Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Form of Insanity?

This may be true.  And we may find out in a couple of months how insane a nation we really are.

Well, Better Late Than Never

If the Democrats and the President want a weapon to use in going after the GOP and the VRWC, they could do a lot worse than using this.

I remember when this guy was on the cover of Newsweek, early in Reagan's first term, under the headline "Cut, Slash, Chop."  Supposedly, the object of all of this was the Federal budget.  Turns out it really was the American Dream.

Why Steven Slater Matters

In today's freak-obsessed media environment, the coverage of Steven Slater's outburst in dealing with a jetBlue customer unsurprisingly focused on the novelty aspects of the story--e.g., leaving the plane on an emergency slide.  What a sad indictment of our ability to be entertained prevailing over what is left of our ability to think.

Steven Slater's significance lies not in its novelty, but in the fact that it suggests that American workers may finally be waking up to the sadistic nature of the way in which they have been treated for the past 30 years, ever since Reagan broke the PATCO strike.  And it appears I'm not the only person who feels this way.  Take a look at this as well.

Are We Ungovernable?

The author of this thinks so.  And he may be right.  I have believed for a very long time that the dominant "ism" in America isn't liberalism or conservatism, but consumerism.  And it may have corrupted us to the point that we no longer look at each other as citizens of the same country.

I hope I'm wrong.  But I'd like to find a real reason for believing that I am.

Obama: America's Waldo

If you thought the reference to John Birch in an earlier post was gratuitous, then take a look at Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times.  Rich gives a detailed account of the Koch family's involvement in the growth of the VRWC, from the John Birch Society to today's so-called "Tea Party."

At the end of his column, Rich notes that past Democratic leaders--F.D.R. and Kennedy, specifically--fought back with full force against right-wing demagogues like the Koch brothers and their fellow-travelers in the GOP and on Fox.  He ends with this pithy observation:  "And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself."

I agree.  But WHY is that true?  Why is Obama so absolutely unwilling to take these people on?  Why does he increasingly act like someone who has decided to be president for only two years?

I tend to think that, for Presidents as well as the rest of us, biography is destiny.  He rose to the White House as a conciliator, and not as leader.  He learned how to work with people where they are, and not how to take them where they need to go.  As a consequence, he tends to be more risk-adverse than someone in his position needs to be.  He doesn't understand that the people of this country need a President who is willing to get out in front of not only the problems, but the positions that others have staked out on them.  Ultimately, that his how you bring people together:  not by giving each side half a loaf, but by showing us a different way to bake bread.

Okay, that's not one of my better metaphors.  But, hopefully, you get the idea.  Unless Obama can suddenly get a personality transplant, the audacity of hope is going to give way to the audacity of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

An Obituary Worth Noting

This one.

My first exposure to him was as Richard Nixon's dogged defender during the Watergate scandal, followed, of course, by his memorable "Point/Counter-Point" sparring with Shana Alexander on "60 Minutes."  In an era dominated by liberals and liberal commentators, I respected his willingness to stand up for what he believed, even as I vehemently disagreed with all of it.  He seemed to treat his political opponents with personal respect, something that is sadly missing in today's environment.  I must admit that, had I known about his earlier and equally vehement opposition to civil rights, I would have looked less kindly on him.

Still, for all of that, he possessed one quality missing in today's political discourse:  when he was wrong, he was willing to admit it, candidly and publicly.  For an outstanding example of this--one that I think I will never forget--click on this link.

August: The Month For Phony Issues

I could use that as an excuse for not posting recently; the truth is that I have been rehearsing a play six days a week for the past three weeks (something I've never done before).  But, as I look back on the events of this month, it seems to me to be a month full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And that includes the issue of which party will control Congress after the fall elections.  Current polls point toward big gains by the Republicans, with the possibility of gaining control of both Houses.  If that's really the case--and I still have doubts, although anything's possible--the question then becomes this:  what will the GOP do with its regained Congressional power?

The answer, as I see it, ought to disturb everyone:  the GOP doesn't have the faintest idea, nor do they care about having the faintest idea.  My guess is that congressional Republicans will probably try to distract the Obama administration with investigations and subpoenas, while ramming through legislation designed to enrich their patrons at the expense of everyone else.  But, while they distract Obama with subpoenas, they will be distracting the rest of us with phony issues.

In fact, they've been spending the better part of this month doing just that, along with their supporters in the VRWC.  I'm talking about the proposed Ground Zero Mosque, which is neither a mosque nor a building located at Ground Zero, unless you want to decide that all of Manhattan below 14th Street is now Ground Zero.  It is an Islamic community center that includes a mosque, just as the Pentagon--the other confirmed September 11th target--contains a room where Muslims can pray.  And, frankly, its presence in Lower Manhattan makes the city less likely to be a target for a repeat attack.  (Three links worth sharing:  here, here and here.

I think that the reason this issue has acquired some traction stems from two things:  residual anxiety other another domestic attack by terrorists, and the general pro-WASP, anti-everything else that constitutes the basis for what's left of modern conservatism.  Hence, the phony concerns over Obama's birthplace, and the reduction of the entire complex issue of immigration to the issue of Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande.  The mosque "issue" merely serves as further proof that the party of Lincoln has become the party of John Birch.

God help us if Obama does have to contend with a Republican Congress, because I don't think anyone else will.  If it happens, it won't be the salvation of America; it may, in fact, be a divine indictment of our lack of national character and courage.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

They Used To Wait Until The Got Elected ...

... but not anymore.  McConnell and Gingrich, like their fellow members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, have no desire for anything but power.  That's why they think they can talk their way past their party's minority status and get whatever they want.

I don't think they're going to lose their minority status, no matter how confident they are in their verbal blackmail skills.  But I always worry that the Democrats, and even Obama, might be fearful enough for their own jobs to go along with them.

Note to McConnell:  this is every bit as much of a center-left country as it is a center-right one.  Get over it.

Now He Really IS a Wise Man

And, in a related story, a flock of pigs was seen hovering over Hell, filling up ice buckets (nice ones too; the kind that have leather and brass braids on the outside, and not those cheap Motel 6 types).

Greenspan's born-again view on tax hikes, like it or not, is the only way we're going to begin to get out of the mess that we're in.  We want to preach self-reliance to the rest of the world.  Fine.  Let's lead by example.  Let's end the holiday from fiscal history that we've been on for the past 30 years, and accept the fact that, as even George Will once said, real conservatism means paying your bills.

At the very least, let's have a war tax.  War is driving the growth of the annual deficit and that national debt more than anything else.  Are we so cheap that we can't pay for the people who are laying their lives on the line for us?

What kind of patriotism is that?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

... And Something To Start August Off With Three Cheers!

Sometimes, the good guys win.  Or, should I say, good gays and lesbians?  Actually, all of us win when we are required to treat each other equally.

The consensus seems to be that this will sail through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (the country's most liberal circuit), and go on to a battle before the Supreme Court, with the outcome dependent upon the thinking of Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Kennedy, in turn, has sided with supporters of gay rights in several previous SCOTUS decisions.

I agree with the thinking as it relates to the 9th Circuit.  But I don't think that the Supremes are going to touch this one at all.  The decision is very much controlled by the findings of fact, giving even the Roberts Court very little wiggle room in fashioning an outcome.  And, given Kennedy's proclivities in similar cases, the last thing this Court wants to do is give him an opportunity to support a majority decision in favor of expanding gay rights.  I think they would prefer to wait until the can get a case that is not limited to the constitutionality of Proposition 8, but instead raises the broader question of whether gay marriage under any circumstances can be seen as constitutional under previous Court decisions dealing with fundamental rights and the 14th Amendment.  If they get such a case, one whose outcome is more dependent upon pure legal reasoning, they will have more room in which to manipulate a more conservative outcome.

In any event, I am confident this will stand, and effectively end one of America's more divisive cultural wars.  Now let's see what we can do in November to build on this.  But, no matter what, DON'T GIVE UP--IT ONLY ENCOURAGES THEM!