Thursday, February 20, 2014

Washington Watch: "Who's Your Lame Duck?"

Are the Republicans in Congress determined to bestow upon President Obama, 'lame duck' status?

Since they won back the House in 2010, it sure seems like it.

Within the political realm, the term lame duck generally refers to a politician who is about to leave office and is awaiting a successor to take over. Lame ducks are seen as place-holders only.

Again, some in the Republican Party started thinking of Barack Obama as a lame-duck back in 2010. They assumed he wouldn't get reelected. They were wrong.

Still....they won't play ball with him. They have no desire to get in the game. Instead they are sitting on the ball.

In the past, they sat on the ball and shutdown the government. Today, they will sit on the ball when it comes to raising the minimum wage; passing immigration reform; reducing gun violence; extending benefits for the long-termed unemployed; and confirming needed judicial appointments. And, in what has been their only play: Will there be more votes (think we are up to 40 already) to defund Obamacare?

Seems like it is Congress that is in lame duck status!

Boehner and his gang are waiting and hoping for a Senate take-over in this year's mid-term elections so that they can thwart ALL legislation, except their own, from reaching the President's desk. Not only that, they will continue to block his judicial nominations. They will let him veto their legislation (if they are lucky enough to win the Senate, they won't have enough votes to override his vetoes. Unless weak Democrats cave. Could happen.) Instead, they will work toward regaining the White House in 2016.

Why is the GOP-led Congress so against this administration?

Is it racism? This comes up a lot in discussion, and there is no doubt there is an element of racism involved, but not entirely. Many of the right-wingers would accept an African-American ultra-conservative in the White House.

Is it ideology? Yes, but again, not entirely. There have been cases where the President has put forth ideas previously supported by the GOP and they are shot down.(electablog lists ten here in the article: ("10 ideas Republicans loved until Barack Obama became President")

Is it what and whom Obama represents? Bingo! Our current President represents the changing American landscape many are not ready for.  He represents a confluence of minority, immigrant, gay, young, female, technically-savvy, and progressive Americans, whom together are able to tip the scale in their favor. Democracy at its best.

It seems the GOP's only options are: to limit the voting of the aforementioned groups, to become more inclusive and representative of today's America, or to hope for low turnout in the midterms, which will favor their candidates. The irony is, if they do recapture the White House in 2016, it will be with a moderate candidate that will put forth many of the items on the Obama agenda.

Will things change anytime soon?  Well, there is the recent CNN interview where speaker Boehner suggests his party may go on offense this year as opposed to being the party of 'no.' (From "Boehner warns Obama headed for 'brick wall'," 1-28-2014)
"The Speaker conceded that his party has spent so much time railing against the President's agenda, they have gotten off track over the last several years in putting forward their own policy prescriptions – something he hopes to help correct this year."
In the Washington....there is lots of quacking but little getting accomplished.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Washington Watch: "Christening Christie"

President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Oct. 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The whispers concerning New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are changing in tone and scope. It was only a few months ago that pro-Christie whispers were coming from some Democrats who believed Christie might be worth supporting in the presidential race. 

This was reminiscent of the Obama whispers from Republicans back in 2008. At campaign stops, even candidate Obama himself joked about the Republicans who quietly voiced their support of  him.

That same kind of 'undercover' support, from those outside his party, was beginning for Christie. His Obama bromance and past working relationship with Democratic Senator Cory Booker, didn't hurt either.

Now the whispers are changing. Now people are wondering if the Republican's best hope for the White House is still viable. The Bridgegate scandal, and other details sure to be uncovered by zealous New Jersey state Democrats, has Christie sinking in deep, deep waters.

Let's just say his baptismal in the murky waters of the 2016 campaign is not going well. Even the local paper wants to take back their endorsement of him.

Unrecoverable?  We'll see. We are still a long way from 2016 and I expect Christie to be in the mix. However, a White House run requires a well-crafted image. The currently whispered words about Christie have to change:  leader is good, bully is not; compassionate is good, abrasive is not; And then there's humble versus arrogant. Yep, a rewrite is in order.

Sounds like Christie needs Scandal's Olivia Pope.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Washington Watch: "Bridging the Internet Gap"

First Lady takes a selfie with Baltimore student at
T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.,  Feb. 5, 2014.
(Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
The Internet Gap, or the more commonly used phrase The Digital Divide, persists despite almost 75% of American homes now having Internet access.

This week, the Census Bureau released its 2012 report: Computer and Internet Access in the United States. The data has been collected since 1984, and tracks computer usage by factors such as region, race, education, gender, job, and income.

Education level remains a key determinant of Internet use in the home. As reported by NBC News:
"Among people 25 and older, only about 30 percent of people who did not graduate high school used the Internet in their homes in 2012. That figure nearly doubles to about 58 percent for high-school grads, and it jumps to almost 90 percent for people who obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher."
The Census figures also show an increasing use of smartphones among all racial groups. However, not surprisingly, the smartphone gap is most apparent when looking at age. Younger people use smartphones at greater rates.

The question is...."How are our young people using smartphones -- for entertainment or homework help? I think we know the answer to this one.

There is no doubt, the Internet is a wonderful tool for learners of all ages. Students have access to gobs of information at their fingertips. Are students using the Internet and smartphones for educational purposes?

I am from the 'dinosaur' generation that used encyclopedias for research on school projects. When I was a kid, the mark of being middle-class was to have a set of encyclopedias in your home.  There were even door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen and payment plans for parents determined to give their children the best educational resources.

We've come a long way from encyclopedias and library trips for research. As the Census figures indicate, most homes now have Internet access. However...not all. In addition, according to the Administration fewer that 1 in 3 of America's classrooms have Internet access that supports digital learning.

This past week the President visited a middle-school to discuss his ConnectED program. The White House describes the initiative as follows:
"The ConnectED initiative will, within five years, connect 99 percent of America’s students to the digital age through next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon are already providing their support, collectively pledging to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students by the end of 2015."

Broadband access is a needed step, but perhaps using smartphone mobile apps for education might be the best way to narrow the digital divide and encourage learning?

Here is a video of the President with a student's tablet during his recent visit to Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland. At this school each student has access to a school-supplied iPad:

Currently, many schools do not allow the use of smartphones (on a non-emergency basis) on campus or in classrooms.... nevertheless, this is the technical device most used by our children. Maybe we need to catch up when considering how to educate our kids.