The Math

Last night was the final episode of The Daily Show for 2010 and host Jon Stewart made one more effort to call attention to the 9/11 First Responders bill that had stalled in the Senate.  The bill would provide $7 billion to cover the health care costs incurred by the first responders who rushed to Ground Zero on 9/11 and were rewarded for their heroism with diseases and the crippling financial burden that comes when you make the unforgivable mistake of getting sick in America.  It was a moving, heartbreaking piece and if I have one complaint, it would be that the Daily Show didn’t offer any way viewers could donate money directly to these 9/11 first responders.

Of course, direct donations wouldn’t be necessary if Congress, and namely Republican senators, acted responsibly.  I could shoot an e-mail to my senators, but the thing about the GOP is that they’re very good at not thinking for themselves.  They are a lockstep voting group and the Senators from Georgia, Mr. Chambliss and Mr. Isakson, have never made headlines because they don’t make waves.  They don’t introduce important legislation and they don’t question the party leadership.  And e-mails or letters or phone calls from me won’t make a difference because I’m not part of their calculus.  I’m one liberal voter.  I didn’t vote for either of them and most likely never will.  I don’t have huge sums of money to donate to their campaigns so a letter from me asking them to do right by 9/11 first responders isn’t going to change their minds.  A mind has to exist in order for it to be changed.

I know I go after President Obama a lot on this blog, but that’s because I have expectations of him.  I thought there was greatness in him but with each passing day, I suspect that greatness only extended to winning the 2008 election.  I don’t begrudge him his pragmatism, but I do begrudge him that pragmatism when it’s used in pursuit of upholding a broken status quo.  Being successful at keeping things rotten isn’t much reason to celebrate, and a President who thinks that one year of unemployment benefits in exchange for two years of tax cuts isn’t good at math and is even worse at politics.

But I don’t say much about Republicans on this blog because at this point it’s a given that they’re evil.  You can’t vote against a 9/11 First Responders bill in good conscience.  There are many issues where I’m willing to concede that an opposing viewpoint isn’t evil, but simply misguided or just really stupid.  This is not one of those issues.  Voting against 9/11 first responders is evil.  This is saying money, money that the GOP has no problem giving away to millionaires and billionaires, isn’t worth giving to people who risked their lives on 9/11 and are now dying slow and painful deaths as a result.  The fact that this bill hasn’t passed already doesn’t offend the GOP.  The thought of working on Christmas offends them, but letting heroes die when you have the power to help them?  Not keeping any Republicans up at night.  And if it sounds like I’m demonizing Republicans, it’s only because I find their actions demonic.

What’s disheartening is that if a bill such as this can’t pass the U.S. Senate, then what can?  Bills that help the wealthy and leave the rest of us with the scraps, apparently.  Republicans have chosen to do evil and media organizations that treat actions such as these as worthwhile positions allow evil to exist as a perfectly valid viewpoint.  News organizations are so scared of being labeled partisan, that they won’t say, “9/11 first responders are dying in agony because Republicans are blocking the bill on the basis of not wanting Democrats to win.”  And as long as people don’t know about it, then that’s wonderful because if they did, they would be fucking outraged.  If people can get upset about a non-mosque that’s not located next door to Ground Zero, imagine what they would do if they found out 9/11 first responders were being left to die in poverty?

I applaude Jon Stewart for calling attention to this bill.  I think this, far more than the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, is the best thing he’s done with his influence this year.  The Rally was a nice evolution of his satire and media critique, but this is a fight with a clear right and a clear wrong and I thank Mr. Stewart and everyone at The Daily Show for willing to set aside some laughs to pick up an important cause.

If you live in a state represented by a heartless Republican, but still want to help, you can donate to the FealGood Foundation.  You may not have corporate backers and a warchest filled with millions of dollars, but you’ll have actually made a positive difference in the world, which is more than I can say for anyone who voted against the 9/11 First Responders bill.

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 politics No Comments

Time to Change the Rules

Raising taxes for only the wealthy and repealing Don’t Ask , Don’t Tell are both highly popular among the American people.  Both propositions passed the House of Representative.  They both received a majority of votes in the Senate.  Both were defeated because of parliamentary nonsense that have allowed the minority party to wield a disproportionate level of power.  This has been the way of the Senate for the last two years.  It will continue to be this way unless Obama makes it his cause to change the rules of this dysfunctional chamber.

Obama blathers on and on about needing to change the way Washington works.  Well, this is the way it currently works.  Change it.  He can’t succeed if the Senate stays the way it is.  And while lashing out at his progressive base might be a nice way to vent, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re not the ones setting up roadblocks in his agenda.  We’re not the ones who have sworn to defeat him and make him a one-term president.

Unfortunately, I’m sure he’ll fail this task just as he’s failed so many others.  John Boehner and the House of Representative will set the agenda for the next two years and Obama will make sure that their agenda passes with minor (if any) Democratic adjustments, because to this President it’s more important to do things rather than do good things.

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

Obama Didn’t Ask, But I’ll Tell Him He Failed on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

So Obama was already 0 for 1 in this lame duck session by capitulating on the tax cuts (and according to Paul Krugman, he’s most likely created his own political defeat in 2012 because he doesn’t know how calendars work), and now it looks like he’s failed on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Obama hemmed and hawed about how he couldn’t let the courts make this decision.  It had to be done through Congress.  Well, this is what happens when you put it in the hands of your Congress–nothing.  Harry Reid’s leadership in the Senate has been about as effective as a wet fart and Obama has shown once again that he’s not willing to lead on tough issues.  What could have been a victory on a social issue and the closing of a sorry chapter from the Clinton administration has now become yet another of Obama’s many defeats.

So now that DADT repeal has failed to pass in Congress, what is Obama going to do about it?  I’m sure he’ll have plenty of lip service.  It’s a shame he doesn’t have a fraction of the dedication of the proud gay and lesbian Americans who want to openly go into military service.

Of course, I can’t lay all the blame at Obama’s feet.  Republicans are evil.  They just are.  It’s institutional bigotry and there’s no good reason why gays can’t openly serve.  We’ve done studies.  The leaders of the military say they can make it happen.  And yet we still can’t repeal an evil law that hurts our defensive capabilities.  Disgusting.

Once again, we see that it doesn’t matter if you vote Democrat because the Republicans always win.

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

Special Comment: “We’re Very Sorry.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 brilliant, politics, television No Comments

So Much for Obama

Well, Obama caved on tax cuts.  The Republicans saw that taking hostages worked and they’ll be sure to do it again.  At first, I was willing to let Obama’s capitulation slide because he did get unemployment benefits and strongly-needed economic stimulus out of the deal.  But Republicans got a two-year extension of benefits for the wealthy while the poor only got 13 months of benefits.  When that clock runs out in January 2012, do you think they’ll re-up?  And when the tax breaks run out at the end of 2012, will anyone believe Obama when he says that this time, he’ll make sure the wealthy don’t send us further into debt?

Earlier this year, my dad told me that he agreed with Christopher Hitchens’ assessment that Obama was a weak man.  I thought that was a strong insult.  Disappointing?  Sure.  But weak?  There’s no beating that character flaw.  Irritating naivety I can stomach, but weakness from a leader is unacceptable.  But as the year has gone on, I’ve come to agree with that assessment.  Where does Obama stand on the issues?  Wherever Republicans tell him to.  For a guy who ran such a smart campaign, he’s run an awfully stupid White House.

The line from Obama that really irked me was this:

“So, sympathetic as I am with those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do.”

Really?  What problem did you solve, you gigantic chump?  One problem resurfaces in 13 months, the other surfaces in two years.  You’ve made no explanation of how you plan to pay for either.  I don’t mind compromises.  I mind weak compromises like the one you just made.  This is a president who doesn’t understand that sometimes in order to solve a problem, you need to fight.

The other big issue I was looking at during this lame duck session is the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  However, since the Republicans have made clear that they don’t want to repeal it, it won’t happen.  Maybe Obama can get one of his “compromises” and the result will be that bisexuals will get to serve openly in ten years.

Obama’s a failed President.  The midterms should have been a wake-up call, but he’s made it clear he’ll never wake up.  I thought I was getting a real Democratic President who could forge a new path after the disastrous Bush administration.  I was wrong.

Monday, December 6th, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

Obama’s Crucible

As Congress enters its lame duck session, I’m finally at my last straw with Obama.  It’s not that news about him likely caving to Republican demands about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is unexpected.  It’s that it’s so stupid he should cave to it.  I thought I elected a savvy politician, but it looks like Obama’s not only weak, but really stupid.  This White House is terrible at negotiating and they’re too inept to realize when they hold leverage.

The Republicans are threatening to be Republicans and block all legislation if Obama doesn’t cave on the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.  The “compromise” is punting for two years, letting the deficit pile up while rich people get a bonus that doesn’t help the country.  The smart political play is to let the tax cuts expire and then introduce the Obama Tax Cuts, which are the same except they don’t apply to rich people.  Then Republicans are on the defensive about why they’re holding up tax cuts for the American people.

The counter-argument is that Obama needs Republicans to not block all the other important legislation and that caving on the tax cuts will allow other pressing issues like New START, DADT, etc. to come the floor.  But that just lets Republicans know that taking Obama’s agenda hostage works.  And there’s no guarantee that once Obama gives Republicans what they want, they’ll honor their end of the agreement.

If one thing has become painfully clear over the past few years, it’s that the Senate is broken and if Obama really wanted to be a leader he would make reforming it his issue.  But Obama looks like he wants to be anything but a leader.  He wants to be the good, old-fashioned community organizer who gets everybody into the room so they can come to a sensible agreement.  That’s cute and I don’t mind that he tried doing it at the start of his Presidency.  But it’s been almost two years and he needs to wake the fuck up.  Politics is a blood sport and he’s almost been exsanguinated.

Things are only going to get more difficult with a Republican-controlled House, so it’s time to make a stand.  It’s time to rally the congresspeople who have nothing to lose and to use some actual political savvy to get somethings accomplished.  I’m basically looking for two things out of this lame duck session:

1) Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

2) No tax cuts extended for the top wage earners.

If Obama fails on both of these counts, then the 2012 election will be a question of how repulsive does the Republican candidate have to be to make me give Obama a second term of uselessness.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

George Bush Does Not Care About Black People and Is Still an Idiot

In his upcoming memoir, George W. Bush says that Kanye West saying “George Bush does not care about black people,” following Katrina was one of the worst moment of his presidency.  Not the devastation of New Orleans or the inept response by his administration, but that a rapper called him on it.  That “was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency,” says Bush.  You know what else is disgusting?  Watching your loved ones drown because the President is busy vacationing again.

I’m glad Bush’s memoirs are about to come out because after last night’s Republican victory, I could use a nice reminder that at least that dude is gone.

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

One Vote

I’ve been struggling with who to vote for tomorrow.  In the grand scheme of things, my vote doesn’t matter.  Georgia is a red state.  Incumbents will most likely win and where there isn’t an incumbent candidate, the conservative will win.  Also, the disgustingly broken campaign financing system in this country makes corporations have a larger voice than me, especially in the wake of the Citizens United ruling.

But whether my vote directly influences an election isn’t the point of voting.  Voting is how citizens participate in their government.  Too many people have fought and died for the right to vote and it’s not like it’s the most demanding thing ever to check a few boxes once every two years.  My view on voting is that if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.  Complaining is easy (and fun!) but if you can’t be bothered to vote, then you’re not a serious person and I don’t buy the cynicism you’re hiding under the guise of “wisdom”.

Since I don’t have the wealth of a corporation or major lobbying group, I only have my vote.  My one vote has value to me.  And if it has value to me then I’m not going to thoughtlessly give it away to the lesser of two evils.  This vote has value and it matters to me how I cast it.

Because we have a broken two-party system, I’m faced with voting for Democrats or Republicans.  I don’t want to vote for the Democrats because if I do, I’ll feel like I’ve condoned their actions (and in some cases, inaction).  The pundits are predicting that the Democrats are going to get their asses handed to them on Election Day and part of me hopes that will be the case.  A victory for the Democrats tells the party that they’re doing a bang-up job and should keep up the good work.  They should not be getting that message.  The message I want them to hear is that the time of running to the right is over.  It’s time for progressive politics and bold stands.  The party needs to take folks like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman behind the woodshed and beat the shit out of them.  Basically, Democrats need to take the Republican approach to party management.

I’m also offended that this administration takes my vote for granted.  It takes these “centrist” policies (which are really just Republican-lite) and then accuses me of not being “serious” because I support liberal causes.  You could argue that Obama will have a tougher time getting his agenda passed with a Republican congress, but these past two years have proved that he had a tough time with a majority in both houses.  I want to see what he’ll do when the game has changed and there’s no use in appealing to conservative Democrats.  I have a sinking feeling he’ll run even further to the right, but I want to give him change he can believe in.

However, the thought of contributing, albeit indirectly, to a Republican victory feels wrong.  Their policies are hurtful and vindictive and divisive.  If you don’t believe me, you probably won’t ever need to worry about showing your papers in Arizona or having the citizenship of your children revoked or getting kicked out of the military because of your sexual orientation or a slew of other creepy positions on a social agenda.

But looking back at my previous blog posts, I can see how disappointed I’ve been with Obama and a big loss for Democrats in the election will be laid at his feet.  I don’t feel like I had unrealistic hopes for him.  The fact that Gitmo isn’t shut down after two years doesn’t bother me simply because I can understand how it would be a logistical nightmare to get it done.  I in no way expected the country to be healed from the economic crisis by now and am somewhat impressed that we’ve stayed below 9.6% unemployment (although that number is higher when you count people who have given up looking for a job).  What disappoints me about Obama is his weakness.  I’ve seen him capitulate to conservatives, listen to ass-holes like Larry Summers and Rahm Emmanuel, get deeper into a needless war in Afghanistan, and then say I’m bad person if I don’t mindlessly vote Democrat.  My vote and votes like mine matter and if Obama loses enough of them on Election Day, then maybe he’ll remember that.  And even if he doesn’t, it doesn’t change the fact that I remembered that my vote mattered to me.

Monday, November 1st, 2010 politics No Comments

Keep Sucking (It Up)

So apparently the Dems message has shifted to “Vote for us because constant disappointment is better than electing crazy bigots.”  So I should suck it up, hold my nose, and vote for useless people otherwise the tea party extremists win.  It’s a sad, last minute argument trying to change the course of a battle that’s already over.  Obama had won the 2008 election before election day and Republicans have won 2010.  They’re going to win the House of Representatives, which isn’t a big deal as the last two years have taught us that the House can pass all the legislation they want and it doesn’t matter because it will die in the Senate.  Even if the Senate also goes Republican (and it won’t), Obama will veto and there won’t be enough Republican gains to override.

I basically believe Matt Taibbi’s argument for the future of American politics through 2016:

The Republicans are going to win now and retake at least one house. What few reforms have been enacted, there’s going to be an effort to role those back [My note: those efforts will be unsuccessful because there won't be enough Republicans to accomplish that]. Nothing serious is going to get done now for at least two years. Obama’s going to win re-election in 2012. The Tea Party thing is now so big that there’s no way that the Republicans can nominate someone who’s not friendly to the Tea Party. But whomever they nominate is going to be nuts, so that person is not going to win the swing vote. Democrats will sweep through to victory and do nothing again for four year.
I’ll have a longer post about my vote on election day, but this notion that I should vote Democrat out of fear is ridiculous.  As Thomas Rich points out in his editorial this week, the Tea Partiers are tools and they always have been.  Their agenda isn’t feasible and it’s one of those times when it’s comforting that Washington is so broken because it’s broken both ways.  We’re in for at least two more years of gridlock.  That’s awful, but it’s not the End of Days.
Sunday, October 31st, 2010 politics No Comments

Special Comment: Hot Air

Keith Olbermann’s latest Special Comment are the words of a man who is scared of defeat.  In a 20 minute comment, he rails against countless members of the Tea Party.  The polls show that Republicans are going to win in a landslide and that the Tea Party will take over the country and ruin it.  By going through the litany of their disturbing beliefs, Olbermann hopes to scare the liberals who watch his show (myself included) to get out the vote and somehow stop the inevitable.

But this part is what really got under my skin:

But it is the worst thing to sit back and let it happen, to not find the time and the means to convince just one other sane voter to put aside the disappointment of the last two years and look to the future and vote.  Because the disappointment of the last two years will be the “good old days” in a Tea Party America.

My response is “How does a Tea Party happen?”  It happens because of Democrats like these.  It happens because Democrats don’t really want progressive causes.  The Tea Party can serve as a long-needed wake-up call that voters don’t want weak-sauce, ineffective Democrats.  To vote Dem only delays the inevitable, right-ward shift of the party.  How much wrangling was required in the health care bill because of “Democrats” like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman and their ilk?  A “D” next to your name doesn’t guarantee my vote and I won’t be scared into voting for people I don’t believe in simply because the nutjobs are coming.

The Tea Party represents a dream and an unrealistic one at that.  The only way for Americans to see that the dream is false is to show it.  Delay the Tea Party, and Americans will keep thinking that perhaps these people have the answers.  Give them two miserable years in office and watch their cause deflate.

Friday, October 29th, 2010 politics No Comments