Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Midnight Review Endorses Bernie Sanders

While the activity of this blog has decreased significantly over the last couple of years due to a variety of life events (namely the birth of my first child and work matters), the level of interest in politics and current events has remained the same, if not grown.  This blog was started in 2009 as a response to the ridiculous narrative that emerged and dominated conservative politics.  I had been a registered Republican and had always viewed my positions as "moderate," maintaining socially liberal views, experimental to moderate domestic policy concepts, and occasionally crossing over with mixed ideas on foreign policy and international relations.  I felt that my presence in the party could help "control the crazy" and keep the right-wing Christian xenophobic nut jobs from taking control.  During the 2008 campaign I was excited.  From my research I was interested in John McCain.  I was not quite a fan of Hillary Clinton but Barack Obama was invigorating and presented a fresh new look at the Washington business-as-usual way of doing things.  I had hoped for some good debate between McCain and Obama.  While I had voted for President Bush in the past, falling victim to the myth of compassionate conservatism, I had started to become disillusioned with the party.  I thought McCain had the potential to hit the reset button but it was too late.

He selected Sarah Palin to be his running mate and the rest was history.  The Republican party had spiraled into a giant anti-everything party that avoided all rhyme and reason for the sole purpose of maintaining power for those who were already in control.  Their attack on everything, labeled as a fight against government overreach, was a lie and they worked to dismantle the fundamentals of society so that they could accumulate wealth and power for the upper echelons of society.  To make matters worse, they argued for a Christian nation and wished to impose their religious beliefs upon everyone.  I ended up voting for Obama both in 2008 and 2012.

I kept my party affiliation to try and prevent the ridiculous campaigns of candidates like Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney from taking root but the conservative echo chamber was too strong.  I looked forward to the 2016 election hoping that the Republican autopsy report would yield more moderate and competent candidates but they failed to materialize.  Instead we got nearly two dozen candidates ranging from a ego-maniacal billionaire and narcoleptic neurosurgeon to a delusional corporate executive and yet another Bush.  On the Democratic side was the expected run of Hillary Clinton, the hope of a Joe Biden candidacy, and then the eventual announcement of Bernie Sanders.

While I viewed Hillary Clinton as extremely intelligent and qualified, I found her to be very distrustful.  I had the impression that all her positions came only after they would test positive in focus groups.  Reading about her record, her official statements and policy positions, and her behavior on the campaign trail, I still did not like her but viewed her as the lesser of the two evils.  I was hoping for a Biden run but that never happened but then Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy.

Bernie Sanders first showed up on my radar during his nearly nine hour filibuster nearly 6 years ago.  After he announced his run I red more about his personal history, his beliefs, and his intentions.  His stated goals of his campaign were reminiscent of Obama's 2008 campaign, but where as Obama tried to compromise with Republicans and then eventually got stuck in numerous political quagmires (while eking out some impressive accomplishments), I had found Sanders to be even more ambitious and presented himself as the galvanizing figure the Democratic party was so desperately in need of.  Hillary Clinton has framed herself as the cautious defender of the status quo and of Obama's achievements, insisting that if she does not win everything would be dismantled, but her presumption that she would be the nominee had failed to unite the coalition Obama built and which Sanders intended to grow.  You also had more independently-minded folks like me, who were essentially kicked out of the GOP for being to moderate or a "RINO."

The proposals made by Sanders made sense.  We have tried it the conservative way for nearly 40 years.  Republicans have pushed the goal posts far to the right that even Democrats like Obama and Hillary Clinton started appearing to be more like Republicans from the 1970s and 1980s.  I had felt that there was no harm in trying other methods and thought that would be the "fiscally responsible" thing to do.  Universal health care, free tuition, capital punishment or drug policy reform - all reasonable and important tasks to undertake.  While Republicans have built an impressive game on the local level (gerrymandering, court packing, etc.), Democrats seemed to lack the guts and seem to retreat into the defensive in hopes of preserving any gains they may have made, no matter how small.  Sanders was proposing much more and that promise to get voters to the polls for a "revolution" of sorts is what we need.

For that reasoning The Midnight Review is endorsing Bernie Sanders for the Democrat primary and 2016 presidential election.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Republicans Propose Gerrymandered Districts To Replace Gerrymandered Districts

Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.
If you have never seen the text above don't feel bad.  Apparently the Republicans in Florida never did either.  Above is the constitutional amendment Floridian voters overwhelmingly approved four years ago during the 2010 midterm elections.  In response to the new constitutional amendment calling for geographically compact and demographically balanced districts, state Republicans, with the aid of lobbyists and political operatives, redrew Florida's congressional districts to maximize Republican votes.

How did they do this?

They carved out every minority neighborhood and democratic stronghold from Orlando to Jacksonville - a 200 mile "compact" stretch.  And don't forget college town Gainesville.  All these areas were shoved into one single "safe" Democratic district held by Corrine Brown, effectively making several other "safe" Republican districts.

These gerrymandered districts were called out by a federal judge in July as being blatant power grabs by the majority party and ordered them redrawn.  So what did Republicans do?

Virtually nothing.

While they gave Brown's "safe" district a little more conservative voters and added some minority neighborhoods to Daniel Webster's conservative district, they also took away a huge swath of Osceola, an area that is 47.8 percent Hispanic (25%of the population being Puerto Ricans), from his district, so essentially the only change was making Corrine Brown's district a little less "safe" while maintaining every adjoining Republican district.

How are these districts constitutional?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Supreme Court Decisions - Unions Could Use The New Ruling To Unload The Free-loaders

Earlier this week the Supreme Court of the United States released two controversial rulings that seemingly flew in the face of hundreds of years of legal precedence, as well as past rulings from the conservative justices currently sitting on the court. 

In one case, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, the so-called "religious" closely-held company decided that since Barack Obama won election and passed his signature health care law they all of a sudden opposed certain provisions that they previously had no problem covering. Their argument: claim the new law violated their religious convictions as a corporation and that abiding by the neutral and beneficial law would cause an undue hardship on their ability to be good religious what-nots. The conservative justices ignored all the hypocrisy, such as the fact that the corporation used scientifically-debunked data to claim birth control was "abortifacients," that despite opposing the birth control mandate the sincerely religious corporation invested money for another employee benefit (401k) into the corporations that produce previously mentioned birth control, and that prior to the passage of the law the religiousness of the corporation did not conflict with providing the birth control in states that required coverage.  This ruling has also led to such "religious" companies to drop birth control coverage because they believe birth control is murder, like Trijicon, Inc., the firearms aiming systems manufacturer.

That is right.  A company that designs tools to improve killing is upset about covering medicines for their employees because they believe those medicines equate to killing.


The other case was Harris v. Quinn, which ruled that the First Amendment prevents unions from collecting  dues from workers who do not wish to associate or support those unions, despite benefiting from the bargaining conducted by the union.  While I can understand the rationale behind this ruling, I have one huge gripe about it - the conservative justices have no problem extending First Amendment protections to workers (so long as those workers oppose unions) and corporations, but extending those protections to a union?


The reason for a union collecting agency fees from workers who do not wish to join but benefit from the bargaining is that the law requires a union to represent everyone despite not everyone wanting to join.  If a union has to represent a worker regardless then there is no incentive for a worker to join - they can sit back and reap the benefits.  The Supreme Court said this is okay, because forcing someone to pay the union violates their right to freely associate with anyone they want.

This is where the unions may be able to benefit from this ruling.  They could also claim that by having to represent the free-loaders they (as in the workers who have decided to unionize and become a collective force) are being forced to associate with those who wish to ride on their coattails.  If unions were freed to only represent those who join, they could negotiate better terms for their members while those workers who believe they would fare better if they negotiated on their wold be free to do so, and enjoy their reduced benefits and wages as a result.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Marco Rubio's Memorial Day Advertising

Tell me if this fundraising ad from Marco Rubio's Reclaim America PAC is in bad taste:

First of all, what is "happy" about the observation and remembrance of those who have dedicated and sacrificed their lives for this nation?  Memorial Day is not just another occasion to have a 3-day weekend and barbecue, or in Rubio's world, an opportunity to fund-raise off of the deaths of service men and women. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why Obama's Federal Pay Executive Order Doesn't Matter

President Obama has recently caused Republicans to scream and throw a tantrum regarding his State of the Union address calling for action and the use of executive orders to find solutions around Congress's inaction, more specifically his latest promise to issue an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 per hour to just over $10 ($10.10 to be exact).

Why does the hysteria from conservatives not matter at all?

Ignoring the fact that Obama has issued much, much less executive orders than his last few Republican counterparts, a simple comparison can be made between an executive order made by his predecessor George W. Bush over a decade ago (and more than once) and Obama's December 23rd, 2013 executive order issuing a 1 percent raise to federal workers.  

Executive Order 13282, titled "Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay," was issued December 31st, 2002.  It dealt with federal pay.

Executive Order 13655, titled "Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay," was issued December 23rd, 2013.  It too dealt with federal pay.

The only difference was that when George W. Bush used his executive power to increase the rate of pay for federal workers Republicans did not weep for the death of the Constitution. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fox News Misrepresents Filibuster Reform

Fox News had this plastered on their front page Thursday morning:

Why is this interesting?  Because Fox News cites the quote from Republicans that this is a "raw power grab" - a variation on the "court packing" theme the GOP were pushing recently with the blocking of yet another qualified judicial nominee - and insist that the Democrats have weakened the ability to "block" nominations - an admission that Republicans are not seeking healthy debate.  The article also incites fear in the right-wing base by insisting this makes it easier to make lifetime appointments while ignoring the fact that Republicans argued in the past against the blocking of judicial nominees.

Throughout the entire history of the United State of America, over half of the filibusters have been incurred by Republicans during President Obama's administration proving the widespread abuse of the procedural maneuver by congressional Republicans.  In the most recent nomination fights in which the GOP blocked qualified nominees, they held up the process by citing either unrelated reasons or imaginary controversies (see "court packing").  Democrats had then negotiated with Senate Republicans to get a vote only for GOP to eventually renege on their promises.

While many warn the Democrats that the pendulum swings both ways, a reasonable prediction would be that Republicans will further their push to repeal the direct election of senators so that gerrymandered state houses can appoint their party members to power.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pam Bondi's Death Panels

"I want Florida to have the power to decide your medical treatments!"
Florida's Tea Party Attorney General has made the news in her push to ban a public initiative legalizing medical marijuana in the southeast state, but in doing so Bondi had revealed conservative's desire to grow governmental control over our lives and personal decisions.  While the right's "War On Women" is well documented, Bondi decided to step up to the plate on another front - legalized marijuana - and shed some light on the GOP's intentions.

"The ballot title and summary suggest that the amendment would allow medical marijuana in narrow, defined, circumstances, and only for patients with 'debilitating diseases.' But if the amendment passed, Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations," she said. "So long as a physician held the opinion that the drug use 'would likely outweigh' the risks, Florida would be powerless to stop it."

So the get this clear, Bondi believes the State of Florida should make decisions about your health - not you and your doctor.  Have a debilitating disease or chronic ailment?  Doctor prescribes medical marijuana?  Sorry.  Pam Bondi and her death panelists have decided to deny medical treatment a trained professional has deemed necessary.  What Bondi implied in her statement is a slippery slope.

And I thought the GOP was supposed to be the party of limited government.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fox News Hypes ACA Prices, Uses Right-Wing Lobbyist As Proof Law Sucks!

 While every other media outlet is reporting on the government shut down, Fox News has not lost their anti-Obama focus and have been headlining story after story about the evils of the Affordable Care Act.  Their most recent article claims the law has caused a spike in premiums all across the nation using as proof anonymous stories from conservative legislators reading notes from "Phil" and "Mike," but their lead-in account regarded a family man by the name of Andy Mangione.  What Fox News doesn't tell you is that Mangione is a small government conservative lobbyist who has worked for giant pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Inc., Invacare Corporation, and Humana Inc.

"Andy Mangione, who lives in Louisville, Ky. with his wife Amy and their two boys," reads the Fox News article, "is doing the same thing millions of people are doing --trying to figure out how much his insurance will cost under ObamaCare."

This account of course comes from a blog post family man Andy made on the AMAC website.

What is the AMAC?

The AMAC, or Association of Mature American Citizens, claims to be the "conservative alternative to the AARP" and believes that the "present system of State regulations and free enterprise has proven satisfactory for over 85% of our citizens" in providing health care.  Presumably they come to that figure by citing United States Census Bureau statistics that show roughly 15% of Americans, or 48.6 million people, lack health insurance.  Do you think those 48.6 million people are uninsured because they are satisfied with the current system?

In Mangione's blog post he insists that his family premium would more then double under the health care law and provides a link to a document that alleges to prove the health care law will put his family into financial ruin.  The problem with that is if you actually click on the link and read the letter Mangione received it states that he could pick one of two options.

Option A is his current policy, which costs $333.65, and Option B, which costs $965.07, but as the Fox News article states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation site, Mangione could be eligible for a $414 monthly subsidy bringing Option B to $551.07.  That would be a 65% increase in premiums but the two policies differ slightly with Option B having a lower deductible, lower out-of-pocket coinsurance, essential health benefits, and children's dental.

So in reality, Mangione's premiums did not skyrocket - they would either stay the same if Option A is chosen or they would raise 65% with Option B, but Mangione would receive greater coverage and less upfront costs (typically the premiums are higher when the deductible is lower, and there is a $5300 difference between the two policies family deductible).  And as the letter states, if Option A is chosen, come the end of 2014 new ACA compliant options will be made available, giving Mangione time to prepare and decide what choice is best for his family.

Here was the title of Andy's blog post:

Now considering the facts would you say that headline is accurate or extremely disingenuous?

Walmart's Newest Unsustainable Offensive: Matching Publix and Other Florida Competitors' BOGOs

Earlier this month it was reported that retail behemoth Walmart will be matching Buy One Get One Free, or BOGO, advertisements from its Florida competitors in an attempt to capture a greater share of the market.  Susan Thurston wrote the follow for The Tampa Bay Times:
Under the new policy, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company will match other stores' BOGO deals using Walmart's everyday price, even if it's lower than the competitor's price. That means a BOGO deal for Cheez-It crackers costing $3.69 at Publix could actually cost $2.50 at Walmart.

Stores will keep track of BOGO deals at Publix, Winn-Dixie and other stores and give them to customers who ask at checkout, Philhours said. Shoppers do not need to bring in a competitor's ad.

The match guarantee squashes many shoppers' arguments that Walmart doesn't have the lowest prices if you factor in sales and weekly BOGO deals offered at other grocery chains. It applies to all Walmart stores, Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets across Florida but does not apply in other states.
It was noted that this move appears to be a swipe at another Florida retail giant - Lakeland-based Publix Supermarkets - whose marketing campaign has relied heavily on such BOGO deals.  While there are other competitors in the state, since the sale and exit of Albertsons from the state and the bankruptcy of other Florida chain Winn-Dixie, Publix tops out the list with market share at nearly 43 percent with a double digit lead over their next competitor, Walmart, which stands at 26.3 percent.  The next would be Winn-Dixie with roughly 16.4 percent (that number includes the acquisition of Sweetbay by Winn-Dixie's parent Bi-Lo Holdings, LLC.)

Walmart's business model has been largely unsustainable.  Ever since they rolled out the superstore format, their plan seemed to center around constant growth, invading markets, stealing customers, make profits, and then move to the next Walmart-virgin market.  Their business model relied heavily on weaker competition and saturating the market with big box stores but once you eliminate the new growth Walmart's figures would appear to stagnate.  Walmart has been experiencing lackluster sales growth, decreased same-store comparable sales, and increased pressure from local competition - namely Publix - and when you take into consideration the low profit margin Walmart operates at (roughly 3.5 percent), attempting to steal even more business from competitors like Publix (which operates at a higher profit margin and has shown greater growth then Walmart) appears to be a desperate move on behalf of the Bentonville retailer.

In an industry known for low profit margins, Walmart is not only doing everything to try and stem their losses and recapture their growth, now matching BOGO deals from every Florida competitor shows a company struggling to survive in a marketplace dominated by what Forbes had dubbed "The Walmart Slayer" - Publix.  Publix has also struck back against the invasive chain with a series of ads, something few other retailers have done - fight Walmart.  Not to mention Walmart is suffering on its flanks from other discount retailers such as Aldi, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and ethnic markets such as Sedanos or Bravo.  Essentially, Walmart is hoping that chipping into their already low profits to attack their more dominant competitors in the state can help drive business but considering Walmart is already peppering the state with their smaller-sized Neighborhood Markets and they still cannot beat Publix, it is safe to say that customers have already made up their minds as to what they want and Walmart is just pursuing another unsustainable avenue. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Conservatives Clamor To Change Narrative, Adopt Budget Hypocrisy

Conservatives have been taking a beating during the this most recent shutdown and they have been desperate to change the narrative.  They have attempted to minimize reports regarding the negative effects of the shutdown (or ignore some matters altogether), they invaded war memorials for photo ops instead of working on a compromise, and they have shifted their stories multiple times to try and come out on top.  For instance, one such messaging change came in the form of a proposal to fund the parts of the government Republicans love and are politically safe - veterans, sick children, etc. - but they have failed in their attempts.  Now they are trying to claim there are divisions in the Democratic party and that the Republicans will soon have more votes on their side to fix this impasse.  What is even funnier about that is that conservatives are also praising the idea of piecemeal budgeting when just a year ago they criticized the Democrats for not passing a complete budget.  In essence, the Republicans are now praising a solution that they criticized the Democrats for using in previous budget showdowns! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shutdown Flashback! GOP Expresses Reason For Deadlock

Sound familiar???

The government shutdown this week for the first time in nearly two decades.  Over the course of debates Republicans have shifted their story several times.  First they wanted to shutdown the government unless funding was cut for the Affordable Care Act.  Then they wanted to delay the president's signature law.  Once that failed and the government shut down they pushed for a piecemeal method of funding the government, cherry picking the projects they deemed fit to fund so that they could save face in the media.  When that didn't work they broke into closed parks to let tourists in and posed for photo ops blaming the president all the while ignoring the fact that they previously argued that a government shutdown would be a great thing.  What is interesting about all of these accounts is that they really don't represent the GOP's true intentions.  What does is this quote from Indiana Representative Marlin Stutzman: "We're not going to be disrespected, we have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

This is very reminiscent of the last shutdowns when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich stated he helped grind the government to a halt when he felt snubbed by President Bill Clinton on a plane ride on Air Force One.

"When you land at Andrews [Air Base] and you've been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off by the back ramp so the media won't picture the Senate majority leader and the speaker of the House returning from Israel, you just wonder, where's their sense of manners, where's their sense of courtesy?" Gingrich said.

"Had they just been asleep all night and it hadn't occurred to them that maybe Bob Dole deserved the dignity of walking down the front ramp? Forget me -- I'm only speaker of the House. But you just have to say to yourself, was it a deliberate calculated aloofness or just total incompetence?"

Stutzman's comments are horrifyingly similar and rings true the cries of hostage taking- the GOP shutdown the government because they felt disrespected because nobody would pass their legislation and now they want something in return in order for them to help restore our nation.