Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Political Year in Review

Greetings from R. M. Eller and your diabolical friend DevilsAdvocate. On this New Years Eve, we look back on the significant political events from this year. It has been a year of ups and downs for the Obama administration and for the American people as a whole. We have managed to survive a most turbulent time though. In fact we have had some victories along the way. This is a look back on those events.

Let’s start off with a bittersweet victory for President Obama, the passage of reform for the health care industry. Progressives view this however as a sort of half-assed victory with the bill being watered down in a futile attempt to gain Republican support. Universal coverage was replaced with the public option, which gave way to lowering the Medicare age, which ultimately led to the individual mandate. A universal mandate that isn’t even that effectual at that. It has already been deemed unconstitutional by Virginia and in the end people not wanting insurance won’t see much of a penalty for it. One aspect of this health care overhaul that is somewhat significant is the lowering of the maximum age that a citizen may remain on their parent’s health insurance. This too though is still far from a perfect victory. It is interesting that while this watered down bill has only partly gone into effect, the standard story from those that subscribe to the GOP way of thinking and drink heavily from the Kool-Aid (TM) is that this was ‘forced down their throats, even though they had a hand in the negotiations most of the time, including ’a summit with the President. In the end, only one Republican voted for the bill, Representative Cao of Louisiana. The GOP’s #1 goal in the 112th Congress is to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, which started with stalling the allocation of funds for it until March of next year.

Next up is the biggest environmental disaster the country has seen since the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, the explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform and subsequent oil spill. Unfortunately this event happens to be the best example that humanity has had in some time of the word quagmire. See folks, not just a character on the Family Guy. This monumental disaster was the product of neglect. While BP was sealing this well a large amount of air pockets formed in the well, causing methane gas to explode and ignite when the gas along with a mud mixture was pushed up to the platform. To make matters far worse, BP had been aware that their blow out prevention system was not viable for days before this disaster. This resulting explosion slew 11 individuals and injured 17 others. This unfortunately would not be the end of the harm however. The worst was yet to come.

The Obama Administration decided that BP would be responsible for the clean up efforts. This resulted in the usage of toxic chemicals in the clean-up effort that seem to have made matters worse. These toxic dispersants, in additon to the dangers that the EPA stated they posed, had another risk. They didn’t get rid of the oil so much as it made it disappear from the surface as it sank to the ocean floor. As opposed to coagulants which various environmental groups implored BP to use. There was even a proposal to use peat moss, which would absorb and break down the oil. The oil spill lasted for months while the well continued to gush oil into the Gulf until it finally came to an end when the well was plugged in mid September. Unfortunately for aquatic life in the gulf this event was truly destructive. It remains to be seen if this event shall ever be recovered from.

For other shameful behavior during the clean up effort, BP refused to permit their workers (that were hired from out of work fishermen) to use basic protections such as respirators, goggles or overalls. BP also had threatened to fire any workers that were caught using a respirator. One issue that did come up as well was a scandal involving the payment for workers and reparations for the oil’s destruction of fisherman’s lively hood

Being an even numbered year meant Congressional elections, this time being the first midterm elections for President Obama. Political analysts were mixed on the outlook of the elections. Most analysts predicted, and rightly so, that the Democrats would maintain the Senate but lose the House of Representatives to the Republicans. On the other hand, Fox News and GOP analysts were predicting a landslide where they would reclaim both houses of Congress with large numbers. Of course this did not happen, as many of the Republican candidates were of the Tea Party variety like Christine O’Donnell. Minority Leader Boehner and Speaker of the House Pelosi now switch places and all the House committees will be lead by Republicans. This will mean that President Obama will have a more difficult time furthering his agenda but at the same time it also means that Republicans will have to be more willing to compromise as they only control one house of Congress and anything passed by them that is not Obama-friendly will be killed in the Senate or vetoed by the President. As was mentioned after the election by us, good luck to the GOP.

And with every midterm election there comes a lame duck session of Congress, and this year was no different, except this year we saw the most productive lame duck session in recent history. The biggest issue was the coming expiration of the Bush era tax cuts. President Obama promised in his campaign that he would make the tax cuts on the middle class permanent while letting the cuts for the richest 2% expire. Well, after lots of debate, the president blinked and decided to “compromise” with Republicans and temporarily extend all the Bush tax cuts. This infuriated progressives like Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean, to the point where Bernie Sanders went on the Senate floor for eight and half hours giving his reasons that the bill should not pass. It ultimately did pass with overwhelmingly bipartisan support and was signed by the president. During the lame duck session we also saw the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a major victory for the Gay and Lesbian community, the ratification of the New START, a major step to securing loose nuclear material around the world and keeping peace with Russia, and the passing of the 9-11 first responders bill, which gives those who were at Ground Zero the much deserved health care they need. What we didn’t see was the passing of the omnibus spending bill for next year. Instead this year’s spending was extended until March, which gives the Republicans time to try to work their own brand of “magic” on the budget. Good luck with that. What that means for us in the meantime is that healthcare and Wall Street reform won’t get their funding until March, if the Republicans even bother to include them, but we wouldn’t count on the that.

The end of this political year does fill us with hope. We all remember President Obama when he is in campaign mode. Election season is coming up in the very near future. With the difficulties that the incoming Republican control of the house will present, our president is going to have to change his approach. It is quite likely that he will begin to present a far more progressive front than at any point of his administration. Who knows, maybe the return of Obama the campaigner will mark a dynamic change in this presidency. Who knows, maybe this should be the year that we can look forward to with hope.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Nation of Wussies

Before I get a ton comments saying "How dare you call us wussies" let me explain these are not my words but those of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. He said this during an interview for a Philadelphia radio show in regards to the NFL and Philadephia mayor's decision to postpone the Eagle and Vikings football game on Sunday night because of the approaching blizzard. Rendell noted that the roads were not only passable, but the major highways near the standium had no accidents during what would have the typical travel time to the stadium. Also football is a game most enjoyed in the elements, in the cold and snow like at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
While it seems petty to complain about a football game being postponed, Gov. Rendell brings up a valid point. We have lost our edge and have become too afraid to take risks now. We used to be the leader innovators during the 60s and 70s when it came to electronics and cars. Then the Japanese leapfrogged us in electronics and brought out small cars to combat the gas crisis. Our attempts at small cars failed miserably and we have fallen behind in that important segment ever since. Most of our major electronics are no longer made here but come from Japan, with some notable exceptions of course. But for the most part we have sat on our butts and let the rest of the world get ahead of us and have lost our ability to take risks. However there is hope. General Motors recently started production of the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt, a new kind of electric car. So maybe there is hope for us. But one thing is for sure, a little snow never hurt a football game.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from The Young and Opinionated

On this eve of Christmas, I want to wish all of the readers a Merry Christmas on behalf of the staff of The Young and Opinionated. For one day, let's set aside the partisan bickering and celebrate the reason for the season. So from our family to yours, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The President has accomplished a lot, but at what cost?

Well, yesterday marked the official end of the 111th Congress and the unofficial end to the first half of President Obama's first term and there's no denying the amount legislative accomplishments President Obama has had. Besides the Affordable Health Care Act which reformed the health insurance industry, there was Lily Lebetter Fair Pay Act, Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, tobacco regulation, credit card reform, student laon reform, Wall Street reform, the Recover Act which brought us back from the brink of collapse, the new GI Bill, the Food Safety Moderdization Act, James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the bailout of the auto industr, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the tax cut compromise. That's a rather long list and in fact in the first two years, 85% of the president's agenda for his first term was accomplished. The only problem is, some of the larger bills were watered down compared to the original ideas.
Take for instance the Affordable Health Care Act; when it was first proposed there was the addition of the public option, a way for people to buy health insurance through the government in a larger exchange in an attempt to drive the premiums of other companies. That was soon replaced with lower the Medicare age, which in turn was replaced with the individual mandate. The final bill was a shell of its former self in an attempt to get the Republican votes that never came. To put it in other words, it was like taking a shot of espresso, bold and exciting, and dumping it into a gallon of water. What we have left is something diluted, hard to swallow, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth (I'm sure the people at the Coffee Party would get a kick out of that analogy). The same can be said for the Wall Street reform, in a futile attempt to get Republican support, the bill lost some of its luster by the time it was passed.
And to add insult to injury, at the end of the so-called lame duck session thie week, Congress passed a stop gap spending bill that continues the current spending levels until March since the omnibus bill failed to make it to a vote. What this means is that the funds that would go to start implementing the health care and Wall Street reform won't be there and that reform will be further stalled until the Republicans get a chance to pick it apart and repeal it.
And then there is the tax cut compromise, which I already wrote about earlier, but to reiterate, the president walked back on his promise to let the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% expire by extending them with the rest of the cuts for 2 years. Also there is the estate tax issue and the payroll tax holiday, which starts the inevitable defunding of Social Security.
The 112th Congress will be different as the Republicans have more say and control the House of Representatives. I relunctantly look forward to see what comes out of it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The President needs to watch his base

Well, it appears that the President's continuing efforts to please the Republicans might come back to bite him in the form of a primary challenge in 2012. The Kiplinger Letter last week reported about possible challengers to President Obama in 2012, among them Congressmen Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Lynn Woolsey of California, Sheila Lee of Texas, Senator Russ Feingold, and fomer DNC Chair and Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Despite these rumors, White House senior advisor David Axelrod has assured the media that any primary challenges are out of the question. And Kiplinger reported that any challengers won't get very far. I find that last thought not very accurate. Decision 2010 was full of challenges to the incumbants on both sides, with many falling to opponents, like Arlen Spector in Pennsylvania, Lisa Murkowski in Alaska (despite making history and staging a stunning write-in victory in the general election), and four others in the House of Representatives. So what would prevent that from happening to President Obama? It could happen.
The way I see it, Howard Dean is the best choice of possible challengers. First off, Dean has the name recognition. He ran in 2004, infamously known for the Dean Scream, and didn't hold much ground after that. He has executive experience, being the former Governor of Vermont and the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Speaking of the DNC, Dean worked hard during 2008 to get President Obama elected, employing his genius 50 State strategy, placing focus on all fifty states, not just the surefire wins. This helped swing some states that were always red to blue and claim most if not all the swing states. And as the icing on the cake, Howard Dean has been true to the progressive base, helping with Progressive Democrats of America, pushing for health care reform including a public option and wanting what is best for middle class, not the elites. The other possible challengers are also strong candidates, like Kucinich and Feingold. Both would be worthy running mates to Howard Dean, Feingold being the better choice because of he is from California and would help carry the West Coast.
Time will only tell what happens, there is still a year left until the 2012 elections begin and the President might return to his base that got him elected. But then again, he might move further away from his base in order to appease the Republicans.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The START nuclear arms treaty and how the GOP is endangering us

It may seem like common sense that when presented with a treaty to reduce stockpiles of nuclear arms and creating further cooperation with an ally that was once your arch enemy, that you would ratify the treaty to prevent another conflict from breaking out. Unfortunately the Republicans in the Senate seem to lack common sense as they are wanting to filibuster the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, citing problems such as it puts our country at risk and they don't like the terms of the treaty. What they don't realize is that if the treaty goes unratified, it just gives Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin another reason to hate us and maybe cause Cold War II. In the past the treaties START I, II, III and its predecessor SALT were ratified with large margins, with at least 90 votes. So what makes this one any different? The answer is both simple and complicated. First off, the Republicans in Congress are generally opposed to anything that might be seen as a positive for President Obama. They have been like this all along. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has even gone on the record saying that the Republican's priority these next two years is to defeat the President, no matter the cost. So causing another period of tensions with our one-time super power foe is worth it, as long as President Obama is defeated in 2012? According to McConnell, it seems that way. But it's complicated in that if the above isn't the only reason to oppose it, what else is there? I can't seem to think of any reason to oppose it. Heck, very prominent Republican diplomats and politicians support it, including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger and former President George H. W. Bush. Just like with the tax cut debate, this proves how out of touch the Republicans are and how much they only care about the success of their party and the downfall of the opposition. I implore the Republicans; get this treaty ratified now before it becomes a bigger issue in the future.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Better Late than Never

It seems that Don't Ask Don't Tell is dead alas. That's wonderful. It really is. Perhaps this is being a bit on the harsh side, but I've got to wonder, what took you so long? This should have been one of President Obama's easiest campaign promises to deliver on. He is the head of the executive branch of the government. An executive Order could have been the end of this. However, it is nice to see a victory of any form. It is impressive that this did make it through the legislative process. Good job Dems. Also, in regard to the Republicans that voted in favor of repeal, you folks deserve a pat on the back. Congratulations on not being dinosaurs.

Mr. President, I'm glad to see that you'll be able to fulfill a promise. This is something that was long overdue.

Now this is real Change we can believe in

Today the Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the discriminatory policy known as Don't Ask Don't Tell. In case you have been living under a rock for the past few months or don't follow politics like I do, Don't Ask Don't Tell is a policy set forth by President Clinton to one's sexuality a secret from the rest of the military. Its original intent was that one wouldn't say that their homosexual and nobody was allowed to ask about it. Unfortunately it transformed into a sort of witch hunt to root the homosexuals out of the military, that even if someone had a inkling that you were homosexual, you were discharged, even if you didn't admit. We lost 13,000 good fighting and loyal soldiers to this policy since it was enacted. Many of those discharged in the recent wars are important soldiers that were interpreters and the like that would have made fighting easier. Today those soldiers will get the chance to re-enlist and fight for their country. As with any change, there will be blowback, the commandant of the Marine Corps is against the repeal. Nonetheless, this is a huge victory for civil rights. Thank you Senator Lieberman for bringing this bill to Congress.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's official, President Obama is Bush 2.0

Now I know that may seem like a harsh statement, but it's true. President Obama is signing into law tonight the extension of the Bush era tax cuts, completely reneging on his campaign promise of letting the cuts for the top 2% expire. One would think with having 58 out of 100 seats in the Senate that the Democrats would be able to get a lot of legislation pushed through. The Republican minority has taken control of the Congress, especially in the Senate, by threatening to filibuster anything President Obama proposes, inclduing the Defense Authorization Bill and the START missile treaty with Russia. The president has the spine of a jelly fish and refuses to call the GOP's bluff and force them to filibuster. If he had the guts to do so, it would prove once and for all that the Republicans are the party of "NO" as it would show that they don't care about the umemployed, the middle class, and national defense. Instead he caved to the minority and turned his back on the people that got him elected in the first place on the pledge of Hope and Change in Washington. As progressives and liberals and independents, we should have seen this coming because during the health care reform debate, so many ideas that the president promised (like the public option) were pulled from the bill despite the GOP not even voting for the final bill. Even ideas that the Republicans intially proposed were scrapped because they refused to support them after the President backed them. As Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida said on the House floor "If the President ordered a BLT, the right would outlaw bacon." But I digress.

This isn't the first time Obama has continued a Bush era policy. The prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is still in operation and presumably "enhanced interrogation" aka torture is still being used. Wall Street is still only loosely regulated. PayGo, the plan to only sign bills if they can be paid for, is still not used despite being reenacted by Obama. No Child Left Behind is still in place, despite the call for further reforming our education system. The list goes on and on. I supported the President because I thought he would finally bring our country back on track, but as it turns out, my Republican friends are right when they say "Where is all the Hope and Change that was promised." This is not to say that I'm switching parties, because the Republicans are the ones for the most part that got us into this mess and are proposing to dig us even deeper in the hole. Rather I am saying that it's time that our government got back to its fundamental roots set for by Abraham Lincoln (the first Republican and also a progressive), that government should be "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Throughout history, the conservative old guard in government hasn't succeeded because of one fundamental flaw, that is wanting to preserve the status quo when the status quo is no longer relevant. Time moves forward, not backward and therefore our government's policies should follow suit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Bernie Buster and other observations on the tax cuts

On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) brought back the traditional filibuster in a new way. Going on for almost eight and half non-stop hours of speaking, Sanders brought his case to the floor for why the tax "compromise" (I put that in quotes because it is hardly a compromise since it gives the Republicans exactly what they want) should be defeated.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

These are just clips of the speech, but it was outstanding. Senator Sanders is the voice of the progressive movement in the Senate, and he is the voice of reason of right now. This show of strength and conviction proves that the president's own party isn't afraid to go against the him. I hope the president was listening and won't do the stupid thing he has been doing by pushing back against his base.

On the other hand, we have the Republicans arguing that we need the tax breaks for the rich, but at the same time they don't want the debt to go up. Hearing that makes me want to pull my hair out and ask them "HOW THE HECK IS THAT POSSIBLE?!" Extending the cuts for the top 2% adds to the debt somehow pay for themselves. I'm wondering how these people ever passed Economics 101. If you cut the revenue, it increases the debt if you don't compensate for it by cutting spending. So here's the rub, the Republicans will use this along with the cuts to payroll taxes to start defudning Social Security since it seems to be the bane of all right's existance. And if that happens, you will see the working and middle classes rise up against the government.

The irony behind all of this is that the "compromise" has recently united two unlikely parties, the progressive base of the Democratic party and their counter parts on the right, the Tea Party. A coalition of Tea Parties and Progressives could kill the bill in Congress, which would be the true sign of bipartisanship. I would love this to happen. Both sides want to take America back to it's fundemental roots, Tea Partiers want smaller government, Progressives want government for the everyday person, not businesses and the rich. We'll see how it plays out tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Obama has given his base the bird

The president has caved and will extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years. I cannot adequately describe how I feel about this, so I'll leave it to the expert. I present Keith Olbermann's Special Comment from Tuesday December 7.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm mad as hell and I'm going to blog about it.

I just saw on that until the tax cut issue is solved, the GOP plans to filibuster all bills in the Senate. The DREAM Act? Repealling Don't Ask Don't Tell? Ratifying the START Treaty? Extending unemployment benefits? None of that will happen until the crybaby Republican Senators get their way and futher sink America into debt by extending all of the Bush era tax cuts permenantly. They won't even consider just extending the tax cuts to those making less than $250k, it's all or nothing. The GOP is so out of touch with the middle and working classes that it isn't funny. They're also out of touch with the millionaires they really represent because a group of more than 40 millionaires called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Responsibility (Link) recently urged the President not to extend their tax cuts. When some of the wealthiest people in America, including Warren Buffet, want to pay more taxes, it should say something. Furthermore, it's only a tax increase of 4%, from 35% to 39%! It's not like we're asking the upper class to pay the 1960 tax rate, which was upwards of 90%. If the Republicans have their way, we'll be $700 billion more in debt over the next 10 years. I'm beginning to find it increasingly difficult to understand how any middle or workering class American can be a registered Republican and actually support the idiots in Congress.
Now Democrats, all is not lost. Remember how we passed the Affordable Care Act? It was through budget reconcilation, which can be done again with these tax cuts because it will decrease the deficit. You have the votes for that, and if you had the guts to do it before, you can do it again. If you're going to go out, might as well do it with a bang because come January, it will be 2 long years of filibusters and finger pointing. Do this and you might actually regain some traction you had in 2008 going into 2012. Cave to the GOP and you will be out of power or face a serious challenger.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

On behalf of the writers here at The Young and Opinionated, I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. So take a break from politics and enjoy some good food, good times, and good football with your families and I'll be back tomorrow with more commnentary on the wild world of politics.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Democrats may have found their backbones

That's right folks, the Democrats might have actually found the strength and finally stood up to the lunacy of the GOP. Rachel Maddow reported on Thursday night that Democrats forced an up or down vote on unemployment insurance, putting into the public record who voted which way. Because of this procedure, a two thirds majority was needed to pass, and almost all the Republicans voted against it and so the bill failed to pass. But now those GOP House members along with a few Democrats who voted against are out in the open as being against the unemployed. The Democrats have proved that aren't afraid to tell the other side to put up or shut up. That act showed that this will be a very productive lame duck session as the Democrats plan to use the time they have left to push through the remaining pieces of their agenda this year before the new Congress comes into power. That means Don't Ask Don't Tell could finally be repealed and the House Democrats have assured us that the issue of the Bush tax cuts will be debated.
The Democrats wouldn't have needed this push had the old Lions of the Senate, Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy, been around or if Vice President Biden would become more like Lyndon Johnson and do some arm twisting in the Senate. But I digress as this is a different time and place now. The main point is, the Democrats are going to get work done, and they're going to do it now. This is good news for all us out there. Like Dr. Maddow said:
"Signs of spinefulness are forcing the other party to take a public stand on things that put them at odds with public opinion, forcing the other party to take a public stand on things that put them at odds with how that party wants to be perceived, and not letting the other party stretch things out forever to give themselves time to turn popular ideas like insurance reform or nuke treaties with Russia into unpopular things by sheer dent of how long they're getting battered around in Washington.
It is a sign of spinefulness to run the calendar, to frame the debate, to decide things on your own timeline, to make your opponents own up for their unpopular positions. All of these things in evidence in Washington today -- Democratic spinefulness has broken out. Everybody panic." The Maddow Blog

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Republicans are finally coming to their senses

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a firm supporter of the president and his agenda for changing America for the better. You would also know how frustrated I am with Republicans that their agenda from Day 1 of this presidency has been to undermine President Obama and vote no on everything he supports. Well, that is finally coming to an end, at least in terms of national security. Republican Senator Dick Lugar has called on the Democrats to call the GOP's bluff and force a vote on a key nuclear arms treaty. Senator Lugar realizes the importance of the treaty to not only our national security, but to global stability. Past treaties have passed with at least 90 votes and no opposition. So why the sudden change. It all stems back to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's comment of making sure President Obama is only in for one term. But the point is, I commend Senator Lugar for bucking his party and putting the country ahead of the party's agenda.
There is also another case od Republicans finally coming to their senses and not jumping over the proverbial cliff like lemmings. Don't Ask Don't Tell has been debated in Congress all year, culminating in the proposal for the repeal of the discriminatory act in the Defense Authorization Act, the annual budget bill for the Pentagon. Initially the GOP threatened to filibuster it, but now the tables have turned. At least four Republican Senators have come out in support of repealing the act, including Lisa Murkowski, John Ensign, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe. That puts the vote count over 60 providing all the Democrats vote in favor. That is real bipartisanship. These Republicans realize that putting their country first (to pull an old John McCain campaign slogan) is more important than the party. I appluad them for this and hope for more to come in the future.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Case for Reforming City Government

Disclaimer: This particular issue is centered around my town, but can be applied to anywhere that is facing the same issue.

This blog has been typically reserved for national issues, but something in my town has me really irked, I feel it needs to be heard. Just as with the Ferderal government, my city's government is run by a bureuacracy of bean counters who only look for ways to save money rather than what is in the public's best interest. My goal is to change all that.
There was a recent battle between City Hall and the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters over staffing concerns at the city firehouses. The union was demadning an increase in the number of fire fighters at each house to better staff the engines in case of a call, which actually makes sense. In return, the mayor threatened to close a firehouse because he disagreed with the union. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Erie, but it's 28 sq/miles, not big, but also not small. At the time there were six firehouses, two of them dual engine companies with both a fire engine, and a ladder truck and a third had the water rescue unit. The mayor wanted to cut that down to 5 firehouses, but it wasn't clear which one would be closed as it didn't make any sense to close any. Eventually the agreement was to eliminate the dual fire houses and shut down one engine and one ladder truck. So as it stands, we have five engines and one ladder protecting the entire city, while six other fire engines and three ladder trucks sit idle because there isn't anybody to staff them. Of those idle trucks are five reserve trucks, two reserve ladder, and the engine and ladder that were shut down. We have more than enough apperatus to protect the city, but no men to staff them. And it was said response would not suffer, which I say is the biggest load of B.S. ever uttered. There was an auto accident about half a block from my house yesterday at a dangerous intersection without a traffic light (I will get into that later), and the fire engine that covers my end of town repsonded, but was tied up there for at an hour and half. Meanwhile, the entire southeast end of town is left to be protected by the firehouses that cover the south central and northeastern parts of town. But here's the rub, the one firehouse has the water rescue unit and the other covers the main road leading out of town. So if both of them had calls, then my area is screwed. My end of town is 80-90% residential and includes a college campus that has a couple thousands living there. We would be up not a creek but a river and not in a boat without a paddle but on a log, drifting aimlessly.
The reasons for all these cut backs is because in the current political climate, our mayor, like many other politicians, is afraid of raising taxes. But I have plan that can work and probably will face little opposition. Assess a $1 a week "public safety" fee on residential property taxes and $2-5 on business, depending on the size of the building. That could mean around $2 million for residential and $1.3-3.3 million from businesses. That is potentially $5 million dollars for the police and fire departments. But instead of being creative like that, the mayor continues to put the people who put him in office at risk.
Another part of the bureaucracy is the red tape one has to go through to get a stupid traffic light put up. A half a block from house is a very dangerous intersection, the one with the auto accident mentioned earlier. Two busy streets along with with a side street create a 5 way intersection that can be hard to maneuver through. There have been pushes for a traffic light for at least 30 years when my grandfather signed a petition for it. But because the fatality numbers aren't high enough, the city refuses to spend the money on it. Instead of looking at fatality, they need to analyze the number of accidents period because there are probably at least one a month there, if not more. It's infuriating how the almighty dollar takes precedence over human life.
These actions by the mayor and city council are unacceptable. But remember this, just as easily as we voted them in, we can vote him out. We did it to the mayor's predecessor, and we can do it to him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time for a sanity break

Every once in a while I find it healthy to take a break from the constant tug of war that is politics to post something either light hearted or non-political. This week will be about sports, specifically football, even more specifically my beloved Cleveland Browns.
The man you see here is Reggie Hodges, the punter for Browns. But you may be asking yourself, "Why is running in that picture?" That's because it was one of the best plays ever executed by the Browns special teams. In Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints, on 4th down and long in their own territory, the Browns set up to punt. Instead, Hodges takes the ball and runs for 68 yards down to the New Orleans 9 yard line, the longest run by a punter since the merger of the NFL and AFL in 1970. That play helped breath new life into the Browns when they went on to rout the Saints 30-17.

Everyone thought this was a fluke until yesterday's very decisive win over the New England Patriots. This win was important for many reasons. First of all it proves that Cleveland finally has the team and the QB to be competitive in the NFL. Second, it gave Browns coach Eric Mangini his first win over his mentor and former boss Bill Belichick. Thirdly, it gives the city of Cleveland renewed hope in their team. They might be only 3-5 for the season, but they are better than a lot of teams that were supposedly better than Browns, including the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys. Even if the Browns only finish 8-8 this year, which I hope it's better than that, at it shows that there is progress being made in team and that the 2011 season will be very interesting in the AFC North Division.

History is about to be made *UPDATE*: History has been made

In case you haven't been following the unfolding saga with the midterm elections, it's far from over. That's because the final vote count isn't in from Alaska yet. Preliminary counts have the write-in choice out on top of Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. It is presumed that all those write-in votes are for Lisa Murkowski, the incumbant who Miller defeated in the primary. But rather than pack up and retire, Murkowski made the bold choice to continue on fighting, launching the largest write-in campaign in over 50 years. The odds were against her as no one has ever won a write-in campaign for statewide office in Alaska and the last person to win a write-in campaign in the United States was Strom Thurmond in his run for Senate in 1954 after losing to the incumbant in the primary. The speculation for the Murkowski's success is because of a fear of Joe Miller. The Maddow Blog run by the Rachel Maddow Show is reporting that entire villages are going against the Tea Party candidate because of his "anti-everything platform". This is really telling because Alaska is the state produced the Tea Party Godmother Sarah Palin. Based on this interesting little fact, the Murkowski supporters might not even vote for Sarah Palin were she to get the GOP nomination in 2012. For her sake, she would be better off running a third party campaign under the Tea Party banner. But I digress. This race will definitely be one for the history books as a candidate defied her party to challenge the man who defeated her in the primary and turned around to defeat him in the general election. This is a once in a generation occurance, so don't look for it to happen again.

UPDATE: History has been made as the Associated Press has declared Murkowski the winner, the first person in over 50 years to win a national write in campaign.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On Keith Olbermann

I'm sure as many of you know, a champion of the liberal and progressive cause, Keith Olbermann, has been suspended from MSNBC for breaking company policy when he made three separate campaign contributions last week before the election. NBC News policy states that making such contributions is against company policy unless you obtain permission from the company president. Keith didn't get such permission, so I admit he deserved a reprimand for that. But to indefinitely suspend him? I find that move a little extreme. I personally think this stems from an ongoing feud has had with the company president and the president finally had the opportunity to take it out on Keith. What the president of NBC News needs to realize is that without Keith, MSNBC is going to go downhill fast. Keith has the highest ratings on MSNBC and has single-handedly built up their primetime lineup, starting with Rachel Maddow and now includes Ed Schultz and Lawrence O'Donnell. Keith has also done a lot of humanitarian work, helping start the free clinics across the country with donations from Countdown viewers. I plead to MSNBC, bring Keith Olbermann back on the air. Your network needs him as does the progressive movement. He's the calm to Ed Schultz brashness. Visit this site to sign a petition to bring Keith back on the air. I have along with over 200,000 others. Thank you.

Post Script: I said this wouldn't last very long. Keith will be back on the air Tuesday according to the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oh the irony...

It's not often I post twice in one day, but being the day after an election prompts this. There has been much talk over the internet and cable news channels about your's and mine favorite half governor Sarah Palin. Now this might not seem like news but the difference is this time that the GOP wants to get rid of Sarah Palin. You heard it right, the Republican Party wants to kick their favorite campaigner out. The reason for this is two fold; Palin's endorsements of certain candidates cost the GOP from taking the Senate and that she doesn't stand a chance against President Obama in 2012 were she to get the Republican nomination.

It would appear that her endorsements have been the kiss of death for certain candidates. Christine O'Donnell in Delware was defeated easily, Sharron Angle was just narrowly defeated by Harry Reid and Joe Miller in her home state of Alaska as of right now is being defeated by write in candidate Lisa Murkowski, whom Miller defeated in the primary. Those three seats alone would have helped make it closer in the Senate, and along with a couple of other losses would have given the Senate to the Republicans. The other aspect of irony is even funnier. Word from various sources are saying that there is a movement among the GOP leaders to find a candidate that can topple Sarah Palin in the primaries. Politico reported that "There is a determined, focused establishment effort … to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin," said one prominent and longtime Washington Republican. "We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her." Of course Palin is going on the defensive calling this crap, but not naming anyone.

I understand her frustration, but she needs to realize that she has the political kiss of death, starting with the failed campaign of John McCain in 2008. Democrats laugh at her and Republicans shake their heads at her. She is not a viable candidate for national office and needs to realize that. But I love the irony that the GOP has finally realized it.

Congratulations to the Republicans

Last night was an eye opener not only for the Democrats, but for anybody who follows politics in general. The Republicans were able to make some gains in Washington, taking back the House of Representatives and closing the gap in the Senate. For that I congratulate them because they fought a long and hard battle to get there. But that is where my praise ends. The Republicans also fought dirty, skewing the facts and making it look as if the Democrats didn't get anything done, but I digress.
Republicans are now putting out their message of repealling Obamacare and extending all of the Bush era tax cuts, a very ambitious agenda. But there's one problem, the Republicans only control the House, the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. Anything radical that passes the House will either get voted down in the Senate or vetoed by President Obama and the Republicans lack the 2/3 Super Majority to override a Presidential veto. So how does that look for you Republicans? Now you're forced to reach across the aisle to the Democrats to get anything done, unless you want to sit on your hands the next two years and blame the Democrats once again that nothing was accomplished. Except this time the public will ask the Republicans "What have you done?" Cue sad trumpet. Exactly. So Republicans, get on board the Obama train or else it will be a long two years to 2012.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feelings on the election

Hello Folks,

This is your diabolic friend the Devil's advocate posting after a particularly long hiatus.

What I'd like to talk about is making a difference. As I write this, election results are still coming in throughout the country. I don't know about the rest of you, but the Election Fairy did bring me a few presents, and took away others.

This is one election that I have had a difficult time becoming enthused with. Is it that half of the things that the GOP campaign sent out about the Democratic Congressional Candidate were attacks on Nancy Pelosi? Not really. Would it be that the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates reminded me of the Vote or Die episode of Southpark? That would be a big part. Though, on to more useful things like the upcoming diatribe.

I'm one of the many Americans that is presently not satisfied with the two party system that is the current state of affairs. While I'm not a fan of the Tea Party in general, I do like several aspects about them. Unfortunately the 'Tea Party Candidates," that tend to make national news have a few things in common, ignorance in their field of expertise is the most disheartening. Honestly, when you are making a major point of wanting to follow the constitution closely and contradict yourself in the next statement when talking about the 1st Amendment.... But I digress there. Another troubling feature would be the association of bigotry which is particularly disconcerting. What I do like about them is that they are shaking things up. They are changing the status quo for the Republican candidates. My personal wish is that both major parties begin to change their ways. I also am quite fond of the stance that many tea party members have of Issues over Parties.

I would wish to see actual liberals running for high office in the Democratic party. I would also wish to see actual conservatives running in the Republican party. As opposed to the Neo-liberal and Neo-conservative that seem to be the general rule. I would also wish to see the current political parties become less relevant in favor of more specific smaller scale parties.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Republican Supporters Lack Facts and Common Sense

Now I know what you're thinking "That's a very harsh statement to make there. How dare you insult all of us." Before you come after me with pitch forks and torches (shameless plug for Keith Olbermann's new book) hear me out. Most rural and small town Republicans join the GOP because of the issue of the Second Amendment and gun rights. What the Republicans forgot to tell you was that Democrats don't want to take away your guns, that it's all a big myth conjured up with the NRA to scare you. Take for instance this exchange between Rachel Maddow and some GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller supporters on her recent trip to Alaska.

I couldn't help but laugh at the ignorance of those supporters. I later did a Google search on Eric Holder and the Second Amendment and the only credible article to support their argument was the ban on assult weapons, which is actually a good thing unless you want everyone to walk around with AK47s. Other than that, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Do you get my point yet? Those people have nothing to stand on. Let's look at some other examples shall we?
Next up is the issue of the deficit. Now I'm not an expert at economics, but if I recall, it was President Bush who got us into the mess in the first place. When President Clinton left office, we had a record budget surplus and were on track to pay off our debt within a couple years. Instead President Bush wiped away that surplus in the matter of just a year and ballooned out debt to new levels.

So of course the debt isn't going to magically go away after only two years of President Obama being in office because after all it took President Bush eight years to get us in this mess. It's not as if President Obama can clap is hands and suddenly the economy is perfect again like it was under President Clinton. It's going to take at least eight years to get out of this mess, but the steps President Obama took have set us on the right path. As the famous "bikini graph" shows, there has been a steady growth in job creation since President Obama took office, compared to the millions of jobs lost when President Bush was in power.

I know it might appear that we're haeding back down again these past few months, but that was because there were job losses in the government sector as the Census is over now and state and local governments are laying people off because the stimulus money has run out for them. Which brings me to another lie by the GOP, which is that the stimulus didn't work. Clearly it has based on the graph above, but Republicans will only admit it in writing, praising how the money was able to create new jobs in their districts and states, while going on television, mainly Faux News, saying how it was a failure. Wow, I love the smell of hypocricy in the morning. Just like the healthcare reform bill, another lie that deserves its own entry, they are against anything the president does that they know will work and keep Democrats in power for a long time, which is why they wanted to kill the healthreform bill. If only the voters could see the truth behind the Republican lies, the GOP would go the way of the Whig Party in the 1840s.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ode to Sean Hannity

Unfortunately this is not an original poem by me so I must credit where credit is due to the great comedian John Cleese.

Ode to Sean Hannity
Aping urbanity,
Oozing with vanity,
Plump as a manatee,
Faking humanity,
Journalistic calamity,
Intellectual inanity,
Fox Noise insanity,
You’re a profanity,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Decision 2010, brought to you by McDonald's in association with Koch Industries

Now, you may look at that title and think it's rediculous that a fast food chain would be sponsering the midterm elections this year, but it really is not that far fetched thanks to the Citizens United v Federal Elections Comission case the Supreme Court ruled on earlier this year. What this ruling did was let corporations unlimitedly fund campaign ads because the court ruled that corporations are protected under the First Amendment. Last I checked this First Amendment said this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Since when are corporations considered people? Are they living breathing things? Can they give birth? Can they use the bathroom? I didn't think so. Corporations already have great influence in government through lobbying groups, do they really need to have a say in who is elected? We're quickly moving from a democracy, the rule of the many, to an oligarchy, the rule of the few. And what makes it worse is that these corporations aren't directly funding this commercials, but in hiding through fake groups with clever names that make it seem like they really care, such as Americans for Prosperity or On the surface, this groups seem legitimate, but once you go deeper you begin to notice that Americans for Prosperity was founded by the Koch brothers as a means for trying to lessen regulations on businesses. is a cover for Big Pharma to try to dismantle the healthcare reform act, which they call ObamaCare or the healthcare take over, which it is not (but that's a discussion for a later entry.
We need to take this election back from the corporations because we're the majorty and we have the power. If we continue on this path, we will have the socialist revolution the Republicans have feared because the have nots will rise up against the haves. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Post Script: When I wrote this, I used McDonalds in the title because I thought it was so stupid that it was funny. Turns out that not only is it stupid, but it's true. According to ThinkProgress (link to story here) a Canton, OH McDonald's recently handed out flyers advising the employees to vote for Republican candidates:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Democrats, where are your backbones? Part Deux

I know I wrote an entry about this before, but now this is just getting nuts. The general election is coming up and Republicans along with their Tea Party allies and corporate buddies are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Democrats, incumbants and newcomers to their races, and Democrats are simply turning the other cheek hoping that their records speak for themselves. Unfortunately it's not working and here in Pennsylvania the three key races in my district are all looking like we're going Red again. Where was that fiery passion that got you into office in the first place. We have seen however a few brave Democrats who want to run on their record and what their opponents want to do to further put our country in a hole. For example:

But this isn't enough. The Republicans have united against the President, so the Democrats need to unite behind the President and against the real radical agenda coming from the right. The Republican and Tea Party candidates have given you so much material to work with it's not even funny. You could run on how the Republicans only care about their interests in big business, big oil, big pharm, and Wall Street. You could run on how their policies help put the country in the current economic state we're in. You could run on how every attempt you made to fix this country, the Republicans blocked in an attempt to make it look like the lack of progress is your fault. You could appeal to senior citizens about how the Republicans still want to privatize Social Security, despite the collapse of Wall Street in 2008. In theory, you should be able to take every seat that is up for election, and maintain or increase your current majorities. Instead you sit on the sidelines taking every hit the Right is giving you. You need to stand up and shout like Representative Anthony Weiner of New York, Alan Grayson of Florida, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, the ones who are not afraid to stand up and tell it like it is. If you continue to stand idle while the Right sweeps in, it will only spell disaster for the remainder of President Obama's first term. Don't do this for, do it for the country.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How my political views have changed

Just as winds can change a landscape, life these past four years since I've started college have changed my outlook on politics. When I was in high school I considered myself a political moderate, a centrist Democrat that could be swayed to either side depending on the issue. I wasn't afraid to buck my party and side with the Republicans if I happened to agree with their stance on a certain issue. This all changed when the presidential election heated up my sophomore year of college. There were a couple Republicans that impressed me in particular that if worse came to worse, maybe they wouldn't be so bad, a definite improvement over the previous administration. Unfortunately as campaigns went on, I saw a different side of them, one that started to turn me away from the Republicans.
My views became even more changed once President Obama took office and it became clear that the Republican agenda was only to stall and fight the president on every issue he presented. It became clear to me that I was no longer a moderate as I could no longer side with the Republicans on anything. I went through a period of searching, trying to figure out just who I was. It wasn't until I read a book by Ed Schultz that I figured it out; I am a Social Democrat. Now don't confuse this with Socialist as I don't believe in the view of Karl Marx. I believe that the role of the government is to protect the people from not only outside invaders, but from the enemies within; the predatory banks, health insurance companies, Big Oil, Wall Street, and such.
I think that everyone is entitled to the right to live, which is why health insurance reform was needed so that more people can be covered and not have to choose between having food on the table or living a long and full life. I have been blessed that I have health insurance through my parents and even more so now that the reform law extended the dependency age to 26 so that if I don't find a job, at least I can still see a doctor. I also think it's a right that everybody get some sort of affordable education, whether it be at a tradional college or university or at a trade or tech school. An educated public makes a better society. I believe that the bailouts of the the auto giants General Motors and Chrysler was not only necessary but the right thing to do since those two companies have been big contributers over the last century for the government. Had they been allowed to go into bankruptcy without the government's help, we would be in a larger depression than the one faced back in the 1920s and 30s. And because the government stepped in, Chrsyler and GM now have a bright future. I also think we need to punish the banks and investment firms that nearly sunk us into the depression through predatory banking. Wall Street fat cats are making record profits while unemploymeny remains high and people are desparate for help.
I think that the government is put there to help the people that elected them to office and if they aren't willing to do so (like the Republicans) than we should take them out of office, it's that simple. My name is R. M. Eller and I am a proud Social Democrat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More thoughts on Islamophobia and Cordoba House

Last time I wrote about this topic, it centered solely on the ignorance of the those who oppose the Islamic cultural and community center blocks away from Ground Zero. Well more time has passed and further acts of ignorance have arisen, some more ugly than others.
First off, Cordoba House is no longer the only Islamic center being targeted now. One that was planned for Kentucky recently lost their previously granted zoning ordinance for it amid protests over the site "stealing" parking spaces from other businesses in that town. Well, that same site was the target of vandals and arsonists last week when construction equipment was set on fire and the words "NOT WELCOME" spray painted on the sign for the proposed center. Other centers, planned or already existing, are also being targeted by ignorant, bigotry filled people. A couple years ago an Islamic cultural center opened not far from my houses, using a building that once housed a music store. Not a single word of protest was mentioned, at least not that was covered by the local media. It was lauded because another building wouldn't sit vacant in what is one of the more run down neighborhoods in my city. And even now the center operates in peace, with nary a protestor outside it. So again I ask, what is the reason for all the fuss else where.
Secondly, and more troublesome, is a Florida "pastor" planning a Qu'ran burning this Saturday on the anniversay of the 9-11 terror attacks. I use pastor in quotations because no real man of God would do something so henious and stupid. General Petraeus even warned yesterday that by going through with the Qu'ran burning, that American soldier's and civilian's lives will be at risk in the Middle East and Asia because of protests, which have already started. Despite these warnings, the "pastor" still plans on going through with it. In my opinion, take it for what it's worth, this act puts that "church" on the same level as the KKK burning crosses and anti-American protestors overseas burning our flag. This "pastor" will have the blood of American's on his hands and he doesn't seem to give a damn about it. Well sir, all I have to say to you is that there is a special place in Hell waiting for you because there is no place in Heavan for a man who burns a sacred text, even if it isn't Christian.
We might be a nation that embraced Christian values in its founding, but we weren't founded based on Christianity, we were founded on religious freedom. From the Puritans persecuted in Europe to Irish Catholics under the British crown to the Jews during the Holocaust, we have always embraced religious freedom, so why exclude the Muslims?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Signs of our times

Everyone knows that this last recession hit the country where it hurts and hard. A recent drive around my town made this really evident to me. Along a particular road of downtown are the empty shells of factories and plants that once made up the industrial core of my town, a town that once was the steam engine capitol of the world. Some of those buildings are being used once again, but many stand in decay, ghosts of the past. The General Electric Rail division plant on the other side of town is a skeleton of what it used to be, with half the buildings from 20 years ago now gone and layoffs happening every year. Laid off workers from various plants around town stand on the interstate off ramps with signs pleading for work of any kind. A sign for a proposed shopping center still stands 5 years after it was announced, with ground still not broken and no tenants lined up. The unfortunate thing is that there seems to be no end in sight, at least not while current gridlock in Washington exists. The American's Want to Work Act is currently sitting in Congress, held up by Republicans not caring about the unemployed and Democrats not having the backbones to challenge the Republicans into filibustering the bill. Because of this the bill will be be put on the back burner and left to die out. How can anybody be against putting the unemployed back to work? The Republican's attitude is as un-American as it could get. Unfortunately those middle class people that elected them are duped into believeing that helping big business will help them, which has been proven by G. W. Bush as completely false. If we help them, we help the whole country. I urge you, contact your Congressmen and Senator, and tell them, plead them to pass the Americans Want to Work Act because we need to get this country back on the track to prosperity.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Sanity Break...

Some thoughts to ponder...

1. I have kelptomania, but when it gets bad I take something for it.

2. Sometimes too much to drink isn't enough.

3. Heaven is where the police are British, the chefs are Italian, the mechanics are German, the lovers are French, and it's all organized by the Swiss.

4. Hell is where the police are German, the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and it's all organized by the Italians.

5. HEADLINE: Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake.

6. My short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be.

7. Just two days from now, tomorrow will be yesterday.

8. A bartender is just a pharmicist with limited inventory.

9. The following statement is true.

10. The previous statement was false.

11. I may be schinzophrenic, but at least I have each other.

12. I am a nobody. Nobody is perfect. Therefore I am perfect.

13. Kentucky: Five million people, fifteen last names.

14. I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it the food.

15. When you work here, you can name your own salary. I named mine Fred.

16. Money isn't everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch.

17. Reality is only an illusion that occurs due to a lack of alcohol.

18. Red meat is not bad for you. Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.

19. I am having an out-of-money experience.

20. Don't sweat the petty things. Don't pet the sweaty things.

21. Corduroy pillows are making headlines.

22. I found Jesus. He was hiding in the trunk when I got back from Tijuana.

23. If you remain calm and collected while all others around you are in utter panic, you obviously don't understand the situation.

24. Birthdays are great for your health; the more you have, the longer you live.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

For your viewing pleasure...

Glenn Beck's Greates Hits

Please enjoy...

RE: Cordoba House on Park 51, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque

In all honesty Rob I agree with you. They do have the right to buy the property, turn it into a community center and even pray in it. But is it "wise"? Of course one could ponder, "is it wise to build a gay bar next to a Muslim community center/mosque"? Probably not. It might offend somebody.

If you note from 0:18 - 0:32 even President Obama states that they have the right but the wisdom of their decision still up in the least for him.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cordoba House on Park 51, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque

For the past month or so, along with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (link) the planned community center at 51 Park Place in New York City has dominated the news. Now, normally a community center would sound like a great idea; a place for kids to go to stay off the street and others to take classes. So what's the problem with it you may ask? It just happens that this planned community center is located six blocks from Ground Zero and it's being run by Muslims. Because of those two factors, the fanatical right has gone on a rampage trying to prevent it from happening.

Now this is just Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin's views, but as you can see, Fox News has been all over this issue. There are however some fallacies with this story. First of all, this is not a mosque. A mosque is a place of worship only. The Cordoba House at Park 51 is a community center with a recreational area, classes for people of New York to take, and a prayer space on the top two stories of the proposed building. So in other words, it's basically a Muslim version of the YMCA. Critics are saying that it's going to be a breeding ground for terrorists, if basketball players and creative writers are now considered terrorists. Secondly, it's not even located at Ground Zero, but six blocks away in the former Burlington Coat Factory store that closed after it was hit by debris on September 11, 2001. They chose this location because they were able to purchase the property for a great deal. You won't be able to see Gound Zero from the center and vice versa. This is not going to be a monument to the terrorists who orchestrated attacks but an attempt by the Muslim community to reach out to the rest of New York and say "we feel your pain." Muslims are peace loving people and the terrorists are just a fraction of a fraction of that, just as the protestors of the Westboro Baptist Church don't represent all of Christianity. I have friends from high school who were Muslims and they were very nice people. So far the fanatical right hasn't come up with a real reason for not building it other than that it wouldn't be right. What do you mean it wouldn't be right? Wasn't our great country founded on the notion of religious freedom? The first amendement to the Constitution guarantees that freedom and now Republicans want to take it away. What if it were a radical Christian group that attacked the Twin Towers? Would we be against the building of a YMCA six blocks from Ground Zero? I don't think so, because then the Bible-belt south would be up in arms.

I could go on about my views about this proposed community center, but I think Keith Olbermann's special comment on it from the August 16 episode of Countdown on MSNBC sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Democrats, where are your backbones?

Democrats have historically been the party of the people. It was a Democratic president that brought us the New Deal and pulled us out of the Great Depression. It was a Democratic president and Congress that signed into law the Civil Rights act. It was a Democractic president that gave us a record budget surplus and economic growth. It was a Democratic president that pushed for conprehensive health insurance reform and sweeping Wall Street reform. But it was also a Democratic Congress that watered down the health insurance and Wall Street reform bills. Why is that? Because the Democrats in Congress right now lack backbones and tried to appease the Republicans on these key issues. Now, I understand the necessity of reaching across the aisle to gain support for a large bill. But when the other side makes it apparent that they will not support the bill, why try to appease them by stripping it of the essentials. If it weren't for this cowardness, we would have a public option in the health insurance reform bill. They should have realized that it was the Republican's goal to strip the bill of the meat of the reform leaving only a skeleton. But there is some hope in the House of Representatives for the Democrats, and they are Congressmen Anthony Weiner of New York and Alan Grayson of Florida. These two courageous men have taken up the banner of the Democratic Party and are speaking for the people, as evident in the videos above. They are not afraid to speak their mind and telling the Republicans where to go and how to get there. They are in this humble blogger's opinion, the finest and best people representing their districts in the House of Representatives. If the rest of the Congress were as passioinate as these two are, then more effective bills would be passed and there wouldn't the constant threat of filibuster and endless debates. Because right now, this is all I see:

Friday, July 16, 2010

The American Middle Class

Being a student of American history has really helped me understand the political atmosphere of America better, where we came from and where we are heading. We are currently facing a crisis bigger than anyone expecting; worse the Great Recession of 2009-2010 and Hurrican Katrina. The crisis is the squeazing and disappearnce of the once great American middle class, the social class that makes up the majority of Americans who drive the economy and are the predominant force when it comes to electing those who shape national policy. But in the last ten years we have seen the middle class starting to shrink; those at the upper end try to push into the upper class while the rest create a new subclass of the lower class, the struggling.
The middle class has been a driving force of America since the early years of this great nation. The middle class started out as the merchant class, hard working people who kept shops in town or were the in the trading industry. These people were the movers and shakers of the young nation and helped keep her going, even in troubled times. The merchant class made up the House of Representatives as there were the voice of their fellow citizens in their towns. They were educated but kept their town's and state's interests at heart. Industrialization brought the mighty working class, a group of hearty individuals who worked hard and were able to provide a decent life for their family. It was through them that the work ethic of the middle class was instilled and continues to thrive today. In the post war years of the 1950's the business sector boomed with lower white collar jobs being added to companies, further growing the middle, giving them the buying power that helped create the economic boom of the 1950's.
The middle class stayed strong, even through the years of Reaganomics, in which trickle down economics failed to help the middle class, instead lining the pockets of the rich. The boom of the 1990's once again helped bolster up the middle class. The G. W. Bush came to office and once again brought with him the theory of trickle down economics, even though everyone knows it did not work under Reagan. And once again they did not. Couple that with the worst ecnomic downturn since the Great Depression and record high unemployment, and we are the seeing the middle class struggle, all over the country. People are out of work, declaring bankruptcy, and losing their homes. And they are angry about it. So angry that a certain political movement is capitolizing on this anger and using it to their advantage, even though they do not care about the people and their conditions.
We need to clamp down on corporations and the rich. We need to, dare I say it, spread the wealth. The rich are not doing anything substantial with their money, why should they not give it to the government so that it can be given back to people, who will turn put it back into the economy? Why should they not carry the burden of our national debt? Afterall, it was those tax cuts under President Bush that created the debt. The middle class is struggling as it is, they should not have to pay for the rich to get richer. This might sound like socialist rhetoric, which it is, but so what? While my views might be centrist, I am still a social Democrat. You can throw the proverbial rocks at me all you want, but that is my view.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Where is the Outrage over Little "Hope" and No "Change"?

It has been close to 18 months since the sweeping dream of "Hope and Change" and President Obama took the nation by storm in Nov 2008, bringing the Democratic Party the tri-fecta of Government control. With majorities in the House and Senate since 2006, a democratic president that could wow the masses with a few well timed, teleprompted words, there seemed to be no slowing down the New America Express. Promises of transparency, politicians who were not Washington "insiders" and dreams of GITMO shutdown, and the U.S. free to pull itself from two wars that those on the left called a "quagmire". This coupled by the creation of jobs and a beat down of the Wall Street fats cats and institutions "too-big to fail", led most to believe when they voted for Barack Hussein Obama, there was a sheriff in Washington would would take out the trash, and leave our streets sparkling in the sun. Freed from the scourge of the that oil peddler "W" and his puppeteer Dick Cheney, nothing could bring down the euphoric feeling of this major Democrat victory. Interesting what a difference 18 months makes. Where's the hope? What change?
In fact over the last 18 months of our fearless leader's victory, what has really changed. Unemployment, still ranging between 9.5 - 10 %. Troop increase in Afghanistan, and the return of a General that most on the left insulted and demonized for his command in Iraq. Troop casualties are on the rise, and GITMO is still the place to house those captured in the war on terror. There are those that say the stimulus is working, but speak to the people that are still feeling the crunch of unemployment, of mortgages in default. Banks that were bailed out, now have tightened their belts when lending, holding onto their reserves like misers. The stock-market is a roller coaster. America is up to her eyeballs in debt. Change would be trying to find a solution, not just throwing money at the problem. Class-warfare is back, creating a have/have-not mentality. Immigration goes unchecked. There are probably as many illegals flowing across the border as there is oil leaking into the Gulf. OK, maybe not that many, but 85 days after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a crisis of epic ecological, financial and personal damage, our President states, he "needs an ass to kick". The way the country is running, it is business as usual. Back door deals for political positions and plenty of finger pointing around the table. You would almost think that the Republicans were still in power!
But what really is interesting: Where are all those who would hold those on the right accountable, namely the liberal media and the left, to criticize there own man for not following through? That's right: silence. Nothing....maybe a passing "He inherited a mess" or "Give him time" plus the classic "It's all Bush's fault". Put this into perspective folks...if you used any one of those excuses a year and a half after starting a new job, your boss would fire you on the spot! Most likely for bringing up Bush's name! The fact is, you got what you paid for. A lot of talk, some smoke and mirrors, but when the dust is are left with an in-experienced man who is having is strings pulled by those more powerful "Washington insiders". In truth, nothing has changed, except the name on the desk in the White House. There will always be hope, but that will not be something that a president can legislate, it comes from the citizens of this great nation. As for change, that sounds pretty good. You can preach it all you what, but need the guts to make the tough decisions, and live with the outcome.
I have seen neither in the past 18 months. People are waking up. They will give the Dems and Obama more time, but they won't give him their vote....that's real hope and positive change.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Decision 2010

Don't let the title fool you, this has nothing to do with the upcoming mid-term elections. Rather it was the inane spectacle last night made by LeBron James choosing which NBA team he would be playing for. While this isn't politically related, I thought it would be nice to, as Keith Olbermann would say, take a sanity break.
In case you haven't heard, LeBron James has opted to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers behind and play for the Miami Heat next season. While I don't like or follow basketball, I still feel the pain of Cleveland and Ohio. As a Cleveland Indians and Browns fan, I know what pain is like in that city. First and foremost was the idiotic move of former Browns owner Art Modell of moving the team from Cleveland to Baltimore, all because he saw a revenue drop when the Indians pulled out of Municipal Stadium. Rioting broke out in the city and there were cries for Modell's head on a stick. To make matters worse, the expansion team that brought back the Browns hasn't produced like the Browns of old. Second example was when another player that grew up in the Cleveland farm system who claimed loyalty left because he said he wanted to win a championship. Can't remember who that was? Jim Thome. He got his start in Cleveland, working his way through the ranks of the farm system, making it to the Indians in 1991. He put up a fuss when they were planning to trade him, only to leave later because "he wanted a title" or in other words, more money. This only opened the flood gates for all the other talent to leave the team.
But back to LeBron. Did he sersiously need to spend a whole hour of prime time TV to announce what team he was going to? He is not that great of an athlete. And based on that spectacle, Cleveland deserves someone better than him. While Cleveland might be rioting now, in the long run they are better off not having a prima dona like him playing in the city. The Cavaliers might suffer as will the city's economy, but they'll bounce back, especially after the Browns prove everybody wrong this year.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bigotry in Paradise

Hawaii, it is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. The climate is lovely, the people are friendly it is considered to be one of the most desirable vacation areas. It is an area that has even produced legislation towards the equality of all citizens by the legislature.

However not all is lovely in paradise. Despite impressive legislation by the Hawaiian House and Senate with House Bill 444 this bill was unable to clear one hurdle Governor Linda Lingle. On July 6th of 2010 Governor Lingle had voted against this bill which would allow for civil unions between homosexual couples to exist. When questioned on her decision, Governor Lingle made the following statements:

  • "I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-sex marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially same sex marriage by another name."

  • "It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude be made by one individual or a small group."
It would be easy to claim that such things were done in support of family institutions. Governor Lingle had claimed during the process of the bill going through the house and senate that it was a distraction from budget issues. However this bill was important as it granted equal civil protections under the law to a minority. These civil protections were already granted to the majority of couples that formed a union (aka married couples). Civil liberties that are extended further for one group of people and not all are quite simply biased. Unfortunately for homosexuals they are a group that many politicians at present feel that they can treat with bigotry with impunity. While that may seem the case at the moment, bigotry in all of its forms are morally wrong. As citizens no matter where one lives in the United States, The civil protections that are available to an individual should be offered to all.

Traveling Onward and upward,
The Devil's Advocate

For additional information on this topic, please visit:

Thoughts and Observations on the Gulf Oil Spill

We have now entered Day 79 of the BP/Deep Water Horizon oil spill and as per the last 78 days, there seems to be no end in sight. The rig exploded and sank for many reason, including but not limited to Halliburton's shoddy workmanship on the cement work for the rig and Transocean and BP's failure to install and maintain the proper and necessary safety measures to prevent such an accident from ever happening. Because of those reasons, our country is facing the worst environmental disaster in its history, far surpassing the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Every state in along the Gulf of Mexico has now been affected by the spill, with tar balls now washing up on Texas shores. The oil spill for the most part has shut down the Gulf fishing industry, cut tourism revenues, and has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands along the coast.
First off, I am tired of hearing people blame President Obama for the spill response, or lack there of at times. The government didn't respond right away because BP assured everyone that they had the situation under control. After it was apparent they didn't however, the President stepped in, but by then it was too late to fix the problem because BP had screwed it up even further. Even with Federal control, BP is still assuring the public that everything is under control, and underestimating the flow of the leak.
Now, there are some solutions to lessen the damage of the spill, not necessarily to fix it. In the Middle East, the Arab's devised an ingenious method of controlling oil spills. They use supertankers as large ShopVacs; they suck up the oil and water mixture, take it port, drain the tanks and then separate the mixture on shore. BP refuses to to use this method because they don't want to tie up their tanker fleet with cleaning up the mess. Another method that is proven to work is peat moss, especially a type of dehydrated pear moss (MarketWatch Blogs). A company in Canada produces peat moss just for that very purpose. One pound of peat moss can absorb four pounds of oil. An added bonus is microbes in the peat moss will then break down the oil. BP's reason for refusal, they can't retreive any of the oil. Another theory about the refusal of both methods is that they didn't think of them, so they can't be good. That is a load of bunk. The supertankers could pick up a large amount of oil before it hits the shores. And then the oil that already hit the marshes and shore can be taken care of using the peat moss. Unfortunately, it might be too late, even for the relief wells being drilled, as there are fears of the pipes below the surface starting to leak, which would be the feared doomsday scenario. If the undersea pipes give way, the leak would continue until the well dries up, rendering the Gulf an environmental waste land.
No matter your political affliation, we all have to agree that this is the worst disaster our country has faced and that BP needs to take full responsibilty for it.