Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Study Proves Fox News Makes You Stupid

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

You don't negotiate with terrorists

You don't negotiate with Terrorists
        (Thanks to www.edsteinink.com for the cartoon.)

In yesterday's news conference, President Obama defended his deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts at all income levels, including the richest 2% of Americans. He said "I've said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage  gets harmed...In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed."

Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach.

We've all seen this on TV, or in the news. Some high profile terrorist action requires negotiation, and the government says "we don't negotiate with terrorists." It can be  heartbreaking, and infuriating, but it's necessary in the long run. The reasoning behind this approach is that to negotiate merely proves to the terrorists that their tactics work, will get results. If you don't even begin to negotiate with them they have no hope of getting what they want.

The Bush tax cuts were only passed ten years ago because Republicans promised to let them expire - you know, just in case the tax cuts failed to stimulate the economy or create jobs. (News flash: They didn't.)  Now that the tax cuts are scheduled to expire, the Republicans are clamoring for their continuation, calling it a 'tax hike' if they end. (Clever bit of verbal jiu jitsu, that. It's what the Republicans are known for. Regardless of what you think of their
positions you have to admire their tenacity, not to mention the verbal gymnastics and contortions they can achieve to support them.)

To further this end, the Republicans have forced the Democrats into a game of chicken with the American economy. Never mind that it's our car they're driving, there's going to be a crash of some sort. Now it's a game where the first one to blink loses. Neither party can
escape this game; thus, the only option is to play to win. It's more than a simple political calculation, however; it's a moral one; this is a fight for what is right for the American people.

President Obama, however, decided to capitulate shortly after the game of chicken began. Since this is a test of will, plain and simple, the Republicans will win because they're far more stubborn and ideological than all too many of their Democratic counterparts. The Democrats -  as they must - look to their president, their party leader, their driver. When he swerves to avoid a collision he instantly loses the game. In this case, 'losing the game' means borrowing billions more from foreign countries to give tax breaks to the rich who neither need nor deserve it, tax breaks which will neither stimulate the economy nor generate jobs, tax breaks that add billions to the deficit for no good reason.

In an argument between a reasonable man and a stubborn ideologue, the latter will always win. The simple fact is the ideologue will never admit to being wrong, no matter what the facts say. President Obama is the reasonable man in this scenario. Sadly, he has let his commendable desire for reason and rationality get run down by the Party of No, who look very likely to score another win for the rich and powerful.

Most tragically, a win for the Republicans here signals that this tactic works. Taking hostages means you'll get to negotiate, and from a position of strength.  The next time they want something they'll just take something else hostage. It may be some pet project or
bill the president wants, or maybe they'll threaten to stop all legislative activity altogether, in a characteristically juvenile game of 'take my ball and go home.' Oh wait, they've already done
that.

President Obama's capitulation on this issue just ends up rewarding bad behavior and encourages more of it in the future. The American people will suffer greatly as a result.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Night John Lennon Died

John Lennon I was a young man of 24, working at a radio station in northeast Wisconsin. I heard the news after I'd gotten home from work; a colleague called me. I then turned on my small black and white TV to check the CBS Evening News.

I remembered being sorely disappointed that Walter Cronkite treated it as if it was so unimportant. The only news story he had on following the announcement was a recycled story from 1963 where older, square people laughed about how goofy the Beatles were with their long hair and silly singing. That was one time Mr. Cronkite truly disappointed me.

There was no internet then. No blogs, no news sites, no Twitter or Facebook. My TV only picked up two local broadcast stations (why the heck would I need to pay for a cable to bring in a signal?) so I turned to the radio. Our tiny station was automated and had no news staff in the evenings, so I turned the AM dial looking for news from other larger, faraway stations.

When I was a youngster in isolated Marquette, Michigan I'd eagerly wait 'till nighttime so I could turn on my AM radio and pick up exotic, far away radio stations. At night you could pick up stations from amazing distances, since their signals bounced off the ionosphere, which is pressed flat against the earth during the day but balloons far out into space at night. Rather than being stuck with the local, lame MOR (middle of the road) stations, I could listen to big-time, big city stations that actually played rock music, most notably WLS and WCFL in Chicago, back when AM radio played the Top Forty.

I returned to 'the ether' that night to scour the airwaves for news. I found a station - can't remember which one - that was doing nothing but playing Beatles music, separated by brief news recaps and updates on the tragic story. It was the depths of winter, cold and dark. My girlfriend came home from night school and sat with me. We listened until well past midnight, listening to the AM radio. We cried.

Not to dismiss what Lennon had done with his celebrity in the 70s, his activisim, etc., but the thing that really hit us was that it was a *Beatle.* Who would want to hurt *any* of the Fab Four, the lovable moptops, the lads who wrote the cheery, amazing, funny, romantic and heartbreaking soundtrack to our childhood and adolescence? It was a total punch to the gut.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Question on HuffPo: "Do we want to give the government virtually unlimited power to control our purchases now and forever in exchange for greater access to healthcare?"

This is a valid question, but let me ask the same question in other arenas:

Do we want to give the government virtually unlimited power to...

  • Defend our country against military attack?
  • Regulate the flow of vehicles, goods commerce between states?
  • Regulate what food producers can and cannot put in our food?
  • Regulate what manufacturers can and cannot dump in our water, in a landfill or into the air?
  • Regulate what the financial industry can and cannot do?
  • Try, convict and imprison people if they do bad things, like murder, injure or steal?

When you put it this way, the concept of government regulating how healthcare is provided and paid for is not without precedent. There are certainly ample examples of this in other advanced countries and none of them would go back, despite their systems' flaws. Would it be perfect? No, but it'd be vastly better than what we have now.

I have advocated for a single payer system because there are economies of scale to be realized. Medications could be bought in bulk at vast savings. There would be the elimination of private corporate profits. Marketing and advertising costs would be largely eliminated. Administrative functions could be combined, standardized and hopefully streamlined. (Normally this would be a laugh when talking about the government, but since most medical record keeping is not computerized anyway we could both combine and computerize this process into a *new* system not hidebound by decades of government precedent.)

In the recent attempt at healthcare reform, what prevented this? Not Tea Partiers, protesting at the periphery with their hats, costumes, slogans and signs. No, it was Big insurance and Big Pharma, the ones who would stand to lose the most money from a system like this. They have their hands in the guts of the current system and in the current legislative process as well. They stopped it cold, turned it into a means whereby they were guaranteed millions more customers, And yet they still protest it now, because the new rules they'll have to follow will cut into their profits even more -- never mind the health care they're supposed to be providing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where've You Been?!?!?

When I was a young man, still living with my folks, I went through the same thing my older siblings did. Creeping in at two in the morning, only to be confronted by my mother. In her best and most outraged English accent, she'd gently but firmly demand "Where've You Been?"

Okay, maybe my older brother and especially my older sister got that more than me. But still, it was memorable. Especially when, years later, my buddy (who was bunking with us for a short time) and I got home at 1:30 in the morning and Mum wasn't yet home.


Energized, ready to pounce, we waited by the door. Finally at 1:45 am she comes in. "WHERE'VE YOU BEEN?!!!?" we gleefully demanded in our best British falsetto imitations. All of us laughed over that one for years afterwards.

So -- where've I been? it's been a while. Three years, in fact. But better late than never.

Quite honestly, this blog was not getting any attention. But I want to give it another shot. There is too much going on in this country of ours, much of it crazy, disheartening, amazing (in both good and bad ways) that I have to try again.

I've not given up my political opinionizing -- I've just been doing it in other places. But now that I'm on Facebook and Twitter, I'm going to try a little cross pollination.

So if you're new to this old blog, maybe read the old stuff. Maybe not. But more is coming..

So where've you been?

Barry