Monday, October 31, 2011

Do As I Say Not As I Do

The President likes to talk about looking forward.  He says we need to look to the future rather than dwell in the past.  He says that to examine the past too closely can be divisive and distract us from the more important work that lies ahead. 
This is the response provided to those who want to see former Bush administration officials prosecuted for crimes against humanity stemming from their implementation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo and other secret CIA detention facilities across the globe.  The Justice Department has refused to pursue the matter.  Simply put, the administration has decided that to prosecute the perpetrators of these violations of federal and international law would destroy the very fabric of the country; particularly since the defendants would include the former President and Vice President of the United States.
So we find it interesting that administration officials feel embolden to lecture foreign countries on their violations of international law and crimes against humanity.   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently warned Indonesian officials that any security assistance from the United States would be based on an improvement in Indonesian policies on human rights.  Apparently we informed them that any substantive dialogue about the future requires an honest examination of the past.  Hmmm!
It would appear that the Obama administration’s policy on international law and crimes against humanity is “do as I say not as I do."  The hypocrisy of lecturing foreign governments about their bad behavior while turning a blind eye to our own is both cowardly and shameless.
We are better than this.

Friday, October 28, 2011

If That Is Socialism...So Be It!

We have to laugh every time we hear conservatives refer to President Obama as a socialist.  “Obama is trying to socialize the country” is a common lament of the right wing.  They act as if the man had committed some heinous crime.  "He's a Socialist."  Grrr!  We disagree with their accusation. 
But what if Obama is trying to “socialize” the country?  At this time of economic difficulty is that so bad?  And is he doing anything different than previous Presidents…even those of the Republican persuasion?  Republicans would like us to forget that the last Republican president, George W. Bush passed the largest single social welfare program in our history…the $1.2 trillion prescription drug program for seniors.  And don’t forget Bush’s $700 billion TARP bailout of the banks.
Like it or not we are a country that is dependent on social programs.  The 2010 US Census report tells us that 49% of all American households have someone who is receiving government assistance:  Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation etc.; 149,000,000 households.
And that is but the tip of the iceberg.  This country would cease to exist as we know it without the oversight provided by government.  The air we breathe and the water we drink are safe due to government oversight.  The food we eat the prescriptions we fill and the products we purchase are safe due to government oversight.  The cars we drive, the planes we fly and the roads we travel are safe due to government oversight.  The police, firemen and military that protect us and keep us safe are all provided by the government.  And most important of all…the doctors that treat our children and the schools that educate them fall under government oversight.  The list goes on and on.  Go through your “United States capitalistic day” and try to find one thing that that hasn’t been touched by government oversight.  There are very few.  And we dare say whatever they may be they are somehow less than we would prefer. 
Conservatives will say that we have just sighted evidence that there is far too much government in our lives.  Conservatives just want to keep their hard earned money and have government stay out of their way. Their view is shortsighted. 
In 2010 the median household income for an American family of four was $49,334.  They paid an average of $5,600 in taxes.  If we gave conservatives their wish and allowed them to keep their tax money; how many of the services listed above could they buy with $5600?  The education costs alone would bankrupt them. 
Conservatives like to speak out against socialism in our society.  But they have no problem cashing their unemployment checks or applying for Medicare and Medicaid.    
As US citizens we are fortunate to have a very high quality of life in this country.  This lifestyle did not come about by accident.  There are certain standards that must be met to maintain this lifestyle.   It is the government that assures that those standards are met.
The system doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people fall through the cracks.  The truest sense of what being an American is all about is working together… and helping those that cannot help themselves.  If that is socialism, then so be it.          

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Searching For The Truth

It is really hard to watch our political leaders deal with the nation’s problems.  The lack of insight, creativity and political courage is truly stunning. 
The liberals, led by Paul Krugman, believe the way to cure our ills is through the government implementation of another $1 trillion stimulus.  The conservatives, led by the Tea Party and Grover Nordquist, believe the way to recovery is to reduce taxes and slash government spending.  Neither alternative, in and of itself, is the answer.  These simple minded, partisan solutions will merely create another temporary bubble that will burst in a few short years.  Their road to recovery is based on the misconception that the problems started with the 2008 collapse of the financial markets; and that they will be cured by a quick infusion of cash either through stimulus or a reduction in taxes.  This shortsighted analysis coupled with our insatiable fixation on all things material and our need for immediate gratification is why where we are.  We want what we want and we want it now.
The fact is our problems started decades ago and it will take the better part of this decade to even begin to right the ship.  The warning signs have been there all along.
Most Americans agree that we have an unhealthy and dangerous dependency on oil.  Yet to this day we have failed to implement a comprehensive energy policy to cure this dependency.  We’ve talked about it for years.  Back in 1974 Jimmy Carter, for all his faults, proposed a comprehensive an energy policy.  It included energy saving austerity measures and a path toward alternative energy sources.  It wasn’t perfect but it was a start.  We laughed Carter out of office.  Almost 40 years later our oil dependency affects not only our economy but our foreign policy and military strategy as well.  Kids are dying in battle to guarantee that the oil continues to flow unabated to our shores. And we are spending more on defense than all the other countries in the world combined.
In the 1980’s the Japanese had the audacity to bring small, economical, fuel efficient automobiles to our shores.  We refused to consider sharing our profits with the Japanese and even took to physically beating them in the streets of Detroit.  They flourished while American auto makers continued to produce gas guzzling Cadillac Fleetwoods and Ford Crown Vics.  We want what we want and we want it now…until we don’t.  The US auto industry dried up before our very eyes; and the steel industry, long the major supplier of American made autos, ceased to exit.
Emerging economies such as China and India have invested trillions in education, innovation and infrastructure.  We have invested trillions on defense.  As a result our infrastructure is crumbling and in many, many areas “functionally obsolete”.  While other nations build high speed trains, superhighways and subways we sit and watch.  While children in other countries excel ours lag behind.  While other countries hire more teachers and invest in the latest education materials we lay teachers off and close schools.  Our children spend less time in the classroom than any other industrialized nation…and the results show it.
Every industrialized nation in the world, except the United States, has embraced government sponsored health care.  As a result our infant mortality and expected life span are lagging behind most of our competitors.  And over 50 million of us still do not have access to affordable health care.  Yet we stick to our beliefs that the only right way is the American way.
These problems did not happen overnight.  The problems in this country have been brewing over decades and will take even longer to fix.  But we won’t even get started until someone is willing to lead us down the road to recovery.  We need someone with a vision; someone who is willing to set aside partisan politics and the fear of losing an election…someone who is willing to tell us the truth.
And the truth may be that for the foreseeable future we are what we are; an economy that bumps slowly along and unemployment that hovers around 10%.  And the truth may be that if we don’t set aside our whole “I, Mine, Me” attitude and agree to some difficult lifestyle changes things will get much, much worse. 
It’s up to us. We can fix this.  But we need someone in Washington to step up.  We need someone in Washington tell us the unvarnished truth and offer a realistic, substantive long term plan to get us where we need to be.  We need someone to lead.  And for our money we don’t see him/her yet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This and that...

In another sign that the apocalypse is upon us the New York Times is reporting that banks across the country have too much money!  That’s right; they have so much money on deposit that they don’t know what to do with it all.  Some banks are taking steps to discourage people from bringing them more money.  Bank of New York Mellon for example, warns that it will impose a 0.13 point fee on certain depositors who are moving large stockpiles of cash for safekeeping.  These are the same banks that in the wake of the financial crunch are refusing to lend money to wanting borrowers. 
Just to be clear…the economy is in the tank and the only way out is for people to invest and spend.  People that have money won’t spend it and in fact are hoarding their cash in banks.  Banks have so much money on hand they don’t know what to do with it all.  In fact they have so much cash on hand they are discouraging customers by charging fees for deposits.  Yet these same banks won’t lend money to people who want to invest and spend…which would help the economy.  Hmmm…
Mitch McConnell continues on his self proclaimed number one priority: “to defeat this President.”   This time McConnell has stepped in it up to his hips.  McConnell referred to the President’s plan to put teachers, firefighters and policemen back to work “a bailout.”  Comparing the teachers that educate our children to the greedy scum that brought down the economy through schemes and illegal activities is beyond the pale.  McConnell owes an apology to the thousands of teachers, policemen and firefighters who are out of work through no fault of their own.
Comedian Rick Perry is at it again.  On the eve of announcing his plan to save the economy Perry played the “birther” card.  When asked if he believed that the President was born in this country and therefore eligible to serve Perry said: “I don’t know…I haven’t seen his birth certificate…he hasn’t seen mine (either).”???  There is nothing like upstaging the rollout of your answer to the most important question on voters’ minds by spewing forth more “birther” nonsense.  Perry just hired a couple of seasoned political operatives from the old Bush and Dole campaigns to run his operation.  They’re going to need a rope and a gag.
Fellow comedian Michelle Bachmann announced her solution for the health care problem.  Regarding the uninsured, Mrs. Bachmann said: “let the charitable organizations take care of them.”  There…all done!
 Mitt Romney was asked if he supported the “flat tax solution” to tax reform.  “I love the flat tax” Romney exclaimed.  The news networks are playing that clip followed by a clip from a year ago where Romney called a flat tax solution “a disaster.”  Flip-flop! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

OWS Looking For More Carl Lindner's

According to critics, among the many things wrong with the unruly, illegal smelly mob that is the Occupy Wall Street movement, is a lack of a clear objective.  Critics point to their lack of an endgame as proof of their illegitimacy.  “What do they want?  What is their goal?”  The answer is quite simple.

They want Carl H. Lindner.

Billionaire Carl H. Lindner was a Cincinnati, Ohio entrepreneur and financier.  He died last week at the age of 92.  At one time or another he and his family counted among their holdings: the  American Financial Group, the Cincinnati Reds, Chiquita Brands, Pennsylvania Railroad, Great American Insurance Companies, United Dairy Farmers and Provident Bank.  Back in the day when being a billionaire meant something, he was known nationally as one of the wealthiest men in the country.  Born of humble beginnings he worked in his father’s dairy store delivering milk to the local citizens.  Along with his brothers and sisters he built that one store into a multi-national corporation.

Money and wealth brought power, fame and notoriety.  He was seen hobnobbing with Hollywood stars, business leaders and Presidents.  He was one of the Republican Party’s largest fundraisers; often hosting fundraising events in his Indian Hill home.

But while his empire was growing and he was rubbing shoulders with societies elite he never forgot where he came from; and he never forgot the people who helped him along the way.  Since his passing the local papers are full of stories of his kindness and generosity toward total strangers.  Here are two such stories to illustrate the point.

We mentioned United Dairy Farmers, formed by Lindner with his brothers and sisters over 70 years ago in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood.  There was a fellow who had worked there for many, many years and was retiring.  Lindner came to the retirement party and afterwards asked the man if he had any debts to take care of.  The retiree said: “Yes, I do” and told Lindner how much he owed.  Lindner pulled out his checkbook and wrote him a check on the spot saying: “Now you don’t owe anybody.”

Another story finds a group of local entrepreneurs who wanted to open a community center in the inner city.  They needed to raise $600,000 for the project.  They approached Lindner seeking a $10,000 in kind donation for a fund raiser.  Lindner inquired about the details of the project and then wrote a $300,000 check.  When his later inquiries determined that the group was having difficulty raising the remaining funds he wrote another check for the balance.

The local papers are chock full of one story after another where Lindner shared his success with the community that helped him become successful.  Chance meetings with total strangers would find them receiving checks in the mail out of the blue.  A random story in the local paper about a struggling school or business would suddenly find itself the benefactor of Lindner’s benevolence.

Lindner built schools, hospital wings and community centers.  He funded the arts and when it appeared that the communities cherished Cincinnati Reds might be sold to out-of –town ownership… he bought them too.  Hating the limelight, he quickly sold them to another local businessman; guaranteeing their stay in the local community.   

He helped hundreds and hundreds of people; and with each and every story there was one thread that ran through all of them.  To a man, woman and child each and every person that he helped said he never, ever asked for anything in return.  His kindness and generosity was his way of giving something back to the employees and community that had done so much for him and his family. 

It used to be in this country that management would say to their workers:  If you work hard, and we as owners flourish, then you will flourish as well.”  And they did.  US companies grew and owners reaped the benefits.  They bought bigger houses, bigger cars and summer homes on the beach.  They made millions.  And, keeping their promise, their workers flourished as well.  They received good salaries and benefits.  They were able to buy a piece of the American dream and save enough to send their children off to college with the hope of an even better tomorrow.

But all that changed.  Suddenly, millions in profits weren’t good enough as overseas markets brought with them the possibilities of billions.  The working stiff was no longer a partner but an albatross as companies found a bottomless pit of cheap labor overseas.  Chasing the promise of billions management closed local facilities and laid off workers leaving a devastated community in their wake.  Long forgotten were the workers and the community that partnered with management to achieve great things.  Long forgotten was the promise: “If you work hard and we as owners flourish, then you will flourish as well.”

Carl H. Lindner drove a Rolls Royce convertible.  He was often seen driving through Norwood, past his boyhood home and the original United Dairy Farmers store where it all started.  Without fanfare, he would often stop by one of the local restaurants to chat with the locals and pick up the tab for everyone in the place.  He said those were his happiest moments…spending time with and helping the locals who helped to make him and his family successful.

That’s what the Occupy Wall Street movement wants.  They want more of the “haves’ to remember the “have not’s” that helped them along the way.

They want more people like Carl H. Lindner.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Senator Graham Is Clueless

Upon learning of the death of Moammar Gadhafi, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham offered this pearl of wisdom:
“We can go over there and help them (Libya) build their infrastructure…There are a lot of business opportunities in Libya…The problem I have with leading from behind is when a day like this comes we don’t have the infrastructure we could have…Let’s get in there on the ground…there’s a lot of money to be made in the future…There’s a lot of oil that needs to be produced…Let’s get in on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy and a functioning economy.”
Translation:  The President successfully built an international coalition that removed a brutal dictator without shedding one drop of American blood.  We cannot give him credit for that so we will refer to the President’s participation as “leading from behind.”More importantly, we need to quickly take advantage of this business opportunity because there are billions of profiteering dollars to be made if we get in on the ground floor.  It is shameful that we didn’t take a leadership role in the removal of Gadhafi.  If we had put boots on the ground much of the infrastructure that we need to take full advantage of this situation would already be in place.  Obama missed a golden opportunity here.
It is hard to imagine how any sane person could make such a stupid, yes stupid, statement having witnessed the enormous amount of blood and treasure that this country has paid in nation building over the past decade.  It is hard to imagine how any sane person cognizant of the crumbling schools, deteriorating infrastructure and deplorable economic conditions within our own borders could even suggest that we take on another massive nation building exercise overseas. 
Before Senator Graham runs hell bent to rebuild Libya he might want to take a look at living conditions within his own state of South Carolina.  South Carolina maintains some of the poorest living standards in the country.  South Carolina ranks 46th in education, 42nd in quality of life and maintains the 49th worst economy in the country.  South Carolina does rank 19th in infrastructure but even that ranking has declined from previous years.  If Senator Graham wants to rebuild something he might consider rebuilding South Carolina.  But apparently Senator Graham, like most Republicans, is against investing in infrastructure unless we are investing in infrastructure outside of America.
Senator Graham is clueless…and his statement offers yet another example of the reckless, thoughtless  leadership that got us into this mess in the first place.            

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Tragic Cost Of Deregulation

You have no doubt heard about the tragedy in Zanesville Ohio where 48 exotic animals including 18 Bengal tigers were shot and killed all due to a Republican governor’s obsession with deregulation.
In case you missed it…Terry Thompson legally kept 56 exotic animals on his property in the Zanesville area of Ohio.  Included were numerous lions, bears, wolves, monkeys and 18 of the world’s 1400 remaining Bengal tigers.  Over the years Mr. Thompson’s neighbors had complained to authorities about wild animals running loose having escaped Mr. Thompson’s property.  Authorities visited Thompson 30 times over the years in response to these complaints; but there was little they could do.  You see Ohio is one of 10 states that have no regulations regarding the ownership of exotic or dangerous animals.
Apparently Mr. Thompson became so upset with his neighbor’s complaints that he opened the gates and released all of the animals before committing suicide.  Responding to reports of wild animals running loose, authorities were forced to shoot and kill 48 of the animals, including all of the rare tigers.  When asked why the animals were not tranquilized, authorities said that they were concerned that they might not be able to locate animals that had fled after being hit with a tranquilizer dart.  They feared that if not found quickly the animal might awaken after the drug had worn off and begin to terrorize the surrounding area.  Noted animal conservationist, Jack Hanna, supported the decision to put the animals down.
Democratic Governor Strickland had issued an executive order in his final days in office banning ownership of exotic animals as a danger to society.  A visibly squirming Republican Governor Kasich, who had purposely allowed the executive order to expire, said he did so because enforcing the ban “would hurt small businesses.”
This is just another example where the Republican obsession with deregulation benefits the few at the expense of the many.  Sadly, this tragedy could have been prevented but free enterprise got in the way.  And while this may just be one incident, it is just more evidence that this sick, crazy belief that nothing but nothing should stand in the way of making a buck is the reason we are in the economic mess we’re in. 
You know that we have run off the rails when public safety takes a back seat to turning a profit.  

Gadhafi Dead! Another Chapter In The Arab Spring

Reuters and the BBC are reporting that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been captured near his hometown of Sirte.  The report indicates that Gadhafi was wounded and taken to a local hospital. 
Another report issued by a rebel military leader states that Gadhafi was in fact killed while fleeing Sirte and that his body has been taken to Misrata for security reasons.
A photo showing what appears to be a gravely injured or dead Gadhafi is circulating on the internet.
A press conference by Libyan interim leaders is expected within the hour.
The US State Department is still trying to confirm the reports.
One thing seems certain… something very bad has happened to Moammar Gadhafi.
This is yet another chapter in a remarkable decade of change across the globe. The groundswell of discontent that is the Arab Spring has swept another dictator from power. 
But this was different. 
Unlike in Iraq, where US military forces drove Saddam Hussein from power; this uprising was led by the Libyan people.  In Iraq the US led in ousting Hussein with the support of the Iraqi people.  In Libya the Libyan people removed Gadhafi with the support of NATO and the United States. 
The difference here is important. 
The US invasion of Iraq was a costly mistake.  The US policy of leading from behind in Libya worked.  The US flag is being waved in jubilation by the Libyan people rather than burned in protest as it was in Iraq.
The President should get some credit here.  Long criticized by his enemies for his foreign policy decisions, the President has demonstrated the ability to be bold and aggressive, as in the case of killing bin Laden,  or patient and cautious, as in allowing NATO to take the lead in Libya, depending on the situation.
The job in Libya is far from complete.  Gadhafi’s apparent removal marks only the beginning of what will be a long power struggle within the country.  But at least this time we won’t be paying billions of dollars to maintain thousands of boots on the ground to oversee the process. 
A long reign of terror apparently has been brought to an end.  The President got this one right.      


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Romney Wins Latest Republican Food Fight

The Republican Party held another debate last night that had all the theatrics of a food fight.  This time Herman Cain joined Mitt Romney in the hot seat. 
Cain, who is the current flavor of the week, was forced to defend his 9-9-9 plan.  He failed.  Perry and Romney were easily able to attack the gaping holes in the plan and eventually even Cain admitted that his plan would raise taxes.  This on the heels of a pre-debate kerfuffle where Cain said he would release all the detainees in Gitmo in exchange for one American soldier.  He later said he mis-spoke but the damage was done.  In another interview Cain said: “No, I don’t know the name of the President of uzbeckybeckybeckystan; do you?  Next debate…international affairs.  Oh boy!  Herman Cain is a wonderful success story.  But he is not qualified to be President.
Perry had his best performance so far.  But then again the bar was set pretty low.  A feisty Perry went after Romney and Cain on several issues.  Unfortunately he once again had trouble articulating his point.  If your standard is that the candidate is awake, upright and talking…Perry did well.
Romney once again proved to be the better debater if not the clear nominee.  He did get a bit snippy at times and his back and forth shouting match with Perry was far from presidential.  Calling for the moderator to silence those who were taking his allotted time was pretty weak. 
Romney was the clear winner once again.  His numbers will probably not move much until after the first primaries.  Republicans have yet to embrace him as their guy but if the current field of contenders is all they’ve got…then Romney will emerge as the nominee.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Republicans Missing Golden Opportuity

The President is taking his jobs plan directly to the American people.  The Republicans are upset.  It seems that after stonewalling every aspect of this President’s agenda and literally walking out during past negotiations, Republicans are shocked and appalled that he would have the nerve to go around them and take his case directly to the people.  Apparently, Republicans feel that it is inappropriate for the President to speak directly to the American people even as they refuse to take his phone calls.
Over the past two and one half years the Republicans have been very successful in bringing this President’s agenda to a halt.  Their goal is to continue that strategy all the way up to the election…even if the resulting gridlock hurts the country.  The President has decided that the only way to move the Republicans toward doing something substantive for the country is to make his case directly to the American people.
The Republicans have a huge opportunity.  The people are angry.  The poor economy and high unemployment rate all lie on the President’s shoulders.   His re-election is in serious doubt. 
But Republicans are flailing badly in their efforts to unseat him.
Let’s start with the campaign.  The frontrunner of the week is Herman Cain.  His campaign is a series of book tours and publicity stunts.  He has no foreign policy platform.  His stance on immigration reform is to “build a twenty foot high fence…with barb wire…electrified…with a sign on the other sign that says IT WILL KILL YOU in Spanish and English.”  His economic plan “9-9-9” is based largely on a sales tax that only eleven months ago he called “insane”.
Cain’s position as “flavor of the week” was formerly held by Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin; none of whom have a prayer of winning a general election.  Serious candidates like Christy, Bush, Ryan and Pence need not apply.
The only qualified candidate, Mitt Romney has been stuck on 25% approval for months.  His claim to fame is that he was for a whole host of things…before he was against them…before he was for them.  Or was it the other way around?
Not only are Republicans having difficulty finding a viable candidate, they are struggling to craft an economic policy that will resonate with the American people.  The voters have caught on to their stonewall strategy and realize that it does nothing to fix the economy or put people back to work.  Forced to roll out their own economic plan, Republicans put forth a solution sure to appease the very rich while failing to provide immediate help to the other 99% of the country. 
Consider the following aspects of the Republican economic plan:
-Reduce regulations
-Repeal Wall Street reforms
-Drill on federal lands
-Repeal “Obamacare”
That’s it!  Cut regulations, allow Wall Street to operate as they did when they drove the economy to the brink of disaster, and return health care to a place where 50 million were without coverage and Americans spent 20 cents of every dollar they earned on health care.  Oh, and drill baby drill.
So how does this plan put teachers, police officers and firemen back to work?  It doesn’t.  But it guarantees that big corporations and the wealthiest Americans that fill the Republican coffers will continue to prosper.
The ineptitude in the Republican efforts to respond to the President’s jobs plan is best exemplified in Senator John McCain’s recent performance on the Senate floor.  Having nothing substantive to say about the President’s jobs plan McCain took to criticizing the Presidents ride calling the President’s tour bus: “the ugliest bus I have ever seen.”   Effective!
The Republican Party has an opportunity to defeat a sitting President and perhaps retake control of the Senate.  But intransigence, partisan economics and bus critiques won’t get it done.     


Monday, October 17, 2011

Next Stop...Uganda

President Obama has sent 100 troops into Uganda to help fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.  This deployment comes on the heels of a $45 million dollar military aid package to Uganda that included four unmanned drones…the US weapon of choice in the war against terror.
While the administration emphatically states that these troops are being inserted into the region in a “strictly advisory capacity” the infusion of military personnel and armaments into yet another country screams of military expansion at a time when Americans are hollering for withdrawal.  Those of us old enough to remember our “Southeastern Asia conflict”…better known as the Vietnam War…are very skeptical of the term “advisory capacity.”
Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and now Uganda fall under the shadow of US military presence.  And this doesn’t include Syria and Iran; countries many of our elected officials believe warrant our military presence.
As we watch the Obama administration quietly expand our military activity into the Horn of Africa we cannot help but wonder how loud the outcry would have been had George W. Bush pulled the same stunt.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Is Just Stupid

As we watched the recent Republican debate we found it very hard to follow the logic in their economic plans.  We are lousy at math; but even for simple folks like us the numbers just don’t add up.
To a man, and woman, the candidates want to increase defense spending.  Even though we are spending more on defense than ever before they want more.
At the same time that they want to increase defense spending they all want to lower taxes.  Cain wants to reduce the corporate and personal tax rates to 9%.  Santorum wants to reduce the corporate rate to “zero” and reduce the top personal rate to 28%.  Bachman’ God love her, wants to reduce all tax rates to “zero”.  She says we should: “be able to keep ALL the money we earn.” What?
Now, if we remember correctly, George W. Bush reduced taxes at the same time he increased military spending to enable him to wage two wars.  How did that work out?
And if Bachman has her way; how in the hell to you pay for anything, much less defense, if we are all “able to keep all the money we earn”?
We understand politics and playing to your base.  But this isn’t even “voodoo economics”.  This is just stupid.

Republicans Vote "No" To Putting People Back To Work

The GOP successfully blocked the President’s jobs bill Tuesday night.  The bill failed in a procedural vote 50-48 meaning that the bill in its entirety will not come up for a vote in the Senate.  The White House is considering bringing pieces of the bill up once again in the hope that Republicans will be hesitant to vote “No” on components that they had previously supported.
Don’t bet the ranch on that one.  Republicans have shown that logic, fairness and compassion have no place in their politics.  The mantra seems to be: “first we defeat Obama then we fix the economy.”  They seem to forget that many of those 1.6 million that they chose not to help vote Republican.
What happened Tuesday night is the Republicans said “No” to putting 1.6 million people back to work because they don’t want to pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy constituents that fund their re-election campaigns.  The added benefit to a “No” vote is that they deprive the President of a “win” right before the election.  So adamant are they in defeating the President that they would rather the economy continue to suffer than assist the President in helping the American people. 
The GOP led House will not even put the President's jobs plan up for a vote.  They say they don't have the time right now because there are other measures in line to be debated first.  For example, on Thursday, for the zillionth time since Republicans took control of the House, they will debate yet another bill on abortion.

Romney Wins Again

We watched the Republican debates last night and if debate performance is any indicator of who the nominee will be then Mitt Romney is the guy. Romney’s latest performance all but ended any speculation over who Republicans will task with the job of defeating Barak Obama.  Romney was poised, polished and cool under pressure.  He was clearly the most “Presidential” guy at the table.
Herman Cain held on to the position of presumptive Vice President Nominee.  Cain held firm to his 9-9-9 economic plan.  The other candidates allowed Cain to prattle on about his plan without really forcing him to dig into the details.  In the end he justified his #2 position at the table but did nothing to unseat Romney as the front runner.
The big loser last night was Rick Perry.  Needing a strong performance to reverse his falling numbers Perry again seemed to almost disappear.  So dismissive of Perry was Romney that during a portion of the debate when candidates were to direct questions to each other Romney looked right past Perry and directed his question to Bachman.  It was as if Romney was saying: “If you were my chief rival I would put you on the spot with a tough question about your record…but you are no longer of any consequence.”  When pushed about his failure to put forth his own economic plan Perry whined: “Governor Romney has had five years to put together his economic plan…I’ve had eight weeks.”  This is what happens when back in July someone whispers in your ear that you ought to run for President.  You can stick a fork in Perry.  He’s done!
In addition to winning the debate Romney took home the coveted prize of Chris Christie’s endorsement.  Christie officially threw his support behind Romney and indicated his willingness to serve as Romney’s surrogate out on the stump.  Christie will be an effective attack dog against the President; a task that has proven difficult for Romney.  Christie’s endorsement will also allow the Tea Party faction to make peace with Romney.  Tea Partiers have long been concerned about Romney’s tendency to flip flop on the issues; but Christie’s plain spoken approach will put that to rest.  Speculation surrounding Christie filling the VP slot on the Romney ticket has already begun.
Now all Romney has to do is convince voters that he is a true conservative and if he defeats Obama he won’t turn into another version of the free spending George W. Bush.          

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap

The New York Times reports that the Afghan intelligence service and Afghan national police routinely torture detainees; beating them with cables and twisting their genitals until they pass out.  The Times report is based on interviews over the past year with more than 300 suspects linked to the insurgency.  The Times report does not assess whether US officials knew of these activities.  But, as  noted by reporter Alissa J. Rubin, “such widespread torture in a detention system supported by US mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity of US officials and whether they benefited from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured.”
Washington officials condemned the actions, bemoaning the cultural complexities of the region. 
Many of them are hypocrites.
It is galling to listen to US public officials condemn the Afghan government for allowing the torture of detainees.  Many of these US officials are the same people who supported Dick Cheney’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  Others, who didn’t openly support the policy, turned a blind eye to the CIA’s violation of the Geneva Accords.  The last time we checked not one person has been prosecuted for violating US and international laws.
Why is it ok for the US to water board a detainee, but taboo for Afghan agents to twist the genitals of a detainee until he loses consciousness?
Apparently the US foreign policy on torture is “Do as I say, not as I do.” 
“As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”                                  

Republicans Failing To Fill Leadership Void

The Republican candidates will be holding another debate this evening and there is a lot at stake.  With the primary season starting in early January the candidates need to make the most of every opportunity to correct previous flubs and make their best case. 
The pundits will be looking for certain “tells” from each candidate.
Can Mitt Romney put on another strong, steady performance and cement his lead?  Can Rick Perry reverse a string of horrible debate performances and look Presidential?  Can Herman Cain continue his rise in the eyes of pollsters?  And can Michelle Bachman do anything to rekindle the embers of her dying campaign?
We’ll be looking for something slightly different.
We’ll be looking to see if anyone has the courage to say “yes, I believe Barak Obama loves his country”.  We’ll be looking to see if anyone has the spine to call out those who question Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs.  We’ll be looking to see if anyone dares to say that applauding the execution of 234 human beings is just wrong.  And we’ll be looking to see if anyone has the strength to call out those who would boo a US Marine because he is gay.
It is one thing to stand behind a podium and regurgitate the same old talking points that you have practiced for hours on end.  But to stand up to your “supporters” and call them out for egregious behavior is a whole different ballgame.
The lack of political courage demonstrated by these candidates over the past several weeks is embarrassing.  So fearful are they of offending the far right faction of their party that they are unwilling to stand up to even the most reprehensible behavior exhibited by their supporters.
We constantly hear from Republicans that the President has failed to lead.  Well if there is such a void in leadership then why doesn’t someone from their party step in and fill it? 
There is more to being President than wearing a dark suit and a flag pin.  Being President requires leadership and strength of character. And sometimes that means calling out one of your own.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Washington Debates "Cult Religion" Instead Of Economic Solutions

If you are a rational thinking human being you would expect our leaders in Washington to be working around the clock to fix the economy and create jobs.   You would expect to see a serious discussion and debate on how to pull the country out of the worst economic downturn since the great depression.  Unfortunately you would be sorely disappointed.    Instead of substantive discourse you find yourself inundated with inane politicians questioning the motivation of “Occupy Wall Street” protestors and criticizing Romney’s Mormonism. 
Take this past weekend for example.
Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor expressed his strong disapproval of the “Occupy Wall Street” protestors, referring to them as “a mob pitting American against American.”  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wondered where Mr. Cantor was when Tea party protestors spit on black Congressmen and brandished posters depicting the President as Hitler.  Meanwhile Mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress, a Perry supporter, referred to Romney’s Mormonism as a “cult” and expressed his preference that the President of the United States be a “real” Christian.  Perry did not respond to the pastor’s bigotry choosing cowardly silence instead.  Perhaps Perry realized that silence is preferable to his bumbled response to questions about his hunting camp named “Niggerhead.”
As this latest version of romper room politics played out, the Census Bureau issued a sobering report on the state of the economy.    The New York Times reports that a study conducted by the Census Bureau shows that between June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and June 2011, inflation adjusted median household income fell 6.7%.  During the recession, from December 2007 to June 2009 household income fell 3.2%.  During the recession the average length of time for a person to be unemployed was 24 weeks.  Today it is 40.5 weeks.  In plain fact we are worse off now than we were during the 2007-2009 recession.
One has to question the mental stability of elected officials who engage in these mindless, irrelevant debates when the country is on the verge of economic collapse.  The lack of self awareness is palpable.  And the lack of comprehensive solutions to our country’s problems is proving to be more serious than we could have ever imagined.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday, taking with him a creative genius that will be sorely missed.  Jobs had the unique ability to know what we wanted before we did.  He brought technology and humanity together in a way never before thought possible.  His true genius was his obsession with stylistic simplicity.  His innovative creations are as intuitive to a three year old struggling with language skills as they are to an octogenarian experiencing the internet for the first time.  Steve Jobs touched the lives of billions.  He changed the world for the better.  What greater legacy could there be?     

Surtax On Millionaires Day Late Dollar Short

Senate Democrats are proposing a 5% surtax on annual incomes of more than $1 million dollars to pay for the President’s job creation proposal.  The bill, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has two purposes: to force Republicans who have consistently denounced tax increases of any sort to vote “No” on raising taxes on the rich and to appease some Democrats who have objected to sections of the President’s jobs bill.
Naturally Republicans have come out in full throated fury against the bill.  They argue that it is bad economics to raise taxes on “job creators” during this tough economic period.
Senator Reid knows that there is no chance of this bill ever becoming law.  It is purely a political move to take a more populist tone and more clearly define the differences between the two parties.
The Democratic Party has obviously given up on reaching any constructive compromise with Republicans.  This bill along with the combative change in tone in the President’s stump speeches illustrate that the Democrats are in full campaign mode. 
And who can blame them?  The Republicans have back handed every olive branch offered by Democrats.  Majority Leader Cantor and Speaker Boehner have both chosen to walk out on negotiations rather than seek common ground.
So let the campaign games begin.  We can expect these political cat fights to continue for the next fourteen months.  That’s good news for political junkies constantly seeking red meat for their daily blogs.  That’s bad news for a country saddled with a stalled economy and 16% real unemployment.
Senator Reid’s bill is good politics and a viable solution.  But it should have been proposed in 2009.  In 2011 it won’t help the country.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This and that...

Chris Christie took to the podium yesterday to formally announce what he has been saying for the past several weeks…he’s not running.  Christie joins Palin, Trump, Bachman, Huntsman, Perry and now Cain as the latest flavor of the month to unseat Romney as frontrunner for the Republican nomination.  Kudos to Christie for being true to himself and true to the promise he made to the people of New Jersey to serve as their governor.  His politics aside, It takes a strong will to say no when everyone is fawning over you, begging you and throwing vast sums of money at you to run.  We could use a lot more of Christie’s strength of character in our politics.
This Republican parade of candidates is of historical significance.  Republicans are usually known for their discipline.  They stay on message and line up behind the guy whose “turn it is” to be the nominee.  It is usually the Democrats who evoke the image of herding cats.  But this is the era of the Tea Party and they have shown themselves less than willing to toe the party line.  The Republican candidates continue to run toward the Tea Party right.  That strategy may win in the primaries but it won’t play in a general election.
Have you been following the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations?  This small gathering of angry students has grown into a massive national movement of people who are angry about the disintegration of the middle class.  These are the “99%ers”; those who are not better off than they were four years ago.  Protests are occurring in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.  The students have been joined by the AFL/CIO, teachers unions, first responders and a whole host of everyday Americans who are tired of the rich getting richer while the rest of the country slides rapidly into poverty.  A number of conservative media types have referred to these protestors as losers, bums, socialists, Nazis and “little more than a bunch of kids banging bongos and smoking weed.”  The truth is this protest is no different than the “Arab Spring” uprisings occurring all across the Middle East…the impoverished masses rising up against the rich and powerful.  This protest is no different than the one waged in the 1700’s by disenfranchised colonists who were tired of watching all the wealth sail to England while they wallowed in poverty. This is what democracy looks like.  It isn’t pretty.  Will the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations bring about any measurable change in our society?  Who knows!  But to ridicule their efforts is to ridicule the very foundation on which this country was founded.  One thing is certain; history is littered with empires that fell because the divide between the huddled masses and the wealthy few grew so wide that the entire structure collapsed.  History does have a way of repeating itself.
One of the most under reported stories concerns the massive escalation of violence in Mexico being waged by the drug cartels.  The beatings, mutilations, murders and beheadings have escalated throughout the country.  Thousands of innocent civilians have been slain.  The government and local police are helpless to stop the violence in part because many have been bought off by the cartels.  This violence is threatening our southern borders.   Our view of the world and our security will be immeasurably altered if we have to worry about an unstable Mexico on our southern border.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is contemplating a change in the design of their new license plates.  No big deal…right? It happens every year.  This year is a little different.  The Texas BMV is contemplating adding the Confederate States’ stars and bars to their license plates.  Its Texas…what else can you say?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wanted: Leaders With Political Courage

In 1946 the war had ended, the troops were returning home and America was celebrating a great victory.  But all was not rosy.  Hundreds of thousands of young soldiers were flooding the private sector.  They needed training, education and jobs.  At the same time the Soviet Union was viewing a devastated Europe as fertile ground for the spread of Communism.  The expansion of Soviet ideology threatened the very freedoms that we had fought so hard to preserve.
Harry Truman, a Democrat, resided in the White House.  He understood the gravity of the threat pose by the Soviet Union.  Truman, along with his Secretary of State, George Marshall, worked with a Republican controlled Congress to create and pass the Marshall Plan.  The goal was to help return Europe to prosperity and stave off the spread of Communism.  This massive bi-partisan undertaking poured $13 billion in economic aid and technical assistance into the war ravaged European continent.  By the time the funding ended in 1952 the economy of every participant state has surpassed pre-war levels.  In essence the United States rebuilt the continent of Europe.
At the same time Truman and the Republican Congress passed the GI Bill and VA Loan bill paving the way for education, job creation and that beloved concept of "The American Dream.”
Can you imagine the political will and courage it took to propose a bill like the Marshall Plan?  Think about asking the American people to reconstruct the economies of our enemies; the very people who took so many of our young lives.  But Truman and the Congressional leaders looked past the next election cycle, put politics aside and did what was best for the country.
Today we are suffering from a lack of political courage.  Our leaders view their roles and responsibilities through the lens of ideology and electability.  They put party ahead of country.  They know what needs to be done.  If there are doubts all they need to do is listen to the American people.
-Over 70% of Americans want to invest in infrastructure, education, science and R&D.
-Over 70% of Americans understand the need for entitlement reform and want the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare increased.
-Over 70% of Americans want the tax code reformed, loopholes eliminated and a more equitable balance between taxes paid by the rich and the rest of the country.
-Over 70% of Americans want the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended now and the money spent building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals in those countries to spent building those things here in the US.
-Over 70% of Americans want the government to create jobs.

What we need is a Marshall Plan for the country…and leaders with the courage to put it into action.       

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wartime Operations Escalate...Nobody Cares

Does it bother anyone that the United States military is currently dropping bombs on six countries…that we know of? 
Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and our “ally” Pakistan have all been on the receiving end of drone attacks.  That doesn’t count the untold number countries where the US is conducting covert operations with CIA and Special Forces personnel.  The US has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and the rest fall under the heading of “those that harbor terrorists”.  For the record, Congress has not declared war on any of these countries. 
Times have certainly changed since the days of the Vietnam War.  Those old enough will certainly remember the outcry when the country learned that President’s Johnson and Nixon had secretly ordered US troops to track the enemy into Cambodia and Laos.  Violent protests and riots in the streets filled the evening news. 
Today, not so much.  Yes, there are anti-war groups expressing outrage at the current expansion of military operations; but most of the country is ambivalent.  Most Americans could not find any of the previously noted countries on a map.  But young men and women are dying there just as they did in Vietnam.
So what’s the difference?  Why was the war in Vietnam such a visceral scar on the nation’s psyche while today’s bombing runs in six countries raise barely an eyebrow? 
The answer is simple…the draft.  Does anyone think that the military operations being conducted throughout the Middle East would be viewed with such apathy if every man and women over the age of eighteen faced the very real prospect of fighting in those wars?  Seriously!  Can you imagine the hue and cry if Americans, already struggling with a terrible economy, were asked to send their children off to war?
Only 1% of Americans are actually invested in these wars…the soldiers who are fighting them and the loved ones who pray for their safe return.  The rest of us hardly notice.  To most of us wars are like video games to be turned on and off at our whim; and this unrealistic, liaise fare attitude is further corrupting our already self absorbed society.
We need to reinstitute the draft for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is to make this country appreciate the very real cost of war.