Kevin Bliss Essays

The purpose of my blog entry today is first to share an observation about movie-going in America today and then to make some observations about the exceptional movie we saw last night — “The Help”.

The fact is, we rarely go to movie theaters anymore.  It’s just too easy to wait a few months and rent movies on DVD for much less money.  With Blue Ray, surround sound and large screen televisions, it just makes sense to wait.  Add another reason after our experience at the theater last night.

From the moment we walked in, we were assaulted – that is the word – with a barrage of noise and visual images in rapid succession.  It was pure cacophony.  With the exception of one trailer for an upcoming Steven Spielberg film entitled “War Horse”, every movie seemed to think it necessary to assault our senses with sound and rapid fire images.  It didn’t work for me.  In fact, I felt so assaulted that I wanted to get up and walk out of the theater.  I’ve certainly decided to limit future movie-going to the local art theater.  I have no interest in subjecting myself to such a barrage again.  Is this really what sells movies these days?

The movie we went to see was ‘The Help” and it was marvelous.  It could well win “Best Picture” this year; it will certainly be one of the nominees.  This movie had everything I look for in a movie:  great acting, fine screenplay, outstanding production values and importantly, meaning.  I’ve rarely seen a more meaningful and powerful movie.

There can be little doubt that America still has deep wounds from the legacy of slavery and the oppression of African Americans by white America, wounds that still throb in the American psyche.  How could an injustice so profound and so great not still throb?   I can only hope that in educating all Americans about the dark side of the country’s history that movies such as this expand the national consciousness with the promise of a better and more just America in the future.  One can only hope.  See the movie if you haven’t.  It is a true gem.

It is hard for me to understand how anyone can seriously blame President Obama for our current economic mess.  We are still living out the consequences of Bush era foreign and economic policy.  The real folly, however, is in thinking that the Republican Party is the party to extract us from our mess.  With a few notable exceptions, like the weaker-than-it should-have-been Democratic stimulus bill, the failure of Obama policies to work can be largely blamed on the Republican Party which at every turn has said “NO” to anything proposed by the President.  You see, the reality of American politics today is that the interest of your political party comes before country.  President Obama succeeding with economy would decrease the Republican Party’s chance of winning the next election.  The calculus is that simple.

Along these lines, there’s good opinion piece in the Washington Post today contrasting the disconnect between voters support for Obama economic initiatives and their blaming of Obama for our economy’s ills.   The real blame lies with the Republican Party, past, present and future.  America needs to wake up, before it’s too late.

The piece by Greg Sargent is entitled: The big disconnect: Strong disapproval of Obama on economy, solid support for his actual policies.



I wasn’t able to watch the Republican debate last night from Florida, but in following it on Twitter and reading about it this morning, I continue to be struck by how few chords this new GOP strikes with me.  It just isn’t my Republican Party any more.  On so many fronts the party and its leading candidates for President are truly in wacko land.  The audience in Florida last night wasn’t any better, worse in fact, when it loudly supported Ron Paul stating that the government should not help a hypothetical 30-year-old because he didn’t have health insurance.  Video of this segment of the debate can be watched here. This follows up the audience last week in California that enthusiastically applauded capital punishment.  Yea, go death.

Finally, let me close by referencing, and recommending, a Steven Perlstein piece that was published on the Washington Post website on Saturday (September 10, 2011).  It enunciates a number of the reasons I no longer consider myself Republican.  The piece is entitled The magical world of voodoo “economists”,

As a Republican who has all but left the cult already, I recommend the following article from Truthout author Mike Lofgren, a former GOP professional staff member on Capitol Hill.  While I don’t agree with everything Mr. Lofgren says in the article, I agree with much of what he has to say.  It is entitled Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult. This article was also my first introduction to Truthout.

I’ve been a Republican all of my life.  While still registered as such, it is clear I have ceased to belong in the party.  Once a party I respected deeply for it’s common sense on economic, energy, labor, foreign policy and national defense issues, it is now the party of make believe, especially when it comes to tax and economic issues.  The “compromise” it forced over the weekend was no compromise, it was “our way or we destroy the economy”.  Unfortunately, it looks like the bill that finally passed will do great damage to the economy anyway — the compromise being about as non stimulatory as it could possible have been to an economy teetering on the edge of another recession.  Congratulations GOP.  I personally hope you see a loss in November of 2012 of stunning proportions.  You deserve it.  You deserve it badly.  I will work hard to make it happen.

Also, for those of you on Facebook, please consider “liking” both my “What Should Be” page and my “Just Say No to Republicans” page.

As the year draws to a close, there’s a video I highly recommend watching.  It shows that mankind is truly making great progress in terms of lifespan and income.  I had no idea that things are really getting that much better around the globe.  Take a look at this outstanding and informative presentation.  It is entitled Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats – BBC Four.

The point of this is not to pat ourselves on the back.  It’s to redouble our efforts to address both the inequality and monstrous poverty that still grips many millions around the globe.  We can do much better.

Best wishes for healthy and prosperous 2011.

America took a grand step forward a few minutes ago with the Senate’s action repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). All we need is a presidential signature. My deepest appreciation to so many who worked so hard! This is historic.  Hallelujah!

Republicans stepping up to the plate today:

– Senator Richard Burrr (R-NC)
– Senator Scott Brown (R-MA)
– Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
– Senator John Ensign (R-NV)
– Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)
– Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
– Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
– Senator George Voinovich (R-OH)

But it leaves me wondering why Dick Lugar wasn’t on this list today.  Running scared I can only presume given the threat from the right that he will undoubtedly face in his re-election bid in two years.  This is sad on so many levels.  And I won’t even begin to speculate about Lindsey Graham’s vote.  He was certainly neither courageous nor principled in his DADT vote today.   A bridge to far.

In an Op-ed in today’s Washington Post entitled Where the ‘No Labels’ movement falls short, columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. argues that the left isn’t nearly as distant from the center of the political spectrum as is the right.  Observing that there were few Republicans in attendance he concludes that “No Labelers can yet be a constructive force if they remind us of how extreme the right has become and help broker an alliance between the center and the left, the only coalition that can realistically stop an ever more zealous brand of conservatism.”

As a distinctly left-leaning Democrat, it is not surprising that Mr. Dionne perceives the gap between the center and the left of the Democratic Party to be minimal and gap between the center and the Republican right to be enormous.  He is right that there were few apparent conservative Republicans in attendance.  I didn’t meet any personally while I did meet a number of self-described liberals.  Additionally the Republicans in attendance, such as myself, were almost uniformly moderate Republicans.  I will also concede that there do seem to be more moderate Democrats in America these days than moderate Republicans and more of them were in attendance on Monday.

From my personal perspective, however, in the center right of the spectrum, there is still exits a considerable gap between where I stand politically and both the Democratic left and the Republican right.  I’d be just as conflicted as a moderate Democrat as I am today as a moderate Republican as I find a Henry Waxman every bit as objectionable as I do a Jim DeMint.

This traces without doubt to my political roots.  I was a Democrat as a kid — I was very much a fan of Lyndon Johnson and I was appalled by Barry Goldwater.  I remember at the age of 10 begging my parents to take me to a Republican headquarters where I could guiltily pick up a Goldwater bumper sticker and cut it up so as to create a new bumper sticker that read “Old Wet Rag”.  My disillusionment with the Democratic Party began with the ascension of the left of the party, including  Robert Kennedy and Ed Muskie.  The nomination of George McGovern in 1972 was the final straw for me and I registered as a Republican in 1972 and voted for Richard Nixon.  An activist even then, I became the “Young Voters for the President” Chairman on the campus of Trinity University in San Antonio that year.  I have never since been able to trust the Democratic Party and I remain highly distrustful of the Democratic Party’s extraordinarily influential and left-leaning activist groups (labor, peace, and environmental to name a few).

The fact is that I don’t believe I’ve shifted a great deal politically in my life time.  I was then and am still in the relative center of the spectrum.  As the Republican Party began its shift to the right with Ronald Reagan, I have had a harder and harder time remaining a Republican.  And yes, in many ways I suppose I am a classic Republican In Name Only (RINO), still hoping that sanity will prevail and that the pragmatically conservative Republican Party that I first joined will re-emerge.

In the meantime, I have to find a home in the center and today No Labels is offering me just such a home.  As I expressed in my blog post on Tuesday, it was so refreshing on Monday at the No Labels kickoff to be surrounded by people who thought almost exactly as I did.

And so Mr. Dionne, however you care to label it, No Labels can be a place where centrists can come together to discuss reasonable solutions in the middle of the spectrum and effectively work to support candidates who are willing to craft solutions as unpopular with the far left as the far right.

The time for repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) has long since come — although it remains unclear whether Republicans realize it or not.  I note the vote in the U.S House of Representatives yesterday was 250-175 in favor.  I sadly note that only 15 Republicans voted yes and that 15 Democrats voted no.
When the Defense Secretary and almost all senior generals say “we need this done legislatively and not by the courts” it would appear to give Republicans the opening they need to do what’s best for the military, even if they don’t like it.  For them to say no now seems to be saying that they’re more concerned with politics than with the effect of having gays serve in the military.
As for John McCain, he’s completely abdicated his “responsible independent” status.  And in case anyone missed it, Sam Nunn announced last week that he is in favor of repeal.  He was the Democrat Chairman of the Armed Services Committee during the enactment of DADT who supported DADT to the consternation of many fellow Democrats and most of the GLBT community.  He also became with that move someone for whom so many of us in the GLBT community have continued to harbor animosity since.  When I own a stock in which he’s on the board, I always vote against him.  (I also learned this week that another friend, whom I knew from our former work together in Log Cabin Republicans, has been doing the same.)  Now I am free to vote for him again.  He’s redeemed at last.  Let’s hope the Senate will join the House in redeeming itself this week as well.  It is the right thing to do.
For the record here are the fourteen Republicans who made the correct vote yesterday.  Sadly, several won’t be back next year.  I put them on my list of rational Republicans:
Judy Biggert (IL), Mary Bono Mack (CA), John Campbell (CA), Anh Cao (LA), Michael Castle (DE), Charles Dent (PA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Charles Djou (HI), David Dreier (CA), Vernon Ehlers (MI), Jeff Flake (AZ), Ronald Paul (TX), Todd Platts (PA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Dave Reichert (WA).

The Washington Post this morning analyzed the results of new Washington Post/ABC News Poll in a story entitled In poll, many still skeptical of GOP.  The story was authored by Dan Balz and Jon Cohen.

I cite the poll and story this morning in part as they are generally supportive of some of the statements made in my recent posting Nonsense from the Left.  The results are generally supportive of my contention that the 2010 election was a vote against the party in power and that Republicans would be unwise to regard the vote as a broad mandate for their conservative agenda.  The poll would also suggest that voters expect Republicans to compromise.

The poll was conducted since the President’s compromise with Republicans on taxes.  It shows little erosion of President Obama’s support among Liberal Democrats (now at 87%) and it shows the electorate apparently still trusts Obama more than it trusts Congressional Republicans on his/their ability to handle the main problems the nation faces (43%-38%).  At 43% President Obama also comes in higher than George Bush in 2006 (31%) and Bill Clinton in 1994 (34%) following similar mid-term electoral defeats.

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