Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear Friends

I am afraid I will be away from my blog for a little while. My beloved mother passed away Saturday morning, Jan. 30th. Sadly, we were not able to be there with her. We were headed up to see her, but weather forced us to postpone our departure. Still, we would not have made it in time ... Fortunately, though, my middle brother and his wife, who have been incredibly faithful to my mother since her stroke back in May, were with her when she passed.

Mom was 79 1/2 years old, had survived a liver transplant over 20 years ago, plus the five children she bore. That was no small feat I tell you - we could be quite the handful. She was gracious, generous, thoughtful, loving, kind, and funny. She was a mother to many, not just her blood children. My friends came to see Mom as much as they came to see me - she was that kind of person. She loved to read, she loved her animals, she loved to watch the birds come to the birdfeeders, and she loved to garden, though later in life, she had to leave the actual digging and all to those younger than she. I don't think Mom ever knew a stranger, even the checkout people in the grocery store knew her. She genuinely cared about everyone, and opened her heart to them.

To say I will miss my mother is a tremendous understatement. All who knew her will miss her, her infections laugh, and her spirit. But not only am I sad that I have lost my mother, but I am sad for the dreams she had that will forever go unfulfilled. Whether through illness (hers or my dad's, who predeceased her by four and a half years), age, or time, there were so many things she never got to do. I suppose she can travel all she wishes now, or paint as much as she desires...

I will be back soon, friends. Until then, I suggest you tell those you love that you love them, and those with whom you want to spend time, make the time to do so. Life is fleeting, but love, love lasts...

Mom, I will love you always. Thank you for all you have done for me, all you have taught me, all you have given me, for the very life beating within. I will miss you more than I can say...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Constitutional Scholar? Really?

Because Obama doesn't seem to know the difference between the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in his SOTU:

It is hard to believe the above isn't a skit from SNL, too. Holy smokes.Huh, I guess not being able to see those transcripts and stuff is kind of important AFTER all.

And just for the hell of it, I have to share this little story with you about the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Taxpayers Pay $101,000 for Pelosi's In-Flight 'Food, Booze' . I'm sure that's in the Constitution, or the Declaration, or somewhere, that we should be shelling $1,000 a WEEK for food and booze for the Speaker:
It reads like a dream order for a wild frat party: Maker's Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey's Irish Crème, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey … and Corona beer.

But that single receipt makes up just part of the more than $101,000 taxpayers paid for "in-flight services" – including food and liquor, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trips on Air Force jets over the last two years. That's almost $1,000 per week.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, which investigates and prosecutes government corruption, show Pelosi incurred expenses of some $2.1 million for her use of Air Force jets for travel over that time.

"Speaker Pelosi has a history of wasting taxpayer funds with her boorish demands for military travel," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said today. "And these documents suggest the Speaker's congressional delegations are more about partying than anything else."

Holy freakin' frijoles, really?? And Obama gets up there mouthing crapola about cutting back? Please. The article continues:
Pelosi, D-Calif., recently joined President Obama on a Judicial Watch list of Top 10 corrupt politicians because of her "sense of entitlement," the group said.

"Politicians believe laws and rules (even the U.S. Constitution) apply to the rest of us but not to them. Case in point: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her excessive and boorish demands for military travel. Judicial Watch obtained documents from the Pentagon in 2008 that suggest Pelosi has been treating the Air Force like her own personal airline," the evaluation said.

And WND reported almost a year ago that Pelosi was shown to have been erratically canceling and rescheduling flights, as one would with an on-call taxi service.

Do the tone-deaf lawmakers in D.C. make your blood boil? Read all about Washington and its politics of corruption in "Breach of Trust."

"We have ... folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc," said one Department of Defense e-mail then.

Another official sent an e-mail questioning a series of Pelosi's requests for aircraft.

"Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi's team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?" it stated. "[T]here's no need to block every weekend 'just in case'..."

The e-mail noted that the speaker's office had "a history of canceling many of their past requests."

Just in case you were wondering, it is not FREE to prep these jets for possible use. Um, did Obama proclaim her Queen of the United States or something when we weren't looking?? How full of herself can she possibly be?? Oh, wait, there's more:
Yet another e-mail exchange at that time revealed Pelosi's demand that jets pick her up at Travis Air Force Base rather than San Francisco's airport.

"She lives about 1.5 hours from SFO and much closer to Travis. … Whether it is the best use of assets is not the question. But instead is it worth upsetting the speaker. …"

Said another, "This is a battle that we are bound to lose if we tell the speaker('s) office. In the end, this is what will happen. I wish that I could say this is a one-time request, but we know it will probably happen again in the future."

Yet another indicated a deep level of frustration:

"Here is the laydown: there are five G5s. Two are broke. Two off on CODELS. One slated for priority White House… we should keep on G-III for now for Tuesday afternoon and start sacrificing goats and chickens."

Judicial Watch said the newly obtained 2,000 pages of documentation show Pelosi's military travel cost the U.S. Air Force $2,100,744.59 over two years – including $101,429.14 for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.

HOLY SHIT. That is just obscene. Can you see the smoke coming out of my ears? Oh, but wait, there is still more:
Among the newest highlights revealed:

* Pelosi used Air Force aircraft to travel back to her district at an average cost of $28,210.51 per flight. Of 103 Pelosi-led congressional delegations (CODEL), 31 trips included members of the House speaker's family.

* One CODEL traveling from Washington, D.C., through Tel Aviv, Israel, to Baghdad, Iraq, May 15-20, 2008, "to discuss matters of mutual concern with government leaders" included members of Congress and their spouses and cost $17,931 per hour in aircraft alone. This flight included the purchase of the long list of alcoholic drinks.

* According to a "Memo for Record" from a March 29-April 7, 2007, CODEL that involved a stop in Israel, "CODEL could only bring kosher items into the hotel. Kosher alcohol for mixing beverages in the delegation room was purchased on the local economy i.e. bourbon, whiskey, scotch, vodka, gin, triple sec, tequila, etc.

Pelosi's office could not be reached for comment. The answering machine said the office would be closed until Monday, and the mailbox was full, so no messages could be left.

Judicial Watch Inc. describes itself as a constitutionally conservative, nonpartisan educational foundation that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Maybe Judicial Watch could give Obama some tips on what exactly is in that Constitution, at least so this "scholar" knows the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Sounds like Pelosi better sit in, too...

Friday, January 29, 2010

State of The Lobbyists Is Better Than You'd Think After The SOTU

Jon Stewart had Harvard Professor, Elizabeth Warren on recently to discuss TARP and Wall Street. It was an interesting interview, to be sure (h/t to Pat), and provided a historical perspective:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren
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Let's not forget who was in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, shall we?? Barney? Chris? Ahem. Funny how that often goes unmentioned, isn't it?

You wanna know what else is funny about this whole negative attitude toward lobbyists? Especially after Obama ripped on them again? That he INVITED THEM TO THE WHITE HOUSE FOR A PRIVATE BRIEFING THE DAY AFTER THE STATE OF THE UNION. I am not kidding, people - how many different ways can I say, "What a freakin' hypocrite?????" Or, "How do people buy the crap that comes out of his mouth???" Holy smokes!!! Those of us who are sentient beings knew this was happening, that he was saying one thing, while doing another. But, c'mon, how blatant can he be that he thinks we are the biggest bunch of morons on the face of the planet??? And how can so many Americans BE such morons to buy this crap from him? Good grief, people, THINK!!!

So, here it is, in black and white:
[Snip] The Treasury Department on Thursday morning invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.”

The invitation, which went to a variety of stakeholders, was sent by Fred Baldassaro, a senior adviser at the Treasury Department’s Office of Business Affairs and Public Liaison.

The invitation stated, “The White House is encouraging you to participate in these calls and will have a question and answer session at the end of each call. As a reminder, these calls are not intended for press purposes.” (Emphasis mine.)

Yeah, I'll just bet they aren't:
The calls are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, with the first topic being job creation and economic growth.

Another call, at 1 p.m., is on government reform and transparency. Republicans have criticized the Obama White House for not being more transparent in its discussions with Congress on healthcare reform. Obama recently acknowledged that the legislative process has not been as open as he promised on the campaign trail.

Other issues that will be addressed on Thursday include education, climate change and healthcare reform.

Oh, yay!! Doesn't that make you feel better? Of course, they have been there all along, steering this Healthcare bill, from Obama's original meeting with Big Pharma to the insurance industry lobbyists. Gee, can' imagine why so many of us oppose this current bill: because we know what actually wrote it.

But Obama better be careful before he hurts their feelings:
A handful of lobbyists told The Hill on Thursday morning that they received the invitations and were planning to call in.

Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.

One lobbyist said, “Bash lobbyists, then reach out to us. Bash lobbyists [while] I have received four Democratic invitations for fundraisers.”

In his State of the Union on Wednesday, Obama once again targeted K Street: “We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.”

So, um, this is how Obama expects to fix it? Invite the lobbyists to participate in these major issues facing the country? Well, sure, that makes sense. In the Upside-Down World of Washington, DC, that is.

And all in the light of day, right? Oh, sure, PollyAnna:
The Treasury Department referred The Hill’s request for comment to the White House, which at press time had not responded to questions on this issue.

On Thursday afternoon, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated in an e-mail, "As part of our effort to reach out and engage with the public and policymakers, it is standard for our outreach team to organize a conference call, so that we can include people who are not in Washington, after a major speech or announcement through the president's priorities. These calls are targeted at a diverse group of community and government leaders including mayors, governors, faith groups, women's organizations, representatives from the African American and Latino communities to share as much information about the administration's agenda as possible. The calls, which include question-and-answer sessions, typically include hundreds of people from across the country..."

Lobbyists say the Obama White House has held many off-the-record teleconferences over the past year.

For example, lobbyists and others were invited to a teleconference with “senior Obama administration officials” on Monday to discuss the administration’s plan to improve the lives of middle-class families.

The invitation, which is addressed to “Friends,” emphasizes in bold and italics that “this call is for background information only and not intended for press purposes.” It advises callers to tell the operator “you’re joining the ‘White House Briefing Call.’ ”

Another lobbyist said these types of teleconferences occur “all the time.” (Emphasis mine)

And that is why many on K Street are exasperated with Obama’s use of lobbyists as a punching bag. Some have said they understood why he used strong rhetoric on the campaign trail but are irritated the White House solicits their opinions while Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations.

Don't you feel sorry for those poor lobbyists who are shaping our policies?

Or do you feel anger that we have a government that is so duplicitous, so underhanded, so hypocritical, and so conniving?? Obama gets up there spewing this bullshit at the SOTU, and the VERY NEXT DAY, meets with K Street Lobbyists. And he does so with no shame, not even a hint that the impropriety gets through to him.

Wow. Show of hands - WHO bought this crap from him and the Democrats?? Anyone? Bueller?? And we wonder why this country is in such a mess...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Blame Game, aka ,The SOTU Address, and The Republican Response - **UPDATED**

Yes, Obama laid blame at the feet of just about everyone but himself last night during his SOTU. "The Buck Stops Here" moment was very short-lived, was it not? It's Bush's fault about the banks, even though Senator Obama voted to bail them out; it's the Republicans fault - the minority party - that nothing can get passed in D.C., even though the Democrats had a super-majority, it is everyone's fault but his, for whatever condition the country is in, unless it is something positive, then it is ALL him. Yes, he can walk and chew gum at the same time - woohoo!!! Let's give him a standing ovation!! Lost jobs? Staggering deficit? Home foreclosures?? Nah, that's not his fault.

And how about Justice Alito's "Joe Wilson" moment, when he said, "Not true" to Obama's claim the recent Supreme Court Decision would allow foreign dollars to influence our elections. All I gotta say is, lucky for him he isn't from South Cackalacki, or else he would be labeled a racist. Ahem. I am sure this will be looked at from every which way in the upcoming days. But in case you missed it, here it is, with commentary from Peter Johnson:

Wow, that was some response from Mr. Johnson, who is, by the way, a Democrat, and who voted for Obama.

What else? Oh, yes, the whole DADT thing that Obama punted out to the Congress. That's exactly what he did. DADT could have long ago been repealed, but yet, there it still is. I have zero patience for LGB groups who are going to be thankful for this little throwaway crumb from the table. If Obama wanted to end it, he would have. Now, just because he mentioned it, organizations like Servicemembers Legal Defense Network are all atwitter. Spare me. When Obama, and the Congress, actually DO something about it, then I'll give them appropriate props. But until then, it's the same-o, same-o, all talk and no action.

And how about the Republican Response? It was offered by new Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell from Richmond, in the House of Delegates. Take a look:

I have to say, this is one of the better responses I have seen from either side of the aisle (remember the incredibly painful, stiff response from then-Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius?? Oh, wow - I had such high hopes for her until her incredibly wooden performance. Watching paint dry would have been more interesting.).

I don't know why, but the parts of it I have had to watch (see what I do for you people?), just keep reminding me of this classic piece from "The Life Of Brian":

And there ya have it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"An Open Letter To Secretary Clinton"

Here we are, the day of President Obama's first State of the Union address. Oh, yippee. While Obama still enjoys a fair amount of support among Democrats, this man who claimed to be the big Uniter, rammed down our throats by the DNC over OUR choice, ain't doing so well in the polls. But this particular one is especially ironic since the DNC claimed Hillary Clinton was too divisive, and would never get elected. Want to guess who has the largest differential between the two parties of any president EVER in his first year???? That's right, that would be Obama. "That One" who claimed he would end partisan politics, change the tone in Washington, D.C., blah, blah, blah. Well, he has certainly done that - he has made it more divisive than it was before. Way to go, DNC!!! Way to pick them!

Maybe the DNC should have actually cared about who was voting for Hillary Clinton, who was crossing over party lines to support her. But no, they were hellbent on destroying her (and Bill), so now we have Obama. Great.

It is for that reason, the partisan, closed door meetings, the attempts to shove legislation down our throats we don't want, and so many, many more, that Will Bower wrote the following, An Open Letter to Secretary Clinton: Save Us from Obama, for Huffington Post recently. I think many of us share Mr. Bower's sentiment. He writes:
Madame Secretary Clinton,

It's time for you to save your party -- and your country -- from Barack Obama.

You have been doing a remarkable job as Secretary of State, but now we need you as the new head of the Democratic Party ... and as our next President of the United States.

I know that it would be virtually unprecedented for a party nomination to be handed to a challenger over an incumbent, but it was unprecedented in 2008 when the party apparatus selected their then preferred candidate over the will and popular vote of the Democratic majority.

You were the rightful candidate then, you are the rightful head of the Democratic Party today, and you would be taking your rightful place as the nominee and president you were meant to become.

Every warning and critique you gave us in regard to Barack Obama has come to fruition. You were correct in every debate, in every political advertisement, and in every interview.

We are where we are today because too many refused to listen to you.

Only Smart Power can save us now, and you are the perfect person to bring us that much needed commodity. Just log into Facebook and you'll see the numerous "Hillary Clinton for 2012" groups springing to new life. A multitude of your supporters are ready to bring about the change that was falsely promised by your opponent in 2008. You got more votes than he did in 2008, and you can get more votes than him again in 2012.

One might warn you that this would only serve to divide the party, leaving the presidency open to takeover by the opposition. Because of your steadfastness during this past primary season, you were given that same warning then, but your party went on to victory all the same.

We tried it their way then. Now, it's time to try it your way.

In the upcoming midterm elections of 2010, your party will pay the price for its lack of vision. There is little to stop that now. Once that happens, more of a balance will be restored, and both your party and your country will be ready to move forward once again -- with you at the helm -- to a truly better future.

Thank you, Madame Secretary. We'll be standing by.

Indeed we will. And if, for some reason, anyone needs a reminder as to why we supported Hillary Clinton in the first place, this video sums it up beautifully:

Let's help Obama fulfill his dream of being a "really good one-term president" (when are you thinking about getting started on that "really good" part?) rather than a mediocre two-term president (though he may just qualify as a "mediocre one term president"). I think if we all work together, we CAN help him leave office in 2012, whether it is on a good note or not. Well, I'm thinking it will be the latter if Year One is any indicator. That is all the more reason to get someone in there who can LEAD, who cares about the country and the people in it, one who is truly a populist leader, not just one who is now trying to act like one. That would be Madame Secretary, no doubt about it. Yes, let's make this just one term for Barack Obama.

Don't you agree?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hillary Clinton on the Tavis Smiley Show

Hillary Clinton will be on the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS Wednesday, Jan. 27th, at 8pm (EST) prior to the State Of The Union. Here are some previews for the upcoming show (H/t to the Secretary Clinton Blog for the videos):

In this one, she walks about her reliance on her husband's experience:

This one might be a bit hard to take. I just try to remember she has to say crap like this about the boss:

I know which one I'll be able to watch, and which one will require reading a transcript. Ahem. I'm sure you can guess which is which.

Again, Weds. night, PBS, 8:00pm (EST), Tavis Smiley Show. Set your DVRs, your TIVOs, or just sit down and watch - it should be an interesting show with our Secretary of State!

Another Take On The Recent Supreme Court Decision

My friend from Hand Count Paper Ballots Now, Kathleen Wynne, recently wrote this fine piece, "How The American People Can Defeat
Unlimited Corporate Money and Influence in Elections" with her colleague, Karen Renick. She was kind enough to allow me to reprint it here in its entirety below
“There is a dangerous, misguided movement out there that if we just let business rule the nation, all will be well -- markets will take care of themselves, health care, jobs, just let business handle it. You know who says that the loudest? Business.

And now, it can say it even louder. It can shout down any candidate who opposes it. What happened to ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’?” (Excerpt from “Big Biz Needed No Help In The Election Game”, by Mitch Albom, columnist, Detroit Free Press.)

The country is rightfully reeling from the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s partisan 5/4 decision this past Thursday ruling that the “government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.” This decision, without question, continues the devastation of the power of the people in the elections process by ruling that corporations are “persons” who have a First Amendment Right to make campaign contributions without any kind of restriction.

What average citizen can compete with the lobbyists who already have overwhelming influence on our representatives, as well as compete with the deep pocket campaign contributions of our fellow “persons”, Big Business? Campaigns have already become “marketing” campaigns designed to sell a brand or personality more than be a campaign of ideas among the candidates. The American people already know that unlimited ability by a corporation to make campaign contributions to a certain candidate will surely undermine the “checks and balances” that our Founders intended for the elections process which were meant to be the sovereign province of “we, the people”, not “we, the corporations.”

The initial devastation of the essential balance of power between citizens and big business at the ballot box was the advent of voting machines in the elections process. These machines make it impossible for any citizen to oversee the counting of their votes due to the hidden counting by the voting software that runs the machines. Secret vote counting combined with the Court’s most recent decision has rendered a citizen’s role in the elections process virtually non-existent, which is tantamount to not having an election at all. How is this good for democracy?
Not surprisingly, citizens of all political persuasions are already protesting the Court’s decision because they can so clearly see the impending danger to the People’s role in elections and understand that the kind of money that corporations will use now to influence elections will most assuredly diminish, if not totally destroy, our freedom and way of life. In stark contrast, it has been so incredibly difficult for citizens to readily grasp that our right to control and visually witness the entire process of voting to know for certain that the persons truly chosen by the people have been elected has been stolen from us by government officials who cleverly convinced us to replace the ballot box of old with the way of the future -- computerized voting.

For years, election integrity advocates have compiled a mountain of evidence against the use of these machines to no avail. The voting machine corporations have spent large sums of money on lobbyists and marketing these machines and have far too much support from politicians, election officials, computer security experts and powerful interest groups intent on keeping these machines an integral part of our elections process. They are marketed as “faster, easier and more secure!” Is democracy preserved when voting is allowed to be marketed as “fast and easy” rather than “public and accurate”? Despite investigations that definitively uncovered the truth about the dangers these machines pose to election integrity, which were featured in the Emmy nominated HBO documentary film, Hacking Democracy, our government is determined to maintain the current status quo.

It is important to note that American election integrity advocates haven’t been the only ones protesting the use of electronic voting machines counting their votes in secret. Citizens of other democratic republics, such as, Ireland, The Netherlands and India, are but a few of the growing number of countries that have either banned e-voting or are presently fighting to ban them and demanding a return to hand counts and the kind of voting every citizen can oversee and understand. The most recent has been Germany.

In March 2009, Germany banned e-voting because two German citizens, Dr. Ulrich Wiesner and his father, Joachim Wiesner, filed a lawsuit declaring e-voting “unconstitutional” under the German Constitution (which, by the way, the final language put into their Constitution had to be approved by the U.S. after World War II). To further bolster their argument against e-voting, the Wiesners requested the help of a group of computer security experts, who were members of the Chaos Compute Club, to demonstrate for the Court technically how the voting system’s counting the votes was totally unobservable by the average citizen. In response to their lawsuit and the demonstration, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Wiesners. The Court even took it a step further. They also ruled that no amount of testing or government checks of any kind, such as post election audits or recounts, can substitute for public observation. Ultimately, they unanimously declared that e-voting was, indeed, unconstitutional because computerized, secret vote counting does not subscribe to the democratic standards of their country! All elections in Germany have now reverted back to the use of hand-counted paper ballots.

In direct contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s priorities, the German Court’s priorities were to guarantee a German citizen’s human right, which in this case is to be able to “see” their votes counted without the need for any specialized technical expertise in order to do so. They did so to protect “principles of transparency” and the “public nature of elections” as the priority in how elections in a democratic republic must be administered. It is a great example of the German judiciary using its power the way it was intended by protecting the best interests of its citizens in one of the most important processes - elections - available to them in a democratic republic. Despite the historic nature of this decision, our mainstream media chose not to cover this story. Why not? You would think that the “greatest democracy in the world” would consider this decision by the highest court in Germany a must read by the American people, as well as by our own high court justices and government officials.

Yet, here in America, over 95% of us are forced to have a computerized voting system count our ballots because our government officials unilaterally sanctioned the control of our elections to the voting machine corporations through the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 and have protected their software from public scrutiny by upholding trade secret laws. As a result, no one can guarantee even a single voter that his or her vote is being counted as cast.

What a disturbing and glaring difference between the German Federal Constitutional Court and our U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to asserting their power as intended -- to protect a citizen’s rights above all others. The German Court banned secret vote counting in elections and the U.S. Supreme Court gave corporations unchecked influence in our elections, in alliance with our government’s sanctioning of even further corporate control over our elections through the continued use of these voting machines. One Court protects the best interests of the citizens and the sanctity of their basic human rights in a democracy, the other protects the best interests of corporations.

Therefore, the most effective and pro-active action we, the People, can take in the wake of this horrendous decision by our U.S. Supreme Court is to immediately demand a return to publicly hand-counted paper ballots at the precinct level on election night and to posting the results at the precinct - before any ballots are moved - so the results can be publicly documented by citizens which will protect the integrity of the final tally at local, state and federal levels. When all is said and done, this is the only avenue left for citizens to be able to reclaim their rightful role in the election process. It will ensure that our vote – our voice – will be accurately heard as we bestow our consent to those we deem worthy of serving as the protectors of our rights and freedom. Our collective wisdom will see through the ruse of the corporation-backed candidates and elect those who will have the strength and courage to strike down this giant of corporatocracy and revive our quickly fading republic.

If the majority of American citizens can understand that free speech, as exemplified by the giving of financial support to candidates running for public office, should only be for people, not corporations, then it’s truly not a difficult leap for these very same Americans to understand that voting should only be “for the People, of the People and by the People” too. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. The very instant that the counting is hidden from view inside a machine, then voting ceases to be a public endeavor and becomes the domain of those with the financial resources and special expertise to create, program and run the counting devices means that “they” – not the People - will determine the election outcomes. This is not a prescription for democracy, but, rather, one for tyranny.

Demand hand-counted paper ballots now and we can defeat unlimited corporate money and influence, and the corporate machines that now control our elections. And so my fellow Americans, let’s say it together in one voice - ELECTIONS ARE FOR PEOPLE – NOT CORPORATIONS!

Contact: Kathleen Wynne (Founder and Former Associate Director of Black Box and Karen Renick (Founder at: and to learn more about hand counted paper ballots.

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us, Kathleen. Certainly food for thought, especially on the eve of Obama's first State of the Union address.


Monday, January 25, 2010

DADT Repeal Won't Make It Into The SOTU

As we all know, Obama will be making his first SOTU address this week, though thankfully, the time will not conflict with the season premiere of "Lost." I'm not kidding. That's for real (and if you want to see a funny video on the whole "Lost" fan thing, click for an Onion video). The State of the Union is when the President highlights the accomplishments of the previous year, the legislative agenda of the president, and basically giving a report of where the country is.

Well, one promise among many Obama has yet to fulfill, is the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And if Rep. Ike Skelton has anything to say about it, a repeal will not happen (H/t to Logistics Monster), as this headline indicates,Skelton Opposes Repeal Of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. That's jake, really:
The leading House Democrat on military policy said Friday that he opposes repealing the law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

Seventeen years ago, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) played a major role in crafting the controversial law known as "Don't ask, don't tell." When President Bill Clinton wanted to lift the ban preventing gay people from joining the military, Skelton opposed the move. The end result was a compromise under which gay service members would conceal their sexual orientation.

Now, after President Barack Obama pledged during his campaign and first year in office to repeal the law, Skelton finds himself on the opposite side once again.

"I am personally not for changing the law," he said during a C-SPAN "Newsmakers" interview that will air Sunday.

Because the military is engaged in two major conflicts, in Afghanistan and Iraq, changing the law would create "disruption" that can cause some "serious problems," Skelton said during the interview.

See, to me, that seems like the PERFECT time to repeal this oppressive, unjust bill. Don't we NEED more people who want to serve their country? I would think so, but apparently, Skelton doesn't see it that way:
He said the full House Armed Services Committee won't hold a hearing on the repeal of the law. Rather, the Personnel subcommittee will hold the hearing at some point this year.

Skelton also said he would oppose efforts to repeal the law in Congress — setting the stage for a potentially intense debate within his own committee with Democrats who want to see the law repealed.

Meanwhile, Skelton's Senate counterpart, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said that the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the issue at the end of January.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen are prepared to testify before the Senate.

Gates said at a press briefing that there are continuing conversations within the Pentagon about "implementing the president's intent."

Obama has come under increasing pressure from gay-rights advocates to move on the repeal. Gay-rights advocates are eyeing the change in law for this year, but it is unclear how Obama will proceed. The Pentagon has moved slowly on the issue and there have been reports of internal dissent on how fast changes to the law should be instituted.

Great. This doesn't bode well for the repeal of this intolerant law given Skelton's position, and Obama's continued unwillingness to address this issue. I, for one, am not at all surprised, and I sure am not holding my breath for it to change.

Once again, yet another promise for change that has gone by the wayside. Many of us knew it; too many believed it. Now, here we are - not even the same place we were before since Skelton is coming out against repeal. Anyone else sick of these machinations?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wassup With The Supremes??

Okay, just what the hell is in the water in Washington, D.C.? Can someone, ANYONE, please tell me how a Corporation = Human? Seriously, because I'm not seeing it. I cannot imagine what kind of machinations through which the Supreme Court went to come to the conclusion that it is unconstitutional to limit corporations from buying off elections. I'm sorry, say, WHAAAA? That is just crazy talk. Corporations equal people. Uh, yeah, No.

Greg Palast had an excellent post on this startling decision (first printed at, "Manchurian Candidates: Supreme Court Allows China And Others Unlimited Spending In The U.S." That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Palast went on to say:
In today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court ruled that corporations should be treated the same as "natural persons", i.e. humans. Well, in that case, expect the Supreme Court to next rule that Wal-Mart can run for President.

The ruling, which junks federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers, will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.

The Court's decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates.

I'm losing sleep over the millions — or billions — of dollars that could flood into our elections from ARAMCO, the Saudi Oil corporation's U.S. unit; or from the maker of "New Order" fashions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Or from Bin Laden Construction corporation. Or Bin Laden Destruction Corporation.

Right now, corporations can give loads of loot through PACs. While this money stinks (Barack Obama took none of it), anyone can go through a PAC's federal disclosure filing and see the name of every individual who put money into it. And every contributor must be a citizen of the USA.

But under today's Supreme Court ruling that corporations can support candidates without limit, there is nothing that stops, say, a Delaware-incorporated handmaiden of the Burmese junta from picking a Congressman or two with a cache of loot masked by a corporate alias...(click here for the rest of the post).

Ah, yes, President Wal-Mart - now THERE'S some democracy for ya...

Palast continues:
Candidate Barack Obama was one sharp speaker, but he would not have been heard, and certainly would not have won, without the astonishing outpouring of donations from two million Americans. It was an unprecedented uprising-by-PayPal, overwhelming the old fat-cat sources of funding.

Well, kiss that small-donor revolution goodbye. Under the Court's new rules, progressive list serves won't stand a chance against the resources of new "citizens" such as CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Maybe UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), which faces U.S. criminal prosecution and a billion-dollar fine for fraud, might be tempted to invest in a few Senate seats. As would XYZ Corporation, whose owners remain hidden by "street names."

Let's just hold the phone for a minute here, Mr. Palast. While Obama no doubt did get a lot of smaller contributions through PayPal, there were also a LOT of questions about from where some of those contributions came since, according to the Obama Campaign itself, their tracking left a bit to be desired. But thanks for playing. Still, there is a point to be made:
George Bush's former Solicitor General Ted Olson argued the case to the court on behalf of Citizens United, a corporate front that funded an attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary. Olson's wife died on September 11, 2001 on the hijacked airliner that hit the Pentagon. Maybe it was a bit crude of me, but I contacted Olson's office to ask how much "Al Qaeda, Inc." should be allowed to donate to support the election of his local congressman.

Olson has not responded.

Um, okay, I'll say it - it wasn't crude, it was CRUEL. I get his point, but really, that was uncalled for in my book. Still, the concept regarding foreign contributions is disturbing at best:
The danger of foreign loot loading into U.S. campaigns, not much noted in the media chat about the Citizens case, was the first concern raised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked about opening the door to "mega-corporations" owned by foreign governments. Olson offered Ginsburg a fudge, that Congress might be able to prohibit foreign corporations from making donations, though Olson made clear he thought any such restriction a bad idea.

Tara Malloy, attorney with the Campaign Legal Center of Washington D.C. says corporations will now have more rights than people. Only United States citizens may donate or influence campaigns, but a foreign government can, veiled behind a corporate treasury, dump money into ballot battles.

Malloy also noted that under the law today, human-people, as opposed to corporate-people, may only give $2,300 to a presidential campaign. But hedge fund billionaires, for example, who typically operate through dozens of corporate vessels, may now give unlimited sums through each of these "unnatural" creatures.

And once the Taliban incorporates in Delaware, they could ante up for the best democracy money can buy.

A bit hyperbolic, but, well, yeah - they can, as can any other corporation-person, or country-person:
In July, the Chinese government, in preparation for President Obama's visit, held diplomatic discussions in which they skirted issues of human rights and Tibet. Notably, the Chinese, who hold a $2 trillion mortgage on our Treasury, raised concerns about the cost of Obama's health care reform bill. Would our nervous Chinese landlords have an interest in buying the White House for an opponent of government spending such as Gov. Palin? Ya betcha!

Given how things are going right this minute, a lot of people would probably be happier with a President Palin. Ask some Tea Partiers. But his point, and it is a good one, is this:
The potential for foreign infiltration of what remains of our democracy is an adjunct of the fact that the source and control money from corporate treasuries (unlike registered PACs), is necessarily hidden. Who the heck are the real stockholders? Or as Butch asked Sundance, "Who are these guys?"

We'll never know.

Hidden money funding, whether foreign or domestic, is the new venom that the Court has injected into the system by its expansive decision in Citizens United.

We've been there. The 1994 election brought Newt Gingrich to power in a GOP takeover of the Congress funded by a very strange source.

Congressional investigators found that in crucial swing races, Democrats had fallen victim to a flood of last-minute attack ads funded by a group called, "Coalition for Our Children's Future." The $25 million that paid for those ads came, not from concerned parents, but from a corporation called "Triad Inc."

Evidence suggests Triad Inc. was the front for the ultra-right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers and their private petroleum company, Koch Industries. Had the corporate connection been proven, the Kochs and their corporation could have faced indictment under federal election law. As of today, such money-poisoned politicking has become legit.

So it's not just un-Americans we need to fear but the Polluter-Americans, Pharma-mericans, Bank-Americans and Hedge-Americans that could manipulate campaigns while hidden behind corporate veils. And if so, our future elections, while nominally a contest between Republicans and Democrats, may in fact come down to a three-way battle between China, Saudi Arabia and Goldman Sachs.

And again, to be fair, it isn't just Republicans who are going to benefit from this new "Corporations are People, TOO!" ruling by the Supremes. Democrats will benefit, too:
Campaign Finance: The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have a constitutional right to free speech. But Democratic leaders refuse to accept the decision, and their predictable reaction is to undermine it.

Rather than praising Thursday's 5-4 decision to reverse the 1990 court ruling that banned corporations and unions from contributing directly to political campaigns as an advancement of liberty, President Obama condemned it.

"The Supreme Court," he said, "has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans . ..

"That's why I am instructing my administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision."

Go get 'em, Obama! Yeah, show some muscle on this!!! Oh, but wait - is this just more talk? It appears so:
The president is betting the public will accept his rhetoric without checking his facts, and the facts in this case show that lawyers and law firms, not "Big Oil" or "Wall Street," are the biggest political contributors. According to, 83% of their donations are going to Democrats in the current election cycle,

This is not unusual. In the 2008 cycle, Democrats took in 78% of lawyer and law-firm political dollars. In 2006, the ratio was 62% Democrats to 36% Republicans. Two years earlier, it was 80% to 20% in favor of the Democrats.

Maybe the president just doesn't consider lawyers and law firms to be special interests. OK, so how about the securities and investment industry, a sector Democrats have demonized and unfavorably link to Republicans? Is this group a special interest?

The president can define special interests any way he wants. But he can't redefine the fact that 73% of the political donations from the securities and investment industry -- the "Wall Street" he apparently holds in such low regard -- are going to Democrats in the 2010 cycle. In 2008, 64% went to Democrats, in 2004 it was 61% and in 2002 56%. In the 2006 cycle, the parties evenly split donations from the sector, each taking in 47%.

Oh, well, um - yes it would seem this is indeed more "words, just words," from the man behind the curtain. What a big surprise - not at all. But there's more:
As telling as that is, our fact-checking exercise revealed another valuable nugget. Of the 50 industries and sectors categorized as contributors by, Democrats are the top recipients during this cycle in all but two (emphasis mine). Oil and gas, one of those named a "powerful interest," is ranked as the 14th largest political contributor, and the auto industry, which ranks 46th.

In short, the stampede of special interest money began long before the court's ruling, and Democrats are the biggest beneficiaries
(emphasis mine).

Oops. Wait, look over THERE! Or, there! Or anywhere but here!! Um, do you smell something burning? Oh, yes - their pants are on fire:
The president knows this, and so does Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Yet Schumer calls the court's ruling "poisonous" and, according to The Hill newspaper, promises to hold hearings "to explore ways to limit corporate spending on elections."

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also knows that his party is swimming in special-interest money. But he vows hearings as well.

If Democrats are acting as if they fear what the ruling will mean, it's because they probably do. They feel their funding advantage, which already includes so much indirect union money that the court's overturning of the ban on direct union contributions won't help them, is now at risk.

But their complaint about a stampede of special interest dollars is hard to take seriously, and not only because of how much special interest money they're already getting. While supporters of campaign finance laws say money is the corrupting element, they ignore the second part of the equation and the more corrosive factor: lawmakers' votes.

Their implication is that big money buys votes in Congress, and they might be right. But trying to cut the flow of political money won't stop the practice; it will only drive it underground. The way to stop the corruption is to prosecute lawmakers who sell their vote.

Though tainted by undue persecution, political dollars are a necessary part of our system. They illuminate the issues for everyday Americans and give challengers a chance (to) drive out entrenched incumbents. No one, not even a group of individuals, should be barred from taking part in this exercise of freedom.

Still don't think I can concur that a group of individuals is the same as a corporation. But other than that, this piece does highlight that it isn't just Republicans who are going to benefit from this unprecedented decision by the Supreme Court, but ALL politicians will benefit.

But will WE?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jon Stewart Takes On Keith Olbermann

And Olbermann's response to him. Now you know I used to watch both Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart religiously. I'm not about to start watching Olbermann again, but after the mocking Jon Stewart did of Olbermann, I may just have to start watching "The Daily Show" again. He's been on fire recently.

The other night, Stewart went after Olbermann for his baseless attacks on Scott Brown, the new US Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (see, I know how to spell it, even without spell-check! Ahem.). It was absolutely priceless, and is continued within Olbermann's response to Stewart below:

Yeah, I think there is one person who was funny in that clip, and it sure wasn't Olbermann.

Stewart gave Olbermann a couple of points, but when someone uses as a reference a video clip (a Brown rally) that has been discredited, yet still insists on making the point with no context (that what was shouted off camera related to a case on which Coakley worked), it is demonstrative of some of the hoops Olbermann will jump through to attack someone. It is disingenuous at best, but that is what we have come to expect from Olbermann. Bluster, innuendo, and attacks based on the thinnest of inferences. I mean, really, for Olbermann, of all people, to attack ANYONE else for being sexist, is just, well, laughable. Go back to the 2008 Primary campaign on just about any night, but this one in particular is pretty indicative:
Olbermann was discussing the election with Newsweek's Howard Fineman, a frequent guest. They topic was, how can a winner finally be determined in this never-ending Democratic race for the nomination? Of course, the assumption was that it was Clinton that should be shown the door (despite clearly still earning her spot in the race thanks to, um, voters). Fineman said that, all the delegate math aside, ultimately it was going to take "some adults somewhere in the Democratic party to step in and stop this thing, like a referee in a fight that could go on for thirty rounds. Those are the super, super, super delegates who are going to have to decide this."

Said Olbermann: "Right. Somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out."

Now, WHO'S sexist, exactly, Keith? Yeah, uh huh - I'll give you a hint. It ain't Scott Brown.

And since Jon Stewart mentioned John Edwards, I just had to see what he said about him. Here it is - a newsflash for "idiots":

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
John Edwards Affair
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Well, I certainly cannot disagree with Stewart's assessment of those who did NOT know this child really was Edwards, all protests aside.

Yep, I may just have to start watching The Daily Show again if he keeps going this way. I guess people really ARE starting to wake up! And about damn time, too...

Friday, January 22, 2010

"He's Done Everything Wrong" - Hell Hath No Fury

Like a voter scorned. Many of us are reaping the sweet rewards of, "I Told You So" with many of our Obot friends, family, and acquaintances. We did, we tried, we hoped, we cried, and nothing would sway them from the One True Messiah of Obama. Well, those days seem to be slipping away, don't they? And one such supporter of Obama's, who thought he was the cat's meow, the one who would change politics as usual (I still do not, for the life of me, understand WHY people thought he would), has had it.

That would be Mort Zuckerman. If you are not familiar with the name, you surely are with the U.S. News and World Report, of which he is Editor-in-Chief, or the New York Daily News, which he owns (along with other properties). He is a gazillionaire (okay, just a billionaire), and he supported Obama in the 2008 Election. Now, he is just a tad put out as his Op-Ed, "He's Done Everything Wrong," indicates (h/t to Andy):
Obama punted on the economy and reversed the fortunes of the Democrats in 365 days.

He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.

This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.

In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.

Holy moley! Bear in mind, this man, Mr. Zuckerman, was a SUPPORTER. I sure can't disagree with his assessment, though. He continues:
Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting. I’ve never seen anything like it. The unions just got them to drop the tax on Cadillac plans in the health-care bill. It was pure union politics. They just went along with it. It’s a bizarre form of political corruption. It’s bribery. I suppose they could say, that’s the system. He was supposed to change it or try to change it.

Even that is not the worst part. He could have said, “I know. I promised these things, but let me try to do them one at a time.” You want to deal with health care? Fine. Issue No. 1 with health care was the cost. You know I think it was 37 percent or 33 who were worried about coverage. Fine, I wrote an editorial to this effect. Focus on cost-containment first. But he’s trying to boil the ocean, trying to do too much. This is not leadership.

Obama’s ability to connect with voters is what launched him. But what has surprised me is how he has failed to connect with the voters since he’s been in office. He’s had so much overexposure. You have to be selective. He was doing five Sunday shows. How many press conferences? And now people stop listening to him. The fact is he had 49.5 million listeners to first speech on the economy. On Medicare, he had 24 million. He’s lost his audience. He has not rallied public opinion. He has plunged in the polls more than any other political figure since we’ve been using polls. He’s done everything wrong. Well, not everything, but the major things.

I don’t consider it a triumph. I consider it a disaster.

You and me both, Mr. Zuckerman. But if I may be so bold, perhaps lofty words are not a prerequisite for the highest office in the land. Just saying. Perhaps you should have looked a little deeper into how much Obama enjoyed the adoring masses, buying the PR spin that he was The One. The problem is, he started to believe it. He believed/believes it really is all about him. But, as a truly great president said, "I feel your pain."

And speaking of Clinton:
One business leader said to me, “In the Clinton administration, the policy people were at the center, and the political people were on the sideline. In the Obama administration, the political people are at the center, and the policy people are on the sidelines.”

Again, YES. I hate to keep harping on this, but why were you not capable of seeing this BEFORE?? When Obama regurgitated Deval Patrick's speeches, that should have been a clue that it was absolutely NOT about policy, but all about politics. When he continually took Hillary Clinton's policy positions for his own, instead of crafting them himself, that should have been a bit of a clue. But no. Zuckerman, and to many like him, failed to see what was right before their eyes. They believed the hype, too:
I’m very disappointed. We endorsed him. I voted for him. I supported him publicly and privately.

I hope there are changes. I think he’s already laid in huge problems for the country. The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn’t do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?

He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, “This is it. No changes. Don’t give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency.” Instead they turned it over to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who can run circles around him.

It’s very sad. It’s really sad.

He’s improved America’s image in the world. He absolutely did. But you have to translate that into something. Let me tell you what a major leader said to me recently. “We are convinced,” he said, “that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned,” he said “that he is not strong to support his friends.”

The political leadership of the world is very, very dismayed. He better turn it around. The Democrats are going to get killed in this election. Jesus, looks what’s happening in Massachusetts.

Well, for a moment, perhaps, but even in other countries, people are waking up (check out The Telegraph, or Der Spiegel sometime). But here's the thing: by caring more about appearances than policy, being liked more than fixing problems, Obama, and all who voted for him, have done this country a tremendous disservice. We told you it wasn't American Idol for which he was running, but the presidency.

There is still some delusion, though:
It’s really interesting because he had brilliant, brilliant political instincts during the campaign. I don’t know what has happened to them. His appointments present somebody who has a lot to learn about how government works. He better get some very talented businesspeople who know how to implement things. It’s unbelievable. Everybody says so. You can’t believe how dismayed people are. That’s why he’s plunging in the polls.

I can’t predict things two years from now, but if he continues on the downward spiral he is on, he won’t be reelected. In the meantime, the Democrats have recreated the Republican Party. And when I say Democrats, I mean the Obama administration. In the generic vote, the Democrats were ahead something like 52 to 30. They are now behind the Republicans 48 to 44 in the last poll. Nobody has ever seen anything that dramatic.

Did you mention by how much Obama has run up the National Debt? You know, the one he has increased by $1.7 TRILLION since he took office? And he's looking to increase it by even more. Oh, yippee.

If I may return to another part of Mr. Zuckerman's editorial, no offense, sir, but OBAMA didn't have "brilliant, brilliant political instincts during the campaign," his HANDLERS, Axelrod and Plouffe. did. Had you taken just a few minutes and used the considerable resources at your disposal, you could have looked into his REAL record in IL. You would have seen the shenanigans he employed to even get elected. Now, maybe YOU think that is "brilliant," but I see it as being an indicator of the man's moral fiber, and his "win at all costs," mentality, no matter who he steps on, or what kind of damage he does. Perhaps what Zuckerman is seeing now, is the failure of Axelrod and Plouffe to pull the man off the Campaign Trail and him getting to work. Obama still hasn't stopped, as he heads off to Ohio on Friday.

Still, at least he is finally getting is. In this interview with Neil Cavuto (h/t to Logistics Monster), he can barely contain himself:

Mr. Zuckerman made some mighty interesting assertions in there, didn't he, especially in terms of housing? Welcome to the reality based community, sir.

Indeed, slowly but surely, the Kool Aide is wearing off, but not until Obama has done untold damage to out country - IN ONE YEAR. Will he be able to turn it around? I don't know, but that would presuppose he was capable of introspection, and a willingness to actually listen to the people, as opposed to talk, talk, talking to us (though apparently, he hasn't talked at us enough - we just don't get it, you know - because apparently, we are all a bunch of mo-rons not to buy his healthcare bill). Just a thought.

In the meantime, maybe we have all learned a lesson after this presidential election, and after the Massachusetts election. People can be hoodwinked, but not forever. When they wake up, they are none too happy at the lies they were told. That's why we have elections, and this year is shaping up to be mighty interesting indeed...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's Been A Year, Obama - What About The People of Darfur?

As we mark a year of President Obama's administration, it is time to consider the promises made by Obama the Candidate, and the actions of Obama, the president.

One area in which Obama seems to be falling short is on his promises regarding Darfur, according to the organization, Save Darfur Coalition. Recently, they sent a message to their members asking them to:
Tell Obama to match his campaign promises with decisive leadership.

One year ago today Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. As he took office, he promised high-level leadership to bring peace to Darfur and all of Sudan.

Unfortunately, President Obama's strong words in the campaign have yet to be accompanied by the kind of decisive leadership we expected from the new President.

Millions of people in Darfur still live in camps with the ever-present threat of violence. All of the people of Sudan continue to live without even the most basic human rights. Now, indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir is preparing to steal the country's first election in 24 years.

We must not let this happen.

Tell President Obama we need his personal leadership to make sure the United States and the world do not to legitimize Omar al-Bashir's corrupt, genocidal regime.

Secretary of State Clinton took a small step forward when she recently called on Sudan "to suspend elements of the national security and public order laws that are incompatible with free and fair elections." But her words still lack the support of the President himself, who has remained silent instead of calling out Khartoum for its lack of progress.

Sudanese security forces continue to harass and intimidate their political opponents. Violence and insecurity in Darfur will make voting difficult—if not impossible. The regime in Khartoum wants to use the upcoming election to tighten its grip on power and insulate its leadership from the reach of international justice.

We must act now. Send a message directly to President Obama and tell him that the United States must not recognize the results of an illegitimate election.

Thank you for your support and your activism.

Mark Lotwis
Save Darfur Coalition
Donate to Help Save Darfur

Let's take a step back. Just what did Obama promise to do about Darfur? Here he is speaking about Darfur, and other areas, including the toll it takes on one's soul to not act in this Save Darfur Coalition video:

And yet, despite the "stain" on one's soul, and the continued genocide, the United States is falling far short in stepping in. Make no mistake, this is a dangerous, dangerous area, especially for women and children. Secretary Clinton spoke about this very issue in terms of rape being used as a tool in Sudan and Darfur:

It is impossible to not be moved by Secretary Clinton's description of these acts of brutality against women and children in Darfur, and other areas in the world. It is haunting, it is tragic, and it is unacceptable.

Secretary Clinton also spoke about the goals for the region of Darfur in October, 2009:

Worthy goals, to be sure. But words are not enough to save lives there, nor unfulfilled commitments. Action is what is warranted, what is needed, what is demanded, to end the genocide in Darfur. According to a former top UN investigator:
accused the Obama administration of failing to enforce a five-year-old arms embargo in Darfur, Sudan, and said weapons continue to flow into the region.

I cannot even fathom why this Administration would fail in such a task. The former inspector continued:
Enrico Carisch, a Swiss national who until October led a U.N. panel investigating violations of the arms embargo, contrasted the administration's efforts with those of President George W. Bush, noting the previous administration's strong advocacy of sanctions against Sudan.

"In contrast to that leadership of 2004 and 2005, the United States appears to have now joined the group of influential states who sit by quietly and do nothing to ensure that sanctions work to protect Darfurians (emphasis mine)," Carisch said in written testimony for an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa.

A damning indictment indeed. For a candidate who spoke such powerful words, who spoke of a "stain" on the human soul to not step in when crimes are being perpetrated against the Darfurians, to now just sit on the sidelines is unthinkable.

And not for nothing, but the very administration Obama is constantly blaming, Bush's, did better than Obama is. Wow.

Carisch was not done:
Carisch said key architects of the U.N. arms embargo -- the United States, France and Britain -- have lessened their commitment to enforcing sanctions as U.S.-led efforts to revive peace talks in Sudan have gained traction. "Increasingly it looks like poorly understood and under-enforced U.N. sanctions are being sold out in favor of mediation whose success is far from ensured," he said.

Now you know the Obama Administration had something to say about this:
Obama administration officials challenged Carisch's characterization, saying that Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been a passionate proponent of tough sanctions and recently implored the world body to provide a more candid account of the Sudanese government's misbehavior in Darfur.

"The Obama Administration is actively engaged in ensuring enforcement of all UN sanctions regimes. Given the priority that this Administration attaches to Sudan -- and Ambassador Rice's well-known hard-line views on the issue, it is not credible to say that U.S. efforts have been anything less than vigorous," Rice's spokesman, Mark Kornblau, said in an e-mail. "The United States is the most active member of the Security Council in pushing for better enforcement of sanctions and action to protect civilians in Darfur even in the face of a divided Security Council."

Ah, yes - Susan Rice, the ambassador to whom Obama gave equal footing with Secretary of State Clinton. Evidently, she is not doing her job very well, despite the protestations of the Obama Administration:
Carisch alleged that large amounts of foreign ammunition and weapons, principally from China and Chad, have illegally made their way into Darfur in recent years, fueling a conflict that has left more than 300,000 dead and driven more than 2.7 million from their homes.

There is no way in hell to put a positive spin on THAT, though the Administration might try. Those numbers are staggering.

As Candidate Obama said, "the United States has a moral obligation anytime you see humanitarian catastrophes. We are the most powerful nation on earth. We have the most stake in creating an order in the world that is stable and in which people have hope and opportunity. And when you see a genocide, whether it's in Rwanda or Bosnia or in Darfur, that's it's a stain on all of us, that's a stain on our souls. We've got to to have a protective force on the ground..."

Certainly, Obama, like any US president, has a lot on his plate (some he could have waited to do, like Health care so it was done right the first time). But when people are literally dying, when women and girls are being raped routinely, and when people are being displaced from their homes in massive numbers, it would seem action should come SOONER than later. It should come as promised, it should be stepped up, not stepped down from previous levels, and it should happen now before more lives are lost, whether through genocide, or sexual violence, or displacement. Now, Now is the time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do You Hear Us Now? **Updated x 2**

Well, it's official: Scott Brown won the US Senate seat in Massachusetts, easily one of the most liberal states in the Union. Brown's win is the first by a Republican in that state since 1972. Holy moley. Time and time again, people claimed the Healthcare Bill the Democrats are trying to ram through as the reason they voted for Scott Brown. If this isn't a wake up call to the Democrats, I don't know what is.

And yet, there are people like Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who seems completely oblivious to the massive alarm bells ringing throughout the country. One would think this would filter into her, but apparently no:
"The reports of its death, as Mark Twain would say, have been exaggerated," Larson added. "We're going to move forward, and we're going to pass health care reform."

This afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said much the same. "Whatever happens in Massachusetts, we have to do that," she said. "And whatever happens in Massachusetts we will have quality affordable health care for all Americans, and it will be soon."

Oh, boy. Add to that the ramped up call for the "Reconciliation Option," including by the organization, Credo, which sent out an email immediately following the declaration of Brown's win asking people to sign this petition:
Your message to President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

"The loss of Ted Kennedy's seat — due to a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats and Independents — sends a clear message to Congress. The Senate health care bill is not the change we were promised in 2008, and it must be improved. The Senate must use 'reconciliation' to pass a better bill with a strong public option."

In case you don't know what "reconciliation" means, they are suggesting the Democrats use a 51 majority vote to shove through this bill with its payoffs, bribes, and strong-arming. I might add, this tactic was designed for use with BUDGET bills. Clearly, Credo didn't like the message Massachusetts sent, and believes it is a better idea for the Democrats to inflame passions against this bill even MORE by using a filibuster-proof tactic. Nice.

Make no mistake, the Democrats are trying mighty hard to figure out how to get this bill through regardless of what the people say. I mean, really - it's not like it's their JOB or anything to care, right? Ahem.

On the other side, though, one of my favorite Democratic senators (and one I have supported), is Sen. Jim Webb of VA. This was his immediate response to Scott Brown's win:
Less than 15 minutes after the race was called for Republican Scott Brown, the first of what could be many conservative Democrats asks for leadership to put the brakes on health care reform.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) congratulated Brown on his win and delivered a zinger:

"In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated."

That is more like it. He is hearing the message the people are sending, and wants to take a step back here, and look again at this bill.

But Senator Webb is not the only one. You may be a bit surprised by this, but Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), of all people, warns against changing horses in mid-stream (of course, my cynical side says he is a bit worried about his seat in the future, too):
“I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results. If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate. I am hopeful that some Republican Senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of the process.”

Gee, ya think?? You know, it is amazing what it takes to actually get through to these people. Maybe if this doesn't hammer it home, this great piece by Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild will:
The problem for the Democrats in Massachusetts was not Martha Coakley; it was the Obama agenda. In 2008, voters believed that they were electing a person who would focus on the economy with laser intensity and lead in a bipartisan and principled matter. What they have gotten is a deeply divisive President committed to transforming America into a European-style social democracy. In this first year, he forced a health care bill at the expense of vitally needed focus on job creation. He has scared hard-working American voters with his hard-left rhetoric and his signature policies.

The Obama approach to health care reform is the most egregious example of breaking trust with the American people. He brokered no Republican compromise; he demonized the other side for being captive to vested interests as he made private deals with Democratic special interest groups like the unions, the insurance companies and "hold-out" Senators like Ben Nelson (who was just looking for his pound of flesh at the expense of the rest of the American people); he outsourced the bill to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid behind closed doors as he focused only on taking the victory lap for pathetic, piecemeal legislation that does not deal with our exorbitant health care costs. Have no doubt, the speech trumpeting "his" historic achievement, where other less talented Presidents than himself have failed, is already loaded on the teleprompter.

These are major negative factors for the independent voters who believed that Barack Obama was a principled and moderate Democrat. This is particularly true in Massachusetts where the nation's only universal health care plan is bankrupting the state because of politicians' congenital inability to deal with spiraling costs. In Massachusetts, a full 47% of voters are Independents, with 33% Democrat and only 11% Republican. For many of these voters, Barack Obama is now a busted flush; he was full of promise but has neither delivered on that promise nor exhibited the capability to deliver. He has broken the trust of the people, and voters are taking the only action available to them: Electing a candidate who can stop the Obama agenda and help restore balance to a broken political system. The voters in the Bay State are resorting to the principle that our Founding Fathers made famous: checks and balances. It is unlikely that all voters overwhelmingly support Republican State Senator Scott Brown, but it is certain that they see him as a vital player in forcing Barack Obama to come back to the center.

Preach it, Sister Lynn! Bring it on home:
This is important to keep in mind in reviewing Tuesday's results. Equally important is to reject the demonization of Coakley that is being perpetrated by the Obama White House and the Pelosi/Reid Congress. Coakley's troubles were never about her as a candidate; she has won state-wide elections before and few would argue she is more removed than John Kerry. Her problem was simply about the President and the radical course being charted by Democrats in Congress. A year after his inauguration -- and three years since Democrats regained Congress -- voters were holding Obama accountable. This simple fact makes scapegoating Coakley unconscionable, and yet this week all knives are out from the Obama White House. Coakley was insufficiently charismatic, leading Democrats are saying; she did not have an emotional connection to the voters. She did not work hard enough. She was more a "nun" than a political candidate!

This is all nonsense of course, but not surprising. After all, it's not the first time the current crop of Democratic party leaders have torn down a talented woman in their midst.

That Hillary Clinton won Massachusetts by a resounding sixteen points in 2008 is not unrelated. While Massachusetts may be bluest of the blue, it's a state where working class liberalism still runs deep, where an honest day's work is still held in higher esteem than entitlement handouts. When Hillary ran on these principles, Massachusetts voters embraced her. And for this same reason, on Tuesday they embraced Scott Brown.

Obama's team may want to make the election about Martha Coakley, but it's not about her. As rank-and-file Democrats try to make Martha Coakley the issue and engage in her assassination, they miss the fact that they are in a circular firing squad. Their problem is that they are out of touch, and their boosters in the media cannot save them.

Voters this week stood up and said 'enough is enough.' It's high time Obama and the Democrats in Congress got the message.

Amen to that. And if they don't get it after this, there is always November...

UPDATE: Ohmygosh - now Barney Frank has done a COMPLETE 180, saying he could vote for the Senate bill now. WTH is wrong with this guy? And who got to him? Wow, he is a piece of work. Way to stick to your guns there, Barney! Yeah. Right.

Second Update: well, Nancy must have heard an earful from the other representatives. Now she says the House has to make changes to the Senate's bill:
Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been struggling for days to sell the Senate legislation to reluctant Democrats in order to get a health-care bill to the president's desk quickly. But House liberals strongly dislike the Senate version, while moderate Democrats in both the House and Senate have raised doubts about forging ahead with the ambitious legislation without bipartisan support.

The only way to keep the Senate bill alive, Pelosi said, would be for senators to initiate a package of fixes that would address House concerns about the bill. In particular, Pelosi described her members as vehemently opposed to a provision that benefits only Nebraska's Medicaid system. Also problematic are the level of federal subsidies the Senate would offer to uninsured individuals and its new excise tax on high-value policies, which could hit union households.

"There are certain things the members simply cannot support," Pelosi said.

Like I said, I guess the representatives let her have it. It will sure be interesting to see what happens next.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"A Year Later" And A Referendum

Sorry I took a while to get a post up today. I had to take my oldest dog up to the vet after a difficult doggy dementia night last night...

Today is a big day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as the special election to fill Sen. Kennedy's seat gets underway. It should be an interesting day to see how things fall out, to be sure.

But this isn't just a vote to select a new senator. By all accounts, this is a referendum on the Obama Presidency, his Healthcare Bill (more on that below), and the anger in the country right now over lost jobs, unemployment, and the ever-increasing deficit, as well as government.

Yes, just A Year Later, The Obama Thrill Is Gone, as Charles Krauthammer writes in this piece:
What went wrong? A year ago, he was king of the world. Now President Obama's approval rating, according to CBS, has dropped to 46 percent — and his disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded by Gallup at the beginning of an (elected) president's second year.

A year ago, he was leader of a liberal ascendancy that would last 40 years (James Carville). A year ago, conservatism was dead (Sam Tanenhaus). Now the race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in bluest of blue Massachusetts is surprisingly close, with a virtually unknown state senator bursting on the scene by turning the election into a mini-referendum on Obama and his agenda, most particularly health-care reform.

A year ago, Obama was the most charismatic politician on Earth. Today the thrill is gone, the doubts growing — even among erstwhile believers.

Liberals try to attribute Obama's political decline to matters of style. He's too cool, detached, uninvolved. He's not tough, angry or aggressive enough with opponents. He's contracted out too much of his agenda to Congress.

These stylistic and tactical complaints may be true, but they miss the major point: The reason for today's vast discontent, presaged by spontaneous national Tea Party opposition, is not that Obama is too cool or compliant but that he's too left.

It's not about style; it's about substance. About which Obama has been admirably candid. This out-of-nowhere, least-known of presidents dropped the veil most dramatically in the single most important political event of 2009, his Feb. 24 first address to Congress. With remarkable political honesty and courage, Obama unveiled the most radical (in American terms) ideological agenda since the New Deal: the fundamental restructuring of three pillars of American society — health care, education and energy.

The latter two have certainly been in the news the most, with the Democrats' Healthcare plan, and Obama's "Cap and Trade" concept. No doubt, that led to this:
Then began the descent — when, more amazingly still, Obama devoted himself to turning these statist visions into legislative reality. First energy, with cap-and-trade, an unprecedented federal intrusion into American industry and commerce. It got through the House, with its Democratic majority and Supreme Soviet-style rules. But it will never get out of the Senate.

Then, the keystone: a health-care revolution in which the federal government will regulate in crushing detail one-sixth of the U.S. economy. By essentially abolishing medical underwriting (actuarially based risk assessment) and replacing it with government fiat, Obamacare turns the health-insurance companies into utilities, their every significant move dictated by government regulators. The public option was a sideshow. As many on the right have long been arguing, and as the more astute on the left (such as The New Yorker's James Surowiecki) understand, Obamacare is government health care by proxy, single-payer through a facade of nominally "private" insurers.

At first, health-care reform was sustained politically by Obama's own popularity. But then gravity took hold, and Obamacare's profound unpopularity dragged him down with it. After 29 speeches and a fortune in squandered political capital, it still will not sell.

The health-care drive is the most important reason Obama has sunk to 46 percent. But this reflects something larger. In the end, what matters is not the persona but the agenda. In a country where politics is fought between the 40-yard lines, Obama has insisted on pushing hard for the 30. And the American people — disorganized and unled but nonetheless agitated and mobilized — have put up a stout defense somewhere just left of midfield.

I think we are seeing that very thing materializing in Massachusetts today. Because:
Ideas matter. Legislative proposals matter. Slick campaigns and dazzling speeches can work for a while, but the magic always wears off.

It's inherently risky for any charismatic politician to legislate. To act is to choose and to choose is to disappoint the expectations of many who had poured their hopes into the empty vessel — of which candidate Obama was the greatest representative in recent American political history.

Obama did not just act, however. He acted ideologically. To his credit, Obama didn't just come to Washington to be someone. Like Reagan, he came to Washington to do something — to introduce a powerful social democratic stream into America's deeply and historically individualist polity.

Perhaps Obama thought he'd been sent to the White House to do just that. If so, he vastly over-read his mandate. His own electoral success — twinned with handy victories and large majorities in both houses of Congress — was a referendum on his predecessor's governance and the post-Lehman financial collapse. It was not an endorsement of European-style social democracy.

Hence the resistance. Hence the fall. The system may not always work, but it does take its revenge. (Charles Krauthammer's e-mail address is

Speaking of James Carville, as Krauthammer does above, according to Carville's own polling, Carville Poll: Only A third Of Voters Support Barack Obama’s National Health-care Plan.

And that is why the Special Election in Massachusetts is a referendum on Obama's first year, and his signature legislation. That is also why so many in the Commonwealth are planning on voting for Scott Brown - Martha Coakley has already reversed herself on the healthcare bill. In addition to everything else we have learned about her of late, we have learned that she can be coerced to toe the line by the Democratic Party. Not exactly the independent thinker for which many of us are looking.

Time will tell, and fairly soon we will know the outcome of this election, this referendum. Should be interesting!