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American Voters Continue Their Perpetual Fiscal Immaturity

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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As Congress heads towards a battle over the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget, spending, and raising the ceiling on the National Debt, a new poll from The New York Times demonstrates once again that the American public has no clear idea what it wants when it comes to fiscal policy:

As President Obama and Congress brace to battle over how to reduce chronic annual budget deficits, Americans overwhelmingly say that in general they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program. And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security or the nation’s third-largest spending program — the military — a majority by a large margin said cut the Pentagon.

While Americans are near-unanimous in calling deficits a problem — a “very serious” problem, say 7 out of 10 — a majority believes it should not be necessary for them to pay higher taxes to bridge the shortfall between what the government spends and what it takes in. But given a choice of often-discussed revenue options, they preferred a national sales tax or a limit in the deduction for mortgage interest to a higher gasoline tax or taxing employer-provided health benefits.

Americans’ sometimes contradictory impulses on spending and taxes suggest the political crosscurrents facing both parties as they gird for debate over how to address the fiscal woes of a nation with an aging population, a complex tax system and an accumulated debt that is starting to weigh on the economy.

None of this is really a surprise, of course. Back in December, there was another poll that similarly showed that the American appetite for sacrifice in order to deal with a problem that pretty much everyone agrees in unsustainable was virtually non-existent. And, of course, the proposals put forward by the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission after the midterm elections fell flat with the pubic, and with Congress.

So once again we learn that the public still has not gotten the message that everyone is going to have to sacrifice if  we are going to deal with the fiscal problems facing governments at all levels in this country. From the left, the means accepting that the entitlement state as we’ve known is unsustainable and that we aren’t going to solve our problems merely by taxing the rich. From the right, it means accepting the fact that the defense budget is not sacrosanct, that a foreign policy of perpetual war is fiscally unsustainable, and that, yes, we’re going to have to raise some taxes on some people for awhile.  For the American middle, it means accepting the fact that they can’t continue refusing to make the choices necessary to get us back on a sustainable path. For all of us, it means accepting the fact that it’s largely our fault we’re in this mess. We put the people in office who created this leviathan. We told them we wanted lots of benefits from Washington but that we didn’t want to pay taxes. We’re the ones who  stood by and said nothing while Congress spent money the government didn’t have. Now, it’s time to fix it. It’s going to be painful, but not nearly as painful as it will be if we let this continue until things get even worse than they are now.

When the Bowles-Simpson plan was released after the elections, I said this:

If we lived in a country with adult political parties, the release of the Commission’s report would serve as the beginning of a long overdue national conversation about how to get our fiscal house in order. Liberals would recognize that social spending would have to be cut, and conservatives would recognize that defense spending cuts and tax increases would have to be on the table. Instead, what we’re likely to see is more of the same political gamesmanship — liberals accusing the GOP of wanting to starve Grandma, conservatives accusing liberals of just wanting to raise taxes so they can spend more. And the debt will continue to rise.

At some point we’re going to be forced to deal with these problems, but it’s not going to happen until we start feeling the pain that we could ward off if we’d just grow up already

So far, I’m seeing very few signs that it’s happening.




Outside the Beltway

End of the Kalashnikov? Will Russia Buy American or French Rifles?

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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Some purists in the Russian military are aghast at comments by the Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov that Russian small arms are outdated,  including the Kalashnikov and the Dragunov SVD sniper rifle. As Pravda reports:

“Mr. Serdyukov stated that the Russian small arms had become outdated, and added that Russia could purchase small arms from abroad after it was decided to acquire Mistral helicopter carriers from France. What do Russian professions think on the subject? ’Foreigners admit that Russian small arms are one of the best in the world. Just show me a foreign rifle which would compete with a Russian one on all specifications, including the integrity level. How would a soldier feel in combat action if his rifle, which is widely, albeit unreasonably advertised as more accurate, would unexpectedly malfunction? The main problem here is that Russia does not have anyone to work in the gun-making industry because of low salaries. Purchasing small arms from abroad can entirely destroy the industry in Russia,” gun designer Dmitry Shirayev told Pravda.Ru.

So will they buy America?  Or, possibly, French rifles? They did recently sign a ship deal with the French…

Big Peace

New Proposal To Speed Teacher Conduct Cases Praised By American Federation Of Teachers

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Ken Feinberg

Today, Ken Feinberg — who has, among other things, overseen the compensation fund for the BP oil spill, administered the 9/11 victims compensation fund, and examined compensation packages at bailed out banks on behalf of the Obama administration — outlined a new procedural framework for adjudicating teacher misconduct cases, at the request of the American Federation of Teachers. As Feinberg wrote, the proposal is meant to streamline due process producedures for “objective allegations of teacher wrongdoing such as criminal offenses in the classroom, abusive practices toward students, and discrimination.”

At the moment, it takes far too long in many school districts to complete an inquiry into teacher misconduct and, if necessary, dismiss a teacher for wrongdoing. In New York, for instance, the process can take as long as 18 months. An L.A. Times investigation found that “building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don’t make the effort except in the most egregious cases.” Feinberg’s proposal aims to dramatically shrink that timeframe:

This proposal sets forth a procedure for addressing issues of teacher discipline designed to be both fair and efficient. The process is tailored to provide specific notice of allegations that can be addressed and resolved in a manner consistent with fairness and due process within a period of no more than 100 days…This procedure for teacher discipline does not provide for an appeal by either party from the decision except what is provided by state law.

An expedited timeframe would help to both ensure that teachers who truly committed acts of misconduct worthy of dismissal can’t hang around in the school district for months, and quickly clear the name of teachers who were wrongly accused. “On first review, Ken Feinberg has developed a thoughtful and common sense approach for addressing accusations of teacher wrongdoing — a rare but serious problem in schools,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a template for a process that is fairer and more efficient than the laws currently on the books.”

Importantly, the proposal also differentiates between dismissals that have to do with conduct and dismissals for ineffective teaching, the latter of which, Feinberg noted, raise “an entirely different set of issues for another day.” As Robin Chait explained, “districts should have a separate process for dealing with unprofessional conduct and inappropriate behavior. Districts should not invest scarce resources in a remediation plan for teachers who have been excessively late or absent, for example.”

Wonk Room

New Proposal To Speed Teacher Conduct Cases Praised By American Federation Of Teachers

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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0

Ken Feinberg

Today, Ken Feinberg — who has, among other things, overseen the compensation fund for the BP oil spill, administered the 9/11 victims compensation fund, and examined compensation packages at bailed out banks on behalf of the Obama administration — outlined a new procedural framework for adjudicating teacher misconduct cases, at the request of the American Federation of Teachers. As Feinberg wrote, the proposal is meant to streamline due process producedures for “objective allegations of teacher wrongdoing such as criminal offenses in the classroom, abusive practices toward students, and discrimination.”

At the moment, it takes far too long in many school districts to complete an inquiry into teacher misconduct and, if necessary, dismiss a teacher for wrongdoing. In New York, for instance, the process can take as long as 18 months. An L.A. Times investigation found that “building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don’t make the effort except in the most egregious cases.” Feinberg’s proposal aims to dramatically shrink that timeframe:

This proposal sets forth a procedure for addressing issues of teacher discipline designed to be both fair and efficient. The process is tailored to provide specific notice of allegations that can be addressed and resolved in a manner consistent with fairness and due process within a period of no more than 100 days…This procedure for teacher discipline does not provide for an appeal by either party from the decision except what is provided by state law.

An expedited timeframe would help to both ensure that teachers who truly committed acts of misconduct worthy of dismissal can’t hang around in the school district for months, and quickly clear the name of teachers who were wrongly accused. “On first review, Ken Feinberg has developed a thoughtful and common sense approach for addressing accusations of teacher wrongdoing — a rare but serious problem in schools,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a template for a process that is fairer and more efficient than the laws currently on the books.”

Importantly, the proposal also differentiates between dismissals that have to do with conduct and dismissals for ineffective teaching, the latter of which, Feinberg noted, raise “an entirely different set of issues for another day.” As Robin Chait explained, “districts should have a separate process for dealing with unprofessional conduct and inappropriate behavior. Districts should not invest scarce resources in a remediation plan for teachers who have been excessively late or absent, for example.”

Wonk Room

The Decline of American Economists

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Frances Woolley offers us the latest sign of American relative decline:

This time, though, it’s mostly the Europeans rather than the Asians who are catching us.


Yglesias

Tonight’s “Quintessentially American” State Dinner: the Menu, the Decor, and the Music

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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225 guests will be treated to a “Quintessentially American” evening at tonight’s state dinner in the White House, the third of the Obama administration, honoring China’s President Hu Jintao. The theme highlights America – which the White House says this…



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Political Punch

Prestowitz: Chinese goose and American gander

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Chinese
President Hu Jintao’s arrival in Washington yesterday was accompanied by the
announcement
of the imminent signing of a major joint venture between General
Electric and China’s state owned Avic to produce sophisticated avionics
(airplane electronics) in China for sale to Chinese and other airplane
producers.

No doubt
intended as a way of pouring oil on the troubled waters of U.S.-China trade
relations by demonstrating mutually beneficial cooperation between U.S. and
Chinese industry, the announcement instead demonstrated precisely why the
waters are troubled.

Let’s start
with GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. About a year ago, in the course of a
dinner he thought was private, Immelt complained that China is a miserable
place in which to do business. It was bent on expropriating GE technology and
made selling in China very difficult if not impossible unless a company also
produced in and transferred technology to China, he opined. A few months later,
Immelt spoke of having an epiphany about the dangers of off-shoring too much GE
production. In the GE annual report, he wrote of the need for and his intent to
put more investment in the United States and to bring some of GE’s foreign production
back to America.

But the
announced deal will take things in the opposite direction. The investment and
production will be in China and the technology (much of it initially paid for
by U.S. tax payers and the Defense Department) will be transferred from the
United States to China, thereby enabling China’s aviation industry to move more
quickly toward its goal of overtaking the U.S. and Europe in commercial and
military jet production.

So what’s
going on? GE’s Vice Chairman John G. Rice put it bluntly in commenting on the
fact that China is expected to buy $ 400 billion of airplanes over the next
twenty years: "We can participate in that or sit on the sidelines. We’re not
about sitting on the sidelines." Rice added that: "This venture is a strategic move
that we made after some thought and consideration with a company we know. This
isn’t something we were forced into by the Chinese government."

Okay, but
why can’t GE sell to that big market without a joint venture with a state owned
Chinese company? Why can’t it just make the avionics in the United States and
export them to the Chinese aircraft makers and airlines? After all, China doesn’t
have this technology right now. So GE is a lower cost and infinitely more
sophisticated producer than Avic.

Well, one reason might be that if GE doesn’t
do this deal, another avionics maker might. But hold it. That has to mean that
the Chinese are effectively making access to this big market conditional on
producing in and transferring technology to China. So who is Rice trying to
kid. Maybe the Chinese government didn’t call him up and shout directly over
the phone that "Mr. Rice we command you to do a joint venture with Avic and to
transfer your technology and production to China." But Rice is not as dumb as
he thinks we are. He was afraid that if he didn’t produce in China, he wouldn’t
have a chance at the business.

And Immelt
did say that he had cleared all this with the U.S. Departments of Commerce,
Defense and State.

But that
raises an even more interesting question. Will we be hearing of any joint
ventures between U.S. and Chinese companies that will transfer Chinese
technology and Chinese based production to the United States? I’m sure your
guess was "no." And you’re right. But why don’t Obama and his Commerce, Defense,
and State Departments make it clear to the Chinese that if they want to sell in
the U.S. market they need to produce something here and transfer some
technology here? China is way ahead of the U.S. in the production of solar
panels for example. This is a technology being fostered by the Obama
administration. Why not get the Chinese to help us in solar panels just as
Immelt and GE (with the apparent approval of the Departments of Commerce,
State, and Defense – and the White House) are helping them with avionics?

After
all, isn’t what’s good for the Chinese goose also good for the American gander?

FP Passport

Oliver North’s “American Heroes in Special Operations”

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Full Disclosure:  I was asked by the publisher of the latest book by the team of retired Marine LtCOl Oliver North and former Army Ranger and helicopter pilot Chuck Holton to give it a review.  Besides given a copy for review, I also happen to admire Ollie North and the work he has done in his military career and in the media.

Ollienorthbook
Green Berets, SEALs, Rangers, PJs, TACPs, Force Recon Marines and more all come to mind when we use the term “Special Operations.”  Most of you here know that some of the authors at BlackFive have spent considerable amounts of time in that group at the tip of the spear.  And most of you are familiar with many of the stories of the valour of the Special Operations Forces (SOF).

Essentially, in “American Heroes in Special Operations“, the team of North and Holton have taken their “War Stories” television series from FoxNews and turned the stories about our SOF warriors fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan into an incredible book.

I did say that it born out of the “War Stories” series, but this book is not like anything you’ve seen on TV.  In my opinion, in “American Heroes in Special Operations“, North and Holton give you more information than some of their reports contained.  High quality glossy photos (some personal photos never published before), quotes, notes, 3D terrain imagery and maps abound in this book about many, MANY, of the men and women you’ve read about here in our Someone You Should Know series or on Pundit Review Radio’s segment with me or with McQ on Sundays on WRKO in Boston.

Another difference between the book and the television series is that it chronicles the fights in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the last nine years.

One more thing, when you think of Special Operations Forces, do you think of the CIA and the DEA?  There’s a whole chapter on the valour of those two agencies personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Heroes in Special Operations” is testament to the courage and commitment of our SOF men and women – I don’t think that there is a better collection of stories chronicling their fight against terror and oppression.  While I knew a lot of the MORE THAN 3 DOZEN stories in the book, there was plenty in the book that I had not known or seen before…especially, the photos and imagery, and the work of the civilian agencies overseas, in the fight.

Slickly produced, beautifully bound, truthfully told, and guaranteed to make you proud, “American Heroes in Special Operations” is highly recommended.



BLACKFIVE

Has The American Dream Drifted North? (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Has The American Dream Drifted North?
by Tina Dupuy

Imagine a handsome young family complete with kids living in a stylish two-story home in a quiet neighborhood. The parents work quiet middle-class jobs. Dad is a city bus driver. Mom is a secretary. Their house is brimming with consumer goods: a couple of mammoth-sized televisions, a drum set for the kids and high-end furniture. Mom’s closet is bursting with her ample wardrobe. Dad has a motorcycle. Combined they make just under $ 90,000 a year.

They are being featured on a show running on CNBC, now in its ninth season called Til Debt Do We Part. And like most people on television shows, they have a problem and they need to go on television to fix it. Apparently Mom and Dad have been heavy-handed with their credit cards. They owe $ 60,000. The matronly host Gail Vaz-Oxlade gently lays down the law: They have to live within their means. Pay down credit cards. Pay into a savings account. Save for their children’s education. The message this self-proclaimed Dollar Diva has for the couple is they are drifting apart and debt is the culprit.

Gail puts up on the screen the family’s budget, what they spend on whatnot a month. Their housing expenses for their posh suburban home are a reasonable sum. Their transportation costs are relatively low. Dad has to sell the motorcycle. Mom has to spend less on clothes. The parents need to spend more time with each other. All problems are then solved.

While watching this program I was amazed at the lack of grit for a reality show. This is no Hoarders airing dirty laundry and years worth of neglect and filth. This is a couple with a standard of living far better than any I’ve ever seen for what they do for a living. It’s like they’re Alice and I’m the one Through the Looking Glass.

Then Gail handed the couple a wad of bills to illustrate they were going to be paying for things in cash from now on. The money? Canadian. These are Canadians. Their budget is manageable for one because they’ve chosen to not buy supplemental insurance and rely on the government to provide all of their health care.

This couple and most of the couples on the show don’t pay for health care out of their family budgets. The average family in America spends around $ 15,000 a year or around 22% of their income on health care. That amount will apparently pay most of a mortgage on an enviable home in the greater Toronto area.

Most notable, the show doesn’t delve into any sob stories about getting diseases and therefore having debt. There are no staples of the only-in-America saga of losing your health, then your health care and then your house (there’s a fix to this in the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare that has yet to go into effect). The debt is all from spending money on things they want. Simply because they want them. Which makes these spendthrift Canadians seem more American than Americans.

It’s the way Americans want to see ourselves; careless, reckless, Wild West, rogue spenders buying everything because we can. Buying is our birthright. It’s freedom. Freedom of a free market – which makes even a 33% APR sound liberating. Of course we’re more along the lines of Wal-Mart sharecroppers, completely at the mercy of colossal businesses with fewer choices and even less power muttering to ourselves that at least we aren’t slaves. It’s the land of the free. Someone told us so.

Are Canadians living the American Dream?

When did Canadians out Norman Rockwell us? From the perspective of my couch they seem to be living very well with the evils of socialism. Canada consistently outranks us in quality of care and that impacts our quality of life. They have lots of guns and low gun violence. Their banks didn’t cause a housing bust so their economy is comparatively doing fine.

Plus, call me paranoid, but I think they’re looking down on us.

© Copyright 2010 TinaDupuy.com Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and fill-in host at The Young Turks. Her column is licensed to run on TMV in full.


The Moderate Voice

Has The American Dream Drifted North? (Guest Voice)

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

Tags: , , , , ,

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Has The American Dream Drifted North?
by Tina Dupuy

Imagine a handsome young family complete with kids living in a stylish two-story home in a quiet neighborhood. The parents work quiet middle-class jobs. Dad is a city bus driver. Mom is a secretary. Their house is brimming with consumer goods: a couple of mammoth-sized televisions, a drum set for the kids and high-end furniture. Mom’s closet is bursting with her ample wardrobe. Dad has a motorcycle. Combined they make just under $ 90,000 a year.

They are being featured on a show running on CNBC, now in its ninth season called Til Debt Do We Part. And like most people on television shows, they have a problem and they need to go on television to fix it. Apparently Mom and Dad have been heavy-handed with their credit cards. They owe $ 60,000. The matronly host Gail Vaz-Oxlade gently lays down the law: They have to live within their means. Pay down credit cards. Pay into a savings account. Save for their children’s education. The message this self-proclaimed Dollar Diva has for the couple is they are drifting apart and debt is the culprit.

Gail puts up on the screen the family’s budget, what they spend on whatnot a month. Their housing expenses for their posh suburban home are a reasonable sum. Their transportation costs are relatively low. Dad has to sell the motorcycle. Mom has to spend less on clothes. The parents need to spend more time with each other. All problems are then solved.

While watching this program I was amazed at the lack of grit for a reality show. This is no Hoarders airing dirty laundry and years worth of neglect and filth. This is a couple with a standard of living far better than any I’ve ever seen for what they do for a living. It’s like they’re Alice and I’m the one Through the Looking Glass.

Then Gail handed the couple a wad of bills to illustrate they were going to be paying for things in cash from now on. The money? Canadian. These are Canadians. Their budget is manageable for one because they’ve chosen to not buy supplemental insurance and rely on the government to provide all of their health care.

This couple and most of the couples on the show don’t pay for health care out of their family budgets. The average family in America spends around $ 15,000 a year or around 22% of their income on health care. That amount will apparently pay most of a mortgage on an enviable home in the greater Toronto area.

Most notable, the show doesn’t delve into any sob stories about getting diseases and therefore having debt. There are no staples of the only-in-America saga of losing your health, then your health care and then your house (there’s a fix to this in the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare that has yet to go into effect). The debt is all from spending money on things they want. Simply because they want them. Which makes these spendthrift Canadians seem more American than Americans.

It’s the way Americans want to see ourselves; careless, reckless, Wild West, rogue spenders buying everything because we can. Buying is our birthright. It’s freedom. Freedom of a free market – which makes even a 33% APR sound liberating. Of course we’re more along the lines of Wal-Mart sharecroppers, completely at the mercy of colossal businesses with fewer choices and even less power muttering to ourselves that at least we aren’t slaves. It’s the land of the free. Someone told us so.

Are Canadians living the American Dream?

When did Canadians out Norman Rockwell us? From the perspective of my couch they seem to be living very well with the evils of socialism. Canada consistently outranks us in quality of care and that impacts our quality of life. They have lots of guns and low gun violence. Their banks didn’t cause a housing bust so their economy is comparatively doing fine.

Plus, call me paranoid, but I think they’re looking down on us.

© Copyright 2010 TinaDupuy.com Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and fill-in host at The Young Turks. Her column is licensed to run on TMV in full.


The Moderate Voice

American Sauce: Three(+) things others could miss

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 18-01-2011

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Washington (CNN) – Following the Tucson shootings and the one-week pause in Congress, this is now the first week of legislative action by the new Republican House. A week to watch closely. Below, we’ve listed three things others might miss.

This is also a significant week for American Sauce and our mission to put substance above political haze. You can now see what we do and how we do it in a video. It looks nothing like regular TV news. Click here to watch.

What else to watch this week?

1. The other health care bill – Yes, we will have at least seven hours of debate over HR 2, the bill repealing the Democrats’ health care law. And there will be a collective Republican yawn when it passes the House. But, that’s not the vote that could truly change policy or reveal how the GOP will lead.

WATCH: HR 9. This is the Republican bill which directs four major committees to come up with their own ideas and a Republican answer to the health care bill. Among other things it asks for proposals that lower premiums, increases the number of insured and protects those with pre-existing conditions.

READ: HR 9 can be read at http://bit.ly/iicaFE. It’s a short 2-page instruction list to committees crafting new health care bills.

READ: HR 2 is at http://bit.ly/fUHLIO. That’s the repeal of the health care law, with the oversized “we’re in power now” title. Also a quick read.

VIDEO: Also, did we mention we have a new video for American Sauce? Check it out.

2. Tax reform taking form – The House Ways & Means Committee is eager to earn its pay and is kicking off the great tax reform debate with a first hearing this week.

WATCH: House Ways & Means hearing on problems in the current tax code.

When: 9a ET Thursday.

Where to Watch: It should be streamed. Go to http://waysandmeans.house.gov on Thursday. Also try C-SPAN3.

I’m in DC and hate the internet/C-SPAN: Go to 1100 Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill

3. Cutting the waste, literally – Tuesday the House is set to vote on the “Stop the OverPrinting” bill, which apparently begins its mission to save ink by dropping a space between “Over” and “Printing”.

This is a notable bill for several reasons: it ends the mandatory printing of all bills and resolutions for members of Congress and it requires the government’s printer to only make them available to members in electronic form. This idea, applied to just one version of last year’s health care bill, would save over a million pages.

WATCH: The House planned to vote on this bill Tuesday. Watch on C-SPAN.

READ: HR 292, the “Stop the OverPrinting” bill can be found at http://bit.ly/i8xr6T

Finally, One more plug for our video. We truly believe it’s time to step back from the Washington DC blame game. American Sauce is our attempt to inject more knowledge and substance into the mainstream. But we are just starting out.

Give the video a look.

Or listen to our latest show, in which we got past the pontifications and spoke with actual, otherwise rational people who use extreme speech. We dug into what we know about discourse, not what people think about it. Listen here:

And above all, post your comments here. We want your thoughts to make this as good as it can be. (Note: Lisa is aware she needs a hair cut.)


CNN Political Ticker

American Sauce: Getting specific on heated political speech

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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Washington (CNN) – More than a week after the Arizona shooting, senators and congressman are, at least slightly, changing how they talk about and interact with each other. The seating chart for the State of the Union address has become a nascent map for bipartisanship.

But what specifically have we learned about political discourse?

In this week’s American Sauce, CNN’s Lisa Desjardins profiles two individuals who wield razor-sharp words against one another in the fight over illegal immigration. And, looking big picture, she works with a professor who has devoted his career to studying extreme speech, asking him if there is any way to measure the tone today.

Click here to listen or keep reading.

Arizona State Professor Steve Corman studies speech that could incite violence, specializing in the words used by Islamic extremists. In society as a whole, he says there is no firm measure of anger or hatred in speech, but he sees clear evidence the tone, and concern about it, has shifted. Corman points to studies focused on the Internet, which imply that the Web breeds personal attacks and disdainful speech. In addition, Corman notes that four new centers have been established to study public discourse. But how does this affect unbalanced, potentially violent, individuals? Do higher levels of rage come naturally from difficult, tense issues? Or is it the level of sharp speech in general, the tone in society, that can incite violence?

Corman’s answer: “It’s more the manner in which debate is conducted than, I would say, the issues.”

To hear more from Prof. Corman and to listen to our talk with two men who use sharp, angry words as part of their activism, click here.

You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.


CNN Political Ticker

American schools more segregated today than when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; his school is 57 percent poor and 27 percent white.

Overall, a third of all black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black and Latino.

Read Dana Goldstein on how the Obama administration — and, I think, the education reform movement more generally — is and isn’t addressing this problem.







Ezra Klein

President Obama: What’s With the Native American Blessings?

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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In the minutes after the Fort Hood massacre at the hands of Nidal Malik Hasan, Americans waited to hear from their president, who was scheduled to speak at the Tribal Nations Conference. Hundreds of American Indian leaders were on-hand to hear Barack Obama support them publicly. He vocalized that support before expressing remorse over the Jihadist massacre that left 14 dead and 32 wounded; in the nearly two minutes prior to even mentioning Fort Hood, Obama astonishingly gave a “shout out” to Tribal historian Dr. Joe Medicine Crow.

Days after the horrendous Safeway massacre in Tucson which left 6 dead and 13 wounded, a Memorial Service was held at the University of Arizona. Prior to Obama’s speech, a man named Carlos Gonzales gave an American Indian blessing but in the more than two minutes before he got to it, he told the audience all about himself; it was Obama-esque.

During Gonzales’ blessing, he called on people to honor eastern, southern, western, and northern doors before praying to “Father Sky” and “Mother Earth,” who provide “masculine” and “feminine energy” respectively. He then called on attendees not to forget “our fellow creatures” which included those that “slither on” and “live under” the earth.

Of the six people who were killed at the hands of Jared Loughner, five were Christian and one was Jewish. Federal Judge John Roll was a devout Catholic and nine year-old Christina Taylor Green used to sing at her Catholic church. The prayer and sentiment expressed by Gonzales is antithetical to Christianity and Judaism. The Book of Genesis isn’t kind to creatures that slither and talks of man having dominion over all of earth’s creatures, not praying to them.

While visiting Turkey in 2009, Obama declared that America is “not…a Christian nation.” What clearer manifestation of that claim could there be than to have an American Indian prayer given at a memorial in which none of the deceased belonged to that heritage or faith? All however, subscribed to faiths that consider the Book of Genesis to be part of their Holy Scripture.

At Fort Hood, Obama showed insensitivity toward the victims with his “shout out” and his administration exhibited hypersensitivity toward the shooter’s religion, all in the name of diversity. In Tucson, contempt was shown for the faiths of the deceased victims in the form of a pagan prayer, thereby demonstrating a complete lack of diversity and respect for those faiths.

In the Declaration of Independence, Our Founding Fathers accused King George of using “merciless Indian savages” to excite “domestic insurrections” among the colonists. In light of Obama’s seeming contempt for our founding documents, should the similarities between the handling of the Fort Hood and Tucson massacres be viewed as completely coincidental?

Giving him the benefit of the doubt has become a tired exercise.

Ben Barrack is a talk show host on KTEM 1400 in Texas and maintains a website at www.benbarrack.com

Big Peace

The Essence of American Politics Captured In One Photo

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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Here’s a photo that perfectly captures the essence of American politics. It features a young boy, a wooden dummy and a human dummy.

The Essence of American Politics


The Moderate Voice

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