Mitch McConnell isn't making any friends on either side of the aisle lately. By definition of his obstructionist policies, the Democrats don't like the minority leader's determined actions to hold up nominees and bills facing full floor votes in the senate. It's that obstructionism that led Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option And plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.
Someone please explain to the minority leader how things work. We elect a President and he gets to make certain appointments. Then it's up to the Senate to decide if there's valid reason to not allow the chief executive to have his people. It's not for the opposing party (the losers) to deny the selections without a valid reason. Just not liking the President isn't one of those.
So now Obama's picks are sailing through the Senate. In the last ten days, more nominations have been approved than in the first 11 months of the session. The reason is simple. It's not the quality of the nominees. It's the lack of necessary votes by the minority to stop the elected President from doing his job and doing it the way he wants.
Now Mitch McConnell doesn't like Obama's selection of John Koskinen as IRS commissioner,. Notice I didn't say he objected to the nominee's qualifications, just this man's personality. Thus, we have a limited filibuster on the floor. This isn't going down well with Democrats who want to vote and go home, but it's also making the Republicans angry. Senators like Jim Inhofe.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, went so far s to display an enlarged picture of his family on the Senate floor and plead with colleagues to let him get out of town in time to celebrate his 54th wedding anniversary.
“I would sure like those 20 kids and grand kids [who] are waiting for me for a big dinner on our 54th wedding anniversary tomorrow night,” he said motioning to the photo of his family behind me.
“So have mercy, give us a break and let’s try to get this thing voted on and go home,” he added, referring to the Defense authorization bill, which has been held up as part of the year-end gridlock.
So Mitch has his hands full, even with his own people. But interestingly, look at the self-serving reasons Inhofe gives in wanting to go home. He wants to party with his family. He wants to celebrate his anniversary. He wants mercy -- a break -- so he can just get things going and go home.
Where was that kind of thinking when it came to shutting down the government? How about voting on the unemployment insurance extension? Wouldn't those effected people like to get going with their lives, too? Where was your compassion then?
It's easy to put the blame on Mitch. He deserves it. But there's enough to spread around. I hope Harry keeps the GOP obstructionists as long as it takes to do what the President was elected to do -- run a government with the people he wants doing it. News flash to Republicans, Obama won. It's over a year now and you're still making believe it didn't happen. Well that'll give you something to talk about when you're still in session over the weekend instead of sipping your toddies and singing carols with the family. Obstructionism's a bitch, or should I say, a Grinch.
McConnell, threatened with desertions from his GOP cohorts and Reid got together and with both sides wanting to go home for the holidays (how trite) an agreement was reached. The Republicans dropped their demand to use all of their allowed time to hold up votes and by mid-day today, all of the nominations and official business will be concluded. The last vote is scheduled for 1 PM EST.
The only casualty of this rush to the exits is the vote on the nomination of Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board. A final vote on her confirmation is now planned for January 6, instead of this Saturday evening.
Once again, it's Sunday's favorite talking heads GOP puppet John McCain who's running off at the mouth without really thinking of what he's saying. Along with his apology for overstating the significance of the Obama-Raul Castro handshake, McCain took to the winds with another tack.
This time it's the Obama White House not doing enough to find an American who disappeared while on a secret intelligence mission to Iran back in March of 2007. If you start first with the date, you'll find it's nearly two years before Obama was first inaugurated. If we're going to place initial blame on anyone, it should be the Bush Administration which had been in total charge of the CIA for over 7 years at that time.
Initially the report of American Robert Levinson going missing in Iran was that he was a U.S. citizen, a tourist. No mention was made publicly that he actually was a CIA spy. And realistically, getting caught is a routine risk these brave men and women serving in that capacity run. Though I'm not a CIA operative or know for sure, I've certainly heard through numbers of articles and documentaries that agents are told that their affiliation with "the organization" or "the Company" would be denied. So why the CIA didn't come forward to report US spy Robert Levinson went missing and is believed to be in Iranian hands makes a lot of sense.
Yet not to Senator McClain. According to Talking Points Memo:
McCain said he is confident the U.S. is doing all it can to learn what has happened to Robert Levinson, but he told CNN's "State of the Union" the CIA has not been forthcoming with the Congress about him.
With all the leaks the Congress is responsible for -- just look to Darrell Issa as a perfect example -- it's understandable sharing this kind of news with every congressperson is irresponsible. Maybe it was shared, but not with McCain or his committees. It might have been shared with others. Yet even if it wasn't disseminated, who do you point the finger at? I'd think the sitting president who in this case was George W. Bush.
The U.S. long has publicly described Levinson as a private citizen who traveled to an Iranian island on private business. McCain, R-Ariz., told CNN "the CIA did not tell the truth to the Congress" about Levinson.
As of this writing, the Iranian government actually has denied they are holding U.S. Spy, Levinson. and let's hope their right. It was only last week that the issue of Levinson being a CIA operative came to light:
An Associated Press investigation published last week found that Levinson was working for the CIA -- investigating the Iranian government. The U.S. long has publicly described Levinson as a private citizen who traveled to an Iranian island on private business.
How the AP got this info is something the CIA and perhaps congress might want to look into. But to have McCain going out on national television, taking away some deniability by the CIA on this man's true identity and his mission puts Levinson's life in a more precarious position. Frankly, it's irresponsible.
There still is no definitive proof of CIA sanctioned activity by Levinson.
After he vanished, the CIA at first told lawmakers he had previously done contract work for the agency, but he had no current relationship with the agency and there was no connection to Iran. However, in October 2007, Levinson's lawyer discovered emails in which Levinson told a CIA friend that he was working to develop a source with access to the Iranian government. The emails were turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which touched off an internal CIA investigation.
Three veteran analysts were forced out of the CIA and seven others were disciplined as a result of a breach of agency rules.
Well if Levinson went rogue, it was bad enough. Sharing that news with others was his risk. But when this info came to light, the CIA did what it was supposed to do. It notified Congress. More so, it took action by firing and disciplining those guilty of leaking this info or taking part in this activity. Now McCain joins the public fray. Perhaps an investigation sanction against the senator from Arizona is called for.
Darrell Issa, are you listening?
It takes a big (wo)man, not necessarily a good (wo)man, to admit he/she's made a mistake. John McCain this weekend proved he's that (wo)man. He's admitted what we've all known for years -- he means well, but is prone to exaggeration gaffs.
So in the spirit of fairness, I'm willing to say John simply got caught up in the moment, took some time to reflect on his own actions of the past and decided Obama's handshake with Raul Castro wasn't the disgraceful act of "appeasement" on par with the Neville Chamberlain/Adolph Hitler handshake. Time to get past that.
With that settled, I think it's about time that the US Government reconsider it's policy of sending McCain and usually his personal valet Senator Lindsay Graham on official "fact finding" trips to political 'hot spots' on behalf of this country. This hawk and his sidekick have never found a place where they didn't feel the US should make it a flashpoint for war.
They were early and multiply times visitors to Iraq where we escalated our efforts there -- remember the "surge" of troops?
They visited Syria and voted against Obama's using peaceful means to negotiate the chemical weapons disarmament.
McCain made a number of official visits to Israel where each time the middle east country announced increased anxiety over Iran which lead to threats of a possible unilateral Israeli strike on their warring neighbor. McCain went so far as to refer to then current Iranian leader this way according to NBC news:
McCain made a joke comparing Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a monkey.
The Arizona senator even more recently has been vocal on pushing new sanctions against Iran which would most certainly derail the peaceful efforts to negotiate a shutting down of the nuclear weapons development program in Iran despite pleas by Secretary of State John Kerry to allow unfettered negotiations to take place.
Now today we find McCain (without his Graham valet) once again off to a foreign land as an official envoy, this time in the rioting Ukraine.
In all these these cases, the McCain visits have turned out, by his actions once he returned, to be the opposite of our best interests. How many times must this old warhorse be sent to gather intel and report back? It's not as if his efforts have netted us any qualitative or even quantitative findings. He may be a good guy, and his military background -- at least in years spent as a prisoner of war -- is laudable. But like the accountant today who forgoes contemporary computer technology to prepare your taxes, he's slow, prone to human error and basically just out of it. He's got his old ways and refuses to change with the times. Rather than input data in a computer and have it instantly analyzed and metadata mined for multiple uses, he's still got the pencil, a paper spreadsheet (with coffee stains) and a hand-pull adding machine at his side.
We'll all be served when he finally signals his retirement. He doesn't need to be put out to pasture just yet, but he certainly doesn't need to be our eyes and ears on the ground surveying our next possible moves in volatile locations. He could help us best by passing on his knowledge in improving the standards of living and assistance to soldiers returning from service as well as issues affecting our growing aging population.
Internation diplomacy needs a bit more than just having served for a long time or a Senator singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
It takes someone who thinks before he speaks. What it needs is diplomacy, not mockery. And lately, Senator McCain has proven he's doting with emotional lust for one final battle, not one grand peace. Let's stop putting our worst foot forward. Let's start putting our best.
Maybe Rand Paul has a point. Yesterday he was all over the teledtubes promoting his philosophy that continuing, or rather extending, unemployment benefits is wrong. It's a bad path to take because it disenfranchises those people who are working so hard to make their bones. Why should someone, in his mind a lazy person, be rewarded for doing nothing.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday he opposes extending unemployment benefits for workers, arguing that it would be a "disservice" to jobless individuals.
"I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
Evidently collecting unemployment insurance payments, to the Kentucky senator, is a disservice to both the unemployed and the people who are fortunate enough to have a job. He claims it causes the working people to build resentment that others, the freeloaders, are being paid to do nothing while they have to toil away at their jobs for little more than the government tit the unemployed are being allowed to suckle.
So, the extension promotes injustice. I have to ask, to whom? To the person who's looking for a job but can't find one or to the person who finds part time work to survive but doesn't qualify for benefits?
Paul is right that there's a disservice, but here's where it really lies. This is what frosts most employees, the lucky ones with a full time job. It's the disparity between their hourly wages and executive pay.
Workers don't become disenfranchised by those out of work collecting unemployment. They're disgusted by the obscene money top CEO's are making, not to mention the perks that go along with their positions, compared to their meager wages.
Take a look at this list from FORBES:
1 John H Hammergren McKesson 131.19 2 Ralph Lauren Ralph Lauren 66.65 3 Michael D Fascitelli Vornado Realty 64.405 4 Richard D Kinder Kinder Morgan 60.94 5 David M Cote Honeywell 55.79 6 George Paz Express Scripts 51.525 7 Jeffery H Boyd Priceline.com 50.185 8 Stephen J Hemsley UnitedHealth Group 48.835 9 Clarence P Cazalot Jr Marathon Oil 43.71 10 John C Martin Gilead Sciences 43.19
Those are the top paid CEO's of 2012. Now if you're an average worker at one of these companies, say making $30/hour you'd be earning around $60,000/year. And not all that many companies average $30/hour, but go with it for a minute.
The average annual salary of these aforementioned ten CEO's is over $61.5 million. So if you think there's anyone making $60 thousand a year who's worrying about someone getting a weekly unemployment check for the maximum of 26 weeks for a total of $7800, you're off your Kentucky veranda rocker. Unemployment benefits aren't what causes jealousy and anger among working employees. Disgruntled employees are concerned about their pay and the incentive to work hard when their CEO's are making 1,025 times more than they're making. That's about $32,000/hour vs $30. You'd be angry too. But you'd put the anger where it belongs. On the corporate CEO rapists, not the poor and opportunity-less individuals. That's the real disservice.
Here we are facing Christmas season and the cold weather of the winter. Heavier burdens come our way during the winter months. Heating costs, warm clothes, hot food and higher risks from weather related illness and injuries. Here's what Rand Paul is leading a fight against -- a temporary reprieve for so many needy:
About 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans will lose federal benefits if Congress fails to reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which expires at the end of December.
Without congressional action, the most time that people could get would be six months of state unemployment benefits.
So hopefully Congress will do the right thing. It's not common for them to do so, but maybe the holiday feeling of "good will towards all men" will prevail. If not, we've failed our country once again. Believe me, if this was a bill to raise their salaries or strictly add to the defense budget, every conservative and hawk in the Republican party would be falling over themselves to be a sponsor of the bill.
Ignorance isn't covered under the Affordable Care Act as a pre-existing condition. Perhaps it should have been. You're about to see why.
In Georgia, the Peach State, they have a Republican State Insurance commissioner named Ralph Hudgens. One could make a pretty good argument that he would have a working knowledge of insurance, what it is and how it works. Now that's an assumption but I think we can grant that much. We're not edging out too far on a limb.
So when he tackles an insurance issue in his state, there's reason for the people of his state to listen. Or so you'd think. Back in August, he told people in his state that he would do everything in his power to be an obstructionist to the upcoming Affordable Care Act.
Earlier this week Commissioner Hudges took to the dais and told the audience that he was firmly against Obamacare. His main target was pre-existing conditions and why he felt that forcing insurance companies to provide coverage to those so afflicted was wrong. In his analogy, it's like calling a car insurance company the day after you've been in a car accident that WAS YOUR FAULT and asking for collision coverage. A purchase after the fact. So in essence, he's equating a pre-existing condition to being your fault.
Hopefully Karma is covered under his current plan. This week, after speaking out against Obamacare and it's pre-existing coverage, he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer. I'm not wallowing in that, by any means. It's terrible and I hope he can be treated and live a long life, though politically, I'm hoping he's not as lucky. Maybe he should consider this. Without the ACA going into effect January 1, 2014, his coverage would very likely be dropped and no other company would pick him up -- because of a pre-existing condition.
Hudgens was forced to swallow his words Wednesday after the Georgia Democratic Party circulated footage of him comparing pre-existing conditions to at-fault car wrecks. Making the case against Obamacare's requirement that insurers accept those with pre-existing conditions, Hudgens suggested that such conditions were the fault of those who have them, in the way a car accident is the driver's fault.
Now prostate cancer, to the best of my knowledge isn't the victim's fault unlike his car accident analogy. Now perhaps he'll temper his public displeasure with the healthcare law, maybe even come to embrace it, because Obamacare could be all that separates him from financial devastation.
This is the problem with the Republican unified opposition to the ACA. They just don't know what they're talking about. It's trying to fight a law that helps, not hurts so many. Illness or discovery of a condition can come at any time, at any place and at any age, to anyone.
Republicans are currently targeting young people, "the invincibles" as they are called, and telling them they don't need insurance. They're being encouraged to break the law and not sign up. That's wrong. Tragedy doesn't have a calendar or timeline. It doesn't have a calendar you can look at in advance. So, you carry insurance, just in case your number gets called, like Ralph Hudgens.
Just watch Commissioner Hudgens the day before he got his health news -- he's laughing and making fun with a horrible analogy between a car accident and Obamacare. I bet he's not laughing so hard now.
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Kuwaiti Citizen Detained at Guantanamo since 2002
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