Posted by: JanF | January 2, 2014

Elections Matter: What’s at Stake in 2014?

Quick answer: pretty much everything.

When I was phonebanking in 2010 for OFA (Obama For America) in Wisconsin, the unified campaign effort was tasked with electing a Democratic governor, re-electing Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), and electing Democrats to the House of Representatives. The phone script included this: “Please vote to send people to Washington DC who will help President Obama advance his agenda”.

On the list of people we were calling were those who had voted for President Obama in 2008, people who should have been interested in advancing his agenda because, in theory, they voted to do just that only two years before.

But mid-terms are funny things. Many of the people I called said they only voted in presidential elections. Some of them were unhappy because they didn’t get their pony so much of the president’s agenda had to be set aside to deal with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression … a parting “gift” from Worst President in History George W. Bush.

Well, Democrats were not enthused but Republicans were because they had two things firing up their base: a black man (who was not even born in ‘Murica!!) had stolen the election (ACORNNNN!!) … and the Affordable Care Act had been passed, ushering in death panels and government-run health care and frightening all your doctors into fleeing to the libertarian paradise of Somalia.

So turnout was low and we ended up with Scott Walker and a solid Republican legislature here in Wisconsin. And we sent Ron Johnson to the Senate and Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble to the House of Representatives. Elsewhere, Michigan got Rick Snyder, Ohio got John Kasich, Pennsylvania got Tom Corbett, Florida got Rick Scott, Iowa got Terry Branstad, Maine got Paul LePage … and America got Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.

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Posted by: JanF | December 31, 2013

The White House 2013 Year in Review

As 2013 draws to a close, I am reminded of how much I dislike end of year retrospectives. Charlie Pierce calls them “lazy journalism” … I call them boooooring. I saw all that 2013 stuff and I am ready to look Forward to 2014 which I think will be a very good year for Democrats.

But I will not begrudge the White House pointing to the accomplishments of the Obama Administration in 2013 and, being an O-Bot, I will willingly link to their website.

Year in Review

In 2013, our economy grew, and our deficit shrunk. For the first time in almost two decades, we said that we’re producing more oil at home than we buy from the rest of the world. We honored our heroes. We bounced back from national tragedies and natural disasters. We strengthened our relationships with allies around the world and took action to promote the American dream at home. Take a look at our 2013 year in review.

But what is more exciting to me, a Twitter-aholic, is the White House list of Top @WhiteHouse Tweets of 2013. Because history, 140 characters at a time, is worth preserving.
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Posted by: JanF | December 28, 2013

What lesson will be learned?

Republicans are congratulating themselves over extracting concessions in the recent 2-year budget deal that left the extension of unemployment benefits to 1.3 million Americans on the cutting room floor.

Those benefits are from the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Act passed in 2008 and extended 11 times, usually as a hostage held by the Republican Party to force President Obama and the Democrats to give in to their demands. At the end of 2010, Republicans in Congress used the threat of real harm to millions of Americans, from the expiration of EUC benefits, to extend the Bush tax cuts (a compromise for which the president took a lot of heat from his “base”).

What is EUC?

Extended Benefits are available to workers who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment. The basic Extended Benefits program provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits when a State is experiencing high unemployment. Some States have also enacted a voluntary program to pay up to 7 additional weeks (20 weeks maximum) of Extended Benefits during periods of extremely high unemployment.

Before the expiration:

After the expiration:

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Poll: Dems Drop 13 Points On Generic Ballot In 2 Months

The CNN/ORC poll released Thursday found that a Republican candidate leads a Democratic candidate on the generic ballot, 49 percent to 44 percent. The new findings from the mid-December poll are a switch from two months ago when Democrats had the advantage over Republicans on the generic ballot. Back then, the same polling outlet found Democrats leading Republicans on the generic ballot, 50 percent to 42 percent.

So a person who does not exist will lose to another person who does not exist in an election 311 days from now. Sigh. Perhaps the wildly fluctuating polls had something to do with this?
- Only 6 people were able to enroll at on Oct. 1
Or maybe because the right-wing and mainstream (is that redundant?) news sites are pounding the “Obamacare is a failure!!” story and ignoring any good news?

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Posted by: JanF | December 20, 2013

Oh Hai, The Returning Light!

The winter solstice “occurs exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. Though the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, the term is also a turning point to midwinter and the first day of winter.”

That moment occurs tomorrow, December 21st, at UTC 17:11 or 11:11 a.m. Central Time, which is my time zone.

Of course, that is the scientific explanation. We know better!

Twice a year, on the solstice holidays, Basement Cat and Ceiling Cat are locked in mortal combat over the Light. At summer solstice, Basement Cat prevails and the light starts receding … gradually at first and then more quickly until the autumnal equinox, when the light and dark are equal.

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Posted by: JanF | December 13, 2013

In the News: A Two-Year Budget

Late Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a two-year budget with bipartisan support.

As would be expected from a bipartisan agreement, there are unhappy people on both sides of the aisle.

But the news, and the important news, is that we have a budget resolution which will fund the government for the next two years. When it passes the Senate, it means that for the first time in three years, we do not have to worry about government shutdowns being used as leverage to extract concessions, usually ones that take whacks at the social safety net.

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Posted by: JanF | December 8, 2013

Baking a cake is NOT “protected speech” …

… nor is being required to sell a cake to same-sex couples (or their friends and family) “trampling” a baker’s religious freedom.

During my morning news reading, I came across this story in ThinkProgress reporting on a Colorado judge’s ruling against the baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.

Colorado Judge: Bakery That Refused Wedding Cake To Same-Sex Couple Broke The Law

In July of 2012, the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple who were planning to celebrate with friends and family the marriage they had received in Massachusetts. The couple, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, filed a complaint, and the Colorado Attorney General proceeded to do the same, and Friday, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer ruled against Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery.

The complaint had been filed on behalf of the couple by the ACLU who had this to say about the ruling:

“Masterpiece Cakeshop has willfully and repeatedly considered itself above the law when it comes to discriminating against customers, and the state has rightly determined otherwise,” said Sara R. Neel, staff attorney with the ACLU of Colorado. “It’s important for all Coloradans to be treated fairly by every business that is open to the public – that’s good for business and good for the community.”

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Posted by: JanF | November 29, 2013

Thankful for Progress

Yesterday, ThinkProgress posted “ThankProgress: 9 Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For“, a list of things that we made progress on over this past year.

Here is their list (click the link for details):
1. States are enacting protections for undocumented immigrants.
2. Same-sex couples have more access to marriage benefits than ever before.
3. More workers are getting raises and taking sick leave.
4. Uninsured Americans are signing up for health insurance.
5. The U.S. is taking steps to address the consequences of climate change.
6. States are enacting prison reform.
7. College activists across the country are fighting back against rape culture.
8. Solar power is on the rise and prices keep dropping.
9. Number of homeless Americans on the decline.

When you look at that list, you could just as easily say “but … but … we didn’t get it all!!!”. And you would be right … we didn’t get it all … but we did make progress.

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Posted by: JanF | November 27, 2013

Let’s Feed America

With the match, $1 will provide 18 meals.

When I was asked to do a blog post for a Feeding America Blogathon a few years ago, I set my Googles to the task: first, to find out what Feeding America was, and second, to find out a little bit more about food security in America and the food stamp program, SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program)

Feeding America has some pretty simple origins:

In the late 1960s, John van Hengel, a retired businessman in Phoenix, Arizona began volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and began soliciting food donations for the kitchen. He ended up with far more food than the kitchen could use in its operations. Around this time, he spoke with one of the clients, who told him that she regularly fed her family with discarded items from the grocery store’s garbage bins. She told him that the food quality was fine, but that there should be a place where unwanted food could be stored and later accessed by people who needed it, similar to how banks store money.

Van Hengel began to actively solicit this unwanted food from grocery stores, local gardens, and nearby produce farms. His effort led to the creation of St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, the nation’s first food bank.

(I want to pause here for a minute to think about a time when a food kitchen had too much food).

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Posted by: JanF | November 25, 2013

Why Democrats should not fear “Majority Rules”

Last Thursday, Senate Democrats voted to remove the threat of filibuster from most judicial and executive branch confirmations.

Essentially, they said that the majority has the right to govern as a majority. Small-d democracy finally being applied to the Senate which has been in the hands of Big-D Democrats for the last 7 years.

The showdown that led to this rule change was remarkable in it’s blatant disregard for the Constitution of the United States. Senate Republicans were attempting to nullify the law that had established that the DC appeals court would have 11 judges presiding. The Republicans did not put forward and pass a bill to change the number of judges: they blocked the Senate from voting on the confirmation of the three judges needed to fill the court’s vacancies.

The Washington press corps and their sycophants in the punditry were quick to issue warnings about how terrible this would be: for Democrats. The Friday news cycle was filled with scare stories: “Democrats will pay the price”, “Harry Reid’s blunder”, “Democratic overreach will come back to haunt them”, “You did it: more Scalias for you!”, “No filibuster means more rapes!!”.

Of course, as is often the case, the woe-is-you’ers were completely missing the point and 100% wrong.

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