Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Going Back In Time

The Supreme Court has ruled that certain provisions of the landmark Voting rights Act of 1965 violate the constitution. 
In a 5-4 vote, the Court found the provisions in the law requiring that nine southern states and certain jurisdictions obtain federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws, to be discriminatory in nature. 
These jurisdictions had historically enacted poll taxes, literary tests and other discriminatory laws that were clearly designed to make it difficult if not impossible for African Americans to vote.  The Voting Rights Act required that these states obtain federal “preclearance “before enacting any changes in their voting laws.  Yesterday's ruling strikes down that provision.
In writing the opinion for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts wrote: “…our country has changed”… (Preclearance provisions) “no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions”… and have no logical relation to present day.”
Upon learning of the ruling the Texas state legislature immediately passed a new more restrictive voter I’d law.  The South Carolina legislature announced it will do the same.
These are the same restrictive voter I’d laws that the federal courts struck down in the past…not in 1965…in 2012. 
The Court's ruling would have us believe that racism and discrimination are dead and that equal rights among states is more important than equal rights among their citizens.

Monday, June 24, 2013

BIG Week Ahead...

This is a BIG week for our country!
The Supreme Court is expected to announce opinions on eleven cases that could fundamentally change the way we function as a society.  Chief among those decisions are rulings on same sex marriage, affirmative action, voting rights and workplace discrimination.  Whatever the Court decides, the rulings are expected to cause a political firestorm that will rage well into the 2016 campaign season.
As BIG as this week is expected to be, the REALLY BIG story won’t occur until July 15.
On July 15 Hostess Twinkies will once again fill the shelves of local retailers!!!
Now that's REALLY BIG!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Republicans Continue To Self-Destruct

We have been talking about the Republican Party’s stated desire to be a more “inclusive” party…to be more “receptive” to women, gays and ethnic minorities…to bring everyone together under one “big tent.”
Last week the Republicans demonstrated just how inclusive they can be by threatening to block the president’s immigration reform initiative unless it includes provisions that make it harder for Hispanics and other minorities to vote.
Yesterday they turned their coveted gun sights on women.
In another direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Republican led House passed the most far reaching anti-abortion bill in history.  The bill, which would restrict abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception rejects laws passed in most states that allow abortions until the fetus becomes viable, usually considered to be around 24 weeks. 
The bill has no chance of passing the Democrat led senate.  And even if it did it would never survive the president’s veto.
So you have to ask yourself this question…if you are truly serious about courting the “women” vote…why would you pass a bill that is not only dead on arrival but will only serve to damage your brand  even further in the eyes of women.
Republicans say they want to be more inclusive.  Yet day after day we here them talking about “legitimate rape” and offering such insightful advise as: ‘women need to prepare for rape, just like I carry a spare tire in the trunk.”
Last week Republicans alienated Hispanics…this week its women.  What’s next?
We can’t wait to see how they court the LGBT community.
The “Big Tent” initiative continues.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cruz, Paul Leading Republicans To Another National Beatdown

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down the Arizona state law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship to be able to register to vote in national elections.  The court voted to overturn the law by a 7-2 margin.
The Arizona law was allegedly put in place as a direct rebuke of President Obama’s efforts on immigration reform.   You may recall Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, no fan of clearing a path to citizenship for immigrants illegal or otherwise, famously wagging her finger in the president’s face as she scolded him during a recent campaign stop. 
The Latino community has historically voted for Democrats by a wide margin.  The Arizona law clearly targeted Hispanics and was little more than a legal ploy to make it more difficult for them to cast their votes for the president.  Fortunately the Supreme Court saw the measure for what it truly was.
Never one to let the constitution get in the way of his personal politics, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz responded to the court’s ruling by vowing to attach a voter id amendment to the immigration reform bill currently being debated on the Hill.  Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul has promised to proffer a similar amendment.  These amendments are certain to torpedo the president’s immigration reform efforts, which is what they are clearly designed to do.
Republicans claim that they want to be a player on the national stage.  They say they understand that in order to change their image as the party of “old white guys” they need to be more “inclusive” in their policies and their messaging; that they need to reach out to women and gays and the largest growing demographic in our country…Latinos.  Apparently Cruz and Paul didn’t get the memo.
Republicans continue to marginalize themselves in the eyes of minorities.
Evidently Cruz and Paul don’t give a damn.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Congratulations To Our Elected Representatives!

As you know the blockbuster story in Washington these days concerns the government’s controversial surveillance program.  Members of both the House and Senate have expressed their outrage over the news that the government is systematically accessing our phone records and internet communications.  Many lawmakers have claimed complete ignorance over the program’s very existence.
Last Thursday the Senate summoned National Intelligence Director James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander and representatives from the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISA Court to the Hill to conduct a private briefing on the subject.
Only 47 senators bothered to show up…less than half.
It seems that the rest of this august group wanted to get out of town early for a long weekend.
At the same time that most of the senators were heading for the airport, Gallup was asking Americans to rank their confidence level in 16 societal institutions such as the military, business, organized labor, the press etc.  American’s confidence in congress is down to 10%, ranking the lawmaking institution last on the list for the fourth straight year.  Gallup reports that the 10% ranking is the lowest ranking for ANY institution on record.
Congratulations to our elected representatives!     

Friday, June 14, 2013

US To Arm Syrian Rebels While American Children Starve

Having determined that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its citizens, the White House announced that the United States will provide military assistance to the Syrian rebels.  The statement did not include specific details as to the extent of US involvement.  Unconfirmed reports run the gamut from small arms and munitions to anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to the establishment of a no fly zone using US military aircraft.
To what end?
What does Syria look like if the US backed rebels are successful?  Iraq?  Libya?
We have seen this movie before…and it doesn’t end well.
Since the end of WWII the United States has declared itself the world’s policeman, interjecting its’ values, morals and self interests into the world’s affairs.  Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan all fought with inconclusive and unsatisfactory results.
The Syrian conflict is a secular, civil war with both sides behaving badly.  The Assad regime is backed by Russia, Hezbollah and Iran…the rebels by al Qaeda or al Qaeda splinter groups.  There are no good guys here.
Proponents of American military intervention argue that if we fail to intervene our enemies will step into the void.  Look how well that worked out in Iraq.
Setting aside international politics…what about the cost?
The sequestration cuts are ravaging the social safety net depended upon by millions of Americans.  Cuts in food stamps, meals on wheels, shelters for battered women, planned parenthood and No Child Left Behind are just a few of the programs negatively impacted by this manufactured crisis.
The implementation of a “No Fly zone” over Syrian airspace will cost American taxpayers $50 million…PER DAY.
16.1 million children in this country live in what are referred to as “food insecure households.”  That means that they don’t know when they will get their next meal.  That’s 22% of the kids living in the self proclaimed “greatest country on earth.”
If we cannot afford to feed our own children how can we afford a $50M no fly zone over Syria?
Some might say that is a false choice.
They would be wrong.    


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Get It Right!

We have a rule here at Common Sense Decisions that goes something like this…first reports are often wrong so never believe what you read or hear without first checking out the facts.
As the noise over the government tapping into our conversations continues to grow we are learning more and more about what our government is actually doing.  Or is it?
It was first reported that the government was listening in to the phone calls of all the Verizon and AT&T customers.  Wrong!  The government IS gathering the Verizon and AT&T phone records to ferret out links to phone numbers of known terrorist cells.  If you know Fred is a bad guy and Fred is talking to Bill…then who is Bill talking to. They are NOT listening in to our conversations.
It was first reported that the government through the PRISM program was reading all our emails, blogs and tweets and listening in to ourchats and Skype conversations.  Wrong!  The government IS reading the emails, blogs and tweets and listening in to the Skype and chat room conversations of persons overseas that they believe are engaging in activities that threaten national security.  Before engaging in these activities they are obtaining warrants from the FISA court.
It was first reported that the Obama administration has greatly expanded the Bush administrations' eavesdropping activities.  Wrong!  The seizure of phone records and the PRISM program were all expanded under George W. Bush.  The Obama administration continued the programs as is.  The only Obama expansion was in “reading in” several more members of congress in order to provide more transparency.   
How do we know this new information is 100% correct?  We don’t.  We only know that multiple non-partisan sources now coming out with these clarifying statements.
We do not offer this new information to persuade anyone as to the constitutional appropriateness of these government activities.  Our only point is that the facts are not always what they seem and judgment should be withheld until the facts are known. 
Whenever reporters write an expose’ they always say: “the people have a right to know the truth.”
If that is the goal then the every reporter has an obligation to get it right.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And so it continues...

The latest Washington kerfuffle over government’s infringement on our privacy provides us with just another example of the hypocrisy that occurs when extremist ideology meets reality.
For today’s lesson we call once again on Senator John McCain’s mini-me, Senator Lindsey Graham.
Please hearken back to the gun control debate, specifically the uproar over what seemed to us to be the common sense policy of requiring background checks on gun purchases.  Senator Graham and his ilk were apoplectic that a universal background check was the first step in a concerted effort by the Obama administration to take our guns.”  Senator Graham, the NRA and right wing conspiracy theorists and small government aficionados by the score all echoed the same sentiment…once you allow background checks you open the door to a national gun registry…and the only reason to have a national gun registry is so the government can “find them, tax them and take them.”  Senator Graham and his posse viewed this national database as a constitutional violation of our right to bear arms and our right to privacy.  Their concerns based in part on a fundamental distrust of the government.
Now we learn that the government has compiled a mammoth national database that includes all of our phone calls, texts, emails, tweets, chats, postings, blogs etc.  Stunningly Senator Graham and is his neo-con buddies are big government advocates: “I have no problem with the government accessing my phone records…if you aren’t doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about.”  Apparently the good senator trusts the government to do the right thing with these records.
Allow us to summarize…
Big intrusive government…bad.
Big intrusive government that that wants to keep items that kill people out of the hands of criminals and the mentally impaired…very bad.
Big intrusive government that wants to access the communications of all law abiding Americans without cause…good.
And so it continues…


Monday, June 10, 2013

Traitor or Champion?

Glenn Greenwald, the “Guardian” reporter who broke the blockbuster stories about the National Security Agency’s surveillance methods, gave his first on air interview this morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.  It was fascinating stuff.
Greenwald sees Eric Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton contractor who leaked the previously classified information as a whistleblower and a patriot.  He says Snowden became alarmed when he saw the extent to which the Bush administration was secretly monitoring US citizens’ phone records and internet activity.  He considered going public then but decided against it for fear of putting anyone in danger; and he hoped that the Obama administration would stop the intrusion.  He became disillusioned and decided to come forward when he realized that the Obama administration was in fact expanding the program.  Greenwald says Snowden meticulously sanitized the information he released to make certain that it didn’t put government operators in harm’s way or, in his mind, jeopardize national security.  Greenwald says the American people have a right to know if their government is spying on them.  He claims that there is more to come.
Lawmakers on the Hill and National Intelligence Director James Clapper have a different view.  They consider Snowden to be a traitor.  They say that his activities have severely damaged our intelligence operations and put the country’s national security at risk.  They say that if Snowden had issues with government operations he should have gone through the courts to make his case.  A criminal investigation of Snowden’s activities is underway.
Meanwhile Snowden has fled the country for Hong Kong.  He is fearful for his life.  He fully expects the US government to come after him.
What we DO know is that we don’t know what we don’t know.
But we do know this.
We do know that the government says that we need to have an open debate about the scope of our national security operations.
We do know that the Bush and Obama administrations have turned back numerous inquiries into their activities under the Patriot Act citing that the information is classified and any judicial hearings could reveal information detrimental to our national security.
We do know that it is hard to have an open debate when only one side is willing to talk.
We also know this…while there is a whole lot of hair on fire outrage over these surveillance programs today…the conversation will be very different when we are hit with another terrorist attack.
Over the next weeks and months we will learn more about these government surveillance programs.  We will learn more about Eric Snowden and his motivation for coming forward.  Our guess is that this story will look much different once all the facts are presented.
Then we can decide if Eric Snowden is a traitor to his country or a champion of our civil liberties.        

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Haveyoueverfoundyourselfinaroomwithagroupofpeoplewhoarealltalkingatthesametimeandoveroneanotherandtheconversationissoconfusingthateverythingrunstogetherandyoucan’t figureoutwhoisonwhatsideoftheargumentandeverythingisajumbledmessandthenoiseissolouditmakesyourheadhurt?
That is how we feel about the dialogue coming out of Washington over the news that the federal government has been monitoring our telephone and internet records.
Barak Obama is a liberal…a big government Socialist if you believe those on the far right. 
The Obama Justice Department seizes the phone records of a bunch of AP and FOXNEWS reporters.  The reason given is to ferret out leaks that endanger national security.  The liberal press is outraged.  Conservatives on the Hill scream “government over reach.”  The Republican House initiates a zillion investigative hearings.  Just more Washington partisan politics!  All is right in the universe.
Then we learn that the Obama administration has ordered Verizon to hand over the phone records of ALL of their customers by way of a secret order handed down by the secret FISA Court.  We learn that this “phone dump” has been going on for quite some time!  The liberals once again are outraged.  Conservatives not so much!  Lindsey Graham says: “if you’re not talking to terrorists you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Big government…bad!  Big government seizing everyone’s phone records…good!
THEN we learn that the Obama administration has been tapped into the servers of the largest internet service providers in the world.  They have access to our emails, tweets, blogs, chat, facebook postings etc. etc.  The Senate can barely stifle yawn because they have known about this for years.  Big government liberals are outraged at the intrusion by their trusted government.  Meanwhile small government conservatives support the president’s actions.
Are you following this?
We have liberals setting their hair on fire over what they perceive is a big government gone rogue.  Conservatives on the other hand are against seizing the PRESS phone records…but ok with seizing the phone records and tapping into the internet activity of millions of Americans without one shred of evidence that they have done anything wrong…accept the Tea Party guys like Paul and Cruz who are against everything…right?
When congress passed the Patriot Act without reading the bill they opened a Pandora’s Box that is only now coming to light.
Now we understand why the gun nuts feel that if you pass legislation on back ground checks “the next thing you know they’ll be coming for our guns.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Would Candidate Obama Do?

The British newspaper, “The Guardian” is reporting that the federal government is currently collecting the Verizon phone records of millions of US customers under the authority granted by the Patriot Act.  The secret order was granted by the FISA court on April 25 and is good until July 19.  The order requires Verizon “on an ongoing daily basis” to provide the government with information on all telephone calls in its system both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The scope of this order is startling and raises a number of questions. 
Under this court order, the government is not targeting specific individuals who they may suspect of nefarious activity.  This is a mammoth information dump that involves millions of Americans.  Why?
The reporting only mentions Verizon customers.  Have other telecommunications providers also been similarly served?  Why?
This report focuses on telephone records.  The broad scope of the surveillance raises the obvious question…what other personal records are being targeted?  Is the government indiscrimanently watching our emails, twitter accounts, credit cards, electronic banking activity…all under the guise of national security?
We don’t mean to sound shocked and appalled because we are not.  We predicted this government over reach would happen when congress passed the Patriot Act without reading it.  You may recall that the Bush administration was conducting warrantless wiretaps until caught red handed by the press.   The super secret FISA court was suppose to add a sense of legal propriety to the matter.  But anyone who believed that a government caught with its pants down on 9/11 was going to back off was clearly naive.
We are not blaming the Bush administration.  By all accounts the Obama administration has either continued or amped up virtually all of the Bush national security efforts that candidate Obama campaigned against.
Candidate Obama would be outraged over the activities of President Obama’s administration…seizing reporters’ phone records… IRS targeting conservative organizations…secret drone strikes which recently leaked classified reports show are carried out based on circumstantial evidence at best…and now the secret, indiscriminate seizure of millions of US citizens’ phone records.
Candidate Obama promised to return transparency, trust and accountability to the federal government.
Candidate Obama would say that President Obama has failed to keep his campaign promises.              

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Obama Gives GOP The Finger...Appoints Rice NSA

The breaking news out of Washington this morning is that UN Ambassador Susan Rice will replace Tom Donilon as the president’s national security advisor.
You may recall that Susan Rice was savagely attacked by Republicans over her comments on the Sunday talk shows.  Rice characterized the attack on the US compound in Benghazi as a spontaneous event rather than a planned terrorist attack.  Facts later revealed that Rice was parroting talking points provided by the intelligence community that were untrue.  
Rice, a close personal friend of the president was said to have been his first choice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  But the avalanche of criticism over her talk show comments and the resulting congressional hearings forced Rice to withdraw her name from consideration.
The president was visibly angered by Rice’s treatment on the Hill.  He called questions about Rice’s integrity “absurd.”
Now Susan Rice and the president will get the last political laugh.  As National Security Advisor to the president she will have a key role in all foreign policy decisions.  Ironically, given her close proximity to the president on a daily basis, she will arguably have more influence than had she been appointed secretary of state.  And since the NSA post is not a cabinet position, it does not require senate confirmation…so there is nothing that Republicans can do about it.
This is what we see time and time again from the president’s Republican adversaries.  They set their hair on fire over perceived national scandal…express their faux outrage…and drag the country through a series of meaningless congressional hearings and partisan overreach.  The public see the political posturing for what it is.  The president’s approval ratings rise.  And the Republicans find themselves in a worse position than when they started.
The president just gave his adversaries the political finger.  Do you think they noticed?                    

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Republicans, Not Christie, Face Difficult Decision

Did you know that Friday June 7, 2013 is National Doughnut Day?  It is observed each year on the first Friday in June in commemoration of the original “Doughnut Day” event created by the Salvation Army to honor women who served doughnuts to soldiers during WW I.
National Doughnut Day…mmmm!  What could be better?
Speaking of doughnuts…Chris Christie is in the news again.  As the sitting governor of New Jersey, the round mound of sound has the powerful yet unenviable task of naming a successor to fill the senate seat of the recently departed Frank Lautenberg.
Naturally the media is all a twitter over the host of both legal and political consequences Christie faces as he contemplates his decision.
Does he replace the Democrat Lautenberg with another Democrat who will run in the next election?  This will anger the National Republican Party whose support he needs if he is considering a run at the White House in 2016.  But it will appease Democratic donors who are already pouring money into his 2013 re-election coffers.  Christie, a Republican governor in a blue state, must have their support to win another term.
Does he replace Lautenberg with a Republican who will run in the next election?  This will appease Republicans who are still questioning his loyalty after his post Hurricane Sandy “bromance” with Obama.  But it will tick off those wealthy Democrat donors we mentioned earlier.
Or does Christie appoint a placeholder willing to finish out Lautenberg’s term with no interest in running for a full term?
Here’s the thing that seems to be missing from this discussion.
The Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six national elections.  They lost the last two to a black freshman senator with a Muslim sounding name by statistical landslides. 
Christie is a Republican Governor with a 74% approval rating in a traditionally very, very blue state. Right Wing Republicans may be pissed at him for embracing Obama’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, but the voters are not.  In that one short visit Christie and the president gave the people what they have been longing for a very long time…finding common ground for the good of the people.
Christie can appoint whomever he wants to fill Lautenberg’s really doesn’t matter.  He WILL win re-election and he WILL be a viable Republican candidate for the White house in 2016.  Because Chris Christie is doing something that Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and all the other right wing fire breathers have been unable to do…reach across party lines, find compromise and govern.
So it is the Republican Party that faces the difficult decision here…not Chris Christie.  Do they support a very popular member of their own party and win?  Or do they listen once again to the rhetoric of the fire breathers and continue along their current path toward political irrelevance on the national stage?              

Monday, June 3, 2013

This & That

The drumbeat for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation is growing.  Add New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson to the list of influential people expressing their concern over the actions of Holder’s Justice Department.  Appearing on “Face the Nation” Abramson told Bob Schieffer “…we are concerned that the process of news gathering is being criminalized.”  Any time the editorial departments of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are in agreement is not a good time for the administration.  Rumor is that West Wing insiders have jumped on the “Holder Must Resign” bandwagon. But President Obama has a history of resisting this type of political pressure.  Holder is a close personal friend of the president.  Holder’s wife and the First Lady are very close.  Still, it is hard to square how the Attorney General could testify before congress that he knew nothing of the seizure of AP and FOXNEWS phone records when he signed the warrant that authorized the seizure.
Darrel Issa is the Republican Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.  Darrel Issa is heading up the congressional investigation of the Benghazi, IRS and AP “scandals.”  Darrel Issa has accused the Attorney General of committing perjury and called White House press Secretary Jay Carney “a paid liar.”  Darrel Issa is full of himself.  Both of these characterizations may very well be true.  But Issa undermines his position, his character and his party by engaging in this type of inflammatory rhetoric.  Keep quiet Darrel…let the story sell itself.
Do you remember how the Bush administration sold us on the benefits of going to war in Iraq?  Not only would we rid the world of a brutal dictator who sponsored terrorism and threatened our security with weapons of mass destruction, but the war would prove to be an economic boondoggle for the good old US of A.  They said the rebuilding of Iraq would result in hundreds of thousands of American jobs.  They said that Iraq’s mammoth oil supply would flow freely into US ports, gas prices would plummet and the US economy would thrive.  According to the “Economic Times,” Iraq HAS become one of the world’s top oil producers.  However the biggest beneficiary of the Iraqi post war oil boom is not the US…it is China.  “We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Bush administration Defense Department official who worked on Iraq oil policy.  “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefitting from it, and our 5th Fleet and air forces are assuring their supply.”
Violent protests in Turkey have escalated after police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.  In a scene reminiscent Egypt’s Tahrir Square, thousands of protestors flooded Istanbul’s main square, voicing their outrage over government crackdowns, political repression and religious interventions.  Turkey is a key US ally in the region.  It is only a matter of time before John McCain calls for American military intervention.  See comment above re: Iraq war.
Michael Douglas announced that his throat cancer was caused by performing oral sex on women.  We have nothing to add. 
The more you know...