Tag Archive: politics


Greg Sargent, noting the current state of stand-offery on the Senate floor, spoke to one of my Big Things, something that’s been on my mind for over two decades.  The vision of the world held by the staunchly Right Wing does not include me.  Most likely, it does not include you, whoever you are. It does not include a legitimate place for liberals, even moderates, certainly not non-Christians (by their definition), and folks who don’t see the world they way they do.

A whole mass of Americans – not the majority, thank goodness, but a sizable chunk – has decided to move through life willingly like a horse with blinders on. Note: normally the horses do not choose the blinders, and probably would shed them if given half a chance. But the extreme right does not. It happily keeps them on, framing the entire world in terms of that limited perspective. Hence, the gridlock in Congress, where one side deliberately mucks up the works so nothing can get done, proudly proclaims that’s what they’re trying to do, and then points fingers at the other side when nothing gets done.

Gah!

Anyway:

Remember: Republican Senator Bob Bennett wasn’t denied renomination because he was actually liberal on issues. He was defeated by Tea Party Republicans because he was open to cutting deals. Right now in Texas, a high-priced Senate primary is about to result in a win for a previously obscure conservative over the Texas Lieutenant Governor on basically one issue: the willingness to compromise with Democrats.

via Battle of the century: Norm Ornstein versus Mitch McConnell – The Plum Line – The Washington Post.

We’re stuck with a significant minority of legislators who won’t discuss, won’t compromise, won’t negotiate in good faith, whine when required to face up to what they agreed to, backstab and lie about their opponents, and generally act like unreasonable six year olds – and believe me, I’m warm to the idea that real six year olds could probably get more done in Congress than this bunch of yahoos.

And why don’t they feel the need, the responsibility, to compromise? Because everyone not like them isn’t worth their consideration, is on the outside of their world. This is the result of the idea of a Permanent Republican Majority.

As Steve Benen is fond of saying, This is why we can’t have nice things.

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In no particular order:

 

30 Sept 2011 – Andrew Sullivan:  The Un-Bush

Last fall, the Dish hosted an impassioned debate about the morality and ethics and prudence of targeting US civilians who have joined the Jihadist enemy in seeking to attack the US. My own position is that we are at war, and that avowed enemies and traitors in active warfare against the US cannot suddenly invoke legal protections from a society they have decided to help destroy.

And so my response to the death of Anwar al Awlaki is obviously not going to be Glenn Greenwald’s, although I respect his consistency and integrity on this question, even though I think his position minimizes the stakes of the conflict, and misreads the nature of war.

My response is to note what the Obama administration seems leery of saying out loud – in line with its general response to al Qaeda which is to speak very softly while ruthlessly killing scores of mid-level and high-level operatives. This administration actually is what the Bush administration claimed to be: a relentless executor of the war in terror, armed with real intelligence and lethally accurate execution. Sure, Yemen’s al Qaeda is not the core al Qaeda of Pakistan/Afghanistan – it’s less global in scope and capacities. But to remove one important propaganda source of that movement has made all of us safer. And those Americans who have lived under one of Awlaki’s murderous fatwas can breathe more easily today.

 

29 Sep 2011 – Steve Benen:  On leadership

I remember taking a class on leadership and being surprised, as a naive grad student, how complicated it was. Leadership at a conceptual level seems straightforward and obvious — a person steps up, presents a vision, and encourages others to follow him or her. There is, however, far more to it than that, and there are even different models of leadership (transactional vs. transformational, for example).

But for the purposes of conversation, the notion that Barack Obama is a “bystander,” too overcome by “paralysis” to do “big things,” isn’t just wrong, it’s ridiculous. Indeed, as far as the right is concerned, the attack is itself in conflict with the conservative notion that Obama is destroying American civilization with his radical agenda. One can be a bystander and one can be a radical activist hell bent on gutting our cherished traditions from within — but one cannot be both.

And on a related note (Benen references this article in the above post)

 

28 Sep 2011 – John Dickerson: Leading Bystander

The leadership critique obscures the real questions that should be asked about the sitting president or the person who wishes to replace him. Simply being a leader doesn’t tell you much. George W. Bush used to say "a leader leads" as if simply taking action should absolve him of criticism. That didn’t get him off the hook any more than Obama should be off the hook now.

The questions should be about effective leadership. Does he pick the right fights? Does he have the skills to succeed, or at least mark up a qualified success? If his leadership has not been effective, is the president the only one to blame? America does have a divided government. The president is not king. Is it Obama or Republicans in Congress who deserves the greater share of the blame? Or, as Christie suggested in his speech, is it both?

29 Sep 2011 – Greg Sargent: Americans reject the right’s bogus `class warfare’ charge

It’s become an article of faith among conservatives — and even some neutral commentators — that Obama’a newly aggressive populism and call for tax hikes on the rich is “class warfare,” a nakedly partisan play for the Democratic base that is divisively pitting one group of Americans against another.

Obama’s new tack is “anti-millionaire populism” from a “self-proclaimed class warrior,” laments Charles Krauthammer. “Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership,” adds John Boehner.

Frightful stuff indeed. But two new polls suggest that the American public isn’t buying it.

Fox News is out with a new poll that seems designed to gauge the public’s attitude towards Obama’s new posture. For those making the “class warfare” argument, these results won’t be encouraging….

29 Sep 2011 – Andrew Sullivan again: Are Suspect Sketches Worthless?

Mostly. According to Lillian Marx, "victims who assist in creating a composite sketch of their assailants are nearly 50 percent less likely to correctly identify a suspect later":

quoting from the study, Sullivan includes this paragraph:

["T]he act of creating a composite sketch confuses the hell out of the victim. Your memory is actually very suggestible, thanks to a phenomenon called source amnesia, which basically means the brain remembers facts, but doesn’t remember where we learned them. That means if the artist gets something wrong in the sketch (the suspect’s nose is too big, or he has too many eyes), the victim literally starts to think that’s what the suspect looks like. The brain doesn’t remember if you first saw that feature in the real face or on the sketch. So the cops drag in a guy who looks like the inaccurate sketch and you say, "That’s him!"

 

And on a lighter note,

Andrew Sullivan:  So ‘90s

You have to see the video to get that one…

23 October 2009

I used to be politically active.  Then I went to sleep for a few years.  And then I woke up again.  What the hell happened to me?

It started in my teens, with a passion about Watergate and bringing the Nixon White House to its knees.  I grew up in a staunchly Democratic family, but one which valued an intelligent opposition.  With Nixon, we had only a compromised opposition, and I, along with my family and many of my friends were righteously outraged.  Political awareness became a constant in my life.

In my twenties, my political leanings moved farther left, and my activism grew.  I worked for the end of the US-sponsored wars in Central America, I marched for women’s rights and gay rights, worked on little ‘zines for lefty causes, helped keep my local women’s shelter open, read voraciously on the causes of my times, and spent endless hours hashing it all out with my friends and family. 

When I was about 30, I moved, along with my nine year old daughter and my girlfriend of five years, to a county and state that was deeply immersed in an intense battle over gay rights.  My daughter was entering public school for the first time (she’d been in parent-run schools up to that point), and I went back into the closet a bit.  I retreated from most of my political activity as well.  That retreat was in part due to worries about my daughter being targeted as coming from a gay family, and in part also to a very different schedule (new job, no extended family to share child-raising with).  And it was due also to a kind of weariness that comes over you at times.

And there’s no doubt that 12 years of Reagan-Bush was wearing me out.

By the time Bill Clinton came into office, I was working for a non-profit women’s health clinic, immersed in the struggle to help women obtain decent, respectful reproductive health care.  My clinic offered abortions among its many services, so I was also immersed in the abortion wars.  My activism was practical – helping women find information and services for all kinds of health care, publicizing the attacks on the clinics, fundraising and the like.  (An aside here:  it really made a difference when Bush Sr. exited the scene, and Clinton stepped into the White House – the gag rule was lifted, and we could give our clients better information and services.  In just that microcosm, you can’t tell me it makes no difference which party holds the White House.)

And then we got Bush Jr., the Boy King.  I groaned, but tried to buck up.  He was awful, inane, snotty.  He was an embarrassment.  I hadn’t liked his dad much, but at least Sr. wasn’t so embarrassing on the world stage (okay, I admit the vomiting-on-a-foreign-dignitary episode was pretty effing bad…) If I’d realized the power which Cheney and Rumsfeld were wielding, I’d have been more depressed, but as it was, I was keeping my chin up.  And then 9-11 happened.  And then Bush’s awful response, and the incredible war-mongering began, and the reactionary anger against anything Muslim.  And then the Patriot Act.  And then Afghanistan.  And then Iraq.  And then the awfulness of our dead and our maimed coming home, and the utter despair of knowing that even greater numbers of people were dead and maimed in the countries where we’d been making war.

It just kept getting worse.  And I kind of went into hibernation, politically.

I was hiding, but at the same time, it wasn’t that I wasn’t aware, or wasn’t angry, or far too frequently frightened about what was going on around me.  Still, I could not muster the political energy to do much more than vote.  Compared to my usual verbose self (this post proves my point) I could barely talk about what I thought.  I wrote almost nothing.  I made myself listen to the daily NPR reports with increasing grim determination.  I scanned headlines, but couldn’t bear to venture into the articles.  I let my newspaper subscriptions go.  I didn’t protest Bush.  I didn’t protest the war, at least outside of my circle of acquaintances.  The world was in the hands of mad men, and everything felt futile. 

I muttered, at times, to sympathetic friends on the source of my political frustrations.  We muttered and cursed and stomped our feet together, and I don’t think I was alone in feeling otherwise immobilized.  To come up against the paranoia of the Bush administration made me feel like any effort would make no dent in the brick wall I was banging my head against, and damage my head plenty.

But there was a dim light at the end of the tunnel. 

Continue reading

. . . so to speak . . .

22 October 2009

I watched an excellent Frontline episode (The Warning, aired Oct. 20th), and was poking around their website, reading interviews, looking at a timeline on the financial meltdown, and clicking here and there.  Clicked over to an interview with Barney Frank, featured in a previous Frontline episode, Inside the Meltdown, and found this nugget.  He is, in this case, talking about the difference between Republicans in the House and Senate and how it influenced the failure of the TARP bill when it first came before the House.

There was a difference between the House and Senate Republicans. The House Republicans have been more ideologically conservative. Maybe to win a whole state you can’t have quite the same ideological fervor. … And what you saw was conservative Republicans rebelling. [emphasis mine]

Now, I had marked in my mind that there is a higher proportion of extremely right-wing members in the House as compared to the Senate, but I had never thought about why.  I think this may be it.  House Representatives need only justify and explain themselves to their smaller districts, need only represent what may be homogenous communities, as opposed to a state-wide diversity in political and social values.

It explains why I can never envision a Michelle Bachmann or a Virginia Fox in the Senate.  Not to say they can’t sneak into that more austere body of 100 souls.  But it’s harder to envision, and harder for them to get there.

Seems rather obvious now.  Still, better understood late than never.

16 September 2009

Is there a literary equivalent for having your jaw drop?  Do my fingers fall to the ground mid-typing?  Is it a screen-freeze on my monitor?

I haven’t posted for days on end, and certainly not because there hasn’t been anything to write about.  No, it’s some kind of jaw-drop reaction to the right wing craziness on their hot-button issues:  health care… or taxes… or big government… or government at all… or something?  As the protests over the last few weeks have ramped up, it’s been more and more difficult to get a fix on exactly what the “tea party” folks are aiming to achieve.

It been pretty bizarre.  My last post on the town hall/health reform/evil government contingent was when Barney Frank used his “dining room table” comparison.  I think he was having a jaw-dropping moment, but manage to pick his up off the floor and respond, sort of in-kind.  Since that post, things have moved along alarmingly.  Just off the top of my head

* A finger was bitten off in another heated Town Hall exchange

* Light was shed on The Family and the C-street house

* Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck

* Orly Taitz-isms continue to provide background noise

* The latest Texas secession rally actually gets attention

* A big ol’ flurry over Obama’s speech to school kids: indoctrination? or….

* Joe Wilson yells “You Lie!” during Obama’s speech to Congress

* The Nine-Twelvers held a healthy but over-rated rally in DC

And all though this mess, of course, like an annoying squeaky wheel (say a small one, on a child’s red wagon) the hysterical extreme right continues to blather on about their fears: socialist/ communist/Muslim/ foreigner/ fascist/ death panels/ internment camps and coffins for tea partiers/ etc etc etc, on and on, a never-ending whine of crap based on nothing but paranoid fantasies about the communists, and/or heathens, and/or darkies taking over, pardon my french. 

Gawd.  It makes me tired just re-living it.

As if this endless stream of dangerous fantasy wasn’t paralyzing in and of itself, a few days back, Frank Schaeffer posted a great piece on the extreme religious right, how the decades of growth of the politicized religious right led to the Nine-Twelvers.  He shares what he believes these folks really want in American politics, how it shapes the bizarre thinking that sparks cries of “socialism” and considers the bulk of American society as agents of Satan.  Literally.  I value Schaeffer’s perspective, as an religious right insider from childhood, who late in life left the flock after realizing how crazy his isolated world view had become.

But it scares me – knowing what’s going on down deep in the thinking of the Christian extremists – and Schaeffer’s piece on the Nine-Twelvers ramped up my immobilization, my writers block, if you will. 

I guess the Joe Wilson thing broke the gridlock for me.  I moved from jaw-drop to thinking again, in actual words and sentences  instead of the white noise of my cacophony of outrage.  Because it is outrage – outrage that people are so far gone in how they think about our society, casting the events around them in a light which has nothing to do with facts, and everything to do with fear.  Fear, I think, of change, and of the Other.  Add the adrenaline rush of Being Part of a Movement!!! … I guess some people just can’t resist the cocktail of fear and adrenaline and a sense of Doing Something, anything, to gain an illusion of control.

One thing I know:  I have to resist the immobilizing jaw-drop experience, or I’ll cave to despair.  Venting – here or elsewhere – is just the medicine I need.

Art: So Moved

7 September 2009

I highly recommend this painting-and-commentary entry over at the New York Times website.  Artistically and linguistically simple, it’s a moving overview of how the response of leaders to public dissent has progressed over the last few centuries.

Maira Kalman: So Moved

14 August 2009

Seems like the hoopla about an White House Enemies List hasn’t been getting as much attention lately, though I have no doubt that it’s simmering under the surface of right wing nuttery.  Having learned about a real Enemies List during the Watergate years, and been raised by the generation that lived through the McCarthy hearings, the specter of an enemies list gathered around the health reform issue just seems bizarre to me.

What did the White House actually request?  Tell us what alarming things you’ve heard, forward them to us, and let us address the concerns you have.  Pretty innocuous.

Or so I thought.

So, according to The Paranoid Ones, the evil secret Muslin Kenyan dictator sitting in the Oval Office must be using this for Nefarious Data Collection!  It’s a ruse!  They just want our E-Mails!

Which seems really silly to me.  If the national security agencies capable of protecting this country haven’t figured out how to collect data on pretty much anyone they wish by now, they’re not doing their jobs right.  It’s not that I am in favor of being spied on by the government, or by anyone else, for that matter.  But certainly, with all the expertise these security agencies have cultivated over the decades, they’ve come up with more efficient ways to gather data than inviting us to send emails to the White House.

Still, I’d bet on it if I was a gamblin’ woman:  the Enemies List will resurface, in a few days or a few weeks.  Paranoid fears about the evil President require that he be keeping a List, like a fascist Santa.  That’s how the plot works:  the evil tyrant has to have an Enemies List.  And if you’re McCarthy or Nixon, yes there might be something scary going on.  But Health Care? it’s such a … milk-toast issue.  It’s so incredible somber and nit-picky of an issue.  It’s not like Communism, or trying to get the goods on the people who are trying to Take You Down.  It’s all about disease and finances and what an insurance company can get away with.

The issue of this Enemies List is just another in a ever regenerating line of fake controversies – like the Death Panels, the Birther issue, the Socialist Takeover, you name it .  The extreme (and some not so apparently extreme) folks who are looking for anything to cling to that will tell them that Progressive Change, black president or no, equals The End of America as We Know It.

Let me tell you something I believe about the American Experiment.  It is meant to change.  It is meant to evolve.  A stable society, such as the Founders hoped to establish, is not the same thing as a static society.  The Constitution was meant to distill down to core principles the form and purpose of our government, but I don’t believe it was ever meant to relate only to some frozen form of late 18th century American life.  No, the Constitution was meant to set up a representative government which could respond to the changes and demands of the citizenry itself.

The citizens have demanded many things about health care and health reform (and they are not the same thing) but one thing we have not demanded is that our Government – White House and Congress – ignore our questions.  So maybe it’s a little silly to the criticize the White House for wanting to gather those questions, particularly around disturbing claims of socialized medicine and Death Panels, in the most convenient form of communication of our time, Email.

Lordy!

Mr. Nixon

9 August 2009

Daniel Schorr, on today’s Sunday Morning Edition broadcast, reminded me that on this day 35 years ago, Nixon officially stepped down from his disastrous presidency.

nixon_resignation My political awareness started with Nixon, the War, and Watergate.  This day, though buried in my teen memories rather than Schorr’s journalist ones, is a big day for me.  On this day I understood how public pressure could affect the nation – together, the citizens and the press forced a sitting to president to resign or face certain removal from office.  I was thrilled, frightened, inspired, relieved.

Schorr also reminded me of Nixon’s farewell speech to his staff.  I don’t remember, 35 years ago, whether I watched any broadcast of it (though I’ve seen clips in the last few years) but when I read
Woodward and Bernstein’s The Final Days last year, I found myself tearing up at the goodbye, rather like a number of the staff in the excerpts shown on documentary coverage of Nixon’s fall.  Even the evil have heart, and Nixon certainly did.  

Anyway, thank you to Mr. Schorr for reminding me that this is the 35th anniversary of a day long hoped for in my early life, and once achieved, a day that became empowering for me.

7 August 2009

Thanks, Steven Benen for mentioning this great quote in the Washington Monthly blog, or I wouldn’t have bumped into it.  It’s from a post of Michelle Cottle’s

"I have given up hope for a loyal opposition. I’d settle for a sane one."

Like Cottle, and Benen, I too am sick of not having a decent Loyal Opposition in the mix.  The range of political opinions holds check on each other, left middle and right.  Progressives drive the country forward, working to accommodate our ever-more-diverse, and hopefully less prejudiced society.  Conservatives, when they’re not being too extreme, tend to offer cautious, limited options.  Centrists tend to articulate the middle ground, helpfully.  If it works, the three hold each other in check, moving forward more carefully through the years, and, we hope, more successfully as a nation.

However.

When the edges – left or right – go off the deep end, articulating extreme opinions, or rage without reference to fact, the balance of public discourse is thrown off.  That’s what the recent spate of crazy shouting matches at Town Hall meetings feels like to me:  an opportunity for a public meeting, a community Q and A, where people can air their questions.  But when ten or twenty people start shouting at everyone who tries to speak up – people up on the dais, or their fellow citizens in the audience – there is no possibility of public discourse.  It’s not helpful.  It’s not useful.  It doesn’t move anything forward.

It only adds insult to injury when the accusations coming from the Shouters are based on falsehoods, be it Obama’s Kenyan birthplace, the Government’s going to kill old people, or the altogether toooo amazing “Get Government off My Medicare!”

*sigh*

Yup. A sane opposition.  I remember when…

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