I urge the United States Senate to ratify the Start treaty.
- - President George H. W. Bush, December 8, 2010
Hmmm, I agree with Tim that Obama definitely plays for the endgame. In chess, there are positional players and aggressive players. Positional players try to get very subtle gains, mainly in the hope that small advantages will be very clear as they approach the end of the game. They will often go to what may seem like elaborate lengths to control a few squares or separate two of their opponent's pawns, which would seem like throwing rocks at tanks in the heat of battle, in hopes of denting them. The idea is that all else being equal, the dented tank loses. I have found this to be true, in chess.
I am pretty sure that Obama went after healthcare because it was the most unreachable target. It was an enemy that every president claims they will conquer and one that has defeated anyone who dared try, even the almighty Clinton Dynasty. The economy always helps itself eventually. The difference a president can make to the economy of a nation that is largely at the mercy of global forces is not easily gauged or understood. The ability to pass universal healthcare of any worthwhile kind required a democratic congress and a democratic White House. This is something we may not see again for decades. Obama went after the most challenging target while he had the ammunition to take it out. The cost to America for getting this done: pay less attention to the most pressing needs of America in the short term (which happens to be dire economic problems). The cost to Obama for doing this: willfully turn over the legislature to the Republicans. It’s called a gambit in chess.
Had Obama pounded the podium and focused only on jobs and other pressing economic issues, he likely would have secured a second term (maybe), but not necessarily a place in history; and he may not have thought that was a good use of his potential.
It goes without saying that the unemployment extension was a huge win. He did not sell out, as he had given most of his resources to greater causes earlier, and was still able make some progress. He did what he could with what he had where he was and I remember someone important said to do that.
The tax cut for the wealthy was a huge victory for a great enemy that had not yet reached the battlefield. Passing the unemployment extension with it (and passing the tax cut for me, I suppose), was also a victory for Obama’s marching enemies, as it helped deplete more of Obama’s political clout he could have used against them when they arrive. So it was win-win-win. Obama won; I won; the enemy won.
The chart supplied by Mr. Deming is very telling. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is more skilled at making charts than I will ever be. It is unfortunate because I think it gives a bit too much credit to the king and not enough to the barbarians marching toward the kingdom. The citizens mostly huddle in fear as the war-cry’s get closer. Their pleading eyes and quivering lips meekly appeal to their leader for comfort. The enemy Obama faces is very strong and full of wild passion, a frightful crazy that he often seems unwilling to confront head on. Anxiety, bordering on panic, persistently rapes me as the enemy’s presence seems more real, but I still can’t shake an inexplicable trust for my king and what he achieves. He sees the barbarians, hears them, and turns in the other direction as he instructs us not worry. I think I am supposed to know everything will be OK, because my king is very capable and the enemy, well, they’re just crazy.
Shakin’ in my Boots and Pricing Diapers,
Democrats got a lot done in the last couple of years. They saved the country from another Great Depression. They rescued the automotive industry, with the prospect of taxpayers making a profit on the deal, regulated the financial industry to prevent another blowup, and finally passed the goal of a century - universal health care. Equal rights for women took a couple of huge steps, equal rights for gays advanced considerably in the court of public opinion, and student loan ripoffs by banks were ended. Yup. In the policy arena, Democrats did fairly well.
The biggest setback was economic, not a minor detail to be sure. The GOP, voting in lockstep, got just enough Democrats to join. They managed to filibuster the economic stimulus down to a holding pattern. No depression, but a recovery that is greatly disguised for those in desperate pain.
Politically, Republicans ate our lunch, and then some. Democrats lost 6 Senate seats and would have lost more, but for the crazies that Republicans nominated in place of actual candidates. We lost more Congressional seats than in any election in over 70 years.
The combination of legislative skill and political ineptitude by Democrats was breathtaking. The President decided early on to go for policy at the expense of politics. Had he pounded the podium with considerable vigor, staying on target, leading chants every weekend "We nedd jobs, NOW" things might have turned around in November. Why bail out automakers? Because we need jobs. Why health care reform? We need jobs. Why ANYthing? We need jobs. NOW!
So why didn't he do it? Because the alternate chant, the quiet one, prevailed. We need votes! Now! The idea was that even the most fair partisan points would have kept important votes just below the 60 super majority needed in the Senate. So the President walked softly. Very, very softly. As Republicans roared in unison, Obama became a political Tiny Tim, meekly tiptoeing through the tulips. And now the final cut - the tax cut.
Did we get screwed again politically for not finally making a strong case against the Republican do-anything-for-fat-cats reflex? Seems to me the political point about the GOP is clear as crystal. Did we lose on the tax front with a two year extension? Take a look at the outcome of a President negotiating from a position of weakness. Look closely.
Now, you tell me. Did the President sell out? Or did Republicans sell in?
Shoppers Get a Surprise
It had once been a code phrase used by racist Democrats. It was back when the term Dixiecrat was applied accurately to those whose hearts belonged to John C Calhoun and Jefferson Davis. When segregationist Herman Talmadge ran for governor of Georgia in 1948, he warned white voters of the dangers of the "block vote." Clever, that play on words. Everyone knew what he meant. Black voters were few, but if they ever were allowed to register in proportion to their true numbers ... well, everyone had seen or heard of Birth of a Nation. Talmadge walked away with the election.
In the mid-1960s and early 1970s segregationist Democrats were outraged as John F. Kennedy described the movement against racism as a moral cause, and Lyndon Johnson pushed landmark civil rights legislation. They left the Democrats and became the new core of the Republican Party, what had been the party of Lincoln.
And so, Republicans in North Carolina specifically, and though the old confederacy more generally, picked up the term. "Bloc voting" was used through the last two decades of the twentieth century. Since everyone knew "they" would vote as a block, "we" had better counter that. In 1984, Republican Jesse Helms warned that his Democratic opponent, Jim Hunt would be sending buses to round up the "bloc vote." This was not a departure from the norm. Similar appeals were made elsewhere. Helms was simply more direct.
We might expect any group of voters to react against those who despise them. Sharron Angle lost Hispanic voters with stereotypical ads designed to appeal to fearful whites. To characterize that as bloc voting is to ascribe a degree of organization unnecessary in generating a very human, rational, response. We tend not to support candidates who despise us.
It may be a sign of progress that even code words are fading a bit in their impact. The "bloc vote" no longer has the same power as it did even 10 or 20 years ago. Even newer scare words (Muslim?) seem destined to lose their significance. In time, we may see such accusations regarded as akin to warnings of a blue eyed voting bloc.
Sadly, that day is not yet here.
Invited last week by the ultra conservative Washington Times, Joe Miller explained why he continues to challenge the write-in votes that went to fellow Republican Lisa Murkowski. It seems native Americans, Alaskans, were organized by native corporations to vote as a bloc against him. "Scores of materials went out to the native villages - wristbands and campaign literature - and hired workers went door-to-door teaching people how to write Lisa Murkowski's name on the ballot." Alaskan bloc voting.
Joe Miller is now in court to have thousands of ballots thrown out if they contain even minor variations of "Lisa Murkowski." He stands against the dangers of Inuit voters. Bloc voting can't be allowed to prevail.
Spelling "Lisa Murkowski" with both i's dotted is the newest literacy test.
The native population apparently got the message. Supermajorities of numerous villages that had gone strongly Democratic in previous elections voted for Mrs. Murkowski last month.
- - Joe Miller, December 3, 2010
On the conspiracy of Alaska's Inuits to defeat him in his unsuccessful
campaign for the United States Senate.
It isn't hard to characterize antisemitism as dead and gone. Not hard, but hardly accurate. It is accurate to say that anti-Jewish sentiment is very much diminished in America from when I was a lad. The change can be seen in business and culture and religion. It is most striking in contemporary religious conservatism. The gradual movement of an all too easy tolerance of the term "Christ-killers", as we heard it in my youth, to the embrace of "God's chosen people" did not happen overnight, but it did happen.
The film Gentleman's Agreement was widely seen as subversive in 1947. Many of the stars were well established. Gregory Peck turned out to be invulnerable to the McCarthyism of the day. Dorothy McGuire and Celeste Holm dodged controversy. John Garfield wasn't so lucky. He was liberal, an activist for civil rights. And he was Jewish. A dozen investigations never showed him to be a Communist or even a Communist sympathizer, but the accusation arose repeatedly. The strain may have contributed to his fatal heart attack at age 39 just 5 years after the movie's release.
Over 60 years later, the film seems kind of tame, and anti-Jewish prejudice no longer seems respectable in the same way way anti-Muslim bigotry is.
Straight forward bigotry against Jews simply because they are Jews, went out of mainstream conservatism years ago. When William F. Buckley, before he died, concluded that Pat Buchanan is an anti-semite, it was correctly seen as a reluctant condemnation. Overt anti-Jewish bigotry became the province of the Aryan Nation, skinheads, the most ignorant of the ignorant, the dregs of humanity.
And so, it is a milestone of sorts that a serious move is afloat to replace the errant speaker of the Texas House of Representative. Arch conservative Joe Straus is guilty of a number of acts that make him a target of the sort of conservatism that now dominates the Republican Party. It is not difficult to cross the new GOP, and Straus has not been nearly careful enough.
The party has become a movement. It is a domesticated, non-lethal version of the French Revolution. As enemies within fall victim, new targets are sought. Liberals have long fled, leaving the GOP more conservative. Moderates are gone, leaving the base farther to the right. Those stalwart conservatives that fail ever more rigorous litmus tests are now falling, leaving the base teetering on crazy land.
A couple of years ago, Straus dallied briefly with a dozen GOP dissidents and 64 Democrats in a hot and bitter speaker's race. This has been mentioned in a few behind-the-scenes messages that have come to light. But the big factor, the most often decried crime that Straus has committed dominates emails and conversation. Tea party figure Ray Myers, a leader in the movement to oust the speaker praises the courage of an opposing candidate as "a Christian Conservative who decided not to be pushed around by the Joe Straus thugs." Conservative activist, Peter Morrison, echoes the feeling. Straus "clearly lacks the moral compass to be speaker." Another is more blunt. "Straus is going down in Jesus' name."
Straus is Jewish. It is not a minor consideration. In fact, it is the predominant reason to throw him out of the new Republican party. Such is the back-to-the-future state of contemporary conservative thought in Texas.
Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.
- - Coretta Scott King, April 1, 1998
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
- - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
When Dr. King mentioned the twin evils of interposition and nullification, the words hearkened back to pre-Civil War debates about slavery. John C. Calhoun was a firm advocate. Unlike most of his allies, he did not defend slavery as a necessary evil. He saw it as a positive good. His concept of interposition would allow any state to suspend any federal law by declaring it to be unconstitutional. Nullification went a little farther. Calhoun saw as a state prerogative the right to declare any federal law to be null within its borders, even if it was constitutional. Especially feared was the possibility that the federal government might one day outlaw slavery.
In August of 1963, when Martin Luther King delivered his I Have a Dream speech, the twin concepts had been born again, renewed with opposition to Civil Rights laws aimed at white-only state sovereignty. Governor George Wallace had become the twentieth century advocate, affirming the right of Alabama to enforce segregation and deny the validity of voting rights laws. In 1963, it was held by any but die hard segregationists to be a discredited view. Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution declared federal law to be "the Supreme Law of the Land." That is pretty clear as original intent. Today, even Antonin Scalia hasn't figured a way around it.
Many have called our attention to the increasingly scary right wing acceleration of the Republican Party. It was still startling to see Eric Cantor (R-VA), the incoming House Majority Leader, express interest in a variation of nullification. He urges fellow Republicans to keep an open mind. The specific proposal that has captured the interest of Representative Cantor comes from the speaker of the Virginia State legislature, Bill Howell. He wants a Constitutional amendment that would allow a group of state legislatures to join in overruling federal laws.
There are a lot of laws Howell just doesn't like. Those he mentions publicly have to do with taxes and voting rights of those electing US Senators. He would rather have taxes and voting issues determined by states. Cantor's new political position is a testament to the increasingly extreme power the right is developing in the GOP as the party itself shrinks.
As might be expected, some of us see states rights as an enduring code word. Today's advocates envision a United States system modeled after the old confederacy: A central government too weak to enforce voting rights for all. A union where any locality, backed by a majority of those who CAN vote, can overrule the civil rights of any targeted group.
A system in which John C. Calhoun would have found a comfortable home.
I would like to print a belated retraction (I would have done it earlier, but I took an extended period off in order to thank The Almighty for turkey. It took longer than I expected: lots of turkey).
As Mr. Deming pointed out, intolerance and hate do not define Christianity. I must apologize for implying that. I will discard any discussion of hate, which I reject as “not really the issue.” Intolerance is the issue, and it does not define Christianity. It defines Christians; not all of them, of course. Perhaps as few as 60%. Whatever the percentage is, it is far far greater than the percentage of Muslims who are terrorists, and very much unlike the Muslim terrorist, not only is Christian radicalism socially acceptable in the U.S., it is often assumed as the most righteous attitude in Christian institutions.
While it is evocative, the Muslim terrorist vs Christian fundamentalist comparison is equivalent to comparing a speck of dust to the moon since they can both be mistaken for round things and both are bumpy. While I admit this, there are some notable differences, such as the orbiting and light reflecting quality of one we all enjoy and the mite association we do not so much appreciate in the other. If you reach far enough, all things are comparable. A better comparison would have been a liberal, such as myself, who rails against Republicans as a group, which I sometimes do. To me that often seems bigoted, even though I am often guilty of this form of bigotry myself. If Christianity were a political party, it would be a conservative party with a predictable and objectionable agenda. Again, I mean no disrespect to any specific Christian or to the memory of Christ. There are lots of very open-minded, intellectual Christians and you do not have to borrow Diogenes’ lamp to find them. You do, however, have to stumble past the Christian majority.
There is some good news in all of this, though. I do not find Jesus to be intolerant or hateful. I believe that what he has come to represent is the best Christianity or Judaism has to offer. I in no way hold him accountable for the attitude of fundamentalist Christians, as he was not a Christian and I summarily reject guilt by association. I believe his recklessness arrogance was rewarded in the end. It is a shame he did not live to see the fulfillment of his dream, the religion created around his legend after his death. I think it is what he wanted most, and though it may not have seemed so at the time, his father did not forsake him.
I know I sound anti-Christian. I often do when I write because I am usually answering a Christian with whom I disagree. I actually have no real issue with Christianity. I enjoy the philosophical game it creates and I am glad our nation was built upon it. I disagree with 90% of what fundamentalists think and probably about 70% of what more rational Christians believe. The 10-30% of what’s left pays for itself.
A Dedicated Christian Advocate,
Slant Right's John Houk scrambles his thoughts again. He wants net neutrality, requiring government intervention, but wants it without government. Got it so far. He wraps up with an aside. The "left" controls mainstream media, and engages in a plot to stamp out conservative freedom of speech. What a guy.
James Wigderson declares the latest mass transit idea in Wisconsin DOA. And he makes the case. I like many conservatives. And I like talented, intelligent writers. Hard to take it when the both sides combine into one. Sigh. Well reasoned presentation.
- Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST is having a very discouraged day.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for those struggling against financial devastation. Pray for our troops.