Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Libya IV

The more news that comes out about our current dealings with Libya, the more uncomfortable I become, and I am bordering on becoming angry.  I really try hard not to be naive about things, but there are times when I prefer not knowing things until well after the fact.  The fact that I am now reading breaking news stories about Obama sanctioned CIA covert actions in Libya bothers me.  Though I have friends who believe otherwise, I just don't think that we need to be in Libya.  I was not convinced that our national interests were being affected by the events in Libya (my apologies to the rebels who might have faced massacre without our intervention), as President Obama explained.  I did not like that the end game is as nebulous as it has been in the other two wars that we currently are fighting.

Back in 2003, I argued that if we thought Saddam Hussein was so bad, then perhaps we should have assassinated him, and put in his place someone who met our national interests.  That could have been a covert action.  Of course there would have been risks involved, but perhaps war would not have been one of them, and certainly not the debacle we've witness for more than half a decade.  I would have been comfortable with a similar tactic in Libya.  It's no secret that much of the world thinks Qaddafi is mental, and certainly unfit to lead a nation.  So why not take him out?  Maybe this is the precursor to that type of action.  But I don't want to know that, not now, or even in the near future. 

Andrew Sullivan's words on this latest news resonated with me, and it is prudent to wait before articulating a more substantive position, but I needed at least to get what I've written off of my chest.  I wonder what candidate Obama would have thought of the actions of President Obama.

"You Know It's Hard Out Here for a Member of Congress?"

Now this is interesting.  Rep. Sean Duffy (a Real World alum, and married to another Real World alum) was asked by a constituent if he would support cutting the $174,000 (not including benefits) salary for members of Congress.  Apparently, he said that he would, but his hands are tied (that's fair, in that he cannot pass something like that on his own).  Duffy then goes on to explain the difficulties in stretching $174,000, since he is a father of six (with a stay-at-home wife, and a pretty good tax deduction per kid), still paying on his mortgage (there is talk that he is actually paying mortgages on two homes in Wisconsin), and still paying his student loans (there is a tax deduction there too for all of the interest paid, up to $2,500).  Mind you, as has been noted in other reports, the constituent who asked the question let Duffy know that he makes three times less than the Congressman.  In essence, it sounds like dude wasn't buying it. 

Now, as a veteran of group house living in the District, I know that Duffy can find a good deal on a group house in the city, so that should help cut costs.  If things are really getting rough, then perhaps the other Real World alum he is married to could go out and find some work.  I am sure that she could cash in on her past fame and bring in some extra cash.  Many families have two parents working outside of the home in order to make ends meet.  These are, after all, tough times.  Ultimately, I think that anyone trying to suggest that $174,000 a year leaves you struggling should be laughed out of the room.  Your average American family would see a salary like that, again not including the benefits, as a fucking lottery win.  Maybe Duffy should re-make that classic from the movie Hustle and Flow, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," and just change "Pimp" to "Member of Congress."

If This Man Ain't Crazy Boots

What a collection of lies, but I know that millions of folks think that what he says is gospel. All folks have to do is see what is happening in the states and DC, where marriage equality (civil marriage equality) exists.  Last I checked, not too much has changed. (h/t JMG)

Hen House, Meet the Fox II

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adolescent Music Flashback: Psychedelic Furs

I must confess that I first fell in love with the name Psychedelic Furs before I heard one song.  For some strange reason, I equated an "out there" name with good music.  Though, in the 80s that tended to work.  I just knew I was cool being among the first of my friends in junior high to be able rattle off the Psych Furs songs I liked.  I have to thank MTV for the introduction though. 

"Love My Way" was the first song I heard from the Psych Furs, and I was hooked.  Richard Butler's insouciant approach to singing was just plain fun, and I happily sang along, making sure my British inflections were just so.  "President Gas" was another song from that same album as "Love My Way" that was just incredible.

I remember seeing the videos for "The Ghost in You" and "Heaven" when I was in high school.  Again, there were two great songs, though I never felt compelled to buy a Psych Furs album or tape.  But it was the song "Pretty in Pink," particularly the version included in the soundtrack of the movie of the same name in '86 that sealed it for me.  What an incredible song.

It wasn't until years later that I finally bought a Psych Furs cd, and it was a compilation disc with songs from all of the previous albums.  It was on that disc that I remembered my old roommate in college (freshman year) used to play "Imitation of Christ" for me, after he found out that I had an interest in the group.  It was great to listen to that song again, as well as one that I completely missed, "Highwire Days."

No one in my family ever understood my appreciation of the Psychedelic Furs, and I am glad; that's something that I can enjoy on my own.

Be Careful with Blanket Statements (Though I Sometimes Use them Myself)

So, I saw this story over at Huffington Post regarding an op-ed that former Congressman (and current TV pundit) Joe Scarborough wrote over at Politico.  Scarborough's op-ed hammered the "American Left" for hypocrisy over President Obama's actions in Libya.  That's fine.  Hypocrisy stories are always the rage, when they are proven correct. 

Now the Huffington Post story I read, written by Jason Linkins, analyzed Scarborough's claim, and found some problems (even down to the names of people and organizations Scarborough specifically cited).  The central problem appeared to be that Scarborough opted to use his broad brush for the charge of hypocrisy, when a comb might have been more beneficial to his overall argument.  I've fallen into that trap myself, and have been called on it (as I should have been).

I've linked to both articles.  Check them out.  I think Linkins is on the money here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hen House, Meet the Fox

All I can say about this is read this New York Times article on General Electric and its efforts to avoid paying taxes in the U.S.  And no, I do not buy for a minute this notion that we are not friendly to business in the U.S.  And I am shocked that I actually agree with something the President Reagan did (see in the story).

On Libya III

I am looking forward to President Obama's address tonight regarding Libya.  I feel that my muddled previous posts reflect just how unsure I am about this entire affair.  I think that because there were point people in Egypt talking about a post-Mubarak state, I felt more comfortable about what could happen there with Mubarak's departure.  I think many are still asking who will take over Libya, should Qaddafi fall (this article from The New Yorker is a good one to read on who the rebels are).  I find it fascinating that members of Congress are asking about how we pay for this (shame they weren't asking those questions in earnest with the two wars and the Medicare Part D benefit), when they lovingly gave the top earners in the U.S. a tax cut we still can't afford.  Furthermore, what does NATO taking over really mean?  And I still don't think anyone knows what a win will look like.  How will we know?  Qaddafi's fall?  The rise of a fledgling democracy in Libya?  I hope the President will at least come close to answering some of these questions tonight.

On Geraldine Ferraro

I'd been struggling with what I wanted to say about the former Democratic VPOTUS candidate and trailblazer Geraldine Ferraro.  But, when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' post on Ferraro, I decided that I would just be lazy this time and give props to Coates for nailing my sentiments almost to the word.

A Minister's Change of Heart

As most people who read this blog know, I am not particularly religious.  I am also very leery of organized religion, regardless of faith.  Yet, it still remains an interesting topic.  I bring this up, because I found this article on Salon by a Presbyterian minister who had a change of heart regarding homosexuality and the church.  It's an interesting read.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vermont is Sounding Better by the Day

In light of my beginning sojourn into getting health care as an uninsured person, I found this post regarding Vermont's efforts to create a single payer health care system for its residents to be particularly interesting.  Though I've never had the pleasure of visiting Vermont, I've always appreciated the beauty and seeming tranquility of the state.  I am also really appreciating what the state seems to stand for with regard to its resident.  Vermont has marriage equality (passed by the legislature), a beautiful and cosmopolitan small city in Burlington, and rich history of independent thinking and freedom, and very possibly universal health care.  I might even be able to come to terms with my disdain for snow.  Hmmm.

Jon Stewart and Bret Baier

I really enjoyed Stewart's interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. It was funny in so many parts, and Stewart's perspective mirrors mine completely. Baier kept trying to maintain that only the opinion guys are coming from the right, which is laughable (ever watch more than 10 minutes of Fox and Friends or Megyn Kelly?). Now, I will admit that the only person's show on Fox that I can sit through without completely yelling or laughing at the screen is Shepard Smith's. Anyway, the interview is well worth watching.  Enjoy!

Part I
Part II
Part III

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Guess it's Different When Your Name isn't "Muslim-y"

Just follow this link, and read the story.  Now imagine if those two students had been Muslim.


On Elizabeth Taylor

For obvious reasons, the death of Elizabeth Taylor was going to be newsworthy.  She represented, for many, the epitome of a movie star.  I must confess that I've not seen very many of her movies, and right now, I can name only two that I've seen recently and remember:  "Suddenly, Last Summer," and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."  Of course the world knew that Taylor was good friends with the late Michael Jackson.  But I think that my impression of Taylor came through her early and indefatigable advocacy for AIDS research.  She will be missed.

"Malaise?" I Suppose it Depends on Your Point of View

I can't remember which site I was looking through when I found a video of President Carter's so called "malaise speech."  Now, I'd heard about this speech, and the commentary was usually in the negative.  I do recall that President Reagan was seen as the opposite of Carter in that regard.  So I took the time actually to listen to what Carter says in the speech, and I was gobsmacked.  So much of what he talked about was on the money, and it was stunning to hear it come from someone who sat in the White House.

I now can understand why folks on the right were repulsed by Carter.  I also have a better understanding of why people flocked to Reagan, at least to a degree.  I think that it was too much for folks to hear what Carter was saying.  I heard things in that speech that echo loudly today in our current politics and our current crises.  But who wants to hear that.  Americans are particularly turned off by looking in the mirror at the realities of our country.  I am sure that Carter's words, even listened to now, always will piss off people from the right.   

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Navigating the World of the Uninsured: So Now it Begins

Years ago, I injured my back during an intramural football game.  A couple of years after that, I tore my left calf muscle during a rugby practice.  I had health insurance during both of those instances (though the insurance I had for the football injury was my university's insurance).  It was during my recovery from the muscle tear, as i limped around Washington, DC with a cane going to and from work, and traveling for work, that I believe I ignited my original back problem that seemed temporary.  My gait changed with all of that limping, and my body worked to compensate during those weeks of recovery.  It was once I was able to walk normally again, that I noticed a discernible pain in my lower back. 

Now, I did find out that there were symptoms akin to sciatica that I was beginning to experience.  I did a month of physical therapy that was covered mostly by my health insurance.  The therapy helped in ways that I could not imagine.  And as with most people, once I was feeling better, I let down my guard.  I didn't maintain a regime of doing those core strengthening exercises, only revisiting them when my back would act up.

Meanwhile, I decided to leave my job that provided me with health insurance.  It was not a decision I made lightly, and I had some ideas in my mind of what I thought I wanted to do to sustain myself.  I decided to try my hand at independent consulting, mostly to see if it was something that I could do that would allow me to make money.  I found two clients quickly (they called me after they heard of my job departure), but this also happened right in the midst of the Crash of '08.  Talks with other potential consulting clients stopped, and I found myself living off of savings.  I'd also received a notice regarding COBRA that let me know how much I would have to pay in order to maintain my health insurance.  That figure was around $550 per month.  That was not about to happen.

I decided to take my chances.  I did not think that I needed even to consider Medicaid.  I was actively seeking clients (volunteer opportunities more than paid), and getting promises of work when the economy picked back up.  Besides, I felt, and still feel, that there are people in more need than I am for Medicaid.  I am lucky to have a doctor and a physical therapist in my family, and I have relied on them when I've had medical questions and/or problems.  I am blessed/lucky to have them in my family.  And, as an optimist, I knew that I would be able to keep myself healthy enough, and continue to find paying opportunities not only to continue being my own boss and setting my own course, but also to find enough money to get catastrophic insurance just to make sure that if the worst happened, I would be alright.  I even moved back to my hometown from Washington, DC in order to cut costs.

I am giving all of this background just to suggest that I am probably not too different from other people around the country who are uninsured, particularly those who left unhappy jobs in search of something better that they could do on their own.  I also provide this background to say that I found myself in the emergency room last night for excruciating pain in my lower back.  That pain, which my cousin and sister-in-law (doctor and physical therapist, respectively), both called sciatica once I described my symptoms, had made it difficult for me to stand for any length of time, and walking was both a painful and now precarious situation.

The first sign of trouble came on Thursday.  I was heading out to do errands with family, and I noticed a sharp pain in my lower back.  Naturally, I thought of my old PT exercises, and did them during that errand run, and did them without shame.  By Monday morning, thinking that I was under better control, I was researching chiropractors, and hoping to get an appointment for today.  Monday evening, I was in the kitchen preparing to get something to eat, and something went terribly wrong.

I felt a pain in my left buttock that was unlike a pain I'd ever felt before, and it shot up to the middle of my lower back, and down my left leg to my foot.  My entire leg felt like it had been set on fire, and I nearly collapsed on the kitchen floor.  Now, I think that moving back in with my family (in order to save money, as I try this "being my own boss" venture) was a smart thing to do in a case like this.  My mother asked if I was alright, and I answered that I was fine.  Meanwhile, I'd descended to the floor to attempt some PT exercises.  Nothing was changing.  I managed to struggle to the couch in the great room (the longest 12' I've walked in my life so far), and tried to get comfortable.  Didn't work.  Then the debate began.

I was struggling with pain, and what entered my mind next was how can I afford going to the emergency room, and what future costs will this injury incur?  Can I postpone this until the weekend, when my brother and sister-in-law would be down for a visit and get her advice?  How much will this cost?  How am I going to pay for it, not having any paying clients at the moment and negligible savings?  Why couldn't I be in Canada, Britain, or someplace that provides universal coverage right now?  I didn't want to go.  I was becoming more afraid of dealing with the costs, than I was with dealing with my pain.  But the pain won out.  I was taken to emergency.

So now it begins.  In my head right now are two things:  how am I going to be able to afford this, and what can I do get better that will cost me (and my family) the least.  Actually getting better is third in my mind.  And I decided to chronicle this whole process, because I think that people discuss the uninsured without knowing their actual experiences, and judgment runs amok.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find myself in this position, but here I am.

On Elizabeth Warren

Clearly, clearly Elizabeth Warren has touched a nerve of the "monied" interests in Washington and Wall Street.  I read Paul Krugman's column on her not too long ago, and found myself nodding in agreement with most of what he had to say.  Warren is passionate in her advocacy for the American consumer, the regular people, regardless of party or ideology, which of course means that she has to be destroyed.

I knew I liked Warren when I realized that Tim Geithner and Larry Summers did not like her (see here, here and here).  She represents the antithesis of their concern; she represents the rest of us.  I still thank the folks at The Daily Show, among other outlets, for giving her a great platform to show why she is hated by all of the right people. And here is where it began:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Libya II

I am all for people fighting for democracy, and I was as riveted by what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, saddened by the actions in Bahrain and Yemen.  But, I liked our position as observers of the dramas unfolding.  I liked the statements here and there.  I might even have been alright with some intervention, but not when we're in the midst of two wars.  I am fucking tired of military interventions.  I am fucking tired of hearing about war, and hearing about defense contractors, and hearing about unaccounted for money going to war and defense contractors.  I am tired of hearing about the need to nation build in Afghanistan.  Take a look around the United States. 

I understand when circumstances come your way, and you have to deal with them.  I still see going after bin Laden in that light (and remain amazed that the world didn't land on President Bush's head when he abandoned that little mission for the Iraq folly).  Libya is not a circumstance that has come our way.  To me, our reasons for engagement there are as weak as our reasons for engagement in Iraq.  There are times when you simply say no and let the chips fall as they may. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

If Only She'd Been on the Top

I've been looking for a good pick-me-up today.  Well, I found it, and I have to thank Ms. Palin for it.  I am sure that the McCain campaign also feels that if only Palin had been at the top of the ticket, then they would have won in '08 (h/t JMG).

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Libya

None of this feels right.  It seems rather late.  And I am waiting to hear where the money will come from (the savings from NPR?).  I also found this discussion interesting and troubling simultaneously.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hullabaloo and NPR III

So I think it's now clear that the "gotcha" videos showing the NPR people (not the from the news division, mind you) saying "inappropriate" things were editing jobs, just like most of the the other such videos, that withheld context.  And apparently, we have to thank an affiliate of Glenn Beck for revealing what, in retrospect, should have been obvious.  Armed with this dubious information the GOP called an "emergency session" specifically to put together a bill to eliminate funding for NPR.  That bill passed the House today.

The sentiments expressed below represent only a small taste of what I could say about this move today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hullabaloo and NPR II

In the days following the NPR controversy, it seems that there is a small (and not surprising) problem:  context.  Both the ACORN and Shirley Sherrod tapes were shown to be highly problematic, when they were viewed unedited.  Over at Slate, Dave Weigel, has a fascinating post on the whole controversy that puts more flesh on the NPR story.  It's well worth the read.

Why Not Just Bring Back the Grandfather Clause?

I am all for ensuring that those who are participating in the American electoral process are indeed Americans, but this new law in Texas, and I don't care if it is bi-partisan or not, just doesn't pass the smell test.  If people are going to be asked to show ID, then there should be no exemptions.  The Texas law, as written, exempts people born before 1931 and people with concealed weapons licenses. 

Are these two classes immune from potential voter fraud?  Are they more trustworthy than other classes of Texans?  And I am bothered by the coincidence that these two classes of people (particularly those born before 1931) trend heavily Republican in voting.  Maybe we could bring back the Grandfather Clause, or other useful tactics from the days of old.

Again, I have no problem with the idea to show a government issued photo ID to vote.  That is more than reasonable.  But I do mind greatly the idea that there should be folks exempted from those rules, for whatever reason.  Either we show photo ID, or we allow for ID without a photo (a bill perhaps).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wisconsin V: But for Japan...

...I think that the story of the protest in Madison, and the return of the 14 Democratic senators would have been the big story of the day.  According to Reuters, the crowd that gathered was estimated at 100,000.  This whole story is just fascinating, and I think that it's now clear that fiscal policy was more a cover for union busting.  Even the Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader noted the '12 connection to this push to derail public sector union activity.

I am not yet convinced that this current surge of energy will go far. If the recall efforts really develop legs, then I might be more convinced. But it is clear Wisconsin is representative of a first domino to fall in an effort to dismantle public sector unions across the nation (well, it seems not the ones that support GOP candidates; are they more cost effective than the unions that support Democratic candidates?).  Again, only time will tell if this energizes the Democratic base, or if it fizzles in a spate of indifference (a very American trait, unless a celebrity is involved).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Adolescent Music Flashback: Spandau Ballet

If you were an teenager in 1980s, then you knew of the song "True" by Spandau Ballet.  It is one of the signature songs of the decade; it was the slow song that plays when Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan see each other in "Sixteen Candles."

The combination of the band's name, the look of the band members (handsome and suited), and the elegance of their music was an intoxicating draw for me.  I was hooked the first time I saw the video for "True," and it seemed like the songs just got better over time.  I know I was not the only closeted gay boy who swooned (Steve Norman still looks good). 

I was really impressed with the single "Gold."  I can listen to Tony Hadley sing that song repeatedly.  After I'd fallen in love with "Gold," I bought the "True" album; I was not disappointed.  "Communication" remains one of my favorite songs.  The only song on their next song that really caught my attention was "Only When You Leave," another really good song.

As I think back on that time, I realize now that Spandau Ballet, Sade and Loose Ends brought the UK elegance to the music scene that really resonated with me.  Each band was smooth and stylish, and their music washed over me like water.  But Spandau Ballet kicked it off, and did so beautifully.

Adolescent Music Flashback: Culture Club

For some unknown reason, I woke up this morning with Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" on my brain.  So of course, I decided to do a blog post on Culture Club.

"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" was my introduction to the band.  Right from the jump, I loved the song, and I will admit that I was at first confused as to whether Boy George was a man or woman (Grace Jones I got, but not him).  Yes, that is embarrassing to admit.  I got over it, and fell in love with the first known drag queen to enter my life. 

My favorite Culture Club song remains "Time (Clock of the Heart)."  It was one of the best R&B songs I'd heard, and it was from a biracial group out of the UK.  I also loved that it was considered cutting edge to like a band with a known "gay."  I think I considered my closeted self as being progressive, and I did have crush on Jon Moss.

"Church of the Poisoned Mind" was a really fun song for dancing, and who could forget Helen Terry's incredible voice?  "Karma Chameleon" is my least favorite song from the band, and it was no surprise that it was destined to be Culture Club's most popular song in the U.S.  Of course, we would go for the most pedestrian song.  Of course.  Thankfully, the follow up song was the redeeming "Miss Me Blind."  And that was pretty much when my interest in Culture Club started to wane.  Only "The War Song" and "Mistake No. 3" registered with me, and then Boy George's problems just seemed to take over.

Culture Club was my first real introduction to gay culture in pop culture, and what an introduction.

Maryland's Marriage Equality Struggle

Honestly, I would have been more surprised if marriage equality had passed in Maryland, than with what happened yesterday.  Between conservative Democrats in the more rural parts of Maryland and the black religious conservative Democrats from Prince George's County and Baltimore, I was never convinced that marriage equality would get through.  I was surprised when it made it through the Maryland Senate.

I still argue that too many people conflate civil marriage with sacred marriage.  The two are not the same, though hets get the state and federal benefits regardless.  Religious conservatives will never unlock the two, and they will come up with every possible rationale to avoid that unlocking.  The key, in my mind, has two potential outs.  One out is to abandon trying to convince those who cannot be convinced, and focus on those who can be.  Another out is to work to have civil and sacred marriage separated legally. 

The first potential out is likely the one that will have to work.  But the second potential out makes the most sense.  Remove religion from anything related to civil marriage for everyone, and then you kill the religious arguments for civil marriage.  Churches will be free (as they are in all localities that offer marriage equality) to deny non-members from receiving sacred blessings for their marriages.  I would also argue that if one takes the sacred marriage option, then the various civil marriage benefits should not be allowed; they are benefits from the state.  I would think that the benefits from the church should suffice for spiritual growth and development.

With civil marriages, same sex and opposite sex couples could seek recognition of their unions by the government.  Once those civil marriages are signed by an appropriate state representative, then those couples will be eligible to receive the various benefits afforded those married in a civil ceremony.  Ultimately, it's the most fair thing to do.  Religious doctrine is left in tact, and equality under the law is upheld.  If a same sex couple is seeking a sacred marriage, then it will be their responsibility to find a church willing to offer that blessing.  But that has nothing to do with the government recognizing a civil marriage.

Someone needs to explain these differences repeatedly to the folks in Maryland, and elsewhere.

It Should Be All About Infrastructure

One of my very good friends who is a conservative, and worked in the Bush administration, generally agrees with me on the issue of our need for infrastructure spending.  When I first realized that we were in agreement there, I was genuinely surprised.  I still marvel at the things that we did in terms of infrastructure as a nation, from the Erie Canal, to the transcontinental railroad, to the various programs of the New Deal.  That type of investment propelled the nation into superpower status, and we should be proud of our achievements.

That the word infrastructure has now become something to deride amazes me.  Fuck a tax break for rich people, we need our infrastructure shored up and expanded.  My central problem with the stimulus package was that it did not do nearly what it needed to do in the area of infrastructure repair or innovation.  Instead, a third of package went to tax breaks (you would think that they were anointed by Jesus, the way folks talk about them) that weren't really needed, and the rest seemed more nebulous.  Though many credit (including some Republicans, begrudgingly) the package for delaying the pain felt by the states.

I've long felt that infrastructure, like historic preservation, should be one of those issues where partisanship is rather low (there will always be partisanship).  The goal should be to get solid and lasting results, like we saw coming out of the New Deal era, in a cost effective way.  For example, I agree with The Atlantic's Megan McArdle (something I don't often find myself saying) regarding the whole high speed rail discussion, in that I am not sure that just doing short distance high speed rail projects (for example) are really worth the money.  Now if we were talking a DC to San Francisco high speed rail line with stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver and SF, then folks might be a little more interested in talking about the overall cost analyses.

I am raising all of this, because in the midst of the horror experienced by Japan on Friday, the world is getting a chance to see how effective infrastructure investments can pay off.  Now, Japan's infrastructure has been shaken to its core, literally.  But how many thousands of lives were saved because of that spending, that attention to detail.  There is no question in my mind that we aren't even close to being as prepared as Japan was for such an event.  And it hurts me, as an American, to be able to say that. 

In spite of what we've heard, investing in our infrastructure can indeed help the economy.  Isn't that what we are arguing, to a degree (along with stability), for Afghanistan and Iraq?  It isn't as though we are incapable of doing the same here.  I still get mad when I think Rep. Eric Cantor's dig at repairing the National Mall.  Tell that to the working class folks who would have gotten those checks, even for a short while.  And we would have had the nation's front yard presentable once again.  But that dig, among many toward that project, helped to push spineless Democrats into abandoning those repairs.  That sounded like a win-win at the time, but it was just another missed opportunity in the end.

Do we need an earthquake like the one in Japan to wake us up?  Or do we need another highway collapse like the one in Minneapolis back in 2007?  How many infrastructure projects could we have funded with the estimated $9 billion unaccounted for in Iraq?  How many infrastructure projects could we have funded with the alleged billions unaccounted for in Afghanistan?  What will it take, finally, for our nation to focus on repairing what we have, and beginning to build a 21st century infrastructure?

We Will Have Reached the Depths...

...if Rep. Michele Bachmann makes any headway in the primary system.  Oh, hang on, I forgot where I live.  Of course it's entirely probable that she will do just fine in various parts of the country.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Muslims are Coming, the Muslims are Coming!!

I just find this whole thing that Rep. Peter King is doing to be just strange.  Other words came to mind, but I had to settle on strange.  Is there really something wrong with holding hearings on domestic terrorism across the board?  We do still have those concerns.  I mean what happened in Tempe, AZ and Wichita, KS were acts of domestic terror, as horrible as what happened at Fort Hood.  Why single out American Muslims?  Hell, I am surprised that the "New" Black Panther Party isn't being called in for this (though I am sure there might be a separate Congressional hearing for all four of those guys soon enough).

It's also more than fair to bring up King's support for the Irish Republican Army back in the day, a real terrorist organization.  I remember those stories coming out of the UK and Ireland when I was an adolescent.  Considering his support for the IRA, I am sure that King would have bristled at the notion of the Brits hauling in all Northern Ireland Catholics to see if they were doing enough to stop the terror plots of the IRA, and rightly so.  It's hard to blame the whole for the actions of a few.

I found a great editorial on this issue from a Jewish perspective, another religious minority within the U.S. 

We don't need to go down this path.  We are better than this.

Wisconsin IV: Pyrrhic Victory in Wisconsin?

If the reports I am hearing are correct, then it looks like the Wisconsin GOP caucus is in the process of removing the collective bargaining component from their emergency repair bill, which requires that state senate quorum, and submitting it as a stand alone bill, which can be passed without the Wisconsin senate Democrats present. 

If this is the case, then the short term politics are totally in the GOP's favor; it looks like a smart move both to eliminate the problem that has paralyzed the state, as well as kill collective bargaining for Wisconsin state workers.  I do wonder if that new bill would include the public unions that supporter Gov. Walker in his campaign too.  Surprisingly, it took them this long to sort this possible escape out for themselves.

The long term effects both on collective bargaining for state workers, as well as the political futures of the GOP elected, are harder to discern.

UPDATE:  I just found another report on this, so it looks like the GOP is about to do its will (though it apparently isn't the people's will in Wisconsin anymore, if the various polls are correct).

City Reinventions

It's more than likely true that I've read Edward Glaeser's columns in the New York Times in the past, and simply not bothered to read his name.  It's likely that I've read Glaeser, because of his seeming love and definite support of cities.  Since I LOVE cities, and tend to gravitate toward things that discuss cities, particularly renaissances, then I am sure that Glaeser's words have crossed my eyes.  But it wasn't until Glaeser appeared on The Daily Show, that I finally paid attention and got the man's name.

After I saw that interview, I promised myself that I would buy his book, Triumph of the City.  I haven't done it yet, but I soon will.  What has happened is that I am now looking for his columns and commentary, which brings me to yesterday's Glaeser column in the Times.

In reading Glaeser's explanation for why Seattle, a city that was in line like many other industrial cities to falter as the 20th century came to a close (like Detroit, as was called out in the column), managed to reinvent itself and become the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest, I found myself shaking my head.  Glaeser's point regarding the highly educated Seattle workforce is a salient one, but there were also highly educated engineers and business people in Detroit.  Yet I am guessing that the presence of a large number of black folks (skilled and unskilled), coupled with the race riot of 1967, had a great deal to do with the trajectory of Detroit.

That Seattle did not experience the level of abandonment by the white population that Detroit experienced was, I think, as important to the success of one versus the other, as Glaeser's point regarding an educated workforce.  Wayne State University and the University of Michigan (to a lesser extent) serve Detroit as the University of Washington (among other schools) serves Seattle, so it isn't as though there is no access to the highly educated in Detroit. 

Meanwhile, people in the Seattle region love Seattle, and it is easy to see why.  It's a beautiful city.  However, people in the Detroit region, and note that I said region, loathe Detroit.  If there is ever to be a reinvention of Detroit, then it will be up to the people within the Detroit city limits to do the reinvention.  I doubt that the broader Detroit region really cares what happens to that city, and that was sealed as the embers smoldered in 1967. 

I hope that Detroit will indeed reinvent itself into something that can serve as a model for the world.  Seattle did a great job its way, but it doesn't have to be the only way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hullabaloo and NPR

I just read about the conservative "sting operation" against Ron Schiller who worked for National Public Radio's foundation, and all I can say is that I am not really surprised that he is not a fan of the Tea Party people.  Naturally, I think that his comments reflect overreach, because I am not convinced that the Tea Party Republicans are racists in the main (but I am not going to buy for a minute that the Tea Party Republicans are racist free; few movements can make that claim regardless of ideology).

I do think that it's interesting that a part of the accusation implied in the video is that it seems suspect even to talk with a presumably "Muslim" group.  Of course, that suspicion doesn't seem to extend to the many, many corporations that deal with Middle East oil companies and foundations, so maybe Schiller made his mistake by not talking with a Middle Eastern oil baron (oh and Schiller didn't take the money offered).

I agree with Schiller that NPR should ween itself off of federal funding altogether.  NPR doesn't need it, and that is a great thing.  Besides, it goes without saying that everyone who was excited by this "gotcha" game here hated NPR anyway.  Yet, it will go over their heads that Schiller didn't work in the NPR news division, that he had no say in the editorial content news programming.  It will be enough that he's just a "typical liberal."

Meanwhile, I have no problem saying that I LOVE National Public Radio.  It has been a primary source of news for me for years (soon I will be able to say decades).  I leave my radio on NPR all day.  From "World News Today," to "Morning Edition," to "The Diane Rehm Show," to "Tell Me More," to "Fresh Air," to "All Things Considered," I feel informed for the day.  Hell, I even enjoy "Stained Glass Bluegrass" on occasion. 

The bottom line, in my mind, is that it shouldn't be too surprising that someone tied to NPR is liberal.  No shit.  With that said, I am more than confident that NPR's news is among the best in the industry, and I appreciate the news division providing me with news I can trust.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Feel Matt Damon's Pain

I just finished reading an interview with Matt Damon in The Independent.  Damon expressed real disappointment in the moves of the Obama administration, particularly with its Wall Street dealings.  I've found it funny that there are so many people who think that supporters of the President are just in lock step with his actions. 

It just ain't true.

Anyone who has read this blog over time knows that my criticisms started during the transition process, before President Obama was sworn in.  I loathed Obama's economic team, and we got exactly what I suspected, in terms of Wall Street:  nothing.  I wish the anger now being hurled at public unions and working class folks had been hurled at Wall Street and Congress.  But that is a longer discussion that I don't feel like dealing with in this post.

If Damon is representative of many '08 Obama supporters, then I think that 2012 is going to be yet another election where people are voting for the lesser of two evils.  And that is a shame.  So far, I see too many missed opportunities for the Obama administration.  I was hoping for Roosevelt, either of them, and that simply wasn't in the cards.  I suppose it's better that we didn't end up, on the other side, with a Hoover, Coolidge or Hoover during these troubling times. 

It's Strange to Agree (Mostly, Though Not Entirely) with George Will

Let me begin by saying that I'd heard about Will's looming Sunday Washington Post column, but I was not prepared to find myself nodding in agreement so frequently.  I was so glad to see someone actually say that Mike Huckabee straight up lied.  That is a word that is not used enough in the press. 

Huckabee goes into this discussion about President Obama being raised in Kenya, which is bullshit.  The last time I checked a map, Hawaii and Indonesia aren't particularly adjacent to Kenya.  Huckabee then talks about how the Mau Mau Rebellion influenced Obama, because he was "raised by his Kenyan relatives," as opposed to the white people who are originally from Kansas and moved eventually to Hawaii who actually raised Obama.  So of course, when Huckabee is called out on his bullshit, he dispatches a spokesperson to say that he "misspoke" and meant to say Indonesia.  This, naturally, requires a sentient being to conclude that the Mau Mau Rebellion of Kenya was really the Mau Mau Rebellion of Indonesia.  Sadly, there is a percentage of the American populace who bought that pile of shit.  

Bear false witness much, Rev.?

As I've said repeatedly, there are many ideological reasons for criticizing the moves of the Obama Administration (hell, I've made several), but those reasons need to be based on actual facts, if they are to be given any attention.  Huckabee simply decided to pander to a group of people who lost sense of reality a long time ago.  That George Will is calling this out now (rather late in my opinion) is a little refreshing.

Where I differ with Will, regarding this particular column, is on naming Haley Barbour as a "plausible Republican" president.  Personally, I would rather go into exile than to see that Republican from Mississippi get that job.