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Monday, December 17, 2012

Gun laws, of course, but what else?

“We can’t tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.”
- President Barack Obama, Sunday night, addressing participants at a prayer vigil for the 26 teachers and students, murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Friday
There is no snow on the mid-December ground in Newtown, Connecticut, to hide the furry ears of teddy bears, the bundles of flowers, the mounting piles of notes and photos, mourning the dead children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary, beneath a quiet pile of white. Instead, the cold ground, in the small New England town, under tears and rain, lays its sadness bare. The national empathy is loud and palpable, through sad news reports, police press conferences, brave family statements, and the president’s words of comfort to a community devastated over its loss of innocence, and innocents.
President Obama addresses prayer vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday, December 16, 2012. (From Whitehouse.gov video)
President Obama addresses prayer vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday, December 16, 2012.
(From Whitehouse.gov video)
“Are we really prepared,” President Obama asked, at Sunday’s vigil, “to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?  Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
“I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens,” he promised, “in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
He said he would gather those who can help with the issue of mass killings at the hands of deranged minds, including parents, teachers and mental health professionals. But in this inexplicable tragedy, we are all stakeholders. We are all engaged. We are all responsible. We cannot only rely on whatever politically expedient solution the leaders of our country come up with, and call it done.
But what else do we do?
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Throwing stones at Goliath – the frustrating fight for the states

Lest you thought you could stop and revel in the leaf turning another few degrees leftward through the political arc, with November victories muting many of the worst DC ogres and trolls in their teabag hats, December comes with its season of deception, and reminds us all that the fight for a progressive America is not just what happens in a room with the president, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader. We were all so busy admiring our woodcarving handiwork, we’ve forgotten that this is a country full of Tea Party termites, happy to lull us into a sense of accomplishment for what our efforts presented to the world, while state by state, they chew at the infrastructure of community interdependence that built our nation. If we are not more vigilant, we will be staring at a husk that turns to dust when flicked by an American flag rat tail, wielded by an uninformed, ignorant electorate.
What happened the past five days in the great state of Michigan is neither the opening salvo of our battle against our big-money foe, nor is it the last arrow in their quiver. It was exactly two years ago this week, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), fresh off his election, announced he was going to seek to curtail collective bargaining for the public sector unions in the Badger State. Neither unions nor AWOL state senators were able to stop the Koch brothers’ acolyte, Walker. The support from Democrats, on the national level, was almost non-existent, as the unions sought to punish Walker for his about face, with a failed recall election.
What these two similar events demonstrate is that the sleeping giant of conservatism lives in the state legislatures...
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michigan attempt to stifle labor puts politics ahead of people

English: Rick Snyder, 48th Governor of Michiga...
Rick Snyder, 48th Governor of Michigan,
takes the oath of office the Capitol, in Lansing,
at his inauguration.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Obama, Monday, drew a parallel between the divisive politics of the federal budget's so-called fiscal cliff, and the politics of the Michigan governor's fight against unions. "These so-called 'right to work' laws, they don't have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics," he told a crowd of supporters at the new Daimler diesel plant, in Redford, Michigan, at a previously scheduled stop to push his call for a tax rate increase for top earners.

Saying the unions that thrived in the cradle of the American automotive industry "have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America," Obama called the actions of Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan state legislature to remove rules regarding union membership in union shops, a politically vindictive choice rather than necessary legislation. He then used the familiar language of frustration, unmistakably similar to that used in the budget debate in Washington, DC. "[W]e’ve got to get past this whole situation where we manufacture crises because of politics," he said.

Both these events - the fiscal cliff created by Congress' stubborn ineptitude and the unexpected turnabout of Michigan's Snyder on the unions who supported his election - the president went on to say, are attacks on the health of the American middle class...
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Republicans shameless attacks based on sham principles

It’s probably a holdover from war propaganda technique. Dehumanize your enemy; make them less sympathetic. For Republicans, that requires inventing an artificial social standard for which they can create consensus, something they ironically call the “real America,” a militaristic, political force of religious, cultural warriors who fight for all they choose to define as good and true, a standard that exists only because believing makes it so. They then point out how communities that challenge that standard are unfaithful, greedy heathens.
It could be as simple as Group X saying, “We keep the poor from dying,” and the Republicans claiming Group X gives help to murderers, rapists and thieves. Wanting a hand up is cast as envy. Wanting a fair wage is seen as ingratitude. Asking for considerations when one has needs but no means becomes socialism.
Planned Parenthood and the United Nations are among those the GOP has singled out in its fight, organizations that a generation ago were honored and revered by Republicans and Democrats alike. Emboldened by their hand in the destruction of ACORN, an organization that did nothing but help inner city communities, they think they have a precedent of success for their self-righteous attacks.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wal-Mart protesters call for workers' rights

Workers' rights are human rights. That's what one hand painted sign said at a protest outside a Wal-Mart store in Decatur, Georgia, Friday. About two dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk across the street from the mega-retailer's store in this suburb, just east of Atlanta, playing drums, waving flags and signs, and shouting at motorists to make them aware of what they see as the questionable labor practices of the world's largest retailer. "We wanted to show our solidarity with Wal-Mart workers," said Diana Eidson, who took part in the event on the unofficial kickoff day of the holiday shopping season. Many Wal-Mart associates around the country walked out, Friday, to demonstrate their own dissatisfaction with their employer.

"We're saying community, not consumerism; family, not frenzy," Misty Novitch, a social justice activist, agreed. "We're trying to offer a different way of doing Black Friday, that supports the [Wal-Mart] workers on strike around the country, striking for just a living wage, healthcare, predictable scheduling," she explained, "so they don't get retaliated against when they try to form a union, the ability to form a union without fear." READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fiscal cliff compromise a wolf in elephant's clothing

Here we go again. The Republicans are skipping down the path toward obstructionism, aiming to get away with doing the least by convincing us it is the most they can do. It isn't. They will give it another sham title like "Tax Reform." It won't be. They're saying it will increase significant revenue by being "fair" to the middle class and the "job creators." It won't, and it isn't.

"The math tends not to work," said President Obama, at his first post-election press conference, last Wednesday. While he agreed with recent statements by Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), that "there are loopholes that can be closed, and we should look at how we can make the process of deductions, the filing process easier, simpler," the president added, "what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it, which would cost close to a trillion dollars."

By focusing only on closing loopholes and changing the tax code, the Republicans are actually taking aim at middle class households. The top two percent aren't the only ones who benefit from deductions.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

-PBG

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

For Obama, it's really always been about unity

From VOA - Obama Victory Celebration, Chicago 11-7-2012
President Obama, Vice President Biden and their
families celebrate their reelection, in Chicago, early
Wednesday morning. (From Voice of America video

If there was ever a question about which commitment President Barack Obama has made in his life that will live beyond his presidency, it is his stubborn belief that a united America, without the distraction of division, can and will accomplish great things. Regardless of whether he is able to reach effective but difficult compromises with the Republican led House of Representatives over the next two to four years, he will always be remembered for the clarion call for unity he sounded in his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention. He doubled down on that plea early Wednesday morning, when, in victory, he addressed thousands of supporters in Chicago.
"I believe we can seize this future together," he said, "because we are not as divided as our politics suggest; we're not as cynical as the pundits believe; we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions; and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can take the stage and argue with the White House and the Senate majority over revenues and deficits and the fiscal cliff, but in the face of a voting public hungry for Washington to set aside its differences, it makes them and their caucuses seem small and petulant, mice in the face of the human sized task of serious governance. It is a task the president seems ready for.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sandy's reality provides opportunity for Obama 'One America' redux

"For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people...
"It is that fundamental belief - it is that fundamental belief - I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper - that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: 'E pluribus unum,' out of many, one...
"...there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there's the United States of America."
- Barack Obama's keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention

Even in the face of an election season full of the most rancorous and extreme partisanship, there is a takeaway from the politics of the Hurricane Sandy tragedy, one that reprises President Obama's seminal assertion that, eight years on, there is still only one America. With the recent praises of FEMA and the president's leadership coming from the unequivocal Chris Christie, New Jersey's no-nonsense Republican governor, it appears that the storm that devastated that state and region has done what no hard running politician could do - show that level headed and reasonable responses to responsibilities destroy divisiveness in favor of cooperation.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Commander in Chief vs Commander of Shift

"You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies."
- President Barack Obama, talking to Gov. Mitt Romney at the third presidential debate, October 22, 2012
We have a Commander in Chief, and his name is Barack Obama. He successfully made the point that if Mitt Romney carries his knack for shuffling his positions into the realm of foreign policy, it will be a disaster for the United States' standing in the world. Unless, of course, like a third world despot, Romney is telling us one thing and telling the rest of the world something entirely different.

Photobucket
READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE...

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's so foreign about foreign policy?

In a time when so much of U.S. foreign policy involves our global military footprint, ongoing engagements, waning engagements and threatening engagements, it's easy to think that war is the sole function of that governing platform. Americans are conditioned that way; like a computer that insists on entering a discarded wi-fi password at your favorite cafe, many young voters cannot remember a time when it was not how we operated in war that ran our international relations, but how we manage our peace.

God, and the voters, willing, that period will return soon.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Administration Benghazi story consistent with intelligence docs

IS THE BENGHAZI CONSULATE ATTACK A HATE CRIME?
Fire burns in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi
after the attack there on September 11, 2012.
(Photo credit: Voice of America)

News reports appeared, Friday night, that it was not al-Qaeda that was involved in the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month, but a local militia group that launched the assault after watching the violence in Egypt on television, earlier that day. "The attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo," an unnamed U.S. intelligence official told the Los Angeles Times, in an article published Friday.

In a similar story, the Washington Post's David Ignatius writes, "The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate."

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Truth slightly distorted - the Republicans' latest cobbled frame

"The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted." -G.C. Lichtenberg, 18th Century scientist and satirist
Word has come, from a piece in New York Magazine, that former President George W. Bush has begun to paint, "making portraits of dogs and arid Texas landscapes" to occupy his time in retirement. It's a good hobby for a 66 year old man to take up, especially one who used to represent a party that makes it its business to hold up a picture of what they want Americans to see, instead of what is actually there.

As Bill Clinton said last week in Las Vegas, in aping Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, over his sudden teleportation (not turn, because it was too sudden a shift to be congruous) from "severely conservative" to the political center, "Who ya gonna believe - me or your own lyin' eyes?"

Whether, as Clinton suggested, moderate Mitt is back, or whether he just rejiggered his campaign because of the influence of of his family, as some have suggested, it seems rather apparent that the Republican party as a whole will continue to carry the hard right's message, even as Mitt distances himself from it.

For the former Massachusetts governor, re-framing is second nature. For the GOP, re-framing is what they do when they want to distort a perceived chink in an opponent's armor or shield their nominee from his own weaknesses.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Romney's Core

English: CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Commi...
Mitt Romney, as CEO of the Salt Lake
Organizing Committee
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Given all the different positions that Mitt Romney has taken throughout his political career, it may be easy to label him a liar and a flip-flopper. But if voters are looking for the "real" Mitt, they will have a hard time trying to peer through the gauzy obfuscations to the man at the core. Mitt plays politics in a carnival funhouse, and one cannot tell with certainty if what they are looking at is the authentic Romney or one of a series of distorted reflections, each intended to please a particular block of voters.

Somewhere in the center of the rotating Romney record that spins on the public life turntable, needle dropping alternately (that's like an iPod shuffle, to you Millennials) on the Senate candidate cut, the Bain cut, Massachusetts governor cut, the 2008 presidential candidate cut, the 2012 GOP primary cut and the 2012 official Republican nominee cut, is a tall, silver spindle that is unmoving and unmovable. It is the axis around which everything that is Mitt Romney swirls.

The first debate, in Denver last week, was the ultimate clue that the Romney campaign is both more and less than it seems. To attribute his polymorphic politics to mere pandering, is to imply a schedule of nefarious plotting by the candidate and his campaign. That is not only antithetical to the moral man he claims to be, it ignores the possibility of a simpler explanation, an Occam's Razor, if you will. It is not only possible, but likely, that he sees no disconnection between his stoic center and the political characters he has trotted out on the stage throughout his life.

Read the entire article...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Can't hang your hat on polls when winds of crisis blow

In politics, you can't hang your hat on a poll, because the winds of global events will easily send it tumbling away. In the battle for leading a nation, there are only two things you can plant at the top of a poll: a flag or your ass, and if one isn't up there, the other soon will be.

It's safe to say that following the revelation of the recent video with Mitt Romney speaking "off the cuff," as he called it, at a high end fundraiser in Boca Raton, this spring, his keester is high in the breeze, hoisted with his own Mitt-tard, as it were. He just cannot get away from who he is. As Bob Marley sang, "You're running, and you're running, and you're running away, but you can't run away from yourself."

But there are still seven weeks until the decision is final, and anything can happen.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE >>>

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peace withers when religion tramples the vine


President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton greet
caskets of four U.S. victims of Libyan violence, at
Andrews Air Force Base,
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 9/14/12

Faith requires so little - only the willingness to abandon what one knows to be true in family and society, in favor of something less certain, outside one's usual life experience. That is where a prophet of faith begins his (or her) personal journey. It is not until after others have also stepped forward, into the uncertain chaos of new belief, that system and structure begin to emerge, and what once was an exiled gathering of like minded individuals is re-absorbed into the larger community from whence it came. There, after derision, discrimination and death, the movement finally takes hold as a religion, as true to its adherents as fire, air and water.

The Arab Spring, that began in the winter of 2011, could not have happened without the tenacity to true faith that Islam has in the everyday lives of people in North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. These were not revolutions for individual freedoms, as some in the West may think of them, inasmuch as they were populist actions to overthrow dictators and despots. They were revolutions for democracy, because the people did not feel their voices were being heard. We can harbor no illusion that they would suddenly become reasonable players on the world stage, since it was often those dictators and despots who would have helped keep things, like what happened this week in Cairo, Benghazi and Sanaa, from getting out of hand. (Well, maybe not so much in Libya. If Gaddafi were still around, he'd probably lead the assault.)

In the Arab and Muslim world, this week, it is not the brambled hedge of religion that is under attack. It is the thorny vine of budding peace, trying to wind its way around the stake planted during the Arab Spring, that is struggling.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Come up with a position - Mitt will be along shortly

He has been running for president of the United States for almost six years, and there are still so many doubts about his backbone and his political footing that opposing party partisans are not the only ones questioning his ability to be leader of the free world. But if he doesn't belong in the Oval Office, where does Mitt Romney belong?
His bona fides may suggest Secretary of Commerce, or a modest financial adviser to the chief executive or the Treasury secretary, but the Republican party has pushed him to the fore, out of a bevy of imbeciles and a cattle call of kowtowers, to be their alternative to President Obama - a well liked, popular incumbent with exceptional social skills, and a record of modest improvement from the situation the nation was burdened with when he took office, almost four years ago.
 READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Sunday, September 09, 2012

2012 Democratic National Convention


September 6, 2012

A verdict to be rendered, votes to be gathered, victory to be won


There is a two part movie analogy to what took place at the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week. One is the the trial drama, where the parade of witnesses for the defense - and the incumbent is always on the defense - testify to the jury of voters, and validate allegiance to the candidate and his policies. At the end of the trial, all the voters are charged to deliberate and render a verdict: re-elect or not to re-elect.
The other kind of movie scene the convention spectacle brings to mind, is the Braveheart moment, where the general rides up and down the line, motivating the troops for battle, letting them know how important their sacrifice of time and their commitment to the outcome are the keys to victory, for the candidate, and everything for which the president stands. The faithful then charge ahead, into the phalanx of skeptics and naysayers, and their barbed memes, relying on the party lieutenants to keep them from being outflanked.
READ MORE...

Cooperation and the Clinton effect

Mandatory Courtesy: (Photo Courtesy: Johannes Worsøe Berg)
(Photo Courtesy: Johannes Worsøe Berg)
Why is it that a Bill Clinton speech can soften Republican hearts when President Obama hardens them so much?
READ MORE...

September 5, 2012

Jerusalem, God amendments to Democratic platform added on close vote

In what can easily be described as an uncomfortable three minutes for the Democratic National Convention, its chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was forced to take three, apparently close, voice votes from the delegates in Charlotte,  to amend the party's platform, Wednesday, to include mentioning God and affirming the party's belief in Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
READ MORE...

Reproductive rights not Sandra Fluke’s only passion

Sandra Fluke's accidental celebrity, this year, may have come about over a Capitol Hill clash on women's reproductive rights, and an unworthy epithet hurled at her from a right wing radio blowhard, but when she takes the podium, Wednesday night, at the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, she is going to reveal to the country that her interests in women's issues goes, she says, "beyond the contraception conversation."
READ MORE...

September 4, 2012

Democrats say value in American Dream is in who you are

One of the earliest speeches to the delegates of the Democratic National Convention, Tuesday evening, came from a man in a white cowboy hat - Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. It kind of set the theme for the night."Barack Obama has lived the American Dream," he said. "He has walked in our shoes."
READ MORE...

Democrat platform – familiar themes and contrasts, plus the wonky bits

As a policy document, one could get lost in the weeds about NATO, North Korea and loose nukes, but the wonky bits in the 2012 Democratic National Platform don't start until halfway through the forty page document. The first twenty pages of the platform, which the party will approve at their convention in Charlotte, Tuesday night, is all about one thing - growing the middle class.

September 3, 2012

Yes, the Democrats have a Southern Strategy, of sorts


"We are thrilled to have the Democratic National Convention here, thrilled to have our party fighting for the South." - Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx, in a statement welcoming the media to his hometown, September 3, 2012
Mayor Foxx called the Democrats' mobilizing in North Carolina, "a ripple effect," because, "we border Virginia, and some of the other states around us, that could be competitive in this race."
"It gives us just as much of a boost in Virginia, the neighboring state, as it does in North Carolina," agreed Obama campaign press secretary, Ben Labolt.
READ MORE...
___________________________________________________________

Open, accessible and diverse, versus secret, exclusive and white

Sep3 DNC press conferenceFlip the coin over. The Democrats in Charlotte are planning what they consider a kind of antithesis of what the Republicans just did in Tampa, and, they believe, it's as much about population and platform as it is about publicizing policy.
READ MORE...

History as caricature - Republicans selling malaise like it's 1979

"[O]n issue after issue, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan want to go backwards."
-President Obama, Boulder, Colorado, September 2, 2012
The Republicans want you to be morose, sad and resigned.
One of the themes that emerged from the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, last week, was how sad are the times, how disappointing is the economy, how grey the outlook for hope. You could see it in the drooping, puppy dog eyelids of vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), when he spoke of the Janesville, Wisconsin, shuttered GM plant. "It is locked up and empty to this day," he lamented, the corners of his wide, disappearing lips, drawing downward, feeling your pain, out there in the unemployed, closed factory towns around the country, "And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight."
Hopeless. So hopeless. If you are resigned to the hopelessness of the "fading Obama posters" on your bedroom ceiling, for attacks on success and for government assistance to help you get your slice of the American pie, they said, then vote for Obama. "If you're looking for free stuff, that you don't have to pay for,"  like health care and food and the ability to afford a college education, the Republican nominee told a heckler during the heat of the campaign, "then vote for the other guy. That's what he's all about."
Gov. Romney continued the RNC's theme of Obama destroying American drive, the night after Ryan's appeal to despair, in (not surprisingly) a less nuanced, more direct approach:
"Every family in America wanted this to be a time when they could get ahead a little more... Every small business wanted these to be their best years ever, when they could hire more... Every new college graduate thought they'd have a good job by now, a place of their own...
"This was the hope and change America voted for...
"I wish President Obama had succeeded... [b]ut his promises gave way to disappointment and division."
Oh, it's so sad, too sad, that this president has turned your lives into a brother-can-you-spare-a-dime, ponderous time of high gas prices and low self esteem, he insists.
Despite Romney's claim that "every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: 'you are better off today than you were four years ago,'" it is only Reagan who thought that question relevant, and because he won on it, every Republican challenger to an incumbent has felt it necessary to ask the same.
And since Romney-Ryan want to be the Ronald Reagan of the early 21st century, Romney had to ask the country, Thursday, what other one-term, Democratic presidents have failed to lift the spirit of the American people? Oh, yes. Jimmy Carter, and now, "this president."
The problem with Mr. Romney's argument is, the politics of the seventies were bogged down by more than just inflation and high gas prices. Entire government institutions, ones that had been celebrated only a generation before, had broken the trust of the people. There was no trusting the president because of Watergate, no trusting the Congress or the military because of the quagmire of Vietnam, and finally, the Iran hostage crisis that went on for over a year, shook our gullible, Madison Avenue, post-World War II belief in the nation's ability to lead in the world, and didn't end until the day President Carter left office.
Times are hard, to be sure, but these are not those times, and Romney is not the mythical Reagan. Reagan wasn't even the mythical Reagan. He was a tax raising union-buster who made the first baby boomers to work on Wall Street a lot of money, believed that the poor were happy living on the dole, and prosecuted a secret war on Nicaragua with money from Iran. But he was the Gipper, and he did all that with a wink, a laugh and a nod, and a patronly smile that made most of America feel really good about their country.
Now, the Republicans want America's thinking voters to park their analytical brains, and equate the political difficulties of Jimmy Carter and the seventies with President Obama fighting a Congress that has made it a point to frustrate his policy and mute possible successes for fear any compromise or acquiescence would mitigate their desire and promise to make him "a one term president." What does that mean for the Republicans? An excuse to call the president ineffectual.
What does that mean for the president? It means a reason to show that he is willing to cross the aisle to work with even the most extreme Republicans, that he is above all this partisan posturing, even if they aren't.
This week, in Charlotte, President Obama should play up his successes with Congress, as minimal as they were, to show undecided and independent voters that he is not only willing, but capable of running our country, even under the pall of extreme push-back from the opposition party. That's what we will be looking for, as we continue our election coverage from inside the Democratic National Convention.
-PBG
______________________________________________________________

Monday, September 03, 2012

History as caricature - Republicans selling malaise like it's 1979

"[O]n issue after issue, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan want to go backwards." -President Obama, Boulder, Colorado, September 2, 2012
The Republicans want you to be morose, sad and resigned. One of the themes that emerged from the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, last week, was how sad are the times, how disappointing is the economy, how grey the outlook for hope. You could see it in the drooping, puppy dog eyelids of vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), when he spoke of the Janesville, Wisconsin, shuttered GM plant. "It is locked up and empty to this day," he lamented, the corners of his wide, disappearing lips, drawing downward, feeling your pain, out there in the unemployed, closed factory towns around the country, "And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight." Hopeless. So hopeless. If you are resigned to the hopelessness of the "fading Obama posters" on your bedroom ceiling, for attacks on success and for government assistance to help you get your slice of the American pie, they said, than vote for Obama. "If you're looking for free stuff, that you don't have to pay for," like health care and food and the ability to afford a college education, the Republican nominee told a heckler during the heat of the campaign, "then vote for the other guy. That's what he's all about." Gov. Romney, continued the RNC's theme of Obama destroying American drive, the night after Ryan's appeal to despair, in (not surprisingly) a less nuanced, more direct approach:
"Every family in America wanted this to be a time when they could get ahead a little more... Every small business wanted these to be their best years ever, when they could hire more... Every new college graduate thought they'd have a good job by now, a place of their own... "This was the hope and change America voted for... "I wish President Obama had succeeded... [b]ut his promises gave way to disappointment and division."
Oh, it's so sad, too sad, that this president has turned your lives into a brother-can-you-spare-a-dime, ponderous time of high gas prices and low self esteem, he insists. Despite Romney's claim that "every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: 'you are better off today than you were four years ago,'" it is only Reagan who thought that question relevant, and because he won on it, every Republican challenger to an incumbent has felt it necessary to ask the same. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Republicans praise truth one night, bury it the next

"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, to an ABC breakfast panel, ahead of GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan's acceptance speech, Wednesday.
It is kind of appropriate that Aeschylus' famous, fifth century, B.C., quote, "In war, truth is the first casualty," was popularized by a World War I era, American politician. Who knows better than someone who has had to fold falsehoods into the fight for votes in this diverse country, what a nuisance the truth can be?
Last night, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, commentators and rebutting Democrats pointed out lies in many of the speeches, but it was with the faux earnestness of the words presented by the featured speaker, GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI),  that most took exception.
Paul Ryan, Member of the U.S. House o...
Paul Ryan, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You have probably read, or heard, by now, how Ryan told the exuberant crowd that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, where, Ryan said, "[a] lot of guys I went to high school with worked... It is locked up and empty to this day. And that's how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight." But Ryan buried the fact that the plant closed in December, 2008, when George W. Bush was still in the White House.
Other obfuscations in Ryan's speech...
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Akin Republicans move Heaven to stop Romney

"Heaven sent a hurricane to hold off Gov. Romney's coronation."
-  Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion activists group, Operation Rescue, in a statement, Monday, August 27, 2012

Having to push the actual vote to nominate Mitt Romney from Monday night to Tuesday because of Tropical Storm Isaac is a gift from heaven, according to strident anti-abortion activists and delegates gathering at the Republican National Convention, in Tampa this week. Newman, and others, believe that Heaven itself has intervened to give them a chance to circle their wagons in support of the embattled U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), and urge the rest of the GOP to put its money where its platform is.

"We're urging pro-life GOP delegates to abstain from any voting on Romney's nomination until all GOP financial support for Todd Akin is reinstated," Newman declared. He also is urging a vote holdout until "details of Romney's income tax returns in connection with Bain's Stericycle investment have been made public," according to reports.
nometal01
Stericycle medical waste bin
(Photo credit: DaveBleasdale)

The Stericycle story, reported earlier this summer by Mother Jones magazine, as well as the Boston Globe, said that Romney signed Security and Exchange Commission documents on behalf of Bain Capital, long after he supposedly left, in connection with the firm's $75 million investment in the medical waste disposal company, which also destroyed aborted fetuses.

Neither the party's abandonment of the staunchly anti-choice Akin, nor its cognitive dissonance when it comes to Stericycle and the nominee, is making social conservatives very happy.

"To Gov. Romney we say... let's not kill an innocent child or cut off good men like Todd Akin," said Steve Baldwin, a former member of the California Assembly, and form director of the Council for National Policy. "I'd sooner take him or Paul Ryan as our party's Presidential nominee than Gov. Romney."

Baldwin is part of a group of dissatisfied Republicans who feel the nominating process has been hijacked by the Romney team, and the party establishment that has rallied behind the former Massachusetts governor. They think the Republican presidential nomination is still up for grabs, based on the delegate rules.

As for Akin, and his relationship to conservative convention delegates, Politico reported yesterday:
"At a breakfast meeting of Missouri delegates here in Tampa, a number were sporting 'Akin for Senate' stickers and stood strongly behind the six-term congressman’s decision to stay in the race.

"'The party should not throw him under the bus simply because he made a misstatement,' said Mitch Hubbard of Fulton, Mo."

But Heaven hasn't merely intervened on behalf of fetuses, apparently. Republican hatchet man and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), thanked Isaac for keeping Vice President Joe Biden from doing his counter-event to the RNC, scheduled for Monday, in Tampa. "I would say from a standpoint of coverage, the hurricane already eliminated one blowhard," he said.

-PBG

UPDATE: America Right to Life has launched a website, RepublicansAgainstRomney.com, with a series of Bible banging, highlighted lines, like: "If you fear Obama, you'll vote for Romney. If you fear God, you won't."

Among the litany of reasons listed by the RTL for why they do not trust Romney, is a bullet item tracking his changing stance on abortion:
"pro-choice in '94; pro-life in '01; choice '02; pro-life '04; choice '05; life in '06; then funded abortion in '06."

"Romney has already implemented what Obama and Clinton only dreamed of: homosexual marriage, tax funded abortion by health care reform with the individual mandate, robbing religious freedom by forcing pro-life hospitals to administer abortion pills, etc.," the website asserts, "Obama is the lesser of two evils."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Filibuster castrates majority rule, violates Constitution

"It's not a rule of debate. It's a rule of silence, a rule of censorship." - Emmet J. Bondurant, lead attorney in the lawsuit against the United States Senate, calling the filibuster rules unconstitutional
Sometimes it seems like the filibuster holds up every bill, motion and nomination that comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Last week, though, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan bill that bypasses the Senate for nearly 170 executive nominees and 3,000 Officer Corps positions. But that does little to raise the hope that Congress' "legislative inertia," which Justice Antonin Scalia joked about during oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act, is going to budge in any significant way.
The abuse of the filibuster, and its affect on the dysfunction of our legislative branch, is the number one reason that Congress is regarded with such low esteem by the American public.
Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant made some news last spring, when he filed a lawsuit, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Common Cause, members of Congress, and others, seeking to throw out the filibuster rule in the Senate on Constitutional grounds. Speaking to a group from the Georgia Lawyers chapter of the American Constitution Society, in his hometown, last Wednesday, Bondurant laid out his case for the better part of an hour, like an attorney making a presentation in a federal courtroom, except with PowerPoint slides, and without interruptions from the bench.
Bondurant acknowledged that the U.S. Constitution allows the Senate to set its own rules for debate, but, he insisted, the filibuster rule, as it has evolved, does not promote debate. "The filibuster promotes obstruction," he said. "It promotes hypocrisy."
READ THE COMPLETE STORY...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Republican bridge too far takes a political toll

"I am disappointed that I won’t be able to continue my investigations of the Obama administration such as the risky loan guarantee to Solyndra and holding Planned Parenthood accountable to the taxpayers."
- 12 term incumbent, Rep.Cliff Stearns (R-FL), in a written statement, after his narrow defeat to unknown Tea Party favorite Ted Yoho, Tuesday

Cliff Stearns regrets not being able to embarrass the Obama administration, and not being able to attack the nation's most accessible provider of women's health. Despite being supported by presumptive GOP veep nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and having name recognition and money behind him, Stearns today finds himself a lame duck. Now, Yoho is certainly no great shakes as far as political progressives are concerned, but he unseats someone who was more interested in partisanship than policy, and that is worth celebrating.

Planned Parenthood called Stearns' investigation "nothing more than politically motivated intimidation," after he launched it last year. In a petition letter attacking the Congressman's probe, the women's health group wrote:
"Your effort to discredit, damage, and weaken Planned Parenthood will only harm the women and families who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for essential preventive health care. Focusing on attacking Planned Parenthood when millions of women lack access to basic, affordable health care just shows how far out of touch Congress is with Americans' priorities."

But the Republican War on Caterpillars, er, I mean War on Women, has resulted in push back at the polls, this primary season, not only at the Congressional level, but also in state races and in the race for the White House.

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE...

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This week we're all Sikhs, but after soul searching we're still gun loving Americans

"These kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul searching..." - President Barack Obama, in response to the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sunday, August 5, 2012
Thank you, President Obvious.

You know, I'm not clear on this. In the lexicon of political double-speak, is "soul searching" what happens after lip service, or before? Mass shootings, or their euphemistic cousin, domestic terrorism, should not be the opening to conversations about gun control. Common sense, and the fact that, according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, someone in America dies from a firearm every 17 minutes, should rule policy.

Instead, the administration's response to the Aurora and Oak Creek shootings has been to call for cultural introspection, and to restate their support for the assault weapons ban, also known as the Brady Bill, that expired in 2004.

"He'll continue to instruct his administration to take action towards common-sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," presidential spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters, in an election year type of response, at Monday's press briefing. Not wanting to piss off the dwindling number of "undecideds" Obama might need for reelection, Carney laid the blame for gun violence on Congress.

"There is no question that there has been a reluctance to act in Congress on these issues," he said. But what about the administration's milquetoast, politically safe reaction? Isn't that also a "reluctance to act?"

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE...

Friday, July 20, 2012

B-A-I-N, a song for Mitt


B.A.I.N.

B is for the billionaires’ ad buys.
A is for all the assets I hide.
I is islands offshore where cash and jobs were outsourced.
N is nothing more do I hold to that I did before, and

Bain, I said I left in ’99.
Bain, until 2002 was mine.
Mine, corporate papers say it.
We closed plants, might as well face it.
Bain improved my bottom line.

B is for the businesses Bain bought.
A is for anxiety Bain wrought.
I is inequity – you envy liquidity.
N is nothing more will I release than I did before, ‘cuz

Bain, it made me rich beyond my dreams.
I’m taxed at a lower rate, it seems.
Seems Bain backs my retorts.
Just don’t expect my old tax reports
‘Cuz Bain improved my bottom line.

Ann and I are doing fine.
‘Cuz Bain improved my bottom line
You can envy us, but just don’t whine.
In percent, I’m one. You’re 99.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Don't take our country back, give it - for you and me

It's our country, and it's their country. It's my country and it's your country. It's a Christian country and a Jewish country and a Muslim country and a Hindu country and a Buddhist country and an atheist country. It's a country where Africans, Asians, Europeans, Latin Americans, Arabs and Persians are as American as the baby born in Cleveland. If the White House is anybody's house, it's everybody's house, white being the unbroken, unrefracted presence of all colors of visible light.

We may not all share the same tenement, the same block, the same neighborhood, or even the same city. But whether we came here from somewhere else or we had relatives on the Mayflower, we are a people who believe that this land was made for all of us.

"This land is your land. This land is my land," sang Woody Guthrie, in what was once held as a universal truth. "This land was made for you and me."

Not anymore.

These days, there are many who hear that song as, "This land was made for me and people like me, and we want it back!" It is in that barren, rocky and unforgiving context that all the sad, forced battles over immigration, religion, and sexual rights take place.


Sailors raise their right hands and take the oath of U.S. citizenship during a naturalization ceremony held at Cabrillo National Monument.
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Juan E. Diaz. (May, 2003)

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of passing laws like Arizona's recently quashed SB1070, making immigrants outlaws and turning law enforcement into thugs defending cultural xenophobia, we felt compelled to pass laws which insure everyone, EVERYONE, gets a piece of our country's "pursuit of happiness" idiom? That would be the greatest show of American unity! But that appears to be too threatening a principle for those who prefer you were more like them before they accept you.

For people like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, it seems states' rights are necessary to protect those who prefer their own cultural isolation, and who cleave to their right to impose it on their neighbors. Want your country back, whatever that means? Get behind Scalia.

In his dissenting opinion, Monday, to the Court's decision on the Arizona immigration law, Scalia talked about state sovereignty, and  wrote "Arizona has the inherent power to exclude persons from its territory," and "the States have the right to protect their borders against foreign nationals." So, one might infer that had he been a Supreme in the 1950s, Scalia would have dissented in Brown v. Board of Education, since public schools are often properties of the state, and if the state wanted to exclude Negros, it had the power to do that.

It also seems that he would have no problem, hypothetically,  against a state kicking out a minority that went against the principles of the state government, like if Oklahoma decided to expel their Muslim communities because their presence threatened the integrity of the anti-Sharia law amendment that Sooner voters passed two years ago (which has been struck down by at least two courts as violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution). The state, he would argue, is exercising its sovereign authority to "exclude persons from its territory" and "protect its borders."

Indeed, Scalia seems to lament the nineteenth century laws and decisions, when  "primary responsibility for immigration policy... shifted from the States to the Federal Government," and he appears to base his opinion on a pioneer ideal of states being able to operate more independently in protecting their territory, like they were still guarding a frontier. They fought to get 'em. They fight to keep 'em.
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In a bizarre, glass mostly full kind of reaction, Jan Brewer, Arizona's finger-wagging, tongue-twisted Republican governor, embraced Monday's split SCOTUS decision as "a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens." In ignoring the actual result of what the Court's majority rejected, Brewer must have concluded that as long as Scalia got their argument, they had won. "We must use this new tool wisely," she said, as if she were a ruler rallying her troops, "and fight for our safety with the honor Arizona deserves."

(One wonders, what is it about governors who see themselves as rulers of their own little country? No wonder so many feel they could be president. When they are president, though, they are just as nonplussed about state assertions of power as the current administration.)
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

With Scalia overtly signalling from the bench that he, for one, would entertain a case brought against President Obama for his recent executive order stopping deportations of immigrants brought here illegally as minors, on top of his pushing for the additional arguments that led to the death of campaign finance reform in the decision known as Citizens United v. F.E.C., there is little room for doubt that the justice is aggressively pursuing an agenda that plays into the hands of his monied friends on the right.

When we celebrate the Fourth of July, next week, let's remember that along with celebrating our independence from Britain, we are acknowledging our interdependence on each other. E pluribus unum -  out of many, one: one nation, with liberty and justice for all.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
- "This Land is Your Land," lyrics & music by Woody Guthrie

-PBG

Monday, June 04, 2012

The stink of corporate money and the spoiling of our political infrastructure

English: Official photo of Governor Brian Schw...
Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT).
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"[W]e will see whether the [Supreme C]ourt decides to blow the stink of Washington into Montana, or whether we can preserve our fresh mountain air." - Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer (D), in an op-ed published Sunday, in the New York Times, discussing his state's open challenge to the court's 2010 Citizens United decision
We do not all live in Montana, but we are all susceptible to the foul smell of corruption from the burst dam of corporate dollars flooding our elections this year. In Big Sky Country, they have had a law on the books against big money in elections since 1912, when, Gov. Schweitzer says in his op-ed:
"...the people of Montana approved a ballot initiative banning corporate money from campaigns (with limited exceptions). We later banned large individual donations, too. Candidates in Montana may not take more than a few hundred dollars from an individual donor per election; a state legislator can’t take more than $160. And everything must be disclosed. "These laws have nurtured a rare, pure form of democracy. There’s very little money in Montana politics. Legislators are basically volunteers: they are ranchers, teachers, carpenters and all else, who put their professions on hold to serve a 90-day session, every odd year, for $80 a day. "And since money can’t be used to gain access, public contact with politicians is expected and rarely denied. "
It sounds so idyllic, being able to just knock on the door and say, "Howdy," to your elected representative, one who hasn't been compromised by the corrupted stench of special interest money. But the Supreme Court, last February, stayed that 100 year old law because it violated the ruling in Citizens United. "This means," the Montana Commissioner for Political Practices explains on the state's website, "that, until further notice, corporations may make independent expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or political party." Direct corporate contributions to candidate or party are still prohibited, under the Montana law.

The stay was in reaction to a 5-2 Montana Supreme Court ruling, on December 30, that found the state's law to be an exception to Citizens United v. F.E.C., because of the Treasure State's sordid history of copper barons buying influence at the turn of the last century. Schweitzer relates the story of one senator from the state, who the U.S. Senate expelled once it was found that, at a time when statehouses chose U.S. senators, he "gave each corruptible state legislator $10,000 in cash, the equivalent of $250,000 today."

UPI, which describes the actions of the state court as "Montana's cheeky slap at Citizens United," explains what might happen when the Supremes meet in D.C., on June 14, to figure out what to do about the case:
"They could let the state court ruling stand -- highly unlikely. They could put the decision off to a later conference. Or they could 'summarily reverse' the state court ruling, undoing the Montana Supreme Court decision without hearing argument."
Of the three possibilities, the second is certainly the one that gives those who oppose the infamous 2010 decision the most hope, especially if it means a refinement of the original ruling. According to SCOTUS' order staying the Montana decision, Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, who dissented in 2010, supported the stay as "an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway."

Certainly, there is a growing movement among states and municipalities across the country to create a constitutional amendment that would make regulating all corporate campaign contributions legal. Gov. Schweitzer argues for it in his column. The Boston Herald reported last month that "56 cities and towns across Massachusetts that are calling on Congress to pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling." And New Jersey's Upper Township Gazette reported, Monday, that the American Dream Movement is supporting efforts in the NJ Senate to pass a resolution "which 'expresses strong opposition to' the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC decision by calling upon Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment that would define a person as 'only a natural person' with regard to campaign spending by corporations and their protection under the First Amendment."

Prose and Thorn recently reported on other efforts, in California and Illinois, to push for similar legislation.

All the legal back-and-forth aside, this is a fight for who controls the agendas of lawmakers - big corporate money, or the voices of the people. As Schweitzer warns, if there is no revision of Citizens United, and there is no political will to put forward an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "the Washington model of corruption — where corporations legally bribe members of Congress by bankrolling their campaigns with so-called independent expenditures, and get whatever they need in return — will have infected" not only our nation's capital, not only Montana, but also the chambers of every capitol building in every state, and every city hall in every town in America.

- PBG

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why a Walker victory will not stop a movement

 
Protesters outside the Wisconsin Statehouse,
Madison, WI, Feb. 26, 2011.
(Photo by Richard Hurd, via Creative Commons) 

A new poll conducted last week shows Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) with a seven point lead over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in next Tuesday's recall election, in Wisconsin. Contemplating a negative outcome after all the protests, all the statehouse sleepovers, all the nights the Democrats of the Wisconsin Senate hid out in an Illinois motel, all the visits from Ed Schultz and the rest of the national media, all the signatures on recall petitions, it all sucks, of course. Big time. But the herculean effort it took to try and oust the union busting governor of the first state where public employee unions were recognized is worth more than just an "Oh well, we tried," and an "atta boy" for the recall movement's strident activists. It deserves to be recognized for initiating a conversation on fairness, and bringing ownership and unity to a movement.
First, if one were to follow the fuse that exploded in Zuccotti Park, last fall, to its source, they would find an unwound reel and depressed plunger in the rotunda of the statehouse in Madison. Occupy Wall Street could not have happened without it. No matter what happens Tuesday, the conversation about fairness - fairness for the middle class and for union workers - is not over. What began in Madison was amplified by mic checks in Lower Manhattan that continue to echo across the country. The chorus is just beginning, even appearing as a central theme of Obama's reelection campaign.
"The job of a President is to lay the foundation for strong and sustainable broad-based growth," Obama said at a campaign stop in Iowa last week, "It’s to make sure that everybody in this country gets a fair shake, everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.
 "When you’re the President," he added, with rhetoric intended to distinguish himself from the GOP nominee, corporate raider Mitt Romney, "your job is to look out for the investor and the worker; for the big companies and the small companies; for the health of farmers and small businesspeople and the nurse and the teacher. You're supposed to be thinking about everybody -- and the health of the middle class, and what the future is going to hold for our kids."
 Obama took on economic fairness directly because he saw there was support out there. Politicians don't adopt an agenda just to be "radical." Sure it helps if it's in their philosophical wheelhouse, but they do it because they have political cover. They see there is a thriving movement that will support it. And if voices support it, and they get lots of media time, the money will follow. Just ask the Tea Party.
Second, what Wisconsin re-affirms is that this is our country. No matter how much money the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson throw at a politician's feet, our voices and our actions are the weapons they fear most. Otherwise, they wouldn't be working so hard to disenfranchise us at the voting booth.
Lastly, what happened in Madison united us. It brought liberal and progressive activists together with establishment organizations like major unions, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, in a fight that Rebuild the Dream founder Van Jones might call "class warfare… against people who have no class." Indeed, it's likely that the Susan G. Komen, anti-Planned Parenthood blow-back, this past March, would not have happened without the unity with which we have empowered ourselves since February, 2011.
Remember that no matter what happens in the Battle for Wisconsin, on June 5, there will be no flag of surrender, from either side. For those of us committed to fairness, equality and the right of everyone to be healthy and prosperous, the fight never ends. There's always someone who wants to turn back the clock on women, sacrifice the welfare of workers and suppress the rights of voters. We have to be there every time. They only win when we allow ourselves to lose, and that will never happen.
-PBG

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Protecting a lead – Campaign reform and the SCOTUS hedge

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. R...In his article in the current issue of the New Yorker, describing the Supreme Court's machinations in the 2010 Citizens United decision, Jeffrey Toobin informs readers that the attorney for the plaintiff, Ted Olsen, had a specific goal when he was presenting his case to the court in September, 2009. Since this was the case's second go at the Court, it indicated a majority of justices was looking for a way to do more than rule on the funding for broadcast media campaign ads in the context of the 2002 finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold. It was looking for reasons to overturn the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in its entirety.
"Olson could tell... that the Court was leaning his way—heading for a ruling that was far broader than the one he had originally sought," Toobin writes. So, he says, "Olson argued cautiously, as if protecting a lead."
That lead was a major factor in taking the GOP to a sweeping victory in the 2010 elections, and has already played a huge role in this year's GOP presidential primaries. Indeed, one could argue that Chief Justice Roberts' Court showed that, in fact, it was not the impartial umpire he claimed it would be during his confirmation hearing. "Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them," he famously said, "The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules." But if the Citizens United ruling was about making the right call, then Roger "the Rocket" Clemens has nothing to worry about. The Courts' decision makes it seem as if the umpiring crew conferred, and decided that, for the good of the game, human growth hormone is gear, and better performance is every ballplayer's right.
Toobin's article makes it clear that the outcries of "judicial activism" by those who supported the restrictions of McCain-Feingold were more than just sour grapes, more than the tit-for-tat critique of a decision that didn't go their way. He describes how, after the case was first argued in March, 2009, Roberts wrote a narrow opinion for the majority that Justice Anthony Kennedy broadened, and then Justice Antonin Scalia argued they could broaden it more in a way that would overturn even the most recent precedents, and thus the law itself. It was only then they decided not to issue a ruling in June and, instead, scheduled the case to be re-argued.
Now, more than two years after Citizens United v. F.E.C., lower courts and city councils, state legislatures and even Congress itself are making progress in efforts to restore at least some form of campaign finance reform, mostly through limiting contributions and requiring donors' names to be revealed - particularly those who contribute tremendous sums to campaigns.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals, in Washington, declined to stay an order by a lower court that requires making public the names of those who finance election ads, including those who donate to political action committees (PACs). According to an article in the Los Angeles Times:
Pending a September appeal, "groups that run a type of ad known as 'electioneering communications' will now have to disclose all of the donations they received since the beginning of 2011, or set up a segregated account to pay for the commercials. "Electioneering communications are television spots that refer to federal candidates but stop short of advocating for their election or defeat and air within 30 days before a primary and 60 days before the general election."
This ruling directly affects groups with tax-exempt status, and "there is no question that it complicates the political plans of heavyweight players such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an array of well-financed, conservative, nonprofit groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity that have taken the lead in a costly air war against President Obama and congressional Democrats. Liberal tax-exempt groups, which spend far less on the type of ads in question, will also be affected," the LA Times article says.
Although the California State Assembly, on Tuesday, killed a measure in committee that, according to the LA Times, "would have urged Congress to call a constitutional convention to pass an amendment to limit 'corporate personhood' and declare that money does not constitute free speech," some local governments are moving forward with challenges to Citizens United.
The Daily Northwestern reports that the city council of Evanston, Illinois, voted unanimously, on Monday, for a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would reverse many of the unpopular results of the Supreme Courts' decision. They were the first in the Land of Lincoln to do so, "join[ing] other municipalities and states that have passed similar resolutions addressing the 2010 decision on the constitutional rights of corporations." The resolution supports the action of Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL), the state's senior senator, who is a co-sponsor to legislation that would set such an amendment in motion.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S. Capitol, the man who's name has become synonymous with campaign finance reform, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), has come full circle, and is now in negotiations with Senate Democrats to be the first Republican to lend his name to the latest version of the Disclose Act, introduced in March by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The bill, as reported in The Hill, this morning:
"would require any group that spends $10,000 or more on election ads or other political activity to file a disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours. Reports would detail the nature of expenditures over $1,000 and reveal the names of donors who give $10,000 or more. "The legislation would also require that outside group advertisements include 'stand-by-your-ad' disclaimers listing the biggest donors."
The Disclose Act, though, stands little chance of making it through both Houses of Congress - this session, anyway. In the meantime, Politico reports, "With little fanfare, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his top lieutenants are crisscrossing the country from the Southwest to the Big Apple, meeting with billionaires, high-level business executives and union leaders in a mad scramble to raise money for Majority PAC — and perhaps save their slim Senate majority."
Of course, they're not the only Democrats doing it. But, as long as the umpires are saying it's okay to juice up, may as well play both sides of the hedge and go for the long ball. The "major scandal" that McCain warned The Hill about can happen later. Maybe then, Karl Rove will replace the Rocket on the witness stand, and it will be a whole new ballgame. -PBG

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama defends gay unions while Republicans attack Lincoln's Union

"In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party...
"But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively...
"Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader."
- Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), in his concession letter to the GOP voters of Indiana, after his loss, Tuesday, to Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Republican Senate Primary
Hyper-partisanship leads to hyperbole: we are in a civil war in America, for the soul of the Constitution. Those who grip tightly to the politics of division are enemies of the republic, and destroyers of our union.
If you grew up in the South, as I did, you know that for many of your neighbors, Lee may have surrendered the Confederacy, but so-called Southern Pride did not acquiesce - not in 1865 at Appomattox, and not in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act. The 1976 campaign of the "reformed" segregationist, George Wallace, for the Republican presidential nomination, showed Ronald Reagan that there was a strong anti-Kennedy/Johnson/Democrat undercurrent in the Old South, waiting to be resuscitated. So Reagan gave them a platform, and a party. His "Southern strategy" made the party of Lincoln's Union the voice of Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederacy, a viciously conservative chorus of racists, homeschoolers and homophobes - Bible thumpers who believe surrender to ignorance is the only way back into the Garden, as if critical thinking, by itself, is responsible for the Fall of Man.
If Mourdock becomes the Junior Senator from Indiana, Lugar warns in his letter, "his answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook." The Tea Party, then, wants more than just control over the three branches of our federal government - they want this to be a country that takes a stand, on principle, against everything from homosexuality to Islam.
Lugar's resounding defeat to an admitted political isolationist, and North Carolina's insistence on an amendment to the state constitution, taking away relationship rights from committed couples, is as powerful a barrage on the civil structure and protections of our federal government as the Confederacy firing at Fort Sumter, 151 years ago.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ri...
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and Committee member Barack Obama at a base where mobile launch missiles are being destroyed by the Nunn-Lugar program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Into this structural distress of our Union, where extremism commands the media, drops Wednesday's revelation that Barack Obama, President of the United States, is personally, publicly supporting the right of gay and lesbian Americans to legally marry. "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," the president told ABC News' Robin Roberts, in a hastily arranged interview.
Reacting to Obama's declaration, presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, reiterated his belief that "States are able to make decisions with regards to domestic partnership benefits," and went on to describe the entire discussion as "a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues."
Setting aside Romney's hesitation to assume an unequivocal position, civil rights are not a "social issue;" they are an issue based on the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. Indeed, the freedom to be who you are is an essential part of being an American. Because of our country's sordid history of slavery and Jim Crow, there is, perhaps understandably, the desire to think of bigotry and the struggle for civil rights as the sole realm of the African American experience. But this is a civil rights issue as well, because it punishes members of the LGBT community, taking away from them the right to commit their love to someone for the rest of their lives, with all the benefits of partnership available to married heterosexuals.
The over 30 states that have voted to ban gay marriage - either through law or an amendment to the state's constitution - are not endowing new rights to one-man-one-woman couples with their specific definition of marriage; they are disenfranchising committed couples from the economic and other partnership rights a legal, civil marriage allows. In North Carolina, that now includes committed heterosexual couples who choose not to marry.
In his ABC interview, President Obama acknowledged that although some are eager to engage our American penchant for supposedly Christian, moral superiority, "when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated...and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president."
Despite that meaningful, moral justification for his decision, there are still many on the far right who feel Barack Obama is the ultimate anti-American, whose presidency puts "our future as a sovereign nation...at risk."
"[W]e shall not have any coarse (sic) but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November," writes Ponch McPhee, the editor of the March newsletter of the Republican Party of Greene County, Virginia, "This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue."
One hopes they heed the advice of Abraham Lincoln, who warned, in his first inaugural address:
"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend it.'"
-PBG