Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - SOTU Version

Barack Obama had to give the speech of his life last night, and he almost succeeded.   It was an oratorical masterpiece, albeit a bit too long, and he pulled (almost) no punches in describing the State of the Union and the path forward.

The Good

The President made it clear that after eight years of incompetent and borderline-criminal management in the White House, he has done a lot in one year to turn things around.   But he also reiterated the fact that there’s a long way to go.  His emphasis on jobs was powerful and direct.  He rightfully took credit for the stimulus package, although he should have mentioned that it was too small and should be extended.

It was good to see him chide the do-nothing opposition as well has his fellow Democrats on the gridlock in Washington.  

What was especially gratifying was his commitment to remove combat troops from the ill-advised war in Iraq.  While he did mention bringing the troops home, we will still be saddled by remaining “non-combat” troops there, and the frustrating war in Afghanistan.

The Bad

The across-the-board freeze on non-military spending was something I would expect from a political hack, not a statesman.   Security of the nation does not only come from guns and airplanes, but requires a healthy economy, and a healthy and educated work force.   Let’s do the hard work of examining both the military and domestic budgets, and eliminating waste and fraud wherever it occurs.

There was not one mention of one of his key campaign pledges – the closing of the prison at Guantanamo.   Gitmo serves as a rallying point for the radicals, and it will be difficult for moderate Muslims to gain influence while this stain on America’s values is in existence.

While the President again reiterated his support for gays and lesbians to serve their country honorably, this is an old treatise.  Actions speak louder than words, all we have seen is words.  It was especially disheartening to see the Joint Chiefs sit there stoically, and not respond to his call for action.

The Ugly

Afghanistan remains a burden, consuming our human and economic treasures.    Like Viet Nam, we have no exit strategy, and it is yet to be seen if the Afganistanization of this conflict will have better results.

While the President’s call for competitive, world-class renewable energy is welcome, his inclusion of nuclear power ignores the 800 pound gorilla in the room.   Without a comprehensive plan for the safe storage of nuclear waste (a problem that we have had for over 50 years), increasing our reliance on nuclear energy while storing waste in our own backyards will become an increasingly difficult burden for our children and grandchildren.  While we can (probably) make nuclear power plants safe, we must keep a moratorium on new construction until we have solved the waste problem.

Arguably, the ugliest part of the evening was the staged GOP response by the newly elected syncophantic governor of Virginia.  His reiteration of the failed Bush policies was stale and silly.

Judge Scalia’s inappropriate Joe Wilson-like remarks simply show what kind of individual he is.  This man never should have been confirmed to the Supreme Court (too bad the Democrats didn’t have the cojones to filibuster his confirmation).

Overall, I would grade the speech as a B+, a good grade but not good enough for the President of the United States.  The President needs to realize that the Republic Party apparatchik is not there to do anything constructive – their openly stated goal is to bring down Barack Obama.   He needs to rally the Democrats, and govern accordingly.  If this means breaking the undemocratic filibuster and passing his agenda with 51 votes in the Senate, he should start that process immediately.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Supreme Blunder

Five activist judges on the Supreme Court decided that Corporations have the same status as individuals. This means that those corporations have the same rights and responsibilities as you and me. Yet corporations can't have their freedoms revoked by putting them in jail. Nor, if a corporation is found guilty of murder can they be subject to the death penalty. That makes no sense.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That Was the Year That Was

It was one year ago today that we witnessed the miracle of Barack Obama's inauguration. We were full of hope and optimism. Deciminyan worked hard, campaigned in New Jersey and Florida, and got our wish - a smart, progressive, and compassionate leader who would rescue the country from the economic, political, and human damage that resulted from the appointment of George W. Bush and his eight years as our president.

The new president would erase the damage of Guantanamo, restore our rights which were usurped by the "Patriot" Act, unveil the cloak of secrecy that permeated our government, and eliminate the kowtowing to the Wall Streeters and the Medical-Industrial complex.

Boy were we wrong.

Somehow, the right wing, even in a minority, was able to drive the agenda. Of course, they had the help of Fox "News", one of the best propaganda organizations since the KGB. The right wing was unified in opposition to anything the young, new president proposed - and that vitriol spilled over to some of the Democrats-in-name-only like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln. Obama's subsequent move to the right alienated his base, and as a result, this lack of momentum helped elect right-wingers in Virginia as well as the former true-blue states of New Jersey and Massachusetts. Even today, the right wing scored another victory with the withdrawl of the nomination of Erroll Southers, an eminently qualified candidate, as head of the TSA because he might be a bit too pro-labor for our right-wing friends.

The silver lining in all of this is quite thin. We do have a president who is conciliatory, and has not shut out the opposition party (could this be part of the problem?). We may somehow get a shitty health care bill passed - maybe a good start if we can somehow convince the voters that health care is in their best economic interest. But all-in-all, with things moving in the wrong direction, the decline of our democracy and its values will continue, albeit at a slower pace than if McCain/Palin were in charge today.

I am sad for our country.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's Next for Jon Corzine?

Dear Governor Corzine,

As you prepare to leave office, I would like to thank you for your service to New Jersey and the nation, both as a United States Senator and as Governor.

You entered the political arena as a wealthy man and decided on a second career in public service. You had a tough job to do. Being the governor of any state, let alone a state as diverse and complex as New Jersey, is an impossible job, especially during the economic travails of the Bush era financial collapse. It was difficult for you to provide essential services to state residents while simultaneously trying to hold taxation at a reasonable level.

While we still have serious financial issues in New Jersey and across the nation, I believe history will be kinder to you than the contemporary pundits have been. You accomplished a lot during your tenure as our governor – including providing funding for college education, implementing more effective gun control, stopping sale of New Jersey ports to the United Arab Emirates, championing stem cell research, medicinal marijuana and marriage equality, and abolishing the death penalty to name a few. Your unpopular move to raise the state sales tax was a difficult choice, but the right thing to do in order to maintain essential services.

So what’s next? One of the most important issues facing our nation is our dysfunctional and harmful financial system, brought to us by your former colleagues on Wall Street. Your experience in this arena, along with your working knowledge of federal and state government, provides you with the knowledge and ability to spearhead reform. You have always been a champion of the middle class, and the current Wall Street crowd is doing everything it can to destroy the middle class. I call on you to join forces with your former colleague, Governor Spitzer, to work to re-regulate our financial system to make it work for all Americans, not just the privileged few on Wall Street who are grabbing obscene remuneration on the backs of American workers. You can continue to provide the people of New Jersey and America with a wonderful public service by proactively working to improve our financial system.

Finally, for the sake of your children and grandchildren, please remember to always buckle up.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ten Reasons why Sarah Palin will be a Great Commentator for Fox News

Sarah Palin just signed a lucrative contract with Fox "News" to become a commentator on that network. This is an excellent move on Fox's part to maintain their "fair and balanced" approach to journalism. While it not only provides equal time for her against her potential 2012 foe, Mike Huckabee, there are ten good reasons for her new assignment:

1. After attending five different colleges, she has a degree in journalism.
2. Because she did such a good job with Katie Couric, she knows how to interview.
3. She knows when to quit
4. Fox will not have to invest in a wardrobe for her.
5. She can also see Canada from Alaska
6. Her husband works for a British company, so she’s qualified to interview foreign newsmakers.
7. Her experience at Fox will qualify her to replace Simon Cowell
8. She can spell “potato”, so she’s more qualified than Dan Quayle.
9. She’s not quite as crazy as Glen Beck.
10. She’s hotter than Bill O’Reilly

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Question for Global Climate Change Deniers

Suppose you are right. I’m not willing to grant this, because I believe the scientific evidence is overwhelming, but let’s put that aside for now.
So if I am willing to put the evidence aside for the moment, let’s assume that there is still room for debate. Let’s assume that there’s an 80% chance that you are right, and that all of the scientific evidence doesn’t mean a thing. This means there’s only a 20% chance that man-made global climate change will cause the oceans to rise, more natural disasters, species extinction, and severe food shortages. Are you willing to take this 20% chance on the future of humanity on the planet?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Where is the Opposition Party?

A robust democracy requires an opposition party. Unfortunately, at this time in American history, we do not have an opposition party, only an obstructionist one.

An opposition party adds value to a democracy by providing realistic alternative approaches to the problems facing the country. Hence, the widely-used term “Loyal Opposition”. An effective opposition party provides checks and balances on the “tyranny of the majority”.

Our country would be well-served if we had such a party. Unfortunately, the current crop of Republicans does not qualify. On health care, they have just been a party of NO, never presenting a reasonable alternative. On national security, they have been even worse, with close-to-treasonous utterances from the former Vice President, and similar non-value-added rhetoric from several of their senators and their propaganda arms in conservative hate media. Even on their generations-long mantra of reducing taxes, they have been a colossal failure as evidenced by both Reagan’s and Bush’s handling of the economy.

At one point in our history, we used to have loyal Republicans. Even if I disagreed with their policies, I admired people like Jacob Javits, Christie Whitman, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. They are patriots, not demagogues.

It would be healthy for the country if we had a loyal opposition party. Maybe the Republican party will come to its senses and marginalize its tea party noise machine. It would be even better if an effective opposition party came from the progressive left to counter some of Obama’s moves toward the right since the election, such as Afghanistan, open government, and gay rights. One can only dream.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Must Be Done to Salvage the Health Care Bill

The following letter was sent to my Congressman and Senators:

First, Congress put the interests of the corporate lobbyists in front of those of the people by not even considering the single payer option.

Then, Congress puts the interests of the corporate lobbyists in front of those of the people by killing the “Medicare for All” public option.

The bill being debated has no incentive for the insurance industry to keep premiums down. With the current anti-trust exemption and the requirement of all Americans to purchase insurance from the for-profit companies, costs will only go up.

To make this messy bill palatable, the following must be included:

1. Repeal of the anti-trust exemption for the for-profit insurance companies so that we can have real competition to keep costs down.

2. A severance clause that will keep the remainder of the bill in force if one or more sections are deemed unconstitutional.

On the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s election year, it would be wonderful to see our elected representatives exhibit Profiles in Courage by placing the needs of the people ahead of those of the corporate lobbyists.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Yasher Koach to John Lynch

A big “yasher koach” to John Lynch, the Governor of New Hampshire, who signed into law their marriage equality act which goes into effect today. While he is concerned on his personal religious grounds to gay marriage, he clearly understands that civil marriage has nothing to do with religion, and clergy in New Hampshire are not obligated to perform rites with which they are uncomfortable. Lynch’s statement is here.

Contrast this to the dysfunctional New Jersey legislators who continue to stall and ignore this important civil rights issue. And even if our legislature decides to do the right thing, our incoming governor, who shares Lynch's personal religious objections, has already said he will use his veto power to deny equal rights to all New Jerseyans.

While New Hampshire’s new legislation is a step in the right direction, this country needs to abide by the Fourteenth Amendment and make marriage equality a way of life in all 50 states.