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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It was a great SOTU speech

I know the speech didn’t get great reviews from the major newspapers or from those who oppose the president. It didn’t  even have a sound bite that will be remembered for years to come.  As a democrat, the speech made me glad I watched it because it reminded me of why I voted for President Obama.

  I liked the tone the president used. It wasn't conciliatory, and he didn't attack the opposition.  The president finally realizes that "if he's for it, then they will be against it." He stuck a fork in the Obamacare battles, saying that the opposition party will never like the law so let's move on.  He emphasized that by saying that they have tried to repeal it for over 40 times, he gets it, don't waste any more time.

Last year during the State of the Union address, the president mentioned 87 ideas that he would like to see put into action.  Only two of those ideas saw the light of day.  Last night,  the president didn't produce a laundry list knowing that it would never pass Congress.  He talked about small things that he could do around climate change and setting the example of the need to  increase the minimum wage by  for signing an executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contract employees.

I thought the president would be angry or subdued because of his low approval numbers, but he came out upbeat and rather positive.  Then again, he was talking to a Congress with a 13% approval.
As I remember, the president put his line in the sand a couple of times, once to  say that the debate is over, climate change is real.  He also reiterated that he would veto any legislation that throws a wrench into the current Iran negotiations to get them to abandon their nuclear weapon program.  I'm thinking that his climate-change  remark  will be an influencing factor as to whether he approves the rest of the Keystone pipeline project.

The pundits have been trying to handicap President Obama next three years, saying that he will not get any major legislation passed.  That may be so, but it won't be because of lack of trying as he said last night, there's no quit in America.  The president pointed to army ranger Cory Ransburg as an example.  The applause and appreciation for Cory Ransburg brought the partisans together for a standing ovation to a deserving hero.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Benghazi This and Benghazi That

I’m glad the Senate Intelligence Committee Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the attack in which four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya could have been prevented. They blamed both the diplomats and the CIA for their lack of security and communications leading up to the night of the fatal attack in which four Americans were killed.

The Senators didn’t reveal much that didn’t already know since there has been several investigative hearings before their report which was concluded yesterday.

I did learn that the CIA beefed up their security at the Benghazi facility about a mile up the road, known as the Annex before the attack. The State Department failed to follow suit. The make shift Mission facility where Ambassador Stevens and the other three Americans were housed didn’t have anything near the equipment and security the CIA annex had.

The most important find to me was the admittance that the United States Africa Command, the military headquarters responsible for Libya, did not know about a thing about the CIA annex. There is where the lack of communication came in.

The report also found that the Pentagon was not prepared to deal with the crisis on September 12, 2012. The cover media reported that U.S. military assets were not positioned to respond in time to save the four Americans. This kind of throws away the importance of the hearsay “stand down orders” that was supposedly given.

I have never seen the right- wing so angry since the Whitewater, Filegate, death of Vince Foster, and Monica Lewinsky inquiries all bundled into one. I’d be willing to bet that 99.9% of Republicans are seething over Benghazi, even though throughout the years, we’ve had several embassies attacked where Americans were killed. The level of hatred is toward President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

I have yet to hear the right complain of the actions of then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta or the head of CIA at the time David Patraeus.

For the life of me I don’t know why the Benghazi brings out such hatred toward the president and a former secretary of state. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to give my opinion. I think this all started with the anger that builds up prior to a presidential election. The GOP didn’t have a scandal to pin on President Obama and his foreign policy credentials at the time were impeccable because he had gotten us out of an unpopular war in Iraq and was killing al Qaeda leaders left and right.

Along came the Sunday talk shows where Susan Rice told the nation that Benghazi was attacked by people who were upset over a video mocking Mohammed. The right had their smoking gun because to them, the president just sent out his surrogate to dispel any al Qaeda involvement. They misinterpreted Obama's words when he said that al-Qaeda had been dissipated. The president was clearly talking about al Qaeda who attacked us on 9/11 who were based in Pakistan.

The Republicans are obviously upset over losing two straight elections to President Obama, and they’re doing their damnedest to prove how dumb we were for voting for him. I remember Mitt Romney saying on the night of the attack” “The Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks," but then had to retract. It then came the night of the foreign policy debate when Mitt Romney said he would do everything Obama was already doing.

The GOP will continue to look for that smoking gun as long as Hillary is still in contention for a presidential run. They can’t say that she could’ve done anything on the night of the Benghazi and because the report clearly exonerates her. They can say she didn’t provide enough security, and they would be right but she has already admitted that and sources know that funding and channels of communication are part of the mix.

There’s still the constant need for the Republicans to prove that President Obama is totally incompetent in domestic and foreign affairs. They will try to prove that Obama was an illegitimate seizure of power. Right now, they long for the days of President Clinton but that will change as soon as Hillary announces her candidacy for president.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Why can’t an incident be judged on its own set of circumstances?

Fat Chance

I was listening to the panel on “Morning Joe” discussing the Chris Christie news conference. It’s not as if I haven’t already heard endless hours of opinions from the talking heads but I thought something might have transpired overnight. No, this discussion was about his demeanor and whether this incident will hurt his chances in 2016.

It wasn’t long into the discussion when Joe Scarborough said that Chris Christie handled the news conference better than President Obama handled the IRS investigation. How are these two incidents  even remotely related?

I thought Governor Christie took care of business early in the press conference by saying that he was not involved and he fired people high up in his administration who were responsible. The rest of the news conference was about Chris Christie. The governor will not survive if he is caught in a lie.

A lot of people think that the IRS investigation was about the president using the Internal Revenue Service to go after his enemies. That was never the case, so when President Obama said he was not aware of what was going on in Cincinnati Ohio, he was telling the truth. You can’t compare a bridge closing by close knit senior staff members in the governor’s office to a processing procedure in Cincinnati. People like Joe Scarborough think the president micromanages every aspect of our government, so he can blame him for everything. It’s that’s the case, the president should be held responsible for what a few rogue Secret Service agents did in Columbia. Mr. Scarborough thinks the president sets the tone and culture for his administration. Joe does not have the same set of standards for the governor of New Jersey.

It’s a different culture these days where every incident is compared to another one to try to minimize the damage. Chris Matthews recalls that after the 1983 Beirut barracks attack which killed 241 Americans, Tip O’Neill called the Democrats to the House Chamber to tell them that they would have to answer to him, if they tried to blame President Reagan just for political gain. Yesterday, Chris Matthews was interviewing a representative from New York who said the Democrats have no shame in going after Governor Christi after Benghazi. Huh?

It’s the same way for the Duck Dynasty and Melissa Harris Perry incidents where liberalism and conservatism took the blame for inappropriate comments. After reading Ruben Navarrette’s column this morning, I’m convinced that the media sees the world through a liberal versus conservative lens. I didn’t see very many liberals come to the defense of Melissa Harris Perry or Alec Baldwin because their comments were their own and not representative of many liberals. Many liberals argued that Martin Bashir should not have been let go (involuntary resignation) because Fox's hosts use that language every day. Liberal did not say it was Martin’s constitution right to say inappropriate things without suffering the consequences. It’s my opinion that the liberals were saying to MSNBC “don’t disarm us.” It reminds me of a former coworker who could get away with saying outrageous things because our boss would just shake his head and say, “that’s just Jack being Jack.” That was his way of saying that he expected a lot more from us.

It’s also like when we were asking our daughter about her recent grades and pretty soon we were talking about a different subject that happened five years ago.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Et Tu Bob Gates!

Former Secretary of Defense wrote an unflattering tell-all book about his tenure in the Obama administration. Andrea Mitchell and the rest of the media thinks that the book is a devastating portrayal of President Obama, but I beg to differ. Yes, the secretary said that President Obama never owned the Afghanistan war because he didn’t think it was his. That’s a fair assessment, and I can see how people can say his mindset was unfair to the troops, and he should have withdrawn the troops if he felt that way. It’s no secret that as commander- in- chief, President Obama is a reluctant warrior. He prefers to use drones strikes as opposed to using military troops. I think of it in this way, if I found out that my wife had run up a $125,000 credit card debt, it would be our debt and I would reluctantly pay it off but I could never find myself fully responsible for that debt.

Bob Gates said President Obama never trusted his military leaders, and that’s probably true, but I can’t say I blame him. General Petraeus was being recruited by GOP to run for president in 2012, and we know how the General Stanley McChrystal had to resign because of his unflattering words about Vice -President Joe Biden.

According to Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars” Bob Gates would have quit if the president wouldn’t have agreed to a surge in Afghanistan. President Obama looked General Petraeus in the eye and asked for assurances that a surge in troops would lead to a successfully end. General Petraeus said it would, but you be the judge.

I don’t think the book will hurt President Obama but Mr. Gates said that Joe Biden has been has been wrong on foreign policy for four decades. I don’t agree. I think Joe Biden was right about the Balkans situation, right on withdrawing from Iraq, and right for wanting a smaller troop presence in the Middle East. Joe Biden sided with Bob Gates on Libya and going after Osama bin Laden by opposing both actions. If Joe Biden decides to run for president in 2016, he will probably have to answer the former secretary’s charges.

Bob Gates praises Hillary Clinton throughout the book, but he said he was disappointed in her because she did not support the 2007 surge in Iraq for political expediency. I haven’t read the book but unless Gates has a recording or a collaborating witness, it’s a powerful charge without sufficient proof to back it up.

I guess someone would have to look back in history, but I can’t remember a cabinet member writing a tell-all book while the president that he worked for is still an office. Bob Gates is a smart man; he had to know that his words would be made into 30 second GOP ads against Hillary or Joe Biden in 2016. President Obama bestowed Bob Gates with a “Medal of Freedom award so he didn’t leave office with any animosity, then why did he feel that he had to write this book right now? I believe future presidents will think twice about using a “team of rivals” approach when choosing their cabinets.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Drug Testing the Poor

A district court in Florida recently said the states' decision to drug test welfare recipients was unconstitutional.

Most legislators are lawyers. How did they not know that you couldn’t randomly test people for drugs just because they are receiving government aid?

Before you get all been out of shape, I don't want to give taxpayer money to go drug abusers, but I don't want to violate the rights of the 98% of welfare recipients who are not on drugs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott knew what the results were, but he enacted the law anyway because it helped him politically. The governor wants to extend a very expensive random drug test to all state employees. He’s also appeasing a constituency that does not like government employees.

I worked for company who did random drug tests, and I was very upset when I had to consent to it as a matter of employment. I've never done any drugs in my life, and I had worked at the company for over twenty years. I realized it was about more insurance rates, and the fact that we had some people who handled very toxic material, than it was my feelings. In the five or more years that it was in place before I retired, I was tested twice.

These drug-testing laws are being pushed by a right-wing think tank named the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is funded; you guessed it, the Koch Bros. Despite the court rulings, this group is going around the country instructing GOP lawmakers on how to push the law through their state’s legislative body.

ALEC will now have to tweak their policy because it’s now legal to smoke pot in Washington state and Colorado ,so when you start making exceptions, your case becomes weaker.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Our Destiny is in Your Hands

As voters, we have control of our own destiny, but unfortunately, we leave it in the hands of irrational politicians like Nevada lawmaker, Jim Wheeler, who recently said “I’d vote for slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted. “If we have that much power, let’s use it wisely.

I happen to think that our immediate crisis is our high unemployment and weak income growth. I’m fully aware of our huge debt but I remember at the end of WWII our debt equaled 120 percent of GDP. After the war we grew at an average of 4 percent but over the past 12 years we have only grown at an average of 1.6 percent. We need politicians who tout growth policies because if growth could be raised by one-tenth of a percentage point, the tax increases we have in place would equal more than a $1 trillion, which is the size of last year’s deficit.

At this point, more tax cuts along with the sequester cuts will delay growth.

As long as foreign banks are willing to loan us money at extraordinary low interest rate the short-term deficit it creates will not be a problem.

As taxpayers who vote, we need to come to grips with reality. We all would like to believe that our deficit is caused by waste, fraud; welfare, foreign aid, too much spending and tax giveaways to the rich but those aren’t the real culprits. Extraordinarily high medical calls, defense spending, and a Social Security system that has not been adjusted for people living longer are the main drivers of our high deficit and we want to fund those programs with the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration.

We shouldn’t fall for across- the -board spending cuts or tax increases because all things are not equal. We need to cut funding for programs that do not spur growth and increase funding for the few that promote growth. We need to do the same for taxes. We don’t have to rely on politicians or lobbyist to tell us which expenditures will promote growth and which won’t because we can look back in history and decide that.

The private sector lifted our economic growth in the past decades but the government played a crucial role. Where would we be without the Erie Canal, the space program, the interstate highways, public schooling, and the Internet, which was built by the Defense Department?

We have fixes for most of problem but the partisan solutions get in the way. We could make Social Security solvent without reducing benefits. According to CBO, eliminating the ceiling on earnings subject to the payroll tax or gradually increasing the payroll tax on all workers from 6.2% to 8% over the next twenty years.

I’m confident that economy will grow in 2014 and really start prospering in 2015 despite the antics in Washington, unless we default on our obligations.

“ Modest tax increases don’t prevent economic growth; they flow from economic growth.”

Adolph Wagner

19th century German economist.