This year of 2009 has proven to be a very unique, active, puzzling, and frustrating one. It began as a year of great optimism and hope, with the hated far-right war criminals George W. Bush and DICK Cheney being replaced by our nation's first African-American, (and seemingly left-of-center) President, Barack Obama. He immediately signed an executive order closing down the war crimes torture center Guantanamo prison, pushed for and passed a massive stimulus program to provide jobs and get our very sluggish economy going again, and began a drive for (we thought) a universal national health insurance program. He reaffirmed his pledge to end our occupation of Iraq and intensify our effort to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He also reached out to moderate Muslims by traveling to both Turkey and Egypt to give them a taste of the kinder, gentler, more tolerant side of America (i.e. the REAL America) which his far-right, nationalistic predecessor had all but destroyed. Now, at year's end, we have encountered some unexpected bumps in the road to progress which are confusing and unsettling...
Most of us on the left hoped that President Obama would act to rapidly wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our brave and vastly overworked and overstretched troops home at last. Regrettably, this has not occurred. Troop levels are being reduced in Iraq, but are actually being boosted in Afghanistan, where there is now growing hatred among the local populace of our presence there. The country's government is mired in corruption; Al Qaeda is now sequestered in the mountains of neighboring Pakistan, our shaky "ally", and billions are still being spent on this conflict, with no capture of Bin Laden, destruction of Al Qaeda, or end to the war against them in plain sight. The Afghan "government" only controls the capitol of Kabul and little else. The Taliban or tribal leaders control the rest. Our Treasury is being drained daily by this war; our troops' body counts and numbers of injured are again rising. We seem to be caught in a Vietnam-like quagmire, and that is not good. It will be at least summer before we will know any tangible results from this latest troop surge, and summer is a long way off...
Our long time friend and great "liberal lion" Ted Kennedy passed from us this year. His loss means the loss of a most strong and very devoted advocate for the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, working Americans, as well as for the cause of universal health care. Thankfully, and in part due to his forty-plus year efforts on behalf of health care reform, the House and Senate have just passed an historic health care reform bill, which, if finally reconciled and passed into law, should ideally cover many millions of now-uninsured, and end insurance company discrimination against chronically sick people. It will not be a perfect bill (far from it), but it provides a toehold for further future advance. And Ted Kennedy will be sorely missed. Hopefully, a few of the newer progressive Senators like Sherrod Brown, Ron Wyden, Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse, and others, will be able to rise to the occasion and carry on Teddy's great tradition of service to the people who need help most...
The rise in prominence of delusional, disruptive, dishonest, combative, shrill, ignorant, and downright stupid conservative Republicans like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Virginia Foxx, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, and a whole host of others, as well as the re-emergence of a mouthy and increasingly visible DICK Cheney on the scene is VERY disturbing. Today's Republicans are nearly universally far-right ideologues, who are committed to only two things: the total political destruction of President Obama and the Democratic Party, and the return to the complete governmental control they had from 2001-2007. Today's Republicans are no longer the "loyal opposition" (as they were when out of power in the 1960s, and as the Democrats were in the Reagan and Bush I years). Today, they are instead a combative, wholly uncooperative, obstructionist force which is not at all healthy for the country. They offer no solution to our problems beyond the failed policies they effected during much of the past three decades. They place their own agenda far ahead of the national good. With them, EVERYTHING is a calculated political move designed to self-servingly maximize their own benefit. They are obsessed with power and total control. Their prior total control of government, as we all know, led directly to the rich getting far richer at everybody else's expense, the manifestation of an all-powerful and unaccountable presidency, a weakening of individual rights, illegal imperialistic warfare, war crimes, severe damage to our prestige and credibility around the world, and an economic collapse and near-depression. WE PROGRESSIVES MUST DO ALL WE CAN NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND TO ENSURE THEY NEVER AGAIN ACHIEVE TOTAL GOVERNMENTAL CONTROL! Until this party returns to its more sensible, cooperative, and moderate previous state, it must never again control our government or dominate its agenda!
The conservative Republicans, aided by their corrupt and wealthy corporate insurance backers, as well as their unscrupulous propaganda media organ, Fox "News", were successful in creating public outrage from an extremely loud minority over mythical upcoming tax increases and a mythical upcoming government takeover of the economy and our health care system. Through repeated exaggeration, distortion, and outright lies, they succeeded in scaring hundreds of thousands of elderly and ill-informed people into actually believing the President is a Nazi (how utterly ridiculous), or, paradoxically, that he has a socialist agenda (equally ridiculous). They whipped these unfortunate people and a good number of uninformed malcontents into a frenzy of government-hatred by manufacturing "tea party" protests at the Capitol and elsewhere. They encouraged these "teabaggers" to disrupt Democratic congresspersons' town hall meetings in August, actively busing people in and giving them precise instructions on what to say as they shouted down the congresspersons and their legitimate citizen participants. The underlying theme was that Obama and Democrats wanted to take away their freedoms, which was preposterous. As we all know, the real Democratic agenda is to roll back the power of the wealthy and big business and prevent them from denying people insurance and continually raising prices. Sarah Palin and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley conjured up whopping lies about Obama "death panels" and "throwing grandma under the bus." These teabaggers, many of whom aren't all that bright (witness the spelling of "mortgage" on the protestor's sign in the picture), and especially their corporate and Republican sponsors, were subverting democracy with these Nazi Brown Shirt bullying tactics. Their actions were FAR more akin to Nazis and national socialism than ANYTHING President Obama had proposed, said, or done. They were the personnification of the great conservative Republican anti-democratic, anti-Democratic lie. In effect, these conservative Republican and corporate organizers like Dick Armey and Rick Scott were manipulating stupid teabaggers into cutting their own economic throats by getting them to argue for a preservation of the status quo in our current broken health care and regressive tax systems. Their entire aim was to derail the health care reform effort with fear and hysteria, and to weaken and discredit the President. That is not loyal opposition, my friends: that is agitation, subversion, and insurrection.
This poster at left, brandished by some of the teabaggers, is a perfect illustration of the hatred, intolerance, racism, ignorance, and total dishonesty being expressed by far-right conservative Republican elements in this country today. It is also proof positive of their anti-democracy tendencies. Again, this is not loyal opposition. This is a malevolent, power-hungry force which MUST be overcome! THESE PEOPLE DO NOT BELONG IN GOVERNMENT AND WE MUST WORK EXTRA HARD IN 2010 TO KEEP THEM OUT!
There are many important initiatives lying ahead which must be undertaken and put into effect, and QUICKLY. We MUST get money out of the hands of huge Wall Street banks and lent out to Main Street small businesses! We MUST create more jobs, especially "green" jobs and those which repair and renew our rapidly decaying infrastructure! We MUST reduce pollution and reverse the effects of global warming! We MUST roll back Bush's insane tax cuts for the very rich and tax them more fairly and heavier, so that the majority of the rest of the country can have some much-needed tax relief! There is far too much pressing and important work which MUST begin SOON to allow it to be delayed or derailed by anti-progress, anti-democratic conservative Republican obstructionist naysayers! That's why 2010 will be such a pivotal year. The Republican forces of disruption, obstruction, and reaction MUST be turned away and thrown out of office, and a new progressive tide of fairness, justice, and vision must replace them and sweep this country! We progressives, along with our President, have been far too genteel and conciliatory with these beasts. We have allowed them to get away with constant lying and distorting. We have been standing still in the face of a fierce Republican assault for far too long. Rather than taking a defensive posture, we need to go on the attack, BIG time! We need a unified voice shouting out these conservatives for what they are: friends of the wealthy and enemies of working America. Stodgy gulpers at the public trough who are helping to deny us health care and wasting time and tax dollars on political ploys like filibusters and staged demonstrations. Bought-out shills who place outlandish corporate profit well in front of the people's need. Servants to billionaires and scourges of everyday ordinary people, who are oblivious to the true pressing needs of the country. They need to have their lies immediately and loudly dispelled, so they can be called on the carpet and exposed for the money-wasting frauds they are! Unlike them, we do not have to lie and spin to paint them as the useless and dangerous group that they are. We cannot allow Republican gains in the congressional elections next fall, period. The President has been pushed rightward off the campaign pledges he made last year which got him elected. WE must push him back leftward by relieving the nonstop Republican pressure he has been getting. WE must actively press for and support the election of more progressive, preferably progressive Democratic or Democratic-caucusing candidates to achieve this. I believe that pushing for a MASSIVE conservative Republican defeat at next year's polls will also have a ripple effect on turning some of the aggravating "Blue Dog" Democrats further leftward, too. This can only result, though, if we work hard for it - harder even than we did to get Obama elected. That is why we cannot afford to dejectedly sit on our hands and not vote come next November. The stakes are crucial, my progressive friends. As I write this today, I wonder: are we on the left up to the task?
Cartoon: Hot take wave
31 minutes ago