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Mass Shootings in the United States: Will They Ever End?

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Folks, I’ve written many blogs on the subject of mass shootings. Most of them have been in or around schools, including the latest tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. And every single time, I’ve asked this question: Why?

And inside, I’ve gotten more and more angry along with more and more frustrated. There is a mass-shooting incident seemingly every month, or at most, every two months. Many innocents are killed, we invariably find out that the shooter was mentally deranged or had a grudge against someone that made him lash out…and nothing gets done.

When will these mass shootings end?

Every single time, after a mass-casualty event, we hear the same things from the same politicians. Most of them demand that gun rights be respected, a singularly odd reaction unless you realize how much indebtedness these politicians have to the National Rifle Association. Some of them say the solution is more guns; that if there were more armed people at these schools, or at the theater, or at the church in Charleston, that would’ve actually prevented these mass killings.

It’s hard to believe that some people think the only answer to a mass-casualty event is to make sure that people carry guns in schools, churches, and movie theatres. But that’s where we are in the United States of America in 2015.

Isn’t that abhorrent? Isn’t that something we should not have to say? Isn’t that something we should rise up and change?

Maybe the problem is that most people in the U.S. think that change is impossible. We have gridlock in Washington, DC, we have gridlock in most state legislatures (unless they’re run by one party, in which case we have one agenda being stuffed down the other party’s throat), and we have nothing getting done of any substance whatsoever.

Instead, we have the U.S. Congress trying to symbolically repeal Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) over fifty times, when they know it won’t do any good. They do this because they want to inflame their base of support, and get more donations. And keep themselves enriched, so they can continue to do nothing in Congress — because it’s that nothing that keeps them in office.

You see, changing the narrative takes work. Takes people who are willing to stand up and be counted. Takes people who are willing to take a stand and perhaps get voted out, because they know they’re doing the right thing.

We have a paucity of those types of people in Washington, DC. right now.

Change is possible, you know. In Australia, people took to the streets to demand an answer after the Port Arthur massacre back in 1996. And they got new gun laws, which have decreased the amount of shootings since that time. Significantly, according to CNN.

Last night, President Barack Obama said that these mass-casualty shootings have become “routine.” He said that we have to have change; that sending “thoughts and prayers” are not enough; that the United States has to demand that the Congress take action.

I’ve never been a fan of the President, not since the 2008 Democratic National Committee meeting where Hillary Clinton voters were told Obama would be the nominee and to sit down and shut up. But I agree with him on this issue. It’s wrong that we can’t even get universal background checks — something most policemen believe would be useful — much less try to identify people with serious mental illnesses who have guns, like James Holmes.

Mind, I believe very strongly that someone who is treating his or her mental illness is no more of a threat than anyone else. If Holmes had gone to get treatment, it’s possible he would’ve owned guns and done nothing objectionable at all.

But a James Holmes who has refused to get treatment and has legally obtained guns is a problem.

Now, can the U.S. catch everyone? Of course not. But we can at least catch some.

Saying we can’t catch everyone, so we shouldn’t try to catch anyone, is not a good answer!

I am beyond frustrated at these repeated mass-casualty shootings. As an American citizen, I demand action. We have to try to get this under control, and whatever we have to do, we need to get it done.

No one wants to take away the gun rights of hunters, or a person’s right to self-defense, but my goodness. When the only solution offered by the NRA is for everyone in the U.S. to have a gun, that’s when you know we live in Bizzaro World.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm

President Obama Comes Out In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

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Folks, today was a historic day in United States politics.  It was the first time, ever, that a sitting U.S. President, Barack H. Obama, said that he is in favor of same-sex marriage.  (Before this, he’d only said that his beliefs were “evolving.”)

Here’s a link (which includes a link to the video interview with ABC News reporter Robin Roberts):

Here’s a few words from the President as to why he’s changed his position:

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.

While I’m glad the President has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, the timing of this announcement seems a bit odd.  Earlier in the week, Vice President Joe Biden was castigated because he said he was in favor of same-sex marriage (here’s a link to an excellent article at the Christian Science Monitor if you don’t believe me), and actually had to backtrack.  Yet now, on Wednesday — a day after the President was embarrassed in West Virginia as a convicted felon who didn’t even live in the state garnered 41% of the vote in the Democratic primary — the President has admitted that, just as Biden said last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama indeed is in favor of marriage equality (marriage for all people regardless of sexual orientation, which obviously includes same-sex marriage).

Still, it’s great that Obama has come out in favor of marriage equality regardless of the timing.  It is historic, and it should give my friends in the GLBT community hope that, sooner rather than later, they will be able to marry the person of their choice.  That is the right message to be sending in the 21st Century, even if Obama’s Republican opponent, Willard “Mitt” Romney, strongly disagrees.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Secret Service Embarrasses Themselves in Colombia

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Folks, if you haven’t heard this one yet, hold on to your hats: the United States Secret Service, which protects the President of the United States and is supposed to be discreet and above all, above reproach, has completely embarrassed themselves in Cartagena, Colombia.

The specifics relate to twelve male Secret Service agents who were there to prepare for Barack Obama’s impending visit to the area due to an important summit going on.  These agents apparently visited prostitutes.  Some of the agents were married; apparently more than one was indiscreet.  At least one must have shot his mouth off about being there to protect the President (because as gloriously embarrassing as a bunch of Secret Service agents going to local prostitutes is, that in and of itself would be unlikely to get all these guys sent home, much less get the “official spokesman” of the Secret Service into the act), which is a big “no-no.”

Please take a look at this link at Yahoo (which is easier to load):

And to get a further idea what’s going on, go to the Huffington Post, which has more details (but is much tougher to load, even on broadband):

My quick take?  I’ve never heard of such a thing before, so either our Secret Service doesn’t have quite the pick of personnel it used to, or these particular twelve agents must’ve had the most colossal lapse of judgment in the history of the Secret Service.

What I hope happens here is that we will find out more in coming days, as something like this needs to be exposed (pardon the inadvertent pun) in order to keep it from ever happening again.

And as for the Secret Service’s assertion that sending home twelve well-trained agents wouldn’t make any difference to the level of protection for President Obama?  B.S.!  (Or “banana squishies,” as this is a friendly site.)

Tuesday Election News: Romney Finishes 3rd in Alabama, Mississippi

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Folks, you’re going to hear much in the next 24 to 48 hours about Rick Santorum, because Santorum won both Alabama and Mississippi this evening.  While that is correct, the real news is that Mitt Romney, despite spending an enormous amount of money, finished third in both contests.  (Newt Gingrich finished second.) 

You must keep this very simple fact in mind in upcoming days, because assuredly Santorum and Romney are going to attempt to frame this narrative to benefit themselves. 

The fact is that Romney finished third, which proves that Romney is extremely unpopular with Republican voters.  (This makes me wonder just who’s going to vote for the guy if Romney does, indeed, get to the general election against the current President of the United States, Barack Obama.)  There is absolutely no argument left for Romney to position himself as a moderate except to run on his record — and if he does that, he’s going to alienate even more conservative voters than he already has.

What’s odd about all this is that Romney views himself as an “inevitable” candidate; some of his campaign staff and surrogates have even hinted that Romney believes his candidacy to be “divinely inspired.”  Yet finishing third after spending such a huge amount of money is not the way an “inevitable candidate” is supposed to win, something Gingrich pointed out in his concession speech tonight. 

This points out that, at least for the moment, Gingrich has his pulse on what’s really going on with the Republican voters.  Neither Santorum, nor especially Romney’s people — as Romney did not make a speech this evening at all — are going to say this, but it’s the plain, flat truth: between them, Santorum and Gingrich won over 60% of the vote (closer to 70% in Alabama), and that shows that around 2/3 of the Republican voters in these states really do not want Romney as their nominee

This is the real story: how many people are going out to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses solely to vote against Romney in some way, shape or form.  Any other story, up to and including the fact that Santorum won (providing he doesn’t acknowledge this “inevitable” point), is nothing less than an incredibly distorted framing of the narrative.

Politics, US and Wisconsin-style — A Big, Fat Mess

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Tonight’s post is about what’s been going on in politics — but as time is of a premium, let me sum it up for you in four words: a big, fat mess.

Look at the national political scene, for example.  Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House “would not pass” the two-month extension to the payroll tax holiday (something that saves the average worker $40 per paycheck, as was Tweeted ad nauseum with the hash-tag #40bucks).  Boehner stood firm after this Wall Street Journal staff editorial saying the deal was a no-brainer; as the editorial said:

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

As the editorial goes on to state, the House had voted to kill the payroll tax “holiday” on Tuesday — the exact, same bill that the Senate had passed on a bipartisan basis with an 89-10 vote — by a 229-193 highly partisan vote (meaning the Rs were mostly against; the Dems were largely for it).  Speaker Boehner was standing firm, so he said, because he felt the Democrats hadn’t negotiated in good faith, but the Republican leadership (at least, anyone who isn’t currently sitting in the United States House of Representatives) en masse told Boehner he was wrong.

For example, here’s what George W. Bush’s main advisor, Karl Rove, had to say last evening (via this TalkingPointsMemo article, which quotes Rove from an appearance on the Fox News Channel yesterday — that is, Wednesday, December 21, 2011):

“I think the Wall Street journal editorial today hit it on the nail,” Rove said Wednesday on Fox News.

So today, Thursday, December 22, 2011, Speaker Boehner had to give in.  He did so as graciously as he possibly could, but facts are facts; Boehner got his hat handed to him, and he’s likely to end up resigning as Speaker soon because he’s totally lost control of his caucus.  And in so doing, he’s hurt his party, he’s hurt his party’s chances for winning the 2012 elections (from the Presidency on down), and he’s definitely hurt himself; these things are what tends to make a current Speaker a former Speaker, in short order, one way or another — and it’s far easier to resign than to be removed in disgrace.  (And if you resign, you get the lovely “perks” that come with being a former Speaker — I’m not sure if you do if you are replaced, though it’s likely you still would.  But it would still look better for Boehner if he just got out ASAP, and it probably would be a great deal better for his physical health.  He truly did not look well today in his press conference.)

Tomorrow, the House will meet and attempt to pass the two-month extension of the payroll tax “holiday” by unanimous acclamation.  If that doesn’t happen, I haven’t a clue what will happen next.

But I do know that the American public doesn’t like stalemates like this when political theatre threatens to interfere with real people’s lives, and they tend to hold the party who instigated such a thing responsible.  In 2009, the Dems had several highly partisan fights, mostly over health care, and in 2010, they paid for it at the ballot box; now, it’s 2011, and the Rs have had several highly partisan fights, mostly over the payroll tax and the debt ceiling issues . . . my guess is that unless they get their collective house in order, fast, they, too, are likely to pay for it at the ballot box.

Now to Wisconsin’s recent political news.  We continue the fight to recall our Governor, Scott Walker (R), our Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch (R), and four state Senators, including my very own Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).   It was reported about a week ago that there are nearly enough signatures to recall Scott Walker, as 507,000 valid signatures (by real Wisconsin voters, no signatures of “Mickey Mouse” or “Adolf Hitler” as has been alleged by some Republican leaders, including state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), himself a target of a well-funded recall election).  

Note that 507,000 valid signatures have been gathered in one month; those of us working on the recall effort (including me) have another full month left in which to get signatures.  And the efforts to recall Kleefisch, Wanggaard, and Fitzgerald (among others) continue unabated; it looks good that all six Republicans targeted for recall will indeed have to face the voters in 2012 for this option: will they be retained, or will they instead be replaced?

Tempers remain high in Wisconsin.  We’re frustrated by a weak economy, months of negative job “growth” (in other words, we have big, big job losses here and little actual growth going on), five or six people going for every one job, and more.  Then, we have a Governor who’d rather cause trouble than govern — which is why he’s going to be recalled and replaced — we have Senators who didn’t have the sense they were born with (including my own, Van Wanggaard), and voted for something they should’ve stayed far, far away from (the whole vote on Senate Bill 10 — that is, when they voted to repeal collective bargaining for most public employees, which has caused all sorts of trouble in the state, economically and otherwise).  And we have a Lieutenant Governor in Kleefisch who is either too weak to affect policy in any way so she has to parrot whatever Scott Walker tells her to say, or really, honestly believes what she’s saying — and I’m not sure which is worse.

Look.  I have friends of all political stripes and I am in agreement with some of my R friends in other states when they say spending is out of control and the government should make absolutely certain every nickel is spent wisely and well.  But I am against nonsensical stuff like what Walker, Kleefisch, Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (also an R), my Senator, Van Wanggaard, etc., have said and done because there was no reason for it except to do one thing: bust unions, and make it harder to get Walker, et. al., on out of there.

But I have news; we will oust Scott Walker.  We will oust Rebecca Kleefisch.  We will oust Senators Fitzgerald and Wanggaard, all by our quite legal recall method — by getting 1/4 of the total voters in the last, highly-charged election.  We must oust these people in order to restore some sense of fairness and bipartisanship to Wisconsin.  

Wisconsin is not a red state, nor is it a blue state; instead, it is a truly purple state.  That’s why what the radical Rs, led by Scott Walker, have done here is so blatantly offensive to the vast majority of Wisconsinites I’ve talked with — including many, many Rs and Indys — and it’s why I fully expect to see Scott Walker and Van Wanggaard, among others, hitting the unemployment line ASAP.

More Back Pain, Exacerbated by Politics

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Onto day six of current back problems; every day I get a little teensy bit better in one way or another, but it’s still not fun.  Continuing to take my medication, and try to get rest, and doing all the proactive things possible in order to move around a little bit.

Back problems get worse with stress, and right now, along with everyone else I have unavoidable stress that’s worsened by watching what has to be the biggest farce ever seen in Washington, DC — the whole foofaraw over the debt ceiling.

So while I wait for the latest vote in the House of Representatives, which won’t do anything at all to curb international panic over the lack of progress toward raising the debt ceiling for the United States, I thought I’d sit down and write a blog.  (What else did you expect, hm?)

My back seems intertwined with these politics, somehow.  Whether it’s the Wisconsin Republicans refusing to pass an unemployment extension until one week before six of them run in recall elections, or it’s the national Republicans in the House of Reps refusing to understand what the debt ceiling is — that it’s acknowledging that the Congress has spent such and such an amount, and that money will be appropriated while debts will be honored (that, in essence, is what raising the debt ceiling means) — and grandstanding about how awful the National Debt is, my back continues to hurt badly because the real issues are not being faced.

The real issues for most people have to do with these three words:  jobs, jobs, jobs.  Not all this nonsensical posturing by Speaker Boehner.  Not all this nonsensical posturing by the Tea Party Republicans, who believe that tax increases are bad, but don’t seem to understand that refusing to raise the debt ceiling will amount to the biggest tax increase in history that’s passed on to everyone, including the incredibly wealthy people they’ve been working for and protecting all along.

Once again, I ask the question of Boehner:  “Where are the jobs?”  Because I surely haven’t seen any action in the House at all regarding jobs; I haven’t seen any leadership from Boehner, either, because what he needs to do at this point is speak with Nancy Pelosi, current House minority leader, and say, “I have this many votes to raise the debt ceiling; what do you need from me to get your caucus to help me out?  Because you know that not raising the debt ceiling is bad, right?”

This, truly, is Boehner’s only option right now, and he’s refusing to take it.  Sad, even shocking . . . he’d rather pass on doing his own job, no matter how distasteful, which means to me that he’d best plan on retiring at the end of his current term because he’ll never be re-elected if he allows the US to default on its debt, or to lose the US’s AAA credit rating.   (That last is a very real possibility due to all the posturing, pandering, and ridiculousness that’s been going on in DC for the past week and a half minimum.  The world doesn’t like seeing that we’d rather screw around than meet our obligations as a country, which has made a credit downgrade much more likely than not.)

President Obama will also have problems in this regard, true.  But he’s been seen trying hard to work with the Republicans.  He just doesn’t seem to realize that these Rs will not listen — they’re like the Rs in Wisconsin, who also will not listen.  They insist that they’re right even when public opinion is strongly against; they insist they’re right even when people call and write and protest against them.  Then, when bad things happen, they continue to insist that they’re right and the rest of us are plain, flat wrong.

This is a new brand of Republican, folks — a type of person who refuses to listen to anyone, at all, and is inflexible to the point of extreme rigidity.  And this is a type of person we do not need, either in the state Legislature, or in DC.

These people would rather drive the whole country right off a cliff than do their jobs, as politics requires something none of them seem to know anything about: compromise.  Otherwise known as “the art of the possible.”

Pitiable, really.  But it does make my back hurt to realize we have so many people of this ilk in government at this time.

WI Rs dither over Unemployment Benefits Extension . . . while National Rs Continue their Do-Nothing Ways

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Folks, again I have two topics for discussion.

First, the Wisconsin Republicans have acted up again, refusing to pass a bill to extend unemployment benefits — or, rather, refusing to pass the same, exact bill.  The Republican-controlled Assembly passed a bill that requires a one-week wait for unemployment benefits (a one-week, unpaid wait, at that), while the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill that did not require a wait and passed that decisively, 30-3 in an unusual bipartisan vote.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s headline put it, “Dispute on Jobless Benefits Puts Unemployed in a Bind.”  A relevant quote from the article:

Republicans who control the Senate and Assembly agree they should accept the federal money to allow the unemployed to collect benefits for an extra 13 weeks – in part because that won’t hurt the state’s struggling unemployment insurance fund. But the two houses cannot agree on whether to make laid-off workers wait a week for their initial benefits – a move that would save the fund money.

The main problem is, some in the Assembly believe it will take months to resolve this issue — months, when some Wisconsinites have been out of unemployment since April 16, 2011!  As stated in this article:

“It’s not something we’re going to leave hanging out there,” said Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). “It’s just trying to come to the right answer. We all understand the stakes here.”

The senator’s brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), has said he wants to fix the problem soon, but added that lawmakers might not be able to do it until September.

As you see — it’s July 22, 2011, right now as it’s just clicked over to midnight as I write this.  Not doing anything until September would indeed take months, at a time when even Republican Gov. Scott  Walker admits that unemployment rates are too high in parts of the state (including my own Racine, WI).

I’m sorry; I agree fully with Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona), who said this:

“It is due to incredible incompetence or coldhearted calculation that we are delaying passage of this bill . . . It’s time we recognized that the workers in Wisconsin that have lost their jobs are not toys to be played with,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said.

Miller is exactly right.  He knows what happened here; the Senate Rs, six of them facing impending recall elections, voted to say they want unemployment extensions done right now and not to wait a week before any worker receives benefits, either — partly because they are facing recall, and this looks good for them.  But the Senate Rs knew full well that the Assembly Rs wouldn’t play ball here; none of them are facing recall (they aren’t eligible for recall until January of ’12), and they don’t seem to be very concerned about the possibility of a recall election, either, as normally their seats would be up at the end of ’12 anyway.

So what the Senate Rs did is this — they figured they’d “have their cake and eat it, too.”  They did this in order to look compassionate, but their real beliefs are probably in line with the Assembly Rs, who aren’t budging and won’t budge, even though many people in Wisconsin haven’t had any unemployment since April 16 of this year and won’t get any until this bill is finally passed.

As of now, the Senate will have to take it up again next Tuesday, July 26, 2011.  They may well not do anything other than affirm their same bill; this will once again allow themselves to look good, while knowing that the Wisconsin unemployed workers remain shut out of the decisions . . . remember, unemployment insurance is not welfare.  It is our right, as workers, as we’ve paid into it and deserve to be able to tap into it when times are very hard and bad (as they are now).

I implore the Wisconsin Legislature, Rs and Ds alike, to do the right thing here.  Pass the unemployment benefits extension now.  Worry about the one-week cut later.

As for anything else, the national Rs also do not impress me with their willingness to work together toward anything.  The deficit talks remain stalled out, with word tonight according to Ed Schultz at MSNBC and Keith Olbermann of Current TV that President Obama has met with both Rs and Ds and wants his “Grand Bargain” to take place.

Don’t know about the “Grand Bargain” yet?  Well, it’s simple — it would cut the deficit by cutting three essential social programs, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security in exchange perhaps for some tax revenue (maybe by raising taxes on the top 1% of the country, maybe by closing tax loopholes).  Yet Social Security is running at a surplus — any short-term “deficit” there is because the Congress keeps raiding the “lock-box,” nothing more — and while I support an end to waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid and Medicare (including disallowing really expensive medicine — something that costs over $500 monthly and will not add any life expectancy to a cancer victim, say — unless that expensive medicine actually helps to restore life and health to someone so that person can re-enter the work force after his/her health crisis has been taken care of), I do not support any other changes to these essential programs.

Basically, there are now three groups of people in Washington, DC.  Those who will work with others in both parties.  Those who will work with others in their own party only.  And those who won’t work with anyone, period, because they think raising the debt ceiling is morally wrong.  

While I have some sympathy, emotionally anyway, for this last group, no one has ever been sent to Washington, DC, to completely obstruct the process of governing.  Instead, they’re sent to work and make the best deals they can, so refusing to do so is pointless and absurd, not to mention a waste of taxpayer money.  Because last I checked, it’s the taxpayers — i.e., all of us — who pay the salaries of the House of Reps.

So what we have here isn’t just a “failure to communicate,” as the movie actress once said.  It’s a failure to even understand what communication is, much less do anything about it.

And all the while, the United States of America’s credit rating starts to slip . . . people start to worry about losing their jobs (for example, much of the Federal Aviation Administration is being held up due to similar problems and they could end up “furloughed” — meaning they don’t get paid — as early as Saturday) . . . fewer people work, meaning the tax base gets lower overall, meaning the deficit increases.  All very, very bad things.

President Obama, by putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table for discussion, has caused some of the Rs — those willing to work at compromise — to salivate at the bit.  But as President, Mr. Obama is supposed to be working on behalf of all Americans, including the least among us.  Those who are ill.  Those who are helpless.  Those who are on fixed incomes, such as those on Social Security who have nothing else.  Not only for the needs of the wealthy, none of those likely to need those three programs.

I stand with Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann tonight (among others), who wonder what this Democratic President is doing by even thinking about cutting these essential programs.  Because it’s just not right to kick anyone when they’re down . . . not the poor, not the disabled, not the helpless, not anyone. 

And that’s all cuts to those three programs will do.  Hurt those who cannot help themselves.

Ed Schultz — From Hero, to Goat, to . . . ?

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Ed Schultz, for the past several months, has done a great job reporting on what’s going on in Wisconsin.  Schultz was probably the first person to take an interest in the protests against Governor Scott Walker (a Republican), and he went to Madison early on during the protests to show the real Wisconsinites who were upset over Walker’s proposed “budget-repair bill.”  These protests broke out partly because the Wisconsin 14 — the Democratic state Senators — went to Illinois to filibuster the proposed legislation, because the WI 14 knew that if they weren’t there, the Senate would not have a quorum as per Wisconsin rules on financial matters, and partly because Walker’s proposal was extremely unpopular.   I gave Schultz great credit for doing all this, as he understood the story from the Democratic and Independent perspective, and he explained it accurately — one of the first, and best, to do so overall.

But then, yesterday, he said something truly inappropriate regarding Laura Ingraham, a right-wing radio talk show host.   His comment was about our current President, Barack Obama, being photographed taking a swig of beer in Ireland, and how when George W. Bush did the same thing, no one complained — and the substance of that is true.   But he took it a step further when he called Ms. Ingraham a very nasty name on his Sirius XM Radio talk show — I will not reproduce this epithet — and now, MSNBC has suspended him for a week without pay.

Here’s a link regarding the whole mess:

Schultz went from a progressive hero of sorts — someone willing to tell the truth about why people were so upset in Wisconsin (it wasn’t just in Madison; there were protests all over the state including Union Grove, a little town of 4,322, a place that usually votes strongly Republican but wasn’t having any of Scott Walker’s proposal to do away with collective bargains for public-employee unions), someone who was willing to stand up for the “little guys” who are rarely talked about by the media — to a goat.  And an extremely smelly and foul-tempered goat, at that.

Now Ed Schultz has been suspended from MSNBC.   According to what I just listened to during the first segment of his “Ed Show” tonight, Schultz offered to take an unpaid leave of absence because he recognized that his behavior was beyond the pale.   He said he tried to get a hold of Ms. Ingraham to apologize, left a message for her apologizing, and will continue to try to get a hold of her because in any context, what he said was not acceptable. 

And he’s right — it wasn’t.

Schultz also discussed how he has failed, big-time, on this issue.  That he expects better of his children and grandchildren, and how can he possibly set a good example for them when he has fallen down on the job this way.  And that he hopes to do better in the future and that he promises that he will never, ever, use the incendiary verbiage that came out of his mouth during a radio ad-lib — that he will, indeed, do better.

Mr. Schultz, I commend you for apologizing and for admitting how wrong you were to do this.   I hope you will remember this day, not because of your humiliation, but because you were right to apologize and to step aside for a week (or however long it may turn out to be) to get your head right.  Your speech tonight showed true remorse and I hope that you will remember that no matter how much you dislike someone — no matter how stupidly they may behave — they are still a human being, and they don’t deserve to be called nasty names.

An insult to one woman is an insult to all of us, Mr. Schultz; I am not a fan of Ms. Ingraham, but I believe very strongly that you shouldn’t have insulted her.  You lowered the tone of the discussion, and that was indefensible, as you said yourself this evening — and the only possible good that could come out of this is a frank discussion about why the term you used is inappropriate for anyone with taste, class, or an education. 

My advice is this: learn from this.  Become a better person.  And please, please, continue to focus on the real people who’ve been hurt by Walker’s proposals in Wisconsin,  because that is where your true gift lies.

State of the Union: Awful, awful, awful.

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Folks, I don’t even know where to start regarding last night’s State of the Union speech (henceforth to be referred to by its acronym, SotU), except for one word, repeated three times: awful, awful, awful.

Why would I choose to repeat one word three times?  Well, the state of the United States right now — or of our Union — is exactly that.  Awful. 

That the President of the United States, Barack Obama, talked around the problem rather than talked about the problem, is also exactly that — awful

And finally, that the pundits did not call the President to account for not coming right out and saying, “Right now, people in the United States are suffering and rather than talk about nonsensical things or irrelevant things, I’m going to talk about them,” they, too, can only be summed up by just one word (you guessed it): awful.

I listened to the SotU last night and was appalled.  Barack Obama is a very smart, literate, intelligent man who knows better than this.  The American people were waiting for him to say, “I know it’s bad.  I’m working on trying to make it better.  I really think these things will work,” and only pick a few things to discuss — not so many things that after an hour of draining words, you don’t have anything to show for it but a bunch of meaningless quotes that won’t mean anything to the average person at all.

Yes, I get it that we need Green Jobs.  Hillary R. Clinton ran for President in 2008 and this was one of her platforms; I am for Green Jobs.  I see how they could actively help the economy if carefully managed, because Green Jobs won’t be able to be created overnight.

But talking about that as one of the hallmarks of your plan is not something most people care about.

No, Mr. President.  What we care about is simple.  The economy, stupid.  (From Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid,” not meant as a pejorative.)

The economy is in the toilet.  Unemployment is horrible — over 9% and rising — and the only reason it’s not well over 15% is because people have fallen off the rolls and have “aged off” the system.   No provision has been made for these people, which is beyond disheartening; it’s as if the people in Washington, DC, including the President of the United States who should know better, have turned their backs on these folks (collectively called the 99ers).  They can’t find work not because they aren’t qualified: most are.  Not because they don’t want to work: they do.  But because there aren’t anywhere near enough jobs for all the people who want work.  That’s the fact, and it wasn’t even touched last night.

Nor was the second-biggest issue that’s currently on people’s minds — guns, or at least semi-automatic handguns with extra-large clips** wielded by people who are delusional and unable to understand reality like Jared Lee Loughner.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was discussed very briefly in the opening paragraph, then dropped, which left a huge opportunity on the table.

Next, I realize the SotU address is political theatre, but did we really need the theatre of the absurd?

I’m referring, of course, to the ridiculousness of seeing the Republicans and Democrats uneasily co-existing in front of the President rather than sit on opposite sides as they’ve generally done.  No one looked happy with this, and if it was intended (as was said) to be a “call for civility” in action, it was a dismal failure.

Finally, I re-iterate: what about the jobs?  What about the economy?  What about the high unemployment?  What are you going to do, Mr. President, about any of this, other than pontificate, obfuscate, and talk meaninglessly for over an hour?

The address, Mr. President, was simply too long.   And it wasn’t what we wanted — nay, needed — to hear.

Regardless of the left-wing pundits, the right-wing pundits, the centrist pundits or whatever other pundits may exist . . . and regardless of how some of the SotU address might work in smaller “sound bites” . . . this speech failed the country.  I don’t care what anyone says; I know the truth, as I’m a highly educated woman with a Master’s degree, and I’ve read a lot of history.

This speech was a dismal failure.

We needed to hear that you care, Mr. President.  That you are trying to do something.  And that what you’ll do will take effect this year.  Not next year.  Not the year after that.  Not in 2020.  Not in 2040.  But this year.  Now.   Because things are bad and are getting worse.

That you did not, Mr. President, probably will affect your chances in 2012.  For the worse.  And I can’t believe you don’t have some advisor who isn’t a yes-man up there in Washington, DC, who should’ve told you that this speech was a stinker.  Because if that person did so, you should’ve listened.

The 2011 SotU speech will end up making no difference in the long run, except to cement that you, President Barack Obama, are seen as well-meaning and benevolent, but also out of touch.  Big-time.


** Jason Cordova kindly pointed out that Jared Loughner used a semi-automatic handgun rather than an assault rifle, and he is of course quite right.  The main reason I keep thinking “assault rifle” is how big that clip was that Loughner was using — a legal size, yes, but still, very large.  That doesn’t excuse why I got it wrong even though I’ve heard the term over and over again, of course.  The error has now been corrected, as you see.  BC

Pass Unemployment Benefits Extension NOW, Congress

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I don’t have much to say today beyond this — but it’s important.

The United States Congress has become increasingly out of touch, which has been shown this week by them first debating a food safety bill, then passing a resolution to outlaw “loud commercials,” and finally taking up the middle-class “tax cut” (actually an extension of the Bush-era lower taxation) rather than deal with the biggest issues on the table — one of which is unemployment.

We’re now at 9.8% unemployment — just .2% under 10%, mind you (in case you’re mathematically challenged, as I tend to be some days) — and there are many people who aren’t even on the rolls any longer because they’ve “maxed out” their unemployment at 99 weeks, yet still have no jobs because very few jobs are being created.  We can argue about how best to create jobs at a later time; right now, those on unemployment need help.

We’re at the holiday season.  Christmas, the biggest holiday in the United States, fast approaches — yet the Congress is willing to let those on unemployment suffer?  What’s wrong with these people?

I am disgusted that so few of the Congressional Democrats have been quoted about this issue, and how even fewer Republicans have discussed it — the only Republicans who have mostly talk in the Washingtonian-speak of “we must cut the deficit first” and apparently all of us unemployed (as I’m one of that number) can go and be damned.

It’s time for our Congress to do something good.  Pass the unemployment benefits extension NOW, Congressthen worry about funding yourself (as that’s the second most urgent problem on the table) and only then worry about the damned tax cuts for the richest 1% in the nation (I’m looking squarely at you, Congressional Republicans).

If you do this, you’ll have proven that you care, that you have a heart, or at least that you understand political reality.  Because letting 2 million people starve at the holidays is not only inhumane, it will definitely lose you votes at the next election.  (People don’t tend to forget about starvation.)

By the way, I’d appreciate it if Barack Obama, the President of the United States, would come out and roundly condemn the Congress because of their horrible behavior.