Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

Live Analysis of President Obama’s Health Care Speech to Congress

September 9, 2009

I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post (other than the one I did yesterday), but I figured this was an important issue to talk about, and I’ll probably be writing a column on health care sometime this week, so this will help me get some ideas down a little early.

President Obama is about to give  a speech to a joint session of Congress, and I’ll be giving my live analysis of his speech.  And this is live, so excuse any typos – I’m not always great at typing quickly.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has just gaveled the session into order, so we’ll begin in about 10 minutes here.

The President’s speech is expected to last about 45 minutes (not including applause), so I’m guessing that it will run close to an hour (maybe a little over) when it’s all done.

Speaker Pelosi has now called the session to order – Vice President Joe Biden by her side.

The Escort Committee is now leaving to follow behind President Obama when he enters the chamber.

Michelle Obama is now arriving.  The Cabinet is now coming into the chamber.

President Obama is now coming into the chamber – and he’s getting a lot of applause (as every President does during these joint sessions).

He’s now up to the podium – Speaker Pelosi is trying to bring the chamber to order.  She is now introducing President Obama.

He’s talking about the last time he spoke here – that it was during the worst economic situation we’ve faced since the Great Depression.  “We are by no means out of the woods … a full recovery is still months away.”  He’s saying that he won’t let up until “those who seek jobs can find them.”

Wow – Hillary Clinton looks out-of-place – she’s wearing this red suit and she’s surrounded by men in black suits.

President Obama is thanking Congress for their help and support in trying to fix America’s economy.  He’s talking about building a future for America, and that health care is central to that future.

“I am not the first President to take up that cause, but I am determined to be the last.”  It’s a nice quote, but there’s always going to have to be reform – things change – nothing will ever be perfect.

He’s talking about Teddy Roosevelt talking about health care reform, and Representative John Dingell (D-MI) introducing a bill every session to reform health care.

Talking about the hardships facing those who are uninsured – not those on welfare, but mostly the middle class.  He’s talking about people being denied insurance because of previous conditions.  “We are the only democracy … the only wealthy nation who allows such hardship for its people.”  But we’re also the democracy who other countries turn to for certain health care needs (such as Canadians needing some quick emergency treatments).

Talking about insurance companies dropping patients in the middle of treatment for bogus reasons such as having acne and not claiming it – and I’ll agree with him here – that’s a problem that SHOULD be addressed.

Talking about insurance premiums going up, and leading to businesses not being able to open/survive because of health care costs.

It’s “placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. … We will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other program combined.”  Again – he’s right here – Medicare/Medicaid costs are getting out of control – it’s just the solution where I disagree with him.

Talking about a single payer system like Canada’s or a plan that individuals should buy their own health care, but both of these are radical shifts that would disrupt the health care system.  He’s saying we should use what works as a template and fix the problems in our current system, rather than switch to a Canadian-style system or a completely individual style system.

He’s now talking about the 5 committees coming up with health care bills in Congress – an amount of reform that has been unprecedented in history – and again – this is a good thing – if we have multiple ideas, we have more to choose from and more discussion going around.

Now he’s talking about opponents to reform using scare tactics and just trying to score political points.  “The time for bickering is over.  The time for games has passed.”  Games and bickering are part of the American political system – it’s a sad fact, but it’s true.  And both parties do it, but getting into a “Well the other party did __________” kind of mentality is bad for America.

“If you already have insurance … nothing in this plan will require you to change what you have. … What this plan will do is make this insurance that you have work better for you.”  It’ll make it illegal for insurance companies to deny you based on a preexisting condition.  And that got a LOT of applause.  It will be illegal for them to drop you when you get sick.

“No one should go broke because they get sick. … Insurance companies will be required … to cover routine check ups … and preventative care. … It saves money and it saves lives.”  And that was all for people who already have insurance.

For those who don’t, this plan will give you an opportunity to get quality insurance.  “We’ll do this by creating a new business exchange.”  Insurance companies will want this because it gives them more customers.

And for those who still can’t afford insurance, tax credits will be provided.  The exchange will take effect in 4 years.

He’s talking about immediate relief for those who get sick before then, citing a plan that Senator McCain proposed during the plan during the 2008 campaign – and Senator McCain just got a huge grin on his face.

He’s saying that some people may not want to pay for insurance, but when they get sick, we wind up paying for their health care when they wind up in the hospital.  “Under my plan, people will be required to carry basic health insurance” just like states require people to have basic auto insurance.

And this is where I disagree with the President.  Personally, I don’t think we should be forcing people to buy insurance; however, I also don’t think that we should then be paying for their hospital visits.  If someone decides not to get insurance, and they get sick, then we shouldn’t be footing the bill – they should just have to pay for treatment themselves or not get it.

Now, moving on to “key controversies that are still out there:”

  • Saying that there won’t be plans to try to kill off the elderly who are sick.
  • No money will go toward illegal immigrants. – and somebody just shouted “Lie!” and Speaker Pelosi gave him a stare of death – whoever it was, that was pretty unprofessional and immature.
  • No money will go toward funding abortions.
  • This will not be a takeover of the entire health care system.

These are all good points, and I’d encourage EVERYBODY to read the bill that finally gets introduced instead of just listening to either the Democrats’ talking points or the Republicans’ talking points.

“Consumers do better when there’s choice and competition.”  And he’s absolutely right about that – but instead of setting up a government program to do this, we should open insurance markets to cross state lines, so that companies can compete nationwide, adding more competition all over the nation.

He’s saying that he doesn’t want to drive insurance companies out of business, just hold them accountable.

He’s saying that he would like a non-profit public option (which that surprised me that he still pushed for that – I figured that he wasn’t going to try to push that tonight).  It would be an option for those who don’t have insurance, and people wouldn’t be forced to chose it.  He estimates that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.  He’s saying that this public option wouldn’t be funded by the government, but would have to be self sufficient.

But what would happen if it stopped being self sufficient?  Would it essentially turn into a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?

He’s saying that some are suggesting that the public option only go into effect where insurance companies aren’t competing well, or that we have a private co-op instead.  Saying that he won’t back down from giving a choice to people who can’t afford health care.

And the screen just panned over to the Republican section and they really do not look happy about this.

“Now he’s talking about how we’ll pay for the plan – “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficit – either now, or in the future. … Period.”  He’s saying that in his plan, there will be a section that will require spending cuts if the means of saving money aren’t there.  He’s now talking about the past administration making a mistake in passing tax cuts that we couldn’t afford as well as the Iraq War.

And while he does have an excellent point with the Iraq War part (which is a whole separate issue), I don’t think that that jab at the Bush Administration is going to help win any Republicans over – and with Senator Kennedy gone, they’re going to need an additional Republican vote in the Senate.  That was a bad strategic move on the President’s part.

Talking about ensuring that Medicare will be there for future generations.  Saying that seniors pay too much out-of-pocket for prescription drugs.  Saying not to pay attention to “scary stories that your benefits will be cut.”  GOP members don’t look happy.  “I will protect Medicare.”

“Making [Medicare] more efficient will [help make] the entire system more efficient.”  Saying that if we reduce waste in Medicare and Medicaid, that will pay for his plan.  Well why don’t we just reduce waste in Medicare and Medicaid anyway!  Why do you need to add one “good” thing to get rid of one bad thing?  Why not just cut waste out of M&M whether or not the other health care reforms pass or not.

Talking about malpractice reform bringing down costs of health care – and all the GOP members stood up and started cheering – even Biden stood up for that one.  Saying that we need to put safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.  Saying that the Bush Administration wanted to test some of these ideas in individual states, and he likes that plan too.  So now he’s playing to the Republican side a bit – which is good because he’s going to need to do that if he wants this to pass the Senate.

Now talking about it’ll cost $900 billion over the next 10 years, but that’s less than the Iraq War…and I think he said something about the Bush tax cuts – I didn’t catch it.  Whatever it was, the Dems liked it, but the Repubs looked pretty pissed off – Rep. Thad McCotter (R-MI) really didn’t like whatever was said.

Saying he won’t stand by as the special interest groups fight to keep things the way they are.  “I will not accept the status quo as the solution.”  And he’s right – we DO need reform – I just disagree with him on the type of reform we need.

Talking about reforms leading to saving lives.

“We cannot fail … there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed.”

Talking about the late Senator Kennedy (D-MA) on his death bed talking about this year being the year that health care reform will be passed.

Health care reform has been a source of “rigorous and intense debate”.

Obama’s talking about Senators Hatch (R-UT) and McCain (R-AZ) and Grassley (R-IA) working with Senator Kennedy.  That his p”assion was born out of his own experience … having 2 children stricken with cancer.”  He’s saying that “concern for others … is not a partisan” issue.  “We are all in this together, and when fortune turns against us, others are there to give us a helping hand. … Sometimes government has to step in.”

Saying that Republicans and Democrats joined together in 1965 when they created Medicare.

“When any efforts to help people in need are attacked as unAmerican … and we can no longer engage in a civil conversation” … I missed that last part.  Whatever his point was (I’m sure it was something about engaging in civil debate) – I agree here – we need to discuss it, not try to drown one side out.

“I still believe we can act when it’s hard.”  Saying we need to have “civility” and not gridlock the process but make progress.

“I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.  Because that is who we are.  That is our calling.  That is our character.  Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.”

Now the Republican response by Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA):

Republicans are ready for reform.  We’ve lost jobs since February.  “Americans want health care reform … [They’re saying] it’s time to start over with a … bipartisan plan.”

He’s saying that Obama’s plan will cost Americans more – that even the Congressional Budget Office agrees – it’ll create 53 new bureaus and raise the deficit.  It won’t make the program better for seniors.

“The President [could have] taken government run health care off the table, but he didn’t.”

Americans should be able to get insurance with preexisting conditions.  We should give incentives for healthy choices and preventative care.

“We’re grateful that the President mentioned medical liability reform.”  “Junk lawsuits drive up the cost of medical care.”

We should establish a plan that would enable people to buy insurance across state lines – and that was one of McCain’s big pushes during the ’08 campaign that I really agreed with.

“This Congress can pass meaningful reform soon … working together in a bipartisan way, we can lower the cost of health care.”

Alright – I wasn’t able to catch that much of the response because there weren’t any pauses in that speech, but it was basically the same thing that McCain said during his Presidential campaign.

Overall, I think the President did a moderately good job.  I wish he would’ve gone into detail a little more than he did, and there are some things that I definitely disagree with, but there were some good points:

Malpractice/tort reform is a huge part of the plan that will help lower costs of health care.  Eliminating waste in Medicaid and Medicare is another great thing that we need to do.  Ensuring a way that people can keep their coverage even when they get sick is another necessity that almost everybody agrees with.

I disagree with the public option, and I disagree with forcing people to have some sort of insurance plan.

I wish that he would consider adopting the plan to allow people to cross state borders to purchase health care plans.

Overall, it was a good speech, but I think he took a couple too many jabs at Republicans and the Bush administration (he’s going to need some Republicans’ votes, and that wasn’t a way to win them over).  I also wish he would’ve had more details of his plan, but with only having 45 minutes, that’s hard to do.

I’m not sold on the President’s plan, but I do think there are some good parts of the plan that I’d like to see develop.

We’ll see what’s introduced and what Congress does with the bill(s).

Done Analyzing,

Ranting Republican

Live Analysis of Governor Granholm’s Michigan State of the State Address

February 3, 2009

The Michigan State of the State address is about to begin.  I will be live blogging the event, giving my analysis (so my apologies for any spelling errors – I’ll fix them eventually).

Alright, she’s entering the chamber (I’m not sure if this is the House or Senate – probably House since  it’s bigger).

Oh – my roommate (Democrat) just about made me die of laughter – he said, “Where is she?”  I said, “Right there.”  And he goes, “Oh, I thought that was a dude.”

Alright – she’s making her way up to the podium – about half the room is still clapping – probably the Democrats.  There’s Lt. Governor John Cherry up in his chair.

There’s Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) and Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D).

She’s saying welcome and thank you.  She’s welcoming and congratulating the new representatives.

She’s now welcoming Supreme Court Justice Dianne Hathaway, elected this year.  And she’s congratulating the longest serving president of the State Board of Education.

Now thanking the servicemen and women from Michigan as well as the first responders.

We just gave a moment of silence for those who lost their lives defending this country and state overseas.

“I will not sugar-coat the crisis facing this state. … Our auto companies fought for their very existence, and as the bottom fell out of the national economy” Michigan “went from bad to worse.”  She’s absolutely right about that.  “Any honest assessment of our state’s economy must recognize that things are likely to get worse before they get better. … Things will get better … because Michigan citizens are resilient … because our battle plan is focused on the three things that matter most: fighting for more good paying jobs in Michigan, educating and training people to fill those good paying jobs, and protecting out people.”

“This is not time for pet projects or special interests.”

Now talking about Michigan now having “a friend in the White House who now shares our agenda.  I say this based on pragmatism, not upon partisanship.”  BULL CRAP!

She’s talking about him being focused on energy jobs, education, and protecting people.  COME ON Madame Governor, the Republicans are interested in all of those things too!

“We’ve made many tough choices in our budget.”  True, but you could have done a lot more to fix the state, but you didn’t, and that’s why we’re as bad as we are now.

“I have a veto pen, and I will use it. … The President’s economic plan is a one-time opportunity.”  Really?  Because so far, I count THREE bailout bills.  What’s to stop three more?

She’s saying that our problems will be here after the economic stimulus money is gone.  Lt. Governor Cherry will be in charge of downsizing government, reducing number of departments from 18 to 8.

Something about we can’t have “9-5 government in a 24/7 world.”  Good point there – I’ll give her that one.

Her and Cherry are reducing salaries of all elected state officials in Michigan by 10%.  That’s a good move – I COMMEND HER on that, but I don’t really see how she can directly do that.

“Already, I’ve cut more than any other Governor in Michigan.”

She’s saying that a national survey showed that MI has done more to cut spending than other state in the country.  I’d like to see the details of the survey, but if it’s all true, I commend her on that.

She’s cutting funding for the state fair – because it’s not essential to government.  GOOD CALL!

Talking about preserving our wetlands.

Talking about reducing corrections spending.  We’re going to close 3 more facilities in the coming months.  Reinvest in more law enforcement on the street.  More law enforcement is good, but I’m not too keen on closing 3 facilities – that means more criminals on the streets, since our prisons are already TOO FULL!

Funding for roads, bridges, and transit systems – um, we’ve needed that for the past FEW years!

We can focus on jobs when we spend within our means.

We need to diversify, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing our number one industry, the auto industry.  When pundits and ill-informed politicians take cheap shots at the auto industry and its workers, we (she’s saying this) will defend the auto industry.

Talking about the green auto industry being great.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost since 2000.  “These losses have fueled our determination to bring new industry to Michigan.”  Good – we can’t JUST depend on the auto industry anymore.

Talking about film and TV project coming to Michigan after the tax breaks to film companies.

Three major announcements:

  • Wonderstruck Animation Studios – $86 million in Detroit.
  • Stardock Systems (digital gaming) – build in Plymouth
  • Motown Motion Pictures – $54 million in Pontiac (former GM plant)

Motown MP alone will create 3,600 jobs.  That’s great news – especially for the Pontiac area.

“But our success with the film industry is not an isolated example.”  Talking about renewable energy industry – solar panel production companies are building here in Michigan.

Just like the auto industry “it creates all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people.”  And that’s a good thing – I am VERY enthusiastic about renewable energy, as long as it’s not expensively forced on the people.

She’s talking about wind turbines (and wind power is something I have always been really excited about – that  and nuclear power).

Jobs for manufacturers and engineers – for solar panels and electric car batteries.

She’s getting really intense about this.  “The fact that these jobs are in Michigan is no accident.”

We bring them here by beating out other states and countries.

We passed incentives to make sure those batteries are made in Michigan.  Within weeks of passage, GM said that they’d make batteries for the Volt automobile will be made here in Michigan.  5 million electric car batteries to be made a year, creating 14,000 jobs.

She’s saying that we want electric cars researched and designed here as well as all kinds of renewable energy companies.

She set a goal for becoming more dependent on renewable energy.

  • 3 wind turbine manufactures to expand in Michigan.
  • Unisolar to build solar panel factory in Battle Creek.
  • HSC – $1 billion for solar panel expansion
  • Dow-Corning – more solar panels.
  • Great Lakes Turbine to build in Monroe (where my roommate’s from!)

“We all know that  we need more jobs – a lot more.”  I agree with you there.

President Obama has demanded more use of renewable energy.  This will increase jobs in Michigan.

“By 2020, Michigan will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for generating electricity by 45%. … We’ll do it through increased renewable energy and gains in energy efficiency.”  Sounds like a good idea to me, but I think 45% is high.  I have no problem with it as long as it doesn’t jack up prices.  But if it makes energy unaffordable, don’t do it.

Instead of importing coal, we’ll spend energy money on Michigan wind turbines and solar panels and energy efficiency devices, all installed by Michigan workers.

Ask Legislatures to allow for Michigan homeowners to become entrepreneurs by installing solar panels on roofs and selling money back to power company.  Sounds good to me – it’s giving people the choice to do this, and enables people to eventually make that money back.

Asking utility companies to invest in energy efficient products.  Good.

Unlike the coal we buy right now, the money that we will spend on energy efficiency will create jobs in Michigan.

Create Michigan Energy Corps – creating jobs and turning natural resources into renewable fuels and weatherizing houses.

Saying that we’ll need less coal power  plants here in Michigan.

I’m kinda mad that she hasn’t said anything about more nuclear here in Michigan.

Talking about how she’ll bring new jobs to Michigan – that she’s gone all over the world to get jobs.  Yeah, well you haven’t been too successful so far.  You can go places to bring jobs here, but that doesn’t matter until you bring some here.

Saying she’ll require (I think it was universities) to buy Michigan.  I have a problem with that though, because she wants a tuition freeze in order for universities to get stimulus money.  How can they do that if you FORCE them to buy Michigan-made (more expensive at times).

Saying people should buy Michigan products.  Buy everything from Ford to Faygo.

Talking about the Michigan $4,000 putting college in the reach of all students.  Um, $4,000 really doesn’t do that much.

Michigan will be the first state to replicate the Kalamazoo promise on a large scale.  Something about free education, and I missed the rest.

#2 in the country for well qualified teachers in the classroom.  How are we #2 with the Detroit Public School system?

No Worker Left Behind: Talking about free college tuition – $5,000 per year for 2 years.  Training people for jobs, such as nurses, electricians, computer technicians.  52,000 people.  Helping us to remake Michigan.

Added more resources to the unemployment system – THAT’s what we need – to allow more people to rely on welfare!

Asking universities and colleges to freeze tuition for the next year.  The problem with that is, what if THEY can’t afford it?

Give people 90 days without the fear of foreclosure.  That’s absolutely insane.  If people buy a house that they can’t afford, then they should lose it.

Talking about asking auto insurance companies to freeze rates on auto insurance.  Sure, if they want to, but don’t make it mandatory.

She’s saying we’ll use every administrative tool to ensure that affordable rates are given to consumers.  That should be up to the companies, not the government.

Saying that we shouldn’t strip people of health coverage in order to reduce spending.  We shouldn’t HAVE state sponsored health care!  She’s saying we should protect those whom people of faith often call “the least of these.”  Well, people of faith need to step up and help the poor.  That’s their duty as good Christians (as it is my duty), NOT the governments.  When did Jesus ever say that the government should help the poor?  He didn’t!  He said his followers should – that’s why it makes me angry when people give that as a reason that Jesus would be a Democrat!

And wouldn’t “the least of these” refer to the unborn babies as well?  I don’t see you protecting them, Madame Governor!

“Is it harder to balance the state budget or the budget of a family who went from 2 paychecks to 1?”  Talking about the harships of family being much greater than the hardships of politicians as leaders.

She’s now giving an example of a guy on unemployment who used No Worker Left Behind to go to a university and now he’s working for Dow Corning.

Sorry – my news station just stopped covering it – ABC needed to go back to “regular scheduled programming.”

OK – I’m back.

Talking about hope and strength.  “We together will build a better Michigan.  God bless you all, and God bless the great state of Michigan.”

Tim Skubik is on now – saying that “Doom and Gloom” only got 2 paragraphs.  He’s right – I think she could’ve shown that things are bad more than she did instead of just saying, “This is what we WILL do,” since she’s been saying that for YEARS now.

She never really said exactly how much she wanted to cut out of the government.  I will commend her for some of her pro-energy efficient plans, but I think she may wind up driving up costs at a time that we can’t afford it.  Allowing people to sell back energy from solar panels is a GOOD thing, because it gives individuals the choice to do it, instead of  mandating it.

And now Mike Bishop’s response:

He’s saying that “we all want what’s best for our state.”

“Each one of us has felt the effects of this economy.”

Saying that the Governor wants to use federal funds to fix the state, but a quick infusion of money “will never be the antidote. … You can’t increase spending and debt and somehow hope to resolve a serious budget crisis.”  The Republicans will submit a plan in the next 45 days for instant stimulus – it incentives job providers instead of increasing spending.

The House must pass Senate Bill 1.  Get rid of the 22% business surcharge.

Talking about manufacturing complexes and other companies coming in due to tax cuts, proving that business tax cuts DO work.

The second part of the plan would bring property taxes in line with home values.  Third, a tax credit for purchases of new homes will be created.  This would spur the housing market.  And he’s absolutely right – that was one of the things my parents looked into was the huge jump in taxes we would’ve payed if we moved this past summer.

Review each item in the state budget and find savings – good!

We must “be certain that state resources are used efficiently.”  Absolutely!

Talking about opportunities coming with adversity – leaders need to rise up and “take the reins that will lead us back to prosperity. … Time for us to fix Michigan. … Thank you … God bless you, our families, and our great state of Michigan.”

Alright – I’m off to a meeting – I’ll spell check this and finish my analysis when I get back.

Done Reporting,

Ranting Republican
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Live Analysis of the Final Presidential Debate

October 15, 2008

Alright, we’re moments away from the beginning of the debate.  As always, I’ll be watching CNN, who will have a focus group (undecided voters in Ohio) with a tracking rating of how people like what they’re hearing (broken up by men and women).  WordPress just added an option to add polls, so I’ll see if I can get that working after the debate is over and post a poll about who won.

Tonight’s debate will be moderated by Bob Schieffer (CBS’s Face the Nation).

We’re about 2 minutes away.

Schieffer: Why is your plan better than your opponents?

McCain: Thanks to everybody, my prayers go out to Nancy Reagan.  “Americans are hurting and angry.”  They’re innocent victims of greed.  “They have every reason to be angry.”  We have to have a short term fix and long term fixes.  Short term fix: Fannie and Freddie cause the sub-prime lending situation, that caused the housing market to collapse.  We need to reverse the decline in home ownership.  People need to know that they can stay in there homes.  Let’s take $300 billion of the $750 billion and buy mortgages so that people can stay in their homes.  What about people who could already afford to stay in their homes?  It’ll drive home value down if there are abandoned houses.  I didn’t like the answer (because I’m staunchly against any of the bailout), but it’ll go over well with voters, and the focus group liked it.

Obama: I think this’ll take some time to work itself out.  We need an economic package for the middle class.  The fundamentals of the economy were weak before this crisis (it depends what you’re defining fundamentals of the economy as).  Tax cut for people making less than $200,000.  Buying mortgages could be a bailout to banks, so I disagree with McCain there, but we do need to help homeowners.  Need to fix energy and health care.

McCain: Obama had an encounter with a plumber, Joe (somebody) Wurzelbacher.  Joe wants to buy the business that he’s worked in, and  he looked at Obama’s plan, and he saw that he’d be put in a higher tax bracket, and that’d cause him to not be able to employ people.  Joe, I’ll not only help you buy that business and keep your taxes low, and provide a way for you to provide health care to your employees.  You want to increase people’s taxes, like Joe the plumber’s.  And he’s right there – he’ll kill small businesses if he raises taxes.  The  focus group liked that.

Obama: McCain wants to give tax breaks to some of the wealthiest companies, including oil companies.  I want to give tax cuts to 95% of Americans.  Income tax, capital gains tax.  THAT’S A LIE ABOUT CAPITAL GAINS!!!  He wants to take capital gains taxes back to levels before Clinton lowered them!  I want to give small businesses tax breaks.  He lies here – 11.5% of Americans don’t even PAY income taxes, because they don’t make enough money!

McCain: Obama says, “We need to spread the wealth around.”  “I want Joe the plumber to spread the wealth around.”  Why would you want to raise taxes?

Obama: I want to cut taxes for 95% of Americans.  Not true!  I want to cut taxes for Joe the plumber before he was able to make $250,000.  I want to give families with kids going to college a break.  I’d prefer that nobody pay taxes, but we have to pay for the core of the economy to remain strong.

McCain: Companies will go overseas if we raise our business tax rates.  “Of all times in America, we need to cut taxes and encourage business, not spread the wealth around.”  Great answer – McCain actually did better with the focus group there than McCain, and that surprised me.

Schieffer: Talking about reducing the budget deficit.  Won’t some of the programs you’re proposing have to be trimmed or eliminated?

Obama: If the $750 billion works as it’s supposed to, taxpayers will get their money back.  I have been a strong proponent of pay-as-you-go.  Some of the cuts we’ll need are subsidies to insurance companies.  “It’s just a giveaway.”  I’ll go through the federal budget line-by-line, and eliminate what’s unnecessary.  We need to invest in the American people.  We need to prevent diseases when they’re young, so they won’t spend as much Medicare money.  The same with college – they’ll drive up the economy.  He’s getting very high ratings right now – he’s appealing to the average American people.

McCain: Back to home-ownership.  During the depression, we bought homes and home values went back up.  This was a plan that Senator Clinton proposed.  We need to become energy independent.  I need an across-the-board spending freeze.  I oppose subsidies for ethanol.  Sorry – got interrupted there.  I will veto earmarks.  Senator Obama put in an earmark for a projector in a planetarium in his hometown.

Obama: An across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet, and we need a scalpel.  Senator McCain talks about earmarks, but they account for 0.5% of the federal budget.  Eliminating them will help, but it won’t solve the problem.  When President Bush came into office, we had a budget surplus, and now we have a deficit.  Pursuing Bush-esque budgets will worsen the situation, and McCain voted for Bush’s budgets, 4 out of 5 times.

McCain: I will give a new direction to this economy.  I’m not President Bush.  If he wanted to oppose him, he should’ve run 4 years ago.  Mayor Bloomberg just put in a spending freeze in New York, so it can be done.  I’ll eliminate spending.  Obama voted for the last 2 budgets that Bush proposed (the only 2 that came up since he’s been in office!).  I have fought against spending and special interest.  When have you stood up to your party?  He’s getting good ratings, and I really think that he’s appealing to American people.

Obama: The first major bill I voted on was against tort reform.  I support charter schools.  I support clean coal technology.  I have a history of reaching across the aisle.  If I mistaken your policies for President Bush’s policies, it’s because on the core economic issues, taxes, spending, etc…, you’ve been a supporter of President Bush.  You’re been against him on stuff like torture, and I commend that, but for the majority, you want 8 more years of the same thing.

McCain: It’s been clear that I’ve disagreed with Bush and my party: climate change, opposition to earmarks, torture, conduct of the War in Iraq, Medicare prescription drugs, HMO patients’ bill of rights.  I have stood up to my party’s leadership.

Schieffer: Both of you promised to take the high road, but both campaigns have turned nasty.

McCain: This has been a very tough campaign.  If Obama had responded to my request to do town hall meetings, like he originally said, the tone of this campaign could’ve been better.  The tone of this campaign has taken a nasty turn.  I apologize for some of the negativity that has come out of my campaign.  I hope OBama will repudiate the remarks made by Congressman John Lewis.  Obama didn’t keep his word about taking public financing.  He’s getting high ratings from men here, but average ratings from women.

Obama: 2/3 of the American people think McCain’s running a negative campaign, versus 1/3 of the American people thinking that of mine.  100% of your ads have been negative (BULL CRAP!).  There’s nothing wrong with having a vigorous debate like we’re having now, but not having town hall meetings doesn’t justify the ads that have come out from your campaign and 527s.  I don’t mind being attacked for 3 weeks, but we can’t afford 4 more years of failed economic policies.  He’s actually getting negative ratings from women, and average from men here.  He’s really attacking McCain during a question about negativity in campaigns, and I think he’s really making himself look bad here.

McCain: If you turn on the television, every other ad was an attack ad on my health care policy, saying that I oppose federal funding for stem cells.  I don’t.  Obama is spending unprecedented amounts of money in negative attack ads on me.  Of course we’re talking about Joe the plumber and restoring jobs to America.  That’s what my campaign is all about.  Again, I didn’t hear a repudiation of Congressman Lewis.

Obama: Lewis, made a statement with what he was troubled with hearing some of the rallies that your running mate was holding.  People were yelling “terrorist” and “kill him,” and your running mate didn’t stop them.  I do think that he gave a good comparison between what’s happening now and the civil right’s movement.  What the Americans want is for us to focus on the challenges that we have now.  We have serious differences on health care.  When people bring up me being with terrorists, that’s not the issues.

McCain: Whenever you have big rallies, you’ll have fringe people, and that’s not appropriate.  But for the majority of people, they’re not saying anything negative.  These people are the most patriotic people in this nation (veterans and wives of veterans).  There’ve been thingsat your rallies that I’m not happy with either.  I have always repudiated out of line statements, and I will continue to do that, but we cannot stand for the things that have been going on.  I haven’t.

Schieffer: Do you take issue with that?

Obama: What I think is most important is that we recognize that in order to solve 2 wars, a financial crisis, creating jobs, then we all need to be able to work together.  “We need to disagree without being disagreeable.  What we can’t do is try to characterize each other as bad people.”

McCain: We need to know the full extent of Obama’s relationships with Ayers and ACORN.  If there’s nothing there, I don’t care about it, but we need to know what all went on there.

Obama: Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of McCain’s campaign.  Bill Ayers is a professor in Chicago.  40 years ago, he engaged in despicable acts.  “I have … condemned those acts.”  I served on a school board with him 10 years ago.  “Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign … and he will not advise me in the White House.”  ACORN: Apparently, they were paying people to get people registered to vote.  The only thing I did with them was represent them with some thing in Illinois – I didn’t catch it all.  I associate with Warren Buffet on economics.  On foreign policy, it’s Joe Biden or Dick Lugar, or General Jim Jones.  “Those are the people who have shaped my ideas and will be surrounding me in the White House.”

McCain: While you and Ayers were on that board, you gave money to ACORN, and you launched your campaign from Ayers living room.  In 2001, he said he’d wished he’d have bombed more.  We need to know all the details here.  And my (not McCain) view is that with Ayers – it’s no big deal if Obama’s honest.  With ACORN, there are some serious problems there – ACORN has supported Obama, and Obama has supported ACORN, and ACORN has shown to have some serious legal problems.

Schieffer: Why is your running mate better than his?

Obama: He’s been there a while – he knows what he’s doing, especially when it comes to foreign policy.  Biden has never forgotten where he came from.  He fights for the little guy.  He has always been fighting for working families.  “After 8 years of failed policies [we] will have to reprioritize … give tax cuts to small businesses … and individuals who are struggling.”  We need to become energy independent, and make sure that our kids afford can go to college.  Biden has always been on the right side of the issues.

McCain: Palin is a reformer.  She took on the old governor, who was part of her party.  She’s given money back to taxpayers and cut the size of the government.  “She is a reformer through and through, and it’s time that we have that breath of fresh air and sweep out” the old politics of Washington.  “She understand special needs families, and understands that autism is on the rise.”  She has united people all over America, and I’m proud of her.

Schieffer: Is she qualified to be President?

Obama: That’ll be up to the American people to decide.  Her work on special needs kids has been commendable.  He didn’t answer the question!  If we have an across-the-board spending freeze, special needs kids will suffer.

McCain (on Biden): Biden is experienced, but he’s had some bad foreign policy ideas, such as dividing Iraq into different countries, and we’ve seen Iraq become united as one country.  Every time Obama says we need to spend more.  Why can’t we have transparency of these government organizations.

Schieffer: Energy and climate control.  Presidents have said that we need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.  Give us a number of how much you believe we can reduce foreign oil during your first term.

McCain: We can eliminate our dependence on Middle East countries and Venezuela.  Canadian oil is fine.  We need nuclear power plants, and that’ll be how we eliminate those 2 sources of foreign oil.  We need wind, tide, solar, gas, clean coal.  He’s getting huge ratings, and for good reason – it’s a good energy plan.  Especially the nuclear part!!!!

Obama: In 10 years, we can reduce our dependence so we don’t have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela.  “Nothing is more important than us borrowing … money from China and sending it to Venezuela.”  We need to expand domestic production, by telling oil companies, “Use them or lose them” in terms of oil fields being leased here in the U.S.  We need to drill offshore, but that won’t solve the problem.  We need wind, solar, biofuel.  We need efficient cars built here in America, not in Japan.  And he’s got good ideas too, but I WISH he would’ve said he wants nuclear power – nuclear power is safe (we use it on subs) and VERY efficient.  NAFTA didn’t have enforceable environmental agreements, and we should’ve included those.  When it comes to South Korea, we have an agreement with them, and they’re sending more cars here than we are to them.  That’s not free trade.

McCain: “Obama said, ‘We will look at offshore drilling.’  Did you catch that?  ‘Look at.'”  We need to do more than look at it, we need to do it.  AGREED!  Our businesses are paying money into Columbia, but because of previous agreements, they’re getting their goods into here for free.  We need a free trade agreement with Columbia, which Obama has opposed.  Obama hasn’t even travelled down there, and he doesn’t understand Columbia.

Obama: I understand it.  Labor leaders have been persecuted, and we need to stand for human rights.  Workers who are trying to organize for rights shouldn’t be persecuted, and that’s why I supported a free trade agreement with Peru.  When I talked about automakers, they’re getting hammered right now, not only because of gas prices, but with the financial crisis.  People can’t get car loans, so we need to get loan guarantees.  We need more efficient cars and cars of the future.  That’ll help create new jobs.  He’s getting VERY high ratings – he’s maxed out with women, and men are rating him high too.

McCain: Obama doesn’t want a free trade agreement with our best ally in the region, but wants to sit down with Hugo Chavez without preconditions.  Jobs and businesses will be created if we open up those markets.  Obama wants to restrict trade and raise taxes, and the last President who did that was Hoover.  We went from a deep recession to a depression.  I won’t let that happen.

Schieffer: Would you first lower health care costs, instead of providing more health care?

Obama: We need to do both.  My plan will allow you to keep your plan if you have health insurance.  We will lower costs so that cost savings are brought back to you.  If you don’t have insurance, you can buy into the same kind of federal pool that federal employees enjoy.  Insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate against people with preconditions.  Drugs will be lower, and we need to look at preventative care.  This will require more money up front, but will lower costs in the long run.  VERY high ratings at the end there.

McCain: Premiums and copays are going up, and health care costs are going up and inflicting pain on Americans.  We need walk in clinics and community health care centers.  We need nutrition and physical fitness programs in schools to keep kids healthy.  I want to give all American families a $5,000 tax credit.  Under Obama’s plan, if you have employees and they have kids, if you don’t have a health care plan, Obama will fine you.  I still haven’t heard what that fine will be.

Obama: Your fine will be $0.  I exempt small businesses for the requirement that large businesses have to provide health care.  Well, Senator Obama, what do you consider a small business???  The average family is paying higher premiums because of the uninsured.  I’ll give small businesses a 50% credit so they can afford it.  If not, you can buy into the plan I have.  McCain will give you the tax credit, but what will happen to older folks who can’t afford the health care plan?  McCain will tax the health care benefits you have from your employer, the first time in history this has ever happened.  Insurers right now are restricted statewide.  Those rules would be stripped away, and you’d see companies excluding people.

McCain: People like Joe are rich, because Obama said about him that we need to “spread the wealth,” so he’s rich enough that he would be fined.  Under my plan, people will be able to go across the country, giving them the chance to choose their futures.  “Senator Government–Senator Obama wants government to do the job.”  Senator Obama and the Democrats have been in charge the last 2 years, and things have gotten worse.

Obama: Under McCain’s plan, there’s a strong risk that you will lose your health care from your employer.  All I want to do is lower costs.

Schieffer: Could either of you nominate a Supreme Court Justice who disagrees with your view on Roe v. Wade.

McCain: I have never had a litmus test.  I think the Court decided incorrectly there, but I’m a Federalist – it should be left up to the states.  We need to nominate people based on qualifications, not if I agree with their ideology.  There should be no litmus test.  These nominees should be picked based on qualifications, who adhere to the Constitution, not people who legislate from the bench.  (But people who stick to the Constitution would oppose Roe v. Wade).  I’ll have no litmus test.

Obama: I’d agree that we shouldn’t have a litmus test.  Fairness and justice should be given to the American people.  It’s very likely that one of us will be making 1 or more appointments, and Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance.  I support the decision in Roe v. Wade.  I believe that women are in the best position to make this decision.  The Constitution has privacy built into it that shouldn’t be subject to state referendum or popular vote.  “I will look for those judges who have an outstanding record … intellect.”  McCain and I disagreed when the S.C. made it harder for some woman to bring suit for equal pay for women.  The Court said that she waited too long.  If a woman is being treated unfairly, the Court needs to stand up if nobody will.

McCain: You can’t waive the statute of limitation 20 to 30 years.  Senator Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate voted in the Judiciary Committee against a law that would provide medical attention to babies who were not successfully aborted (essentially passive infanticide).  Then he voted present on the floor.  He did the same with partial birth abortion.  Men are liking this, but women not so much.

Obama: That’s not true.  There was a bill put forward that said that you need life saving treatment that would undermine Roe v. Wade, but there was a law alreay on the books.  On partial birth abortion: I’m supportive of a ban on late term abortions as long as there’s an exception for the safety of the woman’s life.    Both men and women are rating him a bit above average now.  Surely there is some common ground, when both sides can come together and prevent unintended pregnancies.  Communicate that sex shouldn’t be engaged in carelessly.  Adoption choices should be out there.  Those things are now in the Democratic platform, for the first time ever.

McCain: “Health of the mother” has been stretched to mean almost anything (such as mental health in some cases).  Cindy and I are adoptive parents.  We need to promote adoption and protect the rights of the unborn.

Schieffer: A question about education and national security – I missed what all it was.

Obama: No nation has had a bad economy and a good military.  Education is a huge part of this.  We need better pay for teachers.  We need college to be more affordable.  We’ll offer an exchange of community/military service with money for college.  We can’t do this just in schools.  Parents need to show responsibility too – encourage thirst for knowledge.  And he’s absolutely right here.  It starts at home.  People rated him as high as they could.

McCain: Choice and competition among schools are some of the key elements – New York and New Orleans – where we find bad teachers another line of work.  We need to give parents a choice in sending kids to good schools.  Charter schools are one option.

Schieffer: Should the federal government play a larger role?

Obama: The states need to be in control, but the federal government needs to step in and help struggling local school districts.  Bush did this with No Child Left Behind, “but unfortunately, he left the money behind.”  That was a good line.  McCain and I agree on charter schools.  I think we need to encourage competition between schools.  Bad teachers need to be replaced.  “Our kids need to have the best future.”  We disagree on vouchers, and we disagree on college accessibility.  McCain doesn’t have programs that help college groups.  (That’s because he’ll simplify the tax code to make finding tax credits for college easier to find).

McCain: Vouchers need to be provided, because parents WANT vouchers.  They wanted to chose the schools where their children go (this was in Washington, D.C.).  As far as NCLB, it had its flaws and problems, but it’s the first time we looked at this from the national perspective.  Head Start is a great program.  It’s not doing what it should do, so we need to reform it and fund it.  We can’t just give more money, we need to reform it too.  We need transparency, rewards, and funding.  We’ll find and spend money to find the cause of autism, but to have a situation that the most expensive education is in America means that we also need reform.  We can’t throw money at a problem without reform.  Vouchers work.

Obama: On vouchers in D.C.  The D.C. school system is in terrible shape.  The superintendent there is doing a great job (McCain interjected that she supports vouchers).  There’s not proof that vouchers solve the problem.  We need a President who will tackle this head on.

McCain: Obama said that because there’s not enough vouchers, we shouldn’t have any.  That’s wrong.

Schieffer: Closing statements.

McCain: Thank you.  We need a new direction.  “We cannot be satisfied with what we’ve been doing for the last 8 years.”  I’ve been a reformer.  I’ve opposed my party.  I’ve been a good steward of your tax dollars.  We need to make health care and education affordable to all.  We need to stop this wild spending.  All of these promises made tonight will be made based on whether you trust us or not.  I ask you to examine both my record as well as my proposals for this country.  I’ve put my country first.  “It’s been a great honor of my life, and I’ve been proud to serve, and I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to serve again.  I’ll be honored, and humbled.”

Obama: Washington has been unwilling to address the problems.  We cannot adopt the policies of the last 8 years.  We need change.  You’ve invited me into your homes.  “Our brighter days are still ahead, but we have to invest in the American people.”  College needs to be more affordable.  Wages need to be higher, and we need to grow the middle class.  “It’s not gonna be easy.  It’s not gonna be quick.”  Republicans and Democrats will have to come together.  “If you give me the … honor of being President, I will work tireously and  honorably to ensure the future of our children.”

Bob Schieffer: As my mother would say: “Go vote now.  It’ll make you feel big and strong.”

McCain/Obama: Thank you (to each other).

Alright, overall, I think this was BY FAR the best debate we had.  I commend Bob Schieffer.  He was by far the best moderator we had.

Overall, I think McCain won this won.  This is the first time I’ve called a debate (other than the VP debate, where I called Biden the winner), and I think McCain won.  He was VERY strong toward the beginning.  I think Obama was weak at the beginning, but picked it up toward the end, but overall, I think that McCain was the winner.

Again, I think McCain was definitely stronger here.  I think Obama was too weak.  This was definitely the debate McCain needed, but I’m not sure that it’ll be enough for him to recover.

Done Analyzing,

Ranting Republican
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A Political Analysis of the Movie Swing Vote

August 2, 2008

Alright, so tonight I saw Swing Vote.  I liked it.  Although it had a LOT of swearing (which added some humor at times, but was a little over the top at others), I’d give it a 9 out of 10.

First, we’ll look at how the election could’ve happened (spoiler alert – I eventually get into details, and a few things about the ending).  This is not a map they showed in the movie, I made it myself – it’s a believable hypothetical that adds up to the numbers they give in the movie:

The movie shows a hypothetical race where the Republican, President Andrew “Andy” Boone (Kelsey Grammer – a real Republican), has received 267 Electoral Votes, and the Democrat, Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper), has received 266 Electoral Votes.  New Mexico (5 EVs) is tied, and Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) has to cast the tie vote (perfect electronic ballots, and his machine was unplugged.  But actually, his daughter tried to vote for him, so he never should’ve voted in the first place, and NM’s EVs would’ve been split with 2.5 going to each, and Boone would’ve won).  Here’s a possible map:

Boone in red, Greenleaf in blue.  New Mexico is tied, and it’s never revealed how Bud votes.

Now, on to the characters:

Don Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) is essentially McCain as a Democrat.  Here’s some similarities:

  • His slogan is “Greenleaf Express,” similar to the “Straight Talk Express.”
  • In the beginning part, he says something that kinda makes him sound like a senile old man (you have to admit, McCain doesn’t always sound with it).
  • His mannerisms, holding his arms up sometimes when he speaks, and the way he talks, mimics McCain somewhat.
  • He switches from being pro-illegal immigrant to anti-illegal immigrant (and does a HILARIOUS campaign ad against the Republican, showing a bunch of immigrants running across a field).
  • He switches from being pro-choice to pro-life (ok, McCain’s been MOSTLY pro-life, but it still applies).

Martin Fox, Boone’s campaign manager (Stanley Tucci), is Karl Rove.  Here are some similarities:

  • At the beginning, he’s talking about strategies involving getting religious voters out to vote.
  • He’s shown as somewhat of a do-what-we-must-to-win kind of guy.
  • He’s won all 7 elections he’s worked on.
  • He kinda resembles him physically, with the bald head.

President Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) doesn’t resemble anybody in particular, but toward the beginning of the movie, he talks about whoever controls the Nuclear Football as being the most important issue, and talks about the dangers of North Korea.  It portrays him as being a stereotypical Republican War Hawk.  It’s probably the most stereotypical moment in the film.

Both Fox and Art Crumb (Nathan Lane), Greenleaf’s campaign manager, are shown as trying to manipulate Bud Johnson, and having their candidates switch their stances on issues just to get his vote.  It differs from the movie where the politicians are the evil liars, and makes the campaign managers the “bad guys.”  Although both candidates flip-flop on various issues to appeal to Bud, they ultimately turn good and realize what they were doing was wrong, ticking off their campaign managers.

One other stereotype was John Sweeney (George Lopez), the local FOX news reporter, is shown as just wanting to get massive media attention, and FOX is mocked a couple of other times throughout the movie.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  It was fair and balance, and made fun of both sides, and shows them ultimately realizing their wrongs.

The movie never shows how Bud Johnson votes, but that could be a bonus part of the DVD.

So, now that I’ve ruined the plot for you, go out and see it!

Done Rating,

Ranting Republican
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Alaska Senator Ted Stevens Indicted; Department of Justice Makes a Statement

July 31, 2008

So, on Tuesday night, news broke that Ted Stevens (or “Uncle Ted” as he’s sometimes referred to in Alaska) (R-AK), who I love for his firey personality, but strong disagree with on many issues (pork barrel spending, his stances on abortion, to name a couple), was indicted for seven felony counts of making false statements on Senate financial disclosure reports between 1999 and 2006.  He is accused of concealing over $250,000 worth of house renovations and gifts from VECO Corp.  A copy of the indictment can be found here.

If convicted Stevens could face up to 5 years in prison for each count, but I doubt that a man of his importance would actually get that sentence (even his age could play a factor).

Representative Don Young (R-AK), is also taking some heat for fundraising involving VECO.

The founder and former CEO of VECO, Bill Allen, took a plea deal on his charges of bribing state lawmakers, and has cooperated with the FBI, which prompted the Stevens investigation.

Here are some quotes:

  • Stevens is “one of the most effective and honest legislators I have ever worked with.  He has worked diligently to serve Alaska and has fought to make life better for people in every region of our state.  I hope people will not rush to judgment and will let the judicial process work.  The process is based on being innocent until proven guilty.”  Representative Don Young (R-AK)
  • “It’s a sad day for him, us, but you know I believe in the American system of justice, and he’s presumed innocent.”  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
  • “The president has been working with Senator Stevens for many years, and he appreciates his strong leadership on key issues.  This is a legal matter that the Department of Justice is handling, and so we will not comment further on it.”  Dana Perino, White House press secretary
  • “All of us have times that we have to deal with that are tough.  I wish him the best.”  Senator John Warner (R-VA)
  • “I’ve known Ted Stevens for 28 years, and have always known him to be impeccably honest.”  Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)

And here we have some longer statements.  First is the statement from Senator Ted Stevens:

Statement from Alaska Senator Ted Stevens
 

I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator.
 
In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges.
 
The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly.
 
I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.

And here is the statement from Department of Justice, given by Matt Friedrich, acting attorney general of the Criminal Division:

Good afternoon. My name is Matt Friedrich, and I am the acting assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division. With me here today is Steve Tidwell, who is an executive assistant director at the Federal Bureau of Investigations [sic]. Also with me is Victor Song, who is the deputy chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

Earlier today, a federal grand jury here in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging United States Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska with seven felony counts of making false statements.

The charges relate to false statements that Senator Stevens is alleged to have made on his mandatory financial disclosure forms filed for calendar years 1999 through 2006.

According to the indictment, as a member of the United States Senate, Senator Stevens was required to file financial disclosure forms with the secretary of the Senate. A primary purpose of such forms is to disclose, monitor and deter conflicts of interest and maintain public confidence in the United States Senate and its membership.

These forms, which are publicly available, require the person filing them to disclose, among other things, whether or not the filer had received any gifts, or had any liabilities or debts.

As to gifts, the filer was required to disclose gifts from any single source over a particular threshold amount that varied year by year. For example, between 2003 and 2006, that threshold amount was $305, such that anything over that amount was required to be disclosed.

As to liabilities, the filer was to — was required to disclose any liability or debt owed by the filer or his spouse or dependent children in an amount greater than $10,000, as well as the identity of the individual or entity to whom each debt was owed.

The indictment charges that while he was sitting as a United States senator between 1999 and 2006, Senator Stevens accepted gifts from a privately held company, known as VECO, its chief executive officer and others.

VECO was a [sic] oil field services company and operated on an international basis. VECO was one of the largest private employers in the state of Alaska.

The gifts Senator Stevens is alleged to have received include substantial amounts of material and labor, used in the renovation of a private residence which Senator Stevens and his wife own, located in the town of Girdwood, Alaska.

These renovations are alleged to include the addition of a new first floor with multiple bedrooms and a bathroom, as well as a finished full basement.

VECO contractors and employees performed a significant portion of these renovations. For example, VECO and its employees and contractors are alleged to have provided architectural designs for the renovation; assisted in lifting up the residence and installing a new first floor; installed electrical, plumbing, framing, heating and flooring materials; installed a first-floor wrap-around deck; installed a plastic roof between the first and second floor decks; installed a heat-tape system on the roof; and performed gutter repair and electrical work.

The indictment also alleges that Senator Stevens received other gifts from VECO and its CEO, including household goods, furniture, a new Viking gas range, a tool storage cabinet and an automobile exchange, in which Senator Stevens received a new vehicle worth far more than what he provided in exchange.

According to the indictment, the total amount of gifts that Senator Stevens is alleged to have received over the duration of the offense is greater than $250,000. Also according to the indictment, these items were not disclosed on Senator Stevens’ financial disclosure forms, which he filed under penalties of perjury, either as gifts or as liabilities, and further, that Senator Stevens did not reimburse or repay VECO or its chief executive officer for these items.

I would ask you to keep in mind a few final points before I close. First, let me remind you again that what I have described today are allegations which have been made in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury.

In terms of where we are now, procedurally, in this case, we are at the very beginning of the criminal process because an indictment has just been returned.

Like any other criminal defendant, Senator Stevens is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty in a court of law.

Second, in terms of answering any questions that you may have about the indictment, I’m going to need to stick to the four corners of the indictment, and I will not be able to go beyond what the indictment alleges, in answering questions that you may have about the specifics of the charges announced today.

As you may know, in about 2004, federal law enforcement agencies began an investigation into public corruption in the state of Alaska.

The fact of this investigation became publicly known with the execution of search warrants at VECO and other locations in Alaska, in August of 2006.

To date, that investigation has resulted in seven convictions. Among those who have been convicted are Pete Kott, the former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives; Bill Allen, the former CEO of VECO; and Richard Smith, a former vice president at VECO; William Babrick (ph), a former lobbyist in Anchorage; and Thomas Anderson, a former lobbyist — excuse me — and Thomas Anderson, a former Alaska state representative.

That investigation is continuing.

Finally, I would like to thank the team assigned to this investigation, which includes prosecutors from the public integrity section of the criminal division, as well as AUSAs, assistant United States attorneys from the Alaska U.S. attorney’s office.

It also includes from the FBI agents from the Anchorage field office and from IRS CID agents from their Seattle field office.

With that, I’m happy to take some questions.

QUESTION: Matt, if Senator Stevens is convicted, what’s the maximum penalty that he would face?

FRIEDRICH: You know, I know a lot of times when a department issues releases, they will issue a statutory maximum, which is taken by the statutory max per count and multiplying it by the number of counts. That is usually something grossly in excess of whatever any sentences that ultimately comes down. So I don’t — you can look that up, I don’t want to start trumpeting what the statutory max — max would be.  [It’s 5 years per count.  7 x 5 would be 35 years.]

QUESTION: Why did the Justice Department go after disclosures as opposed to other statutes — the tax statute or gift ban statute? Why did you all go after disclosures?

FRIEDRICH: You know, in terms — I guess the best way to answer that, in terms of woulda, shoulda, coulda on other charges, again, as I alluded to, I really need to stick to what’s charged here in terms of the indictment.

The indictment is pretty detailed. I think if you take a look at it, it lays out pretty clearly what our basis is for what we brought.

QUESTION: A follow on that: Is there any kind of statute of limitation issue that dealt with what statutes you all went after in charging?

FRIEDRICH: We always need to pay attention to statute of limitations. Beyond that I’m not going to count it.

QUESTION: To put it another way, you could charge false statements. But in your press release, you alleged that he used his position on behalf of VECO, suggesting a quid pro quo. Can you help us square that?

FRIEDRICH: Let me refer you to paragraph 17 of the indictment, which alleges that at the same time that Senator Stevens was receiving these things of value — over that same time — he was also being solicited by VECO to do certain things, which he on occasion — which he or his staff on occasion did.

FRIEDRICH: The indictment does not allege a quid pro quo.

In the back. I’m sorry. In the red.

QUESTION: This is a sitting senator, and obviously it’s unprecedented to have a raid on his home. How far up the chain did you have in terms of the politics of indicting someone of this stature?

FRIEDRICH: I guess what I would say is, we followed the course that we follow internally in terms of getting indictments approved. Beyond that — beyond that, I’m not going to comment.

In the back. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Can I ask a question, follow up (inaudible)? I know you have an IRS guy here. Why didn’t (ph) Stevens report these gifts as income. Since he wasn’t disclosing them on his financial disclosure form, why wouldn’t that be a tax violation if he didn’t do that?

FRIEDRICH: Let me answer that question this way. Without reference to this case, my understanding, as a general matter, gifts are not reportable — are not required to be reported as income on tax forms. Income and other things are, but not gifts.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) as gifts, he wasn’t disclosing these.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDRICH: On his ethics — on his — according to the indictment, on his ethics forms, yes.

QUESTION: Did he report these on his tax returns? Like improvements to a house would be income, wouldn’t it?

FRIEDRICH: I’m not going to comment on the senator’s tax returns.

Yes?

QUESTION: Can you explain the difference between a quid pro quo and what’s alleged in the indictment?

FRIEDRICH: This indictment charges violations of the false statement statute, which 18 USC 1001. The bribery statute is found at 18 USC 201. And without, you know — again, bribery is not charged in this case, as I mentioned earlier. Bribery requires proof of a specific agreement of a quid pro quo of this for that. This indictment does not allege such an agreement.

QUESTION: Were there any discussions with Stevens or his lawyers about a possible plea deal?

FRIEDRICH: I’m not going to discuss — as a matter of policy, we wouldn’t discuss any such potential discussions. I wouldn’t read into that whether they have occurred or not. I simply can’t comment — can’t comment on it.

QUESTION: Matt, following that…

FRIEDRICH: Yes?

QUESTION: … has he made arrangements to turn himself in? What’s next?

FRIEDRICH: My understanding is he will be allowed to turn himself in. He will not be arrested.

QUESTION: Have arrangements been made for a court appearance at this point, do you know?

FRIEDRICH: That’ll be coming shortly.

QUESTION: Is he turning himself in, in D.C. or in Alaska?

FRIEDRICH: I’ll defer to the bureau on that.

TIDWELL: A summons will be issued, and it’ll be worked out, what is most convenient for everyone regarding that and regarding the initial court appearance.

QUESTION: Is he in D.C. now?

TIDWELL: I do not know if he is in D.C. now.

QUESTION: Do you know when and how he was informed by the government of the grand jury indictment?

TIDWELL: Yes. His attorney received a call earlier today. And I’ll leave it at that.

Any other questions? Yes?

QUESTION: Just, with the guidelines and the sentencing structure with someone of the senator’s age, if you could talk about how that works, if someone becomes, you know, too old to have to serve that kind of time, if he’s looking at five years under false statements?

TIDWELL: Ultimately, we are — you know, again, we are at the very beginning phase of the process to talk about sentencing. It isn’t something I really am really comfortable with.

I will say, generically, you know, ultimately that’s something that would be up to a sentencing court.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about whether the senator cooperated at all with this investigation?

TIDWELL: Again, I have no comment on that, one way or another. I would urge you not to read anything into that, one way or another. I simply can’t confirm or deny that either way.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on what sort of cooperation of Bill Allen provided?

TIDWELL: Bill Allen — Bill Allen entered into a plea agreement. That plea agreement is publicly available to you. It’s a public record in Alaska. You can go and look at it and see for yourself what the terms of that plea agreement are. He is cooperating with the United States.

QUESTION: How long is the investigation going on?

TIDWELL: Is that — speaking of the global investigation, the federal agencies have been conducting in Alaska since about 2004, roughly.

QUESTION: Can I ask just one thing? In an election year, I wonder if you might address, just generally, whether or not the department takes special care or follows other particular procedures, in order to influence (ph) the outcome of an election, you know, given the public corruption (inaudible) in a presidential election year, just speaking generally?

TIDWELL: Let me say a few things in response to that.

One, when we bring cases as prosecutors, we bring cases based upon our evaluation of the facts and the law. And we bring cases when they are ready to be charged, and that’s what has happened here.

I would refer you, as a general matter, if you recall, Judge Mukasey issued guidance to federal prosecutors earlier this year in the form of a memo dealing with election year sensitivities.

And while I’m paraphrasing what the memo says, the gist of it is that politics should play no part — partisan politics should play no part either in what charges we bring or in things like, you know, the timing of an indictment or that type of thing.

That policy has been followed to the letter, in this case.

I really don’t have much to say at this point.  I think anybody who has this much pork barrel spending and this many pet projects on their record is asking for legal trouble.  When you try to give money to your district and companies in your district, bad things happen – intentionally or unintentionally.  Innocent until proven guilty, but the voters may not be saying this in the primary.  For now, I’ll hold off on commenting on the primary until some more details come out.

I hope the allegations are false (I never like seeing people commit crimes), but if they’re true, he has to be punished.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Focus on the Family’s James Dobson Will Endorse John McCain

July 27, 2008

Early last week (while I was on vacation), I saw a news story about Dr. James Dobson, from Focus on the Family, saying that he might endorse McCain.  So, I dug around and found the whole quote, from Dr. Dobson’s July 21st podcast.  With him is Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The podcast is originally available on the Focus on the Family website:

MOHLER: I have to tell you, I find Barack Obama to be a very attractive person, a very attractive candidate. I would want to vote for him. But the closer I look at his positions, the more alarmed I become. He is the candidate who bills himself as a candidate of change, and in an odd way he is, just not the kind of change that I think most Americans now understand. So, Doctor, when I look at this, I have to say we’re looking at the most liberal candidate, I think, to gain a party nomination probably in the history of this country. And on so many of the issues, far beyond even where a Bill Clinton was. That’s what I think most Americans don’t understand. Many evangelicals don’t understand, particularly younger evangelicals. This is a man who has staked out his positions for the last 20 years in a way that is markedly beyond where most Americans believe he is.

DOBSON: I think he’s more liberal and more extreme than most Democrats in the Senate.

[…]

DOBSON: That, and the fact that I’m so very concerned about Senator Obama and what he believes and stands for, as well as the need to rethink some of my views regarding Senator McCain, and that thinking has taken place and continues to do so. This is been the most difficult moral dilemma for me. It’s why you haven’t heard me say much about it, because I have struggled on this issue. And there’s some concerns here that matter to me more than my own life, and neither of the candidates is consistent with my views in that regard. But Senator McCain is certainly closer to them than Senator Obama by a wide margin, and there’s no doubt about — at least no doubt in my mind — about whose policies will result in more babies being killed or who will do the greatest damage to the institution of marriage and the family. I’m convinced that Senator McCain comes closer to what I believe.

So, I am not endorsing Senator McCain today. I don’t even know who his vice presidential candidate will be. You know, he could very well choose a pro-abortion candidate, and it would not be unlike him to do that because he seems to enjoy frustrating conservatives on occasions. But as of this moment, I have to take into account the fact that Senator John McCain has voted pro-life consistently, and that’s a fact. That he says he favors marriage between a man and a woman; I believe that. He opposes homosexual adoption. He favors smaller government and lower taxes, and he seems to understand the Muslim threat, which matters a lot to me. I’m very concerned about that. Therefore — therefore — I have considered the fact that elections always involved imperfect candidates. There are no perfect human beings, and you always have to choose between two flawed individuals. That’s the way we’re all made. So, it comes down to this, and I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but it’s where I am — that while I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might, and that’s all I can say at this time.

Transcript from Media Matters.

I’ve bolded the crucial part of that podcast.  And this is essentially Dr. Dobson saying that he’ll endorse McCain.  Unless McCain picks a liberal, pro-choice running mate (like Lieberman), he’ll get Dobson’s endorsement, which equates to at least 95% of the Religious Right vote.  And McCain won’t pick Lieberman or any pro-choice candidate.  He’ll have a hard enough time securing the party base (Religious Right and others) without picking some liberal.  He won’t pick Lieberman just because of his Iraq stance (as I’ve said before).

Dr. Dobson sent a written statement to the Associated Press, saying, “There’s nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context.  Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation.  His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain. … If that is a flip-flop, then so be it.”  He did that to keep the AP from saying what I’m saying now – that his statements are essentially and endorsement.  I do see where he’s coming from – he doesn’t want to endorse him until he picks a VP, just in case, but that VP will be Mitt Romney, and Dobson will be fine with that, and endorse the Republican ticket.

McCain will get almost all of the Religious Right vote, as I’ve previously said, and ultimately, he’ll win the election.

I’ll keep you updated on the Dobson endorsement, as time goes on.

Done Predicting,

Ranting Republican
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Why Pro-Lifers Should Vote for John McCain: From a Pro-Life Prospective

May 8, 2008

I’ve just gotten done with what seems like my 500th debate with a pro-lifer who claims they won’t vote for McCain.  Now, I myself am extremely pro-life (no abortions, not even under circumstances of rape, incest, or mother’s life [except tubal pregnancies where it is impossible for the baby to survive], no embryonic stem cell research, etc…).  I would NOT vote for Rudy Giuliani, and I will vote for a pro-life Democrat over a pro-choice Republican.  Being pro-life has ALWAYS been important to me, since I was a little kid, and this election is no different.

Many pro-lifers say that McCain isn’t pro-life enough enough, especially when it comes to embryonic stem cells.  I’ll give them that – I am saddened that McCain supports experiments that have so far yielded ZERO productive results, but McCain is not an advocate of ESC research, McCain is an advocate of what works, and as it is shown more and more that adult SCs are yielding results, I think he will begin to oppose ESC research.

Now, McCain’s voting record.  I have heard the argument that his voting record is not pro-life enough.  I always respond, “Other than ESC research, show me one pro-choice thing he has voted for. [Silent pause] That’s because he hasn’t.”  In the 109th Congress, McCain had a 75% voting record from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and a 0% rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL Pro-Choice America).  Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton have been rated 0% by the NRLC and 100% by NARAL.

The reason that a lot of pro-lifers are saying that they won’t vote for McCain is that “We need to turn the party around and teach Republicans a lesson that they can’t do this again.”  Well, I have a problem with that, and it’s called the Supreme Court.  The next President will nominate one Justice for sure (to replace John Paul Stevens), and most likely another (to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg).  Both of those justices are pro-choice.

If the pro-life religious right wants to teach the Republican Party a lesson, do NOT do it during a time when Roe v. Wade could be overturned.  2 pro-life Justices would change the Court from a 4-5 pro-life vote to a 6-3 pro-life vote.  If you ask me, teaching a lesson to a party should NOT be done at the expense of millions of helpless babies.

I recently heard Rocky Raczkowski (Michigan Representative who was planning on running for Senate until he got called back to serve in the Army), and he said, “If pro-life voters don’t vote for John McCain, shame on them,” and I agree.

Even if McCain appoints pro-choice judges, how is that any worse than what Clinton or Obama would do?  Why should we risk letting somebody that we KNOW for SURE will appoint pro-choice justices to the bench?  I would vote for McCain if there were only a 10% chance in him appointing somebody pro-life, over Clinton or Obama where that chance is 0.0000001% (you never know how the Justice will vote until they actually vote), but McCain himself has said he’ll appoint a pro-life person.  On other occasions, he’s said that he will appoint somebody like John Roberts or Samuel Alito, and that he would use the same people that Bush used to find Justices like that.

If you are pro-life, and you vote against John McCain / don’t vote, and Obama or Clinton (Obama will be the nominee) gets elected by a slim margin, the blood of those innocent babies will be on your conscience.

Now is not the time to send a message to the party.  Do that when millions of lives aren’t at stake.

(My apologies if any of this doesn’t make sense – I just got back from oral surgery and I’m on vicodin right now, so if something just doesn’t make any sense, leave a comment and I’ll revise it when I’m all with it.)

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Charlton Heston, Actor and Conservative Icon Has Passed Away

April 6, 2008

Charlton Heston, the actor in the classic movies The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and Planet of the Apes passed away at the age of 84, his family is reporting.

Heston was an icon to conservatives.  He started off as a liberal and a Democrat, campaigning for Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy, but later in life, he became a conservative and a Republican, taking up issues such as affirmative action, gun rights, and abortion.  He even campaigned for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.  In 1996, he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and he was the president and spokesman of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.  One of his most famous quotes was directed at Al Gore in the 2000 election, saying that he wold take away his Second Amendment rights “from my cold, dead hands.”

Today, he has gone on to spend eternity with the Lord, but he will always remain a true conservative and an icon to many here on earth.

I’ll leave you with my favorite video clip of his:

We’ll miss you Mr. Heston.

~~Ranting Republican
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Supreme Court Hears Kentucky Lethal Injection Case

January 8, 2008

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments from Donald Verrilli, the lawyer of Ralph Baze, a death-row inmate who killed a sheriff and deputy sheriff.  Verrilli claimed that there is a severe risk of pain and agony if the anesthetic is not properly administered, but Roy Englert, the attorney representing the Commonwealth of Kentucky, claimed that “Kentucky has excellent safeguards in place” and is using a doctor who is skilled at administering drugs through needles.

At the heart of the Baze v. Rees (John D. Rees is the Kentucky Corrections Commissioner) is how judges should evaluate arguments that the current combination of drugs used to carry out the execution (sodium thiopental causes unconsciousness and stops breathing, pancuronium bromide causes paralysis, and potassium chloride stops the heart) causes enough pain to be considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” which would violate of the Eighth Amendment.  What is NOT being heard here is the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Verrilli wants the state to use sodium pentobarbital, a single drug which would cause unconsciousness and cardiac arrest.  There are three arguments against the use of the single drug (the latter two were discussed in a press conference after the Court heard the arguments):

  • The drug proposed is the same drug used to put down animals, so many states are reluctant to change to a system that would put down humans “the same as animals.”
  • When administered, the drug can cause “involuntary thrashing” and this would degrade the “dignity” of the execution procedure.
  • The drug has not yet been tested to show that it is indeed pain free in humans.

Another issue here is the fact that in the past, states have been reluctant to release execution information since it might compromise prison security and/or the safety of prison personnel.

Justice Antonin Scalia brought up an interesting point asking where it says that the state must use “the least painful method.  Is that somewhere in the Constitution?”  During the case, Scalia said, “This is an execution — not surgery.”

Justice John Stevens saw the case as bringing up a recurring issue and that “We’ll be right back here in a year or 18 months.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy brought up (in my opinion) the most valid point when they asked Verrilli to assume for a moment that the current system was administered correctly (painlessly) in every execution. Justice Kennedy tehn asked, “Would you have a case here?”

Verrilli responded by saying that, “There can be no guarantee they will be properly administered.”  So that’s a big no to the Justices’ question.

I say that there needs to be more research done here – on BOTH methods.  If one method is better than the other – then use that.  But are people going to say that thrashing around is cruel and unusual?  If the Supreme Court isn’t careful, this could be the Griswold v. Connecticut of the death penalty that leads to its abolishment (Griswold v. Connecticut was the Supreme Court case that was taken out of context and used as a precedent to reach the Roe v. Wade verdict that legalized abortion).

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Christians and the Religios Right Voting For Mitt Romney (or Any Other Socially Conservative Non-Christian for That Matter)

December 14, 2007

OK, first, I know that many of you will say that Mormons are Christians.  1. That’s not what I believe.  2. We’re not here to debate this.

What I am here to say is that the Religious Right (who I proudly call myself a member of) needs to snap out of this “I’ll only vote for a TRUE CHRISTIAN!” mentality.  I’ll think about voting for anybody who is pro-life.  If you’re pro-choice, you’re out of consideration for me.  After this I take into effect some other social issues as well as allowances for certain personal freedoms (where my semi-libertarianism kicks in), and lastly economics (I’ll vote for a fiscal liberal before a social liberal any day).

After having many debates with my mother who at first wouldn’t have supported a Mormon (although she’s still a Huckabee person – but hey, I like him too), she found this website: http://www.defendingyourdoorstep.com/Mitt_Romney.htm

I’m just going to highlight his 3 main points, and let you read the rest if you want to (and I’d really encourage you to):

  • There is no risk that a Mormon President will drive people into the Mormon Church.
  • There is no Biblical support for the fear that God will judge our nation if we elect someone to be our President who is not theologically sound.
  • The lives of 4 million innocent Americans should outweigh any concerns we might have regarding the theological failings of our president.

If the Religious Right refuses to vote for Mitt Romney (in the general election, I’ll be fine if they support Huckabee or somebody else in the primary) because of  his religion, I will denounce the movement and disassociate from it, because they have gone from not caring about issues to only caring about religion.  And I doubt that they think that all the Presidents that have claimed to be Christians, meaning that they would have to judge the religiosity of candidates, which is something left up to GOD to do, NOT Christians.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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