Friday, March 29, 2013

This & That!

We like this guy! – If the first few weeks of Pope Francis I pontificate are any indication of the future, the Vatican is in store for some radical changes.  Instead of residing in the palatial Papal Apartments near St. Peter’s, Francis has chosen to lay his head in a small studio in the Vatican guest house.  Instead of donning the red handmade Prada slippers favored by his predecessors, Francis typically wears a pair of thick soled clodhoppers more reminiscent of a blue collar worker than the Vicar of Christ.  Instead of commuting to and from work in the papal limo, Francis joins his fellow clergymen on the shuttle bus.  Instead of riding quickly through St. Peter’s Square in the bulletproof “Popemobile”, Francis prefers a golf cart sans bulletproof glass, stopping frequently to kiss virtually every baby in the crowd.  On Holy Thursday the Pope traditionally offers mass before a packed crowd in St. Peter’s.  But Francis chose to go to a youth detention center where he washed and kissed the feet of twelve inmates; calling to mind the humility that Jesus displayed when he washed the feet of his apostles.  Jesuits take vows of humility, poverty and obedience with a primary focus on caring for the poor.  Francis initially appears to be a man who practices what he preaches.   While these are small gestures in and of themselves, they are a signal that the papacy under Francis I will be very different from the recent past.  If Pope Francis I is as good an administrator as he has shown to be a communicator, the Catholic Church is in very good hands.
Guns! – Yesterday we learned some heartbreaking and horrific news about the Sandy hook shootings.  We learned that while parents waited nervously for their children to exit the school they witnessed first responders carrying one child covered in blood with a bullet wound to the head to a waiting ambulance.  Another child was seen covered from head to toe in the blood, brain matter and flesh of one of her classmates.  We learned that when police executed a search warrant of shooter Adam Lanza’s home they found an arsenal including 1,600 rounds of ammunition plus assorted guns, knives and swords.  We learned that Adam Lanza left behind a bolt action rifle and several 10 and 20 round magazine clips choosing instead to carry ten 30 round magazines, a semiautomatic Bushmaster XM15 rifle and two handguns.  Clearly Lanza’s intent in favoring the 30 round magazines and the Bushmaster was to kill as many people as possible before being apprehended.  Lanza fired off 154 shots killing 20 children and 6 educators.  The entire attack took less than five minutes.  The NRA likes to say: “Guns don’t kill people…people do.”  That is correct.  But people with access to semiautomatic weapons and extended capacity magazines kill more.
She’s baaack! – Sarah Palin is out with a new web video titled: “Loaded for Bear.” A freshly quaffed, buffed, spray tanned Palin is seen railing against big government, Washington elites and the lame stream media while sipping on a giant 64oz soda…a less than subtle poke at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg efforts to reduce soft drink consumption.  Ted Cruz is prominently featured: (“I would not be a US Senator if not for Sarah Palin.”) as is Palin’s trademark…a momma grizzly bear.  The purpose of this narcissistic, self promoting, self aggrandizing video…shilling for money to jump start her failing career and return her to a relevant place on the political stage.  This would be funny if it weren’t so sad.  The “Palin being Palin” that we see in this video is exactly the image that Carl rove and the Republican Party are desperately trying to put in their rear view mirror.  And the clips that she uses in this video to promote herself…are exactly the same clips that Democrats use to portray the Republican Party as a bunch of wackos who are out of touch with the majority of the country.            
            

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Equality Is Inevitable

As we listened to the oral arguments over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act we could not help but marvel over the lightening speed at which the country seems to be evolving on this issue.
In 2000 and 2004 George W. Bush won the White House with a campaign that steadfastly supported the belief that marriage was a scared union between a man and a woman.  The institution of marriage had long been a cornerstone of conservatism and Republican held family values.  It was a belief that at the time was shared by a majority of the country.
In 2004 only 30% of Americans supported gay marriage.  Today nearly two thirds of the country believes that gay couples should have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
It is not unusual for the lawmakers in Washington to be light years behind the will of the people.  Political self preservation can be a huge motivating factor.  But it seems that even the politicians understand that this is one bandwagon they had better jump on.   
Over the past several weeks it seems that not a day goes by when we don’t learn that another lawmaker has come out in support of gay marriage.  Senators Begich, Hagan, Johnson, Kaine, McCaskill, Rockefeller and Warner recently joined Portman, Ros-Lehtinen and Hanna in their support of marriage equality.  The Republican establishment, normally resolute in their support of “traditional marriage” has remained noticeably silent.
As we said yesterday, we have no idea how the court will rule on the two issues they are currently taking under consideration.  But it is apparent to us that no matter their decision, the country believes that gay and lesbian couples should have the same marital rights as their traditional counterparts.
And someday soon that widely held belief will be the law of the land.        

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Nonsense Continues

Today the Supreme Court will entertain a second day of oral arguments on whether gay and lesbian citizens are merely substrata of the human genome or entitled to the same rights s their heterosexual counterparts. 
The media is obsessing over whether the individual comments made by the justices offer any indication as to how they might rule.  If the Court’s recent ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act taught us anything it is that the statements made during oral arguments mean nothing.  We’ll wait for the Court’s ruling to comment.
Meanwhile the Republican Party continues to prove worthy of its title: “America’s Stupid party.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he will allow a vote on gun control legislation sometime next month.  The general consensus is that there will be separate bills; one to include universal background checks on all gun purchases, one to afford strict punishment for gun trafficking, another bill to restrict high capacity gun magazines and a final bill outlawing assault weapons.  Recent polls show that 88% of all Americans favor more restrictive gun laws with over 90% favoring comprehensive background checks. 
Never one to allow the will of the people to stand in the way of their ideology, Republican Senator’s Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have vowed to filibuster any attempt to bring a gun control bill to the floor for a vote.  Why allow an up or down vote that you are certain to lose when you can take the cowards way out and tie up the process. 
Not only have Republicans vowed to stop any vote on gun control legislation, they have joined the NRA in taking their case to the people.  Residents of Newtown, Connecticut are receiving robocalls from the NRA urging them to tell their legislators to oppose gun control legislation.  Newtown is the site of Sandy Hook Elementary School where a lone gunman shot and killed 20 first-graders and 6 educators barely three months ago.  Naturally, Newtown residents are outraged by the NRA’s insensitivity and blatant lack of human decency.
In North Dakota, Republicans are once again taking the whip to their favorite stalking horse…abortion.
North Dakota Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple has signed into law legislation that would make North Dakota the nation’s most restrictive state on abortion rights.  The law bans abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.  Fetal heartbeats can sometimes be detected as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.  Dalrymple also signed into law legislation that would ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome.  Dalrymple admitted that the heartbeat bill is a direct attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, which legalized abortion up until the fetus is 22 weeks old. 
Apparently Roe v Wade is considered simply a “suggestion” in the state of North Dakota.  

  
          

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"The times, they are a changin' "

Over the course of the next 48 hours the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments as to whether California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violate the equal rights of citizens under the Constitution.  At stake, the definition of family and the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and receive the same benefits as heterosexual married couples.
Quite frankly we don’t understand why this is even up for debate.
We don’t understand how you tell a member of the LGBT community that they must pay federal, state and local taxes; conform to federal, state and local laws; and if called upon, place themselves in harm’s way in defense of their country…yet when it comes to the right to marry whomever they choose they are somehow less than equal under the law.
We’ve heard all the arguments that marriage is a union strictly between a man and a woman because “the purpose of marriage is procreation.”  If you can’t produce babies you cannot marry!
Why?
There are millions of women in our society that pop out babies like rabbits for the sole purpose of collecting federal benefits…benefits they snort up their noses or inject into their bloodstream.  There are millions of men who “procreate” more children by more women than they have fingers on their hands and toes on their feet.  Each of these sub-human life forms is allowed under the law to marry as often as they desire and collect all the benefits the government has to offer. 
Why are unions between these twisted individuals protected under the law when responsible, loving gay and lesbian couples are shunned and vilified?
We don’t have a clue as to where the court will come down on this subject.  Given the conservative leanings of the Robert’s court, it is quite likely that they will uphold Prop 8 and DOMA. That would be a travesty…a true miscarriage of justice. 
The right for gays and lesbians to marry may not happen in 2013…but it will happen eventually.  If not now, it will happen when our government is no longer run by cowardly old white men living in an Ozzie and Harriet world.  If not now, it will happen when the next generation, a generation that doesn’t see differences in color or sexual persuasion, assumes the mantle of power.
We know this because history tells us so. 
The end of slavery, a women’s right to vote, a women’s right to choose, inter-racial marriage…all at one time unthinkable…all voted into law over time.  At some point gay marriage will be listed among these.
We know this because we read somewhere that some very smart guys stated quite clearly that in this country “all men are created equal.” 
 
           

Monday, March 25, 2013

Guns, Money and Fantasy

GUN CONTROL – There was an interesting back and forth yesterday on MEET the PRESS between New York Mayor and gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg and NRA Executive and gun proliferation advocate Wayne La Pierre.  Bloomberg is spending $12 million of his personal dollars on a national advertising campaign designed to pressure politicians in key states to back gun control legislation.  La Pierre doesn’t like it.  He says that “millions of people are sending the NRA $5, $10, $20 asking us to stop this guy….he’s (Bloomberg) is using his $27 billion dollar fortune to “buy America…it’s time for him to put his own personal agenda aside and listen to the American people.”  This from the head of an organization that spent $32 million in last year’s elections to promote pro-gun candidates.
88% of the country supports stricter gun control laws including universal background checks.  Thanks to Michael Bloomberg the gun control advocates finally have the funding to stand up to the NRA.  Someone needs to buy LaPierre a television and a subscription to a local newspaper so he can see what’s going on outside the little bubble he lives in.
SENATE PASSES BUDGET!  PATS SELF ON BACK! – For the first time in four years the United States Senate has passed a budget.  The partisan proposal which calls for almost $1 trillion in tax increases and makes no effort to balance the budget has zero chance of passing the Republican controlled House.  Nevertheless, Senator Mitch McConnell took to the senate floor to congratulate his colleagues on their historic achievement.  Apparently the senate has set the bar so low that passing anything is cause for celebration.
REPUBLICANS FIGURE OUT HOW TO WIN IN 2014-2016 – The Republicans have figured out why they lost in 2012.  It’s all about the process.  According to those in attendance at the recent CPAC convention, the Republicans have decided that they lost in 2012 because 1.) There were too many primaries, 2.) There were too many primary candidates, 3.) There were too many debates 4.) The primaries and the debates were too early and 5.) They didn’t talk to women and minorities as if they were equals.  Brilliant!  Problem solved! 
Apparently Republicans actually believe that their problems can be solved by a simple adjustment in the primary process.  As for their policies…”We’re good to go!”  In 2012 Republicans lost by 55%-71% among women, black, Hispanic, Asian and youth voters.  They have lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections.  Thinking that tweaking the process and speaking nicely to women and minorities will fix things is like a doctor treating a patient with a terminal brain tumor by bandaging a paper cut on his finger.  As long as Republicans continue to preach to old white men while ignoring the changing demographics in this country…they are doomed to repeat the failures of the past twenty years. 
But their primaries will be reeeaaallllyy efficient.          

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This & That!

-The Who’s Who of the Republican Party convened in Washington today to kick off their annual CPAC convention.  This invitation only schmooze fest is an opportunity for the party’s elite to showcase their stars while breaking out their most inflammatory rhetoric.  If you can get past the divisive, racially charged hate speech you can learn a lot about the party by who has been asked to speak.  This year the headliners are:  Donald “Birther” Trump, Sarah ‘I can see Russia from my house” Palin and newcomer Ted “”channeling Joe McCarthy” Cruz. This soiree use to be about showcasing those in the party who had a legitimate chance to win elections.  But in recent years it has been more about promoting the noisemakers than anyone of substance.  Chris Christies’ absence is a case in point.  So much for the rebranding of the Republican Party!
-Speaking of Ted Cruz.  The arrogant, condescending freshman senator has gone out of his way to make a name for himself among the most radical wing of his party.  In recent weeks he has personally attacked the president, questioned the new Secretary of State’s patriotism and gone on a spree of innuendo and character assassination that rivals Joe McCarthy.  Today he lectured Senate Judiciary Chairman Dianne Feinstein on the tenants of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as it pertains to the right to bear arms.  Feinstein, a 20 year committee veteran who held elected office before Cruz was a gleam in his daddy’s eye, slapped Cruz back into place.  But Cruz is like a cockroach...he just keeps crawling out from under the woodwork.  Check out the Cruz/Feinstein back and forth on Google.  It’s worth a look.

-The above noted confrontation between Cruz and Feinstein took place during the committee's debate over Feinstein's new assault weapons ban legislation.  The new bill was passed by the committee and will now be voted on by the full senate.  Not one Republican on the committee voted for the bill. It has been 90 days since the Sandy Hook shootings.  The Bushmaster rifle that was used in those killings would have been banned had George W. Bush and the then Republican congress not allowed the former assault weapons ban to expire.  They say that the odds of this new bill passing are slim and none.  Given the carnage at Sandy Hook and the fact that the new bill exempts over 2,500 different types of firearms; we have to wonder why the politics behind this are so contentious.  As Senator Feinstein said to Cruz: "How many types of weapons do you need?"      
-Over that past several weeks the president has reached out to Republicans in an effort to forge a compromise on fiscal issues.  He has dined with senate Republicans and had Paul Ryan over for lunch.  This week he has gone up to Capitol Hill to meet with House Republicans on their own turf.  For the past four years Republicans have criticized the president for his unwillingness to sit down and work with them on major issues.  Not that he giving them the time they requested, they are criticizing his motives.  They say this is all for show.  They call it his “Charm Offensive”.  Damned if you do…damned if you don’t.     

             

Habemus Papam!

As a general rule, I don’t like using the first singular pronoun “I”.  Since the ramblings and conclusions that you read in this space are often developed after examining the thoughts and writings of minds far more astute than mine, wielding the “I” like some omnipotent deity seems disingenuous.  My opinions are formed by listening to various arguments on both sides of a debate and then accepting that which seems less coated in bullshit; hence the preferred use of the first person plural pronoun, “we”.
But I believe that faith one’s faith and religious beliefs are very, very personal.  So I hope you will indulge my journey into the first person.
I am a member of the Catholic Church.  At one time I considered entering the seminary.  Like most Catholics I confess that I do not practice all of the tenants of the Church.  I don’t know if that makes me any less Catholic or any more a sinner than those who follow strict obedience to the Church’s teachings.  I’ll let God be the judge. 
I have heard Catholics when referring to their religious affiliation say: “I was raised Catholic”…or… “I am a lapsed Catholic”.  Many use these clarifications because it has been years since they attended mass or received communion or confessed their sins. I would argue that unless they have moved onto some other type of religious congregation…Protestant, Pentecostal, Lutheran etc…they still consider themselves members of the Catholic Church.  Because once you are baptized Catholic there is something about that community that stays with you forever.  It is said that the largest religious community in the world is the Catholic Church, which is home to 1.2 billion faithful.  It is also said that the third largest religious community in the world is made up of those who have left the Catholic Church and consider themselves “lapsed’ or “raised (but not practicing)” Catholics.
I bring this up because the events which occurred yesterday at the Vatican are very big deal to me and to a huge swath of the world’s population.  “Habemus Papam!”  “We have a Pope!”...are words that Catholics and “lapsed” Catholics around the globe have been eagerly anticipating since Benedict XVI took his leave.  (Many of us have been waiting for a new Pope since John Paul II passed away.  But that’s another story.)  I have been waiting for someone to clean up the corruption and the greed.  Someone to pull back the curtain and bring an era of transparency to an institution clouded by scandal and cloaked in secrecy.  Someone to return the Church to its true calling…to care for the poor, the hungry, the naked, the disenfranchised, and the forgotten.  For Christ said: “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last…whatever you do for the least of my brethren you do unto me.”
Yesterday I witnessed once again the “theatre” of the Catholic Church.  The red capes…the white smoke…the Swiss Guard…the Sistine Chapel…the unbreakable oath of silence that kept the identity of the new Bishop of Rome secret until he stepped out onto that balcony.  The “bells and smells” of the Catholic Church.  Nobody does pomp and circumstance like the Vatican.
But the real Catholic Church was not on that balcony or behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel.  I could see the real Catholic Church in the faces down below in St. Peter’s Square, huddled together for hours in the rain.  White, black, brown, yellow…Poles, Spaniards, Italians, Americans…workers, business owners, the poor, the infirmed, young and old…people like me…all waiting, hoping for a leader who will return our beloved church to the path Christ himself told us to follow.
The Conclave of Cardinals elected a new Pope.   Habemus Papam!  Jorge Mario Bergoglio is from Argentina…the first South American to lead the church.  He has chosen the name Francis…the first to do so.  He is also the first Jesuit to be elected Pope. 
We do not know this man.  We do know that his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was said to have had a vision where Christ appeared before this well to do man of means and told him to set aside his worldly goods and “…rebuild my church.”  We do know that the Jesuit Order is all about social justice and caring for the poor and downtrodden.
We also know that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is said to be a very humble man of simple means.  We know that as Cardinal of Buenos Aires he shunned the trappings of his position.  He chose to live in a simple apartment rather than reside in the lavish residence of his predecessors.  He cooks for himself and rides the public tram to work.  He is often seen walking among the masses in Buenos Aires caring for the sick and giving comfort to the needy. 
His humility was in evidence during his first public appearance as Pope Francis I.  Instead of giving a long winded speech and blessing the crowd he first thanked them for their welcome and then asked that they take a moment to pray silently for HIM.  He then bowed his head in submission as the crowd prayed over him.  It has been reported by those present that you could hear a pin drop among the 150,000 in attendance.
Pope Francis will have a difficult task ahead.  I will be watching to see if he cleans up the corruption, removes those involved in the sex abuse scandal and turns them over to the authorities and returns the Church to its core values. 
For too long the church hierarchy has been admonishing those who have chosen to leave.  They blamed the church’s dwindling attendance and declining advocacy on the loose morals encouraged by a corrupt society.  In fact it is the hypocrisy and scandalous behavior of the hierarchy itself that has caused the people to lose faith…not in God but in the institution.  The church hierarchy needs to look itself in the mirror.  The faithful have not left the church…for they ARE the Church.  It is the Church hierarchy that has turned its back on the faithful.
Will Pope Francis I be the guy who can return the church to its rightful path?  I wish I knew.  I hope so.
Having a humble Jesuit named Francis at the helm is a good start.            

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

so what's YOUR plan?

GOP numbers guru Paul Ryan will release his 2013 Budget today. 
Ryan’s plan calls for a balanced budget by 2023.  It is built primarily on an overhaul of our health care distribution system by way of reforming Medicare and Medicaid and repealing Obamacare.  In that regard it is more a "political document" than a serious budget.
Since the president signed Obamacare into law in 2010 Republicans have attempted to repeal it on 30 separate occasions.  They were defeated every single time.  Mitt Romney made the repeal of Obamacare one of the key platforms in his bid to win the White House.  He lost. 
Repealing Obamacare is a non-starter. Not because it is such a great piece of legislation.  In fact it has many flaws.  Republicans are constantly losing this fight because they have no alternative plan.  If you are going to repeal Obamacare you have to have a plan to replace it. 
They don’t. 
So far the only alternative they have offered is to allow insurance companies to market across state lines.  They argue that this will create more competition subsequently lower insurance costs.
 It won’t! 
If politicians would take the time to study the industry they would know that Insurance companies have been allowed to market across state lines forever.  All they have to do is abide by the individual state laws in which they wish to operate.  The net results of this brilliant plan are skyrocketing health care costs that suck 18 cents out of every dollar we earn.  The Republican liaise faire “increased competition” approach didn’t work.  It’s what allowed Obamacare to occur. Now the GOP wants to go back to the same old tired way of doing things that got us into trouble in the first place.
Sound familiar?
Why would you want to return to the same old failed business model?
Our health care costs were out of control long before Obamacare was a gleam in the president’s eye.  Obamacare is a flawed attempt to reign in those costs.  If Republicans don’t like it…fine.  Then offer another plan.
It’s easy to rail against big government and rant against spending.  But cutting and slashing doesn’t necessarily solve problems.  It just moves the burden from one demographic to another.
If Paul Ryan and his fiscally conservative buddies want to repeal Obamacare they need to offer a substantive alternative.                     

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hamid Karzai...Our Most Unworthy Partner

Newly anointed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made his first official trip to Afghanistan where he got a full dose of America’s most unworthy partner, Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
US combat forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.  The Karzai government and US leaders are currently in negotiations over what part the American military may continue to play after the combat forces have left. 
The Taliban have ratcheted up their attacks in recent weeks.  A suicide bomber killed nine and injured fourteen in an attack just outside the Afghan Defense Ministry while a similar attack occurred at a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province.
President Karzai believes that the US is colluding with the Taliban to orchestrate these attacks in order to frighten the Afghan people into believing that international forces will still be needed after the combat mission ends in 2014. Karzai made this point during a nationally televised address timed not so coincidentally to occur during Hagel’s visit.  The insult to Hagel and the American military was clear:
“The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they (Taliban) are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014.  They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents.”
Karzai is well known for his incendiary comments.  His willingness to pull the tail of both his enemies and his protectors borders on the psychotic.  He maintains an overinflated view of his power and his position.  He is little more than a feckless bureaucrat who reigns over a government awash in corruption.  He will hook his wagon to anyone who will enable him to retain his power; and he will turn on them in an instant.  He seems to forget that if not for the US government and the American military he would be a dead man. 
This is our partner in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The Afghan War…the country’s longest war…the war America forgot…has taken over 2,000 of our lives and wounded over 18,000 of our countrymen. 
For what purpose!
The Americans will leave Afghanistan in 2014.  The country will still be stuck in the fourth century…the Taliban as strong as they ever were.
Hamid Karzai, America’s most unworthy partner, will soon learn the value of that partnership.
Let us hope we learn from this as well.             

   

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Not So fast My Friend"

The Associated Press reports that after 5 ½ years Americans have finally regained the $16 trillion in wealth that they lost to the Great Recession.  The AP credits “surging stock prices and steady home-price increases “for the rebound.
But before we start popping champagne corks and singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” we might want to dig into the weeds of what these numbers really mean.  The fact is not everyone is joining the celebration.  
While it is true that our economic situation is improving, the vast majority of the growth is finding its way into the pockets of the top 1% of the population.  According to the “The Atlantic” household income adjusted for inflation, has grown 12 times more for the top 1% than the middle 20% of the population…and 24 times more than the bottom 20%.  Since 1979 the top 5% of the country took home more than half of total income growth.  The top 1% took nearly 40%.  While happy days are here for the very rich, the middle class has yet to recover from a perfect storm of rising unemployment, globalization, outsourcing, advanced technology and the declining impact of labor unions.  Corporate profits and CEO compensation may be skyrocketing but middle class wages continue to decline.
Today’s jobs report shows that the economy created 236,000 private sector jobs; up from the expected 160,000. Unemployment dropped to 7.7%.  The financial gurus call these numbers “robust.” Compared to the Bush years, when the country was losing 750,000 jobs/month; they are outstanding.  But unemployment is still too high and 236,000 new jobs are still far less than the 320,000 needed each month to really grow the economy.
We don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer and spoil the party.  But the fact is the economic resurrection that is occurring in this country is fattening the wallets of the wealthiest while the middle class counts its pocket change.
The middle class is the economic engine that drives this economy.  When that engine begins to purr we’ll be happy to join in the celebration.                 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mr. Paul Goes To Washington

-Kudos to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who returned the upper chamber to days of yore.  Paul held the senate floor for thirteen hours in opposition to the president’s nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan.  Senator Paul has long questioned the use of drones to target American citizens.  He wonders whether such power should be in one man’s hands without some form over oversight.  John Brennan is considered the architect of the CIA’s drone program.
We are not a fan of Rand Paul or his libertarian line of thought.  But we applaud his willingness to stand up for his principles in the manner in which the founders intended.  Under today’s relaxed senate rules Senator Paul could have simply…and anonymously…placed a call to the senate floor that he objected to allowing Brennen’s confirmation to move to a vote.  Instead he took to the podium and for almost thirteen hours made his case.  He was assisted along the way by a bi-partisan group of senators who asked the senator long winded softball questions; all designed to give him a break.  In the end it was the call of nature that forced Paul to yield the floor.
Paul knew that he could not stop Brennen’s appointment.  That was not his intent.  He simply wanted to make his voice heard regarding our rights as US citizens.  He did it the right way; and we respect and applaud his effort.
-Kudos to President Obama.  The president invited about a dozen key Republican senators to dinner at a local restaurant to discuss the important issues facing the country.  The comments from those in attendance were positive.  Apparently a wide range of issues were discussed in a congenial and substantive manner.  All in attendance had the opportunity to express their views.  The president personally picked up the tab.  Evidently the president intends to have a similar dinner with key Democrat senators as well.
Apparently, the president has been reaching out to individual members of congress over the past few days.  This is a very good thing.  The president has long been criticized for his unwillingness to play the traditional back slapping game of Washington politics.  But relationships matter.  If you are going to strike deal with someone there has to be some measure of trust.  The president needs to do more of this. He needs to be the adult in the room…reaching out to his opponents in a sincere effort to reach a deal. 
We are not na├»ve enough to think that a few dinners are going to suddenly bring about a major change in the relationship between Democrats and Republicans.  But perhaps they can begin to change the tenor and tone of the dialogue.  For only after a civil exchange of ideas can a compromise be reached.  This is what the voters want to see from their leaders.    
 
   
        

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

We'll See Your Stupid Idea And Raise You Another Stupid Idea.

OK!  Now you’re just being stupid!
The White House announced that it was shutting down all public tours of the “Peoples House” until further notice.  They cited the sequestration cuts as the reason.
Really?
Given all the wasteful spending there is in Washington the best they can come up with is to cancel White House tours for school kids and tourists?
There are those that have suggested that the way to force the white House and Congress to act on these budgetary matters is to cancel their paychecks until they agree on a balanced budget.  Unfortunately most of our fearless leaders have used their time in public service to become multi-millionaires.  It is unlikely they would notice if they missed a bi-weekly paycheck.
If you really want to get their attention we would suggest terminating the bi-weekly checks of all White House and congressional staffers.  Give notice that if their bosses don’t reach a balanced budget agreement within thirty days, all White House and congressional staff members will be sent home without pay.  Let’s see how our elected leaders deal with the possibility of having to fetch their own coffee and dry cleaning.
Of course this would never happen.  Congress would have to enact the order to cut their wait staff. 
Not gonna’ happen.
But is this idea any more ridiculous than cancelling White House tours?
It would be fun to watch though…wouldn’t it?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Must See TV!

If you are interested in a lively, serious and substantive debate on how to fix our economy...check out the back and forth between Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman and conservative pundit Joe Scarborough.
You can view it online at PBS’s  “The Charlie Rose Show” or MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Amen!

“Real leadership would get this fixed.  You get everybody in the room and you fix it, and you don’t let them leave until you fix it…That’s what real leadership is, not calling a meeting two hours before the thing is going to hit to have a photo-op in the driveway at the White House.  That’s not real leadership.”
                                                                         New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the sequester.

Amen!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Win For The GOP

On Friday the president signed the sequester cuts into law.  The bill will cut $85 billion from social programs and defense. 
The president called the cuts “dumb.”This from the guy who came up with the idea in the first place.
The president thought that by putting together a deadline of automatic, drastic cuts he would force congress to come together to create bi-partisan grand bargain.  Unfortunately he underestimated the Republicans’ hatred for him as a black man. (Don’t look so shocked.  You know part of this intransigence is race based as well as we do.) And he underestimated their willingness to go to any means necessary, even crashing the economy, if it meant depriving him of a “win.”After four years in the White House the president should know better.  There isn’t anything that the Republicans won’t do or say to derail his agenda.  In the end he gave them exactly what they wanted…smaller government and less spending.  Brilliant!
If you think about what Democrats and Republicans have been saying for the past four years the fact that they would even consider approving the sequester is beyond ignorant.
Democrats and Republicans agree that the economy is growing yet weak and unstable.  They both agree that in the short term we need to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  Democrats want accomplish this by instituting government run programs such as infrastructure modernization, and investing in clean energy and education.  Republicans want to accomplish this by lowering taxes and broadening the tax base. 
Democrats and Republicans agree that for the long term debt we will eventually need to take a hard look at the drivers of that debt:  Medicaid, Medicare and to a lesser extent Social Security.
The sequester legislation does none of these things; in fact quite the opposite. 
As far as short term stimulus is concerned; the sequester cuts billions in government programs which reduces funds going into the pockets of poor and the working poor.  The sequester also eliminates hundreds of thousands of government jobs which cuts middle class income.  The bottom line is not a stimulus but in fact a job killer; meaning less money in peoples’ pockets and therefore less money flowing into the economy.
As far as the long term debt…the sequester does nothing.  It doesn’t address entitlements.  The spending cuts are all discretionary in nature.  Discretionary spending represents less than 12% of the federal budget.  You can cut discretionary spending to zero and you are not going to affect the country’s long term debt issues.
In summary, Democrats and Republicans have created a bi-partisan piece of legislation that does the exact opposite of what they both agree needs to be done.
If you are keeping score…the Republicans get the win.  Anytime you reduce the size of government it is a win for the GOP.  But after a few weeks, when those cuts start affecting people’s lives and they start pointing fingers, we may have to review the replay tape to see who really won.
Next up…March 27th…when congress must approve a continuing resolution that allows our totally dysfunctional government to continue functioning.    

      

Friday, March 1, 2013

Oh!...one more thing!

Four days ago the Republican led House of Representatives returned from a ten day recess and took up the task of conducting the people’s business.  During these past four days they did the following:
-Encouraged the Supreme Court to repeal the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
-Voted against the renewal of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act because it provided protection for ALL women regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual persuasion.
-Allowed the sequestration spending cuts that negatively impact 98% of the population to go into effect rather than agree to close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires.
In summary…in four days time the House Republicans managed to alienate voters who are : women, gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, black, Latino, Asian, American Indian, poor, working poor, middle class, retired, infirmed,  elderly, unemployed, students, veterans, government employees and members of the armed services.
And then they went home for another recess.

Well done!

Courting the Women Vote?

The sequestration cuts go into effect at midnight tonight.  But we’re tired of talking about it.  Nobody in Washington seems to care so why should we.
Perhaps more interesting is a piece of legislation that DID manage to clear both chambers of congress.
The House finally renewed the Violence Against Women Act with 199 democrats joining 87 Republicans in support.  138 Republicans voted against the bill which passed through the Senate last month.
To repeat…138 Republicans voted against the bill!
House Republicans had offered an alternative bill last week.  But that alternative failed to muster enough votes because it did not include protections for… gay, bi-sexual or transgender victims of abuse.  It also stripped out certain provisions for American Indian women living on reservations!!!
Wow!