Friday, September 30, 2011

Joe Walsh is a douche. It's that simple.

Dead beat dad Joe Walsh “The most important amendment in that Bill of Rights is the Second Amendment,” Walsh said, sound every the concealed carry enthusiast.  “It protects every other amendment. It is the last line of defense between us and our government.”
I am not a gun advocate, but I’m thinking a sane non-pandering right minded balanced thinking individual would choose from:
·         1st Amendment: I guess freedom of the press, speech, and religion would be number 1.  After all it is the 1st Amendment.
·         4th Amendment: I guess protecting citizens against improper and illegal search and seizure isn’t important to a Tea Partier since he can simply shoot anyone he comes to search.
·         13th Amendment: Abolishing slavery.  Enough said.
·         19th Amendment: Women can vote.  I guess a guy who doesn’t pay child support doesn’t want women to have a voice.
Just to a name a few.
Conclusion: Joe Walsh is a douche.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Here's What's Wrong With Kansas

The challenge to the third of three new Kansas anti-abortion laws was thrown out today by U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown. The law originally took effect July1st and prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans, except when a woman's life is at risk. Those who want abortion coverage would have to buy supplemental policies, known as riders, covering only abortion.    The ACLU challenged the new state law on the grounds that the new law was imposing further obstacles for woman to get an abortion.  Supporters of the insurance restrictions for abortion argue that people who oppose abortion shouldn't be forced to pay for such coverage in a general health plan. The ACLU also argues that the law is discriminatory because men can buy a general health plan for all of their reproductive needs.

The fact is Governor Sam ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ Brownback, the evolution denier, is showing once again what is wrong with Kansas.  He is using the repressive reactionary legislature to deny basic services granted by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The argument that people that oppose abortion shouldn’t have to pay for that coverage is a thinly veiled anti pro-choice argument.   We are talking about private insurance companies, not public benefits, a clear and present danger to big government dictating what the private sector can and cannot do in the way of products and services.  Governments at any level imposing their moral code on the citizens is not what this country was founded on and in fact this more in line with Sharia Law.

Secondly, so if you oppose something on moral grounds you can ask the government to intercede in such a way that exemptions and mandates become commonplace.   For instance, I am for home schooling, therefore I shouldn’t pay school taxes; my company’s health plan covers drug and alcohol rehabilitation but I morally oppose alcohol and drugs therefore I want my government to step in.

The other two new laws– one dealing with stricter abortion clinic regulations and the other stripping federal funding from a Planned Parenthood chapter – have been temporarily blocked by two other federal judges pending trial on their constitutionality.  When you put these three laws together it is quite obvious that Kansas wants to control and monitor the womb and ban abortions across the board.

By the way, 104 year old Judge Wesley Brown was nominated to the Federal Bench by President John F. Kennedy.  We thank you for your service, but it is time to move on.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can we let the south secede again?

The proposed amendment to the Mississippi  constitution defining the term personhood as "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof” is a dangerous precedent setting definition.  These right wing social conservatives are now equating an embryo with a person.  Clearly this is an attempt to ban abortion in any form or matter.  Jon Stewart is right, it’s not the politicians; it’s the electorate.  Did you know moment: the State of Mississippi has never officially ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
Sarah Palin puts on a Star of David when she visited New York City, Michele Bachmann goes all Yiddish with some Chootspah, and now we have a video of Rick Perry dancing with some rabbis at a menorah lighting.  Do me a favor Evangelical politicians, chose another people because the Chosen people don’t want the attention.  Now I better not see Rick Santorum performing  a bris!
Some of the most heinous parts of the new Alabama anti-immigration law were upheld today by US District Judge Sharon Blackburn including the ‘papers please’ provision allowing police to stop an individual and allowing the public schools to inquire about a student’s immigration status.  In fact, the parts of the law that the Federal Government received its sought-after injunctions all benefited business.  But worst of all immigrants caught without required documents will now be guilty of a state crime, a provision that in effect "criminalizes undocumented status”.
Here’s how the immigration debate has upset the apple cart of traditional ideological positions:
·         Republicans are pro-business and Democrats pro union
·         Undocumented workers keep costs down but depress wages
·         Republicans want security Democrats want civil liberties
·         Republicans are mono-color Democrats a rainbow
·         A traditional Republican would welcome immigrant labor to help businesses keep costs down
·         A traditional Democrat would push for middle class wages
·         A new breed Republican wants to deport all undocumented workers
·         A new breed Democrat wants to pander the growing Latino minority as a voting bloc

Who’s on first?

Remember President Barack Obama the right wing produced bogeyman?  The President that was going to institute card check, the fairness doctrine, ban all guns, create socialist style boot camps, hire 20,000 armed IRS agents, etc.  He is so diabolical that Tea Party parents keep their kids out of school so they won’t have to listen to his annual address to students, such a tyrant that he is trying to build a Nazi brown shirt corps.  Which brings me to this quote: “I know you're a better worker if you exercise on a daily basis. I know you'll help keep the health care costs down in America if you exercise on a daily basis. I know your life will be more complete if you exercise.”  Obama the marxist?  Nope.  That would be George W. Bush.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Diggapedia

1st anniversary is paper.   Ironic as it is a paperless activity.
Why diggapedia? Short answer:  Purely as a cathartic pressure relief valve.  I was getting fed up with what I was seeing on TV and disgusted in what I was reading in the print and e-media,  and felt that I needed some avenue and vehicle to vent my opinions, frustrations, observations, and more opinions.  Knowing how sensitive people are about politics and religion on facebook, four out of five dentists defriend someone because of political postings, I turned to the blogosphere.  As a complete neophyte I set up without a clue regarding the how of blogging.   I also moved a lot of my political commentary to Twitter, I feed blog posts to the Twitter account and feed my tweets to my blog page in some sort of Excel circular Dante’s inferno function… what was I saying?  Oh yeah, I like Twitter too, but as anyone who knows me will attest, 140 characters is not enough for me to make my point. 
Anyone who blogs must have an ego and with it a desire to be heard.  My goal was never to make this a new career or entrĂ©e to the media world, lame stream or otherwise, though I have fantasized about being on Real Time with Bill Maher and telling Ann Coulter to go screw herself or going on Meet The Press and asking David Gregory why he never asks the tough questions.  Ergo it is ego; not ashamed to admit it.  But I did set some guidelines for myself:
1)      For me. I would blog because I wanted to and would stop when the novelty or marginal utility (I think I should have been an economist) ran dry.
2)      Topics. I would be mainly focused on current events, politics, sports, and pop culture.
3)      Accuracy.  I would back up assertions with research and data, unlike most right wing media douches.
4)      Share.  I would share my travels and opinions and provide insights to certain topics that I felt were not being properly covered in the media.
5)      Honest.  I wouldn’t be a water carrier for anybody and would criticize all while sharing the positions I held.
So one year later some amazing and many mundane things have happened.  Firstly, this will be the 359th posting in one year or almost a posting/day, almost as prolific as Wilt Chamberlain on Viagra.  Not bad, though there were days I was struggling for material and some days where I could have written 10,000 words.   I am most proud of two postings: Words Matter (January 8th) following the horrific shooting in Tucson and the recent September 10th 2001 was a Monday.  I liked them because they were less analytical and more emotional, more from the heart and less from the head.   Right from the heart, I am a softy, a regular Easter Peep, and because these posts hit a nerve about who we are and who we wish we were.  I also think they are Cindy’s favorites as well.  She’s a Peep too.
Over the course of the year I made many predictions in my blog.  Some panned out (Auburn, Cam Newton, the Oscars) and some crashed and burned (Patriots, Red Sox, Huckabee).  I wrote extensively about Israel and the Middle East: the history, the politics, the people, and how Americans are ignorant of the facts.  I have slammed the right because they are wrong, I have no time for haters, and less time for Faux News parrots.  Now I know a lot of what I write is of no interest to many people and I do not pretend to be a great writer, or even a good one, and I know when Mrs. Diggapedia has had enough of politics and the history of the Middle East.
But what I have enjoyed the most has been the pleasure my mom gets in reading the posts and the pleasure I get in reading her replies.  Something about apples not falling far from trees.  Honestly, she should be the one sitting next to George Will on This Week, yeah I’d pay to see that.  So we now embark on year two and I make no commitments of a year three.  Perhaps I will go big and write a book or maybe at the end of the day maybe 140 character tweets is more my style.
Leshanah tovah tikateiv v’teichateim …and never be afraid to learn something.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Mishegas Dancing With the Stars of David

Tough stretch for gold prices confirming again that gold is not liquid and when it is all said and done, people need dollars.  Now the question is whether we are headed for a serious commodity correction. 
This week’s get a life shout out goes to the group One Million Moms, a project of the American Family Association.  These uptight twits are protesting Ben & Jerry’s new Ice Cream flavor Schweddy Balls, a play on the hilarious SNL sketch featuring Alec Baldwin as Pete Schweddy.  Hey Moms if you want to protest something, why don’t you protest dead beat dad Tea Party congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois. 
Do you need further evidence that President Obama is as big a friend to Israel as any of his predecessors?  Look no further than the recent arms sale to the Jewish State.  Obama approved the sale of GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators or bunker busters, a request that Israel originally made to President Bush in 2005.   What would Israel do with these deep penetrating weapons?  Perhaps target underground weapons or research facilities.  I think Ahmadinejad may need a deeper hole to crawl into.
This race to the GOP nomination resembles a beauty pageant for the challenged; challenged by facts, humanity, personality, leadership, ideas, electability, common sense, etc.   Jeb Bush please pick up the red courtesy phone.
Russia is further descending into a banana republic as the political musical chairs between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin took a formal turn.  It seems the two have agreed to switch jobs bringing Mr. Putin back to the Presidency while Medvedev becomes PM with all other ministers reporting to him, a prospect not welcomed by everyone.  Aleksei L. Kudrin, the long-serving finance minister, said he would no longer work in the government if Medvedev became prime minister, citing what he said were irresponsible spending decisions by Mr. Medvedev.  Several Russian officials said Sunday that they had no warning of the decision that Vladimir V. Putin planned to return as president after elections in March, which he is likely to win, and appoint Mr. Medvedev as prime minister, despite Mr. Putin’s assertion on Saturday that that deal had been sealed “several years ago.”   Election rigging, corruption, oppression, no respect for property, false imprisonment, and coercion; time to cue Pete Townshend.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Michelle Obama promoted the importance of girls pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.  In related news Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Michele Bachmann, and Laura Ingraham chastised the first lady saying it is right of every high school to be stupid.
In other news:
·         Women have been granted the right to vote in Saudi Arabia, but not the right to drive.
·         The high school graduating class of 2011 lost ground on every measure of the SAT exam, with reading scores nationally the lowest on record, prompting concern about whether students are being adequately prepared for college, officials said Wednesday.
·         Rick Perry figures to win the Jewish vote by releasing a one year old video of him dancing with some rabbis last Hanukah.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Avoid the Turkey

Thanks to the Magnificent Moshe for pointing out that PLO President Abbas made a serious mistake in his submission to the UN for statehood.  Abbas has refused to acknowledge the existence of Israel as a Jewish State because that would nullify the Palestinian plans to establish a presence in Israel through their much sought after ‘Right of Return” for all Arabs forcefully removed from Israel in 1947-48.  Abbas’ problem is he specifically referenced UN Resolution 181 aka The Palestine Mandate as part of the Palestinian application to be recognized as a nation; 181 specifically unequivocally, and unambiguously mandates a two state solution one Arab and one Jewish.  So there you go, the Palestinian Authority wants a settlement based on Resolution 181 which ends the right of return debate.
Watched Fareed Zakaria’s interview with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan today and was left with the following: (1) Erdogan believes Iran should be free to pursue nuclear aspirations because Israel has nuclear capability, (2) Israel is to blame for all Arab and Palestinian problems, (3) he is smart enough to suck up to the U.S.  My commentary of the interview includes the following: (A) Zakaria should have questioned Erdogan on his hypocrisy of how Israel deals with Hamas yet Erdogan does the same thing to the Kurds, (B) Zakaria should have challenged him that Turkey is supporting Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, to become a nuclear power, and (C) Zakaria should have questioned Erdogan about what appears to be the rise of the old Ottoman Empire.
HP board of Directors have hired former Ebay head honcho Meg Whitman to be the new CEO.  Countering some criticism that she doesn’t know the high tech sector, HP Chairman Ray Lane offered “Ronald Reagan was an actor.  He was a pretty good President.”  Setting aside the merits of Reagan’s presidency, before becoming President he was California Governor, the same post Whitman just spent $140Million in defeat to Jerry Brown.  Not a good choice for comparisons.
For those that claim the President is playing money gimmicks when he says reductions in defense money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, are you kidding me?  If you’re spending $billions today on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and your plans include withdrawal from this arena, then you are cutting your future expenses.  Then again, since Bush and his Republican cohorts did not budget for the wars and paid for them from funds outside the budget, talk about gimmicks, I suppose anything is possible.
The geek in me is interested in this news release out of CERN that they have discovered subatomic particles that can travel faster than the speed of light.  These neutrinos could open up further analysis and research into other dimensions beyond time and space.  Of course I can see Bachmann and the Social Conservatives postulating that if Einstein’s theory of relativity could be brought into doubt, then evolution could also be called into FURTHER question.  What’s next law of gravity?
Initial review of TV fall season
Likes: Prime Suspect, Revenge, New Girl, Whitney
Dislikes: Person of Interest, Up All Night, Free Agents
Jury is Out: Playboy Club, 2 Broke Girls, Pan Am

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Must Read: Republicans are wrong

Economist Paul Krugman has every right to let out a big “I told you so!”  As the world heads to a likely double dip global recession, Krugman was the first to sound the alarm that the stimulus was too small and relied too much on tax cuts.  He further warned that deficit cutting and austerity measures were premature and would kill the recovery just like what happened in the 1930’s.  And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here?
Imagine this ominous possibility: consumer and business to business demand crashes and the globe enters a second recession at the same time another round of Arab dissidence increases but this time it hits hard in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait while global food shortages of corn, soya, and rice worsen.  This perfect storm will lead to potential stagflation that will make the 70’s look mild.  The supply shocks in fuel and food test the mettle of the world’s central bankers and leaders.
Listening to the Rush Limbaugh show in the car the other day (one needs to listen to the opposition to understand the enemy) and one of the usual small brainers called into slam Obama with the usual community organizer anti-business crap and how the President has ruined the Louisiana economy because of his handling of BP and the oil industry.  Checking today I noticed the unemployment rate is 7.2%, exactly where it was before the BP Oil spill.
Then there’s bow tie sporting CNN economist Peter Morici who claims we can beat unemployment by increasing oil drilling and that way we wouldn’t need to spend more.  Really?  Meanwhile on earth, according to the Financial Times “…more than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico remain idle, meaning that they are neither producing nor under active exploration and development by companies that hold those leases. “ Hmm should big bad government intervene and stimulate.
Does this batch of Republican candidates know Ronald Reagan?  They go on and on about his anti-government anti-tax heroism (he actually created the enormous government agency of veteran affairs and raised taxes).  What they refuse to admit is while his Tax Reform Act of 1986 did reduce the marginal tax rates of the upper income brackets (and increase the rates at the lower income brackets) it also INCREASED the rates of investment income and capital gains to the same as ordinary income, something President Obama is trying to do today but is called class warfare by the Republicans.
I must have missed the Economics class where they said Hedge Fund Managers and Private Equity Executives (umm like you Mitt) were job creators.  Because these are the guys that have the most to lose under the President’s “Buffet Rule” as they are almost exclusively compensated from non-ordinary income. 
I look forward to the Weekly Standard’s Christopher Caldwell’s Saturday column in the Financial Times because, once again, helps me understand the mind of the opposition.  This week Caldwell claims that the President is out of touch with the working class.  While President Obama is struggling with connecting to white Middle America, you cannot say he is out of touch.  DADT repeal and the Buffet Rule are unquestionably popular in America while Republican ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare certainly are not.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Right Wings myths, lies, and bull shit

Israelis do not want an independent Palestinian state.    Fox news, Perry, Romney, and the rest of the conservative movement will tell you that Israelis oppose Palestinian Statehood.  Far from it.  In a recent Jerusalem Post, a right leaning daily, poll nearly 70% of Israelis said they welcome an independent Palestinian state.  The ConJob being played by the right is to make President Obama look anti-Israeli.
Ronald Reagan never raised taxes and Obama will raise Capital Gains Tax rates because he is a tax and spend Democrat.  In reality President Reagan raised the Capital Gains tax rate for the highest earners from 20% to 33% when he realized the deficit he created was untenable.  George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton dropped the rate to 28%, only to see W drop it to 20% and then 15%.  President Obama is only asking to bring it back to the sound days of Clinton. 
Fox and its millions of fact-challenged watchers love to say that 49% of Americans pay no taxes to back up their judgment that President Obama is a socialist.  The untruth here is that 49% of Americans pay no INCOME tax because they fall below the minimum threshold of gross earnings.  They certainly pay sales tax.
According to Herman “Drain on the Brain” Cain the EPA will regulate dust in 2012.  The truth is Cain's not alone in this (mistaken) belief that the Obama EPA is going to issue fines on dirt. It's one of the tea party-right's favorite EPA conspiracy theory.   Sadly, it's not true. Yes, the EPA is revisiting its dust standards—but those standards have been in place since 1987. In April, the EPA issued an evaluation of particulate matter pollution standards, because the report is a requirement under the Clean Air Act. And while the report suggested that dust standards should be tightened, the EPA has no plans to "regulate" dust any time soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do You Still Question President Obama's Commitment to Israel?

Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.  - President Obama at the United Nations General Council September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Republicans should be drug tested

The latest trend from Republican Governors is mandatory Drug testing for any person receiving welfare and unemployment benefits.  Talk about class warfare!  I guess Lou Reed summed it up best: Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on 'em That's what the Statue of Bigotry says.”  It never ceases to amaze me that during tough times people will seek to punish those that we fear and loathe.  Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, and most recently South Carolina are doing just that.  Drug testing welfare recipients only benefits the company that wins the drug testing contract.  Deny them benefits helps society how when they end up in jail for some crime?
Of course South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the Palmetto State Palinista, recently took the cake when regarding the Savannah River nuclear site, she commented: “[of] everybody they interviewed,  half of them failed a drug test."  Haley went on to explain why she is so stupid by saying I’ve never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume that you’re given good information,” Haley said. “And now I’m learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something.”  Did you ever stop and think that asserting that 50% of the employees at a nuclear site is a bit of an exaggeration?  Twit.
But on secondhand, maybe she was right after all.  In the latest Winthrop Poll, 36 percent of Republicans in South Carolina still believe that President Barack Obama was “probably” or “definitely” born in another country while 30% think he is a Muslim.
The Pima County GOP raffled off a Glock and shotgun as part of a fund raiser; this is certainly within their legal rights as protected by the 2nd Amendment.  I only questioned the lack of good taste and consideration as Pima County is the district of Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords and the emotional wounds from the January shooting haven’t healed in that community.  When questioned about the optics, 2nd Amendment Republican/Libertarians jump on the soap box about their rights and that guns don’t kill, people kill.  OK.  But isn’t it funny that these same people got all apoplectic about the thought of an Islamist Center in Manhattan blocks from Ground Zero.  Once again, within the law, but maybe not the best PR move.  When I question those people along these lines, eyes glaze over and all they can do is scream “Obama’s a Socialist”.
Thanks to unqualified candidates such as Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, we now may face the potential candidacy of birther queen Orly Tait.  Taitz is considering challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year.  Qualifications?  "I think I do have a chance specifically because I do speak Spanish and I speak Hebrew," says Taitz.  Well that and the fact she is a dentist and lawyer.  Sorry, but she sounds more like a candidate for Celebrity Apprentice than US Senate.  Well may be not…
So much for vaunted finance reform as witnessed by the watering down of the Volcker Rule, the ban on proprietary trading by investment banks: The new rules exempt from the proprietary trading ban “positions arising under certain repurchase and reverse repurchase agreements or securities lending transactions and bon fide liquidity management”.  Did Don Rumsfeld write this?  You remember: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Meshuganas

Tea Party Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) was whining to MSNBC’s Chris Jansing about President Obama’s tax plan that will increase taxes on investment income for the nation’s rich.  Fleming, is a business owner, so Jansing asked, “If you have to pay more in taxes, you would get rid of some of those employees?” Fleming responded by saying that while his businesses made $6.3 million last year, after you “pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food,” his profits “a mere fraction of that” — “by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over.”  Oh my, how is the poor Fleming family going to survive?
Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff and media hog Joe Arpaio knows the best defense is a good offense.  So as his reputation and legitimacy is being torn down one block at a time, he does what any cornered rat would do: he bites back.  Facing internal investigations for misallocation of funds and failure to pursue cases, a federal civil rights investigation, and now being tied to the abuse of power investigation of his buddy former county attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio hitched his wagon to the Surprise (AZ) Tea Party’s tired birther claims.  Assigning his privately funded ‘Cold Case Posse’ to investigate the legitimacy of the President’s birth certificate now makes him unfit for office.  Unfortunately the sheep in Maricopa County lack the stones to vote the man out.
Remember when the new Republican controlled House wrapped itself in the Constitution?  The Boehner-heads started with a reading of The Constitution, but also enacted new rules requiring all new bills to cite the supporting Constitution clause or "Constitutional Authority Statement" to make the point that the bill was constitutional and in the spirit of the Founding Fathers.  Instead, the GOP House has bent the Constitution say whatever they want it to. Over nine months, the House has passed laws about a variety of modern issues that the Founders didn't mention - abortion, charter schools and lasers. Have the new rules been effective?  Well let’s ask Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., a top ally of Boehner's:  "I think it's a useful exercise - it is a reminder of the importance of our most important document.”  Has the new rule actually altered the substance of bills, to make them consistent with a limited-government philosophy? "Probably," Walden said. "But I can't point to any specific examples."
National Journal’s Kevin Williamson calls for the death of the United States Postal Service (USPS) in an a recent article.  Williamson leads with The pending default of the United States Postal Service is our national fiscal crisis in miniature: a collection of self-interested government employees working desperately to save their salaries and benefits, with the actual service provided by the agency — if, indeed, “service” is the right word — a distant second, if it is considered at all.”  Williamson goes off on an anti-governmental rant that is unrelated to the woes of the USPS.  He further loses the point when he compares the USPS to private entities FedEx and UPS; a comparison that is unfit because unlike the USPS, Brown and Purple aren’t legally required to provide delivery and pick up EVERYWHERE.  Further, USPS requires congressional approval to make any changes in its operations.  Imagine Feed Smith having to ask John Boehner to approve his business plan.  Williamson also mistakenly thinks that all households are can function with e-mail, e-commerce, and e-banking.  Far from it, then again Williamson doesn’t pay any mind to seniors who still use the good ole USPS.  Weak argument buddy and worse article.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lasting thoughts from the most recent trip to Israel

Item #1, the Arab Spring has produced a short summer and I fear Winter is Coming Ned Stark.  Tunisia, the first of the Arab revolutions, is still stuck in the crossroads between the stability from the military and the liberal secular/Islamist revolutionaries.  One thing for certain, everybody fears the Islamist movements.  News regarding Tunisia has been pushed from the back pages to oblivion as bigger and potentially more dangerous events unfold in Libya, Egypt, and Syria.
Item #2, make no mistake about it, the Egyptian military is in control and after granting the new revolutionary council some space to form a new constitution, the military has resumed some of the same suppression tactics of the Mubarak government.  Is that a step backward:  Not at all.  The recent attacks on the Israeli embassy and the general lawlessness of the Sinai have demonstrated that the liberal secular revolutionaries are losing out the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood.   They are losing out because they are disorganized like a bunch of frat boys screaming ‘Freebird” at a Skynyrd revival concert.  I am all for the seeds of Democracy to flourish in the previously barren wastelands of dictatorships and tyrannical hegemony, but if that democracy brings a Hamas or Hezbollah like result, I am sorry but I will take Hosni over Hamas any day.
Items #3, the pending UN vote regarding Palestinian statehood.  Let me start by saying that a legitimate demilitarized unified Palestinian state with relations with Israel is a good thing.  The problem is that the splintered Palestinian body is not ready for statehood.  The Fatah and Hamas split and the latter’s continuous attacks on Israeli citizens and its failure to acknowledge and respect the sovereignty of Israel make statehood a nonstarter.  As long as Iran continues to arm the terrorists in Gaza and the Egyptian government cannot control the flow of weapons to the murderers, the U.S. will justifiably veto any motion in the UN Security Council.
Item #4, Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who wants his Turkish Taffy and eat it too.   Erdogan realizes he needs the Western Markets and the NATO Alliance members for investment and markets for his country’s goods and services.  But he also wants to be the leader of the Muslim world, the counter balance to Iran.  He also has visions of being the man who leads the Arab populace against tyranny. And it’s here where he has badly overplayed his hand.  While he did receive a raucous ovation in Cairo, Arabs, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, did not care for his self-promotion and grandstanding.  
So where does this leave Israel?  Potentially further isolated in a sea of hate based on this simple assertion: The Arab World is jealous of the State of Israel.  Yes it’s that simple.  The Arab nationalist movement has been a dismal failure in spite of sitting on the world’s most profitable natural resource.  The Arab street feels deep hatred for Israel that cannot be explained by the Arab tyrannies.  It is essentially racism born of ignorance and jealousy.  They are the poor ignorant kids who live on the other side of the tracks and as long as western nations, the Turks, and Iranians treat them as such, they will be a failure.
Perhaps Rashid Khalidi and other enlightened Arabs should worry more about educating their people and building community like the Jews and the Israelis and less about what they think their people deserve.
It’s that simple.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Of Surveys, Science, Social Conservatives, and Society

The link at the bottom of this posting is for a recent CNN/ORC Poll including specific questions regarding social issues.  The results are mixed: some shocking and some less so.  Let’s get started:
1)      Should we continue to have a Department of Education?  74% say yes while, while 24% say it should be eliminated completely.  Those that oppose the DoE are likely Tea Party members and social conservatives who believe in greater state autonomy and oppose federal education guidelines.  As for Diggapedia, we believe if you leave educational guidelines and content to the states we will end up with creationism in Kansas science classes with local activist school boards having too much power and influence.  While standardized testing is a key component of education, it cannot be a single plank in the platform; we need to go after the learning and educational process at the national level.  Every country ranked ahead of us in the educational rankings has strong national programs.
2)      Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal under only certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances? Legal under any circumstances: 25%, Legal under certain circumstances: 53%, illegal under all circumstances: 21%.  These numbers have not moved much over the last 30 years and thus contradict conservative commentators who tell us that we are a center right country.  Clearly America above all remains a nation of laws and Christian conservative politicians such as Bachmann, Santorum, Huckabee, Perry, and Tancredo , to name a few, are clearly out of touch with America.  Finally, supporting the legality of abortion does not make a person pro-abortion, it makes them pro-choice and smack dab in the center of America.  You may have guessed that Diggapedia is pro-choice in a big way.
3)      Do you believe that the theory of evolution is definitely true, probably true, probably false, or definitely false?  Definitely true 21%, Probably true 36%, Probably false 16%, Definitely false 25%.  Clearly a majority believe in the theory of evolution though it is surprising that 41% doubt or deny the theory of evolution.  This may be connected to the relatively high church going demographic in the U.S.  Diggapedia comes down firmly on the pro evolution side as science cannot be denied, and that doesn’t make me an atheist. 
4)      Do you think marriages between gay and lesbian couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages? Should be recognized as valid 53%, Should not be recognized as valid 46%.  The most astonishing thing about this question is that in just three short years the results have flip flopped possibly in part due to the repeal of DADT.  Once again these results challenge the center-right claim of the SoCons.  No shocker that Diggapedia is in the majority here again.  When we go from hiding homosexuality, to making it Hollywood fashionable to being just plain old boring, we are headed in the right description and it isn’t to the right.
5)      In your view, is homosexuality something a person is born with, or is homosexuality due to factors such as upbringing and environment? Born with 45%, Upbringing and environment 39%, Both (vol.) 9%, Neither (vol.) 3%.  One of the biggest sweeping changes in America.  In 34 years American opinion has moved from only 13% believing that homosexuality was something a person was born with to 45% today.  That is definitely bad news for Marcus Bachmann’s clinic.  Of all the questions and studies I have read, this single question fills me with more hope and pride in America as it demonstrates a people understanding the human condition and that science is real and false prophet Christian broadcasters are losing the battle.  Can I get a hell yeah?
6)      Thinking specifically about the role that religion plays in government, which of the following statements comes closest to your views: Religion should be the only factor the government uses to decide its policies 2%, Religion should be a major factor in the government's decisions but not the only one 15%, Religion should have some influence on the government's decisions but should not be a major factor in those decisions 36%, Religion should have no influence at all on the government's decisions 47%.  Once again, results that counter the center right shift argument and bad news for the holy rollers from the right who insist on calling us a Christian Nation.  Sorry folks, we are a democratically elected secular republic with the law of the land explicitly stating that government will neither establish a national religion nor create a religious test to hold office.  That is the greatness of America.

While it is difficult to find good news anywhere, these survey results are promising and show that we are progressing on the road to enlightenment against the tide of reactionary evangelical anti-science dogma from the right.  Intolerance must be eradicated,  I am therefor declaring war on intolerance and ignorance.  Who’s with me?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Update from the Middle East: Bye Bye Turkey

As I am speeding off to Israel for another whirlwind trip, it seems circumstances involving the tiny democratic Jewish state cast in a sea of Islamic hate are changing ever again.  With the Palestinian Authority (PA) pushing for a vote in both the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly, Israel is facing increased isolation.  Even with strong US support and potential vetoes from Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic, PA statehood, as granted by the U.N. is inevitable.  The question is exactly how the General Council phrases the statehood.  Will it include the right of return, borders, status of Jerusalem, and recognition of Israel? 
Then there’s the increasing rift between Israel and Turkey stemming from the Turkish flotilla Mavi Marmara incident.   This rapid breakdown is a confluence of the expansion of the Tayyip Erdogan Islamic Turkish AKP party at the expense of the Turkish military and the increasing shift to the right of the Israeli government.  The Palmer report regarding the events surrounding the flotilla attack supported Israel’s right to intercept the flotilla and the response of its soldiers when they were attacked, but it also recommended that the Jewish state apologize to Turkey and offer compensation.  The Erdogan government knew very well that this flotilla carried illegal materials for Gaza and harbored anti-American anti-Semites who cheered on 9-11.  Turkey now claims it will send armed escorts along with all future illegal flotillas destined to Gaza.  Clearly, Turkey has pivoted sharply from a west leaning secular state to a Muslim leaning Islamic state.  To further inflame the situation, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has publicly announced that Israel should support the Kurds against the Turks and also reach out to the Armenians to shame Turkey for the 1914 - 1918 Turkish genocide of 500,000 Armenians. 
Further confounding situation is the Kurdistan-Syrian-Turkish-Iranian quadrangle of confusion.  Whereas George W. Bush viewed the world in the rather simple “you’re wither with us or against us” lens, the real world is more like sometimes you’re with me and sometimes you’re not.  Case in point, Turkey has become the West’s point person on negotiating the removal of Syrian President al-Assad, while Iran continues to prop the butcher up through military and financial aid.  Clearly they are at odds here.  But they both agree that the Kurds in northern Iraq represent a threat to their individual sovereignty.   The Kurdistan movement is led by the PKK, an organization that strikes at both Iran and Turkey in hopes of establishing an independent nation.   
Muslim nations are dangerous places.  30 people killed in Iraq from suicide bombers.  23 killed in a suicide attack in Nigeria.  18 people killed in an Al-Qaeda led attack in Algeria.  This is on top of the 2,600 Syrians killed by their own government and the hundreds killed in Kurdistan region of Iraq.   Want to know why Muslims hate Israel?  They have education, independence, democracy, law, and order. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10, 2001 was a Monday

Where were you on September 10, 2001?  What were you worried about?  What occupied your thoughts, worries, hopes, and dreams?  What were you excited about?  What were you interested in?
September 10, 2001 was a Monday.
Cindy and I were still laughing about the recent visit from the Three Amigas: Leah, Roseanne, and Valerie, and the adventures of Sedona, a certain screen door, a forgotten carrot cake, and breakfast for champions.  We were also dealing with a 1995 Chevy Blazer that seemed to be on its last legs, surviving our first Arizona summer, thinking about what to remodel in the house, dealing with the concept of a Home Owners Association, thinking that my best shot at a World Series game maybe with the fledgling Arizona Diamondbacks, and looking forward to a visit from Scott, Lori, and the boys.
But what about America? 
We knew nothing about a tiny town in Pennsylvania called Shanksville; Guantanamo Bay was the setting for A Few Good Men, and we still taped shows and listened to CD’s.
There was no underwear bomber or shoe bomber (though we did have a unabomber), we didn’t tag, poke, tweet, ‘like’, or friend people on a computer.  Phones weren’t smart, they were phones.
What’s an app?
We didn’t realize how small 3 ounces were and we knew nothing of a twister-like color coded national security system that left you wondering if you were Dustin Hoffman in “Marathon Man” wondering how the heck do I know “If it is safe”? 
We had declared wars on drugs, poverty, and crime.  We would add terror to that list, but wars against existential or nebulous threats or concepts make it difficult to answer “How do we know when we win”?  I guess we need to be having a war against something when we can’t find someone.
Many in the country were still pissed about the 2000 election and we knew little about our new President other than he was another Bush and some of us baseball fans knew him as the owner of the Texas Rangers who traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs.  We were still struggling with the concept of the hanging chad and the hit to our 401k’s and portfolios after the bubble burst.
Greenspan, the world’s most powerful man, will get the economy back on track.
Where the hell is Kabul?
Boston sports fans like yours truly were not happy.  Pats fans were pissed about the loss to the Bengals on week one and we were gearing up for the Jets. It was Drew Bledsoe’s team and Tom Brady was an untested backup on the bench; that too would change in two weeks after the NFL returned.  Red Sox fans were gripping about 9-2 and 7-2 losses to the Yankees (thanks Nomo) over the weekend.  C’mon Nomarrrrrrrrr. 
The Tom Hanks produced adaption of Steven Ambrose’s Band of Brothers had just debuted on HBO.  Paradoxically, it would be a profile about America’s greatest generation on the eve of the creation of America’s disposable generation. 
We were neither immune to nor unaware of terror.   Many rembered the WTC attack of 1993, though some had already forgotten the lessons from the portending attack, even fewer of us thought much about the US embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen.  After all, those attacks happened way over in Africa and Middle East.  We had the greatest and most powerful nation’s intelligence and armed forces to protect us.
We thought of people in Afghanistan and the Middle East in terms of “Why don’t they just blow each other up”.  Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Osama bin Laden….somebody else’s problem.  What the heck is Sharia law?
I write this while flying on September 10, 2011 and realizing that I have been on a plane on seven of the subsequent ten 9/11 anniversaries.  I travel a fair amount so that may not mean anything more than statistical probability, just an observation I guess.  Or maybe it is my subconscious saying it happened; move on.
I didn’t write this to be nostalgic or create one of those remember when email chains, but to be more observational.  Maybe I chose September 10th because everyone talks about where they were on 9/11, just like previous generations talk about the Kennedy Assassination, Pearl Harbor, and other major moments in history.  The day before it all changed. Where were we physically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically? How do you imagine the unimaginable?  
September 10, 2001 was a Monday.
On September 10, 2011 Red Sox fans still hate the Yankees and airline food still sucks.  Not everything changes and that can be comforting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

American Jobs Act: One man's opinion

Here are key elements of President Obama’s $447Billion American Jobs Act:
Obama is proposing a $175 billion one-year extension and expansion of the employee payroll tax holiday that would halve the tax rate to 3.1 percent in 2012.  While this will put further burden on the long term solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund, this short term spending versus long term deficit reduction is exactly the type of trade off we need to do.  That being said, will this tax cut really be stimulative or will the extra money in pockets go to paying down consumer debt. 

Obama is seeking $65 billion to encourage small businesses to hire more workers. This includes halving employer payroll taxes to 3.1 percent for the first $5 million of a company's wage bill in 2012, which the administration says will reach 98 percent of small businesses. He also wants a complete payroll tax holiday for increasing the size of the payroll by up to $50 million above the prior year, either by hiring new workers or raising the salaries of the existing labor force.  I don’t believe this sort of incentive will drive a business to hire.  The supply siders will tell you that businesses are job creators.  As a demand side proponent, I say businesses are job providers and consumers are the job creators.  This comes across as an attempt by Obama to claim he is pro-business and to create a compromise position with Congressional Republicans.

Obama wants to broaden homeowner access to mortgage refinancing and help the battered housing market by allowing households to take advantage of ultra-low borrowing costs that would help them put their finances on a sounder footing.  This is critical to get homeowners who are underwater back on their feet and mobile.  Mobility along with flexibility and versatility are cornerstones of the U.S. labor market, the greatest labor market in the world.  The return of mobility will enable job seekers who are tied to their homes to break those bonds and move to where the jobs are available (even if it is Texas).  The risk here is whether the owners of mortgage backed securities, collaterized debt obligations, and credit default swaps will have merits for a law suit if the mortgage refinancing leads to a change in the creditworthiness of the mortgages in question.

At a cost of $5 billion, Obama wants to extend a 100 percent expensing tax break for companies, allowing them to immediately take a tax deduction for investment in new plant and equipment.  Another bone for business and Republicans

n  $35 billion to keep teachers, firefighters and police officers in their jobs, of which $30 billion would go to schools and $5 billion to police and firefighters.
n  $30 billion to modernize schools and community colleges.
n  $15 billion to rehabilitate and refurbish vacant and foreclosed homes.
n  $5 billion to help low-income youths and adult workers, supporting summer and year-round jobs for young people and support subsidized work for unemployed low-income workers.
Pure government spending to help out state and local governments who are cash strapped.  This jobs works sort of program is very controversial as it clearly separates liberal thinking from conservative ideology.  This will help raise GDP, but unless the economy gains traction by the end of 2012 we could be back where we are right now.  Conclusion, I support getting young people to work as they represent the demographic group with the highest unemployment.  I do have a concern that it will embolden some bad Union practices that keep unworthy teachers on the payroll.

Obama seeks $50 billion to invest in highways, transit, rail and aviation, including upgrading U.S. airports and supporting Nextgen Air Traffic modernization.  Hell yeah. We have fallen out of the top 15 in infrastructure, an embarrassment considering the public works projects that marked our 20th century ascent to greatness.  Today, our roads are on par with Malaysia.

Obama wants $10 billion to capitalize an infrastructure bank to leverage private and public infrastructure investment.  Another great idea to get infrastructure investment off the ground.  Based on John Kerry’s Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s bill that proposed the bank would be capitalized with the $10Billion seed money and that loans and guarantees would be secured by toll revenues, user fees, or other dedicated revenue sources. Eligible projects would include transportation, water, and energy facilities, and would need to cost at least $100 million, or $25 million in rural areas.  Because it will take some time to get this off the ground, it may actually provide a boost after the other cuts and spending are exhausted.

n  $49 billion for a one-year extension of long-term unemployment benefits that would otherwise expire, which the White House says prevents 6 million jobless Americans from losing benefits. It includes reforms to the jobless aid system and a "bridge to work" program to help get unemployed people back to work.
n  $8 billion for tax credits for long-term unemployed.
Absolutely support extending unemployment benefits.  Contrary to Republican lies, unemployment benefits are significantly more stimulative than corporate tax cuts, or tax cuts for the rich.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Common Sense: High in demand and short in supply

Let’s start with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who sponsored a bill threatening to cut off funding to the UN if that body votes to grant statehood to the Palestinian Authority.  Now, I am the first person to line up and defend Israel and I do not believe that a Palestinian state with Hamas in a position of power or influence is acceptable.  However, threatening to withhold funding is like the 8 year old who doesn’t like the game anymore and threatens to take his ball and go home.  Does she think her threat will sway Estonia, Venezuela, Benin, or Algeria?  Does she think that all the UN thinks about is the Israel/Palestinian situation?  She is willing to cut off funds to help starving children in African or fight tuberculosis in South America?  This “you’re either with us or against us” empty threat rhetoric may make you feel tough, but it is far from effective.
The above notwithstanding, here are the indisputable facts concerning Palestinian statehood: (1) The 1948 UN partition plan for Palestine still holds today, (2) Hamas doesn’t want a peace treaty because they immediately lose influence, (3) the right wing power base of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wants a perpetual state of tension, and (4) the majority of Israelis and Palestinians accept a two state solution based on 1967 borders.
The growing tension between the Turkish and Israeli governments is bad for both sides.  In the wake of the 108 page UN report on the May 31, 2010 incident involving the Turkish flotilla, a report that was supposed to bring the nations together, both sides are playing a dangerous game of chicken.  The controversial report alleges Israel’s blockade was legal but its actions were “excessive and unreasonable”.  As for the flotilla, the report stated "acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade." While the majority of flotilla participants had no violent intentions, it said, "there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers."  The report closed with a recommendation that Israel issue an apology and provide compensation for the loss of life.  The latest severing of military and diplomatic ties between the nations is a further step in the wrong direction and adds another migraine to Secretary of State Clinton. 
Looks like President Obama will unveil a $300Billion Jobs Plan this Thursday before kick-off.  Details could include:
-          Tax credit to firms for hiring
-          Public works projects
-          Capital depreciation
-          Retraining
-          Extension of payroll tax cut for employees
-          Payroll tax cuts for employers
All to be paid for by future spending cuts and tax increases.  I am not hopeful that this will dent the unemployment in this country or suddenly get the consumer spending again.  Hope I am wrong.