Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Republicans, Toddlers, and Temper Tantrums

There comes a point in the development of a child where they learn the seemingly magical word, "no." And anyone who is a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or even casual observer probably knows that once that toddler is on message, getting him/her off it is damn near impossible.

It seems that the Republican Party, particularly those in Congress, and toddlers have a lot in common these days.

Don't believe me? Here are a few examples:

• January 2009 - The economy is in freefall in large part due to the ineffectiveness of the Bush Administration. Days after President Obama takes the oath of office, the House passes an $820 billion economic stimulus bill. The number of Republican votes: ZERO

• July 2009 - The debate moves to health care reform and the GOP raises the flag of fiscal conservatism. Mind you it wasn't a concern of theirs when the Bush administration rang up the then biggest deficit in history, but that was then, this is now. Perhaps their flag was at the dry cleaners.

• August 2009 - The health care battle rages on while Congress is on summer recess. GOP plants infiltrate town meetings to rile up the populace. Intellectual powerhouse and GOP darling, Sarah Palin, coins the phrase, "death panel" and scares the hell out of senior citizens. With such vociferous opposition, one might think that the Grand Old Party would be forthcoming with brilliant counter-proposals.

Hmmm . . . what's that word I'm looking for . . . oh yes, NO.

Now as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee debates a major bill to reduce the emission of green house gasses, the Republican'ts are at it again. In fact, not only are they saying no, they're boycotting the discussion in order to block the committee from having a quorum. Committee rules being such that two members of the minority party must be present to constitute a quorum. Their reason? They want an EPA analysis of the bill. This would seem reasonable and prudent if the EPA wasn't scheduled to appear before the committee next Tuesday for the express purpose of answering their questions.

It seems that no matter what the topic, the Republican Party is bound and determined to be obstructionist, while offering no alternative. In truth, it's the political equivalent of a temper tantrum.

Perhaps they should consider throwing themselves on the floor, kicking and holding their breath until they're blue in the face. Couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Putting The Hurt On Health Care

The health care debate is in full swing and there are a lot of loud voices in the mix, especially from the right. What fascinates me about the town meetings going on across the country, is that the folks who are losing their minds over the cost of the yet to be unveiled plan, are pretty much the same demographic who supported without question the historic deficits wracked up by the Bush Administration. These same people who are tremendously concerned that our government might take us down the road to socialism, ironically had absolutely no problem when the previous administration took us on an extended tour of fascism.

OK -- I got it. It's o.k. to emulate Nazi's, but Communists not so much.

Of equal wonder to me is the fact that many opponents of a public health care option fail to realise that there is a long history of this type of program in the United States specifically, Medicare and the Veterans Administration. Many members of the opposition participate in these programs. While the VA may not always be the model of efficiency, I've yet to meet a veteran with the benefit who wants to give it up. Interestingly enough, those in the demographic that seem to be in greatest opposition to reform are those who most benefit from the current systems we have in place.

If a public option is such a socialist idea, perhaps they'd support revoking all publicly supported health care. Ask one and see what they say.

We have Medicare and the VA because we recognize that we have a moral obligation to our citizens, particularly those who have so honourably served their country. The bottom line here is that far too many of our fellow citizens do not have health care. They need a fair and affordable option and giving them one has the long term potential to reduce both catastrophic illness and catastrophic health care costs. The ability to have a regular medical checkup means that disease can be caught early. Catching disease early leads to lower costs through less invasive and expensive treatments. So why wouldn't a good fiscal conservative want something like that?

Hmmm . . . Could it be that higher health care costs lead to higher profits?

It's just a working theory.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Radical Islam? How About Radical Christianity?

Too often in this country, I hear the far right decry the threat to the United States that is "radical Islam." The murder of Dr. George Tiller proves quite concretely that the threat is not merely from radical Islam but also from radical Christianity.

It's a view that I've held for a long time.

This post isn't about the legality or morality of abortion. At the moment abortion is legal in the United States of America. The first amendment protects the right of organizations such as Operation Rescue and even the Army Of God to speak against the practise. It is legal for them to voice their opinion, lobby for the prohibition of abortion and, yes, even picket clinics that perform abortions. Under the Constitution they are afforded a great number of rights. The Constitution does not, however, afford them the right to murder those with whom they disagree.

Under any circumstances.

To be frank, I have had enough of the Christian right trying to set the social agenda of the United States of America. I am tired of their opposition to abortion while at the same time generally finding no moral objection to capital punishment. I am sick of their endless pontificating against gay rights and gay marriage. I am disgusted by their vitriolic rhetoric and their mouthpieces such as Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. I am mystified by how frequently their voices of moral authority such as Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Ted Haggarty manage to be caught in the very behaviour that they claim to be least moral.

Mostly, I am horrified that they claim to love and follow the word of Jesus while typically basing their positions on the old Testament.

You would think that the murder of a man in a house of worship would cause the leadership of the anti-abortion movement to take a step back. You'd be wrong. Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue had this to say, "George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions." And he's the moderate. Take a look at the Army of God website: http://www.armyofgod.com/deadAbortionists.html

Let me be clear. I am pro-choice, but I am not particularly a fan of abortion as birth control. I would prefer that people make good birth control choices. I am a fan of adoption. But, I draw the line at violence. It's time for those who oppose this form of radicalism to speak out, particularly those who are Christians of the non-radical variety.

Perhaps it's also time to turn the spotlight on the radicalism that is festering within the borders of the United States.

Friday, April 24, 2009

If Mr. Cheney Wants To Be In The Spotlight . . .

Lately it seems that it's impossible to turn on the news without hearing former Vice President Dick Cheney lamenting the mistakes of the Obama Administration. He's accused the administration of "raising the risk of attack," called the releasing of memos related to sanctioned torture, disturbing," and even took issue with the fact that the President shook hands with Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. It seems that Mr. Cheney is not content to simply ride off into the sunset and reap the financial benefits that he undoubtedly accrued from raiding the Treasury over the past eight years.

Exactly how many government contracts did Halliburton obtain?

Yes, it seems that our cranky ex-Vice-President wants to remain on the center stage as the defender of torture, imprisonment without basic legal rights and an isolationist. And I hope he does. Because every time, Mr. Cheney opens his mouth, he reminds us of the stark differences between his approaches and those of the current administration. He underscores that his politics are those of "security at all costs and human rights be damned." He brings to the forefront debate about what the United States really stands for.

Bravo, Sir. Bravo.

It is good and necessary to have these discussions. It is important to examine our founding principles and cultural values and it is equally important to examine our mistakes. I am grateful to Mr. Cheney for helping to keep these issues in the spotlight. He has reminded us that our fundamental concern as a nation is not just the economic woes of the moment, but rather, examining whether we have lived up to what and who we say we are as a nation.

Go forth examiners!

I encourage and advocate for investigation into things such as allegations of torture, the existence of secret prisons, suppression of legal representation for prisoners, and the legality of domestic wiretapping practices. I applaud the release of memos relating to these practices over the past eight years and frankly, would equally support the release of historical practises in this area. I desire accountability for violations of the law whether it be domestic or the Geneva Conventions. And I hope for one other thing . . .

I hope that when all is said and done, Mr. Cheney considers a colonoscopy the least thorough examination he has ever had.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Right Wingers Teabag Across America

It's tax day in American and in an effort to invoke images of the Boston tea party, protesters led by right wing commentators and complete with stages, sound systems and in one case, Ted Nugent, spontaneously gathered to protest "excessive taxation," bailouts and recent stimulus spending.

There are just a few small problems with the scenario.

First Problem: The protests lack authenticity.

While it is certainly valid to protest the size of the stimulus, or the fact that there have been corporate bailouts, it would ring more authentic had these same folks been protesting when President Bush did the same thing in September of 2008. Where was the outrage when former Goldman Sachs CEO and then current Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, directed billions of dollars to his former company? Where was the outrage when the cash was shelled out without oversight?

Perhaps they were teabagging in private that day.

Second Problem: The stimulus seems to be working.

Contrary to what teabaggers might have you believe, there are some positive signs in the economy. We're not completely out of the woods yet, but there are some good indicators. These include: profitable quarters at two key banks (Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo); stabilization of the dow which after dropping at the change of administrations is back around January 20th levels, in fact it's been trending back up; and the fact that several stimulus projects are not only done, but under budget and ahead of schedule.

What's a teabagger to do?

Third Problem: Most of the protesters will actually benefit from the President's tax policies.

That's right. As promised in the campaign, President Obama, has announced $120,000,000 in tax cuts, $2,500 in breaks for college and an $8,000 cut for first time home buyers. Hmmmm . . . I don't remember that last one when I bought my first house two years ago.

Sadly, some decided to augment their public teabagging activities with signs that proclaimed things such as: "Hang 'Em High," "Obama = Hitler," "We Are A Christian Nation," "Hey Big Brother Show Us Your Birth Certificate," "Stand Idly By While Some Kenyan Tries To Destroy America . . . Homey Don't Play Dat," and my personal favourite, "The American Tax Payers Are The Jews For Obama's Ovens."

It's tax day in America and, in every sense of the phrase, the right wing is revolting.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Note To George W. Bush: Game Over Dude

It's just seven days into the Obama administration and apparently George W. Bush doesn't realise that he's no longer President of the United States.

You may recall that in May of 2008, former Bush adviser Karl Rove was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee to testify on the firing of U.S. attorneys as well as, the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Mr. Rove's response was to decline, asserting that he was exempt under executive privilege. On July 30, 2008, a US Congressional panel voted 20-14 to hold Rove in contempt of Congress.

Arrest, try, convict, right?

Not so fast. While Congress can hold someone in contempt, it's up to the Attorney General to go forward with the prosecution. As you might imagine, the Bush Justice Department declined. And so Rove went on to become another tool in the Fox News tool box.

Fast forward to 2009.

On January 26, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, again issued a subpoena requiring that Mr. Rove testify before his committee. Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Well not according to Rove, who is now asserting that executive privilege applies even though Mr. Bush has left office. It's a ridiculous claim when one considers that the Supreme Court has rendered opinions on the matter before. Most notable is that of Chief Justice Burger who stated that "executive privilege would most effectively apply when the oversight of the executive would impair that branch's national security concerns."

So how exactly does Mr. Rove testifying on the firing of U.S. Attorneys constitute a national security concern?

Answer, it doesn't. But then the rule of law was never a strong suit of President Bush who can count among his executive privilege gems:

• preventing the disclosure of details about Vice President Dick Cheney's secret meetings with energy executives.

• stopping the release of document to Congress relating to Pat Tillman's friendly fire shooting death.

• preventing the investigation of whether the the firing of U.S. Attorneys was politically motivated.

Hmmmm . . .

Now executive privilege has a place in government. To be fair, lots of Presidents have used it before, including George Washington. A President needs to be able to receive the unfettered counsel of his or her advisers. But the Supreme Court has been clear that when claimed, its use should be narrow in scope. In other words, it should be the exception rather than the rule. And there's one other thing . . . No President has ever tried to use it after they were out of office. Perhaps no one told W. that his game is over.

Repeat after me. Arrest, try, convict, repeat. Arrest, try, convict, repeat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over, Now OUR Work Begins

I'm 41, I'm the first wave of Gen X, and you bet your ass I'm pissed.

With these words I inaugurated Wide Awake In Hoserland in June of 2006. I knew back then that the United States were in a mess, but I'm not sure that I realised how much damage was still to be done. It'll likely take a decade if not a generation to undo that damage. How history will judge George W. Bush remains to be seen. Whatever the judgment let the record of the time show that these were not our best days.

We can do better. We must do better.

I'm 44 now and today I stood in a room with over 1,000 people who cheered, cried and expressed hope for a new direction. It was a moment that I will never forget, and I suspect that this is true for many of us around the country if not the world. It's as though a large weight was lifted from our collective shoulders. The sense of history was palpable.

Now the work begins.

That first Hoserland post addressed many ills of our time; rising energy prices, human rights violations, accounts of treasonous activities, and the disintegration of constitutionally afforded rights. Some of these things President Obama can address. He can close Guantanamo Bay and ensure that the detainees receive fair trials with legal representation. He can issue executive orders against using practises that are classified as torture by the Geneva Conventions as interrogation techniques. He can attempt to make peace with our enemies. He can prohibit spying on fellow citizens without a court issued warrant.

But President Obama is not Superman or Jesus.

Our economic woes, energy dependence and degrading environment are not something that one man can address. Neither are the issues of gender based pay inequality, civil rights for the LGBT community, a strained health care system, or an eroding manufacturing base. This work we must all do. And believe me, it's going to take all of us.

Now more than ever, it is critical that we stay engaged.

• Write your congressional leaders as key issue come before Congress. Let them know where you stand.

• Do not let the environment of politics as usual continue.

• Engage in service based activities in your local community.

• Live a less wasteful life.

• Share.

I'm 44, I'm the first wave of Gen X, and you bet your ass, I'm hopeful.

There are times in history when we are given a unique opportunity. This feels like one of them. It's our opportunity.

So what are we going to do with it, America?