Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Address

by Gene on January 24, 2013

President Obama answered the excessive self-congratulatory and self-centered politics of the Paul Ryans, Mitt Romneys, and Tea Partiers who hold sway over today’s Republican Party with forceful and clear statements of how this country has triumphed over adversity and progressed from a small, experimental, slave-holding nation more than 200 years ago, to become the most powerful and important nation to have ever existed on the planet.

If there was one word in the speech that conveys his message, it was “together.”  We will not build the infrastructure needed in the 21st century city by city or state by state, but as a unified whole.  We cannot leave the protection of the “vulnerable” and neediest to the good will of every state.  We must act together, as a nation.

We cannot expect every state to ensure the freedom and “pursuit of happiness” for every person without a national commitment.  If there had been no federal action, in some states there might still be segregation, laws against inter-racial marriage, no social security insurance to help people as they get older, no Medicare and certainly no promise of universal (or near-universal) health insurance.  One often hears people who oppose laws that benefit people who are unlike themselves say that “you cannot legislate morality.”  On the contrary, that is often the only way to bring it about.  As the President said, “We must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because …our time…requires the constant advance of…tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”

President Obama understands that we won two world wars by working together; that we won the Cold War by standing together when most needed; that we created the first great middle class by allowing unions to protect its worker members; that public education, public roads and transportation, consumer protection, health protection and so many other cornerstones of an advanced society resulted from laws that enhance all people, together.  As he said, these things “do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take risks that make this country great.”

In his address he took stands for women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrants’ rights; for protecting our planet; and protecting our children.  He also acknowledged that progress is often incremental. But some progress is better than none at all.

There are many forces of ignorance and intolerance that will fight him at every step.  I hope that even the most backward-looking Republicans recognize that it is in their self-interest to compromise with the President and do what is right, no matter how much it hurts.

Republicans Up to Some of Their Old (and Some New) Tricks

by Gene on January 8, 2013

There they go again.  Just when you thought they couldn’t get much worse, the Republicans in the U.S. Congress, and other “leading” conservatives have, in the past few weeks, exhibited behavior that has given them the well-earned designation as the “Party of No,” the party that puts Americans at risk, and the party that exposes us to embarrassment in the rest of the world.  Here are four recent examples that defy logic and common sense.

  1. On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 38 Republicans voted against a United Nations treaty requiring two-thirds approval for ratification that will bring the rest of the world up to the standards already codified into law in the United States; namely, that people with disabilities have the same rights as people without disabilities.  The treaty was modeled on the U.S. law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, signed into law by Republican President George H.W. Bush.  Former Republican Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole was on the Senate floor, urging his party to approve the treaty.  But 38 Republican Senators, following a ridiculous argument most vociferously put forward by Rick Santorum, decided that the treaty somehow would infringe on American sovereignty and that, as noted in the N.Y. Times, “United Nations bureaucrats would be empowered to make decisions about the needs of disabled children.”  Hard to believe that a majority of Republican senators still feel we should not be part of the U.N.  Obviously, these senators would have been happier when they could oppose President Wilson and the League of Nations.
  2. At the end of 2012, Republicans in the House of Representatives did not vote on renewing the Violence Against Women Act because Majority Leader Eric Cantor objected to provisions that extended protections to Native American women.  I wonder if that was really his objection or if his opposition actually stemmed from the fact that the version of the bill overwhelmingly passed by the Senate extends domestic violence protection to LGBT individuals and undocumented immigrants, as well as Native Americans.  Fortunately, it now appears that there may be enough Republicans in the House to pass the bill in the new Congress, once the Senate passes it again.  Aren’t you glad the Republicans haven’t been waging a war on women?
  3. At the end of 2012, the Senate passed a bill authorizing $60 billion in relief aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York.  Speaker Boehner, however, refused to allow the bill to come to the floor of the House for a vote.  After numerous attacks from Republicans and Democrats in those two states, led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calling Speaker Boehner and House Republicans “disgraceful,” the House finally passed an approximately $9 billion package for expanded flood relief, with a promise to vote on the other $51 billion on January 15.  Once again, Republicans in the House put their obsessive goal of reducing government above the needs of the people.
  4. Finally (for now), we have that bastion of modern conservatism, the National Rifle Association.  The NRA used to be an organization interested in gun safety and the education of Americans in the safe and proper use of firearms.  No more.  Their outrageous suggestion to turn every school in America into an armed camp, defies logic and intelligence.  Unless, of course, you view the world as best served when we all behave as they did in Tombstone in the late 1800’s.  Yup, let ‘em shoot it out to decide any and all disputes.  To the NRA, life should be a B-movie western from the 1930’s.

One would think that after losing the Presidential election, having fewer seats in the Senate and the House, and having more Americans vote for Democratic House candidates than Republican ones (Republicans retained their House majority because of effective gerrymandering), Republicans might be open to ideas that would make them more appealing to the majority of Americans.  One, however, would be wrong.

Democratic Control of California State Government

by Gene on December 18, 2012

Democrats in California have a rare opportunity to accomplish a great deal for the State.  As you undoubtedly know, State government is now totally controlled by the Democrats.  A Democrat is Governor and two-thirds of the members of each house of the Legislature are Democrats.  While some argue for caution, I would argue for boldness.

In 2009, Democrats in the U.S. Congress held a majority in the House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.  But they did not take full advantage of the opportunity, and after the death of Ted Kennedy, the 60 vote majority quickly disappeared.  The California opportunity does not come along very often.  The last time Democrats held the Governorship and two-thirds of both houses of the legislature was 130 years ago.  There is no reason to think the current situation will last very long.

During the 1960 campaign for President, when asked why he wanted to be President, John Kennedy famously said, “Because that’s where the power is.”  Democrats have the power and should use it.  If the situation were reversed, you can be sure the Republicans would be repealing every tax in sight and dismantling, or at least crippling, every program that helps people in need.  It is time to improve education from pre-school through college.  Repairing and maintaining our physical and technological infrastructure is necessary to attract and retain businesses and jobs.  Some of the social programs that have been lost to budget constraints over the past few years should be re-instated, on at least a moderate level.  We should make it easier to pass school parcel taxes and other local tax measures by lowering the passing threshold below two-thirds.  And assuring the success of Obamacare in California will only make us healthier and stronger.  While the views of the minority should be respected and taken into consideration, lest Democrats be seen as overreaching and overtaxing, the voters have said that government can help people and help the State.  Democrats must not be afraid to listen to the voters.