Tag Archives: congress

FISCAL CLIFF OVER BENGHAZI,By Louise Annarino,November 29,2012

29 Nov

FISCAL CLIFF OVER BENGHAZI , By Louise Annarino, November 29,2012

 

On September 11, 2012 4 Americans in the diplomatic service of the United States, at one of the most dangerous postings in the Middle East were murdered in Benghazi, Libya.

 

During the first 2 weeks of September 2012, 32 Americans were killed in Detroit; one of them and Iraq Vet and father of five children named Davis Nelson, who pushed aside a woman neighbor about to be shot by her husband in a domestic dispute and took the bullet himself. (http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/19568205/32-people-murdered-over-15-day-period-in-detroit ).

 

By the time of the Benghazi murders,Chicago had already seen 400 Americans murdered within its borders during 2012. During August 2012 alone, 38 persons were killed.( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/chicago-homicides-reach-4_n_1929015.html ).

 

In Columbus,Ohio 83 Americans had been murdered between January 1 and  November 29, 2012.  The breakdown: 88% male, 70.7% African-American, 56.5% age 20-39, 79.3% shooting victims. ( http://www.dispatch.com/content/pages/data/crime-safety/homicide/homicides.html ).

 

During the past year, more than a 1,000 children died before their first birthdays in Ohio. The breakdown: 6.3% white, 5.7% Latino, and 15.8% African-American; likely the highest in the nation for African-American babies. ( http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/11/29/black-infant-deaths-worst-of-bad-news.html ).

 

More than 1 in 5 of all American children live in poverty; 1 in 3 American children of color live in poverty. As a result, America loses half a trillion dollars per year in lost productivity, increased health care costs, and increased crime. ( http://www.childrensdefense.org/newsroom/child-watch-columns/child-watch-documents/forward-for-children.html ).

Excuse me for finding American’s obsessive concern about fiscal cliffs and the terrorist attack in Benghazi nothing short of ridiculous. Many Americans live on the fiscal cliff, just over its edge struggling to hang on, or at the bottom of the cliff all of their lives. Many Americans face the threat of violence and death daily in American cities and towns. The silence has been deafening in addressing these issues. It is not that Americans have been unaware of the problem; but, their solution has been to flee to suburbs and gated communities rather than addressing the needs of fellow Americans they identify as “the other”.

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and others warn us that we must protect the low tax rate of the richest of the rich and their investments. To do so he insists we cut  redefined entitlements. Entitlements are those things to which one is entitled; over which one has ownership rights. These same small-government proponents propose taking away our property rights, our entitlement to the Social Security and Medicare benefits we paid for through payroll deductions from every paycheck we have ever earned by reason of our labor. They have redefined entitlements as gifts from our socialist president, and socialist Democratic party. Please, spare us the hypocrisy. You spare us very little else.

And John McCain reminds us daily that 4 Americans died in Ben Gahzi. Mr. Cain, where is your outrage over the Americans killed by violence in the hearts of our cities every night? Over the infant mortality rate for our babies? Over the 3532 American Iraq War dead? Which you supported despite the obvious lies used to justify it. Forgive me if I find your outrageous disdain for Ambassador Rice the farce it is.

It has been difficult for me to write because it has been difficult to channel my anger toward those who continue to obstruct the people’s business in Congress, who continue to filter their world view through a racist and sexist lens, who believe they lost the 2012 election simply because they mistakenly and incompetently marketed their party platform to the public, and who only regret the failure, but not the use, of their voter suppression efforts.

I admire President Obama’s ability to tolerate such hypocrisy and continue to seek workable agreements with persons whose words twist reality, whose motives cannot be trusted, and whose sexist and racist world view is potentially harmful to so many Americans. We must demand  that President Obama, Rep.Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC)and Sen.Harry Reid(D-NEV) ask more of their Republican colleagues, not less, in their negotiations. At the very least they must demand respect for people of color and women (including Ambassador Rice), adherence to truth, and a firm commitment to openly support any agreements they reach.

I grieve the loss of life in Ben Ghazi, and continued threats to those Americans who represent our country abroad. But, I also grieve the the daily threats to America’s children and families who face on-going threats of economic loss and violence, especially within the African-American community. Where is our outrage on their behalf? Who will speak for these Americans? Will you?

 

 

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STAY TUNED:OBSTRUCTIONISM IS STILL ON THE TABLE,By Louise Annarino,November 9,2012

9 Nov

STAY TUNED: OBSTRUCTIONISM IS STILL ON THE TABLE,By Louise Annarino, November 9,2012

 

 

Team,
This victory is a testament to you. Take pride in your hard work over the past 18 months: the countless calls you made, the doors you knocked, the people you inspired to support our president.
I know it wasn’t always easy. But through your perseverance, you proved that a strong, grassroots organization could overcome powerful interests on the other side.
You built this organization from the ground up. You helped this country stay the course. Enjoy this victory for now and rest up. There will be more work to come. Stay tuned.- Jeremiah Bird, Obama For America

 

”Stay tuned” We have heard this before from OFA, the grassroots organization which continued to work in support of President Obama after they did so in the 2008 election. It was OFA who announced to those of us who had already started organizing marches and rallies, collecting signatures on petitions, and garnering support for single payer health care that we must cease, and instead, push for The Affordable Health Care Act-Obamacare. We joined the effort to see near-universal health care passed,hoping it would be a beginning,understanding that if the votes are not there in Congress, compromise is necessary. But it does not sit well with those of us who understand that the most affordable health care system is one which eliminates profit for investors, and delivers dollars to direct service. Built into Obamacare is the 85% required delivery of direct care; with refunds to patients whose insurance carriers spend less than 85% of money collected on direct care. Still, this allows a 15% overhead for administrative costs,which exceeds that of medicare. The amount of difference could fund more direct service rather than to investors for profits off our illnesses. But, it is a start.

 

Yesterday, Speaker of the House, Rep.John Boehner (R-OH) responded to Diane Sawyer during an ABC interview when asked about his desire to repeal Obamacare:

“It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected ,” Boehner added. “Obamacare is the law of the land.” But, he then added that there were parts of the law congress would try to change. Shortly following the interview his spokesman said,that repealing the law ‘would be on the table.’ Clearly, the re-election has not changed Boehner’s attitude, nor his operational style.

Stay tuned: Obstruction by Boehner and the GOP is still on the table.

Obstruction takes many forms: It blocks bills in committee,not allowing them to be voted out of committee for floor vote. It refuses to put a bill or discussion of a bill on the calendar. It refuses to discuss bills with both parties in attendance, Republicans locking out Democratic members who retreat to a separate room for discussion. It holds votes in the middle of the night when the public and news media are not paying attention to the machinations of voting irregularities; such as, stopping the vote at the last minute when it appears your side is losing and holding the vote open for hours while arms are twisted and votes are changed. It requires a supermajority to override a filibuster,which is an impossibility with the number of current party members. It walks out of bipartisan meetings with the President and holds a news conference belying the president’s efforts to find a compromise. It is the party of walk-backs,confusing reporters and the public as to what GOP’s true position is, or if it has ANY position other than OPPOSITION.

If you thought the ugliness and lies were over, you are wrong. GOP has learned nothing from the 2012 election. They campaigned with no respect, dignity nor integrity. This is how they intend to govern. Do not expect Republicans to govern with respect, dignity,and integrity.

Already,I am disgusted by newspersons concern over the fate of the Republican Party, the endless hours of commentary suggesting how it can change and grow. Where is the discussion about what this country needs to do NOW and what this country has a right to expect from the GOP to see that what we need happens? I say to the GOP what I say to those who discriminate against women and people of color, “Heal yourself! I have enough on my hands doing what I can for the betterment of my fellow citizens. I must heal my own pain at your insensitivity to the needs of my fellow citizens;I have no time to heal yours.”

Our focus should not be on the improved chances of Republicans to win future elections but their failure to support the efforts being made by Democrats in Congress and by President Obama to stimulate economic growth, create jobs, protect our environment, educate our children, reform immigration, reduce poverty, assure health care for all, reduce the deficit fairly,increase taxes on the top tier of income and capital gains, end useless and harmful wars, solidify and extend diplomatic gains etc.

The morning after the election I awoke with a smile on my face, a feeling of increased security, with no fear that my civil rights were in jeopardy, knowing our president is one who sees a future full of promise and has a plan for leading us in the right direction. It was a place of calm I had not been in since January 20, 2009. I needed that peace of mind to last longer. It ended too soon. It ended when I realized the direction media is leading us: away from serious discussion of issues of governance and on to the 2016 election. Shame on the Third Estate for failing us…again. Stay tuned.

 

“WHAT YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF THESE” OUR VETERANS,By Louise Annarino,September 19,2012

20 Sep

“WHAT YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF THESE” OUR VETERANS; By Louise Annarino,September19,2012

Today was a day of further frustration as Republicans blocked passage of a veterans jobs bill. Democrats needed 60 votes but got only 58,including votes of 5 Republicans who joined them in attempting to override a point of order raised by Sen. Sessions (R-Ala).  Senator/Chairperson of the Veterans Affairs committee Patty Murray (D-Wash,) hoped an amendment she introduced which included a provision by Sen.Burr (R-NC) as a compromise to satisfy Republican objections could have gotten to a vote. “At every turn, we have sought compromise. But instead of meeting us halfway, we have been met with resistance,” Murray said. “Instead of saying yes to the nearly one million unemployed veterans, it seems some on the other side have spent the last week and a half seeking out any way to say no.” She warned that such Republican obstruction threatens every effort to aid veterans.

The $1 billion Veterans Jobs Corp Act would have paid for itself over 10 years. It would have created job-training and assistance to obtain work in targeted fields including police work,firefighting,national park conservation, historic preservation projects etc. The same persons who had no problem sending our young men and women to war, with no money budgeted to pay for those wars, objected on a budget point of order to aide the veterans of those wars. The deficit they decry was partially created by borrowing money to pay for those wars in order to avoid raising taxes and upsetting Grover Norquist. The same persons who raised no objection when passing Medicare Part D without funding the expansion to cover prescriptions, and who refused to include language to require bulk rates by pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of this unpaid mandate, refused to even consider a bill to put our unemployed veterans to  work.

Sen Tom Coburn (R-Ok) opposed it because it duplicated other efforts; Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), because it did not include a provision to force Pakistan to free Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor who led the US to Osama bin Laden. While I appreciate Dr. Afridi’s help, I also appreciate the soldiers who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to find Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda. Our soldiers should not be held hostage by Sen. Paul.The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

One appreciates even more Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s unwavering support for America’s veterans. Brown was an original cosponsor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, a key provision of which is VRAP, which offers job retraining assistance to veterans; up to 99,000 veterans will receive retraining assistance through March 31,2014.

The veteran jobs bill was expected to create at least 20,000 jobs at a time when one in four veterans are unemployed. But, then, they are part of Mr. Romney’s 47%, so perhaps Republicans think they are merely unwilling to take care of themselves, and feel entitled to depend on their government, and the people, all of us, who sent them to war. Here’s a novel idea: THEY ARE ENTITLED.

The Center for American Progress has put together this list showing the unfortunate facts behind veterans’ homelessness:

50 percent: Rate at which veterans are more likely than other Americans to become homeless. The Obama administration has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

About 75,000: Number of veterans who are homeless on any given night, according to estimates from the Veterans Administration.

About 20,000: Number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were homeless in the past five years according to the Veterans Administration.

5.5 percent: Percentage of homeless vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the overall homeless population, according to the Veterans Administration.

A Veteran Commits Suicide Every 80 Minutes, according to a Center for a New American Security Suicide report. And, according to armytimes.com. 1,868 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2009 alone, made suicide attempts. Marine Corps veteran Jason Christiansen, 35, of St. Paul, Minn. watched his life unravel upon completing his service. He lost his job as an auto dealer in 2008, avoided debt collectors and fell into a serious depression, and considered suicide. Minnesota.publicradio.org reports. Should he be able to expect more from the nation he served at the risk of his life, over there and back here ?

Recent job initiatives by President Obama have helped veteran unemployment fall by six points over the past year. Between January 2010 and January 2011, veteran homelessness declined by 12 percentage points. Still, with wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, those numbers could increase rapidly without government safeguards, according to the Center for American Progress.

Perhaps this explains why Republicans blocked this bill. They could not hand President Obama ANY success, even that of helping our veterans. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America reacted with strength,dignity, and disappointment. “Once again, this Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work,“ said Paul Rieckhoff, the organization’s founder. “Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on – even in an election year.” It’s the least our veterans should be able to expect from us.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES AND POLITICAL DECISION-MAKING:THINK LIKE AN EAGLE

23 Apr

Unintended Consequences and Political Decision-Making: Think Like an Eagle

Louise Annarino

April 23, 2012

When I was 5 years old I dug a hole over my head in our backyard to get to China, which I had been told was on the opposite side of the earth.Being so deep, with the hole’s rim above my head, I could not see any part of our yard; so, I was unaware of her presence until my Mother hauled me out, covered in dirt. She was not happy.

While growing up in the post-war building boom, contractors would build plywood fences around construction sites to keep people out. They drilled large holes at various heights allowing the public to peer through and satisfy their curiosity about the on-going progress. I could not pass without looking into the hole. It seemed as if I were viewing the entire area through that small hole. It was not until the fence was removed the first time, and the project unveiled that I could see it in its unsuspected entirety. It amazed me how much had been hidden from view. After the first such unveiling, looking through small holes became very frustrating rather than illuminating. I was dissatisfied and often complained to the construction bosses to lower the fence so we could see over. They were not happy with me.

English Literature anthologies serve a purpose. They contain a selection of a variety of types of work from various writers. Longer works are not printed in their entirety. Just when I start enjoying a longer piece, it is “cut off”. Just when I began to appreciate a particular writer, it is off to another. I want to read a writer’s entire body of work, to know him well enough to discern his untitled voice. In high school, I spent hours on my own reading beyond class assignments. The insights I gained did not always serve me well. When tested on a particular writer my expanded knowledge often put my responses at odds with those sought by my instructor. Some instructors considered me a “thorn” in their sides.

As a young lawyer I soon learned that not every case should be appealed. One of the first female lawyers in Columbus told a story about appealing a murder conviction in which her client was given a life sentence. On appeal, he was given the death penalty. When deciding whether or not to appeal a case, many things are considered: possibility of success, impact upon client, unintended consequences, etc. Every lawyer knows that a  “bad” case can make “bad” law.

Lawyers learn to appeal only “good” cases. As a poverty lawyer in the 70’s I learned patience; the ability to wait for a specific case with a “good” set of facts to bring a class-action on a food-stamps,unemployment compensation,or AFDC issue to reduce the chance that the appellate decision would have negative unintended consequences for all benefit recipients. As an Assistant Attorney General at a state university in the 1980-90’s, I learned that an appeal on behalf of one state agency could have negative unintended consequences on another state agency. Taking legal action requires an attorney to anticipate and prepare for such unintended consequences. A good lawyer looks at the entire picture, not through a single peephole. A good lawyer recognizes he is often working down in a hole. A good lawyer also knows how to focus on details, and appreciate the tedious nature of research. A good lawyer, and a good president, must be able to focus on tedious details and be able see the larger picture in order to  avoid unintended consequences.

What are unintended consequences? Those things we cannot anticipate if we are down in a hole, unable to perceive the surrounding circumstances, as I was while digging to China. What we cannot anticipate when we view something through a small peephole, one piece at a time, rather than viewing it as a whole, as if looking through a plywood fence with built-in peepholes. Thinking we understand something even though we have only studied and learned a few things about it, a small portion of its reality, as when reading a compilation of literary selections. Reducing the chance an unintended consequence will have a negative impact requires breadth and depth analytical thinking, a process which takes time, patience, and humility.

Today’s multi-media, instant-communication, 24-7 feed, tweeting, social media, etc. are windows on the world; but, the windows are mere peep-holes. We dig holes for ourselves using apps, and spend so much time digging around we delude ourselves that we are accomplishing something. We can explore anything, and do. We feel enlightened, and we are. We gain confidence in our place in the world, and we should. But what we see and what we know is very limited, offering short-term insight which encourages short-term responses. Perhaps most importantly, we must understand that we do not have access to all we need to know, despite increased transparency. We are still operating in a hole, not a whole, learning only bits and pieces, looking though small openings onto the world around us.

Yet, we readily assess our president’s performance, and his administration’s policies as if we knew what he knows. As if we know all there is to know. As if we can see what he sees up ahead. We ignore the fact that the president of a nation has a bigger picture of what the world really looks like, than any perception available to us. It is time to step back and admit we on the ground are ill prepared to substitute our judgment for his. Instead, we must work together, sharing with him what we know as he attempts to do so with us.

President Obama won in 2008 with the widest margin of any Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson was elected. Such a large majority elected him not simply because of his message of hope to so many who had lost hope during 8 years of the Bush administration, but because he is able to see what so many of us cannot, beautifully articulated in his soaring speeches. He can see the forest for the trees.

We use words to describe President Obama such as “lofty” (Republican version:elitist), “soaring”(Republican version:pompous), “confident” (Republican version:cocky) to illustrate through our speech that he is somehow above us, able to see a broader and longer view than we can imagine from our limited range of vision. This does not mean we feel inferior. Rather, we feel elevated by our shared vision. We feel, finally, part of the whole in a way we had not before. He continually calls us to “join him”, “share with him”. He recognizes and reminds us we are a family, we are the “United” States of America; and, we are in this together (Republican version: he’s “not one of us”). Republican descriptions of President Obama could not be more wrong. Their insistence that President Obama is a divider is a symptom of their own failed vision of America, and of America’s future.

There are 3 types of thinkers: 1)Detailers who focus on the problem immediately before them in great detail, experts in their field. Detailers focus on the immediate concern, looking for near-term solutions. 2)Expansionists who see a problem as part of a larger whole. Expansionists focus on the broad implications of the immediate problem, looking for long-term solutions. 3)Eagles who are capable of seeing the whole picture as their minds soar long and broad across the horizon, and are able to dive down into the canopy of detail, even set down upon the earth.Eagles are the exceptional few who combine the thinking styles of both 1 and 2. President Obama is an eagle.

For example, in September 2011, President Obama was highly criticized for opposing a proposed EPA rule reducing smog causing chemicals. NYT.com/2011/09/03. The president rejected the proposed rule saying that it would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Such an attack,based on a peep-hole viewpoint, was premature.Shortly thereafter,in November, 2011 President Obama, who obviously knew in September that the November proposals were forthcoming, was praised for his “proposed fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for new cars and light trucks in model years 2017-25…(supported by)13 major automakers and the United Autoworkers…” http://ecowatch.org/2012/ fighting-for-air-groups-launch-campaign-to-support-u-s-epas-life-saving-standards.

Not long after this change, on April 18, 2012 the EPA “finalized the first-ever national standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions – like arsenic, acid gas, and cyanide – from power plants, which are the largest sources of this pollution in the United States…This crucial step forward will bring enormous public health benefits. By substantially reducing emissions of toxic pollutants that lead to neurological damage, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and other serious health issues, these standards will benefit millions of people across the country, but especially children, older Americans, and other vulnerable populations. Cumulatively, the total health and economic benefits to society could reach $90 billion each year….The first comprehensive update in decades of regulations governing the oil and gas operations, the new rules require the drilling industry to capture air pollutants from well-completion work, including hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” pipelines, storage tanks and compressor stations.

“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said the regulation is “an important step toward tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous health threats in the air they breathe…In conjunction with the release of the rule, President Obama also issued a Presidential Memorandum which underscores the health benefits of the rule and directs EPA Administrator Jackson to use flexibilities built into the Clean Air Act where needed, and to work proactively with states, industry and other entities in a transparent manner to implement the rule in way that delivers the health benefits of the rule while addressing reliability concerns.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/12/21/protecting-american-families-and-environment-mercury-pollution

This example of how President Obama implemented his promised environmental policy is but one example of how a type 3 thinker strategizes long-term change while managing short-term problems.

It has been too easy to attack President Obama. Both the right and left continue to do so. Every interest group does so. Are we eager for immigration reform? Of course. Are we impatient for more and better jobs? Who would not be impatient?

But, we must realize that President Obama enacted these environmental protections, and each policy success, despite every possible obstruction by Republicans in Congress. Are our peepholes too small to see this? Are we busy standing in holes of our own making? Let’s look at the whole picture.

Republicans block every forward looking effort President Obama makes. Democratic bills seldom if ever make it out of Republican-controlled House committees. Senate Republicans use the filibuster to keep Democratic bills from even reaching the Senate floor for discussion. Republicans stress short-term solutions because it plays best upon our fears, and too few of us can see beyond the daily struggles of caring for ourselves and our families to pay attention to long-term solutions. They have tried to make life difficult for the middle class and the poor in order to reign in our hopes for the future, to limit our long-term American dreams, to convince us President Obama is a failure. They plant short-term thinking into talking points so we will analyze President Obama in short-term gains. They want President Obama to be a short-term president. They don’t want him to achieve long-term gains. They fear his depth and his breadth.Yet, none of their candidates is so capable as is President Obama.

Republican’s depiction of Mitt Romney as a businessman capable of changing America for the better is a farce. Mitt Romney’s record at Bain of eliminating workers benefits, shutting out workers’ business participation(eliminating unions), and eliminating jobs may offer a short-term solution for a few companies’ survival. But, Romney can’t see beyond his own very narrow, short-term interest. He has no foreign affairs experience,education,nor training.The reason he appears stiff and phony when stating he “understands” us or is “one of us” is because he does not and is not one of us. He is living the American Dream, but at our expense. He does not want to give up his dream to share ours. He even keeps his wealth off-shore!

The choice is clear to me in this election: vote for Romney’s short-sighted and ineffectual return to old failed policies; or vote for Obama’s far-sighted expansion of America’s future progress. It is critical that we pay close attention to the House and Senate races at the state and national level as well. We must elect Democratic candidates who will support President Obama’s policies, not those who prevent any discussion and deny Congress a vote on them.

And to those who continue to make short-sighted comments attacking President Obama I warn you to beware of unintended consequences. You could end up with the wrong man leading this country and find the dream of a broader and more forward thinking America is no longer an option.