Archive for December, 2008

Bye, bye

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I find that seeing the words “Obama,” “dismisses,” “Bush” and “appointees” in the same sentence of a news report gives me a profound sense of relief. Am I a bad person?

The GOP dances with disaster

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

It turns out that political obstructionism is addictive — as addictive, it seems, as cigarettes, heroin and making fun of Rush Limbaugh. Who knew? And who, for that matter, would have guessed that a major political party would become so enamored with the sheer joy of the act of obstruction that it would happily bet its very existence as a viable political player for the next 30-years on it.

Amazingly, though, the GOP appears ready to do just that.

The history of this addiction isn’t hard to trace: early glimmers appeared during Bill Clinton’s presidency, those heady days when presidential lies involved blowjobs instead of war, torture and the shredding of the constitution. Back then, GOP senators systematically stalled Clinton’s judicial nominations. It got so bad, in fact, that even ultraconservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist complained about the resulting high vacancy rate in the federal courts.

But Senate Republicans didn’t reach their full potential as obstructionists until after the 2006 congressional elections, when the Democrats took control of the Senate. Disinclined to give even a smidgen of weight to the clear desires of the voters, who had, after all, just handed them a staggering rebuke, Republicans fell head over heels in love with the filibuster (yeah, the very same filibuster they’d decried as the root of all evil back when they were in the majority).

Over the next two years, GOP led filibusters became standard operating procedure in the Senate, as common as Republican sex scandals. It worked like this: the Democratic House would pass a bill with relative ease, often with bipartisan support. When it went to the Senate, however, the Republicans would filibuster — again and again. And since the Democrats were in the majority by a mere whisker, with a 51-to-49 split (including the two independents caucusing with the Democrats), they had little luck in coming up with the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Even bills enjoying considerable bipartisan support in the Senate were filibustered to death. At times, it seemed the Republicans were filibustering for the pure joy of it.


Kinda tacky, Mr. President Elect

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Guess what I just got from the Obama folks: MY TICKET TO THE INAUGERATION — well, sort of. Under the heading “YOUR TICKET TO HISTORY, with a cute little picture of a ticket, arrived the following message in my email account:

Steven –

Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States of America on January 20th, 2009.

It will be an unprecedented event in the history of our country, and hundreds of thousands of people will come together in Washington, D.C. to share the moment.

Supporters like you made this happen. You know that real change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down, and Barack and Joe want you to join them on this historic day. They want to start off this administration with the people who worked so hard and will continue to fight for change with them.

Between now and January 8th, 10 supporters and their guests will be selected to join the Inaugural activities.

If you make a donation — in any amount — to make the Inauguration a success, you and a guest could be flown to Washington, D.C., put up in a hotel, and be there as Barack is sworn in as the 44th President.

They’re holding a freakin’ fund raising raffle for tickets to the inauguration — a freakin’ raffle! I respect the fact they’re trying to fund the big party through private donations rather than corporate gifts — that’s a good thing. But a freakin’ raffle?

What’s next? Presidential signing pens sold on eBay?

Of virginity pledges and diets

Monday, December 29th, 2008

To once again quote that great American, Gomer Pyle — Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

It turns out that having kids sign virginity pledges is completely ineffective. Yet another study proves that those taking the pledges are every bit as likely to nibble on (or swallow whole) the forbidden fruit as those who haven’t. The only difference being that the pledge takers are less likely to take precautions against pregnancy — and ain’t that grand!

I could, of course, use this opportunity to once again rail against the stupidity of the whole concept of abstinence only sex education, but this time I’ll pass.

Instead, I’ll simply note that the poor souls who actually believed virginity pledges would work must never have had a weight problem. I can’t count the number of times I’ve made a solemn pledge that “this time I’ll stick to that diet,” only to attack the candy stash later that very same day.

When you get right down to it, the dignity of a sacred pledge to diet generally doesn’t hold up very well for most of us middle-aged tubby types when faced with the sinister temptation of a Snickers Bar.

And people expect a similar pledge to beat out teenage hormones? Jeepers.

Missing the bullet in the War on Christmas

Monday, December 29th, 2008

If you’re wondering why I didn’t blog much over the Holidays, there’s a simple explanation: I went to Canada to avoid being drafted in the War on Christmas. I had no choice but to run, my lottery number was six!

And replace it with what?

Monday, December 29th, 2008

So, according to Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Israel’s goal in the current hostilities in the Gaza Strip is to destroy Hamas.

Let’s assume they can pull it off: what exactly do they expect will replace it? Social Democrats in the European tradition, perhaps?

The recurring inability of people to see that bad is often replaced by worse is nothing short of astonishing.

Will Obama’s “pragmatism” extend to Israel?

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Barack Obama, as surely you know by now, isn’t a liberal or a conservative: he’s a pragmatist. We know this because that’s what everyone is saying and surely everyone wouldn’t lie.

So just exactly what is this mighty pragmatism of which we speak? According to Mr. Webster (or is it Mr. Merriam, I always get those two confused) it means this:

“Pragmatism: a practical approach to problems and affairs.”

A bit more specificity might have been nice, but I suppose this gives us the general idea: pragmatism means doing what works as opposed to getting too wrapped up in things like ideology and principle.

And if that’s so, it would seem that pragmatism is what pragmatism does. Which means to me, if pragmatism represents building a functioning system for universal health insurance, I’m all for it. On the other hand, if it means inviting an infamous homophobe to give the benediction at the presidential inauguration, then I’m not so hot on it.

Yet, on the whole, if Obama being a pragmatist means he will work to actually get something done to address America’s problems, count me as an enthusiastic supporter. Addressing our problems (as opposed to gratuitously creating new ones as in Iraq) is certainly something that’s been conspicuously absent — and much missed — over the past eight years.

The thing is, I hope Obama understands that real pragmatism (as opposed to its use as an excuse for politically expedient sellouts) can be hard and thankless work — much harder than being an ideologue. We’ve had a unique opportunity to watch ideologues in action over the last eight years, of course — and it strikes as a fairly easy way of life. Just do what your ideology tells you to do whether it works or not (which in the case of Bush, Cheney and the Republicans has been pretty much never).

As to Obama, to begin with the good news: I have no doubt at all that he is up to doing the hard work required for true pragmatism. During his two plus years of backbreaking campaigning he was anything but a slacker (the current dictionary definition for the term political slacker, by the way, includes a photograph of Fred Thompson).

No, an aversion to hard work isn’t the part of being a true pragmatist I worry about in the case of Obama — it’s the thankless part: because being a truly pragmatic president will require royally pissing off some very powerful people. Is Obama really prepared to do this? I’m honestly unsure, but I think I know what the ultimate test will be — Israel.


Hamas and Israel: dumb, dumber and dumbest of all

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

So the deadly dance of the dunces once again glides across the grand ballroom of the Middle East. Hamas gratuitously hurls missiles into Israel, weapons lacking the sophistication to hit even the biggest target except by pure chance: lethal hellos sent flying arbitrarily into the sky, as likely to hit a child playing in a field as an Israeli soldier or settler: attacks certain to accomplish one and only one thing — a disproportionate Israeli response.

But then, I suppose that’s the idea.

Israel, for its part, has now launched the first of what we’re told will be a series of brutal attacks in the Gaza Strip. It will do no good, of course. Such attacks never do. The people ordering the attacks, who are actually a very bright collection of dunces, know this. But in an act of political cowardice that surely comes perilously close to constituting treason, they attack anyway, because to do anything else would be politically unwise.

This then leads to an Israeli policy towards the Palestinians that’s roughly equivalent to that of a man who cuts off his own arm in an attempt to cure a nasty case of the flu: he knows doing so will do him no good, and will actually harm him, but he nevertheless shouts, “God damn it, I have to do something!”

Time isn’t on Israel’s side. A population explosion among Palestinians threatens to make the Jewish population a minority in “greater Israel.” This will leave Israel with the unpalatable choice between either surrendering its Jewish identity or openly embracing apartheid, making it an international pariah.    

What’s so sad about all this, of course, is that the actual solution to the Middle Eastern morass is painfully obvious. It was obvious back in the late 70s, when, as a teenager, I first began to realize that the subject of Israel was a bit more complicated than the heroic underdog surrounded by vicious enemies depicted in the movie Exodus. It’s even more obvious today at age 53, as my frustration with all sides of this intractable mess grows by the day. No doubt, it will still be obvious 30 years from now, when (God willing) I will be annoying the staff of the retirement home with my never ending ranting about the situation in front of the communal television set (I expect to be a “problem” resident).


Keep your freaking conscience out of my health care

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

That’s quite a goodbye kiss George W. Bush just blew America (not to mention a big wet one to the Religious Right). This from the Washington Post::

The Bush administration yesterday granted sweeping new protections to health workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal beliefs, setting off an intense battle over opponents’ plans to try to repeal the measure.

Critics began consulting with the incoming Obama administration on strategies to reverse the regulation as quickly as possible while supporters started mobilizing to fight such efforts.

The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. It was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.

It would be hard to overstate the damage this absurd regulation could cause. Let’s say, for example, you want to fill a prescription for birth control pills? Maybe you even view this as your right, given Griswold v. Connecticut and all that.

Silly girl. It isn’t up to you (or your doctor) at all: it’s entirely up to the personal beliefs of the pharmacist on duty. If he (or she) disapproves of contraception in general, or simply disapproves of you getting contraception — because, say, you’re unmarried (you hussy) — he has an absolute right to refuse to fill the prescription.

And you’ll be left with no recourse, except perhaps to fume, unless you’re prepared to drive from pharmacy to pharmacy (assuming you have that option) until you find a less “morally committed” pharmacist.

It’s a question of priorities, I suppose. According to Bush and his new regulation, the pharmacist’s ethical objection to, well, you know, doing his job is more important than your constitutional right to privacy, not to mention your dignity as a person.

Even more troubling, of course, is the impact this rule could have on the rights of rape victims, some of whom will inevitably face interference in efforts to obtain emergency contraception. Given the time-sensitive nature of such treatment, an arbitrary “act of conscience” by a key hospital employee could doom the victim to an unwanted pregnancy by her rapist.

But then that’s the idea, isn’t it?

And we haven’t even touched on the most absurd aspect of this particular act of Bush & Co. stupidity. Under the literal language of the regulation, birth control clinics would be prohibited (at the risk of losing federal funding) from “discriminating” against job seekers who have moral objections to birth control. In other words, clinics could be forced to hire and retain employees who refuse, for alleged ethical reasons, to carry out the basic functions of their jobs.

It isn’t hard to see where this is going. If the regulation stands, antiabortion groups will soon begin sending “undercover” job seekers to abortion clinics associated with health care providers that receive federal funds, with the specific intention of sabotaging the clinics’ operations. “It is going to cause chaos among providers across the country,” predicted Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, quoted in the Post article.

But then that’s the idea, isn’t it?

Hopefully, Congress and/or the Obama Administration will find a way to quickly repeal this monstrosity. In the meanwhile, join me in praying for the rapid and safe arrival of the 20th of January

Bloggers born with 12 toes

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Is it just me, or is the current feeding frenzy over The Center for American Progress mildly disassociating itself from one of Matt Yglesias’s posts on their site a sign of some serious inbreeding within the Liberal Blog World?