Thursday, September 27, 2012

Romney, and Civility

Sorry it has been a while.  I just finished a 12 day in a row work schedule this past weekend.  In addition I took a part time job about a month ago so my blogging time has been limited.  Hopefully, I will still be able to post once a week but...

In a previous post I listed reasons why one might vote to re-elect President Obama, vote for Mitt Romney, or vote for "none of the above".  For this blog I would like to emphasize the importance of voting for President Obama, or rather, the importance of not voting for any Republican nominee.

I believe I have been consistent in detailing my displeasure at the recent Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited funds to infect our election process.  There is far too much money being spent on these campaigns, on both sides, and it seems clear to me that the more money that is "donated" by large corporations and wealthy individuals, the less likely our government will do the work of the people.

By and large, the Supreme Court justices who ruled to equate money with free speech are conservative, and nominated by past republican presidents.  While there are certainly surprises, at times, in how justices will vote, it is not usually hard to guess which justices will rule which way on important issues.  (Justice Roberts' recent vote for the individual mandate section of the Affordable Care Act, is certainly the exception to the rule).

My concern is that there is a reasonable chance that the next judge to retire will be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg due to her ongoing health issues.  That being the case, it is of great concern to me that the next president nominate a liberal leaning candidate to maintain the current balance of 4 left-leaners, 4 right-leaners, and one who moves between. 

My ultimate fear is that a right leaning judge will be the deciding vote to overturn Roe vs Wade.  Already, many states are weakening this important precedent through work around laws that are making it harder and harder for women to have abortions.  Inevitably, a challenge will be presented to Roe v Wade that will make its way to the Supreme Court so it is imperative that either Judge Ginsburg still be there to vote for women's reproductive rights, or her replacement be someone who would not force the next generation of American women to be reduced to second class citizens. 

If you think I exaggerate, there have already been attempts to pass legislation under the guise of  "fetal rights acts" which would grant person hood to a fetus at the moment of conception.  In other words, abortion would be murder, as would a few of the most commonly used forms of birth control.  And, in case you missed it, Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, was a co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2009 which declares that a fertilized egg is entitled to the same legal rights as a human being.  Fortunately, the first attempt to pass such a bill was defeated in Mississippi but I do not think that will deter its advocates.

As I said in my last post, please vote.  And, when you are in that voting booth, remember that in many cases, a president's mark on our country is effected as much by his Supreme Court nominees as that which happens while in office.

My other topic of the day, Civility, comes from the movie Troy. 

The scene in question occurs after Achilles kills Hector and, rather than allowing Hector's body to be properly prepared for the afterlife, Achilles binds Hector's legs and drags him back to the Roman encampment.  Of course, this is the Hollywood version of Homer's Illiad, but after the battle, the King of Troy sneeks into the Roman camp and walks unscathed into Achilles tent.  There he makes an emotional appeal to Achilles to allow him to take Hector's body back to Troy so he can follow the normal customs and traditions of death.  Achilles agrees, not because his hatred of everything Troy has abated, or because he did not relish killing Hector, but because he respected the king of Troy and his bravery in making the appeal.

Of course, this emotional scene made me think of our current political situation.  Dems vs GOP.  Conservative vs Liberal.  In the movie, there was a nine day truce so that Hector could be properly mourned.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could have such a truce during this election campaign?  No more lies.  No more inuendo.  No more "what he said or did 20 years ago". 

Is it so hard to realize that regardless of your political affiliation, we are all Americans?  We all love this great country and want to see it prosper.  We need to DEMAND that our elected officials stop the blame game tactics and work together to solve our nation's problems.  And, just as important, we need to teach them this lesson through example.  Politicians are nothing if not students of popular sentiment.  If we chart a course of civility as we debate the issues, they will do the same for fear of being cast as a rigid idealogue, or worse, for fear of losing an election.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Another 9/11 Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11/2001.

Perhaps I am in the minority in this perspective, but this year's anniversary seems to have come along much quicker than previous ones, and with much less fanfare.  To be clear, the point of the title, Another 9/11 Anniversary, is not meant to suggest it is becoming tiring, or that it is unimportant to mark any and all days that memorialize events which should remain in our consciousness; the title is meant to indicate, simply, that this year's anniversary has come very quickly and does not seem as publicized as previous ones.

Of course, after the 10th anniversary of last year, perhaps it is natural that the eleventh might be underwhelming.  And, as the national focus is on the upcoming presidential election in November, perhaps it should come as no surprise that this year's 9/11 anniversary seems to have approached without the usual flourish of publicity.

As evidence of the difference in perspective on this year's anniversary, I sight the topics of the two articles I read this past week in the Philadelphia Inquirer that touched on 9/11.

One described the flap that has blossomed between the governors of New York and New Jersey, and the privately run organization that has funded the creation of the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.  Apparently, a number of issues has created some friction, including the length of time it has taken for the 9/11 memorial to be completed, who will have jurisdiction over it, and the recent decision by the board led by ex-Governor Bloomberg to exclude speeches by politicians for this year's anniversary ceremony.  In short, the article was less about remembering those innocent victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the brave emergency personnel who willingly entered the effected zone, and more about political wrangling over who might emerge with jurisdiction over the memorial, and perhaps, without saying it outright, who might be able to take the most credit and use it to their best political advantage.  

The second article touched on the emotional "hit" America took on that fateful day, and its lasting impact today.  The main thrust of the article was that before 9/11, most Americans considered death at the hands of a terrorist to be a very low risk.  After 9/11, understandably, approximately one in three Americans "..were very or somewhat worried that they or a family member would become a victim of terrorism".  Yet, 11 years later, that rate has remain unchanged, even though the actual chance of dying at the hands of a terrorist, statistically, is less likely than getting hit by lightning.  Further, a significant percentage of Americans (almost 75%) "..consider another major attack in the near future to be very or somewhat likely", about the same as in early 2002.

I imagine there were other articles about 9/11 that I missed.  I know that there are many groups, especially those associated with family and friends of the victims of 9/11, that continue to work hard to help us "never forget".  And, perhaps that is the most telling point of all; that there needs to be people in our face to remind us of the most defining moment in United States history in this young century. 

To me, the events of that day have shaped our country ever since.  Worried about the deficit?  Depending on who you ask, we have spent at least $2 trillion, possibly 4 trillion unfunded dollars in our war against terror.  Want a balanced budget?  Not when we earmark one in three discretionary dollars for the department of defense.   High unemployment and a lack of good-paying jobs an issue for you?  Perhaps a war on our failing infrastructure might be a better solution. 

The events of 9/11 were horrendous.  Our generation's Pearl Harbor. 

And, like all defining moments in history, many lessons have been and will continue to be learned.

My hope is that we might someday come to understand that the past does not consist of static events that "happened", but that where we are today, individually as well as nationally, is the accumulation of past events.

We need a balance of remembering events such as 9/11 mixed with the understanding that our reaction to those events help create our future.  If we want an America where the middle class is employed at jobs that provide a livable wage, empowering them to create the demand for products and services that will speed the cycle of economic recovery, we need to remove our collective heads from our asses, shed our "fears" of radical Islam, Al-qaeda, same sex marriage, contraception, evolution, and anyone "not like us". 

We need to break the cycle that has made us like so many deer in the headlights of life. 



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why you should vote for...

..President Obama

The economy is better.

At the end of the summer of 2008, the United States experienced the second worst financial meltdown in its history.  Fortunately, the 2008 financial collapse did not lead to a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930's, but it did result in a United States recession as well as a deeper world-wide economic slowdown.  To counter the effects of this economic disaster, President Obama continued the work of the Bush Administration by applying Keynesian economics; stimulus spending.  From TARP to the auto bailout to the economic stimulus of 2009, public policy was applied to avert the very real possibility of America falling into a depression cycle.  While one can certainly argue that a GOP president might have done the same thing, credit needs to be given where credit is due.  President Obama oversaw the end of the recession and the beginning of the recovery.

At this point in time, corporate profits are at a record high.  The Dow Jones is back at 13000 just below its level in the summer of 2008 before the collapse.  The unemployment rate which stood at 7.6% in January 2009 when Obama took office, steadily increased to 10.2% by October of 2009.  The economy stopped hemorrhaging jobs during 2010, then began adding jobs steadily by the fall.  Since October 2010, about 3.5 million jobs have been added and the unemployment rate is now hovering just above 8%, only 1/2% above the January 2009 rate.

We are only fighting one "war"

As promised, President Obama withdrew the remaining troops we had in Iraq.  While, he unfortunately, increased our presence in Afghanistan, troop levels overseas has dropped from just under 200,000 in
January 2009 to about 85,000 today.  While it is difficult to say what Mitt Romney might do in this area, as he did not mention Iraq or Afghanistan in his nomination acceptance speech, we know that President Obama has proposed a continued decline in our military presence.  In conjunction with this reduced overseas military presence, there has been a reduction in the sacrifice young, American men and women and a much needed reduction in overseas military spending

Finally, a Health care Reform Bill

Despite the Republicans critical perspective of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), at least, finally, the United States has joined the rest of the Western World in an attempt to provide a plan to give all Americans access to health care insurance.  Among other advances, millions of young adults are covered on their parents' plans, sick Americans who were previously denied coverage have access to insurance, and benefit caps have been removed so the chronically ill do not have to choose bankruptcy or death.  While we can expect President Obama to work to improve this advance, it is obvious that Romney will work to repeal the ACA and ignore the success of Massachusetts where he had reduced the uninsured of that state to one of the lowest rates in the country.

..Mitt Romney


Mitt Romney has taken full advantage of capitalism.  He is extremely rich.  He has been involved in multiple, successful businesses that enriched investors.  He is one of the 1%.  But, no matter how you slice it, we need the 1% to begin investing in America.  We need them to stop shipping manufacturing jobs overseas.  We need them to put patriotism before profit.  We need them to feel that their president wants them to succeed, not punish them for their success.  It is clear that Obama is not one of the 1%, even though his salary qualifies him, and he has hired and is advised by many who are.  It all comes down to perception, and the majority of those who comprise both the public and private boardrooms in America, look at Obama as an outsider, a novice, an idealist even.  But Romney is one of them. 


It is all too painfully clear that the House of Representatives will not work with the President if he is reelected.  And, if the Senate were to change hands as well, I expect that we can look forward to even more partisianship in the form of Senatorial filibusters although it will be the Democrats rolling out that awful procedure this time.  A Romney election will force the House to move away from their primary goal of just saying NO.  Compromise will no longer be a four letter word as they will be more inclined to make Romney look good and be successful.  And, if the Senate remains Democratic, the House will need to present bills that have a modicum of a chance to pass rather than passing exercises in futility as they have since 2010. 

..None of the above

The reality is that the current version of our two party system is hindering the chance of good governance.  The goal, get elected, has surpassed the goal of solving America's problems.  None of the above, were it to be an option, might send a message that it is time for our elected officials to speak plain, attack our problems head on, lead by example, and place the security and prosperity of America at the top of their to-do lists.  It would be nice if there was someone currently within the system who would propose a change to all ballots, presidential and congressional, that stated that "None of the above" must be added for every race, and if this "candidate" were to receive more than 10% of the vote, neither candidate wins. 

Short of that, and despite my better judgment, it may be time for an amendment to the Constitution.  Change the length of terms for all members of congress to four years.  Once elected, one term and done.  No career politicans (as Paul Ryan is, by the way).  No life time health care coverage.  No pension.  Just service to America and the electorate.

In the end, and regardless of who you choose to vote for, please vote.  Encourage your family and friends to vote.  Exercise your right to vote for as is true of all of our muscles, when we stop exercising something, it begins to weaken, and eventually becomes useless.