Saturday, February 25, 2012

It's beginning to look like an easy ride for Obama

I know we shouldn't get complacent.   The economy could go sour again;  there could be bad news from Europe's financial woes;   Iran is a problem and hawks are rattling sabers and criticizing Obama for not doing the same;  another war could flare up.

But the more sober Republicans are beginning to panic.  So why shouldn't we feel good?

The way Romney and Santorum are both shooting themselves in the foot is astounding.

Romney's major speech in Detroit yesterday was supposed to shore up his relations with Michigan and the auto industry (given his opposition to the bailout).   So what does he do?  He wants them to know how many Detroit made cars he and his wife own.  So he says that he has a Mustang and a pickup truck, and "Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs."

A couple of Cadillacs?

How well do you think that's going to go over with the guy who just lost his job and may lose his house?   Romney just can't break the habit of goofily reminding us that he belongs to the 1% -- actually the 0.001%.  It's not that he's a snob.   His vocabulary just isn't from the same economic lexicon as ordinary people who worry about money.

Remember these lines:  "I'll bet you $10,000" (to Rick Perry).   "It wasn't very much money that I earned from giving speeches" (turns out it was several hundred thousand).   "I really don't worry about the very poor;  there are government programs to help them."

And then there's Rick Santorum -- earnest Catholic altar boy that he is.   Here's what he said about Obama's plan to help students with college tuition:
“I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely.  The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”
Take that, Harvard !!!    Eat your heart out, Yale !!!   Down with scholarship !!!

These schools that teach children and young adults to think for themselves are very very bad.  They're ruining the country.   Public education is no good;  everybody should home school their kids;  universities are harmful -- don't let your kids go there.  Even Notre Dame teaches science and philosophy.   EEKKK !!!   The sky's falling !!!!  Downfall of theocracy, folks.

Seems like either of these guys would be pretty easy to dispose of in the general election.


Friday, February 24, 2012

If they'd only listen to me #2

Two days ago I wrote about the hairstylist in Santa Fe who declined to cut the governor's hair because of her opposition to gay marriage.   And I renewed my call for a strike of all the wedding-providing service industry to not put on any more weddings until marriage equality is a reality.

Here's a followup.  Antonio Darden says he has received an outpouring of support "beyond belief," from as far away as Hong Kong.   Other hairstylists, including one from Toronto, have told him they are joining him and will not accept clients who publicly oppose gay marriage.

He may be an unlikely leader, but he's on the right track.  Here's what he said:
"It makes me think more, why don’t gay people, because of the service industry we provide, start doing the same thing and get our rights? We are not asking for something outrageous. . . .   "I do believe we should be able to refuse the service.  If our equal rights are being violated, I think I should refuse the service."
As the drag queens led the Stonewall uprisings, maybe the hairstylists will spearhead the marriage activism.


Some good trends

1.  The Virginia legislature passed a modified ultrasound anti-abortion law -- having scrapped the requirement for the more invasive vaginal procedure in favor of an external ultrasound exam.

   It's still a politically motivated, completely unnecessary procedure, mandated by the radical right wing intent on overturning Roe v. Wade.    But at least more moderate voices are beginning to be heeded.

2.  More evidence of that:   the same Virginia legislature also tabled the controversial "personhood" bill that was about to be passed.   Officially, they voted to postpone consideration for the next legislature;  but by then the 2012 election will be over and what's politically popular may have changed.

3. In the month of February, three (3) state legislatures voted to legalize same-sex marriage:  Washington (signed by the governor), New Jersey (vetoed by the governor), and Maryland (awaiting the governor's signature).   WA and MD join six other states (MA, IA, NH, VT, CT, NY) and the District of Columbia, with CA's Prop8 pending a decision in the federal court of appeals.

4.  Another federal judge has ruled that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act are unconstitutional.   This was the case that the Department of Justice declined to mount a defense for, citing legal scholars that the law is unconstitutional.  But then John Boehner and his House GOP crowd authorized $500,000 of tax payer money to pay legal fees for a defense.  They lost.   Boehner should apologize to the taxpayers for squandering half a million for a fool's errand in a time of slashing funding for people in real need.

5.  The media is beginning to fact check Newt Gingrich's wild claims and outrageous charges.  His charging Obama with "supporting infanticide" is really just ridiculous and needs no check.  Supporting legal abortion rights is not the same as killing babies, Newt.  Just get over it.

6.  Newt's off the wall claim in the recent debate that he would save $500 billion a year by overhauling the civil service system was easily checked.   Josh Marshall found that the entire federal payroll (including military, which is not civil service) adds up to $432.6 billion.  So even if Newt fired every government employee, it would not save $500 billion.

7.  This one is silly, but it shows how Newt will just say anything for effect.   He's been peddling a line that gets attention, criticizing Obama for expecting fuel-efficient cars to be enough to make us energy-independent.  He says:  "You can't put a gun rack in a Volt," the volt being the new Chevrolet all electric car.

   Truth is, it's been tried.  And you can easily mount several different, commercially available gun racks in the back of a Volt.

8.   And let's add this on to the list:   Economic indicators continue to improve, and there is a palpable lifting of the mood in this country.   Maybe the best proof of that is Obama's rising approval ratings, plus his outpolling each of his potential opponents.

All in all, a good week.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Newt's last hurrah

There are no more debates planned for the GOP primary campaign, so last night could very well have been Newt's last hurrah.   And it wasn't much to shout about.

The big action was between Romney and Santorum, with Paul chiming in with his quirky appeal.  Newt kept out of the fray for the most part, throwing in a few zingers as only Newt can hone them.

His claim that, as a state legislator, Obama supported "infanticide" is just not worth spending any time on.  No, Newt.  Supporting legal abortion rights is not the same as baby-killing.  So just get over it.

The other one left people scratching their heads, because it came from out of the blue and has no factual basis.   Newt declared that reforming the federal civil service system -- which he, of course, will do as president -- "could save a minimum of $500 billion a year."   Wow !!   Could it be?

Josh Marshall of TPM did some math.   The entire federal payroll -- even including the military -- is only $432.6 billion a year.    So, he concludes, if you fired every single person who works for the federal government (which includes far more people than the civil service system), it would not amount to $500 billion.

As of this writing, Newt's campaign had not returned Marshall's request for clarification.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why didn't I think of that?

OK.   Less than an hour ago, I posted my "If they'd only listen to me" blog.   And now the news has answered me back with this item -- Democrats in the State Legislature are way ahead of me on the clever comeback.

Remember a few weeks ago when the proposed Virginia law requiring (unnecessary) ultrasound exams for women seeking abortions was countered by an amendment requiring that all men have prostate exams before they could get Viagra prescriptions?

Well, now here in Georgia, there is a new anti-abortion bill being considered that would set the limit on abortions at 20 weeks instead of 24 weeks.    Look how that's being countered (thanks to Huffington Post):

A group of female Democratic legislators in the Georgia House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would ban men from seeking vasectomies.

"Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies," said bill author Yasmin Neal. . . . It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women's ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States" . . . 

"The Republican attack on women's reproductive rights is unconscionable," said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. . . What is more deplorable is the hypocrisy of [the anti-abortion bill's] author. If we follow his logic, we believe it is the obligation of the General Assembly to assert an equally invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men and substitute the will of the government over the will of men."

Don't you just love it when someone uses logic to expose the hypocrisy of conservative bigots?  They want to control women's reproductive lives but yell like stuck pigs if anyone wants to regulate anything in their lives (like guns or their freedom to impose their will on others)?


If they'd only listen to me . . .

Last week (Feb 14), I claimed, somewhat facetiously, that "Someone's been reading my blog" -- because of several instances of my writing something and then finding something similar in the national media a bit later.

OK, so that was a little inflated.    Good ideas are just out there and anyone can grab them and create their own spin.

However, there is one good idea that I've been espousing for a couple of years that I've never heard anyone else mention: '
We could get the gay marriage issue done and over with in a month if everyone connected with putting on weddings would go on strike until it was legal for gays and lesbians to marry.
Think of who puts on weddings and the probable high percentage of gay men who run things:  florists, wedding gown designers, church organists, caterers, hair stylists, make-up artists, etc.  You get the idea.    (Let's forget the bad habit of stereotyping for the moment, because we need to do this.)

Today, there's a news item from New Mexico.  Governor Susana Martinez has had her hair cut several times by Antonio Darden of Antonio's Hair Studio.   But now he is refusing to make another appointment for the governor because of her position opposing marriage equality for gays and lesbians.   Gov. Martinez's aides have called back a second time to see if he would change his mind, but he continues to say no.

Bravo, Antonio.   Now recruit all your buddies and let's get this boycott started.  All it will take is a couple dozen fat cat Republicans whose darling daughters' wedding plans get ruined -- then we'll see some laws change.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Santorum extremism #3 -- and a reprimand

Rick Santorum's extreme religious views were back in the news again today.  Last week, he explained that he wasn't saying that Obama is not a Christian -- just that his "values run counter to Christianity."

Now, an interview Santorum gave in 2008 to the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life has surfaced.

When asked in that interview if he believed that Obama is a "sincere liberal Christian," he said,"I don't think there is such a thing. . . . To take what is plainly written and say that 'I don't agree with that, therefore I don't have to pay attention to it,' means you're not what you say you are. You're a liberal something, but you're not a Christian."

On top of that is Franklin Graham's casting doubts on Obama's religious faith, saying he is seen as a "Son of Islam."  Plus Newt's playing his "religious conversion" card and pandering to the evangelical conservatives -- and the submerged fears of Romney's Mormon faith.

Later today, a coalition of 14 major religious organizations, representing Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh groups, released the following statement of principles (excerpted):
". . .  Appealing to voters along religious lines is divisive. It is contrary to the American ideal of including all Americans in the political process, regardless of whether they are members of large and powerful religious groups, religious minorities, or subscribe to no faith tradition.
"Voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications, integrity, and political positions of candidates.  A candidate’s religious beliefs – or lack thereof – should never be used by voters, nor suggested by political candidates, as a test for public office or as a shorthand summary of a candidate’s qualifications.

"Candidates for office bear the primary responsibility for setting the proper tone for elections.  Anyone who legitimately aspires to public office must be prepared to set an example and to be a leader for all Americans, of all faiths or of no faith."
This was a broad appeal to all candidates for public office;  but there's little doubt that Santorum has been leading the pack in his narrow view of Christianity.  He has given new meaning to the phrase: "More Catholic than the Pope."
A good reminder -- and the timing makes it sound like a reprimand of Santorum.


Tales from the campaign trail

A few small tales from the Republican campaign trails:

1.  This must be the ultimate Romney flip-flop.    A few weeks ago his campaign said that Michigan is  a "must win" state for him.  He was born there, and his father was governor.  But, now that Santorum has surged ahead of him, his campaign is singing a different tune.  “Mitt Romney has connections to three states.  Four years ago we won all three of those states (Michigan, Utah and Massachusetts). Is any one of them a must-win for Mitt Romney? No.”

OK, if you say so.   But pretty soon you're going to have to stop making excuses for not winning.

2.  The big flap about women's health (breast exams, Komen, Planned Parenthood; birth control, abortions) has been good for the Democrats.  It has energized the women's vote and raised lots of money.  Petitions have been pouring in to Democratic campaigns.

3.  Rick Santorum's foot in mouth disease is spreading to his staff.   Yesterday, his press secretary was being interviewed live by Andrea Mitchell when she made a slip of the tongue -- but it's very very telling.   She referred to "Obama's radical Islamic policies."   She called back minutes later, while Mitchell was still on the air to say that she had misspoken and hadn't realized her mistake until someone pointed it out to her.   She had intended to say "Obama's radical environmental policies."

I'm 100% sure she did not consciously intend to say it;  but the thought was in her mind as a well-grooved association.

4.  Meanwhile, Republicans are beginning to panic.   Economic indicators continue to improve, and their political analysts know that this means their chances of beating Obama are plummeting.   That's why Boehner caved on the payroll tax;  it's why the candidates are hauling out the social issues and making lots of noise about them, especially Santorum.  But Newt too. 

And now they've trotted out Franklin Graham (far more outspokenly right wing than his father) to slyly cast doubts on whether Obama is really a Christian, reviving the "Muslim" rumor. That's despicable.  Franklin Graham has destroyed his credibility and trashed his father's bipartisan image as unofficial "pastor to presidents." 

That's OK.   Let them go ahead and nominate Santorum and run on social issues and returning to the 19th century. That's a good winning strategy for the Democrats.  Just ask the Independents whom they would choose in such a match-up.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Should a politcian's past count?

Newt Gingrich would have us put his past behind him and consider what he has to offer us today.  OK.   If someone made some stupid choices as a young man and has matured and changed.   Or if someone's political philosophy has evolved, leading to changes in policy positions.    Fair enough.   A certain amount of that shows a person willing to listen, to learn, and to grow.

But what about basic character and temperament?    How much can we expect those basic traits to change?    Some.   Do we have evidence that Newt has changed deeply at that level?   Despite his very public embrace of Catholicism, I have my doubts.   It's just too facile, too expediently timed, touted too much (going on TV with James Dobson to confess and be blessed), and it's all too in synch with his old modus operandi.

We should be wary of what seems too facile and too expedient.  And here is where my problem with Newt comes in.    There is plenty of evidence of his continuing grandiosity, his ruthless ambition, his messiantic delusions, his manipulative posturing, and his towering vindictiveness.   Do we want to take a chance on someone like this and give him the power of the presidency, including the Red Phone at 3 AM?

The Washington Post yesterday contained an article by Jerry Markon, who has been exploring the Gingrich archives housed at the University of West Georgia.   Here's some of what he found:
When Gingrich was in the House, his chief of staff noted at a 1983 staff meeting that his boss frequently derided Reagan, along with then-White House Chief of Staff James A. Backer III and Robert H. Michel, the House Republican leader.

Gingrich “assumed that he’s the whole Republican Party,” said the Gingrich aide, Frank Gregorsky, according to a transcript of the meeting. “He knows more than the president, the president’s people, Michel, Baker. He calls them stupid all the time, and I think that’s going to get him into big trouble someday” . . .

An examination of the papers collected over nearly three decades reveals a politician of moderate-to-liberal beginnings . . . who moved to the right with an eye on political expediency — and privately savaged Republicans he was praising in public. Even as he gained a reputation as a conservative firebrand, the documents show Gingrich was viewed by his staff primarily as a tactician . . . with little ideological core.

The files offer a candid glimpse of the former House speaker a man who could be charming and self-effacing one moment, ambitious and grandiose the next, an admittedly disorganized manager who viewed his role as nothing less than saving the Western world.

“When I say save the West, I mean that,” Gingrich said in a 1979 address to his congressional staff, preserved in the files. “That is my job. . . . It is not my job to win reelection. It is not my job to take care of passport problems. It is not my job to get a bill through Congress. My job description as I have defined it is to save Western civilization.”
Ouch !!!    Is this the man for that job?   I don't think so.


Obama's LGBT appointees

Thanks to Alan K. for passing along this encouraging stat:

To date, the Obama-Biden Administration has appointed more than 225 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined.

Note the "to date."   Ten months more in this term and then, hopefully, four more years.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Santorum doubles down on his extreme views

On "Face the Nation" this morning, an incredulous Bob Schieffer asked Rick Santorum, "What in the world were you thinking?" in reference to his recent comments that Obama's agenda is not based on the Bible but on some "phony theology."

Santorum again said he did not question whether Obama is himself a Christian.
"But I am talking about his worldview, the way he addresses problems in this country, and they're different than most people view it in America."
 Yeah?   Then how come he's beating you by 8% in national polls?

But Santorum wants to double down, in answering Schieffer (quoting from HuffingtonPost):
"I was talking about the radical environmentalists," Santorum said, suggesting that they believe man should protect the earth, rather than "steward its resources." "I think that is a phony ideal. I don't believe that's what we're here to do ... We're not here to serve the earth. That is not the objective, man is the objective."

Earlier in the day on Saturday, Santorum had also said that health insurance plans shouldn't be required to cover prenatal testing, because that testing results in more abortions, as well as contending that government-run public education was "anachronistic". . .  

Asked by Schieffer about his claims that prenatal testing leads to more abortions, Santorum insisted that this was "a fact."

"We're talking about specifically prenatal testing, and specifically amniocentesis, which is a procedure that actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies of a child in the womb. And in many cases -- and in fact in most cases -- most physicians recommend, if there is a problem, they recommend abortion," Santorum said. . . .
He had more to say.   But I think this is enough to make the case.


Reason SCOTUS might uphold health care reform

Mike Sacks, writing in HuffingtonPost, analyzes the possibility that the Supreme Court may uphold the individual mandate requirement in the health care reform act.  Arguments won't be heard until later in the spring, but already speculation abounds, not least because of all the controversy over whether Justices Clarence Thomas and/or Elena Kagan should and will recuse themselves.   It seems now that they probably will not.

A report of a Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that 60% of Americans expect that the justices will be guided more by their ideology than by legal analysis when considering this decision.  In an analysis, particularly of Chief Justice John Roberts' prior decisions, it cites his usual siding with the conservative group but also states that Roberts "is very cautious of the institutional credibility of the Court."

Expanding on this tendency suggests that Roberts, along with Justice Anthony Kennedy, would perhaps be reluctant to go against the court's important principle of stare decisis which, stated simply, means respect for the precedent of previous important decisions.  The longer a prior major decision has stood, and the more subsequent decisions that have been based on it, the greater needs to be the compelling case for overturning the precedent.

Sacks quotes from Roberts' own opinion in the Citizens United case, in which he wrote that precendent:
"should only be overturned when its validity is so hotly contested that it cannot reliably function as a basis for decision in future cases, when its rationale threatens to upend our settled jurisprudence in related areas of law, and when the precedent's underlying reasoning has become so discredited that the Court cannot keep the precedent alive without jury-rigging new and different justifications to shore up the original mistake." 
A key decision in 1942 established Congress' broad power to regulate interstate commerce, which has been upheld time and again in the ensuing 70 years.   To find the individual mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act unconstitutional, which the suit seeks to do, would require overturning that precedent and seems contra to Roberts' criteria as described above.

Even former Bush Justice Department lawyer John Yoo predicts that Roberts and Kennedy will join the liberal four for a 6 to 3 to uphold the inidividual mandate with as narrow a decision as possible that still does not overturn the commerce clause precedent.

So, yes, there's hope for the survival of what we may proudly refer to as "ObamaCare."   That doesn't have to always be a dirty word.