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.

‘Obamacare’ Vindicated

Back in 2007, two full years after my doctor pronounced me cured of my malignant lymphoma, I sat across a conference room table and listened to my insurance representative tell me I was ineligible to receive life insurance. I questioned him at length and asked why I was being denied even though the doctor had certified me cancer free. His response was simply “Because that’s the way the insurance industry works.” In that moment I felt a rush of anger, frustration, sadness and helplessness all at once.

Needless to say today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act brought with it feelings of joy and satisfaction. The court affirmed the government indeed has the ability to require individuals to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. This means that children can remain on their parent’s health insurance longer, people no longer have to fear losing their insurance when they switch employers and that people (including children) with pre-existing medical conditions cannot be denied coverage. All in all, some 30+ million American’s will now be able to receive health insurance who could not before.

Predictably, conservatives are not happy about the decision and immediately began trying to spin Robert’s reasoning in their favor. It never ceases to amaze me how some people can manage to contort the facts of a given situation to fit their special world view. The topic of personal responsibility is a perfect example and one that illustrates the hypocrisy of many right-leaning folks, some of which are in my own family. Like them, I believe that people should basically be responsible for their own successes or failures, but unlike them I also realize people sometimes need help from their government. I often hear from conservative family and friends how they dislike liberal “entitlements”, ie people shouldn’t be able to game the system and receive free services at the expense of hard working folks. So, given the fact that the Affordable Care Act requires people to stand up and take responsibly for themselves by paying their fare share of health care costs, you would think they would support it. This, paradoxically, isn’t the case.

Many would rather have freeloaders continue to game the system, raising everyone else’s premiums than levy a penalty or “tax” as Justice Roberts wrote, and be forced to take responsibility. This is especially damning when you consider the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act was originally created and promoted by conservatives. It seems as though such people are perfectly content to alter their principles simply to express their opposition to President Obama. It makes me very sad when my fellow Americans are willing to sacrifice the good of the many out of spite.

The good news is that as I write this, millions of people are better off today than they were yesterday. Many will be receiving rebate checks from their insurers who spent too much on administration, advertising or lobbying and not enough on making people better. Friends and followers on twitter who have family members that were finally able to obtain insurance due to Obamacare can breathe a sigh of relief, and I can think back at that frustrating meeting so long ago with my insurance agent and smile. The Affordable Care act isn’t perfect by any means, and Republicans will do their best to try and repeal the law (good luck with that), but today was a very good day in the history of our country. A very good day indeed.

UPDATE: A wonderful post over on Reddit that explains every detail of the ACA in easy to understand terms and explains just how the bill will or will not affect you. I really suggest everyone read it. (via @bigzaphod)

NC’s Silver Lining

I have to say that when I went to bed last night I was feeling pretty darned depressed about what transpired here in North Carolina with Amendment 1. I just don’t understand how people can treat their fellow Americans with contempt just because of whom they love. I firmly believe the state has no business interfering in our lives in this way, and the passing of A1 with such an overwhelming majority (even if they were confused about its implications) was quite heartbreaking.

But then today the President finally finishes “evolving” his position and comes out in favor of gay marriage. Suddenly things just don’t seem as bad. I know his stated position doesn’t change anything for the thousands of lgbt couples in NC and around the country, but what Barack did today is symbolic and it does indeed matter.

I was very proud of the President when he was elected. He’s strayed on some important issues, bent his promises on others, but in his heart, I believe him to be an honest and good man. Today he re-affirmed my faith in him, for that, and for lifting the specter of Amendment 1′s passing, I thank him.

Exceeding Expectations

Local lawyer and conservative blogger, Sam Spagnola is running for county commissioner. Sam and I have had dust ups over on Ed Cone’s blog and it’s no secret that I disagree with the vast majority of positions he’s taken on national politics. So when I spotted (what I assumed must be) his truck at the Quaker Village shopping plaza, I had to snap a few pictures.

Even though I’ve never met Sam in person, I have to say that the messages conveyed on his vehicle fit the man to a tee. Typically politicians seeking office take the moderate route so Sam’s slogan of “Elect a REAL conservative!” could be considered a bold, fresh marketing move. Unfortunately for voters like myself, seeing his mocking of our president on his bumper sticker and license plate turned me off. Then again, I guess local constituents and business owners like myself are not his target audience. Best of luck, Sam!

UPDATE: Turns out I assumed wrong (bad me!) and the truck isn’t Sam’s after all but one of his bigger supporters. The good news for Sam seems to be that his identity as a true conservative politician appears to be hitting the mark with his voters. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, major props to someone who takes action and runs for office instead of just standing on the sidelines grumbling to the crowd. Local government could use more of this, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.

Teabagistan is Born

The Tea Party took decisive, measured steps today toward becoming a full-fledged domestic terrorist group. Some of its members faxed death threats to congressmen, other vandalized offices. An investigation was launched into the cutting of a gas line of the brother of another congressman and meanwhile, Greensboro’s conservative bloggers were all deadly silent on the topic. I wonder why that is.

The Tea Party has been filled with extremists from the day it was born, but now, egged on by Sarah Palin, and suffering a devastating loss at the hands of Obama for health care reform, they’ve decided to “double down on the crazy”. What’s worse, members of the U.S. Senate like John McCain and North Carolina’s very own Richard Burr are encouraging them with their infantile obstructionism to prevent the business of government. Are these representatives men or children? Are they so obsessed with exacting retribution for the health care loss that they are willing to put national security at risk? Seriously?

This is what the right-wing in this country has become. A gang of unprincipled, dishonorable thugs. They are starting down the path of violence and domestic terror, and are being supported by the actions of some of this country’s most (previously) distinguished elected officials. This must end now before it’s too late. A storm is on the horizon, and unless cooler heads prevail and the course is corrected, we’ll all go down with the ship. Call Senator Burr’s office and tell him to grow the hell up. Send him a tweet and demand that he get back to work and stop throwing a temper tantrum.

Hitler’s Waterloo

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at one of these “Hitler learns…” videos since the meme started last year. The historic passage of health care reform gave me just the excuse I needed to give it a shot. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun watching as I had editing. Enjoy!

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.

Economic Egress

The next time someone tries to tell you that Obama is destroying the country, or that his administration will be the ruin of us all, please point them at this handy chart. The Democrats should have this printed on t-shirts, bumper stickers and anywhere else they possibly can. It speaks volumes, especially about the economic policies of so-called “fiscal conservatives”. It’s simply the best chart I’ve seen in years.

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.

Rebutting “Obama’s 1st QTR Report”

I love my family (on both sides) very much, but unlike myself, they are all very conservative. I’m not exactly sure how I eventually came to lean so far left, but I like to think it’s because my parents always taught me to “do unto others” and that no one was better than anyone else.

So when I recently received the “Obama First Quarter Report” chain email that has been going around from my family, I was compelled to respond to it. Many of the items here are outright falsehoods. Some make some good points. Most are too biased to even be considered seriously. If this post helps you to respond to your own family, or just helps stop the spread of lies about the 44th President of the United States, then I’ve done my duty.

• • •

Do you have any questions on the below? Agree or Disagree. How about health care?

My parents have Medicare and my father has veteran’s health care. Both government run health care systems. They love them and think they are much better than their privately run HMO’s.

My company’s biggest expense after salary is health care. One year rates from our private insurance company rose 15% the next year 33%. And you’re telling me that conservatives are content to sit and do nothing to reform health care in this country, let alone try and cover the now over 50 million people who don’t have any coverage what-so-ever?

It is estimated that some 1.5 million people will go bankrupt in the United States in 2010 due to illness thanks to insurance companies who are unwilling to cover them. Is that the kind of health care you want for you and your children?

Some facts vs right-wing claims on health care reform.

Observations on YOUR President’s Early Days:

1.  Offended the Queen of England.

The only ones “offended” were right-wingers. Obama gave the Queen of England the gift *she requested*. An Apple iPod filled with Broadway musical numbers, and video of her previous trip to the US. In addition, she also received a signed, rare edition of a Rogers and Hammerstein manuscript. The queen was not offended, she was actually quite pleased.

2.  Bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Is that better or worse than Bush kissing him and holding his hand whenever they met? I forget.

3.  Praised the Marxist Daniel Ortega.

If by “praise” you mean cutting $64 million in aid to his country because of his posture and remarks, then yes, Obama praised him. Obama knows the difference between words and actions. In addition, at a speech given by Ortega in Spain in April, Obama is reported to have “endured” it. He didn’t praise Ortega, nor did he rebuke him.

4.  Kissed Hugo Chavez on the cheek.

Obama and Chavez shook hands (as did George W. Bush) and had a joking conversation.

5.  Endorsed the Socialist Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Obama initially pledged co-operation with Boliva because of long-standing trade agreements with the country. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t always get to pick and choose the leaders of various nations (that doesn’t go for Iraq and Afghanistan obviously).

But on July 1st, the US halted $25 million in annual trade benefits to Bolivia, prompting Morales to say “Obama “lied” about cooperation”. So much for that so-called praise:

6.  Announced we would meet with Iranians with no pre-conditions.

Yes, you’re absolutely correct. I happen to think the President is right for doing so. You may disagree, but we tried it your way (not talking to Iran) for over 8 years and it got the USA no where. You’re guy lost, it’s time to give a carrot a try instead of a stick.

7.  Gave away billions to AIG also without pre-conditions.

Actually there are many measures in place to protect tax payer money with the bank bailout, but I agree there could be more accountability in this area.

8.  Massively Expanded the bailouts.

What was the alternative? Let unemployment drop at an even faster rate? Sink even deeper into recession faster? Would you have not attempted to stimulate the economy at all and just “stuffed money under your mattress”?

Again, this was tried for 8 years. Tax cuts for the rich, huge spending in Iran and Afghanistan (foreign nations, not the US). Didn’t work. I’d rather go into debt for money spent in our own country than giving away billions to other countries to wage war.

9.  Insulted everyone who has ever loved a Special Olympian.

Wow, the President is human being who makes mistakes! Imagine him making an in-appropriate remark about the Special Olympics! Was it bad, sure. Did it offend everyone associated with the Special Olympics? No. Plus, unlike Bush who could not, EVER admit a mistake, Obama later apologized for the remark

10.  Tripled our national debt in his first 100 days in office.

Completely untrue and a lie. Most of the current debt (over 80%) is due to Bush policies and bailouts that was started BY HIM. In addition, Obama removed the traditional “let’s hide all the debt” accounting used by presidents in the past to give the American people a true picture of the federal budget. Sometimes reality is a tough pill to swallow.

Conservatives seemed fine with it for 8 years while the country was going deeper and deeper into debt fighting 2 wars and cutting taxes. Now, that money is being spent on America and American programs, you have a problem?

I suggest you go read this excellent piece by the NYT and then reconsider this unfounded accusation.

11.  Announced a termination of the space defense system the day after the North Koreans launched an ICBM.

Everyone agrees that missile defense is important, but not when it doesn’t work. The so-called missile defense shield has been plagued with problems from day one.

In addition, other, newer systems are now being tested.

12.  Despite the urgings of his own CIA director and the prior 4 CIA directors, released information on intelligence gathering.

Sometimes transparency can be a good thing. That being said, I don’t know enough about the subject to speak with any authority regarding if the United States should or should not be announcing how intelligence is gathered.

13.  Accepted without public comment the fact that five of his cabinet members cheated on their taxes and two others withdrew after they couldn’t take the heat.

I never agreed with Obama’s willingness to post people who hadn’t completed their taxes correctly. He should never have appointed those people in the first place. I agree with this point.

14.  Appointed a Homeland Security Chief who quickly identified as “dangers to the  nation”, groups including veterans of the military, and opponents to abortion on demand….and who ordered that the word “terrorism” no longer be used but instead referred to such acts as “man made disasters”.

Like it or not, the department of Homeland Securities report on disgruntled veterans is right on the money. Levels of extremism have been rising in this country since Obama’s election and some of them have to do with ex-military people who seem to think it’s their right to take up arms against the President of the United States.

Two Atlanta area police officers were even suspended for doing an unauthorized “background check” on the President.

Gun owners have been stockpiling weapons and ammo for fear that Obama is “about to take away their guns” although, historically speaking gun owners enjoy more rights now than they did under President Clinton. Not only that, but Obama recently signed a bill that makes it EASIER for people to carry guns in National Parks. Reagan opposed such a measure. Obama backed it.

15.  Circled the globe so he could openly apologize for America greatness.

This one is soooo slanted it’s difficult to reply to with a straight face. The right pulled what they wanted to out of Obama’s trip around the world, regardless of context, tone or actual words spoken. If you want to believe that Obama put down the US at every stop, that’s your right. I actually listened to the speeches and heard a fair, even handed assessment of the history of this country’s actions abroad. Like it or not, we’ve done some bad things over the years. You can bury your head in the sand and try to ignore this fact, or you can try and rebuild relationships with other nations that was destroyed by George W. Bush. Take your pick.

16.  Told the Mexican President that the violence in their country was because of us.

It partly is. If America didn’t have such a demand for illegal drugs, the violence in Mexico wouldn’t be at the levels it is at today. I find the President’s honesty in these matters to the leaders of other nations, refreshing.

17.  Politicized the census by moving it into the White House from its Department of Commerce origins.

Robert Groves, Obama’s nominee to head the US Census Bureau has said on several occasions that he is opposed to sampling or so-called “politicizing” the 2010 census. Until there is actual evidence of this happening (like the massive politicizing that happened under Bush with the Attorney General’s department), simply moving its organizational structure isn’t setting off alarm bells for those of us not wearing tin-foil hats.

18.  Appointed as Attorney General the man who orchestrated the forced removal and expulsion (from America to Cuba ) of a nine-year old whose mother died trying to bring him to a life of freedom in the United States.

A wonderful example of the right’s “situational outrage”. Elian Gonzalez was just a boy looking to escape economic and political oppression and so he should be allowed to stay in the US. At the same time, the thousands of aliens that cross our borders every day looking for the same exact thing as Gonzalez are “destroying the country”. Which is it? Is the United States a nation of laws or not? Why is one boy allowed to stay but not those who cross the border to try and help feed their families or who need health care?

19.  Salutes as heroes three Navy SEALS who took down three terrorists who threatened one American life… and the next day announces members of the Bush administration will likely stand trial for “torturing” a terrorist who had played a part in killing 3000 Americans by  pouring water up their nose.

Yes yes, these two instances are exactly alike. Let’s compare the systematic deconstruction of the Constitution and rule of law that was issued by Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney over a period of 5 years to the necessary killing of 3 pirates.

I’m sorry that we disagree about water boarding, but anyone who has experience with it, John McCain included, has called it torture. The United States doesn’t torture. That’s what George W. Bush said. And yet we did. On multiple occasions and for purposes that had nothing to do with “ticking bombs”, but to justify the illegal invasion of foreign nations.

20.  Air Force One over New York City with a fighter close behind.

Equating this as the work of President Obama is offensive. Obama knew nothing about the flyover and was “furious” about it when he learned of it. People in the defense department will likely lose their jobs because of it.

21.  Sent his National Defense Advisor to Europe to assure Europe that the US will no longer treat Israel in a special manner and they might be on their own with the Muslims.

It is true that Obama has been more heavy handed with Israel than any President in recent memory. It is also true that Israel likes to think they are the only “valid” nation in the region. They are not.

Israel also has one of the strongest, most well run militaries and can handle themselves more than well when it comes to their conflict with Palestine. That being said, I don’t doubt for a second that if Iran were to become involved, the United States would back Israel up to the very end. They have been, and will always be an ally of the United States, no matter what right-wingers would like us to believe about the President.

22.  Began the process of nationalizing the Auto Industry and the Insurance industry.

The auto industry hasn’t been nationalized. Like many other industries in this country, the government has been forced to take a stake in its survival so that you don’t end up eating tuna fish for dinner every night and heating your house with kerosene. The government doesn’t own the auto industry, it doesn’t even have a controlling portion of it. Same goes for the insurance industry although I’d say that I wouldn’t mind some government control of them. They are crooks and unfeeling liars who refuse health care for things like acne and foot odor.

23.  Announced that for intents and purposes the Health Insurance Industry will be nationalized, despite the fact that such a thing is a miserable failure everywhere it’s been put in place.

Everywhere except in the 36 countries that rank higher than the United States in world heath coverage.

Or in the national programs of Medicare and Veteran benefits (US government run programs) that conservative columnist William Kristol recently admitted are “the best” in the world.

And people are paying more attention to Michael Jackson than to defending their own liberties.

The same was true while Bush was passing the Patriot Act and setting up “free speech zones” during his presidency. Wire tapping American’s phones, bank and medical records. Letting thousands drown in New Orleans, letting the drug companies screw over senior citizens time and time again, turning a huge surpluses into massive deficits and appointing crony after crony to government run positions.

1360 more days to go… God help us all!

Yes God help us because Obama seems to be doing okay for a new President 6 months into his position. So let’s not forget all the good things that the President has either succeeded in passing or is in the process of passing while we’re at it. Things like:

• Direct military leaders to end war in Iraq
• Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners
• Establish a credit card bill of rights
• Expand loan programs for small businesses
• Expand eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP)
• Expand funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners
• Extend unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits
• Reverse restrictions on stem cell research
• Appoint at least one Republican to his cabinet
• Signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
• Grant Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba
• Release presidential records
• Create a $60 billion bank to fund roads and bridges
• Close the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug plan
• Create a small business tax credit to help with health premiums
• Push for enactment of Matthew Shepard Act, which expands hate crime law to include sexual orientation and other factors
• Create a White House Office on Urban Policy
• Support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
• Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
• Work to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear (equal pay for women & minorities)
• Weatherize 1 million homes per year
• Enact tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars
• Provide grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes
• Enact the single most successful stimulus program “Cash for clunkers” which has helped sell an estimated 220,000 cars in a little over a week

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

All the so-called “questions” about Barack Obama’s place of birth seem to have been too much for two Atlanta area police officers. Two DeKalb County officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after an investigation revealed they ran a background check on President Barack Obama.

“Officials said Obama’s name was typed into a computer inside a DeKalb County police car on July 20 and ran through the National Crime Information Center. The secret service was immediately notified and contacted the DeKalb County Police Department.”

I’m not exactly sure what the two police officers were thinking when they decided to query the President’s name against the National Crime Information Center’s database. How they didn’t immediately lose their jobs is beyond me, but it just goes to show how obsessed some people are with trying to discredit the President. Either that, or these two guys just happened to be dumber than a bag of hammers.

UPDATE: A similar incident has occurred in Philadelphia. A police officer there has also run an unauthorized background check on the President and is now being investigated by the department.

Unburdened by Evidence

Human beings love conspiracy theories. We are all born and raised with certain biases that taint our world view, so when events unfold in ways we don’t agree with, we tend to make up reasons to bargain away the result. True believers of two such conspiracy groups have gained media attention in recent weeks – Obama “Birthers” and those who insist the Apollo moon landings were faked.

Those who subscribe to these conspiracy theories have several legs up on reality that make them both frustrating and infuriating to try and deal with. Their foremost advantage is that, in scientific method, it is difficult to prove a negative result. This is doubly so when the people in question refuse to acknowledge the rule of law, insist on approaching the argument from preconceived viewpoints or simply make facts up to suit their needs. All three which are routinely done by birthers and moon hoax believers.

In the case of Obama Birthers, as they are called, despite piles of physical and legal evidence that Barack Obama was born on August 4th, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii (one of the 50 United States) these fringe elements insist that Obama is not a citizen. When one fact is presented, such as the authenticity of his birth certificate (certified by the Republican governor of Hawaii herself) the birthers shift gears and instead claim Obama is trying to block the document’s release. Or they claim that since Obama’s father wasn’t a citizen at the time of his birth, than means neither is Barack. Forget the fact that simply being born in the U.S. grants one “naturalized status”, or that 2 separate Hawaiian newspapers announced Obama’s birth on the same day in 1961. None of this evidence meets their warped criteria of truth.

Then you have disturbing people like Bart Sibrel, a total nutjob who insists that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings in order to beat the Russians in the eyes of the American public. As we approach the 40th anniversary of this landmark event in human history, mainstream media feels the need to shine the spotlight on people like Sibrel. It is true that millions of Americans living today have no memory of the actual event, but that makes it no less factual than Lindbergh flying solo over the Atlantic or the Wright brothers flying at Kitty Hawk.

Many people find the idea of Sibrel’s beliefs disgusting and disrespectful to the dedicated men and women of NASA. Not to mention the over 400,000 people who worked for the better part of a decade to land men on the moon and return them safely to the Earth. Professing the moon landing hoax also denigrates the memory of those lost in the attempt like Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee who died on the launch pad of Apollo 1 early in the program.

For birthers and moon hoax pushers, reality doesn’t come into play. No amount of evidence would ever be enough to assuage them from their pre-held beliefs. This is the root of their fallacy – that they purport to be interested only in the truth, yet when directly presented with overwhelming piles of it, retreat to the excuse of conspiracy. Some say we shouldn’t confront such fringe elements, that they don’t deserve the legitimacy our attention pays them. This may indeed be true, but simply ignoring the screaming man in the corner doesn’t make him go away. He’ll still be there screaming and he’ll get louder the longer you ignore him. No, the answer is to confront these kooks head on and if reason won’t work, as Astronaut Buzz Aldrin will tell you, try a good right hook.

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.

‘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!