The Watering Hole, Monday, February 17th, 2014: Pick an Issue?

I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”

Which issue matters most to you in 2014?

__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare

__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy

__Raising the Minimum Wage

__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom

__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work

__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs

__Supporting Small Business Startups

__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology

Other:

I went with “Other”, more or less:

While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.

Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.

How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?

This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 18th, 2013: Profit Contest to Photo Contest

Even though most of the people who need Obamacare have not yet taken advantage of it, other interests are poised to board the Obamacare money train. The Wall Street Journal’s Howard Gold is encouraging investment in the health care industry. A few snippets:

“This diverse sector, which includes red-hot biotechnology, Big Pharma, medical device makers, hospitals, health insurers, and other services, is profiting from structural shifts far beyond the changes brought in by the Affordable Care Act…In fact, health care stocks may have entered a new secular bull market, which is why you should take some profits on cyclicals and other market-sensitive stocks and reinvest the money into this group.”

“We’re clearly in a favorable environment,” said Andy Acker, manager of Janus Global Life Sciences fund since 2007. “I think this is a question of when this gets resolved, not if,” Acker said. “Millions of people will sign up for health care.”

In an earlier (March 2013) article from conservative moneynews.com, entitled “How Companies are Cashing in on Obamacare”, author Michael Kling wrote:

“Although its critics say Obamacare will increase business costs, some companies are cashing in on the healthcare reform law…CNNMoney reviewed six companies that might reap huge benefits from Obamacare.

Take, for instance, Health Recovery Solutions, a New York City-based start-up that helps hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for readmitting patients. To decrease preventable return visits by Medicare patients, Obamacare levies high cuts to Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that have a certain percentage of these return visits.

Health Recovery Solutions furnishes tablets full of educational videos and information patients can use to care for themselves. Using the tablet, patients send information, such as medications they are taking, to the hospital care team for review.

Eligible, another start-up, takes care of the complex wiring insurers need to quickly answer customer questions about coverage and eligibility, one of the many Obamacare requirements.

GoHealth offers an online tool that enables people to compare health care insurance plans. Consumers can use the platform to enroll in plans or just compare plans before contacting an insurance broker.

QuantiaMD offers a website where doctors can offer presentations, hold private discussions with each other and hold virtual consultations. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies and hospitals sponsor the content on the site.

Obamacare limits the proportion of premium revenue insurers can spend on salaries, overhead and marketing. That’s where Connecture comes in. The Brookfield, Wisc., company provides software that helps insurance companies cut costs through automation. It also helps states with technology needed to create insurance exchanges, another Obamacare requirement.

Another company getting involved with the state exchanges is hCentive, which has built a platform the exchanges can use.

Many of the companies saw their sales jump after the elections. Healthcare companies were not sure Obamacare would be enacted, and state officials were not sure they would still be required to create exchanges by this October…“Many states were waiting to decide to set up their own exchanges — they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen,” Sanjay Singh, an hCentive partner, told CNNMoney.

“they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen” No, they kept HOPING this wouldn’t happen. Because despite their hatred of all things Obama-related, despite all of the conservative hyperbole about “job-killing”, “bankrupting businesses”, “the end of freedom as we know it”, “it’s socialist Obama’s anti-capitalism agenda”, etc., ad nauseum; and despite the 40+ failed efforts by Congressional Republicans to kill Obamacare, every single one of those nay-sayers HAD to realize, deep down, that Obamacare is a boon to the private, capitalistic, for-profit healthcare “industry.” (spit!)

Okay, since you were all good enough to put up with the above drivel, here’s your justly-deserved palate-cleanser…

It’s that time of year again: the National Geographic Photo Contest is open, but only ’til the end of November. I know quite a few of our Critters and Zoosters who should submit a few entries! Here’s last year’s “Nature” category winner, photographed by Ashley Vincent:
busaba-indochinese-tiger_62797_600x450
Here’s two ways to view some or all of the current entries: The Atlantic picked 39 of the photos, and you can just scroll through them. Note that you can also switch from 1024 pixels to 1280 (I chose 1280.) Or you can go directly to the National Geographic 2013 Photo Contest webpage, where there are links to the photos entered to date, as well as links to 2012 winners and other photo galleries. Here’s one of the 2013 entries, by Sam Morris:

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

This is our daily open thread, what do you have to say today?

The Watering Hole; Friday, The Ides of March, 2013; Requiem: America

“Beware the ides of March,” said the Soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, (Act I, Scene ii):

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.
Cassius: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
Caesar: What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

According to Plutarch’s historical Life of Julius Caesar, “. . . when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: “Well, the Ides of March are come,” and the seer said to him softly: “Ay, they are come, but they are not gone.” And thus it was that two thousand and fifty-seven years ago this day, on the Ides of March in the year 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was, as the Soothsayer had predicted, murdered. He was at the Theater of Pompey where he was stabbed to death by his ‘friend’ Brutus, himself parcel to an extensive conspiracy of Senators built around the growing suspicion that Caesar’s intent was to do away with ‘republican’ Rome and instead create a Monarchy with himself as Monarch. Shakespeare’s epic play, Julius Caesar, written circa 1599, takes a few liberties with the details of the moment as recorded by Plutarch, but still it accurately portrays the anxiety implicit in leadership succession, a reality both in 44 BCE and on the horizon again in Elizabethan England at the time the play was written.

A year or two later, in what has proven to be Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular and oft-performed Tragedy, Hamlet speaks of similar fears, though in completely different context:

Hamlet: To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
To die—to sleep,
(. . .)
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pausethere’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong . . . the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?
(. . .)
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

More than 400 years have passed since Shakespeare penned those masterpieces, but the implicit human dilemma remains constant. Here in the United States of America, as well as in various elsewheres around the globe, people of serious mind and conscience find themselves concerned with the political evolution: the ‘succession’, if you will, of that well-known and constant tyranny, invariably designed to further empower the powerful, to further enrich the wealthy, and always at the expense of the common folk, the children, and the already poor.

In the United States this day, on 2013′s Ides of March, the government is, in effect, hostage to the immense wealth — and the power implicit in such wealth — held by the smallest handful of people in consort with their bought-and-paid-for lackeys in the US Congress. Thus the House of Representatives, marginally controlled by a (gerrymandered) ‘republican’ majority, patently refuses to do ANYTHING to help solve the nation’s current (and of their own devise) financial dilemma. Instead, they stand in the way of virtually every proposal, preferring to exacerbate rather than address the fiscal problems in order to find the means of blaming everything on their Democratic opposition, including especially the President. They refuse to take ANY actions which might assist in job creation, or education, infrastructure maintenance, health care, dealing with climate change, etc., et al., through and including ANY action that might help ANYONE other than their already rich and powerful owners, and themselves. They have proven to be exceptionally willing, however, to fabricate and vote on myriad bogus proposals designed to eliminate such horrors as contraception and pregnancy terminations; to defund Planned Parenthood; to weaken and eventually destroy labor unions; to prevent any effort to legitimize full and equal rights for the LGBT community; to never allow passage of any and all gun control legislation; to halt any effort at reasonable immigration reform; to inhibit the voting rights of selected ethnic groups typically loyal to the opposition; to defund by any means possible each and every human assistance program; to NEVER allow any tax increase on the already wealthy and/or corporate profits. They have, however, demonstrated unusual alacrity when it comes to finding clever ways of increasing military spending, and of officially naming Post Offices and other federal buildings; with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.

The Senate is no better. There, the Democrats hold a working majority but thanks to insidious filibuster provisions, they’re unable to pass more than the occasional (and typically unimportant) legislation even as significant proposals seldom if ever even make it to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, Senate ‘republicans’ support virtually the same regressive agendas as do House ‘republicans’ — all the while the whips and scorns of time, Th’oppressor’s wrong . . . the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of th’unworthy takes, when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin continue unabated. How did Hamlet know? How could he predict the antics of today’s US Congress?

Perhaps because their intent is eternally simple — to do whatever might be necessary to ensure the failure of their opposition’s goal of assisting the poor and the middle class, to force the failure, in effect, of the President and the nation that elected him twice — a repeat of those “leadership succession” events in Rome, 44 BCE, and again in Elizabethan England, circa 1600 CE. One is forced to ponder, yet one more time, the question that has plagued mankind since it first evolved: where are the people of Conscience when we need them?

This day, the Ides of March are come yet again, for the 2057th time since the death of Julius Caesar, but they are not gone — as yet another proscribed death appears to be on the horizon: the death of a nation. This nation; the nation where — thanks in no small part to the efforts of its ‘republican’ faction, the political movement which values ONLY the accumulation of wealth and power as means of accession to the throne — the predictable consequences of her errant politics are slowly  becoming perceivable, because:

Requiem, as dirge of sophistic love,
Exposes destinies which nations earn.
Quoth Hamlet: “conscience does make cowards of
Us all – that is, till We the People learn,
Implicitly, that human Cowardice
Exudes contempt for Rationalities.
Meanwhile, mankind’s destiny – Avarice –
Appears in service to those Vanities
Most shallowed minds presume to be their right,
Enabling failure thus of Self, of State.
Repression blooms and quickly dims all light
Intrinsic to the heart of Freedom’s Fate –
Consumed – whilst words of Truth, now specious, Moan . . .
And stand as lifeless slogans . . . etched in stone.

R E Q U I E M      A M E R I C A
Q.E.D.

Footnote: On the Ides of March, 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer, had become aware of Hitler’s pending edict that, as the Allied armies approached, everything that remained within Germany was to be destroyed via a genuine scorched earth policy. Hitler saw such destruction as a means of denying plunder to the Allies, also as punishment of the German people for losing the war. Speer took serious issue with the thesis, and on March 15 1945 he penned a 22 page document to be delivered to Hitler by Colonel von Below. In the document he wrote, “No one has the right to take the viewpoint that the fate of the German people is tied to his fate.” Or in other words, ‘just because you’ve failed as leader doesn’t mean the people have also failed.’ Hitler did still make the decree that Germany be destroyed, but he also put Herr Speer in charge of carrying out the order. Speer purposely ignored it, and though Germany was soon defeated, the scorched earth policy was avoided.

Hamlet said, “conscience does make cowards of us all,” but he doesn’t define “coward” beyond his embedded context. Causes one to speculate a bit: was, e.g., Albert Speer’s action to deny the destruction of Germany an act of conscience’, and was his refusal to carry out his leader’s orders and the policies embedded therein what one might expect from a ‘coward’ driven by ‘conscience’? Could it be that, in Hamlet’s context, the actions taken by a ‘coward’ made by ‘conscience’ are, in reality, potentially heroic acts?

The Ides of March are come again, and the beat goes on, and on, and on. Perhaps We the People should, as an act of ‘conscience’, contact our own “leadership” in Washington, D.C., and in the various states . . . and explain that we, as ‘Cowards’ who do NOT respect our “leadership’s” disdain for the poor, the elderly, the infirm, minorities of every kind, as well as the common man, will have no more of it, that we are thus prepared to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them, that we are also willing (and able) to, in Hamlet’s words, their quietus make with a bare bodkin.

I suspect the ‘republican’ majority in the Congress, acting as the Cowards WITHOUT Conscience that they constantly prove themselves to be, would immediately  pass legislation demanding that each and every sale/purchase of a bare bodkin requires both a background check AND licensing . . . followed immediately by an order for a truckload of fresh Depends.

This is today’s open thread; ‘words of Truth’ are welcome, or:  “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war”!

The Watering Hole: Thursday, February 28, 2013 The Suppression of Economic Recovery

Image

Why is Nobel economist Paul Krugman continually ignored?

The Perils of Hoarding Cash

So, I’ve had a mild-mannered dispute with the economist Joe Stiglitz over whether individual income inequality is retarding recovery right now; let me say, however, that I think there’s a very good case that the redistribution of income away from labor to corporate profits is very likely a big factor.

Take a look at the chart on corporate profits as a share of gross domestic product. Corporations are taking a much bigger slice of total income — and are showing little inclination either to redistribute that slice back to investors or to invest it in new equipment, software, etc. Instead, they’re accumulating piles of cash.

If you put money in a bank, the bank might just accumulate excess reserves. If you buy securities from someone else, the seller might put the cash under his mattress, or put it in a bank that just adds it to its reserves, etc. The point is that buying goods and services is one thing, adding directly to aggregate demand; buying assets isn’t at all the same thing, especially when we’re at the zero lower bound.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon: ‘We Actually Benefit From Downturns’

“This bank is anti-fragile, we actually benefit from downturns,” Dimon bragged to his bank’s investors at a conference on Tuesday.

And it is true! The bank definitely benefited from the last downturn. It got to buy Bear Stearns in a government-backed fire sale, getting itself a brokerage business on the cheap in exchange for shouldering only a few tiresome legal burdens. It also got billions of dollars in government handouts, from $25 billion in TARP funds to billions in savings from low-interest-rate borrowing programs to a permanent subsidy arising from the idea that the government will bail out the bank if it ever gets in trouble.

And now we’re looking at the impending sequestration which in all likelihood will further stall economic recovery.  Do politicians just not care about citizens or are they intentionally trying to keep us down?  What do they gain by keeping us afraid of impending poverty?  Just as they frightened us with the dangers of Obamacare which will actually benefit most they now say spending to stimulate the economy will destroy us with debt.  Do out of work people really believe that the national debt is more harmful to them than not having a job and losing unemployment benefits?

Why Everything Republicans Are Saying About The Sequester Is Wrong

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD.  SAY ANYTHING.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 3rd, 2012: Thank You, Mr. President

Gee, I feel so special: the President’s Campaign Manager wrote directly to ME! Yeah, I know, everyone on their mailing list received this email, but…anyway, here’s Jim Messina’s email, featuring President Obama’s explanation of the deal that he made to ruin John Boehner’s career keep middle-class Americans from being hit with a tax increase:

Jane –

The President reached an agreement with Republicans and Democrats in Congress on the “fiscal cliff” that prevents a tax hike on 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses, while fulfilling the President’s promise to ask the wealthiest Americans to begin to pay their fair share to reduce the deficit.

President Obama recorded a video to update supporters like you on what’s in the agreement and what it means for you — watch it and share it with friends and family:

It’s thanks to people like you who spoke up and contacted your members of Congress throughout this debate that we were able to avoid a crippling tax hike.

As we address our ongoing fiscal challenges, the President will do exactly what he said he would on the campaign trail — working for the middle class and all those fighting to get into it, and building an economy from the middle out, not the top down.

There will be more soon. For now, thanks for all you do, and happy new year.

Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

This is our Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

Watering Hole: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 – No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal

I went to a rally on Saturday.  It was held in front of the local office of Representative Jim Gerlach (R).  He represents the Pennsylvania 6th Congressional District.  Of course, neither Jim nor his staff were there as they don’t work on weekends.  The Republicans in Congress want us to work until we are 70 years old before we can collect our Social Security retirement money.  On the other hand, they only want to work 1/3 of the year and still collect full pay and full benefits.

Rep. Jim Gerlach was re-elected in November and that is because he tells his constituents that he is a “moderate”.  That’s bullsh*t.  He is a placeholder for Republican votes and he votes as he is told to vote by the House Speaker, John Boehner.  Gerlach voted to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid yet the local press was silent about his vote.  His opponent didn’t have much money and he had a large territory to cover to get name recognition.  The media area is the greater Philadelphia area which makes it expensive to advertise.  Rep. Jim Gerlach refused to debate his opponent because he didn’t want anyone to know anything about his opponent, Manan Trivedi.  As for town hall meetings, they are held via the telephone because Gerlach does not want to be confronted by unhappy constituents.  Yeah, I’ll say it.  Rep. Jim Gerlach is a coward.

Enough of my rambling.  Here is a picture of the poster that I was holding.  H/T to Outstandinginthefield for the wording and thank you to everyone else for your good ideas.  I will hold onto those for possible use at another time.

http://i336.photobucket.com/albums/n347/paforchange/DontBeaGrinch.jpg

Live in your strength!

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!  Be heard!  Contact your House Representative!

(this is cross posted at Pennsylvania for Change)

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 20th, 2012: Veterans for Romney?

So far, the one and only yard sign for Mitt Romney that I’ve seen read “Veterans for Romney.” Since I cannot imagine any reason why any veterans would support Romney, I started looking for further information.

The website vetsforromney.com only leads to more confusion: it consists of a photo of Romney with some people dressed in military garb, and a section entitled “Our Platform”; here’s a few bits of said “platform”:

A Responsive Department of Veteran Affairs (VA): As with most government agencies, the VA is growing to become a behemoth…

[sigh - Mitt, keep ignoring those eight years increase in the size of the government under George W. Bush, and keep ignoring the provable fact that President Barack Obama cut several hundred thousand government jobs.]

National Defense: The strength of this nation is built on the bedrock of a strong national defense. They call it low hanging fruit. It’s easy to target defense spending as the first area of cuts. unchecked spending threatens the sovereignty of our nation. Excessive levels of debt disrupt all financial units – whether it be a family, a business or a local, state or federal government. But, the knee jerk reaction can not be to axe away at defense spending while the current administration is unwilling to even mention, let alone seriously consider, reductions in entitlement programs. The strength of this nation is built on the bedrock of a strong national defense.

[Okay, yeah, yeah, strength, bedrock, defense, enough! Mitt, quick question: how do you reconcile this sentence with the one that immediately follows? "It’s easy to target defense spending as the first area of cuts. unchecked spending threatens the sovereignty of our nation."

However, that site led me to some interesting places. Clicking on “ISSUES” at the top brought me directly to…a page on Mitt Romney’s website. There is not one single word on this page regarding veterans, nor in the available links to a variety of “issues” (including “Human Capital”, a disgusting and degrading term.) So, Mitt, what about those veterans and military families?

Next…at the bottom of the “Issues” page is a box that says “Paid for by Romney for President, Inc.” I tried looking into “Romney for President, Inc” and found two sites: one which, oddly, lists Romney’s campaign staff along with brief bios of each; the second appears to be a business search site, simply listing the corporation, its address and a little contact info. Nothing there about veterans and their families, either.

One of the other tabs on the Romney site was labeled “COMMUNITIES”, which was where I found “Veterans and Military Families for Romney.” Aha! I thought: now I’ll find something about why veterans would support Mitt Romney. However, the page does not seem to have any actual Veterans and/or Military Families writing or speaking in support of Mitt Romney. Aside the usual requests for donations, and offers to purchase “Veterans for Romney” merchandise, the only mention of the military is a story about “National Military Voter Readiness Day”, which apparently occurred this past Saturday, September 15th.

The “NEWS/BLOG”, linked from the ‘Veterans for Romney’ website, appears to be a work that’s not in progress. Underneath its amateurish appearance, it at least gives a sort of time-capsule, there are some gems of information about Romney’s reign in Massachusetts, such as a 2007 report by the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL). Here’s an excerpt:

General Comments:
In the first months of the Romney administration the Governor isolated himself to all but a handful of close advisors most of whom came from the business community. This caused the Governor to make some rather serious political missteps that could have been avoided through better communications. However, relations dramatically improved and in the end, GOAL had more access to this administration than any other since the days of Governor Ed King in 1979.

Okay, STILL no mention of veterans and their families, jobs, the V.A., etc.

Either Mitt Romney doesn’t have a plan for America’s veterans and military families, or it is extremely well hidden.

I want someone to ask Mitt Romney to tell America’s veterans whether he approves of the Senate Republicans’ filibuster of the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Corps Bill killing it until next year. I want someone to ask Mitt Romney why he refuses to cut a dime from the bloated Defense budget, yet will be happy to cut “entitlements” and the “behemoth” V.A., which benefit veterans and active military personnel.

Again I ask, why “Veterans for Romney”?

This is our Open Thread. Speak Up on any topic that you choose.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 14th, 2012: The GOP Fab Five?

Today’s thread didn’t start with Newsmax.com – in fact, I don’t actually remember where it started, but my nosing around quickly led me there.

Now that Rick Santorum has officially dropped out of the Presidential race, and with Newt Gingrich not even visible in the rearview mirrors of Mitt Romney’s Mustangs, I took a respite from Presidential politics. An article at Newsmax reminded me that November will bring other contests, one of them being my own Congressional Representative, Nan Hayworth (R-NY.) The article, “Five GOP Freshmen: Here’s What We’ve Learned”, references the original, complete piece at Politico, giving brief blurbs about New York Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY-13th), North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2nd), New York Representative Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19th), Florida Representative Allen West (R-FL-22nd), and Arizona Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ-5th.)

About Michael Grimm, Politico mentions:

A former FBI agent and Marine, Grimm credits the skills he learned in those positions with his ability to take on Washington and be a successful politician, and he says it gives him motivation to keep going. “Having served overseas, having served in combat, I’ve seen some of the darkest places in the world, and I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes when there is no humanity, when there is no hope, when there is no liberty. … What we have is fragile; our liberty, our freedom is taken for granted everyday.”

Huh? Has he seen the look in his constituents’ eyes lately?

Next, Renee Ellmers: from Politico,

…one issue she has no problem speaking out on is health care. The issue is near and dear to her heart as Ellmers is a former nurse, and her husband is a surgeon. Like many of her freshman colleagues, she came into office running on anti-“Obamacare” sentiment and still lists repeal of the health care law has her top priority.

“I’m a member of the [Republican] Doctors Caucus, and we’re very active in putting together different pieces to put into place … a free-market patient-centered program,” she said.

If healthcare is “near and dear to her heart”, how could she possibly believe that the “free market” would make healthcare better or more affordable?

Rep. Hayworth‘s blurb says, in part, “While she has moderate views about climate change and abortion, New York tea party Republicans have backed her.” Hmm…those “moderate views” include pushing for more off-shore oil drilling, and although she says that she is pro-choice, Hayworth believes that the issue of abortion should be left up to the States. Which leads me to wonder how she views what the Republican Governors are doing to abortion rights.

I love how the bit on Allen West begins: “This feisty freshman has earned a lot of attention for his strong, forthright rhetoric.” Sounds like West is being introduced on some nightmarish version of The Dating Game. “Feisty”? “Feisty on steroids”, possibly. That the delusional and psychopathic West ever got elected to public office in the first place is frightening enough, but that he’s considered to be one of the bright stars of the Republican Party is mind-boggling.

David Schweikert of Arizona blames the Senate for the gridlock in Congress. Enough said.

These five freshman representatives are just a sampling of the Republicans who will be defending their seats in November. Oh, joy, I can’t wait to go over the rest of the field. Sigh…

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, February 7 – Picture of the Day

HT: Political Carnival and Twitter User @gottalaff

This goes without any comment from me.

Fellow Critter Wayne A.Schneider mentioned this in yesterday’s comments and I think it is today’s must read: The Washington Post

This is seriously good reporting and shows which lawmakers need to be replaced in Congress. Be it Democratic or Republican.

This is our Open Thread. Weigh in!

Live-blogging the State of the Union address

(photo source: whitehouse.gov)

Hello, everyone!  This evening is something more pleasant, or at least easier to take than the endless GOP clown fests — the annual address to Congress by the President regarding the state of the union.

Fun fact: You know that whole process wherein the guy says “Mr Speaker, the President of the United States,” and then the President makes his way to the podium, shaking hands along the way?  Apparently there’s a formal protocol to that process.  Very interesting!

It’s been a busy year for the President, if not for Congress, since he’s actually interested in doing his job.  It should be an interesting speech, since it will double as his first campaign speech of the 2012 election season.

If you’re wondering what President Obama has accomplished during his presidency, here’s a handy dandy list (it might be a bit dated).

If you’d like to tune in to the speech online, you can watch it on whitehouse.gov.  They’ll be providing chart, stats, and data that helped the President make policy decisions over the last year.  That could be distracting, but we’ll see.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be giving the GOP response this evening.  That’s always good for a laugh.  John Boehner has already declared the speech “pathetic,” and that’s a topic with which the Speaker is quite familiar.  I don’t know about you, but I anticipate misbehavior by the GOP members of Congress.

Join us in the comments section to do your own live-blogging, or simply enjoy the efforts of the other commenters, either way — HAVE FUN!!

The Watering Hole: December 3 – Education

A Golden Apple for Education or Complete Failure

One of the aspects identified by the Occupy movement is the process of reducing our educational work force – teachers. As this process continues the number of students in each classroom increases. This dilutes the education of each and every child. Funds available for education are being cut at both the state and federal levels.

Tax relief for a privileged few has motivated bribes by “corporate persons” and the wealthy to members of Congress. These bribes were enabled by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Anyone making or receiving these bribes should be imprisoned.

This process has to stop if an adequate education is to be offered to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Those denied a proper education will never attain the education levels of their forbears. It is a threat greater than Condi’s ‘mushroom cloud.’ Right now an entire generation is being denied access to an adequate education.

This process has already diluted the value of a high school diploma to the point that an associate degree is required for access to jobs that were formally filled by those with a high school degree. That dilution goes up the scale for each degree level up to the doctorate level (But excluding PhDs in Divinity.) where some are still blessed with a full education.

If allowed to continue, our nation will lose its place in innovation. A future Einstein or Edison will miss an opportunity. At that point, America will begin to lose its place as a world power and slip into the third world or at best assume the same status that Britain has today. America will never recover as the end generation will lose its ability to provide children with an advanced education. The rest of the world will pass us by as a result.

This is our Open Thread. Am I being too pessimistic?

Sunday Roast, November 6th, 2011: Current and Past Perspectives

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers


The Opinion page of last week’s edition (October 28th) of our local paper, The Pawling Press, offered some interesting perspectives on today’s political scene:

First: the liberal columnist, Frank Matheis, used a song from the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers to describe today’s GOP:

“I don’t know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway.
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
No matter what it is or who
commenced it,
I’m against it.

“Your proposition may be good,
But let’s have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
And even when you’ve changed it or
condensed it,
I’m against it.”

Next: the conservative columnist, Paul Keyishian, discussed “The fundamental role of government in a democracy”, putting forth his views on the differences between liberals’ and conservatives’ ideas of the role of the federal government, vis a vis what he called “legislative intervention.” (Note to self: remind Paul Keyishian that the current political battle going on is NOT between liberals and conservatives.) Here’s his closing summary:

“To put it succinctly, you might say that when liberals examine the federal government, they see an indispensable instrument of progressive sociopolitical legislation. When conservatives examine that same government, they see an inordinately costly and needlessly bureaucratic institution. And it’s incumbent upon us, individually and collectively, to ultimately decide which (if either) side is actually correct.”

Lastly: The Pawling Press has been running a weekly column called “Emphasis – U.S.A.”, which brings us “reflections from the archives of Robert McCormick, a noted NBC Washington correspondent…” (Note: I have tried to google Robert McCormick, but found little. However, the time frame here is during the formation of civil rights legislation.) The title of this “reflection” was “Southern Senators don’t debate, they heckle and bite.” I particularly liked this quote:

“The Southerners are always undiluted poison in a debate, and they are even more deadly in an argument over civil rights.”

McCormick then goes on to tell about a dispute between Senator Same Ervin (R-NC) and Senator Jacob Javitz (R-NY), over certain figures in the Civil Rights Commission’s findings. Ervin uses “a very old story that is current down [his] way about a Southern Mountaineer…”: Ervin’s story ends with “..Here are the figures; you know that figures don’t lie”, to which the ‘Southern Mountaineer’ replies, “I know figures don’t lie, but liars sure do figures”, to dismiss the Civil Rights Commission’s statistics. Sounds like Southern Senators haven’t changed much over the last several decades.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

Watering Hole: Monday, October 24, 2011 – Pick One or Two or Three…

This picture speaks for itself.

This is our Open Thread. I’m sure you can find something to say about any one of the issues presented on this picture, so Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: October 15 – Appearances

Lincoln in 1860

On October 15, an 11 year old young lady named Grace Bedell wrote a letter to Abe Lincoln saying that his appearance would improve if he sported a beard. He took time to reply to that letter. You can find the exchange here. I leave it to you as to whether she was correct:

Lincoln in 1863

On the way to his inauguration, Lincoln decided to rest a while in Westfield, NY where the young lady lived and called out for her. They met then, where he acknowledged her part in altering his image.

Two months after that, the Battle of Fort Sumpter marked the beginning of the Civil War.

This brings to mind is that we have entered a period of civil unrest that, while not as devisive as in those times when the issue was between states, defines a chasm between two spectra of society. This time, it is not a regional separation, but one of privilege. This is actually the same kind of grievance that led to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War (Shades of Boston harbor.) I pray that we never approach that condition!

As I said a week ago, OWS brings to mind the events in Poland that brought forward the Solidarity movement. Today, the OWS movement is slated to become a world-wide statement. It is also at the same time that the rest of the world can experience doubt on the meaning of American freedoms. This places a damper on our ability to propagate the “American way” beyond our borders.

This is our Open Thread. What do you think?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 15th, 2011: THIS EARTH IS NOT FLAT

Published in the Pawling Press, Pawling, NY, Friday, September 9th, 2011, under the title “Not So Flat Earth”

Note: I wrote the following in response to an opinion piece by the Pawling Press‘s conservative columnist, Mr. Paul Keyishian. Mr. Keyishian’s piece was entitled “Achieving Ideological Balance at the Federal Level”; it should be available in full at http://www.pawlingpress.com next week.

I found it aptly ironic that both Frank Matheis [liberal columnist] and Paul Keyishian, in their opinion pieces of September 2nd, referred to the idea that no sane person these days believes that the world is flat. However, while Mr. Matheis went on to discuss the dismissal of science by climate change deniers, including many of today’s prominent Republicans and Tea Partiers, Mr. Keyishian took a different route. Mr. Keyishian’s column centered around the idea that, while “established scientific facts” are either right or wrong, opposing political philosophies are “not so cut and dried.” While this is true to a certain degree, some political philosophies are readily proven to be wrong, simply by looking at history.

I am compelled to dismiss Mr. Keyishian’s base premise where he “assume[s] that each side of the political spectrum has something meaningful to contribute…” or “that we all possess the sincere desire to ‘even things out’ politically.” Anyone who has paid attention to the political arena in the last few years since President Obama was elected has to realize that, even before the 2010 mid-terms, the majority of sitting Republicans became the party of Obstruction, the party of “No!” and even “Hell, NO!” Senior Republican Mitch McConnell outright stated that the party’s goal was to “make President Obama a one-term President”, which doesn’t exactly sound like meaningful contribution in my view. The only solution that the Republicans offered to mitigate the effects of the recession and the rampant, increasing unemployment rate were tax cuts, especially for the wealthy and big corporations.

Here’s where we go back to the ‘flat-earth/established science’ idea: Republicans, and I mean every single Republican Congressperson and Senator, still pronounce that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations actually create jobs and must be continued, some believe permanently. This flies completely in the face of established historical fact. Historical facts tell us that, when President Clinton raised taxes, including on the wealthy and corporations, the country gained millions of jobs (and provided his successor with a budget surplus); historical facts also tell us that, when George W. Bush reduced taxes on the wealthy and big corporations, the country LOST millions of jobs. Republicans paid no attention to the burgeoning deficit during the Bush years, but suddenly it became the number one priority when a Democrat, President Obama, took office. (Sorry, that one should be filed under “Hypocrisy”, not “Established Science”.)

Mr. Keyishian’s dream scenario that having a Republican President, a majority Democratic House, and a more-or-less evenly split Senate would help to make Congress, and therefore the country, work better together to accomplish ideologically central, moderate legislation, is just that: a dream scenario. First, this idea is totally dependent on the premise that the members of the House and Senate are all reality-based, competent and honest public servants. Unfortunately, there are very few of those to be found, in this age of big-money-influenced politics. Take the big money out of politics with real, effective campaign finance reform and lobbying reform, and this scenario may become slightly less dreamlike. Second, let’s turn Mr. Keyishian’s scenario on its head and look at the current makeup of the legislative and executive branches: we have a Democratic President, a majority Republican House, and a more-or-less evenly split Senate. If Mr. Keyishian’s hypothesis held true, wouldn’t one have to believe that there would be more cooperation, compromise, and resulting ideologically central, moderate legislation, instead of what is actually happening in today’s Congress?

Lastly, the scenario that Mr. Keyishian proposes has Michele Bachmann as his choice for the Presidency. Like most of the Republican candidates, Ms. Bachmann is a climate-science denier and doesn’t believe in evolution. She has also signed the Grover Norquist pledge (compulsory for Republicans, although one Congressman just recently disavowed the pledge) of no additional taxes, not for anyone, not ever. This past weekend, Ms. Bachman went as far as saying that she ‘would consider’ the idea of ZERO taxes on corporations. Ms. Bachmann has also signed a ‘no abortions for any reason’ pledge, and is anti-homosexual: she and her husband truly believe that one can “pray away the gay.” To sum up, Michele Bachmann is a “Flat-Earther”, and not someone who is qualified to lead the United States of America, especially not in this century.

By Jane E. Schneider

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

Sunday Roast, August 21st, 2011: Just Say “NO” to Oil

Amidst all of the beer, car, cell phone, erectile dysfunction and other pharmaceutical commercials, lately I’ve been seeing a lot more commercials for various oil and natural gas companies, touting all of the research they do or how ‘clean’ their product is. The latest push from Exxon/Mobil is for “oil sands” technology.

“Oil sands” or “tar sands” according to Wikipedia, are defined as “a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour).” One of the largest deposits is located in Alberta, Canada, and a proposed pipeline, the Keystone XL, to run from Alberta to Texas, is currently the center of a whirlwind of controversy, involving the State Department, Congress, the EPA, ranchers and landowners, environmental activists, protests and arrests, and opposing labor unions.

Whooping Cranes

The Keystone XL, owned by the TransCanada company, starts in Alberta, Canada, home of the magnificently beautiful but endangered Whooping Crane, of which there are only about 400 left. The process by which the oil sands are accessed starts with bulldozing forests, then stripmining, then steam-heating the bitumen product. The proposed 36″ diameter pipeline would run through several states, and more importantly, would run through the Ogalalla Aquifer, the “largest underground reservoir on the planet”, part of which is located under the Sandhills of Nebraska. Existing pipelines from the Alberta oil sands facility to parts of the U.S. have already had a history of leaks, including last year’s spill into the Kalamazoo River. Why would anyone even entertain the notion that the 2000-mile-long proposed pipeline would be less likely to be plagued by the same problems? I seriously urge everyone to read the entire Incite article (also linked to above), as well as related articles in this month’s edition of the Audubon magazine, as this post cannot encompass all of the pertinent information, including the sleazy and despicable actions of TransCanada in their efforts to force affected landowners off their lands.

While billions upon billions of dollars are being poured into this proposed pipeline, estimates of U.S. jobs the project could purportedly create are only around 20,000 – a mere drop in the bucket considering the millions of unemployed right now. Are 20,000 jobs really worth the possibility of a slow leak or spill in such a varied and important range of ecosystems through which the pipeline would pass, and especially the possibility of a catastrophic leak into an underground reservoir which serves as a water supply to eight states? The Final Environmental Impact Statement is due out around now, and, once it is published, the Obama Administration has 90 days to review it and make a decision. I sincerely hope that they come to the conclusion that a mere 20,000 jobs is not worth the potentially disastrous risks, and give this proposed pipeline the thumbs down that it deserves.

This is our Sunday open thread — What do you think?

Watering Hole – Monday, August 15, 2011 – The Congressional Reform Act of 2011

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.

Introducing:  The Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

(The Congressional Reform Act is not my creation.  I received this in an email.  The author is unknown).

This is our Open Thread.  Perhaps we should all send a copy of this to our members in Congress.   What do you think?  Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: August 4 – Geese

Roast Goose

I tried to express the situation where Americans find themselves after the debt agreement on Sunday. At first I thought that I could say: “Our goose is cooked.” This statement does not really fit our situation because it implies that we have been caught in a lie or cheated on a partner and will have to pay in some matter such as being fired, ostracized or divorced depending on the nature of the ‘crime’.

I came to the realization that a better statement would be: “We are all goners” as that implies the visage of death or loss through something that was not really our fault. That expression derives itself from the old British term ‘gone Goose’.

We can also say that the debt agreement has “Killed the goose (the middle class) that lays the golden eggs.”

Geese play a central part in all these sayings because geese supplied eggs and meat to guilds-men and the middle class in pre-Victorian Britain. They were easy to care for and mowed the grass around town to boot. In some towns, they were allowed free range and harvested by their designated owner(s). Often the lord (small ‘l’) was the owner who extracted a fee (tax) on said harvest.

Right now the “silly geese” of Congress are giving me “goose bumps” from fear because I will gain nothing but a “goose egg” due to their policies. The basic reason for this situation is that Obama “can’t say boo to a goose.”

Flip the page for a table defining these and other terms. One American term is included. Continue reading

Sunday Roast, July 31st, 2011: If George Washington Had Only Foreseen…Oh, Wait, He Did

The current political environment is marked by a small minority holding the entire nation hostage to its demands, with special-interest groups and the wealthiest among us not-so-secretly directing the strategies of said minority. The term “public servant” no longer applies: today’s Congressional Representatives and Senators do not have the best interests of their constituents, or their country as a whole, in mind. What we are witnessing now is the beginning of the destruction of our government and our nation. Who would have thought that it could possibly come to this?

Actually, the first President of these United States, George Washington, thought that it could easily come to this. In his farewell address, published in The Independent Chronicle, September 26, 1796, President Washington warned of the influence and divisiveness of special interests:

“To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable…This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.”

“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

The “Father of Our Country” was truly an amazing man. It’s a shame that the like of him has not been seen since our Nation’s founding.

This is our Sunday Roast. What’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole: July 28 – Compassion

Gadsden flag

What makes Republicans compassionate? Is it a war on an innocent country as an act of family revenge and one-up-man-ship. Or perhaps a tax on the poor while enriching the rich. Is it overriding the will of the majority through a threat of filibuster?

It is now that and less – less for all of us, rich and poor now that those who failed Driver’s Ed have a hand on the steering wheel of government!

Republicans have embraced what they thought was a rattlesnake and found a python. The result is not fortuitous.

At present, the nation is headed for a calamity that will affect every American.

The less fortunate among us face potential disasters.

I cite the case of the woman who cleans our floors every three weeks. We only hire her because both my wife and I have a problem on getting up from our hands and knees. Her mother has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. The fees there are paid from Social Security and Medicare.

Both of those funds have been absorbed into the general funds of the United States Treasury. They are not counted as part of the national debt, but any expenditure from these obligations will increase the debt because the money has, in fact, been spent on other things. This is the ‘money pit’ of all money pits.

This means that should we reach a stage of default and those obligations of the United States to these people will not be met unless those in charge decide to meet them.

Now, it may not be obvious to you, but nursing homes are not charitable organizations. This woman’s mother could well be thrust out into the heat (This is Florida.) Is this compassionate? I think not.

What do you think?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, July 13, 2011: Hump Day: The Supreme Court

Guess what? There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution. Newt Gingrich said it, so it must be so. Right?

Well, let’s take a look at Article III:

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Ok. The Constitution does establish a Supreme Court. But what about what else Gingrich said, “the fact is the Congress can pass a law and can limit the Court’s jurisdiction.” Is that true? Can Congress simply pass a law and limit what the Court can hear?

In a word, Yes.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

So, only in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, does the Supreme Court have original jurisdiction. That means one can file a claim directly to the Supreme Court. IN ALL OTHER CASES, the Supreme Court acts as a Court of Appeals…the matter has to be heard by a lower court first.

Therein lies the rub. Congress has the power to “ordain and establish” lower courts. Without lower courts, there cannot be appeals to the Supreme Court. If Congress abolishes the lower courts, the only cases the Supreme Court can hear are those involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party.

By eliminating the lower federal courts, Congress can eliminate the ability of the people to obtain relief if their Constitutional Rights have been violated. This is what Gingrich is advocating: Go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. And forget about the Bill of Rights.

This is our daily open thread. Freedom of speech on this thread has been upheld by a 5-4 vote. That means one vote the other way, and we censor the hell out of you!

Raise the debt ceiling? That is SO 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, and twice in 2008..

I just love how Stephen Colbert slices through to the heart of any issue, and lays bare the absurdity, and the utter hypocrisy, for all to see.

From Colbert Nation:

Republicans show their Tea Party base that they’re against raising the debt ceiling, while reassuring Wall Street that it’s political theater.

This Is NOT a Sex Scandal

Over at ThinkProgress, in a message for Rep. Anthony Weiner Matt Yglesias described the twitter photo controversy as a “sex scandal.” I say it is no such thing.

If you look at the picture, you can see no genitalia of any kind. What you can see is what appears to be a pair of men’s briefs with some kind of bulge in them. But you cannot see what is causing the bulge which, for all you know, may just be a banana strategically placed there. In fact, it is unclear if it is even a pair of briefs on a human as opposed to on a mannequin. (If you want to take another look, you can see it here) The fact of the matter is that there is no penis in that picture, erect or otherwise.

Anyone who thinks they are looking at a penis is only imagining that they are seeing a penis. They are seeing no such thing. So for them to think that it is a “lewd” photo is just describing something in their own imaginations. And I don’t feel it is right that Rep. Weiner must defend himself against what people are imagining they are seeing. Yes, he didn’t do himself any favors by casting doubt over whether or not it is a picture of himself, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that there is nothing lewd in that picture at all. The only lewdness is in people’s imaginations.

A few years ago my late mother-in-law once looked at my size 13 shoes and said, “My, what big feet you have.” And I, being the playful type, said, “Yeah, but that’s just a myth.” To which she replied, “Oh, don’t be so fresh.” I had to tell her, “I didn’t say anything, you imagined that!” And that is exactly what’s going on here. Anybody who thinks that was a lewd photo are denouncing what they imagine they are seeing. It is not a sex scandal when there is no sex involved and people are upset over what they imagine they are seeing.