Archive for November, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Open Thread

November 27, 2008

Unlike most of my posts, I will keep this short and sweet. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in America, it is always a nice gesture to step back and think about what you are thankful for this year.

Personally, I give thanks that I am doing all right and have my loved ones surrounding me even though the economical situation in the United States is rather bleak. My hopes and prayers go out to those who are homeless and jobless this season. May they have relief, good health, food and a place for shelter.

So, if you are thankful about something this day, please do post a comment below. Please no hate speech, spam or personal attacks.

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Glenn Beck Ruminates Upon The Issue Of Secession

November 27, 2008

The last eight years, the conservative wing of America spent every moment of hot air telling the rest of America that they had to be “patriots”. A coercive sort of nationalism erupted right along with the pronouncement of who was “pro-American” and who wasn’t. If you even expressed any amount of dissent, then it was, “If you don’t like it here, then leave.”

So what happened to Glenn Beck on his radio show Tuesday?

Apparently the chickens had come home to roost when soon-to-be FOX host Glenn Beck called for his listeners to “secede” from the Union in order to stand up to the Congressonal bail-outs. Um, isn’t that sedition?

See for yourself. This is from Think Progress:

BECK: So the question is, do states have the right to secede anymore? Because it was a compact. It’s not perpetual. In fact, in the Declaration of Independence it says it is our right, it is our responsibility to get away from a government who doesn’t listen to us any more.

Do you even have a right to do that as a state any more? Do you have the right to say, “You know what, you guys are going down a path that I don’t even agree with”? Is that even possible?

Doesn’t Mr. Beck love America? [/snark button off]

President-Elect Obama Exerting Too Much Authority? No Way.

November 26, 2008

Despite the press conferences and a lot of the discussion about who is being named what in the Obama Administration, there has been yet another meme floating around on the MSM: that Mr. Obama is employing too much authority as the President-elect. But should Mr. Obama step back? No.

He’s already admitted that there will not be “two presidents” at a time. That has been shown by his refusal to go to the G20 Summit. Instead, he let representatives attend in his place.

But will he just let time pass before he creates his Administration? Not in the least. He got right down to work–especially when establishing a new economic advisory board. Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve, will chair the panel.

Now we have to admit some things.

First of all, this has been the earliest that a President-Elect has started to name his staff and Cabinet nominations. But that’s all right with me. It only means that Mr. Obama means business from the day he is sworn into office. He’s not going on vacation. He’s not ridiculing our problems. He doesn’t even have a smirk on his face. He is in charge in trying to pare down what is already a huge and unseemingly task.

Secondly, it also conveys the seriousness of the problems that exist in America. Yes, gang. We’re in drastic times. With the economy tanking and the American reputation overseas being ridiculed it is perfectly a breath of fresh air to have everything set in place so that no funny business happens.

Thirdly, Mr. Obama’s commitment and professionalism is a step up from what we’ve had as a country the last eight years. Hearing the former Senator from Illinois speak during his press conferences has been exhilarating. He doesn’t refer to the upcoming administration as “his”. He also doesn’t talk down to the American people. When he is discussing his reasons for picking certain members of his Administration, he puts forth a cogent line of evidence why they ought to be there. Although, there has been criticism against some of his choices, he knows his own mind and how they suit his own philosophy. This is a big change in regards to the fact that Mr. Bush has rarely displayed any organizational philosophy behind his endeavors in office.

America is about to embark on one of its worst times. As a nation, we have to have someone at the helm who can be trusted to make the right decisions. Even better, he has demonstrated that he will listen to his constituents and what they have to say. In that manner, the American people are not his serfs. The U.S. citizens are not his playthings. Better yet, he views us as being the arbiters of his policy. As a result, we may for the first time in a long while have someone who is willing to institute policies that will benefit the whole of society instead of rewarding the less that one-percent of the über-wealthy.

A Possible Problem for Senator Clinton?

November 26, 2008

Up until this point, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) had been pushed to the top of the list as the pick for Secretary of State. I’ve shared my opinion about it (See: Hillary Clinton: the Next Secretary of State?). However, I’ve been hearing in some circles that there are a few things that might jeopardize her nomination and eventual confirmation by the Senate. One of which is the big, gigantic conflict of interest posed by her husband, former President of the United States Bill Clinton.

But the other thing that kept on popping up is the section on Congressional compensation in Article One, Section Six of the Constitution. For anyone curious, an emolument has to do with a salary:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Why was this created? This is taken from the Wikipedia:

In James Madison’s notes at the Constitutional Convention, there was fear of members of Congress creating new jobs or giving raises to existing jobs, and then taking them for themselves. Madison viewed creation of offices, and increase of salaries as one of the greatest fears of corruption of legislative service. Madison originally proposed a one-year ban on such service, but it was passed in its current form without a time consideration.

What does that mean? Al Kamen has this to say in the pages of the Washington Post:

In Clinton’s case, during her current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, cabinet salaries were increased from $186,600 to $191,300.

How bad is this? From Wikipedia, once again:

The term has reentered the public lexicon once again with the speculation the United States Senator from New York Hillary Rodham Clinton was the preferred nominee to be United States Secretary of State by President-elect Barack Obama. Clinton’s current term began with the seating of the 110th United States Congress on January 3, 2007 following her 2006 United States Senate election. In that time, United States Cabinet salaries were increased from US$186,600 to $191,300, and since 2006 the salary has increased from $183,500. These pay raises were by executive order in accordance with cost of living adjustment statutes. Without a Saxbe fix, Clinton would be ineligible to serve in the Cabinet until the 113th United States Congress following the 2012 United States general elections. It is unclear whether the salary would need to be reverted to its pre-2000 level or pre-2006 level.

The controversy centers on the fact that Ms. Clinton’s nomination itself is unconstitutional, if one were to go by the facts of Article one, Section six of the Constitution. The evidence lays bare that she would be leaving her Congressional office for one in the Cabinet for higher pay. That alone puts her out of the running unless an intervention is made. That intervention is called the “Saxbe Fix”. This is a settlement that would reduce the salary of an important post such as a Cabinet position so that the Congressperson nominated could take it. Therefore, that eliminates the suspicion that the Congressperson left his or her office for higher pay.

The Saxbe Fix has been used several times in history, dating back to 1909. However, the person named for the solution, William B. Saxbe, was an appointee in the Nixon administration. At the time of the nomination, Mr. Saxbe was a Senator from Ohio. Mr. Nixon wanted to elevate him to United States Attorney General. During the 91st. Congress (1969), a pay raise regarding Cabinet positions had taken effect. This presented a problem for the Ohio Senator. Therefore, the former President posed the compromise that as Attorney General, Mr. Saxbe would work at a lower salary. Congress accepted those terms.

At this point, only time will tell what to make of this. Knowing President-Elect Obama is a Constitutional scholar, this situation will be worked out one way or another.

The Perpetual Black Monday

November 25, 2008

Although that last few days showed a determined President-Elect unfolding changes that would attack the rather volatile economy, the myth of Sisyphus still rings true about economic realities. Some days, the market rebounds. Soon after, it plunges to depths unheard of. Wall Street asks for more money and gets it. Main Street lingers from paycheck to paycheck, watching while the corporations get government money, hand-over-fist. Standing on the sidelines, everyday people who struggle to be two steps ahead of being sent to the poor house, watch while corporations still live high off the hog.

The sky has darkened. The eclipse has come.

Michael Winship, of Consortium News paints this picture of Wall St. greed aptly:

To that ancient business axiom, “Buy low, sell high,” add this amendment: When you get into trouble, beg for a bailout. Then, new money in hand, continue to act with the rapacious greed of Caligula or the Sun King.

You may already have heard how AIG, the insurance giant, after being saved to the tune of $85 billion, threw a $440,000 shindig at a California spa and then blew another $86,000 on a hunting trip to the English countryside, picking off partridge just as they were asking the Feds for an additional $38 billion. Bit of a sticky wicket, that.

News like this only results in instigating craziness. Congress tried to put together a bailout package to keep the banks and financial institutions from folding into the perpetual abyss of bankruptcy. In light of that gesture, would it be too much for the corporate world to show a little bit of humility? Probably not. Instead, the modus operandi of the corporations resembles a kid who jealously guards his or her toys and not permitting anyone to share. By the way the hand-out has been dispersed and grabbed up, the poor and middle class is last on their minds. For all they know, the CEO’s have gotten theirs all at the expense of the tax-payers. To add insult to injury, they still get to keep their golden parachutes.

Like the unfolding of a horror movie, the American citizenry sits on the edge of terror. The threat of losing one’s job and house has become a very sad and terrible aspect of these times. Many working families now have to cut back on essentials because even groceries are becoming expensive. Some have even taken the option of going to their local Food Banks instead. The further consequences of being in the midst of these sad tidings is the realization that everyday people suffer while corporations take on a “cover your behind” approach. After all, big business on Wall Street is flush with cash. Their workers only grasp at the lint in their pockets.

If you really want to witness audacity, watch the pantomime being performed by President Bush this week. He smirks and slinks away in the shadows. His only worry in the world is how people will view his legacy in the face of a Republican civil war and the cold shoulder from most parts of the country. What awaits on his desk are petitions for pardons, in which fourteen were already granted. But that smirk on his face is ever so present as he leaves some remembrances and parting gifts for the next Administration while under the guise of keeping the transition polite and smooth.

If anything, this era in time is the ultimate signifier of the Bush 43 era: the rich got richer, the social conservatives got bolder, and the middle class got screwed. I hope that Congress remembers this as they gird their loins for the upcoming battle to save the Big 3 from going down.

Should the Fairness Doctrine Return?

November 25, 2008

Change is a very big theme in the policies being presented by the incoming Obama Administration. The President-Elect named his economic team Monday. A new governing style is being introduced. There are even moves to introduce a very pragmatic approach to the biggest problems that America has to face.

However, among the mix is the discussion of whether the Fairness Doctrine will stay or go. The Fairness Doctrine consisted of an old Federal Communications Commission (FCC) law that would equalize media coverage of both sides of the political spectrum. For example, if a right-leaning dignitary were to be given air-time on television to voice his views, the law would have required the station to bestow the same coverage to his or her polar opposite. Therefore, both sides of the issue would have to be heard. One message would not be gaining precedence over the other.

Conservatives are very much against it. Contrary to the myth that there is a “liberal media”, The Center for American Progress and Free Press did a June 2007 study on the political leanings of talk radio. Their results found that broadcast radio is heavily influenced by the right wing with few progressive or liberal voices. The only equal dissemination of views is prevalent in metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. This was especially echoed by some of the findings on page five of the report:

  • Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
  • Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
  • A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

With the deck stacked in their favor, to broadcast the other side of the equation would dilute the over-whelming presence that conservative programming has enjoyed for nearly two decades. After all, what fun would it be if someone came along and deconstructed the symbolism behind “the messiah” or the “liberal elite”? These catch-phrases and more marinated in a stew of rightist vitriol uncontrolled and unhindered for a long period of time. To give the audience more options whether to consider a particular issue without pressure from one side would break down the stagnation of a particular message.

In light of these results, it is imperative that this law be reexamined. If Congress doesn’t reconsider the Fairness Doctrine, then it is doing the American citizenry a disservice. A country active in its democracy must analyze, probe or discuss a given subject in various angles. To make good and conscious choices in the way to think about the vital issues of the day, the MSM must be as diverse as possible so that many viewpoints are covered. Allowing one side to dominate the control of the message produces a generation of automatons instead of critical thinkers.

After Twelve Years, Hannity and Colmes Is No More

November 25, 2008

Fox News just released a statement that Alan Colmes, the liberal sidekick to Sean Hannity on the Hannity and Colmes Show, is leaving the show at the end of 2008. Before you act all shocked, the long time commentator is not leaving the FOX family. He has a weekend show in development and is keeping his own radio program. Here’s what it says on Think Progress:

In announcing his decision, Colmes said, “I approached Bill Shine (FNC’s Senior Vice President of Programming) earlier this year about wanting to move on after 12 years to develop new and challenging ways to contribute to the growth of the network. Although it’s bittersweet to leave one of the longest marriages on cable news, I’m proud that both Sean (Hannity) and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years.”

Change is definitely in the air.

What do you think about this news?

Why We Need Dissent Right Now

November 24, 2008

During the Bush Administration, fear superceded discourse in American life. In the wake of September 11th, a lot of people were scared and rightfully so. We were never attacked on mainland soil before. It was the first time that such a drastic event had so marred the vibrancy of the citizens. However, in the wake of the good will that came internationally to the United States, our politicians decided to be insular.

Either you were with us, or against us, our leader said.

That statement alone harbored the brutal reality that things were not going to be the same. Everything was about to clamp down. It didn’t even take a week before people started telling each other that they couldn’t say anything because they were afraid of “aiding the terrorists”. When that meme started to be used in the pressed, it alarmed me. It signaled that we were never going to be as open as individuals and as a nation anymore. Instead, we were going to be a society forged on Duct tape and plastic, wrapping ourselves up in the cloak of super-patriotism. That came at the price of selling our souls for the sake of safety.

So, when the Election night happened, it signaled the nation-wide anticipation that this long episode of being afraid was over. The tallies of votes repudiated everything the Bush regime stood for. Encouragement lingered in the air. Anger and resentment hovered there too. Above all else, the chain was broken.

Finally, we would be able to have a participatory government again. After eight years of hell under the color coded Terror Alert System, we’ve earned it.

Now that we’ve crossed that bridge and elected someone totally different to occupy the Oval Office, it doesn’t mean that we blindly step back as citizens, wipe our foreheads and say, “Whew! That’s over!” The decisions that are being made affect each and every one of us. Therefore, it is our right as the American populace to be vigilant. Questioning and having a critical take on pertinent issues needs to be introduced into the national conversation as well.

Even in the early days before the Inauguration, there are a lot of competing interests to get the ear President-Elect Obama. Everyday citizens must be included among the fold of folks who have the next United States leader’s ear. We can’t be standing on the sidelines once again, watching and waiting for everything to happen like magic.

Patience is indeed a virtue, but so is striking while the iron is hot.

Should Lieberman’s Regrets Be Believed?

November 24, 2008

It seems that in the wake of the Democratic vote to keep him in his chairmanship, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is sharing his feelings publicly. Never one to shun attention, he gave an interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning. During the exchange Lieberman honed in on the aspect of “bi-partisanship” and “reconciliation”. Yet, he seemed to waffle on some of the most probing questions asked by the host. Check out some of these exchanges by virtue of the transcript:

On attacking Mr. Obama’s character and platform at the Republican National Convention:

MR. BROKAW: You said you weren’t going to attack him [Barack Obama], but you were saying, in effect there, he’s just not qualified to be president of the United States.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I was saying he was less qualified than John McCain. I think I, I praised him right, right there. Look, in that speech, as I said to the Republican delegates, I wasn’t really speaking to them, I was speaking as an independent Democrat to independents and Democrats across America about why…

He described what the atmosphere has been like in the aftermath of the secret ballot deciding his fate in Congressional circles:

MR. BROKAW: Have you picked up the phone and talked to Barack Obama about just that?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I, I called Senator Obama, President-elect Obama, after the campaign. He’s busy. I heard back from Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel. I’m sure, in time, Senator Obama and I, who, who, who have developed a good friendship and working relationship over the years he’s been in the Senate, will, will talk. In some sense he talked to me through Harry Reid and his spokespeople, and I appreciate very much the spirit of reconciliation that he evoked.

Brokaw then ventured to ask whether Lieberman would apologize for what he’s said and done. The fourth page of the transcript displays the answer:

MR. BROKAW: I hear the word regret but not the word apology.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I do, I regret it. I mean, I don’t, I, I, you know, I’m going forward. You can take from the word regret what you, what you, will. I wish I had not said some of the things I’ve said. But, again, we all do it. There was a lot of stuff said in this campaign about both candidates that I think a lot of people regret. I’m happy to step forward and say that I regret some of the things I’ve said. But somebody once said to me, God put our eyes in front of our head so we would always be naturally looking forward. And that’s what, at this time of peril for our country, we’ve all got to be doing.

So, is anyone in the Senate regretting their vote now?

When the Centrist and Central-Right Paradigms Can Be Too Much

November 23, 2008

One other meme that has popped up into the news by pundits, anchors and commentators alike is the fact that President-Elect Obama must govern from a “central-right” or “centrist” mode. In all my years of listening and watching politics in America, I have never seen such a flurry of pundits rush to opine how they think a “world leader” must govern. Did that ever happen with previous Presidents of the United States? Was there such an overwhelming flock of people to tell, for example, George W. Bush what to do with his Presidency and how he might lead his administration?

Where do “liberals” fit into the request for a “centrist/center-right” government? After all, the MSM made it seem that the trumpet only sounded for the moderates, the centrists and the conservatives to help out in shaping the new administration. If you’ve been watching the latest political shows, it appears as if liberals (and liberalism) did not exist at all in the United States government nor society.

Too bad D.L. Hughley got the last laugh when CNN Right Wing Pundit Bay Buchanan (the sister of MSNBC commentator Pat) tried to hawk such stuff on his show. Look what happens:


(h/t Heather, David Neiwert and Crooks and Liars for the news and the You Tube footage)

The call for centrist and central-right governing is nothing but a way to keep the door open despite the fact that the GOP lost big in the past elections. Furthermore, this meme mainly operated on hubris instead of admitting that there are real flaws within the conservative paradigm that need fixing. Dog-whistles, ad hominem attacks and “catch-phrases” aren’t going to work any more.

Or better yet in the Kübler-Ross model, the conservatives accounting for their loss are only at the denial stage.