Friday, December 17, 2010
And so it begins, Obama Admin. 2.0. Trying to rise up from the November "shellacking" the president and Democrats received, losing the House of Representatives in whopping losses and just barely keeping control of the Senate, the president does that halfway point dance to the center. And although until the end of the year, Democrats still maintain substantial majorities in both chambers, appeasement has begun with the compromise on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for another two years, while extending unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed and providing a one-year payroll tax cut for most of the middle and lower class. Even though Republicans campaigned and won on shrinking the massive federal deficit, this bill costs $801 billion, all of which goes right into it.
Many Democrats were up in arms over the back room deals Vice President Uncle Joe Biden made with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but in the end backed the deal so as not to increase taxes on everyone. In her waning days as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi described Republicans as making Democrats pay "a king's ransom" to save the middle class. Obama himself, in a somewhat fiery defense of the plan, showed his frustration at liberals who would rather take a stand then help those who need the cuts. There's a bit at the end where he says, "if it weren't for compromise, I wouldn't be able to walk through this door."
The comparisons to Bill Clinton's "triangulation" politics in trying to work with Republicans are hard to avoid, and President Barry even summoned the er- ghost of the former president to help defend the deal. In a very bizarre moment, Obama even left the lectern to Slick Willie for a good half an hour to go attend a White House Christmas party. Ol' Bill soaked up the lime light once again, fielding questions from the tax cuts to Haiti, although disappointingly not his new found veganism.
This was a battle that would have been extremely hard for the left to win. While the Republicans really backed everyone into these massive cuts for the rich and tax breaks on wealthy estates, the president may be able to get more out of this on other issues which seemed out of reach until just recently.
Take Don't Ask Don't Tell, the ban which prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The bill failed when packed into the annual defense budget, but Democrats stuck with it and brought it up again as just a stand alone bill this week. It passed the House, and is up for a vote tomorrow in the Senate. While it failed in the Senate last time, with only one Republican (Susan Collins of Maine) supporting it, three more Republicans have jumped on board bringing it to the 60 votes needed to pass. Had this compromise not been reached on the tax cuts, it's arguable those three wouldn't have signed on.
Same thing goes for the New Start Treaty, the deal with Russia to reduce nuclear arms, which stands arguably as Obama's signature foreign policy achievement so far. Last month Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said there simply wasn't enough time to get it done before the end of the year. Now, with pressure from the White House by bringing in top Republican national security figures from previous Republican administrations, they seemed to have gained the votes to get it passed.
So while certainly the tax cut deal is a huge blow to the left, I wouldn't look at it as the ultimate model as some are saying it is for the next two years. There's going to be a lot of give and take here. But, instead of only Democrats voting for big packages, there may be somewhat of a more working Congress this time around. Whether that's enough to get the president reelected is another matter. The left feeling betrayed is another.
Then there's that whole Wikileaks thing. This week Julian Assange was arrested in London over sexual abuse charges in Sweden. Freedom fighter to some, information terrorist to others, Assange is now behind bars for something other than the massive classified cable dumps that rustled diplomatic feathers across the world this month. As the U.S. decides how to best prosecute the Australian internets rabble rowser, the debate continues as to whether these dumps are truly the table turning leaks some claim they are, on par with the Pentagon Papers.
Assange has threatened to release thousands more of the documents if prosecuted, as only a fraction have been let out so far. If you follow the news, most of the diplomatic cables aren't much more than international gossip and trash talk. What was fascinating was what was said about our allies behind their backs. Talking about French President Nicolas Sarkozy as only listening to those who tell him what he wants to hear, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel always playing it politically safe are interesting and illuminating, but not game changing. The same can't be said though for the leaks of Arab states aggressively pushing the U.S. to go after Iran's nuclear program.
While Wikileaks portrays itself as a defender of information freedom, it goes through the mainstream media, leaking the cables to the New York Times, the Guardian, and other big name publications. They go through and pick out what should be released and what shouldn't. With Bradley Manning, the soldier who gave up the files behind bars now, there may be fewer within the system ready to give up these secrets. If it's not Wikileaks though, in the future it will be someone else. It's a very 21st century problem, which can be prevented in the short term but not the long term. The Obama Administration is just the first administration that will have to deal with these disclosures. How they deal with it may prove the precedent for the rest.
In the silliest moment of the week, senate Republicans said that they thought it wrong to continue work until Christmas because of a disrespect for one of the holiest of Christian days. Because, you know, no one else has to work the week of December 20th. And, the Christians have always had it so hard too. Happy holidays, here's a picture of Jesus and some babes with wings.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Can you barely contain your excitement? Are you laying awake at night wondering who’s going to take that contested congressional seat in Ohio? Are you bursting at the seams wondering who’s undisclosed campaign contributions are going to beat out the other candidate’s undisclosed campaign contributions? Are you pumped as you can possibly be pumped to vote for New York City mayoral term limits!?
That’s right folks, we’re just 6 days away from the 2010 midterm elections, and what seems like a campaign that started the day after Inauguration Day 2009 is almost finally over. As races tighten around the country in one of the most bizarre elections in history, most analysts predict Republicans are poised to take the House, and are very much within reach of taking the Senate. The reasons for this are all over the place, from the rise of the Tea Party, to massive amounts of spending from outside groups, to general disenchantment with President Obama’s domestic policies and the ever-lagging economy.
As this all wraps up, the flurry of media talking points pretty much centers around the “enthusiasm gap” between conservatives and liberals- those energized to take back congress from the left and those who feel betrayed by Obama and the Democrats they elected two years ago. While Obama has been out on the road campaigning to packed stadiums and college campuses of thousands of adoring fans, it’s interesting to note his approval ratings have jumped from 48% to 54% crossing over the all important 50% mark. Democrats are hoping that might be enough to close up the tight races around the country and keep their balance of power.
But while Republicans have stuck to one national message, opposing the “out of control spending by Obama and Pelosi”, and “socialist government takeover” of…I guess everything, Democrats have focused on each race locally. This means they lacked an over arching message, and more often than not ran away from what’s been accomplished the past two years and more or less pretended to be Republicans.
Look at Governor Joe Manchin III, the popular West Virginia Democrat and senate candidate’s latest campaign video. Usually a supporter of the president, in this ad he wants to “repeal the bad parts of Obamacare” and literally SHOOTS A BULLET through a page of Cap and Trade Legislation. Let’s all please just take a look at this.
I really like how it’s just one page. “Tax on Carbon Emissions and…SHOOT HERE JOE!”
Many have been asking “has Obama betrayed his base?” but a more interesting question is “has the base betrayed Obama?” After all, he’s one guy, and we live in a democracy filled with hundreds of elected guys, and compromise is inevitable. It’s understandable to feel bummed out. There was no public option in the health care bill, the stimulus could have been bigger, we escalated in Afghanistan, the list goes on.
William Upski Wimsatt wrote a book in the early 90’s called “Bomb the Suburbs,” about social activism. The other day he was on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC talking about his new book “Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs”, an updated account of what it takes to be a responsible activist in the Obama era. One thing that struck a chord with me was when he said “Don’t be demoralized by what hasn’t gone right when we’ve taken huge baby steps." He mentions that the stimulus was the biggest anti-poverty bill in a generation, and every economist who isn’t being paid by the Chamber of Commerce will tell you it saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and staved off another depression. In addition to that, it doubled funding for public schools and was the biggest government investment in science and the environment in history.
Let’s also not forget AN ENORMOUS HEALTH CARE BILL PRESIDENTS HAVE BEEN TRYING TO PASS FOR SEVENTY YEARS. If you’re reading this and under 26, you can go back on your parent’s plan, you can’t get denied for heaving a pre-exisiting condition, and 30 million new Americans will be able to receive affordable health care, albeit through a private insurer, but at least with government help if they need it.
There was also the financial reform bill, a huge expansion in public service through Americorps, and a recently passed jobs bill to try and bring down unemployment, among other things that are easy to look over when searching for signs of “change.” While the White House may exaggerate what’s been done so far, Democrats could have really benefitted from sticking to a unified, national message talking about all this stuff. Then maybe we wouldn't have to have Democrats you know, shooting guns at legislation that doesn't even exist in their ads.
Of course, it’s always important to keep pushing. When civil rights leaders in the 1930’s approached FDR about being more aggressive he said, “Make me do it.” Presidents respond when people show up and tell them to do something. Obama gets more frustrated when the left protests against him (most notably with gay rights activists), more so than with any tea partier. But while the Tea Party has organized and made their voices heard in ways the left did in ’06 and ’08, this year the left has been Grumbling for America rather than Organizing for America.
If Republicans take the House that means they take over the heads of each committee in the House. That’s a big deal, because they control the general business of Congress and have the power to investigate the White House. And with all the bizarre accusations coming from the right towards the White House, that looks like it could be over anything. There was an article in the Times today about lobbyists warming up to Republicans who are set to take over those chairs from defense contractors to accounting firms.
Nydia Velazquez, Killin' it for BK.
Here in New York City, Nydia Velazquez is the Congresswoman for the district that covers much of Greenpoint, Bushwick, Williamsburg, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Ridgewood, Maspeth, and part of the Lower East Side and the East Village. She’s also the chairwoman of the Small Business Committee, and has brought in a lot of money for public housing projects in Brooklyn over the years. Her re-election is pretty safe, but it’s important to go out and show your support to make sure we have a strong Latina woman who’s a real force for her constituents at the head of such an important committee, as opposed to some dude from Missouri who’s set to take her place if Republicans win the House on Tuesday.
This race isn't just a referendum on the Democrat's handling of the economy, it's a validation of if we approve of how far to the right those running for office have moved in the past two years. No matter where you live, it matters to show it's not okay for the Carl Paladino's and the Christine O'Donnell's to get away with what they say.
If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote you can check here. When I checked I didn’t show up, so I called my borough office (which was surprisingly pleasant) and found out I was indeed registered so I’m not actually sure how accurate that site is. No need to fret if you’re not registered, or not sure if you are at your current address. You can still show up to your local polling station and fill out an affadavit ballot, so your vote is counted AND You’ll be registered at your current address. Isn’t that nice?
I’ll be doing live tweet coverage on election night (that’s Tuesday, Nov. 2nd), so tune in for the most imprecise, irreverent commentary available on the internets minute by minute as the results pour in! And if you don't have any other reasons to vote there is always the universal truth...The Rent is Too Damn High!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Just two weeks away now from midterm elections and tonight was the New York State Gubernatorial debate. Rolling seven deep, fisticuffs were to be had. Not only Democratic and Republican candidates Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino were a part, but five other third party candidates including James McMillan of the “Rent’s Too Damn High Party. “ and Kristin Davis, the former madame who allegedly sold Elliott Spitzer prostitutes, campaigning to legalize Marijuana.
This babe could be your next governor and she loves smoking weed.
It was a real shit show, with each candidate having 30-90 seconds each to answer questions, usually just ending up shouting towards the end trying to yell over the moderators to get some last words out.
The clear winner of the debate was James McMillan, who ended every statement with, "and that rent is too damn high!" To bring down the rents that are too damn high, he would call for an economic state of emergency, and use the funds provided from the Obama stimulus to cut taxes and bring down rents across the state. (?) He also claims to be a karate expert, and has strong views on gay marriage. "If you wanna marry your shoes, I'll marry you." You can check out his amazing website here.
Cuomo came off polished, with well-crafted rhetoric that sounded better than most Democrats around the country. Paladino was...Paladino. It's really something strange to hear the guy talk. Paladino, the millionaire real estate developer from Buffalo, who's stunts over the past few weeks have ranged from goofy and weird to ugly and offensive, railed against Albany with the zeal of a senile, bigoted grandpa. He tried to come off not as angry (which he did), but as a regular guy who cares about your kids (which came off creepy). His promises went from unrealistic to bombastic, pledging to totally strip down government, talking about people "feeding off parasites." In another hard to explain statement, he talks about the "shame" of taking five- and six-year-olds and putting them in "urban schools."
Cuomo was sent to the lions from both the left and the right, with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Warren Redich coming out with the Zingers, taking him on for special interest donations such as a Manhattan parking lot with a Delaware address, as Redich claims. Redich actually came off the most well spoken, a libertarian who's smart enough to disguise what that really means for a New York audience. I think he literally said, "schools, parks, and bridges" every time he spoke.
While as strange and surely entertaining it was to listen to seven candidates, most with no chance of winning and just wanting to talk about issues, it seemed like overall a safe night for both Cuomo and Paladino. While initially Paladino was egging Cuomo on to debate him, it's clear his lack of er- rhetorical skills would've left him dusted by Cuomo. And for Cuomo, he didn't have to risk sitting next to Crazy Carl. Surprisingly, with the exception of Redich, no one called Paladino out on any of his behavior. Most of the shots were about Cuomo's camaign money and business ties, which he never addressed when attacked on. It's safe to say Paladino can safely set himself up on the wingnut talk circuit in the next few weeks, and with the democrats facing serious threats around the country, it seems like New York, surprisingly or not, will go against the trend.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Guess what folks? We're less than one month away from midterm elections and you know what that means! Only a few more weeks before you get to cast your ballot for your pick for senator, congressman, governor, local representative, dog catcher, rodeo clown, art project, etc.
Last week President Obama hosted a raucous rally in Madison, Wisconsin which drew around 17,000 supporters, in what probably felt like for White House officials, a vindicating moment of "I told you we still had it." In this rally and in a recent Rolling Stone article, Obama lists the things his administration has accomplished, and in a moment that must have suprised even him, the whole freakin' arena goes nuts when he mentions the health care bill, like Lady Gaga just played...that song she plays.
What's important to look at about this rally, and about this article, is Obama once again engaging with the huge amount of young people who elected him, many of whom might not even realize there's an election right now. There's one point during the rally where he's saying something along the lines of, "They're saying it's all over. That they've got it won. That you guys aren't energized- that you don't care." Than he catches himself, and says, "Well, you know- you read the newspapers, you watch the television." But the truth is, that many of these supporters don't, and have totally lost touch since the election which energized so many young people.
And while many have simply just lost touch, lost interest, fatigued from the political whirlwind that was 2008- there's of course a huge number of liberals disenfranchised with the Obama Administration and see no reason to go to the voting booth to elect a bunch of bumbling Democrats who watered down and prolonged legislation for months and months, and now refuse to campaign on these issues. And while I'll be the first to point out the pitfalls of the first two years of the Obama administration, it is pretty gratifying to hear the president list off the things we've achieved legislatively. The health care bill, the financial regulatory bill, the stimulus (which may seem like a waste because of the vast unemployment, but saved us from another depression and was a huge investment in a number of progressive causes), and a list of other things that have gone virtually unnoticed.
The bummer of the whole thing is we spent a lot of time trying to get bills passed. We had Rahm "fucking" Emanuel (Who announced he was peacing out this week out to run for mayor of Chicago) running around strong arming and sweet talking congressmen into voting for this stuff, and an extremely focused and united Republican blocking it and delaying it to a point of sheer ridiculousness. And this still goes on. Nothing can get done. And what's sad about it all, is if those 17,000 in Madison had made the fuss in the way the Tea Party had, had been as loud as the right has been, they probably wouldn't have been able to have gotten away with it.
Following the rally, Obama attended some much smaller, and not as welcoming events, trading in the arena for the back yard. The older folks got a little testy with him, and he got a little testy back. At one point one older fellow said "I'm very concerned about you raising taxes on those making over $250,000-" to which Obama replied curtly, "You haven't seen your taxes go up at all under me." He's gotta be sick of repeating that one.
Next week I'm going to go on another big long rant about Carl Paladino. Get ready. Have a good week.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
What a wacky and weird week it was, with the general election kicking into full gear as primaries finished around the country last week, and for maybe the first time in American politics (history?), a candidate's past revealed as dabbling in....witch craft.
A clip from Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" in 1999 has Christine O'Donnell, the Republican nominee for Joe Biden's old senate seat in Delaware, saying she "dabbled in witch craft." But, you know. Didn't join a coven or anything.
"I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn't know it. I mean, there was a little blood there and stuff like that.
We went to a movie and then had a little picnic on a satanic altar."
I love the line, "one of my FIRST dates with a witch." So there must have been a bunch of movie watching, satantic alter picnicing, wiccan make out sesh's.
I wonder what movie they saw.
Christine O'Donnell was an interesting and scary candidate before all of this, winning an upset victory in the primary over Republican establishment candidate Mike Castle with the help of Sarah Palin and other Tea Party supporters. The stuff she's said in the past is downright bizarre and sometimes offensive, saying that homosexuality is an 'identity disorder,' and that masturbation is a sin. She has some very lengthy views on the subject, which she discusses in a spot from MTV in the 90's you can watch here:
As fringe and out there as her views are, there's something hard not to like about Christine O'Donnell. She's crazy, but in a fun way. She's a cute, bubbly, maybe witch who's got some serious unresolved dating issues. What's great about Bill Maher airing the clip is when he says "Sarah Palin's mean, Christine O'Donnell's not." She's like that really annoying but cute girl in high school who was all about God but then you find out she secretly makes out with the dude in the Marilyn Manson t-shirt and trench coat no one talks to.
Of course, if she is to win the race in November, having someone like her in the senate will be scarier than any 90's sexually pure coven you can imagine.
Carrrrrrrl "I'm Gonna Beat the Shit out of Albany with a Baseball Bat" Paladino
This week Mike Bloomberg endorsed Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for Governor in New York, the same day a new poll was released showing a narrowing gap between Cuomo and his hilariously vulgar and loud mouthed opponent, upstate millionaire real estate mogul Carl Paladino. Cuomo only leads Paladino in the poll by 6 points.
Paladino came onto the scene only a few weeks ago, unexpectedly beating Rick Lazio for the Republican nomination as a self described Tea Partier riding a wave of angry and crazy, talking about blood being on the floor in Albany when he gets there. He has since played into his reputation for being an asshole. Paladino, who in the past has forwarded racist and sexually weird emails, was right there ready with the sluggers for Bloomberg and Cuomo.
Michael Caputo, Paladino's drunk Russian brawling campaign manager (true story), released this statement:
“His Royal Highness opposes the will of the people on the Mosque and subverted the will of the people on term limits, so it’s no surprise Bloomberg is missing the point on this important election and climbing into the same royal coach as Prince Andrew. One upside to this: the two can stop passing Grey Poupon back and forth from their limousines. It's really holding up traffic."
Among other outlandishly wacky things the Paladino campaign is throwing at Cuomo in one of the more immaturely fascinating races in recent history, is sending a campaign worker dressed as a duck to Cuomo events and making loud quacking sounds, saying Cuomo is "ducking" a debate with Paladino.
Look at this bad ass.
The New York Times yesterday had a great cover story about his campaign manager, Caputo. The two first met when Caputo was a 14 year old in Buffalo, and was caught stealing a box of change from a newsstand outside of a building Paladino owned. Apparently Paladino grabbed Caputo by the ears, dragged him outside and kicked him in the legs six times.
He kicked a 14 year old kid in the legs 6 fucking times.
Caputo later went on to work as a public affairs specialist for the army, where he got a bullet wound from a drunken Russian rival during the Cold War. He's also a total Dead Head, and has been to over a hundred of their shows.
Cumono released an attack ad on Paladino after the poll was released, and is now forced to be on the offensive to try and avoid the same mistake Rick Lazio made by not taking Crazy Carl on directly.
Anyway, everybody get pumped for this week's Paladino stunt. I think it's going to have something to do with strippers, Charlie Rangel, and ice hockey.
Senate Republicans Block Vote on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
This week senate Republicans filibustered a vote on a military budget bill that had a provision to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the ban on gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried has promised to bring the bill up for another vote after the elections, I don't have my hopes up it'll pass even then.
There was a remarkable amount of attention given to the federal court in California ruling Proposition 8 unconstitutional a few weeks ago, but this story has gone strangely over looked by young progressives who view gay rights as a major issue. It would be a huge deal to repeal the ban for gay rights activists and the Obama Administration, and would be one of the few major legislative victories for gay rights in recent years. Why then is there such a lack of enthusiasm among young voters at a grass roots level?
While people like the Tea Party won't outright say it, the culture wars in America are brewing again in a large and scary way with this issue and the debate over the Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero. These things weren't talked about nearly as much in the 2008 election when young people were out like never before, but there's a complacency right now among the young people on the left that lets people like Christine O'Donnell and Sarah Palin run the debate.
Obama Gives Shout Outs to Health Care Law and Middle East Peace Talks
President Barry O'biz had a busy week promoting the new health care law which saw many of it's key provisions kick in on Thursday. He'd hoped by now Democrats could campaign on some of the things in the bill, but the only ones who seem to want to talk about it are those who didn't vote for it. While many Americans will see some good stuff right now, most still seem to think it's an Obamacare government plot to kill grandma and steal your kitten.
If you're under 26 and haven't already, talk to your parents about getting back on their plan, as that's one of the things that went into effect this week.
Obama then clogged up midtown traffic for a couple of days in New York at the annual UN conference, the Oscars and fairly uneventful event of the year for foreign relations. While last year Obama was clearly the darling of the event, with world leaders practically drooling over his speech and interrupting with scattered applause, this year's speech was pretty tame. Obama spent a considerable amount of time talking about the recently renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine. It's good to see the administration giving the issue attention, as everything seemed pretty much dead when Israel continued building settlements in the West Bank. Obama openly repeated his stance on Israel stopping the settlements, and Palestine has threatened to back out of negotiations if the building continues.
It's kind of scary and disheartening the whole world seems to be skeptical of the talks.
Following the speech, Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao to urge him to revalue China's currency. Jintau replied, "Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. Totally. Totally gonna do it. Real soon."
In his annual middle finger to the rest of the world, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an attempt to say maybe the only crazy thing he hasn't already said, came out as, yes, a 9/11 truther. He thinks Bush and Cheney did it, and that most Americans think so. 33 delegations walked out during the speech including the entire European Union.
The election is coming up on November 2nd, so it's time to get all nice and registered so you can stroll into your local polling station and do the deed (voting's more fun when it sounds dirty.) Chances are you've moved in the past year or two, so it's important to update your registration to your current address. It's super easy, you just fill out this form, and either mail it in or drop it off at your borough's elections office. You can download the PDF here:
You can still technically vote at your old address, but that's just weird. Also, if you're still registered in your home town, girl you know you ain't gettin' your ass to California to vote so just fill that form out.
That's this week's Steze. If you haven't already, check out the first episode of Tick Tock. See y'all next week.