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President Obama will announce a drawdown of 10,000 U.S.forces fromAfghanistanin a speech tomorrow evening. According to White House officials, the withdrawal will consist of 5,000 troops this summer and another 5,000 troops after the summer fighting season ends. They plan to withdrawal 30,000 troops within 12 months. 

Yesterday, in an interview on CNN, Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated that the U.S.will continue to have a strong presence in Afghanistan, but conceded that political realities necessitated a beginning of “credible” troop withdrawals. These political realities are a major reason for Gates’ decision to leave his post. “[Frankly] I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.” This startling statement, told to Newsweek writers John Barry and  Tara McKelvey, reflected his concern that economic and political strife have diminished the ability of the United States to continue being the indispensable nation of the world.

 The political pressure on President Obama is coming from both the left and the right. With the economy slowly recovering and an unemployment rate over 9%, both political parties have been arguing that the war is simply too costly. The war cost the U.S. $128 billion dollars last year. It is estimated that the war has a monthly price tag of $8 billion. However, the cost of the war is only one line of attack.

 Isolationism is becoming the hot new trend among Republicans who seem to be pushing their views rightward, closer to Ron Paul’s brand of Libertarianism. This trend has concerned Reagan Republicans like John McCain: “This is isolationism. There’s always been an isolation strain in the Republican Party… but now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak.” The GOP presidential hopefuls find themselves opposing everything President Obama stands for, even if it is continuing a war that was started by the last Republican President– George W. Bush. Strangely enough, these GOP presidential hopefuls find themselves in bed with liberals who also oppose the war.

 Liberals oppose the war, too, but this opposition is a vestige of their opposition to Bush’s wars. But now, with a Democratic President in the White House, they have replaced Bush bashing with Obama bashing.  Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com, for example, has spent the last two years equating President Obama with President Bush. Recently, he wrote that President Obama’s legal lawyers were worse than President Bush’s. Much of their complaints are rooted in claims that the President is trying to win a losing battle– a battle with objectives that he has not clearly defined. Today, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sent President Obama a letter in which he wrote : “After 10 years and $443 billion, I believe it is time [to] focus our resources on rebuildingAmerica, not on rebuildingAfghanistan… It is time for the Afghan people to decide their destiny and take responsibility for governing themselves. … It is my hope that by redefining the mission inAfghanistan away from nation-building, you will pursue significant troop reductions immediately and end the scope of our current mission well before the 2014 deadline.”

 Both parties feel completely free to attack the President on this issue because the American public has also turned against the war. In a recent Pew Poll, 56% of Americans said that they wanted to bring the troops home, a record number. Only 39% believed that troops should  stay and continue their mission. These sentiments have been reflected in many other polls conducted in the last few months.

 But here is the problem: Americans do not understand the mission inAfghanistan, which is why the American public wants us to leave. This is the fault of Presidents Bush and Obama. But President Obama is doing the right thing by pursuing a responsible withdrawal, rather than a rush to exit. If people would actually study what is happening inAfghanistan, learn the country’s history, and look carefully at what our political and military leaders have said about our mission there, then they would be less eager to see the troop abandonAfghanistanso quickly. As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, the consequences of leavingAfghanistantoo quickly would be more dangerous than the consequences of theU.S.continuing its mission and pursing a responsible withdrawal. All one has to do is look at the two times that theU.S.abandonedAfghanistan. The first time was just after the Soviets fled Afghanistan, and we left the Afghans to a bloody civil war that resulted in nearly half a million people being killed and created a power vacuum that allowed the Taliban to come to power. The second time was in our rush to invade another country:Iraq. We ignoredAfghanistanand allowed the Taliban to regroup, train, and retake many parts of the country. Unfortunately, Americans are war weary and they do not care about any of this.

 Perhaps they will keep this in mind the next time they decide to rush into war all jacked up on patriotic zeal… but I seriously doubt it.

 


 

 

 

By Jose Rodriguez

 

  

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, out of 11 potential options for Congress, rated unemployment extension as the most likely to stimulate the economy. The least likely: extending the Bush tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. Furthermore, the CBO estimates that every dollar spent on unemployment benefits will generate up to $1.90 in economic activity. Others, such as the Labor Department, argue that there is $2.00 worth of economic activity for every spent dollar. It is a basic fact that people who are unemployed spend every dollar in unemployment insurance that they receive, which fuels economic activity. Conversely, tax cuts for the rich tend to only generate somewhere between 10 and 40 cents of economic activity for every dollar, because the rich tend to save their money, not spend it.

            Not extending unemployment benefits would have a deleterious impact on the already slow pace of economic recovery. With current low demand and excess supply, failure to extend unemployment benefits would further contract the economy and make it even more difficult for employers to hire new workers. The CBO estimates that the economy could see a 1% decline in GDP growth and up to one million additional people could lose their jobs. It goes without saying that we would have hundreds of thousands of people fall into poverty. A recent report by the Census Bureau found that over one out of three people cannot “make ends meet” at a basic level. Not extending unemployment insurance to Americans suffering from unemployment during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression would be a moral outrage.

 

 

The suggestion, posited by many conservatives, that people are simply too lazy to get a job would be laughable were it not so incredibly offensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report last August that indicated that there were five job seekers for every job listing. More specifically, there were 14.6 million people who were unemployed, but only 2.9 million job openings. Those numbers have shifted somewhat in recent months, but the ratio is constant. The misconception that the unemployed are simply lazy reflects a world view that suggests Americans are spoiled and feel entitled. The reality, in this economic crisis, is that Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water. They are struggling to survive. So, the notion that cutting off aid to lazy, spoiled Americans will get them back to work is completely false. Americans want to work, but there are simply not enough jobs.

 The American economy is a consumer driven economy. And right now, Americans do not have the money to consume as much as they used to, which has driven demand downward. Now, corporations are sitting on $1.8 trillion. They claim that they have not invested that money for two reasons: there are excess supplies of goods, so there is no need to invest; and their confidence in the economic outlook is keeping them from making any risks in future investments. Others, such as myself, believe that there is a political dynamic, as well. Corporate America has not been happy with the Obama administration’s attempts to regulate the economy, or his desire to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Under President Bush, regulations were ignored, regulators were in bed (in some cases literally) with the people they were supposed to be monitoring, and corporations could count on President Bush to side with them. Fareed Zakaria, in a Washington Post column, made this case, as well. In discussions with business leaders, he found that most of them complained more about President Obama than their economic or financial concerns. He found that most of them felt similarly: “… [President Obama] has almost no private-sector experience, that he’s made clear he thinks government and nonprofit work are superior to the private sector. It all added up to a profound sense of distrust.”

It is an agreed fact that during periods of economic booms generous unemployment benefits reduce the incentives for people to find employment. However, we are not currently in a period of economic success. We are crawling out of the bowels of an economic crash. In 2003, in testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, Alan Greenspan made comments about unemployment benefits which can be applied to today’s debate about the issue: “Unemployment insurance is essentially restrictive because it’s been our perception that we don’t want to create incentives for people not to take jobs. But when you’re in a period of job weakness, where it is not a choice on the part of people whether they’re employed or unemployed, then obviously you want to be temporarily generous. We ought to be temporarily generous. And I think that’s what we have done in the past and it has worked well. […]I think that because it is stringent in normal periods, that one should recognize that people who lose jobs not because they did anything and can’t find new ones, you have a different form of problem, which means that you have to allow the unemployment system to be much broader and, indeed, that’s what we need to do.” People who now find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own should not be left out to dry. Not only is it morally indefensible, it is economically unsound.

                                              

First and foremost, I am pro-life. Now, I know a lot of you probably think, “Oh, he’s one of these Ultra-right wing Christians who hate women.”

Wrong!

I am actually a fairly liberal guy who proudly voted for Hillary Clinton in the California primary.  I love women. I’m married to one. But I also love life.

Where I differ from right-wing extremists, is the fact that I am actually pro-life. That means I am against abortion, but I am also against the death penalty, I am against needless war, I am for a healthy and clean environment, I am for raising the minimum wage, I am for Universal Health Care, and I am for equal quality education across our country. The economic and social justice that the Democratic party fights for actually reduces the number of abortions across the country. The right-wingers don’t support any of these pro-life measures. See, the right-wingers are simply anti-abortion. They are not pro-life.

Which brings me to my next point: we need to forget about Roe v. Wade. That single court ruling has had the most imapct upon our society since Brown v. Board of Education. I think most people, whether “pro-life” or “pro-choice” (both ridiculous and stupid labels that mean nothing) can agree that nobody likes abortion. Is that some common ground we can all stand upon? I think it is.

From there, I argue that we should, as a nation, have better Sex Education in our schools. As an educator, I can see how pervasive sexuality is, even at the junior high level. That may be where we need to begin. Education is the best tool we have, so we ought to use it to fight unneccessary abortions from unwanted pregnancies. That means teaching our kids how to use contraceptives effectively. It also means emphasizing abstinence (I am by no means advocating abstinence only education). Prevention is crucial.

But schools can only do so much. Parents need to better educate their children in the home about sexuality. They need to be more firm and direct with their children with rules and boundaries. I see it all the time: parents allow their children to do whatever they want, whenever they want, at all hours of the day. This is certainly not true in all cases, but I do see this as the norm. We would have fewer Jamie Lynn Spears’ and Bristol Palins running around the country if parents took on the responsibility of parenthood.

I am Catholic. Abortion is an important issue for Catholics, as it is for many Protestants. I find myself, at times, arguing with Christians about whether or not to vote for a Democrat because the party supports abortion. My view is, an educated voter needs to weigh all the issues, not just a single issue that provokes an emotional response, and vote for the candidate that best represents the common interest. Republican candidates know that  every election cycle there will be a core group of voters that simply ignores all the issues and votes primarily on the abortion issue. There are many good, honest, hardworking people who are perpetually in hard times who consistently vote for Republicans, even though it is not in their economic best interest. The Republican candidate, once elected, will go back to Washington and simply shelve the abortion issue until the next election, and then will proceed to pursue their actual agenda, which is to uphold the status quo the elites. 

I think it is interesting, as I wrote earlier, to mention that abortion rates actually go down when we have Democratic administrations, as opposed to the increase in abortion rates under Republican administrations. Take, for example, according to the recent Guttmacher study, the fact that abortion rates went down more dramatically under President Clinton, going from 1.61 million abortions in 1990 to 1.31 abortions in 2000. Between 1992 and 1996, there was a 3.4% decline in abortion rates per year; between 1996 and 2000 there was a decline of 1.2% per year. Under President Bush, the number of abortions performed went from 1.31 million (in 2000) to 1.2 million (in 2005, the most recent data). That is a decline of only 0.9% per year. Why is that? It is because people who are in hard times, who have an unexpected pregnancy, are more likely to consider having an abortion  than they are when they are in economic good times.

The findings of a study released in October 2007 also point to the need to abandon the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. The study, conducted by the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York , found that abortion rates tend to be the same in countries where abortion is legal and where abortion is illegal. Virtually the same! The legality of abortion makes no difference! What is different, however, is the safety of abortions being performed and the mortality of the woman having the abortion. The study found that the women in countries where abortion was outlawed were drinking turpentine, bleach or tea made with livestock manure; inserting herbal preparations into the vagina or cervix; placing foreign bodies, such as a stick, coat hanger or chicken bone, into the uterus; or jumping from the top of stairs or a roof. The study found that there “Worldwide, an estimated five million women are hospitalized each year for treatment of abortion-related complications, such as hemorrhage and sepsis… [and] Complications due to unsafe abortion procedures account for an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide, or 67,000 per year.” How is this pro-life? It is not.

Again, I turn back to the need for better sex education, both in the schools and at home, with a particular emphasis on abstinence. That said, contraceptive use also needs to be taught because not every individual is going to abide by the fact that abstinence is the only 100% way to avoid unwanted pregnancies or STD’s (though STD’s are an entirely different conversation for another day). Sex Ed cannot be a one size fits all program that abides only to religious considerations (abstinence only); instead, this needs to be a secular program that promotes good health for individuals as well as smart family planning for future generations. Again, and this is crucial, prevention is the best way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions that result thereof.

And, finally, I would like to also express my deep belief that America can and will overcome this issue. There is common ground between both sides of the issue. If both sides can come together and work to create social and economic conditions that have been proven to reduce the number of abortions, then we can go a long way to reaching that goal of zero abortions (as optimistic that number may be). For this to work, we also need to support mothers who do opt to keep their child, rather than undergo an abortion. We also need to support our adoption agencies and cut a lot of the red tape that prevent or slow down the adoption process. In addition to that, we should support those families that decide to adopt children, as they are performing an admirable and honorable service to the children of our nation. As this election winds down, I hope that people start to consider an array of issues before making their decisions. If they do that, I am confident Barack Obama will be the man they elect to be the next President of the United States of America.

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Barack Obama wins the South Carolina Primary

According to the polls, Barack Obama gained roughly 55% of the vote, with John Edwards and Hillary Clinton splitting the remaining half with 18% and 27% respectively. Since African Americans are half of the registered voters in South Carolina, it was a crucial state for Barack to win in order to demonstrate that Iowa was not just a fluke. Today, 80% of those African American voters voted for Barack, with the remaining 20% voting overwhelmingly for Clinton over Edwards. He also picked up a quarter of the white vote, while Clinton and Edwards split the remaining two-thirds. Clinton picked up a disappointing 40% of women, while Barack and Edwards split the remaining 60%. Interestingly enough, six in ten voters were persuaded by Bill Clinton’s campaigning in the last couple of weeks. Over half of those white voters who decided within the last three days voted for Edwards, with the rest going to Obama and Clinton about evenly.

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Here is the latest delegate count:

The Democratic nominee needs to win 2,025 delegates.

Hillary Clinton
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Barack Obama
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John Edwards
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The Republican nominee needs to win 1,191 delegates.

Mitt Romney
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John McCain
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Mike Huckabee
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The latest LA Times/Bloomberg Poll found that Clinton would fare best, according to registered voters, in a general election against any of the Republican candidates:


Clinton 48%
McCain 38%
Clinton 49%
Romney 34%

Clinton 47%
Giuliani 41%

Clinton 51%
Huckabee 38%

In a recent LA Times/CNN poll, Hillary Clinton was ahead of Obama in California:

Clinton 47%
Obama 31%

Being that New York is the state that Clinton represents, she is expected to win that contest. Here are the results of a Times-Herald poll:


Clinton 51%
Obama 25%

The results of a Rasmussen poll taken in New Jersey:


Clinton 45%
Obama 27%

An IVR Poll in Texas:


Clinton 46%
Obama 28%

Quinnipiac University conducted a poll in Ohio and found that Senator Clinton was ahead of Senator Obama:


Clinton 38%
Obama 13%

I’m tired of writing this all out, so here is this:

Arizona Clinton 37% Obama 27

Alabama Clinton 43% Obama 28

Connecticut Clinton 41% Obama 27

Oklahoma Clinton 45% Obama 19

Utah Clinton 31% Obama 18

Missouri Clinton 44% Obama 31

Arkansas Clinton 57% Obama 17

Delaware Clinton 41% Obama 17

Minnesota Clinton 47% Obama 22

Tennessee Clinton 34% Obama 20

We should know who the nominee is by February 6.

And for the Republicans…

New Jersey McCain… 29 Romney… 14 Huckabee… 9

New York McCain… 30 Romney… 9 Huckabee… 8

Georgia McCain… 19 Romney… 16 Huckabee… 34

California McCain… 29 Romney… 17 Huckabee… 10

Arizona McCain… 40 Romney… 23 Huckabee… 9

Alabama McCain… 27 Romney… 15 Huckabee… 27

Connecticut McCain… 39 Romney… 11 Huckabee… 8

Oklahoma McCain… 29 Romney… 8 Huckabee… 31

Colorado McCain… 11 Romney… 8 Huckabee… 5

Illinois McCain… 31 Romney… 20 Huckabee… 11

Utah McCain… 6 Romney… 65 Huckabee… 2

Missouri McCain… 31 Romney… 21 Huckabee… 25

New Mexico McCain… 20 Romney… 7 Huckabee… –

Arkansas McCain… 9 Romney… 7 Huckabee… 59

Delaware McCain… 14 Romney… 10 Huckabee… –

Idaho McCain… 14 Romney… 38 Huckabee… –

Minnesota McCain… 22 Romney… 5 Huckabee… 2

Tennessee McCain… 12 Romney… 7 Huckabee… 24

These candidates all know who they are facing in the general election…

And Hillary knows it…

For the Democrats, if the results are close by the time the Convention rolls around, we may see John Edwards attempt to throw his weight around, albeit light. Barack and Hillary might begin courting Edwards for his support because he may very well be the kigmaker. He might be looking for a VP spot, to position himself for a future White House bid, or for some other important position. This is why Edwards has insisted that he will go all the way to the Convention.

Oh, and Rambo exceeded my expectations. It had an overly simplistic storyline, but the action and gore effects were fantabulous. I left with a smile.

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The LA Times has published new poll numbers today. They show Hillary Clinton leading nationally, but Barak Obama is closing that gap. The poll also shows that John McCain is leading nationally, with Mike Huckabee in second and Mitt Romney a not too distant third. For a more in depth look at the results here is a link:

http://www.calendarlive.com/media/acrobat/2008-01/34896849.pdf

National Poll Numbers

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Breakdown of issues in the Democratic and Republican Parties

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A closer look at the Republican results

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