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Me, I Disconnect from You December 7, 2010

Posted by monty in Uncategorized.
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2 comments

I just don’t know what to think about Obama anymore.

I’ve been a political cynic as long as I can remember.  When my high school had a mock trial for the 1990 midterm elections, I wrote a lengthy diatribe on the ballot about how any election was simply a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils and it didn’t really matter what person was in office.  Apparently my handwriting was more recognizable than I thought, because later that day a history teacher accosted me in the hall, screaming about how I was “dead wrong.”  So much for the secret ballot.

My general indifference continued through the 1992 election and ’96 elections (I was pro-Clinton, but was I really going to be pro-Bush or -Dole?), and I didn’t really get my dander up until the Bush debacle in 2000.  Even then, it wasn’t so much an endorsement of the Democratic party on my part as much as it was disgust at the nimrod who had been swept into office on the back of the Supreme Court.

It took Obama to get me excited.  He was going to fight for universal health care, closing Guantanamo, and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  He was smart and funny, he was young, and he seemed willing to go to the mat in defense of those things in which he believed.  I threw my weight behind him whole-heartedly, and, like many in this country in 2008, I believed.

But now?  Not so much.

It started with the administration’s handling of the health care bill – drawing out that debate torturously month after month; finally, after all that consternation, passing a candy-ass simulacrum of a real health care bill; and then, in a final insult, not campaigning hard behind it, weak as it was, to let the public know that there actually was some good stuff in it.  So now we have a health care bill that hardly anyone knows anything about and which the administration doesn’t seem interested in touting.  The perception seems to be that it’s a bill wreathed in shame, even though it’s at least a step in the right direction.  But the mishandling of the process and the shortcomings of the final product have to be laid at the feet of Obama and his party, who were unequivocally in control of Washington during the debate.

My disillusion got up a full head of steam as soon as I learned about Obama’s education policies.  I’ve discussed this issue in more detail elsewhere on this blog, so I won’t rehash the past now.  One thing I will say, though, is that the intervening months between that post and this one have only made me sadder and more frustrated.  Obama has doubled down (through Education Secretary Arne Duncan) on the idea that more testing is the key to a better education.  I’m reminded of the quote by the late, great James Moffett, which went something like this: “Frequently measuring your height doesn’t make you taller.”  As usual, teachers have been left almost entirely out of this conversation, so now we have the new Common Core Standards (developed by the very testing companies that stand to profit from them), a push to evaluate teachers based on the test scores of their students, and a misguided belief that if we just throw enough money at charter schools, everything will get better overnight.

(And, as a side note, you should all be glad I wasn’t blogging a couple months ago when NBC aired its propaganda hack job, “Education Nation,” which practically gave Davis Guggenheim’s anti-teacher, anti-public school puff piece Waiting for “Superman” a blow job on national television.  I was not a happy fella that week.)

And now there’s this deal with the taxes, adding more to the deficit and lining the pockets of the people who got us into this fiduciary mess in the first place, all in the name of playing nice with a political party that’s going to tar and feather Obama no matter what he does.  What – did he really think that he was going to wipe the slate clean with Boehner and crew by extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich?  If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that trying to “compromise” with the GOP is a zero-sum game.  If Obama cured cancer, they’d lambaste him as a Socialist for using tax dollars to do so.  Extending the tax cuts for the rich was a craven thing to do – and he can deny this all he wants – all in the name of political expedience.

I’m mad at the Republicans too, don’t get me wrong.  But in a way I’m less angry with them because I’ve come to expect them to obstruct and, as the party of old rich white dudes, I can’t fault them for playing to their base.  I only wish Obama had the courage to do the same.  Because, see, right now he doesn’t need the Republicans to defeat him.  The Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, are the most self-defeating bunch of ninnies I’ve ever seen.  Instead of taking the fight to the Republicans and drawing a line in the sand about their beliefs, they bow and scrape and kowtow as though it’s going to make any difference.  The result is twofold, with neither half being any good.  They give the Republicans more or less exactly what they want, and in the process, the very people who trusted Obama, who believed in him, who voted for him, are being told that their faith was misplaced.

I know – and so, likely, does Obama – that I don’t have a real choice here.  It’s not as though I’m going to vote for the Republicans in 2012.  And it’s not as though a vote for a third party candidate amounts to anything except a feeling of smug superiority as I exit the voting booth.  So it’s either not vote at all, or vote for the guy who’s not as bad as the crazy bitch from Alaska, the rich Mormon, the fat Bible thumper, or the disgraced lunatic.  It’s not a choice at all, but it’s what we’re going to be faced with in a couple years, and it’s unbelievably disheartening to see how quickly I’ve become cynical again.

Thanks, Obama.  Bang-up job you’re doing.

*****

Current listening:

Rjd2 – Since We Last Spoke (2004)

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Apologies to Insect Life January 1, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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3 comments

Somehow I’ll have to overlook the fact that 2009 took John Hughes and Patrick Swayze (by all accounts, two of the kindest, most good-hearted men in show business) from us, but left Rush Limbaugh alive and kicking.  What I can’t overlook, though, is the statement he made about his recent hospitalization: “I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the American health care system.  It is working just fine.”

This arrogance perfectly encapsulates everything that’s wrong with the position held by the opponents of health care reform.  They think that because their health care is just hunky-dory, that means it’s working for everyone else.  Let’s keep in mind that Limbaugh makes, depending on whom you ask, somewhere between $28 and $34 million a year, just from his broadcasting contract with Clear Channel.  So of course the health care system works just fine.  He could probably buy the hospital that treated him.

The important question to ask him, though, is this:

Rush, if you made $30,000 a year and didn’t have employer health insurance or weren’t wealthy enough to pay out of pocket, how well would you think the health care system is working?  If you were suddenly faced with a hospital bill that totaled more than you make in a year, would you think we have the best system in the world?

This is why a strong public option (or, dare I say it, a single-payer system) is vital: to protect those who can’t protect themselves.  But the GOP doesn’t see it this way.  Their health care bills are covered, and their salaries are healthy enough to bear the brunt of anything not covered.  The rest of the great unwashed, as far as the Republicans are concerned, can go fuck themselves.

And I don’t know if this is a piece of the puzzle or not, but I can’t help but wonder to what degree Limbaugh’s chest pains can be attributed to the fact that he’s a morbidly obese, cigar-smoking, ex-drug addict who peddles manufactured rage.  Shouldn’t these dangerous lifestyle choices somehow disqualify him from insurance coverage?

I know, I know.  In a perfect world.

*****

Current listening:

The Clash – Combat Rock (1982)

Waiting for the End of the World November 6, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
Tags: , ,
3 comments

health-care-protest1

When did white people in this country get so angry?  Maybe it’s always been this way and I’m just now noticing it, but it strikes me as increasingly bizarre that the demographic that has been in control in this country since, well, ever, now seems to think they’ve lost their country, all because the Democrats want to make sure everyone has access to affordable health care.  How dare they?

I know I’m not the first one to point this out, but I think a lot of it has to do with – to put it politely – the darkening skin tone in this country.  I first became aware of this undercurrent of rage while living in Southern California.  The state’s reputation as being progressive, accepting, and forward-thinking is due primarily to the influence of San Francisco and Hollywood.  Venture outside those areas, though – to, say, Orange County or the desert communities in the central part of the state – and you’ll encounter racist rednecks that would have some Southerners smiling in admiration.  And they’re mad.  Boy, are they mad! They cover their cars with Confederate flags and iron crosses and bitch about Mexicans stealing their good jobs – because, you know, lots of white Californians are lining up to do yard work in Palm Springs.  But, again, it’s based in this weird notion that they’ve lost their country, despite the fact that white people overwhelmingly run the government, the insurance industry, the banks, and just about any other large-scale entity you’d care to name.

obamagrannyAnd now white folks are angry about health care.  The problem, of course, is that they’re not really angry about health care.  If health care was the problem, they’d trouble themselves to actually learn about the bill, do some research, figure out which specifics are most objectionable to them, and then launch a reasoned, intelligent campaign to effect change.  But no.  They repeat the same tired old lis that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and, sadly, Michelle Bachmann and other members of the Republican leadership have been spoon-feeding the more reality-challenged of the right-wing.  You know what I mean: death panels, Obama wants to kill your grandma, the government gets to choose your doctor, and the biggest bugaboo of all: SOCIALISM. Empty, meaningless catch-phrases all, and specifically designed by the right-wing to scare its followers into hating the Democrats more than they already do.

health-care-protest So now we get these hordes of angry white people descending on Washington every few weeks to protest something they don’t really understand.  It makes for good entertainment, and I guess it makes them feel better.  Chez, over at Deus ex Malcontent, does a nice job comparing the lunatic ravings of this week’s health care protest with the comparatively calm and rational protest last week against the meeting of the National Bankers Association.  But therein lies the problem.  How many of you actually knew there was a banking protest last week?  I didn’t.  Say what you will about the Republicans – both the sane and the insane among their ranks – they know how to get press and how to get things done.  While the left-wing splinters into the far-left, the moderates, and the Blue Dogs (who seem to just want to be Republicans but are afraid to come out of the closet), Bush, Cheney, and the GOP-controlled Congress at the early part of this decade would just ram any old thing they liked down the throats of the American voter.  Similarly, leftist protests are either veddy, veddy proper, like the banking one in Chicago, or they’re conducted by unabashed nut-jobs like Code Pink that no one can take seriously.  The Republicans, on the other hand, mobilize their supporters, get ex-politicians to craft strategies for disrupting town hall meetings and find billionaires to bus protesters to rallies. In politics – unlike athletics – the team that wins is the one that wants it more.  And the Republicans, simply put, don’t like feeling powerless.

I don’t know where that leaves us as a nation.  The irrational anger troubles me.  The fact that the number of threats against the president has increased 400 percent since Obama took office troubles me.  The fact that we don’t seem able to have a calm discussion about anything anymore troubles me.  I try – and try much harder than I’m used to – to be optimistic, but what this continually reveals about a large percentage of the American people is that they’re an ignorant, fearful, reactionary, easily influenced bunch.  I think things are only going to get uglier as we gear up for the 2010 midterm elections, and all hell is going to break loose in 2012.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already planning an exit strategy of my own.

*****

And then there’s this.  I didn’t want to devote a whole post to it, but since we’re on the subject of angry white people, I thought I’d share this little bit of spooky anti-Semitic mail I received yesterday.  A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Sarah Silverman, and in the process of researching her I found a really scary WordPress site essentially devoted to anti-Semitic ramblings about the Jewish conspiracy, Jewish inferiority, blah blah blah.  I posted a few condemnatory words about it, and then didn’t want to give it any more attention than it deserved.  Yesterday, on that post, I received this comment, from someone going by the name Jackumup:

Wow you kikesters are true Americans. Free speech by kikester definition means the ability to produce porn for profit with out fear of retribution from the catholic church as they did to your parasitic fore schemers in the 30’s, free speech means to write any accusations against Christians then scream ant-semitism when you are prosecuted, using christian laws against the Christians to silence them by funding your Marxist groups such as the ADL, ACLU, JDL, NAACP
And you wish you didn’t have to hear us tell the truth well, very soon you and yours won’ t have to, The day of the kikester is coming to an end

So, yeah.  It’s good to know I’m part of the kikester conspiracy to take over the world.  At least I’m in good company.

*****

Current listening:

Johnny grace

Johnny Foreigner – Grace and the Bigger Picture

Current reading:

BANR2005-full

George Saunders – “Bohemians” (in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, ed. by Dave Eggers)

Last movie seen:

observe_and_report

Observe and Report (Jody Hill, dir.)

Call the Ceasefire October 29, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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public option

I promise I’m not being a dickish liberal when I say to the Republicans, it’s time you either show us your health care reform plan, or you concede that you really have no interest in fixing the system.

I’ve long suspected that the only reason the GOP is even paying lip service to the idea of reform is because A) a majority of the American people wants it, and B) they know Obama’s pushing for it, and they can’t reasonably oppose the Dems’ plan without at least pretending to have an alternative.  Unfortunately for the Republicans, it’s getting close to put-up-or-shut-up time.  Now that the House Democrats have unveiled their bill, the onus is on the Republicans to demonstrate that all this resistance they’ve been showing is because they have a far superior plan in their arsenal.

Of course, they don’t.  Der.

Today, Republican tool extraordinaire John Boehner finally admits the GOP doesn’t have a plan:

QUESTION: Is it your plan to have one Republican alternative that you all would get behind and endorse?

BOHNER: We have a number of ideas that we would like to proffer in this process, and we’re not quite sure how the majority intends to proceed. And so until we understand how they intend to proceed, it’s pretty difficult for us to have a solid plan.

So, in other words, the Republicans have no ideas.  None.  Zero.  Because if they had a great plan – a plan that was so much better than the Democratic one they’ve been lambasting for freaking months – surely they would have put it together by now, right?  I mean, can you imagine a better time to unveil their bulletproof plan than the very same day the Democrats unveil theirs?

What a coupe de grace that would be for Boehner!  Nancy Pelosi wheels her rickety old bones up the Capitol steps, delivers her little speech presenting her party’s dopey plan, and then, moments later, Boehner springs into action in a cloud of spray tan and Brylcreem, upstaging her with the Republican plan that fixes everything!  All that talk of Kanye upstaging Taylor Swift would be forgotten in an instant because this – this! – would become the archetype generations would call on when they heard the word upstage.

But did the GOP do this?  Nope.  Not even close.  The preface to that empty-headed little quote just above was a reporter asking Boehner if the Republicans would post their plan online for 72 hours, especially since they had excoriated the Democrats for months about their “secret meetings.”  Here’s the exchange (and please note Boehner’s eloquence and specificity):

QUESTION: Will the Republicans put their alternative online for 72 hours as well?

BOEHNER: Uh, we’ll uh, we’ll have our ideas ready. Don’t worry.

So, to sum up the Republicans’ current position on health care:

  • We hate the Democrats’ plan.
  • All those people who currently can’t afford health care will now have to wait in long lines for health care, and lines are unAmerican!
  • It’s evil incarnate.
  • It will kill grandmothers throughout this great country, robbing them of their ability to enjoy baseball and apple pie.
  • It’s socialism the likes of which we haven’t seen Hitler’s Germany.
  • (Psst!  It will kill your grandmother!)
  • Spending money for health care = bad; spending money to kill brown people = good.
  • We don’t have a bill of our own.
  • But we still hate the Democrats’ plan.

Look, I don’t even think the Democrats’ plan (at least what I’ve read so far) is all that great.  It looks to me like a neutered, ineffectual wisp of a plan that accurately reflects all the bullshit compromises the Dems have made every step of the way.  I don’t for a second begrudge the Republicans their right to oppose the Democrats’ plan.  It would be foolish and naive to expect them to agree with it.

My problem, though, is that you can’t say you support health care reform and then do nothing to back up that statement.  We hear all this blah blah blah about tort reform and cutting overhead and whatever other ideas they have that supposedly help the consumer but which actually help the insurance companies, and I’d probably hate that plan more than the Democrats’, but at least it would be something concrete.  It strikes me that it’s hard to craft a bipartisan plan when one of the parties won’t even bring any ideas to the table.  And, in a way, it’s foolish of the Republicans not to strike when the iron is so clearly hot.  The Democrats now supersede the amoeba in lack of backbone, so for the Republicans not to approach the issue with a solid plan chock full o’ specifics seems to be silliness of the highest order.  The Democrats have proven themselves willing to roll over for just about anything in recent months, so why aren’t these supposedly opportunistic Republicans taking advantage?

The point I’m making here is that substantial health care reform in this country is doomed.  Neither side takes it seriously enough to actually do anything about it.  The Democrats will waste their 60 seats, the Republicans will bitch and whine their way to a significant number of 2010 election wins, and three years from now we’ll be back where we started.  And we’ll have no one to blame for it but ourselves.  A selfish, ignorant populace begets a selfish, ignorant Congress.

The old adage that every country gets the government it deserves has rarely been truer than it is today.

*****

Current listening:

Bruce greetings

Bruce Springsteen – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Current reading:

BANR2005-full

Stephanie Dickinson – “A Lynching in Stereoscope” (in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, ed. by Dave Eggers)

The Greatest Shakedown October 5, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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cartoon_2006_june

I’m not an economist or a Constitutional scholar, so I don’t profess to know all the ins and outs of the current health care reform  debate.  That’s the main reason why I don’t really talk about it much; I don’t have the knowledge base to speak about it authoritatively.  But the more I read about it, and the more I hear it debated on TV, the more frustrated I get.  It seems to me that the ability to receive quality heath care shouldn’t be predicated upon whether or not you can afford it.  That’s really the crux of the matter.  Under the current system, health care is so insanely expensive to procure that you either have to be wealthy or have some of the cost defrayed by an employer.  If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you’re screwed, and that seems fundamentally wrong to me.

I’ve lived with asthma for most of my life, my dad has diabetes, and my mom is battling cancer yet again.  An inability to receive health care would certainly be catastrophic to my parents, and it would make my daily life a lot more interesting (and wheezy).  Where’s the logic in a system that says, in effect, “It’s a good thing you have jobs that help you pay for health care, otherwise you’d be screwed”?  Why is that in any way acceptable?  Why aren’t people rioting in the streets over this?

And yet people are essentially lining up to preserve a system that has been proven to be inefficient at best and immoral at worst.  Most of the people crying “Socialism” seem to base their problems with health care reform on a fear of big government.  Okay, but where’s the sense in simply sticking with a system that doesn’t work for so many without even exploring the efficacy of another way?  Or, simply put, what if expanding government’s role in health care actually makes things better?  Is the thought of big government so toxic that it justifies keeping millions of people uninsured and allowing costs to skyrocket even further, making health care even more unattainable?

Using a supposed fear of big government as an excuse to maintain the status quo seems inexcusable to me.  “I’m sorry you have cancer and can’t afford treatment, but the government is just too big as it is.”

But what do I know?  Even though it’s a month old, I’ll defer to an article by the always-dependable Matt Taibbi to set the record straight on how Congress has managed to fuck up virtually every facet of health care reform.

Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone, 9/3/09): Sick and Wrong: How Congress Is Screwing Up Health Care Reform – and Why it May Take a Revolt to Fix It

*****

Current listening:

PJ rid

PJ Harvey – Rid of Me