Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Congress being utterly stupid’ Category

The Virtue of Dissent

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Folks, there’s been a lot in the news lately about dissent, and about how it’s supposedly unpatriotic to disagree.

I beg to differ.

We need dissent. Or we can’t function as a democracy.

See, when people feel stifled from talking about anything, whether it’s something that is frustrating, unpleasant, difficult, annoying, or any other of a dozen other things that are incredibly hard to discuss, that causes a lot of trouble.

When you feel stifled, when you feel your voice isn’t being heard, that builds resentment. And at best, when you feel that much resentment, you aren’t likely to be looking for any sort of compromise; you’ve already been told compromise is not possible because your point of view is not important.

And yet, in a democracy, every voice is important. And we all get a say.

Being able to discuss problems in a rational manner without yelling at the top of your lungs or telling the other person (or party) that they’re a bunch of blithering idiots is mandatory. But right now, we don’t seem to have too many in the Congress who are willing to be adults and do the people’s work — i.e., compromise for the common good — because they are either blinded by the power or they are daunted by the responsibility.

Whenever we have one party solely in charge of the government — whether it was the Democrats from 2008-2010, or the Republicans from 2016-2018 — that makes it harder for dissenting voices to be heard. And when they aren’t heard, those voices usually become movements. And those movements become akin to steamrollers…witness what happened with the Tea Party in 2010, for example.

That’s what is supposed to happen in a democracy. Those who feel ignored have a right to talk, to assemble, to figure out what they’re going to do, and then they have a right to make their case to the public.

It is a virtue.

That we can see dissent as a virtue was, at one point, uniquely American.

But now, we have a man as President with authoritarian impulses (or at least a great deal of bloviating and authoritarian speech), and he definitely does not seem to think that dissent is valuable, or a virtue, or needed in a democracy.

He wants instead for everyone to follow him. Because he says so.

To my mind, that is not good enough. We have to have reasons for what we do. Logical reasons. And we have to have some basis and forethought and planning behind these logical reasons.

When government officials pop off and do things on the spur of the moment, we get bad law, bad policy, and a whole host of unintended consequences. That, in general, is why you want to have responsible public officials who are willing to call people — regardless of party or power or prestige — on the carpet when they do something that is harmful.

That’s why we need dissent.

We have had one-party rule with vigorous dissent in the past, looking back to WW II, for example. Harry S Truman, then a Senator, held hearings about war profiteering. Most of those he called before him were Democrats, but that didn’t stop him; right was right, and he did the right thing.

That is what brought him to FDR’s attention, and it’s why Truman became FDR’s Vice President in 1944. Without Truman dissenting vigorously, Truman never would’ve become VP, and thus never would’ve ascended to the Presidency after FDR’s passing.

Unfortunately, the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate have not dissented very much. Not with the travel ban. Not with the tariffs. Not with the immigration situation, whether it’s families being split up at the border, DACA, or anything else.

Nope. Instead, they’ve blindly — as a body — done the President’s work, which is not what the Constitution wanted. (We have separation of powers for a reason.)

Yes, individual Republicans, such as Bob Corker or John McCain or a few retiring House Reps, have stepped up and said they believe that the President needs to be checked now and again. That no one should have that much power. And that there’s a reason we have a deliberative body like the Congress…and that they should do their jobs, and uphold their Constitutional responsibilities.

I believe in the power of dissent. I believe it is constructive to dissent, to allow dissent, to understand dissent, and to appreciate dissent. I also believe that if we start to think that dissenting is “unpatriotic” or “anti-American,” we are ceding our rights of dissent and getting nothing back.

I am concerned that we have so many politicians that are (in George Will’s words as heard on MSNBC months ago), “supine” or “craven.” They do not express dissent because of these two horrible characteristics, and thus do not do the people’s business thereby.

My hope is that more people will understand that dissent is healthy, necessary, and essential.

But my fear is that too many people won’t realize what’s at stake, or what could be at stake if the current crop of supine and craven Republicans in the House and Senate continue to refuse to be a check on this President. And that we’ll go further down the garden path of authoritarianism, and lose our abilities to dissent freely and fairly.

What you need to do, if you live in the U.S., is this: Think hard about what you want out of your representatives and Senators. Do you want them to blindly trust anyone without doing their due diligence? Or do you want them to be like Harry Truman, and stand up for what’s right, whether it’s against their own party or not?

Totally Unnecessary: House Will Vote on “In God We Trust” as Official US Motto

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I’m sorry; I thought I’d seen it all from this bunch of do-nothings we currently have in the United States Congress, but now they’ve topped themselves.

Tomorrow, they will be voting to “re-affirm” the “In God We Trust” motto in the United States House of Representatives.  Really.

Which begs the following question: do we really need to have this vote, considering all the real problems that this Congress isn’t facing?

See this article from Raw Story, if you don’t believe me . . . this is just absolutely, totally nonsensical, and probably the worst action I’ve yet seen out of this bunch of yahoos that are currently wasting our money and time in the House of Reps.

How can Speaker of the House John Boehner have the nerve to schedule a vote on “In God We Trust,” of all things?  “In God We Trust” has been our official motto since 1956, so this vote isn’t even original legislation — so what on Earth is the justification for it, except for the Republicans to point out to voters the many Democrats out there who will vote “no” on it (as they should as it’s an unnecessary time-waster).  Then these self-same Rs will tell voters, “Oh, no!  Those Dems don’t believe in God!  See?  They voted against ‘In God We Trust’ — aren’t they bad, evil, and vicious people?  They must go!”

There are people who are genuinely hurting in this country — many, many people.  Yet this is the best the House can do for anyone?

I’d not care about this sort of petty-politicking so much except we have genuine anger out here, for good reason.  (See the “Occupy” movement for further details.)  We have a national unemployment figure standing firm at 9% or more, with some areas (including my own) way above that.   There are many real problems in the United States that this Congress won’t do anything about.  Instead, they’d rather waste our time with garbage like this.

No wonder so many of us are in a “throw the bums out” mood, considering our elected leaders (starting with Boehner and moving on down) would rather play stupid power-games than actually legislate and do their jobs.

Why Weiner’s Behavior Warrants the “Truly Horrible” Label

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Over the past few days, I’ve resisted the temptation to kick Representative Anthony Weiner, D-NY, while he’s down.  Weiner, as you probably know, has been in the news for the past two weeks due to having a picture of him, in his underwear, published inadvertently on Twitter.  Weiner lied about this initially, claiming he had been “hacked.”  He admitted on Monday that this picture really was him (the one in his underwear), and said other pictures existed, some conversations with women not his wife existed also (before and after his marriage to Huma Abedin, one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top aides at the State Department), and that he was “deeply ashamed” and really, really “sorry.”

So, since I resisted saying anything up until now, you might be wondering what has changed.  Two things, really.  First, Weiner’s wife Abedin is reportedly pregnant with their first child, which makes all of Weiner’s behavior (including a nude photo of Weiner’s “equipment,” which surfaced today) even more sophomoric than it already was — and second, I got to thinking.

Look.  I’ve known people — myself included, with my wonderful, late husband Michael — who got to know each other online, mind to mind, before they ever got into physical proximity** (we’re talking long-distance relationships, here — committed, monogamous ones).  Or perhaps one of the pair had to take a job far away from the other — hundreds or thousands of miles — and to keep the “home fires” burning, the pair may well have sent scantily-clad pictures of themselves in order to encourage fidelity.   Or maybe the pair had intimate phone conversations.  Anything, to keep the relationship — a monogamous, consensual, committed relationship — on track.

It takes a lot for me to call behavior “truly horrible.”  Usually when I slap that label on it, we’re talking about one political party behaving badly and doing stupid things, not a juvenile, irresponsible man over 40 who can’t keep his pants zipped when he has a wonderful wife at home.

And make no mistake — what Weiner did is definitely cheating.   He talked about sex with women (not his wife, when his marriage was still a going, vital concern), and presumably acted on his desires.  That’s cheating.  Period.

To be clear, I do not believe Weiner should resign from Congress.  But I do think his behavior was terrible and reflected very poorly not only upon him and how he conceives of marriage, but makes anyone who’s trying to use cyberspace and/or the telephone to keep a long-distance relationship going feel like they’re either doing something sleazy, or have already done it.

I feel terribly sad for Abedin, who knows her husband has not been faithful to her and did not take his wedding vows seriously.   And I feel even sadder for Weiner, who not only didn’t realize the jewel he had (and for the moment still has) in his wife, but went around cheapening himself — and everyone else who uses alternative means to remain close to his or her committed partner — because he was too damned stupid to know any better.  Or care, either.

All of these thoughts make me wish once again my husband was still alive, because I’m sure he’d have something interesting, funny, scathing, or possibly all three at once about the Weiner set of scandals.  But I truly wish I weren’t thinking about him — the most wonderful man in the world, the most wonderful person the Deity ever created — in this context.

Thanks a lot, Anthony Weiner.  Really.


** In my case, Michael and I met once, at a mutual friend’s house, then I went home to one state and Michael went home to another state, hundreds of miles away.   We relied on our mutual friends (we had several) to help us out when the inevitable miscommunications arose — and ultimately, being so far away from each other helped our relationship immensely because we had to learn to communicate or our relationship wouldn’t survive.  That’s how cyberspace, and the telephone, can help a relationship — whereas what Weiner did just shows how a stupid man can screw up his life with the latest, up-to-date technology.

Pass Unemployment Benefits Extension NOW, Congress

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I don’t have much to say today beyond this — but it’s important.

The United States Congress has become increasingly out of touch, which has been shown this week by them first debating a food safety bill, then passing a resolution to outlaw “loud commercials,” and finally taking up the middle-class “tax cut” (actually an extension of the Bush-era lower taxation) rather than deal with the biggest issues on the table — one of which is unemployment.

We’re now at 9.8% unemployment — just .2% under 10%, mind you (in case you’re mathematically challenged, as I tend to be some days) — and there are many people who aren’t even on the rolls any longer because they’ve “maxed out” their unemployment at 99 weeks, yet still have no jobs because very few jobs are being created.  We can argue about how best to create jobs at a later time; right now, those on unemployment need help.

We’re at the holiday season.  Christmas, the biggest holiday in the United States, fast approaches — yet the Congress is willing to let those on unemployment suffer?  What’s wrong with these people?

I am disgusted that so few of the Congressional Democrats have been quoted about this issue, and how even fewer Republicans have discussed it — the only Republicans who have mostly talk in the Washingtonian-speak of “we must cut the deficit first” and apparently all of us unemployed (as I’m one of that number) can go and be damned.

It’s time for our Congress to do something good.  Pass the unemployment benefits extension NOW, Congressthen worry about funding yourself (as that’s the second most urgent problem on the table) and only then worry about the damned tax cuts for the richest 1% in the nation (I’m looking squarely at you, Congressional Republicans).

If you do this, you’ll have proven that you care, that you have a heart, or at least that you understand political reality.  Because letting 2 million people starve at the holidays is not only inhumane, it will definitely lose you votes at the next election.  (People don’t tend to forget about starvation.)

By the way, I’d appreciate it if Barack Obama, the President of the United States, would come out and roundly condemn the Congress because of their horrible behavior.