Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

National Security vs Politics

GOP elephant pooping, Elephant ShitSenator Jon Kyle (R, AZ) and Republican Senators have put politics above our national interest by refusing to vote on the New START Treaty with Russia.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, was on ABC's This Week this morning where he was questioned by host Christiane Amanpour. He unequivocally supported the START Treaty. When asked repeated questions about whether this treaty was good for the country and should be passed, he made clear that it was in the best interests of National Security that the START Treaty be passed ASAP. Even in a lame duck session. He emphatically said "ASAP".

When asked if the Republican opposition was based on politics or policy, Admiral Mullen obviously refused to comment. But it was clear from all his other comments that he saw no national security reasons for delaying ratification of the treaty.

Sometimes is hard to tell when Republican obstructionism is principled or political. In this case it is obvious.

WTHWYT - Rep. Allen West

Representative Allen West (FL), recently elected Tea Party Republican, was on Meet The Press this morning. He was commenting about the uproar over the new TSA airport screening procedures which give passengers a choice between a revealing electronic scan or a thorough pat down search. He was complaining about the poor job of marketing for the new TSA rules when he said that the Obama administration should have had a better marketing plan and should have "put out some feelers" to airline passengers.

Really! What The Hell Were You Thinking?

If your marketing plan was to get your face on every late night comedy show, you succeeded.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Repeal tax cuts for rich

GOP elephant pooping
Republicans want to extend all the Bush tax cuts, including the tax cuts for people making over $250,000. This would be $250,000 of taxable income, after deductions, etc.

Their argument is that many of the people affected are small business owners and the extra tax burden would cause them not to grow their businesses.

Let's think about this.

First of all the, these high income people would still get the tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. Assuming that the current tax rates on income under $250,000 are extended, the higher rate after January 1 would only be on any income over $250,000.

So if I understand the rates correctly, the rate for income over $250,000 will change on January 1, 2011 from 35% to 39.6%.

Let's say you are a small business owner, have $250,000 of taxable income and starting 01/01/2011 you have the opportunity to grow your business and raise your income from $250,000 to $350,000. At the end of the 2011, your tax bill will be $4,600 greater if the Bush tax cuts for the rich are not extended. The federal tax on that $100,000 would be $35,000 if the tax cuts are extended and $39,600 if they are not.

So Republicans think this business person would not grow their business by $100,000 and increase their after tax income by roughly $60,000 because they would have to pay an extra $4,600 a year in federal taxes. That doesn't make sense.

I know that $39,600 in taxes on $100,000 sounds like a lot, but these rates would be the rates that were in effect in 2000. Not exactly a bad year for business.

When the current lower tax rates were passed:
1) They were not paid for. These tax cuts were paid for by increasing the debt. The Chinese and others loaned us the money to cover the increased debt these tax cuts caused. Everybody got a tax cut that would have to be paid for by tax payers in the future when that debt (plus interest) was paid off.

2) The tax cuts were not made permanent when they were initially passed as part of a political ploy. The tax cuts were designed to expire in 2011 because they were so damaging to the debt. Republics used a gimmick based on how the actual cost of the cuts were calculated and reported at that time. Politicians made the total effect of these tax cuts look lower than they would actually be by making them expire in 2011 rather than making them permanent. Secretly they figured politicians in 2010 would be politically forced to extend them.

We can debate whether or not a tax rate of 39.6% on adjusted income over $250,000 is reasonable or excessive, but to argue that this change would hurt job creation is Elephant Shit.

This will be a fight. We need to balance the budget and not extending the tax cuts for income over $250,000 can help us get there. Democrats need to clearly explain why it makes sense that we do not extend the tax cuts for the rich.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Constitutional Scholar

Guy doesn't realize the concept of 'separation of church and state' really is in the Constitution.
Constitutional Scholar.
Click on comic strip to enlarge.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Are Republics Principled Or Just Political?

Elephant poopingSenator McConnell has announced that one of the highest priorities of Republics is to repeal health care. I thought the number one priority was jobs. I guess I just haven't been listening over the last few months.

I've heard several Republics say that they favor complete repeal of the new health care law and then they would pass a series of common sense measures to replace it.

Bull. If they are really interested in making health care better, let's demand that they explain what they are going to replace the new health care law with before they try to repeal the current law.

Everyone agreed that we needed to reform health care. Well, almost everyone. Democrats finally got an imperfect bill passed. We all agree that the current health care law was not the best we can do. We knew this sausage would need some fixing. If Republicans have better ideas, I want to hear them. I really believe they have some ideas that would help. I just want to hear these ideas debated before they try to repeal the whole bill.

What we have is not perfect, but it is better than nothing. It is a starting point that we can modify and build on.

But just in case the Republicans have some ideas they have never told us about, let's hear what they propose to replace the current health bill with. Then we can decide if we agree before we throw out the current bill. Is that unreasonable?

This is a test for Republics. They will soon have control of the House. Republics in the House can propose and vote on any legislation they want.

If Republicans in the House and Senate show us their proposed legislation to reform health care before or when they propose legislation to repeal the Democrats health care plan, I will admit they are acting on their principles.

If Republicans propose legislation to repeal the Democrats health care plan without showing us legislation for how they will reform health care, their actions can rightly be labelled as purely political. This would prove they are more interested in scoring political points than helping people.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

So we lost. Stay the course.

The voters have spoken. They've made it clear they are angry and are more interested in punishing someone rather than understanding the issues.

The president inherited the worst economy in decades and voters blame him and Democrats for not fixing it in 2 years. Do they really believe if it were at all in the president's power or Democrat's power to turn the economy around they wouldn't have done it? Instead, voters decided to give control back to the party that led us into this mess. Remember, Republicans and the Tea Party only got serious about budget deficits when it became a good way to attack the president.

Back in the early days of the last presidential campaign, before the economy tanked, I had a letter published in the local paper explaining to Senator McCain that you can't really cut taxes when you are running a deficit as he promised to do if elected. You can't really cut taxes when you are running a deficit, you are just deferring payment until some time in the future. Your tax reduction plus interest will be paid by someone later. Where were the Tea Partiers back then?

Were voters watching while the Republicans did everything to block the president for the last 2 years? Where were all the great ideas from Republicans to turn the economy around? Republicans didn't have any ideas or at least not any they would make public. By the way, if they had or have any great ideas, why didn't they offer them when they did have power in the first six years of the Bush administration?

Republicans have had no incentive to help make the economy better. If they had worked with Democrat's the past two years to make the economy better and they were successful, would Republicans have made such large gains in this week's election? Not likely.

Republicans have no incentive to help make the economy better over the next two years. They rightly believe that if the economy stays bad for the next two years, President Obama will be a one term president. Pay attention over the next two years. Are Republicans trying to help or just stalling for two more years?

The Republicans goals for the past two years have been to make things look as bad as they could and they lied whenever they needed. Remember death panels? A total lie. And either Republicans knew it was a lie or they are just stupid. Would you really vote for someone that stupid?

Republicans railed against the bail out of banks, automobile companies and the stimulus bill. A large number of voters believed the bail out was Obama's. Of course the bailout was passed under President Bush. People are crying about losing jobs, especially good paying manufacturing jobs. How much worse would the economy be if we had lost the automobile industry? Republicans act like helping the automobile companies was complete folly. Why?

All we hear from Republicans is how worthless the stimulus bill was. Of course economist tell a different story. And most people are unaware that many Republicans actively worked to get stimulus money to their states or districts. They never said it out loud, but there is a paper trail of letters they wrote asking for money and saying how many jobs that money would generate. We are not talking about a few Republicans. We are talking about dozens and dozens. The list is very long. The stimulus bill generated or saved millions of jobs. Republicans have been lying about it for political gain.

Republicans brag that they stopped “cap and trade”. Of course, many of these Republicans were for cap and trade until it became politically advantageous to be against it. We need to address global warming. It is real. The Department of Defense identified global warming as a national security threat years ago.

The Republican goal for the next two years will be to look like they are doing something, but hoping Democrat's will block them so they can get even more power in 2012. Be are smart voter. Pay attention. Whenever either party obstructs or is uncooperative, are they doing it for principle or political gain? Voters want jobs. Let us see who is working to make jobs and help the economy and who is not.

Republicans are saying the the President and Democrats need to heed the election results and cave into all Republican ideas. Do you remember the Republicans acknowledging the election the President and Democrat's won in 2008? Did they cooperate with the new president even a little? Not hardly. Hell, many of them still won't admit he is the president.

President Obama is too smart to think that Republicans will do anything that will make him look better. It is not in their self interests.

Republicans act like the entire country is behind them. But there are millions of people who want the president to stand up for his and our principles. We should stay true to our beliefs. If we lose again in 2012 so be it. I would rather lose defending my principles than lose trying to work with a party that has no incentive to cooperate.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rotten Apple

The salty old man who lives next door and I were talking about a kid down the street who had been causing problems in the neighborhood.

The old guy commented that, knowing what a jerk the kid's dad was, it wouldn't do any good to talk to him.

I wisely noted that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

To which my neighbor replied "or a turd from an asshole."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New York City Mosque II

The debate about building an Islamic center in New York City close to ground zero is really very simple.

You either accept the concepts embodied in the First Amendment or you don't.

The driving force that caused those guys to fly planes into the WTC was intolerance. We are better than that. Or at least we should strive to be.

You don't honor the people killed by intolerance and hatred by being intolerant.

New York City Mosque

Too many people want to memorialize any tragic death. If a drunk driver kills someone, should we ban bars and alcohol within a 1/4 mile of the site?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Incentivize Good Behaviour

Unemployment benefits were extended this week when Democrats finally got enough votes to overcome Republican objections. The Republican's primary objection was that the roughly 30 billion dollars the extension would cost was not paid for. It would just be added to the debt. While that objection is factually correct, I believe their objections were actually based on political rather than balance sheet calculations.

I was particularly intrigued by another objection from some Republicans that extending unemployment benefits actually did more harm than good. They reasoned that many people were unemployed because it was easier and better to just stay home and collect the unemployment benefits. Cutting off the benefits would give these lazy people an incentive to get off the couch and get a job.

As I've said before, Republicans like simple ideas. Remember "Drill, Baby, Drill"? How about "Benefits Enable Indolence" or "Incentivize Work, Not Laziness"? No, too many syllables.

After I thought about this a while I decided maybe they were on to something. Some people probably do prefer unemployment benefits over a pay check.

The economy is still very sluggish. I've heard it said many times that the engine of growth is small business and they are just not creating many new jobs. Only when small business is creating jobs will unemployment come down and the economy really pick up. How do we incentivize small businesses to create new jobs?

Then the other day I heard a pundit say that we need to extend the Bush tax cuts to the very rich because many small business people are in this rich group and we don't want to hurt them. That's when the light bulb went off.

Small business is not creating new jobs because they have gotten lazy. They did very well under the Bush administration. If we don't extend their tax cuts, their income will go down. Just like the lazy unemployed, this decrease in income may be just what small business needs to get them off the couch and incentivize them to start growing their businesses. Small businesses that grow will recoup their lost income and create jobs for the few unemployed who prefer pay checks over unemployment checks. That in turn will fire up the economy.

I'm looking forward to seeing some Republican support for incentivizing small business growth by not extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest Americans. Finally something we can agree on.

Then again, maybe not. If Republicans and I are right and all we need are the right incentives for small businesses, then the economy will fire up and unemployment will go down. With the economy under control, President Obama and Democrats are more likely to get elected. Republicans are not going to like that.

So now we need to figure out an incentive for Republicans to help grow this economy.

Ethnic Profiling vs Comprehensive Reform

Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law (SB1070) say it could lead to racial or ethnic profiling. Supporters say that is nonsense since the law specifically prohibits this.

The law requires that police check the immigration status of people they believe may be in this country illegally, but only during a lawful stop, detention or arrest. Supporters insist that since police can only check immigration status once a person is being questioned for some other offense, there can be no racial or ethnic profiling.

Forty years ago a friend and I were driving across Kansas (or maybe it was Colorado) on our way to the Rockies in my friend's brand new Camaro. In the middle of nowhere about 11PM at night we were pulled over. The officer said our head lights were not properly aimed. The officer asked for my friend's driver's license and the car registration, which we had trouble finding. We were both college students and my friend's mom had just bought the car for him. It was clear we were not going anywhere without showing the registration, which we eventually found buried in the glove compartment.

We were sent on our way after promising to have the head lights checked. Many miles down the road we found a gas station and borrowed some screw drivers to aim the head lights. I'd done this before. We pulled the car up to a wall at the gas station to adjust them. The car was brand new. There was nothing wrong with the lights.

Naive me. It was sometime later that it dawned on me that we were pulled over for some other reason. There was nothing wrong with our headlights. I have no idea why we were pulled over. It wasn't racial profiling, we were both white kids and it was at night. The point is that when the police want to pull you over, they can. This is not a knock against the police. But, when someone tells you that this law can't lead to racial or ethnic profiling because the police must have some other reason for questioning you, you can bet you are not talking to a minority.

I do not object to checking immigration status out of sympathy for illegal immigrants. I object for the people who are here legally, especially citizens, that will be harassed and inconvenienced if this law is implemented the way it seems to be written.

My understanding is that the law allows citizens to challenge police if the citizen believes the police are not checking immigration status when they should. This is a just a way pressure police to make this a priority. It is clear that Arizona legislators are afraid police may not work hard enough to enforce this law. This pressure to identify illegal immigrants may also lead to to profiling.

I would wager that more people are killed by speeding drivers in Arizona than by illegal immigrants. Why not empower citizens to challenge police whenever they seem to ignore someone driving over the speed limit? The answer is that Arizona wants to harass illegal immigrants and they don't really care if legal immigrants or citizens are caught in the middle.

If Arizona is serious about finding illegal immigrants, they should call for a national ID and require everyone to carry their ID at all times. Or better yet, why doesn't the entire Arizona Congressional delegation stand up and call for comprehensive immigration reform?

The answer from Republicans is that the border must be sealed first. We've been talking about sealing the border for years. During both Republican and Democratic administrations. It is not easy to seal the border. It isn't going to happen any time soon, if ever. If there are enough incentives for people to be in this country illegally, they will find a way to get here.

Part of the purpose of comprehensive immigration reform is to decrease the incentives for coming here illegally. We have been trying to seal the borders for years with limited success. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have put money and people into border security. Why not continue to work on the borders at the same time we work to reduce the incentives? Why not work on comprehensive immigration reform now?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Start Preparing For The Worst

We know that we have not been hearing full, honest descriptions of the oil spill in the Gulf or about possible worst case scenarios.

When the drilling rig first collapsed, I wondered why BP didn't send down a big crimper and crush the pipe that was leaking most of the oil. My understanding is that this was at least one of the ways the failed blow out protector was supposed to stop the leak.

It took many weeks, but I finally heard an expert raise this same solution and then explain that the underwater infrastructure might be too fragile. BP may have known or suspected that the blowout protector was so badly damaged by the collapse of the drilling rig that it might not be able to handle the pressure that would build up if the oil escaping from the well were shut off.

Now we hear that the blowout protector is leaning to one side by 10 to 12 degrees. There is some thought that the pipes below the blow out protector are disintegrating from the wear and tear of the last two months. If there is no longer a pipe coming out of the sea floor it will be much harder to collect the oil coming out.

The latest doomsday scenario is that the oil coming up is under so much pressure that the bottom shot, pumping drilling mud and/or cement might not be able to stop the flow. The estimate I heard is that there is only a 1% chance that the bottom kill won't work.

That is the worst case scenario. We can't stop the leak. Oil will be coming out of the ocean floor for years.

Any possibility that the bottom kill won't work means we should be working on other solutions right now.

Could we drill 50 wells into this same area and extract enough oil to lower the pressure and allow a plug in the pipe to hold? Can we drill 50 wells quickly without another disaster?

How about a cap that is three hundred feet by three hundred by three hundred feet feeding into four pipes, each 20 feet in diameter, to bring the oil to the surface where it is pumped into tankers? The sheer weight of this contraption would force the sides deep into the ocean floor helping to keep out sea water that clogs pipes.

Can we pump oxygen down and burn some of the natural gas as it emerges from the well? Maybe the heat would help warm the water and help get the oil to the surface without forming ice crystals.

I know these sound outlandish, but someone should be working on several different solutions now rather than waiting until October to decided we need a plan F.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Hell No We Won't

The Democrats and Republicans have each chosen the slogans they will use to guide their campaigns this fall. It is

"Yes We Can!" versus "Hell No!".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care Hyperbole vs Voting

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of comments from people who believe that Washington is not listening to the American people. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about a rushed process that didn’t allow people to see the details of the complicated health care proposals, 2,700 pages, back room deals, secret negotiations, trashing of rules and the Constitution.

I’ve been listening to these complaints daily for months. Months! So where was the rush?

I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent listening to or reading about ideas and comments from both sides of the health care discussion. I think I understand the major parts of this bill. I believe people who don't understand the basics of this bill have no one to blame but themselves. I listened and read a lot so I could understand the issues and arguments. Isn't that what you are supposed to do? Too many people are lazy and want someone else to do their thinking.

I suspect I understand health care reform at least as well as I understand my credit card agreements, my car insurance, the privacy statement from my bank, my health insurance policy, the 30 pages of documents I signed for my home loan or any other number of complicated documents we have to deal with. This is a complicated world. I’m sure I understand the health care bill better than those agreements I am constantly being forced to accept when I use my computer.

Back room deals. Secret negotiations. I think I’ve heard about all of them. I agree the “Cornhusker Kickback” was disgusting, but we all know that. What was secret about it? If it hadn’t been removed in the reconciliation bill, a simple bill next week could remove it. Why didn’t Republicans just write a bill to do that and then dare Democrats not to vote for it? (Answer: That solution is too reasonable. It is not inflammatory enough.)

Health care was passed by a majority in the House and a super majority in the Senate. Democrats correctly used the rules of the Congress to pass the bill. Democrats correctly used the reconciliation rules to make some changes to the health care bill that had just been passed. No rules were trashed.

There may be a debate about whether parts of the bill are unconstitutional. OK, if that is what you think, we have a way to deal with this. The courts.

As to Washington not listening to American, well I’m an American. I and millions of other Americans believe Washington has been listening. Now was the time to start making health care available to all Americans and to start the process to bring some rationality to how health care is provided. The bill that passed is not perfect and not what I would have liked to have, but it is a start. We now need to work to make it better.

I heard a woman on NPR yesterday complaining about the health care bill. She seemed very reasonable until she admitted that she was glad that at least conservatives had the Second Amendment and their guns since they might be needed. I wished someone had asked her how her guns would help resolve her concerns about the health care law.

One thing I know. If you believe that Washington is not listening to you, there is a way to make sure they get the message – vote. Leave the rifle over the fireplace.

My Bad

In a previous blog, after Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, I suggested President Obama should scale back his plans for health care reform. I want to assure readers, that was the only bad advice I’ve ever given anyone.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Advice For President Obama

Peggy Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a speech writer for President Reagan, was on Meet The Press this morning. She believes that the reason Scott Brown won last week was the distrust voters have of all institutions, especially government.

That is certainly a symptom of the problem. But why are people so upset with government?

I think there are several reasons.

It is easier to destroy than to build. It is easier criticize than create. It is easier to divide people than to unite them. In the current political environment it is easier and safer to oppose than to compromise. And it is politically safer and more effective to offer specious criticism than to propose alternatives.

People don't get mad and motivated by something they are satisfied with, unless someone threatens to take it away. So the best political strategy is to get voters mad and motivated. Republicans are historically better at this than Democrats.

In general, people have short memories. What have you done for me today?

People crave simplicity.

People want government to leave them alone until they need something. Then they want government to fix it now.

For all these reasons, it is politically expedient to blame the government for all problems.

Thomas O'Neill, Sr., famously said "All politics is local." Today it is "All politics is personal." People are apprehensive about the economy and deficit spending and will punish politicians who do not vigorously share their concerns and their solutions. Except for the people who think abortion is the most important issue. Except for the people who think guns are the most important issue. Except for the people who think Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, terrorism or (fill in the blank) is the most important issue. And more importantly, what good is government if it can't fix it now.

The primary goal of most politicians is to get re-elected or, better yet, get elected to a more powerful position. So politicians, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, believe it is in their interests to use the power of their offices to buy the support of voters and/or donors. Such abuse of the political system properly disgusts voters. Instead of venting their anger on the offending politician, it is often redirected to a political party, Congress in general, the president or all of the above.

Polls show that people think we are still going in the wrong direction and they blame Democrats and President Obama for not fixing it. Fair enough, they are in office, but it took years to generate the problems that confronted President Obama last year. Why do we expect him to fix them all in a year?

I have some suggestions for President Obama. Learn a lesson from your predecessor. Decide what you think is important and go for it. To hell with what voters think. Show that you have ideas and principles that you will fight for.

Pick a few issues. Pare the concepts down to bumper stickers and work to implement them. No foreign oil. Pre-existing shouldn't mean uninsured. The American economy should make jobs for many not billions for a few. A job for everyone who is willing to work (twenty years ago that would have probably gotten you labelled as a communist, but it may work now).

Global warming and true health care reform are too complicated for voters. Do what you can to move the country forward. Make it better than what you found, but take your own advice and don't make the perfect the enemy of the possible. Only when health care and climate change are true disasters will people really understand and you'll probably be out of office by then.

If that is too cynical, try this. Work to make government more responsive, competent and effective by doing a few important things well and soon. Stay away from any issue that might force voters to think. Restore trust in government. Win in 2012 and use that mandate to do a few big things in your next four years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Free Speech. Not Priceless.

I was astounded when courts interpreted the Second Amendment while consciously ignoring the reference in the amendment to militias.

I was appalled when Congress passed a law that destroyed habeas corpus.

Now I'm speechless.

Today the Supreme Court some how decide that corporations, that previously had at least some of the same rights as an individual, actually have the constitutionally protected right to free speech.

And when I say I'm speechless, I'm actually speaking for all of us. We are all speechless. Our individual speech will now be drowned out by unlimited speech from corporations.

Politicians generally do not vote their consciences. They vote to please their constituents and their donors. Now corporate donors are no longer limited in the amount they can funnel to a candidate. Sure, we still have to vote, but the political discussion and process can be bought with huge sums of money. That happens all too much today. Starting tomorrow there are no limits on how much a corporation can spend to buy an election. No politician will be able to get elected without lining up huge sums of money from corporations. They will be bought and you and I are too poor to play in this game.

Corporations are not individuals, even though they may have been granted some of the same rights. They are not citizens. They can't be drafted. They can't serve on a jury. They can't vote. They can't marry (think about that). Or can they? Once they can buy elections, there is no limit to what powers they can give themselves. Their power will only be constrained by other large corporations.

We have been trying for decades to prevent individuals or large groups from buying elections and politicians. That is all gone.

You can imagine dire consequences of this ruling. Maybe we are making too much of this. But if we are correct and this is as bad as we think, once the tipping point is reached and corporations really control Congress, we won't be able to change it back.

I think the solution may be to change the law to make it clear that corporations are not people.