Friday, September 10, 2010

Where Are the Liberals?

In 1976, Time Magazine published an article titled, “Where Are the Liberals?”, in which liberals of the time were described as self-destructive, intolerant, and disloyal. In the midst of the 1976 presidential election, the liberals were credited for politically sabotaging their most loyal candidate, Hubert Humphrey. Although Humphrey’s views largely resonated with the liberal base, they were not identical on the single issue of Vietnam, and as a result Humphrey was “torn apart” in 1968, which also left his candidacy in 1976 for dead. As a result, the liberals were left with Jimmy Carter as their best choice, though all they knew about him was that he was not Gerald Ford.

It is a shame that more than thirty years later the liberal base is still self-destructive, intolerant, and disloyal. President Obama, who is portrayed by the Tea Baggers as extremely liberal, has been abandoned by the liberal base for not being liberal enough. Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist, wrote the following in a brilliant Op-ed article in June, 2010:

They doubted [Obama] during the health care debate. They second-guessed his
Afghanistan policy. They’ve fretted over his coziness with Wall Street and his
comfort with executive power... But now is the summer of their discontent. From
MSNBC to “The Daily Show,” from The Huffington Post to the halls of Congress,
movement liberals have had just about enough of Barack Obama... This is the same
Barack Obama, after all, who shepherded universal health care, the dream of
liberals since the days of Harry Truman (if not Thomas Paine), through several
near-death experiences and finally into law. It’s the same Obama who staked the
fate of the American economy on a $787 billion exercise in Keynesian
pump-priming. It’s the same Obama who has done more to advance liberal
priorities than any president since Lyndon Johnson... American liberalism has
always had a reputation for fractiousness and frantic self-critique. But even by
those standards, the current bout of anguish over the Obama presidency seems
bizarrely disproportionate.
The reoccurring pattern seems to be that the liberal base abandons its leadership at the first sign of discontent and disappears from the political scene, leaving the country on a plate for the conservatives to feast on until there is nothing left. This reoccurring theme must come to an end now, as our country is currently under siege by an angry and aggressive conservative wave.

The problem is that there is no leader “liberal” enough to preserve the loyalty of the liberal base. There is no satisfying the liberal base because they are so uncompromising and divided amongst each other. They cannot be accommodated because they are not clear as to what they truly want. Even in the 1970s, the liberals were referred to as “an amorphous, leaderless fraternity.”

However, there was a time when the collective spirit of the liberals was untorn and unstoppable. During the 1960s, there was unity amongst the freethinkers, and the whole world heard the sounds of their harmony. The gatherings of the liberal base in its prime made a rally of 100,000 people look like bad turnout. In the 1976 Time Magazine article, Richard Wade, political adviser/analyst, stated that "the liberal presence is out there. It can be neglected only so far. If it comes together, it can haunt you." We are sleeping giants.

Where is that politically charged liberal spirit today, when it is needed the most? Mobs of extreme and angry conservatives are gathering all over the country, but too few of these gatherings have been met with any significant opposition from the liberal base.

In the midst of the Tea Bagger uprise, the condition of the political liberals has worsened. They are incapable of uniting as one voice even in the face of a common enemy. They lack any political power because they are so incredibly segmented into tiny ideological bubbles which alienate liberals from each other.

Perhaps liberals do not look at President Obama as their leader because of his arguably naive efforts to govern from the center, but the fact is that he is worlds better than the emerging alternative. Obama fought hard to keep many of his promises. Although not the ideal version to most liberals, Obama worked endlessly to reform our healthcare system even when it was politically damaging for him to continue. As he promised, Obama fought the special interests to pass a bill to reform Wall Street. Now that his opposition is mobilizing effectively against him, Obama should not be abandoned and left at the mercy of the hate-filled right-wing extremists (a.k.a. The Palin Zombies) simply because the initiatives did not mold into exactly what the liberals desired. Obama can be the great president that we all want him to be, but he needs a politically charged base to support him. This support must be more meaningful than sending an email or donating $5.00 to MoveOn.org. The liberals must mobilize.

This nation is certain to fall into the dark ages of right-wing extremism if the liberals do not wake up and mobilize. There was a time when the liberals were the noisiest, relentless mob that gave its opposition no chance to be heard. Now, all we hear is the sounds of angry bigots who are trying to hinder progression in this country. I call upon all liberals to get back in the game and show these Tea Baggers who is best at making noise.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fighting to Never Forget

Oh, how quickly and easily we forget how bad things were in the Bush era. Remember Bush? You know, the uninspiring and incompetent leader who brought our great nation to its knees. The reason so many of us do not remember is because the Democrats are horrible at the blame game, while Republicans have PhDs in effective finger-pointing and masquerading. The conservatives have been such masterful spin doctors that they actually made it taboo to blame Bush anymore. “It’s been an entire year already,” the conservatives mutter, as if the deficit and economic turmoil created by Bush suddenly disappears at the start of a new presidential term. The New Tea Party is sadly convincing people that Obama is the source of the problem and that the country should go back to Bush-like policies.

I suppose doing nothing except dumping over 900 billion dollars a year into two nation-building wars for another decade (and borrowing 800 billion of that money from China) would be better? Let's not forget that it was the conservative military regime, under the leadership of President “Spend-More-But-Tax-Less” that created our crippling deficit—well before a bail-out occurred. We must never forget such a reality.

Here is more reality; Obama has been working harder and advocating more strongly for unprecedented domestic reform than Bush did in his entire presidency. The primary reason for the slower than expected progress is that the conservatives have been obstructing and/or stalling every single effort made by the Obama administration, and the Democrats in Congress are too weak to stop it. The conservatives’ goal: use Obama's efforts to cross party lines as a weapon against him. Block everything he is trying to do and then turn around and say he has accomplished little in his first year. It is partisanship over progress, and as Republicans anticipated, America's buying it. Well, not me.

I understand what Obama's going through because I see how angry and nervous conservatives have become with a black progressive as Commander and Chief. The irrational anti-socialism era has commenced. Conservatives are angrier than ever (I didn't even know that was possible), but I—a rational, hopeful, and open-minded citizen—have never been so happy about political and social progress in the US in my lifetime.

I believe we can move forward despite the "backwarders" of our country. If not, I'm moving to Finland! I say this jokingly, but on a serious note Finland has an 88% approval rating of its healthcare system. Also, as the 2009 Prosperity Index indicates, Finland is the wealthiest country in the world. I love America, but sometimes the hatred and narrow-mindedness is hard to bear.

It kills me how conservatives believe that helping sick Americans is "silly," but it is acceptable to create billions of dollars in US debt to fight a "War on Terror," when in reality, terrorism kills far less Americans per year than inadequate healthcare in the US does every year. The fact is that we cannot afford to pay for Anti-terrorism war or healthcare reform. So, wouldn't it be smarter to provide funding for the problem that kills more Americans by far? If so, then why did the US choose the fight against terrorism over the past decade? The answer: because the majority (and most powerful) of conservatives do not need the government's help for proper healthcare. Since they do not need healthcare, they do not think the government should pay for other Americans who do need it. It is not their "responsibility." On the other hand, protection against terrorism is something that conservatives cannot achieve on their own and need the government to provide. So, as long as it benefits conservatives, it is ok to spend beyond our means and even kill other Americans' children. This hypocrisy must end.

As we progressives continue our fight, we must remain hopeful. The fact is that our current president in undeniably intelligent and is loved around the world. I honestly could care less what conservatives think; they had control and drove this country to rock bottom. No matter what the critics say or speculate about the future, Obama will certainly be remembered has an admirable president who, in the face of hostile opposition and hatred from his own people, brought this country to a far better position than he found it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Note on Obama and the May 2010 EU Summit

President Obama’s decision not to attend the EU-US Summit this May in Spain does not reflect his dismay with past EU Summits. It also does not indicate that Obama views the EU as irrelevant in the world’s financial recovery. Some spectators claim that Obama’s decision suggests that he was unimpressed with the EU-US Summit held last year in Prague. Others claim that Obama sees other regions of the world as far more pertinent to current economic conditions. However true this may be, Obama’s choice not to attend this particular summit was made at the beginning of his term due to timing issues, not because of any discontent with the EU.

Obama has been very involved with the EU. As pointed out by UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Obama has visited the EU more times in his first year than each of the last four US presidents. Obama simply decided to sit one summit out. This choice could have been for several possible reasons. Perhaps he knew that the 2010 congressional election campaigns will be heating up by then. Obama will certainly be needed on many campaign fronts in an effort to keep the Democrats in the majority in Congress. There are a plethora of reasons why Obama chose not to attend this EU Summit, but a disinterest in the EU is likely not one of them.

Lately, the media and analysts are reading too far into President Obama’s every action or inaction. It seems as if his weekly schedule is more closely followed than the schedules of past presidents. This excessive analysis is causing people to draw connections where they do not exist.

Perhaps it is Europe’s insecurity in its own relevance that leaves analysts questioning Obama’s non-attendance to the EU Summit. As EU members such as Spain and Greece struggle desperately to stay afloat, economies in Asia are soaring and gaining all of the attention. Countries like China are undoubtedly more relevant to the US economy than any EU member these days. It may very well be true that Obama does not perceive Europe as significant to the US’s financial recovery as other world players, but his decision not to attend the EU Summit in May is irrelevant to such opinion.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Obstructionist Right: Washington at its Worst

It appears that winning another election is more important to Republicans in Congress than rebuilding America. It would be a tough sell to claim that Obama’s budget proposal is extremely liberal or left-leaning at all. It is arguably a centrist proposal. Yet, no Republican support.

Obama’s budget sets out to increase spending in certain critical areas, such as job creation, but ultimately seeks to cut the US deficit in half within the next five years. Obama calls for some controversial measures to reduce the deficit, such as postponing Nasa’s missions to the moon for a decade and eliminating tax breaks for foreign affiliates of US-based multinational companies. Every member of Congress on either side of the aisle knows that hard times call for hard measures. These are ambitious but necessary goals that should yield support from some Republicans. Yet, not a single Republican in Congress has publicly supported Obama’s budget.

Obama advocates for ending some domestic tax breaks this year as well. Conservatives are already claiming that ending these tax breaks will further cripple our economy, and hurt the middleclass. The truth is that the authorization of tax breaks in the midst of two expensive wars is what created this egregious deficit in the first place. As was much of Bush’s strategy, the combination of two wars and tax breaks was simply impractical and dangerous. Perhaps suspending taxbreaks for a year or two is the price we must pay for multi-billion dollar defense contracts. The deficit must be addressed somehow, and continuing to neglect domestic problems, as Republicans suggest, is not the answer.

The conservatives will use some of Obama’s proposals in an attempt to formulate a coherent reason why they so adamantly oppose his agenda. But Republicans have supported proposals from past Democrats that advocated for even higher tax increases and more liberal initiatives. The reality is that there are no substantive reasons for the extreme attacks on Obama. If Obama proposed a total elimination of the federal income tax, the Republicans (except for Ron Paul, maybe) would oppose it. If Obama proposed a bill to prohibit any legislator from ever proposing a cap and trade bill, the Republicans would oppose it. The rightwing conservatives have spearheaded a personal vendetta campaign against Obama. Why have they done so? I’ll leave that question to your imagination.

Since when has bipartisan compromise been such political taboo? In the last presidential election, each candidate used their previous bipartisan efforts as positive selling points. The candidates knew that coming across as someone who would cross party lines for compromise was a good thing. Why has this perspective disappeared? The answer: The New Tea Party rightwing extremists.

The Tea Party attacks moderate Republicans and threatens to get them voted out in the next election if they work with the Democrats. Thanks to the conservatives, the US government has become more ineffective than ever. This is Washington at its very worst. Republicans who once supported moderate bipartisan efforts, such as Senator John McCain, have rescinded their support to “play it safe” in the upcoming elections. The New Tea Party movement scorns any Republican who dares to work with the other side. This is hurting America.

According to Edward Luce of the Financial Times, “Republicans see no political benefit in co-operating with the White House on reforms.” These “scorched earth tactics” are slowing down much needed progress. Republicans are being selfish sore losers, and as a result, other nations will surpass us as world leaders, and the US will continue to lag behind.

Unfortunately, the Democrats are not organized or determined enough to move forward without the Republicans. It is up to voters to end the madness in Washington. Conservatives who are not rightwing extremists must prevent this obstructionist campaign from persisting. Voters must threaten to unseat Republicans who support this harmful and childish campaign. Kelly Thomas, writer for RepublicansforObama.org, stated that Republicans would likely vote against the President “even when he offers up legislation on something considered to be a 'Republican centerpiece.'"

Politicians cannot be rewarded for such lowly tactics. Washington must be held accountable for acting in ways which hurt the country. Voters must unite in an effort to ensure that the government functions effectively and works together to address the nation’s problems. It is going to take the zeal of the political center to accomplish this goal.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Party's Over: The Tea Party Movement Implodes as Extremists Clash with Moderates

Today is a brighter day for America. The anti-progressive movement spawned by conservative extremists is finally imploding. The “New” Tea Party has spent the last year and millions of corporate dollars on a relentless campaign to obstruct every single initiative set forth by President Obama. The Republicans in Congress have also joined this obstructionist bandwagon. The movement’s momentum threatened the Democratic agenda and the nation’s progress. Now, the Tea Party’s gun-clinging extremists are pointing their rifles at moderate Republicans. This will hopefully begin to divide the Republican party, as it did in New York’s last congressional election, and lead to the retreat of this hateful and harmful radical movement.

The Tea Party thrives off of its motto: “we’d rather see our country in ruins than to see it succeed under Obama’s leadership.” They are fine with allowing Americans to remain unemployed without stimulus or healthcare, as long as Obama does not succeed. This is beyond the normal understanding of partisanship; it is worse. The radicals have created a false sense of emergency as if the country is at risk of succumbing to something un-American. It was disturbing to see Mary Matalin’s response on CNN to Obama’s strong State of the Union Address. She was frantic and distraught. Her face was red and blotchy. She was severely hostile in her feedback on the speech. Mary Matalin is known to be a die-hard Republican, but last night she seemed unusually possessed, ask Mr. Carville.

The Tea Party radicals are at war, and like Bush’s Iraq War, it is unjustified. The Tea Party paints President Obama as a socialist, despite the fact that he is actually a centrist President. His most radical proposal is health insurance reform, which is a century-old initiative taken on by past American presidents from both parties, such as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Yet, Tea Party conservatives vehemently claim that their country is at grave risk of socialist takeover. These are frivolous claims that seek merely to spark a populist backlash from fearful and paranoid conservatives.

The Tea Party actually thought that adopting the obstructionist approach would help the country, when in fact it is successfully crippling the government’s ability to function at all. Sadly, the Tea Party gained frightening momentum in the last year. The movement claims to have played a large role in the VA and NJ governor elections, and the Massachusetts Senatorial upset, where Republicans unseated Democrats.

However, the Tea Party is becoming too extreme and ideological for its own good. As the uncompromising members begin alienating moderate Republicans, the movement is being exposed for its backwardness and harmful obstructionism. Just recently J.D. Hayworth, former congressman of Arizona, and an intellectual's worst nightmare, Sarah Palin, attacked Senator John McCain for his moderate tendencies. The Tea Party does not only hate liberals, they apparently hate moderates as well. Perhaps Tea Party activists are aware that the moderate thinking will actually favor Obama’s centrist agenda. Perhaps they are right.

John O’Hara, conservative commentator and author of the book, A New American Tea Party, stated that the movement is “about principal, not parties.” Well, may all Anti-Tea Party activist hope that the Tea Party clings to its principals tight enough to lose support from the center as it falls off the deep end.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti Reveals Need for Global Rapid Response Organization

The tragedy of the Haiti earthquake is undoubtedly among the most unfortunate events of recent history. The amount of death and destruction is incomprehensible. Now, the world struggles to come together in an effort to provide humanitarian relief to a nation in ruins. It is almost as if the world has never been confronted with a natural disaster. Yet, this is not the first catastrophic event within the last few decades. In fact, every fours years since 1970 there has been a natural disaster that has killed more than 50,000 people. Aside from Haiti, the worst of them have been the Bangladesh storm and flood of 1970 (300,000 deaths), the Chinese earthquake of 1976 (255,000 deaths), and the 2004 tsunami (220,000 deaths). Yet, every time such an event occurs, the world seems to be inadequately prepared, or caught by surprise.

The world is never as ready as it could be, and as a result far more death and destruction ensues. As the world confronts the horrific tragedy in Haiti, a new “rapid response organization” for humanitarian relief can be established. The rebuilding of a better Haiti can be the cornerstone for a new centralized world system for disaster relief.

The US has certainly played a significant role in Haiti in the past weeks, which makes sense because of its proximity and manpower. Yet, this new world system should involve all of the world’s leading nations. Thus, the UN is an appropriate place to begin organizing this new system. As stated by Financial Times’ Phillip Ellis, “the Group of 20 leading economies must provide the lion’s share of the resources to get this done.” This system should have an organized structure and should provide funding for emergency reserves, as well as research to improve disaster relief efforts. This organization should also actively influence developing countries to implement more protective and preventive measures. Such an organization should also manage the finances of relief efforts. The recent efforts taken by the Canadian foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, to urge Haiti’s largest creditors (US, Venezuela, Taiwan, Canada, etc.) to forgive Haiti’s debt are some of the functions that should be assumed and globally managed by this new rapid response entity.

The world’s leading nations, and their financial institutions, have become dangerously shortsighted. It is untrue that natural events cannot be predicted or that the impact cannot be minimized. The truth is that nobody cares about the future beyond the present year. Concerns over the next quarterly reports have taken precedence over the stability of the long-term future. In the US, the entire political system creates a short-term focus for all government initiatives. The goal of State and Federal elected officials is to make changes which are noticeable before the next election. It is this shortsightedness that makes long term investments less attractive in the US, and in many other countries. This money-driven frenzy is hurting the world, but it must not hinder the necessary formation of a strong global rapid response entity for disaster relief.

In the meantime, Haiti needs all of the help it can get. There are thousands of survivors living openly on the streets and countless orphans struggling for survival. The American Redcross is accepting much needed donations. We must all do what we can as we hope for the best.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Christmas Day Bomb Attempt Indicates Need for Change in US Strategy Against Al-Qaeda

When the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, I questioned whether the deployment of thousands of troops into the Middle East was the proper response. It seemed to me that the primary reasons for the 9/11 attacks were security failures within the US. It was the failure of US intelligence, airport security, NORAD, and other entities of “homeland security” that made the attacks possible. The 9/11 attacks made clear that the US needed, above all, to devote more resources into intelligence and security on US soil. Yet, for all the wrong reasons, the US acted with its guns instead of its brain and issued massive deployment of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, after more than 5400 American deaths and over a trillion dollars of US taxpayer money spent in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US finds itself no safer, and no freer than it was in 2001.

The reason we are not any safer is that our strategy for fighting the threat is wrong. Mass war is ineffective toward our new borderless enemies. The Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is a Nigerian who was recruited to Al-Qaeda in the UK and trained for the Christmas day attempt in Yemen. How does mass war in Afghanistan address such threats, which exist throughout the world? We are wasting resources and money while neglecting the actual threats to US security (and other domestic problems), all at the detriment and expense of US citizens.

We cannot expect to end all hatred against the US. There will always be people in the world who despise America and everything it stands for, and there will always be groups like Al-Qaeda to exploit such hatred and use it for political gain and power. I lost faith in the Bush administration when it declared war on hatred and terror, and Obama’s transition into massive war against Al-Qaeda is no better. Obama’s decision to deploy 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan is concerning. Unlike his predecessor, Obama is undeniably intelligent, so such an irrational decision indicates that he has fallen victim to the military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about. It is illogical to send thousands of troops into one nation to fight a terrorist group that exists everywhere, from caves in the Middle East to coffee shops throughout the western world. It makes no sense unless of course the purpose is financial, that is, the trillions of taxpayer dollars for private defense contractors.

The best ways to address these threats are to have incredible security at every vulnerable point on US territory and to have adept intelligence worldwide. In addition to airport security, our borders need far more protection. Authorities recently discovered an underground tunnel extending from Tijuana, Mexico into the US. The tunnel was near completion before authorities received an inside tip. The tunnel was intended for drug smuggling, but could also have been used to smuggle in bombs and other weapons. The US will never be safe if it does not increase its efforts to protect from within its territory. Instead of sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, some of them can be used to help secure our borders, and some to aid airport security. Such a use of US troops will make our country safer than sending them over to Afghanistan. Hopefully after the Christmas Day attempt the Obama administration will realize that the only practical offense is impeccable defense.

In addition, our intelligence is not very intelligent lately. The Christmas Day attempt could have been thwarted far earlier if the 15 US intelligence agencies were effectively networked and organized. Agencies had bits of information about Abdulmutallab, and if the dots were connected, he could have been stopped sooner. Triple Agent Abu-Mulal al-Balawi recently pulled a fast one on the CIA and the Jordanian General Intelligence when he accessed a US base in Afghanistan, without being searched, and managed to get several CIA experts into a single room before detonating his explosive laden vest (worst blow for CIA since 1983). If the CIA was properly tracking al-Balawi and staying a step ahead of its "double agent," they would have known not to trust him. We cannot hide behind our massive troop count to keep us safe, not with this new type of enemy. The US needs to focus less on our military occupation of the Middle East and more on our ability to follow terrorists around the world. We need to know our enemies, track their every step, and at the right time strike them covertly.

I do not mean to undermine the extraordinary threat posed by Al-Qaeda and other hate-based terrorist groups. I just disagree with the US strategy in fighting Al-Qaeda and such groups. The US needs to have less troops in the Middle East and more intelligence in Afghanistan, Yemen, and everywhere else that Al-Qaeda has a presence. We certainly need to help nations in the Middle East fight Islamic Extremist groups by providing funding and training to their security forces. However, US should not be nation-building in the Middle East. The Taliban and Al-Aqueda are gaining ground and expanding further into Pakistan and Yemen, and the governments of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan reek of corruption and deception. It is not the job of the US to exhaust its resources and neglect its domestic security to improve and build other nations. Such a strategy will not make us safer. Our troops must come home, and our strategy must change.