Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Closing This Chapter

I'm going to be perfectly honest with everyone: this politics shit is stressful.

I've spent my entire adult life (all 12 years of it so far) paying enough attention to politics to give myself a good idea of what I'd be doing in the voting booth on Election Day, but rarely any more than that. I always had too much else going on -- work, school, personal issues -- and, frankly, other interests that took up too much of my time.

And, if I'm still being honest, there was still an underlying cynicism: the idea that, no matter who I voted for, no matter whether the person had an R or a D (or, improbably, an I) after their name, things wouldn't really change all that much. But I never wanted to let my right and responsibility to vote go to waste, so I always tried to do the best I could.

(Side note: apologies to liberals everywhere about 2000; I did in fact vote for George W. Bush back then. I was young, it was my first election. I tried to make up for it in 2004, but we all know how that went.)

But in the lead-up to the 2008 election, a funny thing happened: I started to care more than usual. I was actually watching debates and reading different news sites. I watched both conventions; even though I thought I'd be voting for President Obama, I didn't want to completely rule out voting for John McCain, because I remembered liking him back in 2000.

Then Sarah Palin came along, and my mind was made up.

My vote for Barack Obama wasn't just a personal endorsement of his ideas for this country, it was also an acknowledgement that he woke something within me. I was inspired like never before to do my part to shape this country the best way I thought possible; that my contribution, however small, would make a difference.

Fast-forward almost three years, and I'm at my wit's end. Not because I'm disenfranchised with the President (it is possible to disagree with someone without degrading them or writing them off completely), but because the reality of things is so damn stressful. In the case of politics, at least, the axiom "ignorance is bliss" really does have some truth to it.

After all, if you never hear about searing budget cuts, you'll never stress over them.

I understand operating in Washington requires a fair bit of compromise. I understood that in the health care debate; though I preferred a public option, I knew it would never get the votes to pass -- and frankly, tanking the entire bill for that one idea out of ideological purity would be impractical.

Same goes for extending the Bush-era tax cuts (I hated that they did it, but if it meant extending unemployment benefits, then there was really no other choice). Same goes for not nominating Elizabeth Warren to run the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Ideological purity makes for great soundbites; it works wonders for riling up a base in the name of donations or support for primary elections. But in the confines of actual governance, such rigidity of principle gets the country nowhere. Even when Democrats held both chambers of Congress and the White House, ideological purity was impossible when it came time to actually craft legislation and make policy.

More than anything, this is what rankles me about the Tea Party and establishment Republicans; the idea of ideological purity not only makes them look extreme (abolish the Department of Education, anyone?), but it makes governing little more than a high-stakes game of chicken.

Need proof? Just look at this manufactured debt ceiling crisis.

Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the Republican Party, would not be welcome in today's GOP. He raised taxes, he expanded the size of government (not to mention the federal deficit), he grew Social Security -- and during his presidency, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times.

Think Eric Cantor or Allen West or Rand Paul would welcome him today?

Ultimately, this ideological rigidity presents a conundrum for the GOP in 2012; how can the party select a candidate capable of winning a general election when the primary is nothing more than everyone trying to out-right-wing each other? Nice-guy moderate Jon Huntsman might be electable to the general public, but he has no prayer of winning his party's nomination. By the same token, do you really see Tea Party queen Michele Bachmann winning the general election?

For the past three years, I've done everything I can to enact change in this country. I'll admit, I'm a fairly liberal dude; I think everyone (including the rich) should pay their share of taxes. I think there's really no point for all this endless war -- especially now that we've killed Osama bin Laden. I think everyone should be eligible for Medicare. I'd like to see us fund education the way we fund the Pentagon.

On top of voting (in every election, not just the presidential election), I've joined activist groups, signed petitions, made donations to candidates and causes in which I believe. I started this blog, in the hope of getting my voice out there and finding others who share my views. I'm constantly writing the White House and my members of Congress, imploring them to fight for or against legislation.

Even with the stresses of my job, even with personal issues that pop up every so often, I've kept fighting the good fight. But increasingly, I find that it's not really doing any good. The corporate-owned media (which is not nearly as liberal as it's accused of being) still distorts and misinforms. Corporations still hold more sway over elected officials of both parties than the American people, crafting legislation that does little, if anything.

There is no change. Part of that is President Obama's fault, but most it falls at the feet of the dysfunctional system in which he works. Congress is broken -- especially the Senate. Even the Supreme Court, once thought above all reproach, has succumbed to the excesses of political power. State legislatures and governors are as beholden to corporate interests as their federal counterparts.

I can't fight them all, and it genuinely feels like things won't get better, no matter what's done. With unemployment as bad as it is, and the special interests as entrenched as ever, I'm not really seeing results to match the effort I've put in over the last few years.

Look, I'm no fool; I knew this wouldn't be easy, and I knew that even if we did enact some changes, they would be modest at best. That's how this system apparently "works," particularly when the public face of the Republican Party is so obstructionist and reactionary that virtually every debate starts to the political right. But it seems like nothing is getting accomplished, and I can't keep putting myself out there, subjecting myself to more and more stress, only to see the further erosion of this country.

I suppose, in some way, that's what the other side wants. I think they want liberals so upset and disenfranchised that they stop fighting; that way, the Republicans' regressive agenda of stripping away rights for the middle class and regulations for the corporations can be fully enacted, disastrous consequences for the country be damned.

So even though this will be the final post I write, I will not be completely going away. I will still be at the polls, for every federal, state and local election. I will still write to Congress and the White House, to make sure my opinions are expressed. I may even still donate to candidates on occasion.

But constantly keeping track of everything going on? Keeping this page updated with views and opinions that are quickly degrading to little more than "Boy, I'd like to slap (insert name of Republican fucktard here) upside the head"? That's not right, and it's not healthy, and I can't let myself morph into that sort of person.

So this blog is ending. It might re-surface later on, in some form, if I find myself re-energized and not nearly as jaded as I currently am. But in a lot of ways, it feels like I've been stuck in the bottom of a well, screaming into the open in the vain hope that someone will hear my words and take heed.

The past few years have shown me that no one really hears it --- either because they don't want to, or because there are so many other voices screaming in their ears that my voice (and others like mine) gets drowned out. Either way, there are better, less stressful ways to do this.

I thank the few readers I had for their support. I'd like to say a difference was made, but I don't see it. This is one instance in which I'd love to be proven wrong.

Good night, and good luck.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Debt Ceiling Debate Misguided

There's no question our federal deficit -- and our debt -- need to be addressed. In the long term, our government has to get both of those things under control, both for the sake of our national economy and our standing in the rest of the world.

But in the short term, with our economic recovery slow and the latest job numbers showing no sign of improvement, focusing solely on deficits is problematic.

Never mind the fact that virtually every reputable economist argues that a reduction in spending makes a slow recovery worse. Never mind the silly debate over the debt ceiling -- which before now has never been controversial and might even violate the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Right now, with unemployment at 9.2 percent, only one thing should matter: jobs.

We need to stop people from losing their jobs -- in the private and public sector. We need to make sure those who have lost their jobs have a lifeline while they undertake the arduous task of finding another job. We need to train people for new jobs, especially if they're coming from industries that are no longer in demand.

Most importantly, we need to make sure there are jobs out there for the unemployed to take. We need to stop companies from purposefully refusing to hire the unemployed.

The non-partisan CBO estimates the stimulus passed in 2009 saved or created 3 million jobs -- which is to be lauded -- but the bill could've been so much larger and so much more effective. In the meantime, Congress shifted its focus to health care reform, Wall Street reform, the DREAM Act, the START treaty, Iraq, Afghanistan, the deficit, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell ... pretty much everything but jobs.

When Republicans took control of the House last November, they rode the electoral wave mostly because of the lack of jobs; a weak economy and high unemployment never favors the incumbent party. But Congressional Republicans have focused on everything but jobs: de-funding Planned Parenthood, restricting choice, repealing the Affordable Care Act, refusing to let tax rates rise on the wealthiest two percent.

And now, holding the economy hostage in debt ceiling negotiations.

Republicans want to keep tax rates where they are -- if not lower them even more -- and refuse to allow any deal that includes tax increases. They want Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table, regardless of the fact that Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. Depending on who you believe, the Obama administration might be willing to put Social Security on the table.

But that's a post for another time.

I mentioned before that in years past, raising the debt ceiling has never been an issue; in fact, the debt ceiling was raised five times during George W. Bush's two terms in office. Apparently, we can keep borrowing money when it comes to fighting needless wars and giving the rich tax breaks that stagnate the economy ... but the second we want to borrow money to provide health care and take care of the middle class, it's a problem.

There's also a potential conflict of interest for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Majority Leader in the House, who may benefit financially if the country defaults on Aug. 2.

A recession is not the time to slash spending. Now is not the time to lay off teachers, police officers and firefighters. Now is not the time to punish seniors and the middle class for a recession caused by Wall Street and its handlers in Congress.

Now is the time to invest in job-creating programs, invest in infrastructure spending, which will provide jobs and strengthen this country's infrastructure for years to come.

The Republicans are playing with this country's economy -- not just in the debt ceiling debate, but by blocking numerous bills in Congress designed to create jobs -- because they know a poor economy will benefit them at the polls. They don't want the economy to get better, because the Democrats control the White House and the Senate.

And if you think the GOP would suddenly care once it got control of those branches back, then you're being naive.

Remember last month, when I quoted Keith Olbermann's point about the malfeasance of one political party and the timidity of the other? The debt ceiling debate is a perfect illustration of this; the Republicans are purposefully holding the American economy hostage, and we may see a Democratic administration giving in to the GOP's demands, and abandoning core Democrat principles, in order to prevent a default(when, really, all the President would have to do is invoke the 14th amendment and all of this would be moot).

The Republicans are playing with the middle class and seniors; they're playing with people's lives, and deliberately ignoring the unemployment crisis, thinking it will sweep the party back into power come November 2012. Electoral gains -- and massive contributions from the GOP's corporate benefactors (thank you, Citizens United) -- are the endgame here.

The only question is, what are we going to do about it?

Make yourself heard!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For It ... Until They're Against It

The reality of the political flip-flop -- as opposed to the comfy flip-flop that's popular in the summertime -- is nothing new; politicians have been changing their positions on issues for decades, particularly when an election approaches and a candidate is trying his or her best to pander to a segment of the electorate.

How else can one explain once-moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty tacking further to the right as the Republican Party tries to decide who's going to run against President Obama in the 2012 election?

But we've seen a ton of filp-flopping in the last three years, and just about all of it has centered around the Republican Party's deep-seeded mistrust (I'm reluctant to say hatred) for the president. Elected GOP leaders and their corporate backers are so set on making sure President Obama doesn't succeed that they're willing to abandon their own ideas once the president gives his stamp of approval.

Rather than list all of the examples myself, I'll allow Rachel Maddow to take over from here. She outlined this recent phenomenon on her show on Monday, noting the party's priorities of making President Obama look bad -- even if it means risking the country's economy.

Because let's face it, a broken economy benefits the GOP in the coming elections, suffering Americans be damned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'As I Was Saying ...'

"This is to be a newscast of contextualization, to be delivered with a viewpoint that the weakest citizen of this country is more important than the strongest corporation. That the nation is losing its independence through the malfeasance of one political party and the timidity of the other."

With that mission statement on Monday, June 20, 2011, one of the most reliable and forceful progressive voices in America returned to the airwaves. Keith Olbermann returned with the debut of the newest edition of Countdown With Keith Olbermann on Current TV Monday night, and save a new set, a new channel and some other small tweaks, the show seems to have changed little in the six months since it last aired on MSNBC.

Which is a good thing.

The theme music is (largely) the same, as is Olbermann's "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?" opening. The format of the show is largely unchanged -- though "Oddball" is now called "Time Marches On." His "Worst Persons in the World" segment, complete with organ music, returns, though Olbermann seemed to be trying to make it extra-clear this segment is supposed to be sarcastic.

Olbermann had three of his contributors as guests -- filmmaker Michael Moore, author and former Nixon administration member John Dean and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas (now that he no longer had to worry about crybaby Joe Scarborough) -- and the topics ranged from Libya to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the state of the GOP presidential candidates to a little MSNBC-bashing, for good measure.

By and large, this was the Countdown progressives knew and loved. Olbermann wasn't kidding in the press leading up to the premiere that the show would remain largely unchanged. This might've been simply because it was his first episode on a new network and Olbermann didn't want to stray too far from the familiar; it'll be interesting to see how the show evolves in the coming weeks and months.

I have two minor quibbles with Olbermann's return on Monday, the first of which actually has nothing to do with Olbermann himself. Current TV is not available through my cable provider, and seeing as how I live in an area where my cable company has a monopoly, my choices are either the cable company or satellite.

Current TV's website allows you to enter your zip code to find where the network is carried in your area. If it is not offered, Current gives you three ways in which to convince your provider to carry Current TV. Time will tell how successful those efforts are, but in the meantime, those of us without the network will have to find other ways to get our dose of Keith.

Secondly, when Olbermann and Dean were discussing Justice Thomas' glaring conflicts of interest, Olbermann raised the question as to why Congressional Democrats were not screaming for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from cases in which there are conflicts of interest and/or resign. It was a fair question to ask, considering how Republicans would smell blood in the water if a liberal justice were accused of the same thing; however, one very important point was ignored.

There was a member of Congress -- a Democrat, no less -- who was hounding Justice Thomas regarding his conflicts of interest. But he resigned last week, in part because his own party wouldn't support him amid a scandal that was, admittedly, disturbingly tame.

So not only are Democrats not pressuring Justice Thomas, but they kicked out the one guy who was. This is that timidity Olbermann mentioned above.

All in all, it's wonderful to have Keith Olbermann back on television. There are legitimate concerns about Current TV's reach, or what Olbermann can do with a little-known network that isn't available everywhere, but if his previous work in establishing and re-branding ESPN and MSNBC are any indication, it just might work.

Moreover, Olbermann's no-nonsense approach and adherence to the facts is desperately needed in today's media climate, and his frustration gives a voice to progressives who can no longer find such a passionate, forceful voice among their own representatives.

This is why I fill so much space on this blog with Olbermann's work; his voice fills a void that desperately needed to be filled; if the progressive we put in office will not speak up and fight for us, we need someone in the media who will -- and Olbermann, all his personal issues be damned, is that person.

Liberals need Olbermann; more importantly, though, the country needs him.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Matter of Priorities

You will find no condemnations of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) on this page with regards to his Twitter photo scandal. You will find no sophomoric jokes, no links to any of the stories or calls for his resignation.

You will find no mocking of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump getting together in New York for crappy pizza. You will find no shaming of the former Alaska governor's continued ignorance of all things American -- in this instance, the history of Paul Revere.

Sure, these topics are salacious, amusing and borderline pathetic. But they're not important.

They don't matter as much as the debate over raising the debt ceiling (a prospect that, most of the time, is hardly controversial). Or the debate over the Republicans' plan to replace Medicare with a voucher program for seniors to purchase private health insurance. Or the latest jobs report, continuing the narrative of a jobless recovery.

The media should instead be focusing on Republican tactics -- both on the federal and state level -- to restrict access to choice and defund Planned Parenthood. Or the upcoming debate on (once again) letting the Bush-era tax rates expire.

The above topics are the sorts of things that need to be reported on and discussed. The beltway media and the rest of the country's journalists (setting aside sports and entertainment reporters, because of the specialized nature of their fields) should be focusing on actual issues right now, regardless of how amusing or sexy they might be.

Rep. Weiner's package has no bearing on this country's unemployment rate, and since Palin has as much of a chance at winning the presidency as I do, she's not nearly as important as making sure we reduce the federal deficit without harming this country's middle class and seniors.

Every journalist or pundit who has spent air time or printing ink or web storage on the likes of Rep. Weiner and Palin instead of any of the other topics mentioned above have failed -- both their profession and this country. It is but another example of everything that is wrong with American media (and, when extrapolated, everything wrong with American politics).

People need jobs. People need to know the economy is recovering and they're not one decision away from financial ruin. People need to be reassured that the banks and the corporations and the insurance companies can't screw them over anymore. People need to know President Obama and Congress are on their side, not the monied interests.

People do not need to know what Rep. Weiner is packing. People do not need to know that many middle schoolers have a better understanding of American history than Palin.

Shame you, mainstream media. Shame every last one of you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Problem With Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan

Ezra Klein -- he of MSNBC, Newsweek and The Washington Post, is one of the best writers covering politics in Washington, largely because he's a policy wonk with the uncanny ability to explain complex legislation in such a way that non-wonks (read: just about everyone else) can understand it.

Today, I read on his Washington Post blog a detailed (yet easy-to-read) rebuttal of the Medicare proposal put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) -- you know, the one that would dismantle Medicare and replace it with a voucher program to help senior citizens purchase health insurance.

Rather than engage in partisan talking points (I get the sense that Klein's a fairly liberal dude), he sticks to facts and details. He even supplies charts!

Read Klein's post here -- and feel free to make this thing viral.

Deficit and Unemployment Linked

Even with America still facing an unemployment crisis -- the latest numbers continue pointing toward the narrative of a "jobless recovery" -- politicians in Washington and the media which covers them have instead focused on the deficit.

Whenever federal and state lawmakers argue against extending unemployment benefits, they often frame the argument in terms of the deficit. Instead of focusing on jobs, Congress (including a newly-elected Republican majority in the House) shifts its attention to matters related to the deficit.

The budget plan forwarded by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), which would replace Medicare with vouchers for seniors to purchase insurance from private companies, was introduced in an effort to rein in the deficit.

The debate over the Bush tax cuts that took place back in December was framed around the deficit -- because raising taxes (even on a small percentage of the population) would mean more revenue, which is half the federal budget formula.

Republicans' refusal to raise taxes -- and in some regard, their insistence upon lowering taxes even more -- has made the revenue portion of the deficit debate a dicey one.

The current debate over raising the debt ceiling, which is necessary by August to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts and likely causing another recession, has been accentuated by Republican lawmakers requiring more spending cuts -- you guessed it -- in the name of deficit reduction.

Even debates over America's military action -- officially, we're only at war in Afghanistan (even though we still have troops in Iraq and we're doing who the hell knows what in Libya) -- are framed, in part, along the deficit. Proponents for ending America's wars argue that ending military action would save billions of dollars the country doesn't have.

They're not wrong.

But there's one thing that will help the deficit that almost no one is talking about: lowering the unemployment rate.

Remember what I said earlier about revenue being half the budget equation? Well, taxes are government revenue, and with almost 10 percent of American's working population not working, that's less taxable income available to local, state and federal governments.

It's really quite simple: put more people back to work, that means more people are earning paychecks -- which also means more people are paying taxes. A lower unemployment rate translates into more government revenue.

Think back to when President Clinton was in office; it's no coincidence that he left office with a massive budget surplus while he saw unemployment dip to 5.6 percent. His 1993 Economic Plan, which raised taxes on the wealthiest earners, also had a lot to do with it, but don't discount the simple formula of putting people to work and collecting taxes from their paychecks.

Look at your pay stub; though different states have different tax laws, everyone sees taxes taken out for federal, local and state governments, for Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security. If you don't collect a paycheck, you're not contributing tax dollars to those revenue streams.

If you're out of work for a lengthy period of time, you might even be taking money from the government, in the form of unemployment benefits. Also, debates over the solvency of Social Security and Medicare have been steeped, in part, on how many people are working, and thus paying taxes into those programs.

I'm not saying this is the only fix; putting people back to work will not solve all, or even most, of our problems. But if we're taking on the federal deficit, every option that doesn't unnecessarily burden the middle class and/or the elderly deserves consideration.

I realize that job-creating programs will require government spending -- and thus borrowing. Stimulating the economy in this way requires a certain amount of investment, and you know conservative deficit hawks will scream over it, like they scream over everything else.

But a short-term investment would go a long way toward putting Americans back to work (which was the intent behind the stimulus package, and an argument for why it should've been more robust); tax cuts for the wealthy do not create jobs, but economic stimulus does.

And the more people work, the more taxes they pay. Which reduces the deficit, all without cutting necessary programs.

See how simple that is?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Common Sense or Courage?

If it seems like the modern Republican Party (the elected officials and those who represent them in the media, not necessarily everyday people) is tacking further to the right by the day, you're not imagining things. It is in fact happening.

In a way, it represents a Catch-22 for Republicans; in today's political climate, being a moderate Republican isn't going to win you the party's nomination (in some districts and states, it won't even win you an election). However, being so far to the right will make you virtually un-electable for the vast majority of the population in a general election.

So you might win a nomination, but never an election. Meanwhile, the moderate Republican who might have a chance in a general election would never win a primary.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Newt Gingrich found that out this week after an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. On the program Sunday, Gingrich -- who hasn't held public office in almost a decade -- criticized the budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), which would effectively end Medicare and replace it with a voucher program. He called it "right-wing social engineering" and said it went too far.

Seems sensible enough; why throw out Medicare and leave seniors to fend for themselves in the private insurance industry, where some experts say their health care costs would double? Whatever you think of Gingrich's politics, it was a sensible argument.

Which is exactly why practically the entire GOP establishment lambasted him.

Apparently, Gingrich was hounded so much that he apologized to Rep. Ryan on Tuesday. That's right; Gingrich, essentially, had to apologize for making sense. Only in the current Republican Party would you have to apologize for making sense.

That's not even taking into account for the fact that Gingrich was once a supporter for an individual mandate for health insurance; you know, before President Obama endorsed the idea as part of his health care reform package in 2009. It also ignores a host of statements for the former Speaker of the House has made relating to President Obama that can be seen as racially-charged.

But if you want to look for courage within the GOP (which Gingrich doesn't have, since he can't seem to stick to one position), how about the Senators from Maine? Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans, bucked their party on Tuesday when they joined 48 Democrats to vote in favor of ending multi-billion subsidies to Big Oil.

That Sens. Collins and Snowe voted against the Republicans isn't anything new; the two women are viewed as moderates within the party -- a dying breed, to be sure. Their votes were not enough to overcome a filibuster, though, as the other Republicans voted in lock-step and had the help of three Democrats: Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).

In explaining her vote, Sen. Collins wrote, "Reducing or eliminating unnecessary subsidies and outdated tax breaks is a commonsense step toward deficit reduction." Sen. Snowe added: "It is difficult to justify oil development incentives given the current level of crude oil prices, and the fact that the U.S. government has to borrow money to pay for these incentives."

It all seems perfectly sensible, doesn't it? Well, then it wouldn't surprise you to know that Sen. Snowe is being primaried from the right, nor would it surprise you if either woman threw her name into the GOP presidential race and found herself flailing at the polls, regardless of how electable either Senator might seem to the country as a whole.

To the modern Republican Party -- and its media enablers -- making sense and acting responsibly within the confines of government is not the goal. Right-wing social engineering and trying to make President Obama a one-term president are the goals, and everything else -- deficit reduction and job creation included -- be damned.

The way things are going for the GOP these days, I don't see 2012 turning out very well for them, because the party is reaching a point where even some of its voters won't want to support it anymore. And when you lose your base, then you're really up a creek without a paddle.

Simply Despicable

Anyone who follows this blog knows I am no fan of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Not simply because he's a Republican (that, I can live with) -- but because of his constant flip-flopping over the years over various positions, as well as the egregious lack of judgement he displayed in picking former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 presidential race.

That said, I would never question Sen. McCain's love for this country, nor would I take issue with his record as a military man -- and I certainly wouldn't presume to know more about Sen. McCain, a POW during the war in Vietnam, about torture.

Which makes what presumptive GOP presidential nominee Rick Santorum's comments to a conservative radio host on Tuesday both baffling and disgusting. In speaking with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt (sounds like a DC Comics character), Santorum claimed that torture was in fact a big part of gaining the intelligence that eventually led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Never mind the fact that people like Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, and Sen. McCain both said the intelligence never came from the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

So what did Santorum have to say regarding McCain? Read:

"Everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn't ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he (McCain) doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they're broken, they become cooperative. And that's when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that's how we ended up with bin Laden,"

That's right ... Santorum expects us to believe that Sen. McCain knows nothing about torture -- never mind all that bugaboo about Sen. McCain spending five and a half years as a POW in north Vietnam. Never mind that Sen. McCain was subject to such vigorous physical treatment that he can never raise his arms above his head again (which is why I will never make fun of the way he moves his arms).

You're right, Rick Santorum; there's no way in hell John McCain knows more than you do about the effectiveness of torture. You are the all-knowing one when it comes to "enhanced interrogation techniques," aren't you?

All this time, I thought you were nothing more than a bigot who likened same-sex marriage to bestiality, adultery and bigamy. Here I thought you were just some self-righteous blowhard who just so happened to have a really disgusting last name (seriously; Google the word "santorum" -- fair warning, it is both disgusting and NSFW).

But no; apparently, you're a national security and torture expert. You're so good, you know more about torture than someone who was tortured for half a decade while serving his country!

Do us all a favor, Mr. Santorum, and go away. It's bad enough you're a bigot and hypocrite, but once you start spouting shit like that about someone who fought for this country, who nearly gave his life for this country, you lose what tiny sliver of credibility you had left. You already had no shot at the presidency, but by speaking so ignorantly of someone who so proudly served this country, you are sure as hell not fit to be our Commander-in-Chief.

I realize Sen. McCain's office refuses to dignify Santorum's slime with a response, but part of me wants Sen. McCain to drag him behind the Capitol and knock out a few teeth -- after giving Glenn Beck a swift ass-kicking for mocking daughter Meghan McCain for her appearance in a recent skin cancer PSA.

Show some damn respect, Santorum -- if you even know what that word means.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sickening ...

Remember back in 2009, when the legislation in Uganda introduced legislation that would make homosexuality illegal -- and even punishable by death? Remember when Rachel Maddow, with help from Jeff Sharlet, linked American politicians to the legislation -- primarily through the secretive religious group The Family?

For a variety of reasons, that story fell off the proverbial radar in recent months, but the bill returned to the news this week. On Wednesday, MSNBC reported that Uganda was likely to drop the legislation. Quoting MSNBC:

The future of the bill remained murky. Wednesday was parliament's last scheduled day of session, and President Yoweri Museveni was scheduled on Thursday to be sworn in after his February re-election. It wasn't clear if the bill could be carried forward to the next session or if the bill's author would have to offer a new bill, which he has said he will do if needed.

Despite that burst of good news, Maddow theorized that the bill would still see the light of day at some point, because David Buhati, the man who drafted the legislation and has strong ties to The Family, remained steadfast even in the face of international condemnation.

There wasn't even any guarantee Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni would sign the bill if it passed, so good news all around, right?

Well ... maybe not.

Box Turtle Bulletin is now reporting the bill could be up for a vote on Friday -- and that it might pass. That's right ... we're once again staring at the prospect of a nation declaring that homosexuality is illegal. Not just being a homosexual, but knowing someone is homosexual and not turning them in, knowing someone is homosexual, but giving them a job.

We're talking jail time. We're talking the death penalty. Simply for being homosexual.

Here in America, we worry about marriage equality and benefits for same-sex partners that equal those for heterosexual couples. We worry about same-sex couples being able to adopt children. Until recently, homosexuals couldn't even serve openly in our military.

In fact, they technically still can't.

The problems facing homosexuals in America are numerous, and they are not to be taken lightly. But at least our country is not in the business of legally sanctioning jail time and murder for people simply because of their lifestyle.

Bigotry is abhorrent and dangerous regardless, but Uganda is taking it to the extreme -- and the fact that we have members of Congress who are linked to Buhati and his allies is a sickening reality.

Uganda could legalize an act that would be considered a hate crime in most other civilized countries. I honestly do not have the words to describe how vile and sickening that truth is.

CREDO Action has crafted a petition in an effort to stop the bill in its tracks. You can read the petition, sign it and share it on various social media platforms here.

This is not an instance where we can sit back and ignore the problem because it's not on our shores. Buhati's connections to The Family -- and the American politicians who secretly call themselves members -- make this an even more disturbing problem.

But more than that, this is an issue of human dignity and fairness. If Uganda can legalize the killing of a man for loving another man, what stops the next nation that wants to do it? The potential domino effect is horrifying, almost as much as the legislation itself.

This bill is evil, and it must be stopped. Hatred and bigotry have no place in this world, and they certainly have to place in a national legislature.

Monday, May 2, 2011

After 10 Long Years ...

... Osama bin Laden is dead.

President Obama announced in a rare Sunday night announcement that U.S. forces -- reportedly Navy SEALs -- raided a mansion outside Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, and that bin Laden was killed in a firefight by a bullet to the head.

In a sense, the news brings a finality to America's decade-long mission in Afghanistan -- even though no one can seriously suggest that we bring the troops home now that bin Laden is dead. I would love that (for a number of reasons), but a complete troop withdrawal at this point isn't feasible.

Political maneuvering will undoubtedly take over, if it hasn't already. Some will note that President Obama managed in three years what President Bush never accomplished in two terms; others will claim that 2012 is now in the bag for President Obama.

At this point, I'll simply call this a victory for America. Regardless of his current status within al Qaeda, bin Laden was the mastermind of the worst terrorist attacks ever perpetrated on U.S. soil, and the fact that American forces brought him down is a cause for celebration.

Is it a bit skeevy to be, in effect, celebrating the death of another human being? A little, but when one considers what bin Laden did in his life -- not just masterminding 9/11, but also being responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole, and a number of other atrocities -- it takes some of the sting out of it.

Besides, imagine the circus if he'd been captured alive and we faced the prospect of trying him. As crass as this sounds, this was never going to end with bin Laden being brought in alive. He was always either going to be killed, or he was going to hide out long enough that he died of natural causes before forces could get to him.

One thing this does do (despite the myriad of questions going forward -- ranging from what do we do now in Afghanistan to what were we doing in Pakistan to how we prepare for a potential backlash from al Qaeda) is solidify President Obama's stance on the War of Terror. Being a Democrat -- and someone who's long chastised "dumb wars" -- the president has often been criticized for his stance on foreign policy.

But in the span of six weeks, he deliberated with his senior staff on actionable intelligence regarding bin Laden, then on Friday, he gave the order to conduct the mission. Sunday night, bin Laden was dead and Americans were celebrating.

Does that sound like someone who's weak when it comes to military operations?

Either way, bin Laden's death is a significant chapter in American history, and it is a cause worthy of celebration. We should not, however, overreact and proclaim the end of combat missions in Afghanistan or the War on Terror.

Don't get me wrong: I would be elated if tomorrow, we announced that every combat troop serving in Afghanistan and Pakistan was coming home and that we were ceasing operations -- both because it would mean fewer American casualties and because it would save us a boatload of money.

But it's not that simple. It should be, but it's not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One More Thing ...

Regarding socialism, I wanted to make a point that I inexplicably left out of my last post. The frequency with which President Obama has been accused of socialism -- and the alarming speed with which he has fled from that word -- disturbs me, and it makes me wonder about the true purpose behind the GOP throwing that word against him constantly.

Now, bear in mind, this is my own opinion, based largely on what I have seen and heard dating back to the 2008 presidential campaign. I don't have anything hard or substantiative to prove this feeling.

I wonder ... do those on the right call President Obama a socialist because they truly feel he is one? Let's face it, if he was a socialist, he wouldn't have taken single-payer off the table at the beginning of the health care debate. In fact, he would've likely advocated for opening Medicare to every American citizen.

Cause that's a socialist thing to do (not to mention a damn fine idea).

I don't think the establishment GOP -- and by this, I mean elected officials, talking heads and media personalities -- truly believes President Obama is a socialist. Instead, I think they use "socialist" as a code word, a replacement for a word they really want to use.

These people can't use the word they really want, because they know the public outrage would render their scheme useless. Racism still exists in this country, but we have progressed enough as a country where the use of that particular word brings with it heaps of rightful scorn. If a Republican were to call President Obama that word, his or her political career would, in effect, be over.

But by calling President Obama a socialist, these people are playing to those same emotions and fears, but they're disguising it in a code word -- a word that some people truly don't know the meaning of, which provides the GOP all the fear it needs.

It's classic Southern Strategy; play on the racial fears of white people without actually being racist. The Southern Strategy, which has existed in one form or another for decades, thrives of subtlety -- that's the only way it can be successful.

President Obama is no socialist; you know it, I know it, the Republican Party knows it. But the party is choosing to play on the fears of the conservative portion of the electorate, while simultaneously hoping to pry the ill-informed and frustrated independents from the Democrats, by using code words.

We all know what word they want to use on President Obama, just as they know using that word would be political suicide. So they mask their hate in a word they're betting a lot of people don't understand.

And sadly, it's working.

A History Lesson

This blog has offered space before for those who wish to defend the concept of socialism -- I refer specifically to Lawrence O'Donnell's defense of it back in November -- so forgive me if this post is a little redundant.

John Nichols has an article in the May 2, 2011 edition of The Nation magazine titled "How Socialists Built America." The article, adapted from The 'S' Word: a Short History of an American Tradition ... Socialism, examines the role socialism has played in the history of America, particularly in the era of McCarthyism and during Lyndon Johnson's presidency.

The parallels are staggering.

The entire article is well worth the read, but here's a snippet:

Obama really is avoiding consideration of socialist, or even mildly social democratic, responses to the problems that confront him. He took the single-payer option off the table at the start of the healthcare debate, rejecting the approach that in other countries has provided quality care to all citizens at lower cost. His supposedly “socialist” response to the collapse of the auto industry was to give tens of billions in bailout funding to GM and Chrysler, which used the money to lay off thousands of workers and then relocate several dozen plants abroad—an approach about as far as a country can get from the social democratic model of using public investment and industrial policy to promote job creation and community renewal. And when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded, threatening the entire Gulf Coast, instead of putting the Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies in charge of the crisis, Obama left it to the corporation that had lied about the extent of the spill, had made decisions based on its bottom line rather than environmental and human needs, and had failed at even the most basic tasks.

So we should take the president at his word when he says he’s acting on free-market principles. The problem, of course, is that Obama’s rigidity in this regard is leading him to dismiss ideas that are often sounder than private-sector fixes. Borrowing ideas and approaches from socialists would not make Obama any more of a socialist than Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower. All these presidential predecessors sampled ideas from Marxist tracts or borrowed from Socialist Party platforms so frequently that the New York Times noted in a 1954 profile the faith of an aging Norman Thomas that he “had made a great contribution in pioneering ideas that have now won the support of both major parties”—ideas like “Social Security, public housing, public power developments, legal protection for collective bargaining and other attributes of the welfare state.” The fact is that many of the men who occupied the Oval Office before Obama knew that implementation of sound socialist or social democratic ideas did not put them at odds with the American experiment or the Constitution.

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Disappointed Liberals

Okay, fellow liberals, progressives -- whatever we're calling ourselves these days -- there's something really important I need to get off my chest. I've actually felt this way for quite a while, but haven't been able to properly articulate my thoughts.

In light of recent political battles, and the forthcoming 2012 elections, I feel it is my duty to try.

Am I a so-called "disappointed liberal?" Yeah, I guess you could say I am. Don't get me wrong; there are a lot of things that have gone right since the 2008 elections. You'd never know it by paying attention to the mainstream media, but some good things have happened.

Comprehensive health care reform has passed after over a century of trying.

A stimulus package prevented the recession from getting worse, even making minor (and debatable) improvements.

Comprehensive Wall Street Reform passed.

Combat missions have officially ended in Iraq.

Sensible credit card reforms and a reformation of the student loan system have been enacted.

The discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy concerning homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces was repealed, paving the way for homosexual and bisexual service members to be who they are while serving their country.

But I'll be the first to admit things aren't perfect.

I was a strong advocate for the public option as part of the health care reform package; if we couldn't have a strong single-payer system (President Obama, despite saying in the past that he advocated such a system, took it off the table before the debate truly began), then a strong public option as a balance to the private insurance industry was a sensible compromise.

The Wall Street Reform bill, in part because of retiring Sen. Chris Dodds' (D-Conn.) ties to the banking industry, was not nearly as strong as it should've been. Even with the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- headed for now by economist and middle-class advocate Elizabeth Warren -- the reform package could have been much stronger.

Though combat has officially ended in Iraq, troops are still stationed in that country -- while the Obama administration has doubled down on efforts in Afghanistan, even through a change in command and serious skepticism with regards to the mission. And don't even get me started on Libya ...

Don't let the experts fool you; the recession is not over. Unemployment still hovers over nine percent. Homes are still being foreclosed upon, and while Wall Street continues to rake in billions in profits -- yes, even the firms that received bailout money -- hiring has been slow. many unemployed have exhausted their unemployment insurance and have stopped looking for work (partly because some jobs are explicitly not hiring the unemployed).

Through it all, President Obama and the Democrats have lost their majority in the House of Representatives -- thanks in part to the enthusiasm within the Tea Party movement -- and seen their majority in the Senate dwindle.

This is important in an era in which 60 is the majority needed to get anything done in the Senate, not 51.

At times, the Democrats (President Obama included) have not fought hard enough for progressive principles -- for instance, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on the country's top two percent of earners. Some of that is mere perception, some of it is reality.

Progressives, largely, have a right to be angry. Hope and change have given way to stagnation and compromise. It was obvious from Day One that some compromise would be necessary; it's the name of the game when there are two political parties vying for control in Washington. But compromise has been a nasty affair, considering the Republican Party has chosen to obstruct and fear-monger at every opportunity -- even now that the party has a majority in one house of Congress.

It's hard to compromise with someone who is so overt in wanting you to fail. This is a large source of liberal anger -- which I understand. Why does President Obama keep compromising with people who want him to fail? In part because he has to, but in some instances, it appears that he doesn't even fight for his principles before compromising.

It might lead some to wonder if he even has any principles.

If there's one thing the Republican Party is good at, it's mobilizing its base and using anger and fear to its advantage. It helps that the party has its own 24-hour cable news station to spout talking points and code words at all hours of the day. The Tea Party movement has also helped mobilize conservative anger.

When Republican voters are angry or upset, they express it in a number of ways -- most importantly at the ballot box. When liberals are upset or angry, they tend to stay home.

Don't believe me? Look at Virginia's most recent gubernatorial election. Republican Bob McDonnell won convincingly, in part because he ran a solid, focused campaign ("Bob For Jobs"); however, he was aided by an unenthusiastic Democratic base. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee, spent the entire campaign focusing on McDonnell's Regent thesis (even after voters showed they didn't care) and trying to move further to the center.

Democrats and independents, unimpressed, stayed home. Republicans came out in droves, like they always do. As a result, McDonnell is currently governor and Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli is his Attorney General. Among Cuccinelli's "achievements" so far: telling the commonwealth's public universities they don't have the authority to protect homosexuals from discrimination; attacking University of Virginia scientists advocating for a response to climate change; and wasting taxpayer dollars on fighting the federal health care reform bill.

All this because Democrats stayed home.

Why do you think Republicans took over the House last year? That "enthusiasm gap" the media kept talking about was a real, tangible thing. Republican voters came out in droves; independent voters were swayed to vote Republican; liberal voters, by and large, stayed home -- including many who voted for the first time in 2008.

If you're angry or disappointed in the Obama administration, I understand and sympathize. But consider this: would you rather face a country led by President Mitt Romney? President Newt Gingrich? President Tim Pawlenty?

President Sarah Palin?

Gods forbid, President Donald Trump?

Whatever President Obama hasn't accomplished in the first three years of this term, I can guarantee America would be worse off under the "leadership" of the above people. And don't sit there and think, "Oh, we'd never vote that person into office." Sharron Angle, with her "Second Amendment remedies," nearly became a U.S. Senator. Rand Paul -- you know, the guy who hates the Civil Rights Act -- is a U.S. Senator.

Don't just sit home because the Democrat in the race isn't a picture-perfect liberal. Don't sit home because you think the country's smart enough not to put Palin in the White House. If you sit home on Election Day -- if you don't get off your butt and make sure you do everything you can to get progressives into office in all levels of government, then fight to have legislation you want passed -- then the Republicans and the Tea Party deserve to win.

Do you want to fight Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), whose budget calls for the gutting of Social Security and the privatization of Medicare? Or do you want to sit back, fold your arms and pout because the entire liberal agenda hasn't yet been achieved?

I'm pissed off, too, guys. There are a lot of things I've fought for in the last three years that never happened -- or happened a lot later in the game than necessary. But the point is to keep fighting.

The GOP isn't going to rest; why should we?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Putting Trump in His Place

Look, I've tried my best to ignore Donald Trump as a prominent political figure (hell, I've been trying to ignore Donald Trump period). In a lot of ways, I take Sarah Palin more seriously, and we all know how I feel about her.

But Joan Walsh of Slate wrote an expert takedown of the Trump-for-President phenomenon on Tuesday, and I just had to share. Ladies and gentlemen, marvel in the sheer hypocrisy that is Donald Trump, political wannabe.

You're welcome.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bonds Trial a Sham, Waste of Government

If you sat through Wednesday's news that disgraced slugger Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice in the federal government's case against BALCO (which was also a symbolic trial of the entire Steroids Era in baseball) and wondered what the point of the whole thing was, you're not alone.

Prosecutors couldn't get Bonds on perjury -- the jury deadlocked on all three charges against him. They only managed to get the obstruction of justice charge because jurors felt Bonds evaded questions during his grand jury testimony.

By that logic ... shouldn't Dick Cheney be behind bars?

So, with a potentially bogus obstruction of justice conviction -- which carries a maximum of sentence of 10 years in prison, even though Bonds is unlikely to face jail time -- and what's likely to be a length appeals process (oh, and the government can file the perjury charges again, if it so chooses), the question begs asking: what's the point?

Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine, takes the whole thing to task in his recent column, The Great American Witch-Hunt: How Barry Bonds Became a Convicted Felon. A snippet:

As BALCO founder Victor Conte—who is no friend of Bondssaid to USA Today, "This verdict absolutely makes no sense to me. Of all of these counts, the one that makes the least sense to me is the obstruction charge. Tell me how there was obstruction of justice. This is all about the selected persecution of Barry Bonds. This is not fair. I was the heavy in this. I accepted full responsibility and the consequences and went to prison. How is that obstruction? Doesn't make sense.”

It doesn’t. After all the public money, drama, and hysterics, this is what we’re left with. He was “evasive." Keep in mind that we live in a country where the US Department of Justice has not pursued one person for the investment banking fraud that cratered the US economy in 2008. Not one indictment has been issued to a single Bush official on charges of ordering torture or lying to provoke an invasion of Iraq. Instead, we get farcical reality television like the US vs. Barry Bonds.

This was a trial where you longed for the somber dignity of a Judge Judy. Since Anderson wouldn’t talk, the government was left with two real witnesses: Kimberly Bell, Bond's mistress, brought in to discuss his sexual dysfunctions resulting from steroids, and Steve Hoskins, the business manager whom Bonds fired for alleged theft and fraud. But their real star was a once-anonymous IRS official named Jeff Novitsky, who has proudly seen Bonds as an all-consuming obsession, US Constitution be damned.

Look, I'm no Bonds apologist. But doesn't anyone else find a bit strange that the majority of the government's focus in prosecuting steroid use in professional sports has largely focused in on him? Is it because he's the sport's all-time leading home run hitter? Someone who allegedly manufactured his numbers in a sport where numbers mean more than anything?

Is it because Bonds was never friendly with the media? Is it because, heaven forbid, Bonds is black? Where's this level of outrage and condemnation for someone like Roger Clemens or Mark McGwire? The former is accused of taking steroids and lying about it; the latter has finally admitted he juiced.

I know Clemens will have his day in court, but the outrage surrounding his case doesn't even come close to Bonds. But think about this ... if the federal government wants to get in the business of prosecuting steroids in baseball (which, as Zirin pointed out, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said they wouldn't do), why not focus more on the dealers who supplied the drugs?

Why not focus on the owners and Major League Baseball officials who looked the other way as players bulked up, balls went flying out of ballparks and more money flowed in than anyone knew what to do with? They're just as culpable as the players in this, if not more so.

Frankly, the government has gibber fish to dry than a player who was a surefire Hall of Famer before greed and jealousy led him to take performance-enhancing drugs. While the federal government has been pouring in millions of dollars to prosecute Bonds, not one grand jury has convened to investigate the financial firms who led us into economic collapse.

Tank the economy, get a pass and a bailout. Take steroids to hit a baseball farther, and face potential jail time.

Doesn't that seem screwed up to anyone?

This post also appears on my sports blog, Last Four on the Clock.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Message For My Readers

You may have noticed a decided lack of posts on this blog in recent weeks (okay, months); there's a good reason for that, and I want to ensure everyone that I haven't abandoned this blog -- or the idea of fighting for progressive values that are important to me.

Ultimately, life has been beyond hectic recently.

I work in sports information (i.e., athletic media relations) at Hampton University, and this year, both the men's and women's basketball teams won their conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. As great as it was seeing these programs and these student-athletes succeeding and bringing notoriety to the school, it also meant a buttload of work.

Between press releases, press conferences and a trip to Albuquerque, N.M. that lasted nearly a week, I've admittedly let some things fall by the wayside. I've posted to my sports blog occasionally, and I'm still trying to keep my NASCAR blog up-to-date since we're a couple months into the season there, but this page has been a casualty of a busy life.

I've also done a poor job of late keeping up with what's going on; I know the basics of the fight for collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, just as I know Ohio and Michigan have attempted to pass similar union-busting measures. I'm aware of the pending government shutdown, which -- depending on who you talk to, is the fault of President Obama or the Tea Party.

But, due in part of my lack of time, I haven't delved deep enough into the issues to truly get a grasp of them -- and if I don't truly grasp something, I'm not going to write a blog post about it. I don't wanna give an opinion that might be off-base or try to talk about something I don't really understand.

I'm weird like that.

Since Keith Olbermann left MSNBC, I've effectively stopped watching. I tried to hang on enough to watch The Rachel Maddow Show, refusing to punish her for something she ultimately had no control over ... yet I've stopped watching her show. This wasn't a conscious decision, but with Olbermann off doing his own thing, it just hasn't been there for me.

Which is a shame, because Maddow has the distinct ability to make me understand complex situations that I might not otherwise be able to grasp. I still frequent my usual media hangouts -- I still receive my issue of The Nation every week, and I still visit The Huffington Post whenever possible -- but this has suffered as well.

I think, now that things are starting to calm down at work, I'll be returning to this page soon. I just need to re-charge the proverbial batteries, decompress a little. I am not abandoning this page or the struggle it represents; I'm merely taking a step back to make sure I have the energy and resolve for what will undoubtedly be a tough battle ahead.

Take heart, fellow progressives. I'm not going anywhere ... I just need to re-fill the tank.

I will be back.