It Is What You Make It

Nine months flew by since my last entry here, and all I can say is the more things Change, the more they stay the same. Since then, Obama fever dropped down to just above normal, as even some of the more faithful got to reason and critical thinking, and started asking tough questions of our new president based on his actions since taking office, as he’d wanted us to do. Encouraged by this, I guess I got lazy. In any case, I admittedly began tuning out politics again in favor of other, more enjoyable pursuits.

A few weeks ago, however, I was shaken back into it by the remarkable observations of a couple of usually like-minded individuals, both giving me the same line. I’d been so out of the loop I couldn’t argue but instead stared back blankly. On separate occasions, both starting with a conversation about the Nobel Peace Prize, I mentioned the irony of Obama accepting an award for peace right before going into a War Council meeting, where he would discuss sending even more troops than the tens of thousands he’s already committed to Afghanistan. I offered no further opinion, purposefully steering clear of that. The reactions were the same, to the effect of: Well, maybe we really do need to maintain this presence in Afghanistan and maybe sending more troops really is necessary.

Really? I thought a great reason to admire Obama was that he voted against the war in Iraq and would not escalate the situation in Afghanistan. But the thing that struck me only later and made me want to write about it is this: What would these same people be saying if it were George W. Bush approving a surge and considering additional troops? The fact is they would be outraged. And this double standard is the thing that drives me crazy, the tunnel vision that apparently is still very much alive out there, the unspoken imperative that we must treat this president with kid gloves, that criticizing him is somehow unpatriotic or politically incorrect, or it makes you a big downer. Even some people who agree that Afghanistan is a quagmire will still become visibly upset or despondent at any suggestion that Obama has not yet managed to live up to those high expectations they themselves set for him. I get it. But it points out one big flaw of the left if we are not asking the exact same questions we would of Bush or any other candidate or sitting president.

So Afghanistan remains a major focus of discussion, as does unemployment, which reached new heights last month. “The nation’s unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in October, reflecting the economic pain of the 16 million jobless Americans, as well as the strain felt by the 138 million others who are working harder to earn their paychecks… The economy lost 190,000 jobs in October, the 22nd consecutive monthly decline and the longest losing streak on record dating back 70 years.” [Source: Nation's Unemployment Rate at 10.2% in October by Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle]

The health care reform bill that passed the House, which remains a mystery to most of us really, has replaced the Stimulus Package as a hot topic. The public does have access online to H.R.3962, but who can make sense of it all or know how it would manifest? [See: Affordable Health Care for America Act (Introduced in House)] I’m relying on my own sources to inform me on this bill and they are divided. The Nader camp calls it a bailout for the insurance companies, Credo and CodePink will give the okay only with some public option, and the Patients Action Network supports it in conjunction with another bill on Medicare reform. I suspect doing something is better than doing nothing, but I also fear that whatever watered down final version we might end up with won’t help many of us either.

Here are a few relevant newsy tidbits I’ve found in my most recent political researching session…

On Afghanistan
Bill Moyers Essay: Restoring Accountability for Washington’s Wars

On Unemployment
Obama’s to Fix by Charles M. Blow, New York Times

On Healthcare
Dennis Kucinich Explains Why He Voted No On Affordable Health Care for America Act

Bill Maher Explains the Healthcare Crisis

Also Of Interest
Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning vs. The Timidity of Governing by Arianna Huffington

Obama’s Critical Moment Approaches by Camille Paglia

Hopefully another nine months won’t go by before my next entry, and certainly I’ll continue signing petitions and speaking up on issues that are important to me and encourage others to be as involved as possible, but I’m waiting for the Ethical Realist party to emerge, some alternative that puts humanity first. Until then, I focus on the little things…

– Hope Dascher

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Since Inauguration Day

These last few weeks since the inauguration, in the news and on the streets, I’ve heard and read mostly about three things: job losses, the stimulus package and drone attacks on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

People are getting very nervous. From talking to friends, I know that if you are retirement age, you’ve probably lost a good bit of your savings, if you have a mortgage, you might be worried about losing your job and your home, and if you’re looking for work, you are largely out of luck. Fortunately for me, I don’t fall into any of these categories. I’m also not someone who lives beyond my means. After experiencing life in Kiev, Ukraine for the first half of the 90s, I make it a point to live with little. So I’m perturbed not only by the corporate financial fat cats but by the overzealous spending habits of fellow Americans for which I will now have to pay. At this point even my own meager existence is in jeopardy. My freelance publishing jobs were cut recently in hours, and in one case, the company cut my pay by 37.5% in the middle of a project. When I protested and said, “…but you’ve already agreed to the price,” they told me I could either take their new terms or they’d find someone else to finish the job.

“Employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off of U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6%, according to the latest government reading on the nation’s battered labor market. The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months, or half of the 3.6 million jobs that have been lost since the beginning of 2008.”
Source: Job Loss: Worst in 34 Years by Chris Isidore

The ever-fluctuating 780-920 billion dollar stimulus package is beyond my comprehension. It seems to me that borrowing money we don’t have is what got us into this mess. Of course we need to do something, and we’re going to have to spend money to do anything, but for this to work, we also are going to have to change the way we think about credit. We need to create jobs fast, turn the failing auto factories and large numbers of unemployed workers to mass transit projects, build new railways, repair roads, bridges and tunnels, manufacture wind farm and solar equipment, get small cooperative farms going again. We need universal health care. The stimulus package needs to aim at all of this first and foremost, and I hope the final version will do that.

Because I can’t possibly make much sense of the bill itself, here is what a few of the organizations I support on certain issues are saying about the economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Credo
“America needs a stimulus package that addresses our dire needs without wasting money on provisions that won’t create jobs or promote long-term economic growth… consider these five suggestions: Get rid of a $2 billion provision for “clean coal” plants. Invest in infrastructure, not tax cuts. Reinstate the Medicaid Family Planning State Option. Include meaningful bankruptcy reform. Don’t give Verizon $1.6 billion in tax cuts without generating a single new job.”

League of Conservation Voters
“Before the banks burned and before the housing crisis caught fire, it was soaring gas prices that sparked this economic wildfire. President Obama’s economic recovery package seizes the opportunity to put out today’s flames and prevent future flare-ups by putting millions of Americans to work to end our crippling addiction to oil. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will be the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in our country’s history.”

NumbersUSA
“The feds’ monthly report was even worse than expected: 598,000 jobs cut in January. And, yet, Senate leaders have still not given permission for a vote on a Stimulus Bill amendment that would keep illegal foreign workers from getting jobs created by the massive taxpayer effort. How many Americans have to lose their jobs before they are given priority over illegal aliens and the outlaw companies that hire them?”

It may not be politically correct, but I believe we need to put tougher restrictions on immigration now for several reasons. We must not be inhumane to people who come, but we need to take care of business here, protect our citizens and jobs, wildlife and natural resources and our borders, and become more self-sufficient as a nation. We need to end foreign occupations; we need those soldiers here hopefully for rebuilding, for natural disasters and for potential civil unrest due to lack of work. Look at what’s happening in Iceland, Europe and Russia.

Our new president, who rightfully bragged about how he voted against the war in Iraq during the campaign, now seems to be carrying on the same aggressive policies of the last administration using some of the same old hawkish defense heads. Since he took office a few short weeks ago, he’s already ordered drone attacks; he’s already dropped bombs and killed civilians. Again, I turn you to my resources on the subject.

New York Times “Obama’s War – Fearing Another Quagmire in Afghanistan”
“Can President Obama succeed in that long-lamented “graveyard of empires” — a place that has crushed foreign occupiers for more than 2,000 years?”

Democracy Now “Obama Continues Bush Policy of Deadly Air Strikes in Pakistan”
“In Pakistan, outrage continues to mount over a US military attack approved by President Obama. Last Friday, unmanned US Predator drones fired missiles at houses in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, killing as many as twenty-two people, including at least three children.”

Bill Moyers “Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?”
“In the wake of the recent American missile attacks in Pakistan, this week’s JOURNAL explored U.S. bombing policies and how they affect U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region. Bill Moyers asked historian Marilyn B. Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.”

From what I can tell, our best bet is to stop missile strikes and pull out of that region, except for some elite special ground forces with very specific targets, and continue to provide whatever humanitarian aid we are able.

– Hope Dascher

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Husband and Wife, Two Sides of the Center and Still Friends

BY M. PORTA

Continuity is hard to come by, but for as long as I can remember I’ve always been a free agent. Not what you’d call a joiner. And so when everyone here in New York was falling in love with Obama (whom I had initially preferred over Hillary), I started to wonder. When people start to flock it gives me that “uh-oh” feeling. The fervor with which he was being embraced gave me pause, just as the vitriol over George W had done long before. Could Bush really be the root of all evil? And could Obama really be the answer to all our prayers?

My husband and I are political moderates, though he feels a greater affinity for the left, while I tend to be more understanding of the right. You’d never know it, probably because I am socially very liberal. When it seems to me that someone on the right is making sense, I just keep it to myself.

From the beginning both of us had respected McCain, primarily for his work in campaign finance reform. This is an issue that was extremely important to us, believing that nothing will ever really change until politicians stop being bought. From our perspective, McCain staked his career on this, and was extremely unpopular with members of both parties for having done so. We also liked that the Republican orthodoxy was at odds with him; Bush and the neo-cons had strayed too far from real conservatism, so McCain’s pragmatic, bi-partisan approach seemed to be the injection of reason that the Republican party needed.

We knew it would be an uphill battle for him. All the charm, charisma, and natural speaking ability contained in Obama was lacking in McCain. Obama couldn’t stop talking, yet the substance of his words eluded me. Still, he was so likeable, so decent. McCain, for all his accomplishments, experience, and renowned sense of humor, could sometimes appear flustered, irritated, and crotchety. And, of course, we were so tired of Bush that it was difficult to find a more diametrical opposite (we thought) than Obama: young, biracial, smooth and elegant—though not at all entitled. He excited and inspired us. We were only too happy to see Bill and Hill getting thrown under the wheels of the bus by their own kind.

At a certain point in the campaign, my husband and I felt the usual gravitational pull: I started veering to the right, while he characteristically went left. Every night we spoke about the candidates and the issues that were closest to our hearts—the environment, how money and power have corrupted the political process, education, and the nation’s defense and the threat to the West from fundamentalist Islam. We bantered and cajoled and hollered and rolled our eyes, and ended by canceling out one another’s vote. He agreed with me that Obama had promised too much to too many, which could translate into a business-as-usual agenda or even a make-it-up-as-you-go-along plan. Either way, we can’t afford it. I agreed with him that the time wasn’t really right for McCain, not only because he was old and a hawk and had run a lousy campaign, but because people were so angry that no matter what he did—even if his performance was excellent—they’d never give him credit.

I was actually relieved when Obama won. I hope he puts all my suspicions to bed, that he can live up to even a quarter of what we’re all expecting from him. What might it be for us to undergo real change? That, for me, is still the question.

M. Porta is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

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Wondering: Yes, We Can or Let’s Do It

One thing I like that the President-elect and his transition team have done is to ask us, as individuals, to participate in the new government. After Tom Daschle was nominated for Health and Human Services Secretary, I received an email from John Podesta, co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, requesting that Americans hold small local gatherings to discuss a new health care plan.

“When you sign up to lead a discussion, we’ll provide everything you need to make your conversation as productive as possible… and, when it’s over, tell us how it went. The Transition’s Health Policy Team will gather the results of these discussions to guide its recommendations.”

This appealed to me, but unfortunately the program ended too soon. I was too caught up in other things to get it organized on time, but hopefully the new administration will sort through all the initial findings and do another round of Health Care Community Discussions, because it’s a good idea.

Obama’s people have been encouraging this all along, asking for more active citizen participation, and having read about the characters in Matt Bai’s book The Argument, I wasn’t surprised that someone like Podesta is behind such an innovative project.

A couple of weeks later another email arrived from Podesta. “We recently launched a new feature on change.gov called Open for Questions. Thousands of you responded, asking 10,000 questions and voting nearly a million times on questions from others.” This program continued to a second round, and I’m hopeful there will be a round three.

On New Year’s Eve, I received an email forwarding an idea someone submitted to the change.gov website. The idea was that Obama should revive the WPA-era Federal Art Project and Federal Writers Project. Another good one, and when I visited the website there were other good ideas and ways to get involved.

Last week, one more Podesta email came, this time outlining Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

“…it’s going to take a lot of work to get the plan approved, and your involvement is essential. That’s why we asked some leading members of the Transition’s policy teams to sit down and talk a bit about it — why it’s necessary, how it will work, and how we’ll make sure it’s as efficient and effective as it is bold…”

You can see from this video clip that they really need our input!

And yesterday came an email announcing another new feature on change.gov called the Citizen’s Briefing Book, in which ideas will be rated, printed out and handed to the new President after the inauguration.

I’m glad the computer has made it so much easier to participate, through emailing and writing letters and signing petitions online. It got me questioning though how I ended up on Podesta’s email list and who else is on it. Who isn’t on it? I asked a couple of friends and they weren’t on it. How about all the people who don’t have Internet access? Where do they fit into this new model of grassroots lobbying, and is it really effective, or are we just sending our opinions into the same black hole our resumes are going into this year?

It got me wondering if the many people who don’t have Internet access will have any say in this new government, and about the people who don’t have computers. The statistics I found were from 2007, but they were telling. {America Offline… By John P. Mello Jr., TechNewsWorld 03/30/07}

Thirty-one million households were offline. More than 40 percent of households who did not have Internet service had incomes of less than $35,000, while households with incomes of $75,000 or more had non-subscription rates in the single digits. Education also played a role. More than 84 percent of non-subscribers did not have a college degree. Age was another big factor. The two age groups with the highest percentages of non-subscribers were 55 to 64 year olds, and those 65 years old or more. Twenty percent of U.S. households did not have a personal computer. With the age of digital TV approaching, and the economy tanking, I wonder how many people in these groups will be left even without basic television from which to get information.

I’d like to know if Podesta and the Obama-Biden Transition Project are also making phone calls, house calls, or passing out handbills in low-income neighborhoods or to the elderly, telling them how they too can participate and have a say. Or is this an Internet-only revolution, or some savvy marketing ploy? This remains to be seen, but to me, the more involved people are the better.

The Internet has made grassroots efforts much easier, but we still have to hold our government responsible, and we’ve not been doing that these last eight years. With a new President coming in indicating that he wants our input, we should take advantage. And it’s most important that we represent those who don’t have the Internet as a resource. It is essential that those voices are heard just as loud and clear as the rest.

As a friend said recently, “Just because it doesn’t affect you personally doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”

The first day of this new year, I went to Coney Island to protest the destruction of our beautiful rough diamond by the sea and ran into the polar bears lumbering down the beach into the water, and King Neptune on the boardwalk, which turned into an impromptu outdoor disco like it had on all those more festive occasions. The destruction of my favorite place in NYC despite much effort had me feeling quite hopeless, like nothing we do really effects change any more. But in the end, all of this has only strengthened my resolve to work more diligently toward just causes and keep trying to make a difference.

So whether answering the President-elect’s calls, spreading the message to those who might not otherwise get to hear it, signing online petitions, writing letters, making calls, marching on the streets, or starting a new political party, I’d say, start somewhere. Get up and do something to help make America a better place this year.

–Hope Dascher

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Tolerance, Equality and Unity

With Rick Warren appointed to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, suddenly the gay community takes notice. I’ve been astonished by a number of gays and gay-friendlies I know, who voted for Obama completely unaware that he is against gay marriage.

It’s not surprising to me that an evangelical pastor, who opposes gay rights, will help usher him into office. It’s not a purely political choice either, which people who’ve been listening to him all along will recognize. Obama is the only one of the major party candidates who cited religion as the reason he opposes gay marriage, even though his own UCC church officially supports it. Even Sarah Palin didn’t do that as far as I know. In fact, she talked candidly about her gay best friend, surely realizing that it would rile her conservative supporters.

Obama’s surrounding himself with people who disagree with him is a fine and noble idea, and I’ve supported some of his selections that other groups have opposed. Rewarding a person who has been intolerant of a group he proclaims to support, however, does merit some mulling over. What will this achieve, really? Some of his supporters propose that the choice might be out of a loyalty to Warren, or to appease fundamentalist Christians. But these don’t sound like legitimate reasons, and they don’t seem like things Obama would support either.

This is also not to say that Warren himself hasn’t done some good work, or that his role is anything more than symbolic, but there are plenty of open-minded clergymen who would be tolerant of opposition and support anti-discrimination policies too, for example, the former minister of Riverside Church in New York, Dr. Rev. James Forbes. I asked a friend who was making the argument for the “team of rivals” if it would have been okay with her had he chosen Rev. Jeremiah Wright instead. She gasped and said, “No, point taken.”

Gay marriage has not been an issue that is more important to me than universal healthcare, the economy, the wars, or the destruction of the environment. Marriage itself has never been a main concern of mine, and equal rights under the law are more important to me than religious ceremonies, which could still be practiced with civil unions. But with the passage of Proposition 8, revoking the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage, it moved significantly higher up on my priority list.

What solidified the change in my thinking was a friend in Holland, where same-sex marriage is legal since 2001. I asked her what it was like living in a country where it’s legal, and she said, “Now that we have it, I think it’s important that people have that option, more than I did before we had it. It changes people’s perception of gay relationships, gay people’s and straight people’s perception and it feels as if this change in perception has happened in an almost gentle way (not everywhere and by everyone) in comparison to some of the hard fights that had to be fought to get to this point. To me, that’s beautiful and an important step, more than I could have anticipated.”

That’s reason enough for me to stand up for it, to offer legitimacy to everyone in this country not only in actuality but in perception as well. Some things are not okay, and it’s important to point those things out. Obama seems to be asking for that as well. Separate but equal is not okay, and only through true equality can we hope to achieve real unity.

– Hope Dascher

Related Stories:

Obama’s Choice Of Warren Is Very Disappointing By Rep. Barney Frank
“Religious leaders obviously have every right to speak out in opposition to anti-discrimination measures, even in the degrading terms that Rev. Warren has used…”

Disappointed by Rick Warren By Joan Walsh
“I am not theoretically opposed to Obama choosing an antiabortion gay-rights critic; I’m opposed to Warren himself. He’s a poster boy for kinder, gentler 21st century bigotry…”

Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage By Patrick Healy
“The difference, Mr. Obama has told them, is religion.”

United Church of Christ Backs Same-Sex Marriage By Shaila Dewan
“The United Church of Christ became the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-sex marriage officially …”

Obama on Warren by Ben Smith
“Obama makes the case for including people he disagrees with in the inauguration… ‘I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans, it’s something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency…’”

How the hell did Rick Warren get inauguration tickets? By Mike Madden
“…Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. ‘[Warren's] job there is to kind of represent the spiritual totality of our nation. When that sort of person is put there, it definitely makes our community stop and think…’”

Justin Bond Is Living
“…it seems we need to be fighting for two things.
1) The repeal of tax-exempt status for any organization that uses that status to disrupt our democracy…
2) The word “Marriage” should be stripped from all civil codes and laws…”

Freedom or Power? by Andrew Sullivan
“The key point about marriage rights for gays, after all, is that they do not affect or change marriage rights for straights. No one’s rights are removed.”

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The Government Channel

BY KRIS BRITT

I have an idea.

When I lived in Denmark around 1990, they had at least seven political parties, and for campaigning, each party had an equal time slot on the same television channel to present themselves, and I’m pretty sure that’s all they were allowed to do for campaigning on television, in order to keep it fair.

So I can’t claim all the credit for this idea. But I will claim credit for trying to think of an American version that might help address some of the issues we’re dealing with around campaigning.

I would like to see a Government Channel here in the U.S. First of all, it should be a network channel, because then every voter can get it who at least has access to a television set. It should be nonpartisan and make every attempt to be unbiased and give equal representation to all parties. I think it would be more likely to fly if it were owned by a private entity (rather than being government owned). It would be great if there were no commercials on this channel. I don’t have that part quite worked out yet.

Obviously it would be nearly impossible to make this the only outlet for campaigning. But once established, maybe some and hopefully most American citizens would make it their first choice for becoming informed. Subsequently they can choose to ignore the smear advertisements that sometimes seem to be the only turds that achieve floating above all the other noise.

What would be on the Government Channel apart from equal time campaign presentation slots? How about summaries of government activities, such as Congressional hearings? I can picture Sarah Palin as an anchor, explaining what has passed each day and what the nuances are. I guess if you want to follow entire hearings they could air them, though those seem to get pretty boring after a while. Maybe they’d be good with simultaneous color commentary (like the director commentaries you can listen to on a DVD), or with interactive chat commentary from the public live in real time on the screen like MTV does for some of their shows.

Of course there would be a website too.

What do you think?

Kris Britt lives in Brooklyn and owns a multimedia development company called silente.

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Why Huff Post Should Lay Off P-BO*

Last week on Huffington Post, I saw an article seriously questioning Barack Obama. They may have published other such missives before, but this was the first one I had seen. The Robert Scheer column expressed a few beefs with Obama’s selections for his team to get us out of the economic crisis.

Scheer wrote, “Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election… how else is one to respond to Obama’s picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it?”

Reading that quote, I felt a little vindicated. I’m one of the 750,000 people who voted for Nader, and one of the things that earned him my vote was that he was against the bailout. And he didn’t just come out against it; he offered what sounded to me like reasonable alternative solutions. He’d been thinking about this for a long time, having predicted the housing crisis eight years ago when members of Congress laughed at him.

On opening night of the Democratic National Convention, not having realized the significance of the date and still unsure who I would vote for, I attended a benefit concert for The Living Theatre. Sitting there, I felt not so alone in my doubts about the Democratic Party. Hearing “This Land is My Land” performed by Eisa Davis and Colman Domingo of Broadway’s Passing Strange made me teary, and the performances of Nellie McKay and Justin Bond that followed blew me away. The evening was fundamentally political – The Living Theatre has been the epitome of political statement for 60 years – but it was very different from politics as usual. For that one night, surrounded by fellow outsiders, I felt part of a beautiful, happy revolution having our very own convention in NYC.

Another questioning article appeared on Huffington Post a few days ago, about how Obama’s small donor base image is a myth, as revealed by a new study conducted by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. I had just discussed this very thing with a friend who insisted that 80% of his donations were from small donors and how important that was. Nothing I said to my friend could convince him otherwise, although the information was out there to be found if one was looking.

I find it curious that Huffington Post is only now starting to feature more prominently probing analytical stories about Obama. Why didn’t they scrutinize or report objectively throughout the election season? It seemed to me they suffered from “the bandwagon effect”, that notion among certain crowds that you absolutely must adulate Obama and loathe Sarah Palin, and anything less made you a traitor.

I’m in the comfortable position of not feeling terribly upset by anything Obama does now, because he disappointed me early on. During the campaign, I heard him offer standard-issue Democratic positions, and at times I thought he even came across rather Republican. I never saw the cool progressive change guy many of my friends seemed to see. What I saw was more of a Centrist, someone in the middle leaning liberal or conservative depending on the issue, like Bill Clinton or Rudy Giuliani.

Obama was not my choice when it came time to pull the lever, but I don’t think the people who helped elect him should be so quick to criticize him now, before he even takes the oath of office. He seems to be letting himself be guided by pragmatism, and I think Huff Post ought to give him a chance to do the job they seemed pretty partial to seeing him get.

Nader recently wrote, “While the liberal intelligentsia was swooning over Obama during his presidential campaign, I counseled ‘prepare to be disappointed.’ His record as an Illinois state and U.S. Senator, together with the many progressive and long overdue courses of action he opposed during his campaign, rendered such a prediction unfortunate but obvious.

“Now this same intelligentsia is beginning to howl over Obama’s transition team and early choices to run his Administration.”

I’m starting to get a funny feeling that by the time P-BO disappoints everyone else, I might be left liking him again, in the minority again.

– Hope Dascher

* P for President(-elect), BO for Barack Obama, a term of endearment

________

UPDATE: This week a little flurry of columns appeared on Huffington Post to criticize Obama with some pretty harsh words from a source that mostly championed him just weeks ago.

Beyond the Bailout State by Steve Fraser
“A suffocating political and intellectual provincialism has captured the new administration in embryo. Instead of embracing a sense of adventurousness, a readiness to break with the past so enthusiastically promoted during the campaign, Obama seems overcome with inhibitions and fears.”

Obama’s Uninspiring Nation by Lionel Beehner
“Still, Obama’s familiar-looking team of national security fixer-uppers does not inspire confidence. Nor do his vague answers to detailed questions on specific policies… Obama seems to think he can wish away the world’s evils with his eloquence and charm.”

Obama’s Windfall Taxes Shift: First Broken Promise
“The Obama team’s decision to drop the idea of forcing oil and natural gas companies to pay a tax on their windfall profits has caused a firestorm among liberals and small business coalitions.”

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The Influence of the Super Delegates

As Barack Obama chooses his cabinet, I am watching with cautious optimism. I’m glad that Hillary Clinton will likely be Secretary of State, and I wish I felt more excited about the whole thing. But throughout this election season, I became increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic Party, and I’ve yet to shake that disenchantment, unfortunately.

It started when I decided to get more politically active again, after feeling like I hadn’t done enough to try and prevent the eight-year scourge of the Bush administration. Back in August, through VoteBoth.com, a website promoting a united Obama-Clinton presidential ticket, I found a way to take action through another website called LobbyDelegates.com. I sent an email to each of the 796 Super Delegates, this unknown unpledged group who I’d heard might have the privilege of determining the Democratic candidate in this year’s election. I wrote expressing my wish for the dream ticket. Imagining they would be inundated with emails, I kept mine short and took a strong position, hoping they would notice it among the many, and that it would make an impact.

The replies I got surprised me. They effectively started an evolution in my way of thinking, not only about our electoral process but the two-party system, the candidates themselves, the influence of modern media, and the reactions of the voting public, including the people around me. The experience made me question my own party more than I ever had before, and I started looking into the Third Party candidates. At the same time, thanks to a few reasonable, well-informed, socially liberal Republicans who were willing to talk candidly despite our differences, I also began to see the other side more objectively. I suddenly found in myself a new and bold openness, which felt great, but I found myself alone in this transformed perspective among my peers, who are mostly very much on the liberal Left side of politics.

When I emailed the Super Delegates, I was simply taking a stand as a citizen, one that I thought might make them take action. According to the news at that time, these particular individuals were the only people with any real influence. Eleven Super Delegates actually replied to my email, and their answers were revealing on several different levels.

First, coming from members of the party’s upper echelon, I was surprised that most of the replies contained bad grammar, spelling errors, and a general lack of professionalism and formality. The tone of the responses ranged from kind and thoughtful, even if disagreeing with my position, to dismissive, rude and angry. Those were the most disappointing, but they were also the ones that made me want to know exactly who these people are. What I found was no less surprising. The Super Delegates, who are endowed with the power to choose the candidate in a close primary race regardless of the popular vote, include union bosses, corporate lobbyists, TV personalities and financial consultants. This time they didn’t get to decide, but they might have, and I couldn’t help but question their ties to special interests. It led me to many more questions, which I hope to explore here.

To accompany this first offering, click here for several links about the Super Delegates, my correspondence with them, and brief bios of the respondents.

–Hope Dascher

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