September 2011

Government on Brink of Shutdown as Dems and GOP Lock Horns....Again

Once again Washington teeters on the edge of a shutdown due to the fiscal posturing of our partisan politicians.

In July, shortly after an earthquake rocked the east coast, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke in his home state of Virginia about his party's intention to offset any disaster relief funding with federal spending cuts. This was an unpopular admission back then with many Democrats, and particularly those people that had been effected by the earthquake, and the subsequent hurricane a week later. Given the past four months of legislative gridlock, making access to disaster aid contingent on lawmakers passing spending cuts does not inspire much hope that they'll get it this year. In fact, that's exactly where we are right now, and the stakes are even bigger because it doesn't just effect the millions along the east coast that have been impacted by Irene, but the entire government will shut down should this deadlock remain into October.

Sketchy News - Al Jazeera News Director Resigns After WikiLeaks Cable Exposure


I'm pretty sure most Americans have given up on trusting their news media to be fair, accurate, and impartial--or if they haven't, they're too misinformed to know the difference. Corporate media exists primarily to keep you watching long enough for you to watch their ads, so they run all sorts of sensationalist stories and pandering features to make sure you stay entertained. There's better reporting on the internet, though it takes a lot of work to weed it all out, so a lot of people still stick to the TV for their awareness of the world around them. 

I became aware of the Qatar news organization Al Jazeera during the revolutions in Egypt, when people I knew went to them for far better information than the American media could produce. Everyone praised their excellent reporting and impartiality, which seemed to surpass anything homegrown. It would seem, though, that the reach of American media corruption goes far. A new WikiLeaks cable recently exposed that Wadah Khanfar, the network's director, was successfully pressured by the US to reign in negative coverage of the Iraq war. 

Nebraska's GOP Seeks To Rewrite Election Rules Ahead of 2012

Nebraska's GOP attempts to bully state lawmakers into making Nebraska's electoral college a "winner takes all".

In 2008, Barack Obama won his 270th electoral vote out of Nebraska, which as POLITICO correspondent Alexander Burns writes, "was the icing on the cake". Many feel that Obama's support, which has eroded as a result of certain policy decisions during his tumultuous administration, is not significant enough to carry Nebraska's split elector vote again in 2012. Governor Dave Heinemann told POLITICO, ""I think [that's] unlikely, but I wouldn't want to say 'no' for sure." Still, Republicans aren't taking any chances. The Republican central state committee approved a resolution that would, according to the Journal Star, "deny party support to any Republican state senator who fails to support legislation returning Nebraska to a winner-take-all presidential electoral vote system." In other words, state Republicans are being made to, by one of their own organizations, support a bill that will make Nebraska unable to split its electoral college as it did in 2008. This is also, no doubt, a plot to make election for Democratic Senator Ben Nelson much more difficult as well.

“Just Pay Your Bills!”

Get a haircut and get a real job, amirite?

Oh, am I sick of hearing that one. People aren’t telling it to me, of course; anyone who talks to me knows what a rollercoaster of instability my family’s gone through since, well, its inception. Between a baby born three months early, my layoff from a very lucrative position three years later, half a dozen health issues and surgeries in between, and my husband’s layoff just a bit over a year after that (which continues), it’s been a constant struggle.

But this does not exist in a void.

Tax Breaks for Families Far Outweigh Tax Breaks for Corporations and Special Interests

They damn well better.

A recent article by the Washington Post hopes to shed light on exactly where the federal money is going, and in their game of chase-the-buck they hit on something that, although conservatives may shake their heads in dismay, have me thinking there might actually be some justice in the system. Of course, it's all in how you look at the numbers. According to the Post, tax breaks in total have nearly doubled since the last overhaul of our tax code nearly 25 years ago. In addition, the lion's share of those cuts to the tax code have been paid forward to American families. As the conversation has turned steadily toward the question of government handouts to special interests and corporations; loopholes, "carve outs", subsidies, and the like, this may come as somewhat of a shock. $1.08 trillion goes out the door in tax cuts and, as the GOP likes to characterize them, "hand outs". Only 8% of what the government pays out is to corporations and special interests. Here's the aftershock: the government brings in about $1.09 trillion in income tax revenue. In other words, they're almost paying out as much as they're taking in. Admittedly, that is a problem. However, the ratio of tax cuts to American families to subsidies and the like for special interests sounds about right.

New Study Shows Vaccine May Be Linked to Autism

Remember how we all called Jenny McCarthy and boyfriend Jim Carrey psychos when they marched against vaccines and they called for safer, healthier vaccines because we all knew that the two were implying that vaccines caused autism—yet there are still no studies proving that the correlation exists?

The dirt is on our faces, because it turns out that they might have been right.

A new study from scientists in America shows that the MMR vaccine could indeed be linked to giving kids autism. The study also seems to confirm the study completed by Dr. Wakefield back in 1998 that got parents upset in the first place—and that so many scientists and doctors brushed off as inconclusive.

There’s also simply the existence of our government’s vaccine compensation fund. If these links did not exist, why would such a fund even exist in the first place?

Big Chemical Companies are More Important Than American Health

That’s what the White House seems to believe these days, anyway. Recently the Obama Administration pulled a behind the scenes, hush-hush tactic that we came to expect from the Bush II Administration—they put a halt on the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of the toxic chemical TCE. TCE is a hazardous, cancer-causing agent that is most commonly found in Superfund sites all across America, and it has the potential of affecting the health of its local communities. It’s even been known to give children leukemia in affected areas.

Solar Power Fastest Growing Industry In US

Despite lowered demand and heavy competition overseas, solar power is the fastest growing industry in the U.S.

The collapse of Solyndra and the subsequent

federal investigation, branded by Republicans slavering for an end to green tech as "Solargate", has called into question the viability of renewable energy. House Republicans have called Solyndra typical of the White House's push for "pet alternative energy", wanting to end their green initiative and, evidently, send that money to oil companies instead. However, the anti-green element in Washington and their conservative punditocracy are missing the point. The point is that solar energy is the fastest growing industry in the country right now and, regardless of how one feels about alternative energy or environmentalism, the simple fact remains that it's one of our best hopes for stimulating job growth.

The average cost, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab report, of solar panels and installation fell 17% in 2010, and as of June this year, has fallen another 11%. In addition, solar energy manufacturer's created a $1.9 billion trade surplus domestically, meaning the money created by solar manufacturing and installation in this country was sold overseas, creating a profit for solar manufacturers in this country. Compare that to oil, where we sport the highest trade deficit in three years with $50.2 billion losses each year from importing foreign oil. Solar energy, at least at this point, is a much smaller industry (clearly) than petroleum, but at least solar is American jobs creating American wealth. Furthermore, the solar industry's growth has not slowed in ten years despite the economic recession. In fact, if anything, it's quickened. Having grown, on average, 25% each year for the past ten years; including 102% in 2010 and an estimated 66% just in the first half of 2011. What the solar industry represents in this country is a growing demand, and an expanding industry to meet the it... both factors of a healthy economy.

What's Really Stifling Job Growth? Hint: It's Not the Government

The only answer with measurable, historical evidence is that helping the middle class is the only road forward.

The fact of the matter is, corporations and businesses are not going to hire people to stand around in an empty factory. They're not going to place brand new employees behind a counter that won't see a single customer. They're not going to hire anyone, because people aren't buying anything. John Boehner's address to the Economy Club of Washington on Monday highlighted a very tired GOP talking point; that deregulation and cutting corporate taxes will stimulate job growth. It will definitely help those businesses to increase their profit margins a bit more, which will make them better able to expand when demand does finally increase. However, when consumerism is weak, as it is right now, businesses are not going to hire. People will stay unemployed, will continue to struggle with debt and bills, and will not purchase the things that stimulate businesses to hire. It's vicious cycle, but it has almost nothing to do with corporate tax cuts, regulations, or the national debt.

Hillary Clinton's Secret Weapon for Digital Diplomacy Around the World

Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation, is Hillary Clinton's answer to bringing diplomacy into the 21st century.

Individuals and the private sector have been connecting like root systems for over a decade now, using the internet to create greater communication and information sharing networks across the globe. However, governments, which have traditionally been insulated bureaucracies very slow to change, are finally starting to join the rest of the globalization movement. In large part, this is due to the efforts of the U.S. senior advisor for innovation, a member of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's executive team. Alec Ross took the job at 37, and has been working on creating digital platforms for U.S. ambassadors around the world; integrating Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking into the array of more traditional methods by which ambassadors disseminate information in their respective areas of influence. In fact, the State Department regularly uses nine different foreign language Twitter accounts, with more likely on the way. Ross tells TIME magazine that these new technologies give diplomats tools to exert "smart power" in advancing their interests.

Stacy Transanco's rant spurs the creation of the word "agorahomophobia"

The gay community (and really anybody who isn’t a complete idiot) is up-in-arms about blogger Stacy Trasanco’s recent post titled “Can’t Even Go to the Park.” In it, the self-proclaimed scientist-turned-Catholic bemoans the sad state of affairs in her home state of Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, in that she can’t leave the house for fear of seeing immoral sodomy on display. At the park. With two parents and a baby. Yikes. The word coming out of the hubbub surrounding the piece is “agorahomophobia,” which translates, I suppose, to a fear of leaving the house because you know you’ll see gay people.

Maybe Don't Stand On That Bridge, Mr. President

Hey there, Mr. President. My name's Lloyd Thompson. I'm a lifelong Ohioan, an electrician by trade and chairman of the South Cincinnati Welcome Committee. I just gotta say right off the bat how excited we all are that you'll be coming to town next week to talk about your jobs bill. Some of us agree with you, some may need some convincing and others are waiting to hear what you have to say before they sit on one side or t'other, but I'm not really here to talk politics. Truth is, we gotta have a little chat about the proposed location of your address. There's no gentle way to put this, so I'll just come right out with it: The Brent Spence Bridge is a very bad idea.

Obama's Blue-State Erosion

"It's not necessarilly a Democratic problem, but a Presidential problem."

The Obama administration's approval has been steadily declining according to national and regional polling, and what's perhaps most surprising, is the decline has been heaviest in blue states and traditionally Democratic strongholds. The recent special election in New York's 9th district, a deep blue voting district straddling Brooklyn and Queens, created an upset win by Republican Bob Turner over Democrat David Weprin. Democrats and pollsters are calling this upset, as well as an upset in the special election in Nevada, as signs that some of Obama's key constituencies may be leaving the President behind. Obama's administration has made unpopular moves in the areas of jobs creation (until recently), environmental regulation, healthcare, and Afghanistan as well as in its handling of the debt ceiling debacle over the summer. Since then polls and pundits alike have indicated an erosion in typically Democratic areas among key demographics of Obama's base, including young people, minority voters, labor unions, and liberals.

Sometimes I Just Want to Give the GOP What They Want, Just So I Can Say "I Told You So"

Then I remember that I have a family and a community that I care deeply about...

Just imagine if the radical Republican elements in Washington actually got everything they say they wanted. They were able to shut down the EPA, the SEC, and every other regulatory agency that made life difficult for their campaign sponsors. They were able to shred every industrial and environmental regulation they weren't happy with. They rid themselves of the capital gains tax, and slashed income taxes while whittling federal spending down to a few state aid appropriations for infrastructure and basic welfare. If that just sounds Libertarian, they would also legislate things like marriage and religion. Creationism would now be just as viable as climate change (which officially wouldn't exist) and evolution, and would be talk in "science" classroom across the country. English would be a ratified national language, and Christianity our national religion. Many public services, including schools, would be privatized and it would be illegal for workers to unionize. Sometimes I sit back and wonder what it would be like, because sometimes I want to just let them have everything they want. Let them have it all, watch everything deteriorate just so I can point at the wreckage and say, "I told you so."

Record Amount of Domestic Oil Drilling, GOP Still Says Obama "Anti-Drilling"

Evidently, "Drill, Baby, Drill" may not be the best national energy policy after all.

The GOP has been slamming Barack Obama since he entered the White House on the price of gas in the U.S., blaming everything from his supposed "anti-drilling policies" to EPA regulations and focus on green technologies. In fact, Mitt Romney said earlier this year that, “People are hurting, gasoline’s expensive and the policies of this administration that have focused solely on green technologies are not keeping the cost of gasoline down.” Strange then that a recent infographic in the Wall Street Journal, would show that there are more active domestic oil drilling sites now than any other time since such data has been recorded; 1,069 to be exact. According to the Journal, it represented a "huge surge in U.S. oil drilling, up nearly 60% in the past year and the highest total since at least 1987, when  oil services company  Baker Hughes Inc. began keeping track." The GOP answer to energy independence in the 21st century, "Drill, Baby, Drill", doesn't seem to be holding a lot of water (oil) these days.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Obama Healthcare Law. Next Stop, Supreme Court?

Judicial record on the individual mandate in Obama's Healthcare Law would best be decribed in baseball at-bat count.

The Obama administrations' Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare, in certain circles) has been contentious since its passage in 2010. It's also been the signature piece of legislation from Obama's administration so far (if you don't count ARRA) and will likely be, at least in part, a signature part of his administration's legacy. That said, there have been 30 lawsuits since the law's passage filed in state courts. In particular, the individual mandate, in which uninsured citizens would be required by law to purchase some form of life insurance, either through an insurance provider or through the insurance exchange. The latest, presided over by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, has been found unconstitutional.

Massive Nationwide Homeowners Default To Solve US Economic Crisis

According to Brett Arends with MarketWatch, National Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is the fastest, simplest, most effective way to solve our economic crisis.

Market volatility in Europe, 14 million people out of work, huge federal stimulus packages, stagnant employment, marginal GDP growth, a shrinking middle-class and a federal government that seems impotent to repair it. On the other hand, corporations and big business are flush and getting flusher. So how do we balance the books? How do we look at the economic situation and all of the muddled half-plans and legislative band-aids we've been handed to fix it? How do we listen to the political rhetoric, much of which creates issue-centric arguments around issues that have little or no bearing on our economic situation?  How can we look at our government and think another election is really going to do the trick? According to a recent article by Brett Arends, columnist for MarketWatch and the Wall Street Journal, we default. We (those of us that are underwater or in too much debt to recover) file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, take the the slap on the hand (and by hand I mean credit score), lose some equity, and walk away from our debt.

GOP Calls Obama Deportation Policy "Amnesty"

Congressional Republicans are pushing back on Obama's recent deportation reforms, prioritizing deportation cases.

Republicans seem to be shirking the daunting reality of processing 300,000 - 400,000 illegal immigrant deportation cases, calling Obama's recent decision to prioritize them "amnesty". Illegal immigrants in the US have presented a constant and fractious challenge for every presidential administration in the last fifty years (even before, frankly). There are hundreds of thousands of cases of illegal immigrants, both detained and not, awaiting processing for deportation back to their native country. There are many stories of individuals that have lived within the country for years, even a decade, awaiting deportation as the gears of law turned. Now, in an attempt to both appeal to those in favor of some immigration reform as well as an attempt to sort out the astronomical numbers of present filings, Obama has passed an executive order to prioritize deportations. Illegal immigrants with criminal records, particularly of violent crimes like assault, will be among the first to be deported. Those that have been working and paying taxes, with no criminal record, will be low priority and may be dropped from the logs altogether.