Not a Good Time To Be US President

It’s a reasonable concept that no other US president has had a harder time of it than Barack Obama, except possibly the one president who made Obama’s presidency possible, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was sworn in as US president 4 March 1861, and five short weeks later, the US Civil War began.  It lasted until the the Confederacy surrendered to Union forces on 9 April 1865.  Lincoln was assassinated only three short days later. It is therefore fair to postulate that his entire presidency was spent trying to guarantee the survival of the United States of America against a brutal insurgency known as the Confederate States of America.  

Lincoln had to contend with incompetent generals, formulating military strategy, economic challenges, civil opposition to a military draft that included riots, keeping outlying territories from becoming slave-tolerant, a hostile congress that did not want to address the slavery issue, and the deaths of several of his children which triggered clinical depression in Lincoln while he was trying to deal with all these other issues.

Fast-forwards 150 years:   The world has become largely global, and the USA leads the world nations in much technology as well as in military capability.  It also has the dubious distinction of getting involved in more military operations and adventures since World War 2 than any other western industrialized country.

it started with the Korean War of the early 1950′s, then the Vietnam War from 1962 through 1973, then Grenada and Panama, then the Kosovo operations in the 90′s, and then the Afghanistan invasion in late 2001, which we never completed because of the idiotic invasion of Iraq in 2003.

When Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, took office in 2009, he promised to get the US out of Iraq by 2011.  He did that.  Still, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 had two very negative consequences:

The first was that the USA “took its eye off the ball”, as it were, in Afghanistan.  Troops were transferred from Afghanistan to Iraq to support that effort.  That gave the Taliban and Al Qaeda a chance to regroup and re-entrench in Afghanistan, and US armed forces are STILL fighting there in 2014 because of the idiot Bush Administration decision to invade Iraq.

The second negative consequence is that the US removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and banned members of Saddam’s Baath party from participating in either the new Iraqi government or in its military forces.  This action had numerous negative impacts, such as allowing an insurgency to grow in Iraq, allowing Al Qaeda to become entrenched in Iraq, and allowing Iran’s influence to grow in Iraq.  It also allowed ethnic divisions between Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurds to grow and further alienate these groups.  Finally, it allowed the incompetent iraqi prime minister to make those ethnic divisions even worse, which utterly destroyed the competence of the Iraqi armed forces.

All this made Iraq fertile territory for the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS/ISIL, for come in and take over large portions of western and northern Iraq. They grew in Syrian as one of several anti-regime groups, but this group is more fanatical from most.  They brutalize anyone not like them.  They rape, murder, kidnap, enslave, and generally terrorize  large portions of Iraq and Syria.  As they accumulate more territory and resources, they get bolder.

So president Obama  has a dilemma regarding how to deal with the Islamic State…without putting US forces directly into a ground combat situation.  To date he has ordered very effective tactical air strikes against ISIS/ISIL.  And while all his critics say he should be doing something more, no one has a specific idea of what that is….

Meanwhile, back on the Euro-Asian continent, Russian president Vladimir Putin has decided that eastern Ukraine really should be a part of Russia.  As a result, Obama has so far invoked strong sanctions against Russia and had helped to bring Western Europe along for the ride.

But Putin is undeterred.  And while Europe is so much closer to Ukraine and Russia than the USA, Obama’s critics say he should be doing something more, but no one has a specific idea of what that is.  Yet, everyone agrees we should avoid a nuclear weapon exchange with Russia and also keep American troops off the ground.

Finally, Obama faces a GOP that since day one of his presidency has done everything it can to obstruct him, hurt him, embarrass him, oppose him, and generally try to make his administration look as bad a possible.

Ultimately, history is going to judge Obama on the legacy of his presidency, as it has done with every president since George Washington.

Being US president at this time would challenge a saint, as they say.  So next time you want to criticize Barack Obama, ask yourself two questions:

“Do I want to be where he is?”…and… “Could I do better without causing more damage?”

 

 

Why ISIS Should Matter to YOU

In 1930′s, Hitler‘s Nazi party rose to prominence in Germany.  This party consolidated power and Hitler became the supreme leader of a country that ultimately committed unspeakable atrocities against Jewish people, gypsies, the mentally retarded and physically handicapped, homosexuals, Blacks, Russians, prisoners of wars and anyone who opposed that country’s policies of racism and genocide. 
Although nations such as the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia were never invaded or conquered by Nazi German Nazi forces (although the UK was attacked by aircraft and later unmanned rockets), these nations did declare war on Germany, with the USA being the last to do so, only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941
During the second World War, the Japanese committed systematic atrocities against people they conquered, such as the Chinese.  They also committed atrocities against prisoners of war. 
But what the Japanese did pales in comparison to what the Germans did, which was to systematically murder 6 million Jewish men, women and children, and 5 million others.  They did it in the name of their idea of national “purity”.  And while they did so, the rest of the world, including the the Vatican and the USA, turned a blind eye.
While everyone else officially claimed ignorance regarding the concentration camp activities of the Nazis, endless eye-witness accounts were readily available during that time.  But the allied countries chose to ignore these accounts.  Instead they directed the military progress of the war.  It was only after USA, British, and Soviet troops began to physically run into (and liberated) Nazi concentration camps, was the full horror of the Nazi death machine made public in all of its gory and unthinkable detail.
Many reports claim that Nazi Germany had been working on developing a nuclear bomb toward the end of the war.  Had they succeeded in their efforts before the USA did, it is possible they could have won the war instead of being ultimately defeated.  imagine what the world would look like today had that happened:  A world population ruled by fear and terror.
Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century:  Fundamentalist Islamic extremists have been operating worldwide with deadly results for over 15 years.  Al Qaeda, a more or less decentralized terrorist organization with “sleeper cells” world-wide, attacked the USS Cole in 1998 and the World Trade Center and US Pentagon in 2001, among other later acts of destruction and terror.  The USA has been pursuing Al Qaeda for more than a decade and has had mixed success against it.
All of a sudden a new terrorist organization known as ISIS or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria  (alternatively known as ISIL, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), clearly well funded and possessing a centralized and well-organized command and control system and a well organized military force, burst onto the scene.  It invaded and conquered parts of Syria and most of northern and western Iraq, in an operation reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg invasion of Poland in 1939. 
ISIS is an extremist fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization whose tactics are so brutal that even Al Qaeda has rejected it.  When they invaded Iraq, they scared the Iraqi solders so badly that those soldiers left all their American-supplied military equipment in situ, and fled.
Once entrenched, ISIS began murdering Shia Muslim Iraqis, as well as an Iraqi from any other religion besides Sunni Muslim. They kidnapped hundreds or perhaps even thousands of women as young as 8 years old, forcing them to become Sunnis, and to make them available for marriage to ISIS fighters.  They believe that brutally murdering anyone who is not like them is acceptable and even obligatory.
And in a departure for the secrecy that surrounded the German concentration camp activities and and other atrocities, ISIS makes videos of its murderous brutality, as if to boast to the world how proud they are of their brutality.  In recent days, they released a video of them beheading an American journalist, with the threat of beheading another one.  For ISIS followers, beheadings are just another tool of conquest and control.
So why should westerners care?
The USA is already flying air strikes against ISIS…but where is the rest of the international community?  It seems that there should be an international effort to not just stop, but eradicate ISIS from the face of the Earth.  Not only would hundreds of thousands of innocent lives be saved, but the message sent to any other terrorist group would be crystal clear:
Civilized humanity will not tolerate your existence.  Period.
Alternatively, we can ignore history, and be condemned to repeat it…endlessly…at the cost of countless innocent lives…
That doesn’t sound like the choice that advance, thoughtful, caring, civilized people should be making.
 
 
 

Impeach Obama? Don’t Bet On It!

In the USA there are two recognized major political parties:  The republicans and the democrats.  While there is a wide spectrum of democrats, they tend to pull together and their differences are generally minor and reconcilable.

The republicans are a different story.  They are severely divided into mainstream republicans, libertarians, and Tea Party/religious right/ Extremist right, whom we will call, for ease of identification, the “extremist-right fringe”, or ERF for short.

The ERF absolutely hates president Obama, partly because he is an African-American and partly because he is a bright, educated democrat.  They also hate all of the democrats and government.

The speaker of the US House of Representatives, republican John Boehner of Ohio, is actually a reasonable moderate republican, but he also likes being speaker  While he has often tried to corral the libertarians and the ELF’s in his party, he usually has failed to do so.  The government shutdown last October is a prime example of Boehner’s inability to “herd the cats” in his party.

However, because Boehner likes his job as speaker, he has to keep the ERF happy.  As a result, he decided to sue Obama over his use of presidential executive orders to bypass a house of representatives which is dominated by a GOP united only in a single goal;  oppose anything Obama wants, even if it is a good thing they agree with deep down inside.

After considerable research, however, the legal eagles Boehner consulted with told him that the executive order issue was a loser.  Boehner subsequently decided to sue the president for his failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Health Care law, a.k.a., Obamacare, that has to do with employer-provided health care coverage.  It was determined that some employers were not ready for the implementation of this provision and Obama granted a one-year extension for them.

The GOP claims it cares about business, but in this case, they would oppose a provision of Obama that was delayed to help business.  Most people saw the extension as a good thing for businesses, but the business-loving GOP has chosen to make that issue the focus of their lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which has not yet been formally filed because the House votes on it today, would potentially take years and cost many milllions of dollars of taxpayer money.  Obama could well be out of office by time the lawsuit actually was finalized.  So it’s hard to take this seriously and even harder to believe it isn’t a republican political stunt to energize their ERF base.

However, as a political stunt, it may already have backfired on the GOP.  The ERF predictably tried to carry the issue too far by calling for Obama’s impeachment!  Sarah Palin advocated impeachment recently in an op-ed she wrote for a conservative news outlet.  And House GOP whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana stated during an interview over the weekend that impeachment was “on the table.

The democrats are eating it up.  They are using the threat of impeachment to raise tons of money and energize THEIR base.  They also know that the impeachment of Bill Clinton in the late 1990′s backfired on the GOP because when all was said and done, Clinton’s approval rated soared to 71% while the GOP-controlled congress’s approval rating plummeted.

John Boehner is no dummy and neither are many of the moderate, mainstream republicans in congress.  They are painfully familiar with the lessons of history and don’t want to repeat them.  But first they have to rein inl, and frankly silence, the ERF in their party, and so far, they haven’t figured out how to do that without alienating their base.  To that end, Boehner took the extraordinary step of holding a press conference to state emphatically that the GOP is not planning an impeachment, nor do they have any future plans for impeachment.

That may be too little to late, since the ERF has already smelled blood in the water and is salivating over the prospect of impeaching Obama.  When they realize that impeachment is OFF the table, many of them will probably start eating the mainstream republicans if they are deprived of the Obama red meat they so desperately want to cut up.

Boehner, for his part, has gotten into yet another tight spot by  initially cow-towing to the ERF, just as he did in the run-up to the government shutdown last October.  He can’t be a very happy camper right now.

And in the meantime, democrats are leading republicans in several congressional/senate races in the red south. While it might not be enough for the democrats to take over the House after the 2014 elections, at least their chances of holding on to the senate are increasing.

Maybe we’ll be be thanking the GOP’s Extreme Right Fringe for winning this election of the democrats….   :)

Maybe We Should Return the Statue of Liberty?

The United States of America (USA) is a country of immigrants.  From the 16th through 19th and early 20th centuries, many millions of people immigrated to the USA.  In fact, it is fair to call the USA immigrant-based, notwithstanding the fact that  Native Americans are also part of what the USA is, even though they were conquered and almost wiped out by a superior military force of immigrants and their descendants.

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor stands as a monument to the open arms that were extended to immigrants of all nations until the early to mid twentieth century, when conservatives, who were ALWAYS against immigrants, achieved enough political power to pass federal laws against the “open arms” policies of the past.

That statue was a gift from France, constructed in that country and then shipped to New York City in partially assembled pieces, where final assembly was officially completed in 1886

Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s foundation are, in part, the following words from poet Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As mentioned earlier, there has always been a segment of Americans (immigrants or offspring of immigrants themselves) who have opposed further immigration into the USA.  Whether based upon racism (and a lot of it was) or economic concerns, it has always been a factor that was alive and well in the USA.  However, federal laws that limited the number of yearly legal immigrants into the USA didn’t actually become reality until the 1920′s.

Once these laws passed, they were brutally enforced, even against refugees escaping from NAZI brutality and death in the run-up to World War 2.  Ships of Jewish refugees who rightfully feared for their lives, for example, were turned away from American shores and had to find refuge elsewhere.

Fast-forwarding to the 21st century, it has become clear that America’s immigration policies simply do not work. Even during the GW Bush administration, bipartisan members of the US congress had worked to fix this national disgrace with comprehensive immigration reform, which would recognize both the physical and economic infeasibility, as well as the moral objections, to deporting perhaps 12 million undocumented foreign immigrants from the USA.

But ultra-right wing republicans, such as the Tea party and the ultra-right base of the GOP, simply chose to ignore these factors as well as the used-to-be-traditional American creed of protecting the “wretched refuse” of other countries trying to escape their own personal hell in their native lands.

In recent months, Central American parents have been sending their children to the USA in an effort to save them from the extreme physical and economic violence of their native countries.  To date, approximately 57,000 have arrived at our borders. One can only guess at how difficult it must have been for these parents to part, perhaps forever, with their own flesh and blood.  But these parents did just that to save their children’s lives and provide them with a better future.

And when these kids braved violence, filth, exhaustion, insecurity, possible starvation and even rape, and arrived at the US border seeking what all children seek…safety…what did the ultra-extremist right wing do?  Advocate deporting these kids back to their dangerous points of origin at best, or meeting these kids with US military action, at worst.  WTF.

These are CHILDREN!!!  What does it say about the this nation and its people that we would turn our backs on CHILDREN??   Even using the republican excuse that accepting these kids encourages more kids to make the trip is NO excuse for turning our backs on them.

And meanwhile, back in the good ol’ do-nothing US House of Representatives,  GOP speaker John Boehner has refuse to bring a bi-partisan, US senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill up for debate and a vote, because the republican base is dead-set against any form of immigration reform that doesn’t incarcerate and deport 12 million illegal immigrants.

As a result, peaker John Boehner won’t allow the bill to come up for a vote because he KNOWS the bill would pass, and that would alienate his anti-immigrant republican base.    He also knows that many republicans would join all or most of the democrats to pass this bill, and Obama would sign it into law.

With the passage of comprehesive immigration reform, much of the economic and emotional upheaval over immigration would be over, and the extremist conservative right-wing base of the republican party would HATE the result:  12 million new citizens who would probably remember what the republicans have done to them over the years, and would vote democratic.

This situation really does scream for a multiparty parliamentary political system, where coalitions MUST form to govern, or else new elections are called.  But the GOP would hate it because they would probably become a fringe party…and the Tea party would become an even SMALLER fringe party…

Alas, one can dream….  :)  But in the meantime, maybe we should just send the Statue of Liberty back to France… or at least cover up the inscription about the tired and a poor…

USA: Incarceration Capital of the World?

Conservative Americans often speak of “American Exceptionalism“, as if the USA was the most advanced and gifted country on Earth.  Of course, they are not referring to the land and the topography of the country;  They are referring to the American people and American institutions.

One of those institutions is the US prison system, which is actually multiple prison systems in this country.  Federal prisons, state prisons county prisons, city jails and so forth now house an enormous population of over 2.2 MILLION people.  An inordinate proportion of these prisoners are minorities;  and an inordinate proportion of them are incarcerated for non-violent drug-related offenses.  Some of the prison population are waiting execution.

Seen another way, in the USA the rate of incarceration is 743 people per 100,000 population.  This exceeds the rate of any other country on the planet, including those nations that sponsor terrorism, discrimination, bigotry, violence, religious extremism and fundamentalism, and lack of respect for human rights.  That’s an awesome fact to process.  You can find many more shocking statistics on this subject HERE.

There are multiple factors that are causing this “love affair” with incarceration in the USA.  The prison population began to rise dramatically beginning in the early 1980′s after the election of Ronald Reagan as president of the USA and the emergence of the religious right at that time.  “Get tough on crime” laws were passed, including laws against non-violent drug offenses, for which extremely heavy sentences were imposed.

Additionally, during the Reagan era of contracting out as many inherently governmental functions as they could get away with (they even tried to contract out the largest and best air traffic control system in the world…but failed), the administration of many prisons across the country was, and continues to be contracted to private for-profit companies.  In many though not all cases, food quality  and medical treatment have deteriorated while inmate violence, including rape, has increased.  As with any business, proper care is not the prime objective:  profit is.

To make matters worse, the USA prison system uses solitary confinement as a form of inmate control and punishment, even though the United Nations has declared solitary confinement at a form of torture.  

And finally, in many states of the USA, children that committed certain felonies at age 14 or 15, who are convicted at age 16, are receiving life-time prison sentences without the possibility of parole!!!

What this says about attitudes in this country is that we are an utterly brutal society.  Not only that, but we also seem incapable, even considering the alarming incarceration rate of this country, to stem the tide of criminal offenses in the USA.  A 2002 study survey showed that among nearly 275,000 prisoners released in 1994, 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years, and 51.8% were back in prison.  So much for effective deterrence and rehabilitation…

Obviously, this present method of “correctional rehabilitation” isn’t working very well to reduce crime and repeat offenders.   But it IS working very well for the for-profit companies that get paid per-prisoner fees with our tax money.

And to add the proper shame to this awful “American institution”….the country of Norway (of all advanced democracies) refuses to extradite any prisoner to the USA because of what it says is inhumane treatment.  “US prisons do not meet their minimum humanitarian standards”, it declared.

The question that is constantly in play is this:  As a society, is USA more interested in revenge and punishment, or in rehabilitation of offenders?  The answer seemingly depends upon where one stands in the battle between religion and emotions vs. science and logic.  The religious right seems to hang their entire justice belief system on the biblical “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” philosophy.

But Albert Einstein, perhaps the premier intellectual genius of the 20th century, the master of logic who invented the Special Theory of Relativity and later the General Theory of Relativity correctly stated that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will only render the entire world blind and toothless.”

From an economic standpoint alone, it makes much more sense to have effective rehabilitation and education programs to teach all but the most brutally violent first-time offenders prisoners the skills needed to be able to earn an decent, honest living once they are released.  And it also makes sense to stop sentencing first-time non-violent drug offenders to incredibly long sentences (a view now held by the US Department of Justice).  Putting young first-time non-violent offenders in prison for extended periods only turns them into hardened criminals and the proof of that is in the current rate of recidivism.

It is a truth of modern day America that conservatives do not believe in another of Einstein’s mottoes:  “Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.”

How many more prisons do YOU want to pay for???

USA: Leave No One Behind But Don’t Negotiate With Bad Guys???

On Saturday, May 31st, 2014, US Army Sergeant Bow Bergdahl was released from Taliban captivity after four years and 10 months of being held by them.

Normally, that event would be a source of rejoicing in the USA…a US Army soldier being released from captivity by the Taliban after almost 5 years of incarceration…

But, not so fast….

In this highly polarized nation in which the extremist Tea party republicans control half of congress, the GOP is totally up-in-arms, as it were, that the US traded 5 high level Talibani captives who were detained without a trial at the military prison at NAS (Naval Air Station) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for over 12 years, for Bergdahl.

ALL of these prisoners were captured by US forces in 2002 during the US military action in Afghanistan responding to the 9-11 attacks on the USA.  Most of them were high-level government officials in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan at the time.

However, it has never been proved or even alleged by US officials that these five had any direct connection with the 9-11 attacks.

The USA has a policy, which it implemented in earnest only after leaving 5,500 American servicemen and women missing in Vietnam during that 1961-1975 conflict, to NEVER LEAVE AMERICAN SERVICEMEN (now Service people) BEHIND.  This policy has never had any caveats or exceptions or conditions.

It’s a promise made to those who serve in the US military, and in fact also covers civilians in the employ of the US government.  Since the Vietnam debacle, it has been followed well.

The USA also has a policy that it will NEVER NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS.  This policy has ALWAYS had exceptions when negotiations have been considered to be in the nation’s best interest.  Example are rampant throughout US history, and even Saint Ronnie the Ray-Gun, the deity of the right-wing republicans, negotiated with Iran, a terrorist state, in the 1980′s.  Even George W. Bush negotiated with terrorists associated with Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.  You can read all about it for yourself right HERE!

As a side note, Israel is the one nation that has NEVER had a airline hijacked by terrorists.  It’s surrounded by hostile nations that openly sponsor terrorism against it and support the violent destruction of Israel and its people. Yet, Israel has negotiated multiple prisoner exchanges with these self-same terrorists organizations, including 1000 to 1 exchanges to get a single serviceman back.

So when the republicans started screaming about the trade of 5 aging Talibani who have been held completely out of touch and without being charged of any crime for over 12 years, for the only American serviceman still held as a prisoner of war, alleging that trade was a violation (of many, mind you) of the NEVER NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS policy, this orchestrated outrage simply didn’t have enough “ummph” to pass the straight-face test.

Instead, it seems to be the new right-wing “Benghazi” political rallying point.

Republicans also screamed that the Obama administration violated several laws passed by congress and signed to law by Obama himself over the past two years which that direct the administration to provide congress with a 30-day advanced notice prior to releasing /transferring any of the Guantanamo detainees

There does seem to be evidence that the Obama administration violated these laws; they did not reveal the exact nature or timeline of this prisoner exchange to any congressional people until it was actually occurring.

But again…not so fast….

First, certain congressional committee chairpersons were, in fact, informed…for YEARS…that this plan was under consideration, as far back as when Hillary Clinton was still US Secretary of State.  That means that the information, as a potential plan, had been “out there” for at least two years.

Second, there is serious doubt that these laws are even constitutional, since they limit the constitutional powers of the executive branch.  Of course, only the US Supreme Court can make a final determination on this, and as of this moment there are no plans to take the issue before the court.

Third, the now-outraged republicans didn’t so much as bat an eyelash when their beloved G.W. Bush and “Tricky Dick” Cheney decided to violate about a dozen existing federal laws and international treaties and conventions against torture during the Iraqi war.

NOW they scream about 5 archaic terrorists being exchanged for an American soldier??

And finally, while there have been reports that Bow Bergdahl might have violated orders by walking off alone (and thus getting captured), this has not yet been substantiated by military authorities.  Even if it does prove to be true, the NEVER LEAVE AMERICAN SERVICEMEN BEHIND policy does not include exceptions for disobedient soldiers.  If it turns out that that Bergdahl is guilty of a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), he will be dealt with appropriately by the appropriate authorities.

The hypocritical GOP is NOT, by ANY stretch, an appropriate authority.  :)

 

 

 

 

 

China Hacked USA Companies? Oh, SO WHAT????

Over the past couple of days it has been revealed that a group of computer-savvy Chinese military officers hacked into the computer systems of various US companies such as U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, the United Steel Workers Union and SolarWorld.

The USA is completely OUTRAGED!!!!  How DARE the Chinese hack commercial secrets in USA??  In fact, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced federal indictments against the  five Chinese nationals living in the USA, charging them with cybertheft!

The fact is that these Chinese hackers probably are, in fact, guilty of hacking commercial American secrets for use by Chinese companies.  So the issue is not really innocence or guilt.  The real issue actually is far more outrageous than that.

Does anyone remember the National Security Agency (NSA), a.k.a., “No Such Agency”?  Does anyone remember the hacking and spying on Americans that that NSA is now known to have conducted (and is still doing), as revealed by Edward Snowden not too long ago?

So think about this for a minute:  If the USA is spying on its own citizens, what do you think they’re doing to other countries and companies?

And here’s another question to ponder before beginning the REAL discussion on the merits of any indictment against Chinese nationals who spied on American companies for their trade secrets:

What do you think EVERY large American corporation does to learn their competitors’ secrets?  Doesn’t anyone really think that when Apple sued Samsung over copyright infringement in 2009, that Samsung “accidentally” figured out how to duplicate the Iphone all on its lonely own?

The fact that US Attorney General Eric Holder publicly announced the indictments this week of the Chinese nationals who allegedly rang the cybertheft ring is, to a large extent, more a function of the politics in play during an election year than for any other reason.  In all probability, if the election had already occurred, the US government would have quietly contacted the Chinese government to tell them to tell their operatives to knock it off, and the Chinese would have extracted their nationals involved.

The reason for this is that the trade and debt relationship between China and the USA is extremely complex, and no one really wants to upset that Apple cart (pardon the pun).  Furthermore, as the Chinese ambassador to the USA stated, the USA is no one to be shaking its finger at ANY country for cybertheft, which more accurately is defined as spying  on others….be they Chinese or Russian or from anywhere else.  People who live in glass houses…..

The GOP and their big Corporate America funding sources are, of course, demanding action be taken, demanding that people be held accountable, demanding harsh action against the perpetrators.  And yet, there isn’t a single large corporation in America, and perhaps even on the entire planet, that wouldn’t attempt to steal trade secrets from competitors in the business world if they could.  It’s called free market capitalism (every company for itself) and it’s a pretty hypocritical position that these defenders of all things free market have adopted.  But it goes hand in hand with far right’s favorite manta, “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”.

Yet, as bad as it is that to be expressing this purported outrage, perhaps the worst part of this is that the Chinese used some of the most primitive and rudimentary ploys, such as email spam, to get employees at the various hacked companies to allow the Chinese hacker access into their systems.  According to the indictments, the Chinese got the American employees to open questionable email attachments and to click on innocent-looking websites, and even used the misspelled name of a company CEO to trick the employees into installing all kinds of malware on their own work computers, which, incredibly, were not well protected against some of these most simple of cyber-tricks.

So perhaps the outrage against the Chinese perpetrators is misplaced and misguided.  Perhaps the outrage should be directed at the companies that did not adequately protect their trade secrets with the proper anti-hacking software and the proper training of their employees in the need to be careful what they open on line.

And yet, the most outrage probably should be directed against the elected politicians who allowed the USA to lose the high moral ground years ago by torturing prisoners in secret “black” prisons, and getting caught hacking and spying on other countries and their commercial enterprises.   And even then, these self-same politicians scream with false and undeserved indignity when someone else does what both corporate and governmental USA has done for years….

No WONDER the ultra-right hates Edward Snowden for blowing the whistle on the NSA (and through their funding association with the right, Corporate America’s own spying tactics)!!

In the meantime, though…. “Oh, so WHAT??” seems a more appropriate response.

 

 

 

Conservatives’ Manta: Love the Death Penalty & Hate Science

The US Constitution Bill of Rights’ 8th amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

With this amendment, the US “founding fathers” in Congress who drafted and passed the Bill of Rights in 1789 were attempting to prevent any American from suffering the atrocities that prisoners historically suffered before that, i.e., cruel and brutal treatment at the hands and whims of their captors.  For time immemorial, prisoners, whether found guilty of a crime or not, were beaten, tortured, starved and murdered in the most cruel, brutal and painful ways possible.

These founding fathers did not believe that the fledgling United States of America should follow that path at all.  Instead, they advocated that every prisoner held in this country, regardless of whatever crimes they were charged with, should be treated humanely, and if punishment was warranted after a conviction (and certainly not before), it MUST be administered in a humane way, not one filled with the animal need for painful revenge.

Despite the 8th Amendment, however…when people have their emotions in play, very often justice is very often not their objective as much as is revenge, retaliation and retribution.  “An Eye for An Eye” as the biblical references quote, is considered by many, particularly those on the Christian religious right, as the word of the deity, and thus more righteous than any law passed by humans.

Of course, this flies in the face of what Jesus said in thesermon on the mount

“You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Mt 5:38–39, NRSV)

The political Christian religious right in the USA is almost universally republican, and they claim to be believing and practicing Christians, but they seem to have no memory of who Christ was or the teachings of the man.  Nor do they realize the hypocrisy and contradiction of teaching our children that murder is “sometimes” okay…like when the state does it.

So last week, Oklahoma, one of a number of states that executes prisoners convicted of capital crime, was scheduled to hold a double execution, the first in Oklahoma in many years.  Lethal injection of a cocktail of untried and unproven chemicals was to be injected into Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer.  Admittedly, Lockett is a sociopathic monster, but the state’s act of murder against him did not reverse a single action on his part.  Instead, it made the USA, one of the VERY few remaining western countries to still practice state-sanctioned murder, look barbaric to the rest of the civilized world.

Lockett’s murder by the state of Oklahoma, while resulting in his death, was not supposed to last 42 torturous minutes or cause death by heart attack, but it did.  In all probability, the IV needle was inserted into the flesh of his groin, instead of his femoral vein.  If you want to know the complete timeline of this atrocity, click HERE.

Of course, the GOP LOVES the death penalty, partly because of their religious base and partly because of their misguided view that it saves taxpayer money to execute (and thus stop feeding and clothing and boarding ) a prisoner over supporting his or her human needs throughout a lifetime.  But the facts are that the average life-sentence prisoner will cost approximately US$1 million over a lifetime, while the average taxpayer cost for all the appeals of a prisoner sentenced to death is US$12 million!!!

So much for the conservative “Save the taxpayers money” idea….

And in fact, the folks on the right, who fancy themselves as the protectors of the American taxpayer dollar, cause MUCH MORE spending down the road to fix what they didn’t adequately fund in the first place.  In the ultimate act of smoke and mirrors, they are now questioning and denying the facts presented and endorsed by no less than 300 topic experts in the National Climate Assessment, which says, in so many words, that climate change is real and provable, and the evidence that human activity is largely responsible for it is increasing.

This report also provides data on the climate changes ALREADY here, like longer, hotter summers and more extreme weather each year, flooding of railroad tracks in the northeastern states, more severe droughts in the Midwest and more wildfires in the west.

The republican response?  “This “report” is just another attempt by the Obama administration to saddle the oil and coal industry with more intrusive federal regulations”..that will cost their best campaign contributors, a.k.a., the oil and coal industries, more money for compliance.

But down the road, the damage done by this climate catastrophe will have to mitigated with even MORE taxpayer money AFTER the damage has been done.

Embracing the bible as the ultimate instruction guide and denying science…Today’s GOP at work, folks.

US Supreme Court: Eating US Democracy Through Activism?

The US Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776, began with the sentence, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Note please that no where in this first paragraph is there mention of companies, corporations, political action committees, filthy rich gazillionaires, or secret campaign contributors that can possibly buy elections out from under the democratic process of “one citizen, one vote”.

Everyone in the USA and many observant folks around the world  know that in the US Supreme court case in 2010 known as “Citizens United“,  the “Supremes” voted 5-4 to uphold the “right” of corporations to make massive and undocumented campaign contributions.  In doing so, they opened the door to campaign funding abuse by the very rich and wealthy.  After all, there is no way that the average middle class citizen could possibly donate several thousand (or several hundreds of thousands) dollars to a political campaign.

The majority opinion claimed it was a first amendment right to freedom of speech which protected these activities on the part of wealthy corporations, such as, but not exclusively, the Koch brothers and their political activism (read:  organizing and sending massive amounts of cash to Tea Party campaigns).

The minority opinion stated in so many words, “bullshit!”

In this country, majority rule is an important concept and thus the “Supremes” conservative majority led the day.

The results, especially in this mid-term election year, have been nothing short of astounding.  Wealthy conservatives donated millions of dollars to the conservative super-pacs such American for Prosperity and FreedomWorks,  in which the infamous conservative billionaire Koch brothers are involved.  These two brothers have literally contributed tens of millions of dollars of their own money to Tea Party candidates for federal office.  And while one might think that they should be free to do so, there is no way that the average US citizen who votes could possibly make even a small dent in the Koch’s campaign contributions. The facts are that only the very rich, who tend to be conservative pro-corporation republicans, will be able to take advantage of this Supreme Court decision

The “Supremes”, unfortunately, were no where near done.  Last July, in Shelby County v. Holder, they stuck down a long-standing provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had been passed during the Civil Rights activism of the 1960′s to ensure that no state,and specifically most southern and some mid-west states, could enact discriminatory laws without the approval of the Federal Elections Commission.  The “Supremes” basically said that none of these states was discriminatory and therefore that provision of the law was unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Immediately, several states, including Texas, voted to reduce voting sites and voting hours as well as early voting capabilities and increased need for identity checks for voters, which causes considerable hardship for poor, low-income voters who tend to vote democratic.

Finally, in their crowning achievement (so far) of putting America’s democratic elections up for sale to the highest bidder, the “Supremes” ruled just a couple of days ago in Schuette vs. Bamn that Michigan’ recent state constitutional amendment banning affirmative action as a factor in college admission is in fact NOT unconstitutional, per their view of the US Constitution.

This decision was a little tighter than the previous two, in that the “Supremes” voted 6-2.  Interestingly, however, the two women justices in the decision, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a third, Elena Kagan, had reclused herself), disagreed with the majority, citing the statistical fact that in states that do not practice affirmative action as a policy, college enrollment of minorities is down dramatically over states that do practice affirmative action.

In making this decision, the “Supremes” essentially reversed decades of policy that ensured that the racial discrimination of the previous 100 years would not be allowed to continue when it came to college admission.

And when all three decisions are taken together, it bodes ominously for the common middle class citizen, minorities, and the “little guy”, while empowering the wealthy and powerful to exercise an inordinate amount of influence over the US government and its democratic process, particularly regarding elections and education.  Of course, conservatives love it because they see it as less government, more personal freedom (to abuse anyone else not powerful enough to stand up and stop it).  So much for equal protection under law…

And this summer the “Supremes” will be ruling on whether private companies owned by religious zealots can dictate their religious dogma to their employees in the form of not allowing health insurance companies to provide their employees free birth control.

Depending upon their decision. this one just might get the “Supremes” branded as “activist judges..”.

Republican Darrel Issa: Congressional Terrorist

The 5th amendment in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution states, in pertinent part:

“…nor shall any person be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court asserted in 1924 that this constitutional right applies whether a hearing is criminal or civil (such as a congressional hearing).  No one can forcibly take away this right from anyone in the USA, nor can they somehow invent some excuse to remove the right.

Joseph McCarthy was a republican senator from Wisconsin during the late 1940′s through early 1950′s.  He chaired the House Un-American Activities Committee.  During his so-called investigations and hearings, he accused countless Americans of being communists, and in fact had his committee vote to hold witnesses invoking their 5th amendment rights in Contempt of Congress.  Known for his intimidation tactics, McCarthy attempted to prove that the US government was being overrun by communists, but he never found a single communist in government.  And very Contempt of Congress resolution by McCarthy’s committee was overturned in court.

In 1954 the full US senate voted to censure McCarthy for his behavior on the committee;  one of the very few senators in history to be censured.

As an interesting and perhaps eerie aside, republican senator Ted Cruz from Texas, who also has a predilection for using intimidation (terrorist?) tactics in the senate to achieve his Tea Party goals, looks (and acts) a lot like McCarthy:

Ted Cruz, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg    …..                             Ted Cruz                                   Joe McCarthy

Darrel Issa is a republican congressman from California.  He is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has investigated the 2012 terrorists attack against the US embassy in Benghazi, as well as the alleged IRS harassment of Tea Party organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

It’s important to note that the IRS also questioned a number of far-left organizations with the same zeal during the same time frame, but Issa has never been interested in this inconvenient fact.

Instead, Issa’s focus, besides protecting his status as a very wealthy businessman reported worth US$ 450 million, is solely to embarrass the Obama administration and democrats.

Issa was not able to find any criminal or otherwise nefarious conduct in his Benghazi hearings, so he’s shifted his focus on the IRS issue.

During the IRS hearings, Issa subpoenaed and questioned former IRS official Lois Lerner She first asserted her innocence and then invoked her 5th amendment rights to specific questions on the advice of her lawyer.

Issa is very upset that he could not compel her to claim responsibility for anything.  He’s also very upset that he has never proved a single allegation of wrong-doing on the part of all the democrats he has tried for so long to implicate in various “scandals”.

With the mid-term elections a scant 7 months away in November, and with Obamacare looking less and less like the defining issue for voters that the republicans had hoped it would be, Issa and his cronies decided to implement what they probably consider to be a “nuclear option”, and have the House Ways & Means Committee draft a resolution recommending that the full House of Representatives find Lerner in contempt of Congress for invoking her 5th amendment rights during the congressional hearings.

Considering that the House is controlled by the GOP, and the GOP’s number 1 priority is obviously not governing wisely but strictly about winning elections, there is every reason to believe that this resolution can and will pass the full House.

In anticipation of this, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland has accused Issa of engaging in McCarthyism, or creating a scandal where none exists. Cumming wrote a letter to Issa that was signed by every democrat on the committee.  It says, among other things, that almost all of the incidents in recent history of finding witnesses in contempt of congress occurred during the McCarthy era, and they were all overturned in court.

The committee vote on this issue is Thursday, April 10th.  It will probably pass along party lines even though it is without basis or foundation.  Then, it will most likely be overturned in court.

But in the meantime it certainly appears to be an act of election year desperation.  And today, April 9th, 2014, another act of republican political desperation occurred in a vote along party lines taken in a closed session of the House Ways and Means committee, demanding that US attorney general Eric Holder prosecute Lois Lerner for all kinds of crimes against the Universe.

Meanwhile, the republicans in the US senate today filibustered and thus stopped a bill that provides women protections against being paid less than men for equal work.

This is how the republicans plan to win over independent and undecided voters, through these insane acts of political terrorism.

Good luck with that.

GOP Political Ads are Full of S#!T

President Obama and his administration are guilty of several administrative screw-ups, such as the disastrous Obamacare website roll-out in October 2013.Perhaps their worst transgression, however, is that their marketing of their policies and decisions is absolutely horrible.  it’s almost as if they had no marketing skills whatsoever…as if they were trying to sell dead insects to new homeowners.

Every administration has missteps that they must walk back after initial exposure to the press and public. But every college sophomore taking marketing 101 knows that selling ice to Eskimos is only feasible if one has the appropriate marketing skills to make the Eskimos believe that they NEED to buy more ice.  In the case of  the Obama administration, Obamacare and its broken promises of keeping your health care plan if you like it, as well as the Benghazi tragedy and its subsequent aftermath, could have been handled in ways that minimized or even eliminated the political damage to the Obama administration, democrats in general, and the possible future candidacy of Hilliary Clinton in 2016.

Instead, however, republicans in general and the Koch brothers and their super-rich anonymous massive financial contributors in particular have seized upon these and other issues to market their lie- and fabrication-encrusted hate- and fear-mongering messages of utter incompetence and weakness by Obama and his side.

Of course, while blaming Obama for everything from Benghazi to Crimea, they offer absolutely no alternative solutions.  Additionally, they do not justify nor offer proof for their criticisms and statements.  They get away with all this for one reason:

Many, if not most Americans are low-information voters.

Take, for instance, the republican criticism of Benghazi, where 4 Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack in 2012.  the Obama administration has vowed to bring the responsible parties to justice.  The only problem with that is that the perpetrators haven’t been caught yet.  The reasons for this are obvious:  it’s hard for the USA, or any western country for that matter, to identify and then trace terrorists in a foreign country.  and what we don’t know is what our intelligence community is do regarding accomplishing that goal, nor will we know until and less the perpetrators are caught and we can prove we have the right people.

But the republicans are screaming that Obama is doing NOTHING to catch them and bring them to justice, and as a result, no other countries respect us anymore.  What they don’t tell you is that their hero GW Bush never got close to catching Osama Bin Laden, but they never claimed that other countries thought we sucked because of that.

And additional example of this republican condemn-Obama-at-all-costs doctrine is the Russian take-over of Crimea.  Republicans everywhere are claiming that because Obama hasn’t caught the Benghazi terrorists, Russian president Vladimir Putin was emboldened to annex Crimea from Ukraine.  In other words, if Obama had captured ANYONE and claimed they were the Benghazi guys, Putin would have done nothing in Crimea.

Not only that, but now they’re criticizing Obama for not stopping Putin singlehandedly.

Are they for real?

Note that no one republican has offered an alternative.  Not one republican is advocating that we go to war with Russia, either.  After all, Russia is a nuclear power and the USA is not going to start a nuclear war over a region where the majority voted to join Russia in the first place.  But these republicans are still claiming that Obama is not doing his job.  They just don’t have a suggestion as to what that job should be.

Because the average American does not do his or her own research on the issues, the poison political ads that the Koch brothers are buying nationwide can have an impact.  They don’t need to be true.  They just need to make the low-information voters afraid that under Obama, all the bridges in the USA are going to collapse.

There is one last item that these republican hate- and fear-mongers are capitalizing on, and that is Obamacare.  The Affordable Care Act was an attempt to incorporate republican ideas into what should have been a straight-forward, universal health care system akin to “Medicare for all” or a single-payer system, that would have been simple, equal, and ultimately invisible as far as how it was financed…through our taxes like in every other industrialized country. 

Because of that effort to please the impossible-to-please GOP, the current health care reform program has got a LOT of problems, and they aren’t going to go away anytime soon.  This, too, is the result of a flawed (non-existent, actually) marketing plan from its inception.  And if the democrats lose control of the senate in 2014, this is going to be the main reason.

On the other hand, voters should have a responsibility to discern the truth before they vote, and If ANYTHING screams that people should have to pass an exam before being allowed to vote, this does.

Yeah.  THAT’s gonna happen.

Can USA REALLY Condemn Russia Over Ukraine??

Not so long ago in a galaxy not so far away (this one, in fact), humans would only invade their neighbors over such things the need to survive and reproduce.  Water, food sources and reproduction would drive violent encounters between opposing humans and their aligned associates, if any.

Later in history, as basic human survival needs were relatively stabilized, humans fought over religion, wealth, slaves, property, political power and other non-survival purposes.

As technology advanced and man learned to destroy more with less, people began to realize that there were better ways to solve problems then killing and destroying, such as talking to each other, and negotiating, and even competitions like land rushes and the like.

Then when humanity became capable of utterly destroying itself, even more humans realized the pen was much mightier than the sword if the physical survival of the entire human race was important.  As a result, most organized nations of the world came together and agreed that henceforth they would seek to work things out, avoiding bloodshed and possible annihilation.

The only acceptable exception was if a nation was attacked by another nation with force.  Only then would defensive counter-force be deemed acceptable, and even then only enough to stop and reverse the original aggression.  Remember this.

On September 11, 2001 (9-11) the USA was attacked on it own soil by members of a stateless religious extremist Islamist organization known Al Qaeda which also pledged to attack the some of the other large nations on the planet with local terror operations.

As a result of the 9-11 attacks, the USA appropriately chose to seek out Al Qaeda and its supporters, the Taliban. The USA subsequently invaded Afghanistan with American and coalition military forces to rout and destroy Al-Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban government of Afghanistan.  This action was condoned by every civilized nation on Earth as meritorious and justified by the brutal 9-11 attack on the USA.

HOWEVER!!!!  If only the USA would have stopped there and simply maintained stabilizing forces in Afghanistan and nothing more.  But, nope, not to be.  Then-president of the USA George W. Bush, who by many accounts was hell-bent on attacking Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, ostensibly because Saddam tried to kill his dad, former president George H. W, Bush in the late 1990s, was intent for his first day in office to attack and remove Saddam Hussein.  The fact that then-president Bill Clinton took strong military retaliatory action against Saddam subsequent to the assassination attempt didn’t seem to be enough for the younger Bush.

So in March 1993, after convincing a not-very-discriminating-or-perceptive congress, G W Bush directed American troops (and coalition troops) to invade Iraq under the false pretense that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, most notably some nuclear capability of some sort.

SURPRISE!!  Not a single solitary weapon of mass destruction was found.  An obsolete Russian MiG jet fighter WAS found buried in the sand in the Iraqi desert, however.

So…The USA spent almost 10 years in Iraq, a country that posed no threat to us, which in all probability had held back Iran, even if we didn’t like Saddam Hussein or his government.

Fast forward to March 2014:  Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, who rules the largest country on Earth (Russia), one of the powerful nations on Earth (Russia)  and the one of the two largest nuclear arsenals on Earth (Russian & American), decided to invade the Crimean peninsula of the formal Soviet satellite republic of Ukraine.  Russian troops marched in without firing a single bullet (unlike the USA in Iraq in 2003) and were welcomed with open arms.  And while it was still clearly a violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory by Russia, Putin’s claims that they were invited by the ousted pro-Russian president of Ukraine, and that the vast majority of the population of Crimea is of Russian origin or descent and welcomed them, is true.

But the very worst part of this is that at Putin’s press conference on Sunday, March 1st, Putin stated (accurately) that the west (read: USA and its allies) yelling at him for putting troops into Crimea (where Russia ALREADY has a base and troops, by the way), is coming from a nation (USA) that seems to invade other countries such as Iraq with impunity, even WITHOUT a direct connection to the USA (except maybe oil).

If you don’t live up to a standard (human rights, for instance), then where on Earth to you get the hubris to demand that others do so?  When we tortured terrorist prisoners between 2003-2007, we lost our right demand that other countries cease doing the same.

So when, after invading Iraq for no valid reason, we demanded Russia reverse their invasion of Crimea, one could just hear their disgust at the arrogant American “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

THAT’S what the Bush/Cheney Syndicate did to us……

TEXAS: Proud Producers of GOP Bigots & Extremists

Is this REALLY the 21st century?

If aliens from the planet Zork came to the USA (ostensibly because they intercepted a transmission from us as we were pontificating on the airwaves for the gazillionth time about “American exceptionalism” and they wanted to see it for themselves), it’s a safe bet they would think we were either stoned or insane…or both….ESPECIALLY if they happened upon Ted Nugent, the Texas ultra-extreme-right wing bigoted racist rock-musician-turned-political-lunatic.  This, by the way, is helping to take the republican party down with independent voters, not that the teabaggers seem to care.

Nugent has been around a long time.  He’s has always been an extremist, but his extremism was limited primarily to his music and strong views on gun rights freedom until Obama became USA president.  In January 2014 Nugent made statements about president Obama that are truly so heinous that it is hard to believe that any American would support them.

Chick HERE or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsSMoMXG5wc to watch

In this UNBELIEVABLE video recorded at a Texas National Rifle Association (NRA) rally, Nugent called Obama a communist, a “sub-human mogrel” and a chimpanzee.  These are the same names bestowed upon the Jewish people in Europe during World War II by the NAZIs as they were murdering millions of those innocent men, women and children in concentration camps in the name of Aryan racial purity.

Running for governor in the republican primary in Texas is the current state attorney general, Greg Abbot, who Nugent enthusiastically supports.  In fact, Abbot embraced Nugent at a political rally for Abbot after the video went viral, and never once tried to distance himself from Nugent.  Abbott’s position is that Nugent helps to bring out the extreme right base of the republican party for early voting which starts today in Texas.  Abbot’s lame excuse is that Nugent supports him, but he never said he supports Nugent.

Are you fu**ing kidding???

That’s like accepting the presence and support of Hitler at one of your own fundraisers and then saying you don’t necessarily support the guy.  The bullshit flag is out so far on that it could cover the entire state of Texas.  But the hot stinky air rising from that state is just getting started.

Earlier this month in the US senate, the bill to raise the national debt ceiling limit was passed with bipartisan support after making it through the House of representatives with similar bipartisan support.  However, Texas republican Joe Barton voted no. He is another fringe lunatic who says that “wind is God’s way of balancing heat’!!!.

It also did not sail through the senate unscathed.  Republican senator Ted Cruz (whom with with senator Mike Lee of Utah recently introduced a bill in the US senate to force the federal government to stop forcing all states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states) insisted on filibustering the bill in an attempt to stop it and thus shut down the federal government just like he did in October 2013 (which cost the American taxpayer US$ 24 billion).  Initially, mainstream republicans felt they had to stick together, but one by one in private they told Cruz and his band of Merry Mindless Morons like senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who suffers from foot in mouth disease, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had previously claimed that Obamacare would force doctors out of their homes at night at gunpoint to heal people to go shit in their hats, because they were not going to allow these insane-asylum escapees to blackmail the nation and concurrently kill any chance of the republicans surviving as a political entity in America.

Interestingly, all three of these guys fancy themselves as presidential candidates in 2016.  One can only hope that they actually run, and expend maximum resources beating each other up during the republican presidential primaries.

And one can only hope that they tap people like Ted Nugent to play his brand of rock and babble his brand of hate, racism, bigotry, Nazi-inspired, white-supremacist, genocide promoting Neanderthal knuckle dragging thought-processing that these people seem to excel in.

If that happens, then perhaps enough independent voters will do enough research on their own to realize that selfish Me-First and Me-Only whack-jobs like Ted Nugent, Ted Cruz, Joe Barton, Mike Lee, Rand Paul belong to a time when humanity believed that solar eclipses where a sign of evil and the Earth was flat.

This is important, because if any of these megalomaniac manages to get elected to the presidency of the USA, then those space explorers from the planet Zork will clearly note this eventuality and post Quarantine signs at all the La Grange points around Earth warning all other intelligent life elsewhere in our galactic neighborhood to steer clear of Earth for their own safety and survival.

And some folks just also put a sign in their driveways directed upwards at those sign-erecting Zorkians that says “Please land here and take me with you!!!”

 

Obama vs. GOP: Intellectual Symmetry R NOT US

Last night President Obama gave yet another magnificent State of the Union Speech to a joint session of the US congress and attended by most of the US supreme court.  Much of the nation watched this speech on television, as has become the custom since the days of the G W Bush administration and the 9-11 attack on the World trade Center and the Pentagon.  And when one recalls the rhetorical (of lack thereof) approach to speech of George W. Bush, who could not properly pronounce the word “nuclear”, with the oratory gifts of Barack Obama, the lack of oratory symmetry between that republican and this democrat is clear.

Thus, the GOP must have been shaking in their boots over Obama’s speech-giving capabilities last night because they deemed it necessary to respond with no less than THREE republicans.  Senator Ted Cruz from Texas criticized Obama for his use of executive orders, even though Obama has issued far less executive orders than GW Bush or Saint Ronnie the Ray-Gun .

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky hemmed and hawed about Obama’s raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors  and about passing an extension of unemployment insurance that Obama promoted in his speech, repeating his claim that unemployment compensation is bad for the unemployed…You know, like food is bad for starving people.

But the official republican response to Obama’s speech was delivered by republican congresswomen Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state.  She countered Obama’s concrete proposals of raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, reducing oil use in favor of using more natural gas, increased spending for education, universal pre-K, innovative research and infrastructure jobs, immigration reform, etc., with her story of being raised on a farm in Washington, raising farm animals, saving money for college, praying a lot, and then going to college and praying a lot and getting married and praying a lot and having kids and praying a lot.

McMorris Rodgers offered the republican plan for prosperity for America which consisted of a positive attitude and hard work and good morale and praying and….no specifics.

With the mid-term elections a mere 8 months away, republicans are hoping that they can maintain control of the House of Representatives and take control of the US senate from the democrats in November.  But this hope comes on the heels of their tea-party-engineered government shutdown and near-US-debt default last October that the GOP got blamed for.  Were it not for the disastrous Obamacare website rollout at the same time, most political forecasters would probably be writing the republicans’ obituary now.

It’s true that during the closing moments of 2013 a bipartisan budget deal was reached between democrats and republicans to avoid yet another government shutdown early this year.  But the bipartisanship ended there.

The House is, after all, only interested in only three things:

1.  Making Obama and the democrats look bad;

2.  Making Obamacare look bad; and

3.  Helping their Super-PAC campaign contributors make and keep more money.

So last night, realizing that the GOP-controlled members of the House probably wouldn’t budge from their intransigent positions, Obama laid it out:

If he can’t get congress to enact common sense legislation that he can sign into law on these issues, he will unilaterally invoke and sign presidential executive orders.  Perhaps that sounds dictatorial to the GOP, but then his predecessor GW Bush signed 197 of them during his two terms as president, and St. Ronnie the Ray Gun signed 256 of them…far more than Obama’s 167.

However, you’d never know it by listening to the SCREAMING of republicans last night as they yelled about Obama ignoring the constitution.  But the facts are that there is no intellectual symmetry whatsoever to the number of presidential executive orders signed by democrats vs. republicans as seen above, just as there is no intellectual symmetry whatever to the number outrageous statements and behaviors demonstrated by republicans vs. democrats.

Take, for instance, (caught on camera no less) New York state republican congressman Michael Grimm’s actions against a NY1 news reporter, Michael Scotto, in which Grimm threatened to throw Scotto off a balcony for asking a question about a justice department investigation of Grimm for alleged illegal campaign fundraising.

Obviously, the reporter had the right to ask the question, but the republican congressman thought the reporter didn’t have freedom of the press, any more than some republicans say that women don’t have the right to equal pay, or that wives don’t have the right to say no to their husbands, or that women can’t get pregnant by an act of rape.  Democrats don’t run around making these idiot statements.

And finally, how would one explain that in this day and age, the number of republicans who reject the science of evolution in favor of creationism is actually rising, while the number of democrats sending their children to engineering/technology colleges is increasing?

No intellectual symmetry, is how.  :)

So How Do You Like This Shoot-Em-Up Year So Far?

It’s been two weeks since our 2014 predictions, and while it’s still to early to determine how close to reality we came, some new stuff is happening worth commenting on.

On top is that Americans’ love affair with the old wild west is continuing unabated, considering that no less than two shootings made national headlines within the first two weeks of the new year.  The first was a 71 year-old ex-cop from Florida who decided to shoot a fellow movie-goer with a .380 pistol in a theater in a Tampa, Florida suburb because the victim was texting on his cell phone during the previews.  Granted, texting is rude and inconsiderate and annoying to anyone seated nearby who can see the light coming from the cellphone.  Also, the guy doing the texting threw his popcorn at the ex-cop after a shouting match ensued.  But to be shot for it??  Yep.  Because this is America, where everyone has a right to a gun, even in a movie theater.

The second shooting incident occurred in a Roswell, New Mexico (Yep!  Of area 51 fame!) middle school gym, where a 12 year-old boy came to school with a 20-gauge shotgun with a sawed-off stock and just started shooting at fellow students.  The reason?  No one knows yet.  But did he really need a reason?  After all, this is America, where everyone has a right to a gun, even if they’re crazy.  Just ask the senate republicans, who filibustered a bill that would have extended background checks, including mental health checks, to gun shows and internet sales.

The other event, or non-event to be more accurate, is that as of this late date, the senate has yet to pass an extension of the long-term unemployment benefits that ran out for 1.3 million long term unemployed and their families on December 28, 2013, because senate republicans want to squeeze extra spending cuts out of the democrats that they could not get in the bi-partisan budget deal agreed to a couple of weeks ago.  As a result, they’re going into a  “cooling off” period, then they’ll go on a one-week vacation (after being off for several weeks during the Christmas-New Years season), and then MAYBE when they return they’ll try to work on a compromise.

And while these millionaire (yeah, really!  Most are MILLIONAIRES!!) politically conservative republican congressmen and senators who are blocking those unemployment benefits for the needy return to their homes districts in the dead of winter when nothing is really demanding their attention back home (or perhaps spend a week in St. Thomas studying how they make rum), those chronically employed may not be able to heat their homes, or may have to choose between eating food, or buying medicine.

But rest assured:  republicans care about you and the economy.  That’s why they’re fighting to keep the democrats from raising taxes on the wealthy.  If they can just cut spending where it really needs to be cut…in food stamps, heating assistance, meals on wheels, unemployment insurance, Obamacare, school lunch programs, education, pre-K programs…and eliminate useless agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency…just think of all that extra money that could be saved to reduce taxes even more for the job creators.  and then EVERYONE could have a $7.25 an hour job!

Except for one inconvenient truth:

This doesn’t work.

Even republicans are learning that most Americans aren’t buying what they’re selling anyone.  That is why the GOP latched onto Obamacare as the ISSUE OF THE MILLENNIUM, because they knew that none of their own agenda items were maintaining traction with Americans.  The latest polls demonstrate it clearly:

Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage but 71% of Americans support it.   Republicans oppose unemployment benefits, but 58% of Americans want them extended. (source: Quinnipiac)

When people were asked their party affiliation by Gallup this year, only 24% identified as republican, while 29% called themselves democrats.  The rest claimed to be independents, of which 5% leaned left and 5% leaned right.

This means that on its best day, the GOP can only depend on 29% of the vote.  Therefore, to win an election, the rest of their support MUST come from winning independent votes on the issues, and the GOP is doing a terrible job of that.  Do they really think that the rest of America didn’t notice when senate republicans filibustered the gun background check bill last year, even though 90% of Americans were in favor of the bill?

Additionally, the GOP has done NOTHING about the “American 21st century cowboy shoot-’em-up culture” and NOTHING about solving the toxic class division and divided economy of have’s & have-not’s it helped to create by allowing the corporate conglomerates to run amok during the first eight years of the 21st century.

Since then, GOP has done nothing but attempt to block every single attempt of the democrats and even moderate mainstream republicans to mitigate all of that damage and rebuild the jobs market and the middle class economy.

Do the Tea Party republicans really think that the rest of America doesn’t notice?
Maybe they think they’re invisible??  ;)

2014 Predictions!!

It’s first day of 2014.  What better time to issue a whole new set of predictions than while everyone is looking around and trying to figure out what they should be doing today?  :)

So here goes.  Considering the monumental changes are occurring in the USA today, let’s hit them:

1.  ObamacareAs of today, this law (with delayed exceptions for both employers as well as for people whose plans were terminated because they are now considered sub-standard) is now fully implemented.  This means that the for-profit health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions or because you happened to get sick.  For many Americans, it will be a vast improvement.  But it is far from ideal.  Republicans still think that they can squeeze control of the senate out of it during the 2014 midterm elections.                                                                   Prediction  Assuming that the democrats get their strategy right, they will advertise all the health improvements and all of the lives saved because of Obamacare.  They will use the refusal of the GOP to address the minimum wage, unemployment compensation, jobs programs, and immigration reform.  They will also concentrate on the $24 billion 2013 government shutdown caused by the lunatic ultra-right-wing tea party wing nuts.  And when the GOP talks about Obamacare problems, the democrats (if they are smart) will point out that none of those problems would have happened if there had been a public option or “medicare for all”.  :)  That will severely incense the Tea Party, which will become even more extreme than they are now.  Despite how unpopular the polls say they are, they’ll entrench even further to the right.  Most Americans will simply not vote that far right.  The dems will maintain the senate and will even pick up seats in the House.

2.  Colorado, Washington, Portland, ME. & Pot:   As the eyes of the nation watch, these states and particularly Colorado start allowing marijuana to be legally sold, grown, smoked and possessed within these states.  It is regulated and taxed.  It cannot be used in public nor can it be legally taken out of state (uh huh……….  :)             Prediction:  The economies of these state will soar far higher than their pot-smoking residents.  People all over America will be flocking into these states by air, sea, highway and rail to experience for themselves what it’s like to legally buy pot in a store.  The hotels, motels and restaurants in these states will swell with people and do a huge business.  All that tax money that was being spent tracking down, arresting and jailing pot users will now actually be spent arresting and jailing murderers, rapists, bank robbers and terrorists.  Additionally, massive amounts of money will pour in via taxes on pot, which people will gladly pay  in exchange for the ability to buy it in the open, free from fear of having to look over their shoulder or the fear of getting ripped off.  Other states will be watching and licking their chops at the revenue stream being created, much as when native American tribes began to open casinos years ago.  But of course, there will be those who will oppose any change to the status quo.  The drug cartels, the ultra-right, and the private prison contractors will hate it.  They will join together and mount huge, well funded campaigns against it in their states.  Everyone else will love, though.  :)

3.  Climate change/global warming:  Data taken from Arctic and Antarctic ice cores demonstrate the climate record going back thousands of years.  Every reputable scientist in the world agrees that climate change is real and that human activity is, at a minimum, accelerating it.  Unfortunately, warnings issued over the past couple of decades have been largely ignored by large for-profit corporations.                                   Prediction:  In July 2014, for the first time in recorded history, the “northwest passage”, i.e. a navigable sea route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the northeast and west across northernmost Canada, the northern Alaskan coast and then south through the Bering Strait separating Alaska and Russia, will open up as the last of the blocking Arctic ice sheet in the area melts away, revealing open ocean.  Numerous small islands along the way will become disputed between Russia, Canada and Alaska, due to the discovery of oi and fertile fishing areas.  Fishing fleets as well as numerous wealthy thrill-seeking ocean-going yacht owners will all be vying for the limited space in the passage before the onset of colder temperatures in the fall causes the now-seasonal refreezing of the blocking ice sheet over the winter.  Ultimately, relations between Canada, USA and Russia become hostile because of the multi-island dispute.  By year’s end there is talk of possible military occupations of the islands in question….after they thaw out in the spring of 2015.

In a new years eve radio broadcast on December 31, 2014, Rush Limbaugh again calls global warming the biggest hoax ever.  :)

T’Was the Night Before Christmas 2013….

…and all through the House,
Representatives were long gone; they were so mickey mouse.
They knew that the budget that they passed before leaving
Would drive the Tea Party into a frenzy of raged seething.
For the ultra-right wacko wing of the GOP
Only cares for their own weird philosophy,
Which excludes the more moderate majority
Of our extremely diverse and proud country.
Their view is that theirs is the only right view,
And if your’s is different, then they just won’t count you.
Meanwhile, the Senate was poised to ensure
That the budget deal passed in the House would endure.
And with yet one more government shutdown averted,
The mainstream republicans happily asserted
That they could go back to just happily pounding Obamacare
Even though the worst problems with that law and its fare
Were now in the past, since the website was fixed
And more people were enrolling.  They were not nixed.
But the GOP still wants it repealed.
They hated the website, because of the deal
Where after signing up, a question of note
Is asked of enrollees:  “Would you like to register to vote?”
Republicans HATE that question, you know that for sure,
because the enrollee, whom no one before would insure,
Now has health coverage for the very first time.
So he knows when he votes when to send in his dime.
And while all of this stuff was filling our plate
The NSA was listening to all that we say
On cell phones, and landlines, and faxes galore
Via texts, social media, and wired-up whores.
Every way one can think of, they already thought.
The data they harvest is more than they sought;
They needed new buildings to store all of it.
Some day it might even be stored in a pit.
But they really went too far, as everyone could see,
When they claimed NSA stood for “No Such Agency”.
And if you’re celebrating Peace On Earth this season,
The “War on Christmas” finally seems to be won;
Fewer folks are claiming assaults on their views.
But it seems that a lot of them still shoot their guns:
Almost weekly, sometimes more, there’s a shooting somewhere;
Some deranged unhappy guy starts a horrible scare.
Often children are involved, but nothing is done
To prevent a recurrence.  There is just no one
That can lead this great nation to pass proper laws
That protect all the young ones from people with flaws,
Such as known mental illness, or desire to kill.
The senate did try, but republicans had no will
to oppose the NRA and its political wrath
So they chose to go march down the filibuster path
And stopped background checks for the purchase of guns,
Although 90% of Americans would have cheered had it won.
So this Christmas think carefully of gifts you might give
That are useful and timely and will help children live,
Made of Kevlar and strong stuff for young lives with much zest.
Be thoughtful and loving:  GIVE A BULLET-PROOF VEST!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, and May the New Year 2014
Be Joyous, Healthy and Safe for YOU and yours!  :)
Howie

Corporations, Religion, The First Amendment and Obamacare

Once in a great while an event unfolds in which the opposing forcing forces are so strong that a huge explosion is inevitable, regardless of which one ultimately prevails.  That event is the ultimate outcome of a a case the US Supreme Court recently agreed to hear: Sebelius, Sec. of H&HS, et al v. Hobby Lobby, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, Sec. of H&HS, et al.

It’s difficult to believe that in a 21st century technologically advanced industrial nation like the USA, such a case would be worthy of the Supreme Court.  But then again, this selfsame court ruled only three short years ago that corporations have the same rights as people when it comes to freedom of speech as guaranteed in the first amendment of the bill of rights to the US constitution.  To wit, in the infamous Citizens United case, the Supreme court ruled that corporations were free to donate unlimited amounts of money to political action committees and had ALSO a right to privacy while doing so!

At issue in the Hobby Lobby case are the religious beliefs of the Green family, which owns and operates this corporation of 578 stores nationwide, employing many thousands of men and women. David Green, billionaire, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby is an evangelist who believes his religion is omnipresent, including in his work life.

To that end, he opposes Obamacare on numerous levels, including its requirement that the health insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for women.  But he’s most virulent opposed to its contraceptive coverage of the “morning after” pill, which Green and others like him consider to really be an abortion pill, even though the scientific community has stated that it is not.

These folks are also against Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) because they believe human life begins at conception and IUDs prevent a fertilized egg (conceived human) from implanting in a woman’s womb.

The Green family’s religious beliefs are at odds with scientific data.  But they have a constitution right to believe in them as part of their religious freedom and to practice these beliefs within their own lives.

Hobby Lobby, which the Greens own and operate, is a corporation governed by law, and thousands of women work for this corporation who do not share the Greens’ religious beliefs.  However, they still have the same 1st amendment right to freedom of religion that the Greens are claiming for themselves.

Nonetheless, the Greens filed a lawsuit against Obamacare’s contraception mandate, claiming the new health care law violates their right to religious freedom by forcing them, as Hobby Lobby’s owner/operators, to provide and/or allow health insurance companies to provide abortion-inducing devices and medications (free of charge no less) to their employees when in fact they believe abortion (and even contraception) is heinously against the laws of God.

What’s wrong with this picture?  Or actually, the more valid question might be to ask, “What’s RIGHT with this picture?”……EXTREME right?

The answer is clear.

Everything about this lawsuit screams extreme right.  Everything about it screams that the powerful and the wealthy have the right to dictate religious dogma and rules to the powerless and those with less means.

That the Greens don’t want believe in contraceptive devices is their right, misguided though it might be.  But to IMPOSE that belief on the lives of others is NOT their right, and using their corporation as a front does not change that fact.

The same principal applies to their belief that the “morning after pill” is an abortion pill.  They can believe that if they wish, but they cannot IMPOSE that misguided belief upon others,nor can they impose a forced practice upon others.  The first amendment does not allow that.

Nothing, but NOTHING, screams for the separation of church and state more that this very issue.

But if the Supreme Court rules in June of 2014 that the Hobby Lobby corporation does in fact have the right to deny employer-based Affordable Care Act access to its employees on the basis of its own religious beliefs, then imprinting of church into onto government is exactly what we’ll get.  How, you may well ask….?

The religious right will claim that the Supreme Court has established that the religious rights of corporations exceed those of the individual citizen.

Coupled with Citizens United, these corporations with their new-found religious powers can dominate the political environment of the USA to the detriment of the individual citizen with massive amounts of money infused into the political system.

Companies run by those who don’t believe in transfusions will be able to deny that coverage to their employees based upon the “corporation’s” religious beliefs.  The religious right will own the government and the laws will favor the religious right.  Soon, all employer-based health insurance could be a distant memory.

Exactly what the evangelical witch doctor ordered, isn’t it?

What REALLY Went Wrong With Obamacare

At this late date and with all the press about the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also either affectionately or abominably known as Obamacare, one might think that the government shutdown and the idiotic debt ceiling flirtation of early October never even happened.  The GOP and particularly the ultra-extreme-right wing Tea Party embedded within it are absolutely gloating at the failures of the www.healthcare.gov website and the 5 million health insurance company cancellation notices that have gone out to perhaps 5 million private insurances policy-holders of sub-standard policies.

Never mind that those policies didn’t cover things like hospital stays or operations.  And never mind that that there were other ways to sign up for the ACA/Obamacare besides the website.

Actually, the GOP is right.

Yeah, you read that correctly.  The conservatives in this country were right that Obamacare was flawed.  Involving the private for-profit health insurance industry, which they ABSOLUTELY insisted upon even though they STILL couldn’t manage to submit a single vote for the bill in 2009, was a BIG mistake.  Every other advanced country on Earth knew better than to involve private industry health care insurance companies because they knew that putting a for-profit basis into public safety compromises the very public safety one is trying to protect.

Every advanced country on Earth, that is, except this one.

Mind you, not everyone in the USA is blind to this fact, nor have they been for a very long time.  As far back as the Truman administration, the educated, informed and enlightened realized that public safety was a function of government that had to be above the for-profit motivation of free private capitalist marketeers.  In fact, President Eisenhower, a republican, warned Americans in the 1950′s to be watchful of the “military-industrial complex” whose primary purpose was not protection of the nation but self-propagation of its own profits and power.

When Obamacare was being debated during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton supported a universal health care plan that essentially would provide every American with complete health care from womb to tomb the same way that every citizen from every other advanced nation in the world is provided health care.

Republicans balked at this as “socialized medicine”, a government takeover of the individual’s healthcare, a massive tax hike, the responsible subsidizing the irresponsible, the end of private industry in the USA, etc., etc.  They claimed that America’s healthcare system was the greatest on Earth, even though tens of thousands of Americans declared bankruptcy every year because of healthcare costs,  tens of thousands of Americans died every year of preventable and curable health issues, millions of Americans had no health care coverage, millions of Americans went to hospital emergency rooms as their only source of health care, and then couldn’t pay their bills.  And by the way, who do you think ends up paying those bills for that extremely inefficient form of health care delivery?  That’s right, folks…ALL OF US.

In stepped Barack Obama with a plan for a sorta-kinda universal health care that covered everyone not already covered, as long as they filed an income tax return.  That was  the enforcement mechanism, i.e., you would be required to purchase PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare insurance if you didn’t already have it, and if you didn’t, you’d be fined a paltry $95 on your income tax return.  That was Obamacare, and it preserved the private, for-profit health insurance companies.

Mind you, it carries a stipulation that these companies cannot profit beyond a certain percentage, and that if they begin to do so, they must rebate the surplus back to their customers.  There are also stipulations, good ones in fact, that prevent lifetime caps on insurance expenses, prevent the companies from dropping you if you get sick or have pre-existing conditions (such as being a female), allow you to stay on your parents’ plan to age 26, mandate coverage of preventative services such a mammograms, colonoscopies, lab work, mental illness services, etc.

But under other countries universal health care programs, these have existed forever.

Barack Obama has one monumental failing, albeit a very noble one.  He believes most people are good and noble and honest and intelligent and will listen to reason and evidence and data and merit.  He’s a good man that believes that if he honestly and honorably tries to meet the opposing side half way, the other side will honestly and honorably do the same.  He’s woefully wrong.

His attempt to find a civilized, intelligent, fair, compromising, inclusive solution blew up in his face because the other side had absolutely no intention of ever EVER working with him to implement ANY change to the archaic inefficient for-profit-based health-care system that the USA has suffered under since forever, and which every other advanced country in the world has left behind decades ago.

Obama will recover from this because more people will benefit than won’t.  But it didn’t have to be this way.

Tuesday’s Elections Shifted USA Left

Last Tuesday (November 5th, 2013), elections for governor were held in New Jersey and Virginia.  Additionally, a GOP primary runoff for a US congressional seat in Alabama was held, as well as a mayoral race in New York City.

Some factors influencing these races are pretty stable, such as geopolitics, e.g., New York City is a heavily democratic, or blue, city.  Yet, over the past 20 years, New Yorkers elected a republican mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and then an independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

New Jersey is also blue state.  Until recently, Virginia was considered predominantly red, while Alabama is about as red and conservative as one might be able to find in the USA.

These relatively stable geopolitical factors change very slowly over time as their populations change.  However, more volatile factors such as recent past or current events influence elections as well, some to a greater extent than others.  Take, for example, the seriously flawed and still not completed implementation of Obamacare (current) and the government shutdown and debt ceiling limit fight (recent events).

First, current (and ongoing) events:  Anyone paying attention is aware that the first five weeks of Obamacare’s implementation has been nothing short of disastrous, what with its cranky website, the unanticipated cancellation of millions of sub-standard policies and a myriad of other problems which have caught everyone by surprise.  The Obama administration has clearly lost some ground with the American people, as evidenced by recent polling declines in approval ratings, although they are slowly beginning to rise again as the healthcare.gov website improves.

Next, recent events:  The government shutdown and race to drive over the debt ceiling limit cliff by the GOP driven primarily by the Tea Party ultra-conservatives in the US House of Representatives.  These folks really believed their own rhetoric about how the whole country was behind them, right up to the moment the new debt ceiling limit passed and the government reopened.  Even then, Tea Party leaders such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Joe Barton of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and others were still advocating for a government default claiming that it would have been a good thing, when all of the GOP’s traditional backers such as Wall Street and US Chamber of Commerce were screaming for them to stop it.

So, back to Tuesday night’s elections.  In New Jersey, republican Governor Chris Christie won a huge re-election victory with 58% of the vote against a democratic in a democrat-leaning state.  He won by being a moderate mainstream establishment republican who publicly embraced president Obama during the superstorm Sandy recovery last year on national television before the 2012 presidential election.  He won by stating emphatically that he would work with anyone, regardless of political party, to get things done.  He clearly put distance between his brand of republicanism and the Tea Party’s extremist brand of republicanism.

In Virginia, the democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe was predicted to win over Tea Party conservative Ken Cuccinelli by 8 to 10 percentage points, but only won by less than 3%.  Obamacare’s problems lowered his win margin, just as the tea Party’s government self-destruction-plan a month earlier had raised that same margin.  Still, the Tea Party’s hope that hatred of Obamacare is the key to their maintaining control of the House of Representatives and taking control of the senate in the November 2014 mid-term elections less than a year from now seems to be more crack-pipe-dream than reality if they couldn’t even pull it off while Obamacare is at its lowest in a state like Virginia that currently has a republican governor and that even now must be considered a swing state such as Florida and Ohio.

And then there’s Alabama, where a mainstream, establishment GOP candidate beat a Tea Party candidate in a congressional primary.

Oh, don’t forget New York City, which elected its first democratic mayor in 20 years.

What all this says is that in the broad spectrum of political locales that held elections last Tuesday, the message was crystal clear and it was the same:

People have had enough of extremism and gridlock.  The pendulum is swinging back to the left after having swung way too far to the right.  And the future, barring any more unintended burps and gas-passing by the administration, might look something like this:

In the 2014 elections, the democrats will pick up perhaps 14 seats in the House. With 214 votes to the republicans’ 220, they will have enough, with just 3 or 4 moderate republicans blowing off the Tea Party extremists, to get stuff done.  In the Senate, the democrats will increase their numbers to 59.  With at least one moderate republican, there will be no filibuster, and stuff will get done.

THEN they will all be judged as to their governing skills, as opposed to their ability to emulate walls, for the 2016 elections.

Imagine that.  :)