Archive for the Politics Category

Tragedy In Tucson

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics, Rants with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2011 by thelasthonestman

The saddest news today came out of Tucson, Arizona where Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona the target of an assassination attempt while speaking to a crowd in front of a Safeway grocery store.  The forty year-old Giffords was seriously wounded by the gunman, remaining in critical condition as of late Saturday night, while six others — including federal judge John Roll and a nine year-old girl — were killed and nineteen innocents victims were wounded senselessly.

The suspect — whose cowardice makes him unworthy of my referring to him by any other name than “the lunatic” — was subdued by two members of the crowd after his attack (both who are quiet heroes on this day), though officials are investigating the possibility of his being aided by a 2nd individual.

This is a terrible event, and everyone’s prayers should be for a speedy recovery for all of those who survived this monster’s acts.  The bigger question that will be asked in the next few days by those in the media, and by normal people everywhere, will be “Why?”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people already speculating about motives and reasons, well before all of the facts are known.  Early suggestions were that the suspect was a right-wing radical, possibly upset at Gifford’s support of the Health Care Act or stem cell research.  However, there have been later reports from people who knew the suspect that he was  “left wing, quite liberal, and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy” — pretty much the exact opposite.  Indeed, Giffords record placed her firmly in what could be described as the political middle — she’s considered a Blue dog Democrat who doesn’t vote lock-step with her party, and she voted against Nancy Pelosi in the recent House election for Minority Leader.

Assassination attempts of elected officials don’t happen with regularity in this country like they do in some others — other than a failed attempt on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon back in September of last year, I believe you have to go back to the attempt on President Reagan’s life by John Hinkley in 1981 to find the last time an elected official this highly ranking targeted.  My hope is that what we saw today doesn’t represent the beginning of an ominous trend.

We ALL need look no further than this

It’s true that we live in one of the more divisive times in our country’s history, and that a lack of civility in political debates has reached an all-time low, both by elected officials and the people who support them.  I understand the anger — I’m often angry and frustrated myself by the actions of those who’ve been put in charge of our nation’s future, particularly those (and there are many) who are sacrificing our nation’s future for their own political gain.

But this a reminder to those who begin pointing fingers in the next few days as to who to blame — we all are, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, for refusing to respect the views of others that may differ from ours, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.  It’s all our fault for demonizing our political opponents instead of trying to understand, and then to work with them.   And if that’s a lesson that isn’t learned soon, the tragedy of today — God help us all — might sadly be repeated again in the future.  It’s up to all of us to improve the discourse, stop the infighting, and start working together.  We owe it to ourselves and our country.  We owe it to people like Gabrielle Giffords.

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Quick Thoughts For A New Week

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Politics, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Being too busy to post on a daily basis — or even sometimes a weekly basis — makes it a pain to keep tabs with so many of the things going on around the world that I’d like to comment on when they’re still fresh on everyone’s mind.  But it is what it is.  That just means, instead of in-depth commentary from yours truly on any given subject, you’re left with more of the Cliff’s Notes version of what I think in its place.  But that’s better than nothing, right?  Right?  Nah — don’t answer that …

brad— In today’s news, Brad Childress is gone as the Minnesota Vikings head coach.  Like the firing of Wade Phillips a couple of weeks ago, this move seemed long overdue.  While it comes too late to save the Vikings’ season — frankly, even if it had been made weeks ago, Minnesota would still be headed for a seat on their couch come playoff time — replacing Childress with Leslie Frazier is a step in the right direction for the franchise.

It’ll be interesting to see if Frazier is able to put his stamp on the team or not — and the best way he could do that would be to sit Brett Favre in favor of Tavaris Jackson.  Jackson isn’t anything special, but Favre’s imitation of a turnover machine is absolutely killing the team, and the offense’s over-reliance on Favre’s arm — particularly in the red zone — has been a problem all season.  The best weapon the Vikings have is Adrian Peterson, yet Childress underutilized him all year.  Of course, that decision-making is why he’s unemployed today.

— Speaking of soon-to-be-unemployed head coaches, I was calling for Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to get the axe last year around this time — but he was brought back instead thanks to a meaningless late-season rally last year that left Houston back at .500 on the season.  And not surprisingly, here the Texans are again: 4-6 and pretty much out of the playoff hunt — again.   I have a feeling that even if Houston can put up a late-season winning streak to get back to .500 once more, this time Kubiak won’t be so lucky.

— While we’re on the subject of comebacks, in the news this past week was the stunning declaration from AP that Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, looks to emerge victorious in her election campaign as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller, who previously beat her in the Republican primary.  Murkowski’s apparent victory would make her the first candidate to win a write-in campaign for the Senate since Strom Thurmond in South Carolina in 1954. But Miller and his supporters are not going away quietly, as despite the apparently clear voice of the Alaskan people, the Tea Party candidate has vowed to keep fighting, getting an injunction today in court to halt the election certification.

It’s an embarrassment to Miller, the Tea Party, and the Republican Party that though the result seems pretty clear, they’ll attempt anything in order to reverse the election outcome, such as attempting to disqualify votes for Murkowski due to misspellings of her name by one letter, or votes that reversed her name (Murkowski, Lisa) in the wrote-in space.  I’m wondering how many of Miller’s supporters supported Al Gore’s recount efforts in Florida back in 2000?  I’m guessing none.  The people of Alaska have spoken, and it’s been that they want no part of Miller as their senator.  Miller and his supporters — including Sarah Palin — should take the hint.

— Hopefully, I’ll be a little bit more active here again soon — free time permitting of course.  With the holiday season approaching rapidly, I hope everyone reading this stays safe and enjoys themselves this week and beyond.

Great Speeches And A Dime Still Won’t Buy You A Cup Of Coffee — Or Much Else

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics, Rants with tags , , , , , , , on January 28, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Last night was President Obama’s State of the Union Speech, only a week after the upset Republican win in Massachusetts.  There was a great deal of intrigue as to how much that shocking loss for the Democrats would factor in to what the President would tell the nation and Congress, as well as how Obama would tailor his speech to his increasingly skeptical audience — polls taken in recent weeks have shown a rising number of Americans who see the country as continuing to head down the wrong path, who see the President’s health care plan as doing more harm than good, and who distrust anything and everything that comes out of Washington.  Certainly, Obama was going to be speaking to a tough crowd Wednesday night.

When it was over, if he did nothing else, the President gave a good speech last night — from someone who’s proven himself as a master orator, anything else would have been a shock.  But the problem is, what we heard from Obama last night was just words — and pretty speeches and a charismatic President (who is still holding onto a 50% approval rating despite the nation’s building anger with its government in Washington) isn’t going to get the country headed in the right direction.  What’s needed is a change in attitude and action in our Capitol — and there’s been more than enough evidence that such a change still isn’t anywhere to be seen.

At least the President acknowledged last night that, so far as the mantra of “change” that he campaigned on (and which was a large part of the winds that swept him into office), his first year in office has been a disappointment to many, both his initial supporters and his detractors.   “I campaigned on the promise of change — change we can believe in, the slogan went,” Obama said last night. “And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change — or at least, that I can deliver it.”

Of course much of the American people don’t — the last year in Washington has seen more of the same, with politicians from both sides of the aisle continuing to work to further the interests of themselves and their biggest contributors and lobbyists, while ignoring the real problems with our nation that are in dire need of attention.   The richest of those on Wall Street and the banking industry lined up to use the American public as their personal ATM, and no real changes in the way these giant institutions have been enacted to prevent a repeat of the excesses of avarice that saw our economy badly weakened.

More and more Americans find themselves at risk of spending their day in the unemployment line

Meanwhile, other businesses small and large continue to struggle in an economy that’s seen more and more Americans put out of work and tumble helplessly into debt as our economy has continued to stagnate.  Health care “reform” looks more and more like a bloated enterprise that might raise costs, still leave millions uninsured, and mostly benefit the insurance and drug companies — while aiding in ballooning our dangerously high national debt to even more obscene levels.  And one of his main promises from last night, echoing a campaign pledge — to do the work of government in the open and eschew the back room deals of the past — has been trampled into the ground from Day One, particularly in the aforementioned health care reform, where secret deals have already been made with the elements most responsible for the ballooning cost of medicine today.  Is there any wonder why people are suffering from what the President called a ‘deficit of trust’?

The biggest problem — both immediate and long-term — that the nation faces is the alarmingly high deficit we’re running, a deficit that ballooned to dangerous levels during the two terms of President Bush and has only increased — dramatically so — in the first year of the Obama presidency.  The United States simply can’t continue to write checks it can’t cover, and in that area the President seemed to acknowledge last night that changes needed to be made.  But his solutions — a proposed three-year freeze on government spending, other than in national security, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — is akin to using a measuring cup to bail out the flooded compartments on the Titanic.  This would represent next to nothing in actual savings — what needs to be done is a painful combination of cutting government spending nearly across the board and raised taxes, the former being much easier said than done (if we can’t afford it, we simply shouldn’t be funding it — but many programs that would likely be facing a trimmed budget or even the axe get their support from the majority of the Democrats on Capital Hill) and the latter a tricky proposition in a stalling economy (the best approach in this  would appear to be raised taxes on individuals making $250,000 and higher, while leaving lower incomes and businesses untouched, but this common-sense approach has continuously drawn opposition from oblivious Republicans).

The sad fact is that the current quagmires we find ourselves in are a result of the inattention, the failings, and the flat-out corruption at a federal level by representatives in both our national parties.  The old saying is that it takes two to tango, and that’s definitely true when it comes to fixing this mess — both parties are going to have to work together, make hard choices and sacrifices — and if necessary, sacrifice their own political capital and political futures to enact the measures we need to safeguard our country’s future, and with it, the futures of those who come after us.  It’s in this last regard that, all the inspiring speeches about hope and change in Washington aside, things have disappointingly stayed the same.  Time will tell if our nation’s lawmakers will finally decide to do the job we elected them to do, or if we’ll all be back here in another year, wowed by individual eloquence — but failed by our leaders as a whole.

For Sale To The Highest Bidder: Your Government

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics, Rants with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Yesterday, the way candidates are elected in the U.S. was changed as the Supreme Court struck down the part of the McCain-Feingold Act — as well as other federal laws that had been in place for decades — which limited the amount of money that could be poured into campaigns by both business corporations and other heavily-influential groups like labor unions.  The Court’s ruling was made on the grounds that limits that have been imposed by laws such as the McCain-Feingold Act are unconstitutional.

This is nothing but bad news for the political process, which is rife with corruption and self-serving politicians already.  We already have a Congress filled with the best Senators and Representatives that money can buy, and this ruling is only going to exacerbate that problem.  Everyone regardless of their political leanings should be worried about what this ruling will mean for the future, as we already have a Congress who’s leaned heavily towards favoring the same huge institutions — Wall Street, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies, for example — who have not only caused a large number of the problems we’ve seen in the past decade (the bailout fiasco, the health care problem), but who will now be able to pay whatever it takes to see that any solutions that are decided upon in the future aid them first and foremost.

What’s badly needed is a campaign system that would bar donations of all kinds for political candidates at all levels of office (right down to your local officials), whether they came from individuals, groups, or corporations — and public financing for all political campaigns that would be set a pre-determined amount.  If a candidate spends that money, then they’re just out of luck.  Before anyone hedges at the idea of their tax money going towards the election process, it might help to remember that you’re already paying for that process, in the form of bloated governments that are great at wasting the money they’re given by the American people, but completely incompetent when it comes to finding basic solutions for basic problems (an character trait that affects your local, as well as state and federal, officials).

One of the great embarrassments we in our country should feel is the fact that, with all of our great riches, we waste such a ridiculous amount of resources every year in the electoral process.  This waste takes many forms: expensive dinners for supporters, lavishly decorated halls filled with banners and balloons for rallies, limos and buses and aircraft to carry bloated staffs during campaigning, and of course, all of that advertising.  Ads upon ads, almost always negative attack ads that have little to do with the real issues at hands,  that filled the airwaves of both television and radio.

Millions of people go hungry every year -- yet we're giving hundreds of millions of dollars to politicians so that they can use their influence to line their own pockets and that of their friends. Anyone besides me see the problem here?

In the 2008 presidential election, for example, the three main contenders (Obama, McCain, and Clinton) and spent in excess of $250 million on their campaigns, and that was only by January.  And we’re not even taking into account all of the money spend on the rest of the candidates, or all of the state and local elections that take place around the country every year.  Can anyone honestly explain how the huge, obscene amounts of money being spent on campaigning for political office in this country has helped the process?  Or explain how it’s made our entire political system (or our government) better and not worse? Look around — do you feel like it’s been money well spent?

A far better use of that money than spending it on the corrupted political process would be to feed the hungry, aid the poor, or take care of the sick and disadvantaged in this country, just for starters.  Instead, we throw away money to candidates who go through it like water — and laugh all the way to the bank as they more often than not use their positions of power as an ATM for their political supporters.

If we sharply limited the amounts of money spent on the election campaign process in general, and combined that with public financing only for all elections — local, state, and federal — then we might be left with a system where candidates who give intelligent solutions to our country’s complex problems might actually get elected, instead of us watching the current system where candidates get elected because they ran the most effective attack ad, or because they got the largest donations from the biggest political action group or corporation, or because they made the most under-the-table deals take care of their supporters’ special interests once they get into office.

That kind of radical change, unfortunately, will sadly, likely never happen.  If there’s anything you could get both of our current parties to agree upon, it would be to strike down a movement like this before it could ever get itself started, as real campaign and fund-raising reform would be a definitive threat to the livelihoods and tenure of those currently in office.  And if the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday suggests anything, its that the way we elect our officials in the future — and in turn, the fates of the average citizen like you and I — is only going to get far worse and not better.

Quick Notes For Thursday — And The Ro-Sham-Bo Award Returns

Posted in NBA Basketball, News/Current Events, Politics, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by thelasthonestman

While I’ll be here tomorrow with your NFL Conference Title Game picks, a few quick notes for today:

— It’s been since early summer that I gave out a Ro-Sham-Bo Award, the last “winner” coming before my fall hiatus.  As a reminder for those just joining us, the Ro-Sham-Bo Award is inspired by South Park (and Ro-Sham-Bo legend, Eric Cartman) and is given out to the person or entity who most deserves, in my humble opinion, to be kicked in the nuts (symbolically, if need be) due to their sheer idiocy, incompetence, arrogance, etc.  Consider it my own little contribution to pointing out the sad fact that our planet is sometimes home to some really stupid people and things (a link to previous winners is here).

The lack of Ro-Sham-Bo goodness lately was a result of me just not getting around to restarting the “honor”, but if I was waiting for a great candidate to revive the award in 2010, I couldn’t have asked for a better one than the announcement of the formation of the All-American Basketball Alliance — which just so happens to be a basketball league intended for white players only.

Eric Cartman wearing the officially licensed apparel of Moose Lewis' AABA

Actually not just whites only, as the league membership requirement is that players are “natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race” only; sorry, Dirk Nowitski and Steve Nash — you’re not invited!  The league is being headed by Don “Moose” Lewis, who claims that “There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing … I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.”

I hate to break this to you, Don — but I’m pretty sure that nearly no one plays real fundamental basketball anymore, no matter what race, creed, or color they happen to be.   And the formation of any league with the requirements of this one sounds like something you might have read about in an 1810 newspaper, not a 2010 one.  Instead of handing out an MVP award for this nonsense, we can give out 2010’s initial Ro-Sham-Bo Award to Lewis instead — and hope this “league” doesn’t get any further along than it is already (a safe bet, since no town or city so far wants anything to do with it).

Thanks to my friend and regular reader Steven for pointing this story out to me.

— Speaking of basketball, it’s a sport that I don’t talk a lot about here — mainly because I just don’t follow it with the zeal that I do baseball and football.  It’s not that I’m not a big fan, but it’s more in a casual sense.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been putting a lot more effort into my basketball knowledge in the last two years, because I have — playing in a fantasy basketball league will make you do that — but I usually don’t want to talk at length about a subject I’ll only be showing my ignorance in (cue the obligatory “But why would that stop you now?” joke here).

Porn star or Magic basketball coach? Only his fluffer knows for sure.

That said, a web site I’ve discovered called Basketbawful has been incredibly entertaining reading for me (again, thanks to Steven for initially finding the blog and pointing it out to me).  The blog is an enjoyable look at the worst that can be found in the NBA on a regular basis (hey — I wonder if Moose Lewis is a fan?), and it takes humorous pokes at everything from the New Jersey Nyets to Ron Jeremy look-a-like, Stan Van Gundy.  For those of you like me who like your sports to sometimes be a little less serious, this is a great read that’s updated daily.  I recommend it highly, and not only will you be entertained —  like myself, you’ll find yourself learning more about the NBA and its players along the way.

— Another strong candidate for a Ro-Sham-Bo award this week was former North Carolina senator and presidential candidate John Edwards finally admitting what was one of the worst-kept secrets in political circles:  that he is the father of a two year-old girl with former campaign videographer, Rielle Hunter.

Edwards had at first steadfastly denied having an affair with Hunter, after the news of which broke in the pages of the tabloid, the National Enquirer.  Even after his presidential bid went up in smoke and he finally copped to the affair — which continued even as his wife Elizabeth was diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer that doctors have told her is incurable — Edwards was vehement in denying that Hunter’s child was his own.  Today, finally, he’s fessed up to the truth (though he had essentially done so already in private, having apparently provided child support for his daughter starting a year ago).

Pictured here: Rooms John Edwards will never be able to cheat on his wife in

Edwards is saying — or at least his personal advisor, Harrison Hickman, is (since Edwards isn’t talking himself) — that Edwards only want to be a “good father” and a “good person again”.  Well, good luck with that, I guess.  When you’ve got a person who lied to his wife, lied to his family, trashed his marriage vows, and essentially abandoned (on an emotional level, at least, a life partner at the moment they were/are facing their own mortality), then as far as a scale of behavior by human beings go, you’ve only can go up from there.  Forgive me if Edwards’ conversion to the truth rings somewhat hollow — and I’ll say a private thanks that someone with his decision-making process will never get within a thousand feet of the Oval Office unless he’s got an invitation (or takes a White House tour).

Upset In Massachusetts

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics with tags , , , , on January 20, 2010 by thelasthonestman

The nation’s political eyes were sharply focused on the state of Massachusetts yesterday, as the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated with the passing of Democratic senator Ted Kennedy took place there.  And when the dust had cleared, we were witness to one of the biggest upsets in recent political history, as Republican state senator Scott Brown emerged victorious over the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley.

How monumental was the victory by Brown on Tuesday?  In one of the most liberal states in the Union, a Republican won an election for a  Senate seat for the first time since Edward Brooke (whose own claim to history is in being the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the 20th century) in 1972.  Brown’s victory was shocking in not just that it happened, but its manner — the state senator trailed Coakley by as much as a whopping 20 points in the polls at one point in early December, but by earlier this month had pulled into a dead heat, even nudging ahead in some tracking polls.  Six months ago, the likelihood of Brown beating Coakley would have been about as likely as the Fenway faithful embracing A-Rod — but yet this morning, here it is.

I'm so upset by Coakley's loss, I have amnesia about events that took place before 2009

So what does this stunning result actually mean?  You can ignore a number of the pundits I saw on both MSNBC and Fox News last night, as most of the opinions they voiced were nothing more than political spin.  Unlike the ridiculous implication by MSNBC talk host Rachel Maddow that Coakley lost because the people of Massachusetts aren’t comfortable with voting for a woman to such a high office — this in direct ignorance of the fact that Hillary Clinton, and not Barack Obama, comfortably won the Massachusetts primary for president in 2008 — or the overreaching opinions of Fox’s new “political consultant” Sarah Palin, whose own implications were that Brown’s victory was the bellweather of a huge movement that will put the Republican party back in power in November, the truth is somewhere in the middle and far more muddied than either of these own biased examples would have you believe.

According to exit polls, the top issue for the election in Massachusetts was, not surprisingly, health care reform.  What was lost in Brown’s victory was the fact that Massachusetts has a form of state-run health care already, passed through the state House and Senate in 2005 and signed into law by then-Governor Mitt Romney in 2006.  It’s entirely possible that the vote for Brown was not one against the health care reform currently being debated by Congress, but rather a rejection by Massachusetts voters for paying more for something they already have themselves.

That said, the Democratic party would be foolish to ignore the implications of Brown’s upset and ignore that the mood in the country hasn’t dramatically worsened in the past calendar year, and that the faith of the American people in the government in Washington getting it right when it comes to health care — or much of anything else, for that matter — is lower than perhaps it’s ever been.  There’s a growing belief around the country that the current health care system being pushed through won’t do anything to stop the ridiculously rising costs for basic services in this country, that it wont do anything to reign in the avarice and excesses being enjoyed by the nation’s insurers and pharmaceutical companies (both of which have been in bed with Congress on this reform from nearly the beginning), and that it will still leave millions of people uninsured or with coverage that’s lacking — even while driving up what the average citizen pays and driving up the national deficit even beyond the dangerous levels it’s already at.

Not pictured -- A Yankee fan

If Brown’s election signifies anything, it’s that the voting populace may be ready to revolt against any candidate, Republican or Democrat — that appears to them to be part of the broken status quo in Washington.  While by most accounts,  Coakley ran a poor campaign with numerous verbal gaffes — the one if which she referred to Boston Red Sox legend Curt Schilling as a “Yankee fan” (Lesson one: know your Red Sox legends if you’re planning to run for office in Massachusetts) being one of the more notable ones — her biggest mistake had been in not correcting or changing the perception that she would be yet another Washington insider, prepared to continue the status quo in the nation’s capital.

The most damning effort to her chances may have been her last fundraiser, which Brown would hammer her on in ads in the campaigns final days.  While Brown and Coakley both were in need of last-minute funds for their campaigns, Coakley raised her money in an event that took place in the heart of our nation’s problems — Washington — and it was an event at which no less that 17 of the 22 hosts (people who coughed up $10,000 or more for Coakley’s election bid) were paid lobbyists, 15 of them for the people who certainly don’t want to see a meaningful health care reform package — one that aids the polpulace and not their own interests — passed.  Fifteen lobbyists with ties to all of the major pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer, Merck, and others) and ties to all of the major insurance companies as well (Blue Cross, Aetna, and others) — is there any doubt as to what kind of health care reform these businesses want to see — and that it’s us, the average American — who’ll be coming up with the short straw if it’s passed?  This fundraiser may have been Coakley’s nail-in-the-coffin, as it seemed to represent the “business-as-usual” attitude that people in this country have hopefully begun to tire of.  (A larger scan of that group of Washington insiders on the right found here.)

So will this be a precursor of more upsets to come in the elections that will take place this fall?  A lot of that depends on the recovery of the U.S. economy, as well as the attitude by the current Congress in the upcoming months.  I’ll state that the largest issue facing us currently — and the issue that is becoming more and more of a primary concern to larger numbers of Americans — is our out-of-control spending and the increasing national deficit.  After President Clinton left office, spending in relation to revenues collected has spiraled out of control, first under Republican leadership and the Bush White House, now under Democratic leadership and the Obama White House — so this isn’t a partisan issue.  Both parties have continued to be irresponsible with our nation’s future in more ways than be counted — Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts for the insanely rich, bloated programs that are funded to buy votes of special interest groups — all of these are examples of our political leaders on both sides of the aisle putting the interests of their friends and financial supporters (and in turn, their own re-elections) ahead of what’s right for the country.

Hopefully, Brown’s election will be the first step in a real change being enacted in Washington; however, that’s something we’ve all heard before — and so far, it’s rarely been more than lip service from those getting elected.  Time will tell if this turns out to be more of the same.