Author Archives: MMGeneral

About MMGeneral

Fireside Politics...With a Sword.

If things were reversed, would Katrina have been Bush’s Gulf oil spill?

As I see it, and I am interested in hearing other’s takes, the answer is a clear “no.” If Bush had succeeded Obama, instead of the other way around, and Katrina had occurred after the oil spill, there is simply no way that we would be screaming at Bush to stop the hurricane.

Because that is essentially what we want Obama to do. We want Obama to raise his staff and stop the damn hurricane. Perhaps we have forgotten that the tragedy of governmental incompetence during Katrina was not related to the government’s inability to halt a natural disaster, something we clearly should not expect of our elected officials, but rather to their total inability to handle the clean-up, the humanitarian crisis, etc. With the oil spill not yet plugged, Obama’s part in this hasn’t even really started yet.

And that’s the problem. It is literally unfathomable to a very large part of the country, many of whom are generally quite cynical, that a company of the size and stature of BP could a) have allowed this to happen in the first place thanks to total negligence, or b) that they could begin such a risky undertaking without having a legitimate plan for how to stop a leak if one started. Clearly corporations lie, cheat, and steal, but those are the banks on Wall Street, not the big companies that provide thousands of jobs across the country. Thus, though it is undoubtedly a tragedy caused by BP (but perhaps not one that is their fault, per se), it is clearly the government’s fault that this is happening. For some reason. Bottom line: these companies are perfectly capable of regulating themselves, thank you very much, but the fact that the government regulations I didn’t want didn’t keep this from happening is just appalling. You need to do more (do less)!

And Obama’s inability to figure out how to stop an oil spill (something which his law degree clearly qualifies him to do) is more proof that he is a presidential failure. That, plus the failure to pass healthcare reform, a jobs bill, a stimulus package, financial reform, etc. Oh, wait…

(You can hate his policies and pray for repeal, but recognize a winner when you see one. This is the approach I’ve had to take with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers…In fact, in many ways Obama is to the presidency what Bryant is to pro basketball. Even when Bryant, who I admittedly dislike in a surprisingly visceral way, scores 40 points and puts on an absurd performance, everybody derides it as selfish playing and any other number of negative descriptions. One has to wonder, were Kobe to have a personality transplant and finally look like he actually wants to be on the court and isn’t, in fact, looking to strangle his own teammates, would we all revere him as a virtual god instead of somebody who is unfortunately fantastic?)

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The Flotilla and Helen Thomas

I have more to say about the Israeli flotilla debacle than can be written in a mere blog post. Suffice it, I am of the belief that Israel would be best served by ending the blockade, but recognize that this is an incredibly important issue on which both sides have truly valid and compelling points. I also believe that Israel had every right to board the Mavi Marmara under international law (San Remo) in order to maintain an internationally sanctioned blockade. Now, if the issue is that the international community now believes that blockades are an inevitable means of collective punishment that should not be a legal tool of war, then that is something that the international community should address, but to act like this blockade was a rogue move by a crazy nation is frankly factually disingenuous.

Israel has spent the last 20 years learning how to rule, and it is now past time to learn how to govern, but let’s be perfectly clear: Turkey’s absurd behavior (which really has much more to do with global positioning than it ever had to do with Israel), the apparent sudden incompetencies of the Israeli navy, and the deaths of the activists that all contributed to this event can be decried (and they should be!) while simultaneously supporting both Israel and its right to keep its citizens safe and an end to the Gaza blockade and better, legitimate lives for its citizens. Free Gaza does not have a monopoly on this idea by a long shot, though many of the rest of us are not especially supportive (understatement of the year) of Gaza’s incredibly repressive government, also known as Hamas. But then, there are very few repressive governments I support when their people are the ones who are suffering…

On the other hand, liberals who rally to the pro-Palestinian side need to be careful about the way in which they talk about Israel. Not the “Israel is an apartheid state,” “Israelis are Nazis,” etc crap, but this sense that often comes across that they perceive Israel as something temporary and experimental and thus able to be dismantled if necessary. Let me be perfectly clear, Israel is not going anywhere. Period. It’s kind of like how the LGBT community says “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” Israel is a sovereign nation with nuclear weapons, not the Tea Party…

Of course, this is an incredibly contentious and emotional issue on both sides, and a brief comment does not even count as scratching the surface. In fact, it is so emotional that the Israeli-Palestinian issue makes some liberals look like Deep South Republicans of the 1950s-60s. No, really:

Apparently this is how Helen Thomas chose to help celebrate Jewish Heritage Week at the White House. In some ways, I’m still so shocked that anybody would say this (and on camera!) that I have yet to decide how I personally believe this should be responded to. Should Thomas  be fired? Moved to the back of the room? In the same way that elephant ivory from Africa is now essentially valueless thanks to its enforced illegality and the lack of any kind of even underground market, so too had I imagined blatantly racist or anti-semitic comments by members of the press now existed. Or at least when it came to highly respected members of the press.

Clearly, I was wrong.

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Sex, Lies, & Videotape: Today’s Political Headlines

The two big scandal stories of the day, and let’s be clear, this is not an otherwise slow news day with the much-touted primaries, deal with lying about military service and adultery. Not too shabby. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut AG and Democratic senatorial candidate, was outed by an NYT article for saying that he served in Vietnam, when, in fact, he never left U.S. soil. On the Republican side of the aisle, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) is stepping down from office after admitting that he had an affair with a female employee.

Souder and his lady friend even made a great sex tape!

The Blumenthal revelation is bad, no question, but he may survive, and in no small part thanks to the fact that while his story will undoubtedly garner a slew of media attention, it’ll be only half as much as it might have been thanks to Rep. Souder. Did Democrats pay him to resign today? It’s way too fortuitous for a party that seems to get political timing wrong with an accuracy that verges on the statistically improbable.

The fact that Souder had an affair neither shocks nor bothers me. I understand, though, that most expect and certainly prefer their elected leaders to actually practice what they preach (in this case quite literally). However, what does bother me in this case is the nature of Souder’s apology and resignation. Rather than simply saying, “I screwed up. I’m sorry,” Souder lamented to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, “It is a nightmare…Can’t believe it is happening.”

Really? You can’t believe it’s happening? It was you having the affair…right?

What is really unbelievable is the degree to which Rep. Souder’s statement makes it sound like his house was hit by the adultery natural disaster. Perhaps it was a sex volcano eruption, or a sex tsunami, or even a sex avalanche. Frankly, I don’t doubt that he’s repentant. There’s no question in my mind that he definitely regrets having the affair, and that he also regrets having to come clean about it, but the “nighmare” that Souder is dealing with is basically his own inability to actually follow the moral codes he claims to base his life upon. Souder is not Job. This is his fault.

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The Tea Party movement and why Liberals are so unhappy about it

I’m growing pretty tired of listening to Conservative politicians, surrogates, and commentators explain how elitist and arrogant Liberals are in their depictions and discussions of the Tea Party movement. Now, of course, the very nature of these arguments destroys their validity by constantly claiming that Liberals are elitist and arrogant, but I want to suggest that mainline conservatives are misreading what they see as snooty contempt.

Liberals aren’t “freaked out” by the Tea Party because they think it’s silly, regressive, and generally filled with rednecks (though many do believe this), but rather because the Tea Party has no ideological coherency. Clearly, the point can be made that the expectation of ideological coherency is, in itself, elitist or whatever, but what we are really looking at is the basic expectation of rationality in American public discourse. So far, Liberals have watched Tea Party members label Obama a socialist, communist, Maoist, Stalinist, Muslim, fascist Nazi, which for students of history makes no sense. How can somebody be both Stalinist and a Nazi? Anybody remember World War II (besides the clear ideological incompatibilities)?

Yes, Liberal sarcasm makes it sound like the Tea Party is being scolded for getting an ‘F’ in high school history, but what that masks is a legitimate fear that a movement has formed glorifying this sense that facts are irrelevant and actually elitist. What that world-view means is that I could claim absolutely anything, and not be held responsible for what I say. So, for instance, if I were to say that George Washington hated Communists that would be alright, regardless of the obvious problem with this statement. That’s a lie, but benign. And if I were to say that Republicans are attempting to pass legislation that will allow banks to accept children as payment, can you prove me wrong? Well, even if you could, it wouldn’t matter because trying to prove something through the use of facts shows that you are an “other.” Once you are an “other,” an insular group couldn’t care less what you think because you have been delegitimized.

The Tea Party is quite obviously made up of many people who are really more interested in fiscal responsibility than in holding up Hitler-Obama signs. Unfortunately, these are not the people who make it onto television or into news stories. Frankly, showing an ideologically coherent Tea Party limits the GOP and Conservative media’s ability to harness the movement for literally any purpose, regardless of how far it may be from the Tea Party’s original intent. Tea Party members become incensed when accused of across-the-board racism, as they should be, but do they really not see where Liberals are getting this from? This sense wasn’t born out of some memo written by radical Liberals living in a secret bunker underneath the streets of San Francisco, but rather from an inability to figure out what else could account for what appears to be a severe and irrational over-reaction to some fairly moderate reforms (Yes. Healthcare was moderate). Hearing the actual use of the N-word is not the impetus. Watching thousands of people across the country claim that Obama is a communist fascist, which again is ideologically impossible and thus perceived as disingenuous, is what gives Liberals cause to believe that there is really a different underlying sentiment.

Liberals don’t really believe that Tea Party members are just copying Glenn Beck’s talking points (which is actually giving them a lot more credit than Conservatives believe Liberals are even biologically capable of), but that Tea Party members themselves are purging facts and mixing up political and economic systems on purpose to dupe others at the behest of people like Glenn Back and the GOP. When Liberals see signs that depict Obama with a Hitler mustache, there is a general feeling that since Obama’s politics are so unlike Hitler’s as to make the comparison silly and deceptive, that what the sign must really be saying is that Obama, like Hitler, is again the “other,” the enemy, a foreigner in our midst. He’s unlike “us” and thus can’t represent “us.” That kind of tribalism would seem scary and un-American to ANY party that stands in opposition.

Right now, the Tea Party is ideologically incoherent because it a) contains many people with different foci, and b) because the Republican Party and popular Conservatives (as opposed to intellectual) have turned it into the fundraising and activist arm of the GOP. Knowing this, Liberals should expect this irrationality. The Republican platform is filled with inconsistency, as is the Democrats’, and thus turning it into quick three-word yells without the spin and gloss of seasoned politicos is inevitably problematic. This is not the Tea Party’s fault. This is the fault of Republicans who have convinced regular people to shill for absurd political positions (or oppositions) to help their 2010 chances.

Tea Party leaders need to sit down by themselves and hash out a list of coherent political goals. For example, they can’t both fiercely fight to preserve Medicare and Social Security and call HCR a government takeover of our healthcare system for which they want full repeal. They need to decide whether they want repeal more or less than they want Medicare and Social Security. The Tea Party won’t be seen as a legitimate player by the Left or independent lovers of ideological consistency until they get past things like this that just appear irrational, hypocritical, and self-serving. I believe there is indeed opportunity for the Tea Party activists to perhaps play a role in policy-making. They just need to decide if they would rather be “patriots” or Republicans first.

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Goldman Sachs and the politics of financial reform

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep so I ended up mulling over the fraud case against Goldman Sachs (GS) for about 3 hours. Here’s my (totally uneducated) take:

Bottom line, this case against GS is not a gamble by the government. The administration wants financial reform much more than they want to “get” GS, but because midterm elections are around the corner and Democrats are already expected to lose a fair number of Congressional seats, the administration really can’t afford to have Republicans running around telling people that financial reform is Maoism in disguise (or in the best interest of the banks…with the Republicans still auditioning opposition strategies, it’s like amateur hour on the Hill). So. What is to be done? How do you pass real financial reform in this political climate without more than a mock brawl? Apparently if you’re particularly savvy, you bring a charge against the most loathed bank on Wall Street based on a disclosure issue that may not actually be technically illegal, but that very clearly sounds like something that should be. The ambiguity of the law is the SEC/administration’s ace in the hole. Either GS settles or loses and financial reform happens because the issue is very clearly illustrated for the public by one great example, or GS wins and financial reform happens because the entire country is incensed that whatever GS did isn’t illegal. Either way, financial reform passes.

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Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) on Tea Party rallies

“We had two recent tea party demonstrations in Washington, one a week before the health care vote – drew about 1,000 people.  The tax day rally, by the organizers own estimate was 1,500 people.  If I organized a rally for stronger laws to protect puppies, I would get 100,000 people to Washington.  So, I think the media has blown the tea party themselves out of proportion.”

— Governor Ed Rendell, on Meet the Press

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Maybe They Just Want to Belong? Confederate History Month and the Tea Party

It’s been a really, really long time since I last posted. This time around, I hope to vastly improve on the quality of my former posts (it’s always strange looking back at opinion bits and realizing that you kind of sound like a moron…eh). I guess we’ll just see…

This is not a true “post” in the sense that any of this is meant to be coherent. Rather, just a jumble of thoughts I can’t get out of my head at 2:23am. In fact, this was originally written as a comment for an article on NY Liberal State of Mind (you might want to read this first), but I jumped over here before clicking the send…:

I’m from the South, North Carolina specifically. That may not be important to impart, but having spent the vast majority of my life in the South, I have had plenty of opportunity for observation. Having said that, I will now make a ridiculous claim.  I think I might understand, to some degree and academically, a bit of the need that white southerners feel to “honor” the Confederacy. Let me just state that I do not support, to any degree, a Confederate History Month, or any sort of dismissal of Slavery. Leaving Slavery out of the Civil War is like leaving religion out of the history of the Crusades- absurd, historically inaccurate and just, plain bad (“wrong” seems like an indictment too light). My theory, though, is this:

Essentially, I think it comes down to the sense that, as the U.S. became more mobile, as more people began moving into the Southern states and others out, the structures of the original community organizational schemes were lost and those people left behind, aka white southerners, were left feeling not a part of any particular community. A century ago, white southerners, for the most part, would have either been part of a town community filled with people they knew because there wasn’t that much mobility and they had all lived there for a fair amount of time, or they were newer to the country and perhaps still identified with their origin nationality (Irish, Germans, Italians, etc), or they were still identified with a specific Southern church community. All of these areas provided identities for those who were a part of them. Now that the organizational structures are gone, white southerners are those with power but no sense of identity or self, no greater organization into community.

When I say, “I’m Jewish,” I’m claiming a host of experiences, point of view, and history that are specific and give me a place in the world. White southerners have no label like that. Though there are those who believe that labels are generally detrimental, we all use them to self-identity and show identification with larger groups that we consider ourselves a part of. White southerners only have, for the most part, a shared geographic history. Memories of the Confederacy do remind them of a better South as long as they forget that slaves were not just there for the “paternal coddling,” but I think that behind the portion of hardcore racists, most of these people just want to be a part of something.

I see the same thing in the Tea Party. There is, of course, an element of the Tea Party movement that is legitimately racist and just afraid of the black man in the White House, but I think the majority of Tea Party members are looking to be part of a group, to belong somewhere, something we all desire. This doesn’t excuse the bad behavior by some and lack of condemnation by most, but it seems to explain, in my mind, their totally contradictory and inexplicable ‘ideology.’ The ideology isn’t what’s most important, the important part really is the party itself.

Goodnight!

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