Why I’m voting for Steve Driehaus

I listened to an On Point episode the other day where a Utah voter said, “On any other election I’d probably vote for Bennet (Democratic candidate).  But I think this election is a referendum on Barack Obama, so I have to, HAVE TO vote for Ken Buck.”

I don’t get that.  I don’t get how Obama has been so vilified as an extremist for the things he’s done so far.  I mean, for all the “socialist” rhetoric Limbaugh and Beck have been throwing around, you’d think the guy was more red than the Japanese rising sun.  But Obama’s got folks on the far left screaming at him that he hasn’t done anywhere near what they expected from him, and Solidarity US (a socialist organization) said flat-out,

“(The Tea Party) has particularly succeeded in branding Barack Obama and his policies as radical leftist – while the real Obama, as we know, is far from the “left wing” of the Democratic Party let alone the socialist left.”

Look, I’ve got my issues with the policies of the Obama administration, but he’s far, far, far from the leftist he’s portrayed.

I’ll simply say this.  I think this election should be a referendum on Wall Street’s power and the deregulation that led to it.  It was the breaking down of walls between savings and investment banks (see Glass-Steagle Act) that allowed them to play with people’s money so openly over the last number of years without fear of retribution.  And a number of persons made money hand over fist both before the financial collapse and afterwards.

But the impatience and short memory of the American people has  made the fundamental reasons why the American economy collapsed a distant memory.  In fact, Ohioans are so Alzheimers-affected that John Kasich, a Lehman Brothers exec not only chose to run for governor but currently is polling a point ahead of incumbent governor Ted Strickland.  I’ll tell you, that blows every circuit in my brain.  Which leads me to why I’m voting for Steve Driehaus.

I met Driehaus for the first time on the first floor of our building.  I talked with him either by myself or with Matt Dawson for twenty minutes straight that evening.  We questioned him on his view of the healthcare bill, his view of regulation, and his responsibility to listen to the common person.  More than any other politician I’ve ever met, Driehaus impressed me.  Flat-out impressed me.  Why?

First, I care deeply about the issue of abortion.  Driehaus does too.  In fact, he cares enough that he joined with a group of other Democrats who refused to vote yes on the health-care reform bill until they had assurances that no federal money would be spent on carrying out abortions.  For doing this, they drew the ire of liberals like the powerful Nancy Pelosi.  And as a freshman representative, Driehaus surely lost some possibility of plum assignments or some classic Washington back-scratching because he decided to have integrity and stand up as a moral leader.  I was encouraged by Ron Sider’s call from ESA before the vote that healthcare is a human rights issue and that abortion is a human rights issue and to not yield in our convictions and advocacy for either.  Driehaus stood up for both, and I deeply respect him for that position.  And his position cost him with the Democratic leadership.  He dressed up what he said a little in our conversation, but I saw/heard it in his eyes.  He took a shot for that one from both sides.

We also talked about financial regulation.  Driehaus stated that he’s committed to “sensible regulation.”  He explained that businesses need the ability to run without punitive regulations, but also need the leavening hand of public policy to encourage them to act for the common good…or at least to have some real discipline when they inevitably get selfish. He wasn’t calling us to go read the Little Red Book or occupy the GE plant in Evendale for socialist purposes.  He was simply saying that business is a necessary part of our economy, and they need limits.

I see Steve Chabot signs around here that say, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and “Revitalize the economy!”  I agree with those vague statements, but I ask, “Chabot, I’ve only been around this district for about two years, but do you think I have amnesia? Do you think that if you say something three times, I will magically forget that you participated in the sweeping deregulation of the financial services sector, which was the primary reason people lost their “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and entered “Unemployment! Unemployment! Unemployment!”? I know you’re counting on Ohioans to be so dense and puffy-eyed from the last Extreme Makeover Home Edition that we don’t remember this, but I do.

I really really hope people in our district somehow magically remember Chabot’s role in this terrible mess, because if he wins tomorrow, a very very good man with great leadership integrity and moral rooting will leave Washington.  Driehaus is a politician sorely needed in Washington; one with the guts to stand up and be counted on the great issues of our day, backslaps from Pelosi and Hoyer be damned.  After Driehaus spoke at the Faith and Values Summit here in Cincinnati, Matt turned to me and said

“Driehaus is a stud.”
I responded, “No, Driehaus is an absolute freaking stud.”

Please, Ohio 1st Districtans.  Remember.  For the good of our country and a leader we can be proud of.

Vote Driehaus tomorrow.

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Baby don’t let ’em put a name on you

I read this article about Senator Scott Brown today that reinforced some educated hunches I have about him.

Evidently the “Tea Party Express” tour stopped in Boston, MA today and Brown, who the Tea Party supporters go out of their way to say they elected, was conspicuously not there.  In Boston no less, the home of the “original” tea party, which persons would say presents every opportunity for Sen. Brown to enjoy the adulation of the crowd and prove his conservative commitment….yet he didn’t show.

Official release from a spokesperson,

“While he is unable to attend Wednesday’s event, the senator appreciates the strong grassroots support he received from a wide range of individuals, including those who are part of the tea party movement. He hopes they have a successful event,” spokesman Colin Reed said in a statement.

Translation: “We don’t want to fully identify with these people because we find them polarizing and Senator Brown is not arch-conservative like them, even though they cast him in that light during the campaign for the seat.”

Brown’s senatorial victory on January 19th was hailed across the country as a referendum on Pres. Obama’s policy initiatives, with persons variously saying “The people have spoken,” and “Obama better watch out!”  But I had a sneaking sense throughout Brown’s campaign against Martha Coakley to replace Ted Kennedy that his momentum and eventual victory had very little to do with Barack  Obama and very much to do with Martha Coakley and Scott Brown.

First of all, Coakley campaigned as if she “knew” the election was a rubber-stamp for her obvious accession to the Seat.  Coakley famously said in response to challenges she was being to passive in her campaign, “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?” That ridiculous comment (You’re in Boston, Martha, not Miami), together with commenting that Curt Schilling was a Yankee fan (again, he of the famous bloody sock forever enthroned in Red Sox lore), combined with long stretches of non-campaigning, to show a woman out of touch with the people she was claiming to represent.

Her opponent, Scott Brown instead worked his butt to the bone to win Massachusetts voters.  He did shake hands at Fenway Park in the cold, he did drive his personal truck all over the state, he did shake hands, kiss babies, make speeches, and get his agenda and his aspirations out there, Coakley didn’t, and he beat her.  The combination of Coakley’s blahness and Brown’s commitment was striking, and I think Massachusetts voters saw that.

What is another reason I find the election to be less about Obama and more about Brown? Brown’s proven political positions.  As conservative commentator Kathleen Parker commented in the Washington Post,

In any case, Brown’s more compelling package concerns issues, his positions on which are not so easily categorized along party lines. He supports a woman’s right to choose, for instance, though he opposes partial-birth abortion and federal funding for abortion and believes in strong parental notification laws. He opposes same-sex marriage but believes the decision should be left to states. He would not vote to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act but does not favor a federal constitutional amendment declaring marriage as between a man and a woman.

On fiscal matters, he favors tax cuts, opposes the current government expansion and would oppose a second stimulus bill. He has praised President Obama for both his decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan as well as taking his time arriving at that decision. He criticized the president for being “too slow” in responding to the panty-bomber and thinks we should treat terrorists as war criminals, trying them in military courts.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall conservatives panting from their screams that Obama’s “agenda was rejected” ever mentioning that Brown was pro-choice by their absolute standards. I don’t recall them discussing that Brown isn’t hell-bent on constitutional amendments against homosexual marriage. And those are the two massive issues that most arch-conservatives can’t get past to see the rest of someone’s politics.

Brown since has gone out of his way to praise Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator John Kerry in their work with him on the jobs bill that he supported with a slew of Democrats.  Someone seeking to self-identify with the tea partiers would know that ANY positive comment about Harry Reid would earn them a tarring and feathering by tea partiers.  And in response to comments by some that he was either a liberal, conservative, or moderate Republican, he responded, “I’m a Scott Brown Republican.”

I’m more and more convinced Scott Brown is a better, more wiser politician than pundits would like to paint him as.  He doesn’t fit the labels perfectly, he thinks for himself, he is willing to break party lines early in his term instead of being McConnell’s yes man lapdog.  Don’t reduce Brown to a “referendum on Barack Obama.”  Let Brown speak for himself.

Kudos to Brown for holding Tea Partiers at arm’s length.  He doesn’t need their extremism to identify himself, and doesn’t need to smile and wave with their hero, Sarah Palin, on his side for a good photo op and conservative check-in-the-box.  You go, Scott Brown.

An open letter on behalf of my brothers and sisters at Coal River Mountain

salazar jackson

I wrote this letter this morning to policy-makers as a part of my responsibility as a citizen to participate in our governance.  Massey Energy has begun blasting on Coal River Mountain, a furtherance of their immoral crusade to make a tremendous amount of money at the expense of the people of the Coal River area, the ecosystem, wise industrial policy, our society, and the world at large.

Ancient Jewish teachers often reminded us that the actions of one are intimately connected to us all through sayings like, “Those who save one life, save the world.”  In Massey’s case, it is, “Those who destroy one life, destroy the world.”  Help Massey emerge from their sickness through writing persons with the power to make this stop. Join me by clicking this link to access the form letter to send to the EPA, Office of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Feel free to use some of the ways I personalized the letter so the recipients could know I care about specifics beyond the form letter.

Secs. Jackson and Salazar, Director Sutley, and the leadership of the Army Corps of Engineers,

I, and many friends, are writing to ask that you put a stop to mountaintop removal coal mining operations on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia, the area’s last mountain untouched by mountaintop removal.

The blasting not only threatens communities in the vicinity, it will also destroy a project that had rallied local residents as a prime opportunity to create permanent jobs and renewable energy. Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to house a 328-megawatt wind farm. Every blast reduces the existing potential for clean energy, permanent jobs, and a stronger and more diverse regional economy.

President Obama spoke forcefully during his campaign of the deep need for us to invest in a sustainable future; both in energy generation (connected with energy independence) and, more generally, a way of doing industry that unites communities with good jobs and a more healthy environment over the long-term. It is a reminder that each of us is “our brother’s keeper.”

Furthermore, the blasting is occurring near the Brushy Fork slurry impoundment, which holds 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry. Should the blasting cause the impoundment to fail, nearby residents would have just minutes to evacuate before they were overtaken by a 50-foot wall of coal slurry that could cost more than 1,000 lives. Not only does blasting near this unlined impoundment increase the risk of failure, but it will almost certainly cause more of the toxic coal slurry to enter the groundwater. In nearby Prenter Hollow, dozens of residents have become ill from drinking water contaminated with coal slurry.

Mr. Salazar, Mrs. Sutley, and Mrs. Jackson specifically, you have the power to direct your agencies to work together to halt the blasting, defend the safety of the nation’s citizens, and preserve some of Appalachia’s most valuable resources. I anticipate at least hearing back from your offices to know this is a concern for you, because my brothers and sisters in West Virginia don’t have the luxury to wait this one out. “We the people” of the United States need policies that are forward-looking, sustainable, and wise in shaping the nation. Please step up to the plate on this issue.

Thank you,

Nathan Myers

An end to racism?

sonia-sotomayor-barack-obama

I had a discussion about a week or so ago at Cracker Barrel with some folks who came to eat who are from New Orleans.  Our conversation rambled over several different topics, but we eventually settled on the topic of race.  That phase of the conversation lasted about 15 minutes, and touched on the racial elements of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, on racial progress in America, and what we saw as the future.

The man of a married couple stated at the beginning of the conversation that he believed racism is on the way out in America, and that the distinguishing lines in the America of the future will be social class and not race.  Yet over the course of his talking, he constantly referred to blacks and Hispanics as “them,” as in

“They, like it or not, were the ones doing most of the looting post-Katrina in New Orleans.”

And he finished his contribution by saying, “Well, we’ll see now that they’re in positions of prominence, with a black man as President and a Latina in the Supreme Court.  Now they can’t use excuses anymore.”

My thoughts.  Constantly using the term “them” and “they” over the course of trying to make the argument that racism is dying is kind of like a person claiming to transition to vegetarianism while eating a medium-rare steak.  The supposed goal doesn’t fit the present reality.  And second, how’s this for a suggestion.

Since white men have gotten a shot at the presidency forty-three times before a black man finally attained it, how about we judge “them” after the forty-third black president.  And since there were 110 judges before Sotomayor, with 108 of them being white men, how about we wait until, oh, about 50 Hispanic judges before we judge “them.”  Come to think of it, unless we’re claiming to desire an end to racism while maintaining stereotypes, how about we refuse to judge “them” as exemplars of “their” entire race and judge “them” by the content of their character.  Then maybe racism will fade, as “us” and “them” will be absorbed into a larger “us” that includes us all.

How’s that for a suggestion?

Obama’s wise truth-telling on peace in Israel/Palestine

I continue to be further swayed by President Obama that he is more wise, more of a leader, and more of a moral voice than I believed he was in his campaign. On the morning of the election November 4th, as I wavered on how to vote, I finally decided to vote for Obama based on his great capacity to bring disparate parties together to listen, to speak honestly to one another, and move forward after hearing one another. It is this capacity for building trust and respect that I found most necessary following the disastrous foreign policy of George W. Bush and the continuing political acrimony in America.

This week, Obama gave an address that should be much-quoted, listened to, and discussed. It sets the table for greater cooperation and understanding between the Middle East and the West, better interfaith dialogue (especially between Muslims and Christians), and a more deep respect for our fellow human beings outside the borders of individual nations. I quote the segment of the speech on Israel/Palestine because of its profound wisdom.

 

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines continued efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.

President Barack Obama
Cairo, Egypt
June 4, 2009

Sensationalism vs. Wise Perspective

I commented in my prior post a couple days ago the thought that we need to make

A commitment to finding sources of information that inform rather than entertain, educate rather than play with our emotions, and give us complexity rather than black-and-white generalizations. In other words, turn Fox News and MSNBC and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Air America and Huffington Post off and choose to direct our attention to reputable sources like National Public Radio and Public Television and (gasp) BBC.

I happen to respect Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio more than nearly any governmental leader.  In fact, I’m a Facebook fan of his, which I guess cements my status in a really cool, hip way or really dorky way, whichever way you look at it. Anyways, if you’re a “fan” of a group on Facebook, from time to time you get sent updates from whoever they are.  On Tuesday, I received an update from Dennis of an interview of him by MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell that underscores how ridiculous our news shows have gotten and how relentlessly they seek ratings. 

The video interview, embedded below, came about as a result of President Obama’s announcement that the military would be drawing down troops in Iraq to between 35,000 to 50,000 troops by 2010.  This is good news, but as Dennis Kucinich mentioned almost immediately, is not excellent news because tens of thousands of troops remain, risking American life and infringing on Iraqi sovereignty.  His comment upon hearing the annoucement was 

I support President Obama for taking a step in the right direction in Iraq, but I do not think that his plan goes far enough. You cannot leave combat troops in a foreign country to conduct combat operations and call it the end of the war. You can’t be in and out at the same time…America must determine at some point to end the occupation, close the bases and bring the troops home. We must bring a conclusion to this sorry chapter in American history where war was waged under false pretense against an innocent people. Taking troops out of Iraq should not mean more troops available for deployment in other operations.

Sound reasonable to you? Well, how do you think the media spun this statement? From this interview, you can see a bit of where they went with it, making it sound like Kucinich is being insubordinate and trying to start a firefight with Obama and his leadership…but Kucinich repeatedly elevates the level of discourse from playground to civilized discussion.

Norah:  “President Obama is trying to end the war.  Why are you criticizing him?”

Kucinich: “Well, I’m not criticizing him for trying to end the war. I’m saying that he has made a step in the right direction..He’s taken a step in the right direction, but I don’t think you can call this a withdrawal. It’s a phase-down, but it’s not a phase-out. You’re either in our you’re out, and right now we’re still in.”

Norah: “You’re either in our your out…it’s not a withdrawal…this plan doesn’t go far enough…these are all your words, and you’re saying that’s not criticizing the President? It sounds like you’re criticizing the man who won this election on ending the war in Iraq, and you’re saying, “not good enough.”

Kucinich: “Well, you know, again, I think we have to credit the President for taking a step in the right direction.”

Watch the video and tell me if you see what I’m seeing.  Because I see a black-and-white, snide, “gotcha,” ratings hound anchor and a reasoned, wise man who brings in historical knowledge to bear (in Afghanistan), refuses the definition of support he’s confronted with (as if he should wave an Obama flag and cheer every time the President opens his mouth), and offers a genuine different perspective.

Obama to take oath of office using Lincoln Bible…

Link to article here.

Quote from article: “President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in,’ said Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Emmett Beliveau. ‘The President-elect is committed to holding an Inauguration that celebrates America’s unity, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage.’ ”

 

From Jesus, Obama’s Lord,

Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

 

I like that Obama wants to style his presidency after Lincoln, because Lincoln was a mostly virtuous man.  In light of that, I guess the idea of swearing on Lincoln’s Bible gives him chills up and down his spine.  I don’t like that Obama (and our entire court system and government) thinks it’s ok to swear; on the Bible, the book that holds the above words of Jesus, no less!