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Shaping the Future

It was to be his Wateroo, or so the Republicans said. After a year and a half of debate, name calling, lies, threats, punditry, shouts of fear, uncertainty and doubt, tonight the House of Representatives passed health care reform. President Obama has managed to do something no other administration in recent memory has been able to and he did it despite the efforts of the GOP to filibuster, block and obstruct at every turn. The President and the Congress has struck a blow to the status quo and moved the country forward to at least try and deal with the death grip of expanding health insurance costs in this country. Obama promised it, and Nancy Pelosi helped deliver it.

The implications for what happens next for Republicans are as deep as they are serious. Here are just some of the reactions making the rounds:

Massie:

“Make no mistake: the more virulent GOP opposition to the plans became – and, if you like, the more hysterical – the more Democrats had to pass it if only to save face. Sceptical Blue Dogs, Pro-Lifers and Leftists were all forced to club together for the greater good of the party. Left to their own devices they almost certainly couldn’t have agreed on a bill, any bill.”

Frum:

“No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?”

Andrew Samwick:

“I don’t think anyone will hold up the bill that will pass as exemplary, but it does reflect elements of health care reform that Democrats campaigned on and won on in 2008. So I have a hard time seeing this as doing violence to the will of the people as it is typically expressed in our electoral system. Elections matter. This is how they matter.”

So what does all this mean for Obama and the Democrats? It’s difficult to tell yet, but I firmly believe that delivering health care reform will help cement a second term for the President. As the economy continues to recover, more people start to find work, and the reforms from tonight’s bill start to kick in, the GOP will find they were on the wrong side of history. 32 million more Americans will be able to have health coverage. Pre-existing conditions (including those associated with simply being a woman) will no longer bar people from coverage. Expensive treatments like chemotherapy will no longer have a benefit cap and small businesses will earn tax breaks and subsidies to help keep their workers covered.

The handwriting is on the wall and it isn’t hard to read. But no matter what happens in November, tonight’s vote was a signal that American’s hope for real change wasn’t misplaced. The sheer fact that this bill wasn’t killed dead and buried in a cornfield speaks volumes about the progressive movement in this country. This was a tough vote, and undoubtedly many Democrats will lose their seats in the fall because of it. It takes courage to stand up and do what’s right, even more so when the opposition is screaming at the top of their hysterical lungs. Tonight President Obama said “We did not fear our future, we shaped it.” No truer words were ever spoken.

The Tea Party & The Circus

I firmly believe those who hold extreme views on any topic are less educated about the issue than those in the middle. Such people do not choose to arm themselves with facts but with feelings. Even so, the stunning ignorance of the Tea Party members interviewed in this short piece is nothing short of embarrassing. Person after person admits they don’t know what is and what isn’t in the bill. All they know is what Fox News and Glenn Beck has told them and that’s good enough for them.

If I didn’t have family members of my own that felt this exact same way, I’d think the entire Tea Party movement was a joke. Unfortunately it’s not, it’s deadly serious. The rise in selfishness in the modern conservative movement in recent years has really taken me by surprise. The “I’ve got mine, you’re on your own.” attitude that pervades Republican and right-wing circles is both frightening and counter-culture to the very Christian ideals so many on the right profess to hold.

Some of the Tea Party members in this video don’t believe there are millions of uninsured citizens in our country. To them the emergency room heals all wounds, treats all diseases (even cancer, heart disease and mental illness) and doesn’t raise the cost of health care for the rest of us year after year. This week I listened to caller after caller on the Brad & Britt show phone in to say that they either didn’t care about those who were uninsured or who didn’t believe the rising cost of health care was worse than doing nothing.

The health care bill that is about to be passed in the U.S. Congress isn’t the best legislation that could have been written, not by a long shot. It is a highly imperfect attempt to fix the growing problem of spiraling health care costs that also helps to protect consumers from being dropped for pre-existing conditions (among other things). It is by no means the final solution, but rather simply a step in the right direction. However, if Tea Party members had their way, we wouldn’t even be having the discussion in the first place.

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Greenland’s Disappearing Ice Lakes

While the battle rages between climate deniers and the consensus of the scientific community, strange things are afoot in Greenland. The PBS series NOVA documents the country’s rapidly changing landscape with the help of survey photographer James Balog. Extreme Ice is broken into six parts but the most ominous segment deals with Greenland’s strange disappearing lakes.

In recent years the summer melt season in Greenland has grown hotter and now lasts two weeks longer than it did only a decade ago. This has resulted in huge, fresh water lakes forming on the ice sheet surface. Some of these lakes are miles in diameter and up to 50 feet deep. Although these melt lakes contain hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, satellite imagery has recorded their disappearances in just the span of a few hours. Years ago it was believed the water was simply re-absorbed into the surrounding ice, but recent surveys have discovered something more dangerous. The water is boring down through the ice to the bedrock below and lubricating the entire ice sheet of Greenland. The implications of this, if true, are staggering.

One such amazing lake event was witnessed first hand by the NOVA team and documented for the special. The entire 60 minute broadcast is available on the PBS website and is worth your time. Watching these incredible frozen landscape melt away is strangely beautiful but deeply unsettling. As climate skeptics dominate the media and introduce measures in government bent on denying action to stop the effects of man-made warming, Greenland is slowly but surely slipping away. The debate about what’s causing climate change may never end, but the real question now is what are we doing to prepare for the coming disaster?

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Economic Egress

The next time someone tries to tell you that Obama is destroying the country, or that his administration will be the ruin of us all, please point them at this handy chart. The Democrats should have this printed on t-shirts, bumper stickers and anywhere else they possibly can. It speaks volumes, especially about the economic policies of so-called “fiscal conservatives”. It’s simply the best chart I’ve seen in years.

“Do you think we’re ready for that kind of a commitment?”

NYS Senator Diane Savino gave a passionate speech on the floor of the NY State senate this week on the subject of gay marriage. Unfortunately the measure was defeated by a 38-24 margin, but this elegant and frank essay by Savino stands out none-the-less. The state senator posits the institution of marriage is far more threatened by today’s TV reality shows and a culture that socializes young women to plan their wedding day all their life than anything the homosexual community can throw at it.

She happens to be right and this speech is a testament to how common sense, humor and the moral high ground are powerful weapons in the battle against bigotry.

Fox News’ War on the White House

When the White House first pushed back against Fox News, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea but now I am. Media Matters put together what Fox has been up to since the day Obama was elected, month by month. I’d love it for someone to go through and try and make a montage like this of Fox’s positive stories about the administration. It’d probably last all of 30 seconds.

I don’t know what disgusts me more, the fact that Fox pushes its extreme-right opinion 24 hours a day or that most of my family enjoys having lies and propaganda spoon fed to them on a daily basis. This is one time when turning the other cheek just isn’t an option.

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What Are They Afraid Of?

On my way home from work tonight I heard no less than 2 ads on the radio that opposed the so-called “public healthcare option”. Both ads made obvious attempts to scare the listener into believing that enacting competition via a government run option would result in higher fees, although it’s been shown that the opposite is true. As I listened, I could actually hear the desperation of the insurance industry being read between the lines. Why are they so afraid? This new ad featuring Heather Graham pretty much nails it:

While insurance companies may pass on increased costs to the consumer initially, there’s no doubt that over the long term they will have to trim the fat to stay competitive. Conservatives always profess their desire to have companies and individuals compete on even footing. They oppose affirmative action and equal work for equal pay regulations because “the market will take care of it.” The problem is private health insurance isn’t playing on a level field. They have anti-trust protection and have been coddled for the better part of 40 years and so they don’t have to answer to anyone. Someone has to make them sit up and play nice. Since the GOP have demonstrated they’re the poster boys for the status quo, it falls to Obama and the Democrats to get it done. I only pray they have the strength to do what’s right.

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Increased Racism & Threats Straining Secret Service

Whether conservatives admit it or not, racism is alive and well in the United States of America and evidence of that simple fact can be found in a new report out today from The Boston Globe. The piece highlights the fact that racist and anti-government hate groups have been increasing in this country over the last decade, but that they have dramatically increased since the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black President. The number of threats has increased so much in fact that some in the agency are throwing around the idea of curtailing the Service’s financial investigative units to better focus on protection:

“The new demands are leading some officials, both inside and outside the agency, to raise the possibility of the service curtailing or dropping its role in fighting financial crime to focus more on protecting leaders and their families from assassination attempts and thwarting terrorist plots aimed at high-profile events.

“If there were an evaluation of the service’s two missions, it might be determined that it is ineffective . . . to conduct its protection mission and investigate financial crimes,’’ according to a internal report issued in August by the Congressional Research Service.”

So in other words there’s now serious talk of putting less effort into investigating counterfeiting, money laundering and mortgage fraud simply because of the rise of anti-Obama hate groups on the right. The job of investigating financial matters might fall to another branch under Homeland Security, and at this point nothing has been decided, but it’s obvious that the increased level of threats against the President is becoming a serious concern. The piece goes onto speculate about what’s giving rise to the increased rhetoric:

“Threatening language has also found its way into talk radio broadcasts and social networking websites, raising fears that individuals not normally considered threats to the president could be incited to violence.

For example, the Secret Service in recent months has investigated a poll posted on Facebook about whether Obama should be killed. It has interviewed a Florida radio talk show host after a caller mentioned ammunition, target practice, and the president, and federal officials have raised concerns about several instances in which protesters carrying weapons showed up at Obama events, including a man at an August town hall in New Hampshire.

The racist extremist fringe is exploiting themes that strike a chord in the mainstream more than we have seen in the recent past,’’ said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, citing several elected leaders who have questioned whether Obama is a US citizen eligible to be president.”

Anyone who doubts the seriousness of these matters should wake up and take a look around. Voices in the media, particularly on talk radio and FOX News have become verbal kindling for a potentially dangerous spark that could erupt at any moment. Often those on the right try to equate the left’s hate of George W. Bush to the current explosion of racism and violence directed at Obama. Bush, like Obama was burned in effigy, and called Hitler by some, but the Globe’s report sheds light on just how much worse the current climate really is. All things are not always equal, a lesson the Secret Service is now learning the hard way.

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Ebert on the ‘Festering Fringe’

I’ve always admired Roger Ebert as a movie critic. When he and his partner Gene Siskel started reviewing films I always found my views aligning with the Ebert half of the aisle. As he and I have grown older, that alignment has only strengthened. Lately, Roger has also earned my respect as a political voice of reason. In a piece out this week, Ebert takes the fringe elements of today’s political society to task for their increasingly bizarre and worrisome tirades against the President, even in the face of logic and reason.

A great example of what Ebert’s talking about is today’s announcement that the United States and the city of Chicago lost the bid to host the 2016 Olympics. In the past week President Obama flew to Europe to throw his hat in for his country and try and convince the IOC that Chicago was the right place at the right time. As soon as the bid failed, conservatives all across the board cheered the loss and berated Obama for his failed attempt to bring the massive event home. This despite the fact that hosting the games would have undoubtedly been an economic boon for Chicago as well as the country as a whole. Tens of thousands of jobs would have been created, billions of dollars in revenue generated and goodwill for the U.S. spread around the globe.

Sadly, right-wing fringe hypcrites such as Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh would rather see shame come to our country and our President than have Obama be on the side of success. These gas bags have the gaul to root against their country in the midst of massive economic hardship simply because they want to spite Barack Obama. Self-indulgent children, one and all.

These are the very same fringe elements that have been whipping up fear and loathing against the young administration in the hopes of bringing it to utter ruin. They think nothing of ignoring facts and pushing their own agendas even in the face of massive contradictions, some of which they themselves have railed against in the past. They call Obama Hitler, they claim he’s not an American, they want you to believe he’s trying to brainwash your children or that he’s the most ineffectual President of the modern age. In his latest journal entry Roger Ebert speaks out:

“These beliefs are held by various segments of our population. They are absurd. Any intelligent person can see they are absurd. It is not my purpose here to debate them, because such debates are futile. With the zealous True Believers there is no debating. They feed upon loops within loops of paranoid surmises, inventions which are passed along as fact. Sometimes those citing them don’t even seem to care if you believe them. Sometimes they may not believe them themselves. The purpose is to fan irrational hatred against our president.”

He goes on to say:

“They are told to oppose, even hate, those who might be trying to help them. Leaving all ideology aside, who in his right mind doesn’t want an affordable health insurance plan for his family and his loved ones? Who doesn’t believe religion, any religion, does not belong in the schools? Who really thinks the census, which is a vital tool of democracy, represents some kind of occult threat? If census figures had been frozen 50 years ago, most of these people would be disenfranchised today. Who can seriously compare American president to Hitler? Who believes a man who attends church more regularly than any president since Carter is an atheist?

What is the benefit of this hate? What good can come of it? Where might it lead us?”

When an entire segment of the population roots against their President to fail (be it Bush or Obama), something is seriously wrong. I came to believe that George W. Bush was bad for the country, but never once did I wish him to fail in his mission to stamp out terror and keep the United States safe from violence. I longed for checks and balances to curb Bush’s disregard for the rule of law but I never abdicated insurrection against his authority. I believed him and his efforts were misguided but I never compared him to Adolf Hitler or cheered when the results of his actions had a negative impact on my country.

All of these things are happening now with Obama and his administration and we’re only 8 months into a 4 year term. What will the festering fringe be like a year, two years from now? How can “the center hold” in such an atmosphere? Occasionally there are voices of reason from the right as there were today with Joe Scarborough’s piece applauding the President for attempting to capture the Olympics, but they are a dying breed.

It seems like all the reasonable people in this country are hogtied in the back of an ’87 Buick, kidnapped by the lunatic currently at the wheel. The right thinks the driver is the President, but as most sane people can see the car is driven not by Obama but by the fringe elements of our society. As precious seconds pass, the car speeds up and careens towards certain disaster. It has all the makings of a blockbuster movie, but it’s one that neither I, nor Roger Ebert can recommend in the least. Thumbs waaaay down from the both of us.

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Right Wing Roundup

The level of conservative paranoia in this country is rising fast. In the span of just a few days the media has reported on a wide range of threats to the President. Some are small, others are blatant, but all have the potential to be dangerous. Here’s a round up of just some of the extreme political posturing that is currently going on in right-wing America:

• The United States Secret Service investigates an online Facebook poll that asks if “President Barack Obama should be killed.” The Facebook application has been suspended while the poll is being looked into.

• Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), in a speech Saturday at the How To Take Back America conference, called President Obama an “enemy of humanity“. He also suggested the President provide his birth certificate (something Obama has already done) to prove his constitutionally eligibility to hold office. Franks later clarified his remarks saying he should have made it clear he was speaking about Obama’s abortion policies. So Obama is still an enemy of humanity, just the unborn humans.

• Conservative author John L. Perry writing for Newsmax postulates a “Military coup to resolve the ‘Obama problem’ ” is not unrealistic”. Perry, obviously not content with the normal process of democracy in the United States theorizes that the President may have to be removed from power prior to the next lawful election.

• Conservative speaker Kitty Werthmann recently led a workshop called “How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists.” She warned her audience to get their guns ready for “Bloody Battle” with Obama the Nazi.

UPDATE: Media Matters provides its own round up of extremist right-wing rhetoric and it’s not pretty. Meanwhile at Pleade The First, my friend Anthony rightfully calls out conservatives and dems alike to stand up to this subversive speech and denounce it out for what it is – treason.

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Your Right Wing

CNN reports from yesterday’s Tea Party demonstration in Washington D.C. and discovers a “dark fringe“. Better late than never I suppose. The problem is that this so-called fringe is not really just a few people, it’s tens of thousands and growing every single day. These are people who spout complete and utter lunacy as if it were fact. Sterilization camps, the return of communism, forced abortion and much more are all part of their world view. If watching this clip doesn’t scare the living crap out of you, then you must be a Republican.

The problem I have with these people isn’t that they are taking to the streets to express their batshit crazy views. This is the United States of America and they are pretty much free to say whatever they want (short of actually threatening the President). I also think it’s wonderful they can protest out in the open and are not confined to “free speech zones” like those set up by the previous administration.

My problem is that all of these people seem to forget that issues like health care reform were part of the process running up to the election last fall. America listened to the discussion, we watched the debates and we decided we liked what Obama represented and put him into office. If that simple truth is too bitter a pill for the right to swallow, then they should have showed up on November 4th to vote for John McCain in greater numbers. They can protest to high heaven, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re all sore losers and unfortunately more than a few of them are closet racists. Something tells me if our President was a white southerner who was pushing for these kinds of health insurance reforms, we wouldn’t be seeing this level of anger and protests. Think I’m crazy? Then why were so many of the Tea Party members silent while George W. Bush was running up the largest deficit in U.S. history? No, it’s never been about the money or the policies for the majority of these people, it’s about Barack Obama and their loss of power. Plain and simple.

UPDATE: Politico puts some of this in perspective along with the idea that Obama has a heavier burden than most new Presidents due to his race. There is strong evidence that many people in this country can’t bring themselves to accept a black President. I whole-heartedly agree. Gwen Dawkins, Democratic activists says “Black people have lived under white presidents since day one,” Dawkins observed, “So would you give him a chance?” Unfortunately it appears blind hate and ignorance of facts trumps history, tolerance and common sense.

Shaping the Future

Watching the President speak about health care reform this evening, I’m reminded why I voted for him. His words were clear and his tone was assertive. He took those who spread misinformation about the bill to task and actually used the word “lie”. He spoke in no uncertain terms that he was willing to listen to ideas from both the right and the left, and yet while he was doing this, Republicans in the room treated the occasion like so many town hall meetings that have degenerated into shouting matches these past few weeks.

I don’t agree with everything Obama has done so far in office. I’d like the transparency he promised in the campaign and an end to Bush era provisions such as warrant-less wiretaps. I’d also like to see more of what he showed tonight. A willingness to stand up and fight for his beliefs and to challenge those who would stand in the way of progress simply to score political points.

His presidency is still young but when he takes the time to assert himself, it demonstrates why we believed in him despite his relative inexperience. Tonight, the right was made to look like the obstructionists they are. The GOP agree reform is needed, but they are unwilling to compromise on the key points that will make the health care proposal effective at lowering costs and providing care for those who lack it. Near the end of his speech, the President said: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.” I firmly believe this administration can do great things, Barack just needs to get out in front a bit more. We’re buying, it’s just that up until now, he’s hasn’t really been selling. That changed tonight. It’s about time.

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Mob Rules

It’s getting uglier and uglier out there. The number of threats against elected officials supporting health insurance reform climbs each day. Rachel Maddow gives a run down of what’s transpired so far and sets the scene for what seems inevitable. God forbid someone gets hurt or killed, but given the tendency of some noteworthy conservatives to shout “FIRE!” in a crowded, hot summer theater, I just can’t see how we can expect a happy ending, let alone health care reform.

[Hat tip to Marla Erwin for this post]

UPDATE: It gets worse. The AP is reporting that militia groups with gripes against the government are growing rapidly across the country. “The stress of a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president are among the causes for the recent rise, the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says.” Lord deliver us from intolerant fools and things that go bump in the night.

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The Election Broke Their Brains

To date I’ve not heard someone so well define what’s wrong with the conservative movement, specifically the extremists who have hijacked their party. Franklin Schaeffer, former conservative author of Crazy For God hits the nail squarely on the head and gives us a good idea of what’s in store in the days, weeks and months ahead. Watch the entire clip.

I find it fascinating that the right can be so upset with Obama after only 6 months on the job. We’re already at the point where threats are being made and violence could erupt at any moment. All this and the President hasn’t even completed his first year in office! The fall from power must have hit certain people in this country harder than the rest of us could expect. It’s the only way I can explain the absolute fanaticism and hate we’re seeing directed at Obama. That, and of course the fact that he’s not white and doesn’t have a typical American upbringing. A large portion of them would rather spend time asking for Obama’s birth certificate than trying to actually help the country.

In their own minds many conservatives have managed to ignore the fact that they lost the last election. America decided to try a new direction (for at least 2 years) and see what happens. I’m not opposed to getting their input if they would simply have some to give, but they don’t. Since November the GOP has been saying “No!” and playing to their base each and every day since Obama took office. Now they’ve decided that since they can’t offer any real solutions, and since they were relegated to minority status for the foreseeable future, they’ve going to throw a perpetual hissy fit.

The scariest part is that we’re only now seeing the tip of the “hate” iceberg.

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Police Begin Probe Into Brad Miller (D-NC) Death Threats

The recent strong-arm tactics of the GOP and their insurance run corporate backers turned ugly last Monday when a caller to North Caroina Congressman Brad Miller’s office turned into what police call a “threat” situation. The caller was trying to provoke Miller into holding a town hall meeting. These forums have been disrupted lately by conservatives and Republican operatives to make their, sometimes violent, displeasure known about insurance industry reform. Well, now the police are involved and are starting to investigate threats to Miller’s life:

“The threatening caller, when told by a staffer that Miller was not planning a meeting, claimed the congressman didn’t want to meet with people face to face because he knew it would cost him his life, according to Canipe. The staffer then asked if the caller was making a threat. The caller, said Canipe, replied that there are a lot of angry people out there.”

As the incidents of inflammatory rhetoric such as Congressmen being hung in effigy and right-wing talk show hosts joking about poisoning the Speaker of the House increase, so does the likelihood that some angry citizen will go too far. During his inauguration speech, President Obama professed his belief that “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” The caller who threatened Brad Miller and the thuggish behavior of conservatives the past few weeks proves those the right never heard a word the President said that day.

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Rebutting “Obama’s 1st QTR Report”

I love my family (on both sides) very much, but unlike myself, they are all very conservative. I’m not exactly sure how I eventually came to lean so far left, but I like to think it’s because my parents always taught me to “do unto others” and that no one was better than anyone else.

So when I recently received the “Obama First Quarter Report” chain email that has been going around from my family, I was compelled to respond to it. Many of the items here are outright falsehoods. Some make some good points. Most are too biased to even be considered seriously. If this post helps you to respond to your own family, or just helps stop the spread of lies about the 44th President of the United States, then I’ve done my duty.

• • •

Do you have any questions on the below? Agree or Disagree. How about health care?

My parents have Medicare and my father has veteran’s health care. Both government run health care systems. They love them and think they are much better than their privately run HMO’s.

My company’s biggest expense after salary is health care. One year rates from our private insurance company rose 15% the next year 33%. And you’re telling me that conservatives are content to sit and do nothing to reform health care in this country, let alone try and cover the now over 50 million people who don’t have any coverage what-so-ever?

It is estimated that some 1.5 million people will go bankrupt in the United States in 2010 due to illness thanks to insurance companies who are unwilling to cover them. Is that the kind of health care you want for you and your children?

Some facts vs right-wing claims on health care reform.

Observations on YOUR President’s Early Days:

1.  Offended the Queen of England.

The only ones “offended” were right-wingers. Obama gave the Queen of England the gift *she requested*. An Apple iPod filled with Broadway musical numbers, and video of her previous trip to the US. In addition, she also received a signed, rare edition of a Rogers and Hammerstein manuscript. The queen was not offended, she was actually quite pleased.

2.  Bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Is that better or worse than Bush kissing him and holding his hand whenever they met? I forget.

3.  Praised the Marxist Daniel Ortega.

If by “praise” you mean cutting $64 million in aid to his country because of his posture and remarks, then yes, Obama praised him. Obama knows the difference between words and actions. In addition, at a speech given by Ortega in Spain in April, Obama is reported to have “endured” it. He didn’t praise Ortega, nor did he rebuke him.

4.  Kissed Hugo Chavez on the cheek.

Obama and Chavez shook hands (as did George W. Bush) and had a joking conversation.

5.  Endorsed the Socialist Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Obama initially pledged co-operation with Boliva because of long-standing trade agreements with the country. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t always get to pick and choose the leaders of various nations (that doesn’t go for Iraq and Afghanistan obviously).

But on July 1st, the US halted $25 million in annual trade benefits to Bolivia, prompting Morales to say “Obama “lied” about cooperation”. So much for that so-called praise:

6.  Announced we would meet with Iranians with no pre-conditions.

Yes, you’re absolutely correct. I happen to think the President is right for doing so. You may disagree, but we tried it your way (not talking to Iran) for over 8 years and it got the USA no where. You’re guy lost, it’s time to give a carrot a try instead of a stick.

7.  Gave away billions to AIG also without pre-conditions.

Actually there are many measures in place to protect tax payer money with the bank bailout, but I agree there could be more accountability in this area.

8.  Massively Expanded the bailouts.

What was the alternative? Let unemployment drop at an even faster rate? Sink even deeper into recession faster? Would you have not attempted to stimulate the economy at all and just “stuffed money under your mattress”?

Again, this was tried for 8 years. Tax cuts for the rich, huge spending in Iran and Afghanistan (foreign nations, not the US). Didn’t work. I’d rather go into debt for money spent in our own country than giving away billions to other countries to wage war.

9.  Insulted everyone who has ever loved a Special Olympian.

Wow, the President is human being who makes mistakes! Imagine him making an in-appropriate remark about the Special Olympics! Was it bad, sure. Did it offend everyone associated with the Special Olympics? No. Plus, unlike Bush who could not, EVER admit a mistake, Obama later apologized for the remark

10.  Tripled our national debt in his first 100 days in office.

Completely untrue and a lie. Most of the current debt (over 80%) is due to Bush policies and bailouts that was started BY HIM. In addition, Obama removed the traditional “let’s hide all the debt” accounting used by presidents in the past to give the American people a true picture of the federal budget. Sometimes reality is a tough pill to swallow.

Conservatives seemed fine with it for 8 years while the country was going deeper and deeper into debt fighting 2 wars and cutting taxes. Now, that money is being spent on America and American programs, you have a problem?

I suggest you go read this excellent piece by the NYT and then reconsider this unfounded accusation.

11.  Announced a termination of the space defense system the day after the North Koreans launched an ICBM.

Everyone agrees that missile defense is important, but not when it doesn’t work. The so-called missile defense shield has been plagued with problems from day one.

In addition, other, newer systems are now being tested.

12.  Despite the urgings of his own CIA director and the prior 4 CIA directors, released information on intelligence gathering.

Sometimes transparency can be a good thing. That being said, I don’t know enough about the subject to speak with any authority regarding if the United States should or should not be announcing how intelligence is gathered.

13.  Accepted without public comment the fact that five of his cabinet members cheated on their taxes and two others withdrew after they couldn’t take the heat.

I never agreed with Obama’s willingness to post people who hadn’t completed their taxes correctly. He should never have appointed those people in the first place. I agree with this point.

14.  Appointed a Homeland Security Chief who quickly identified as “dangers to the  nation”, groups including veterans of the military, and opponents to abortion on demand….and who ordered that the word “terrorism” no longer be used but instead referred to such acts as “man made disasters”.

Like it or not, the department of Homeland Securities report on disgruntled veterans is right on the money. Levels of extremism have been rising in this country since Obama’s election and some of them have to do with ex-military people who seem to think it’s their right to take up arms against the President of the United States.

Two Atlanta area police officers were even suspended for doing an unauthorized “background check” on the President.

Gun owners have been stockpiling weapons and ammo for fear that Obama is “about to take away their guns” although, historically speaking gun owners enjoy more rights now than they did under President Clinton. Not only that, but Obama recently signed a bill that makes it EASIER for people to carry guns in National Parks. Reagan opposed such a measure. Obama backed it.

15.  Circled the globe so he could openly apologize for America greatness.

This one is soooo slanted it’s difficult to reply to with a straight face. The right pulled what they wanted to out of Obama’s trip around the world, regardless of context, tone or actual words spoken. If you want to believe that Obama put down the US at every stop, that’s your right. I actually listened to the speeches and heard a fair, even handed assessment of the history of this country’s actions abroad. Like it or not, we’ve done some bad things over the years. You can bury your head in the sand and try to ignore this fact, or you can try and rebuild relationships with other nations that was destroyed by George W. Bush. Take your pick.

16.  Told the Mexican President that the violence in their country was because of us.

It partly is. If America didn’t have such a demand for illegal drugs, the violence in Mexico wouldn’t be at the levels it is at today. I find the President’s honesty in these matters to the leaders of other nations, refreshing.

17.  Politicized the census by moving it into the White House from its Department of Commerce origins.

Robert Groves, Obama’s nominee to head the US Census Bureau has said on several occasions that he is opposed to sampling or so-called “politicizing” the 2010 census. Until there is actual evidence of this happening (like the massive politicizing that happened under Bush with the Attorney General’s department), simply moving its organizational structure isn’t setting off alarm bells for those of us not wearing tin-foil hats.

18.  Appointed as Attorney General the man who orchestrated the forced removal and expulsion (from America to Cuba ) of a nine-year old whose mother died trying to bring him to a life of freedom in the United States.

A wonderful example of the right’s “situational outrage”. Elian Gonzalez was just a boy looking to escape economic and political oppression and so he should be allowed to stay in the US. At the same time, the thousands of aliens that cross our borders every day looking for the same exact thing as Gonzalez are “destroying the country”. Which is it? Is the United States a nation of laws or not? Why is one boy allowed to stay but not those who cross the border to try and help feed their families or who need health care?

19.  Salutes as heroes three Navy SEALS who took down three terrorists who threatened one American life… and the next day announces members of the Bush administration will likely stand trial for “torturing” a terrorist who had played a part in killing 3000 Americans by  pouring water up their nose.

Yes yes, these two instances are exactly alike. Let’s compare the systematic deconstruction of the Constitution and rule of law that was issued by Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney over a period of 5 years to the necessary killing of 3 pirates.

I’m sorry that we disagree about water boarding, but anyone who has experience with it, John McCain included, has called it torture. The United States doesn’t torture. That’s what George W. Bush said. And yet we did. On multiple occasions and for purposes that had nothing to do with “ticking bombs”, but to justify the illegal invasion of foreign nations.

20.  Air Force One over New York City with a fighter close behind.

Equating this as the work of President Obama is offensive. Obama knew nothing about the flyover and was “furious” about it when he learned of it. People in the defense department will likely lose their jobs because of it.

21.  Sent his National Defense Advisor to Europe to assure Europe that the US will no longer treat Israel in a special manner and they might be on their own with the Muslims.

It is true that Obama has been more heavy handed with Israel than any President in recent memory. It is also true that Israel likes to think they are the only “valid” nation in the region. They are not.

Israel also has one of the strongest, most well run militaries and can handle themselves more than well when it comes to their conflict with Palestine. That being said, I don’t doubt for a second that if Iran were to become involved, the United States would back Israel up to the very end. They have been, and will always be an ally of the United States, no matter what right-wingers would like us to believe about the President.

22.  Began the process of nationalizing the Auto Industry and the Insurance industry.

The auto industry hasn’t been nationalized. Like many other industries in this country, the government has been forced to take a stake in its survival so that you don’t end up eating tuna fish for dinner every night and heating your house with kerosene. The government doesn’t own the auto industry, it doesn’t even have a controlling portion of it. Same goes for the insurance industry although I’d say that I wouldn’t mind some government control of them. They are crooks and unfeeling liars who refuse health care for things like acne and foot odor.

23.  Announced that for intents and purposes the Health Insurance Industry will be nationalized, despite the fact that such a thing is a miserable failure everywhere it’s been put in place.

Everywhere except in the 36 countries that rank higher than the United States in world heath coverage.

Or in the national programs of Medicare and Veteran benefits (US government run programs) that conservative columnist William Kristol recently admitted are “the best” in the world.

And people are paying more attention to Michael Jackson than to defending their own liberties.

The same was true while Bush was passing the Patriot Act and setting up “free speech zones” during his presidency. Wire tapping American’s phones, bank and medical records. Letting thousands drown in New Orleans, letting the drug companies screw over senior citizens time and time again, turning a huge surpluses into massive deficits and appointing crony after crony to government run positions.

1360 more days to go… God help us all!

Yes God help us because Obama seems to be doing okay for a new President 6 months into his position. So let’s not forget all the good things that the President has either succeeded in passing or is in the process of passing while we’re at it. Things like:

• Direct military leaders to end war in Iraq
• Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners
• Establish a credit card bill of rights
• Expand loan programs for small businesses
• Expand eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP)
• Expand funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners
• Extend unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits
• Reverse restrictions on stem cell research
• Appoint at least one Republican to his cabinet
• Signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
• Grant Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba
• Release presidential records
• Create a $60 billion bank to fund roads and bridges
• Close the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug plan
• Create a small business tax credit to help with health premiums
• Push for enactment of Matthew Shepard Act, which expands hate crime law to include sexual orientation and other factors
• Create a White House Office on Urban Policy
• Support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
• Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
• Work to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear (equal pay for women & minorities)
• Weatherize 1 million homes per year
• Enact tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars
• Provide grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes
• Enact the single most successful stimulus program “Cash for clunkers” which has helped sell an estimated 220,000 cars in a little over a week

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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

All the so-called “questions” about Barack Obama’s place of birth seem to have been too much for two Atlanta area police officers. Two DeKalb County officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after an investigation revealed they ran a background check on President Barack Obama.

“Officials said Obama’s name was typed into a computer inside a DeKalb County police car on July 20 and ran through the National Crime Information Center. The secret service was immediately notified and contacted the DeKalb County Police Department.”

I’m not exactly sure what the two police officers were thinking when they decided to query the President’s name against the National Crime Information Center’s database. How they didn’t immediately lose their jobs is beyond me, but it just goes to show how obsessed some people are with trying to discredit the President. Either that, or these two guys just happened to be dumber than a bag of hammers.

UPDATE: A similar incident has occurred in Philadelphia. A police officer there has also run an unauthorized background check on the President and is now being investigated by the department.

Senator Franken’s First Bill

Minnesota’s junior Senator, Al Franken, has already introduced his first bill and to hear him speak of it, it sounds like a good one. The legislation would allocate funds to buy and train service dogs for wounded Iraq & Afghanistan vets. In Franken’s own words:

“This January, I met Luis Carlos Montalvan and his service dog named Tuesday, a beautiful golden retriever, at an inaugural event in Washington.

Luis had been an intelligence officer in Iraq, rooting out corruption in Anbar Province. In 2005, Capt. Montalvan was the target of an assassination attempt. Now he walks with a cane and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Service dogs raise their masters’ sense of well-being. There is evidence to suggest that increasing their numbers would reduce the alarming suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations, & lower the cost of medications and human care.

Unfortunately, few of these service dogs are available to veterans like Luis. It costs on average about $20,000 to train a service dog and another $5,000 to place the dog with the veteran. It is my strong belief that a service dog will more than pay for itself over its life, and my bill is designed to determine the return on investment with a pilot program that provides service dogs to hundreds of vets.

My bill will help train a statistically significant number of dogs to measure the benefits to veterans with physical and emotional wounds. The program would be monitored and refined over a three-year period to optimize its effectiveness.”

I saw a show on Animal Planet a few months back about an organization that trains service dogs for vets returning from combat. To say these dogs make a difference in the lives of these soldiers is an understatement. Sometimes these men wake in the middle of the night in cold sweats, full of the shakes, but with their trusty dog at their side, the effects are quickly calmed. They also help acclimate the soldiers to civilian life and keep them grounded in day-to-day routine.

It’s really no surprise that Franken’s first bill would be one that supports our military, after all he’s been a huge supporter of the USO for years. I’m glad that he’s put his congressional foot forward with this important first bill – there are many brave men, and abandoned animals that will both benefit if it becomes law. All in all, not a bad first bill for someone Bill O’Reilly recently called “…a blatently dishonest individual…who trafficked in hate.” Better not tell the dogs, Bill.

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Unburdened by Evidence

Human beings love conspiracy theories. We are all born and raised with certain biases that taint our world view, so when events unfold in ways we don’t agree with, we tend to make up reasons to bargain away the result. True believers of two such conspiracy groups have gained media attention in recent weeks – Obama “Birthers” and those who insist the Apollo moon landings were faked.

Those who subscribe to these conspiracy theories have several legs up on reality that make them both frustrating and infuriating to try and deal with. Their foremost advantage is that, in scientific method, it is difficult to prove a negative result. This is doubly so when the people in question refuse to acknowledge the rule of law, insist on approaching the argument from preconceived viewpoints or simply make facts up to suit their needs. All three which are routinely done by birthers and moon hoax believers.

In the case of Obama Birthers, as they are called, despite piles of physical and legal evidence that Barack Obama was born on August 4th, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii (one of the 50 United States) these fringe elements insist that Obama is not a citizen. When one fact is presented, such as the authenticity of his birth certificate (certified by the Republican governor of Hawaii herself) the birthers shift gears and instead claim Obama is trying to block the document’s release. Or they claim that since Obama’s father wasn’t a citizen at the time of his birth, than means neither is Barack. Forget the fact that simply being born in the U.S. grants one “naturalized status”, or that 2 separate Hawaiian newspapers announced Obama’s birth on the same day in 1961. None of this evidence meets their warped criteria of truth.

Then you have disturbing people like Bart Sibrel, a total nutjob who insists that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings in order to beat the Russians in the eyes of the American public. As we approach the 40th anniversary of this landmark event in human history, mainstream media feels the need to shine the spotlight on people like Sibrel. It is true that millions of Americans living today have no memory of the actual event, but that makes it no less factual than Lindbergh flying solo over the Atlantic or the Wright brothers flying at Kitty Hawk.

Many people find the idea of Sibrel’s beliefs disgusting and disrespectful to the dedicated men and women of NASA. Not to mention the over 400,000 people who worked for the better part of a decade to land men on the moon and return them safely to the Earth. Professing the moon landing hoax also denigrates the memory of those lost in the attempt like Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee who died on the launch pad of Apollo 1 early in the program.

For birthers and moon hoax pushers, reality doesn’t come into play. No amount of evidence would ever be enough to assuage them from their pre-held beliefs. This is the root of their fallacy – that they purport to be interested only in the truth, yet when directly presented with overwhelming piles of it, retreat to the excuse of conspiracy. Some say we shouldn’t confront such fringe elements, that they don’t deserve the legitimacy our attention pays them. This may indeed be true, but simply ignoring the screaming man in the corner doesn’t make him go away. He’ll still be there screaming and he’ll get louder the longer you ignore him. No, the answer is to confront these kooks head on and if reason won’t work, as Astronaut Buzz Aldrin will tell you, try a good right hook.

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To Thine Own Self

Ever since President Obama was elected, conservatives have looked for anything, no matter how small, to profess their disgust for the man. The things that send them into severe conniption fits are the very same behaviors that keep Barack grounded in reality. Taking his jacket off in the Oval Office, throwing his feet up on the desk, tossing a football around his house or sitting on the steps outside the ambassador’s office in Paris are all excuses for why the man isn’t fit to hold the office of the President.

Naturally, all of these things are what people do every single day. When Obama leans back in his chair he cues us in to the fact that, perhaps like no President before him, he is one of us. But when you compare the right’s distain for Obama’s casual habits to those of his predecessor, the hypocrisy is deafening.

The right used to point to the “folksy antics” of George W. Bush as an asset. They argued his inability to put coherent sentences together and his refusal to read the newspaper were because he was “an average guy”, someone Americans wanted to “have a beer with”. Yet when Obama tosses a football in his own home he’s denigrating the country and his office. How times have changed.

Unlike Bush, who spent 1/3 of his Presidency on vacation, Obama has had his sleeves rolled up and the jacket off from day one. In doing so, both figuratively and literally, he has stayed true to his roots and allowed us to see ourselves in him. Republicans would do well to remember there is nothing wrong with being yourself, particularly if you are the President of the United States. That’s one of the reasons why we elected him in the first place.