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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Jelly Time! And Tea

Anyone who’s been around kids has witnessed this scene:

Mom: I’ll make you a PB&J
Kid: I want to do it myself!
Mom: OK fine - do it yourself. 

Mom proceeds to get the peanut butter down from the shelf (cuz it’s too high) and the jelly out of the fridge (cuz it’s in a glass jar) and the butter knife out of the drawer (so Kid doesn’t get hurt). Then the bread - which Mom opens and presents to Kid to select the pieces, then wraps it up and puts it away (cuz the twist tie is too hard to wind). Mom puts down a paper towel and gets a stool out so Kid can reach the counter. Kid can’t open the jars, so mom opens them and presents them back to Kid. Kid makes a sandwich with about ⅓ as much content as is now all over the counter and marches off in triumph.
Kid: “See! I did it all by myself!”

Now imagine that kid as a 55 year old in a tri-corner hat and a “Don’t Tread on Me!” flag. 

This is the internal zeitgeist of the Tea Party and what has become pretty much the mainstream Republican party. Rolling fields of people who’ve been helped along in dozens of dozen of way behind the scenes (and sometimes overtly) by the very institutions they now demonize. The government that build the roads and sewers, the dams and seawalls, the treelines and trade routes that make this country what it is. The government that said “hang on, a river shouldn’t catch on fire!” and “hey, maybe breathing shouldn’t be fatal” is the same government that raises the army that keeps us safe and at least tries to make sure medicine isn’t just death in a bottle.

Nearly every one of those folks remembers the railroads and supports the oil and gas industry - both extremely heavily subsidized by the government during their developmental period. Nearly every one benefited from weekends, minimum wage, occupational safety regulations, and sick time - all brought to you by the government pressed by the labor movement that is now under strident attack by the GOP. Nearly every one has been to a hospital, doctor, or pharmacy for medical care provided by professionals who hold government-issued licenses attesting to minimal competency and efficacy. Nearly every one can drink from a tap, flush a toilet, and drive a car because the government stepped in to make sure they were at least mostly safe. 

And nearly every one will deny their reliance on the government for anything. Cuz they can do it all by themselves!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A liberal democrat's letter to Mitt Romney

Dear Mitt Romney,
Thank you. Seriously - no snark, thank you. I want to thank you for being a fine, upstanding family man. I disagree with pretty much every policy statement I've heard you make and think that you do not understand what most Americans' lives are like, but I'd like to put that aside for a moment and sincerely thank you.

Because you have been - by all accounts - a good, loyal husband, the campaign season is able to actually focus on policy positions, ideologies, opinions, conceptions, and issues both metaphysical and miniscule. We are not being led by the nose to follow tabloid stories of mistresses, hookers, baby mamas, or Rentboys. We are actually in the throes of a political face-off between two men who bring none of the sordid tabloid fodder that modern media (and its viewers) cannot seem to resist. And I, for one, very much appreciate that.

I understand why you don't especially want to talk about some very big issues like Bain Capital, health care, or the environment. I understand that this political climate makes it far easier to simply run against the incumbent and avoid laying specific policy propositions on the table. I can't say I like it, but I understand the political strategy and if I were advising you, I'd do the same thing.

Having said that, one of my early blogs is entitled "The Illusion of "Privatized" Government (or - The Government is NOT a business!) (8/12/10)" and I am exceedingly glad that you have put that very issue in the public eye.Over the past 10-15 years, the "if I ran my business that way I'd be out of business" crowd seems to have dominated the national non-conversation about the roles of businesses and government. I won't repeat my views here - they're in the prior post and not germane to my point now. My point is that we are finally HAVING the conversation. Your record at Bain and Bain's role in industry are more than fair game - they are long overdue lenses through which we and the punditsphere are able to now engage in that critical conversation.

Your history with healthcare is more than fair game - it's exceedingly relevant not only to our national healthcare policy, but as a benchmark for the shifting platforms of the parties who run our increasingly parliamentary government. It is also a perfect launching point for discussions over the role of states and the federal government, devoid of the histrionic religiosity of gay marriage.

Your extreme wealth does not diminish or elevate you as a person or a candidate, but does frame discussions about stratification of our society that have been sorely ignored or even deemed "impolite" in recent years and decades. We seem to have collectively shrugged our shoulders and decided to give Reaganomics a chance and see what happened. Well, now we know what happened, but we haven't seemed to be able to get back to the foundational discussion about ourselves as a collective society. What we learned is that smash-and-grab economics does not make us stronger as a nation. But we have not filled the "and then" void with anything substantive. You give us a framework for discussing class, success, and what America truly values. As well as what has really changed since our glory days.

I realize that petty squabbles, non-controversies, and other silly distractions are part of the political insulation that all candidates employ. My sincerest hope is that, through the noise and drama and name calling, a few voices will raise the questions that you enable us to raise now. Because you and President Obama are fundamentally good men in your personal lives (and I do believe that you are a fundamentally good man overall, even if I also think you're fundamentally wrong about most things), we may have the first chance we've had in decades to take a few moments and consider the deepest roots of who we are as a country, a people, and as citizens.

So thank you for leaving the tabloids hanging. I would wish you luck, but hey ... I'm a liberal Democrat!

Very sincerely,
The Holly Lama

Monday, May 21, 2012

My way or ... not

I think the Republican party writ large has fallen into the same rabbit hole that religious crusaders consistently refuse to acknowledge: pushing extremists doesn't always go your way.

For years now, the religious crusaders have been weeping and wailing and  loudly lamenting that "the liberals kicked God out of public schools" and therefore we're all doomed to fail. Putting aside the large bag of nonsense that goes along with that on every front (including the fact that it was a Catholic bishop who first sued New York's public schools to stop teaching religion because they used a Protestant Bible), there's a primary issue that they never seem willing to see. If you put God back in the schools, you might have accept someone else's God. Christians are somewhat famous for their infighting, and there's no sign that they're slowing down. So whose God goes in? To which schools? By what practice? These folks seem to forget that they might actually win and have their kids forced to say Jewish prayers, or Catholic ones, or (heaven forefend!) Muslim prayers. Five times a day facing Mecca? Not what we had in mind .... but that's the risk. You might win. And then you might have to face your own status as a noisy minority rather than the Ultimate Bearers of All Truth. Then government intervention in religion starts to look a little less appealing.

Enter the Tea Party. It seems to me that even the GOP was taken by surprise by the TP. The problem is, the GOP has been priming the pumps for decades. This is the party of the Long Game. They've been sliding the bar to the right by increments over the past several administrations, opposing public education, opposing the middle classes, and developing their own fact bubble of GOP media where truth is decided by the Spinmeisters of the party. The place where everything is scary and every opinion is synonymous with your personal convictions and therefore unshakeable.

Oops. They set up a segment of the population to be ready for war on any front and unwilling to think critically about it. And then they tripped on themselves. That speech from the trading floor in Chicago wasn't revolutionary, it was just the lit match to the dry prairie the GOP had prepared. All of a sudden those undereducated, overfrightened, uninformed masses were on fire and ready for battle. Except not FOR the Republicans. The winds of change blew them into an unseen canyon where the party apparatus was not standing by to reap the benefits of the conflagration. Now the GOP seems to have overplayed its hand and is struggling mightily to get out of the corner and back to the plan. They may have intended to get here, but for the majority of the people, this was too much too fast. And with faces like Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin, the Tea Party is a national joke - not a political direction change. Most of us believe this will blow itself out once the otherwise disenfranchised voters realize that their votes (or lack of) DO matter. Which may be good for the GOP, but so far seems to be working better for the Democrats. The GOP reputation is shot - and it was more of a "gun cleaning accident" than a murder.

The moral of the story? When you play with fire, sometimes it's your own house that goes up in flames.