Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

In Defense of Obama

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Cynthia Gordy of The Root has written an article criticizing Obama’s efforts to alleviate the plight of the poor since entering office, in light of the White House’s recent report on the same. Her tone reminds me of myself and most liberals’ complaints about Obama – in short, we think he’s not strong-willed enough – and every topic ends with a quote from somebody making the same “yes, but…” argument. For instance, on Health Care:

Claudia Fegan, a physician serving low-income patients in Chicago and a spokesperson for Physicians for a National Health Program, says that Obama’s initiatives have good intentions. “But the process is too complicated for most poor people, who have fairly chaotic lives, to access,” she said.

Or Welfare:

Economist Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, says there’s no doubt that Obama has provided assistance to the poor, but cites challenges. “There are some really good things that the administration has done around poverty, but they have not been proportionate to the extent to which the problem has increased,” she said.

Or Foreclosures:

“The foreclosure crisis hit the African-American and Latino communities in 2002, so we’re talking about a problem that is really entrenched,” said Lisa Rice, vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “I think the administration has done some things well, but we’re playing catch-up to a large degree.”

Each topic reads almost exactly the same: Progress, but not enough. Yeah, okay, okay. We get it. We’ve been steadily edging back from the brink – and dear god, there most certainly was a brink – we haven’t turned around and started walking away from it.

But, honestly, we know that. We knew that implicitly. Making a four-page article about it seems… redundant, especially considering it fails to make a single mention as to why he may have failed to live up to his campaign promises on all these fronts. There’s lip service towards the end of the article that dismisses his “playing politics,” but let’s get real: That 400lb gorilla in the room is an elephant.

It really does take getting all your ducks in a row in order to effect substantive political change. Obama didn’t have much to build upon, so the fact that he made any progress at all – against a party that’s out for his blood, has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, questioning the legitimacy of his presidency, and has shown an ardent and effusive desire to sabotage the government and the country until he is out of office – is a testament to his ability. But, quite simply, he cannot do it alone, and we don’t have all that many strong leaders in the Democratic party.

As pointed out by Robert Caro, it took nearly ten years of concerted effort to create the sort of situations in which Lyndon Johnson could pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. It wasn’t just a rush to curry votes book-ended with a tense face-off against Strom Thurmond. It was the result of a great long deal of “playing politics.”

By contrast, the relatively quick and decisive policy rehauls – to make a grand understatement – during the tenures of Lincoln and both Roosevelts were nothing if not tumultuous, fraught with peril, and very, very illegal, as far as the expansion of executive power went. Their actions saved this country from some horrifying crises, and in some cases were victorious against severe opposition, but I seriously doubt we’d let Obama – to say nothing of the GOP – do anything remotely as bold without metaphorically lynching him.

So, much as I complain about the protesters downtown, and much as I’ve also railed against Obama’s seeming reticence to work the system with some elbow grease, give them credit: At least they’re doing something. But no good deed, however, goes unpunished.

Weiner’s lack of balls

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Y’know what, Weiner? Fuck you.

I don’t give a shit about your personal foibles, and more importantly, neither did your Queens constituency. So fuck you for pulling a Spitzer and quitting when you should have been pulling a Clinton and doubling down.

Yeah, the Democrats have no spines and don’t like it when Republicans get to be all morally high and mighty – this week – but guess what? The Republicans do that anyway, and all the most aggressive Democrats now have been systematically culled from the system. Cuomo had to spend three years in pergatory, Spitzer’s now merely a commentator, and Obama himself is forced to speak ill of his own just for the sake of satiating politicians who want nothing more than his head on a stake.

Grow a pair, Weiner. Your constituency isn’t the Democratic party: It’s your Democratic voters.

Listen to Yourselves

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The New York Times did an editorial essentially thanking city officials for unanimously voting to allow a mosque and Islamic community center to be built two blocks from the WTC site, for having done so they have upheld the highest aspirations and values of this country.

That’s all well and good, but what gets me is the sheer unbridled vehemence of those who would deny such – from Republican leaders across the country to the very commentators to that editorial, all of whom repeat a mantra as ugly, hateful and bigoted as it sounds: “The terrorists were Muslim and the mosque is a purposeful statement to the victims of September 11th of that victory of Islam over America, and to spread their cult in this nation.”

The sheer blinded arrogance and hatred of that statement is mind-blowing in this day and age. To list the lack of insight:

  • Muslims died along with everybody else during September 11th; New York City is a polyglot city.
  • The Muslim community of New York City is no more tied to Islamist terrorists than the Christian community of New York City is tied to the neo-Nazi movement.
  • Al Qaeda terrorists are extremists first and Muslims second. If we are to indict Islam as a whole on the basis of these extremists, then we must indict Judaism for Israel’s transgressions, and Christianity for– where to begin? I know:
  • If we cannot let a mosque be built near Ground Zero, let’s not allow Catholic churches near schools or playgrounds.
  • If we cannot let a mosque be built near Ground Zero, let’s not allow Baptist churches near federal buildings.
  • If we cannot let a mosque be built near Ground Zero, let’s not allow missions near any poor community.

The sheer bigotry and prejudice that openly lives in our society must be killed once and for all. The unanimous vote was, as stated by the New York Times, not just the right way but the only way. Let’s go further: Let’s censure every Republican to have stood against this. Let’s not stop until they are no longer a voice in our political process. We must expunge this sort of intolerance now and forever.

The Narrative

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Obama gave a speech last night to address not so much the BP Oil Crisis, but the media narrative surrounding his involvement with it, for the two have little in common. That didn’t stop the narrative from plodding right on, but then nothing Obama can do is ever remotely in the right direction (so sayeth the narrative).

a) The Oil Spill was somehow Obama’s fault. This allows opponents to draw parallels to Hurricane Katrina (because there are only two sides to every issue and every partisan move has a direct analog, right?). Yes, the government bears responsibility, but not in the way the narrative implies.

b) The government has the resources to address the spill, with the implication that it isn’t mobilizing those resources. The governor of Louisiana got the troops he asked for. The appropriate authorities have put up barriers all along the Gulf. The government leaned on BP to provide billions in an escrow account (arguably the biggest hostile government takeover of private assets in Obama’s administration to date, yet the least controversial) to pay damages, and yelled at every American oil corporation for having basically the same policies as BP. It remains to be seen whether MMS and other regulatory agencies will have cleaned house by the time all this is done, but that’s basically the extent of government involvement. The issue, after all, is not whether the government can plug the hole itself (it can’t; nobody can), but whether it can stop corporations from breaking what they can’t fix.

c) Obama’s leadership is in question due to his impotence in the problem. I voted for Obama because he was a fresh, vigorous Democrat who looked like a strong leader, sure, but also because there was no way in hell I’d ever vote for the GOP. Obama’s inauguration was historic, sure, but aside from the warm glow of that night, nobody actually believed he was Jesus and JFK rolled up into one. Indeed, such sounds more like a GOP sneer on how strongly liberals supported Obama during his candidacy rather than how liberals saw him. So, to hold him to such a standard where he’s able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and swim to the ocean floor and beat it into submission is disingenuous at best.

There’s things to get Obama on – his criminal negligence of continued illegal detentions, his hawkish stance towards Afghanistan, etc – but he’s a politician, and one with the worst job since Hoover left office, coupled with a far more hostile congress and public than FDR ever had to deal with. We’re at the point where the GOP narrative has so poisoned the well for all government (after defanging regulatory agencies, defunding legacy projects and decades of media campaigns devaluing government initiative) that we have an entire “movement” of so-called Tea Partiers who don’t know what they want except that DC should burn. We’re at the point where reaching across the aisle means liberal Dems making deals with NDC conservative Dems, because the GOP are gleefully and cynically sabotaging government – delegitimizing the current administration – rather than looking to govern.

The idea that the same pundits can criticize Obama for not doing enough (whether it’s the bailouts, the recovery plan, the health care bill, or the BP response) while simultaneously blocking his every move is insane, but that’s the current narrative.


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A very, very odd debate on the comments of this article can be summed up as shock over a statement one conservative made that, in essence, because liberals are moral relativists and statists, they are at the polar opposite, ideologically, from the concepts of universal human rights and individual liberty, for they could not fathom something being morally right all the time.

Ergo, said conservative continued, it was the conservatives that have always stood at the forefront of civil rights and pacifism, not the liberals. This sounds a lot like the sort of arguments that have been trotted about the conservative echo machine since Jonah Goldberg wrote his book.

Names like Woodrow Wilson and Leo Strauss are trotted out as proof, supposedly, that the liberal message hasn’t changed since then, which is something like trotting out Charles Darwin’s first book as proof that the theory of evolution is flawed, forgetting of course the body of scientific progress since then (or similarly, that all collectivist thought is bunk, using only Karl Marx’ work as example).

We supposedly live in a world where Lincoln freed the Blacks for purely altruistic reasons (saving Thomas Jefferson’s reputation in the meanwhile) and the Democratic party is still primarily Dixiecrats and educated elit(ist)s who dream up eugenics clauses. LBJ’s abandonment of the South in favor of a more inclusive party and Barry Goldwater’s subsequent entreaties to the same in the name of exclusion means nothing, and nor does FDR’s about-face on Wilson’s racist xenophobia with his statement, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Strom Thurmond, of course, died in 1964.

Not that it matters, because the other half of this argument is that, because liberals have enacted collectivist policies through the state, they must be totalitarian – no matter if the state is representative or not. So Hitler’s destruction of the trade unions and Stalin’s purging of the party mean nothing, nor does theirs’ or Mussolini’s purging of intellectuals, radical dissidents or, y’know, gays, Jews, Blacks, or foreigners (most if not all of whom vote overwhelmingly Democrat here.) Wilson’s “world police” interventionist Internationalism was certainly not the central motive of Nixon’s or Reagan’s or Bush’s militarism, no sirree.

Of course, the argument’s just an anti-Democrat troll meant as the latest in a long line of fear-mongering disinformation poorly hiding the fact that it’s all a massive case of projection. The question, I suppose, is: Is this unbelievable twisted revisionism’s utter incredulity symptomatic of a sick electorate or the death of the party that espouses it? Ayn Rand’s faux-intellectual Objectivist screed has certainly found a certain brand of follower, sure, but rarely is it taken seriously…

An Elegant Solution

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Everybody knows the insanity of governor Jan Brewer’s suicidal* new law that basically gives Arizona police not only the right but the responsibility to demand citizenship papers of anyone they suspect may be illegal immigrants (read: All Latinos). Duncan Hunter, republican congressman from California, suggests they go one further and deport children of illegal immigrants born in the United States, despite being legal US citizens themselves.

I suggest a simple, elegant solution to the Wehrmacht surreality of Arizona: Give the state back to Mexico. It solves so many problems:

For starters, it was Mexico’s to begin with. The Latino population has more historical right to be there than their Caucasian counterparts.

Then, it rids America of a large swath of radical assault rifle-toting vigilantes (and ASU graduates), who will soon find that the Mexican Policia Federale are somewhat less forgiving, not to mention an end to the political scene that gave us John McCain and Barry Goldwater.

It’s perfect!

*Alienating Latinos, a third of the state’s voting population, is a brilliant idea for the GOP, especially since they can’t get Black votes either.

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