Friday, January 25, 2013

When The "Far Left" Becomes The "Moderate Middle"

There has been a lot written about the president’s inaugural address and conservatives are still apoplectic about his left-wing, progressive, liberal, socialist, communist, Marxist remarks.  In his recently published opinion piece, noted conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer referred to the president’s address as an “uncompromising left-liberal manifesto.”
There is no question that by traditional standards the president’s agenda is aggressively progressive. 
It is also enormously popular among the electorate.
Every single issue that the president discussed in his inaugural address has a favorability rating in excess of 55% in the national polls.  Climate change, immigration reform, abortion, women’s health issues, gay marriage, gay’s in the military, equal pay for equal work, strengthening entitlements  and investments in education, research and infrastructure are all viewed  positively by Americans. 
Even the president’s policies on the ever toxic topic of gun control are popular.  According to the just released ABC NEWS/Washington Post opinion poll, 53% of Americans view Obama’s gun control plan favorably, 41% oppose.  Universal background checks on all gun purchases polls at 92% favorability.
The president ran on these issues…and won by an overwhelming margin.  He won because he listened to the nation…not to just a small sliver of constituents back home.
The country’s demographics are changing. Women, Hispanics, blacks and young voters now hold sway over the direction of the country.  The collective “we” in “we are all in this together” has replaced the emphasis on the “I” in “individual and personal success.’  Individual freedom, opportunity and achievement is still important…but not at the expense of those less fortunate.
Republicans refuse to recognize this seismic change.  They believe that they are right on policy…it is just their messaging that needs a bit of tweaking.
And what exactly is their policy?  What is their vision for the future?
They will tell you that we need to reduce spending, cut the debt and deficit, reduce the size of government…and then get the hell out of the way.  That’s it…that is their vision.  On all other matters they are silent.  Unfortunately for them it is not a vision shared by a majority of the American people.
What was once the "far left" is now the "moderate middle."  That which was once considered radical left wing ideology is now within the main stream of our political discourse.       


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hillary Steps Up!

Some people are born to lead.  Some people have the innate ability to turn the most difficult of circumstances into a positive outcome.  Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton showed the country why she is one of those people.
Secretary Clinton made her much anticipated appearance before the House and Senate committees charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four Americans at the US Consulate in Libya.  Over six hours of testimony she detailed the events leading up to the attack on the consulate and the corrective measures taken in the days and weeks hence.  She was combative, tearful, empathetic, forceful, patient and concise while at all times exhibiting an extraordinary knowledge of our country’s foreign affairs unmatched by her questioners.
As expected the Democratic committee members praised her service and lobbed softball questions that the secretary hit out of the park.  Her Republican opponents were not so accommodating, firing hardballs directly at her head. 
Most notable was Tea Party Senator Rand Paul who said: “I think ultimately with your leaving you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11.  And I really mean that.  Had I been president and found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador Stephens, I would have relieved you of your post.”
Let the record show that the worst tragedy since 9/11 was the misguided war against Iraq that needlessly took the lives of over 4,000 Americans and injured tens of thousands more.  It should be further noted that while Senator Paul has made no secret of his desire to hold the Oval Office, his utterance of the words: “Had I been president…” are the closet he will ever come to reaching that lofty goal.
In the end these hearings are little more than theater.  Panel members like Senator Paul, who took their shots at Clinton, will send little clips back to their constituents to show how tough they were in taking on the powerful secretary.  But in truth they looked small and unprepared.  It was Secretary Clinton who was in clear command of the subject matter and the room.
Four Americans died on 9/11/2012.  Secretary Clinton accepted full responsibility and vowed that before she left office she would do everything in her power to make certain that events like Benghazi never happen again.  In the process she showed why she is one of the most outstanding civil servants of our generation and why she is uniquely qualified to run for the presidency in 2016.            

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This & That!

Republicans return to work fresh off their annual retreat where they learned that the way to win the votes of women and minorities is to “talk to them as equals.”  Brilliant!
-The GOP House will vote today to extend the government’s borrowing authority for three months thereby allowing lawmakers additional time to resolve differences over the debt and deficit.  Translation:  Congress will do what it always does…kick the proverbial can down the road to avoid taking a job threatening vote.  Some see this as the GOP caving in to Obama’s refusal to debate whether or not America should pay its bills.  We see it as same old s#*t…different day.
-Attached to the above mentioned bill is an amendment requiring the House and Senate to pass a budget by the April 15 tax deadline.  Failure to do so would result in the withholding of members paychecks until a budget is passed.  It’s funny how it requires an act of congress to get lawmakers to do what average citizens do as a matter of course.  Do your job…or don’t get paid.
-Senate Majority Leader has an opportunity to eliminate much of the gridlock that has placed a strangle hold on Washington.  During its first day in session a newly elected congress may elect to change certain rules dictating how it operates.  One of them is the filibuster.  For the past four years Republicans have abused the filibuster rule in their effort to stymie the president’s agenda.  Under the current rule any senator can kill a bill by anonymously phoning in and objecting to it being bought to the floor for a vote.  The days of Jimmy Stewart speaking for hours in the well of the Senate just to hold off a floor vote happen only in the movies.  Republicans have used this tactic 360 times since Obama took office…112 times in 2012 alone.  By contrast, the Senate averaged only 20 filibusters per year during the Carter and Reagan administrations.  Reid has the opportunity to fix this problem by either removing the filibuster rule in its entirety or at least requiring the objecting senator to hold the floor, ala Jimmy Stewart, until the bill is withdrawn.  Thus far Reid has done nothing other than mysteriously extend the “first day of the new session” from January 3 to January 22.  In fact yesterday he extended it again for another week.  See “kick the proverbial can down the road” referenced above.
Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton will testify before both Houses of Congress today where she will answer questions on the Benghazi attack.  There she will inform legislators that the reason the attack succeeded is because the United States has long employed the policy of allowing the host nation to provide security for our embassy personnel.  She will also remind lawmakers that they repeatedly refused requests to appropriate $300+ million for additional embassy security.  While there will be no substantive affects from this grilling, legislators will be able to mug for the CSPAN cameras and show their constituents how tough they were on the powerful secretary.  A word of caution to those who might try to embarrass the outgoing secretary; Mrs. Clinton may have political aspirations in 2016.  If history tells us anything it is that elections have consequences…and the Clinton’s have very long memories.
-Remember all of the hoopla before the election over voter fraud?  Remember how Republicans pushed for new voter identification laws on the notion that voter fraud was rampant in our society.  We have to ask…”where are they now?”  After all if voter fraud was such a huge national problem would it not make sense to continue to fight for stronger voter id laws so that we can eliminate the threat before the mid-terms?  Or was this faux anger on the part of the Republicans just a scam to discourage historically pro-Democrat minorities from going to the polls?  We ask again…where are they now?
-Speaking of suppressing the vote…the Republicans have a new scheme to rig elections.  They would like to pro-rate electoral votes by congressional district rather than giving all of them to the statewide winner.  The GOP’s gerrymandered districts enabled them to maintain control of the House even though Democrats won more votes.  If every state awarded its electoral votes by these same gerrymandered districts Romney would have won the White House by a 276-262 margin…even though Obama won 51% of the popular vote. In fact Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.  If you can’t beat them…change the rules.  Perhaps Republicans should consider amending their policies to be more in tune with the country’s changing demographics.
-Nebraska Governor David Heinemann has approved the new path for the Keystone Pipeline, leaving the president as the only person standing in the way of its construction.  The president put off any decision on the pipeline until after the election saying that he needed more time to study the economic and environmental details.  We previously wrote that we expected the president to approve the pipeline if re-elected.  We still believe that today.  Why the previous delay?  Every vote counts, including those cast by environmentalists.  As the president famously told Russian President Medvedev:  “After my election…I have more flexibility.”                                 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Obama Unchained" Misses The Bigger Point

If you are one of those progressives who have been frustrated by the president’s inability to clearly articulate his vision for the country, then President Obama’s second inauguration address was food for your soul.  If President Obama’s first inaugural speech was about the country “as it is” then this address was about the country as he sees it in the future.  What the nation witnessed was a Barak Obama unchained from the shackles of future election campaigns, free to speak his mind on a host of issues.
This was a more candid Barak Obama than we have ever seen before, taking this historic opportunity to lay out his aggressively progressive vision for the future. 
He talked about the country having a moral responsibility to guarantee that all our citizens are treated equally…that we have a moral responsibility to look out for each other…that “our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.”  He talked about the gay community and their right to equality under the law, marking the first time that gays had ever been mentioned in an inaugural address.  He talked about women and their struggle for equal pay for equal work.  He talked about minorities and their struggle for citizenship.  He cited Stonewall, Seneca Falls and Selma as points in history where minority individual rights were rebuffed before the country the country accepted their equality. 
A major component of his speech focused on climate change, saying that if we fail to address the effects of climate change “we would betray our children and future generation.”
He also took the opportunity to address his opponents.  He said that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security “do not make us a nation of “takers… (They) free us to take the risks that make this country great.” And he chastised intransigent conservatives noting that they took an “oath to God and country…not party.”
For us this inaugural event represented something much bigger than a candid unleashing of the president’s progressive agenda. 
For us and millions of Americans this wasn’t the second inauguration of the country’s first black president. 
It was the second inauguration of President Barak Obama……who just happens to be black.
And that is a very big deal for this country. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Clock Is Ticking

 At noon today we will witness the inauguration of Barak Hussein Obama, the first African American to hold the Oval Office, to a second term as President of the United States of America.
At 12:01 the President will be the only politician in attendance looking toward the long term future of the country.  Everyone else will be looking toward the next election.
And therein lays the conflict.
The president comes into his second term with the wind at his back.  He was elected for the second time by a majority of the popular vote; joining FDR as the only two presidents to have achieved that level of support.  Obama’s approval rating stands at 52%.  74% of Americans say they like him personally.
His Republican opponents are not fairing as well.  The Republican Party approval rating stands at an anemic 26%.  Their primary spokesperson, Speaker John Boehner, is looked kindly upon by only 18% of the people.  The Tea Party caucus, which controls the Republican message, has a 9% approval rating.
One would expect that the president’s popularity with the people would allow him to move his agenda through the legislative process.  However Obama’s opponents have refused to recognize his advantage in the polls and have blocked him at every turn. 
Just yesterday freshman Republican Senator Ted Cruze, while appearing on “Meet the Press,” had the temerity to accuse the president of using the deaths of the Sandy Hook victims for political gain.  Cruze has roughly five minutes experience in the senate.  He is a “back bencher “to the “nth” degree.  Yet he felt embolden by the current political climate to use his national television debut to attack the president.
Such is the climate in atmosphere where crass political commentary is accepted and even encouraged.  For if you are a political figure who dares to compromise across party lines you will be buried…if not in the press today then certainly at the polls in the next election.
The president shares some blame for this toxic atmosphere.  It is well known that he is loathe to participate in the back room dealings of politics.  He has been called out by members of congress, both Democrats and Republicans, for his failure to establish personal relationships with the legislative branch of government.  He has been called the most insulated president in our history.
Certainly the president has reached out only to have his hand slapped away.  But if you need to lose 30 pounds you can’t quit dieting after failing to lose the weight on the first day.  Personal relationships evolve over time and personal relationships are important in Washington.  It is no coincidence that Vice President Biden, and his decades of experience on the Hill, was called upon to lead talks on the fiscal cliff and why he has been the point man on gun control.
The president, whether he likes it or not, is a politician.  This is the job he has chosen.  Schmoozing, glad handing and back room deals are part of the job.
Today we expect to hear the same soaring rhetoric that has come to define this president.  We expect that he will deliver a positive message about the future of the country.  We expect that he will appeal to the collective “we” and what “we” can do if we work together toward a common goal.  We expect that he will use his brilliant mind and inspirational rhetoric to inspire the country to renew the American dream.
The question is…when all the speeches have been given and the bands have stopped playing…will this president do the heavy lifting required to get things moving in Washington.
Every president contemplates his legacy.  How will the history view his terms in office?  The clock on the president’s second term is ticking.  By every measure the president has 18 months to define his second term.  After that the mid-term elections and lame duck status hold serve.  The country cannot afford another tem of gridlock.
This president can affect change.  His very presence behind the presidential seal is ample evidence of that.  But it will require more than soaring rhetoric to move his agenda forward.
It is time for this president to come down from the mountain top…to do the basic, back room, nuts and bolts gritty work that is necessary to get things done for the country.
The clock is ticking…      

Friday, January 18, 2013

One Final Comment...

Sometime next week the president will forward his gun control proposals on to the hallowed halls of congress.  There they will be buried in committees; lost among the clutter of politics and self interest.
  Will our elected leaders have the political courage to take on the gun violence epidemic that has permeated our society?  Doubtful!  No profiles in courage here.  It will be up to the president to keep the debate alive.  If not for him we fear that the faces of the Sandy Hook victims will fade from our collective memories; just like the victims of Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech and Columbine before them.
We are told that this time it is different.  We are told that the massacre of 20 six year old children will steel our resolve and move us to make hard choices.
We hope so!
But even if that is true, it will be months or even years before we see any meaningful attempt to curb the gun violence in this country.
So before we leave this topic allow us to make one final comment on the subject.
In the month following the Sandy Hook shooting 900 American citizens died as a result of gunshot wounds…
…900 dead in 30 short days.
More Americans died from gunshot wounds on our city streets last month than did American soldiers fighting the war in Afghanistan last year.
That is a frightening statistic.
So we have a choice as a society.
We can get the guns off the streets.
Or we can be a society where a mother carries her infant on her hip and her AK-47 on her shoulder.
We don’t want to live in an armed camp.
To those who say that any restrictions on guns are a violation of their constitutional rights we say this…
…We have rights too.  We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Your interest in saturating the country with weapons threatens our lives and your unwillingness to even consider the most basic in gun safety measures makes us very, very unhappy.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

"King" Obama Makes His Case

The president announced his broad sweeping proposal to reduce the gun violence in our country.  He called for the elimination of assault weapons and high capacity magazines as well as universal background checks for all gun purchases. 
Afterward, family members of the Sandy Hook victims watched as he signed 23 executive orders that address a host of parallel issues pertaining to gun violence.
As expected, the president’s proposal was met with a firestorm of protests from the right.  “Monarch” “Imperialist” “King” and “Dictator” were the most common terms used to describing the president’s actions.  NRA President David Keene also took time from his busy schedule to deny that the president’s daughters were used in the association’s recently released web ad.
This is going to be a long drawn out battle in congress. 
The typical Washington nonsense reared its ugly head within minutes of the president’s remarks.  John Boehner said that he would be more than happy to consider any bill passed by the Senate; sending a clear message that he had no appetite to bring the matter up in the House.  Harry Reid responded that the Senate would not waste its time considering any bill that would not pass in the House. 
Checkmate!  It will be up to the president to keep this debate on the front burner…both in congress and in the minds of the American people.
From our prospective the president has the will of the people on his side.  And unlike gun control efforts in the past, this effort will be funded in a manner like never before. 
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to donate millions to the cause.  Former Representative Gabby Giffords, who was a victim in the Tucson shooting, has started a PAC that supports pro-gun control candidates.  And most important of all…the Obama for America juggernaut will begin to flex the same massive ground war that swept the president to two terms in office.  We expect that these fundraising efforts will overwhelm those of the NRA.  The days of the NRA buying elections and dominating the gun control conversation are over. 
Republicans have a choice; they can work with Democrats to pass common sense gun control laws under Speaker Boehner… or they can watch new Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi pass the reforms in 2015.
But if we are truly going to change our violent culture there must be a comprehensive approach that includes the mental health entertainment industries as well.  Protectors of the first amendment are going to have to set aside some of their free speech bias.
We have criticized the radical right for coming unhinged at any mention gun control.  But they sound no different than those on the far left who go ballistic when there is any hint of curbing the violence in movies and video games.
Director Quentin Tarantino recently sat down for an interview to promote his latest film; “Django Unchained.”  The movie which examines the brutality of slavery includes a very graphic massacre scene.  Tarantino, who is known for depicting graphic violence in his films, was more than willing to discuss the movie; but he became unhinged when asked to explain his previously stated beliefs that violence in film did not in any way contribute to the violence in our society.
“I refuse your question.” Tarantino screamed.  “I’m not your slave and you’re not my master.  You can’t make me dance to your tune.  I’m not your monkey…The reason I don’t want to talk it:  Because I have said everything I have to say about it…I’m shutting your butt down.
Quentin Tarantino or Rush Limbaugh…it’s hard to tell the difference.
This is an important time in our history.  It is time for us to decide what kind of society we want to be. 
It is time for us to decide if the national interests of the many can over ride the special interests of the few.    

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NRA Sinks To A New Low...Draws President's Children Into Gun Debate

We apologize for our obsession with the whole gun control debate; but every time we think that the conversation could not get any more obscene the NRA lowers the bar.
The NRA just released a new television ad that draws the president’s children into the gun violence debate.  The ad calls the president an “elitist hypocrite” for sending his children to a school that employs armed security while he opposes placing armed guards in every school in the country.
The narrator poses this question:  “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?  Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed security in his? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.  But he is just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.  Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours.”
This ad is vile!  Bringing the president’s children into an ideological debate is the lowest of lows.
When a man or woman agrees to serve as President they bring upon themselves and their families a host of physiological and psychological pressures, the full weight of which must be experienced to be fully understood.  Chief among those is the knowledge that in this violent society in which we live…you are placing a target on the backs of your children.  For the NRA to so callously place the president’s children in the middle of that jackpot is reprehensible.
The NRA leadership is living in an echo chamber.  They are completely tone deaf to the will of the people.  They are listening to the same out of touch right wing pundits and slanted pollsters that predicted Mitt Romney would win the presidency.  And while they listen to the lunatic fringe the historically accurate polls show moderates in Middle America oppose their cause by 20-40 points.  Paraphrasing Joe Scarborough’s column in POLITICO; the NRA’s enemies could not have done a better job of inflicting damage on the organization than they have inflicted upon themselves.
Today, the president is expected to reveal his plans for reducing gun violence in the country.  He is expected to go “big” by including a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines as well as the institution of universal background checks for all gun purchases.  We support him in this effort.
But an orchestrated speech is not enough.  Today’s unveiling must be merely the beginning of a comprehensive campaign to rid our society of this violent epidemic.  The president needs to travel the country, taking his message to the people.  He must have a one on one conversation with every member of congress; a task that he has been loath to do in the past.  And he must unleash the massive and incredibly effective Obama for America Campaign apparatus that swept him to two terms in office. 
The president has admitted that his primary failing in the past was to believe that all that mattered was getting the policy right.  He has come to realize that he needs to tell the story…he needs to sell it to the American people so that they will put pressure on congress.
We hope that the president has truly learned that lesson. 
The American people are behind him.
Now is the time to strip away the reckless power of the gun lobby and put an end to the senseless violence that has become common place in our society.          


Tuesday, January 15, 2013


If you have little kids around the house the NRA has a deal for you.
According to the New York Daily News the NRA is commemorating the one month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings by releasing a new IPhone app.  The app allows players to simulate firing an AK-47 assault rifle at targets that look like coffins.
Here’s the best part…the NRA says that the app is appropriate for ages 4 and up.
This is sick!
At a time when the country is up in arms about the proliferation of gun violence, the NRA comes out with a game that encourages 4 year olds to experience the excitement of firing off an AK-47.
We understand that it is ultimately the parents responsibility to determine what is and is not appropriate material for their children to watch…but c’mon!  Seriously!!!
A Washington Post/ABC NEWS poll released today shows that 58% of Americans approve of a ban on assault weapons… 88% support background checks on gun shows…and 65% support a ban on high capacity magazines.
Make no mistake…a lot of the people that are speaking out in support of these restrictions are law abiding gun owners and card carrying members of the NRA.  They understand that these restrictions are not a threat to the second amendment.  And they should not be vilified over the reckless behavior carried out at the top of the NRA food chain.
NRA Director Wayne LaPierre and President David Keene do not represent the majority of NRA members.  They have allowed the extremists and the survivalists to set their message.  And more importantly, they have elected to dance to the beat of the powerful gun manufactures that are making millions over the Sandy Hook tragedy.
The NRA leadership does not care about gun safety or about the safety of our children.  All they care about is selling more guns.  LaPierre’s post Newtown press conference and this recent IPhone app make that fact abundantly clear.       

Monday, January 14, 2013

Republicans Should Listen To Colin Powell

We watched Colin Powell’s interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Powell talked about how the Republican Party, his party, was going through an identity crisis.  He talked about how the party had refused to acknowledge the changing demographics within the country.  He talked about how a “dark veil of intolerance” had placed the party at odds with mainstream America and how that intolerance had cost the party the last two presidential elections.  He talked about how the party would cease to be part of the national political conversation if it continued along its current path.
The Republican Party should listen to Colin Powell.
The Republican Party is on the fast track to irrelevance primarily because they listen to the loudest voices.
Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in this country.  Yet when it comes to immigration reform Republicans preach self deportation.
African Americans continue to struggle in terms of education and standard of living.  In spite of their struggles their voice carries more influence in our politics than ever before.  Yet Republicans go out of their way to suppress their vote and eliminate programs that they depend upon.
Women hold a majority vote in the electorate.  They control the majority of America’s income, hold a more prominent place in the business community and are still the cornerstone of the American family.  Yet Republicans oppose legislation that guarantees fair pay for women, outlaws violence against women, makes contraceptives readily available and enables women to obtain legal health care services.
Our society’s views on gay rights, gay marriage and gay’s in the military have evolved.  A majority of Americans now believe that LBGT Americans are entitled to the same rights as those who are “straight.”  Yet Republicans denigrate LBGT citizens and oppose their equality at every turn.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting there has been a movement toward more stringent gun controls.  Even law abiding gun are speaking out in support of eliminating assault weapons, restricting extended magazines, requiring universal background checks and providing more assistance to those who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.  Yet the Republican Party marches in lockstep with the NRA and the survivalists who are convinced that the government is coming to take their property and their guns.
The country believes that the government should pay its bills.  Yet Republicans threaten to take the country into a recession (and the world economy along with us) in order to make an ideological point. 
Republicans have a choice.  They can come to grips with the changing face of America and be a major player on the national political stage.
Or they can continue to listen to the shrill voices of the extremists and continue down their current path toward irrelevance.
Republicans should listen to Colin Powell. 
Because the country is stronger when diverse views are logically expressed and compromise is the rule rather than the exception.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cut The "BS" On Gun Violence

The NRA met with Vice President Biden’s task force on gun violence.  After the meeting NRA president David Keene issued the following statement:
“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.”
Could we please cut through the “bs” about attacking second amendment rights?  
No one is talking about taking away anyone’s right to own a gun.  But the NRA would have us believe that any discussion about restricting access to assault weapons…or extended clip magazines…or requiring universal background checks on all gun sales…is somehow a violation of that Second Amendment right.  That is simply a false narrative.
If you don’t believe us then consider the opinion voiced by the most conservative member of the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia in the landmark gun rights case: “District of Columbia vs. Heller.” 
In his summary for the 5 member majority Scalia wrote:
“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self defense at home.”
He further states:
“The sorts of weapons protected are the sorts of small arms that were lawfully possessed at home at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification, not those most useful in military service today, so M-16 rifles and the like may be banned.”
The NRA is not interested in protecting our children.  They are interested in protecting the gun and ammo industries that so handsomely line their pockets.  So they use the slaughter of 20 innocent children to promote the only thing that they care about…increasing the number of gun sales in this country.  Their solution to the Sandy Hook Shootings...more guns in schools. 
Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars gun manufacturers and dealers have made in the month since the Sandy Hook shootings?  Gun sales have skyrocketed since those children were killed.  And the NRA doesn’t want anything to get in the way.  
85% of the American people believe that there should be universal background checks for all gun sales.
 The NRA says “NO!”  
75% of the American people believe that extended clip magazines should be illegal. 
The NRA says “NO!”
And we haven’t even mentioned a ban on assault weapons.
Why the refusal to listen to a vast majority of the American people?  Clearly, based on the ‘Heller” ruling and Justice Scalia’s summary; these sensible restrictions do NOT violate anyone’s Second Amendment rights.
The problem is that while these restrictions do not impede anyone’s right to bear arms they DO serve to restrict the amount of money that flows into the coffers of the gun industry.
And truth be told, THAT is all the NRA really gives a damn about.  


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Do What You Have To Do, Mr. President

President Obama will consider using executive orders to curb gun violence in this country should congress fail to act.
Vice President Biden made this declaration during Wednesday’s session of his administrative panel which is charged with offering recommendations on how to stem the rising tide of gun violence in this country.
“Every once in a while there’s something that awakens the conscience of the country, and that tragic event (Sandy Hook massacre) did in a way like nothing I’ve seen in my career” said Biden.  “The president and I are determined to take action.”
Biden did not specify what administrative measures the president might take.
Naturally the vice president’s declaration was met by a groundswell of opposition from the right.  Most common were comparisons of the administration to Nazi Germany.
It is uncertain what measures the president can indeed take without getting congressional approval.  But we would encourage him to use the power of his office in any way possible to curb the senseless violence that is rampant in our country.
As we wrote yesterday, there is little point in expecting any substantive gun reform to come from this congress.  They are wedded to power of the NRA checkbook.  They dance to the beat of the false assertion that the government is coming for their guns…when to do so would be like trying to implement prohibition to stop drunk driving.  The assertion is ridiculous.
According to the Associated press 85 Americans will die today from gunshot wounds.  85 more will die tomorrow…and the day after that…and the day after that…  If the president has it within his power to at least slow down that repetitive cycle, he should do it. 
This debate is not about politics or constitutional rights.  It is really about the type of nation we want to be.  And most Americans, including law abiding responsible gun owners, do not believe in a nation where freedom means a Glock in every school room and an armed guard at the door of every church, synagogue and mosque.
Do what you have to do, Mr. President.              

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Greed & Guns

WE WERE SCREWED – There are times when we feel that the sense of entitlement that is fostered in our society has overwhelmed any true sense of reality.  This is one of those times.
A number of AIG shareholders led by ousted (and  very pissed off) former CEO Maurice Greenberg have filed a suit against the federal government alleging that the terms of the bailout agreement were unfair to shareholders.
You may recall that the federal government poured $182 billion taxpayer dollars into AIG to rescue the mammoth insurance firm from bankruptcy.  If the bankruptcy had gone through these same shareholders would have been left with nothing.
This is the same AIG whose greed and reckless business practices threatened to bring down the entire US economy.  Yet here are these shareholders suing the government because they feel that the terms of their bailout agreement were less generous than those awarded to other banks who profited through greed and reckless business practices.
CLINGING TO THEIR GUNS – Vice President Biden is scheduled to meet with members of gun advocacy groups including representatives from the NRA.  This is all in keeping with the Vice President’s efforts to cobble together a comprehensive gun control policy to be presented to the president by month’s end.
In truth this is little more than a dog and pony show for the press.  Base on NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s statements during both his press conference and his recent appearance on “Meet the Press” the chance of there being any meaningful reform on firearms is slim to none.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting we have discussed gun control with a number of gun owners.  We found a general consensus that more stringent gun control laws are needed.
None of the gun owners that we communicated with either in person or via email saw any need for assault weapons or extended capacity magazines to be available to the general population.  None of them understood why it is easier in most states to buy a gun than it is to buy and license a motor vehicle. 
All the gun owners we talked to believed that they had the right to own a pistol to protect their home and family, and a rifle or shotgun for recreational hunting.  All of them believed that the gun show loophole should be closed.  And all of them believed that a background check should be conducted with particular emphasis on keeping guns out of the hands of those listed on terrorist watch list.
But when we got into mental health issues and the production of violent video games we saw quite a divergence of opinions.  Mental health issues were seen as more private family matters not subject to government intervention.  And naturally those in the entertainment industry were opposed to the government regulating movies and video games.  So while gun owners on the right were more concerned with second amendment issues, gun owners on the left were more adamant about protecting first amendment rights.
And that is why any legislation on gun control that manages to pass under the current political environment will probably fall short.
If we want true comprehensive gun control then we can’t just talk about assault weapons, extended capacity magazines, background checks and gun show loopholes.  We have to incorporate mental health and substance abuse issues into the mix.                            

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Playing The Revenge Card...Again!

Yesterday, the president officially named Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense.
As expected…John McCain who sees himself as highest authority when it come to foreign policy…stated that he has some “serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical nation security issues…”
In 2008, then presidential candidate McCain said that if elected he might offer Hagel a spot in his administration.  He said Hagel would make a great Secretary of State.
But then Hagel had the audacity to speak out in opposition to McCain and the Iraq war.  Hagel of course was right…and McCain and his neo-con buddies were wrong.
Funny how hypocrisy can worm its way into a situation when one allows revenge to be the source of one’s motivation.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

What A Waste Of Time

President Obama is expected to name former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense. Naturally, Republicans will pull out all stops to block Hagel’s appointment because…well, because he is Obama’s nominee. 
Chuck Hagel is a Vietnam veteran who earned two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat.  He still carries some of the shrapnel in his chest.  He is chairman of the mainstream conservative American Council and Co-Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.  He has served as a member of the Secretary’ of Defense’s Policy board as well as the Foreign Relations Committee.  He is currently teaching at Georgetown University where he holds the position of Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.  A moderate conservative who has seen firsthand the horrors of war, Hagel’s views on foreign affairs are consistent with those of George H. W. Bush and Colin Powell.
As expected the Republican drumbeat against Hagel has begun even though the former Nebraska Senator’s name has not yet been put into nomination.
An ominous sounding Mitch McConnell says that Hagel will have to answer some very tough questions regarding his support of Israel and his views on Iran’s nuclear program.  This is the same Mitch McConnell who effusively praised Hagel’s “clear voice on foreign affairs” during a floor speech honoring Hagel’s retirement from the Senate.
Neo-con Lindsay Graham said Hagel will face a tough road to confirmation because: “he is out of the main street thinking on foreign policy issues…antagonistic against Israel…an in your face nomination by the president to all who are supportive of Israel.”  Graham also sees Hagel as being soft on Iran.  Keep in mind that Graham has never met a war he wasn’t willing to send someone else in to fight.
Once again, these objections are nothing but pure politics.  Republicans believe that Hagel has been less than supportive of Israel…a definite “no, no” in Republican circles.  However a review of Hagel’s voting record shows that he has been nothing but supportive of the Jewish state.  He just believes that US foreign policy should not be dictated by the Israelis. 
As far as Iran is concerned…Hagel prefers diplomacy and sanctions over bluster and bombs.  Perhaps his years in Vietnam watching his friends die have given him a perspective of war that Graham and his neo-con war mongers can only dream about.
There is also a revenge factor to this opposition against Hagel…much like the events surrounding the Susan Rice nomination for Sec. of State. 
Rice had served as Obama’s chief attack dog against McCain during the 2008 election.  McCain’s vengeful vicious attacks blew up her nomination before it every got off the ground.  Hagel, who originally supported the Iraq war, had the audacity to change his mind.  He came to realize the horrendous mistake that the war was and said so publically.  The GOP elephant has a long memory…and paybacks are hell.
So the president will nominate Hagel…and Hagel will wander up to the Hill where he will kiss some Republican ass.  Then will come the long drawn out and senseless confirmation hearings where Republicans will spend more time making ideological speeches than asking pertinent questions.  Eventually Hagel will probably be confirmed because who is going to say no to a decorated war hero with shrapnel in his chest.
Meanwhile a serious debate about debt and deficit sits idly on the sidelines.  And while responsible gun control laws are ignored, 412 people have died as a result of gunshot wounds since the Sandy Hook tragedy.       

Friday, January 4, 2013

Meet The New Boss...same as the old boss!

The 113th congress was sworn in yesterday and took up the task of doing the people’s business.  There is little doubt that the circus has returned to Washington.  Let the clown show begin.
Here are some of the highlights.
John Boehner was elected to a second term as Speaker of the House.  But not before a revolt by radical right members of his caucus threatened his seat.  In an embarrassing challenge to Boehner’s leadership, twelve conservative members cast votes in opposition or voted “present.’  Another 20 members were ready to join the open rebellion but backed off at the last minute.  The vote was a clear shot across the Speaker’s bow by the far right.  Their message was clear.  The speaker will listen very carefully to the more conservative members of his caucus given the reality that they have the numbers to vacate his seat at any time.
Michelle Bachman offered the first piece of legislation for the new congress to consider…the repeal of Obamacare in its entirety.  Haven’t we seen this movie before?
Boehner announced that he will no longer participate in one on one negotiating sessions with the president.  Apparently Boehner has decided to take  his ball and go home…which is just as well  because every time he and the president strike a deal Cantor and the Tea Party bunch shoot it down.
Speaker Boehner announced that he would finally allow the House to vote on the $60 billion aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Inexplicably the House will vote on $9 billion in relief today and the remaining $51 billion on January 15??  Hurricane Sandy victims have waited 68 days and counting for congress to approve this relief aid package.  It only took 10 days for congress to approve a similar aid package for Katrina victims.
Boehner had come under scathing criticism from within his own party for cancelling the vote on the Sandy relief package following the passing of the fiscal cliff tax bill.  Yesterday, members of the Republican caucus praised Boehner saying that Boehner was right to pull the vote because the relief aid bill contained billions in pork.
Avowed capitalist and anti-socialist Mitch McConnell proved that he can be quite flexible in his ideological beliefs when it comes to his constituents.  McConnell who has railed against the president for what he believes are the president’s socialist tendencies had no problem adding a “European socialist style” agricultural subsidy to the fiscal cliff tax bill.  The subsidy provides direct cash payments to extremely profitable dairy producers.  Unlike in the case of the Sandy relief bill, McConnell’s pork infused agricultural subsidy did not hamper passage of the fiscal cliff legislation.
Republicans kicked off their media campaign for the upcoming debt ceiling in debate.  The president has said that he would not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling believing that the country must pay for goods and services that congress has enacted into law.  Republicans spun this refusal to negotiate as a presidential power grab.  They accused the president of wanting a blank check and ridiculed his willingness to max out one government credit card after another.  Perhaps these congressmen have failed to read the constitution which clearly states that only congress…not the president…controls the nation’s purse strings.  And perhaps they have forgotten that a large chunk of the nation’s debt stems for congressional approval to wage two unfunded wars.
For the past ten years Republicans have said that there was no need to offset the Bush tax cuts with like cuts in spending because the tax cuts would pay for themselves through economic growth.  Yesterday, the Republicans said that the middle class tax cuts that the president left in place would have to be offset by spending cuts.  They proposed that these offsets be part of the upcoming debt ceiling debate.
And there you have the first day of the 113th Congress of the United States of America.
Meet the new boss…same as the old boss.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

The 113th Congress: A New Beginning Or More Of The Same?

The 113th Congress will be sworn in today.  Will this new congress follow in the steps of its predecessor and continue along the intransigent path dictated by its far right Tea Party members?  Or will it choose a more moderate path that will allow it to find compromise and actually govern?
The first task will be to elect a new speaker.  Rumors abound that John Boehner is in danger of losing his speakership; the most prominent being a serious plan among 20 House Republicans to block Boehner’s re-election.  It is no secret that Boehner is perceived as a weak leader incapable of corralling the far right wing of his party.  He has dared to remove troublesome members from their committee appointments.   He has come under intense criticism for his failed “Plan B” option to the fiscal cliff negotiations and his decision to allow a vote on the Senate bill was roundly panned by his caucus.  Add to that the outrage he incurred by failing to bring up the Hurricane Sandy aid bill on Tuesday and you have a speaker facing a groundswell of opposition from within his caucus.  But speakers hold immense power.  They make committee appointments and control the administrative purse strings of the House.  Most importantly they decide which bill reaches the floor for a vote.  So if you have piece of legislation that you want passed you need the speaker in your corner.  The point being…if you are going to try to unseat Boehner you had better be successful.  If you fail, the repercussions will be difficult at best.
The next order of business will be to pass relief aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Boehner had promised representatives from the affected states that this vote would be taken after the fiscal cliff vote last Tuesday.  But Boehner decided that his members would look like hypocrites arguing for spending cuts and then authorizing $60 billion in unfunded relief aid for New York and New Jersey.  So he pulled the bill off the floor without giving anyone the courtesy of an explanation.  Boehner was pilloried by lawmakers from both parties for his decision.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose repeated phone calls Boehner were ignored, accused the speaker of using Sandy’s victims as political pawns.  The 112th Congress had no problem throwing the poor, the homeless or the disable under the bus for political gain.  Will the 113th congress bring us more of the same?
The next step for the 113 congress will be to approve an increase in the debt ceiling so that the country can pay for goods and services it has already received.  The 112th congress refused to raise the limit which resulted in the first downgrade of the nation’s credit rating in history.  The president has said that he will not allow congress to hold the debt ceiling limit hostage as they did before.  He has said repeatedly that he will not negotiate whether or not the country will pay its bills.  It should be noted that the president has a 58% approval rating.  The 112th congress left office with an 8% approval rating.  That is a lower approval rating than Manual Noriega, Nixon during Watergate, implementing Sharia law or the prospect of Communist Party taking over our politics. As one pundit said: “If the new congress wants to defy this president and lash itself to the mast of debt ceiling debate; then they will go down with that sinking ship.”
In the months that follow the 113th congress will undertake a series of debates about spending.  An integral part of those negotiations will be entitlement reform and the defense budget.  The 112th congress was famous for funding new weapon systems that the pentagon didn’t want.  And while they talked tough about reforming entitlement programs they walked away from two “Grand Bargains” that would have done just that.  The truth is the 112th congress was afraid to tackle spending cuts because they are so popular with the electorate.  There is no better way to get yourself sent home than to vote to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.  The question is will the 113th congress work with the president to cut spending and lower the debt and deficit in a responsible way?  Or will it continue to produce the gridlock that awarded its predecessor with an 8% approval rating?
And then there will be the dreaded debate on gun reform.  Today, the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting return to school.  We are not only reminded of the horror of that day but we remember the spineless silence on the part of Republican leadership as they awaited their marching orders from the NRA.  Are Republicans in congress so wedded to their ideology that even the massacre of 6 and 7 year olds won’t allow them to compromise on sensible gun control regulations?  Moderate gun owners from all over the country have called for background checks on all gun purchases and the elimination of assault weapons and extended clip magazines.  Will this new congress heed the call of sensible gun ownership and regulation or will they continue to listen to conspiracy theories of a government takeover and the ranting of the NRA?         
The 113th congress has an opportunity to rebuild the brand of the Republican Party. They can return to the party of compromise and governing or they can listen to the voices of their predecessors and bring the party and the country to its knees.  
We’ll be watching.  


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Congress: Turning "Procrastination" Into An Artform

By means of a bi-partisan vote Congress avoided the fiscal cliff; passing a bill that raises taxes on individuals making over $400,000 and households making of $450,000.  The bill also extends unemployment benefits for one more year.
The bill marked the first time that congress has increased taxes in 20 years.
The bill, which included not one dime in spending cuts, was passed in the middle of a debate that was supposed to be about REDUCING spending and the national debt.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill INCREASES the national debt by $4 trillion.
The Speaker o f the House normally doesn’t on vote on pending legislation.  Speaker Boehner voted for the bill.  He was joined in this debt increasing effort  by Republican Budget Chairman and fiscal HAWK, Paul Ryan.
Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against the bill…proving once again that Boehner has zero control over his caucus. 
Cantor had intended to amend the bill by adding $350 billion in spending cuts.  But Cantor is in bed with Wall Street; and the money guys told Cantor to back off, preferring the certainty of an agreement on higher tax rates over the uncertainty of a plunge over the fiscal cliff.  Still Cantor voted “no” as a direct snub against Boehner’s leadership.
Congress knew for the past two years that this deadline was coming.  Still they managed to wait until the deadline passed to come to an agreement. 
Republicans wanted to wait until the Bush Tax Cuts expired so that they were in fact voting for a tax decrease.  Conservative Lobbyist Grover Norquist, whose anti-tax pledge Republicans clutch to their breast like a newborn baby, gave absolution to this dubious tactic eliciting a sigh of relief from those who worship at Grover’s alter.
Republicans wanted to deal with entitlement reform.  On two separate occasions the president made offers that include reductions in entitlement programs.  Republicans walked away from those offers.  In the end the deal Republicans were forced to swallow was far worse than the deals they turned down last week…last month…or last year.
Congressmen from New York and New Jersey took to the podium with their hair on fire; incensed that the Speaker would not allow a vote on a $60 billion dollar unfunded aid package for those ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.  These gentlemen were among those who only minutes before were complaining about the nation’s massive debt and Washington’s runaway spending.
During the fiscal cliff debate House Majority leader Harry Reid, under whose leadership the Senate has failed to pass a budget in four years, took it upon himself to criticize Speaker Boehner’s refusal to bring any bill to the House floor unless it had the support of a majority of Boehner’s majority party.  Reid called Boehner’s leadership style “a dictatorship.” 
Later, when the two legislators bumped into each other by chance, Boehner told Reid to go f—k himself…twice.
Thus, we bring down the curtain on the 112th Congress of the United States of America…the most inept, ineffective and impotent do nothing congress in American history.
We can only hope that the 113th Congress will be more effective.  They will get their chance in two short months.  Because while the existing congress took the easy vote on taxes, they passed on dealing with the sequestration spending cuts, increasing the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution which funds the government and allows it to operate.  Each of these issues must be dealt with in either February or March. 
And the stakes will be much higher.  While the “fiscal cliff” debate that we just witnessed had an effect on our economy; the debt ceiling has international repercussions.  For if we default on paying our bills the consequences could result in a global recession.
So what have we learned…if anything?
We’ve learned that governing by “deadline” doesn’t work.  It makes for bad decisions.  By allowing our core issues to fester until we reach the 11th hour of a lame duck congress we have managed to increase our debt by $8 trillion dollars in the past two years.
Congress is in disarray.  They have proven their inability to lead time and time again.  If we are to right ourselves we need leadership.
It all starts with the president.
We need the president to use the bully pulpit to speak the truth to the American people.  Most Americans know that our current course in unsustainable.  Most Americans know what needs to be done.  Most Americans are light years ahead of the politicians in their willingness to do what is right. We just need the President to lead.
Because the only thing congress knows how to do is procrastinate.