RIP Beau Biden

Delaware bade farewell to one of its own today.  Last weekend Beau Biden, son of VP Joe Biden and a two term Delaware Attorney General, died of brain cancer. The front runner for the Gubernatorial race next year he succumbed to this virulent cancer just short of two years after being diagnosed.  Being a former Delawarean I followed Beau’s career ascent with interest.  I’ve covered his father numerous times as Vice President and Joe was also my U.S. Senator for the 18 years I resided in Newark.  I’ve always had admiration for the Bidens and Beau looked to have an impressive future.  The fact this cancer robbed us all of him so soon, at age 46, is a loss to all of us.

I have to wonder if his service in Iraq caused his illness.  The use of depleted uranium is causing many illnesses in both American service people and Iraqis.  Biden spent 14 months serving in Iraq with the Delaware Air National Guard.  He signed up for service after 9/11.  He leaves a widow and two children.

President Obama eulogized him today at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington.  The famous Italian Festival begins this week and the sense of revelry will definitely be muted this year.

Delaware is a small family.  Originally the Lower Three Counties of Penns Woods the First State broke off in colonial times and has had its share of remarkable leaders.  Pennsylvania, with 67 counties has lagged behind IMHO.  In a state where everyone knows everyone I recall a time when I was driving north from Dover and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s state car (always identifiable by its license plate Delaware 1) was speeding.  We were going pretty much the same direction and when it pulled into the state Democratic headquarters in Stanton I pulled in behind and commented tot he Governor that her driver (a State Trooper) had been speeding and that it set a bad example.

There aren’t a lot of places where you can do something like that.  Gov. Minner was friendly and apologetic and she knew that in such a small state word of something like that could spread quickly and she reprimanded her driver before I departed.

I recall many times seeing Gov. Pete DuPont’s Lincoln Town Car on its way to Dover from Wilmington when I was frequently driving the same route down Route 13.  In a big state like ours it’s difficult to imagine how intimate politics can be in a place like Delaware.  Joe Biden served the state for 36 years as U.S. Senator and in that time many, many Delawareans were touched by him and his family.  He frequently eats at the Charcoal Chef which also a favorite haunt of my grandparents who lived in Wilmington.  He raised his family after losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident.  I never passed through that intersection (which I did frequently) without thinking about them.

Losing Beau before his time has affected everyone in Delaware and everyone who has lived there for any period of time.  He promised to be someone who might even surpass his father’s accomplishments and was well on his way on his own terms.  Not only will Delawareans miss Beau Biden but we all are at a loss for his passing.

My heart goes out to the Biden family.  May Beau rest in peace.

Four More Years

I was watching the inaugural festivities yesterday and realized as the President, the Vice President and their wives marched down Pennsylvania Avenue that I’ve seen all four of them in person while in office.  I’ve covered the President four or five times when he’s come to the Keystone State, the VP twice, the First Lady at Shanksville and at Lafayette College and Dr. Biden at Reading Area Community College.

While I didn’t vote for them the alternative agenda for this nation was frightening and I hold hope that the President has learned well from his first term.  The fact is he is no longer allowing Republicans to hold the nation hostage is encouraging.  We did suffer $1.8 trillion in bad budget cuts to important programs and services though.  Tax rates on rich Americans are finally going back to levels where they’re now responsible for some of the debt they drove into the stratosphere under Reagan and the Bushes.  The two wars started by blood thirsty conservatives are finally ending.

I would like to see Gitmo closed, Wall Street bankers sent to prison, real financial reforms get passed and attention paid to the issue of global warming.  Dodd-Frank was so watered down as to be not much more than window dressing.  We need to pass Glass-Steagall again and those who crashed the economy and are doing all the troublesome antics once again, have to be prosecuted for their crimes.

I’m sure the the President will return to Pennsylvania in the next four years and I’ll be there to report on his remarks.

A Visit to an Obama Field Office

I stopped by the Obama field office in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania this afternoon and spoke with several volunteers.  They were busy phone banking, calling voters to remind them to get to their polling place.  They have twelve staging locations throughout the county doing GOTV.  I haven’t heard of any irregularities but one caller to NPR from PA said she was required to show a photo ID to vote.  That’s illegal.

Republicans in affluent Wyomissing had this sign posted:

The volunteers:

The interviews:

Jill Stein For President

Today I will cast my vote for President for Dr. Jill Stein.  She is the Green Party candidate and this is the second consecutive election I am voting Green.

I like Barack Obama and he is an overwhelming choice if you’re limited to either him or Mitt Romney.  I’m not.  I refuse to waste my vote on someone who does not share my values and Stein does.  I do not like Obama’s ties to Wall Street and his ineffective Dodd/Frank bill.  His drone wars will make us less safe in the long run.  Gitmo remains open and the indefinite detention law scares the bejesus out of me.  He did little which was effective to help homeowners.  His support for charter schools is a threat to public education.

One never agrees with any candidate on every issue but there’s little with which I disagree with Jill Stein.  She stands for both social and economic justice, for the 99% against the 1%.  She gets my vote.

Decision 2012: Prosperity or Austerity

Tuesday Americans go to the polls to decide the future course of the nation.  Will it be prosperity or austerity?  That’s essentially what this contest boils down to though few candidates are articulating it this way.  Have no doubt though, this is your choice.

Several South American and European countries went the route of austerity.  It has been extremely painful for their citizens.  It means a severe constricting of the economy.  There is no need for austerity in America.  In fact every elite economist has been calling for additional stimulus spending.  That is what expands the economy to create jobs.  

The economy is improving but at a slow rate.  Of course this is a far cry from the situation four years ago when we were on the precipice of a depression and total financial meltdown.  Eight million people lost their jobs, $7 trillion in wealth disappeared and seven million homeowners lost their houses.  We were losing 800,000 jobs every month.

The problem with our current economy is a lack of demand.  People aren’t buying things because they don’t have the  money or because they fear for their jobs and are saving.  Without demand for products and services businesses aren’t hiring.  Demand will create jobs.  Tax cuts cost jobs, they do NOT create them.  All of the factual evidence supports this regardless of the brainwashing you’ve been hearing incessantly from conservative candidates.  Remember they’re the ones whose policies created this mess.  They’re not just promising to reinstate those they pledge to go further by imposing austerity.

Austerity is called the Ryan Budget.  Mitt Romney has promised to sign a Ryan Budget.  Paul Ryan, his running mate, proposes cutting 40% of the federal government.  However they want to increase defense spending and pass yet another 20% tax cut for the rich.

Our current $16 trillion deficit was created almost exclusively by Republican policies.  It was designed to strangle government to the point where they could argue for austerity.  Ronald Reagan began taking us down this road in 1981.  His Budget Director David Stockman said they planned on creating such massive debt the country would have but two choices:  tax increases to pay the debt of massive decreases in government services.  Their plan is the latter.  We’ve come t the point where this decision is yours on Tuesday:  do we raise taxes on the rich to pay for how they devastated the economy or do you suffer?

Workers, senior citizens and the poor have suffered tremendously under the Reagan Revolution.  It was expanded by both Bushes until the average worker is earning less now than in 1980.  Health care costs are bankrupting Americans.  Corporations now run the country and have poured billions into this year’s campaigns.  The head of Home Depot is on television telling people for whom to vote.  Employers are threatening to fire their workers if they don’t vote “properly.”  Yes Massuh!  I thought slavery ended.  There’s no better reason to vote against Mitt Romney than being ordered to by your boss.

Income inequality is threatening the stability of the nation.  The imposition of austerity to further transfer wealth from the bottom to the top will likely precipitate a violent revolution by the end of the decade.  This is what is at stake.

It is your choice:  prosperity or austerity?

When someone tells you the stimulus failed or that President Obama didn’t turn the country around look at this graph to determine if they’re lying:

Here is a graph of the national debt.  Notice the huge increase starting in 1981 (Ronald Reagan):

Here it is pictured differently:

Here is a graph showing the inequality of income:

When you hear conservatives crying about high corporate taxes remember the effective tax rate, that which they actually pay, is only 9%:

Here’s where the Bush tax cuts went:

That and other policies created this income inequality:

Our number 1 problem isn’t spending, it isn’t the deficit.  Our biggest problem is jobs.  Republicans promised jobs back in 2010 then spent two years filibustering every single jobs program in Congress.  They spent four years screaming about a deficit they created.  Then they blame dit on Democrats.  Here’s a video which clearly explains where the debt came from:

Be careful what you believe because conservatives have been telling falsehoods.  They’ve abandoned their coveted belief in personal responsibility by blaming liberals for conservative failures.  Their Reagan Revolution is about to come full circle.  If you voted Republican in the past thirty years you’ve facilitated their attack on your rights and your financial well being.  If you continue to vote Republican you’ll get what you deserve.

Cold Romney Event Backfires

Mitt Romney probably lost more votes than he got tonight as he hosted a bitterly cold outside event in Morrisville, Bucks County.  The gates opened at 2:15 for a 5:30 event at Shady Brook Farm.  An outdoor event after dark in early November wasn’t a good idea.  I had a ticket but couldn’t get to it on time.  I had dressed as warmly as I could preparing for the outside venue (long underwear, thick socks, sweater, heavy coat) but many folks tried to leave because of the cold and Romney staffers prevented them.  They began Tweeting that their kids were getting frostbite and they weren’t being allowed to leave.  Attendees had to start sneaking out to get warm.  This was a fiasco.

Pennsylvania In Play? Experts Say No

Republicans are putting several million dollars into Pennsylvania the final week of the election.  Obama/Biden is responding with ads of their own to counter the effort.  Our twenty electoral votes are normally contested as Ohio and Iowa are this year.  Polls at one time gave the President a healthy 12 point lead, one which has whittled down to 4-5 because of the first debate debacle.  That remains a good margin for Obama.  The Vice President will be in Scranton today, the first visit by either Democrat this fall.

Why the sudden thrust into the Keystone State?  Mitt Romney’s path to 270 electoral votes doesn’t exist a week out and he must expand the map in a final, desperate bid.  By adding PA, Michigan and Minnesota he hopes to squeeze enough votes in the Electoral College to gain the White House.  Hotly contested states like Iowa are now a 6 point margin for the President.  If you watched the Penn State-Iowa football game you were inundated with ads, mostly by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, aimed at Iowans.

Our votes next Tuesday will be determined by turnout.  If Democrats turn out for the first time in four years polls show we’ll remain Blue.  It’s too late for Romney to turn a 4-5 point lead in his favor but he has no choice.

Fast & Furious: The Romney/Ryan Lying Machine

There’s a blogger who’s been documenting every lie from Mitt Romney.  It keeps him pretty busy because at last count he’s found 530 of them in 30 months.  Of course the GOP presidential candidate repeats many of them on a daily basis but every day seems to come up with a new one.  The other day he claimed that no one dies in America because they don’t have health insurance.  In reality about 18,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have health insurance.

Facts do matter.  In a country where almost half the populace has voluntarily undergone massive brainwashing at the hands of Faux News and Rush Limbaugh the level of stupidity boggles the mind.  Chris Matthews encountered an example in this video:

You can ask these folks what they mean or why they make such claims but all they’re able to do is keep regurgitating the lines with which they’ve been brainwashed.  I doubt this lady even knows what being a Communist means.  She certainly has no basis for the belief instilled in her by thousands of references to the “fact” on Fox News.  This is the same technique used by the Bush Administration to convince Americans that Iraq attacked us on 9/11.  We went to war over that lie and many people still believe it.  They still think we found wmd’s in Iraq too.

The level of stupidity in America is evident in the polls.  When the likes of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can take the stage and lie fast and furious it’s tough to expose all of the mistruths.  That’s what day after fact checking does but Joe Biden took it head on last night and exposed Lyin’ Ryan for the motor mouth prevaricator he is.  It began when he claimed the Administration called Assad a reformer.  No such claim was ever made.  The claims about Libya were designed to cover up the fact that immediately after the attack Romney tried to make political hay out of an attack on the country and failed to get his facts correct.

Joe called that mularkey, an Irish term for bullshit.  Of course he couldn’t say bullshit on live national television so he used a more polite term.  Ryan continued trying to debate foreign policy with someone who is an avowed expert in the field.  The VP chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and actually was in the Oval Office when decisions were made and policies discussed that Paul Ryan attempted to imagine happened.  I so enjoyed watching him step into pile after pile and get called out on it I stopped taking notes.

It took a lot of Galt to sit there and criticize embassy security after voting to cut it by $300 million.  It took a lot of Galt to sit there and criticize reducing Medicare payments to providers after gutting the entire program yourself in two different votes.  It took a lot of Galt to sit there and claim trickle down economics works when it has failed for thirty years.

Ryan also accused Obama/Biden of cutting defense spending by a trillion dollars.  While we need and should cut it by at least half that would be around $350 billion/year.  Obama hasn’t cut the Pentagon and it was actually Ryan’s radical Tea Party House which forced a sequestration bill on Obama through extortion over the debt limit which will cut it next year.

On embassy security Ryan’s House voted to cut $216 million for it in fiscal 2013 after voting to cut it by $460 million in 2011 and 2012.  You can’t do that and then stand and claim we didn’t do enough to secure our embassies.  In 2009 Congressman Ryan voted for an amendment to reduce diplomatic and consular programs by $1.2 billion (source: the Obama/Biden campaign).

On Iran the Wisconsin Tea bagger claimed the country is well on its way to making four nuclear bombs.  Evidence to back up that claim doesn’t exist.  In reality Iran doesn’t have enough enriched uranium to make a single bomb.    While he later accused Biden of using scare tactics about Medicare wasn’t he doing exactly that by falsely claiming Iran was close to making multiple nuclear weapons?  I saw shadows of Dick Cheney there.

I loved watching this master of prevarication try and turn his efforts to gut Medicare into an accusation that the Democrats are simply trying to scare seniors.  The elderly and anyone hoping to join those ranks should be very scared of the Ryan Budget.  It would end Medicare because once every person eligible for it under their plan (those age 54 and over) die the program dies with them.  Most likely it would expire long before that though as only the sickest elderly people would remain on it bankrupting it long before its time.  We can save Medicare and provide quality, comprehensive health care for every American for less than we’re paying now leaving 50 million of our fellow citizens without.  Medicare For All not only saves billions it would also save those 18,000 lives of people who die needlessly every year because they don’t have access to health care.

Medicare Advantage was discussed at some length last night so let’s clear up what it is.  First of all it is NOT Medicare.  MA is privatized Medicare where private health insurers offer the same coverage for more money.  That’s because they have to earn a profit so taxpayers are funneling Medicare premiums to them at a rate about 9% more than traditional Medicare.  Paul Ryan claimed that creating competition, allowing the market to provide this coverage, would be better.  Facts show that not to be the case.  The U.S. spends twice as much on medical care than any other civilized western nation and we get only the 37th best system.  Most other countries have better outcomes and 50 million Americans have no access to health care.  This is all because the private system is broken.  Medicare, on the other hand, is the most successful health care system we have with overall bureaucratic overhead of 3% compared with 30% for private industry.

Facts do matter.  Paul Ryan also claimed that Social Security is bankrupt.  It is not.  The program is solvent through 2037 and by simply lifting the cap on payroll taxes it’s good for another 75 years.  Mitt Romney, if he actually worked for his $20 million a year would only pay Social Security tax on the first $109,000.  Lifting the cap would mean he pays on all of his income.

Ryan also tried to claim Romney didn’t say Detroit should go bankrupt.  Perhaps he should go read his Wall Street Journal op/ed at the time titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

The most humorous expose of Ryan was when Biden told about the letters the Congressman wrote asking for stimulus funds.  Here’s a salient fact:  the economic stimulus turned the economy around on a dime.  Look at this graph:

You don’t need Fox News talking about the “failed stimulus” to know your eyes are telling you it succeeded.

Paul Ryan and his Tea Party House blocked every jobs bill proposed.  The GOP Senate just filibustered a bill creating 1,000,000 new jobs for returning war veterans.  It was paid for so it didn’t add a dime to the deficit.  The Ryan Budget cuts $11 billion from the VA for veterans benefits.

Unemployment is going down in spite of every effort by Republicans to obstruct progress.

Mitt’s voodoo economics continue being a sensitive subject.  Ryan still refuses to explain the math because it doesn’t add up.  Lowering tax rates 20% across the board (but Ryan said, for the wealthy first) costs $2.5 billion.   Eliminating the alternative minimum tax is another $700 billion, the high income payroll tax (they want the rich paying less into Social Security and Medicare) yet another $300 billion.  repealing the estate tax, yet another key part of their plan costs us $150 billion and their tax cut for corporations another $1.1 trillion.  It adds up to $5 trillion over ten years on top of the huge deficits they rolled up with their past tax cuts.  They claim six studies say their plan works.  The problem is that that is yet another lie.  Even Mark Zandi, John McCain’s chief economic advisor, says it doesn’t add up:

If their economics worked we wouldn’t have a budget deficit because they promised it would create more jobs and increase revenues.  The opposite happened and, unfortunately for them facts matter because we live in the real world instead of their fantasyland.

Paul Ryan can dance around the math all he wants but he cannot escape reality for long.  If they win, implement their plan and the economy tanks again voters may actually wake up to their lies.  Of course I thought that after eight years of this under Bush but 45% of voters are ready to go back for a second helping of failure.

The issue of abortion finally came front and center last night.  While Ryan claimed it would remain legal in cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother nothing he has proposed as a Congressman supports that assertion.  He has co-sponsored a personhood law which makes a fertilized egg a person with full legal rights.  In fact if a woman miscarries she could be charged with murder under such a law.  he has attempted to redefine rape so only if a criminal with a gun or knife assaults a woman it would be called rape.  Romney has said he wouldn’t allow exceptions for rape and incest.  They are trying to soften their positions but the bottom line is this:  under Romney/Ryan women would die at the hands of back alley butchers.

Note he didn’t answer the question.

Biden Chews UP Lyin’ Ryan

Congressman Paul Ryan tried to use all the debate time last last but the Vice President chewed him up and spit him out anyway.  Martha Raddatz actually moderated the debate but allowed the Republican to talk on and on without giving Biden equal time to respond.  Absent any facts or relation to reality the Liar from Janesville told mistruth after mistruth all night.  The funniest part was at the end when asked what he brings personally to the position he slipped the word “Honesty.”

Ryan couldn’t explain the math behind their 20% across the board because it means a $2,000/year tax increase for middle class families.  These six reports claiming otherwise don’t exist because they won’t produce them.  Their argument is that lowering taxes increases revenues.  Unfortunately after thirty years of such cuts all we’ve seen are massive deficits.  Sen. Rob Johnson is on CNN this morning repeating this fiction.  

For me the best part is what should be coming up in the next presidential debate because Ryan set him up perfectly.   Congressman Ryan, in his closing, said that 23 million Americans are out of work and the poverty rate is 15%.  He tried using this as justification for change while ignoring the fact that Republican policies are what caused all that misery.  This failure to accept personal responsibility for his own votes which crashed the economy should come back to haunt him.  The President should use that repeatedly against Mitt next week.

Biden Speaks at Shanksville Memorial

Vice President Joe Biden spoke this morning in Shanksville where Flight 93 crashed eleven years ago.  I wasn’t invited to cover the event (again, I suppose criticizing this President for war crimes and civil liberty violations gets you knocked out of events).  Two years ago I got up at 2 AM and drove the four hours to cover First Lady Michelle Obama in Shanksville and it was a sobering experience.  I interviewed some family members of those who perished that day as the nation was attacked by Al Qaeda.

We also should commemorate the awful American supported terrorism in Chile which happened on this date years earlier.  On September 11, 1973 freely elected Socialist President Salvadore Allende was overthrown in a violent coup backed by the CIA and overseen by Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  Augusto Pinochet was put in power and 60,000 Chileans were executed or “disappeared” for political activity.  What happened to us on 9/11 should be kept in perspective with what we’ve done elsewhere.  When attacks like the World Trade Center are done and Americans ask “why do they hate us?” this is one of the many answers.

Pinochet was a brutal dictator who murdered scores of his fellow citizens.  On his deathbed in London, justice was finally served and he was extradited for war crimes.  The entire CIA operation which helped put him in power was done for U.S. multinational business interests.  IT&T was infamous this time as Ford Motor Co. was in neighboring Argentina.

The Vice President’s remarks today:

REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

AT THE FLIGHT 93 NATIONAL MEMORIAL COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE

Flight 93 National Memorial

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

10:30 A.M. EDT

    THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Superintendent — Jeff, you’ve done a remarkable job here.  And the thing I notice when I speak to you about is you’re invested in this place.  It sort of has a — sort of stolen a piece of your heart.  And that’s why I’m confident that all that you plan will happen.

    Patrick, you’re keeping the flame alive, and keeping the families together is — from my experience, I imagine you all find solace in seeing one another.  There’s nothing like being able to talk with someone who you know understands.

    And it’s an honor — it’s a genuine honor to be back here today.  But like all of the families, we wish we weren’t here.  We wish we didn’t have to be here.  We wish we didn’t have to commemorate any of this.  And it’s a bittersweet moment for the entire nation, for all of the country, but particularly for those family members gathered here today.

    Last year, the nation and all of your family members that are here commemorated the 10th anniversary of the heroic acts that gave definition to what has made America such a truly exceptional place — the individual acts of heroism of ordinary people in moments that could not have been contemplated, but yet were initiated.

    I also know from my own experience that today is just as momentous a day for all of you, just as momentous a day in your life, for each of your families, as every September 11th has been, regardless of the anniversary.  For no matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns; the lingering echo of that phone call; that sense of total disbelief that envelops you, where you feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.

    My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch.  And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him.  For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face.  You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips.  And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

    I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten.  They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers.  And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever.  That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional.  And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.

    I said last year my mom used to have an expression.  She’d say, Joey, bravery resides in every heart, and someday it will be summoned.  It’s remarkable — remarkable — how it was not only summoned, but acted on.

    Today we stand on this hallowed ground, a place made sacred by the heroism and sacrifice of the passengers and the crew of Flight 93.  And it’s as if the flowers, as I walked here, as if the flowers were giving testament to how sacred this ground is.

    My guess — and obviously it’s only a guess; no two losses are the same.  But my guess is you’re living this moment that Yeats only wrote about, when he wrote, pray I will and sing I must, but yet I weep.  Pray I will, sing I must, but yet I weep.

    My personal prayer for all of you is that in every succeeding year, you’re able to sing more than you weep.  And may God truly bless you and bless the souls of those 40 incredible people who rest in this ground.