Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Attack on Austin IRS office - terrorism or criminal act?

When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City we agreed it was an act of domestic terrorism. When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underpants bomber, was caught trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 there was no problem identifying it as attempted terrorism.

A few hours after the plane crashed into the Austin building housing IRS offices various officials met with the media to proclaim that the incident wasn’t terrorism but a criminal act. Some on the far right such as the anti-government "Patriot" movement, which includes thousands of tax protestors, elevated Stack to the status of hero and are only disappointed that the death toll was so low. Yet if Joe Stack had been of the Islamic faith there’s little doubt the incident would have been called a terrorist act even by them.

How is the motive for these acts really any different? How can mass murder of civilians be terrorism sometimes and a criminal act other times? How can that same act perpetrated by an American citizen against other American citizens be considered heroic to anyone in this country, are we that far into division? Doesn’t anyone recall Lincoln’s admonition that “A house divided against itself cannot stand”?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Glenn Beck must think women shouldn't have the right to vote

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Glenn Beck said “progressives are a cancer eating the Constitution” and got applause. I wonder if the women clapping know that Progressives were the ones who fought for the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage. I wonder how all those giving that round of applause would feel if a million pounds of beef tainted by e-coli weren’t recalled because the Food and Drug Administration that Progressives fought for didn’t exist.

Would there even be a Toyota recall if it weren’t for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which is just one of the agencies protecting American’s that were inspired by demands of Progressives? The next time the U.S. is threatened with a pandemic like H1N1 (swine) flu would all Mr. Beck’s adoring fans at CPAC really want to deal with the outbreak without the Department of Health and Human Services?

Progressives are the people who fight for the everyday needs of Americans regardless of party or religion, whether rich or poor. Progressives are the people who make America the country that more people want to emigrate to than anywhere else.

Now I ask you does the fact that women now have the right to vote sound like a “cancer eating the Constitution”? Does having food and medicine untainted by disease or toxic chemicals seem like “cancer”?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mercer debate claims don't pass the smell test

State Board of Education District 5 incumbent Ken Mercer is running for re-election. In the Republican Primary debate held last week Mr. Mercer repeatedly claimed that students are not allowed to raise their hands and ask questions in science class. His opponent Mr. Tuggey suggested that, if that’s really happening then it’s a local issue which should be handled by the administration in that district, not micro-managed by the heavy hand of the SBOE. That’s a great way to look at the purported problem, but what Mr. Tuggey failed to note is that many of Mr. Mercer’s claims are ginned up to provide red meat to his most rabid supporters and I’m betting this one is too.

Ken Mercer also claimed that while the curriculum writing teams are required by law to involve participation of teachers, parents and business people; only teachers were involved. For this to be true none of the 102 team members must have any children, I find that highly improbable.

Mr. Mercer claims that conservative historians in classrooms were shut out of the process. Given that Republicans hold a 2 to 1 advantage on the board and appointed 67 of the 102 team members that is an absurd assertion. Can he seriously believe that not a single conservative was named to the teams with kind of majority? But wait, if he’s so concerned about the lack of conservatives, parents and business people why didn’t he bother to nominate even a single person to the teams?

Ken Mercer and the State Board of Education do more harm than good on teen pregancy

Recently KXAN in Austin hosted a candidate forum for various primary races including State Board of Education District 5. Incumbent Ken Mercer claimed that parents in his district don’t want their children to be taught about contraception only the consequences of sexual activity. Mr. Mercer has not been listening to his constituents because according to polls done in the last year parents across Texas want medically accurate sex education that includes contraception by an overwhelming majority. In fact polls have shown that up to 90% of Texans want abstinence-plus information about contraception and disease prevention included in sexuality education, but 96% of Texas schools don’t provide that information.

Not only are schools not teaching what parents want but 41% of Texas school districts teach factually incorrect information in their sex education programs. Actual materials used in Texas classrooms claim that HIV is spread through tears, sweat and saliva. Ask your doctor, they’ll tell you that’s just not true.

In 2000 Texas and California had very similar teen birth rates ranking 46 and 44 among the states respectively. About the same time Texas went with abstinence only until marriage sex education curriculum and California chose abstinence plus. Just 5 years later Texas had a more than 50% higher teen birth rate put Texas at 50th place while California is now in 27th. Current Texas policy is just not working and Mr. Mercer is one of the reasons it isn’t.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Congressman Ryan wants to do for Medicare what W failed to do, PRIVATIZE it

Congressman Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee, has put forth a budget plan that seeks to privatize Medicare which is the most efficient provider of medical insurance coverage in the country. Medicare spends 98% of its budget on health care while the typical private insurance company spends less than 80% of its budget on health care. Ryan’s plan would offer tax credits and vouchers with the amount indexed for inflation. Some would say that it sounds pretty good even though coverage under private insurance would cost substantially more than comparable coverage under Medicare due to the significantly lower efficiency of private insurance.

So let’s say that Congressman Ryan’s bill was accepted as the law of the land, last year inflation was so low that Social Security didn’t even increase payments under what is known as Cost of Living Adjustments, so we would expect that there would be no increase in the tax credits or vouchers. But what would stop insurance companies from raising rates just like Anthem Blue Cross just announced. In California they are hiking insurance rates as much as an astounding 39% and where in the past they’ve only raised rates once a year, they’ve warned that future rate hikes could come at any time.

So the Republican plan for health care reform consists of giving away tax dollars to private companies who can still charge Americans as much as they want and jack up rates as often as they want.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Where is Elliott Ness?

The Senate Republican caucus is running an extortion racket by holding up confirmation of presidential appointees. Senator Shelby aided and abetted by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn is attempting to coerce the administration into giving the Pentagon's aerial refueling tanker contract to a foreign company, EADS, that along with its domestic partner has given him over $100,000 in campaign contributions.

That a United States senator would be willing to shut down the process of confirming administration appointees simply to help a foreign firm win a military contract is beyond just politics as usual. That the entire Republican caucus is complicit is disgusting. Senators Hutchison and Cornyn both talk about American values but when it’s time to do their jobs they are willing to roll-over in support of a colleague’s foreign campaign contributors.

The FBI should raid the offices of Senator Shelby and the entire Senate Republican caucus and launch a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) investigation. How I long for Elliott Ness and the Untouchables!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wasteful spending in the stimulus, but it's not what you think

The stimulus package signed into law by President Obama last year has been criticized by many for not creating jobs and for generally being a program of wasteful spending that only makes conditions worse. There is some truth to that, in fact 36.6% was wasted in an attempt to achieve Republican support. That 36.6% was tax cuts like accelerated depreciation (multiplier .027) which time and again has been shown to create substantially less economic activity than direct spending on things like schools and bridges (multiplier 1.59) or extending unemployment benefits (multiplier 1.64). Government spending increases by the Roosevelt administration stopped the economic free fall America suffered during the Great Depression. Tax cuts like Reagan’s trickle down economic policies led to greater deficits and no new jobs.

Much of the remaining stimulus funds went to state and local governments for use in paying our policeman and teachers among others. Without those funds our children would have found themselves in classrooms with substantially more kids per class and we know that leads to poor education. So while the stimulus didn’t create as many jobs as we need it did prevent things from getting worse.

If we want our economy to start making new jobs paying more than fast food wages we’re going to have to spend some big money and the best way to do that is to invest in infrastructure because not only does it provide jobs but we also end up with something of value when it’s done.