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Monthly Archives: February 2011

GOP Controlled House passes sweeping cuts to domestic programs while protecting Big Business?

In a classic move from a Frank Capra film, the Republican-controlled House – led by Claude Rains type characters – passed sweeping legislation Saturday cutting $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs, while at the same time sheltering coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations.

The party line vote of 235-189 passes the bill on to the Democratic-controlled Senate where it will in all likelihood meet its well deserved demise; and if by some odd chance it survives the Democratic controlled Senate, it is all but guaranteed to be vetoed by the President.

This week has given the American people one more bill in a series of fluff and nonsense legislation by the GOP House, and is seen by many as another remarkable victory for 87-member uber-conservative class of freshmen Tea Party-Republican hybrids, who were elected last fall, in the mid-term congressional election by the largely unthinking, uneducated and unwashed masses of the Tea Party movement. The new members of Congress promised to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government.

One of the new kids on the block, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas trumpeted, “The American people have spoken. They demand that Washington stop its out-of-control spending now, not some time in the future.”

Problem is Congressman; the American people spoke no such thing. 80 + local constituencies fed on a daily menu of vitriolic right-wing fear radio and FOX PAC programming elected you, not “the American people”. The one thing you and all the GOP House has forgotten is that all politics are local, and nowhere is that more true than in the House of Representatives.

So, what did they pass, this group of American loving legislators? Well, the $1.2 trillion bill covers every Cabinet agency through the end of the current fiscal year, or through 30 Sep 11, imposing (if it passes the Senate, and the President) severe spending cuts aimed at domestic programs and foreign aid, including aid for schools, nutrition programs, environmental protection, and heating and housing subsidies for the poor. Did you catch all that? The GOP is cutting programs for schools, nutrition, environmental protection, and heating and housing subsidies for the poor. Who does this affect mostly? Minorities; or everyone who isn’t an angry white, right-wing, Christian, gun-toting, Tea Party drinking voter; you know the types, the ones who “spontaneously” show up at “rallies” carrying signs decrying how they’re taxed too much, and how the President is a Communist/Nazi thug. Yeah, all those well read, deep thinking types; Glenn Beck’s masses.

On the brighter side, the bill is doomed when it arrives in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and was doomed even before TPGOP (Tea Party Grand Old Party) amendments adopted later in the week pushed it further and further away from the main stream shores and out onto the right-wing rocks and shoals of health care and environmental policy. Senate Democrats have promised higher spending levels and are more than prepared to defend the recent health care law, environmental policies and new efforts to overhaul regulation of the financial services industry.

But wait, the TPGOP isn’t finished with simply hurting the poor and minorities, it wants to provide shielding for greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators, block a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and bar the government from shutting down mountaintop mines it believes will cause too much water pollution, siding with big business over environmental activists and federal regulators. Why would anyone in their right minds do this? That’s very simple, “money”.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, summed it up very well when he said, “This is like a Cliff Notes summary of every issue that the Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and the (free market) CATO Institute have pushed for 30 years.”

But what about the jobs the TPGOP promised to deliver if given control of Congress? Cue crickets chirping – put hand over eyes to shield sun as you gaze out towards the horizon – nope, nowhere in sight.

The one thing this bill passage is guaranteed to do is to drive an even bigger wedge between, not only Democratic members of Congress and the TPGOP membership, but even within the TPGOP itself. It’s as though Speaker Boehner is a maniacal train engineer  sending his locomotive plummeting down the tracks to the bridge he knows is out, screaming for more steam, more steam!

As the next two years progress we will no doubt see more of these nonsensical bills, and more Republicans voting against them, and with any luck at all a country tired of the TPGOP and a return of the House to grownups not needing a hanky handy every time they speak.

“But we have to get the deficit under control!” The TPGOP screams. “We don’t want to be bothered with any level headed, clear thinking debate. We just want to cut and slash everything that isn’t good and right in America.”

“Palin/Bachmann in 2012!” others cry.

“On with the revolution!” still more proclaim.

What the TPGOP has managed to do is to remove any and all meaningful discourse on the national debt/deficit and on the federal budget. And in so doing, they’ve magically ensured any differences on spending cuts won’t be resolved soon, meaning before the government runs out of money on 4 Mar 11, requiring a temporary spending bill when the current stopgap measure expires.

Boehner and company are insisting any new stopgap measure must carry huge spending cuts, an ultimatum carrying a threat of a government shutdown like the episodes that played to the advantage of former President Bill Clinton in his battles with Republicans in 1995-1996; the very same shutdown which eventually led to Newt Gingrich’s slinking away from Congress. Is Boehner prepared to slink away as well?

But who cares about government shutting down? Not the TPGOP; it’s on a roll baby, voting for other cuts, including voting for a ban on federal funding for the implementation of the year-old health care law; and falling all over themselves to see who can bow the lowest as they answer the royal command of anti-abortion lawmakers, calling for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood; again not only attacking the poor and minorities, but throwing woman under the bus too. “Raped and need help with that pregnancy?” they ask. “Too bad, God says you have to carry that baby to term!”

Is there not any group which benefits from the House being controlled by the TPGOP? Of course there is, it’s the Military Industrial Complex. While mercilessly slashing and burning domestic agencies spending by 12 percent, the TPGOP awarded the Pentagon with a 2 percent increase.

But wait sports fans, the TPGOP wasn’t finished, not by a long shot; one of its greatest nemesis’s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was out there and they needed to wound it, and wound it deeply, they needed to defend big business and industry from its numerous agency regulations constantly threatening job-creation and the economy. And wound it they did, slashing its budget by almost one-third, and hampering its regulatory powers. In the process, if the TPGOP has its way, proposed federal regulations would be blocked on emission of greenhouse gases, and a proposed regulation on mercury emissions from cement kilns would also be stopped.

For those living in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, Rep Robert Goodlatte, TPGOP-Va., won a 230-195 vote blocking an EPA plan for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay that would cut pollution from runoff from farms and municipalities throughout the Chesapeake watershed. Yeah for you! Aren’t you happy to have such a wonderful guy looking out for your interests? After all, it’s not like any of you rely on that pesky old bay for your livelihoods or anything.

And woo hoo for Floridians! Your local agricultural interests won a vote blocking those damnable EPA rules issued last year aimed at controlling fertilizer and other pollutants that stoke the spread of algae in the state’s waters. More algae! More algae!

As dire as all this sounds however, these cuts aren’t going to happen. Thank God the Senate and White House are in Democratic hands. And just as Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck have to go further and further to the right-wing extremes to keep their listeners happy, these TPGOP members of congress are going to have to keep going further and further to the right-wing extremes to keep their “constituents” happy. This side show will play well for awhile, but like any traveling circus, eventually it runs out of people wanting to watch the show, pulls up its stakes and moves on. It happened to the GOP House in the nineties, and it will happen to TPGOP of the current Congress. Time – in spite of what the Rolling Stones sing – is not on their side.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Federal Budget

 

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Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs?

During a 15 February 2011, press conference, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that “over the last two years since President Barack Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official statistician for the United States labor force, the overall net rise in federal employees between January 2009 and January 2011 was 58,000. Additionally, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s on-line federal workforce data source, “FedScope,” reports the net increase of positions filled between the fiscal years 2009 and 2010, was only 59,995. Either figure is well below the 200,000 claimed by Speaker Boehner.

There’s one of two things going on here; either the Speaker is completely incompetent when it comes to rounding up numbers (not entirely impossible), or he’s a liar pulling numbers out of any number of orifices to try to back up a bogus political agenda supported by only the narrowest of far right wing Tea Party members of the GOP (extremely possible).

Far more troubling than his probable lying in order to curry favor with the great intellectually unwashed masses of the far right, is his cavalier attitude towards an additional 200,000 Americans becoming unemployed, “if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it,” the Speaker crowed. You can almost hear – mirrored in Boehner’s words – Ebenezer Scrooge’s famous cant “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” One can only hope that some night soon, Boehner will find himself being visited by the Ghosts of Speakers Past, Present (no doubt the scariest of all) and future.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in 2012 Election

 

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House approves 10-month extension of key anti-terror provisions of Patriot Act ?

The Republican controlled House of Representatives on Monday, Valentine’s Day, approved a 10-month extension of three key law enforcement powers in the “war” on terror by a vote of 275-144.

The House measure, provided the Democratic controlled Senate approves, will extend authority for the USA Patriot Act-related provisions until 8 Dec 11; the Senate can of course move slowly and allow the provisions to expire on 28 Feb 11.

The two key – post 9-11 – over-reactionary provisions are those giving counter-terrorism offices roving wiretap authority to monitor multiple electronic devices and court-approved access to business records relating to a terrorist investigation. Of course these provisions wouldn’t have prevented the 9-11 attacks as it was not a lack of “intelligence” which allowed the plotters to carry out their attacks, but the lack of coordination within the intelligence community; but, when have facts had any play when we are debating the “war” on terror?

The third “lone wolf” provision, was passed in 2004, and permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. individuals not known to be linked to a specific terrorist organization. Basically, the government can monitor any non-citizen without cause. Without any justification, or proof, that the individual (s) are in any way connected to a terrorist organization.

It was just last week the GOP leadership attempted to pass the same bill using an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority only to be poked soundly in the eye when twenty-six Republicans joined 122 Democrats in voting against it. Even with a victory, today’s vote drew 27 Republican no votes. The fact so many GOP members of the House are voting no should give voters pause as to whether “We the People” really need these provisions to continue. At question is the clearly unconstitutional search and seize authority coupled with an Orwellian-like big government intrusion into private lives.

One of the GOP dissenters,  Dana Rohrabacher, CA, said “I believe the American people have a legitimate fear of out-of-control government. And yes, they have a legitimate fear of out-of-control prosecutors and out-of-control spy networks.”

Those supporting the measure claim it’s needed so Congress can have time to study it, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, argued a temporary extension “is the only way to provide House members the time to study the law” and consider possible changes. Excuse me Congressman, but the law has been around since, oh I don’t know, maybe 9-11? That’s been almost ten years; exactly how much time do you need to “study” the law? Don’t be coy, and stop treating us like we’re stupid, what you want is to keep extending it until it becomes permanent.

In opposing the continuation of the laws Democrats got only one chance to attempt an amendment, stating investigations must comply with the Constitution and that courts must give expedited consideration when a U.S. citizen argues that his or her constitutional rights have been violated. Even after invoking the need for the law to comply with the Constitution, which is supposed to be the new measuring stick put in place by the GOP, it was defeated on a party-line vote; so much for caring about the American people’s constitutional liberties.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., plans to bring before his committee a bill extending the three provisions through 2013 while tightening disclosure procedures. Republicans have countered with a proposal to make the three measures permanent. Of course there’s a great deal of pressure to hurry up and get it done because next week, leading up to the Feb. 28 deadline, Congress will not be in session, and the laws would be gone.

The disturbing part of this extension fight is the fact the GOP leadership has waited until the last possible moment to bring it forward to sharply limit any debate or consideration of renewal. It is the same, “hurry up”, and “we have to have this in order to defend our country” mentality which allowed the Patriot Act to be passed in the first place. No one wants to oppose it, because to do so would open one up to attacks of not being a “Patriot”, hence the very cagey name. It’s time for Congress, and particularly the Democratic leadership, to rein in this insanity and allow the Patriot Act to pass into history. It gave too much authority to law enforcement, and it took too much away from the citizenry. Benjamin Franklin could have been speaking to those supporting the continuation, when he said, “They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in War on Terror

 

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Romney’ “facts” lack context?

So, here’s the big question of the moment. When did the recession start? If you listen to former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney it started January 2009. Now obviously, the current recession began long before Barrack Obama became president, but according to Mitt, while speaking at CPAC this weekend, President Obama is at fault for the country’s current economic fall, and has been since before he was sworn in.

Romney used numbers during his “please I want to be the president” speech that were less than factual, and his staff directed reporters and pundits covering the annual conservative love fest to monthly job data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which they claim clearly shows that from January 2009 to January 2011, the number of jobs lost totaled nearly 4 million. However, the same data set shows the economy actually started losing jobs nearly 12 months before Obama took the oath of office (during the Bush/Cheney administration) – for a total of 2.3 million jobs. So, in other words boys and girls, the Romney people are deliberately misleading people on “the facts”. They are lying.

Romney’s staff begins its estimation of jobs lost beginning with January 2009 (when 820,000 jobs were lost) as part of Obama’s total, but President Obama took office on January 21, so he was president for roughly one third of the month, meaning the other two thirds belonged to Bush. If you move January to the pre-Obama period, where those figures belong in the total numbers of jobs lost, then the job losses are about 3.1 million before he took office and 3.1 million after he took office. In other words, the economy had already been driven off of the cliff. And who drove the economy off of the cliff? If your first guess was Willy Coyote and Bullwinkle Moose then while you were close, but you don’t win anything. The daring duo of economic and foreign policy missteps was none other than Bush/Cheney. You remember? The guys who “stood watch” over the worse terrorist attack on American soil, and who then launched the country into not one, but two, wars without paying for them, meaning, without raising taxes, and who then ruined not only America’s voice on the stage of world politics, but catapulted the nation’s economy into a refuse bin?

Not only were 3.1 million jobs lost before the President took office, some 2 million jobs were lost in the first three months of Obama’s presidency, long before any of his own policies had begun to take effect. And while it’s sort of true Romney doesn’t quite blame Obama, he doesn’t place blame where it belongs either. He just sort of allows his audience – vehement anti-Obama mouth breathers to begin with – to just follow him where his “facts” are taking them.

Romney’s litany of “facts” however lacks something vitally important to those not already willing to vote for him, context; and while four million is an impressive number, it is much less impressive when measured against the overall number of people employed. The GOP-Tea Party always measures everything, and everyone, against its collective hero Ronald Reagan; and while it may be true job losses during the first two years of Reagan’s presidency were fewer, when measured against the number of employed when both men took office, both saw a decline of roughly 2.3 percent in the first two years, or basically the same total. That’s if you use monthly job loss figures, as Romney’s people did in preparing his speech, and as Romney did in delivering it. When anyone who doesn’t watch FOX PAC, or listens to the daily dose of deliberately misleading right-wing radio pabulum, runs Reagan’s number using the same scale Romney attempts to hold President Obama too – the total number of people employed from month to month, guess what? Reagan actually fares worse than Obama, percentage-wise. Yes, it’s true; Reagan’s job losses were just as bad, if not worse, as Obama’s have been.

While Romney’s statement is “technically correct”, because it lacks any context, it’s meaningless. He – like all the other GOP hopefuls’- attempts to place blame upon someone who isn’t at fault. He attempts to attribute job losses to President Obama which arguably belong solely to Bush. The eventual problem with this type of strategy is, while your band of listeners is likely to never check your figures, when you use numbers, without the context, someone will come along and put it all together, and when they do you might soon discover the guy you’re trying to emulate, your hero Ronald Reagan, actually had the same – if not worse – poor showing in job losses during his opening term. Romney has started off his next run at the White House from a position of loose figures and poor context, attempting to mislead the electorate. Not a solid place to start a campaign from.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in 2012 Election

 

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President Obama Should Move to Egypt?

At this weekend’s annual collection of political has-beens, mishaps and wannabe’s, also known as the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, right wing banshee Ann Coulter suggested, considering last November’s election, President Obama should mull over moving to Egypt because, “Nobody would complain about him being a Muslim then,” she said to cheers.

Problem for Coulter is, Obama was born in Hawaii and is a Christian.

Of course what’s really said is how Coulter’s completely misidentified. You see, Coulter isn’t Satan, and she isn’t even Mrs Satan, she’s the girl who runs into the 7-11 and buys Satan a pack of smokes.

Ann, it’s time to learn some new material, unless of course you’re playing to a group in Palin’s Alaska. This stick didn’t work during the 2008 elections, and the odds are it isn’t going to resonate with the majority of voters in the 2012 elections either.

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Politics, Right Wing Crazies, Right Wing Radio, Tea Party

 

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GOTP invites business to vent about regulations?

“America’s business, is business.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

Not really surprised, but, I’m trying to see how repealing laws regulating business, like clean air, water and noise reduction are going to play anywhere outside the Republican Tea Partista’s (GOTP’s) base? Obvious answer is they’re not. These are repeals set up to repay the heavy contributions from the newly granted corporate-citizens of “Citizens United” acclaim. The case where at least one Associate Justice should have reclused himself – but more on that soon.

‎It’s been said GOTP Congressional committee chairmen are already under instructions from the Tea Partista leadership to get rid of – or modify – rules  businesses don’t like. So, in effect, these “new corporate-citizens” get to decide what is right for the rest of the 99.9% of us.

My biggest question would be, when does the GOP start having hearings where it begins to listen to other groups who don’t like those pesky government regulations. You know the ones? Can’t wait for the upcoming news story of how the GOP is holding hearings compiling info from various southern school districts which don’t like Brown v. Board of Ed?

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Economics

 

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Facing Title IX Pressure, Cal May Restore the Teams It Cut?

The New York Times is reporting the University of California, Berkeley is facing some possible trouble over having cut too many sports from its athletic programs having led to a huge disparity in the total amount of “opportunity” available now at the school for woman athletes.

According to the New York Times, Cal would have to add 50 women's positions and cut 80 men's positions to be back in compliance with Title IX, but the university is now considering reversing its earlier decision.

I’m sorry, but into today’s athletic world there’s really no excuse for any college – or high school – to be making these kinds of mistakes. The school’s Athletic Director (AD) Sandy Barbour claims they were talking Title IX all through the decision making process; I’m sorry, but clearly that’s not the case, or if it is then she’s clearly incompetent, because, if the school’s athletic department had been talking about it the school wouldn’t have made such stupid cuts, plain and simple.

The pathetically sad truth here is it’s bad enough when girls have to fight against the backward mentalities of male ADs stuck in an episode of Mad Men, but the pain is more deeply felt when it’s a woman AD making the cuts. It makes you wonder how any woman connected with athletics in today’s world can be so ignorant about Title IX?

“Kristen Galles, a lawyer who represents athletes suing colleges for Title IX violations, questioned the logic behind Cal’s decision, adding that the university might have exposed itself to a lawsuit by the female athletes whose teams are cut.”

Wow, ya think? Of course it’s opened itself up to a law suit; you can’t cut programs so disproportionately and not end up with at most a law suit, and at the very least complaints to the U.S. Department of Education. Title IX isn’t about how many teams a particular school has, it’s about how many opportunities exist for the individual athletes, and those opportunities have to be proportional to the total percentage of undergraduate students enrolled, by gender.

“It doesn’t make sense to be cutting any women’s sports if their numbers are that bad,” Galles said. “These schools do not get sued for not offering enough sports; they get sued when they’re dumb enough to cut women’s teams.”

Barbour said her program should be measured by the number of opportunities it provided to women — 388 in the 2009-10 academic year, compared with 577 male slots — not by their proportion to male athletes. “That’s larger than a lot of athletic programs, period,” she said.

Barbour’s own statements demonstrate how out of touch she is about the law and that she doesn’t understand how Title IX works.

“Assuming that the teams stay cut, we are going to have to really grapple … with intercollegiate athletics about what this means if we are going to be within the guidelines,” said Meg Conkey, an anthropology professor who is a co-chairwoman of the gender equity and diversity subcommittee of the University Athletics Board, a Cal advisory group. “I think everybody is waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.”

This ain’t rocket science professor; if the teams stay cut, and nothing else changes, not only will you not be within the “guidelines”, you’ll be way outside of the box. Title IX isn’t guidelines, this isn’t the Pirate Code, its federal law, and violating it can affect the federal funding to the university. Wake up, and come into the 21st century. The quicker the school admits it screwed up, and reinstates the teams, the quicker it moves on. Otherwise it can find itself under a potentially very intense investigation, and can spend more money trying to defend its particularly moronic decision than it saved from cutting programs. This is about gender equity, and Cal is out of compliance. If it refuses to fix things, sue ladies, it’s your right, and it’s the right thing to do.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Education, Gender Equity, Title IX, Women's Rights

 

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