Friday, October 23, 2009

Net Neutrality
My open letter to my Senators and Congressmen

Here is the text of an email I just sent to my Congressman, and my two US Senators....please, take a moment, and do the same...this is one of those small, slightly boring and VERY IMPORTANT issues that can fly in under the radar unless people show they are paying attention.

Dear Congressman Walz.

I was proud to knock on doors for you in 2008 and will be proud to do so again next time.

Today, Senator John McCain issued a press release announcing his "Internet Freedom Act of 2009". It's purpose is to prevent government efforts to uphold net neutrality. With out net neutrality, there is no guarantee that Americans will be able to download content they want, or use the internet to easily do business with whom they want. Without net neutrality rules, internet service providers can use their position as gate keepers to block access to certain websites and services.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see where this might lead. A large business could use their power to enter into an arrangement with an internet service provider to block, or slow, access to the commerce sites of small rivals. Access to opinion sites, such as blogs, or podcasts, could also be inhibited.

We need to make sure that access to the net stays neutral, both for the sake of free speech AND a free market.

I urge you take, or support, action in the house to counter moves by Senator McCain and his allies to block our freedom in the name of Freedom.


Alex Ball

What is Net Neutrality All About?
Watch this:

The Attack on Net Neutrality
Don't let GOP and Big Business Take YOUR freedom in the Name of Freedom

Got Internet? Want to download what you want, when you want it? Right now, you can.

But, if John McCain and others get their way, this might not be true anymore.

Republican strategy is to paint Net neutrality as government 'control' of Internet

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill in the Senate on Thursday that would effectively allow Internet service providers to slow down or block Internet content or applications of their choosing.

Now, the Republicans are painting this as a "Freedom" issue...and it is, it's freedom for internet providers to get between you and the content you want.

Here's a video from You Tube...it's long, dull, and completely without passion- which makes it all the more effective.

IF YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY- PLEASE TAKE JUST A FEW MINUTES TO INFORM YOURSELF...then take a few minutes more and write to your law makers in Washington- and tell them that you vote, and that you oppose efforts to block net neutrality.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beck Goes To Britain
Too Late for an Intervention with the GOP?

Glenn Beck has been exported to the United Kingdom, thanks to Rupert Murdock's dominance of global media. What will the British think of him? An article by Alex Massie on the Daily Beast is well worth the read.

You need to read the article for yourself- PARTICULARLY if you are concerned for the Health of the Republican party.

The key point that jumps out is that the GOP is taking a wildly different path from the conservative parties in Europe. So much so that many Tories were actually pulling for Obama in the last election. The great quote:

It’s as if your favorite cousin had a nervous breakdown, found religion, and became an evangelist for an apocalyptic cult prophesying the imminent end of the world as we know and love it.

(By the way, if it surprises you that such a rabid, albeit centrist, Democrat such as myself could express concern for the health of the Republican Party, it shouldn't. I believe that a strong, rational opposition is VITAL to the functioning of our Democracy. But while you can work with people with whom you disagree...you can't work with nuts.)

Friday, October 09, 2009

When Friends Hurt You:
Obama's Peace Prize

Okay...I like Obama. I like him just as much as the next guy...in fact, if the next guy is the moron in the pickup truck with the "Obama Sucks" Bumpersticker-- then I like him a heck of a lot MORE than the next guy.

I knocked on doors for him in 2008 and am highly likely to do so again in 2009....and I think that, given the state in which he found our country, the economy, and the world, he's doing one hell of a good job moving it back on track.

....but the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE????

Look, the guy has been in office for less than a year. We haven't figured out how to extract ourselves from the Iraqi quagmire, and we are just beginning to tackle the War in Afghanistan, a war which has festered due to 7 years of neglect by the previous administration. Last time I checked, the Isreallies and the Palestinians were still at each others throats...and...c'mon.

NPR quotes presidential historian Robert Dalleck pointing out that this is REALLY an award about George W. Bush....the committee's way of saying "F- you" to our former Yahoo-In-Chief, George W. Bush

But Time Magazine points out that this award could actually hurt the President, and I agree. The major right wing criticism, (aside from the wingnut "Granny Killers" and the "Birthers") is that Obama is All Hat and No Cattle...the Anointed One, The ObamaMessiah.

Intelligent people in the country, and around the world, have become STARVED for meaningful political rhetoric...and the inanity of the Bush Years took a dry spell and turned it into a drought.

We were all ready to hear some complete sentences...soaring rhetoric was an unexpected and blissfully welcome bonus to tired ears...

But Obama is now In Office....he's working...and now is the time to focus on the President's actions as well as his words.

Middle America loves to hate a poser-- and IF the right-wing can make the image stick then the President will be in a lot of trouble, and will begin to find himself so hampered and mired that forward motion will become impossible. That would be bad news for the President, our Party, and the nation.

The sad fact is that, by trying to enlarge Obama's platform by giving him an award he does not yet deserve, the Nobel Prize Committee may have, like their founder, provided his enemies with dynomite.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Joe Wilson and the Right Wing Nuts....

I did this a few weeks back, in direct response to Joe Wilson's outburts, for my facebook page.

After reading "The Next Wingnut Attack" on the Daily Beast this morning, I thought I'd post it here. It's over top, it's unfair to a lot of legimimate conservatives who, like me, worry about the growing federal debt and other problems that beset our nation.

However, my frustrations with the irrational Right were/are such that I just had to throw an irrational tantrum of my own...consider it as such...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Disney Backs High Speed Rail

As a native of Central Florida who has watched the beautiful locales of his childhood despoiled in the name of "progress", I don't often have good words for Walt Disney World. However, I have to say that, in a recent move, they've done something of which I approve.

According to Today's Orlando Sentinel, Disney has offered both political backing AND 50 acres free of charge on which to build a station for a proposed High Speed Rail Line between Orlando and Tampa.

Close on the heels of California, Florida is an epicenter of the "Car Culture"-- once a symbol of American vitality, but which now hangs like a millstone around our necks. Bringing High Speed rail to the Sunshine state seems like a huge step in the right direction toward solving the problem.

Good Luck!

Here in Minnesota, we too, are hoping for high speed rail...with a little luck, a lot of money, patience and hard work...once upon a time, trains ran from Chicago to Saint Paul in about 4 and a half hours....today, it takes 8. In Vermont, trains in 1938 would run from Brattleboro to NYC in five hours or less...these days, it takes over six hours. Great Article at Slate gives these and other facts.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Making the Most of His Time
Carter's post-presidential legacy

The AP is reporting that the Carter Presidential Museum is set to reopen on the former president's 85 birthday. The museum, says the article, devotes "more space than any other presidential library to a commander-in-chief's time spent after the White House."

It's fitting. The story of most American Presidents seem to end when they leave office. Two of the three greatest American Presidents, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, never left office at all. And while Harry S. Truman certainly stands as one of the outstanding Presidents of American History, he leaves the stage of history in 1952-- it almost comes as a shock to learn that he lived until 1972.

Other former Presidents seem to fade into obscurity after their time in office. Two who did not, Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, spent the remainder of their lives burnishing (or in the case of Nixon, rehabilitating) their reputations.

Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, has devoted his life after the White House to the service of others- building houses with Habitat for Humanity, and, of course, searching and working for peace.

The Carter presidency may have proved conclusively that a good man does not make the best President (most of our best leaders have had a touch of the scoundrel about them)-- but his EX-presidency is an outstanding tribute to the value of a life well lived.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Dose of Tim Pawlenty

Since moving to Minnesota almost a year ago now, I've been getting to know Tim Pawlenty. Last spring, he used a legal trick, the unallotment, to completely rewrite by executive fiat, the budget of the Minnesota legislature. The power of the purse is one of the oldest, and strongest, tools that has evolved from the Anglo-American system of representative democracy- having the legislature be in control of the money has proven to be the surest guarantee against tyranny by one man. Any chief executive who treats it cavalierly, or tries to do an end run around it, is a chief executive who needs to be watched carefully.

And this man is running for President.

According to an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

...although Pawlenty can find 49 other states, he's having trouble feeling his way around his home state. For good reason: Minnesota's [budget] problems could trip up his ambitions. As Pawlenty travels the Republican rubber chicken circuit, Minnesota is heading into uncharted waters.

And its governor is AWOL.

The Star Tribune went on the say that:

Pawlenty's refusal to participate in a legislative summit designed to stave off looming fiscal disaster was nothing less than nonfeasance...For a guy who acted as if the sky was falling when the president asked to speak to schoolchildren, Pawlenty sure seems laid back about his own obligations. He has dived so deep into the right-wing tide pool that by Thursday, he had joined Sarah Palin and a few other GOP confederates in threatening to invoke the 10th Amendment -- in effect having Minnesota secede from the union on health care reform with little regard for the effect on Minnesota's 450,000 uninsured citizens

And if all this talk of budget bores you...here's a little piece of propaganda whipped up by the national Democratic party...

...of course you should take some of it with a grain of salt, just because it's MY party's propaganda doesn't mean it's not propaganda...still, research some of the allegations made by this video(especially some of the right wing loons Pawlenty has been stumping for lately) and a rather, well, icky picture begins to emerge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Get To Know Tim Pawlenty
GOP Governor of Minnesota

Tim Pawlenty is talked about in national circles as a potential challenger to Barack Obama in 2012...he's announced he will NOT run for another term as Minnesota's Governor, he's opened a PAC...and he's got a reputation as a "moderate" Republican which may help him among voters at large....

However, like every other GOP candidate...he does have to cater to "the base" ...so supposedly, that's why this "moderate" was to be seen at the recent Value's Voter Summit...

At this event, one prominent Republican suggested that ALL porn, even straight porn, turns people gay AND that we should make sure that we tell this to our 11 year old boys, so that they will stop reading Playboy!

Here's an except from the Rachel Maddow Show...of course it's partisan. Of course it's one sided...but as you're getting to know Tim Pawlenty...it's time to start to get to know the company he keeps. The Pawlenty part of the story is near the end.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Democrat Begins to Doubt , or:
WTF is up with Health Care?

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that, not only have I not found time to keep up with this Blog, I sure as hell haven't managed to keep up with the ins and outs of the Health Care Debate.

My position...well, position is too strong a word for someone who hasn't done his research...my HOPE for Health Care was simple...I wanted a way to make sure that people who WORKED (or who had a legitimate reason not to work) would be able to afford access to basic health care.

That's it. Pretty simple, I thought.

I wasn't distracted by the Tea Baggers, or the wackos who disrupted town meetings, etc. I knew that the news media covered them because crazy people make good copy..much better than facts and figures.

I also didn't allow myself to get too distracted by the left wing of my party...ONLY the PUBLIC OPTION...EVERYBODY HAS A RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE...(which seems a bit silly to me, that's like saying that everyone has the right to never get sick, or to never stub their toe, etc.) Everybody who plays by the rules deserves a level playing field, but as for me, that's all I want.

I figured that somehow, the wheat would get separated from the chaff and we would come up with some plan that was ...perfect? No...but a first step.

But today, I read THIS HEADLINE:

Fines proposed for going without health insurance

Okay, what the hell is going on here?

According to an article by the AP, DEMOCRAT Max Baucus, is proposing a plan that would FINE folks for not buying into a system.

Now, I well remember the days when I was not lucky enough to earn enough money to live without a roommate-- even though I was an adult, and when, even so, most of my money went to pay for RENT and FOOD...with just a tiny little bit left over to pay for a bit of entertainment to relieve the monotony of working to live so I could go to work again...

I remember this because it was only a few years back.

I was poor, but according to the federal government, I was not FEDERALLY POOR-- what that would have meant, if I understand correctly, is that I, barely able to afford Gas to go to work, RENT (with a relative stranger as a roommate- something no adult who works a fair number of hours should have to do), and FOOD...according to the Government, I would have to be making less than 11 Grand a Year for that...and I can tell you that, in the northeast US-- 11 Grand will barely buy you a box of cereal.

Now, this plan is suggesting that, if I don't buy in, I'll owe the FEDS ANOTHER $900 Bucks??? AFTER I pay my income taxes???

And this is a program from DEMOCRATS???

OK-- I admit it, I'm fuming, I'm making noise, and I'm not informed on this issue...but, if I'm even CLOSE to reading this correctly, this plan is freaking STUPID!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Michelle Bachman-Too Stupid for Words-Tries to tie Swin Flu to Jimmy Carter

Since moving to Minnesota, I've found that I really like it here...however, like every beautiful silver lining, it does come with at least one cloud. In Minnesota's case, that cloud is Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann is rabid, vicious, mean...AND Stupid...in fact, she may very well be the prototype for Sarah "I can see Russia from My House" Palin.

Now, she is blaming SWINE FLU on Democrats.

She says it's interesting that the last time Swine Flu broke in 1976 out was also under a "Democrat" President. Not only is this patently stupid, but it is also WRONG- Gerald Ford, Republican was President in 1976-- holy carp-- can't this woman even take five seconds to look at wikipedia or something before she opens her gaping mouth?

When we first met Michelle she was Pawing all over George Bush at his State of the Union speech.

She next burst into national consciousness when she implied (in the 2008 campaign) that anyone who didn't vote Republican probably hated America...

And now this.

Why the hell is she in office? I mean, really? Aren't there ANY smart Republicans?

US News and World Report: Obama Ends Reagan Error- whoops-- Era?

Interesting Article in US News and World Report about the differences between Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. While Reagan shifted the financial direction of the country back to pre-Depression Era trickle-down economics- Obama is taking a page from FDR's book: using the government to pump massive amounts of cash into the system...

Take a look:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Future of Centrism


I read a great article this morning in CQ Politics. Now that Democrats seem to hold all the cards in the Federal Level, it will be very important to keep in step with the American people...

The DLC was established in the 1980s in response to the overwhelming success of the Reagan Revolution, particularly in the South. It recognized an essential truth about the Democratic Party...that it had moved away from it's blue collar and middle class roots and appealed only to those on the far left of the American political spectrum. Since the Republican party, at it's heart, still represented the Corporate Halls of power while relying on the right-wing fringe as foot soldiers, this left the majority of Americans without a political voice.

And so, since the American blue collar worker and the middle class are largely conservative, they chose the right leaning GOP over the seemingly leftist Democrats. The DLC was formed to change this. The political landscape began to change with the election of Bill Clinton (once Chairman of the DLC) in the 1990s, and the Democratic party lurched back towards the center. Not, however, without a great deal of internal animosity, and there are large portions of the Democratic party base where the DLC is anathema. (Visit Green Mountain Daily, or the Daily Kos for a taste of this.)

"The political mission of the DLC has been largely accomplished,"
said Reed, who's had the group's No. 2 post since 2001.
"Twenty-five years ago, the forgotten middle class had serious
doubts about Democrats, and now Democrats are winning the middle
class, suburban voters, moderates by handsome margins. Our next
challenge is to deliver on that promise and earn those votes for
years to come."

On a broader level, though, the group will face the same tension affecting the entire party: the sense among liberals that “their ship has come in,” as Kind puts it — and that, as a result, the need for moderation and compromise in Democratic politics has passed. But Democrats only have that majority because they’re holding on to seats that could easily return to Republican hands. In the House, for example, 49 districts that elected Democrats were carried by Republican John McCain at the top of the presidential ticket in 2008[emphasis added].

On a separate note, it's been a while since I've made the time to visit green mountain daily...going back today and casting an eye over the posts, I realized how much I missed it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hillary The Movie: Free Speech

Today, I listened to a story on NPR that had me at the edge of my seat. The link to the story is here: Hillary: The Movie Opens At the Supreme Court.

On the one hand, I hate the idea that political speech can be limited in any way (even when it's a movie made by Right-Wingnuts.) If Hillary The Movie looses, then I could see that the right wing could use similar arguments to stop people I agree with.

On the other hand, I can't stand the idea that corporations can fund political speech without being limited and without being forced to reveal who they are.

While I, as a private citizen, may be able to make a tiny You-Tube movie about, say, George Bush...I would have a hard time even securing the rights to the pictures I needed to make my point. Not to mention the ability to travel around the country to get interviews, film on location, etc.

All these things make for powerful story telling-

A large corporation, however, would have no problem doing these things and many more- and paying for a platform and advertising for their movie as well...their speech would be SO much louder than mine that there would be no hope of a fair exchange of ideas....

This is a story worth following.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hemorrhaging Money: The Latest Spending Bill

Just listening to NPR's report on the latest spending bill...chock full of earmarks...which the President will sign.

I wish he wouldn't. For both reasons of style and substance, I wish he would send this bill back to the hill and say: "Try again. Fast. We can't wait."

I've written before about the massive American Debt and why it frightens me. We need to begin rebuilding- slowly, carefully, and strongly...so that the Republicans can not pull the American Government to the ground again for a long, long time.

Back in the late 1990s, Bill Clinton went toe to toe with a Republican Congress over spending and won. He also balanced the budget and began to make progress toward reducing our national dept to manageable levels.

In those moments, a subtle shift began in the minds of the American people: Perhaps the Democrats were NOT the party of "Tax and Spend" - perhaps it was the Radical Republicans who were doing the most harm by trying to "drown the American Government in a bathtub."

This shift was only partial, it will take more work to fix it firmly in American minds. As the poorly built edifice of the Bush Era comes crashing down around our ears, the American people again saw the Democratic Party as responsible enough to reverse the nation's downhill course...

That positive image of us as Democrats will NOT stay fixed in the minds of the American people if we are seen to be using this opportunity to shunt funding off to isolated groups and pet projects at a time when the entire American public stands in economic peril.

This morning, I heard another story on NPR...(It's not posted yet, so you'll have to find it yourself...I may not have all the details right, either)...one of the items in this bill is $1.5 MILLION Dollars to hire 8 people to change road signs on an Arizona interstate from metric back into the Imperial system...

$1.5 MILLION DOLLARS! To employ only 8 people.

Sorry, my fellow Democrats- but this kind of foolishness is doing the GOP's work for them.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Breakfast in London

Going down to breakfast this morning, I realized how much I’d missed the British Press. Pouring a cup of coffee and tucking in to a Full English Breakfast (Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, Baked Beans, Mushrooms and – I skipped it- a fried tomato ) I also burrowed into the Daily Telegraph.

In just a few minutes, I got a snap shot of the British Economy and view of the world:

In hard times, skinny ties are back in.

The Queen is rolling out the Red Carpet for an “informal visit” with President Obama this month. (The President is flying into Standsted, rather than Heathrow- it seems our LAST President brought the whole airport to a stop when he flew into London in June…gumming up the works with “extravagant” demands.)

Gordon Brown returns to the UK after his visit to the United States. No one here is impressed, despite his calls for a “Global New Deal” from President Obama.

The Bank of England is getting out it’s paper and magic markers to draw some new money (which, in reality, may turn out to be even more worthless than I’ve made it sound.)

23 Percent of Britons are saving nothing…the fall in interest rates have made it almost useless to put money in the bank…as there is very little to get in return.

Russia just passed a law making it a criminal offence to criticize Joseph Stalin’s conduct of World War 2.

British commuter trains are slower now than they were before the war. (“The” war here is WW2.)

Men are suffering more stress than women in these hard times.

The Princess Royal visited the British outpost of Gibraltar – this made the Spanish angry (the lost the “rock” by treaty in 1713.), but the people of Gibraltar defended their right to a visit from their Sovereign and her family…Rip and Read says: Hear! Hear!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Burning the History Books- The Right Wing and FDR

In the past couple of days, I've been browsing my bookshelves, revisiting the New Deal.

It seemed important right now to go back and take a look at what happened, particularly since the Right wing in this country has been vigorously spreading the lies that FDR's New Deal, perhaps the most successful reform in history, was, in fact, a failure.

The purpose of this misinformation campaign is to trip up President Obama in his attempts to restore prosperity to the American people...and return this country to the right track.

The Right-Wingnuts have worked long and hard (Since Reagan's victory in 1980) to strip this country of the prosperity and protection put in place by FDR.

As I continue to read about this, I find that Chris Miller, who's blog, Smart Remarks, I discovered a couple of days ago has written a nice piece on this debate...I recommend it.

It can be found here: http://blog.smartmemes.com/2009/02/a-dose-of-history/

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wingnut Gospel: Obama will Kill Small Business

Yesterday, Media Matters, published a great article entitled "Washington Post and New York Times let Boehner revive small business tax falsehood." I encourage you to read it.

Sometimes, however, even greater insight can be found in the comments than in the article which prompted them...here are some of my favorites...

From Nerzog:

I guess the Replutocrats think that if they keep repeating this lie, the Media will stop bothering to correct them..... oh, wait, it's already happened.

The Democrats need to take it upon themselves to publicly debunk this myth as often as it takes. As media savvy as they are, Obama's team doesn't seem to realize yet that the Replutocrats own the media, and they'll have to find alternative means to get the truth past all the bullsh*t.

I particularly like the term: RePLUTOcrats....and think I shall adopt it.

And here is another insightful comment, this one from Snoopy:

My experience these last few years is that tax cuts puts more operating capital into the owner's pocket who in turn uses that capital to outsource manufacturing to china and india, thus putting even more capital into his pocket. Who needs quality when you've got 3 billion potential customers who think transister radios are awesome technology!

A great discussion on corporate vs. personal taxes took place between neon desert and nerzog . Here's the take-home:

I was under the impression that incorporation legally segregated the individual from the business, thereby protecting personal property from liabilities incurred by the business.

That being the case, anyone making >$250k/yr from their small business who hasn't incorporated should be assessed a stoopidity surtax anyway.

You said it, buddy.

And last but not least, some great advice from Col. Harlan Sanders (no, probably not THAT one):

These are the questions I keep asking the conservatives on this issue. I'm just going to copy from a recent thread;

Do you own a business? If so, have you ever let an employee go, or decided not to hire a new employee because your taxes were raised?

Do you work for somebody else who has done these things?

Do you know anybody personally who has?

Friend of a friend?


Fictitious right wing email claiming to?

An example , with the essential numbers in revenues/expenses that is feasible?

Cheney2012, to his credit, at least tried to fake a generic anecdotal answer;

"I have known several business owners over the years who have SHUT DOWN completely because of increases in taxes."

What I never get is a credible example. I've owned a small business, I've worked for small and large companies, and have never seen an employer eliminate or add a job because of taxes. It's part of the Wingnut Gospel, and is used as a given, a starting point for their arguments, something that happens all of the time, but something that I've never seen a real world example of.

I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just asking that anybody who wants to use this as a common occurence cite some reality-based example. Maybe some numbers, some specifics on the company, where were the revenues and expenses when this company decided it was better to pass up those profits than to pay taxes on them.

I've seen taxes used as an excuse by people who couldn't run a business, maybe that's the bottom line.

Great Discussion.

It isn't "YOU"-- It's "THEM" : John Boehner Defends the Wealthy

Just remember this:

When a Republican says "You"- He (Or she) really means: "Them".

Yesterday, I heard House Minority Leader John Boehner declare, that "The era of big government is back and Democrats are asking you to pay for it".


As I contemplate an uncertain world and the possibility of layoffs, these words would tend to strike fear into my heart...I AM GOING TO PAY? ME? I CAN'T AFFORD TO PAY!

But then I remember- Obama's "Tax Hike" is aimed at those people who make A QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR or MORE...I don't make anything CLOSE to a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS a year...think of it, every 4 years, you earn a million dollars...nope, that's not "me"...

That is Not Me...and, what's more, that is not anybody I know... and I even know some people who are pretty comfortable with what they make...Doctors, Small Business Owners, etc.

So, when John Boehner points his finger straight at the camera (I heard him on the radio, so I'm imagining that part) and declaims in that big deep, stiff voice: YOU ARE GOING TO PAY!

You have to stop and ask yourself: YOU WHO?

And the answer comes back: The Wealthy.

Okay- well, that might still be bad. Don't the wealthy create jobs for the rest of us? Through their entrepreneurial energy, or at least through their mindless conspicuous consumption, don't they serve as the economic engine that takes us where we want to go?

Isn't it worth our while to appease them with Tax Cuts so that they continue to shower us with their largess?

My answer, is, of course: No.

Why not?

Simple: We are not getting our money's worth out of the rich.

It's a good theory, and very seductive (especially if you're rich...it's also quite flattering)...but it just hasn't proven to be the case.

There has been advancement, too be sure, and, until the current crises ripped the mask off, it was possible to say that a rising tide raised all boats.

But some boats rose much faster and further than others.

For most of the latter half of the 20th century, and the first 8 years of the 21st...the American people, and particularly the American Wealthy, have enjoyed some of the lowest tax rates in the world.

As a people, we have excused the wealthy from a large portion of their financial duty as citizens and, instead, have passed that debt on to ourselves in our old age, or to our children. We did this in the hopes that the wealthy will commit that money to stimulating the economy, providing jobs and raising the standard of living for us, their fellow citizens.

I would submit that this plan has not worked.

The Gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and the United States has "the highest inequality and poverty in the OECD after Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000."

And, as Republicans have fought to save the "Estate Tax"- they have worked to ensure that this gap is passed on to the next generation. The odds are, now, that if you are born into the lower middle class, you will stay there...and if you were born wealthy, you will die that way.

What does that mean?

It means that a poor person would have to possess almost superhuman amounts of entrepreneurial energy (and experience rare good fortune) to raise themselves to a higher level. I'm not talking about common sense and hard work.. I'm talking about Genius, and we all know that the good Lord don't hand that out on anything like a regular basis.

It means that those who are born to wealth and power will have not earned it through hard work, or intellectual ability.

It means that the United States will, increasingly, be run by people who were born in to their positions without earning either experience or wisdom.

I would offer my opinion that this does not bode well for our democracy, OR our economic system. As evidence, I would offer the current banking crisis...this can certainly disabuse us of the notion that the wealthy are smarter about money than the rest of us.

By going along with this Republican plan, we, as a people, have paid a great price...and we are passing an even greater price of debt along to our children.

A few days ago, I wrote about how the Republicans used the cry of "TAXES BAD" to tempt us into this mess...

And now, to borrow a phrase from the man who set us on the path, Ronald Reagan, we can point to Mr. Boehner and say: "There you go again....."

We can't afford it this time.

So, if you are slightly panicked when you hear John Boehner say "YOU" just remember-- he isn't really talking about you. He's talking about "Them" and we've let them have enough. The experiment didn't work, and it's time to put this country, and ALL of us, back on the right track.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nation Undead: The Do It Yourself Zombie Film

(Note: Rip and Read would like to suggest that you play the accompanying You-Tube video while reading this post.)

My relationship with the Zombie Film is changing. I have to admit, I've never been a big fan...until recently. First, there was Shaun of the Dead, which is just a really funny, clever film. Then, the Johnathan Coulton song: RE: YOUR BRAINS- which I hope you are listening too right now as you read this...and last year, I watched the Vincent Price film Last Man on Earth for the first time.

I watched Last Man because I was bored, and it was free on-line, and I was very surprised when I found that images and voices from this film kept coming back to me, haunting me (if you'll pardon the pun). This was not because the plot, which has become pretty damn standard these days- deadly disease creates flesh eating (or blood drinking) monsters- people trapped inside fighting for their lives, etc. Nor was it due to the special effects- which are 1950s low budget awful.

Rather, it had to do with the way the story was told, and, in particular, the melancholy performance of the great Vincent Price in the title role. Price made his lonely, besieged character live, and, through his acting, drew me deep inside of the story.

Now, I've found another new wrinkle on this old story...Nation Undead. The difference this time, however, is that the story is being told by many different artists around the country. And anyone is free to submit a short film to the project. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you are invited to tell a specific chapter of the tale...all submissions are posted on the Nation Undead website, and, at the end of the project, the best submissions will be wrapped together in to the final nine part film...

It's a neat concept...but what's even more fun is watching how different filmmakers handle the story assignments. In each of the two short films I watched ("Sticks" and "Warren, Ohio") I was wrapped up, not in the horror of zombies...but more in the horror of watching people face a reality that is unfaceable... in one episode, a couple of twenty-something drifters deal with reality of a world in which everything stable has become unstuck...in the other, a man desperately tries to get medicine to cure his wife...these are Zombie stories, and yet, they could just as easily be stories about kids dealing with a world of economic upheaval or health care which is beyond reach. The situation is highly fictional, but the characters are very real, and thus fascinating.

I first heard about this project earlier this week from a friend of a friend who was involved. When I wrote back to him about how much I enjoyed viewing these films, and explained that is was the reality of the characters that had me glued to the screen.

He wrote back: "[that's] I am most interested in with the genre...the psychology of the event. The true horror is in survival."

Social Media as film-making....it's really, really neat concept, and I hope you'll Run, not Walk, to Nation Undead - pop some popcorn and enjoy watching a great movie unfold before your very eyes!

If readers are interested in learning more, I suggest a visit to New Hampshire Public Radio, which did a story on this. The link is here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Recession: A Battle Lost (revised)

It is high time for the Democratic party to face a very unpleasant fact: We have lost the battle for the second half of the twentieth Century. It is high time for the American people to realize the cost of that defeat.

In the wake of the Great Crash of 1929, Americans swept Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the Oval Office. FDR proceeded to remake American society. He and the Democratic party constructed a new type of society, in which Americans were offered social security in their old age, the right to collectively bargain with their employers, and the right to participate in a market place regulated and made safer by the Government’s presence as traffic cop.

In effect, FDR smoothed the wrinkles of the free market…eliminating the lowest of lows, but also restricting access to the highest of highs.

The right wing never forgave him for it. For, although most Americans were now comfortable, there were, the right felt, restraints on them which prohibited them from reaching for unlimited wealth and power.

Grover Norquist, the Republican strategist who, with Newt Gingrich, drafted the Contract with America, famously said: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Republicans of his sort set the goal of cutting the federal government in half by 2025.

How was this reduction in size to be accomplished?

Given the fact that the American People had come to expect help with higher education, health care, workers compensation for injury, social security and a host of other helpful programs, Republicans were faced with a problem. How were they going to convince the majority of Americans to vote for policies which were not in their best interest?

Their answer, their Ace in the Hole, was Tax Cuts. Anyone who has ever been dismayed at reading his pay stub and noting the difference between his gross and net income likes the sound of those words “Tax Cuts”…that was easy to get people to rally behind.

And, since the hated programs and regulators were funded by taxes, Republicans knew that in the end, their goal of a weakened, rickety federal government was also within sight.

Today, as we contemplate the ruin of American society…as we see the American dream sliding out of reach for most Americans, we are forced to conclude that this strategy of “Starve-the-Beast” has worked.

We, as Democrats, have lost this battle. The radicals on the Right have succeeded in diminishing the power of the Government to serve as an instrument to help us build a more just society, and to more fully "provide for the General Welfare".

We have not yet lost the war, however. We may still work to rebuild Government so that it may continue to serve the ordinary people of this nation. The task, however, will not be a pleasant one. And, for Democrats, it will be exceedingly difficult as we find ourselves having to postpone addressing the genuine needs of certain of our fellow citizens as we tend to the business of rebuilding that engine by which we can help them in the long run.

But this is what we must do. Our inability to act quickly, and to provide help immediately, is the price we will have to pay for loosing this battle.

If, however, we continue to fight this action, we will loose the war itself...and that means we will never be able to redress grievances again. We must fall back, dig new lines, and fight to stop the Right wing march of debt, only after we have stopped them, can we then begin to regain lost ground and continue the task of building the shining city on the hill.

It will take many years to replace the safety nets for ordinary Americans which were strung between 1933 and 1981. Before we even begin, we will need to spend our money to get our government out of debt. There are hard times for the American people ahead, and we will need to grit our teeth and get to work if we are to dig ourselves out of the hole the Republicans talked us into.

The President's Speech: The Value of Communication

From the very first moments of President Barack Hussein Obama's speech last night (which I watched this morning on the NYTimes website) I felt fortunate that we have this man as our president at this time.

One of the Republican talking points during the recent campaign was that eloquence is not action...but it has always been my belief that eloquence is the primary quality a leader must have...especially in troubling times. Without the ability to express ideas, not only clearly, but in a way which invites an emotional and energic positive response, a leader of a free people can do nothing.

The President, started his speech last night by saying that:

... while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

This is precisely the note of hope that the nation must keep top of mind, as we enter a period of reduced luxuries and harder work...and we must remember that, though our collective labors, we WILL return to prosperity.

The President also invited us to look back into our recent past, and realize that we are now reaping the bitter fruits of the crop we sowed - starting as long as twenty years ago. As a people, we chose not to break our addiction to forgiegn oil and cheep goods, and we turned to leaders who promised us easy answers:

The fact is our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. (Applause.) Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.

Both the reminder that, as a Democracy and a people, we put ourselves in this place, and by inviting us to remember that, through our focus and hard work, we will raise ourselves out of it, President Obama is following in the great tradition of our best orators (who, not coincidentally, have been our best leaders) Kennedy, Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt.

I, for one, was grateful to hear the speech.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Recession: Rochester Town Hall Meeting

On Thursday, February 19th, I attended a town-meeting of legislators and citizens to address Minnesota’s current budget crisis.

The meeting was packed. I had expected maybe 100 to 150 people. The total crowd size was more like 275 to 375. Olmsted County citizens overflowed the seats and stood in the wings and along the back row.

Bill Marx, Chief Fiscal Analyst for the Minnesota House, kicked off the meeting by presenting an overview of how the current budget crises occurred and ran through details of Governor Tim Pawlenty’s drastic budget cuts.

Then, as State Legislators (including the Speaker of the Minnesota House, Rochester Representatives Kim Norton and Tina Liebling, and State Senators Ann Lynch and Dave Senjem) listened, people from Rochester came to the Microphone to offer testimony about how the budget cuts would effect them.

A group of Attorneys who worked as public defenders complained that the judicial system was going to be cut. Aid workers to the disabled and parents of the disabled complained that their sources of support would be cut. Teachers complained that their colleagues were losing their jobs and that class sizes were grown as budgets were cut. Doctors complained that heath care was being cut. A college president complained that his budget was being cut. A small business owner complained that he has had to cut employees and might have to cut more if his taxes were increased to prevent more cuts.

In one of the bigger crowd pleasers, two bright, well dressed young members of a high school speech team complained that the budget for their TEAM was in danger of being cut…(“won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children”)

As I listened to this litany of complaints and cuts, my heart began to harden. “Don’t these people realize”, I muttered to myself, “that we are OUT OF FREAKIN’ MONEY?”

Of course I, as a citizen (not to mention as a Democrat, born and bred) don’t want to cut teachers, hurt small businesses, cut aid to the disabled or deprive some kids of their treasured speech class field trips…

One of the common problems with most of this “testimony”, in my opinion was a lack of ability on the part of the speakers to explain in cold heart numbers (and not just warm, humanistic fuzzy sentiment) how their work SAVED this Government of the People, by the People and for the People MONEY.

I felt a deep lack of understanding on the part of those testifying of the fact that Life Cannot Continue as Before. Changes will be made. They are not pleasant. That is the fact- there is, alas, no way around it.

Next to me stood a man I judged to be in his late sixties. Based soley on his dress and demeanor, I made a snap judgement that he was probably the type of Republican with whom I felt I had nothing in common.

He turned to me and said, “It all sounds like a lot of begging to me”.

I was somewhat dismayed to find that I agreed with him. Was I, the staunch Democrat, turning Republican?

But I realized, in the end, that no. I was just being realistic. As Democrats, we are now going to have to engage in some deep slicing- it will hurt, and it will run contrary to what we, in our hearts want for our fellow citizens and ourselves.

But, we must realize that the welfare of the nation as a whole is, at this time, of even greater importance than any one singe interest group, no matter how worthy.

Yes, as Democrats, we will, in all likelihood, have to begin doing things we would rather not do. No one, even those who are now suffering, will be spared additional suffering until we reach the other side of this crisis.

However, as one speaker pointed out, our job (especially as Democrats) is to ensure that “these cuts [shouldn’t and don’t] fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor.” Again, however, the key word is “disproportionately”- there will, I’m afraid, have to be cuts for all if we are to survive.

The rain, as the gospel of Matthew reminds us, falls upon the just and the unjust. And there will be pain in the future for all of us…the faster we suck up and deal with this fact, the sooner we will dig our way out, and once again have the resources to renew our mission to raise the standard of living and offer hope to all.

There is one other thing worth noting. In all of the testimony that I heard, only one speaker mentioned the importance of Volunteering. If we cannot, as a government, afford to provide professional caregivers to the disabled, can we not Give of our Time to help them ourselves? Can we not collect some change to help the speech class? Can some who are currently out of work not give of their time to function as teacher aides in oversized classrooms?

As a society, we are dealing with the pain of loss right now. However, we can not afford the luxury of denial, we must move forward if we are to heal.

The Recession: A Fable

Imagine: A father returns home from his job. A driven man, he’s created a comfortable life for his family. His family is also driven, and has done many great things with the resources he has provided for them. His wife travels to Central America every year, at the families expense, to build housing for the poor. His son, still in high school, is working with an excellent and expensive private tutor to help ensure his chances of attending an Ivy League School. His daughter is progressing very nicely with the violin lessons she receives every week.

But today, that will all change. Today, the father has been laid-off from his job. The steady income of money upon which this edifice was built is gone. At first, nothing much changes for the family. Trips to Central America , lessons and training are all placed on the credit card, which, thankfully, still works. There is no serious decline in the family’s standard of living, either. A large screen TV is purchased for Christmas, the coffee every morning is still gourmet.

But eventually, holes begin to appear in the fabric of this family's life. The phone calls begin to come. The mortgage on the house is over-due….the father has not found a new job to replace the lost income. He calls a family meeting: We must cut back on our expenses, he says, or go under.

And the cries come. “But my charity work is important,” cries the mother, “I’ve actually saved people’s lives.” “I need my tutor so that I can get in to the best schools”, cries the son. “My music is important, I have to right to fulfill my full potential as an artist”, cries the daughter.

All of this is true…but, in the last analysis, there is no more money. It is all gone. There is nothing to be done. All of these great things that we were and are doing can no longer be done,” says the father. “Not only that, but we’ll probably see some changes here at home as well- we’ll probably have to move to a smaller house, and we’ll loose most of our electronic toys- TV’s, computers, pool table- they will soon be repossessed if we don’t find the money to pay for them.”

But the family stares at the father in incomprehension…they have never lived any other way, and it is beyond them to imagine a different way of life. They continue to use eloquent arguments to justify why their activities and their comforts are absolutely necessary and beneficial…

And outside, in the cold, the wolves gather.

Okay- that’s a bit melodramatic, but I think it is an apt description of the place in which the American people find themselves at the moment. If we are to survive, and eventually rebuild, it is now time to buckle down to work AND to face some hard choices.

As a people, however, I don’t think we’ve accepted that reality and I’m not sure how we can drive the point home to ourselves.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Michele Bachmann: Evil Incarnate, Just Plain Stupid, or All of the Above.

No need to write much today...spend a few moments listening to the odd, bizarre, and just plain slimy inner monologue of Minnesota's Own Michele Bachmann.

Visit The Huffington Post to learn the shocking Truth:


PS- The really amazing thing is listening to the Republicans bitch about things that the Democrats are supposedly doing--- and looking back at the last 8 years (and then some) every crime these NUTS accuse the Donkey of contemplating, they have already have been able to do.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Staying Faithful to America

This morning, I opened my email to find a message from a right wing correspondent. The message simply contained a link to an article entitled: Guantánamo detainee resurfaces in terrorist group.

I guess the implication is supposed to be: "See? Barack HUSSEIN Obama has only been in office for a few days and LOOK! He's turning all of his brother terrorists loose..." or something like that.

I have to say, however, that the article prompted me to think a little bit about what it means to be an American. Here's part of my email back:

I don't deny that most of these folks are VERY BAD MEN...

What bothers me about Gitmo is that a Free Country, like the United States, can lock up people who are NEITHER Prisoners of War- and thus protected by the Geneva Conventions, or CRIMINALS- thus protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Why is "protection" important? Do I really care about a bunch of grease-ball desert dwelling killers?

The answer is no, I don't give a damn.....If I just left it up to my personal feelings I would love to see them all fry in hell.

I could allow myself to say all the foulest things I sometimes feel about them...

But there are two good reasons why I try NOT to give into the hatred I often feel.


The first is, I admit, selfish: I know that if certain people on the far left came to power, they'd toss the likes of you, my conservative friend, in jail so fast it would make your head spin...

...I also know that that, if certain people on the FAR RIGHT came to power, I would wind up in an internment camp before I could say "My Country 'tis Of Thee".

The Men who wrote the Constitution knew this, as well; on almost every page of the Federalist Papers, they warn that human nature can be a wicked thing- and that our only hope of escaping the evil side of human nature is to bind it up in rules and regulations- to keep us from acting like the animals we are.

Because I would not want to be subject to the whims of others, with a right to due process of law, so too, I would extend that right to others...

Notice, I didn't say I would let them off the hook- what I said was I would FOLLOW THE RULES - before throwing them into prison...because I know that, in the long run, those RULES are there to protect ME not THEM.


As I said before, if it were just up to me and my emotions, I'd love to see these people fry in hell. I am not a nice, or civilized guy at heart...If I didn't TRY really hard, I personally could find hatred in my heart for these people. If I gave into the emotions I felt on 9-11, I could easily vote to "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

But while that is sometimes who I am, it's really not who I WANT to be.

And that is also my wish for my country... OTHER Nations can lock prisoners up without trial, because it's the easiest, and often the SAFEST way to do business....

but America needs to stand for something MORE than just safety and simplicity- don't you agree?

Ever since the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, we have aspired to be the "Shining City on the Hill"- first articulated by John Winthrop and alluded to by Americans as different as John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

If we wish to stay faithful to that dream, then we must hold ourselves to a HIGHER standard than the rest of the world. For other countries, their thinking can be limited to "self-interest"...but for the United States...we can only START at self interest....if we are to fulfill the dream to become a shining city on a hill, a place where Justice always Triumphs, where Hard Work is always rewarded, and where we are free to worship as we wish, study as we wish, think as we wish...then we must be better than average....

We've got to Catch the Bad Guys...AND we have to catch 'em fair and square.

I'm not sure that Gitmo has lived up to that standard. In some ways, I think this was one of George W. Bush's big mistakes...to treat these people, not as criminals, but as something like prisoners of war.

Because they are prisoners of war, and because the world EXPECTS more of us...because we ARE America...we have to live up to the Geneva Convention, etc.

IF we had treated these guys as common criminals, I think we could have brought them into our justice system, given them a fair trial and then, when the crime warranted, sent them to the gas chamber.

To me, that's part of the tragedy of Dick Cheney and co. The man got so frightened after 9/11 that he forgot that our country, and our freedom are greater and stronger than any scraggly band of thugs from the desert....

...in his panic, he chose to throw away the rules...which he should have HELD all the more tightly- for that is our best protection as Americans.

I know it's a case of "coulda, shoulda, woulda" but I have to wonder if, had we followed our own rules, and sent this creep to trail, would we be reading about his death by lethal injection today, rather than the fact that he is free to kill again.

Looking forward to your response....

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fairwell Peter Freyne

There are some mornings, it just doesn't pay to look at the news. A visit to Vermont Business Magazine's website brought the sad news that Peter Freyne has passed away.

Others will write about Freyne's place as a Vermont journalist, but I will also remember Peter as a friend. I got a chance to act opposite him in Green Candle Theatre's production of "The Probable Pirandello's Wife" and was grateful for the chance to get to know the man behind the the reporter- at least a little bit. Since I played his alterego, I was lucky enough to wear the guy's trade-mark Irish Tweed coat in the production.

Burlington being the size it is, I often saw Peter on his bike, in the park, and, occassionally, working his beat. I always felt privilaged to be able to say "Hello Peter!" and get a "Hey, Alex!" in responce.

Fairwell, Mr. Freyne...you will be missed.