Starting Over

What a difference an administration makes…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

If you need to recall how globally reviled George W. Bush became during the last few years of his presidency, check out this video (it’s short and very good; hit the play button):

And, if you want to know the general consensus of world leaders, in terms of the Obama administration, take a look at this shot from the just-concluded G20 conference:

starting over

I have been, and will continue to be, critical of Obama administration policies with which I do not agree. But it’s quite clear that Obama himself has become a symbol to the world that the lone cowboy attitude of George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney) is a thing of the past.

We really need to remember, forever and ever, how absolutely reviled Bush became on a global basis. The only place he’s going to be welcomed in the world is in the protected confines of gatherings of the GOP faithful. Assuming they’re both still alive in 2012, it will be interesting to see if either Bush or Cheney will be allowed to show their faces at the next Republican National Convention.

Come to think of it, I’d love to see it.

It’s comforting to know that the adults are back in charge.

Major tip of the hat to Al Rogers @ Daily Kos for his great video and photo gallery.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 by Richard Blair |

8/8/08: Accountability Now / Strange Bedfellows Money Bomb

On August 8th, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States over issues that carry much less weight than the current political climate in America. How is it that Nixon could be run out of power by his own party, yet the current Democratic Party-controlled congress has failed to act against the Bush administration’s abuses of power?


/wp/

Become a StrangeBedfellow!Today’s the day.

A few weeks back, the Democratic Party leadership, in both the House and the Senate, capitulated to the petulant demands of George W. Bush, and passed the revised FISA bill. The bill not only codified warrentless wiretapping, but retroactively provided telecommunications companies with immunity from civil lawsuits on the behalf of U.S. citizens who have had their privacy violated at the behest of the Bush administration.

Accountability Now was formed by online activists from across the political spectrum in order to create public education campaigns (TV, print, and internet advertising), and to hold politicians accountable for their actions that run counter to constitutional principles. More information on the organization is available here.

Progressives, conservatives, and libertarians are being asked to contribute today to the effort. Whether it’s $5, $10, $20, $5000, or simply a show of support by whatever means available, today’s “money bomb” (similar to the fundraising efforts that drove Ron Paul’s presidential campaign earlier this year) is key to the success in holding our political leaders accountable to we, the people.

It sounds trite. It’s not. Now more than ever before, it’s clear that corporate interests are driving the political agenda in America. That’s not what the founders intended. Accountability Now can serve as the start of a truly well funded, people-power movement, but only if we support it. Listen, I’m not a rich guy by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m kicking in a few bucks. If you believe in the constitutional principles upon which this country was born, I encourage – no, urge – you to take a few minutes and consider the potential power of thousands like us taking a stake in our collective future.

Conservative, progressive, libertarian, green – it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we’re all in this boat together, and none of us are happy with the way things are being run right now. Though the initial focus of the campaign is to hold the Democratic Party leaders (and blue dog Democrats) accountable for their FISA votes, the scope going forward is quite ambitious. But it can only happen if each of us individually seizes this moment of empowerment.

Glenn Greenwald has an extensive kick-off post on Salon today, which I’ve take the liberty of copying in full below the jump…

(more…)

Friday, August 8th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

What True “Progressivism” Looks Like

This past week, the State of New Jersey enacted the Paid Family Leave Act. NJ residents will now be able to take time off under FMLA to care for a sick family member, and not totally lose their income. This type of legislation is the face of true progressivism, and represents what the Democratic Party brand should be all about.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In the not too distant past, the U.S. Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows anyone to take time off from work to care for a sick relative or to stay home after the birth of a child, without fear of losing their job. FMLA was passed at the outset of the Clinton administration, with the support of a Democratic Party-controlled congress. It’s axiomatic that such groundbreaking legislation would have never passed during the tenure of the Bush regime or the lapdog GOP congress that Bush enjoyed during the majority of his reign.

Unlike a long term disability, though, FMLA only guarantees an employee the ability to take the time off. There is no provision for compensation during the leave of absence. So, even though a relative might be terminally ill, if an employee actually does take FMLA to care for the relative, there’s no income during the time of absence. There just aren’t a lot of people who can take off 12 weeks, regardless of the circumstances, without a paycheck.

This past week, the New Jersey legislature fixed that issue for residents of the Garden State. Governor John Corzine signed the NJ Paid Family Leave Law, which provides for 6 weeks paid leave time at 2/3 an employee’s base pay. So now, at least in New Jersey, those who qualify for FMLA leave can do so without fear of being totally without income. How did New Jersey do it?

Very simply: everyone who works in New Jersey will kick in a few bucks per year via a payroll tax to cover the PFL insurance, in an arrangement almost identical to the disability payroll tax. $32 / year isn’t an onerous price to pay to retain some income, and will allow many more people to actually take time off during personally stressful situations. The final bill was a win-win for both employees and employers.

It took over 12 years to get this legislation done, but it’s groundbreaking – and shows what a true progressivism is all about. NJ PFL represents what the Democratic Party brand should be all about.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 by Richard Blair |

David Walker, American Cassandra

A belief in “national exceptionalism” is a uniquely American trait, regardless of political ideology. But, as a recent speech by the U.S. Comptroller General points out, the caesars who ruled the ancient Roman empire probably thought they were pretty exceptional, too…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

CassandraMost of us in a certain demographic were required to struggle through a course in Greek mythology at some point in our education. I’m one of those rare people who actually enjoyed reading Edith Hamilton compilations – because everyone of substance in Greek mythology had superpowers of some sort.

Cassandra foresaw the downfall of Troy to the Greeks. Unfortunately, no one believed her when she tried to warn the locals about the wooden horse thing. It turns out that the god Apollo had bestowed the gift of prophecy on Cassandra. However, when she wouldn’t give up her chastity to Apollo, he placed a curse on Cassandra such that no one would believe her dire predictions. And so, even with advance warning from her, the Greeks eventually sacked the city of Troy.

Very recently, a high-level cassandra in the U.S. government warned that:

The US government is on a –burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

David Walker, Comptroller General of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”…

Sounds pretty dire, huh? It is. The Financial Times article from which the quoted paragraphs above were taken is mild, at least compared to the actual presentation (.pdf file) that U.S. Comptroller General David Walker made recently to the Federal Midwest Human Resources Council. At the FMHRC, Walker said:

…there are striking similarities between America’s current situation and that of another great power from the past: Rome. The Roman Empire lasted 1,000 years, but only about half that time as a republic. The Roman Republic fell for many reasons, but three reasons are worth remembering: declining moral values and political civility at home, an overconfident and overextended military in foreign lands, and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government. Sound familiar? In my view, it’s time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time…

So why should anyone listen to David Walker? Perhaps because he’s really the only bi-partisan voice in an increasingly partisan debate, and he has access to the “books”. He and his agency know what’s going on – one of the purposes of the GAO is to run simulations on the economy, and in particular, government spending. The choices that he sees in the future are all unpleasant. Unfortunately, he takes a pollyanna approach, rather than that of Cassandra, when it comes to assessing the will of the U.S. government and the American people to deal with a myriad of looming crises:

…Please don’t misunderstand my message today. Things are far from hopeless. Yes, it’s going to take some difficult choices on a range of issues. But I’m convinced America will rise to the challenge, just as we did during World War II and other difficult times.

What’s needed now is leadership. The kind of leadership that leads to meaningful and lasting change has to be bipartisan and broad-based. Character also counts. We need men and women with courage, integrity, and creativity. Leaders who can partner for progress and are committed to truly and properly discharging their stewardship responsibilities…

Walker acknowledges that some difficult choices need to be made, and then goes on imply that some sort of bold leadership is going to drop from the sky. I’m hard pressed to find reason for his optimism.

Government leaders, on both sides of the political aisle and in civil service, are too self interested and vested in pre-existing agendas. If the past ten or fifteen years have taught us nothing else, it’s that politicians will rarely make the difficult choices that might upset the applecart of lobbyist-controlled politics.

Government leadership ceased to be about what’s best for the country sometime soon after John F. Kennedy uttered the words, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country“. There just aren’t many altruistic politicians or government leaders in this day and age. Even if we replaced all of the bad actors in the next few years with leaders who really did care about the long term prospects of America, it’s hard to see how a new set of political bosses could make an immediate difference. After years of intentional abuse of the constitution by all three branches of government (and the benign neglect of an American public that let it happen), the hope for a better future seems somewhat misplaced. The Queensbury rules of politics have long been discarded by both political parties, and the willingness to do what’s right for the country no longer seems to exist.

[...big sigh...]

In his speech, Walker invoked the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt as an example of what can happen when a truly inspired leader takes the reigns, and moves the nation in a forward direction. Does Mr. Walker, or anyone else for that matter, believe that within the current crop of Democratic or Republican party candidates there is someone who has either the personal moxy or the impramateur of divine providence (for lack of a better phrase) needed to turn America in the right direction?

A belief in “national exceptionalism” is a uniquely American trait, regardless of political ideology. No doubt that the Romans felt that way, too.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Democommie for the Grammy!

He’s written some compelling lyrics you can see at either Jesus’ General or Operation Yellow Elephant. The Ballad of the Yellow Beret is inspiring!
Man, we used to LIVE on lyrics around here! It’s good to see one of our readers, who definitely gets around and isn’t only ours, is continuing the [...]


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

He’s written some compelling lyrics you can see at either Jesus’ General or Operation Yellow Elephant. The Ballad of the Yellow Beret is inspiring!

Man, we used to LIVE on lyrics around here! It’s good to see one of our readers, who definitely gets around and isn’t only ours, is continuing the tradition.

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 by Steven Reynolds |

“I Have a Dream”

On this day, please read the Martin Luther King speech.
Thanks.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

On this day, please read the Martin Luther King speech.

Thanks.

Monday, January 15th, 2007 by Steven Reynolds |

Silence is Betrayal

That’s the theme of John Edwards’ speech tomorrow, Martin Luther King Day, at Riverside Church in Harlem, almost exactly forty years from when Rev. King himself first spoke against the Vietnam War. Edwards’ theme, according to early excerpts at TPM Cafe, are all about denouncing the war in Iraq.
Escalation is not the [...]


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’s the theme of John Edwards’ speech tomorrow, Martin Luther King Day, at Riverside Church in Harlem, almost exactly forty years from when Rev. King himself first spoke against the Vietnam War. Edwards’ theme, according to early excerpts at TPM Cafe, are all about denouncing the war in Iraq.

Escalation is not the answer, and our generals will be the first to tell you so. The answer is for the Iraqi people and others in the region to take responsibility for rebuilding their own country. If we want them to take responsibility, we need to show them that we are serious about leaving – and the best way to do that is actually to start leaving and immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops.

That is why I have spoken out against the McCain Doctrine of escalation. That’s why Congress must step up and stop the president from putting more troops in harm’s way.

If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.

And to all of you here today – and the millions like us around the country who know this escalation is wrong – your job is to reject the easy way of apathy and choose instead the hard course of action.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out. Tell your elected leaders to block this misguided plan that is destined to cost more lives and further damage America’s ability to lead. And tell them also, that the reward of courage…is trust.

What’s the result of this? Perhaps less silence from Hillary, given that this powerful speech is made tomorrow on her home turf. How long will Hillary remain silent about this war?

Sunday, January 14th, 2007 by Steven Reynolds |

Mining Gems

One of the great joys of blogging is that, every now and then, I run into a gem that needs to be brought to the surface and polished. Such is the following from Josh Buermann at Flagrancy to Reason:
But what’s even worse is the emerging Democratic strategy of opposing an insignificant, meaningless, chair-shuffling-on-the-titanic 20,000 [...]

Commentary By: Richard Blair

One of the great joys of blogging is that, every now and then, I run into a gem that needs to be brought to the surface and polished. Such is the following from Josh Buermann at Flagrancy to Reason:

But what’s even worse is the emerging Democratic strategy of opposing an insignificant, meaningless, chair-shuffling-on-the-titanic 20,000 troop increase while leaving the other 150,000 stuck eating sand for the next two years. You can’t just oppose the surge, you’ve gotta oppose the whole deployment. If that’s all that happens then the mudslinging about –abandoning the troops’ from some of our basketcase cousins across the isle will stick, and for the good reason that it would actually be true…

Saturday, January 13th, 2007 by Richard Blair |