A Senate panel late Monday accused Apple (AAPL) of using what it called a “complex web of offshore entities” to dodge billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes.
via Lawmakers say Apple dodged billions in taxes – CBS News.
If we could just manage to get a Centrist party in control of those folks in Washington one of the first things I would want them to attack is our bloated tax code. The 10,000 plus pages of rules are at the core of the above article. Of course businesses want to minimize their tax load in order to increase their profits. That is, after all, what the free enterprise system is all about. Profits are the sole driver.
One of my major themes in my life lately has been around the word “Simplify”. Our world is just getting too complicated when it doesn’t have to be. Let’s throw out those 10,000 pages and replace them with just a handful. Let’s take away the means for corporations to move massive amounts of their income into tax exempt entities.
Let’s just make income well, income. If it comes in it is income and you pay a certain percentage of it as taxes to support our government and its business. For the individual that means you pay the same rate for income for profits from your investments as you do from the sweat of your brow. That means if you inherit income you pay your taxes on that amount in order to pass part of your windfall on for the common good. You didn’t earn it so it is taxable income to you. For corporations money coming in is income; doesn’t matter if it was from a foreign sale or one in the U.S.
Lets Get a Centrist party in power and direct them to simplify our tax code. After they accomplish that then I would want them to give us “real” universal healthcare; not that pretend extremely watered down version called Obamacare. But first things first I guess and that is getting centrists into power in our government. Click on the logo below to see more about that.
“The bottom line is, this lack of insurance coverage is just consistent with the overall lack of responsibility we’ve seen from the fertilizer plant, starting from the fact that from day one they have yet to acknowledge responsibility,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he expects the plant’s owner to ask a judge to divide the $1 million in insurance money among the plaintiffs, several of whom he represents, and then file for bankruptcy.
He said he wasn’t surprised that the plant was carrying such a small policy.
“It’s rare for Texas to require insurance for any kind of hazardous activity,” he said. “We have very little oversight of hazardous activities and even less regulation.”
Source: Fertilizer plant that exploded in Texas carried $1M policy – CBS News.
I have long known that Texas is the execution capital of the world but didn’t know about its dismal lack of oversight until I read the above. For six years I was a sole-proprieter cabinet maker. I sold a few thousand dollars worth of furniture and cabinets each year; not enough to make a living on but it did supplement my pension. In that small non-hazardous (except maybe to me) business I carried a $1 million insurance policy. That is just standard in this part of the country.
When I learned that a large fertilizer plant near such a dense population carried no more than I did I was just astounded! How could oversight body have allowed this? They say there were no inspections of the plant in several years due to the lack of taxes to fund them. I’m sure that the hundreds of people who were killed or maimed or their families now regret allowing such disgraceful oversight by their government officials.
Attorney General Eric Holder says he will not need to furlough any Justice Department employees in the current fiscal year.
The attorney general says he will be able to avoid furloughs because of additional money in the recently enacted legislation, combined with aggressive steps to freeze hiring and cut contracting and other costs
via Holder: No furloughs at Justice Department – CBS News.
I’m sure the purpose of this article was to show how well the Justice Department was run. They brag that they don’t need to lay off workers because they found the necessary 10% budget cuts elsewhere. Being the contrarian that I am while it is a good thing to not have to lay off anyone, to me it shows the opposite of good fiscal management. It means their budgets were bloated to start with and now some of the bloat had to be removed.
I know from having to do budgets in the corporate world that budgeting and expense planning are as much of a game as anything else. You always put more into the budget because you know that some of it will be cut. The secret was to know where the line is. If you bloat your budget too much to where it is obvious that you have done that then a much heavier knife will be used and you end up a loser. If you are naive enough to only put down what you actually need then you also suffer the consequences.
Knowing all these games I was almost in favor of the sequestered 10% across the board cuts to government spending. Where the cuts do real damage like in the recent case of air traffic controllers they can be amended. Where there are cases like the above with the Justice department we should maybe be looking at additional cuts in next year’s budgets. I’m sure government agencies are not immune from this typical corporate gaming.
But then we come to the defense department all of this stuff seems to be moot. Every year, at least for this millennium, the defense departments bloats their budgets beyond any actual need and then the congress adds even more. Defense department spending has increased dramatically during this period while everything else has suffered. I am hoping that the recent talks about serious reviews of the DOD budgets are well, serious.
The other thing we need to get serious about is healthcare costs. Since we have thrown out the most obvious solution that the rest of the world has discovered to these ever rising costs (that is single-payer system) we will have to find a unique solution. Reigning in costs means giving some people and corporations less money for their services or finding more efficient ways to do things. I have not really studied this area much but I seem to remember that there are billions, if not trillions , of dollars wasted each year due to medical errors and over-billing Medicare. Lets get serious about those things too. Maybe they need a sequester too.
I know that some folks will look at this post and the previous one and see a conflict. Since I am a pragmatist I like to look at all the angles. You never know which one might be right for a given situation.
Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.
The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. [...]
[And] story of these programs — who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that — is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It’s the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net.
Source: Has disability become a ‘de facto welfare program’? – In Plain Sight.
I hate these kinds of reports. Even if they are based on facts they usually sensationalize the stories with a very slanted viewpoint. I certainly agree that we should go after those who game the SSI system with an adamant zeal. They should be caught and punished for gaming the system.
But the problem is that these stories are fodder for those who want to deny benefits where they are actually needed. In other words they want to throw out the baby with the bath water.
Not surprising there were over seven-hundred comments attached to the article from which the quote above came. Most were screamer who talked about lazy people scamming the system. Many were very vitriol in their words. I usually intentionally avoid the comments now as they are almost always an extreme view by those who hate people who are not like them. But one did shine through. Here it is:
I am a registered nurse and I collect SSID. I was severly injured, and flown away in the helicopter to the ICU where I used to work and put on a ventilator with my head smashed in and multiple fractures. Now I am no longer able to work so I get to collect my social security early. I hear this alot about welfare moochers. It makes me feel bad about living on money I actually paid into the system. Please don’t think this is always about welfare moochers like some kind of knee jerk response.
All this being said I’m not sure that SSI, or disability payments for things like disabled kids should even be in the Social Security system? It seems to dilute the original purpose of the fund and give fodder to those who, like Congressman Ryan and that conservative bunch, as reasons to “privatize” (read eliminate) it.
The difference between what is legally owed the federal government and what it actually collects in taxes each year is called the “tax gap,” which the IRS recently estimated reached $385 billion in 2006. Other studies have placed that figure higher — at upwards of $600 billion.
So who owes this money and why? The single biggest contributor to the tax gap — accounting for 84% of it — are people who simply under-report their income. This doesn’t usually happen to folks whose employers withholds taxes from their paychecks, as 99% of people in that position end up paying their income taxes in full and on time. The biggest headache for the IRS is collecting business income from the self employed, who must voluntarily report their earnings…
Source: The $600 Billion the IRS Can’t Collect | TIME.com.
This being Tax Day our current system of taxation is on my mind. When I was self-employed for six years I paid taxes on all the money coming in. I believed I had an obligation to pay my “fair share”. I didn’t want to be a free-loader on society. But I will admit that I took advantage of several tax loopholes offered for small business owner that pretty drastically reduced what I owed.
I don’t think I am the only one who thinks that our tax system in the country is completely haywire. After decades of special interest loopholes have been added turning the tax code into a 10,000 page document its time to pretty much throw out what we have and replace it with a new system. The simpler system the better. There are all kinds of proposals around but which would be the best? To find that out we need to understand just who is championing each new idea.
It is no secret that lobbies pretty much run the country now. If you have enough money/influence/power you can get just about anything turned into law. (because of that influence it is almost a good thing that our government is in such gridlock). Whatever replaces those thousands of pages of current tax code must be a moral document. It must be seen as fair and compassionate for all of us. Of course there will always be those who are anti-everything that will scream about the government stealing their hard-earned gains. We can do nothing to appease them but for most of the rest of us we know it is our duty to support our government and especially our shared infrastructure. It is important for us to give our fair share.
Here is an excerpt from the New Yorker magazine about this:
Behavioral economists call the cultural tendency to pay duties, “tax morale.” As James Suroweicki of The New Yorker defines it:
We don’t pay our taxes just because we’re afraid of getting caught; we also feel a responsibility to contribute to the common good. But that sense of responsibility comes with conditions . . . we’ll chip in as long as we have faith that our fellow-citizens are doing the same, and that our government is basically legitimate. Countries where people feel that they have some say in how the state acts, and where there are high levels of trust, tend to have high rates of tax compliance. That may be why Americans, despite being virulently anti-tax in their rhetoric, are notably compliant taxpayers.”
“Most big corporations trade well above book value,” Warren said, referring to the measure of a company’s assets minus liabilities. “But many of the Wall Street banks right now are trading below book value. And I can only think of two reasons why that would be so. One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest, or the second would be that no one believes that the banks are really manageable.”
Warren’s comment on bank accounting came after she repeatedly — and apparently rhetorically — asked a panel of top regulators to cite the last time they had hauled a big Wall Street bank into court rather than settled. There were mostly halting responses and promises to get back to Warren with more information at a later time.
That question — why there has not been more accountability for top bankers in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown — taps into a deep vein of public anger on both the left and right. And it is Warren’s most potent political weapon.
Source: Elizabeth Warren strikes fear into Wall Street – Ben White – POLITICO.com.
I don’t think I am the only person who is shouting hooray for Elizabeth Warren, the new senator from Massachusetts. Ms. Warren is a former Harvard Law Professor who is currently taking the banking sector by storm or maybe I should say tornado. She is striking fear in the banking sector of both the big bank CEOs and the regulators. It is about time someone struck back for the people.
When the financial sector did an almost meltdown in the last year of the Bush administration there was rage throughout the country. Especially when the government had to fork over billions of bucks to keep them afloat. It seemed the “too big to fail” tag put on them by both the Bush and later the Obama administrations varnished over the severe faults found in the banking sector. No one was prosecuted or otherwise punished for the gross risks they took in the pursuit of profits or for the regulators who were derelict in their duties in allowing them to do so.
People screamed about the “too big to fail” mantra for a few months and then our government seemed to move on to the next disaster without really addressing this one. Within a year the CEOs and upper management of the big banks were back at the trough getting their million dollar bonuses. It was not until this Harvard law professor went after them that anyone seemed to notice.
I loved the way Senator Warren chastised the regulators who were supposed to protect the taxpayers for not doing their jobs either before or after the meltdown. When she asked them how many Wall Street banks were prosecuted in court they were too ashamed, or maybe a better word was embarrassed, to say that none were; they settled all the matters out of court with usually a slip on the wrist. To me and I hope many of you, I don’t see any difference between what these guys did and a guy who goes into a local branch and robs it. That guy is probably behind bars for the next twenty years while all the bankers are back to doing almost the same things they were before.
Here is to you Senator Warren. Keep up the attacks. I hope you can land some of these guys in jail. That would be the only way that future bankers would learn that actions have consequences and those consequences are jail time for them.
Source: Republicans Win Congress as Democrats Get Most Votes – Bloomberg.
The 2010 elections, in which Republicans won the House majority and gained more than 700 state legislative seats across the nation, gave the party the upper-hand in the process of redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional seats. The advantage helped them design safer partisan districts and maintain their House majority in 2012 — even as they lost the presidential race by about 5 million votes. Also nationwide, Democratic House candidates combined to win about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.
Gerrymandering which is what is described by the article above is something that subverts our democratic process to such a degree to jeopardize our country similarly to what the filibuster has done to the Senate. I know gerrymandering totally takes place at the State level and is endemic of almost all fifty States by the political party in power. Instead of eliminating the Civil Rights bill as the SCOTUS is likely to do they should be enlarging it to cover gerrymandering. But since the Supreme court seems to have a deaf ear, like they do so many other things now, on this issue that is unlikely to happen.
Source: Obama’s $2 billion plan to wean US off foreign oil (+video) – CSMonitor.com.
If the Obama administration has its way, $2 billion in new revenue from offshore oil drilling will fund research into how to wean American drivers off imported oil…
“The reason so many different people – from the private sector, the public sector, our military – support this idea is because it’s not just about saving money, it’s also about saving the environment. But it’s also about our national security,” Obama said. “This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea; this is just a smart idea, and we should be taking [SAFE’s] advice.”
So far, the US has cut foreign oil imports by more than 3.6 million barrels per day during Obama’s presidency, the White House reported. Oil imports have also fallen to a 20-year low, and carbon-pollution emissions are at their lowest level in nearly two decades.
Part of the trend is connected to the drop in economic activity resulting from the recession and slow recovery. But renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has doubled, and Obama wants to double the fuel efficiency of the US auto fleet by 2025. That could reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil imported from OPEC every day, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report released Friday .
When John Kennedy made the vow “to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely” he started a technological advance in this country that we are still benefiting from. I remember staying up all night watching that historical event. It was very fortunate that Kennedy had a congress that went along with his plan.
I applaud President Obama in bringing forward and equally, maybe even more, noble plan for the 21st century. If only those in congress would get their heads out of their rear-ends and support it we might see similar advances this time around. As pointed out in the words above three different factions are aligning with this proposal: saving money, saving the environment, and making us safer by getting us out of middle eastern politics.
With this broad coalition it seems like a pretty sure thing, that is except for two obstacles. Of course, those are the oil company lobbies and the obstructionism in our federal government. The mentality in the current congressional body is “if Obama wants it we have to be against it”. If only those who are of this mentality and you know who I am talking about would get over the last election and vote for the good of the country instead of their political party, great things could happen here.
It is certainly encouraging to see that during the Obama administration that we have lessened our dependence on oil imports by 3.6 million barrels a day! I can’t help but believe that this could have been accomplished just about anytime in the last twelve years if the last president had just taken the same action. But of course the last president had other things in mind than that. Something as simple as mandating that the auto companies increase gas mileage in their cars was a no-brainer for a progressive president but a stretch for a conservative one. Wind and solar are the obvious solutions to much of our energy needs for the future. I would love to be able to peek forward to see how that works out.
Source: Rand Paul’s 13 Hour Filibuster – The Talking Kind – Against John Brennan – ABC News.
“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA, Paul said at about 11:47 a.m. ET. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court, that Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.”
Paul said he doesn’t necessarily think President Obama will abuse the power. But no president, said Paul, should have the power to kill Americans in the U.S. without a trial by jury.
Now that all the punsters have had their say I want to comment a little on Rand Paul’s recent old-time filibuster. Rand Paul’s views of government are a little too radical for me but sometimes he is the only one to come to defend some of our most basic rights. And this is one of those times. Our government was very wisely set up by the founding fathers with a pretty strict system of checks-and-balances. No one person or one organization is supposed to have enough power onto themselves to do grievous harm to our country. Unauthorized and unchecked authority to kill others without due process is one of those things that does not pass muster of constitutional intent. Thank you Mr. Rand for stand up for thirteen hours to take that stand.
Probably the only major hit on this filibuster came to Mr. Rand’s bladder but the idea of actually doing it was noble. I don’t know how we let the Republicans filibuster so much in what they call a “silent filibuster”. They have used the filibuster to change making laws require more than a simple majority as has been the case throughout our history. The filibuster was intended to be used for rare and exceptional circumstances. They have bastardized this very basic constitutional tool.
Mr Reid had an opportunity to change the filibuster but nobly took the word of the gOp that they would restrict from using it as they had. He was naive in that regard probably naively so If we are going to continue to have filibusters I hope they are in the Rand Paul mode….
Source: How to Survive China’s Pollution Problem: Masks and Bubbles | Design Decoded.
Last January, air pollution reached new levels of toxicity in China. Just how bad did things get? According to the Chinese Air Quality Index (AQI), measurements of particulate matter in the air reached more than 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter the northeastern part of country. That probably doesn’t mean anything to you without context though, so here it is: anything above 300 is considered “hazardous” and citizens are warned that they “may experience more serious health effects.” For even more context, consider that the U.S. AQI only goes up to 500. Air quality in China is a constant concern and while the recent toxic cloud has dissipated for now, a number of businesses are creating new ways to battle pollution at every scale – from personal designer face masks to inflatable architecture.
Given that so many in this country refuse to believe in global warming (otherwise known as “don’t confuse me with the facts”) could this the a look at the future? Will we as a world tip over the edge of being able to correct another of our problems we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge? Will we end up having to put domes over our cities in order to filter air enough to make it breathable?
I am a big fan of SciFi movies and the one on this topic was called Soylent Green. It starred Charlton Heston, whose movies I now boycott due to his gun stands, so I haven’t seen it for several years now. Of course there are also several others in this genre including all the Mad Max movies are some of them. One reason I like scifi movies is they look at scenarios that are unlikely by still possible. Will the pollutions of the 21st century finally tip the scales?
Given that the only superpower government currently is in total gridlock the gloom and doom scenario seems more likely than ever. Let’s hope that some grown-ups can take control of our government before it is too late. Let’s get rid of all those yahoos in there now and start with a fresh batch before it is too late.
I may be a scifi guy but I am also a simple guy so what do I know….
Source: Fiscal nightmare looms at ‘bloated’ Pentagon – NBC Politics.
Just two weeks ago, the GAO kept the Pentagon on its annual “High Risk List” of departments whose books are so mysterious and opaque that they’re at high risk of fraud, waste and mismanagement….
He (retired Army Gen. David Barno) said the Pentagon’s method of operating is comparable to driving a 1985 Oldsmobile which is leaking oil, “and every time we go out on the highway at 65 miles an hour, we come back after another day, there’s more and more oil on the floor of our garage in the morning. And our solution has been to buy more oil, to put it in the engine and go drive it at 65 miles an hour.”
When Mr. Bush declared in 2002 that he was taking his wars “off-the-books” it looks like he meant it! According to this article there seems to be almost no accountability within the Department of Defense. How can those who hold the purse strings in congress allow such a thing to happen. At least a few generations ago we learned about the infamous $10,000 toilet seats whereas now we have no idea, no even those who are in control, of where the money is even going.
I can’t imagine any other organization that could be run like our military. With basically no accountability it is certain that billions, if not trillions, are wasted on fraud and abuse alone.
- It seems ludicrous how can congress just blindly throw almost half of our discretionary money into a black hole and then go screaming about making cuts to our nation’s safety net because they want to cut the deficit!
- It seems ludicrous that we throw so much money indiscriminately into our war machine while expecting our teachers to supply pencils, paper and art supplies for their classrooms
- It seems ludicrous for our citizens to go without even basic healthcare in order to feed the insatiable black hole.
All of above just seems insane to me. But what is even more insane are those who are allowing this to happen and not hearing a peep out of them. Why are they not screaming their heads off in Washington about this?
I want to bring out one more quote from this article to show at least a glimmer of hope in finally reining in some of these bloated budgets
He (Hagel) added more questions later in the hearing, “Why aren’t we auditing these programs? Where’s the accountability? That’s certainly an area that we’re going to have to take a look at.” And within days Hagel will have his chance to begin that accountability and to reduce the bloat he saw in his department
I pray that Secretary Hagel, now that the Republicans have finally let him take it place, will have the courage to tackle this absurd condition that he is taking over. I pray that he puts the military spending (you can’t really call them budgets as they seem to have none) back “on-the-books” and insists on knowing where our money goes. It certainly isn’t spent on soldiers’ pay as many are at or below the poverty line.
“Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” - Ronald Reagan
Sometimes when we look back at history we wonder how did we get to where we are. We often have trouble pinpointing a particular person or date to where it all began. On January 20, 1981 when Ronald Reagan uttered the words above he ushered in a new breed of Republicans. These particular words were the turning point to gridlock and jumping from crisis to crisis that we see today. It is also the specific moment that I turned away from the Republican party to look elsewhere.
No longer was government to do the people’s business but instead they were to just get out-of-the-way and let our corporate elite run the country as they had during the Robber Baron days a century before. Government had no meaning to those who swallowed those words hook line and sinker. The safety net for our citizens lost its meaning to them. This was the turning point where we backed away on our pledge to make sure our citizens would not starve. This was the point where “entitlements” to our poor or aged became a dirty word for some. Government became a hindrance instead of the benefit. The people’s business took a back burner to corporate interests or was actually thrown entirely off the stove.
I believe that any serious student of U.S. history knows that capitalism without regulation was a pre-cursor to the death of the middle class. It was a point where those trying to keep our food and drugs safe were stymied by lower and lower budgets. The agencies responsible for our banking system and financial sector were gutted. Taxes which were from that point on deemed almost evil were difficult to obtain to maintain our countries infrastructure and safety nets. Common sense and compassion took a back burner to greed and corruption. The people’s business suffered greatly.
Another turning point that compounded these same problems was the sudden popularity of the MBA program in this country. That was the point where employees changed from being an asset to be treasured and treated with respect to being a liabilities that needed to be removed or gotten at the lowest possible cost. I remember very distinctly when that happened in the corporation that I was employed. Up till that point most employees were very loyal to the companies that hired them. Chevy guys would never dream of buying a Ford and visa versa. Suddenly employer’s loyalty to workers disappeared. Benefits were taken away. Wages were stifled in order to increase corporate profits. What used to be a three-legged stool of owners/employees/customers was suddenly taken into severe imbalance.
These two events that created the “government is the problem” Republicans and “employees are the problem” business leaders caused a dramatic shift in our economy. When workers lost their living wages they were no longer able to buy the goods and services they had previously. To counter the loss of buying employers cut wages and benefits further. Anyone without an MBA could clearly see this cause/effect but it just didn’t seem to occur to those who now are on most rungs of the corporate ladder.
To end this post on an upbeat, I believe that the day is coming when a balance will be restored. The majority of us will realize that our government needs resources to keep us and our world safe. Employers will realize that without a living wage their workers will never buy an increasing number of the products they desire to make. I am an optimist. I believe this day will come. I just wonder if we will be able to pinpoint that particular point in time as easily as when Republicans became the party of “government is the problem”
Source: Top six myths about Medicare | Reuters.
MYTH FOUR: DOCTORS WILL NOT ACCEPT MEDICARE BECAUSE OF ALL THESE CUTS
Facts: Most Medicare patients do not have trouble finding doctors who will see them, but there is growing concern about access to primary care physicians.
This issue is monitored closely by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent Congressional agency charged with advising Congress on Medicare. The agency’s most recent annual survey of Medicare patients found that just 2 percent of beneficiaries had problems of any kind finding a new primary care doctor willing to accept Medicare – the same percentage of patients aged 50-64 with private insurance who report problems.
Likewise, just 2.1 percent report trouble of any kind finding specialists willing to accept Medicare, compared with 2.3 percent for patients with private insurance.
I recently got into a discussion with one of my frequent visitors to this blog about doctors not accepting Medicare patients so I did a little research on the topic. As seen above the difference between doctors accepting Medicare patients vs. private insurance patients is basically the same. The statistics show that it is actually slightly easier for a Medicare patient to see a specialist than it is for someone on private insurance! How is that for knocking that myth!
We constantly hear about how government-funded healthcare will produce inferior care and denied patients but as usual these types of things are usually just fear tactics put out by political partisans. Given that the Internet is so prevalent in most of our homes (although not so much in rural areas) it is relatively easy to get information on just about anything you care to research. It took me about five minutes to find the facts above. Granted I had to sift through dozens of political articles about death panels and such but that is the price we pay for making information so easy. Learning the trick about googling helps too.
One of my personal favorite posts on this blog is about Lazy Minds (click here to see it). It is just too easy for people to believe and then pass one the rhetoric from someone with a very biased agenda gives them on about something instead of taking a little time to research it on their own. Lazy minds are the primary cause for so much that haunts our world today.
So the next time someone give you a political line about Obamacare or any other topic take the time to research it on your own. The real answers are out there if you care to wade through all the garbage to know the facts. But then again finding the facts can also get you in trouble with some groups, particularly those pertaining to religion. But that is another story…
When any organization becomes totally dysfunctional it is time for a major shakeup. I am becoming more and more convinced that the only way we are ever going to reduce the gridlock we find in Washington is to remove the current leadership and hopefully replace them with some who are not as battle scarred and vindictive as the current ones. The current leaders are just too more consumed with battling their rivals than of governing for the good of the country. They have lost all perspective of life outside that contaminated city.
For my Republican friends who would never conceive of voting for a Democrat I plead you to find someone in your party who can challenge the leaders in your primaries. That way you don’t have to touch the dreaded “d” word at the polls. Both Mr. Reid and McConnell are like long toothed dinosaurs. They seem to have nothing but contempt for each other and are willing to sacrifice the good of the country to get back at each other. It used to be that seniority in the Senate was about wisdom but I personally see little wisdom in either of these two men right now.
It is not much better in the House of Representatives. Mr. Boenher just isn’t able to control the radical right wing of his party. He seems to be more afraid of them than he is of the Democrats. Mrs. Pelosi is a lightening rod for the conservatives in the desert west and the south in our country. Being from San Francisco is probably a big part of that ingrained prejudice. I do think that both of these leaders are of noble spirit but they are just too toxic for our times.
Until we can resolve the underlying contempt of and for the current leaders it will be hard to accomplish much for our country. There are many current issues that can be resolved if only we did a little house cleaning in Washington. Closing tax loopholes is one of them. They all complain that the current tax code is 10,000 pages long but what they don’t say is that over 9,000 of those pages are exclusions/loop hole for one favored interest or another. Why can’t they at least agree to eliminate those give-aways? I know that much of this toxicity is not confined to the beltway but that is a most appropriate place to start.
Voting long time politicians out of office is not an easy thing so I have my doubts that it can really be accomplished. But something has to be done or our country may soon be in deeper jeopardy than it already is and something we just may not be able to recover from.
But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know……
If I was a President and wanted something I would claim I didn’t want it. For Congress has not given any President anything he wanted in the last 10 years. Be against anything and then he is sure to get it. – 5 May 1923 – Will Rogers
I can’t understand why each president seems to have to learn this lesson on their own. But, I think President Obama finally gets it. If he wants something to happen the best thing he can do is to remain quiet about it. Mr. Boehner is constantly harping that the president is not involved enough in the legislative process but what I think he really means is that he wants to know what the president is for so he and all the other sheep in the GOP led house can line up against it.
I imagine it is hard sometimes to put together a list of what you are against. Especially for those House Republicans. They just get lazy on occasion and don’t want to do the work to make up their own “against” list. That is when they insist that President Obama do it for them. A perfect example of that is the immigration reform plan leaked by the White House. It was certain to be “DEAD ON ARRIVAL” before it even left the White House door.
I am waiting for Mr. Obama to evolve into the next phase of Will’s strategy. I expect that soon he will come out with a list of things he is against. If he is good at it the conservatives will want to get everything on that list into law as soon as possible. But the secret is to make sure that Mr. Boehner and company are convinced that he really is against them. Mr. Obama is a pretty smart guy so I pray that he get good at this game so we the people might be able to get something good from the 113th congress. But in reality I kind of doubt anything productive will come from that bunch….
But, I’m just a simple guy so what do I know……
Source: Top G.O.P. Donors Seek Greater Say in Senate Races – NYTimes.com.
The effort would put a new twist on the Republican-vs.-Republican warfare that has consumed the party’s primary races in recent years. In effect, the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election.
I am glad to hear that the not-so-radical in the GOP are declaring war on the Tea party. It’s about time. Maybe a nudge toward the middle will finally happen. But then again this could be just one radical right organization battling another? Given that Carl Rove is one of the leaders of this new group I suspect it to be the later. But, even then I would prefer Mr. Rove’s tactics over the Tea Party’s any day so more power to you Mr. Rove. I hope you put them back in the closet where they belong.
I certainly hope that this new-found wisdom in the GOP leadership is more than skin deep. They need to move more into the mainstream of American life if they hope to succeed as a party in the future. They need to understand that some of their principles, like those of the Democrats, are currently on sinking sand. They need to at least make some adjustments and then move on from there.
While I applaud them being fiscal conservative they have also to understand that a rising tide raises all ships. They have to occasionally come out against the power elite and for the common man. Until everyone has a chance at a living wage prosperity will never return to this country. They have to understand that true power in our democracy resides in our citizens and not in the one-percent who controls most of the wealth and gets most of the current benefits from our capitalist system.
When they realize these facts they will once again be a party for more of us in the mainstream of life. They have to consciously move from the radical fringes to convince us that they are serious about becoming relevant in today’s world. In the end I am pretty skeptical that that will happen with this latest tiff within the party but who knows? I was a Nixon and Ford Republican; it would be nice to be able to come back to the party of my beginnings.
It depends on what the definition of “is” is….
The above quote, for all you guys over thirty is obviously from the impeachment hearing of President Clinton. Mr. Clinton being a lawyer, as most politicians are, zeroed in on one word of a question asked of him about Monica…
Well it seems that the definition game is back in play with another Democratic president. No it is not about sex this time, President Obama is just not that type of guy. This time it is a much more serious matter and that is the explanation of how the “kill list” is made up and the subsequent drone flights to take out the subject.
The white paper memo that was recently leaked about how to determine who would be killed by a drone attack said that the person had to be involved in an imminent attack on the United States. Lets look at a non-lawyer definition of ”imminent”:
very likely to occur at any moment; impending: Her death is imminent
I think most of us are aligned with this definition. But enter the lawyers with their own definition at least when it comes to killing via drone attacks.
possibility of the person to either now or sometime in the future be involved in a plan to attack the U.S.
So, like the word “is”, imminent changes definitions to suit the legal matter at hand. Sadly the main talk about this leaked paper revolves around killing U.S. citizens on foreign soil. There seems to be no real dispute inside the beltway on killing foreign citizens in their own countries. They, meaning President Obama and a small handful of military types, say they don’t currently plan on using drones to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
We don’t really know how many people have been killed in our drone attacks either by being targets or as collateral damage, that information has been kept very hidden. But it is generally believed to be in the thousands. We know that drone attacks are striking fear among many in the world. They are worried that they might be the next collateral damage to innocently die at the hands of the U.S. President. As a result drone attacks are becoming the vehicle of choice in Al Qaeda recruitment.
When lawyers are involved even the most mundane things are questioned. If you want to stay informed be very careful that you know the lawyer’s definition if things like “is” and “imminent” are.
Source: John McCain’s Theology of War is Wrong – Jim Wallis | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.
But McCain hasn’t been right in his endless promotion of war as the primary solution to our national conflicts. He has been consistently wrong and America has paid a very high price because of the ideological zealots of war that McCain represents.
After yesterday, I wished that the coming vote on confirmation could be the other way around; that America could somehow vote John McCain out of office and off the American political stage. The cost of McCain’s theology of war has been far too high.
The important discussions yesterday should have been about other critical issues: like how quickly and responsibly we can leave the endless war in Afghanistan, how we can address the real threats of terrorism in better ways than failed wars of occupation, what we should do about the real problem of Iran, and a very serious strategic and moral examination of our growing reliance on drones as a primary instrument of our foreign policy. Instead, we saw old men defending their old wars. That was both very sad and morally objectionable.
These are some rather strong words about John McCain and his vengeful attack on his one time friend Chuck Hagel during the Secretary of Defense confirmation hearing recently. Jim Wallis from Sojourners is not one to parse words but these are some of the strongest I have heard from him in recent months. Jim is a very strong advocate for peace and making war as a very last resort so I guess I should not have been surprised by his emotional response to Mr. McCain and his actions.
It is hard for me to understand how someone who spent two years being tortured as a prisoner-of-war can so frequently seem to want to put our country at war with others. I appreciate some of the things he stands for (for instance is constant battle against “pork barrel spending”) but his such frequent call to war deeply troubles me.
I think John McCain is a noble man but has just been mauled so much by politics that he has become a shell of his previous self. He has just been in the political meat grinder too long. He and others like him are so scarred by the political battles that he no longer has much of a concept of reality outside the beltway. I include Mr. McConnell and Mr. Reid with that same condition. Maybe it is time for them to leave politics and let those less vindictive take over the leadership. Then maybe something could actually be accomplished in Washington.
If that were to happen I believe a good part of the petty bickering now present in the Washington would lessen to a significant degree. Of course our political environment in this country has always been partisan since Jefferson and Adams had it out more than two hundred years ago. I don’t expect that to change but I hope the magnitude of it subsides. We have to find a way out of all this petty squabbling that seems to daily occur there now.
Be forewarned that I am getting on my soapbox now.
I know there are numerous times in our history where civil liberties have been severely threatened. Various groups and individuals have been attacked by our government without due process. One glaring recent example is putting Japanese-Americans in prison camps during World War II simply because of their heritage. But it seems like this is almost becoming common place in our country today. Mr. Obama’s kill list is one example. It sounds as if one or two high-ranking officials think that any person, including a U.S. citizen, is a threat to our country they can ask the president to take them out via a drone attack and surprisingly he is reported to often make that call. I don’t think, or at least I pray, that they don’t do that while the person is on U.S. soil yet but then of course since the process is so secretive we have no way of even knowing that.
And then there are guys like Chris Kyle who we know had assassinated over 180 people on orders from military or other government officials. Now don’t get me wrong here, I imagine that most of these people on these kill lists were “bad guys” who the world is better off without but are we really sure that some were not innocent of these cloaked charges against them? Were they killed by bullet or bomb before they were really proven guilty? They certainly did not get a judge or a jury. I can’t help but think that if George Bush had the same policies on drone attacks as President Obama the Democrats would be screaming right now but the current silence on this topic is deafening (and I know what I am talking about in that area).
I’m probably be in the minority (wouldn’t be the first time) here but I believe we must protect our civil liberties at all costs and that even includes letting some bad guys live another day. That is what makes us a stand out country in the world. The idea of “Innocent until proven guilty” has a long history in our country. I also hope that we don’t believe that civil liberties are an exclusive property of U.S. citizens and shouldn’t apply to people in the rest of the world.
Are we headed toward a time when our civil rights are at serious risk yet again? The right to vote is one of the most basic forms of civil rights. Until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 African-Americans were basically denied that right by one scheme or another throughout the South. That basic right seems under attack once again in some Republican controlled States including Ohio and Florida. Some also say our right to bear arms is under attack.
We must always do whatever is necessary to protect the civil rights of all our citizens and to make sure the principle itself is propagated throughout the world. Our founding fathers believed that if necessary eleven guilty men should be freed in order to insure one innocent person was not punished. These “kill lists” without any check and balances even though they are not being issued on U.S. soil (or at least I pray they aren’t) are a definite threat to all our civil liberties. I am totally disappointed that President Obama is apparently signing off on assassinations without due process. I expected better from him.
I want to pencil in my first thoughts of the State of the Union address last night before I start reading what the pundits say.
- Overall it was a good address - He covered much of what I deem important to our country. I wish he had mentioned something about work to rein in healthcare costs. Single payer system like much of the rest of the world has is the most efficient. But since that is not yet possible here I wished he had targeted something to control our current system.
- Education for the 21st Century - I liked what I heard but he could have been more forceful in his words. We definitely need almost a paradigm shift in how we educate our kids. As he said we need to do a better job of preparing them for today’s advanced technology middle class jobs. I was struck by the fact that Germany and other countries high school degrees are the equivalent of our tech school degrees. We definitely need to catch up in that area. Every kid need to be able to go to college if they want to put in the work to be there.
- Putting us back on top with Technology R&D - This is probably the most important thing he can do for our economy. In the past much of technology R&D was done at the university level through government funding. We have let the EU take the lead in many current areas because we have cut public spending in R&D.
- Immigration - He didn’t push the envelope in this area because it appears that the Republicans are finally willing to do something about this. Make a little progress now and the push for more later.
- Gun Regulations – I admired his gutsy stands here especially since the GOP seems to be totally entrenched in doing absolutely nothing in this area. It was gut wrenching to see all the families of victims in the galleries with pictures of their loved ones lost to gun violence. I don’t know how anyone Democrat or Republican could not have been emotionally moved by that site! It saddened me to see most of the Republicans sitting on their hands while the gun violence victims were standing above them! Are they really that afraid of the NRA?
- Infrastructure – This seems to be a common thing for Democrat Presidents and a common resistance for a GOP congress. It is a well know fact that our infrastructure is crumbling. I really don’t understand what the Republicans solution in this area is; like many things they just seem to be against so many things but with no solutions of their own. I do wish that some president would bring the equivalent of the REMC to the rural areas of this country for Internet access. Many of us are still restricted to very very slow Internet connections and limited cellular capacity. Until high-speed Internet is available to all there will be an ingrained inequality in the country.
I also watched Senator Rubio’s counter-speech and here is what came across to me.
- He seems like the typical Republican of the day. I was expecting more from him. He seems to be a man of reason but that didn’t show up in his speech. Some of the things he said against President Obama personally were cheap shot to me. He didn’t need to go down to that level.
- The same old line – I am getting tired of the Republican line that if we dared to increase the minimum wage then millions would lose their jobs. That line has been proven wrong again and again over my lifetime. It is about time they retired that tactic to the trash heap of time.
- Invoking Fear – The main thing that hit me about the overall speech is that it was all about invoking fear in all of us about how the country will go down in ashes if the Democrats get their way. That seems to be a very common theme throughout the GOP. It was downright shameful to me to hear him say if we let them (Democrats) have what they want then our raises, benefits and even our jobs are in imminent danger. I wish Mr. Rubio had answered the question that since corporate taxes have been at all time lows and profits are at all time highs in the last decade or more and while CEO pays has gone through the roof why have the average guys wages actually decreased over that time?
Sorry for the length of the post but this is a weighty topic for us. That’s it for me. Now I will go on to see what the “experts” say….