Saturday, February 28, 2015

John Boehner's big failure. Nancy Pelosi's big win.

The big news tonight (Friday) is coming from the U. S. House in Washington.    All day John Boehner and the Republican leadership had been counting their votes and thought they had enough votes to pass the 3 week funding bill for Homeland Security.  Doing this would allow them to avoid voting on the clean bill passed by the Senate and still avoid a shutdown that would have come at midnight.

So Boehner brought it to a vote -- and it failed.   It seems that 52 of his Republican caucus had deceived him about their intentions.  They voted against it, along with all the Democrats.

Let me underline this:   the Republicans could not even pass their own bill because of the lack of cooperation of the Tea Party conservatives.

So after a couple of hours of behind the scenes negotiations, Nancy Pelosi bailed Boehner out -- and got a good deal out of him.  She got her Democrats to agree to vote for a one-week patch funding, with the understanding that next week they will have an opportunity to vote on the Senate's clean bill.  By clean bill, we mean that the Homeland Security funding bill has been stripped of its poison pill that would have overturned President Obama's executive action on deportations.  The Senate has already passed the clean bill to fund HS.

As of this writing, John Boehner has put out word that he did not agree to have a clean vote next week.    But reporters who have been watching this and talking to legislative aides say that this is a stance and that there will probably be maneuvering and intermediate votes, but that eventually Boehner will allow the clean bill to be voted on.

This is a major defeat for Boehner's leadership.   Commentators have suggested that, although he is in a very difficult spot trying to get cooperation from the Tea Party members who refuse to compromise on anything, it is also their opinion that there were creative ways that a more skilled leader could have probably gotten something done.

At the same time, it is a major victory for the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and her team on the Democratic side.   She not only got every Democratic to vote no on the 3 week bill -- and then got most of them to vote yes on the 1 week bill as part of the plan to get the clean bill to the floor next week.

Score a big win for Pelosi, a big loss for Boehner.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Brian Williams lies and gets 6 month suspension. Bill O'Reilly lies and is defended by network boss.

Why the big difference in the way their networks have responded to the lies that Brian Williams told about his war experience and those Bill O'Reilly told about his war experience?   

Both make a lot of money for their networks.   Both were embellishing the truth to make themselves look like heroes who had been in dangerous combat situations.

Williams quickly admitted his error and apologized, taking full responsibility. O'Reilly has only blathered and threatened his accuser.  However, the important difference is clear:

Williams was an NBC News anchor from whom people expect to hear the truth.   His credibility is one of his biggest assets and vital to the network.

O'Reilly is a Fox cable entertainer and what the New York Times called a "professional provocateur."    Wild exaggeration and angry denunciations are part of his trade.

Or to put it simply:   Everybody expects Bill O'Reilly to lie.

That's what the Fox network needs to own up to.


What's happening to Walmart?

We're used to Walmart being seen as the big bad guy -- the one who comes in, builds a huge store and drives out the smaller, independent retailers;   the one that pays its low-level employees below level wages, scrimps on benefits, and is generally considered a bad citizen in the marketplace.   

On the plus side, they do offer household goods, clothes, groceries, medicines, etc. at lower prices -- because they can buy in such huge quantities -- and they keep overhead down.

On the negative side, an image problem has developed over the past few years.

It seems that they may be trying to rectify this.   Even if it is only public relations to improve their image, they are beginning to do some good things.

Just last week, they announced a minimum wage increase to $9 to be increased to $10 over time.

This week, they announced opposition to a bill working its way into law in Arkansas, where Walmart's headquarters is.    This is one of those "freedom of conscience" laws that allows people to discriminate against LGBT people if serving them goes against their religious beliefs.

And Walmart is opposing it.    Which actually means support for LGBT customers and employees.

Whatever the motive, let's take whatever help we can on this growing problem.   Right now a similar bill is in the Georgia legislature.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sen. Barbara Boxer lambasts Republican colleagues

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) took the microphone on the Senate floor and lambasted her Republican colleagues over the threat of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown: 
"This is a self-inflicted crisis, made up by the Republicans. It is dangerous, it is the height of irresponsibility, and it's unnecessary."
[Thanks to Leslie Salzillo of Daily Kos for supplying these excerpts of Sen. Boxer's speech.]  It's worthwhile to read -- and enjoy -- every word of these extensive quotes:

"We all know Republicans won in huge numbers in the 2014 election, and they took over the United States Senate and they run it. . . .  

"And let's be clear, less than eight weeks after they took  over the Senate, we are facing a shutdown; a shutdown of the very agency that protects the health, the safety, the lives, of the American people . . .  They're shutting down the program that funds our police officers back home, our firefighters, our first responders. Any way you look at it, this is a national disgrace. And think about what our friends abroad, and those who are not our friends, are thinking about this.

"Republicans say, 'Oh, we're in dangerwe have to go to war, put combat troops on the ground!' But they're willing to shut down the department that protects Americans here in the homeland, from a terrorist attack.

"How does it make sense, at a time when we're facing serious threats to our national security, to furlough 30,000, thirty thousand, department of homeland security workers, and to force more than 100,000 frontline homeland security personnel to work without pay? . . . 

"I thought they were the party of 'family values.' Show me where that's true? Ripping families apart? I thought they were the party of 'economic prosperity.' Show me how that's true, when we know from study after study that one of the greatest things we can do for our economy and job creation is get people out of the shadows so they can go buy a home and hold a good job. They (Republicans) can't or won't pass an immigration bill. They will not do their job. So when the president steps in and does his job, they say, 'Oh, this is terrible! Let's shutdown a totally unrelated department. . . . 

"I've never heard of a Republican complaining when President Eisenhower used his executive order power to help immigrants, when President Nixon did the same thing to protect immigrants, when President Ronald Reagan, their hero, protected immigrants, when George Bush Sr. protected immigrants, when George W. Bush protected immigrants, they all used their authority.

"Show me one Republican that stood up and said, 'Oh this is outrageous! Let's impeach the president. But it's president Obama. And they're annoyed because he won twice. Sorry. Sorry. Wake up and smell the roses. He IS the President. . . .

"So tell me, Republicans . . . .  How does it make sense? Because you're too incompetent to hold a vote on your immigration plan? You want to kick people out of the country? Put it to a vote! Let's go. You want to deport 11 million people? Put it to a vote. Don't hide behind the Homeland Security Bill, holding the President's work hostage. You never did it to the other presidents.

"Our national security is at stake, our family values are at stake. And our economy is at stake here. So get over the fact that you don't like the president. We get it. You couldn't beat him. Too bad for you. But you're in charge here, in the Senate. Do your job! Bring an immigration bill to the floor. Let's let this Homeland Security Bill go [to the floor as a separate bill]. It's a bipartisan bill. It's funding for the most important thing we're doing today. . . . Don't hold it hostage to your hatred of this president . . . 

"Listen, I served with five presidents. I'm a strong Democrat. . . .  But I respect the office of the presidency. If I didn't agree with Ronald Reagan, I came down here and said it. But we had the respect back and forth. If we lost, we lost. And we moved on. And that worked both ways. I know what it is not to like the policies of a president. I get it. But don't overdo it and make it so personal. Get on with it. Grow up. Do your job, you know? Do your job! Have respect for the office of the presidency. Don't suddenly say executive orders are bad when the president you don't like does it, but you don't say one word when a Republican president does the same thing!"

*  *  *
Strong words . . . and not one bit stronger than warranted and necessary.   

Thank you, Sen. Boxer -- and please change your mind about retiring.   The American people need elected representatives who will speak with such passion for the common sense, progressive side.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mitch McConnell's Plan B should have been Plan A

They're calling it Plan B, which is of course what you call the alternate plan when Plan A doesn't work out.

But Mitch McConnell's Plan B -- which would remove the poison pill block to Obama's recent executive action on deportations from the Homeland Security funding bill and have a separate vote on each measure -- should have been Plan A all along.

You have two important issues.   Each should get a clear up or down vote on its own.

To knowingly attach something, which you know the other side can't/won't support, to a bill they must support, is part of politics.    But here the Republicans are playing politics with dangerous issues.    This one is on our national security at a time of increasing terrorists' threats.    The Netanyahu speech is also playing politics with our sensitive nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Every day, the Republicans prove that they (1) put partisan politics above the best interests of our country (s0 who is it that "doesn't love America"?);   and (2) that they are terrible at governing.

Let us hope we can survive until 2016 and vote these incompetent and unwise people out of office.    If only . . . .   The fact is that the partisan redistricting of congressional districts means the majority in the House cannot be turned out of office by the opposing party.


LATE NEWS:    Senate Democratic leaders have balked at supporting McConnell's plan unless John Boehner is committed to passing it in the House.   With time running out, they don't want to pass it and then have the House not pass it.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

More Netanyahu anti-American rhetoric

Posted on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page is the following reference to his upcoming address to the U.S. Congress:
 "Congress is the only place where a bad deal can be stopped. It is the right and essential thing to do to safeguard Israel’s security and existence."
Any question about his motives seem answered.

Perhaps in response to that, someone leaked the information that in 2012, the Israeli spy agency Mossad actually had assessed Iran's nuclear program as much less alarming than Netanyahu claimed in his address to the United Nations.

As quoted by Ian Deitch in the World Post, "Netanyahu had brandished a cartoon drawing of a bomb and said Iran was moving ahead with plans that would allow it to potentially build a nuclear bomb within a year or so."

But in the leak provided both to The Guardian and Al-Jazeera, Mossad's assessment was that "Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons."   That was in 2012.

Mossad is known world-wide for its fierce effectiveness;  it is not likely to play down a threat.   It's far easier to believe that Netanyahu is exaggerating the threat . . . 

. . . And intends to do so when he speaks before the U. S. Congress, hoping to induce them to pass further sanctions that will provoke Iran into walking away from our negotiations.  Netanyahu rejects such criticism, saying that it is his duty to lobby against the nuclear deal.

Fine.   Let him criticize and lobby all he wants in his own country.   But not before our Congress at such a sensitive time . . . and when President Obama has warned of the consequences of sanctions at this stange of sensitive negotiations with Iran.


Monday, February 23, 2015

More good works from Muslims

From Reuter's News Service:

"OSLO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend.

"Chanting 'No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,' Norway's Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend.

"'Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that,' Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the protest's organizers told a crowd of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Norwegians who filled the small street around Oslo's only functioning synagogue.

"'There are many more peace mongers than warmongers,"'Abdullah said as organizers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side. 'There's still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.'"


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quick, get this man some chill-out pills

Former New York city mayor Rudi Giuliani became a hero for his handling of the Sept. 11, 2001 assault on his city.   But then his need to be worshiped began to tarnish his hero image when he magnanimously offered to extend his term rather than turn the city over to newly elected mayor Michael Bloomberg in January 2002.    Bloomberg declined that offer, and    Giuliani looked like a diminished self-aggrandizer rather than the hero.

Since then, Guiliani has mostly been in the news for his pathetic, failed presidential bid in 2008 and for his increasingly bellicose, attention-seeking comments to the media.

His latest?    Saying that Obama "doesn't love America" and suggesting that was because "He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

This has put the former mayor in the media spotlight (where he loves to be).   But it has not been pretty.   Of course, it plays well with the Obama-haters, but most serious people think it says far more about Rudi Giuliani than it does about Barack Obama.

Yesterday, he doubled down, telling the New York Daily News and the New York Post:
Look, this man was brought up basically in a white family, so whatever he learned or didn’t learn, I attribute this more to the influence of communism and socialism. . . .  

"I don’t see [him] . . .  as being particularly a product of African-American society or something like that. He isn’t. . . .  The ideas that are troubling me and are leading to this come from communists with whom he associated when he was 9 years old.”
Giuliani, of course, is referring to the fact that Barack Obama spent several years living with his mother and step-father in Indonesia, and his membership in the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  

Let's just leave it at that and let Giuliani stew in his own juice.    He's only making himself look like the loud-mouthed jerk he really is.    Just ask his second wife, who learned he wanted a separation from her from a press conference he gave.   Just ask his third wife, who was the mistress he wanted to move into Gracie Mansion while he was still living there as mayor with his second wife.    Just ask the Selective Service about his six or more draft deferments during the Vietman War.  Just ask Giuliani himself about the consulting work he did for the government of Qatar, which was accused by the FBI of harboring one of the planners of the 9/11 attacks.   And what about his attempts to tear down the man twice-elected by the people of this country to be its president?

Sure sounds like a loving family man and a lover of this country, doesn't he?

Rudi, your tenure as hero of the 9/11 response has about run out.   Just go away.