Dear GOP: Boehner quit you, not the other way around

"Goodbye, nut jobs!" -What John Boehner quite possibly could be thinking right now. (Photo Credit: Associated Press)

“Goodbye, nut jobs!” -What John Boehner quite possibly could be thinking right now. (Photo Credit: Associated Press)

Alright, the headline is slightly misleading, since outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, didn’t actually quit the Republican Party, but his surprising resignation, nonchalant attitude at his press conference, and subsequent trashing of fellow Republicans and conservative groups, like Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, seemed to indicate a man who could no longer stand what’s become of his beloved party. The Republicans are in disarray, helped by a huge swing to the far right, allowing fringe elements to infect the party at almost every level, leaving establishment members like Boehner little choice by to take a lifeboat to safety.

Boehner isn’t the first high-profile Republican to essentially jump ship in recent years. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell–a lifelong Republican–famously endorsed President Obama not once, but twice, and chastises his party (he still considers himself a Republican) often on television. Longtime Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switched parties not long after Obama’s election, and others are sure to follow. Not all will take the same or similar routes pursued by moderates like Powell or Specter, but Boehner is not the first and nor will he be the last big Republican name to call it a day.

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Enjoy tonight’s debate, but beware rampant anti-intellectualism

85As the countdown for tonight’s Republican debate enters its final hours, American politics—and to a greater extent–America stand at a crossroads. After nearly seven years of Barack Obama’s stoicism and “Mr. Spock” approach to governing, a cast of characters so illogical, over-emotional, and downright anti-intellectual will grace the stage in Cleveland, Ohio. They will no doubt castigate Obama’s legacy as president, lambasting every policy, executive action, and statement ever uttered by the two-term president. For this group of candidates, they are not looking toward the future, but a way to bring the nation to a screeching halt before putting the car in reverse.

The prospect of reversing the nation is truly terrifying. The country remains at the precipice on a host of defining issues that could make or break these United States. Climate change, unabated economic, social, and racial inequality, and the prospect of continued ground wars in west Asia must be addressed by Obama’s successor and thus far, every Republican firmly stands in opposition to any progress made over the last six and one half years.

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Crawling

Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?

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This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.

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Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.

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Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I know..it’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

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Allow me to leave you with this:

progress

The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

Birtherism Lives On

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

Section 1 of Article Two of the United States Constitution sets forth the eligibility requirements for serving as president of the United States:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Guess who just released his birth certificate? Canadian-born Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). He did this as a proactive step should he decide to run for president in 2016, which looks more likely by the day. However, because his mother was an American citizen, he automatically received American citizenship status as well as Canadian. I don’t know. I’m not convinced. I think we need much more proof, especially since Mr. Cruz was born in Canada. (Of course, I’m joking.)

220px-Ted_Cruz,_official_portrait,_113th_Congress

However, it does point to the fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and his mother was an American citizen, so even if he weren’t born in the country, which he was, because his mother was a citizen (like Mr. Cruz’s mama) he has always been an American citizen. President Obama has released the short and long-form versions of his birth certificate. (FYI – My birth certificate is less detailed than the President’s short-form one.)

There is further proof of Barack Obama’s American citizenship in Honolulu newspapers published in 1961: his birth announcement. Yes, there is a public record. Still, it is highly annoying that even today there are those who just won’t let up and see his election as some vast conspiracy orchestrated fifty years ago. Where do people come up with these ideas?

Interestingly, “natural-born citizen” was not defined in the Constitution written in 1787, though its meaning has been debated over the centuries.  From Wikipedia: The Naturalization Act of 1790 stated that “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens”. (Act to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, 1st Congress, 2nd session, March 26, 1790, 1 Stat.L. 103 at 104, 2 Laws of the U.S., ed. Bioren & Duane (1815) 82 at 83.) This act was superseded by the Naturalization Act of 1795, which did not mention the phrase natural born citizen.

If one were to adhere strictly to the Constitution, utilizing the term “natural born citizen” in its most basic form meaning to be born in this country, Mr. Cruz is disqualified from the presidential electoral process and stands no chance of becoming president.  If he were to run in 2016, this could be a huge barrier for him to overcome. Yes, that previous statement is a joke because in reality, we know there will be no push back regarding his citizenship unless his Tea Party pals scrutinize him the way they have Barack Obama, which is highly unlikely. Furthermore, Democrats won’t have the stomach for that fight, knowing it is an inane path to pursue anyway.

I thought that after the 2012 election this nonsense would disappear, and it seemed to for a while. However, recently the question of President Obama’s validity as the leader of our country has arisen again from the fringe right. Protestors in Florida held birther signs greeting the president during a recent visit to that state, and the ever classy, erudite Ted Nugent is back spewing his anti-Obama attacks as well.

For some real fun, visit Birther Report.  I had some laughs. Sadly, these people are dead serious. Oh, well, this is what makes America, America: we have freedom of speech and because of that, we can espouse views and publish information as facts no matter how outlandish or untrue.

Oh, and by the way, last night, Ted Cruz announced he would be renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Oh, the pressure…

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Getting your story straight: Mitt Romney edition

Mitt Romney is in the news again. Contain yourselves.

I encourage you to read the entirety of this fascinating article.

There are two things that stand out to me upon initial reading.

  1. First, this:
    “At that Christmas gathering, the family took a vote on whether Romney should run. . . Even some of Romney’s closest political advisers might have been surprised. When the family members took a vote, 10 of the 12 said no. Mitt Romney was one of the 10 who opposed another campaign. The only “yes” votes were from Ann Romney and Tagg Romney.”What was going on in Mr. Romney’s mind here? He opposed his own campaign before it started?This, to me, is not so much a criticism but a curiosity of our human nature.Perhaps I’m being too charitable. So be it.It’s truly a mind-boggling vote.
  2. “When Romney had mentioned his “lousy September,” it was an evident reference to what may have been the low point of his campaign: the “47 percent” video. He was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,’ ” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’ . . . It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived — as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat.As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.”You mean that you were insensitive to a whole group of people? I asked. “Right,” he responded. “And I think the president said he’s writing off 47 percent of Americans and so forth. And that wasn’t at all what was intended. That wasn’t what was meant by it. That is the way it was perceived.” I interjected, “But when you said there are 47 percent who won’t take personal responsibility — ” Before I finished, he jumped in. “Actually, I didn’t say that. . . .That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.””
    Emphasis mine. I truly have no response. This is the most mind-boggling comment from Romney since, oh, the hilarious and inane “Binders Full of Women” gaffe.This insistence of his also seems to be an out-right lie.We’ve all seen the notorious 47% video.  It lives forever.

 There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right—there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. …And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

And as charitable as I try to be, these opposing quotes by Romney indicate that he will not take “personal responsibility” for his own words or actions.

Excuse me, I need to get back to work so I can be “personally responsible” for not being able to afford health insurance STILL, but making sure my family is fed, housed, and maybe I’ll make phone calls to friends on my Obamaphone so I don’t bang my head on the desk thinking about how out of touch this man–and so many others in POWER–are.

Running Errands: Looking for Plan B

There is, to my knowledge, only one video on youtube that I’m in:

Watch it. You’ll see me. And a lot of my friends.

If you didn’t catch it, HHS Sebellius and the Obama Administration were ordered, by a Judge to make the Morning After Pill (“MAP” or “Plan B”) truly over the counter for people of all ages. No ID need be shown. Not hide the pills behind the counter, but in the “family planing section” where condoms are.

I wrote about Obama’s failure to comply in early May.

About a week or so after, participated in one of several flash mobs you can see in the video above.

The Obama administration decided to obey the Order from the Judge, and make Plan B OTC, no restrictions.

We were told it would take a month or so for the companies that make Plan B to change their packaging and also allot the stores time to make room on the shelves for Plan B.

Fair enough.

That month is over. And I’ve had to run errands that either require I stop at a pharmacy or pass by a pharmacy.

I decided I was going to start checking out a pharmacy a day to see if Plan B/MAP was, in fact, OTC as it’s legally supposed to be.

The first pharmacy I stopped at, I couldn’t find the MAP in the family planning aisle. I approached the pharmacy, noticed during my brief wait, I noted that there was no Plan B behind the counter. When it was my turn, I inquired where I could find Plan B.  A courteous pharmacy tech walked me to the family planning aisle, and seeing that they had apparently sold out, quickly asked that it be restocked. He then showed me–rather proudly–that this particular store also had it in the snack food aisle (I laughed. Milk Duds and MAP anyone?) as well as displayed very prominently in the beauty section, neatly stacked next to nail polish and mascara.

I thanked him for his help and began to leave. “Did you want to buy, um…anything?” He gestured to the box he was holding of emergency contraceptive.

“Oh no, but thank you. I’m okay, I was just checking to make sure it was available over the counter.”

He smiled, we wished each other a good day, and I left surprised that this one chain pharmacy had done such a great job complying with the law.

I stopped at another pharmacy, with my elementary-age daughter. It was actually in a grocery store, and we were getting juice. I saw the pharmacy and thought, “Let’s see what they have.”

In the family planning aisle, I noted not only the lack of MAP, but that there wasn’t even a space on the shelves. We went to the pharmacy.

A tech, who already looked annoyed, asked “What do you want?”

I asked, “Why don’t you have Plan B over the counter and out in the family planning section?”

He perked up (I can’t figure out why?), and asked me to wait a moment. He dug around the shelves in the back, and pulled out a box of emergency contraception.

“We haven’t gotten the right packaging for over-the-counter sales yet. It was supposed to come this week, but….” He quickly searched the computer. “…looks like it was delayed until next week.”

I thanked him for his help.

Most pharmacies in my totally unscientific survey are stocking the MAP properly–it’s near the condoms and tampons. I thought the pharmacy stocking EC in three places was rather impressive. The beauty aisle made sense–there’s a separate check-out there, and it’s almost always run by a woman. The snack aisle? I don’t know, I’m still laughing to myself over that. But kudos, Walgreens. You surprised me.

Also worth mentioning: the pharmacist on duty heard me ask where MAP was on several occasions. One woman put her right fist in the air. Every single pharmacist was supportive, non-judgmental, and helpful.

This is only reflective of a few places in a blue-city in a red-state. (Okay, we’re purple, but since Rick Scott (Republican) is governor, we’re red as far as I’m concerned.)

I wish everyone could have such good, non-judgmental experiences obtaining medications they may need.

NSA Surveillance, Data Mining, Security, and Civil Liberties

“Congress is full of hypocrites. Liberals who criticized Bush are less incensed with Obama. Republicans who bowed to Bush are now blasting Obama. The next time your congressional representative criticizes Obama for curbing civil liberties, ask if he or she would vote to repeal the Patriot Act, the post-911 law that handed unfettered power to the intelligence and military bureaucracies. Most won’t.”  ~ Ron Fournier, “Welcome to the Bush-Obama White House: They’re Spying on Us (National Journal)

The trend of leaking government classified information continues. Last week we discovered that Verizon has been sharing customer phone data with the government: when and where customers’ phone calls are placed and to whom, though we are told the content of these calls are not being monitored. The next day it was revealed that the National Security Agency has been mining user data under its PRISM program from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and PalTalk. These companies strongly refute this claim, but then again, they must save face with their customers.

America’s surveillance state began decades ago but has picked up steam over the past twelve years. The war on terror has coincided with technological advances that make surveillance and information gathering so much easier than in previous decades. This twelve-year project has been a bipartisan effort—with very few detractors. Presidents Bush and Obama, both parties in Congress, federal judges and lawyers, and communication and technology companies have all worked together to create a vast surveillance infrastructure.

Proponents of the current national security measures argue that they are necessary, they have kept Americans safe, they are legal, and it is the “leakers” of classified information that pose a big threat to America’s security. Opponents, on the other hand, see this as a massive government overreach, intrusion of privacy and civil liberties, weakening of democracy, and further erosion of trust in government. Both sides have valid arguments, which is why this is such an important conversation for the American public to have with their leaders.

And it’s not only the government. As Michael Lietke wrote in the Huffington Post:  “It’s such a rich vein of information that U.S. companies and other organizations now spend more than $2 billion each year to obtain third-party data about individuals, according to Forrester Research.” Corporations are gathering data on us as well.

Americans are being cyber-stalked by advertisers. Ever notice how a product or service that you have searched for or purchased suddenly appears on website pages you read online? That doesn’t happen by accident. This is the result of data mining. The Internet knows your product preferences, services you utilize, restaurants and other establishments you frequent, who your friends are, and a whole cornucopia of other information relevant to your life.

This is a bit unsettling; or perhaps it’s not to some people. Americans love their technology.  Is it any wonder that this recent NSA revelation, unlike the  IRS’ (a universally despised institution) scandal, has received a collective yawn?

1984I plucked my copy of George Orwell‘s 1984 from my book shelf to read again; it’s been a while. Walter Cronkite wrote a special preface to this book in 1983 (Orwell published it in 1949). Here is some of what Cronkite wrote:

1984 is an anguished lament and a warning that we may not be strong enough nor wise enough nor moral enough to cope with the kind of power we have learned to amass. That warning vibrates powerfully when we allow ourselves to sit still and think carefully about orbiting satellites that can read license plates in a parking lot and computers that can tap into thousands of telephone calls and telex transmissions at once and other computers that can do our banking and purchasing, can watch the house and tell a monitoring station what television program we are watching and how many people there are in the room. We think of Orwell when we read of scientists who believe they have located  in the human brain the seats of behavioral emotions like aggression, or learn more about the vast potential of genetic engineering.

And we hear echoes of that warning chord in the constant demand for greater security and comfort, for less risk in our societies. We recognize, however dimly, that greater efficiency, ease, and security may come at a substantial price in freedom, that law and order can be a doublethink version of oppression, that individual liberties surrendered for whatever good reason are freedoms lost.

Cronkite wrote those words thirty years ago; they remain eerily relevant today. How much government intrusion are we willing to allow in order to be safe? Do the terrorist threats truly warrant as much surveillance as we are being told is needed? Some experts say the terrorist threat is overstated, even going back several years. Read this 2008 article from the Cato Institute and this one by John Mueller in the September/October 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs.

National security is important, protecting state secrets and classified information is also important, but balancing security with civil liberties and transparency is critical to preserving the freedom Americans claim to so highly value. The time for this national discussion is past due.

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