Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GOP Culture War: Clinging to Guns and Religion

In 2008, while on the campaign trail, then candidate Barack Obama made the following statement:

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The reaction was swift and furious from then rival Hillary Clinton and soon to be rival John McCain.  Mr. Obama was called an elitist, pundits claimed he was out of touch with working America, and he had a vision of America that was not American. But what did exactly say that was inaccurate?  You can argue that making the statement in California about people in Pennsylvania and the Midwest was not the brightest move, but I am questioning the veracity of the statement.  Was he wrong?
Let’s look at what has transpired since that April, 2008 day:
So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion”. It is neither shocking nor controversial that citizens will turn away from their local, state, and federal governments when they feel they are being abandoned and left behind.  As they lose faith in their elected leaders, people will  turn inward and turn to their local communities for strength, faith, and spirit.  Yes they get bitter.  Mr. Obama was simply noting that the blue collar Americans in the rust belt were being left further and further behind as offshoring undercut their employment opportunities in lieu of higher paying and higher profitable financial services jobs.  Yes manufacturing services were replaced with financial services.  I know many people in Pennsylvania and almost all of them love their guns, love hunting, and love the small town church-based community.  Remember soon after President Obama’s election victory the NPR/Fox News double barreled shot gun started spreading false rumors that the President was going to repeal the 2nd amendment, shut down gun stores, and confiscate guns.  Guns and ammo sales skyrocketed.  Yes these same folks started clinging evermore. 
“antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment”.  Antipathy can be defined as a deep-seated feeling of dislike.  In the context of this passage, Mr. Obama is saying that following 25 years of job losses, people will seek to blame others; others who are different.  In other words, Mr. Obama made a comment that has essentially become the GOP political platform since 2008.  Anti-immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia to name a few, courtesy of Team Romney member Kris Kobach, author of the illegal Arizona SB1070 anti-immigration law, have been championed by Republican Governors and Legislatures.  This wave of xenophobia tied into blue collar lower-middle income are a fundamental tenet of the Tea Party.  So before there was a Tea Party, Mr. Obama had already identified what would become a defining characteristic.  The future President was indicting what had become of the rust belt and the Republican Party turned it into a key plank of its platform.

But four years later he was not wrong?  Absolutely not.  In the last 12 months on top of the heinous and draconian immigration laws noted above we have heard GOP presidential candidates warn the electorate of Sharia Law and Islamists.  The Judeo-Christian law of the land is under threat and now elected secular liberal officials in Washington are attacking Christianity.  Give me a break.  Mr. Obama mentioned anti-trade sentiment in his speech on 2008.  Today, we have protectionist measures coming from the previously free market conservatives and we have actually heard Mitt Romney saying he didn’t want a trade war with China, he wanted to go to war with China. 
So a cultural observation made by candidate Obama became the basis of the latest round in the GOP waged Culture War featuring: Guns, Religion, Immigrants, and all things foreign.  It is now so deeply imbedded in the GOP platform that a crow bar cannot pry the plank s out.
A critique of how this country had turned its back on the rank and file has become the new Tea Party laced GOP.  And who do the Republicans offer up?  A vulture capitalist and reactionary social conservative.  Keep clinging because the guys you are backing don’t have your interests at heart.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

World According to Rick, a Sick Scary World

·         "I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely. The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country."
·         "That's why he (Obama) wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."
·         “President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob”
·         “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military” What we're doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. And that's tragic."
·         “I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute.”
·         “I think it's harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young. And I think we've very, very harmful long term consequences to our society. Birth control to me enables that, and I don't think it's a healthy thing for our country."
·         “The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion.”
·         “The undermining of the fabric of our society all comes from this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in the U.S. Constitution.
·         “Ultimately we need to make the case to the Iranian regime that we will not let them get a nuclear weapon, and that means working with the Israelis if necessary, and coordinating missile strikes or air strikes to take out that capability if we believe it’s reached that point.”
·         “All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.”
·         “You know, Mitt, I don't want to go to a trade war, I want to beat China, I want to go to war with China.”
·         “It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.”
·         “Where did they come up that public education and bigger education bureaucracies was the rule in America? Parents educated their children, because it’s their responsibility to educate their children.”
·         Unlike Islam, where the higher law and civil law are the same, in our case we have civil laws. But our civil laws have to comport with the higher law.”
·         ”As long as abortion is legal – at least according to the Supreme Court – legal in this country, we will never have rest because that law does not comport with God’s law that says all life has value. And as long as there is an incongruence between the two, we will have agitation.”


Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Mishegas - February 27, 2012

·         America’s problem isn’t regulation, it’s writing regulations.  The law that created the American banking system in 1864 was 29 whopping pages, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was 32 pages, and the post 1929 crash banking reform act, known as Glass-Steagall, was 37 pages.  The 2009 Financial Reform Act Dodd Frank is 848 pages.  
·         Marie Colvin just before her death in Syria: “Well, not sure it was my smartest move but I have made it to Baba Amro. Nightmare here, but so anger-making it is worth it.”
·         I think Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuis is in cahoots with the GOP to beat the war drums with Iran, spike oil prices, and cause President Obama’s defeat.
·         Pot and Kettle moment: Billionaire douche Steve Wynn has ousted his long time business partner Kzauo Okada for alleged misconduct citing “company’s high ethical standards”.  Steve Wynn the Las Vegas Casino Mogul with operations in Macau citing high ethical standards.  I think he spent too much time on the roof of his casino.
·         John McCain and Lindsey Graham call for arming Free Syria Rebels.  One week later Hamas splits from Bashar al-Assad and backs the Free Syria Rebels.  Now do you understand why the neocon rush to war is ALWAYS a bad idea?
·         The whole idea of the nomination primaries and caucuses is to take the process out of the party bosses hands by eliminating the back room deal making of years ago.  Yet the GOP is certainly heading down that road.  Each of these clowns think they are Abraham Lincoln and it’s 1860.
·         National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar thinks Super PACS are good because “there is little connection between strict campaign finance laws and good governance.”  Well sir, adding hundreds of millions of special interest dollars isn’t going to help reduce corruption now is it.
·         Washington Post’s Michael Gerson “ A conservatism that prefers ideology to reality is not particularly conservative.”
·         According to a WBUR poll, 62% of Massachusetts residents say they’re happy with ‘Romneycare’ compared to 33% who aren’t.  Just six years after enactment that is a clear majority of support.
·         Arizona and Michigan primaries are Tuesday and here is the Diggaprediction: Romney takes the winner take all in Arizona and while he takes the popular vote in Michigan, Santorum wins more delegates by taking more districts.  Each will take away something and Newt will give us one of his famous non-concession concession speeches about his 1st week in mythical office.
·         Rick Santorum thinks that rising gas prices caused the great recession of 2008.  “We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices," the former senator declared. "The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because we're looking at $4 a gallon gasoline. And look at what happened, economic decline."  Well I am sure that would be news to the thousands of economists who have studied the recession because I am pretty sure gas prices do not show on any credible economist’s list of causes.  The man is remarkably dense on so many topics.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Diggapedia Manifesto: Living in the Middle

Here I am still stuck in the middle with most of you.
Education
I believe that union failure to adopt a meritocracy versus last in/first out is a major roadblock to education reform.  I also believe that Federal and State Governments must work in concert in developing an education system that will return the US to a competitive position.  Our inability to produce sufficient scientists, engineers, and technologists is accelerating our competitive demise.   While we need to establish applicable metrics to track progress, the kind of change we need will not be addressed by teaching to a standardized test and solely measuring test scores to determine success or failure.  We are talking about a cultural shift that elevates education, school attendance, parent involvement, and progressive thinking.  And for once, can we study the best, no matter where it maybe, to improve instead of this nation’s fixation on studying the failures as a means of understanding success?
Debt and Deficits
Taxing just the rich will never be an effective deficit reduction plan and neither will simply cutting spending.  We need to increase tax revenues AND cut spending.  Current Medicare and Social Security systems are untenable and reform is desperately required that addresses costs, services, and funding.  Politicians need to be honest with their constituents because only the credible plan will include cuts in defense spending, social services, entitlement outlays as well as revenue enhancements from broadening and deepening the tax base.  The surest way to tackle our fiscal shortcomings is growth and this is why stimulus is required in the short term to keep the recovery moving forward at the expense of higher deficits.  With borrowing costs still remarkably low, now is the time to finance infrastructure investment.
Energy
The diverse solution is the best solution.  Yes that means, investment in newer technologies such solar, wind, and geothermal sources.  It also means we should be able to develop environmental, population, and worker safety conscious methods to extract coal, gas, and oil reserves to reduce foreign dependence and increase our own strategic reserves.  We should also not eliminate the need for nuclear energy; we need to understand risks and failure modes and instill robust controls and safeguard, based on the Japanese Fukushima disaster and other analyses.  Nuclear power supplies 20% of the nation’s energy needs and we need to continue to invest in safe modular plants.  But choices of supply are only half of the equation.  We need to reduce consumption through mandated efficiency standards in the home, in the factory, in the office and in the car.
Finance
I believe this nation, and the world for that matter, require tough and balanced financial regulations.  The unfettered highly leveraged, speculation driven, casino mentality on Wall Street needs to be reined in and regulated by an appropriate government agency.  The problem is that the Dodd-Frank Bill, as well intentioned as it was, is not the answer.  Between the lobbyists, over loquacious congressmen, and personal agendas, the Finance Reform Act is a thousand pages of tidbits of value and a whole lot love waste.  The law that created the American banking system in 1864 was 29 whopping pages, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was 32 pages, and the post 1929 crash banking reform act, known as Glass-Steagall, was 37 pages.  Dodd Frank is 848 pages and that doesn’t include the yet to be completed pages of rules that still need to be written.  Oh by the way, the Republicans have nothing to crow about as they have offered nothing of substance of which to replace Dodd-Frank.
So here I am in the middle wanting government to be more efficient and less partisan.  I want politicians to worry less about re-election and more about leading.  I want Americans to realize sacrifice will be required.  And I want everyone to realize that the majority of America is in the middle with tendencies to lean in multiple directions including forward.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Political Divide and Conquer

The axiom ‘Divide and conquer’ has roots dating back to Julius Caesar and has been cited by military generals, sovereign leaders, and economists.  It is also a political tool for both incumbents and challengers and in its more controversial version: ‘Class Warfare’ in the political arena.  On September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Wall Street financial district, the Occupy Wall Street movement inaugurated a public outrage: the 99% versus the 1%.  Citing excessive income disparity and the lack of justice, the OWS movement spread across the globe and in the process set the stage for battle lines between super rich and everyone else.  The 99% focused on the Wall Street versus Main Street battle, the lack of prosecutions against those that perpetrated the global economic crisis, and the unfettered greed of the rich and shameless.  Progressives and liberals jumped to defend the OWS movement while conservatives mocked and ridiculed the protesters and those that defended their positions.  The battle was on.
Questions were asked whether President Obama would embrace the OWS movement and strike a populist tone.  A tone that the Tea Party successfully chimed in 2010 that lead to the Republican resurgence in Congress culminating with them retaking the House.  The difference between the two movements was the Tea Party singled out government as the enemy while OWS targeted the rich.  While President Obama waited to take a public position, Warren Buffett stepped into the fray and declared that the current tax code was so imbalanced in the favor of the rich as exemplified by the fact that he paid a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.  The door was open for the President to push his Buffett rule and to promote a populist message.  On December 7th, in Oswatomie, Kansas, the President channeled the great American Progressive, President Theodore Roosevelt, and set the tone for his campaign: he was fighting for Main Street.  His State of the Union address on January 24th was in effect a campaign speech and he espoused the same message he delivered in Kansas.  When Mitch Daniels delivered the Republican response he stated "No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us."  Immediately, the cries of class warfare came ringing from the studious of Fox News and right wing radio of a divisive President, a President out to pit American versus American.
I don’t argue with some of the right wing complaints that the President’s message was to split Independent voters from the conservative block.  In today’s politics, the moderate independent center is where elections are won and lost.  In 2008, the President defeated John McCain because he captured the center and in 2010 the Tea Party fueled GOP did the same. 
What I take umbrage and exception with is the hypocrisy of the Republican Party.  Republicans have been playing that game for years and here are some recent examples:
·         Republican controlled legislatures and governorships in many states have been pushing legislation to force welfare recipients to pay for and pass their own drug tests in order to receive state aid.  The ploy: turn middle class Americans against the poor.
·         In Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Arizona Republican controlled legislatures and governors have tried to separate middle class blue collar private sector workers from public sector workers as they vilified unions.  Under the veil of economic freedom, these Republican leaders tried to place unions as evil and its members a threat to ALL workers.
·         Voter suppression bills in a dozen states were created to specifically target lower income and immigrant voters who historically backed Democratic candidates.  Calling it voter fraud these anti-American state politicians set to divide American citizens against each other.
·         Last week’s commotion over the Administration’s mandate that woman’s contraception be free in all health care plans turned into a GOP divide attack to get Catholics to switch support from the President.  Unfortunately, for the GOP its attempt to create division not only failed to draw Catholics into its fold, it drove independent women towards the President.
Sometimes, one party doesn’t have to do anything to divide an electorate; the opposition does it for them.  In the case of this year’s Republican Party they have attacked women, the LGBT community, immigrants, and blue collar workers.  Yes you have divided the nation because you have become almost as exclusive as a 1950’s country club. 
Memo to the GOP, your Culture War narrative is no longer effective and you know it and that is why you have moved onto other issues such as labor, immigrants, and the poor.  Heck even, Mitt Romney said he didn’t worry about the poor because they had a safety net.
Yes divide and conquer works swimmingly well in politics too and sometimes all you have to do is let your opponent do it for you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some Thursday Observations

Irony 101: Authorities arrested 17 students at Texas Christian University on Wednesday as part of a six-month drug sting, an especially embarrassing blow to the school because it included four members of the high-profile football team.  Texas Christians huh?
The great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis envisioned the state legislatures as "laboratories of democracy". I guess that makes Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia meth labs.
The biggest threat to America’s global leadership is competitiveness.  Without competitiveness we will continue to lag behind financially until the American Dream comes crashing down.  The key to regaining out competitive advantage is Education.  And yet, Republicans want to end the Department of Education and if that isn’t bad enough GOP frontrunner Rick Santorum wants to end state funded education as well.  This is absolutely crazy.  When Communism was the global threat and the Soviet Union the evil empire, did anyone call for abolishing the Department of Defense?  Of course not.  Education is this generation’s Arms Race.  And just like the DoD, there will be waste and mistakes in the Department of Education, that doesn’t mean you scrap the whole enchilada.   The privatization of education will lead to even greater disparity from the haves and have nots, from urban schools to suburban schools, and from suburban schools to rural schools.
The financial sector does not look to be getting any healthier.  Moody's said it may cut the credit ratings of 17 global and 114 European financial institutions in another sign the impact of the euro zone debt crisis was spreading. Among the banks listed were Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group, and Bank of America Corp.  No bailouts coming this time fellas.
WrestleMania XXIX will be held at Met-Life stadium in New Jersey on April 7, 2013.  So what will be Chris Christie’s wrestler doppelganger?  The Orb?  Deathstar?  Big Ball of Hate?  How stretchy is Spandex and Lycra?
Republican Senators Coburn and Barr were on the political talk circuit pushing their Seniors Choice Act, the latest GOP plan to save Medicare.  One question, is offering seniors choices over the current system really what seniors need?
Warning folks that the Attack Obama Machine and Apparatus will be getting fired up again when the GOP and its surrogates realize they cannot run against the President’s foreign and domestic policy records.  Yes they will get desperate and break out the Birther, Kenyan, Muslim, Socialist, Reverend Wright, and Bill Ayers attacks.
Social Conservatives want to ban abortion.  But they also want to ban contraception.  Doesn't contraception limit abortion?
Alan West (R-FL) cannot help himself.  Put a camera in his face and the hateful bile just spews forth like Old Faithful.  “For this reason, the Republican value of minimizing government dependence is particularly beneficial to the poorest among us,” he continued. “Conversely, the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today, and it does not promote economic freedom.”  Yes it’s just like slavery. 
You have every right to fly your confederate flag in front of your store.  I have every right to say you’re an ignorant douche nozzle.
You don’t put matters of social justice up to a referendum.  Should Truman have held a vote to see if the Armed Forces should be desegregated?  Should Lyndon Johnson have left the decision for a national Civil Rights Act to a series of state referendums?  When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for leaders to lead and that the right thing to do isn’t necessarily the most popular course of action. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Little Diggenomics

The Obama administration has created the textbook game plan in its handling of the recession, subsequent credit crisis, and sluggish recovery.  Knowing that household and balance sheets needed to be shored up and that states needed some breathing room, the President kept the federal spigot opened to keep the recovery from slipping back into recession.  Over the last three years, businesses have returned to fiscal health and many American households reduced their debt loads.  Now as private and consumer spending ramps up, the federal government will be able to scale back its spending in 2013 and beyond.  By keeping state coffers filled with federal money, states were able to keep teachers, fire, police and other state employees working through 2010 and while they have been forced to reduce staffing now at least the private sector is recovering to more than offset the public sector losses.  It is classic diversification.  Oh and those on the right that think it was the wrong thing to do?  Go to Europe and see how that continent’s austerity plans are working out.  Here’s a clue, it’s called double dip recession.
There was an interesting analysis in the Financial Times about the U.S gas and oil reserves.  If the U.S. is able to SAFELY extract the massive reserves of shale gas and oil, it is entirely possible that the U.S. could become increase exports and in the process return to a positive current account deficit for the first time since the 1990’s.  This will reduce economic drag on the economy as the negative current account deficits cost the U.S. at least 1% of GDP.  As the U.S. economy heats up, the Fed will have to tighten interest rates to keep inflation in check.  As the interest rates go up, the dollar rally will pick up speed and suddenly the price for all commodities, especially oil, gas, precious metals, will drop.  Countries with large surpluses will start buying dollars again and the cycle will continue. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Assassinations Terrorism Justice or Murder

Should we rejoice when our enemy is vanquished?  Should we celebrate his demise?  Can you celebrate victory without cheering your opponent’s defeat?  Is war hell?  Is one man’s freedom fighter another man’s terrorist?  When does a feeling of nationalism become a blood lust?
I am struck by the range of response I witness when it comes to killing in the name of country especially in the realm of limited and covert operations. Four recent events have struck me with respect to how we feel about killing and assassination: the killings of Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gadhafi, Iranian Nuclear scientists, and Anwar al-Awlaki.  In the case of bin Laden, there was nearly unanimous acclamation for the killing on the grounds it was justified for the global reign of terror, especially the 9/11 attacks.  There was a lesser effusion of celebration as many Americans felt uneasy high fiving the taking of a life, even someone the likes of Osama bin-laden.  Nonetheless, the scenes outside the White House that night in May contained a certain level of blood lust.  Was it catharsis gone amok?  Were people caught up in the moment?  Were they celebrating the success of the mission and/or the killing or a human?  I neither condone nor condemn anyone’s behavior in the aftermath of the news as emotions were riding high.  The capture, killing, sodomizing, and desecrating of Gadhafi was what happens when a mob takes over.  I do not mourn the demise of one of the world’s nastiest tyrants; fortunately I have never had to live under such a despot and I can’t imagine what I would have done under the same conditions.  The world is definitely a better place without Gadhafi, but the way he was killed and his body treated is not how a civilized people act.  Am I splitting hairs?  Perhaps.  But I find it impossible to accept sodomy under any circumstances.
The recent tete-a-tete between Israeli intelligence assets and their counterparts from Iran have exemplified the rising stakes in the region.  The Israelis have been conducting a 10 year program against the Islamic regime to sabotage its nuclear aspirations.  These covert operations including computer viruses, explosions at critical research sites, and assassinations, and yes these assassinations of scientists have happened in broad daylight and have been carried out by Iranian proxies.  These proxies are on America’s terrorist watch list and have been linked to killing American servicemen in Iraq.  But is Israel conducting an acceptable campaign against key assets or are they performing state sponsored terrorism?  Those that defend Israel’s action point to the Allied campaign to kill German scientists to inhibit the Nazi’s from developing the bomb.  Those that believe Israel is acting like a terrorist say the WWII example is not applicable as we were in a declared war with Germany and Israel is killing educators and scientists.  After the Munich kidnapping and murder of Israeli athlete’s at the hands of Palestinian terrorists in 1972, the world looked on approvingly as the perpetrators were systematically hunted down and killed.  Two things have changed, public opinion of Israel is significantly lower and these targets are not hardened killers.  But is it legal or even moral?  Once again I have not lived under the same conditions as Israelis, but any nation that has been under constant attack or threat for its entire 63 years will take extreme actions.  In this case I side with the Israelis as a nuclear armed Iran is a threat to all of us directly and indirectly.
The drone attack that killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen sparked some outrage and concern in America.  Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen living under protected cover in Yemen while preaching death and destruction to America and its citizens, wherever they may be living or visiting.  Was it legal or moral for the US government to order the strike that killed the terrorist?  I believe yes and yes.  That being said I can respect those that have deep convictions that the Israeli and U.S. actions against non-combatants or citizens are immoral.  If they believe that all killing is immoral, I can appreciate that; I disagree with that position because I believe there are some evil people out there and there are people in the employ of evil  that have placed themselves in the crosshairs.  Is that a slippery slope?  Have mistakes been made?  Again, yes and yes, but I side with the Israelis and U.S. government.  I still have enough trust in government to believe the cause is just.
The final aspect is should we rejoice and celebrate the men and women who perform these very acts?  We cheer for the Mossad and Seal team Six, but bristle when they fail or are implicated in a botched operation.  Now there many will tell you all killing is bad and even when it’s justified it is no reason to celebrate.  I can appreciate that view point, but I also do not condemn a society that celebrates the murder of villains.  That does not make me bloodthirsty or a war monger, I simply believe there is a certain catharsis that happens when the likes of Bin Laden are killed.   In Israel Mossad applications are up and tee shirts featuring the secret organization are flying off the shelves after the mission in Dubai to kill a Hamas operator.  Americans have elevated Seal Team Six to a cult of personality status after the successful Somali pirate and Bin Laden missions.  We should honor the brave men and women who put their lives at risk to defend us, to begrudge them esteem and popularity is hypocritical.  It’s a dirty business.
Not very liberal of me, but I can live with that too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Mishegas - 13Feb2012

A lot is being made about Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins breaking from the GOP and voicing support of President Obama’s contraception policy.  Sorry if I am not as effusive in heaping praise onto the ladies when they really haven’t changed their position, only their self-survival political nature.  It seems in 2001 both ladies were pretty straightforward in their respective stances.  “Women shouldn’t be held hostage by virtue of where they live,” Snowe told a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in September of 2001. “It simply is not fair.” “All we’re saying in this legislation is that if health insurance plans provide coverage for prescription drugs that that coverage has to extend to FDA-approved prescription contraceptives. It’s that simple.”  Collins, in supporting her fellow senator said “While women clearly view contraception as basic to their health and to their lives, health insurers in the United States traditionally have not. While health plans routinely cover other prescriptions and outpatient medical services, contraceptive coverage is meager or nonexistent in many health insurance policies.”  My take, either you believe in woman’s healthcare or you don’t.
So Rick Santorum is implying that Mitt Romney may have stolen the CPAC Straw Poll vote.  You mean a straw poll vote where voters can be bought with a free entre coupon from the Olive Garden?  Ballot box stuffing at a GOP straw poll is as American has voting fifty times on American Idol, and selecting Peyton Manning for the Pro Bowl even though he hasn’t played all year.
Here is what my mother would say if she was head of the Maine GOP election committee regarding the snow storm preventing some folks from voting in the caucus Saturday: Excuse me, but the caucus lasted a week and you waited until the last minute to show up?  How many times have we had this discussion about your procrastination?  Seriously, the Ron Paul supporters saying they couldn’t caucus because of the weather and the precinct not counting is a lame excuse.  As Ed Rendell would say, you can bet the Chinese would have showed up to caucus and would have been doing calculus on the way.  Yep those Chinese are Caucusing Calculus loving non Caucasians.
If it’s Monday, it means Arizona crazy lawmakers are in the news again.  It seems Republican state Senator Lori Klein has sponsored a bill tying teacher profanity to FCC regulations in such a way that if a teacher swears three times he or she will be terminated.  That is some f—ked up shit.  Oops only one more strike to go.  For the record, Klein was also Herman Cain’s state election campaign chairperson.  Crazy Train has plenty of passengers.
If Nicki Minaj represents the future of music then it’s time to cue Don McLean, warm up the Chevy, and grab some whisky and rye.
Only 1 in 10 Americans approves of the job Congress is doing.  I imagine if they chewed Trident gum they couldn’t even get 1 out 5 dentists to say anything good about them.  How bad is 10%?  11% of Palestinians hold a favorable view of America. 
Still waiting to hear how the likes of Liz Cheney, Dana Loesch, and Peggy Noonan are considered voices worth listening to regarding politics? 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cable News, Arizona Fools, and MBS Blues

Bringing this week to an end:

·         I don’t understand why some liberals get so upset when there isn’t any balance on cable news shows.  Cable News is a business owned by big business.  Now, I will complain about the likes of Dylan Ratigan, Joe Scarborough, and Chris Matthews, not because they criticized President Obama, but because they believe they ARE the story.  Their egos and how they treat their guests is the stuff that makes Limbaugh ‘Limbaugh’.  If you don’t like the show, don’t watch and change the channel.
·         Want to know why Rachel Maddow is the best cable news talk show host?  Research and fact-based data and analysis by her and her tireless staff.   While most of her peers love to demonstrate their dominance by talking like an expert, Maddow backs up her assertions, hypotheses, and conclusions effectively and efficiently.  And that is what makes going on her show dangerous for the wing-it (and wing nut) kind of guest and equally dangerous for anyone else that chooses to go toe to toe with her on a talk show panel.
·         As much as I hate to listen to the same old tired Tea Party crap from Jim DeMint, Alan West, Connie Mack, Kelly Ayotte, Steve King, and the rest of the representatives from GOP Primary states, I understand why these same people dominate the cable news shows this time of the year.  To accuse CNN and Soledad O’Brien for being pro GOP and Fox-lite is a ludicrous claim reminiscent of people calling Jon Stewart a traitor for having Condoleezza Rice on his show to promote her book about growing up in the south.  Watch O’Brien and you will see a host that treats her guests fairly and firmly and it has her that was ahead of the curve on the Romney “I don’t worry about poor people” quote.
·         Just when Arizona couldn’t get any crazier, the state legislature wants to create an armed militia.  Yes, last year our esteemed Governor issued an executive order to create the Arizona State Guard and now the legislature wants to establish a $1.9Million budget to hire, train, and arm the new state posse.  While many states have state guards to support local authorities and the National Guard, none of them, none of them, arm these groups.  As Michael Lytle, a border expert at the University of Texas at Brownsville, says of the new Arizona Guard “If it’s to man observation posts, that’s one thing, but if they’re going to arrest people, that’s something completely different.  I just don’t know any place where state guards perform that kind of mission – you’ve got kind of an unprecedented situation out there.”
·         Just when Arizona couldn’t get any crazier, take two.  Pinal County Sheriff, Fox News darling and Congressional candidate Paul Babeu has a bit of a budget issue.  It seems his sheriff’s office is facing a $3.2Million budget deficit.  This comes after a $613,000 deficit last year.  So, the Tea Party loving anti-Obama and immigrant hater can’t manage his own department’s budget is now ready to join the self-professed alleged fiscal conservative brethren in DC.  Perfect.
·         Here is a good idea from a source I have frequently ridiculed.  It seems Romney economic adviser, and former chairman of the George W. Bush Council of Economic Advisors, Glenn Hubbard has come up with the idea of Wall Street bailing out Main Street.  Specifically Hubbard’s plan, that has bipartisan support from Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), would call for refinancing 13 million home owners who are current with their payments by reducing their mortgage interest rate.  The plusses include it pumps $40Billion of consumer stimulus into the economy as homeowners will have more cash, it doesn’t add to the nation’s debt, it doesn’t require other citizens to fund the bail out, and it could help sure up Freddie and Fannie balance sheets.  Who loses?  Well the folks holding mortgage backed securities who will lose as a result of the re-fi early payback, but that’s a risk that always been there for these investments.  Yes I back an idea from Glenn Hubbard, the man who got completely eviscerated in the documentary Inside Job, and ask President Obama to back this plan.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Obama Comeback

 A remarkable awakening has been taking place over the last 90 days in Washington. 
On November 3, 2011, the ABC News/Washington Post President Obama’s approval rating sat at 44% with a disapproval rating of 53%.  Three months later, the ABC News/Washington Post President Obama’s approval rating rose to 50% and the disapproval rating dropped to 44%.  It went from (-9) to (+6); a remarkable change over three months.  Remarkable in that it was a steady increase without the boost of any special or one off ‘bumps’ like the May 2011 6-10 point bump the President got after the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  So what is behind this, with all due respect to Rick Santorum, surge?
The simple answer is a series of savvy political moves, the GOP clown car Presidential campaign, and the economic recovery.  It is also a worth noting that the President has simply got better at the politics of the presidency.  Whereas early on he allowed himself to get caught up in small matters such as the Professor Henry Gates/Cambridge Police Department kerfuffle, or seemingly always on the defensive, or even over exposure, most recently the President is laser focused and on the attack.
The three events that go the President’s groove back in gear were the road show he took to some of his nemesis back yards to point out infrastructure concerns.  The visual images of the President promoting his American Jobs Act and infrastructure investment goals in Cantor’s Virginia, McConnell’s Kentucky, and Boehner’s Ohio were the first salvo in his establishing Congress as the bad guy and the opponent.   The second event took place on December 6th at Osawatomie High School in Osawatomie, Kansas.  Channeling the great American progressive Theodore Roosevelt, President Obama struck a winning populist tone that included this brilliant passage:
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
I am here to say they are wrong.  I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.
The third event was the showdown with Congressional Republicans on extending the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits.  The Republicans had thought they had outmaneuvered the President during the August debt ceiling negotiation only to find out that he placed them in a box.  His threat to veto any bill that included the XL Pipeline and no defense cuts forced the GOP to back away from those demands and acquiesce to a temporary extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits.  It clearly placed Congress and especially the Republicans in the role of the obstructionists who were putting ideology ahead of the plight of ordinary Americans.
While the President was schooling Congressional Republicans, it didn’t hurt his cause that the GOP field was a collection incompetent amateurs, reactionary misfits, ethically challenged recycled has-beens, misogynists, and a flip flopper.  As Americans, and especially independents, began to learn more about the field, the more they began to dislike them.  A healthy dislike is next to impossible to overcome in an election campaign and suddenly the current guys starts to look better.
But most of all, solid economic data on the jobs front, increased consumer confidence, and positive manufacturing indicators create positive sentiments like nothing else.  Moreover, when the flywheel starts turning like it did in January, it builds momentum and picks up speed as it feeds off itself.  While it is too early to pop the champagne corks, the President definitely is trending better than Lady Gaga on Twitter. 
Yes, the President’s comeback is for real but the American public can be fickle.  A hiccup in the recovery could wash away these gains, worse yet a global supply shock could cause some serious economic damage.  As for me, I am standing by my Obama victory margin of 310-238 come November.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

These Headlines Would Make My Day

In honor of Clint Eastwood’s Super Bowl ad with Chrysler, here are some headlines that would ‘make my day’:
Pentagon confirms that Seal Team Six is the U.S. Armed Forces first all gay unit.
Eric Cantor indicted on insider trading scam involving several Wall Street Hedge Funds.
Gisele Bundchen leaves Tom Brady for Eli Manning.
David Chase announces Soprano’s movie that will explain the ending of the last episode
Levi Johnston elected Alaska’s Governor.
Citing U.S. led sanctions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran will give up its Nuclear Program
In a surprise election result, Netanyahu government defeated by Labor opposition.
U.S. Government sells its last remaining shares in GM and nets the American taxpayer a $10Billion profit
Obama/Biden rout Romney/Santorum 328-210
Congressman Ron Paul admits to not only knowing the contents of the racist newsletters, he actually wrote a few.
NBC announces that Rachel Maddow to take over as permanent host of Meet the Press.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Senator John McCain announce they are stepping down due to sexting scandal
Aide to Sarah Palin tells Fox News that the former Alaskan Governor will continue her vow of silence indefinitely
Gabrielle Giffords wins special election to take over the retiring John McCain’s seat
Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate ruled Constitutional by Supreme Court.
Supreme Court strikes down anti-immigration laws in Alabama, Georgia, Arizona, and South Carolina
After losing control of the House, former speaker John Boehner told by Republican caucus don’t bother seeking Minority Leader position.
Carnegie Deli announces it will open a delicatessen in Scottsdale, Arizona
Karl Rove questioned by Interpol and FBI agents after his SuperPAC is caught in a sting operation accepting donations from al Qaeda.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Am Neither a Woman nor a Catholic

I am neither a woman nor a Catholic.  It would be insensitive, inappropriate, and indecent of me to simply write this off as the latest political attack from the right on President Obama.  This issue transcends the typical conservative cries of ‘War on Religion’ ‘War on Christianity’ ‘Trampling the Constitution’.  This is about another attempt by Social Conservatives and their cadre of warriors to  assualt a woman's access to legally protected healthcare.  I firmly believe that the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause was to protect religion from governmental interference and to prevent government from establishing a state religion.  The false claims that the White House is forcing contraception on Catholics are as ludicrous as the mock outrage from the likes of John Boehner, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, etc.  But let’s deal with the facts.
Legal precedence.  In December 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made it clear that an employer’s failure to provide coverage of contraception, when it covers other prescription drugs and preventive care, is a violation of protections against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; those protections for employees’ benefits include no exemption for religious employers.
Further, according to the Department of Health and Human Services website, here are the facts about the provision in question found in the Affordable Care Act:
·         Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.
·         No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections.  For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception. 
·         No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover.  Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible.   But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.
·         Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy:  Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
·         Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions.  Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.
·         Contraception is used by most women: According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.
·         Contraception coverage reduces costs: While the monthly cost of contraception for women ranges from $30 to $50, insurers and experts agree that savings more than offset the cost.  The National Business Group on Health estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity. 
But wait, there’s more.  Thanks to the Guttmacher Institute this issue is neither a new mandate nor an exceptionally controversial issue; the Guttmacher Institute’s research on the 28 states that already require insurers to cover all drugs and devices in the FDA-approved contraception’s list.  The details:
·         28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices; 17 of these states also require coverage of related outpatient services. 2 states exclude emergency contraception from the required coverage.
·         1 state excludes minor dependents from coverage.
·         20 states allow certain employers and insurers to refuse to comply with the mandate. 8 states have no such provision that permits refusal by some employers or insurers.
·         4 states include a “limited” refusal clause that allows only churches and church associations to refuse to provide coverage, and does not permit hospitals or other entities to do so.
·         7 states include a “broader” refusal clause that allows churches, associations of churches, religiously affiliated elementary and secondary schools, and, potentially, some religious charities and universities to refuse, but not hospitals.
·         8 states include an “expansive” refusal clause that allows religious organizations, including at least some hospitals, to refuse to provide coverage; 2 of these states also exempt secular organizations with moral or religious objections. (An additional state, Nevada, does not exempt any employers but allows religious insurers to refuse to provide coverage; 2 other states exempt insurers in addition to employers.)
·         14 of the 20 states with exemptions require employees to be notified when their health plan does not cover contraceptives.
·         4 states attempt to provide access for employees when their employer refuses to offer contraceptive coverage, generally by allowing employees to purchase the coverage on their own, but at the group rate.
·         The 28 states requiring that contraception coverage be included in prescription drug plans are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Now that brings me to MSNBC’s resident Catholic and JFK expert Chris Matthews.  Matthews, citing, his Catholic upbringing believes the President has made a terrible political move with this mandate.  That remains to be seen. Matthews goes on to draw the analogy that the contraception mandate is like making a Synagogue serve ham.  Ham?  Are you kidding me?  If you want to make the analogy work, try: A Jewish hospital wouldn’t be required to sell only kosher food.  There is no legal precedent to make your analogy stand up.  Secondly, the mandate is not forcing anyone to use contraception, only to make it available to your employees.  And the church itself is exempt.  Chris, stick to shilling your JFK book.
Finally, many major Catholic Universities such as DePaul, Georgetown and Fordham offer contraception coverage.  Yes, DePaul University, the nation’s largest Catholic University, offers contraceptive coverage. 
Like I said, I am neither Catholic nor a woman, and I think the attacks on the President are secondary to the attacks on woman’s healthcare and rights.  The onslaught of attacks to Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood, proper medical screening and consultation are the real issue.  The President serves for no more than eight years and politics are dirty.  The issue here is who is going to fight for woman’s healthcare and access to unfettered and unconstrained reproductive services?  I am, who’s with me?