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Archive for June 2010

G20 wrapup: Misguided focus on deficits and debts, not enough to help economically suffering

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These G8 and G20 summits are usually a huge waste of time. Leaders meet and get little done. Protesters try to be heard. Host cities suffer short-term problems.

Toronto was no different in that regard, though the Canadian perspective was a bit different. And Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — being the host — took the proceedings in a direction that helps him politically but doesn’t do much for the economics of the major powers assembled in Canada’s largest city.

Economies are suffering, though Canada is doing better than most countries. What they need is investment, not cutting deficits and debts. There will be time later for those activities.

Yet, the world leaders agreed to cut their deficits in half by 2013, though they got flexibility as to how to do so and how fast.

Cutting deficits and debts is something the U.S. can consider once they fix the economy. Until then, obsessing about deficits and debts is cruel to those individuals — the millions who are suffering economically.

Of course, the conservatives who are screaming for this to happen don’t want defense touched, even though we are fighting two unnecessary wars. And they don’t want health-care costs cut by passing a smarter way to deliver health care to those who can’t afford or can’t get decent coverage.

Canada’s deficit and debt — by contrast to the United States — is minuscule. But Harper is under political pressure to not even have a deficit.

The United States might have been better off if this was a waste of time.

For a more detailed analysis of the events over the weekend up north, here are my takes from my sister blog, CanadianCrossing.com. There are also takes on how the Toronto Blue Jays did, since MLB stole three home games from Toronto due to the G20 summit. The Blue Jays won 1 of 3 games in Philadelphia, a better fate than the G20 summit.

G20 summit Day 1: Building conversations?

G20 summit Day 2: Canada PM Stephen Harper pushes for misguided deficit and debt cutting

G20 summit Day 3: Missed opportunities to help economically hurting; non-protesters swept up by authorities

Daily Show 6/28/10 OMG-20

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Written by democracysoup

June 29, 2010 at 7:30 am

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) 1917-2010

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Robert Byrd, who was the longest-serving Senator as well as the longest-serving member in Congressional history, has died at the age of 92.

Byrd served as president pro tempore in the U.S. Senate since the Democratic Party regained the Senate in January 2007. Byrd had been the Democratic equivalent in this position since John C. Stennis (D-MS) retired in 1989.

Byrd had been a Senator since January 1959, a record likely never to be broken. If Ted Kennedy were still alive, Kennedy would be president pro tempore in the U.S. Senate. That honor is expected to go to Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who has served in the Senate since 1963. If the Republicans take over in the Senate, that honor would go to Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

There are 11 current senators who were born AFTER Byrd became a Senator. President Barack Obama was also born after Byrd started in the Senate.

Byrd also served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, making his actual stint in Washington from 1953 until his death.

As for Byrd’s replacement, the fate of the seat is up to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III (D). Gov. Manchin gets to name the interim replacement; that person will serve either until January 2013 (end of Byrd’s term) or until a special election this fall. If the governor waits until July 3 to declare the seat vacant (30 months before the end of the term), the interim senator serves until 2013.

As for the legacy of the Senator — besides his longevity — his record is extremely complicated by time and perhaps other elements. Byrd was a member of the Klu Klux Klan. Byrd voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and against the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.

Byrd also supported the fight against going to war with Iraq in 2003, with passionate speeches on the matter.

He steered a lot of pork toward his state of West Virginia.

An era has come to an end. There were drawbacks and advantages to having seniority in the Senate — Robert Byrd always seemed the extremes of both areas. The Senate needs to be a deliberative body, but still need to get things done. Hopefully, Byrd’s replacement will understand this.

Written by democracysoup

June 28, 2010 at 9:08 am

GOP should admit that they believe what Joe Barton said about Obama and BP was true

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Joe Barton (R-TX) bashes the Obama Administration for a “shakedown” over the BP $20 million fund to help clean up damages from the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. Joe Barton apologizes.

While the GOP has tried to maintain the charade of pretending they feel bad for what Barton said, anybody with a pulse who follows politics knows the following is true.

a) Republicans think businesses should do anything they want to do.

b) Republicans trust businesses with no accountability over government, which has accountability to the taxpayers, even if those Republicans are part of the government.

c) If Republicans try to hide these facts from the voter, especially in an election cycle, the GOP hypocrisy will ooze out in places we don’t normally expect.

The Republicans — at least those in power — believe that BP is the victim, not the environment and certainly not the animals or the humans that have suffered as a result of BP’s actions. And theoretically, the GOP has principles from which they base their feelings toward corporations.

So why are they afraid to admit this to us?

After all, Barton is the ranking member of the Republican Party of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton got to keep his job. And no one thought this would change, despite what Barton said. Because the GOP feels that while what Barton said was unpopular, they think he was right.

Democratic politicians believe in things, and will say them out loud. When you hear them say what they believe, you appreciate their honesty. But they don’t usually fight for what they believe in. The extra $25 people were getting in their unemployment check is being threatened — by Democrats.

Republican politicians believe in things, but try really hard to disguise what they really believe. When you hear them say one thing, chances are they mean another. But they do usually fight for what they believe in.

The previous two paragraphs aren’t a shock to those that follow politics. But what is fascinating is that the Democratic take is little-covered in the MSM and the Republican take is not covered at all by the MSM.

GOP hypocrisy? MSM has never heard of it. Democratic hypocrisy? MSM occasionally mentions it.

The mainstream media generally thinks if it exposes hypocrisy — such as the majority of what Sarah Palin says or when those in the GOP says George W. Bush wasn’t in charge on 9/11 — they will lose face.

While I am piling on the GOP for its hypocrisy — since there is much more of this from them — the media’s job should be to expose the hypocrisy from all sides. And the media should be gloating when they do so. Check marks, stars — whatever school kids need to inspire themselves to do better in the classroom; the media needs a system to keep them motivated to expose hypocrisy.

There was a surprise about the Rolling Stone interview of General McChrystal by Michael Hastings, mostly from the MSM wondering how Hastings pulled it off. Hastings probably did all the things the MSM should be doing but don’t. No wonder they are upset.

Whatever the motivation system the MSM currently uses isn’t working. If they can’t see the hypocrisy from the GOP and Joe Barton — if they are afraid of supporting animals and humans suffering in the Gulf of Mexico rather than a faceless foreign company — then why do the MSM still have their jobs?

Joe Barton said what the GOP believes. Joe Barton apologizes. The MSM packs up and goes home. But the rest of us know better. If the MSM fought hypocrisy, perhaps the GOP could finally stand up and admit what they support. But as long as the MSM won’t touch hypocrisy, GOP and Democratic hypocrisy will only get worse, not better.

Written by democracysoup

June 25, 2010 at 7:49 am

Alvin Greene can be the ultimate political chameleon: keep your answers short

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I pride myself on being one of the few people who knew of Sarah Palin before the world did. In fact, I was writing about her two days before the announcement, even referring to her as “popular Gov. Sarah Palin.”

But even I can’t admit to knowing who Alvin Greene was before his jump into the political spotlight. After listening to Greene, it isn’t clear whether he knows who he is.

The great thing about the reaction to Greene is that he has one thing in common with Barack Obama: everybody makes Greene out to be what they want him to be, not based on what he actually is as a person.

Greene reminds me of Chauncey Gardener — Peter Sellers’ character in “Being There.” Chauncey’s simplicity is seen as wisdom throughout the movie. If Greene only spoke up a little more, he could rise to Chauncey status.

Politicians — or our perception of them — has risen to a new level. They are joyous or evil incarnate with little in-between.

The milquetoast Obama was seen as an extremist by more than one side of the circular equation, yet he always was milquetoast. This isn’t meant to be seen as an insult, just the reality no one was watching. I was asked in a recent conversation what I thought of President Obama, not knowing the person’s political persuasions. I replied that I thought he was what I thought he would be. Turns out that woman was rather conservative, as she put it “not a teabagger” but she sympathized with the teabaggers.

Her perception of Obama was a whole lot different than the many supporters who thought Obama was going to save them. Neither group turns out to be correct.

What Greene will turn out to be might remain a mystery, and that could be a good thing. After all, Jim DeMint had a rather good chance of winning re-election, even in this climate, no matter the Democratic Party nominee. Can’t wait for the debates in this race.

Since Greene has nothing to lose — literally — he might try going stoic. Be the man of few words. “Yes” and “No” can be in vogue as one-word answers. Think back to Joe Biden’s short answer in one of the early debates — got the then-Senator some buzz that may have helped him become vice president.

“I can’t believe Greene said that.” — not likely to happen. “I like Greene’s straightforward answer on that question.” — much more likely to happen.

And in this anti-incumbent fever, where Scott Brown can become a U.S. senator, why not Alvin Greene?

Then there is the aforementioned Sarah Palin. She has the opposite issue — Palin thinks of herself as a victim when almost no one else does. Her victimhood can be seen as a political ploy or strategy, but to be fair to former Gov. Palin, she seems sincere that she thinks she is a victim. Even though she’s not.

This came to light when Palin’s buddy Greta Van Susteren interviewed Palin (again). Nevermind that the two are fellow colleagues of Fox ‘News’ but also Van Susteren’s husband, John Coale, has been an advisor to Sarah Palin. Then again, Fox ‘News’ never seems to care about conflicts of interest, (e.g., Gretchen Carlson’s interviews with Rep. Michele Bachmann and Derek Jeter).

So Van Susteren was more than happy to help Palin feel the role of the victim by asking her whether the former Alaska governor had breast implants.

“No, I have not had implants,” Palin said. “A report like that is about as real and truthful as reports that [my husband] Todd and I are divorcing, or that I bought a place in the Hamptons, or that [my son] Trig is not my own child.”

As much as I’ve written about Sarah Palin, I don’t even care. And I will give Palin the benefit of the doubt on two points: I don’t think she has had them, and I don’t think it’s our business if she has, unless there is a medical issue AND she is running for office. After all, the former governor never released her medical records when running for vice president.

But Van Susteren’s question gives Palin the chance to be the victim, and Palin’s answer was typical Sarah. “Look how the lamestream media picks on me,” she might have said. “And here are a few more examples.” Palin correlates the breast implant question and places them on an equal footing with other questions.

Like most rumors, some of them are true and some of them aren’t. People in Alaska, before Palin became famous, were questioning whether Trig was Sarah’s child. People in her office, when Sarah announced she was 7 months pregnant, questioned whether she was even pregnant. Even if Sarah Palin is correct, her behavior spoke otherwise — if she was the victim in the Trig episode, Palin could have put it to rest. But there are still too many unanswered questions.

Palin only becomes the victim when Van Susteren, an unbiased benefactor, asks her the question. The rumors don’t make Palin the victim; she feels it even if no one notices or cares. When she gets the publicity, Palin uses it to show that she is the victim.

Alvin Greene has no shot of going through the Palin route, but he might benefit from her actions. Unlike Palin, Greene is an actual victim. But unlike Palin, Greene doesn’t want to be known for his victimhood. If he plays his cards right, Greene might not be known for anything, until he becomes Sen.-elect Greene.

Talking about Helen Thomas difficult, but starting a conversation would make it easier

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Been trying to think of a major sports scenario where the president and vice president of the United States — normally on the same side — would be on opposite sides.

Barack Obama (Chicago Blackhawks) and Joe Biden (Philadelphia Flyers) must have had a few amusing conversations. Though Obama isn’t originally from Chicago, his wife Michelle is a lifelong Chicagoan. And Biden made an appearance at a Stanley Cup final game in Philadelphia.

Obama’s Blackhawks defeated Biden’s Flyers 4-2. Would love to see what kind of bet those two made, and how Biden paid off that bet.

So why might you ask: “Why are you talking about hockey in a political column?”

Did you really think I wanted to talk about Helen Thomas?

There is what she said — which no one has disputed was bad. There is the startling contrast between what she has said throughout her career vs. what she said in a video camera — in a similar fashion to Al Campanis.

But there is still the unsaid. Can a columnist say something against Israel — something not nearly as offensive as to what Thomas said — and still keep a job? Can the Palestinian POV be shared in any form in the United States?

If Glenn Beck and/or Rush Limbaugh said what Helen Thomas said, would they still be doing radio and/or TV shows? Is there a double standard for what right-wing voices can say, versus everyone else?

Why can’t we have a dialogue on these and other topics?

We have two 24-hour news channels and one, uh, whatever Fox is trying to do. There is also Headline News. But we don’t talk about certain issues.

We obsess about dancing with stars on a reality show, but don’t even comment on dancing around these topics.

You could argue that I am dancing around these topics myself, and you would be right. But I’m trying to make a point.

This kind of stuff isn’t easy to bring up in proper conversation. It’s difficult. But we are better off if we try.

Let’s start the dialogue.

Written by democracysoup

June 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

PA, CO Senate races prove Obama not being served well by Rahm Emanuel

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The White House, in a political move, tries to get a candidate in his own party to not make for a messy primary, and tries to give an incentive of some kind to not run.

Sorry, this isn’t a political scandal.

The better question is why the White House is working so hard to bump off the best candidate in a race that can try to keep as many of its party in the Senate.

In Pennsylvania and Colorado, the White House put its best efforts behind the incumbent, regardless of whether that person had the best chance to win in November. In a sea of threatened incumbencies, you could argue that Arlen Specter was in serious trouble. And Michael Bennet wasn’t that strong of an incumbent candidate, given that he hasn’t been elected.

This isn’t to say that the Obama White House should have poured money and effort into the candidacies of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff. You can nod in favor of the standard incumbent, but when you work this hard and details come out, such as what has been disclosed, you look bad.

You can say that it is up to the voters of said party to decide the best representative for the party in November. Sure, the line is cheesy and lame, but the Obama White House would rather have that scenario than where they are now.

The Pennsylvania race is over, and the candidate the White House didn’t want is the one Obama will pull for in November. Oops. And if you’re Andrew Romanoff, maybe you’re glad the president’s people stepped in and gave your opponent the endorsement.

If this is some master plan to get Sestak and possibly Romanoff elected in November, there might be genius in insanity. But this speaks to the ineffectiveness of one person: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Obama wanted Emanuel because he thought Rahm could get things done in Congress.

Rahm’s bull with china spirit hasn’t worked within Congress, and is now growing worse outside of the Congress.

Joe Sestak was, and still is, the Democratic Party’s best chance to keep the Senate seat in a blue state such as Pennsylvania. In this “kick the bums out” climate, imagine if Specter, a former Republican, was up there against Pat Toomey. Those who would vote for Specter would have held their nose to vote for him. Such lack of confidence doesn’t win races. Voting against Toomey would not have been enough of a reason to vote for Specter.

And why pick between Bennet and Romanoff? You will support the winner. But no, Emanuel had to make a point.

The Democratic Party may suffer losses in November. And Emanuel will get the blame if that happens. If the Dems have to worry about Pennsylvania and Colorado, the donkeys will have a long night.

The better way to go is a shakeup in leadership now before the disaster kicks in. Obama can reassign Emanuel to some other post. But the chief of staff is a vitally important post in the White House, and Obama hasn’t been served well by Emanuel.

Presidents become isolated and they need guidance, those with ears on the outside to tell the president on the inside. From oil spills to the 2010 elections, Obama is not being served well.

Despite what the pundits say, this isn’t 1994. But President Clinton was unable to do a lot of what he wanted as a result of 1994. President Obama needs to learn the lessons, and do a better job of the whole politics thing. A fresh start would be a new chief of staff. And if not that, Obama needs to think of something else, but things need to change.

Al Gore’s separation hurts him politically, but only because he is Democratic

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Al Gore and his wife Tipper are getting a separation. Needless to say, in the world of political marriages, this one seemed secure. Then again, what we remember fondly is Al and his passionate kiss of Tipper. But anyone who is married knows that looks can be deceiving.

We tend to be a people that stresses the concept of keeping marriages together, even when they shouldn’t. But we also seem to be contradictory in how we perceive political marriages.

I was amazed in covering the 2008 presidential campaign listening to people slam Hillary Clinton for staying married to Bill. But when other couples stay together (Vitters, Ensigns), that is cool with them.

Marriage is supposed to be upheld whenever possible — these people say — but slam the Clintons for doing just that. Politically, being divorced, especially in the limelight of politics, is a rather rough road to go. Grover Cleveland had a heck of a time and that was before the Religious Right gave us its brand of hypocrisy.

Maybe the true test would be if people might vote for Jenny Sanford, wife of disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Not only did Jenny not stand by her man, she was separated before we knew Mark was cheating on her — and ultimately, the people of South Carolina.

If a long established political marriage ends, there is no chance for that politician to make a comeback. We might have forgiven John Edwards, but if Elizabeth didn’t, John would have no shot. Eliot Spitzer might have a comeback, in part, because he stayed married.

Don’t worry, Republicans. This doesn’t apply to your candidates. A Democratic politician with Newt Gingrich’s marriage track record wouldn’t even be able to file for president. But Newt has every chance in 2012 and beyond. Bob Dole was the party’s nominee in 1996 with a divorce in his background and an alleged affair hidden by the MSM — can’t see a Democratic candidate “get away” with that.

Al Gore may not have a political future anyway purely by choice. But if the separation turns into a divorce, the deal will be sealed. Unless Gore runs as a Republican.

Written by democracysoup

June 2, 2010 at 8:00 am