Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Tired, ill, and reading

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This past week hasn’t been one of my best.

As to what’s wrong?  Well, I hit the six years, six months mark in my grief observance . . . what a passive way to say that I’ve now been without my husband for over six years and six months.  And I hate it, but can’t do anything about it, save remember my beloved husband Michael as he was while he was alive — and know to the bottom of my soul that we will be together again in eternity if at all humanly possible.

Oh, yeah.  And I’ve been sick, too — sinus stuff and flu symptoms, which hasn’t stopped me from looking for work (and wouldn’t have stopped me from accepting a job had one been offered) . . . still no luck on the job front.

Before I go on, I wanted to mention the passing of Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to ever be nominated on a major party ticket for Vice President.  She’s still one of only two women to be nominated (Sarah Palin being the other) . . . Ms. Ferraro was a tough, strong, smart, capable and confident woman who would’ve made an exceptional Vice President and an even better President, had she ever had the opportunity. 

Ms. Ferraro was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton for President, and spoke for me as well as for many others after the 5/31/08 debacle that was the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee that decided the fate of Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic nomination — not at the hands of the voters, but instead at the hands of the DNC itself.  Ms. Ferraro was astonished and disgusted, and her clear, strong voice helped smooth the waters afterward and made our dissent as HRC Dems more forceful, coherent and logical.  I will miss Ms. Ferraro and her tenacity, and I hope “The Good Place (TM)” will appreciate Ms. Ferraro and bring her joy, peace and whatever else she wants as her productive and happy afterlife.

Now, on to less important stuff.

This past week I’ve read at least six books, most of which I’m going to review at Amazon.com and/or Shiny Book Review down the line.  The best of the lot was Louisa Young’s MY DEAR, I WANTED TO TELL YOU, as it’s a horrifically realistic portrait of World War I, but IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS by Erik Larson was also very good and very horrifying, the latter book being about Ambassador to Germany William Dodd and his family, who served during 1933-1937 being stationed in Berlin and saw first-hand what was going on with Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels, and all the others.  The only book I really couldn’t get behind was Gina Showalter’s UNRAVELED, this being the sequel to INTERTWINED (I liked INTERTWINED, mind you) . . . just didn’t buy most of it, and the reason I didn’t buy it was that the characterization wasn’t as solid as in the previous novel.  (When your main character, Aden, is a guy with a bunch of dead people inside his head, you need to believe in him or the concept doesn’t work.  I bought it in INTERTWINED, didn’t buy it in UNRAVELED.  Would still give Ms. Showalter one more chance to sell me on this universe down the line, though, because of the previous, far-stronger novel.)

I’ve also had a problem recently in focusing my attention on one thing, or even on any ten things . . . I believe this is due to exhaustion, and being ill, and trying to pretend I’m neither one.

Well, the time for pretending is over; I hope by saying out loud, in public, even (as blogging is a public endeavor even if no one reads it but me), that I’m going to take some down-time if I can makes sense.

Other than that, I continue to watch Wisconsin politics.  The Governor’s budget repair bill was stalled in the courts, but the Republicans tried an unusual end-around that I’m not even sure I can describe — they believe by doing this rather odd thing (you have to publish a bill specifically by the Secretary of State’s office in Wisconsin or it’s not legal, and after it’s published it takes ten days to take effect; this hasn’t happened as a Dane County court enjoined that with a temporary restraining order, but a different place in the government has published the bill and the Republicans believe that’s enough and the bill — which stops the state from collectively bargaining with employees in public employee unions — is now law.  I have my doubts on that score but have no doubt — zero — that the original judge who gave the temporary restraining order will have more to say tomorrow and that any legal action will be officially blocked by five PM tomorrow.)  Note that the Wisconsin Republicans did this weird “end-around” thing after 5 PM on a Friday because they wanted to make positive news, such as it is, and mute the negative news a little . . . tomorrow I’m sure all the crap will hit the fan, again.

Oh, yeah.  I nearly forgot to add that one of my friends, whom I respect highly, has told me that he thinks I should not write the Elfyverse (my universe, my concept, my voice) or Michael’s universes (granted, all of those were Michael’s concept and me trying to match Michael’s voice, which is very tough) and instead should think of something else to write and do that.

Well, here’s my thought on that — it’s up to me what I do, and these days I’m glad to get any ideas at all.  If I can get one story consistently talking to me so I can do more with it, I’m going to work with it — whether it’s a new story, an existing story in my Elfyverse or an existing story in Michael’s, it doesn’t matter.  Only the strength of the story matters . . . I just hope I’ll start hearing something after I heal up a little, because right now none of my stories are talking to me, at all.

Note that I appreciate my friend for saying what he did even though I feel he’s flat wrong.  Being able to honestly communicate is important, even if you don’t always agree — probably because you can’t always agree, it’s important to have some real communication going on even if it’s, “I really don’t like what you’re doing, Barb, and wish you’d stop.”  (My response wouldn’t be printable, I’m afraid, but that’s the drawback to free, honest and open communication.)

Oh, and last, Writers of the Future bounced both of my stories out in the last two quarters . . . what else is new?

State of the Union: Awful, awful, awful.

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Folks, I don’t even know where to start regarding last night’s State of the Union speech (henceforth to be referred to by its acronym, SotU), except for one word, repeated three times: awful, awful, awful.

Why would I choose to repeat one word three times?  Well, the state of the United States right now — or of our Union — is exactly that.  Awful. 

That the President of the United States, Barack Obama, talked around the problem rather than talked about the problem, is also exactly that — awful

And finally, that the pundits did not call the President to account for not coming right out and saying, “Right now, people in the United States are suffering and rather than talk about nonsensical things or irrelevant things, I’m going to talk about them,” they, too, can only be summed up by just one word (you guessed it): awful.

I listened to the SotU last night and was appalled.  Barack Obama is a very smart, literate, intelligent man who knows better than this.  The American people were waiting for him to say, “I know it’s bad.  I’m working on trying to make it better.  I really think these things will work,” and only pick a few things to discuss — not so many things that after an hour of draining words, you don’t have anything to show for it but a bunch of meaningless quotes that won’t mean anything to the average person at all.

Yes, I get it that we need Green Jobs.  Hillary R. Clinton ran for President in 2008 and this was one of her platforms; I am for Green Jobs.  I see how they could actively help the economy if carefully managed, because Green Jobs won’t be able to be created overnight.

But talking about that as one of the hallmarks of your plan is not something most people care about.

No, Mr. President.  What we care about is simple.  The economy, stupid.  (From Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid,” not meant as a pejorative.)

The economy is in the toilet.  Unemployment is horrible — over 9% and rising — and the only reason it’s not well over 15% is because people have fallen off the rolls and have “aged off” the system.   No provision has been made for these people, which is beyond disheartening; it’s as if the people in Washington, DC, including the President of the United States who should know better, have turned their backs on these folks (collectively called the 99ers).  They can’t find work not because they aren’t qualified: most are.  Not because they don’t want to work: they do.  But because there aren’t anywhere near enough jobs for all the people who want work.  That’s the fact, and it wasn’t even touched last night.

Nor was the second-biggest issue that’s currently on people’s minds — guns, or at least semi-automatic handguns with extra-large clips** wielded by people who are delusional and unable to understand reality like Jared Lee Loughner.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was discussed very briefly in the opening paragraph, then dropped, which left a huge opportunity on the table.

Next, I realize the SotU address is political theatre, but did we really need the theatre of the absurd?

I’m referring, of course, to the ridiculousness of seeing the Republicans and Democrats uneasily co-existing in front of the President rather than sit on opposite sides as they’ve generally done.  No one looked happy with this, and if it was intended (as was said) to be a “call for civility” in action, it was a dismal failure.

Finally, I re-iterate: what about the jobs?  What about the economy?  What about the high unemployment?  What are you going to do, Mr. President, about any of this, other than pontificate, obfuscate, and talk meaninglessly for over an hour?

The address, Mr. President, was simply too long.   And it wasn’t what we wanted — nay, needed — to hear.

Regardless of the left-wing pundits, the right-wing pundits, the centrist pundits or whatever other pundits may exist . . . and regardless of how some of the SotU address might work in smaller “sound bites” . . . this speech failed the country.  I don’t care what anyone says; I know the truth, as I’m a highly educated woman with a Master’s degree, and I’ve read a lot of history.

This speech was a dismal failure.

We needed to hear that you care, Mr. President.  That you are trying to do something.  And that what you’ll do will take effect this year.  Not next year.  Not the year after that.  Not in 2020.  Not in 2040.  But this year.  Now.   Because things are bad and are getting worse.

That you did not, Mr. President, probably will affect your chances in 2012.  For the worse.  And I can’t believe you don’t have some advisor who isn’t a yes-man up there in Washington, DC, who should’ve told you that this speech was a stinker.  Because if that person did so, you should’ve listened.

The 2011 SotU speech will end up making no difference in the long run, except to cement that you, President Barack Obama, are seen as well-meaning and benevolent, but also out of touch.  Big-time.

——–

** Jason Cordova kindly pointed out that Jared Loughner used a semi-automatic handgun rather than an assault rifle, and he is of course quite right.  The main reason I keep thinking “assault rifle” is how big that clip was that Loughner was using — a legal size, yes, but still, very large.  That doesn’t excuse why I got it wrong even though I’ve heard the term over and over again, of course.  The error has now been corrected, as you see.  BC

Keith Olbermann Ousted by MSNBC

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Keith Olbermann is out at MSNBC, and many of my friends among the Hillary Clinton Democrats (and Independents) are cheering tonight because of some of the awful things KO said about Mrs. Clinton (one of the comments was something like, “Someone should take her into a room, then only one of ’em come back out,” which was indeed a terrible comment to make).

But I feel . . . strange, I guess is the best word.  I don’t think this is a triumph at all, nor do I see it as a form of karmic comeuppance.  I feel that Olbermann , while controversial, would nearly always backtrack when something he believed later turned out to be wrong.  And in fact, earlier this year after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Olbermann apologized for any comments he might’ve made — including that awful one I alluded to above — that made violence seem at all an acceptable resort to combat any political candidate, or any politician.  Olbermann has made it clear in recent weeks that the only two things people should do are these:

1) Educate yourself, and learn about the candidates.

2) Vote for the candidate who best represents you and your beliefs.

(For which I applaud him, as he’s been one of the very few commentators who’s been explicit about what should be done in the wake of what’s now being called the “Tucson Tragedy.”)

In other words, I think Olbermann has realized he made a few mistakes here and there, and had become a slightly better balanced commentator over recent weeks.  I’d been heartened at this turn of events and hoped it would continue; that “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” is now off the air is, to my mind, a stunning disappointment because despite my objections to how Olbermann sometimes handled himself (especially over l’affaire Hillary Clinton in 2008), he was an entertaining host who made politics a little less complex and a lot more fun on his best nights.

Lawrence O’Donnell will be taking over Olbermann’s time slot, which isn’t an improvement by any means . . . while O’Donnell can have an interesting perspective, he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, nor does he seem to know when to back off a little (his overwhelming personality, bigger than Olbermann’s in my opinion, does not help anything, either).   Then Ed Schultz moves into O’Donnell’s late-night slot — and while I like Ed’s program a great deal, I’d rather see it at 5 PM CST where it’s always been than have it move to the 9 PM slot.  And finally, Cenk Uyger, who’s called one of the “Young Turks,” is getting his own program at 5 PM for reasons that escape me . . . this, to my mind, does not bring MSNBC even close to being a balanced network, nor does it promote a balanced perspective in any way, shape or form.

Keith Olbermann has always been a lightning rod for criticism; he was one when he worked for ESPN as a sports announcer, and he’s been one at MSNBC as a news announcer.  But one thing KO has never been is boring . . . so in that sense, unlike many of my HRC friends, I will miss Olbermann, especially as he really did seem to be getting a better, and more centrist, perspective lately.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2011 at 12:43 am

It’s NOT a Mandate, Folks; Rather, a Repudiation.

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The election is over, but the bloviating goes on.  Today on WTMJ Radio (AM 620 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), both Governor-elect Scott Walker (Republican) and Senator-elect Ron Johnson (R) used the word “mandate” while presumably wearing a straight face.

Yes, what happened last night is a slap-down for the people presently in power, the Obama Administration and many Democratic Senators and Representatives who followed their lead — along with some who didn’t, but were Democratic incumbents, and got washed out with the tide.

But it’s not — repeat, not — a mandate.  Rather, this is an exercise in the Republicans framing the narrative: they’re doing their level best to show voter rage at not being listened to as a “mandate” for themselves, which shows them to be completely ignorant of recent history.

So I’m going to educate them.  Starting right now.

What happened in this election is what my friends among the Hillary Clinton Democrats (some also under the name PUMA Democrats, with PUMA meaning either “People United Means Action” or “Party Unity My A**”) have been predicting since Barack Obama was named the Democratic nominee over Mrs. Clinton — and that is, many Democrats who were shut out by the Democratic National Committee on 5/31/2008 at their Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting were angry, and joined with the angry Republicans and angry Independents who didn’t feel they were being listened to — and that’s why we have an incoming Republican Speaker of the House (presumably John Boehner from Ohio, though it’s remotely possible the Republicans may select someone else) and a Senate that’s only nominally Democratically-controlled after the election results were known.

What people need to understand is that the Democratic Party fissured as of that moment, 5/31/2008, between those who felt what happened on that day — Barack Obama getting delegates he didn’t earn from Michigan, where he wasn’t on the ballot, and Mrs. Clinton having delegates she fairly earned (because she was on the ballot, and very popular in Michigan) taken away — was OK, and those who felt it was absolutely reprehensible.  Also be reminded that on 5/31/08,  Floridians were told to be happy that their representatives to the Democratic National Convention would only get 1/2 a vote, each — both of those things set badly with over half of the Democratic Party, including many who liked Obama and had voted for him, but could not get behind such blatantly slanted and non-voter-representative tactics.

You see, the DNC (most especially member-and-CNN-analyst Donna Brazile) believed “rules are rules,” and they didn’t care that the voters went out to vote and believed their votes would be respected.  They hid behind fig-leafs such as Florida supposedly voting “too early” when several other states moved up their primary dates as well but no one said word-one to them (most of those were states Obama won handily in), or saying from the beginning, “Oh, that primary doesn’t count because they moved it up without our approval,”  even while Michigan residents were voting in record numbers in their January primary.

Excuse me, DNC, but the voters voted.  They did what they were supposed to do: they voted, and in record numbers.  And they did not care about your rules.  They were told to vote, and they did.  They clearly expressed a preference, one you definitely didn’t like, for Hillary Clinton — and thus, you managed to mute the impact of her historic primary victories.  (Mrs. Clinton was the first woman to ever win a primary in the United States, much less a whole bunch of them.  And she won the most votes from primaries, too; we know that.  Mr. Obama won most of his victories in the caucuses, where many vote totals were disputed; please see Gigi Gaston’s excellent documentary “We Will Not be Silenced” for further details.  Here’s a link:  www.wewillnotbesilenced2008.com — this should help.  I know the movie, in four parts, is available on YouTube.)

The ill-feeling the DNC caused by refusing to listen has not dissipated in the last two years; instead, it’s simmered and boiled over in many cases.  I know that I am still angry and will always be angry at what happened at that meeting, because it showed that the DNC — the governing board of the Democratic Party, more or less — did not care one whit about the voter’s intentions or the voters themselves.  Instead, the DNC decided they knew better than we did, than what the polls were telling them — than what their own common sense should’ve told them if it hadn’t been taking a coffee break.

I know that while many Hillary Dems did what I did — vote for competent, qualified people wherever possible, including Democrats — some were so angry due to what happened on 5/31/08 (where we were told that we did not count, that our votes did not matter, and when our massed voices crying out for justice went unheard) that they voted a straight Republican ticket.

So the Republicans — including those in Wisconsin, where they won control of both the Assembly (the lower house) and the Senate (upper house) — are wrong when they think they have received a “mandate” to do anything.  What they received was the gift of many Democrats who are angry at how Obama was selected in the first place, along with many who were flat-out frustrated at the policies of Harry Reid (who, inexplicably, held his seat in Nevada) and Nancy Pelosi (easily re-elected, but almost assuredly to retire as former Speakers rarely stay in the House after they lose their Speakership).

So if the Republicans think this is a mandate, they are wrong.

What this was, instead, was a repudiation of the tactics of the DNC on 5/31/08, along with a repudiation of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the entirety of the Obama Administration in particular.

If the Republicans take the wrong message from this, and start cutting unemployment benefits, start cutting health care benefits that are already extant, and mess with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps, or any of the “social safety net” programs that are so vitally needed with the country as a whole having over 9% reportable unemployment (and more like 17% functional unemployment throughout the USA, with some areas having far more), they will be voted out in turn.

Personally, I am disgusted that Wisconsin voted out Russ Feingold, an 18-year veteran of the Senate.  Feingold is an honest, ethical and principled politician; the only thing he’d ever done that I fully disagreed with was backing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008 (though he did not like what the DNC did on 5/31/08 any better than anyone else — such was the impression I received).   I voted for Mrs. Clinton in the Wisconsin Primary, and am as disgusted as anyone I know — and enraged, too — about what the DNC did on 5/31/08, but I cast my vote anyway for Feingold because unlike many politicians, he actually explains himself and has taken it upon himself to visit every county in Wisconsin every single year.  (Plus I looked at it this way, as a HRC supporter: Hillary Clinton is a centrist/pragmatist.  She’d want Wisconsin to have the best possible person representing the state, who in my opinion was Russ Feingold, whether or not she gets along with him.)

What we have now in Ron Johnson, the Republican Senator-elect, is a man who is independently wealthy, has no compassion whatsoever (or at least has evinced none), and believes in TANSTAAFL — an abbreviation for what Robert A. Heinlein called “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.”  Which in general is a maxim worth living by — and is one of the most Libertarian philosophies around — but at a time where there’s 17% “real” unemployment in the country and where employers are not adding jobs, so many are getting by with unemployment checks while praying for a miracle (including myself), TANSTAAFL has to be modified, or a whole lot of people are going to end up dead on the streets as if the US of A had become a Third World country overnight.

Now, is that what Ron Johnson wants?  Probably not, but he hasn’t examined his beliefs too closely, either, by all objective analysis — his only two stated “platforms” were to cut taxes (whatever question he was asked, he’d say he’d cut taxes, even if it was something about Medicaid or getting our troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan) and to repeal Obama’s health care overhaul.  And while many in Wisconsin are very nervous about the Obama health care plan because of Ms. Pelosi’s blithe “we won’t know what’s in the bill until we pass it” comment (one of the worst things a sitting Speaker of the House has ever said, and definitely a factor in this election), that doesn’t mean all of it is bad.

Simply put, the main reason businesses go overseas is because of our health care costs — Ron Johnson is right about that.  But sometimes they go to Europe, which has nationalized health care, or China, which has something similar, or Canada, which definitely has nationalized health care, and that’s because the state is paying for the health care — the business is not.  That’s what Obama was trying — and fumbling — to say, and why he seems to feel that an overhaul is necessary because way too many people are falling through the cracks now, and it’ll just get worse if the businesses like HMOs or PPOs keep running healthcare as a for-profit business.

Perhaps Barack Obama’s idea (which may as well be called Nancy Pelosi’s idea) wasn’t the best one.  I definitely think it wasn’t.  But it was at least a small step in the direction our country needs to go in, though to my mind encouraging more low-income clinics to be built and forgiving new-doctor debt if they work in those for a few years seems to be a far better option all the way around.

People are suffering in this country.  I am one of those afflicted, and I am telling you right now that if the Republicans believe this was a “mandate” for anything, they are as wrong today as Barack Obama was wrong in 2008 after he was elected President of the US that his election was a “mandate” for anything whatsoever, except the mandate “we don’t like who we have, so we want someone else, and pray for a miracle.”  But I don’t think that counts.