Another Fiscal Cliff Approaches

Six months have passed since the last post on this blog. Last time we were talking about the fiscal cliff, today another fiscal cliff looms.

Radicals in the GOP are emboldened that they think Obama will blink. They see Obama's pull back in bombing Syria and allowing negotiations over chemical weapons as a sign of weakness. Thus, they are confident that threatening government shutdown and national default will lead Obama to give up on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

If the GOP miscalulates, economic catastrophe could occur. A default on the national debt would lead to financial panic and economic collapse. But many radical Republicans are alot like the Taliban. They believe that in order to save the village, you must burn the village. Other Republicans are worried that Obama, being the first black president, may go down in history as a great president. They are eager to prevent this by letting America burn.



Understanding More About Dog Eyesight

Most people think that dogs are completely color blind. This is practically the most common myth about dog eyesight. However, dogs can actually see colors although their sense of sight is not as keen as that of humans. Dogs don’t recognize figures by their texture or details but on their forms and shapes. And while their sense of sight is not as keen as humans, their ability to capture and hunt their prey is incomparable.

Find Out More About "Understanding More About Dog Eyesight". Interested in Pets or Animals? Check Out "My Animal Journal" Here.



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  • Intruding Upon the Constitution by the Religious Right




    Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky, of Peoria, Ill., ordered all parish priests in his diocese to read a letter to their congregations condemning Barack Obama. The letter, to be read the weekend before the election, declared that Obama and the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate had launched an “assault upon our religious freedom.”

    He wasn’t the only priest who used the pulpit to attack the President. Bishop David Lauren of Green Bay, Wisc., told his congregations that voting for Obama and other candidates who were pro-choice or who believed in embryonic stem cell research or gay marriage could put their “soul in jeopardy.” Others, primarily from evangelical Protestant faiths, were even more adamant in their religious intolerance, declaring that voting for Obama would definitely condemn their souls to Hell.

    Southern Baptist evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, said President Obama was “waving his fist before God” by supporting same-sex marriage and women’s abortion rights. In full-page newspaper ads, shortly before the election, the 94-year-old Billy Graham, whose words may have been written by his son, declared that Americans should vote for “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles.” Those principles, according to the ad, include opposition to same-sex marriage. A spokesman for the Grahams said that neither person endorses candidates. However, Billy Graham reportedly told Romney he would do “all I can to help you,” and removed Mormonism from a list of cults on one of their web pages. In February, Franklin Graham, who earns about $600,000 a year as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, declared that Obama had plans to create “a new nation without God or perhaps under many gods.”

    The re-election of President Obama didn’t stop the attacks. The Rev. Jerry Priscano, a Catholic priest from Erie, Pa., said Obama was the anti-Christ. On his Facebook page, he declared, “It will only be a matter of time before our nation is completely destroyed,” and that Hurricane Sandy, apparently a sign from God to the liberal northeast, “was only the beginning.”

    A Pew Forum study of the 2012 vote showed that white Catholics favored Romney (59%–40%), Hispanic Catholics overwhelming supported Obama (75–21). Romney also had the evangelical Christians (79–20), and other Protestants (57–42). Although Romney pandered to Jewish voters, claiming he would be Israel’s best friend, and that Obama couldn’t be trusted, Jews went for Obama (69–30). The Pew exit poll measured only persons who identified themselves as Jews or Christians.

    Factoring into the vote against Barack Obama is religious bigotry that drips with the hatred of anything not Christian. About one-fourth of all White evangelical Protestants believe he is a Muslim, although the President goes to a Protestant church and has never held Muslim values or beliefs. In one of the great leaps of faith, evangelicals also believe Obama is a “godless socialist Muslim,” something much rarer than a Klan leader voting for a Black Jew for president. Overall, about one-sixth of Americans believe he is Muslim, according to a poll by Public Religion Research Institute. Ironically, most evangelical Protestants also believe Mormonism is a non-Christian cult and refused to support Mitt Romney in the primaries. Faced by a “Muslim” and a Mormon in the general election, the evangelicals supported the Mormon, who had flip-flopped from moderate to conservative to get the nomination and then tried tacking slightly to the center for the general election.

    The right-wing believe that America is a Christian nation and should elect only like-minded Christians to office. Even many Christian religions, such as Unitarianism, are suspect in the eyes of those who absolutely believe they absolutely know God’s intent, and everyone else is wrong. They support Israel, far closer to being a socialist nation than the U.S. ever will be, as a Biblical necessity, but would be conflicted if a Jew should ever become a major party candidate for president.

    The religious bigots claim the U.S. was founded by Christians and is a Christian nation—or, reluctantly, say it is a Judeo-Christian nation. But, no matter how much they screech, the facts don’t support their beliefs. George Washington declared, “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” John Adams and the Senate later ratified a treaty with those exact words.

    Most of the Founding Fathers were primarily deists, not Christians, and specifically rejected many Christian beliefs, including the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus, and that the Bible was written by God. They also believed that God, having given mankind the power of reason, then stayed out of the lives of His people. Among the deists were Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe. But they and the other Founding Fathers were explicit in their declaration, embedded into the First Amendment that established the principle that all people had a right to their own religious beliefs.

    Several distinguished historians (including Drs. James McGregor Burns and Richard Hofstadter, each of whom won the Pulitzer Prize for history) have pointed out that in 1776 and much of the 19th century, as much as 90 percent of the population did not identify with the Christian church.

    There is another aspect to the First Amendment, often overlooked by those who don’t know history or Constitutional law, yet believe they do. Jefferson, in his first year as president, in a letter to a Baptist congregation, referred to the intent of one of the five parts of the First Amendment as “building a wall of separation between church and state.” Numerous times, the Founding Fathers had reaffirmed this separation, creating what became known as the “establishment clause” in 1787. Several rulings by the Supreme Court reaffirmed this doctrine.

    However, 28 percent of Americans, according to a Nate Silver poll in February, don’t believe there is a Constitutional separation of church and state. The Constitutionally-ignorant have established religious tests for persons seeking political office. It should make no difference if Mitt Romney is a Mormon. It should also make no difference if Barack Obama is or is not a Muslim, Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Pagan, Vodun, Vodouist, or even an atheist.

    But it may be a Hindu, Gandhi, who has last the last word. Discussing his experience with missionaries in South Africa, he said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He was specific in his dislike for some, but not all, Christians. He had never met the extreme right-wing.

     [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which looks at religion, history, and social issues.]





    Why Doesn't Obama Order the Military to Help New Jersey


    Obama like George Bush gets all worked up when some goatherder stumps their toe in Afghanistan. So he rushes in with thousands of US Army troops to keep the government in business.

    So now Mr. Obama has a huge crisis not 2 hundred miles from the White House. So just like Mr. Bush, he takes a tour in Air Force One. The people on the ground are getting more miserable by the hour. What does he do? Nothing basically except give them platitudes and a phone number to call. Horsefeathers!! these people need food, water, and electricty--some need a place to live. Why not open up Fort Dix, why not use a huge nuclear powered aircraft carrier to help with sick homeless people on its decks (does he need all those carriers in case of some attack?).

    His bubble is just like Bush's. He really believes in my view that the local "first responders" can handle this --- HEY THIS ISN'T A BARN FIRE---MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE HURTING. Why don't you get the Army and Navy in there to help the local police and fire department. Our military has proved that it cannot beat a bunch of goatherders in Afghanistan so maybe they can help out here.


    Will the New Jersey Hurricane Sandy be Obama's Katrina

    Like many of you I was watching some great news reporting during storm Sandy hitting the East Coast and the storms aftermath. The damage is colossal--its scale is perhaps 10 times that of Katrina. Fortunately, the loss of life is just a fraction of that which killed and injured the thousands of souls in New Orleans. What struck me however, is the response to the suffering that is now coming to the fore by the Obama White House. Sure, we have the President and a team of top government and FEMA officials looking quite serious before the cameras. Obama is making all the PC statements about calling him if you get bound up by redtape.

    Horsefeathers! The Obama White House response to this huge multistate crisis is almost just like that of the Bush White House. It took Bush's team almost 2 weeks to finally realize (DUH!) that there is only one group of people who have the power to get things in the disaster zones back in order. THE UNITED STATES ARMY. Just like Bush, Obama, continually wrings his hands over situations in Somalia, Iraq, Iran, N. Korea, Afghanistan, etc. while millions of Americans within 2 hundreds miles of him go without food, water, and electricity.

    Just yesterday while he flew around in Air Force One (just like Bush) looking down from 10,000 feet, while people in the destroyed cities and towns were getting desperate without basic food. WHERE IS GENERAL HONOREE?  It  took that General directing the American Army to rescue New Orleans--this crisis might easily require every one in our Armed Forces with their big trucks, their heliocopters, and their amphib craft to get these people basic food and resources.  The US ARMY (I am a Army Vet) is the only group in the United States that is big enough and has the resources to handle this. I don't think that will get through the White House bubble though--so far it doesn't seem so.

    I told my wife--just wait 3 more days. If Obama doesn't get General Honoree on the job with our military to help out these people, the roar will begin just like it did for Bush. Bush's popularity dropped 20 points for his handling of Katrina. Can you just image what will happen to Obama's popularity.  If Obama doesn't get going and soon, he might as well call a U-Haul because the Romney people will point to him and say--"Where was Obama when millions of people in New York and New Jersey needed his help" That will be legitimate critic too. THERE IS NO CIVILIAN BASED AGENCY i.e. FEMA that can get "local first responders" to do this work. They don't have the manpower, equipment, or funding to do it.



    BREAKING NEWS: AP, Media Fumble News Story


    by Walter Brasch


    On the Sunday before the final presidential debate, Mitt Romney and some of his senior staffers played a flag football game with members of the Press Corps on Delray Beach, Fla.

    Ashley Parker of the Associated Press, apparently mistaking fashion reporting for news, reported that Mitt Romney was “wearing black shorts, a black Adidas T-shirt and gray sneakers.” Romney’s team, composed of senior campaign staff whom Parker identified, was “clad in red T-shirts.” She didn’t report what the members of the press wore, their names, or how many were on a team, but did acknowledge she “also played, winning the coin toss for her team, but doing little else by way of yardage accrual.” Yardage accrual? If this was Newswriting 101, and she put that phrase into a news story, there wouldn’t be one college prof anywhere in the country who wouldn’t have red-marked it, and suggested she stop trying to be cute.

    Romney was a starter—we don’t know which position he played—made a “brief beach appearance” and left when “the game was in full swing,” possibly not wanting to get too mussed up by having to interact with commoners. There is so much a reporter could have done with Romney’s failure to finish the game, but didn’t. Parker, however, did tell readers breathlessly awaiting the next “factoid” that Ann Romney “made a brief appearance . . . after cheerleading from the sidelines.” She was protected by the Secret Service who served as the offensive line, undeniably allowing her to take enough time to do her nails, brush her hair, put on another coat of makeup for the AP camera, and then throw a touchdown pass to tie the game at 7–7. At 14–14, the game was called because, reported Parker, “Mr. Romney’s aides needed to get to debate prep, and the reporters had stories to file.” Obviously, stories about a beach flag football game on a Sunday afternoon was critical enough breaking news to stop the game and breathlessly inform the nation.

    Amidst the sand, Parker reported, “There is a long history of candidates and their staff members occasionally interacting with reporters on a social level.” She referred to a couple events during the 2008 campaign; Sen. Barack Obama played Taboo with reporters; Sen. John McCain hosted a barbeque for the media. Those facts alone should have kept any alert comedy writer, satirist, or political pundit in material for the next four years.

    A beach football game between politician and press may seem innocent enough—a couple of hours of fun to break the stress of a long, and usually annoying, political campaign. But there’s far more than flags pulled from shorts.
    Reporters who socialize with the power elite—and this happens far more than it doesn’t happen—often fail to do their primary job: challenge authority, as the Founding fathers so eloquently asked. It wasn’t White House reporters who broke the Watergate story that eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, it was two police reporters at the Washington Post, who took abuse heaped upon them by the White House reporters and hundreds of others, including some of their own newspaper, for going on what was called a vindictive witch hunt.  It was the media who proved they were better stenographers than reporters who dutifully chowed down whatever crumbs they were fed by the Bush–Cheney administration, and seldom questioned why the U.S. was invading Iraq. A few from the major media and many from the alternative press who did question authority were dismissed as mere gadflies. It was the sycophantic press that also didn’t question the destruction of civil liberties by the passage of the PATRIOT Act.
    Against policy wonk/environmentalist Al Gore in 2000, Americans said they would rather have a beer with George W. Bush. Many of the press did have beers with candidate Bush, who once invited the media onto his ranch to watch him shoot and then barbeque pigeons for a group barbecue.

    Every year in the nation’s capital is a high society event, the “Gridiron dinner.” Everyone—politicians, members of the press, and a horde of actors and singers—dress up in ball gowns and white-tie tuxedos to drink and schmooze. When it isn’t Gridiron Season, there’s all kinds of social events at all kinds of places that reporters just have to attend in order to get their stories, they simplistically justify.

    Sports reporters who are too close to the teams or the sports they cover are derisively known as “homers,” not for Homer Simpson, who some of them act like, but because they favor the home team. Entertainment reporters and arts critics feel important because publicists will often go to extraordinary lengths to get them face-time with celebrities. To prove how “independent” they are, some, who have no discernible creative talent, will write snarky columns about celebrities and their works, thinking they are clever rather than the pompous self-aggrandizing jerks they really are. Many in the media—especially those in television and the print reporters who often do TV talk-show commentaries—probably should drop the pretense they’re journalists and just accept the appellations that they are celebrities.

    It isn’t just reporters who cover national stories who get too close to their sources. There are now state and metropolitan gridiron dinners. At a local level, Reporters who cover the police and city council are often on a first-name basis with their sources. Even if they honestly believe they are objective, and will knock down lies and deceptions, they often don’t. They believe they need these sources to get more news, and are afraid that if they become too tough, the news, which is fed to them, will somehow dry up. They often accept “background” and “off-the-record” comments, which they never report or attribute, because somehow it makes them feel that they, unlike their readers of a lesser level, are “in the know.” And yet, every reporter will swear upon a stack of style manuals that he or she is objective and independent.

    Don’t believe that? Put yourself in the position of being a reporter. You’re sitting at your desk in the bullpen of a newsroom, now decimated by layoffs. In walks a man in a three-piece suit and a woman in fashionably-acceptable skirt, blouse, blazer, and two-inch heels. They have a story to tell. Now, you may think that because they are PR people or middle-management executives for a large corporation, they are suspect to begin with, but they, like you, are college graduates; they are eloquent; they have a news release with the story laid out. Want anything else? They’re more than pleased to get it for you.

    Now, the next day, while walking outside your office, a bag lady accosts you. She’s wearing little more than rags. Her hair is unkempt; her breath stinks. It’s doubtful she was ever a sorority president. “You a reporter?” she barks, knowing that if you’re wearing jeans, a nice but not expensive shirt and a tie you probably aren’t a corporate executive or big-shot politician. She wants to tell you a story—something about a corporation that did something very unethical and possibly illegal. You’re running late to your appointment with a physical trainer who has promised to keep you fit and attractive. You just want to get past this obstacle.

    Who do you relate to? Those who look, act, and think more like you—or those who you probably wouldn’t have a drink with after work?

    Don’t expect the media to stop having social encounters with their sources; it will never happen. But, do expect that maybe some will heed the call of the Founding Fathers and be independent of the sources they are expected to cover.

    [Walter Brasch spent more than 40 years as a journalist and university professor, covering everything from local school board meetings to the White House.  He is currently a syndicated columnist and book author. He acknowledges that in his early 20s he was enamored by being at the same parties as the “power elite,” but quickly got over it, and has been fiercely independent from the power-elites, including the power-media, whether at local, state, or national levels. His current book is the critically-acclaimed Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution.]





    What Rambler Romney and the GOP don't say terror attacks


    In the second debate Romney really stepped in dodo when he said that Obama didn't mention a terror attack on the Bengazi embassy which killed four of our State Department staff. True enough, it was established time that it was a terror attack and it killed four people.

    How then didn't Romney (and Obama missed the opportunity to hit back) discuss the fact that on 9/11 we were attacked, over 3000 people were killed, the Bush White House didn't know it was a terrorist attack or a Russian attack or what.

    So why then did everyone fall in and support President Bush but the traitors in the GOP chose to criticize Obama over four dead persons. Only one answer: The GOP is RACIST and find this another way to put down the black president.


    What SCOTUS Justice Roberts Fears About an Obama Re-Election

    When SCOTUS Chief Justice Roberts voted that the Affordable Healthcare Law (Obamacare) was constitutional, I along with many liberal/progressives were shocked. Not so much that the vote carried 5 to 4 but the reason that Justice Roberts gave for his Yea vote on this landmark law. To this point in time and since his selection to the court Mr. Roberts could be counted on by the rightwing conservatives in America to vote as an "Right Wing Activist Juror". For years these same conservatives have shouted loudly that what America needs are "strict constructionist constitutional SCOTUS Justices". Then when it seemed as though they would get their wish, the SCOTUS got a 5 to 4 conservative majority and it went to work as a rightwing "Activist" court with Roberts leading the way taking America back to 1890. The Roberts Court has turned activist and has moved to strike down laws which were put in place for over one hundred years.

    Then the rightwingers hit a bump in the road when Justice Roberts voted with the liberal Justices on the court and voted to  make Obamacare the law of the land. Why the dramatic turn to the left for the man who to this point was the point man on of the most conservative voting SCOTUS in United States history? Not since the most obnoxious court rulings of the period in the SCOTUS of 1870 to 1900 which fixed a second class citizenship status upon the negro race in the United States law for the next 80 years until the 1940s and 1950s when SCOTUS ended segregation once and for all under Chief Justice Earl Warren.

    Chief Justice Roberts made liberals and progressives wonder why would he join the liberals on the court to establish a healthcare system available to all citizens of the United States and guaranteed by a mandantory membership system. Conservatives were outraged at Justice Roberts who they felt stabbed them in the back even though it was the GOP who first proposed a mandantory healthcare system back in the early 1990's. It was used as the model for Obamacare when enacted into law in 2010.

    The Chief Justice offered his opinion of support for Obamacare squarely on the Constitution's explicit support of the right of the Federal government to enact taxation to pay for its programs and operations. Good enough. Even though that is taking a strict construction of the Constitution as basis to accent to this hugely important law.

    Questions were raised by Mr. Roberts Yea vote on the law. Some wanted to know if Roberts was in fact turning to the left on social legislation. That idea is fairly weak. As a dogmatic Catholic follower of the darkly sinister Opus Dei cult, it is highly doubtful that Roberts could ever be viewed even as a left leaner. One can only guess as to why Bush 41 and Bush 43 (who are desended New England protestant stock ) would pack the SCOTUS with hardcore Catholic Justices.

    I would like to submit another option as to Chief Justice Roberts sudden turn about to his lifelong rightwing conservative training, teaching, and personal outlook. Perhaps the Chief Justice is hedging his bet on the re-election of Barack Obama. What does this mean. Consider your political science courses in college. The professors stressed that over the years with a few exceptions, Chief Justices like to leave a legal / landmark legal legacy. Our very first Chief Justice John Marshall is still studied by high school civics classes and college government students two-hundred and fifty years after the "Marshall Supreme Court" literally invented judicial review of the laws of Congress and the operations of the Executive Branch. All of us remember the decisions of "Warren Court" within most of our lifetimes. President Eisenhower appointed Gov. Earl Warren as a conservative mind to the SCOTUS to enhance its conservative strength. Then boom, Warren turned straight away to going forward with the most liberal activist SCOTUS of the 20th century.

    Now we have a "Roberts Court". I would submit that Chief Justice Roberts does not want the court which has is name to be known for no landmark decisions. He probably noted the outrage when the 5 to 4 ruling in Citizens United struck down a 100 year old law. Way too many decisions are 5 to 4 in the Roberts Court. This is not only bad in the present but when law students 50 years in the future study the SCOTUS will they repeatedly say that Chief Justice Roberts was a terrible Chief Justice who could not marshall his team and get more unified decisions. In 1954 when Chief Justice Earl Warren decided to once and for all rebuke the 1890 Supreme Court decision of Plessey vs. USA which allowed Southern states to segregate their schools using the most jaded of legal reasoning --"Separate But Equal". Earl Warren by 1950 knew that there were NO  school systems which were "separate but equal". It was a sham that had existed since the Supreme Court decision of 1890 and in 1954 everyone knew it but the Southern states dug in and refused to end its segregation. Chief Justice Earl Warren decided to end it and he went to every one of the other Justices and begged, bargained and cajoled them to vote to end segregation. The decision in 1954 of "Brown vs. Kansas City Board of Education" was the case that Warren wanted. HIS court voted 9 to 0 to end segregation no matter where it existed in the United States.

    Chief Justice Roberts in my view still looks like a spineless wimp. He should have taken the 4 Justices who voted to end Obamacare to the proverbial "woodshed" and gotten a 9 to 0 decision. He may now realize that he will never be a highly regarded. I would hope that he fears becoming like Chief Justice Rehnquist who was loved by Conservatives but to my view will never be a highly regarded Chief Justice because he never brought forward legal problems and then established new ground with innovative legal principles, he only obstructed access to the Supreme Court by those who needed it most--i.e. people due to circumstances are locked out of the courthouses and forbidden justice--the perfect example of which are millions of black people in America--Earl Warren is considered the greatest Chief Justice because he saw injustice and set about to destroy it.  Chief Justice Roberts up to the Obamacare ruling had made a  Supreme Court with his name on it into a puppet for corporations and those who want to deny rights to people who need the court's help.

    We shall see if Mr. Roberts wants his namesake SCOTUS to be studied by history and government classes for the future. His court has be activist when asked to make corporations into people (a ridiculous idea which almost guarantees that the Roberts Court will be a laughingstock in 50 years or so) and other commercial cases with little or no impact on history. The Obamacare case is different. Chief Justice may feel that if Obama is re-elected and gets a chance to pick at least one  more Justice then the Roberts Court will be in a real mess. Should he continue to vote with the conservative ilk such as Scalia then that would put the Chief Justice Roberts on the losing side of every 5 to 4 decision. Can you image the humiliation of that event to anyone with a smattering of self pride and ESPECIALLY THE SUPREME COURT'S OWN CHIEF JUSTICE.

    Future history students would marvel that this intelligent and persuasive man could not gather together a cohesive team and win within its own group of just 9 people. Congress has 535 members and they can occasionally pass a law--then how come Chief Justice Robert is such a BAD MANAGER HE CANNOT GET A WIN ON THE SCOREBOARD--THAT IS A REAL LAUGHER!!!


    How Bad Will an Obama Loss Be To the Dems

    Please put down the shoe and let me explain why an Obama loss might not be the end of the world for Democrats.

    After the first debate with Rambler Romney, Obama was criticized mightily for his detachment and for his world inside the White House bubble. I submit that Obama's detached persona goes all the way back to the months immediately following his win in November. He came away from his winning campaign somehow convinced that he would go to the Republicans in the Democratic controlled Congress (which was in place since 2006 before his election) and make the GOP members "his friends" and colloborators. Never mind that everyone outside his bubble knew the GOP hated him for many reasons -- mainly he had deposed them from the White House and perhaps because he was a black man.  Obama never realized he was attempting to make friends with a pack of rattlesnakes. That is inexcusible since he had served for several years in Congress upon his assention to the White House. Obama taking his cue from something in his inner self was convinced not to be mean to the GOP. First off, he deserted the Democratic candidates who were in hard runoff campaigns. Martin in Georgia and Al Franken in Minnesota. Obama had a huge campaign organization and money but he not once even tried to get these two men elected. It would have been decisive. Here in Texas we were moving in the Progressive direction. In 2006 and then in 2008, the former Republican stongholds in Dallas and Houston threw out a slew of longtime GOP judges and other officeholders including District Attorneys who vowed to stop the wholesale practice of their Republican predessors which sent first time and minor offenders to long jail terms in "Prison Industrial" confinements for such offenses as a single marijuana cigarette or disorderly conduct at a football game. All that came to an end even before Obama.

    Upon his election Mr. Obama decided the best things were to make nice to the Republicans and stop campaigning against them and to CLIMB INTO THE WHITE HOUSE BUBBLE. For a Harvard professor this is an amazing development. When I was in college political science classes the professors time and again would discuss how presidents get cut off from dissention by the "bubble". Even more amazing for Obama, he had just gotten elected by hammering George Bush for being in an iron clad bubble (GWBush believed any story from his neocon advisors that had Saddam owning WMD's or nukes).  Obama often used that as his rationale for election.

    As a Democrat officer in Texas I watched in horror as Obama went further and further into the "bubble".  No single payer healthcare because the GOP would block that, no big stimulus because the GOP would not go along, etc. And as to the Democrats out here in the states he told us to "go to hell" and made a point of cutting us off from any help. The first elections Franken won with no help from the Obama team, MARTIN LOST because Obama refused to go to Georgia and turn out the black voters who could have made the decision in a tight race.

    Then Ted Kennedy died. His seat went open. Did Obama run his team in to help out the Democrats in Massachuetts to keep the seat that had been Democratic since the Stone Age--NOPE--Obama made one campaign trip there in the entire election period and the GOP seized the seat. I WAS SHOCKED.

    Oh well, 2010 is coming and surely Obama will launch his team to help out the Democrats WHO HAD HELP HIM PASS OBAMACARE....NOPE AGAIN, he was nowhere to found on the campaign trail. We got slaughtered. In Texas we lost over 100 seats to the GOP in 2010. Nationwide the same problem---Obama was missing and we got hammered.

    Now, its his turn. Well, maybe he wins or maybe not. Either way I'm thinking that since he never shows up for local Democrats, they will not show up for him. I don't worry about it. If Rambler Romney wins then the GOP has a good chance to get two more conservatives on the SCOTUS so that is bad otherwise I cannot see much difference between Obama and Rambler anyway.

    A good example of the distrust that even blacks have for Obama is in the 2011 election for local officials in Texas. Time was before Obama that the Dems could look for over 2 million voters. In 2011, we barely had 900,000 vote. What a shame.

    So in conclusion I must say that if Obama wins narrowly, then he must live in the house THAT HE BUILT. My prediction is that since he like Bill Clinton did not attend to local party building at the local level, Mr. Obama will have to face a GOP Controlled House and its Tea Party members will seek to impeach him. The legacy of Barack Obama's second term is that he will be hounded by the GOP and Tea Party as was Bill Clinton that he will have NO TIME TO BUILD A LEGACY!  His "bubble" will burst in January of 2013 when Ken Starr's team show up at the White House with subpeonas to review all of the records of the Obama team for the last four years.

    As for me. I'm going to start fresh in 2013 with energy devoted to undoing the damage that was done to local Democrats over the last four years.


    Oil Alternatives Are Now Necessary

    It seems that the high price of crude oil internationally has caused the production of a great amount of crude oil here in the United States. The production increases has put so much crude oil on the market that it has lowered imports of oil coming from outside North America. In comes the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada. You would think that tar sands crude would finish the job on imports and the United States would be independent from sources of oil outside the North America continent. By a strange twist the Canadian Keystone XL pipeline crude isn’t bound for us. The entire thrust of the pipeline through the heart of the United States is because the company wanting to build the pipeline, TransCanada, wants to reach international markets in Latin America, Europe, Africa and other places around the Atlantic. TransCanada plans to take its product to the Pacific Rim nations from ports in Seattle and elsewhere on the Canadian west coast.


    TransCanada wants to ship its tar crude to the rest of the world by going through the United States to Gulf coast terminals and perhaps sell some to the refineries there. The oil companies and refineries at the same time got an idea as well. The crude coming through the pipelines would not be theirs; however, a new market had been growing around the world for finished refined goods that come from crude like gasoline. They had all the crude oil they needed to produce gasoline for the United States from non-tar sand sources. They didn’t want to produce too much gasoline for the domestic market and thereby reduce the price of gasoline. However, if they spent the money for the extra refining needed to process the tar sands crude they could sell products like gasoline and diesel to the world at a margin well worth the investment. So the entire plan for the Keystone XL pipeline has been hatched and it doesn’t include lowering the price of gasoline in the United States. The number of jobs that will be produced that will be permanent jobs will be minimal. A few more refining jobs, some pipeline maintenance workers and maybe a job or two at the terminal connecting to the tanker ships where all this oil and oil products will be eventually loaded up and shipped elsewhere.


    The increases in production will have virtually no effect on US prices for gasoline since they are being used to feed the increasing demand for oil coming from emerging economies around the world. As more and more economies emerge from third world status into the global economy their increased demand for oil will drive prices ever higher. That is unless our United States elected officials work to prevent our excess production and the Canadian tar sand oil traversing our country, from being shipped overseas. To create the excess supply that will bring down prices we need for that stuff to stay here. (Not that I want it to stay here, I am an environmentalist. What I am doing is poking holes in the argument that we need the Keystone XL pipeline because it will reduce the cost of gasoline for American consumers.)


    We can only effectively solve the affects of high priced gasoline in the United States in three ways, either a tremendous increase in domestic output of oil that creates a surplus of oil and requiring that oil to stay here, or reducing our consumption significantly thereby creating an oversupply here in the United States and requiring that oversupply to stay here, or that the we look at possible substitutes or alternatives to oil to moderate demand on oil by providing consumers choices. The first approach, increasing our domestic supply has happened, however, with exports our price dropping excess oil can be shipped overseas where the emerging economies will grow to soak up all of that extra production. The push to reduce demand is also happening. The government’s dramatic increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards has pushed new car fuel efficiency dramatically upward thereby reducing the growth of the demand for oil. The recession and the high price of gasoline has also dampened demand significantly and moved consumers to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles and less gasoline. Yet, these two major factors have not had a significant effect on the price of gasoline as of late, which is an example that oil doesn’t follow normal economic assumptions. There is greater than good chance that oil prices are dictated and manipulated quite effectively by individuals and groups who control its supply. In this case the third option, which is to find other ways to power our vehicles, may be the only true way to control oil prices. Unlike finding more oil, substitutes have a strong moderating effect on future oil prices because consumers can switch to a substitute if oil prices get too high. Alternatives or substitutes for oil provide for a more effective competition in fuels. International prices can’t go up but so high since the height of their price depends on the height of the price of its competing alternatives. Remember if oil becomes more expensive than an alternative then everyone who can will switch to an alternative to save money.


    The three oil substitutes that need the fewest infrastructure changes for distribution are ethanol, natural gas and electricity. Unfortunately ethanol prices have risen dramatically in recent weeks because of the droughts in western and mid-western states. Making ethanol a real alternative would also added demand to a commodity that is not used to the demand levels of crude oil. Shifting America’s motive power to ethanol will probably push prices up much higher and production would be limited by land availability. There are also ethical problems using a food crop to power our vehicles. However, making ethanol from non-food feed stock would be a highly effective alternative to gasoline. Natural gas, on the other hand, has a very strong distribution network already in existence; it is in abundant supply and is far less expensive than gasoline. If vehicles were made to be multi-fuel vehicles, taking both natural gas and any combination of ethanol and gasoline we could be heading down the path of providing the vehicle owner with what the motive fuel arena really needs, which is a lot more choices in fuels. Electricity has the added advantage of being produced from a variety of fuel sources such as natural gas, coal, nuclear, as well as renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. This variety keeps prices for fuels under control by distributing demand among a wider variety of fuel suppliers.


    The ultimate solution to the oil price problem would be a vehicle that can take advantage of all three fuels. This vehicle would be a multi-fuel vehicle capable of taking advantage of gasoline or natural gas, or even liquid petroleum gases such as propane or butane. It would also be a flexible fuel vehicle able to use 100% gasoline all the way to 100% ethanol and any mixture in between. Ideally this vehicles combustion engine should be reserved to play a backup role as a range extended generator for an electric vehicle similar to the Chevy Volt and the Fisker Karma set up. In this way the owner could easily choose between fuels to the one that allows him or her to keep more of their hard earned income to use for other purposes. It is the other purposes that will spur the economy onward and upward.


    All three fuels, ethanol, natural gas and electricity, when combined would provide choices to consumers and provide a moderating force on run-away oil prices. They would do that by competing with each other to provide the lowest price so that each can hold onto a share of the fuel market. There are other reasons for using alternatives to oil such as the lower impact on the environment and lowering our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Still, for strictly economic reasons, alternatives are now a necessary strategic response to preventing future economic hardships caused by oil price increases and volatility.



    If he wins will Obama will he turn back to the right again

    One concern many of progressives like myself see in President Obama is the nagging fear that if re-elected he will immediately cave in to the vocal ultraright wing of the GOP and renege on his campaign promises.  I am not saying we should not vote for him -- we should because compared to Romney he is worth the gamble that he won't do to the Progressive movement what he did over the first four years when he pulled out of his promises to give us a single payer healthcare system and closing of GITMO. We kind of thought that he would pull the troops out of Afghanistan but foreign policy events are beyond of control of any President.  However, much of the good he has done has been undermined by his support for banking executives (he never disallowed their huge bonus plans), the damage he did in 2010 by standing by while the Rightwing Tea Party eviserated our Democratic Congress House and Senate Majorities. He could have gotten out on the stump and energized the base especially the black voters who vote in blocs.  Obama bowled over many Progressives when he virtually disappeared from sight when the Union movement ran into trouble with the rightwing Governor of Wisconsin. Mr. Obama continues to damage the Democratic party and in effect he hurts the Progressives when the White House cabinet level secretaries continue to spend huge amounts of Federal contracts in RED states such as Texas where profits from those contracts go to the business cabal headed by Gov. Rick Perry and the Bush Family. That money ultimately will go to defeat Democrats and subvert efforts of the Progressive movement. I do not think Mr. Obama means to do this but he often fails to drive nails into the Rightwing and he comes off as being rightwing friendly. Recently for example, the White House awarded a $1 Billion defense appropriation to a rightwing cabal based in a backwater farm college based Central Texas. This money could have gone to a premier research university such as Univ. of Californian, MIT, Harvard, Cal-Tech University which are located in the BLUEST of states with long experience in cutting edge science and defense systems unlike Perry's Texas A-M which only does research on farm animals and has no know award winning science programs going back over 150 years as do the ones I mentioned in California and Massachusetts.

    I would hope that Obama stands up to the rightwing philosophy that the age for Social Security and Medicare must be raised or benefits should be limited in some arbitrary way.  To this point I have not seen Obama stand up to the rightwing forces inside the Beltway.



    How White House Helps Out Rick Perry and Texas Rightwing Business

    As a Texan, maybe I should be grateful Mr. Obama and his White House team for continuing to support the economy in Texas. As a Democrat who lives in Texas I can tell you that if Mr. Obama thinks he is securing friends in the Lone Star State he is greatly mistaken. The Federal money that the Obama administration continues to pour into the Texas economy usually finds its way into the hands of Republicans who own businesses here. The money then finds its way into the coffers of Texas Republicans such as Mr. Perry and other Texas politicians. These people don't share any of the vision of a peaceful co-existence and cumbayah that President Obama likes to bandy around. Its like the famous back to the future character George McFly who is in love with the homecoming queen but she has no interest in ANY relationship. As one who mixes into Republican circles, I will tell you they have no interest in anything remotely related to President Obama. In fact most of them HATE him.

    So how then is the President's team handing over billions of tax dollars to people who will use it to defeat him and any Democrat in sight.

    1. NASA-Houston:  This operation is a hot bed of Tea Party activity. I work there and almost daily I hear racist jokes directed at Obama. Ironically I hear a continual rant about the Federal government intrusion into states business affairs, the growth and size of the Federal government, deficits, etc. All this from Federal employees or Federal aerospace contractors. When I point out the contradiction of government employees complaining about the role of government these people do not see the irony of it all. Most shrug and tell me: "The government will not shut down NASA--what we do here is TOO important."  I usually don't press the argument that many people outside of Texas getting somewhat steamed up to find themselves on antiquated highways and transit systems while NASA spends $3.5 billion on YET ANOTHER MARS LANDER which takes cool pictures of Mars rocks....WOW!!

    If Obama is so interested in winning in Florida, one would think that he would ship all the Red State Ultra-conservative Texas NASA jobs to Florida and then go around that swing state bragging about how he brought in 3,000 NASA jobs to the Cape Canaveral area.

    2. The recent decision by President Obama to locate a $1 Billion defense laboratory at Texas A and M University. Talk about irony. This is the home school of Governor Rick Perry and his business cabal. The Democrats in Blue states like California and New York should be livid that this has happened on their watch. Why should great educational facilities in those states see research money going to a small farm based hick school in central Texas. Why not Harvard or Cal-Tech who have long histories of ground breaking research. Texas A-M teaches veteranarian science to farm boys.



    A Meeting at the White House on Homeownership

    Last week I attended a meeting at the White House with Obama administration officials on the housing and homeownership crisis. I joined 150 faith, civil rights, consumer protection, and community leaders from around the country to express the urgency of the crisis, share our stories, and promote practical solutions.

    In a loud, clear voice we expressed the pressing reality of this crisis for families, communities, and our nation, with 2 million foreclosure filings this year, and millions more at risk. Another 15 million American homeowners are underwater—meaning that their home is worth less than they owe on their mortgage. And after years of predatory lending and mass foreclosures, a scourge of vacant properties, devastated home values, and impaired credit litter too many communities.

    Participants shared their own stories, and those of neighbors, congregants and constituents struggling with abuse by banks and servicers. They included Brigitte Walker of Georgia, an Iraq War veteran who addressed the group. Ms. Walker was driven to the brink of foreclosure after an injury forced her to leave the military and sharply reduced her income. She detailed how her lender, Chase, repeatedly lost documents, gave her misinformation, bounced her around, and slated her home for foreclosure as she tried to negotiate a loan modification.

    Ms. Walker was two weeks away from losing her home when Occupy Atlanta took up her case and began pushing Chase to negotiate. "They got everyday people like myself involved. Everyday people contacting Chase and advocating for me, peaceful demonstrations, people calling and writing in," Walker told a local news station at the time.

    Just a few days later, Chase called back and struck a deal with Walker that allowed her to keep her home and make reasonable mortgage payments going forward. When she finished telling her story at the White House, Ms. Walker received a standing ovation.

    Administration officials listened, and also detailed the considerable steps that the Executive Branch has taken to address the crisis, from establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to encouraging refinancing and loan modifications, to joining 49 state attorneys general in a national mortgage settlement with five major banks. None disputed, however, that those steps have been insufficient, so far, to address the scale of this crisis.

    They pointed out, correctly, that a gridlocked Congress has thwarted many bolder solutions, like forcing consideration of principal reduction for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or redirecting unused TARP funds toward housing counseling. That’s why, as planned, many of the participants headed to Capitol Hill after the White House meeting to urge members of Congress to take action of their own. An existing priority for many is the Expanding Refinancing Opportunities Act of 2012, a bill to allow more homeowners the chance to refinance mortgages with insurance provided by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

    But the officials also candidly acknowledged something important: that many of the steps that the Administration has taken have come because social movements and everyday Americans have demanded them. That’s why we’ll be stepping up our activism, and ramping up our demands.

    The Home for Good campaign, Home Defenders LeagueOccupy Our Homes, and Home Is Where the Vote Is have been pushing, separately and in collaboration, for bolder and more effective action—from the White House, Congress, cities and states, and the banks and financial industry. We seek an end to needless foreclosures, restoration of devastated communities, investment in affordable housing, and accountability on Wall Street. And we have concrete, proven solutions to offer that are rooted in research and experience around the country.

    Now is the time to turn up the heat on our elected officials for home opportunity solutions. In our democratic system, that’s how change gets made.

    How Enrique Peña Nieto Won Mexico’s Presidential Election

    (Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

    Mexico has recently elected as president Governor Enrique Peña Nieto. The handsome new president won 38.2% of the vote, 6.6% over Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Peña Nieto’s vote was also 12.8% over Josefina Vázquez Mota, from the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).

    Here’s what happened:

    Mexico’s North-South Divide

    The map above indicates the states which each candidate won during the election. There’s a fairly strong characteristic for Peña Nieto to do worse as one goes south. The southern parts of Mexico are generally poorer, and left-wing candidate López Obrador thus wins most of the southern states. The blue states are those which remained loyal to third-place  Vázquez Mota of the conservative PAN. The PAN is stronger in northern Mexico; for a better look a right-wing PAN coalition, take a look at the 2006 election.

    Yet there are some major exceptions to this North-South divide. Some of the poorest states in southern Mexico actually voted for Peña Nieto. These include Chiapas and Yucatán. Chiapas is famous for a 1994 uprising by indigenous Mexicans; Yucatán is famous for its Mayan culture.

    In fact, López Obrador got 43.4% in Oaxaca but only 16.9% in Yucatán. Both states are poor and more populated by indigenous Mexicans, albeit culturally very different. Still, one would expect López Obrador to have run up the margins in places such as Yucatán and Chiapas.

    Cities and the Countryside

    On the macro-scale, Peña Nieto did better in northern Mexico. On the micro-scale, within each state, he generally did better in the countryside.

    Mexico’s three largest metropolitan areas are Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.

    Here’s how Peña Nieto did in Monterrey (located in the state Nuevo León).

    This map paints a fairly clear picture. Peña Nieto wins the rural areas outside of the main city, whereas Vázquez Mota sweeps the city itself.

    Monterrey is located in northern Mexico, and the state-level results reflect that. Vázquez Mota ended up getting 39.8% of the state Nuevo León, compared to Peña Nieto’s 33.2%. López Obrador polled a poor 22.0%.

    Let’s take a look at Guadalajara (located in the state Jalisco).

    Peña Nieto does better in here, winning large parts of the city. Still, he loses some urbanized areas of Guadalajara.

    Here’s a look at the overall state.

    Peña Nieto’s rural strength is clearer here. He wins everywhere outside the main city. It’s also apparent that Peña Nieto dominated the state. He ended up taking 40.0% of the vote, to Vázquez Mota’s 32.2% and López Obrador’s 22.6%.

    How Mexico City Voted

    20% of all the votes in the entire country were cast in Mexico City. Mexico City is divided into a Federal District and a state (named the State of Mexico). The Federal District takes in the downtown area, whereas the State of Mexico composes the northern suburbs.

    As it turns out, Peña Nieto was Governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2011. On the other hand, López Obrador was Head of the Government of the Federal District from 2000 to 2005. Obviously, this produced two very strong and opposing home-town effects.

    It appears that López Obrador’s home-town effect was stronger. He took a thumping 52.9% in the Federal District, winning every district within.

    This is actually somewhat surprising. A lot of Mexicans complained when López Obrador blocked the main avenue of Mexico City for months after losing the 2006 election, alleging fraud. Nevertheless, López Obrador still won the Districts Miguel Hidalgo and Cuauhtémoc, the main sites of his protest, by double-digits. The PRD candidate did do somewhat worse in these areas than in the rest of the Federal District.

    Peña Nieto’s performance in his home state wasn’t as impressive. He only took 43.2% of the vote in the State of Mexico and lost the places neighboring the Federal District.

    Overall, López Obrador won 41.2% to Peña Nieto’s 36.1%. Vázquez Mota lagged behind with only 17.9% of the vote.


    Most pre-election polls placed Peña Nieto with big double-digit leads over his opponents. He generally polled a good deal above 40% of the vote.

    Peña Nieto’s actual margin of 6.6% was a lot less impressive than these predictions. He underperformed the polls by quite a bit.

    It’s very possible that the pollsters deceived themselves with the conventional wisdom (which was that Peña Nieto was crushing the opposition). On the other hand, perhaps a lot of voters genuinely changed their minds, taking a second look at a person who doesn’t read books. They might have been wary of giving back power to the PRI, which used to be a very corrupt party that stole elections.

    If millions of Mexicans did in fact change their minds about Peña Nieto during the final days of the campaign, tens of millions more stayed faithful. Those mainly northern, mainly rural votes propelled him to the presidency.


    P.S. Here are two good sources of data about the 2012 Mexican Presidential Election:

    The Official Results – Note that Enrique Peña Nieto and Andrés Manuel López Obrador ran under multiple party banneres.

    To get Peña Nieto’s total vote, add the votes in three columns: the column under the PRI flag; the column under the VERDE flag; and the column under the PRI and VERDE flags together.

    To get López Obrador’s total vote, add together seven columns: the column under the PRD flag; the column under the PT flag; the column under the Movimiento Ciudadano flag; the column under the PRD, PT, and Movimiento Ciudadano flags together; the column under the PRD and PT flags together; the column under the PRD and Movimiento Ciudadano flags together; and finally the column under the PT and Movimiento Ciudadano flags together.

    To get Vázquez Mota’s vote, just look at the numbers under the PAN column.

    Google Elections – This provides very interactive and detailed results. Unfortunately, the data is not fully updated. For instance, Google Elections shows Peña Nieto winning the state Veracruz with 98.94% reporting. He actually lost the state.



    Don’t Count Out the Labor Movement



    by Walter Brasch


    Almost every conservative political columnist, pundit, commentator, blogger, and bloviator has written about the decline and forthcoming death of the labor movement.

    They happily point to Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker shortly after taking office in January 2011 took advantage of a Republican majority in the House and Senate to ram through legislation that stripped numerous collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Among collective bargaining rights are those that assure decent working conditions and a fair grievance process to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory discipline.

    The Republicans point to Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich, with similar legislative support, signed legislation in March 2011 that restricted collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

    They point to state after state where Republican legislators, with the financial support of private industry have brought forth self-serving bills to oppose collective bargaining.  

    The conservative mantra is to pander to the middle-class pocketbook by creating a pseudo-populist appeal. The right-wing claims they are the ones who care about the people enough to cut government spending, which will lower all kinds of taxes. They altruistically scream that inflated payrolls and pensions caused economic problems, and the best way to help those who are struggling in a depressed economy is to lower those costs by curtailing the perceived power of unions. It sounds nice; it’s also rhetoric encased in lies.

    Numerous economic studies have shown that the pay for public union employees is about the same as for private sector employees in similar jobs. And in some jobs, public sector workers earn significantly less than non-unionized private sector workers, leading to professionals and technical specialists often switching jobs from government to private industry, usually at higher wages and benefits.

    So what, exactly, is the problem? Tax cuts. Bill Clinton left office, having given the nation a strong economy. During the Go-Go years in the first part of the 21st century, under the Bush–Cheney administration, states and the federal government created tax cuts for individuals, and held out generous tax cuts, tax waivers, and subsidies to corporations. The Republican theory was that these tax cuts would eventually “trickle down” to the masses by stimulating the economy.

    What happened is that instead of benefitting the masses, these forms of wealthfare and corporate welfare, have done little to stimulate an economy that was heading down because the Republican executive and legislative branches, preaching less government, didn’t want government interference in financial institutions, the most politically conservative business. As a result of deregulation or, in many cases minimal regulation oversight, came the twin catastrophes of the Wall Street scandals and the housing mortgage crisis that spun the nation into the deepest recession since the Depression of the 1930s.

    But you don’t hear the Republicans tell you they caused it, only that a run-away economy is because of those fictional high government salaries that need to be cut.

    Joseph Slater, professor of law at the University of Toledo, says because of the 2008 crisis, states experienced massive budget shortfalls because growing unemployment decreased tax revenue. The problem in the states and the federal government, Slater told NEA Today, isn’t because of collective bargaining, but “because some of the worst state budget problems are in the small handful of states that prohibit public sector collective bargaining, states like Texas and North Carolina.” However, said Slater in an article for the American Constitution Society, “states with strong public sector collective bargaining laws . . . have smaller than average deficits.”

    In response to conservative calls to curtail “pension abuse” in the public sector, Slater pointed out that “the vast majority of states don’t allow unions to bargain over public pension benefits,” and that some of the worst pension problems are in the so-called right-to-work states that have no public employee unions.

    In contrast to the all-out assault upon the workers by Republicans, Govs. Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Jerry Brown of California, both Democrats, have been reducing budget deficits, sometimes with a heavy hand as they slash programs and the number of workers, in consultation with the unions and without curtailing union rights. Unionized  workers in both private and public sectors have taken temporary pay cuts or agreed to taking vacation days without pay. Few corporate executives and no state legislators have willingly matched the sacrifices of the workers.

    Now, as for those conservatives who are dancing on what they think are the graves of the working class labor movement. There’s a few stories they aren’t happily reporting.  

    In Wisconsin, the recall election of Scott Walker did fail, as out-of-state individuals, PACs, and corporations contributed about two-thirds of his $30 million campaign to keeping him in office, as opposed to his opponent raising only about one-eighth of that amount. However, in subsequent elections, all three Democratic senators survived recall votes, and two of six Republican senators were recalled, leading to a change in Senate membership from 19–14 Republican to 17–16 Republican, but effectively blocking a “super majority” from ramrodding further anti-worker legislation into law.

    In Ohio, voters overwhelmingly rejected, 62–38 percent, the new Ohio law that stripped collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In defeat, Gov. Kasich, whose attacks upon collective bargaining were a central part of his campaign, said “It’s clear the people have spoken.”

    Monday is Labor Day. It’s more than just picnics and a three-day weekend. It’s a time to honor the working class, and the unions that gave them the rights of collective bargaining. They may be struggling but they are far from dead.

    [Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and author. His latest book is the critically acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which has an underlying union theme. He is a proud member of several professional and trade unions, including The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America.]



    The Gender Imbalance in People Fleeing North Korea

    (Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

    In the past decade an interesting phenomenon has occurred in South Korea: a small but steady flow of refugees from the northern end of the peninsula.

    Here’s a graph.

    These numbers can be found at the website for the South Korean Ministry of Unification (an English version can be found here). Interestingly, Wikipedia has a graph of the number of refugees before 2001 – although it doesn’t state the source.

    Why this has occurred would be the subject of a fascinating study. Life in North Korea is better than it was during the early 1990s, when the country suffered a famine. Yet the flow of refugees in the early 1990s was practically non-existent. Perhaps the fact that South Korea is now a First World country has something to do with it. Perhaps North Koreans just didn’t think about fleeing to South Korea until the first few people started doing it, and then started telling their family and friends back home. It’s also worth noting that South Korea isn’t the only place with North Korea refugees; China has about an equal or greater number.

    As more North Korean refugees enter South Korea, their nature has changed drastically. Previously, the vast majority of refugees were male.

    Now, however, the vast majority of them are female.

    The female-male ratio of North Korean refugees increased steadily from 1998 to 2008, when there were 3.59 North Korean females for every North Korean male. Since then the ratio has fallen to about 2.40 females per male refugee, as of 2012.

    Actually, the number of male North Korean defectors has basically remained unchanged throughout the past decade. It’s the number of female defectors which have skyrocketed.

    Here’s a graph showing this in more detail.

    It’s a mystery why two to three North Korean females enter South Korea for every male North Korean. It’s equally a mystery how this gender imbalance affects the North Korean community in South Korea. Nobody, at least in the English-speaking world, is talking about this phenomenon or even aware of it. Migration does not necessarily have to be female-heavy; more often it’s the males who do the migrating. Mexican immigration to the United States, for instance, is tilted to the male side.

    There’s one final interesting note. As of April 2012, the South Korean Ministry of Unification has indicated that 473 North Koreans renounced their country. If this rate of migration held up, by the end of the year only 1,419 North Koreans would defect by the end of 2012 – the lowest number since 2005. It’s worth noting that Kim Jong-un took power just at the end of 2011. Perhaps North Koreans are waiting to assess his rule rather than packing up and leaving.



    It’s Time for the Candidates to Get Specific on the Homeownership Crisis

    Now that the presidential tickets are set, it’s time for the candidates to get specific about problems and solutions critical to our economic recovery and future prosperity. Along with job creation, they should start with Home Opportunity—the cluster of housing, homeownership, and fair lending issues that are so central to the American promise of opportunity for all.

    America continues to face a Home Opportunity crisis, with 2 million foreclosure filings this year, and millions more families at risk. That’s millions of senior citizens losing their economic security, children and families uprooted, neighborhoods blighted with vacant properties, and a continued drag on our economy.

    What’s more, unequal opportunity and the discriminatory targeting of communities of color by unscrupulous brokers and lenders means that minority families continue to be especially hard hit. Major discrimination settlements by the Justice Department against Countrywide, Wells Fargo, and other major lenders reveal that, despite the progress we’ve made as a nation, Americans of color have been especially unlikely to get a fair deal from the banks. That translates to a historic loss of community assets and wealth that hurts us all.

    Unlike employment, however, Home Opportunity has received inadequate attention in the general election campaign, despite its undisputed political, as well as economic, importance. For swing states like Florida (with 25,534 new foreclosure filings in July alone) and Nevada (with 26,498 filings), these questions are especially pressing. Amazingly though, neither campaign’s homepage includes housing, homeownership or foreclosures among the featured issues.

    Early in his campaign, Mitt Romney famously told the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” Months later, he appeared to shift position, saying in Florida: “The idea that somehow this is going to cure itself by itself is probably not real. There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action, which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.”

    Romney also said in a Republican debate that government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—the historic guarantors of the 30-year fixed mortgage for generations of middle class Americans—“were a big part of why we have the housing crisis in the nation that we have.” In neither case, however, have specific solutions followed. Romney has, by contrast, called for eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Dodd-Frank legislation that created it.

    As incumbent, President Obama has implemented multiple measures, including the Bureau, the Making Home Affordable program, housing counseling, and joining 49 state attorneys general in a national mortgage settlement with five major banks. (Intriguingly, Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan’s constituent services site refers Wisconsans with homeownership woes to the latter three programs for assistance).

    Yet, most analysts agree that Making Home Affordable has fallen short of Administration goals, and that the national mortgage settlement, while helpful, does not reach the majority of homeowners who could benefit from its terms. Many argue, in particular, that the President can do more to extend principal reduction—shrinking the principal owed on mortgages to reflect homes’ fair market value—to mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie. And while the Administration outlined three options for the future of those enterprises over a year ago, the President’s preferred agenda for them remains unclear.

    The Obama Justice Department has been aggressive in settling discrimination suits against major lenders, but Candidate Obama has not discussed the role of discrimination in creating the housing crisis, nor the role of future equal opportunity efforts in solving it.

    In short, the candidates, as candidates, have yet to articulate to the American people their respective visions for the future of Home Opportunity. How will each address the lender misconduct and inadequate rules that led to the current crisis? How will each ensure that families with the resources to be successful homeowners are not thwarted by future misconduct, arbitrary restrictions, or a lack of sound information? How will each help rejuvenate neighborhoods devastated by predatory lending and mass foreclosures? And how will each ensure that people of all races, ethnicities, and communities have an equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream?

    With the tickets now set, it’s the candidates’ responsibility to get specific on these questions, so critical to the nation’s choice of the next president. As voters, it’s our responsibility to demand that they do.

    Read also:



    Western Massachusetts has a chance to elect a real Democrat to Congress

    Accepting $2,816,613 from the financial industry and voting to loosen consumer protections sounds typical of a right wing republican, but much to my disappointment it is also what Rep. Richard Neal (MA-02) a democrat, has done.

     I first heard about this in a direct mail piece from the campaign of Andrea Nuciforo who is running against Neal in the Democratic primary to represent the newly configured Massachusetts First Congressional District. At first, I thought it was just a typical piece of campaign literature, laden with outrageous claims and inflated truths. However, looking at Neals' financial disclosure records from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics, it is sadly true.  

    This ad relased by the Nuciforo campaign also caught my eye. Reading up some more, his reputation as a crusader for consumer protections, curbing the power of big banks, and his work as a State Senator  in cracking down on predatory lenders seems to indicate he is the real deal.




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