Saturday, November 16, 2013

Boehner rescues homophobic group

One of the things congressional representatives do for their constituents is arrange meeting space in the U. S. Capitol for their organizations.   It's easy to see why that would give prestige to a group, to be able to hold a meeting in the center of one of our most important government buildings.

So it was understandable that the World Congress of Families would want to have a meeting there, especially given that their latest crusade is praising and supporting the Russian crackdown on homosexuality and the passing of a draconian law that forbids the "public promotion of homosexuality."    This caused consternation worldwide, given that the winter Olympics are set to begin in Russia in a few weeks.

The WCF further wants to use the Russian experience to redouble its efforts to reverse our progressive laws extending marriage equality, over-turning DADT and DOMA.    So they sought -- and obtained -- help from Sen. Mark Kirk's (R-IL) office in scheduling a meeting room.   His staff did not know the group's mission or its reputation;  "World Congress of Families" sound like . . . well, a family thing, doesn't it?

To their credit, on finding out the night before the meeting who they are and what they do, the staff cancelled the room assignment;  and Sen. Kirk issued a statement that he in no way is connected with the organization nor supports their cause.

JOHN BOEHNER TO THE RESCUE !!!!    He quickly arranged a meeting space for the group, saying that his office routinely arranges meetings space for groups that want to discuss public policy and that this administrative task does not imply any endorsement of the groups or their discussions.

Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign countered with this statement:
"Speaker Boehner's embrace of these ambassadors of hate is shameful and despicable. These individuals have supported the subhuman treatment of LGBT people around the world, and now they want to do the same here. . . . The fact that the Speaker would welcome a panelist who praised Uganda’s proposal to sentence gay people to death should shock the conscience of all Americans."
Although I support freedom of speech and defend the right of this group to their opinions, I'm with the HRC on this.   We should not lend the legitimacy of the U. S. Capitol to the promotion of beliefs and practices that run so counter to the laws and the values of our land.    Would the Speaker schedule a room for the promotions of an anarchist group?   An anti-Christian group?  How about a group promoting the re-legalization of slavery?    Or child abuse? 

Sometimes the appropriate thing is to Just Say No, Mr. Speaker.  The fact that he did not in this case adds to the long list of his awfulness.  A few recent examples of senate-passed bills that also have the overwhelming backing of the American people, but which Boehner refuses to bring to the House floor areimmigration reform, the employment nondiscrimination act (ENDA), and expanded background checks at gun saleEven Republicans favor them by 70 or 80%.   Even NRA members supports the background checks.  And these bills would probably pass the House with bipartisan support.   But Beohner refuses to bring them up.   It's clear that he is doing the bidding of the Tea Party and its wealthy donors, not what the majority of the American people want.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Women do it better

We need more women like Elizabeth Warren and Janet Yellen in Washington.

Sen. Warren took to the senate floor and excoriated the Republicans for misuing the filibuster to prevent President Obama from filling judicial positions.
“So far they have shut down the government, they have filibustered people [President Obama] has nominated to fill out his administration and they are now filibustering judges to block him from filling any of the vacancies with highly qualified people: We need to call out these filibusters for what they are: Naked attempts to nullify the results of the last election. . . .

If Republicans continue to filibuster these highly qualified nominees for no reason other than to nullify the president’s constitutional authority, then senators not only have the right to change the filibuster, senators have a duty to change the filibuster rulesWe cannot turn our backs on the Constitution. We cannot abdicate our oath of office."
In one short year in office, Warren has become the leading progressive in the senate -- and she is certainly not afraid to speak out and call the conservatives out the Republicans on deregulation, government shutdown, tilt toward Wall Street, and now filibuster obstructionism.  

In her nomination hearings to replace Ben Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Congress had made the job of the Fed more difficult because of its austere spending cuts:

"Fiscal policy has been working at cross purposes to monetary policy. . . .  Some of the near-term reductions in spending that we have seen have certainly detracted from the momentum of the economy and from demand, making it harder for the Fed to get the economy moving, making our task more difficult. . .

"We are worried about a fragile recovery, and a more supportive fiscal policy, or one that at least had less drag, that did no harm, would make life easier."
Do I detect an iron fist in a velvet glove here?    Don't look for Yellen to be a big liberal on stimulus -- there are limits to what the Fed can do -- but she is at least willing to tell Congress the truth, that they are making things worse.   And, whatever they may say for the media message to their constituents back home, she is someone they seem to respect.   Reports are that she "sailed through" her confirmation hearing.

There is an increasing number of highly capable, progressive women in our government now, in addition to Warren and Yellen:   Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, Diane Feinstein, Claire McCaskill, and Amy Klobachur in congress;  Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Kathleen Sebelius in the administration;  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court; -- and Hillary Clinton gathering her forces for a presidential run.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why isn't this good news? I think it is.

Republicans who want Obamacare to fail are jubilant at what they consider the failure of the rollout;   and the release today of the first month's enrollment figures has them dancing in the aisles.  Well, should we expect anything different, since they are so disconnected from reality?

Here's how I see it.   It's true, the numbers are far less than the original prediction of the first month's enrollment.   But that prediction was made before all those first month glitches and overwhelming numbers made the federal website dysfunctional.

So I think it's pretty good news that a total of 106,185 have enrolled in an insurance program in the first month.

But here's the even better number -- which the press has hardly aknowledged: 
An additional 975,407 people have gotten as far as establishing an account with the exchangesthey just haven't yet selected which policy they want.

Another 396,000 have been deemed eligible for enrollment in Medicare or the Children's Health Insurance Plan through the exchanges.

Why is that not blaringly good news?

An analysis of the very similar Massachusetts health care program shows a similar very slow first month.   Just over 100 people enrolled in that first month -- a rate of 0.3% of those who eventually enrolled in the highly successful Massachusetts plan.    The Obamacare first month was 2.5% of the anticipated eventual enrollment.

So flap your lips, Republicans.  Get as much mileage out of trashing Obamacare while you can.   Because this thing is going to work.  And you are going to be left in the dust.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Income inequality: stark evidence in the news

Economists and progressive politicians have been talking about "rising income inequality," and we all sort of know what that means:   the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  The disparity is greater now than any time since just before the Great Depression.

Never more stark in the news, however, than now.   Contrast the news about cutting the food stamp program, about states cutting education budgets, and about unemployment with the art auctions taking place now and in the near future.

Just yesterday, Christie's sold a Francis Bacon painting for the highest price ever for a painting sold at public auction:   $142,405,000.    It surpassed the record price paid last year at Sotheby's:   $120,000,000 paid for Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

Upcoming auctions and the anticipated prices:   A Rothko for up to $35 million,  a Warhols for $40 to $60 million, a Koons steel sculpture for up to $55 million.   And it goes on.

And for some of the truly wealthy people, this is little more than pocket change.   Meanwhile, Republicans want to cut the social assistance programs even further, saying "we can't afford them."


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

There's hope yet for Repubilcans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and Oklahoma leads the way.

The reddest of the red states is Oklahoma.   That distinction is based on its having gone for the Republican presidential candidate every time since Lyndon Johnson was elected in 1964;  on McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012 having won every county in the state;  on every one of Oklahoma's representatives in Washington being Republican;  and on having firm control of the reins of state government.

Therefore it was surprising to read in the New York Times yesterday that Oklahoma is leading the way in early childhood education.    The state guarantees one year of free preschool for every child in the state.   They also have an active program of providing home visits to advise mothers on child care and to emphasize reading to them.

That's while those Oklahomans in Washington are busy slashing federal funds for education, along with everything else.   Perhaps it's a states rights thing.   Or maybe it's not about ideology at all but about practical results.

It seems that academics are studying the effects of this early childhood assistance and believe they can show that it pays off.   Children fare much better in school, both academically and socially.

So lets give Republicans a chance to show that they can have good ideas and can do things that benefit the people, not just business and their wealthy donors.    Now about health care, and immigration reform, and climate change . . . just for starters.    Come on, guys.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Palin's logic ???

Sarah Palin told the Faith and Freedom Coalition that America's debt is like slavery, where "younger people will be shackled to the country's spending."

She railed against all this "free stuff" that the government gives away, concluding that "there's no such thing as a free lunch."
"When that note comes due -- and this isn't racist, but it's going to be like slavery when that note is due. We are going to be beholden to a foreign master. Because there is no plan coming out of Washington, D.C. to stop the incurrence of debt."
No plan to stop the incurrence of debt?    Then how is that the deficit has dropped to half what it was soon after Obama took office?

Palin had previously bloviated on the same theme on Fox News, saying:
"What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days [before the Civil War] when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin."
OK.  Let's just skip over the fact that these are very racist innuendos given that Obama is black, and the Civil War was about the enslavement of blacks.   

Where is the logic though in blaming him for "different classes based on income"?   It is clearly Republican policies that are widening the income gap in America.   I don't think most Republicans, even, argue with that.   They just don't see it as a bad thing.

But Palin, in her logic-free mind, tries to pin it all on President Obama.    Put in terms that maybe she can understand:   "Sarah, honey, that dog won't hunt."


Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Unlikely Iron Lady"

When you look at Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) you don't immediately think "Iron Lady."   She is short, unimposing, really a bit drab looking and mild in demeanor.   She does not grab spotlights or microphones.   You might think of her as the anti-Palen -- a woman with real power and not just a loud mouth attack to create outrage against those in power.

But make no mistake.  Murray is soft-spoken, but she is tough.  And she has real power as the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and thus the Co-Chair of the Budget Conference Committee with Paul Ryan, her counterpart from the House Budget Committee.

Patty Murray is a no-nonsence budget chair and negotiator.   She, or somebody, is setting the stage for her as the adult in the room and warning the Republicans not to continue their antics as the unruly children.   Her early career as a preschool teacher lends the apt metaphor for the Republicans as kids having tantrums.

Here's a quote from Murray in an interview quoted on Huffington Post:
"I think the Republicans have to sit back and say, 'Do we want to be part of that governing party system and compromise system, or do we want to be the group in the corner that yells and screams?' . . .  That's what caused the government shutdown, the -- I'm sorry, I used to teach preschool -- the temper tantrum on the floor, to show how somehow they are powerful." . . . 
Right person for this job?   I think so.