Tag Archives: Elections

Republican Response

My own party sickens me with their response to the President’s State of the Union Address.  It appears that the Republicans continue their decade-long trend of a lack of vision and foresight and maintain the quasi-religious belief that all government action is bad.  While there are many failed policies, there is a time for rationality.

  • It does not make sense that healthcare is linked to your place of employment.
  • It does not make sense that we can fund foreign wars with over a trillion dollars while we let our own infrastructure decay and our schools turn to rot with a lack of funding.  Afghanistan was a just war, but Iraq was not.  However now future generations are stuck footing the multi-trillion dollar bill.
  • It does not make sense for the rich (defined here as $250k a year or more in annual income) to pay less money to support the very system that allowed them to become rich.
  • It is the Republican party that is dividing this country by engaging in class warfare – supporting the rich while the middle class and poor fail.  Otherwise why would they have blocked a tax cut extension (until the last minute) for millions of Americans while marching like lemmings to continue cutting taxes for the wealthy.
  • It is the Republican party that continues towards a self-fulling prophecy of cutting government services so that government fails.
  • It is not the wealthy who are job creators.  It is the middle class and the poor. This is simple math.  A human only needs to eat so much food, own so many cars, own so many houses.  With a fraction of the wealth distributed more evenly (so the US doesn’t have wealth disparity along the lines of most south American dictatorships), job creation would boom.  Go ask any millionare how much they spend on groceries a week against someone in the middle class.  It’d probably be about the same.  Guess how many middle class families you  could have for ~$1 million a year?  Let’s be generous and say 4.  That’s FOUR TIMES as much consumption.
  • It is the Republicans who advocate for more foreign energy imports (Hello Keystone XL, ITS IN CANADA) through their continued denial of climate change science and continue to promote monarchies and strong-men across the globe rather than fostering policies that encourage democracy.
  • It was the deregulation in California that caused the energy crisis, and it was deregulation of banks that caused the housing bubble.
  • It is the Republicans who claim to be for small government while advocating for invasive policies into individual liberties.  Heaven forbid someone should have the inherent right to control their own body (birth control, abortion, ability to end your life when it is the correct time), or marry whom they please.  They push their conservative religious agenda on everyone while complaining about how there isn’t enough protection for religious freedom.

My party needs to get off of it’s high horse and come to terms with the world we live in.  Not some fantasy dream land.  Bring me a candidate who applies reason and logic to policies, with a true view of small government and I will consider them.  The Enlightenment was one of the greatest occurrences in the West, but the Republicans turn their backs to reason.  Until they come to see reason again, I will continue to vote for the Democrats, who at least seem to get one thing right: basic human rights and the ability to pursue happiness without religious persecution.

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So called “Pledge to America”…

… and why no one who advocates for smaller government should fall for it.

Today the House Republicans issued their so-called “Pledge for America“.  It is merely another source of worthless pandering from a party that likes to think it still has some shred of fiscal conservatism left to it.

In the first page, it manages to raise the specter of tyranny, creates ghosts of “an unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary” which have “combined to thwart the will of the people”.  So let me get this straight: President Obama has managed to pass every bit of legislature he wanted to, there have been no filibusters in the Senate, and the CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roberts is overreaching? (Okay, I’ll agree to this last point, but not as something that is leaning in the direction the House Republicans who drafted this document would want you to believe.)

For all the fact that the document raises these issues, it is worthwhile to note that I have heard tell that about the only thing the Founding Fathers feared as much as tyranny was the uneducated masses, and some probably would have sided with tyranny.

Assorted pledges take up the bottom half of the first page and roll on the second.  However, when looking at the track record of unethical “family-values” behavior (how many sex scandals do you need?), lack of transparency (how many millions were “misplaced” or “lost track of” under President Bush and the Republicans?), and honest in its dealings (again, how many WMD did we find in Iraq?), this document is nothing more than wool that is being pulled over people’s eyes.

It talks about “job killing tax hikes”, yet taxes were higher under Reagan and Clinton (and boy were those Clinton years good economically).  It offers vague platitudes about stopping “out-of-control spending” when the Republican record on massive growth of government (don’t forget the military budget folks) actually has changed, almost flipped, over the last few decades.  I haven’t vetted this source, but I’d recommend checking it out (also check here).

It talks about the horrors of government run health care: Fine, be honest, get out there and start talking about repealing Medicare and Medicade.  That same crappy government run health care that had conservative protesters out on the street telling the government to not take it away.  That is the will of the people.

The “tax hikes” that are coming are an end is the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts that were deceivingly set to end after 10-years, so that their impacts wouldn’t need to be analyzed and the impacts to debt shown.  While the GOP focuses often on GDP, I agree with many that a better measure is median and mean average income.  This Times article is quite informational on the topic, and the charts here on State of the USA also paint a picture that the GOP doesn’t like to bring up.  Yes, the USA as a whole has increased GDP quite drastically.  However, for the average person, you were better off, substantially, a decade ago (before the tax cuts) than you are today.

The most infuriating issue with the “Pledge” is that it has few to no concrete details about what programs will be cut.  It talks suddenly about the need for fiscal constraint, during a recession, after 8 years of reckless spending.  It talks about how much we are spending on the paying debt for the US having more in debts than in income.  Yet, when one looks at a chart on US debt, such as this one on Wikipedia, there is a decided trend.  President Regan enters office… debt skyrockets, dips in the latter Clinton years, and then explodes under Bush.  But maybe this is why the “Pledge” likes to couch things in terms of “non-security” discretionary spending.  Maybe it is because of the amount of money (ignoring the literal human cost) poured into Iraq (a war we didn’t need to go into), to the tune of, about $750 billion in roughly the last 8 years.  That’s money that’s not going towards better roads, better education or health care.  Money not going towards the American people that the disingenuous Republican party leadership would have you ignore in the accounting.

All of these falsehoods, burying of true costs, yet the document at the beginning would have you believe it was going to be more transparent.  It’s another pack of lies that the Party leadership would have us believe.  Instead they should come clean and support PRECISE programs they would cut and their impacts.  Otherwise it’s nothing but more hot air.

Franken Amendment, Republican Strategy, and the Failure of Governance

Earlier this week I posted an article from a guest author to my blog.  Since reading her post and doing some additional research, the issue has come to disgust me even more.  As I posted in a comment to her article, Politico stated that the Republicans had a strategic error in allowing the vote to go for a Roll Call rather than a voice vote.  I think this error is a blessing, for it lets the public know where elected representatives really stand.

The text of Senator Franken’s Amendment is as follows:

  • Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.
  • (b) The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply with respect to employment contracts that may not be enforced in a court of the United States.”

In interviews I have watched, those who voted against the Amendment (Franken Amdt. No. 2588), seem to be under the misguided idea that they have no responsibility to change the actions of Halliburton / KBR, or any other Government Contractor.  I have italicised Government contractor because of the first word – Government.  This means that our government, with our tax money, has selected these companies.  It means that they are beholden to the citizens of the US for their actions.  For any elected representative to state otherwise is absolutely ridiculous. 

In most business, I always like to ask myself the question, “How would you feel if it was yourself/family member/neighbor in this situation.”  I can guarantee you, that if it was the representative’s daughter who was gang raped, that there would be a witch hunt going on.  Instead, what we have, is the revealing of what these representatives really feel about the appropriate actions the government and its hired help should take towards your daughter, sister, wife, or neighbor. 

In the uproar’s aftermath, the great responses included such fallacy as this: ““This would be a major, fundamental change in U.S. labor law and I believe it would be very detrimental to employees to eliminate arbitration as an option,” Isakson said.”  (The Sun News)    I’ll convert this statement by Senator Isakson to english for the rest of us: “Allowing rape by US contractors is fine.” 

Before my anger at these Senators overrides the rest of my good judgement and I go overboard, I’ll present the good names, and states, of those who oppose allowing American citizens the chance to have their day in court against companies, funded by the US government, that allow these practices to go on:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

I have bolded Senator McCain’s name here for a specific reason.  He is one of the members of Congress that I used to respect the most.  However, I believe the Maverick has lost his steam, his drive, and his innate, fundamental sense of what is right and wrong.  Not only did he oppose Franken’s amendment, last year he also voted against the torture ban

My only question really at this point for the Republican Party is this – WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Obama, Nobel Peace Prize, and Right-wing pundit lunacy

I woke up this morning, and during my usual cycle of reading the news, stumbled across the fact that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.  My first thought was “that’s quick” followed by, “boy, the right-wing pundits are going to go crazy.”  And certainly they have.

Tommy Seno, of JustifiedRight.com, does a wonderful job of creating worthless hyperbole and false hype.  As much as he likes to claim that the award was given for his first twelve days in office, the editorial note on Fox News states: “invitation letters are sent out in September” – by this point in time, Obama was the Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, and the first major African-American contender with a solid shot at the presidency.  February 1st is merely the deadline to submit nominations.  The rest of the shortlisting process and analysis of candidates takes place until October. 

Rush Limbaugh in particular steps way out of line:  “The Nobel gang just suicide bombed themselves. Gore, Carter, Obama, soon Bill Clinton. See a pattern here? They are all leftist sell-outs. George Bush liberates 50 million Muslims in Iraq, Reagan liberates hundreds of millions of Europeans and saves parts of Latin America. Any awards?”  What Rush fails to understand is that the Nobel Peace Prize is for PEACE.  Not war.  Reagan liberated because his arms buildups helped finally bankrupt the Soviet Union.  President Bush, perhaps in time, might do deeds worth a Nobel Peace Prize.  We’ll see.  However, he engaged in war to liberate.  An unjust war in the case of Iraq.  I note that Rush does not invoke Afghanistan in this case, where just war was undertaken.  Perhaps because of the long litany of failures there and the sideshow in Iraq is the reason why.

Now, about that Nobel Peace Prize.  “As described in Nobel’s will, one part was dedicated to ‘the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses’.”  (Facts on the Nobel Peace PrizeObama was awarded the prize “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.  I agree that he has taken steps towards this, but I am generally inclined to agree with those who believe that the award is premature. 

Why is it premature?  There has been little delivery to date.  If or when that changes, I will feel more comfortable with the decision, until then, it is likely to be a point of controversy domestically within the States, and perhaps abroad.

However, as I think of the potential positive impacts that arise from having a Nobel Laureate, they are many.  First, it carries a great deal of weight internationally (and should nationally as well, North America has had 19 Nobel Laureates for the Peace Prize) which will only boost US stature by having a sitting President who has earned the award.  Second, it may inspire many domestically and internationally to strive for higher odds.  For the first time in decades (the last was Woodrow Wilson in 1912 – 1921), a Peace Prize winner is sitting in office.  Third, it brings an additonal level of prestige to the White House.  It might give America’s allies added succor to know that a Nobel Laureate is on their side.  It is certain that it brings our enemies distress:” ‘We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan,’ Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP. ‘We condemn the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Obama,’ he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.” 

Mujahid’s statement sounds familiar.. oh wait.. just like Glenn Beck.

US will in Afghanistan

There is a series of responses in yesterday’s New York Times titled: Is It Time to Negotiate With the Taliban? I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a quick and dirty overview on what is going on politically.

In all, I find both Mr. Jalali’s and Mr. Ross’ stances the most tenable.  There is a faction of the Taliban that are going to be more moderate, and them we must sway to our side.  There is the other portion, the fanatics, who there is only one solution for: to hunt them down.  These are the same people who destroyed the ancient Bhuddist statues, would repress women’s rights, and gave shelter and succour to Osama bin Laden.  They have aided the Al-Qaeda.

However, in order to win over the moderates, and the rest of the Afghani population, we need to focus on the economic situation.  In order to win the broad war, we must destroy the opium trade by creating mechanisms where the farmers can grow more useful crops.  This will help undercut the financial support flowing to the Taliban.  We must also help cut funding to the radical madrassas on the Pakistani border.  And we must slowly help the Afghani people develop trust in government.

In part, Afghanistan has the battles it has faced since the Soviet invasion in the 70’s due to US aid.  There is also the sheer diverse nature of the country, which to a certain extent would defy the borders placed in the region.  I do not know if Afghanistan will ever be able to form a strong central government.  If anything, it will probably end up a loose federal state with strong tribal authority.  Much like my suspicions over Iraq, except a much looser organization with even more divergent groups.

This being said, I do think that General McChrystal is on the right track.  Economic development to help win hearts and minds.  Its been the missing ingredient from the US-Afghanistan equation since the road from Kandahar to Kabul was completed, shortening travel time to a day (even if a long one) for the first time.  More roads, linking the cities so trade can develop, and a stronger economy is the surest way to start building broader support so that moderate Afghanis can win, for themselves, and for Afghanistan.

Afghani elections

Mullen Issues Caution on Afghanistan

Wading into the “Safe Haven” Debate

Karzai, Abdullah Teams Both Expect Election Win

Hamid Karzai accused by rival candidate of rigging Afghanistan election

As the titles above indicate, Afghanistan is once again all over the headlines.  This time for the elections recently held.  Accounts of fraud are being bandied about, although observers expected some level of fraud, but nothing that should drastically change the election results.  There have been some calls that Afghanistan should have been re-founded as a constitutional monarchy under the old King of Afghanistan. These concerns, aside from fraud, strike me as largely immaterial.

What is far more concerning is the resurgence of the Taliban, as well as the current government’s pandering towards hard-line conservative elements.  Issues such as starving wives who do not give their husbands sex, closure or attack on secular schools, and the lack of stability are all key problems facing Afghanistan.  The sheer fact that elections have been held throughout the country, however, is a major milestone.

The American military is paying in lives and blood, as are the American taxpayers.  Similarly, the Afghans have been paying this price.   Going on three decades now.  It is not the time for us to grow faint, even as Robin’s article (2nd link at top) points to a poll showing the majority of Americans support withdrawing from Afghanistan.  The chief problem I see to letting instability settle into Afghanistan is the domino effect it will have on the region.  Pakistan has already witnessed this through the increased attacks and unsettled northwestern borders.  Militants from there have been involved with violence in the Kashmir region, and elsewhere where al-Qaeda and its related organizations exist.

If, however, Afghanistan is made strong, most likely as a federation of states with a weak central government, it could very well serve to stabilize the border with Pakistan, and allow the country to focus its efforts more specifically in the troubled border regions.  I do not mean this as an answer to all of America’s problems in the region, but Afghanistan is definitely a problem we helped create, and we need to help the citizens of Afghanistan develop their government and institutions so that moderates have a chance for success in the country.

Wading into the Health Care Debate

Dear readers,

First, I wish to apologize for not posting for some days now.  Work has been busy, with a major project last week, followed by a brief but very pleasant vacation in Connecticut.  However, I am now returning with a post that I am sure many will find interesting, and at the least, thought provoking.  Health care.

~Nat

Government run health care is something one would think was bringing about the death of American civilization.  I can just see the hammer and sickle flying on a red background above the Capitol, and Russian music blaring on loudspeakers, patriotic themes about the Motherland blaring across from Sea to Shining Sea.  Or so the detractors of a US Government  health care plan would lead you to believe.

Other sensationalists include: the erudite and well-informed Sarah Palin (who also brought us the fact unknown to basically the entirety of the world, not to mention anyone who sailed the northern most reaches of the Pacific in say… the last… oh ~300 years or so at least, that she could see the Russians from her window), and Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota who seemingly would like to bring back the good ol’ days of McCarthyism to people she considers to be “anti-American”. (I would also like to note that, in her blog, she also states that “we know that cap-and-trade is an absolutely disastrous economic policy” something I will disagree with since we simply do not know that as fact.  Europe has carbon taxes as their economic foundation hasn’t crumbled.  Also, see my earlier blog article here.)

Personally, I reserve the term “anti-American” for people like Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong-Il, and the like.  But that makes things too easy I’d think.

Now, detractors of a Federal Plan, would have you think the above.  They probably enjoy talking about how it will lead to higher costs, killing off grandma, the weak, and allowing abortions to run rampant.  However, not one of them has led to actual reform to a) lower costs, b) improve the quality of health care, c) actually come up with a decent alternative proposal that would improve the system.  I have not gone through the plan line by line, but what it does seem to offer to me, is something wonderfully free-market: provides a choice.

Amazingly enough, however, those who would benefit the most, are those who seem to be complaining about Congresses attempts the most.  I will not get into the distributional politics overly much, however, it has been documented in California, that most tax money per capita comes from the Democratic leaning costal areas and then flows inland into the Republican leaning areas, in vast amounts (PDF diagram).  Just turn the system into a you get the money you pay in, and have done with it.  Let the distribution take care of itself.

Returning now to health care specifically.  What we need is a focused program, de-linking health care from the employer to the individual.  This would even the playing field.  Secondly, enrollment in healthcare must be mandatory.  This broadens the base, and will help keep costs down.  Lets face it, as a healthy 20-something, I have been to the hospital only a handful of times in the last decade, and mostly for routine-checkups, or for problems I have had with my knee.  Not for anything more serious than wisdom-tooth extraction.  I have generally had the good fortune to be employed by organizations that provided good health insurance.  However, if I had not had good insurance, the problems might have lingered (such as my injured knee), requiring expensive surgery rather than less-expensive physical therapy.

A platter of choices, based on region, is the way to go.  For example, there is GEHA, and there is the FEHB, both of which… you guessed it, provide choices.  Even former Gov. Palin, in 2007 created a panel to: “develop a statewide plan which will identify short-term and long-term strategies to effectively address issues of access to, and cost and quality of health care for Alaskans.”

Once I have a chance to wade through the proposed legislation myself, I will write a follow up article.  However, I would like to remind everyone of one major fact when it comes to health care.  The Federal Government, under Republican intervention weighed in on the private, personal matter of letting a woman long on life support be let to peacefully die: her name was Terri Shiavo.  Instead, it was dragged through the court system repeatedly, with Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature requiring the re-insertion of a feeding tube.  Led by the Republican Party, and Pres. Bush, the feds quickly became involved.  Ultimately she was allowed to die.

I offer this as a cautionary tale, since the same party is now most vigorously opposing health care reform.  It makes me wonder what all is at stake financially for those now involved.  Probably a lot of money.  As anyone without medical insurance can tell you, the bills sure do add up quickly.