Drachmocalypse: The making of a Greek tragedy

Every living person on planet earth, regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality, shares a basic right of life. We all have a history. Like our amazing genetic code, each one is different, but connected. The other key this is that each second we live, we also make history. But while making it, history is very tough to see.

In 2012, Greece is in an epic time of it’s history. In three short years, life has been upended for a once proud people. What’s easy to lose sight of here is that this crisis wasn’t caused by all of Greece, but is a result of bad decisions by a privileged few in government and corporate leadership. But all Greeks are having to pay the price. The middle class and the poor are bearing the weight of these greedy people.

So here are the facts…

Greek unemployment has more than doubled in two short years, and now stands at 23%. That’s among the entire country, but young adults are much worse off. More than half of Greeks under 30 are out of work. Just keep in mind that no significant western nation has had such a dramatic rise in unemployment since Germany after WWI. Economic unrest is the main root of the political unrest. You can’t cure one without the other.

As desperation grows among young adults, so does extremism. Once a marginalized fringe group known for violence against minorities and Neo-Nazi-ism, the Golden Dawn Party is rapidly rising to prominence. In the May 6th election, Golden Dawn became a force of national government, garnering 7 percent of the electoral vote and seating 20 representatives in Parliament. All signs point to growing unrest for the country as this group gains power and political influence. Again the parallels with Nazi Germany cannot be ignored.

Though the recent election results seem promising, the possibility looms that Greece could return to the drachma, it’s former currency before joining the Euro. The money situation in Greece is very complex, but one thing is for sure… A return to the drachma is further uncertainty for the Greek people, and would ensure a huge spike in economic inflation. Most Greek families have already drained their savings dry, but if their currency suddenly changes and inflation abounds, it could be next to impossible for people to meet basic life needs. Again, we have to look at Germany, where the very same scenario played out before WWII. Inflation skyrocketed, and pretty soon people became so isolated from the rest of the world that they turned against it. The threat of this is still very real as long as the Greek government continues to wage aggressive austerity measures. Be it Drachma or Euro, the austerity measures are what put the Greek nation in danger… not the currency.

Faced with this downward spiral, have we learned anything? This is not the time to turn our backs on Greece. We shouldn’t be writing them off as a “lesser crises” compared to looming troubles in Spain or Italy. This is a time for other countries to get together and figure out a path forward for Greece. Instead of punishing 11 million people for decisions mostly out of their control, we should be coming together to help people preserve their life, society and dignity.

A small way to start would be investment in the country’s historical sights and museums. Besides bringing needed revenue to the area, it would also be a way to shield these world treasures from the whims of an unstable political environment. Just an idea.

In the US, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own issues. They are important as well. But a storm is brewing in Greece. We need to see it now, before the problem truly do get out of control.

The ABCs of the GOP: F is for…

FEAR

You know what they say about overly aggressive dogs… “Don’t worry, it’s bark is worse than it’s bite.” Most of the time, the same cliche applies in Washington. Politicians make a lot of huge promises during campaign time. They vilify the party opposite, and proclaim themselves to have all of the right answers. But once sworn in, they go behind closed doors, and try to come up with common-sense solutions.

But unfortunately, the days of common sense are over for the GOP. Their singular modus operandi has been reduced to its most primal, instictive core… FEAR. As for what they are afraid of? Well let’s see if we can figure that out.

The GOP is afraid of changing demographics. Much of this was covered in the letter E, but it is quite fitting that we were reminded today. During President Obama’s bold move to end deportation of young illegal immigrants “Dreamers” The Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas caught a rather interesting conflict between Fox News coverage and it’s affiliate Fox News Latino. On FNL, the reaction to Obama’s new policy seems quite positive, compared to its scathing counterparts on the Fox News and Fox News Nation main sites. The Romney campaign was “hesitant” to respond to the Presdient’s statement, finally criticizing the move for not being a “long-term solution”. It’s sufficient to say that their stance is fearful and weak.

To some extent, the GOP is afraid of Obama. Not of the man himself, nor of the office of the President. But the one thing they do know about him is that he is smart, and fair. No one is saying he does everything right, or that he’s been a perfect President, but they know that he is very good at representing his views. He’s a strong, centrist Democrat. That’s why they stop at nothing to portray him as a far-left, foriegn-born socialist. If they weren’t afraid of him, there wouldn’t be the need to make up and promote such exceptional lies. This fear has caused quite a mess for some GOP lawmakers. In order for Obama to be all of these terrible things, they first have to make him the enemy. That means they must present a united front against him, and can NEVER agree with him for any reason (especially in public). Some legislators like John McCain and Texas’ own Kay Bailey Hutchison have actually had to vote against legislation they originally co-sponsored once they found out the President would support it. And of course in 2010 Senator McCain of Arizona, who co-sponsored the DREAM Act, tucked tail and changed position to filibuster the bill during the Obama administration. Clearly they are afraid of giving any support to Obama, even if it is in concert with their own principles. Why would you do all of the work to sponsor a bill, then vote against it?? Here’s Rachel Maddow’s coverage of this very difficult scenario…

But the GOP’s greatest fear is not the threat of extinction or Democrats, or even President Obama. None of those things. The GOP’s greatest fear is itself. As their numbers have continued to wane and their views on social issues like Gay marriage and contraception become increasingly antequated, Republicans have been forced to latch on to the far-right in order to stay relevant. At first, this grand merger seemed workable, but now the extreme group is threatening every structural aspect of the party. They are driving out moderates, and leaving those that stand with them as hypocrites. Many people have said that Ronald Reagan couldn’t get elected in the contemporary GOP. I strongly suspect that they are correct.

Time to DREAM: Obama’s new move on immigration

In yet another historic and bold action, the Obama administration announced bold reforms on its immigration policy. The administration will now grant work VISAs to certain eligible youth and will cease deportations for those who qualify. Most persons affected by this policy change are younger illegal immigrants without a criminal record… those who have already lived in the US for most of their lives and were brought here by no fault of their own… commonly referred to as “DREAMers” because they are the ones who would benefit most from the DREAM Act.

The President gave a short and “impassioned” speech on the issue today, but was rudely interrupted by Neil Munro of the Daily Caller. Immediately, you could see President Obama become rife with anger at Munro’s lack of professionalism. The President pointed directly at him to make sure everyone present saw the interaction. This is next to unheard of in the press corps for a Rose Garden speech (here’s a link to the full remarks).

As you can see, Obama’s bold move has already ignited backlash from the right. Here’s the part of the official statement from Rep. Peter King

The Administration is overstepping its authority by weakening immigration laws without Congressional approval,” King said in an email. “I am very concerned about efforts to administratively implement amnesty for countless illegal aliens under the age of 30. It is vital that US borders are secure prior to any consideration of amnesty proposals.”

I find it interesting how Mr. King has phrased this, “without Congressional approval”. Here’s what is really important for anyone that supports the DREAM Act to know….

Simply put, Mr. King is lying. Congress did approve the DREAM Act back in 2010. It passed the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi 216-198. The bill also garnered a majority of votes in the Senate, 55-41 including Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Dick Lugar and Bob Bennett. Included in those “no” votes?? Senator John McCain, who actually co-sponsored the DREAM Act in 2001. The majority of Congress passed this bill, but because of the GOP filibuster, it died in the Senate. So if they want to accuse the President of “going too far” with this executive order, they should go right ahead. Republicans have been going too far since they decided to filibuster every major initiative of the Obama administration. It’s high time Obama and the Democrats fought fire with fire.

Megabus’ rocky start in Texas

For weeks, there has been a buzz going on in Texas, especially among the urban traveller crowd. Megabus, the low-cost intra-city bus line is starting service in the Texas Triangle on June 19th. With bargain basement fairs and chic new buses featuring wi-fi and chargers, the company has definitely succeeded in garnering some attention. Even for me, the new service was worth a try.

Perhaps the best feature of Megabus is chosen locations for pick-ups and drop-offs. For cities, the bus delivers you right to downtown… the center of transit connections, and everything else for the area.

Or so we thought. Apparently Megabus is having some trouble securing a downtown Dallas location, and have messaged ticket-holders that they will be dropped off in Grand Prairie…

This is no small change in location, especially to travelers whose purpose in using Megabus is due to cost. The Grand Prairie site is 13.3 miles from the original rendevous point. It isn’t connected to the DART metro system at all, so now the only remaining option is to seek cab fare from Grand Prairie.

Questions for the Megabus team now abound. Why wasn’t this settled with the city long ago? If people have already booked fares, shouldn’t there be a mechanism in place to get them at least to the appropriate CITY, if not the exact location? If “permission was granted” to Megabus, isn’t the city contractually obligated to keep that agreement? Was the permission ever actually granted?

For some potential riders, this is a big problem, and an indication that Megabus isn’t as professional as their ads portray them to be.

The Only Way is UP

So far 2012 has proven to be a tough year for the US, both economically and politically. Sometimes it feels like we just get lost in the shuffle… especially those who don’t have Billionaires or campaign machines to speak for them.

But on this Recall Day for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, we are finally reminded that Democracy can’t be killed. All the rights that people have fought so hard for are still alive. Even if the efforts of the Recall are unsuccessful, the citizens of Wisconsin still made their voices heard, and stood up to the forces that are constantly trying to drown them out.

Wisconsin, we’ve heard you, and we’re responding to the call. My hope is that we’re finally beginning to awake the sleeping giant of Democracy, and we will soon tell the Washington oligarchy that enough is enough.

Seeing the long lines to the voting booths, I’m inspired by one of my favorite songs by British phenoms James Morrison and Jessie J…

It’s never too late to turn it back around, yeah I know you can!

Don’t bury your demons deep in the ground.

When it all falls down, the only way is up.

For Wisconsin voters, and for everyone else, the only Way is UP.

The ABCs of the GOP: E is for

Extinction

For all of the craziness that has gone on within the national GOP, things have been pretty standard here in Texas. After all this is one constant in the world of American politics… Texas is reliably REPUBLICAN. Now the largest state to carry that title, and certainly the one with the most political clout.

But one thing you learn very quickly living in the “Patron State” of the GOP… things aren’t always how they appear to be. If you listen carefully, there’s a stampede happening down here in Texas. And it threatens not only the political structure of Austin, but the Republican Party as we know it.

Texas Republicans are losing the demographic race. With each year, the state of Texas loses white citizens, and gains in minorities (mainly Hispanic), who tend to vote Democrat. If projections are correct, 2010 was the last Census that Non-Hispanic whites will even be the majority in the state. Literally any minute now, the single largest racial group will be Hispanic.

Rather than embrace this new reality and try to engage the rapid growth and Conservative possibilities within the Hispanic community, the Texas GOP has chosen to fight it tooth and nail. With the 2010 Census the state was awarded a whopping 4 new seats to Congress. It’s a massive reflection of the population swell. But despite the fact 65% of the states population growh was Hispanic, Texas Republicans cooked up a Redistricting process that somehow produced 3 new “majority white” Congressional seats. Only one seat will go to a very new (and very convoluted) majority Hispanic district. After an aggressive and painful court battle, there is a temporary ruling in place through the November elections. Unlike years past, the Hispanic community definitely took notice in the redistricting brawl, resulting in a surge of Democratic voters.

Along with the racial and ethnic pendulum shift, it’s no secret that Texas is also rapidly becoming more urban. Of the more than 4 million people that Texas gained between 2000 and 2010, more than 1/3rd of them were in just six of the state’s 254 counties… Harris (Houston), Dallas, Tarrant (Ft. Worth), Bexar (San Antonio), Travis (Austin) and El Paso. The same 6 counties, along with their immediate suburbs, also grew rapidly more diverse.

In the 2008 election, five of these six counties voted for Obama. This is typical for most urban areas across the country, but it’s less typical for Texas. With the state’s population clearly shifting to urban areas, it does not bode well for GOP prospects. If the trends hold, the GOP may have already lost Texas’ major cities… for good. 2008 was also the first time in Texas history that more than 3 million votes were cast for a Democratic candidate. That’s an increase of almost 700,000 Democrats from the 2004 election, and the most significant increase among the Democratic electorate in Texas. It’s just an example of the massive potential there is to be harnassed in Texas.

So is anyone surprised by the growing efforts to purge Texas voters? These actions have been unprecedented in states like Florida and Pennsylvania this year, but Texas takes the cake. The Houston Chronicle reports that 1.5 million residents are in danger of losing their voting rights unless they provide additional documentation to the state to prove that they are legal Texans. Interesting that the state of Texas, already having cut 5 billion dollars from a very needy public education system, somehow finds the funding to ensure that its voters are who they say they are by shifting the burden of proof to them. Oh, and costing the taxpayers more money in postage, records checks and verification time.

Even beyond the natural demographic shifts, let’s not forget that Republicans continue to alienate potential voters thanks to social issues… especially on immigration reform, and GLBT equality. Rather than try to be leaders and recognize the shifts within our country, the GOP has decided to “double down” on backward policies like DOMA, self-deportation and being firmly against the DREAM Act. With anemic growth prospects among it’s own ranks, Republicans have now been forced to court and legitamize the Religious Right as their only hope of beating Obama and the Democrats. Think about it… if Mitt Romney were HALF the respectful politician that John McCain were, would he really need to continue to engage Donald Trump? 2010 was the year that this painful coalition between extremists and Republicans formed, and thanks to Mitt Romney, they have now walked the plank. If changes aren’t made within the party soon, the only GOP signs we’ll be seeing will be in History books.

Disappointing Jobs Numbers: For once, Reince is right

Well there you have it folks. For the first time in many months, the US unemployment rate has climbed up to 8.2%. The net gain of the US economy was a measly 69,000 jobs during May. April’s job numbers were also revised downward. UGH.

For once, I have to agree with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus… No sense in demonizing the guy when he’s correct…

I couldn’t have said it better myself. A plurality of Obama’s jobs policies “simply are not working.” Funny thing about jobs policies though… they require a little something called ACTION, preferably by the Congress. The President can make plans, give speeches, and greet workers all he wants, but the true weight of the govenrnment lies in how Congress makes laws and applies financial resources of the United States.

If the Obama policies had been carried out, then we would be investing in our nation. All those bad roads and dangerous freeways that you drive on? President Obama’s policies would hire workers to fix them. Difficulties in our public schools? President Obama’s policies would hire more teachers and support staff to help our kids and make our schools better. Tired of having debit or credit card fraud? President Obama’s policies would empower agencies to protect consumers from an ever-growing crisis of electronic theft. Obama wants to create jobs, and he’s put for initiatives to do so since his first day in office. But Congressional Republicans have cried, whined, screamed and threw temper tantrums to stop his policies in their tracks. Yet now, they’re blaming HIM for the meager Recovery. As Steve Benen so eloquently points out, had the American Jobs Act been passed back in 2011, 1.3 million more people would be employed today. President Obama gave a rousing speech, only to have it killed by Congress. House Speaker John Boehner didn’t even bring the bill up for a vote, and it was filibustered by Senate Republicans.

Just so we’re clear, here’s a reminder of President Obama’s policies…

Mitt Romney loves to talk about “job creators”, it’s really one of his favorite phrases to cite. Though it’s odd to me that he NEVER mentions the nation’s largest job creator: the Government. Tens of millions of people work for federal, state and local government agencies. The government isn’t some evil villian just lurking around the corner to ciphon your money. It’s YOUR schools, YOUR policeman, YOUR firefighters, YOUR roads and bridges… I could go on and on. Yet Republicans have waged a war on the same government that they in fact work for. If they had their way, the government would slice and dice millions of jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the Ryan budget is enacted, it would eliminate 4.1 million jobs by 2014. If the current GOP plans go into place, it would be nothing more than economic genocide to our country. Romney’s “solution” to our job woes is to adopt this budget and decimate many American social programs that people depend on today more than ever. One thing is for sure… Democrats continue to lose the messaging war about government employment. If you want more of your friends and neighbors to lose their jobs, that’s what the Ryan budget seeks to do.

It’s easy for the GOP to talk tough when it comes to the economy, but they continue to flee from the truth of the matter. But on this tweet, Mr. Priebus and I do agree… Obama’s policies are not workng because they have not been applied. Think about it this way. You may buy a new treadmill and say “I’m going to get in shape.” You buy it, and put it in your room. But how are you going to get in shape if you don’t ever USE it?

A Voice for the Rest of Texas