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Archive for September 2010

Todd Henderson is proof that being rich can make you clueless to others’ suffering

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Could you live well earning a yearly salary of $250,000?

If you are one of the 94-95% of Americans making under $100,000, let’s assume you could do quite well with $250,000.

Todd Henderson is struggling with a combined family income of over $250,000. And this is no dummy, Henderson is a law professor at the University of Chicago.

But Henderson had the gall to blog about the struggles of getting by with $250,000 in salary, and complaining about being subjected to the Bush tax cuts expiring.

Now, Henderson’s expertise may not be economics — it’s law — but let’s help him out.

— The Bush tax cuts — ones that benefited Henderson’s household for 10 years — were scheduled to expire. President Barack Obama did your family a huge favor; Obama could have called to repeal the Bush tax cuts when he took office in 2009. Unfortunately for 96-97% of us, Obama didn’t do this.

The tax cuts weren’t paid for, adding huge amounts to the deficit.

— Henderson should know that the tax rates would be adjusted back to the days of President Clinton, when people in Henderson’s bracket did quite nicely.

— Oh, and one more thing: the tax rates only apply to the money beyond $250,000. That is, if the Henderson family makes $260,000, only $10,000 would be subjected to the increased tax rate.

Henderson added injury to insult by implying that he could let go the Mexican immigrant who cuts his lawn or the Polish immigrant who cleans his house.

People in Henderson’s position did very well over the last 10 years, costing this country a lot of money. Of course, an unjustified war, one of two unfunded wars, didn’t help along with a score of serious economic problems. And now, these people are being asked to make a small sacrifice — a very small sacrifice — and you can hear the whining without opening the window.

Henderson stands by his position, showing his deaf ears by labeling himself “at the lower end of the high-income bracket.” More than $250,000 makes you rich in America in 2010,  not at the lower end of anything.

A direct quote from Henderson lends us some insight as to the reaction to his blog entries.

“I was a fool, and I didn’t anticipate how this kind of thing could happen.”

Well, the first part of that is true.

Written by democracysoup

September 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

Stephen Colbert hides truth about farm workers behind jokes; Establishment still confused

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The sense that many in the establishment still don’t understand Stephen Colbert continues to amaze those who have been in on the “joke” since the Colbert Report debuted in 2005.

They didn’t get him in 2006 at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and they didn’t get him Friday during his testimony about farm workers before a House committee.

As the topic has a food-related angle, I wrote about this for my sister blog, Balance of Food.com.

Here is the column. Enjoy!

New ‘Hawaii 5-0’ proves informative to those who still think Obama is foreign-born

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Tired TV remakes are not a reason to be happy about the new TV fall season. Yes, Hawaii 5-0 was a show on CBS. People committed crimes, and Dano had to “book ’em” at the end of each episode.

Then when we got tired of that, CBS sent Tom Selleck and his mustache to Hawaii to solve even more crimes. His wardrobe meant he was different, but at the end of the hour, the bad guys were caught.

Now, the theme music is sped up, and there are many more explosions in the “5-0” remake, but the bad guys still get caught in time for the late local news.

But having “Hawaii 5-0” on the TV schedule is good news for President Barack Obama. After all, during the original show, Hawaii was barely a state. And information was a lot slower, so a number of people’s first impression (beyond Pearl Harbor) of Hawaii came from the TV show.

In 2010, we can find out about Hawaii from travel shows, Web sites, YouTube videos, and of course, from the president of the United States, our first president born in the Aloha state.

Birthers, those who believe (despite mounting evidence) that Barack Obama was born outside the United States, were a bit confused about Hawaii. The flags they wave have had 50 stars since 1959, but perhaps they don’t pay attention to their own flags.

Of course, their first exposure to Alaska was probably another CBS show, “Northern Exposure.” That program showcased a number of eccentric characters, including the neurotic New Yorker. Yet, Alaska is more accepted as being a state than Hawaii because, well, um, why is Alaska more accepted?

Sarah Palin, who is from Alaska but wasn’t born there, is American, even if her family got “socialist” health care from Canada when she was a child. Barack Obama is American, too, though the doubters bypass truth and understanding to get to their talking point.

True, on many maps, Alaska and Hawaii aren’t given consideration, or if they do, they usually rest in the lower left-hand corner of the map, as if they are side-by-side off the coast of San Diego. So maybe we can’t blame them for their confusion.

Flashy remakes don’t usually last a long time on the air, so catch the new “Hawaii 5-0” while you can. And the birthers are invited to watch along to see real Americans amidst the palm trees. Even if they have HD TV sets, they don’t have to squint too hard to see them: they’re all Americans.

This is where Barack Obama was born: Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961. America. Cue the theme music.

Written by democracysoup

September 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert extend Glenn Beck parody into uncharted territory

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So we kind of knew what was coming for some time now. Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, kept dropping hints about a big announcement. Clearly, it was a shot at Glenn Beck, who had his, well, parody isn’t the right word of Martin Luther King, Jr. Maybe ironic parody, or something close to that mark.

Stewart extended the idea in a run of a few episodes, and then Colbert jumped in with his own take, trying to out-announce Stewart’s announcement.

As parody of Beck, the two comedians were having quite a bit of fun. But there was this lurking question: were the two shows going to have their own Washington Mall rallies? In other words, how far was the joke going to go?

Well, we have some idea now as the two comedians are holding separate rallies on the Mall on October 30. Stewart wants to restore sanity and Colbert wants to instill fear.

Colbert’s yang to Stewart’s yin fits like a glove. After all, Colbert’s original parody of Bill O’Reilly has sometimes slipped into a parody of Glenn Beck. As funny as Stewart has been in mocking Beck, Colbert does it as if Beck were living in is gut, which Colbert fans know is where “Stephen” does his thinking.

Colbert having a fear rally is a almost spot-on parody on the actual site. The two comedians likely figured that having one rally would be a little too close to home, so Stewart’s yin rally is geared to counter the Colbert fear extravaganza.

But Stewart has a core problem with his “restore sanity” issue. Colbert’s idea works better as a rally while Stewart’s works better as a comedic piece in a studio.

The signs that Stewart brought forth were the kind that should be in the hands of people who are upset, But will “sane” people really spend an October afternoon “protesting”?

A familiar rhythm at these events is the host asking “What do we want?” After a response, the follow-up is “When do we want it?”

The problem for Stewart and his writers is “What do we want?”

Sanity, yes. And lots of it. But what does this mean for actual policy? The chants

When Stewart shows examples of craziness, they are designed to show both extreme sides based on footage from cable news coverage. One side is portrayed with typical rhetoric; the other side has words picked out to give some semblance of fair play. At least a comedy show tries to be fair to both sides, something the MSM fails on a regular basis.

But the comparison rings hollow. The true extreme left isn’t allowed on MSM, including MSNBC. Those on the extreme right flow back and forth without a care in the world.

Stewart presented the argument as if the extremes on both sides need to be counterbalanced by the sane. But the extremes on the right – who get carte blanche on cable news and newspapers and magazines (we’re looking at you, Forbes) – need a counter rally all by themselves.

Stewart, of course, can’t do this because he would be exposed as a one-sided pundit, nullifying his impact of his day job, running a comedy show four nights a week.

We will have to see how Stewart balances a number of threads in his actual rally. You will likely see a sanitized version of what we really want to see. The thousands that will turn out to see Stewart (and Colbert) want Stewart to point them in a direction, to help them find a way to get the help they aren’t getting right now. They want a real rally.

Stewart will likely give them a rally but he won’t be the voice of power. Stewart will cry out for sanity, but his focus will be on comedy, not action, Think of it more as a concert than a rally.

During the Daily Show, Stewart – mocking Beck – told us why he picked October 30. He calmly noted that the shows were already going to be in Washington, and that the date was picked around that.

But the significance of the date is real in another sense: the Saturday before Election Day. Candidates will be out at the last minute, trying to distinguish themselves from their opponents. And their actions will be drowned out on that Saturday by two comedians who tell them what politicians and the MSM are afraid to say. But Stewart doesn’t want to be a leader, even if he already is one.

Written by democracysoup

September 20, 2010 at 7:46 am

Teabaggers want change but they know the change that they want?

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Okay, so I have been a little rough on the teabaggers. Maybe by calling them teabaggers.

But you have to give them some credit: they are making things interesting in the 2010 midterm elections.

They are fielding some atypical candidates: Rand Paul, Sharron Doyle, Joe Miller, and the newest winner, Christine O’Donnell. They seem disorganized, confused about the Constitution, yet running for offices that require them to uphold said Constitution.

They want to change things because things need to be changed. In 2008, those on the left — whom the teabaggers don’t want to include in their little club — wanted change because things needed to be changed. But while the 2008 people wanted specific things, the 2010 version wants change, backwards or forwards.

If the teabaggers do pull off the wins in November, there is the great potential for significant “change” even if nothing much does “change.” And you can bet that if the teabaggers get in, the 2010 version of those wanting change won’t be satisfied no matter what they do.

The 2008 version is angry about what hasn’t changed in the last two years, but their anger isn’t suitable for the MSM. Sure they aren’t carrying signs equating anybody to Hitler or wondering where certain people were born. They aren’t even misspelling signs; these people know how to spell.

So if the teabaggers win in November, you will see signs — presumably misspelled — about how we need change in 2012. But they still won’t know what the change is that they want.

The fascinating element to this “outrage” from teabaggers is that they are afraid of losing what they have. Well, they haven’t had much. They had more under President Clinton, but they were more concerned about a blue dress. They had less under George W. Bush, but they were less concerned about his pretending to look for WMDs that he already knew didn’t exist, and even less concerned about the millions who died as a result.

Despite the scary Orson Welles wannabes (think 1938 version), they still have what they had. Really. The scary half-black president hasn’t taken away a thing from them. He hasn’t helped them as much as he could, but if that were the criteria, the teabaggers would have carrying signs comparing Bush to Hitler.

The spin we are hearing from the MSM is that the Democratic Party is happy that Paul, Doyle, Miller, and O’Donnell won their primaries as it gives their candidates a better chance in November. This may be technically true, but they shouldn’t be proud. Grateful yes, but they need to start working their tails off to earn those votes.

Because the teabaggers have one political asset that the MSM will likely discount: acceptable anger.

Will Hispanics and African-Americans turn out at even close to the same level of participation in 2010 as they did in 2008? Every measure says no. Democracy didn’t end in 2008; it’s a perpetual ongoing machine powered by the passion of the people. Liberals have a lot of great  qualities — passion to the polls isn’t one of them.

Conservatives show up and vote. Angry conservatives come up in larger groups to vote. Liberals will protest, hand out petitions, and ask people to raise up their voices. Conservatives do very little to participate in the democratic process, but voting is one of those things.

The Democrats don’t like their fellow brethren along the lines of Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson, but they keep them in the fold. Republicans beat up on people such as Michael Castle.

How bad were things for Castle? Stephen Colbert re-ran an interview with Castle last week to give Castle Colbert’s famous “Colbert bump.” When the Colbert bump can’t help you, stronger forces are at work.

Delaware voters thought they were getting a Beau Biden-Michael Castle classic matchup for Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate seat. Now we have Chris Coons against Christine O’Donnell.

The kind of Republicans who like Michael Castle will have a choice in November that they probably won’t like. Welcome to Democrat world: people who support the Democratic Party do this all the time.

And if O’Donnell and her fellow teabaggers do pull off the November upset, we will learn what their view of change really is. Whatever way that is, 2011 will be interesting, even if it’s not helpful to the nation’s growing problems.

Written by democracysoup

September 17, 2010 at 8:06 am

If Obama had behaved like FDR, Dems would have gained seats in 2010

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If you are rooting for the Democratic Party and in particular, Barack Obama, you got some good news this week.

The retirement of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley means that Rahm Emanuel will likely leave as White House Chief of Staff to run for the mayoral position. While it’s possible that Emanuel would have been forced out as Chief of Staff, having a good excuse such as this one would help President Obama get a new start.

DNC Chair Tim Kaine may also be on the move — Jon Stewart with one hand tied behind his back made Kaine look foolish on The Daily Show this week.

In the almost two years since Obama has taken office, there have been a few significant accomplishments, and the Democratic Party has done an incredibly lousy job at promoting what those are. Kaine touted the health care reform, which hasn’t kicked in for millions of Americans. The stimulus was mentioned, though that had been severely weakened.

We saw President Obama on the campaign trail this week, offering up more tax cuts for businesses. The policies might not have been from George W. Bush but conservatives loved the idea, even if not saying so publicly.

The fight over the Bush tax cuts was ever so fascinating since Obama worked really hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts for the richest people stayed for the first two years of his presidency. Obama could have come up with a mandate, which he had, and said, “To the richest people, the top 1%-2%, you have had a break over these 8 years. Now it is your time to accept the spirit of sacrifice as our country needs your help.”

But Obama cowardly let them continue, hoping they would die a natural death. How is that going?

Many who voted Obama for 2008 — the ones who have been kicked in the teeth by the Obama White House — were hoping Obama would act in the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt to take care of the economic issues after the 2008 depressive recession.

FDR got a lot done in a short period of time. And how did the Democratic Party do in 1934? After all, we were still in a severe depression much worse than even this one, as difficult as that might seem. Was there the threat of the Republican Party taking back the reins of government?

In the House of Representatives, the Democratic Party gained 9 seats, the Wisconsin Progressive Party gained 7 seats, the Farmer-Labor Party lost 2 seats. The Republican Party lost 14 seats, reducing their percentage of seats to 23.6%.

In the Senate, the Dems had 60 seats to 35 for the GOP before. Afterwards, the Democratic Party had 69 seats — 8 of the 9 wins were defeating Republican incumbents. Also, one GOP senator switched to the Progressive Party. There was one Farmer-Labor party senator before and after the 1934 elections.

The 2010 election predictions are for a calamity much deeper than 9-seat gains. Those predicting a GOP House takeover might be in for a shock; they were probably the same people who didn’t predict 1994 so they don’t want to be seen as missing this one.

Barack Obama’s biggest nightmare should have been a repeat of Bill Clinton’s dilemma. If Obama doesn’t think he is getting enough done now, wait until 2011. Even if the takeover scenario doesn’t happen, Obama will get even less done.

Successful presidents know to grab the bull by the horns when you first get to office. You got to do it fast or you may not be able to do it at all.

Democrats blasted Obama when he made reference during the 2008 presidential campaign to Ronald Reagan’s leadership style. If only Obama had combined FDR and Reagan with a 21st century twist.

Obama and the Democratic Party are in trouble because they didn’t do enough and what little they did wasn’t done quickly enough. Sure you can imagine that the Dems would have lost some seats in 2010 even if the unemployment rate was better.

But independents thought Obama and the Dems were going to get more done, and it hasn’t happened. Some of the teabaggers could have come to the other side, but have felt abandoned — once again.

More needed to be done. More still needs to be done. The American people understand this. The White House doesn’t. The Democratic Party doesn’t.

Kaine talked about bringing back the middle class. There are millions of people who were in the middle class and aren’t there now. How about helping the poor.

The GOP helps the rich. The Dems help the middle-class. And no party is left to help the rest of the people.

For you “old-timers” out there, you might remember that the Democratic Party used to want to help the poor. Robert F. Kennedy, 1968. We’ve seen the footage.

FDR stepped up and helped the poor, especially the ones who hadn’t always been poor, and the Democratic Party dominated the landscape for 20 years. Obama? Not so much.

Kaine gave Stewart a key chain with the slogan “Don’t Give Them the Keys Back” meaning the Republicans. Stewart’s response, “You’re in trouble, dude.”

The Republicans have nothing new to offer. They have done nothing to help. And they are running some odd candidates. Yet, the GOP will likely gain in November.

Labor Day marks the turning point when people start paying attention to the elections. This is probably the best hope for the Democratic Party. Obama has blown opportunity after opportunity to prove himself a difference maker. People such as Emanuel and Kaine aren’t helping. But even though politics offers second chances, you still have to work for it.

Democratic politicians can increase job growth, including their own, by rebuilding infrastructure

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Okay, so infrastructure isn’t an exciting topic, especially in the doldrums of August and now into early September. But chances are at some point this summer, or very very soon, you will travel on an interstate highway.

Interstate highways are samples of infrastructure, samples we enjoy almost every day. But we have many more infrastructure problems and solutions — we haven’t even tapped the surface of what we could do.

We have a problem with a solution, yet we aren’t taking advantage. The housing market has dried up, and there isn’t much demand for new office space. So we have people who build structures looking for work, and we have infrastructure problems. Why isn’t this a perfect match?

There is some construction, fixing of roads, but this isn’t enough and it’s short-sighted. We could be rebuilding bridges and building components for high speed rail trains. We could be building new and updated public transit systems in our major cities.

We aren’t building enough cars, yet those same unemployed people could be building trains for those transit systems.

Others could be working on improving electrical systems. I remember writing about these when Hawai’i had problems while President-elect Obama was vacationing there in late 2008. And those who lived in Kentucky remember the electrical problems after the ice storms hit in the winter of 2009.

We have insane unemployment, and unlike the 1930s, these infrastructure jobs wouldn’t be busy work: we really need the work done that needs to be done.

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, there was hope on the left that Obama was learn the lessons of Franklin D. Roosevelt and implement job programs to rebuild this country. That hope wasn’t there from the right, but a lot of those teabaggers would have financially benefited if Obama had gone that route.

This isn’t to say that the racist tendencies of some of the teabaggers would have magically disappeared; even if a black president helps give a racist a job, that doesn’t mean the racist will change its stripes.

But part of why the Republican areas of the country — the South and parts of the West — feel the way they do toward Democratic politicians (regardless of color) is that they feel ignored. True they’ve been ignored by Republican politicians, but Republicans pander to their insecurities.

As poor as the people are who live in the blue states don’t understand how good they’ve had it compared to the South. I remember clearly the maximum amount in Mississippi for unemployment when I wrote about it: $230/week. That’s poor, especially since Southern states make it harder to qualify for unemployment, and $230 is the MOST you can make.

Those without jobs have left “frustrated” a long time ago. Yes, Democratic politicians have done a lot for people looking for work. And Republican politicians have said “no” more often than offer actual help.

But Democratic politicians, especially those worried about their jobs, could have done way more to help. The United States has lost its perspective on infrastructure. China is kicking our butt; Spain is too.

Americans are tired of rebuilding countries we’ll never visit (Iraq, Afghanistan). We want the government of the United States to rebuild the United States. The Democratic politicians, Obama included, should learn that rebuilding our infrastructure is a non-partisan issue, and could woo those Independents to vote Democratic. If for nothing else, they should start rebuilding this country because it’s the right thing to do. But if it will help score some political points, well that is the whipped cream and icing all in one.

Written by democracysoup

September 3, 2010 at 8:05 am