Sunday, January 31, 2010

Raising the bar

President Barack Obama has certainly raised the bar. In the 72 hours after his State of the Union address -- in which he chastised both parties, but particularly obstructionist Republicans -- Obama went into the last place anyone would have expected him to go.

A room full of Republicans.

Not only did he give a brilliant speech on the importance of bipartisanship, but he took questions as well. He allowed a roomful of his opponents to ask him, unscripted, what he planned to do about job growth and the economy overall.

The Republicans didn't even blink: they went straight for the president's throat. Unfortunately for them, Obama came prepared.

Here's a link to the exchange. You can view a video of the president or you can read a transcript. I suggest you watch the video; it's brilliant television, if anything.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

SCOTUS Ruling: Free speech to corporations!

Earlier last week, I wrote an article about the (then) pending Supreme Court case regarding speech rights for corporate entities. When I wrote that article, the decision was not yet decided -- though it was fairly clear how the Court was planning to rule.

The following day, the Court ruled in a 5-4 split decision exactly the way that was expected: they granted corporations the right to use as much of their treasuries towards electoral campaigns as they wanted. And though they can't donate directly towards campaigns themselves, that decision might not be as far as we may think.

The ruling by the Court is disastrous, allowing corporations the right to use millions (if not, perhaps billions someday) of dollars towards political purposes, effectively shutting out the voices of everyday Americans. There's a stark difference, for example, between a single mother donating $25 towards a politician she supports vs. Clear Channel media company being able to produce a million-dollar "issue ad" against her candidate.

This isn't a free speech issue -- it's an equal rights one. At some point, Americans won't accept the idea of the money-as-speech argument. At some point, a certain number of dollars doesn't entail "speech" -- rather, it creates what the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign describes as a "megaphone for speech that amplifies the voices of those with deep pockets and drowns out the voices of those who don't."

This is precisely the problem in politics today -- politicians in Congress aren't worried with us, with the single mom with two jobs and $25 dollars to spare. They're worried about what big company CEOs are worried about, hoping to court some of the biggest donors to their side in order to maintain a campaign "war chest" that will help them defeat the other guy.

This is insane. Hopefully the American people will wake up to this, will understand how the real-world of elections works, and demand some real change. It's not a left-vs-right battle -- supporting reform would benefit both sides. Rather, it's a battle for equal rights, of equal standing as citizens in the face of a potential corporatocracy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dane101: Free speech and belligerent seniors

Posted at is an article on free speech rights for belligerent seniors.

More specifically, the article addresses the following:
*Do citizens have an absolute right to free speech?
*Do our rights to free speech extend to a government-managed entity?

Read the article here and decide for yourselves.

Monday, January 11, 2010

No resignation for Reid over troubling comments

Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has received harsh criticism as of late for a private conversation he had behind closed doors regarding Barack Obama's chances of becoming president during the 2008 election.

Disclosed this week in a new book, Reid said of Obama that he could win the election for president because he was a "light-skinned" African-American with "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

The words are unfortunate, and criticism is certainly warranted. Private or not, the words Reid used to describe Obama were inappropriate and unfitting of a person in Reid's position. Reid should have, and has since, apologized for making the remark.

It certainly wouldn't be wrong for some to question whether Reid deserves to stay in his leadership role. But some are doing so based off of irrational reasoning.

Leaders in the Republican Party are calling on Reid to resign because Democrats during former Maj. Leader Trent Lott's tenure did the very same thing. Some in the GOP are calling the Democrats' support of Reid hypocritical, pointing out that immense pressure on Lott eventually forced him to give up his leadership position.

But should the comparison really be made? Reid wasn't saying that Obama was a bad person based on his race -- the Majority Leader was, more or less, pointing out America's bias rather than his own. Using the word "negro" was a bad choice, but Reid was trying to defend having Obama as a candidate rather than why Obama would make a poor choice as one (many Democrats had reservations in nominating Obama because they felt an African-American couldn't win the election).

Take a look now at Trent Lott's comments. During the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday celebration, Lott told a room full of people that, "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, [the state of Mississippi] voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Strom Thurmond ran for president in 1948 under a clear segregationist platform. It's his lasting legacy, and the legacy of the Dixiecrat Party that he helped in part found. In other words, Lott's comments were a clear endorsement of the idea that, if Thurmond had been president -- and had instituted his policies of segregation -- we wouldn't have the problems we see today.

Lott's comments, then, appear to be quite racial and direct, while Reid's seemed to be prognostic of the American public's opinion of "light-skinned" African-Americans. They weren't the best words to choose, but they weren't a clear endorsement of racism either.

So should Reid resign? It certainly wouldn't be wrong for him to do so. His comments were out of line and insensitive. For any leader to have made them would be a mistake.

However, Reid's history on the topic seems to show a man who is compassionate, who is concerned with race relations in America today. Just this year, Congress passed legislation strengthening hate crimes legislation, a bill that was pushed strongly by Reid himself. Others can attest for Reid's character, including Barack Obama himself and Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's first African-American AG.

"He's a good man who has done an awful lot in his leadership position to advance the rights of people of color in this country, and he's a good guy who I admire a great deal," Holder said of Reid. "I don't think that there is a prejudiced bone in his body."

Reid should keep his leadership position and should not resign. The words he used to describe Obama are not an indication of who Reid is as a person. Reid isn't a racist, and simply made a mistake in a conversation on race. The Republicans calling for his resignation are wrong to do so.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Conservative commentators mix up history: "No terror attacks during Bush's presidency"

A couple of conservatives are purporting a lie as truth regarding George W. Bush's record on the war on terror. And it's spreading like wildfire.

It began with Dana Perino, former Bush administration Press Secretary. Speaking on FOX News' Hannity, Perino made the claim that we aren't as safe under President Obama as we were under the leadership of President Bush.

Perino even went as far as to say that under President Bush's tenure, America hadn't seen a terrorist attack.

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term," Perino told Hannity.

Wait...huh? That's a pretty hefty claim to make, considering that, under Bush's first YEAR as president, we saw the attacks of September 11, witnessed terror in the form of the anthrax killer, and captured would-be airplane terrorist Richard Reid, otherwise known as the "Shoe Bomber."

Apparently, the commonly held opinion that we should "Never Forget" September 11, often stated by conservatives, doesn't include the belief that we should remember anything about what year the attacks happened in.

Perino's statements happened in November. After a clear misstatement like hers, you'd think that prominent conservative politicians would have learned better.

But just this week, former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani -- the very person who was mayor during the terrorist attacks of September 11 -- made the very same claim.

"What [Obama] should be doing is following the right things Bush did," Giuliani said. "One of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror. We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama."

Three major points come from Giuliani's comments.

First, as already pointed out, President Bush had TWO events of terror in his first year in office -- September 11 and the anthrax attacks -- and ONE attack that didn't quite succeed, thankfully -- the shoe bomber Richard Reid, which only failed due to the heroic efforts of that flight's passengers. Or can't the NYC mayor remember the attacks that catapulted him onto the national scene, propelling him as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2008??

Second, the statement by Giuliani asserts that Obama isn't treating the war on terror as a real war. While it's true he has used the term less often than Bush did, Obama has acknowledged the war on terrorism several times during his presidency, including his first day of office in his inauguration speech.

Finally, Giuliani's remarks redefine what is considered a terrorist attack -- at least when it's a liberal president in power. The incident at Ft. Hood -- hardly a highly-orchestrated example of jihadism -- is part of the war on terror in Giuliani's, and many other conservatives', minds. Though the event may have caused a mass panic nationwide, fitting some definitions of terrorism, it doesn't exactly match the terrorist event that occurred under Bush's watch during the first year of his presidency.

In other words, to Perino, Giuliani, and other conservatives, it goes like this: terrorism under George W. Bush, no big deal; slightest example of terrorism under Obama (questionable in terms of whether it's part of the war on terror)...HOLY $%@&!!!

Hypocrisy doesn't even begin to describe how Perino and Giuliani are acting -- when you ignore an event as catastrophic as the September 11 attacks, all in order to make a political statement against a president with an opposing point of view, it can't even begin to be described. Suffice it to say, Perino and Giuliani are quite simply hacks -- a word I have never used to describe anyone in all my years of writing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On "bowing" and "apologizing to the world"

I try to read the local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, everyday. I'll admit it...I go to the comics first. But I always read the first section, no matter what -- it's important to stay informed, if only to note what events are coming up later in the week locally.

Not surprisingly, my favorite section is the Opinions page. I especially love reading the readers' views as it's a great way to get your blood flowing in the morning.

A particular reader definitely had that affect on me today.

Writing on the recent Christmas day terrorist plot, the letter read:
After all the time President Barack Obama has spent traveling around the world bowing and scraping and apologizing for all the evil things Americans have done to the peace-loving people of the world, I thought we were done with that whole blowing up airliners thing.

But if Abdulmutallab and his al-Qaida buddies think that just because the Democrats are in charge, national security is taking an extended vacation, I hope they listen up. Our president has apologies he hasn’t even issued yet.

And if they try to blow up another one of our planes or create some other “man-made disaster,” I am confident our president will swiftly respond with the mother of all apologies.

They can consider themselves warned.
These remarks are typical for a person who ignores facts and chooses to blind themselves with misinformation.

To explain, it's best to revisit some history. The Bush years were characterized by an administration that chose to distance itself from the rest of the world. Whether it was done with good intentions or not is up for debate -- but it can't be denied that much of our diplomatic relations with the world during those years became strained directly by policies of the Bush doctrine.

So I ask this: is it wrong for the current president to try and fix these burned bridges? Is it wrong for him to decry some of the policies of the previous administration that he and millions of Americans now disagree with?

Many have said that Obama is misrepresenting America overseas by trying to improve our relationship with the nations that Bush had strained. Those actions, however, aren't the same as "apologizing" for America. Saying we were wrong about a policy decision in the past can actually be quite beneficial, especially if we want something from someone else. The opposing viewpoint, on the other hand, is childish and dangerous -- it purports that the actions of the past don't need to be remedied, that what mistakes were made don't need correction.

Acknowledging foreign heads of state in their traditional way is a practice that presidents -- liberal and conservative -- have done for many years. Richard Nixon bowed to the Emperor of Japan (the very Emperor who was in power during the bombing of Pearl Harbor). Dwight Eisenhower bowed to Charles de Gaulle, the leader of France after World War II. George W. Bush himself was very "buddy-buddy" with the Saudis, often being pictured holding hands with and arm-in-arm with several prominent Saudi royals.

People who are so set in their ways, who want only to believe that the president is a traitor, is bowing simply because he hates America, and is apologizing for its ideals, are people who are delusional. The president seeks only to better the lives of Americans and to better secure them -- but he disagrees with the previous administration's means to do so. What matters isn't whether the president is bowing to a Saudi prince or Japanese Emperor, but rather what results we are getting from this president with regards to foreign policy.

So far, despite the Christmas day incident, I believe Obama is doing a good job (as do other anonymous Bush administration officials).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Conservatives who criticize Obama over national security should take a look at their own actions

President Barack Obama ended his 10-day Hawaiian vacation today, returning to Washington to resume government business after a much-deserved break. Coincidentally, I also ended a 10-day vacation, though admittedly my return was much less noticed.

During my time off, I wasn't asked to work or to deal with anything related to my job. I was pretty much able to forget I even HAD a job, much less what it was I had to look forward to when I came back. Obama, on the other hand, had to deal with a national security crisis, on Christmas day of all times. There are no real breaks for the president -- a vacation, something many of us take for granted, can be interrupted at any time for the commander in chief.

There has been much criticism made against President Obama regarding his national security credentials. The Christmas plot to take American lives by al Qaeda has been, fairly or not, the latest catalyst for those criticisms, coupled with lingering debates about the president's qualifications from other prominent conservative politicians.

Take, for instance, former Vice President Dick Cheney's belief that Barack Obama isn't the man we want leading the charge against terrorists. Cheney claims Obama doesn't know what he's doing because he doesn't even call it a war on terror. "Why doesn't he want to admit we are at war?" the former vice president asks.

Cheney statements, however, are lies. President Obama has, several times, said we are at war with al Qaeda, at war with terrorism. He even said so in his inaugural address a year ago this month.

In fact, it's Cheney himself that has more to answer for than Obama does, Cheney whose actions are controversial and downright deplorable. It was, after all, the Bush administration that allowed two inmates from Guantanamo Bay prison facility to go free, eventually allowing them to return to Yemen -- where they then became principal actors in al Qaeda-related activities in that country. It was through Yemen's al Qaeda affiliate that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the would-be Christmas day terrorist) planned and received materials for the Christmas day plot.

It's ironic, then, that the very plot that Dick Cheney and other conservatives are trying to blame others for could very well be their own fault, the result of letting two prisoners go free rather than face prosecution for their crimes.

While changes need to be made to make this country safer, President Obama is doing everything he can to make sure our nation is secure, and that our enemies fail. It is conservatives we must be worried about, conservatives who have a proven track record of failing to stop terrorism, of choosing politics over safety.

Think twice before you listen to conservative criticism; consider that it may be the critics themselves we have most to fear.