Our American President

This past Tuesday, Barack Obama handily won re-election to hold his title as President of the United States. I must admit that going into the election on Tuesday I was confident but still nervous. Nate Silver’s pragmatic election forecasting had kept me calm and reasonable during the entire campaign but when CNN started showing red states populating the electoral college map, I must admit my stomach did summersaults.

We now know that Nate was right all along for as the night drew onward, the polls of the last few months bore out his math and Obama won state after battleground state. In fact the only one he lost was my own of North Carolina. While NC did go red this time around, the decision here was extremely close which honestly surprised me. In the end NC’s electoral votes didn’t matter as Barack won Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and yes, even Florida. I must admit I did enjoy tuning in FOX News throughout the night just to see the next four years slipping away from Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove. As Rachel Maddow pointed out this week, and as many pundits have rightfully written, Tuesday’s election results hit Team Romney, and many on the right as a complete and utter shock. For months they had deluded themselves into thinking the exit polls were wrong and that victory was the only possible result. Heck, Romney didn’t even have a concession speech ready to go. Who does that anyway? What kind of man running for the President doesn’t prepare for every eventuality? Evidently Mitt Romney, that’s who.

I face the next four years with hope and a huge sense of relief. We will not have new conservative supreme court justices. Roe v. Wade will not be overturned. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay (thank GOD), and world leaders will continue to respect our President. Obama hasn’t been a perfect President by any stretch of the imagination. There have been many issues he’s been unwilling or unable to tackle such as immigration reform and climate change. He’s also done things I’m not proud of such as the continued detaining of prisoners without due process. But in the end his pluses far outweigh his minuses. Despite the faux outrage from the right-wing elements in our country this past week, the United States is indeed on the road to recovery. We’ve not turned into a socialist state overnight and we won’t be one tomorrow. And no, Barack Obama didn’t kill the country this past Tuesday, Nov. 6th., he actually saved it. Saved it from regressing 50 years in policy and mindset. Saved it from extremist, conservative ideology that threatened to destroy a woman’s right to choose and American’s access to affordable health insurance. And in a small way, he saved this country from the rampant racism and hate that has reared its ugly head during his first term. A vote for Obama re-affirmed that he was no fluke, he was here to stay despite the efforts of the dwindling, white majority who has tried to paint him as “different from us” and “un-American”.

I’m very proud of my President and my country for making the right choice this past Tuesday. I wish I knew what the next four years will bring, but I feel confident that Barack will meet the challenges head-on and do what’s in our collective best interests. I sincerely hope he listens to the will of those who elected him and grows a spine when dealing with Republican obstructionism, thankfully there are signs of this already. Above all, I’m grateful that we’re moving forward as a country instead of backwards, making laws instead of repealing them. I wish our President good luck and God speed because unfortunately as history has demonstrated, he’s going to need it.

Stop, Obama Time!

Of all the political videos this election season, this skillful take off of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This has to be my favorite. It’s awesome on so many levels it’s difficult to describe but I love seeing Michelle grooving and Barack crooning. It also highlights the media’s obsession with playing the “gotcha!” game with our politicians, especially the President. The fading commentary at the end is particularly cringe worthy. “There’s no taking Obama out of context!” and my personal favorite – “Obama should have known better. You don’t put the subject apart from the predicate!” Yes, he should have known better. Enjoy.

Bring It

Prior to the 2008 election, I was understandably nervous about the possible outcome. The potential of President John McCain and Vice President Sarah Palin shook me to my core and I followed the political scene very closely. I blogged about politics quite a bit, every chance I got actually and set out to do my part to try and help get Barack Obama elected. The thought of another four years of republican policies and control combined with Palin being just one step away from the Oval Office often kept me up at night. I was anxious, nervous and worried.

Looking back now, I probably shouldn’t have been so stressed. In hindsight, the country longed for a new direction, a vision to lead us away from the war in Iraq, away from torture as an official U.S. policy, and away from the leadership disasters of Katrina and a tailspinning economy. Obama stepped in at the right moment, won the nomination and then the Presidency and made history in the process. I remember wondering the night before the first presidential debate if Barack really had what it took to lead the nation. He was young and full of hope an enthusiasm, but would it be enough? Would the elder, more experienced statesman win the debate and the presidency? No, he would not.

Now, four years later my thoughts return to that election and how I felt leading up to it. Hate for this President has run deep, deeper than even I have thought possible. Almost since the day he took office, republicans have been blocking, obstructing and denigrating him and his position in the hopes of getting the upper hand this November 4th. Questions about his birth certificate still circulate in right-wing circles. Cries of socialism and a “government takeover” of healthcare have rallied the conservative base. Billionaires, backed by the Supreme Court’s mis-guided Citizen’s United decision have poured gobs of money into Karl Rove’s coffers and flooded the airwaves with negative ads all designed to convince the country that Obama hasn’t done enough to turn the economy and the country around fast enough. These last few months I’ve started to wonder, could Romney actually win this thing? I mean, Mr. Bland, Mr. RomneyCare, Mr. Also-ran Mitt Romney?

No, I don’t think so. In fact, the closer we get to election day, the more I think Barack will prove his worth with voters and handily win re-election. He now has a laundry list of accomplishments that he will be able to wield like Batman wields his utility belt. Want to talk about terrorism? He’s ended the war in Afghanistan, killed dozens of Al Qaida operatives and oh, Osama Bin Laden has shuffled off that mortal coil. Obama’s fought for the rights of gays and lesbians repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and signed laws designed to help give women equal pay for equal work. Obama’s administration saved the auto industry. Mitt didn’t even want to touch the problem with a ten-foot pole, preferring instead to let the industry go belly up, and thousands upon thousands of Michigan jobs with it.

And then there’s health care. The right sees it as their war cry. “We’ll repeal Obamacare! Socialism! Socialism!” but more and more Americans’ agree that the fundamental principals that the Affordable Care Act provides (insurance for pre-existing conditions, more of your dollars paying for care instead of overhead, etc) are good ones. Just this week Romney, in a bid for independent voters said that there are parts of Obamacare he wants to keep. This flies directly in the face of his fellow hard-line conservatives who have said they want the entire act repealed. Nothing less will do. That’s the problem with extremism, it doesn’t win elections. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, politics is rarely a black and white endeavor. It takes compromise and a willingness to walk in the other guy’s shoes in order to get things done. This simple principal has been Washington’s way since its inception, but it’s also seemingly been abandoned by the right in their bid to regain control of the White House. Indeed, no other congress has stymied the lawmaking process as much as this one has. In order to get anything done, the President has had to take some unusual measures which, predictably, has only increased right-wing cries that he’s “power hungry” and refuses to work with republicans.

I have no delusions that Barack Obama has fulfilled all his promises as President. Obama’s White House isn’t nearly as transparent as he had promised it would be. We still hold prisoners without hope of ever getting a fair trial before their peers. He was naive to pretend he could make bipartisanship a household word. Perhaps most distressingly he’s been unable to communicate effectively to the American people just why he’s done some of the things he’s done. Then I look at the other side of the coin, all that he’s accomplished despite the massive pile of dung he was handed by his predecessor, and I look forward with hope. The country is indeed in a better place today than it was when he took office. I absolutely cannot WAIT for the political debates which being October 2nd. I believe Barack will wipe the proverbial floor with Mitt and seal the deal in the process. I also think deep down inside, conservatives won’t mind because like McCain, most of them don’t like Romney anyway. I’m starting to get excited about this election, and while there is still a huge level of uncertainty, (much can happen in two months) I look across the aisle to my conservative counterparts and think – “Bring it.”

UPDATE: As if almost on cue, conservatives have started to publicly decry Romney’s anemic campaign. Like I said in the post, things are still early but it’s obvious that Romney is an also-ran for the GOP. He was really the only viable choice to contend with Obama, but he’s failed to bring the “right-wing goods” as it were and therefore the knives are showing. I have a feeling things are about to get very ugly for the republican party as they face some unpleasant truths.

Entrenched

Over the past few years, there’s been a significant increase in the polarization of people’s opinions in this country. More and more, folks are unwilling to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to see their side of the story or even just listen to what they have to say. Increasingly, we as a society are either unwilling or unable to compromise on important topics that affect the vast majority of us. I’m not sure where or when this started, but I do think much of it has to do with the Internet.

Since it came into wide-spread adoption, the Internet has been a way for people of widely varied viewpoints to express themselves on any number of topics. We can read, post, blog and tweet all from the comfort of our own homes and what we say is seen by hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. More importantly, when we say something online we do so from the relative safety of digital anonymity. Although some people hide behind pseudonyms online, these days it’s more common to see people representing themselves honestly and openly. Just because they do however, doesn’t mean that we “know” them or are friends with them or even have met them in real life and I think that is an important distinction.

When we sit down and have a conversation with our family, friends or even acquaintances, we often censor ourselves for the good of our relationships. We may think someone’s opinion isn’t valid or is something we consider to be foolish, but we probably won’t tell them that to their face. Instead we often try and steer those we disagree with towards mutual understanding, we give and take, we compromise. I love my family very much but I disagree heartedly with many of their political viewpoints. When I get into a discussion about these topics with them, I don’t call my Uncle an idiot or a bozo, I calmly listen to his opinion, and if I’m feeling feisty I’ll attempt to convey some opposing viewpoints. If he listens great, if he entrenches himself and refuses to hear what I’m saying I often change the subject and move on. I love him too much to risk hurting him or his feelings and so I censor myself to some degree. I firmly believe it’s for the best.

But when I frequent political blogs and forums and told I’m an “ignorant liberal” or when I tweet about Apple’s court victory over Samsung and am called a “typical Apple fanboi”, the people that do so have no pretenses about censoring themselves. Indeed, I too am more likely to let loose when I’m exchanging ideas and thoughts with someone I’ve only met online than I would if I were sitting with them face-to-face in a restaurant or coffee shop. Yesterday, Macworld editor Dan Frakes tweeted this about Apple’s original iPhone:

As soon as I saw that tweet, I knew Dan was in for an earful. I had tweeted several times on Friday about the $1.01B judgement against Samsung by Apple and was not prepared for the amount of staunch anti-Apple sentiment that flowed into my Twitter timeline as a result. It seems that in platforms, as in politics, people have firmly chosen sides. You’re either with us or your against us and for some reason there can be no middle ground. I make my living using Apple products and have enjoyed them for well over 20 years so I have a strong affinity for technology that comes out of Cupertino. I also like to think that I’m fairly objective and have criticized Apple when I strongly disagree with a position they take. Sadly, some don’t see it this way. Apple is either the perfect corporate citizen who can do no wrong or a demon that is out to destroy open standards and lock all smartphone users into walled gardens manned by underage Chinese workers from Foxconn.

The reality, of course, is somewhere in-between. Apple’s victory over Samsung can be right and just in accordance with U.S. patent law but that doesn’t mean they “invented rounded rectangles”. It also shouldn’t mean that you and I can’t have a friendly discussion on the topic without it devolving into the digital equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show. Admittedly, when we are so entrenched in our positions it is difficult to give up any ground, especially when one feels passionately about something. However, if we are to survive and flourish as a society and have meaningful conversations, we all need to try and make a concerted effort to climb out of our fox holes and meet somewhere in the middle.

Shaping the Future

It was to be his Wateroo, or so the Republicans said. After a year and a half of debate, name calling, lies, threats, punditry, shouts of fear, uncertainty and doubt, tonight the House of Representatives passed health care reform. President Obama has managed to do something no other administration in recent memory has been able to and he did it despite the efforts of the GOP to filibuster, block and obstruct at every turn. The President and the Congress has struck a blow to the status quo and moved the country forward to at least try and deal with the death grip of expanding health insurance costs in this country. Obama promised it, and Nancy Pelosi helped deliver it.

The implications for what happens next for Republicans are as deep as they are serious. Here are just some of the reactions making the rounds:

Massie:

“Make no mistake: the more virulent GOP opposition to the plans became – and, if you like, the more hysterical – the more Democrats had to pass it if only to save face. Sceptical Blue Dogs, Pro-Lifers and Leftists were all forced to club together for the greater good of the party. Left to their own devices they almost certainly couldn’t have agreed on a bill, any bill.”

Frum:

“No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?”

Andrew Samwick:

“I don’t think anyone will hold up the bill that will pass as exemplary, but it does reflect elements of health care reform that Democrats campaigned on and won on in 2008. So I have a hard time seeing this as doing violence to the will of the people as it is typically expressed in our electoral system. Elections matter. This is how they matter.”

So what does all this mean for Obama and the Democrats? It’s difficult to tell yet, but I firmly believe that delivering health care reform will help cement a second term for the President. As the economy continues to recover, more people start to find work, and the reforms from tonight’s bill start to kick in, the GOP will find they were on the wrong side of history. 32 million more Americans will be able to have health coverage. Pre-existing conditions (including those associated with simply being a woman) will no longer bar people from coverage. Expensive treatments like chemotherapy will no longer have a benefit cap and small businesses will earn tax breaks and subsidies to help keep their workers covered.

The handwriting is on the wall and it isn’t hard to read. But no matter what happens in November, tonight’s vote was a signal that American’s hope for real change wasn’t misplaced. The sheer fact that this bill wasn’t killed dead and buried in a cornfield speaks volumes about the progressive movement in this country. This was a tough vote, and undoubtedly many Democrats will lose their seats in the fall because of it. It takes courage to stand up and do what’s right, even more so when the opposition is screaming at the top of their hysterical lungs. Tonight President Obama said “We did not fear our future, we shaped it.” No truer words were ever spoken.

The Tea Party & The Circus

I firmly believe those who hold extreme views on any topic are less educated about the issue than those in the middle. Such people do not choose to arm themselves with facts but with feelings. Even so, the stunning ignorance of the Tea Party members interviewed in this short piece is nothing short of embarrassing. Person after person admits they don’t know what is and what isn’t in the bill. All they know is what Fox News and Glenn Beck has told them and that’s good enough for them.

If I didn’t have family members of my own that felt this exact same way, I’d think the entire Tea Party movement was a joke. Unfortunately it’s not, it’s deadly serious. The rise in selfishness in the modern conservative movement in recent years has really taken me by surprise. The “I’ve got mine, you’re on your own.” attitude that pervades Republican and right-wing circles is both frightening and counter-culture to the very Christian ideals so many on the right profess to hold.

Some of the Tea Party members in this video don’t believe there are millions of uninsured citizens in our country. To them the emergency room heals all wounds, treats all diseases (even cancer, heart disease and mental illness) and doesn’t raise the cost of health care for the rest of us year after year. This week I listened to caller after caller on the Brad & Britt show phone in to say that they either didn’t care about those who were uninsured or who didn’t believe the rising cost of health care was worse than doing nothing.

The health care bill that is about to be passed in the U.S. Congress isn’t the best legislation that could have been written, not by a long shot. It is a highly imperfect attempt to fix the growing problem of spiraling health care costs that also helps to protect consumers from being dropped for pre-existing conditions (among other things). It is by no means the final solution, but rather simply a step in the right direction. However, if Tea Party members had their way, we wouldn’t even be having the discussion in the first place.

Ebert on the ‘Festering Fringe’

I’ve always admired Roger Ebert as a movie critic. When he and his partner Gene Siskel started reviewing films I always found my views aligning with the Ebert half of the aisle. As he and I have grown older, that alignment has only strengthened. Lately, Roger has also earned my respect as a political voice of reason. In a piece out this week, Ebert takes the fringe elements of today’s political society to task for their increasingly bizarre and worrisome tirades against the President, even in the face of logic and reason.

A great example of what Ebert’s talking about is today’s announcement that the United States and the city of Chicago lost the bid to host the 2016 Olympics. In the past week President Obama flew to Europe to throw his hat in for his country and try and convince the IOC that Chicago was the right place at the right time. As soon as the bid failed, conservatives all across the board cheered the loss and berated Obama for his failed attempt to bring the massive event home. This despite the fact that hosting the games would have undoubtedly been an economic boon for Chicago as well as the country as a whole. Tens of thousands of jobs would have been created, billions of dollars in revenue generated and goodwill for the U.S. spread around the globe.

Sadly, right-wing fringe hypcrites such as Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh would rather see shame come to our country and our President than have Obama be on the side of success. These gas bags have the gaul to root against their country in the midst of massive economic hardship simply because they want to spite Barack Obama. Self-indulgent children, one and all.

These are the very same fringe elements that have been whipping up fear and loathing against the young administration in the hopes of bringing it to utter ruin. They think nothing of ignoring facts and pushing their own agendas even in the face of massive contradictions, some of which they themselves have railed against in the past. They call Obama Hitler, they claim he’s not an American, they want you to believe he’s trying to brainwash your children or that he’s the most ineffectual President of the modern age. In his latest journal entry Roger Ebert speaks out:

“These beliefs are held by various segments of our population. They are absurd. Any intelligent person can see they are absurd. It is not my purpose here to debate them, because such debates are futile. With the zealous True Believers there is no debating. They feed upon loops within loops of paranoid surmises, inventions which are passed along as fact. Sometimes those citing them don’t even seem to care if you believe them. Sometimes they may not believe them themselves. The purpose is to fan irrational hatred against our president.”

He goes on to say:

“They are told to oppose, even hate, those who might be trying to help them. Leaving all ideology aside, who in his right mind doesn’t want an affordable health insurance plan for his family and his loved ones? Who doesn’t believe religion, any religion, does not belong in the schools? Who really thinks the census, which is a vital tool of democracy, represents some kind of occult threat? If census figures had been frozen 50 years ago, most of these people would be disenfranchised today. Who can seriously compare American president to Hitler? Who believes a man who attends church more regularly than any president since Carter is an atheist?

What is the benefit of this hate? What good can come of it? Where might it lead us?”

When an entire segment of the population roots against their President to fail (be it Bush or Obama), something is seriously wrong. I came to believe that George W. Bush was bad for the country, but never once did I wish him to fail in his mission to stamp out terror and keep the United States safe from violence. I longed for checks and balances to curb Bush’s disregard for the rule of law but I never abdicated insurrection against his authority. I believed him and his efforts were misguided but I never compared him to Adolf Hitler or cheered when the results of his actions had a negative impact on my country.

All of these things are happening now with Obama and his administration and we’re only 8 months into a 4 year term. What will the festering fringe be like a year, two years from now? How can “the center hold” in such an atmosphere? Occasionally there are voices of reason from the right as there were today with Joe Scarborough’s piece applauding the President for attempting to capture the Olympics, but they are a dying breed.

It seems like all the reasonable people in this country are hogtied in the back of an ’87 Buick, kidnapped by the lunatic currently at the wheel. The right thinks the driver is the President, but as most sane people can see the car is driven not by Obama but by the fringe elements of our society. As precious seconds pass, the car speeds up and careens towards certain disaster. It has all the makings of a blockbuster movie, but it’s one that neither I, nor Roger Ebert can recommend in the least. Thumbs waaaay down from the both of us.

Right Wing Roundup

The level of conservative paranoia in this country is rising fast. In the span of just a few days the media has reported on a wide range of threats to the President. Some are small, others are blatant, but all have the potential to be dangerous. Here’s a round up of just some of the extreme political posturing that is currently going on in right-wing America:

• The United States Secret Service investigates an online Facebook poll that asks if “President Barack Obama should be killed.” The Facebook application has been suspended while the poll is being looked into.

• Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), in a speech Saturday at the How To Take Back America conference, called President Obama an “enemy of humanity“. He also suggested the President provide his birth certificate (something Obama has already done) to prove his constitutionally eligibility to hold office. Franks later clarified his remarks saying he should have made it clear he was speaking about Obama’s abortion policies. So Obama is still an enemy of humanity, just the unborn humans.

• Conservative author John L. Perry writing for Newsmax postulates a “Military coup to resolve the ‘Obama problem’ ” is not unrealistic”. Perry, obviously not content with the normal process of democracy in the United States theorizes that the President may have to be removed from power prior to the next lawful election.

• Conservative speaker Kitty Werthmann recently led a workshop called “How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists.” She warned her audience to get their guns ready for “Bloody Battle” with Obama the Nazi.

UPDATE: Media Matters provides its own round up of extremist right-wing rhetoric and it’s not pretty. Meanwhile at Pleade The First, my friend Anthony rightfully calls out conservatives and dems alike to stand up to this subversive speech and denounce it out for what it is – treason.

Your Right Wing

CNN reports from yesterday’s Tea Party demonstration in Washington D.C. and discovers a “dark fringe“. Better late than never I suppose. The problem is that this so-called fringe is not really just a few people, it’s tens of thousands and growing every single day. These are people who spout complete and utter lunacy as if it were fact. Sterilization camps, the return of communism, forced abortion and much more are all part of their world view. If watching this clip doesn’t scare the living crap out of you, then you must be a Republican.

The problem I have with these people isn’t that they are taking to the streets to express their batshit crazy views. This is the United States of America and they are pretty much free to say whatever they want (short of actually threatening the President). I also think it’s wonderful they can protest out in the open and are not confined to “free speech zones” like those set up by the previous administration.

My problem is that all of these people seem to forget that issues like health care reform were part of the process running up to the election last fall. America listened to the discussion, we watched the debates and we decided we liked what Obama represented and put him into office. If that simple truth is too bitter a pill for the right to swallow, then they should have showed up on November 4th to vote for John McCain in greater numbers. They can protest to high heaven, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re all sore losers and unfortunately more than a few of them are closet racists. Something tells me if our President was a white southerner who was pushing for these kinds of health insurance reforms, we wouldn’t be seeing this level of anger and protests. Think I’m crazy? Then why were so many of the Tea Party members silent while George W. Bush was running up the largest deficit in U.S. history? No, it’s never been about the money or the policies for the majority of these people, it’s about Barack Obama and their loss of power. Plain and simple.

UPDATE: Politico puts some of this in perspective along with the idea that Obama has a heavier burden than most new Presidents due to his race. There is strong evidence that many people in this country can’t bring themselves to accept a black President. I whole-heartedly agree. Gwen Dawkins, Democratic activists says “Black people have lived under white presidents since day one,” Dawkins observed, “So would you give him a chance?” Unfortunately it appears blind hate and ignorance of facts trumps history, tolerance and common sense.

Shaping the Future

Watching the President speak about health care reform this evening, I’m reminded why I voted for him. His words were clear and his tone was assertive. He took those who spread misinformation about the bill to task and actually used the word “lie”. He spoke in no uncertain terms that he was willing to listen to ideas from both the right and the left, and yet while he was doing this, Republicans in the room treated the occasion like so many town hall meetings that have degenerated into shouting matches these past few weeks.

I don’t agree with everything Obama has done so far in office. I’d like the transparency he promised in the campaign and an end to Bush era provisions such as warrant-less wiretaps. I’d also like to see more of what he showed tonight. A willingness to stand up and fight for his beliefs and to challenge those who would stand in the way of progress simply to score political points.

His presidency is still young but when he takes the time to assert himself, it demonstrates why we believed in him despite his relative inexperience. Tonight, the right was made to look like the obstructionists they are. The GOP agree reform is needed, but they are unwilling to compromise on the key points that will make the health care proposal effective at lowering costs and providing care for those who lack it. Near the end of his speech, the President said: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.” I firmly believe this administration can do great things, Barack just needs to get out in front a bit more. We’re buying, it’s just that up until now, he’s hasn’t really been selling. That changed tonight. It’s about time.

Mob Rules

It’s getting uglier and uglier out there. The number of threats against elected officials supporting health insurance reform climbs each day. Rachel Maddow gives a run down of what’s transpired so far and sets the scene for what seems inevitable. God forbid someone gets hurt or killed, but given the tendency of some noteworthy conservatives to shout “FIRE!” in a crowded, hot summer theater, I just can’t see how we can expect a happy ending, let alone health care reform.

[Hat tip to Marla Erwin for this post]

UPDATE: It gets worse. The AP is reporting that militia groups with gripes against the government are growing rapidly across the country. “The stress of a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president are among the causes for the recent rise, the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says.” Lord deliver us from intolerant fools and things that go bump in the night.

The Election Broke Their Brains

To date I’ve not heard someone so well define what’s wrong with the conservative movement, specifically the extremists who have hijacked their party. Franklin Schaeffer, former conservative author of Crazy For God hits the nail squarely on the head and gives us a good idea of what’s in store in the days, weeks and months ahead. Watch the entire clip.

I find it fascinating that the right can be so upset with Obama after only 6 months on the job. We’re already at the point where threats are being made and violence could erupt at any moment. All this and the President hasn’t even completed his first year in office! The fall from power must have hit certain people in this country harder than the rest of us could expect. It’s the only way I can explain the absolute fanaticism and hate we’re seeing directed at Obama. That, and of course the fact that he’s not white and doesn’t have a typical American upbringing. A large portion of them would rather spend time asking for Obama’s birth certificate than trying to actually help the country.

In their own minds many conservatives have managed to ignore the fact that they lost the last election. America decided to try a new direction (for at least 2 years) and see what happens. I’m not opposed to getting their input if they would simply have some to give, but they don’t. Since November the GOP has been saying “No!” and playing to their base each and every day since Obama took office. Now they’ve decided that since they can’t offer any real solutions, and since they were relegated to minority status for the foreseeable future, they’ve going to throw a perpetual hissy fit.

The scariest part is that we’re only now seeing the tip of the “hate” iceberg.

Police Begin Probe Into Brad Miller (D-NC) Death Threats

The recent strong-arm tactics of the GOP and their insurance run corporate backers turned ugly last Monday when a caller to North Caroina Congressman Brad Miller’s office turned into what police call a “threat” situation. The caller was trying to provoke Miller into holding a town hall meeting. These forums have been disrupted lately by conservatives and Republican operatives to make their, sometimes violent, displeasure known about insurance industry reform. Well, now the police are involved and are starting to investigate threats to Miller’s life:

“The threatening caller, when told by a staffer that Miller was not planning a meeting, claimed the congressman didn’t want to meet with people face to face because he knew it would cost him his life, according to Canipe. The staffer then asked if the caller was making a threat. The caller, said Canipe, replied that there are a lot of angry people out there.”

As the incidents of inflammatory rhetoric such as Congressmen being hung in effigy and right-wing talk show hosts joking about poisoning the Speaker of the House increase, so does the likelihood that some angry citizen will go too far. During his inauguration speech, President Obama professed his belief that “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” The caller who threatened Brad Miller and the thuggish behavior of conservatives the past few weeks proves those the right never heard a word the President said that day.

To Thine Own Self

Ever since President Obama was elected, conservatives have looked for anything, no matter how small, to profess their disgust for the man. The things that send them into severe conniption fits are the very same behaviors that keep Barack grounded in reality. Taking his jacket off in the Oval Office, throwing his feet up on the desk, tossing a football around his house or sitting on the steps outside the ambassador’s office in Paris are all excuses for why the man isn’t fit to hold the office of the President.

Naturally, all of these things are what people do every single day. When Obama leans back in his chair he cues us in to the fact that, perhaps like no President before him, he is one of us. But when you compare the right’s distain for Obama’s casual habits to those of his predecessor, the hypocrisy is deafening.

The right used to point to the “folksy antics” of George W. Bush as an asset. They argued his inability to put coherent sentences together and his refusal to read the newspaper were because he was “an average guy”, someone Americans wanted to “have a beer with”. Yet when Obama tosses a football in his own home he’s denigrating the country and his office. How times have changed.

Unlike Bush, who spent 1/3 of his Presidency on vacation, Obama has had his sleeves rolled up and the jacket off from day one. In doing so, both figuratively and literally, he has stayed true to his roots and allowed us to see ourselves in him. Republicans would do well to remember there is nothing wrong with being yourself, particularly if you are the President of the United States. That’s one of the reasons why we elected him in the first place.

Conservatives On Winning Friends & Influencing People

At the rate conservatives are putting their feet in their collective mouths, they may never regain the majority in this country. Here is a sampling of some of the brilliant things that were said this week regarding Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to “stir the base” of the ever-shrinking right wing.

Newt Gingrich: “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”

Tom Tancredo: “If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race.

G. Gordon Liddy: “Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”

Rush Limbaugh: “So here you have a racist. You might — you might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s appointed one.”

Alexander Bolton: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.” This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ tongue and ears — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.”

Thankfully not all Republicans are so confident that Sotomayor is a racist, that her diet of “rice and beans”, or her menstrual cycle will unduly influence her decisions from the bench. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) have both expressed disappointment in the attacks. Unfortunately, if history holds, we’ll be hearing apologies from these two moderate Republican’s to Rush Limbaugh before mid-week. All I can say is keep it up Brownies, you’re doing a heck of a job!

‘Judicial Activists’? Look to the Right

There’s a great deal of talk this week from the right-wing that Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court is just another “judicial activist” judge. That is to say she’ll vote to overturn or make policy, not uphold existing laws. Before conservatives start to hoot and holler too loudly however, they should take a deep breath and look at the judges on their own side of the isle.

A study in the NYT today attempts to shed some light on which Supreme Court judges have voted to strike down the most laws passed by Congress, which is considered to be the most telling factor if a judge is an “activist”. The result? the justices that voted to overturn existing law, or “make policy” the most frequently were… drum roll… the right-wing or conservative judges. From the NY Times:

“We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent. The tally for all the justices:

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

One conclusion our data suggests is that those justices often considered more “liberal” – Justices Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens – vote least frequently to overturn Congressional statutes, while those often labeled “conservative” vote more frequently to do so. At least by this measure (others are possible, of course), the latter group is the most activist.

Imagine that. All of this is moot of course, because Sotomayor will most likely be confirmed easily and join the court in its fall session. She has the votes and by all regards (except for the 25% of the country clinging to Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove like grim death) is a fine choice for the bench. She graduated with honors from two Ivy league schools and has even been known to side with conservatives from time to time.

To all those who rue Obama’s selection for the Supreme Court, I really have nothing to say to you except elections have consequences. Obama was the victor, and now he, not you, gets to fill vacant seats on the court. That’s just the way things work. If you need some small measure of satisfaction, you can choose not to participate in National Fist Bump Day (June 3rd). Huzzah!

Lessons Rush Never Learned

Ask any parent what’s one of the first things they teach their kids and they’ll probably say “Don’t call people names.” It’s a lesson we all learn and one that helps keep discourse civil between functioning adults. Although we all do it occasionally, there are some that wield it so often it eventually becomes a crutch.

Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh is one such person. Rush has never been known for his ability to discuss topics like an adult, but over at Wikipedia they actually have an entire page dedicated to Rush’s on-air jargon that he uses to belittle and berate others. You can read the entire list, but here are just a few of the more egregious examples Rush uses on his daily show.

This list is just one of many reasons why the GOP has seen its most dramatic decline in membership in decades, despite what Dick Cheney thinks.

Banking Queen – Barney Frank. Reference to Frank’s homosexuality, his seat on the House Financial Services Committee and the controversy surrounding his views that there were no problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Rush would often accompany this with a parody of the ABBA song, “Dancing Queen”.

Bela Pelosi – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a pun on the name of Hungarian film star Bela Lugosi, best known for his portrayal of Count Dracula.

Benedict Arnold – Nevada Senator Harry Reid, after the famous soldier and traitor.

Feminazi – “Feminazis” are those that Limbaugh claims are so devoted to feminist ideology (and the pro-choice cause in particular) that they are as repressive and hostile to personal freedom as members of the Nazi party were in Germany.

Nostrilitis, Nostrildamus – Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).

Senator Dick Turban – Senator Richard Durbin, (D-IL). Limbaugh began using this moniker after Durbin made controversial remarks on the Senate floor which according to Durbin’s critics amounted to a comparison of the alleged abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay by U.S. military personnel, with the war crimes of Pol Pot and Hitler.

“Osama” Obama – President Barack Obama. Limbaugh uses this alternate name for Obama as a reference to Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) mis-speak during a luncheon at the National Press Club (Jan 11, 2005). Kennedy, making mention of Obama’s large win during the 2004 elections, stumbled over Obama’s first name, stating “Osama bin Laden, Osama Obama, Obamamam.”

Republicans Can’t Let Go

Liberal comedian and commentator Bill Maher isn’t always my cup of tea. He often diverges into shallow attacks of the right and when he does he hurts his credibility. But friday’s New Rules was right on the money. His New Rules segment summed up what I’ve been saying for weeks about what’s happened to the right since the election.

Conservatives have nothing left except the word “No.” They have no ideas of their own, have lost the reins of power in both houses of Congress, and the President and his policies continue to be very popular. As a result, the right is floundering in tea parties, talk of secession and made up facts. It’s like the entire right-wing of the country needs to go to group therapy to work through their Obama issues. Maher recognizes this and hits the nail on the head as only he can. Skip forward to the 2:21 mark for the noteworthy bit:

From the Mouth of Babes

Conservative blogger and daughter of Sen. John McCain, Meghan, has been slowly emerging from her father’s shadow since his failed election bid. Meghan’s been active on Twitter and making waves in the Republican party for months, but her latest appearance before a crowd of Log Cabin GOP on Saturday could be the tipping point:

“I feel too many Republicans want to cling to past successes. There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being ‘more’ conservative. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become. They just want to wait for the other side to be perceived as worse than us. I think we’re seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party. But it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past.”

No doubt these words only further to strengthen the perception of the ultra-right that Meghan is simply a RINO (Republican in name only), as is demonstrated by recent attacks against her by Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter. Such posturing toward the young conservative only adds credibility to McCain’s central thesis that “old school Republicans” are “scared shitless” and party shills such as Coulter, Limbaugh and Malkin represent the failed GOP past.

I find it fascinating how conservatives can dismiss the views of someone like McCain simply because she dares to speak the truth. Like many young people, her take on social issues is more tolerant than those of just her father’s generation. She courageously called on conservatives to re-examine their position on gay marriage not because she’s a closet liberal but because she’s knows that social equality always trumps bigotry.

McCain also knows the right will need to make fundamental changes in the way they conduct politics if they have any hope of courting new voters and growing the party. By striking the right balance between conservative and liberal ideals like a true Independant, Meghan may one day be able to achieve that which eluded her father. If she keeps speaking truth to power like she did on Saturday night, one day I just might vote for her.

Red Flagged

Local blogger Dave Ribar reports on a story originally from the Greensboro News & Record. It seems as though some of the tea party participants in North Carolina and around the nation sent their state and federal tax returns in with tea bags attached to them. Responding to these sour grape antics, Dave hits the nail squarely on the head:

“…the net result of the “tea-baggers” childish behavior is to increase the costs of government and to make it more difficult to discern genuine security threats. Last November, the voters weren’t buying what these selfish, spoiled children were selling. Now, these same brats are going to show their true colors by throwing an expensive tantrum.”

Add to their waste the cost of the unused tea bags themselves and you have the ultimate example of hypocrisy this country’s seen in a long time. If I worked at the IRS and received a return that included anything but the standard paperwork, it’d be audited faster than you can say “Nestea Plunge”.