Toeing The Cliff

The House will adjourn tonight with no vote on the fiscal cliff crisis.  The President said this afternoon that an agreement is near.  Word is Democrats have compromised on tax cuts by agreeing not to raise taxes for anyone earning $450,000/year or less.  This cuts potential revenues by 40% making it harder to balance the budget.

No House votes means the country will go over the fiscal cliff at midnight.  Because January 1st is a federal holiday nothing will happen tomorrow either.

Keystone Progress had a bit of fun this morning holding its “Fiscal Cliff Bowl” on a field in the 16th Congressional District in Reading.  Mike Morrill did the announcing while Dan Sauder played the part of Jim Gerlach who rigged the game for the millionaires.

News & Notes August 3, 2012

A state Senator and a presidential candidate both had legal issues this week for vastly different reasons.  Dr. Jill Stein got arrested in Philadelphia.  The Green Party candidate for President was protesting the foreclosure crisis.  Sen. Jeff Piccola of Dauphin County had 14 ethics violations filed against him for legal work he did.  They include allegations of fraud and conflict of interest.  Is this why he decided to retire?

The Philadelphia Parking Authority is getting plenty of bad press lately and it isn’t just reviews of Parking Wars.  People appealing tickets to Common Pleas Court are winning so often Traffic Court is vacating their fines before the cases can be heard.  One which was heard struck down Traffic Court so PHA has decided to simply ignore the Common Pleas Court order.  I want to see PHA get booted on TV.

Harry Reid says a source told him Mitt Romney isn’t releasing his tax returns because he didn’t pay any taxes for ten years.  There has to be a reason the GOP candidate refuses to disclose his records.  Mitt says he’s calling the Senator out on his claim.  He can refute it quite easily actually:  show us your last ten years tax returns.  If he did actually pay taxes he can prove it.

I had lunch at KFC today to support a gay friendly company.  Others had kiss ins at Chick Fil A to protest the $5 million they’ve given to fight equality.  Vote with your dollars folks.  One lesbian donned a cow suit to protest CFA.   I rarely eat fast food and never at KFC but I made an exception today.

Other companies whose anti-gay policies are boycott worthy.  Gee, I do business with some of these, I’ll have to rethink that.

On the whole gay rights agenda, another story has come out about the Salvation Army and its homophobia.  I encourage people to never contribute to this hateful organization, even at Christmas.  Tell the bell ringers you don’t support hatred and bigotry.  This SA employee was fired after revealing she is bisexual.

If you’re going to defend “traditional marriage” please be properly informed about what that means.  

Obama’s Saturday Night Massacre

Obama once said he’d be a one term President if it meant doing what was right for the country.  He will be a one term President because he failed to do what is right for the country.   The “compromise” forged last night is horrendous and will hurt the economy, devastate seniors and the disabled, jeopardize our national defense and kill jobs.  How is it that poison pills like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid only appear when the White House is involved?  This “compromise” includes NO revenue hikes.  No new taxes are in the bill, we will see $2.8 trillion in cuts to fund tax cuts for the rich and for corporations.

How do you think this Super Committee will find $2.8 trillion to cut without gutting Social Security and Medicare?  It can’t be done.  The penalty if they don’t is a Balanced Budget Amendment, the ultimate poison pill.  It’s time to call everyone in Washington, your Congressperson, Senators and the White House and express your outrage.  Then go to your county courthouse and leave your Party.  If they see a mass migration of voters to non affiliated status it will get their attention.  Then refuse to give any more money to any Party affiliated organization or candidate/elected official who votes for this monstrosity.  It’s time to take to the streets people.

The Looming Shutdown

The President has drawn a line in the sand against extortion from Republicans, led by tea baggers, to gut government.  Conservatives hate government, they hate what it does, they hate everything which good government stands for and they are bound and determined to turn us into Somalia.  Following two rounds of continuing resolutions (CR’s) which made substantial cuts to spending, now they are insisting that Planned Parenthood and the EPA be defunded.  This is outright extortion.  They are holding women’s reproductive rights and clean air hostage while 800,000 federal workers are about to leave their jobs.

Our troops around the globe won’t get paid, you won’t get your passport or visa processed, paper tax forms won’t be done delaying tax refunds, national parks and museums will shut down along with everything else which is deemed non-essential.  The tea baggers are celebrating this concept, they hate government to such a degree they refuse to compromise.  A Member of Congress recently told me this new group in Washington refuses to budge and are single issue Congressmen:  cut, cut, cut.  They are not interested in anything except slashing spending and they refuse to compromise.

You cannot govern that way, you cannot be a responsible member of our society with such an attitude.  Civilized people long ago realized the importance of government.  This entire concept of cutting spending is insane.  The deficits didn’t get where they are through spending (except for George W. Bush’s wars) but through tax cuts for the rich and the collapse of revenues due to the Bush Recession.

Wall Street caused this problem, Wall Street should be paying for it.  The issue to be addressed is revenues, not spending.  We can cut the $2 billion/week we’re spending in Iraq but I have yet to see any of these morons proposing that.  Instead they are insisting on increasing Pentagon spending with items the Defense Department doesn’t even want.  The bloated budget there is rife for cuts as are failed programs such as abstinence education and unconstitutional ones like faith based programs.  If we’re going to cut we cut there, not by sending pregnant women to back alley butchers.

The tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans were held hostage by Republicans just last fall.  This budget didn’t get passed then because of that extortion.  The huge revenue failures from that bill resulted in this debacle.  Unfortunately Obama and Congressional Democrats caved in then but are now (they say) holding the line now.  Let’s hope so.  Americans watched in horror as Republicans in Congress cheered the idea of a shutdown.  They understand who and what is behind this and they will vent their anger next year at the polls.  I wouldn’t want to be a Republican running for office in 2012.

Update:  As of 5 PM there remains no budget deal.  Democrats have agreed to an astonishing $78 billion in spending cuts in a time when more programs are needed to assist those thrown into poverty by failed Republican economic policies, tossed out of their homes as a result of unregulated Wall Street casino gambits, $7 trillion in public employee pension funds were stolen by bankers and 1 in 4 Americans is going hungry.  We need more spending, not less.  We need another trillion in stimulus to create jobs and repair infrastructure, we need more teachers and smaller classes, we need more funds for food stamps and we need universal health care.  Talking about another $78 billion in spending cuts is hugely irresponsible yet Dems are willing to do so to pass a budget.  Republicans won’t even go part way to meet and forge a compromise.

The issue today is funding for Planned Parenthood.  You all know I sit on the three Pennsylvania state Boards of Directors for this fine organization.  I know what it is we do for women and I understand how many poor women rely on our services.  No federal funds are used for abortion services, that is against the law.  The funding being discussed is for cancer screenings, ob gyn exams, std testing and pap smears.  Dayle Steinberg, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania released these numbers today:

Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses nationwide provide:

·               nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer

·               830,000 breast exams

·               affordable birth control to nearly 2.5 million patients

·               nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV testing

You can read more about Planned Parenthood here.

This isn’t about abortion because abortion isn’t covered by these government funds.  It is about women’s health and women’s lives.  It is an attack upon women, especially poor and minority women.  There are ways we can fight back.  Women, if your husband supports these Republicans tell him there’s no more sex.  That’s something he’ll understand.  If he’s unhappy tell him to let his fingers do the wanking.  If you can’t get family planning services, access to contraception, cancer screenings or breast exams he can’t have access to your vagina.  Let’s have  nationwide lockout.

News & Notes July 26, 2010

Kirk and I enjoyed seeing Beckett’s “Endgame” Saturday at the Berkshire Theater Festival.  Yesterday I was kayaking with some friends when a storm came on us about five miles short of our destination on the Delaware River.  Gale force winds blew us the final mile.  Interesting paddling conditions…

Netroots Nation concluded over the weekend and the seminal moment happened when Lt. Dan Choi gave Sen. Harry Reid his West Point ring.  Choi was discharged last week under DADT and Reid told him he’d return the ring when the law is repealed.  I hope Dan isn’t holding hi sbreath because this White House is so buy disenfranchising key Democratic constituencies the votes won’t be there soon.

Bill DeWeese was held over for trial today on BonusGate charges.  Now, when is Corbett’s trial for the Ories?  Harrisburg area reporters now spend more time in court covering politics than in the Capitol.

Tom Tancredo announced his candidacy for Governor in Colorado today.  This comes on the heels of news the regular GOP nominee got paid for plagiarizing writing he did.  Tancredo then got into an argument on the air with the state Republican Chair.

The Message From Massachusetts

We can all thank voters in Massachusetts for killing this awful health insurance reform bill.  The election of State Senator Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate yesterday on a platform of voting against the bill is sending shock waves through Washington.  As well it should.  I doubt President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid will get the message however.  Democrats sent the same message in November and it was missed.  Why would we think it would sink in now?

Massachusetts is the model for the national legislation and voters there hate what Mitt Romney imposed upon them and did the nation a favor yesterday by, perhaps, killing it on a national level.  I do find it interesting that Brown campaigned against the Mitt Romney legacy.  It was as Governor that the former presidential candidate passed his signature bill mandating that all citizens in Massachusetts buy health insurance.  It has been a dismal failure as people refuse to be gouged year after year by greedy and predatory insurance companies.  My fear with this bill will be that the seven major health insurers will simply collude and divide the country into individual monopolies as exists now.

The voters yesterday rejected their own mandated plans and saved the rest of us, hopefully, from the same fate.  Washington is deaf however and plans are already under way to further weaken the bill to obtain a vote from one of Maine’s Senators.  Another option is to have the House pass the terrible Senate bill.  Americans are up in arms over the way Democrats have continuously weakened this bill and become weak in the process.  They sent another message yesterday and, again, leadership in Washington isn’t listening.

The irony of all this is that Republicans who destroyed our economy, shredded the Bill of Rights and sent $5 trillion of wealth into the ether then blocked every meaningful piece of legislation coming down the pike are being rewarded.  After all the mess we’re in is the direct result of Republican policies yet voters are going to the polls and electing Republicans.  Part of the problem is the horrible candidates being run by Democrats.  Corrupt Jon Corzine in New Jersey, weak Creigh Deeds in Virginia and Martha Coakley who apparently thought going on vacation was a higher priority than being elected to the Senate.  With candidates like these no wonder Republicans are winning.

The fact is voters have nowhere to turn.  With both major parties owned and operated by big business the people have no where to turn.  I recall Howard Dean’s famous message from 2004:  Take Our Country Back.  We didn’t because we forgot we have to take the Party back first.  That’s the message from Massachusetts.

The Pitfalls of Discussing Race

The never ending media storm over inarticulate remarks made by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid won’t disappear.  Republicans are circling like vultures trying to equate this with statements made by Trent Lott in favor of segregation and segregationist Strom Thurmond.  Here’s the difference:  Lott’s record was infused with support for discrimination and segregation.  Harry Reid’s record is the opposite, he has supported equal rights and fought discrimination.  Therein lies the context and the lack of controversy.

I believe the discussion we should be having over this is about race and class.  Reid’s remarks about light skinned or lighter skinned Blacks, good speaking skills, etc. are discussions we ought to have.  We ought to talk about why it is some African Americans are perceived as “being more white” and why it is they are perceived to be more successful.  This is related to why blondes are considered stupid, red heads were, for hundreds of years, believed to be witches, etc.

When will we, as humans, move beyond any person’s outward appearances and judge each of us on our character.  Facts show tall people tend to be more successful.  Fat people are derided, Hispanics are condemned on many fronts these days as many other minority groups were through our history.

In the Black community those with lighter skin seem to be more valued and thought higher of than those with darker skin.  I recall a time when people who were described as President Obama was by Reid were called oreos.  They were derided by their brethren.  Back then there was almost no Black middle class.  As laws have begun to change our society and more opportunities given to everyone regardless of appearance a Black middle class has become normal and “oreos” not derided as much.  I may be wrong though because I don’t live in a Black or minority community.

Why are we all loathe to discuss race and class?  This is about class as much as it is about race.  Everyone is terrified of saying something inarticulate (I’m using that word on purpose) about race and class and becoming the next Harry Reid.  We do need to discuss these issues however.  It isn’t only about race.  People need to also understand why the use of terms like fag and dyke are offensive.  Context is always critically important when using such terms as they are accepted or taken as offensive depending upon whom is using the words and how.

Harry Reid’s comments bring up a discussion we should be having but the media is getting it all wrong.  I heard Donna Brazile on CNN this morning talking about growing up with lighter skinned siblings and their discussions about the shades of skin tone and that correlation with success.  No one should be judged this way.  I love the tone of Brazile’s skin.  I find dark skin colors very attractive.  When will the day come when the first impressions we have upon meeting someone is not their gender, race or sexual orientation?  When will we become sufficiently enlightened that we judge each indivual on that individual only and their abilities or lack thereof?

This is a discussion the mainstream media can foster but instead they dwell on the sensational, the political posturing, the fact that the way Republicans are attempting to use this to divide people shows why Trent Lott was so despicable.  Republicans fail to understand the difference between what Harry Reid said and what Trent Lott said and that show me they still don’t understand WHAT Trent Lott said and what he meant.  This shows they still don’t comprehend how what he said was offensive and means we still have a long journey facing us as we try and address these issues.  

It’s Time to Kill Health Insurance Reform

It began as an historic opportunity.  A Democrat in the White House, Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and overwhelming public support for real, significant reform of health care.  It ran aground in late July when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the momentum but postponed a vote until after the August recess.  Health care reform then deteriorated into health insurance reform, the opposition forced Democrats to yield on issue after issue until the robust public option became a watered down option, then exchanges, then a very weak public option, then a Medicare buy in and then…nothing.

The bill, as it stands now, is a devastating trap for Democrats.  The only portion not watered down is the mandate that everyone buy insurance.  There are no caps on premiums the corporate satans can charge and your premiums can go sky high.  Cost controls are non existent and the bill has no safeguards against new, creative methods for companies to use in denying care.  We all know these firms are evil incarnate.  No one had the balls to begin with a single payer plan and no one could stand up and get rid of the hated filibuster rule so what’s left is simply awful.  

You will be forced to buy insurance, probably by the one insurance company which is dominant in your area and they’ll make a fortune from this legislation.  Yes, it does contain some prohibitions on practices but with their new, insane profits and no caps on what they can charge, costs for medical care in this country will continue to escalate.  Guess who will get the blame for all this?  Yup, Democrats.  Once again these numbskulls are stepping right into a Republican trap.  Best, at this point, to kill the bill so the public knows who actually killed real reform:  Republicans.

Senate Adds Weak Public Option

The Senate says it will add a weak public option feature to health care reform as the outcome of this effort turns towards reconciliation with the House bills.  The state “opt out” provision decidedly weakens an already weak bill.  None of the proposals really solves the health care crisis but attempt to put band aids on a hemorrhaging system.  Allowing individual states to opt out will hurt millions of Americans.  It is bad enough few people will actually be able to the government option but now even fewer will get coverage.

I’m still amazed the Senate has not repealed the filibuster rule and passed real reform.  Since only the GOP uses the filibuster (Dems don’t have the balls) why not kill it?  This takes only 51 votes then actual progress can be made on the serious issues facing this nation.  Climate change and immigration are next on the agenda and if this is what we can expect from those efforts we’re in serious trouble.

Meanwhile wasn’t this great?

As Blue Dog Democrats waver on supporting the people’s needs and wants we need to examine whether to challenge them in primaries next year.  Jason Altmire and Tim Holden refuse to say they will support HB 3200 as written.  I say let’s get rid of Jason and Tim.  This might get the attention of others in Congress oblivious to the importance of real reform.

Specter Holding Up Senate Votes for Fundraiser

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced the United States Senate will suspend business on Tuesday after 3 pm, meaning no votes will be taken, so Sen. Arlen Specter can go to Philadelphia to raise money.  In other words Snarlin’ Arlen gets to hold up the nation’s business so he and President Obama can party.  Congressional Quarterly says the 2010 transportation bill will be held up because of the action.

Congressman Joe Sestak, Specter’s primary opponent, says the Senate shouldn’t be delaying its business for a candidate fundraiser.  He pointed out that Specter has been harshly critical that the Congressman missed some votes while campaigning (which is normal).  What is extraordinary is having one Senator hold up the entire Senate voting process so he isn’t seen as a hypocrite.  Sestak said this today:

“I urge Arlen Specter to speak with Harry Reid and ask that the Senate hold votes Tuesday afternoon, instead of delaying the public’s business,” said Joe Sestak.  Sestak continued, “This gets to a larger issue, and why I am running against the establishment’s wishes, because too often it favors the powerful and well-connected who are also too often rewarded at the cost of those who are at the bottom.  Can Arlen Specter – or anyone in this fundraiser — explain why it’s okay to hold up the entire U.S. Senate to benefit his political campaign, but it’s – in Arlen’s own words – a “court-martial” offense for missing a few primarily procedural votes?”