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:

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: 
Boehner pic image found at: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: and

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: 

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 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.    

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