It’s hard to pin down exactly why I haven’t been posting much recently. I think I’ve become a little overwhelmed with our nation’s politics. It seems to have reached a level of absurdity that I can’t bring myself to write about. I can’t tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats, I don’t see much hope in any real change happening soon,and so I think for a while I’m giving up on writing about the American political landscape.
I am however still motivated by the current challenges that my community faces. One of those challenges I was interviewed about by the local newspaper AnnArbror.com. I talked to a reporter about the growing need for emergency food assistance, the budget cuts, and the lack or resources. I was happy with the way he wrote about the subject, and if you’re interested you can read the entire thing here.
And while I’m on the subject of food banks, Matt Ygelsias wrote and excellent article in Slate about how to best help your local food bank (hint: it’s not dropping an old can in a box once a year.)
I suppose this can be called a shift in focus. I hope to start writing again more frequently, and I’m sure I’ll touch on the broader themes and causes of the difficulties that people in South East Michigan face, but I don’t anticipate caring about the GOP debates anytime soon.
Hold on everybody, it’s getting colder and weirder every day.
No, not Ronald Reagan. Although I hope that the name recognition gives the video more hits. My good friend Reagan Sova got to ask Noam Chomsky a question about corporate personhood in colorado recently, and he just put the video up online. It’s definitely worth 8 minutes of your time.
I (of course) agree with everything Chomsky says on this issue.
According to several news outlets, in tonight’s Sate of the Union speech Obama will be advocating a freeze of discretionary, non-defense spending for the next five years. I have many issues with this decision. First of all, does anyone remember back in the 2008 campaign when John McCain was calling for a spending freeze? Obama rightly criticized him for using an axe where a scalpel was needed. I don’t know what has caused the president to change his tune. Maybe it’s wanting to be seem centrist, maybe it’s a genuine desire to reduce the deficit, I don’t know. But what I do know is that this is incredibly short sighted.
In order to really understand I think we need to know what exactly discretionary spending is. Jonathan Cohn sums ups it up concisely.
What is discretionary spending? It’s funding to help states run public schools, to finance the operations of the Environmental Protection Agency–basically, all the money that doesn’t go to programs like Medicare and Social Security, whose funding rises automatically as demand for the programs increase.
And what would it mean to freeze discretionary spending for five years? The exact parameters of the freeze aren’t clear, but presumably it would mean keeping funding for those programs at the same level they are now, without adjustments for inflation or population growth. (emphasis mine)
This would be one thing if we were currently spending a superfluous amount of our budget on schools and other social services, but the fact is, they are already vastly underfunded. And anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t worked in the public sector. This decision is short sighted to me for two major reasons. The first is about math, the second is about morals.
The math part is about spending now versus spending later. First of all, dicretionary spending is only about one sixth of our national budget, and often when people talk about reducing the deficit they talk about reducing spending. But sometimes this simply doesn’t work because all it does is push off paying for things until later. If something is broken or needs to be expanded, putting it off until later doesn’t save any money. It just pushes the cost down the road. It would be like saying you’re going to balance you’re home budget by not paying to have a leaky faucet fixed. You’ll still have to eventually fix the faucet and in the mean time you’re losing water.
The moral part is about what kind of water we are losing. It is completely obscene to me just how little our current political generation seems to care about educating the next one. Our schools are closing all around us and our students are falling behind the rest of the developed world, and no one seems to give a damn. No one seems to care that better education leads to lower rates of crime, abuse, drug use, and pretty much all other societal ills.
It feels like the long held value that the next generation should have a better life than ours, has faded from our national conciousness. And it depresses the hell out of me. Hopefully after watching tonight’s speech I’ll feel better and not worse.
This guy sounds like he’s trying to get a cable news show. From Talking Points Memo.
Over the last few months, we’ve brought you news that prominent social conservative Bryan Fischer has blamed gays for the Wikileaks disclosure, told readers that Obama wants to give America back to the Indians, declared that bears are a threat to our Judeo-Christian culture, declared that no new mosques should be built anywhere in America and insisted that Hitler preferred using gay soldiers since they had “no limits.”
I think this is what Stewart meant when he said that it would be nice if we could distinguish the crazy from the pundit.
Trying to diminish or whitewash America’s racist past is nothing new. We see this from some on the right who can’t see that slavery and jim crow have anything to do with the current disparity between blacks and whites with regards to income, prison rates, violence, and so on. And we see it from some on the left who want to make everything so politically correct so that white people can feel better about themselves. But we don’t usually see two so overt and newsworthy examples of it in the same week.
The first is the one that’s been talked about more, and that is the censoring of Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn so that the word “nigger” is replaced with the word “slave” to make it more acceptable for high school curriculums. While I understand the impulse to change it so schools won’t get rid of it entirely, I think that this censorship insults the reader, Mark Twain, and Black Americans. It insults the reader by telling them that they are not smart enough to understand that certain things were once socially acceptable and now are not. You’d think this is a pretty simple idea, but apparently we don’t have enough faith in high school students to understand that simple concept. It insults Twain by watering down his work. He obviously used the n-word for a reason, and wanted his readers to feel for characters in the book as they are, not as we would like them to be. And it insults Black Americans because it diminishes the kind of embarrassment and ridicule that they have faced and continue to face. It’s telling them that the history of their suffering is secondary to our need to feel better about ourselves.
The whitewashing of race didn’t stop there. Yesterday house Republicans took to the floor to read the constitution because they, you know, love it so much. They love it so much that they even leave out part of it, speficially, the part that refers to Native Americans and Blacks not really counting as people.
Instead of reading the Constitution in its entirety, House members will read an “amended version” that only includes the sections and amendments that were not changed at a later date. The decision in part will allow members to avoid reading less pleasant sections, like the clause in Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.
To me, if you’re going to make a public display of how much you love the constitution and how you think it’s God’s document, and it’s perfect and all that, you should at least be able to own up to it. All of it.
Anyone remember the last two years? You know when Republicans went on and on about how bad Democrats are for the deficit and once they take power they will never ever ever increase it? Well the first item on their agenda is to repeal the health care bill, which of course, would increase the deficit, a lot. Ezra Klein sums it up well.
House Republicans are in a pickle: One of their new rules says that new legislation must be paid for. But the health-care bill reduces the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years. Luckily, they’ve figured out an answer to their problem: They’ve decided to simply exempt the repeal bill from the rules. That means they’re beginning the 112th Congress by lifting their own rules in order to take a vote that will increase the deficit. Change we can believe in, and all that.
When the Democrats were trying to pass the Health Care Reform bill they went to incredible lengths to make sure that it was deficit reducing. And they lost a lot of items that they wanted in the process, including the public option, but they kept trying until they came up with something that the Congressional Budget Office reported would not add to the deficit.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and while the GOP has claimed it will cut $100 billion off the deficit, they have yet to say where they might do that. They kept taxes low for the rich, they have made exceptions to cutting defense, medicare, and social security. Really all that’s left is infrastructure and programs that help the poor. And while I don’t doubt they will try to cut help for the out of work and underprivileged ( it’s kind of their thing), cutting infrastructure doesn’t help with the deficit.
Think about it. Either we pay for a road to be fixed or a bridge to be built now, or we pay for it later when it’s even worse. If you wait, you’re still passing on cost to the future, and in the mean time you have crappy roads and services, and no one will want to come visit or live here, which means people will spend less money which will mean a worse economy, more job cuts, and so on and so on.
Many of us knew all along that the GOP is full of what can be called deficit chicken-hawks. I knew the day they went back on their platform would come, I just didn’t think it would come so quickly.
About a month a go, WikiLeaks dumbed a huge number of cables between officials and it has caused a bit of an uproar. Sarah Palin has called it treason (even though it’s not a U.S. organization), Joe Biden has called it hi-tech terrorism, Mike Huckabee said that Julian Assange should be executed, and Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, and Paypal have made it impossible to donate to Wikileaks.
What is really incredible to me is just how little political problems these leaks have cause, and just how defensive the response has been. It’s ironic that people are calling a group that has never incited or made threat of violence terrorist, all while calling for assassinations. What’s even more amazing is that WikiLeaks and Assange haven’t been convicted of any crime, and haven’t even had charges pressed against them by the U.S. department of justice. The Times editorial page sums up my feelings about the banks nicely.
Our concern is not specifically about payments to WikiLeaks. This isn’t the first time a bank shunned a business on similar risk-management grounds. Banks in Colorado, for instance, have refused to open bank accounts for legal dispensaries of medical marijuana.
Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.
What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was “too risky”? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.
We have to ask the question, Why are so many people coming out so strongly against Assange and his organization when so far the leaked items haven’t been incredibly damaging? I think what this really comes down to is that politicians and corporations are scarred of Wikileaks because they know that their corrupt activity could be the next thing that gets leaked. They think if they can shut them down now they think they won’t get exposed. I think we have to ask what it is they are hiding, which is precisely what Wikileaks is doing. Whatever you stance on Assange or Wikileaks is, I think we can all agree to not have someone executed, put in prison without charge, or cut off from the world economy without first being convicted of something.