Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whose dissent?

Is it obvious to say that I have been distracted in the last couple of weeks, as the tax season ended. Although I should have had more time, I used that up by taking care of some things I couldn't during tax season, and taking up some new activities. The net result was that I let blogging go for a while.

But I am still paying attention to politics, and decided I wanted to respond to Jack Kelly's column today. He is writing about the criticism of criticism of the President, that some liberals call it sedition. My first reaction is "Have we been here before?". Kelly puts on his usual sorts of blinders, and makes some tortured leaps and stretches, to establish how hypocritical and evil Democrats are. Well, let's be sure, the Democrats could be more up front about how this is at least a bit like a Twilight Zone episode, but I think they are a bit less hypocritical than .their conservative critics.

Back in 2000, before 9/11, a majority of the country liked either Al Gore (the biggest part) and Ralph Nader (a much smaller but statistically significant fraction) more than George Bush. But because there were more Republican Presidents in office than Democrats in the previous thirty years, and because Bill Clinton had combined a reasonably successful Presidency with a very scuzzy personal life, a majority of the Supreme Court liked Bush better, and it happened to matter.

Then right after 9/11, no one wanted to criticize President Bush, even though a lot of us had little faith in him. Sad to say, he often took the opportunity to prove us right, from failing to actually get Osama Bin Laden when (as far as anyone knows) he had the chance, to just lying totally to us and also totally mishandling Iraq, to allowing the economy to take advantage of the mistaken legislation Clinton had (obnoxiously) allowed to pass. But more than that, Bush, Cheney and company used 9/11 to bludgeon us, that we need the government to protect us, and in exchange we could not question their actions or (maybe more important) motives.

When Kelly insinuates that the Democrats want to silence and perhaps disenfranchise the dissenting Tea Party people, he seems to want to make the case that the Democrats protested as much during the Bush years. Other conservatives (such as David Brooks on Meet the Press today) make the point that given how the Democrats have handled the economy and the wars during the past year, the anger in this country against the Democrats now is justified. And as a minority party, all the Republicans can do without the cooperation of Democrats is threaten to filibuster.

But maybe there are a few different kinds of protest. We all remember the protest of college kids in the 70’s, which was idealistic and earnest, but did not involve a lot of in depth argument about the state of policy (domestic or foreign, economic or anything else). Some of the protest during the Bush administration took that form, to be sure, but some of it was from academics and long time Democratic politicians, who maybe took a more complicated view of things. Bush's polls numbers toward the end of his administration included people who carried poorly spelled signs in marches, but also included the majority of the rest of us, smart or stupid.

Now currently Democrats poll numbers are lower than they were, and Republican numbers are up a bit. Obama’s victory in Health Care Reform (which was really accomplished by Congress, but whose counting) did not give him as much of a bump as he might have hoped for. Of course, that is after a year of Republican scare tactics.

But when it comes to the form of protest against the current administration, I am going to risk being offense (and of course, wrong) and say that I don’t think it rises to the level of sophistication of at least some of the protest against the bush administration. Even as they were saying Democrats want to kill Grandma, the Republicans conceded something had to be done about health care. Current arguments about Climate Change seem to rest on misinterpreting science. No one seems to be protesting Wall Street reform, but if they are, they seem to have to make the case that the crash of 1929 was a brilliant government policy.

Kelly points out that Democrats are even afraid that the Tea Party will lead the country into civil war; but according to Kelly it is Republicans who should be afraid of Democrats. Back in August two people were hurt by Democrat caused violence, one a woman by a Democratic party official who maybe interceded during an argument she was having with her husband over proposed health care reform and the other a black man, by union members for unknown reasons. Kelly didn’t say whether either injured person identified themselves as a tea Party member prior to being attacked; but beware, there might be roaming bands of liberal thugs waiting to beat conservatives. They’ve already struck twice (in the whole country!) in the last eight months.

But the main point of Kelly’s column was whether Tea Party protest is in any way seditious, or likely to breed another Timothy McVeigh. I think you have to say the answer to both questions is in fact yes, and that Republican politicians bear a lot of the blame for that. Republicans are using gut level arguments instead of sophisticated reasoning, to appeal to that base they acquired after 9/11, people who had never been interested in politics before. We've already had references to Confederate history, Texas discussing secession, and Poplawski, who probably would have been arrested and jailed at some point, but used an assault rifle on police because of his free of Obama's coming guns laws (you got the memo, rigth?).

But since the crowd being whipped up is not a naturally political crowd, it seems the Republicans have to ratchet up the rhetoric to keep them hooked. Of course, not being a typically political crowd, there is little danger of them becoming serious organized.

I have to say that Kelly is not entirely wrong in his complaint about Democrats being thin skinned, but he is awfully selective.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Jack's latest effort.

So last week I had ignored Jack Kelly's column. It did continue the new bizarre tradition of the Republican schizophrenia about what to think about Democrats taxing people. I mean, I guess Democrats are the prototypical tax and spend liberals, but then John McCain had suggested ending the tax benefit of excluding the cost of one's health insurance on one's taxes. And of course the Republicans complained about how Democrats had no way to pay for "Obamacare". But Kelly thought it was great sport to note how Henry Waxman hadn't read "Obamacare" and was thus showing how dumb Democrats are.

So perhaps Kelly has a point, but actually I didn't care that much. All I really took away is that the Health Care thing is actually pretty complicated, and I am OK with that.

But today's column, which is to say tomorrow's, is sort of different. Jon Stewart's Daily Show had a segment this past week about how similar Reagan's START reductions are to Obama's (each about a third, and Reagan talking about how wonderful it will be when no one has nukes).

Kelly goes on an interesting rant about how the Russians are a pathetic shadow of their formers selves. The economy and military are shot; the only thing they have left is their nuclear arsenal, which rather than allow to be bargained away by Obama, they will use on the America that Obama has left defenseless. Or we will be unable to resist the Iranians/Koreans, because our few remaining aging nukes that Obama does not want to allow to be replaced will fizzle if we try to use them against the enemies (or dupes of our enemies; our frenemies?) that surround us that might decide to attack us with fresh nukes and better technology (presumably the enemies, except England might not have forgotten that whole losing the colony thing). Or biological weapons, which according to Jon Stewart is one of the exception under which we can use nukes to retaliate, but according to Kelly is a huge loophole for our enemies. Amazingly, Kelly ends by actually taking a quote from Ahmadinejad (Iran's President) criticizing Obama's experience. We want to take seriously the world view of a man who denies the holocaust? But that is Jack Kelly for you.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

And then he delayed posting again ...

"Where is your Barack the magic negro post" you grumble, peeved. Well, I have two conundrums that are wrapped up together. First, you may remember the Coffee Party ("oh not that again, geez, give it a rest). Well, I kinda wish I could give it a rest but I done went and did a dumb thing. Someone suggested me, and I in my hubris agreed to accept, an interim post as "point person" betwixt the national coffee party team and the local groups. This means I would tell the local groups what the national team is thinking, and I would tell national how the local groups are doing. So just as taxes are ending, I should get busy with the Coffee Party. I was thinking seriously about going on blogging hiatus, as so many other local bloggers have done or do. On the other hand, I am so lackadaisical at posting, how could you tell?

Plus for me there was/is a question of whether there might be a conflict of interest, which is to say whether what I post on the Coffee Party Facebook page or post here might be seen as representing the opinions of the national Coffee Party (yeah, I do have a pompous streak like that). But then I thought, fuck it. Or fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. Or words to that effect. I'm not a supreme court justice or even a district court magistrate. So I should be able to say what I think, as long as I don't go off in too outrageous a direction. Except I don't have time right this second.

I will do that magic negro post, but I am not sure when. It came from a column that I believe was in the LA Times, if you want to look yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, April 02, 2010

New Post! Exciting! Challenging!

I have two new posts rattling around my brain, which I think I will use to keep momentum in posting. A couple more people a day read my blog when I post frequently, and I live for that extra person, so here goes…

The second post will be on Barack the Magic Negro, a topic that will require a bit of research, and also require me to find what is respectful in political correctness without sound too damn stupid about things. So here is the first post, about the Tea and Coffee parties.

Again with the Coffee Party? (maybe Mel Brooks’ voice saying that). Well, it is interesting to me, and it is my blog, so if y-

A bunch of readers either simultaneously or sequentially just switched to the “OMG!Yahoo” or “Survivor: Heroes and Villains” pages. Let’s see if I can make this interesting to you, like it is to me.

The first Coffee Party meeting I went to, one woman kept saying she did not want to join something that was just opposed to the Tea Party. I was never quite sure what she wanted the Coffee Party to do, although I think she and maybe some others also repeatedly talked about changing the name of the group. Anyway, she sent a Facebook message to the group saying she didn’t think she could stay in the group.

Of course, there are lots of groups out there in the country today. Besides the Tea Party on the right/loony side, there is MoveOn dot org on the left, something called DemocracyRising which may be only a Pennsylvania thing or might be nation wide and many other groups. If you join the one, two or three month old Coffee Party, please don’t make your first demand that the name of the party/group be changed.

To step back and return to some exposition/set up, a couple of other Coffee Party people mentioned that they had gone over to, I believe, a Tea Party Facebook page, and had posted some “challenging” or “provocative” statements (not using their real names). They were curious how the Tea Party people would react.

It is probably a little regrettable that they did that, in that right now there is a difficult poster on the Coffee Party Pittsburgh page, but be that as it may, what resulted was interesting. That result was … nothing. No reaction from any Tea Party person. They refused to rise to the provocation, they did not defend their views, make an effort to say where our posters views where mistaken, no rude or polite comebacks.

A bit more exposition/set up, a while back, I guess in February, some people in the Tea Party released a Tea Party Declaration of Independence. I don’t know who wrote it, and whether members voted on the text. So maybe it is unfair to suggest it represents the views of the Tea Party as a whole. Yet I have not heard that any part of the Tea Party has rejected it (It can be found here, by the way). It is longer than the other declaration of independence. I, for one, might suggest it is less eloquent. I don’t recall an anti-intellectual streak in the original, for example, yet the Tea Party version rails at the “educated classes” and “so-called experts” telling Tea Party members and Americans in general what to do.

Taking these disparate things together, the lack of dialogue in and the manifesto of the Tea Party, I am suddenly much more comfortable if people’s first reaction to the Coffee Party is to see it as the opposite of the Tea Party. If we are seen as willing to talk (courteously) with anyone, at least as long as they are courteous with us, and if we are seen as listening respectfully to anyone, be (s)he Harvard grad or high school dropout, I for one will be proud to be a part of the Coffee Party in any capacity. To listen respectfully, to me, means that you listen and you are persuaded to the extent that the speaker makes sense and has some knowledge or mental capacity that is also persuasive. In other words, I do give the expert his or her due, but recognize the possibility that there may be intelligent and thoughtful people who can also contribute to a dialogue.

The other attractive thing about looking at the Coffee Party in this fashion is that it opens up the political dimension. A Democrat or Republican wno wanted to claim membership in the Coffee Party would be one who approached political discourse in a civil manner. I would hope some local politicians might join the local Coffee Party, and make an attempt in their daily activities to live up to the goals of civility in discourse.

It’s not that things would exactly change if more people gravitated towards the Coffee Party. But despite our many failings as a nation and a species, we have evolved morally and socially, since the dawn or recorded history. I mean, yeah, Survivor strikes me as barbaric, as do some laws in some countries requiring the lopping of limbs (including heads). But these days most everyone frowns on owning slaves, and woman can vote in many places. If our political discourse changes to the degree that a few more people frown when someone utters a threat or rude word, that makes it kind of worth it.

(Not that South Park or the Daily Show should be censored, some things are sacrosanct).

Another one of my ...

Another one of my hand it off to somebody else posts.

Is Jack Krugman ..., no, wait, Paul Klugman, is the guy right? Is the crucial factor the size of the bank, or how regulated it is?

Basically Krugman is arguing to regulate the big banks, not break them up. Krugman argues regulation worked ever since the Great Depression (up to around the time someone started asking what the meaning of the word is is), and by the way those just-before-the-crash banks weren't big, they just managed to fail in a series. I would suggest we have guys experienced in breaking up companies, such as Carl Ichan (make him Secretary of Fixing Market Failure and Kicking Butt). Personally I'd be OK with both regulation and breakup, but I think Krugman thinks if we get one, we won't get the other. Of course we may not get either, but hey, a (cautious, moderate, pragmatic) black man was elected Prez, and we got (sort of) health care reform. We can (almost, maybe) do anything.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Drill, but not on the left coast ...

I haven't looked at even the opinion pieces on Obama's new policy for drilling for oil everywhere on the right coast, so I can't even express misinterpreted facts... Oh yeah, of course I can, since when did being uninformed ever stop an American.

And actually I have looked just a bit of some opinion pieces (well, one piece), and l looked at the blurb on another. "Obama announces a new policy with sensible limits" or a quote to that effect. So it is sensible to ruin the view from the Outer Banks, but not Big Sur? Well, if the South is making noises about going to the Republicans, while California, Oregon and Washington seem more kindly disposed towards Democrats remain untouched ...

What struck me was someone talking about how Obama can't seem to get anywhere on new energy (solar and wind?) or climate change in Congress. So he mentioned nuclear and clean coal in the State of the Union, and now has this nugget/crumb to toss to Republicans; the whole right coast opened up for drilling.

Obama has gone here before. The stimulus went to Congress with a lot of tax cuts in it already, and though the Republicans stonewalled in the House, in the Senate because of either Harry Reid or Obama or both, the Republicans were given the opportunity to step up. Three (the two from Maine and Arlen) did, and reportedly got everything they asked for (true? false? who knows?). Obama was supposedly interested in making health care reform a bipartisan effort form the start, and still made overtures in September to the Republicans on HCR (after a bruising summer), offering to give them a prize in Obama caving on tort reform. But as we know the Republicans had turned into the party of nope, using (seriously) distortions to play on the fears of some in the public about HCR.

Now Obama (who is more and more clearly a pragmatic moderate) is hoping that yet another gift to Republicans of a pre-concession will spur them to compromise on carbon taxes or switching subsidies from coal and oil to solar and wind. I suspect the Republicans are thinking "suckerrrr".