Patty Dineen

The view from here

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Is Obama’s Blackberry Ringing Yet?

Shortly after Barack Obama was elected some journalists had fun writing about whether Obama would be able to keep his beloved Blackberry after the inauguration.  Security folks reportedly considered it a risk for the President to be carrying an electronic device that might give his location or movements away.  Obama’s argument for keeping his own phone included that it would be a way for his “outside” life to keep him in touch with reality.  He said he liked the idea that if he lost touch with the ‘real world’, and got too caught up with inside-the-beltway- thinking,  one or more of his old friends could call him up and say, “Hey, what the heck are you doing?”

I haven’t heard anything recently about whether Obama still has his Blackberry but I’ve been thinking about it lately.  Maybe it’s our last hope.  So, whoever you are out there who has that number, please, dial now.  Say, “Listen pal, you need to get real.  You need to give some sign that you get it that people want you to push out a bold and specific, and BIG, plan.  The time is ripe and people are ready to climb on board with you if you will just let them know you are going to get your hands dirty and work right alongside them.  Ask for sacrifice and you will get it.  And my friend, you can NOT get away with that ‘you’ll always be AAA in my book’ crap.”  (And if the Necco Company doesn’t immediately start printing that on those little candy hearts, they are missing a great opportunity.)

Then tell him that at the very least he needs to fire all his speech writers, and replace at least half of his advisors.  Tell him to get angry and to make sure people know it.  Then tell him to hang  up and get busy writing a serious plan to present to the American people.

If he rationalizes, whines, or says don’t worry, Congress will eventually come up with a compromise…then it’s time to hang up and give that Blackberry number to the rest of us.

Written by dineenp

August 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Politics, money, the public and revolution…

Okay.  A commentator’s recent suggestion that “revolution is on the table” is, thankfully, still greeted in most parts with surprise and dismay.  Come a time that we aren’t surprised when commentators say this, then…  Anyway, it should come as no surprise that people are getting pretty fed up, feeling that the public’s voice has pretty much come unhinged from Washington.  Washington, instead,  has become ever more tightly hinged to — money.  Here is what Robert Reich writes in his book Aftershock, about the indirect, but nonetheless, potent effects of money:

No policy has been altered, no bill or vote willfully changed.  But inevitably, as the politician enters into these endless social rounds among the networks of the wealthy, his view of the world is affected.  Increasingly, the politician hears the same kinds of suggestions, the same concerns and priorities.  The wealthy do not speak in one voice, to be sure, but they share a broad common perspective.  The politician hears only indirectly and abstractly from the less comfortable members of society.  They are not at the coffees and dinners.  They do not tell him directly and repeatedly, in casual banter and through personal stories, how they view the world.  They do not speak continuously into the politician’s ear about their concerns.  The politician learns of those concerns from his pollsters, and from occasional political appearnaces back in his home district, but he is not immersed in them as he is in the culture of the comfortable.  In this way, access to the network of the wealthy does not necessarily buy a politician’s vote.  It buys his mind. (pgs 109-110)

…Perhaps the most convincing evidence that the game is rigged is the deafening silence about all this.  You would think political leaders would talk about the nation’s surging inequality and the flattening of middle-class incomes.  But as the divergence in income and wealth has grown to stunning proportions, it is rare to find even a Democratic politician who dwells on it. (pgs 113-114)

As CNBC’s Rick Santelli once famously screamed, “President Obama, are you listening to this?”

Written by dineenp

October 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

After the Snow: How will we know when Washington, DC starts up again?

So.  We who live in the mid-atlantic are bracing for another large snow storm.  Snow shovels are sold out (I couldn’t even find one in stock on Amazon), and hardware stores are putting piles of water softener salt near the front of the store for people to use on sidewalks and steps.  The TV pundits (in an amazing and fleeting display of nonpartisan and unbiased commentary) are all concurring in saying that Washington, DC was, and still pretty much is, shut down with the two feet of snow they got.  More is on the way, and so they are fretting that DC will be shut down even longer while they dig out yet again.

But how, I wonder, will we be able to tell when Washington starts up again?  I haven’t noticed much getting done there for quite some time.  A very, very long time in fact.  So here’s a modest proposal.  Maybe it would be a kindness to us all if DC would stay snowed in until about, oh, maybe the Fourth of July.  That would be a nice patriotic time to start up again.  And maybe a few months of isolation during which to reflect, do some stretching exercises,  and examine and re-order their priorities would give them (and us all, for God’s sake) a breather and a fresh sense of possibility.  I know I could use a break from hearing about how little they are getting done…I can only imagine how exhausting it must be for them- there in the thick of all that lack-of-progress.  It must be mind-numbing.

So let’s let DC save some money, give the road crews and public transportation employees a nice long vacation, and let the snow fall where and as deep as it may.  Let’s let it stay on the ground until the sun stays out long enough to melt it (as God probably intended anyway).  And if the snow eventually buries the city completely?  Let’s reconvene (online) at that point and talk about picking a new location to be our capitol so we can start over from scratch.  There now. Well I don’t know about you, but as the snow begins falling here, again, I am feeling almost…yes, definitely…hopeful.

Written by dineenp

February 9, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Dreams and celebration today, reality and work tomorrow

Today, we will celebrate one of those galvanizing historic moments in our country’s history.  There’s lots to celebrate and everyone’s personal list is probably at least a little different.  But for today, as a country, we are possibly as nearly united in sharing happiness and optimism as such a diverse and free population can be.  Let’s hope it doesn’t last too long.

I say this for President Obama’s sake as well as for the country’s sake.  It’s been exhilarating but we have decidedly not done him any favors by placing him on such a frightentingly high and narrow pedestal.   Much of a move in any direction (perhaps even moving at all) poses the risk of a serious fall.  Great hope was sown and fermented during the last two years of his campaign for the presidency.  Like yeast in a warm, sugary environment, it has grown and spread.  It smells good, it looks good, it feels good.  But lately, if you’ve been listening, even Obama has been throwing some seeds of caution into that frothy mix.

Just in the area of the economy, he’s been pointing out that the new fiscal stimulus package won’t please everyone; that he will make mistakes; and that things will likely get worse before they start to get better.  This all sounds reasonable – who would fault him?  But eventually the campaign promise (that we all cheered) to “cut programs that don’t work,” will have to become a list of real programs — programs that employ people, that communities and individuals may have come to cherish, that have at least some meaning or they wouldn’t have been created in the first place. 

 Obama has warned us that there will be sacrifice and work.  We’ve cheered that too, but we haven’t heard much yet about what kind of sacrifices and who will do the work.  Recent public outreach campaigns and photo-ops have been satisfying but misleading.  Will we donate time and energy to help paint the walls in a deteriorating school?  No problem.  Will we get rid of teachers who can’t teach, and pay more taxes to support those who can?  Maybe. Maybe not.  Will we pack gift boxes for those serving in war zones overseas?  Happily.  Will we support the reinstitution of a draft if it is deemed necessary. Uhm…  Will we support an energy independence “revolution?”  Sign me up.  Will we welcome (or even tolerate) a significant new tax on gasoline?  How about the building of a nuclear reactor in our community?

The generalities are fun; the details of making choices…not so much.  Obama knows this and he’s been dropping hints.  He has lately referred to the difference between the reality of doing the hard work as compared to what has been said in “campaign rhetoric” — his phrase, not mine.  It is a worrisome testament to what sparse civics and history education we have required of the last couple of generations that so many youthful Obama supporters believe that the sentiments and ideas they are hearing in his speeches are being expressed by him for the first time ever.  Yesterday I watched Richard Nixon’s inaugural speech on C-span — if you just listened to the words you could easily imagine large parts of the same speech sounding right on the mark today.  But that’s okay.  What matters is what happens next.

Obama needs to move quickly to use his tremendous political and social capital to help us learn how to disagree with him without rejecting him; how to live with choices that are not the ones we would make; and how we can hold him and his administration accountable.  He needs to help us not panic that all is lost when we see that, after all, he is just human like the rest of us.  Today we need to celebrate; tomorrow we need to start to get real.

Written by dineenp

January 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

The audacity of hoping Barack Obama would send his children to public schools

The public school system — even with all its problems– remains a shining example of something our country did spectacularly right in its formative years.  Innovative and daring, the idea of providing publicly-financed education for all children became a reality because there was the political will to make it happen.  It may be the single thing that bears the most responsibility for making this country great.

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have chosen not to send their two young children to public schools, but rather have enrolled them in the expensive, elite, private Sidwell Friends School located in the Washington, DC area. 

Sending their children to a public Washington, DC school would have conveyed an incredibly powerful message to the country, not to mention to public school students, their families, teachers and administrators, about belief in the importance and effectiveness of public education– and belief in hope and change.  It would have demonstrated in unequivocal terms that public schools can be safe, secure, and effective — can be good places to be for anyone, even the children of the President of the United States — especially the children of the President of the United States.  Talking about the importance of public education but then choosing otherwise for your own children speaks loudly indeed.  This message will not be lost on the country.

Arguments citing concerns about security, quality of education, and safety to rationalize the choice of a private school for the President’s children are hollow and disingenuous.  It is true that many of the public schools in the Washington, DC area are not providing a good education, but there are some that are.  Chancellor of DC public schools, Michelle Rhee’s two children attend public school.  Rhee invited the Obamas to consider DC public schools in their school search but the Obamas reportedly visited only private schools.

Safety and security are certainly huge factors, and it might be easier to secure a private school adequately for the children of the President, but the Secret Service can secure many kinds of settings and the extra effort of securing a public school would be well worth the gains that would ensue.  In one fell swoop it would greatly enhance the safety and security of an entire school’s population of students and teachers; showcase the educational possibilities of public schools; and motivate and reinvigorate an entire school district’s worth of students, teachers, administrators and parents in a way that nothing else could do.  Now that would be change we could believe in.

Written by dineenp

January 5, 2009 at 6:52 pm