Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sen. Elizabeth Warren off to a good start

The Democrats had the good sense to put newly elected Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Banking Committee.   In her first day in hearings with heads of the financial regulatory commissions (FDIC, SEC, Fed. Reserve, Treasury Dept.), she asked a simple question that they couldn't answer.

 "When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial?"    They explained that they don't have to go to court, because they negotiate some settlement, consent order, penalty, etc.

But she was persistent.  ""I appreciate that you say you don't have to bring them to trial. My question is, when did you bring them to trial?"

Then she made the point of her question:
"There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I'm really concerned that 'too big to fail' has become 'too big for trial.'" 
They will rue the day they blocked her appointment to head the new Consumers Financial Protection Bureau.   She would then be one of the regulators.  Instead she is a senator on the committee that over-sees the regulators.

What delicious irony !!!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Deal: Yes to a stadium, no to Medicaid

Gov. Nathan Deal wants us to help the Falcons build a shiney new Dome to replace the one they just built 20 years ago.  We can raise taxes for that.

And Gov. Deal says that the state cannot afford to accept the federal government's offer to provide 100% of the funds to expand Medicaid to cover 694,000 more Georgians.  He says we can't afford it (because after 3 years we would have to pay up to 10% of the cost, instead of 0%);  he says it will cost us $4.5 billion over the next 10 years.

Now a study commissioned by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation is reporting that the deal that Deal is refusing (on our behalf, I might add) is a good deal after all.   The provision of health care for 694,000 more Georgians would also create 70,000 new jobs in the health care field, which is projected to have an impact of $8 billion a year, leading to $276 million a year in new tax revenues for the state.

Gov. Deal had said we can't afford it.    Can we afford not to do it?   Some other Republican governors are changing their minds and accepting the offer:   Arizona's fiery conservative Jan Brewer, for one.

Come on, Nathan.   Don't be stubborn just because of politics.   You've lost on this one.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Georgia more civilized than Florida

In his State of the Union address, President Obama had invited Desiline Victor to sit with Michelle Obama in the audience, and he focused on her voting experience to illustrate the need for reform of our voting proceedures.

Ms. Victor is 102 years old, and she waited in line to vote in Miami for hours.   She certainly deserved the president's recognition and the prolonged standing ovation she received from the assembled leaders of our government.

Her determination in exercising her right to vote is truly admirable.  In Georgia, she wouldn't have had to.   It is written into our state laws that anyone over the age of 75 can immediately go to the front of the line to vote.

But it was great political theater to build support for President Obama's plan to appoint a commission to work to change how we run our voting processes.


Committee approves Hagel nomination

The Senate Armed Services Committee just voted 14 to 11 to approve the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense.

It now goes to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.   Petty, petulant Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said he will put a hold on the nomination until President Obama answers more questions about the Benghazi assassinations.   He wants the president to say where he was at the time of that attack.

What possible relevance does that have?    Suppose he was at a fund-raiser, or playing golf, or out to dinner with his wife?    The president is never away from his communications and security network.  He can handle whatever comes to him, wherever he is.   Graham is just playing pouty politics.

Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will not honor a hold on the nomination.  And Sens. McCain and Hatch have both said they will not support a filibuster.

So it looks like Hagel is going to be our new Pentagon chief.

That's very very good, especially combined with the advanced leak that President Obama will announce in his State of the Union speech tonight an accelerated withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Yes, why didn't I think of that?

In a New York Times editorial today, Bill Keller asks a provocative question. He's writing about the controversy over ObamaCare's inclusion of birth control as a requirement for corporations' policies for their workers -- and the exemption that Catholic and some evangelical Christian employers are demanding.

It's all very well to grant exceptions to church institutions themselves, writes Keller.  But where do you draw the line in letting individuals be exempt from laws based on religious beliefs?

He cites the example:   suppose a Jehovah's Witness employer demanded not to be required to pay for insurance that covered blood tranfusions for his employees?   Their religion opposes them as a doctrinal matter.

Or what about an employer who is a Christian Scientist?   They like to avoid medical treatments per se.  And why do I have to pay taxes to support wars that I oppose?

There's no end, when you start making exceptions.


Dick Cheney should go quietly . . .

Much as I hate to say something positive about George W. Bush, he shines as an example of post-presidential decorum compared to his Veep Dick Cheney, who today said this in a speech to the Wyoming Republican Party:
"The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal. . . .  Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people."
This from the man, who more than anyone else perhaps, given his influence, brought us the debacle of the Iraq war.

If we want to start comparing quality of nominees, I have just two words for the Bush/Cheney team:  Harriet Myers.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Rebranding" the GOP

Bobby Jindal ("We have to stop being the stupid party"), Marco Rubio (favors immigration reform), and a few other GOP members are concerned.   It's finally sinking in that they lost big in the national elections, even if they control 30 state houses and the House of Representatives.  They know that demographic shifts will continue to go against them unless they change.

Some of them are trying to find even more ways to steal elections like gerrymandering districts and then awarding electoral votes by district, instead of states;  or passing even more voter-suppression laws and regulations.

The others, the more reasonable ones, are trying to "rebrand" the GOP.  Eric Cantor is the latest  to enter this enterprise, shown in press releases and a major speech yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute.  But, rather pathetically, he was forced to make this statement, when asked why they were stalling the Violence Against Women Act in the House:
"You know, I as a gentleman care very deeply about women in the abuse situation, that we need to get them the relief that this bill offers. . . .  That's what we want to do, that's our priority, we must move and act on this bill."
Yes, but you've already lost when you have to make such a statement to try to counter-act your previous actions.

And hasn't your conservative word-maven, Frank Luntz, taught you better than to talk about "rebranding?"   Luntz's specialty is teaching politicians what words to use to influence public opinion.

E. J. Dionne dismantled this one on Rachel Maddow's show.   He pointed out that rebranding is only trying to change the perception of your product;  it does nothing to change the product.

Gotcha !!!   Thanks, E. J.