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A couple of thoughts

With the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy apparently over, there some lingering issues. Why is it more important to be first than to be right in this country? In the race to be first, several major news outlets got some very important facts, details and thoughts wrong. Over on one channel there was a lot of talk of Al Qaeda. Now, Al Qaeda may have been behind this bombing, but I doubt it. Look at the destruction that Al Qaeda has rained down on the world. this bombing didn’t look like anything that they have done over the last 20 years. There was the widely reported “fact” that the bomber was “brown-skinned.” Where did this nugget of nonsense come from? There were several outlets that reported that one of the bombers was captured hours or days before he was actually taken into custody. Why can’t these major networks simple take the their time and be right? Report facts. I can go to the water cooler for rumors and mindless guessing.

Where is the right-wing outrage over the background check legislation being held up in the Senate? Remember that during the healthcare debate conservatives were screaming at the top of their lungs that Obama was thumbing his nose at the will of the people. They pointed to public opinion polls from late 2008 and 2009. Now, the data on gun control is pretty clear, especially if you look at the data over time. The American people want more and better gun laws. I don’t care if the specific law wouldn’t have prevented Sandy Hook. What I would like to see is the removal of guns from the hands of criminals and Americans who are mentally ill.


The media are killing us. Using the mentality “if it bleeds, it leads” Americans see nothing but death and violence on the news. “Somebody shot someone. News at 11.” The constant bombardment of our brains with death and destruction has led us to believe that the world is a very scary place. We need to be armed. One gun is good, but what happens if you are in the dining room and the burglar is coming through the bedroom window? This means that we need to either carry a gun with us at all times or place a gun in every room in the house. Then we will be safe.


Remember District Attorney Mike McLelland who was shot to death? Weeks before his death he knew he was a marked man. He stated that he was going to carry a gun with him at all times. He stated that he was a soldier. Nevertheless, McLelland ended up dead.

Mo’ later.

By |2013-04-20T21:28:10-04:00April 20th, 2013|Domestic Issues|Comments Off on A couple of thoughts

Fixing the Budget (Updated)

Many people, mostly conservatives, have been yammering on and on about the budget. The deficit. The deficit. We’ve got to do this and we’ve got to do that. The sky is falling. Death and destruction. (Okay, I’ll admit that I made up that last part but both sides skip reason and go right to the fear/scare arguments.)

The New York Times has a nice budget calculator. You can fix the budget. You can choose the Republican way – cut – or the Democratic way – increase revenue and decrease spending. I have chosen a reasonable approach. Bush tax cuts should expire for those Americans making over $250,000 annually. This saves $54 billion. I’m going to go back to Clinton-era taxes. Life seemed to be okay during the 1990s. Both the rich and the poor made money. This type of taxing saves $32 billion by 2015 and $46 billion by 2030. (I would like to focus on 2015, as projecting to 2030 is crazy.) I would eliminate earmarks, saving $14 billion. Cut government contractors. It may not be popular with the privatize everything crowd but I’m tired of some of these contractors ripping off the government and the American people.  This saves $17 billion. I think that we don’t have good goals in Afghanistan. Bring the troops home. Reduce the size of the military to pre-Iraq War size, cancel or delay some weapon systems and reduce noncombat military compensation and overhead. These changes reduce the debt by $143 billion. This is serious money and Grandma doesn’t have to worry about paying for medications. I think it only makes sense to increase the Medicare age of eligibility to 70 since Americans are living longer. Plus, let’s raise the social security age to 70. Americans who are making more and have significant savings will get reduced payments. Okay, I’m not going to go through all of my proposed changes, but we could fix the problem with 56% with tax increases and 44% from cuts. I save $506 billion by 2015. My projected budget saving for 2030 saves $160 billion. The budget is plenty balanced.

The best thing about the NYT calculator is that it isn’t hard to see what needs to be done. The problem is that our elected officials will not sit down and make reasonable compromises. We don’t need Sarah Palin and her poison tongue talking about NOT compromising. This is about serious government. In our system, you need to compromise to get things done. If you don’t want to get anything done, then you draw a line in the sand, which doesn’t help the American people.

Update from Balloon Juice:

To illustrate just how dishonest the Republican budgets really are, read Jason Kuznicki’s “Return to Normalcy” budget:

It’s got four basic parts:

  1. Return to Clinton-era rates of taxation, or at least something like them. As Ezra Klein has noted, this is very likely to happen in any event, because we’d need sixty Senate votes to extend the Bush tax cuts. We’ll just let them expire. As we’ll soon see, our Senators will be busy enough elsewhere.
  2. Remove the cap on the Social Security payroll tax. Yes, that means raising taxes. Yes, on the rich. Someone call the Koch brothers!
  3. Cap Medicare spending at GDP plus 1%. This is a doozy, I know. Can we do it? We’ll probably have to, like it or not, in any balanced budget plan.
  4. Reduce military spending to 1990s levels. In other words, bring the troops home. From everywhere. Let the force shrink by attrition. Cut spending on new weapons systems. Tell the world — much of it industrialized and friendly — that they will have to pay for their own defense, because we can’t afford it anymore. We’ve been doing way more than our fair share for way, way too long, and they can hardly say otherwise.

More or less, the plan would look like this.

This is similar to John’s do-nothing budget, or the do-nothing budgets of Annie Lowrey or David Leonhardt, or my budget. All these budgets have one thing in common: the end of the Bush tax cuts. To help illustrate where that will put us in the Big Scheme of Things, a chart!

By |2011-04-17T10:37:30-04:00April 17th, 2011|Budget|Comments Off on Fixing the Budget (Updated)

Which way is up?

I’m not sure how many of you are old enough to remember that movie, Which Way Is Up? starring Richard Pryor. It was not one of Richard Pryor’s funniest movies. He played Leroy Jones,a confused and naïve character who was pulled in many different directions. When I look at President Barack Obama, I see some similarities. It’s not every month or every week, but it is every single day that the Obama administration is putting out a new fire and trying to lay the groundwork to make sure that fire does not happen again. From Iraq to Afghanistan, from Wall Street to Detroit, from toxic assets to Guantánamo Bay, Barack Obama has been pushing his agenda.

This brings me to an article I saw on the Washington Post website over the weekend entitled, “Detainees Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots.” Do you remember Abu Zubaydah? He was the first big “high-value target” that the Bush administration captured. April 9, 2002, President Bush said, “The other day we hauled in a guy named at Abu Zubaydah. He’s one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He’s not plotting and planning anymore. He’s where he belongs.”

This Washington Post article points out the problems that the Bush administration has left for President Barack Obama. Abu Zubaydah was once characterized by President Bush as the “chief of operations” for all of Al Qaeda. Unfortunately for us, that wasn’t true. As a matter of fact, it is now believed that he really wasn’t an Al Qaeda member at all, but an associate. According to Ron Suskind’s book, “The 1% Doctrine,” Zubaydah was a guy who suffered a head injury at a relatively young age. He kept a diary, which was found by the CIA. The diary clearly shows that the “Al Qaeda operative” was insane. He truly had a split personality. His diary was written in two, if not three, distinct voices. It is now believed that Al Qaeda used him as a kind of travel agent because he was clearly expendable.

Think back to 2002 and 2003 Remember the terror alert that Al Qaeda was going to attack the malls? This information came as a result of the torture of Abu Zubaydah. After a little bit more wate-rboarding, we learned that Al Qaeda was going to attack banks in the financial district. The terror level went up yet again. We did not get one bit of actionable intelligence from Abu Zubaydah. It could be argued that we got some information about how Al Qaeda worked but no information on active plans.

So what do you do with an Al Qaeda operative (who isn’t really an Al Qaeda operative) who has been tortured? This is the conundrum that the Obama administration faces. Abu Zubaydah has been in American custody for over seven years. He was born in Saudi Arabia. His father was a Palestinian. He was captured in Pakistan. Do you send him overseas? To whom?

What is fair? How do you keep America safe? What do you do with the other approximately 245 detainees? My head is spinning and this is just one of Barack Obama’s thousand or so problems. Do you know which way is up?

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By |2009-03-31T20:12:09-04:00March 31st, 2009|Al Qaeda, Legal, Torture, War on Terror|Comments Off on Which way is up?
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