Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dr. Strangelove Be Damned! Give Thanks About Iran!

It's one of the greatest of all movies: "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb".

Except we never did learn to stop worrying and love the bomb.  Nuclear weapons are still a far greater threat than the terrorism that produced 9-1l and the horrible attacks on Madrid, Mumbai, London and Bali. One nuclear explosion would be far more destructive and more deadly than all the terrorist attacks put together.  And Iran has virtually reached the point where it can produce a nuclear weapon.

Call me old-fashioned but I have been worried about Iran, seriously worried.  Call it being afraid.

Equally bad, Iran's having a nuclear weapon would undoubtedly cause a stampede among Middle East countries to get their own nuclear weapons.    

Thanks to Obama and his quiet, intelligent persistence for almost five years, we now have an agreement with Iran that halts its impending creation of a nuclear weapon and holds out hope of a long-term agreement.  The GOP, Israel's Netanyahu, and some of the Senate Democrats are unhappy with the agreement Obama has obtained.  But so what?  These same people are always upset.  The media are skeptical too because their current "take" on the news is that Obama is a screw-up, i.e. he has a temporarily lame health care web site.

Forget web sites!  The real news is this agreement with Iran.  And it's terrifically good news, and it is huge.  Let's remember that the two governments haven't even been speaking to each other since Jimmy Carter was president.  Remember that our lives have been under threat, including the lives of our children and grandchildren.  Remember that five presidents before Obama have tried to deal with the Iran situation and gotten nowhere.

Obama is the guy who "goes where no man has gone before".  He got health care reform enacted, he killed Bin Laden, he lured Russia into getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons.  No prior presidents even came close to getting these things done.  The guy is a regular Ghostbuster!  Got a problem?  Get Obama!

We are luckier in having Obama than we deserve.  His latest poll numbers do not show the gratitude we should have for these accomplishments and his other numerous achievements.  They are so numerous that I often forget some of them.  But I'm going to list them any way, even if I forget some of them.  And I'm going to say "Thank You" to Mr. Obama and to all of you who helped make him president.  On this Thanksgiving I say, "Thanks, Mr. President for all you've done for us."

Such as:
 1.  Saving the auto industry and its one million jobs.
 2.  Halting the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
 3.  Priming the pump for restoration of millions of jobs.
 4.  Rescuing the state and local governments from collapse and providing the funds to save the jobs of    millions of police, firemen and teachers.
 5.  Getting us out of Iraq.
 6.  Now getting us out of Afghanistan.
 7.  Securing another treaty with Russia for further elimination of nuclear weapons.
 8.  Not taking the bait and rushing us into a bunch of wars some thought we should enter, e.g. Libya,   Syria, Georgia, Egypt, North Korea.
 9.  Requiring BP put up $20 BILLION DOLLARS for restoration of the Gulf Coast.
10. Bringing instant aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy when the GOP Congress wanted them to have nothing.
11. Trying to console the families victimized in Sandy Hook and trying to get gun control.
13. Halting deportation of the Dream kids and trying to get immigration reform.
14. In these past few weeks, fining a big bad bank BILLIONS for the recklessness and illegalities that led to the 2008 crash.
15. Telling off Chief Justice Roberts for adopting the decision in Citizens United.
16. Ending "Don't ask, don't tell".
17. Supporting the marriage rights of gays.
18. Requiring enormous cuts by the auto/truck industry in greenhouse emissions and requiring big increases in gas mileage, these being very important steps to curb global warming.
19. Ordering that federal forest fire personnel have year-round health care benefits even if employed seasonally.  (You take care of the many but also the few.  You have a good heart.)
20. (This next is enormous! And shows how he cares for the overlooked even when there's no political payoff.)  Requiring that the Native Americans FINALLY get paid the billions and billions in royalties and interest owed them by big business for over a century for all the minerals, oil, gas, timber, water, and grazing that have been taken from Native Americans lands under cover of law but without the payment the law required.
21. Having an Attorney general who vigorously fights for people's voting rights in the states where the  GOP conspires to strip them of those rights.
22. Increasing veterans' benefits.
23. Naming a woman to head the Federal Reserve, one of the most powerful jobs in the world.
24. Getting the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make it easier for women to get equal pay.
25. Cutting in half the burdensome "donut hole" seniors must struggle with in paying for prescriptions.
26. All the other benefits contained in the Affordable Care Act that will save lives and curb suffering.
27. Lowering federal student loan interest by removing the middlemen lenders.
28. Doubling the number of Pell grants.
29. Calling the GOP bluff on the various "cliffs" they manufactured.  Staring them down during the shutdown.
30. Creating consumer protections regarding our credit cards and other borrowing.
31. Creating a 25 million acre zone of protection for coral reefs off the Atlantic  coast.
32. Making fun of Donald Trump at that press dinner while the Navy Seals were killing Bin Laden.
33. Having a great sense of humor and comedic timing.  And the cool to kid around while sweating out that Seals' mission.
34. Singing.
35. That smile.

The above list is not in order of importance, but clearly the most important is Number 32.  As Kramer would say, "Oh, yeah!" And fall over the coffee table.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Mr. President and everybody.  You can't all live here in Oregon, but you surely have much to be grateful for wherever you are.  And may I say that I'm most grateful to each of you for your readership.  And you too, Mr. President, even if you don't read the blog.

Gobble, gobble!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

JFK: The Dream That Never Dies

I didn't write about JFK's death on the 50th anniversary.  I just wanted to think about it and see what others had to say.  And to grieve.  As Adlai Stevenson said 50 years ago, "We shall bear the grief of his death until the day of our own."

Now  -  two days after November 22  -  there seems to be something worth noting which has received virtually no mention by anyone else:  JFK and Obama have a lot in common.  In fact, that's in large part why I became an Obama supporter.  They share the ability to speak to the best in us.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy also had this ability.  Teddy Kennedy too had the gift at his best moments, such as the 1980 Democratic convention when, in his concession speech, he said, "The dream will never die."  Until 2008 the dream seemed to have died with JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby.  Not even Bill Clinton approached their ability to move us, while the GOP, even with its "Communicator" Ronald Reagan, deliberately spoke to the worst in us, using coded language for racism.

Then, after 40 years from the silencing of Martin and Bobby, we again heard the voice.  Obama spoke to the better angels of our nature.  And he had the smile, the intelligence, the restraint, the wit, and the ultimate cool of JFK.  He lifted the hearts of the people, especially the young, just as JFK had done.

It's important, however, to remember that not everybody loved JFK, just as now not everybody loves Obama.  JFK didn't even top 50% of the vote as Obama has twice done.  Like Lincoln, JFK was a "minority president".  There was even a sizable segment that thought he'd stolen the election in 1960 by having Mayor Richard Daley stuff the ballot boxes of Chicago.  Like Obama he too was an "illegitimate president" for a lot of Americans.

JFK's sudden death changed people's perspective.  Although less than 50% actually had voted for him,  after his death an amazing 64% claimed they had.

It was not too late for this surge in popularity to be useful.  Like Obama, JFK had not been been able get done in Washington all that he wanted to.  He wanted a civil rights bill, but his own party's Southern Democrats in the Senate were never going to let that happen.  In the end he had to die for it.  It is the absolute consensus of historians, and those who were part of the events, that President Johnson could not have gotten civil rights enacted without the death of Kennedy.

We paid a terrible price for a great good.  Was it worth it?  Of course it was.  John Kennedy would have said so too.  After all, he had almost died in World War II fighting for our freedom.  He would not have begrudged his life to making possible the freedom of millions of black people and the eventual opening of the road of another young president to the White House.

The second thing worth noting is that the intransigent Southerners who hated JFK are mostly the same intransigent haters of Obama today.  For them the Civil War is never over, blacks are never free and equal, and they still believe the future of the country must be with them, that they can ignore the outcome of elections, the changes in our culture, and the will of the majority.  It was repugnant to them to have a Catholic in the White House, and now it is even more repugnant to have a black man as president.  Of course these are not exactly the same individuals, but they are the same demographic:  white, older, mostly male, Southern, evangelical and rural.  They are as undereducated, ignorant and prejudiced as they were back then.

Yes, there has been great progress in America and the world in 50 years.  But, sadly, that stubborn segment of America never progresses.  For them there is a never a leader to lead them upward, only those who would pander to their hatreds and stoke their fears.  They are the poorest and most pathetic people in the world, for they live among plenty yet fear for their survival as if life were entirely a competition.  They live without the joy of sharing our cultural diversity because they hate "the other".  And their only dream is a dream of the past, of a slave-holding society that fought  the "glorious lost cause", that was predicated on the doctrines of "secession" and "nullification" that these fools yet speak of 150 years later.

Fortunately, they are mostly old and dying.  Though they struggle to deny the vote to the young and the people of color, they are drifting into irrelevance.  Tomorrow does not belong to them.  All they have is a long-ago yesterday.  Tomorrow belongs to John Kennedy, Barack Obama, and all of us who share the dream that never dies: equality, freedom, peace and prosperity for all.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. and let us all be thankful for the brave vision John Kennedy set before us and for any opportunity we have to make this dream possible for our children and grandchildren and all the children of the world.  



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Obama Didn't Lie! So What Did Happen?

Of course Obama didn't lie about people keeping their existing health insurance if they want to.

I could deny he lied based on the fact he seems to have too much character to lie, which I believe, but I don't have to go that far.

There are other indicia.  First, there was no reason for him to lie, especially after the health insurance reform bill passed in early 2010.  Even after it passed into law, he kept saying the same thing for almost four more years.  Obviously he believed it was true.

A second reason I know he was not lying is that it was obvious such a lie would be caught out.  No one over the age of nine tells a whopper that will be caught.  Bill Clinton famously lied, but he didn't know that the woman in question had kept the blue dress. The far right can tell outrageous lies about the Affordable Health Care Act because their side doesn't seem to care about truth, but the rest of us can't lie about stuff without fear of the consequences.

So who are these 46% who believe Obama lied?  They are the 46% who did not vote for him in 2012.  The numbers are virtually identical.  They didn't like him a year ago, and they don't like him now.  Nothing he says or does can change that.  Because they don't want him as president, they can believe he lied.  In fact, about this same number have always believed he was lying, or weren't sure he was telling the truth, about where he was born.  Or whether he's a Christian, this last being none of their business.

But if Obama wasn't lying about the new law, what was going on?  How could he have believed what he was saying when it turns out to be untrue?  Did his staff deceive him?  Didn't his staff know? What went wrong that a federal law comes into being and nobody seems to know one of its provisions?  Didn't Congressional staff know?  After all, it's their job to write the bills and know what's in them.  Was nobody keeping Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid informed?  Wouldn't they have told Obama if he was inadvertently misrepresenting the law?  And what about the Republicans?  The one thing they didn't say about Obama and Obamacare for four years was that he was lying about that provision.  If he was misrepresenting a provision, wouldn't they have said so?  

What about Obama's own team? I did legislative analysis for Gov. Jerry Brown in his first time around as governor of California.  The Governor's legislative team would never have let something like this slip by.  Surely, the President has a legislative analysis team that watches out for his concerns.  Why weren't they telling him what was in the law?

Nobody told him what was in the law because the provision in question is NOT IN THE LAW.  The existing inadequate policies that some people want to keep were "grandfathered in" by the law, i.e. allowed to continue as exempt from the new law.  So it's not the Affordable Care Act which is taking away the inadequate politics of these deluded people.  It's the INSURANCE COMPANIES!

The companies decided that, since these policies aren't up to the new federal minimums, the companies would just cancel them and thereby force people to buy better and more expensive ones.  There's nothing in the new law to prevent the insurance companies doing this.  So they did it.  They essentially knifed Obama in the back after he had opted to keep them in the health insurance game even though a large percentage of his party wanted to let the feds absorb the whole thing into Medicare, creating what is called "single payor".

Could the law have been written to prevent the insurance companies from pulling this stunt?  Probably.  It'd be a bit tough, given the Supreme Court's new limitations on federal power vis-a-vis business, but a friend who has done legislative drafting for thirty years for one of the Pacific Coast states assures me it could be done.  This person believes that those drafting the Affordable Care Act didn't include such a provision because they were just "too naive" to anticipate what the insurance companies were going to pull.

How can anybody be so naive as to not anticipate that the insurance companies will find and use every loophole in the universe?  How can such naive staff  people be working for Congressional leaders and for the White House?

So did you notice the payback element in what the insurance companies have done?  How they have stuck it to Obamaa  personally just for getting a health insurance law enacted?  How they not only double-crossed him but set him up to look either duplicitous or ill-informed, neither being very good for a president.  Oh, that just one insurance executive had had the decency to call him up and say, "We are planning to cancel these policies."  He wouldn't look so out of it now if he'd had the slightest heads up on their nefarious plans.

And the greed of it!  He has delivered millions of new subscribers to them by requiring everyone get insurance, with the added bonus that these are, by and large, healthy, young insureds.  But a lot is never enough for the greedier elements of American business.

And nothing is greedier than the health insurance companies.

But if they keep this up, they are putting us on the rapid road to single payor, a consummation devoutly to be wished.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Spy Who Came In From the Sewer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel claims to be annoyed because America's NSA has been spying on her.

Oh, for heaven's sake, Angela, get real!  You haven't been spied on by the real professionals. Those folks at the National Security Agency are actually just amateurs.  The real spies are the ones at the National Sewer Agency.  Now those are some spies!

I wrote an email recently to my adult kids, reminiscing about how tree roots were always invading our sewer line back in the days of their childhood so that I would have to call a very nice man named Mr. Christian to come roto-root or whatever.  Initially I would get very annoyed by the situation but then decided to embrace it by learning about sewage lines.  For example, how much fall per foot does the line have to have?  As I mentioned to my kids in the email, this works well regarding people too. Someone is very annoying?  Decide to like them.  Or at least pretend to.  And they lose the power to annoy.  So I use the "ain't sewers fun" approach across a broad spectrum of life.

Within half an hour of my typing this bit of sewer wisdom and sending it off, five  -   yes, five  - sewage companies popped their ads onto my email page.  Isn't America grand!  Entrepreneurs up the gazoozoo!

One of the ads mentioned an intriguing "directional drilling".  One rather hates to think of non-directional drilling, doesn't one?  Another site promised "Bursting, Repairs, Replacement, Scope, Video Boring, Sewer Taps".  I like that this company is willing to burst your pipes for you so that the fun can begin and we can get on with the rest of the menu.  Is the '"video boring" a thumbs down on the quality of a sewage film or is it an invitation to watch the process "boring" along within the pipe, rather like watching your own colonoscopy on a screen?  (I prefer to sleep.)

In any event you can see that the folks at the real NSA, i.e. the National Sewer Agency are absolutely on their toes.  They were watching me!  And the minute my messaging wandered into sewerland, they were right on it.

So be grateful, Angela Merkel, that all you have to worry about is our National Security Agency.  And by the way, sweetie, how come your own security people have never told you that the USA spies on you and that you folks spy on the USA?  And that everybody spies on everybody!  As the Godfather said, "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." ( Or was that George Bernard Shaw?  It's always Shaw, Lincoln, or Will Rogers, though the Godfather is gaining.)

Read some John LeCarre, darling, and learn what we all know and have always known.  Meantime, shut up.  Your outrage is so hypocritical given what Germany has done to Europe's economy in recent years and to six million Jews in an earlier time.

Let there be a consensus:  for prior bad behavior, Germany is barred forever from complaining about anything.  Including sewer lines.  


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The President Is In Dallas

It's November.  Soon it will be November 22.

Fifty years since the killing of President Kennedy in Dallas.

And at this time of a heart-breaking anniversary and in the midst of the blinding rage of racism that is bedeviling our nation, another young president has gone to this city of infamy.  President Obama was in Dallas today to speak about the benefits of the Health Care Act.

I cannot imagine what is in the minds of the White House schedulers.

Are they ignorant of history?

Have they never heard of "copycat crimes"?

Are they arrogantly insensitive to our sensitivities?

Or is this some sort of macho gesture?

I'll be glad when President Obama's out of Dallas.  Call it superstition, but Dallas is a bad place.  Texas' hatred is being stoked by Reckless Rick Perry, a governor who talks about killing officials he doesn't agree with and talks of secession.

These are perilous times, with many whites feeling threatened by the shift of power in this country away from them and into the hands of people of color, people they have mistreated for three hundred years.  Like most oppressors they fear retaliation by their victims.

But that's not what's going to happen.  The blacks of South Africa did not engage in mass retaliation against the whites after apartheid was done.  The Irish Catholic majority of Ireland did not rise up in massive slaughter of the Protestant minority after the English pulled out their protective forces.  And in all of America's wars, the blacks, and Latinos, and Asian Americans, and Native Americans took up arms against America's enemies even though America was then a nation run by and for the benefit of whites only.

The only conclusion I can reach is that some people are better than others in the sense that they are more forgiving.  Or smart enough to know what whites in this country have been slow to learn, that diversity is good, that power shared is power increased, and that we all do better when we are in it together.

Still, I'll be very glad when President Obama is safely back in the White House and not in Texas or other places of guns and hatred.