Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gee Whiz, It's Almost Christmas!

I've always had mixed feelings about Christmas. Even as a child my anticipation and enjoyment of the holidays always had a touch of melancholy hovering just below the surface.The one thing that could dissipate my holiday blues was music, specifically Christmas music. I love Christmas songs, the cheery ones and the sad ones, the serious ones and the silly ones. So I'm taking a break from any talk of the woes of government and focusing my thoughts on the music of the season. 

I love traditional Christmas Carols such as Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful) or Silent Night. However if I had to choose one favorite traditional carol it would be O Holy Night; the lyrics are from a French poem, Minuit, Chr├ętiens (Midnight, Christians) that was set to music composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847. I love the way it starts quietly and crescendos into this powerful exultation of pure love and joy. It's been recorded many times but one of my favorite renditions is by Celine Dion. 
I grew up listening to an eclectic mix of music from country to rhythm and blues to gospel. Mahalia Jackson had one of the most recognizable voices in gospel music. Her interpretation of Silent Night rocks you gently like a lullaby.

I also like more contemporary holiday music like Elvis belting out Blue Christmas or Karen Carpenter sweetly singing Merry Christmas, Darling. A couple of years ago I heard a song on the radio that made me want to stop my car, get out and sway to the beat.  When the song ended, the DJ didn't name the artist, so I pulled over in the parking lot of the CVS and called the station. The title of the song was All I Want For Christmas Is You and it was performed by Vince Vance and the Valiants. Recorded in 1993, it charted on the country chart and the pop chart. The lead vocals are by Lisa Layne. Another great holiday song with the same title was recorded a couple of years ago by Mariah Carey but they are not the same song, they just have the same title. The video below is the tune by Vince Vance and the Valiants. By the way, the video has a lousy visual but it had the best sound quality.

This next song reminds me of my childhood and my paternal grandmother. She had a wonderful collection of 45s and during the Christmas season she always seemed to have music playing. This classic by Charles Brown was released in 1960. I was five and I loved to listen to the song and watch the grownups slow dance to it in my grandmother's parlor. We don't really have parlors any more, too bad. Every child should have the opportunity to peak around the corner and spy on the grownups. The song is Please Come Home for Christmas.

The next song isn't really a Christmas song; however, it's become associated with Christmas; it's the late Dan Fogelberg's Same Old Lang Syne. This song always makes me cry, sort of like the film, The Way We Were. It's filled with all the regrets of the road not taken and the love that was but somehow didn't work out. A bit of trivia--Fogelberg began each verse with the melody phrase from Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. I like to sing along with this one until my nose is runny from all the crying and I can't make any sound that doesn't sound like a snort. The solo sax wailing Auld Lang Syne as a coda does me in completely. This video has the lyrics!
All of my tastes in Christmas music isn't limited to sad songs or spiritual songs, I looked for a video of that classic tune, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer but I didn't like any of the versions that I found on YouTube. Yes it's funny, how can you not laugh at a song with lyrics like these, "They should never give a license, to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves." However, I found a version sans video that I liked, just click the link.

Every time I think that I'm done, I come across another song that I love. I've been having a sing-a-long while writing this. I can't omit Carla Thomas singing Gee Whiz It's Christmas. Thomas began her career with Stax records and is the daughter of another great soul singer, Rufus Thomas.
I have to include one final tune that is politically incorrect on so many levels but I like it nonetheless, Eartha Kitt crooning Santa Baby. I know that Madonna, and Taylor Swift and a ton of others have done covers of the song, but the tune belongs to Ms. Eartha Kitt and personally, I think all those other versions should be destroyed.
There are so many wonderful songs and I could go on and on but I have to draw the line somewhere. Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Can You Handle the Truth?

Just read an op-ed piece in the New York Times by writer Ishmael Reed entitled What Progressives Don't Understand About Obama. It was an amen article, a piece with which I nodded continuously in agreement as I read it and murmured amen under my breath. To appreciate Reed's piece, read it, no summary can do it justice. He takes on the ad nauseum criticism that Present Obama is weak, ineffectual, ball less, and not tough enough to be president. A smart guy, but too nice and too concerned about keeping the peace. Too afraid to give the Republicans the ass whipping that they deserve.

I've been accused of being "nice" as in I don't want people to dislike me. Not true. I'm going to tell you up front that some of you aren't going to understand the truth that this article speaks and you may not like my attitude. See, as a black person I'm so sick and tired of white liberals who have still enjoyed the privilege of being white trying to tell a black man how to navigate in a white world.

You don't get it and you lack the humility to simply accept that you do not. Instead you attack the President as being weak, without balls, a sellout and any other demeaning, emasculating terminology that you can devise. You don't understand what it is to be black and walk in his shoes and you're too damned arrogant to listen to those of us who try and tell you.

By now, you're all upset because I've offended you. Hey, don't you want us to show our anger? Don't you have problems with me being so nice and reasonable all the time?

Don't get hung up on the mistaken notice that I'm taking the position that the president is off limits for criticism. I don't think he's perfect and I certainly have problems with some of his decisions. He and I part company when it comes to the continuation of either of our wars.

Read carefully and understand me, I'm talking about the continued hammering at his character. I'm talking about the insulting and demeaning allegations that he is less than a man, some namby- pamby smart guy who doesn't know how to be tough. What colossal ignorance and arrogance to believe that any black person could achieve what President Obama has achieved and be weak. Until you have walked in our shoes, until you have been marginalized based on the color of your skin in a culture that continues to not only openly express racism but defend its right to do so under cockeyed readings of the 1st amendment, then don't talk to me about how you think that any black person should behave.


Now, I'm going to go back to being nice. It's survival mode because if I dwell on this crap I can't leave my house. Every day that I go out I run into racism in this "colorblind" society of ours. Some days it's just the fools with the confederate flags plastered on their pickup trucks, or the monuments to the confederate dead that litter the South, but it's always something. So I'm tough and I work hard to not lose my cool because I don't have time to waste in being angry and out of control, and neither does the President.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

President Obama's Tax Deal Is A Good Play

In my Net surfing today, it appears that slowly but surely there are some who have stopped hyperventilating about the tax increase for the wealthy long enough to recognize that the President's compromise gets a lot more than it gives. (Check out the Daily Kos for example) Sure it extends the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for an additional two years but it doesn't make them permanent. In exchange, here's what we, the people get:

Working families will not lose their tax cut. A typical working family faced a tax increase of over $3,000 on January 1st. The framework agreement includes a mutually agreed upon solution to the impasse over taxes by extending the 2001/2003 income tax rates for two years and reforming the AMT to ensure that an additional 21 million households will not be hit with a tax increase.

$56 billion for unemployment insurance extension. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, passing this provision will create 600,000 jobs in 2011 alone.

$120 billion payroll tax cut for working families

$40 billion in tax cuts for our hardest hit families and students

100% expensing for businesses next year

Child Tax Credit: The $1,000 child tax credit will be extended for two years with the $3,000 refundability threshold established in the Recovery Act. This extension will ensure an ongoing tax cut to 10.5 million lower income families with 18 million children.

Earned Income Tax Credit: The Recovery Act included an expansion of the EITC worth, on average, $600 in additional assistance to families with 3 or more children. It also helped working married families by reducing the marriage penalty in the EITC. Continuing this tax cut for two years will benefit 6.5 million working parents with 15 million children.

American Opportunity Tax Credit: The Recovery Act included a new, partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 to help students and their families cover the cost of college tuition. This deal fully extends AOTC for two years, ensuring that more than 8 million students will continue to receive this tax benefit to help them afford college.

A 2-year extension of the R&D tax credit and other tax incentives to support business expansion.

I'd like to see everyone pay their fair share of taxes but if the trade off is providing two more years of Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for all of the benefits for the unemployed, the middle class and low income individuals and families, then I say let the Republicans have their tax cuts. Of course I also say remind the American public of it repeatedly over the next two years. 


Let's also be clear that the Democrats in the Senate do not have the votes to end debate on the tax cuts legislation and move to a vote on the merits. They tried to do so twice and were seven votes short of the needed 60 votes each time.  People whom I like keep insisting that the president caved and never threatened the Republicans with the power of his veto. That's such a none argument; the Republicans are aware that the President can veto any bill; they are also aware that they have the authority, with sufficient votes in each chamber, to over turn that veto. 


I just watched an episode of The Last Word where some earnest young man talked about the President mounting the bully pulpit and shaming the Republicans into voting against extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. When I finished laughing, I listened to host Lawrence O'Donnell ask the youngster to give a single example where any modern president had been able to shame the Republicans into supporting any tax increase. The young man sputtered but he never came up with an answer.


The minimal benefit to the economy to be gained from collecting more taxes from the wealthy is more than offset by the benefits that this compromise provides to the poor, the unemployed , and the middle class. Without the compromise, as of December 31, 2010, the EITC, the AOTC, and the Child Tax Credit will expire. Unemployment Insurance Benefits have already expired for millions of Americans and that number will increase at the end of the year. The income tax rate for those at the bottom of the tax schedule will increase from 10% to 15%.


A good friend continues to argue that we would simply return to the middle class tax rate of the Clinton era and that it wouldn't be that bad. The problem with that logic is this isn't the Clinton era; we're in a recession. People have less disposable income than they had under Clinton. During the Clinton years, the government built up a surplus which the Bush administration morphed into a deficit. In addition, that even if the middle class manage to struggle on, what about the unemployed and the low wealth families depending on the tax credits? 


Playing Russian roulette with millions of Americans' economic welfare simply to shaft the wealthy and teach the Republicans creates an unacceptable level of collateral damage.



I Agree With What She Says (Extending the Tax Cuts)

I really feared that my Aunt Dorothy's dire prediction was going to come true tonight--my head was going to explode! Aunt Dorothy has been concerned about my love of learning for some time and when I decided to got to law school back in 1994 at the ripe old age of 39, she confided in my mother of my imminent demise from an exploding head.

The extreme pressure in my brain today was a result from the rabidly foaming at the mouth Democrats and liberals who have pronounced that President Obama's proposed compromise on the retiring tax cuts extension is an indicator of that he is weak willed and desperately wants to be liked by the Republicans. As I struggled to determine how to say with civility and intelligence that such opinions were just plain f**k**g stupid, I came across a post by a blogging friend, Beth Riches.

Beth blogs at Nutwood Junction and I've been reading her blog for four years. She always makes me think and often makes me laugh. She's got a razor sharp wit! Her recent post, "Shades of Grey," says everything that was rolling around in my head! It brilliantly sums up why the President is neither a wimp nor the devil for promoting a compromise on the tax cuts extensions. No matter what you think that you know or believe on this topic, please follow the link and read Beth's blog post. Leave her a comment and please stop back by and tell me what you think. I copied the chart below from Beth's post.  
The bubble chart you see ... is a representation of the numbers in the tax deal currently being negotiated in Washington right now. The blue is what the Democrats got, and the lone red one is what the Republicans got.--Beth Riches
For her brilliant analysis, you have to visit her blog.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Expiring Tax Cuts: Deal Or No Deal


Politics is and always has been about negotiations. Lines drawn in the sand are just to test the waters. Both sides know that ultimately you give some to get some. It appears that the trade off is going to be the tax cuts for the wealthy for the extension of the unemployment benefits. 


On Friday, House Democrats mustered sufficient votes to pass a bill that  extended the current tax cuts to the middle class and eliminated the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy. On Saturday, the Senate Republicans voted unanimously to defeat the Senate version of that bill. The vote was 53 (yes) to 36 (no), seven votes shy of the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation in the Senate.  While Republicans voted in a bloc, four Democrats voted with the Republicans, Senators Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska,  and Jim Webb of Virginia, as did independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.


A second measure that would have extended the tax cuts to include those earning up to $1 million annually also failed to receive the necessary 60 votes to move forward. The vote on the second measure was 53 (yes) to 37(no) with a slightly different crew of Democrats voting with the Republicans--Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and the ever consistent Feingold and Lieberman.


At stake is not only the continuation of the middle class tax cuts, but the Republicans are also holding the extension of unemployment benefits hostage unless they get tax cuts for all. The White House has its own demands--passage of legislation extending the unemployment benefits for millions of people, as well as renewal of expiring tax breaks for lower and middle class wage earners, college students, and businesses that hire the unemployed.

I keep hearing how Obama and the Democrats should stand firm and declare no tax cuts for the wealthy. What then? What happens to the lower class (even if you don't have to pay income tax, there are some cuts for which you may qualify), the middle class and the unemployed who will find themselves with a decrease in revenue? When you have bills to pay to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, politicians having an old west style standoff are not a source of inspiration or admiration.



The Republican Senators aren't going to cave on the extension of unemployment benefits unless they get something that they want, in this case, the extension of the tax cuts for all. They will deny culpability, spinning it to be Obama's fault for being unwilling to compromise on the tax cuts and the public will buy it. I feel like a broken record, but the office of the president has no authority to force Congress to do anything. He influences Congress but he doesn't command Congress. 


Congress is answerable only to us and we seldom get off our collective asses to do anything to let Congress know that we will not accept their behavior. 


Of course Obama can veto the bill that comes to his desk if it contains an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy. Congress has the authority to override that veto but it's unlikely that both chambers would get the votes required to do so. However, it would be an incomplete victory. Any bill that the Republicans sign on to will also include the tax cuts for the middle class as well; veto the bill and taxes for the middle class also increase allowing the Republicans to again blame Obama for failing to keep his campaign promise to not allow an increase in taxes for the middle class.


It all reminds me of that game show hosted by Howie Mandel, the one where the contestants are asked, "Deal or no deal?" To get tax cuts for the people who need them the most, the administration will have to cut a deal with the Republicans to extend the Bush cuts to all. Rumor has it that the president is holding to setting a time limit on the cuts for the wealthy so that they will expire prior to the the tax cuts for the lower and middle class.


I wouldn't want to be in Obama's shoes; no matter what he does he will be condemned by the right and the left. However, Washington will roll on as it always has, playing some shady version of "Deal or No Deal."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Great Socialism Paranoia of the Right

A fellow blogger left an interesting comment on a post to The Swash Zone in which he offered an explanation as to why Americans are so quick to cry "socialism" when presented with any programs or policies that seek to provide to each according to her need. He cites one candidate's comments on a Tulsa City Council Questionnaire as indicating the core belief of those who see socialism in every social justice program or policy: 
I almost fanatically hate bullies and tyranny; I love individual liberty and the exercise of the individual human will. I am strongly opposed to any form of socialism, since all forms of socialism are based on force and the theoretical superiority of the group over the person. I strongly support the free market and the right of people to organize their own lives and make their own choices in their lives….All Government is based on force or the threat of force. The more government we have, the less liberty we enjoy. The less liberty we have, the less success we enjoy. Freedom just naturally produces success; that's what made America great. As the federal government tightens its coils around us, the nation begins to fail. 
The Tea Party is a bold manifestation of the underlying belief that individual liberties are of more significance than the good of all. The reality is that we do cede some of our individual liberties to government in order to promote a civil society in which the rights of the few are just as significant as the rights of the many. Perhaps it's time for the left to stop denying that socialism is an acceptable and even desirable element of a government by the people and for the people, if that government is to truly serve the interests of all of the people.


Social Contract theory as proposed by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau has at its core a belief that individual liberties have to be tempered by government if we are to live in an ordered society where the basic rights of all are protected. I confess that I am Hobbesian in my beliefs. Humankind in its natural state without the controls of government is selfish and each person is focused on his/her own interests. In this state of nature, each person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world. Hobbes argues that leaving us to pursue our own individual interests would lead to a "war of all against all" and  lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." To prevent this perpetual state of war, men in the state of nature agree to a social contract and establish a civil society. (A good place to start if you are unfamiliar with social contract theory is with the Wikipedia article; it's not comprehensive but it provides a good intro.)


Where I part company with Hobbes is that he thought the most efficient government was to have an authoritarian monarchy to whom all ceded their natural rights for the sake of peace and protection. Hobbes was a true proponent of big and authoritative government. Locke proposed a more liberal monarchy and Rousseau advocated that government should be modeled on liberal republicanism (has nothing to to do with the Republican Party). I support a government that makes room for individual liberties but recognizes that those individual rights must be subsumed when they would result in the denial of basic rights to some individuals. 


The common good must exceed individual liberties. Over emphasis on individual liberties would result in the strong always being able to exploit the weak. Our government wasn't implemented to enforce the rule of the majority but to protect the rights of the minority. The Constitution that the right babbles on about incessantly has at its core the premise that the government's role is to uphold equal treatment of all under the law. Those founding fathers that Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh claim to know personally, didn't look to the Bible for guidance in determining the governing structure for this country but they did look to the work of Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes. You can hear the echoes of their various philosophical treatises on the purpose and structure of government in the Declaration and the Constitution. 


This promotion of self benefits the individual and the common good be damned. It is a philosophy that supports that if people are hungry and without shelter it's because they are lazy. It's an ideology that concludes that people remain unemployed not because they can't find a job but because they would rather not work. It is a belief that concludes that welfare recipients, the homeless, the poor, have no one but themselves to blame for their lot and it's no concern of the rest of us to do anything to provide them with the necessities of life. It is a selfishness that supports denying access to health care to those who cannot afford to pay for it. We have become a nation of nasty and brutish people, and we revel in it.


We are also a nation of hypocrites. The very people who sing the praises of individual liberty and oppose programs designed to help the underclass, deriding such programs as entitlements, also firmly assert that this is a Christian nation founded upon Christian values.  What Christianity is there in the philosophy of every person for herself? What happened to the core Christian concept of being your sister's keeper? From what I know of Christianity, Jesus definitely had socialist leanings.


The next time someone accuses me of being a socialist, my response will be, "Yes I am and proud of it."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Unholy Alliance: Health Care and Insurance Companies

I just read an interesting post about a new book by Wendell Potter, a former communications director for Humana and then CIGNA, two of the nation's largest health insurers. Potter's book has a very long title: Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans.  I haven't read the book (I plan to do so) but I have read the transcript from Potter's interview on Democracy Now about his book.  It's a fascinating interview and the following assessment by Potter of the health care reform legislation really caught my attention.
WENDELL POTTER: They do. And that’s why this will not be repealed. They like a lot about it. This legislation, we call it "healthcare reform," but it doesn’t really reform the system. There are a lot of good things in there that does make some of the practices of the insurance industry illegal, things that should have been made illegal a long time ago, so that—
AMY GOODMAN: Like?
WENDELL POTTER:—for that matter, there are good things here. But it doesn’t reform the system. It is built around our health insurance system, as the President said. And they want to keep it in place, because it also guarantees that they will have a lot of new members and billions of dollars in new revenue in the years to come.
The Health Care Reform Act (HCR) didn't go far enough but it certainly moved forward. Potter's key point is that the legislation didn't reform the health care system. Of course it didn't. The climate in this country wasn't conducive to totally throwing out the health care system and building a new one from scratch. Anyone who honestly believes that such a massive overhaul was  possible in one fell swoop is terribly naive. Congress was never going to pass such a bill in 2010. Change is a process and the more intensive the change, the longer the process. The 13th amendment ended slavery in 1865 but 90 years later Jim Crow laws were the norm. The Brown decisions in 1954 and 1955 said that separate but equal was inherently unequal but my local school system was among those that did not fully integrate until 1971. I don't advocate that change should occur slowly but experience has taught me that it generally does. The question now is what do we do next? There is little to be gained from decrying what wasn't done as we cannot time travel backwards and change anything.


Our most significant problem is that health care is a for profit industry in this country. In spite of the right's constant assertion that the HCR act is socialized medicine, it is far from such. A major obstacle to reform is that Americans have an exceptional fear of anything that even smells of socialism, which most wrongly equate with communism. I don't think that Obama ever stood a realistic chance of getting HCR passed that included a single payer plan or the loosely defined public option.


I don't disagree with the many disappointed progressives who assert that there is an unholy alliance between government and business. I do disagree that nothing has been gained via the current HCR. It's far from perfect but I think that our focus needs to be on generating specific ideas for how we advance the movement to a single payer plan or at minimum a plan that includes a public option. I think that it's important that we, the citizens, develop specifics as to what we want rather than continuing to engage in bemoaning what we do not have. I think that we all need to share ideas and engage in some useful dialog.


From my perspective we have a public that has a significant number of members who continue to believe lunatic ideas such as there are death panels as a result of HCR. There is a general public suspicion that HCR is a socialist plan that will destroy "the greatest health care system in the world." The politicians are playing on those fears. It seems that a key component is mounting a PR campaign to dispel myths and fallacies about what HCR does. I don't think that our side has done PR particularly well in the past and we need to change that.


There is also a need to disseminate powerful and clearly stated information about the reality of our health care system; certainly we have highly skilled medical professionals and excellent are in or medical facilities. However, a lot of Americans don't have access to that great health care which I contend makes declaring ourselves to have the greatest health care system in the world meaningless. We have to work on showing the people who are in deep denial that the health care system is broken. We have to redefine what health care is. Ideally the focus of health care should not be profit but providing preventive care and treatment as necessary. It sounds simple, but the opposition to the moderate level of reform of HCR demonstrates that there are a lot of Americans who do not adopt this belief.


We have to deal with the reality of the current beliefs regarding health care reform. We have to take seriously the ongoing opposition expressed against HCR as passed because it's not just elected officials with a vested interest in maintaining their relationships with the insurance industry who oppose HCR, it's also a lot of the people who stand to benefit from health care reform. People who are acting against their own best interests.


By the way, when I say "we" I mean anyone who believes that our health care system does not serve the needs of all of the people and is need of a major overhaul. We have to become the public voices advocating for change. We have to become a public force that can be pointed to as representing a counterpoint to the very loud voices who decried health care reform as President Obama struggled to push through some level of reform. The Republicans continue to insist that the public doesn't want health care reform and they point to the Tea Party and other voices from the right who loudly protest any government input into health care. We are also the public and we need to make our voices heard and not siphon our energies off to engage in supporting third party candidates who stand no chance of winning and sulking in the corner because the road to reform has more curves than we expected.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Repeal DADT? Yes We Can!

Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) is still law. I think that it's bad law; however, I also think that President Obama has logical reasons for wanting Congress to repeal DADT rather than allowing a court ordered injunction to halt application of DADT or usingan Executive Order to end DADT. Here's why.

It's dangerous territory for the president to attempt to repeal duly passed legislation via exercising his executive power. There is a tendency to make comparisons to Truman's use of an Executive Order to end segregation in the military. It's an invalid comparison. Truman didn't have to contravene existing federal law in order to desegregate the armed forces. Jim Crow segregation laws were a hodgepodge of state laws. It also should be noted that it was five years after Truman issued his executive order before the armed forces was more than 90% integrated. 


A good friend feels that Obama needs to play hardball to earn the respect of Congress, either by directing the Justice Department not to appeal the court decision or by issuing an Executive Order to end DADT. I disagree. Obama won't earn their respect, they'll just use his actions as a ground for the ever growing rumblings about impeachment. It doesn't matter that they can't oust him; it didn't stop them when it came to Clinton. Impeachment is a time consuming process and detracts from time that the president needs to spend on important matters such as the economy.

Another risk is that if DADT is repealed by a court order rather that a change in law, it could succumb to the same fate as Brown v.the Topeka Board of Education. In the 1990s, white parents began bringing lawsuits against school systems arguing that the 1954 Brown decision had exceeded the authority of the courts. Specifically they opposed busing to achieve integration and the use of race as a factor in pupil assignment to achieve integration. These cases were filed and won in federal courts. In 2007, the big kahuna of these cases was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court when two cases were combined, Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education and Parents Involved in Community Schools (PICS) v. Seattle School District. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the school systems in Seattle, WA and in Louisville, KY had violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by their use of a student's race in deciding whom to admit to particular public schools.
The decision has resulted in public school systems across the country being barred from using race as a factor in student assignments. Some systems have realized that they can still achieve racial integration if they use socioeconomic class in pupil assignments. However, the new trend is the one playing out in my local school system. The newest board members want to abandon the use of socioeconomic class and make assignments to neighborhood schools, the same term used in the 1960s as not so subtle language for maintaining segregated schools. The result has been a resegregation of schools not just in the south but particularly in major cities in the Midwest and Northeast.

What courts render, they can undo. It took nearly 50 years to undo Brown, I think that it won't take nearly as long to reverse a decision from the courts to repeal DADT. Especially as the current decision is from a federal district court, not the Supreme Court.

Let's say Obama successfully issues an executive order ending DADT. Let's assume that he wins in 2012. DADT will remain repealed. In 2016, he can't run again. Say a Republican wins the presidency, a conservative right winger who ran on a program of promising to reinstate DADT. He/She could follow Obama's precedent and do it using an executive order. He or she wouldn't be making new law; the law was never repealed. Or a party with standing could file a federal lawsuit that DADT was unconstitutional--perhaps some members of the military who believe that DADT demeans morale. SCOTUS agrees to hear the case and holds that the use of an executive order to repeal DADT was a violation of the authority of the executive office because it stepped in prior to there being a chance for Congress to hear and vote on whether to repeal DADT.

All of this is supposition but it's plausible supposition. If I've thought of this, you can bet Obama, who is a true constitutional scholar and a lot more knowledgeable lawyer than I am, has considered this and that he and his staff have been discussing all the angles.

I'd like to see DADT repealed by Congress. However, it's like in the horror movies when some nitwit knocks out the monster and doesn't make certain that it's really dead. If DADT isn't killed outright it will rise again and bite us in the butt.

So what can we do? Contact the Senators who are sitting on the fence. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) recommends that we contact the following Senators via email, snail mail, or telephone calls and tell them that you support repealing DADT. Harry Reid (D-NV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Scott Brown (R-MA), George Voinovich (R-OH), Kit Bond (R-MO), Joe Mancin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Kirk (R-IL).

There are multiple sites that you can use to get email, snail mail addresses, and phone numbers for your senators. My favorite is
http://www.contactingthecongress.org/.
Other sites are:
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
and http://www.senate.gov/

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Absence of War

I believe in compromise and bipartisanship. We have to live together; we can't separate ourselves into liberals, lefties, progressives, conservatives, tea partiers, libertarians etc. and each group stake out their own territories. As righteous as I think my beliefs are, I cannot force my neighbor to share them nor can persuade them to do so by telling them that their own beliefs are stupid and so are they.

Spinoza wrote in the 17th century, “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” I don't know that humankind has ever been at peace. We mistake rationality and thoughtfulness for weakness. Liberals are as bad as conservatives although all I read lately are protests to the contrary. I also read words that hold nothing but contempt for others, a massive disdain for those whom we determine to be less intelligent than ourselves. I'm not talking about blatant lying which is so often the modus operandi of the right. I'm not even talking about the public voices on the left. I'm talking about the blogs of the left; we regular folks who decry all who haven't reached our level of enlightennment to be virtually unworthy of existence. Those of us who refuse to recognize that most of the people who are swayed by the Tea Party rhetoric are just angry and scared and feeling adrift, and the Tea Party just offers them a convenient anchor. They aren't the enemy; provide them with another anchor and they might even jump ship. However, that's sort of impossible to do while you're calling them stupid. Most people just don't listen when you start the conversation with an insult.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no saint. I get angry and frustrated, and there are days when I really want to slap somebody. However, I'm not proud of my irrationality and I work to let the anger go and focus on what I can do to make the society in which I live a better one.

I've been an activist ever since high school when I refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn't feel that the final part about "liberty and justice for all" was even close to true. I still refuse to recite the pledge or stand when it's recited by others. I suspect that I may well go to my grave still having my personal little protest. I believe in taking a stand, being involved, doing something rather than just thinking about doing something.

I grew up in an age when being subjeted to blatant racism was just the norm for a black child growing up in America. My memories of racial discrimination, bigotry and cruelty from the larger white culture are intact but I let the anger go a long time ago. There was a time when I thought that white people in general were evil because my experiences had revealed the evil inside of far too many. But as I grew older, I recognized that humans are complex creatures and evil is an oversimplication of the motivations for any human action. Spending my life hating and mistrusting white people seemed an incredible waste and I chose to exhale and let my anger go.

My point is that holding on to hurts, no matter how real, is not productive; it's crippling. Anger is a temporary release and it can serve a purpose. However, holding on to and nurturing anger and despair only eats away at you until you become a bitter shell of a human being.

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. I do not accept racism. I challenge it whenever I encounter it and I have no qualms about calling people out on their bigotry. I am neither naive nor Pollyanna's twin sister. However, I do believe in working to find common ground and I don't think that we can give up because the ground is rocky.

We are at a crossroads as a country. We have had one civil war when competing ideologies grew until there was no chance for common ground. The aftermath of that war was the end of slavery but it was also the inception of more than 100 years of Jim Crow. Our unrest as to race relations in this country continues and is at the heart of much of the current Tea Party fervor.

Do not mistake my call for rational responses as a willingness to lie down and roll over. It's a given in my world that one speaks out loudly, and with clarity against injustice of any sort. When necessary, direct attack is appropriate. However, anger must be tempered with reason in order to develop an effective strategy for change. I don't have any admiration for the Tea Party. They have no idea what they really want. They have some vague platform about taking their country back, a meaningless concept. Ask them what it is that they need to accomplish in order to take back their country and about the only concrete action that they have is to remove Obama as president. So hopped are they on their irrational anger and fear that they don't even recognize that they have channeled all of their anger into a personal animosity for one man--Obama.They state with all sincerity that it is not about race but about his corruption of the constitution but cannnot articulate one specific action that constsitutes the aforementioned corruption.

My concern is that we need to think rationally and determine precise goals and methodologies for achieving those goals. I've never advoacated being nice because it's important to be nice. I have been consistent in speaking of reasonableness which is not a synonym for nice.

We have fallen into the trap of responding rather than intiating. The Tea Party comes out with some far right position and we decry their beliefs and pronounce them stupid. It accomplishes nothing. Those who are already TP supporters are just further convinced that they are correct in their beliefs. But those who are not so sure about the TP haven't been provide with an alternative path by us, instead they are left confused and looking for guidance.

We have to devise an action plan. We have to present a platform that refutes the TP and proposes an alternative view of the world. We have to understand how the political system works and how to effectively use the system to promote a progressive agenda. We can't do that while we're caught up in anger and frustration. It takes cool heads to strategize.

I have no problem with progressives bitchin' and complaining in house, but to the opposition, we need to present a united front. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I do have a problem with bitchin' and complaining and failing to offer any concrete steps that we can take to effect change. If that makes me a moderate, so be it. I'm also an activist and I never sit any battle out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election 2010: Not Exactly a Knockout

The bad news is that the Democrats took some solid punches in the midterm elections; the good news is that  the injuries aren't life threatening.


There was significant voter turnout, especially for midterm elections, but the numbers weren't as good in some states as in 2006. I've been reading blog posts, mostly from the young folks--the 35 and under crowd--which called for showing the Democrats their displeasure by not voting. A lot of these calls for desertion of the Democrats came from young African-Americans and Latinos who have decided that President Obama has betrayed them. They have all the impatience of youth and and want everything yesterday.


One young blogger refers to Obama as the Changeling, the mythical creature from the fairy tale who replaces the human child and has evil intent on the unsuspecting family. It's an interesting but inaccurate metaphor.


In order to make a statement to Obama about his imagined betrayal and to teach the Democrats not to take them for granted, there were a number of folks who advocated not voting at all. I'll try and remember to ask them in about two years how that "I'll show those Democrats" thing has worked out for them.


In the meantime, the Democrats have a few moments of glory from Tuesday night. It appears that reason prevailed and Chris Coons defeated  "I am not a witch" Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. Harry Reid pulled the rabbit out of the hat and managed to wrestle a win away from mad hatter Sharron Angle.  Blumenthal out wrestled Linda McMahon in Connecticut. Jerry Brown is back as governor of California and Barbara Boxer managed to hold on to her senate seat. (Click for NY Times' Election Results)


There are a lot of serious bruises. Republicans have gained 60 seats giving them control of the House with a possibility of gaining four more when all the counting is done. In comparison, the Republicans gained 54 House seats in 1994 (Clinton administration). In 1946, the Republicans gained 56 House seats and in 1938 a record 80 House seats.


However, although the Republicans gained Senate seats, the Democrats continue to control the Senate and Harry Reid still holds his position of power in the Senate.


Two states were still too close to call as of 6:30 a.m. --Colorado and the state of Washington. In Alaska, it appears that the write in candidate has the most votes. The only candidate running as a write in candidate was Murkowski, but Alaska has some law that prohibits identifying the write in candidate until the ballots are counted. Of course, Murkowski has been all over the news thanking her supporters. Go figure!


I read a comment on Facebook by a 35-year-old who declared that all was lost and that we (progressives) were done and may as well accept that there is no hope. I'm far from Pollyanna but I think that's pretty extreme. Unless you're planning on dying today, how can anyone be done? It's an election and there will be other elections. The political scene changes like the wind; you never know which way it's going to blow. 


The Republicans cannot do most of the things that they touted in their campaigns; even if they get legislation through the House, they still have to get the necessary Senate votes. If they succeed in getting it through the Senate to the president's desk, he can veto it. They can override his veto if they can get enough votes (a 2/3 vote in each chamber) to do so in both the House and the Senate. If they adjourn before the president decides to sign or not to sign, then the president has effectively killed the legislation with a pocket veto. Isn't politics fun? 


What does their win mean? Probably a lot of deadlock where nothing much gets done and what is accomplished is done very slowly. In other words, business as usual.


P.S. Don't worry about the Republican threat to repeal the Health Care bill. I doubt that they want to tell the American public that they've decided to allow the insurance companies to end coverage for all those newly insured folks with preexisting conditions and are taking away grandma and grandpa's Medicare donut hole benefits. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meeting An Old Friend

Today I had lunch with fellow blogger Nance and her husband. Up until today, Nance and I had pursued our friendship via a joint blog post, emails, comments on each other's blog posts and membership in two blog coops--Swash Zone and Hen's Teeth. Come to think of it, I actually think that I have communicated more with Nance than with some people whom I see every day.

We met in Chapel Hill, a town that I lived in for 25 years. I currently live about 35 miles away in Raleigh. I suggested that we have lunch at a popular Chapel Hill Restaurant, Breadman's--not my best idea. Breadman's is a fixture in Chapel Hill; it was in existence when I came to town in 1973. It has a large menu but it seems that they don't serve all of the menu all the time. For some reason, there is nothing on their menu to indicate that certain items are not available except a few asterisks next to a list of vegetables. Neither Nance, nor I, nor her better half read asteriks (clearly a dead language) so when we innocently attempted to get cornbread and fried chicken we were told, "Sorry, but we don't serve either for lunch on the weekend but it's available after 5:00 o'clock." As you may have noted, neither cornbread nor fried chicken is a vegetable so we didn't even have the benefit of an asterisk to clue us in as to the unavailbility of these items. Nonetherless, we were able to find some tasty items on the menu that were being served for lunch.

There was so much conversation that I can no longer recall all the particulars of what we discussed, just that it was lively, and entertaining, and a totally delightful 2+ hours. I did share my fascination with the television show 24, a violent spy drama starring Kiefer Sutherland; however, I thought it best to save discussion of my other favorite shows for our next visit: Criminal Minds (about the FBI Behavorial Analysis Unit that profiles serial killers), and Dexter (about a serial killer who works for a police department but he only kills people who deserve it). Did I mention that I'm a pacifist; I just like to watch make-believe violence.

Just in case you're curious, Nance is a beautiful woman; her outside reflects her inner beauty. She is as interesting to chat with as her post are interesting to read. Her husband is also a charming conversationlist. I can't recall if Nance refers to him in her blog as DT, DH, or DJ. With my bad memory, the answer is probably none of the above.

 P.S. Nance took pictures; I forgot my camera!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Unholy Trinity: Beck, O'Donnell, and Palin

A fellow blogger who goes by the handle of Capt. Fogg inspired what began as a comment on his post, Masters of Mendacity, but grew into a post of my own. The Captain's post adroitly dissects the fallacies at the heart of the ongoing proclamations by Palin, O'Donnell, and Beck that feed the clamor from the Tea Party of, "We want our country back." The basic reasoning appears to follow the lines of, "America is a Christian nation, founded by God or at the very least endorsed by God and it (America) must be saved from liberals." One of Palin's latest proclamations is that that the Constitution tells us that our "Unalienable rights" come from God. Christine O'Donnell has declared that the Constitution isn't merely a legal document but a covenant based on divine principles. Glenn Beck appears to have anointed the Constitution to be his Gospel, and himself as the Second Coming.

They aren't just liars, they are flat out wrong. There is no mention of God or unalienable rights in the Constitution; perhaps Palin, et.al. have confused the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence. That document states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

What fascinates me about the language regarding unalienable rights is that Jefferson's concerns weren't about worshipping a particular God but about declaring that there were rights inherent to being human that could not be usurped and that the purpose of government was to protect those rights as opposed to curtailing them or taking them away. I think that his use of the term Creator reflected the broader concept that such rights were natural rights, innate rights that were not given but existed without being conferred or bestowed by any government.

Beck, Palin etc. have chosen to harp on this language as proof that this is a Christian nation. Based on the varied writings of Jefferson, Madison and others, I'm of the opinon that the furtherest thing from their intent was founding a Christian nation. I think that a modern debate on this matter fails to understand the worldview of the founders. These men were readers of Locke, Rousseau,Hobbes, and Aristotle. They struggled with the philosophical concepts of who are we and what is our purpose, not some fight over whose God was better. They actually thought about the purpose of government and concluded that it was to serve the people and that the power of the government came from the consent given by the governed.

It was a revolutionary idea, Certainly the English Monarchy didn't recognize its power as coming from the people but viewed its power as God given and superior to the will of the people. The Declaration took that philosophy on with its bold proclamation about unalienable rights endowed by the Creator. It was an assertion against the then ruling idea that the government decided which rights to grant the people and which ones to deny them. It wasn't a proclamation supporting Christianity but a declaration against tyranny.

As for attributing such language to the Constitution, it just raffirms my belief that most of the people shouting about the Constitution as being a covenant based on divine principles have never read the document with even a modicum of comprehension. The Constitution is a secular document that establishes the practices and laws governing the operation of the government. The Preamble states the purpose of the Constitution clearly and succinctly: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (There are many sites on the Net with info on the Preamble and the rest of the Constitution. I cited to Wikipedia here because it was the best of about a dozen sites that I checked. Up to date, and fully documented.)

Citing the United States Constitution as a religious text makes about as much sense as declaring that my telephone book contains the secrets of the universe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Tea Party: Full of Insignificant Sound and Fury

I find myself again needing to wash my mouth out with soap, having engaged in another round of WTF with no expletives deleted. When I was a child my mother temporarily banned me from watching Lassie. I would cry so hard every time Timmy got lost, fell down an abandoned mine shaft, or was otherwise in peril (pretty much a weekly occurrence) that my mother was concerned about my emotional well being. I'm thinking that maybe I should ban myself from watching or reading any news; my vocabulary is in danger of becoming that of an old sailor.


My latest round of profanity was in response to Tuesday's debate between Christine O'Donnell (R) and Chris Coons (D), both candidates for Delaware's U.S. Senate seat. Although nominally a Republican, O'Donnell has aligned herself with the Tea Party platform. During the debate, held at Widener University Law School, the subject of religion and the law arose. Coons asserted that the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution prohibits teaching Creationism in public schools (O'Donnell prefers the term Intelligent Design). O'Donnell countered with, "Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?"

The audience, consisting mostly of law students gasped in horror but before you join them, take a gander at O'Donnell's follow-up observation to Coons assertion that the First Amendment establishes a separation of church and state, "The First Amendment does? ... So you're telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase 'separation of church and state,' is in the First Amendment?" (emphasis added)

Technically, O'Donnell is correct. The text of the first amendment does not include the phrase "separation of church and state." The phrase is not found in the U.S. Constitution at all. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

O'Donnell is a nut job but already the conservative media has put a different spin on her remarks, declaring that O'Donnell was pointing out the lack of any specific phrase in the Constitution proclaiming that there is to be a separation of church and state. I doubt that O'Donnell was really parsing out the language of the Constitution but was instead clueless as to the consistent interpretation of the 1st amendment. Technically, the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear at all in the Constitution. The concept of separation of church and state is derived from the Establishment Clause of the 1st amendment. I wish that Coons had countered with that observation rather than sparring with O'Donnell as to whether the First Amendment literally contained the words separation of church and state; it doesn't.

I'm not just nitpicking. I've been thinking about how the far right has commandeered this election year and determined the parameters of the issues up for debate. I think that we have to reframe the argument. We can't afford to be sloppy with language.

O'Donnell didn't lose any votes because of her gaffe. If Coons had acknowledged that the precise phrase is not in the Constitution but that the language that is there was interpreted in the writings of no less than Thomas Jefferson to mean that there is a wall of separation between government and religion, then he would have deflated O'Donnell's argument and her ego. Many historians and students of the law trace the phrase "separation of church and state" to a letter written in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson in which he observed that the First Amendment built "a wall of separation between Church and State." There is also a couple of hundred years of jurisprudence that has consistenly interpreted the language of the First Amendment regarding religion, aka the Establishment Clause, as calling for the government to refrain from being in the business of promoting or censoring religious belief or lack thereof. In spite of O'Donnell's protestations to the contrary, separation of church and state has long been established as a valid Constutional interpretation solidly grounded in the First Amendment.

Of course the audience of law students scoffed because they understood the jurisprudence interpreting and applying the 1st amendment, but has the average American even read the Constitution outside of a cursory reading in some middle or high school civics class, let alone studied it? Even if they have read the Constitution, it's likely that they will agree with O'Donnell that there is no mention of separation of church and state in the Constitution. To understand the meaning of the U.S. Constitution takes more than simply reading the words.


Die hard Tea Party members are not likely to be persuaded to change their beliefs no matter how succinct and valid the argument. However, there are a lot of people who are angry with the status quo and bewildered by all the voices claiming to offer solutions. They need clear, straightforward information that they can use to make jugments as to which voices speak with truth and honesty. O'Donnell speaks as if she's their friend and there are a lot of disenchanted people who are anxious to believe that she has their best interests at heart.

The left needs to take a lesson from Toto and pull back the curtain to reveal that O'Donnell is just a bad magic act, hiding behind a curtain, pretending that she's the Wizard of the Right. To do that we have to stop merely shaking our heads in laughter and declaring O'Donnell and her political cohorts to be appropriate objects of ridicule. We need to offer people another reality by exposing that the Tea Party rhetoric is filled with sound and fury but signifies absolutely nothing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eugenics Redux: Sloppy Research Again Masquerading As Significant

I just read the following headline which made me go, "WTF!" followed by additional expletives: Study: Gay Parents More Likely to Have Gay Kids. Walter Schumm, a family studies professor at Kansas State University, has released a study proclaiming that gay parents are more likely to raise gay children than straight parents. His study appears to support the theory of right wing zealots that people can be taught to be gay.

I've done a great deal of research in my professional career, and I can tell you this, the questions that you ask have a direct correlation to the answers that you find. According to Schumm, he was looking for a connection between parenting and sexual orientation, "His study on sexual orientation, out next month, says that gay and lesbian parents are far more likely to have children who become gay. 'I'm trying to prove that it's not 100 percent genetic,' Schumm tells AOL News."

Schumm's research methodolgy consisted of reviewing other people's studies on gay parenting. In his meta-analysis of 10 such studies, Schumm extrapolated data that adult children of gay men and/or lesbians are statistically more likely to identify themselves as gay.

Whoop-di-do! This anecdotal evidence proves nothing except that children who grow up in a straight household may be far more reticent to self-identify as gay. In other words, a child who grows up in a home with two loving parents who are gay may feel more comfortable in acknowledging their own orientation. This so-called lighting bolt of insight is nothing more than the logical result of growing up in homes where sexual orientation is not a basis for disowning or ostracizing one's children.

Think about the number of people who are gay and stay in the closet for years, afraid of the reaction from their parents and other family members. That the adult children of gay parents are more likely to identify themselves as gay is not an indicator that sexual identity is determined by parenting;  growing up in an accepting environment just means that you don't spend part of your life denying your authentic self. 

I might actually read Schumm's study when it's released. I'd like to know if he addresses the conundrum that there have always been gay people. Who taught them how to be gay? What about gay children with straight parents? Did the straight indoctrination just not take?


This isn't research. This is a man who read a lot of books on gay parenting and then drew conclusions based on the answers collected by a variety of other studies. There is no control group, no methodology for isolating relevant data, or to account for variables because Schumm didn't interview any of the people on whose responses he bases his conclusions. Were the respondents in each of the ten different studies asked the identical questions, phrased in the same exact language, and under the same conditions? I doubt it; each of these studies produced its own independent report. Schumm just read them all.


Studies like this grab headlines. I find such studies to be the height of irresponsibility, feeding into the prejudice and hysteria of homophobia. Ultimately they are shown to be meaningless but the harm has already been done.


In the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, well credentialed researchers such as Arthur Jensen and William Shockley produced studies that proclaimed that intelligence was predetermined by genetics and that Black people were intellectually inferior to Whites. However, Jensen also concluded that Asians were intellectually superior to Whites. Although these studies were later largely discredited they still influenced policy makers in making decisions regarding public education.


Jensen and Shockley were not a one time anomaly. In 1994, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published a book in 1994 clearly directed at policy, just as Jensen and others had in the 1960s and 1970s,The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Herrnstein and Murray posited among many theories about IQ that Blacks were genetically inclined to have lower IQs than Whites. They also advised that the government "stop encouraging" poor women to have babies and contaminating the gene pool. In 2007, James D. Watson, 79, co-discoverer of the DNA helix and winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine, told the Sunday Times of London that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really."


Research can be used to support any position and its validity is only as good as the methodology of the researcher. The harm done by pseudo sociological research is like a tsunami; it hits the shore destroying everything in its path and then recedes but the damage it leaves behind is catastrophic. WTF were you thinking Mr. Schumm?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's Time for Liberals to Get Their Groove Back

Liberals used to be exciting; we tended to think outside of the box and we believed in the power of advocacy. We championed peace; fought for justice; attacked racism and sexism with gusto. But not any more, here lately we whine a lot about what President Obama has not accomplished and insist that he needs to be more aggressive.

I think phrases like "be more aggressive" are meaningless. Be more agressive in what way? What would you have Obama do that he has not done on those issues? He has no authority to compel Congress to do anything. To get the cooperation of Congress is a process of negotiation; there is no presidential authority to push any legislation through Congress.

What would you have him do? I want to know precisely what it is any of the folks who keep saying that the president should be more aggressive on progressive issues want him to do? I don't mean some nebulous concept such as act tough, I mean what specific actions do you think that he should take that he has not taken? He supports repealing DADT and has said as much to Congress; he even got the military leadership to state that it favored repealing DADT. What now, pimp slap John McCain and the other recalcitrant senators?

Some assert that this administration should prosecute the former administration for its use of torture. The actions of the previous administration were immoral but they were argubably within the parameters of executive authority and not, therefore, prosecutable. As for the Patriot Act, bad law but once again it is not within the authority of the president to simply declare that it no longer exists. Guess who? Congress. Instead of undermining the president, how about we direct our resources towards holding Congress accountable and insisting on changes.

Some of my friends insist that the president's efforts at bipartisanship are a demonstration of weakness. They think that we need to be tougher, adapt the tactics of the right for our own use. I reject that notion, not because I'm interested in making nice; I'm interested in accomplishing our goals. How does stooping to the same level of deception, rudeness, and unethical standards as the right, move forward a progressive agenda?

The one thing upon which liberals appear to agree is that the left is more intellectually astute than the right. Frankly, I don't believe that this is an absolute, but liberals pride themselves on being thinkers. Exactly to whom does a policy that adapts the approach of the right appeal? It doesn't appear likely that the intelligent minded folks on the left will be influenced by negative strategies; besides, they are already on our side. So who are we trying to influence?

As for the Tea Party, it is a lost cause and there is nothing that the left can say that will sway them to change their position. Calling the right on the lies that it perpetrates may provide some personal satisfaction but it will not change their minds. You can't show them that they are wrong. It's a waste of effort. Their beliefs aren't based on logic; no matter how many facts you present to the Tea Party faithful they will continue to believe what they want to believe. For heaven's sakes, these people believe that Obama is a Muslim, a socialist, and a supporter of the terrorists in spite of there being nothing to support these allegations and everything to contradict them!

The progresive left needs to focus on the independents and young people who played a key role in winning the presidential election in 2008. Is the dumbed down, angry attack mode of the right really going to be an effective tool in persuading the disenchangted progresives who were so enthused in 2008 to rally? Is engaging in a shouting match with the right to assign blame really an effective strategy for influencing these intelligent, undecided people?

We don't need the Tea Party in order to win in November but we do need those disillusioned independents and young people who put Obama over the finish line in 2008. Those are the people who are threatening not to vote; those are the people who feel betrayed. They are disillusioned and tired. 

Long time liberals will snarl and complain but we will still vote, but without these disillusioned folks, our votes won't be enough and the TP will triumph. So how do we rev up the independents, the "this is the first time I've ever voted in 30 years crowd," the idealistic young, how do we get them to replicate the dedication that they displayed in 2008? Somehow, I don't think that a lot of whining and complaining because unrealistic expectations have not been met will get them to come back to the fold.

All of this leftist carping isn't a minor thing. We have to get these people back. We can't afford for them to sit out the upcoming elections. We have to help them see a reason to have hope. 2008 was alll about hope; now progressives have turned into a whining, bitter bunch out for blood. I don't object to this solely because I personally find such behavior childish but because it is not only useless, it's counterproductive. It only confirms for the disillusioned that there's nothing worth fighting for because hope is a myth and change is impossible. If I believed that, I'd stay home on election day too.

We cannot afford to suck the life out of the progressive movement with sour attitudes and a sullen sense of defeat before the battle is even fought. The next time that someone challenges Obama's effectiveness in his less than two years as president, give them this link to 244 things that Obama has accomplished thus far. Then direct them over to his recent interview in Rolling Stone Magazine. If you need a fact sheet explaining why the repeal of DADT is not within the president's power, let me know. I've generated one and will be happy to send it to you. Don't waste your efforts on TP members but do remind those who voted for Obama in 2008 that change has always been incremental and that the president is moving us in the right direction. Most of all, pick yourself up, stop whining, and remember that at the bottom of Pandora's box, when all the evils of the world had been released was a bright and shining creature called "Hope."