As the debates and arguments about a potential government shut down continue, here’s one simple request: Take military pay off the table. Virtually no one wants military paycheks stop, and it will be a total failure of both parties and both branches of governement if pay is withheld. Accusations of playing politics abound. Imagine that politicians are playing politics – shocking (sarcasm implied). The members of the military, who this country has asked so much of in the last decade, don’t need to be jerked around like this. Both sides should be mature enough to give an assurance that whether or not they get what they want, whether a shut down occurs or not, measures will be taken under any political circumstance to keep pay going to those defending this country. My prediction is that all invloved will be seen as failures by the American people if military pay is withheld, and rightfully so.
Primary Season has started in New Hampshire. The events so far are party events – fundraisers and/or talks to rally the troops. The open events like town halls and house parties haven’t really begun. Those are the events that show off whether a candidate is a real contender or not. The potential candidates I’m most interested in seeing are Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney & Tim Pawlenty. I’d like to see Ron Paul too, but doubt he really will be a candidate.
Readers of this blog that know I was and avid McCain supporter last election may be surprised to find out that it is possible for President Obama to win my vote. I am undecided, though I do have specific concerns about both sides of the aisle and their candidates. My big problem with President Obama is simply spending and the size of government. The health care bill is too invasive, too expensive, and appears to be largely ineffectual at addressing the issue of cost. The other part is not just the spending that came with the stimulus package, but the thinking behind it that spending ones way out of economic difficulty is either wise or effective.
On the other hand, I am impressed with President Obama’s foreign policy. While he hasn’t been perfect, he does seem to have learned from mistakes and corrected them as he’s gone along. Don’t think one can ask much more than that out of a politician. He’s receiving a lot of heat from both sides about the intervention in Libya. The left doesn’t want any military commitments made. The right seems to be split in there opinion. Some are upset about the cost of intervention; others think more should have been faster with a stated goal of removing Gadhafi.
While there isn’t too much doubt that quicker would have been better, the basic decisions were solid. Gadhafi stated he was about to slaughter his own people (again). Obama worked with the international community (as he said he would during the 2008 election) to prevent that slaughter. That group of participating countries found that seeking the removal of Gadhafi was not an appropriate goal for their group – a completely reasonable decision. Having Secretary Gates, and Secretary Clinton on his side is a big advantage to him, and surrounding oneself with good people is part of what makes for a President good.
On the flip side of the aisle, the type of candidate that is most likely to win me over is one that is focused on the economy and being fiscally responsible. Also, he/she would need to demonstrate that they have the capacity to handle the difficult foreign policy decisions that are bound to arise. A candidate like Governor Romney has a very good chance of winning my vote as he is smart enough, knows the economy, and seems like someone who makes things work. There are likely other Republican candidates that could win my vote too. However, some Republican candidates have no shot of winning my vote. Those are the candidates that are full of rhetoric and short of substance. Both parties have this type of candidate. They are often very popular with the party faithful, and gain momentum after a big win like the Republicans had last year. While I hope that isn’t the type of candidate that Republicans nominate, we can only wait and see. So welcome to New Hampshire – it’s game on.
I’ve frequently griped about the way government spends money, and about some of the wasteful policies and programs it has established. However, there is one program (at least) that I believe in. Government funded home weatherization for people/families with low incomes. It makes sense on several levels. The home improvements are costly for someone living paycheck to paycheck, yet the energy savings from winterizing a home can be substantial. No one with a heart wants to see people in cold climates without heat. Also, the reduction in energy for that home is good for the individual, for the community, and even for the earth. Simply put it’s a practicle useful government expenditure.
So what’s the complaint? The Weatherization & Intergovernmental Program website. First off, the name itself alludes to the problem with the site. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a person use the word ‘intergovernmental’ in a sentence before, and it is the unintelligible nature of the website that is the problem. This is the opening paragraph of the website…
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program provides grants, technical assistance, and information tools to states, local governments, community action agencies, utilities, Indian tribes, and overseas U.S. territories for their energy programs. These programs coordinate with national goals to reduce petroleum consumption and increase the energy efficiency of the U.S. economy. They aim at market transformation to reduce market barriers to the cost effective adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
Well, I’m glad to hear that, “They aim at market transformation to reduce market barriers to the cost effective adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.” Seriously, they can’t say something like – we’d like more people of modest means to be able to weatherize their home? While clearly this site was intended to be used by the states and organization, and not the individual, it’s baffling that there is no resource for people looking to winterize their home. There is no clear directory to the states agencies and organizations that offer these services. The site is a maze of pages for the user to search through an alphabet soup of forms.
Now this may seem like a trite complaint, certainly there are bigger problems than a poor government website. However, this a symptom of one of the major problems with government – a serious lack of common sense. Just because you can make people jump through hoops doesn’t mean you should. As I looked through the site my reaction was first – ‘where do you get info on home weatherization?’ and second – ‘glad I don’t need to find a form’. There is a problem with government that isn’t political, it’s functional. Government often does a rotten job of performing efficiently and intelligently. It is a dificult issue to address, as there is probably no politicians who are ‘pro-big-beaurocracy’ or ‘pro-confusion,’ but that is what is often created by the government. It is wasteful and in some cases it can even be dangerous (just ask the people onthe Gulf Coast). The message to government shouldn’t be ‘work more,’ it should be ‘work better.’
The elections are over, the House is controlled by Republicans and the Democrats no longer have a super-majority in the Senate. So the question now is, ‘Can they work together?’ Only time will tell.
However, there is one issue (at least) that lends itself to bipartisan compromise – Energy. There are all sorts of good reasons to want a substantive energy policy. In fact there are so many reasons for addressing energy policy that Republicans and Democrats don’t have to be motivated by the same rationale…
The socio-political rationale: We purchase much of our oil from dangerous and volatile regions of the world that often don’t like the U.S. very much.
Environmental rationale: Energy derived from fossil fuels is not good for the environment.
Supply rationale: Some day we will run out of oil and coal.
Economic rationale: High energy costs and fluctuating energy costs negatively impact the economy in numerous ways.
Clearly these rationales are over-simplified. How much oil is available? What is the environmental impact? Where do our oil dollars go? Who can and can’t afford energy/heat? All serious issues worthy of study and debate. But here’s the simple version – the cost of energy is problematic in a variety of ways, and there are alternatives. So the big question… ‘Will Congress have the Backbone to Address Energy?’
Greta Van Sustren did a couple post election interviews that provided forthright, honest, at times very blunt assessments of the election results. One with Senator Lindsey Graham, the other with Senator Orrin Hatch. Both these Senators have worked across the aisle in the past, and have received heat from there own party for doing so.
GretaVan Sustren: What did you think about the Presidents press conference yesterday? Were you convinced that he was properly chasten because there was a message from the American people; or not? You shake your head no.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well, I just don’t think he understands that it was his policies that got him into this mess. You know President Obama came in with a wave of hope. The American people picked this young man, they were hopeful he could change things, and the policies, health care and the process passing health care was everything different than he said it would be. The stimulus package, the financial regulation bill, the amount of debt, the growth of government – people rejected his policies. He lost his own Senate seat. Illinois voted for a Republican, a moderate Republican, how much clearer message can you get/give to the President. People of Illinois, like him personally, saying you’re going the wrong way. We want to check and balance you, and I don’t think he understands that. It was policies not personality that got him in this mess. People don’t love Republicans. It wasn’t like people in Illinois woke one day and said ‘Boy, I’ve been a Republican all these years and didn’t know it. It’s the Obama overreach.”
Senator Orrin Hatch has been very critical of the health care legislation. He provides a unique perspective because he has often worked with Democrats specifically on health care legislation like s-chip. His entire interview is worth viewing, but he provide an amusingly blunt assessment of the health care bill when he said…
“I was going to say it was a piece of crap, but that would not be fair to some people who were very sincere in trying to do what is right.”
Recommend checking out these two interview at the ‘On the Record’ home page.
In the ongoing drama that is this years election, the discussion between left and right might go something like this…
The Right: “We’re mad as hell that the left has spent too much money… ….We’d be mad as hell anyway, but in this case we really are mad about the money.”
The Left: “You spent too much money first, and your anger is inappropriate – whining is the proper response to not getting what you want.”
The Right: ”Shut it, if anger mangement class has tought me anything it is that you whiners should stop provoking me. What was I talking about by anyway? The economy! The left has done nothing to fix the economy, and has just made it worse.”
The Left: ”Our spending is justified. The pile of money we spent kept the economic world from imploding. An implosion, by the way, caused by GWB and you righties. Some very smart people tell us that spending boatloads of money is a good thing. I may not personally understand, but I have complete faith in and never question the really smart people that live in a bubble and tell us what to think.”
The Right: ”If we righties didn’t have a pact to never to criticize one of our own, we’d admit that GWB spent too much money - but due to that pact, get over it. He’s one of us, and that’s our main political criteria. We emphatically support anyone who appears to be ‘one of us’, and when GWB choked on that potato chip we knew he belonged to our tribe.”
The Left: ”That’s probably why we hated him so much. His spending isn’t really what bothered us, some of our best spenders are running as fiscal conservatives this year.”
The Right: “Where do you get off selling yourself as a fiscal conservative?”
The Left: “We did learn that from GWB”
The Right: “I’d complain bitterly if we weren’t cashing in on O’s ‘change’ slogan this time around… By the way, where did all your ‘hope’ go?”
The Left: “For the record we have done remarkable things. We prevented a theoretical depression, and passed a massive overhaul of health care. Off the record, some of us are shocked O can’t divine water. Also, we don’t completely love the health care bill; our anti-war candidate became a president that basically followed the JMC plan in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gays can only serve openly in the military if our beloved O doesn’t counter recent court rulings, and nothing has been done about immigration as promised.”
The Right: “Well, we have a deal on immigration right?”
The Left: “True.”
The Right: “It’s worked for thirty plus years – and it may be the one thing we agree on. We both can scream bloody murder about it during election season, but then neither of us is to do anything about it afterwards. That’s the deal.
Off the record, foreign policy may be the only thing we’re not ripping mad about. Not that we have no anger – we always have some, but O’s taken our big issue away from us, and we’re completely impressed that he played the anti-war crowd like a fiddle.”
The Left: “He has skills. We’ll see on Tuesday if those skills can turn out a deflated base.”
The Right: “‘We’re betting anger trumps charm – and if not, we’re going to pitch a royal fit.”
The Left: “See you at the polls.”
When NPR fired Juan Williams for statements he made on the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ they angered a wide range of people, and received criticism from a myriad of sources such as the hosts of ‘The View’ to a columnist with ‘The Huffington Post.’ His firing shows that NPR devalues open honest discourse. Juan Williams’ response illustrates how NPR pressured him to break ties with Fox News, and that his refusal is really what lead to firing, not comments he made regarding his feelings.
Later on the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock crisis President Bush offered to do an NPR interview with me about race relations in America. NPR management refused to take the interview on the grounds that the White House offered it to me and not their other correspondents and hosts. One NPR executive implied I was in the administration’s pocket, which is a joke, and there was no other reason to offer me the interview. Gee, I guess NPR news executives never read my bestselling history of the civil rights movement “Eyes on the Prize – America’s Civil Rights Years,” or my highly acclaimed biography “Thurgood Marshall –American Revolutionary.” I guess they never noticed that “ENOUGH,” my last book on the state of black leadership in America, found a place on the New York Times bestseller list.
This all led to NPR demanding that I either agree to let them control my appearances on Fox News and my writings or sign a new contract that removed me from their staff but allowed me to continue working as a news analyst with an office at NPR. The idea was that they would be insulated against anything I said or wrote outside of NPR because they could say that I was not a staff member. What happened is that they immediately began to cut my salary and diminish my on-air role. This week when I pointed out that they had forced me to sign a contract that gave them distance from my commentary outside of NPR I was cut off, ignored and fired.
And now they have used an honest statement of feeling as the basis for a charge of bigotry to create a basis for firing me. Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.