Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes Comes What?

 The Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, IN believes in involving its young people in its weekly services. Recently, a four year old little boy took the stage before the congregation and sang for the adults in the sanctuary. What did he sing? Maybe "Jesus Loves Me?" Nope. How about "Amazing Grace?" Nope. Instead of one of those old beloved hymns he sang a little ditty who's title I don't actually and it may not even have one. The audio is a little hard to make out but you tell the young man is pleased as punch to be singing for the big folks this day.

The "hook" of the lyric turns out to be, "Ain't No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven." The audience erupts in approving applause and the gentleman on the stage, who appears to be Pastor Jeff Sangl, smiles from ear to ear as the boy sings the line. As the crowd continues to whoop and holler in appreciation of what this 4 yr. old is singing, you can hear a male voice shout out proudly, "That's my boy!!!"

The Apostolic Truth Tabernacle describes itself on its website as an Apostolic Pentecostal Church, which places it in a strongly conservative spot on the faith / tolerance continuum. God's Word is God's Word and doesn't need to be watered down or apologized for.

With this video making the rounds now, the church posted a message on its homepage dated today:

5/30/12 - The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives. We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.

Seriously, that's fine. They say right there on their webpage that they don't hate anybody no matter what. Why would they lie? I just need someone to explain to me how the whoopin' and hollerin' is a display of love for their fellow man. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing there might be a few gay people in Greensburg, IN who would'nt have felt very "loved" had they been in the sanctuary that morning.

Scripture tells us "Judge not, lest ye be judged..." which is perfectly acceptable principal. Somehow, this little boy has already been taught that certain people ain't gettin into Heaven. Not because they're bad people, but because they're gay. Can a four year little boy really begin to process what the concept of a person being gay is all about? A four year old? Seriously?

Watch the video:

Children singing in Church to enthusiastic... by f100001838231867

I think what bothers me so much about this video isn't so much what the adults are doing but what the child is. Some adult, probably a parent, taught him this song and these words and trained him to be able to repeat it all on his own. I don't believe the child has any clue what he's singing about. That said, the imagery is sickening. To exploit a child like this to spread your hatespeech and bigotry interpretation of "the grace of God's love" takes some bad judgement of biblical proportions.

This would never have happened in the Methodist Church I was raised and if it had, my parents would've stood us up and walked us right out the front door. See ya...

It seems the more conservative element of our country is taking a few big steps toward the right and away from anything remotely resembling a moderate position on several things. Especially homosexuals and women's reproductive rights. Last week I wrote about Reverend Worley of a church in North Carolina who suggested "...putting all the gays in a big cage and drop food down to them." Some of the good people of the Tarheel State feel (13% at least) that Homosexuality should be a federal crime. Kansas preacher Curtis Knapp said in a recent sermon that the Government should kill all the gays in the country.

I know, I know...those guys don't speak for the mainstream of religion. No, they don't but it seems there's more and more of them looking at the "mainstream" as some sort of failed purity test. Its not fair to judge a faith by a few outspoken outliers, is it? Of course not. But what to do? How does a church convince those around it that they're not extreme, not radical?

I'm not sure, to be honest with you since I stopped attending Church a long time ago. Perhaps I'll give one of my Muslim friends a call and see if they have any helpful hints...


VP Biden Remarks for Gold Star Families...

Vice President Joe Biden was asked to give some remarks at a recent meeting of Gold Star Families for Peace, families who have lost a loved one who had been serving in the United States military in the Iraq war. Biden has a unique experience that certainly qualifies him to be a compelling speaker for such a group as Gold Star. Forty years ago his wife and daughter where both killed in an auto accident when a tractor trailer broadsided his wife's car.

Vice President Biden's comments:

Its not often I find a politician's comments to be so genuine, so heartfelt as Mr. Biden's were. Perhaps this was all just a dog and pony show, but I doubt it. I think losing your wife and little girl in the way he did leaves a mark on a man, that never goes away. I thought it very giving of him to share his experience, his feelings, his anger, etc. with the families that no doubt all have felt many of the same emotions.

I think Mr. Biden is probably one helluva of a decent guy. Who cares if he goes off script sometimes? He speaks from the heart, and doesn't seem to always be looking out for himself. (I say that because Biden is widely known as one of the "poorer" politicians in Washington DC.) I really respected what he said and how he said it to this group. From various reports I've heard on the event, the audience was blown away by the VP's remarks. They loved them.


Three Degrees of Dumbness...

In the last ten days or so, there have been three stories involving an airline passenger, an official of the AFL-CIO and a national Adult magazine all being, well...dumb...

All were targeting some element from the other end of the political spectrum, with whom they felt they had a beef...

1. A female passenger boarded an American Airlines flight with a T-shirt that read, "If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d fuck a senator." She was instructed by the pilot of her originating flight that she'd need to change her shirt before boarding her connecting flight home. She was able to cover it up with her shawl and successfully caught the next flight home later that same day. 

I'd heard this discussed on the Sirius Left channel as well as browsed a few headlines on the internet. Much of the coverage I heard and saw had morphed this incident into yet another attack on women's rights. While I agree that its not been a great year or two to be a woman in terms of fending off legislative attacks from the Right on various abortion/contraception issues, I don't see the connection here. The airline cited a rule that addresses clothing that might be offensive to other passengers. The fact that she passed through security and flew all the way to her connecting location I think, is immaterial to the basic issue. When you knowingly board an airplane with a t-shirt on that has the word "fuck" on the front, guess what? You've crossed the line and you've earned whatever grief the airline chooses to hand you. Its a stunt, almost daring a large corporation to take you on in a fairly public way. While I agree with the general sentiment, the form and timing of communicating that particular message was entirely inappropriate. Its silliness like this that cheapens  the legitimate issue of women's rights and the recent and alarming trend we've seen from Conservative legislators of late. Dumb...

2. Donna DeWitt, President of the South Carolina AFL-CIO attended a party with other union supporters recently. Captured on video is DeWitt hitting a pinata with the likeness of SC Governor Nikki Haley on it, which brought cheers from the crowd. Governor Haley is no friend of union in South Carolina, to be sure. “All it does is it makes my heels taller, my heels sharper so that I can kick harder,” she said. “I’m not going to stop beating up on the unions. I’m not going to stop beating up on the Democrats for wasteful spending. … I’m a lot tougher than that. I’m going to keep on kicking,” said Haley. 

DeWitt isn't a private citizen. She is the President of her State's AFL-CIO association, which is a fairly high profile job to have. In this day and age, it should be obvious to anyone with a public title that there will be cameras at almost all events. Most smart phones now also function as a video camera with pretty impressive quality. While it may have been a private event, nothing is really private anymore. In spite of her differences with the Governor, something shouldv'e went off in her head that said, "Hold up, the last thing I or we need is a YouTube video clip of me beating Nikki Haley's face in with a club, let alone enjoying it." That something didn't go off and thus this unnecessary clip has brought a healthy dose of criticism from the Governor herself and RW media outlets like Fox News. A totally unforced error on DeWitt's part for which, the union members will pay the price...Dumb...

3. Last week, Hustler Magazine posted a picture of conservative journalist and television commentator SE Cupps with a photo-shopped male sex organ in her mouth. The publication included this description along with the photo: 

 “S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator, who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp’s suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.”

They also included a disclaimer: “No such picture of S.E. Cupp actually exists. This composite fantasy is altered from the original for our imagination, does not depict reality, and is not to be taken seriously for any purpose.”

Well, that makes it all better, doesn't it? 

I don't think Larry Flynt gives a crap about a potential de-funding of Planned Parenthood. Not in the least. That said, I do think Flynt cares quite a bit about selling magazines and website subscriptions. Targeting a pretty, conservative professional journalist in such a way is about as bad as it gets. Because of his known political leanings and description of her joining the "dark side," it stands to reason he feels he is aligning himself with the Left, as opposed to the Right. Flynt is a pig and has been for a long time. Whether you agree with Cupp's politics or not, a picture like this isn't the work of a creative, edgy magazine that is worthy of reading. Its the equivalent of a 7th grader scrawling a dirty word on the inside of a bathroom stall, only because its NOT a 7th grader doing the scrawling, its ten times worse. Hey Larry, don't come off as standing up for women by exploiting an unwitting and certainly unwilling participant. Dumb...


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gas Prices Nationally Falling...

“If you want $10 a gallon gasoline, an anti-energy secretary, and in weakness requiring us to depend on foreigners for our energy, Barack Obama should be your candidate.”

Newt Gingrich - February 25, 2012

According to the Gasoline price tracking website, prices for a gallon of regular unleaded have fallen to $3.66/gal. Compare that the national average of a month ago of $3.81, prices have fallen .15.

Looking back further, if we look at 3 months ago when the national average was the same as today at $3.66.

If we look back 12 months, one year ago gas prices were $3.79 or .13 higher last year than they are currently.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Life Worth Ending by Michael Wolff - Journalism at its best...

Once in a while a writer captures the true essence of his topic. Michael Wolff, in last week's New Yorker magazine has written an opus on what a family goes through in modern times as a mother or father declines in health. He describes in everyday language the experiences, various medical issues and frustrations caused by our lack of a coherent plan which spouses, children, health care professionals, lawyers, realtors, corporations, etc. all  play a part in.

Most of us hope for a quick, painless death when our time is up. Yet for others, we see modern technology advanced to a degree where those oldest among us are now able to be sustained at a minimum level for a months and sometimes years. "Quality of life" is a nice idea, but when circumstances put us in a place where our Mom or Dad is unable to walk, read, speak, feed themselves, go to the bathroom for themselves, quality of life has pretty much left town.

If you work in a long term care facility, treat older adults, or have yet to face the extended disease process that a parent can be forced to endure, you should read this. If you have already lost your parents, its still worth a read to give some depth to the dynamics of the challenges that face our children when our time arrives.

The piece is on par with the brilliant essay from Dr. Atul Guwande titled "Letting Go-What should medicine do when it can't save your life?" from the New Yorker (August 2nd, 2010)


A Life Worth Ending                By Michael Wolff 

The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying. A son’s plea to let his mother go.

On the way to visit my mother one recent rainy afternoon, I stopped in, after quite some constant prodding, to see my insurance salesman. He was pressing his efforts to sell me a long-term-care policy with a pitch about how much I’d save if I bought it now, before the rates were set to precipitously rise. For $5,000 per year, I’d receive, when I needed it, a daily sum to cover my future nursing costs. With an annual inflation adjustment of 5 percent, I could get in my dotage (or the people caring for me would get) as much as $900 a day. My mother carries such a policy, and it pays, in 2012 dollars, $180 a day—a fair idea of where heath-care costs are going.
I am, as my insurance man pointed out, a “sweet spot” candidate. Not only do I have the cash (though not enough to self-finance my decline) but a realistic view: Like so many people in our fifties—in my experience almost everybody—I have a parent in an advanced stage of terminal breakdown.
It’s what my peers talk about: our parents’ horror show. From the outside—at the office, restaurants, cocktail parties—we all seem perfectly secure and substantial. But in a room somewhere, hidden from view, we occupy this other, unimaginable life.
I didn’t need to be schooled in the realities of long-term care: The costs for my mother, who is 86 and who, for the past eighteen months, has not been able to walk, talk, or to address her most minimal needs and, to boot, is absent a short-term memory, come in at about $17,000 a month. And while her LTC insurance hardly covers all of that, I’m certainly grateful she had the foresight to carry such a policy. (Although John Hancock, the carrier, has never paid on time, and all payments involve hours of being on hold with its invariably unhelpful help-line operators—and please fax them, don’t e-mail.) My three children deserve as much.
And yet, on the verge of writing the check (that is, the first LTC check), I backed up.
We make certain assumptions about the necessity of care. It’s an individual and, depending on where you stand in the great health-care debate, a national responsibility. It is what’s demanded of us, this extraordinary effort. For my mother, my siblings and I do what we are supposed to do. My children, I don’t doubt, will do the same. And yet, I will tell you, what I feel most intensely when I sit by my mother’s bed is a crushing sense of guilt for keeping her alive. Who can accept such suffering—who can so conscientiously facilitate it? “Why do we want to cure cancer? Why do we want everybody to stop smoking? For this?” wailed a friend of mine with two long-ailing and yet tenacious in-laws.

In 1990, there were slightly more than 3 million Americans over the age of 85. Now there are almost 6 million. By 2050 there will be 19 million—approaching 5 percent of the population. There are various ways to look at this. If you are responsible for governmental budgets, it’s a knotty policy issue. If you are in marketing, it suggests new opportunities (and not just Depends). If you are my age, it seems amazingly optimistic. Age is one of the great modern adventures, a technological marvel—we’re given several more youthful-ish decades if we take care of ourselves. Almost nobody, at least openly, sees this for its ultimate, dismaying, unintended consequence: By promoting longevity and technologically inhibiting death, we have created a new biological status held by an ever-growing part of the nation, a no-exit state that persists longer and longer, one that is nearly as remote from life as death, but which, unlike death, requires vast service, indentured servitude really, and resources.
This is not anomalous; this is the norm.
The traditional exits, of a sudden heart attack, of dying in one’s sleep, of unreasonably dropping dead in the street, of even a terminal illness, are now exotic ways of going. The longer you live the longer it will take to die. The better you have lived the worse you may die. The healthier you are—through careful diet, diligent exercise, and attentive medical scrutiny—the harder it is to die. Part of the advance in life expectancy is that we have technologically inhibited the ultimate event. We have fought natural causes to almost a draw. If you eliminate smokers, drinkers, other substance abusers, the obese, and the fatally ill, you are left with a rapidly growing demographic segment peculiarly resistant to death’s appointment—though far, far, far from healthy.
Sometimes we comb my mother’s hair in silly dos, or photograph her in funny hats—a gallows but helpful humor: Contrary to the comedian’s maxim, comedy is easy, dying hard. Better plan on two years minimum, my insurance agent says, of this stub period of life—and possibly much more.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson took issue with some California Seniors who gave him a rough ride about Social Security via this letter. Simpson pulled no punches, to say the least.

The fear is, of course, that Social Security is destined to fail within the next few decades, when the reality is that the program added $95 Billion to its surplus which now totals a $2.7 Trillion dollar surplus.

Here's the coverage from Politico...


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Obama vs. Recent Presidents on Spending...Surprise, Surprise...

The following is a direct quote from the campaign website:

"Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history, taking us from an already staggering $3.5 trillion in federal spending in 2010 to a projected $5.6 trillion within the next decade. This sharp rise has been entirely a matter of choice. Even as federal spending remains wholly within our control, Washington is spending money in an out-of-control fashion."
This is a direct quote from a speech Mitt Romney gave on May 15th in Des Moines, Iowa:
"A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation, and every day we fail to act that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love," Romney told supporters at a downtown Des Moines hotel. He emphasized an issue that's a big concern of the middle-class voters from across the political spectrum he and Obama are wooing." (Huffington
Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article by Rex Nutting that makes a pretty convincing case that this notion that Barack Obama is spending money more than any recent President, is simply not grounded in reality. He doesn't make the case that Obama isn't spending a lot of money, but the claims from the Romney camp that Obama is spending more/faster are the focus of the piece.

Read Nutting's article here...

Two charts illustrate the author's point: 

...and the second: 

These numbers include the Stimulus package of 2009. 

Much like "Obama's a Muslim," "Obama's not an American", the meme that "Obama has increased spending faster than anyone ever" isn't true. That said, this claim isn't about to go away anytime soon.


A preacher response to Reverend Worley's anti gay comments...

The not so good Reverend Worley is rebuked. Well done, Sir for speaking out against one of your peers who is spreading hate and fear in the name of God...

Watch the rebuke here:

Put Them In Cages? Really?

  I'm not even sure where to start...

The Reverend Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church doesn't like gays. I mean really doesn't like gays at all. That said, the good Reverend being filled with the Holy Spirit and God's boundless love had a few things to say about what we ought to do with pretty much anyone who isn't straight sexually.

Watch the video...


 If I'm a Christian and had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Worley I'm not sure what I'd say. Bigotry dies hard and slow in places like North Carolina. Some will defend this man's right to his religious beliefs, some will say he's only defending God's word, others will say he's defending nature and the natural course on how things were meant to be in our world. (Clearly, he won't be voting for the Christian in the next Presidential election. How about that?)

I think I would simply not bother. Instead of hoping for a last minute conversion, I'll just let Father Time do his thing. This man will likely be received at the pearly gates sometime in the next 15-20 years or so and he can take his ignorance and hate with him. As those like-minded members of his generation leave this world, we can look forward to a time (yes, look forward to a time) where this type of immoral hatred cloaked in the robes of the clergy is reduced to something rare.

Religion is at its best when its used as a force of good to help people cope with their existence on Earth and for many, prepare them for whatever comes next. Religion is at its worst when it reverts back to its harsher First Testament tone. Salvation by coercion isn't really salvation at all. Its the kidnapping of a soul. Its bullying on a Heavenly scale.
Gay rights have come a long way in a fairly short period of time. We know how it ends. At some point, Americans will embrace the freedoms promised in our Constitution and of course embrace gay marriage. At some point we'll ask ourselves why it was ever a big deal.


For now, perhaps should gather up Rev. Worley, the Rev. Fred Phelps and all the others of their ilk and put them in a cage. We can drop food in for them every now and then.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Most Men Should Skip PSA Test According to USPSTF...

  The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine that suggests most men should seriously consider not undergoing a PSA test to check for Prostate Cancer. The risks may outweigh the benefit for the vast majority of men, according to the group's Chairperson, Dr. Virginia Moyer. "It’s important for doctors and patients to understand that our current approach to screening for prostate cancer does not serve men well,” said Dr.  Moyer.  "There is a critical need for a better test—one that leads to early detection of cancers that threaten men’s health, but minimizes unnecessary, risky tests and treatments that do not lead to longer or more healthful lives.”

The study further says that the test, at its most effective, may help just a single male out of a thousand avoid death from Prostate cancer. Usually, cancer of the prostate is very slow growing and occurs in older men, who typically die from something else.

There are also side-effects that have been found to occur in men who seek treatment after learning they have tested positive in the PSA test, including a small percent of men who experienced blood clots, heart issues and to a greater degree (40/1000)  are rendered impotent or incontinent.

The government based group is not suggesting that the test be banned whatsoever. Rather, they simply recommend that most men not even take the test, since any that do test positive will usually seek treatment, which is more problematic than any real issues the actual prostate cancer produces.  

In the end, they clearly indicate this is a personal choice for a patient, who should discuss his concerns with his doctors. 

"You should know what the science says about PSA screening: There is a small potential benefit and there are significant potential harms. But you should also think about your personal beliefs and preferences for health care. Weigh the potential benefits and harms of PSA screening and decide what is most important to you. If the possibility, however small, of avoiding death from prostate cancer is more important to you than the risk of unnecessary harms, then screening may be the right decision."

You can read more about the current situation with Prostate Cancer treatment here and an opposing  viewpoint here.   

It is interesting to me that there are no urologists or cancer specialists on the USPSTF.  Another good point made in the opposing viewpoint article points to a concern for a passive treatment approach with younger men (55-69) for whom the slow growing cancer may have had an early enough start to indeed be of profound concern. 

Its interesting every time the Task Force makes a recommendation. We ought not panic and be afraid that the Government is trying to kill us but rather this board of medical experts is bringing their years of knowledge and experience to bear on various medical screenings that may simply not provide a benefit to all who undergo them.  Remember the fuss about the Mammograms a few years ago? 


Don't Bother With PSA Test, Expert Board Says - Maggie Fox -

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Presidential Budgets - No big deal...

Great read from former Reagan Economist Bruce Bartlett on why the President's Budget is not exactly critical to our Country's business.

A preview:

Given all these changes in the budget process, the president's budget has been greatly diminished in importance. Whereas it was once the necessary starting point for all budget discussion, since that was the only place the numbers even existed, now it is just one proposal among many. Congress tends to rely exclusively on the CBO for all its budget numbers and analysis. Although departments and agencies are supposed to adhere to the president's priorities, they do so only half heartedly.

Read the whole thing: 

Who Cares About The President's Budget? -

Chris Hedges: A Victory for All of Us - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

Compelling article by renowned reporter Chris Hedges on his involvement in the case against the United States Government regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Hedges are his co-plaintiffs won the case last week...

AP/Mary Altaffer

Iraq War veteran Sgt. Shamar Thomas leads a demonstration in New York’s Grand Central Station to call attention to a law signed by President Barack Obama that granted extraordinary powers to the military.

Posted on May 18, 2012

In January, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran asked me to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that challenged the harsh provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We filed the lawsuit, worked for hours on the affidavits, carried out the tedious depositions, prepared the case and went to trial because we did not want to be passive in the face of another egregious assault on basic civil liberties, because resistance is a moral imperative, and because, at the very least, we hoped we could draw attention to the injustice of the law. None of us thought we would win. But every once in a while the gods smile on the damned.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, in a 68-page opinion, ruled Wednesday that Section 1021 of the NDAA was unconstitutional. It was a stunning and monumental victory. With her ruling she returned us to a country where—as it was before Obama signed this act into law Dec. 31—the government cannot strip a U.S. citizen of due process or use the military to arrest him or her and then hold him or her in military prison indefinitely. She categorically rejected the government’s claims that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to bring the case to trial because none of us had been indefinitely detained, that lack of imminent enforcement against us meant there was no need for an injunction and that the NDAA simply codified what had previously been set down in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act. The ruling was a huge victory for the protection of free speech. Judge Forrest struck down language in the law that she said gave the government the ability to incarcerate people based on what they said or wrote. Maybe the ruling won’t last. Maybe it will be overturned. But we and other Americans are freer today than we were a week ago. And there is something in this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Should we pay for investment bank losses?

Interesting article from the wall street journal discussing the blur between investment banking and regular loan commercial banking and the risk it poses to tax payers.

Tom Frost: The Big Danger With Big Banks -

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is the Senate Fililbuster Un-Constitutional?

Interesting read from Ezra Klein, who writes on Emmet Bonduraunt's intention of taking a case to the Supreme Court regarding the filibuster in the Senate, which by most measures, it being abused.

A preview: 

In a 2011 article in the Harvard Law School’s Journal on Legislation, Bondurant laid out his case for why the filibuster crosses constitutional red lines. But to understand the argument, you have to understand the history: The filibuster was a mistake.
In 1806, the Senate, on the advice of Aaron Burr, tried to clean up its rule book, which was thought to be needlessly complicated and redundant. One change it made was to delete something called “the previous question” motion. That was the motion senators used to end debate on whatever they were talking about and move to the next topic. Burr recommended axing it because it was hardly ever used. Senators were gentlemen. They knew when to stop talking.
That was the moment the Senate created the filibuster. But nobody knew it at the time. It would be three more decades before the first filibuster was mounted — which meant it was five decades after the ratification of the Constitution. “Far from being a matter of high principle, the filibuster appears to be nothing more than an unforeseen and unintended consequence of the elimination of the previous question motion from the rules of the Senate,” Bondurant writes.
And even then, filibusters were a rare annoyance. Between 1840 and 1900, there were 16 filibusters. Between 2009 and 2010, there were more than 130. But that’s changed. Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid says that “60 votes are required for just about everything.”
At the core of Bondurant’s argument is a very simple claim: This isn’t what the Founders intended. The historical record is clear on that fact. The framers debated requiring a supermajority in Congress to pass anything. But they rejected that idea.
Read the entire article here...

A 30,000-Foot View on the Presidential Race -

Terrific overview of where the Presidential Race stands right one of the best in the business in Nate Silver of the 538 blog/NYT...

An excerpt:

A 30,000-Foot View on the Presidential Race

We are beginning to see more national surveys now, including this week’sNew York Times/CBS News poll, which show Mitt Romney with a slight lead over President Obama in the general election matchup. To be sure, there are also a number of polls that put Mr. Obama slightly ahead. But his lead does seem to have narrowed — from about three or four points in an average of national polls a month or two ago to more like a point or so in surveys today.
Has something fundamental changed in the race?
In my view, probably not. Instead, I suspect we are seeing some reversion to the mean. It could be that Mr. Obama’s larger lead from before was somewhat ephemeral, although there are a couple of factors that may be working in Mr. Romney’s favor at the margin.
Although we are getting to the point where these national polls are at least worth a passing glance, it is still also worth paying attention to Mr. Obama’s approval rating. These have a history of predicting electoral outcomes at least as closely as head-to-head polls in the early stages of the race, especially for sitting incumbent presidents.
Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have not moved all that much. For the last month or two, they have been essentially even. Right now, in the RealClearPolitics average, 48.3 percent of Americans approve of the job that Mr. Obama is doing, and 48.6 percent disapprove.
A president can get re-elected with numbers like those. Obviously, he can also lose. But the fact that Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are close to even means that it should not be surprising that the numbers in his matchup against Mr. Romney are getting closer to even, too.
Read the whole thing: 

A 30,000-Foot View on the Presidential Race -

1 in 3 healthcare dollars is wasted...

Interesting article from Donald Berwick, who knows a thing or two on the subject...

In health care, cheaper can mean better -

Monday, May 14, 2012

President Obama Plays It Safe with Gay Marriage...

Oh, yes he did...

Last week, President Barack Obama grabbed headlines when he sat down with ABC's Robin Roberts and finally revealed his personal opinions on same sex marriage (ssm). Not surprisingly, he feels it should be legal, but stopped well short of saying there should be a Federal Law protecting that right. Rather, he mostly punted it back to the States as fundamentally a states rights issue. Obama did state clearly he thinks there should NOT be a Federal law prohibiting ssm anywhere in the United States. The far Left rejoiced and campaign contributions spiked up quickly after the interview, which was to be expected. Also to be expected was outrage from the far Right and they didn't disappoint.

Its not news Obama is for SSM...
Its not news the Left is pleased...
Its not news the Right is not...

What is a bit of a news was the timing of the comments, which were reportedly already prepared but not scheduled for released until later this year, closer to the Democratic convention. Whether it was the comments from Vice President Biden or Sec. of Education Duncan that changed the time frame, I don't know. Most of the reporting I've heard was that this was not the intended plan for President Obama's long awaited comments on SSM.

Something's been bothering me about this since he sat down with ABC and shared his "evolution" with the rest of us. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

And then I watched this six and a half minute video:

I'm wondering why a Constitutional lawyer and Professor wouldn't have used the same argument as Rev. Barber did? It would've made perfect sense for President Obama to come out and say "Robin-I support gay marriage and while I can respect how different people may feel differently on this issue, the Constitution doesn't give the States the right to pick and choose which parts they want to observe and which parts they don't. Certainly, we all agree that Churches will decide for themselves how they want to handle this issue and the Government needn't involve itself with that whatsoever."

That would have been the change I was hoping for...

"States rights" has been thrown around so much over the last few years its almost become a punchline. Its a favorite word of Conservatives, as they ride the energy of the Tea Party uprising a few years ago, to use as they beat the drum endlessly on how terrible and over-reaching the Federal Government has become. For President Obama to use that as a main component in his comments sounded nice. I even heard some RW talk radio hosts, who clearly dislike Mr. Obama, say the next day that on this particular point, the President finally got something right.

Hurrah, Mr. President. Hurrah...

Coming out in favor of gay marriage won't help Obama come next November very much. The people who agree/disagree with him on this issue had made up their minds a long time ago on who they'll vote for in seven months. Its difficult for me to think that many undecided/independents said after his comments, "NOW, I know who I'm voting for!!!" Frankly, the issue of ssm is a minor one when it comes to a Presidential election. Pocketbook issues will be the focus this time, without a doubt.

I fully expect in time, a few decades worth, this issue will be moot. Its pretty clear the Constitution doesn't discriminate against gays when it comes to marriage. The document guarantees every citizen "equal rights." To suggest a State could formally and officially discriminate against one sub-set of citizenry in favor of another is incomprehensible. North Carolina, for example, can outlaw all the gay marriage, civil unions, etc. they want, but when the dust settles, the Constitution will carry the day and protect the rights of these Americans.

Its not just disappointing that the President, who has studied and taught Constitutional Law, failed to hold that document up as the standard on this issue, its also quite telling that so many on the Right didn't either. I've lost track of how many times the founding fathers and their sacred documents have been tossed in to the rhetoric of the last few years to buttress this point or that. I'm just stunned, stunned I say that Conservatives didn't make the case for Constitution prevailing when the President didn't.

It really shows me something when an issue actually calls for the intervention and application of the Constitution, but our President nor his loyal opposition have the guts to use it correctly.

In the end of the day, I don't think President Obama's comments the other day will mean much of anything other than a temporary spike in his fundraising. In fact, I think it hurts him more than it helps him with the undecided voters who will decide the next election. This was a missed opportunity for him to be the guy protecting the Constitution for once and instead, he passed the buck...for the States.

If I was a gay man, I'd be thinking its about time Obama spoke clearly on his feelings about ssm, but was that the best you could do?


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Romney's Letter to the Log Cabin Republicans...

Back in 1994, Mitt Romney was running for Senator in Massachusetts. His opponent was Ted Kennedy a Democrat. Romney wrote a letter to a group called the Log Cabin Republicans, which is a group of conservative Republican gay voters. In this letter, he asked for the group's official endorsement. The text of his letter shows a position quite different from where he stands now on the issue of gay rights.

The full text of the letter: (Boldface mine...)

October 6, 1994

To the Members of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts:

I am writing to thank the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts for the advice and support you have given to me during my campaign for the U.S. Senate and to seek the Club’s formal endorsement of my election. The Log Cabin Club has played a vital role in reinvigorating the Republican Party in Massachusetts and your endorsement is important to me because it will provide further confirmation that my campaign and approach to government is consistent with the values and vision of government we share.

I am pleased to have had an opportunity to talk with you and to meet many of you personally during your September meeting. I learned a great deal from those discussions and the many thoughtful questions you posed. As a result of our discussions and other interactions with gay and lesbian voters across the state, I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for Americas gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.

I am not unaware of my opponent’s considerable record in the area of civil rights, or the commitment of Massachusetts voters to the principle of equality for all Americans. For some voters it might be enough for me to simply match my opponent’s record in this area. But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.

We have discussed a number of important issues such as the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which I have agreed to co-sponsor, and if possible broaden to include housing and credit, and the bill to create a federal panel to find ways to reduce gay and lesbian youth suicide, which I also support. One issue I want to clarify concerns President Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” military policy. I believe that the Clinton compromise was a step in the right direction. I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military. That goal will only be reached when preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians is a mainstream concern, which is a goal we share.

As we begin the final phase of this campaign, I need your support more than ever. By working together, we will achieve the goals we share for Massachusetts and our Nation.

W. Mitt Romney


He closed his letter "Sincerely", so I'll take him at his word that he meant what he wrote about securing equal rights for gays and lesbians.

That was then, this is now. Who needs the log cabin republicans, since they're never going to vote for Obama anyway? Romney's stance on equal rights just doesn't seem to have the same ring it used to, does it?

"I have the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor and I've stated many times," Romney said. "I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman."

I'm sure he's sincere about this, too...


Senator Dick Lugar Vents...

Dick Lugar got his ass kicked yesterday by 20% points in the GOP Primary for his Senate seat in Indiana. He lost to Tea Party endorsed Richard Mourdock. Lugar six terms in the Senate couldn't save him and were probably  a factor as to why he'll be unemployed soon.

Mr. Lugar, known for a keen Foreign Policy mind and a willingness to work with those from the other Party, got a few things off of his chest in his late night email statement that was sent out.

Its an impressive statement, if for nothing but its honesty, clarity and frankness. This is the second mostly moderate Senator Indiana has said goodbye to in recent years. Sen. Evan Bayh, after just two terms decided he'd had enough and walked away. Its not a good time to be a moderate, it seems. The themes of Lugar's goodbye letter are clear. Lugar warns his successor against counter-productive partisanship, which Mourdock has pledged he will engage in from the moment he's sworn into office, should he win the general in November. Lugar talks about the state of the Republican party, politics in general and how both parties need to work together, as they did during the Reagan era.

Read Senator Lugar's full statement:

I would like to comment on the Senate race just concluded and the direction of American politics and the Republican Party. I would reiterate from my earlier statement that I have no regrets about choosing to run for office. My health is excellent, I believe that I have been a very effective Senator for Hoosiers and for the country, and I know that the next six years would have been a time of great achievement. Further, I believed that vital national priorities, including job creation, deficit reduction, energy security, agriculture reform, and the Nunn-Lugar program, would benefit from my continued service as a Senator. These goals were worth the risk of an electoral defeat and the costs of a hard campaign. 

Analysts will speculate about whether our campaign strategies were wise. Much of this will be based on conjecture by pundits who don't fully appreciate the choices we had to make based on resource limits, polling data, and other factors. They also will speculate whether we were guilty of overconfidence.

The truth is that the headwinds in this race were abundantly apparent long before Richard Mourdock announced his candidacy. One does not highlight such headwinds publically when one is waging a campaign. But I knew that I would face an extremely strong anti-incumbent mood following a recession. I knew that my work with then-Senator Barack Obama would be used against me, even if our relationship were overhyped. I also knew from the races in 2010 that I was a likely target of Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and other Super Pacs dedicated to defeating at least one Republican as a purification exercise to enhance their influence over other Republican legislators.

We undertook this campaign soberly and we worked very hard in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to overcome these challenges. There never was a moment when my campaign took anything for granted. This is why we put so much effort into our get out the vote operations.

Ultimately, the re-election of an incumbent to Congress usually comes down to whether voters agree with the positions the incumbent has taken. I knew that I had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that would be targeted by outside groups.

These included my votes for the TARP program, for government support of the auto industry, for the START Treaty, and for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. I also advanced several propositions that were considered heretical by some, including the thought that Congressional earmarks saved no money and turned spending power over to unelected bureaucrats and that the country should explore options for immigration reform.

It was apparent that these positions would be attacked in a Republican primary. But I believe that they were the right votes for the country, and I stand by them without regrets, as I have throughout the campaign.

From time to time during the last two years I heard from well-meaning individuals who suggested that I ought to consider running as an independent. My response was always the same: I am a Republican now and always have been. I have no desire to run as anything else. All my life, I have believed in the Republican principles of small government, low taxes, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and trade expansion. According to Congressional Quarterly vote studies, I supported President Reagan more often than any other Senator. I want to see a Republican elected President, and I want to see a Republican majority in the Congress. I hope my opponent wins in November to help give my friend Mitch McConnell a majority.

If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don't succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.
Legislators should have an ideological grounding and strong beliefs identifiable to their constituents. I believe I have offered that throughout my career. But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment.

Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today – from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.

I don't remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.
I hope that as a nation we aspire to more than that. I hope we will demand judgment from our leaders. I continue to believe that Hoosiers value constructive leadership. I would not have run for office if I did not believe that.

As someone who has seen much in the politics of our country and our state, I am able to take the long view. I have not lost my enthusiasm for the role played by the United States Senate. Nor has my belief in conservative principles been diminished. I expect great things from my party and my country. I hope all who participated in this election share in this optimism.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Undaunted Tactics: The Strategy of Silence for Obama and Romney - 2012 Decoded

Obama and Romney: Long on tactics, short on courage...

Great article by Major Garrett from the National Journal comparing the two combatants use of tactics in picking their fights and why it may be smart to not be brave right now...

Undaunted Tactics: The Strategy of Silence for Obama and Romney - 2012 Decoded:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Newest Obama Ad...

This ad titled, "Go" debuts this week in several battleground states including Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It doesn't mention Romney, mostly touting progress the Administration feels its made since he took office in January 2009.

Watch the ad:


 I'm guessing a popular comment to this video will be "I wish he would."

Poll #2: Swing-State Poll from Gallup/USA Today Shows Obama, Romney in Virtual Tie

This one look at 12 battleground states that will go a long ways toward determining the next President. While President Obama leads challenger Mitt Romney 47-45, it shows a big improvement for the GOP candidate who trailed Obama by as many as 9 pts. back in late March.

Obama voters seem to be picking up enthusiasm while Romney supporters seem to be fading a bit. Suggestions that excitement about Obama's re-election was lacking earlier in the year may have been a bit premature...

Read more:

Swing-State Poll Shows Obama, Romney in Virtual Tie - Steven Shepard -

US drone air strike kills al-Qaida terrorist wanted for USS Cole bombing | World news |

Mr. "weak on terror" Obama dishes out another helping of payback to one of those involved in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Another al-Qaida leader eliminated...

Another member of the FBI's "Most Wanted List" eliminated...

(Before someone jumps up and down at the wording above, NO, I'm not saying President Obama "did the deed," but if Presidents get credit for stuff that goes wrong, they should get it when it goes right. He's obviously fully supporting missions such as these and that matters. He could be pushing the military in a totally different direction, but he's not, is he?)


US drone air strike kills al-Qaida terrorist wanted for USS Cole bombing | World news |

Poll #1: Obama/Romney - Dead Heat in Latest Politico/GW Poll...

The latest Politico-George Washington University Presidential Poll released this morning...

Quick summary from the Morning Defense Blog:

On foreign policy, the president has a commanding lead: Fifty-one percent say Obama would better handle the issue, compared to Romney's 38 percent. This, of course, comes on the heels of Obama's victory lap on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.
Why the president should be worried: Romney leads 48 percent to 38 percent among independents.
Why Romney should be worried: Obama has a personal approval rating of 70 percent, compared to Romney's 56 percent.
Why Democrats should be worried: Sixty-five percent of likely voters believe Republicans will maintain control of the House in the 2012 elections. Forty-one percent think Democrats will maintain the Senate. And 80 percent disapprove of Congress as a whole.

Read the whole thing: 

George Washington University Battleground Poll -

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Michelle Bachmann to Endorse Mitt Romney...

Michelle Bachmann to Endorse Mitt Romney...

According to multiple media reports, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann will officially endorse Mitt Romney for the GOP Nomination, at a campaign rally for Romney in Virginia.

Bachmann has been a bit slow to endorse Mr. Romney, most feel its because to do so more quickly or eagerly may have played poorly with her Tea Party base of supporters, many of whom have questions about Romney's conservative credentials.

Read more about her endorsement from the...

National Journal here
Fox News here
Newsmax here
CNN's Political Ticker here


Usual Suspects Not to Blame for High Health Costs, Report Says - Margot Sanger-Katz -

Another take on the Commonwealth Fund's report on Health care costs, this time from the National Journal.....

Usual Suspects Not to Blame for High Health Costs, Report Says - Margot Sanger-Katz -

U.S. health care spending ‘dwarfs’ other countries - Kathryn Smith -

“The findings make clear that despite high costs, quality in the U.S. health care system is variable and not notably superior to the far less expensive systems in the other study countries,”
The Commonwealth Fund releases new report with familiar findings. We pay far more, for in many cases worse results and, by the way...not all of us are covered with health insurance-which, leads to some of the most expensive care on the planet. 

From Politico's Pro:

U.S. health care spending ‘dwarfs’ other countries - Kathryn Smith -