Saturday, 7 May 2011

Copious Republican Wrongness: I Try to Keep Track of it All

The Republican Party is so fundamentally wrong so often about so much stuff that is so important that's it's ironically easy to lose track of it all. And in recent days we've been bombarded with evidence of Republican wrongness at such a fast and furious clip that I realise I personally haven't been able to full absorb the depth and breadth of the wrong.
So let's make a quick list - based just on news stories from the past week:
  1. Republicans - including John McCain back in 2008 - were wrong to insist that we should not pursue Osama Bin Laden into Pakistan if we had credible intelligence that he was there. Or rather, since one could argue that the policy might be right even if the outcome would be bad, let's say that whether this is right or wrong, Osama Bin Laden would still be threatening America today if the Republicans had won the last election.
  2. Republicans - including, most notably, Dick Cheney - were wrong to suggest that Americans are less safe from terrorism under Obama than they were under Bush.
  3. Republicans leaders were wrong to keep calling everything that Democrats proposed a "job killing" measure, when in fact the last three months has been the best 3 month period for job growth in 5 years. On the other hand, independent experts at Moody's have reproted that the GOP's proposed budget would result in the LOSS of over 700,000 American jobs. That's just wrong on so many levels.
  4. Private Payroll Employment in April, 2011
  5. Republicans - in particular Rep Paul Ryan - were wrong to suggest that they had a plan to cut the deficit. Ryan's so-called deficit reduction plan was based on heavy tax cuts for the wealthy plus heavy cuts to needed services for the poor (that's balanced! See! He's cutting taxes AND spending! Everything gets cut!). But even with these deep spending cuts, Ryan wasn't able to project any ability to balance the budget without his piece de resistance - a plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with vouchers to allow the elderly to buy private health care. This proposal has been strikingly unpopular with the public, and has now been abandoned by Republican leaders - though not before House Republicans voted for it. Without the elimination of Medicare, Ryan's plan does not balance the budget.
  6. Republicans in Congress were wrong to make posturing noises to suggest that they would be willing - nay! eager! - to let America default on its debt. For bizarre procedural reasons, every time US borrowing goes above a certain point, Congress must vote to allow this debt ceiling to rise. Republicans, however, had been ranting about their unwillingness to do this unless Democrats were willing to let old people die accept the phase out of Medicare. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and Republicans are willing to settle for deep cuts to non-entitlement spending programs instead. Gee, thanks. The implications, if the debt ceiling were not raised, would be that the US would default on its borrowing, doing severe damage to our position within the markets, which experts believe could trigger another financial crisis. White House Economic Advisor Austen Goolsbee put it this way, "If we get to the point where we damage the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”
So to sum up:

If Republicans were in charge this week, they would have left the world's most dangerous terrorist happy in his Pakistan mansion, lost 700,000 jobs instead of adding 250,000, eliminated Medicare, and cut taxes for the rich.

The one Republican achievement this week is their (apparent) willingness to reluctantly agree that they will NOT cause a financial calamity for no apparent reason.

Why does anyone vote for these guys?

Friday, 6 May 2011

Barack and Michelle Do London - the story so far

As mentioned before, Barack and Michelle are due in London for a visit the end of this month. I've done a bit of digging around to find out what we know so far about that visit, and thought I should give you a quick update.

Bear in mind, though that:

1) For obvious reasons of security, the President's schedule - especially for a foreign visit - is typically not released much ahead of time. And...
2) Although Democrats Abroad (which you should all join, if you are US citizens living abroad) is the official party organisation of the US Democratic Party, when the President travels abroad on official business he is - rightly - severely restricted in the his ability to any Party political activity. Which means is surpassingly unlikely that he will be able to do anything "with us". I'm sure he cries himself to sleep every night over that.

So... President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be visiting the UK on May 24-26. The visit will be an official state visit, and they will be staying in... what for it... Buckinham Palace, as a guest of the Queen.

I KNOW! I'd love to get that invite, if only so I could sneak around after the Secret Service goes to bed and poke through the linen cupboards.

Anyway, the US Embassy of London has a helpful page giving the details announced so far (not many), details of the Obama's last visit here in 2009 and some interesting videos on life in the travelling press corps. It looks like they have set up this page to be updated as more info is released, so it's worth bookmarking it now:

Prince Charles, the Heir to the throne here and - of more interest of late - father to the world's most famous bridegroom - met recently with the President in the White House where the appear to have exchanged pleasantries in the longstanding tradition of content free Head of State (or heir to Head of State) interactions over the years.

The President also congratulated the Prince on the wedding of his son, Prince William, to Catherine Middleton and extended his best wishes to the newlywed couple. The President looks forward to visiting the United Kingdom at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen during his State visit later this month.

Slightly more interesting, perhaps is to speculate what Her Majesty the Queen's feelings might be about the impending Presidential visit - she and Michelle Obama appear to have forged something unusually like a real bond of affection on the First Lady's last visit here. Bearing in mind that Queen Elizabeth's remarkable longevity is often attributed to her extreme skill at projecting neutrality - she was unusually non-neutral in her team's comment on the supposed breach of protocol when there was physical contact (gasp!) between the two women.

"This was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between the queen and Michelle Obama," a palace spokeswoman said.
 Oo er! Ahem.

Undoubtedly, President Obama will meet during his visit with the UK Prime Minster - Conservative Leader David Cameron.

When they do, I wonder if Barack will raise the obvious point that the British economy is actually on the point of shrinking, with GDP in decline, at a time with the US economy appears haltingly to be carry on down the road to recovery.

Of course, the British Government has embarked on a program of strenuous cuts to government spending, whereas the US government has attempted to avoid such draconian measures. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation... Hmmm...

Whatever happens, I am already steeling myself for the inevitable British press hand wringing about whether the US President REALLY REALLY likes us or just SORT OF KIND OF likes us. Is our special relationship REALLY, truly special, or just kinda sort of special?

There will undoutedly be extensive media coverage of any gift that the President might chose to bring for the PM and the Royal Family, and it will be digested endlessly for a significance that it almost certainly does not have.

I therefore would like to take this opportunitiy to go out on a limb and make a flagrant prediction - the UK and the USA will remain strong and vital allies after this trip, no matter what else happens on it.

"Accedes to their absurd requests one week, and slays their demons the next"

I thought there was some really valuable perspective in this Ta Nehisi Coates post ruminating about how the attempt to question Barack's "American-ness" is really an insult to the millions of families across the country to whom the Obama's don't look especially exotic. He writes:
for those of us who are waging the fight against a crippling cynicism, who are urging our children on, who visit schools and begin our addresses with, "I remember when I just like you," the First Family is perhaps the greatest weapon in our arsenal.

From the perspective of race, we don't object to people trying to defeat Obama. We don't object to Hillary claiming he's soft. We don't object to McCain claiming he's a celebrity. We don't object to the GOP calling him a tax and spend liberal. We don't even object to Mitt Romney aspiring to hang him. (We know what you meant, Mitt.)

But when broad sections of this country foolishly follow a carnival barker in the ugly tradition of attacking black citizenship rights, when pundits shriek that Obama's successes are simply the result of the misguided largess of white people, they undermine our most intimate war. They undermine the notion that someone familiar to that kid on the corner could legitimately reach the highest levels of the country, that someone like that kid's Aunt could be the First Lady. They undermine this country's social contract, and the "hard work pays" message of my parents. And to that we object.

For if they will not take as legitimate a magna cum laude from their highest institutions, if they will not accept a man who tells black kids to cut off the video games and study, who accedes to their absurd requests one week, and slays their demons the next, who will they accept? Who among us would they ever believe?
What fascinates me about this whole phenomenon - in which the right wing attack on Barack and Michelle Obama is the suggestion, subtle and not-so-subtle that they are Not Like Us - has always struck me as incredibly weak. I don't think it's just African American families who look at the Obamas and think that they look like the family down the block - I grew up in a waspy suburb in which there were literally only 2 black kids in my entire high school graduating class of 250 kids.

But the Obama's would have fit in great at our neighborhood barbecue. My mom would totally have bonded with Michelle if they ran into each other at one of my school plays. Barack and my dad would absolutely have backslapped and networked and talked sports if they bumped into each other.

Until not that long ago, in fact, any of those things could have happened! The Obama's lived a pretty middle class life, they got involved in their kids schools. Heck Barack even marched in a goofy St Patrick's day parade, brandishing a toilet plunger. Less than a decade ago.

But the best, most effective attack they can think of to levy against him is that this almost stereotypicallly normal, happy, healthy American family is somehow "not one of us".

By contrast, I recall that the equally deranged lunatic fringe that attacked Bill Clinton during his moment as the Liberal whipping boy for the right wing lynch mob accused him not just of (plausible) sexual misconduct but actual mass murder.

Perversely, I think of this as some sort of progress.

Here's your birth certificate, you freaks. Choke on it.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Sometimes I forget... I have fans!

So, apologies for the silence on this blog - I assure you that I have been very far from silent in real life over the past month and a bit. Just differently loud.

But at tonight's Democrats Abroad Speakeasy (first Wednesday of every month here in London - all are welcome!) I had to face down multiple complaints about the lack of posting on this blog.

Flattered that you care - thanks guys! I'm back on the blogging beat - and to make it up to you, I'll promise to post at least once a day for the rest of the month.

That's right! Obama London is giving a special offer - Every Day in May! For the bargain price of... nothing! Enjoy.

I'm never sure how much personal information to include on this blog, as it was never intended to be about me or my life, but you should know that in the past month I have:
  • Been re-elected Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad UK (thank you all - I'm truly honoured to serve, and I really love this organisation)
  • Gone with my husband on a much needed 2 week vacation - hiking in the Peak District and Snowdonia.
  • Continued to learn the guitar (if you're really good someday I'll post video of my efforts at "The Times They Are A Changin").
  • Planned some big and interesting digital campaigns for clients.
  • AND - appeared yesterday on the BBC World Service to discuss the death of Osama Bin Laden and Obama's political situation.
On that last point, you can listen to me here - it was the Tuesday morning program (03/05/11), and my segment was about 46 minutes in.

I thought the first question that I was asked by the interviewer was laugh out loud ridiculous, basically: "So is Obama just going to change the subject to national security throughout the campaign?"

Ummm... so we should have NOT taken out Osama Bin Laden because... we don't want to change the subject from the economy?

As Obama said way back in the 2008 campaign, when John McCain wanted both candidates to SUSPEND THEIR CAMPAIGNS to DEAL WITH the economic CRISIS (scare caps sarcastic, please note)- "You know, Presidents have to be able to do more than one thing at a time."

 Keep doin what you're doing, Barack. Proud of you.