political convention

political convention

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where Were You Born?

One day you might want to run for president.  If so, you should check your birth certificate.  The Constitution requires the president to be a natural born citizen of the United States.  And as you may know, there has been considerable controversy about whether some politicians meet this criterion. 

A vocal group of people called “birthers” has sprung up to challenge candidates about where they were born.  Thousands of people have become birthers, including well-known politicians like Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Birthers are always trying to trip up people who want to run for president.  A presidential candidate might show his or her birth certificate but the birthers will argue it’s not good enough because it doesn’t have an official signature.  Another candidate’s document might say “birth certificate,” but it will be discredited because it should say “certificate of birth.”  Yet other documents will be rejected because they lack a stamp or seal. 

President Barrack Obama has an officially registered birth certificate from Hawaii, but it turns out it  has all of these flaws. No matter which way the birthers read it, upside down or right side up, they find it insufficient. Some birthers also can’t remember if Hawaii is a state and that further troubles their minds. 

That brings us to Donald Trump, television host, property developer, billionaire, and owner of one of history’s most idiotic hairdos. Mr. Trump is thinking about running for president.  He has taken a hard look at the documents purporting to show that Barrack Obama was born in the United States, but he rejects them all.  Mr. Trump claims he’s not a birther. He just wants to know what the president is trying to hide about the circumstances of his birth.

But now Mr. Trump himself is in trouble.  Someone asked to see his birth certificate.  The piece of paper Mr. Trump presented was from a hospital in New York, not an official document with a seal from the city’s health department.  The hospital apparently gave away such forms as a nice memento for the parents.  Mr. Trump’s lawyer said his client would show a signed and sealed birth certificate as soon as he finds one.  In the meantime, his presidential supporters will be crossing their fingers.
The birthers won’t be biding their time, however.  They may soon be making inquiries about other presidential candidates, even some who support their cause.  Michelle Bachmann, for example, clearly hails from outer space and wouldn’t be considered presidential material under  Article II Section I of the Constitution.   

To see a photo of Barrack Obama's official birth certificate and for information about its authenticity go to the sites below.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Story of the Dear Leader

In 2007 the State of Maine commissioned an artist to paint a mural to hang in the offices of the State Department of Labor. Its purpose was to tell the history of working men and women and their struggles. However, when some people looked closely they began to notice other themes. One dramatic image showed heroic soldiers with flowing red flags marching to face a foreign enemy.  Another showed a man with a particularly commanding presence observing as workers toiled to complete a massive engineering project.  The same gallant leader appeared again encircled by a throng of adoring children.

Soon, complaints about the mural began arriving at the office of Republican Governor Paul R. LePage.  Offended business leaders told the governor the mural made it look like Maine was a hotbed of anti-capitalist sentiment.  A supporter of the Governor thought the mural looked suspiciously like North Korean propaganda.  The impressive  man in the paintings was none other than Kim Il Sung, the father of current North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, known as “Dear Leader.” 

Hearing all this, an outraged Gov. LePage ordered the mural taken down and this past weekend it was  surreptitiously put in storage. 

Union members around the state couldn’t understand.  Clearly, the mural showed only historical pictures of workers and the industries in which they worked.  There were loggers, textile workers, women working at defense plants during World War II, and scenes of laboring people parading to advocate their rights. The mural was done in a style reminiscent of the paintings hung in public buildings across the country as part of WPA projects during the great depression. 

However, Gov. LePage thought the labor people were crazy. They obviously weren’t seeing what he and his friends saw.  If his state was to maintain a good business climate, a public building shouldn't be used for commie  propaganda and certainly not for the benefit of the type of people who found that terrible mural inspiring.

To see the mural go to:
For what the governor and his friends saw, enter "North Korean propaganda art" in Google. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington In a Teacup

If you visit the website of Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey you’ll meet a genial politician who spends time with constituents and who has proposed legislation on adoption, healthcare research, and aid to torture victims abroad. Mr. Smith is in his 16th term in the House, which is more than 30 years, so he’s no Tea Party newcomer. Nevertheless, he's a vehement opponent of women’s privacy and reproductive rights. Most recently he's authored a bill that is so egregious that it's shocking. But 221 co-sponsors have signed on in support so it’s expected to easily pass the House.   

The proposed law, House Bill 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, prohibits using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or for health insurance that covers abortion.  Enforcement of this rule would fall to the Internal Revenue Service.  IRS agents would be empowered to interrogate a taxpayer about whether her aborted pregnancy was due to “forcible rape” or incest and whether it was life threatening.  These circumstances might exempt her from the law’s restrictions.  But the burden of proof would fall on the taxpayer, so like any other tax deduction issue she would have to supply evidence supporting her claim. Private medical records, hospital receipts and paternity information might have to be presented in a troubling and embarrassing encounter with a stranger.  Use of the term “forcible rape” in the law might require a woman to prove that violence was used against her or that she had physically resisted.

Rep. Smith and his Republican and Tea Party co-sponsors seem unmoved by these concerns.  House Speaker John Boehner has listed the bill as a top congressional priority. 

Meanwhile, it’s instructive to take a look at one of Rep. Smith’s signature pieces of legislation from the past, the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998.  The act “Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide grants to U.S. programs to cover the costs of services for: (1) the rehabilitation of victims of torture, including treatment of the physical and psychological effects of torture; (2) social and legal services for victims of torture; and (3) research and training for health care providers...."

In contrast to this bill, Mr. Smith’s latest legislation enables psychological abuse of American women, makes it difficult for victims of physical attack to get medical treatment, and has as its main objective preventing victims from obtaining money to pay for healthcare services that will contribute to their mental and physical recovery. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Oracle at Delhi: She Who Must Not Be Named

Enigmatic as ususal, the erstwhile governor of Alaska and failed vice presidential candidate appeared in New Delhi, India the other day with a message of freedom and free enterprise.  In her comments to a conference of business leaders and dignitaries, the former governor summoned the spirits of Reagan and Lincoln, declaring them her political gurus and her inspiration for becoming a Republican. As for what lies ahead for the human race, she said that relations between India and the U.S. held “the key to the future of the world.”  She foresaw China, on the other hand, as a growing military power that threatened peace.  "Free people that make up a free country don't wage war on another free country," she said, referring to India and the U.S.  "I want peace on Earth."   After the conference the former governor left for Israel where a Reuters photograph showed her entering the Old City of Jerusalem with what appeared to be a Star of David on a chain around her neck.  She was to meet later with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Observers suggested that the former governor was using her trip to develop her foreign policy credentials in preparation for a run for president in 2012. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shameless Provocateurs

A recent letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle addressed Republican moves to eliminate federal funding for public radio and television by proposing a bargain: Cut the funding, but re-establish the Fairness Doctrine so there will still be some hope of balanced broadcast news and commentary.  This is a well-meaning suggestion, but given the way the Fairness Doctrine was enforced in the past and the way broadcasters typically evaded it, it doesn’t seem like a very good deal. 

Introduced in the late 1940s, the Fairness Doctrine required over-the-air broadcasters (but never cable operators) to give equal coverage to opposing political views in news and public affairs programming.   The doctrine was abandoned in President Reagan’s deregulation campaign of the 1980s. During the more than 30 years of its existence broadcasters grudgingly adhered to the doctrine's rules and made annual reports to the FCC listing public service programs.  But despite this pressure,  discussion and interview shows commonly aired on weekend afternoons or during the early morning hours when few people were watching or listening. Many broadcasters eventually abandoned meaningful issue-oriented programs altogether, replacing them with bland DJ shows or sitcoms.

Today there is no Fairness Doctrine and broadcast television remains largely a place where entertainment content and sports shows far outnumber informative public affairs and news programs.  Commercial radio has even less interest in providing a forum for balanced consideration of important public issues.  Shameless provocateurs build ratings with fact free hysterical rants, most with a rightward tilt.  Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck just this week reflected on the current Japanese disaster by suggesting that the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe were “payback” for various Japanese transgressions against God or the American way of life.  These commentators, with numerous imitators at the national and local levels, regularly depict the politically moderate Democratic president as a foreign-born alien who can’t prove his U.S. citizenship and who wants to impose socialism, or worse, on the American people.

That brings us back to public broadcasting, especially National Public Radio.  This outstanding news and public affairs network is being targeted by Republicans because its fair-minded journalism offers an effective antidote to the excesses of right-wing radio and the platform it provides to the conservative ideology of  Republican and Tea Party politicians. The $22 million annual allocation of federal funds to NPR is trivial in the big budget picture.   But under the guise of fiscal responsibility, conservatives want to kill it.  A revitalized Fairness Doctrine would have little chance of passage or eventual positive impact in this unbalanced environment. 

See: http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=fairnessdoct.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eat, Pray, Sweat

Whether people accept the scientific evidence that the earth is getting warmer is influenced by political ideology, religious beliefs and what the weather is doing outside at any given moment, according to recent scholarly research.  How people change their behavior when facing circumstances relevant to climate change can also hinge on what they want for dinner. 

• Researchers asked people to report their opinions about global warming and whether the temperature on the day of the study was warmer or cooler than usual.  Respondents who said the day was warmer were more concerned about global warming and were more persuaded that global warming was a reality. The study didn’t say whether the respondents’ opinions changed when the day cooled off. 

• A study of people in the San Francisco Bay Area found that those whose political ideology had shifted from liberal to conservative had declining concern about global warming. The researchers also found that having a college education and some knowledge of science doesn't increase concern for global warming for people who profess a conservative ideology

• An analysis of political polarization in Congress suggests that a prime cause is the growing conservatism of the Republican Party due to the powerful influence of evangelical Christians.  The study doesn’t deal with climate change as such.  But if we accept the notion that belief in climate change goes down when conservatism goes up (see study above), then it’s reasonable to think that religious zeal, political conservatism, and climate change apostasy are interrelated—at least in Congress.

• Scientific findings suggest that greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles contribute to global warming.   An increase in gas prices might therefore be a hopeful development because people will drive less to save money.  But it appears this is not the case.  A study of grocery shoppers indicates they don’t curtail their driving when gas prices rise.  Instead, they hunt for cheaper or lower quality food by driving to big box stores rather than to local markets.

Kevin Lewis social research summary:  www.nationalaffairs.com/commentary/type/naonline.
Public Understanding Science: http://pus.sagepub.com/content/19/6/743.abstract )

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mr. King, Tear Down That Wall

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) have reintroduced legislation to require the government to conduct all of its official business in English. The legislation also promotes steps to insure that legal immigrants are fluent enough in English to read and understand U.S. law as written.  English language testing will be required during the naturalization process.  One consequence of the law will be to do away with election ballots printed in Spanish, Chinese, or other languages not English. This step will tend to suppress election turnout among immigrant and minority groups, who more often vote for Democrats.

"This legislation will provide much-needed commonality among United States citizens, regardless of heritage,” Inhofe said.  “…It is important that we share one vision and one official language.”  

"A common language is the most powerful unifying force known throughout history," King said.

There’s no doubt that Rep. King speaks at least one language well understood in this country—the language of self-promotion:

“I have seen the fences being built on the border by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.  I have watched illegal immigrants scale these fences and easily move between the United States and Mexico.  To address this, I have designed a concrete border wall proposal.  I have 35 years experience in the earth-moving, drainage and concrete construction business, which gives me the background to design an effective wall.  My concrete wall would function as both a human and vehicle barrier, inspired by the success of the concrete wall in Israel.  My design is cost efficient, easy to construct and impenetrable.  This design would funnel illegal traffic to our ports of entry, where it can be reasonably controlled by our nation’s customs and border patrol agents.”      
Statement on Rep. King’s website.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tale of Running Mates and Also Rans

Sen. John McCain, who proved to be a man of inconceivably bad judgment for his choice of running mate in 2008, wants the United States to establish a no-fly zone in Libya.  This act of war would entail bombing Libyan air defenses followed by other unspecified military actions in support of…..?  With the objective of….?  With a defined time frame of….?  This position is also endorsed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who tailed McCain during the 2008 campaign as his de facto running mate.  Sen. Lieberman was the actual running mate of presidential candidate Al Gore in 2000.  Sen. John Kerry, who ran for president in 2004, and as a young Navy veteran had the sense to advocate U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam, also wants the U.S. to bomb Libya.  Is War III on its way?   Money to pay for an attack on Libya would come from the sacrosanct 59 percent of the federal budget allocated to defense, with probable special augmentations as needed.  The remaining 41 percent of the budget is the subject of the current cutting hysteria in Washington. This so-called discretionary spending supports education, health care, environmental regulation,  food safety, public transportation,  infrastructure,  arts and culture, disaster relief,  elder care, national parks, scientific research, energy and resource management, air safety, border control, regulation of commerce, housing….. As Monty Python’s homicidal barber would say, “cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut.”  (The role was played by Michael Palin no less; not related to she who must not be named.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dim Bulbs

A  law signed by President Bush in 2007 mandates that  light bulbs meet certain efficiency standards to reduce electricity consumption.  The law takes effect next year and is meant to boost sales of efficient compact fluorescent lights.  The fluorescent lights cost  more than standard bulbs, but they last much longer and burn less electricity.  But who cares about these advances in  energy conservation?  It's the end of the world as we know it, according to incensed citizens and members of Congress who want to stop this outrage.  Rep. Michelle Bachmann (TP, Minnesota) attacked fluorescent lights in her response to the State of the Union, saying the new rules are another example of big government intrusion.  Citizens across the country are stockpiling old-style bulbs.  Many say they can't stand the brief flicker when a fluorescent light turns on.  Others are worried about a minute quantity of mercury present in fluorescent lights.  One stockpiler, who also works for a right-wing think tank, is afraid that her son, who is autistic, will be poisoned because he's always knocking over lamps. She has already stashed 100 conventional bulbs and plans to buy more.  Sen. Rand Paul (TP, Kentucky) said he resents the light bulb standards and is also angry about government rules for water conserving toilets.  Apparently the toilets in his house don't work very well. And now, with the new light bulb regulations, he won't even be able to see what's happening in the bowl when he flushes.