fund.
The truth of the matter is that public control of the mail system is efficient and it extends the benefits of the postal service to those who otherwise would be too poor to use it.
The truth of the matter is that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have expanded the middle class by providing some assurance that our parents and grandparents will have some assistance in their old age - and it assures us that we will not be burdens on our children and grandchildren when we reach that age.
The truth of the matter is that our subsidy to Amtrak makes car-free long-distance travel accessible to Americans of all walks of life - something that a private airline will never do.
The truth of the matter is that our government, which is elected by us, is perfectly suited to make sure a basic level of primary care is available to all Americans, and it is perfectly capable of assuring that a standard of care is met. After all, the government has already done this through the VA system for decades.
To answer my own question: Yes, they really are this stupid. Next time you hear someone making the argument that government can't do anything well, tell them that all depends on who is doing the governing.
Mar 31, 2010
If the elections were held today, the Republicans would take back congress. Even Democratic strategists concede that there would be a bloodbath. The GOP has an energized base and amazing command of media and message.
For the sake of brevity let's look at the national picture rather than individual congressional districts.
The national polls are split as to which party would win a generic ballot for Congress, but more recent polls from Fox News, Gallup, and CNN show Republicans in the lead. Older polls from Research 2000, The Washington Post, and Democracy Corps show the Democrats in the lead.
I think it is safe to assume that the Republican Party holds the momentum as we head into campaign season.
Jan 26, 2010
President Obama is giving me a birthday present. On Thursday, which happens to be the 29th anniversary of my birth, Obama and Joe Biden are expected in Tampa, Florida to announce the creation of the United States' first true high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. This announcement has the potential to kick off the creation of tens-of-thousands of jobs and spur economic development. This is the culmination of a plan to initiate spending on new rapid train technology over ten federally-designated corridors that Obama and Biden announced last April.
Though only $8 billion in funding was initially announced, the US Department of Transportation received over $50 billion in rail construction requests. Florida's rail line will cost approximately $2.5 billion, leaving over $5 billion for the government to spend at its discretion. The safest bets are on the government also funding construction on high-speed rail projects in Illinois and California.
If the rail geek in me gets to make another post this week, I'll talk about why the Tampa-Orlando proposal won the first allotment of money, and what lines should be built next.
Jan 21, 2010
One is that the Democratic brand is tarnished, and the reasons for this are manifold. The unpopularity of health insurance reform in its current format would be one of them. The compromise proposal isn't winning over any conservatives or entrenched Republicans, and fails to motivate liberals to support the policy.
Nationally speaking Obama hasn't been viewed as the inspirational leader his campaign portrayed him to be. Though he remains a popular president in general, either his policies aren't catching on with the electorate or he has not effectively sold them. There is a wealth of valid criticism over his appointments of Wall Street insiders to the Treasury and his continuing support of Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve.
Striking the middle road in Afghanistan has also been a mark against Obama. There is widespread criticism from the left whenever a president escalates a conflict by sending more soldiers overseas. The escalation was made with a rough blueprint for reassessment and withdrawal within a certain number of months, drawing complaints from the right. Liberals again found reason for their bitterness when Obama's withdrawal plans were themselves quickly withdrawn.
In the meantime the economy's stability appears fragile at best. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed and tens of millions on top of that are underemployed, working for wages and benefits far to low to raise their families. Obama is unable to push any job-creation stimulus without criticism over expansive federal spending, but businesses are so strapped for cash that another round of furloughs and layoffs may be imminent.
Amidst all of this bad news, a special election is held in Massachusetts to replace beloved liberal Senator Teddy Kennedy, and the normally Democratic electorate in that state sent a clear message to President Obama and the Democratic Party: stand up and fight for principled, innovative and vigorous legislation to help WE THE PEOPLE, or step aside.
Jan 19, 2010
While congressional and legislative Democrats are eating their own heads, and the left chases its tail by continuing to blame Bush for all of this country's problems President Obama is aggressively pursuing a centrist agenda against the protests of the left wing of his party and the entire GOP. And the scary thing is that his government's solutions are practical, intuitive and effective.
It seems to this blogger that Mr. Obama has plenty of coattails, but no Democratic candidate has the chutzpah to really ride on them for fear of alienating moderate Republicans and the liberal base.
In the mean time, the GOP is dancing in the streets... or something like that.
Jan 15, 2010
Lets hope that Obama's centrist credentials don't turn off voters in one of the most liberal states in the Union.
Recent polling has Coakley down four points to her opponent, Scott Brown. Out-of-state Republican interest groups have been filling Brown's coffers in hopes of claiming momentum coming into the 2010 primary season. This is not-unlike the out-of-state influences orchestrating the meteoric rise of arch-conservative Rand Paul against the needs and better judgement of Kentuckians.
Jan 14, 2010
What a travesty: The lion of liberalism loses his seat to the Republicans - if this happens it is a sign of the weakness of the Democratic Party and the shortness of Obama's coattails.
That number could potentially climb due to health and sanitation issues within Haiti. The country has become synonymous with epidemic disease over the years. With many hospitals either totally destroyed or without water and electricity, the population has no where to go to seek medical treatment.
The infrastructure in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, was notoriously fragile before the quake. In a country with a weak, almost non-existent central government, most buildings were not earthquake safe. The result has been blood-curdling footage of people trapped in collapsing houses and offices, and rubble crushing bystanders on the street. Let this be a lesson to those who think there is no place for federal regulations. A strong central government could not have prevented this earth quake, but Haiti could have been better prepared to deal with a disaster of this magnitude with increased regulation and a large federal workforce.
Government buildings - including Parliament and Haiti's Presidential Palace - were not spared by the quake. President Préval is currently homeless. Citizens of Port-au-Prince are erecting tent cities in public parks and soccer fields that resemble the refugee camps in the Sudan - no sanitation, no order and no safety.
Aid is beginning to trickle in from both neighboring countries and private sources. President Obama has taken a leadership position in offering and delivering help to the Haitian people. Obama has assigned former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to take control of the recovery and relief efforts there, though Obama's fast action has come under fire from the likes of Rush Limbaugh here at home.
Beware of e-mail scams taking advantage of American's big hearts and (comparatively) fat pocketbooks. There are already many scam organizations trying to take advantage of the plight of the Haitian people. Only donate to trusted organizations and don't be afraid to use Snopes to weed out the low-lifes.