Friday, December 25, 2015

Peace on Earth and the Man of Peace

Peace on Earth, a promise of Christmas.

It is easy to bemoan the state of the world and say there is no peace and that there is lots of war. But this is not true.

There is little war as compared with prior eras. This is not to excuse the war in Syria or Iraq and Afghanistan. But we should keep perspective so as to have hope and courage.

Some people sneered when Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize as a new president. But he has now certainly earned it. He has rid the world of Bin Laden, a destroyer of peace. He has severely reduced American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. He led Putin into getting rid of Assad's chemical weapons. He got an agreement with Iran to stop the development of nuclear weapons. He stopped Putin taking over the entirety of Ukraine. He has led Putin (yep, again!) to agree to a peace process for Syria. He has ended nearly 60 years of hostility with Cuba. He has brought China to an agreement on global warming. And don't question the peace facet of the China agreement. If global warming continues unabated, we will face water-starved Chinese storming our western shore.

Obama is indeed a man of peace. I have seen them all since FDR, and no other president after FDR has done as much for peace as has Obama.

He was indeed a gift to the world, and I am sad that 2016 will mark the closing of his presidency.

Peace on Earth. He did a lot to bring it about. Thank you, Mr. President.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Turkey Downs Russian Fighter. No, Lafayette, the Yanks Aren't Coming

No, Lafayette. And sorry, Charlie Hebdo. The Yanks aren't coming to rescue the world everywhere from the so-called "Muslim menace".  We are not even going to get heavily into Syria.
And here is just one reason why, as reported today in the New York Times:
            In a clash with Cold War overtones, Turkey shot down a 
            Russian warplane that it said had strayed into its            
            territory. Russia called the incident a “stab in the back,” 
            and NATO called for calm.

Now what? Will ISIS have succeeded inadvertently in getting the two countries to fight each other, a sort of side-pocket bonus of its terrorism?

Isn't this shoot-down by Turkey exactly the kind of thing that could happen between the USA and Russia if we try to enforce the no-fly zone in Syria that Hillary Clinton wants? Unless we establish such a no-fly zone in cooperation with Russia, we are setting ourselves up for a possible real war, i.e. one with nuclear weapons, conducted by two actual super-powers.  I don't know any sane person who would want US and Russian fighter planes circling each other over Syria, each committed to an opposing side in the Syrian war. The Russians want Assad to continue as ruler of Syria. And we don't. And how is the "safety zone" Hillary wants in Syria to be enforced so that US and Russian troops aren't shooting each other?

Risk a full-scale round-the-globe major war because Paris took a really nasty hit a couple of weeks ago? Other places have been hit hard too. The roster is indeed grim:  Madrid, London, Mumbia, Bali, a Russian school full of children and a Russian theater full of patrons, and in the last few weeks a planeload of Russian citizens over the Sinai, plus the recent attack in Beirut and many more in recent years in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan even though we supposedly had stabilized the last two. The USA has taken a hit too. It was called 9-1l, and it had a total of more dead than all of the foregoing put together.

Actually we vowed right after 9-11 to make "global war" on the violence-embracing fundamentalist Muslims. We then spent a trilllion dollars, lost about 5000 dead American military personnel, now have maybe 100,000 wounded and maimed vets, killed an estimated  200,000  Iraquis and wounded a huge number. But the other side is still up and running and killing and maiming.

The hard truth is that a determined guerilla enemy can make trouble indefinitely and you can't stomp them out quickly without being so vicious that you create more of them. We often used our own forested land as cover in the Revolution, shot from behind trees  -  not considered proper warfare anywhere else in "civilized" places  -   and thereby we beat the Brits, the most powerful military force in the world. But a century later when we beat the Spanish in the Spanish American War in conventional fighting, we still couldn't eliminate the Phillipine guerrillas who continued to oppose us from the hills and thickets of the jungles. Then, fifty years later, came Vietnam. A comparatively tiny country beat the hell out of the mightiest power in history by being determined guerillas, shooting at us from behind trees. And the more we bombed them, the more determined they became.

Up against today's guerillas, President Obama has the right basic strategy:  quietly and steadily pick them off, denying them the glamorizing of being "a major enemy". The more "major" we make them, the more impressive they are to the young men they seek to recruit. We mustn't be the recruitment tool of ISIS propaganda.

By the way, the Irish beat the Brits in the 20th century by blowing up buildings and shooting people in a guerilla war. After 400 years of conventional battles for Irish freedom, they had no choice but to do the sneaky thing. And it worked. The Brits stupidly opted to run their own version of Guantanomo, used mass arrest, hauled the Irish "rebels" before firing squads, etc. Until the IRA made life in London very dangerous with bombs. Then the British sat down with the Irish and gave them what they wanted.

We can't sit down with ISIS because it wants what we can't give, a caliphate, a huge state run by them under grim and barbaric rules.

And we cannot, must not give them the other thing they want: status as terrifying boogeymen. Let us not ennoble them nor tremble in fear. Let's go about eliminating them deftly and quietly.

And let us remember the mistakes the Brits made in fighting against our Revolution and against the Irish rebellion. Let us also be aware that the Brits' mistakes with the Irish actually created ISIS and its guerilla predecessors. Because of the Brits, the Irish were so desperate for arms for their guerilla warfare that they taught tactics to the Islamic extremists in exchange for weapons for their fight against England. Because of England, the Irish created the Muslim terrorists.

England's imperialism yet casts a long shadow.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ben Carson So Dumb He Makes a Weak Field Look Good

I can't believe the GOP is stuck with its current field of potential nominees. Are there no basic qualifications for running for president in a major party?

Ben Carson especially takes my breath away. Most people think all doctors are smart. Not true. I taught pre-med students for ten years. Some pre-meds were smart; others weren't. The latter were, however, good at memorizing, which is extremely helpful in learning body parts and prescription names but isn't worth much in terms of thinking. So I wasn't as surprised as many were that Ben Carson is an unthinking person who accepts and regurgitates really nutsy ideas about history and other things.

Such things as the income tax.

In the Republican debate this week he proposed eliminating the tax deduction for home mortgage expense. May his immortally stupid words be chiseled on his tombstone:  “But the fact of the matter is, people had homes before 1913, when we introduced the federal income tax, and later after that started deductions.”

Gosh. That is such a stupid statement it almost defies explication. For starters, it's a huge example of mixing apples and oranges. Or is it a non sequitur? Or maybe there's no label for such nonsense.  First he actually says that people had homes before there was an income tax, thus idiotically indicating people don't need an income tax in order to own homes. Why say such a thing? No one has ever made the preposterous claim that we need an income tax in order to encourage home ownership. So why does he attack that premise? Yikes! 

Then it gets worse: "...and later after that started deductions."  Well, yeah. Deductions do in fact get established after a tax is established. So what? What's the point? 

God help us that this man should ever be trying to enunciate orders from the Oval Office about whether or not we're going to start World War III.  Or do anything of any consequence whatsoever. No matter his intent, he would end up either inadvertently surrendering to Iceland or ordering an anchovy pizza.

All that Carson has to offer is that he speaks more softly than Donald Trump.  Other than that he's the worst one on the stage. I have to believe that the Republican voters will tire of him. I just have to believe that.

I said in the title of this piece that Carson makes the rest of the weak GOP field look good. Well, almost but not quite. Jeb Bush is still wallpaper. Rubio is offensive to many of the GOP base because he is Cuban. Plus he is not going to appeal to Latinos in the general election, and for the same reason — being Cuban.  I notice these phenomena, but I don't create or approve them. To Latinos, being Cuban is not being Latino, a distinction in American politics that the GOP doesn't understand. (I've explained this distinction before and will again if Rubio stays around.) Donald Trump? He is a horn blower who currently is running out of sour notes to trumpet. Fiorina? The GOP will never nominate a woman.  

Is there anybody else in the  "top tier" of GOP wannabes? If there is and I can't remember who that is, that says a lot about him, doesn't it? Oh yeah, Kasich. He's okay, not a wild man.
But he doesn't gain traction. 

Cruz? Yeah, I forgot Cruz. Forgetfulness is contagious. There he was in the debate, gallantly upholding a Texas tradition: he forgot one of the five departments he will eliminate from the federal government. In 2012 Rick Perry forgot one of the three departments he would have eliminated from the federal government. Therefore you can forgive me for forgetting Cruz. But observe:  Texas and the GOP nominating process are improving. We now have a Texan who can remember two more things than did a prior Texan.

Real progress, folks! ........Now watch this!..... Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor!.... and what was that third one? ..... Got it!....Remember the Maine!...... 

Do I get to be president? Or do I have to move to Texas?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Really? Sanders Can Beat Any GOP Candidate? Really?

How about a dollar for every time someone has said to you: "Bernie Sanders is a great guy, but he can't win the general election"?

Ha! Not true according to the newest poll from McClatchy/Marist. With one slight exception — and it's one that doesn't count — Sanders does just as well as Hillary Clinton in beating the Republican field.

And how about this? They each beat the whole GOP field! Quite startlingly, each does it by almost the same amount. The one exception is a match-up against Ben Carson. Hillary beats him by 2 points; Sanders loses to him by 2 points, both numbers well within the margin of error. But this is the exception I mentioned as being irrelevant, i.e. Carson is not going to be the GOP nominee.

You're wondering how good this poll is. Looking at its approach and its "frame", as its called, it doesn't look too bad at all. Unlike the many polls that are still behind the times, this one included a sizable number of cell phone calls.  Cell phones are in use as the sole household phone in about half of households, so cell calls being used for one-third the sample was pretty good. This alone may account for this poll differing from two Iowa polls recently that were badly constructed to virtually exclude the two groups most likely to be Sanders supporters.

Admittedly, there are more Democrats in this McClatchy/Maris poll than Republicans.  In 2012 there were polls with similarly more Democrats than Republican, and these showed Obama winning. Predictably the GOP screamed about the edge in Democratic numbers among those polled, but the pollsters shrugged it off, insisting their polls were sound. They were right. Obama did indeed win.

We have to keep in mind that more Democrats may show up in polling than Republicans simply because there are more Democrats in the population.  It's this fact that gives Democrats the edge in the presidential election voting. And it's an increasing edge. The Republicans just continue dropping in numbers as a percentage of the population.

A radical thought I keep having:  Has the GOP already shrunk so much in numbers it just can't win the presidency at all?  And/or is the GOP field just so weak that — dare I say it? — maybe any Democrat can win the presidency next year?  And is the field so weak because somewhere some potentially strong GOP candidates looked at the declining number of Republicans and the growing number of crazies on the GOP right and said, "Hell no! I won't go!" (Honestly, however, I can't think of who such Republicans might be. Any ideas?)

I pose three possibilities now, maybe pretty wild ones: To wit, Bernie Sanders does as well as Hillary in beating the GOP because (a) the GOP ain't got nobody, (b) people don't like Hillary all that much so Bernie is about as strong as she is even though less known, or (c) nobody knows nothing no more no how about politics because it's a weird year.

It may be more than a weird year. I think we are living in one of the strangest political times ever. Not for 130 years has America witnessed the death of a major political party, but I think that's what we are seeing now. It's been going on for about a decade, and it's painful to watch. I think it has in fact actually killed people.

But more about that another time. Meantime try googling "Whigs".

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Seriously Flawed Iowa Polls Show NY Times Has Lost Its Mind

Normally, I love the New York Times. Maybe it's not as solid as it once was, but it tries hard to be really good journalism, and I cite it a lot.

So it grieves me when it screws up badly. As it did today. It has an article buried in its "Politics" section claiming Hillary Clinton is suddenly nearly 40 points ahead of Bernie Sanders in Iowa.

Wha? That doesn't seem possible. And, indeed, the NY Times master of polls, Nate Cohn, tore one of those polls apart a couple of days ago in the Times, explaining why it was worthless.

Here's his article: why-an-iowa-poll-is-unfair-to-bernie-sanders.html.

Good for the NY Times in spotting a bad poll!

So how explain the Times' about-face today when it runs an article citing this poll as important and featuring a second similarly flawed poll by an equally obscure pollster.

Perhaps the reporters at the Times don't read their own paper? Or there's a shortage of editors at the Times? Or someone gave an unqualified reporter an assignment over his head? The reporter in this case is a Patrick Healy, who appears to also be a theater critic for the Times. Given that politics is a lot like theater, I suppose he's sort of qualified to cover politics some of the time. He's just not qualified to evaluate political polls.

The sad thing is that most media people aren't. So - sure enough - this morning's TV news picked up the "story" Patrick Healy had "broken", and now lots of Bernie supporters are reportedly scratching their heads. The NY Times still generally defines a lot of what is "news".  Therefore, don't be surprised if your TV or radio starts blathering about Clinton's huge new lead in Iowa.

It isn't true. It isn't even news. These same two ridiculously bad pollsters (profs at two minor colleges) put out polls months ago that showed Hillary with a similarly huge lead. It wasn't true then; all the reputable polls then showed Sanders ahead.  And it sure ain't true now.  In fact, she has gained only 4 points over where one of these obscure polls had her in August. She didn't lead him then by 30+ points, and she doesn't lead by about 40 points now.

P.S. Guess what? The Huffington Post HuffPollster has just written an article about this "news" of Clinton's lead but dismissing it as flawed because of too much calling of landlines.  Landline Telephones, 'Moral Tone,' and Negative Favorability Undermine Clinton's Lead Over Bernie Sanders. The hard truth is that most polls these days are worthless. I'll try to bring you data from the respectable ones that use good criteria and proper methods.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hillary Is Where She Was in October, 2007. The Bounce That Wasn't!

The experts have it wrong again. Hillary Clinton may be having "a good month" in their opinion but she hasn't significantly improved her shot at the Democratic nomination. In fact, she seems to be doing worse than in October 2007 when she ran against Obama.

Let's check out her actual prowess this month:
 1. This month the media acclaimed her the winner of the first Democratic debate. But, according to CNN polling, 81% of voters thought Sanders won.

2. Joe Biden dropped out, and he had been drawing voters from her. But seemingly-sweet Joe Biden doesn't like Hillary at all and virtually pledged to lie in wait for her and scald her for any disloyalty to Obama. When an Irishman says, "I will not be silent", BEWARE! The Irish make the best friends and the worst enemies. Keep an eye on Biden!

3. She got through the Benghazi hearings without throwing the water glasses, but a big-time movie is coming out just before the Iowa caucuses that blames Clinton for the Benghazi debacle. Keep in mind that more people watch movies than watch Congressional hearings.

Reality seems to say that the gifts of October for Hillary were all wrapping paper and empty boxes.  This is reflected in Hillary's not-so-great poll numbers. So far she's got only a slight bump out of all this supposedly good news, about 6 points. That's on the measly side after so much media flaunting of her triumphs.

Maybe that's the reason the commentators are so non-jubilant about her current numbers.  It's now almost two weeks since the Democratic debate. Where's the hooting and hollering? Only a couple of polls have been published, then quickly whisked from sight.

Her bump is also diminished by the fact that the post-debate commentary by "the experts" may itself have caused the bump. Its smallness suggests this. So does "538", the on-line zine of a true poll expert, Nate Silver, formerly of the NY Times. His cohort Harry Enten explained on October 22:

             "Clinton gained in five of the six national polls taken after the debate. This shouldn’t be too   surprising: Media spin is what matters most after a debate, and Clinton received very positive coverage. That’s in contrast to her media coverage before the debate, which was very negative. What’s a little bit uncertain is how much ground she picked up. The average has her up 6 percentage points, but CNN found her down 1 point, and the Emerson College poll* had her up 15 points."
Hillary Clinton Got The Biggest Post-Debate Polling Bounce  10/22/15, "538".
(* Emerson college is an excellent theater/film school but is new to polling.)

So what's the bottom line for Hillary?
Let's compare with October 2007 when Hillary was running against Obama. Like now, the media were proclaiming her nomination a sure thing. At that point they seemed to have some reason for their drum-beating: the RealClearPolitics average of all polls had Hillary 17 points ahead of Obama. Now she has about a 20 point lead over Sanders. Surprisingly that's only a 3 point improvement vis-a-vis 2007 even after her triple "triumphs" of this month. And this time, unlike 2007, she has no one draining away possible votes as were John Edwards, Joe Biden and a clutch of others back then. She thus should be much farther ahead of Bernie Sanders than she is.

It seems therefore like she's actually in a worse position than in 2007-8.

And we all know how that turned out for Hillary!

——Next time or soon thereafter (depending on the news):  "Does Hate for Obama Help Sanders Get the Democratic Nomination?"

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dancing Bernie Beats Hillary on Campaign Cash! And More To Come!

SHHH.... I've got a secret to share with you. Though money was supposed to be the forte of Hillary and Jeb Bush, those two bastions of wealth, it's actually the very unwealthy, unconnected Bernie Sanders and his campaign that have outsmarted Jeb and Hillary on campaign financing. And Bernie's done it six ways to Sunday!

You won't see this covered in the media because, oddly enough, money management in political campaigns seems to bore the political "experts". They pipe on and on about the raising of money and about Citizens United, but they don't pay attention to how money is handled in campaigning. For example, they looked at Obama's campaign trouncing Romney in money-handling in 2008 and never caught on. Then they woke up at the end of the campaign season and wondered why Romney was way behind Obama in advertising.

But let's stay with Bernie and Hillary and Jeb. It's hilarious.

Jeb Bush has sucked up $133.3 million in campaign contributions. Hillary has scooped up $97.7 million. But Bernie Sanders has actually whipped their whatsises! Get this: Jeb Bush has only $14.5 million cash on hand to spend. Hillary has only $33 million cash on hand.

Bernie, however, has $27.1 million cash on hand! He's got twice as much on hand as does Jeb and almost as much as Hillary.

No wonder he's dancing! Let's take a time-out here for fun! Bernie dancing on the Ellen DeGeneres show:

Keep in mind now, by comparison with the much-hailed political behemoths Hillary and Jeb, good old Bernie had raised $41.5 million by the time of the first debate. And it's ALL in individual contributions. Setting aside their untouchable pac monies which Hillary and Jeb cannot use, Hillary had raised $77.5 million from individual donors, almost twice what Bernie had raised form individuals. A pathetic Jeb Bush had raised only $24.8 from individuals.

But Bernie has been careful with his spending. The $27.1 million in cash he has is TWICE what Jeb has and almost as much as Hillary. Bush has spent $10 million more than Bernie has and has nothing to show for it. Now he has only half the cash on hand Bernie does. Hillary beat Bernie in fund-raising by more than DOUBLE but he's only $4 million behind her in cash on hand and may have made up most of that in the days immediately following the Democratic debate by pulling in another $2 million. And he is going to have LOTS MORE from that source and she isn't!

What is going on! Two things. First, both Jeb and Hillary have been spending a lot of money. Bernie hasn't. Presumed front runners of wealth, like Jeb and Hillary, have to pay high salaries to the campaign pros. You can't get off on the cheap when you are known to have stuffed pockets and are presumed front-runners. Also, keep in mind, that the "cash in hand" category includes only the balance of money the candidates raised through their campaigns. Most of the monstrous sums Jeb and Hillary have raised was actually raised by their super-pacs.

And they can't touch that pac money for actual campaigning! For real campaign expenses — organizers' salaries, phones, travel, pizza for volunteers, etc. — they can't use pac money.  About all pac money can do is buy ads.  Believe me, massive advertising doesn't win elections. Volunteers guided by organizers for precinct work and get-out-the vote — that's what wins elections. And pizza fuels the volunteers.

Bernie Sanders is now in as good a position financially as Hillary Clinton to build a campaign throughout the country.

In fact, he's in a better position! Here's why. The average contribution he has received is $38. The limit on contributions an individual can make is $2700. Therefore, Bernie can go back to those same contributors and get more money! Again and again and again.

By and large, Hillary can't. Her money came in much larger chunks. Many of her contributors have already "maxed out". They have given the $2700 limit and legally can give no more.

But maybe a whole new bunch of Hillary contributors will emerge. You really believe that? If so, where are they? Wouldn't they have begun to emerge significantly after the Democratic debate this week? Bernie's new supporters certainly did. With the headlines yelping that Hillary had "won the debate", wouldn't her new admirers have jumped on board?  And if Hillary actually was being inundated with a new round of contributions, wouldn't she have let us know about it?

Bernie certainly did. He literally danced out onto the set of Ellen DeGeneres' show when the new contributions hit $2 million within two days after the debate. Here he is again!

So this is the money stuff you look for in campaigning. Not who piled up how much, but what they did with it. Not who has how much left but what they can legally do with it. And never forget Scott Walker, the experts' favorite a year ago and now a GOP dropout. He had the Koch brothers and their billions but they couldn't pay the rent on one headquarters or buy one round of pizza for volunteers. Bye-bye, Scottie.

So who is really looking like a winner?  Why, it's the guy who came out dancing, that's who. The old guy from Vermont, the non-capitalist who just beat financial hell out of the wealthy, well-connected Jeb and Hillary.

You gotta love it!
For a complete collection of the data I have cited (but not this kind of analysis),
see the New York Times story "Which Candidates Are Winning the Money Race" at

For the NYT tardy update that now begins to notice some of what I just told you, see:

Friday, October 9, 2015

Uncopying the CopyCat Killings on Campuses

What should we do?

Suspect Is Held After 4 Are Shot at Arizona University

Shooting at Texas Southern University Kills One

We are in the middle of a series of copycat killings on college campuses. There have been three this week.  One was near me here in Oregon, now another in Arizona, and one in Texas.

The timing of these indicates copycats. We also know from the writings left by their predecessors, young males all, that being some kind of imagined hero or celebrity is a lot of the motivation for these  killings. Repeatedly these young men have actually said they are shooting people because they want "to be somebody".  So said the young killer of nine in the Charleston, South Carolina church. Yes, he was racially motivated, but the principle appeal of being a killer of black people was that it would, he believed, elevate him to hero status. "Some white person has to be hero enough to do it," he wrote. "I guess it has to be me." They see all the publicity the other killers have had and they confuse that with fame or heroism.

Let's go back to the prototypical killer of the modern era: Lee Harvey Oswald, killer of President John Kennedy. Before the assassination, when he came back from having briefly disaffected to Russia, he was crushed that he was not met at the plane by a clutch of reporters. He made sure, therefore, that fame/infamy would not continue to pass him by. He desperately wanted to be somebody, be known. Killing a president would be just the ticket.

We create these people.

We go nuts over "celebrities" who have absolutely no real claim to fame. They aren't great scientists or humanitarians or artists. They are just celebrities. Right now we have been celebrating celebrity in the person of Donald Trump. He has been all over the media ad nausea. But he is a nothing. Just a nothing who took some money from his father and made more money. Big deal. He has one small ability, i.e. to be a smart ass. Nevertheless, for years NBC has had him on screen all the time on the MSNBC show "Morning Joe". This made him a somebody.  He was on TV.

This is what we teach the lop-sided young men who kill to be on TV.  You gotta be somebody. "I coulda been a contender, Charlie," Marlon Brando whimpered in "On The Waterfront". "I coulda been somebody." At least the boxer character Brando played was willing to take some punches to be somebody. Of course, I'm not suggesting that today's monstrous killers are Brando copycats. They have no idea of anything as arcane as "On the Waterfront", more's the pity. Perhaps there is just something perpetual in America's young men, a yearning to be more than a face in the crowd.

We feed this. We play up celebrity generally to a ridiculous level. We then reward these killers with exactly what they wanted. They get played up enormously in all the media. Their names and faces are everywhere. They are pseudo-psychoanalyzed on TV and in the press. They are more famous than God.

We have to stop this. We have to stop publicizing the names and faces of these monsters. We must not reward their inhuman, maniac killing. We can certainly report on the killing. We can say the killer was a male of such and such age. But never a picture of the scum nor his name on TV or in print.

This will be hard to achieve, but not as hard as keeping weapons out of their hands. There are an estimated 238 million guns in the USA, which is enough for every two out of three Americans. Anybody can get a gun. Further, we have no apparatus for identifying these potential killers, denying them guns, and providing them effective psychological care. Worst of all, we have no prospects of ever getting "gun control" or good psychological care.

But we can prohibit publicizing the identities of the killers. We already do this in other types of crime. The media are prohibited from identifying rape victims in many jurisdictions and are prohibited almost everywhere from identifying juvenile offenders.

Stop rewarding these killers. It is a solid principle of law that criminals are not allowed to profit from their crimes. Why let the worst of criminals profit in exactly the way they wanted? More to the point, why continue to hold out to wannabe killers the prospect that they can reap the reward they want for their killing.

We  have to do something. They are killing our children. Our elderly. Our beloved.

We have to do something.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A House Divided Against Itself.....Can't Do Much of Anything

Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We have a worse situation now. Under GOP management, the House of Representatives is so divided against itself it cannot do much of anything. Except destroy the country. (More on that shortly.)

Let's start where the House Republican majority is right now. It cannot even pick a Speaker! It's driven John Boehner out and, as of this week, has scared Kevin McCarthy out of trying for the job. (Kevin McCarthy)

The House GOP is so divided within itself that we don't really have a Congress anymore. The House is simply not functioning, and without it the Senate is virtually a nothing. Face it! Other than approving treaties and appointments, the Senate can't do anything alone. It certainly can't pass laws or touch the purse strings. Spending and getting are the sole province of the House. If the House doesn't function, neither does the Senate, and there's no Congress.

And so we teeter along on two crutches and no legs, headed toward the specter of not raising the debt ceiling next month and thereby plunging the entire world into economic chaos.  Next comes the December deadline for passing a budget and keeping the government open. Of course, if we have plunged the whole world into economic disaster in November, maybe we should just let the government disappear in December.

Why are the feuding House Republicans so fraught with froth and foaming at the mouth? The 40 hard-core rightist members want their group to run the House. They don't want a Speaker with any power, nor do they want any other leadership doing its job. They want control themselves. No captain on their ship! They want "a principle-based, member-driven Congress." This phrase, so innocuous on its surface, actually means a bare-knuckle free-for-all. There will be no Speaker having the power to move the nation's business in an orderly fashion. Without a Speaker, getting anything done will be like herding cats. Except there won't be anyone trying to herd the cats! Just cats!

Well, you say, so what? Let the GOP destroy itself. Let the people see a House which does NOT represent the people, has no leaders, and is run by nonsense. That's certainly what it would be.

But it's worse than a disgusting spectacle.  A free-for-all by this House means not only chaos but tyranny by a minority.

Get this straight. This so-called House of Representatives does NOT represent the American people. It has a phony majority of Republicans. The Democrats running for the House in 2014 tallied ONE MILLION MORE votes than did the GOP candidates. But the gerrymandering done by the GOP after the 2010 census gave a lot of House representation to comparatively empty land. Thus we end up with a House of Representatives that doesn't represent a majority.

We have lost our grounding in the most fundamental Constitutional principle of all: government by the majority.

Compounding this nastiness is the fact that the minority party now in charge is being run by a minority within it. A mere FORTY people are now largely in control of this country and our government. On top of that they are mostly whackos and racists out of the South.(Graphic The Power of the Hard-Line Republicans in the Race for House Speaker) They don't want a government. They have repeatedly said they want to get rid of the government. What in the world is this!

Well, my friends, none may dare call it treason, but I will.

Our government has been taken over by a small segment that deprives us of constitutionally based representation, and this group is avowedly set on destroying our government. Further, in its ignorance and blind ideology it is set on a course that will not only destroy our government but will casually take down the world economy on its journey to craziness.

John Boehner, PLEASE STAY! Do not desert our poor country. After you, comes the deluge.

As for the rest of us, what in the hell are we going to do about the distorted map of Congressional districts that has brought us to this chasm? Can we hold together for another 5 years until the next census? Can we get sanity back into enough state legislatures so that we have honest, fair representation again.

God help us, I hope so.

Meantime I can't snicker at the self-destructive shenanigans of the House GOP.  Because they are going to destroy us along with them. Even their list of "maybes" for House Speaker is discouraging.

What Lincoln called "the last great hope of humanity" may be about to die.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hey, Putin: Clowns to the Left of You; Jokers to Your Right

NOTE: I drafted  this posting three days before the New York Times called Syria "a quagmire". It's always nice to get the jump on the NY Times. It's even better to get the reassurance that I'm not alone in perceiving Syria as I do. You can see the NYT piece at:
Mr. Putin’s Motives in Syria

"Clowns to the left of you. Jokers to your right." And you're stuck in the middle of Syria, Putin.

That's where you're headed. You're going to be in a mess in Syria, with no good way out.

This is what President Obama believes will happen if Putin insists on propping up Syria's hated dictator Aasad. As Pete Seeger used to sing during the Vietnam War when the U.S. was propping up one South Vietnam leader after another: "We're knee deep in the big muddy and the damn fool says to push on." But Syria won't be our big muddy. Per President Obama we are leaving that stupid position to Putin alone.

We are not going to fight Russia over Syria. We are not going to send in ground forces as long as Obama is president. (Hillary is another story on this point.) There's nothing in Syria's future that merits our intrusion. It's already rotten with ISIS versus Aasad and can't seem to pull together enough sane forces to rid itself of these demons.

With such a wobbly situation, if we send in weapons to anti-Aasad forces, how do we prevent them going to pro-ISIS groups? When we armed Afghans against Russia we created the Taliban.

Can't we be grown-up enough to let the Syrians figure out what to do by themselves? They won't have to put up for long with Russia hanging around helping Aasad because Russia has a lot of troubles of its own. Like Syria, its economy rests primarily on oil. Already drowning in the world's oil glut, Putin will have to realize that hanging on to his sort-of-satellite Syria, which has nothing to offer except oil, makes no sense. Once Russian soldiers start getting killed in Syria, the Russian people are going to blow a whistle.

Putin recently used aggression-by-proxy in the Ukraine and the Crimea, and the Russian people were delighted to be back in the empire game because it costs them no friends and relatives. And, golly, those two places were once part of the Soviet Empire. But Syria? What nostalgia can Russians drum up about Syria?

Better for Putin to do as China is doing: trim the military force and instead focus state funding on the  burgeoning industry of the 21st century, i.e. developing equipment for non-fossil fuel generation. China now leads the world in solar panel production.

Oil is over, Putin. Yours and Syria's. You can't distract your people forever from their sinking economy by playing military big shot here and there. Further, we have a smart president who won't play into your game. You want to be a big shot in a stinking mess. Well, go right ahead, mister. You're like North Vietnam, desperate to immerse South Korea in the tottering make-believe of communism just in time to watch that train pull out of the station.

Yeah, that's a messy mixing of metaphors, but not as messy as your mess in Syria, Putin. Have fun with the clowns and the jokers. We will have the last laugh.

Let's be content to just let Putin be Putin.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hillary Clinton and "Don't Do Stupid Stuff"

" 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle."

That's what Hillary Clinton said this past week in dismissing President Obama's refusal to increase our involvement in Syria.

Compared to what Hillary wants to do in Syria, doing nothing actually looks pretty darn good as an alternative.

On its surface, what Hillary proposes sounds minimal and humane. She wants us to establish a no-fly zone to halt the bombing and to set up "humanitarian corridors" as some sort of safety zone for  civilians.

But how do we enforce a no-fly zone? And against whom? Russia has begun bombing in Syria. Are we going to start confronting Russian war planes and possibly shooting them down? Gosh, I hope not. Such confrontation makes me very uncomfortable. It makes me think of World War III.

What about the humanitarian corridors? How do we set those up? Won't we have to send American personnel into Syria to do that? How do we protect those Americans? How do we keep them out of the hands of Isis and its beheadings and burning people alive? Won't that require our Army in Syria?

Hillary had her chance with these ideas on Syria back when she was Secretary of State. The President rejected her ideas back then and rejected them again last week. There are always some ideas that sound interesting until you ask "how".  Like going over the rainbow.  Do we really want ideas that involve tornadoes? Both of her suggestions involve possibilities that can get out of control and be very destructive.

I don't want to go to war in Syria. Aside from the likes of Dick Cheney, does any American want us putting ground troops in Syria or starting an air war with Russia in the skies of Syria? Absolutely not.

Hillary has learned nothing, zip, zero from her wrong vote to get us into war in Iraq. Nor did the drawn-out mess in Afghanistan teach her anything.  Write it large on the blackboards of America. Post it on all the computers. The three rules of a good life: (1) Don't walk on glaciers. (2) Don't enter a land war in Asia. (3) Don't presume to "help" Arabs or their like to decide which government they want.

The Arabs and others of that area are grownups and they can figure out for themselves what government they want and how to get it. We may not like their choices and we may not like their process, but we have absolutely no duty or right to take over their show. In strictly formal diplomatic language, we should just butt out.

Maybe if we butted out of other people's business, those people wouldn't hate us so much. We no longer have an "oil interest" to protect in that part of the world. Oil is a glut, with a lot of the glut right here in our fracting of the Appalachians. And the need for oil is going to keep shrinking. We have reached the golden door for which I have prayed for decades! It's the door OUT of the Middle East and environs. Let us flee through that door now and forever. And what about Israel? Nothing about Israel requires us to be in a land or air war in Syria.

We have to face a sad fact, folks. Hillary Clinton is possibly not all that bright. In my last posting I hit her hard for having messed up the chance we had back in 1993 to get health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. She couldn't see how idiotic it was for her to grab away one of Congress' Constitutional prerogatives and duties and then expect the members of Congress to enact "Hillary's health plan". No First Lady every barged in like that on the legislative process. Let's admit it. Hillary is a barger-inner, a bulldozer in a china shop. She's not reflective and she's headstrong. She belongs to another era, the era of "America runs the world".

We can't afford her brand of being half-baked. Actually that's the term that President Obama used this past week to refer to critics of his Syrian restraint, all the mouths that want us to do more in Syria. When asked if he was calling Hilary's ideas half-baked he said no.

But he was. And I'm saying it here.

So what do you think of her brainstorming? Bit too much tornado?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hillary Clinton Responsible for 750,000 Dead Americans

This is a true story. A friend of an adult son of mine died because of Hillary Clinton and her egotistical power grab in 1993 when she was in her first year as First Lady.

As First Lady, she had not been elected to any office. She had no power nor authority. Yet she appointed herself to write a health insurance bill to cover America's uninsured. 

She then blew it big time.

First of all, no self-respecting member of Congress was going to quietly hand over the lawmaking powers of Congress to an unelected First Lady. Arguably such would have been a violation of the Congressional duty to uphold the  Constitution. Drafting a bill certainly comes within the lawmaking powers of Congress. It wasn't even as if she was merely scribbling down some ideas on the back of an envelope, nor was it merely her husband proposing some measures through her for Congress' consideration. She was taking over the whole show, even to holding hearings. From the moment she appointed yourself to write the bill, she had guaranteed it would never pass Congress. 

Worse, the ill-begotten hearings were in private, behind closed doors, by Hillary's invitation only. One thing Americans do not like are secret meetings. What in the world does a mere First Lady think she is doing by convening closed-door hearings about an issue of such incredible importance to the American people?

No wonder the TV ad couple Harry and Louise, sponsored by the insurance industry, were quickly able to rattle the American public and turn them against the very idea of a federal program to insure people.

Hillary's health insurance program was DOA—dead on arrival. She killed it by her ineptitude and her incredible arrogance, abrogating to herself a role in government which lacked any lawful basis. As a lifelong Democrat, a lawyer, and a person with a lot of experience with legislators and their prerogatives, I was appalled at the time by her conduct. I had struggled raising six children without health insurance and desperately wanted that bill. I watched Hillary with horrified dismay. I was further appalled that her abuse of power—more correctly, her abuse of non-power—was attempted by one who had  been a junior attorney on the team of House attorneys that prepared for the impeachment of Richard Nixon, another stunningly arrogant person who certainly abused power. Is this kind of thing contagious? Of all people, Hillary should have known better about crossing the lines.

Because of her egotistical grab for power, Hillary caused the death of 750,000 Americans in the course of the 17 years between her colossal flop and the actual enactment of health insurance coverage in Obama's term. The figure of 750,000 is based on a study published by Harvard University and the Cambridge Medical Group in 2009. It places the annual death rate at 45,000 for lack of insurance necessary to get care.

Among this number was my son's friend. He had health insurance but, when he got cancer, the treatment exhausted his insurance benefits up to "the cap". Then he used up all his own funds. He was supposed to go back for a crucial follow-up but had no money. How I wish he had asked us! I would've mortgaged my house. I would've done this even for a stranger. But he didn't ask. And when he subsequently got the funds to go back, it was too late. He died a few months later in his early 40s. Because of Hillary Clinton.

After her fiasco, President Bill Clinton never tried again to get a health insurance bill. For six of his eight years, he had a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Why didn't he try again? A couple of reasons come to mind. First, had Hillary's errors so poisoned the well with Congress and with the public that President Clinton thought it a waste of time to try again? 

Or, how about this:  Hillary forbade his trying again. After all, if he got it passed without her involvement, she would be deeply humiliated.  It would be clear that the original failure was her fault.

Is Hillary the kind of person we want as president? Okay, I grant you that arrogance in leaders is not unheard of. Nor is grabbing for power. In fact I would be suspicious of a proposed leader who wasn't interested in power. What is actually the big bad mark from the sad 1993 incident is Hillary's obvious ignorance of legislative politics and her icy indifference to the feelings and prerogatives of her fellow human beings. 

And don't tell me that a few years in the Senate have changed her. She still smells of arrogance and inability to relate to people. Just watch her. She pretends. She pretends to like people, to be one of the gang. One who pretends, to the extent she does, actually insults us. She doesn't think we can tell. 

No, Hillary hasn't changed. She still doesn't respect other people. Politics is the art of getting along with other people including those you disagree with. Harry Truman put it best: "I sit here and push a button and nothing happens." Except to issue pardons and authorize a nuclear attack, the president has little outright authority.

All a President has is the opportunity to persuade and the platform from which to do it.

Hillary Clinton still doesn't realize this and still doesn't have the skills to do the persuading.

She's inept for this super-critical job she seeks. She is just not the person to hold the most important job in the world. As a woman, I am sorry to say this about her, but my being a woman doesn't make me want a woman president at the price of keeping quiet about what I know. 

All my experience in politics and government, all that I have witnessed, impel me to tell this sad truth about Hillary: she is not fit to be president. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Where Are We Now for 2016?

It's only four-plus months until the Iowa caucuses. It doesn't matter that the general election is far more distant at 14 months away. The Iowa caucuses are almost on us, and they count big-time. Winning in Iowa means a lot.

So how do things look as we near Iowa? Because of the large herd in the Republican contest it's hard to tell who is the strongest at this point. Donald Trump is the flavor of the month but like ice cream on a hot day he will in due course melt away. If however he decides to run as a third-party candidate, he will thereby hand the election to the Democrats. I have doubts as to whether he'll run as a third party candidate, mainly because he has very little staying power. I think he'd get bored with a real campaign. After all there's a lot more crazy things to do in life that he hasn't tackled yet. Like jumping off one of his hotels with a bedsheet for a cape.

From the GOP debates this past week, we learned that previously supposed-leader Jeb Bush is "wallpaper", as commentator Mark Shields so aptly puts it. (The Irish have such a gift for putting people away.) I think we see now, why Jeb's own mother said that there have been enough Bushes in the White House. I'll bet she remembers Georgie beating up on Jeb a lot. She wouldn't want a wuss to be president. Not Barbara. And Jeb is—well, he's wallpaper.

On the other side, Bernie Sanders continues to pick up momentum. I like Bernie and I'm in his corner,  but I would not be honest if I didn't watch the numbers. The best way to watch the numbers is, as you long time readers of my blog know, by following Nate Silver. This guy knows numbers. He made his mark by revolutionizing baseball's  method of evaluating players. They made a movie sort of based on him called "Moneyball". In 2008 in Daily Kos and in 2012 in the New York Times, he pegged Obama as virtually a sure winner, calling virtually every state correctly. He ranks the polls according to their reliability based on their track record. Then he averages these according to a formula and comes up with his sound predictions. I love him.

I had not seen until now Nate Silver's current numbers on Bernie and Hillary. They indicate she is still way ahead in "favorability" with Democratic voters. Previous figures from the Wall Street Journal etc. blared that Bernie was leading Hillary. But they had the wrong numbers. They were polling everybody. Everybody doesn't vote in Democratic primaries. Only Democrats do. So Nate's numbers are the ones that count.

We are left with the puzzle of why all these Democrats like Hillary. I think it's in part because she's been hiding. She is now doing campaigning by just appearing before small groups, sort of a "listening tour" such as she first used in her initial Senate race. When you have an unappealing candidate who has a high name recognition, this is a good campaign strategy. I first saw it used in 1975 in Jerry Brown's  campaign for governor of California. People had loved his father, Pat Brown, so Jerry's poll numbers were good in the beginning. But the longer he campaigned, the more the numbers went down. He was an arrogant brat and very cold. (I worked for him in his first administration. He treated me well but I found him to be an arrogant stick.) His arrogance and coldness came across on the platform. So his campaign staff put him under wraps in the closing weeks of the campaign, his numbers stopped bleeding, and he squeaked across the finish line having been denied the opportunity to shoot himself in both feet.

It's possible Hillary will remind people eventually that she is very unappealing. She is cold, stiff, and a very bad speaker. She doesn't know the meaning of the words "authenticity" or "spontaneity". Sooner or later she will have to take off the brown paper bag and let people en masse see the "real" Hillary, i.e. the phony who is Hillary rolling her eyes. Her numbers among Democratic voters may then go down. About that time, however, Ol' Bill will likely show up to save her bacon. Can he? Can he on-stage make castor oil taste like ice cream?

Meantime the other big issue is: what are the two campaigns doing now about the caucus states? Winning in the caucus states gave Obama the nomination in 2008. Amazingly enough the supposedly mighty Clinton machine failed to do anything about the caucus states. That was a dumb mistake, and Hillary's people will not make that mistake again. Can Bernie's people get it together to win those caucuses? Winning caucuses takes real skill and experience.

Well, as we used to say in rural Illinois, "We shall see, God willing and the crick don't rise."

Meantime, I really like Bernie Sanders. I really liked Obama in 2008 and 2012. Obama beat Hillary in 2008, and in 2012 he beat the recession. You may not remember but he had to confront an unemployment rate of over 8% in 2012. Against the odds he made it. In reality Nate Silver didn't make anything happen or not happen in those years. He merely had the guts to perceive that Obama was pulling off the impossible. If Bernie begins to pull off the impossible this time, Nate Silver will let us know.

It can happen. Let's keep watching. And for those of us who like Bernie, let's keep helping.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hillary? They Call Her the Wagon Lady

Why do they call Hillary Clinton "The Wagon Lady"?

Because she has so much baggage that she needs a covered wagon to haul it around.

This is not a bad joke. It's a true and very sad statement. Very sad for those of us who really would like to see a woman be president.

The hard truth is, she ain't going to make it, folks.

We are all so caught up in the newest GOP cavalcade, Donald Trump shoving cream pies in the face of anybody who comes near him. We're all so caught up in this laugh-a-minute that we are losing sight of the fact that the show on the Democrats' side is not very encouraging, at least as far as the supposed front runner.

Hillary Clinton has some serious disabilities as a candidate. She is awkward. She is stiff. She comes across as a phony, too well-rehearsed, too rolling-the-big-eyes. This last problem is really a put-off. Mitt Romney was the guy at the cocktail party that you kept trying to avoid. Hillary is the hostess who comes down the staircase trailing her hand on the banister, beaming over-wide, and saying "Dahlings!"

You just want to go puke.

If she is the nominee, I will have to vote for her. But a lot of other people won't. Democrats are great at staying home.

People don't trust her, according to the polls. And that's not solely because she comes across as phony. Her actual behavior in office and on the campaign trail and as First Lady leaves a bad taste in peoples' mouths. What was she up to? With her own computer server? With those maybe-classified e-mails? With Whitewater? With the billing hours from her years at the Rose law firm? With grabbing  health care reform away from the Congress in 1993 and holding closed-door meetings on it?  I don't think these were criminal moves. They were just politically stupid.

"The appearance of propriety is as important as propriety itself."  This was one of my mother's sayings. Like all mothers she was absolutely correct. Grace Daley Kamer really did know whereof she spoke. When she was a kid in a Chicago Catholic school, young Richard Daley was always trying to kiss her on the grounds they were "kissing cousins". She cut him cold: "You'll not kiss me, Richard Daley! You're a bad boy. The nuns caught you smoking!" They were of course collaterally related but their strongest relationship was the bond of politics. The Daleys of Chicago were all political. They were Irish. My mother's father ran political campaigns among his other jobs, such as being chief of the detective bureau of the Chicago police. His brother James Daley was an alderman. My mother grew up at a dinner table where political talk came right along with the corned beef and cabbage

Obviously Hillary Clinton did not get this kind of coaching as a youngster. She keeps making things appear worse than they probably are. She is, as anybody's mother might say, her own worst enemy.

Rule number one: when caught stumbling, admit it. The computer server issue was something most people don't give a damn about. But she's made it into an ongoing story. She keeps TALKING ABOUT IT! People don't really understand the story, but the fact that it keeps going on seems to suggest it's important. She should've just said, "The security computer people thought it was a good idea. I'm not knowledgeable about computer servers. If it was a mistake, I sure do apologize. Can you explain to me the harm done because I really don't know about computer servers."

After all, Chris Christie got away with saying he didn't know anything about lane closures over that bridge. That's all he said: "I don't know anything about it." His closest aides did it, but he didn't know about it? How much easier to say you don't understand what some computer guys were doing.

Many people can dig that. Nobody knows about computer servers except young people. And they won't vote in the primaries or they will vote for Bernie Sanders. But the reliable voters, the seniors who should be Hillary voters, would just say, "What's a computer server? A guy who comes to fix it?" And the young voters would look at Hillary's age and say, "Of course, she doesn't understand it. My grandma won't even use a computer. Poor old darlings."  (I can say these things. I'm a grandma.)

But Hillary doesn't acknowledge, plead ignorance and move on. Instead she gets all huffy. She acts like she's being attacked by the press. John Kennedy made them his friends. She bridles at the mere sight of them. Hilary, honey, get this:  The press has a right to ask questions. It's their duty. You aren't privileged.

Rule number two: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you can't stand to be questioned or criticized, why in hell do you want to be president?

Rule number three: If you run for president, be sure you have a good reason for doing it. I can't figure out why Hillary Clinton wants to be president. She has no message. Sure, she just cobbled together stuff about climate control, promising to go beyond Obama's targets. Why is she running against Obama's record? All of a sudden she's an environmentalist? No, she's not. We environmentalists weren't born yesterday. We haven't seen her around our causes, and her husband did nothing about the environment until literally the last moments of his presidency. Absent her ability to tell us why she's running, she comes across as doing it because she wants it for herself. This is a double risk, because she ran before and lost but is coming back for a second. That more than suggests a very strong, very personal desire. Maybe that's her only reason for running. It isn't enough, Hillary.

Hillary hasn't learned that she cannot be everything: health care expert, computer expert, etc. Whatever it is, she jumps on it and tries to explain it, command it, be the boss.

What she needs to be good at is political campaigning. Sadly, she is terrible at it. Is it too late to start learning now? She learned nothing in 2008. How she's going to learn now? We can't afford to lose in 2016, and Hillary is a loser. People just don't like or trust her.  Being a bad candidate is even worse than being a former Socialist. In this very strange political year, it looks to this old campaigner like former Socialist Bernie Sanders is a very good candidate. Oddly enough, this old gal—me, not Hillary— has come around to thinking we could win with a New York Socialist Jew. I happen to love New York Socialist Jews, but ordinarily those qualities would automatically mark a guy as a loser in American politics. Plus he's almost as old as I am. Nevertheless, of all people, Hillary Clinton has been the one to convince me to go with Bernie.

And not just by default. I think Bernie Sanders is a winner. I'll explain that another time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Age of Obama? Yes.

All of the sudden, reality has struck.

The pundits are acknowledging that Obama is one of the best presidents in our history.

All along he has been beloved and admired by those of us who see him clearly, but he was still viewed by the smart set as somehow rather pathetic, the man of the "might have been". Even those who acknowledged he had done a lot thought he had done it all wrong. He had rescued the country from the recession but not spent enough on the recovery. He got a health care bill but went for it too soon and should have worked on the recovery longer. He should've been tougher with the GOP Congress except that he should have been nicer. And on and on. Then, like a clap of thunder, in this past week he has been suddenly granted the stature he should've have had all along. "Amazing Grace", indeed! It's like a Hollywood movie.

In this lovely scenario, it took only two decisions by the Supreme Court to raise him to the heights of acknowledgement. On one day last week the Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, by a resounding 6-3, against a challenge made on the slimmest of grounds. Four words had been put into the act by clear error that went against the entire plan of the rest of the act. Anyone who writes legislation, analyzes it for legislatures or administrators, or teaches it—all things I have done—knows full well that a correct interpretation of any section of a law must comport with the rest of that law. The snake must not eat its own tail.

In this case, four words out of a 900 page law were being used by the enemies of Obamacare so as to swallow the whole snake.  Unless the Court set aside those four words as the error they clearly were, six million Americans would immediately lose their health care coverage and another 10 million would be deprived as the dominoes continued to fall in the ACA's collapse. Probably of even greater concern to Chief Justice Roberts and his fellow Republican, Justice Kennedy, was the looming damage to the insurance industry.

In the second decision a couple of days later, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court again looked at some facts of life: that most of the states were permitting same-sex marriage and that opposition to gay marriage is collapsing among the public, with 60% of Americans instead supporting it. You can't go on denying a basic right to hundreds of thousands of Americans, perhaps millions, in a minority of states because a majority of the people in those states want to deny them that right. In a democracy the majority decides the laws, but in American democracy basic rights are never decided just by a majority. We are protective of the basic rights of even the one. Popular opinion does not protect your free speech, your right to a fair trial, your freedom from unreasonable search. The courts protect such rights. Among these basic rights is marriage. The pursuit of happiness.

The Court did not say that it was deciding these cases on the basis of undeniable realities. But that's what it did. Obamacare could not be forced into collapse; same sex couples cannot, as a practical matter any longer be denied the basic right of marriage because they live in the wrong state.

Whether it meant to or not, the Court also affirmed the position of President Obama as a "transformational" president, to use the term applied by the dean of the media political corps, Chuck Todd of NBC's "Meet The Press". The decisions "cemented" Obama's achievement of a "legacy" that would now make this "the Obama era".  These are all words used by Chuck Todd, today's version of Tim Russert and Walter Cronkite.

Somehow those who were previously stingy with praise for Obama now could not say enough good about him.  Jumping on the bandwagon it is called.  Almost all that was right in a remarkable week was perceived to reflect well on him. Long denied the gratitude and admiration that should have been his, he now benefited from things as diverse as the truly Christian forgiveness nine families extended to the man who had killed their loved ones. And the sudden  movement in the Deep South to take down the Confederate flag also seemed inexplicably to be to Obama's credit. When a spectacular rainbow appeared over the 50th anniversary celebration concert of the Grateful Dead, even some of that glow seemed to envelop the President.

For once he and his team seemed to have a sure grasp of something that has eluded them for 6 1/2 years: getting him credit. The exterior of the White House was awash in rainbow colors. And at the funeral in Charleston for the nine assassinated, Obama himself gently extended the nine families' grace to all of us and began singing "Amazing Grace".

Finally, the man and the moment have met. Hearts have been lifted by grace within tragedy. Hearts have been freed to marry. Terror of illness without health care has been driven away. There has not been such joy in the land since that golden night in Chicago's Grant Park when a million people came to cheer the miracle of an African-American president being elected in this country. That night tears ran down the faces of Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey and me. We knew, those aging warriors and I, as did the young dancing in the streets around the globe....we knew we had entered into a new era.

Now everybody else knows it too. It truly was the dawning of "the age of Obama", as Chuck Todd calls it. Since 2008, we have walked free of thirty-five years of Reagan conservatism into an era of hope for people who are sick and of change for those who yearned to marry the ones they love. There is even more to the Obama legacy. But I'll not review it right now. I have written about it before.

Yes, more praise is due Obama. Because his legacy is broader than what was acknowledged this week. A fine legacy, broad  and deep, intelligent and kind. He has gone from being a very young man to being a good father to all of us.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Surprise! The Surging of Senator Bernie Sanders

He's packing them in.

In an Iowa town of 240 total population, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont this week drew a crowd of 300. The New York Times reported that some people drove as much as 50 miles to hear Bernie speak.

In other Iowa towns he has filled halls to overflowing. There are photographs in the media to prove it.

This isn't supposed to happen. Just like it wasn't supposed to happen in 2008 when the mighty Clinton machine was supposed to roll over and crush the little-known one-term senator from Illinois.

The media have been babbling on for months about the invincibility of Hillary Clinton, dwelling on her mountains of money, cadres of hired guns, and a much more sophisticated campaign operation than the primaries in 2008.  Also she is supposedly "well-positioned as a centrist" but one who is "becoming a centrist liberal".

Meaning that she has changed her position on five major issues in a desperate attempt to catch up with a majority of American people and move away from the shenanigans that got her in trouble in 2008, such as voting for the Iraq war and having a President-husband who never saw a break for the rich that he could resist. We can thank good old Bill for much of the deregulation of the financial industry that led to the disaster of 2008.  She has also abandoned Bill's stance of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, apparently noticing that gay people are not only telling but are telling people to come to their same-sex wedding. And most Americans are glad to get the invitations.

So in typical Hillary fashion, she has run around to the front of the crowd in order to look like a leader.

The media acknowledges that Hillary "runs the risk" of looking "squishy". The word "squishy" is a term of art that I borrowed today from the New York Times. It's fine. But to say that Hillary runs the risk of appearing vacillating is to misstate the state of affairs. She isn't running a risk.  She has jumped over the cliff into "risk" canyon.  She is already up to her knees in squishiness and we have only just begun.

Can Bernie Sanders really pull this off? After all, Obama piled up his win against Hillary largely by winning caucus states. The much vaunted Clinton machine of 2008 had overlooked what any political science student probably knows: A lot of states have caucuses. The Clinton people will likely not make that mistake this time.  So can Bernie win without the Clintons being asleep at the switch? This will be a fascinating test case of whether a grassroots candidate like Bernie can muster enough local volunteers to get people to those caucuses who support him. Or will Clinton's paid troops do a better job than the volunteers?

Why, you ask, doesn't Hillary Clinton use volunteers instead of paid people? After all, volunteers generally are more acceptable to voters at the front door. My bet is that she won't use volunteers because no one wants to volunteer for her.

Why not? Where are those ranks of women who loved Hillary in 2008?

That is the subject of my next posting. In only eight years, America has changed.

Tune in next time to find out how and why there are no troops for Hillary anymore.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Can't We Please Have Some Real Candidates?

This is a nation of 350  million people. Out of 350 million people, why don't we have some really good candidates running for president?

If I just wanted something to write about, I should be glad that the Republicans are fielding approximately 17 candidates in the primaries who are either woefully cuckoo or woefully pitiful. They are a writer's delight. Where do they find these people? 

Let's take Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. He looks and speaks so much like goofy Kenneth on 30 Rock that it's very hard to take him seriously even if he would once in a while make some sense. Also noteworthy, Rick Perry is apparently going to come out of the wings on June 4, no doubt still trying to remember three things. Carly Fiorina is back too, though we don't know if her red-eyed sheep will come trailing in behind her.

I can't remember the name of the pizza guy, but I'll never forget his campaign manager who starred in the campaign ads by leering into the camera and blowing cigarette smoke.

I have to stop there. In all honesty, even with the return of some of my favorite clowns,  the GOP wannabes for 2016 are not as bad as the crop in 2012. Nothing particularly clownish leaps to mind about Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Ron Paul. More frightening is the fact that their seriously held ideas and stance are per se idiotic. Unlike the others they have clearly thought through what they are saying. It just happens to be trash. 

What stuns me is that two of these men—Cruz and Paul—inexplicably want to be president of a government they are dedicated to abolishing. As for Rubio, I can't figure out if he's interested in anything except telling us over and over that his parents were immigrants. All of our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were immigrants. Get over it, Mario.

I haven't listed all of the potential GOP candidates because it's hard to remember them. They're undistinguished, small people with very small ideas, mostly about making the American government small. And, yes, they hate Obama. 

In this field of dingy dreams, one disappointment particularly stands out. Jeb Bush, billed as the candidate supreme, a man of confidence and experience, has turned out to be a jerk on the campaign trail. This past week he first shot himself in the head by saying that, even in light of what we now know about Iraq's nonexistent WMD, he would nevertheless have invaded Iraq as his brother did. With that bullet in his brain, he was yet able to shoot himself successively in each foot and then one hand, giving three additional answers during the next week to the question of invading Iraq in a dismal parade of ineptitude.

Well how about the Democrats, my dear old Democrats? So far, not good. The media is handing the nomination to Hillary Clinton just as it did in the run-up to 2008. The consensus is that the Clinton machine will run over everybody else. You know, just as it did with that little-known one-term senator from Illinois. 

Except maybe this time she really will sweep the field. Not because of the vaunted Clinton machine—the Clintons were never able to put together anything that worked, winning in 1992 only because George Bush Sr. was very unpopular and as much of a jerk on the campaign trail as his sons. No, if Hillary wins it's because nobody is running against her for the nomination. She's sweeping an empty field. Elizabeth Warren says she won't run and seems to mean it. Bernie Sanders is running but is he a real threat?

Well, just maybe. Hillary is eminently beatable. Almost anybody who has it together could beat her. She's a terrible candidate. She's a phony. The big, wide-eye thing. The exaggerated expressions of all kinds. Well, you've seen her. She's a creepy phony. Plus she's a terrible speaker. Tell me one memorable thing she has ever said! 

No matter how much money you have, you can't win if the voters don't like you. Hillary is not likable. She tries and tries. The more she tries, the creepier she is.

Plus she's carrying enough baggage to be a Red Cap union local all by herself. Further she did nothing to burnish her standing by her tour as Secretary of State. She scored zero in accomplishments, as far as I can recall.

There are probably some who think that Hillary HAS to get the presidency because it's high time a woman did. But oddly enough no women I know are saying that this time as they did in 2008. It appears her time to "ride the woman wave" has come and gone. I believe we should have a woman president, but that's no reason to make Hillary the one. She didn't make it on her own. She coat-tailed on Bill, standing by her man so she could ride him into the White House as First Lady and eventually as President. I fought my own way and so did a lot of women. What does it say about Hillary that she did what she did?

For me, the worst thing about Hillary Clinton is that she does not understand politics or power. That's a very dangerous trait in a president. When she grabbed the health care issue as her own as soon as Bill was sworn in, she made several colossal mistakes. First of all, it wasn't hers to grab. No one had elected her to anything.  It was an outrageous power grab. It was also a slap in the face to all the members of Congress who would be necessary to get universal coverage enacted. It was their job, not hers, to create this important legislation for the American people. Congress drafts and enacts the laws, not First Ladies. She compounded this error by then holding closed door hearings. This blatant secrecy allowed the insurance industry to scare the bejeebers out of the American public with those unforgettable ads starring Harry and Louise. A Democratic Congress that could have passed a good law let her ill-starred effort die a quiet death. The saddest thing is that, since then, tens of thousands of American, even hundred of thousands, have died because she destroyed our chance 22 years ago to get health care reform. We knew one of those who died because of Hillary. His name was Steven and he was only 40 years old.  

Nothing since then has shown Hillary Clinton to have any better grasp of political realities. She behaved yourself more decorously in the Senate, but let's ask ourselves—what good did that do her or us? What has Hillary Clinton ever accomplished politically anywhere at anytime for the public good? She seems to want power but has no idea what to do with it when she gets it. 

That is an extraordinary failing in a would-be president. The last time we had a president who didn't understand the use of power we had Jimmy Carter. And the less said the better about that four years. But Hillary's failings are even worse. She not only doesn't understand the use of power; her grab of the health insurance issue shows a strong inclination to the abuse of power.

I hope I'm wrong about everything. But right now I'm afraid 2016 could give us a GOP president or else a Democratic president who would be very scary. 

I sure hope that God still loves dogs, drunks, and the American people. As things look right now, we may be needing some outside help.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Break Out the Champagne To Toast Obama! Then Let Us Weep for Kenya.

I've been gone for months with a vision problem but what a challenging day to come back.  This is a day of great good news. It is also one of stunning sorrow.

Good news first: Obama has done it again!  He has saved our bacon big-time.

Today he got a strong agreement that blocks Iran from making nuclear weapons. Even some of his critics  -  not the anti-Obamas who oppose whatever he does, but those who are educated and savy  -  have rejected their own prior criticisms and have good words for this agreement

In less than a year he has saved us from two threats of annihilation that were looming over us. First, he got a crucially significant agreement with China to reduce carbon pollution and thus avoid turning our planet into Venus. Now he has staved off the other nightmare: nuclear cataclysm. 

If Iran had made a bomb......! All this world needs is a nuclear arms race between Sunnis and Shiites or between any other divided segments of the Muslim world.  No matter the division, we would have a nuclear arms race. A reignition of bitter religious wars dating from more than a millennium ago, with each side armed with the worst killing capacity there has ever been.  Saudi Arabia was poised to pick up its side of the contest if these talks failed and start its own bomb-making. Already it has come off the sidelines in recent days to fight against Iran and its proxies in several places in the Middle East. With Iran and Saudi Arabia squaring off with conventional weapons, these are not the best of times.

But with a nuclear weapon in Iran's hands, these would certainly have become the worst of times. From Iran where could the bomb have wandered? For that matter, the more countries have the bomb the more likely that ISIS and other extremists groups will steal it.

But as great as is Obama's halting of Iran's bomb ambitions, we cannot rejoice as we would like because of the tragedy in Kenya. No, I misspeak. It's not a tragedy when gunmen invade a college campus and methodically execute over a hundred non-Muslim students and staff.  It's murder.

Sure, these fanatics really believe their warped religious doctrine that drives them to kill, but they are nothing more than cheap vicious criminals who must be caught and jailed if possible or killed on sight if necessary. A plague is lose in the world. We are seeing the early stages of infection which, bad as they are, could be nothing compared to the next phase that could be developing, i.e. Sunni vs Shiite all across the Muslim world and the worst of the extremists groups being fueled by the major antagonists.

That is how the great good news today ties in with the sorrowful news of today. The gunmen who invaded the Kenyan college and massacred people were allied with an Al Quada group. Country by country the infection keeps growing.

We must keep nuclear weapons out of the Muslim world to keep them out of the hands of the extremists. Those who burn people alive and film it and slaughter college students in their beds would never hesitate to unleash a holocaust of atomic weapons should they get them. We should in fact get rid of all the nuclear weapons. It's a miracle that in 70 years since the bomb was developed it has never strayed into the hands of crazy groups or been set off by crazed individuals in the military of one of the nuclear countries as in "Dr. Strangelove".

There is another connection between the good news and the bad.  Kenya is the land of Obama's father. By the strange paths of fate, a descendant of the wonderful country of Kenya today built a major wall against violence while at the same time violence was being inflicted on the people of his father's homeland. Indeed Obama still has relatives there. 

Remember too that Obama is a college professor and those who died today in Kenya were college students. We college professors and other teachers love students. That's why we teach. We love students wherever they are.

As our world gets smaller and smaller, the hurts cut deeper and deeper. We would never dream of asking for whom the bell tolls. We all know too well that the bell tolls for each of us. Today my daughter-in-law in Norway expressed on Facebook great sadness "for all our friends in Kenya."  She means actual friends. She and my son visit in Kenya. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, and our brothers and sisters live all over this world.

Thank you, President Obama, for today making the world safer for all of us.  I wish you could have also saved the Kenyan students. I know you wish the same.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


On Tuesday I go to a better eye doctor, and I hope for a good outcome.  So much is happening in politics and internationally that it's frustrating to be sidelined now.

Please be patient. I shall return. Thank you all for your loyalty.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Forgotten

I haven't forgotten you. I shall be back soon, for sure. My eye is progressing well.

How does one thank such a loyal readership?  In spite of my absence and there being no new posts in quite a while, this past month was one of the highest readerships since I began this blog.

Thank you. You make an old lady feel damn good!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Salute to Ukraine and an Apology to All of You

I salute the good people of Ukraine in their struggle. You are, and always have been, a brave people.

I apologize for the long hiatus. Had to have an eye procedure, sort of like cleaning the windshield. I'll be back soon. So much has happened.

Thanks to all of you who have been faithful through this long break. "I'll be back."

Friday, January 16, 2015

I Shall Return

Still recuperating from the evil illness but hope to be back in the next week or so with a few words or lots. Keep well!

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year

Thanks to you who have wished me a good recovery from the near-pneumonia that literally knocked me down on December 15.

I'm recovering well but still need to take it easy. Maybe in the interest of our health we should all turn our heads from the sight of the GOP taking over the Senate and installing an even larger majority in the House.

Let us hope they will do a better job of governance with the specter of 2016 staring at them. But nothing indicates that this is likely no matter how devoutly it is to be wished.

We can, however, rejoice in the excellent work Obama has done through executive orders and for how he handled Sony and North Korea. The  North Korea v. Sony contretemps was on balance a remarkable comedy show by the show biz company and the nutcase country.  If there is anybody who doesn't believe Obama pulled the plug on North Korea's internet connection, I have a bridge I'd be willing to sell.  Mr. President, you are so cool!

Just as 2015 opened its arms to us, one of the great liberals of the 20th Century left us:  Mario Cuomo. He spoke eloquently against Ronald Reagan's "shining city" that was really a heartless ice palace. Cuomo likened America to a wagon train headed into out mythic west, thunderously announcing that we would leave no one behind, not the weak nor the elderly, not the children nor the poor. That was our American creed.

I believe and hope it still is. Let us go forward, but always together.

So farewell to Mario Cuomo and all those who left us in 2014, especially dear old Pete Seeger, who was bard to the best in us.

To you all, a very good New Year.  Make it good for others and it will be good for you.