Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Obama a third Bush term on Taxes

One has to wonder, with some Democrats pushing for an extension that includes those who make over $250,000. I wonder if there is a Democratic senator from a swing state who will go on the talk shows and challenge his Republican opponent on what they are willing to cut in the name of deficit reduction. If Obama cannot raise any revenue with tax increases, what are they specifically going to cut and if his or her opponent says "health care" the Democratic senator should this opponent why he or she is willing to balance the budget on the backs of the working and middle class without asking the rich to make any sacrifices this opponent says "across the board" the Democrat should press his or her opponent to name some of the wasteful programs "across the board" that can be cut.

If the Democrats want to save the country some money, they should let the tax cuts in their entirety lapse and then craft legislation reinstating the tax cuts for those who make $250,000 a year or less. Dare the Republicans to bloc tax cuts for the middle class. Perhaps they'd fold. If they voted to extend the tax cuts for the those making #240,000 or less before the exemptions expire, the Republicans would have the advantage because they'd dare thee Democrats to vote against extending the Bush tax cuts if the legislation included an extension for those earning $250,000 or more.

My Daughter's a Loser

so says Andy Polizzi, Nicole "Snooky" Polizzi's father. He may love her but this has got to hurt:

“When we go to venues, I like to stand out in the crowd,” he said. “She’ll be up there hooting and hollering, and I’ll say to someone, ‘What is it that draws you to my daughter? Be honest.’ Because it’s very hard for me to see what it is. She don’t sing. She don’t dance. I don’t want to say she don’t have talent ...” He seemed to have his doubts. Then he shrugged. “Everyone basically says they can relate to her. I think Nicole’s just a likeable person.”

I don't think there was a single, flattering comment in The New York Times aside from that "likeable person' comment and I am astounded that a father would tell The New York Times or any other publication that he cannot imagine why anyone would like to be with his daughter. Then again, she might not mind as long as she remains at the center of attention, particularly if she believes that any publicity beats no publicity.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No Disclosure

Loved the interview Mika Brzezinski had with Kenneth Feinberg on "Morning Joe." I can't really argue with what Brzezinski said. We really should know who got bonuses after running our country's economy into the ground. And her response to those fears of vigilantism should those names be made public? The named individuals could return the bonuses before anything happens. That they could.

Afghanistan Leaks

only raise again the questions many have about the direction of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. How are we going to win the war without Pakistan's help and how are we going to win the Pakistanis to our side if they view India as the chief beneficiary of the Taliban's collapse? We can't remake Pakistan's ISI in our image. We and the Obama administration have to ask how much in terms of financial cost (remember that deficit thing?) and lives (our men and women in uniform) we are willing to sacrifice for a corrupt but politically inept and weak government in a country that never had a centralized government (save for the Taliban). On "Morning Joe" this morning, former Bush White House Spokesman Lawrence Ari Fleischer could not say when we could leave.

Can anyone who says that we must stay until the Afghan government can fend for itself have any reasonable time frame as to when idea when that goal will be met? Does the president or anyone around him know? Or are we supposed to keep our troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Campaign Disclosure

What's the problem with laws forcing corporations, unions and any other group seeking to disclose to the public their list of donors? Are the law's opponents against good governance? Weeding out political corruption? Holding such organizations accountable for opposing laws that are designed to restrict them from engaging in egregious behavior (for instance, safety regulations that might cut a little bit into their profits)?

Republican and Democrat alike should have voted for this bill. It was a no-brainer but all of the Republicans (as well as some Democrats) voted against the bill. Why? If the Republicans take over, Banana Republicanism won't be that far behind.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interesting Read

on Yemen and the battle with Al Qaeda for it, this one from last week's The New York Times' magazine section

It really is frightening because we are dealing, like we are in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a government that is too weak, too corrupt and too unpopular to be considered a credible ally in the war on terror.

"Meanwhile, the United States grew increasingly concerned about Al Qaeda's growth in Yemen and about Saleh's tendency to see it as a family problem, solvable through dialogue. Veteran jihadists were said to be coming to Yemen from Afghanistan and Somalia. Last summer, Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the overall commander of American military forces in the Middle East, visited Sana, and the number of American military trainers working with Yemen's counterterrorism forces quietly grew. In the fall, a select group of American officials met with Saleh and showed him irrefutable evidence that Al Qaeda was aiming at him and his relatives, who dominate Yemen's military and intelligence services. That seems to have abruptly changed Saleh's attitude, American diplomats told me. The Yemenis began to mount more aggressive ground raids on Al Qaeda targets, in coordination with the airstrikes that began in December.

But the strikes and raids were a short-term tactic. The real problem was that Yemen, with its mind-boggling corruption, its multiple insurgencies, its disappearing oil and water and its deepening poverty, is sure to descend further into chaos if something does not change. Everyone has acknowledged this, including President Obama and a growing chorus of terrorism analysts. So far, the calls for action have yielded nothing. I spoke to a number of American officials in Washington and to a variety of diplomats at the embassy in Sana. They all told me the same thing: no one has a real strategy for Yemen, in part because there are so few people who have any real expertise about the country. No American diplomats travel to the provinces where Al Qaeda has found sanctuary. Even the Yemeni government has great difficulty reaching these places; often they have no idea whether airstrikes or bombing runs have hit their targets, because they dare not show up to check until days afterward. "

and Al Qaeda's response to this corruption and failure to govern?

"If Wuhayshi and Raymi want to recreate the original Al Qaeda in Yemen, they also seem to have learned from its mistakes. Starting in 2009, the group used its Internet magazine and intermittent videos to make increasingly passionate appeals to the people of Yemen - and especially to its tribes. The magazine echoed populist discontent about government corruption, unemployment and unfair distribution of revenue from Yemen's oil, much of which comes from the very areas where Al Qaeda is active. The articles often show a deep understanding of local concerns; one issue in 2008 included an anguished complaint about the government's mishandled response to a flood in the eastern province of Hadramawt.

Al Qaeda's Afghanistan-based leadership reinforced the tribal message in early 2009, when Zawahiri issued an audiotape addressed to "the noble and defiant tribes of Yemen," urging them to rise up against Saleh's government. "Don't be less than your brothers in the defiant Pashtun and Baluch tribes," he said. "Don't be helpers of Ali Abdullah Saleh. . . . Support your brothers the mujahedeen." At the same time, the group strove to marry members to tribal women and mediate tribal disputes."

They are winning the propaganda war by default while we bomb the country while backing a weak and corrupt autocrat because he is the only one we've got.

Interesting Read

on abortion from The New York Times' magazine section.


The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Solicitor General Elena Kagan's nomination for the Supreme Court to the Senate. All but one Republican on the committee(Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina being the exception) voted against sending her nomination to the floor. The Democrats, outgoing Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) included, voted for Kagan.

Senator Graham justified his vote by employing the same rationale his colleagues used when they were voting for George W. Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court. The senate, Graham said, should defer to the president with respect to his judicial nominees' political philosophy and base their decision to confirm (or withhold their confirmation) on the quality of that candidate's qualifications and character. I guess the senator from South Carolina deserves some credit for adhering to his philosophical outlook when it mandates a vote for someone's judicial outlook he does not like, particularly when his colleagues on both sides of the aisle decide whether they should base their argument for a simple up or down vote or a filibuster on the political affiliation of the president doing the nominating.

I don't necessarily believe, however, that the senate owes the president this deference if and when, as is the case, he or she is nominating someone for a life-time appointment or in cases when the person will be in a position of power long after the president is required to step down from office.

Supreme Court justices have the power to overturn laws as well as judicial precedents they consider unconstitutional. A Congressional act or executive order can mitigate the ramifications stemming from a Supreme Court decision but it cannot overturn a decision reached by the Supreme Court.

The senate must, therefore, carefully scrutinize those who the president seeks to elevate to the Supreme Court and, for that matter, to the Courts of Appeal since most constitutional issues are not heard by the Supreme Court. We should know how the justices interpret the liberty and equal protection clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment. Does the nominee believe that the liberty clause should be interpreted broadly? Are the abortion rights many women take for granted protected by the liberty clause? Does the liberty clause guarantee us a right to privacy? we have a right to privacy? Can gays expect the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause to apply to them if and when they face discrimination in the workplace? What does the First Amendment's religious establishment clause protect us from? Does it protect our children from indoctrination in the schools? Can an American citizen be held as a prisoner of war for an indefinite period of time even if he or she wasn't caught on an easily definable battlefield? These questions, regrettably, though "settled" by precedent, are regrettably still debated today.

During the hearings, Elena Kagan said nothing which suggests she will vote to overturn this court's civil rights precedents and she has given no indication that she would roll back our civil rights or overturn legal jurisprudence upholding abortion rights. I see at this time no reason why she can't be confirmed but I do object to the reasoning employed by the Republican senator from South Carolina. We have every right to see for ourselves what a Supreme Court nominee would consider when he or she eventually rules on questions concerning our rights as American citizens.

A Coming Out Paradox

It's nice for other people's children to be gay or to have gay friends, but one's own child is a different story. Indeed, some of the young people say religiously conservative parents respond the best, because of the value of family. But it's the progressive, holier-than-thou parents who often can't cope." from Details Magazine

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Gay Rights Progress in South America

ahead of the United States on gay rights.

So who beats us on the gay rights front?

Gays can now marry their loved ones in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.

Gay couples will have their relationships recognized as civil unions or registered partners (marriage "equivalents" without the name) in Andorra, Austria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The cultural climate isn't that great in Colombia, Ecuador and South Africa (and granted, probably lacking when compared to the cultural climate in this country) but that only makes the failure to advance in this country even more baffling. In Argentina and Brazil, the cultural climate varies, just as it does here in the United States but there has been more political progress abroad there then here.

The United States as a whole does not recognize gay relationships as familial units though several states do.

Moreover, every nation that joined the European Union had to enact laws protecting gays from job discrimination, as do Canada, Israel, Taiwan and several countries in Latin America.

We really are behind the eight ball. While our democratic allies debate gay marriage and civil union laws, this country's administration is dragging its feet on things like the right to what was that, fight and die on the battlefield?

The Democrats have no excuse for this delay. They have both houses in Congress as well as the White House. If they cannot pass a lift on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, gays will have to wonder if they should campaign, or donate any of their time to their re-election campaigns.

The Latest Gayest

Well the top 20 gayest cities of the United States was published and it includes the obvious (San Francisco, New York, Boston, Ann Arbor) and some the perplexing (Columbus, Dallas, and any location in a homo-hostile state). Why any gay person would live in a state where their relationships will be treated with nothing but contempt is beyond me but apparently there are enough gays to give cities within such homo-hostile environments a positive listing.