Live Blog: POTUS Syria Speech

Hey Everyone,

Dan and I have decided to do a “live-style” blog of the Obama speech tonight. Since there have been so many developments, we wanted to give you a constant feed of our thoughts and ideas on the Syria development, Obama’s presentation, the speech itself, and what the repercussions might be. Here it goes:

Watch the full speech below. Timestamps should be pretty easy to follow. Starts at 9:01 when he walks on screen:

9:01 – Dan & Mike – Whoa, he’s on time

9:03: Dan – Obama giving some pretty graphic details of the pictures he has seen of the chemical weapons used. Americans haven’t responded well to the chemical warfare aspect yet, but Obama seems to hope a description will change that.

9:05 – Mike – “we cannot resolve a civil war through force…[but] when he gassed over a thousand people…including children” – Obama
Mike – He seems to be making a case, not for the overall atrocities of the world, but chemical weapons alone. He referenced WW2, and the chemical warfare treaty. He also made the case for it being gov’t only, not opp. I wonder if he’ll touch upon the fact that assad admitted to using chemical weapons? Will he change pace, speechwriters seem a day behind

9:06: Dan – Sarin Gas. Did Aaron Sorkin and the writers for The Newsroom know something we didn’t?

9:07: Mike – The Iran defense. Obama sounds like he has decided to send a military strike against Syria. NO! There were diplomatic ways to deal with this. This is the worst decision our president has made so far.

9:08: Dan – POTUS asking for support of congress. We basically know Congress won’t approve a strike. Answer whether or not you’ll do it regardless.

9:09: Dan – What could you possibly make a “targeted strike” on that would effectively send a message?

9:11: Mike – If Assad is already willing to give up chemical weapons, how will a strike against Syria help that?!? Russia won’t be able help us, as well as China. Then they definitely won’t give up the chemical weapons. This is a horrible blunder, when Kerry’s blunder could’ve saved you.

9:12: Dan – AMERICA!! FUCK YE….oh wait….no…NOT the world police.

9:14: Mike – First he said missile strikes, then we’ll ask congress, but now we’ll take a diplomatic path? What were your speech writers smoking?!?

9:15: Dan – The speechwriters must have been running around like Chip Kelly’s Eagle offense from MNF today. This speech is all over the god-damn place.

9:16: Mike – Now he says congress push back the vote so we can take a diplomatic path. JESUS.

9:16: Dan – back to the painful images. I don’t think it will stick. He said it himself….Americans are sick of war.

9:17: Dan – Oooh…actually telling people to watch the video of the attacks. Jesus dude.

9:18: Dan – Wow. what the fuck did I just watch?! Whoever those writers were need to be fired. Somebody call Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn!!!

9:19: Mike – One of the weakest, most convoluted, and terrible speeches I’ve ever heard by Obama. He was all over the place, seemed like he was calling for a strike, then back to diplomacy again, then onto something else, and then back again. It was a horrible attempt at selling a singular, strong message to the American people. A complete failure of a speech, and it definitely won’t win over anyone in Congress, the American public, or the World community.

Final thoughts: As Mike stated above. This is easily Obama’s worst speech as president. Not only did he not explain anything, he didn’t explain three different things that were all vastly different. It’s as if his speech was written 4 days ago (likely the case), and after the developments of the last few days the writers decided to just throw in the other stuff at the end. The Commander-in-Chief was anything but that tonight.

When Vladimir Putin is schooling you on diplomacy, you’re doing it wrong.

This post….in 6 seconds:
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Hail to the Commander-in-Peace

By Mike

I was sitting in my office the other day watching John Kerry speak on MSNBC…and an unsettling feeling crept about me. It wasn’t just the descriptions of the grisly and nefarious violence occurring in Syria; in fact that wasn’t what made me most uncomfortable about the speech. It was the sinking feeling that I got when I listened to Colin Powell speak before the UN. Before me was yet another man I respect beating the drums of war, with nothing but classified information as a defense for inevitable violent action.

Are the events unfolding in Syria tragic? Yes. Is the use of chemical weapons on civilians an abhorrent crime? Yes. Does the world community need to do something about it? Yes. Will a strategic missile strike from the USA solve this civil war, or stop the use of chemical weapons? No.

Missile strikes aren’t as accurate as the brass say they are, and civilian casualties are always factored into each strike. Say it all goes according to plan, we only kill a couple hundred Syrian civilians (what’s a few for the many, right?), and we take out some military targets. What will be accomplished? Does anyone really think that a madman like Assad will actually give up? You can’t “send a message” of what happens when you violate international law through a unilateral strike on a madman who didn’t even sign the treaty! All that will come of this is civilian blood on America’s hands, and the Syrian people will be no closer to liberation.

Would we even take out all the chemical weapon capabilities? Won’t Russia just continue to send weapons to Assad and drag out the war? Back to square one…

If there truly are damning documents linking the Assad regime to chemical weapons, why don’t we declassify them, send them to our allies, and bring them to the UN? What happened to a liberal government’s ideal of multilateral action? I’m not saying just a few other Euro countries, I mean a true world-wide coalition working together to figure out a solution to the violation of an international treaty almost every country has signed.

It’s time for our Commander-in-Chief to start acting like he deserved even a fraction of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Wars-Obama-War-is-Peace

A bit late, but here’s this post……in 6 seconds:
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Posted in Human Rights, International Relations, Obama, Syria, United Nations | 8 Comments

Let’s get rid of the $1 menu (by raising the minimum wage)

By Dan

Admittedly, I’m a fan of the $1 menu at McDonald’s, but not because I enjoy the food (unless we’re talking McDonald’s breakfast, in which case I would eat that stuff every morning if it wouldn’t eventually kill me). I love the $1 menu for the same reason anyone loves the $1 menu – everything is $1, and I’m (relatively) poor.

Common logic suggests that the people who benefit from $1 menus, and fast food in general, are young people and poor people. The benefits include cheap food options, and for some, a “fulfilling” job that will empower them to improve their situation or to earn some extra cash on the side. However, it’s certainly not all Happy Meals and apple pies, and is probably more like this fantastic Chappelle’s show sketch I spent way more time than I’d like to admit trying to embed…

However, recent data has shown that the people who eat fast food the most are either people exactly like me (males between 18-29), and maybe weirdly, people with annual incomes over $75,000. Although the more you think about it, the more the latter one makes sense (lots of time spent working, too lazy to cook, etc. etc.).

Now, that doesn’t mean I still don’t benefit from being able to get 1800 calories for $3 (fiscally, at least). I save a few bucks, and get to fuel my young, sculpted relatively fit, active body. Win-Win, right? Wrong.

Forget about the health concerns of eating too much fast food, and start thinking about what, and who, goes into getting you that burger. I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty details because we all know the general idea: Low-wage workers = Low-cost food. Pretty simple. But there are a lot of downsides for the people that work in those places, making your cheap, diarrhea inducing tacos.

…but are advertised like this.

I'm uncomfortable with how much I like the $.99 Jack in the Box tacos that look like this...

I’m uncomfortable with how much I like the $.99 Jack in the Box tacos that look like this…

NPR’s fantastic Boston show, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, recently talked about the fast-food workers organizing a one-day protest in order to shed some light on their wages and the minimum wage in general, which is currently at $7.25 nationally, although certain states set it higher. If you’re working 30-40 hours a week on even $8.75/hr, you’re only making $16,000 a year before taxes.

But Dan! People who make that little don’t pay taxes! Mitt Romney said so!

Income tax. They don’t pay FEDERAL INCOME TAX. They still pay plenty of other regressive taxes like the payroll tax, state and local sales and gas taxes, and excise taxes; That’s a different conversation, though.

So when you’re looking at probably $14K/year, how on earth can you be expected to support yourself? Well, McDonalds had an idea. This is an ACTUAL sample budget on the “Build Your Budget” page for Mcdonald’s.

mcdonalds budget

There are so many things horribly wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with the fact that they assume you have TWO jobs. Because god knows they won’t give you more than 30 hours a week. Then there’s a whole $20 on monthly health insurance. I don’t know where they are getting it for so cheap, considering Obamacare hasn’t kicked in yet and McDonald’s doesn’t give benefits to part-time employees. And $0/month on heating. Odd, because I’ve seen plenty of people working at McDonald’s in Boston in January.

As someone who currently works two jobs, one being a crappily-paid retail job, this “budget” is insulting in every sense of the word. It is enough to get behind raising the minimum wage alone, but just to put the M&M’s and Oreo’s on top of the metaphorical McFlurry, McDonald’s made $5.5 billion (yeah that’s a B) in PROFITS last year. And while people shouldn’t start suggesting McDonald’s doubles the salaries of it’s employees overnight, why not take the Costco approach?

Costco pays their workers a living wage, and is currently 65 spots higher on the Fortune 500 list.

So if we all just sucked it up, and stopped shoveling multiple McChickens into our moutholes every once in a while, workers at these fast food chains could start getting something they could actually live on and maybe start making their lives pretty McDonald’s…..(watch the video and you’ll get it. and also won’t be able to keep yourself from saying this).

New to D Street Politics: This post….in 6 Seconds

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The Liberal Lioness

By Dan

In January Elizabeth Warren was sworn into the Senate to much fanfare and cheers from the left, and jeers and fears from the right. Seven months in, she’s held true to her word to work for the people of Massachusetts, and a lot of people in Washington aren’t happy about it.

She has officially taken the reigns as the senior Senator from Massachusetts and is quickly filling the role Teddy Kennedy left as the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate. But we all knew that the Lionesses do the dirty work in a pride of lions (thanks Lion King!), and Warren is doing just that.

A quick rundown of what she’s been doing in the senate shows some great footage of her leaving banking regulators dumbfounded in her first committee hearing, and other regulators nearly speechless in another.

Recently, however, Warren has been ruffling the feathers of a few too many people on either side of the aisle. Last Thursday she balked at the “deal” Democrats made with Republicans to “relieve” student loan debt.

Instead of using her Bank on Student Loan Debt Act that would have let students borrow at the same rate as big banks (less than 1%), the Democrats folded like a chair and caved to the republican plan. Let’s let EDubs explain the Republican plan: 

She got a lot of backlash from fellow Democrats, including President Obama, for not supporting the bill.

However, she has enough star-power that she has been able to attract bipartisan support for her  21st century Glass-Steagall Act, which would separate commercial and investment banking and led to this viral clip:

The right has been noticeably scared of Warren during her seven months in office. The senate has been essentially liberal-free since Kennedy’s death in 2009. Sure, there are “liberal” senators, but none with the charisma, credentials, and backbone Warren showed during her candidacy.

Warren promised to hold the big banks accountable when she was running for senate, and to say she kept her promise would be an understatement. Not only did she essentially create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but after the Big Banks (and Republicans) fought to keep her from being pegged its director, she chipped away and finally got Richard Cordray confirmed as the Director of the new watchdog agency.

So what is next for Warren? The Glass-Steagall Act is likely not to pass due to Republican obstructionism in the Senate (are we surprised?) and crazies in the House. She may have lost on the Student Loan bill, but she brought awareness to the issue, often just as important as the legislation itself.

Some have suggested she’s gearing up for a 2016 Presidential run. But she won’t run. Not in 2016, and likely not ever. And trust me, as a true Warren lover (in case you didn’t know), I would love her in the Oval Office. But her place is in the Senate. She is perfect for the Senate, and likely won’t have to worry about a legitimate challenge for as long as she’s in office. She also shouldn’t need a failed presidential run filled with controversy to figure that out.

Warren is truly becoming the heiress apparent to Ted Kennedy and is deserving of the nickname to follow in his footsteps.

The Lioness

The Lioness

New to D St. Politics: This post…in 6 Seconds

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Have the Dems Gone to Texas?

By Dan

Texas. The place I called home for 6 years. A place that has been a Republican stronghold for decades and gave us 3 presidents; 1 great, 2….well…not so great (can you guess who the 2 are? I’ll give you a hint, both their names start with “G” and end in “eorge Bush”).

Texas has been in the news quite a bit recently. Whether it be Wendy Davis and her Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style filibuster of anti-abortion legislation, or NPR’s desperate attempt to make it seem like Texas might vote blue by 2020 or sooner; Texas has been makin’ the rounds in the news lately, and this week was no different.

Governor Rick Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, decided this week that he will not seek re-election. This means Texas will have its first open Governor’s race since 2000. It also means we will likely get to see Rick Perry run for President again in 2016. Yay for more cringeworthy, hilarious debate quotes! Boo to another right-wing nutjob running for President, forcing  electable candidates (Chris Christie, anyone?) to go further to the right in order to win in the primaries!

Remember this ad?

Do we really want this guy running again? Because based on his comments, “it’s certainly an option,” which is code for “I’m running in 2016.”

So who could possibly take over as the most powerful person in Texas (whose name isn’t J.J. Watt)? There are a number of Democrats on the rise in Texas, to go along with the changing demographics in many of the larger populated areas of the state. The big names?

State Senator Wendy Davis most recently came onto the scene with her already noted filibuster and stating that she may seek higher office. She’s got the support of eerily similar looking and hopefully TV Movie portrayer actress Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights fame.

I love me some Tami Taylor. But I could also love me some Connie Britton as Wendy Davis

I love me some Tami Taylor. But I could also love me some Connie Britton as Wendy Davis

Britton supported Davis in her fight against anti-abortion legislation with the campaign “WWTTD” or “What Would Tami Taylor Do,” in reference to her awesome character’s reaction to a student that comes to her needing advice on abortion.

Houston became the biggest US city to have an openly gay Mayor after they elected Annise Parker (no relation to my co-writer), and she has done a marvelous job. Many have been speculating a future Governor or Senate run since she was elected in 2009.

She’s done a fabulous job making Houston’s awful climate (hot and sticky), horrible public transportation system (but great highways), and overall southernness into Forbes’ 2012 “Coolest City” as well as a bunch of other accolades. I’d like to credit some of the Houston growth to the more recent success of their local sports teams (minus the Astros), but really, it’s been more Mayor Parker than Arian Foster.

Is it just me, or does she look like a lesbian version of Hayley Joel-Osment?

Is it just me, or does she look like a middle-aged woman version of Hayley Joel-Osment?

Two other possible Democratic candidates are San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro (not to be confused with these two Castros). You may remember them; Joaquin introduced Julian as the keynote speaker at the DNC last year. He gave quite the speech. Not only did he do the job of the keynote speaker by hitting Romney pretty hard, but he also came off as incredibly intelligent and likable. Clearly the Democrats had found someone they think can give them Texas in the near future.

But what are their actual chances against a Republican in Texas? Honestly, not good. At least not yet. One of these people will probably jump in the race next year for either Rick Perry’s seat or they will challenge Kay Bailey-Hutchinson’s senate seat. Barring any major screw-ups and rape comments Republicans tend to make, I’d say any of the Democrats lose at this point in time.

However, I think when the next Governor’s race rolls around in 2018 you’ll see one of these 4 in the office in Austin, thus finally breaking the cycle of 20+ years of only Republicans holding state-wide office in Texas.

But until then, we’ll just have to settle for a little more Rick Perry.

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A Call to Action

By Michael

This week has been crazy. Between striking down DOMA and Wendy Davis’ herculean effort to block anti-abortion legislation in Texas, many progressives believe that they should be celebrating.

We shouldn’t be, not yet.

I’m not trying to quell the excitement over how spectacular it is that DOMA was struck down. Trust me, I’m ecstatic for all of my friends and family who will be able to get married, like really married. It sets an amazing precedent for all legal marriages between LGBTQ couples, granting them the thousands of national benefits they deserve. This is a major victory, but for whom? It’s a victory for all the states that have legalized marriage for LGBTQ citizens already…which is only 12 states and D.C. out of 50. What about the rest of the country? For a couple in Utah, the victory is bittersweet: maybe someday, maybe someway. DOMA is a huge victory paving the way for a state-by-state campaign for marriage equality, but it’s just the beginning.

Wendy Davis. Now there’s a lady who really stood up for what she believed in, for 12 hours and 50 minutes straight to be exact. She was fighting a bill that would’ve closed all but 5 of the abortion clinics in the State of Texas. The requirements are summed up nicely in this Christian Science Monitor article:

“The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles — a tall order in rural communities.”

This was definitely a bill worth fighting. This Harvard Law graduate, and former single-mother of two’s filibuster created a firestorm of support; and she became an overnight progressive celebrity. In the end, she came up 10 minutes short with her 3rd strike of the filibuster. Then something amazing happened, the packed crowd began chanting, “let her speak” so loudly for the last 10 minutes that the vote didn’t go through. The people of Texas killed the bill.

It was an inspirational moment for all of us. However, it isn’t over yet. Esteemed Gov. Rick Perry announced (on the eve of Texas’ 500th execution) that, “In Texas, we value all life”, and that he would be returning the bill to the state senate yet again. We live to fight another day, but Wendy Davis and the people of Texas can’t do it alone.

Be happy about these victories, but then get angry for your fellow citizens who aren’t being treated as human beings. Lift up Wendy Davis, but don’t leave her alone up there. We cannot, as citizens of the United States, accept a small piece of change and be satisfied. We must demand more. If the polls aren’t lying, a majority of us believe in marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. Being a silent majority is no longer an option. We have a government that has been hijacked by radicals who care more about telling minorities and women that they don’t deserve equality in life and choice than governing.

What’s worse than these lunatics is all of us; at least they’re fighting for what they believe in. I’m sick of my parent’s generation calling us spoiled millennials who care more about our phones and facebook than what’s going on in our country, in our world. I respect solidarity in FB posts and profile pictures, but I refuse to accept that it’s all we’re capable of.

The people of Brazil took to the streets to demand change by the tens of thousands, and won. They demanded that their government be accountable to them, and now it’s happening. We’re allegedly the greatest country in the world, why don’t we start acting like it? Instead of just saying that we’re a beacon of freedom, let’s actually become one. We are more interconnected than any other generation in the history of our planet. We have the numbers, we have the infrastructure, we just need the push. It’s time to get angry, it’s time to act upon the morals we believe in.

Remember how riled up our whole nation got around a man who ran for President in 2008? I miss those days of newscasters telling the world, “look how energized the youth are”. I yearn for that energy again, not over a politician, but over a set of ideals. Whether you’re a programmer, carpenter, writer, mathematician, plumber, teacher, whatever; in the end, you’re a citizen of something bigger than your occupation. We have an obligation to the people who don’t have voices in our country to make a difference; we have an obligation to leave our children with something more. We can be better, all of us, I know we can.

Work on a campaign, volunteer for something you believe in, donate to Planned Parenthood, write to your representative; do something, your country needs you.

There are many things that happened this week that we should be proud of. But there is only one thing we should take away: this is a call to action, not a cause of celebration…not yet. We have work to do America, and I believe in you.

Posted in gay rights, Justice System, Politics, Uncategorized, Women's Rights | 1 Comment

What are we sacrificing for Immigration reform?

By Dan

This week the Senate passed a test vote for their Immigration Reform bill. It would allow for a (very long and difficult) pathway to citizenship for currently illegal immigrants living here in the United States, and would literally double (from 20,000 to 40,000) our “boots on the ground” in terms of border security, finish a 700 mile long fence along the US-Mexico border, and invest $3.2 billion in technology upgrades that are things more likely to be seen in use by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the US.

Remember this ad? Well McCain is finally getting his wish.

Remember this ad? Well McCain is finally getting his wish.

The test vote passed with 67 votes, which is a promising sign considering we can pretty much only get that many votes for the naming of a post office. It’s one of the few bi-partisan bills that actually means something I’ve seen since Obama has taken office.

So even though this is bipartisan, and both parties have had to swallow some major ideals for this to happen, namely Republicans swallowing “amnesty” and Democrats ramping up border security, who’s the real winner here?

So here’s my take: What are the Republicans really giving up? They are in a win-win scenario for this. Illegal immigrants (aka Mexicans if you’re a GOP member of Congress), can gain temporary legal status to work and pay taxes immediately, likely being forced to pay back taxes if they’ve been here for several years.

Maybe it’s not a win-win if your whole view is they never should have been here to begin with, but that has got to be such an easy thing to accept when you get literally everything else you’ve wanted in an immigration bill, and a significantly increased chance of claiming a bigger percentage of the hispanic vote.

So the GOP gives up deporting all 11+ Million illegal immigrants. Great. But then they get a completed 700 mile long fence whose militarization will rival that of the Berlin Wall (according to John McCain below).

On top of that they are using their favorite tactic over the last 10 years (well, besides obstructionism) by creating a border “surge.” Remember the surge in Iraq and Afghanistan? Yeah those worked so well over there the Republicans just said “Fuck it, lets do that here!

So we are getting another 20,000 troops(?, border security agents?, National Guardsmen?) to go along with the current 20,000 we have now. That’s nearly 1 every 200 feet (someone check my math…its probably wrong, but you get the point. Woo Liberal Arts Degrees!).

So, again, what are the republicans really losing? Not much by my count.

The bigger question, though, is what does this bill (that likely won’t pass the non-functional house. ….Thanks, Tea Party) say about the United States? We’re willing to build a 700 mile long fence with militarized troops along a single border, yet the rest of the country is open for business. We’re willing to let someone from Canada, Europe, Asia, etc etc. come here on student or tourist visas and overstay their time with little to no consequence.

However, when it’s a hispanic person coming over the border illegally in order to build a better life because they have been driven out by the intense violence, corrupt governments, and dangerous drug cartels that are chopping people’s heads off they get treated like criminals who are going to have babies that will all vote Democrat.

The republicans are in trouble if they cant change the direction of this chart

The republicans are in trouble if they cant change the direction of this chart

I’m not going to claim I have the solution for this. I honestly have no idea how I could make this bill better while also still being passable in today’s congress. Both parties are going to tout this as a bipartisan bill (if it passes…which it won’t), to try to either a) say they got immigration reform done under a democratic president, or b) in a desperate attempt to capture the hispanic vote.

But this isn’t who we are as Americans. We are supposed to be the country that welcomes everyone with open arms, not build a wall to keep them out. Our country’s most patriotic symbol reminds us of this.

statue-of-liberty-emma-lazarus-poem-1883

So with both parties only doing this for their own gain (color me shocked), is this something we as a people are going to praise, or even accept?

I hope not, because we can do better.

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