Saturday, March 17, 2012

Zoe's 16th!

Zoe Peyronnin 3/17/12
The beautiful young lady is my daughter celebrating her 16th birthday at our favorite restaurant with her mom and me.  It seems like just yesterday she was a helpless bundle of joy.  Time has flown by and she has grown older, wiser and more independent.  No matter her age, I am so proud of her and I love her so much!  Thank you Zoe for all the wonderful memories and for all the love!  Dad

November Madness?

"How do we understand this President and his time in office?" asks actor Tom Hanks in his narration for the documentary "The Road We've Traveled," which the president's reelection campaign released Thursday evening. "Do we look at the day's headlines or do we remember what we as a nation have been through?" Well that all depends on your political point of view.

For supporters of President Obama, the documentary is a well-crafted 17-minute story about a man who has achieved an enormous amount despite difficult challenges.  "Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt has so much fallen on the shoulders of one president," Hanks says.  It tells of a man who is consistently doing what he believes is best for the country rather than what may be most popular. 

The documentary cites the benefits of the health care reform act, a.k.a. "Obama care", by reminding viewers that the elderly, young adults under 26 years old, and people with preexisting conditions will no longer be without health care. It points to the fact that the controversial stimulus package passed in 2009 added or saved millions of jobs.  The film also highlights the great success of the automobile bail out, which is still criticized by the Republican candidates.  Of course, the documentary spends time detailing the president's actions that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda. 

The timing of the film, released on the normally unlucky "Ides of March", marks the true beginning of the president's reelection effort.  Simultaneous with the film's release, candidates Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sharpened their attacks on their Republican opponents.

On Thursday the vice president said, “Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — these guys have a fundamentally different economic philosophy than we do.” He continued, “We are for a fair shot and a fair shake. They’re about no rules, no risks and no accountability.”  Speaking of the auto bailout, Vice President Biden then said, “he made the tough call and the verdict is in. President Obama was right and they were dead wrong.”  A few hundred miles away the president criticized at his opponents, “If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably must have been founding members of the "Flat Earth Society". They would not believe that the world was round."

But, flat earth or not, recent national polls showed a sharp decline in the president's approval rating.  The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows Obama's overall approval rating at 41 percent, down 9 percentage points in one month.  The president's rating also slid about 10 percent in a month according to a Washington Post/ABC poll.  Rising gas prices and a slow recovery seem to be dragging the president's numbers down.  The heated debate over contraception and religious rights are not as high a priority to most Americans.

Of course, the man in charge is held accountable for rising gasoline prices, even though they are caused by events that the president has little control over.  Speculators and the fear of war with Iran are driving the prices up.  If all the suggestions that Republicans are making to deal with the problem were enacted they would have little impact on the price.  In fact, the last time gas prices were this high was in July 2008, when George W. Bush was president, and they came crashing down because of the recession that soon followed.  

Here we are in the height of college basketball's exciting tournament known as "March Madness."  Already many fans who have forecast the outcome of the tournament, the "bracketologists," have seen their predictions turn out wrong.  That is because several top-seeded teams have gone down to defeat at the hands of lower ranked opponents. The fact is that any team has a chance of winning on any given day. 

We are still many months away from "November Madness," and the race will not be a slam-dunk for either candidate.  While it is pretty clear that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be matched up against President Barack Obama, the election will be very close.  Victory will depend on who has the better ground game and passionate voter support.  But, chances are that many voters will be more motivated by "the day's headlines" than "what we have been through" as a nation.      

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oreo: Happy 100!

Happy birthday to the Oreo cookie.  Thank you, and your parent, Nabisco, for all the years of joy you have given me! 

Casual Talk of War

President Barack Obama sharply rebuked his Republican opponents for having "a lot of bluster" and "beating the drums of war" with Iran.  The president's comments, which came in response to question at a White House news conference Tuesday, were clearly directed at Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, all of whom have been highly critical of President Obama's Iran policy. 

"Now, what is said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They are not commander-in-chief," The president said. "And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war."  He then said, "This is not a game, and there is nothing casual about it. And, you know, when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we've been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that is more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem."

The president then challenged his opponents to make their case for war, "If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war they should say so, and they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be."

At one point in his news conference the president suggested that, "We have a window of opportunity" to resolve the nuclear issue with Iran diplomatically.  He then said, "It is deeply in everybody's interest - the U.S., Israel and the world - to see if can be resolved in a peaceful fashion." He began his news conference by listing the steps he had taken to tighten sanctions on Iran and unify the world around the issue.  And he repeated his support for Israel. 
Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have all been outspoken on Iran during their campaigns.  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, speaking to the Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, said, "Hope is not a foreign policy...The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve.”  Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also spoke to the group about the president, “He says he has Israel’s back...From everything I’ve seen, he has turned his back on the people of Israel.”  And Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke to the group about what he would do as president, “We would not keep talking while the Iranians keep building.” Gingrich continued, “The red line is now...It is an unacceptable risk.”

The Republican candidates were clearly pandering to the pro-Israeli lobby, as well as to neo-conservatives.  Romney has gone as far as to say that if the president is re-elected Iran will get a nuclear weapon.  In fact, Romney has called President Obama, "The most feckless president since President Carter."  When asked to respond to Romney's quote, the president said, "Good luck tonight."  The President was referring to the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

Republican candidates have lost ground to the president in the "national security" perception battle.  President Obama has many successes in this area, including the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  Yet Republican candidates see Iran as an issue that can be exploited, especially among their conservative base.  The fact is that recent polls show a majority of Americans are not interested in another war.

President Obama was very tough on his opponents Tuesday.  But he also exuded confidence, competence, thoughtfulness and compassion.  He displayed, in a word, leadership.   The kind of leadership that can easily quell senseless bluster. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Limbaugh's Disgrace

Rush Limbaugh is a national disgrace. He is a blowhard and a bully who earns an enormous amount of money by fanning the flames of hatred and divisiveness in this country.

The tragedy is that several million people listen to his program and actually believe he is an intelligent, responsible and caring person. Even more outrageous is the fact that he has most Republicans so cowed that they are unwilling to speak out against him when he says something disgusting and maliciously hateful.

On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh decided to take on a college student, someone's daughter, for supporting a requirement that health insurance cover contraception. He called Sandra Fluke, a 23 year-old Georgetown law student, a "slut" on his radio broadcast. On Thursday Limbaugh continued his attack.  "A Georgetown coed told (Congresswoman) Nancy Pelosi's hearing that the women in her law school program are having so much sex they're going broke.  So you and I should have to pay for their birth control. So what would you call that?  I called it what it is," he harrumphed.  "So I am offering as compromise today: I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want." 

The "aspirin between their knees" was obviously Limbaugh's tribute to Santorum supporter Foster Friess who left MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell stunned when he outrageously made the suggestion as an alternative to contraception on her program last week. But Limbaugh was not done with his tirade.  "So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch."

 Later on Thursday 75 members of Congress sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner expressing their anger at Limbaugh's remarks and calling for Republican leaders to speak out.  But the Republican Party appears to have a tin ear when it comes to women's health issues, especially contraception. 

Leading Republican candidates are against having the federal government require employers to provide access to certain health care coverage including contraception.  An attempt by Republicans to pass such an amendment in the Senate on Thursday was defeated.  The Republicans are trying to spin this an issue of the federal government trying to interfere with religious freedom and the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church has forbidden the use of contraceptives for 50 years.  However, most Democrats say the underlying issue is giving women access to the health care they need.

Now this debate has become central in the Republican presidential primary.  Candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney (after a brief flip-flop) supported the Republican amendment that went down to defeat.  And Santorum, a Catholic, has been very clear about his view on contraception.  "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country," he has said.  "Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." 
But it appears that Santorum has staked out a position on contraception at odds with most women.    99% of all American women, and 98% of all Catholic women in the United States, have used contraception at some point in their lives according to published statistics.  For most of them it is a health issue. 

However, don't try telling that to Rush Limbaugh.  He is having too much fun harshly attacking a young lady for speaking her heartfelt opinion about an issue of concern to all women.   But how can his advertisers support his debasing rants? This world would be so much better off if Limbaugh put two aspirin between his lips and he kept them there!