Saturday, February 28, 2009

Emanuel...and a Still Missing Franken

An interview with Rahm Emanuel in the most recent New Yorker reiterates the importance of Al Franken being in his senate seat. Of course, we all know this. We all know that Al should take his rightful place. Although only three Republican votes are needed to pass legislation, it could be even less. If Senator Kennedy's health was better and he was there - and he is missed by everyone - it would be two. With Franken it would be only one. That is incredible power in a time where it is really needed and huge issues are being looked at, voted on, and passed.

Since the Republicans just seem to be into playing games at this point, the passing part is hard enough as it is. As stated in the New Yorker:
The stimulus bill was essentially held hostage to the whims of Collins, Snowe, and Specter, but if Al Franken, the apparent winner of the disputed Minnesota Senate race, had been seated in Washington, and if Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, had been regularly available to vote, the White House would have needed only one Republican to pass the measure. “No disrespect to Paul Krugman,” Emanuel went on, “but has he figured out how to seat the Minnesota senator?” (Franken’s victory is the subject of an ongoing court challenge by his opponent, Norm Coleman, which the national Republican Party has been happy to help finance.)
It is said of Emanuel that "in the same conversation, he can be wonkish and thoughtful, blunt and profane." His "outsized personality," however, is exactly what is needed in a time of turmoil and issues beyond what any other president has faced. President Obama needs a strong Chief of Staff and he has one in Emanuel. Others in the position have rubbed people the wrong way for some of the same reasons. But Emanuel's directness, strength, and incredible organization are just what is in order for the job.

As for the empty senate seat, Franken's skills - and vote - are also what is in order for the job. It is no surprise that the Republican Party is footing the bill for Norm's games. It seems to be in line with everything else they are doing these days. But, enough already. President Obama, and the American people, need all the strength and intelligence we can get right now - and Minnesota itself needs another voice to be heard.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Clearly Crazy Bachmann Rooting for Steele

The continued embarrassment of Michele Bachmann being a representative from Minnesota gives comedians - and newscasters - continued material as well. I really don't get this woman at all. As I said before: how did she get back into office again? I'm pleased with Keith Ellison. I've met him and he was personable and caring. He is my representative. Michele lives on another planet and I don't care to ever meet her.

Then there's Michael Steele. His aim to suddenly make the Republican party cool is quite amusing. How does one African-American man turn a party of old white guys into cool? And can this African-American man really be the one to do it? Really? Another ongoing joke.

In Steele's recent hip-hop campaign, I guess we know that Bachmann is on his side. As quoted from Talking Points Memo:

Tonight, we tell America: we know the past, we know we did wrong. My bad," said Steele. "But we go forward in appreciation of the values that brought us to this point."

But Steele rejected the idea that the recent elections meant the ideological ground had shifted. "I am here tonight to reject the idea that defeats of the past are a repudiation of core conservative values and principles," he said. "Nor do I believe that those defeats are a sign of things to come."

And check out this latest development in Steele's campaign to create a hip-hop image for the GOP. Michele Bachmann praised Steele's speech: "Michael Steele! You be da man! You be da man."
Right. Two people that are about as far away from hip and cool as you can get, and she's rooting him on. Ah, more comedic material. And more proof that Bachmann is as crazy as they get.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

DC Finally Gets a Say

The Senate voted today to finally let residents of our nation's capital have a vote themselves. This is long overdue and has been a fight for far too long - when it shouldn't have been a fight in the first place. Now they will finally have a member in congress who has full voting privileges.

The Senate passed it on a vote of 61-37, and it has now been sent on to the House of Representatives for approval. President Obama has stated he will sign it when it comes across his desk. According to

The United States is the only democracy in the world that does not provide citizens of its capital a full voting member in its legislative branch, bill backers say.

"It is patently unjust and un-American," said Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and a chief sponsor of the legislation.

Each of the 50 U.S. states have two members in the U.S. Senate. The number of representatives each state has in the 435-member House is based on their population.

Washington, D.C., which used to be part of the state of Maryland, was created as a district by the federal government and designated as the U.S. capital in 1800. Residents have sought representation in Congress ever since.

The Senate and House bills would give Washington - named for the first U.S. president and also known as the District of Columbia - a representative, but no senators.

It may not be a state, but it is our country's capital and should have been included all along. Now they will finally have their say - and not just have to stand by and watch while everyone else gets a vote in their town but them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Protesters at the Oscars

For the first time in many years, I watched the Oscars all the way through last night. Some of it was a bit overdone for me (like Hugh Jackman's performances), some of it was good (like Heath Ledger winning the Oscar), some of it was even better ("Slumdog Millionaire" winning a few Oscars).

I admit I got choked up in a couple of parts, which really surprised me. I had just watched "Slumdog Millionaire" the night before and thought it was a very original, well-written movie. I was also touched by the kids from the movie in the audience who were so excited about all the wins. And Health Ledger's parents and sister accepting his award was also touching.

But, what really got to me was Sean Pean's speech. I had not realized - like all folks at home watching the show - that there were protesters there. They were protesting gay marriage. These "Christians" felt it necessary to use the forum for a protest. The fact that Penn won the Oscar for his portrayal of a gay man in "Milk" and had the opportunity to make the speech was excellent.

I am a Christian and have strong beliefs. I, however, am very open-minded and respect other people's beliefs. I appreciate the differences in people and enjoy diversity. I also strongly believe all people deserve love and respect, don't judge people, and feel everyone should have equal rights. Supposed Christians out there holding protests and saying hateful things is embarrassing to those of us that don't behave this way. According to the

Stars on their way to the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles had to pass a group of Christian demonstrators outside who protested against gay marriage and attacked the memory of the late Heath Ledger, a favourite target of militant anti-gay protesters since his role in Brokeback Mountain.

Penn won the best actor award for Milk, in which he played politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

The actor opened his acceptance speech with the words: "You commie, homo-loving sons of guns," to laughter from the audience.

Referring to the protest, he said: "For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Backstage, he dismissed the demonstrators' 'Heath in Hell' placards. "I think if we get used to dismissing these kind of comments rather than commenting on them, we'll be better off. It's meaningless jibberish," he said, expressing his sadness at the "culture of ignorance that has bred this kind of hateful expression, that these people have their signs outside essentially telling you that you're less than human".

This kind of hatred has no place, and most certainly doesn't come from God. God loves all of his children. He does not pick and choose. No one gave these people the right to choose either. To hold such a hateful protest - additionally aimed at a man who had died and was being honored for his talent and a spectacular performance - is equally sickening.

The best thing that could happen at this point is to have Proposition 8 overturned. Because, really, these hateful people aren't standing up for anything but hatred.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Did This Woman Win Again?

As if Minnesota doesn't have enough embarrassment with our STILL open senate seat and Norm Coleman's appeal, we also have Michele Bachmann. Bachman is actually beyond an embarrassment - she is downright crazy. Where does she come up with these things?

Commenting on the stimulus on the radio with KTLK's Chris Baker,
Bachmann went into another crazy rant and named all kinds of bizarre things about the stimulus. As laid out in the Minnesota Independent, Bachmann stated:

*ACORN is “under federal indictment for voter fraud,” but the stimulus bill nevertheless gives ACORN “$5 billion.” (In reality, ACORN is not under federal indictment and isn’t mentioned in the stimulus bill at all.)

*Many members of Congress have “a real aversion to capitalism.”

*The stimulus bill includes a measure to create a “rationing board” for health care, and after the bill becomes law, “your doctor will no longer be able to make your health care decisions with you.”

*The recovery package is part of a Democratic conspiracy to “direct” funding away from Republican districts, so Democratic districts can “suck up” all federal funds. Bachmann doesn’t think this will work because, as she put it, “We’re running out of rich people in this country.”

*The “Community-Organizer-in-Chief” is also orchestrating a conspiracy involving the Census Bureau, which the president will use to redraw congressional lines to keep Democrats in power for up to “40 years.” When the host said he was confused, noting that congressional district lines are drawn at the state level, Bachmann said Obama’s non-existent plan is an “anti-constitutional move.”

Where exactly does she come up with her information? I can't figure out how this woman was voted back into office - and I find it incredibly disturbing that there are enough people in this state who think she is competent to represent Minnesota.

The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen went through her rant and commented best on what she had turned around in her mind:
"Toward the end, Bachmann said, “We are literally losing our country,” to which Benen responded, “Congresswoman, you’ve literally lost something, but I don’t think it’s your country.”
Minnesota has had enough embarrassment, Michele. Keep your rants to yourself and just continue arguing with the voices in your own head from now on. Just leave the rest of our very blue - and much more intelligent - state out of it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Stimulus is Finally Signed

I voted for Obama and I'm glad I did. I still stand behind him. There have been disappointments, there have been mistakes. This is to be expected. He is learning. But I truly feel he is right where he is supposed to be at this particular time in history. His cool confidence and intelligence are needed. And he even admits it when a mistake is made. Imagine that.

With the stimulus bill finally signed and ready to go, it is realized this won't solve everything. Many feel it should have been more (I am one of them), but it is a start in the right direction. The details of the bill are interesting and cover a lot of territory. The bill does not have everything in it, but it is a beginning. And it will take some time.

I have tremendous respect for our new president. He has even tried to work with the Republicans who seem to disagree with him just to disagree. As posted on the Huffington Post:

"White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said recently that Obama lost control of the stimulus debate by focusing too much on bipartisanship."

We have to give President Obama credit for trying. And it has to be beyond frustrating, to say the least. He knows that it is the American people who are hurting the most. Perhaps the Republicans are truly forgetting the American people and the severe ramifications of doing it their way. They are also forgetting who is in charge. And they have conveniently forgotten that doing it their way is how we got into this mess in the first place.

As far as reaching out to the Republicans in the future - well, perhaps if they grow up and quit acting like it is a game in their old boy's club. It is not a game, this is serious stuff, and Obama has serious goals for the rest of the year. But, when President Obama was asked if he would be willing to reach out to Republicans in the future, he really said it best:

"You know, I am an eternal optimist. That doesn't mean I'm a sap."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tim Pawlenty and His Self-Serving Agenda

The only good thing about Sarah Palen's introduction at the Republican Convention last year in St. Paul was that Tim Pawlenty had to stand by and watch his wish for a vice presidential nod go up in smoke. He continues to do nothing good for Minnesota and just looks out for the fat cats. I can't figure out if he is just living in his own little bubble or has zero compassion for people, or both. My guess is both.

As usual, Pawlenty's plan is just self-serving. He is setting himself up for his bid for president in the 2012 race. Reported in the Minnesota Independent News, Pawlenty's plan is a grim one:

"Under Pawlenty’s proposal, adults without children would no longer be eligible for state health insurance programs, while coverage for adults with kids would be limited to those earning less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($21,200 for a family of four). It’s estimated that 84,000 Minnesotans would lose their health insurance under the proposal. Despite these proposed cutbacks, the budget for health and human services spending would still increase by 9.6 percent over the next two years.

Higher education would also take a significant hit. The University of Minnesota would lose roughly $150 million in funding, while the the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would be out $146 million. The cuts represent an 8.2 percent reduction in spending on higher education from the current biennium.

Pawlenty also proposed additional cuts to local government aid, which has been repeatedly slashed in recent years. Under the governor’s plan, such spending would be reduced an additional 5.4 percent, to $2.9 billion."

Comments from the community, posted on Minnesota Independent News, have been strong:

Pat Mellenthin, executive director of The Arc of Minnesota, on proposed cuts to health and human services:

"The Governor may try to paint this as simply reducing the growth in HHS spending, but let’s be honest. The projected growth in HHS spending is not intended to fund excesses. Those projected increases in spending are based on anticipated real costs and real needs of real people. The Governor can’t pretend that people’s lives won’t be seriously impacted by his proposed cuts."

Robert Bruininks, president of the University of Minnesota:

"Gov. Pawlenty’s budget recommendations today are just the first step in a long budget process. His proposal for the university’s budget carries with it enormous consequences. It will impact the quality and affordability of the education we provide. It will impair our ability to serve as a job creation engine for the state through research and development. And, it will have an inevitable impact on our workforce, tuition and our ability to attract research grants - just as it did five years ago when the state cut $195 million from the university."

Dane Smith, president of progressive think tank Growth & Justice:

"Minnesota’s shared prosperity and quality of life rest on a foundation of wise public investment in human capital and physical infrastructure. This budget plan threatens that already weakened foundation with a dubious and unrealistic cuts-and-shifts strategy."

R.T. Rybak, Mayor of Minneapolis:

"We recognize that the current financial situation needs a shared sense of sacrifice. However, it’s unfortunate for the taxpayers of Minneapolis that the Governor is looking to make the state’s lack of financial management another burden for our residents."

Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, on a proposed wage freeze for state employees:

"Our members earn on average $38,000 a year, and like most Minnesotans they’re struggling paycheck to paycheck and shouldn’t have to sacrifice alone while corporations see their taxes cut in half."

Dave Van Hattum, policy program manager at Transit for Livable Communities, on a looming $91 million shortfall for regional transit providers:

"Without addressing the transit operating deficit, the Governor will prevent people from reaching their jobs. This doesn’t make sense in this economic climate. At a minimum, maintaining public transit service must be part of a Minnesota budget aimed at advancing prosperity."

Jan Malcolm, CEO of Courage Center, a Minneapolis-based physical rehabilitation facility:

"While our services would be cut by almost $1.7 million under the proposed budget, the broader effects on the community would be far more severe. The Governor proposes to completely eliminate physical, occupational, speech and audiology therapies from all public health insurance programs for adults in need of rehabilitation."

John Van Hecke, director of operations and planning for progressive think tank Minnesota 2020:

"The Governor’s budget recommendations continue the tired conservative policies that failed middle-class Americans these last eight years. Slashing investment in health care, communities and colleges while handing out tax giveaways to large multi-nationals will not create good-paying jobs for working Minnesotans. This plan will only make Minnesota’s recession worse."

I work in social services during the day. I have seen cut after cut to this area. I have seen wonderful people with debilitating physical ailments and mental disabilities have more taken away from them, while the wealthy get tax breaks. Once again, Pawlenty is proposing cuts to people that have next to nothing. Is this man evil? This doesn't even touch on all the other issues mentioned that will really affect everyone.

One of my favorite quotes addresses compassion very well:

"How far you go in life depends on
your being tender with the young,
compassionate with the aged,
sympathetic with the striving and
tolerant of the weak and strong.
Because someday in life you
will have been all of these."

George Washington Carver

Remember this, Governor Pawlenty. You too might be in the same boat someday that some of these people are. Although I doubt you will be without money or the best of health care.

The idea of this man being in an even bigger office in the future is just plain scary. There is no compassion, just a self-serving agenda that involves getting ahead. He can only see the power and recognition he can get and the bottom line on the budget sheet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

It was reported today that Judd Gregg withdrew his nomination as Commerce Secretary. This continues to seem like a game to the Republicans and I think Obama has tried hard enough with them. According to the New York Times, Gregg stated there were "irresolvable conflicts" and backed out:
“It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me,” Mr. Gregg said in a statement. “Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.”
With his usual style and class, Obama showed a sense of humor in his speech this evening. Speaking of Lincoln in his office, he joked:
"His sons were playing around him, his clothes a bit too small for his uncommon frame - maybe wondering if somebody might call him up and ask him to be commerce secretary."
I appreciate that he can laugh at it and really think we will all be better off without Gregg. Perhaps Obama has been too open to stretching out his hand to the Republicans. It seems Gregg went back to his old boy's club of no compromise, no agreement, and closed minds.

The game playing by the Republicans is ridiculous and immature. This is not a game - these are very serious times with very serious issues. The only good thing about it is that all the games in the world won't change the fact that they - finally - are outnumbered either way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Crazy Mom

The news continues on Nadya Suleman, the mother who had octuplets when she already had six children. Now, it seems she has had to go into hiding as she is getting death threats. Regardless of what we all think about this, death threats are taking it way too far.

As it turns out, her comment that she would never live on welfare appears to be wrong. According to Reuters, she is receiving food stamps and disability payments for
three of her children:

"That criticism has mushroomed as it was reported that she was divorced, living with her parents, unemployed for several years, receiving disability checks for three of her children -- one of whom is autistic - and collecting nearly $500 a month in food stamps.

She acknowledged those circumstances in a series of NBC television interviews but insisted in a segment aired on Tuesday on "Dateline NBC" that she was 'not living off any taxpayer money' and that assistance she now receives is temporary."

Not to mention that these kids are surviving because of technology, and have a good chance of continued health and behavioral problems down the road....and ultimately, who will pay for all of this?

These kids have little chance in this situation. It is all very weird, very sad, and very selfish.

Reuters UK

Monday, February 9, 2009

An Intelligent Speaker

As President Obama finished his speech and round of questions tonight, I had to cheer at how nice it is to have an intelligent president. He thinks about the questions, answers them with articulate words, and admits when he has made a mistake or doesn't know the answer.

I also appreciate the fact that he reminded people more than once that this economic problem was inherited. The Republicans are acting like spoiled little frat boys who are trying to show power when their power has been taken away. The bottom line is that something HAS to be done. Things are a mess.

So, thank you, Mr. President. We know you aren't perfect and we know you have so many problems that you are trying to fix. But, not only do we finally have someone who knows how to say "nuclear" correctly, we have someone who cares and is really trying to look out for the American people. That in itself is enough to give us real hope.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Loving or Irresponsible?

When I first read about the octuplets born to Nadya Suleman, I couldn't imagine this woman suddenly having eight children at once. When I read that she already had six young children at home, is unmarried, unemployed, and lives with her parents, I had to ask: are you kidding me?

Sulema has collected $168,00 in disability payments for a back injury and had all of her children by in-vitro fertilization (which she says she was paid for). The doctor knowingly implanted six embryos (which is now being investigated) when the "norm is to implant two to three in women her age." She used a sperm donor for her first six children and then used frozen embryos for the octuplets. This is not a miracle birth - this is technology - and it will take a great deal of technology and money for them to survive, let alone to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Suleman says she really loves kids. That's fine. She says she was an only child and wanted a lot of children. That's fine too - but why not wait until you are sitting better financially and adopt them? There are many children already in this world who need a loving home.

But, how will all these kids get quality attention or be raised with fair chances? What are the chances that they will grow up to be good contributors to the world? And how in the world will she afford to raise these kids once the first round of contributions wear off?
"According to news reports, Suleman's parents have financial problems; the octuplets are all preemies, and will require special treatment. She has hired an agent; and reportedly plans to make money through paid TV interviews or working as an on-air childcare expert. Suleman mentioned to the media that she wants two $2 million to be interviewed by either Diane Sawyer or Oprah Winfrey."
I suppose in our society's ridiculous obsession with this sort of thing, she will get her interviews. I wish the children well, but rewarding and sensationalizing, as well as the irresponsibility of this whole thing, and using them this way - is sickening.

As a strong, independent woman, to me this woman takes us back to the caveman age. Is it right to pay this woman for basically having a litter and being totally irresponsible? The idea that she is now not only going to be rewarded but that she EXPECTS IT is ludicrous.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Excellent and Needed Speech

Let's get past how nice it is to watch a presidential speech that is not only intelligent, but all the words are pronounced correctly. I know I had gotten to the point with Bush that I simply could not listen to the man. It went between him making me angry and shaking my head at how he misused and mispronounced words. It was infuriating and embarrassing at the same time.

Past all that, Obama's speech tonight was well done. He is clearly disgusted with the stalling - and tired, old ideas - and wants to move things along. His speech was thorough and firm. He reminded everyone that he got this mess "wrapped up in a big bow waiting for me when I stepped into the oval office." Stating the urgency, Obama said:

"If we do not move swiftly to sign [the act] into law, an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe," he said. "This is not my assessment. This is not Nancy Pelosi's assessment. This is the assessment of the best economists in the country. This is the assessment of some of the former advisers of some of the same folks who are making these criticisms right now."


"This is not a game," he said. "This is not a contest for who's in power and who's up and who's down."

It's time, he said, to "set aside the gamesmanship in this town and get something done."
Summarized on Political Intelligence, the speech fired me up and reminded us all that the change we heard about in the election is still strong:
"The American people called for change in November," he said, "and that's what we're going to deliver."
I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime. It shouldn't be about Republicans being pissed off that the Democrats have more power (even though they are), or the loss of control. It is about a economic mess that needs a step to get it moving in the right direction. Yes, it should be more, and yes, it is just a small start. But it is a start.

Some of the smartest, most well-educated people I know are out of a job right now. The rest are fearing the ones they are still holding on to. It isn't a game. And it is quite frightening that the Republicans think it is.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited a public school in Washington D.C. today, where they answered questions and read to the children. This not only shows their interest in community service and connecting to people, it also gives the kids unexpected attention and hope for the future.

Besides, isn't it cool to have an intelligent president do this? After all, when he read to the kids, I would bet the book was right side up.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)