Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pay to Play?

One of the things I have learned to do in this polarized climate is to keep my mouth shut when I hear others ranting about Obama, Pelosi, Reid and all the Democrats who throw away our tax dollars on excessive programs. As a rule, I bite my tongue and avoid saying things like “Where were you when Bush and a Republican majority in Congress created a trillion dollar deficit in just a couple of short years after entering office with the first surplus in the modern history of our nation?” At lunch yesterday, I sat patiently and waited, without comment, while two of my fellow golfers did what I euphemistically refer to as ‘the Fox thing’. They worked their way through Obama’s arrogance, Pelosi’s facelift, the failure of Social Security and the government’s role in deciding what kind of medical treatment we would get if the health plan is passed. Finally, I couldn’t help myself. In my most measured tone of voice, I leaned forward and asked the question, “What do you guys think about last week’s Supreme Court decision that allows foreign corporations to give unlimited funding to political candidates in the United States?” [Background: The conservative five members of the Court who rave constantly about judicial activism and other judges who ignore the original meaning and intent of the men who drafted our Constitution took it upon themselves to overturn case law over the last 104 years establishing reasonable limits on the campaign expenditures of corporations. They did this even though the original appeal before them did not seek the relief the Court provided. When Obama mentioned this during his State of the Union address this week, Alito, one of the justices who participated in the decision shook his head and mouthed the words ‘that’s not true.’]

Both guys sat back and looked at me like I just stepped out of a spaceship from a different planet. “Money has nothing to do with politics,” one of them said. The other nodded his head approvingly. He continued, “Money doesn’t influence politics. It is issues that are important.” These are nice guys, and both of them are a hell of a lot better golfers than I ever will be, but I sat there dumbfounded. I didn’t have to practice any restraint in staying silent, because I didn’t know how to respond. My mind worked furiously, I was trying to remember the exact phrasing of an old saying. I was trying to remember who said it. It goes something like this. “There are two things that are important in politics, the first is money, . . .and I can’t remember the second.” My final thought as we shook hands and went our separate ways is that I had missed an opportunity for a teachable moment by staying silent. It wouldn’t have done any good. Fox had already spoken on this issue. The various pundits had already proclaimed that spending money on campaigns does not influence outcomes. And so it is.

Maybe I am from a different planet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tone Deafness

Question: What do the lack of talent of thousands of American Idol wannabes and politicians of all stripes in Washington have in common? Watching the early tryouts on American Idol is eerily similar to the tripping over each other antics of the Washington crowd as it stumbles through botched efforts of trying to correct wrongs with additional wrongs. To illustrate the point I am trying to make, I ask two additional questions to serve only as examples; First, how is it that the taxpayers provide billions of dollars to keep banks from failing and the very same bank executives who took our country to the brink of disaster use those billions to provide themselves with billions of bonus dollars while doing nothing to alleviate the very situation that caused the problem in the first place? Second, how did health care reform become an agenda for the pro-life crowd?

The current party in power (ostensibly the Democrats) is in a tizzy at the moment because of the Massachusetts election which placed a relative unknown (unless one reads and looks at the pictures in Cosmopolitan) in the Senate and destroyed the supermajority of sixty votes required to defeat filibuster efforts. I submit to the reader that Scott Brown was elected for the very same reason Obama was elected, i.e., the promise of change from the same old business as usual. As those who are addicted to reading my blogs know, I was truly excited about Obama and the hope and promise he brought. I was not alone. A majority of Americans welcomed the concept of change and wanted business as usual to stop.

Obama was elected to facilitate change. What do we get instead? The president sided with the pharmaceutical industry by cutting a back room deal worth billions of dollars to that industry before a bill was even on the table. He helped the failing big banks while unemployment continued [and still continues] to rise, then sees the banks executives laugh it off and take huge bonuses. Meanwhile, Republicans offer NOTHING but criticism, kind of like Simon Cowell stuck on fast forward. The president and Democratic Congress can't pass a health care bill that helps the people without back room deals that in no uncertain terms bribe people to go along with the program. Brown ran neither as a Republican or a Democrat but on the promise of change. He accomplished this by claiming to be a populist driving around his state in an old pickup truck to make the point. He was singing the same tune that Obama had sung during his campaign. Independents, who are the ones that elected Brown, also elected Obama. Republicans, the pimps for big corporations, do not represent change. But independents voted for Brown anyway.

As an independent liberal who has followed the "negotiations" on health care carefully, I have two thoughts; first, the need is to go back to the drawing board and redo the plan is a straightforward simplified form. Second, is to truly do this in a transparent fashion. This is all the more so important at this critical juncture in our republic now that the activist Supreme Court in the last week set aside a hundred years of case law and created a new concept that the corporation is a super-person within the meaning of the Constitution and, thus, has given greater first amendment rights than ordinary citizens to the likes of Chinese-owned and funded corporations (such as giving billions of dollars to buy politicians to affect elections). The drug companies' deal, the Ben Nelson deal, these are currently what it is all about and the Supreme Court has compounded the situation. Instead of going forward, we are moving backward to the era of robber barons.

Tea Partiers are absolutely right in raising the hell that they have. I find myself wondering, however, where these strident voices were when Bush was doing the same thing that they now protest about Obama. But that's another story and the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits. The same goes for the bank bailouts.

The message is clear: sing a different tune, but keep it simple.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Today, January 7, 2010

January 7, 2010

Today in History-Jan. 7
Filed at 1:39 a.m. ET
Today is Thursday, Jan. 7, the seventh day of 2010. There are 358 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Jan. 7, 1610, astronomer Galileo Galilei began observing three of Jupiter's moons, which he initially took to be stars; he spotted a fourth moon almost a week later. (Another astronomer, Simon Marius, who claimed to have spotted the moons before Galileo did, later named the Jovian satellites Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.)
On this date:
In 1608, an accidental fire devastated the Jamestown settlement in the Virginia Colony.
In 1789, the first U.S. presidential election was held. Americans voted for electors who, a month later, chose George Washington to be the nation's first president.
In 1800, the 13th president of the United States, Millard Fillmore, was born in Summerhill, N.Y.
In 1927, commercial trans-Atlantic telephone service was inaugurated between New York and London.
In 1942, Mary Ellen Appleton was born in Detroit, Michigan. She married Tom Bleakley in 1961 and went on to become the best wife, mother and grandmother of the 20th century. At last count, she is well on the way to achieving the same distinction in the 21st century. Her wit, sense of compassion and charm have beguiled those who know her for many years. Also, the Japanese siege of Bataan began during World War II.
In 1949, George C. Marshall resigned as U.S. Secretary of State; President Harry S. Truman chose Dean Acheson to succeed him.
In 1972, Lewis F. Powell Jr. and William H. Rehnquist were sworn in as the 99th and 100th members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1979, Vietnamese forces captured the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, overthrowing the Khmer Rouge government.
In 1989, Emperor Hirohito of Japan died in Tokyo at age 87; he was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Akihito.
In 1999, for the second time in history, an impeached American president went on trial before the Senate. President Bill Clinton faced charges of perjury and obstruction of justice; he was acquitted.
Ten years ago: U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., subpoenaed Elian Gonzalez to testify before Congress in a bid to keep Elian in the United States for at least another month while courts decided whether the 6-year-old should be returned to Cuba. (Elian never testified.)
Five years ago: A military jury at Fort Hood, Texas, acquitted Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins of involuntary manslaughter in the alleged drowning of an Iraqi civilian, but convicted him of assault in the January 2004 incident. (Perkins was sentenced to six months in prison.) Rosemary Kennedy, the oldest sister of President John F. Kennedy and the inspiration for the Special Olympics, died at a Fort Atkinson, Wis. hospital at age 86. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston announced they were separating after 4 1/2 years of marriage.
One year ago: President-elect Barack Obama met at the White House with America's four living presidents: George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Russia shut off all its gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine in a price and payment dispute; the cutoff lasted nearly two weeks.
Today's Birthdays: Ohio’s favorite golfer, Ted Guarasci, who refuses to reveal his actual age, but who will concede to being born on this day “sometime in the 20th century”. Author William Peter Blatty is 82. Country singer Jack Greene is 80. Pop musician Paul Revere is 72. Magazine publisher Jann Wenner is 64. Singer Kenny Loggins is 62. Singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman is 61. Latin pop singer Juan Gabriel is 60. Actress Erin Gray is 60. Actor Sammo Hung is 58. Actor David Caruso is 54. ''CBS Evening News'' anchor Katie Couric is 53. Country singer David Lee Murphy is 51. Rock musician Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go's) is 51. Actor David Marciano is 50. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is 49. Actress Hallie Todd is 48. Actor Nicolas Cage is 46. Singer-songwriter John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting) is 45. Actor Doug E. Doug is 40. Actor Kevin Rahm is 39. Actor Jeremy Renner is 39. Country singer-musician John Rich is 36. Actor Dustin Diamond is 33. Actor Robert Ri'chard is 27. Actor Liam Aiken is 20. Actress Camryn Grimes is 20. Actor Max Morrow is 19.
Thought for Today: ''There may be Peace without Joy, and Joy without Peace, but the two combined make Happiness.'' -- John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, Scottish author (1875-1940).

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