Month: January 2010

A Retreat that was no Retreat

As part of his “I ain’t scared of you….” tour, President Barack Obama spent Friday at the one place where he was most likely to hear “You Lie!” shouted at him at top volume.

He went to the House Republican Retreat in Baltimore, Maryland.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people trying to reach out to those with whom they disagree, even if the disagreement is as vehement as the scuffle between President Obama and the GOP has been during his first year in office.

But when my Significant Other pointed this out to me as I was trying to do some of the less academic stuff that I do on Fridays, I had only one question:

What’s the point?

It’s one thing to try and reach out to those with whom you disagree. It’s another thing entirely to put yourself in a room filled with people who would cheerfully beat you about the head and neck with a bat if they could.

But as I often say, that’s why President Obama is better than me. He hasn’t punched anybody yet.

President Obama spent a good deal of time with the House GOP members, and even too their questions. My guess is that this Congressional equivalent of the British House of Commons’ question time was supposed to be the House member’s best shot at making the Prez look like he didn’t know his head from, well, not head.

(If you want to see some television that will make you double over with laughter, I recommend Commons Question Time. It comes on every Sunday on CSPAN and will make you wish that your elected officials kept it that real with each other.)

Didn’t work.

The President instead used the question and answer session to call for bipartisanship, call the House Members out on some of their half-truths and overtly political rhetoric, and to generally make the GOP folks look like they were a little directionally confused on the whole head, not head thing.

I’m glad to see that while President Obama hasn’t completely abandoned bipartisanship, he’s decided to mix some of that Eliot Ness with a little more Jimmy Malone.

And I’m also glad to see that the GOP is cooperating with him in his efforts to make televised presidential speeches more entertaining.

I ain’t scared of you…..

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You couldn’t blame President Barack Obama if he would have rather had been just about any place that wasn’t Washington last night.

Because this particular Presidential Model reads the newsapers, watches the news, and probably has found all of the NPR stations in the DC market, he walked into his historic first State of the Union address Wednesday night knowing that the political chattering class has been measuring him for his coffin since Scott Brown became the senator from Massachusetts last week.

President Obama also had the displeasure of watching as Democrats on the hill proceeded to do the best Henny Penny imitation I’ve ever seen the day after the Brown victory. Despite continuing to have the largest majority in Congressional history, these fools were running around like the GOP had once again regained the majority instead of just increasing their minority by one.

Even the President’s supporters were writing him off. Heck, I had a bet with one of my friends on Facebook that some Republican was going to yell something at the Prez tonight. I lost $5. Damn Republicans let me down again!

Now don’t get me wrong. The occupant of the nation’s highest office is supposed to be cool under pressure. But I wanted to see President Obama put the Republicans, the Democrats, and the political chattering classes in check.

(For those of you not familiar with that term, to put someone “in check” is to tell them that their nonsense will no longer be tolerated.)

On Wednesday night, he finally decided to.

President Obama walked into the House Chambers and proceeded to call for more funding for education and a forgiveness program that would encourage kids to go into public service in exchange for loan forgiveness, a bill that would help create jobs, a health care bill that would actually reform the system, and banking reform that would stop the folks at Citibank from buying private planes with taxpayer dollars. He even called for an end to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that’s made it hard for gays and lesbians who want to serve their country to do so.

He then proceeded to issue a bipartisan smackdown to some folks who needed it.

First, he smacked up the Supreme Court of voting 5-4 to give corporations the right to adversely influence the political process by throwing as much money as possible at it.

He then told the Democrats to grow a set and stop acting like they no longer had the largest majority in history.

Next, he let the Republicans have it for the grief they’ve been giving him as he tries to clean up the mess their guy, President George W. Bush, left for him last January. He also took ’em to the woodshed for their policy of obstruction for obstruction’s sake. If you want to do that, he said, prepare to show some leadership. He also told them that if they had any better ideas regarding health care reform, bring ’em.

In fact, at one point during the speech I started to wonder when President Obama began channeling the spirit of the late comedian (and Chicago native) Bernie Mac. All that he needed to say was “I ain’t scared of you motherfuckers”, and it would have been official.

But while I’m glad that didn’t happen I was happy to see President Obama stop letting things slide. He needed to let folks have it. Not doing so would have just let the status remain quo. Now the ball’s in the courts of all concerned.

It was the only State of the Union speech I’ve ever sat through that didn’t feel like it took forever. While I’m sure he didn’t mean to, it caused some of the folks that I was watching with on Facebook to laugh occasionally.

That’s because President Obama did something that all of us could relate to.

He cussed out a whole lot of people…and they didn’t even realize it.

If you missed the speech, I have a clip of it at the top of this post.

If you don’t know who Bernie Mac was, here’s a clip of him right here.

It must be in the water

Except for layovers when I’m headed south, I’ve never been to South Carolina.

I know folks who live there and they say it’s nice, so I’ve gotta take their word for it. I applied for a job at the state’s main newspaper, The State, once, and the folks were nice to me when I talked with them. I didn’t get the job, but at least I had a good interview.

Because South Carolina contains Myrtle Beach, I know that I’ll get there eventually because any place with a beach is a-ok with me.

But when I do, I’ll be bringing my own water, thank you.

Why? Because if the politicians that represent South Carolina are any indication, President Obama needs to send an EPA Emergency Response Team down there with the quickness. Someone’s septic tank obviously went nuts and the water around the state house has something wrong with it.

For those of you who have managed to miss South Carolina’s political faux pas, here’s a rundown:

*Thanks to South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford, we have a whole new meaning for the phrase “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” You see, that’s where Sanford told folks he was when he went missing for a few days in June. In truth, he was nowhere near the Appalachian Trail, unless the trail now stretches as far as Buenos Aires, which is where Sanford was holed up with his mistress and “soul mate” Maria Belen Chapur. Unlike some politicial wives, Sanford’s wife Jenny figured out how she wanted to solve a problem like Maria: she kicked her hiking hubby to the curb.

*Next we have Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who made news on Sept. 9 when he shouted “You lie!” at President Obama during a speech he was making to a joint session of Congress regarding health care reform. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, Wilson was either totally disrespectful or your new hero. All I have to say is this: no one shouted “You lie!” at President Bush during the eight years that he got behind a microphone and said things that some of us would definitely consider whoppers. I’m just sayin’….

*But during the Sanford imbroglio, I found myself asking why no one was calling for his impeachment, not because he had an affair, but because he had abandoned his office.

I have since found out why Sanford is still in office. It’s because even South Carolinians aren’t ready for Andre Bauer to be their next head of state.

Why? Because it’s bad enough you have a governor who’s geographically challenged. Why have one who doesn’t appear to know the difference between stray animals and poor people…or maybe he doesn’t think there is one…

He’s since apologized to the citizens of South Carolina for making all Southern grandmothers look bad, but Bauer’s on the record for this crap. In fact, one of his opponents has pretty much said “I can’t do no more!”

Wow. Just wow.

Don’t get me wrong. I live in Pennsylvania, a place that has some foibles of its own. I mean, we did have a politician shoot himself in the head on live televison because he was being indicted (Google Bud Dwyer but avoid the video.),we have a legislature that tends to vote in illegal pay raises for itself, we haven’t had a state budget passed on time for as long as I can remember, and the former mayor of the city I call home, Philadelphia, had an FBI bug in his office.

But the next time that I complain about my representatives here, I’ll remember that it could be worse.

I could be living in South Carolina.

But look at the bright side: as long as it exists, Jon Stewart will always have material….

Thank You, South Carolina – Andre Bauer
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The WuTang Era

We have a lot of debates in this country about who or what is considered a person under the law.

The Supreme Court usually ends up settling these debates. Because of Roe v. Wade, we know that a fetus is considered a person once the mother is three months pregnant. The Court has also let us know that corporations are people too, something I don’t understand because corporations are inanimate objects. The day that Bank of America or Independence Blue Cross walks up to me and asks me if I want to go out for a cup of coffee is the day I’ll consider them people.

Today, the folks at the Supreme Court handed the corporations even more personhood than they’ve ever had before. By a 5-4 vote, the Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission to allow corporations to throw as much money as they want to at the political process in the name of free speech.

In other words, we are about to enter what I’d like to call the WuTang Era of Politics where “Cash rules everything around me, CREAM get the money, dolla, dolla bill y’all!”

Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, unions and corporations can break out their fatter-than-the-average person’s-wallets anytime during the federal election cycle and try to influence things in their favor instead of, well, folks like me who are unemployed graduate students who don’t have health insurance.

As anyone who knows me knows, I believe that the First Amendment came down on stone tablets from Mount Sinai. I believe that free speech is sacrosanct. I may think that what you’re saying is silly, outrageous, or just plain wrong, but I’ll kick the ass of anyone who tries to keep you from saying it. The First Amendment not only protects speech we like, it protects speech we don’t.

But while a lot of folks are trying to use my respect for the First Amendment to try and get me to think that this decision is okay, it’s not working.

First of all, corporations have been able to shout to high heaven through their money for years now. If you want proof of that, you need only look at the whole health care debate. If corporations weren’t already speaking loudly and proudly at the expense of those of us who are actual people, we’d be celebrating the 16th anniversary of national health care.

Why give entities that have more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes the right to control our country?

Secondly, has anyone thought about what this is going to do in terms of the candidates themselves? Since money talks, are our elected officials going to listen to the people who actually take a few moments to vote or to the corporations who have given them big bucks to run?

I think that I know the answer to that, and it ain’t good.

So what happens next?

Being an optimist and all, my hope is that Americans will look at this and say, “Hell to the no!”

But Americans have broken my heart before.

The Chicago Way

Back when Kevin Costner had a viable career as an Oscar-winning actor, (something that the younger readers of this blog probably won’t remember, but that’s okay) he starred in a movie called “The Untouchables”.

In this film, which was set in Chicago, Costner portrayed Eliot Ness, the Treasury department agent who brought down notorious mobster Al Capone, portrayed by Robert DeNiro.

Among the other members of the cast was Sean Connery, who portrayed one of Ness’s agents, Jimmy Malone. As a Chicago native, Malone tried to explain to Ness, a dude so straight he made Boy Scouts look like bank robbers, what he’d have to do to bring Capone down. Click on this clip because Connery says it better than I can write it:

I thought about this scene last night as the news came down that Republican State Sen. Scott Brown had defeated the Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election in Massachusetts to fill Senate term of the late Ted Kennedy.

If the conduct of Republicans and their anti-health care reform cheerleaders was any indication, it’s time for President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress (something that everyone in the Fourth Estate who isn’t Rachel Maddow seems to have forgotten) to realize something that most of us, especially those of us who don’t have access to health care, have already realized.

(A) the Republicans aren’t interested in compromise, they’re interested in power. They got used to the eight years they spent doing such things as starting wars, giving their rich buddies (and the private contracting agencies they own) big tax cuts and contracts and torturing the foreign prisoners they arrested on evidence they can’t bring into American courts. It’s the kind of power that’s hard to give up.

So, (b)They’re not trying to work with you. Even if every consitutent they have says “I don’t have health care. Can you please vote for reform?” the Republicans in Congress aren’t going to support it because, wait for it, not passing health care reform moves you one step closer to being a lame duck.

So while I understand that it is your nature to offer the Olive branch, it’s time, Mr. President, for you to consider doing things The Chicago Way.

The Republicans think that by getting a faux populist, truck-driving Playgirl Model elected in Massachusetts, they’ve put health care reform in the hospital. It’s time that you put them and their ideas in the morgue.

Now how do you do this, President Obama?

Well, for one thing it’s time that you stopped playing nice.

If you hear Republicans in Congress lying through their damned teeth regarding health care reform, call them on it. Don’t back down. I know that you’re not real fond of getting your Angry Black Man on, but it’s time you did. Nice isn’t going to cut it now.

Also, use your resources. Get on your Facebook page and talk directly to your friends. Use the bully pulpit that is the State of the Union Address. Take the “I know you need health care reform so get on your Congressman’s nerves” tour and talk directly to the American people. You’re better at it than your opponents and they know it. They’re counting on you to be too nice to do it. Prove them wrong.

A year ago today I was among the thousands of folks who froze their tails off to see you make history, President Obama.

If you don’t want to BE history in three years, you need to be less Eliot Ness, and more Jimmy Malone.

It’s time for the Chicago Way.

Starting Fresh

To say that 2009 absolutely sucked for me would be the understatement of the year.

My mom spent most of the year in the hospital. My Significant Other lost his job. I lost my job, my car died, and a whole host of other really uncool stuff happened. To make things even worse, I didn’t have time to keep up with this blog because of all of the nonsense I had to deal with.

But since we’re about to have one heck of a political year in 2010, I did a couple of things:

One, I signed up for a Political Science course as part of my grad studies at Temple University here in Philadelphia. I’m taking a course called Government and Society that’s being taught by a woman who says that most reporters get politics wrong. I’m really interested in learning what I’ve missed.

And two, I decided that some changes had to be made to the one venue that I totally control the political expression on, this blog.

Because of the way last year went for me, I’m in a real starting anew mode. I loved the former design of the M(p)S, but it stood as a reminder to me of the past. While I don’t guarantee that I won’t switch it back at some point, I needed a new look.

But my style of commentary isn’t going to change. I’m still me. I just needed the chance to remember that.

Let me know what you think of the new design. If you like it, say so. If you don’t, that’s okay, too. Either way, I really want to know what you think.