Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gun Control -- If Not Now, When?

This week, the U.S. Senate began its hearings on gun control.  

what eye thynk:    There are lots of sides to this issue and everyone has an opinion, but the NRA’s complaint is by far the weakest argument against gun control that I can imagine.

On the first day of the Senate hearings, Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA voiced his organization’s main position:  since criminals won’t follow laws anyway, there is no point in creating any.  If that argument had any validity, it could also be argued that we should have no laws at all--criminals are just going to break them so why waste time writing them?

Far right activists like author Tom Mullen are claiming that the call for more gun ownership regulation is really a first step in abolishing the Second Amendment.  The average American citizen will recognize this view as transcending common sense; but that hasn’t stopped Mr. LaPierre from espousing the same opinion.  Mr. LaPierre, writing for the NRA, claims that President Obama has a “Secret plan to destroy the Second Amendment by 2016”.  In an article currently appearing on the NRA website, Mr. Lapierre writes that President Obama plans to “Prosecute a full-scale, sustained, all-out campaign to excise the Second Amendment from our Bill of Rights through legislation, litigation, regulation, executive orders, judicial fiat, international treaties--in short, all the levers of power of all three branches of government".  He contends that President Obama hid this agenda during the 2012 campaign.  "In an act of pure political calculation, (the President) plotted to keep (his) gun-ban objectives concealed.“

Excluding far right extremists like Mr. Mullen and the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, most American citizens favor some new form of gun control.  In a recent Johns Hopkins University national poll, 69% supported a ban on military style assault weapons, while 68.4% favored a ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.  Even in Texas, one of the most gun-crazed states in the union, pollsters found that 49% supported a ban on assault weapons, with 41% being against such a ban.  

It is time for us, the majority, to stop cringing in fear when faced with the rabid oratory of gun loving militants. It is time to show that we will not be harangued into submission.

No one is saying that new gun control laws are going to eliminate shootings tomorrow, next month or even next year; but we have to start somewhere and requiring universal background checks, banning the sale of assault weapons or restricting the size of gun magazines will have an effect over time.  Our patience will certainly be tested, but we can’t let the lack of immediate results become a roadblock to making a beginning.

I would hope that Congress will at last concede that “No” is not a solution and “It won’t work” is not a viable excuse.  As California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said earlier this week, “I understand how difficult this is.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try”.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Republican's Early Plan to Defeat Hillary in 2016

what eye thynk:   The outraged posturing and seemingly endless hearings on Benghazi have very little to do with security or loss of American lives and everything to do with stockpiling ammunition that Republicans believe they might be able to use against Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for President in 2016. 

Congressional Republicans will never be "satisfied".  Publicity, not satisfaction, is their goal here. 

If saving American lives was important to these puffed up politicians, they would never have approved of sending so many young people to the Middle East to serve in a war created to feed a Republican presidential ego, a war based entirely on lies perpetuated by--among others--a Republican Secretary of State.

These people refuse to acknowledge the exemplary job Hillary has done for four years under extreme conditions.  They refuse to acknowledge that she has done so honorably.  Instead of thanking her for her service, they prefer to denigrate her in order to bank a few points for their party.  

 What self-serving small mindedness they exhibit.

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28 - Monday Quote

Organizations like the NRA come to mind...

monday quote:    When liberty is mentioned, we must always be careful to observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.  (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, philosopher, 1770-1831)  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quick Fact(s) - Mitt Still Won't Give Up and Catholic Hospital Claims Fetus is Not a Person

1.   Remember the campaign ad Mitt Romney ran late in the 2012 presidential campaign where he told Toledo autoworkers that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China and they were all going to lose their jobs?  At the time, and rightfully so, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post rated that ad "Four Pinocchios", (completely false).  Chrysler spoke out telling their employees that this was not true; that they were, in fact, planning on adding jobs at the Toledo plant.  At the time, Chrysler also said that, yes, they were going to be producing some Jeeps in China but these were new jobs and had nothing to do with jobs in the U.S.  Since November, Chrysler has added 1100 second shift jobs in Toledo.

Well, Mitt Romney, who still doesn't seem to grasp the fact that the campaign is over, has asked Mr. Kessler to recant his Four Pinocchios rating, sighting the fact that Chrysler is now producing some Jeeps in China.  

It appears that facts are still a confusing concept for the Republican nominee.  And, Mitt, give it up already.  You're not going to be President, go home, read a book, start a hobby.  The horse is dead.

2.   Abortion rights have been much in the news over this past year with the Catholic Church front and center in the debate.  Their claim that life begins at conception has been the foundation for some states attempting to pass "personhood" laws to protect unborn fetuses.

That makes the case of Lori Stodghill all the more upsetting.  Mrs. Stodghill was 28 weeks pregnant when she arrived at St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado vomiting and short of breath.  She died of cardiac arrest in the hospital waiting room.  The twin boys she was carrying also died.   Her husband sued the hospital for wrongful deaths in the case of his wife and the twins.  

Lawyers, representing the Catholic owned hospital, shocked Mr. Stodghill by presenting a case that claimed an embryo is not a person until it is born alive--completely the opposite of Catholic doctrine.  The court agreed.  Then the Catholic church lawyers tried to garnish Mr. Stodghill's wages for $180,000 in legal fees, but told him that, if he didn't appeal the verdict they would forgive the debt.

Mr. Stodghill, who is raising his now 9 year old daughter alone, filed for bankruptcy and is continuing with his appeal.  

This sad story is made even sadder by the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.  Apparently a fetus is a person unless it costs the church money in which case all bets are off.  Really, I can respect your opinion even if it is completely the opposite of mine.  I can even respect your opinion if it changes over time.  But to switch sides for what is obviously a purely pecuniary reason just disgusts me.  And they wonder why people move away from the church. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

U.S. Court of Appeals Throws a Wrench in the Works of Presidential Recess Appointments

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on Friday that President Obama violated the Constitution when he appointed three people to the National Labor Relations board and appointed Richard Cordray to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during a pro forma Senate recess last year.  The case was brought by a Pepsi-Cola bottler who disagreed with the NLRB's decision in a labor dispute.  

Friday's ruling says that appointments can be made only during the sort of recess that occurs between formal sessions of Congress--not informal recesses like vacation and holiday breaks. Further, two of the judges ruled that the President may only make appointments that arise during that same recess, thus eliminating any opportunity to make appointments that have become stalled in the Senate.

what eye thynk:    All three judges on the appeals court panel are Republicans who were appointed by Republican presidents; but Democrats are not blameless in this latest partisan game of one-up-man-ship since they created the monster themselves. 

A little background--from an article by Charlie Savage and Steven Greenhouse:
"Presidents have...made recess appointments during Senate breaks in the midst of sessions going back to 1867...The appeals court's decision goes against 150 years of practice by both Democratic and Republican presidents...President Obama has made 32 such recess appointments...Clinton made 139, while Mr. Bush made 171... 
...Nearly all of those appointments would be unconstitutional under the rationale of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit... 
...The current dispute can be traced back to 2007, when Democrats took control of the Senate.  Hoping to block Mr. Bush from making any more unilateral appointments, they did not formally recess before going home for Thanksgiving.  Instead, they held pro forma sessions, meaning a member came into the nearly empty chamber every third day and banged the gavel...

This latest fiasco is centered around The National Labor Relations Board appointments.  The NLRB is made up of five members who are appointed by the President and serve five year terms. When President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, the NLRB had only two members because three of the member's terms had expired the previous year and, when Senate Democrats would not approve his first nominations, President Bush refused to nominate anyone else to fill the positions--thus rendering the board completely powerless.

In a fit of childish pique, and taking full advantage of their 60 vote rule, Republicans in the Senate refused to act on any of President Obama's NLRB nominations when he took office.  This stand-off continued for nearly three years. As for the Cordray appointment, Senate Republicans had made it clear that they would refuse to confirm anyone to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because they didn't approve of the bureau's creation and refusing to appoint a head guaranteed that it would never be able to function in any meaningful way.
"Under Mr. Obama, Republicans turned the tables by using the power of the House to block the Senate from adjourning for more than three days.  But last January, Mr. Obama decided to challenge the new tactic by declaring the pro forma sessions a sham and appointing the three labor board members, along with Mr. Cordray."

In response to the court's ruling, Mr. Elwood, former Bush administration pointed out that the court's reasoning could also change other settled actions, including cases reviewed by appeals courts in which a judge had received a recess appointment.  "You know there are people sitting in prisons around the country who will become very excited when they learn of this ruling."

The White House has not said whether it will appeal the court's ruling; but I don't see how they can allow this decision to stand.  The chaos that could result if the ruling is interpreted in the broadest terms is truly frightening--labor disputes would have to be re-decided, criminal charges could be reversed and new appointments to any position could be held up permanently, rendering some government agencies completely unworkable, (witness the inability of the National Labor Relations Board to make any decisions during the late Bush/early Obama years).

Essentially, the President and the country would be at the mercy of Congress.  And we've all seen how well that branch of government has functioned lately.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Totally Useless Information -- Eyelashes and Electric Lights

Karl Nessler, (who often spelled his name "Nestle") began making false eyelashes in the 19th century in his native Germany. He used the profit to finance his next invention--the electric permanent wave machine.  By 1915 Nestle had become a U.S. citizen and was selling false eyelashes in his hair wave salon.  He promoted them as protection against the glare of electric lights.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quick Fact Digest: Boehner Claims President is Focused on Annihilation of the Republican Party, Maine Gov. Refuses to Talk to Democrats, Nevada Assemblyman Threatens Speaker-elect with a Gun and New Mexico Wants to Use Rape Victims' Babies as "Evidence"

1.   On Tuesday, John Boehner spoke at a private luncheon held by the Ripon Society, a Republican think tank.  In his remarks, he said that President Obama's inaugural speech on Monday clearly showed that the President's focus is to "annihilate the Republican Party".

Well, they've been doing a pretty good job of it themselves lately; but I would like to remind Mr. Boehner that it was his party, in the person of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, that said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president".  Want to start a discussion on the semantics of annihilation, Mr. Boehner?

2.   In November, the Democrats won the majority of the seats in Maine's legislature. Since then, Governor Paul LePage, (R) has refused to talk to Democratic legislators because he is upset that they are using a "tracker" to record his speeches.  A Veteran's group invited a Democratic tracker to an event in December and, afterwards, Gov. LePage canceled all meetings with Democratic leaders, refusing to acknowledge their new majority.  This, despite the fact that his speeches are part of the public record no matter who does the recording.

and...Nevada State Assemblyman Steven Brooks (D), unhappy with his committee assignment, was arrested on Saturday for threatening to shoot Speaker-elect Marilyn Kilpatrick (D).  Mr. Brooks was quoted as saying that Ms. Kilpatrick's "first day as Speaker would be her last". At the time of his arrest he was carrying a loaded gun.

Gov. LePage's behavior is so childish it defies explanation; but Assemblyman Brooks behavior is just plain scary.  Doesn't anybody talk anymore? Since when do we, as Americans, refuse to discuss our differences?  More and more, I see the attitude of "Agree with me or I will shoot you" taking hold in our society.  How far have we fallen that our behavior echoes that of the Taliban?

3.   New Mexico State Representative Cathrynn Brown (R), has introduced a bill that would require a rape victim who becomes pregnant as a result of the rape to carry the pregnancy to term so the court could use the baby as evidence of sexual assault.  Under the terms of Ms. Brown's bill, if the rape victim got an abortion, she could be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by three years in prison, for "tampering with evidence".

I have no words.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Eye Recommend Digest - Opposition to Chuck Hagel, Same Sex Marriage in RI and Vatican Tries to Silence Dublin Priest

1.   CONFIRMATION BIAS, by Bill Maher --

Mr. Maher takes apart John McCain, (and Sarah Palin), and Lindsey Graham.  Short commentary, but true.

"Chuck Hagel is the first enlisted soldier ever nominated to head the Pentagon. About time, isn't it?

To explain Hagel's dovishness, the insufferable Lindsey Graham said about Hagel, 'I think he's very haunted by Vietnam.' As if that's a bad thing. I like the idea of having a Secretary of Defense who's personally haunted by the reality of war -- maybe we should even make it a prerequisite for the job. We'd certainly save a lot of lives and money that way."


Rhode Island's House Judiciary Committee has approved a new bill supporting same sex marriage.  It is now scheduled to go to the full House for a vote.   Leaders of the U.S. House, however, continue to fight against the issue at the Supreme Court level.

"Even if the bill passes, Rhode Island may be preempted by the U.S. Supreme Court, which received its first brief on same-sex marriage on Tuesday. The brief, which came from supporters of a 2008 California ban on same-sex marriage, urged the justices to let voters define marriage.

A separate filing from  the top three Republican members of the House of Representatives - Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy - urged the court to uphold Section 3 of a 1996 federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that has the effect of denying same-sex couples a variety of federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive."


Rev. Flannery is my kind of priest. 

“The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality.

‘How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in,’ he said in an interview on Wednesday. ‘If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.’…

…In the letter, the Vatican objected in particular to an article published in 2010 in Reality, an Irish religious magazine. In the article, Father Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, wrote that he no longer believed that ‘the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus’ or that he designated ‘a special group of his followers as priests.’

Instead, he wrote, ‘It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.’"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Finally, Republican Proffered Campaign Reform. Will McConnell Listen?

Excerpts from a New York Times editorial:

Until now, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has not seen a single member of his caucus dare to buck his fierce opposition to a law requiring fuller disclosure of campaign contributions.  But last month, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska broke through the partisan wall to propose a badly needed mandate for transparency by the growing army of unrestricted, unidentified donors who underwrite attack ads and other stealth tactics that have so disfigured American politics...

...The measure would also require "joint regulations and guidance" from the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission to close the legal loopholes that enable dark-money campaign operations.  This is a needed prod, since the commission is stultified by the inaction of its Republican members and the I.R.S. is too slow to challenge political front groups.  A prime example is the $70 million spent by Karl Rove's transparently political Crossroads GPS organization, which ludicrously claimed tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code as a "social welfare" activity.

Ms. Murkowski's move should be welcomed...because last year's "unprecedented secret spending" can only grow worse in future elections.

what eye thynk:   On a national level, this is sorely needed campaign reform.  On a personal level, it would be another smack-down for Karl Rove and I can't think of anyone who is more deserving of a good top to bottom smacking than K.R.

The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision changed the character of our elections in a fundamental way.  Money, and those with it, were gifted with a louder and more prominent voice than the rest of us under the Court's hypothesis that "corporations are people too".  Last year, fearing a return to the corruption that stained Montana's elections in the early 1900s copper robber baron era, the State of Montana asked the Supreme Court to revisit their 2010 ruling.  The Court declined.  In his dissenting statement, Justice Stephen Breyer said campaign spending since 2010 "casts grave doubt on the court's supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so".  Sadly, our November elections proved Justice Breyer to be right.

In the face of the Supreme Court's willful ignorance of the harm Citizens United is causing, the real question now is whether the Republican party is willing to give up its dirty, behind the scenes, anything-for-a-win tactics for the kind of fairness proposed by Ms. Murkowski.  Sadly, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day, January 21, 2013

Congratulations, Mr. President.

January 21 - Monday Quote

Today is my husband's and my 29th wedding anniversary.  

monday quote:   Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.  (Sam Levenson, humorist, author 1911-1980)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quick Fact - Far Right Holds Inaugural Prayer Breakfast Featuring Anti-Obama Speaker List

On Monday morning, far right Republicans are planning to "celebrate" President Obama's second inauguration with a meal they are billing as a "Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast" where they plan to offer "prayer, worship and reconciliation of the nation".

Featured speakers include:
  • Joseph Farah, editor of the birther site WorldNetDaily, who continues to insist that President Obama was born in Kenya and alleges that he is "the first Muslim president"
  • Jonathan Cahn, the "messianic rabbi-pastor and author" who claims that signs of the apocalypse are encrypted in President Obama's communications.
  • Televangelist Pat Robertson who believes that "awful-looking" women are to blame for the decline of marriage and, more to the point, that President Obama is a "socialist" who wants to "destroy America".  
  • Michelle Bachman, champion of pray-away-the-gay, will also speak.

Is it just me or does the "reconciliation of the nation" part of their program look to be a little on the light side?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

This is NOT the Way a Democracy is Supposed to Work

From a New York Times editorial earlier this month.  (The underlines are mine.):

The only reason that income taxes on 99 percent of Americans did not go up this month was that Speaker John Boehner briefly broke with an iron rule of Republican control over the House.  He allowed the fiscal-cliff deal to be put to a full vote of the house even though a strong majority of Republicans opposed it.

That informal rule, which bars a vote on legislation unless it has the support of a majority of Republicans, has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to progress and consensus in Congress, and, in its own way, is even more pernicious than the filibuster abuse that often ties up the Senate. Under the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster...coalitions can occasionally be formed between the Democratic majority and enough Republicans to reach the three-fifths threshold.

But under the majority-of-the majority rule in the House, Democrats are completely cut out of the governing process, not even given a chance to vote unless Republicans have decided to pass something.  Since 2010, there have been enough extremist Republicans in the caucus to block consideration of most of the bills requested by the White House or sent over from the Senate.  If President Obama is for something, it's a safe bet that most House Republicans are against it, and thus (Boehner) won't bring it up.

That's why the House never took a vote on the Senate's latest five-year farm bill.  Or the Violence Against Women Act.  Or a full six-year transportation bill.  Republican opposition prevented consideration in the last term of the Senate's $60 billion in providing relief from Hurricane Sandy...

...The majority-of-the-majority (rule) is relatively new and entirely a Republican creation...

...This anti-democratic tactic, now known as the "Hastert rule", helped turn the chamber into a one-party institution that utterly silenced the minority...

...when Nancy Pelosi (was Speaker), she repudiated the Hastert rule, allowing both parties to vote together on legislation.  For example, she allowed a bill to pass paying for the Iraq war over the objections of most Democrats.

"I'm the Speaker of the House," she said at the time. "I have to take into consideration something broader than the majority of the majority in the Democratic caucus."

That's an attitude rarely expressed by Mr. Boehner.  But if the country is to move forward on issues with widespread support...he will have to let the two parties vote together on a solution.

what eye thynk:   This is not the way a democracy is supposed to work.   What happened to the concept--a concept taught in every school in America--that everyone votes and whoever or whatever gets the most votes wins?  Where does our Constitution state that one party decides for everyone?

When I voted for Democratic Representatives, I expected those members to be able to vote with my voice.  By unilaterally evoking the Hastert rule, Mr. Boehner has completely eliminated my say in government.  What the Republican party attempted to do in the November presidential election, (preventing Democrats from voting by passing unneeded voter regulation laws), has been completely accomplished in the House of Representatives. 

And this travesty of government does not just close Democrats out of the process.  Republican citizens have equal cause to be appalled.  

Consider the current attention to gun regulations.  A CNN poll conducted this week found that 74 percent of Americans--both Democrat AND REPUBLICAN--favor a ban on assault weapons.  But under Speaker Boehner's leadership, it is possible that a bill controlling the proliferation of assault weapons will never be put to a vote--not because a majority of ALL of the members of the House may approve of it, but because a majority of HIS party may not.  Mr. Boehner's only focus is power--for himself and for his party.  The American citizens that members of the House are supposed to represent--no matter their party affiliation--are not even part of Mr. Boehner's equation.  

Mr. Boehner's ironfisted use of the Hastert rule has turned our House of Representatives into a one-party dictatorship where the minority members are given a pat on the head and kindly permitted to occupy their assigned offices and sit in the House at their assigned desks, but are only allowed to watch as Mr. Boehner and his fellow Republicans decide how our country will be run.  

How did we allow this to happen?!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Eye Recommend --- For 'Party of Business', Allegiances are Shifting


Interesting article addresses the obvious fact that big business doesn't want another recession and investigates why Republicans are deaf to that message.  (The underline is mine.)

"Corporate chiefs in recent months have pleaded publicly with Republicans to raise their taxes for the sake of deficit reduction, and to raise the nation's debt limit without a fight lest another confrontation like that in 2011 wallop the economy.  But the lobbying has been to no avail...

...'I'm agreeing with the president--you should not be using the debt limit as a bargaining chip when it comes to how you run the country,' said David M. Cote, chief executive of Honeywell, and a Republican.  'You don't put full faith and credit of the United States at risk.'

As a warning was issued Tuesday about a possible credit downgrade, even the hard-line conservative group Americans for Prosperity, financed by the billionaire Koch family, urged Republicans not to use the debt limit as a leverage for deep spending cuts....

...Some of the Republicans' distancing from big business is a matter of political tactics--to alter their image as the part of wealth and corporate power.

A news release e-mailed in late December from the office of Speaker John A. Boehner captured the changed dynamic.  On a day when Mr. Obama met executives from the Business Roundtable, a group that for decades was close to Congressional Republicans, the subject line on the Boehner 'GOP to Meet With Small Biz While (President) Meets With Big CEOs'."

The article goes on to explain how new Southern Republicans don't feel the connection to corporate America that older Northern Republicans feel.  However, continuing to ignore what big business says in order to make a political point is not good politics...but then this is the party that thought Mitt Romney was a good choice.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Republicans Accuse Obama of Using Position As President to Lead Country


Lead by Representative Steve Stockman (Texas), "Republicans in Congress unleased a blistering attack...accusing Mr. Obama of 'cynically and systematically using his position as President to lead the country'...

...The Texas congressman said that if Mr. Obama persists...he could face 'impeachment and/or deportation'."

I was wondering how long it would take for the impeachment threats to start.  Adding a deportation threat is like the icing on the cake of ridiculousness.  (And isn't leading the country what we just elected him to do?)

Yesterday, despite being "warned" by Republicans, President Obama offered four major legislative proposals on gun control and signed 23 executive actions.  

Thank you, Mr. President, for taking a stand.  Now the hard work begins.  Many of us are behind you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dogs and Politics - We're Watching You

During his campaign for Governor of Florida, Rick Scott announced that he and his family had rescued a Labrador Retriever, naming it Reagan. The dog rescue gave Mr. Scott lots of warm and fuzzy points while the dog's name garnered him positive press from his conservative base.  A month after he was elected, the dog disappeared.  When asked about it, Mr. Scott's staff as well as his wife refused to comment.

what eye thynk:    I realize that this is not the most important issue facing America today; but it does remind me that much of our election system is based on getting the theatrical aspects of a campaign just right.  Issues are important; but a well designed image is necessary if your message is going to reach the back row of the balcony.

With that in mind, lots of campaigning politicians use props to help their image.

During his successful Massachusetts Senate campaign, Republican Scott Brown drove a pickup truck as a symbol of of his hard work and rugged ideals.  "I'm Scott Brown.  I'm from Wrentham.  I drive a truck".

John McCain dragged Joe the Plumber around the country to bolster his "everyman-ness". (Okay, that one didn't work--but then he had Sarah Palin too.  Bad choice, John.  Some advice: never cast a supporting character with someone who wants to be the star.)

As for Reagan, (the four-footed one), it turns out that, shortly after Mr. Scott was elected, the dog was returned to the rescue organization in Naples from where he had been adopted borrowed.

In a recent article titled A DOG IS NOT A CAMPAIGN PROP, Steve Benen wrote:

"Scott already has a painfully low approval rating; I don't imagine this will help. 
And while it's safe to assume next year's gubernatorial race in Florida will focus on a wide variety of issues, I have a hunch we'll be hearing about Reagan's departure too. Stories like these have a way of lingering--and if you doubt that, consider whether you heard anything about Mitt Romney's Seamus over the last year."

Will the Governor of Florida be brought down by man's best friend?  I think Reagan, (either one), would approve.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Eye Recommend --- NRA Releases Shooting App for Children while NY Moves to Expand Gun Control Laws


"'NRA: Practice Range', available free in the iTunes app store, allows players to shoot at coffin-shaped targets in indoor or outdoor settings.  For $.99 extra, players can upgrade their gun to a pistol grip Mossberg or semi=automatic sniper rifle.

According to the description on iTunes, the game is intended to instill 'safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations'.  And because it contains 'no objectionable material', per iTunes' rating system, it's suitable for children as young as 4.  Apple employees vet applications before they are included in the store and approve age ranges for games."

Unbelieveable!  Last month the NRA was blaming violent video games for our mass shooting epidemic, now this?  And shame on Apple for approving this piece of garbage.

2.   On a more positive note...  On the first day of their new session:  NEW YORK LAWMAKERS REACH DEAL ON NEW GUN CURBS, by Thomas Kaplan and Danny Hakim -

New York's Republican led Senate has passed legislation that will ban "semiautomatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature, as well as semiautomatic shotguns with one military-style feature.  New Yorkers who already own such guns could keep them but would be required to register them with the state...

...The most significant new proposal would require mental health professionals to report to local mental health officials when they believe that patients are likely to harm themselves or others.  Law enforcement would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by a dangerous patient."

The bill also limits the size of gun magazines to 7 rounds, requires background checks for most private gun sales as well as for ammunition buyers, automatically notifies the police of high volume purchases and creates a statewide gun registration database.  A final provision, added in response to the deaths of two firefighters in December, mandates a sentence of life without parole for anyone convicted of murdering a first responder.

The bill now goes to the Democratic led Assembly where it is expected to pass easily.

Now if only our U.S. Congress would act as quickly and as responsibly.  Considering the amount of money the NRA throws at congressional candidates, I hold out little hope.

  • Update: The bill passed the Assembly and  Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law this afternoon, Tuesday, January 15.  
A new gun control bill--written, debated, voted on and signed into law, all within days--and with overwhelming support from both parties. New York has set the bar high.  Hopefully others will follow.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14 - Monday Quote

Words to remember, (especially if you're Mitt Romney)...

monday quote:   One day you’re cock of the walk; the next a feather duster.  (Piers Morgan, TV host, political pundit, 1965-    )

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Busting the Filibuster

BUSTING THE FILIBUSTER, by Alex Altman -- (I have copied the entire article here since Time magazine, while allowing sharing through Facebook or Google+, will not allow non-subscribers to access full articles with just a link.) 

While both parties are guilty of filibuster abuse, the past four years have provided an example of unprecedented application.  Mitch McConnell's use of the filibuster to stall a bill he had introduced demonstrates how ludicrous the situation has become.  It is time to make our Senate a place of progress rather than procedural paralysis.

The underlines are mine.

"Jeff Merkley first came to the Senate as a 19-year-old intern in 1976, in an era before cell phones and C-SPAN, back when the upper chamber still got things done. "I saw legislation in action," he recalls. So he was shocked when he returned in 2009, this time as the junior Senator from Oregon, to find that the world's greatest deliberative body spent very little time deliberating. Merkley says the root of the dysfunction was easy to spot: widespread abuse of the filibuster, the procedural tactic Senators use to block a vote on a bill or presidential nomination.

Now Merkley and a handful of other Democratic reformers are trying to cure the Senate's paralysis by curbing the use of the filibuster. While their proposal will struggle to overcome Republican objections, it could lead to changes that make the Senate a place of real work once again. But don't hold your breath.

The filibuster, a term that derives from the Dutch word for pirate, was never intended to be a feature of the Senate. It became possible in 1806, after Vice President Aaron Burr suggested that the Senate streamline its rule book by dropping a provision that empowered the majority to end debate on a bill. The change allowed a single member to stall legislation, and the tactic gained popularity. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson--faced with opposition to his plan to arm merchant ships during World War I--muscled through Senate Rule 22, which created the so-called cloture vote, by which Senators can overcome the filibuster. Until the mid-1970s, filibusters were rare.

In today's polarized Senate, use of the tactic has skyrocketed. Members of both parties have wielded it to stop all sorts of things. Since 2007, Democrats have invoked cloture almost 400 times to break Republican filibusters. In December, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell filibustered one of his own bills--a moment that crystallized the chamber's sad journey from a once great debating society to something of a laughingstock. The Senate, says Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, is a "graveyard for good ideas."

Merkley, Udall and Iowa's Tom Harkin want to force filibusters out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Current Senate rules permit "silent" filibusters, enabling members to stymie proceedings from the comfort of their hideaway offices. The heart of the Democrats' proposal would require Senators to hold forth on the floor when they want to delay a vote, in the kind of dramatic soliloquy immortalized in the Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The change would not only require Senators to devote precious time to filibustering but also make them accountable to voters for frivolous obstruction.

This being the Senate, Merkley and Udall want to fix the filibuster with a procedural gambit of their own. Senate practice requires a two-thirds majority to alter the rules, but a simple majority can make tweaks at the outset of a legislative session. The 113th Congress opened on Jan. 3. But rather than adjourn, the Senate went into recess, freezing the chamber on its first legislative day to buy time to debate the fate of the filibuster. The Senate may be sluggish, but at least it has the power to make a single day last for weeks.

Republicans won't easily relinquish the minority party's biggest weapon. The talking filibuster is a "deal killer" for Republicans, predicts Sarah Binder, an expert on congressional procedure. And as Merkley learned when he floated a similar proposal two years ago, filibuster reform is unpopular with some senior Democrats who spent time in the minority and want to preserve their leverage should they end up there again.

Merkley says Democrats now have the 51 votes required to force reform, a prospect that could coax the GOP to negotiate. He sees "the makings of a substantive bipartisan deal" to ease the legislative logjam while ensuring the minority's right to offer amendments. Compromise has been in short supply on Capitol Hill, but one of the few forces capable of provoking change is public censure. Recent polls showed that voters ranked the 112th Congress as less popular than cockroaches, colonoscopies and communism. If anything can make the members of the Senate work together, it's the threat of being sent home."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The United States of the NRA?

Following the killing of 20 elementary school children in Newtown, CT in November, President Obama has finally decided that we need to take another look at gun control in this country.  Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting with community and industry leaders in an effort to find some common ground on the issue and is expected to to deliver his recommendations on Tuesday.  Not surprisingly, the NRA does not support the President and Vice President's efforts.

what eye thynk:    The NRA's answer to our mass murder epidemic is simple and clear:  more guns--armed guards in schools, guns in churches, guns in bars, in parks...  The NRA has no "enough" button.  They continue to push and push and push.  Once every citizen owns a military style arsenal for their personal use, what then?  When a rifle rack comes standard on every car, will they push for an optional bazooka mount for the roof of your mini-van?

This past week I've seen video of NRA supporters going completely nuts over this issue; and while I have to believe these people represent the lunatic fringe of extremism, I find their passion and their willingness to voice it to the world just a little frightening.  In my perfect world, people who think like this are aware of how off the charts they are in terms of normal behavior and that awareness awakens a degree of shame that keeps them quiet and contained.  I don't like that these people have made me rethink my definition of "normal". 

The Piers Morgan interview with radio host Alex Jones, (who wants to deport Mr. Morgan over his anti-gun views), went viral.  "1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!  Doesn't matter how many lemmings you get out there on the street, begging for 'em to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them.  Do you understand?!"

A video created by James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills in Tennessee, shows Mr. Yeager promising to "start killing people" if President Obama succeeds in passing new gun control laws.

These are not examples of rational behavior, yet the NRA applauds them for their extremism and that support fosters even more dangerous actions.  With no one to tell them they have gone too far, how far will one of these extremists go?

Yes, there are common sense gun owners in this country--lots of them, I'm married to one.   But common sense carries a soft voice.  Let us hope that Vice President Biden can hear us over the bellowing that is the stock in trade of the NRA.  Because, contrary to what people like Alex Jones and James Yeager would have us believe, the NRA doesn't run this country.  We do.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A.I.G. Wisely Says "No" to Maurice Greenberg, Poster Child for Greed and Ingratitude

This week, A.I.G. bought television time to run ads thanking America for bailing them out in 2008 when it looked like the company would go under.  The U.S. Treasury recently sold the last of its stock back to A.I.G. for a profit.

On that basis, former top executive Maurice Greenberg is suing the United States over the bailout claiming the terms required by the U.S. Treasury hurt the interests of stockholders, including himself, by unfairly diluting the holdings of shareholders and thus denying them profits that went instead into the U.S. Treasury. 

On Wednesday, Mr. Greenberg met with A.I.G.'s Board of Directors in attempt to persuade them to join his lawsuit.  After being hit with widespread negative publicity earlier in the week when news of the meeting became known, A.I.G. wisely declined Mr. Greenberg's offer.  He will continue on his own.

what eye thynk:    Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!  Mr. Greenberg is upset that, rather than lose money by saving his company, (which apparently would have been fine with him--I doubt, had that happened, we would be seeing Mr. Greenberg offering to reimburse us for our generosity), the U.S. Treasury actually made a profit and now he sees that profit as rightfully belonging to himself and his fellow stockholders.  Really?  How did they earn it?  By driving the company to the brink of total collapse?

The company was in crisis because of toxic investments and a board of directors that failed to properly oversee their mortgage businesses.  When the U.S. Treasury stepped in to save the company in 2008, the situation was so bad that there were no private investors willing to finance the company through a managed bankruptcy.  

We, the taxpayers, took a chance--a huge chance--to try to save the company.  Without the U.S. Treasury, A.I.G. surely would have gone the way of Lehman Bros.  The Board of Directors of A.I.G. agreed to the government’s terms for a bailout and were happy to be saved from the prospect of losing everything.  Mr. Greenberg voiced no objections at that time.

So now, rather than being grateful he still has an A.I.G. investment portfolio, he wants to bite the hand that saved him.  With his ridiculous lawsuit, Mr. Greenberg has managed to take greed to a whole new level.  Disgusting.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Quick Fact - Company That Lost 2/3 of Work Force on 9/11 Gives $10M to Sandy Victims

Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 employees in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Now the company, along with its affiliate BGC Partners is stepping up with a $10M gift to help families devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  They have selected 19 schools in the damaged areas and are giving each family a debit card worth $1000 to use as they see fit--whether that be repairs, replacement furniture or new toys.  There are no strings attached.   The schools chosen are in areas where company employees live.

After 9/11, Cantor Fitzgerald formed a relief fund to assist company families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack.  Each year, on the anniversary of the attack, the company donates the day's revenues and employees donate their day's pay to charity.  Last September that total was $12M.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eye Recommend - National Cathedral to Wed Same-sex Couples


This makes me so happy!!!!!!

The Washington National Cathedral is "an active house of worship in the Episcopalian Church, said the Cathedral's dean, Gary Hall.  The denomination has developed a blessing rite that mirrors current wedding ceremonies for heterosexual couples and allows each bishop to decide to allow same-sex marriages in their churches or not.

Bishop Mariann Budde decided to allow the rite, since same-sex marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and now in neighboring Maryland as well, Hall said.

It was Budde's decision that led Hall to create the same-sex rite.

He sees it as 'another historic step toward greater equality'."

Maxine Takes on the Republican Party

what eye thynk:   This would be funny if it weren't so true.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quick Fact - The House Approves Funding to Defend DOMA

An addendum to today's earlier post re: misplaced priorities...

In another case of wasting resources, the new House of Representatives also found time last week to authorize House lawyers to continue putting together cases promoting the enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act  for the Justice Department.

"The vote (to approve funding) done as one of the first actions of the new Congress, is the first time that the entire House has acted to approve the House's defense of DOMA and comes as the Supreme Court is considering one of the challenges to the law."  (Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed staff writer)

This is a total waste of time and taxpayer dollars since the Justice Department has already said it will not take up any case defending the DOMA, sighting questions about the law's constitutionality

Nascar over New Jersey, a Case of Misplaced Priorities

Last week, amid all the hoopla of welcoming new members, and while congress was saying they didn't have time to pass more than a partial aid package to victims of Hurricane Sandy, they did find time to extend a tax break to owners of auto racetracks which will primarily benefit Nascar.  

what eye thynk:   What happened to those campaign promises to fix the deficit and balance the budget by closing all those tax break loopholes?  Are we really supposed to believe that Nascar will go out of business if  forced to pay its full and fair tax burden?

At the same time, Congress struggled to pass a partial, (and shamefully overdue), aid package for New York and New Jersey.  Republicans are calling for equal spending cuts to cover any additional aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. 

I'm sure that there are more than a few Nascar fans among those made homeless by Hurricane Sandy; but, given the choice between funding to rebuild their homes or financing their favorite sport, their choice for priority status would seem plain.

If only Congress could see as clearly.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7 - Monday Quote

Personally, I like to save my genius moment for the end of the me something to look forward to.

monday quote:  Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together. (Georg C. Lichtenberg, scientist, 1742-1799)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Quick Fact(s) - Not Everyone Votes for Boehner and Republicans Want Their Leaders to be More Confrontational

1.   John Boehner was re-elected to serve as Speaker of the House this week by a vote of 220 to 192. He needed the final votes to get the win after 12 Republicans refused to vote for him. Ted Yoho of Florida said he voted for Mr. Cantor to “send a statement”. Steve Stockman of Texas voted “present” rather than make a commitment to anyone and Mick Mulvaney of So. Carolina stood in the back of the House chamber staring into empty space and refused to vote at all.

Mr. Yoho…and your statement would be what?--that you’re going to vote against everything? Haven’t we been through this before?
Mr. Stockman…publicly stating that you have no opinion will surely warm the hearts of those who voted for you.
And finally, Mr. Mulvaney…staring blankly into space as your state is called to register a vote--now that’s leadership your home state can be proud of.

2.   After the House voted to retain Mr. Boehner as Speaker and the Senate again chose Mitch McConnell as minority leader, the two men met with their fellow Republicans where they were greeted with complaints that neither leader had been “sufficiently confrontational with Mr. Obama”.

What? In what universe did these people pass the past four years? Maybe they all spent them staring blankly into empty air like Mr. Mulvaney, because that’s the only reason I can think of for not noticing that the last Congress was the most contentious and non-productive in U.S. history.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Looking Forward

LOOKING FORWARD, by Gail Collins --

Gail Collins offers a tongue-in-cheek look at our congressional circus, past and future.

  • Ms. Collins takes a look at the old Congress:

"...Disaster relief joined a long list of bills that the 112th Congress could not get its act together to approve, along with reforming the farm subsidies and rescuing the Postal Service. Those particular pieces of legislation were all written and passed by the Senate, a group that’s generally less proactive than a mummy.

Ah, the House. To be fair, it takes a lot of effort to vote to repeal Obamacare 33 times..."

  • She looks forward to the new Congress:
"Right now you are probably asking yourself: Will the new Congress being sworn in this week work any better than the last one?

There’s always a chance. Because, you know, it’s new. Also, the bar is low...

...On the plus side, the proportion of political nut jobs may be a little lower. Representative Allen West of Florida, who once called President Obama “a low-level socialist agitator,” is, many recounts later, a member no more. Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois was defeated by Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran who lost both legs in Iraq and who Walsh claimed was not one of “our true heroes.” Walsh was also an excellent reminder of an important rule in American politics: refrain from criticizing the other party for fiscal irresponsibility until you can work out a resolution of that child support issue."

  • And she points out an intriguing possibility in South Carolina's special election to replace the departing Senator DeMint:

"...Right now one of the possible candidates is Mark Sanford, the governor who we all remember for flying to Argentina for an assignation with his lover while his staff claimed he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Another much-discussed potential contender is Jenny Sanford, former wife of the above. People, while you are praying for a safe, sane and peaceful new year, I want you to make a small exception and pray that Jenny and Mark Sanford run against each other."

Gail Collins.  Gotta love her.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Eye Recommend --- House G.O.P. Lets Violence Against Women Act Passed by Senate Die Without a Vote


"Despite a late-stage intervention by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate's 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, an embattled bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women...

...In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven. Instead, they passed their own VAWA bill without the additional protections. In recent weeks, however, even some House Republicans who voted for the pared-down House bill have said they would now support the broader Senate bill -- and predicted it would pass if Republican leaders let it come to the floor for a vote."

No, Mr. Cantor, we don't understand.   Neither do we understand why Speaker Boehner would refuse to bring it to the floor of the House for a vote.

The VAWA was originally passed in 1994 with unanimous bi-partisan support. It was renewed in 2000 and 2005 with over-whelming bi-partisan support.  What your anti-VAWA stand tells us is that in 2012/13 you value politics over people--that you think abuse is okay if it is perpetrated against a same-sex partner, an illegal alien or an Native American--and that position is simply incomprehensible.

I originally addressed this issue in March of last year. You can read it here:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Averted, but Hurricane Sandy Victims Not So Lucky

Late yesterday, the House of Representatives finally voted to stop the country from sliding down the fiscal cliff. (More budgetary fireworks to follow.)

However, Boehner decided not to allow a vote on the Hurricane Sandy relief package which was passed by the Senate on December 28 with a vote of 62-32.  Several members of the House of Representatives, (both Republican and Democrat), took to the floor on Tuesday to plead for a vote on this necessary aid package.  Boehner chose to ignore them and push the issue onto the new congress which will be sworn in on Thursday.  With a new congress, the Senate's bill is dead and this whole process must begin again from step one.

what eye thynk:    So, after they're done congratulating themselves on their new/continued status as members of the U.S. House of Representatives, after Boehner is done schmoozing for votes to keep his Speaker status, then the people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy might get some consideration? 

Politics as usual over people in need.  Shameful.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year - Start with Being Thankful!

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !!!

what eye thynk:  2013 is only hours old and already I've found something to be thankful for!