Friday, December 30, 2011

Memories from 2011 Equal Tears and Laughter

The year 2011 was remarkable. The Arab Spring. The end of Bin Laden and Khadaffi. The Japanese quake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. One weather calamity after another, here and abroad. The debt ceiling crisis. Occupy Wall Street. The crazy GOP run-up to the primaries. The end of our occupation of Iraq.

We all have our specific memories. In no particular order, here are some of mine.

-  Peter Falk died.  It's well to remember an actor like Falk, who spread delight for decades in a wounded world. If the going gets rough in 2012, watch "The In-Laws", one of the funniest movies ever made. We'll miss you, Mr. Falk. "Oh, there's just one other thing..."

- 9-9-9 and Cain's bizarre ad with his smoking campaign manager and Cain's weird leer. (Actually, I wish this memory would go away!)

- The brave Japanese workers who kept going back into those hideously dangerous nuclear plants.

- The death of Vaclav Havel. Truly a man for all seasons, the poet and freedom fighter who proved that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

- Michele Bachman's husband dancing with her on a campaign stage. And badly too.

- Obama's great comic performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner while, unknown to us, he was waiting word on the outcome of the raid on Bin Laden.

- The voter who told a pollster that Newt Gingrich has "too much luggage".

- Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell endorsing Mitt Romney because "he's been consistent since he changed his mind."

- The Tea Party Congressman who vowed he would not only vote against raising the debt ceiling but would vote "to lower it". (Which is the equivalent of telling your bank that you've decided you owe it less than you do.)

- Mitt Romney constantly saying, "Ha. Ha. Ha." The man doesn't laugh. He SAYS, "Ha. Ha. Ha." Heaven help us, not eight years of THAT!

- John Boehner repeatedly being the man who couldn't deliver on deals he had made (which is a fatal flaw in politics).

- Donald Trump's stony face at the White House Correspondents Dinner while Obama shredded him. Also Donald Trump's hair and his weird little mouth. (I wish I could forget Donald Trump entirely.)

- How handsome and beautiful the Russians were who were photographed at the anti-Putin protests. They looked straight out of "Dr. Zhivago". Love those Russian hats! (Maybe Donald Trump should get one to cover whatever it is that is dead and lying on his head.)

- The thugs on camels attacking the Egyptian protesters, and then the joy of the Arab protesters when they triumphed in country after country.

- The OWS people occupying the "Law and Order" set that was a mock-up of the real thing and asking the TV folks, "What are your demands?"

- Jon Stewart bemoaning the end of Herman Cain but then delighting in the prospect of a debate moderated by Donald Trump. Stewart is the master! (Will Trump EVER go away?!)

- George Will on a Sunday morning talk show,  apoplectic about the GOP candidates: "Charlatan entrepreneurs!"

- The last U.S. Army truck leaving Iraq.

- President Obama's smile.

Let's be sure he's still smiling at this time next year. Then we can all smile.

So here's a toast to the people of laughter and courage: Obama, Havel, Jon Stewart, Peter Falk, those Japanese and Arabs and Russians and Occupiers, and our brave men and women now back from Iraq and the ones who never came home. And let us not forget the photographers and journalists who brought us the story of 2011 and especially those who died doing it.

"Ah, brave new world that has such people in it."

Happy New Year! Let's make it a good one!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Predictions for 2012

It's risky predicting anything, especially in politics. But  -  what the heck!  -  I'm only old once. So here goes for 2012!

1. Obama will turn thumbs down on the XL pipeline.

2. The environmentalists will still be mad at him about something.

3. The Congress will enact an additional 10 month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits after the Tea Party House members try to hold the provisions hostage AGAIN.

4. Eric Cantor will try to get the Speakership away from John Boehner.

5. Secretary Clinton will keep traveling all around the world as the best and hardest working Secretary of State in modern times and therefore still not have time to get her hair done.

6. Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee.

7. Chris Christie will be the GOP vice-presidential nominee.

8. The GOP will attempt to steal the election in November with the help of a lot of GOP governors who will arrange for "problems" at polling places in Democratic precincts.

9. Ron Paul will run on the Libertarian ticket or some third party ticket. He won't win.

10. Ruth Bader Ginsberg will retire from the Supreme Court, and Obama will replace her with Hilary Clinton, who will thus have time to finally get her hair done.

11. Economics experts will make a lot of wrong predictions.

12. Stuff will happen.

Will Obama win?

As Winston Churchill once said, when he was saying everything that Mark Twain hadn't said: "People get the government they deserve."

You're the only one who knows if Obama will win because you are the one who will make it happen. Or not.

So what's it going to be?

Monday, December 26, 2011

XL Pipeline Deadline: A Gift from the GOP to Obama?

Will Obama win or lose points in 2012 on the XL pipeline? Do you even know what the XL pipeline is?

Briefly, it's a pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf coast refineries. It's a stupid project, roundly condemned by environmentalists and anyone with half a brain, but the GOP seized on it as a potential campaign issue and inserted it into the just-concluded fight over extending  payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits. As the price for agreeing to the two-month extension of these two vital measures, the GOP included a provision requiring Obama to approve or deny the XL project within sixty days. Prior to this, the administration had announced it would delay a decision until the present environmental studies were complete, probably at least a year.

On the surface it may look like the oil industry and their bought-and-paid for GOP Congressional representatives have scored a victory on the issue. But they didn't. The 60-day provision is a trap, a dog and pony show misguidedly staged by the GOP for the oil industry. It actually makes it easier for Obama to kill the project. In fact, it virtually begs him to kill it!

How? Because sixty days is obviously not enough time to complete the environmental and health studies for the project, and the public can understand that, especially as they learn that the project will possibly endanger the water supply for much of the Midwest. Once Obama has been "forced" by the new deadline to deny the project, it goes all the way back to square one, i.e. the proponents have to start all over with a new filing. All the way back to square one is a long, long way back. This is the kind of delay we environmentalists have always used to obstruct or kill bad projects.

But will Obama actually deny the project when the sixty days are up? There are three indications that he will.

First, he has already countermanded the State Department's premature approval of the project by requiring more study after environmentalists started screaming this fall.

Second, a prominent White House staff person has said Obama is unlikely to approve the project within the sixty-day limit because that's not enough time for environmental review. The staffer speaking was Gene Sperling, director of Obama's National Economic Council. White House team members do not go on record with such statements unless the President concurs. They don't if they want to keep their kneecaps. Also, since Sperling is head of an economic council in the White House, NOT an environmental one, his statement indicates that the White House has decided to go along with the environmentalists in the Democratic party and not with the labor unions that want the pipeline jobs.

Third, two very major Democratic Congressmen have said they have been reassured by the White House
that Obama will turn thumbs down on the project when the sixty days runs out. The Congressmen are no other than Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. These are heavy-duty dudes, and you don't tell them "not to worry" unless you really mean it.

So there you are. The GOP in the House and the oil industry may think they got something with that sixty-day measure, but they got zilch. And they gave Obama a lovely opportunity to score political points, not just with his environmental base, but with lots of Midwest voters who have been worried about their water supply. In fact, because of the GOP drum-beating about the 60-days provision, far more voters are now aware of the pipeline and its potential problems.

And who really set all this up to happen? Rumor is that Obama himself quietly tempted the GOP into the entire trap. If so, he's learned how to set the bait every bit as well as Clinton used to for Newt Gingrich. When Speaker Gingrich seriously goofed and shut down the government back in the day, Clinton's fingerprints were all over it. Like Gingrich, the present House GOP contingent is blinded by its self-bestowed glory and can't resist over-reaching. Suckers!

I'm willing to stick my neck out and offer an early prediction for the New Year: the XL pipeline is not headed for the Gulf coastline in 2012. It's headed for the toaster.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stuff These In Your Stocking and Smile!

BREAKING NEWS ......  Hurrah! Santa just found another gift at the bottom of his sack! Right after I wrote this posting, the news came that the GOP in the House has caved in and agreed to extending the paycheck tax cut and unemployment compensation. This is wonderful good news for those who desperately need the money and for an economy that is on the mend. But it doesn't wipe away the bad rap deserved by the Tea Party Congress. Scaring people is not nice! No one will forget what nasty and callous guys these GOP House members really are.
Lots of good news this holiday season! So let's rejoice before we have to go back to contemplating the Grinchy GOP lineup for the Iowa caucuses. Take a moment and stuff these goodies in your stocking.

Top of the news is that President Obama's poll numbers are up significantly from a couple of months ago. He now has a favorable job performance rate of 49%! This is a six-point gain, and even his prior 43% was incredibly good for an incumbent when unemployment is still high. Even more surprising is that he beats the GOP as "most trusted" on managing taxes. Yes, TAXES! That's historically been the GOP stock in trade.

More good news. Obama's climb in favorability shows that his theme of fighting for the middle class and for fairness in taxation is working. He's taken off the gloves and, so far, is keeping them off. Let's hope he sticks to this theme. Repetition is the heart of effective campaigning.

More good news. One major poll shows Obama beating Romney by about 6 points nationally. The other would-be GOP nominees do a lot worse in a match-up. Until now, polls have shown Romney and Obama as a tie.

More good news. Claims for unemployment compensation are down yet again. This week's drop beat all expert expectations, and the number of claims hasn't been this low since  -  GET THIS!  -   April 2008. Since there has been a string of these lower numbers, there's some indication that another drop in the unemployment rate may be coming at month's end. (For those of you who have asked: Yes, these figures are seasonally adjusted so that temporary retail hires for the Christmas season don't falsely skew the tally.)

More good news. New housing starts went up last month, to the astonishment of experts.

More good news. Consumer confidence is improving.

More good news. For once, the media is telling it like it is, blaming the GOP House for stalling the  extension of unemployment benefits and, by blocking the paycheck tax break, taking $1000 out of every working person's pocket. Usually the media bends over backward to be "balanced" and blames both parties even when it's the GOP which is preventing things from getting done. Not this time! Did you ever think you would bless the Wall Street Journal? Its recent editorial tells the GOP to stop screwing around and immediately abandon a position that is stupid, stubborn, and killing the Republican brand. With the WSJ screaming like that, the rest of the media had to tell it like it really is.

More good news. For once, the White House PR people are being clever. They have invited people to post what the loss of that payroll tax break will mean to them and their families. And the media is publicizing the postings. Things like, "That's the money for my insulin." It's sad about the insulin, but this is the kind of reality that may pressure the House GOP to stop being Scrooge.

More good news. The GOP circular firing squad goes on shooting. Boy, do they ever! Romney and Paul blasting Gingrich. Bachman attacking Paul. Santorum squeaking at everybody. With all the footage the GOP candidates are running against each other on Iowa TV, the Democrats' ads for 2012 are being put together for them.

More good news. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has just announced he is a candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination for president. Sure, you never heard of him when he was running for the  GOP nomination, but now you'll hear even less of him. On the other hand, he'll be there to challenge Ron Paul when the latter gives up hope for the GOP spot and bounces over to his real home in the Libertarian Party. Gosh, I hope the media gives us at least some samples of the two frothing at each other about who can better demolish the government and reinstitute the 19th century. And let's hope the Libertarian syphones votes from the GOP in the general election.

More good news. Americans Elect, a bunch of shadowy political has-beens and financially flush but anonymous donors, is being scrutinized critically by the Huffington Post and a few other outlets. About time. This group of would-be kingmakers has qualified itself on the ballots of twelve states, including California as of today. They say they are not a political party, but how is a not-political-party on a ballot? I don't know. They say they are the means by which "ordinary Americans" can directly pick a candidate for the presidency and ignore the offerings of our two major parties. This isn't true. The candidate will actually be chosen by the organization's Board of Directors, according to the fine print unearthed by Huffington. But more on this another time. Meantime, treat yourself to a read of the Huffington piece by Peter D. Rosenstein.

More good news. It's days old. I've written of it before. But it is still good news.

The troops are out of Iraq and coming home for the holidays!

And that's the best news of all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Men Looked Through Prison Bars and Havel Had a Scooter

The last American troops are crossing the border today, leaving Iraq even as I write.

Meantime, an important man of peace has just died.  Vaclav Havel, writer and former president of the Czech Republic. In his twenty-year struggle for the freedom of the Czech people, he faithfully adhered to his central belief: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred." He opposed war and violence even in the face of injustice.

My mother had a saying when we were kids: "Two men looked through prison bars, and one saw mud and one saw stars."

As a child I found this deeply puzzling. Why was my mother holding up prisoners as examples of something for us kids to learn. If they were in prison, hadn't they done something bad? And wasn't the real problem how to get out of that prison, rather than what they were looking at?

In his long struggle against Communist tyranny in Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel  actually went to prison more than once. He kept focused on the stars in the night sky, not the mud. He wrote plays and poetry and essays in prison. He kept writing about freedom. His works were smuggled into other Iron Curtain countries, especially Poland and Hungary. And -  finally  -  the walls came tumbling down.

A poet had spiked the guns of tanks with mere words and swept aside the Iron Curtain that had lain across all of Eastern Europe for 44 years. Havel then became president of a reborn Czechoslovakia.

But here's the best part. In the New York Times, his obituary reports that he traveled the long corridors of the presidential palace on a child's scooter. And on a stop at an airport he kept political heads of state waiting while he had a chat with Mick Jagger. He also loved jazz. This was a man who knew how to live!

Let me abuse the vehicle of metaphor for a moment and focus on the word "scooter" (no pun intended).

Remember, "Scooter" Libby and his bosses George W and Dick Cheney? Remember that they needlessly killed 4500 Americans and a ghastly number of Iraq civilians? Remember how "Scooter" lied to protect the devil duo and all that they stood for.  Might making"right" even when the premises are dead wrong. Large theories held with great delusions of grandeur. Lying to cover up bad stuff. And people dying, dying, dying.

Give us a man who prefers a real scooter, a kid's scooter, who goes gliding along the corridors of power with the purity of a child's heart, who believes in love and not war. Like Martin Luther King in "Letter from Birmingham Jail", Havel never took his eyes off the stars.

It's hard to preach peace, write well, bring freedom to a nation, and keep one's balance on a kid's scooter.

You did well, Mr. Havel. We will miss you, and we are better off for your having been with us. Thank you for speaking up for peace.

Like any good man of the theater, you timed your exit well. It's Christmas. And our troops are coming home.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gifts from Your Secret Santa

Over the next nine days, thousands of weary warriors will be walking through the front door of home. They will be home for Christmas. Their kids will hug them around the knees. Mothers and fathers will weep for joy as they hug a son or daughter. Spouses will finally know joy in hearts that have ached for so long.

Thanks, President Obama. Thanks for bringing them home and for ending one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history. Yesterday John McCain made clear this end would not have come had he been elected president. He said you would be "scorned and disdained" by history for bringing home our women and men.

Screw John McCain. And thanks, Mr. President, for all the other things you have given us.

We tend to forget. Because of the media despising good news, you've been sort of a Secret Santa. So here and now, let me count the ways:

 1. Ending the Iraq war yesterday.
 2. Ridding the world of Osama Bin Laden and 22 of his major guys.
 3. Saving us from a cataclysmic Second Great Depression.
 4. The Health Care Act. (America waited 100 years while all other presidents failed at this.)
 5. Ending "don't ask - don't tell."
 6. Getting the auto industry to agree to new standards on carbon emissions and miles-per-gallon.
 7. Saving the U.S. auto industry.
 8. Getting new regulations passed to control Wall Street and the damn banks.
 9. Helping the Libyan people get rid of a dictator without costing one American life.
10. Mending America's frayed relationships with the rest of the world.
11. Demanding  -  and getting!  -  $20 BILLION from BP for reparation to victims of the oil spill and for restoration of the Gulf Coast that will undo the environmental harm inflicted by a century of human stupidity.
12. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
13. The Veterans Employment Act.
14. Stopping the GOP from tipping the US into debt default last summer.
15. The $250 we each got in 2009 from the feds.
16. The $3000 each family has received in lower payroll taxes at $1000 per year over the past 3 years.
17. The extended unemployment benefits over the past three years.
18. The halving of the "donut hole" RX expense seniors must bear.
19. The 26-and-under who can now stay on their parents' health insurance.
20. The lawsuit against Arizona's racist anti-immigrant laws.
21. A REALLY BIG ONE! The treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear arms.
22. Support for the Arab Spring.
23. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
24. Appointing Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State. (Who else since Lincoln has so honored his rival?)
25. Appointing the first Latina to the Supreme Court.
26. Eric Holder's announcement that the Justice Department will fight the Republican efforts to deprive one million Americans of their right to vote.
27. The delay of approval of the Canadian fuel pipeline through one of America's major aquifiers.
28. The now-in-effect end of "caps" on health insurance coverage. (A 44-year-old friend of our family died because of the insurance company caps. Obama's health care law would have saved him.)
29. Making fun of Donald Trump at that Press Club dinner. (You're the best president for humor since JFK.)
30. Your smile.

And that ain't all! There's another SIXTY Obama achievements listed at a site called 3chicspolitico. My thirty were just the ones I came up with off the top of my head. The three politico chics came up with ninety because there are three of them and only one of me.

What did I forget? Among other things, getting the middlemen lenders out of the student loan program and providing for renegotiation of a lot of those loans. That's a biggie. But there's tons of others. AND, just announced today:  an end of federal funding for any experimenting on chimps! Even the animals can be grateful to Obama.

What did you forget of all the good things Obama has done?

Plenty, I'll bet.

We owe the skinny guy a lot. Far more than can be covered with a simple "Thank you." So does the world. People everywhere have benefitted by the end of Osama bin Laden and his gang, the avoidance of a Great Depression, the Arab Spring, the nuclear arms reduction treaty, the reduction in carbon from autos.

But more than we owe Obama a big thanks, we owe ourselves his re-election. Even though he has done an amazing amount to help us as individuals and this country as a nation, we are yet in perilous times.

Do you REALLY want Mitt Romney running this country?

It's up to you, you know. As I've said before, elections depend on volunteer precinct workers. Campaign funding SHOULD also depend on us folks, yet only 13% of the 99% give anything to political campaigns. And ordinary Republicans give far more in small contributions than do we Democrats.

The best thank you to Obama and gift to ourselves is getting involved ASAP in re-electing that smiling and skinny guy.

Can we do the right thing and help Obama like he's helped us and the world? Yes, we can! It's the best Christmas present we could ever give ourselves.

Better even than See's candy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Funny? You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

Life is so good! Right now politics is dishing up stuff so funny, so gratifying, that you just want to run out and hug the first person you see.

Let's take the item about the TV show "Law and Order" and Occupy Wall Street. The producers of the  show decided to do an episode with a plot including OWS. So the production people went to Foley Square in NYC this past week and set up OWS-type stuff as props: tents, library, cafeteria, etc. The police had only recently cleared the real OWS out of NY's little parks. Now along come about 100 actual Occupy people who step over the yellow tape bounding the set and just move right in. Some crawl into the tents; some browse the library; and some help themselves to the food. "Occupy Wall Street Is Not For Sale" someone writes on a fake OWS-type sign on the set. "OWS Is NOT a TV Show" is painted over another.

Best part? The newly-gathered Occupiers begin shouting at the TV folks, "What are your demands?"

Oh, America, I do love you so! You wild thing you!

Next item: Callista Gingrich's face. She's the third wife of Newt, as you may know. The one with the hair helmet. And all that bling from Tiffany's. Up to now her hair has been so weird that one could hardly notice anything else about her. That all changed on Saturday night at the latest GOP debate. Oh, my, did it ever!

George Stephanopoulus asked Newt if having had affairs and divorces should count against a candidate.  Gingrich looked deeply solemn and replied that he had made serious mistakes in his life and had had to repent and seek forgiveness from God. Some intelligent TV production person had the camera full-face on Callista while Newt was deeply repenting. Callista was not smiling.

She's sitting there, being called a "mistake" by her husband. She's being called a sin. She's being called a reason for repentance. And she's not liking it. Not one little bit. On her stoney face is that expression that says, "You just wait until I get you home, sonny boy."

Tiffany's is going to have a really good jewelry-selling year if Callista has anything to say about it.

The funniest part about this lovely bit is that none of the talking heads have noticed the delicious moment. They just chatter on, oblivious to that picture of a bleached blonde bling babe getting the Scarlet A burned on her forehead by her old, fat, colossally stupid and infinitely boring so-called husband.

Third item is a gift that keeps on giving. After years of being the long-suffering victims of Karl Rove's America-destroying elevation of George W and of the arrogant snideness of commentator George Will, we are all being treated to watching them go absolutely nuts because of the GOP candidates. They are SUFFERING! Visibly and vociferously! George Will has denounced the GOP would-be nominees as "charlatans", "entrepreneurs", and  -  heaven help us!  -  "charlatan entrepreneurs." This is the equivalent of George Will sputtering in rage. I love it.

Rove is tearing out his last wisps of hair. Before departing, Herman Cain drove him almost to apoplexy, as  Rick Perry and the other strange GOP contenders still do. Rove's apparently tolerable candidate, Mitt Romney, is "flailing", Rove noted three days ago, and in his flailing is failing to stop Newt Gingrich on his rise. The LAST thing Rove wants is Gingrich as the GOP presidential nominee!

Not only is Gingrich likely to lose the presidential race for the GOP, but he's also likely to remind a lot of people why they should vote Democrats into Congress. Even worse, at least for poor old Rove, is that Gingrich is never going to be Karl's boy. Gingrich's outsize ego and power hunger is easily equal to Rove's. And that's saying a lot. Just over a decade ago Rove jumped into the lead in GOP power politics when the likes of Gingrich, Dick Armey, and Tom DeLay had all crashed and burned. He shoved George W Bush into the nomination and became "the Architect", not just of Bush's presidency but of the GOP's about-to-be takeover of American politics for the next 50 years. Or so it was in Rove's dreams. Now he's up against another GOP madman given to dreaming of Uber Alles.

It's sort of like watching the Joker and Dr. Moriarty duking it out to be the Prince of Evildom. May the worse man win?

The funny part is that there is nothing left to win control of. There is no longer a well-organized, powerful Republican party. A kingdom has fallen apart. Part of it has gone frothing away as the Tea Party under the coaching and financing of Dick Armey, who  -  like Newt  -  is another of the living-dead who have come back to bedevil Rove. Another part of the Republican Party -  its more moderate voters  -  are wondering who these crazies are that claim to represent them. And the Latino voters that Rove courted so assiduously  -  with George W doing likewise as his puppet  -  is now saying to the GOP, "Are you KIDDING?"

So all the enfeebled Rove can do now, as the GOP is splintering around him, is beg the Republican Party to forbid the GOP contenders from participating in Donald Trump's "debate".  And the response from the Republican National Committee to his plea. Zip. Zero. There ain't nobody home. There's a youngish guy in a suit, holding the title of chairman and the debt owed by the party. That's it, baby.

Being a Democrat, I recognize things could go very wrong for us next year but, like the old song says:  "In the meantime, in-between times, ain't we got fun!"

Oh, yeah!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Pinata Obama": So the Liberals Are Waking Up..... Finally!

The tide may have turned for Obama. Though the top good news recently is the drop in the unemployment rate to 8.6%, such figures can reverse, as happened last spring. Of course the other significant news is that the Republican would-be candidates continue to be a joke. These are delightful developments, but there's even more going on.

The really big news may be that two leading lights among liberals have finally seen the real light. Each of them is a glamourous hero to the liberal intellectual community, and each commands enormous respect in the mainstream media. Where they go, others will likely follow. And it looks like they are finally falling in behind Obama.

And it's about time!

First is Nicholas Kristof, twice a Pulitzer Prize winner, once for his relentless effort to bring world attention to the horrors of Darfur. He's a columnist for the NY Times and a true working reporter, with a heart for the underdog and the victims of the world. To great extent he's the social conscience of the liberal Democrats, though one wishes the rest of the political spectrum would also heed his reporting and stop being so heartless.

The second is Thomas Friedman, also a NY Times columnist as well as a frequent talking head on TV.  He's more of a "seer" than Kristof the reporter. A three-time Pulitzer winner, he gives out the "big" picture, and the liberals all nod in agreement. He's possibly best known for two recent books: "The World Is Flat", about global interconnectedness, and "Hot, Flat, and Crowded", which is about the need for green.

For the first time in three years, this heavyweight pair have taken up the cudgels on behalf of Obama. Kristof says that it's time the liberals and intellectuals stop treating Obama "like a pinata" and get real about what the alternative to him would be if he loses in 2012. He also urges them to realize that "Obama has done far better than many critics on the left and on the right have given him credit for."

Well, that's for sure!

He goes on to remind people of how bad the crisis was in 2008, quoting the post-election Onion headline: "Black Man Gets Worse Job in America."

Friedman is more specific in his comments, lauding Obama to the skies for having achieved a tremendous reduction in the greenhouse gases emitted by cars and trucks. Citing a deal that Obama supposedly struck with the vehicle industry "last month" to lower emissions by 50% by 2025, Friedman is practically ecstatic. And well he should be. This is truly a major accomplishment by the President and puts the lie to all the whiners who have been accusing him of abandoning environmentalism, ranting at his not getting laws enacted to slow global warming. Like there wasn't a Congress? And it hasn't stood rigidly against such laws? Obama's use of executive authority in this environmental achievement was masterful!

But wait a minute! This isn't news, Mr. Friedman! This just didn't happen last month. I remember reading about this and discussing it with my daughter months ago. In addition,  Obama got another important deal back in 2009, requiring the auto industry to produce far higher miles per gallon. So why your delay in recognizing these big achievements for environmental betterment?

And why the delay by Kristof in recognizing that we have a damn good president? He mentions about five of Obama's achievements out of the thirty or so that one could easily list. It's not like it's been hard to find things to commend in this presidency. Go on! See if you can list the thirty!

Obviously, the White House did a poor job of tooting its horn these past three years. But aren't news reporters and analysts supposed to "have a nose for news"? Aren't they supposed to REPORT what's going on?

Or was it just more fun and ego-gratifying to take swings at the "pinata", the skinny guy from Chicago who "didn't have much experience" and would probably "flounder"? Did they enjoy generating a drama about Obama as a failure, believing readers want to get bad news and not good news?

I'd like to suggest that Obama is smarter than Kristof and Friedman put together. And smarter than virtually any of his liberal intellectual critics. At some level they probably realize this and resent it. They each like being the smartest guy in the room. After all, don't they know what we should do about everything?

Obama actually knows what we need to do, and he also knows HOW to get it done. This is in spite of a GOP determined not to let anything get done. Obama finds a way to make things happen.

And that, my friends, makes all the difference.

The liberal intellectuals can tell us all how things SHOULD be. But they don't acknowledge the tough realities Obama faces in a GOP controlled Congress. Instead of going after the GOP for its high crimes and misdemeanors of putting party before country, the liberal thinkies have ceaselessly expressed "disappointment" in Obama, thus further weakening his efforts to do the good things they want. That is not very smart, is it?

But maybe the liberal intellectuals are waking up and smelling the bacon. Unless they do, their own bacon will get really fried if the GOP wins in 2012. Worse, the middle class and the poor will be toast.

Burnt bacon and toast. Not very appetizing. That's not a "morning in America" I'd like to wake up to.

P.S. Welcome to the new reader from the Czech  Republic. I'll try to get an email address set up soon for this blog so you folks don't have to struggle with the oddly difficult steps of trying to leave comments through this blog service. Then you can tell me how things are where you are: in the Czech Republic, Russia, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Brazil, Spain, Ukraine, New Guinea, Ireland, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Malaysia, or wherever else you are reading this blog. Including the USA. It is so cheering to me to think about you and wonder about you in all these different places. In fact, it amazes me that people so far away want to read about American politics. Keep a good heart, and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Letters to Santa from the Democratic Party and the GOP

Today being St. Nicholas Day, it is altogether fitting and proper that we get a look at the letters the Democrat Party and GOP are sending to Santa Claus this year.

St. Nicholas is, of course, the original of Santa Claus. When my children were young, the good bishop came in the wee hours of December 6 to pick up the letters to his subsequent Santa-self that they had left in their shoes along with some grass for St. Nicholas' horse. The rule was that if you didn't put your request on your St. Nicholas list, you couldn't expect Santa to bring the thing.

Similarly, there are some rules regarding the Christmas wishes of the Democrats and the GOP.  Mainly that none of them can involve physical violence against the other or stuffing ballot boxes.

                                                    THE GOP SANTA LETTER:
Attn: the so-called "Santa"
CEO of Christmas, Inc. Int'l:

If you want access this coming year to chairmen of any House committees or any legislative amendments  favorable to your organization, you'd better hand over the following items which are listed in order of priority:

1. A credible GOP candidate for the presidency. (We don't have one.)

2. A well-filled Christmas stocking to stuff in Newt Gingrich's mouth. Size large.

3. A severe downturn in the American economy. (Things are looking rather good at the moment, which could help Obama.)

4. A war with Iran. (Obama is shutting down George W's wars.)

5. Success in our efforts to deprive about 5 million voters of their right to vote in 2012. (They would likely vote Democratic.)

6. The removal of the idiot candidates from the GOP presidential primary. ( Since this is all of them, PLEASE bring us Item 1 above!)

7. The end of Social Security and Medicare by the popular acclaim of a suddenly demented citizenry.

8. The return of Ronald Reagan, but not as he really was but as we SAY he was. (Also, we want him alive & only in the early stages of dementia, just as he was in his second term. No corpses, please.)

9. Ralph Nader to run against Obama as a third party candidate in 2012 so we can snipe off 90,000 votes  again like we did in Florida in 2000. (You did a great job that year, Santa, and that 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court was the best stocking stuffer ever!)

10. Speaking of stockings, did we mention a big one to stuff in Newt Gingrich's mouth?

We have not been good boys and girls this year. We have been faithful to the GOP standards of screw everybody in sight so as to get money, stamp on the poor and middle-class, foment racism, tell outrageous lies with a straight face, try to destroy the government, throw people out of work with budget cuts, and be ugly to look at. Confident you will reward our consistency, we remain your respectful masters,
The Republican Party
                                 THE DEMOCRATS'  LETTER:

Hey, Santa, wha's happenin, dude? Did you catch Jon Stewart last night? And thanks for the gift of a sense of humor, which the GOP don't got!

Thanks for all the cool stuff we got this last year, especially the GOP contenders for the presidential nomination. Only one complaint:  Santa, the November 2010 election was a bummer! Can you take it back as a defective product?

Well, here's the list. We apologize for troubling you, especially at your age, but if we don't get your help, think what will happen to your Social Security and your Medicare. And remember, Santa, it was the Democrats who passed the safety law requiring all airborne sleighs to have a red light on the lead reindeer. If the GOP get control of the government,  Rudolph will be toast and you will be at risk for a midair collision because, even now,  the GOP is blocking a provision to extend the law to Wicked Witches on flying broomsticks.

1. Please make the Republicans stop saying "Democrat" when it should be "Democratic",  like in the phrase "Democrat program to rob the rich".  That ungrammatical "Democrat" rasps like fingernails on a blackboard. And they started doing it about 20 years ago just to annoy us. Santa, they are SO mean!

2. Stop them telling lies about us, please. We know you said we should stand up for ourselves, but they are such bullies and travel in a pack and yell the lies in a chorus over and over. And now Barney Frank is retiring, so we have nobody to answer them back and nobody could understand what Barney was saying anyway.

3. Peace on earth.

4. Enough food and shelter and clean water for everybody everywhere.

5. And for everybody everywhere, medical care and education and the right to vote. And help for Syria and the Arab Spring folks, please.

6. Help for our little brother Greece who is this year's Tiny Tim and threatens to pull down the whole world by stumbling on his crutches.

7. Save the planet, please. Humankind has made a mess and doesn't seem to have the will to fix it. Can you have a word with Mother Nature?

8. Some intelligence, please, for the Tea Party supporters and less mendacity among those in the GOP who KNOW about global warming and the bad effects of budget cutting in a recession but pretend that they DON'T know.

9. A kick in the butt to the Independents who use that label to disguise their laziness in not figuring out the issues and choosing sides. (Our side, obviously.)

10. No more shootings of our leaders. We've lost so many. Please spare President Obama and the others, and help that nice little Congresswoman in Arizona to fully recover. And no more shooting of nine-year-old little girls. Please.

11. Could you boost the American economy some more? Unemployment is dropping a bit, and that's good for our side, but there's still lots of folks who are unemployed, lots of folks still losing their homes, and lots of kids going hungry. This should be number one on our list, but we know it's already number one on your list. Oh, okay, put it at number one on our list, and we'll continue to suffer "Democrat Party" when it should be "Democratic Party".  (Argh!)

12. Do you think you can do something about Nancy Pelosi's facelift? It's getting scary to look at her. And thanks SO much for mostly keeping her off TV this past year. Could you do the same with Harry Reid?

You're a good egg, Santa, and we promise you we'll keep trying to help you out with your end of things, such as trying to do some good in the world. Don't worry about the other stuff we could have asked for but didn't. Like winning the presidency in 2012 and taking back the House. Even winning a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate! Wow, wouldn't that be cool! We'll take care of this stuff ourselves, Santa, as best we can. You showed us back in 2008 that, if we pull together and each do our part, we can pull off a miracle. That's how we got Obama. Or were you helping us back then too, you sneaky devil?

For everything, Santa, through all the years, we thank you. Most of all we thank you for each other and the vision that binds us together as people who aren't devoted to money but to all the brothers and sisters.
Especially to all the Tiny Tims among us who are real children and need help.

One more thing. Are chocolate chip cookies still your favorite? Michelle Obama is worried about your weight, Maybe carrot sticks instead of cookies?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

If the Republicans Weren't So Funny....

Donald Trump as the moderator of a GOP presidential debate?

Herman Cain scheduling the opening of a new campaign office for the same day he quits the race?

Newt Gingrich urging that nine-year-olds become school janitors?

Mitt Romney huffily scolding a Fox News interviewer for "not knowing the facts about my record"?

Michele Bachman saying she'd consider choosing Donald Trump as her vice-president if she's nominated?

Rick Perry thinking you have to be twenty-one to vote on "November 12"?

Jon Huntsman still persisting as the straight man candidate in a race that obviously has no room for the non-insane?

It's a lot of laughs! But leave it to Ron Paul to trumpet the real zinger. According to his spokesman, Ron Paul won't be at the Donald Trump debate because the notion of a reality show host as a moderator "flies in the face" of the dignity of the presidency. This is from a man who has made a career of sneering at government as an unnecessary evil! One has always concluded that Ron Paul, should he win the presidency, would immediately abolish the office along with the rest of the government, anarchist that he is.

But Paul is on to something. Something is indeed flying in the face of the dignity of the American presidency. That something is the collection of wannabes contesting the GOP nomination. There has never been such a collection of comics since the movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"! You'd think they were auditioning for roles in a remake of the madcap film, rather than running for the presidency.

But, in a way, it's not funny. It's sad. If about one-third of the electorate is Republican and this is the best they can produce as potential presidential nominees, we are all in a lot of trouble. What does this collection of zanies and egregious flip-floppers say about our citizenry? Or at least about a big chunk of it? Nothing very good.

We can, however, take some consolation from the fact that the GOP voters aren't all as daft as their would-be leaders. One by one, the aspirants have been elevated in the polls by the GOP voters, examined, and then dumped. You can't fool even a third of the people all of the time, it appears. The same sort of thing is going on in the wake of the 2010 election. As I noted in my last blog, Republicans who elected Tea Party candidates in 60 House races in 2010 are now having buyers' remorse. Big time. So big, in fact, that 48% of these voters now DISAPPROVE of the ENTIRE Republican Party. That's 48% disapproving of their own party!

There hasn't been this kind of disaffection in party loyalty since the Democratic white working class voters turned away from the George McGovern Democratic Party and ran to the arms of Nixon and Ronald Reagan several decades ago. And we all know how that story turned out.

Now poor ol' Ronnie and Richard must be turning in their graves because it seems that the nuttiest of the GOP are driving out the more moderate in their party, reversing the gains that R & R made those decades ago.

Meantime, we've had a lot of laughs with Herman Cain, and he presumably sold a lot of books. It was fun watching him fumbling for Libya and nine-ing around. But, let's face it folks, he was running thin on material, and the chickens that were coming home to roost were actually real women whom he had wounded. Including his wife. Thank you, Gloria, for not extending the charade of a campaign by standing by your man in front of TV cameras while he confessed and was contrite and kept running. Thank you, Herman, for sparing us another one of those "redemption" scenes a la Newt or John Edwards.

Nothing becomes you so much in your brief moment on the stage, Herman, as your leaving it. In leaving the race, tis a far, far better thing you do than you have ever done. Other than make pizza.