Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Terrorists Defeat Republicans

Friday, November 20th, 2009

It’s sadly amusing to see how upset Republicans are that the Obama administration is going to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other co-conspirators on trial in U.S. District Court in New York City for their role in the 9/11 attacks. The Republicans are frightened to the core about the thought that America is not good enough, not strong enough, not prepared enough to face up to these monsters. They are, in a word, terrorized.

Giuliani is fretting about the danger these bound and shackled men pose to the city, as if Batman: the Dark Knight was a documentary. He’s terrorized.

House Minority Leader John Boehner thinks the terrorists will win their trial, so we should not dare to face them in a courtroom. He’s terrorized.

Senator Jeff Sessions is having nightmares about swarthy men, and thinks they “will turn lawyers, juries, and judges into targets, and will needlessly endanger Americans living nearby.” He’s terrorized.

Thank God we have a president who has defeated terrorism by coolly moving forward as a proud American. He’s not terrorized. And neither is America. Just the Republicans.

Raining on Straw Men?

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I gotta get this one off my chest. Midtown Miscreant is a dramatic blogger with a flair for tough-guy self-importance, and he writes some interesting pieces. He does a good job taking snapshots of rundown property, for instance, and the descriptions are tolerable if you ignore the “nobody goes into these places and comes out alive, except for me” braggadocio. Those of us who are well-traveled in KC and aren’t so gullible just roll our eyes and enjoy the photos.

Today, though, MM tries his hand at punditry, and makes me wish he had stuck with scary tales about seeing broken windows in an abandoned building.

Sorry, MM, you’re not big enough to, as you claim, “piss on the parade.” If all you can do is put up imaginary straw men like gays who believe he will usher in federal gay marriage, or “black folks” who allegedly believe he will “automatically right history’s wrongs in this country” and issue reparations checks, you’re wasting electrons.

It’s an exciting week for America, and the parade is going to be fantastic. Change – real, substantive change – is coming to our Government, and that is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t mean that everything will turn rosy on Wednesday, or that we won’t be disappointed in some of the decisions that Obama will make (heck, I’m already disappointed in a couple). But there’s a wide gulf between the absolute ideal and the current reality, and I think everyone is ready for movement in the right direction, without expecting to ever get there. America and its voters are smart enough to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Except, perhaps, for that grumpy old man standing there wetting himself, thinking that he’s dampening the parade.

Is Rick Warren Abandoning His Principles?

Friday, December 19th, 2008

My fellow progressive bloggers are having a conniption fit (that’s four links – I could provide a few dozen more) about Obama’s choice of conservative pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. In a nutshell, they accuse Obama of selling out his core beliefs by daring to invite Rick Warren. The various statements attributed to Rick Warren have been dragged out and rephrased so as to make the man appear to be the world’s most vicious homophobe, and then my incredulous leftwing friends indignantly ponder which of those statements Obama is adopting as his core beliefs.

Why isn’t the shoe on the other foot?

Why is it disgraceful for Obama to invite Warren to speak, but not disgraceful for Warren to accept? If Warren is such a raging, monstrous homophobe to his very core, then why is he stepping onto the inauguration stage of a progressive, gay-friendly new President? Isn’t the day going to be much more about Obama, and people unifying behind him, than it will be about the guy giving the invocation? Why is it that some on the left are soooo fearful that a prayer offered by someone who might disagree with them on a few issues will conquer all their hopes and beliefs, converting the entire day into a celebration of homophobia rather than of Obama and our grand new future?

Hilariously, some of us are complaining that Obama is “legitimizing” Rick Warren by inviting him to speak. Umm, yeah, the right wing conservatives have been waiting with bated breath for Obama to choose their next leader, and progressives are going to put “The Purpose Driven Life” on their nightstand right next to “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot“. (Those with a memory may recall that Warren was the object of a mirror image of the current hand-wringing furor when he invited Senator Obama to speak at his Saddleback Church in 2006.)

Personally, I fully expected that anyone chosen by Obama to offer a religious invocation at his inauguration would have a few beliefs that differ from mine, on a theological, political, and policy level. I can listen to that person offer a prayer, and not feel like either one of us is abandoning his or her principles.

Obama "not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F*** them.”

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The first moral test of the Obama administration has been administered by someone Obama knew from days before he arrived on the national stage. When presented with the essay question on what he would give for the opportunity to choose a Senator – a reliable ally in the seat he was leaving – Obama wrote a one word answer and left the exam room. “Appreciation”.

Circle the first letter and give the man an “A”.

It did not have to be that way. Any politician at Obama’s level knows how to reward someone without bribing them. Blagojevich himself, the filthy crook (allegedly, IUPG), showed that he knows how to make things happen without exchanging envelopes stuffed with cash – “let’s not talk about the Senate appointment just yet . . . don’t you think I’d make a great person for a well-paying political appointment? Do you have any close friends with corporations or foundations that might be looking for someone with my skill set? Or my wife’s?”

And there, on that phone call, with nobody (apparently) watching, we could have seen a political pragmatist make it happen. They could have verbally separated the transactions enough that it wouldn’t have even felt like a bribe. “Look, Rod, we aren’t going to do any tit for tat here, but you know we look out for people who help us out, and we were just talking the other day about how you have the right stuff to make a great ambassador to Tahiti. But that’s a different issue, and we ought to discuss that over a drink sometime real soon. In the meantime, though, I know we both want to get a good person in that Senate seat, and Obama really thinks that X is the person. If you make that appointment, he’ll be really happy, and we look forward to seeing you at the inauguration. We can talk details about how you can fit into the administration’s goals then, okay?” And, assuming that Blagojevich trusts Obama to deliver, the deal gets done.

Does anybody doubt that Bush’s team did similar things hundreds of times? Does anybody doubt that people who did Bush favors wound up on the board of Halliburton, or had their spouses suddenly chosen for sweet jobs? If you do doubt that, then I’m happy for you, because you’ve avoided the cynicism that the Bush administration has fostered in me.

I’m so cynical that I’m a little surprised – even inspired – by the boyscout behavior of the Obama administration. You mean, it’s really true?! The man we elected really, truly, when offered an opportunity to select a Senator, offered nothing except appreciation?!

Maybe it’s just the season, but I’m honestly feeling a little bit like the Grinch looking down on Whoville when everyone was singing – my heart grew a size or two when I saw that Obama didn’t play ball with a fellow Illinois politician. I’m glad our law enforcement agencies got a warrant and worked effectively caught Blagojevich (IUPG), and that somebody tipped them off.

I have nothing to offer all the heroes in this little vignette – nothing except my appreciation. My deepest, most sincere appreciation.

Br’er Rabbit and the Myth of Hard Work – Oh, Dear, the Privileged are Feeling Persecuted Again

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Obama has mentioned redistribution of wealth, and the wealthy are in full freak-out mode. Of course, the furor is completely false, and as wealth gets redistributed every day in every economic transaction, and the “socialist” redistribution that Obama has mentioned is nothing more than reversing the tax breaks that Bush showered on the uber-wealthy. Heck, back when he was a maverick, McCain opposed those same give-aways to the wealthy.

But they are dusting off the apocryphal old tales of how they are smugly demonstrating that those uppity youngsters don’t really want to share. Yesterday, I received a story about a guy redistributing a waiter’s tip to a homeless guy, as well as a crudely-drawn cartoon of a fat homeowner stealing kids’ Halloween candy to go trick-or-treating for themselves. A couple weeks ago, another relatively wealthy friend sent me a story attempting to illustrate the evil of redistribution by comparing it to taking grades from a hardworking student and sharing them with her party-girl roommate.

I love these stories. They are a fascinating genre of fiction, mixing hilariously bogus analogies with self-serving credit to the older (presumptively) white dude outsmarting the naive youngsters. Honestly, if a doctoral student is looking for a thesis subject on mythology, a comparison of these little morality fables to Br’er Rabbit and Native American Coyote Trickster tales would offer some great insights.

The fact that they are being dusted off again, after circulating during Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” indignation and the reign of the “Angry White Males” of midterm elections in the Clinton years, is fascinating. What is it now that brings out the stories of white male wit and triumph?

Obama is giving tax breaks to those shiftless, lazy, homeless, naive Americans earning less than a quarter million dollars per year!

These days, from the privileged Republican perspective, redistribution of the tax burden off of the middle class and onto those earning more than a quarter million dollars a year is equivalent to giving money to homeless people. The guy driving a “lesser” BMW and earning only $190,000 is analogous these days to the chimerical Welfare Queens driving their mythical Cadillacs in less skewed times.

Does that strike anyone else as odd? The Republicans are hooting and hollering because the redistribution of American wealth may shift from a shoveling dollars to those with incomes over a quarter million dollars a year to allowing it to stay with those somehow scraping by on something less than a quarter million dollars a year!

And this comes weeks after $700 billion got redistributed to Wall Street firms so they could fund trips and bonuses.

The horrors! The oppression! These are dark times, indeed, if you are struggling to get by on a quarter million dollars a year and a presidential candidate is asking you to step up and shoulder burdens similar to those you had to shoulder during the era of Clintonian Peace and Prosperity.

A better writer would close after mocking the uber-wealthy and their strange obsession with telling apocryphal myths illustrating their wit in the face of oppression by their unworthy underlings, but I have to go one more step and explode another myth that underlies these tales.

On the whole, the very well-paid don’t work much harder than the average worker. They happen to be in positions where they generate more wealth, and I have no problem with them getting paid what they are getting paid, but they are NOT, by and large, working harder than you are.

There are a hell of a lot of minor-leaguers working a hell of a lot harder than Johnny Damon is. There are legions of middle-managers putting in longer hours than the people in the Executive Suite. The average factory worker goes home a lot more weary than the owner who happens to have inherited the company.

It’s not hard work that pays in our economy. It’s education, connections, innate talent, good judgment, the socio-economic class you were brought up in, ability to handle stress, and good old-fashioned luck. I’m not saying that well-paid workers don’t deserve their high salaries, but don’t try to argue that hard work is what makes the difference. It’s harder actual work to run the counter at McDonald’s than it is to be regional manager in charge of inventory, but the pay difference favors the regional manager. Again, the stress level, educational and intellectual demands, and other factors more than justify the pay differential, but when the wealthy start describing hard work to you, remember that they have to pay a personal trainer to help them break a sweat.

Debate Parties

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Tonight, as on the evenings of prior 2008 debates, I’ll be joining friends clustered around a television set to watch the debate between President-elect Obama and Senator-Since-Before-Keating-Scandal McCain. It’s kind of a funny phenomenon, but I’ve participated in and heard about more such parties this year than in prior years. For the home-bound, there’s even a blogger chat-room to provide a sense of community, hosted with video by Kansas City’s most awesome blogger.

It sucks to be a Republican right now. Most polls show McCain/Palin down by double digits, and the Dems have this overwhelming sense of community, anticipation and excitement that must really be annoying from the perspective on the lesser side of the aisle. Even hopes of some October surprise (what could it be? bin Laden surrendering to McCain personally?) are fading, as they realize that the real October surprise is going to be quarterly retirement account statements that count as campaign mailers for change.

I think tonight is going to be the best debate of the bunch. McCain, quite correctly, believes he needs to score big. He’s abandoned the high road already, so look for him to start slinging mud, and look for him to finally summon the courage to look Obama in the eye when he does it. And look for Obama to respond calmly and firmly, triggering that famous McCain rage that is causing him facial spasms already. The only question is how ugly it will get.

Through it all, though, McCain will be somehow less than Obama – an attacker trying to bring down a bigger man. In the end, Obama will appear more presidential than McCain.

It will be good to see it all with friends. Somehow, seeing Obama wax Presidential while McCain wanes is something to be enjoyed with a sense of community, and celebration. Yes, we can.

Single Issue McCain Calls a Time-Out

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Honestly, when I first saw the breaking stories that McCain is suspending his campaign to come to DC and address the “fiscal crisis”, I wondered if it was some odd “Half-way to April Fool’s Day” joke.

How is it helpful to the process or to McCain? He’s not on the committee handling the legislation, he’s not an expert in economics (that’s not a partisan attack – that’s a self-assessment), and the last thing anybody needs here is more false urgency as the guys in suits gravely tell us we need to give them money quickly so they can help us.

Is anyone on earth somehow feeling better about McCain because he feels he cannot possibly give this issue the attention it deserves while continuing on with his scheduled activities? In a McCain administration, will the United States have only one issue facing it at a time – will we have a season for making sure Wall Street rich people remain sufficiently “incentivized”, a season for national defense/Halliburton, a season for energy policy/Exxon, and a season on tax reform? (But not a day for environment or civil rights, of course.)

I like to think that the next president of the United States will be able to walk from a briefing on China to a policy meeting on immigration to a press conference on corporate governance to an international summit on Greenhouse Gases without hitting overload on his intellectual capacity.

McCain can’t do that.

When McCain announced his suspension, he called a metaphorical time-out on third and debate. Like a quarterback looking across the line of scrimmage and seeing the linebackers preparing to blitz, he buckled under the pressure. One linebacker was named Palin’s Faltering Image. Another linebacker was Voter Memory of the Keating 5. Another linebacker was Increasing Worries About His Health. 100 Years of Iraq was another linebacker ready to lay a hit on him. And the biggest linebacker was Obama, looking fast and healthy and ready to sprint in and toss him for a bone-crushing loss as soon as the debate whistle blows. It seems like there are too many players on the field!

No wonder he called time-out. Today, he gets to go huddle with his Head Coach, George W. Bush, and maybe regain his nerve. But eventually he’s going to have to face that snap. He’s scared, he’s weak, and he can’t hand the ball off to anyone.

He’s out of time-outs, and the opposition is ready to swarm him. In the real world, you can’t only focus on one issue at a time.

Shamelessly Stolen from BlogCCP

Friday, September 5th, 2008

BlogCCP has really come into its own lately, and I anticipate it being the top source of local progressive perspectives on the coming campaign season. During the convention, it had two writers providing content fresh from Denver – great stuff!

Yesterday, it provided the following gem:

Quote of the Day
Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama for leaving the comforts of a big firm and becoming a community organizer. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Quote of the Day – “Or, you know, maybe someone needs to remind Sarah Palin that Jesus Christ was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor.

Cokie Roberts, John McCain, and the Foreign Land of Hawaii

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Cokie Roberts is catching a little heat today because she twice has attacked Barack Obama for vacationing this week in Hawaii, which she describes as “some sort of foreign exotic place.” She actually criticized him for not being American enough, because he went to visit his grandmother where she lives, in one of America’s 50 states.

Predictably, the leftwing blogosphere is agog at her foolishness. They quite correctly pick up on the fact that the traditional media will stretch to any length if they can make Barack Obama seem scary and different. This is not the longest stretch – merely the most recent and most transparently stupid.

But this particular mistake points to something bigger. When Cokie Roberts was born, all the way through her mid-teens, Hawaii was NOT a state. She was 15 when Hawaii finally became a state – well past the age of geography quizzes and memorizing state capitals.

Like John McCain, Cokie Roberts came of age in an America of only 48 states. To John McCain and Cokie Roberts, Alaska and Hawaii remain foreign, exotic lands. Their America – the America they learned about when they were in elementary school, the America they first pledged allegiance to, the America they grew up with – was not the America of today.

This year’s election will be an historic generational shift. The White House will shift from those who view America as something less than what it really is to those who grew up in a country with 50 great states.

And if that makes Cokie Roberts feel like she’s a stranger in s strange new land, so be it.

The new America does not see Hawaii as “some sort of foreign exotic place”. It’s America, and it is time to have a leader from the generation that knows it.

More Paris Hilton/John McCain Fun

Friday, August 8th, 2008

If you enjoyed the video that Paris Hilton did in response to John McCain’s ad comparing Obama to her because they’re both better-liked than he is, you might enjoy their IM transcript.