A Plague on Both Your Houses?

People, and this includes some of my liberal
friends, are always saying that the dysfunction in Washington right now can be
laid at the feet of both parties. They believe that Democrats and Republicans
are equally to blame for the partisanship and obstruction, for the enormous gap
between the wealthy and the rest of us. And, of course, they are right, or in a
way they are right. Money is far too important in Washington. It talks louder
than we the people who can’t afford to make our voices heard because we cannot
amass enough money to turn up the volume. We do need to deal with the outsized
influences of special interests with lots of bucks, of Wall Street and the
banks, and of big business.
However the Republicans have introduced another
whole level of political drama that we must deal with first. Republicans have
gone off the rails, off the deep end, delusional, and are aggressively pursuing
reactionary policies that will hardly take America into a prosperous future.
Democrats have been slow to counter the outrageous activities of the
Republicans. Democrats have been shy, hanging back. They want to pretend that
regular order still pertains in Washington. They are stodgy, self-conscious and
do not want to match the operatic tone of the GOP (or the Biblical Old
Testament tone either). That may be all to the good. Watching the full opera
treatment play out in Washington might be too much for everyone.
However, we the people need to understand that, although
our elected Congressmen in both parties are too involved with amassing personal
wealth and a power base that will give them staying power and clout, the
impasse we are presently in cannot be attributed equally to both parties. Both
parties are not trying to rewrite the Constitution. Both parties are not trying
to make it more difficult to vote. Both parties are not trying to overturn 50
year old court rulings that offered new hope to many beleaguered women. Both
parties are not trying to privatize everything. And both parties are not trying
to bring back a brand of Federalism that lost the debate the first time it was
hotly contested in the 1780’s.
My point is that before we can deal with the greedy
we need to deal with the nutty. This is what us lefties are trying to say to
our families and our neighbors who support the GOP no matter how insane their
There is a word that describes the things some
Republicans have been saying and that word is fascism. I did not want to be the
first person to use this politically and emotionally charged word in relation
to the Republican candidates for the Presidency of our nation but last night on
TV someone (sorry I don’t remember who) brought up this term which has not
really been used much since Mussolini rose to power in Italy. Go over the
definition carefully and see if it does or does not fit current circumstances.
This definition was offered by Google
noun: fascism; noun: Fascism;
plural noun: Fascisms
  1. an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of
    government and social organization.
authoritarianism, totalitarianism,
Nazism, rightism;
neofascism, neo-Nazism
“a film depicting the rise of
fascism in the 1930s”
(in general use) extreme right-wing,
authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.
from Italian fascismo, from fascio
‘bundle, political group,’ from Latin fascis (see fasces).
Translate fascism to
Use over time for: fascism
So when we have people like Donald Trump saying that
he will register all Muslims and keep certain mosques under surveillance and he
will send any Syrian refugees that come to America straight back to Syria he is
pandering to the xenophobia in us in order to get us to elect him. And his
actions are fascist.
We also have the Republican candidates who would
like to turn America into an Evangelical Christian theocracy. So when we hear
Ted Cruz, this guy who supposedly channels our forefathers, say that we should
accept only Christians from Syria we should hear a crowd behind him loudly
whispering “fascist”, “fascist”, “fascist”, because what he is advocating is
certainly not the Democracy our founders designed. But we don’t hear any great
outcry. Our media bends over backwards to fairly represent the policies of both
political parties. And Americans just keep watching FOX News, which barely
qualifies as a news channel. (Stop watching FOX News!)
So let me say once again that in terms of setting
priorities we need to get rid of the nuts in Washington before we can tackle
the greed that is distorting our government. Both threaten our Democracy but
the extremists have only recently taken over the top spot on that priority list
(just since Obama took office). They seem able to say any old un-American thing
and still maintain their popularity. This is why we need to elect a Democratic
President in 2016. Sadly, the left may have entered the fray too late in the
game. There is no way in which I accept the claim some people repeat again and
again that both parties contribute equally to the recent dysfunction in
By Nancy Brisson 
(graphic from time.com)

Bergdahl is Home – Impeach Obama?

Here is a diagram of the political spectrum or
continuum as it was taught to me. I am looking at the top half of this chart.
These days this is considered too simplistic as the left and right wings often
switch ends on the continuum depending on whether you are talking about
socio-cultural issues or economic issues. (See the Wikipedia entry for
political spectra for more about this last bit.) For my purposes at the moment
this classic version is the most helpful for making my point.
It was all too predictable that a howl would echo
forth from the usual political suspects on the right about President Obama’s
stunning/shocking/surprising (pick an adjective, any adjective) release of five
Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo to Qatar in exchange for one “iffy” POW, Bowe
Bergdahl, who may have actually felt that he should express solidarity with the
Afghan people, who may have believed that our “enemies” were being unfairly
attacked and badly treated by America, who may be a deserter or a just a
conscientious person who believed it would be the right thing to do to walk
away from his buddies and try to save Afghans. We all agree that he has lots of
questions to answer when he is well enough because when you are a soldier you
take an oath to act as a soldier and not as an individual.
However, it is the end of a war and prisoner
exchanges often occur in the final months before the opposing parties retreat
to their corners (although our retreat is not total). And, obviously, the
Qatari leader attending his son’s graduation from West Point must have made
Obama an offer he could not refuse. The military have also been making the
point that we don’t leave our soldiers on the battlefield or in enemy hands.
John Stewart pointed out how ridiculous everyone sounds mouthing platitudes at
each other, but I have heard these platitudes before in many different
administrations and if other Presidents can be trite why not Obama? Being trite
is not in itself an impeachable offense.
Those five Taliban men do look quite grim and
imposing and they may want revenge, and, although we are done fighting in
Afghanistan, we are not done fighting terrorists so we see that there are real
risks here. I get it. I get the fears we have of reprisals. But we can’t leave
these prisoners in what basically amounts to a POW camp for these particular Taliban
men/soldiers/enemy leaders forever and we all know that. And if the Democrats
and Republicans were not at loggerheads we might have worked out a solution to
this national shame in this time of Obama, something we are not being allowed
to do.
But, and this is where that political spectra diagram
come in, if you look at the far right end of this continuum, the place where
the Tea Party resides, you see the term reactionary. This almost old-fashioned
term best captures the Republican Party we have today. They do not act; they
react, and they always react negatively. Every time anyone gives a Republican
access to a microphone s/he will tell us how bad Democratic policies are and
will spew hate for Obama. I just did not foresee the strength of their vitriol
on this issue. I did not know about the 30 day notice that Congress was
supposed to get before the release of anyone from Guantanamo. Now the
Republicans are accusing Obama, once again, of breaking the law. But Presidents
when acting as Commander-in-Chief have always been given lots of leeway and the
benefit of the doubt. I am so tired of the rudeness that we have seen so
consistently from the right. I am so embarrassed that they feel the need to air
all of America’s laundry, both clean and dirty, in front of the entire world.
They do more to undermine Obama and America’s power around the world than
anything Obama could manage to accomplish from his position under the thumbs of
the Congress.
It is easy to sit back and just lean in every once
in a while with a highly critical reaction. It is maddening to see these
“obstructers”; these peddlers of bizarre policies, call for the impeachment of
a President who has kept his temper in the face of extreme antagonism and who
has set himself the task of accomplishing as many agenda items as he can of a
drastically curtailed agenda that he knows comes nowhere near what he would
like to have achieved. It is all extremely disheartening and we feel helpless
to unravel the impasse. I do believe that if Republicans manage to impeach this
President, which they may be able to do if they control Congress in 2015, then
we the people will make our displeasure felt.

Nothing Obama has done rises to the level of an
impeachable offense and even if the people don’t rise up to express their anger
should such an action be taken, history won’t take very long to register
condemnation for those who take such action. Unless President Obama does
something much worse than bending rules which have been bent before, he should
be left alone to finish out his second term. To be surrounded by angry enemies
prodding you with words like swords and arguments that are beyond ridiculous;
this must have made just about the toughest two terms any American President
has ever experienced. No shame devolves to Obama, rather the shame is on us.
By Nancy Brisson

The Pill and the Family

The Republican Party may be involved in its “war on women”
for religious reasons, but it may also be involved in this war for social
reasons. The Republican Party offers up its longing for simpler days almost
every day. They wish for the 50’s, that post World War II boom time, that time
before the birth control pill, that time before the Women’s Liberation
Movement, which they see, through their rose-colored glasses, as a time when
the American family was intact and single parent families were rare. Since they
surmise that the causes of a more violent youth culture can be traced to the
demise of the American family, they believe, apparently, that rolling back the
calendar might make things rosy again. Put those birth control pills back in
their bottles (packages), put women back to being barefoot in the kitchen and
give men back the role of chief hunter-gatherer and we will put America back to

If we are completely honest with ourselves we know that it
is not possible or necessarily even desirable to return to the old ways. We do
wear rose-colored glasses when we think about those days. The intact family was
often not as intact as it seemed. The two parents involved did not always love
each other forever. One parent may have had a drinking problem, or a mental
disorder, or debilitating migraines. A parent may have been abusive, beating
the other partner or the children. Sexual abuse may have been swept under the
carpet. Without birth control families were often larger than the family’s
finances and children were poorly dressed or poorly fed. This social model
often neglected to realize that females have brains and that a lifetime full of
dishes, floors, laundry, cooking, and nurturing might deaden female
intelligence and contribute to feelings of inferiority and helplessness.

It is surprising that a simple thing like a birth control
pill in the hands of the women who actually carried and raised babies would
have had such an enormous effect on America and the world. And, of course, it
was not only the pill that did it. Women had to work in factories and
businesses while men were away fighting in World War II. Many women felt
empowered by being in the world of work, with goals that were more universal
than keeping a house clean and a household running smoothly, jobs which had
never been perceived as important except in the most condescending ways. How
did a simple little pill give women permission to become lawyers and doctors
and anthropologists and marine biologists and physicists and politicians?
pill came into use in the same days that America was involved in the fight to
extend civil rights to African Americans and the rights of women ended up being
a logical extension of the belief that everyone needs to be free if you are
supposed to be a “free” country, which we always believed America was supposed
to be. So, Republicans may have convinced themselves that the birth control
pill is responsible for all the ills of the 21st century, but I
think we can rest assured that just tossing out the birth control pill will not
bring back the two-parent American family (which was sometimes not the haven
that it seemed).

The religious objections are harder to fight since the
religious right has little use for science and seems unable to accept that
birth control pills are not the same as abortions. There is no doubt that once
women could decide whether or not to reproduce, or when to reproduce, their
lives became drastically different, their choices much freer, and their lives
more intellectually satisfying (although somewhat socially conflicted). There
is also no doubt that the changes in the fortunes of women have had profound
effects on the lives of men, an area with implications that our culture has not
fully explored and which we may still not have enough objectivity to see
clearly. As for the family, it is still alive and well, although often it
doesn’t resemble the traditional “nuclear” family that everyone romanticizes.

It is quite clear to me that the GOP has recently given
voice to views that are so reactionary that we can only hope that they do not
end up in control over American policy decisions, even though they are doing
fairly well right now from behind the scenes. If the GOP wins and we go back to
before the pill, before women’s liberation, how far back do we go? It is not
possible to undo everything that has happened since the birth control pill went
on the market. Why isn’t there more push back against these unrealistic and
patriarchal Republicans? What private longings and recidivist beliefs have they
tapped into? We surely know we have to go start the future from where we are
today. We don’t get a do-over.