Levees Not War
Rebuilding New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast.

Posts Tagged ‘obama’

How Deep Is Our Disgust with Obama and PussyDems

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Obama and Democrats Must Defend Social Security, Medicare—and the Middle Class—Before They’re Gone

In “Our Cowardly Congress,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof points out that last week’s Shutdown standoff happened only because the cowardly Democrats—the PussyDems, we now call them—opted not to vote on a full year’s budget last fall when they had a majority in both houses of Congress:

. . . this mess is a consequence of the Democrats’ own failure to ensure a full year’s funding last year when they controlled both houses of Congress. That’s when the budget should have been passed, before the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. But the Democrats were terror-stricken at the thought of approving spending bills that Republicans would criticize. So in gross dereliction of duty, the Democrats punted.

Right, we remember now: Facing a tidal wave in the mid-term elections, and seeking to deny Republicans any more openings for attack (as if that would stop them), Democrats opted not to cast a vote for more spending. They chose not to speak up for social spending or investments in infrastructure during a depression; feared to speak up for their own money-saving health care reform bill, and so on. And why? Because they knew the President would not back them up. Had Obama been more forceful—or the least bit audacious—in defending domestic spending in a nation with at least 10% unemployment, with some 24 million unemployed or under-employed, the Democrats would have had more courage. The president shows little interest in being the leader of what we thought was his own party.

Last fall and summer, before the midterm elections, was also when the Democrats, again lacking protection by the putative head of their party, shrank from voting against extension of the Bush tax cuts. This made room for the Tea Party–drunken Republicans to come roaring in in their domineering way and force an extension of the tax cuts for billionaires while Obama sang “Kumbaya.”

Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the Democrats’ ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Rachel Maddow last week that when House Majority Leader John Boehner demanded $32 billion in cuts, Obama came back and offered $33 billion. As the G.O.P.’s threats and demands escalated through the week, they ended up with $38.5 billion in cuts—in a struggling economy that needs all the spending it can get. Firm negotiating, there, Mr. President. You really held the line. Paul Krugman observes that it looks as though “the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions” (“The President Is Missing”). Did we mention this was the same week Obama officially announced he’s running for re-election?

Why Re-Elect a President Who Won’t Lead His Party?

We contributed money and volunteered for his campaign in 2008, but we really don’t see why Obama deserves reelection, or what he would do with a second term other than cave in to Republicans week after week. To us he is more of a Republican than our idea of a Democrat. Can we have a real stand-up, fighting Democrat instead, or at least some protector of the middle class and the social safety net? Anthony Weiner for president, anyone? At the rate we’re going, Obama and the Democrats will stand aside while Medicare and Social Security are shredded, and Obama will praise the Republicans for their willingness to compromise.

“Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya . . . Someone’s sleeping, Lord, kumbaya . . .”


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Notes for Tonight’s Oval Office Script

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Very briefly, what we’re hoping to hear in the president’s address is a strong commitment to progressive energy legislation—the best of the Kerry-Lieberman and Waxman-Markey bills currently in Congress. (Here are some good, sensible specifics proposed by the Center for American Progress: “Obama’s Oil Reform Opportunity.”) We want to see the president’s hand firm and resolute in compelling BP’s compliance in stopping the volcano of oil and forcing much stronger efforts by BP in stopping the oil from spreading into the Louisiana wetlands. The half-assed band-aid booms they’ve laid out are not enough and are too sparsely monitored—and we also don’t want these “toxic tampons” dumped in Louisiana landfills as BP has been doing at Port Fourchon—at least 250 tons’ worth. We also want greater transparency by BP with information and an end to blocking reporters and photographers from doing their work.

But we don’t just want to hear about BP and its Deepwater Horizon gusher, because the current crisis could have happened to other oil companies, too, or at other BP rigs now drilling elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico (such as BP’s ominously named Atlantis rig, a well 7,000 below the surface and 150 miles from the coast of Louisiana—too close). We also want the president to tell us what he is going to do about cracking heads at the troubled Minerals Management Service division of the Interior Department that has allowed Big Oil to regulate itself—with evident results. Tim Dickinson’s stunning report in the June 24 issue of Rolling Stone (“The Spill, the Scandal and the President”) shows that MMS is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent and needs to be flushed out like the Augean stables. It may well be that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should be banished to the same distant pasture where we’d like to see Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner grazing in exile.

We’ll be back with more soon after the president’s address. Note, though, that Obama will be addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time in his presidency, a sign of the gravity of the situation. This is the office from which John F. Kennedy apprised the nation of a buildup of Soviet missiles in Cuba in October 1962, and other presidents have set the stage for declarations of war.

Will we hear President Obama declare the equivalent of a manned mission to the moon, as even Joe Scarborough has said he needs to do? (“This president can say . . . by the end of a decade, America will break its dependence on foreign oil.”) Good idea, though we’re not holding our breath. But we are going to be pressing Obama and Congress for full-blown energy reform. As we said about ten days ago (“Welcome Back, Mr. President”), “Mr. President, a major, massive, fully committed national shift toward alternative energy must begin now. . . . Push for Energy Reform on the scale of the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System, the TVA, or the Apollo mission—or all of these combined.”

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Help for Haiti

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Montreal La Presse, Ivanoh Demers

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake has rocked and toppled much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the most powerful quake to strike there in 200 years. The quake lasted a full minute; the Loma Prieta earthquake that shook the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, also 7.0 on the Richter scale, lasted only 15 seconds. (We were there, and believe us, a full minute would feel like days of terror.) Haitian president René Préval says likely thousands are dead. Click here for a video report. (Meanwhile, the very Christian Rev. Pat Robertson helpfully explains that Haiti is “cursed” because “a long time ago . . . they got together and swore a pact to the devil” for help in gaining freedom from the French. “True story.”) • Relief agencies are listed below.

President Obama’s Remarks

“. . . for a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible. . . . this is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share. With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home. So we have to be there for them in their hour of need.” [click here for transcript]

Ricardo Arduengo.AP

HOW TO HELP

New York Times list of relief agencies

American Red Cross

Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has been in Haiti since 1991; has 3 hospitals; perhaps the most established humanitarian presence there: an excellent organization to contribute to.

UNICEF (for children)

Text “HAITI” to “90999” to donate $10 to be charged to your cell phone bill.

Family members concerned about the status of loved ones in Haiti can call the U.S. State Department at 888-407-4747.

Despite the fact that we are experiencing tough times here at home, I would encourage those Americans who want to support the urgent humanitarian efforts to go to whitehouse.gov where you can learn how to contribute. We must be prepared for difficult hours and days ahead as we learn about the scope of the tragedy. We will keep the victims and their families in our prayers. We will be resolute in our response, and I pledge to the people of Haiti that you will have a friend and partner in the United States of America today and going forward.” —President Obama

HaitiQuake

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Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

we must rebuild our strength here at home . . . . the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.” —President Obama, Dec. 1, 2009

NYTWe wanted to take time to try to make sense of President Obama’s speech at West Point last week in which he announced his decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000 over the next six months. We pray he knows what he’s doing. We can only imagine the risks and variables he has been weighing. Because he is a peaceful man by nature (the Nobel may have been awarded at the wrong time but it was not given to the wrong man), we are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. And yet, even though he knows more than we’re privy to, we are still skeptical. Our favorite lines in the address were those quoted above. Perhaps the most painful part of the speech is its overall contrast with and cancellation of those fine-sounding sentiments.

There are truly no good options—all are fraught with unacceptable consequences: 360 degrees of damnation—and yet we feel the president has made a tragically wrong decision. Even though we were impressed by his methodical and deliberative approach to a maddeningly complex issue, and even though it is theoretically possible that with unlimited time, money, and the blessings of fortune this new “Way Forward” can work, we do not believe it will. There is too much reliance on military force, too many moving parts that have to come together just so. (There is a saying that whenever you have two Afghans you have at least three factions.) Of course the generals say they can do it—give ’em enough troops  and they’ll promise you anything. Hendrik Hertzberg writes in The New Yorker that Obama would have faced “a probable Pentagon revolt” had he chosen to withdraw starting now, and if such a decision had been followed by a large-scale terrorist attack he would face “savage, politically lethal scapegoating.” Very likely. This is the situation we’re in. Nicholas Kristof observes in his New York Times column that amid all the president’s consultations of experts, one important set of players not consulted were the tribal elders of Afghanistan. Without their cooperation, nothing will work.

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Warming Up for Obama

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Senators: Support Public Option, Kennedy’s HELP Committee Plan

UScapitolTonight President Obama gives a rather important speech to a joint session of Congress. To say we wish him well would be an understatement. We spent most of the day warming up his audience by faxing and mailing letters to the Democratic senators, starting with Harry Reid (he got his own personalized letter because he’s the Majority Leader). Here are some excerpts. It’s not “Obama’s English,” but we do our best.

To Senator Reid:

. . . support a strong public option: authentic health care reform that will cover all Americans and will give voters a reason to “vote Democrat” for generations to come. We don’t want co-ops and we don’t want “triggers.” . . . What we really want is a single-payer system that’s easy to understand—a Medicare-for-all bill. Why was that never on the table? We agree with the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s call for a public option built on the Medicare provider system, with reimbursement based on Medicare rates—not negotiated rates.

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Senator Kennedy’s Gulf Coast Rebuilding Plan

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

EMK-official Senate portrait

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

While others have gone quickly online with some very affectionate and stirring tributes to Senator Kennedy, we wanted to take a little time to reflect on his life and work (plus, we’ve been busy fine-tuning our newly redesigned web site). As usual, we look at things in relation to New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast. It may be only accidental that the great senator’s death falls within days of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, but there’s an important connection people should know about, and surely some credit goes to the Louisiana woman he married, Victoria Reggie Kennedy.

It was Senator Kennedy who proposed a Gulf Coast Rebuilding Plan soon after the storm. This comprehensive rebuilding plan was said at the time to have been modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority; as usual, Senator Kennedy thought large, seeing the scope of the effort the crisis called for. (Note that here, once again, he found a cosponsor for a bipartisan bill in Republican senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.)

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Feingold Asks Obama for Timetable on Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

ThinkProgress.org

ThinkProgress.org

Think Progress calls attention to a report by ABC News that Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) is calling on President Obama for a timetable for when the U.S. will withdraw forces from Afghanistan. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the attacks of September 11, but attention and resources were soon diverted to the U.S. invasion of Iraq (March 2003). President Obama began a build-up of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to intensify military pressure on resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda forces earlier in 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 22 that there are now 58,000 troops in Afghanistan and nearly 74,000 military contractors. The AP reports that military officials expect that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the chief U.S. commander in Afghanistan, may ask for an additional 20,000 troops—and even that increase may be less than what McChrystal really needs to get the situation under control. But what would “under control” mean?

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Let’s Get Congress, Obama, on Board with the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

On June 1, Times-Picayune Washington correspondent Jonathan Tilove reported on the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (H.R. 2269), a bill reintroduced in Congress on May 5 by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and supported by Louisiana congressmen Charlie Melancon, Anh “Joseph” Cao, and Rodney Alexander, among about a dozen others. The bill would bring an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion in investment to the Gulf Coast to create 100,000 environmentally sustainable (“green”) jobs and training for residents of the Gulf Coast to rebuild their communities devastated by hurricanes. It would establish a Gulf Coast Civic Works Commission within the DHS’s Office of the Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding to coordinate projects, rebuild infrastructure, and revitalize the region’s workforce.

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