I just read a very well written, very disturbing essay by Lawrence Lessig expounding on what’s really wrong with congress these days. It was disturbing because it had the ring of truth to it. It’s called, ‘How To Get Our Democracy Back’, and I encourage anyone who wants some clear insight into the fractured system we live under to read it.
Basically, he is saying that in order to get anything positive accomplished in our society it is necessary to change the campaign laws of the country so that our politicians are not beholden to corporate interests. After all, the old adage is still true – ‘You dance with the one that brung ya’, and you can’t expect politicians to concentrate on the good of the country and the good of their own war chests at the same time. So far, so good. It may be distasteful to hear but I can well believe it. But what is harder to hear and what I don’t want to believe is that President Obama had a unique, historic opportunity to take on this problem – and he blew it.
At this point I start to protest. At this point my instincts are to start to draw comparisons of character and style between our current President and our former President. At this point I want to point out to Mr. Lessig just exactly what the situation was that President Obama walked into on day one of his Presidency and how unfair it is to rail against him for a missed opportunity here and there when he was neck deep in muck not of his own making. I want to point out that there is no training, no course one can take for being POTUS. It is a high pressure, on the job learning curve that has made more than one man’s hair turn gray overnight and if anyone can handle that kind of pressure and learn and grow in the job, President Obama can.
You see, my emotions are in play. I, like millions of others, are emotionally invested in this man and what his campaign stood for. It hard for us to step back and dispassionately assess his first year in office when we are still reeling from the debacle that was the previous eight. But facts are stubborn things and the truth exists whether I believe it or not. And the hard truth is that Mr. Lessig is right. Congress is the problem that President Obama should have tackled first.
Congress is indeed broken and has become infested with opportunists who are looking to line their own pockets and, ‘hell and be damned’, to the needs and wishes of their constituents. Everyone is angry – both on the left and the right and the disparity between what our politicians say and actually do, (or don’t do), is becoming more and more blatant. We are becoming more cynical as a nation and there is a danger that we will adopt one of two polarized attitudes – either we become extremists or we become disengaged altogether.
I would like to propose a third option; ‘Help Him!’. Who? The President, that’s who. Let’s engage that most important and least used emotion of our political arsenal, empathy, and do everything we can to help our President. It is, quite possibly, the hardest job in the world. (Well, would you want it?). Lets write our congressmen and sign our petitions and march in our streets, (peacefully). Lets have civil, passionate discourse about our problems and what to do to fix them. Lets pray for the President and ourselves. And above all else – lets believe that it’s not too late to fix what is broken and to stand for the truth – even if it’s hard to look at.
You really do have to wonder sometimes…
Lets talk health care. Why not? It seems like we’ve come full circle in the last little while. We started out a year ago with the Democrats putting together a bill which would fix the wretched state of affairs in our country and finally provide basic protection for every citizen.
And then the fun began.
The Republicans implemented their plan. Their plan was a simple one predicated upon the accurate perception that their base was apoplectic over the election of a black man to the Presidency and the loss of power in Congress. The Sky Was Falling! Worse than that, their corporate masters were hauling them on the carpet for losing the election. So what was their plan? Come on everybody say it with me …”NO”! ‘No’ to everything. No to bail outs, ( even though they started it when their puppet Bush was in the White House), no to Stimulus, ( even though the tax cuts contained in the bill was a page torn out their very own conservative playbook), – No to health care reform, No to civil trials for suspected terrorists, No to government oversight of shoddy (if not criminal) banking practices, NO. No. No. NO. NO!
Now I know that politics in America has always been a blood sport. And, God help me, I love it. But this last year of Republican obstructionism is unprecedented. No, that’s not hyperbole. It has literally never happened before that an entire sitting party in Congress has voted lockstep against every single thing that the Democrats have put forward without any attempt at compromise or offering alternate proposals. And this would be bad enough – but it gets worse. Now, because these treasonous politicians (well, how would you describe a bunch of people who want their government to fail?) – because these treasonous politicians have riled up the worst passions of their base there is a very real danger of violence breaking out. Don’t think it could happen? Let us remind ourselves of the uncomfortable fact that fully 40% of all the Presidents we’ve had over the last 234 years have had attempts made on their very lives. And some, tragically, have been successful. And it wasn’t all that long ago that peaceful protests in the streets for basic equality were met with tear gas and water cannons – if not worse. And now we have enraged citizens actually carrying weapons to their Tea Party Rallies. And their Representatives in Congress, far from decrying such inherently reckless behavior, are actually encouraging it!
What do we do? What do we do when we know what’s coming? We know that the Democrats are waking up to the fact that they had better stop letting the Republicans run over them and actually govern. They are going to start with the Health Care Bill. We know that the Republicans will throw screaming fits and use it as an excuse to turn the volume of vitriol up even further. We know that there is a Health summit coming this Thursday that they have no intention of attending or at the very least making a mockery of it by attending for a minute and then leaving in dramatic protest. We know lots of stuff.
Except how to get people to see reason. Because it’s not just politics anymore. It has gone too far now. Now its one step away from people getting actually hurt and violence escalating out of control. So a message to all the Tea Partyers out there from a lilly livered die-hard liberal lefty. You are being lied to. And you won’t see your conservative heroes taking any blame for inciting you to riot. On the contrary, the only logical way to look at their behavior is that violence is precisely what they want. They see your outrage as a logical stepping stone to power. They don’t care about you. They don’t care if you die in the streets either through a misguided ideology-
or lack of basic Health Care.
So, we’re about to pass Health Care? I suppose we should be grateful that there is some form of a bill that will help some people. But here’s the thing – it isn’t what we wanted. You know – what ” We the people “wanted. We wanted cheap, universal health care that is , well, universal. Not for some of the poor people but all of them.
We wanted to have an alternative to Health Insurance companies.
We wanted a public option. It would cost the country less and provide more. Simple, no?
We know all the spin that is coming about how good this bill is. About how it’s going to force insurance companies to cover us even if we have a pre-existing condition. How the government is going to help us with the payments if we can’t afford them, etc, etc.
But here’s the thing; we don’t believe it. We don’t the believe that just because it’s in the bill that the Insurance companies are going to comply. We don’t believe that prices will come down just because we can shop around. We don’t believe the government really believes the spin either. Otherwise that puts us in the position of having a woefully naive executive branch.
The Insurance companies are out to make money and this is the perfect opportunity for them to do so. On the announcement that the bill was even close to being signed their stocks went up 10%.
We want our government to do the moral thing and fight for us. Kill this bill tonight and re-introduce a public option because it is the right thing to do. Now is not the time to go by half measures.
November 8th, 2009
I read a lot of Blogs. It’s become an obsession really. I love to write’em and I love to read’em. It’s an ego thing. Us political bloggers love to be able to look into our crystal balls and predict what’s gonna happen next. We love to display our incredible writing skills for all the electronic world to see and we all harbor a fantasy that someday we’ll write something that is so brilliant that everyone will want to read it and we will finally get the accolades that we so richly deserve. But the funny thing about political blogging is that one is often proved wrong. I have written about 10 blogs now and , while my political insights have been uniformly unique, fun, funny and devastatingly intelligent; I have been wrong most of the time!
‘What?! Whataya mean? ( This is me talking to myself. Bloggers do that a lot.) He actually accepted the Nobel Prize? I thought he would reject it! The Democrats tried to pass health care this year? I told them to wait! What????!!!! They actually passed Health Care in the House last night? What the hell is going on?’
Well, as difficult as this is to admit, I think that what is going on is that while I have been busy wittily showing off my profound political intellect, President Obama has been busy writing History. This is the problem with trying to advise people smarter than you are.
So yeah, The House passed a bill that still has to go through Senate machinations before Our President can sign it into law. And yeah, the rhetoric from the Republicans will become increasingly shrill and insane. (See how cleverly I inserted that prognostication?) But now I hesitate to advise President Obama on how to play it ’cause I keep looking stupid.
President Barack Hussein Obama – still the smartest guy in the room.
Now, Mr. President, what shall we talk about? Oh yes; Afghanistan…..
October 9th, 2009
You really do have to wonder sometimes…..
SCENE: The White House Residence – 3:30 A.M EST
White House Chief of Staff : ‘Mr. President? Mr. President! Please sir, wake up.’ (shakes him)
POTUS: ‘Hmm? Mmmfff -Yes? What is it?’
White House Chief of Staff: ‘Bad news sir.’
POTUS: ‘Damnit all! I told the Israelis to hold off!’
White House Chief of Staff: ‘It’s not the Israelis sir.’
POTUS: What then? – ‘The North Koreans lobbing missiles into the ocean again?’
White House Chief of Staff: ‘Worse sir, the Swedes just gave you the Peace Prize.’
POTUS : ‘Too early for jokes, Rahm.’
White House Chief of Staff: ‘No Joke sir. ‘( Hands him newspaper)
POTUS: (Reads headline with incredulous look on his face.)’ Damn! ( Throws paper against wall) ( Dog wakes up and starts barking)’Get Gibbs in here. Now!’
Enter Press Secretary Gibbs.
POTUS: (gesturing at newspaper on floor) ‘ Gibbs, please tell me this is an “Onion” piece.’
Gibbs:’ Afraid not , Mr. President.’
Potus: ( Reaches for cigarette) ‘Damnit Gibbs! Just what the hell are they trying to do to me? I’m trying to pass Health Care!’
Gibbs: ‘I know, Mr. President.’
POTUS: ‘You know what to do?’
Gibbs: ‘I think so, Mr. President.’
POTUS: ‘Are the vultures circling yet?’
Gibbs: ‘Since 3:00 A.M Mr. President.’
POTUS: (sighs) ‘ Okay, get my speech writer in here, then.’
Gibbs: ( Clears throat – looks at floor) ‘Mr. President, you write your own speeches, sir.’
POTUS: ‘Damn it all to Hell and back! Fine. (Puts out cigarette.) Call the press conference. I’ll be over in a minute.’
Sort of writes itself, doesn’t it? Now we all sit back and watch the hysteria for the next week. Meanwhile, if the President has any advisors worth their salt, they are already telling him he has to respectfully decline the prize. This is actually the best strategy all around. Declining the prize shows his proper humility thus further endearing him to the world. It effectively silences his critics that he hasn’t achieved enough yet to warrant such an honour. And , he can use this opportunity to speak to the world about domestic matters at home without seeming to exploit his international goodwill. Win, win, and more win.
Gee, if he plays this right he could actually pass Health Care and the Republicans wouldn’t even know what hit them. Go, POTUS, Go!
September 29th, 2009
You really do have to wonder sometimes…
I’ve been away from my blog for a while. Actually, I have been ignorant of politics and world affairs for about 6 weeks now. So I decided to try to get caught up on what’s been going on in this old world of ours.
At the time I stopped writing the following things were happening around the world and in my neighborhood; Israel and Afghanistan were about to have elections. Toronto city council was in a protracted fight with its municipal employees, (this resulted in a strike which disrupted services for 5 weeks but I’ll get to that in a moment). There was a bizarre dustup in the U.S over whether its President was an actual American citizen. Some British M.Ps were caught with their hands in the public till. Tamil Tigers were surrounded by government forces. Iraq was a mess – as was Iran, the West bank – oh hell, the whole middle east actually. There were the usual assortment of wars, famine, disease, poverty and, (if the powers that be are to be believed), the worst economic meltdown the world has ever seen. Depressing.
So, now six weeks later…
The Toronto strike is over with the following results; The kids didn’t get to swim for 5 weeks. Parents had to scramble to find daycare resulting in missed work and wages to say nothing of the economic toll it took on the workers themselves. And in the end nothing changed except that the Mayor committed political suicide. Oh, and the city councillors got a raise.
Israel elected a hardliner that won’t even entertain the idea of suspending settlement building in Palestine. Election monitors in Afghanistan have decried the election as rigged in favor of the government. Iran has been busy building secret nuclear facilities while its President has been going around the world denying the holocaust. The U.S found billions to give to Wall Street with no oversight or clear guidelines on how to spend it but cannot seem to pass universal Health Care even though their current system is broken. And there is still the same assortment of wars, disease and poverty.
I should be depressed all over again. Except I’m not. Because an amazing thing happened the other night.
I went to see Liam Titcomb and his band play in a local bar. It turns out that this was his one hundredth gig in two months of touring. He went coast to coast to raise money for War Child. He raised $50,000. He didn’t do it by introducing legislation to fight child poverty. He didn’t do it by marching in the streets. He didn’t do it by blogging. He simply did what he has been doing since I’ve known him as a child – he played music. He, his parents and his drummer got into a R.V and, with the help of sponsors and strangers along the way, raised enough money to build two schools in a war ravaged third world country so that children there could learn to read. He’s 21 yrs. old.
Makes ya think. I mean, this musician raised more money in two months than the entire United States governmental apparatus could raise for its poor children( who don’t have healthcare )in the same time period. Yes, I know he didn’t do it alone. He is blessed with an amazing family and is the first to acknowledge the generous support of volunteers along the way. But having said that, how many 21 yr. olds do you know that even would have thought of this idea let alone have the courage to try it? And it inspired people. It touched people and they stepped up.
So what is wrong with our institutions that we can’t get anything done? Why are we so bungling and fractured? Maybe we have to start thinking outside the box – like Liam did.
July 27th, 2009
You really do have to wonder sometimes…..
Lets talk racism. Why not? It seems that even after long strides toward realizing the underlying tenets of our Constitution we still have a long way to go. The last week has seen two very bizarre stories dominating the news cycles which illustrate this point beautifully – Henry Gates and The Birthers.
By now everyone knows both stories so I won’t go into too much detail here but suffice to say that the media has been caught up in the blatantly absurd story of the Black man arrested in HIS OWN HOUSE, and of the crazies who think that Elvis is still alive…oh, sorry,… that the President of the United States is an ILLEGAL ALIEN.
One sometimes doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
And the strangest part of the whole sad, sorry week came at the end of the President’s press conference on Health Care. When asked the question of what he thought about the stupid arrest of the Harvard Professor IN HIS OWN HOUSE, the President called it, well, “stupid“. And we all sat back and watched the ensuing political firestorm and never once noticed the irony that while we once decried the deception of the former President, we now decry the honesty of the current one. That’s politics I guess.
And that brings us to the Birthers. Yes, those crazies who could have been comfortably ignored if not for the peskiness of some congressman (and one Senator!), who are actually trying to introduce legislation requiring all future candidates to produce proof of citizenship before being eligible to run for President. The mind reels…
So, why do it? Take for granted the following; the elected officials in question are all Republican, the fringe element of their party egging them on are all racists and the legislation in question is going to die a very ugly, very deserving death anyway. So, again. Why do it? Because kids, the end game here is to make sure that the death of this bill is very public indeed. Everyone who votes against the bill will be vilified by this very sick, very vocal political base, the President’s agenda will, at the very least, be delayed if not downright hijacked by the media whirlwind and, (my personal favorite), white, racist congressmen and women get to justify what they have done to their own President and country without once having to refer to the color of his skin. I can hear the platitudes dripping from the mouths of the crestfallen Congressmen now; ” I don’t understand why this bill was defeated! We were just trying to protect the Constitution, that’s all!”
The script practically writes itself doesn’t it? And , as much fun as it was to watch Chris Mathews completely eviscerate these guys, (and it was a beautiful thing to watch), this debate only underscores the crying need for us to take one more step toward the equality that the above mentioned Constitution envisions for us all.
So, yeah. Still a long way to go…