Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who Will it Be Tonight? Mitt or Rick?

Tonight Republican primary voters (and if you believe the political punditry, some mischievous Democrats) will go to the polls in Michigan and make their selections for the Republican nominee for president.  The outcome of this primary will be significant.  Who will Michiganders select?  The technocrat who seems so distanced from the the general voter that a vote for him (Romney) will be a vote cast with an attitude of "well, he's not who I want but he's the only one with a chance against Obama"?  Or, will the social conservative who in great adolescent fashion describes a speech by JFK as one that "makes me want to throw up"? 

Personally,  either way this goes in my view doesn't help the GOP.  Romney or Santorum will win this primary.  How does it help the Republicans in the general election?  It doesn't in my opinion.  If it is Romney, the GOP will have a flawed candidate who cannot relate to the common person who will cast his or her vote in November.  If it is Santorum, then the GOP establishment will go into full panic mode, as they do not want a candidate who can seemingly only castigate everyone but his narrow group of people who like home-schooling, no birth control, and a nation who support his view of theocracy for the country.  The GOP in general is distancing itself from Santorum as fast as possible.  This week, Mr. Santorum decided to add fuel to his already blazing inferno of political idiocy by decrying President Obama as a "snob" for wanting kids to go to college.  He suggests that President Obama wants our kids to go to college to be "indoctrinated" into some left-wing, secular philosophy that rejects faith and in general Mr. Santorum's view of how America should behave as a nation.  The National Governors Association meeting in Washington has given several Republican Governors a soap-box to distance themselves from Santorum and, surprisingly, support President Obama on this issue.

Should Romney pull this primary out, he is still by no means the Republican nominee.  If he wins, he needs to gather his advisers and have a serious conversation of how he can transform himself from a plastic, patrician, rich-guy into someone the general population can actually relate to.  Ridiculous comments like "I like Michigan, the trees are the right height", and "I drive American Made cars, I have a Chevy Pickup, a Mustang and my wife drives a couple of Cadillacs".  A couple of Cadillacs.  That really relates to the guy who is driving the 10 year old Ford Taurus with 150k miles on it and has to put oil in the engine every other time he stops to fill up for gas.  Romney is so out of touch with the common person in this country that he makes George H. W. Bush look like Huey Long.  He has to get some level of empathy and understanding of the family who has both the mom and dad working, living paycheck to paycheck and saving a paltry 5-10% of their money on the hopes,  the hopes of being able to send one of their 2.5 kids to a state university or community college.  If he cannot make this change, he's lost 70% of the electorate.    And, he will have very little chance of winning the nomination if he doesn't win Michigan.  Super Tuesday comes next, with the Southern States being the majority of the primaries to be contested.  Should Romney lose Michigan, he stands little chance of garnering enough delegates during Super Tuesday to close Santorum out, who will likely split the vote between himself and Gingrich.

The GOP establishment is most likely on conference calls all day today and tomorrow considering various scenarios where they can get Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels or some-body else, anybody else but these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to be their standard bearer come the Tampa Convention.

To be sure,  the Obama camp cannot mistake the monumental SNAFU the GOP currently finds itself in as a guaranty for a win in November.  There are many, many things that can derail the President's re-election and he and his team must be focused and energetic on his efforts to keep his job.

It is amazing how $5.00 a gallon gasoline can change people's opinion at the polls.

So who is it going to be tonight?  Romney or Santorum?




Tell me what you think,


Regards,
Dennis

Friday, February 24, 2012

History Teaches Us Nothing

"There is no present or future, only the past happening over and over again, now." - Eugene O'Neill

President Obama sent a letter to Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan apologizing for the inadvertent destruction of several copies of the Koran at a US Airbase.  The destruction and the subsequent violence that has ensued as a result has once again brought a war that many of us have either forgotten about or at the very least give little thought about back into our consciousness.  Of course, this being the silly season of presidential elections, the opposition party couldn't wait to deride the President for his action of apology.  Mr. Gingrich, first out of the chute on this said: "There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama's attention in a negative way and he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States period,"

Of course, that is nonsense.  It is classic misdirection from Mr. Gingrich. President Obama apologized for the incident because it was the right thing to do, not because he was attempting to appease anyone. If someone makes a mistake, apology is the correct response, not belligerence. You get nowhere suggesting that "because they are who they are, no apology is necessary". Hubris never succeeds, it only inflames and instigates more trouble. The act of apology is correct and mature. It harms the US not one bit, and to suggest this shows weakness is preposterous.

But the point of this post is not the political aspect of Afghanistan.  What I'd like to discuss is our lack of collective memory.  We seem to have forgotten the lessons of Vietnam.  We seem to have forgotten the idea that perpetual war is not a good idea for anyone.

We've been in Afghanistan militarily since October of 2001.  We are going on 11 years this October in a conflict that doesn't seem to end and our presence there doesn't seem to improve the situation one bit.  Since the invasion,  we've lost over 1900 US soldiers and another 1000 coalition forces.   Civilian deaths amount to about 17,000 lost directly or indirectly as a result of the war, with over 2 million people displaced from our homes. 

The President has direct a policy for troop draw down to end combat operations by 2014, and to have between 20 and 30 thousand troops removed from Afghanistan by September of 2012.  So,  if everything goes to plan, we should see our men and women home and out of combat in about two years.  That would make our engagement in Afghanistan a 13 year affair, longer than any other combat operation in American history.   Vietnam was essentially a 10 year war with major escalations by LBJ in 1965 and the last of the US forces leaving Saigon in 1975.

We can look back on the Vietnam experience and pull a few lessons from it. 

First,   fighting an idea is difficult.  We committed soldiers to Vietnam in order to "contain" communism.  We were all taught in our civics classes about the "domino effect", that if one country fell to communism, then all the surrounding countries would soon go that way and it would be a major threat to America.  So, we committed thousands of lives and billions of dollars to the cause.  60 thousand US Soldiers dead, hundreds of thousands wounded, over 3 million Vietnamese dead, and what happened?  Vietnam fell to the communists.   Did communism spread over the globe and destroy the American way of life? I think the evidence suggests otherwise  Was it worth it?  I think most people say no. .

Now we have Afghanistan.  To be sure, we have lost significantly fewer people but I question the sanity of a long-term invasion force over a people that have never been conquered.  As far back as Alexander, nations have attempted to conquer and control Afghanistan but have never succeeded.  The reasons for this are many, but one particular reason is the diversity of control.  Afghanistan has no cohesive governance. It is a country of tribes. Pashtuns and Tajiks are the dominant ethnic presence in the region with many other tribal communities headed up by elders versus any form of formal governance.  The people are fierce in their defense of their lands.   

Our cause in Afghanistan is pretty myopic.  Ostensibly we are at war with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  The people in this country are much more than radical Islamists and terrorists.  They are very much people of the land and tribe.  If you harm a member of the tribe, regardless of reason, you have made an enemy.  If you need proof, simply read some of the journals of soldiers from the former Soviet Union who were part of that failed conquest. 

The problem that Afghanistan presents is the same problem that Vietnam presented to President's Johnson and Nixon.  They were stuck in the notion that if they ended hostilities too soon, then communism would take over and spread like wild-fire.  Conversely, the war inhibited their abilities to focus on matters at home.  LBJ's War on Poverty and the internal domestic programs and achievements were overshadowed by the War to the point that Johnson, who only a few years earlier won a landslide election against Barry Goldwater, realized he probably couldn't win a second term and decided to retire, giving us Richard M. Nixon.

Today,  President Obama has much the same issue.  We are spending vast amounts of our money and blood fighting a war that seems to be so out of touch with reasons we went there in the first place.  Al Qaeda is not isolated to Afghanistan.  They have presence in over 60 countries in the world and we see both Somalia and Nigeria starting to be base camps for Al Qaeda operations and influence.   Focusing so much energy in Afghanistan when it is clear they will not be launching attacks against the West from there is a mis-guided view in my opinion.  We need to draw down rapidly and get our people home.  As to what happens to Afghanistan when we leave, it's pretty safe to say the same thing that happened when the last invasion force left.  They will grow their opium, fight amongst themselves,  keep to a radically conservative religious theocracy, launch some trouble into and around Pakistan and life will go on.

We have committed ourselves as a nation to go after terrorists.  We should continue to do that and not get mired in a long-term occupation with countries who do not want us there.  We will never win these people's hearts and minds, so we need to get out of their countries. 

It is however time to come home from Kabul and Kandahar,  we aren't wanted and our presence is not making things better there.

Tell me what you think,


Regards,
Dennis

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Enough

Huge sigh. 

I really, really don't like writing about religion and politics.  There's something very off-putting to me on the topic, but here I go nonetheless.  Yesterday,  evangelical pastor Franklin Graham, son of probably the best known evangelical pastor, Billy Graham was on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC.  Several discussions around religion and faith ensued but the thing that has nudged me to write this article is the comment that Mr. Graham made about Obama being a "son of Islam".   To be clear, what Mr. Graham was saying was that in Islamic tradition, if your father was Muslim, then you are Muslim.  This is similar to Jewish tradition that if the mother is Jewish, then so is the child.  Mr. Graham was also factually wrong by the way, though it never seems to bother the media conducting the interview.  Mr. Graham said Obama's great grandfather, grandfather and father were Muslim.  Actually, Obama's grandfather was a Christian and converted to Islam. His father indeed was a Muslim, but his mother was not.  Graham went further to say that no one could really know whether one is a Christian or not because that was between God and the individual.  He said, that "the president's said he's a Christian, so I take him at his word".   When the interviewer asked Graham if he thought Rick Santorum was a Christian, he said yes, because of the values he has.  He didn't apply the same waffling "maybe" rule to Santorum that he did Obama.  Additionally, when asked if Romney was a Christian, Graham said Romney is a Mormon and most Christians don't accept Mormonism as legitimate Christianity.  

OK, back to the issue on Obama being a "son of Islam".  Graham also said that Obama has given a "free pass to Islam", and is not doing enough to protect Christian minorities in places like Egypt, where the Arab Spring has swept more fundamentalist Muslims into power.  Christians are indeed being persecuted in Egypt.  Graham feels like Obama is not doing enough.  So, the "code" here folks is something like, "well, he says he's a Christian, but just look at what he is doing.  He's soft on Islam and ignoring the plight of the Christians.  Perhaps he's not so much of a Christian after all!"

Again, Mr. Graham has his facts wrong.  These alleged representatives of God are idiots, and I've had it up to here with them inserting themselves and their nonsense into politics.  I have had enough of Santorum saying "Satan is at war with the United States".  I've had enough of Newt Gingrich saying Obama has launched a war against Christianity.  I've had enough of charlatans like Franklin Graham suggesting, even subtly that the President is "not who he says he is".   

There is no place for religion in politics.   Religion is about the laws of God.  Politics are about the laws of Man.  When you mix the two very bad things can happen.   Besides,  this country was established as a secular country.  We have codified that protection for people to worship in their faiths.  It is a protected right established in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  We have said there will be no "state church", in other words, we will not as a society establish a religion.  We have in our legal writings said that we are not a "Christian" nation as evidenced by the Treaty of Tripoli signed in 1796 by John Adams that: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

So, as it pertains to our framework as a society, we are secular.  As to our politics, we know religion often plays into the discussion of who we want to elect to office.  Just within Presidential politics, this has come up over and over again.  Al Smith, former governor of New York was a Catholic. He was the Democratic nominee for President against Herbert Hoover.  Did the topic of Smith's Catholicism come up during the campaign?  You bet it did.  Back then, the Catholics were considered to be "Agents of the Vatican" and therefore couldn't be trusted with the highest office in the land.  It came up again in 1960, when John Kennedy had to make a speech basically saying that he wouldn't be influenced by the Pope.  It has come up time and again with Obama, whose opponents are gleefully throwing out questions on his origins of birth, which faith he really subscribes to, and pretty much anything else they can to try and discredit the man.

However, none of this should be tolerated.  It is essentially against the law to use religion as a basis for electing or not electing our representatives and leaders to office.  How do I know?  Well, anyone who took Civics in high school should know this, but basically because the foundational document governing this nation says so. 

Article VI section 3 of the United States Constitution says very clearly:

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

There you have it.  In red and white.  A strict prohibition against using religion as a test for elective office.  I wonder if Reverend Graham has ever read this?  I wonder if any of the people who rail from the pulpits on Sunday have read this?  It certainly seems like they haven't.

By the way,  the Oath of Office of the Presidency of the United States has nothing whatsoever about being "The Defender of the Faith" in it.  So Obama doesn't have any responsibility to "protect" any single religion, he has a responsibility to protect all religions within this country given the requirements in the 1st Amendement.   He has no responsibility to protect religion outside of the boundaries of this nation.

OK,  here's where I usually say I don't give a care about who or what anyone believes in and who they worship.  Not today. I'm sick to death of these holier than thou ministers and politicians using religion as a wedge issue.  I'm sick to death of some people in this country believing they are better than others because they are Christian or Muslim or Wiccan or Buddhist or Mormon or whatever the hell they believe.   It is long past time we threw religion in the dustbin of history or at the very least put in its rightful place with the rest of the fairy tales, Grimm and otherwise.  Enough already.


Tell me what you think,


Regards,
Dennis

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can't Buy Me Love

Click the link on the title to this post and you'll be taken to an article reporting on the state of affairs in the GOP nomination race from a fund raising perspective.  With apologies to the Beatles, Mitt is finding out that "Money can't buy me love".   

Conventional wisdom has told us for some time that Willard Mitt Romney, erstwhile presidential candidate, was the inevitable nominee for the Republicans this time around.  He paid his dues, got in line and had a monumental amount of money and good will when he got started on this campaign many months (seems years) ago.   

Well, a few of things have changed.  The first one being that people have finally gotten to know Mitt Romney and don't like what they are learning about the guy.  Oh, he looks like a president.  He has businessman chops and he's reminded us over and over again that he knows how business and the economy works, and buy gosh he can fix all those nasty problems that President Obama has caused.  He has a lot of money, and he has a great organization.   He's next in line as well.  One thing about the Republicans, they respect tradition.  Usually, it is the guy who lost the last time around that gets the nod for the nomination.  This goes as far back as Reagan, who lost to Ford in 1976, then became the nominee in 1980.  George Herbert Walker Bush lost to Reagan in 1980, then won the nomination in 1988, and so on.  So, it's not surprising that they would look to Mitt as the potential standard bearer.   

The other thing that has happened is that the more Mitt talks, the more trouble he gets into with his groupies.  It's like when we were in high school, and from afar the great looking girl or guy that we wanted to go out with look so terrific, until you finally get the date with them and find out they are either stupid or mean or both.  The let down is pretty significant.  I think this is what the GOP is learning about their crush on Mitt.  He's not "All that and a bag of chips".  From the story of strapping his dog on the roof of his car, to his ridiculous comments about firing people, to his revolving door of positions he takes on issues, to his wooden interaction with people at large.  They are just not into him.

Mitt's spent millions of dollars attempting to get the GOP's love.  He spent $18M in January while only bringing in $6M.  That $18M won him two primaries: New Hampshire and Florida.  He is polling behind Rick Santorum in his "home state" of Michigan.  Rick SantorumWho would have thought Mitt Romney would be in a dead tie on Primaries (4 for 4) with Rick Santorum, a man who's views on social issues make even some of the most puritanical in this country say "Hey, Rick, lighten up man"?

What's certain in this election cycle is that money will rain from the sky as we have seen the influence of the Super Pacs already bombarding the GOP primaries with cash.  Santorum and Gingrich would have been gone a long time ago without the likes of Sheldon Addelson or Foster Friess, who between the two of them have pumped about $20M into Santorum's and Gingrich's campaigns through their Super Pac donations.  What is also certain is that this nomination process is far from over.  Both Gingrich and Santorum have enough cash to stay in the raise and Gingrich at least has not been quiet about the fact that he's in it to Tampa (meaning the convention).  Ron Paul's supporters are still there and he will as well along with Mitt, Rick and Newt.

Who will be the candidates for President in the general election?  The only one we know for sure is President Obama.  As to the GOP, for the first time in my life, we may see a brokered convention.  Wouldn't that be interesting?  Who might emerge from that?  Jeb Bush perhaps?  Chris Christie? 

Money is not everything in politics as Mitt is finding out.  There has to be some substance to the candidate that the money is supporting.  So far, all the candidates for the GOP nomination are in pretty good shape financially.  They are also so flawed politically as candidates that it seems like if any of this crowd gets the nomination and the economy stays in recovery that President Obama would be reelected rather easily.  But,  as anyone knows, stranger things have happened.  After all, we elected George W. Bush twice.

Tell me what you think,


regards,
Dennis

Friday, February 17, 2012

Render Unto Caesar

During my morning run to Starbucks, I was listening to an interview on a news radio station between two pastors in Maryland regarding their views on pending legislation regarding same sex marriage.  One of the pastors (both were protestant and both were African American as a point of disclosure) was in favor of marriage/civil unions and the other was not.

The pastor who was opposed to the legislation granting marriage equality took an ecclesiastical stance relative to his position and indicated that marriage was between a man and a woman as a dictate by God according to scripture.  He felt that he as a representative of God was committed to 'teach' God's message and that while he certainly had compassion for gays who wanted to marry, it was expressly prohibited by scripture.

The other pastor took a more secular view of the discussion and framed his support of the legislation on the position of equal liberty.  His view was that rights afforded to some of us should be afforded to all of us. 

Each pastor was sincere, both of them claimed that the love and grace of Jesus Christ formed their opinions on the matter.  So, why such diverging opinion on the topic?  We're not talking about nuanced differences such as one being opposed to sectarian marriage but supporting civil unions, we are talking about polar opposite opinion.   Now, the pro-marriage equality never mentioned scripture as a basis of his position, he was just as staunch in his belief that it was his faith that got him to where he was on the topic.

The one other point that I would make from the interview is that the anti-marriage equality pastor indicated in his discussion that democracy went hand in hand with theocracy, in that our rights to be democratic were given to us by God, therefore you can't separate the two.  Oh, boy. 

So, as I was sipping my Grande Coffee I started thinking about the topic of separation of church and state, and scriptural commandment, ostensibly given to us from God.

I need to disclose here from what perspective I write this next segment of the post, because there will be bias in it.  I am not a Christian.  I was raised a Christian in a Southern Baptist Church, and when I was 13 professed my faith and was baptized.  However, it was a false conversion.  I realized shortly after my profession of faith I had serious trouble with the Christian doctrine and even more problem with the idea that there was one "correct religion or faith".    So, I'm an agnostic.  I don't say I'm an atheist, because atheists are devout in their disbelief.  I cannot prove that God doesnt' exist, nor can I prove that God does exist, so I'm a skeptic and an non-believer. 

Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about the point of this post, which is separation of church and state.  Our aforementioned pastors, both admirable men who seemingly are full of compassion and care about their flock and this country very much are diametrically opposed in their positions on marriage equality.  One used scripture as his basis of opposition.  The other, pro-marriage equality, while not citing scripture to support his position basically said that this is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of societal liberty. 

Who is right?  Well, it obviously depends upon your perspective.   If, however you look to the Bible to find direction on the topic, sadly you will walk away confused.  The most famous prohibition against homosexuality is found in Leviticus 18:22, that says "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is an abomination.  Defile not yourselves in any of these things."  Other admonitions, essentially of the same message, can be found in Deuteronomy, Kings, Romans and Hebrews.  So, it is easy to see how the "anti-marriage equality" can make his case for biblical prohibition.  

On the other hand,  the "pro-marriage equality" pastor, while not citing specific scripture, could have just as easily supported his secular separation argument by saying as Jesus allegedly did in  Mark 12:17, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's".  To follow up, after the inevitable argument that Jesus was referring to taxes in that verse, he could have come back with Luke 6:31 where Jesus said:  "Do unto others as you would have them do to you".

Both men are genuine in their beliefs and thoughts that God is guiding them through their lives and helping them to preach his word to their flocks.  Both of them have completely different points of view on what God is saying on this topic.   This is the danger of mixing religion with government.  Commands issued by a god, whether a Christian one or not, should not be the primary driver of our societal rules we codify into law.  The reasons for that are many, but most importantly you have to decide which God's rules will be codified.  The example above shows that even Christians have stark differences in determining what is and what is not God's law.

Marriage equality laws are progressing rapidly across the country.  There are now 8 states that have passed them whereas 10 years ago there were none.  Society is evolving in our perspective on same sex marriage or unions and I believe eventually the issue will die as marriage equality will be the law of the land.  I think this is a good thing in the main, because like the laws banning inter-racial marriage that were on many state's books just 50 years ago, these laws banning same sex unions are based on fear and some view of what "normal" is.  We know, and have known for some time that same sex couples can be just as committed and loving to their partners as heterosexuals.  We also know, as evidenced by the facts that same sex marriages is not a danger to traditional marriage or the country at large.    The Republic still stands long after Vermont voted in favor of Civil Unions almost 10 years ago. 

I believe what is more threatening to the country is a small group of people so sure they are right in what society should look like and they base this on traditions tied to a specific deity, that they will do almost anything to keep us from progressing forward out of this folly that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry or have civil unions.  Need an example?  I give you Westboro Baptist Church. These people, claiming to be Christian have the temerity to show up at military funerals and hold up signs like this moron is doing because they believe our tolerance of gays is causing soldiers to die.

Well,  I think most people would think this is an aberration of the Christian faith. It certinaly was not what I was taught, and if I was still a believer I would have a massive problem with the idea that God is killing anyone because we are tolerant of gays.  But, (there's always a but right?) remember, that it was only a 150 or so years ago that "The Christian Church", or some members of them, thought there was biblical sanction and support for owning slaves.  The irony of the fact that the two pastors speaking about a civil rights issue such as marriage equality were both African American was significant.

I have no problem with people believing what they want to believe. I have severe problems if they attempt to enforce those beliefs on me, my children or my country at large.  We need to be a country, devout in our various religious beliefs or lack thereof, but just as faithful to the Constitution and our secular precepts that we should be working for all of us for "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

Render unto Caesar, indeed.

Tell me what you think,

regards,
Dennis

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The GOP Really Wants Limited Government?

 Meet State Representative Kim Pearson from the great state of Iowa.  Kim is a Republican legislator who has recently introduced a bill into the Iowa House of Representatives that  would completely outlaw abortion and mandate up to life in prison for those who purposefully terminate a pregnancy.  The legislation introduced is a total ban. Yes, a total ban on abortion that prohibits anyone from terminating a pregnancy even if it is a result of rape, incest, or get this, even if the mother's life is in danger from the pregnancy.   Penalties could result in life imprisonment for those performing the abortion procedure.

In Oklahoma, a bill is moving it's way through the state legislature that declares embryos and fetuses "persons" with all rights  privileges and immunities associated with other citizens.

In the state of Virginia, another bill attempting to declare "personhood" for embryos and fetuses is making its way through the legislature. The Republican governor of the state, Bob McDonnell has indicated his support for the measure.  This bill,  which also includes a provision that should a woman desire to terminate a pregnancy, the doctor must do an ultrasound that involves an "trans-vaginal" (meaning internal examination) ultrasound because external ultrasounds in early stages of pregnancies cannot show an image of the fetus is one of the more restrictive measures being considered in the country today. 

In some 12 other states in the country, some semblance of personhood bills or much tighter restrictions on abortion rights are being considered.
Rick Santorum, current front runner for the Republican presidential nomination is a well known advocate of outlawing abortion and has stated on the record that contraception "is wrong" and that states should be allowed to ban the sale of contraceptives.

The common thread coming from all of these examples is that the legislation that is being offered for consideration within the state houses and of course the views from most of the current crop of presidential candidates excluding the President himself is that they are all coming from Republicans.  Republicans, the party of limited governmentThe GOP has since the days of Barry Goldwater has been espousing government getting off the backs of the people.  President Reagan once famously said "Government is not the solution to our problem, Government is the Problem".

The hypocrisy of the GOP is astounding to me on this issue.  They continually bleat on and on about government overreach yet are doing everything they possibly can to insert the government into one of the most personal decisions a citizen in this country has to make: To decide whether or not to have a child.

This isn't anything new. The movement to quell or eliminate women's rights to avoid pregnancy or to terminate a pregnancy has been in full force for decades.  We've seen erosion of the right to privacy for women that was affirmed in the Roe v. Wade decision from almost the moment the Supreme Court delivered their opinion in 1973 in that landmark case.  What's newsworthy in my view on this is the bold-faced stance the GOP takes over its usual mantra of "personal responsibility" ethos and again the desire to "keep government off our backs."

Republicans supporting this type of intrusion into women's reproductive matters is one of the more odious and insidious invasions of privacy that we've ever experienced.  To me, the message is simply anti-woman and suggest that women aren't intelligent enough to make the right decisions on the issue. That is why I am bewildered why Ms. Pearson, presumably a woman,  would suggest that the government is better suited to make decisions regarding her health. I cannot imagine why any women would support a party that decides it is OK that the government will be the arbiter of whether or not they can avoid or terminate a pregnancy.

So, beware what is happening within the GOP. The purported party of individual liberty and small, limited government is certainly not behaving as they would have you believe.  

Tell me what you think,

Regards,
Dennis



 

Friday, February 03, 2012

Komen Foundations' Folly


Click on the title of this blog and you'll be taken to a video of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell having a discussion with the leader of the Susan G Komen foundation, Nancy Brinker.



Of course, by now everyone knows about the issue.  Ms. Brinker and the Komen foundation have elected to stop providing funding to Planned Parenthood.  The reason for this is that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services to its clients. Ms. Brinker's foundation, ostensibly focused on finding a cure for breast cancer has stepped on what is coming to be a "Third Rail" of political discussion around women's reproductive care.  The backlash has been considerable.

Planned Parenthood has come under fire over the past few years because of the abortion issue.  Conservatives in and out of the political scene have attacked Planned Parenthood for providing abortion services.  Legislatures in both the federal and state governments have voted to defund Planned Parenthood because of the abortion issue.  Many ultra-conservatives have also decried the fact that Planned Parenthood offers birth control at little or no cost to its clients.  The blinding folly of the Komen Foundation and conservatives in general is that they are objecting to an organization that has probably prevented more abortions than it has conducted through the distribution of birth control and information to young women who might otherwise not have access to these services.

Planned Parenthood has been around for a long time.  Founded by Margaret Sanger in New York in the early part of the 20th Century, it has provided health services for women that include wellness checks, cancer screenings, birth control, and yes abortion services.  However, unlike Senator John Kyl's (R-AZ) false claim that 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is provide abortion services, the principal reason for their being is to serve women's health.  Additionally, Planned Parenthood uses no federal funding to provide abortion services.  They have been very open in outlining where their taxpayer funding is used.  This organization provides a vital array of services to a demographic that has often been avoided by either governmental services or private, for pay services, in that it supports low-income women who would have to either go without health care, or pay significantly more for the services which would cause a further economic burden to them.

The decision by Ms. Brinker and the foundation to end funding for Planned Parenthood is of course their right. No organization should be forced to support something they don't believe in. However, I believe they have missed the overall big-picture.  Planned Parenthood provides low cost cancer screening and mammograms that are the primary tool to help identify Breast Cancer early.  Data compiled over the last 40 or so years shows that early discovery of tumors with respect to Breast Cancer significantly increases the chance of survivability of the stricken.   The primary reason for being for the Komne Foundation is to find a cure for and treat those who suffer from Breast Cancer. So, a stand, however principled it might be from a few people in the Komen Foundation has in fact set back their efforts to find a cure and battle this dreadful disease. 

Abortion is a lightening rod issue and will always be so.  That said, it is also important to keep things in perspective.  Where the Komen Foundation went wrong was not realizing that Planned Parenthood prevents more unwanted pregnancies than it aborts.  It also has likely helped many more women discover breast cancer early and get treatment that either saves or extends their lives.  So, in my view, the Komen Foundation has made a major mistake.

The public outcry of the Komen Foundation's decision has been significant.  Already, donations have come in from multiple areas that fills the void left by the Komen Foundation's decision to withdraw its support.  Since the decision was announced, almost a million dollars have come into Planned Parenthood from a variety of donors (even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $250 thousand dollars).  My wife and I have been long term supporters of Planned Parenthood and have added our donations to the organization as part of this response. I've added a link here if you would like to provide a donation to the organization.

Women's health is as important as any political issue being discussed today.  Attempting to defund an organization as useful and important as Planned Parenthood is a mistake.  I hope the Komen Foundation comes to realize this and reverses its policy.

Let me know what you think,

Regards,
Dennis

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mitt Steps in It

"At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,'' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ``it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.''
"Are there no prisons?'' asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons,'' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?'' demanded Scrooge. ``Are they still in operation?''
"They are. Still,'' returned the gentleman, `` I wish I could say they were not.''
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?'' said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir.''
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,'' said Scrooge. ``I'm very glad to hear it.'' - From "A Christmas Carol" - Charles Dickens

Yesterday, after celebrating a thorough shellacking of Newt Gingrich in the Florida GOP Primary,  Mitt had another episode of "Foot in Mouth" disease.  On an interview with Soledad O'Brien, Mr. Romney stepped off in something very smelly by uttering the phrase "I'm not concerned about the very poor...".  Now to be fair, in the entire context of the conversation, Mr. Romney was attempting to make a point that he wasn't looking at the edges (very rich or very poor), he was looking at the middle class, who he claims quite correctly has suffered from the devastating economic situation our country has found itself in. 

What boggles my mind is how a candidate, and obviously well read and very educated candidate can be so obtuse.  I'd like to know meet his handlers and advisers because they are probably drinking themselves silly with all the foolish things this man says.  It is highly likely that Mr. Romney will be the GOP nominee.  It is highly doubtful that, if he is indeed the GOP's standard bearer that he will survive a contest with the President.  Especially if he continues to utter idiotic phrases like he did yesterday.

I do not believe Mr. Romney is as hard hearted as Mr. Scrooge. I think he is a man of some compassion. I think however, statements like he makes indicate just how out of touch he is with the general population in this country.  He's not worried about the very poor because they have a "safety net"?  Really?  The issue is not whether or not they have a safety net, the issue is why are they poor?

According to the US Census Bureau we have a significant problem with poverty in this country.

Some data for your consideration: (source, US Census Bureau)

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance in the United States: 2010 - Highlights

The data presented here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), the source of official poverty estimates. The CPS ASEC is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 household nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 2010.
  • The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent — up from 14.3 percent in 2009. This was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points, from 12.5 percent to 15.1 percent.
  • In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009—the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.
  • Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent), for Blacks (from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent), and for Hispanics (from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent). For Asians, the 2010 poverty rate (12.1 percent) was not statistically different from the 2009 poverty rate.1
  • The poverty rate in 2010 (15.1 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available.
  • The number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
  • Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for children under age 18 (from 20.7 percent to 22.0 percent) and people aged 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent to 13.7 percent), but was not statistically different for people aged 65 and older (9.0 percent).2
46 million people are at or below the poverty line in this country.  As a comparison, that is about 13 million more  people than the entire population of Canada and more than twice the population of Australia.  Since the War on Poverty which began in the Johnson administration in 1965, we have been keeping statistics on poverty as a percentage of the population and the numbers are not encouraging.  When the legislation was passed in 1965, the poverty rate was around 19%, down from 22% in 1959, but nonetheless still high.  In 1965, 19% poverty meant about 28-30 million people at or below the poverty line.  Today, we sit around 15% or so, with as stated before about 46 million people in poverty and it is getting worse.  The "Safety Nets" as Mr. Romney refers to them are programs such as Medicaid, CHIPS, etc and typically these are funded through some federal money and some state money.  As we all know, the budgets within the states and in the federal government are in terrible shape, so the safety net is not quite so safe. 
Mr. Romney's blindness to the impacts of his statements on the general voting population is staggering.  I used to think the President would have a tough time getting reelected.  After watching and listening to the presumptive nominee from the GOP, I think Mr. Obama returns to the Oval Office in 2013.
I'd like to hear from you on your impressions of Mr. Romney.  I know I'm biased as I don't intend to vote for the guy anyway, but would like to get some perspective on what Republicans and Independents think about this guy and his recent statements.


Tell me what you think.

Regards,
Dennis

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Money and Trash Talk - Is it really what it takes to win?

"Money money money money, money
Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me y'all, do things, do things, do bad things with it
You wanna do things, do things, do things, good things with it
Talk about cash money, money
Talk about cash money- dollar bills, y'all......"
(From "For The Love of Money", by the O'Jays )

Last night, the Florida Republican Primary came to a close with Willard Mitt Romney winning the contest with a 46% share of the vote.  Mr. Gingrich, as expected was the runner up with Messrs Santorum and Paul bring up third and fourth place respectively.   This wasn't really a surprise as for some time most polling had Mr. Romney winning the primary.  The questions would be "By how much and Why?"   Well,  for one thing, money proved to be the grease that made the Romney machine run smoothly.  Some data for your consideration below:

Mitt Romney - Total votes:  771,842
Newt Gingrich - Total votes: 531, 294
Rick Santorum - Total votes: 222,248
Ron Paul - Total votes: 116,776

Total votes cast for the four:  1,642,160

Mitt Romney spending (advertising) in Florida:  $15,389,287
Newt Gingrich spending (advertising) in Florida: $3,389, 807

So, a little math tells us that Mr. Romney's victory (at least from an ad-buy spend) cost him $19.94 per vote.  Mr. Gingrich was better at the economics of cost per vote with him spending $6.38 per vote, but alas, he came in second.

A couple of other data points for your consideration.   In the state of Florida, there are about 11 million registered voters in a state with a population of about 19 million.  So, about 58% of the population in Florida are registered voters and this is understandable given the demographics which consider a higher median age that most other states.  Lots of retirees there as we all know.  In Florida, there are, according to the Florida Division of Elections, about 4 million registered Republicans.  So, in last night's primary, about 41% of the registered Republicans (assuming all 1.6m who voted were Republicans) participated in the vote. 

This means that the total ad buy for just Romney and Gingrich accounted for 1.6 million votes, which effectively cost the campaigns and their SuperPacs $11.43 per vote.   Okay, just a little more math.  According to this article in The Daily Beast,  a staggering 92% of the ads were considered "negative ads". In other words, over $17 million dollars was spent to decry another candidate and tell the good people of Florida why NOT to vote for the other guy.

Also, noted in the Daily Beast article, was a citation that the McCain campaign of 2008 spent $11 million on his entire primary campaign.  Romney spent 36% more on winning just the state of Florida that McCain did in his entire 2008 primary campaign. 

So, is this what it takes to win?  Sadly, it seems so.  Since 2008, we've seen spending on political campaigns exponentially increase thanks to the odious decision from the Supreme Court in Citizens United, which basically said money equals speech and that contributions could be made in an unlimited and undisclosed fashion.  Romney is a wealthy man, and last time around put about $40 million of his own money into a failed campaign in 2008.  He doesn't need to do that anymore.  No candidate does.  If a corporation, a union, a billionaire Saudi prince, Chinese businessman, or just about anyone else wants to, they can put as much money toward a particular candidate that they want.  A billionaire casino magnate named Sheldon Adelson has pumped $15 million into Newt Gingrich's SuperPac.  Really, anyone who wants to can put this money towards their candidate of choice and likely will assuming they will reap a positive return should their candidate win.  So, we've come to this.  Our candidates are now commodities like so much pork belly or coffee or gold, to be invested in by monied interests who are assuming that the payoff will be large.  

We have of course had money and influence in politics as long as we've had politics, but this has gotten ridiculous.  The average voter, whom usually doesn't have millions to contribute to a candidate, is often lost as to who support because they are inundated with political messages crafted and paid for by the influential that are slick, Madison Avenue quality ads.  These ads attempt to convince the voter that the other guy is a pig and that the "safe" vote is for their guy.  They attempt to wrap their candidate in a veil of super patriotism and intelligence, and contrast their opponents in a light that would make one think they aren't running against another American, they are running against some monster who will come and eat your children during the night.  And these are just the candidates of the same parties who one would think might agree on most things.  I shudder to see what the general election is going to look like. 

There are as Mr. Gringrich says, 46 states to go in the GOP primary contest.  Gingrich has said he's in it to the end.  If so, look for more of the same and millions upon millions of dollars being spent calling each other names.  I wish, going forward on all the remaining ballots, we could vote for a candidate named "Nobody". At least that candidate wouldn't be spending millions of dollars on negative ads and calling the others names.  Unfortunately, thanks to Citizens United, I think this is only the beginning of a very, very ugly election year.

Tell me what you think,

regards,
Dennis