Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

I can’t help but wonder if  America has become the nation of “no.” We certainly see it in Congress, where Democrats call Republicans “the party of no.” Truly, many members of the GOP appear to have decided to veto anything the Dems or the White House proposes just because they can.  While guest speaker Newt Gingrich urged a “yes” approach at the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin dismissed those concerns, suggesting “there is no shame in being the party of no,” a comment that won her the first of many standing ovations. From the insistence on scrapping the entire healthcare plan to current plans to nay-say both Wall Street reform to the nomination process for a Supreme Court justice to replace John Stephens on the Supreme Court, “just say no” seems to be the GOP’s current default position.

The culture of “no” extends well beyond Washington politics into society as a whole. Some of it―scratch that―most of it is based on fear. The list of things we don’t want in our backyards or at our front doors grows daily, from same-sex marriages to incineration plants that convert trash into energy. In New Jersey, the budgeting antidote to years of irresponsible fiscal spending (most of it under Democrats) is for the Governor’s office to say hell, no to teachers and schools and hospitals and municipalities, most of which have responded to calls for cuts and consolidation with a big uh-uh and the possibility of a property tax hike (which, in New Jersey, is kind of redundant).

“No” has its uses, particularly when it comes to overindulgence, whether our vice is food, shopping, or real estate flipping. It also works for a fair amount of parenting. Teenagers may insist they are just like adults but they continue to exhibit either unintentional or willful naivety when it comes to the power of the Internet communiques to maim or destroy the lives of their peers. No, everybody on the Internet is not fair game; no, bullying is not “okay” as long as there’s no pushing and shoving; no, you’re not safe just because you can’t see who you’re chatting with; no, you may not go out after prom, get plastered and drive with five other equally plastered seventeen-year-olds. When it comes to the kids, “no” should always remain in play.

But as adults in a country that’s supposed to embody the can-do spirit, we’re moved not one year but light years away from “yes we can.” Whether it’s cutting down on fossil fuel  or spending or calories, sharing the pain of American troops abroad, providing for them when they return, or finding a way to support the infrastructure, research, or educational improvements that might make us a global force, we just can’t muster up enough spirit to say, “go for it.” Instead, we reach for no and its variants: not likely, too hard, I doubt it, let’s not, can’t risk it, we mustn’t, you can’t, I won’t,  they shouldn’t.

While “yes” may at times be impulsive, even reckless, “no” carries with it an air of finality, like someone who picks up his marbles and goes home. Coupled with the nostalgia expressed by some Americans for the good old days that weren’t all that good, no has become more about staying-in-place and making no changes than about common sense or even caution. For that we have “slow” or even “whoa” which at least suggest that a discussion or a debate is in order. “No” is an ultimatum, the end of the line, the referee’s final whistle. It’s also beginning to feel like a big stumbling block on the road to progress and prosperity– and that’s no good.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I am sick to death about the health care arguments. I know you are too. In fact, that’s something about which we can all agree, I hope, as it appears not much else is.  Well, wait, there’s something else: we all feel the health care system needs reforming.

The devil is in the details, as always, and there are far too many details for most of us to process. So we argue about generalities or about specifics that are either irrelevant, less relevant or completely  misunderstood by most of us. Now I read that as Congress recesses, partisans are planning attacks on each other and on selective specifics, such as targeting Congressmen who oppose a public health plan option as being in the pocket of the insurance industry (MoveOn) or preventing a public insurance option because it might cover abortion (private conservative group). The DNC will accuse Republicans of trying to kill health care  reform and the RNC will accuse Democrats of trying to foist a risky experiment on the American people. Doctors will show up at Republican rallies to rail against medical malpractice costs and lawyers will show up at Democratic rallies to rail against inadequate protection for consumers. At this rate, Congress will reconvene in September and do nothing because they can’t agree on what they’ll claim are key pieces of the legislation. leonardo_da_vinci_man_in_circle

Where does that leave us? Bluntly, it leaves me with more than adequate health insurance that, at the present time, I can afford, notwithstanding health-related expenses are becoming one of the single highest yearly expenses I have. But it leaves my single mother friend, my 58-year-old consultant friend, and my married friend with two children and self-employed, disabled husband with a lot less.

The insurance companies are promising to reform themselves, which I’d like to believe but unfortunately, I have only to think of the financial industry – well, you get the point. I detest the idea of more regulation but wouldn’t mind a conditional attempt at requiring the private sector to cover preventive health care and alternative approaches, not to mention pre-existing conditions. I don’t like the idea of more taxes but I don’t like the idea that small businesses can’t afford to insure their employees. I know the between forty to fifty million people are estimated to be without health care but I imagine many more are under-insured, and so the idea of a publicly financed option looks good. I think that trying to track down positive or negative examples of how health care works in Great Britain or Canada is asinine because first of all, the systems don’t resemble each other and second of all, neither will resemble whatever the Senate brings out of committee.

The real question all of us have to ask ourselves is whether we believe health care for all our citizens is a right or a privilege, an obligation or a blessing, a guarantee we must make or one we can’t make.  We should have asked and answered it long ago, but we sure as hell better know when we run into our representatives in August.

Read Full Post »

Okay, I’ve had a rotten couple of weeks; who hasn’t? Yes, I’ve been tempted to access my inner Lewis Black. But except for some venti-sized venting to trusted family and friends (you know who you are and I’m really sorry), I’ve tried to keep my crabbiness to myself or at least not extend it outward towards others. Sure I’m ticked off about the state of affairs, but unlike apparently many, many others, I’m trying to avoid trash talking.

There’s a whole lot of anger streaming through my inbox, passed along from friends to the left and right of me. Some of it is amusing; lots of it is just rank. Unless my friends have been injected with a mean virus, they’re probably expressing their mass anxiety by spewing venom in the form of very personalized jokes about people in the news. Okay, kids: stop it. It may feel good but it solves nothing.

I’ve obviously joined the ranks of the insane when I expect or at least hope my Representatives will stop pontificating and “serious” journalists will stick to serious reporting and analyzing instead of high drama and not-so-subtle low blows. I grant you a little snarkiness can be fun, especially when it rises to the level of clever satire (which, as we all know, it rarely does). But doomsday business reporting laced with panic or political grandstanding masquerading as faux populism by our Congresspeople is poisoning our collective spirit, especially in concert with the ever-present talk radio bloviators, whose sole mission in life seems to be to get everyone worked up. Finger-pointing is not a form of exercise, except as an exercise in futility.

In the manner of another favorite humorist of mine, John Cleese, I am going to issue a proclamation. I expect you few loyal minions who visit my blog regularly to pass the word throughout the land: a moratorium on trash talk for a period of one week on the following subjects:  Bank of America, Citibank, any bank, GM, GE, Wall Street, Wall Street-types, anyone who works in finance, people who give out mortgages, people who can’t pay their mortgages, socialists, economists, Democrats, Republicans, including but not limited to: Barak Obama, Michell Obama, Michelle Obama’s arms, George Bush (either one), Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bobby Jindal, Alan Keyes (I know – who?), Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, evangelicals, Jim Cramer or any other business news anchor (it’s jsut for a week), members of old media, new media or amateur media, global warming, Octo-mom, Chris Brown, Rhianna, Oprah, Britney, Siegfried and Roy, gay people, anti-gay people, A-Rod, Jews, Christians, Muslims, spiritual not religious, atheists, secularists, and anyone living in California, as if they don’t have enough trouble already. I realize I’ve left out a few topics and I welcome your input, dear readers. Please note I’m giving a pass to reality TV-bashing because I’ve had it up to here with reality TV but no trash talking about individual contestants or judges. I’m exempting all comedians – they’re paid to trash talk. Finally, I didn’t include Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, or Madonna because, unfairly or not, these people are going to have to put up with trash talk for the rest of their lives, through good economies and bad and even if we suddenly become more civilized, an unlikely occurrence.

For further enlightenment on the subject of incivility, please read: “Uncivil Society”  and don’t forget: add your verboten subjects in the comments section. Sky’s the limit; we can dream, can’t we?

Read Full Post »

I can’t believe it came as much of a surprise that we’ve been in a recession since last December. Of course, we all probably hoped the recession wouldn’t prove to be as long or as deep as some projected. Well, now that we know we’re a year in, we can hope that the end is in sight.

What’s not to like about hope, right? Face it, our capacity to hope, even when faced with external forces beyond our control or internal demons that pull us towards the abyss, is truly astounding. Though we currently have reason to despair – over the economy, over the constant threat of terrorism (and now piracy!), or over the fact that home ownership, health care coverage and now higher education seem to be out of reach for many Americans – we can rejoice, my friends, because hope floats above the gray skies of our nation’s capitol. Probably not precisely the hope our newly-elected President was thinking about when he wrote his best-seller but we’ll take what we can, er, hope for.

Democrats may have to give up their hopes for a filibuster-proof Senate but they still hope for enough muscle to engage in payback. Republicans hope to escape severe reprisals and experience the kind of bipartisan cooperation they never considered back in the days of their ascendancy. Liberal elements of the Democratic Party hope Obama’s choice of so many Clinton advisers doesn’t signal a move to the center-right; moderates and even conservatives feel they have reason to hope it signals an non-partisan pragmatism. State Department types hope Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton will rely on their hard-earned expertise. Fans of Governor Bill Richardson hope he’s not too upset about being bypassed for Secretary of State.  Fans of Governor Janet Napolitano hope she’ll get Homeland Security organized. Although former Senator Tom Daschle may have hoped to be Chief of Staff, health care advocates feel hopeful he’ll jump-start reform.

Of course, the current Treasury Secretary Paulson hopes his ever-changing game plan works for the economy and the Big Three auto makers hope for a windfall. That’s where hope gets audacious but then again, if you’re going to hope, why not hope big?

Comics hope they’ll be able to find something funny about the new administration (hint: look at the Cabinet). Dog lovers hope the Obamas discover hypo-allergenic mixed breeds besides the Peruvian hairless dog. Classmates at Sidwell Friends, where the Obama girls will attend school, hope they’ll get invited to a party at the White House. Actually, DC hostesses and club owners alike are hoping members of the new administration will want to party. Almost anyone who did anything in any field office during the Obama campaign now hopes to work in the Obama administration. Millions of people hope to get Inaugural tickets or attend even if they don’t. DC-area residents hope to get obscene amounts of money for their humble abodes as hotels fill to over-capacity. District police, not to mention Federal security agencies, hope they can handle the record number of visitors expected for the events. NBC hopes David Gregory will be happy hosting “Meet the Press” until Matt Lauer retires from the “Today” show to do something else – like, say evening anchor at CBS.

It’s good to have hope.

Read Full Post »

Readers, I’m sorry. I heard from several of you, letting me know you were looking forward to my comments about the VP debates last night.  I settled in with my popcorn, watched a new episode of “Ugly Betty” and geared up. Suddenly, I realized I was still watching ABC and hadn’t forgiven Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for their abysmal performance during the April primary debate, so I switched to NBC to catch Tom Brokow, who will be moderating the next presidential debate. Brokow, who’s taken over many duties formerly belonging to the late Tim Russert, looks a little tired these days. I hope he can soon return to his Montana ranch and get back to trout fishing.

As the two VP candidates strode out on stage, I admired Palin’s smart-looking suit although maybe not the ruby red slippers. Biden’s tie was appropriate; I was wondering how he gets his teeth so white. Then Gwen Ifill, the moderator who’s been getting slammed all week for her presumed pro-Obama bias, began her introductions. She seemed subdued and low-key and I began to fidget.

As soon as Palin starting winkin’ and droppin’ her “g’s” and Biden stiffened and sighed, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay the course. My head began to throb from the statistics the candidates were lobbing across their podiums; how many times this one voted that way or that one voted this way. I can’t lie to you; at the first “you betcha!” I reached for the remote and switched over to HBO to watch Chris Rock.

Once you get used to the nearly exclusive use of the word “f*ck” as an adjective, Rock is hysterically funny. The special was brilliantly edited, with three different performances combined, sometimes in mid-joke. Interestingly enough, Rock was dealing with the same issues as the debate participants (I was flipping back and forth), i.e. Iraq, the economy, abortion, and the Bush policies in general.  At one point, he was even talking about same-sex marriage at the same time Palin addressed the issue. It was uncanny.

I went back to the Palin/Biden matchup for ten minutes during the foreign policy portion – no suprises there. Whenever I began to feel as if I were watching a performance rather than a debate (it happened frequently), I’d go back to Rock. Frankly, he’s better at entertainin’.

At one point, as Rock considered whether America was ready for a black president, he noted that any black aspiring to anything out of the ordinary had better be exceptional. He noted that in his wealthy neighborhood in Alpine, New Jersey, the four black residents were all at the top of their professions (as entertainers) but the white dentist living next door was only an average dentist. A black dentist in his neighborhood, he insisted,  would probably have had to invent teeth!

In other words, the bar is high for some people but not for others. But, as Rock said, don’t blame the player, blame the game. Indeed.

Read Full Post »

The storm in New Orleans that wasn’t (well, it was but it wasn’t so awful as to wreak utter havoc. However, it was just strong enough to show that the levees still aren’t adequately reinforced) also served to delay the GOP convention, which allowed George Bush to not show up, citing “pressing business” in DC. Now the GOPs just have to deal with Palin.

Honest to God, I don’t know what to make of this imbroglio. Yes, children of the candidates should be off-limits and so should questions about family dynamics and so should the religious beliefs and practices of the candidate unless they involve ritual sacrifice or devil worship, I suppose.  The truth is, however, they haven’t been for some time. I am kind of surprised about charges of sexism flying around, not because I don’t think it exists but because those tossing out the accusations are being hypocritical. Aren’t we allowed to ask questions? Good lord, after the long and drawn-out brouhaha over whether Obama spent twenty years in a church with an angry inflammatory pastor, aren’t we allowed to ask about Palin’s involvement in the firing of a state employee who had supposedly refused to fire the trooper who just happened to be her soon-to-be-ex brother-in-law? Aren’t we (at least if we have a certain take on where the Almighty fits into politics) allowed to look at her public statements about the Alaska pipeline and the Iraq war being “God’s will?” Why is it okay to question one candidate’s “otherness” and not another’s judgment?

Both parties are guilty of what my dad used to call “the pot calling the kettle black” but I find it exceptionally ironic that the party that has no problem questioning the patriotism and family values of members of the other party is crying foul over the raised eyebrows. Still, I want it done. War, foreign policy, the economy, universal healthcare, the environment and the type of Supreme Court Justices we might expect to be nominated: there are, underneath all the rhetoric, two distinct positions on these and other issues. Let the positions come through so that we can all make our decisions in (relative) peace.

Read Full Post »

I was all set to write about my impressions of the Democratic Convention, then hesitated. After all, everyone and their grandmothers seem to be writing, blogging, reporting or otherwise bloviating (can you tell that’s my favorite word of late?) about the emotional, unpredictable, competitive, insecure and ardently committed spectacle that is the Democratic Party these days. 

Conventional wisdom has it that these partisan get-togethers rouse the faithful, mildly interest the curious , make no difference to the decided and may or may not affect the decisions of those who claim not to have made up their minds. I’d like to think that a speech that delineates clear differences (like the one VP nominee Joe Biden gave last night) or presents definitive approaches (as we hope Obama and McCain will do. Note I don’t necessarily expect either candidate to propose solutions; I just want to hear them identify the problems and tell us how they’d deal with them) – anyway, I’d like to think that such a speech will steer all of us towards thinking about, talking about and making our decisions based on a working understanding of the differences between the two candidates on policy, not personality. Talk about wishful thinking!

Well, I’ve got tonight and all of next week to listen and learn. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I believe you can find out more from a speech than from an attack ad.  Meanwhile, once the two conventions are over and the requisite spikes and bounces for the candidates are duly noted, we’ve got a horserace on our hands. That’s serious business but for now, Democrats and Republicans, party on!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »