Saturday, October 1, 2011

The sideshow (if only it were only a side show)

I tend to get into the political theater of it all (how much money does it take to buy Rick Perry?) and get my daily ration of outrage tweaked by the latest crazy statement by Bachmann or Perry or Gingrich or Santorum. What a bunch !

For a reality check, try to see this through the eyes of most educated Europeans. They're incredulous that one of our two major political parties can sink to such craziness as we've seen demonstrated in these Republican debates or in the daily news.

Michele Bachmann occupies a place on the looney spectrum all her own, although Rick Santorum can say some really nutty things when his homophobia gets stirred up. Michele's latest in the paper a couple of days ago just left me totally baffled.

Here is the news item in total from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Michele Bachmann is blaming President Barack Obama's stand on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for the uprisings against governments across the Arab world. Bachmann traced the protests that sometimes turned deadly to Obama's call for Israel to pull back to the territory it held prior to the 1967 war with Egypt. The Minnesota Republican said the president "has laid the table for the Arab Spring by demonstrating weakness from the United States of America."
Of course, if a responsible journalist tried to get her to explain what she meant, we would just get some more gibberish that blames Obama for anything at hand. It's raining? Must be Obama's attempt to blame the weather changes on good, hard-working, patriotic Americans. Greece's economy is on the verge of collapse? Obama's bailing out U.S. banks set it all in motion. (Of course, the bank bailout happened when George W. Bush was president, but that's a triviality that doesn't concern Ms. B.)

Even given such stretched bias, it's hard to see this one. The Arab Spring uprisings are the people revolting against their tyrranical governments, whose despots are all Arabs. It's true the U.S. has backed some of these despots for its own strategic purposes.

But -- she seems to be saying that these Arab people are mad at us because of Obama's taking what I would call a tough stance against Israel (pull back to the 1967 lines) -- but she says he's demonstrating weakness. Wouldn't it be exactly the opposite? Actually I think a lot of the Muslim world is very very mad at the U.S. for its tilt toward Israel.

Is Michele just confused? No, that gives her too much credit. She doesn't even think about what she says, as to whether it is true or whether it is historically accurate or whether it makes sense. She just strings together any thought the floats through her mind -- and adds "Obama's fault."

And that is the person who Iowa Republican voters picked as their #1 choice to answer the red phone at 3 AM? That is terrifying. And it shames us all in the eyes of the world.


The irony of health care reform

During the protracted health care reform dabates, nothing made quite as much sense to me as simply expanding Medicare and making it Medicare-for-all. It works, it is efficient, most people like it.

The only problem is that it costs a whole lot of money. But that's not the issue that makes it ironic. Health care is going to cost a whole lot of money, regardless of who pays for it.

So, what's this irony?

It has been firmly established (although libertarians still oppose it) that Medicare is constitutional. That is, having a single payer, government sponsored health care program that is paid for by taxes.

Fine. We'll concede (not agreeing, just making a tactical move) that we can't force people to buy health insurance. And, in return, then you have to agree to a single-payer, taxpayer funded, Medicare for All type of system.

We liberals/progressives get what we wanted in the first place.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Inner curmudgeon #10

My inner curmudgeon reared its head today at lunch. Seems like this often occurs at lunch. Well, maybe that's because I'm the Curmudgeon of Sandy Springs, and I usually go out to lunch somewhere in Sandy Springs, where I live and have to keep up my title.

Today, I'm sitting there eating my pear and gorgonzola salad (with pistachios and cranberries -- very good, which is why I go there) when a scantily dressed woman pranced by and sat at the table next to me. I felt an instant repulsion and wanted to say to her, "Honey, why don't you go home and put some clothes on. It's almost the end of September, and fall is officially here."

Now this was no ordinary young thing, eager to show off her sexy charms. Well, this was no young thing, even though she seemed desperate to appear young; and she probably thought she was showing off sexy charms. She was mistaken.

Alas, there were no sexy charms in evidence and not a trace of youthfulness -- except for the inappropriate clothes. But then I just admitted in my last post to being a prejudiced age-ist. And maybe I'm just too old to notice sexy charms.

This woman had to be at least 6o, if not more. Now I have seen many women that age, and much older, who are beautiful. She was not one of them. She was wearing a halter top that barely contained the things those things are supposed to contain. And she was wearing short-shorts. I mean sho' 'nuf shortie shorts -- the kind you expect to see on a Hooter's waitress. Well, let me just say that they did not seem appropriate for the time and place nor for this woman's body.

I admit, she was remarkably trim, if somewhat misshapen, but all that wrinkled skin and frizzy, bottle-blond hair on display at mid-day in public -- it gave me the creeps. And then a youngish man, who might have been her son but most likely was a "kept" boy toy, came and joined her.

It was not a pretty sight. And I had to suppress my inner curmudgeon, who had the impulse to tell her what I was thinking: Act your age, woman !! Or at least be more attractive when you display so much skin.

On the beach in July, you'd look slightly ridiculous. Lunching in Sandy Springs in late September, you actually looked pathetic.

I know I sound very very judgmental. But that's my privilege as a curmudgeon, isn't it?

Bah humbug !!



I have a confession to make. I have a biased view of old people. Maybe in this case, it's also colored by ideology, but . . . it's age-ism, nevertheless.

Here's the situation. There's a Huffington Post article about a Kansas federal judge refusing to put a hold on a new Kansas law restricting insurance coverage for abortions, pending the trial of the ACLU's challenge to the law's constitutionality. The ACLU claims that the law's true intent is to impose an unconstitutional burden on abortion seekers. The judge claimed that they hadn't proved that or shown that they would likely prevail in proving the case at trial. However, he did not rule on the merits of the case.

What the law does is prevent insurance companies from including abortion as part of a general health insurance plan, except when a woman's life is at risk. Women who want abortion coverage must purchase a separate rider that covers only abortions.

Just how many women are likely to do that? To think ahead and acknowledge that they will likely get pregnant and want to have an abortion? Ha ! So with very few takers, insurance companies either won't offer it, or the rates will be extraordinarily high. It's clearly just another one of a thousand cuts made by the religious right to whittle away at Roe v Wade.

OK. So far, my opposition to this decision is ideological. And I found myself thinking -- all those Republican-appointed federal judges are really beginning to have an effect, way before things get to the far-right-leaning Supreme Court.

Then I got to the next to last paragraph and read this: "[Judge] Brown, who at age 104 is the nation's oldest sitting federal judge . ."

And I thought: NO WAY !!!!! What are they doing letting such an old man make decisions that affect so many women so negatively?

I admit it. I felt that his age made a difference. And I admit I have no evidence of that. The article didn't say which president nominated him, so I looked it up in Wikipedia. He was nominated for the federal bench by John Kennedy. Oh.

See? It can't be ideology then. It's got to be age.

I admit my prejudice when it comes to thinking about high level competence. Except in my own case of being almost 79, of course.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The weight of the presidency

This picture is worth a thousand words in conveying what President Obama must be feeling. The set of the jaw, the tired eyes, the gray hair, and the strikingly stooped posture in someone who so recently looked youthful and athletic.

Some presidents have died in office from health problems; a not insignificant number have been assassinated. Others have had serious medical problems. I'm convinced that the burdens are unimaginable. Even the ones we know about -- and we obviously don't know many of the crises that get dealt with silently and secretly but must weigh heavily on the man or woman in charge.

And then there are the very real accomplishments, which the opposition party has pretty successfully demonized with its base and throughout the media sphere that this base listens to.

It's time for us Democrats to get behind Obama's re-election campaign and give him some reason to feel supported. Yes, there have been big disappointments in what he has failed to get accomplished; and there is anger and frustration that he stuck to his conciliatory style far too long.

It seems, though, that he has finally decided that doesn't work these Republicans -- and seems to have morphed back into campaign mode -- both in his actual campaign for re-election and in his campaign to build support for his policy initiatives.

Our progressive friends want him to give them some reason to believe again. I say let's give him some reason to keep working hard for us, trying to get progressive policies passed. I can very easily see that man in the picture above sometimes feeling: what's the use? When even his friends and supporters turn against him.

First, we need to get him re-elected. But equally important, we need to elect a Congress that will work with him. I do not doubt for a minute that, if he had had a co-operative Congress, we would have seen a much bigger stimulus, more jobs programs, more regulation of financial institutions, a better health care reform bill, possibly even with a single payer provision, and bold new energy and environmental protection programs.

Just because he didn't fight harder for some of those things doesn't mean he didn't favor them. There's only so much political capital -- and he and his advisers know better than we do which battles are worth fighting and which should be avoided in order not to poison the well for other, more winnable issues.

It's not all his fault. Let's make sure he has a second term.

Go, Obama 2012 !!!