Friday, December 18, 2015

Ignorance of the American people

I just ran into an article on Facebook about presidential executive orders ... and the title referred to "King Obama."  Yes, the article spoke to the number of executive orders issued by President Obama and how he had become a "king" or, better yet, a "dictator."

Some of my Facebook friends "liked" this article and a couple even commented about how overbearing President Obama has been.

This shows they do not understand the president's constitutionally-defined duties and they certainly do not understand how our system of government works.  This is just plain ignorance.  They should have learned all this in junior high, high school, or college.  Evidently, they ditched school on those days.  Or maybe their school curriculum simply didn't - or doesn't - include our form of government.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution deals with the Executive Branch of American government.  The Executive Branch ... well ... it's the President.  And his/her duties are to administer and enforce the law.  Presidents can - and have - issued executive orders since the very beginning, and that includes George Washington!  A president may - within the parameters of a law - clarify how a law is administered or enforced.  He/she must stay within the parameters of the existing law, but administrative changes are allowed.  

Let's take a look at the number of executive orders issued by some recent presidents, shall we?  These numbers come from published sources and are a part of the American Presidency Project.

Dwight D. Eisenhower               484
John F. Kennedy                         214
Lyndon B. Johnson                     325
Richard Nixon                            346
Gerald Ford                                169
Jimmy Carter                              320
Ronald Reagan                            381
George Bush                               166
William Clinton                          364
George W. Bush                          291
Barack Obama                            223

Well, let's see ... can my Obama-hating friends still call the President "King Obama?"  I think not.  But they will anyway ... and they will continue to show their lack of knowledge about how the government works and who has been doing what.  Ignorance.  They simply don't know.  Maybe you should tell them?

Data Sources:
• 1789 - 1945 (Roosevelt) data from Lyn Ragsdale, "Vital Statisitcs on the Presidency: Washington to Clinton." rev. ed. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1998); data compiled by John Woolley, The American Presidency Project; and figures from the National Archives and Records Administration.
• 1945 (Truman) - present data compiled by Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project, from documents contained in the Federal Register.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Do a little research before you post!

Facebook can be fun!  I keep up with friends I don't see often.  I get to share my photography and the fun I have with my dogs.  I can read news from several sources. I can even play games if I want.

But more and more, I find my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels.  Why?

Because people post those wonderful internet memes without checking to make sure they are correct!  It's as though they intentionally spread misinformation. At least one thing is for sure: they don't check before they post.

Here's an example.  A meme put out by some website called "For America" says this:

Students at a public school in California were forced to sing “there is no God but Allah and his prophet Muhammed.” Outrageous! No child should be forced to sing praises to “Allah”!

I went to the website.  That's the entire story ... nothing else.  So, let's just look at what was written and see why red flags should be waving immediately:

1) What public school?  It isn't named and neither is the district.
2) Where in California?  No mention of city. 
3) Nobody quoted.  Maybe a parent or teacher?  How about a principal or pastor?
4) No source listed.  No. Source. At. All.

When I saw the "story" (such as it is), I knew immediately something was fishy so I did some research.  It took all of 30 seconds to find that the story is FALSE.   

There were several hundred comments attached to that meme - folks all in an uproar because they bought into the meme hook, line and sinker.  They didn't bother to take 30 seconds to check its veracity.  And even when someone points out that it's bad information, they won't delete the post. I think I know why ...

They WANTED to believe it.  The reasons?  Hey, I've already done enough ... see if you can figure it out.

Friday, August 21, 2015

President Trump? It's possible!

I can't believe I'm writing this.  But here goes ... 

I get it. I get why Donald Trump's election numbers are going up. And I truly believe he can move his gold bathroom fixtures into the White House. I listened to a single news story this afternoon on NPR and it became so clear to me! Iowans who were interviewed for the piece said Trump tells it "like it is" and "speaks from the heart" and is a "good businessman." And they love him for it because he is NOT like other politicians who lie, hedge their bets, and pander to whoever is in the room.  That is an extreme indictment against those now holding public office, but ... it's reality.  And those in office brought it all on themselves.  You see, sometimes karma doesn't wait until another lifetime.

What those Iowans don't understand, though, is that telling it "like it is" and speaking "from the heart" are simple solutions to extremely complicated problems. They don't seem to understand that the president is only one of 545 people that make up the three branches of government. And that's a low number because I only included the president, Congress, and U.S. Supreme Court.  If you add in judges from other levels, there are more.

The president can't run government like a for-profit business! If he were to do that, you can bet our military would be decimated.  There is nothing profitable about our military's readiness - and the cost of providing what our veterans have earned through their service. A balance sheet for defense ... or education ... or health ... or infrastructure ... yeah, you get it.  Or at least I hope you do!

The president can't "tell it like it is" during delicate negotiations with foreign leaders when finesse and diplomacy are necessary ... and when  you don't know which leader has his hand on the hot button.  "Telling it like it is" may feel good, but when it can send thousands of our men and women into battle ... well, perhaps there should be more substance to the discussion.  Right?

The president doesn't call all the shots and he/she doesn't control Congress or the Courts. The Republican establishment is not about to do everything Trump wants because they know they would never be re-elected if they do.  Stalemate.  Stalemate.  Stalemate.  If you think President Obama has issued too many Executive Orders (and his numbers are quite small compared to other presidents), think of what Donald Trump would attempt!  The man who would be King does not want to relinquish power and yet that is exactly what he will have to do.

Bottom line: Trump would have to give up the very things his supporters like about him in order to get anything done!

Maybe - just maybe - some other politicians can learn from Trump before it's too late and he gets elected!  And there are things to learn:  speak clearly, don't lie to us, tells us what you want to do and give us details because we're not stupid.  And then give us a reason to trust you, because right now ... we don't.  And THAT is why Trump leads in the Republican polls right now. And THAT is why he could be elected.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Marriage - a LEGAL contract

 I've really been getting a kick out of the so-called religious folks whose knickers are in a bunch because of the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.  They are gnashing their teeth and quoting Leviticus left and right, claiming marriage equality goes against their religion.  Well ... I hate to be the one to burst their bubble, but ....

Just so we all understand:  marriage, as sanctioned by the state (government), has nothing to do with religion.  Nothing.  It is a LEGAL CONTRACT equivalent to property ownership or employment agreements.

If you wish to bring religion into your marriage - or your marriage ceremony - you most certainly can do that.  But you don't have to.  In Arizona, for example, couples can legally be married by a judge, a magistrate, a clerk of the circuit court, or a clerk or clerk-treasurer of a city or town. Nobody has to get married in the eyes of God or any other Supreme Being.  But if you want your marriage to be LEGAL, you do have to get married under the laws of the state and nation.  Why is that?  Because there are LEGAL rights, benefits and protections that are based on marital status, that's why!

Example:  There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law.  They range from tax law to social security to immigration to health care to employee benefits. Each state has its own list as well. 

This is exactly why the Supreme Court of the United States ruled for marriage equality.  The 14th Amendment clearly guarantees "equal protection of the laws."  It doesn't say religious doctrine; it says "the laws."  That means the laws governing this country and the individual states.  And to make another point:  the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and trumps state laws every time.

So, please.  From now on, don't use the religion argument when blasting the high court for the marriage equality ruling because it just shows your ignorance about the real issue.  The ruling came down to EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS and, until that ruling, a specific group of people were denied the protection that you have always had.  Uh ... kind of like when women were denied the right to vote.  Or when inter-racial couples were denied the right to marry.  Or when women were denied the right to own property.

When it comes to equality as it pertains to the law, how about quoting the U.S. Constitution instead of Leviticus?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Let's look at the budget ... shall we?

In my previous blog, I hammered the process used by AZ Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP-controlled legislature.  Now, let's look at the budget itself.  The best article on the subject comes from the Tucson Weekly.  It's clear, very understandable and doesn't contain all the gobbledegook that causes eye strain.  To read it ... click here.  Full credit goes to writer Jim Nintzel and any other Tucson Weekly writer who may have contributed to the article.

I'm going to boil Nintzel's article down to an even more concise overview of Ducey's budget ... the budget he rammed down our throats in the wee hours of the morning, without the "transparency" he so promised in his election campaign.

  • Education was nailed left and right, top to bottom, with nearly $100 million coming just from the three state universities.  Even some top conservatives are critical of what Ducey and his minions have done.  What will the monstrous cuts to education do to this state?  I'm going to let you think about it for a bit - and make sure to include Arizona's economy when you do your thinking.
  • The Social Safety Net in AZ - whack!!  Remember the big stink when lawmakers discovered that several thousand reports of child abuse had not been investigated?  Remember when former Gov. Jan Brewer created a new agency to handle all that?  Well ... Ducey and the GOP yanked $11 million from that new agency.  Now we know how the governor feels about Arizona children.  Of course, they can't vote.  Many other social safety net programs were slashed, too, leaving many Arizona families ... where?  I can't even imagine.
  • Cities and counties will have to pick up the tab.  Hey ... if state funding to cities and counties is reduced, who do you think will have to pay the bill?  Oh ... that's right.  YOU will pay the bill in higher county/city/town fees, fines, and taxes.
  • Prisons and prison operators are cheering!  They got a whopping increase of about $39 million.  Perhaps Ducey knows he has to prepare for more prison space due to his cuts to education?  Now that is forward thinking!
  • More tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.  Well, come on ... you shouldn't be surprised.  Ducey campaigned on that!  It's simple math.  If you cut taxes, you cut the money coming in to pay for state government.  From the Tucson Weekly article:  "... the Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that in fiscal year 2017, they [tax cuts] will cost $190 million more than in the current year, and in the following year, they will cost $267 million more than the current year."  Wow ... want to guess what future Republican budgets will look like?
  • Democrats were left out of the process!  Okay, one Democrat voted for the budget, but he got a nice chunk of change for a project in his district.  Let's put it this way:  If you were opposed to this budget, you were not represented in the process because your representatives or senator were not included in the process.  
In a prepared statement, Ducey said,  "This is the job Arizonans hired us for, and I'm proud we were able to get it done in a responsible, swift and bipartisan manner."

Three lies in one sentence!  1) No, Arizona didn't hire you to gut education and social safety net programs and we didn't hire you to keep ignoring the middle class and the poor.  2) This budget was not created through responsible governing because the future of Arizona has been ignored.  3) Bipartisan - that's a laugh.

The only truth to Ducey's statement is that the process was swift.  

The ramifications of his work, however, will last a very, very, very long time.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Governing? I don't think so!

Recently, Arizona saw a great example of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.  

Let me rephrase that:  Arizona saw the result of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.

Okay, let me try again:  Arizona will soon experience the result of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.

I'm talking about the recently-passed Arizona State Budget, a document that stipulates how $9.1 billion will be spent in the next fiscal year.  I can't give details because 1) I don't have them, 2) I wouldn't understand much of it.  

Of course, when it was passed in the wee hours of the morning, some lawmakers hadn't had enough time to really read it and understand all the complexities involved in the document, either.

Let me talk, instead, about how Arizona's GOP governor and legislative leadership worked to get the budget passed in both chambers.  They worked, part of the time, behind closed doors.  This, from a governor who promised "transparency" in his administration.  Uh, huh.  And you know something? We'll never know the full story about the deals that were struck - and the threats made - in an effort to get the governor's budget passed!

But let me make some guesses.  And since I wasn't at the State Capitol when the budget was being discussed, and certainly didn't have any video cams or tape recorders set up, these are guesses.  However ... my suppositions are based on many years covering the Arizona State Legislature in the news media.  I know how it works because I've seen it first hand.

I'll bet the governor met with the GOP leadership of both chambers ... he outlined what he (and his campaign contributors) wanted and they hashed out a few details, coming up with a budget they thought would fly.  And since the GOP controls the House and Senate, this just might be a slam dunk!  Whoopee! 

But there was a problem, you see.  Not all Republicans liked the drastic cuts to education ... and hundreds of pesky constituents showed up at the State Capitol - twice - to protest those cuts.  They also emailed, sent faxes and made phone calls voicing opposition to the budget bill. Those silly soccer moms, teachers, administrators and college students just might actually show up to vote in 2016 when all 90 Arizona legislative seats are up for grabs!

That, according to my script, is when the deals were made.  And maybe some threats, too.  Enter the Majority Whip, stage right.

The Majority Whip is the "enforcer," who typically offers inducements and threatens party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party line. A whip's role is also to ensure that the elected representatives of their party are in attendance when important votes are taken - or to make sure lawmakers stay home if they don't want to play ball.

Here are some of the tactics that the whip and the majority leader (and many times even the governor) will use in order to get the "right" votes from their party members.  And I'll bet you they were used in spades as the GOP rounded up enough votes to pass the Arizona budget bill: 

+ Vote the way we want you to vote or your bills/special projects will never see the light of day.  We will bury them! 
+ Want party campaign money to help you get re-elected?  Vote our way or get nothing! 
+ If you vote our way, then your district will get that special funding you want.  Your fault if the money doesn't come your way! 
+ Still don't want to do it our way?  Then just get sick and stay home so your vote won't hurt us.  Otherwise, you'll pay in some way down the line!  

Do I know this went on at the State Capitol before the budget vote?  No.  Did it probably happen?  Yes.  Why?  Because it's happened before and it will happen again (especially since outside money is playing a huge role in Arizona elections).

This is not governing.  Governing is making sure everyone is heard - and that all of us are represented.  My two representatives and one senator are all Democrats.  Basically, they were left out of the process so I was left out of the process!  Most Arizonans had no voice in those closed-door sessions and the deal-making.

Governing is talking, debating, compromising, listening, and making sure everyone is given the opportunity to participate in the process so that democratic representation truly takes place.  But that didn't happen with regard to the budget.  The self-imposed time line was so short that it was difficult for all the lawmakers to even read the amendments, let alone discuss/debate them!  But you see, the Republicans had to move fast in order to shut down more protests from regular folks like you and me.

Yes ... Arizonans will soon experience the result of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.  I hope they remember that in 2016.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trickle down ... or trickle out?

Ronald Regan's "Trickle Down Theory" of economics (sometimes called "supply-side") goes like this:  If the rich and corporations do well, benefits will "trickle down" to the rest. So ... lower taxes on high income individuals or big business will benefit most of the population because all that money saved through lower taxes will trickle down to everyone else.  

I'm certainly not an economist (and don't even pretend to be), but my response has to be: HOGWASH!  You don't have to be an economist to have some common sense! Common sense and history make it clear that "supply-side" economics just doesn't work; it's "demand-side" economics that moves the economy.  A friend posted the best explanation of that today and I'm going to take from his explanation and then add some to it.

Let's say it takes five people to run the ABC Widget Company.  Only five.  Now let's say the state legislature - or Congress - reduces the taxes that must be paid by the company.  Nice tax break! According to the trickle down theory, ABC Widget Co. will take that tax savings and hire more people. The problem is that ABC Widget Co. doesn't need more people!  Why in the world would the tax savings be used to hire people that simply aren't needed?

Here's what really happens:  The CEO of the ABC Widget Co. will get a nice bonus ... and maybe even some jobs will end up in India.  The tax savings trickled out instead of trickling down.  You didn't benefit and neither did I.  The economy didn't benefit, either.

The company WILL hire more people, though, if they need to produce more widgets!  And that will happen only if people are buying more widgets (demand!) ... which means consumers need to have enough money to buy the product.  

Consumer spending > Corporate profits > Corporate hiring/raises > More consumer spending > Continue the cycle

Yes, there's more to it than my extremely simple timeline ... I know that.  But those ARE the basics.  Tell me how "trickle down" fits anywhere in that timeline.  It's supposed to and the concept is a fine idea, but in reality, it just doesn't happen - and history proves that.

Let's look at recent history, shall we?  Kansas governor, Sam Brownback, promised that his state would be the Republican Model so he and the tea-party lawmakers enacted a whole bunch of really deep tax cuts, right in line with the Republican playbook.  Business got huge tax cuts, the wealthy got really nice cuts, middle class and poor folks got cuts not worth mentioning because the percentage is so low.  Brownback called it a "pro-growth tax policy."  Hmmmm ... so .... what did happen?  Here's a partial list:
  • Kansas trails the nation in job growth.
  • No rainy day fund left - Kansas now in huge deficit.
  • After just two years -  revenue shortfall of $338 million.
  • Revenue even lower than the worst predictions.
  • School budgets never recovered and Brownback demands even more education cuts.
  • Healthcare, assistance for the poor, courts, and other state services being eviscerated.
 Brownback keeps promising economic growth, but it's not happening.  In California, though, there's a different picture.  In the middle of the recession, Gov. Jerry Brown pushed for tax increases in order to preserve the quality of state services.  Result?  California's job growth since then has left Kansas - and the country as a whole - in the dust. 

The next time a Republican talks about the benefits of trickle down or supply-side economics, ask for evidence that it works - or has worked - to improve the economy.  Then watch the stammering begin.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Yes, you ARE responsible!

Just today, I posted a link to a story about a Republican woman in Missouri who wants to be that state's next governor.  She's already the House Speaker.  She made sure to demonize women with about everything she said, including providing a "connection" between single moms and child pornography. In other words ... another Republican extremist.  Read the story yourself here.

Within an hour of posting that story, four of my Republican friends sent me private messages saying that woman does NOT speak for them.  Two of those friends even said they are not responsible for what the GOP extremists say and do.

I beg to differ.  Moderate, rational Republicans are most definitely responsible for putting the extremists in office!  And they are the only ones who can restore the GOP to the "big tent party" where differing views are welcome and rational thought is the norm.

Before I explain exactly why my moderate Republican friends are responsible for the extremists, here are a few other comments made by GOP lawmakers at the state and federal levels.

  •  “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”  ~Texas State Senator Jodie Laubenberg, an ignorant claim that rape kits are used to abort a pregnancy (June, 2013)
  •  Human-caused global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" ~Sen. James Inhofe (OK) as he cited the Bible to defend his position
  • "... I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you." ~Rick Santorum, presidential candidate, explaining that rape is a gift from God (January, 2012)
  •  "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!"~Herman Cain, presidential candidate
  • “I would not compromise my principles for politics. You’re saying, will it become politically unpopular to have the position I’m having? If it does, so be it. I don’t compromise my principles for politics.” ~NJ Governor Chris Christie explaining why he continues to oppose marriage equality
  • “I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” ~Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who also thinks God causes rape (October, 2012)
  • “Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low. But when you make that exception, there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose for such an amendment.” ~Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, claiming that getting pregnant through rape is rare therefore there shouldn’t be any exceptions for rape victims in anti-abortion bills (June, 2013)
  • Life begins "from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman." ~Former Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer - who needs to take a biology class, pure and simple
Many of the above quotes went hand-in-hand with the monstrous number of anti-choice bills introduced by Republicans in Congress and state legislatures.  This, of course, from the party that purports to keep government out of your life.  Uh, huh.  But they are getting elected, and my moderate Republican friends say they are NOT responsible.  That's where my friends are wrong.

They may not like the radical Republicans on the ballot but they WILL vote for them simply because of the "R" behind the candidate's name!  To vote for a Democrat would surely send them straight to hell, don't ya know!  So, they will knowingly vote for a Republican who believes the United States is a "Christian" nation ... a candidate who wants to ban contraception for religious reasons ... a candidate who is so anti-women that you wonder who brought them into the world ... a candidate who has no problems supporting - and voting for - legislation that makes it legal to discriminate against certain groups of people ... a candidate who wants to make Christian prayer mandatory in public schools. 

It's so simple.  If my moderate, rational Republican friends don't like the extremists in office, they must vote them out.  And that means voting for the other candidate.  Trust me ... you will survive with a Democrat (or 3rd party individual) in office for two or four or six years.  In the meantime, you will have sent the Republican Party a very strong message:  we will NOT tolerate being represented by the radicals any longer!

So, please ... don't tell me you aren't responsible for the extreme right-wing lawmakers now in office.  YOU put them there.