Monthly Archives: September 2010

Pledge to America: the cliff notes

The long awaited sequel to Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract On America,” is out. Here are cliff notes. A summary of sorts inspired by Cliff Hillegrass’ original, but written for the lemmings expected to be led and fall from the cliff.

Overall:

Republicans pledge to reconnect with their version of the “permanent truth” of long-buried, rich, slave-owning white men – none of whom were Baptist – who lived in a time before indoor plumbing, electricity, automobiles, telephones, television, internets, rights for women or people of color, automatic weapons, predator drones, polling, political action committees, Republicans, Democrats, citizenship, elections, Wall Street, public libraries, credit cards, corporations, health insurance, retirement plans, banks, dollars, and the life expectancy was about 30.

Republicans pledged to offer a “plan,” rather than an “agenda.” They announced their firm patriotic pledge to be against uncertainty, red-tape factories specifically located in Washington, D.C. (other color tape factories and those red-tape factories in other areas are apparently just fine) and people not working. They reaffirmed their pledge to listen to the minority mob at this critical time when those elected by the majority don’t seem to be listening to Fox.

Based on the 50 photos in their 48 page pledge, they are also pro-cowboy hats and are really really pro-white people – only one person of color was shown, John Boehner who is orange.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:

They believe our economic problems are caused by heavy hands, a dead economist, and the continued cowardice of business owners. They believe the Democrat bill that provided the largest middle class tax cut in history, revenue sharing to the states to keep schools open and teachers and police on the job, and investments to rebuild roads and bridges that put construction workers back to work should have been cancelled.

They pledge to put people back to work by not spending money and definitely not hiring them by the government. They believe that it is critical to give people making so much money that they couldn’t find enough tax dodges and have to report over $250,000 in earned income a 3% tax break. They believe the Republican initiative to save Wall Street has caused investor uncertainty, but that if Wall Street has to obey the rules, they won’t take risks and our economy won’t trickle on middle class and poor people.

They pledge to end the deficit by permanently not raising taxes, giving more tax deductions to corporations, repealing the requirement for corporations to report expenses over $600, and requiring an act of Congress for almost any new business regulation. The Republicans pledge “put us a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt” by immediately cutting $100 billion from the stimulus bill that would have been used to buy American products and hire Americans to rebuild decaying public buildings and bridges. They pledge to go back to the Clinton-era, Obama-endorsed, pay-as-you-go strategy on new spending, except in the cases of unexpected emergency Republican spending such as highway funding, new subsidies for agriculture, more fighter jets built in Republican districts, etc. They also have pledged support of Obama’s plan to re-privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Healthcare:

They pledge to immediately repeal healthcare reform and replace it with common sense, allowing HSAs to be used for anything in a drug store, getting rid of state regulation of health insurance companies, and, of course, tort reform. No mention of the 50+ million Americans who don’t have health care coverage. They also pledge to discontinue the federal prohibition on abortion funding and replace it with a prohibition on abortion funding.

Government Reform:

The Republicans pledge a requirement that every law carry a Congressional version of a Bush signing statement – just a little something to clarify intent which can be used before the Supreme Court or campaign contributors. The idea is that regardless of whether the bill is constitutional, if they say it is, and the President signs it, they agree on intent, which should put the judiciary on proper unconstitutional notice not to disagree.

They pledge to require that all bills be posted 72 hours before a vote as the Democrats already do. The theory is that it will give Rush, Glenn and Sarah more time to alert the radio, cable and tweetisphere to alert the people to alert the pollsters to alert the staff to alert our leaders how to vote.

They pledge to require that at any point in the process, any legislator can offer an amendment to reduce spending and send the bill back to a committee to restart the never ending process which should, once and for all, mean that Congress will never pass another bill while a black man is in the White House. If that doesn’t work, they also pledge to make sure measures are passed “one at a time” rather than bundling a critically important-to-K-Street bill with other bills not considered important by Republicans. And if that doesn’t work, they also pledge to put an expiration date on all federal programs to coincide with election years including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but plan to save Social Security by cutting benefits until it is so unpopular that we won’t want it any longer.

They particularly are against big government, but pledge no specific size goals. They are also pro-accountability and transparency, which is code for, “we can’t wait to start the inquisition of Obama.”

Security:

Not much here. I suppose they got to their page limit. They pledge to pass a “Clean Troop Funding Bill,” I know it sounds as if the Republicans are anti-dirty troops, but they aren’t. The pledge is totally meaningless except to provide some cover should they fail on other pledges and have to pass a military funding bill that includes bridges to nowhere.

They also pledge to “demand an Overarching Detention Policy” to prevent those illegally detained by our government anywhere in the world, but especially those in Guantanamo, from having a fair trial, to fully fund the fully funded Star Wars missile defense shield, even though it is still illegal by treaty and will never work, but Reagan wanted it, and they reiterate their dislike for Iran and immigrants, but pledge no specifics of how they are going to make their lives worse.

Energy:

They pledge they are for domestic energy production and against cap and trade, but pledge no specifics and certainly didn’t pledge anything to address global climate change or new energy sources.

The complete 48 page Republican “Pledge to America” can be read here.

Back to Work to the People’s Business

Lawmakers are back to work this week after the long Labor Day recess. With elections just six weeks away and so many millions of Americans suffering poverty, unemployment, facing eviction, bankruptcy, hunger or without medical care, let’s take a look at how are representatives are going to prove to the voters that they take their jobs seriously.

In addition to prayers, committee meetings, general housekeeping and endless requests for things to be read into the record that didn’t actually occur, here’s what is on this week’s schedule in both chambers, I kid you not.

House of Representatives Senate
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the House regarding…

  • Honoring what happened on 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring those who died on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy (1944).
  • Congratulating Miami Dade College on their 50th Anniversary.
  • Congratulating Michican Technology University on their 125th Anniversary.
  • Commending USC for winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.
  • Designating this week as, “National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week.”
  • Recognizing the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Permitting of Members of Congress to administer the oath of allegiance to applicants for naturalization to take advantage of photo opportunities, which look really nice in campaign flyers and videos.
  • Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created REITs.
  • Designating the Post Office located at 218 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, Wisconsin, as the “Captain Rhett W. Schiller Post Office.”
  • Designating the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
  • Expressing condolences to and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
  • Designating the Federal building and courthouse located at 515 9th Street in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the “Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”
  • Designating the facility of the Government Printing Office located at 31451 East United Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado, as the “Frank Evans Government Printing Office Building.”
  • Designating the federally occupied building located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building.”
  • Designating the Federal building located at 6401 Security Boulevard in Baltimore, Maryland, as the “Robert M. Ball Federal Building.”
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Rita devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, remembering those lost, etc.
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Katrina, saluting volunteers, recognizing, remembering, reaffirming, etc.
  • Recognizes the value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on the nation’s public lands.

Legislation (note: in addition to the people’s new business, the House has 44 bills, which they passed in this session, was sent to the Senate and passed (all, but two by unanimous consent), but a final required vote in the House for them to become law hasn’t happened)…

  • Amends a law so that the Navy’s procurement contract for F/A-18E, F/A-18F, and EA-18G aircraft that expired in March and be extended until two weeks ago.
  • Amends the Made in America Promise Act of 2009 to prohibit Representatives and Senators from making a determination under the Act that is inconsistent with the Act on purchases made by their offices which bear a congressional seal – passed.
  • Amends a law to prohibit the Department from Homeland Security from procuring clothing, tents or natural fiber products directly related to national security that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the US unless they cannot be procured when they are needed.
  • Requires any person judged in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 from being awarded a government contract unless the head of the agency awarding the contract wants to give it to them anyway and they tell Congress about the next month – passed.
  • Authorizes the GSA to allow the American Red Cross to distribute stuff the government bought during disaster response.
  • Amends a 2002 law that allows the Rural Utility Service to make energy efficiency loans, to make them interest free.
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding…

  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Designating this month as “National Preparedness Month.”
  • Recognizing “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
  • Recognizing the victory in the America’s Cup race.
  • Remembering Ralph Smeed.
  • Remembering Bobby Eugene Hannon.
  • Commending the entertainment industry’s encouragement of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Judicial Confirmation Votes

  • Confirmation of the nomination of Jane Stranch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (held hostage for 400 days). Judge Stranch was confirmed.

Procedural Votes

  • Four cloture motions were scheduled with respect to the Small Business Jobs bill (held hostage since June), which would create a $30 billion small business lending fund, funnelled though banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, and provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses grow and add new employees. Two Republicans, Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] and Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] voted with every Democrat in favor, making the other motions moot and allowing a vote on the bill.

Legislation (note: in addition to lobbyists’ new business, the Senate has 372 bills yet to be acted on in this session that have been passed in the house – most of them non-controversial and passed by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority (only 16 of the 372 by less than 60% support), but are being held hostage in the Senate by secret holds, threats of filibuster by the party of no and legislative shenanigans)…

  • No votes are scheduled, but it is expected that the Small Business Jobs will be voted on late Thursday. Update: the bill passed on a 61-38 vote, Thursday, so they can go home for the weekend.
Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by and much of the content derived from OpenCongress.com – a non-profit, independent public resource. Other sources for this story include Senate.gov, ThinkProgress.org,





Fool me thrice

I have a friend who remarried his first wife. It worked out about the way one would expect. As he was sitting in the court room in what was the second divorce from the same woman, he was called to rise before the judge to  hear the order, “Mr. McKelvey,” the judge began, “I see here that you have already been granted a divorce from this woman once before.”

“Yes, your honor,” my friend humbly submitted.

“Mr. McKelvey, in South Carolina, we only allow one divorce per woman. Surely you can understand anyone who’d need two deserves what he gets.”

After the laughter in the court room subsided, the judge did order the divorce and my friend, at least so far, has not repeated the same mistake of marrying her a third time.

However, it looks as if America is getting ready to do just that – assuming the polls hold true, the tea party comes out and the Democrats stay home, for the third time in my generation, there may be a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, God help us all.

Just for the record, let’s take a look at how well earlier marriages with Republicans have gone. The following table lists the economic calamities in the USA during the past century and lists the party in control at the time.

Chart of those in power for the last century or so.


“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” – George W. Bush


And for those in the mood, from the Tams, What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I am).

Park stories

“There’s something about white people,” Bull said as he sat down beside me on the stone wall overlooking the shopping gauntlet of the Saturday Green Market in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, “they want everything.”

Bull’s given name is Tony and I’ve know him for three years. As one might suspect, Bull didn’t get his nickname for awkward moments in a china shop. In his mid-fifties, he’s affable, homeless and pretty much knows how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police*. Bull went on to tell me, while punctuating each phrase with a pause and a laugh, “You know, money’s no good for holding on to. It’s got to keep moving. That’s why they do it – always buying stuff.”

I had a decision to make. Do I patronize him by agreeing and just letting the conversation go silent, or do I give him the respect to answer him thoughtfully? I chose the latter and tried to tell him how some people had unimaginable amounts of money and how those people just wanted more and more of it.

Bull looked down, shook his head side to side and began speaking louder, as Bull does, when he seems to feel confused, “I don’t know about that…” Reaching down to pet my geriatric, hair-factory of a beagle, Bull rubbed too hard and the dog gave out a loud whelp as hounds do to embarrass their owners. “Your dog’s blind, right? No? Can’t hear? I know something’s wrong with her. Anyway, how’s your wife doing? I haven’t seen her in a while. You doing OK?”

While reassuring him that we were fine, Bull and I became sandwiched by other spouse watchers and waiters on the bench-hieght wall. The recent interlopers were sitting close enough to hear, but far enough away to observe. I wondered to myself if these newly arrived “social peers” were there for the shade, to judge Bull, or to judge us both. I often get feelings like this and know it comes from my mom’s lifelong and often conflicting curse of inferiority and her strong, but simple sense of right and wrong. As I’ve aged, my rational side knows well their decision to sit down had nothing to do with either of us. Most people, especially young people, are oblivious to the homeless.

Feeling the new eyes upon him, Bull then turned his questions to a safer subject, “Lee, tell me this, do you believe in Jesus and God?”

My turn to laugh awkwardly, “That’s two different questions, Bull.” If you are asking me if I believe in the historical figure of Jesus, whose followers, hundreds of years later, recounted wonderful and life-giving sermons and tales of what we are asked to believe of his life, sure. And if by God, you are asking if I believe that there is some powerful force in life greater and outside our lives that connects us all, I do.“

Hearing my ”I do“ and not processing the parsed phrases, Bull seemed reassured and said, while patting me on the shoulder, ”Good. Good. I don’t know why I thought you weren’t a believer. That’s good. God bless you.“

In the middle of it, my wife walked up with her market bag filled with gourds of every color and shape, ”Hello, Red,“ she said as she faced that moment every immune-surpressed Southerner fears – the requisitely polite handshake or hug from someone who lived on the street. Fortunately her bags prevented either.

”This is Bull,“ I said to her. ”Red is someone else entirely, though Red Bull is a very funny guess.“ Then sensing her dilemma, I offered, ”A fist bump is always appropriate.“ Watching a middle-aged white woman, never known for coordination, attempt to fist bump with arms filled with gourds, is great sport and a true test of my ability not to laugh at someone, but Terri’s always a good sport.

Able to easily multi-task while fist-bumping, Bull offered with a genuine smile, ”Hello, Miss Terri. Looks like you’re going to be doin’ some fine cooking. You going to cook any of that for me?“

”Maybe so, I’ve cooked for you before.“

”I remember,“ Bull said, ”you made me a birthday cake last year.“

I glanced at one the interlopers within earshot expecting an acknowledgement of her kindness – oblivious.

###

*A note on how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police: Keep moving. Don’t hang out in a group for long. Keep up with grooming and wear clean clothes. Stash your possessions during the day and don’t been seen carrying bags. Stay away from the types of people who might feel threatened (those alone or with children). Smile and mention God in your short conversations with strangers. Be polite. Never resist a police officer. And keep moving.

City police have an almost impossible job and I have nothing but respect for their efforts. Sworn to uphold the law, part of a team, at the whim of politics and every “taxpayer” they meet, they also owe it their own families to survive each day. I often hear complaints from homeless men of profiling and excess force – while it might seem true, most of what seems “profiling” are reaction to citizen complaints or inappropriate public behavior. Charges of excessive force are most often a situational reaction of drunkenness or rage. There are exceptions and there shouldn’t be.

Homelessness is terrible problem. I sincerely wish that giving money to someone panhandling was an answer. It isn’t. Often if makes things worse. If someone is hungry, give them food or directions to a shelter. Homelessness is a societal problem, an economic problem and a political problem. If you want to help the homeless, I encourage you to contact an organization in your community and help them.