The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama

Iowa State Senators: “Grassley Should Start Listening to Iowans”

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The State Capitol of Iowa, featuring its golde...
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The Des Moines Register:

“The will of Iowans and the rest of America is marching steadily toward reform.”

The following is a guest opinion on health care reform by State Senators Jack Hatch and Joe Bolkcom that appeared in Saturday’s Des Moines Register. [I encountered it as a reprint at Blog for Iowa – Monte]

As we head into August, a few Washington lawmakers are standing in the way of health-care reform that America desperately needs. While patients are denied crucial treatment and families go bankrupt from medical bills, Sen. Charles Grassley and a cadre of his Senate colleagues have provoked a stir by steadfastly refusing to support the most essential piece of President Barack Obama’s proposal: a public health-insurance option. We think it’s time for Grassley to start listening to Iowans and work with the president for real health-care reform.

A public health-insurance option would introduce much needed competition into the health-insurance market, extending quality care to as many as 300,000 Iowans, while providing incentives to insurance companies to offer their current customers a better deal. Unfortunately, in a July 30 Des Moines Register editorial, Grassley said he opposes giving Americans the choice of a public option “because it is a pathway to a completely government-run system.” Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted: A prophetic voice in the healthcare debate

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Time for the religious and humanist communities to insist that reform itself is not enough: Time for the plan that gives “‘care’ the priority over ‘profits'” and over “‘what will fly in D.C.'” (“simply code words for ‘what those congressional reps who are dependent on the contributions of the health care industry are willing to allow to get through their committees.’”)
clipped from www.tikkun.org

Engraving of the Prophet Amos by Gustave Doré ...

[T]he Religious Community has a responsibility to be a Prophetic Voice, and to insist on the approach that is most consistent with actually giving “care” the priority over “profits” for the health care profiteers, and saying that that must be the principle guiding the health care debate.

That would mean endorsing Congressman John Conyers’ HR 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act, insisting that the media give attention to the ways that that kind of “single-payer” plan would be both more cost efficient and provide better care, and insisting that the discussion be shifted to the issue of care rather than “what will fly in D.C.,” which is simply code words for “what those congressional reps who are dependent on the contributions of the health care industry are willing to allow to get through their committees.”

Obama has cut the ground from under the progressive perspective by convincing them all to be “realistic” […]
he faces no counter-pressure … apart from the pressures to his right […]
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Many other good points are made in Rabbi Lerner’s post. I recommend it.

I want love to win the day.  I want care for the least to matter more than riches for the CEO.  And I see no ethical reason to compromise with those who protect millionaires.

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Public Option is bipartisan – everywhere but Congress

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{{w|Chuck Grassley}}, U.S. Senator from Iowa.

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Fivethirtyeight.com observes that over 50% of Republicans and 74% of Americans overall favor a strong public insurance option.  Then, an obvious conclusion: The public option has strong bipartisan support.

1/2 of Republicans and 3/4 of all Americans.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

But in the Congress, dogmatic opinions prevent such unity.

So here’s an irony:  America is in pretty good agreement.  But we can’t get our Congress to go along with us.

Matter of fact, there are threats of removing that which we want in order to gain the approval of Congressional holdouts—most notably, Iowa’s Senator Grassley (who, like most of the holdouts, is among the top recipients of health care industry contributions—Mr. Grassley is fifth among Senators).

Should we allow Congress to deny what the people overwhelmingly desire in order to please industry-funded Senators?

Write ’em.

clipped from www.fivethirtyeight.com
the two most credible surveyors of public opinion on this subject, the Kaiser Family Foundation and CBS/New York Times, have both found that at least half of self-identified Republicans favor a well-described public option.

So the question must be asked: if Barack Obama wants to conduct a bipartisan approach to universal health care, what does that mean in terms of the public option? Killing or watering down the public option in order to (maybe) attract the support of Sen. Chuck Grassley, and not much of anybody else in the congressional Republican ranks? Or maintaining it to appeal to rank-and-file Republicans, who favor it despite the views of their “leaders” and the polarized atmosphere in Washington?
ultimately, “bipartisanship” on health care may actually mean looking past congressional Republicans and pitting them against their own supporters across the country, particularly on the public option.
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Robt Reich: What you can do

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Excellent advice!
clipped from tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com

“What Can I Do?”

Someone recently approached me … asking “what can I do?” […]
I soon realized the question was … what can I do about the way things are going in Washington?
People who voted for Barack Obama tend to fall into one of two camps: Trusters … and cynics […]
In my view, both positions are wrong. A new president — even one as talented and well-motivated as Obama — can’t get a thing done in Washington unless the public is actively behind him.
As FDR said … “Maam, I want to do those things, but you must make me.”
We must make Obama do the right things. Email, write, and phone the White House. Do the same with your members of Congress. Round up others to do so. Also: Find friends and family members in red states who agree with you, and get them fired up to do the same. For example, if you happen to have a good friend or family member in Montana, you might ask him or her to write Max Baucus and tell him they want a public option included in any healthcare bill.
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Just to the right of these words, under the heading “Contact” are links that will take you to your Members of Congress and the President. Go for it.

Yes, we can.

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Need some English study?

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Check this out: Pat Buchanan and white supremacist Peter Brimelow advocate English-only initiatives at a “Conferenece.”
clipped from thinkprogress.org

Under Misspelled Banner, Buchanan And White Nationalist Brimelow Argue For English-Only Initiatives

Pat Buchanan and Peter Brimelow
On Saturday, Pat Buchanan hosted a conference to discuss how Republicans can regain a majority in America. During one discussion, panelists suggested supporting English-only initiatives as a prime way of attracting “working class white Democrats.” The discussion ridiculed Judge Sotomayor for the fact that she studied children’s classics to improve her grammar while attending college. The panelists also suggested that, without English as the official language, President Obama would force Americans to speak Spanish.
One salient feature of the event was the banner hanging over the English-only advocates. The word conference was spelled “Conferenece.”
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Why hold back on Iran? Here’s why.

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A good friend of mine asks an important question regarding President Obama’s low-key response to the Iranian election crisis:

…if things go back to normal isn’t all of the bloodshed-the woman bleeding out in the street for all to see in streaming video-all for nothing? […]

I am trying to be a lover of peace…but it is so hard when people are being killed at the hand of a dictator and watching the most influential man in the free world be silent.

I’m truly glad he asked.  Here is my response:

Barack Obama

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1. Though perhaps not well covered by all news sources, Obama has been far from silent. Here are excerpts from his statement on Saturday:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

See the whole statement at Obama statement on Iran violence.

2. Those who understand Iran well are begging the USA not to go further than that. Even conservative Morning Joe agrees:

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 19:  Former Congressman J...

SCARBOROUGH: All we would do is undermine those people in the street, who the second that they are attached to the United States of America, the country after all that’s been known in Iran as the great Satan since 1979, we will undermine their cause … It’s so shortsighted I find it stunning. […]

What would John McCain and Lindsey Graham specifically have the president say? All of those people that are emailing in and telling me that I’m being liberal? Oh really? I’m being liberal? No I think it’s called restraint. Showing a little bit of restraint. Looking at the battlefield in front of you and not just running up Pickett’s Charge and getting gunned down. If you want to feel good about yourself — and you can only feel good about yourself by screaming about the evils of Iran — fine do that. But our leaders in Washington don’t need to do that because people will be routed in the street the second they are identified with the United States of America.

3. Here’s the core issue: American support is the kiss of death for reform movements in countries like Iran. Ever since the CIA took down the Iranian democracy in 1953, the parties in power now have seen anything American as a threat to national security. If the President says one word that can be construed to suggest that the USA is behind the reformers, the Iranian government will believe it has a national security reason for radical, brutal action against them. It will give them an excuse to a) annihilate the movement (the killing could become far worse than it is now), and b) ignore the reformer’s issues and write them off as foreign-inspired nonsense.

Here’s how the President said it on CBS’s Early Show yesterday:

In an interview with CBS’ Early Show this morning, Obama responded similarly to Scarborough, saying the U.S. has to guard against being used as a scapegoat by the Iranian regime:

“The last thing that I want to do,” the president said, “is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we’ve already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the — Iranian people are seeking to — let their voices be heard.”

McCain and Graham are growing increasingly isolated, as Republicans in Congress and conservatives in the media endorse Obama’s measured response.

4. It’s a deadly game. Obama could win himself a lot of public support by really giving it to Iran. But, thank God, he knows the world well enough to resist the temptation to do that.

For some reason, American foreign policy has often been tone-deaf, and almost intentionally so. Those who ridicule Obama for the hugely positive receptions he gets in Europe often say, “Who cares what other nations think?” And that becomes an excuse for deep ignorance of the impact of our actions on other nations. We get starry-eyed about our own goodness, and our foreign policy becomes one of doing what feels good to us.

As a result, we often make situations worse rather than better. In this case, understanding Iran means walking more softly rather than letting it all hang out. Here are some historical reasons why:

5. The Bush Administration accidentally torpedoed the reform movement in 2005. A reformer, either Rafsanjani, was the president before Ahmadinejad. He offered to open up relations with the USA, and to try to work together on Iraq, even writing a letter to Bush to propose it.

Bush, ever un-aware of the impact of his actions, saw Iran as an enemy and snubbed the letter (not even responding, I believe). Iranians knew it, blamed their President for having no clout with the West, and replaced the reform-minded President with hard-liner Ahmadinejad. Bye-bye reform, thank you USA.

6. And that is typical of the history of US policy toward Iran. Heavy-handed moves toward control, starting even prior to 1953 (in a move to force Iran to sell us oil at, perhaps, 10% of its value), are what Iranians expect from us. “Here they go again” is what they guard against. We’ve made that bed, and now we lie in it, having virtually disabled ourselves.

uk66.jpeg

Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr

We see America as good. They see America as the country that robbed them of democracy and set up a corrupt puppet dictatorship and trained merciless, dreaded secret police who killed thousands, and is likely waiting for a chance to do it again.  Freedom and democracy, to the revolutionaries of just 30 years ago, meant getting rid of US influence.

The only way to improve that is to allow Iranians to make their own way until they can trust the USA again. It will take a long time and a lot of patience, for we’ve spent half a century degrading ourselves there.  But I think we might be surprised what a little worldwide credibility could accomplish.

Thanks for asking!

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How to help Iran – an Iranian view

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My friend Naj, who writes an excellent blog at iranfacts.blogspot.com, is certain that pro-reform statements or actions taken by American politicians can have only negative impact on Iranians. She urges us to ask our politicians to hold back:


How to Help Iran?

Tell your elected representatives, especially the American ones, Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative to “SHUT THE HELL UP!”

Obama’s handled this PERFECTLY well so far!

Make him know that on behalf of your Iranian friend, Naj.

The slightest American meddling will throw all that spilled blood out of the window! Let us accomplish our own deed. Then, all we ask of your government, is to respect whatever government becomes official in Iran, even if it may be Ahmadinejad.

An American friend of mine just sent this to her congresswoman:

Dear Congresswoman Tsongas,

I am writing to you as a concerned American citizen who is an active member of the international community. With the recent electoral upheaval in Iran, there are many people, many friends of mine, who are caught between a rock and a hard place. They do not necessarily still live in Iran, but love for their family, country, and heritage is a huge part of their identity.

The main fear they have is that anything other than a course of neutrality by individual countries could very easily foment further bloodshed against civilians in an attempt to control protests, display power, and cultivate fear. President Obama has so far done an excellent job of maintaining neutrality, but it is concerning that various members of congress want to take a more hard-line stance, and are haranguing the president for not having done so.

As your constituent, Congresswoman Tsongas, I am asking you to please do what you can to maintain official US neutrality toward the current situation in Iran, and please do not support any bills that would involve US interests directly in this matter.

Sincerely,
[name preserved]

Posted by Naj at Sunday, June 21, 2009


If only we could learn this lesson! For many reform movements, American support is the kiss of death, marking them as a threat by foreign enemy rather than an expression of the people.

You can contact your Senators and Representative by using the contact form in the right sidebar. Go for it!

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