Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Does Sarah Palin think its OK to be unfit and too dumb to serve?

If you don't know by now, or haven't heard, we're a FAT NATION.  This ain't a good thing.  We have the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among advanced democracies, if not the entire world.  While we bask in the glow of our American Exceptionalism, we are also exceptionally FAT.

This is a major concern for our Federal Government and our Armed Forces.  So much of a concern that efforts to raise awareness and move the country to a more healthy place are being championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.  But for Sarah Palin, this is just another example of Big Government trying to tell folks how to live their lives by dictating to them what they can and can't eat. 

Now, its pretty clear that we don't like anyone telling us what to do, or requiring that we have to do something.  We generally have to be dragged kickin' and screamin' in order to change our ways, despite the obvious benefits the change would create or the harm our habits and way of life has on ourselves and others.  In this instance, Sarah Palin and those that joined her in criticizing the efforts of the First Lady to encourage kids to get out and exercise and eat health were just off base.  But again, we are creatures of habit and some folks just can't use the common sense God gave us to see what the First Lady was doing was not another example of Government intruding in our lives. 

This criticism by the former Alaska Governor and public policy lightweight, Sarah Palin, was called out by other conservatives and conservative leaning media outlets for what it was, silliness and amateurish.  God forbid that our young people be physically fit in order to serve this nation when called upon. 

This isn't just about eating right and exercises, this is a National Security issue.  This isn't just the First Lady saying this, but also two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired U.S. Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili and Army Gen. Hugh Shelton.  As they wrote in their April 30th, 2010 Op-ed

"It seems incredible, but these are the facts: As of 2005, at least 9 million young adults -- 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24 -- were too overweight to serve in the military, according to the Army's analysis of national data. And since then, these high numbers have remained largely unchanged." 
And this isn't the only National Security issue connected to the fitness of our young people.  A recent Army Study has found that 75% of 17 - 24 year olds couldn't serve because they were unfit, had a criminal record, or dropped out of school.  23% (or roughly 1 in 4) who took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam, a.k.a the ASVAB, FAILED.  Almost 25% of high school graduates who took the ASVAB, FAILED

As the Roanoke Times said in today's editorial,
"Virginia lawmakers especially need to pay attention to the lessons contained in the Army's findings before they head to Richmond and are yet again tempted to balance the state budget at the expense of public education." 
Now, Sarah Palin hasn't commented on the Army Study, and its probably a good thing.  But, small government conservatives with whom she identifies, have been trying for years to cut school budgets.  In many states they have cut education budgets to the point that it would seem state and local governments will have no other choice but to get out of the business of public education, eventually.  Is this the price we pay for not investing in education and smaller government?  Is this what less government advocates envisioned?  Not only is it hurting our economic competitiveness, but our ability to defend our nation. 

That famous scene in the cinematic classic "Animal House" speaks volumns to these issues when Dean Vernon Wormer says, "fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."  All be it, these were fictitious college students, but if the shoe fits...  But again, maybe this is OK with Sarah Palin and her supporters? 

Images found at:  http://blog.sierratradingpost.com/wp-content/uploads/Childhood%20obesity_1.jpg  and http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1647/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1647R-76587.jpg

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Masterstroke!

Critique and analysis are coming in on the "Lame Duck" session of the 111th Congress and the consensus seems to be saying is that it was anything but lame.  Whether it be a campaign promise kept to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", or the deal with the devil that was struck between the President and Senate Republican Leadership to extend the Bush Era Tax Cuts for everyone (including the wealthy) while also getting an extension of Unemployment Benefits and a few others Democrats wanted, the winners of the final round of the 111th Congress are the Democrats and President Obama

If Republicans are wondering what the heck just happened, Ezra Kline's column in the Washington Post sums it up best with a quote from Senator Lindsey Graham (R) SC, saying that "When its all going to be said done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch."  Included in this assessment was a major Foreign Policy victory for President Obama with the passage of the new START Treaty. 

If you are feeling a little perplexed, a little in aw of this political mastery, and wondering how the ingredients came together for the President and the Democrats, the always pragmatic and wise David Gergen offers his assessment of the situation by stating,
"What happened?  One answer, I would submit, is that the president and his team found a better approach to governing:  Instead of relying on the Democratic Caucus in each chamber to deliver, they built up coalitions of their own that swayed public opinion in their direction and gave the leverage in Congress." 
So how did these coalitions get cobbled together?  It wasn't just the two moderate Republican Senators from Maine (Olympia Snow and Susan Collins), or Scott Brown from Massachusetts.  It was other, more conservative Republicans, that came together with the President and the Democrats on the way out. 

Retiring Ohio Senator, George Voinovich, the now independent (dare we say Rogue) Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, newly minted Senator from Illinois, Mark Kirk, and then we have the ethically challenge John Ensign of Nevada, Richard Burr of North Carolina, ranking Republican on Senate Foreign Relations, Richard Lugar and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is in the Republican Leadership.  Of note, Lisa Murkowski voted with the President and Democrats on DATA repeal, START, the compromise on extension of tax cuts and unemployment benefits, and of all things voting with Democrats to end debate on the Dream Act. 

Then there's the Food Safety Bill, the DoD reauthorization, and a few others, that if it were not for Republican support, would have died on the vine.  So then, why did all this pressing legislation that was so important, finally get passed?  There are several thoughts on that.  One being from Ezra Kline, where he observes: 
"The answer, I think, is that there are plenty of Senate Republicans who aren't too comfortable with the class of conservatives who got elected in 2010. These legislators knew they had to stick with McConnell before the election, as you can't win back the majority by handing the president lots of legislative accomplishments. But now that the election was over, the bills that had piled up were, in many cases, good bills, and if they didn't pass now, it wasn't clear that they'd be able to pass later. 

The incumbent -- and the outgoing -- Republicans know that the fact that Republicans will have more power in 2011 doesn't necessarily mean that they'll use that power to pass sensible legislation. So those of them who wanted to pass sensible legislation decided to get it all done now, even if that meant handing Reid and Obama a slew of apparent victories in the lame-duck session." 
For me, its a combination of several factors with a big part of it in line with what Ezra Kline states above.  The opinion polls since the November elections have been loud and clear that voters are tired of the hyper-partisanship and want things to get done.  Congress responded.  Also, it seems that there is a realization from establishment Republicans that the new crop coming in, of which 70-80% of them have never held public office before, are going to be a political nightmare and a major liability if they can't harness the energy in a strategic direction.  Just like Democrats misread the results of 2008, this new group of Republicans seem to be over-reaching and reading too much into the results and projecting a mandate that just isn't there. 

Did the President and Democrats run the table?  Not even close.  They fell short on the omnibus spending bill, Dream Act, and they were unable to exclude the wealthy from the Bush Era Tax Cut extension.  But coming off the "shellacking" of the November 2nd debacle, this was nothing short of clutch, a Masterstroke! 

Image found at:  http://hiphopandpolitics.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/obama-pointing.jpg 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Earth to Guvs,... come in Guvs...

These two statements go into the file of "What planet are you on?"  First we have Governor Haley Barbour (R) Mississippi, saying that he didn't remember the Civil Rights era "being all that bad."  While his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi banned the Klan, they did have segregationist Citizen Councils. 

He has "clarified" his statement as of Tuesday, but come on man!  Of course things were pretty good for you and your family, friends, and relatives.  Ask Chris Rock would say, "What white folks gotta worry about?   You're white!  Everything's good."  White folks of this era controlled everything.  All lunch counters, bathrooms, water fountains were open to all white citizens.  Even the poor white folks.  Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has an excellent op-ed that frames Haley Barbour's fuzzy recollection of segregation in the South.  Click here for the article. 

As the Governor of a state, and one that is widely rumored to be contemplating a run for President in 2012, this level of insensitivity regarding race, in Mississippi of all places, is disappointing but not a total surprise.  What else are we to expect from a white southern Republican? 

You can apologize and clarify all you want, but the damage is already done.  Its as if he is following the lead of Governor Bob McDonnell (R) Virginia, when he went out of his way with his proclamation of Confederacy Day that conveniently omitted the whisper of slavery. 

The second statement comes from, you guessed it, Governor Bob McDonnell (R) of Virginia.  This one about the supposed lack of access to health care, according to his excellency the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Bob McDonnell thinks that just because people have access to emergency rooms and must be treated, regardless of their ability to pay, that there's no access problem to health care in Virginia.

Tell that to the masses of people that come out to RAM (Remote Area Medical) clinics in far southwest Virginia.   In 2006, more than 188,000 southwest Virginia residence used RAM.  Tell that to the more than 1,300 people that RAM saw at the Virgina/Kentucky Fairgrounds in Wise County over the course of two days in July of this year.  The disconnect to the realities of life are staggering and disappointing, but not too much of a surprise.  Again, what else are we to expect from a white southern Republican? 

If you would like to learn more about Remote Area Medical, click here

Images found at:  http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://mscasinos.org/image/4974/mississippi_governor_haley_barbour_to_speak_at_sou%3Fmax_width%3D290%26max_height%3D1000%26q%3D70&imgrefurl=http://mscasinos.org/&usg=__MLvDEFh9PZ6gVq_gC8uTNxEdT4Q=&h=392&w=290&sz=16&hl=en&start=0&sig2=0eE70rFdqaLSqZ0NYcKl-w&zoom=1&tbnid=_DjStmZhkarYRM:&tbnh=138&tbnw=121&ei=whMSTYGpLMH58AbP0aXRDQ&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dgovernor%2Bhaley%2Bbarbour%2Bimages%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DX%26biw%3D1276%26bih%3D547%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=655&oei=whMSTYGpLMH58AbP0aXRDQ&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=21&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0&tx=68&ty=65 and  http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.alan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/bob_mcdonnell2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.alan.com/2010/04/07/governor-bob-mcdonnell-time-traveler/&usg=__HLHwb4qOdjfXAam4yU3qmQHgQfg=&h=300&w=291&sz=15&hl=en&start=0&sig2=pGitJ9xnOb1CRp8VeYcm3A&zoom=1&tbnid=h-kZxvqGGFB9-M:&tbnh=145&tbnw=147&ei=hxUSTYa-CsGC8gb436zUCg&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dgovernor%2Bbob%2Bmcdonnell%2Bimages%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1276%26bih%3D547%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=271&vpy=171&dur=7113&hovh=228&hovw=221&tx=123&ty=90&oei=hxUSTYa-CsGC8gb436zUCg&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=13&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0

Sunday, December 19, 2010

If Climate Change/Global Warming is a conspiracy, then why is...?

So, an "internal memo" comes out this week that directs the on-air personalities of Fox News to utilize language that is more favorable to conservative sensibilities (Shocker, I know).  For example, when discussion is centered around healthcare reform, instead of referring to the key part of the Obama Administration's healthcare reform proposal as "the public option", the preferred terminology should be "government-run health insurance" or "government option."  

As for Climate Change/Global Warming, regardless of the mountains of data and evidence that shows the increase in temperatures are connected to human activity, Fox News personalities have been instructed to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.

Thanks to Lowell Feld and the group at Blue Virginia for posting this piece about the Blue Planet Forum in Norfolk.  It just makes you wonder why so much money, time, and effort have been put into casting doubt on Climate Change/Global Warming?  Which brings me to my point.  If Climate Change/Global Warming is a conspiracy, then why is the United States Navy investing so much interest in determining the impact on Naval Operations and National Security? 

Here is Admiral David Titley, USN Oceanographer and Navigator, discussing why the United States Navy is concerned about Climate Change/Global Warming: 



But, what do I know?  The word of Fox News is gospel and everyone else is just making stuff up.  I wonder how long it will be before the man responsible for the leaked email/memo, Fox News Vice President Bill Sammon, will be promoted?

Image found at:  http://www.topnews.in/files/global-warming_10.jpg 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Conservatives: For every one good thing they do,...

There are some schools of thought that say if you are going to discipline, reprimand, constructively criticize someone you focus on what they did wrong and end it with something they did right.  Well, I'm not going to do that.  So, let's start with what Conservatives did right this week.

On Friday (November 19, 2010), by unanimous consent, the United States Senate finally passed the long awaited bill authorizing the funding to pay Black Farmers $1.15 billion in settlement money.  In the 1997 Pigford v. Glickman case, black farmers claimed they were systematically denied government farm loans and other support from the United States government because of race.  The case was settled in 1999, but thousands of black farmers missed the deadline to submit claims. 

In order to address this, in 2008 then-Senator Barck Obama sponsored legislation to reopen the case to allow those black farmers that missed the deadline to file a claim.  This past February the Justice Department announced the resolution to Pigford II, that the settlement agreement was dependent on funding by Congress.  Each qualified claimant is to receive $50,000 to settle claims of racial bias against the Department of Agriculture. 

Prior to the November 2nd Mid-Term Elections, this measure to fund the settlement was included as part of another bill, which was filibustered by Republicans.  The bill finally passed when Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) withdrew his objection after it was agreed the funding would not be financed through more deficit spending.  Included in the same piece of legislation was $3.4 billion to fund the settlement of a mishandled trust fund managed for Native Americans by the Department of the Interior, as well as four water-rights lawsuits relating to Native American tribes. 

Now for what Conservatives did wrong: 

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is holding up the ratification of the new START Treaty between the United States and Russia.  Senator Kyl is claiming that the new treaty puts the United States at a strategic disadvantage with only 1,550 long range nuclear weapons (missiles and long range bombers).  Russia is limited to the same number, but he is worried about the verification of that number on the Russian side of the treaty.  Treaty ratification requires 67 votes to pass. 

The fact is that if only one is used, we are all at a disadvantage.  Of all the fights to pick, this was the absolute wrong one for Senator Kyl to try and flex his muscles.  Even if it is during the "Lame Duck" session, not passing this has huge downsides and puts an uneasy and sometimes tense U.S.-Russia relationship in more jeopardy.  To read more about the story, click here

House Republicans held the line, denying passage on a three month extension of Unemployment Benefits by a vote of 258-154.  While Democrats still mustered a huge majority, under House rules for fast-tracking legislation they fell short of the three forths majority needed to pass.  House GOP members justified their opposition to the extension citing the need to have the benefits paid for by spending cuts in other areas. 

Starting in December, 2 million people will start loosing their unemployment benefits.  Keep in mind, the GOP is fighting hard to indefinitly extend the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy, which will cost the country $700 billion over the next 10 years.  So, how are they going to pay for that? 

This week President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Sal Giunta, the first living recipient since the Vietnam War.  But despite Staff Sgt. Giunta's valor in the line of fire, Conservative writer and Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, feels it would have been more, shall we say masculine, if Staff Sgt. Giunta had died in order to be honored by our Nation's highest Military Honor.  Click here to read his piece. 

I don't know who this person is, or if he's even served in uniform, but to say or even imply that the awarding of medals for valor above and beyond the call of duty to our men and women in the armed service of our nation, should only be reserved for those that die, kill, or destroy is repugnant and disgusting. 

Like I said at the beginning, for every one good thing Conservatives do,...  

Image found at:  http://www.blogcdn.com/www.bvonmoney.com/media/2010/07/black-farmers.jpg

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is George Allen a BIG FAT LIAR?

Evidently, YES. This is why PolitiFact, a project of the St. Petersburg Times, rocks! In the November 5th Richmond Times Dispatch, former U.S. Senator George Allen stated in his op-ed that since Barack Obama became President on January 9, 2009, the National Debt has exploded by nearly $6 trillion. To read the entire op-ed, click here.

Because of that stated-as-fact dollar figure by Allen, PolitiFact did what they do best and check the veracity and accuracy of the claim. The result was an unequivocal rating of FALSE. PolitiFact found that,

"According to the U.S. Treasury, the total national debt as of Jan. 31, 2009 -- 11 days after President Obama took office -- was $10.6 trillion. So, in order for Allen’s claim to be true on its face, the current publicly held debt would have to be about $16.6 trillion.

Well, is it?

Nope, not even close. The publicly held debt as of Oct. 31 was $13.7 trillion, almost $3 trillion short of Allen’s claim."
So, where did the former U.S. Senator from Virginia get this number, or for that matter his information? It seems he was citing a CBS News report on October 18, 2010 by White House Correspondent, Mark Knoller, where he states,

"The Debt increased $4.9 trillion during President Bush's two terms. The Administration has projected the National Debt will soar in Mr. Obama's fourth year in office to nearly $16.5-trillion in 2012. That's more than 100 percent of the value of the nation's economy and $5.9-trillion above what it was his first day on the job."
Now, there's nothing good about having all this DEBT.  But, you'd think that when Congressional Republicans have a 52% disapproval rating (Democrats are at 53% disapproval according to the Election Day Exit Polls), being honest and getting your facts correct before making eye-popping claims like this would be important to someone that might be running for statewide office, again.

I guess the only positive thing out of the PolitiFact fact-check on Allen is they didn't give him a rating of "Pants on Fire" False. 

Image found at:  http://www.nrc.nl/multimedia/archive/00046/Senator_George_Allen_46686d.jpg

Monday, November 8, 2010

GOP stuck in campaign mode, signalling they haven't learned anything

If the Sunday morning Talk Shows are any indication of the GOP's plan for governing (at least from the U.S. House of Representatives), they haven't learned a thing.  Time after time Sunday morning, GOP House Leaders were pushed to provide specifics on what their plan was for balancing the budget and cutting the deficit.  All they could say was "repeal Obamacare and cut spending."  But what exactly? 

Then there's this bit from the likely incoming House Finance Chair, Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL), warning of a potential "mass exodus" from U.S. Banks if the Volcker Rule is fully implemented. 

According to the letter Bachus sent to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as reported by CNN,...

"If the Volcker Rule's prohibitions are expansively interpreted and rigidly implemented against U.S. institutions while other nations refuse to adopt them, the damage to U.S. competitiveness and job creation could be substantial."
So, in other words we need to keep the Banks at the pre-2008 Great Recession regulatory status, which is more or less UNREGULATED with no separation between Commercial and Traditional banks. 

All this could just be placating to the incoming Tea Party "Caucus", but then again it could mean they have learned nothing from the economic and regulatory history they heavily shaped over the last 30 years. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

If you can't argue the facts, then just make something up

So, Anderson Cooper of CNN was interviewing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann a couple of nights ago and was asking her some questions about specific things she would cut to reduce the National Debt and get the Federal Budget under control.  Here's the interview... 




Not sure if the cool response Bachmann received from the GOP Leadership (establishment) was a result of this interview, but I'm sure it didn't help her chance to move into the Leadership.  If this is the way the Tea Party "Caucus" Chair plans to govern, the GOP is in trouble. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Michele Bachmann is knock, knock, kockin' on the GOP Leadership door

In all due deference and respect to Guns 'n Roses classic, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", the first real test of the Tea Party's influence is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's bid to move up into the GOP Leadership.  Click here for the story from Politico. 

If there's a poster child for demagoguery and evangelical nationalism, Michele Bachmann fills that role perfectly.  Let's see if the Speaker-in-waiting, John Boehner, and the Majority Leader-in-waiting, Eric Cantor, will answer the Tea Party darling's call. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Will fiscal discipline mean longer Bread Lines?

Despite the demagoguery of TARP and the Stimulus by establishment Republicans, and the Tea Party movement that is being co-oped by the GOP, one of the things that is keeping people fed is TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). 

So, with Tea Party candidates poised to have a better than noticeable presence in both the House and Senate, banging the drum of "No Compromise" with Democrats or the White House, what does this bode for the nation's strained social safety net? 

In today's Roanoke Times, there's an article on the modern-day version of Depression Era Bread Lines.  Despite the so-called waist and failure of the Stimulus, TANF funding, along with Unemployment and a whole host of other programs, have been a life line to millions directly impacted by the Great Recession.  These programs are in the cross hairs of the Tea Party Movement and the GOP Establishment. 

The reality is that contemporary Bread Lines exist.  But what if the Stimulus had not passed?  How much longer would they be? 

TODAY IS ELECTION DAY. 

VOTE YOUR FOR YOUR PRINCIPLES AND YOUR HUMANITY. 

GO VOTE! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The evil stepchildren that are TARP and the Stimulus, and why Bush would do it again

Two very good Op-ed pieces today from the New York Times.  The first from Nobel Prize winning Economist Paul Krugman, countering charges from Republicans that the Stimulus was too big, it spent too much, and didn't deliver, is a bunch of baloney.  As Kruman explains,

"If Democrats do as badly as expected in next week’s elections, pundits will rush to interpret the results as a referendum on ideology. President Obama moved too far to the left, most will say, even though his actual program — a health care plan very similar to past Republican proposals, a fiscal stimulus that consisted mainly of tax cuts, help for the unemployed and aid to hard-pressed states — was more conservative than his election platform."
Krugman continues to charge that the much hated Stimulus package was way too small to have the effect needed to pull the economy out of the ditch created by the Wall Street meltdown.  

The next piece comes from New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, Ross Douthat, about the red-in-the-face anger at having to bail out Wall Street, better known as TARP.  Douthat writes,

"The question is whether the program’s extraordinary unpopularity is justified. Few elected officials may be willing to argue for the bailout, but plenty of policy wonks will make the case (from the safety of their think tanks) that the Wall Street rescue package is actually “one of the most unfairly maligned policy initiatives of all time,” as the Center for American Progress’s Matthew Yglesias recently put it.



This case was strengthened by the news that the bailout might actually end up costing the taxpayer less than $50 billion over all, rather than the $700 billion originally set aside to pay for it. Moreover, it’s the auto bailout, which the TARP funds eventually underwrote as well, that’s likely to end up being responsible for the bulk of these losses. As it stands, the federal government may actually end up turning a modest profit on the money injected into Wall Street’s failing banks.


Given what seemed to be at stake in the fall of ’08, TARP’s defenders argue, that doesn’t seem like such a bad bargain: the bailout may have averted a Great Depression, and it didn’t end up costing very much at all."
It all comes back to what were the alternatives to either?  For all the anger of the Tea Party Movement, and the jabbering of the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Savage, O'Reilly, and all these financial and economic experts of their ilk, still no viable alternative economic plan from the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party,... except for LET THEM FAIL and more TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY.  That's what would have saved our economy and prevented a "socialist government takeover" led by Obama-Pelosi-Reid. 

And then there's this from former President George W. Bush, coming out of seclusion, to give a speech in Tyler, TX.  As reported by the Associated Press and reported by Politico,

Bush said that when the markets crashed in the fall of 2008, he recognized that if his administration didn’t do “something significant,” a “depression greater than the Great Depression” could occur.



The former president said the choice to backstop many of the country’s leading financial institutions “wasn’t that hard for me.”
That says it all.  It was that bad. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Haste to shed bad mortgages leads to shoddy foreclosure paperwork

According to CNNMoney.com, as banks raced to repossess or foreclose on scores of homes, shoddy paperwork could be compounding the problems for the U.S. housing market already struggling to recover.  The revelation of hundreds of thousands of inaccurately processed foreclosure documents has prompted almost every major bank to freeze all foreclosures and nearly every state in the United State have begun investigations into the repossession and foreclosure procedures in their respective states. 

Over the course of July, August, and September "372,445 foreclosure auctions were scheduled,... while 288,345 properties were repossessed by lenders over the same time period."  And for the first time every, over 100,000 homes were repossessed in a single month with 102,134 being taken back by the banks. 

Keep in mind, Banks were the major recipients of TARP.  The American Taxpayer bailed these guys out.  These same banks are showing record profits again, are hemming and hawing about executive compensation packages, and are funneling massive amounts of campaign money to business friendly conservatives (like there's any other type). 

So, do these folks really care if their shaky and shoddy paperwork causes the U.S. economy to take another shot to the gut again?  Here's Matt Lauer of the Today Show interviewing Jim Cramer of Mad Money about the developing problem with the Mortgage Lending Industry, again... 



According to the Business and Media Institute, Jim Cramer was singing a different tune a year ago, but he accurately bashes Wall Street for their hubris.  Again, another example of the disconnect between financial elites and the rest of Americans. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nobel Prize winner "not qualified" to be on Federal Reserve Board of Governors?

Yes, that's right.  NOT QUALIFIED.  This according to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is holding up the nomination of Peter Diamond, MIT Economist, to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.  Peter Diamond is on of three who are sharing the Nobel Prize for Economics this year, for their work on "how economic policy affects the job market," by understanding "the ways in which unemployment, job vacancies, and wages are affected by regulation and economic policy."  

But, according to today's article in The Washington Monthly and the ThinkProgress blog,...
"Five current governors of the Fed, only two, Mr. Bernanke and the vice chairman, Donald L. Kohn, are academic economists who specialize in monetary economics. The other three include a former community banker, a former Wall Street executive and a legal scholar." 
Also, one of the current Federal Reserve Board members who was appointed by President Bush, "has no advanced degree in economics and has never done any academic research in the field. Shelby never raised questions about his qualifications and didn't hesitate to support that nomination.

Oh yeah.  Totally unqualified to be on the Board of the Federal Reserve.  This explains a lot about why our economy and monetary policy are a mess.  Thank Senator Shelby!  You're a credit to conservatives the world over.  (NOT!) 

Links relating to this post:  http://econ-www.mit.edu/faculty/pdiamond/index.htm 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

If this were any other year...

There are relatively normal years when "partisan bickering" meant the back and forth between Democrats and Republicans boiled down to tax cuts, social programs, and national defense.  But, if this were any other year..., we wouldn't be talking about "nullification," repeal of certain parts of the 14th Amendment, prosecuting academics for research that doesn't jive with a particular ideology, or secession from elected officials

If this were any other year..., the public debate wouldn't be over the rights of Americans to build a place of worship, if towns across America were being overtaken by Islamic Sharia Law, or if every brown skinned Spanish speaking person was illegally in this country. 

If this were any other year..., the thought of terminating Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance would be laughed out of the room.  Or, the same medical care and coverage that members of our Armed Forces receive would be classified as "Socialized Medicine." 

But, this is not any other year.  This is the year of hyper-partisanship and extremist rhetoric.  This year, the people who are the most energized to get out and vote are the ones who finally have candidates to vote for that share these ultra-nationalistic, extremist ideologies.  These are the people that despite proof positive, a person's place of birth, citizenship, or religious affiliation isn't good enough to qualify them as a red, white, and blue American. 

Birthers, nativists, xenophobes, climate deniers, nullifiers, repeal-and-replace(ers), pro-balanced budget amendment, budget cutters, anti-tax, anti-social safety net, lock'em up advocates.  This is what's on the ballot for November 2nd.  Will Americans hold their collective noses and pull the lever, fill in the bubble, touch the screen for an ultra-conservative, nationalist agenda?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Taxes: Does taxing the wealthy endanger individual prosperity?

As conservatives, anti-tax advocates, and anyone with wealth continue to assert that increasing taxes on high income earners (those making over $250,000 per year as defined by President Obama) will kill any economic recovery, there's new data to the contrary that effectively shoots this claim out of the water.  

Thanks to the watchful eyes of a progressive tax reform group, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), they came across a Wall Street Journal article that more or less dispels the myth that when taxes are raised on high income earners, or places that have higher tax rates on the same group, that wealth flees for places with lower tax rates.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal's Robert Frank, according to an annual report by Phoenix Affluent Marketing Service, "the overall number of millionaire's in the U.S. rose 8% in 2010 to roughly 5.6 million households." 

States with the highest concentration of millionaire's, Maryland and Hawaii, had some of the highest state income taxes.  As a matter of fact, the report that the Phoenix Affluent Market Service pulled their information from was from the conservative tax policy think tank the Tax Foundation.  Among the top ten states with the highest individual income taxes were: 1) New York, 2) Maryland, 3) California, 4) New Jersey, 5) Ohio, 6) Oregon, 7) Hawaii, 8) Wisconsin, 9) Iowa, 10) Vermont.  Virginia ranked around 30 in the report. 

Out of the top ten individual income tax states listed above, "...the millionaire populations and the millionaire densities of Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, California and New York increased in 2010 from 2009. That suggests that the states gained more millionaires than they lost."  So what is so attractive about these states with their prosperity killing individual income taxes? 

According to the Wall Street Journal article these are,
"states with large concentrations of highly educated professionals and business owners, which are key ingredients to growing wealth,” according to David Thompson, Managing Director of the Phoenix Affluent Market.  Additionally, “in general, most high-net-worth households don’t base their living decision on tax rates, but on things like quality of life, access to good education, infrastructure and culture.”
In short, high taxes on the wealthy aren't killing their prosperity or driving them out of states with high individual income taxes.  The wealthy and anti-tax advocates are pushing a total myth

Links of interest:  http://www.ctj.org/, http://www.taxfoundation.org/ 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bombshell accusations linking Va. DEQ and Dominion Power

If these allegations by former Virginia Department of Environmental Quality groundwater expert Allen Brockman hold up, the effects could be far reaching.  It would call into question every ruling or favorable report issued by the Va. DEQ for energy producers and even bio-solid companies. 

While fly ash (byproduct of burnt coal from coal fired power plants) is used widely in construction materials, like cinder blocks and even in road construction, if it is used as construction fill without the proper containment process and sealant materials, the leeching from the heavy metals left in the ash will seep into the water tables. 

At this point all the information that has been released to the public, as well as reported in the Virginian Pilot, indicate Dominion Power was just trying to unload this stuff on anyone that would take it and as fast as possible.  It appears they also knew there would be problems, but chose to mislead the public about an internal report that said this very thing and presented the Chesapeake Planning Commission and City Council with a second report that was much more favorable for the use of the fly ash. 

For the latest on the Battlefield Golf Club groundwater contamination, and the allegations by Allen Brockman about the Va. DEQ's role in all this, click here.  

Image found at:  http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/media/Water--Hickory,%20PA.JPG 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Taxes: What if you got a Receipt instead of a Bill?


What a novel idea.  This is so simple that a 5th Grader would understand.  First reported by NPR, Third Way (a moderate to progressive Think Tank based in Washington, DC) has published an Idea Brief proposing the Federal Government provide taxpayers with a receipt for the taxes they pay. 

It would detail a list of Federal Programs that are funded by the taxes we pay.  While not an exhaustive list, the example of what this receipt would look like includes such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Interest on the National Debt, Combat Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so forth... 

The motivation behind this is that if Americans saw what their tax dollars paid for, they would think differently about how government works and if their tax dollars are being waisted. 

To learn more about Third Way, click here

To view Third Way's Idea Brief, click here

Image found at:  http://couponkatie.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/071410-Kroger-Receipt.jpg 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Predatory Lending: Hollow victory for opponents of Car Title Lenders

The law to regulate Car Title Lenders takes effect today.  While any regulation is seen as an improvement over the previously non-regulated industry, most Consumer Advocates and opponents of Car Title Lending view the changes as hollow and at best only symbolic.  

This is yet again another example of what our collective society is willing to allow to promote the principles of free markets and capitalism.   Liberty that equates financial success at the expense of ethical principles is not liberty. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The least religious are the most knowledgeable about faith

As reported by CNN's Belief Blog and The Washington Post's On Faith blog, most Americans fail in a test of religious/faith knowledge.  A report published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that those who are the least religious are the most knowledgeable about religion.  Here are some of the key findings: 
  • Atheist and agnostics answered and average of 21 questions correctly out of 32. 
  • Jews answered an average of 20.5 questions correctly with Mormons just a hair behind. 
  • Catholics performed the worst, answering an average of 15 questions correctly. 
  • The average American only answered an average of 16 out of 32 (50%).
For CNN's Belief Blog coverage of the story, click here

For The Washington Post's coverage, click here

For the full Pew Report, click here

While it's hard not to shake your head or chuckle, this is actually pretty serious.  More times than not, lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of other faiths are the primary cause of violent conflicts.  They are also a primary factor of prejudice, as well as anti-semitism. 

Image found at:  http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID10965/images/religious_candles.jpg

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Healthcare: Repeal and Replace? GOP might be misreading the Tea (Party) leaves

Time, after time, after time, Republicans hammer away at the "fact" that most Americans didn't want the health care reforms that are now law.  It's clear, the polling done over the last six to eight months has been pretty consistent in the opposition to the new health care law that began to go into effect in earnest just a few days ago.  But when you dig deeper, opposition to health care reform mainly rest on the Republican side. 

According to another AP-GfK poll, those that think the new reforms don't go far enough out number those who don't want government involved in health care at all by 2 to 1Yes, that's right.  Twice as many people feel the reforms don't go far enough

Bottom line, most Americans wanted Healthcare Reform.  They just wanted much bigger reforms.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Democrats punt on Tax Vote, GOP no new ideas with recycled Contract, Massey Energy blames mine disaster on Gas

It's Duck-n-Cover for Democrats on Tax Vote

It seems that Democrats are so shell shocked from the legislative and policy battles of the last two years, they're even afraid to pull the trigger on an issue that works for them.  Democrats decided to take a pass on a vote to extend the Bush Tax Cuts for everyone except the rich. 

All the recent polling points to massive support for letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire at the end of the year for the rich and extending them for the rest.  But even this isn't enough to assuage the Democrats bunker mentality as they head home to campaign.  With a stagnant economy and stubbornly high unemployment weighing them down in the polls, the last thing Democrats want to be accused of is raising taxes in a bad economy. 

Click here for the full story from Politico. 

Republicans recycle their "Contract" of failure for their final campaign push 

Republicans are calling Democrats arrogant.  With their new "Pledge to America" Democrats could make a strong argument that Republicans are deaf.  In 1994 the GOP used the steps of the Capitol as the backdrop for their "Contract with America."  Yesterday, they used a Northern Virginia Hardware Store to release their latest reincarnation of a governing agenda that saw incomes stay flat or retreated, deregulation that created the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, promise to repeal and replace Health Care Affordability Act, and extend all the Bush Tax Cuts which will increase the national debt by $4 Trillion.  OK (wink, wink). 

Now, if a large number of the Tea Party candidates do win their races they promise to privatize Social Security, privatize or end Medicaid and Medicare, and end Unemployment Insurance.  They too have a contract.  Theirs is called the "Contract from America."  Just like the establishment GOP's "Pledge to America", the "Contract from America" offers a lot of what they want to do, but very few specifics about how to do it and what their plan will replace or improve. 

There's one other problem for the GOP.  An AP-GfK poll released this month found that the only thing that voters dislike as much, or more than, Democrats,... Republicans.  The difference is that anger on the GOP side is much, much more intense than Democrats.  Oh, Americans still blame Bush and the Republicans for the economy than Obama and the Democrats. 

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship blaming mine explosion on methane gas leak 

In what is being described as a theory, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is claiming that methane gas was the cause of the explosion.  Citing pictures that show equipment inside the mine was shut off, manually, Blankenship is claiming that the miners knew methane gas was present and turned off the equipment. 

Regardless, this still doesn't excuse all the other mine safety violations and blatant and brazen disregard for MSHA regulations.  Federal investigators are still working to find the cause, but it would seem this could be one possibility among many others. 




Tax pic image found at:  http://www.intheiropinion.com/uploads/image/tax.jpg 
Boehner pic image found at:  http://www.usnews.com/dbimages/master/11483/FS_DA_090617boehner300.jpg 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Healthcare Reform Poll: 81% believe new health care law will add to national debt

All than can be said is that the GOP's efforts to distort and misinform the public about the overhauls to the nation's health care system and Health Insurance Industry, have worked.  As reported by the Associated Press, in a poll commissioned by AP and conducted by Stanford University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

People were asked whether the Congressional Budget Office had ruled that the legislation would probably increase the government's debt, or whether the nonpartisan budget analysts found that the health law would reduce red ink. (Correct answer: CBO found it would reduce the federal deficit over time.)

But 81 percent in the survey got the wrong answer, including a majorities of both supporters and opponents - even though Obama seldom misses a chance to remind audiences of CBO's favorable report.
The long and short of it, most Americans don't understand what's in and what's out or if it's going to cost them more or less.  The health care reforms that were signed into law six months ago tomorrow, haven't even come close to being fully implemented.   So why are most Americans opposed to the new health care reforms?

As reported in Politico today,
“The expectation or hope that as the memory of the debate faded, public opinion would turn has simply not worked out,” said William Galston, a former Clinton adviser who is now at the Brookings Institution. “Even with the front-loaded benefits having just begun to kick in, they have not begun to register." 

One other reason why people are uneasy about the health care overhaul, in March the Congressional Budget Office revised their previous estimates of the reforms and the cost rose to over $1 Trillion over the next 10 years.  But, it still reduced the overall national debt by $100 Billion over that same period.  And the most contentious part of the reforms was the mandate to purchase health insurance by 2014. 

If the Republicans are able to gain the majority in the House of Representatives, there will be a big push to repeal or replace, or to defund major parts of the law.  If this happens, Health Care will cost more. 

Related links:  http://www.cbo.gov/publications/collections/health.cfm 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FINALLY, a common sense Conservative,... too bad he's on his way out

Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who is as conservative as they come, was defeated for re-election in the Republican Primary.  No chance that seat was going Democratic, but he just wasn't conservative enough.  Why?  Listen to the interview by CNN's John Roberts: 



This hard, hard turn to the right in the GOP is going to devastate this party, if not relegate it to permanent minority party status after this election.  The damage to the GOP brand, the party of Lincoln, is so bad that whatever remains will be a shell of its former self. 

I'm not sure how Moderate Republicans will be able to stay in the GOP?  While I will disagree a whole lot with Conservatives like Congressman Inglis, there is a place for people like him in Congress.  Not a bunch of folks who will only intensify the white-hot rhetoric and push outright lies, misinformation, and distortions as absolute truth. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

More proof that poverty and inequity concentrated in regions governed by Conservatives

Last week the government released the latest number on poverty in America, and as expected there are more people living in poverty because of The Great Recession.  One in seven (1 out of every 7) people in this country are living below the poverty line.  Over 14%.  The next day, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its report on the richest and poorest states in the country.  The Top 10 Wealthiest States are as follows: 
1.   New Hampshire
2.   New Jersey 
3.   Connecticut 
4.   Maryland 
5.   Alaska 
6.   Virginia  (NOVA's Median Income is much higher than the rest of the state)
7.   Utah 
8.   Massachusetts 
9.   Hawaii 
10. Washington (State)
The Median Income runs from $65,028 in New Hampshire to $58,404 in Washington (State).  Five out of the top ten are located in the Northeast, and if you want to include Maryland and Virginia for geographic continuity, then seven out of the top ten.  While the Median Incomes are the highest out of all the 50 states, when you factor in cost of living, it becomes more relative.  Also, in many of these states there is a strong Organized Labor movement and have a history of electing Progressives and Liberals.  Now the poorest states: 
50. Mississippi 
49. Arkansas 
48. West Virginia 
47. Tennessee 
46. South Carolina 
45. Montana 
44. Kentucky 
43. Alabama 
42. North Carolina
41. Louisiana
The Median Income for this group runs from $42,423 in Louisiana to the lowest of $35,693 in Mississippi.  Nine out of the ten states in this bottom group are concentrated in the South.  Montana is the only one in this list that is not geographically located in the South.  These states are primarily Right-to-Work states, relatively weak Organized Labor movements, and have a strong history of electing Conservatives. 

As we know, Conservatives are huge advocates of deregulation and pure free market Capitalism.  They favor tax codes that are relatively flat or consumption based rather than the current progressive income tax code.  They also favor little or no taxation on businesses and corporations.  Cost of living is relatively low in this area, as well as wages.  Public Schools are either very well funded or crumbling, depending on which part of the city or county a person lives. 

There are pockets of economic vitality and prosperity, but one to two streets over you run into abject poverty.  It would seem that for Conservatives, this is what personal responsibility and the American Dream resembles.  As the saying goes, "Birds of a feather fock together." 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ex-Aides paint O'Donnell as someone not grounded in reality

In a year where any type of candidate with a pulse laying claim to the Republican mantle has a chance, former campaign aides to Christine O'Donnell during her 2008 trouncing are coming forward with more damaging insights into the Tea Party phenom. 

According to Politico, campaign staffers during here second stab at statewide office remember Christine O'Donnell as,
"a candidate who was less interested in conservative causes than scoring a television deal, one who suggested dodging campaign vendors, believed she could give the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention and fixated on a harebrained idea to distribute tens of thousands of two-ounce suntan lotion packets to voters."

For the full story, click here

I wish I could say that Progressives are immune from candidates like this, but I've worked with and been around more than my fair share.  But it's good for a change to see Conservatives flailing to figure out how close they stand to their newly minted Senate nominee.  At this point, it doesn't seem to be stopping South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint from raising money to just throw away on a lost cause.  Fine by me. 

Image found at:  http://www.csmonitor.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/images/0916-wires-odonnell/8647196-1-eng-US/0916-wires-odonnell_full_380.jpg 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How can you strictly interpret the Constitution if most haven't read it?


The Associated Press is reporting on a new survey by the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier.  It reveals that most Americans haven't read the entire U.S. Constitution, but they think it's important. 
The survey didn't breakdown party identification or if respondents identified as conservative or liberal.  But, I am curious to know how many of the participants support the Tea Party? 

Click here for the link to the survey results.   

Click here for a link to the United States Constitution for your review if interested. 

Image found at:  http://www.ndnu.edu/images/academics/constitution_quill_pen.jpg 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Extreme Right-Wing Conservatives snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory?


The 2010 Primary Season is officially over and victories by Tea Party back candidates have rocked the GOP establishment to their foundation.  Look no further than Delaware and Christine O'Donnell's victory over Congressman Mike Castle.  Up to this point, Republican Mike Castle had never lost a political contest in this deep, dark blue of blue Democratic strongholds.  This is a span of more than 20 years. 

While the Tea Party continues to demonstrate they're a force of conservative nature that the GOP establishment cannot contend with, the implications of their primary successes are just beginning to be felt.  Democrats, having been pummeled since the start of the Great Recession and throughout this lack-luster economic recovery, are feeling a stiff gust of wind in their sails with O'Donnell's win in Delaware.  Why? 

For starters, Christine O'Donnell is a perennial candidate with a personal credibility problem, has significant personal financial issues, has sued a former employer for discrimination and wrongful termination, and as the head of an "Abstinence Only" group made controversial statements regarding masturbation.  In a nutshell, O'Donnell is the GOP's worst nightmare come true.  Click here for the CNN report on her background. 

There seems to be widespread consensus that Delaware is off the target list for the NRSC, virtually assuring Democratic retention of the Senate.  But will O'Donnell's victory affect other GOP targets?  Possibly. 

Democrats now have a chance to turn the tables and make the case for them to retain control by nationalizing the Tea Party candidates as too extreme.  What kind of message can the Democrats cobble together with less than two months to go until November 2nd, that will hold the line for them to retain control? 

Just like Republicans were handed a gift by Democrats overreaching with their legislative agenda and not focusing on the economy first and then everything else, Democrats have been handed the gift of the Tea Party and the circular firing squad within the GOP.  Republicans had the Democrats on the ropes and the Tea Party threw a banana peal on the mat hoping Democrats would step on it and fall.  Whoops! 

So here's the picture Democrats have to paint for the General Election voters:  Message Received.  We hear you America and we'll do better.  But if you didn't like what the Republicans did when they had control, just wait and see if you give the keys back to this group.  Too extreme to govern and make rational decisions.  The GOP and the Tea Party will be the end of us all.  The GOP created this problem (The Tea Party) and now they can't put the crazy kid back in Juvee. 

Here's a short list of statewide GOP nominees that are supported by the Tea Party: 

Delaware U.S. Senate - Christine O'Donnell 
New York Governor - Carl Paladino 
South Carolina Governor - Nikki Haley 
South Carolina U.S. Senate - Senator Jim Demint 
Florida Governor - Rick Scott 
Florida U.S. Senate - Marco Rubio 
Kentucky U.S. Senate - Rand Paul 
Texas Governor - Governor Rick Perry
Utah U.S. Senate - Mike Lee 
Nevada U.S. Senate - Sharron Angle 
Alaska U.S. Senate - Joe Miller 

If you know of more, please add to the list.  But with just this list, the window of opportunity is there for Democrats to take advantage of the extremist candidates running on the GOP slate and put them under the magnifying glass.  Christine O'Donnell's victory might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back for the GOP to run the table.  Then again, the American public might just be that fed up with business as usual in Washington, D.C. to elect this group and their supporting cast. 

Image found at:  http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2009/09/14/0914_tread2_460x276.jpg 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9th Anniversary of September 11th marked by extremist rhetoric, marginalization, and bigotry

Demagoguery seems to have taken hold across the nation as we mark the 9th Anniversary of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks. What is different now compared to nine years ago?

For starters, our economy is limping along and there is stubbornly high unemployment. With 9.6% of the nation's workforce looking for work (and this number is misleadingly low considering those out of work well beyond the initial 26 weeks of unemployment), and five to six applicants for every job opening, this is the toughest job market since the Great Depression or at least since the Recession of the early 1980s.

Throw in the budget deficits and high national debt that we've been running since the 1980s (with the exception of a few years in the late 1990s when there were budget surpluses), the ingredients of anger, accusations, extremist rhetoric, marginalization, and racism begin form a witches brew conducive for an American version of right-wing nationalism.

Then there's the corporate culture, emboldened by deregulation, lax financial oversight, and the complete repeal of many of the laws put in place to prevent another Great Depression, that still refuses to admit their culpability for the Great Recession and changing their greedy, predatory business practices that set all of this in motion. The best examples of this, look no further than the BP Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Massey Energy's brazen disregard for Federal Mine Safety Standards and Regulations, and the latest, Pacific Gas and Electric's gas line explosion in California that took out an entire neighborhood.

While these are some of the broader, overriding themes that fertilize the ground for us to be susceptible to bigotry, significant economic distress that affects broad swaths of the population will compel those directly affected to assign blame and direct anger. And who are the ones to blame? Those that do not look like the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with their work ethic, stiff upper lip, and can-do attitude. Those that do not espouse the supremacy and virtues of American Exceptionalism. Anyone that does not believe in the American Dream or advertise their Christianity and the "fact" that the United States was founded on Christian Values.

In the weeks leading up to September 11, 2010 we've seen an irrefutable rise in Islamaphobia and anti-immigrant (or more specifically anti-Hispanic) rhetoric. We've had protests to the proposed Islamic Community Center a few blocks away from Ground Zero and a likely act of arson to the construction site of a mosque in Tennessee. Just this week, an Evangelical Pastor with a congregation of 50 people from Florida threatened to burn a Koran unless the location of Islamic Community Center in New York City was moved. We continue to have Republican candidates, Congressmen, and Senators using illegal immigration as a wedge issue for one of the major reasons for the nation's unemployment problems, despite a major decline and stricter enforcement of laws on those who hire illegal workers.

Right-wing extremist candidate for Congress continue to win primary after primary, defeating establishment GOP candidates on the promises of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment, repealing part of the 14th Amendment to deny any benefits of citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants on American soil, and repeal and replace of historic Healthcare Reform. They also blame the collapse of the housing market on the poor, calling for the repeal of the Community Reinvestment Act, eliminating Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as well.

Sensing the political opportunity to take back Congress and the decline in optimism that things will get better, Republicans are recycling an agenda of supply-side economics and deregulation with the promise of fiscal responsibility that brought them to power in 1994 and exacerbated the reasons for the Great Recession.

What all this tells me, and should be clear to everyone, is we are no different than any other nation reeling from policy choices and decisions that concentrate wealth and power in the hands of social and economic elites. While we long for the illusion of benefits from American Exceptionalism based on individualism and materialism, we have shoved the sense of national purpose and community responsibility in the garbage and replaced it with bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and selfishness. This is what happens when the voices of extremist outliers get a disproportionate amount of press. 

All of this adds up is an absence of leadership. In this vacuum of leadership people will listen to anyone and anything that assuages their anxieties and justifies their fears and prejudices. Happy 9/11 Anniversary.  The Terrorist have won this round. 

Images found at: http://blog.case.edu/james.chang/2007/09/11/9-11_firemans_flag_full.jpg and http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/imgLib/20100910_Jones.jpg

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Democrats hope invoking the Ali "Rope-a-dope" will save their majorities


According to Wednesday's article on Politico, the "Fail-Safe Plan" for Democrats is to go on Offense?  Click here for the story. 

As for me, taking body blows until your opponent gets tired is not a plan.  Too little, too late for Democrats? 

Image found at:  http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/12_01/aliDM0212_468x305.jpg 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Illegal immigration way down, but still a Hot Button issue for Goodlatte and the GOP

Several revealing reports came out last week debunking GOP claims that illegal immigration is up.  Most notable of those reports was the Pew Hispanic Center's showing an overall 8% drop in illegal immigrants living in the United States.  More significantly the annual inflow of new illegal immigrants dropped sharply, from a peak of 850,000 in 2005 to around 300,000 in 2009.

The Pew Hispanic Center report attributes the drop of inflow and unauthorized immigrants living in the United States to a corresponding decline in the economy and increased enforcement of immigration laws.  When compared to the years of GOP control of the White House and both chambers of Congress (2001 to 2007) where illegal immigration increased every year, Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches of government shows a reversal of that trend.

Sensing a growing tide of opposition to Democratic control, Republicans continue to beat the drum of illegal immigration as one of their signature wedge issues heading into the final two months of the 2010 Mid-Term elections. This despite the most recent evidence in the Pew Hispanic Center's September 1, 2010 report and data collected by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) showing under Democratic control, enforcement of current immigration laws have increased significantly and deportations are way up. 

The focus of the Obama Administration's illegal immigration law enforcement efforts has been on those that have felony or misdemeanor convictions, non-compliance with deportation orders, and audits of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.  But this doesn't seem to matter to Republicans, despite the contradictory data and evidence. 

In Town Hall meetings around Virginia's 6th Congressional District, sponsored by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), outdated or inaccurate information continues to be used to underscore the GOP's position to illegal immigration.  Here is part of my interview with Congressman Goodlatte regarding immigration:



According to a July 26, 2010 article by Washington Post Staff Writer, Peter Slevin,

The Obama administration has been moving away from using work-site raids to target employers. Just 765 undocumented workers have been arrested at their jobs this fiscal year, compared with 5,100 in 2008, according to Department of Homeland Security figures. Instead, officers have increased employer audits, studying the employee documentation of 2,875 companies suspected of hiring illegal workers and assessing $6.4 million in fines.
By Congressman Goodlatte's own admission, he didn't know what the penalty was but he thinks its significant. When $6.4 million in fines is divided by the 2,875 companies the Obama Administration has audited, it comes out to $2,226.09 per company. By any standard, a $2,200 penalty for domestic companies and businesses breaking U.S. Immigration Law, for knowingly hiring illegal workers is comparable to a slap on the wrist. At this point, the benefits to hiring someone who is not eligible to work in this country outweigh the costs.  Also, no indication if any of these employers have gone to jail for breaking the law?

So the question becomes are Republicans, like Congressman Goodlatte, intentionally misleading voters and their constituents with inaccurate information on illegal immigration for the sole purpose of regaining control of congress after November 2nd or are their Congressional Staffs really that bad at getting updated information from Homeland Security and ICE?  In some places, they refer to spreading misinformation as lying.  But in our country today, its called POLITICS

Links relating to this post: 

Center for Investigative Reporting Blog 
Homeland Security Newswire 
ICE Removal Statistics  
Fines/Penalties for hiring illegal workers  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baptist leader slams Glenn Beck's "generic God"

Earlier in the week, just after the much advertised and publicized "Restoring Honor" spectacle, Robert Parham posted his thoughts on the rally.  In one of his observations, Parham writes: 

"No amount of Bible reading, sermons masquerading as prayers and Christian hymns can cover up Beck's civil religion that slides back and forth between the Bible and nationalism, between authentic faith and patriotic religion." 
Robert Parham is the Executive Director of EthicsDaily.com and its parent organization, The Baptist Center for Ethics.  Until I read the article on the Washington Post's On Faith Panelists Blog, I was unaware that there were Baptists (Southern Baptists as a matter of fact) that were just as un-enamored with Glenn Beck as myself.  So much so that Mr. Parham also points out a disturbing characteristic that seems to allude most conservatives and evangelicals around this nation.  That being the ease and comfort of Glenn Beck's "revivalist agenda for Americanism - blended nationalism and individualism", according to Parham. 

With all the effort that Corporate Faith is putting into tearing down the wall of separation between Church and State, it is refreshing to learn there are Baptists that understand what it really means to be a Christian, by putting on the "whole armor of God" and not just the parts that fit a narrow view of the world or advance a Theological Political Agenda. 

I highly encourage anyone that is interested to visit their web site to learn more about them. 

EthicsDaily.com    

Image found at:   http://www.eurweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/glenn-beck-fox-news.jpg