Democracy Soup

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Archive for January 2010

State of the Union not getting fixed fast enough for left and right

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“Reinventing the wheel” is probably one of the lamest phrases used today. But when it comes to fixing the economy, why are we reinventing the wheel?

The “good news” about the Great Depression from the 1930s is that we now have a blueplan for what to do in troubled times, and what not to do in troubled times.

So why aren’t we following these plans?

The State of the Union is really not good. And it doesn’t feel like the focus has been on the economy. This isn’t one of those right-wing rants against fixing health care. Fixing health care would have really helped the economy.

The first stimulus package was more juice cocktail — full of water and high-fructose corn syrup — than juice. It wasn’t strong enough even without the unneeded tax cuts. We have Obama’s 3-year spending freeze proposal.

Both elements were watered down to please Republicans. Did that work? Uh, no.

That President Obama wants to make jobs the highest priority in 2010 sounds nice. Even encouraging. But where has that fight been, and why wasn’t it stronger from the start.

We have a game plan that brought in success back in the Great Depression. Years later, we applaud FDR for what he did, and even put his likeness on the dime.

We applaud Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his true political courage, for doing what was best for the country, politics be damned. Roosevelt didn’t cajole to the Republicans or the banks. He stood up for the people, not Wall Street.

Obama has repeated to us that we saved the worst from happening. This is true, but in the beginning of 2010, hearing this once again is starting to be tiring. We’re tired of “saving jobs”; we want to start creating jobs.

He talks about how we inherited two wars. Well. Obama escalated one war and hasn’t shut down the other one. And his spending freeze won’t change that. If we are worried about money, let’s reapportion it back to the people of the United States.

Would FDR be hesistant to push banks to loan money to businesses willing to employ more people. Letting those banks do what they wanted, instead of what the people needed.

FDR wasn’t afraid to be radical in times of desperation; Obama seems hesitant. Here’s the cruel irony: the more Obama would take charge, and go against the desires of the rich and Wall Street, the more political support he would get from the left and the right.

Oh, Obama could be Superman and not get support from the Republican establishment. The concept that President Clinton got some GOP support, mostly by bending toward their needs, has disappeared from the mindset of the Republicans.

But Obama could get support from conservatives, small c conservatives, if he would show political courage and stand up for the people.

The other advantage for Obama to show more courage is that the Republicans would be scared enough to go along. Their “strategy” of saying No to Obama is “working” because President Obama is letting it work. Offering a hand to the Republicans was genius for Obama. The problem is that the hand is still out, collecting dust waiting for a response.

We have long, long, long gone past the point of waiting. We needed action 12 months ago.

This isn’t to say Obama has done nothing. His green jobs initiatives are wonderful, short-term and long-term. High speed rail is one desperately needed infrastructure area we badly need. There are ways to use money here in the United States to invest in us and our infrastructure.

His words and actions are a considerable turn of events from the previous eight years. Obama’s enthusiasm is necessary. And there are success stories that aren’t getting enough positive press in the MSM.

But we don’t see the big, bold necessary moves to help the economy. Obama said in the speech that 1 in 10 are looking for a job. Officially, this is true. But when the President of the United States underscores how many people are searching, closer to 20% of the people need a job or full-time work and health insurance, we need stronger leadership from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I don’t accept second place for the United States of America.” — President Obama from the State of the Union, 2010

Let’s start coming up with policy that reflects that. It should be more than just a catchphrase once a year in late January.

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Written by democracysoup

January 29, 2010 at 7:54 am

Dems inability to address economic issues will cost them in 2010 elections

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How unusual are things in the 2010 election season? We keep seeing candidates that everyone assumes would win a race not even entering.

Afraid to lose even if you think you will win?

Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General and son of the vice president, announces that he won’t run for his father’s Senate seat in 2010. The younger Biden was seen as the Democratic Party’s best chance of keeping the seat. In fact, because Biden was seen as the one who would run, Democrats in the state withdrew consideration, and momentum.

Biden waited an awful long time to announce that he wasn’t running. Until this point, Biden had taken a long time to decide what to do. For someone who seemed to want the job, Biden’s sudden change is mystifying.

You could argue that Biden’s time in Iraq changed his perspective, though Biden doesn’t mention it.

But Biden’s exit from the race, the loss of Congressmen who didn’t try for the Senate (Ed Markey, Jan Schakowsky among others), and the newest House retirement — Marion Berry (D-AR) — points to one major issue. There is a fear of running or being in Congress.

The experts have focused on who, but not why, this trend is kicking in for the 2010 election season. Let’s try one theory: teabaggers.

The level of uncivility during the town halls must have scared some in Congress to either retire or not try to move up. It’s one thing to have these occurrences in the South, but if politicians in blue states are running nervous, this doesn’t speak well for democracy.

The teabaggers will tell you they are the pro-democracy ones. After all, they would argue that speaking up is a key element of democracy. But democracy is about speaking up with knowledge and allowing others to speak. Teabaggers went 0-for-2.

The MSM played a role as its coverage of the teabaggers came without criticism, and we’re not even talking about Fox “News” Channel. Those who protest from the left are treated with skepticism by the MSM, those on the right were given the red-carpet treatment.

The MSM was so uncritical of the teabaggers that they didn’t even focus on the legitimate anger that they possessed. The MSM loved their anger, but never asked why they were angry. For all the criticism against the teabaggers, and there is plenty, some of the teabagger anger, however misplaced, was justified.

We have gone through a few generations of economic malaise. Even in the “good” times of the mid-1990s, many of these people still didn’t get the economic benefits that reached the middle class and the upper class.

Even now, as millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed, President Obama’s focus — finally is on something — but it’s still on the middle class.

If Obama wants to help the teabaggers, and show them he is on their side, the DLC-retread obsession with the “middle class” won’t work, and will antagonize those who really need help.

Those who can’t get themselves up to middle class are much angrier than those in the middle class. Republicans are embracing their anger for their own purposes. Democrats, by and large, are ignoring them completely.

The longer the Democratic Party waits to help these people, the longer 2010 will seem when it comes to the election cycle.

Written by democracysoup

January 25, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Supreme Court says corporations are people; real people would strongly disagree

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When people told me in 2000 that there was no difference between Gore and Bush; when people told me in 2004 that they hated Bush, but weren’t thrilled with Kerry, I always had one answer for them: When it comes to who is president, it’s more than just who lives in the Oval Office.

Who sits on the Supreme Court depends on who is the president. And those who liked what John Kerry believed in, but didn’t vote or voted for George W. Bush, must be recoiling at the latest Supreme Court decision.

Corporations are now people.

For those who think “activist judges” are a bad thing must be livid over the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision overturning a century-old precedent on shaky legal ground. However, in one of those ironic moments, those that decry “activist judges” are the ones celebrating this decision.

If you think there is too much money swaying federal elections, this decision opens up two sets of floodgates. Those on the right note that unions can spend more money too, but the lion’s share of money will come from corporations.

And the money will rain down — more deceptive, deceiving ads will invade your airspace. And it won’t be just ads either.

The Court heard the case based on a movie filled with questionable validity about Hillary Clinton that a group wanted to spend its money on during the primary season.

There is a feeling, politics aside, that political advertising has decayed our perception of democracy. True, political ads from over 100 years ago would make today’s ads look tame. The power of television and movies, though, makes an unique impact.

We have a thin conservative majority on the Supreme Court that has fought hard in its decisions to give corporations more rights and people fewer rights, legal precedent be damned.

Those who call them conservative and independent; those you see on the news who seem unsure about who to vote for — these are the people who will be the most negatively affected by this decision. Yet this decision will be seen as pro-conservative.

But there’s the difference. There is Conservative, the establishment. They love giving tax breaks to rich companies to get richer. They are pro-corporation and anti-worker.

Then there is conservative. God-fearing people who go to church or services. Those who believe in lifting up their own bootstraps. They want to work for what they have. They don’t ask much from their government, and they sure don’t get much either.

Conservatives, with a capital C, love this decision. Small c conservatives won’t.

Liberals, by and large, hate this decision. Those who are heavy into the union scene might be slim benefits, but their goals will be quashed not only by the larger amount spent by corporations, but also by the MSM, which views things done by corporations as beneficial to our world and things done by unions with heavy suspicion.

Any 6-year-old child will tell you that corporations are not people. Yet, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito would disagree.

Those last two names are extremely significant. For those who felt the 2004 election was stolen, these two seats, the late William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, would have been filled by President Kerry by justices who would have ruled against this notion. This case never would have come up if it wasn’t for the idea that the 5 conservative justices likely would rule in their favor.

The idea that corporations are people with rights granted under the Constitution is a radical judicial philosophy. But you won’t read that in the MSM because they like corporations. And while there are more people as people than corporations as people, in this case, the minority rules, even if there are 5 “conservatives” and 4 not-so-conservatives.

Just remember in 2012, 2016, and beyond, voting for president isn’t a choice between holding your nose and picking the lesser of two evils, it’s about who sits on the Supreme Court. And unlike a lot of things that presidents do, what the Supreme Court decides in their black robes does impact your life. Identifying people as corporations is not what a lot of people — who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 or didn’t vote at all — had in mind. Elections matter to people and corporations disguised as people.

Written by democracysoup

January 22, 2010 at 7:02 am

Democratic mess of succession law in 2004 brought us Senator Scott Brown

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So much for predictions: analysis is more my game…

Edward Brooke. There’s a name you rarely hear despite his prominent place in political trivia, and recent link to an affair with Barbara Walters. Brooke is the first elected U.S. senator of African descent. For our purposes, Brooke is also the last Republican in the Senate from Massachusetts.

Of course, this will change in a matter of days, since Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley to finish out the Senate seat for the late Ted Kennedy.

Yes, this make the health care bill — so decrepit even before Tuesday night that it needed repair, preferably not in the United States — much more difficult to pass.

But let’s go back to the reason this happened in the first place. Massachusetts was like many states, where the governor got to pick a replacement for a senator who leaves office or dies. This rule was in place in 2004 when John Kerry was running for president. The Massachusetts governor at the time — Mitt Romney — would likely have picked a Republican replacement for Kerry should Kerry have won the 2004 race (for the moment, never minded that Kerry likely did win that race).

The Democratic Party freaked out and didn’t want that scenario to occur. So they “brilliantly” changed the rules — creating a 5-month stretch where the Bay State wouldn’t have a senator, and then the people would elect someone to fill out the rest of the term.

Given that the 5-month interim stretch with no senator was likely against the U.S. Constitution, the law passed. And the Democrats looked bad when this happened in 2004. Then, of course, Kerry “didn’t win.”

Fast-forward to 2009. Ted Kennedy has died. Massachusetts has no senator, but ironically, has a Democratic governor in Deval Patrick. If the change in law hadn’t occurred, Patrick would have selected an interim senator, possibly Sen. Paul Kirk (the result of a new law passed by Democrats in 2009 to allow for an interim senator until the special election) until January 2013. Again, Democrats in Massachusetts changed the law twice, each time to serve their needs. And the first change was likely unconstitutional.

Combine all this changing of laws to temporarily suit political purposes, and a competent yet not-great candidate in an era of teabagging anger, even in blue states, and now the GOP has 41 senators, filibuster-proof.

Laws are designed to fit all scenarios. Changing laws on a whim looks bad, even if the second changes were designed to fix the first one. Voters see through this masquerade, even if politicians are still behind the mask.

Republicans may be correctly despised for their nefarious activities. But they didn’t do a whole lot in this case; Democratic people did this to themselves.

Scott Brown will be in the U.S. Senate until January 2013. Democrats will have that much time to figure out how that happened. Hope they use a mirror.

NOTE: Democracy Soup will kick up more media criticism coverage as part of the political blog. Let’s start with the alarming lack of coverage over who Scott Brown and Martha Coakley are. Yes, this is a special election. But the MSM focused on all the positives of Brown and the negatives of Coakley on a level that was embarassing, even by MSM standards.

The left-wing media dug up plenty of material on Brown, could have been spoon-fed to the MSM, but the MSM wouldn’t bite. And Coakley’s track record as Attorney General made her a fine candidate for the Senate. Yes, Brown was the better candidate on a superficial basis, and not just in looks. But this was no excuse to not paint the two major rivals in this race with truthful brushes. Let the voting public see who these two really are, and let the voters decide. That is true democracy; what the MSM gave us in this race was a travesty of any sense of democracy.

Written by democracysoup

January 20, 2010 at 11:32 am

Democrats need to stop panicking to hang on to seats in Congress

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Even if you didn’t follow politics, you’ve heard a lot about Martha Coakley, Scott Brown, and a whole lot of stories about panic.

The experts tell you that all is lost if the Democrats lose on Tuesday.

They aren’t completely wrong, of course. The Democratic Party would fall to 59 senators (including two independents). Nothing of importance will get passed, especially health care reform. And as poor as the potential bill will be, passing nothing will make the Democrats look even less successful as November approaches.

Is it better for the Democratic Party to lose this seat? Can’t imagine Democrats and Independents would think so. But what is confusing is what Democrats are doing about this?

If the experts are correct, and there is an anti-incumbency vibe going on, how do you fix that?

People’s frustrations don’t so much fall into the anti-incumbency attitude; after all, the people gave President Obama more of a honeymoon than the MSM did. But they are tremendously frustrated with things not getting done.

Things aren’t getting done because the Republicans have stood in the way. Whether it be DeMint’s Waterloo comment, or watching moderate Republicans scared to vote their conscience, the GOP has been a doorstop in the way of progress.

The idea that Republicans were going to behave this way isn’t shocking. But the Democratic Party had stood there like a deer in headlights.

Obama takes some of the blame for this. Play nice, play nice, and good things will happen. Uh, no. Good to try, even for the first 6 months. But once it was clear that this wasn’t changing, Obama and the Democrats should have gone to Plan B.

There doesn’t seem to be a Plan B. Which is why Coakley is in trouble and former centerfold Brown might finish out the seat of the late Ted Kennedy.

I make very few predictions, but I predict Coakley barely wins the seat. In a sense, a narrow victory can be a blessing for the Democrats, IF they learn lessons from this race and apply them down the road.

First, the Democrats need to hustle in every race. Pretend there are no easy races, because there aren’t.

Then, point out why things aren’t getting done. Address fears and concerns citizens have. Right now, Democrats are ignoring their concerns.

For the Senate races, play up getting more senators on the Democratic side. After all, more senators means more things get done.

Criticizing the Republican strategy of obstruction is easy. The problem for Democrats and Independents is that the strategy is working, even if it is to the detriment of what the United States needs to do.

Americans are reluctant for change, even if they are begging for it now. What they don’t understand is why things aren’t getting done. And no one from the Democratic Party side is explaining this to them.

President Obama should be doing this, but doesn’t want to do so. Ronald Reagan didn’t feel shy about stating who he thought was the obstacle for him, as Democrats left and right kowtowed to Reagan in the 1980s. Republicans aren’t kowtowing to Obama, because Republicans are more disciplined.

Even if 59 senators is a solid majority, the second most solid Senate majority in more than a generation, clearly this isn’t enough. The MSM refuses to acknowledge this issue because they salivate over discipline. As biased as the MSM is toward the right wing, they love and reward discipline. So in their eyes, what Republicans are doing to stop Obama is glorious.

What are Democrats doing to change that equation? Nothing.

The Democratic Party should be scared if the Massachusetts Senate seat turns red. But even if it stays blue, they need to stop panicking and start explaining. There are still more Republicans open seats than Democratic. The opportunity is there for Democrats to actually get some things done. They need to start — now.

Written by democracysoup

January 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

Posted in 2010 elections

Without truth, political discourse suffers

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Sadly, we live in a world where “truth” isn’t universal. So let’s play a game.

Which is a “truthier” statement?

Mark McGwire has taken steroids.

George Walker Bush was president of the United States on September 11, 2001.

Even before McGwire’s tearful admission this week, most Americans would have said the McGwire statement was more truthful, even if the McGwire statement was officially speculation and the Bush statement was undeniable fact.

Why would more Americans believe that Bush wasn’t in the White House? Dana Perino, Mary Matalin, and Rudy Giuliani.

After all, in discussing Republican talking points, the newest point apparently is that Bush wasn’t in charge during the worst terrorism attack on U.S. soil. The implication is that Bush couldn’t have done anything to prevent it, such as acting on the now famous August 6 PDB. But how could he? After all, Bush wasn’t in charge.

These three Republicans have gone on television recently, and empathetically said that 9/11 didn’t happen on Bush’s watch. And if Republicans don’t believe that was true, if Republicans really know better, they didn’t speak up.

The left wing did speak up each time, chastising John King (Mary Matalin) and George Stephanopoulos (Rudy Giuliani) for letting those statements air without correction. Dana Perino made her statement on Fox “News” Channel, and no one on the panel challenged her words.

But virtually every American, outside of Tony LaRussa and McGwire’s family, thought McGwire had taken steroids. Pictures of McGwire early in his career vs. late in his career, the huge spike in home runs, the better stamina as he got older — these seemed like proof. Accusations from fellow teammate Jose Canseco weren’t taken as seriously, but it added to the speculation.

Yet, technically, until substantial proof in McGwire’s case, his steroid use wasn’t a fact, even if everyone believed it.

But Bush being in charge on September 11, 2001 — there is plenty of proof. Reading to “My Pet Goat” to schoolchildren in Florida. Those who were at the rain-soaked inauguration on January 20, 2001. The legally questionable 5-4 Supreme Court decision. Yes, Bush hid away that day after he eventually left the classroom, and was MIA throughout that day. But he was technically in charge.

The statements are even more outrageous, depending on the definition of terrorist attack. After all, these Republicans aren’t counting the anthrax attack, the shoe bomber, countless domestic terrorist attacks of smaller proportion than 9/11. If you’re older than 10 years old, you know this isn’t true.

But we live in a media environment where political operatives lie all the time, and don’t get caught or called on the carpet. Subtle lies are likely going to slip through the process. But media people who are supposed to be smart enough to talk politics on TV are letting king-sized fish go by unfettered.

After all, why change the system if you can tell such an egregious lie and get away with it. In the last scenario, George Stephanopoulos acknowledged on his blog that he should have said something to Giuliani. Did Stephanopoulos have to look it up after the interview? Was he not sure? Did he check Wikipedia?

At least, Stephanopoulos had the “courage” to admit after the fact that he messed up, a lame step, but the only one in that scenario who took one.

If we are going to have a discussion of political concerns, there can be a “joy” to picking selected facts to match one’s philosophy. We used to have this, but now, we don’t even have that. Those on TV are picking their own lies, and for the most part, they are picking crappy ones. Yet the MSM does nothing.

We can disagree on solutions to problems, but politics — the jobs of politicians — is supposed to be about finding solutions to problems. Right now, we can’t agree that there are problems, and we aren’t starting with the truth. Until we find a way to fix that, politics, and the media coverage they receive, are just going to get uglier.

To paraphrase an overused movie line, we can handle the truth. Maybe not all the truth, but we can handle the basic facts. Politicians who can step up to do that will get rewarded, regardless of political philosophy. The people are parched for politicians to treat them like adults. The first place to start is telling the truth.

Written by democracysoup

January 15, 2010 at 6:47 am

Mixups in names on TSA watch lists unnecessarily discourage travel

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Be like Mike. Not quite. Especially when you are an 8-year-old on a TSA watch list.

If you have ever Googled your name and found others with the same name as you, there is that danger that if one of these people does something to possibly deserve to be on the list, you become “guilty” as well.

This story of Michael Winston Hicks in The New York Times goes on into sordid details on how an 8-year-old was patted down; the description uses the word “crotch.” A rather unpleasant thought.

As much as the partisan wars would love to blame this on a particular president, the larger reality is that coming up with a system that ties in descriptive details (date of birth, ethnicity, even gender) shouldn’t have taken this long.

Encouraging world travel is something that should be promoted, not demoted. One of those areas of criticism leveled at Americans that is legitimate is that we don’t know enough about the world. Traveling isn’t the only way, but it is the best way.

Dread is something you should save for tests, public presentations, interviews, and first dates. For the vast majority of us, screenings at airports shouldn’t be on that list.

Written by democracysoup

January 14, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Posted in travel