He is indefatigable. . .

My country (100x67)

The biggest thing of the day was President Obama’s SOTU speech, an hour long “barn-burner,” at least when it came to the issue of gun-control. Perhaps intuiting that that would be the emotional high point of the evening, many of the lawmakers attending wore green lapel ribbons.  Thus, both Republicans and Democrats decided to recognize those families who lost children or members of the school staff at Sandy Hook in New Town, Connecticut.

The President made newsHe urged that the federal minimum wage be raised to $9/hour. He wants universal preschool education for our children.   And he announced that 34,000 troupes will be withdrawn from Afghanistan within a year.

Reflections on my president:   He is tough, resilient and yet still he remains committed to change.  He has his feet on the ground and has ideas to make things better for those for whom real help is needed.   He wants a lot of things changed, and he’s willing to go over the heads of Congress to help get them passed. He trusts the people to pressure their senators and representatives to get some things of substance done.

Like many others, I suspect, I ended the day shortly after the two Republican/Tea Party “response” speeches were over. I did not listen to either of them, but worked around the house for a few minutes instead.

Entitlement programs are no longer off limits for cuts.

President Obama called for Medicare and Medicaid reform in his jobs speech to Congress. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” in the previous night’s Republican debate.
It looks like everything could be up for grabs in the bipartisan race to dismantle our Federal government’s social safety net.

A Bipartisan Move to Tackle Benefits Programs

by JACKIE CALMES, nytimes.com
September 8th 2011

At the same time, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed a willingness to wring savings from the long-untouchable programs during the first meeting of the special committee that is charged with recommending $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over the decade. Then President Obama, in his address to a joint session of Congress on spurring job creation, reiterated his call for a plan reducing long-term debt with both changes in entitlement programs and taxes from the wealthy.

To the chagrin of many in his party, this summer Mr. Obama proposed changes in Medicare and Social Security that once would have been unthinkable for a Democratic president during his unsuccessful talks with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, for a “grand bargain” on cutting deficits. In return for the Republicans’ agreement to raise taxes after 2012 for the wealthy, Mr. Obama indicated that his party would support slowly increasing the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65 and changing the formula for cost-of-living increases in Social Security to a less generous one that some economists consider more accurate.

Until Mr. Perry’s recent entry into the Republican contest, the debate over reining in the projected growth of the entitlement programs focused on the health programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Their projected costs, given the aging of the population and fast-rising medical expenses, are greater and growing faster than those for Social Security.

The turn in both parties toward tackling the cost of the entitlement programs has been building. In 2010, Congressional Democrats approved about $500 billion in future savings from Medicare to help pay for the new health care law, though Republicans attacked them for it in last year’s midterm elections. But the onset of the new deficit committee’s work and Mr. Perry’s scathing critique of social spending has added a new dimension.

At the first meeting of the House-Senate committee on deficit reduction, which is to make recommendations by Nov. 23 for a quick up-or-down vote in Congress, several Republicans said that entitlements were the main cause of annual deficits and should be the panel’s focus.

James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a House Democratic leader on the panel, said that he was for “smart and compassionate budget cuts” and “ending military adventurism,” but that Congress must not shred Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Separately, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander M. Levin of Michigan, circulated a memo listing two dozen options that could squeeze more than $500 billion out of Medicare in the next 10 years. Aides to Mr. Levin said that he was not endorsing the ideas but helping other Democrats understand the sorts of actions that could be taken.

Read more at

 

A look at freedom and liberty in the US ten years after 9-11-01

A recent poll revealed some surprises about how Americans feel about their constitutional rights after ten years of changes in how the Fourth Amendment has been applied in their lives. They still care a great deal about civil liberties protections, even in the face of the need to deal with increased government surveillance. They have differing levels of tolerance for intrusions however, depending on the circumstances.
Readers are encouraged to read the full WaPo article for the details of this truly fascinating poll.

Amplify’d from www.washingtonpost.com

Poll: Americans open to trading off some liberties _ within limits _ to fight terrorism

By Associated Press, Published: September 6

WASHINGTON — Surveillance cameras in public places? Sure. Body scans at airports? Maybe. Snooping in personal email? Not so fast.

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks led to amped-up government surveillance efforts, two-thirds of Americans say it’s fitting to sacrifice some privacy and freedoms in the fight against terrorism, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

A slim majority — 54 percent — say that if they had to choose between preserving their rights and freedoms and protecting people from terrorists, they’d come down on the side of civil liberties. The public is particularly protective of the privacy of U.S. citizens, voicing sharp opposition to government surveillance of Americans’ emails and phone calls.

The poll asked people to grapple with some of same quandaries that the government and the courts have been wrestling with over the past decade, and even before the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Two-thirds of those surveyed believe the resulting policies are a mish-mash created in reaction to events as they occur rather than clearly planned.

The AP-NORC poll found that about half of those surveyed felt that they have indeed lost some of their own personal freedoms to fight terrorism. Was it worth it? Close to half of those who thought they’d lost freedoms doubted it was necessary.

Overall, six in 10 say the government is doing enough to protect Americans’ rights and freedoms as it fights terrorism. But people may not even be aware of what they’ve given up. The extent of government eavesdropping and surveillance is something of a mystery.

Read more at www.washingtonpost.com