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Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's not easy

As we watch the protests and unrest unfold in Egypt, it is easy to get caught up in the emotion. I am watching American Egyptians march in solidarity with the Egyptians who wish to overthrow Mubarek and I ask myself if they realize that rushing toward his ouster could have detrimental effects on their American home? It is easy to encourage the President and Congress to support Egyptian efforts toward Democracy out of a sense of good and right, but our nation's committment to the Israeli/Egyptian peace has long term ramifications if destroyed by an overanxious new government without regard to an already unstable part of the world. The Egyptians are calling for Mubarek to step down, but there are no scheduled elections, no competing candidates with platforms for the people to review and no democratic process in place to replace him with. It is so easy to feel for the Egyptian people but not so easy to sever all of our historic ties with their government due to aspects of autocracy. Slow and steady wins the race. Perhaps Mubarek can commit to leaving office within a reasonable near term time frame while establishing a set date for an election and a period of campaign so people can choose from a field of candidates. During this time, a loosening of the reigns and the establishment of an issues committe headed by ElBaredi, a respected opposition leader. Perhaps this is better than burning, looting and chaos. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Senate Rules

I am disappointed in the Senate. In our nation, there is never a consensus of 60 percent on any issue, and yet Senate rules require 60 to invoke cloture. There had been some discussion after the election about revising it to avoid the type of abuse that was invoked the last two years by filibustering absolutely almost everything. This was not the original intent of the filibuster at all. So Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell came up with a gentlemen's agreement to eliminate individual Senator anonymous holds and to be more thoughtful about what is filibustered. The real meat on the bone, however, was overwhelmingly rejected. Lowering the cloture threshold and requiring Mr. Smith like appearances would have really been an improvement but it is not to be. This time I blame the Democrats who see a strong possibility of their own reduced forces after November 2012 and wanting to insure that they can use republican filibuster abuses if they become the minority. Oh well. Anyway, back to economic growth. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Greatness of America

The President spoke last night of the greatness of America. We can disagree, we can dispute, we can argue without censorship. He referenced regimes that want a rail system so they build it. He referenced regimes that if they do not like what is said about government, they don't publish it. Yes, this is what is great about America. I would be lying, however, if I didn't admit to some envy with such regimes. The likes of a Michelle Bachmann would never be allowed to waste our time. This is an elected official who denied the realities of slavery in our founding documents and single mindedly and stupidly gets to wield 1/435 th of the decision making capabilities of our House of Representatives. She is not an example of greatness. I only hope that the rest of us are smart enough to cast her aside as a rogue, stupid, ignorant and patently ridiculous person. Not so great. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Republican Response

I am writing this post while Congressman Ryan delivers the response to the State of the Union address. Already, it is rhetoric filled with unsubstantiated bluster. The stimulus did not fail and millions of Americans are not about to lose insurance as a result of health care reform. The only words of merit, are words just delivered by the President, simply repeated. He has just finished. The congressman blamed the President, was completely partisan and missed the entire tone of the State of the Union speech. He completely forgot that uncontrolled spending began while he was part of a Republican Congress and the only plan is for unlimited tax breaks and dismantling social security for future retirees. It was clearly a missed opportunity, enhanced only by its brevity. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The State of the Union

I love watching the State of the Union address. I realize that nothing of significance ever happens as a result of it and that it is mostly an example of symbolism, but I still enjoy it. The pomp and circumstance, the process of introductions, the well timed and well prepped applause and the occasional memorable line. Last year did produce some drama, when a Republican member of the House called the President a liar, but usually it is a quiet and partisan pictoral representation of America's politics. This year there will not be a female Speaker and in an effort to expand upon the recent calls for cooler rhetoric, some members will cross party lines and sit with the enemy. More symbolism. I will require my students to watch with a set of questions so they can see some of this symbolism in action and maybe even listen to the words for some greater insight into the important issues of the day. Yes, I love the SOTU address. I would like, this year, for President Obama to address when the heck we can bring all our troops home for once and for all and use them to rebuild America. I want the President to speak of a jobs program that really puts the money and the government beyond real job creation. I would like the President to stand up for the Health care legislation that was passed and address the ludicrousness of repeal. I would like the President to remind Americans that legislation is always about compromise and that changes can be made to bills without calls for complete destruction of legislation for political expediency. Lastly, I would like the President to remind those Americans who cannot see outside of our borders, to recognize the importance of global interconnectedness for our future growth and economic success. This is what I want to hear from President Barack Obama. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

At Their Own Peril

I wouldn't unpack the bags in the Speaker's office just yet. It may be a short term for Mr. Boehner. Election cycles in the United States never seem to end and the day after the mid-terms, the positioning for 2012 and beyond took shape. Yesterday, instead of offering legislative insight, Mrs. Bachman from Minnesota's highest unemployment and foreclosure district, spoke of her goal of removing the Democrats from the Senate and Obama from the Presidency. In an act of manufactured resentment and sheer political grandiosity, the House repealed Health Care reform. The nation in its wisdom, is actually beginning to understand the reform and support it in larger numbers, certainly at least many elements of it. The President's attemp at compromise and willingness to work with his adversaries is playing nicely with the public. If the Republicans continue along the path of obstruction instead of compromise and seriously believes it has a long term mandate to destroy that which has begun to work, it will be a very short lived vacation for the Democrats in the House. The word repeal may become a haunting reality for Republicans. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

China

Visiting our President this week is Hu Jintao, the leader of China. The issues that will be discussed are complicated and range from human rights abuses, trade policies, quality of imported goods, open markets in China, the value of the yuan and the realities behind China's ownership of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of U.S. Treasuries. Our nation has never defaulted on any bond obligation in its history and the purchases of them by China and other nations, allows our country to meet the obligations of difficult to control spending and economic turbulence. If China were to lose serious confidence in our ability to pay, these purchases would be reduced and our government would face a deeper financial crisis tied to confidence as opposed to unchecked spending. As it is, global credit agencies will probably lower our credit rating. The President has a great challenge ahead where he must balance the realities of China's growth, competitiveness and financial strength with our own national interests, a very complicated task. Just like the House is using words like repeal, which is an exaggeration and symbolic only, its irresponsible use of the threat not to raise the debt ceiling is dangerous to our interests. It sounds wonderful as a campaign tactic, but those who threaten this while China and the U.S. are looking to mend fences in a variety of areas, are not acting in the best economic interests of our country. Save the slogans and promises and silly words for the campaign trail, not for governing. The harsh reality is that we will continue to spend and grow the deficit in the near term, like it or not. Shaking the world's confidence in the United States is simply not in our best interests. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Calm Down Media

Perhaps the media ought to follow the advice of the President and control its own vitriol. Mark Levin is threatening to sue Chris Matthews, Rupert Murdoch doesn't wish Piers Morgan success, Sean Hannity is defending blood libel comments, Rush is Rush. I give our politicians some kudos right now for calming their rhetoric and toning down their hate speech, perhaps because in their hearts they do believe that language and imagery could be in some way responsible for violence. I would encourage the most unpopular group on the political scene, the unofficial fourth branch of government, the media, to do the same. Happy Birthday Adam. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The wrong word.

Whether or not the two parties can tone down the rhetoric or not is of less concern to me than the way they actually govern. One of the words being used by the Republicans that has taken hold is REPEAL. It is an almost impossible thing to do unless you have clear majorities and filibuster proof ability throughout the Executive and Legislative branches and even then, it would be irresponsible. It is the wrong word to use for bills you do not like and not at all practical. Every major piece of legislation in this country's history, from Social Security, to Medicare, to Welfare, to Banking reform has started out as imperfect legislation in need of change to reflect reality. Legislation cannot respond to the daily whims of the people nor to the political slogans that preside during election cycles, but to common sense evaluation and appropriate modification. Legislation should be improved, modified, enhanced and altered as its imperfections are determined over time and implementation. Repeal may sound good, but it gives false hope and shows an absence of leadership. Congress should look at the health care legislation, discuss it, monitor its effects and make the necessary changes. Perhaps the current and temporary attempt at bipartisanship is a good way to use the right words, not the wrong ones. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cathie Black

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City appointed a media and business expert, Cathie Black as Chancellor of the largest public school system in the country. I am a product of these schools and currently a high school teacher in New Jersey. I spent 26 years in the corporate world before entering the classroom. I have found that my business experience has been helpful in my role as a teacher. The experiences I have had while working in the private sector have been amongst the best in terms of preparation for a career in education so I do not quarrel with the mayor's viewpoint that non traditional backgrounds do not disqualify Ms. Black for the job. There is a big but coming. If I uttered or behaved in my classroom poking fun with the serious matter of birth control, I would have to answer for such stupidity. Ms. Black's comments the other day may be OK in the back rooms of a magazine brainstorming session, but not at all appropriate for a meeting with parents in an overcrowded and historically challenged district. Ms. Black said the answer to overccrowded classrooms is birth control. This was insulting and unforgiveable. A woman with her experience in the media seriously blew it and even though it may have been a nervous attempt at humor, it surfaces how her total lack of educational experience will hinder her credibility in the job. I believe the mayor erred. Cathie Black should thank the Mayor, resign and go back to her high paid life. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blood Libel

The term blood libel has entered the American vernacular on a national scale yesterday as a result of Sarah Palin responding to her critics. It took a few days for the makers of that clip to write it, edit it and teach it to our latest diva. To suggest, however, that Mrs. Palin didn't understand its meaning is as ignorant as she. Perhaps at the outset of her speech she did not, but when explained to her by her advisors, she knew exactly that it would create a media firestorm and keep her in the news. This is her only goal. To be in the news. Sarah Palin knows her constituency. They are 2nd amendment fanatics, race baiters, haters of the educational elite, unconcerned with global realities in the face of a complicated world and anti-immigrant. For this base, the words blood libel result in dialogue that makes their heroine seem the victim so they rally around her, strengthen their support and maintain their loyalty. Whereas this constituency in and of itself is not enough for national electability, it is enough to keep the Palin name on the front pages while earning her heaps of money. As a Jewish American, I am proud of my heritage. I am not one who follows all the rules and all the guidelines of my faith, but I have a deep rooted need for its principles and its guidance. As most Jewish boys do, I attended Hebrew school. For any Jew, who has had some traditional historical Jewish education, the words blood libel run deep in their anti-semitic meaning and hurt Jews more than any other group. No matter what Mrs. Palin's agenda, and I think we know what it is, perhaps she could have chosen words that could rally her troops without insulting others. There are many metaphors for guns, blood and lying that could also be crafted into her political dialogue and self serving strategies. Blood libel is an unfortunate one to use and hopefuly she will be eventually cast aside as the irrelevant, hateful, publicity hounding ignoramous that she is. Where are you Americans for reason and truth. Great speech Mr. President....you are a true leader.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Empowerment

57 percent of Americans according to a poll taken yesterday, do not blame political rhetoric for the tragedy in Arizona. I completely disagree with them and here is why. People who tend toward the extreme will never be derailed from their extremist actions and behaviors. They are sick deviants who belong in jails or mental institutions. Throughout our country, however, there are innocent, uninformed Americans that look to their leaders for guidance and direction. Some of these folks listen to their own elected officials rail against government without realizing that they are listening to the government, people they elected. Many people out there with good intentions claim government violates our Constitution without even reading or understanding the Constitution. There are people who find comfort in easy to understand slogans because detail is inconvenient or too difficult. There are people out there who are too busy to engage in political debate and spread their minds over the many differing perspectives and therefore do not make informed judgments. These folks, many millions of them, do not mean harm, but react to their environment and feel empowered to vote, or speak or act in ways that are encouraged by their elected officials who care only about their vote, not the truth. Even after the tragedy, we are hearing Limbaugh blaming an innocent sheriff who had the audacity to criticize hate speech. Beck is glorifying the idiocy of Sarah Palin and tea party leaders are raising money on the heels of the tragedy. People rely on their leaders to be responsible and will react based on the level of trust they have in their elected official or TV personality or radio hero. Free speech is a sacrosanct and cherished liberty, but hate speech can only be derailed with louder speech against it. Until and unless we empower people to be civil, to be honorable and to be smart, this continuous maelstrom of divisiveness and hate will continue. Our politicians must not run from their responsibility to unite us in practicing civil discourse while allowing our differences in opinion. If they encourage with innuendo and silence our hate and ignorance, we will travel down the path of idiocy that we are now on. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gabby Giffords

First, let all Americans pray for the speedy and full recovery of Representative Giffords from Arizona. I know that this kind of violence can happen anywhere. I know that extremists can pop up in any town or area of our nation. I cannot accept, however, that these events are random and without political provocation. Last year our President was depicted as a Nazi. He has been ridiculed by the right wing of this nation, called a racist by Glenn Beck and disrespected by Rush Limbaugh and other conservative provokers. Health care has been deemed a death panel. Tea party extremists have gone to political events and rallies carrying guns and suggested even by candidates such as Angle and officials like Bachmann to take back their government with the innuendo of violence. During last year's campaign, the vitriol and violent talk was rampant and predominantly from the Republicans to be fair. Our country has begun to debate the legitimacy of immigrant children born in America and continues its sick talk about the 14th amendment and the birthers continue to deny the legitimacy of our President. Sarah Palin, the idiot, posted pictures of guns on her electoral map for targeted Democrats during the campaign, the geography done by her staffers becasue she cannot read a map. I suppose one can argue that this sort of political fomenting of fear worked since 63 Democrats were ousted in the mid terms but I am embarrassed by such behavior and angered by the seeming acceptability and lack of condemnation by the party that gains from such behavior. Republicans need immigrant bashers and gay rights bashers and Obama haters for electoral success and sadly I blame their past silence for yesterday's madness. Arizona is an anti immigrant, anti health care, anti gun control state and its politicians revel in the tough talk. McCain's denial of his own maverick attitude during this past election overtakes unfortunately his kind and appropriate comments of yesterday. Haters never win, but along the way they sometimes reek havoc and violence. Our politics have not helped. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Give it Back

Today as John Boehner was sworn in as new Speaker of the House, his theme was that the G.O.P. is going to give the government back to the people. So I began to wonder, when was it taken away from me? Have I lost my freedom and no one let me know? Did I lose my right to vote? Did I lose my ability to petition my government or to write to my Congressman or to join an interest group? I keep wondering what was taken away from me? Absolutely nothing. If, however the Republicans get their way, this will be what is taken from me...the ability to get health insurance with a pre existing condition....the ability to have college grads. stay on their parents' insurance until they find their own...the ability to restrain credit card companies from abusive practices...the ability to restrain companies from environmental recklessness....the ability to care for and help those in most need and the ability to practice the American principles and values of fairness, equality of opportunity and reaching the American Dream. Mr. Speaker, if this is what you want to give back, you can keep it. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bring back Mr. Smith

Most of us baby boomers and those of our parents' generation remember that venerable old movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" starring the anti corruption Senator played by James Stewart. This movie has stood the test of time. In fact today, most of us who follow the political scene continue to wonder how the filibuster requires nothing more than a vote count of 60. None of the wonderful and difficult to complete theatrics exist anymore. Senator Sanders from Vermont attempted to revive it before the holidays and it got a little coverage but in essence an active Republican minority in the Senate has abused this privilege 275 times during the 111th Congress, more than in all the years they were in charge combined. Now I for one respect Madisonian philosophy for the need to avoid the overreaching tyrrany of the majority, but abusing the filibuster has created a divisiveness in D.C. that has caused disgust far outweighing tea party fanatisism...On the first day of the new Congress, the Senate is permitted by a simple majority to change its rules. There are some good ideas that have been suggested....keep the cloture rule at 60, but require on the floor committments from a growing number of Senators over successive days. This approach would frustrate those with appointments at the gym, or with a lobbyist or at a fundraiser, therefore making them do it only under uniquely important circumstances. All of us should advocate for such changes to be made so that we have a chance at real governance in the future. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 5th

Happy New Year. As January 5th fast approaches, the Republicans are filled with glee. All over the Sunday talk shows they are speaking as if they are in control of the government. Let them be reminded, that both the Executive branch of government and the Senate are still controlled by the Democrats. If the Republican party continues to sincerely believe that they have a mandate to lead the destruction of President Obama and his legislative successes, they will find that the paint in their offices will still be wet by the time their asses are thrown out in the House. Americans wanted to express their anger so they gave all the McCain districts their representatives back, thus leading to a Republican majority in the House, similar to 6 of the last ten years. Nothing new here. Now this new majority under the leadership of John Boehner are gearing up for repeal of health care. I hope this is their strategy. Once Americans holding signs saying "repeal Obamacare" or "keep the death panels away" or "we don't want government health care" figure out what is in the bill, the signs will say "don't take away my insurance" or "keep my unemployed college grad. kids insured" This, along with a veto, a recovering economy and a relatively popular President will expose these morons for what they are.....Morons. Where are you Americans for reason and truth?