Apr 29, 2010

Beirut Update

This week as my school semester has wound down my preparations for my trip to Beirut. This is going to be a lot more expensive than I anticipated.

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:

Total as of today: $425

Crist crosses the GOP.

It sounds like Charlie Crist is indeed going to say goodbye to the Republican Party. Let the ugly backlash begin!

Apr 24, 2010

Some changes

Get ready for a few changes around here. For one thing I am heading to Beirut this summer and will used Unreined to talk about my experiences in Lebanon. Expect lots of pictures, video and stories as I will be documenting all of it.

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

Who saw this coming?


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 US Right wing is now directing bigotry toward Democrats

It is beyond denial that the right wing movement in the united states has a long history and tradition of hate and bigotry and that history is embodied by the Tea Party. A new poll by the University of Washington confirms the racist attitudes of the Tea Party movement's members even as they try to deny that their anger at the Obama administration is in any way related to bigotry.

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

Obama should appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court

With the recent announcement of John Paul Stevens retirement and resignation from the Supreme Court the Obama administration has the opporunity to maintain the balance on the Court by nominating a liberal judge to replace him.

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

The Michael Steele Career Deathwatch 4/8

Yet another prominent Republican is calling for Michael Steele to resign as chairman of the RNC. Adding his name to a growing list of GOP politicos calling for Steele to pack his bags is Tom Fetzer, the head of the North Carolina Republican Party.

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.

The GOP should jettison the Tea Party.

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Tea Party?

Not me.

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

Fire Michael Steele

The time has come, folks, for Michael Steele to go. The embattled chairman of the Republican National Committee has become an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party. His presence threatens the GOP momentum going into the fall elections and tarnishes the reputation of the conservative movement.

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

Apr 1, 2010

Are they really this stupid?

"The government cannot run the Post Office. It can't run Amtrak. It has bankrupted Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Can we really expect it to manage health care?" -- Judge Andrew Napolitano (from the Glenn Beck show 4/1/10)

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.