Sunday, February 28, 2010

Maybe the intro of a book someday...

In the early 1600’s religious pilgrims came to the New World seeking refuge from what they considered lands that persecuted their faith. They came to America.

America was founded, in part, by the idea of religious freedom.

Around that same time, a British colony at Jamestown, Virginia, was founded. Those who came there sought the bountiful riches that the New World could provide, sought to create for themselves a life where economic prosperity would depend on their own ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit.

America was founded, in part, by a drive to succeed.

In 1735, John Peter Zenger was found not guilty for having published material that criticized the governor of New York colony, despite the law at the time stating that any material such as that would be considered libelous and criminal.

America was founded, in part, by the idea of free speech and free expression.

In 1773, American colonists who were fed up with being taxed without having a fair representation in British Parliament, dumped thousands of pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. To this day, Americans prefer coffee to tea.

America was founded, in part, by the idea of equality and fair representation.

Upon declaring their independence, Thomas Jefferson penned a brilliant display of what this country was meant to be, a mission statement of sorts that we call the Declaration of Independence. This document wasn’t only influential in America; it has influenced dozens of countries around the world.

America was founded, in part, by the ideas of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Combine these ideas, and what do you get? The foundation of liberalism. Free speech and free belief; free thought and free expression; a drive for excellence and improvement of one’s lot; an equal footing in the marketplace of ideas; the ability to work hard and succeed, bettering your life in the process.

We might not always agree on the means to reach our ends; but we want the same things. The invisible hand of economics cannot guarantee the things our founding fathers laid out for us. As liberals, we encourage free enterprise, the rewards of success, and the ability to spend your money how you like. But we also believe in giving those who are with want, who are unable to provide for their families through no fault of their own, the opportunities to become successful, to become the innovators that drive our country forward.

This is what liberalism stands for.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Scott Walker will DESTROY unemployment! (And unicorns really DO exist!)

Yes, it's old news, but it's still hilarious in my book. Scott Walker, Republican candidate for Governor, claims he can bring over 250,000 new jobs to Wisconsin by 2015 if elected governor.

That'd be quite the accomplishment -- considering that, if Walker were successful, he'd make the unemployment rate .03 percent in the state!

Most economists will tell you that you can expect 4-5 percent unemployment during periods of economic normalcy. So if Walker can bring unemployment to the point where less than half a percent of Wisconsin citizens have a job, that'd be miraculous. Forget the governorship -- this man needs to be president! OF THE WORLD!

The problem is, Walker can't even create a job on his own in Milwaukee County. Sure, he points to the jobs created at General Mitchell as evidence of his ability to grow jobs out of nowhere. But those jobs likely came from current Gov. Jim Doyle, who offered state tax incentives to Republic Airways and other businesses stay in the state, creating over 800 jobs in the process.

Considering Walker's tall-tales regarding his ability to completely eradicate unemployment in the state, I'm willing to go out on a limb here and say he's not the one responsible for the jobs at the airport either.

Mascot name changes will create positive learning environments

A bill passed in the Wisconsin State Assembly this week would allow community members the right to file complaints against school districts that promote discrimination or stereotyping through racially-based school names or mascots.

Upon filing a complaint with the state superintendent, the school district in question would have to defend why they believe their name or mascot wasn’t racially discriminatory or detrimental to the learning environment. The state superintendent would then have 45 additional days to make a decision, upon which a fine of up to $1,000 a day could be imposed for every day the school district failed to remedy the matter.


Monday, February 22, 2010

An update

If it seems like I've been away a bit (for all two of you who read this), it's because I have been. Writer's block can be an awful thing to conquer, and lately I've just been more tired at the end of the day than I probably should be. A better diet, perhaps, and earlier (read: more) hours of sleep are well overdue.

I will try to write more in the near future. Lord knows that there is plenty to write about. Keep up with the health care debate if you can: it's about to get pretty heated, and Thursday's confrontation between Obama and Republicans is sure to make history, if not that then perhaps drastically alter the debate from that point forward.

Good day, and good morrow!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Conservatives give "advice"; BOMB IRAN! (Dick Cheney the voice of reason?)

Several conservative commentators and ex-lawmakers are trying to give President Obama some political advice. Their true motivations lie elsewhere: they don't actually want him to take the advice because they like the guy, but rather because it will serve their interests.

The advice they are giving him? If he wants to be a "shoe-in" for president come 2012, he better invade Iran.

The idea seems absurd to the average thinking person. With two wars already being fought, a military that's already strained, and a global community fed up with our "policing" the world, a strike against Iran wouldn't be the best idea for the Obama administration to take up at this point.

Iranian leaders are trying to reach (or have perhaps already reached) nuclear energy capabilities, saying that they intend to use the technology for peaceful purposes. Conservatives are right to fear that Iran may use those technologies for more than that, but they're wrong to make the jump to a preemptive war.

John Bolton is one of those conservatives. In a recent interview on FOX News, Bolton expresed there were only two options: "One is Iran getting its nuclear weapons, the other is Israel or somebody uses military forces to stop it."

This kind of thinking, however, was dismissed by current Defense Secretary (who was first nominated by former President George W. Bush) Robert gates, who said that war is "the last thing we need."

Pat Buchanan also had to weigh in on the issue. In a recent article he penned, "Will Obama Play the War Card?" Buchanan pondered how Obama would best keep the White House, and Congress in 2010, for that matter.

"Should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate," he wrote.

Sarah Palin also added in her two cents, though her foreign policy expertise is minimal, at best.

"[Obama would be reelected if] he decided to declare war on Iran, which I would like him to do," she said recently. She didn't forget to add that, without war on the Persian state, Obama would stand no chance at being reelected at all.

But one conservative ex-politician stood out against the crowd, and stated boldly that he didn't think such advice was practical.

"I don’t think a president can make a judgment like that on the basis of politics. The stakes are too high, the consequences too significant to be treating those as simple political calculations"

The man who spoke those words, thwarting all conservative logic on the matter? Dick Cheney.

It seems odd that the man at the forefront of criticism against Obama's foreign policies would actually have made a rational thought like this. What words he spoke speaks volumes towards those conservatives who would otherwise like to see Obama take action against the Islamic republic.

Still, perhaps we should take it with a grain of salt. The man is, after all, Dick Cheney.

A war against Iran would be a costly mistake at this time, especially given the strain our military already feels. An international effort to stop Iran is more likely to help in relieving that strain as well as keeping our good standing just recently renewed with the international community.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Republicans snub Obama on health summit

House Republican leaders were recently invited to attend a White House summit on health care reform, in an attempt by President Barack Obama to bridge the gap between GOP proposals and Democratic bills that have passed Congress.

The invite by Obama came after Republican leaders repeatedly asked for both more transparency in the reform process as well as more involvement in implementing true bipartisan reform.

Obama responded to those criticisms by pointing out that many of the GOP's plans for reform have already been adopted by the administration and by Democrats in Congress. But in a show of goodwill, he issued the invite to Republican leaders to demonstrate he was committed to ending partisanship and opening up transparency.

So what was the reaction of House Republican leaders when Obama had invited them to an event that would feature Republicans and Democrats working together in front of the American public? They said, "No thanks!"

In fact, they made a list of conditions that had to be met in order for them to even appear. In a heated letter to Obama's chief of staff, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) stated that they wouldn't meet with Obama unless both bills in Congress were scrapped, with the promise that reconciliation (a parliamentary rule that allows the Senate to bypass the filibuster) would be off the table for passing legislation. The public option would also have to be dropped.

The president has, rightly, rejected the demands, stating that bipartisanship doesn't work that way.

Several Republicans have begun insisting that the gesture of goodwill from Obama is nothing more than an attempt to get a good photo op while he secretly works for reform behind closed doors. But how would that work? If he can pass it without Republicans, why make it appear to the American public that he's bipartisan when weeks from now he'll show the American people that it was all a lie? It doesn't make much sense -- politically or practically.

The Republicans' concerns are unfounded. And even if Obama were to meet their demands, what then? When the negotiations begin, where do they go from there? Capitulation isn't the answer, and Obama knows it. If he has to use other means to pass health care reform, he will. So it would actually behoove the Republicans to take him up on his offer now while it's still on the table. If they don't, then they lose out on the chance to help make historic reform, a move that might haunt them for political generations to come.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Health care reform IS Constitutional: a scholarly review

It has been suggested by some on the right that all the powers that Congress has as laid out by Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution are not enough to pass health care reform. It's assumed that the powers of Congress are limited by this section; but since our nation's founding that assertion has been challenged. The Supreme Court has dismissed that notion as well.

Article 1 Section 8

The first clause reads:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States (Emphasis added).

The term "general welfare" has been argued over since the founding of our country, and there are two views as to what this part of the clause may mean, from two founding fathers' interpretations: Hamilton and Madison.

From the Cornell Law website:

The grant of power to “provide . . . for the general welfare” raises a two–fold question: How may Congress provide for “the general welfare” and what is “the general welfare” that it is authorized to promote? The first half of this question was answered by Thomas Jefferson in his opinion on the Bank as follows: “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union.”


With respect to the meaning of “the general welfare” the pages of The Federalist itself disclose a sharp divergence of views between its two principal authors. Hamilton adopted the literal, broad meaning of the clause; Madison contended that the powers of taxation and appropriation of the proposed government should be regarded as merely instrumental to its remaining powers, in other words, as little more than a power of self–support. From an early date Congress has acted upon the interpretation espoused by Hamilton.


In United States v. Gettysburg Electric Ry., the Court had invoked “the great power of taxation to be exercised for the common defence and general welfare” to sustain the right of the Federal Government to acquire land within a State for use as a national park.

Finally, in United States v. Butler, the Court gave its unqualified endorsement to Hamilton’s views on the taxing power. Wrote Justice Roberts for the Court: “Since the foundation of the Nation sharp differences of opinion have persisted as to the true interpretation of the phrase. Madison asserted it amounted to no more than a reference to the other powers enumerated in the subsequent clauses of the same section; that, as the United States is a government of limited and enumerated powers, the grant of power to tax and spend for the general national welfare must be confined to the numerated legislative fields committed to the Congress. In this view the phrase is mere tautology, for taxation and appropriation are or may be necessary incidents of the exercise of any of the enumerated legislative powers. Hamilton, on the other hand, maintained the clause confers a power separate and distinct from those later enumerated, is not restricted in meaning by the grant of them, and Congress consequently has a substantive power to tax and to appropriate, limited only by the requirement that it shall be exercised to provide for the general welfare of the United States. Each contention has had the support of those whose views are entitled to weight. This court had noticed the question, but has never found it necessary to decide which is the true construction. Justice Story, in his Commentaries, espouses the Hamiltonian position. We shall not review the writings of public men and commentators or discuss the legislative practice. Study of all these leads us to conclude that the reading advocated by Justice Story is the correct one. While, therefore, the power to tax is not unlimited, its confines are set in the clause which confers it, and not in those of Sec. 8 which bestow and define the legislative powers of the Congress. It results that the power of Congress to authorize expenditure of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution.”

(All emphasis – bolded and underlined – added)
The Court, then, in keeping with the traditions of the founding fathers, held that the powers of Congress included the "general welfare" interpretation that we continue to use today. In short, the powers of Congress are not limited to the powers that follow clause 1 of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution. Rather, the "general welfare" clause is an important aspect of the powers that Congress does hold.

Hamilton also wrote:

The terms "general Welfare" were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a Nation would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union, to appropriate its revenues shou'd have been restricted within narrower limits than the "General Welfare" and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.

It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Palin: OK to use "R" word if it's satirical

Former Alaskan Governor (and potential 2012 presidential contender) Sarah Palin spoke this past weekend at the Tea Party Convention in Tennessee. She spoke of the future of conservatism, and at times mocked the current administration, asking how that "hopey-changey stuff" was working out (nevermind that Palin had once tried to hop on the "change" bandwagon).

Palin also sat down with FOX News's Chris Wallace, who talked to the former one-term governor (if you can call half a term that) about another topic that has concerned her as of late.

Current Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently criticized liberal Democrats for wanting a stronger health reform package by calling them "f---ing retards." Palin, whose youngest son has a cognitive disability, called on Obama to fire Emanuel for his derogative use of the "r" word.

In her interview with Wallace, Palin said that she didn't want to be overly "politically correct," but that she felt the comments were out of line and grounds for Emanuel's dismissal.

But when Wallace questioned whether she supported Rush Limbaugh's use of the word, Palin's tone changed entirely.

"Rush Limbaugh was using satire," she said. "I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with [the "r" word]...there is a big difference there."

Satire or not, Limbaugh was using the word quite often -- over 40 times after the Emanuel incident, as ThinkProgress has pointed out. Even if Limbaugh was making a political statement, his past views on politically correctness in political language hardly qualifies him as the voice of reason in this case.

Palin forgets something else: Satire, too, can be offensive. Limbaugh played the song "Barack the Magic Negro" on his his program during the presidential campaign, a song that many in the African-American community took offense to. Many in the homosexual community, too, take offense to jokes that are satirically driven. And, yes, those with cognitive disabilities find troubling the jokes that are made about them...even if done satirically.

It's interesting, then, that as the mother of a cognitively disabled child, Palin has no problem with the "r" word being used as satire. One might wonder, if a liberal were using satire to belittle those with cognitive difficulties, would Sarah Palin dismiss that as "just satire" as well? Probably not.

It appears as though Palin is only OK with satire when it's being used to combat those she disagrees with. When Limbaugh says the "r" word, it's to bash those darn liberals; therefore, it's perfectly acceptable in the minds of many conservatives, Palin included, to use the word in such a demeaning way.

Emanuel was wrong to use the word in such a way, and has apologized for doing so. Limbaugh was also wrong to use it satirically, but has yet to apologize for it. Both of them have protected rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to use the word however they'd like, but that doesn't mean it should be acceptable to use within our culture. Palin found for herself a sneaky way to trick her conscience into accepting Limbaugh's method as permissible. It's a hypocritical action, one that she'll likely have to live with in the weeks or months to come, perhaps her whole lifetime.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Constitutional amendment may dislodge SCOTUS ruling

In the House of Representatives this week, a Constitutional amendment was introduced in order to curb new political speech and personhood rights of corporate interests in campaigns and elections. The proposed amendment would read:

"The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

"Nothing contained in this article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press."

Such a change to the Constitution is much needed. In its recent ruling on campaign finance restrictions for corporate entities, the Supreme Court called any constraints on financing for elections or campaigns unconstitutional, opening the floodgates for future elections to be funded primarily by corporate elites.

Proponents of the Supreme Court ruling maintain that corporations have a right to free speech. If they want to donate to a political campaign they feel would best represent their interests, then why can't they dig into their coffers a little bit? They believe that a corporation, being a group of people, is entitled to free speech rights just as much as a regular citizen is.

But those points are shaky, at best. The whole money-as-speech debate ignores the fact that those with more money effectively have more speech. Such a notion is dangerous to our rights -- a thousand voices coming together can hardly match the weight of speech that a company like Phillip Morris can conjure up.

A group of people coming together, however, might be considered by some on the right as the same as a corporation using its capital in order to influence an election. There is a stark difference, though, between a non-profit advocacy group taking donations from its members and a private, for-profit entity using all of its profits to sway an election.

That corporation represents the interests of the few -- namely, those who are part of the executive board. The non-profit advocacy group, however, represents the interests of all who donate to it -- they wouldn't be donating unless they supported the specific cause that the group supported.

The Court's ruling was, undoubtedly, far-reaching and questionable at best. To ensure that the people's voices are still heard in Washington, a Constitutional amendment is the sure way to go. We need to preserve our voice, and ensure that it won't be drowned out by the corporate elites that have the means to suppress us now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

CBS accepts right-wing issue ad, snubs gay men dating site

CBS is hosting the Super Bowl this year, and as such is set to receive millions (perhaps billions) of dollars in revenue from advertisements during the game. A lot of advertisements that have to do with controversial issues, however, have been rejected by the network, including an ad for a gay men's dating service. The ad itself is pretty humorous, involving one Packers and one Vikings fan sitting on a couch together, cheering/jeering the game on the television.

Why did CBS reject the ad? Because it didn't fit their standards.

But another ad did make the cut. It's a pro-life ad about Tim Tebow, a pro football player whose mother chose life while she pregnant in the Philippines. According to the ad, Tebow's mother was told by her doctor there that she should have an abortion. Instead, she chose to keep her baby. He grew up to become a Heisman Trophy winner

An inspiring story, one that's sure to move many. Except, it's probably not true.

You see, abortion is illegal in the Philippines. It has been for years, long before Tebow -- or even his mother -- was born. If a doctor recommends an abortion in the country, he would face imprisonment.

The likelihood of her story is questioned. But let's assume it's truthful, that some doctor in the Philippines wanted to risk his practice and his livelihood in order to abort her child. Why does CBS feel the need to place this advertisement in Super Bowl adspace while shunning other ads?

Why did CBS deny PETA and adspace in 2004? Why the sudden reversal?

If CBS wants to advertise issue ads during the big game, they have that right. But they shouldn't be giving one side preferential treatment. They should allow issue ads from whomever wants to issue them.