Aug 31, 2010

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I look at the Obama Administration and the Democratic party and shake my head. Here we have a majority party that is in the process of cratering, as John McCain would so eloquently say.

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

Just stop already

I am no fan of conservative policies. I detest Fox News and the right-wing talk radio crowd for their general dishonesty and failure to be balanced and rational, even while they call themselves balanced and fair. My personal allegiances should be clear to anyone who reads my blog or knows me personally.

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

Well, well, well

A Newsweek article reports that Republican budgetary and economic proposals would cost the country more money and more jobs than the unpopular Democratic proposals.

Why, again, will the GOP win in November?

There are still 10 weeks to ago. Gird your loins.

Aug 27, 2010

Provoked, but not stimulated.

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?

Finally, I don't think it is fair to look at the stimulus as a complete failure. Yes, it was pitched as a job creation package, but in reality it was a realignment package. It was a life-preserver for our banking industry.

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

Why oppose the Islamic cultural center near the WTC site?

It isn't surprising that there has been a torrent of anger and violence in response to plans to build an Islamic cultural center that includes an area set aside for prayer within two blocks of the World Trade Center site.

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.

What's changed?

Our president.

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

Beirut Blog

Like I promised, I did blog my entire trip to Beirut - but my classmates and I did it on another site. It can be read at

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.