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A MORE PERFECT UNION, By Louise Annarino,October 29,2012

29 Oct

A MORE PERFECT UNION,By Louise Annarino, October 29,2012

 

One question on two fronts: “Where are we now in the election?” and “Where are we as a move forward as a nation?” President Obama’s interview this morning on “Morning Joe” answered both questions.

 

First we are in the final days of Obama’s final race for elected office. From his first campaign when he sat around a his kitchen table with four people creating a flyer to be copied at KINKO to the current campaign where hundreds of thousands of supporters in every state sit around kitchen tables to phone bank, cut turf for door-to-door canvasses, plan events, organize volunteers, order and distribute buttons/bumper stickers/yard signs, and schedule GOTV activities the energy and momentum has grown with the size of the crowds who attend his rallies. President Obama has re-energized interest in campaigns, registered huge numbers of new voters,and turned our record numbers of voters by connecting with Americans in a way we had not seen before in our lifetimes. He has connected and energized both those who respect and love him, and those who disdain and hate him. But, most importantly, he has taught us what a republic requires of its citizens.

 

There is a bittersweet feel to these last days of the Obama campaign. It is as if we are holding our breath while running one hundred miles per hour. The final sprint may not look pretty, but all that matters now is getting over the finish line first. Those who vote early are free to help the last runners make it over the line. While some of the drama is lost, the race is thus won. We can do this! We will do this working together.

 

Second, President Obama offered his description of where we are now as a nation when he stated the next president will answer two questions: “How big a government do we want? How will we pay for it?”

 

If we want  a smarter but more affordable and smaller government, President Obama is the candidate of choice. As an example,he explained that the U.S. spends 17% of budget on health care, while other industrialized nations spend only 11% (and have better record on outcomes). That 6% is our deficit. (Obamacare has already reduced the percentage of annual increases in health insurance premiums, and when it becomes fully operational and more competitive in 2014, cost is expected to drop even lower).

 

The Obama strategy of cutting what does not work and redirecting dollars to programs which are more efficient and save even more dollars illustrates how cuts can be done in a balanced and effective manner while reducing budget expenses. He reiterated that the money he saved (not stole as Mr. Romeny claims) within medicare was then spent within medicare to increase free preventive care which reduces costs, and closed the donut hole so medicare recipients can get their meds, further reducing costs.

 

He also suggested in the interview that we could become more efficient and cost-effective by creating a Secretary of Business, a one-stop shop replacing nine current divisions which create a headache for businesses. The only thing blocking such streamlining, he suggested, is Congress protecting its jurisdiction over various pieces of government. He reminded Joe Scarborough that he has created far fewer regulations than George Bush and is conducting an on-going review of current regulations to eliminate or redesign those which simply do not work.

 

President Obama believes his mandate for the next four years is to reduce the deficit. He also understands this cannot be done in an unbalanced manner which fails to consider how to make government more effective while maintaining necessary services. His focus is to “make things work” better and at reduced cost. When asked why he thinks he could get Congress to work with him when he has been blocked (by Republicans) the last four years he said he must “first clear away ideology by reducing the deficit”. Once that is accomplished he expects Congress to work on issues that have historically not been ideological: infrastructure – we have a lot of deferred maintenance of roads and bridges, immigration – both because neither party can ignore the fastest growing demographic AND because it is the “right thing to do.” He then asked Joe, “When did roads and bridges become ideological?”

 

The President has learned a lot over the past four years. despite obstruction, he has made government smaller, more efficient, work smarter and reduced costs. Every year things cost more. It is the rate of increase we must look at. The rate of increase has been subdued by President Obama. Employment has grown every year; job less rates have slowed. I cannot think of another time in history when an American president who has accomplished so much against such odds would not be re-elected by large margins. But, we have never had an African-American president before, either.

 

An article in yesterday’s “Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch” discussed a study which disclosed racism has increased during the Obama administration. I would reframe the findings differently. White Americans are recovering racists who must fight their way through racial stereotypes, acceptance of preference as a natural right, and subliminal need to feel superior to someone, indeed anyone, in our self-proclaimed “classless society”. Most of us do keep up the good fight against our inherent racism and prejudice. We know it is wrong, have learned to acknowledge that fact, and rejoice that we,too, have “overcome” it. But, it raises its ugly head most when we experience “congruence”.

 

Congruence is the coming together of two “things”.It is a powerful force. When white people see Black people as congruent it stirs up the deep need to feel superior. We justify that feeling by resorting to old stereotypes and acclaimed prejudices. It seems to me we are not increasingly racist; but, increasingly afraid of a loss of preference. When we see that an African-American man and woman can be president and first-lady, our preference as superior beings to an imagined inferior is lost. That is why we are seeing more racism. That is what we must fight; not one another, and certainly not Pressident Obama nor First-Lady Michelle Obama.

 

This is what we see within the Obama campaign. People of all races, ethnicities, ages,sexual orientation forcefully unconcerned about who may be superior or inferior but simply working together as equals. That is the where we are in this campaign. That is where we are in America today. That is how we are moving forward. President Obama has already made America a more perfect union (established more congruence). That is why we see more open displays of racism today; not because we are failing as a nation, but because we are succeeding. Imagine the power of congruence if republicans would see democrats,and our president, as equals instead of inferiors and worked together moving forward. That is what a second Obama term could look like. Thank you President Obama! We will move forward with you.

 

 

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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY IN THE GAME OF POLITICS? By Louise Annarino, October 19, 2012

19 Oct

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY IN THE GAME OF POLITICS? By Louise Annarino, October 19, 2012

 

Contests leave a lot to be desired. “No purchase necessary.” Hah! Who believes that? Buy the wrong size drink or fries? No prize piece; no chance to win. Yet, we expect our candidate to win the presidency; “no purchase necessary.” CITIZENS UNITED shocks our sensibilities. But, it is only unique in its scale. This is not the first breath of life into corporations. That was done long ago.

 

Early Rome recognized a group as a single fictional person. As early as 1444, the Rolls of Parliament stated “they [the Master and Brethren of the Hospital] by that same name mowe be persones able to purchase Londez and Tenementz of all manere persones.” Blackstone defines legal persons: “Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and devised by human laws for the purposes of society and government, which are called corporations or bodies politic.” Why create such a legal fiction? To allow corporations to do their business: lease, buy or sell property, hire and fire employees, enter into contracts of all sorts. As England moved from a cottage industry into guilds, and then into the industrial age entrepreneurs created new ownership groups to organize workers and manage production. They needed the legal fiction of personhood to conduct business.

 

Some of these management groups were benevolent bosses;many were not. Nevertheless, workers found it ever more difficult to assure safe workplaces, reasonable hours and wages, and fair treatment. Child labor was rampant, seven day/18 hour workdays were not uncommon. Tenements were built alongside work sites for ease of access and assurance of a constantly available workforce. Workers were locked in to work sites. We no longer remember this in the West, but we can see it happening even today elsewhere in developing industrial economies. We see the abuse of corporations from Shell Oil in East Africa to FoxConn (Apple supplier) in China. In the West workers united amidst bloody attacks to form labor unions, opposed at every step by corporations. Unions remain under attack in Ohio, Wisconsin, and in any state where there is a Republican governor, or Republican-controlled state legislature.

 

Corporations, like real persons, do not like ANY regulation or control of their behavior, especially while trying to make money off someone else’s labor. Their lobbyists assure politicians protect their interests and assure their unbridled freedom. In return, through campaign contributions, ALEC and SuperPacs they assure politicians re-election, a high-paying job after they leave public-service, and life-long connections to fictional persons of wealth and power. This, too, is not new.

 

Queen Elizabeth was a somewhat secret partner with English Seadogs, or pirates; overlooking their attacks on Spanish and French fleets, and taking a share of the loot. The difference between a pirate and a privateer depended on whom was being robbed and who helped do the looting. To the gentry of England, who along with their Queen loaned and outfitted ships hoping for a share of Spanish gold they were privateers; to the French and Spanish, pirates. Practiced in maritime attack, Elizabeth mobilized them to help defeat the Spanish armada and destroy Spanish dominance of the seas, and of the newly-discovered Americas. This opened an era of English exploration and colony development, including Jamestown, Virginia (named after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth).

 

So protected were these Captains of (Industry) the Seas that they were knighted by their Queen: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Richard Grenville were all first and foremost pirates. She bridled their freedom only to the extent she was permitted to share in their loot, enrich her coffers and assure her continued rule. Otherwise she assisted them in their piracy. Congress  limits today’s “Great Pirates”, corporations, only to the extent it is permitted to share in their loot. CITIZENS UNITED was inevitable. Any one of you have a game piece? Or only our politicians?

 

Labor unions, teachers unions, environmental groups, civil rights groups (African-American,Latino,GLBT,veterans,immigrants etc) don’t begin to have the power assured to corporations. There is no comparison. They are not given game pieces; they have to buy the right person to get a game piece! They have to elect a politician who will put them in the game. They have to elect a politician who will appoint judges and Supreme Court justices who will understand how the game is played and make it more fair to everyone; and, assure that everyone has an equal chance to win, assure that everyone has a piece of the game.

 

The person willing to do so, President Barack Obama, is the greatest threat to the Great Pirates… ever. The great pirates will do all they can to attack and defeat him; with the full support of those in Congress they control (with whom they share their loot), blocking his every move of the Ship of State. We cannot let them win. It will not be easy. We have little time left. We must support President Barack Obama for president. We must throw out those in Congress who help the great pirates. We must support labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists.

“We are in this game together” means nothing to the great pirates  because they hold all the game pieces. This must end if we Americans are to truly win; not just a second term for Barack Obama, but a chance for the 98% to play the game.

 

DEFICIT LIVES,By Louise Annarino, October 14, 2012

14 Oct

DEFICIT LIVES, By Louise Annarino, October 14, 2012

The effort to make Americans fear deficit-spending could be better used discussing what we should do to stop deficit-living. Core areas of our cities, small towns and rural areas are struggling to survive. Poverty has dug a hole, a social and personal deficit, in which large groups of our populace reside. The stimulus has stopped the slide into the hole for most, offered a hand up and out for many, but too many see no way out.

How did we get here, with holes so deeply torn in our social fabric that the middle class has fallen through those holes along with the impoverished? When we did we stop building and strengthening America so all of us could keep the American Dream alive? Instead we allowed charlatans in the think-tanks, lobbyist firms, and the media to paper over the holes, and keep us entertained so we would not notice that the pretty prints they used were mere paper. It started out slowly, but with fall after fall widening the holes entire sections of the fabric split wide open, until the entire fabric was in danger of slipping out of our hands. President Obama took a firm grip, and sewed stimulus patches made of strong material over the holes, all the while warning us that the cloth was worn and need to be replaced; that the holes had so weakened the fabric that major change was needed,and that the fabric could otherwise tear again. But those who met secretly during his inauguration to plot his own down-fall through those holes, pledged to keep them open.

Republicans blocked President Obama’s efforts to select and install a new fabric to support our lives. Many confuse this fabric with the ‘safety net’ strung below it; but, it is not just the safety net which is in danger from Republican policies and the Romney-Ryan Budget, it is the entire fabric strung above the net. Yes, the safety net is struggling; but, not because it was not well-designed, nor well-built, but because it is overloaded by those who fell through holes in our social fabric. It was never intended to hold so many of us. The one way we can relieve stress on our safety net is to replace the social fabric and pull as many Americans off the safety net and back up into the middle class as we possibly can. This is what President Obama intends to do, what he has been doing, and what he will continue to do if re-elected. We must cast our vote to re-elect him president, and cast our vote to elect Democrats to the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and to state offices who support his vision and will work with him to get the job done. What we do not need are those who insist we cannot replace nor repair the whole cloth; but, must simply remove people from the safety net through privatization of medicare, social security etc.

The National Poverty Center reports that the poverty rate was  22.4 percent, or 39.5 individuals during the 1950’s. “These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent.” http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/.

I still recall the photos of starving children, eyes wide with uncertainty, on the porches of Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta which stirred President Lyndon Johnson to declare a War on Poverty in the 1960s, which led to the decline of poverty. President Ronald Reagan’s stance in the 1980’s was that we had lost the War on Poverty;and, that social safety net benefits did not justify its cost. We soon saw poverty levels increase.This Reaganomics view of poverty prevails today. But a new paper from Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan says it’s missing everything. “We may not have won the war on poverty, but we are certainly winning,” they write. When they looked at poorer families’ consumption rather than income, accounted for changes in the tax code that benefit the poor, and included “noncash benefits” such as food stamps and government-provided medical care, they found poverty fell 12.5 percentage points between 1972 and 2010.” In effect, they are explaining that the safety net does work.

The problem is NOT the safety net but growing income inequality in our social fabrichttp://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-12/record-u-dot-s-dot-poverty-rate-holds-as-inequality-grows During the last decade the highest quintile of earners saw their real income rise 1.6% and the top 5% saw their incomes rise 4.9%, while the middle class saw their incomes decline 1.9%. The very lowest incomes, those in the safety net, saw their incomes stay the same. None of this data means the income of those in the safety net is adequate. Nevertheless, the extremely poor (those with less than 1/2 of official poverty level earnings), remained at 6.6% of the population. The middle class has not fallen that low because President Obama’s policies stopped the fall. As more people returned to work in a steady rise over the past nearly 4 years, the fabric of America grows stronger as well.

More is yet to be done, as President Obama reminds us. We cannot reduce the deficit and continue Bush tax breaks for top earners. In fact we must increase their income tax rate,including an increase on capital gains. The estate tax must not be eliminated but increased for those at the highest earning bracket, who are the only persons currently required to pay estate tax, it having been eliminated for lower income earners decades ago. And we must end the round of ceaseless war which benefits military contractors, and corrupt government officials at home and abroad. President Obama, as Vice-President Biden affirmed in his recent debate with Congressman Paul Ryan insists that American troops will be out of Afghanistan in 2014. He suggests that we instead, rebuild America’s education and transportation systems, repair and further develop American infrastructure, invest in small business development and manufacturing, research and develop green and innovative technologies, reduce and redesign our military capabilities for more cost effective security at home and abroad.

We can do all this and reduce the economic deficit. But, we must also end our willingness to overlook poverty, especially for those most greatly affected by it, our women and children.We cannot grow our economy when our children are not given the tools they need to compete and succeed. The National Poverty Center reports: “The poverty rate for all persons masks considerable variation between racial/ethnic subgroups. Poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics greatly exceed the national average. In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians.

Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty. (See the U.S. census chart below)

“There are also differences between native-born and foreign-born residents. In 2010, 19.9 percent of foreign-born residents lived in poverty, compared to 14.4 percent of residents born in the United States. Foreign-born, non-citizens had an even higher incidence of poverty, at a rate of 26.7 percent.” http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/.

Children Under 18 Living in Poverty, 2010
Category Number (in thousands) Percent
All children under 18 16, 401 22.0
White only, non-Hispanic 5,002 12.4
Black 4,817 38.2
Hispanic 6,110 35.0
Asian 547 13.6

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, Report P60, n. 238, Table B-2, pp. 68-73.

Those like Paul Ryan who argue we must reduce the deficit by reducing the safety net, decreasing income and benefits, weaken labor unions, reduce the size of government and lay-off government workers, privatizing government responsibilities as means to reduce government costs are “whistling Dixie” in more ways than one. Paul Ryan voted for unfunded Medicare Part D, which President Obama, unlike President Bush, has now included in his budget and improved through Obamacare by closing the donut hole. Including this expense within the Obama budget is really a disclosure of previously hidden Bush budget expenses. This is also true for the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which were passed as emergency measures, not budget items; included by President Obama in his budget and added to official budget deficit figures, but not done so by President Bush.

One must also note that Bush war-funding was historically unprecedented. To pay for World War II, Americans bought savings bonds and put extra notches in their belts. President Harry Truman raised taxes and cut nonmilitary spending to pay for the Korean conflict. During Vietnam, the US raised taxes but still watched deficits soar. President Bush did nothing to control the burgeoning deficits of war. Republicans and Democrats, unwilling to leave troops in the field without funding, settled with uncompromising Republican leadership and allowed this strategic undercounting of the deficit to go unabated and continued to vote for emergency war-funding, outside the regular budget bills. The willingness to kick the can down the road has become a hallmark of Republicans as they block every Democratic bill to increase jobs, reduce deficit, and stimulate the economy during the Obama administration. They are not ashamed , but proud of this tactic in their strategy to make  President Obama a one-term president. In the recently released video of Mitt Romney talking with his well-heeled donors in May he takes this tactic a step further,when he said the Palestinians were not interested in peace, the chances of a peace agreement was remote and the whole issue should be kicked down the field. Kicking problems down the field seems to have become an accepted Republican strategy. The Bush tax cuts added some $2.8 trillion to the national debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Congressman Paul Ryan voted for those cuts. To his credit, Ryan also backed the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout, most of which has been paid back, and the auto bailout.http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/is-paul-ryan-really-a-fiscal-hawk/261170/. I mention this because it is disingenuous and hypocritical to blame the deficit on President Obama and democrats in Congress.

I first noticed this Republican disregard for current reality and for balanced budgets during 6 months of debate over Medicare reform in early 2003. I had falsely believed that Republicans were fiscally more conservative than Democrats. Clearly,I was wrong. Reagan, I was aware, had little to no regard for fiscal responsibility, but he had once been a Democrat after all !

Like many others, I saw the need for prescription coverage for seniors and hoped new legislation would allow the government to negotiate for lower costs and formulary control similar to V.A. cost-control efforts. Big Pharma lobbyists blocked, and continue to block such an effort. The bill came to a vote at 3 a.m., just minutes before it was scheduled to close, the clock was stopped for 3 hours with the bill losing, 219-215 while Republicans on the floor, and including President Bush by phone, strong-armed congressman to change their vote. “Then-Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) claimed he was offered campaign funds for his son, who was running to replace him, in return for a change in his vote from ‘nay’ to ‘yea.’ After controversy ensued, Smith clarified no explicit offer of campaign funds was made, but that he was offered ‘substantial and aggressive campaign support’ which he had assumed included financial support.” http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/is-paul-ryan-really-a-fiscal-hawk/261170/.

At about 5:50 a.m. the bill passed the House 220-215. The bill itself was finally passed in the Senate 54-44 on November 25, 2003, and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 8. Now, Romney and Ryan threaten to eliminate Obamacare and its improvements of medicare, including Part D; plan to privatize medicare and social security. If these programs are more costly than they need be it is because of Republican refusal to rein in excess costs businesses extract from the program.

Medicare Part D did provide prescription coverage but did not reduce costs as much as it could have because of what it failed to include: it prohibits the Federal government from negotiating discounts with drug companies, and it prevents the government from establishing a formulary. It did, however, provide a subsidy for large employers to discourage them from eliminating private prescription coverage to retired workers (a key AARP goal). Obamacare now provides subsidies to small businesses which makes their overall provision of health care insurance affordable. Efforts to include negotiating costs for drugs under Obamacare was blocked by Republicans.

Clearly, it is not Obama’s efforts to reduce medical and insurance costs which makes these medial social fabric programs a drain on government coffers, but the effort of Republicans to protect and expand financial gain of private service providers. President Obama and Congressional Democrats do not seek unfair advantage over private providers; but seek to stop unfair advantage, fraud and abuse by such providers. Obamacare is already predicted to save medicare $716 billion in such provider and insurance company abuses. That money is being channeled to provide more preventive, cost-free health care services for medicare users. This is how we create a stronger social fabric for the middle class. Improving and increasing medicaid coverage is another part of strengthening American fabric.

During an economic downturn, individuals lose jobs, incomes drop, state revenues decline, and more individuals qualify and enroll in Medicaid which increases program spending. However,data indicate that declines in state revenues were a much more significant factor for state budget gaps than increases in Medicaid spending. “Total state revenues dropped by 30% in FY 2009 compared to total Medicaid spending increases of about 7.6% in that year,” http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/7580-08.pdf.

Today, 50 states plan or are implementing a new policy to control medicaid costs in multiple areas. State revenues have shown positive growth fro the last 7 quarters, as the unemployment rate continues to drop (now 7.8%) and the GNP continues to improve. States must continue to make delivery of service changes designed to improve care and control costs, thanks to Obamacare. Its “maintenance of eligibility” requirements generally prohibit states from restricting Medicaid eligibility or tightening enrollment procedures. Obama’s focus on wise and educated restructuring of programs for maximum efficiency and best practices in care delivery are another part of strengthening the American fabric.

But, and this is important, these improvements take time. They must however occur if the American Dream is to survive. While government works to  balance budgets, streamline and improve services, reduces fraud and waste it must never forget the impact of income inequality on those African-American, Latino and immigrant single-mothers. we must help them raise their children out of the safety net and up onto the social fabric of the middle-class. We must provide preventive health care, women’s reproductive health care, and children’s health care to everyone in America. We must be certain every child is well-fed, provided with stimulating day-care and pre-schools to ready them for a top-notch education. They need warm clothes for winter, safe after school and summer programs, neighborhoods free of crime and violence. We must not only show them a way out of poverty, but strengthen and empower them to follow the path. I am reminded of the United Negro College Fund motto “ A Mind Is a Terrible Thing  to Waste.” Our American middle-class motto must be “ A Child is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”  President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden would weave this motto into the fabric of America. They will not kick American children down the road, until the deficit is paid off. They will not continue and increase income inequality with tax relief to those who don’t need it. They will reduce the economic deficit AND the human deficit, by reducing income inequality.  That is how we strengthen the American fabric for all of us.

NO PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE BULLIES IN THE BULLY PULPIT,By Louise Annarino,October 4, 2012

5 Oct

NO PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE BULLIES IN THE BULLY PULPIT,By Louise Annarino, October 4, 2012

 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that the word debate was originated in the 13th century. It is a Middle English word, taken from Anglo-French debatre, from de- + batre to beat, and from Latin battuere. Its first known use is in the 14th century

Today it defined as: a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides. Its obsolete definition is : fight, contend.

 

Understanding the definition explains why the first Presidential debate had no winners,especially not the American people for whom this battle or debate of ideas was being waged across our screens. Many would blame moderator Jim Lehrer; but, that would be blaming the victim, as is so common in human nature, for the bully-behavior of one of the contenders, Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney brazenly and brutally shouted down the moderator and set his own rules,altering them to suit his attack. His rapid-fire delivery of disconnected thought bursts made it near impossible for a reasonable person to interject control over the proceedings. From his first comments the debate was removed from the moderator’s control to  Romney’s. From that moment on Romney  was free to lie, and he did so repeatedly.

 

I have written so often about his lies I won’t take time to repeat them today. There are many other sources fact-checking and reporting on them, if you will take time to read or listen. Before this first debate I described what to expect, a Romney shell game meant to sell Americans a bill of goods,and intimidation of the moderator. When President Obama calmly but decidedly pointed out Mr. Romney’s game, Romney called the president a liar. I predicted this strategy in my earlier blog. We all have experienced liars in our lives. We all have been warned by our mothers to tell the truth, that if you lie once you will have to continually lie to cover up the first lie, that after the first lie lying gets easier, that once you are known as a liar, no one will ever believe you. Nevertheless,this is the Republican strategy: Call our president a liar. Lie about your own unpopular and destructive policies, then call anyone who points out your lies a liar to confuse people and reinforce your own lies as truth. It is a brilliant one for those who don’t pay close attention to politics, or only watched the debate, or only watch FOX news.

 

Early in the debate, Mr. Romney called President Obama a liar to his face and obliquely referenced him as “boy” by using his own sons’ lies as a reference point for President Obama’s challenge to Mr. Romney’s lie. He said this with a smile on his face, speeding up his commentary and chuckling at his own wit. President Obama had to be disgusted. I know I was. The moderator remained silent. After this point, there was no debate happening. This was no longer a formal statement of position, with rules governing the manner in which each side argued for their position. Mr. Romney stated the president’s positions as his own, and when challenged called the president a liar. I cannot call what I watched a debate. It was the obsolete definition of a debate. It was battuerre or debatre. It was a fight.

 

Our president is a gentleman, a statesman, a leader who does not fight with his fists, nor fist-fight with his words. He does not lie to make a point;nor make a point to lie. He does not bully. He would never cheat and call it a victory, as Mr. Romeny’s own son tells us about his Dad with great pride as a reason to elect him president: Craig Romney: My Dad Cheats & “That’s What We Need in the White House.” Once a cheater,always a cheater, on income taxes, in debates, on the campaign trail [just review statements of other Republican candidates during the primary campaign],even in the White House.

 

Don’t mistake my words. President Obama knows how to fight. Both Mr. Lehrer and the president are the victims of a bully. For the beating they took we must blame the bully, not the victims. However, I do fault them and those who managed them for not anticipating they had a bully who would not play by the rules, who disdains rules, who is so privileged he believes rules should not apply to him and should apply only to lesser beings, certainly to the 47%. Did they not know who Romney is? Have they not been watching him campaign? Have they not seen his ad campaign? Do they think they are immune to bullying? They walked right into the trap. For that, I do blame them. But, that, does not make Romney a winner; just a lying, cheating bully not worthy of the presidency.

 

Romney can say whatever he wants, change positions all he wants. None of that matters. We know what the Ryan-Romney Budget [not a typo;Ryan will control the budget effort] will do to our economy, our middle class, our poor, women, children, seniors, immigrants, minorities, LGBT community, the arts and Big Bird. It is who he is and how he behaves which will betray our finest American ideals and our leadership throughout the world. No one can be safe with a bully running the neighborhood. Wake up America. GO VOTE for every democratic candidate on your ballots. The lying, cheating bullies must be defeated. In America we battere / debatre / fight withBALLOTS.

 

Republicans know this which is why voter suppression and intimidation is one tactic in their strategy to take back government. Bullies don’t know how to compromise; it is always their way or the highway. They have only one measure of success: how badly did they batter the other guy? Democrats are not bullies. This does not make us weak; it makes us brave, smart, and compassionate listeners and doers. Don’t judge President Obama or Mr. Lehrer by how they looked while being bullied.I’ve been bullied and it is not a pretty sight. Judge them by what they do for America, by how they behave toward others, by the dignity and compassion they show others, by the wisdom to know when to put up their fists and when to let the bully hang by his own rope. President Obama now knows Mitt Romney. He has felt his flying verbal fists in his gut. He will defeat Mr. Romney. Mr. Romney will never know what hit him.

 

VOTE OBAMA AND DOWN-TICKET DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES ,INCLUDING JUDGES. VOTE TODAY.

WORDS OF POWER AND CIVILITY: FREE SPEECH ON LIBYA,EGYPT, AND ISRAEL, By Louise Annarino,September 13,2012

14 Sep

Words of Power and Civility: Free Speech on Libya, Egypt and Israel, By Louise Annarino, September 13, 2012

As Associate Director of Legal Affairs at Ohio University in Athens,Ohio, I was asked each autumn to speak to the newly-arrived International students regarding American laws, and what they needed to know to avoid legal problems while studying in the United States. I started ,as is my usual practice,with the U.S. Constitution. I then described our judicial structure, the difference between civil and criminal law, and the role of local police, state highway patrol and the FBI.  There were 2 areas students were most interested in:  traffic laws and 1st Amendment free speech issues.

Freedom of speech was a phenomenally novel concept to many of our students,whose first reaction was to question whether I had misspoken, or they had misunderstood. When I explained we could even burn our flag as show of political protest, several students inevitably leapt to their feet. This seemed beyond the pale to them, as it is for many of us. We discussed how free speech did face limits through reasonable regulations meant to keep the peace;for example,one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theatre. I also explained that it was often a component of active civil disobedience for which dissidents must expect consequences, often a stint in jail. I told them about The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Ghandi’s peaceful resistance campaign against British occupation of India. I cautioned them to understand that Americans guard free speech, even when the speech is uncomfortable, inane, even hateful. We even have a children’s rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me” as a model for controlling our response to speech with which we disagree, or which is used to “attack” us. Police may intervene only to keep the peace;not to stop speech.

I have been thinking about these afternoons exploring what free speech meant to these students, what impact their new insights into American law and cultural mores would mean once they returned home. This programmed afternoon event led to many on-going friendships with students who would stop by my office to discuss American law and the Bill of Rights in the privacy of my office. We talked about African-Americans knocked off their feet by water hoses, attacked by dogs, clubbed by police as they marched for civil rights and an end to Jim Crow laws. We talked about American anti-war activists. We talked about American terrorists: KKK, Aryan Nation, CCC and other such fanatic fringe groups around the world, and their threat to civilized societies. We developed a common understanding about the dangers such groups posed not simply to life and limb but to free speech,freedom of assembly,freedom of religion, of the press etc.;and, to the very survival of government by the people. For violence breeds contempt for the speech of those who use it to instigate such violence.

I think about these young men today. I wonder what they expect of us;and,what we can expect of them. The theatre we discussed is no longer a crowded building; but, an internet of social media and viral videos. When a hate-monger on one side of the world shouts out hate-speech to arouse and instigate a response, violence on the other side of the world too often erupts. We must be sensitive to the fact that America has been blessed with immigrant influxes,especially along our coasts, which opens American society to cultural differences and reduces tribalism. Countries emerging from tribal structures to begin building democratic republics need our calming influence on such forces;not an aggressive disdain for their struggles. “Chest beating” does nothing to build the good will needed to strengthen the hand of those  fighting off the fanatic fringe. A policy of diplomacy and dignity, tolerance and respect for diversity, guidance and support for democratic reform shows President Obama’s power as a statesman. This is not a sign of weakness; but, of strength. Because he is a strong man who knows how to use the power of his office, and his personal power, he does not need to beat his chest.

“Violence as a response to speech has no place,” in society says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After condemning the attacks and the death of our Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, “Justice will be done,” says President Obama.

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administrations’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” said the Romney campaign.

Rence Priebus, Chairman of the Republican Party tweeted, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

Today, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and FOX news continued to lie about President Obama’s response in an effort to undermine his national security accomplishments, and undermine his leadership at home and abroad. Is this the action of patriots? When Americans are being attacked and killed, when we have American troops and diplomats in the field, when we should be decrying ignorant and malicious rhetoric we have a candidates for president and vice-president throwing fuel on the fires burning abroad. They blame not only President Obama but those in diplomatic service whose lives are being licked by the flames.

While diplomatic efforts by Obama and Clinton to assure the world the United States is not waging war on Islam, but on terrorism, Romney goes even further to undermine our diplomacy in the middle east, asserting that Obama is no friend of Israel. He even lied that Obama refused to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the two spoke on the phone since they will be addressing the U.N. on different dates: Netanyahu is scheduled to be in NY on the 27th,Obama on the 25th.There are disagreements between them as to strategy; but, not as to the goal of Israel’s security. Netanyahu and Romney  are double-teaming our president and his foreign policy. This is no time to play such political games. There is room for disagreement . Within Israel there is disagreement. A Netanyahu deputy disagrees on setting Iran “red line”, much as Clinton and Obama have.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister for intelligence and atomic affairs Dan Meridor, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, agree with President Obama’s approach. When Mr. Romney is president he can set America’s foreign policy, but not before that event occurs. Since when does a private citizen,even one running for president, join with the leader of another nation to undermine American foreign policy?  Definitely not in the midst of rising unrest near our embassies. President Karzai canceled a trip abroad today fearing the unrest will spread within Afghanistan and against our troops. Should not Romney,Ryan,and Priebus be equally concerned about our troops?

Fact-checkers were busy today assessing Libya/Obama statements of Romney/Ryan/Priebus as untrue. Meanwhile the Neo-cons advising Romney seem eager to push them to continue to lie and create such unrest abroad it could justify their desire to increase military defense spending. Ryan and Romney insist military spending must be increased 20% to keep America safe. They are talking about increasing contracts to corporate arms producers and defense contractors with financial interest in companies such as Mr. Cheney’s Halliburton Corp. They are not talking about veteran’s benefits, which the Ryan/Romney budget cuts. They are not talking about the safety of our troops.

The sad truth is that free speech allows liars to tell untruths about political figures and celebrities because of an exception to defamation charges for public figures. One cannot sue a congressperson by a defamation claim for comments made on the floor of the House or Senate, either. Public and political figures have to defend themselves against lies all the time. We have a notion that “the truth will out”. This might have been true when newspapers,television stations and radio openly and transparently competed with one another;now, one person (or his corporation,think Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes) can own multiple media outlets, even all,within any geographical area. CITIZENS UNITED did away with any transparency requirements which would at least alert us to the names of purveyors of lies. Truth will out is a fantasy. Our town is now the entire world. And media moguls with financial,nee political,agendas rule the town.

Those who have no sacred history of free speech wonder why the U.S. does not simply arrest those hate-mongers and liars who keep throwing fuel on the fires of fanatics. They expect and ask us to arrest, and punish, such persons. While I would love to see them punished, it is not easily done when they can defend their speech as free speech. But, they must face consequences.They must be held accountable…and they will be…if we can discover who they are. Any company supporting such messages of hate, bigotry, and deception should be boycotted, its employees unionized, and its directors removed by shareholder actions. Politicians who join in the game must be denied out votes. We can use speech, our free speech, to see justice done and consequences suffered. We cannot give up our sacred freedoms but we can use them, teach them and spread them throughout this country and the world community.

Words have power, and we must use them wisely, compassionately and forcefully as have our President and Secretary of State. Thank you Mr. President and Secretary Clinton. Thank you citizens of the world, who seek freedom, including free speech for your people. As you build your new democracies,guard it well.

UPDATE/ JUST REPORTED ON RACHEL MADDOWS/9:13 PM:

Attack on Libyan embassy was not a protest but organized attack.4 cars pulled up flying black flags,witnesses say it was response to killing of Libyan AlQuaeda leader by drone attack. As we learn mire we will understand more, and perhaps strengthen our ties with a free Libya and its people.,many of whom were also injured in this attack. It is still imperative that we allow our president and secretary of state to address foreign policy and security issues abroad,and strengthen our ties to emerging democracies and persons of good will. We must hold accountable all those who would weaken and undermine our efforts to seek peace with the nations of the world,despite the difficulties we face.

 

POLITICAL GLOBALIZATION,By Louise Annarino,September 6,2012

6 Sep

POLITICAL GLOBALIZATION, By Louise Annarino,September 6,2012

It has been a curious fact to me that my blog is being viewed in over 35 countries, in addition to the United States. American political blogs, I must conclude, are of some interest to individuals across the globe. Emerging democratic republics watch us for insights into party politics. Democrats are an example of people united to move this country FORWARD, despite a well-financed opposition. This is the nature of political fights. However, the level of personalized hate-filled distortions by Super-PACS is exceptionally virulent this campaign cycle.

Could it be the reason our party politics seems to be in flames with incendiary rhetoric against our president and the Democratic Party is because of globalization? I watched much of the Republican convention and am now watching the Democratic convention. The differences are writ large. The diversity within the Democratic Party delegates mirrors that of the globe, while the delegates at the Republican Party convention were the face of an older,nearly all-white America. America has always been diverse but its power-brokers and political leaders have not. Not only did earlier political leaders not recognize nor respond readily to the needs of women, minorities, LGBT community,immigrants and others within America, they carried such chauvinism abroad.

The Democratic Party is the face of a new America. When Barack Obama was elected he changed the face of American politics and power,at home and abroad. There are 12 Democratic women serving in the United States Senate, more than any time in history; 55 in the House of Representatives. One-fourth of Democratic delegates to the convention are African-American. There are more than 800 Latino delegates,150 Native-American delegates. Americans know how to build consensus among diverse cultures and create an American political family called The Democratic Party. Following the practice among union members, Democrats address one another as brothers and sisters. The internet has joined the young people of the world as cousins, if not yet as brothers and sisters. The Democratic Party and the leader of the party, President Barack Obama welcome the nations of the world to join in building a thriving global community of mutual respect and prosperity. American voters should celebrate this;a few do not.

An appreciation and acceptance of diversity within America and across the globe is too often called “un-American”; when, in fact, it is totally American. Racial, cultural, and gender diversity is what built America and what keeps it strong. Diversity of ideas and viewpoints is what stimulates imagination and creates new technology and new enterprises. American prosperity was built upon the backs of a diverse labor group. American immigrants own 18% of small businesses, accounting for 30% of all private sector employment (see morehttp://fiscalpolicy.org/immigrant-small-business-owners-FPI-20120614.pdf). One can only hope that all nations will embrace such diversity within their borders,as we have within ours. What is disturbing is not such diversity but the virulent  disdain and destructive rhetoric the Republican Party rails against the party embracing it. This is what confuses those of us who know and love the American ideal of E Pluribus Unum, “One out of many” from those of us who are Americans, and those of us from other nations.

As businesses and multinational corporations moved jobs and companies abroad, they thought they could avoid organized-labor fair wages, safety precautions, environmental standards and U.S. taxation. Republicans say  they are the party which understands and appreciates globalization,and knows how to rebuild an economy. But, I think it is the Democratic Party which truly understands the value of globalization,and which is ready to embrace citizens of other nations as brothers and sisters for our greater prosperity through job creation. I can only imagine how millionaire investors fear the impact of the spread of American ideals on such a global scale,and how it will affect their bottom line. And of course, destroying or at least weakening the middle class here and abroad will create a labor force willing to accept low wages, few benefits and no ability to wield political power.

This is what is going on in American politics today. This is what readers abroad need to understand. Rest assured, the grassroots supporters of Barack Obama and Democratic Party candidates are working very hard to move America FORWARD 4 more years. Democrats understand politics can get down and dirty; but, neither President Obama nor his party will buckle under to hate, lies or vote suppression. The stakes for America and for the world are too high.

TEAPUBLICANS:UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED,By Louise Annarino,August 19,2012

19 Aug

TEAPUBLICANS: UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED,By Louise Annarino,August 19,2012

It is not easy for me to type the word Republican in the same sentence with words like “racism” http://open.salon.com/blog/chauncey_devega/2012/08/17/niggerization_toure_was_right_about_romneys_race_baiting: Obama (notice a title is never used) is an angry black man determined to destroy Christian America from within with his Muslim socialism,“war on the poor”: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/the-gops-war-on-the-poor/260983/ Obama gives out checks to black people who want free stuff but don’t want to work, “war on women” http://nymag.com/news/frank-rich/gop-women-problem-2012-4/index1.html America needs to turn back the Obama clock to days when women acted as women are supposed to act and let men take care of business,“attack on immigrants” http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/06/15/500607/mitt-romney-immigration-primary/ Mitt Romney would make life so miserable for immigrants they would “self deport” and Obama coddles them. “attack on education” http://www.alligator.org/opinion/columns/article_137d789e-8383-11e1-983d-0019bb2963f4.html Obama is uppity and overeducated.Not everyone needs an education, nor deserves one. Education should be privatized; ask your parents for a loan if you need financial help to pay for school.

I would like to believe this is not the position of the Grand Old Party- GOP. But, it has been for some time. I believe there are many republicans who are embarrassed by the current Republican platform, policies and candidates; who are ashamed of belonging to  party whose main goal is to make the black man a one-term president even when he adopts the very legislative approach sought by their once-heroes. Who no longer recognize the attacks being made, the lies being told, and the fostering of hate as defensible tactics. A political strategy based on racist ideology has been fully embraced by party leaders, who act as if they have little choice if the party itself is to survive. They seem almost eager to join the racists within their ranks. They seem to be in denial as they attack a black man defending himself against their racism as a racist himself. That is an old sorry tale. As Dan Rather would say “that dog won’t hunt.”

I believe in the power of words. It is time to embrace new terminology. From now on I will refer to the politicians who have embraced and use racism to “get out the republican base” as TEAPUBLICANS. I hope those republicans of good will, who are willing to join with democrats and independents to find solutions to serve the common good, who are willing to share in both sacrifice and success to lead America forward, and who refuse to wage war on fellow Americans to maintain unfair advantage-power-wealth will find a way to save the GOP. It is unsafe for the Republican Party to embrace the Teapublican Party in any way, at any level, at any speed. The Teapublican Party is headed for a crash. Republicans need to get out of the car and stand on their own. That is the only way the Republican Party will survive the years ahead.

Why do I care? Because I believe in a strong two-party system. Politics is a peaceful way to wage war and settle differences with one another. Politics no longer works when the parties no longer respect one another enough to fight the racist, sexist, ethnocentric, nationalistic, homophobic dark side of themselves. Teapublicans embrace false fear and false hate as tools. They walk on the dark side of life. If their fears were real and their hate justified, it would be a totally different story. But Teaparty hate is NOT based on reality: African-Americans are not scary, strong women are no threat, gay spouses won’t ruin heterosexuals marriages, immigrants don’t want your job. It is perhaps too late for republicans to “throw the bums out’ of the GOP;after all, their candidate for president and vice-president have stretched into ridiculous poses to adopt Teapublican positions and policies. But, it is not too late to get out of the car.