Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let the good times roll . . .

Listening to the rhetoric during the election campaigns, you'd get the impression that Democrats are "tax and spend liberals" and Republicans are "for small government and reducing taxes." How accurate are those labels and doesn't this whole concept beg a larger question.

Are working Americans better off financially under Republican administrations or Democratic administrations. How would you measure the difference? Tax rates, wages, level of regulation, strength of the dollar, the spending power of your income? What has happened to the wage-earner's income under the two scenarios?

1) Write down your answers, then read:


2) After reading the article, share your reactions and make comparisons.

Click on Comments to make it happen.

Spread the Wealth

With accusations that Sen. Obama is a socialist because he suggested that those with net incomes of over a quarter million can afford more taxes and thus spread the wealth around, I'm curious about your reactions.

1) If you're collecting Social Security and using Medicare, where is the money coming from?
2) For those who hate the liberals and all the havoc they've created, are you willing to forego Social Security (1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt) and Medicare (1965, Lyndon Johnson)?
3) What would you propose in place of these two programs?
4) If your retirement funds are in a managed account (401k for example), share your post-economic meltdown insights.
5) Is a progressive tax structure a tool of socialism?

Click on the Comments button, let it all hang out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Anti-American Views

I can't begin to string together -- at least with any coherency -- the logic fragments tossed out by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) in which she tried to establish her credibility as a voice of the new right. The launch of this offensive came in the form of pointing out that, in effect, anyone who didn't see things her way was guilty of having very anti-American views.

( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axf81ck_O-E )

Well, what are anti-American views? If I catch her drift:
- Raising taxes on the wealthiest citizens appears to be an anti-American viewpoint even when we are involved in two wars and the budget comes up so short as to double the national debt in 8 years time.
- Saying it is one's patriotic duty to pay your taxes.
- Considering it a worthy proposition that all Americans have access to quality health care seems to be an anti-American viewpoint.
- But it's not anti-American to eavesdrop on the phone calls between a serviceman and his spouse and family.
- It's not anti-American to use water-boarding as an interrogation technique so long as it is the CIA and not the US Army doing it.

Well, you can probably come up with a couple of supplemental or contrary points that would be worth pondering. Feel free to add your thoughts. Click on 'comments' below.

P.S. Oh, that Rep. Bachmann has as close a relationship with her constituents as she insists Sen. Obama had with Bill Ayers.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Most Liberal Senator

We've heard it stated many times during this campaign that Barack Obama has the most liberal voting record of any US Senator. This ranking was done by the National Journal.

Here are some details to provide more context:
1) The tally is for 2007; his ranking was 16th in 2005 and 10th in 2006.
2) Strange as it sounds, Barack Obama had a higher conservative score (4.5) than John McCain.
3) Three senators do not have scores for 2007 because they missed more than half of the rated votes in an issue area: John McCain, R-Ariz., who was running for president; Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who was recuperating from a brain hemorrhage and returned to work on September 5, 2007; Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., who died on June 4, 2007; and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who was appointed to succeed Thomas on June 22, 2007.
4) Coincidentally, Sen. John Kerry was also ranked most liberal when he ran for president.

Reminder: McCain has chided Obama for voting "present" while in the Illinois State House, but has himself missed so many votes in the US Senate that his voting record could not be ranked by the National Journal.

Here are a sample of the bills that earned Senator Obama the ranking of Most Liberal:

1) Voted to establish a Senate Office of Public Integrity to handle ethics complaints against senators.
2) Voted against reapealing the federal minimum wage and giving states the authority to set minimum wages.
3) Voted for final passage of a bill implementing the 9/11 commission's homeland-security recommendations.
4) Voted to approve legislation reauthorizing and expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
5) Voted to prevent Mexican Trucks from operating on most US roads.
6) Voted to require longer rest periods for US troops sent to war.

Source: National Journal's 2007 Vote Ratings.

Thoughts, reactions, reflections welcome.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Presidential Signing Statements

A signing statement is a written pronouncement issued by the President of the United States upon the signing of a bill into law.

There is an ongoing controversy concerning the extensive use of signing statements by President George W. Bush to modify the meaning of laws. In July 2006, a task force of the American Bar Association described the use of signing statements to modify the meaning of duly enacted laws as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers".[1]

While it is in theory possible for other executives to issue signing statements, there is no record of notable signing statements by anyone other than an American president.

Excerpt from a New York Times article:

These things create uncertainty in the law that should not be there,” Mr. Cooper said.

The White House has defended Mr. Bush’s use of signing statements as lawful and appropriate. But in 2006, the American Bar Association called the device “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.”

Mr. Bush has used the signing statements to assert a right to bypass more than 1,100 sections of laws. By comparison, all previous presidents combined challenged about 600 sections of bills.

Additional resource:

Current thinking in the White House makes it pretty clear that the President of the United States is above the law -- at least the parts of the law that pose impediments to the preferred modus operandi.

- Should the president be free to pick and choose which parts of the law he/she is going to uphold?
- If not, what should the consequence be.
- If so, does this put us on the path to a monarchy, dictatorship or theocracy?

Click on "comments" below and share your views.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Foreclosure and Eviction

The Sheriff of Cook County, IL is refusing to evict people from their homes based on notifications from the banks. This position comes after realizing that many of the evictions were of people who were current on all their bills and were living in a rental property. It was the owner of the property who was in default, not the tennant!

Proposition: In situations like that stated above, what do you think of the idea of having the government purchase that mortgage at the current value of the property and let the renter take over payments on a path to ownership? The person who has been diligent in payments is rewarded; the person who took the gamble and lost is in fact the loser.


Click on "comments" below and weigh in.

Angry Voters

In my opinion, this campaign is getting dangerously nasty. A story on MPR/NPR yesterday stated that in the last month, 100% of McCain's TV ads fell into the "negative" category and a third of Obama's did as well. The difference, according to the researcher, was that the negative ads of the McCain campaign attacked the character of his opponent while the negative ads of Obama's campaign attacked the ideas of the opponent.

1) We know that in the past, at least, negative campaigning has proven a good stategy for the Republican party.
2) There is still time for McCain to come back and win the election.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on:
- What will be the long term impact of the nasty tone that is coming out of McCain's rallies in the past couple of days? (Reference in particular to 9 Oct 08)
- If your rallies are getting people so worked up that those in attendance are making threats of violence against others, what is the leader's role in that situation.
- Is this getting to the point of "I can't win this thing, so I'm going to inflict as much damage as possible."

Click on "comments" below and add your thoughts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Bush Doctrine

Part III: Taking on the questions that stumped the Republican VP candidate.

While some are crying "Foul!" and making accusations of "gotcha journalism," let's have you weigh in.

What is the Bush Doctrine?

Now, I hope you have the advantage of having seen the discussion and are thus "prompted" to know the correct answer. Let's go a bit further and explore what it means to America's status in the world and under what situations it should be practiced.

Post your comments by clicking on, well, the Comments link below.

Taking on the Supreme Court

Part II: Taking on the questions that tripped up Gov. Palin in recent interviews.

Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, seemed to draw a blank when asked to name even one Supreme Court decision with which she disagreed -- other than Roe v Wade -- which she had just discussed in the interview.

Now it's your turn. With which Supreme Court decisions do you disagree, and why?

Click on the Comment link below and share your wisdom.

Where do you get your information?

Are you among those thinking that the press has been unfair in its treatment of the Republican candidate for Vice President?

Let's take up the questions (one at a time) that tripped up Governor Palin in recent interviews:

What do YOU read when you are looking to keep current with events around you and in the world. How do you gather the information you need to be a well-informed voter?

Click the Comment link below and share your thoughts.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Palin 1

Qualified? Unqualified? Is Gov. Sarah Palin qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency when the Pesident is already 72 year old?

Bailout 1

Now that the vote has failed in the House of Representatives, give your reaction to the plan.

Starter questions:
  • Was it targetted at the problem?
  • Was it a well crafted bill?
  • Was it another one of Bush's "Trust me!" initiatives?

Share your thoughts by clicking on the Comment link and putting your response in the popup box.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Social Security

Given what is happening to our financial systems and the volitility of the markets on Wall Street, how do you feel about the concept of privatizing Social Security.

Items for discussion:
  • Is privatization a good idea or bad idea?
  • Should your retirement funds simply reflect what is going on in the economy?
  • If Social Security were privatized, how should/could your retirement funds be protected from the current woes on Wall Street?
  • Should Social Security be preserved in its current form if it can remain solvent?
Share your thoughts. We're all getting older waiting for the right answer! Click the comments link below and pass on your wisdom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The World of Cosmetics

So, how do you feel about putting lipstick on pigs? (Or testing eye shadow on rabbits, or for that matter, A1 Sauce on hamburgers?)

Weigh in on the Republican charge that the Democrats are being sexist by referring to McCain's policies being so similar to Bush's that it is simply putting "lipstick on a pig."

  • Is it sexist when Obama says it about McCain's policies but not when McCain says it about Sen. Clinton's policies?
  • What's the link between pigs with lipstick and pit bulls with lipstick?
  • Does Gov. Palin have a trademark agreement regarding references to the word "lipstick?"
  • Do you wish everyone would grow up and get back to the issues?

How about making a silk purse out of a sow's ear? Share your thoughts through the comment link.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Experience and Leadership

Each of the four people on the two tickets has "experience" -- and they are touting that experience as evidence of their qualification for president. Those experiences include legislative experience, military experience, administrative experience, community organization experience, and personal life experience.

Quite frankly, we all have experience. That doesn't automatically mean that our experience translates into qualification for the kind of leadership that is required to be the head of state.

From your perspective, what are the leadership qualities that you expect to see in the person who will be the President of the United States? Then, what experience is critical in preparing for that role, what is helpful, and what is irrelevant?

Considerations for discussion:
  • Do you want your leader to be like you or to inspire you?
  • Should their rhetoric be truthful even when campaigning to friendly audiences?
  • Is it important how the world see the leader of the U.S.
  • Should the President inspire fear around the world or command respect?

Looking forward to your thoughts! Click the comments link below to add your voice.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Can My Candidate Relate to Me?

Every political candidate wants to be perceived as being able to relate to you. Phrases like "I understand what you're going through," and "I feel your pain," are not uncommon.

Notice: I'm going to pick on the Republicans here for a second because I just watched three nights of speeches at the RNC so they're a fresh and easy target -- and it should trigger some conversation.

Item: Senator McCain was raised in a military family, went to a military academy, spent twenty some years in the military, and since then has been in elected office.

Item: For her speech at the RNC, Cindy McCain wore an outfit onto stage that was valued at around $300,000. (http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2008/09/cindy-mccains-300000-outfit.html)

How do these two items impact your tinking on the question of "Can My Candidate Relate to Me?" Is is necessary to share at least some common experiences or circumstances in order to be able to "relate" or "identify with" the candidates.

What are you thinking about this?

Considerations for discussion:
  • How important is the candidate's personal background and current situation to their ability to relate to you?
  • Does the candidate's background and current situation influence your support for them?
  • Given the complexity of our American culture, how important is the candidate's background to their ability to empathize with the American condtion?
  • What kind of background is valuable in dealing with the wide range of cultures around the world?

Thanks for wrestling with these questions. Feel free to suggest items for discussion through the comments area.

Sam's-Club Voters

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, one of finalists for the Vice President spot on the Republican ticket, likes to say that John McCain will appeal to the "Sam's Club" voter. What do you think that means?

Considerations for discussion:
  • Do you shop at Sam's Club?

  • Does that give you anything in common with other people who shop at Sam's Club?
  • Is that a valid label?

  • What planks in the McCain platform appeal to this group?

  • Why Sam's Club and not Costco?

I'm looking forward to your responses.

Small-Town Values

The phrase "small-town values" was used quite a few times in the speeches during the recent political conventions. It is assumed that we all have a common understanding of the phrase and that it is a completely positive thing. When asked to articulate just what is meant by the phrase, however, many people struggle to articulate a response.

Considerations for the discussion:
  • How do you define small-town values

  • What virtues, qualities, etc. are included

  • What aspects of "city values" are excluded

  • Are they unique to small-town people or are they also found in a broader category of persons

Thanks for taking the time to wrestle with this definition.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Energy Plan

The price of gasoline recently dropped over 50 cents per gallon in our area. Crude oil has dropped from a high of $148.50 to $106.60 today. According to the analysts, the drop in prices was due to the sudden reduction in consumption and possibly a correction among the speculators.

If you could write a comprehensive energy policy, how would you construct it? More drilling for oil, more electricity from nuclear power, incentives for consumer level solar and wind initiatives? Give it your best shot. Make our country energy self-sufficient in the next 10 years.

  • It would appear that conservation can have a significant impact on the market.
  • Is $4.00/gallon the tipping point for consumers between consumption and conservation?
  • Benefits of new offshore drilling and drilling in Alaska are years from impacting the price at the pump.
  • What impact would a gas-tax holiday have on consumption and personal savings?
  • Should the price of gas be left to go wherever it wants and if you can pay for it, you get to consume it?
  • Should the federal government establish its own oil busines (exploration, production and refining capabilities) in the name of national security to protect the source and supply of petroleum for the Defense Department?

Thoughts? Click on the comment link below and share your

War on Terror

We've heard the statement that "we will win the war on terror." What does that mean?

  • Do we mean "terror" (the emotion) or "terrorism" the method of conducting conflict?
  • How can "winning" be calculated -- incidences of violence, number of deaths, etc.
  • How are the War on Terror, the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan linked? Can they be separated; do they have different objectives.

What are your thoughts? Click on the comments link below and share your ideas.

Why another blog?

We've been using various methods of sharing information about the upcoming election. Some of the information has been simply passed on to get a rise out of the reader. Some has been inflamatory and false. Neither of these methods are helpful in pulling together the necessary information to make an informed decision.

The purpose of this blog is to put issues on the table one at a time and get feedback -- with the understanding that there should be room for discussion among intelligent people realizing that it is OK to disagree. There is a personal value to be gained from stating a case and defending it to a group of peers who bring their own unique perspectives and life experiences to their judgements and positions. We may disagree because we have different core values or we may disagree because of the personal impact of an issue. In the end, if we can form a better understanding of why we feel the way we do about issues, we may be able to serve this diverse country of ours more effectively.

This is not a place to cut-and-paste what some talk show host says or for picking fights. If you can back up your information with reliable sources, provide a link to that content. I want to hear your thoughts on the issues, not what someone has told you you should think.

With that, let's get started! The first posting will go up on Friday, September 5. If you would like to suggest an issue for discussion, please submit it through the comments.