Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Years Means New Changes for Us and You

Just like many Americans, we all have areas we need to improve on, and many will be making New Year's Resolutions to improve things.

For Plinking Reality, we will be changing the format from Quick Hits to single stories on topics, and expanding topic areas to more aspects of life. We will be covering things from News and Politics, as we have, to more on Personal Finance, Relationships, Health, Business, and more.

We will also be working on blogging almost every single day, though some days may get missed, we intend to shoot for articles every single day. That way you will have reason to check in on us daily.

While we will still be taking the pot shots at the world, we also plan to make it more constructive by creating more helpful comments for everything from advocacy to things to help you in your own life.

That trend starts now, as we give you a link to an article I found helpful for people who will be working on making their own New Year's Resolutions.

So make your New Year's resolutions, make them clear, make them specific, make them doable, and then take action to get them done. We will see you on January 1st, 2010 as we enter a new decade.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

GOP Hypocrisy on Health Care Exposed, Progressive Reality Check, Economy hurting poor health care, and Kids are going Hungry, help them

Quick Hits for December 13, 2009

* I have heard grumblings from progressives on the left with President Obama's administration not being left enough. Such people need to come from the utopian left to the pragmatics of politics. Unless you have 60 far left Democrats in the Senate, you have no chance of getting to a utopian left policy without gradual steps. Currently, President Obama is having to be very centrist in order to get things through the Senate and deal with so many Blue Dog Democrats in office. Additionally, it took President Bush eight years to do the damage he did, it can't be undone in 11 months and anyone who expects it to be is foolish and has little to no grasp of politics. President Obama has done pretty well for his first year, given the circumstances, especially if he gets health care done before January 20th. I may not agree with it all, but it is a pretty good first year for any President to get this much done in this set of circumstances.

* In this economy, we are seeing the cracks in the health care system as poor women have overwhelmed the free clinics for cancer screenings. In the best of economic times, about 1 in 6 doesn't have health insurance, but in the worst, the numbers are going to be worst as people lose their jobs and the benefits that go with it. More needs to be done.

* The Washington Post reports that we now have about 17 million children who are underfed or going hungry nightly. The Obama Administration is brainstorming to find solutions, and the problem is sad. But part of the answer is us. You heard me, you and me. If you know some of these people who have these kids, quietly drop them off some food, or a gift card for say Wal-mart or Target without even letting them know who it came from. Part of the problem is the stigma and the ego where we don't want to let anyone know that we are in trouble at home. Part of the solution is to let them off the hook. The government can't necessarily, but if you are friends of someone that you know needs help, you can give it without any credit and any payback except for that which Karma brings you and the good feelings you get from helping others. We are a community of people, we need each other, and we don't have to wait for a government answer to help.

* Republicans Hypocrisy on health care is exposed when we look at the 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage bill which cost almost 50% more than the Senate health care bill and was passed by Republicans, grew the debt, and was far less efficient a bill. The Senate bill costs $848 billion over 10 years vs. the 2003 Republican Congress bill which ran $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Maybe it is time for the GOP to stand up and pass health care for people, not just kick backs for pharmacutical companies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time to Understand Taxes, the Generation Gap, Waiting for Health Care Reform, and Sexism is Alive in America

Quick Hits on December 9, 2009

* Adam Geller of the Huffington Post wrote a good article about how the decade has been bad for Americans generally, leaving most Americans worse off than they were in 2000. Unemployment rose dramatically from beginning to end of the decade, but also the Median Family income dropped by about $1,500. Republicans have long believed that the answers have always been tax cuts, but don't actually appear to think through the implications of taxation in its various forms.

1. Traditionally, they have focused on income taxes proclaiming the famous trickle down theory, the idea that if the rich have money, they will start businesses and employ us all. The problem with that is that the rich have no reason to take such risks. Those that start small businesses are often people at middle to lower levels of income who take risks because they need to. If there is no need to take a risk, they don't. Thus, the key would actually be people in the lower brackets, not the higher brackets because the higher brackets are trying to protect their money, not trying to risk it.

Additionally, people at lower income levels are more likely to spend their money out of necessity than those at higher income levels, which means they are more likely to keep the economy turning instead of stashing it away in a bank, which means more jobs, etc.

There also seems to be a mistaken assumption that higher taxes on the top brackets means the same higher percentage of tax on all income. We live in an era of what is called "marginal rates." That means that everyone pays the same taxes on the same brackets. So if the rate up to $15,000 is 0%, then even the richest pay 0% on that 15,000, whether they make it in one day or one year.

2. The thought from the right and the middle has been that capital gains taxes should be reduced. They explain that unless people are allowed to keep these gains, they will not take the risks to invest. Except that fundamentally ignores the culture of American society whereby people invest for the future in their 401k, in their buying and selling of homes to move up in status and wealth, and so on all the time. It is part of our culture, not simply an economic numbers game. Sure, if there was no money to be made, they would not do so, but there is a difference between a reasonable tax and no tax or a 100% tax in their effects. By having a capital gains tax of say the rate of the Clinton years, there is incentive to avoid paying that tax, but also incentive to make that money. That means people will seek profits, but they will also seek to re-invest that profit to avoid the tax. It is that very re-investment that keeps the economy going, instead of the siphoning off of profits in the last decade. It is why the rich-poor gap grew under President Bush, where Median Family Incomes fell but millionaires increased. And it is one reason why the economy stalled: people didn't re-invest.

3. Dividends taxes hold a similar argument as capital gains, that people won't invest in the stock market when dividends are taxed too high. The problem with that is it just isn't true, people traded in the 90s looking to make money off of price gains instead of dividends and the market grew. However, more importantly, like capital gains, it means corporations paid out higher dividends instead of re-investing in the future. Sure, some companies still re-invested, but there was record profit taking which would have normally been re-invested which means pay raises that didn't come, investment in future technologies that would have kept some of the jobs in America, and development of future lines of technology which has seen us start to slip behind the world in many areas other than defense.

None of this should be read as a return to the 90% tax brackets, or some obnoxiously high rates, but it should be cause to re-think the "tax cuts are always good" theory because even Reagan's economist who pushed tax cuts admitted that not all tax cuts were good but rather that there was a point where tax rates were most effective and it was lower than the rates they inherited. Think through your tax arguments, don't simply spout a line.

* Some have suggested that Japan's stagnant decade may be headed to America's economy. That may very well be true, but for totally different reasons. America is facing a population problem: We have the Baby Boomers being a huge generation but aging, and the Echo Boomers who are a larger generation but still in high school and college, but in between is Generation X whose numbers just aren't big enough to replace the spending of the Baby Boomers as they leave peak consumer spending years and go off into retirement. That means we may well have a relatively stagnant decade UNLESS America can increase its exports or import a whole lot of consumers, which isn't likely because of the income disparity of immigrants compared to the consumers they would be replacing.

We know certain things about demographics. We know that at age 44, Americans have peaked in their home buying and may buy down but generally are trying to pay off their home to retire in their 60s. We know that Baby Boomers peaked in 1961, which means in 2005, we knew the housing market would decline significantly because home buyers would decline significantly. And it did. We know that at age 49, people leave their peak consumer years because they start worrying about retirement and put more into their 401k, into paying off their homes, and so on. Thus, in 2010, normally, we could have expected a recession. However, the housing market collapse rippled through the economy, and hit the stock market and their retirement funds, causing an early reaction where they stopped consumer spending early.

Normally, those trends would be replaced with other consumers but the gap in ages means that the Echo Boomers are not in place to contribute to the economy in prime consumer years of 30 to 49. Instead, they are preparing to contribute in high school and college. The result means that we may well have to wait a decade before they are ready to take over in the economy to replace the Baby Boomers.

The departure of the Baby Boomers may well cause hyperinflation due to lacking enough workers in the economy in the next decade, but the growth of GDP won't be as significant as one would expect for that kind of inflation. This gap in population will create significant economic problems, and will be responsible for problems with Medicare and Social Security, but it also helps to explain the current situation and to understand the future problems we face.

* I have to admit to be perplexed by the recent compromise by Senate Democrats, partially because I don't think any of us fully knows what it is. One problem with these kind of dealings, which is natural, is that we don't know the details for a few days because they are busy being written up so the details can be viewed as a whole with the general framework. However, if the compromise does not bring significant option changes for Americans from 20 to 50 that worked incredibly hard to elect President Obama, the Democrats risk losing a lot of votes and a generation of voters that they appeared to have gained in the last election. The consequences go beyond this single election for them. They need to show significant change for people under 40 in health care options.

We will have to wait for the details before evaluating them, but what is funny is how critical Republicans are of something that they don't even know what it does. All they know is Democrats proposed it. It clearly illustrates it is the Party of No instead of the party of working to find solutions, and clearly indicates the blame for lack of bipartisanship doesn't belong with President Obama but instead it rests with Republicans who refuse to even look at ideas before opposing them.

* Sexism is alive and well in our society where Viagra is still covered under government health care, but the GOP and some Democrats insist on elimination of womens' health coverage for things like Birth Control pills, and pelvic exams, not counting the refusal to cover the constitutional right to abortion for women. Apparently, it is more important for a man to get an erection than it is for women to have the ability to be properly taken care of and to have their rights.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Social Media and Representatives, AARP vs John Cornyn, Eric Burns on Pundits, Reid's Compromise, WSJ Plagiarism, Alcohol Pills, & Public Option Polls

Quick Hits for December 4, 2009

* I have found new enjoyment that I invite you to join in. Whether you support or oppose your representatives, you MUST find their Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as other social media you are linked to. Then follow or friend them and start to engage them in conversation. I realize it may well be their representative or PR person instead of them, but it may not. It may also impact their image, sway some voters, and just help you get heard. Engaging in good discussion and debate with their supporters on their Facebook or on Twitter where everyone following them can see it is a good way to have input and influence with them. Try it. If nothing else, it is a cheap stress reliever.

* I found it interesting that on Twitter, @JohnCornyn (my Senator) actually told me that the AARP was NOT a good source on the effect of Health Care Reform on Medicare because they had a conflict of interest. Maybe it is me, but if anyone was going to focus on preventing harm from coming to Medicare, one of the most significant issues for people over sixty, it would be the AARP. It may have been one of the worst responses ever because their conflict would have been on his side if health care reform was going to be worse for the elderly considering they have spent decades building a reputation as the MOST TRUSTED group for the elderly. Someone needs to get a better PR person or think through their answers better.

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to be careful about what compromises he makes to get Senators Lincoln, Snow, and Landreau on board. One concession they want is to allow national insurance plans to be sold from other states, which makes sense. But to do so, they want language where the insurance company does not have to adjust to state regulations but rather to maintain the regulations of the state where they are based. So if an insurance company based in Utah, which has very lax regulations, sells insurance in California, New York, or other state with tougher regulations, then the company sells based on Utah regulations. It works to undermine states' rights that the GOP so strongly protests about to do the business for insurance companies.

Allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines is a common sense idea that the GOP should have championed over the 6 years they controlled everything but didn't. But doing it in a way that undermines regulations that states have established for their own insurance companies both undermines the states' economy by begging companies to all move to Utah, and creates competitive disadvantages for locally grown small business in favor of large corporations, as well as lowering the standards of care for a states' citizens.

* The Wall Street Journal has started its move from respectable publication to Fox News or the Washington Times under Rupert Murdoch's tenure as its owner. In a piece that blamed President Obama and policies for undermining higher quality jobs, the paper did not check the validity of the sources, nor did it realize the article was plagiarized by the author from a few other sources, while changing the name of the interviewees to fictional names. It does raise the question of whether or not a high quality publication like the WSJ has removed its fact checkers like the Washington Times did. Will conservatives get up in arms like they did over the New York Times? Doubt it.

* A new poll shows sustained support for a public option with 60% supporting the public option. That isn't surprising, but the 40% yells pretty loud.

* A Russian professor invented an alcohol pill so that people can get intoxicated without drinking. Given the need for so many things in the world, it seems like an utter waste of time, energy, and funding. Part of the point of getting drunk is the socialization of drinking, making it essentially useless. But more to the point: the time, energy, and funding to make this took away from some other worthy cause that could have saved a life or two instead of focusing on another way to hide date rape.

* Fox's former host of Fox News Watch, Eric Burns, shared one of the most telling statements about the state of today's media pundits, including the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly, to go along with Campbell Brown and Keith Olbermann. Normally, I would give you the link and my take on it, but I thought it was particularly well written. Please take a look at the original source and article. It is worth the read and gained my respect.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger, Bernanke vs Sanders, Obama and Afghanistan, AARP Backs HCR, GOP Strategy to stall HCR, TARP funds repaid, and the NJ Nets

Quick Hits for December 3, 2009

* At 0-18, I feel for New Jersey Nets fans as their team is now labeled as one of the worst ever. Fortunately, I have never had to feel that kind of pain.

* It is good to know that Bank of America is now healthy enough to repay all of the $45 billion in TARP funds they borrowed. Apparently, the bailout system of loans seems to be working. It is one thing that President Bush appears to have gotten right, one of the very, very few things. Right or wrong, our banking system has long been central to our economic health.

* Democrats need to stand up to Republicans and start treating them as the "opposition" instead of the "minority." The GOP chose the label "opposition" and now they are talking about using every procedural trick possible to delay health care for Americans. Their leadership even issued a letter instructing them to force closure votes on just about everything.

Democrats need to understand that Republicans have viewed this as a "war" since the Bork hearings, not simply politics. They view any and all tactics as "acceptable" and assume Democrats will always back down from a fight. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to keep the Senate in session through Christmas to pass health care. Let's see if he has the intestinal fortitude to do it. I hope so. Contact your Senators daily at the least to make sure they hear your voice at 202-224-3121. Americans deserve better than 46 million without health care, demand a public option!

* In a potentially important moment in the health care debate, the AARP has endorsed the Senate Democratic Health Care Reform proposal. The AARP endorsement was a major turning point for President Bush in passing his prescription drug coverage bill because its members tend to vote disproportionally high and the organization is so heavily trusted by seniors. So when the AARP tells seniors that Health Care Reform does NOT hurt their guaranteed Medicare benefits, it influences seniors more than those GOP scare tactics. The Democrats must use it to push forward and pass this now.

* President Obama's critics on the right can find something to criticize the President on no matter what he says. In his speech on Afghanistan, they found reasons to criticize from naming a tentative withdrawal date in an exit strategy, to failing to say the word "win" in the speech, as if it somehow means he intends to lose. Their responses are silly to say the least.

First, if you don't have an exit strategy, you end up with Vietnam, where you have no goals, no aims, just an ambiguous "we must win" which leads to a quagmire that you have no hope of winning because you don't know what winning means. Or worse, you have an absurd goal like President Bush in Iraq, where all terrorists would be sucked in and killed there, as if every single terrorist in the world was an immortal, drawn to a central spot, where in the end, there must be only one, and they all fight it out with swords to cut off each others' heads, indicating the President may have watched Highlander a few too many times, and missed a few too many briefings.

Second, the notion that a withdrawal date is somehow a magical victory for the enemy is laughable at best. To say "we leave when the conditions on the ground merit" is just as flawed. Has anyone ever noticed that a 10 year old can figure out "you can when you are good" only to watch them terrorize others the second you let them off of timeout? Whether time or a conditional statement, the impact is the same. You either got them or you didn't, and you won't know until you leave. Setting a date doesn't change anything. And after 8 years in Afghanistan, if we don't know who the terrorists are by name and picture yet, do you really think another five years instead of two will identify them? Probably not, but it may inspire some more people to join them.

Finally, leaving the nation is a smart move for a few reasons. First, it takes away the number one terrorist argument to join, you have ended the occupation and they can't shout "America is the oppressor and occupier, not a liberator." Second, it sends the clear message to Afghanistan, "this nation is yours not ours, take control of it and make it what you want." That means we won't hold up a corrupt President, the people can take them down. Third, it allows for terrorists to operate more openly. I know, that sounds strange, but keep in mind, those we can't find are because they are well hidden. Bringing them out in the open means they are easier to hit. Taking our forces home does not mean they stay home, we do have special forces and President Obama has shown he isn't afraid to use them. Don't be surprised if more terrorists quietly disappear or die after we leave. Obama isn't a pacifist, he just isn't an arrogant idiot either who shouts "bring it on."

* 111 Republicans opposed a bill to ban importing nuclear waste materials for disposal in America. It might be one thing if it was former Soviet Union bomb making material or something, but it was dealing with energy waste from Italy, Brazil, and Mexico. Why in the world would you want to import nuclear waste to be buried in America? This one makes no sense whatsoever and appears to want to turn America into a third world country where everyone can bury their waste to poison our ground and water.

* Tiger, what were you thinking? I have to say there are far more important things going on today that will impact our lives for the next generation than Tiger Woods' sex life, so I can't wait for this to go away, but I just don't understand what he was thinking. Then again, it is his private life, it isn't for my pleasure. Maybe if we focused on fixing our own lives and our world around us, we wouldn't be so obsessed with the train wrecks of lives that some other people have and that clutters the check stands of grocery stores and gas stations.

* Finally, the nomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke may be in for a big fight as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders put in a formal "hold" on the nomination. While I disagree with Senator Sanders' notion that Bernanke could have averted the recession since he became chairman in 2006 (it was demographically created, and made worse through political regulation, and banking greed put in place before he took over), Bernanke has done a horrible job of communicating in a way that builds the confidence of Americans that he actually knows what is going on in the economy. Whether you believe in Alan Greenspan's tenure as Fed Chair or not, you can't say Greenspan was bad at communicating as most Americans trusted his every word about what was going to happen in the economy. The Fed needs a change of its Chair, but not because Bernanke was horrible as the Chair, but rather because he simply does not promote confidence in the system due to his communication problems.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

GOP and Govt Powers, Misquote it Baby, Stimulus Thoughts, Transparency or Obstructionism, and Pacifism Problems

Quick Hits for December 1, 2009

Ok, November was a slow month for various reasons, but the pace has been furious on our Twitter. Time to have a busy December:

* I am hearing pacifists on the left calling for extreme views of pulling out of Afghanistan, all foreign military bases, nationalizing the defense industries, and closing most domestic bases. All I can tell them is that they hurt the cause of the left just as much as the "birthers" hurt the cause of the right with these utopian pacifist views that have zero grounding in any pragmatic view of reality. I would love nothing more than to wish for "world peace" and have it happen, but that just isn't reality.

America needs a strong military, but that should not justify excursions like Iraq that were wrong from the start, or having a military presence in almost 200 countries, or covertly overthrowing governments around the globe, or numerous other acts. However, we do need our military, we must not forget that, though its budget is currently little more than a Neocon Welfare Program and Kickback Fund. Over $640 billion a year is way past any sensible defense budget.

* I have to admit I find it curious to see Senators like John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) talk about being worried about health care powers of government, but they also pushed some of the Patriot Act powers into DHS which essentially put in place the "camps" that the right is so worried about (yeah, it is a GOP power put in place, Democrats have no intentions of using them that I have ever read, but it makes you wonder why the GOP put it in place in the first place, doesn't it?). Maybe Senator Cornyn should worry about Presidential powers under Republican Presidents more instead of advocating a strong presidency under GW, and a weak presidency under a Democrat. Make up your mind Senator.

* Will the right ever fully get that they are shooting themselves in the foot with their credibility issues far more than their "philosophy" (I use the term loosely here because Reagan, George Will, etc. conservatives absolutely had one, but today's conservatives seem focused on power at all costs not some philosophy on how to run a nation). While Ann Coulter's books are often mocked for misquoting sources whenever you backtrack her footnotes (yes, I have done it on Lexis, would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic), apparently Sarah Palin is setting a new standard of misquoting as the Huffington Post pointed out. Apparently, Palin attempted to quote UCLA basketball coach John Wooden to justify drilling for oil but instead altered the context and the quote of Native American activist John Wooden Legs, but neither ever advocated "Drill Baby Drill" as a philosophy and both probably rejected such a view. Apparently, her fact checkers never caught her gross misquote and distortion of context. Yeah, yeah, that is exactly what I want in a President . John McCain's saddest part of his legacy: Introduced the U.S. to Sarah Palin.

* It is interesting to listen to Republicans bash the stimulus package as a failure, but there are a few things that should be considered:

1. Some Republican Governors refused stimulus funds causing them to not be spent, limiting their impact. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy, refuse the funds and then shout about the failure of the funds that they refused. It sounds like the friend you offer money to, they insist they couldn't take it, then blame you for not giving them money to all of your friends as a sign of how bad you are. Sound familiar?

2. Most of the stimulus funds have not been spent so far. The Congressional Budget Office indicates only about $100 billion of the $787 billion have actually been spent so far (further indicating that this years deficit was almost exclusively GW's!), creating between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs (which doesn't account for jobs that would have been lost). That means almost $700 billion has yet to be spent and have an impact.

3. Some Republican states would be in dire straits for their budgets if it was not for the federal stimulus dollars, like Texas who would have exhausted their reserves and have no budget answers for shortfalls other than raising taxes or cutting their already limited services. Remember, the GOP voted against it, and Rick Perry still insists they rejected the money that they took to stave off raising taxes.

* Apparently, all the GOP calls for "transparency" that are unprecedented, turning this Democratic Congressional and White House leadership into the most transparent in U.S. history, the GOP has decided that transparency isn't a big deal after all when the standard was flipped to have them post all of their amendments to bills online. Apparently, it was all about obstructionism and preventing Americans from getting health care, not really any concern about transparency. Who would have guessed?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thoughts Spurred by Today's Health Care Debate Voting

Following today's health care moves to decide if the Senate will even have a health care "debate" after the Thanksgiving break left me with some thoughts about the day:

* The Republicans insist on mentioning the Health Care Reform Bill is 2000 pages, as if that is a bad thing. Remember, they also thought giving short answers wasn't enough detail. I wonder, what is the magic number of pages that is just right for a health care reform bill? 42?

If someone passed something that would cost hundreds of billions over 10 years, wouldn't you want a lot of guiding detail in the bill? After all, the Afghanistan and Iraq authorizations were pretty short in contrast and look where that got us.

* Republicans keep mentioning the Health Care Reform Bill is $848 billion dollars, but they always leave off "over 10 years." In other words, the defense budget is approximately 7 1/2 times more in spending each and every year than the health care bill, and is on a current projection of over 6.4 trillion over 10 years. At a time where President Bush gave us our first two trillion AND three trillion dollar budgets, 85 million dollars really isn't much.

* The GOP keeps talking about fiscal responsibility, but their credibility on it is somewhere around that of Bill Clinton talking on female interns, or Senator Craig talking about sex in airports, or Dick Cheney talking about nuclear weapons in Iraq, or Rep. William Jefferson explaining money on ice, etc. The Presidents with the largest 8 year growth rates in the last 29 years since Jimmy Carter are all Republican. Forbes does a good job of explaining why they lack credibility on fiscal responsibility.

* To put Senator Reid's health care reform bill in perspective, President Bush's tax cut in 2001 cost about 2.5 trillion dollars over 10 years, compared to $848 billion over 10 years to make sure people have adequate health care. President Bush's economic policies only fostered TWO recessions in America in eight years, and more than doubled the deficit after the annual budget had a surplus to start paying down the debt, but Republicans insisted that it was more important to cut taxes on the richest in America than it was to pay down the federal debt that was about five trillion dollars at the time.

* You wonder where the GOP gets the name "the party of NO!" until you think through their positions. They told us minimum wage would hurt American workers, yet it never has, but they keep parroting it. They told us women shouldn't have an equal rights amendment passed for equal pay, women shouldn't have the right to vote, that gays shouldn't serve in the military or get married, that we shouldn't have public schools, that we shouldn't have public social security or medicare, that we shouldn't have vaccinations, that we shouldn't have unemployment, that we shouldn't punish corporations for hurting people, that we would destroy our economy if we protected the environment, and so on. Their answer continues to be cut taxes, invade nations, and find your own damn solutions to your problems. Why should anyone vote for them again?

I am sure I had more, but these were the thoughts I remembered throughout the day. Add your thoughts about it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Death Panels, Abortion Compromises, GOP helps Credit Card Profits, 9/11 Trials, Mammograms, Endangered Fish, and the Economy

Quick Hits for November 19, 2009

* I find it strangely entertaining to watch Republicans complain about two thousand page health care bills full of too many details after they got done whining about Democrats being too vague with not enough specifics.

* Guess who is seeking Wall Street banking fundraising dollars as the GOP blocked a bill to freeze credit card interest rates ahead of the implementation of credit card reform. After the bill passed, credit card companies have been hiking interest rates faster than a sprinter on steroids to get the rate hikes in before the reform was implemented. Democrats proposed a temporary rate freeze to prevent further rate hikes attempting to circumvent the reform and protect consumers, but the GOP blocked it in the Senate, potentially costing average Americans millions and millions of dollars.

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's abortion compromise is the talk of the new health care bill. Reid's compromise prohibits federal funding for abortions, but allows private insurance to pay for it, while also insisting that at least one plan in the insurance exchange will pay for abortions and one will not, to guarantee choices for each. It sounds like a reasonable compromise, but be sure that Republicans will demand elimination of any compromises as they continue to be the "Party of No."

* Republicans have been attacking Attorney General Eric Holder for his decision to prosecute 9/11 terrorists in New York City. While it has a very significant international benefit, and strong national security benefits, the right still insists on making specious arguments. The very implication the terrorists would be found not guilty is hardly realistic. Does anyone really think any jury in New York City, the site of 9/11, would find them not guilty is silly at best. To proclaim serious security concerns given the history of trying terrorists in criminal courts over the last few decades further indicates it is a silly argument to proclaim it is dangerous.

However, the symbolic value to trusting in Justice as a value, not simply a term for revenge, could mean thousands of terrorists not recruited for their cause because America starts to live up to its values instead of being the nation that throws away its values at the first sign of a threat. Republicans often talk about values, but when was the last time they actually lived up to those values?

* While the mammogram findings of an independent government task force were controversial, and rightly so, it appears that we are starting to find clarification as the task force was appointed by President Bush, and also has no legal standing, so the current administration says it will never make it into public policy. So ladies, continue your self-examinations (they probably saved my grandmother's life), and follow AMA guidelines on your mammograms. The Obama Administration supports you.

* Get ready for Republican attacks on the Senate Health Care bill which has been CBO evaluated to reduce the deficit and provide a strong public option, even giving states an opt out clause so that Republicans can take the strong public stand by opting out of the program all together and face their constituents. It reduces the deficit, it let's them opt out of the program to minimize government in their lives, and it doesn't pay for abortion with a single federal dollar. Just wait, there will be more Nazi and Socialist and Communist proclamations, but they are running out of actual policy reasons to vote against it. The truth is they will vote against it and try to block it because if it becomes policy and they opt out, they know they will be kicked out of office for doing so.

* I find it interesting that Republicans are bashing President Obama for the economy but they forget that the last time the economy was this bad, it took President Reagan 2 1/2 years to get it turned around. Today, the GOP is saying that he hasn't done it after a year, yet he has only been in office for about 10 months. It continues to make them look more unreasonable and silly.

* Next time you hear "death panels," remember, the private insurance company "death panel" is called an actuary, and they make assessments totally based on corporate profits. They are the ones who decide that not paying for some tests are too expensive, sometimes because having to treat your illness would be more expensive than the lawsuit if you survive. Those are the "death panels" that Sarah Palin doesn't want to talk about because they are worse than the public option alternative. Remember, it isn't a public option versus utopia; it is a public option versus what we have now where 46 million are uninsured, and many suffer due to actuarial decision making.

* With shortages in many fish from Salmon to Tuna, it may be time to start charging a small tax on fish of say, one cent per fish sold off a boat, that goes to an international fisheries group that might restock fish in the oceans the same way American Hatcheries stock our lakes with sport fish for Americans. It is a small price to pay for making sure that we keep our oceans stocked with food for people.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vets Need Health Care, Teabagger on Drugs, RNC pays for Abortions, Church Taxes, Christian Conservative Image, and Jefferson Corruption

Quick Hits for November 14, 2009

* We have heard the "support the troops" mantra from the GOP in time of war, yet we haven't ever heard them talk about "supporting the troops" at home. It was seen in the Bush Administration's poor job in taking care of medical bills for wounded Vets, and the poor hospital conditions. Yet, we forget that while it took six years to have over 4,000 soldiers die in Iraq, every two years, over 4,000 veterans die from a lack of health care at home in America. To take it a step further, about one in every four homeless people are veterans. There is a reason for it, but regardless of reason, we must take better care of our veterans.

* Tea Party Candidate Ezell Harris was arrested on drug charges in Florida. At first I have to admit it made me think that it showed the Teabaggers might be Libertarians trying to gain credibility in the GOP after Ron Paul's strength in the last election. Then I realized he was arrested for prescription drugs, then I realized he was just a Rush Limbaugh follower. Ron Paul followers have more integrity than to abuse prescription drugs.

* Christian Conservatives often feel that there is a movement towards atheism and that they are often maligned. Maybe they should try to understand why. When they go around preaching intolerance towards people who live in ways they don't approve of, then they get caught in airport bathrooms, or with congressional pages, or with prostitutes, and the latest, Tony Alamo (evangelist) was just sentenced to 175 years in jail for taking minors across state lines for sex on several counts. Then they isolate themselves with their own "Christian Wiki" and "Christian Twitter" while building the "Conservative Bible Project" to reinterpret the Bible to exclude other views based on politics.

When you preach your views as the only right views and attempt to politically insist everyone else accept your views through law, but you get caught over and over not being able to live up to your views, of course no one will take you seriously or view you as credible. Attempting to redefine the world to exclude any deviations in political views doesn't make you more credible, it makes you less credible.

* Speaking of religion and churches, given that the Catholic church has decided to intervene in politics more and more; and the churches of the right are attempting to redefine the Bible as "conservative," it may be time to start re-evaluating the tax status that churches get. It isn't to say that they necessarily violate the letter of the law, but maybe that the law should be changed because they are choosing to enter the political arena. After all, there is no tax exempt status for churches in the constitution, and political groups don't get this tax break, so why should churches?

And before the right wing readers say it, the problem isn't that people that are religious are expressing their points of view, but rather that churches that are expressly supposed to be religious are doing it. If a pastor or minister or preacher, whether left or right, decides to use a church event for political purposes, they are now a political organization. If the people of the church wish to be political, they should be... outside the church. A minister can work for a political group, but it shouldn't be as a representative of the church. At least not if they want the tax exempt status. Do I really need to go into why religion in politics is dangerous?

* Former Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was given 13 years in jail for corruption, taking bribes to attempt to gain favorable influence for companies. Whether it is Duke Cunningham or William Jefferson, conviction for bribery should be a longer sentence for a member of our government because it betrays the trust of so many people. Life might not be a bad start, but 20 years might be a good mandatory minimum.

* RNC Chairman Michael Steele decided to drop the RNC's health care provision that allows employees to have abortions paid for under their health care plan out of fears of being viewed as hypocritical in the health care debate. News for Mr. Steele, too late, BUSTED! The RNC has funded its employees' abortions under its health care plan for 18 years. It wasn't like it was just a one year oversight, this was a long standing health care policy.

So rather than simply admit that women should be treated fairly, especially considering it is a LEGAL procedure, they took it away from their female employees. It turns out that their employees may still get Viagra covered though. There is no word about whether or not Steele is removing provisions that fund birth control pills as they have tried to do in their amendment.

My wife deserves her OBGYN pelvic exams just as much as Mr. Steele deserves his prostate exams. My wife deserves her birth control pills just as much as Bob Dole deserved his Viagra if not more. Send a letter, an email, and make a call to every Senator and Congressperson that you want to, and don't just do it once, do it DAILY. Our women deserve better than this. You wouldn't let them take away your gun rights, why should we let them take away our wives' rights to equal medical care?

Friday, November 13, 2009

With Liberty and Justice for All

Attorney General Eric Holder is prosecuting five suspected terrorists linked to 9/11, and that has put some Republican critics up in arms. Texas Senator John Cornyn said, "These terrorists planned and executed the mass murder of thousands of innocent Americans. Treating them like common criminals is unconscionable."

President Reagan understood a basic principle: War is about ideology. It isn't about guns, it isn't about bombs, though those certainly help; but it is all about ideology. It is especially so when we aren't talking about a "hot war" such as World War II, where actions and movements daily could determine the outcome of the war. Today's war is more about values, which is what Reagan saw with the Cold War. Reagan insisted that our greatest strength was to fulfill our destiny as the last great hope for civilization by being the beacon of freedom and justice to the world.

Reagan got it. President Obama gets it. President Bush didn't get it, and neither do these critics of the Obama Administration.

IF we truly believe in our values, then we must live up to them. If we don't live up to them, then we must not believe in them, and therefore, the world should not follow them. It is pretty simple actually. The world wants a higher standard from the world leader than "do as I say, not as I do."

To simply detain terrorists indefinitely without charges, with trial, without a chance to defend themselves, is to say that we don't truly believe in justice, we only believe in convenience and then we talk about justice because it makes us feel better.

This "war" is nothing more for terrorists than an attempt to undermine America in the world by exposing our hypocrisy, exposing our values as mythical rather than actual, exposing them as the great lie of America. Did you really think a band of stragglers was going to "take down" America literally? What did you think, they were going to bomb every Wal-mart and Target in the nation? Did you envision shooting on the streets, door to door with militia men in Wyoming? Did you really expect 10 cities to be nuked?

While threats must be taken seriously to protect Americans, we must also realize that they are never going to take down America by force. They are working to bankrupt us by having us spend trillions to respond to their few million. They are working to expose our hypocrisy as we overreact and toss our values out the window because we are afraid of a few guys with box cutters. And that is how it will be sold to the world, America abandons liberty and justice because of a few guys with box cutters, there is no true liberty and justice, they are only marketing words meant to sell you not to actually believe in.

No, John Cornyn and Lamar Smith don't get it. Presidents Obama and Reagan did. This war is about ideology not executions or detentions. This war is about whether or not America truly believes in liberty and justice, or whether they are simply talking points that our politicians use to manipulate people.

America may or may not be the last great hope for a free civilization, but if America wants to remain a world leader, it must not simply talk about values, it must start to be the beacon of liberty and justice to the world by acting on its values, not acting contrary to its values.

I pray the outcome puts these terrorists away for life if they are guilty, but I believe in justice, and I want them to have it. It isn't about whether or not another nation would give it to them. We aren't another nation. We are America. We must live up to a higher standard than the world, not just a step above the worst nations in the world.

Our creator endowed us with certain unalienable rights such as liberty and justice. I don't think he gave those only to America, but to all of humanity. The rest of humanity may not have figured out those rights yet, but our creator gave us the responsibility of being his messenger for those rights. We have a greater responsibility than to simply throw away those rights when we don't find them convenient. We must fulfill our mission, regardless of outcome.

With Liberty and Justice for ALL.

Vets Need Health Care Reform, Christian Twitter, Fox and Blackwater, Steele vs Sarah and Rush, more Abortion and Health Care, and Take Action on Joe

Quick Hits for November 13, 2009

* Republicans have long told us how valuable our veterans are, and as we passed Veterans' Day, it is important to ponder how we take care of our vets. We have already heard of the problems with hospitals under the Bush Administration, but a new study indicates that 1.5 million veterans don't have health insurance, and 2,200 veterans die every single year due to a lack of health insurance. Don't our veterans deserve better? We know that you are 40% more likely to die if you are uninsured than if you are insured. Don't our vets deserve better?

* As Christian Conservatives have long since played the victim in their story, they portray themselves as the oppressed, the chosen ones to be persecuted, and thus, the heroes in their own Biblical narrative. They have isolated themselves with their own Christian Wiki, and started work on their Conservative Bible Project to create a Bible that "liberals" cannot share, and they have introduced their own Twitter called ChristianChirp. While they call themselves the oppressed victims, they have created the isolation for themselves, which continues to leave them out of touch with the rest of reality.

* Fox Entertainment continues to focus on ACORN and its problems with prostitution, but ironically, it has ignored Blackwater Security and its bribe scandal of Iraqi officials. Fox continues to show its partisan strips, to no one's surprise. Do conservatives even try to deny Fox's bias anymore or do they just shout at the top of their lungs that everyone else is out to get them?

* GOP Chairman Michael Steele says Rush and Sarah's opinions don't really matter much in an interview. I wonder how long it will take him to start sucking up to Rush yet again in his back and forth trying to deny Rush's influence, while trying to keep Rush supporting him to keep his job. There is no denying their influence in GOP politics and it is wishful thinking on Steele's part to assume their opinions don't matter, because they do to many conservatives, probably more than Steele's. Maybe he would be better off to coordinate them to be on the same page, but from the outside looking in, it is fun to watch the kids fight.

* I have really been thinking more and more about the anti-abortion amendment in relation to health care. This article in the Christian Science Monitor put recent events into context a little in terms of its history, and why it is so important for women not to have the amendment.

I have to say that any part of the amendment that limits normal medical insurance options in a public option such as birth control or pelvic exams or coverage of care for STDs is absurd and must be taken out of the bill. Those exams are far more vital to women's health than some guy's viagra prescription (covered in the bill) is to his health. It is obscene to support giving a man viagra but not covering a woman's birth control pills.

However, if the bill does not limit abortions but simply does not pay for them within the public option, then there should be no problem with it. Many insurance comnpany policies do not pay for abortions but rather they are often done at clinics that support the procedures. However, should it actually try to limit abortions, it should not be put in the bill because of the Supreme Court challenges that could kick out the entire bill.

It is one thing to limit a woman's right to choose about abortion, that would be both wrong and unconstitutional; but it is quite another to have the federal government pay for it. Just because there is a Second Amendment does not mean the government should buy people's guns either. The right to choose should not be infringed upon, but that doesn't mean it should be fully funded either.

Take Action:
* Joe Must Go. It says it all. Joe talks like a Republican, except at election time. Joe votes like a Republican. It is time for the Senate to treat Joe like a Republican.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Impact of Disinformation, GOP promotes bad government, Women and HCR, Credit card gouging, and Take Action

Quick Hits for November 12, 2009

* The Impact of Disinformation: Today, a Republican told me that it was Democrat Nancy Pelosi's fault that President Bush did not put tighter regulations on the health care industry. He insisted that President Bush wanted more and tighter regulations on the industry. My initial thought was "how did Nancy Pelosi do that when President Bush had GOP control of the house for his first six years?" My second thought was, "when did the GOP become the party of more regulations and the DNC become the party of deregulation?" Why does disinformation work? Because people don't take time to think about it, if they did, it would make little to no sense much of the time.

* Someone told me how bad government is and cited the large deficits among other things. I stopped and thought about it drawing this conclusion: The GOP constantly tells us that government doesn't work, then when they get in power, they seem to break it, and thus, prove their point that government doesn't work. If the GOP made government work well, wouldn't that undermine their argument that government doesn't work?

* Aren't the GOP the very same people who wanted to privatize and eliminate Social Security and Medicare in the last 30 years? Why would anyone think that they want health care reform that looks anything like a Democrat version? Maybe Democrats should stop trying to get bipartisanship and start trying to get things done.

* While the Stupak Amendment passed the House, and I still hold the position that if funding abortion is the only roadblock to a good public option health care plan then pass the plan, I have to wonder why sexism is so alive in today's Congress. The legislation appears to have no coverage for basic OBGYN care for things like pelvic exams, birth control, STDs, and domestic violence screening. Abortions generally aren't covered under many health care plans, but these basic services are and MUST be included in a public option. Strangely enough, congressional legislation will pay for Viagra, but not these basic services? My wife deserves to be treated equally, and she deserves to have basic services covered. So does my mom, my sisters, and any future daughters I might have. Tell Harry Reid to change that language and support women's rights.

* Credit card companies are gouging consumers with rate increases just prior to the effective date of legislation that would no longer allow such practices to lock in those higher rates legally before such hikes would become illegal. In other words, it is time to kill your card balances, call your credit card companies, and don't spend on them until they are willing to lower your rate back to a reasonable level. I have heard of people having their rates raised from 8% to over 20% effective in January, just one month before the legislation goes into effect. If your credit rating was good enough for 8% on your cards, there is not a reason to raise it to 20% or more while someone has made all of their payments on time for more than double the minimum amounts. Tighten the belts until they restructure these rates, they are beyond unreasonable and don't appear to be based on credit ratings as much as a desire to make more money for extending credit to those who didn't deserve it.

Take Action:

* Work to put a strong Public Option on the ballot in 50 states if Congress won't pass it:

* Respond to Senator Reid's call for input, support a strong public option:

Or "Text A" to 42779 to support affordable health care for people with pre-existing conditions.

"Text B" to 42779 to support prohibiting insurance companies from dropping people when they get sick.

"Text C" to 42779 to support creating a strong public option to create competition to lower prices.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bill Clinton and the Senate, Abortion and Health Care, Sarah Palin brings back "death squads," and Preparing for Retirement Economics

Quick Hits for November 10, 2009

* President Obama has been very careful in using the Bill Clinton card both in the campaign and as President. He used Clinton well in N. Korea, and now he is pulling Bill out to talk to Senate Democrats about health care. If anyone knows the impact of failing to pass health care when they have promised it to the public, it is Bill Clinton who saw Democrats lose the majority in 1994 as a result of Democratic infighting and disorganization that failed to make many major policy strides in two years as the majority party. Senate Democrats need to take that lesson to heart and pass something that they will be willing to face the Democratic and Independent public with. They should stop worrying about bipartisanship as much as doing something that will make Independents say "this really helped my family." If they can do that, they will see gains in 2010.

* It appears that abortion may yet again be a key issue on health care as several Senators in the Democratic Party have come out saying abortion restrictions must be in the bill, and others saying they must be eased in the bill. I can understand both sides of the issue because the health care bill deals with Viagra for men, but doesn't take care of an issue that is both constitutional and very important in terms of women's rights because of some moral objections from groups on the right that tend to be hypocritical about morality while insisting that it be imposed on others. Having said that, many abortions are done through clinics rather than health care anyway, which means that wouldn't change. While I don't like the imposition of someone's morality to infringe upon someone else's medical rights, it is more important to get through a good public option. Don't let the abortion debate derail something so important as health care reform.

* Sarah Palin returned to her focus on "death panels." I just don't know how anyone takes Sarah Palin seriously. If she wants to see a true "death panel," she should talk to actuaries for health insurance companies that put the caps on benefits, and choose which procedures are and are not covered. Maybe Sarah can WOW those who simply don't know much, but she sounds silly beyond imagination for anyone intending to be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate because she simply has little to no grasp of policy or how the world actually works.

* As the Baby Boomers prepare to retire, they are facing questions of what to spend their money on, and how to best spend their retirement accounts. Do you take a small account in an annuity or do you take the lump sum? Do you put extra money in your 401k or do you cut down your debt? My parents are facing that problem with a small retirement account that can be put into an annuity or taken out as cash, so the question is what should they do?

As always, eliminating debt should come first. Why? First, because interest rates on debt are often higher than rate of return on investment accounts. That means you lose money by having that debt, especially if it is credit cards because their interest rates have shifted even higher for many people up to 30%. Kill the credit cards, keep them for emergencies, not for daily expenses. Second, as you hit retirement, you hit a fixed income. That means every bill you can eliminate frees up money so you don't need as much money as inflation hits over time.

It is that very logic that puts forth the idea of putting money into home improvements such as converter boxes, solar panels, wind turbines, waterless water heaters, and so on, as much as one can. Why? Same logic, energy prices will continue to rise, so the more you can cut your energy uses, the less your monthly bills will be, and the easier you will be able to withstand summer and winter energy spikes. In the case of my parents, their annuity would be about $250 a month, but putting that into paying off their credit cards AND putting in alternative energies would cut substantially more than that off of their monthly budget, and that number would grow as energy prices rise.

One little trick though, make sure you pay for those home improvements in the same year you take the money out of your retirement account. Why? Take the tax credits and deductions for home improvement and green energy to minimize the taxes you will have to pay for taking out such a large lump sum.

Either way, whether it is pre-retirement or during retirement, finding ways to minimize costs while preparing for a fixed income is a good move. And if you really want to continue to work for yourself to save money in your retirement years, see if you can beat 50% off of your groceries and toiletries with coupons, sales, and price matching shopping games. That is another great way to cut your monthly costs that too few utilize.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Shadegg and the Baby, Jobs Report, Veterans Need Help, GOP "Choice", and Health Care Updates

Quick Hits for November 7, 2009

* Arizona Republican Congressman John Shadegg told us what a 7 month infant belonging to his Chief of Staff thought about the health care bill being voted on tonight in the House. Apparently Shadegg has become a mind reader since the 7 month old obviously cannot communicate for herself in the sentences that Shadegg used. Or maybe it was just another way of showing that Republican politics is more theatre than substance.

* The jobs report out has the unemployment rate hitting 10.2%, the highest since 1983. While conservatives jump on that bandwagon, they might need reminding that the previous time it was over 10% was two years into the Reagan Administration, not 9 months. And I am sure they will blame it on Jimmy Carter's Administration for the troubles, they might also be reminded that this recession began under President Bush and has slowed, and even started to turn under President Obama. But as Republicans reminded you after the last President Bush recession, jobs are a lagging indicator that take time to turn after the economy turns. It illustrates just how either ignorant Republicans are or how deliberately hypocritical they can be. Take your pick.

* The Christian Science Monitor asks if military psychologists are overwhelmed in their discussion of the Fort Hood tragedy. They point to trying to play catch up for years of not having enough psychologists to deal with the trauma of battle. Our soldiers deserve our gratitude for serving, but more importantly, they deserve both better mental and physical care than this nation has given them for far too long. I am saddened that the last administration was so quick to raise military budgets and send our soldiers into two war zones, but was unwilling to give them the care they deserved for that sacrifice. Sadly, we did the same after Vietnam and it may explain why soldiers are one of a few groups who are disproportionately impacted by unemployment and homelessness. They deserve better from us.

* Why is it that Republicans always talk about choice, but don't want Americans to have the CHOICE of a public option in health care; don't want wrongly convicted to have the CHOICE of DNA testing in red states to prove their innocence before killing them; don't want women to have a CHOICE with their own bodies; and don't want gays to have a CHOICE to marry who they want to marry? It would seem that the notion of "choice" is simply a buzzword that they want to throw around. Remember, it is a public OPTION and no one must choose it. I expect that if it passes, not one conservative will sign up for it to save the government money, right?

* Now that the House has passed its health care bill, the real fun begins over the Senate. Republicans have at least acknowledged that health care reform is needed, though their answers so far have been about protecting corporations from liability for their choices that limit our choices in health care. Their spin will be about protecting the doctors from frivolous lawsuits, but don't let it fool you. It is really about lowering costs for insurance companies who don't want to pay out for catastrophic care so they refuse to pay for the tests that might bring back incredible costs in terms of treatment for things like brain cancer or other terminal illnesses that are incredibly expensive to try to save the person.

It is time to create change that forces insurance companies to compete not simply in terms of price, but in terms of actual high quality services instead of denial of services and daring you to sue them for those services knowing that no lawyer can afford to take the case if the jury award is limited so that it won't even cover their costs. After all, for you or I to take on the massive legal teams of Aetna or other private providers would be a hugely expensive feat. By lowering the payout of lawsuits, they make sure no lawyer could afford to take our cases against those massive legal teams.

If you want the Senate to pass meaningful health care reform, we must email, call, and mail letters to them daily. Whether they read it or not, someone counts all the support and opposed communications they get. Don't let a handful of Republicans out work you. Make every Senate contact you can DAILY.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NY-23, VA and NJ Governor insights, Autism, 5 ways to save a Trillion on Health Care, and Republican Excuses

Quick Hits for November 4, 2009

* And what we have somewhat foreshadowed has come to fruition as a Democrat wins NY-23 for the first time since 1854, with Bill Owens winning. The tone of the night has been set with it being a Republican victory in many races nationally but why did they lose this one race? The answer may well be that the Republicans that won were largely moderates, not far right conservatives. As the GOP candidates for 2010 have been moving farther right, they might want to look at the night and moderate their views.

It may be more telling that those who politically planned Scozzafava's run and gave her the nomination may have saw the trend better than the base who fanned the far right flames. I have little doubt that if not for Hoffman, the story of NY-23 district would not be here. But it is and thus, we congratulate Bill Owens.

* Early signs off of twitter, some blogs, and forums are of a Republican Party that is arching its back insisting it wasn't the far right that lost, but rather one that makes excuses blaming everything from voting machines, to ACORN, and anything else they can think of instead of looking at the national trend. GOP political strategists aren't that foolish, but will the base listen, and can Rush or Beck talk about it given that they fan the far right flames to make a living?

The GOP is constantly telling us how America is a conservative nation, but at the same time, they ignore the polls on GOP branding put their support under 30% compared to the 35-40% Democrat support lately. A recent Gallup poll indicated 40$ of America claims they are conservative, 40% independent, and 20% liberal. So the question has to be "why are there about twice as many conservatives as Republicans?" The answer relies on pragmatics, not dogmatism.

To illustrate, my guess would be that about 25% of America are ideological Democrats and about 25% of America are ideological Republicans, meaning they will vote Democrat or Republican every time for ideological reasons.

About 15% of Americans are probably pragmatic Democrats and about 15% are pragmatic Republicans, meaning they will probably vote Democrat or Republican most times because they believe their party has the right solutions. Keep in mind, when they don't believe their party has the right solutions, they may just stay home more than likely.

That leaves about 20% as independents that will vote largely on situation and perception of solutions, meaning if the economy is bad and they don't have a job, they will probably vote for the out of power party if they believe they have answers to their problems; if we are in a war, they will vote based on who they think will do the best in that war given their level of concern for it. They may trend a given way, but they will also go the other way under the right conditions, they aren't party loyal.

With that in mind, given the GOP branding problems, going toward the ideological right is a bad move, instead the GOP should be moving toward the pragmatic right or moderates. I can't tell you how many Republicans I have heard tell me that they were upset about NCLB because they believe in public education for their kids; or who want a health care answer but not a single payer system; or who truly believe in climate change and the need to address it, but with more market answers. The farther right the GOP goes, the more those far right candidates will lose. Tonight's lesson, moderates can win in this environment; far right won't win in this environment.

* Even when I was a Libertarian who didn't support very many state programs, there are some that I just believe should be there. They include helping those in our society who need the extra help. It can be the disabled, whether physically or mentally, or those that have learning disabilities. The fact that autism is not given more support by the government given how hard it is on parents, how much work it takes to raise an autistic child, and how much more prevalent autism is becoming, but also how much autistic adults who are given that attention may be able to contribute to society with their often incredible intelligence in some areas, it is vital that we do more for these families including health care for their needs. I was sent this video from someone in Virginia on autism, take a look and help out if you can.

* It turns out that the great costs on health care may be the result of our own actions more than anything else. And while conservatives will tell you that you should never have to change your lifestyle, they might want to return to the Reagan message of liberty AND RESPONSIBILITY. I am not advocating any laws to change anything but rather that we look at our own responsibilities and act ourselves to fix things. After all, some problems are cultural, not political and this may be one. Take a look, 5 ways to save a trillion on health care:
a) Too much salt in our diets, go for low sodium and avoid salty snacks
b) Too much sugar in our diets, not enough physical activity causing obesity.
c) SMOKING! As a reformed smoker, I always hated it when people said this...
but it is true, 400,000 die each year and costs for them are enormous.
d) Alcohol. Hey, some beer or wine is okay, but drinking much more...
e) Pollution. Do we really need to be told that putting poison in our food,
water, and the air we breath is bad? A little common sense?

* Understanding New Jersey and Virginia may not be as complicated as political landscape shifts or major political tide changes. Notice the trend lately, as both states Governor races tend to trend the OPPOSITE of the party in the White House. Take a look for yourself.

* While Democrats need to get to work on 2010 and stop resting on 2008, and while the President and Congress better get some serious legislation passed that isn't garbage, it turns out that attitudes may just be changing in their favor. While 63% of Americans still say things are going badly, 37% said things are going fairly well or very well, which is the largest number in 2 years and shows a sign of an upswing of 7 points since August, with 63% saying they expect things to be better a year from now. In other words, people are starting to feel the results or expect to see the results of the stimulus package, and think we have hit bottom on the economy, which means President Obama and Democrats will be able to run on "we turned around the economy" next year as long as the numbers look improved by election time next year.

Ideological conservatives might win when the economy is good like in 2000, but when the economy is bad, or there are things to be done, pragmatists win the day, not ideologues.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

H1N1 Update, Net Neutrality and the FCC, Joe Lieberman needs consequences, and Scozzafava endorses Democrat Owens in NY 23

Quick Hits for November 1, 2009

* It isn't news that Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava pulled out of the 23rd District race in New York, but it is news to see that she has endorsed Democratic candidate Bill Owens in the race instead of the far right conservative Douglas Hoffman citing a need for bipartisan solutions instead of partisanship. For his part, Hoffman has called Scozzafava a "traitor" for endorsing Owens, the Democratic nominee and for undermining the Republican Party. Maybe Hoffman should have looked in the mirror for running as an independent undermining the Republican nominee before lobbying "loyalty" grenades at any other Republican. This is just one more sign of the internal fight that may help Democrats nationally.

* Senator Joe Lieberman has decided to filibuster with the Republicans for any health care reform and recently said the current millions without health care is preferable to having a public option on Sunday morning talk shows, as well as announcing he would campaign for Republicans in 2010. It is time to tell Joe that his actions have consequences and remove his chairmanship. No Republican would ever have a chairmanship with actions like these. None. It is time for Harry Reid to play hardball with Joe and give him a choice: act with Democrats if you are going to caucus with us, or act against Democrats and lose your chairmanship. Democrats have won the majority and shouldn't be strategically stupid by putting chairs in place that won't support their agenda. Sign the petition to tell Harry Reid to give Joe the ultimatum.

* Some members of Congress have told the FCC Chairman to oppose Net Neutrality, the thing that maintains open access across the internet for us all. Corporations would love to maintain control over small areas that keep us as segments of the internet to gain advertising revenues to access "their" people, and to charge us extra for access to the "full internet." Don't let them block our internet and interfere with our ability to access information that may be vital to maintaining our liberty. Send the FCC Chairman a letter telling him to stand up for Net Neutrality today!

* H1N1 is a growing concern for people around the nation. I have started to see people being told to stay home from work or school if they have a fever of as low as 100 degrees or they show any signs of the flu. I am watching people starting to wear masks, use more hand sanitizer, wash hands continuously, and more. The DailyKos has a status report that is fairly well written and worth looking at. While H1N1 has largely targeted children, it may start to indicate just how fast a virus can move through our society and may give us a good time to start looking at more use of technology to make us safer from pandemics in the future. It might be time to work on bringing telemedicine into our homes, heck, I have heard of doctors even giving masks in the waiting room. It may also help push us towards telecommuting, whereby many jobs that don't require us to be at work to do them may be done at home via computer connection to the business network. H1N1 is a growing concern, and is proving to be brutal in its targeting of our children. How long before it starts to target the rest of us?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Conservatives vs. Moderates: What is going on in the GOP?

Today's breaking news out of New York is that Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava has withdrawn from the race for New York's 23rd District. Dede cited a slip in the polls and a lack of funding for her departure from the race.

New York's 23rd has drawn national attention because it shows a fracture in the Republican Party where the far right seems to be taking hold of the party as a whole, as a far right candidate ran after not receiving the nomination as an independent, and has gained the endorsement of the Republican Party. Some are suggesting that this means the end of moderates in the GOP, while others indicate it is a shift right for the nation. I think the latter may be wishful thinking.

There is a clear rise in strange occurrences that are clearly not from the moderate wing of the GOP from the Tea Parties, to the Birthers, and so on. To better understand it, it may be worth looking to Kansas, where a Democrat won two terms as Governor in a state that is almost 2/3 Republican. It begs the question of "how does a Democrat win in Kansas?" And the answer was a rift in the GOP that may be showing up in many forms around the nation.

There are essentially four major factions of the Republican Party: Neoconservatives (Defense hawks, not primarily concerned with domestic policy), Paleoconservatives (small government), Christian Conservatives (religious, even theocratic at times), and moderates (pragmatists). In Kansas, the Neocons and the Christian Cons aligned against the Paleocons and the Moderates in a vicious battle. In the end, the campaign was so bitter that either the other faction didn't show up or it showed up for the Democrat to spite the faction that received the nomination.

In the case of that set of coalitions, it illustrates a fundamental problem in the GOP factions: A fight over government philosophy within the GOP. Christian Conservatives, fundamentally, want a theocratic democracy, where the government can enforce morality. Neoconservatives are focused on foreign policy and power, they almost share a Machiavellian view of controlling the people, which would naturally align with Christian Conservatives because when you control the religion of the people, you can control them.

These views are fundamentally at odds with Paleocons who believe in limited government almost to the point of Libertarianism, but not quite to that point. They believe there are some other things the government can do, but limiting that is the best course. Moderates in the GOP generally are softer, squishier Paleocons who want low taxes and limited government, but realize more things need to be run by government. They probably don't mind Social Security, and may think some Medicare is good, but are fundamentally at odds with a single payer system or any universal government run health care system as being too much government.

This is essentially the fundamental problem being seen today. It is why Sarah Palin and John McCain didn't generally see eye to eye, with McCain being a lifetime Paleocon to moderate Paleocon, and Palin being more of a Neocon-Christian Conservative, the views of government were fundamentally at odds at the most basic level.

The problem for the moderates and Paleocons is that the Neocons and Christian Cons are more easily organized and mobilized, and often are more extreme because they believe, at their core, that they are fighting a war about the future of the world, and if they lose, they have lost America's destiny or God's mission for them. That is why the Paleocons have harkened back to the Founders through the symbolism of the Tea Party.

Democrats are trying to fan those flames, to feed the extremes, and to expose those extremes to expand their party and their base. It is a large part of why President Obama isn't "taking" the spoils of victory but rather insisting about gaining moderates on legislation. To take it would be to unify the right against him and rally them, but to continually reach out makes the moderates feel, on some level, that the Democrats are willing to work with them as the extremists on the right start to kick them out.

This is why New York's 23rd has gained such national attention. It is a district that has traditionally gone Republican for over 120 years, but President Obama narrowly beat John McCain there, and a split in the GOP may well bode well for the Democrats. This district is a race that will tell us a lot more about the impact of this split going on nationwide in the GOP, and how far reaching its implications are. If a Democrat wins it, it will signal real problems for Republicans nationwide as contested primaries create major divides in the party, leaving openings for the recruiting of moderates for Democrats.

While demographics may be key to Democrats taking states like Texas, the New York race may start to foreshadow the primary between Perry and Kay Bailey for the Governor's office in Texas (assuming Kay Bailey actually starts to campaign seriously). If Texas goes Democratic, it will dramatically change the electoral map in the nation.

As for New York's 23rd, it may well turn out the way California's Governor race where Gray Davis used campaign dollars to influence the GOP primary getting the far right candidate the nomination, leaving the moderate by the wayside and Gray Davis, a rather poor and uninspiring Democratic candidate to win relatively easily. We will have to wait and see because it has been such a strong GOP stronghold, but the Democrat vs. the far Right makes you wonder where the moderate Republicans and Independents will fall in the race.

Boehner gives Framework for GOP Health Care Reform: Too bad it is light on Health Care and Heavy on Profiteering

House Minority Leader John Boehner proclaimed the GOP actually has a health care plan for America that they will be putting out a full version on the House Floor. Boehner points to some basic components of the GOP health care reform plan:

* To let individuals and small businesses look for better insurance deals in other states. Considering their control of Congress for so much of the last 15 years, and their proclaimed love of free markets, one has to wonder why they have isolated state markets for so long if this was such a good solution.

* To allow them to pool together to find better health care deals like big corporations get. Yet, there is no reason why they couldn't do that before. All they would have to do is create a group or organization already like the "Dairy Farmers of California" or some other similar name. This really isn't anything new.

* To create an environment that gives states greater range to experiment with cost-saving health care reforms. So exactly what "creates" this "environment"? This is so vague it allows them to keep saying things like "if it would create the environment, then we would do it" and every time someone critiques something they could easily say "well, that wouldn't create the environment, so we wouldn't do it." It is a way to dance a rhetorical dance without actually changing anything, and in all likelihood, it is a profit seeking ploy for insurance companies.

* To institute tort reform. This has already been done in some states like Texas, which has disempowered citizens and empowered insurance companies to deny coverage because it is cheaper to accept the lawsuit than it is to pay off the claim, especially around expensive cases like life-threatening cancers that require expensive treatments, or expensive diagnosis tests. This is just another profit making move for insurance companies and a way to deny coverage for you and me to save their bottom line.

The GOP continues to put forth tweaks and play rhetorical games that do nothing more than empower corporations to make big money off of us while denying coverage to us in order to grow their own bottom line. That isn't health care reform. That is the destruction of care for you and me while enriching their own pockets. We need something better than corporate rationed health care focused on their profit, not our health.

Fox vs. Obama, Cheney vs. Biden, Catholic Church: political or religious organization, and sleeping too much?

Quick Hits for October 31, 2009

* I have to admit I haven't really paid that much attention to the "war" between Fox News and the Obama Administration. After all, isn't it pretty obvious that Fox is a GOP "news" source? Heck, even my Republican friends admit that. It is kinda like saying "the sun rises in the east and sets in the west," everyone knows it so much so that no one has to say it or prove it anymore. It sounds more like Fox blowing it up because they need more attention to drive ratings. For what it is worth, Jon Stewart takes on the subject for about eleven minutes on a show and pretty much nails the topic. Take a look.

* When asked about Dick Cheney, Vice President Biden admitted he doesn't really like Cheney personally and doesn't care about what Dick Cheney says. It is about time that someone told Cheney he lost his relevance when he left office. Heck, until President Bush put him on the ticket, he had lost his relevance for the previous eight years after he put the plan in place to cut the defense budget that he later blamed President Clinton for.

* The Catholic Church has decided to speak politically against the health care reform bill because it allows people to have abortions even though it refuses to use federal funds for abortion. What I would like to know is when the IRS will start talking to the Catholic Church about their tax exempt status now that they are a political organization rather than a religious one. Talking about religion is one thing and must be protected, but when you openly start to campaign for or against legislation, and hand out fliers, you become a political, not a religious organization, and your tax exempt status should reflect that.

* CNN asks, "is too much sleep making you tired?" They report that people sleeping less than 5-6 hours or more than 10 hours often find themselves feeling lethargic and tired. My thought was "duh." The lack of sleep being a problem is well documented, and occasionally, having a long sleep day to rest is good, but if it happens a lot, of course you are feeling tired or lethargic. You are unmotivated, feel like you don't have a purpose to get up, and may very well be feeling depressed as a result. People need sleep but they also need purpose to feel like there is a reason to get out of bed. That is why we have motivational speakers everywhere or books like "The Purpose Driven Life" are so popular, we need to have a purpose and to feel motivated to act, and when we don't, we fall into that lethargic trap.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Smart Shopping, Economy Grows 3.5%, Health Care needs our help, Jeb Bush on Capitalism, Birthers, and Budget Numbers

Quick Hits for October 30, 2009

* I have long been an advocate of smart shopping to decrease your daily costs. I encourage bringing your own coffee in the morning to save the $5 from Starbucks for that Mocha. I encourage bringing your own lunch for $2-3 instead of paying $5-15 dollars for lunch. And there are a lot of other things. However, Kathy Spencer takes my shopping (I save about 50% on my grocery bill doing the same things) to a whole new level through her efforts of using coupons, advertisements, and stockpiling coupons while buying in bulk. I learned my tricks off of which I recommend to my friends to learn how to shop. One thing we lost from our grandparents is the focus on saving money and buying cheaply or smartly. It is something that will hopefully come back into popularity as a result of this recession.

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted Republicans for filibustering President Obama's nominees for cabinet positions like Surgeon General claiming that Republicans have filibustered more nominees in four months than Democrats filibustered in the first four years under President Bush. That may point to the need for Democrats to filibuster more than they do, but it also points to the hypocrisy of Republicans shouting "up or down vote" on everything when there was a threat of a filibuster.

Maybe that should be a reminder on key policy issues like Health Care Reform, where we remind them that they said policies and people should get up or down votes. One such petition making the rounds demands an up or down vote on health care that has been given attention by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC can be signed here. Harry Reid has his own petition to share with other Senators to give him leverage here. Let your voice be heard.

* Note to Jeb Bush: Pure capitalism has long since been gone, probably for close to 80 to 100 years, if not longer. Bush's comments were probably an attempt to gain attention in the news cycle when he proclaimed that President Obama was attacking capitalism, but maybe he should remember his own brother's policies such as protectionism of steel industries, eliminating competitive government contracts for his friends, and more. However, we should remember that no major industry in America has become a major industry without help from the government in some way or another. America has long been a mixed economy, not a capitalist one. Maybe Jeb might want to spend some time understanding economics before making more comments that make him sound foolish.

* House Democrats have unveiled a new $894 billion health care plan over the next 10 years which will be attacked by Republicans as "almost costing a trillion dollars" and be blown out of proportion. To keep it in proportion, realize that the current defense budget is over $6.5 trillion over the next 10 years. If they lowered the defense budget to $5.6 trillion over the next 10 years, health care with public option included would be totally paid for. Maybe it is time we start talking about policies in the same timeframes so that people don't get confused.

* U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter ruled against "birthers" who proclaimed that President Obama was not an American and thus, could not be President. He isn't the first judge to do so, but he is the first one to say that the constitution only has one way to remove a sitting President and the courts are not that way. While the "birthers" proclaim to know the constitution well enough to attempt to split hairs and proclaim government documents as fakes, apparently they aren't able to read the constitution on how to remove a sitting President.

* The third quarter numbers are in and the recession is officially over because it broke a string of four quarters of negative growth, though the road ahead may still be filled with roadblocks. The growth for the quarter was at 3.5%, ahead of expectations of economists. However, the growth was largely created by the economic stimulus package through projects like cash for clunkers. Without the stimulus bill, it is thought the GDP would have been even or in negative growth.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Glen Beck's Meatless Rant, Another Deviant Republican Caught, Washington Times claims Donors get Access, and Texas allows Parents share porn with kids

Quick Hits for October 29, 2009

* Is it any surprise that anti-abortion moralist, former Republican lawmaker in South Carolina, and just resigned Assistant Deputy Attorney General Roland Corning was found by police with a stripper, prescribed sex enhancement drugs, and sex toys in his vehicle at, of all places, a cemetery. When asked about the sex toys, Corning said they were there "just in case." If I was his wife, I would be asking "just in case" of what, you went on a drive with a stripper in our SUV in a CEMETERY? He no longer had his job two hours later and I have to wonder how long he will have his wife. Just another in a long list of Republican moralists who turned out to be not quite so moral in their own lives.

* Glenn Beck's latest rant focuses on the "indoctrination" of kids to vegetarianism as he criticized "Meatless Monday" in a Baltimore school, and responding to the UK Climate Chief saying not eating meat would be better for the planet. This is just one more in a long line of mindless rants by Beck who is becoming the voice of the far right, but being mocked by everyone from the conservative moderates over. What he is criticizing is far from controversial, making him sound like just another person wanting to make money off of raw emotionalism.

Afterall, going meatless for a meal isn't new or unusual. Think of all of the Italian, Spanish or Mexican, and Asian dishes that are meatless. While Americans do love their meat, having a meal without meat really isn't that unusual. Heck, "Meatless Monday" could simply mean Mac'n'cheese or spaghetti without meatballs or cheese enchiladas or fettucini alfredo or cheese pizza or any one of a ton of dishes we eat without meat all the time.

As for going meatless planetwide, long before global climate change was a major issue, we were told that it would be better for the planet just because it took 10 lbs of grain to make 1 lb of meat, which means 10 lbs of grains that we can't eat. It was simply inefficient, and that doesn't even count the water. Now that we know some meats are linked to increased risks for heart disease, cancers, etc., and we know that their gas adds to climate change, and as we start to reach the carrying capacity of global population leaving some to starve, of course it makes sense that going meatless would help the planet and all of us. That doesn't mean I am giving up my Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger anytime soon. But it does mean that maybe we should alter our eating patterns to reflect a healthier diet both for ourselves and others on the planet.

These aren't really controversial statements at all. But Glenn Beck is playing on the raw emotions of people who don't want to see any changes to their lives because they don't want to give up a burger no matter how bad it may be for their own health, and often times, playing on their ignorance because these health studies are often not widely publicized by the right as information but rather as attempts at leftist indoctrination. It is amazing how information and suggestion is now brainwashing. Ironic considering they spend so much time and effort trying to isolate their audience from any other information other than what they tell them.

* Much to my surprise, Texas is such a "keep the government out of our lives" state that it is totally legal to get drunk and share your porn with your kids. Now, I am pretty open to teaching children things at young ages to prepare them for the real world before they have to deal with it first hand, but showing them Debbie does Dallas might be over the top. Apparently, any changes to the law might be difficult in Texas. I guess I understand why they don't want Child Protective Services around, but it would probably be a flag of potential sexual abuse in my world, not something that should be shared with young children. Makes you wonder why Glenn Beck isn't talking about this story.

* The Washington Times has reported an article proclaiming quid pro quo between the Obama Administration and donors. At this point, the White House has denied the accusation and there is no concrete evidence of any such move. We should remember a this administration raised record amounts without relying on major donors, as well as that the Washington Times is one of the few major news organizations that does NOT have a fact checker on staff, and has a major right wing bias. It also doesn't hurt to remind the right of the policy "discussions" that the Bush Administration had with major donors like oil companies setting up energy policy in meetings with Dick Cheney.

The right doesn't care about truth or right, simply power. It truly makes one miss the days of William Buckley and Ronald Reagan, when integrity, honor, and finding the best policies for America and the American Dream meant something.