Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Horses and Bayonets on the Morrow

23 Oct

In debate the first, Alpha Romney showed up and stylistically, if not factually, defeated a sleepy Obama. In debate two, electric boogaloo, Romney and Obama both came to the knife fight with guns a-blazing. 

Last night, in debate number three, Alpha Obama went on offense against a stammering, sweaty Romney who, at times, seemed as if Sarah Palin had helped with debate prep. When Obama criticized Romney’s incoherence on various foreign policy matters, Romney whined, “attacking me is not a plan”. It was repeated at least twice, and sounded weak, sorrowful, and pathetic. Obama’s cross-examination of Romney on his prior inconsistent statements was effective and decidedly well-hinged.

For instance, at the first debate, Romney had complained that the 2014 deadline to leave Afghanistan was something he agreed with, except insofar as it telegraphs to our enemy that all bets are off after that. It’s a disingenuous weasel answer, and one that Romney completely abandoned last night, instead claiming to back the 2014 date. From TPM, Obama

You said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends. Which means not only were you wrong, but you were confused and sending mixed messages to our troops and allies.

In 2008, Romney said we shouldn’t move “heaven and earth” to get Osama bin Laden, and that we should first ask Pakistan for permission.  Obama recounted meeting the daughter of a 9/11 victim, which reaffirmed to him that moving heaven and earth was exactly the right thing to do; “worth it”, 

“[Y]ou said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man,” Obama said. “If we would have asked Pakistan for permission, we wouldn’t have got him.”

On Russia: 

“I’m glad that you recognize al Qaeda is a threat. Because a few months ago when you were asked the biggest threat facing America, you said Russia,” Obama said. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

Later Obama said directly to Romney, “You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it.”

Romney repeatedly claimed to be the candidate of peace – he rebutted the elimination of Osama bin Laden with “we can’t kill our way out of this mess“. Romney tried to attack Obama from the left on this, and everything about it reeked of phoniness. The guy who has John Bolton on his foreign policy team isn’t the McGovernesque peace candidate.  On Iran, Romney actually suggested that some unnamed “world court” indict Ahmadinejad for genocide. That’s nice, but the United States has nothing whatsoever to do with the International Criminal Tribunal. And how does that jibe with the Republican anti-world-government, anti-UN, US must do everything mantras? It’s a desperate ploy by a desperate candidate. 

If, at the foreign policy debate, Romney can get no traction on his Libya attacks, he’s lost. 

Throughout the night, Alpha Obama was the calm, rational, factual counterpoint to Romney’s rushed stream of consciousness. He also gave Romney nary an inch to repeat falsehoods or reinvent history. Obama pre-empted Romney’s predictable attacks about Israel with yet another “Libya moment”. One of Romney’s clumsiest attacks was to accuse Obama of weakening our military by pointing out that the Navy has fewer “ships” now than it did in 1916(!). Obama snarkily obliterated that argument, and it was a highlight of the night – a “you’re no Jack Kennedy” moment. 

Funny aside – someone on Facebook mentioned that Fox News “fact-checked” the assertion that the military doesn’t use bayonets anymore by pointing out that Marines have them. Except for the fact that the President said “fewer”, not “none”. Now we’re fact-checking deliberately false fact-checking. 

But except when they veered to domestic policy issues that are swing-state friendly, it was astonishing just how much Romney agreed with every foreign policy thing Obama’s doing, or has done. He liked everything! Romney was reduced to using long strings of words to say he’d do exactly the same thing, only perhaps louder or faster. 

In their closing arguments, Obama pivoted back to hope and staying on a path to move forward, rather than back. Romney did his best Reagan impression, but ended up sounding and looking more like a more WASPy Billy Fucillo, who really wants to see you in this purple Hyundai with low miles and EZ-terms. 

Some highlights: 

In response to Romney’s accusation about an “apology tour” where Obama purportedly ignored Israel. This was quite the Libya moment. Please proceed, Governor:

Closing with hope :

Debate Night in America

16 Oct

Tonight at 7pm, Kathy Hochul and Chris Collins will engage in their first head-to-head debate, presented by WNED-TV, in partnership with WGRZ-TV, The Buffalo News, The League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara and WXXI-AM, WXXI-TV and WHEC-TV in Rochester.

The hour-long debate will be simulcast on WNED, WGRZ and WBFO-FM 88.7/WNED-AM 970 radio. Questions will be posed by three panelists: Bob McCarthy, Buffalo News political reporter; Julie Philipp, WXXI news director; and Claudine Ewing, WGRZ reporter. WBFO/WNED News Director Jim Ranney will moderate.

Political junkies will then be able to switch over to the Romney/Obama debate at 9pm. This will be a tightly controlled “town hall meeting” held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, and moderated by CNN correspondent Candy Crowley. 

The Morning Grumpy – 6/13/12

13 Jun

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Good morning, Bad Luck Brian! Got a good one for us today?

1. Vatican to American nuns, knock it off with the social justice shit already.

The sisters and church officials met to discuss a doctrinal assessment finding the influential group of American nuns had strayed too far from the church’s teachings.

The report also alleged sins of omission, saying the nuns were focused too heavily on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

It’s not news that the Catholic Church is in serious trouble in America. Membership has declined, the church is leaving thousands of urban houses of worship behind to rot, and the Church is still settling million dollar legal cases related to decades of sexual abuse of children by thousands of priests. To come down on these women, who are leaders in faith for millions, is absolutely bizarre. As Richard Dawkins pointed out recently, Catholicism is more of a cultural relationship today than a spiritual one.

People who describe themselves as Catholic but do not accept the church’s key teachings should be “honest” and admit they no longer belong to the faith, atheist author and scientist Prof Richard Dawkins has told a Dublin audience.

He said he was intrigued by this week’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showing almost two thirds (62 per cent) of Catholics believed the bread and wine which was blessed during Mass “only represents the body and blood” of Christ.

Just 26 per cent said they believed the bread and wine transformed into Christ’s body and blood in accordance with the doctrine of transubstantiation.

“If they don’t believe in transubstantiation then they are not Roman Catholics,” Prof Dawkins said. “If they are honest they should say they are no longer Roman Catholics.”

While the poll Dawkins references is of Irish Catholics, similar results are found in American polls. If the relationship people have with the Catholic faith is more cultural than spiritually literal, the Church needs to support the social justice mission of the the American Church or risk losing their audience at a far greater rate than they are today.

2. This article illustrates why “Canalside” is a bad idea, whether it’s planned by Larry Quinn, Jordan Levy, state agencies, city planners, or Mark Goldman’s ambiguously employed and bearded jugband.

“A district inherently becomes a single-use idea,” says Kennedy. “Everything has to be ‘art.’ You end up with a bunch of performing arts spaces and when they’re not in use it becomes a vacuum.” This vacuum has made the district itself a museum of sorts, something impressive to observe but strangely inert.

…themed venues catering to neatly delineated tastes, Epcot-style.

The model suggests that city life is nothing more than a selection of personal consumption experiences. But at times, the district feels more like a very enthusiastic ghost town

Pave/cobble the streets, plant grass, run the utilities, zone the land, put it up for sale, and let “Canalside” develop organically. If Mark Goldman wants a solar powered ferris wheel or a historically themed tchotchke/bauble emporium with culturally sensitive puppet shows, it can happen on its own. If Cabelas or Trader Joe’s (or whatever retail destination we desire) opens, it will be because it’s an attractive opportunity. It will also then look like Buffalo, not some pre-planned consensus driven compromise of a waterfront.

3. Bruce Bartlett (senior economic adviser in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations) tallies up President George W. Bush’s financial legacy, and it’s pretty ugly.

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

As Andrew Sullivan noted in his column on the subject,

I’m tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it – and remind people that Romney’s policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical.

President Obama needs to get off the defensive and make this election about Romney’s desire to return to the economic policies of Bush administration. Remind America how bad it was and how bad it can be again.

4. The capital it takes to get to the Capitol. Who can afford to go to Congress? And how independent can they be once they’ve arrived?

Click here for a full size version of the graphic.

As Rootstrikers writes in their story about this infographic,

The first infographic is dedicated to our least favorite government institution: Congress. Who can afford the high price tag of our government? Unfortunately, only the privileged few. Until it makes sense for politicians to opt into a system where they are not dependent upon the 0.26% of Americans wealthy enough to pay for their time, we will not have a government by the people, for the people.

We’re asking all those who agree that the corruption has to stop add their name to The Anti-Corruption Pledge. Our goal: find and connect one million citizens who are willing to strike at the root of corruption in this country.

I’ve signed and I support Rootstrikers with my money and time. I think you should consider doing so as well.

5. Rolling Stone debunks the idea that voter fraud is actually a problem, suggesting that Republican efforts to prevent it are simply a means to restrict ballot access for Democratic constituencies.

Not only is voter fraud not rampant – it’s virtually nonexistent. The iron-clad word on the subject comes from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, whose 2007 report, ‘The Truth About Voter Fraud,’ sorts through thousands of allegations going back to the 1990s in the most in-depth voter fraud study ever undertaken. The bottom line, confirmed by all subsequent research: “Usually, only a tiny portion of the claimed illegality is substantiated — and most of the remainder is either nothing more than speculation or has been conclusively debunked.” In fact, “one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

If you can’t win on ideas, might as well change the rules of the game to benefit your team. GOP2012!

Fact Of The Day: Following the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 percent of shrimp were found lacking eyes and eye sockets in Barataria Bay, LA, one of the most heavily oiled areas.

Quote Of The Day: “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” – AKA The Republican 2012 Strategy – Bertrand Russell

Video Of The Day: How It’s Made, Hot Dogs

Song Of The Day: “Prisecolinensinenciousol” – Adriano Celentano

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

The Return Of The Morning Grumpy – 5/30/12

30 May

It’s been a hellish few weeks of business travel, but I’m back in the saddle, ready to give you your daily dose of all the news, views, and filtered excellence for you to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Once upon a time, there was a group of media outlets that made decisions about the types of information you, the consumer, would be able to hear, view or read.  They were gatekeepers and they decided what would be news and what would forever descend down the memory hole.

The internet changed all of that.  We, formerly known as the audience, suddenly became producers, curators and distributors of news and information using the semantic web and social networking. We could even influence the production of traditional media using the web; changing the face of the news to look a little something like this.

Using this technology, we would set information free and open new channels of communication independent of gatekeepers. Right?

Eli Pariser is the author of a book called “The Filter Bubble” which challenges that basic assumption.  I’ll let him explain the basics.

Pariser asserts that the tools we use to produce, aggregate, curate, and disseminate news have become the new gatekeepers. The complicated algorithms which make the web possible are actively working to create a personal internet, attuned to our biases and perspective. So much so that we’re beginning to lose touch with other points of view and information needed to make informed decisions as media consumers.

Essentially, Facebook, Google and others are turning into automated confirmation bias machines.

Interestingly, there are geeks all over the world who are working to solve this problem. The first product I’ve seen is a Google Chrome extension called rbutr. And it could change the way we consume information. Their solution is an amalgam of the two systems, technology tools and personal gatekeepers, working to keep each other honest.

Our current primary focus at this point is leveraging the platform we have to develop a strong, dedicate community of bloggers and skeptics who will continue to help building a network of rebuttal connections between relevant websites all over the web.

A healthy mix of people, skeptics, and algorithms. Sounds good to me. Their mission?

To link every page on the internet to its most appropriate responses, so that no one is ever forced to simply accept what they are ‘told’ by any one source ever again.

It comes along with a code of ethics and philosophy. A very unique tool for a confusing time in media.

2. This summer, we’ll have a redux of the fight over the debt ceiling and the effects of that showdown will derail the economy…which is exactly what the Republicans are hoping to accomplish.

Europe is crumbling. China is slowing. The Federal Reserve is dithering. Yet the biggest threat to the emerging U.S. economic recovery may be Congress.

John Boehner, the leader of the House Republicans, has promised yet another fight with the White House over the debt ceiling

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we suffered through an identical performance last summer. Our analysis of that episode leads to a troubling conclusion: It almost derailed the recovery, and this time could be a lot worse.

The brinksmanship displayed by the Republicans last summer resulted in a huge drop in consumer confidence, not just a drop in our credit rating.

High-frequency data on consumer confidence from the research company Gallup, based on surveys of 500 Americans daily, provide a good picture of the debt-ceiling debate’s impact (see chart). Confidence began falling right around May 11, when Boehner first announced he would not support increasing the debt limit. It went into freefall as the political stalemate worsened through July. Over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc

The only way, realistically, that Mitt Romney takes the White House is if the economy goes into the proverbial squatter. The Republicans were willing to derail the recovery and toy with the nation’s credit rating last summer to accomplish a political goal, why wouldn’t they do it again when the stakes are even higher? They reneged on the deals that were struck after that near economic nightmare last summer and they’re ready to bring it all crashing down.

As an added kicker, if you read this breakdown of the negotiations from last summer (some of the finest enterprise journalism of the last five years), you’ll learn that the Republican caucus is so fractured, that there isn’t one entity with whom the White House can negotiate.

In other words, buckle up, it’s gonna be One Crazy Summer and President Obama will be negotiating with the political equivalent of the Stork Brothers.

3. Speaking of that Presidential election, Medicare Fraud Enthusiast and Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is doing his best to turn the Florida election into a trainwreck of confusion and insanity. As in the run-up to the Presidential election in 2000, the Republican Party is doing their best to disenfranchise as many voters as possible.

Bill Internicola is a 91-year-old, Brooklyn-born, World War II veteran. He fought in the Battle of the Buldge and received the Bronze Star for bravery. He’s voted in Florida for 14 years and never had a problem.

Three weeks ago, Bill received a letter from Broward County Florida stating “[Y]ou are not a U.S. Citizen” and therefore, ineligible to vote. He was given the option of requesting “a hearing with the Supervisor of Elections, for the purpose of providing proof that you are a United States citizens” or forfeit his right to vote.

This decorated World War II veteran is just one of hundreds of fully eligible U.S. citizens being targeted by Governor Scott’s massive voter purge just prior to this year’s election, according to data obtained from Florida election officials by ThinkProgress. The purge list, according to an analysis by the Miami Herald, targets mostly Democrats and Hispanics.

If you can’t win on ideas, you change the meaning of winning.

4. Every day, the National Security Administration intercepts and stores over 1,700,000,000 emails, phone calls, texts, and online communications. Ya know, to keep us safe.

The Department of Homeland Security is also monitoring your communications, even on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other associated social media outlets. You’re not doing anything wrong, so you’ve got nothing to worry about, right? Well, if you’ve used any of these keywords in your communications, you should wonder.

Three months ago, a list of keywords was released by the Dept. for Homeland Security after the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the government for withholding the document.

Sure, they don’t monitor everything you say or type, but if you’ve typed the words “virus”, “social media”, “denial of service”, malware”, or “worm”…they certainly have checked you out.

This is probably a good time to remind you Proles that, “We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.”

5. As it turns out, customers prefer to be lied to about pricing.

You might have seen recently that iconic retailer JC Penney is slumping badly. You almost certainly have seen the reason why: A massive, creative and aggressive new advertising and pricing campaign that promises simplified prices.

Shoppers hated it.

The campaign, which launched on Feb. 1, appears to be a disaster. Revenue dropped 20 percent for the first quarter compared to last year. Customer traffic fell 10 percent. Last year, the company made $64 million in the first quarter; this year, it lost $163 million.

The CEO who came up with this concept was picked from the ranks of Apple, which made hundreds of billions of dollars by limiting choice and product options and simply relabeling it as “simplicity”. Now that the numbers are in, it would appear that people will dig this “simplicity” only if it’s paired up with the right kind of marketing in a very narrow product vertical. In department stores?

If a firm tries to educate consumers on tricks and traps, and tries to offer an honest product, a funny thing happens: Consumers say, “Thank you for the tips,” and go back to the tricky companies, where they exploit the new knowledge to get cheaper prices, leaving the “honest” firm in the dust.

JC Penney is, as they say, fucked. Switching back to shrouded prices and coupons so quickly will be disastrous for the company. Staying with the current strategy also leaves them exceedingly vulnerable in a very competitive marketplace. It’s fun to see a company make a big bet and take a lot of risk, but it’s terrible to see an iconic American brand lose so big on that bet.

Fact Of The Day: The Commodore 64 is the best selling computer ever made. To this day, I can strike anyone out with Pepe Perez’s screwball in Hardball.

Quote Of The Day: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” – Oscar Wilde

Laugh Of The Day: (Strong Language) “Funny As Hell” – Hannibal Buress

Double Laugh Of The Day: “Birth” – Patton Oswalt

Song Of The Day: “Cissy Strut” – The Meters

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

What Romney Considers to be “Better”

25 Apr
Mitt Romney - The Shake-N-Fake Candidate

By Flickr User DonkeyHotey

1. After sweeping the Tuesday once known as “super”, and effectively all-but-securing the Republican nomination for President, Mitt Romney took out his Etch-a-Sketch and made his first attempt to erase Mitt Romney as “Severe Conservative” and create Mitt Romney as “Paternal anti-Socialist Optimist.” His campaign theme, which until Tuesday had been, “I am just as insane a right-winger as Santorum, and just as unscrupulous a corrupt Washington insider as Gingrich” switched to “A Better America”. 

Aside from being a rip-off of the prospective hopefulness of the Obama 2008 campaign, imagine the right-wing response had Obama selected that phrase for his slogan. “Better?! N0bama thinks America is no good!” and other disingenuous cries echoing jingoistic American exceptionalism.

After all, no other post-industrial market economy with a pluralistic representative democracy exports jobs, votes against their own interests, coddles millionaires, and becomes bogged down in Asian quagmires like the United States of America. 

Romney has barely uttered a word about what he’d do as President – not publicly, anyway. Suffice it to say that a guy who’s never been in the middle class has absolutely no idea how to fix the problems ailing America’s middle class, nor does he likely care. The middle class don’t cut massive checks to friendly SuperPACs or max out to the Romney campaign.

So, now that it’s already been revealed that the Romney plan is going to be a rehash of the policies of George W. Bush, here’s the shorter version of the Romney campaign and how it intends to bring about a “better America”: 

a. A war in Asia with numerous anticipated but unplanned-for complications, and subsequent occupation; 

b. Tax cuts for millionaires; 

c. A renewed effort to voucherize or expressly privatize Social Security and Medicare; and

d. Revocation of Obamacare, which would return us to the days of lifetime maximums, denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, revocation of policies to cover kids up to age 26 on their parents’ plans, and continuation of the fiscal nightmare whereby the uninsured routinely go bankrupt in the face of medical bills, and government foots the bill for primary-care-by-emergency room. 

Romney’s support among the Republican faithful is a mile wide and 1/16th of an inch deep. The only motivator that will get true believers out will be a hatred of Obama. 

2. Apparently, Carl Paladino did for Newt Gingrich in New York in 2012 what Carl Paladino did for Carl Paladino in New York in 2010. 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Morning Grumpy – 1/25/2012

25 Jan

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. After listening to Mitch Daniels’s rebuttal to President Obama’s State Of the Union address, I was reminded of an article I read a few weeks back in which Paul Krugman wrote, “Nobody understands debt“.

First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.

Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.

The first will generate arguments with armchair libertarian economists, but the second point is worthy of discussion. Anecdotal evidence suggest that most Americans have no idea who is responsible for generating our current debt and to whom that debt is owed. Well, that’s why you should subscribe to The New York Times, they’ll help sort it out for you. During the debt limit fiasco of 2011, the New York Times charted our debt using data from the Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service, and the Bureau of the Public Debt; Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Office of Management and Budget.

If that data is not simple enough for you, here it is in an infographic. Click here to embiggen.

2. A succinct analysis of why Mitt Romney (and people like him) should pay higher taxes.

Most of Romney’s income comes in the form of capital gains and carried interest, which have been taxed at 15 percent ever since the Bush tax cuts went into effect a decade ago. So it’s a good time to get a little wonky and ask why capital gains and carried interest are taxed at only 15 percent, while ordinary labor income is taxed at rates as high as 35 percent.

Capital gains are profits from investments, and a high level of investment is good for the economy. Low tax rates on capital gains encourage investment and therefore benefit the entire economy. But is this true? If it were, you’d expect to see some kind of long-term correlation between capital gains rates and the total amount of capital gains income. The lower the rates, the more the income. Let’s roll the tape.

The data do not support correlation between low capital gains tax rates and increased income.

3. How do private equity firms like Bain Capital make money? Financial gimmicks and manipulation of the tax code.

The real reason that we should be concerned about private equity’s expanding power lies in the way these firms have become increasingly adept at using financial gimmicks to line their pockets, deriving enormous wealth not from management or investing skills but, rather, from the way the U.S. tax system works. Indeed, for an industry that’s often held up as an exemplar of free-market capitalism, private equity is surprisingly dependent on government subsidies for its profits.

The system is broken.

4. Last night during his State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Teachers matter”.  He noted that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. Here’s the study that informs that remark.

The study, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.

“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman

Remarkable.

5. Courtesy of ThinkProgress, some facts to go along with the wild spin you’ll be hearing today as pundits and candidates interpret the President’s speech.

  • Since the last SOTU, the economy has created 1.9 million private sector jobs. [Source]
  • The top 1 percent take home 24 percent of the nation’s income, up from about 9 percent in 1976. [Source]
  • Private sector job creation under Obama in 2011 was larger than seven out of the eight years Bush was president. [Source]
  • The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of our country’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent. [Source]
  • Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million young adults gained health insurance. [Source]
  • Last year, China spent 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. The U.S. spent 2.5 percent. [Source]
  • 2.65 million seniors saved an average of $569 on prescriptions last year thanks to the Affordable Care Act. [Source]
  • Union membership is at a 70-year low. [Source]
  • Unemployment benefits have lifted 3.2 million people out of poverty. [Source]
  • The United States used to have the world’s largest percentage of college graduates. We’re now #14. [Source]
  • One quarter of all contributions to federal campaigns come from 0.01 percent of Americans. [Source]
  • 47.8 percent of households that receive food stamps are working, because having a job is not enough to keep them out of poverty. [Source]
  • In the last three years, 30 major corporations spent more on lobbying than they paid in taxes. [Source]
  • 50 percent of U.S. workers make less than $26,364 per year. [Source]
  • Since 1985, the federal tax rate for the 400 wealthiest Americans dropped from 29 percent to 18 percent. [Source]

Fact Of The Day: Thorium could be a replacement for Uranium and coal. Pretty awesome research with potentially profound impacts on society.

Quote Of the Day: “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Song Of the Day: “Kiss Me On The Bus” – The Replacements

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com

State of the Union Reactions

25 Jan

CONGRESSWOMAN LOUISE SLAUGHTER

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) today released the following statement following President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress responding specifically to two tenants of his speech that she has worked on for years: rebuilding America’s manufacturing sector through trade enforcement and passing legislation that would end insider trading among Members of Congress.

“I was delighted to hear the President’s enthusiasm to sign legislation that ends insider trading in Congress and finally reigns in the political intelligence industry that’s been lurking in the shadows of the halls of Congress. I’ve been working on the STOCK Act since 2006 and I say that if the President wants to sign the STOCK Act, let’s get it through the House and send it to him!,” said Slaughter. “It is my hope that the bill that we send to the President is the same bill that has received overwhelming support. The STOCK Act is bipartisan, has enough support to pass the House and is what we should make the law of the land.”

“I was also encouraged that the President shares my desire to strengthen the American economy by rebuilding the American manufacturing sector. For too long American manufacturers have had to compete against illegal trade practices from international competitors and now is the time for bold trade enforcement policies.” Continue reading

Two for Tuesday

24 Jan

1. Hopefully, the WNY Food Truck Association will have something to celebrate later today, as the Buffalo Common Council is set to vote on proposed food truck permitting and regulations at 2pm today (Tuesday the 24th).  Buffalo Place, which governs much of the downtown CBD, has said it will follow the same guidelines the city sets forth, although trucks may have to pay a separate fee for a Buffalo Place permit. Follow along at #BUFTruck on Twitter.


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2. The Boston Bruins traveled to the White House yesterday as part of a traditional ceremony where the President congratulates the winner of last season’s Stanley Cup. All the Bruins attended, except for one. Goaltender Tim Thomas is a Glenn Beck “conservative” and decided to skip the ceremony, issuing the following statement (verbatim, all SIC):

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

Setting aside for a moment the statement’s inherent inconsistency, no one is disputing Thomas’ right as a “Free Citizen” to opt to skip the White House event. But what, precisely, did it accomplish? I’m not aware of a similar snub taking place during George W. Bush’s administration, and if it had I’d have been critical of that, as well. Because the White House event wasn’t a political one. It wasn’t a Bruin endorsement of Barack Obama and his policies.

You don’t have to agree with the President to attend a ceremony honoring you, and I think it’s somewhat indicative of a complete breakdown of fundamental civility in our society. Regardless of your thoughts on the current occupant of the White House, the office and what it stands for deserve a certain degree of honor and respect. If the President wants to congratulate you for an achievement, I think it’s better form to go, rather than to stay home and make a political point about why.  Although the Presidency is a governmental post, it needn’t always be a political one, and this wasn’t a political event.

Again – not because Thomas isn’t free to do whatever he damn well wants to do. But I think it was a childish and self-centered move that reflects poorly on him, and is deserving of criticism.


//

The Morning Grumpy – December 7th

7 Dec

All the news and views fit to consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a transformative and landmark speech on LGBT rights leading up to International Human Rights Day at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Click here to watch the full speech or click here to read the full transcript.

Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.

This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.

Secretary Clinton articulated the official position of the United States of America on issues of LGBT rights following a memorandum published by the President earlier in the day. In that memorandum, President Obama directgovernment agencies to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, or LGBT persons. The broad strokes of the policy are as follows:

• Combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad.
• Protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
• Leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination.
• Ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad.
• Engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.

A remarkable day, indeed. THIS is American Exceptionalism.

2. The President then went to Kansas and gave a full-throated defense of progressive democratic policies and marked a “make or break moment” for the middle class. Watch the full speech here or read the complete transcript here. This was the President we elected in 2008 and he hit all the right notes as he began to outline his re-election campaign themes.

But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded.  Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people.  Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success.  Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments — wealthier than ever before.  But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year.  I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars.  I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year.  For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year.  The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more.  And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent.

Now, this kind of inequality — a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression — hurts us all.  When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom.  America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the country.

This isn’t about class warfare.  This is about the nation’s welfare.  It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the middle class, and the economy as a whole.

If this is the Obama that we’ll see on the campaign trail, the Republicans better dig up Lincoln if they plan to win.

You know what? I’m gonna end the links here. Those two stories are enough for one incredible and exceptional day.

Fact of The Day: There is really only one choice for December 7th, a day that will live in infamy. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii, you must visit. The USS Arizona memorial is a haunting tribute to the fallen, and a place that will change how you see the world.

Quote Of The Day: “It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Song Of The Day: “Tip The Scale” by The Roots

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com

Class Warfare

20 Sep

Demanding that multimillionaires with offshore accounts pay taxes on their income, just like you or I, is not class warfare.

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