Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Clips of the Week

The Daily Show and the Colbert Report came back strong after their Turkey break, so here they are cracking jokes and calling attention to stupidity.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Remembering Nelson Mandela: The Good and Bad

Today, Nelson Mandela, one of the most well-known and respected political figures of the late 20th century, passed away. In remembering Nelson Mandela, I think we must focus, above all else, on his path in life, and not just his life's destination.

Nelson Mandela was far from a perfect human being. While he rose to prominence through his peaceful protest of South African apartheid, around 1960 he began abandoning his non-violent principles that he is known for. Specifically, he encouraged and organized bombings of government buildings for political change (for the record, this is the verbatim definition of terrorism). In the 1980s, he was told he would be released from prison if he would ensure the African National Congress would no longer use violence. He refused this offer.

However, in my view, this blemished past makes what he did the rest of his life that much more important. When put into a position with a majority that could have sought revenge, Mandela called for and ensured peace in a nation that was on the verge of ethnic warfare. He then spent the rest of his life suing for peace in places where it seemed to be an unattainable goal.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Changing the Game

The Senate voted to amend its own procedural rules last Thursday, altering the filibuster rule so that a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than a super-majority of 60 votes, can end debate on executive appointments.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

Earlier today we reached the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

That is the time each year when we remember the armistice that ended hostilities in WWI, and we spend the full day honoring all veterans of all American wars.

It is very important on this day and all days to remember those veterans who have given our country "the last full measure of devotion," but Veteran's Day should also be an occasion to think about what we are doing for the veterans who have returned to civilian life and are living among us.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday Clips of the Week

In case these cold, dark November days have you a bit down, this week's Saturday Clips of the Week are an inoculation of hilarity from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Power of the Vote

Today is an election day.

It's one of those off years elections that many people across America will pass over. But in Virginia the day will end with a new governor, and the city of Boston will have it's first new mayor in 20 years. Today is an exhibition of the single most extraordinary function of our government. At all levels of government we are preparing to execute a peaceful transition of power based solely on the direct votes of the majority of constituents in the given city, state, or district.

But lately the right to vote has come under serious fire. The largest blow came six months ago when the Supreme Court struck down the central part of the historic Voting Rights Act citing a changed country where historical discrimination was apparently no longer relevant. But this law was not some antiquated notion. The Voting Rights Act was overwhelmingly reauthorized in 2006 by a bipartisan vote of 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate. The elected officials of this country regardless of party made a clear decision that the Voting Rights Act was right and good. And yet the Supreme Court, struck down these valuable protections.

Monday, November 4, 2013

GOP Platform: No New Compromises

As budget talks begin to unfold, multiple Representatives and Senators are saying a so called "Grand Bargain," is off the table in the unfolding budget negotiations. In theory, the Grand Bargain would cut entitlements for revenue increases. In practice, it would effectively rob the American people of money they paid into a system and maybe, though most likely not, raise revenue slightly on high income earners. Why is the Grand Bargain off the table? Because it requires very small concessions from a hardline GOP representation in the form of closing tax loopholes. Not raising tax rates, just closing loopholes.

Instead, because of the current war within the Republican Party, hopes are simply that something will pass to have the government not close again in January and not default in February. There is, however, no real clarity on what can pass. Many Republicans still hold tighter to anti-tax pinkie promises than they do to reality. This would include blocking Senate Democratic proposed legislation to close tax-loopholes that give unfair advantages to wealthy corporations. When asked about closing these loopholes, a house Republican aide said, "Revenues are a nonstarter in the House." That's right. Treating the wealthy the same as everyone else in this country by closing loopholes is a nonstarter in the House.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday Clips of the Week

Jon and Stephen continue to bring us news and laughs. This Wednesday they were in especially good form, and we've brought you the highlights.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's time to wake up

The time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform. There are calls to action from all sides; from liberals, conservatives, faith leaders, business leaders, and more. Furthermore, three House Republicans  David Valadao, R-CA, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, and Jeff Denham, R-CA  have recently announced their support for H.R. 15, a bill that parallels the immigration bill passed by the Senate in June.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Universal Health Care and Freedom

One of the claims made most often about the Affordable Care Act or even the push for universal health care is that America will lose its status as a bastion of economic freedom.

But this line of conventional thinking is flawed. One example why is the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. The Heritage Foundation is the most prestigious conservative think tank in Washington D.C. The Heritage Foundation annually provides an index that rates countries based on a broad array of items related to economic freedom spanning four categories: rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Clips of the Week

The Daily Show and Colbert Report came back swinging this week, and we're sharing two great examples of comedic investigative journalism with you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

International Maneuvers of Mystery

Recent reports of the NSA monitoring the electronic communications of world leaders have been causing quite a stir. The controversy was sparked by the dissemination of a 2006 NSA internal document by the infamous Edward Snowden. Possibly the most significant of the purported espionage targets is German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Merkel called President Obama and the US ambassador to Germany was questioned in connection with reports that the NSA tapped the Chancellor's official cellphone. The US has also been accused of spying on Mexican, French, and Brazilian officials among other allies.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I would prefer...

It's no secret that Congress has been troubled by ideological intransigence, with an increasing number of seats going to candidates more rigidly aligned with the party base. The number of moderate politicians and of those willing to compromise seems to be dwindling in the national capital. Unfortunately, as awareness of and dissatisfaction with this problem increases, a solution to the problem remains elusive.

A big part of the problem is that gerrymandered districts make it so that a party primary is more important than the general election to winning a seat. Both major parties like the idea of secure seats that these district provide, but the problem is that primaries, especially when a general election win is secure, favor the more ideologically extreme candidates. This happens because moderates of that party and independents may not participate, while those on the far right or far left are more likely to be involved in the primary process for their respective parties.

Creating more sensible, geographically sound districts would help to alleviate this problem, but there may be another way; specifically, there might be good reason to pursue a ranked-choice voting system for congressional elections.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Proposal to Increase the Effectiveness of Our Congress

In this post, I use political satire in an attempt to expose the flawed logic of ultra-conservative solutions to our country’s underlying budgetary and economic problems. They recognize the problems we face in society (failing schools, crumbling roads, etc.), but they utterly fail to see the right solutions to those problems. Instead of dealing with the problems head-on, they believe that working for corporations and special interests will faithfully represent the interests of American democracy. Unfortunately, Democratic legislators are just as guilty of giving in to special interests and immediate re-election benefits in lieu of working responsibly to solve our nation’s problems. In this satire, I work off two ideas: 1) the belief among these special interest groups that their practices are simply democracy, and 2) the conservative claim that what is good for business is good for America. Using these ideas, I build the logic for a plan which the speaker thinks will benefit the American public. The speaker does not recognize that failing to directly tackle our country’s underlying social problems will solve nothing. His proposal will institute a sort of hyper-pluralism which will turn the American government into more of a self-interested oligarchy.

 I am enraged at the current disheveled state of our legislative politicians who cannot set aside their petty responsibilities for the good of the nation. I am sure that this deplorable irresponsibility at the highest level of governance has wreaked havoc on your lives as it has on mine. Elected officials enter office with every intention of working for the national self-interest, and then they are absolutely corrupted by the Washington culture. I have seen many a good man, some of them dear friends and colleagues, deluded by the pretensions to which the federal government aspires. Even worse, they feed off the ignorance of voters who know little of how the political culture distorts a man’s character. Thus, an uneducated electorate keeps feeding talentless politicians into a system of chronically subpar governance. How can we maintain our status as the greatest country God ever gave to man on the face of the Earth if this trend continues?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Clips of the Week

Jon and Stephen were off for the week, but fortunately last week's episodes have more than enough great material for two Saturday Clips of the Week posts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why can't we be friends?

Yesterday, President Obama told it like it is and called on the GOP to change tactics.

The question now facing our country is whether or not Democrats and Republicans can come together before the new budget and debt ceiling deadlines hit and whether or not they can come together on the pressing issues of comprehensive immigration reform and passing a farm bill. The possibility of this happening depends on eliminating, or at least reducing, the barriers to such compromise, so what are these barriers?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A dramatic plan for change

In case you've been living under a rock, here's the good news. Yesterday, a deal was finally made and the US government is open for business. Additionally we've also put off the possibility of default and upped the debt limit for a short while longer. Of course, this Boston Globe front page summed it up best. As you'll see, all this agreement has done is postpone further crises for a few months. But this presumes that somehow in a few months, we can all reach a reasonable agreement, because that's been working so well for the past three years. It seems far more likely that in three months we'll be here again. And next time we could even lose more than just 0.6% points of our growth or $24 billion.

The absurdity of the situation in this governing body is only becoming more obvious with time. The bill that finally ended this shutdown and averted fiscal calamity through default passed the Senate with a broad bipartisan support, 81-18. The President was more than happy to sign it. But what happened in the House of Representatives? It passed 285-144. While this seems like a large victory, it's a sad state of affairs when you actually break it down. While all the Democrats happily came out supporting a solution (albeit an imperfect and temporary one), the majority of the Republicans in the House voted against the bill 144-87. This victory was won only through the alliance of some moderate Republicans and every single Democrat. But such an alliance is always fleeting, despite the fact that the Tea Party and their ilk present a problem for both groups. But what if the alliance was made more serious?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Return of the Fed-i

Obama-Wan Kenobi
It appears the US Federal Government will be up and running again by the end of the week, with a new deal having passed the Senate and the House and President promising to see it through the rest of the process quickly.

This is good news, although the whole shut down impasse was still terribly embarrassing and the deal that was struck in many ways just defers the need for a real solution to the debt ceiling and budget disputes for a few weeks. Specifically, the last-minute bill will "finance the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit through Feb. 7."

Let's hope the Buck Shot stops here...

President Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk that read "The Buck Stops Here"meaning the Washington tradition of shirking responsibilities would stop with the Office of the President, where the big, difficult decisions would have to be made. As we face a looming debt default and threatened impeachment efforts against President Obama, it seems we're in a situation where the buck and the BS have to stop somewhere.

At this point the prospect of raising the debt ceiling and re-opening the government appears bleak, though I still hold out hope for last-minute heroics from more level-headed conservatives. In light of this, we have to consider what could happen if the debt ceiling is not raised.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Update (3:25 p.m.) - Finally someone in the news actually asks the right question. "Do you hate Obamcare more than you love your country?"

Update: (2:30 p.m.) - House Republicans are literally considering skipping town after voting on their bill, presumably ensuring a government default over birth control. I honestly don't know if I could make this up.

Yesterday, the Senate agreed to a "bipartisan" deal, to reopen the government. You can clearly tell Mitch McConnell is excited in the picture on the left, if not possibly aroused, and I'm sure for Harry Reid this image conveys the most emotion he's shown since his teenage years. Under the deal, the debt ceiling would be extended until February, and the government would be reopened until January 15, with a budget conference on December 13 that will work out a longer term deal. This will have changes to the Affordable Care Act, but on minor issues that are not the ones House Republicans shut the government down over. That said, this at least lets Republicans save some face in their voters' eyes, by cutting down on what they see as "Obamacare fraud." Sure, it doesn't exist, but they have to get something, right? The changes do not affect the individual mandate, the medical device tax, or any other key provisions of the law.

Well, the House plans to reject this and do their own bill that's even more right wing. You know, the same thing that got us into this mess in the first place. Surprise! The House Republicans that started the shutdown just aren't ready for the party to end yet. Basically, they started the shutdown because they wanted to prevent the ACA, reneging on a deal that already existed to keep the government running. and they would rather see the country and world economy burn to the ground then not get a "win" out of this.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eric Cantor Holds the Keys to Government

Via Upworthy

Typically I don't like to post videos with little commentary, but this video basically explains how House Republicans have given Eric Cantor the keys to the U.S. Government, suspending existing rule and precedent.

It's worth watching just for the fantastic line from Representative Chris Van Hollen, when told to suspend by the presiding speaker.

"Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker."


Columbus Day: A National Embarassment

Christopher Columbus is quite possibly one of the most whitewashed figures in history, and yet one of the most deserving of the label "war criminal."

First, the most blatant lies.

1) Columbus discovered America.

Typically, this is phrased in a way to imply Columbus discovered the lands that became the United States. He did land in the Carribean, Central America, and in South America.  But never in North America. Which makes Columbus Day as a U.S. holiday silly.

2) Columbus proved the world wasn't flat.

No educated person in the 1400s thought the world was flat. This lie is one of the most perpetuated lies in education, and it's wrong in ever possible way. I'm not going to bother to cite every example, but the Ancient Greeks knew the world wasn't flat in the 5th century B.C.

These are the most common things people point out. Here are the things you should know below the fold (most information taken from this page, unless otherwise noted).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Clips of the Week

This is the first installment of our new weekly series "Saturday Clips of the Week" in which we share our favorite segments from a week of Daily Show and Colbert Report episodes. We hope you enjoy our selections!

Friday, October 11, 2013

When John Lewis is arrested, we should probably pay attention

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) has an astounding record of civil and human rights advocacy, both as a private citizen and a civil servant. He was a young civil rights leader who spoke at the March on Washington and now he is a champion of progressive, moral causes in congress.

John Lewis has been arrested 45 times in his life. The first 40 times occurred in conjunction with non-violent protests while striving for civil rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. The remaining five arrests all occurred while serving in congress; he was arrested twice at the South African embassy protesting apartheid, twice at the Sudanese embassy protesting genocide in Darfur, and on Tuesday was arrested during a rally for immigration reform.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This shut down doesn’t have to be a showdown

This is a guest post by Sean Long. Sean is a junior political science major at Notre Dame and Co-President of College Democrats.

Congress can take a better approach to ending the government shutdown if Democrats and Republicans focus on interests, not positions.

Keeping in mind that congressional vote counts aren’t set in stone, here is a snapshot of how government shutdown negotiations currently stand in the House of Representatives: All 200 Democratic members support a “clean continuing resolution (CR),” meaning a bill that would temporarily continue normal funding of the government with no changes to Obamacare. About 175 of the 232 House Republicans, as Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes, would vote for a “clean” CR if House Speaker John Boehner offered one. Another 20 to 30 House Republicans are willing to compromise, but fear a primary challenger from the right if they “cave” to Democrats and fail to defund or delay Obamacare. This leaves about 30 Tea Party Republicans who will not negotiate on a CR to reopen the government unless it also either defunds or delays Obamacare.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

House Republicans: Lying or Ignorant

Lately several Republicans have decided the the debt ceiling is no longer a bad thing, or even a real thing. However, refusal to believe in the debt ceiling isn't going to make it any less real. It's going to be a real economic calamity that will really risk putting the real world back into a real economic recession when it has barely recovered from the last one. At least, that's what pretty much every economist is saying.

Don't tread on *burp* me.
This is despite the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and other pro-corporate groups begging the GOP to just do a clean debt ceiling raise. However, it appears the Tea Party that these interests have used to gain power has now resorted to cannibalizing its own party. They would rather destroy the world economy just to sate their desire to stick it to "big government" than to actually solve problems that require government solutions.

Unfortunately, the House GOP has decided to bet on crazy. This week, we have heard a bevvy of silliness from Republicans. Most of it has revolved around the false idea that the government can arbitrarily choose to pay some bills and not others.

Monday, October 7, 2013

If corporations are people, why isn't "the government" people?

Remember back in the 2012 presidential election when Mitt Romney said that "corporations are people" and then everyone on both sides of the American political divide either defended or decried his statement (and either way did so loudly)?

Those who defended his statement often relied on the obvious facts that the employees of corporations are people and the "actions" of corporations are ultimately carried out by people. An example of this argument is found in this Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and his wife Suzy, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review.

Ignoring the still unresolved question of corporate personhood, let's assume the Welch's and those who agree with them are right in their arguments for why corporations are people. Now, let's ask ourselves: If corporations are people, why isn't the US federal government (which the same conservatives who call corporations people depict as some sort of inhuman, monstrous entity) or any such government also people for the same reasons?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Maybe it’s Time for the Sane Republicans to Shine

In the initial phases of the government shutdown, the two parties appear to have switched personalities, with Republicans constantly fighting against internal disagreements and Democrats putting up a strong, united front.

In fact, Senate Democrats unanimously voted down a House bill which would have delayed funding for Obamacare, even though “Harry Reid didn’t convene a private caucus meeting to discuss the measure.” Republicans are using this rare show of unity among Democrats to assign blame for the shutdown on liberal obstinacy, but that is just a cheap political tactic.

Opening Week

As we've now come to a close on the first week (and what a week it has been) of Lefty's 2.0, we just want to say: 'Thank you.'

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cruz Control?

In the run-up to the recent government shutdown, Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor to speak out against funding the Affordable Care Act. The speech turned into a 21-hour plus filibuster against the bill. Early on Cruz stated

 All across this country Americans are suffering because of ObamaCare. ObamaCare isn't working. Yet fundamentally there are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people. They are not listening to the concerns of their constituents, they are not listening to the jobs lost or the people forced into part-time work, to the people losing their health insurance, to the people who are struggling.

We Made the Observer!

Let it be known that Lefty's is back and here to stay.

If you happened to miss yesterday's Observer, here's the story they ran about us.

ND students resurrect progressive blog 
by Emily McConville
October 4th, 2013

2010 was a peak year for Lefty's Last Cry, an independent progressive blog by Notre Dame students, co-editor Gordon Stanton said.

Friday, October 4, 2013

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, He'll Shut Your Government Down

Originally, I was going to write this article about the media trying to equalize blame between the Democrats and Republicans for the government shutdown. Then, on Wednesday night's Rachel Maddow, I heard about my least favorite two words.

"Grand Bargain."

Yesterday I discussed how the Grand Bargain was a deal where Republicans get nearly everything they want for small scale revenue increases on high income earners. Well, given our current shutdown, talks of the grand bargain resumed. This Forbes piece stresses the Grand Bargain "...would revitalize the economy, put America on a fast growth plan and hopefully balance the budget..." Oh, it will do all that? Well why not? It's grand! And it's a bargain! We all like bargains, don't we?

This joke of journalism is everything that is wrong with our media.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

President Obama: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Grand Bargain

Warning: this is a long post, much longer than those I will do in the future. This will serve as my thesis of what I see is the most important thing I can do with this blog: Examine the effects of corruption in government. To give an overview of this can’t be done in a short length.

First and foremost, before people get mad, let me be clear on something. I realize the American political reality that we have a two party system. I completely and totally agree that an Obama presidency is unquestionably more preferable than a McCain or Romney presidency. Please keep in mind that what follows isn't to say we should raise a one-finger salute to the Democratic Party and vote Green. Instead, I want to make clear what I think is the true danger we are facing in the Obama Presidency. Republican obstructionism has largely contributed to this, but does not excuse Obama destroying many progressive causes in his Presidency.

Read more of my liberal heresy below the fold.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Today's Shutdown Thought: The Definition of Compromise

As we are now in the second day of government shutdown, with no clear end in sight, I wanted to consider what this word "compromise" means. I see it thrown around a lot, especially by people who just want "both sides to compromise". Our media reinforces this equivocation suggesting that both sides are equally unwilling to give. This is not to say that there have never been times when Democrats have been unwilling to compromise, but rather that in this particular situation, the blame truly does fall on one side and only one side.

So how does compromise work?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I want my government back

My thoughts on the behavior of the 'Tea Party' Republicans who have recklessly forced a government shutdown in an effort to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act are best expressed in the words of Mr. Garvey, Keegan-Michael Key's sketch comedy characterization of a no-nonsense substitute teacher:

"Mischievous and deceitful; 'chicanerous' and deplorable!"

Green eggs and a 'ham'

Senator Cruz didn't you know?
Didn't you know that book would show
Just how silly your diatribe was
Opposing Obamacare just because?
You Republicans don't seem to learn,
even though you're told at every turn.
So here's some wisdom à la Seuss
Please, please put it to good use:

Monday, September 30, 2013

What kind of power you got?

It's Energy Week this week at Notre Dame and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first portion of its highly-anticipated AR5 report, so I thought I'd share some thoughts on energy issues and policy.

I feel I need to admit up front that I'm no expert on these questions, but I nevertheless believe it's worth offering my thoughts and directing you to informed sources so you can form your own views. Mostly, however, my goal is to convince you that we as Americans need to support, and let our governmental representatives know we support, the work of those who are experts to improve our country's approach to energy.

I tried to be comprehensive, an ambitious concept, so use the subheadings to focus on what matters to you; just make sure you read the Conclusion.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Strange Case of Déjà Vu

Today is a day for new things. If you're here then you know that Lefty's 2.0 has launched, and we are bigger, badder, and bolder than ever before. What you might not realize is that I too am returning from some time away. Two years ago, I left Notre Dame, because I needed some time to clear my head. This year I've also returned, stronger, wiser, and more mature. So why does this post give me such a sense of Déjà Vu?

Because as much as Notre Dame, Lefty's and myself can change, Congress, and Congressional Republicans remain the same.

Lefty's Last Cry 2.0

"If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

George Washington

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

If you're a fan of bone-crunching, gut-wrenching, mind-blowing discussion of American politics, then get excited about the return of Lefty's Last Cry!!

The Lefty's re-launch project is almost finished, and soon you'll have more content than you know what to do with.

Check in on Sunday (9/29) for the official re-launch!

Sunday we will have the new layout fully unveiled and a post outlining the philosophy of our Lefty's 2.0 reboot, which will kick-off a week full of stimulating, insightful posts from members of our new staff!

It feels good to be back!