Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here's a thought ... Let's stop funding campaigns

Seriously. Why is it at my tax dollars are used to fund someone else campaign? Maybe I support them, and maybe I don't so why do my tax dollars go to fund their campaigns?

This is not like being asked to pay taxes for something that I don't like but probably actually benefits me (like IRS agents or social security programs). This money is going to a private citizen so that he can for an office.

How is it in the public interest for the government to fund someones campaign? It's like it is propping a losing side, since if the candidate was popular enough, then they would be able to get donations from their constituents.

Why is this bugging me so much? Well a while ago I got spammed by the Dewitt Lacey campaign. Apparently, Mr. Lacey is running for Supervisor for district 10 here in San Framcisco. Now I do not know Mr.Lacey, and have no idea where the district is that the hopes to represent (hell barely know which district I live in). Furthermore, I am pretty sure that I did not ask to be put on his spam lit, bit there it was this afternoon in my inbox.

Anyhooo... In his email, along with trumpeting that he had been endorsed by SEIU, which I presume means he is a Democrat because I haven eve heard of a Republican being endorsed by SEIU, he crowed about how he finally qualified for San Francisco's campaign financing program. Not only that, but if I wereto give so much, then the City would match it 4 to 1.

Are you kidding me? The City runs in the red. We've goat litany of needed programs that are screaming for money, but we're going to finance someone's run for Supervisor.

We need to end this nonsense. You want to run for office, you pay your own way. Stop having my tax money go toyour campaign.your going to steal enough from me when you get to office anyways.

It sort of goes along with what I was talking about yesterday

see below.

(H/T to Last of the Few)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Week 2 of Dancing With The Stars Madness (TiVo Cooperated This Time, Yay!)

So no more hasselling the Hoff. Very interesting America. I would have thought you would have taken out someone else first. But there you go.

Leading off tonight is Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke doing the jive. He's a big guy. On Dancing With The Stars, this dance has rarely been that kind to a the big man, especially one with the nickname of the "Tank" who has a tendon injury. I like his attitude. Interesting choice of song by the producers (Tush). He's what I expect, heavy on his foot. And I wonder if he was supposed to catch Cheryl in the face with that kick over. Overall, nice routine. He was in time with the music, but not particularly bouncey. And there were no kicks and flicks, but I think that has to do with his limitations. Len was nice to him, but he pointed out something that most other athletes who are tall on this show don't ever get: he kept his steps small. I thought above the knees, he was fine. 21 was a little higher than I thought they'd give, but there you (I would have expected a 19).

Following up that was Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas doing my favorite ballroom dance, the quickstep. Another interesting song (Suddenly I See). She starts off right on his hip, good for her. Things start to get a little fuzzy as they head back up towards the stage where she gets off his hip. Nice spin turns, but then again, she is back in on his hip. The more open she gets in this dance, the more wrong it goes. The kicks and flicks did not go well and I think it hit her confidence a little since the last section was not nearly as crisp as the start. Bruno gets shouted down, but he is making valid criticisms pointing out there was good but there was bad. And then Carrie Ann does her best impersonation of Paula Abdul blithering on about her dancing. Len was generous, but then again he knows Michael Bolton is waiting to dance. The 19 was a little generous.

Brooke Burke note of the night: she is wearing a great dress. A significant improvement over the atrocity of last week's reveal show.

Brandy and Maksim. Its a train wreck waiting to happen. When will it start? Dancing the jive to some song that was a mystery to me. Brandy looking good in the naughty school girl outfit. Too bad she is lost out there and off beat. Her footwork is not crisp, its not to the right place and then Maksim threw in a solo. Was he trying to get Len to come down on her like the Wrath of Khan?  She is making Rick Fox look like he was bouncy. Can someone please explain the standing ovation she was given? That was a fracking disaster of a dance. Even Carrie Ann had to admit that there were problems. Ahh the train wreck seems to be starting, Maks threw her under the bus and she returned the favor to Len. Will someone please explain to me this score? Mrs. Angrybell is calling foul along with me because Fox's dance was better, yet got the same score. Are they trying to keep her on because they liked last week.

Michael Bolton and Chelsea Hightower drew the jive. The song is Hounddog. And Bolton comes across in the clips of the training as a whiner. Lots of mucking about at the top of the steps. Once they get to the dance, its kind of sedate. If anything Bolton comes across as heavier on his feet than Fox., And the longer into he gets, the more he loses the jive steps. Part of the problem is that much of the time the steps he is taking are larger than Rick Fox's, and he is surrendering a few inches to Fox. About all I can say that is good about this routine is that he didn't drop Chelsea. This was not a question of chereography. It had a lot of basic in it. This was a lack of execution. Powerful comment by Bruno that this was the worst jive they've seen in the history of  the show. Mrs. Angrybell wonders if Bruno got shot down by Michale Bolton to earn that 3. The total was 12.

Audrina and Tony followed up that routine with a quickstep. Whats up this season? Didn't someone get the memo that Tony is the cougar magnet, not the young single magnet? Mrs. Angrybell wodners how she manages to go on as oppressed she is by this show. Crying? Really? Ms. Partridge, grow the frack up. You are on a contest. Sheesh. Did she raid Anna Trebunskaya's closet? After all that, it kills me to say, she is dancing well. Tony finally got someone who might stick around for a while. Footwork is pretty nice, just little improvements need to be made. I missed the posture problems. So far, best dance of the night. As much as it pains me, she should come back, bloody cry baby. And Tony misses the waxing by a point. 23 was a good score.

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough had to find someway to follow up last week's score. This week, its the jive. Who knew that Baby had cancer. Like the footwork. Its crisp. There's the nice bounce to it most of the time. Her kicks are good and her hands extend  well. I think Derek went a little too conservative with the choreography here. It left her dancing in one spot too much when there might have been a better solution. She moved really well. Good routine. Nice follow up to last week's routine. 24 was a good call by the judges, though I have to say I'm a little confused why they got the extra point that eluded Audrina.

Margaret Cho and Louis van Amstel somehow survived elimination last week. This week they get to seek redemption with the jive. Really, second week and all the women seem to want to break down for these absurd reasons? Going for the Blondie look to compliment the song, but its working for Margaret here. Plus, she is dancing much better than the brief clip I saw last week. Some footwork trouble, but its light years better than the dance that Brandy turned in. Its not as good as either Jennifer or Audrina's routines, but she is executing most of the dance better. Plus, this is one of the few times I think Derek gets out-choreographed. Louis has a weaker dancer for a partner, as opposed to trying to choreograph around an injury, but he makes her look more mobile. Margaret and Louis just got hosed. That dance was better than what has been established as the midpoint for the jives tonight (i.e. better than Brandy). The 18 was just wrong.

Kyle Massey and the still blonde Lacey Schwimmer doing a quickstep. By the way, who told her that she should go blonde? And there's a bit of mucking about at the top, but that quickly gives way to the dance, thankfully. Not a fan of this song, but whatever, the producers don't listen to me. Its not precise. His posture is mostly ago. Mrs. Angrybell thinks that the dressers hate Lacey because that outfit makes her look like she was attacked by tulle. I didn't think it was anything special. Good but not great. Mrs. Angrybell disagrees with me about Lacey's new hair. She thinks she looks better.  That 22 seems overly generous.

Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya drew the jive. Let's see how this goes. Apparently Anna never saw Top Gun, because that's where Highway to The Danger Zone comes from. Have to say I am impressed by Kurt. He is lighter on his feet than any of the other NFL greats that have hit the dance floor that come to mind. He needs to watch his hunching. Its not so bad here, but its like he is trying to be smaller and instead of taking smaller steps, he hunches a bit. It was good, solid dance. They gave him a 21. I'm confused by the scoring tonight.

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino and Karina Smirnoff are looking for some improvement. Is she trying to show off her belly to compete with him? Just wondering. Please, someone gag him. Please. Posture needs work, he needs to not look down. He is on his toes too much, but he's keeping time most of the time. He needs to be in on her hip, and not pull away from her. Wonder how many times he's been told to stand closer to a woman. Anyways. As it goes on, lots of little mistakes are sapping his confidence and he starts to look more tentative. Well.. it wasn't as bad Bolton. There was a lot of charity in that 18.

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas were the clean up tonight doing the quickstep. I think the costumer must be a Democrat. How else do you expect putting Bristol in outfit that makes her look that heinous. She sometimes has this look on her face thats screams "I'm surprised I haven't tripped yet." Footwork is good, but needs to get off the toes and into the proper stepping, but the dance is moving along well. She hung in on his hip pretty well. Good routine. Ms. Palin, please, you are doing well. Stop looking like you feel like you are going to trip. Fake it. Act perhaps. Just like Bruno said to. 22 was the final score, maybe a smidge high but whatever.

Alright, so who do you throw back this week? The men this season, with the exception of Rick Fox and Kurt Warner are... not great. I'm not loving Kyle Massey. Sorry. I'm just not. Michael Bolton, you have little to fear. You won't have to be showing up for rehearsal too much longer if America votes as it should.

It's Funny How The Past Suddenly Looks So Rosey Already

Now if you're a somewhat regular reader ofthiablog, you probably already know what itinkofthe current Obama Administration. If not, then let me summarize my opinion of President Obama adminsitration as we approach the two-year mark: failure.

Man got himself by a healthy majority of the voters. It wasn't a landslide,butitwas a more decisive victory than the one won by Bill Clinton back in 1992.in addition to winning th majority of voters and the electoral college, President Clinton cameo to office with a substantial majority in the House of Representatives and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

With all this support, you would think he would have been able to get his vision accomplished. What we got was a muddled and weak foreign policy. A president easily distractedly by local incidents that the could not resist stepping into (remember the so called "Beer Summit"?) who seemed to only want to lecture in ideals but refused to put out concrete plans for how he wanted to effectuate his ideas. The few laws he did manage to convince congressmen to put forth have either failed miserably, like the mortgage relief act, failed abominably, like the stimulus package that inflated the national debt to levels never seen before, or are on their way to failing (or have you not seen what has been happening with your healthcare premiums lately?)

Along the way, we've seen record numbers of foreclosures and unemployment at rates regularly exceeding 9%, almost 1 in 10 people out of work. Many of those who do have jobs, unless they are high wage earners, we are learning, are earning less and less.

Now, not all of this is President Obama's fault. The problem is, most of this is happening and continuing to happen on his watch. At first, the American people gave him a pass on some of the responsibility. However, that tie has long passed, and yet President Obama doesn't seem to realize that. He continues to encourage people to blame Bush for nearly every problem that has happened since he retook the oath of office.

And this has caused many people to look back longingly at those long distant days of 2005, when President Bush sat in office with his GOP dominated Congress and say to rest of us "Miss W yet?"

I totally understand this temptation. It makes sense. Under President Bush we felt like certain things were happening, for good or ill. We knew that he was going to protect us, even if it meant he was going to protect us from ourselves. We knew what he would do when it came to finding out information that he and his advisors thought were necessary to safe guard our by watch 24 to see what Jack Bauer would do to protect us.

Jokes aside, we knew could depend on him to send unambiguous messages about what he intended to do on foreign policy. Can you image a Bush Administration articulating its policy for Iraq thewY that the Obama administration has for Afghanistan? President bush would never bow to a foreign dictator or monarch, like President Obama insists on doing, but then again President Bush would eagerly take unilateral action which would put our allies in awkward situations. President Obama doesn't bother with that. He is content to leave them hanging, like Poland.

But really this is About e insanity of looking back and saying that everything under Bush was beet. It wAsn't. It's just things are getting so much worse under President Obama. We have a recovery, but because there are all these new mandates, its next to impossible for small and large businesses to be able to afford to hire anyone. Sure the recession is over, but this recovery, but if people aren't working, how is that going to make a difference.

But let's look at jobs And the ones we had under the Bush Administration. During President Bush' administration, we saw the middle class getting squeezed. He'll, let's be honest, pretty much everyone was getting squeezed with cost for everything going up during his tenure in office. Essentially under the Bush policies we saw a decade of stagnation occur. Our productivity keeps going up, but the wages remained flat. That's really not good when you consider that the price for everything keeps going up. But hey, jobs with no raises is still better than no jobs and foreclosures right?

And President Obama is not the only US president who has managed to mangle health care policy in this country. Can anyone remember Medicare part D? The GOP's attempt at solving drug costs for the elderly only that only serve to further entrench the entitlement system in this country without doing much to either improve it or to make the costs more manageable?

What this country absolutely does not need is another term for a Bush clone. And it certainly is barely remaining solvent under the current administration. This makes for a nasty situation when you combine with the fact that between 70 and 80 percent of the country disapproves of Congress.

Basically, if you're an incumbent, you are seriously distrusted. This is why so many people have become enamored with the Tea Party. They aren't tainted with the stain of failure that the current rope of Democrats and RepubLican who hold office share. Sure a couple of them are probably racist. Then again, the recently deceased Senator Byrd of West Virginia was a long time member of the KKK (he claimed he quit the organization). And some of them probably are kooks, but then have you ever listened to some of the stuff that has come out of Senator Boxer's mouth sometimes?

That's not the real danger. Voters tend to figure put who the dangerous racist/extremist types are. David Duke never made it to Congress. No, the real danger is when you get someone who runs for office who says all the nice right, popular things. Who presents himself or herself as alternative to the Beltway Bandits who have ruined this country and talk about values like Hope, Prosperity, and Honor. The problem is that when people have gone this long with ineffective leadership, they forget to remember the sufferance between someone who is serious improving this country and someone who views the Office of the President of the United States adjust another stepping stone accomplishment.

This country has had, and in my opinion has now, that kind of President. The worst of the lot was Buchanan just before the Civil War. But we have been fortunate to have had those be the exception rather than the rule.

In 2008,we were an angry country. Angry at the imperial presidency of the Bush Administration. Whether that particular description is right or wrong, that was e sentiment of the country. Somehow, we allowed ourselves to be fooled by a man who had a track record of avoiding making the hard decisions, of taking responsibility for those decisions, or for really ever being held accountable for his actions.

When we go to the polls this November, and in 2012, we need to remember this when it comes time to select what course we want this country to take. We've already had two presidents who have delivered a lost decade to this county. We cannot afford to lose another one.

New experiment here at the Wandering Bell

Mrs. Angrybell really must love me. She got me an iPad. Which is why I am giving it a go as far as using it for my practice.

Yes, I know other lawyers out there have already done so. I'm not the first, but as much as I love gadgets, I really am awful at change.

So my initial thoughts on this after using it for a little more than a day:

1. It's really, really feakin cool. (Just had to say that.)
2. The major problem for me right now is that there seems to be no app that can allow you to read and manipulate a Word Perfect document (aka .wpd). Now, I personally do not use .wpd format, but someone I work with refuses to give up Word Perfect. So that is going to make things interesting.
3. I thought I would have more trouble with this keyboard but so far thie transition has not been as hard as I thought it might be.
4. I really need to sort out how to cut and paste on this. I can do it easily in some programs but when it comes to cutting and copying on the web, it's not been easy. Have to go to the guides to figure out what I am doing wrong.

Alright so I'll be back to my usual grousing later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

GW Law... Skills... Donations?????

So today I received from my law school (that would The George Washington University School of Law, formerly the National Law Center at The George Washington University) sent me a plea for donations that starts like this:
GW Law gave you the skills you need.

Now we need your support.
The first sentence is perhaps the most inaccurate I have ever read. On the letter, they list a series of skills including:
Research, Evaluate, Argue, Represent, Listen, Discover, Write, Persuade, Serve, Represent, Listen, and Discovery
Inside, they continue their malarkey by stating,
GW Law provides today's students with a stimulating learning environment like the one that prepared you for the legal path you chose.
Excuse me while I try not to gag on the rest of the letter. It's about as divorced from reality as a Hamas press release.

Yes, I did graduate from that institution. However, other than using Shepards (the book not the utility on Westlaw), I defy them to point to one skill they helped me develop.

Nothing taught at GW Law has been of any use in my legal career. It sure as hell did not help me with the bar exam. Why? Because bar exams questions are either state specific or are weird creature of so-called "common law" that exists only within the four corners of the MBE and the Performance Test. For all that, I had to pay another outfit an absurd amount of money to prepare me to take the bar exam, since none of the law taught in law school was of any use!

I certainly did not learn how to write there. That was pounded into me by a bunch of priests and lay teachers back in high school. As a matter of fact, my writing actually got worse for a while because I was having to write according to their style. A style which was taught which had the virtue of being neither very good, nor of a style that judicial clerks would enjoy reading.

I did not learn how to run a law practice. Nothing in any of the courses prepared me for client relationships (except for the dry recitations of the model ABA rules... but that hardly counts). Nor did they offer any course which discussed the merits of various methods of constructing a retainer agreement.

Now, to be fair, GW Law did offer a way to learn how to engage into alternative dispute resolution. However, when I went there, many moons ago, in order to get in that program, you had to try out and be selected. Another of the "chosen" activities (much like moot court and the various law reviews). Otherwise, you didn't get to play. Basically, when I was there it was a joke if you didn't already know what you were doing.

What skills does one use as a lawyer? Critical thinking. Communication. Oral Advocacy. Effecting and powerful writing. So far my alma mater is 0 for 4. Or as Kruk would say, a golden sombrero.

But you know I did learn one thing. I learned that the administration there would go to any length to protect the reputation of a professor, even if meant screwing over an entire section's grades. But then again, I suppose I knew that from both my undergraduate and graduate education.

Now, surely, GW must have been good for something, right? Well, since I've been there the school has managed to barely hang on to 20th spot in the law school rankings after falling as low as 28th at one point. Basically, after I left, the ranking went down, essentially de-valuating my diploma among image conscious law firms.

Not only did the value of the degree go down, but GW Law's career development yahoos ... er I mean professionals... did next to nothing in helping me find employment during and after my time there. By next to nothing, I mean they gave me a pamphlet on how to use the office and then became extraordinarily disinterested when I informed them that I had little interest in working for a big firm (e.g. Latham & Watkins). After convincing them that I really, really did not want to spend all my waking hours working for a law firm that would demand 2000 billable (as opposed to hours worked) per year, they decided I was not worth their time.

For all this, I had the privilege of paying an obscene amount of money. Money which, in my opinion was wasted on professors who did not give a damn about who they were teaching, administrators who made things exceedingly difficult because they could not be bothered to know their own policies, and career development people who simply could not give a damn about anything other than getting out of their office as quickly as possible.

And once again this year, they beg for more money to continue this ridiculous farce called law school. To make matters worse, GW Law is not the only law school that has these problems. People who want to be lawyers would be better served by doing an apprenticeship with a lawyer. At least then, they would learn how something useful about being a lawyer.

Unfortunately, law schools long ago got into bed with the various bar associations and convinced them that only they could produce competent lawyers. Too bad no one remembered that most of our best lawyers for first century and a half managed to do pretty well for not going to law school, like Justice Robert Jackson (although he did do a year at Albany Law School, but did not get a diploma).

So how about this GW: I will donate to you when you refund my tuition, with interest, I will start making donations of an undisclosed amount for five years.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Madness Began Before My TiVo did

So ... let's see. We missed the opening. TiVo somehow prioritized Chuck over it. Not that Chuck is a bad show. I love Chuck. Just... well you know.

All I can say for now is... they apparently liked Brandy.

So Mrs. Angrybell and I came in on Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas. First impression: this girl is so nervous its not fun. But hey, Mark Ballas is good for her. The Three Dog Night songwas good. She looks lost out on the floor. Her footwork is awful, but she remembers to use some hips and she likes to shimmy. We've seen worse (ahem Macy Gray)... but not many. I think Len is cutting her some slack. Would the Judges cut her a little more slack? Mrs. Angrybell (my GOP wife) believes that Bristol's mom is a terrible mother who has essentially abandoned her daughter and granddaughter. The 18 was generous by the way.

That preview bit with Florence was just wrong. Just wrong. Please dear lord never let me see that again.

And after the break, its Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas. Mrs. Brady doesn't look bad for her age. Out of the gate, her footwork is light years better than Bristol, her hips not so much. However, she is a little wooden at time and very flat on her feet. Rather, she is heavy on her feet, which makes it a struggle for her to keep up with the music. On the other hand, she seems game to go for it so lets see what will happen. She should get about what Bristol got, if I had a paddle. Len, just a question... when did Florence become thick and unfit? She certainly looks in good shape for someone her age. And the 18 seems right so far.

Michael Bolton and Chelsea Hightower came up next. Described as a music legend. Music nightmare perhaps. They drew the Viennese Waltz. He dances the beginning trying to get the right rise and fall but ends up with the common novice mistake of being on his toes too much. He is not getting any heel leads. Chelsea is also back leading him through this routine. He almost fakes it nicely and appears to have some rhythm. Carrie Ann was very generous in her description of what was going on with the leading and the following. I was a little surprised by the 5's, for a total of 16. I didn't think he was that much worse than Flo or Bristol.

Next comes The Situation. Mike and Karina Smirnoff apparently had an abbreviated training period. He embarrasses my wife (who has more than a little Italian in her) and he is already annoying me. Already I've had enough of The Mouth...er The Situation... Ugh. And he hasn't danced yet. So far, she threw in some nonsense to start this cha cha cha. His footwork is a disaster. Mrs. Angrybell thinks he could be worse. Sure, he could be Macy Gray or Master P. But he is not that far from either of them. Oh Karina.. I am so sorry. Len, I love that "You've got the guns but not the ammunition". The judges are correct, there may be something there. The question is how quick he bring it to the fore. On the other hand, he is so freaking obnoxious already... I would not shed a tear if he went home after this one. The 15 was earned.

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough followed that mess. And right off the bat, making the Dirty Dancing references. And they drew the Viennese Waltz. Mrs. Angrybell thinks that Jennifer should do well because of her background (as well as "Who doesn't want Baby to win?"). Then again, she is doing the routine pretty well. Her footwork needs help, but that is more in the fact that it is hard for people to pick up the heel toe movement quickly. Of the ones I saw, this was the best so far. Can Carrie Ann get more full of crap? Someone people turn off her mike so we don't have hear her drivel. 24. Wow. Baby is out of the corner for this week.

Kym Johnson and David Hasselhoff followed up that. The Hoff appears to be trying out Situation the Situation when it comes to cheesiness. He is looking old. Kids... don't be a drunk. Can someone explain to me his love affair with going sleeveless all the time? His outfit makes him look like a bad Elvis impersonator. He is off beat to start the song. Sometimes he is getting the cha cha cha action going, sometimes eh is missing it (and I know there are some steps where he doesn't have to get the cha cha cha step in). Good attempt at trying to work the hips for a guy his age. Sex Bomb... interesting song. Better than Mike Sorrentino. But then.. that's not saying a whole lot. Donny Osmond and Jerry Spring... interesting of Carrie Ann to say that. And Len is spunky tonight with his comments. The 15 was a little harsh, but not too much harsher.

Given the ones I saw, here's what I say:

Jennifer Grey looks like she came to dance. As far as the rest of them go... throw them back and hope the professionals get something better next season. If I had to like any of them, I suppose I'll take the Hoff and Brisol. If I get a chance, I'll track down the first hour.

This season does not seem promising right now.

Dear Mr. President,

I hear you had a rough time the other day when you showed up to take questions from the media and citizens at your "Investing In America" appearance. Apparently, it was a lot like being taken the Principal's office, someplace I'm not sure you've ever been.

Before I get to the meat of my letter, I just want to take this chance to give you kudos for something. You appeared in public, talked without (as far as I can tell) a teleprompter and took unscripted, unapproved questions from people. Quite a step up from appearing on The View! Good job. Someday, if you keep this up, you might even have the ability to withstand questioning akin to Prime Minister's Question Hour (its on C-SPAN, I'm sure you get that on your cable plan.).

However, in reading the accounts of your appearance, it seems you are missing something. First, unless you know something that the general public does not, it appears that your majority in both houses of Congress is going to take a serious beating. Seriously. There appears to be a very good chance that you will lose the House of Representatives altogether, meaning that Rep. John Boehner is going to be the Speaker of the House.

Now, given that you and your party are way down in the polls, why are you refusing to debate Congressman Boehner? Right now, according to the averages at Real Clear Politics, there are more people in this country who disapprove how you are doing your job (45.3% to 49.8%). As a matter of fact, of the polls included in the average, you are only ahead in one, the Gallup Poll (47% approve/46% disapprove). In at least two of the polls, the margin is much starker. Both Fox and Rassmussen polls have disapproval to your conduct as president at more than 50% (Fox at 52% and Rassmussen at 56%).

The numbers do not get any better when you look at how people are viewing the Congress. The average of the major polls is that 71% of people disapprove Congress' work. Only about 22% approve. This would be important because your party controls both houses of Congress. Because of the majorities which your party took upon your election to the office of President, that means they have been working on your priorities.

Unless of course you want to admit that you cannot control the priorities of your own party.

And I really don't think you want to do that.

But back to what this means. You are way behind with the average voter. However, that should be nothing new to you, Mr. President. The way you have conducted your administration during the first 20 or so months in office indicates that you do not have a great feel for what the average voters want. Not only that, but in every single one of the major polls, those who answered stated that this country was headed in the wrong direction, by a margin of more than 30%.

What could make people so angry?

For starters, Mr. President, I think it stems from a lack of leadership. For more than a year, you all but abdicated a role in shaping the health care bill. Instead, you delegated it to Congress. Or at least you appeared to do so. The appearance to me and a large number of other people in this country is you acted as a cheerleader, urging the passage of some sort of health care bill, but without fully committing your views for a long period of time. Then, with health care reform hanging in the balance, you resorted to parliamentary tricks and last minute amendments to ram through a policy that few outside the drafters, including the people who would vote on the bill, actually understood. It is a bill that uses creative accounting to achieve the ends, accounting which only puts off a day of economic reckoning for this.

In short, the process was worse than sausage making. And the whole time, it appeared that you were more content to blame the Republicans than actually put forth the plan that you wanted to get through. That is not leadership. At least, not the kind that inspires people. Go back and read Team of Rivals to understand what leadership looks like, especially when you have to take on your own party at the same time as your are fighting a war.

The second thing is why did you seek the office of President? I ask this question because there is a large portion of this country that has serious doubts about whether you actually love this country. The job, given the hours and responsibility which is demanded of it, does not pay that well. In a sense, it limits what you are allowed to do after you leave office. However, the way you present America to the world indicates that more often than not, you are ashamed of this country.

Do we do stupid, violent things? Yes.

Do we do generous, charitable things? Absolutely Yes.

But theme of your trips abroad, even when broadcast back to us here in the States, is that you are off to some nation, apologizing for what this country has done. And that makes a lot of people angry.

The third issue, and this flows from the second one in particular, is that your administration, and you yourself Mr. President, appears to be tone deaf and removed from both reality and your citizens. How is this? First, there is the language that you use when talking about issues. From early in your administration, it appears that you were uncomfortable with the violence which threatens our country. This violence, by and large, is directed at us in the form of terrorist attacks orchestrated and carried out by militant Muslims. Yet, your administration does not talk about them as such. To you, they are "man-caused disasters". Furthermore, men and women of this nation's armed forces are not in combat, they are engaged in "overseas contingency operations".

Mr. President, do you think if you change the name, that you can wipe away the stain of war and bloodshed, while still engaged in battle? This is ludicrous. Whats more, it is insulting to your constituents. I have no idea how a Muslim in Jakarta, a jihadi in Yemen or a Taliban would interpret these terms, but I do not think, nor have I seen any evidence, that it is working to improve our image with the so-called "Muslim/Arab street".

But now we must turn to your disconnect on domestic policies. There is one thing that virtually everyone not in prison in this country cares about: their pocketbook. Until we move beyond capitalism to the Star Trek ideal economy, this is something that is going to be with us. People absolutely care about how much money they have to pay for the necessities, such as the roof over their head, the food they and their families eat, and how they will pay for when they get sick. And, to your credit, you have tried to deal with these.

However, your way of dealing with these issues has ignore both the reality on the ground and the experience of History.You promised you would save jobs. You promised that you would soften the harms caused by the recession and cut the recession's length. Accepting that President Bush did leave you with a mess, what did you do? You kept interest rates low and subsidized failures. Almost exactly what Japan did when they went into their recession in the 1990s. The results so far have been almost as bad, if not worse, than what the Japanese experienced.

What is your prescription for curing our economic ails now? Who the hells knows? One day its enact another massive spending bill that this nation will only be able to fund by going to credit. The next its the idea of a payroll tax holiday. All the while, you term what is going in in this country right now as a "recovery". Mr. President, how can you state that this country is in a recovery, when there are almost 15 million people out of work and unemployment rate of 9.6%? In fact, the unemployment rate, nationally, has not been below 9.4% since May of 2009.

Coincidentally, economists now say that the recession ended in July 2009. When unemployment was 9.4%.

Now, bad enough as the job market it, there is also the question of how people are going to afford things. With the passage of Health Care reform, your administration, and your allies in Congress, foretasted that insurance rates would fall. However, exactly the opposite has occurred. Health care insurance costs, meaning the premiums that everyone will have to pay under the law you signed, are going to be rising, on average, approximately 12.4%.

Not to be snide here, Mr. President, but at this rate, how long before everyone's health insurance will be in the so-called "Cadillac plan" class?

When questioned by people at your appearance today, you stated "there are a whole host of things we've put in place to make your life better." The "things" you cited included health care reform, financial regulatory reform, credit card laws, and making student loans more available.

So far, none of these "reforms" is having a positive effect on this nation. When added to the expense of your stimulus plan (which failed) and your mortgage plan (which failed), combined with your consistent lack of a clear vision for what you want to do to improve the lot of the average American who works, pays taxes, and generally wants to be left alone by their government, do you not see why people are hostile to your administration?

But going back to my initial question: why are you refusing to debate Congressman Boehner. Is it because it is beneath the dignity of the Office of the President of the United States of America to debate congressman? I think you tossed that argument out by appearing on The View. Is it because you think you will lose? If thats the answer, then why did you seek office in the first place? Your job is to lead. And sometimes that means clear expressing what your policy plans are going to be and having them withstand scrutiny. So far, you have skated by on both counts.

You claim to have ideas. You claim to stand for some ideals. Then as a voter Mr. President, I urge you put those out for people see and evaluate. Not in a controlled forum where all you have to answer are pre-approved answers, or in a venue such as today where you can evade the questions by issuing more attacks against your opposition. Instead, you should be out there, willing to argue that you and your administration have the right idea for this country. And the best way to do that is to debate the leader of the other side so that the American people can actually see what they are in for when they go to the polls this November.



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Elections Matter - State Attorney General Race

Isn't it nice when we have a choice like this? Both of the major candidates for California's Attorney General position can't seem to get past their own greed or dreams of glory to take the time to figure out who is giving them money.

And after all, isn't that what the Attorney General is supposed to do? I mean, gosh golly darn, it's not a problem that neither candidate has any money accepting a bribe, er I mean a campaign contribution from felons? Its not like neither Kamala Harris nor Steve Cooley don't have access to well funded staffs, or volunteers, who could check out where the checks are coming from.

In Steve Cooley's case (and only because his blew up first does he go first), he took money from someone who has been convicted in the past for violating campaign finance laws. That's right, records show that the Cooley campaign accepted money from Gladwin Gill. Who is Gladwin Gill, you ask? He's a wealthy guy who likes to see his people win office. Presumably because it will give him something down the line (either in the form of policies he supports or perhaps something more sinister, it really does not matter). However, he did this by violating campaign finance laws. He was caught. He was prosecuted. He was sentenced to a year in prison for violating the law in four separate campaigns.

Now why is this so bad? It must happen all the time, right? Well, as the District Attorney for Los Angeles, Mr. Cooley has a unit that works under him called the Public Integrity Unit. While Mr. Cooley was the District Attorney for Los Angeles, this unit prosecuted a number of people, including Pierce O'Donnell and John Archibald.

Slipshod campaign work? Or just turning the blind eye when money is concerned? Either way, this does not speak volumes of Mr. Cooley.

Then there is San Francisco's own contribution to the Attorney General race: Kamala Harris. It was revealed this week that Ms. Harris' campaign accepted funds from Norman Hsu. This after going after Mr. Cooley over the Gill contributions.

Does Ms. Harris know about that whole glass house thing?

So what did Mr. Hsu do to earn the scorn of the media and become ammunition for Mr. Cooley to sling back at Ms. Harris? Mr. Hsu contributed to the campaigns of Ms. Harris when she ran successfully to be re-elected as San Francisco District Attorney in 2006. Mr. Hsu, at the time, was at the time, a fugitive from the law. Isn't that nice, fugitives supporting a District Attorney's campaign. It seems almost... corrupt. But I should not use that word should I? I guess I just have to say its politics as usual.

Anyways, in case you were curious, Mr. Hsu ended up being sentenced to 24 years in jail for charges which included fraud (the original conviction for which he "forgot" to show up for sentencing on back in 1992), Ponzi schmes (well... that is to say more fraud), and violations of campaign finance laws.

About the only thing that commends Ms. Harris in this situation is that Mr. Hsu had not already been indicted on the campaign finance law.

By the way, in case you care, Mr. Cooley is the Republican nominee and Ms. Harris the Democratic nominee.

Also, in case you care about either of their policies, they don't actually seem that far apart. From my perspective, I scratch my head when I wonder why either of them actually are District Attorneys. One of them is adamantly opposed to the death penalty, so much so that there has not been a prosecution in the district where the death penalty has been requested without significant demand for it by everyone else. The other is against Three Strikes Laws. In fact, that candidate is so against it, they have tried to reform the Three Strikes Law here in California to curtail its usage and application.

One oversees an office which loses high profile cases. The other has an office which seems to have a conviction rate lower than any other major city in California.

(I'd say it was a problem that one of them was opposed to Jessica's Law, but I have some problems with that piece of legislation as well. Let's not talk about that right now, ok? Fine, basically I think it gets into an 8th Amendment violation. )

So that's what we have to choose from. Ain't it great to be a Californian with choices like these? My suggestion, hold your nose and make your pick. Either one is tainted. Both are, in my opinion, lackluster as far as real credentials go when it comes to someone who is the State's chief lawyer and enforcer of laws.

But coming on the heels of Jerry Brown's tenure, maybe it can only go up? Right? Or did I just say something akin to "It couldn't possibly get any worse?"


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Those Poor Oppressed Muni Drivers! Yeah, Right.

So perhaps, as a San Franciscan, you may have noticed that Muni service has been... well bad lately. The buses are fuller, but that's only because there are less of them.

As you may recall, because Muni is so horribly managed, it has an operating deficit of approximately $70 million. This is because of a combination of short-sighted management, an incredible sweetheart deal that no longer makes any sense, and an intransigent union.

The management problem is not being addressed by anyone in San Francisco. How the leadership of Muni, which consistently fails to meet its mandatory goals, remains employed is beyond me. Believe me, were I da' Mayor, they lot of them would have been sacked, and their successors would have been sacked until people over there started solving the problem and not sticking their heads in the sand hoping it would go away.

And yes Muni management, ensuring that fares get paid is part of your job! It is not a question of racism, classcism, or whatnot, if you apply the same rule to everyone.

At least the sweetheart deal that the Muni operators have is in jeopardy. Proposition G is on the ballot for November. Outside of a member of the Muni operator's union, I'm not sure why anyone would vote against it. Unless of course you like paying for inefficiency and obstructionism.

But this is San Francisco. So maybe you do.

Finally, that brings up to the Muni operator's union. Officially known as Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, they have filed a complaint against the MTA, which runs Muni, with the California Public Employment Relations Board. Why?

Because the MTA had the temerity to seek to restore cut service along some of the routes affected by the budget deficit. Local 250-A, who by the way rejected a one year freeze of pay which would have diminished the cuts in the first place, argues that the MTA failed to properly meet and confer about the schedule changes, the result of which is some union member had to start driving routes again.

What's so big about that? Apparently, its because these are the Union members who are paid by the MTA to work solely on union issues. Isn't that a great deal for San Francisco? Whoever agreed to that deal should be pilloried.

Why is it so unreasonable to expect Muni operators to actually operate Muni equipment? Why is it so unreasonable to expect the Transporation Workers Union to pay people to work on Union issues? When will the Union, as well as the MTA, understand that we live in a reality where funds are now no longer limitless for failure?

Oh that's right. I forgot. I live in a fantasy-land called San Francisco where there is no end to resources. Only an end to resourcefulness.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Who Can Be The Target?

That's really the question that the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights is asking.

Anwar Al-Aulaqi (aka Anwar Al-Awlaki) is a radical cleric who was born in the United States. Unlike some radical clerics, he takes his preaching very seriously. In the 1990s, he traveled to Afghanistan. It is unclear whether he participated in training, but it appears that he was taken in by the Islamic teachings of those supporting Jihad. By 1998, after a few arrests for soliciting prostitutes, he was the vice-president for Charitable Society for Social Welfare, an organization with ties to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida. Not content to work for CSSW, from 1999 to 2000, he was a fundraiser for Hamas.

Already, you can see that this is a person with whom I would have a fundamental difference.

Although Al-Aulaqi was under surveillance by the FBI, there was never enough information pre-9/11 to make a case against him. According to reports, he was in contact with associates of Omar Abdel Rahman (aka The Blind Sheikh who had a hand in the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center). He also helped get a battery for Bin Laden's satellite phone.

Then in January 2001, he settled in Falls Church, VA, where he started to preach at the mosque there. A native English speaker, combined with his charisma, made it easy for him to attract non-Arabs to joining Islam. In addition to new converts, there were two other men who were regular attendees at his mosque: Nawaf Al-Hazmi, Hani Hanjour, Nidal Malik Hasan. Al-Hazmi and Hanjour would soon crash an aircraft into the Pentagon. In 2009, Hasan, now a Major in the U.S. Army would be the Fort Hood Shooter.

In the investigation which followed, the FBI interviewed Al-Aulaqi about the hijackers. They also discovered Al-Aulaqi's phone number with the reported 20th Hijacker, Ramzi Binalshib. The FBI and the Congressional investigators both felt he was more involved than simply being the Imam at the Mosque that these men attended. However, there was no concrete evidence to allow them to move forward with any sort of prosecution.

As the investigations continued, Mr. Al-Aulaqi's preaching began to become more open and widely spread in support of Jihad. He praised suicide bombers in articles and in sermons. Moving to the United Kingdom, he continued to preach his version of radical Islam, claiming that the West was trying to kill Islam. The British government began looking into his connections with the Muslim Brotherhood.

With greater scrutiny on actions, Al-Aulaqi moved to Yemen, setting up at a Imam University. Imam University is reputed to being controlled or associated with Al Qaida. It was one of the places where John Walker Lindh studied for a time.

In his time at Imam University, it is reported that Al-Aulaqi has been acting as an agent of Al Qaida. Reports have been made that he negotiated agreements with Yemeni tribes to provide protection for Al Qaida. He has also issued communiques to Muslims living America, urging them to rise up against the U.S. All along, it is charged, that Al-Aulaqi has been recruiting for Al Qaida.

All of this has resulted Al-Aulaqi being placed on the terrorist watch list. It is also said that he is on a kill list that authorizes the CIA to assassinate him.