Monday, February 21, 2011

A Great Idea

I was reading a story about a family's problems with getting health insurance after her husband lost his job and the family health insurance. She clearly found the new healthcare law excellent and wanted to describe folks why, simply companies can't reject you and your family if they have it and you can pay the premiums, they can't deny any coverage once you are enrolled, and they can't cancel your policy on a whim.

She suggested if the members of Congress thought the old system was so good, they should turn down the government insurance available to all members and partially paid by the government, and get insurance on their own for themselves and their family. They should see what real people experience when families have children, and like all of us, have "pre-existing" conditions, which not suprisingly covers damn near every condition.

I know how grateful I've been with mine from my 4 years in the service and 28 years with the federal government, and now in retirement. I have the same company and policy now as when I was working. The only difference is I pay twice the premium now as then. And coverage can't be denied or the policy cancelled, for the rest of my life, no mater what happens and health issues or problems I encounter.

I know if I had to get private insurance I couldn't. I had Rheumatic Fever when I was a child. Almost all my life I had a heart murmur, and while it's still there, it's almost indiscernible anymore admidst the noise of the heart at my age. I have damage on the edge of one valve but it's not signifiant and not out of the ordinary for someone my age.

But I know with the recently discovered probems with my pulmonary artery (20% blockage), any insurance company would find a way to first deny claims and eventually cancel my policy for the possible costs I may have if things get worse. With the federal active and retired employees' plan, that can't happen.

And the good part is that changes only occur once a year starting every January with policy and premium changes overseen the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The companies can't make changes during the year. And as much as people want to bitch about the government, there isn't a loss of companies in the program and applying every year. It's profitable for them and beneficial for the employees.

And above all, it's all guarranteed, for my life. And for members of Congress it's guarranteed for their term in Congress. It's easy, they just pick a plan and they're in no matter their or their families condition. Just like Representative Gabriel Gifford, it's all there and covered minus the fixed deductible. The medical bills won't inundate her family's finances.

So this woman's suggestion is a good one for Congress, and really for any issue. Go live like an ordinary family. With the majority of members being millionaires, they don't have to worrry (except those tax cuts they wanted) about a job, the family expenses and budget, the debt, the mortage, and so on.

And as suggested health insurance. That's something they can do now. Just turn down the government managed plan and go it alone on the market. And if you can't, as Rep. Boehner said, "So be it." There's always the high risk pools, but only if the state you represent has one, except maybe yours who opted out or delayed starting anyone. As any member of Congress would say, "Good luck."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sexism in Nationwide Series

Update.--After reading the stories after the race I'll change my words to know Clint Bowyer wasn't being hard on Danica, and had some good words after the race. He dropped out of the push to cool off as Danica hadn't learned the art of the switch in the two-car tandems to push Bowyer and her spotter wasn't interested in her competing for the top spots. Big mistake as she could have done it if any of the other drivers had helped her. They didn't.

Original post.--I like to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup races now and then, especially the road courses at Watkins Glen, Sonoma and Montreal, and watch the Nationwide Series races when they're at the same venue or at a road course not with the Sprint Cup cars. And I always watch the Daytona races as the inaugural races of the year where all four series race (those with Trucks and ARCA).

And last year was interesting watching Danica Patrick race in her rookie season. She proved she could race with the boys and would have done far better than she did but unfortunate accidents took her out of several races when she was quite competitive. As they say, that's racing.

And this year at Daytona in the Nationwide series she qualified fourth, even getting the pole until the last few drivers ran faster. They have and did praise her, but then the race came. This year, racing is all about pairs, hooking up with another driver to be a tandem and drive 10-12 mph faster than other drivers.

So when Danica was near the front, in the top 6, none of the drivers would hook up with her to push her forward. Clint Bowyer, who later hooked up with other drivers, was behind her for many laps and only after a that did he hook up with her to push her to the front, into first place for a lap, and the drop back, leaving her alone and falling back into the pack.

And in the pack when other drivers had the opportunity to hook up with her, including her teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., no one did. Even Dale drove around her and went ahead and didn't let her push him. One of the announcers said it was her responsibility to initiate the hook as the leading car but several were behind her and wouldn't help her.

Another announcers mentioned some of the veterans won't hook up with the younger drivers because they haven't raced with them in practice, where it's key to learn how to drive the tandem and then switch, but even during practice not one driver offered to run in tandem with her to help her learn.

If you didn't think too far you could dismiss it as it's her sophomore season and even then she only ran about a dozen races focusing her career on the Indy car series. But that's not it, and it's not about her inexperience, when some equally inexperienced drivers found others to hook up with, including the race winner Tony Stewart who hooked up with Cassil who he never practiced with.

And when she was at the head of some of the lines of cars or even a pack of cars, not one driver would go near her to push her. The announcers kept saying it was her fault for not helping someone catch and push her, but there were several around and behind her, but none helped her.

They helped other drivers, just not her. If I didn't say so, I would think it was pure and simple sexism about not trusting a woman driver. They'll trust her to race with her but not where you're in tandem and 195+ mph. She can do the work and has proven she's fast.

I have no doubt she could do the job as she showed for the few laps Bowyer helped her before dropping off, and there was no doubt she could run with them as she was frequently in the top 10 throughout the race, leading lines and packs of cars. But not one would hook up with her.

In the end she finished 14th, the second car one lap down from the 12 drivers on the same lap. And through the race she spent it mostly racing alone even in the pack. She was fast and none cared. She raced hard and no cared. So what else can you call it? It seems the good ol' boys club is alive and well in the Nationwide Series.

Women can race, just don't expect help. Men only help men.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fund Education Not Vouchers

I support public education. I spent my much of my junior high school years and all my high school years in the public education system after my father retired from the military and I couldn't attend schools on military installations or for Americans in foreign countries. I am against any provision to support private schools with public money. It's a bad investment and robs students of funds for public school systems.

People and members of Congress argue that the public school system is broken and private and charter schools are the best choices for parents wanting a "better" education for their children. And they argue public funding of those schools is fair and appropriate. No, it's not, and it's proven.

All the studies have proven charter schools aren't any better than public schools. Over the range of both schools, they're both the same for test results, student achievement, and any other criteria you use to evaluate them save one, in total charter schools are more expensive, and only compete with public funds or vouchers to families.

The proponents argue, and somewhat rightly, that it's because the student-teacher ratio is lower, the facilities better, really just newer, and more technologically advanced. And that's ok only because they are newer and had the initial capital investment, but it's ok not when they not only need but demand public funds to operate.

If parents want to send their children to private or charter schools, I'm ok with it, that's their choice. But it's not their choice to take away money from public schools to do that. That money is our money, for all school children and teenagers, not just their children. Make those schools better and all students will get a better education at public expense, not selective to the families.

It is, in my view, unconscionable that Congress even consider public funded charter schools or provide vouchers for parents who simply dislike public schools. Those parents should pony up their own money if that's their concern. It's not Congress' place to facilitate discriminating against the rest of the children and the public school systems who could use and need the money.

It's time we faced the music and built the best public education system in the world. We haven't as local communties and school districts struggle with funding, school districts struggle with adequate, let alone better, teacher and student programs, supplies and services, and we struggle to define a more diverse method and more appropriate standards for students.

Students aren't one size fits all. Many school districts know that and provide for that, but the majority don't and can't, all due to inadequate funding and support from state and federal programs. And we need to ensure the education materials are the best with the truth than rewriting science or redescribing history.

I know this from my own experience, and I know, while it's over 40 years old, many of the school systems haven't improved or kept pace with the times. Our political leaders keep talking a story and selling the rhetoric about reforming or improving our education system, and then don't do much if to find fault and offer non-public solutions with public money.

The future of our nation's children is not political fodder to avoid the real investment in them or to favor those who can afford private or charter schools. It's about all children, and it's about investing the necessary money in them, and that's in the public education system.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Squashing Free Speech

It seems our government, while promoting free speech around the world including praising the efforts of the Egyptians to use Twitter and other on-line social networking tools, is squashing it here. It involves the Wikileaks case. I won't hide the fact that Wikileaks is no more guilty of publishing all those documents than the Washington Post and New York Times were when they published the Pentagon Papers.

The act of publishing government documents, secret or not, is not a crime, so long as that's all you do and you were not involved in the actual theft of the documents. And we know Wikileaks wasn't involved. We don't know that Bradley Manning, currently in custody for the crime, but note not charged yet, may have been. It seems the FBI can't connect the dots and probably won't connect the dots between Manning and Wikileaks.

That's because once outside the US, the dots the FBI wants to connect runs into the jurisdiction of other nations and the rights of those citizens. But that hasn't stopped the FBI as they handed Twitter a silent search warrant for the personal information of several people, only two of whom are US citizens. The others are citizens and residents of other countries, and not the US.

And today it was reported the judge ruled in favor of Twitter to unseal the search warrants which identifies the names and informaiton the FBI is seeking, and which shows how extensive and intrusive the FBI will go in an investigatin which will never see a court room, at least prosecuting anyone associated with Wikileaks, including Julian Assange.

While I will support the FBI when it comes to investigations into legimate criminal and terrorism activities, I won't support the FBI doing what they've been using the Patriot Act for needlessly, targetting and investigating activities of people not involved in crimes or terrorism. It's been noted by the government none of the documents Wikileaks has published were classified, only private or confidential for government use, but not officially classified.

And that's the issue, our government stretching the definition of criminal and terrorism activities to be whatever it wants for political purposes. Everyone on the right wants Wikileaks' head on a platter, just like they wanted the Washington Post and NY Times. But they're not guilty or the guilty ones.

And we saw the political pressure when a number of financial institutions used by Wikileaks froze their accounts, without an apparent warrant or a need, simply because it made them look good, or so we see but don't that know a few phone calls between the government and those financial institutions may have helped?

And then the FBI decided to investigate the activists who initiated the Denial of Service (DOS) attacks on those financial institutions. Talk about protecting corporations. All of the attackes came from overseas sources, outside US jurisdiction. It didn't matter Wikileaks or anyone with Wikileaks hasn't been charged with a crime, hasn't violated any international or national financial laws, or done anything else illegal.

It's the power the institutions have outside the law, in the terms of your agreement with them for the use of the card and with the account. The same applies to Wikileaks as applies to you and me with our accounts. It seems too coincidental that all their accounts were blocked within a day, and without warrants, or any that anyone has admitted to issuing or receiving.

What people have lost sight of is that it's the government who's guilty for the content of those documents. You don't shoot the messenger when you don't like the message. But that's what the right is doing. Secretary of State Clinton and other senior government officials, including the President, have said all the documents Wikileaks published, although embarrassing, were not classified.

But then the President has to be responsible for authorizing the investigation. He's trying to do both, appear supportive of the First Amendment rights for the publication while pandering to the right to appear tough on terrorism and national secrets. Except it's so transparent to anyone who has anything of a brain to understand both can't be supported in this case.

At least Nixon was obvious in his view. President Obama is trying to do both and he succeeding at doing both obviously badly. And those on the left easily see he's being two-faced and dishonest. But that's Obama's style now on almost every issue, except he hasn't noticed we already see it and see through it.

We know also know he won't stop the investigation and stand up for the First Amendment. He won't stand up to push the Department of Justiice and Department of Defense to handle Bradley Manning as any criminal, where he's currently in isolation in a military prison, kept locked in his cell without communications for 23 hours a day.

It's a clear violation of his rights, especially since he hasn't been charged with any crime yet, because the Army wants to hold him until they can and will gather enough evidence to convict him with then with a speedy trial sentence him to life in prison. Gee, better than his current situation. He deserves his day in court and fair treatment under the law. That's what this country is about.

In the end, or so far at least, it's clear where there may be a case against Bradley Manning, there is no case against foreign citizens who use Twitter, or other now international social networking tools, and there is no case against Wikileaks. It's a waste of government money. But I don't see the right opposing that in the name of political rhetoric of government waste.

To them anything terrorism, however wrong, is sufficient to warrant any amout of government money. And the FBI gets to spend it for political purposes. Gee, like that's new or news with them? And we can't keep promoting free speech, especially with Twitter, and privacy elsewhere but not here. But then hypocrisy has never stopped the government either.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Balancing the Budget

As we know almost every politician, especially the President who has to submit his budget to Congress and the House Republicans who have to propose their own budget, have argued for measures which, in their terms, would put us on the road to balancing the federal budget, eliminating the annual debt and not adding to the longterm deficit.

But we know none of those plans will do that, and in fact, all fall way short of it, leaving over $1 Trillion in the red. None of them have real plans, they're all cosmetic to either appear to be working hard or to appeal to their political base. The President has chosen to put the cuts on the backs of the middle class working people. He is avoiding going after the wealthy and corporations, saying the latter will get their taxes when Congress overhauls the tax code.

As the old adage goes, yeah right. Does he really expect Congress, especially the Republicans who control the House, to rewrite the tax code to tax the corporations and then even consider the idea of increasing taxes on the wealthy. They've proposed reducing or eliminating those taxes, so it's clear what is going on, balance the budget on the back of hard working Americans.

In short, screw the average person. But there are ways to do more to balance the debt and work in the deficit. Simply raise taxes on the wealthy. Go back to the 2000 pre-Bush tax cuts levels for them. I would even accept higher taxes to help. I paid then, I can and will pay now, but only if everyone pays. It's time the wealthy stepped up to the plate.

We know all the Republican talk the wealthy need the tax cuts to create jobs is bullshit. They haven't created any jobs with their extra money since the tax cuts went into effect. It's a sham to the people and a shame on the Republicans. They lied then and they're lying now.

Second, cut the DOD and HSA budets by 5-7% every year for the next 5 years. Make them do more with less like the rest of us and the rest of government has been asked and have been doing for years. We spend more on the DOD than the rest of the world combined. It's out of control and time to rein it in.

The same applies to HSA. Same words since it's creation. We're spending money into the toliet for these and we're no safer now than since the deparment was created. They also need to do more with less. Both DOD and HSA can do better with less money and it's time they contributed to the solution than be the problem.

Third, go after the corporations to pay their taxes. Some of the biggest corporation paid little or no taxes. Fix that and get those $ billion into the treasury. In addition, add taxes when they move or create jobs overseas. Make them create factories and jobs here, and then offer them tax cuts to do that, but more taxes if they don't and build or contract for factories or add jobs elsewhere.

Fourth, cut subsidies and credits to industry, especially energy. And while you're at it, collect all the overdue and due royalities. None of the industries need subsidies in the form of payments or tax cuts to create more profit. Make them do more with less. And then cut agricultural subsidies to all the corporate farms and agricultural production companies, like the poultry, meat and dairy industries and large farms.

Fifth, cut all aid to Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other nations where the money, in the form of economic aid, military aid, contracts to train police and army forces, etc., isn't helping people and only going to an existing corrupt government. We know this in both those countries. And we know there is far more money going to other countries to buy our allience when the money is simply making the powerful and wealthy there richers. It's time to stop this madness.

And now you can see where the numbers are, but I wouldn't be surprised if you're far closer to balancing the budget than anyone else's suggestion. It's time the President showed he looked at the numbers for those options than focusing on cuts for real people who can't afford the cut or lose the service.

He needs to shows he's President of all of us, applying cuts to everyone sector of our society fairly. We're not the enemy who deserves to be singled out. It's time the wealthy, the corporations, the DOD and HSA all stepped up and paid into the debt. They can afford it, we can't. Not anymore.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Listen to David Stockman

I couldn't have said it better than what he said on NPR today.

Summary and audio.

As the deficit commission said, everything should be not only on the table but cut. Everything, including the Department of Defense, and not just cosmetically with future programs and systems, but now and significant. Start with providing aid to Iraq and Afghanistan and all the forces we're helping develop for their future. They won't do it on their own if we keep paying the bills and doing the work.

We also need to cut weapons systems, not just reduce to cancel, until such time the ecomony and the budget will support these programs and systems. We need to ensure we have an economy more than we have our future defense. We can always catch up the programs and systems, we can't catch up the economy.

And this include the Homeland Security Administration and the intelligence work. Again, equal significant cuts. Start with airport security and passenger screening. It's unnecessary and hasn't proven to work, that is except enrich the corporations the former head of HSA sold to us (he's now a consultant for those very companies).

This includes the current HSA Secretary. She has to face the music and offer up real cuts for years to come. Do more with less as they saying goes and as the other government agencies have been doing and are expected to continue well into the future, especially the next 5 years of level funding. The DOD and HSA need to reduce they funding by 10% and stay there with the rest of the agencies.

And then we can look at Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Social Security is quite good and only needs tweaking provided we don't do one thing which would help it tremendously. The tweaking involves raising the ceiling for the tax and other small measures, all of which would extend it for another 3+ decades.

The biggest gain can come from adding all the illegal immigrants working under the table. Adding another 4-5 million workers would expand the base for decades to come. But that would require solving the illegal immigrant and worker problem, and maybe that's the solution, solving one solves another.

Medicare and Medicaid are problems I don't have answers, but clearly they need adjustments to ensure everyone is covered but the funds don't bankrupt the government. But these lead to the one answer everyone takes off the table almost immediately, the proverbial white elephant in the conversation.

The truth is we have to raise taxes for everyone. For the rich, considerably. For corporations, simply keep them honest where all pay equitably, something that hasn't been done for decades. We need to encourage them to spend they $1.9 Trillion is cash to add jobs here, to build factories, to create new markets overseast for US made goods, and so on.

They need to step up to the plate. We need to discourage them from moving jobs and assets overseas, which can be done by taking away their US status if they do and then charge them to sell goods and services here. If the foreign companies can build factories and create jobs here, so can the American companies. It's good for them, for America and good for Americans.

And we need to find a way to generate income to the government to face the reality of all the work they want from our government. We can't keep demanding more and cutting taxes to do that. We can't keep creating smaller government when there's more for government to do. It's a reality we have to face and create the income from taxes that balances the burden proportionately and fairly.

We need to pay for the government we want. It's that simple. One which doesn't create annual debt and slowly pay down the deficit. All of government has to be on the table and cut across the board. We need to redefine what our government is for the people and not corporations and special interests.

To cut through the political rhetoric and dogma, to where our children will have that better life. And not look back and blame us as we're blaming our past. That's the reality we're facing, the future we want for our children or the future we leave our children.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let Patriot Act Die

Don't renew the Patriot Act. It wasn't necessary before and it's not necessary now. The FBI had all the legal tools they needed to investigate any suspected criminal or terrorist. And now they have unfettered legal freedom without a judge's review and approval, at least for the first few days, after which they get the warrant (like 98+% are approved). And since that's true, they could have easily gotten one before with equal success.

They also have the National Security Letter (NSL) now which is a warrantless, nondisclosure power to gather unlimited information from unlimited sources without reason or cause. This power has been used far more for reason unrelated to terrorism or terrorists. And it has the gag provision which bars the receipient from dislcosing anything about the letter, even the existence of it except by order of a judge.

What's frightening about the Act, much against the proponents, is that it gives the FBI complete freedom to conduct "background" investigations against anyone for no reason other than an agent has "good cause to suspect" the person "may" be engaged in suspicious, if not criminal, behavior. This means they're investigating people not directly related to any crime or terrorist planning, just anyone in the neighborhood, or so they believe.

But the studies have shown, while the number of these investigations aren't large, there is both misuse and abuse. The misuse is that while the Patriot Act was aimed at terrorist or terrorism investigation, over 90% of the National Security Letter and warrants have been used for traditional criminal investigations. The FBI is using this freedom to go after criminals and not terrorists.

The abuse is that it was found the FBI used them with investigation or about people which didn't justify the use, let alone a warrant. This is above the number rejected. They simply targetted innocent people for no reason other than an agent's interest with the investigation or the interest to collect a broader array of information beyond the scope of the investigation.

This means you and me. We can be targets by association, occasional meeting, or whatever we do in our life that cause us to interact with someone under investigation. This means the investigation, while focusing on people around any criminal or terrorist with no direct link other than association, they can also investigate us if we fall on their radar for nothing other than living.

This means they can also simply collect everything about your life, no matter how important to related it is to their investigation. This is the way they "tie" you to other suspicious behaviors or acts, by related unrelated matters by inference. For example, if you attended a peace or protest march of some type, it can be used to infer you're a radical and someone who may engage in suspicious acts. It's the 1960's all over again but worse with more unfettered powers.

Don't believe this? Go check out the two political conventions in 2008. The FBI and other counter terrorist agencies, task forces, etal, investigated the leader of the planned protests and marches against the Republicans, in advance. Note, in advance. They already had their reasons to arrest these people before they even did anything. They only needed the act itself, the right to protest, to arrest them.

Over 99% of the charges against the protesters were later dismissed. Their goal was to minimize the publicity of the protests and marches during the convention, and it succeeded, all thanks to the Patriot Act to accumulate enough "evidence" to create suspicion of criminal or terrorist intent to disrupt the convention. That's it. They "proactively" investigated these people for their right to speak and to protest.

And consider that the FBI can now arrest someone on suspicion of terrorism without any actual evidence other than hearsay or or incenuation by others without a warrant for as long as they want. Yes, there is a legal avenue as a material witness warrant, but now if they can relate you to terrorism or terrorists, they don't need a warrant.

It's like the old movie line about the sheriff waiting to do something illlegal and when asked about it he replies, "Badges, we don't need no stinking badges." That's what the Patriot Act gives the FBI, invisible, nondisclosure power to investigate anyone for no real reasons, or more so, arrest someone on suspicion and nothing else.

The Tea Party and Libertarian Party are right on this issue, "Patriot Act, we, the people, don't need no Patriot Act."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oops in the news

Reading the on-line papers this morning, some interesting stuff about the US idea of bringing democracy to other countries, especially those we invade and occupy, and either are leaving, eventually, or will leave eventually. These are kinda' oops stories about what we had thought we were bringing and what is really happening.

From Baghdad, Iraq:

"Vendors around the Kadhimiya mosque in northern Baghdad sell all manner of women’s clothing, from drape-like black abayas to racy evening wear. But on a recent afternoon, Hameed Ibrahim ushered his family toward a different kind of fashion display. On a raised stage between two shops, four mannequins in Western dress, their blond hair peeking out under colored scarves, stood amid crepe-paper flames. To one side was a banner featuring lust-crazed male ghouls; behind the mannequins, images of eternal suffering. And at the foot of the stage was a scripture from the mosque. “Whoever fills his eyes with the forbidden, on judgment day God will fill them with fire.”"

Parts of Baghdad are imposing Islamic law for dress codes and public behavior, not unlike Iran and parts of Afghanistan.

From Kabul, Afghanistan:

"President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he wanted to bring a Taliban official being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison back to Afghanistan to join in reconciliation talks. His remarks seconded a request by the government’s High Peace Council calling for the release of the Taliban figure, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, who has been held at the prison on the United States military base in Cuba since 2002. Mr. Khairkhwa, from Kandahar, reportedly had been the Taliban interior minister and also the governor of Herat Province during the Taliban government. “If he wants to talk, we welcome him,” Mr. Karzai said in response to a question at a news conference. “We would talk to him, we would arrange his release.”

We arrest, detain or imprison people Karzai wants in his government. Gee, and he's not corrupt or whatever else we were trying to prevent.

From Lahore, Pakistan:

"The case of Raymond A. Davis, a former United States Special Forces soldier who is being held in connection with the deaths of two Pakistanis, has stirred a diplomatic furor, sending the precarious relationship between the United States and Pakistan to a new low, both sides say. Mr. Davis, 36, was driving in dense traffic in this city on Jan. 27 when, he later told the police, two Pakistani men on a motorcycle tried to rob him. He shot and killed both and was arrested immediately afterward by police officers who say he was carrying a Glock handgun, a flashlight that attached to a headband and a pocket telescope.'

We're always outraged at countries arresting US diplomatic people but we're outraged at the offenses committed by the diplomatic people of other countries in the US. And we're loved for our ideals and equal rights.

What can you say except, "Oops."

Do You Really Want This?

I consistently hear the talk from the conservatives and more so the Tea Party (TP) telling us that they want, and we should want, government out of our lives. Do we really want our government out of our lives? Or are they just picking things government does that they don't like, but others may want or need, and then argue for government for everything? They imply we don't need government.

But do they really want that? I don't. Do we want government to completely get out of our lives and leave everyone to their own devises, remembering money is a government function? Do they want government not protecting us against foreign nations, fighting global terrorism and helping nations who do the same? We know some government work shouldn't in the radar to eliminate from our lives.

Do we want government out of protecting us with national standards for many things in our life, like roads, highways, public safety, law enforcement, education, food protection (ok, they could do better there), environmental protection (ditto), national parks and public lands, agricultural assistance and research, and so on down the list.

It's only the few things the Tea Party hates that they want government out of their lives, trying to convince us it's also good for our lives. They want to insert their life into ours even if we don't want them in our lives. And they demand government out of "our" lives on our behalf? I don't recall saying I'm on their side or agree with them.

The truth is they like to pick small things and make them seem larger or more important than they really our. And they like to make you think it's government heavy handedness into the rest of our lives, except maybe we do like and want government in our lives. I like almost everything governement does and want them to do more to keep other people, businesses and corporation from doing illegal activities.

The truth is they simply are whiners. Nothing else. Just verbal noise to stand in the spotlight for attention, our attention to make their point, except their point doesn't fit common sense and isn't in our agenda. They will always find something to complain about government in our lives. It's who they are, whiners. We all know people like that and we know not to listen and just ignore them.

Unfortunately that only makes them whine louder and longer and on even more innocuous things the government does. They don't complain about the many earmarks which direct money to their areas. And in fact in some things in our lives they want government not only to get into our lives, but make the decisions for us.

Like women's reproductive healthcare. Why do they want to be sitting in the doctor's office between a woman and her physician talking about their body and their reproductive system including pregnancy. How instrusive is that? Isn't that the most intrusive intervention you can get?

They want government out of our healthcare and more so our medical decisions, never mind the health insurance company is in our life and making medical decisions for us, but they want government in every woman's life. Talk about contradictions, the most intimate contradiction. They want government using their, meaning Tea Party, rules to decide the life of a teenage girl over her body and sex life. Isn't that her and her parents' responsibility?

They don't want government interferring with our right to own any number and types of guns. And we got the mass shooting in Tucson. But they want government in the life of a woman to get pregnant or prevent pregnancy and more so to end a pregnancy. They're willing to risk all of us over guns while they're willing to restrict and control the rights of woman to make the most intimate decision in their life.

They want government to define every aspect and definition of rape, incest and other actions which causes the girl or woman to become pregnant. They want government to decide what information a girl and woman gets to make the most knowledge decision about her body. They want government to intercede and decide for a pregnant girl and woman.

That doesn't seem to be intrusive to the Tea Party. But everything else is. That's not just hypocritical, just obscenely hypocritical. But that escapes their idea of government intrusion. That escapes their discussion when they talk about government intrusion. They want you to overlook that, but I can't and won't.

So before you begin to listen to the Tea Party about government intrustion in our lives, take time to think about what all government does for all of us and for you in particular, and then ask yourself if that's what you want. Do you really want to try and live without government oversight on the many activities which keeps corporations from lying to us and stealing or keeping our mone with reasons?

Do we want to try to live without Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public funding of eduction, law enforcment, infrastructure (roads, highways, bridges, public transit), environmental and marine protection, national parks, wilderness area, national forests, the Coast Guard, and so on down the list?

Then ask them for specifics and think about if what they say is government intrusion and if that actually is helpful and useful to many if not all of us. Then ask them what government they would take out of their life, and do they really want governement out of everything. Then ask yourself if they're just whining about nothing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nice Job

Want a cushy job, paid by the taxpayers, where you only show up, say, a few days a week and 2-3 weeks per month with a one week vacation every month? Right, who wouldn't want a job like that? Well, you can. Just get elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives. Yes, the very ones you elected, I didn't, to control the House.

It seems Speaker Boehner has decided it's tough being a representative so he's scheduling a week per month vacation, called "Constitutent work week" where you're supposed to go home to your district and listen to the people. Yeah, right. And exactly how many of the Republicans will do it that frequently and not just take a break with lobbyists?

And in the weeks they actually are "in session" the schedule reads like a kid who loves to skip school, only calling for sessions 2 days a week, 3 at most. And remember the promise to debate every bill before them? Well, apparently only about 25% of them will be scheduled for debate, the rest are just show up and vote, and leave.

And this with the salary, benefits (remember they get federally subsidized health insurance), and travel on the taxpayers, you and me. Add the money they get from lobbyists and campaign contributors, which makes up several times more of their salary, you get the picture of their job this session. They certainly don't plan to break a legislative sweat for us.

And remember all the talk about centering their work on jobs? Have you heard a bill yet to do that? And from them too? Any bets it's not on the agenda, except of course related to or with tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Gee, we with President Obama and the Democrats, gave them what they wanted, but I'm betting they want more while we drown with cuts to what helps us.

All I can say now, is to keep track of the Republican, especially the Tea Party, representative you voted for, I didn't, and remind them what they promised. But more so, think about what they did for you and why you voted for them, and then ask yourself if you got what they said and you wanted. Sadly, the reality of those answers won't be good for you.

So, if you want a job with great pay, good benefits, lots of vacation time, and an easy work schedule, just be a Republican in Congress in the 112th Session. Our tax dollars hard a work, just not for us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Selling Out

The President went to the US Chamber of Commerce, the very organization which spent over $30 million in the 2010 election to elect Republicans to the House and Senate. The President went there to cater to them, to offer up tax cuts, deregulation, and other benefits which will cost the ordinary citizen more in the case of our taxes, our benefits, our environment, and so on down the list.

The President sold the American people and America out for what? American-based businesses are holding $1.9 Trillion in cash assests from the bailouts, stimulus and tax cuts. American banks are sitting on $1 Trillion in cash assest from the bailout. And in all that the corporations aren't hiring, aren't creating job here, aren't providing help for Americans and so on down the list.

In short, you, Mr. President, sold us out for corporations and businesses. You offer hope and promises. You asked for patriotism. You asked for jobs. All the while you gave away the store, meaning America and Americans. If your goal is to move to the center-right for the 2012 election, your re-election, you trust we will still support you and will be there when you ask to help with your campaign.

You may think you'll embarrass them in the light of public view and scrutiny. Ok, except they don't and won't care. They can't be embarrassed because they don't pay attention to that. Their concern is their business and bottom line. Their interest is their profit and share holder value. Their interest is the next quarterly and annual report. Nothing else.

They haven't cared or felt embarrassed in the past, so why do you think you can embarrass them? Do you really think you can outsmart them? Or is your plan to really embrace them, not embarrass them, in hopes of winning votes? And you think it will work? Has it worked before? No? And you still have hope? Nothing else? A gamble?

You gambled with us and our money. You gambled with our country. You gave them what they wanted to hear. You gave them promises for more. And you got nothing in return. No jobs. No paying more taxes when many big corporation pay no taxes. No more helping stem pollution, global warming, greenhouse gases, etc. No more employee safety and protections. No more repaying past pension plan payments.

Nothing. Except of course applause for giving in to them and handing them the government on their side. They already own the Republicans and many Democrats in Congress. Now they will own you and worst of all, while you're giving them what they want, they'll be using the money to elect a Republican president.

Yes, Mr. President, they will use the money, as they did in 2010 election, to elect more Republicans and elect a Republican President. You'll be paying them to unseat you. Like handing someone who wants to kill you a loaded gun, one you bought and loaded. Yes, that's what will happen.

We see it. It's that obvious. You're right to get them to see your perspective but you're naive if you think you can win them over. You won't. And they won't change. And you can bet we won't change either. I hope you're not assuming we'll be there in 2012 because you think we'll understand. We won't because we do understand. We do see.

And you can be assured we won't just accept your words this time, as we did in 2008.

News and Notes

Reading the weekend and Monday newspapers I found some interesting perspectives which is clearly and obviously twisted by the some in the media - which isn't to say it's all the right wing, religious or conservative media outlets and network, although they're the bulk of it, to their own political agenda and perspective. Ok, just another rant. So be it. I'm entitled and it's my blog, and I'll rant if I want to.

Ok, first, Tunisia and Egypt. It's not about democracy and freedom. It's about jobs and food. The protests in these countries, and others like Jordan, Syria, etc., are couched in politics, but only because the people want the leadership to help the people. These countries have been ruled by near if not absolute authoritarian rule where the elite are wealthy beyond reality. And the mass of the people aren't.

Most of the people in these countries spend the bulk of their income on food, and that's only if they have a job. Tunisia, for example, put considerable countries resources in education, but the majority of those with degrees, even advanced degrees, don't have jobs. All the education and no jobs for it.

Most of these people simply want the opportunity to do what everyone wants everywhere, work, raise their family, and provide for the future of their children. That's not hard to understand. So what can't we see that and why do we keep focusing on the politics of the protests? Yeah, it's the obvious, but let's get past the obvious and work on the real solutions.

In Egypt, replacing Mubarak won't create jobs. It will, maybe, help win freedoms for the people by curtailing the police and intelligence services against the people. But that still won't create jobs, control the price of food and help the people toward a better life. That's the goal, so let's keep our eye there.

Ok, second, teachers and all the recent Republican effort, mostly governors and state legislatures, to dissolve the right of teachers to have tenure and form unions. The number of bad teachers is very small, really negligible. We can't continue to blame teachers for the failure of students when it's the system, the students, and the family who has to share the blame.

The vast majority of teachers are excellent or better teachers. Often the education system short-changes them with support, supplies, facilities (to lower classroom sizes), and excessive workloads (too many classes or extra classroom work). That's not their fault, but the system, the public (and voters), and the school boards.

All the teachers have to deal with the diversity of students, each of whom learn differently, from a diversity of economic and family backgrounds. The teachers can't be blamed for students who won't or can't perform when presented with all the material and information to learn. That has to really fall on the students and their family.

The same applies to test results. We evaluate teachers based on standardized tests when maybe it's not their fault, but the tests, the students and the families. How can a student learn when the environment outside the classroom doesn't help and more often hinders if not hurts them to want let alone have opportunties to learn?

We can't hold teachers accountable and responsible for the whole of the education system and then decide tenure and unions are the problem. If you remove tenure from teachers, schools will continually hire the cheapest teachers available and then refuse to promote them, raise their salary, or fire them to hire new cheap teachers.

If you remove teachers' unions, you will remove their voice. Without unions they have no voice to remind us of their importance and their value, and to hold us accountable and responsible for our part of the education system. They deserve the right to represent teachers against all the forces determined to undermine them.

It's right and fair for them and for us, and it's fair and right for the education of our children. We owe them that.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Being Obvious

Why is it that Senators and Representatives love to show how stupid they are about the facts, even in the face of the facts? This baffles me everytime I hear the exchange between a member of a Congressional committee and a witness before the committee. And they're consistently constant at proving their stupidity.

Ok, a bit much. Well, maybe not. I was listened to the House committee overseeing federal employees, specifically TSA, which is comprised of both federal employees and contract employees. The Representative proposed a bill to prevent TSA employees from going on strike, and he was specific to include federal employees.

What he knows is that all federal employees are prohibited from going on strike. The only federal employees in a union who could strike were the FAA folks, but their union was dissoved and their jobs replaced with non-union federal employees when they went on strike and almost all lost their job, and the Postal Service folks, specifically carriers and other non-management staff. But they are also limited with any strike.

Government employees are allowed to form and join a union, and those unions can lobby Congress for the employees, but those union have no negotiation authority and have no power to tell an employee what to do. They are simply cosmetic and political, nothing else. I never joined one because it didn't do anything beyond taking my money.

What this Representative is proposing a law to cover is already law. It's redundant. They want to make a political point for publicity and votes. The President can, and I understand has or will, issue an executive order prevent the TSA federal employees from collective bargaining including going on strike, except that too is redundant. It's already an order from the previous president.

The second is Senators asking the CIA at a committee hearing what they knew of the uprising in Egypt and when did they know it. The second in charge of the CIA said they had hints and ideas but like almost all uprisings they didn't know when and how extensive.

They probably knew Mubarak was at the end of his regime, and probably has some cracks for oppotunity to overthrow his government. All the dominos have been lining up to fall with him at the end. He will lose and he will have to leave office. The question is when.

But my point is that why do we really care to find blame someone didn't know this would happen to inform the President. That happens in the world. The CIA can't keep track of every country and every leader and government. They don't have the resources, no thank to Congress for moving a lot of intelligence work to the Defense Intelligence Administation relating to war and inspring insurgencies - something Reagan started.

And no thanks to the Presidents who have keep changing the CIA's work and focus for their political agenda and not for the overall watching of the world. Everything now is focused on counter-terrorism and terrorists and not rebellions and more so uprisings.

Congress and the President told the CIA what to focus on and now when something else happened, to their amazement, they want a scapegoat, a head on a platter, but forgetting the obvious one, their own. They are their own enemy and scapegoat, but will we see them admit that?

Reagan Wasn't a Hero

I'm sorry to disappoint folks but Reagan wasn't a governor he sold during his presidential compaign and he wasn't the president some history folks want to gloss over to praise his image. That's all he had and was, an image. He never cut spending of or the size of state government during his eight years.

Quite the opposite, he expanded the size of state governement, including the university and college system. He didn't cut spending the size and extent of government. He made it larger and more extensive. That was his legacy. And as president he wasn't that much different.

The tax cuts caused problems with the deficit and debt. He hated government and did what GW Bush did, bring in cronies to run the governement for business. In short, he did everything he could to destroy the federal government. All he was during his years was an image. He was charismatic and an accomplished speaker.

But as has been noted, his attention span was short, almost like GW Bush's. He knew the facts but he also bent and twisted them, or simply ignored them, to get his message to the public and the voters. He was simply an actor playing president. He left all the ideas and details to his staff. He played the role.

He took advantage of situation. He didn't cause the Berlin Wall to fall and communism to be to fade into history. The people of those countries did that. He only appeared to threaten the then Soviets because he could, knowing there wasn't any backlash or fallout from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed on its own by the people, not Reagan.

And as we know now, he was experiencing the signs of the onset of Alzheimer during his presidency. That means his staff did more not only to keep the agenda going but also to cover up the truth and reality that we elected a president who was incompentent and becoming lost in himself.

So don't give him any more credit that he deserves. And to me, he sucked. You have your view and I have mine.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Beating a Dead Horse

What don't the Republicans understand that trying to repeal the healthcare reform act is akin to beating a dead horse expecting it to come to life. The American people have spoken, they want the law and they want it improved. The President has spoken and the Democrats have spoken. And as much as the Republicans and Tea Party want to challenge the law in court they won't prevail in the end, even the Supreme Court.

Right now the challenges are 2 out of 4 courts (Virginia and Florida) have overturned the mandate part of the law. All the legal scholars and experts have said hese two won't stand appeal, but we know the law will be decided by the Supreme Court. And there, it's a toss-up but not for legal reasons but for poltiical reasons. This is one of the most politically activist court in generations.

And as much as that excites the opposition to the law, it doesn't challenge one reality. Do we really want to repeal the law and go back to what we had which has caused the healthcare system to be broken and only benefitting the insurance and drug companies. Do we really want to hand power over our health insurance and healthcare to the companies where 30 million people were uninsured and we paid for their healthcare and another 30 million were underinsured and were routinely denied coverage or had their coverage cancelled?

We're going in the right direction, and although the law could stand to and should be improved. We need a public option. We need oversight on the costs of healthcare which was not covered. We need to provide more healthcare for women reproduction. We need to provide ways for lower income people to afford better healthcare. And so on down the wish list.

In the end, though, it's really about the point we're going in the right direction and turning around and leaping back to the beginning isn't wise or smart. And so any effort to do likewise is simply beating a dead horse. Nothing is gained except to show the nature of the one doing the beating.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Run the ad

To the networks, especially those who air NFL football games. Your decision not to run the 1 minute ad by the National Football League Players Association is a sham and a shame to the viewers. You freely air ads for games and for the NFL, so why not the NFLPA? What are you afraid of a simple slogan, "Let them play"?

I'm not going to argue some players make a lot of money and all of them make good money, easily far more than the Average American worker or retiree. And many of them give back to the community with donations and time. I also know some team owners sponsor community programs along with the NFL and players to promote programs for youth.

All of that is to be commended. But in fairness to the players, they deserve as much of a voice on the air as the team owners, the NFL management and the networks. That's fair and reasonable. The network absorbs the cost of their ads and we know how far richer the team owners are in spite of the numbers they cite to the contrary, it's creative accounting. You know it and we know it.

But that's not the point here. Just run the damn ad and let the players have their voice equal to you, the team owners and the NFL. That's fair and they deserve the right to speak.

It's Time

It's time for the Senate to vote on all the judicial and administrative appointees awaiting review and approval by the Senate. Our federal court system is overwhelmed and the government agencies overworked, all the while the Republicans in the Senate sit on their hands refusing to allow votes for these people to come to the floor. It's time to stop this political nonsense.

There are currently 526 appointees waiting approval by the Senate. There are 50 judges waiting approval and another 100 yet to be nominated (vacancies). That's partisan politics at it's best, and while it's been a traditional method to stall the votes by the minority party, it's the Republicans who are by far and away the master of it and especially since Obama took office.

I'm totally disappointed with the new Senate rules. Majority leader, only because that's his official title, has failed the American people to streamline the process to get bills to the floor over Republican holds and fillibusters. He did change the rules on appointees and nominations but that wasn't enough for the Republicans to find a way to sit on their hands and let this vacancies accumulate.

This is an outrage to the American people. It's not what the political process is about. If the Republicans don't like the nominee, then discuss it on the floor in open session. Let us know than decide it in secret and put them on hold while you collect a salary for doing nothing.

It's time to do the business of Congress for the people, or by the people we will make our voice and vote heard in the next election. We will know who and what. And you can bet we won't sit on our hands and let you continue to be the roadblock in the Senate. It will be our time and we won't waste it.

34 deaths from guns

It was reported Monday night on a MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell show that 34 deaths occur every day from guns. Are there any other reasons why we shouldn't seriously think about reasonable gun laws if not just to save most if not all of those 34 people who die every day from guns. Not from just guns, but people with guns.

And not just illegal gun-owners or criminals, but many are law-abiding gun owners, or according to the NRA who instantly dismisses them, were law abiding gun owners. In their mind no law-abiding gun owner uses their gun against another person, except for defensive reasons, like domestic violence, assault, or worse murder.

Yes, as much as the NRA doesn't want to admit or you to know, some of the 34 people die every day at the hands of law-abiding gun owners. It's not the gun that kills, that's just the means, it's the person with the gun, inseparable from each other. No gun, no death. No person, no death. It's takes both and it often involves law-abiding gun owners.

34 people died today from guns. And tomorrow. And each and every day from now on. Until we get some reasonable gun laws to reduce that number significantly. 34 people will leave loved ones and families. How many will leave children to wonder why and what if? How many more need die before we learn and act?