It Is What You Make It

Nine months flew by since my last entry here, and all I can say is the more things Change, the more they stay the same. Since then, Obama fever dropped down to just above normal, as even some of the more faithful got to reason and critical thinking, and started asking tough questions of our new president based on his actions since taking office, as he’d wanted us to do. Encouraged by this, I guess I got lazy. In any case, I admittedly began tuning out politics again in favor of other, more enjoyable pursuits.

A few weeks ago, however, I was shaken back into it by the remarkable observations of a couple of usually like-minded individuals, both giving me the same line. I’d been so out of the loop I couldn’t argue but instead stared back blankly. On separate occasions, both starting with a conversation about the Nobel Peace Prize, I mentioned the irony of Obama accepting an award for peace right before going into a War Council meeting, where he would discuss sending even more troops than the tens of thousands he’s already committed to Afghanistan. I offered no further opinion, purposefully steering clear of that. The reactions were the same, to the effect of: Well, maybe we really do need to maintain this presence in Afghanistan and maybe sending more troops really is necessary.

Really? I thought a great reason to admire Obama was that he voted against the war in Iraq and would not escalate the situation in Afghanistan. But the thing that struck me only later and made me want to write about it is this: What would these same people be saying if it were George W. Bush approving a surge and considering additional troops? The fact is they would be outraged. And this double standard is the thing that drives me crazy, the tunnel vision that apparently is still very much alive out there, the unspoken imperative that we must treat this president with kid gloves, that criticizing him is somehow unpatriotic or politically incorrect, or it makes you a big downer. Even some people who agree that Afghanistan is a quagmire will still become visibly upset or despondent at any suggestion that Obama has not yet managed to live up to those high expectations they themselves set for him. I get it. But it points out one big flaw of the left if we are not asking the exact same questions we would of Bush or any other candidate or sitting president.

So Afghanistan remains a major focus of discussion, as does unemployment, which reached new heights last month. “The nation’s unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in October, reflecting the economic pain of the 16 million jobless Americans, as well as the strain felt by the 138 million others who are working harder to earn their paychecks… The economy lost 190,000 jobs in October, the 22nd consecutive monthly decline and the longest losing streak on record dating back 70 years.” [Source: Nation’s Unemployment Rate at 10.2% in October by Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle]

The health care reform bill that passed the House, which remains a mystery to most of us really, has replaced the Stimulus Package as a hot topic. The public does have access online to H.R.3962, but who can make sense of it all or know how it would manifest? [See: Affordable Health Care for America Act (Introduced in House)] I’m relying on my own sources to inform me on this bill and they are divided. The Nader camp calls it a bailout for the insurance companies, Credo and CodePink will give the okay only with some public option, and the Patients Action Network supports it in conjunction with another bill on Medicare reform. I suspect doing something is better than doing nothing, but I also fear that whatever watered down final version we might end up with won’t help many of us either.

Here are a few relevant newsy tidbits I’ve found in my most recent political researching session…

On Afghanistan
Bill Moyers Essay: Restoring Accountability for Washington’s Wars

On Unemployment
Obama’s to Fix by Charles M. Blow, New York Times

On Healthcare
Dennis Kucinich Explains Why He Voted No On Affordable Health Care for America Act

Bill Maher Explains the Healthcare Crisis

Also Of Interest
Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning vs. The Timidity of Governing by Arianna Huffington

Obama’s Critical Moment Approaches by Camille Paglia

Hopefully another nine months won’t go by before my next entry, and certainly I’ll continue signing petitions and speaking up on issues that are important to me and encourage others to be as involved as possible, but I’m waiting for the Ethical Realist party to emerge, some alternative that puts humanity first. Until then, I focus on the little things…

– Hope Dascher

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Since Inauguration Day

These last few weeks since the inauguration, in the news and on the streets, I’ve heard and read mostly about three things: job losses, the stimulus package and drone attacks on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

People are getting very nervous. From talking to friends, I know that if you are retirement age, you’ve probably lost a good bit of your savings, if you have a mortgage, you might be worried about losing your job and your home, and if you’re looking for work, you are largely out of luck. Fortunately for me, I don’t fall into any of these categories. I’m also not someone who lives beyond my means. After experiencing life in Kiev, Ukraine for the first half of the 90s, I make it a point to live with little. So I’m perturbed not only by the corporate financial fat cats but by the overzealous spending habits of fellow Americans for which I will now have to pay. At this point even my own meager existence is in jeopardy. My freelance publishing jobs were cut recently in hours, and in one case, the company cut my pay by 37.5% in the middle of a project. When I protested and said, “…but you’ve already agreed to the price,” they told me I could either take their new terms or they’d find someone else to finish the job.

“Employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off of U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6%, according to the latest government reading on the nation’s battered labor market. The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months, or half of the 3.6 million jobs that have been lost since the beginning of 2008.”
Source: Job Loss: Worst in 34 Years by Chris Isidore

The ever-fluctuating 780-920 billion dollar stimulus package is beyond my comprehension. It seems to me that borrowing money we don’t have is what got us into this mess. Of course we need to do something, and we’re going to have to spend money to do anything, but for this to work, we also are going to have to change the way we think about credit. We need to create jobs fast, turn the failing auto factories and large numbers of unemployed workers to mass transit projects, build new railways, repair roads, bridges and tunnels, manufacture wind farm and solar equipment, get small cooperative farms going again. We need universal health care. The stimulus package needs to aim at all of this first and foremost, and I hope the final version will do that.

Because I can’t possibly make much sense of the bill itself, here is what a few of the organizations I support on certain issues are saying about the economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“America needs a stimulus package that addresses our dire needs without wasting money on provisions that won’t create jobs or promote long-term economic growth… consider these five suggestions: Get rid of a $2 billion provision for “clean coal” plants. Invest in infrastructure, not tax cuts. Reinstate the Medicaid Family Planning State Option. Include meaningful bankruptcy reform. Don’t give Verizon $1.6 billion in tax cuts without generating a single new job.”

League of Conservation Voters
“Before the banks burned and before the housing crisis caught fire, it was soaring gas prices that sparked this economic wildfire. President Obama’s economic recovery package seizes the opportunity to put out today’s flames and prevent future flare-ups by putting millions of Americans to work to end our crippling addiction to oil. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will be the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in our country’s history.”

“The feds’ monthly report was even worse than expected: 598,000 jobs cut in January. And, yet, Senate leaders have still not given permission for a vote on a Stimulus Bill amendment that would keep illegal foreign workers from getting jobs created by the massive taxpayer effort. How many Americans have to lose their jobs before they are given priority over illegal aliens and the outlaw companies that hire them?”

It may not be politically correct, but I believe we need to put tougher restrictions on immigration now for several reasons. We must not be inhumane to people who come, but we need to take care of business here, protect our citizens and jobs, wildlife and natural resources and our borders, and become more self-sufficient as a nation. We need to end foreign occupations; we need those soldiers here hopefully for rebuilding, for natural disasters and for potential civil unrest due to lack of work. Look at what’s happening in Iceland, Europe and Russia.

Our new president, who rightfully bragged about how he voted against the war in Iraq during the campaign, now seems to be carrying on the same aggressive policies of the last administration using some of the same old hawkish defense heads. Since he took office a few short weeks ago, he’s already ordered drone attacks; he’s already dropped bombs and killed civilians. Again, I turn you to my resources on the subject.

New York Times “Obama’s War – Fearing Another Quagmire in Afghanistan”
“Can President Obama succeed in that long-lamented “graveyard of empires” — a place that has crushed foreign occupiers for more than 2,000 years?”

Democracy Now “Obama Continues Bush Policy of Deadly Air Strikes in Pakistan”
“In Pakistan, outrage continues to mount over a US military attack approved by President Obama. Last Friday, unmanned US Predator drones fired missiles at houses in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, killing as many as twenty-two people, including at least three children.”

Bill Moyers “Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?”
“In the wake of the recent American missile attacks in Pakistan, this week’s JOURNAL explored U.S. bombing policies and how they affect U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region. Bill Moyers asked historian Marilyn B. Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.”

From what I can tell, our best bet is to stop missile strikes and pull out of that region, except for some elite special ground forces with very specific targets, and continue to provide whatever humanitarian aid we are able.

– Hope Dascher

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