Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me | Common Dreams

I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me | Common Dreams

The pre-sentence statement from Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced to two years in a Federal prison for disrupting a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008. He was also fined $10,000.

Maybe the best thing I've read in several weeks. Please read it for yourself...

Wiki's info on DeChristopher and the case:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So who are these deadbeats that pay no taxes?

The old “half of Americans pay no taxes” line. | The Incidental Economist

Who are these losers that force the rest of us to carry them? I refer you to the talented folks at the Incidental Economist Blog for a terrific post on this subject. As always, Dr. Carroll and the gang provide a lucid, sensible and reasonable approach to understanding an often mis-uunderstood meme...

Dr. Carroll, take it away...

Director's Blog » Blog Archive » Budget Control Acts of 2011

Director's Blog » Blog Archive » Budget Control Acts of 2011

From the Congressional Budget Office, a current look at both the Boehner and Reid plans for the debt ceiling, with a side by side comparison...

John McCain compares Tea Party to Hobbits walking into Modor

Arizona Senator John McCain with some biting comments on the Tea Party and ladies Angle and O'Donnell along the way.

(Thanks to Tim Farley of the Morning Briefing on POTUS for the heads up)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More affordable drug prices via generics coming soon...

  Over the next 14 months, about 120 brand name prescription medications will become available in generic form, savings consumers significant money. Generics run as much as 70% less expensive as brand name drugs do. Some of the drugs involved include Lipitor, Plavix and Diovan.

How much savings?

When Protonix, a heartburn medication, came off patent and could be produced in a generic form, the monthly cost dropped from $170 to $16. Co pays for the original ranged from $25 for a preferred class of drugs up to  $35 or higher for non preferred ones. Generics , on average cost about $6.00 to fill. Liptor usually costs $150 per month, Plavix $200 per month and Diovan $150 per month to fill without insurance. The out of pocket costs for each may be below $10.00, which is good new for the uninsured.

The drop in price doesn't happen right away, as usually only one generic version is available in the six months or so after the original patent expires. Usually other generic version follow into the market, which brings the overall costs downward.

The flood of new generics to the market will also produce significant savings for businesses and taxpayers who pay for employee coverage or subsidize government programs. Also, its reported that upwards of 25% of consumers don't refill prescriptions due to the expense, so there should be an improvement in that area as well.

Generics are chemical equivalent to brand name drugs and usually work just as well. Over the next 14 months or so, consumers will see generic alternatives of more expensive offerings including medications for asthma, diabetes, depression, bi-polar disorder, high blood pressure and HIV treatments among others.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who ran up the higher deficit? Bush or Obama?

Everybody knows that Obama has exploded our debt, right? Blew spending out of the water. Seems like the Congressional Budget office sees it differently.

From today's New York Times:


Seems pretty convenient that during the Bush Administration, there wasn't too much fuss made about all of this runaway spending. Two wars, a tax cut, the Medicare drug benefit...none paid for. But just as President Obama arrives in town, then it was finally time to stop spending and get our affairs in order. Right now.

I agree we need to cut spending, reduce the size of the Federal Government, and yes, let the Bush tax cuts expire and update our tax code to have more than a single tax bracket for those who make more than 250K a year. (Currently a guy earning 251K per year pays the same tax rate as does a guy making 251 Billion per year in taxes...)

It doesn't tell the whole story, but it does shed a different light upon things, doesn't it?

(Thanks to Pete Dominick/POTUS/CNN for the heads up on the chart...)


Monday, July 25, 2011

Is the Department of Veteran's Affair's banning the use of God at Military Funerals?

I found this headline on Facebook early this morning:

"Stop the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from banning the Word 'God' from Military Funerals"

The long and short of this appears to involve the Director of Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, who has allegedly "banned" the use of God during Military Funerals. Finding this to be more than a little outrageous, I dug deeper. Here's what I've learned from some quick research...

1) The matter appears to have begun about a year ago when a family burying a loved one had specifically requested no references to Christianity be used on the grave marker.

2) There are volunteers called the "Memorial Ladies" who assist the Cemetery during its many Military Funerals. Apparently, members of this group, in offering its condolences used the word God and the family involved was offended and complained to the Facility.

3) Director Ocasio instructed the volunteers to refrain from using Christian terms unless they knew the families faith. From a VA letter released last Friday, "...Subsequently, defendant Ocasio asked the Memorial Ladies to endeavor to respect particular family members religious preferences, and to provide only general condolences without religious reference unless the Memorial Ladies were aware of a family's religious preference and expressions of a specific religious nature would be appropriate."

4) The Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a local VFW and American Legion, as well as the Memorial Ladies in Federal Court, seeking to alter the policy in Houston. 

5) VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor released the following statement: "Invoking the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is common at VA National Cemeteries across the country. However, VA's policy is that VA-sponsored honor guards should not make recitations at commital services unless requested to do so by the deceased's survivor(s.) Taylor also directed FOX 26 to a little known policy dated 2007. It says Honor Guards "shall not provide texts of any such recitations to the deceased's survivors for consideration."

6) According to the Fox report, this appears to be isolated to the Houston Cemetery. In the United States, there are 131 National Cemeteries, with an additional thirty-three similar facilities, soldiers lots or memorials.

So, what does this all mean?

This fuss seems to have started when a family burying a loved one at the Houston National Cemetery complained that their wishes were ignored with regard to no references to Christianity being a part of their ceremonies that day. Someone from one of the volunteers groups assisting with the funeral said something that included a reference to "god" which offended the family. They complained to the Veteran's Administration.

The VA, in response, basically said let's err on the side of caution. On those very rare occurrences where we don't know the wishes of the family or we've been told to leave references to Christian symbols out of that family's funeral, we'll use a generic expression of condolence.

Which is exactly what they should do.

I think reasonable people would agree the most important thing on the day of a funeral is that the wishes of the family are followed as closely as possible. It appears sincere efforts are made by cemetery and VA personnel to achieve this. "I get" that most of the volunteer groups assisting with these funerals will be of the Christian faith. This isn't about them, however. If the wishes of the deceased and their families are paramount on that sad day, then on those fairly rare times when they don't want any references to Christianity, those wishes should be observed. Period.

I've heard a lot of talk about Christians being oppressed by our Government recently. The people at Liberty Institute have filed charges of religious discrimination. How can this be? If a family doesn't want any Christian references, should they be forced to tolerate them anyway because the volunteer groups feel its their right to express their Christianity, regardless of how politely or well-meaning they do so? Isn't that a form of oppression?

When you post the above headline on a social media platform like Facebook, its eye-grabbing. The resulting Google search for info on this reveals a lot of repetition, but also a good dose of anti-Government contempt. I saw charges that President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta are behind this. From what I can see, in 2007, under the Bush Administration, the VA sent out a memo saying that VA sponsored Honor Guard, "shall not provide texts of any such recitations to the deceased's survivors for consideration." This is reasonable because a grieving family should not be subjected to any religious content they don't want. 

Any family that wants extra Christian based readings, comments, prayers associated with their funerals may have them. Nothing I could find suggests that a single request has ever been denied. The VA strives and I say succeeds in being as accommodating as they can be. The most recent American Consumer Satisfaction Survey ranks the VA as tops in the Country. Did the Director of the Houston Cemetery do anything wrong? Based on what I know currently, no she didn't. Is the family who complained being over-sensitive? Perhaps, but I'm not inclined to be critical of such a request from any family at that time. Are the volunteer groups off base? You bet. This isn't about them, its about the burial of our fallen heroes and their families. To exploit these ceremonies and hurl baseless, wildly exaggerated charges against the Government Agency who has provided these services for years is selfish, classless and un-American. The facebook headline suggests some massive Government conspiracy to take away people's religion freedoms. Apparently over 13 thousand people have joined "the cause." Its disgusting to play on people's fears like that. It reminds me of the story that made the rounds recently about the American Civil Liberties Union trying to ban Crosses at all Military Cemeteries. People see a sexy headline, do little to no homework or research on it, yet spread it around the internet and before you know it, its everywhere. We even have Congressmen weighing in on this like some grave injustice has happened. I say the over/under on Right Wing talk radio picking up this is mid week. Thursday at the latest. Pandering at its most pathetic.

There's a lot of people pounding their chests these days about religious freedom and liberty. That's all well and good unless your idea of what religion is about or how you choose to express your liberty is in a way someone else disagrees with. Then it gets a little sticky. If the volunteers want to serve their Country by assisting at Military funerals, that's terrific. They don't however get to decide what gets said at these ceremonies. What happens to a fallen Atheist soldier? Do their funerals have to have Christian references just because the volunteers say so? Holy Hell, no. You honor their service. Honor their wishes. 

Not yours.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NBC/WSJ Poll agrees with Reasonable Conversation top rankings on GOP field...

A new GOP Poll has been released by NBC/WSJ...

  As Reasonable Conversation has ranked, the new poll has Romney at #1 and Bachmann at #2 in the results that were released this evening. They also agree with me that Rick Perry is a top five candidate. We also agree John Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty are all lower tier candidates at this time.

  The biggest difference we found involves Herman Cain who we ranked at #3, but NBC/WSJ sees at #6 and Newt Gingrich, who we had at #10 compared to the 5th place ranking they ranked him at.

  The NBC/WSJ did not include Sarah Palin in its results...

The new party of Reagan - The Washington Post

The new party of Reagan - The Washington Post

Worthwhile read for anyone who remembers President Reagan...

Where have you gone? I can't hear you anymore...

First, check out this new article from David Brooks. The more I read of this writer, the more I like him. He's asking the same questions many of us are.

The Road Not Taken -

When a "win" over the Federal Budget and cutting spending was within reach, the GOP turned away. I believe they did so because accepting the framework Obama was offering would've likely increased his chances of re-election.

So much for all this bullshit ranting and raving about "...we owe it to our grandkids to reduce this out of control spending."

It was never about the grandkids, was it? It was useful to use them to ratchet up emotions among the normal folks who don't follow politics on a daily basis. The whole premise of why we had to vote the Progressives out of office in the Mid terms was to change things in Washington and have the people's Will be done. Cut spending! Cut spending!

Wait, that's evidently wrong.

As this unfolds, the most likely option to survive seems to be one where the GOP forces the President to ask Congress for three separate debt ceiling increases. Which the Republicans will reject each and every time, thereby enabling the President to force the increase through the Executive Branch, which is cowardly. We'll give you your increase, so we don't default on our debt, but we're going to make you ask us in three little bits and in the end allow us to vote no every time, knowing that you Mr. President, will ultimately force it through so we can pay our bills.

The beauty of this is that its just complicated enough to fool most of the voters, but still be legislatively legal.

It's shameful.

The silence from Conservatives except for voices like Brooks and Frum is deafening. The silence from my Conservative friends on facebook and other social media is quite telling. Running up to the mid terms, I could predict the arguments I'd read that night. Straight from the day's broadcasts of the Limbaugh, Beck or Hannity show. Ripped from the headlines and scary talk from the Fox News talking heads. I'd hear it in the car during the day, then read it on someone's facebook wall that night. Consistently. On and on we read spending was bad and Obama the Socialist was destroying the Country. I haven't heard bo-peep from most of these folks. Its amazing to me just a few months ago they were weeping on their keyboards about reducing the debt but when the GOP tells Obama to stick it, and a smaller deal will be "just fine, thank you," they're no where to be found. What happened to all the passion?

Smarter people than me are confirming a massive, multi-trillion deal was in the works to really curb spending. Cuts And it was rejected in principle two Saturday's ago. I'm left to figure out what could've been more important than accepting such a huge offer?

The answer is obvious, isn't it?

More important to the GOP leaders, Republicans in general, far right rabble rowsers on talk radio, Fox news and last but not least the facebook voices I'd heard so passionately, so determined, so patriotic. 18 months ago is apparently one thing and one thing only.

Barack Obama must be defeated in his re-election bid.

Barack Obama must be defeated in his re-election bid.

Barack Obama must be defeated in his re-election bid.


If you are of a right leaning mindset, understand what's happened here. Since the day of Obama's election, we've heard the rhetoric about how dangerous this man is for our Country. That his spending is out of control and his Socialist/Marxist pals are in cahoots with him to turn us into a different kind of Country. Non stop, 24 hours a day the warnings were spread. After his election, Obama said that "...elections matter. We won..." Fast forward to the mid terms, Obama again said the "...people spoke loud and clear and that he heard them." Now, with the debate on the debt ceiling, Obama steps up and offers unprecedented spending cuts and cost control moves to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, plus cuts in payroll taxes.

And your guys told him no thanks.

How you feeling these days? Had you really believed the Republican candidates and Tea Party voices when they said they were coming to Washington DC to take our government back? Did you buy it? I know a few folks who went to rallies in the Capital and felt like change was on the way. Not the kind of change this black, probably muslim, probably kenyan community organizer, socialist talked about. Good change...good conservative, patriotic, Christian change.

If I was a Conservative who had walked that road the last few years I would be furious as to why the GOP isn't pushing for the largest deal possible. It would fulfill a campaign and platform promise the Conservatives made to the people prior to the mid terms. It would embolden the Conservative base like nothing else could. "We told you what we'd do if you elected us and we did it!" It's pretty hard to top that for re-election fodder, eh?

Why pass on such a chance to fire up the Conservative base when its handed to you with an offer that capitulates to your desires so strongly? Because there's something else that can fire up the base even more. Its having something to hate. Its having something to be afraid of. The budget is an abstract. Who can really grasp what trillions of dollars means? But having an enemy of the State in the White House? That's pure. That's in your gut, isn't it? This sonofabitch fast-talked his way into an election and now look where we are? Its visceral. Its just makes you sick, doesn't it? Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell says he refuses to help Obama get reelected. Which pretty well sums it up, doesn't it?

That's the manipulation that many of you are a part of. Its insulting and offensive to those of you who are true sincere Conservatives. 

You realize this, right?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Republican Candidates Power Rankings 7/17/11...

Quick hit version this week:

1) Mitt Romney-Romney and his deep pockets stay at the top. His fundraising report revealed he has more money than all of the other GOP candidates, and three times the amount Michelle Bachmann has. He continues to maintain a fairly low profile, which is smart. There will be time for the rough stuff later on.  (Last week: #1)

2) Michelle Bachmann-Holding her own but perhaps showing a few signs of incoming fire. Tim Pawlenty said Bachmann Congressional record is "non-existent" and her husband is drawing attention for his Christian Counseling Clinic which has offended many on the left. Still enjoying great poll numbers she's positioned to do well in Iowa , but after that? Who knows? People talk about Obama being a Radical. Mrs. Bachmann may know how he feels, eh?  (Last week: #2)

3) Herman Cain-His positive ratings continue as Cain gained attention this week for his comments against the building of an Islamic Mosque in Tennessee. Fears of creeping Sharia Law have Cain firmly positioned against the pro-mosque supporters. "I am willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists. That’s what I’m saying.”  He added: “I know that there is a peaceful group of Muslims in this country. Americans have the right to ban Mosques in their communities."  (Last week: #3)

4) Sarah Palin- Her new movie, "The Undefeated" opened in several cities this past week or so to unsurprising reviews. Those who see Palin as a breath of fresh air on the political scene and a potential major player in the upcoming election, loved it. Those who think she's utterly unqualified and a media whore hated it. Says she'll announce her intention by the end of the Summer or so... (Last week: #6)

5) Rick Perry- Widely expected to announce his candidacy in the next few weeks, Perry would add a well thought of Conservative to the GOP field. We'll look at him more closely once he announces his intentions. There is a certain amount of buzz connected to his running.  (Last week: #4)

6) Tim Pawlenty- Poor ratings in the polls, donations rather under-whelming, T-Paw released a video last week about his faith and how its effected his life and would effect his manner of governing. I think he'll do better once the debates pick up in frequency, but it may be too late by then. Hard to find a reason to get excited about his campaign just yet. Called Bachmann out on her "non existent" Congressional record.  (Last week: #5)

 7) Rick Santorum- Signed the Marriage Vow Pledge, (along with Michelle Bachmann) and seems to be sharing a boat with Pawlenty at this time. Both are struggling to get attention and money. I predict one of these two men will have pulled out of the race by the end of the year. Performs poorly in the most recent Real Clear Politics Poll, where is consistently comes in near the bottom of the pack. Not a good sign.  (Last week: #7)

8) Ron Paul- Announced he was retiring from Congress to focus on the Presidential race. Nothing I've seen lately suggests that Paul has the type of engine that could generate enough steam for him to climb very high in the debate. Which is a shame, because Paul brings some ideas that are unique to this campaign.  (Last week: #10)

9) John Huntsman- I think this is just a test run for him. Near the bottom in both polls, fundraising and name recognition. Perhaps a training exercise for 2016?  (Last week: #9)

10) Newt Gingrich-A million bucks in debt already, terrible unfavorables, (only Palin can match him) it looks very likely the former Speaker of the House may be looking for a new contract at Fox News sooner rather than later. An amazing disappointment of a campaign. Stunning.  (Last week: #8)

Overall Rankings: (The lower the score, the better...)

1. Romney - 3
2. Bachmann - 6
3. Cain - 10
4. Pawlenty - 14
5. Palin - 15
6. Perry - 16
7. Santorum - 22 
8. Huntsman - 24
9. Paul - 27 
10. Gingrich - 28


Are Christians Oppressed in the US by the Gov't.? Are Christians the oppressor?

Oppress: (Verb) 1. to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints; subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority or power: a people oppressed by totalitarianism.
  A few days ago I was engaged in a interesting discussion on how Christians in the United States are being oppressed by Government forces, secular corruption and overall Evil. Examples of this oppression included the activities of various legal groups, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), who have lodged official and at times legal challenges against the mixing of religion and public place or institutions. Many of those issues have been in debate for decades and the Courts have often sided with the Plaintiffs in their lawsuits against Cities, School Districts, etc. Another example cited to me was the saying of "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" as evidence that Christians are under attack in a decaying society. Yet another was the "widespread" banning of prayer meetings in private homes. 

 I've heard this claim from Glen Beck as well. Progressives and especially President Obama are out to destroy the United States, turn it into a European/Socialist style Country while eroding Christian values. There are other voices on the Right such as Sean Hannity, who I've heard share the same concerns. Beck and Hannity aside, many people who feel this way do so sincerely. I think they truly believe their faith is under attack and if they don't fight back, the world will perish. Too often, they are made fun of. Also too often, they seem to want their particular vision of Christ to prevail over all others. Which is something I have a real issue with. 

 If the problem is purely "oppression" then I'm left scratching my head why more Christians and Christian leaders weren't supportive of the New York City mosque which wasn't really a Mosque but rather a Community center. I know the Muslims are all out to get us, (including my dentist,) but if oppression of a person's faith is an evil, corrupt act, isn't any example of that equally evil and corrupt? GOP Candidate Newt Gingrich said in the last debate that he'd require any Muslim who wanted to serve in his administration to sign a loyalty pledge. Are there any other faiths that he'd require the same from? Why not? The US has convicted spies of all shapes and sizes, of various faiths, yes? What of the Catholics, Jews or others who have been found guilty. (I know, I know-their Countrymen never slaughtered three thousand Americans, did they?

 To me, one of the fundamental issues I have with organised religion is that everyone feel theirs is the correct one.  I grew up on Team Methodist, but can't remember who our biggest rivals were. There wasn't a lot of talk about that in the 1970's when I last attended Church on a regular basis. It reminds me of Tom Lehrer's classic, "National Brotherhood Week." 

 Trying to find some research on the issue of oppression, I turned to the Association of Religion Data Archives, (ARDA.) They analyze data of this type and have some interesting results. The United States of America is one of the very most "free" Countries in the world in terms of a person being able to practice the religion of his/her choice. Want to worship God, a goat or a gopher? This is where you want to be. 

  To the best of my knowledge, there are no Federal laws that prohibit the practice of any recognized religion in the Unites States. I know of no State or Local laws that prevent any person living in this Country from pursuing any faith of their choice. Yes, there are limits where you may practice your faith, but generally speaking, it doesn't get any more free than here in the US. Church's in fact, receive special treatment from our Federal Government in the form of a "tax free status," which saves US Churches millions of dollars a year. The Federal Government does not petition Churches to spend their monies this way or that. (While the reverse is most certainly not true.)

 Just because you may not be permitted to place a Cross on government property, doesn't mean you have to abandon your faith. In fact, if you don't try and push your faith on anything to do with anything Government, (Courts, Public Schools, etc...) you're not going to have a problem that way. 

 Some are disturbed by the lack of the word "God" in many public school mission statements. If we can substitute "God" with God, Allah or any symbolic head of a faith group," I'd say go for it. But if we can't include all religions, then we shouldn't include any in those mission statements pertaining to our public institutions. 

We should remember that private schools, with a Christian foundation have the freedom to incorporate as much religion as they want with no interference from the Federal Government. Which is how it should be. 

 As far as Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas. I think its political correctness run amuk and people should just get a grip. Just because I say Merry Christmas to people during December every year doesn't mean that I'm insensitive to any Non Christians. I'm not, its just Christmastime, ok? For most of us, it means a time to go shopping and spend money we don't really have. Its not often said as an affirmation of ones faith. Honest to God. 

 As far as the Pledge of Allegiance goes, remember the original version from 1892 did not have the words "under God" in it. Rather, the addition of those words came fifty six year later in a non Governmental way. The Knights of Columbus, the nations largest Catholic fraternal organisation, endorsed it but it wasn't until President Eisenhower in 1954, the day after hearing an especially fiery sermon from preacher George MacPherson Dougherty, who supported its use. Whether this was something President Eisenhower had been mulling over for a while or something inspired by that sermon is unknown to me. Several Courts have found compelling children to say this oath violates their Constitutional rights, while others have found otherwise. Bottom line to me, the Government isn't preventing anyone from saying it, just in some case, stepping in saying to a public school, it can't be forced on anyone. 

It would be far easier for me to make the case that Muslims, Gays, Minorities, etc. are oppressed than Christians. Christians can build Churches almost anywhere they want to. Christians can get married with ease. Married Christians have little trouble collecting death benefits from their spouses's Social Security. And so on...

Why do some Christians feel oppressed? 

I don't know. My hunch is it has to do with building a cause, stirring up emotion to make its followers feel persecuted and therefore under a common yoke. Adversity brings groups together and manufactured adversity works about as well as the real stuff. I also think its a control thing. The more frightened and outcast a group can be made to feel, the more closely they'll bond together. As attendance at Churches worldwide declines, studies are showing individuals are feeling more spiritual. Perhaps some of the smaller denominations are manipulating their congregations to fight falling numbers. 

I don't think Christians, certainly no mainstream branch in the USA today is oppressed. Conversely, I do find many aspects of the Christian Church as a whole somewhat oppressive of people who worship a different God than they do and prefer a partner of the same sex. I think Christians oppress more often than the other way around...


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Social Security Checks Are Not Guaranteed | FrumForum

Social Security Checks Are Not Guaranteed | FrumForum

David Frum explains why Obama might not just be fear mongering when it comes to the possibility that some people won't get their Social Security checks if we don't raise the debt ceiling...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

August Invoices Show U.S. Treasury’s Limited Choices | Bloomberg Government

August Invoices Show U.S. Treasury’s Limited Choices | Bloomberg Government

BGOV provides readers this easy to use calculator to test different scenarios on how the US government might pay its bills with regard to the debt ceiling not being raised by August 3rd. It lets you choose which Federal programs get paid and which don't.

Try it out...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

President Obama abruptly walks out of talks - Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman -

President Obama abruptly walks out of talks - Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman -

Whether he "walked out" of the room or was "just leaving," it seems that President Obama is learning how infuriating these kind of negotiations can be.

It still occurs to me that if on the night of the midterms, President Obama had summoned the White House press corps and announced that he'd offer up over a trillion dollars in cuts, tweak social security and raise the medicare eligibility age by two years, GOP leaders would've said quickly, "where do we sign?"

Evidently not anticipating this Marxist in sheep's clothing would willingly do anything approaching serious cuts, when Obama did exactly that-it seems to have caught the loyal opposition by surprise. This is a huge win for the GOP, all they have to do is claim victory...


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Policy shift in presidential condolence letters - CBS News

Policy shift in presidential condolence letters - CBS News

I think this is the right decision. A shame it too so long for a President to make this change in policy.

We need a lot more money...a LOT more for mental health issues in our armed forces and in general in this Country.

Dems/GOP struggle with budget talks. Take a page from fantasy baseball...

Like many middle aged men, I love sports.

For years I've competed against other like minded individuals in rotisserie baseball leagues. Annually, a group of us will review statistical trends of hundreds of players, read scouting reports on the hot prospects coming up and try to assemble a better team than the other league members can. We'll check how our players are doing whenever possible. Our cell phones come in real handy. A few of us have mastered the art of pulling up the website to check the scores/stats without even taking the phone out of our pockets. We take it very seriously and its up there with sex and eating for enjoyment.

Its very normal for a General Manager to decide he needs some of what another team has. Maybe its a starting pitcher. Perhaps a shortstop. Usually, but not always, that GM will look to other teams who have an abundance of starting pitchers or shortstops and try to figure out what they could use. Let's say they need a catcher, (Everybody in fantasy baseball needs a catcher) and I have an extra one who is better than the ones they currently have. Voila! A win-win. Time to send a trade email!

  To: John Boehner-GM of the Republican Rattlers

  Barry here from the Democratic Dazzlers. I'm looking for help at pitcher and noticed you have some pretty talented guys on your bench. I, on the other hand, have Mr. Muscles, a catcher sitting on mine because I already have Mr. Universe in my lineup. I can send Muscles your way if you could let me have Bazooka arm Bob to help my pitching.  Let me know...

 John will now weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of making this deal. Sometimes, its so reasonable and fair that its a fairly quick yes. Little to no haggling. Other times, its not so easy. Some guys low ball their offers from the start to give them wiggle room to graciously upgrade their offer during further negotiations. Some guys always ask for more no matter how generous the original offer was. (I call them the "...and your Mother" guys.) A better player, a draft pick, cash, etc... Sometimes the offer is just so far out of left field, you just reject it immediately. If its really dumb, you make a mental note to be wary of this certain GM's future offers.

Its not unlike the dance that the Democrats and the GOP are doing currently with the budget talks. The Dems want to increase money coming into the Government and are luke warm to reducing spending. The Republicans want to reduce spending and are very luke warm to the notion of increasing revenues. Both want to reduce the deficit. If this were fantasy baseball the Dems would be flexible on cutting spending while the GOP would show flexibility on increasing revenues. Some acceptable middle ground would be hammered out to their mutual benefit.

The interwebs this morning are running stories about the Obama Administration/Dems showing a willingness to cut two of the biggest entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of more than 100 Billion dollars over the next ten years. In all, the total amount of reduced spending is projected to be 3-4 trillion dollars if the GOP will meet them part way. That by itself will come with a price tag within the Democratic voting population who often can't accept any cuts to these entitlements. Obama seems prepared to deal with that. Its a rational step. Its a serious offer. In return, the Administration wants some thing equally appealing coming its way. Except that it wouldn't be equal. They're willing to accept roughly just $1 in revenues for every $3 dollars of cuts they provide.

Three for one is a pretty serious offer and a fair one. Spending should be expected to carry a larger portion of the load than new taxes might be. Reign in the spending, get serious about reducing waste and fraud and yes cut out some of the silly tax loopholes that are costing the Government much needed revenues. See how far that gets us and then build your case if you can for increasing taxes.

If this were fantasy baseball, you might think the Dems are overpaying or the GOP is underpaying considering the return. When a trade goes through that's so unbalanced, the rest of the league shakes its collective head. We also file it away for future reference...

The budget talks aren't supposed to be a game. Seems to me that the Dems are being serious about taking meaningful steps to address the problem. Are the Republicans holding out for even more? Reasonable people agree spending needs cut, no question. They also think deals and negotiations...even in Congress...and perhaps especially in Congress...should show good faith and skin in the game from both sides.

To: Barry Obama-GM of the Democratic Dazzlers

Looked over your offer and its unacceptable. We want both Muscles and Universe coming our way. We can use one as our designated hitter. If you accept our demands, we're willing to send you Willie Noarmleff. Sure he's struggled a tad this year but we're confident he'd fit your needs. To keep it fair, we'll also toss in our current catcher, Chubby "Big" Mack to help you out. 



C'mon guys....yes both of you Dems and GOP-sters...

Play ball!

Newt Gingrich bets on Alzheimer’s, other niche issues as key to a 2012 comeback - The Washington Post

Newt Gingrich bets on Alzheimer’s, other niche issues as key to a 2012 comeback - The Washington Post

I don't think he's finished and maybe this is a good strategy to get the wheels back on the road. Pocket issues are fairly benign and shouldn't attract too much of the wrong type attention. That said, at some point, as long as his campaign finds enough donations to survive, he will find himself in the cross-hairs of the rest of the GOP field. His negatives are off the charts according to the most recent Gallup Poll survey, so he needs to begin to at least appear normal again before voters can seriously consider him as an alternative to the rest of the Republican field.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Republican Candidates Power Rankings 7/3/11

Good weeks for Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann...

1) Mitt Romney-So far, so good for Gov. Romney. He enjoys a very healthy lead in the GOP polls and in terms of fundraising, he is crushing all of his opponents. Gave a speech in a closed down factory in Allentown, PA this week that focused on how bad Obama is as opposed to how great he would be if elected President. Gave several non answers to direct comparison questions. Which is the smart way to go right now. The less details, the harder it is for someone else to go after him. This will continue to work...for a while. Bachmann's official entry into the field diverted attention to her campaign, which is just fine with Team Romney. (Last week: #1)

2) Michelle Bachmann- Busy week for Mrs. Bachmann. Last Sunday, FOX's Chris Wallace asked her straight up if she was a flake, to which she responded that "...she's a serious person." Monday, she officially kicked off her campaign in Iowa and spent the week travelling and doing media interviews. Off all the candidates, Bachmann's the one with the most buzz. That said, she should be concerned that she places only 5th in the Real Clear Politics poll released this morning, behind Romney, Palin, Perry and Cain. The take away from this to me is that two of those names in front of her have yet to declare anything yet. (Last week #2)

3) Herman Cain-Moving up this week to 3rd overall is Godfather Pizza's CEO, Herman Cain. Tied with Bachmann for the highest "Positive Intensity" scores from Gallup. Lost a few high ranking staffers in New Hampshire and Iowa this week. Donations to the Cain effort pulled in 2.5 Million dollars mostly from Tea Party supporters, which is a healthy start. On the other hand, Romney reportedly raised between 15-20 million by the June 30th deadline. Unless Cain absolutely explodes with increased fund-raising, I suspect his ride...however pleasant right now, will be a short one. (Last week #4)

4) Rick Perry-Still undecided but nearing a decision, Perry polls very well as witnessed by the recent Fox news poll which placed him second to only the frontrunner Romney. If he enters the race, he would likely find himself positioned to the right of both Romney and Pawlenty, but to the left of only Michelle Bachmann. Reports suggest he'd have some work to do regarding fund raising, which could effect his ability to improve his face recognition around the Country. With a general sense that the established group of GOP candidates is not that sterling, Perry's appeal could toss him into the upper tier if he chooses to run. (Last week #7)

5) Tim Pawlenty-What's the guy supposed to do? At best he's in the middle to low end of most polls (8th out of 10 in the RCP Poll). Points scored for being the first to lay out his Foreign Policy plan, which had a hawkish flavor to it. Points lost for Minnesota having to shut its State Gov't down. Whether or not it all or some of Pawlenty's fault is up to debate, but count on a few of his GOP peers using it against him if/when they feel he's enough of a threat top warrant attacking. Raised a little over 4 Million in fundraising which is roughly 25% of what Gov. Romney has to spend. Tough sledding ahead for T-Paw. (Last week #3)

6) Sarah Palin-Took a break from her bus tour to fullfill her "jury duty" obligation back in Alaska. Saw her movie, "The Undefeated" debut in selected towns across the US to mixed reviews. Polling second in the both the Gallup and the RCP polls, Palin is still positioned to make quite the splash if she decides to run for POTUS. She got great name recognition, loads of cash, a buzz factor that blows away anyone else's. A Palin campaign, to many, would be thrilling. Well positioned for either direction. Stay out of the race and play king maker, or jump in with little to lose. (Last week #5)

7) Rick Santorum-Nothing surprising from the Santorum camp this week. Signing the Pro-Life and the Balanced Budget Amendment Pledge, Santorum played it safe, doing what most expected him to do. Stated for the record on the Glen Beck TV show "...there's no such thing as Global Warming." His campaign released no data on fundraising, which may be a bad thing. (Last week #8)

8) Newt Gingrich-June can't end fast enough for the former Speaker of the House. Mass defections, residual effects of his comments about Paul Ryan's budget plan, low donor activity, and now reports of his staff being worried about his Tiffany accounts. Maybe he's done. Maybe its over, but I still say this is one of the brightest minds in America and if he can simply get all four wheels back on the road, perhaps he can begin to climb in the polls. (Last week #10)

 9) John Huntsman- The most left leaning Conservative in the field, Huntsman has refused to sign the Americans for Tax Reform anti tax pledge. With low name recognition, bad polling numbers and a mediocre fund raising start (4M+ reported by the end of June), its hard to put a finger on what Huntsman can do to increase his chances. A Huntsman victory will necessarily be one of winning the war of attrition. (Last week #6)

10) Ron Paul-Beating only Gingrich and Huntsman in Gallup's Positive Intensity score, Paul  also has the lowest unfavorable ratings except for Newt Gingrich. Some good news is that he's reported more than 4.5M in end of June fundraising, which is more than Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman have announced. As interesting a candidate as he may be and in spite of how intensely loyal his followers are, Paul has a huge mountain to climb just to be considered something other than a borderline novelty candidate in 2012. (Last week #9)

Overall Rankings: (The lower the score, the better...)

1. Romney - 2
2. Bachmann - 4
3. Cain - 7
4. Pawlenty - 8
5. Palin - 11
6. Perry - 11
7. Huntsman - 15
8. Santorum - 15
9. Gingrich - 18
10. Paul - 19


Friday, July 1, 2011

Promises, Promises...

What did he say?

Mitt Romney said he said it...
Michelle Bachmann said he said it...
Tim Pawlenty said he said it...
John Boehner and Eric Cantor said he said it...
Sean Hannity said he said it...
Glen Beck said he said it...


The question is did President Obama actually promise if Congress approved his stimulus package back in 2009, that unemployment wouldn't go above 8%? 

Obama never said those words. Look it up...

I'm hearing it quite often these days from the GOP candidates as they take the first steps on their long walks to the Republican nomination. Its a juicy sounding claim to say the President lied about how high unemployment would go. Its just not true.

Fact is, two of his advisors made that statement, along with plenty of caveats and disclaimers. Christina Romer,  chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, the vice president's top economic adviser. It was from a joint effort called the "Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

From Politifact: 

"It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error," the report states. "There is the more fundamental uncertainty that comes with any estimate of the effects of a program. Our estimates of economic relationships and rules of thumb are derived from historical experience and so will not apply exactly in any given episode. Furthermore, the uncertainty is surely higher than normal now because the current recession is unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity."

There's also a footnote that goes along with the chart that states: "Forecasts of the unemployment rate without the recovery plan vary substantially. Some private forecasters anticipate unemployment rates as high as 11% in the absence of action."

The Administration has acknowledged its projections were wrong. Just like the non partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections were wrong as well. 

Words matter. Obama had been office a very short time and his team came up with a set of projections they felt were credible. They warned through the report that the estimates were prone to fluctuations, given the volatility  of the financial markets. There's no debate they were under estimating how high unemployment would go. It is fair to say they should've had a better projection. (Although the people that do budgets, cost estimates, etc. for a living also blew it...) To suggest however, that Obama is a liar because he "promised" unemployment wouldn't go above 8% is simply untrue. 

This election cycle like those before it will have an endless supply of unfair allegations like this one. To the average Hannity or Beck listener/viewer, it sounds plausible. Its certainly something they'd be inclined to agree with and share with their like minded friends. It grows and grows. There will many more by the time November 2012 arrives. On both sides. As interested voters, its our job to fact check everything that we hear. Trust no one. Not Fox, not MSNBC, or whoever you prefer. 

Just as important, ask yourself why does a particular person misrepresent the facts? If you consider Hannity or Olbermann to always tell you the truth, why are they actually failing you? Often on a nightly basis. If you belong to a political personality's fan club, you might be prone to accepting some pleasant sounding but factually wrong information. 

It bothers me. 

It should bother you.

Its very vogue these days to toss around quotes from the founding fathers, so consider this from Thomas Jefferson:

 If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."