Posts tagged ‘Barack Obama’

no more gop elephant

The thing is, to return our country to a normal two-party system we need to start by recognizing that GOP no longer resembles an American political party.

In organization it is much more like a modern army at war. Its declared enemy is just one man, President Barack Obama. One in the Supreme Court, reliably churning out new law (with that one amazing exception) to It has powerful allies, not least the Gang of Four Plus speed the GOP’s conquests and fund its campaigns. It requires its front-line troops in Congress to sign a pledge never under any circumstances to vote for any tax increase, thus making compromise impossible. It destroys unions where it can — as in Wisconsin — and chips away at their power wherever they have any. And it flexes its political muscle in arenas generally thought of as nonpartisan, such as school boards, library boards and so on.

Unfortunately for the world we live in, ceding so much power to a political party means that that party has an inescapable obligation to conduct itself in ways beneficial to the general good. Unfortunately the Republican Party is enslaved to the interests of fossil fuels. They cannot resist the tragical changes in our world’s weather, since it is that burning which causes them.

The only hope for the world is to terminate their control of the forces which are dooming us to worsening storms, droughts and spoilage of our natural resources. That is not arguable. It is a fact of our lives which we have lived with for steadily worsening conditions for generations, and can’t afford to let go on.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


Remember that great old black-and-white movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? That was the one where Jimmy Stewart, the Boy Scout leader who becomes a senator by accident, discovers what a gang of crooks many politicians are and filibusters until their misdeeds are exposed. It’s a great moment in the movie — unfortunately not quite as great when the filibuster is used in real life to paralyze action.

For instance, there’s what is going on in the Senate right now. A few Republicans in the Senate don’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that Congress voted into law over their objections. Now they’ve got a second shot at crippling it.

By Constitutional law it is the President’s duty to appoint someone to head it, and the Senate’s to vote, aye or nay, to confirm. When the President did what the Constitution requires and passed the name of his nominee to the Senate he learned that one senator was blocking it by filibuster. So the headless Bureau can’t function as well as it should, and “financial protection” for many Americans is still just a promise.

A handful of senators have pulled the same trick on scores of other nominees, particularly judges. There are nearly a hundred federal courthouses sitting vacant today because a senator has filibustered a veto on voting for them. This has caused some real hardships, not just for judge-appointees who sometimes can’t take other jobs before their confirmation hearings (are they supposed to apply for unemployment insurance?) but for many persons up for federal trial. The Constitution promises them a speedy hearing, since “justice delayed is justice denied.” But any single senator can delay a trial indefinitely.

Most Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, will admit that the filibuster rule needs to be fixed, since it is just as immoral when the roles of the two parties are reversed, as it was in the Bush years. But that doesn’t stop almost all Republicans from chiding the President for not getting enough done, even when it’s their own party that does its best to tie his hands.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama.

When an election is near, politicians do their best to avoid doing or saying anything unusually evil or asinine because they know that people are watching. At times like the present, though, they know that most voters are sick of the subject and aren’t paying much attention any more.

So let’s fool them and pay attention. What I am doing, for example, is writing a letter, essentially the same letter to each individual politician in an office I voted on — from President and U. S. Senator down to local councils. It goes like this:

Dear President Obama:

First, let me congratulate you on your victory in the 2012 election, and I wish you the best of luck in your task of trying to fix some of the things that are wrong with areas of our government. I know there are many important questions that must be resolved, but there is one — in many ways, the most important of all — that has fallen through the cracks. It threatens the future of our whole world. And yet in all the debate, almost everywhere in our country, it was hardly mentioned.

If we don’t find some way of lessening the violent storms, droughts, floods and other consequences of our reckless tampering with the very air we breathe we endanger everything we attempt. Nearly every legitimate scientific organization in the world has joined in the warning that the inhabitability of the Earth cannot survive our forever increasing the carbon load in the atmosphere.

May I ask, then, what new steps or plans you will offer to slow the endless burning of fossil fuels?

Yours sincerely,

Frederik Pohl

Vote Earth!


A few days ago I sent the blog staff a short message to print. It said that to vote for Republicans at this time is to vote for more and worse natural disasters. The message was short and, I fear, a bit cryptic, because areas all around us were losing power and time to vote is running out for everyone.

Now I would like to make clearer the case why voting this year for a Republican, any Republican, is equivalent to voting for global warming, and thus for more and bigger storms of all kinds.

First, there is no real doubt that global warming is real and that its cause is profligate burning of fossil fuels. Essentially everyone who has made a real study of the matter has been driven to that conclusion, including, I am sure, a substantial fraction of those in newsrooms, editorial offices, advertising agencies and others who are paid to lie about it.

Second, there will be a “tipping point” at some time in the fairly near future when the climate changes will become both irreversible and chronically catastrophic. It is on the date of this point that most of what disagreement there is among scientists shows up. My own opinion, which I cannot defend because there isn’t enough evidence to prove any particular date, is that we have at least five, and maybe twenty-five, years to start.

Prudence tells me that we shouldn’t wait until the last minute to get started. We may not have even five years. It’s even possible that it’s already too late to remedy the irrevocable tipping.

And what does party affiliation have to do with finding someone to take charge and begin real remedial action?

The Democratic Party was, a few administrations ago, the party of conservation. It can be again. Barack Obama has a despicable record in this department, but that may be due to a political belief that the forces arrayed against conservation were too strong to tackle head-on in the face of an election, and that if Obama’s political strength grew with public experience of Obamacare and other new factors, a second term might make serious changes possible not only in defeating global warming but perhaps even in cleaning up the worst excesses in banking, taxing income and other areas.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, cannot clean up any of those evils. In particular it cannot lead the nation away from dependence on fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas and coal simply own the Republican Party.

Further, it is not enough simply to re-elect Obama. If the Republicans in Congress continue to dominate the House they will continue to do their best to thwart the Democratic administration in every way possible. It’s what they do.

If you haven’t yet voted, then, my advice is:

Hold your nose and vote the straight Democratic ticket.

At least it is possible that they will do the right thing. With Romney and a Republican Congress it is not.

Second case:

“I already voted. What can I do now?”

There are two things. If you voted Republican, you can tell people you know who haven’t yet voted that you think you made a serious mistake.

And you can call any legislator you voted for and ask him what he plans to do about global warming.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans were made homeless in the Great Depression, leading to precarious "Hoovervilles."

Hundreds of thousands of Americans were made homeless in the Great Depression, leading to precarious "Hoovervilles."

I remember The Depression pretty well, not only because I saw some of it with my own eyes (I was 11 in 1931) but because I did a lot of research on it for a book I never published. What you youngsters don’t know is that it came in two halves, like a football game.

First half was The Crash, in 1929. As the country was gradually beginning to try to get over that, along came the second half, around 1931. That’s when European banks began to fail, and the contagion spread to American banks, so that when Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1932, America’s banks were going bust so fast that the first thing he did after he was sworn was issue an executive order for a national bank holiday so teams of examiners could see which ones were about to fold, and keep them closed until they could be shored up. Or if they couldn’t, they would at least pay back part of what they owed their depositors. That was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as getting nothing, and the banks that stayed open had the confidence of their depositors, because the weak sisters had been screened out.

If we do come to that over Europe’s present tawdry banking messes — it seems that their bankers aren’t any more honorable than our own — I think Obama, if re-elected, would do something like what Roosevelt did, with, I hope, similar results. Mitt Romney I do think likely to perform more like Herbert Hoover. That is, urge everybody to be calm and not make things worse, while he watched the banks go under, one by one.

Oh — and speaking of Europe’s banking scandals, one of the first things Romney did on arriving in London was to go to a fund-raising gathering of London bankers. A number of them appear to be implicated in the rate-fixing Libor scandal. As long as they’ll give him money, Romney doesn’t seem to care.

Barack Obama

The GOP will do anything to defeat Obama.

Ever wonder why the Republicans have spent the last four years doing everything they can to handicap President Obama, even at the risk of throwing us into a full-scale Depression, as when the ultra-right Republicans did their best to sabotage compromises that were needed to save the country from bankruptcy? It isn’t just cause they want to win an election. It’s because that whole Tea Party-Republican alliance is threatened.

Gene Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times, which occasionally gets picked up by one of the Chicago papers. Listen to the story of a longtime Republican Congressional aide, Mike Lofgren, who recently quit his job, as Lyons told it in a recent column:

In his farewell message, Lofgren explained, “The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult,” and added, “For Obama to succeed where Bush had failed had the power to reduce the GOP to a powerless bloc of neo-Conservative whiners for a generation. So Obama had to fail at all costs.”