Friday, October 16, 2009
Lefty's is proud to take a moment to recognize it's own mini-celebrity, writer, Andrea Watts, who was spotted on The Huffington Post homepage today!
Don't be fooled by the Sarah Palin disguise, and Joe the Plumber on her arm. We at Lefty's can assure you that this version of the wolf huntress is far more intelligent, doesn't really shoot wolves from helicopters, and "pals around with terrorists" like us.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
My take on Christie Pesavento's "Love, fear and the Nobel Peace Prize", from Tuesday's Observer
Apologies, dear readers, for this wall of text
Christie, I can tell you're no fan of President Obama, and I agree that it certainly does seem a little premature for the Nobel committee to award him a peace prize after being president for less than a year. However, it is equally premature to declare the president's efforts toward peace a failure. Not only did your most recent column do just that, it also came dangerously close to defending former president Bush's foreign policy (shudders). You might want to rethink that stance.
The problem with this approach to foreign affairs is that its obsessive fixation on rejecting the Bush doctrine also dismisses its strengths. Now I am not saying that Bush's foreign strategy was perfect, but it does not warrant the complete 180 degree turnaround that characterizes the current administration's strategy.The crux of your diatribe against U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration relies on the Bush-era idea that somehow by using diplomacy, making concessions, and (gasp) meeting with people we don't agree with is somehow a sign of weakness and an abandonment of our allies. Your three pieces of evidence of throwing "a number of dedicated American allies under the bus" are:
- The president criticized Israeli settlements in Gaza in front of the UN General Assembly
- The president postponed a meeting with the Dalai Lama until after meeting with the president of China (The Dalai Lama agreed to the postponement by the way, acknowledging the importance of American engagement with China)
- The president canceled plans to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, instead opting instead to employ a more practical defense system involving Aegis ships to protect NATO allies from Iranian ballistic missiles, thereby also avoiding an unnecessary conflict with Russia (Thanks to OB for already covering this story)
As if that was not enough, he then sold out the Czech Republic and Poland by scrapping a missile-defense security arrangement in accordance with Russian demands. Funny, I seem to recall a similar selling-out taking place in the 1930s involving Czechoslovakia, a naive British Prime Minister, and a tiny-mustached dictator except this time, Obama did not even get a signature on a piece of paper: he got nothing.Interestingly enough, whenever the subject of foreign policy comes up, neocons have only one case study to turn to: the Munich Agreement. I wonder sometimes if in International Relations 101 these people slept through the majority of the class, learned one name, Neville Chamberlain, and then went right back to sleep. Invariably, that's the only answer you hear from the right on any foreign policy discussion. Oh, you don't want to preemptively strike Iraq? What are you, Neville Chamberlain? You actually want to meet with our adversaries in the Middle East? Neville Chamberlain. Scaling back a missile defense system from the Czech Republic and Poland? Neville Chamberlain.
Christie, your unusual choice of the Munich case study for a foreign policy situation involving the U.S., Russia, and missiles makes me wonder if you had ever studied the Cold War. If you had, you'd probably be able to find a more appropriate comparison. I find this troublesome; as a senior political science student you should have learned this already. You do actually have to take at least one semester of IR before you graduate with the major.
Let's try a different analogy and see if it works better: The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with the Soviet Union pulling its missiles out of Cuba in exchange for the United States agreeing not to invade Cuba and pulling its Jupiter missiles out of Turkey. Last month, Barack Obama decided to forgo proposed nuclear defense shield plans in Poland and the Czech Republic. In exchange, Russia has canceled its plans to put missiles in Kaliningrad by the border of the European Union. That's not appeasement, that's called smart politics. It's a classic example of avoiding an arms race spiral. In the end, everyone is a little safer and the powers that be get to save some money on defense.
And while we're on the subject of abandoning our allies let's listen to what our allies are saying about the Nobel win.
Let's start with Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
“his hard work and his new vision on global relations, his will and efforts for creating friendly and good relations at a global level and global peace make him the appropriate recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.”How about the people we supposedly sold out? Here's what Polish president Lech Kaczyński had to say to Obama, in a congratulations telegram over the Nobel win.
“Mr. President, the Prize is a token of appreciation of your efforts aimed at enhancing peace and security and bolstering effective cooperation of the nations of the world for the good of all humanity. Your activity in the international forum has given many nations hope that a safer and more just world will be created – a world without terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”Doesn't sound like he's too concerned that his country's about to be invaded by Russia, does it?
How about Israel?
Israeli president and Nobel Prize winner Shimon Peres doesn't seem to have anything against Obama. Here's the full text of his letter of congratulations:
“Very few leaders, if at all, were able to change the mood of the entire world in such a short while with such profound impact. You provided the entire humanity with fresh hope, with intellectual determination, and a feeling that there is a lord in heaven and believers on earth. Under your leadership, peace became a real and original agenda. And from Jerusalem, I am sure the bells of engagement and understanding will ring again. You gave us a license to dream and act in a noble direction”.Pretty strong words from a guy whose country was thrown under the bus, eh?
How about Nobel Prize winner and "spurned" Obama guest, the Dalai Lama?
“I am pleased that the Nobel Committee has recognized your approach towards resolving international conflicts through the wisdom and power of dialogue."Resolving international conflicts through dialogue? That's no way to bring about peace. Hasn't this guy read Machiavelli? Why do they keep giving Nobel Peace Prizes to all these wimps?
Here's my favorite quote of the bunch. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had this to say:
“By awarding you its most prestigious prize, the Committee is rewarding your determined commitment to human rights, justice and spreading peace across the world, in accordance with the will of its founder Alfred Nobel. It also does justice to your vision of tolerance and dialogue between States, cultures and civilizations. Finally, it sets the seal on America's return to the heart of all the world's peoples."These quotes, especially that last one should give you an example of the importance of diplomacy. You see, it's not enough to be the biggest strongest country in the world. “Hard power” is good to have, yes, but the Bush approach to foreign policy cost us a lot in “soft power”, the power to influence other nations. To put it more simply, when Bush was president nobody liked us or wanted to help us out, so we got stuck doing things on our own, e.g. Iraq. Sometimes it takes more than sticks to get our way. Using the occasional carrot isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength.
You let out a rare nugget of truth in the beginning of your column, describing the Nobel committee's motivation for giving Obama the award: "We hate George W. Bush and his 'my way or the highway' approach to foreign policy."
Bingo. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Obama because he is not George Bush. This should give you an idea of how odious the past administrations policies really were, how antithetical they were to the pursuit of peace, and how alienating they were for our allies.
You see the problem with the “my way or the highway” approach is that most of the time your allies will end up picking the highway. If the president actually wanted to get more NATO troop commitments for the war in Afghanistan, or wanted more allies on board for sanctions against Iran, a little diplomacy can go a long way.
The receipt of this award is something the American people should be proud of. Unfortunately there are certain people out there, people who Rachel Maddow accurately described as suffering from “Obama derangement syndrome”, whose political angst precludes their being able to enjoy America's success. And yes, Obama had formally accomplished nothing in the 12 days between inauguration and nomination for the award. All the more reason why the United States should be proud. The Nobel committee was awarding us for something we did, not something he did. By electing this president we declared to the world that we reject the counterproductive policies of George Bush, which means that this award is really for all of us. We all deserve to pat ourselves on the back for this one. Except you. You probably voted for the other guy.
This little dose of hilarity is brought to you by Jed Lewison at DailyKos.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Not to be redundant after Tim Ryan's post, but I think it's nice to let our Lefty's readers know that the Observer has been covering their hard work. Here's a copy of the article from today's (10/12) paper. Thanks, Robert Singer!
The College Democrats of Notre Dame co-sponsored the "Health Care for All" rally in downtown South Bend Saturday to support health care reform, a cause they say will make for a wiser system of medical insurance - and a healthier and wealthier nation.
Attended by about 150 community residents and students, the rally kicked off at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Morris Performing Arts Center.
"It becomes unaffordable for our businesses to provide health care for the people who work for those businesses," Congressman Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who represents Indiana's 2nd District, said at the rally, arguing the current system is unsustainable in the long term.
The rally was intended to put political pressure on Indiana's Democratic elected officials, College Democrats co-president and junior Christopher Rhodenbaugh said.
"The rally is about showing the widespread support in South Bend and the surrounding area for health insurance reform, showing the members of Congress that this is something that people really need and want and anyone who votes for it, this community will support and volunteer for them when they come up for re-election," he said.
To demonstrate public support for health care reform, the College Democrats have been calling Indiana residents during a weekly phone bank. Their goal is to reach five thousand people before the health care bill is submitted for a vote, which should be in mid-November, Rhodenbaugh said.
Rally attendee Sean Fritts shared the story of a family tragedy, which he believed could have been avoided with affordable health insurance.
When his wife Jennifer sought medical care for a cold during her pregnancy, the hospital turned her away. The next day, feeling more ill, Jennifer went with Sean to a different hospital. There, they lied that they had insurance, and she was diagnosed with double pneumonia. But the finding came too late - 55 days later, she died in an intensive care unit.
Citing a recent study by Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance that found 45 thousand deaths each year are linked to a lack of health insurance, Rhodenbaugh voiced a moral argument for health care reform.
"We believe that health care is a human right and that it is a social justice issue and to have one of the wealthiest countries in world have 45 thousand people die every year because of lack of insurance is wrong," he said.
Sophomore Tim Ryan, who attended the rally, said that a for-profit system of health insurance is immoral.
"It's unethical," he said. "It's a violation of human rights."
Freshman James Crowe said any short-term costs will be outweighed by a system that cuts expenses in the long term.
"In the short run, it will send us into a deficit, but in the long run, it will be more efficient," he said.
"The fact that the public option means a government takeover" is a part of the debate that Rhodenbaugh believes is often misunderstood.
"President Obama said in the health care speech that with the public option, roughly five percent of the population will be getting health insurance from the government," he said.
About 15 people attended an adjacent counter-demonstration in opposition to public intervention in the health care system.
Tim Grimes, founder and assistant organizer of Michiana's "9/12 Project," said he believed President Barack Obama's health care initiative was part of a larger scheme by the current administration to seize absolute control of the government and implement Obama's "total socialistic views."
Grimes also saw a conspiracy in the program proposed to limit carbon emissions, claiming that "cap-and-trade is going to make Al Gore rich."
Rhodenbaugh said he was displeased with the debate's level of discourse thus far.
"I am unhappy with how the debate among the American people has gone about. The fact is that it's been very much reflex politics," he said. "I wish there was more thoughtful debate. A lot of people forget that Medicare is a successful government health insurance program."
Sunday, October 11, 2009
This is kind of random, but I liked it. A catchy autotune remix of Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking.
Yesterday afternoon, this writer and maybe about 15-20 other enlightened ND liberals made their way to the courtyard in front of the Morris PAC for a rally in support of our President's healthcare reform plan. Naturally, the teabaggers could not allow such an event to go on without making sure we knew their feelings, which were well summed up by one man's hilariously misspelled sign "Oboma lies". If I ever meet this Oboma, I'll make sure not to trust him. Another protester simply covered her sign with pictures of guns. Disturbing. But I digress.
After an "interesting" (but passionate) take on our national anthem, the speakers began to take the stage. Congressman Joe Donnelly made a surprise appearance. It was nice to see him finally (at least by all appearances) choosing the right side. He's not necessarily a leader in the House, but every vote is important. Another elected official,
Congressman State Representative David Niezgodski, showed up and gave a refreshingly impassioned speech about the importance of real reform. It was great to hear from an elected official that actually listens to the needs of the people, rather than the lobbyists. Other speakers included leaders of the Latin American Union, the AFL-CIO, and a woman with complications from MS who, despite having insurance, is still paying $1,000 a month out of pocket. Not easy to do when only living off social security and disability pension. She gave my favorite line of the afternoon: "Death panels? We already have death panels. They're called insurance companies."
But by far the most moving moment was the man who told us the story of how he lost his wife. She was 24, pregnant, and without insurance, when she came down with a mysterious illness. They went to a doctor, but because of her lack of insurance she was told there was little they could do, given an inhaler, and sent home. The next day her condition visibly worsened, so she was taken to another hospital and put on a respirator. At the cost of $22,000 a day. With no insurance. (At this point, the man was understandably unable to continue, so a woman whose relation to the family I did not catch continued the story for him.) Naturally, no average citizen is unable to sustain that sort of payment without assistance, so she was taken off the respirator. The baby was lost. Then she passed away. Leaving her husband and her two and a half year old child. Her memorial service was yesterday. Her husband came from the service to the healthcare rally. You can't hear a story like that and not choke up. When something like this happens in a country as wealthy and supposedly morally upstanding as America, the system is broken. Healthcare is a basic human right, and if we are unable to pass meaningful reform, then we will be hearing more stories like this every day.