Posts tagged ‘Politics’

Reflections on a snowy day

DeeTee From DeeTee:  New Year’s Resolution #s 8, 25, 33, 48, etc. for the past few years:  Start a blog!

Well, finally we did… now we just have to remember to actually write in it.

I love the blog:  both the idea of it, and the actuality.  It’s nice to have a forum in which to share thoughts, and to try to write them in a cohesive and concise way — well, concise in a relative manner:  brevity is not my forte.

(I think that’s what I’d like my (eventual) gravestone to read:

“Life is short and so was she… although brevity was not her forte.”)

Yesterday was Christmas.  I always try to watch It’s a Wonderful Life  at least once each holiday season, and I’m still moved to tears every time.  Remembering that each of us has an impact upon others, and on the planet, that we may not always realize — that’s a good idea.

My religion has a different holiday instead, one of much smaller stature in religious significance.   I think I’m a bit unusual in my next statement:  I just don’t feel neglected on Christmas.  I don’t feel lonely or excluded:  it simply isn’t my holiday!  Sometimes I watch the holiday Mass and on TV,  just to appreciate the beautiful singing and ceremony.  I like imagining my Christian friends celebrating with their families, and the warmth of the fireplace, the turkey or whatever, the gifts and the merriment.  

But as for myself:  I just love the solitude!   Maybe I’ll go see a holiday movie; maybe I’ll simply curl up and read a good book.  There’s nothing like lighting a few scented candles,  putting on some good music, wrapping one’s self in an afghan, drinking hot cider, sipping hot soup, and reading:  yay!!  There’s nothing like watching the snow fall outside and being glad you’re inside.  Nothing like enjoying the peace-on-earth feeling, and feeling peace within one’s self.  It’s a gift, this holiday, this slowing-down time.

Christmas eve, a neighbor and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire.  Upon first glance, this may not seem to be a good holiday choice:  there is violence and much sadness and grief.  BUT:  it’s a movie about the triumph of the human spirit over amazing hardships — hardships that we, in this country, know little about first-hand.  It’s a story where even the tormentors wish the hero well, because he has courage and determination and goodness and decency.  Actually:  it’s a MUST-see movie!

And it reminds me a little of our own nation.  Even with cynicism running rampant, I still believe that most of us cheer for the hero; that we still believe goodness and mercy shall triumph over evil and greed.  Why else would we have elected Obama as our next President?

This is a real time of hope.  It’s time for new resolutions, for self-assessment.  Maybe progress forward is never so; maybe it’s more one step forward, another back, a few sideways… but then a half-step forward.  Maybe one foot in front of the other, slow and steady and shaking, is the only way.  And even if, at year’s end, we’re not as far along as we’d hoped… well, as long as we’re still walking that path and trying and hoping, maybe that’s an accomplishment all the same.

I still have many subjects I’d like to rant about — hey, politics in Illinois, what can I say? — but at least for today, I just want to offer my thoughts of peace and hope to this world, and to all of you (any of you?) who may be reading.


December 26, 2008 at 3:12 pm 4 comments

Election 2008

ChieFrom Chie:  Today is November 4, 2008 and I hope it is the day we elect the first African-American as President of the United States. Yes – I support Barack Obama. While I agree with many of his positions (not all of them), that is not the main reason I voted for him. I believe, perhaps naively, that he can be transformational to Washington politics. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, you have to agree that our federal government has become completely dysfunctional. Perhaps it always has been, but it wasn’t obvious to me until the 1980s. Each side has adopted a “winner-take-all-no prisoners” attitude and it is now so partisan that people in Congress will vote for or against something, not on its merits, but just so the other side loses.

I want a leader who will try and bring both parties together so that we don’t have “sides” anymore. Someone who can take a vision of America the Great and acknowledge, even embrace, the different viewpoints it takes to get there. I want a cerebral leader. Someone who has thought with depth and intelligence on the issues facing our world today. I also want someone who has the temperment to deal with the egos and pettiness that pervade Washington. To be frank, I don’t want Joe Six-Pack in the White House with his finger on the red Button.

I think Obama has those qualities I’m looking for. He became the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, in large part because of support from conservative, federalist students. He was recommended to the University of Chicago as a law professor by federal judge Michael McConnell (nominated by President Bush and considered one of his Supreme Court nominees). As a Senator, he has shown that he can cross party lines to work with Republicans. For example, his work with Dick Lugar (R-IN) on a nuclear proliferation bill as well as with Tom Coburn (R-OK) on a bill regarding how government grants, loans and earmarks are awarded. I also think that because of his multi-cultural background, he will bring a much need perspective to discussions on race, poverty and entitlement programs in the U.S.

I do not doubt that John McCain has stood up to his party. I do not doubt that John McCain has crossed party lines. But John McCain lost his credibility with me when he chose Sarah Palin as his VP (see my Sept. 23, 2008 blog: Sarah Palin – The Last Straw.)

When I have asked McCain supporters why they are voting for him, they never respond that it is because of his “Jobs for America” or “Lexington Project” that are described on his website. Usually they respond with the following reasons: 1) Obama is a socialist and/or 2) our country is safer now. Since neither of those statements are true, I have to assume their reasoning is more faith-based than rational. And, much like religious faith, political faith is belief without evidence and not something that can be argued away with reason. However, for those of you who are still (unbelievably) undecided, I would like to address both of those issues.

Socialism is an economic theory where there is collective ownership in the production and distribution of goods and services to create an egalitarian society. Despite its resurgence in countries like Venezuela, its failure as an economic theory is well-documented with the fall of the Soviet Union. (It took the Russians 75 years – given enough time it will fail in Venezuela too.) Obama is not calling for the nationalization of what little industry we still have here in the United States, nor is he calling for an egalitarian society where failure is protected and merit goes unrewarded. (Ironically, the recent nationalization of our financial institutions and the protection of their CEOs was brought about by Hank Paulsen and George W. Bush – Republicans. Apparently, if you give money to rich guys it’s considered a rescue and not welfare.) However, what Obama does believe is that for big societal issues like poverty and universal health care, the federal government can be used as a tool to help those in need. Grass roots projects, community-based organizations and free markets can not solve these issues without government assistance. And, in order to pay for these programs, governments have to rely on taxes.

Now taxes, specifically graduated income taxes, are nothing new to the United States. In order to pay for the Civil War, Congress enacted the first income tax law in1862. It was a tiered tax structure where those earning more were taxed at a higher rate. Congress abolished and re-instated income taxes several times until 1913 when the 16th Amendment to the Constitution made income tax permanent. Tiered tax structures are not a new invention.

Also, the “spreading the wealth” phrase that has been used by the McCain campaign since the last debate is largely due to Obama’s plan to increase taxes on those making over $250,000/year. If you are making more than $250,000/year, then yes, your taxes are going to go up under an Obama presidency. However, Obama wants to restore the tax rate to no higher than the same level people were paying 8 years ago. These are the same tax rates that were in place under the Clinton administration and lower than the tax rates under the Reagan administration.

Now, is that fair? No, of course it’s not fair. In an ideal world there would be a flat tax rate or even no tax rate. Also, in an ideal world, there would be no need for child labor and OSHA laws because there would be no exploitation of labor. There would be no need for the SEC, FDA, EPA or NAFTA because markets would be open, honest and free of corruption. Poverty would simply mean that you didn’t make as much as the next guy – not that you were living in your car and your children were going hungry. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We don’t even live in a fair world. Only children believe life is fair- and that is because their world is incredibly small and self-contained. We don’t live in a fair world because evil, greed and corruption exist and without laws and regulations in place, scum rises to the surface. Human beings are horrible at self-policing. I can not think of one industry that has managed to avoid government intervention because they were sufficient at self-regulation. Given free rein, societies and/or organizations almost always end up with a Lord of the Flies scenario. Power corrupts.

But I digress. Let me state for the record that I do not want to pay higher taxes. However, I think I should because 1) I can and 2) because I have a vision for what this country can be. For those of you who disagree I offer the following analogy. The most successful people in the U.S. are much like the U.S. itself. For all its faults, the United States allows people to succeed and prosper like no other country in the world. The end result is that the U.S. is THE superpower country – the one with the most money and clout. Being a superpower means being a leader and leadership carries responsibilities. We give food and aid to countries that need help (due to war, corruption, natural disasters). We intervene, as a policeman, between other countries to stop genocide and oppression. We provide a tangible example of the success of capitalism and democracy. We do this because we understand that as the world prospers, so do we as a country. By helping and nurturing other countries we ensure our own success. The same is true on an individual level. With wealth and power come responsibility. People can not adopt a “let them eat cake” attitude towards those less fortunate around them. Not only is it morally bankrupt, but it will prove to be financially unwise in the long-run. If those of us with a bigger slice of the pie, can share some of our piece with people without pie, then hopefully those without pie will take that piece, learn to bake and we all end up with a bigger pie. (Sorry about that baked good metaphor). All I’m saying is that even if your tax rate is higher, we can all still make money when the country prospers. It happened under Clinton and it can happen again. The leap of faith is making sure our money is used wisely by Washington. That has not happened over the last 8 years.

With regards to the war, I do not believe our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq has made us safer. Not only was Iraq not responsible for the 9/11 attacks, but they also did not have any weapons of mass destruction. In 2001, the estimate on al Qaeda was a few thousand members. Since then, the “war on terror” has become a recruiting ground for terrorists at a cost to the U.S. of about $10 billion/month. Is the region more stable? No. In fact, it is more unstable because besides Iraq, we’re losing in Afghanistan and our already stretched military is being asked to face yet another front in Pakistan. Are we viewed as liberators in a free and democratic Iraq? No. We’re viewed as occupational forces by most of the population and have, at best, a shaky relationship with its very tenuous and unenthusiastic government. George W. Bush’s decision to use a pre-emptive strike against Iraq was viewed as arrogant and unwarranted by our actual allies and our reputation and credibility in the world has been diminished. But perhaps most importantly, after seven years we still have not captured Osama bin Laden. If we had taken even half of what this war has cost us (about $500 billion) and devoted it solely to tracking down Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, he’d have been caught, stood trial and sentenced by now. Also, Osama bin Laden was Saudi Arabian. Why didn’t we go after Saudi Arabia? They’re one of the most conservative Arab countries in the Mid-East with one of the worst human rights records. George W. says they’re an ally. Have they helped us search/capture bin Laden? Have they given us a break on oil prices? Apparently Saudi Arabia is an ally only to those who own oil companies.

Withdrawal from Iraq will not be easy. We broke the country and we have an obligation to fix it. We also have an obligation to protect the Iraqi citizens who assisted us from retribution within their own country. Obama does not advocate for an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Our military would work with the Iraqi government for a phased and responsible withdrawal. By setting up a targeted phase-out date we would be strongly encouraging (force) the Iraqi government to step-up and assume control of their own country. I understand John McCain’s stance. In Vietnam he saw first hand what happens when a war is mis-managed. But to stay in a country that doesn’t want us there, incurring a cost (both in dollars and lives) that can be better used elsewhere, to fight a war that isn’t making us any safer, does not make any sense to me. We have a $450 billion deficit. We have spent $45 billion on reconstruction in Iraq and it is costing us $10 billion/month to stay there. Iraq has a $25 billion budget surplus this year. They can afford to pay for their country’s security – we can not.

Bottom line: Vote Obama.

November 4, 2008 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

Sarah Palin – The Last Straw

Chie From Chie:  I wanted to like John McCain. I really did. When you hear him tell his story as a POW and see his tired, broken body, it is very compelling. I watched his acceptance speech at the Republican convention and almost believed him when he talked about wanting to set a new standard for transparency and accountability in government. I almost believed him when he talked about reaching out across the aisle to share ideas – no matter who gets the credit. And at the end of his speech, when he asked us to stand up and fight for decency, faith, justice and goodness – I almost believed him.

I said almost. For despite what I saw at the convention, that John McCain is not the one who is running for President. The John McCain who apologized for not taking a stance against the Confederate flag is not the John McCain running for President. The John McCain who sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill is not the John McCain running for President. The John McCain who called the Swift Boat ads “dishonest and dishonorable” is not the John McCain who is running for President. Instead, what we have seen over the last 18 months is the John McCain from the Keating 5 scandal. We have seen a John McCain who runs campaign ads that are completely untrue.  We see a John McCain who ignores his own first choice and picks an unqualified, polarizing vice presidential running mate in order to pacify his own political party. We see a John McCain who sent a cadre of lawyers to Alaska in order to obstruct an investigation into Sarah Palin – an investigation that was initiated by Republicans.

My fight for transparency and accountability in government begins by voting Democratic in November. Any conservative views that I hold have been completely offset by my distaste of what has happened to the Republican Party and the people they have chosen to lead it.

The Republican Party has been taken over by the so-called “conservative” hypocritical Right. You know who I mean. They hate judicial activism – unless it’s for school prayer. They hate big government – unless it’s for creating an ineffective Department of Homeland Security. They espouse fiscal conservatism – unless it’s for big guns and a war that somehow manages to profit those who started/ran/supplied the war (Halliburton, blind trusts, chummy Saudi princes, etc.) They call themselves “federalists” who believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and then either ignore its precepts or ignore our laws. Pre-emptive strikes and torture have become part of our foreign policy. The Geneva Convention is thrown out the window, as are civil liberties, due process and the rule of law.

When asked what makes America great most people will say Freedom. WE THE PEOPLE have the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail. We have the freedom to worship God as we choose or not worship at all. We have the freedom to speak our mind, even if it’s against our government. These freedoms are what define America and what make it rich and strong. We also have made mistakes along the way – slavery, McCarthyism, internment camps. But we have acknowledged those mistakes and hopefully learned from them.

The Republican Party however, seems to have learned nothing. Over the last 8 years George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (our own internal axis of evil) have operated on the basis that civil liberties are an inconvenience that have to be worked around and they have expanded the powers of the executive branch far beyond its original scope. For me, the protection of these rights and the re-establishment of checks and balances in our government are far more important than whether the capital gains tax is 15% or 28%.

I found this quote: “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

Sounds like any of our current leaders? It was said by Hermann Goering, Nazi Reich Marshall during the Nuremberg Trials.

Now, some of you may feel that John McCain is not George W. Bush and that McCain will bring our government back from the edge. I might have believed it until he picked Sarah Palin as his Vice President. By picking her to pacify the evangelical conservatives in his party, John McCain indicated to America that he put his campaign first, not his country. 

Even if you can forget the fact that she believes the earth was created 5-6000 years ago (ignoring the Egyptian and Chinese civilizations that were in existence back then), or if you can ignore her belief that certain books should be banned from our libraries (First Amendment) or a women’s right to chose (Fourteenth Amendment), or if you can ignore her pattern of behavior in abusing her power as an elected official, how can you ignore her current actions regarding the Troopergate investigation? Once promising full cooperation and claiming she had nothing to hide, Sarah Palin and the national Republican Party are stonewalling the investigation (if not permanently, at least until after the election). Her husband has actually refused to respond to a court subpoena. How’s that for transparency and accountability in government?

If John McCain chose her because he really believes she is the best possible candidate to be vice president (and potentially president), then you have to question his judgement. Of course, if you really believe she is the best possible candidate, then I have to question your judgement.

September 23, 2008 at 10:37 am 5 comments

She said, She said…

DeeTee  DeeTee:   Hello, everyone… Chie and I are sitting in a Caribou Coffee shop, opining and wining (actually, tea-ing) and we thought we’d share our words of wisdom.  Firstly, we apologize to all three of you for not writing lately… 😉 Sometimes  real life gets in the way of ruling the world.  But in these troubled times, we must make time to advise…

Chie  Chie: Advise? Hardly. Dee Tee is walking too softly. We must make time to CHANGE the world. Most advice, no matter how diplomatically given, or desperately needed, is rarely taken and sometimes a brick to the head is more effective. Of course I’m speaking metaphorically. (Or am I?)

DeeTee:  OK, let’s talk about CHANGE, since that seems to be the catchword of the hour.  Obama is for change, and now, so (allegedly) is McCain.

And we, the people, say  we want change, but in reality we fear the unknown.  It’s safer to stay the same and just bitch about everything.  BUT:  what if the only thing holding us back is our lack of belief?  People fear Obama because they believe he really CAN change things.   

Chie:  Well as much as I hate to disagree with DeeTee, I do not think that people fear Obama because they think he can change things. I think they fear/don’t like/won’t vote for him for lots of other reasons. He’s not black enough, he’s not white enough, he’s a Democrat, he’s a man, he’s from Hawaii, he’s from Illinois, he’s from Harvard, he’s…….whatever. This is going to be a highly adversarial election which has nothing to do with actual issues. Especially lately. It’s all emotion. And I also think that’s why Obama has stirred such passion in people (on both sides) because he touches something innate inside. He is the change. The very fact of him is what scares people.

DeeTee:  I think Chie and I are saying the same thing.  She’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but I think she’s saying that Obama being who he is — the sudden celebrity!  The new Messiah!  He came out of nowhere to a meteoric rise; will he now come crashing down like a falling star? 

Most importantly:  Is he real?  And how could  he be real when he’s so sudden?  So, he’s emblematic of our desire to change, but scary because the change could really happen… and what then? 

There’s an old joke, one of my favorites: 
[1st guy]:  Doctor, doctor, ya gotta help me, my brother thinks he’s a chicken! 
[2nd guy]:  Well, bring him in and I’ll cure him! 
[1st guy]:  Can’t right now, Doc, I still need the eggs!

Chie: While I think his meteoric rise makes a lot of people nervous, I am uncomfortable with using words like messiah and prophet. I know DeeTee is being facetious, but I can already hear our critics, if any exist, accusing us of “annoiting” Obama. For the record, we mean no such thing.

One thing I think is obvious: Whether you are pro-Obama or just anti-Bush, something’s gotta give. But first, let me clarify what I mean by change.

More than just a personnel change is needed in Washington. We need a cultural change.  Away from a government that looks for ways around the Constitution and back to a government that understands the importance of the Bill of Rights and our system of checks and balances. Away from a government that passes rules to allow torture as a policy and back to a government that follows the rule of law and Geneva Convention. Away from the attitude that  God is on “our” side and back to an understanding that God is not a Republican or a Democrat or white or black. Away from a petty partisan Congress that looks like 2nd graders at recess (I apologize to 2nd graders everywhere) and back to civil, respectful debate on the issues (I know I’m really reaching here).  And from what I have seen so far, a McCain/Palin ticket is not going to bring about that kind of cultural change.

Some people believe change can happen through the top-down theory that begins with leaders with vision. Others believe that change can happen via grass-root movements brought about by the masses. I believe that given the scope of partisan politics and the inertia that permeates government bureacracy, both methods will be needed to effect any substantial change. We need leaders with vision and a citizenry that’s invested.  Going back to something DeeTee said earlier, what if the only thing holding us back is belief. Maybe that belief extends not only to a Presidential candidate but also belief in ourselves. Belief in the power that WE THE PEOPLE can bring about change. Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.  Let’s start by making sure everyone gets out to vote.

DeeTee:  Yeah, get out and vote… for Obama!  ;0

Complete agreement for what you just said, Chie!  What worries me is the “we the people” part… so many people seem more concerned with the personalities than the issues you just mentioned.  Apprearance of change is not really change.  Example:  People say it’s time we have a woman in the White House.  Sure!  But:  how about a qualified woman?  Why do people think that just any woman will do… why do some women seem to believe this?  I wish everyone would read this great article by Gloria Steinem, “Palin: Wrong woman, wrong message”  (thanks for the link, Chie).  Other than gender, what difference is there between Palin… and Bush?  So it may appear  to be change (gender) but it’s really not (policy the same, ignorance of issues the same, mis-pronounciation of “nuclear” the same).

I agree that WE need to be the agents of change… to elect the persons best qualified to lead that change.  We all know a change is needed, but we decry it at the same time we demand it.  To trust a leader who we don’t truly know — who seems intelligent and thoughtful but is not a proven commodity — takes a leap of faith.  I think that will be required of us, that leap, that belief, if we truly are to make a change in our government… in our own lives.

Chie: Leap of faith? Crap – now we gotta talk about religion. Or not. Why don’t we just leave this right now and see what kind of comments we get.

DeeTee:  OK, over & out… for now.  Chie, are you really letting me have the last word? 

Chie: No.

September 17, 2008 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

Mirror Mirror in the White House…

DeeTeeFrom DeeTee:  I keep hearing about how I’m supposed to want Hillary Clinton in the White House because she’s a woman; and if I don’t, it’s because I’m playing into the “gender-bias” that still exists.

Not saying that sexism doesn’t still exist… but really, does this make any sense?   Do all women have the same needs?  Because a politician is a woman, does that mean she represents — or will represent — all women?  How would that even be possible?

I’m not so naive to think that just because someone looks like me means they will represent me.  Also,  just because I don’t care for Hillary doesn’t mean I don’t support women in politics; it simply means I don’t think Senator Clinton is the best candidate.

While Senator Clinton certainly is knowledgeable and competent, she comes with huge baggage… her husband, of course, Mr. Plus/Minus:  to some he’s a plus, being a past president and all; to others — whose hatred of him hasn’t subsided after all these years — he’s the devil incarnate.  I firmly believe there’s enough Clinton-haters who will stop at nothing to thwart them, and I think that’s a major hinderance to the goal of achieving major change.

Also, I can’t help it:  something about Hillary makes me queasy.  She seems quite willing to do anything to get her way.  I keep picturing Lady MacBeth saying, “Out, out, damned spot…”

I’m looking for someone who has convictions and is willing to stand by them, unpopular or not; someone willing to listen to the input of others — not simply to modify their own image, but for major decision-making; someone who embodies fairness, decency and trustworthiness.  Someone who is able to inspire the masses to be greater than our piddly selves.

I believe that person is Obama.  I look nothing like him.  I’d like him just as much if he were my gender, race, and/or religion.  He is articulate, thoughtful, and inspiring.  Most likely he has his issues as well; but I’m not voting for the next saint, I’m voting for the next leader who hopefully has the vision, the will, and the skills, to turn this country around.

March 6, 2008 at 4:46 pm 6 comments


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