Archive for October, 2009

In New Jersey, the race for governor is neck-and-neck between Republican Chris Christie and Democrat Jon Corzine. The Virginia gubernatorial race has seen Bob McDonnell take a commanding lead over Creigh Deeds. And in New York, Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava has dropped out after falling behind Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. All three could help define a new political landscape after surprising special election outcomes in Oklahoma and Tennessee just weeks ago.

In what could be a big loss for Democrats, polling on Friday showed Chris Christie leading by a slim margin in New Jersey, 41 percent favoring him opposed to Jon Corzine’s 39. The numbers are well within the margin of error and the race could break either way. The White House has stepped heavily into the race to give Corzine support, with President Barack Obama appearing in television and radio ads for the Democratic candidate as well as traveling to New Jersey to stump for him there. Democrats hope that Obama’s presence will result in increased voter turnout.

The president has distanced himself, however, from the gubernatorial race in Virginia where Republican Bob McDonnell has opened up an 11 point lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds. Virginia voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 when it weighed in favor of Obama last November. According to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, “The fact of the matter is that Obama won Virginia comfortably. And the Democrat is now well behind in Virginia. Obviously that’s not a good sign for Obama.”

In probably the most compelling race, Republican Dierdre Scozzafava put her campaign for New York’s 23rd Congressional District on suspension after falling behind both Democrat Bill Owens and upstart Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. Hoffman’s campaign has intrigued the nation, having received support from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and now House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) after Scozzafava’s drop out. A registered Republican, Hoffman jumped into the race because he believed Scozzafava, a pro-choice candidate who also supported the embattled ACORN organization among other controversial issues not associated with Republicans, didn’t represent the “ideals and values” of the party.

If these three races break conservative, it could paint a very different landscape for the political races of 2010. Already, special elections earlier in October have swung the way of Republicans. In Oklahoma, Todd Russ won a State House seat that hadn’t been held by the GOP since 1965. In Tennessee, Pat Marsh picked up a State House seat that had never been controlled by Republicans and gave the GOP their first opportunity to pick the Tennessee Speaker of the House in 40 years.

Try as he might, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Democrats that support him are getting nowhere fast with their insistence of a public option in the current health care legislation. All 40 Republican members of the Senate are against the public option meaning all 60 Democrats would have to approve it, but a number of moderate Democrats oppose it. Independent Senator Joe Lieberman has also announced that he would help the Republican filibuster.

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, one of the Democrats on the fence, stated, “The question is, is this enough flexibility for states to account for their own circumstances? And the answer to that is perhaps. But I’d like to wait to see what’s in the language.”

Lieberman was more definitive. “I think such a government-run health insurance company will be bad for our country and really will hurt taxpayers.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is busy working on another proposed health care bill that also includes a public option, and she plans to make a formal announcement about it Thursday morning. Where Pelosi’s bill differs in Reid’s is in the requirement of government-run insurance. In her re-named “consumer option,” Pelosi will require universal sign-ups and the establishment of a new government-run insurance option for millions. Reid’s bill allows for states to opt-out of a modified version of the government insurance.

Additional pressure for moderate Democrats comes from the 5 million member MoveOn.org, which has publically stated that those Democrats who do not support the public option will not receive support from MoveOn.

Update: Eight more American soldiers died in bomb blasts today in Southern Afghanistan. Additional troops were injured and one Afghan civilian died in what was described as “multiple, complex bomb strikes.” The October death toll in Afghanistan has reached 55.

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President Obama plans to pull out of Iraq by August 2010. He continues to be undecided about troop deployments in Afghanistan. However, casualties have steadily mounted in recent days.

In Baghdad, Iraq, 155 died from twin suicide bombings over the weekend, including up to two dozen children that had been trapped in a bus leaving a day care facility. Many believe this was an attack directed at the Shiite government in light of proposed election law that is supposed to aid the country in moving forward with January’s election.

On the deadliest day for Americans in four years in Afghanistan, chopper crashes littered the landscape on Monday. The first was escaping a fire fight with insurgents and 10 Americans were killed. The second was a collision of two helicopters in which four American soldiers were killed and another two were wounded. The previous day two other Americans were killed in firefights.

Later on Monday, President Obama reiterated in a speech at a Naval Air Station in Jacksonville that he will not “rush the solemn decision” to send more troops into Afghanistan. “I won’t risk [American] lives unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Critics of Obama’s wait-and-see approach say the time for him to make a decision is emminent.

“It’s been more than two months since the recommendation went to the president,” said Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ). “And Gen. McChrystal is talking about a 12-month time frame. So clearly time is of the essence here.”

Even the United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, urged NATO defense ministers on Friday to send more troops to the country and help stabilize the region. Nation nations, however, are still awaiting a decision from the United States by President Obama.

In the meantime, lives continue to be lost.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission passed a set of regulations that would prevent Internet service providers such as AT&T and Cox Cable from intentionally blocking Internet traffic. Coined “net neutrality,” supporters are encouraged that the new set of rules will ensure service companies will not be able to manipulate the choice of the common Internet surfer, also known as “traffic discrimination.” Also included is increased transparency on how carriers manage their networks and technologies (read: government playing Big Brother).

Critics, however, believe that net neutrality is another government power grab and that the new regulations will be an intrusion upon Internet customers since people can already surf the web to their heart’s content.

“Regulation kills innovation,” Senator John McCain stated. “Let’s not kill the Internet. An open and unfettered Internet may be the real stimulus during these difficult economic times, and it comes without a $787 billion price tag that is passed along to taxpayers at a significant cost for future generations.”

Government interference is also a concern. Said Tom Tauke, senior vice president for Public Policy at Verizon Communications, “When you’re trying to make the network flow, you can’t have lawyers looking over engineers’ shoulders telling them what they can and can’t do.”

This comes in addition to the proposed Cybersecurity Act which would give the government their own set of standards for private sector security and would license “cybersecurity professionals” who would oversee the new measures. Under this Act the president would also be given the power to declare “a cybersecurity emergency” and utilize “amorphous powers” to do as he wished, such as turn it off.

Samuel Adams: Always a good decision. You’ve heard the phrase before, but only in relation to a beer commercial (a great beer, I may add). Few remember that Samuel Adams was one of our great founding fathers. Son of a merchant and brewer and cousin to President John Adams, Samuel was a renowned politician in his own right. As a member of the Massachusetts Assembly, he was the first to propose a continental congress of which he was later a member. He was a passionate advocate of independence and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

I bring this up now because of a quote that was used on Glenn Beck’s show last night in which Adams was speaking out against tyranny. However, my focus is on one sentence in particular of that quote: “The religion and public liberty of a people are intimately connected; their interest are interwoven, they cannot subsist separately; and therefore they rise and fall together.”

What is Adams talking about? He is talking about church and state and how they cannot be separated. The state of America is a mess right now and it comes on the heels of banning prayer and religious recognition in public places. People have actually been arrested for praying! Even children songs about Jesus are now being replaced with lyrics praising Barack Obama, while Obama himself snubbed this year’s National Prayer Day.

In the meantime, we have kids beating each other to death with railroad ties in Chicago, and greed has put a stranglehold on our economy.

Our founding fathers, while they did have their religious differences, believed they were being guided by a higher power to establish the United States of America:

James Madison: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.”

Alexander Hamilton: “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest.”

Benjamin Franklin: “All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.”

Charles Pinckney: “When the great work was done and published, I was struck with amazement. Nothing less than the superintending Hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war … could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole.”

George Washington: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

God is included in our Declaration of Independence. God is included in our Constitution. The founding fathers knew we needed to keep our religion included in our state affairs to keep our country strong and prevent tyranny from reigning. Here is the full Samuel Adams quote:

“Is it not high time for the people of this country explicitly to declare, whether they will be freemen or slaves? It is an important question which ought to be decided. It concerns us more than anything in this life. The salvation of our souls is interested in the event. For wherever tyranny is establish’d, immorality of every kind comes in like a torrent. It is in the interest of tyrants to reduce the people to ignorance and vice. For they cannot live in any country where virtue and knowledge prevail. The religion and public liberty of a people are intimately connected; their interest are interwoven, they cannot subsist separately; and therefore they rise and fall together. For this reason, it is always observable, that those who are combined to destroy the people’s liberties, practice every art to poison their morals. How greatly then does it concern us, at all events, to put a stop to the progress of tyranny.”

More info: The Examiner

Congressional Democrats are exploring the possibility of extending a number of benefits and credits that would total nearly $200 billion, but these costs would come in addition to the current $787 billion stimulus package. This proposal would include unemployment and health benefits, extending a tax credit for first-time homebuyers, and creating a new credit for employers who add jobs. Also under consideration is a Republican proposal that would allow companies operating in the red to receive tax refunds from the previous five years instead of the two currently allowed by law.

The costs add up quickly. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, extending unemployment benefits through next year would cost about $100 billion. Economists estimate that if the homebuyer tax credit were to be extended to summer 2010, the costs would add up to the tune of about $16.7 billion. An employer tax credit proposal that had been removed from the stimulus plan was calculated to cost $19.5 billion. Unknown is what an extended tax refund would look like or how much it would cost to extend subsidies for laid-off employees who are having to utilize the very expensive COBRA health plan, but the current program that runs until the end of 2009 costs about $25 billion. Toss into the mix that President Obama would like to spend an additional $13 to $14 billion on $250 payments to Social Security recipients, and the proposals could quickly add up to nearly $200 billion.

More information: Proposed economic relief not part of stimulus

With more than three quarters of the $787 billion stimulus money still available, a number of lawmakers have suggested that President Obama’s proposal to give a one-time $250 Social Security payment to recipients should come from those funds. It could be viewed as a kind gesture toward a segment of the population the President has polarized, but have the ramifications been thought out?

For the first time in 34 years, there will be no cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security benefits since consumer prices fell last quarter. The announcement was made by the Labor Department Thursday morning, but in anticipation of that news, the White House announced Wednesday night that the president would support a one-time $250 payment to help support seniors who are used to receiving a boost in their monthly checks each January.

Republican leaders, however, believe these checks, which would surmount to a total of $13 billion, should come from the stimulus plan and should not be added to the nation’s mounting deficit. Said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), “The stimulus bill is not working. The American people are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ And if we’re going to provide this benefit to our seniors, why don’t we take it from stimulus funds that clearly aren’t getting the job done?”

Clearly. Numbers released earlier this month showed that unemployment in September had risen to 9.8 percent with total job losses tallying up to 263,000, more than 80,000 higher than what Wall Street had expected. According to Recovery.gov, only 30,383 jobs have been created from roughly $16 billion, which amounts to about $533,000 per job “saved or created.”

A number of lawmakers view Obama’s proposal as a politically motivated giveaway to seniors since polls show that very few senior citizens support the current health care bill.

More information: The Examiner

If this season’s special elections are any indicator as to how Americans are feeling about their represented voice these days, then long-time Democrats may have something to worry about in 2010. In Oklahoma, Todd Russ defeated Larry Peck to pick up a State House seat that hasn’t been held by a Republican since 1965. Likewise, Republican Pat Marsh defeated Democrat Ty Cobb to pick up a Tennessee House seat that’s never controlled by a Republican and gives the GOP the opportunity to pick their first Tennessee Speaker of the House in 40 years.

The Oklahoma House District 55 seat became vacant when incumbent Ryan McMullen resigned in July to take a federal position. Russ secured 55.9 percent of the vote in a district that covers Washita County and parts of Caddo, Canadian, and Kiowa counties and contains double the number of registered Democrats to Republicans. However, only 31.5 percent of registered voters took part in the special election, and a number of seated House members campaigned for Russ.

In Tennessee, Democrat Ty Cobb attempted to win the District 62 seat that had been held by his brother Curt who had stepped down to take a different government position. He was defeated handily by Pat Marsh by a 15 percent spread, 56 to 41.

Tennessee state Republican party chairman, Chris Devaney, stated, “Democrats attempted to run their candidate as a Republican to gain support from voters because they know that Tennesseans are fed up with liberal policies being pushed at all levels of government. Pat stood on his principles of limited government, lower taxes and a strong free enterprise system and voters chose to send him, a true conservative, to Nashville.”

While the 2010 elections are still more than a year away, this is still an ominous sign. In recent polling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is 7-10 points behind his Republican challengers for his seat in Nevada.

In a small step toward passing health care reform, The Senate Finance committee voted 14-9 to pass its version of health care legislation to the Senate. Maine Senator Olympia Snowe was the lone Republican to vote the bill forward, but also stated, “I can’t vote for a public option.”

The latter disclaimer is not music to the ears of the likes of Nancy Pelosi who still incorrectly states that most Americans want the public option. Polling shows that only 45% of Americans want the public option while a full 50% are against it.

The 10-year back-loaded $829 billion bill still meets with a lot of scrutiny over how much it will actually cost. Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed that the bill’s impact on the nation is still unknown while a new report from Price Waterhouse Coopers shows that health care reform will raise costs for most Americans by 18%. By the time the plan is completely phased in by 2019, the average American family will be paying an extra $4000 per year for health care.

But Phase 1 doesn’t begin until 2013… after Obama’s re-election campaign.

While President Obama lingers in the situation room and continues to waffle on whether or not to send in more troops to Afghanistan, he’s also preparing to accept some involvement of the Taliban in the country’s political future. The Taliban seemingly celebrated the news by setting off a bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 17 and injuring 63 others.

While officials say Obama’s decision is still two weeks away, U.S. Troops are working overtime on counterinsurgency tactics to keep the Afghan people on their side and in fending off constant Taliban hit-and-run attacks. Said Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), “When [the Taliban] see us acting in an unsure manner, they’re able to go out to all the villages and different people and say America is going to pull out.”

With the Taliban regaining strength, they’ve been able to instill fear tactics once again, threatening violence during the August elections and now this bomb at the Indian embassy. However, the Obama administration would prefer to concentrate on efforts against al-Qaeda and downgrade the emphasis on the Taliban. They believe the Taliban is too enmeshed in Afghanistan’s culture and would be willing to consider Taliban members that renounce violence. The Taliban, on the other hand, have not been eager to do so.

Many believe an Iraq-like surge would put an end to the Taliban resurgence.