Entries Tagged as 'Politics'


I’ll open by underscoring this is my personal opinion.

I’ve read and watched a number of individuals come forward about being sexually harassed in the past — and I think that’s a great travesty that people would take advantage of another based on their position, social status, wealth, or power — but let’s wake up here… that is how the world has operated (and we’ve all turned blind eyes for years, decades, millenniums), so let’s ratchet down the (false) indignation and work for a newer world order where harassment is a thing of the past.

I see this as an issue were we need not only looks at who did what — but when it was done.

Yes, the standards 10, 20, 30, 40, 50… years ago were very different than it is today.  And the way things were done might be appalling by today’s standards, but none the less that’s how they were done and we all knew it (don’t even try to pretend you thought all those stories of the “casting couch” and “sexitaries” was just locker-room banter… you knew it was true, and simply chose to do nothing about it).

Here on MLK day I’ve decided to share my thoughts — though let’s not pretend like MLK was a saint… he too was a sinner. He too (seemingly) had issues with equal rights for all (you didn’t hear him mention women, you didn’t hear him mention races other than white and black, you didn’t hear him mention gays).  The one thing Dr King did do: he opened up dialog which started to move this country forward from a long period of stagnation.

My feeling is actions which happened many years ago need to be looked at in the light of the prevailing time… those people need to be admonished at minimum, but if they didn’t cross what was the norm at the time that needs to be the end of it.  We just need to make sure that we update our image of the past and those personalities to include that they failed to treat everyone with the respect they deserved, and failed to take a stand to end harassment.

However, when similar things are happening now, or within the past several years — that’s different.  Clearly these events are transgressions that go far beyond the accepted norms.  Not only do we need to admonish these individuals, but we need to take action to insure that they and the industries they are in change.  That change needs to occur sooner, not later.

Should they be fired — yes — if they don’t have the courage and integrity to resign.

But should individuals who committed transgressions many, many years back when times were different be fired — that’s a little more complex; we need to look at the individual now, appraise what changes have been made to their life, and if they are still that same person.  If they are — then they’re out; however, if they’ve made change… we can give them a little time under the microscope before we make our final decision.

I’m all for zero tolerance, but zero tolerance never seems to be that (just check when the local school’s sports hero crosses the zero tolerance line, there always seems to be tolerance for at least a second chance — so something else we need to be honest with ourselves about — rarely do we really have zero tolerance, it’s just a catch phrase).

Personally I abhor harassment of any kind, I abhor those who feel they are better than others and can get away with it, I abhor those who help hide it and punish the victims… but this is a problem where we have to start to resolve today, and not get carried away with witch-hunt after witch-hunt of “dark” figures from out past.

Patriot Act

I’ve made it clear a number of times that I believe the USA Patriot Act should have never been passed, and that it should have been repealed a long time ago — it doesn’t help the US win the “war” on terrorism, it’s an admission to the world that the US has lost.

The Patriot Act moves civil rights in the United States back in time to where due process was nothing more than a term with no substance.

On 26 February 2010 the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved an extension to the USA Patriot Act just one day after the US Senate approved the extension.

The really sad thing in all of this is the President Barrack Obama requested that the extension be approved and almost immediately signed the bill (28 Feburary 2010).  So we have to hold Obama accountable — while he did join a filibuster as a US Senator to block the bill, and then he promised to support repealing it, and voted to make key changes to prevent abuse; as President he asked for an extension to it with no changes to it.

As Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) explained, “this legislation would extend section 215 powers of the PATRIOT Act, which allows the government to order any entity to turn over ‘any tangible things’ as long as it specifies its for ‘an authorized investigation.’ Section 215 orders constitute a serious violation of Fourth and First Amendment rights by allowing the government to demand access to records often associated with the exercise of First Amendment.” Under the Patriot Act, gone are the requirements for probable cause, oaths, warrants and particularity.

Passed during the panic of the post-9/11 era of the Bush administration, Representative Kucinich noted of the Patriot Act that “passage of this legislation continues to make Congress complicit in the violations of constitutional rights.” He added that a vote for extension of the Patriot Act is a clear violation of the congressional oath of office: “As Members of Congress swore to protect the rights and civil liberties afforded to us by the Constitution, we have a responsibility to exercise our oversight powers fully, and significantly reform the PATRIOT Act, ensuring that the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans are fully protected.”

Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office Laura Murphy saying, “Congress refuses to make reforming the Patriot Act a priority and continues to punt this crucial issue down the road. Once again, we have missed an opportunity to put the proper civil liberties and privacy protections into this bill. Congress should respect the rule of law and should have taken this opportunity to better protect the privacy and freedom of innocent Americans. We shouldn’t have to live under these unconstitutional provisions for another year.”

Maybe Der Führer can lighten us as to what country and time we live in.

Originally posted 2010-03-01 02:00:58.

Tax Day

The tax man cometh… and probably won’t leave you with much.

Income tax — a horrible thing; and the Sixteenth Amendment should be repealed.

Why this country hasn’t moved to a more equitable and more easily administered tax system is beyond me — just another failing of our government.

Originally posted 2010-04-15 01:00:34.

Taxing Non-Profit

The red ink on the balance sheets of many state and local governments seems to be causing them to re-think the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations.

There seems to be every thing from legal/administrative challenges to organizations non-profit status to requests to non-profit organizations for tax “donations”.  Some localities are considering totally revoking non-profit exemptions, and others are simply creating hidden fees for services that are not exempt-able.

Clearly we as American’s need to re-think the non-profit tax exempt status totally.

Personally I think tax exemption for an organization should work more like “homestead exemption” — that they can be allocated a given amount of tax credit by each of their “supporters”.

Consider a system where every American is allocated a non-profit tax exemption that they can transfer to any organization (or split between organizations) that they desire; or choose not to… this gives each non-profit the ability to have a tax exemption proportional to their supporters.

What this prevents is large non-profit organizations (including faith based organization) from operating for-profit businesses or holding large tracts of real estate on which no tax is paid… but for modest non-profit organizations there would likely be minimal tax impact…

I personally believe that organizations that help society should be encouraged and supported – but organizations that simply try and evade taxes should not force the general public to support them.

Take a hard look at non-profits; ask how much of every dollar provided to them actually is delivered to the cause it is to help; ask how many employees are supported by the organization and whether their salaries are comparable those employed by for profit; and ask the same of the administrators of non-profit and who well they are compensated…

Originally posted 2010-05-27 02:00:45.

What taxpayers want

There is a good read on CNN.com by Lou Zickar entitled What taxpayers want (yes, I leveraged the title), it’s very well written and compelling; but I think it fails to be totally upfront and honest about the problem and is overtly politically spun.

You see, taxpayers also happen to be the electorate… so what they want they express by voting in each election and determining who goes to Washington (as well as their local and state seats of government) to make decisions — and since by-far-and-large voters have sent the same people back to Washington in some cases for nearly 60 years, taxpayers need look no further than the nearest mirror to see where the problem is.

If you vote for the same person election after election who has contributed to the problems, then you are getting exactly what you’ve ask for, and thus what you must want… if you want change, start at the ballot box.

But, realistically — I don’t see this happening.

America has become the home of the content, and the land of entitlement… entitlement which starts at the top and stretch to the very roots of society; and no one is willing to give up their “special” dispensations, but expect everyone else to do so.

Change is easy, and every individual is a part of it — all you have to do is send a real message to your elected officials, send them all home (for good).

What taxpayers want by Lou Sickar on CNN.com

Originally posted 2011-08-21 02:00:23.

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.




Originally posted 2010-10-02 02:00:45.

Economic Stimulus

It amazes me how the United States Government can make simple things so complicated… and that it always seems that laws to benefit the greater good cannot be passed without benefiting special interests.

I say this is a very simple thing to handle.

The House and Senate need to approve an appropriation bill which allocates a given amount of money to an economic stimulus effort.  With that they can define the types of spending (broadly) that are acceptable.  Further, they can designate that government entities (federal, state, local, etc) can submit a request to a panel composed of four Representatives (two Republican, two Democrat), two Senators (one Republican, one Democrat), and the Vice President to review and approve.

Further, they could specify that each and very request must be for a single project; well specified with goals and measurable objectives.  That each and every proposal submitted must be acted on within ninety days, and that all actions and meeting of the committee must be open to the public (and news media, complete with cameras and microphones).

Congress could allocate more funding to the program as needed, or elect to stop funding it at any point in the future (but couldn’t pull back funds once granted).

Additional there should be a requirement on any entity that receives funds that they will abide by the letter of Federal law in allocating work which is wholly or partially paid for by the funds, and that any failure to use the funds as specified will require repayment with interest.

Look here, in a few hundred words I’ve outlined a framework that is totally transparent, highly adaptable, and fully accountable…

The whole problem is that we’ve changed nothing in Washington.  While I believe that Barrack Obama wants to change the way government governs, most of the individuals in Washington only wish to benefit themselves.

We gave Barrack Obama an overwhelming charter to change America for the better, and if each and everyone of us doesn’t stand up now and tell our Representatives and Senators that they are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely.

One thing is for sure, things will change — we will either choose to make the changes, or the changes will be the result of social and economic upheaval.  But if we’re going to have the choice, it has to be soon.

Originally posted 2009-02-08 01:00:01.

One Nation Under…

Most Americans seem unaware that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the phrase “one nation under God”.   Our fore fathers, while religious, believed in the separation of church and state; and made it a guiding principle of this nation that there would be no state or state supported religion.  They believed that each and every individual should be able to make the choice of what beliefs that they would hold sacred, to choose their religious affiliation, or to choose to be free from religious affiliations.

Much as George W Bush capitalized on American fears to push through the Patriot Act (which should be considered one of the least patriotic things ever pushed on the American people by the US Government), the “Communist Threat” (and hunt) were used in the 1950s to change the Pledge of Allegiance to add “under God” as well as add “In God We Trust” to our currency to delineate the popularized differences between the “godless communists” and the “god fearing” people of the West.

As an American I am incensed by these charades where our politicians use popularized movements to take America further from it’s founding principles.

I say, let’s look back to our founding principles and resume the course originally set.  Time for the Patriot Act to be repealed, time for the Pledge of Allegiance to cleaned of it’s religious overtones, and time for our currency to follow the guidelines of separation of church and state.

Originally posted 2010-02-27 01:00:44.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Originally posted 2010-06-07 02:00:25.

As Kagan Joins, Federal Courts’ Roles Rise In Importance

by Ron Elving

This weekend, Elena Kagan was sworn into the elite club of 112 who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The moment was duly noted across all news media, in large part because Kagan is just the fourth woman in the club.

But journalists also pounce on new appointments to the High Court in part to correct our perennial neglect of the judicial system. By far the preponderance of political journalism spilling out of Washington is devoted to the White House and Capitol Hill. As a rule, we pay attention to the courts when they interfere with something the other branches are trying to do.

This summer, federal judges have once again been horning in on issues of great interest and high stakes. Gay marriage. Immigration. The health care law. The post-BP moratorium on deepwater drilling. Each of these decisions will be reviewed by federal courts of appeal and ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But for that reason alone they will be generating news, inflaming public opinion and determining the direction of our politics, economics and culture.

Although most of the federal judiciary labors in lofty obscurity, at moments such as these one man or woman in a black robe can make an incalculable difference. Governors and senators and others in public life can only dream of such moments of influence.

Consider that on one day last week, one federal judge in San Francisco issued an opinion that invalidated the best known voter initiative of recent years: Proposition 8 on the 2008 California ballot, which overturned the state’s recognition of gay marriage.

Presenting extensive findings of fact from the trial before him, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker noted that defenders of Proposition 8 had scarcely attempted to refute these findings. In fact, the Prop 8 defense in its entirety was so cursory as to suggest its attorneys scarcely thought the trial court level was important. Their eye was on the friendlier venues of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if liberals and libertarians were heartened by Walker, they were equally gratified one week earlier by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who kicked out the key pillars of an Arizona law attempting to crack down on illegal immigration. Bolton found fault in that law’s provisions allowing state and local officials to question the immigration status of people they deemed suspicious — for whatever reason. The requirement that residents who ran afoul of such suspicion produce papers proving their immigration status was also spiked by the judge.

Bolton, like Walker, knew well how every word she put to paper would be scrutinized, analyzed and politicized. No doubt the same could be said for other judges bringing a more conservative viewpoint to bear on equally significant issues in recent days.

First of these was federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman of Houston, who spiked the administration’s six-month moratorium on oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration may well have thought the argument for shutting down new explorations in the Gulf was open and shut in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. But if the shutdown was a no-brainer for environmentalists and industry critics, business folks in the Gulf states seemed to see it primarily as a short-term job killer and a long-term cloud over the economic future of the region.

Liberals were swift to note that Judge Feldman had a portfolio of stock holdings in the oil and gas sector, one that might well suffer in the event of a long-term slowdown in Gulf energy production. They also noted that the relevant federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, was dominated by judges with business interests much like Feldman’s.

But the judge’s ruling stands, and is likely to stand longer than the Obama administration stands behind its six-month moratorium.

Similarly, in the same week as the Prop 8 ruling, supporters of the Obama health care law were incensed that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond had approved Virginia’s standing to sue the federal government over the enforcement of provisions in that law. Defenders of the new health law had hoped that Hudson might uphold the historic principle of federal pre-eminence, a central issue since the founding of the Republic.

Many have noted the symbolic power of having this challenge emanate from Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the 1860s and the epicenter of “massive resistance” to the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in the 1950s. State’s rights may be a heading in a history textbook for some parts of the country, but they remain a mainstay of current events in the South.

Talk of nullification — the asserted right of states to ignore federal laws as they choose — has re-emerged as President Obama has pursued an activist agenda. In Texas and Tennessee, candidates for statewide office have allowed references to secession to enter their campaign vocabularies.

While no one expects another Civil War, we are clearly heading into the most significant round of state-federal confrontations we have seen since the 1960s. And that struggle has already been joined in courtrooms around the country, where it will largely be fought.

Small wonder then that Republicans in the Senate have made resistance to the judicial nominees of the new president such a salient element of their mission in these past 18 months.

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

But as the number of Democrats in the Senate shrinks in the November election, those who remain will need to reconsider what means are necessary to install their president’s choices in the increasingly powerful job of judge.

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-21 02:00:48.