Saturday, September 21, 2013

GOP Starving Its Own Members!

Not content that their membership is rapidly dying out due to old age, the GOP is now going to kill off its own even faster by starving them.

If I hadn't read this in the New York Times I couldn't have believed it, but here's how it will work:  the GOP in Congress is cutting food stamps by 40 billion dollars over the next ten years, taking the food away from about four million people.  That will, of course, hit hardest in those areas where the most people are on food stamps.

And  -  guess what, folks  -  the majority of the poorest, most food-stamp-dependent  counties are Republican!

As the man said, "Only in America!"  Only in our crazy country where Oprah Winfrey's is afraid of balloons can there be a political party dedicated to increasing the suffering of its own constituents.  At age 77 I have finally heard everything!

And only in a lie-plagued, racist America can people believe that the poor who use food stamps are mostly brown or black.  They aren't.  They are white.  They are whites in solidly Republican districts.

I'm so naive that I thought poor people weren't even allowed to live in Republican areas.  Live and learn!  In one GOP area in Kentucky, a blighted place called Owsley County, Kentucky, half the people are on food stamps.  Yes, I said "half"!

And in this county a whopping 81% of the folks are Republicans!

And get this!  These people are even more white than they are Republican.  They are 98% white!

I'm so dumfounded I can't write any more.

You can check all this out with the New York Times (Timothy Egan, "Red State Pain", Sept. 19) and in Bloomberg News and the US Census for 2010.

My eldest son Dan is right:  "The GOP is the greedy leading the stupid."  Yeah, leading them right to the grave.  But doesn't that make the greedy leaders stupid too?

Anybody want a balloon?    


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

GOP Launching Another 9/11 ?

None dare call it treason.  So I will.

The House GOP's newly announced strategy to defund Obamacare is nothing less than treasonous.  It goes beyond gutting a duly enacted law, one that has been upheld even by a definitely Republican Supreme Court.  If the House GOP can't get its way about defunding Obamacare, it threatens to first shut down the government and then force the country to declare bankruptcy even though it is not bankrupt.  The latter would be accomplished by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.  This is a way to absolutely destroy our country, and it is treason.

We've been here before.  Last year.  And 2011.  Each time the the GOP House used the threat of not raising the debt ceiling as a way to extort meat-axe budget cuts.  The first time they tried this, the world held its breath because plunging the USA over the cliff of defaulting on its debt would not only destroy our economy but that of the entire world.  The great underpinning of the world's economy is the American dollar.  The "full faith and credit" of our country supports all the world's transactions.  Tarnish the strength of the dollar or destroy it and the economic engine of the world would freeze up like a car engine without oil.

Only an idiot would consider doing such a thing.  Or a monster.  It's an easy way to do exactly what the terrorists did on 9/11.  It's an attack on the economic engine of America just as 9/11 was an attack on the World Trade Center and Wall Street.  The difference is that far more people will die if the GOP carries out its attack. America's economic stability isn't just the oil that runs the engine of our worldwide economy; it's the transactional means that makes business and jobs and paychecks possible right in your hometown.  Without jobs and paychecks, people starve, children can't get medical treatment, and people will freeze this winter for lack of heating fuel.  And it will be happening to you.

The GOP crazies can't grasp that the debt ceiling is not just about money.  Money itself is merely a symbol.  It has no intrinsic value.  The sole value it has is that it represents a promise and trust.  We've all promised to honor it as a "means of exchange", and we all trust that the promise will be kept.  What bolsters the promise is the reliability of the USA.  Failing to honor our national debts is equivalent to shredding the dollar. Once people here or abroad start refusing to trust America financially and don't want to accept the dollar any more, we are all toast. We couldn't even switch to a different currency as the international oil for the world's economic engine because, if the dollar collapses, all currencies would be suspect, as would all "pay later" agreements.  We'd be back in the Middle Ages with "business" chiefly in gold and silver coins on Market Day in the town square.  Or by barter.

So do you want to try bartering with the pharmaceutical company that makes your child's epilepsy medicine?  Just how would you go about doing that?

What the GOP crazies threaten is actually worse than treason.  It would not only destroy our country by destroying its financial standing.  It would murder people.  It would make the Great Depression look like a day in the park.  It would bring chaos and violence and death.

In a way, that's what the GOP crazies really want, isn't it?  They want apocalypse. Scratch a true Tea Partyer and you likely have a fundamentalist so-called Christian who believes Armageddon is coming soon and is really glad about it.  An economic Armageddon probably sounds like righteousness to them, i.e. Judgment Day on those who have debts.

The end-of-the-economic-world scenario also suits another deep streak in the GOP crazies:  veneration of the principle of survival of the fittest.  They of course believe themselves to be the fittest so they believe they will survive economic chaos while the rest of us perish.  I imagine they also long to use all those weapons they love to stockpile.  And what more exciting way than in defending their survivalist food stores from the onslaught of the starving?  Theirs is definitely a bunker mentality.

President Obama has said he will not bargain with the GOP crazies in order to get the debt ceiling raised.  I think he means just that and I say, "Good!"  I hope they too realize he means it and back down from their nutcase position, just as the Russians and the Syrians realized that Obama is in fact one tough dude and they'd better give up the chemical weapons.

Meantime, if you start hoarding canned goods, don't forget the can opener.    


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Syria and the Man Who Loved Children

Everybody says they love children.  Obama really does.  He was genuinely and deeply disturbed by the deaths of the Syrian children who were gassed by Assad.  But unlike most political leaders he was ready to put his political career on the line for the sake of the rest of Syria's children, that no more of them may die such a ghastly death.

He seemingly set aside his treasured role as an ender of wars and took the predictably unpopular step of threatening Assad with military punishment for the crime of using chemical weapons.  He stayed firm in this position even as all around him deserted him: his European allies, the Congress, his party, the American public, and  -  very loudly  -  the media.  Even the Pope turned against him.

And it worked.  He was so clearly determined as to be willing to go it alone.  By this stance he persuaded Russia and Assad that he meant business.  So they caved.  Next, he did something equally clever and equally self-sacrificing.  He gave Russia's ferociously proud Putin a way to call Russia's capitulation a triumph.  Obama allowed Kerry to seemingly stumble, bumble, and mumble his way into offering Putin and Assad a way out of their corner, giving Putin a chance to grab a seemingly careless remark by Kerry and wave it as a banner of Russian "leadership".

Be clear on this.  Kerry's "stumble" wasn't.  It was a deliberately planned ploy.  Had he offered Putin a formal deal, Putin would have been obliged to turn it down.  Russia has a powerful tradition of almost 70 years of saying "nyet" to the USA.  Putin might have wanted to say yes to a deal, but he couldn't.  The Russian people have been humiliated by the collapse of the Soviet Union.  In 1989 in a matter of months they went from being a world power to being a world nothing.  Burdened with that humiliation Putin desperately needed two things:  (1) a way to ensure Assad's chemical weapons don't get into the hands of extremists who have anti-government friends in Russia, and (2) a way to save face in working with the USA toward getting rid of the weapons.

Thus Obama and Putin each played their part perfectly, with the help of the gracefully "stumbling"
Kerry.  As a result  -  quick as lightning  -  Assad has signed up at the UN as a denouncer of chemical weapons. He has actually signed the international treaty against them!  In all-time record time!  What was it  -  three days?  Nothing ever happened so fast in the history of the world!

The talking heads and the "experts" who never understood the game that was afoot are now left sitting in the dust in the middle of the road, the parade having passed them by. They are worrying about how the weapons will be gathered in the midst of a war and how the inspections will be conducted and whether we can trust Russia, etc., etc.

Forget all that.  It is irrelevant.  First of all and above all else, Assad isn't going to use the weapons now or ever.  He's on the hook to Russia not to do so, and Russia is not just his number one ally, it's his lifeline.  And Assad also knows that if he even thinks of using the weapons, Obama will blow him to bits and with Russia's blessing.   Second and equally important, Russia is now responsible for getting the weapons out of Syria and into non-existence.  And it will gladly do so.  Russia still mourns all those people killed in that theater by terrorists and still mourns the hundreds and hundreds of school children massacred by terrorists.  Yes, you forgot all about those events, didn't you?  But the Russians haven't.  Those massacres were their 9/11.  Therefore the last thing Putin wants is for the Muslim extremists in Russia to get the chemicals the Syrian rebels may soon wrest from Assad.

And that seems to be a point that everyone is missing.  Putin apparently fears Assad is about to lose control of Syria.  He wants to be very sure that when Assad goes down he doesn't leave the keys to the weapons cupboard on the kitchen table.

All in all, it has been an extremely interesting week in international politics.  Seldom are things so clear and so rapid.  Seldom does an outcome appear to be possibly so good.  Seldom do key players play their parts so skillfully.

Sadly, however, the obtuseness of the media has been as it usually is where Obama is concerned, i.e. immense. They just can't see what he has pulled off.  In part it's because the media loves political disasters.  After all, political successes sell no papers or air time.  The media have been predicting Obama's demise since he ran for the Democratic nomination against the vaunted "Clinton machine" in 2008.  There was no way, they pronounced, that a one-term little senator from Illinois could win against Hilary and Bill  and their practiced tribe.  Then there was no way he could save the auto industry or get health reform enacted or overcome the economy to win a second term.  No way, no how!  But he did all that and more.  And he killed Bin Laden, something his predecessor had in fact been unable to do.

Sure, a GOP Congress has blocked desirable legislation.  But the sin be on their heads, not Obama's.  In fact, in the Syria matter he played Congress like a fiddle.  But that's another story for another time.

For now, the man who loves children has likely saved hundreds more from being gassed.  And maybe moved us closer to an end of the Syrian war.  Let us prayerfully hope so.  For there can be no greater goal in politics than to end violence.  And Obama is still the man who ends wars and saves children no matter the risk to himself.


A note in the interest of fairness:  One commentator has understood Obama's Syrian game.  Howard Fineman, formerly of Newsweek and now with the Huffington thing has stated (and I paraphrase) that we are through with Syria.  The problem of Syria, he explains, is now entirely Russia's.  Good for you, Howard.  You got it!




Monday, September 9, 2013

Russia, Syria and "High Noon"

Nobody's happy about attacking Syria.  But nobody can really turn their backs on the pictures of dead children, the victims of Assad's gas attack.  Nor can we Americans ignore the very personal threat such weapons place upon us in our highly concentrated cities.  Nor can we ignore the repercussions of not enforcing what we claim to be international law.  Would any "rogue" states ever again respect anything we say?  And how long can we expect Israel to sit and wait to be hit by Syrian gas?

Now comes a whisper of hope from  -  of all places  -  Russia.  Until now Russia has been a major barrier to hope and peace in a number of situations, among them Iran and its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.  But as of this morning Russia is reportedly urging Syria to hand over all its chemical weapons to the international community.  That is a good solution to a bad problem.

What has prompted Russia to break with its normal "nyet" attitude?

Perhaps it is Obama as The Poker Player.  In real life, he actually is a poker player and, I suspect, a good one.  You know the song "you gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them."  If this Russian proposal works out, it's likely attributable to Obama's knowing when to stand firm even as the American public, the media, foreign allies, members of his own party, and most of Congress flee his side.  There is a very determined quality to Obama, a sense that when he says something he really means it.  After all he said he would kill Bin Laden and he did just that.  We Americans tend to forget even our own names, but other countries, including Russia, remember what we say and do.

I am reminded of that great old movie "High Noon".  It's a realistic morality play, the portrait of the hero as an aging man.  It was revolutionary in its day for its shift in the age of a hero, and it still has a lot to teach.  One of its lessons is that the more alone a person is when choosing to face danger, the stronger that person appears as an individual.  Anyone can stand at the head of a throng.  It takes real determination to face a bad situation when all have abandoned you.

Standing virtually alone as he does, Obama looks more and more determined.  The Russians have apparently concluded he really means business.  And, as of today's headlines, it appears Assad may believe it too and is starting to whine and to seek a reprieve.

We may come out of this situation with more than just an end of Assad's chemical threat.  We may be seeing Russia taking a positive step in world peace.  That would be an absolute and remarkable first in my long, long memory.

It is devoutly to be wished.  And if it happens it would constitute something no other president has secured since World War II.  As with passage of the health care act, Obama seems able to do what no man has done before.  

Shouldn't some of us liberals therefore be at least willing to do what the heroine of "High Noon" did and momentarily shelve our anti-violence principles so we can "get the back" of a man who deserves our support in standing firm against an evil violence.

Don't we too have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em?  Don't we owe Obama some measure of faith even though George W did so much to destroy faith?  After all Obama had faith in us.  He had faith in our willingness to elect an African American when there was absolutely nothing in America's record to show that such a thing was possible.  He's also had faith that no one would shoot him.  That's remarkable faith, given America's record on assassination and racial hatred.

I wish I weren't old and crippled with arthritis like Lon Chaney, Jr. in "High Noon",  the aged gunfighter who cannot fight any more.  It's up to you younger folks to be more active in standing by this good man who stands so alone against such a very evil threat in the world.

At least think about it.  Don't just run for the exits along with the crowd.  When "everyone" is for or against something, chances are they are wrong.

Again  -  think about it.  



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Syria and Auschwitz

No, Syria isn't Auschwitz.

Nothing is ever exactly something else.  But that old horror may help us in trying to decide, each of us in our own minds:  Should we attack Syria's dreadful leader for having used poison gas in defiance of international law and human decency?

The Jews of America, who were just beginning to understand how to make a political case for themselves, begged FDR to bomb the railroads leading into the death camps. They even begged him to bomb the death camps themselves rather than let the Nazis continue relentlessly killing the Jews in the gas chambers.  Let us remember that at that point, even as Germany was clearly losing the war and was running out of supplies, even running out of coal to run the trains needed in its war effort, nevertheless the pace of extermination continued.  Nothing else tells us as much about the Nazis as does that fact.

FDR refused the request.  I don't know why.  If I have ever found out, I have put it from my mind because there can be no satisfactory answer.  Why not give mercy?  What strategic or tactical reason could have stopped FDR?

Is that what we are confronted with now?  Arguments against mercy?

Indeed it's argued that nothing we do now can really deter Assad.  That anything we do may cause repercussions.  That lots of people have already died.  That more will die anyway.  That we shouldn't get involved in these things.  That it's not our job to take care of the world.

This last argument annoys me.  It is in fact our job to take care of the world.  We keep claiming to be the leader of the world. Well, folks, being a leader means taking care of the people. We have been doing it steadily for just over 100 years, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt stepping in to mediate the Japanese-Russian war and getting a Nobel Peace Prize for it.  Next we foot-dragged but finally went into WWI, the last time gas was used in a big way in a war.  We ended that dreadful war of mindless attrition. Then we won WWII and saved the world.  Then we kept millions of South Koreans from the agony of Communist dictatorship.  And one way or another we did the same for the people of Greece and other countries as the Cold War wound its tortuous way through the decades.  God forgive us, we meant to do the same for the Vietnamese people but misread that situation from beginning to end. We have often bumbled and stumbled badly.

But we are not a bad people.  We are not a warmongering, blood-thirsty people.  Iraq was, of course, a bad mistake based on big lies.  I never believed the Bush people and the stuff about nuclear and chemical weapons.  Instead I kept hearing the echo of Karl Rove telling Bush he needed a war so he could win the 2004 election.  (This was actually published early on and promptly forgotten.)

But if we step aside on the issue of chemical weapons because Bush screwed up horribly in going into Iraq, then we have doubled the dire effect of his Iraq mistake.  We have crippled ourselves from being who we are.  If there are to be standards of decent human behavior, there has to be someone willing to stand up for those standards.  There has to be someone willing to bomb railroads that lead to death camps.  Or even bomb the death camps.

We organized and hosted the beginnings of the United Nations, based on the premise that war is wrong and that the world should outlaw it as illegal.  That invading other countries is wrong.  These were new ideas.  Before the UN met for the first time in San Francisco, going to war was the normal business of states.  I know.  I remember those times.

It was the USA which led the way into the new era, the new consciousness.  The era we are now in, when war is so appalling that we hesitate to even bomb a man who slaughters his own people with poison gas.  Who kills children and babies and makes no attempt even to hide this act in a camp somewhere.

Are we who created the era of anti-war thus to cripple ourselves from doing our duty to stop the worst outrages of someone else's war?

And can we say that this is not our duty when we have boasted and strutted about being a world leader for a century?

We did nothing for too long about the people of Sarajevo being shot down in their own streets just trying to get to a store for bread.  (Remember the woman distance runner who so wanted to get to the Olympics that she dodged bullets just to keep up her running?)  We did nothing at all for the half million being slaughtered in Rwanda, and we hang our heads in shame to this day.

How much is the life of one more Syrian baby worth?  Is it worth taking a chance and answering a call for mercy?

From one whose father's entire family died in the Nazi camps, the answer can only be that this time we must do our duty and try to save the helpless.  For me, this is not going to war.  It's going to the rescue.

There's a very big difference.  I hope you see it too.