Romney mocks Obama on his pledge to slow the rise of the oceans

If you tuned into the two conventions, you witnessed only a brief mention of one of the most startling distinctions between the parties and candidates. It is also the issue that worries me most as a citizen of the US and world. Global warming is here, it is man-influenced and we better be planning to do something about it.

The title of this post references the first part of a quote issued by Governor Mitt Romney in his acceptance speech. After uttering the line “Obama is pledging to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” he noted “my promise is to help you and your family.” I will set that aside for now, as most of the GOP positions on issues will actually be more harmful to average families than good. Yet, if we at least believe he believes what he is saying, in the context of ignoring what everyone else on the planet is seeing about global warming, are Romney and the GOP really helping “you and your family?” And, when you add gutting the EPA, it makes the question asked even more important.

On the flip side, we did hear the President mention climate change in his speech and address the increased miles per gallon (mpg) standards on new cars and moving to alternative energy, natural gas, and clean (he did use that word rather than cleaner) coal. He also mentioned keeping the air cleaner while doing this, which I interpreted as a reference to keeping the EPA sound. But, I wish he had been more direct, as he is “on the side of the angels” on this argument. Gutting the EPA is about the most ludicrous course of action imaginable.

As a former Republican who left the party in 2006 in part due to their ostrich-head-in-the-sand stance on global warming, I have been troubled by how far behind we are on this issue. Germany is ten years ahead and China is ahead of them on eco-energy planning. Germany will be 80% alternative energy powered by 2030 and we will still be getting our act together, unless we develop and execute a bi-partisan plan. We have a lot of success stories, but we seem to hide them and not celebrate our local and regional eco-energy solutions. I was stunned to learn we have wind power in 38 states, e.g.

I also am amazed by the many hypocrisies in my former party which lead me to question the veracity of Romney’s quote. His quote was meant in an economic context and was an attempt to belittle the President for trying to do the right thing to combat global warming while taking his eye off the ball – again that is a subject for other posts. Yet, a sound eco-energy strategy in light of the global warming crisis  is extremely critical and is most definitely looking out for you and your families.To do otherwise is poor stewardship and will harm the fiscal and physical health of those families.

In my mind, the GOP is more concerned about you before you are born than after you are born. After you are born, you are free to load up on automatic weapons and 5,000 rounds of ammunition, you need not worry about health care because you cannot afford it after they kill Obamacare and gut Medicaid and you need not trouble yourself with the EPA imposing air and water pollution standards on corporations because they are people, too. The fact that the Koch Brothers have about 100 pending violations imposed by the EPA and that the petro-chemical and oil/ gas Industries are the biggest polluters on the planet and have caused more illnesses and deaths than they would care to admit adds up on the side of the ledger that has “More Concerned with Profits than Your Family” as its title.

What it comes down to is the GOP cannot admit publicly what they know individually that global warming is happening and is man-influenced. The seas are rising, yet the state led GOP legislatures and its presidential candidates cannot admit that they are accelerating. In NC, the GOP led legislature would not accept an audited report that said the NC coast would see a 39 inches sea rise by the year 2100. They would only accept a report looking backwards (this is a metaphor for taking the country back) that projected only an 8 inches increase by 2100. Stephen Colbert lampooned them for literally holding back the tide with legal briefs.

There are many stark differences between the two parties and campaigns. To me this is a huge stewardship issue and the GOP is failing the test right now. I would argue by denouncing climate change, deferring eco-energy planning, accelerating fossil fuel development, and gutting the EPA is not a “promise to help you and your family.” I believe it is a promise to make money for the funders of the GOP effort. I guess I am naive to think we should look out for our people, but to hear a GOP convention crowd stand and applaud for comments like these is offensive and not in the best interests of our citizens.

I don’t want to leave people with the impression Obama is doing a huge amount in this regard. He is doing some good things, but he needs to lead us to doing more. He needs to make this a very visible issue. We need an eco-energy plan that will survive his term. But, even with his not doing enough, to vote in the R&R team would truly take us backwards and we would lose even more time on global warming planning and the EPA would lose its ability to govern the polluters. So, on this issue, it is a stark contrast between the move forward or backwards. And, we cannot afford to move backwards on this as we are late in the game already.

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In this real life drama, Clinton disarms Clint

Last night, I watched Former President Bill Clinton give one of the best speeches I have ever seen. It actually exceeded my and people’s expectations, as his purpose was to highlight why President Barack Obama deserves a second term. With his track record of experience, command of information and flair for the dramatic, he demonstrated that we are much better off than in January, 2009 under President Obama, but are still on the journey of recovery. Yet, he also did something much more. He made the current Republican Party and its Tea Party bent look small. More on this later.

The night before, Julian Castro, the very successful Mayor of San Antonio, also gave a heartfelt and pertinent speech. During it he quoted his grandmother who taught him a valuable lesson. To paraphrase, who you walk with is who you are. I mention this as last week the most memorable and talked about speech at the GOP Convention was that of an actor whom we all adore, Clint Eastwood. We are not talking about Senator Marco Rubio’s wonderful speech or those of the other speakers. And, we certainly are not talking about the speech of Former President George W. Bush or his father Former President George H.W. Bush – they were not invited. More on this later.

No, we are still talking about Clint who talked off script and used an empty chair as a prop representing a conversation with President Obama. He was entertaining, but was his speaking the most important use of getting your message out? Many pundits and broadcasters have said no. There was some motive to the madness, but there is both  an irony and several metaphors here to highlight. First the irony.

The Huffington Post did an excellent piece noting that Clint did a moving Super Bowl commercial at the end of halftime for Chrysler – the theme was it is only “Halftime in America.” His commercial was a follow-up on the theme of “imported from Detroit” that Chrysler had also been using. Chrysler survived because of the leadership of the Fiat CEO who now runs them, Sergio Marchionne, an Italian Canadian who solicited, negotiated and used stimulus funds of $6 Billion to modernize the plants and build on the quality improvements his workers knew they needed to do.  Marchionne said in a “60 Minutes” interview replayed on Sunday that he thinks a lot of American workers, yet when he started he noted “There is nothing worse for a leader than to see fear in people’s eyes.” He added, “It’s been a long, rocky road, but the fear is gone.” Well, in this spaghetti western, Sergio and the American workers are the heroes. Chrysler made  $183 million in profit in 2011, which would have been even more except for one thing. They paid the US government back six years earlier than obligated for the loan with interest. GM has a similar success story as well and between the two, their suppliers and people who support the industry over 1.1 million jobs were saved and 250,000 new jobs have been created.

So, Clint’s famous commercial was the direct result of that “failed stimulus” the GOP likes to talk about. It was made possible by the tremendous actions of Chrysler (and GM), but also due to Josey Wales like bravery of that “empty chair” he was chatting with. President Obama went against the grain and GOP scrutiny to bail out the auto industry, which his presidential opponent did not support. Yet, to go one step further, he was told he could only save one – GM or Chrysler and it was recommended that he should focus on GM. President Obama said we must save them both to preserve our auto industry and protect many American jobs. Again, his presidential opponent publicly advocated in a Wall Street Journal article to let them go bankrupt.

This brings me to the metaphors and my earlier point. The first metaphor is when your argument is built on a foundation of big hairy audacious lies as is the GOP platform (see earlier posts), it is easier to have an actor talk to an empty chair that won’t argue with him. The second metaphor is the empty chair actually is more representative of the Republican ideas. As an Independent voter, I am not seeing many good ideas come from this party right now and Governor Romney has to hide from his greatest success as a public official, the Massachusetts Health Care Reform, which is working well.

The other point is who you walk with is who you are. Neither of the living GOP Presidents were invited to speak at the Republican Convention. In fact, the sitting GOP President was not invited to attend the convention in 2008. These actions speak volumes. They define many things, but to me, they define the smallness of the Republican Party. They define a lack of collaboration even within their own party much less others. They define what the GOP has become – a party of narrow-minded extreme conservatives where moderate is an evil word. Bill Clinton sees this and in his speech he showed how small the GOP and Tea Party have become. He spoke of the historical and current practice of cooperation as the way business is done. He also spoke of his cooperation as Governor, as President and as head of his global foundation with Republicans like Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. He even applauded an investment made by the last GOP President for helping impoverished people in Africa. Yet, the GOP won’t even cooperate with the Bushes.

As a business person and volunteer, I have spent my adult life trying to build bridges of collaboration to serve my clients and those in need. One of my mantras is “We are better than I can be alone.”  In this real life drama, Clinton took Clint’s guns away and sent him packing. I love Clint and my wife will tell you I will always stop and watch one of his movies when channel surfing. When she asks how many times have I watched this movie, I will reply “not enough.” Yet, to the GOP, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, this is not a movie. The Pale Rider is not going to be able to kill your opponent for you. And, if he were, he would probably be fighting for the Democratic side because Clint’s roles tended to fight for the disenfranchised against the establishment. In “The Pale Rider,” you would be the establishment.

Doctors for America – Patients Over Politics

As a tax paying North Carolina citizen, I dropped in on the CarolinaFest at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. The city should be very proud of the excitement and true diversity that was in attendance in vast numbers. I felt pride in America seeing people of all shapes, sizes and colors and seeing so many young people interested in what is going on. The best few minutes I spent was chatting with Dr. Becky, a dermatologist from Vermont. She was at a booth on Tryon Street (Charlotte’s main street) with the banner of the group she represented called “Doctors for America” with the key message of “Patients over Politics.”  From the material and what I gleaned from my conversation with Dr. Becky, they are an affiliation of 15,000 physicians and medical students who are advocating for the continuation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but sharpening the focus on patients not politics.

Their mission which can be found on http://www.drsforamerica.org is as follows:

“Doctors for America is a grassroots movement of 15,000 physicians and medical students who are working together to improve the health of the nation and to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality, affordable health care.”

Their passion matches my own in trying to perpetuate the continuation of ACA regardless of who wins the White House. I have noted earlier that to repeal this law would be a disservice to Americans. It is complex and needs further refinements, but to throw it out would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. I am going to recite from one of their handouts as this is the voice of doctors and medical students rather than my own:

“Get the Facts: Busting the Top 10 Myths on the Affordable Care Act

MYTH #1″ It’s too complicated to understand any of it.
FACT: The basics are simple: 32 million more Americans will be insured. The worst insurance company abuses will end. We will start improving quality and controlling cost for everyone. FACT: HealthCare.gov explains the law and how it will be rolled out.

MYTH #2: It hasn’t helped anyone.
FACT: Insurance now covers: 1) Children with pre-existing conditions, 2) 3.1 million young adults through age 26, who can now stay on their parents’ plans, 3) Adults with pre-existing conditions can now sign up for high-risk plans. FACT: No more insurance company caps on how much they will spend on your health care.

MYTH #3: We can’t afford it.

FACT: We can’t afford not to have it. By promoting access to the right care, at the right place, at the right time, the ACA was designed to save money while keeping people healthier.

MYTH #4: It hurts Medicare and seniors.

FACT: Seniors get help affording prescription drugs. FACT: Seniors get annual check-ups with no copays. FACT: It invests in making Medicare work better for the long run for seniors and doctors, while cracking down on fraud.

MYTH #5: It’s increasing premiums and costs for families.

FACT: Private employer-based premiums were skyrocketing before the law, and it will help change that. FACT: Insurance companies now have to explain why they are raising rates on a public website. FACT: If insurance companies don’t spend enough of your premium dollars on health care, they are now required to send you a rebate at the end of the year.

MYTH #6: It’s hurting small businesses.

FACT: Many small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are now getting tax credits of up to 35% of health insurance premiums. Beginning in 2014, many small businesses will be eligible for tax credits up to 50% of insurance premiums.

MYTH #7: It’s unconstitutional.

FACT: The US Supreme Court ruled ACA is constitutional.

MYTH #8: It’s all about insurance and not about health.
FACT: It creates a national Prevention Fund – long overdue investment in improving health and preventing chronic disease. Communities across the country are already using grant money to help people live healthier lives. FACT: It invest in training more doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

MYTH #9: It’s all about insurance and not about cost.

FACT: The Medicare and Medicaid Center for Innovation is promoting new models, innovations, and research across the country to start improving care while decreasing costs. FACT: The law invests in improving quality and coordination of care.

MYTH #10: It’s a government takeover of health care.

FACT: The ACA is a partnership between the government and businesses, communities, hospitals, doctors, and patients. It strengthens the private insurance market while protecting people and their health.

FACT: The more we know, the better the health and health care for our families and our country!”

I wanted to use the words of the doctors to tell the story. The only changes to the quote is the use of acronyms on occasion (ACA for Affordable Care Act, e.g.) for brevity. My rationale is there is so much misinformation and, I hate to say this, disinformation out there that Americans deserve to hear and see the real story. I go back to the fact ACA is largely a Republican idea and one that was set in motion by the GOP Presidential candidate in Massachusetts to me make the candidate and party extremely hypocritical. If Romney was to take the White House, repealing this imperfect, but transformative law would harm the very Americans who need it most. This is a way to strengthen the middle class and help those in poverty, many of whom are there because of lack of health care. People with insurance need to walk in the shoes of people without or who are under-insured. It is a very different experience and is a shame it occurs in a country like ours.

And, with a health care quality position of 38th in the world according to the World Health Organization with the highest cost , I don’t see why there is so much criticism over this, as the status quo before ACA started phasing in was unsustainable. The only rationale I can find is doing the opposite of what the Doctors for America advocate which is putting patients over politics. The GOP is putting politics first over patients. The fact a Democratic President refined a largely Republican idea as a compromise for a national health care system unnerves GOPers to no end. If you don’t believe this, why did Senator Jim DeMint, Mr. Tea Party, write a letter to President George Bush in 2007 advocating the Massachusetts plan highlighting the use of the mandate for coverage, which Romney took a lot of heat over when he did it. Now, the Senator seems to forget that he did this. Yet, in 2007, Senator DeMint did not say it, he did not text it, he did not tweet it or even send an email – he wrote a letter. That is the best example of hypocrisy I can recount – maybe I should write a letter about it. It is almost as bad as Newt changing his mind after changing his mind on global warming, which is recorded in a TV commercial with Nancy Pelosi, but I digress.

If there is any take away from this, please encourage people to check out this website  to learn more. Seeing information condensed into a readable form by doctors is far better than listening to a politician or a campaign commercial which is at best a half-truth.

Again, the website is http://www.drsforamerca.org.

Outside Looking In – the World View of our Election

With one convention down and one to go, an article written by Fred Kaplan of Slate called “The amazing chutzpah of Condi Rice” caught my eye. In short, he was taking issue with both the comments and source of such at the GOP convention by former Secretary of State, Condi Rice regarding the deteriorating view of the US by others in the world. On the latter point, he notes that Rice was ” a top advisor in the most disastrous, reputation crippling foreign policy administration in decades.”  On the former point, he noted the global view of the US is in a much better place than it was when George W. Bush left office. Per a recent survey by the Poll Research Center:

  • 60% of British citizens have a favorable view of the US as compared to 53% in 2008, the last year of Bush’s term.
  • 69% of French citizens have a favorable view of the US compared to 42% in 2008.
  • 52% of German citizens have a favorable view of the US up from 31% in 2008.
  • 72% of Japanese citizens have a favorable view of the US up from 50% in 2008.
  • Only the three Arab countries measured – Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan did it decline.

I am a recurring viewer of the BBC World News America, along with PBS Newshour, both of whom give a great perspective of the world and the “outside looking in” views of the US. I have seen Katty Kay, one of the BBC anchors based here on talk shows and she knows more about the issues than almost every US politician as she sees the issues with less bias and in a more holistic way which is refreshing. Outside of PBS Newshour, American news anchors tend to talk about the game of politics and steer clear of the substantive issues. Plus the real issues are less tantalizing (Clint Eastwood trumps Marco Rubio, e.g.)

This outside in view is helpful to describe the next point made by Kaplan regarding the world view on the election. According to a another Pew Poll as reported by CNN, global attitudes toward President Obama as a leader make Rice’s comments dubious:

  • 87% of the Germans, 86% of the French, 80% of the British and 74% of the Japanese have confidence in Obama .
  • More striking than that, 92% of the French, 89% of the Germans, 72% of the British and 66% of the Japanese want Obama re-elected.

Kaplan cites “The facts are these. Obama’s foreign policy, while hardly perfect, has been quite successful. He hasn’t caused any outright catastrophes. He ended the Iraq war. He approved his generals’ plans for escalating the war in Afghanistan, but when it did not work, he backed off instead of plunging deeper into the big muddy. And, some things Republicans wish everyone would forget – he ordered the killing of Osama Bin Laden and decimated al-Qaida.” He noted that the GOP needs to steer clear of foreign policy as their argument is weak. Kaplan has focused on the military issues, since he is a “War Stories”columnist for Slate.

If we look at some additional issues the world sees, then we can get an even better glimpse of the over-whelming support for Obama. One of the major concerns I have noted like a broken record is how can we trust a party who denies the existence of one of the greatest challenges facing the US and world? Global warming is here and is man-influenced. The data and number of scientists who cite this are overwhelming. The GOP is the only formal body in the world that denies global warming is happening. Individually, many GOP politicians say under their breath what they cannot say as a group, given the Oil and Gas industry heavy influence and funding of the party. The rest of the world clearly contrasts Obama’s position (such as the mpg and advocacy for alternative energy) versus the Romney and GOP positions of double-downing on fossil fuels and gutting the EPA.

The other issue is Obama coming down hard on the Wall Street crowd with the Dodd-Frank Bill and Consumer Protection Agency. The travails of the financial sector led by the US brought the world down and is a gift that keeps on giving – see JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, Bank of America and Wells Fargo stories over the past few months and weeks. For a party to continue to cry foul over the mismanagement and some criminal activities of banking leaders is beyond me. Bankers have earned every bit of scrutiny they are getting basically throwing out the window their reputation of financial stewardship. When I hear Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama (Senate Banking Leader) complain of the onerous regulations, my reaction should be the same as every American not sitting in a Bank board room – “tough shit.” You brought this one on yourself.

In America, these views get masked, though, by the political machinations. My friend Hugh Curtler (www.hugcurtler.wordpress.com) cites that in today’s world if you state a lie enough times it becomes the truth to some. The “failed stimulus,”  “we are Taxed Enough Already” and  “job-killing Obamacare” are examples of such a repetitive strategy, yet are not true. Yet, the world can see the forest for the trees hence the overwhelming support for Obama. As an Independent Voter, I see what they see – an imperfect President who has done a pretty good job as President. The stimulus worked per leading economists and the President has seen over 3 million jobs created on his watch. I also see a GOP that offers very few constructive ideas of our key problems of the day. To me, this choice should not be as close as it is in America. I greatly fear a GOP white house coupled with control of one or both of the houses as it will truly take our country back-wards and the rest of the world with it.