Thank You, Mr. President!

Citizens Thanking President Obama

Much is being written all over the Internet today about President Obama’s speech last night, what these events portend, who should take credit for bin Laden’s death, and whether credit should be apportioned for political gain.  I am re-printing here what I wrote in a Note to my friends on Facebook this morning, entitled “President Obama:  Getting The Job Done:”

I am reading with great interest some of the comments here and elsewhere in reaction to yesterday’s news from the President that Osama Bin Laden has been neutralized.

While I agree with the concerns that we not “rest on our laurels,” so to speak, simply because Bin Laden was taken out, I don’t think any reasonable person can deny that President Obama has achieved an extraordinary outcome benefiting our Nation.  He, and those around him, have done what the Bush Administration merely paid lip service to in order to advance their own distorted view of world order.

President Obama demonstrated to me the qualities of a true Commander-in-Chief — contemplative and cautious when he was presented with information about Bin Laden’s whereabouts; yet, determined and decisive, when it came down to striking out.

In everyday speak, folks, that’s called “Gettin’ ‘er done.” He deserves our praise, thanks, and respect.  Can you imagine what the press, the people, the Republicans would be saying had this mission gone the way of President Carter‘s failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages.  Remember that?

President Obama is not the kind of President who would, now, shrug his shoulders and say, “Guess that’s over and done with…We can all rest easy…Mission accomplished.”  Whatever doubts I may have from time to time about our President, who does not make me happy all of the time, my faith in him was strengthened immeasurably last night.

Beyond this Note, all I have to say, as a citizen of the United States, is thank you, Mr. President.  You make me proud of our Nation!

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Wisconsin Republicans Strip Workers’ Rights Without Open Meeting

Unless you have spent the last few weeks on Mars, or simply have no interest in the fact that democracy in the United States in under attack from extreme right-wing interests in many states, then you probably have heard something about the anti-democratic events unfolding in Wisconsin.  Right-wing governor, Scott Walker, in office less than a year, is attempting to completely abolish the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s public workers, including teachers.  The anti-union measures were part of a larger budget bill being considered by the Wisconsin Legislature.

In response to Walker’s efforts, the state’s 14 Democratic lawmakers fled to neighboring Illinois, thereby defeating the Legislature’s quorum.  Last night, however, the Republic majority voted to separate the issue of workers’ rights from the larger budget bill.  By invoking this rare procedural move, the Republicans, effectively, gave to themselves the right to proceed with a smaller quorum than was required to consider a budget bill.

More significantly, the vote took place without any public debate, which Wisconsin Democrats argue violates the state’s “open meeting laws.” For those of you interested in the specific issue of “open meeting laws” and “freedom of information” in the United States, a good starting point in your research would be this excellent Wikipedia article.

This morning, in response to the events, Governor Walker issued an interesting statement, saying in part:  “We cannot balance a budget on a hope and a prayer…”

What an interesting statement.  When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords nearly lost her life to a gunman’s bullet, right-wing radicals in this country – coming to the defense of Sarah Palin and the NRA‘s pro-gun stance – told us we should simply “pray” for a solution rather than look for secular solutions like gun control.  Prayer, apparently, was all we needed to magically undo the tragic – and avoidable – events that befell Giffords and others.

Now, another right-wing extremist, Gov. Walker, tells us that prayer is not enough to simply correct a balance sheet.  How convenient!  Of course, he is correct.  Prayer won’t do the trick.  Unfortunately, what he isn’t mentioning is that he and his cronies all across the Nation refuse to ask the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.

When are the People going to wake up?  If you are really hungry – even starving – what do you do?  You go to where the food is, be it a grocery store or a restaurant.  You don’t go to the dry cleaner down the street and ask them to give you food.  You don’t go to your kids’ third grade teacher and make her quench your thirst.  You go to where the food is!

Why do we not insist that our leaders to where the money is – the banks, the lending houses, the defense contractors, international mega-corps.?  What are we waiting for?  An Act of God?!?!?

Maybe we should just pray that the rich will pony up the funds on their own.  How’s that been working out so far?

Palin Stalker Arrested In Alaska

Palin Worried About Stalker In Alaska, courtesy of Getty Images

Back in October 2010,  an Alaska judge found 18-year-old Shawn Christy stalked 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. The judge further ordered Christy to not follow or otherwise stalk the politician and to have no communication with her or her family.  You can read an article about the restraining order issued against Christy here.

In a frightening turn of events, Christy, who is now 19, was reportedly arrested and held by the FBI in Anchorage, only 50 miles from Palin’s home in Wasilla.

Palin received nationwide ridicule recently following the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.  In fairness to Palin, it would appear that she may well have her own “lone gunman” to worry about, and Christy’s behavior ought to be no more acceptable because his target may be Palin.

While Christy reportedly told authorities that he traveled to Alaska in an attempt to get the restraining order against him dismissed, he is a resident of far away Pennsylvania.  In my experience, for someone to turn up so near to a protected person’s home – when that location is so far away from the stalker’s own residence – is highly suspect.

Palin’s family has reported that they are distressed by the events, and I think they have every right to be in this current political climate.  Palin would do wonders for this climate if she were to use her considerable public platform to speak out against such anti-social and criminal behavior.

The Dangerous Workings Of Sarah Palin

If you want to hear the real sound of “100% wacko,” then just listen to Sarah Palin.

In the wake of the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, many around the country blame Palin’s “incitement to violence”-style rhetoric and imagery which includes, among other techniques, use of the now-infamous “cross hairs” map that – rather literally – targets Democratic leaders.  The “cross hairs” map is pictured below:

At the time of writing this article, the “cross-hairs” map was still publicly posted on Palin’s Facebook page.  Furthermore, in response to criticism, Palin says that she (and her cronies) are being unjustly blamed for the attack; it is their right to free speech that is being trampled.

In other words – just in case you missed it – Palin is the real victim here.  It is not Congresswoman Giffords whom Palin targeted with her map and other violent-provoking rhetoric.  No way.  It is not the federal judge killed by the gunman.  Uh-uh. It is not even the 5 others that were killed in the shooting, including a 9 year-old girl who just happened to have been born on 9/11/2001.

Nope, Sister Sarah is the victim here – she, her cronies, and, well, I suppose the First Amendment.  You remember the good-ole No. 1, don’t you?  It is part of that pesky document called the Constitution that so many dangerous, half-crazed, ne0-con zealots can never seem to stomach – until it becomes useful to wrap themselves up in it for protection and justification.

Here’s a news bulletin for Sister Sarah – you can put lipstick on a pig, but in the end, you still got a pig.  And, in this case, a rather dangerous pig.  In this case, we have a pig willing to use this tragic event to transform herself into some kind of victim or martyr; or, at the very least,  Constitutional champion.  In so doing, Palin is revealing either a profound degree of psychological disturbance, or she is demonstrating her willingness to stoop deep to promote her own domination agenda.  Maybe both.

Also shocking are those that have publicly defended Palin.  For example, Barbara Walters feels Sister Sarah’s pain, saying that it is unfair to blame her for the shooting.  Although I normally regard Walters higher than most, not on this occasion.  As Lynn M. Paltrow noted in her “Open Letter to Sarah Palin,” Congresswoman Giffords – in particular – criticized Palin’s methods, including the “cross hairs” map.  What a coincidence, eh Babs?!?!

Walters is, of course, known for her own brand of “in your face” journalism.  However, as she should know, speech that promotes the public good by encouraging debate or controversy – even spirited or agitated – is not the same thing as the self-indulgent calculations of a demagogue trolling her cult of personality for violence with military-style words and imagery.  For example, evidence continues to mount suggesting that Palin’s racists comments aimed at President Obama has led to death threats against the President.

If Sarah Palin’s brand of “speech” is protected, then we ought to start now and re-write every Constitutional law textbook so that they feature the likes of Charles Manson and Jim Jones alongside Constitutional champions like Mary Beth Tinker (pictured below), Clarence Earl Gideon and Rosa Parks.  Hyperbole, you say?  Sarah Palin is nothing like Jim Jones?  How would we know that – until it is too late?

What if we suddenly learned that Sarah Palin had direct ties to a terrorist organization whose mission is to cause anarchy and civil unrest in the U.S. to destroy democracy?  What is the gunman in this case had ties to the same organization?  Suddenly, it might seem as though Palin’s comments were something less akin to pure free speech and something strikingly closer to conspiracy.

Even if Palin’s “speech” is protected, let us not dignify that which does not deserve dignity.   A lot of very undignified “speech” is legally protected by our Constitution, whether we like it or not.  That does not mean dignified citizens should go out of their way to be cheerleaders.

Mary Beth Tinker talks to students at Cardozo High about their constitutional rights. In eighth grade, Tinker was suspended for wearing a black armband, inspiring a Supreme Court case that upheld students' freedom of expression. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
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Hypocrisy Alert! Senator Coburn Calls For Prayer; Hatch & Co. Say Health Care Bill Unconstitutional

With all the rancor swirling around Capitol Hill over the health care bill (or fiasco, if you prefer), it is not surprising that our elected representatives are saying and writing the most peculiar things.  Two Senators’ words, however, are just so hypocritical and, frankly, ridiculous that they deserve special attention as being CIVIL WRONGS:

The first of these Senators is Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  On December 21, 2009, during floor debate in the Senate over the health care bill, Senator Coburn stated that Americans should pray that some of the Senators not be able to make the vote (referring to those Senators expected to vote for the health care bill).  Coburn did not specify what he meant, but at least one implication was that the other Senators suffer some mishap or setback.

This comment by Coburn drew the ire of Senator Durbin of Illinois, who called on Coburn to return to the Senate floor and explain his comments which Durbin stated “troubles me.”  Coburn did not respond.  I have downloaded a copy of the video exchange on the Senate floor for you in the Box.

Sen. Coburn is quite the loving, God-fearing soul.  Before he became a Senator, Dr. Coburn was a medical doctor in Oklahoma.  Approximately 13 years ago, a patient accused him of sterilizing her without her consent.  During Coburn’s hotly contested race for the Senate, the young woman, by that time 34, came forward to stand by her charges against Coburn.  You can link to an article discussing the medical malpractice case against Coburn here.  The article was written in the Washington Post, not exactly a bastion of the liberal media.

The other Senator worthy of mention is Orrin G. Hatch of Idaho.  Recently, in an op-ed piece he wrote to the Wall Street Journal, Hatch laid out his position as to why the health care bill is unconstitutional.  You can link to the op-ed piece here.

I have to admit that I can see the merit in some of Hatch’s arguments.  I am pissed off that the so-called “public option” is lost, that Joe Lieberman was allowed to play the self-appointed role of “super Senator,” and that Senator Nelson was bought off in a “cash for cloture” deal leaving the Feds obligated to pay Nebraska’s share of the Medicaid expansion into perpetuity.

Indeed, there are serious constitutional questions raised by the Nelson deal, which some states appear poised to pursue.  You can link to an article discussing the “cash for cloture” deal and its constitutional issue here.  Nelson’s vote was treated as being so important that he was referred to in a recent article as one of the four new “kings of the Hill” by CNN.  You can link to that article here.

I am also pissed off that President Obama appears poised to sign this garbage legislation instead of calling the bill (and the process that gave birth to it) exactly what it is – a dirty, money-infested joke!  My dream headline for 2010:  “Obama Vetoes Health Care Bill; Tells Senate To Pull Head Out Of Its [   ] And Get Back To Work!”

That being said, I simply cannot believe there is any real, genuine concern over constitutionality when the argument is offered by a Senator who voted for the P.A.T.R.I.O.T act with no concern about constitutionality.  Moreover, Hatch has little room to act “holier than thou” in the health care debate when he is so favored by big pharmaceutical companies.  In the early 1990s, Hatch created a foundation which has recently received about $172,000 in donations from 5 big pharmaceutical companies and an industry trade group known as Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.  By pure coincidence, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers also employs Hatch’s son, Scott Hatch.  You can link to an article discussing these facts here.

As a matter of fact, the pharmaceutical industry is Senator Hatch’s biggest contributor, donating more than $1.25 million to his campaigns since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

I agree with Mitchell Baird’s December 28, 2009 article in The Huffington Post, entitled:  “The Republicans’ Disdain For The American People Should Be The Story Of 2009.”  Baird points out that the Republicans in Congress care less about the American people than they do with scoring petty political victories, and it seems to me that both Coburn and Hatch exemplify that.

In Hatch’s case, another question came to my mind as I read his op-ed piece – Why now, Senator?  The health care bill has been through committee, conferences, and all manner of back-room shenanigans without any mention (to my knowledge) of any looming constitutional dilemma.  Granted, the Ben Nelson deal came up rather late in the day, but the gist of the health care bill – i.e., that the Feds would require individuals to purchase insurance – was known early on.

Why only after the bill passes do you make these important issues  known to the American people?  Is it the Constitution you are concerned about, or are you more concerned about scoring points with your political base and damaging Obama?  What solutions for the disastrous health care system have you produced other than the same failed policies of the Bush years?

It is also worth noting that Hatch’s co-author, Ken Blackwell, is best known as the Secretary of State in Ohio during the 2004 election.  At the same time as he was Ohio’s chief elections official, Blackwell was honorary co-chair of the “Committee to re-elect George W. Bush.”  Allegations of conflict of interest and voter disenfranchisement led to the filing of at least sixteen related lawsuits naming Blackwell.  Blackwell was again named as a defendant in a 2006 lawsuit related to his office’s public disclosure of the Social Security numbers of Ohio residents.  Far from being Mr. Constitution, Blackwell is an outspoken, staunch conservative who, for example, believes that abortion should be permitted only where necessary to save the life of the mother.  Blackwell’s understanding of the Constitution is about as tenuous as it gets.

You can link to a Wikipedia article discussing Mr. Blackwell here.

Lastly, Hatch’s other co-author, Kenneth Klukowski writes articles for a website, Human Events, calling itself the conservative underground.  Here is a sample of Mr. Klukowski’s one-sided writings from that website.

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