27 reasons to be thankful?

The Center for American Progress cluttered up my mailbox today with the following thanks. With this, I include a point by point response:

  • We’re thankful President Obama is thinking long and hard about committing more troops and money to Afghanistan.

    Unfortunately, it is now pretty clear that Obama has stopped thinking and will now send 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan on a futile mission that makes the United States less safe and costs us money that we simply don’t have.

  • We’re thankful President Bush feels liberated now.

    President Bush is a war criminal and should be in prison. The relative peace in Iraq now is the consequence of ethnic cleansing. It is an understatement to say that there were over one million “excess” deaths among civilians following the invasion of Iraq.

  • We’re (not) thankful Dick Cheney has elected to move from his undisclosed location to the media spotlight.

    As obnoxious as Cheney is, he isn’t the real problem. I just got through reading Richard J. Bernstein’s The Abuse of Evil. Bernstein rightly condemns the good-evil dichotomy that blinds public policy and urges us to take a more nuanced view of those whom we label “terrorists.” That’s good as far as it goes, but the trouble is that we have no compelling answer for these absolutists in our own government who not only hijack foreign policy but health care reform and threaten to take the presidency in 2012.

  • We’re thankful Al Franken has gone from playing self-help guru Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live to helping rape victims receive justice from their employers.

    This was magnificent:

    But we have a problem with corporate influence in politics that is far from limited to binding arbitration for criminal acts. It turns out that it isn’t centrist Democrats, conservative Democrats, or Republicans who object to auditing the Federal Reserve, but liberal Democrats. The Obama administration rushed to bail out banks, but when it comes to people who are out of work, the economic stimulus was bogus and now it seems there are “limits to what government can and should do even during such difficult times.” Obama promises a forum on job creation, but the message should not be lost that workers are far less important than banks.

  • We’re thankful for the healing power of beer.

  • Yeah, and I’m drinking a lot more of it lately. Unemployment sucks.

  • We’re thankful there are some on the right who think Glenn Beck is “incoherent,” “mindless,” “erratic,” “bizarre,” and “harmful to the conservative movement.”

    Why? Those few on the right who think the Republican Party has been hijacked by wackos are far outnumbered by the wackos themselves, who think Sarah Palin sounds like them.

  • We’re thankful for long hikes on the Appalachian Trail.

    To be thankful for Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s hypocrisy in an extramarital affair is itself sheer hypocrisy. The only reason for celebrating this is the embarrassment it causes Republicans, which is presumably a political advantage for Democrats.

  • This fails to address the fact that “family values” hypocrisy retains a considerable appeal among voters. It simply isn’t enough for progressives to smirk about self-righteous idiots campaigning against sex. But that seems to be all we ever do about it.

  • We’re thankful Michael Steele understands that he can’t “do policy” and that no one has any reason to trust his “words or actions.”

    Steele attracts particular wrath because as an African-American he appears to betray his race in his role with the Republican Party. But how about Barack Obama’s waffling on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., or his repudiation of his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? But I guess it is okay for African-Americans to betray their race as long as they’re Democrats.

  • We’re (not) thankful for “birthers,” “deathers,” “tenthers,” or “tea baggers.”

    But what are you doing about it? Writing for Salon.com, Michael Lind has explained how Republicans have “owned [populism] since Nixon.” With all your influence, I don’t see you challenging the others who seem to have bought and paid for a president who ran on a promise of “hope” and of “change.”

  • We’re (not) thankful conservatives believe they love America so much that they can root for our President to fail and for our nation to lose out on hosting the Olympics.

    But did it ever once occur to you to seriously consider the possibility that there may be more important projects for Obama to be working on than bringing the Olympics to Chicago? One cost that pops into my head would be the carbon he dumped into the atmosphere while flying Air Force One to Copenhagen, but let’s face it. This was just silly.

  • We’re thankful NFL players refused to “bend over and grab the ankles” for Rush Limbaugh.

    But you’re focusing on a personality, a hateful personality for sure, but a personality. I’m more interested in the role football plays in our society, how it contributes to the problems we face. Next to these, Limbaugh is a gnat.

  • We’re thankful six companies have resigned from the Chamber of Commerce due to its denial of climate change science.

    But are you doing enough to challenge an economic ideology that places profits before people? Or do you really think capitalism can be reformed?

  • We’re thankful Falcon “Balloon boy” Heene wasn’t actually in the balloon.

    You were worried about one boy. What about the children who are dying because of the war in Afghanistan that you support?

  • We’re thankful Lt. Dan Choi and Lt. Col Victor Fehrenbach bravely spoke out against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

    But what do you have to say about a military mindset that we inculcate in our young from the Brownies and the Cub Scouts on up, with oaths and salutes and uniforms and badges, that insists that everyone should look and behave the same?

  • We’re thankful Shep Smith doesn’t always drink the Fox News kool-aid.

    I think you’re jealous. Fox News has a larger audience than you do. What are you doing about that?

  • We’re thankful more than 80 companies refused to lend their sponsorship to Glenn Beck’s hateful rants.

    You’re thankful for capitalists? What about their relentless war on working people? Where does this rank on your moral scale?

  • We’re thankful there are progressive organizations in D.C. lobbying for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

    But the only lobby on the topic that seems to count is the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The United States is not seen as, and should not be seen as even-handed in its dealings with Israel and the Palestinians.

  • We’re (not) thankful for the filibuster.

    Gee, you sounded a little different on this issue in 2005.

  • We’re thankful that more than 20,000 of you stood up to Bill O’Reilly’s harassment machine and called for impeachment hearings against torture advocate Jay Bybee.

    But I guess torture is okay when the Obama administration decides to keep the option even though torture is never necessary.

  • We’re thankful that Iran’s authoritarian rulers live in fear of their own population.

    But what about Honduras, where the Obama administration is now complicit in propping up an illicit regime?

  • We’re thankful we’ll no longer have to listen to nativist rhetoric on CNN and global warming skepticism on ABC News.

    This amounts to more whining about populism. But what are you doing to show working people you have their interests at heart?

  • We’re (not) thankful for bailed out CEOs who think they’re doing “God’s work” by doling out billions in bonuses.

    Is that because they’re an embarrassment to capitalists, to Democrats, or to the Obama administration?

    One thing that should have been clear all along is that Obama is not a progressive. But Democrats know that progressives have no realistic alternative and that they will roll over like they always do. Conservatives have taken over the Republican Party and don’t care if they win power. We need to learn from Conservatives.

  • We’re thankful for the legacy of the Liberal Lion.

    It’s a little hard to imagine what you mean by this. The health care reform package emerging from Congress is nearly worthless.

  • We’re thankful Bill O’Reilly won’t be following us home for Thanksgiving.

    But his audience is a real problem. And while you keep attacking personalities, you never address the fact that their message resonates with a significant part of the population. And you know what? Ours doesn’t.

  • We’re thankful a “wise Latina” sits on the Supreme Court.

    The New York Times renders Sonia Sotomayor’s remarks this way:

    In her speech, Judge Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.

    “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” said Judge Sotomayor, who is now considered to be near the top of President Obama’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees.

    I agree that “a wise old man and a wise old woman” might indeed reach very different conclusions. Feminist theory relies heavily on the notion of partial perspective, that a person’s view of the world is formed from their position in society. That position is affected by race, class, gender, religion, and a whole host of other characteristics by which we distinguish groups of people. And I honestly don’t see how one can refute this. The Times pretty clearly infers it further down in the article:

    Judge Sotomayor has given several speeches about the importance of diversity. But her 2001 remarks at Berkeley, which were published by the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, went further, asserting that judges’ identities will affect legal outcomes.

    “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,” she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

    The problem lies in the actual quotation that “a wise Latina woman . . . would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” Difference is not the same as superiority. In evaluating Sotomayor’s claim, we should question a privileging of any perspective, be it that of a white male, be it that of a Latina female, be it anybody else’s.

    The value here should not be that “a wise Latina woman” makes a better decision but that her decision reflects an experience historically discounted by the wealthy white males who have nearly monopolized positions of power in society. But conservatives see a racist and sexist remark. And her answer was evasive. According to Time Magazine:

    At the July 14 hearing, the nominee explained that “wise Latina” was her attempt to play off a quote by retired justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who said that “both men and women were equally capable of being wise and fair judges.” Sotomayor said that “my play fell flat. It was bad.” But Sotomayor is just trying to ameliorate her critics without having to make them look… unwise.

    Time insists that she “was trying [to] say that her breadth of experience navigating different worlds might lead her to have greater wisdom on certain topics than her white male counterparts.” Time may be right–but Judge Sotomayor should have been the one to say it.

  • We’re thankful our boss helped rescue imprisoned American journalists in North Korea.

    John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, accompanied Bill Clinton in North Korea. Podesta’s role in the Obama transition raises further doubts about the “private” nature of Clinton’s trip. As the Washington Post put it:

    Although the White House and the State Department steadfastly insisted that the former president — the husband of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — was on a “private humanitarian mission,” the trip came about only after weeks of back-channel conversations involving academics, congressional figures, and senior White House and State Department officials, said sources involved in the planning.

    Clinton, Podesta, and Doug Band (that are listed in the article the Center for American Progress cites) and unknown others went on a trip to do what the United States could not officially do. We should be asking why the U.S. cannot officially do what these people did, whose purposes are served by an obvious artifice, and if it is ethical to participate in this way.

  • We’re thankful for our readers and the support you give us.

    Right. Maybe if the system you help to uphold was even a little fair. Instead, as LeAnn Knudsen said at a Sarah Palin book signing, “This hope and change, hope and change, what hope? And if this is change, God help us.”

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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