Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tea Party Treason?

WordNet Dictionary defines treason as:  A crime that undermines the offender's government.  Disloyalty by subversive behavior.
"The Economist", a widely respected "outside" voice, reports "the Federal government now has to borrow about 40 cents of every dollar it spends.  A prolonged inability to meet 40% of its obligations would sow economic disarray, trigger litigation, and raise doubts about its ability to meet any obligations."
Closer to home, New York's Sen. Charles Schumer cites projected August revenues of $172 billion and obligations of $307 billion.  This means that huge areas of government spending would go unfunded and we'd be faced with impossible choices.  "If we fully pay Social Security, Medicare, the troops, and interest on the debt, you'd have no one guarding our borders, inspecting our food, or manning the air traffic control towers.  America would come to a grinding halt."
Tea Party leaders in the House of Representatives such as Bachmann, Jordan, and Buerlke have opposed all efforts to arrive at a reasonable compromise which would significantly deal with the debt ceiling and debt reduction.  In their extremist zeal they've even voiced their opposition to John Boehner's recent non-starter of a proposal.  They openly advocate in favor of defaulting, consequences be damned.  If the Tea Party prevails, the country faces grave financial harm, and as defined above, I would maintain their actions constitute treason.  In the name of their extremist agenda, they're apparently more than willing to see their fellow citizens suffer.  Disgraceful, to say the least.  Is it also criminal?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

John Boehner's True Colors

True colors.  That's what John Boehner has been so clearly revealing these past few days.  It's a complicated pallet, to say the least.  For example, which color would one choose to illustrate his complete aquiescence to big business interests and the wealthy elite?  On the other hand, yellow stripes seem to be the popular choice to represent cowardice; Boehner has repeatedly demonstrated political cowardice in dealing with the big, bad, and uncompromisingly crazy Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives.  Perhaps a blank canvas best captures his vascillation and indecision; one minute he's thinking he might possibly owe something to the country that's given him everything, the next he's paralyzed by the inability to decide to stand up to the aforementioned TP.  Then there's duplicity.  First he feigns good will and the appearance of being willing to negotiate seriously with the President, then he abruptly turns and walks away when he hears the distant siren calls of Eric Cantor, Rush Limbaugh, and countless other reckless practitioners of demagoguery.  This duplicity would best be captured by weak yet contrasting tones.  Finally, egoism.  What ultimately matters to Boehner is what's best for our perfectly tanned and impeccably well-groomed Boehner.  Nothing else matters in the end.  Color branding once again brings us back to yellow to represent egoism.
John Boehner still has the opportunity to step up to the plate and show us heroic colors.  Stand with the policeman, not the big oil boss; with the nurse, not the millionaire hedge fund operator; with the teacher, not the billionaire bankers.  Keep it simple, Mr. Speaker, all that's required is for you to support closing existing tax loopholes, raise the corporate tax rate to a reasonable level, and bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan ("mission accomplished").  Please do what's right and choose new colors, Mr. Boehner.  Carefully.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Debt Ceiling Talk and the Assault on Common Sense

In the political stalemate surrounding the budget talks and the decision as to whether or not the debt ceiling will be raised, it seems as though common sense has been dragged to a back alley and been beaten senseless.
Before demanding cuts in Social Security, Headstart, and Pell Grants, why not take a step back from the cliff and logically review the financial status quo?
There's an inherent lack of fairness in our tax system that urgently needs to be addressed. How is it possible, for example, that Exxon-Mobil turned a $19 billion profit in 2009, and received a $156 million tax rebate from the IRS? Citigroup, in addition to receiving $45 billion in bailout funds (not to mention the federal government agreeing to absorb potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in losses on "toxic assests") turned a $4 billion profit, and paid no tax. These are but two examples from a very long list of corporations that are not only avoiding paying any federal income taxes, they're actually receiving huge refund checks from the IRS!
No one is arguing that our budget woes could, or should, be solved on the backs of these large corporations, but conversely we're all in this together, and fairness ought to have a place at the table. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates $210 billion in revenue would become available by closing off-shore tax havens. Another $23 billion would be generated by making sure hidden profits made by hedge fund and private equity managers are accounted for. There's not an ounce of common sense in the fact that millionaire hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than teachers or police officers.
There's not an ounce of common sense in allowing corporations that shift hundreds of billions of dollars overseas every year to shift their tax burdens (responsibilities) to the rest of us.
Accorting to The Big Picture, corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenue were 27.3% in 1955, as opposed to 8.9% now. With government increasingly "off their backs", one wonders what's happened to all that additional revenue? It doesn't appear to have been funneled into job creation!
Just as we can't afford not to raise the debt ceiling (defaulting on our obligations = soaring interest rates), it makes no sense not to include sensible revenue enhancements (raising taxes) as a key component in tackling our financial crisis. Close loopholes, raise the tax on corporations (albeit slightly), and ask those who are currently earning millions of dollars to pay their fair share. And, just in case common sense is still a viable option, how about bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan? As of 12:58 p.m. EST, the cost of these wars was $1,223,006,125.00 and growing

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thug On the Run: Breitbart @ NetRoots Nation

Politico recently reported on Andrew Breitbart's attempt to crash the Netroots Nation gathering in Minneapolis. Fresh from his grandstanding at Rep. Anthony Weiner's resignation, Breitbart apparently arrived with camera crew in tow, believing his arrival carried with it some sort of messianic level of importance that had best be documented. Unfortunately for him, he was barred from the conference hall, so most of those in attendance never realized he was there. The few who had the dubious pleasure of encountering him in the lobby immediately surrounded him, questioning his lack of credentials--documenting this showdown with their own cameras. Mr. Breitbart, who normally delights in being the center of attention, turned tail and quickly retreated--a thug on the run.
For those unfamiliar with Mr. Breitbart, and I suspect the ranks are legion, here are a few career highlights, courtesy of Wikipedia.
A devotee of muckracking journalist Matt Drudge, Breitbart has written several books on the usual right wing targets (the media, Hollywood) and frequently appeared on Fox News (surprise!). In the hours following Ted Kennedy's death, Breitbart demonstrated class and empathy when he apparently referred to the late Senator as "a special pile of human excrement" and "a prick".
Breitbart played a supporting role in the 2009 ACORN video sting, but his greatest claim to fame, or infamy, was his character assassination of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod in 2010. Taking two short video excerpts entirely out of context (from a forty minute speech), he cost Sherrod her job and her good name. After an initial feeding frenzy, the truth won out, but the damage had been done. Bad news will always capture the headlines, while follow-up corrections are lucky to make page 38. Breitbart never issued an apology, though it's comforting to know Ms. Sherrod filed a dfamation suit against him in 2011.
There are already too many polarizing voices in out nation's political discourse; we don't need Andrew Breitbart causing additional wounds and creating deeper divisions. Show some decency, Mr. Breitbart, and keep quiet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rick Perry for President? Really?

In the midst of a national frenzy surrounding the Casey Anthony verdict, the state of Texas executed a Mexican national, Humberto Leal Garcia. No one disputes or denies the viciousness behind his brutal rape and murder of a 16 year old girl in 1994. However, Mr. Garcia was never granted his legal right to contact the Mexican Embassy, and his execution took place in spite of appeals from the President, the State Department, the United Nations, and the Vatican (among others). Texas Governor Rick Perry, rumored to be considering a run for President, apparently felt his "tough guy" stance might prove politically expedient.
It makes you wonder what he might do in the case of a man who was actually innocent.
Oh wait...
In 2004 Perry oversaw the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who had been convicted for the alleged arson murder of his three young children. Except, the evidence used to convict Willingham is now universally regarded as having been the product of shoddy science and obsolete investigation techniques.
This developing consensus was brought to Perry's attention before the execution, but he simply chose to ignore the facts. Willingham, naturally (and quite correctly), maintained his innocence right up until his execution on 2/17/04. Not only had Perry denied motions for clemency, he subsequently responded to a question as to whether or not he'd executed an innocent man by flippantly stating "he was a wife beater". Perry has consistently done his best to thwart any investigation into the truth of the matter. In fact, he went so far as to remove three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission days before that body was set to meet in order to discuss a report that cast serious doubt on the evidence used to forever silence Willingham. That meeting never took place.
Governor Perry's arrogance and indifference have somehow played well in Texas; hopefully he'll receive a much different reception elsewhere.
It's seven years too late, but Cameron Todd Willingham's voice deserves to be heard.
Rick Perry for President??? Really?

Abandon City

"Abandon City" was a song recorded by Todd Rundgren & Utopia in 1977. It describes an overwhelming urban chaos and the desire to escape it ("everybody over the side"). The state of mind engendered by that song is one I'm occasionally very familiar with when it comes to politics in these "United "States. The anger and divisiveness of the political discourse leads to paralysis, and eventually apathy in my case. I feel an overwhelming sense that "no one really listens to one another", so "what's the point?". Then, of course, things only get worse out there!

So, while still attempting to remain as level-headed and even-handed as one can reasonably expect, it feels as though it's time to resume my own end of the ongoing national dialogue. We all have a part in that dialogue, whether we choose to participate or not. Each of us has a voice, and I'll use this forum as a way of exercising mine--even if no one else will ever read it! Much like jotting down the "pros" and "cons" of a given situation, this is my opportunity to look at the facts, make a point, or simply vent.

I suspect it's time for me to focus on a different Rundgren lyric: "somehow, someday, give us just one victory and we're on our way".