Wednesday, November 17, 2010

As the House turns...

So after some movement by Rep. Clyburn on the Democratic side, and some minor rumblings on the republican side, the "leadership" in both parties, Congressionally speaking, will remain unchanged. Establishment goper and man with the tan, Representative john boehner, will be the next Speaker of the House. Current Speaker Pelosi will retain her top spot within the Democrats in the House. Senator "speak softly and carry a small stick" Reid will remain the Majority Leader in the Senate and Senator mcconnell will stay as minority leader there. House Tea Party Caucus chair, republican, michelle bachman was said to be making some moves for a "leadership role". Rep. bachman recently discussed how the "ear marks" she has been so against aren't bad when they are for things like highways, bridges and roads in her district. The not always truthful congresswoman (see President Obama's trip "to India" and more) said she wouldn't be against "earmarks" if they were "redefined". First off, Rep. bachman, some people call highways, bridges, and roads, infrastructure. You may remember the word from President Obama saying it over and over again, pushing Us to invest in it ("invest" means spend on). In fact, the President has spent on such infrastructure, in bills that you, your caucus, and your party railed against. Before you and other "anti-stimulus" folks started requesting the funds and touting the money spent at resulting ribbon cuttings. Secondly, banning "earmarks" doesn't necessarily cut spending. Congresspeople will still get spending for their districts, maybe your redefining will simply change the word for it. Infrastructure does need to be invested in. It creates jobs, and it upgrades a system in desperate need. There were four water main breaks in my town in the last month. Infrastructure. But I digress. "Earmarks" have been a campaign buzzword for a while. You may remember candidate mccain (r) muttering about them. Lately, it has been the plot for a little drama between some freshman congresspeople and the established in their party. There have been some "flip flops" on the issue. Earmark opposer rAynd paul (r) now refers to his campaign whipping toy as a "bad symbol", assuring us that "he will advocate for Kentucky's interests", as senator. On the other hand, earmark supporter mitch mcconnell (r) recently said he would now support banning them. For some it's the reality of the new job and for others it's the reality of who their party just elected.

One "leadership" role seems to be up in the air. After the "huge" win for the rnc, it looks like funny man michael steele will be out as chair. I guess that's what they mean by "merit pay"? I hope the Democratic Party is thinking about the Chairs of, at least, their "Congressional campaign committees". We'll have to wait and see. What will happen when the new congress takes their seats in a couple months is unsure. Will there be a government shut down? Some republicans say that would be a "mistake". It would certainly be a costly bit of "governing". One thing's for sure, republicans want rich people's taxes to stay the same rate they've been for the past ten years, despite their failure to "trickle down". When Democratic Senator Chuck Shumer offered to extend current tax cuts to every one except millionaires, "the answer was no". There's talk of the "lame duck" Congress taking up a vote for a Middle Class Tax Cut, like the way taxes on small businesses and people making under $250K were cut by the current Congress. The republican response? It's "a terrible idea and a total nonstarter." I do not understand why their was not talk of the Obama Tax cuts past and future. The "bush tax cuts" are to expire on a time line set by the law that created them, a law that was passed through budget reconciliation. As put it "These sunset provisions were placed in the tax laws in some cases to garner enough legislative support to get the bills passed, or to get around rules that existed on cutting revenue without passing an offsetting spending cut." I don't understand why bringing the tax rate for those making $250,000 and up back to President Clinton levels (a 3+% increase) is so horrible given the state of the debt, the deficit (revenue vs. expenses), and all the pain currently being felt by the bottom 95% of Americans. Another example of bad communication and letting one side set the debate. But I digress. We'll talk more on taxes, revenue, and spending some other time.

So we don't know if the man who apologized to bp, for the President of the United States's tone and demands, is going to be the chairman of the energy committee. Will the republican who doesn't believe in climate change because the bible says god won't destroy the world again will be on the energy committee? Are "fiscal conservatives" really running from being appointed to the Appropriations Committee that decide cuts to Federal spending? How many tied to industry, former and future lobbyists, will chair new House committees? We will have to see. We know that one republican "leader" has said that his "number one priority is making President Obama a one term President." Now that's governing over politics. But undermining the President of the United States by Elected members of its Government seems to be fine nowadays, unlike 2001-2008. Future House Majority "leader" cantor just told a foreign leader in a private meeting not to worry, the republicans would be a "check on the president". He couldn't have meant "a check" for a foreign nation, could he? No. I wonder if we'll see those investigations of the President that are so popular when a Democrat is in the office, but Un-American, or "looking backwards", when a republican one is.

So now that the backlash (aside from barbara bush) against TLC tv show host and half term governor, is subsiding. Almost every one of her endorsements lost. The republican "bribe" targets for defection have been identified. And "leaders" are more settled upon, we'll just have to wait and see if the new Congress will accomplish anything together, or separate. I will say this. I have never seen a President talk to the opposing party, who was in a significant minority, as much as President Obama. And he continues to try to. He has held open, public discussions with them, has taken their questions and used their ideas in legislation, including health care. He has compromised, sometimes in opposition to many in his own party. Not that he'll get any credit for it, but we'll talk more about "the news" some other time.

Let's end on the two funniest moments so far. First, did you hear about the anti-government health care freshman congressman who wants his government health care to kick in quicker. How about the one about Fla. tea party candidate, republican, allan west's chief of staff, conservative talk radio host joyce kaufman, having to step down already due to her show's connection to a threat that lead to the closing of 300 schools. Wait is that second one funny or scary?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. (Warning: Sharing may lead to socialism, the new communism, or is that terrorism? Whatever. Happy Turkey Day!)
david calamoneri
Hoboken, Nj USA

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What does it MEAN?

OK. Deep breath. Without repeating the views on the "why?" from my previous post, here's my analysis on the "what happened?" with a small side of, to quote Yosemite Bear, "What does it mean?"

Two quick observations: 1. (Economic) Change has not come fast enough for Our impatient society. The economy, and all the metrics that define it, are what have people angry, desperate, and anti the incumbents who haven't fixed it yet. 2. The tea party is the republican party and cost the republicans the Senate (See Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado).

The Senate "gains" made by republicans (two fewer than predicted) were mostly in open seats. One vacated by the President. Three seats were vacated by retiring Senators bayh, dorgan, and specter (Was he ever a Democrat?). "Centrist"/obstructionist Democrat, Blanche Lincoln lost her seat in Arkansas. And the "worse than losing the House" defeat of the night was the one Progressive Democratic Senator, the only one to stand up to the patriot act, the Progressive Champion, Senator Russ Feingold losing. More on him and his ilk some other time. Needless to say, Senator Sanders (I-VT), you're job in the US Senate just got that much harder.

In the House... 60 seats. That's a whole lot of seats for a party to pick up. To find a larger change in the House of Representatives, you have to go back to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's day when, shortly after the Great Depression hit, 71 seats were gained by republicans in response to the slow recovery and social security. The Democrats had such a big lead at that point the House did not switch majorities. Of course, very few of these House races were followed by the media like the crazier Senatorial and Gubenatorial candidates were. So, we may not know the local details of why Americans chose particular candidates. We can certainly think about the National trends and themes these candidates most likely used and tapped into. It all goes back to the economy, and lack of communication and individual pocket book realities, when it comes to what is being done, and has been done, to help it grow. It has been growing, ever so slowly. For a lot of people, it's just not fast enough.

Josh Marshall brought up a great point when he typed "I'm terribly surprised that everyone everywhere on the political spectrum (here and there) is using Tuesday's results as confirmation of the assumptions they've held all along." Some progressives look at the fact that half of the "blue dog" caucus was voted out, and say the Dems would be more enthused to vote for "liberals". It could also mean that the Democratic Party is losing "the center", though any "centrist" that voted for rand paul, or anyone else like him, wasn't voting with the political center. The only thing we know for sure is if the economy, and the number of JOBS (there's a word you're going to hear a lot) grew faster, and confidence in America's economy increased faster (an end to the phrase "in this economy" would help) a lot of this anger toward everyone in Washington (except the ones just sent there) would not have existed.

In other news from Tuesday's election, Iowans (with the help of outside groups, of course) voted out three judges, because of their decisions, based on standing law, pertaining to same-sex marriage. Something does not sit well with me when it comes to having the Judicial system chosen the same way policy makers are. In California, big oil's prop 23, that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came out so firmly against lost Big, as did legalizing pot for recreational use. Zack Galafanakas did try his best though.

So, the republicans won the House of Representatives. The Democrats held on to Senate.Candidates o'donell, paladino, angle, buck, mcmahon, fiorina, and whitman (Governor Jerry Brown!) lost. There's an openly gay Mayor in Lexington, Kentucky. Anti-civil rights act/anti-making bp pay candidate rand paul, florida tea partier marc rubio, and they're decapitating us, they're decapitating us jan brewer won. Half of the blue dog Democrats were voted out. All supporters of net neutrality were voted out. Outside money played a large role in this midterm election. Some of which was vehemently undisclosed, hiding under roberts's Supreme Court's "citizens united" ruling, in PAC's like rover's crossroad gps. Some outside money may have even be foreign (see chamber of commerce funding). We'll leave the talk of plutocracy for another web log. For now we'll just have to see what the new and old republicans accomplish governing in the House over the next two years. I wouldn't want to argue based on speculation. My guess is the debates will be about jobs and taxes.

To Progress,
david calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poor Messaging and radical candidates

Did you know that 37% ($288 BILLION) of the "stimulus" recovery act were/are tax cuts? Did you know those tax cuts cut taxes for 95% of working Americans in 2010? 35% of the stimulus went to aid (unemployment, education and training, and State), and 28% ($224 Billion) went to investment, mainly in infrastructure which is something the US was once on the forefront of. How about the fact that health insurance companies can no longer say no to you because of pre-existing conditions, limit the monetary amount of benefits you can receive per year, or drop you from coverage if you get sick? Did you know that, since health care/insurance reform became law, "kids" can be covered by their parent's insurance until they are 26? I know once I was kicked off my parent's insurance, I couldn't afford my own. I just ran without it, and luckily I only had to stick the American tax payer with one emergency room visit. Did you know that credit card companies can no longer raise your annual percentage rates (APR) without reason, charge you more than a $25 late payment fee, and can no longer charge an inactivity fee? Did you know that Consumers will now have financial protections from a bureau, whose architect even Uber-Consumer advocate Ralph Nader approves of? Did you know that the Federal Deficit was $125 billion LESS in 2010 than 2009? Did you know that Health care/insurance reform reduces the deficit? Did you know that the US economy has been growing for 9 months? Or that the private sector has been adding jobs for the last nine months? What? You did not know that? You know why? The Democratically lead Congress and the Obama Administration that enacted these policies, with no help from the most obstructionist minority in my life time, Suck at Messaging!

One of the biggest historic differences between the Democratic party and the republican party is the role of the federal government. I believe the federal government should do more than just defend it's citizenry from foreign foes. It should help the Americans in need, you know, the "least of our brothers and sisters". The government should protect citizens from the greed of most corporations, and not the other way around. The Federal government of the United States should make, at the very least realistic, the ideals that all men are created equal, with the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That We are A People, A Country, and not 50 separate countries whose creed is every man for himself.

The republicans crow for smaller government, except of course when it comes to the biggest increase in federal bureaucracy in decades (the Department of Homeland Security), what medical procedure a woman is allowed to have, who you are allowed to fall in love with, and unless you are on their side (see senator, and prostitution john, david vitter) who you sleep with. You know, smaller government to peek through Our keyholes with. The republicans scream don't tread on Our Constitution when it comes to such "abuses" as the departments of energy and education, and social safety nets, like Social Security and Medicare, only to turn against the hallowed document when it comes to the First, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth amendments. Remember the marriage between a man and a woman amendment failure 43 was going to change the Constitution to include?

The only reasons I can see for the radical candidates of the republican party, the anti-civil rights act guy, the nazi reenactment guy, the I forget where I went to college but remember being into witchcraft lady, the mexicans are decapitating people lady, the latinos look like asians lady, the "I'll take you out"/beastiality email guy, the wall (that reagan asked Gorbachov to "tear down") in east germany was a good thing/hand cuffing and detaining a reporter/lying about employment guy, the i'm against the minimum wage but don't know what it is/pro wrestling lady, and on and on, is 1. once marginalized radicals are now leading a weak party that was slapped back on its heels in 2006 and 2008 or 2. the republican party has no interest in governing, and is using the "tea party" and their anger to "win" political contests and make sure money stays where it belongs, namely giant corporations, the PAC's they fund and run, K Street, and the top 5% of Americans.

Even with the aforementioned accomplishments that took place over the last two years, and any I forgot or have no idea of, some progressives are deeply disappointed. Some thought they were electing a faster and/or more extreme left turn. The President's continuing programs of rendition, his continued use of "State Secrets", and his tepid at best statements when it comes to President Clinton's ill conceived "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy are deeply troubling, as is guantanamo bay's slow closing, and the war in Afghanistan. But to let either House of Congress go to the likes of raynd paul and christine "masterbation is adultry" o'donell, to throw the few actual Progressive voices in Congress (See Representative Alan Grayson and Senator Russ Feingold) to the wolves over change not moving fast enough, or drastically enough, is a big mistake. If you thought the "progressive agenda" moved to slowly or feebly when the republicans were in the minority of both houses, filibustering (well threatening to really) more than ever before in history, what do you think will happen if they reclaim one or both Houses? Do you not remember what happened when the republicans held both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives from 1996-2006, especially while failure 43 held the White House for them from 2000-2006. Did the "bush tax cuts" create jobs or cut the deficit over the past nine years?

There's only a local election for me here in Hoboken. All I can do is spread the word. Full disclosure: I also sent money to Senator Russ Feingold's campaign.

Restore Sanity!
david calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Squid's note: I refer to president george bush jr. , a.k.a. "failure 43", not to "blame bush", but to hold accountable the man who campaigned on "bringing accountability back to the White House."

“When we promised during the campaign change you can believe in, it wasn’t change you can believe in in 18 months,’’ “It was change you can believe in but we’re going to have to work for it.”
-President Obama on the Daily Show 10/27/2010

"We can do this as a country. It won't be easy. It won't happen overnight. And it'll take more than one election or one president. The change we need will take an entire nation that's ready to work for it, and fight for it, and most of all, believe in it."
-Candidate Obama at North Dakota State Democratic Convention, April 4th, 2008:

Thursday, September 09, 2010

September 11, 2010

On September 11, 2001, I was supposed to film a video for a song I wrote called "Pride". It was to be entered in a Tommy Hilfiger contest, of all things, for the best 30 second spot on what Red, White, and Blue meant to you. I bought an American flag the day before and stuck it out from my window sill for the shoot. That morning I got a call from the friend, who was going to make the video, telling me a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. I went down to the Hudson River to see. I watched from across the river as the Towers fell, turning into a spreading cloud of pulverized debris. I remember. I will never forget. It changed me. It changed Us.

The question that has been plaguing me lately is "How have We changed?" The people who perpetrated these heinous attacks (according to the people who weren't so hot on the intelligence before the attacks or in the subsequent wars from their aftermath. I'm not a "truther". I'm just saying'…) The people behind the attacks committed them to kill Americans and destroy a US Financial Center, but there is another reason that they readily admit, to instill fear in Us. Fear is a very powerful thing. I ducked every time a plane went over head for days, got nervous every time I saw someone running down the street. My backpack is still packed and ready by the door. We're so scared we can't bring toothpaste in Our carry on anymore, which now costs extra to help pay for the added security. We were told the "muslim extremists" committed these atrocities because "they hate Our Freedoms", but what has happened to those freedoms since. Our privacy has been destroyed with cameras at every corner, the feds in our bank accounts, emails, and telephone calls. Our willingness to let this happen comes from of Fear. Fear of what "they" might do. More recently there have been calls to do away with, or at the very least bend, freedoms and rights provided for by the United States Constitution. And I am not talking about the Second Amendment. That seems to be one of the few that are firmly in place.

Fear, especially when coupled with despair (of say prolonged unemployment, foreclosure, etc.), can make the irrational seem plausible. Not All Muslims are responsible for what the 19+ people, and their subsequent networks, did on September 11, 2001. The protests of mosques all over the United States, not just in Lower Manhattan, the burning of a Mosque in Tennessee, the stabbing of a New York City Cabbie because he is Muslim, and most recently the plan to burn copies of the Koran by an extremist "pastor" in Florida on September 11, 2009 to somehow "honor" those who died on that day (some of whom were Muslim, of course), show a movement in these United States of America, a country whose first "settlers" were fleeing religious persecution. The First Amendment of Our Constitution ensures Religious Freedom. General David Petraeus, the most famous General since Patton and General currently in charge of the war in Afghanistan, recently said this to the wall street journal about the September 11th holy book burning "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort," Gen. Petraeus said in the interview. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community." He was not alone in his concern or criticism. I guess some people were worried that people will believe, and be made to believe, that the actions of a few are the actions of the many.

My current worry is more about the danger it poses Us as a people, as a Country. Our Freedoms are not always easy to deal with. We should not deny the klan's right to demonstrate, who by the way claim to be a "christian" organization. We should not deny people the right to protest a "mosque" two blocks from the World Trade Center. We should not disallow the burning of the Flag or the Holy Koran, though book burning and Freedom of speech may be at odds. But when actions become violent or incite violence, then I take issue. Where does fanning the flames of hatred based on religion or country of origin or skin color lead, especially when that basis is founded on the actions of such a few. There are around 1.5 Billion people who believe in Islam. By the way, the President is not one of them, and tagging him as one may be getting a bit more dangerous lately.

I understand the anger and the anguish. We still haven't caught or killed "the guy who did this". It's nine years later and they are finally starting to do something with the "hallowed" hole in the ground/transit hub that is the site of the World Trade Center attack. There has been very little closure and a lot of stoking of anger and fear, not to mention profiteering from "9/11". Our Freedoms and Rights are important. It's what we're told Our military fight and die for. We have lost Freedoms since the planes hit the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, killing 2,819 people. We've become a different people. But in this ongoing war of "hearts and minds", what philosophy is winning? Have more hearts and minds given in to hate and intolerance like that of those who took down the Towers and the fear they've instilled, or have more given in to American values? What were they again?

peace and progress.

David Calamoneri

Hoboken, NJ USA

"they fill me up with pride

put hope in my eye

wrap 'em around me when I need it warm

they inspire me to exceed the norm

red white and blue

my country, me and you

red white and blue"

"Pride"- Summer of 2001

Friday, May 21, 2010

Power on the Left?

Anti-government stalwart/candidate to be part of the government, "ayn" rand paul said in his speech after winning his republican Senate primary that "The mandate of our victory tonight is huge.", but whose mandate was he talking about? The (pinkies up) tea party did get randy paul his victory over red establishment favored what's his name... In KENTUCKY.

The Democrats managed to hold a seat, that many thought was up for grabs in Pennsylvania.
Though John Murtha was a Democratic Congressman for 36 years, his district is quite "conservative", as was he. May he rest in peace. We've been told a red "storm" is coming in Our politics. This was a seat that was to be swallowed up by it, a Congressional district that went for the old man and miss honky dory in 2008. That's right the Democrats held a seat in a district that went mccain. Now,
Mark Critz is not my style Dem. To me, he is barely a Dem. This seat, however, must have been on the red list of pick ups, as were the two they have lost so far in upstate New York. That is, if they want to get anywhere near taking control of the House.

Then there was the 30 years winning as a republican then switching parties to be politically viable arlen specter's loss to Joe Sestak in the Democratic Primary. Howard Dean compared Sestak to Jim Webb. We'll have to see how he fares in the general election. It is going to be tight, but picking up this Senate seat through election, and not just the whim of an aging politician, would be sweet. It is nice to see that being a Democrat means more than just playing ball on a couple of votes after 30 years of opposition.

And last but not least the Democratic Senator who loves to fight the Democratic Majority Lead Senate on everything that concerns big business, blanch lincoln, was forced into a run off by liberal net roots backed Bill Halter? In Arkansas? We'll have to wait and see who wins the run-off, but the fact that a Progressive movement backed candidate has forced one against an 12 year, establishment, "centrist" shows a muscle I hadn't counted on. There is Power on the Left. We hear a lot about the tea drinker "movement", but could it be the Country still leans to the Democratic anti-establishment, as it did for the election of President Barack Obama a year and a half ago.

None of these victories are jump and down great. They all have caveats. Some may be temporary. This week's voting shows that you are not going to lose in this "political climate" just because you have a "D" next to your name. It shows that Progressives have power. And it shows that the red tidal wave everyone's been talking about for this November may be over-hyped, and may not be only red.

To Progress,
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's the economy.... (with pictures)

The tax bills for 2009 were the lowest since 1950. That's right. Now I was a big opponent of failure 43's tax cut and spend agenda, but President Obama's policy has been a bit different. First, his tax cuts weren't for the top 1% of American earners, they were for the bottom 95-98%. Secondly, Obama wasn't spending on getting us into an unnecessary war,or a prescription drug bill that actually increased their cost. The spending was to put a floor on a rapidly falling economy. Remember when "the DOW was going to crash" and the "Second Great Depression was coming"? How is that economy doing? Well let's see, the DOW has been hovering around 11,000 for months now. Wholesale inventories and sales, consumer spending as well as the GDP continue to rise. April even saw encouraging employment news. 290,000 jobs (44,000 in Manufacturing!!) were added, though unemployment did rise .2%. 66,000 of the new jobs were temporary Census workers. 47% of those unemployed have been for more than 6 months. If you are on unemployment, I hope you added something to your resume (computer training, etc.) while you were working. I have a feeling the extensions Congress keeps approving are going to end soon. The amount of jobs we are in the hole from the past 2-3 years' loses is staggering, but at least we seem to be adding jobs now instead of steadily losing them.

The economy seems to be stabilizing, with the pendulum actually starting to, ever so slightly, swing up, but what about that expensive "bailout" floor We laid down through the transition from failure 43 to First Year President Barack Obama? Well it turns out that the $700 BILLION dollar cost of TARP was way too high of an estimate. According to Pro Publica, of the $536.3 BILLION given out so far through TARP and to save freddie and fannie, et al, $216.8 BILLION has already been returned, and if the economy continues on its present track, the Treasury estimates that it will cost Us about $117 Billion for TARP and $85 Billion for freddie and fannie. That's a bit better than $700 billion plus freddie and fannie, et al. But wait, there may be more.... Those costs are expected to be offset by the $115 Billion that is expected to be gained from the programs. Recently, The Treasury Department announced plans to sell Our Citigroup stock AT A PROFIT. We bought shares to save the bank at $3.25. Those same shares are now worth $4.60. Maybe we bought shares, not so the government could take over the business, but to make money on after the business is saved and begins to recover.

Now if, in fact, the economy has begun to recover, it is time to hold the people/corporations that almost sunk Us accountable, as well as regulate them for the future. A revived Glass-Steagall Act might be a good start. I don't have the idealist, naive, idea that somehow legislation is going to change the fact that the United States of America is run by the rich. There will not be a maximum wage or profit for ceo's or corporations. I doubt We will break up the "big banks". Whatever financial reform law does pass in Congress and is signed by the President, it better give the Government of the People the power to at least keep a handle on these greed mongers. It looks like at least the Federal reserve will get audited. That's a good sign.

To Progress (One Step at a Time.)
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day!

I wanted to write about how jobs increased in 33 states in March, how Newsweek explained that the economy is beginning to come around, how the DOW is over 11,000 again, how congress had 1,000 less earmarks in 2009, about $3 BILLION reduction, how 98% of Americans got a tax cut from President Obama's first budget, how Goldman Sachs has been charged by the SEC for fraud, and how the President sent out a memorandum mandating same sex couples' rights to hospital visitation and medical power of attorney, but it is Earth Day. So instead I wanted to write about what We can do to celebrate it.

I try to think about, remember, and send "good vibes" to my family and friends o
n their birthdays. The first thing you can do to celebrate Earth Day is to do just that. Think for a second or two about where We, as a species, have come from and what we are doing to ourselves and the world we live in. Think about a time when people gathered, hunted and farmed raw land to feed and shelter themselves. Think about how much electricity, water, and gas you use in a day. Think about the resources needed to provide them. Think about how far the food you're eating was trucked or shipped before it hit your table. Think about how the land, and its inhabitants were treated to provide it. The thought itself is something.

Conserving energy does not have to be a drastic all at once change in lifestyle. Taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, or unplugging chargers after use, are examples of small things you can do that make a difference. The more people that take these steps, the larger the cumulative effect. Changing your light bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent reduces your energy consumption. The bulb's longer life reduces your consumption of light bulbs and the resources that make them. Some take issue with the mercury content in the new bulbs. There is a Superfund site in Hoboken because of Mercury pollution due to manufacturing Incandescent light bulbs, so you tell me which is worse. Another way to reduce is to not use gas, electric, or batteries for an hour on Earth Day. Make it a weekly habit, if you can.


When shopping, be conscious of the materials used to create the products you buy and the packaging they are contained in.
Buying in bulk means less packaging overall. Don't take a bag unless it's necessary and if it is use a reusable shopping bag. If you don't have one, buy one. Avoid plastics whenever possible. When buying something made of or wrapped in plastic, check to see if it is made of soy/corn plastic or has a recycling symbol with a #1 or #2 inside on it. These are the most recyclable plastics.

Recycle everything you can. Recycling saves tax dollars and, in many cases, creates revenue for local governments. Every little bit helps, as the tabs from tea bags in my recycling can attest. Choose glass over plastic. Glass can be recycled
over and over again, while plastic can be recycled once at best. Similarly this is why I choose paper over plastic. Less petroleum is used in making paper bags than plastic, and paper bags can be and are usually made recycled materials. You can recycle aluminum foil.

Eat and Enjoy.
The meat industry is responsible for as much, if not more, damage to Our environment that any other industry, whether we are talking about ground and groundwater pollution or greenhouse gases. Eating vegetarian, if only one day a week, eases the environmental degradation caused by what We eat. There is still some nutritional debate about organic versus conventional farming, but there isn't a debate about which pollutes more. The less synthetic pesticides, herbicides, etc. the better. If you can get your food from a local source, i.e. farmer, do it. Chances are it's fresher. It is what We were meant to eat in that region during that season, and less petroleum was used shipping it. Plant a Garden.

Lastly, Enjoy. Go to the park, plant a tree, get dirty, lay in the grass, sit under a tree, take a hike or a bike ride, breath in the air, smell the flowers. Try to reconnect to and Enjoy this place We live on. While you're out there, if you see a piece of litter, why not pick it up.

Happy Earth Day!
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fear, Change and Reaction

Since the Fear for Our safety inside Our shores was shockingly brought to the American psyche in 2001, I have been afraid. A fear that was used to usher us into a war in Afghanistan (which still isn't going real well), and rush us into war of aggression in Iraq (which we should be mostly out of soon). A fear used to get Us to hand over our liberties, our dissenting opinions and our shoes in the name of security. President Barack Obama's victory of Hope over mccain/palin fear in 2008 seemed to hit pause on some of the fear I felt for My Country and it's direction. But I was on his side in the primaries and in the Presidential General Election.

The "debate", and days since the passing, of arguably the biggest bill in decades concerning the well-being of the American people (the Health Insurance Reform Law and health care amendments to the Budget Reconciliation Bill) has me fearing violence from the American people, many of whom the legislation will and does assist. Some say the "incidents" have been executed by "fringe" "extremist" groups in the opposition party. In fairness, there has only been a brick through a Congressional office window, a brother of a congressman's propane line cut, an increase in threats aimed at elected officials (including threats against the third in command of the United States Government), a rhetorical "make the fellow [Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL)] scared to come out of his house", a Michigan "christian" militia with plans to take out law enforcement, an east Texas man dropping 36 improvised explosives in 23 locations. The amount of anger brought about by regulations to the health insurance industry, like ending pre-exiting conditions and rescission, is amazing. Even if the Democratically Elected Government went house to house, paper work in hand, to enforce the mandate (they're not, btw), would it be enough to make you fly a plane into an IRS building? Where does this anger come from? It is certainly frothed up by red opportunists and misleaders using words like "revolution", "reload", "locked and loaded", "armed", "ruining our country", and using gun sights to mark congress people in advertising. But it started before these media whores started chiming in and riling up their troops. Frank Rich is right in saying "The Rage Is Not About Health Care" (a great read).

President Barack Obama is half African American. Speaker of the House Pelosi is a Woman.
Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor is a Hispanic American Woman. Our Country is Changing. The very face of it has Changed. I'm not just talking about the new nuclear treaty and protocol with Russia here. The formerly self titled tea baggers, in their perverse way, believe Our Country should go back to the old (white guys) way.

Shattering someone's beliefs is not easy, and is painful to the shattered. Imagine growing up believing something to be true. I mean Really believing it deep in your heart. Believing that the generations before you were right in their traditions. This your "heritage" their changing from. It's like believing that you're church was righteous and holy, only to hear of what a priest did to a child in it. After bishops and cardinals transfer him, leaving him to repeat his offenses else where, you can almost see your rosary beads scattering all over the floor. It's not my intention to equate the traditions of the Catholic Church and those of racists and bigots, pedophilia and cover ups are certainly different. The question I raise is "What do you do when the foundation of you're beliefs is shaken, whether it be by realizations that we are all equal, religion is fallible, or something else?" How do you react?

I'm an environmentalist. I believe that plants, animals, and the environments in which they live should be preserved, as much as possible, for their own inherit worth and not just for the purpose they serve humans. It has always been my belief that nuclear power is bad, even for energy production. President Obama has already said that increased nuclear production will be part of his energy policy. Do I, as an environmentalist, immediately and flatly reject it? Do I threaten officials at the EPA and throw a gas can can threw the window at the Department of Energy? Or do I wait for the comprehensive energy plan, allowing the President an opportunity to explain to me that he's looked into the safety and waste issues and has solutions to them? Now there is the President's announcement on increased off shore drilling in the Altlantic Ocean. As I said back in July of '08 "Barack Obama is going to make decisions that I do not like" I meant it then, still believe it, and he has. His consensus building leaves no side empty handed, and unfortunately nobody completely happy. At the very least, there needs to be a statement made on the environmental impact of additional ocean drilling. Candidate Obama did speak to his willingness to use increased drilling as part of a compromise. In my opinion, it's an olive branch to big oil more than to the reds. Either way, this one stings. I campaigned against off shore drilling as a solution. It being the first words out of the administration on the energy plan reminds me of how I felt when the big pharma deal was struck at the start of Health Care Reform. No one will be completely happy with the Energy Bill. It would be nice if environmentalists and actual clean energy supporters came out happier than the titans of industry. We are due. The "energy debate" is going to be uglier than Health Care. It will happen though, along with the less politically charged jobs billS and financial reform. There is plenty of misinformation, biasing, redacting, and pretend and paid for citizen (and scientist) groups already out there. There is also plenty of documented scientific evidence. I do fear the compromises that will be made, but it is a welcome change from dick's "energy task force".

To progress (one step at a time)
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is the Health Care Reform debate really in its last throes?

The 111th Congress and the Obama administration appear to be on the verge of doing what other (mostly Democratic) officials and "leaders" have failed to do for decades, pass a meaningful Health Care (insurance) Reform bill. I'll believe it when I see it, but if the bill/bills do pass, we will be able to say goodbye to "pre-existing conditions". We will be able to say goodbye to insurance bureaucrats ending our coverage when we get sick. Businesses with more than 50 employees will have to cover their workers or pay a fee. The deficit will be reduced by $130 BILLION in ten years. Medicare spending will be reduced, extending the life of the program. The list goes on for a couple thousand pages. No, the public option will not be in there, nor will a "single payer" system. But 32 Million more American citizens will be covered if they get sick, instead of having go to the emergency room on Our dime and/or going bankrupt on their own. And the bill is paid for, unlike failure 43's skewed to the rich tax cuts, prescription drug plan, or the two wars he rushed us into and failed to finish.

Of course, the party of no is against reforming the system that is bankrupting and killing millions. One red "leader" recently referred to the Democrats in the US House of Representatives as getting "liquored up on sake" for a "suicide mission" (stalin, hitler, and mao references are so last year). On the Democratic Party side, the Man who may find himself in a position not unlike Ralph Nader, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, is among those (me included) that think the bill does not go far enough. But we disagree when it comes to taking an "all or nothing" stance on a problem that desperately needs to be addressed. A step in the right direction is a step in the right direction The President gave his 58th and final address on Health Care reform in Rep. Kucinich's district. After President Obama introduced him, someone in the audience yelled "Vote Yes" to which the president asked Kucinich "Did you hear that?". Congressman Kucinich now says he will switch his vote from no to yes on the Health Care Reform Bill, and encourage other progressives to do the same.

Of course the bill will not pass by a super "majority" (60-40), but reform (and it's looking like the Senate Bill) is supported by a Majority in both houses of the United States Congress. My best guess is the next thing that will happen is the House of Representatives will pass the Senate's bill, with the understanding that additional reforms, especially those that will bring more of a reduction in the deficit, will be advanced through budget reconciliation. This will not be the first time reconciliation has been used, or the first time it's been used for social issues, like health care. Another option that seems to be coming out of DC is passing two bills at once, "fixes" first. The latter strategy sounds a bit more out of the ordinary, and a little like Congressional leaders are bending over backwards so that Congresspeople can avoid voting on the record on Health Care reform. It too is nothing new or "unprecedented". The reds did it 35 times when they were last in charge. I say have an Up or Down vote, like Our Democracy was founded on, but you know republicants don't really believe in the government they try so hard to get elected to serve in. They have no interest in governing, only campaigning.

People (mostly the minority) have been talking about the next big election since they lost the last one (well two really). Quite frankly, I'm surprised that we're still talking about Health Care Reform now, what with the Vatican choir boy gay sex scandal, the Rangel scandal, the massa scandal, possible criminal charges against CEO's, the governor paterson scandal, the family values state official gets a DUI coming out of a gay club scandal, little miss dick jr.'s "al qaeda 7" affront to Our rule of law, cnn's "department of jihad", white Americans attacking US government agencies, Brooklyn dropping charges on ACORN after the US dropped 3 million dollars in their funding. How about former vice dick and the Alaskan quitter's kid using government health care, or even more shocking, the Alaskan quitter going to Canada for health care??? Or the biggest shocker of all... The United States of America may be confronting Israel. To really understand the political discourse has been reduced to, look no further than the republican national conference's talking points on how to fundraise using fear and hatred of the President of the United States over anything else to collect money from sca(red) American tax payers.

Oh yeah, the US Congress just passed the first, of what looks like many, Jobs Bill and the economy is slowly but surely looking better, though unemployment is going to be around for a while.

To Progress (one step at a time).
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Year Two "Pivot"

It's been a year and a three weeks since the Inauguration of Barack Obama, and with his first anniversary in office came a solid first State of the Union speech (despite the omission of a "mission to mars" or the "axis of evil"). The speech was not a home run, but was strong and relatively even handed. The President's speech respectfully called out both the republicant and the Democratic parties. It referred to the past (that got us here), the present and the future. The President wasn't done talking with Congress yet, though. He went on to accept the invitation from the House republicants to join them at their retreat. The tea partiers and gopers must have been drooling at the idea of getting all town hall on the President so soon after democratic candidate coakley lost a massachusetts Senate seat. The unprecedented Q & A with the "opposition" party would be on live tv, no less. The President didn't have the questions before hand or a teleprompter to help him. It turned out he didn't need either. The President answered fallacy and rhetoric with fact and reason, both quickly and concisely. He did so well that faux news pulled away from the republicant event twenty minutes before it was over. Reds came out saying the President was "lecturing". Well, when you act like children who hold their breath until they get what they want, what do you deserve?

shelby's recent hold on all of Obama's nominations, including those pertaining to national defense, is a prime example of the party of no. It's not that the other r-word disagreed with the nominees or thought them unqualified. He said he wouldn't vote for any of them until the companies he wanted got their government contracts. Senator shelby gave up his "blanket hold" on all of the President of the United States nominations, except those directly related to those contracts. He is not alone in his obstructionism. The threat of a filibuster has been used and abused by an obstructionist minority that continues to put holds on policy and nominations to stall governing and make the majority of the United States Congress and the President of the United States look bad. GSA nominee, Martha Johnson, was held up for Nine months only to finally be approved by a vote of 96-0.

The more aggressive year two "pivot" the President seems to have made could be in response to the couple of recent Democratic loses in senatorial and gubernatorial elections, but could it have always been part of a longer term plan? I've thought that leaving health care reform up to Congress was one of the biggest mistakes in Barack Obama's first year (not investigating the last crew or ending domestic spying are up there among the others). But the example that Congress has set on both sides over the past year really illustrates the President's point about politics and governance. Having a televised health care "summit" with republicans and democrats (if the republicants aren't too scared) discussing the issue with a rational, practical President will offer more evidence that he is not the "bolshevik" lefty some paint him to be. The coming jobs and financial reform bills may make it even harder for the minority to vote no on everything and continue their brand of pretend populism.

The President's question and answer with Senate Democrats was not as riveting. The President did remind Democrats that they went from "having the largest majority in a generation to having the second largest majority in a generation". He even quoted the Village Voice's "Republicans win a 41-59 majority". The Democratic event was much less spontaneous. The questioners selected seemed to coincide directly with Democratic Senators facing tough re-elections. And Senator Spector, a question about China to start the whole thing off? Really? My biggest problem with the Democratic Q & A was that plenty of "moderates" got to ask questions, but not one progressive.

So year one is over. 2009 was going to be a hard year. It was said over and over again during the campaign. It proved to be a very tough year for a lot of people. The only ones that seem to have come out of it fine are the banks and wall streeters, some of whom caused the fiasco. Perhaps they had to be saved to stop an economic catastrophe from getting worse, and by most economists' accounts We would be worse off had We done nothing. In fact, if this reinforced "floor" holds up, it was done pretty quickly by historical standards. You can search to find a list of legislation passed in President Obama's first year in office (Lilly Leadbetter, SCHIP, Credit Card reform, the recovery bill that gave anyone making under $250,000.00 a tax cut, etc.). It may not be as fast, drastic, or progressive a change as some dreamed it would be. A change along those lines will have to come from the bottom up.

Was it a banner first year for the President? No. It was rough and he made some unpopular choices that he felt he had to make. I believe that. There were popular and very positive decisions as well. But was some of the rope he gave Congress and the media over his first year part of a set up for a check mate a few moves down the line? That remains to be seen. I'm still a hopeful man.

peace and progress (one step at a time).
david calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

Update: After the President threatened to make bush, reagan, et al-esque recess appointments during Congress's break next week, the republicants allowed 29 of his held up nominees to be voted on. They all passed with "unanimous consent".

Oh and to
the hand-o-prompter half term governor, when I wrote "the other r-word", I meant republican. It's satire.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear Democratic Party,

Some are calling it the "Upset of the Century" (personally, I think electing a junior Senator named Barack Obama to be President was a bigger surprise). Call it what you will, Attorney General Martha Coakley lost the Senate seat that was held by Senator Edward Kennedy for 46 years, in a state that has a more "liberal" health care Law than the current US Senate bill and allows gay marriage, to GOP, and friend of the "tea party" (rights reserved?), Scott Brown.

With 18 more votes, the Democrats now control the US Senate with a 9 Vote majority, 59-41 (including "Independents" Sanders and lieberman). The republicants haven't had a majority like that since the twenties, in fact no party has. Less of a republic-anti majority censured a president for lying about cheating on his wife. Less of a red majority rubber stamped and pushed through everything on the bush agenda. The big difference, especially in the latter instance, was that when the r's ran the show, the minority party worked with them. The Democrats are seldom lock step automatons to party, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Democrats are currently in a blame thrower cross fire. So here goes mine. I blame the candidate first. She had 19 campaign events, from the primary through sunday, to her opponent's 66. Next up is the head of the DSCC (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), Senator Robert Menendez, which is hard for me with him being from New Jersey, and DNC (Democratic National Committee) Chairman tim kaine. Obviously, they weren't down with Howard Dean's 50 state strategy. The National party, that Coakley was trying to become a part of, offered little help until it was too late. They took for granted what Senator Kennedy never did, the votes of Democrats in Massachusetts. The most important "blame"/lesson is for the Democrats in the Congress, and to a lesser extent in the White House. No, I do not think the President of the Untied States should be spending his time campaigning for senators and congresspeople. He has more pressing and important priorities governing. But Democrats, including the president, let the party of no set the debate on health care. They bend at every turn to compromise with a minority party that has no interest in governing with them, and who will never say yes to anything this president wants. You need look no further than the most disrespectful ex-vice president in history, or most disrespectful congressmen during a presidential speech to a joint session of Congress to see their attitude. It's not just "tea partiers". The establishment repugnicans are attack dogs. And, unfortunately the establishment Democrats are weak and reactionary.

The Democrats need to fight
for the issues that brought them into power. Those of Us that voted Democrat in the past few elections, and certainly the last presidential election are not going to get excited, get involved, or get out the vote for them until they once again give us something to fight for. The 60 vote super majority, that came into existence after Senator Al Franken was finally allowed to be seated, seemed to only give a handful of senators any power anyway (see snowe, lieberman, etc.). The Democratic Party needs to be strong and stand up more than they give in, to the power that they swept out of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Give us something to fight for and we will fight for it. Set the debate in clear, easily understandable terms and we will shout it. But take a year to water down major legislation, bowing to opponents that have no interest working with you. Holding noone accountable for the mess you were elected to fix. Saving Marie Antionette-esque banks and corporations that show little to no concern for the society that allowed them to get and keeps them so big and rich, while doing little (barely anything by comparison) for middle and lower income Americans to speak of, or certainly that you speak of, is no way of rallying the troops.

Don't give up, because you only have the largest "simple" majority since the twenties. All the defeatist nonsense talk has got to go! Take it as a wake up call! Fight for what we put you there for! Be aggresive! Offense, not always defense! Otherwise it was all a waste and those of us on the progressive left will once again leave for more idealist pastures.

Fun Fact #1: Yesterday's special election in Massachusetts was brought to you by the Democratic Massachusetts legislature. They changed the rules for seating a Senator in an open seat from a gubenatorial appointment to a special election in advance of john kerry becoming president.

Fun Fact #2: The US Senate can get rid of the "filibuster" or change the number of votes it takes to break it with a simple majority vote, 51-49. The filibuster is not part of the US Constitution. It is in the Senate rules.

Wake Up,
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

From DailyKos:

59 votes

by kos

Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 07:42:30 PM PST

Yeah, it sucks that we lost our 60th vote, but really, what did 60 get us last year? It empowered Joe Lieberman, gave cover to Blanche Lincoln, provided excuses to Harry Reid, and gave a free pass to Max Baucus.

Now we don't have 60. And like the Republican Senate of the 2000s, if Democrats want to get anything done, they'll have to do it via reconciliation.

Given last year's track record in the Senate, it certainly can't make the Senate any less effective."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Please Help Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. 80% percent of the country lives below the poverty line. 54% live in abject poverty. On January 12th, Haiti experienced a Catastrophic 7.0 Earthquake. There is an up to date time line of the aftermath and relief efforts at Huffington Post complete with photos, footage, President Obama's speech and announcement that he's sending Former Presidents Clinton (UN special envoy to Haiti) and bush (yes w), as well as statements from Our Secretary of State, the UN, Doctors without Borders and others. The earthquake hit right outside of the nation's capital Port Au Prince. The footage and pictures of the suffering and devastation these poor people are currently enduring has brought me to tears more than once. Bodies lining the streets, bloodied, dust covered faces dazed in terror. Houses, buildings, schools, hospitals, the Presidential Palace, the UN Embassy destroyed.

The people of Haiti need Our Help. There are several places where you can donate to help the survivors survive and rebuild. Please do. I did.

The American Red Cross Text Haiti to 90999 to donate $10

Yele (Wyclef Jean's Haitian relief) Text YELE to 501501 to donate $5

Thank You.
David Calamoneri