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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

(In no particular order)

1. Tax cuts for the wealthy

2. Curtailment of female reproductive rights

3. Repeal of Health Care Reform and, ultimately, social safety nets

4. Privatization of everything (see above)

5. Crush unions

6. Start least one more war

7. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

8. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

9. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

10. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

11. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

12. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

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The right to vote—the very foundation of the American idea—is drenched in blood, something precious beyond value, for which men and women have fought, suffered and died. The franchise is a right once confined to white male property owners, and only after centuries of struggle was it extended to African-Americans, women, and all other citizens over the age of 18.

Now, all across the nation, Republican state governments are waging war on voting. Using the ruse of “voter fraud”—an invented non-crisis—GOP governors and legislatures, many of them installed in the 2010 elections, are ramming through Voter ID laws that may suppress turnout by several million in 2012. These laws disproportionately affect the elderly, infirm, minorities, the poor and students—most historically Democratic constituencies. In many cases, voters who have cast ballots for decades must now obtain and produce new forms of identification in order to make their voices heard. Often this requires travel and considerable cost—effectively, an unconstitutional poll tax—and a descent into Kafkaesque bureaucracy.

The goal, of course, is that millions of potentially Democratic voters will throw their hands up, surrender—and stay home on Election Day.

The goal, of course, is to defeat Barack Obama.

It’s an old story. The GOP has always sought to suppress turnout. What’s tragic is that the right wing is receiving some unexpected help—from some of our friends on the left.

Disappointed that the President has not ushered in a progressive utopia, some liberals in the media and in cyberspace are encouraging their compatriots to stay home, or perhaps, waste their votes on quixotic “Obama alternatives” like Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Despite unbending opposition from GOP filibusterers in the Senate, and a radical Tea Party House, President Obama has forged a record of domestic legislative accomplishment unsurpassed since the Great Society era of Lyndon Johnson. He saved the American auto industry—and saved America from a second Great Depression.  Millions more Americans will have health coverage—saving untold lives. Gays and Lesbians can now serve openly in the military. In the area of foreign policy the Obama years have seen the end of Osama bin Laden and many  other al Qaeda leaders, the fall of Ghadafy, the end of the Iraq War and a drawdown in Afghanistan. And the Obama administration has ushered in a new era of “smart power”—an antidote to the cowboy neoconservatism that brought on one needless war, another grossly mismanaged and prolonged conflict, thousands of deaths and the accumulation of massive debt. Not to mention the diminishment of America’s standing in the world.

I do not assert for a minute that President Obama is beyond criticism. I have been frustrated at times by his over-willingness to compromise with uncompromising foes, among other things, as well as the Big Pharma deal and a failure to address adequately the foreclosure crisis. But I would take Barack Obama on his worst day before turning the country over to a radicalized, right wing Republican party.

Some liberals seem to think otherwise. They are miffed that Obama hasn’t broken up the big banks and prosecuted Wall Street malefactors who destroyed the economy. They are miffed that he hasn’t closed Gitmo, and that he signed the NDAA. They are miffed that he “caved” on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (never mind that everyone else’s taxes would also have risen). They are miffed about his environmental record, and the Keystone Pipleline. They are miffed that he has not come out strongly for marriage equality—even though he repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and has ceased to defend DOMA.

They are miffed that he hasn’t beaten the crap out of Dick Cheney.

All those criticisms have validity. What does not is the response of some disappointed, self-styled progressives: To elect the likely GOP nominee, Willard Mitt Romney.

Oh, they haven’t come out and said it. But the liberal pundits who—like spurned lovers—daily trash the President, who urge progressives to stay home and “send a message,” or vote for a doomed third party candidate, or write in Pat Paulsen—they are essentially wearing Romney 2012 buttons.

For anyone to the left of Joe Scarborough, this is sheer folly. The notion that “they’re all alike” and that a vote for Obama is cast for  “the lesser of two evils” is patently absurd.

Look what’s happening in Congress and across the country. Not only are voting rights under siege, but…

The right wing has waged war on women’s health and reproductive rights—God help the rape or incest victim who seeks to terminate a pregnancy. Even birth control might be imperiled

Republicans advocate the destruction of social safety nets, privatization that will force many seniors and working Americans into poverty. Their “trickle down” policies have yielded historic income inequality—can you imagine what life would be like under Mitt “Bain Capital” Romney?

The radical GOP has also waged war on unions and workers—advocating not only the elimination of the minimum wage and workplace rights, but a rollback of child labor laws. Yes, for the love of God, child labor laws.

A Republican-dominated government would  see the end of myriad environmental and safety regulations—making Barack Obama look like Bill McKibben.

LGBT? Tough. If the GOP has its way, DADT will be reinstated and marriage equality will become a hopeless cause—and Dan Choi can chain himself to the White House gates till Doomsday

Disappointed with Obama’s record on civil liberties? Try your luck with a GOP administration.

What of the Supreme Court? Imagine the ramifications if Romney appoints two more conservatives: A 7-2 right wing majority that, for many of us, will last the rest of our lives.

And, lest we forget, foreign policy: Mitt Romney will bet you 10 grand that within the next four years we will be at war with Iran—or Syria, or someone else—if he’s elected.

Elections have consequences. Several hundred fewer liberal Ralph Nader voters in 2000 might have saved us the Bush years. A bit less liberal apathy in 2010—especially at the state level—might have spared us Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder and Rick Scott, not to mention a House full of teabagging wingnuts.

Liberals, before you stay home or throw your vote away, think. Would you rather press President Obama for the next four years—or surrender the country to the Dark Side.

That’s what I call “caving.”

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The 2012 Presidential Election is all about the hot steaming pile we call the American economy, stupid, right? Whether you blame President Obama or the Republican obstructionists who would sacrifice the nation just to destroy him. It’s all about the unemployment rate and the debt and revenue and entitlements and the GDP and the Tea Party and Wall Street and #OWS and the one percent and the 99 percent—in sum, as Keith Olbermann now signs off each night, the day after day of “this crap” we’re all trying to get through.

On a broader scale the election is also about the wars on women, labor and voting rights. It’s about repealing the 20th century, whether a Right Wing coup will take us back to a Kochian-utopia circa 1893, when folks worked in sweatshops—and liked it, goddammit—for magnates and robber barons and other plutocrats who threw parties at Sherry’s and Delmonico’s and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish’s —and essentially ruled the earth (even more than now).

And it was about an America where “our blacks,” as Ann Coulter so Ann Coulteresquely put it, knew their place.

Indeed, as much as anything—perhaps more—the 2012 election is about race.

For three years, we have heard the Right vow to “take this country back.” We have heard endless other coded messages—“dog whistles,” they call them these days— reinforcing the fact that Barack Hussein Obama is an uppity African-American. Aside from the racist signs and blogs and GOP emails, and the efforts  to paint this moderate (too much so for much of his base), reasonable, enlightened man as a wild-eyed radical who does not believe in “American exceptionalism,” there is (still, remarkably) “birtherism”—a racially-charged lunatic conspiracy theory designed to smear him as an “other” or even a Manchurian Candidate foreign agent.

There have also been the systematic attempts by leading Republicans to delegitimize the President—the “You lie!”style dissing by members of Congress–including Speaker Boehner, who historically denied the Commander-in-Chief  his preferred date to address a Joint Session.

And now, as Rick Perry would phrase it, they’re “having some fun” with his grades—for, after all, how could a black man legitimately make it through two Ivy League Schools, head the Harvard Law Review and teach constitutional law?

The GOP is a white man’s party, still pursuing its pernicious Southern Strategy (which certainly works in states like Mississippi, where a recent poll showed that 46 percent of Republicans either believe interracial marriage should be illegal, or aren’t sure). There are exceptions, so few you can name them. Some well-paid TV pundits. Michael Steele. Wingnuts like Alan Keyes and Allen West.

And then there is  Herman Cain. Whether or not you dismiss him as a “minstrel” providing the GOP cover against charges of racism–as the African-American writer Toure has said; or as just another part of the Republican sideshow, no one can take this demonstrably ignorant carny barker for real presidential candidate.

And of course there is his campaign commercial. Not the “cigarette man” spot, but the one nobody talks about–the climax of which shows a white redneck punching out a black man.

No, the real candidates are two 60-something white guys, one a plutocratic Mormon—and while I wouldn’t brand him racist, his sect  has, certainly, a complicated racial track record; the other a states rights Texan who sees nothing wrong with confederate flags, secession talk and rocks inscribed “N—–head.”

So, Barack Obama, who had the temerity to defeated an old white guy in 2008, will likely  face another in 2012. Should he lose, God forbid, they’ll get their country back—or so it will seem for a time.

But the national complexion is changing—it’s getting browner, and there is nothing Pat Buchanan or the racist wing of the Tea Party, or Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump or the Florida GOP can do about it.

 

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First, the Losers:

1) Herman Cain, obviously.

2) The GOP: Just one more embarrassment spilling out of the clown car.

3) The Koch Brothers: Herm‘s their employee.

4) The American People—Because of the fact that, scandal or not, for a few more news cycles Herman Cain will be discussed as a real presidential candidate.

and the winners:

1) Herman Cain —he’ll play the victim, sell more books, get the Fox gig and maybe even Dancing With the Stars

2) Rick Perry — The anti Romney vote has nowhere else to go; if he can suck up Cain’s RWNJ voters in Iowa, S.C and Fla., he can make a righty run at the Mittster.

3) Mitt Romney— Perry is incompetent and even if he temporarily absorbs Herm’s wingnuts, he’ll find a way to f— it up; the rest of the clowns make even Mitt—the spineless, oily, flip-flopping, plutocratic weasel—look statesmanlike.

4) The media—Another nice, sensational story to keep them from covering issues that matter to the American people.

5) President Obama—Every day, and in every way, the GOP freak show makes him look better and better.

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The other night, my beautiful wife was crossing a Greenwich Village street; a group of Occupy Wall Street marchers had just passed by, peacefully chanting and carrying signs en route to Union Square.

My wife crossed on the green—and came within an inch of losing her life: A NYC motorcycle cop—chasing after the protesters—ran the red light at high speed. A slight move the wrong way and…

We are supporters of #OWS, horrified by the gross inequality and corruption in our system—though we haven’t walked the walk and marched (yet). At the same time, we’ve always been fans of the NYPD and Commissioner Ray Kelly, who have helped transform our long-maligned city into one of the nation’s safest. I believe we have an excellent police force, and that the overwhelming percentage of our NYC cops does a fine, honorable job. I have never had a bad experience with a New York City police officer.

But here and elsewhere—Oakland, most egregiously—an overreaction to OWS has unleashed authoritarian demons reminiscent of the 1968 Democratic Convention, and the dogs and hoses of Bull Connor.  Perhaps a few bad apple cops are getting paid off by Wall Street; perhaps it’s the post-9/11 mindset, in which “security” sometimes trumps civil rights.

Or perhaps it’s because the spirit of social protest has been awakened after decades of post-Vietnam slumber, decades during which, beginning with the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan, a passive populace allowed “trickle down economics” to crush the national spirit at home, true “class warfare” creating today’s historic income inequality while neoconservative ideologues embarked on devastating misadventures abroad. And those who should have known better—Democrats, in other words—looked the other way, fearful of being branded “liberal,” a word twisted and corrupted to denote permissive, drugged out, anti-American, tree-hugging, promiscuous, baby-killers—oh, and they’re soft on defense, too.

Maybe it’s been so long since we’ve seen anything like this that our authorities can’t cope. They don’t know how to respond. Most of our cops and many of our public officials know nothing but a post-Vietnam, indeed, post-Reagan America.

What of the Tea Party? Well, it was stoked—perhaps even invented—by powerful moneyed interests, the Kochs and the ALEC types, who played on fear (as the Right always does)—especially fear of an uppity you-know-what with an exotic name.

Add the validation of a complicit media, and the fact that some of the Teabaggers brought guns to presidential events or spit on Members of Congress—including civil rights icon John Lewis—well, that was just Democracy in Action.  OWS, on the other hand? That’s dangerous unrest. Even though the former represented an overhyped fringe funded by Big Money, and the latter represents a huge majority—99 percent, in fact—of a nation that just can’t take getting crapped on anymore.

How this plays out depends largely on what happens in November 2012. I am a Barack Obama supporter still—yes, I have disappointments, yes, I understand that he’s been too tied to the banks, and I wonder why, of all the capable, progressive minds who have passed through his administration, he’s hanging onto Wall Street insider Timothy Geithner.

But there is no other choice. To throw up one’s hands and say “they’re all alike” is foolish and misguided. Imagine Mitt “Corporations are people” Romney in the White House. Imagine he has an entire Congress dominated by the cold-eyed likes of Paul Ryan, defenders of privilege, apostles of crackpot novelist Ayn Rand and her vision of a winners-take-all-no-matter-who-gets-screwed America, wherein compassion and altruism are weakness. Or the Herman Cains, who blame the poor for their poverty. A reversion to the 1880s-1920s, when plutocrats perpetuated themselves from generation to generation, and upward mobility—the American Dream—was a myth.

If you think what we’re seeing now is “social unrest”—you ain’t seen nothing yet.  OWS has been overwhelmingly peaceful—on the part of the protesters, at least. But if Washington continues to move rightward, if the Kochs and Alec and the top 1 percent of the 1 percent get their way, if their attempts to crush unions and suppress youth, minority and other Democratic-leaning votes is successful, if the anger, fear—and, yes, hope—of the 99 percent are met with nothing but the heel of a boot.

Then, I am afraid, there will be blood.

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Even those of us who strongly support Barack Obama concede that this may be the nadir of his presidency. His approval ratings are dreary—though perhaps a bit better than expected, given that job and economic growth are maddeningly—and tragically—stalled. We live under a cloud of fear and pessimism.

Precisely why crippling inertia has gripped the nation—well, that question provides job-creating stimulus for pundits on every point of the political spectrum.

To be sure, Republican obstructionism—the willful suppression of the US economy, the resolve to maintain a dire unemployment rate, no matter how many lives it shatters—all support the main plank of the GOP platform. As party boss Rush Limbaugh declared, they want Obama (and by extension the other 300 million of us) to fail. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed, the party’s prime objective is to make Obama a one-term president.

But liberals and center-leftish moderates would argue that it didn’t have to be that way. That Obama yielded the national narrative to the Right. That instead of pursuing a robust progressive agenda of job creation and growth, he got sucked into a job-killing (to borrow the GOP’s favorite Homeric epithet) deficit-cutting obsession (and perhaps wasted his first year on Health Care Reform). And that in a quixotic quest to preserve the Obama Brand (“there are no red states, no blue states, only the United States…”)—as well as POTUS’ innately non-confrontational nature and a kind of fetish for compromise—he has repeatedly capitulated.

Or, to use the preferred term, “caved.”  On the public option, on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, on the debt ceiling, and just today, on anti-smog regulations. Even on “Speechgate,” the flap (or was it a kerfuffle?) with House Speaker Boehner over next week’s Jobs, Jobs, Jobs address to Congress (minus wingnut Tea Party Rep.—and deadbeat dad—Joe Walsh).

At worst, some liberals compare the President to that iconic appeaser, Neville Chamberlain. They’re the most extreme faction. But many less strident critics on the Exasperated Left say that, in an obsession with the political center, Obama has forsaken the core values of his party. And that he’s losing the center anyway—that Adult In the Room bit only goes so far. Moderates like strong leaders, too.

Lately, Obama has received a healthy helping of tough love from the African-American community—wherein unemployment is nearly double the 9.1 national rate, and nearly quadruple the national figure among young adults. Rep. Maxine Waters and the Congressional Black Caucus, and non-politicians like Princeton professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have been particularly vocal. Indeed, on Tavis’ show last night the host got into a civilized, but spirited, debate with Prof. Randall Kennedy of Harvard over Obama’s “Black Problem.”

Tavis argues that the President seems to be running away from African-Americans—for instance, on his recent Midwest “listening tour,” when he did all his listening in white neighborhoods— and from the progressive agenda that, skin color aside, fired up an unprecedented African-American turnout in 2008 (if you think it was just a Black thing, and not ideological, see Cain, Herman, West, Allen, et. al.)

Prof. Kennedy countered that, while he, too, is sometimes disappointed in Obama, one must never forget that he is “an electoral politician.” Democrats always lose the white vote—as did Obama in 2008, though he fared better than John Kerry did in 2004. The more the first black president is identified as “The Black President,” the longer his odds of reelection, especially in this bleak economy.

In short, faced with an extravagantly funded Right-Wing hate machine that, despite his mild manner and moderate policies, repeatedly portrays him as a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Anti-American Manchurian Candidate Other—Obama has to be careful. He has to walk a fine line. He has to be Jackie Robinson in his early years with the Dodgers, absorbing all the slings and arrows (and beanballs and spikings) and turning the other cheek.

But eventually, Branch Rickey unleashed Robinson—and the great second baseman’s naturally fiery, combative temperament, flying fists, flashing spikes and all. Anyone who played major league baseball during the 1950s will attest that Number 42 took no shit from anyone.

Obama, while intensely competitive, (ask Hillary Clinton; or, for that matter, Osama bin Laden) isn’t likely to challenge Eric Cantor to fisticuffs under the Capitol dome next week.  And, if we recall, that cool, temperate mien—contrasting with McCain’s post-traumatic anger issues—is one of the reasons we elected him.

But we also elected him to act, and to fight—in his way—for Democratic values, for the middle class, for workers, for the environment. No, direct confrontation isn’t Obama’s style. But is it also possible that he’s holding back, even subconsciously, because of his race?

Specifically, has such race-based restraint done more than mute further Obama’s constitutionally cool public demeanor? Does it carry over to the negotiating table—and, above all, to his policies? Has pulling his punches meant not only refraining from “losing it” on the GOP—but from aggressively pursuing the principles he and his much maligned “base” believe to be right? And, in the process, giving away the store, essentially governing as what, in saner times, used to pass for a Republican

While under Branch Rickey’s gag order, Jackie Robinson channeled his suppressed rage into his work, his .300 hitting, superb fielding and thrilling exploits on the basepaths. The President too, has many accomplishments to boast (see the wonderful web site wtfhasobamadonesofar.com).

But at this crucial juncture, with the nation’s economic and social future hanging in the balance—and the looming threat of a far Right GOP that, (perhaps in the nightmare-inducing person of Rick Perry) strives to undo the 20th Century and take us back to circa 1893—maybe it’s time for Barack Obama to start flashing his spikes.

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Today’s stock market dive was about more than our miserable debt deal, and more than our own economic inertia–it’s not always all about us. There’s, like, Europe and Asia, for instance.

But it is another indication that the GOP’s strategy to destroy a charismatic, brilliant–for whatever missteps he’s made–incumbent president is working, in the words of Dick Cheney, big-time. Indeed, it is the Republicans’ only strategy, given their lame group of wannabes–ranging from the smarmy, job-killing Romney, to utter wingnut, flat-earth lunacy.

That’s the plan— stall the recovery and maintain the high jobless rate. If the rate even approaches 8 percent, or shows some kind of steady downward trend, the GOP is (white) toast. And Mitch McConnell‘s prime objective, a one-term Obama, is hopeless.

To be sure, the President has admitted that he  underestimated the depth and severity of the Bush Recession. In retrospect, it seems to have been a grave error to spend his entire first year in office—and most of his political capital—wrangling over Health Care Reform, instead of working to stimulate more job growth. Perhaps out an inherently non-confrontational nature, perhaps out of an obsession with courting moderate, swing voters he has often seemed to govern on the Republicans’ turf—this after the 2008 election resoundingly rejected GOP policies.

Nevertheless, President Obama and the Democrats have proposed numerous jobs initiatives, some of which Republicans themselves have endorsed in the past. Of course they’ve all been stalled, blocked by GOP filibusters in the Senate, or squashed under the Boehner-Teabaggers in the House.

And the GOP jobs bills? Well, there aren’t any, of course. Republicans know the President owns the economy, and regardless of whose ideas improve it, POTUS gets credit–or blame if it goes south. So why help Barack Obama out–even if it meant an end to suffering, fear and deprivation?

In this time of obscene income inequality, the wealthy are raking it in and sitting on their money, or investing overseas. Corporations, meanwhile, are making the most out of fewer employees, working them longer hours, making them do the jobs of two people and either cutting salaries or keeping them flat. You’re lucky if you have a job, goes the philosophy, so don’t complain or it’s the highway for you. And with the decline of unions, there’s no advocate for fair treatment.

Where are the jobs? Well, they’re either being shipped overseas, or they’re simply not coming back for the reasons I list above–if you’re making a profit by overworking fewer employees, why rock the boat?

Oh, we might see an expansion of employment if we had more consumer demand by the middle and working class. But the Catch-22 of flat wages or joblessness precludes that.

I’m no economist, and our problems are far more complex than all that. But so far, GOP, Mission Accomplished

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