Sunday, April 29, 2012

About The White House Correspondents Dinner

     On the Sunday morning following the Saturday night White House Correspondents Dinner, I found the annual event a hot topic of conversation among folks in the apartment complex where I live.

While most people I spoke with thoroughly enjoyed last night's telecast, more than a few grumbled for one or both of two reasons.

One objection concerned the language and subject matter used by President Obama, and host Jimmy Kimmel.  "Racy" and "risque" were words used to describe the language; and "inappropriate" was one of the words used to describe the subject matter.

The complainants, from my point of view, are being overly sensitive, and unrealistic.   There were no words spoken Saturday that are not heard regularly on radio or television.  And the subject matter consisted of topics that are currently discussed openly by the media.

Giving viewers a humorous side to some current events and some of the issues of the day is to provide welcome comedy relief in a world where there is all too often, way too little to laugh about.  And, it is important to note that much of the humor was of the self-deprecating kind.

The second objection to last night's White House Correspondents Dinner is the perceived cost to taxpayers for such a lavish event.  The sight of the overflow Hilton ballroom conjured up dollar signs for some viewers.

In reality, however, there was, or is, no cost to American taxpayers--absolutely none.  The annual dinner is an event that has been put on and paid for by the White House correspondents for 90 some years.

The original reason for the Washington "Prom", as it has come to be known, holds true today--maintain and improve communication between the President and the media, in its various forms.
President Obama acknowledged and endorsed this purpose, as he restated, in a serious moment, the importance to America of a vibrant, free press.

In keeping with its mission, the White House correspondents use proceeds from the dinner to fund journalism scholarships.      

    

Friday, April 27, 2012

Obama & Clinton -- Why The Warmth?

     A new political ad put out by the Obama reelection team features--not President Obama--but former President Bill Clinton.

In glowing terms, Bill Clinton speaks as to why our current Commander In Chief should have a second term.  The pitch comes across as sincere and from the heart.

There are those who are expressing surprise at how strong Bill Clinton has become in his support, and how far he seems willing to go to get a former adversary reelected.  He is already committed to a busy schedule of campaign appearances--mostly where the President needs help with blue collar white workers.

Many observers are puzzled by Bill Clinton's eagerness to help the man who took away the 2008 Democratic nomination from his wife,  Hillary Clinton--who had once been considered the "inevitable" GOP choice..  The Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton primary contests were bitter, bruising battles.

In looking for a reason for Bill Clinton's support, it would be enough, perhaps, to simply state the obvious--the fact that the two men are ideologically compatible.  But there's something more.

As he goes all out for Barack Obama in 2012, Bill Clinton could be looking ahead to 2016, when Hillary Clinton might well make another Presidential run.  And if she does, Barack Obama's wholehearted endorsement and campaign commitment would be invaluable.



  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

About Those Student Loans

     There are myriad differences between the two men vying for electorate favor this Presidential election year.

There are the obvious differences in ideology, and in their positions on, and their proposals for the important issues of the day.  But there are also stark differences in the men themselves.

Mitt Romney is a product of privilege, born into wealth, and one of the richest Presidential candidates ever--and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.    We've had super rich Presidential candidates before.   John Kerry and John Kennedy immediately come to mind.  Wealth, in itself, should not be a factor in determining the worth of a candidate.

But Kerry and Kennedy were able to do something that Mitt Romney apparently can not do--and that is to put himself in the shoes of Mr. and Mrs. average American.  There are people of wealth who can identify with those who struggle through everyday life, and there are those people who can not.

Interest on college student loans is a hot topic these days, and here Romney once again puts on display his inability to understand the mindset of those affected by a problem or a situation.  He, quite simply, lacks the God-given imagination to put himself in the position of  students--and  families--who are of modest means.

Come July 1, the interest on college student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.  This at a time when college tuition nationwide is skyrocketing.  This at a time when helpful, part-time jobs are in short supply.

At the outset of his Presidential campaign, Romney was unsympathetic.  Then, giving in to criticism for lack of concern, he gave lukewarm endorsement of the plan to keep student loan interest rates as is for the time being.  And now, political pressure has forced him to say a more enthusiastic yes to the idea.   But his comments and answers to questions make it obvious that he still doesn't get it.

Meanwhile, President Obama does get it.  He has shown throughout his Presidency that he can imagine how others might feel--whatever the problem; whatever the situation.

And when it comes to student loans, he can feel the pain;  he can feel the pressure; he can feel the anxiety--for he has been there.  His higher education came through hard work, and because of student loans.

Earlier this week in North Carolina, the President gave an overflow crowd of students an account of his firsthand experience with student loans.  Most noteworthy among his comments is the fact that it was just eight years ago when he finally paid off his own student loans--only four years before becoming President!

Yes, this man seeking a second term does, indeed, get it.  He can put himself in the shoes of the students and their families who face the double dilemma of higher tuition and higher interest rates on their student loans.

Republicans who still want to raise interest rates on student loans should seriously consider something else the President has said--"the cost of college education is an investment in America's future".  




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Knowing What You're Voting For

Six and a half months before election day, President Obama holds a commanding lead over Mitt Romney among voters 18 to 34. The 64 to 32 percent margin is just two points off the lead that candidate Obama enjoyed over John McCain four years ago.

The President is also comfortably ahead in the polls with women and with Hispanic voters; but there is one important area where he trails Romney. Surprisingly--at least to me--President Obama is behind in the polls with older voters.

I wonder if seniors know what they are voting for in casting ballots for the presumptive Republican nominee. I wonder if they are aware of where the candidates stand on medicare and social security.

If our older voters do take time to check out the differences between the candidates on the issues most important to them, the President will surely have their votes come November.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Billionaires Club - A Feel Good Story

It's been nearly two years since this space was first devoted to "The Billionaires Club". Since that blog in June of 2010, five more columns have followed this ongoing feel good story. And today there is more to report.

According to Fortune Magazine, The Billionaires Club has recently added 12 more of our wealthiest citizens--bringing total membership to 81.

That announcement is especially newsworthy at this time because of the continuing debate over raising taxes on the super rich. Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic-sponsored move last Monday that would have led to a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on income over a million dollars.

The Billionaires Club members are nearly unanimous in support of higher taxes on the ultra wealthy--including themselves. They decry GOP claims that higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires would discourage hiring and cause a widespread loss of jobs.

But why would the wealthiest among us want to pay higher taxes?

Two reasons. They are patriotic Americans, and they are truly "good guys".

For those unfamiliar with The Billionaires Club, we offer the hard-to-believe fact that it is comprised of men and women who have pledged to give away to charity at least 50 percent of their wealth during their lifetime, or at their death.

The original idea came from three of the world's wealthiest people--Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. Their quantified goal at the outset was to raise $600. billion, and that no longer seems like an impossible dream.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Noteworthy Comment About Online Newspapers

A comment posted after yesterday's blog, "A Sad Sign Of The Times For Printed Papers", is worth repeating.

With the proliferation and increasing popularity of online newspapers, many of us feel a natural, understandable sadness brought on by the prospect of a continuing decline, and possible demise of printed newspapers.

But the comment by Demetrios cites further reason for the growth of, and preference for online newspapers.

This column's friend, and regular reader, wants all to know that "a little touted advantage of the online newspaper is that it is well-suited to being read by those who may be visually challenged". A well-lit surface and the ability to change (increase) font size make for easier reading.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Sad Sign Of The Times For Printed "Papers"

For hundreds of years, the people of the world had only the printed word--newspapers--to learn the news of the day.

Then came the radio, a century ago, to provide a more immediate account of what was happening. Radio provided a choice of options for becoming informed--hear the news, or read the news.

Soon after, there was television, and with it the ability to watch, as well as hear, or read, about current events.

And now there is again something new, via the Internet, that gives us the ability to read, to hear, to watch the news--all from a single source. The something new is the online newspaper.

The most popular and prestigious is The Huffington Post, which since its birth in 2005, has grown in readership to 100 million viewers per month.

Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prizes for 2012 were announced, and The Huffington Post is a recipient for a series of articles about wounded veterans.

This is especially noteworthy because it is the first time in the 96-year history of The Pulitzer Prize that an online-only newspaper has been so honored. Another online publication, Politico, also won an award.

These Pulitzer Prizes are a milestone on the road to greater success for online publications. These prizes are recognition of the quality journalism emanating from the likes of The Huffington Post and Politico.

Yesterday's Pulitzer announcement was a sad sign of the times for printed newspapers. While The New York Times took home two Pulitzer Prizes, the two newspapers with the largest Monday to Friday circulation--USA Today and The Wall Street Journal--were conspicuous in their absence from the list of Pulitzer Prize winners.

When online newspapers first came on the scene, and began to take away readers from conventional dailies, it was said by many that there would always be a place for printed newspapers because of all the good work they did in the form of investigative reporting.

But now, as circulation figures have dwindled, and newsroom staffing has been cut, that investigative reporting has been greatly diminished; and online newspapers are filling the void.

Good news yesterday for the future of online newspapers. Not such good news for printed papers. The 2012 Pulitzer Prizes are proof positive that--in the journalistic world--"the times they are a changin'".

Monday, April 16, 2012

About Monday's "Buffett Rule" Vote

Sometime today--Monday--the United States Senate will vote on a bill proposed by President Obama. and pushed by Senate Democrats, which would raise much needed revenue by raising taxes on the wealthiest of Americans.

The bill will fail to pass due to Republican opposition.

Known as the "Buffett Rule" legislation, because it was inspired by Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men, the bill is a tax plan to reduce income inequality between the top one percent of Americans, and the remaining 99 percent. Polls show that 60 percent of Americans favor the bill that Republicans today will reject.

Those affected by the proposed increase would still be paying a lower tax rate than any other time in recent history. But they would be picking up a fairer share of the nation's tax burden.

Republicans say that it is economically unsound to raise taxes on the wealthiest among us because they are the job creators. But leading economists tell us that lower taxes for the richest of Americans is no guarantee of increased job growth. They cite figures for job creation in the decade since the Bush tax cuts were implemented.

Sunday, on CNN, Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, called the Buffett Rule "a tiny alteration" that would not have a major impact on our economic recovery.

But I believe that most Americans would beg to differ--welcoming any alteration that helps economic recovery.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Board With The Huffington Post

To read that "The Huffington post has a new columnist", and know that it's me, is a thrill beyond words.

And the dream-come-true--to write for such a prestigious online newspaper, with its 100 million monthly viewers--is reality only because of a lot of help from my friends.

Rev. Stephen Braddock, President and CEO of The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, opened the door at The Huffington Post. It was also Fr. Braddock who got "Homeless Isn't Hopeless" published, and then set up my first speaking dates.

Carl House created this blog and encouraged me to continue writing--to become a blogger. Dr. William Parke, too, has been this column's friend and technical advisor whenever needed, which--due to my limited computer skills--has been often.

Without these friends, there would be no "Homeless Isn't Hopeless", the blog, and for me, there would be no Huffington Post.

Then there is you--an appreciated member of a small but loyal readership which has kept alive my lifelong love affair with writing. And here I must mention, and thank again, Demetrios, whose regular comments of agreement or disagreement have added so much to this space.

"Homeless Isn't Hopeless", the blog, will continue on, and I hope that you will stop by to visit often, as time permits. Some of the blogs in this space will be picked up and will appear in The Huffington Post Culture/Impact section. I will not know in advance if a blog has been picked up by The Huffington Post--or when it will appear.

I will also be doing original columns for The Huffington Post on a regular, but not daily, basis

My first column for The Huffington Post appears on the front page of the Culture/Impact section today (Friday, April 13). The easiest way to get right to my column is to Google "William Laney Huffington Post April 13".

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For Romney -- The Ominous Sounds Of Silence

Since Rick Santorum's Monday announcement that he was ending his run for The White House, words of praise have poured in from social conservatives.

Santorum is being hailed as the hero of the far right--a true conservative who fought the good fight against a candidate with shaky conservative credentials, but with more money--many millions more.

And contrary to the predictions of most political pundits, the complimentary comments are all about Rick Santorum, with nary a word urging Republicans of every stripe to unite behind the party's nominee.

In fact, most statements released, and most interviews given, by leading social conservatives, do not even mention Mitt Romney. It's as though social conservatives are grudgingly accepting the inevitable while giving Romney their version of the silent treatment.

This raises, for Romney, the spectre of social conservatives sitting on their hands during the general election--preferring to wait another four years to try again for a nominee more to their liking.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said as much in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash.

He echoed the sentiment of other leading social conservative groups in saying that "conservative activists are so unenthusiastic about Romney that many are likely to turn their efforts away from the Presidential race, and concentrate on Congressional contests".

There are those "experts" who recall that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton waged a bitter battle, with much negativity, through the Democratic primaries of 2008--before coming together to display a united front against the Republicans.

But the Obama versus Clinton contest was not nearly as divisive as the Romney/Santorum battle. And for those who don't think conservatives would cut off their nose to spite their face; who don't think that conservatives would sit idly by and watch Romney lose--I offer this reminder.

Many of the conservatives who don't like Mitt Romney are the same conservatives who allowed our country to lose its triple A credit rating rather than compromise.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Today!"

It has been said many ways--that it is today that is most important.

I remember neither the time nor the place I first heard it, but somewhere, long ago, something similar to the following words first came my way.

"Yesterday is history--that's why they call it the past. And tomorrow is promised to no one. Today is most important, for it is a gift. That's why they call it the present."

This message was delivered in a somewhat different form again this morning. It came by way of an email from a wonderful friend, Fr. Stephen Braddock, who forwarded words written by Robert Hastings.

"Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow is a dream. Yesterday belongs to history. Tomorrow belongs to God.

Yesterday is but a fadng sunset. Tomorrow is but a faint sunrise. It is today when there is light enough to love and live."

And then there is Psalm 118.24. "This is the day the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter And Chag Sameach

When religious observances of the Christian and Jewish faiths overlap, as we are now seeing with Easter and Passover, it seems that we are inclined to think more about what these great, ages-old religions have in common, than what sets them apart.

One thing we Christians and Jews share, of course, is the belief in a living God. Something else we share is love, and that is what I would wish for you and yours this joyful time of year--love!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

About James Bond, and Me.

Book and cinematic hero, James Bond, and me, are about the same age. I was just leaving adolescence when Ian Fleming first gave literary life to the young, suave "007", in his first novel, "Casino Royale".

A few years, and several novels later, James Bond was the international epitome of masculine sophistication--known for his beverage of choice, "a martini, shaken, not stirred".

At about the same time, I was still in college, and I had just changed my major--from journalism to happy hour 101.

Through more than five decades, James and I shared a fondness for a chilled glass with a perfectly-concocted martini, straight up.

But now we learn that, after all these years, James will no longer be saying, "shaken, not stirred". In his soon-to-be released latest movie, James Bond will be asking for a Heineken beer.

Can it be that our hero, 007, is taking a bribe--being paid by a brewery to change his image?

Please, please, James! Say it ain't so!

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Special Day For Christians and Jews

For Christians, today, Good Friday, is the most solemn day of the year--commemorating the crucifixion of Christ.

For Jews, today--at Sundown--Passover begins--the start of a week-long religious celebration.

For all of us, this is a day for remembering something very special that Christians and Jews have in common--the belief in respect for another's religion, and the belief in a living, loving God.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

About The Ridiculous Republican Primary Process

Here they come, playing catch up. Racing to the forefront to hop on the Romney bandwagon.

GOP budget guru Paul Ryan, Republican rising star Marco Rubio, and former President George H.W. Bush--Johnny-come-latelys who now see Romney as the inevitable winner, and who want to be able to say they were right there with him, while the fight was still ongoing.

Throw into the mix the likes of Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who hasn't officially endorsed Romney, but has declared him the probable winner and has urged the party to unite behind him.

The reason for the sudden stampede to be seen by Romney's side the rest of primary season is simple. All of the afore-mentioned GOP bigwigs can count.

It doesn't take a mathematics background to know that Romney's rivals can't garner the 1,144 delegate votes required to secure the nomination. Only Mitt Romney can go over the top by convention time.

So halfway through primary season, with three months and some big-state primaries still remaining, and with Romney only halfway home in the delegate count, voters are being signaled that it's over.

That's okay for Republicans who have already cast their ballots; who have already had their voices heard. But what about those who have not yet voted? What about the voters waiting in key, delegate-rich states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and California?

Won't they feel left out of the political process that determines their party's candidate for the highest office in the land?

It's not often that I agree with Rick Santorum, but on this he is right. GOP leaders should let primary season play out. Let voters everywhere have their say.

But better still--how about a single national primary day?

Monday, April 2, 2012

About Tax Breaks For The Oil Companies

The title of today's blog is exactly the same as the title of a blog posted on May 10, 2011. No need to change a single word. Nearly a year later, the story of tax breaks for the oil industry has become a seemingly never-ending one.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats are still seeking to cut back on the subsidies enjoyed by the five largest oil companies. But those corporate giants, which continue to reap mind-boggling, record profits, still have the support of the GOP.

And last Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked the latest attempt to curtail the preferential treatment given the oil industry--by blocking a bill appropriately named "The Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act".

As the price of gas at the pump continues its upward spiral toward $4 a gallon--with predictions of $5 per gallon by summer--one has to wonder why voter dissatisfaction with the cost of gasoline has not erupted into outrage deservedly directed at the Republicans who blocked last Thursday's oil company legislation.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Has The Sarah Palin Lesson Been Forgotten?

By a wide margin, the press, the politicians, and the public agree that Republican Presidential nominee John McCain made a major mistake when he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. She was simply not ready for prime time.

In retrospect, it seems incredible that a man of advanced age, with health problems, would consider someone so inexperienced; someone so obviously unqualified to take his place in the event of an emergency.

But apparently, the GOP has forgotten the Sarah Palin lesson. Republican leaders are suggesting some Vice-Presidential possibilities who are politically attractive, but who are also green as grass.

Whoever ultimately becomes the Republican standard bearer should have a running mate with experience in both domestic matters and foreign affairs. He, or, she should have qualifications equal to the man at the top of the ticket.

While the GOP powers-that-be seem to have forgotten the Sarah Palin lesson, the media, and most voters, have not.