Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good for you,Obama! And good for us!

I'm very sick but I want to say that this day I am extraordinarily proud of our president for tearing down the wall we built between us and Cuba.  Fifty years was a long and stupid mistake.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Riddle Me These: GOP Puzzlements

The GOP in the House yesterday filed a lawsuit against President Obama's health care plan.


They have been threatening to do so for the past four years, ever since it passed.  Why has it taken so long? Because they don't have a case. They couldn't get any law firm to accept it for four years.  Two firms originally agreed to but then pulled out.  Finally some law professor has agreed to file the suit. Law professors can always find a case in any set of facts and do so to manufacture exam questions year after year.  I know because I used to be a law professor and even wrote an exam once that centered on Bigfoot.  Law professors get very desperate.

There are at least two odd things about this purported case. First, it argues that President Obama acted illegally by delaying the requirement that large companies provide employee health care coverage.

What?  Say that again.

If they hate the Affordable Care Act so much, why are the Republicans suing because part of it has been delayed?  What are these people eating for breakfast?

A second weird thing about the lawsuit is that it ignores an argument that has just been taken up by the US Supreme Court. That argument maintains that part of the law is being enforced illegally.  Through an apparent drafting error one part of the law limits premium subsidies to those who buy insurance on "state" exchanges.  Until now purchasers have been allowed federal subsidies for buying insurance on the federally created exchanges that were set up because some states refused to create their own. Obviously the intent of the law was to provide subsidies to people who need them.  No rational reason comes to mind for a federal program to be denied to beneficiaries the federal government intended to help by stepping in where the individuals' own states had refused to act.  A basic rule of determining legislative intent is that the result of your interpretation should not be crazy.  The federal government clearly wanted to help people so it's ridiculous to argue that they would deny them access to healthcare subsidies if those people had been forced to use a federal exchange.

If you think there's an argument the other way, I sure would like to hear what it is.

So why didn't the Republicans jump on this argument and use it in their lawsuit? After all, even though the argument is crazy, the US Supreme Court apparently thinks well enough of it to spend time addressing the case.

The House GOP won't use this argument in its suit because it makes the House look incredibly stupid, not just because it's a crazy argument but because it was the House's own drafting mistake that created the superficial confusion.  Yes, I admit it was the House under Democratic rule that made the drafting error but that won't stop the present House leadership from wanting to protect the institution from looking stupid no matter who was to blame.

The House GOP should have realized that it need not worry about a thing like shabby drafting errors.  It already looks so bad because of pushing a lawsuit that no law firm would touch.

But what does the House GOP care?  Their voters won't pay any attention to these matters. The Republican majority in Congress is chiefly there because redistricting has allowed the Republicans to represent a great deal of empty land.  And  -  last I heard  -  cactus and sagebrush, cornfields and cattle just don't give a damn about the law or how it is made.

Well, lots of luck to that law professor who took the case.  He's going to need it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

War in the Middle WEST?

Forget Afghanistan and Iraq.  Forget war in the Middle East.

Thanks to a vote in the House of Representatives this past week supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, the Lakota Sioux of the Rosebud Reservation have declared war right in our own Middle West.  In Nebraska, to be more precise.

Because the pipeline would cross the Rosebud reservation, one of their leaders has described the House vote as "an act of war".  Luckily the Senate subsequently voted against the oil pipeline, and President Obama would have overridden Congress if the Senate had voted in favor of the project. But the project is a political football for the GOP, and they plan to keep running with it.

The Rosebud Sioux are absolutely correct in believing that this colossally stupid project is an attack on them.  For one thing, it would violate an 1878 treaty regarding their reservation and trample on their sovereignty.  (Yes, my darlings, the tribes still have some sovereignty; witness the fishing treaties, gambling casinos, tax-free tobacco, and tribal courts.)

And it would threaten the water in the region's great underground aquifer which is called, appropriately, "the Lakota aquifer".

This water supply is important even beyond the needs of the Rosebud Lakota Sioux, important as those needs are.  Ranchers and farmers throughout Nebraska and its environs depend on the aquifer. One terrible pipeline spill, and a great American water source is gone.  So is a lot of your food.

All for the sake of Canada being able to tear up its lands to extract filthy stuff known as tar sand oil. This stuff is as filthy as it sounds.  And its oil burns one-third more dirty than ordinary crude. It will be put in the pipeline and flow down to the Gulf of Mexico to get shipped somewhere else. Or maybe get spilled in the Gulf?  In any case, there's no oil coming to America from this project and no jobs except the ephemeral ones of laying a pipeline. We are just Canada's doormat in this.

The project is especially stupid in a world virtually awash in oil.  Gasoline is now less than $3 a gallon here in Oregon, where gasoline prices are usually close to $4 a gallon.  More and more, America is moving away from oil to fracted natural gas and renewable energy sources.  And President Obama this year put a huge hike on required gas mileage for cars and trucks of the immediate future. This is the first time trucks are going to be affected, meaning all those vans and SUVs will be filling up less often.

The last thing the world needs is Canada's filthy tar oil. Surely there must be investors in this proposed project who can see that.

I love that the Sioux are talking about this proposal in terms of war.  Because that's exactly what it is.  Idiots like this Canadian bunch and the climate change deniers and all the polluters are making war on all of us.

Haven't you caught on to that yet?

These people are going to kill us.

Or at least kill our grandchildren and their children.  The planet is going to go through convulsions of war over food that will kill many people now living or make them wish for death. Civilization will collapse in a mad scramble. Beyond the wars for food, the longer-term scenario of global warming ends with Earth spiraling into the furnacy future of a Venus.

It's as if the Canadians and other polluters were about to launch a nuclear war.  The threat is real and it is big-time.  There will be no place to hide.

So what to do?  Support the environmental groups that are prepared to sue.  The Rosebud Lakota Sioux are going to join such legal action, but I don't want to hear any snickering about "the Sioux are gonna sue." This is serious business.  Send money to the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and other groups. Care enough to find them on-line yourself.  This is YOUR war!

Also prod your Democratic office holders with the obvious that they are over-looking.  They can't have it both ways.  They can't have the educated and the young people as voters who show up at the polls and also have Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana get re-elected by obtaining approval for this stupid pipeline. It's sad to lose that seat but we lost a lot more of them earlier this month because the young people stayed home. They had no reason to vote. They face a non-future and heard nothing about that in this election.

The Democratic Party has got to wise up and stop being coy about environmentalism. It's got to do more of what Obama has begun: fighting global warming and other ghastly destruction of our planet.    It also has to have a clear, well-enunciated program for getting people into good-paying jobs.  (This proposal must nowhere include the word "infrastructure".  We lose whole elections because of that word!)  Instead it must be a state by state plan for building specific bridges, roads and schools. Identify the damn things! Be specific!

It doesn't have to be jobs v. the environment.  That's the GOP scenario that's working for the GOP.  We have got to take the initiative in laying out a different ballpark and stop playing on the GOP's home field.  Environment AND jobs!

So, my brother and sister Sioux, where can we sign up to volunteer in this war to save the world?  And thank you for cutting through the crap and saying it like it is: We are under attack and in danger of our lives.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Man Who Saved the World and Lifted My Shame and Sorrow

Just just when my world hit bottom with last Tuesday's election results, President Obama did the most important thing any president has ever done.

He saved the world.

Not my little world.  The big world. The planet.

And in so doing, he's let me die a happy woman, knowing that my children and grandchildren and all children will now possibly have a future.

By persuading China to set targets for reduction of carbon emissions, he has given the human race a future where we had none. Without a major reduction in carbon by the U.S. and China we were all going to be toast.  Not just the polar bears.  Us too.  With wild climate changes, starvation would have stared us in the face and with it the terrible wars of people fighting for food. Civilization would collapse. The dead would be the lucky ones. That would be the world I was handing on to my grandchildren and their children. I would be dead already  -  one of the lucky ones  -  and they would suffer.

But it may be all right now. Hope has come back into the world.  As of this Tuesday, merely a week after the election forfeited by stay-at-home Democrats, the great good news has come.  China  -  the key holdout on climate change  -  has come around.

Sure, the agreement Obama announced is not perfect.  But it can be improved.  The big thing is that China has changed its stance.  Now that the two top carbon emitters  -  the U.S. and China  -  have announced targets for reduction, the rest of the world will follow suit. Even India, the third-largest emitter and still a hold-out, will have to move.

On the homefront the Republicans, who have resisted anti-carbon measures, have now lost one of their chief arguments.  Mitch McConnell and others have insisted the United States do nothing about carbon emissions because "What's the use as long as China does nothing?"  Ta ta to that argument!

Some Republicans are screaming that Obama gave away the store to the Chinese. No, he didn't.  Most of the U.S. targets he offered were already on the books.  These included the new emissions limits he has announced these past two years for both cars and trucks.  Another big part of the U.S. package is the new stiff standards being adopted by his Environmental Protection Agency for coal-powered electric plants.  With these cuts we were already on the road to most of the reduction goals he offered the Chinese.  In this agreement we got a terrific deal: a  big concession from China  in exchange for what we were going to do anyway.

The President is one hell of a horse trader!

It was evening here in Oregon when the news came Tuesday about the deal.  A couple of hours later when I went to bed, it really hit me and I started to cry.  Tears of joy.  A great sorrow and shame has been lifted from me.  All my life I have worked as an environmentalist, even back to the days when we were called conservationists.  Yet now when I am old it has seemed that the climate of the entire planet was so severely threatened that tens of thousands of species, including my own, might perish.  And this beautiful little blue planet would become a wasteland, even perhaps an eventual hell like Venus, as it fell into a self-increasing spiral of heat.

Before the worst came, I would be gone, having escaped into a peaceful death of old age, leaving my children and grandchildren to suffer the dire onslaught.  I would have failed in the most basic of Jewish duties, of human duties:  save the family, save the children.

But now I can die happy because hope has come back into the world.  There may be a future for my family and yours after all.  And for this little blue planet in the great black reaches of space.

Thank you, Mr. President.  I wish I could give you a hug.  A polar bear hug!

This will be a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finally.... Obama Sees The Light

Finally President Obama has seen the light.  On "Face The Nation" today he named the abiding, central, and fatal flaw in his administration.

Failure to publicize his achievements.

He has one of the best records of any president of all time. But he and his White House have failed a central duty of the presidency,  i.e. to tell the American public what their president is achieving in their name and for their benefit.

Instead he has allowed the Republicans and their unscrupulous friends to fill the void with all kinds of lies, groundless fears, and just plain hate.  At a time when America should be rejoicing that we  -  beyond all other industrialized nations  -  have recovered from the worst economic cataclysm since the Great Depression, people are being encouraged to whine about America "being off track."

I could go on and on about Obama's little-recognized achievements,  but it's not my job to publicize Obama's record.  I did that job and did it well for decades in politics for other political figures, thereby not only advancing the status of worthy politicians (and there are some) but advancing the public knowledge of good causes that needed the public's support.

Tell it to them loud and clear.  Then tell them again.  Then tell them again.  And again. And again. The message repeated is the one that sinks in. The GOP knows that and did it well.  The Democrats  -  including the Congressional party  -  sat around virtually silent. The public therefore believed the GOP garbage.  The Democrats were so disheartened that they flat out REFUSED rides to the polls or other help, something that has never happened.  Only 38% of all voters went to the polls, probably the worst performance ever.

To the talker goes the spoils.

Similarly, where was a rapid "take charge" response from Obama and Democratic leaders when things went bad?

A scandal like the one at the VA  -  in which our veterans had DIED from needless delays!  -  should have had an enormous and immediate response.  Obama could have called a primetime television address to the nation within 24 hours of the news breaking. And he could have announced that the head of the VA was under suspension while the truth of the story was being determined.  He could also have said that any veteran now waiting for a doctor appointment at the VA could see a private doctor at government expense if the scheduled wait was unreasonably long.  Further, that those responsible for the delays and for the cover-up would be fired. Not just be "held responsible".  FIRED!  He could have been visibly angry and mentioned his grandfather, a WWII veteran, and said how he wouldn't have stood for his grandfather being treated that way and nobody should stand for this mistreatment of the men and women who have suffered for us and our country.

Or something like this. Something dramatic and effective. Not just in order to help himself but because the situation did in fact require immediate and dramatic action.

He also should have identified the GOP role, if any, in cutting funding for sufficient number of VA doctors. I have heard or read that this was a factor.  Was it?  If so, why in hell haven't the administration and the Congressional Democrats made a big noise about it?  Not just for political reasons but because our veterans deserve representation that is loud and clear.

It's old news now.  Its time has passed.  But its ghost lingers.  So do the shadows of the CIA shenanigans and ineptitude, the bobbling around about Ebola, the messed up Health Care web site. None of these things were, of course, Obama's fault.  But they were someone's fault, someone who works for him.  The buck stops at his desk. He perhaps can't fire civil servants but he could and should have done other things to show he was a manager who would stand for no nonsense.

It seems that "no drama Obama" means that you can (almost) get away with murder at the White House. At least you can walk in the front door with a knife or shoot bullets into the White House walls and nobody does anything. These were the unkindest cuts of all (no pun intended). They truly made Obama look weak. The leader who is this nearly threatened and does nothing looks very weak indeed. In the olden days the heads of attackers would have been impaled on the spikes of the White House fence to advertise that it's a bad idea to mess with The Boss.  He isn't just The Boss, he's our elected leader. Who attacks him attacks us.  Doesn't the White House get this?  He is so symbolically important that he can't afford to be cool about personal danger.

Does it all matter anymore?  Isn't he just a lame duck now? Yes and no. Certainly there's more work to be done.  He has more judicial appointments to make, and they will have to get through a Republican Senate. After waiting for congressional action on immigration, he is going ahead on his own.  There may also be more environmental protections announced as executive orders. Further he has a tricky road to walk in the Arab world and the Middle East, plus the unending dance with Putin, who at one moment is poking Ukraine and in the next moment is offering help to get nuclear materials away from the Iranians.

But there will likely be zero legislation enacted in cooperation with Congress. I predict that half of  the time the GOP in Congress will engage in internecine warfare (Sen.Ted Cruz v. the rest of the GOP) and the other half in passing legislation that Obama must veto.  In all likelihood it's a lame duck Congress.

The lamest ducks of all are, of course, the vast number of Democratic voters who stayed home last Tuesday.

People get the government they deserve, Churchill said.  But, as my friend Judith McVittie of  Chicago says, "Why do the rest of us have to suffer?"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What REALLY Happened This Election Day

No, it wasn't a repudiation of President Obama. And, no, it was not a GOP triumph of its message.  And it certainly was not a win for all the millions of dollars the Koch Brothers and their ilk lavished on the campaign.  In fact, those GOP donors   -   with the exception of telling unanswered lies  -  wasted their money. (More about that in the P.S below.)

It was simply the lowest turnout in a national election virtually ever.

Only 38% of those eligible went to the polls.  38%!

That's a drop on average nationally of between 10 and 16% as compared to 2010.  And 2010 was a stinker as to Democratic stay at-homes and election outcome.

Since Republicans are about 30% of the electorate and vote far more reliably than do Democrats, it's clear that the Democrats weren't there at all on Tuesday.  In fact, it's amazing any Democratic candidates won anything.

Why did all those Democrats stay home?  The media pundits believe it's because they don't like Obama any more. The more compelling reason seems to me to be that they like him just fine but he wasn't on the ballot.  He wasn't there in 2010 and they stayed home and we lost the House.  But they came roaring back in 2012 in terrific numbers when he was on the ballot.

It could be, therefore, that they simply didn't like the Democrats who were running for both  houses of Congress this year.  In fact, one of the reasons they may have turned up their noses was they do like Obama and resent that the Congressional candidates were running away from the president. If rats are perceived fleeing a sinking ship  -  and the media have certainly portrayed Obama as the Titanic  -  does anybody love the fleeing rats?  They may think them shrewd but most people just want to hit the rats with a broom, the disloyal little scum.

No, folks, I put it to you that the Congressional Democrats lost this election all on their own without any help from Obama.  With the exception of a few members of the black caucus in the House, the Democratic members of Congress have been disloyal to him all along.  They have failed to defend him or his policies.  They have failed to explain that the GOP in Congress is blocking everything and won't play ball and won't compromise or work across the aisle.  For six years the GOP and its moneybags friends and Fox News have drummed all kinds of lies into the public's ears. And the Democratic Congress members have sat quiet.

Why?  Chicken-hearted?  Racist?  Lazy?  Dumb?

Let's look at dumb.  It's dumb not to know what Nazi propaganda chief  Joseph Goebels taught the world.  Tell a big lie and tell it often enough and people will believe it.  The GOP followers of the "Little Joe" Goebels doctrine told the lies over and over.  And the Democrats did not repeatedly repudiate these lies as they needed to do.  It's not rocket science.  In fact it's simplistic and boring but it must be done: Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. CALL OUT THE LIARS!

As a former political p.r. person I have died a thousand deaths of frustration watching the GOP ravish the political landscape with their lies, never being adequately challenged by the Democrats.

And, heaven help him, President Obama and his staff have been guilty of the same negligence.  Poor trusting soul that he is, he thought it was enough to say the truth once and that people would understand and hold onto it.  That may work teaching law school  -  though I taught law school longer than he did and I found a nice bit of repetition was not amiss  -  but it doesn't work in governing nor in campaigning.  Tell them over and over.  I felt I had failed at my political p.r. job if I could not get at least three news cycles out of the same story.  And that was for local or state campaigns.

Plus the American public has a memory that extends only two weeks.

So where  in heaven's name were the Democratic candidates to remind people of what the Democratic party has done for them in recent years?  We can't remember stuff on our own. Quick!  Without pause, name me six big things Obama and the Democrats have done. Come on!  Quick! Quick!

And more important, what did the Democrats running for Congress propose doing for people in the future?  And don't say that awful word "infrastructure."  You wanna get run out of town?  Voters hate that inside lingo. And skip the banal platitudes about improving education for our children.  Nobody knows how to do that except good teachers, and nobody has ever run for office promising to make education worse.  People want something they can get their teeth into.

Can you think of something sexy to garner votes?  Something teeth-worthy?

Well, neither could the Democrat candidates apparently.

We lost our Colorado Senate seat in part because Udall ran a one-note campaign about women's  bodily functions.  That fight is over on the national level.  We women won. And everybody is tired of hearing about it.  It continues at the state level in places like Texas where they never get tired of old battles, to wit the Alamo.

So here's a summary for the Democratic Congressional candidates:  Dance with the guy that brung ya.  Plus remember Ben Franklin's snake: We hang together or we hang separately. Plus always answer the lie RIGHT NOW and tomorrow and every day thereafter.  And for God's sake, get yourselves something to run on that's interesting, relevant and specific.

And stop blaming Obama.  After all, he won re-election and you Congressional candidates just failed to do that little thing.

As for the rest of us, here's our cold comfort as we snarl at the stay-at-home Democrats:  Churchill said that people get the government they deserve so let's hope the non-voters get what they deserve.  As for the rest of us: As in baseball, there's always next year.

P.S. The money the Koch's, etc. spent did not increase the vote for the Republicans.  Republicans won because the Democrats let them.  The Democratic voters stayed home.  It wasn't a win.  It was a forfeit.  This is good news. Because next time, by definition, it will be different. There will be a Democratic candidate running for president who will have a coherent message and a quickness to respond to lies.  Someone to fire up the folks. Well, anyway, we damn well hope so.  And remember then to vote early and often!


Friday, October 31, 2014

The Second World Series, The Two Nates of Politics, and Madison Baumgarner

We were very lucky when Nate Silver, statistician and writer, moved over from sports to politics for a couple of years in a column for the New York Times. Throughout the 2012 political season he  correctly called the presidential race, based on the numbers that he carefully examined and explained.  He made this correct prediction when virtually nobody else did and he stayed loyal to it to the end when all the pundits were skeptical of Obama's chances and many pollsters were too.  In fact, Karl Rove's number crunchers so misled him that he was running around Fox studio on election night, trailed by Fox cameras, trying to persuade Fox not to give Ohio and the election to Obama.

Silver was not only right in his analysis and ultimate call; he also wrote very well. You can know everything but if you can't say it clearly, what's the point?  I stumble into incoherence sometimes just like everyone else but Nate Silver virtually never did.

But then he left us.  Back to sports and ESPN in 2013, with this year a sporadic nod at politics.  Obviously his heart isn't in it.

In his wake the New York Times hired Nate Cohn, whom I am sure is a delightful person.  But I'm not so sure about his ability to weigh the numbers and that's because he doesn't handle words all that well. He doesn't explain things.

That's where Madison Baumgarner comes in. His job is to present pitched balls to a batter. The batter then decides whether to swing or not. It's the core decision of the game of baseball. In the story of the two Nates, politics is the pitcher and they are the batters.  They each have had to decide which statistics to swing at.  Which numbers mean something?  And what do they mean?

Nate Cohn is too eager.  He swings at too much.  Further he doesn't go for the sweet spot; he seems to deliberately pop flies.

Right now he is confronting a batch of statistics that may or may not mean something.  They are the  early voting performance in several states, those states that can determine whether the Democrats hold a majority in the Senate. Potentially these numbers are very telling.

At first glance they show that a large number of Democratic voters who did not vote in 2010 have voted early in 2014.  This may indicate the Democrats are going to win in those key states.  But does it?

Eager to get an attention-grabbing opening for his story, right off the bat Cohn trumpets this as a very good sign for the Democrats. He makes it his headline and his opening paragraph.

But his real job is to figure out whether these numbers actually tell us something or only seem to. This initial judgment is comparable to deciding whether the ball speeding at you is worth swinging at.  You can't swing at every pitch and you can't embrace every number, at least not fruitfully. Do these early votes say what they seem to?  Are more Democrats going to be voting, not just early, but right up until the polls close?

Or is this a revolving door situation?  As the Democrats party workers drag these usually low performance voters to the polls are other Democrats that they dragged to the polls in 2010 going to take a time-out?

The only voter performance number that ultimately counts is the final tally. Nate Cohn takes way too long to mention this.

The danger of trying to peer through the fog ahead of time is that often you can't be sure what you are looking at.

Cohn knows this but he waits for paragraphs to tackle the issue of the revolving door or what he calls "cannibalism", and then he does so in a sort of backhand way, to mix sports metaphors.

The result is that I read the piece with dying joy.  It wasn't "good news for Democrats", as billed.  It was a bit of grandstanding.  It was a less-than-Babe-Ruth batter pointing to left field and then not delivering.

I know the Babe ain't coming back, but I sure wish Nate Silver was.  I want a guy who knows what to swing at.

Meantime all we can do is wait for Tuesday night and the final score in the last game of our own kind of series.  Election Day! Play ball!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does Obama Still Matter?

Does Obama still matter? Normally that would seem like a stupid question.  How can a president of the United States not matter?  Sure, he's a lame duck, with just over two years left in his presidency.  And, yes, the House has denied him any legislation for the past two years.

He's also been denigrated by the press as being a drag on Democratic candidates this midterm election year.  As if members of Congress don't do enough to drag themselves down.

Before looking at whether Obama still counts for anything, let's take a quick look at who is dragging whom down. It sure looks to me like the Democratic officeholders have done a terrible job of supporting their president and their leader.

Where were they when all the flagrant mistruths were being hurled around about Obamacare and him personally?  Why was their applause silent when he saved the auto industry and brought it to profitability for the first time in decades?  Where were their cheers when he pulled us out of the recession which still sucks down much of Europe?  We have had quarter after quarter of really good job numbers here and not a peep of applause from the Demo politicos.  And all those great steps he took by executive order to save the planet from suffocating and/or drowning in climate change?  Moving us toward closing thousands of coal burning power plants and drastically lowering car AND truck emissions (that had never been done about trucks before)  -  hey, those are very big deals!  But we don't even get from Democratic politicians the sound of one hand clapping.

If they had defended him and his policies, maybe we wouldn't have had a wipe-out of the House in 2010.  If they had defended him and the truth since then, maybe we'd have a better chance of holding the Senate this year and even regaining the House.  Regarding the latter, the climb is tough but we only need 17 seats to swing the majority, and 25 seats are squishy enough to raise a hope or two. If they had drumbeat his accomplishments they could have  -  as Democrats  -  looked better themselves.

But no matter what, does Obama still matter?  Oh, honey, you bet he does!  There is talk that he is close to a deal with Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program.  That is truly big time.  It's potentially saving millions of lives from an Iran weapon, and it's also forestalling Iran grabbing control of the Middle East and springboarding a nuclear arms race among the wild card nations around it.

He also can still do more for the environment with his executive orders, still bring effective pressure for better wages by government contractors, still keep deportations low (though he has to meet the Congressional minimums or be impeachable).  And he can still manage the U.S. role abroad without getting us into another boots-on-the-ground ten-year "war" a la Bush Jr.

He keeps plugging away, his hair getting whiter.  But he's still in there punching.  Right now his military is saving the afflicted people of West Africa from Ebola. Abandoned children are not dying in the muddy streets.

Meantime the New York Times editorial board has the audacious hypocrisy to scold the Democratic party for not telling about Obama's immense achievements.  Hey!  Isn't the press supposed to keep us informed?  Isn't that the point of a free press in a democracy, to inform the voters?  The New York Times and the rest of the mainline media has buried Obama's record like it was a disgusting secret and has consistently failed to answer the lies the GOP has told.

One example: a few weeks ago one of the NY Times OWN REPORTERS started his story by saying in so many words, "This is really a big story."  But his editor ignored the flagging and buried the story.

It was a wowser, totally refuting two of the GOP's biggest misrepresentations.  (1) Contra the GOP, the cost of Medicare is going down, down, down and not up, up, up.  And  (2) the country is not going broke.  These are the facts produced by the figures. The lies being corrected thereby were the ones fundamental to the whole GOP construct that brought us the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and her death panels, the terrible cuts in the government programs we all need, such as the CDC budget.  And these lies were the justification for the government shutdown and threats not to raise the debt ceiling.

Many Americans have been hoodwinked into a gloom and doom view of our country because the press and the Democrats have failed in their jobs.  That's the great tragedy of the last six years. It's a far greater tragedy than Obama not getting the credit he deserves.  Hell, people, he's a black man in America.  Do you think unfairness is a surprise to him? Like him, I too have been punching above my weight all my life.  We just keep punching.  It's who we are.

And neither the chicken-livered Democratic party or the fraidy cat media can take that away from my buddy or me.  We are who we are and we've done what we've done.  And it's enough for us personally.

As for the "judgment" of the talking heads  and the mis-written record?  Like the man said who walked away into the mist, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."  I don't either.

And I'm sure Obama doesn't.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Koch Brothers Defeated by Eighty-Two-Year-Old Man in Wheelchair

Only in America.

This is how a one-legged, 82-year-old man is going to defeat the Koch brothers and their millions.

Even as I write this, my friend of 46 years, George Stamfen, is headed out in his wheelchair to lead a team of ten other retirees in doing voter registration throughout today.

Tomorrow he's going to "hold signs".  That means stand on street corners or on overpasses with signs promoting a candidate or the Democratic ticket.  Except George will be sitting down in his wheelchair.

The next day he's going to walk precincts. Actually he will be wheeling them.  Precinct work means going to the voter's door to promote your candidate.  At the same time you find out if the voter supports your candidate and if so, you note that down so that voter is targeted for get-out-the-vote on election day.

That's what wins elections. It's George negotiating getting up and down curbs and finding a doorbell he can reach.  Not the Koch brothers' millions.  And here's why.

First, the sincerity and personal effort of a volunteer precinct worker impresses the hell out of voters even if the worker is not in a wheelchair.  "Someone came to my door!"  Paid workers don't have the sincerity, and voters aren't dumb.  They can spot phonies, i.e. paid precinct workers. And paid precinct workers often cheat.  Check the dumpsters for GOP materials tossed by their paid workers instead of delivered door-to-door.  (The Kochs say they are planning to spend millions on precinct work and get-out-the-vote.  Good.  They're wasting their money.  The motto of the paid precinct workers is "Take the money and run!")

Second, any ads the Kochs  buy aren't nearly as effective as precinct work and get-out-the-vote.  When was the last time you bought something because of an ad on TV?   And haven't the big spenders in politics heard about the fast forward button?  No one watches TV ads!  Especially not campaign ads. In a campaign a TV smear job may indeed have to be refuted, but elections are not won by TV ads.

This flies in the face of all you've heard from the media and from such tub-thumping fund-raisers as Nancy Pelosi.  The media and Nancy want your money, not because it wins elections but because it finances their organizations. The media lives on ad income; Nancy's whole position is built on hiring flashy headquarters and lots of staff and cars, plus doling out campaign funds to her fellow Congress members so they will continue to support her leadership.

By contrast, you can build a local campaign organization in a cheap storefront or someone's garage and, beyond rent money, only need enough additional to buy pizza for the volunteers who are hungry after all that walking.

Third reason that George will beat the Kochs?  The wheelchair.  It's for real.  So is his age.  Eighty-two and still concerned about America.  The voters  know that what he's doing isn't for himself and his future.  He doesn't have a future.

He's doing it for them and their kids and their grandkids.  He cares about the people and he cares about America.  Only by a Herculean effort that comes from the heart could he have gotten to their door that day.

But each of you who does precinct work has similar impact.  You took the TIME out of your life to come to that door.  In this day of busy busy busy that sacrifice speaks volumes.

The voters tune out the TV ads.  But they will never tune out that you came to their doors.

Now go and save America and the world and the future one doorstep at a time!  Poke the Kochs!  Right in the eyes! And make mine a mushroom pizza please.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Great Good News You Don't Know

Dollars to donuts you don't know these three great pieces of good news.

First,  Obamacare's great success has gotten greater.  In April, the media was caught gape-mouthed by the fact that eight million people had signed up for the new federal health insurance program.  Well, here's an even bigger surprise:  When enrollment opens again this fall, it is forecast that the number will jump to thirteen million.  That's more than a 50% increase!

And where are all the horrible things that were supposed to happen?  The "death panels", for example.  Au contraire, mon cher.  There aren't any. Nobody in government is ordering sick people be killed. Further, and aside from Obamacare, good old Medicare is apparently going to start quietly paying for doctor/patient end-of-life conferences to let grandma make pre-decisions about any future plug-pulling.  Some insurance companies are beginning to do so for the rest of the folks.

Nor did the other horrors happen that the GOP fanatics predicted.  That's why the GOP has completely dropped the subject.  This election year was supposed to be about Obamacare's "failure" and it isn't.  BECAUSE OBAMACARE HAS SUCCEEDED!

Let's look at another great piece of good news that has been virtually ignored by the media.  Medicare is NOT bankrupting the country.  The cost of Medicare has been dropping drastically even with Baby Boomers beginning to flood into old age. And this isn't a one-year fluke or a product of the now-ended recession.  It's a steady, heartening trend.  How nice for us elders to know we are not "robbing our grandchildren" by going to the doctor, as the GOP claimed.  (Sounds like the GOP would like to pull the plug on us elders even before we get to the hospital!)

How wicked of the media to have buried this story that was reported recently on an inside page of the NY Times.  The reporter started off by saying virtually, "This is a big, big story", but the editor buried it anyway.  To my knowledge no other outlet gave the story any play.  If a government story doesn't get NYT big play, it isn't considered news by the rest of the media.

The story IS BIG, not only for what it says about Medicare but for what it says about the Big Lie the GOP told these past six years, the one about this country going bankrupt soon and the need to cut spending on infrastructure, food stamps, school lunches, student aid, national parks, and all other programs that help someone besides the rich. It was this looming and phony bankruptcy notion that triggered the near-disastrous GOP threats to default on our debt by not raising the debt ceiling. It was this non-issue that drove us into a government shut-down.  It was this fake gloom-and-doom narrative that slowed our recovery from the Bush Recession.

And let's look at another piece of good news.  The Democrats were right and the Republicans were WRONG about the path to get out of the Recession.  The Democrats wanted federal spending to pick up the slack in the private sector and thus stimulate the economy.  They got some of it, enough that we have climbed out of the ditch the GOP drove us into.  The Europeans, however, followed the GOP misguided idea of government belt-tightening.  We are out of the ditch now, while Europe is still spinning its wheels in a depressed economic condition.  Ten years from now Europe may be another Japan, a repressed economic power that was once a roaring lion.  May the GOP all move to the continent that pitifully followed the GOP advice.

As for us, get used to good news. I've got some more coming up for you. But there's a price. You have to promise you'll pass it along.  It's the least we can do for the man who made it all happen.  If the media won't tell the Obama story, we must.  Thank you, Mr. President.  You've done well.  So well that I have every confidence you will now handle the overseas stuff just fine.

And now into the Congressional elections!  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Secret Messes of Yesteryear: Nixon Tricks Pre-Watergate

Gosh, it's forty years ago since Nixon resigned the presidency.  That was closer in time to the end of WWII than it is to us.  

I almost nailed Nixon four years before he resigned. Therefore it seems even longer ago that the perpetually ill-shaven Nixon strode up the steps of that plane and then turned to face us, raised his arms, flashed his phony smile and gave the V-shaped peace sign with both hands as a final gesture.  He's the only man who could give the finger with two of them, four if you count both hands. 

It was his signature gesture, going all the way back to his first dirty trick, the beginning of Watergate before there was Watergate.  In 1970 he came to San Jose, California, quite near where I lived and where I was active in Democratic politics. He was there to campaign for a failing GOP senator, movie tap dancer George Murphy, challenged by John Tunney, son of the great prizefighter.  California had just invented the weird candidate thing and was having a lot of fun.  

But Nixon wasn't there for fun.  He was there to start a riot.

To that end he left the auditorium where he had spoken, climbed on a car, and did the double-wave double-finger.  To flash a pseudo-peace sign at the crowd facing the car was to invite a riot indeed.  In the crowd were a brown-shirted (I'm not kidding) torch-carrying, wildly anti-war and anti-Nixon contingent.  They were the cadres summoned to the site by a pair of Stanford U's avowedly Communist professors.  Earlier that day I'd asked the wife prof of the Communist couple what their goal was. "To overthrow the government and introduce anarchy."  Well, at least they had a clear goal, though not particularly Communistic.  "We want to egg the government into over-reacting with violence so people get rid of government."  A goal and a plan.

So there were two agendas running that night, both with the same idea. Nixon wants a riot because he wants to blame the "anti-war Democrats" and so do the only avowed Communists I've ever encountered.  (Communists particularly hate liberals because we stand in the way of their extremism.)  But the Communist couple and Nixon didn't get their riot. There were other people in that parking lot, the ones I'd brought who were just angry at high unemployment and the war but definitely not interested in a riot. I also now suspect that the Stanford profs had cut a deal with Nixon:  Let us alone when our guys show up virtually jack-booted and we will be the backdrop for what doesn't really happen, for what you pull off as a fake riot. 

Of course, the foregoing presumes some sort of conspiracy against the Democrats but what else did the Communists and Nixonists do but conspire?  Even we paranoids have real enemies.

To guarantee that Nixon got the riot he wanted, Nixon's people had a group standing on a traffic island with stones and boards in hand.  After Nixon got off the car and drove past, this group let loose on the press bus following Nixon. Nothing else happened.  That was it.  A modest attack on a press bus.  It was enough, however, to dupe a lot of the Washington press corps into writing about Nixon's "riot". And at the airport, Nixon's people proudly showed off some "dents" created by stones thrown at Nixon's vehicle. I subsequently found the San Jose firemen who had washed the vehicle on its arrival in San Jose, and they said the dents were already there. We all know that firemen don't lie, even if presidents do.

Nor do some cops.  Two of them got hold of an attorney friend of mine and told him that the White House advance had met with the police and said, "There will be a hot time in the old town tonight.  No matter what happens, don't try to stop it." The two cops were pissed at being put in harm's way for a political agenda. 

But their story and that of the firemen never got public. These guys were scared and wanted the protection of a Congressman.  GOP Rep. Pete McCloskey got wind of it and stepped forward to be that Congressman, with me as the go-between.  Only he didn't really step forward with both feet.  He put the informants off and put them off until they got disgusted and walked away.  I was never so disappointed and angry in my life.  The fate of the nation was in the hands of a scheming ruthless crook, but hypocrite Pete McCloskey, the Republican pride of the intellectual anti-war Democrats, sells out the country just to gain points with the Nixon wing of the GOP, which loathed him and was always trying to unseat him in primaries.  

With the help of a KQED-TV reporter, I got the Washington Post and some other reporters to raise questions about the authenticity of the "San Jose Riot", and the Democrats took the  GOP tap dancer's Senate seat and did well elsewhere on election day. 

Nixon then went on to Watergate, the Daniel Ellsberg burglary, the IRS auditing of Nixon's "enemies", the bribing of the burglars, the "deep-sixing" of evidence by the head of the FBI, fraudulent post-dating of Nixon's tax returns, etc. etc. etc.  He looked out at the American public on TV and solemnly said, "I am not a crook."  No, he was a lot worse.

Well, it was probably all for the best that Nixon slipped though my fingers in 1970.  We Democrats all had a peachy good time later with Watergate. A couple of good young reporters got a good book out of it.  And we got a good movie out of it too. 

I don't like to think of the additional GIs and Vietnamese who died because Nixon didn't get caught earlier.  That's the part that really is enraging.  But I had tried.  I really had.  Even when the FBI began calling me and following me, I didn't stop trying. 

So, yes, this is a very happy fortieth anniversary for me, the downfall of Richard Nixon.   

I wonder if it is too for those firemen and the two cops.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Obama: The Right Man for These Troubled Times

Some well-meaning folks are bemoaning the fact that all hell seems to be breaking loose on Obama's watch.  "Poor man," they say, "he just can't catch a break.  All this trouble and his hair getting so gray."

Stop it.  This is exactly the time for Obama to be where he is and doing what he does so well.  Namely, keeping a cool head.  Yes, a lot of stuff is happening, from Putin acting badly to ISIS starving 40,000 people on a mountaintop.  But Barack Obama was made for bad times such as these.  He figures out what to do, calmly and thoroughly.  He's not always exactly right but he's always in the ballpark.  He's never on the moon side like GW was about invading Iraq or Clinton was about Rwanda and about not killing Bin Laden when the monster was in his sites and hadn't yet done 9/11.

Obama is doing just fine in a world that is still working its way out of the aftermath of WWI.  Indeed, it's ironically suitable that all this bad stuff is happening on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that senseless and stupid war.  From that war sprang Communist Russia and Putin.  From that war came the Europeans carving up the former Ottoman/Turkish empire without regard to tribes but only with regard to what was most advantageous economically for the Big Powers that would now control those Muslim "nations".  Go see "Lawrence of Arabia" again.  Yesterday explains today, and art explains them both.

If you perceive the Middle East and some other troubled places as in a process of evolving, then the current troubles seem endurable.  I say "endurable" advisedly.  We had almost 200 years to evolve from our earliest beginnings as collection of colonies in the early 1600s to a viable democratic country by almost 1800, and even after viability we had a horrible Civil War. The Middle East has had only a fraction of the time we had.  And look how slowly India has gone even though it had the advantage of a lot of self-governing under Britain and training by the Brits of cadres of native bureaucrats.  We mustn't get sucked into the GW Bush silliness of expecting overnight nation-building.  Outsiders don't build a nation.  The people of a land decide to do it and then they get on with the job.  That's why Obama got us out of Iraq.  We have to get out of people's way.  They sometimes keep killing each other until they decide to stop.  To make them stop earlier than that, there has to be a "strong man".  You want to put those guys back in charge?

This nation-building thing can be very messy.  Ours sure was.  We get a sanitized version of it in our "history", mainly several dozen good-natured but passionate wigged "fathers" battling over the wording of the Constitution.  We forget that the first "Articles of Confderation" hadn't work out and we had to scrap that whole first damn effort.

We also conveniently forget that almost half our people had to run for their lives.  They were the forty per cent who had remained loyal to King George.  Fleeing to Canada, they lost everything.  Some never made it to Canada. We caught them and killed them after first tarring and feathering them. It was as brutal as almost everything ISIS is now doing to its rivals.

We also wreaked vengeance on the Native American tribes which had sided with the British.  We burned their orchards and fields of corn to guarantee their starvation and, not completely satisfied with that, we also slaughtered their women and children when we found them.  The blacks also suffered.  The English had promised freedom to any slaves who fought against us rebels. Some blacks took them up on it and then watched the English sail away after surrendering.  You can imagine what happened to those blacks.

So the birth of America was as bloody as births usually are.  But the idea of people governing themselves and settling their internal disputes peacefully has endured that bloody birth.  The idea lives, even now when we Americans are not living up to it very well.  Hopefully we will pull our socks up and start acting like Americans again soon.  Hopefully the people everywhere who now are free of the Europeans' control will make their way forward to that remarkable dream we created and take so for granted.

Obama is said to take the long view.  Well, my darlings, in nation building, it is not just his view.  It's the way things actually work.

Obama, the realist, isn't worried about how he looks right now. He's worried abut those 40,000 people on that mountaintop. Though he often takes the long view, sometimes he takes the immediate view and this is one of those times.  Time is running out to save those people by air drops of food and water.

Yes, Mr. President, save those people.  And let's hope that over time the new Muslim nations will save themselves.  Like we finally did.  Sort of.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why This Year Matters

Democrats have a bad history of sitting back in non-presidential campaign years and not turning out to vote in sufficient numbers.  Or not working to get others out to vote.  Back when we held comfortable margins in the House and Senate that didn't matter too much.

But now it does.  Big time!

Unless we win back the House this November, Obama will continue to run a three-legged race legislatively with a tree for his partner.  He ain't going nowhere. There will be no new legislation about anything.

Even worse, unless we hang on to the Senate, we can lose everything we already have, provided the GOP can muster a large enough majority to override Obama's veto of their attempts to take our country apart.  Kiss goodbye to Obamacare, aid to the poor and students, environmental and consumer protection, voting rights, women's rights.  You name it; we lose it.  And so we get rolled over into Ayn Rand Land where might makes right and the Right make a lot of money.

Come off it, you say.  The GOP will never get a veto-busting majority.  Oh, honey, don't you wish.  If the GOP holds the House and takes the Senate while the economy is hitting on all cylinders, as it now is, and Obama is low in the polls, you will see Democrats  -  yes, I said DEMOCRATS  -  in the Senate and in the House mooching over to vote with the GOP and against Obama.  The name of the game will be "Every man for himself!"  Or woman for herself.  It won't be pretty.

And what about state and local races?  Are we going to hand those over to the GOP too?  Like 2010?    We stayed home in 2010 and ignored politics and our kids' and grandkids' future and let the GOP scoop up lots of state legislatures and governorships just in time for redistricting.  Oh, yes.  They scooped like crazy, and thus they controlled a redistricting so severely lopsided that they won a majority of House seats even though the Democrats outvoted the GOP by ONE MILLION VOTES nationally in the Congressional House races.  The GOP won 49% of the popular vote but won 54% of the House seats.

Thanks, all you Democrats who sat home and neither voted nor tried to get others out to vote.  You shafted the rest of us royally.  Those same GOP state legislatures and governors you greased into office have gone beyond redistricting and in 36 states have blocked our people from getting federally paid health care.

Let me put this plainly.  Your laziness has killed people.

And caused others to lose the right to vote through obscenely restrictive voting laws.  And started resegregation of schools.  And taken control of women's health access.  And how about those cuts to school budgets?  You've created monsters in many states.  Was your slacking off really worth all this pain and misery.

Don't kid yourself.  Your neglect of local races has also been very bad.  Who controls your zoning?  Your kids' schools?  Your justice system?  Your local health department?  Your road building?  Your hospitals?  Your transit?  You did, back when you voted on these offices.  Now the GOP is running all this into the ground in many places where folks tuned out "just this once".

Get back in the game and save yourselves, your kids, and the rest of us.  No one else is going to do your job in making things work.  If you don't save our government from the crazies we are all going to suffer horribly from global warming these next decades as we slide into hell.  I won't be here to perish with you but you know what?  You will be getting exactly what you deserve.  Too bad your little grandkids will have to pay the price too.

This year indeed matters.  It's a question of life or death.

Your life and your grandkids' deaths.  


Saturday, July 19, 2014

To Our Dear Ukrainian Friends

Somewhere in Ukraine, in spite of the frightening Russian threat to that country, there is a group of people who read this blog almost every day, even going back to posts written several years ago.

I'm grateful for this loyal readership, but  -  far more than I feel gratitude  -  I feel admiration.  How does someone focus on a political column when their country is confronting all that faces Ukraine?

That takes courage and faith and hope.  It takes courage to focus on the politics of America when your own are so threatened by  Russia's snarling and superior might.  It takes faith to focus on something beyond the current peril, a belief that politics and not war will be your lot.  And it takes hope to believe that democracy and Westernization can come at long last to a people so victimized throughout the twentieth century.  

The world has largely overlooked the travails of Ukraine.  I am old enough to remember what Stalin and Hitler did there and what followed during the long night of Russian control.  But not many my age can remember or even knew originally.  The younger people know nothing of this story.

This week, to the great sorrow of the world, the tragedy of Ukraine reached to the very skies and pulled down a passenger jet loaded with people from all over the world.  Ukraine's troubles are now the world's troubles, and perhaps Europe and the UN will now respond more vigorously on Ukraine's behalf and support President Obama in his determination to squeeze Russia and Putin economically to the breaking point. 

I can't do anything to help you, my Ukrainian brothers and sisters, except this one thing.  I can promise you that President Obama is going to see you through this troubled time and will not let Russia invade your country.  Stay strong.  A brave and very determined man is on your side. 

And so is history.

We salute you.   

Friday, July 18, 2014

Too Late For Billie Holiday

Too late.  It's way too late for Billie Holiday, but today the feds announced they were releasing 50,000 people imprisoned for drug offenses. We are not going to stop locking up hordes of people for sick behavior. The United State imprisons more people per population than practically any other country in the world. Back when there was a Soviet Union, we incarcerated more people per population than the Soviets.  A huge segment of this imprisonment is for drugs.

I don't approve of drug use.  Hard drugs are killers.  But the war on drugs was lost a long time ago.  We have to let those who want to kill themselves with drugs just go ahead and do it.  Moreover, we absolutely have to take the ferocious profits out of drugs, which is what legalization will do.  The profits are "ferocious" because the drug gang wars kill thousands of children every year in our country, even babies caught in the crossfire, and now that same turmoil is producing the conditions which are driving thousands of children to risk death by fleeing across the deserts of Central America, seeking sanctuary across our border. 

The same old sanctimonious segment of our society that opposes decriminalization also created Prohibition and brought gangsterism into our urban world.  And guns.  Up until then there were few guns floating around in American society, contrary to the phony social history you have been fed. Even the cops weren't armed until Prohibition made criminality and gunfire immensely profitable.   

For the past sixty years, the prigs like Nancy Reagan have force-fed us on "Just Say No".  It's vapid advice and silly policy. If we spent the same money on medical care and rehab that we do on incarcerating drug users, maybe we could get them to say no.  I don't know.  But I think it is criminal to imprison sick people.  And treasonous to have public policies that make real criminals rich and cause children to die.

So it's beginning to end now, the long nightmare of delusion about prison for drug offenses.  If the Obama administration gets this monkey off our backs, then that accomplishment is equal to his getting health insurance for our people and full rights and respect for our gay brothers and sisters. 

But it's too late for Billie Holiday, our precious musical genius, who  -  with Louis Armstrong, Frank Lloyd Wright and Walt Whitman  -  transformed the world of art.  They are the greatest of America's artistic geniuses and innovators. They are of worldwide importance.  But Billie died in a hospital room, under arrest for drugs, believing in her last moments that she faced an arraignment the next morning.  What a disgrace!  Not of her but of us.  And the same disgrace coats the federal prison term she had served a few years before.  We jailed a genius for drug possession!  A genius!

No, I won't take your time to bemoan the conditions of her childhood that led her to the world of drugs  -   the poverty, early rape, ignorant mother, homelessness and hopelessness.  It was while working in a whorehouse as a teenager that Billie heard the recordings of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith and knew what she must do.  Terrible the road that led her to that whorehouse, but blessed are we that she heard those recordings.  Hers is a strange and heartbreaking story but she left us a treasure beyond gold.  By contrast, Nancy Reagan and her ilk leave us nothing but a vinegary image already fading away.  And thank God Nancy is fading.  Forget her.  Forget the bitterness and hatred she and her husband sowed in our country.  

Just remember Billie.

Go listen to her now.  And ask her forgiveness.


Friday, July 4, 2014

The Same 35% Still Hate Obama and Say He's the Worst

Headlines scream it:  "Poll Says Obama Worst President".

Oh, for heaven's sake, who cares?

So 35% of those polled by Quinnepac say that Obama is the worst president since 1945?  So what? This is far fewer than the number of voters who voted against him in 2012.  They hated him then and they hate him now.  

It's a warm July afternoon, the Fourth of July to be exact.  I'm going to take a nice nap.  

Wake me when there's some real news.  God bless America and all the ships at sea. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

World Cup: Obama 2 and Putin 0

And now for the score in the World Cup competition for the world.

Obama 2 and Putin 0 as Obama cleans Putin's clock twice.  

My posting yesterday hailed Ukraine's joining with the modern Western world, signing a treaty this week that marked its abandonment of Russia and its alignment with Europe.  And I explained how Obama engineered this by squeezing the hot air out of Putin economically and showing the Ukrainians they were safe to stand up to that shirtless man.

Now comes word in the NY Times that the last of Syria's chemical weapons has gone bye-bye, which means gone to Finland to be destroyed. Obama engineered this nine months ago by threatening to bomb Syria unless Syrian ruler Assad turned over the weapons. By several adroit waltz steps Obama then lured Putin into getting Assad to an agreement, leaving Putin monitoring the removal.   All the pundits right and left blew raspberries at Obama.  He was (a) naive to trust Putin, (b) he was wicked to work with Putin, (c)  he came off as weak and Putin as strong. 


He was smart to trust Putin.  Putin is Syria's near neighbor and didn't want chemical weapons on his doorstep.  He also had stuck his neck out as a once-world-leader and needed to come off okay.

Further, it wasn't wicked to work with Putin when the goal was so good.  Besides, the Cold War is over and we have to adapt to realities as they are. 

Putin did, however, come off as strong.  That was the bait for which Putin fell.  He desperately needs to look strong in order to keep the support of the Russian people while their "empire" continues to melt away.  Obama was right to let him have his empty box. One always has to be aware of what the other guy needs in order to negotiate with him.

And did Obama come off as weak?  Only with the media and the American public. This same misperception has blanketed Obama's method of dealing with Russia over the Ukraine. As with Ukraine, the nature of his play made it impossible for him to explain how he had manipulated Putin.  Why?  Because he may need to do it again about something else. 

Obama did not, however, come off as weak in the view of other countries.  Any leader of a country big enough  to matter knows what Obama has done.  And they appreciate it and admire him for his skill.  Maybe they even learned a few moves as they watched him.

Nevertheless he gets no credit here at home.  His ratings have dropped generally but especially sharply on foreign policy.  The media doesn't get what he's doing and he can't explain it to them. 

Thus the NY Times today salutes the end of Syria's chemical weapons  -  not in the front page news story it warranted  -  but in an editorial.  That treatment downgrades the event in the eyes of the news media.  Further, in this editorial  the NYT buries its acknowledgment that Obama did the right thing.  Buries it in the ninth paragraph of the editorial:  "…the outcome has proved the wisdom of President Obama's decision to threaten, and then back away from, military strikes against Syrian targets when Russia proposed a negotiated settlement…. The chemical weapons are now out of the hands of a brutal dictator  -  and all without firing a shot."

What a contrast between that last sentence and the 100,000+  Iraqui dead and the 4000+ American dead gifted to us by George W. Bush.  A gift that even now keeps on giving…

Nevertheless, Obama has to pay a fearful price politically for his persistence in doing the right thing to save lives and not squander them.  He's gone down personally. The media has let him down.  And so have we. 

Nor will he get any gratitude from those he most benefitted  -  those who didn't die because he refused to be rash.  They will never know what he did for them.

But he will know.  And for a truly good man, that is enough.


Obama Cleans Putin's Clock in Time for the Fourth

This past week Ukraine voted to join the Western nations for trade and other activities.  This is a big fat slap in Putin's skinny face. This is what Putin dreaded. This is why he stirred up trouble in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, as a way of threatening Ukraine. This is why Russian tanks were on the border of Ukraine. This is why the terrorism and intimidation.  And the violence that has taken more than 50 Ukrainian lives.

Putin put it all on the line to scare Ukraine out of aligning with the West.  And he has lost.

Thanks to Obama.

Once again President Obama played it just right.  He didn't let Putin lure him into overt hostile action, which would have given Putin the excuse to roll those tanks.  Instead he squeezed Russia hard enough economically that Putin had to pull the tanks back.  Ukraine's new president saw that Putin had been just bluffing, and therefore Ukraine's leader was emboldened to sign the treaty with the West.

Obama is getting no credit for his smooth moves in this matter, just as he got none for outfoxing Putin on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons.  The media doesn't understand how Obama finesses these tricks.  For a poker player, Obama is also damn good at bridge. But he leaves the media scratching its collective head.  And he can't explain his moves to the media.  The essence of his tactics is that they are secretive and quiet.  Once you start boasting of how you've just finagled one past Putin. you won't ever get a chance to do another such move.

Putin is all about pride.  That explains the shirtless photos, the monstrous Olympic opening, the strutting.  Obama knows this well.  He always allows Putin to hang on to a shred of pride, to keep a good face on his losses. Maybe this knack or focus comes from Obama's young years in Asia, where "face" is so important.  I doubt that.  Allowing the other guy to hold on to a pretense of respectability is standard tactics in all good, shrewd dealing.  Only rarely do you need to shame your opponent.

Some credit goes also to Ukraine for having the guts to sign the piece of paper and thus poke a finger in the eye of Putin, the Russian bear.  The Ukrainians have been brave throughout this difficult time.  They have now made their choice of a future.   On the same day, Georgia and Modova also signed up with the Western world. Like Ukraine these two are also breakaway former Soviet republics.

Welcome to the three of you.  You have had a long and dark time of it but now you have stepped into the sunlight.  So pull up a bench to the picnic table and have some barbecue ribs.  You're family now.

And just in time for the Fourth of July!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Obama Has Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Iraq

Everybody wants to tell President Obama what to do about Iraq.  Meantime the American people think less well this week of his foreign policy ability than they used to, according to a new poll, probably because of Iraq falling apart.


It's all nonsense.  Nothing Obama does about Iraq is going to make much difference in that country.  The one thing he might do that would be effective is put a dictator back in power, a "strong man" who will hold that country together by force of terror.  And that's something Obama isn't going to do.  Because then George W might come back too!

Iraq is going to do what Iraq is going to do. Chiefly it will continue to be the playground or, more accurately, the killing ground of what we today call "factions" but what Lawrence of Arabia would have called "tribes".  The media insist there's a three-way split in Iraq:  Kurd, Shitte, Sunni. It's not that simple.  The warring factions of the desert of old were not organized into such super-blocs.  They were tribal.  Thus today, even within the Sunni or Shiite there are multiple "factions".  These are the tribes of old.  And even as I write, the Shiite are dividing in Iraq just when they should (we think) unite in keeping out some Sunni from Syria.

Throughout the desert lands of the Arabs and Persians and throughout Africa, Europeans carved "nation states" into existence so they could have tidy little packages of governance.  It was ridiculous and arrogant, yoking together traditional enemies.   And it left us with eventual things like the Tutsi and Hutu horror.  It is still playing out in the fighting within African "nations".  Each of two or more tribes fights to secure control of an artificially created state.  Much the same thing is playing out on the sands of Araby.

Think of Lawrence of Arabia, desperately luring the Saudi tribes into cooperating to fight the Turks by offering gold.  No sense of "nation" there.  Just "me, my guys, my family, my tribe and my oasis and whatever we can pick up as the spoils of war."  Actually a very practical organization of reality in a culture dependent mostly on horses and camels for getting around.  When you live in a small world, a tribe makes great sense.

Of course, it's fun not only to fight the neighboring tribes but also  to fight that other religion that's so like yours but not quite.  Ask the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland.  There may be only one God for Muslims, but there are various sub-religions among Muslims, the two chief ones going back to the time of Mohammed himself, if I understand correctly.  The two sides of that ancient quarrel recently made a bloody time of it in the war between Iraq and Iran after the Gulf War.  At that time it was possible to forget tribal and go national because strong dictators said that's how it was going to be. 

I have spent many years working with the Native American tribes.  I know whereof I speak as regards tribal people.  Historically the Native Americans would not pull together against the whites because the ones they should have been uniting with were their old enemies.  Four hundred years after Columbus came barging in and when I was trying to be of use to them, the Native Americans were still not pulling together on the oars.  I thought I'd go crazy, but they had the right to do things the way they thought best.  We won our battles  -  big ones, in fact  -  but probably we could have done so much more.  It just wasn't for me to say. 

Iraq is going to do what Iraq is going to do.  Obama has already done what needs to be done by us in Iraq.  And that is to get ourselves the hell out of there.  We are no longer the prisoner of Arab oil.  There is no longer any reason for us to be prisoner of Arab tribalism.

Good job, Mr. President. You pulled our troops out and say there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq.  That's great for us and clears the way for Iraq to figure out what Iraq has to figure out.  Contrary to what the Euro-American always thinks, we don't know what's best for "our little brown brother," as Teddy Roosevelt would call these people whom we  -  in our supposed wisdom  -  keep deciding we can "control". 

Control?  Have an effect?  Nation-building?  It's enough to make a cat laugh.  If people weren't dying….  


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Did We Just Miss Extinction by One Vote?

We as a species may have just narrowly missed extinction, perhaps by as little as one vote on the United States Supreme Court.

By that same vote the planet may also have just missed one of those major kill-offs like the one that extinguished the dinosaurs and much of the life on earth.

A bit of background: outside the glare of the media, perpetually misfocused as it is,  President Obama last fall ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue regulations that will virtually wipe out coal-fired power plants.  This is a big step in curtailing global warming and also, hopefully, cutting off the acidification of the world's ocean.  It's big news about curbing Big Coal and saving life on this planet.

Big Coal and its friends have been firing back at the Obama administration over this issue for the last couple of years as the Supreme Court has been repeatedly holding that the EPA has the power to regulate climate-changing gases, chiefly carbon dioxide.  The potential harm that CO2 can do was not within the scope of scientific thinking when the Clean Air Act was passed back in Nixon's day.  (And, yes, Virginia, there used to be Republicans back then who were pro-environment, including  -  most emphatically  -  ol' Nixon himself).  Since no one was then much hip to global warming and CO2, the new law didn't expressly authorize the EPA to regulate against the menace.

But in an unusual burst of good sense, the Supreme Court has upheld exactly that power on the grounds that it comes within the duty to protect life and health that the law places on EPA.  And that's the Supreme Court using the term "duty", i.e. the EPA not only can but MUST regulate against the conditions that will turn Earth into the boiling Venus and fry us all on the way there.

This is encouraging.  What is sad is that Big Coal and its buddies have made three trips to the Court to try to get a different result. But we won't be discouraged by their refusal to concede they've lost.  Rather we should be grateful for these repeated court cases because they point out a really dreadful possibility:  If the Democrats lose the presidency in 2016, a GOP president could appoint a right-wing justice to replace the aging and sickly Ginsberg.  That would deliver us all into the hot pot.  The Big Coal signal is clear:  it won't give up but will keep trying and hope to catch a break.  Ginsberg's failure to resign while Obama is president may give them just that break, allowing a GOP president to choose her successor.

Even before the GOP catching a break in 2016, we could be on the road to becoming Venus.  If we lose the Senate this year, it's conceivable that a Congress controlled by the GOP in both houses could vote to scrap or amend the Clean Air Act so as to save Big Coal's you-know-what and destroy the rest of us.  This scenario would be a bit tough though for the GOP to pull off, since Obama could veto such legislation, and the GOP is not likely to have a supermajority adequate to over-ride a veto.

No, the likelier hazard is that the Democrats lose the 2016 presidential race, the GOP thereby captures another seat on the Court and shoves us into the elevator shaft of our planet becoming a Hell.  We would not be tipping over into a slide toward a warmer Earth; we would be plummeting into a one-way, absolutely inevitable and self-accelarating fall into the boiling and sulphuric conditions of Venus. 

The fate of all of our grandchildren and their children and of this "little blue planet" rests in the hands of two women.  Justice Ginsberg and Hilary Clinton.  The former should set aside her self-serving decision to continue on into an older old age and instead resign in time for Obama to replace her.  We CANNOT risk her seat going to a Republican appointee.  As for Hilary, if Ginsberg puts us all at risk by hanging on to her seat until after 2016, some Democrat had damn well better win the presidency in 2016.  Can Hilary do it?

Can she? 

I wonder.

One vote on the Court may have saved us this week.  One woman may save or doom us in 2016.    



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Not Eric Cantor But Fathers Day And A Man Of Courage

 I was going to write about Eric Cantor but have decided Father's Day is more important.  Actually since last Tuesday anything is more important than Eric Cantor.

First, Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers who have transitioned to the new era of fatherdom and its higher degree of participation.  Lots of diapers and dishes. But lots of hugs too and being able to say, "You're a wonderful kid."  That didn't use to be allowed.

In fact, my dad never once said that he loved me.  But I knew he did.  He told me about the stock market when I was eight and about communism when I was ten:  "It sounds like a great idea on paper but doesn't actually work very well".  That's the best summation of communism I've ever heard. Even though I was a girl, and girls were nothing in those days, he talked to me.  So I knew he loved me.

And he bought me the occasional chocolate popsicle and let me watch him bowl.  In summer we took evening walks along the country roads where we lived in rural Illinois, and in winter he left the house braced to battle the blizzard down to the railroad station  to get to his job in Chicago. Sick or well, he never missed a day's work.  So I knew he loved me.

When we left rural Illinois for the push and shove harshness of post-war Los Angeles and its ugly pavement and my heart was broken with homesickness and my wicked Aunt Georgie was living with us and hated me, he walked me some evenings to the drugstore and bought me a chocolate soda and gave me a nickel to play Hoagie Carmichael singing "Old Buttemilk Sky".  So I knew he loved me because he knew when I was really hurting even though he never could abide "crocodile tears" and I had no tears for my terrible suffering.

My four Watt cousins told me in our middle-age and long after he was dead, how he came out into their backyard and held them all so they could cry when their father had died. "The rest of the family was in the house comforting Ma, and we had been sent outside to be out of the way. But he came to find us."  His mother had died when he was sixteen, leaving him an orphan.  Because he had had the courage then to face and experience his own pain, he was able to sense and console the pain of others.

That's a rare sort of courage in any man in any age.  Most hide from their feelings, frightened of their pain.   But my father was brave.  Brave emotionally and brave physically.  As an orphaned kid and a "newsie" he'd had to fight to hold his corner and sell his newspapers.  Not just fight other kids but the thugs with baseball bats that the rival newspapers sent.  He never spoke of these things.  His sister told us. When he was grown and married, he and my mom had four kids during the Depression.  That too was courage.  And when the war came he tried over and over to enlist but his draft board wouldn't take him because his job was designated "vital to the war effort".

He gave me something better than anything material and something better even then saying "I love you".  He gave me the gift of courage.  I've tried to keep faith with that.  And sometimes it's as if he is standing just behind me saying, "Come on, Dorothy Helen, you can do this."

But he never says, "I love you."  Not even now. 

He doesn't have to.     

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eric Cantor's Defeat? Double Dipping With The Devil

Goodbye, Eric Cantor!  We won't miss your smarmy smirk at all.  Of all the nasties the GOP has served up in recent years, you are the nastiest. You smiled as you lied. You smiled when you cut food for poor children.

Your fatal mistake has been the same one Karl Rove made, the mistake that cost him his vision of running a nationally all-powerful GOP majority for decades to come.  His mistake? He dined with the Devil.

You did it too.  And with second helpings.

The old saying is that "If you dine with the Devil, use a long spoon".  The kicker is that there is no spoon long enough.  If you once take the wrong people on board to advance your cause, you're stuck with them and the eventual outcome they can bring down on your head.  It's the story of Dr. Frankenstein but without Gene Wilder.

In Rove's case, he embraced the born-again Christians and fired them up into carrying the GOP on their shoulders, engaging them (and exploiting them) by emphasizing anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage as the marching tunes.  The far-right Christians, however, were not going to be led indefinitely by the likes of Karl Rove.  By 2006 some of them said, "Enough with politics.  We are about religion."  Others said, "There's more to being a Christian than being an anti-something, like being concerned about poverty and the environment."  In 2010 another segment morphed into being Tea Partyers.  And they beckoned the like-minded anti-government kooks to join them.  Rove lost control of his Republican party.  

But even more devastating, the GOP had lost its legs.  By shoving off the grass-roots precinct work to the churches, Rove allowed the GOP volunteer ranks  -  traditionally very strong  -  to just wither away.  That's why he couldn't believe on election night 2012 that Romney had lost.  He thought the troops were working the field in Ohio but they weren't. His GOP grass-roots had shriveled away, and the Tea Party troops do their own work, not the bidding of the GOP.

Eric Cantor not only embraced the far right as Rove had done, but he also fed it and stoked it. He became its self-appointed head in the House, even scheming against the attempts by his supposed partner, Speaker John Boehner, whenever Boehner tried to achieve some good things for the American people.  Cantor even went so far as to literally travel very far  -  all across the country, in fact  -  to raise money for Tea Party candidates.  He was theirs.  They were his. At least he thought so.

But before he was a self-designated Tea Partyer, he was a Jew.  He seems to have forgotten that basic identity.  Jews don't become Republicans and certainly don't became radically conservative Tea Partyers.  The moral convictions of the Jews and their historical experience have placed them at the heart of the Democratic party. It is a fundamental of Judaism to take care of the weak and helpless.  It's called being a human being.  That is not at all compatible with being a Tea Partyer with the mantra of "Every man for himself!"  

It is also an historical fact that many Republicans don't like Jews.  Insofar as Republicans have been the party of the country club and the Ivy League dining clubs, Jews have been outcasts.  Yes, there were exceptions.  There are Jews who have had Republican friends.  But not any more.  Those Republicans fled the GOP a couple of years ago.

It is quite possible, therefore, that Cantor lost his primary because today's Republicans hate Jews.  David Wasserman of Charlie Cook's highly regarded "The Political Report" stated yesterday, as reported in the New York Times, that Cantor lost for this reason, calling his Judaism and the hatred for it "the elephant in the room".  Wasserman, like other analysts, has been searching these past 12 hours for reasons Cantor lost his primary when establishment GOP elsewhere have been beating back Tea Party challengers.  Indeed, the talk this year has been that the Tea Party is done for, burnt out. Wasserman notes that Cantor had also been fine-tuning his district to make it ever more conservative, thus inadvertently making it ever more anti-Semitic. 

However he did it, Eric Cantor managed to lose to an unknown who was funded with pocket change from under the sofa cushions. 

My mother's favorite saying was "The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine."  In other words, "You'll get yours, Mac.  Just wait and see."

In Cantor's case, the mills ground quickly. Perhaps it was quick because Wasserman is right, that Cantor's being Jewish helped finish him off.  So much for double-dipping when dining with the Devil.  Cantor's was a double baddy, compounded by his betraying his own people and their ethic when he sat down to dine with the Tea Party-dominated GOP. 

My mother had another saying:  "God will not be mocked."  

Apparently Jews have to be especially careful whom they invite to dinner.  Maybe Cantor is lucky a lightning bolt didn't find him, though to judge from the screaming headlines, it did.

Goodbye again, Eric Cantor.  The crowd with the torches has just carried you away!