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“Well Howdy Stranger” – Immigration Reform: don’t worry guys, I’ve figured this whole thing out!

"We were strangers once too."

“We were strangers once too.”

The President recently said in his speech regarding his executive action to delay deportation of several million non-citizen humans who live in the United States (rather than amnesty millions like Reagan) that “We were strangers once too”. He is correct, and that is a good reminder, but does that overly simplify this whole thing? Let’s talk about it 🙂

*Disclaimer: I decided to give you the answer in technical terms upfront of what I think about Obama’s executive action on immigration recently, followed by a slightly longer explanation of how I see those who would want to live here. It is as follows:

SHORTER SYNOPSIS

President Obama said repeatedly for several years that he was not a king, and that he could not change the law in regards to who would and who would not receive citizenship in the United States who didn’t already have it. He announced this week (after several years of waiting for action from Congress) that he would be enacting an “executive order” to delay the deportation of people who are not citizens in the United States who had children who were born here in the United States. There was an enormously popular bill a few years ago that was blocked in Congress called “The Dream Act” which would have made these people citizens, not simply delay their deportations until the end of this president’s term. Delaying their deportation does not make them citizens, and thus he did not change the law as he previously pointed out that he could not. It may seem like a stupid formality to say that this is not amnesty, but if that’s how you feel you are wrong, and I don’t say that intending to hurt your feelings. Saying that Obama broke his word in the law is really not the argument that conservatives should probably be making (I must say their obsession with this President never ceases to amaze me). I think instead, for their own political sake, that they should come to the table and say that they are ready to debate this issue right now in Congress (finally), and they don’t want to delay for anyone (even if they had an anchor baby…). Wouldn’t that be the least they could do as a response?

*Disclaimer: by the way, I feel the need to say this yet again – there is nothing wrong with being conservative, but the American conservative party leadership repeatedly disappoints me, as does the democratic leadership. I just find myself most offended by the doublespeak that churns from their actions and talking points. If you are conservative that is 100% great, we probably agree on a most things, as our nations politics are really just a chess game, and we seem to be the pawns. I repeatedly find that my conservative friends and I want almost the exact same government when you get down to it.

The mudslinging in American politics today is not helpful, or even amusing anymore. It’s like watching the TV show “Mob Wives”. It’s like the real housewives of wherever, except that they threaten to kill each other and seriously hurt those around them… I have mixed feelings about the President’s approach, but I hardly find it nearly as shameful as the behavior of Congress! If we are truly a great nation we have to face our broken immigration system, and the fact that most of the people who sneak in know that they wouldn’t get in otherwise is a big problem for the “go home and reapply” strategy. But a larger reality is that most of the people who are in this country illegally did not sneak in, they came to visit legally and never left. Some of these people might have faced oppression at home, and some just like America. We need to learn to take a compliment, everyone wants to come to our party! We need a better bouncer, who’s not drunk and sprawled out on the floor, but we also don’t want Scarface wielding death to all who may attempt to enter… In the end we probably mostly all agree: we need stronger security at our borders (probably less abroad), and we need a functional immigration system (which means a system that won’t leave out the farmhands who otherwise would be forgotten with the current process).

This has been my short form version of my thoughts on the current immigration debate as of December 2014, but below I will try my best to embellish on my ability to talk about this issue.

LONGER SYNAPSIS:

So, if you clicked on this link my guess is that you heard about the speech that Obama gave in regards to his “executive action” on immigration… We as a nation mostly agree on most things, but we are torn apart by very strategic teamsmanship on most issues, and this is one of them. I think that the idea of better protecting our borders is actually a great idea. That doesn’t mean a “double fence, electrified!” like Mr. Herman Cain proposed. It does however mean that we actually make plans for what to do with people fleeing their homelands for a better life in America in a way that provides dignity, unlike the Joe Arpaio school of thought. That is a big government idea, and even though I don’t endorse most intervention by the government on social behaviors I do think that there are several strong arguments for preserving our ability to actually govern a known population. But that doesn’t mean that we should drop drones on mostly pious folks who simply want to feed their families by crossing our borders. I’m terrified of a police/military state, but we have to have some order, so let’s talk about how we make that happen.

With that said I also find it very difficult to read any of our nation’s founding documents and also justify extreme measures of social engineering that completely disregards the almost surely inexplicable chance that I were fortunate to be born in a better part of the world. How fervently do we as a nation believe that the statement “all men are created equal” is actually true? I believe that we should have more compassion for people who want to come to the United States and participate in our amazing society. I’ve had a few amazing opportunities to travel over the last nine years or so, and I have a hard time looking myself in the mirror and telling myself that I deserve this country more than some of the amazing and educated, as well as the poor and forgotten people I’ve had the chance to meet. I know that it was hard to build this country, and yet I find myself less willing to do so many of the jobs that make this country so comfortable.

To some this may sound overly defensive, but I feel that I must say it anyways – I am aware that it can be a very bad thing for the people and the police/military to clash in the streets, I mean I’m pretty sure that the sick feeling that people have in their stomach from watching the riots in the streets in Ferguson, Missouri isn’t the flu. I’m terrified of the military/surveillance state that seems to be growing around us, but at some point we stopped teaching peaceful protest because it became a dirty word.

Side Note: my high school has actually been at the center of some protesting which has been rather peaceful, but due to the nature of a split in some of the recourse that people are asking for many people who want to show their support don’t show up. There were 3 girls raped by the same boy (you can read about it here), and the school administration being in a tight spot has seen a lot of scrutiny for their reaction. A lot of students and parents have been slow to protest publicly because they don’t want to give the impression that they are against the administration, but they do want to support the victims… See, that’s the problem with protest (old school rally style or digital), is that people are afraid of sending the wrong message.

A video of the Norman High protesters

Ok, let’s get back to what I was saying about us having trouble unifying in protest. I think that our lack of public outcry for better policy is truly the reason why we don’t have better policy. It is hard for me not to agree when charlatans blather about the stupidity of the American people. Look, I’m not a genius, but by watching American approval of policies and then how they vote for leaders who oppose their favorite policies I just find myself perpetually dumbfounded…

The government can’t do everything, but it can do some things. It has midwifed a lot of great ideas (the Internet, space travel, interstate highways). When we find that private industry can take over on projects where the government was the only willing investor it is a beautiful thing! You can see that happening with space travel right now. However, private industry can cause economic instability/unsustainable price increases, and we as a society must create dams and levees to prevent disaster, and this seems to be a never ending back and forth battle that the people have mostly been losing over the last few decades (ie: the repeal of Glass Steagall, as opposed to the implementation of Sarbanes Oxley).

Okay, so I made a silly title just to see if you’d click on it… I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have a few thoughts to share on the idea of peoples who want to live in the United States of America. I’m not the most worldly of people, nor am I the smartest/nicest/strongest/most handsome/coolest (okay me, I get the point!!!!), but I have had some unique opportunities to meet people from other parts of the world, and I can’t help but to emphasize that when I say people I mean they are just like you and me… There are cultural differences between the United States and everywhere else, but the differences in the end are really semantical. I sincerely hope to not come across as preachy, but I’m not sure how else to say all of these things, so I’m about to say a few weird things about places/peoples who I have experiences with…

China: there is no doubt about it that if you are a white person in China they will think that you are probably a celebrity. I mean, in China they totally thought that I was cool! I probably convinced several hundred people that I was either Harry Potter, or his older brother. My Chinese friends loved basketball, and by that I mean they were very proud of Yao Ming. Oh, in China it was apparently not offensive to say that they have yellow skin, just fyi. There are tons of ways that I can make fun of Chinese people (that includes you Figo, I know you’re reading this), and that is ok as long as it’s out of love and you are willing to take a joke yourself.

Egypt: When people talk about the Middle East in the United States they seem to first picture a lot of people running through rubble covered in blood screaming something in Arabic that makes you once again believe that the apocalypse may be upon us… I don’t mean to downplay the fact that this happens in the world, but I have my suspicions about how regularly this happens throughout the entirety of the Middle East… Sure there are places that are unsafe, and there are extremist muslims, but I looked for them and found virtually none – the majority of the people is not a part of the extremist faction of Islam. During my week stay in Egypt recently I found that people thoroughly enjoyed my impression of an Egyptian trying to sell them anything and everything I could find, promising the cheapest of prices because they were my “friend”. They were people, and they had senses of humor, even about themselves… Trust me, most of the people that I met would make great neighbors, but most of them could not get through our immigration process. That is especially true for the small village made up almost entirely of Christians called Zabbaleen, near Mokattam.

*Feel free to read about my experience there by clicking here (I plan to write more about this village soon).

I have found that our nation can often be overly politically correct, and after I made a few jokes about Chinese people to Chinese people, or the same to Egyptian people, they somehow became more humanized in my eyes, and I in theirs. Part of our problem with immigration reform is that we have a lot of people driving the debate who don’t see people who are different from themselves as quality candidates to be their fellow countrymen… I’m not pointing this out because I want it to be true, it is in our nature, and if you look closely at yourself you will almost surely find that your instinctual pregiduouses pop up. The more I recognize my own simple bigotries the more that I feel capable of recognizing other people who I might have otherwise considered an “other”. I’m going to attach this video to this blog, for what must be the 10th time, about measuring bigotry in babies from 60 Minutes.

Last Thought: I just wanted to talk about this idea of “the other” because I think we should keep in mind our own limitations when we try to have a conversation about legislation like this. I’m sorry that this is so long, and if you read the whole thing I am very proud of you. I hope that you have a great rest of your day!

6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

I don’t know if I could love this anymore than I do… I think that an article like this can serve as a good reminder that nobody deserves a claim to faith over anyone else, as Mr. Colbert would likely be assumed to be an enemy of the Christian population. I don’t think that he is, and I don’t think that he we find himself to be either.

 

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6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

When Colbert dares to get real, he’s surprisingly passionate about his beliefs.

 

Next year, when David Letterman signs off as host of The Late Show for the last time, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert will take over, positioning himself as the new face of CBS late night.

Though he’s made a name for himself by creating an over-the-top persona satirizing the hyper-conservative on The Colbert Report, the real Stephen Colbert—the one headed to CBS—is very different from the character he’s created. When he’s not in front of the camera, Colbert is frequently teaching Sunday school, attending mass or spending time with his family, who are all devout Catholics. Here are six times the funnyman got serious about one of his favorite topics: faith.

The Time He Talked about Faith and Tragedy with The New York Times

Back in 2012, The New York Times profiled Colbert, who reveal details about the man behind the persona.

At one point in the interview, Colbert talked about the experience of losing both his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was just 8 years old. Colbert said it was the example of his mother’s faith that has helped him process the tragedy: “She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the Cross and the example of sacrifice that He gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain—it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

 

The Time He Explained Hell on NPR

When Colbert was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air, host Terry Gross asked how Stephen Colbert—the real, religious father, not the persona—explained complicated issues like God and hell to his own children. And though not all Christians may agree with his personal interpretation of what hell looks like, his thoughtful response is a reflection of someone who has genuinely wrestled with big ideas surrounding faith: “I think the answer, ‘God is love’ is pretty good for a child. Because children understand love … My son asked me one day, ‘Dad, what’s hell?’ … So, I said, ‘Well, if God is love, then hell is the absence of God’s love. And, can you imagine how great it is to be loved? Can you imagine how great it is to be loved fully? To be loved totally? To be loved, you know, beyond your ability to imagine? And imagine if you knew that was a possibility, and then that was taken from you, and you knew that you would never be loved. Well that’s hell—to be alone, and know what you’ve lost.’”

The Time He Embarrassed a Guy that Suggested God Caused Evil

Poor Philip Zimbardo. When the Stanford professor appeared on The Colbert Report in 2008 to promote his book The Lucifer Effect, he clearly didn’t know what he was in for. Despite a jab at Dr. Zimbardo’s villainous facial hair, the interview—which focused on a behavioral experiment that the book is based on—started out civil enough. Then at the 3:30 mark (warning, the video contains a bleeped-out explicit word), things take a dramatic turn when the discussion turns to the origins of evil in the Garden of Eden. When Zimbardo suggested that, “Had [God] not created hell, then evil would not exist,” Colbert broke character and snapped, breaking into an impromptu theology lesson. “Evil exists because of the disobedience of Satan. God gave Satan, and the angels, and man free will. Satan used his free will and abused it by not obeying authority. Hell was created by Satan’s disobedience to God, and his purposeful removal from God’s love—which is what hell is. Removing yourself from God’s love. You send yourself to hell. God does not send you there.”

The Time He Argued for Christ’s Divinity

Stephen Colbert is not a fan of Bart Ehrman. The religious scholar came on The Colbert Report to promote his book Jesus, Interrupted which questions the credibility of the Gospel and the divinity of Christ Himself. It got brutal. For nearly 7 minutes, Colbert deftly explained seeming contradictions in the New Testament, showed how Scripture supports Christ’s divinity and intellectually embarrassed the scholar in Zimbardo fashion. You can watch the entire exchange here.

The Time He Discussed the Importance of Humor in Faith

In 2012, Stephen Colbert took part in an event called “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy and the Spiritual Life” at Fordham University. Moderated by Rev. James Martin—Jesuit and priest and author—the event featured a light-hearted, but intelligent conversation about faith and humor between Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

“If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble,” Colbert joked at the event. Though the two discussed a variety of issues, the one thing Colbert made clear was the genuine love he has for the Body of Christ and being a part of the Church: “Are there flaws in the Church? Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the Church? Absolutely … The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the Church gives me, which is love.”

The Time He Used the Bible to Advocate for Immigration Reform at Congress

Though much of his testimony before Congress—advocating for immigration reform and farm workers—was played for poignant laughs (“Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read [the bill]”), Colbert also used a another strategy to get his message across—quoting Scripture.

After talking about how he spent one day as a farm worker (making him an expert, of course), Colbert got serious about his motivations. “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seems like [some] of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, ‘whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers,’ and these seem like the least of our brothers right now …. Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/6-times-stephen-colbert-got-serious-about-faith#ubP5caTTYJi58Bgc.99

Whether You Like Potty Humor of Not You Will Most Definitely Love What Seth Rogen is Working on Now

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Seth Rogen is generally one of those comedians that you may not want your family to know that you think is funny. If they knew that you thought he is/was funny they might think that you didn’t actually mature quite like everyone who loves you had been hoping you would… Well, you might want to have them watch this video…

America in 2013, as Told in Charts

One of my favorite things about there being a “New Year” is that people get a feeling that they can better themselves, and start over somewhat. In order for the yearly reset button to be worth anything at all there must be need for change, and thus we have a reason to ask ourselves about the past and what should stay the same, as well as what needs to change. This article by Steve Rattner addresses our nation with plenty of wonderful words, but even better he also does so with charts! I hope that you enjoy this, and if you don’t I beg of you to kick yourself.

-Grady

America in 2013, as Told in Charts

Posted: 31 Dec 2013 09:45 AM PST

Originally published in the New York Times.

Looking back on 2013, many of the economic and political themes seemed familiar: a weak economy. Growing income inequality. Gridlock in Washington. Partisan wrangling over fiscal policy. But others, like the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act HealthCare.gov website and the government shutdown, were new or at least revivals. Below are 10 charts to illustrate a depressing first year of President Obama’s second term:

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Not only did trends of recent years continue in 2013 – particularly the diverging fortunes of the rich and everyone else — but in some ways they accelerated. The stock market, as measured by the Standard & Poor’s index, was up a stunning 32 percent (through Dec. 27). Corporate profits rose to a record $2.1 trillion. Meanwhile, incomes remained nearly flat and jobs tallies grew slowly. Through Oct. 30, earnings were up just 1.4 percent, an even smaller increase than in 2012. The only relative bright spot for the average American was housing; thanks in part to the aggressive efforts by the Federal Reserve to hold down interest rates, sale prices of homes were up by 13.3 percent in September, compared with a year earlier.

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Economic growth — a likely increase in gross domestic product of just 1.8 percent in 2013, after adjusting for inflation — was also unbalanced in other ways, particularly the impact of the government. The nation’s quickly falling deficit (it dropped from $1.09 trillion to $680 billion in a single year) cost dearly in economic activity. Spending by cash-strapped consumers and investment by skittish businesses both grew at slightly below customary rates. A flat-lining Europe dented President Obama’s pledge to double American exports by 2015. On the other hand, home building and related residential activity, depressed since the onset of the financial crisis, provided a second annual lift to the economy.

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Employment remained an overarching problem. While job growth has picked up steam in the last few months, the fall’s higher pace of job creation – around 200,000 per month – would still not be nearly enough to bring unemployment down to pre-recession levels. According to calculations by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, even if the 200,000 jobs per month rate were maintained, the unemployment rate would not fall to the November 2007 level of 4.7 percent for another five years.

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Not only has the job recovery been sluggish, but also a disproportionate number of those that have been created have been in lower wage occupations, such as retail clerks and fast-food workers. And that trend is projected (by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) to continue; using a simple average, the 10 job categories expected to add the most jobs during the current decade boasted a collective median wage of $32,386 in 2010, roughly $15 per hour and far below the United States median of $51,892 at the time. Seven of the 10 categories pay below this average. Note the conspicuous absence of manufacturing; it may be recovering, but it isn’t what is driving new jobs.

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Wage increases haven’t been paltry because the efficiency of the American worker has flagged; indeed, productivity has continued to chug along. But those productivity gains have simply not been passed on to workers. Between 2000 and 2012, productivity rose by 22 percent while wages increased by 7.7 percent. The divergence was particularly great over the last three years of that period – productivity up 4.6 percent and real wages down 1.1 percent. For this failure of the American worker to be rewarded for his growing output, blame a variety of factors, perhaps most important, globalization, which has allowed companies to move production to whatever part of the planet offers the lowest cost labor. In that respect, American workers remain in a race to the bottom.

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The troubles with the Affordable Care Act’s HealthCare.gov rollout sure grabbed daily headlines this fall. But throughout the commotion, little mention was made of the most fundamental aspect of the law: the way in which it raises nearly $2 trillion over the next decade — mostly from wealthy individuals and health care providers — and uses the money to fund the largest expansion in insurance coverage since Medicare was created nearly 50 years ago. As shown above, the end result should be better health care options for those closer to the bottom end of the income scale, through the Medicaid expansion and creation of exchanges with subsidies for most participants. The intended result: 25 million fewer uninsured Americans. Yes, this is redistribution on a grand scale, and we should all be very proud of it. But as evidenced by Obamacare’s consistently poor poll numbers, most Americans are not feeling charitable toward the less well off.

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Trust in many American institutions has been declining, but few institutions have fallen so far out of grace as Congress. Last year, I showed that the previous Congress was the least productive Congress in modern times, including the famous Do-Nothing Congress of 1947-48, passing just 238 laws, 37 percent of the average of the 32 Congresses that preceded it. In 2013, the first year of this Congress, the number of new laws passed fell further, to 55 (as of Nov. 30), seven fewer than during the same period in 2011. As a result, Congress now stands dead last in approval rating among key American institutions – far below other braches of government, below news outlets, below banks and even below big business.

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Congress well deserves that poll standing, in significant part because of the damage that it has done to the federal budget. The combination of Republican determination to cut spending and Democratic insistence that none of the entitlement programs (such as Medicare and Social Security) be meaningfully affected has resulted in the utterly inane policy of starving key domestic programs, including education, infrastructure and research and development. The recent budget fight and subsequent agreement did nothing to change that trajectory. As shown by the red line above, all that resulted was avoiding the worst two years of forced budget cuts to these programs; for the 10 years beginning in 2008, this important spending will rise slightly in nominal numbers but will fall by 5 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

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The dysfunction in Washington has taken its toll in other important ways. Not only has business confidence been shaken, but each new political battle has also been terrifying for consumers. Back in the summer of 2011, when the United States had its AAA credit rating removed by S.&P. after it flirted with default, consumer confidence recorded the second biggest two-month drop ever, behind only the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A smaller decline occurred at the end of 2012 when Congress nearly went over a fiscal cliff. Beginning this past July, consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level in nearly two years as a result of the government shutdown, the A.C.A. problems and related battles. Now, a two-year budget nearly in hand, Americans’ moods seem to have improved. At a time when we need consumers to spend (prudently), these periods of faltering confidence have real economic consequences.

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In contrast to the mood in most of the country and the still slow economy, Silicon Valley is partying again, albeit not quite like 1999. The Facebook initial public offering in May 2012 helped usher in a resurgence of excitement among investors for anything that looks like a sexy new high-tech service. This year’s poster child I.P.O. was Twitter, which set a new record of one kind among recent major technology I.P.O.’s: its valuation of more than 28 times its revenues. That didn’t daunt investors; the stock promptly more than doubled and now trades at 65 times revenues. (Of course, there are no profits.)

The “Nuclear Option”, and Some Common Sense Filibuster Reform

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Recently is was announced the Harry Reid and the Democrats in the United States Senate will be going the route of the “Nuclear Option” in regards to the filibuster. Republicans over the last few years have changed the market for the filibuster by doing to more than ever before, and by doing it on items that have never before been filibustered (Presidential Nominations). I personally am sad to see this happen, but I also understand a bit of why it is happening. The group No Lables, who I worked for a few years ago, has been pushing for bipartisan reforms for the last 3 years. I receive still receive their emails, and this is an excerpt from their most recent email about the “Nuclear Option”. If you are interested in learning more I suggest looking into who they are and what they are doing.

 

NO LABELS on the Fill:

GOING NUCLEAR: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this morning he plans to use the nuclear option to reform the nomination process to remove filibusters for most presidential nominees. This is an unprecedented move, one that when Reid was the minority leader said that the “nuclear fallout” would bring even more gridlock in a chamber that is already slow moving, according to Paul Kane. One solution to avoid this hyper-partisan move is our proposal to have presidential nominees be subject to an up-or-down vote within 90 days of the nomination: Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan for The Washington Post: The Senate is at Defcon-1 and about to change forever. Here’s what that means.

On their website here is how the filibuster reform is presented:

Up or Down Vote on Presidential Appointments

The Problem

When our Founders gave the Senate “Advice and Consent” power over presidential appointments, they hoped it would encourage the president to appoint qualified people and avoid conflicts of interest.

Today, it’s the senators themselves who seem to have conflicts of interest, with key presidential appointments routinely held up for trivial reasons or to serve the narrow interests of a single senator. In one notorious case from 2010, a senator held up over 70 presidential nominees at once to secure more federal spending for his state.

As of late 2011, more than 200 presidentially-appointed positions remained unfilled. In the last few years the directorship of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, key positions at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve and numerous federal judgeships have been left unfilled for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the quality of the nominees.

– See more at: http://www.nolabels.org/work (#2)


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“Obama To Ask for Congressional Approval to Intervene in Syria” – Why this is big news

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Obama: “US should take military action on Syria

If you keep up with the history if American relations in geopolitics you are sure to know that’s e major point of conflict in our nation is whether or not the President has to ask for congressional approval for our nation to take war powers action, even though our constitution says that they are supposed to, and we are somehow continuously at war. This is a nuanced discussion/debate, but it appears that some potentially alarm sounding news has been made.

It appears that it’s finally about to happen again, President Obama has announced that he will seek congressional approval to take action in Syria. This is doubtful to act as a precedent for moving back in the direction of congressional approval being a requirement for war, but this is not nothing. Over the next few weeks and months this will likely spark a heated debate about the workings of our nation’s military forces, especially since taking action seems to be Very unpopular looking forward, unlike the Iraq war which had considerable support, but ended with a very low level of support. I think that this more isolationist approach reflects our nations more libertarian (which doesn’t just mean right-wing) ideals – which I think is somewhat of a product of our nation having faced such adversity over the last 5 years. It seems that people feel that we have to secure our own oxygen mask before we help out the kids next to us in the plane.

*To read more about congressional involvement in war declarations click this link below.
Declaration of War by the United States

The New Economic Risk: Complacency – Steve Rattner

A couple of my favorite political things collided in this article: Steve Rattner, and No Labels (who I used to work for). I’d be very interested to know what kind of measures might be proposed as Mr. Rattner suggests in this article.

The world is complicated, so while reading about large often controversial topics like the ones discussed in this article I suggest attempting to observe yourself, and whether or not you have your mind made up before you read about such challenging things or not.

The New Economic Risk: Complacency

Posted: 21 Jun 2013 07:06 AM PDT

Originally published in the New York Times

With each month of steady employment growth — in May, 175,000 jobs were created — the feeling of lassitude around the issues facing the American economy takes hold a little bit more.

Amid the gathering drumbeat of pronouncements of economic optimism, most dramatically from the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday, the feeling of dread that used to bubble up in the moments before each month’s jobs report has largely dissipated.

That’s good news, certainly. But still, the thing that has replaced our collective dread may be even more dangerous in the long run — and that’s complacency. The slowness of our economic recovery should remain our biggest national worry, particularly as that sluggishness is manifested in inadequate job totals and stagnant incomes.

For example, the Hamilton Project, a research group based at the Brookings Institution, has calculated that on the current trajectory, it would take until October 2022 for the unemployment rate to return to its level at the end of 2007, just before the recession began, when it stood at 5 percent.

That would mean nine more years in which too many Americans without steady incomes struggled to make ends meet.

Even if the rate of job growth accelerated to 200,000 per month, it would still take until late 2020 to get the nation back to full employment.

Equally concerning is the stagnation of wages. Over the past four years, the average incomes of Americans (after adjusting for inflation) have remained mired at 2008 levels. With income inequality incontrovertibly rising, that means that most Americans have suffered cuts in their purchasing power.

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But here’s the really incredible part: despite these worrisome facts, Congress has been doing nothing, absolutely nothing, to address the problem.

Or of late, any of the nation’s real problems. The 112th Congress, which ended on Jan. 3, passed 17 percent fewer bills than any previous Congress since 1948 (and possibly even before that), according to the Library of Congress. And this Congress is already off to a slower start than its predecessor.

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Small-government conservatives may view this as good news; the less government does, the happier they say they would be. I have a different opinion. I believe we have plenty of challenges and that it’s Congress’s job to address them.

For his part, President Obama has been faithfully unfurling proposals, including major ones during the last presidential campaign and in his new budget, released in April. And since early spring, he has tried to mobilize public opinion by journeying to places like Austin, Tex., Baltimore and Mooresville, N.C., on his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.”

But neither the tepid economic data nor the president’s exhortations have moved Congress. After demanding that the Senate Democrats pass a budget for the first time in four years, a clutch of important Republican senators are now refusing to participate in the next procedural step, a conference committee between the houses of Congress to reconcile their competing budget proposals.

So instead of pounding out thoughtful policy, Congress hurtles toward the next fiscal crisis — a double showdown this fall over financing the government for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and over raising the debt ceiling that limits the federal government’s ability to borrow money to finance its budget deficit.

No one should be surprised, then, that the American people’s confidence in Congress has now dropped to 10 percent, the lowest on record.

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It’s time for Congress to do something. That doesn’t mean that I’m signing up with those who advocate a Japanese-style exercise of scattering huge sums of government money willy-nilly to try to stimulate the economy. That may provide a short burst of energy, but it would compound our debt problem — yes, we still have a big one — without offering long-term relief.

Happily, there’s no shortage of smart policy programs that, for small amounts of money (at least some of which could come from trimming other parts of the budget), could address the structural problems that are holding back our jobs recovery.

For example, last week, the left-leaning Center for American Progress released an exhaustive compendium of ideas, some of them hugely idealistic (like overhauling the tax code), but others quite manageable in the short term. One such idea is to reprogram education spending to better target science and engineering — areas where the next generation of jobs is likely to emerge.

Similarly, President Obama’s latest budget provides for long-term deficit reduction while carving out additional funding for critical needs like establishing an infrastructure bank.

And yet, Congress has let these and other good ideas wither on the vine.

Maybe the solution is to borrow one good idea from Republicans. At Republican leaders’ insistence, an earlier budget deal included a requirement that lawmakers’ salaries be held in suspension if the Senate and House did not each pass a budget. The threat seemed to work: both chambers passed one.

Now it’s time to extend that concept to force Congress to do something to spur job growth and prepare the next generation of American workers — something, that is, other than the misguided sequester now in place.

Polling Update: Presidential Approval, Congressional Republicans (as of 3/19/13)

This polls, like most things, tell a mixed story full of nuance. It starts with President Obama having more people disapprove of his job performance than the number that approve. However, the Republican Party as a whole is still seeing much gloomier polling numbers than the President. But even further still as the Republican Party tends to be the more anti-government party seeing so much disconcerting polling of government approval will inadvertently have have benefits for their movement, well this has been my suspicion for several years now.

Lastly though, I think that Joe Scarborough made a great point on his show this morning about congressional polls when he said that people overall disapprove of congress in vast swaths, but people tend to highly approve of their congressperson. That is a little disappointing to me, but it is just how this seems to work. This is complicated, partially because people don’t always know enough.

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Fiscal Cliff Blame Game (part 2)

I posted recently about polling on the Fiscal Cliff, and who voters were most likely to hold responsible if there were to be a negative outcome. Well, the polling showed a heavy lean towards the blame being placed on congressional Republicans, and newer polling shows that the gap has virtually closed. This is all of
Of course this is all according to polling, and since I have a hard time believing that the numbers closed as much as the polls would indicate I would imagine that one of them is wrong.

Another point of interest, assuming that this polling is somewhat accurate is the gap between the parties willingness to compromise. I wish that compromise wasn’t such a dirty word…

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From All Sides, Fiscal Plans Fall Far Short of What’s Needed – Steve Rattner

From All Sides, Fiscal Plans Fall Far Short of What’s Needed.

Well, long story short, I agree with Mr. Rattner again. I think that he’s right that neither side has had a sufficient plan, but that doesn’t make their proposals equal (that would be just too convenient for the Ralph Nader’s of the world, who I actually do like). I think that in the middle of these debates it would have been wonderful to watch real reforms take place. Let’s look at it from a health stand point, as if our nation was a human body – we are having a very hard time trying to stop the bleeding from our wounds after having fallen on our face in a drunken stupor, but we don’t seem willing to stop the drinking that is causing our wounds inside and outside of our body… Does that make senses? We have a broken system, and it can’t get better until we have a discerning decision making body that wants to live and thrive. I have plugged this group multiple times before, but maybe it takes some outside ideas to get things working again, and I think No Labels might be our 12 step program… If for no other reason I encourage you to check out their plans for reform that would help us move forward, especially their plan to Make Congress Work.

– Grady

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From All Sides, Fiscal Plans Fall Far Short of What’s Needed

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