Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gridlock, thy name is Congress

By Don Klein

Tired of the Democrats controlling Washington? They’ve been running the government for the last 20 months and you are unhappy with the results? Like millions of others you are ready for a change? Ready to throw the bums out, are you?

After all, Barack Obama has been in office less than two years and has not lived up to all our tantalized expectations. He managed to unite the country as promised but not as he wanted. The pros and cons are in agreement. They are both negative. The pros (progressives) and cons (conservatives) are bitter.

Time for a change, again? Some want "to take their country back." If they win, this is what might be in store for all of us.

1. There will be efforts to privatized Social Security again so that Wall Street brokers can make even larger profits than now and the financial destiny of senior citizens will be left to the whim of the stock market.

2. In order to continue the fiction of an allegedly insolvent Medicare, Republicans will force seniors to pay higher premiums to the government and shell out steeper co-pays to doctors in order to lower federal health expenses.

3. The new Republican Congress will extend the unfair Bush tax cuts providing the wealthy with savings of millions in income taxes and the middle class with merely hundreds. They will call this beneficial for all when actually it is acceptable only to the richest among us.

4. Instead they may propose an equally onerous national sales tax of 23 percent in lieu of the income tax. This sounds good until you realize that a family with $30,000 income incurs the same amount of tax for a loaf of bread as the family with $50,000,000.

5. To level the playing field which now finds some giant corporations not paying any federal income, the Republican Congress will reform the tax code to add more loopholes to allow many more flush corporations to be free of the burden of taxes while the working class will be clobbered with more taxes to cover the difference.

6. To further enhance corporate profits the Congress will offer broader tax incentives for companies to out-source work to India, Latin America and other developing areas so American products can more easily compete in the worldwide marketplace while laid off American workers no longer can afford to buy these goods.

7. The Republicans will attempt to impose their lifelong ambition to rescind the minimum wage law. This will encourage individuals to pull themselves up by their bootstraps the same way the wealthy pulled themselves up before they inherited Daddy’s legacy.

8. Unemployment insurance will prove too big a burden so the Republicans will try to eliminate all jobless benefits.

9. To keep costs down among deficit-ridden hospitals around the nation, emergency care facilities will no longer be required to treat destitute patients.

10. In order to cut government outlays to needy citizens Congress will enact laws turning over many social welfare responsibilities to religious organizations, after bolstering them with federal funds.

11. It will be a great period for unqualified ultra-conservative lawyers because the only Supreme Court justices who will be confirmed by the Republican Senate will be those of the Clarence Thomas ilk.

12. Embryonic stem cell research will be halted in the United States and adult stem cell research will be severely restricted by Republicans catering to the Evangelical bloc.

13. Gay marriages will be prohibited by federal law and aid to education will be sharply reduced.

14. Illegal aliens will be rounded up and held in concentration camps run by greedy contractors, like Halliburton or Blackwater, as harsh warnings to future outsiders thinking about entering the country illegally.

15. Environmental protection laws will be weakened or abandoned. The federal government under the Republicans will issues licenses for off shore drilling all along the East Coast from Florida to Maine.

With all of the above the GOP will not improve one iota the job market, nor reduce the prospects of foreclosures, improve the economy, nor better day-to-day life of the middle class.

Of course you might say some of these predictions are exaggerations -- and maybe they are. But others could happen if and when the new Republican Party "takes back the country" if they win the White House, as well as Congress, in 2012.

Right now take a look at what might happen after next week’s election. It could be almost as bad.

There are three possibilities once the votes are counted on November 2. The first is the Republicans will take over both houses of Congress. The second is
that the Republicans will win the House but not the Senate, or vice versa. And lastly the Democrats will continue to maintain control of both Houses, but with a smaller majority than currently.

Neither of these potentialities will serve the public interest.

In the first option many of the bills mentioned above could be passed and sent to the president, where he will veto them. The GOP will not have enough votes to override the veto. Hence: Gridlock.

In the second instance the GOP House will not get any of their bills passed a Democratic Senate, nor the Democrats get theirs passed the House.
Hence: Gridlock.

In the final scenario the Republicans, now a larger minority than before, will block all Democratic bills from getting out of Congress. Hence: Gridlock again.

So with the pros and cons chomping at each other necks they end up overshooting the most important goal – the welfare of all. We find ourselves back were we started before the election with gridlock the name of the game and the people not being served.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wingnuts, oddballs and conservatives

By Don Klein

There is trouble brewing in the country, real trouble.

We have a mess of candidates all asserting they emanate from the grassroots who are accompanied by a raucous mob wrapped in strict interpretation of the Constitution. Oddly they have demonstrated by their actions they have little understanding of the meaning of American democracy.

Not only do they display ignorance of the Constitution, they seem to have no respect for it and appear to relish in defying its tenets.

I am talking about Tea Party candidates like Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska and Christie O’Donnell of Delaware. What a travesty it would be if all four of these oddballs were to actually serve in the US Senate.

Rand Paul is an ophthalmologist who is blind to reality. He wants to do away with all entitlements even though a good portion of his income is derived from patients who sustain his gravy train life with funds from Medicare, Social Security and soon from the newly passed Health Care Law. He calls it socialism but gladly deposits the government checks into his bank account.

Just imagine what would happen to today’s medical profession which greatly depends on government payouts to keep their private lives financially robust. If Paul succeeded in ending Medicare, doctors would soon feel the same economic pinch the rest of us feel today. Actually, most of them quietly campaign for increased payments, not an end of the program.

That is without taking into account the terrible hardship that would befall the elderly who without the safety net of Medicare would be in dire straits. That’s when the reality of Death Panels would come into effect, only the boards would be populated by doctors playing God and insurance companies playing misers, not bureaucrats as radicals contend.

Then there is Sharron Angle who is running against the pusillanimous Senate majority leader Harry Reid. If any Democrat deserved to loose this year it is Reid, yet his opponent is such a disgrace to earthly reason that even his worst critics are hoping he survives her.

Angle makes up her own facts as she rambles along the campaign trail, she spouts out racial insults and appears not to even realize it, she doesn’t want to reform the IRS she wants to vacate it, she wants to cut the federal budget but refuses to answer questions from the press on how. She will only appear on Fox News, as she nervily stated, to raise money for her campaign not to answer probing questions.

Joe Miller is the pet choice of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. He espouses strict compliance with the Constitution yet he hires thugs, some of whom are active duty military types, and harasses reporters who in the course of doing their jobs have the effrontery to ask him questions on matters of public interest.
Recently goons working for Miller handcuffed a reporter covering his campaign, thus violating the newsman’s personal rights (holding an individual against his will, kidnaping, etc) and also desecrating the First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press. The journalist was released when police arrived. This matter might end up as an embarrassing federal court case.

Finally we have Christine O’Donnell, the Delaware whiz who thought she was being clever in suggesting to her opponent that the dictum of separation of church and state cannot be found in the Constitution. When she was informed that the Constitution denies Congress from making any law establishing a religion she appeared suddenly enlightened as a child would when first learning that the Earth rotates around the Sun, not the opposite.

No one should bother to spend time talking about Buffalo’s ruffian candidate for governor, Carl Paladino. He is the most colossal joke the Republicans ever played on New Yorkers.

All these “scholars” recognized, as we all do, that things in America are in terrible shape but not one of them have a clue on how to solve them. All they have is sound bites designed to incite the public, not to sort out the problems. They all believe Obama is a culprit and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the wicked witch of the West, and they want to go back to the good ole days of Republican dominance in Washington.

Virtually all Americans would like answers to our mounting national problems. But is this the crew we should be looking to for answers? Reasonable people have to say no. There are trends afoot that indicates there might be sanity creeping back into the nation’s psyche.

Democrats are beginning to show improvements in the polls. Senator Reid has moved up to a tie with Angle in Nevada. Lisa Murkowski, Miller’s write-in GOP opponent in Alaska, surprisingly is sticking close to him in the polls. Joe Manchin is holding his own in West Virginia against carpet-bagger John Raese. Joe Sestak is pulling ahead of Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Christine O’Donnell supposedly has no chance against Chris Coons, the Democrat.

No question that the election two weeks hence will be a nail-biter but at the moment it doesn’t look all that bad for Democrats. It should serve as a wake-up call for them since they have not performed well enough during Obama’s first term to have earned anyone’s esteem. But as usual the GOP failed to capitalize on the circumstances. They shot themselves in the foot by allowing the wingnuts of the Tea Party to steal their thunder.

A handful of reasonable. solid conservatives could have guaranteed a Republican victory this year. That is no longer certain now that the Tea Party crowd is calling the shots for the GOP.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stay home Christine

By Don Klein

I try to steer my print comments away from local elections but Christine O’Donnell is too juicy to ignore. She s like a quirky kid sister who disrupts the normal family routine with just enough craziness that you want to hug her back to sanity.

In a strange way I actually like her. She’s not nearly as revolting as the screwball Tea Party candidate, Sharron Angle, running a moronic senate campaign in Nevada nor California’s gubernatorial hopeful, the offish Meg Whitman, who emits a snobbery that would dismay even Thurston Howell III, the pompous millionaire on Gilligan’s Island.

Christine, on the other hand, is a sweetheart, loopy maybe, but a sweetheart nonetheless. I feel sorry for her disastrous comments and her failing campaign. But somehow I think she would be a welcome guest at my dinner table any night I was in the mood for some eccentric conversation.

Who else would admit dabbling into being a witch these days? That would fire up any conversation. Further, she is the first person to say something funny about masturbation since I was a teen and rollicked over an adolescent claim having something to do with hairy palms.

With this (albeit muted) affection for her I watched with interest her televised debate with Democratic opponent, Chris Coons. Who else could get me to watch a debate between two candidates from Delaware? Even in the best days of Vice President Joe Biden, when he was their senator, no one could interest me in Delaware politics.

In today’s screwy environment here comes Christine, perky as she is kooky, with her chance to show the world the stuff she is made of. In the end we discovered that she is not the independent she likes to claim she is. She is a right wing Republican who endorses every harsh step back to the past. "That isn’t so," she protests saying she is beholden to neither major party.

As she continues to talk, however, she contradicts herself saying exactly the opposite. The only President Obama policy she backs is the inherited bad Bush war in Afghanistan that the president has tentatively embraced. She also likes the stepped up drone attacks.

Then there is the exchange over Coons’ bearded Communist statement and Christine’s witchcraft. She insists she has the right to call her opponent a "self-proclaimed Communist" as long as others refer to her being a witch. She said both occurred when the candidates were a lot younger and made strange public remarks.

Well, I am sorry to tell you dear Christine, but there is a difference. Coons explained that his comments were a college spoof that everyone at the time accepted as a goofy charade and that he has always been a "clean-shaven Capitalist." Further, his career actions have proven his political credentials.

As far as Christine being a witch? No one ever took that seriously. Even when she first made the straight forward admission, people laughed at the prospect. It is not on the same level as accusing an opponent of something that you know is untrue. No one called Christine a witch in this campaign. If she hadn’t gone on television with a commercial starting with "I am not a witch" no one would be thinking of it now.

There again we see the behavior of troubled kid sister lashing out without concern for facts or perspective. She speaks like a teenager without evaluating the impact of her words.

Christine also tells us that evolution is a myth. Most educated people throughout the world know that God did not create the galaxy in six days and rested on the seventh. That’s biblical myth and even the overwhelming majority of devout people know it. By rejecting creationism they are not diminishing their belief in deity. One does not rely on the other to be true.

The plain fact is only the intellectually blind believe in the Bible’s version of creation. Let me point out one fallacy in that belief. If God as so many believe is an omnificent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient a force that could create this complicated world in less than a week, does he really need a day off to rest?

What does being all powerful, all knowing, being everywhere at once with the ability to create whatever is needed mean anyway? Does such a force really need union hours? And what would this force do on it’s day off anyway? Frolic in the park with angels, watch a football game, visit a museum, rest in a hammock eating cherries?

Nevertheless Christine rejects evolution in favor of creationism. Is that the kind of person you want in the US Senate deciding on the serious issues of the day? Then when she was asked during the debate about her Evangelical beliefs, she gave the most vague response, "What I believe is irrelevant."

Hi De Hi, Hi De Ho! That’s when all viewers should have discovered being cute and perky does not mean you are ready for political prime time. What Christine believes is very relevant since she would be voting on matters that concern the future of the nation.

Fortunately the latest polls indicate that Christine has little chance of winning, being behind her opponent by double digits. For the record, Angle and Whitman are both doing better in close races in their states.

Christine O’Donnell I like you. Come to dinner at my house sometime. But stay out of Congress. There are enough kooks there already. We need people like you back here in the civilian sector to give us things to laugh about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Defining real allies

By Don Klein

With allies like Pakistan who needs enemies? For a decade we have bolstered that country with billions of dollars in aid and what has it gotten us? Nothing worthwhile.

They were supposed to use some of the $10 billion we gave them to snuff out the
Taliban and al Qaeda irregulars running freely in their northern provinces where they openly run terrorist training camps for disgruntled Muslims from around the world. But the Pakistanis are too craven to take on an enemy within their borders.

Further they wouldn’t let US forces go into their territory to root them out because this would be too damaging to their self-esteem. In the end they would not do what needs to be done and they wouldn’t let us do it either.

Today we have a similar situation. Our alleged ally closed the border crossing used by American forces as a supply line to units in Afghanistan because of an accidental killing by Americans of two border guards. The blockade forced supply trucks to backup on the Pakistani side of the border becoming sitting ducks for insurgents.

In the past seven days they have been juicy targets for rebels. The halted convoys have been chewed up daily with severe losses of goods and materiel needed at the front. The Pakistan authorities sat on their hands all this time claiming it was not their job to protect the trucks.

And since they would not let US forces inside Pakistan to do their work for them, the vehicles have been as vulnerable as cattle in a pen, blasted time and again while the ingrate Pakistani government stood by. They wouldn’t protect them, and they wouldn’t let others protect them. That’s what we call a friendly nation?

I think not. It is time to break ties with these spineless, contradictory people. Discrepant Pakistan was, and still is, a thorn in the side of every western country by exporting terrorism. It claims to be our friend but never lifts a finger to help. It might be they don’t know how to help.

They failed miserably to assist their own people thrown into turmoil by earthquakes and floods. Many locals are still waiting for the government to come to their aid. All they know is to take handouts and hide in the corner when real action is required.

It is clear to many people the Pakistanis cannot govern themselves. They are incapable. They would have been better off to listen to the late Mahatma Gandhi and remain within the Republic of India, which in the 63 years since the two peoples split up has developed into a modern, forward-looking democracy.

By the way, American troops were allowed to cross the Pakistan border to bring helicopter supplies to the earthquake and flood victims. That was all right with the thankless government but fighting northern province insurgents with US forces when their military refused was taboo.

They are worthless collaborators in times of necessity. Apparently similar unworthiness is true of the Afghan government, if you can call it a government. President Karzai is reported to be holding secret negotiations with the Taliban while accepting aid from the US in cash, and more so, in the presence of 110,000 American troops which keep him in office.

Scheming is the common bond between these two sorrowful nations. They continuously fail to live up to their end of a bargain. Isn’t it about time we changed our policy towards these dubious "allies?" Here is my suggestion:

1. We withdraw our military forces from Afghanistan rapidly and let Karzai fend for himself. We also end foreign aid in this hopeless cause.
2. We should also halt funds to Pakistan. Another hopeless cause.
3. While we are withdrawing our forces in the Middle East, we should also bring all troops back from Europe. In case you hadn’t noticed the war there ended 65 years ago.
4. Ditto the US troops in East Asia for the same reasons.
5. With these troops inside the US again, use them to shore up border crossings to assist is stifling illegal immigration.

There are lots of benefits to this approach. To begin with we can reduce the size of the Army and thereby save billions in the budget. It will also make other well-heeled countries around the world more responsible for their own security and save our forces and our global initiatives for international hot spots like North Korea, Iran and Israel.

It is time for us to realize we are stretched too thinly across the world and our effectiveness is waning as we toss too many balls in the air at one time. This policy will be more economically beneficial and help restore domestic confidence in the government by cutting back worldwide obligations.

Since World War II ended we have been trying to be the country that is all things to all peoples and it just cannot be done. We are not interested in empire building like the British in the 19th Century so our international obligations are voluntary. Let us employ our best traits as technological innovators and economic dreamers towards peaceful goals and stop worrying about the welfare of every dismal corner of the globe.

The simple fact is that we are now a debtor nation and cannot continue to be the world’s sugar daddy for poor nations. It cannot continue. So when we have false friends like Pakistan and Afghanistan who are often worse than enemies, we must cut them loose and use our international clout to work with real