Category: National

Serious doubts on Syria

By , August 27, 2013 6:45 pm

wmdThe drumbeat to military action in Syria is pounding away and getting louder each day. Officials claim that there is strong evidence of chemical weapons being used on civilians.

I’m not much for conspiracies. Show me evidence and I’ll consider it. Lacking evidence I go with common sense until good information comes along. Despite assurances from the United States and a number of other countries that the Assad government used chemical weapons – I’m very doubtful about it.

Back to that common sense thing. Syria is winning the war against the rebels. The US has been very clear that our line in the sand was chemical weapons. Assad knows that the use of *any* WMD would bring an immediate response from the US military. It is simply not in his interest to use them — in fact it would be downright stupid to do so.

It does appear the weapons were used – so who did it? The only answer that makes sense is that the rebels used it themselves to provoke US military involvement. Although that sounds hard to believe it actually makes more sense. Assad has nothing to gain from chemical weapons – the rebels do.

The thing that still needs explaining is why the US is poised to get involved. Maybe the evidence does point to Assad. Maybe Obama is seeking to curry favor from McCain and other partially cooperative/sane republicans. Maybe international pressure to stop the slaughter is building up. I don’t know. Getting involved in Syria is not in US interests. Neither was war with Iraq but we did it anyway.

My gay SCOTUS thoughts

By , June 27, 2013 7:54 am

The rainbow flag

The rainbow flag

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled on two gay marriage cases. The first one is the simpler of two.

This is important – I consider gay marriage to be the defining civil rights issue of our time.

DOMA ruling
Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA – specified that the federal government did not have to provide benefits to same sex spouses. Today’s ruling strikes that provision. It does not say that people have the right to a same sex marriage – only that the federal government must provide benefits to their spouses if they are legally married under state law.

This ruling is no suprise to me and I’m glad it went the way it did. DOMA Section two remains in place. That basically says that a state does not have to recognize a same sex marriage that happened in another state.

Proposition Eight ruling
This case to me was the one that had the potential to put the gay marriage argument to rest once and for all. It did not quite reach that level, but it is a step forward. The case and its ramifications are significantly more complicated but I’ll take a stab at summarizing it.

In 2008, California passed Proposition 8 – a change to California’s constitution which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. US District Court ruled in Perry V Schwarzenegger that Prop. 8 violated equal protection provisions in the Fourteen Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel agreed with the decision.

The state did not appeal the decision. Supporters of Prop. 8 appealed the decision themselves and eventually Hollingsworth v. Perry came to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS ruled that parties who brought the suit did not have standing to appeal the previous rulings on Prop. 8.

The crux of the matter
Since SCOTUS did not rule directly on Prop. 8 it means that current federal case law as stated in Perry v Schwarzenegger stands. That case law says that same sex marriage can not be made illegal because doing so violates due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. States that currently have bans on same sex marriage will keep them until they are individually challenged in court. Eventually one of these dam buster cases will make it to the Supreme Court – a pure appeal of a state law or constitution clause that bans same-sex marriage. Yesterday the court punted on saying that directly.

In a nutshell – denying gay people the right to marry is a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The states with bans on same-sex marriage are standing on very shaky ground that is likely to collapse beneath them.

Have a gay day.

My City of Boston

By , April 16, 2013 3:19 pm

“The boarded up windows, The empty street, While my brother’s down on his knees, My city of Ruins”, Bruce Springsteen wrote these lyrics to the song My City of Ruins in 2000 for a show he did for a benefit for Asbury Park. After he performed the song at the Tribute to Heroes concert in the aftermath of 9/11, the song took a whole new meaning. Bruce is and probably always will be my go to music selection when I need a quick fix to any mood I am in at the moment. I loved the song, but after yesterday, it resonates in a far different way than I had ever wanted to imagine.

Boston has always been my city. Growing up on the South Shore, Boston gleamed in the distance like the Land of OZ. It was the place where everything magical happened and wonder occurred. There were no professional baseball teams in smaller cities, concerts were not held in the suburbs, you wanted to do anything “fun” as a teenager growing up, you needed to go to Boston. I do remember my first recollection of going to the city with my parents. I was little and it was shortly after the famous stabbing death of a Harvard football player in the Combat Zone. I remember hearing about it on the news. I also recall my dad parking on Washington Street and pointing out that the Combat Zone was down the street. I remember this because I thought I was going to see tanks and soldiers in that part of the city. I had no idea that the Combat Zone had any other meaning.

As I grew, my parents allowed me to travel into Boston to explore the city and make it my own. We were fortunate that if we couldn’t get our parents to give us a ride, we had our choice; we could ride the T to Braintree or take the BAT bus to Ashmont. The ride on the bus was always filled with excitement to go to Boston. It was there I learned how to score a baseball game, how hot the Garden got during the summertime, that there was no cooler place on earth than Newbury Comics and that the greatest art museum is the Gardner. I witnessed my own British Invasion in the form of the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Halloween was never the same after experiencing Rocky Horror Picture at the Exeter.

As I got older, I would go to Boston every weekend to meet my now wife at Boston College. Together and with family and friends, we enjoyed the night like every college kid should. We went to clubs, to bars, to dives, enjoyed cold tea in Chinatown and continued to enjoy the city to the fullest. As we got older, the city has always been a time away. Boston is a place to bring the kids and let them have fun in ways possible nowhere else. The Swan boats, duck boats, JFK Library, Museum of Science, the Children’s Museum milk bottle and Fenway Park can’t be found just anywhere.

I started working full time in the city in the early 1990’s and have enjoyed every minute of it. I love just leaving the office and wandering over to Fenway, calling friends to say that I have tickets last minute to an event or meeting people for a beer after work. I freely admit that I hate the commute at times but the overall fun of working in the city has always outweighed the one drawback.

One other important point! Whenever I am away and am asked where I am from, I always answer Boston. Not to disrespect Middleboro or where I grew up but nobody knows the names of those towns. Everyone knows Boston. When you tell someone you are from Boston, one of two things happen. They will tell you that they have been there and name a place that they loved or they tell you they want to go and why. It never fails. Even with the most ardent of Yankee Fans!

That said; yesterday hit me in a way I never expected. I work at a Hotline that deals with the most horrible experience one can imagine. I have been parts of teams that have prepared and trained for events like this for quite some time. What hit me hard was the realization that my son and some other kids I know were afraid of Boston. That pierced me like a dagger through my heart. As I left for the office this morning, hearing him tell me to be safe bothered me in ways unimaginable yesterday morning. I want every kid to understand that Boston is magical and opens doors that we can never see in small towns. In my mind, it was my own version of Disneyland.

I will work my ass off to make sure those kids understand that we all lose if we are afraid! Not short term fear, we all understand that but we must live our lives to the fullest to crush whoever these cowardly bastards are. I REFUSE TO LET THEM TAKE MY CITY AWAY!

Two quick things to show all of you;
mycity1
In my job, I have had the great opportunity of my life to work with first responders. I admire and respect them. I also work a lot with the Boston Police Department. They did an outstanding job yesterday and made us all proud.

Secondly, I am still very much angry and filled with rage. I apologize for the profanity but this sums us how I feel perfectly!
mycity2

Watching the GOP train wreck

comments Comments Off on Watching the GOP train wreck
By , December 22, 2012 2:08 pm

When confronted with an unreal or horrifying scene, most people don’t want to watch but in the end can’t look away. The GOP is undergoing a meltdown that started – not coincidentally – with the rise of the TeaParty. The link in the previous sentence is a HuffPo article that very much sums up my feelings on this – feelings I’ve had for a long time.

Here is the short version: The TeaParty is strong enough and motivated enough to win a lot of primaries. More often than not, their candidates are too conservative to win. However some have won and there are enough in Congress that the GOP can’t govern without them. It is turning out that they can’t govern with them either. They are forcing the party into positions that are complete non-starters. Boehner and Obama have show willingness to compromise. The left doesn’t like the entitlement cuts but have signaled that they’ll play ball. The Republicans wouldn’t even support Boehner on Plan B – a plan that would raise taxes on people making over $1M. The TeaParty will NOT, NOT, NOT support any tax increases and so they have painted the party into a corner. There is NO CHANCE that a deal will be reached if it only includes spending cuts. None.

That’s current events. In the summer of 2011, the same cast of characters forced an artificial debt ceiling crisis that gave the economy a big hit. Virtually the entire field of GOP candidates for the 2012 presidential elections were so far to the right they could never win. The GOP lost several senate seats due to the crazy-right numbskulls who couldn’t stop saying dumb things about rape.

I’ve been unhappy with liberal hammering of Obama for offering modest cuts to entitlements. Here’s the big difference – Senate and House Democrats have made it clear that they don’t like the cuts – but that they would back Obama. Not so with the GOP and Boehner.

Here are some choice comments from the article:

And now the Republican Party is reeling from unbending fealty to its core principles.

Congress’ structure makes compromise essential, and the nation once lionized the 19th century senator and congressman Henry Clay as “the Great Compromiser.” But the modern Republican Party is heavily energized by the tea party movement, which sees compromise as a triumph of flabby pragmatism over courageous conviction.

All these threads weaved themselves into a knot late Thursday that strangled Boehner’s bid to position his party behind a tiny concession on tax hikes. Whereas Obama campaigned to raise tax rates on couples making more than $250,000 – a threshold he offered to raise in postelection negotiations – Boehner asked his House Republican colleagues to accept higher rates only on millionaires.

When an undisclosed number refused, Boehner had to abruptly send Congress home for the holidays and face reporters asking if he will lose his speakership.

The collapse of Boehner’s tax effort “weakens the entire Republican Party,” said Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, who is retiring after 18 years.

“It’s the continuing dumbing down of the Republican Party,” he said, “and we are going to be seen more and more as a bunch of extremists that can’t even get a majority of our own people to support policies that we’re putting forward. If you’re not a governing majority, you’re not going to be a majority very long.”

Republican consultant and writer Craig Shirley told The Washington Post: “The national GOP is now simply a collection of warring tribal factions.”

Obama said this week he realizes that many House Republicans “come from districts that I lost. And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right.”

Bring on the fiscal cliff

By , November 13, 2012 12:17 pm

Anyone can google and find out details about the fiscal cliff. Here is the short version: Unable to reach agreement on deficit reduction in 2011, Congress passed a law that takes effect on January 1, 2013. This law will raise taxes by around $500B (20%) through expiration of various tax cuts passed by Presidents Bush and Obama. A further $100B or so will come from spending cuts split between defense and discretionary spending (NOT social security). Economists are calling this a pending economic disaster. I call it a good start. The revenue increases and tax cuts in the fiscal cliff are needed and will never be achieved by Washington.

We currently have a deficit of around $1T and revenues of around $2.5T. Clearly unsustainable. Democrats want to increase taxes on the wealthy and Republicans are saying “no way”. After the election, Republicans are now agreeing to increased revenue that will come from modifying the tax code. So far they are still saying “No” to any increases on tax rates for the wealthy. The cuts to the military and other discretionary spending is controversial and would have difficulty passing as a “normal” bill.

Keep in mind that even if the allegedly extreme fiscal cliff happens, we will still have a deficit of around $500B per year.

I would advise Democrats to hold the line on tax increases for the rich and let the fiscal cliff happen if the GOP won’t play ball. After taxes have gone up for everybody, bills could be introduced to reduce taxes for the middle class. We would still have the $100B cut to defense and discretionary spending. Please don’t talk to me about the job creators. There is no good data showing tax cuts for rich people translating into more jobs. Oh but what about small business you say? The owners of small businesses are paid a salary. These taxes will effect their salaries not their businesses.

After falling off the fiscal cliff and dusting ourselves off, we can have a discussion about the other $500B in cuts that we still need. Me – I would take the $500B mostly out of defense and the rest through means testing of social security and medicare.

Update
I just saw this on Huff Po:

Top Democrats in the Senate have said they would be comfortable letting all the tax rates expire — as they are scheduled to do — at the end of the year, after which they will put together a tax cut bill that would re-establish the Bush-era rates for incomes below $250,000.

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