Friday, February 27, 2015

It's CPAC Weekend! Get Your Popcorn Ready!

If you are like me…a person who believes that the dysfunction of our government is exceeded only by the inanity of the discourse offered by those who run it; then this weekend is for you.

For this is CPAC weekend. CPAC…the Conservative Political Action Conference…where the movers and shakers of the conservative movement come together to poke, prod, schmooze and choose their future leaders. Where presidential wannabes spout bat crazy stuff to woo a brain dead base; hopeful that the requisite inflammatory rhetoric of today will be forgotten by more thoughtful voters in the future. The comedic value of this extravaganza is off the charts.

Priority one among those taking the rostrum…bash presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. After all when you don’t anything resembling a substantive policy thought in your repertoire what else are you going to do?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is there. He is currently leading in the polls. Walker would have us believe that his stint as governor qualifies him for the presidency. When asked how serving as governor qualifies him for making foreign policy decisions like fighting ISIS; Walker said: “If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Let’s think about that. Taking on a bunch of angry elementary school teachers bearing signs and Starbucks versus a bunch of armed fanatical extremists who lop off people’s heads to make a point. I can certainly see the similarities.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in attendance. He accused Hillary of being on the payroll of foreign nations. When asked by host Sean Hannity to describe Hillary with the first word that pops into his head, Cruz said: “Washington.” After Hannity, doing his best Bill Clinton impression, asked a young “chick” in the audience to meet him backstage; he asked Cruz his one word response to “Bill Clinton.” Cruz said:” youth outreach.” Funny! That’s two words.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christy is in the house. He deflected his state’s poor economic performance by telling a questioner that “Sometimes It’s ok to tell people to sit down and shut up.”

Mogul Donald Trump rolled in. He says that he is very seriously considering a run at the White House in 2016. Seriously! He said he has even put his “Apprentice” TV shtick on hold while he contemplates his decision. In case you forgot…he said the same thing in 2012. Production for the “Apprentice” doesn’t start until May. Look for Trump to bow out then…just like he did two years ago.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina addressed the crowd. She challenged Clinton to “name an accomplishment.” And she drew large applause when she said that Clinton: “doesn’t know the meaning of leadership.” Fiorina is best known for running Hewlett Packard into the ground before taking a $20 million dollar buy out to hit the road.

Sarah Palin is there. Enough said.

The big speech at this year’s CPAC soirĂ©e will be delivered this afternoon by Jeb Bush. But trouble is already brewing. Evidently a movement is afoot by those who see Jeb as “too squishy” a conservative represent the interests of the base. Rumor has it that a large number of the base intend to walk out of the hall when Jeb begins his remarks. To counteract said rumor, pro-Bush forces are busing in Bush supporters to arrive early and fill the seats; thus avoiding the embarrassing videos of Jeb addressing an empty room.

CPAC! It’s going to be a show. Get your popcorn ready!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"No one is watching them for the actual truth."

FOXNEWS host Bill O’Reilly is taking a lot of heat lately for allegedly embellishing his reporting experience during the Falklands War.

According to Mother Jones reporter David Corn, O’Reilly wasn’t within a thousand miles of the shooting. Apparently the military authorities refused to allow correspondents covering the conflict anywhere near the action on the Falkland Islands. Reporters were kept on the mainland and fed canned narrative and pool photos of the daily skirmishes. The New York Times has corroborated the Mother Jones’ account.

Since Mother Jones broke the story O’Reilly has come under fire from other news organizations claiming that he has similarly embellished his reporting in other instances.

FOXNEWS is standing steadfastly behind O’Reilly; issuing a full throated statement of support.

O’Reilly is livid. Lashing out as only the bombastic O’ Reilly can, the cable news giant not only defended his reporting, he literally threatened both Corn and the New York Times reporter for doing their jobs. “If you continue with this I will come after you with everything I’ve got. You can consider that a threat.”

There are any number of ways that a reputable news anchor might respond to such allegations. He might own up to the mistake as Brian Williams recently did; and offer up an apology. Or he might issue a rebuttal offering factual proof of the accuracy of his claims.

But O’Reilly is not a reputable news anchor. He is an entertainer who has spent the better part of his career using misstatements and falsehoods to shred the reputation of those with whom he disagrees. Now he finds himself at the receiving end of the criticism…and he doesn’t like it.

I for one am surprised at all the hub bub over the unveiling of O’Reilly’s half-truths. There is nothing to see here. For as Jon Stewart recently said about FOXNEWS…

“No one’s watching them for the actual truth.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"It ain't over till its over"

It’s a lot harder to govern than it is to obstruct. That is what the newly crowned Republican majority is quickly learning.

Republicans figured that with their sweeping congressional victory in November and a lame duck president in the White House they would have smooth sailing on their journey to dismantle the president’s agenda. Yesterday they ran into troubled waters.

The day started with the president vetoing the bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone pipeline. Conservatives had been pushing for the pipeline since the early days of the Obama administration, but the bill could never get past Senate Democrats. As soon as voters handed Republicans the keys to congress Keystone was one of the first bills to reach the floor. The president had promised to veto any bill authorizing construction until the environmental studies had been completed and assessed. Republicans passed the bill anyway; daring the president to veto a project that would allegedly produce 42,000 temporary construction jobs. The president didn’t blink and quickly threw it back into their laps. Score one for the president.

Things got even worse for conservatives when Mitch McConnell announced that he was throwing Speaker Boehner under the bus on the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. The initial plan was to pass a bill that funded the DHS except for those provisions that implemented the president’s initiatives on immigration reform. The idea was to send the bill to the White House and let the president decide between two bad choices: pass the bill and torpedo his immigration reform efforts or veto the bill and shut down the DHS. But McConnell realized that Republicans would take the brunt of the blame either way and wisely decided to pull the plug. McConnell announced that the Senate would pass two bills: a clean bill to fund the DHS and a separate bill on the president’s immigration initiatives. That puts the burden squarely on the shoulders of Boehner and House Republicans. They can join the Senate and keep the country safe or they can be the dysfunctional gaggle that put partisan politics ahead of national security. Obama leads 2-0.

Add the news that later in the day Republicans conceded to the president on internet neutrality and you have a 3-0 shutout.

This president may be a lame duck but there is little doubt that he intends to go down swinging.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

T-4 and counting!

The civil war within the Republican Party continues. This time it is the nation’s security that is being held hostage.

Republicans are squabbling over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS is responsible for securing the nation’s borders. It is also responsible for implementing the president’s hated executive orders on immigration reform.

Securing the borders…good.

Implementing the president’s executive orders…bad.

Moderate Republicans want to pass a clean DHS funding bill with no strings attached. But the conservative base wants to stick it to the president by blocking his immigration efforts.

What to do…what to do?

The brilliant policy makers in the House decide to craft a bill that would fund the DHS but omit any funding for the president’s immigration reform effort. Never mind that the president would never sign a bill that does not include funding for one of his key initiatives. That’s “ok” say Republican political gurus. “Let the president be the one who shuts down DHS.” After all…politics trumps national security…right?

The House passes the bill.

The bill moves to the Senate. Majority Leader McConnell…who has promised that there will be no shutdown of government services…can’t marshal the votes to pass the bill.

The bill fails.

T-4 days until the DHS runs out of money. T-4 days until 30,000 DHS workers will be furloughed and 200,000 “essential personnel” will be required to report to work without paychecks.

57% of Americans polled say that if the DHS shuts down in will be the Republican’s fault.

Well done.

T-4 and counting!

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Just Had To Write This

I wasn’t planning to write two blog posts today but I just could not let Rudy Giuliani’s embarrassing statement’s go without a comment.

“America’s Mayor” has dominated the past two news cycles thanks to his disparaging comments about the president’s patriotism. I won’t dignify his words by quoting them here. Suffice it to say they were silly and without merit at best and racist if taken at their worst.

This is just another case of a desperate Giuliani doing whatever he can to hang onto a little piece of the national spotlight. Giuliani is yesterday’s news and he’ll do or say almost anything to remain relevant. That usually includes dropping some reference to his 9/11 experience into whatever illogical point he is trying to make. This time he somehow managed to weave a reference to the friends that he had lost on 9/11 into his questioning of the president’s love of country?

As Joe Biden once famously said: “Rudy Giuliani is probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to run for the presidency. His entire campaign is a noun, a verb and 9/11. That’s all he ever talks about.”

If you take 9/11 out of the discussion he is a man of little political substance. If you are looking for comparisons among Republicans think Sarah Palin and Herman Cain…with apologies to Palin and Cain.

I do not know how one measures the degree of a person’s patriotism and love of country. Apparently in Rudy’s world the level of one’s patriotism is measured in correlation to one’s proximity to Ground Zero.

Giuliani may have been a great mayor and an astute politician back in the day. But anyone who has spent the past decade using the tragic death of 3,000 Americans as a political prop is not much of a human being.

The only thing more offensive than Giuliani’s comments about the president is the lack of courage displayed by his fellow Republicans in not calling him out.

US Led War Against ISIS Is A Terrible Mistake

Congress returns to the Hill next week and one of the first things on its agenda will be a debate over the use of military force against ISIS. The president has asked congress to pass a resolution that would formally grant him the authority to use military force (AUMA) against ISIS. Congress is willing. The devil is in the details.

The drumbeat for war against ISIS is growing louder. Incensed by the graphic videos of beheadings and burnings the American people seem ready to re-engage. Recent polling shows a shift in the country’s attitude toward the use of military force with 57% of a once war weary nation now in favor putting boots on the ground. The president, who has consistently said that a military solution does not exist; seems to be changing his mind.

I believe that an American led military assault against ISIS would be a disaster. Here’s why.

The territorial boundaries that currently exist in the Middle East were drawn by colonial occupiers. Colonialism is dead but the subjugation of the masses prevalent in those days continues. Those in power rule with a strong oppressive hand; taking what they will while leaving little for the masses. Those who object are often dealt with in the harshest of terms. Divisions occur. Tribe against tribe…Sunni against Shia. The ruling class may change but oppression and the hatred remains the same.

In many instances the brutal rulers are backed by the United States. Sometimes US support comes in the form of payoffs by the billions. Sometimes support means simply looking the other way. The reasons may be varied but the results are the same. Tribe may hate tribe…Sunni may hate Shia…but they all find common ground in their hatred of The Great Satan...the most powerful colonial occupier in history. The United States support of Israel only serves to add fuel to their hatred.

The Arab Spring signaled a revolt by the masses against their oppressive rulers. It also signaled a revolt against the infidels that allowed the oppressors to remain in power. As the unrest gained momentum a host of militant sects entered the battle. ISIS is the most well organized, well-funded, of these militant groups. They are not the first…and they most certainly will not be the last.

The US cannot play a central role in the war against ISIS. There is no hope of a meaningful permanent solution if the battle is between the Arab world and the colonial infidel…the supporter of tyrants…the protector of the Zionist state. The US can broker deals between Arab nations…send in trainers and forward air support if necessary. But the war against ISIS must be led by the Arab states within the region. Only then is there any hope of victory.

The US has a long history of costly mistakes in the region. Iraq and Afghanistan were destroyed…to what end. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were vanquished…only to have the beast that is ISIS rise up in their place. ISIS can be defeated. But another militant sect will take its place unless a diplomatic solution can be found.

If US policymakers decide to take a central role once again they will drag the country down a long and costly path with no good ending.

If they bring colonialism back to the Middle East…they will own it for a very, very long time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Labels & Legacy

LABELS – The president has been getting a lot of flak lately from both pundits and politicians over his refusal to label ISIS “Islamic Extremists.” The criticism became even more heated after ISIS’ Al-Hayat media released a video titled: “A message signed with blood to the nations of the cross.” The video shows the brutal beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who the ISIS narrator refers to as: “the people of the cross, the followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” The narrator goes on to exclaim: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for…They supplicate what they worship and die upon their paganism…and we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” Clearly this video is intended to send a message to Christians. But does it serve to define ISIS as “Islamic” extremists?

I assumed that the president was going to great lengths to avoid using “ISIS” and “Islam” in the same sentence for fear of offending members of the Muslim community who follow the Koran and abhor the tactics used by ISIS. My assumption was proven correct when the president finally responded to the criticism saying that he doesn’t use terms like “Islamic Extremism” because he believes that: “doing so would promote the false idea of a Western war with Islam.”” No religion is responsible for terrorism” the president said.” People are responsible for violence and terrorism…We are not at war with Islam…We are at war with the people who have perverted Islam…Of course the terrorists do not speak for a billion Muslims who reject their ideology…They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God, represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism.”
Hopefully the president’s statement will end this silly debate. Better to spend our time debating what to do to stop ISIS rather than what to label it.

LEGACY – Jeb Bush gave his first remarks on foreign policy yesterday. In terms of specifics and substance it would be charitable to call his remarks “vague.” But he made one thing very clear; when it comes to foreign policy he will not be drawn in to comparisons with his father or brother. Jeb says that when it comes to dealing with foreign policy and crises abroad: “I am my own man.”
Jeb may be his own man, but as Phillip Bump of “The Fix” reports, prospective candidate has surrounded himself with foreign policy advisors that reads like a who’s who from the years of Bush 41 & 43. James Baker, George Schultz, Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Paul Wolfowitz, John Negroponte, Michael Hayden and Porter Goss to name a few.

Jeb will have a great deal of difficulty distancing himself from his famous, some say infamous, family legacy. That journey becomes even more difficult now that he has cloaked himself with the architects of some of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Business As Usual

You would think that having followed Washington politics for all these years I would be at least somewhat anesthetized to the nonsense that comes out of our nation’s capital. But I must admit that the level of buffoonery exhibited over the past few weeks has exceeded even my expectations.

The president has asked congress to grant him formal authorization to take military action against ISIS. The president has been authorizing bombing raids against ISIS for months; which he claims he is empowered to do under the congressional authorization granted in 2001. So why the need for another resolution?

At the same time an official spokesperson for the Obama state department is appearing on all the news shows saying “We can’t bomb our way out of this war against ISIS. We can’t kill out way out.” So why are we bombing…and why the need for another resolution.

Over the past three years there has been a heated debate over whether or not the US should provide military arms to the pro-Syrian rebels fighting against the Assad regime. The neo-cons argued that the regime was slaughtering thousands of its citizens while the administration stood idyll by. The administration countered that it was reluctant to arm the rebels because it could not clearly identify who they were arming. Intelligence sources said that among those fighting in the rebel camp were factions sympathetic to Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Now the administration has decided to arm the pro-Syrian rebels. Included in the armaments will be the technological capabilities for calling in airstrikes against ISIS. There is still no clear assessment as to the true intentions of those receiving the weapons. And should the rebels call in a US airstrike against Assad’s military forces…it would constitute an act of war. Meanwhile congress dithers over the terms of the questionable war powers authorization.

ISIS is considered by many to be a direct threat to the homeland. ISIS lures disenfranchised US citizens to their training camps in Syria. These individuals are radicalized and trained and then sent back to the US to terrorize and kill US citizens. The agency responsible for protecting the homeland against such threats is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS is also the agency responsible for executing the president’s executive orders on immigration.

The Republican led congress is opposed to the president’s immigration efforts. So rather than fund the DHS in a stand-alone bill they have passed an appropriations bill that strips out any funding for the president’s immigration orders…even though those orders include beefing up border security to protect against radicalized ISIS operators coming to our shores.

Now the bill goes to the senate. Senate Democrats don’t want to pass it because they don’t want to set the precedent of allowing appropriations to govern policy. Republicans are forcing the issue because they don’t want to see their newly elected majority position undermined by the Democratic minority.
Both parties want DHS to be funded. Sadly this has become more an issue of procedure than policy.

While congress is engaged in this partisan debate a federal court judge has ordered a stay on the president’s immigration reform initiatives. The Obama administration says it will appeal. So in all likelihood congress will pass some sort of short term funding measure for the DHS and kick the can down the road until the courts have resolved the legal issues. Meanwhile 5 million undocumented immigrants return to the shadows fearful of having their families torn apart and ISIS sends more and more terrorists to our shores.

Business as usual.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Playing With Peoples' Lives

Tomorrow tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants were expected to apply for work permits and protection from deportation under the president’s expansion if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) law. But last night a Texas federal judge temporarily blocked the president’s executive actions; returning an estimated 4.3 million undocumented immigrants to the shadows.

“No law gave the administration the power to give 4.3 removable aliens what the Department of Homeland Security itself labels as legal presence” said US District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Brownsville, Texas. “In fact the law mandates that these illegally present individuals be removed.”

The Obama administration released a statement arguing the executive orders were within the president’s legal authority and that both the Supreme Court and Congress have said that federal officials can legally set priorities in enforcing immigration laws.

The Justice department will appeal. Meanwhile the lives of 4-5 million undocumented individuals are left in limbo.

There is no one in elected office that believes that this country is going to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and dump them back on the other side of the fence. Even the most wacked out, right wing conservative politician understands that to vote in favor of such a resolution would mark the end of their political career.

These are not “removable aliens.” They are people; many brought here as children through no fault of their own. Many more, parents of children born here in this country. They are hardworking individuals who have lived within then law and offered a positive contribution to our society. They are not going away…their circumstances must be addressed.

This country has needed a comprehensive immigration reform bill for decades. But rather than meet a difficult subject head on congress wastes time and money passing ridiculous bills that have no prayer of ever becoming law; such as the 67th vote to repeal Obamacare and the 5 anti-abortion bills passed in January. People suffer while congress plays its political games.

Yet another example of what happens when political ideology runs head long into reality.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Do you see the logic in any of this?

See if you can find the logic in this…

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will run out of money on February 27. The DHS is responsible for…providing security for the homeland. Chief among its responsibilities is securing the nation’s borders against illegal or unwanted intruders.
The Republican Party is all about border security. They view illegal intruders in the same vein as canker sores and cancerous tumors. In the eyes of the Republican Party no wall is high enough, no moat wide enough, no electric fence strong enough to adequately protect us from the illegal disease carrying Mexicans and the rabid Muslim crazies who want to infiltrate our country and destroy our idyllic way of life.

The Republican controlled congress is responsible for providing the DHS with the funds necessary to secure the borders. But the Republican controlled congress is refusing to fund the DHS because the DHS is responsible for implementing the president’s recent executive orders on immigration. One of the chief components in the president’s “imperialist” executive order is a “beefing up” of border security. No matter! The Republican controlled congress does not have the authority to overturn the president’s executive orders on immigration but it does have the power to refuse to fund them.
So the security conscious Republican controlled congress is refusing to fund the president’s executive orders and in so doing refusing to provide the DHS with the funds necessary to properly secure the borders against illegal or unwanted intruders.

Are you following me so far?

At the same time the security conscious Republican controlled congress is refusing to fund the department that is responsible for securing the homeland, they are engaged in a contentious debate over the president’s rather tardy request to grant him the congressional authorization to implement the already implemented military operations against ISIS.
The Republican controlled Congress believes that ISIS represents a threat to our national security; and as previously mentioned they are all about our nation’s security. They are also sticklers about adherence to the tenants of the constitution…or so they say. You would expect them to be all over this. Yet they have allowed this president to engage in military operations in a host of foreign countries without a constitutional peep. They have failed to give him the requisite legal backing he needs to fulfill his number one duty as president; protecting the country against all enemies foreign and domestic. And now they are engaged in a debate over whether to authorize actions that have already been taken; a debate they would not consider until after their next term in office was safely secured.

Do you see the logic in any of this?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This Stuff Makes My Head Hurt

We often hear politicians and pundits comment o the brilliance of our nation’s founders regarding the manner in which they constructed our method of governance. But if you have watched the process over the last six years you have to wonder if the founders knew what in the hell they were doing.

Yesterday the House passed the final authorization for the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. The vote clears the way for the authorization to head to the president’s desk where it will be vetoed. For six years Washington has wasted taxpayer’s money debating a bill that Republicans doggedly said they would pass and the president consistently promised to veto. Six years of political grandstanding and no one in the room thought to offer the other side a compromise that might move the discussion forward? That’s not governance. That’s politics at its worst.

While congress was passing a Keystone Pipeline bill that is dead on arrival the White House was sending congress a request to formally authorize military force against ISIS. The request limits the authorization to three years. It does not offer any restrictions as to where such military force may be executed. It does not ask for specific authorization to use US ground forces in the pursuit of ISIS but it does not preclude their involvement either. Instead the request bans “enduring offensive combat operations.” I don’t know what that means.

The president has been conducting bombing strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq since September 22, 2014. He said that he was authorized to do so under the terms of the Iraq War Resolution passed by congress on October 16, 2002. The president has expanded those bombing strikes to include ISIS targets in Syria. Syria is not Iraq; but why sweat the details. After all he expanded the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan by conducting drone attacks against Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen. Now we have the president is asking congress to pass a resolution that is far more restrictive in scope than the 2002 resolution under which he claims to have the authority to conduct his expansive operations?

And congress sits idly by! The president grants temporary amnesty to undocumented workers brought into this country illegally as children through no fault of their own and he is labeled an “imperialist president who should be impeached for violating the constitution.” But his decision to expand US military operations into additional foreign countries without prior congressional authorization is met with dumb silence. As I have previously written congress wants no part of another war resolution. War votes can kill political careers. Which is the only reason the president is forcing the issue now. He’s run his last political race and he wants congress on the record. Now that the November elections are over congress is a bit more willing to weigh in. Once again we have politics trumping governance. In my mind playing politics with national security is unconscionable.

This stuff makes my head hurt.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Punch In The Gut

As a person who follows the news last night’s seemingly simultaneous announcements of Brian William’s suspension and Jon Stewart’s retirement served as a mammoth punch in the gut.

Williams was suspended for six months without pay for misrepresenting the details of his time in Iraq in 2003. William’s had acknowledged full responsibility for his mistakes and placed himself on suspension. But NBCNEWS executives decided that the informality of that personal action was insufficient and made the decision to take a more formal path.

Williams served as NBC’s news anchor for ten years. His broadcast consistently ranked #1 in broadcast news. He was funny, engaging and for me the type of person with whom I could relate. My surprise at his lengthy suspension is only exceeded by my disdain for the mean spirited and almost gleeful response from his detractors. Six months is a long time; so long that I doubt seriously that Williams will return. I hope that this incident will prove to be but one chapter in a long and successful career.

Jon Stewart’s decision to step down as host of The Daily Show is a blow to American pop culture. For seventeen years Stewart used his curiosity, intellect and biting wit to expose the hypocrisy that resides at the very core of American politics and media. His brilliance cannot be overstated. If I could emulate one person in my reporting current events it would be Jon Stewart.

Some wonder why Stewart chose this particular time to make his announcement. His contract doesn’t expire until late in the year. Stewart and Williams, both Jersey boys, are good friends. There is an unconfirmed rumor that Stewart moved up his announcement to take the heat off Williams.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama

Are you old enough to remember the ugliness of Selma, Alabama? Do you remember Alabama Governor George Wallace blocking the school house door?

If you are not old enough to recall these pivotal moments in American history fear not because thanks to the Great State of Alabama you now have the opportunity to relive some of the worst moments in American history. Once again Alabama is taking center stage in the fight against equality for all Americans.

On Monday the United States Supreme Court denied the state of Alabama’s request to prohibit same sex marriage while the state appealed a federal judge’s ruling that allowed such unions to occur.

Case closed…right? If you know anything about the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI; Clause 2) you know that whenever there is a conflict between state and federal laws the federal law trumps state.

Apparently they do not teach the Supremacy Clause in Alabama law schools. Or perhaps Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was absent that day. You see Justice Moore responded to the Supreme Court’s decision by sending a letter to all county judges informing them that the Supreme Court’s ruling was not binding on state courts. As a result 44 of the state’s 67 counties have said they will not issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian applicants.

Judge Moore’s statement is blatantly false. But in reality it comes down to enforcement. For example, Colorado recently passed a law legalizing the sale and purchase or marijuana. The law violates federal statutes. Thus far the federal government has elected not to swoop in and enforce the federal statute. Judge Moore is banking that the federal government will take the same stance when it comes to gay marriage in his home state. Ignore the federal law until the federal government steps in to enforce it.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the legality of same sex marriage sometime in June. It is expected that the court will favor of same sex unions making it the law of the land. Until that time Judge Moore will in all likelihood get his way.

This is yet another example of the hypocrisy that rises to the surface whenever right wing ideology meets reality. The far right rails against government interfering in our lives. Yet here we have a state Supreme Court judge denying a group of American citizen’s equal protection under the law. Hard working, taxpaying legal citizens barred from exercising their legal rights because of some deep ceded bigotry born in the stone ages. It is the same ideological bigotry that showed its true self in the streets of Selma and Birmingham in the 1960’s.

So if you are too young to understand the true ugliness of racism and the demoralizing affects that it can have on a society; keep your eye on this story and watch as history repeats itself in the Great State of Alabama.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Does anyone have a problem with that...

The United States is currently conducting military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen. It is clear that within the next few months we will be sending arms and munitions to Jordan and Ukraine. Along with the weaponry will be “military advisors” who will train the Jordanians and Ukrainians in the proper deployment and usage of those arms. If you are a student of American military history you know what usually happens soon after the “advisors” arrive. And let us not forget the ongoing debate over whether we should engage Iran by destroying its nuclear facilities. Israel may very well make that decision for us.

By my count that makes eight countries where the United States is either actively engaged or contemplating some sort of aggressive military intervention. And by engaging in the Ukraine the United States would in affect be waging a proxy war against Russia.

Eight countries…

…plus Russia

Does anyone have a problem with that?

And just for the sake of conversation…does anyone have a problem with the fact that with the exception of Afghanistan and Iraq congress has yet to authorize the president to conduct any of these military engagements? In point of fact congress has done everything in its power to avoid addressing these issues. They would much prefer to allow the president to walk this path alone. What better way to avoid taking a politically risky, possibly career ending war vote, than to ignore the whole thing altogether. Better to deflect buy focusing the country’s attention on the president’s “blatantly unconstitutional executive orders.”

Does anyone have a problem with that…

…or is it just me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tipping Points?

During the past 24 hours we have witnessed two events that may significantly alter both our domestic and foreign policy.

Yesterday the House passed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Normally this would not raise an eyebrow as this marked the 67th time in the past 6 years the House had taken up a vote to repeal the president’s signature piece of legislation. The bill will now go to the Senate where the 66 previous bills failed to reach the Senate floor. However this time the House bill won’t find Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid blocking the Senate door. Republicans now control the Senate and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will most certainly allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote where there is the very real possibility that the bill could pass. The president will veto the bill undoubtedly saying that he will not take insurance coverage away from the 9.5 million Americans who have signed up under the ACA. Republicans will then attempt to muster the votes to overturn the veto. They may succeed. Regardless of whether they succeed or fail what is certain to follow are a series of bills designed to dismantle the president’s agenda…all of which the president will veto. This entire process may seem like a complete waste of taxpayer’s money. In reality it is designed by Republicans to accomplish one thing; which is to transfer the mantle of the “Party of No” onto the president and his Democratic party. To show with clarity that it is the president that is standing in the way of progress. It is the president that is defying the will of the people and their elected representatives. Republicans intend to ride this message all the way to the 2016 elections where they hope to win control of both congress and the White House. Should this all come to pass we may look back at yesterday’s vote on the ACA as a tipping point in American politics.

The other significant event that occurred is the horrific torching of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS. The event has sparked an explosion of outrage throughout the Islamic community. The burning of the pilot is particularly offensive to the Muslim world because cremation is specifically forbidden in the teachings of the Koran. Protests against ISIS have erupted throughout the Middle East. Jordanians had previously been critical of their government’s participation in the war against ISIS. Jordan has been overwhelmed with Syrian refugees fleeing the ISIS rampage. The Jordanian government has called on the US and its coalition partners for help but it has received little assistance. Locals took to the streets in protest. They saw no purpose in helping a coalition that they perceived offered nothing in return. But the mood shifted after the brutal murder of the Jordanian pilot. Crowds in the streets now call out in support of the government; urging it to take revenge against ISIS. The Jordanian government responded by quickly executing two Jihadists who had been convicted of terrorism. King Abdullah, who happened to be in Washington visiting the president when ISIS released the video of the murder, asked President Obama for arms and munitions “so we can take the fight to ISIS. He has promised publically to avenge the pilot’s murder. Since ISIS made its appearance on the world stage it has been desperate to draw attention to itself. The bombings in western cities…the beheading of western journalists and aid workers…all done to antagonize the west…to draw the west into a holy war…to generate a response from the west in order to gain credibility and attract others to their cause. But now ISIS has attacked the Muslim world; attacked it in a way that violates the very tenants of the Koran that ISIS purports to defend. Killing infidels is one thing. Killing Muslims, particularly in such an offensive manner, has galvanized the Muslim community. Will this one senseless act of murder prove to be a tipping point in the war on terror?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The President's Wish List

Many of us remember as kids scribbling out a Christmas wish list for Santa Claus. We filled it with all sorts of goodies and waited with great anticipation for Christmas morning to see if the jolly old guy had granted our wishes.

Today President Obama will unveil his wish list in the form of a $4 trillion dollar budget that calls for higher taxes and a 7% increase over sequestration spending limits. Unlike the rest of us he won’t have to wait for Christmas morning to see if he got everything he wanted. Republicans in congress have already responded with a big “bah humbug!”

The president is calling for a massive $4 trillion dollar budget that includes tax credits for child care, paid sick leave, two years of free tuition for community college and a comprehensive infrastructure program. The president proposes to pay for these goodies by closing tax loopholes that allow companies to shelter profits overseas and levying a 19% tax on all foreign profits as they are earned. The good news is the president’s budget does not add to our country’s staggering $18 trillion dollar debt. The bad news is it does nothing to answer conservative calls to reduce it.

Congressional Republicans have already said that anything from the White House that even sniffs at a tax increase is a non-starter. They argue that tax hikes, particularly those on small businesses and corporations will hinder economic growth; and that any new spending programs that aren’t paid for with offsetting spending cuts will only add more debt burden on future generations. The way to go about this they say is to roll back restrictive policies and regulations that hamper corporate growth. Free corporations from the shackles of Obama’s restrictive policies and the profits will flow down to the middle class in the form of job growth and higher wages.

The president’s policies are good for the middle class. But somehow he has to find a way to pay for them without playing the “income distribution” card that offends conservatives to their core.

Conservatives need to get over their fantasy that corporate profits trickle down to the middle class. Corporations profited from a decade of the Bush tax cuts while the country hemorrhaged jobs at a rate of 700,000/month. Even though the Bush tax cuts are gone corporations have continued to produce record profits under the president’s “restrictive policies.” But those profits have not trickled down to the middle class. Middle class wages have remained stagnant for over thirty years and corporate profits are more likely to be invested overseas or sheltered in off shore tax havens.

Once again Washington finds itself at an impasse.

The president has his wish list. I doubt many of his wishes will be granted.