Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gaddafi's end

As with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the shooting death of Moammar Gaddafi raises questions about capture and trial of these tyrants vs killing them in the act of capture or while in custody.

Apparently, Gaddafi was wounded in an attack but then was killed by a gunshot wound to his head after he had been captured. The Libyan Information Minister says that it could have been a random bullet fired either by rebels or by loyalists in battle. Other reports suggest that is highly unlikely. Probably he was shot by his captors after they already had him in custody.

A video of the capture has voices in the background shouting, "Don't kill him ! Don't kill him. We need him alive."

If it was a command decision, it was presumably made by the Lybians themselves, not by Americans on the ground or back in the situation room in the White House. But did they communicate with American or NATO commanders before the actual shooting? One report says that Gaddafi was first injured by a predator drone attack (which would likely be a U.S. controlled attack).

Do these tyrants deserve a fair trial? It would allow a full airing of their crimes and would give the semblance of justice being done. On the other hand, it would give the tyrant and his loyalists a platform to continue spouting their rhetoric.

Are we justified in killing someone not actively engaged in a battle, but cowering in a drainage pipe and pleading for his life? Is planned assassination ever justified?

This is a difficult question for me, given my firm opposition to the state imposing a death sentence on anyone convicted of any crime. However, I reluctantly support the killing of someone to prevent the imminent death or maiming of others. The principle is whether you can stop that person's actions any other way than killing him.

Another problem is that the definition of "in battle" has become murky in today's kind of war. In the case of both bin Laden and Gaddafi, it was not a question of their personally being about to kill others; but they led a movement that was continually doing so and would continue to do so.

So, for me, this is not a settled question. I think the world is better off without bin Laden and Gaddafi. Would I pull the trigger myself? No. I would choose capture and trial instead.

Do I plan to go out and demonstrate against our government's involvement in freeing Lybia from tyrannical rule? No. And I praise Obama's "leading from behind" in this instance, which has now proved successful and wise. Not one single American killed in Libya and only a fraction of the expenditure of money if we had invaded. It was not cowardice, as McCain and his ilk claim, but prudence and acting in the best interests of our nation.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking 2012

Current political news is dominated by the looney toons of the GOP debates and their aftermath. While I enjoy it as political theater and it gives me endless material to ridicule on ShrinkRap, it also gives us a skewed picture of the dominance of ultra-conservative thinking, since that is virtually all we hear from these candidates, each trying to find some way to out-pander the next guy. Only Romney and Huntsman have kept one foot in more moderate views

The American people perhaps have a better perspective. An AP-GfK poll taken 10/13 to 10/17 (prior to the last debate) shows these results:

In a match-up with the three top contenders, Obama comes out ahead of each:
+3% . . . Obama . . 48%. . . . Romney . 45%
+9% . . . Obama . . 51%. . . . Perry . . . 42%
+6% . . . Obama . . 49%. . . . Cain . . . .43%
Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings:
+12% Barack Obama: 54 / 44
+12% Mitt Romney: 49 / 37

+9% Herman Cain: 43/32
+3% Ron Paul: 38 / 35

-6% Rick Perry: 38 / 44

-6% Jon Huntsman: 22 / 28

-7% Rick Santorum: 25 / 32

-11% Michele Bachmann: 35 / 44

-16% Newt Gingrich: 35 / 51

-26% Sarah Palin: 35 / 61
Among the Republicans, only Romney, Cain and Paul have a positive favorable-minus-unfavorable score, Romney looks pretty good matching Obama at 12%. Cain looks good at the moment, but so far he's getting by with catchy slogans and no details. Paul gets the only other positive score. His appeal is to the libertarians, but there aren't enough of them and he can't expand his base.

Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, the rankings for the nomination are:
30% Romney
26% Cain
13% Perry
8% Paul
7% Gingrich
4% Bachmann
2% Huntsman
2% Santorum
And Romney does have the best match-up score against Obama. But the electorate isn't really weighing the choice between those two yet.

I take this as hopeful. Obama is likely to improve as he combats the negative rhetoric they have been spewing out since the 2010 election.

For the one scenario that might defeat Obama (besides an increase in joblessness or a terrorist attack), check out my comment to this post.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Looney Toons #2

Rick Santorum seems desperate to get a little media attention.

In doing so, he's narrowing his appeal to a very small portion of the electorate, which seems like a poor tactic to me. But here's what he's vowing now (HuffingtonPost):
[He] recently pledged to "die on that hill" fighting against same-sex marriage, and made a similar vow to repeal all federal funding for contraception because it is "a license to do things in a sexual realm" . . . elaborating further on "the dangers of contraception" and said that "sex is supposed to be within marriage" and "special."

He went on to describe "the battle" on same-sex marriage, claiming that allowing gay marriage would shake "the very foundation of our country, the family, what the family structure is going to look like."

"I'll die on that hill," Santorum said, pledging to fight for a federal ban on same-sex marriage.

That's probably an accurate prediction, Rick. You will very likely die (politically) on that hill, desperately defending the bygone era of unenlightenment.

Or maybe he really believes what he says.


A waste of your tax dollars defending DOMA

Here's how Republican leadership in the House is wasting your tax-payer dollars. I've written before about the Department of Justice deciding it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court challenges, because of legal opinions that parts of it are unconstitutional.

When the Obama administration made that announcement, House Speaker John Boehner then announced that the House would defend it. The House has subsequently authorized up to $1.5 million of taxpayer money for legal fees.

Now that legal team has filed a brief telling the court that there is no need for it to overturn DOMA because:

1. Gay people are far from politically powerless and can't say that they face discrimination that is unlikely to be soon rectified by legislative means.

2. The "very significant gains" that homosexual rights groups have made "both in legislative terms and in popular opinion" demonstrate that they have "ample opportunity to attract favorable attention of lawmakers."

3. Gay people haven't been discriminated against for very long since the term homosexual only came into use in the mid-19th century.

4. Gay people can't consider their sexuality an immutable trait like race or gender, so they can't argue that DOMA denies fundamental rights.

5. Studies saying gay people raise well-adjusted children are questionable, and DOMA "promotes responsible procreation."

6. There is "nothing intrusive" about DOMA, which is simply a definitional statue that defines for federal law purposes "marriage" and "spouse."

That's their defense, apparently. A hearing is set for December 16th.

Frankly, as a highly paid attorney and former Solicitor General (in the Bush administration) Paul Clement should be ashamed to take so much money for such a pallid argument.

#1a. If gay people have such political power, why is DOMA still law?
#2a. See 1a above.
#3a. Ask any gay person alive since 1890 about discrimination.
#4a. That claim is refuted by scientific studies.
#5a. Absolutely not true. Reputable studies show the opposite.
#6. Simple answer to this one: Bullshit.

How many teachers and police officers could be retained in their jobs with this wasted money?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The GOP debate crowds

I did not watch the Republican debate in Nevada last night. From what I read, other than the escalating attacks on each other, the only news was another shocking crowd reaction.

Remember, in past debates, audiences at these debates have:

1. vigorously applauded when the moderator referred to Perry as having presided over some 234 executions;

2. when a moderator asked Ron Paul about those without health care insurance, "Should we just let him die?" -- two loud voices shouted out "Yeah !!";

3. when a soldier in uniform in Iraq was shown by video asking a question about the repeal of DADT, the crowd booed him.

Now, we have another to add to this list.

4. Last night Herman Cain was asked if he still stood by his recent comment that the unemployed have no one to blame but themselves, and he said yes.

The crowd applauded loudly. Or as I read in another article, "cheered wildly."

So: here's what seems to be emerging from the crowds (forget what the pandering candidates say on stage to try to stand out):

The Republican audiences at these debates:

1. Have a passion for capital punishment that goes beyond wanting justice to be done.

2. Strongly oppose the government providing help for those in need; it just makes people dependent and lazy.

3. See gay people as undesirables who are trying to "impose the homosexual agenda" on the rest of us. You can thank Rick Santorum for his leadership on that, fueled by his intense homophobia.

4. Think that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are just a bunch of fringe weirdos looking to have everything given to them instead of doing an honest day's work. If you don't have a job, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Sounds like a winning formula for the Democrats. Why can't they take better advantage of it?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Looney Toons

Rick Santorum is little more than a footnote on this presidential campaign.

He's not worth bothering with -- except that his looney claims and his notorious homophobic anxiety make him so much fun to ridicule.

Michele Bachmann has become such a mechanical talking doll that she's not even interesting as a crazy person any more, so now Rick is the reigning Looney Toon songbird. His latest looney toon is enough to gain him a bit of notice here at ShrinkRap.

Here's his latest and worst hit yet, uttered in a radio show last week with Family Research Council's president Tony Perkins:
The GOP strategy for reducing "the Democratic advantage" should be to marry off all the single mothers "who look to the government for help. . . . Look at the political base of the Democratic Party: It is single mothers who run a household. Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two parent families, you eliminate that desire for government."
And how does Rick propose to find the men who will marry these single mothers and let the government off the hook? He doesn't address that problem. Reinstitute the draft and assign all single men to marry a single mother? Require that every man over 21 be married?

If he really wants to reduce single motherhood, this foolish former senator might want to reexamine his positions opposing any form of family planning or sex education other than abstinence only and his implacable anti-abortion stand. Each one of these positions increases the incidence of single mother births.

Poor Rick. Please don't tell him that the military troops are having no problem with the repeal of DADT. It might raise his anxiety level enough to throw him into psychological decompensation.


Monday, October 17, 2011

It ain't no laughing matter, Mike Huckabee

Didn't we all think of Mike Huckabee as a decent guy when he was a 2008 candidate for the GOP nomination for president? His policies may have been way too far to the right, but a nice guy, a Christian minister -- moral and ethical, for sure.

Think again. Yes, he made a joke of it -- but voter suppression ain't no joke, Gov. Huckabee. It's unofficial policy and major tactic of your party trying to win elections. And it is deceitful, malicious, and beneath your dignity, sir. We expected a better example from you, even though it's SOP for your compatriots.

Here, from Huffington Post.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee encouraged supporters of an anti-union ballot measure in Ohio to stop its opponents from voting, jokingly urging the crowd to let the air out of tires and intentionally give out a wrong election date. . . .

"Make a list," said Huckabee, referring to supporters' family and friends. "Call them and ask them, 'Are you going to vote on Issue 2 and are you going to vote for it?' If they say no, well, you just make sure that they don't go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date. That's up to you how you creatively get the job done."

The crowd laughted at Huckabee's remarks. In 2009, he made a similar joke in Virginia, saying, "Let the air our of their tires ... keep 'em home. Do the Lord's work."


I am appalled !! The governor will say he was just joking. His audience laughed -- but making light of such a serious thing will just further erode the sense of decency and conscience of the crowd.

Have Republicans fallen so low that even their most generally liked and respected former candidate would make fun of something so fundamental to the democratic process -- deliberately trying to keep people from voting?

Yes, it seems so. They've been passing voter-ID laws in many states to accomplish just the same thing, disguising it as "protecting the integrity of the voting process."



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time for a second look at Cain

So far, I've been lulled by what I thought was Cain's unelectability and the surety that the GOP power brokers would derail his nomination. Besides, he had no fund-raising or organizational structures in place.

Nevertheless, he has proved to be a crowd-pleasing populist, and his standing in the polls has not only surged once, but now he's had a second surge and is running first in some polls. It's hard to continue calling him the "flavor of the week."

Now we learn that the billionaire, ultra-conservative, Tea Party backing Koch brothers are giving him a major financial boost.

And he's now being asked about his foreign policy ideas. He has experience in business and in communications and in banking. But none at all in foreign policy.

So today on "Meet the Press," he was asked who has shaped his views on foreign policy. He named three: John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, and KT McFarland.

John Bolton is the gadfly "bomb Iran" guy given a recess appointment as UN Ambassador, despite his outspoken anti-UN sentiments. As a diplomat, he had the skills of a bull in a china shop. That would be a disaster.

Kissinger is not quite insane, and he did some good things as Nixon's Sec. of Defense, but he's also a war hawk and a devious manipulator, in my opinion.

McFarland was a Kissinger aide and rose in the ranks of civilian appointees in Reagan's Defense Department; she is now a news analyst for Fox.

Combine these influences with Cain's lack of experience, and we could have a global disaster with him as president.

But he comes across as very real, open, honest, and a populist outsider ready to take on Washington. He's likeable and he does good sound bites ( 9-9-9). Crowds love him. He even sings with a powerful baritone voice to entertain the crowd, as he did when the microphone went dead at a recent rally.

The situation is like with the others (Trump, Paul, Palin, Bachmann, Santorum, Perry) who might be easier than Romney for Obama to defeat -- but they carry such a high risk in the "what-if" scenarios of an even worsening jobs situation or a terrorist attack in the U.S. Then the gamble would be lost.

OK. Back to Romney, despite his probably being the most electable of the GOP field.