Friday, January 31, 2014

NOTICE

Just a reminder hat in a flurry of activity I posted three blogs for this morning. I call you attention to the third one; the New York Times editorial that counters the WSJ I posted yesterday.

Tomorrow I will post a little bit of nostalgia, but expect little activity over this weekend, If need be for something special I will post.

THAT SOTU ADDRESS



After considering some of the inflammatory verbal comments at Council meetings and those sent as comments to my blog; I would hope that any remarks I make about President Obama and the SOTU will not be considered by anyone as racist.


Yes I found his 2014 SOTU speech uninspiring and disappointing. 

The fact is that it may be so because I have been disillusioned by the Presidency of the man, that convinced that the United States had come of age, I voted for in 2008; and somewhat reluctantly again in 2012 because then I had felt that he had not taken full advantage of his golden opportunity to collaborate and advance the benefits of this nation’s religious, ethnic and political diversity in a time of great social and economic upheaval.


It seemed that much of his actions have tended to isolate himself from those who did not agree 100% with him.


But that is not the avowed subject, “My take on his SOTU address”.


Due to television the annual SOTU has become just a presentation of well-organized pageantry. It matters not what the political party the President belongs to; on cue during the speech all the members of his party stand up and applause and all the opposition sit stone-faced. There are exceptions when such icons as “God”, the country as a whole , or an individual that the President recognizes as a particular example for a point s such as a wounded veteran is pointed out; then the entire chamber stands.


Of course the Vice President always stands and claps at the right time, while the speaker of the house if belongs to the opposition sits and scowls. In Bush’s days that was Nancy Pelosi. 


The circus does not change, but this year’s speech was marked by promises to do by executive order what Congress refuses to act upon.



The first media commentary that I could read came from Great Britain’s third largest paper, the Manchester Guardian.  Excerpts from its comments sum up the speech:

"The primary focus of President Obama's State of the Union was to position his 2014 agenda around wielding the power of the presidency through the use of executive actions.


It's a (perhaps overdue) reflection of political reality and a contrast to the way he's implored Congress to act on his legislative priorities in previous SOTUs -- typically coming up empty-handed. With his own approval ratings down and base-driven midterm elections on the horizon, Obama has disabused himself of the prospects of enacting grand bargains here and bipartisan comprehensive solutions there.


"America does not stand still – and neither will I," Obama declared in the thesis-defining lines of his speech. "So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do”

“His plan to sidestep congressional opposition by governing through executive action has drawn predictable howls of "tyranny" from the opposition.”

“The most publicized action that the White House unveiled on Tuesday was to raise the minimum wage among federal contract workers to $10.10. The practical effects of this change - how many federal contract workers are earning minimum wage, exactly? - may be minimal. The move does set up a marker for the Democratic midterms, though, on which a legislative proposal to raise the minimum wage for all workers to $10.10 is becoming the banner campaign item - along with immigration reform, the other issue where Democrats hope to box in Republicans”


Obama has been accused of violating the Constitutional principle of separation of the Administrative, Legislative, and Judicial branches of our Government.


"By the numbers, Mr. Obama has so far been restrained in his use of executive power. He has signed just 168 executive orders, and the 147 he issued in his first term were the fewest of any President over a similar period going back at least a century. In their first terms, George W. Bush signed 173 executive orders, Bill Clinton 200 and Ronald Reagan 213." (the Times)


Yet as that Reactionary Senator from Texas has written; “the numbers matter less than the scope of the ones that are signed. Mr. Obama has unilaterally deferred deportation of younger illegal immigrants, delayed enforcement of his health care law and declined to defend legal challenges against the Defense of Marriage Act, a law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages”. of course in the WSJ.


And the most important one exempted the members of the Congressional staffs from complying with the mandatory provisions of the ACA.


The speech was a vague threat that in the end may not stand up in court to Constitutional challenges.

Unfortunately unless there is a sudden change in policies in all of Washington we are going to be doomed to a year of pre-election posturing with the only action being one that benefits the re-election campaigns.


Yes the SOTU presentation was just once again only a part of Washington’s annual “show and not tell.”



  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

PETE SEEGER TRIBUTE




Somehow I accidentally hit PBS.com on my computer; don’t ask me how. But I was able to stream with some interruptions Thirteen’s updated to 2014 presentation at 10:30 pm Friday (1/31) tribute to Pete Seeger.

It was an hour well spent. Do watch it

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

Pete Seeger helped introduce America to its own musical heritage, devoting his life to using the power of song as a force for social change. With his deeply-held beliefs, Seeger went from the top of the pop charts to the top of the blacklist and was banned from American commercial television for more than 17 years. This first and only authorized biography of Seeger premiered on PBS in 2008

Channel 13  10:30 pm Friday Jan. 31



Pete Seeger passed away on January 27th, 2014 at the age of 94. THIRTEEN and American Masters present a special in memoriam broadcast of the 2008 documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, Friday, January 31, at 10:30 p.m and Saturday, February 1st at 2 p.m.
This film documents how the Seeger helped introduce America to its own musical heritage, devoting his life to using the power of song as a force for social change. Standing strong for deeply-held beliefs, Seeger went from the top of the pop charts to the top of the blacklist and was banned from American commercial television for more than 17 years. This determined singer/songwriter made his voice heard and encouraged the people of the world to sing out with him.
What did Pete Seeger – the person, his music, his message or his death, mean to you. Share your thoughts on Pete Seeger below.

THE TIMES EDITORI AL

Thursday morning I posted a Wednesday editorial from the often far Right Wall Street Journal.
On Thursday the left of center New York Times printed this editorial.

"The Farm Bill Could Have Been Worse
Few bills of real substance emerge from today’s polarized Congress, and those that do tend to be misshapen lumps. They have enough useful provisions to win approval from Democrats, but are weighed down by the dangerous and occasionally bizarre demands of the many branches of the Republican Party.

That’s certainly the case with the $956 billion farm bill that passed the House on Wednesday with bipartisan support. It seems headed for approval by the Senate and the White House in the next few days. It makes some of the most significant reforms to wasteful agriculture subsidies in many years, and it contains dozens of important provisions designed to increase employment in rural areas and save lives with farsighted crop research. It preserves some important environmental protections, while cutting others. And though its food-stamp provisions were saved from being much worse, they will still reduce benefits for too many poor people.

On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years. It will save $16.6 billion over a decade, or $23 billion if you count existing budget cuts imposed in the last two years. But endorsing the bill also means acknowledging the low expectations for real progress in Washington.

The most important reform in the bill is the elimination of direct payments to farmers, which provided cash subsidies in good years and bad, whether crop prices were high or low. This program was one of the worst abuses in the federal budget, and negotiators in the House and Senate should be commended for overcoming intense lobbying to preserve it, thereby saving $19 billion over 10 years.
To protect farmers from disaster in bad years, the bill moves $7 billion of that savings into a beefed-up insurance subsidy program, which is a better way of reducing risk. But that program is still too generous to big farmers. As the Environmental Working Group argues, the subsidies should have been means-tested. Reducing the insurance program’s size might have paid for more food stamps.

Negotiators took an important step by linking crop insurance subsidies to requirements that farms meet environmental standards, including soil conservation and wetlands protection. But a few smaller conservation programs were eliminated, and the overall amount spent on conservation was cut by $4 billion.

The bill also pays for research to improve crop yields and reduce plant disease that could have an important effect in developing countries, along with energy-efficiency programs and new manufacturing opportunities in agriculture-related businesses.

The most painful cut in the bill is the $8 billion reduction in food stamps over a decade. The effect of this is limited to 4 percent of recipients, or 850,000 families, who would lose about $90 a month. Most of them live in the 16 states that have taken advantage of a loophole in a utility-assistance program, receiving benefits that Congress did not intend. That loophole should have been closed, but not in such a precipitous way for needy families.

Nonetheless, the bill’s authors rejected the far worse cuts in the original House bill, which would have tossed 3.8 million people from the program. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues, rejecting the farm bill means rolling the dice that the next Congress will do a better job. In today’s environment, that’s a tough bet."

I read both papers to get a consensus opinion on many of the issues instead of a biased one. Of course like all of us my own tainted views do influence my final interpretation, and I expect that to be the same with you.