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Obama Is Not Progressive

Originally written for the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii Blog, July 17, 2011

Thinking or hoping otherwise will not make this statement any less true. Barack Obama is not progressive. For my part, I never believed he was and one only need look at his time in office thus far for evidence.

Let’s start with health care, if only because the issue is at, or near, the top of my priority list. While it’s true there are some good things in the Affordable Health Care Act, like extending to 26 the age under which parents can choose to continue to cover their children, or eliminating the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition, there’s no denying that when it’s all said and done, it is little more than a massive handout to health insurance companies.

While on the campaign trail, Obama said he’d prefer a single-payer-type system of health care if he had his choice, but when the debate on health care reform was in full swing in 2009, he denied making any such statement. And while there was some lip service from the White House paid to a “public option” to compete with private insurance, no such option was remotely considered seriously, despite polls which consistently showed a majority of Americans supported such an option.

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The Death of Osama bin Laden

It’s been a week, now, since I picked up my phone to see a message saying President Obama was going to be announcing that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, had been killed.

My first reaction was one of disbelief, so I immediately reached for the remote and turned on MSNBC. While listening to the coverage as the nation, and the world, waited for Obama to address the nation, my disbelief changed to disgust as the news coverage was showing the breakout of spontaneous celebrations, chants of “USA,” and singing of the national anthem. I wondered if I was the only one who found the celebration of the death of another person as distasteful. Thankfully, I quickly found others expressing similar feelings on Facebook.

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Afghanistan: A ‘Just War?’

President Obama, in his address accepting his Nobel Peace Price, referred to the notion of ‘just war.’ Early in his remarks, he says:

The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence. Of course, we know that for most of history, this concept of “just war” was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different G[-]d. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations — total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. And while it’s hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

Here he refers to basic principles, a checklist of sorts, that helps define what constitutes a ‘just war.’ As a country in the midst of two wars, the President makes no apologies for either the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, only states that one of them is drawing to a close. If a war is illegal, it follows naturally that the war is also unjust. One might conclude from statements Obama made during his campaign, that he would agree the Iraq war was not only ill advised, but illegal, and therefore unjust. As our nation’s focus has slowly shifted, since Obama took office, from Iraq back to Afghanistan, his administration has done nothing to punish, or even investigate, those responsible for the illegal war in Iraq.

Economy Education HI Politics War

in response to a GOP mailer

I recently was forwarded an email being circulated by the Hawai. I have mixed feelings about posting the email, however here’s my response:


dems fall on their faces…. again!

these days i find myself generally pissed off at the democratic party, both on the national scene and here in hawaii.  now, i’ll admit that i’ve never been a huge fan of the party to begin with, as i feel it offers (nationally anyway) only moderate differences in policy to the republicans.  anyone who doesn’t think the dnc is just as much in bed with big business as the republicans is, in my opinion, simply fooling themselves.  but i digress….

every attempt made by democrats in congress to end this pointless, not to mention illegal, war has been met with bitter failure.  republicans (with a few exceptions) refuse to leave the side of their trusted leader (even if he is a big horse’s ass).  i think democrats continually fall short of what is absolutely needed, ending the war, but i understand to some extent the necessity for compromise.  of course, on the other side, republicans will not budge and democrats are assailed with insults from every side whenever they present any kind of change in course or policy.

take for example the most recent defeat of senate democrats to put limits on how long troops can stay in the field and how long they must have at home.  in the past, republicans have been able to use their trusted mantra “democrats don’t support our troops.”  this time, however, even a monkey (though maybe not our president) could see that argument wouldn’t fly, so they showcased others from their bag of tricks: “this is a veiled attempt to change the course of the war through legislation.”  it may or may not be true, but the fact of the matter is this bill, in my opinion, was the best shot by democrats to date.  of course, they failed again, and i’ll tell you why; once again, they let the republicans control the conversation.  once again, the democrats were forced into a defensive position.

it didn’t, however, need to be that way.  not once did i hear any democrats insist than any republican who didn’t support the bill wasn’t supporting the troops either.  democrats should have fought, tooth and nail, insisting that this bill wasn’t an attempt to change course, but that the bill does support our troops and shows our gratitude for all they do by giving them a proper rest between tours of duty.  give them time to see their friends and loved ones.  give the military time to replenish their supplies so when those troops do return to the field, they do so properly equipped.

of course, the dems didn’t say any of this (at least not that i heard).  they once again got beat by their own cowardice, too afraid to appear on the wrong side of any issue.  they got beat by their own ineptitude and inability to frame and control the debate.

i’m so frustrated at this point, i don’t even know what to say anymore….

Iraq War

lying liars (thanks al)

i came across an article today on salon about some documents from the now extinct Coalition Provisional Authority.  while the article is interesting insofar as it makes readers aware of the wealth of information available on the CPA website, i found myself skimming through it looking for the pearls, of which there are a few.

on pearl in particular i want to discuss here, if only briefly.  in the article, the author talks about a document he found giving various explanations for a decrease in violence in the Anbar province:

Microsoft Word’s “Mark up” feature shows the time and date of the deletion and the identity of the person doing the deleting, but it doesn’t give the original author of the passage or when it was written. The title and hints in the text point to a memo written by one person in December 2003 or January 2004, when daily attacks on coalition forces in Anbar, the heavily Sunni province west of Baghdad that is the heartland of the insurgency, were the lowest in many months. These were the CPA’s salad days. Prior to the al-Sadr uprising and the Abu Ghraib scandal and the failed siege of Fallujah later in 2004, the CPA believed that it was succeeding in reshaping Iraq. In his book “The Assassins’ Gate,” George Packer depicts late 2003 and early 2004 as the last phase of quiet isolation for the CPA, before the facts on the ground began to impinge on its Green Zone idyll. “Why Are the Attacks Down” shows the CPA on the cusp, as the author gives a half-dozen different theories for the short-term decline in violence.

i have to admit i find the fact that they have several theories amusing, though i understand that any or all (or none) of their guesses could have contributed to the downswing in violence.  however, the one i find particularly interesting (and amusing) is the one which refers to the notion that insurgents may be quieting down because they thought we were leaving:

“What they” — meaning the Iraqis — “have gotten wrong,” says the memo’s author, “is the idea that the military will be leaving Iraq in June, which one individual said he was sure was a major factor in the diminishing attacks. Oh well, this is one time it might be best that folks don’t fully understand things.”

i’ve read this bit a few times now, and i chuckle every time.  ‘why,’ you ask?  well, i chuckle because nowadays any notion that we should leave iraq is countered by the administration with (among may reasons) the insistence that, if we were to in fact leave, violence would erupt (the author of the article points this out, as well).  apparently bush hasn’t read this (or probably any) document from the CPA.  the man doesn’t read.

this could mean one of three things. one, the nature of the conflict and violence in iraq has changed since this document was printed (i can’t see how). two, either bush isn’t aware this document exists, or just hasn’t read it (given his record, this is completely plausible). three, he is aware of this document (though i still doubt he actually read it) and is simply has no intention of leaving and is trying to scare the American public into staying in iraq.

the point is this: you can’t believe a single word that comes out of the mouth of that man.  the same goes for any and all the cronies in his administration.  so, if the US were to withdraw from iraq, the violence would probably decline.

while i haven’t tested it to great extent, i think it is safe practice to believe the exact opposite of whatever idea or policy on which the bush administration is trying to sell you.

Iraq War

Clarification on Iraq

I’ve been talking to one of my very best friends about the war in Iraq and what the correct course of action should be. For some time I’ve believed that we should leave. Immediately. We shouldn’t be there in the first place and the result of our illegal coup has been increased violence in the region, complete loss stability, an upsurge of sectarian violence, a financial boon for US corporations, the needless deaths of thousands of US military and civilian personnel, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Of course we shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t have gone in the first place and this president (and vice-president) must absolutely be held accountable for these deaths and the blatant violation of US and international law.Having said all this, the question has crept into my brain; is an immediate withdrawal of our troops the best course of action? Would the region stabilize upon our departure, or would things continue to spiral out of control? While few would argue that Saddam was a horrible dictator, with all that’s happening now, is Iraq really better off? Iraqis are potentially in more danger now, than they were four or five years ago and the country’s infrastructure is in ruins. It appears the only people to have benefited from this war are the US corporations that supply the military with its weapons and those who won no-bid contracts of the reconstruction (which is months, if not years behind schedule).

So, what is the upside to leaving? What’s the positive? What’s the moral argument? I mean, shouldn’t we stay and make every effort to clean up this horrible mess we’ve made? Instead of sending the 21,500 more troops as a temporary stop gap measure (which military experts don’t even think will make a difference), why not sent the roughly 150,000 it has been suggested it will really take to put an end to the violence? Why not cancel the contracts with those companies that have not done the necessary work and instead have corporations from around the world BID on new contracts?

Should we really leave? Should we really quit before the job we set out to do is finished? Do we not have some responsibility, some moral obligation to finish what we started and do right by the Iraqi people?

My position hasn’t changed and I still think we should leave; we are there illegally and I honestly can’t trust this administration to do anything right. At the same time, I have some doubt and feel there may be some moral justification in staying to clean up this horrible mistake of ours.

General Topics War

post-election overhaul

so, in case you haven’t noticed, i have done a less than stellar job with this site this far.  i admit to being busy with the mid-term election activity here in hawaii and haven’t given this site the attention i think it deserves.  and now i’m acknowledging that fact.

as such, i’m going to give proper notice that the people’s dialectic will undergo an overhaul to improve the look of the site, as well as its content.  please be patient… and in the meantime, please check out regardingfrost and the pdh-blog.


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Changing the World….

Here in America, the media bombards the public with all sorts of entertainment, advertisements, and information. If I were to ask someone to describe what they consider to be news, I would suspect a natural response to be “current events” or “world events” or “local events.” Some might include sports and weather in defining ‘news’, but would anyone offer as their first response, “celebrity adoptions, marriages, diets of the stars, or celebrity culture”? I suppose it’s possible, but I certainly don’t know anyone who would.

Yet, occasionally when I sit and watch the news, whether it is CNN or the local ten o’clock news, they all seem to have a greater proportion of their broadcast dedicated to entertainment news than to world news. That’s right. According to the news, the lives of celebrities have reached the same level of importance as world events.

I am often awestruck, while standing in line at supermarkets, by the sheer number of pop magazines: Star, People… I don’t even know the names of the rest. Amongst all those pop magazines and tabloids I rarely see more than one or two news magazines: no Time, no Newsweek, no The Economist or others of the genre. How is it possible that more people in this country vote for the next big star on American Idol than for the President of the United States? How have we come to care so little about all the things that happen to the people in this world, both good and bad? How have we, as a society, become so uninterested in our own lives and our world? Entertainment news and sensationalism has captured the hearts, minds and ever-deteriorating attention span of the American public.

Well, actually, the answer to these questions is simple, though understandably hard to swallow. We have been trained to care more about Tom Cruise and Britney Spears than about populations devastated by hunger and war. We have been conditioned to be more interested in reality television and celebrity gossip than about our own lives and the future of our children. News has been condensed into small, quick, and ready to swallow sounds bites. We have come to trust CNN to define what is important. If it’s not covered by CNN, it can’t possibly be of much consequence.

Our current government, with the help of the news networks and media conglomerates in this country, has become skilled at keeping us both frightened and distracted. Threats to our safety and our freedom abound, so they tell us just before giving us the skinny on the newest celebrity gossip or exciting us with a preview of the hottest new blockbuster. Important topics like homelessness or our children’s education have been relegated to sound bites or the news ticker.

Walter Lippman, who was an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, called this kind of distraction and filtering of information “manufacturing consent”. Lippman believed democracies, such as ours, should be led by a specialized class which was capable of processing and understanding the complex world while the large majority of the population, “the bewildered herd,” needed to be kept frightened and distracted so as to keep them passive. Failing at this task meant members of the herd may start to think for themselves. It happened during the 1930s and again during the 1960s and the specialized class called this uprising of the herd a “crisis of democracy”.

Sadly, we have again been lulled into complacency and lost the ability to think rationally for ourselves. It seems to me, though, there is a solution. There is a way forward. Certainly, one can look at the world around us and feel discouraged. Certainly, one can say to themselves, “I’m just one person, what can I do?” These are honest and relevant feelings, but we need not let them dictate our actions—or encourage our complacency. As much as our society has the seemingly endless capacity for war and violence, it also has an equal capacity for understanding and compassion. We need only decide to make an effort.

The best and easiest way to start is by questioning the world with which we are presented. One must not automatically accept as fact that which is presented on the news or in the paper. One must question. One must investigate. One must look for different perspectives; study both sides and alternative versions of what is presented as truth. CNN and FOX News do not have a monopoly on fact and truth. To some extent, we all have an instinct for truth, even if it’s a tool most have allowed to grow frail. I am no exception. I have only this year started exercising my skepticism.

If our leaders tell us we have a new enemy that hates us and wants to destroy our way of life, don’t readily believe the propaganda. Question their story and their motives. If our leaders tell us they have a plan to improve the education system or the economy, insist on learning the details. Question the plan and who might benefit. Treat their statements with skepticism and look for deviating commentary and dissenting opinions.

The next thing to do will, admittedly, take a bit more determination and will power; turn off the television. Redirect your interest away from celebrity culture. Ignore the sitcoms and reality shows. Some will argue these shows are entertaining and they are right. These shows are meant for nothing more than to entertain and distract you from the world and the reality that is taking place whether you choose to pay attention, or not.

This is not an easy pattern to change. We’ve been trained. Television is a nasty habit and America is hooked. I am no exception. I watch far less television than I once did and when I do watch I do it with more skepticism. I am repeatedly stunned by the way in which the media entertains us and by the merchandise corporations try to sell us. Some are really cool, but do I need any of them?

It is important to start a dialog. It is important to attempt to wake people up to their lives and the lives of those around them and across the globe. That is the first step toward improving the lives of people all around the world. Change isn’t easy and often isn’t accomplished without a fight. It is the bewildered herd to begin thinking, questioning, organizing, and halting the manufacture of consent.

General Topics War

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