Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Van Jones Back in the Game

Van Jones, the environmental justice advocate who relinquished his post as a White House adviser five months ago after coming under fire from conservative activists, is reemerging on the public policy stage to push for green jobs.

Jones, who has been consulting for companies and nonprofits on environmental issues, will start teaching at Princeton University in June and is rejoining the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, next month. On Friday, he will receive the NAACP's President's Award, for achievement in public service, the organization announced Tuesday.

His job at the White House Council on Environmental Quality sparked an uproar last fall when conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck publicized some of Jones's earlier comments and actions. Beck attacked Jones for signing a petition in 2004 from the group that questioned whether officials in President George W. Bush's administration "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war," and for using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration, both of which Jones apologized for before resigning his post.

Jones says, "The good thing about being an American is you're free to think whatever you want, and you're also free to change your mind. That's my story. . . . God willing, I've got 10 or 20 years, 30 years, three decades more work to do. And it's my hope and belief that people will judge me based on that work."

He will have a one-year joint appointment as a distinguished visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for African American Studies and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he will teach a seminar on environmental and economic policy.

I guess, when all is said and done, I agree with John Ruskin:

"What we think or what we know
or what we believe is, in the
end, of little consequence.
The only consequence is what we do"

Time will tell it all.

Source: Washington Post
Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tea Party Convention

The National Tea Party Convention is being held at a fancy resort, features $550 ticket prices, a steak and lobster dinner and a guest speaker with a $100,000 speaking fee. It’s sponsored by a for-profit company with a mysterious wealthy benefactor, and its organizers, who have been accused of secrecy and corruption, have threatened lawsuits against dissenters and clamped down on news coverage.

Sounds like just the kind of thing that tea party activists, whose populist outrage is directed at the Washington and Wall Street establishments, would be up in arms over.

Except it’s a tea party convention.

Setting the Convention's Tone:
The opening speaker at the first National Tea Party Convention called President Obama a "committed Socialist ideologue" who was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote."

"You have launched the counter-revolution," the speaker, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), told 600 or so delegates of the grassroots movement assembled at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville Wednesday night. "It is our nation."

Tancredo also insisted on using Obama's middle name, Hussein, and said he was thankful Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona lost the 2008 presidential election because Obama has mobilized an uprising.

Key note speaker Sarah Palin:
Sarah Palin presented no ideas for change and she presented nothing of any substance to build a plan upon. True, true, she was there to fire-up the TEA Partiers, so it wasn’t as if she needed to come prepared to present a plan to bring America back from Socialistic death. Saturday night it was all about Sarah Palin, the cheerleader.

As with any protest movement, consensus at the Tea Party Convention proved elusive in two days of debate, but they seemed to agree on five key points:

1. Don't Tread on Me
The tea-party folks are innately suspicious of any institutions.

2. The Party in Tea Party Refers Only to Boston
"Form another party? Why would we want to do that?"

3. We Don't Need a Leader
"The tea-party movement has no leader, and ... neither did the American Revolution,"

4. This We Believe
Small government, lower taxes, greater individual liberties, more power to the states and government strictly by the Constitution and Bill of Rights: these are the general principles all tea-party activists can agree upon, to the extent that there was much discussion about a platform.

5. President Palin?
At one point on Saturday, some disgruntled Tennessee tea-party activists held a press conference to complain about the cost of attending the event ($549 per person), which they say excluded many supporters. But when asked whether they begrudged Sarah Palin her reported $100,000 speaking fee, they blanched. "Of course not. I love Sarah Palin, we — I think it's safe to say we — all love Sarah Palin," said one of those complaining about ticket prices that presumably helped to pay for her keynote speech.

"You don't need an office or a title to make a difference," Palin said, noting that Saturday would have been Ronald Reagan's 99th birthday. "We are now the keepers of conservative values and good works."

In Washington, the Republican establishment has wrestled with the tea party movement, but House Republican Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said that there is "no difference" in the beliefs of Republicans and tea party activists.

Source: Yahoo News, Politico, Washington Post, Huffington Post

Bye Bye Bayh

Sen. Evan Bayh, a centrist Democrat from Indiana, announced Monday that he won't seek a third term in Congress. The announcement stunned the American political world.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bayh took pains to emphasize his support for President Obama's re-election, but said disarray within both political parties has created an opening for a third-party contender.

On MSNBC, Bayh declared the American political system "dysfunctional," riddled with "brain-dead partisanship" and permanent campaigning. Flatly denying any possibility that he'd seek the presidency or any other higher office, Bayh argued that the American people needed to deliver a "shock" to Congress by voting incumbents out en masse and replacing them with people interested in reforming the process and governing for the good of the people, rather than deep-pocketed special-interest groups.

Bayh blamed the current atmosphere of intense partisanship on the need for senators to constantly campaign to be reelected to another six-year term. He noted that the need for constant fundraising made it nearly impossible to focus on passing legislation.

Bayh has apparently become increasingly frustrated in the Senate. In an MSNBC interview he noted that just two weeks ago, Republicans who had co-sponsored a bill with him to rein in the deficit turned around and voted against it for purely political reasons. He also stated repeatedly that members of his own party should be more willing to settle for a compromise rather than holding out for perfection.

"Sometimes half a loaf is better than none," Bayh insisted.

Frustration over the increasing amount of money being spent on political campaigns isn't exactly a new thing, as spending by candidates in the 2008 presidential election nearly quadrupled the amount of money spent by candidates in the 2000 election. Additionally, winners of House races in 2000 spent an average of $849,158 to do so, while House winners in 2008 spent an average of $1,372,591. Enhancing the concerns of many on the left and the right has been a recent Supreme Court decision to strike down the country's existing campaign finance laws. Put simply, the ruling opens the door for an even greater influence of money by allowing corporations spend money directly on campaigns.

Voter frustration is high, making the fight for campaign cash all the more crucial to politicians hoping to remain in office. A recent poll found that 44% of Americans believe incumbents should be voted out of office.

However, reforms of Congress appear unlikely. There doesn't appear to be any significant momentum at this time behind efforts to change the rules that govern passing legislation or Congress's need to constantly campaign and fundraise. With an election year beginning, it's also unlikely that congressional leaders will begin to see eye to eye more often on major legislation.

Perhaps a "shock" is indeed called for in order to change that.