Saturday, April 28, 2012

Clueless Romney

Do we need any more evidence that it's just not in Mitt Romney's DNA to have any empathic conception of what ordinary people's lives are like?  He makes these awkward gaffe's that obviously come from his life experience where getting money when you need it has just never been anything he had to think about.

Not that we needed any more evidence, but here's the latest:   Talking to college students at Otterbein University (Columbus, Ohio) about taking initiative, developing their futures, etc.   He said:  "We've always encouraged young people:  "Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business."
"Borrow money from your parents"
This is less than 24 hours since the big fight in the House over student loan interest rates.   Doesn't he realize that the conversation is about college students whose parents don't have the money to pay for their kids' education?   So how are they going to be able to lend them money to start a business?

So here's a new slogan for Romney's opponents (with apologies to "Sleepless in Seattle"):
"Clueless in Columbus"

NRA makes us crazy

City officials in Tampa, FL are worried.   Those in Charlottee, NC apparently not so much . . . yet.

Both cities -- the hosts for the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer -- are in states that allow concealed weapons, and their laws prohibit local governments from interfering with those rights, even for temporary situations like this.  This means, if nothing is done to counter it, that protesters in this politically charged environment will be able to carry guns right up to the entrances to the convention centers where the nominating festivities will occur.

The Secret Service can ban civilians from carrying weapons inside the convention arenas, and they will require people to pass through metal detectors in order to get in (as they usually do at such events that involve people they are charged with protecting, like presidents or presidential candidates).   But they cannot control what happens on the streets outside.

The Tampa city council wants to ask Republican Gov. Rick Scott to issue an executive order that will allow them to temporarily ban concealed weapons.    The Tampa mayor has said that the gun law makes the city look silly, because it can ban water guns but not real guns that shoot bullets and kill people.

In recent years, these political conventions have drawn sometimes unruly protesters, and there have frequently been clashes with the police in the streets.   Remember the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago when anti-Viet Nam war demonstrations turned violent.  Four years ago at the Republican convention in St. Paul, MN demonstrators smashed cars and threw bottles at police.  Hundreds of people were arrested.

Now in Florida and North Carolina, unless something changes, demonstrators (with carry permits) are legally entitled to be fully armed.    Charlotte has already adopted certain measures that they can do, short of banning weapons.   They have given police more power to search people and have banned backpacks and certain other items in designated protest areas.  But this is aimed at the Occupy type protesters.

What about the real crazies or the true assassins?

We have the NRA to thank for this.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Get the big hook . . .

I thought my blog "Finally !!!" on Wednesday would be the last time I would write about Newt.

But this takes the cake, and I just can't resist one more rant about the absurdity of this Cosmic Ego who thinks he was destined to Save Western Civilization and just can't give up the quest.

Having announced that he would be suspending his campaign on May 1, wouldn't you think he would be folding his tents and preparing to close shop?

Not so.  Newt was still out campaigning in North Carolina.   He says he had committed himself to several events in the state, and he didn't want to disappoint anyone who had planned to see him.

Not to worry.  The crowds didn't come.  Almost no one came.   The entourage touring a racing car manufacturing plant consisted of one lone staff member, several obligatory Republican officials, and one local reporter --
and . . .

AND  -- 12 Secret Service men.    TWELVE ? ? ? ?

The price tag?    $40,000 per day to continue the secret service protection for a man who has already announced his withdrawal and with no crowds clamoring to see him.

Maybe some outraged taxpayer might want to kill him.   That's about his only need for protection that I can imagine.


PS:   The New York Times used an apt analogy:   the Japanese soldiers who turned up in remote areas long after August 1945 and had no idea that World War II had ended.

PPS:   It's now reported that the secret service protection for Newt was set to end Thursday night.

Senate investigation: toture not effective

 Former Vice President Dick Cheney has always defended the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

 In August 2009, he said:
"The enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States and in giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al Qaeda. . . .  I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States."
At the time, it was hard to argue with the Vice President without having facts to counter his unsubstantiated "trust me, I know" claims.  In his most recent public statement, since his heart transplant, he sounded even more adamant that we should believe him -- just because he says so and he knows.

Now it seems we're about to have some real evidence.

In 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee began a systematic investigation of the effectiveness of these interrogation techniques.   Republican members soon pulled out of the study, saying it would be impossible to interview witnesses to ensure that the CIA reports were authentic and in context.  (Translation: "We don't like the findings.")

However, the Democratic majority pressed on and now, after three years of investigations, with access to millions of pages of CIA written records charting daily operations, including "graphic descriptions of how and when controversial techniques were employed,"  Intelligence  Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has told reporters:
"I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and, in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used."

Although no official report has been issued yet, people who are familiar with the findings have told Reuters that the committee investigators do not believe the harsh interrogation techniques produced any break-throughs in counter-terrorism efforts.

President Obama banned these harsh techniques -- torture, to be plain-spoken -- soon after he took office.  And even the Bush administration started backing off their use in 2004.

The Cheneys will never be convinced by the facts, and will likely dismiss this investigation as partisan.   But it will be good to have an official document saying there is no evidence torture worked.  Then the torture defenders will have to do something other than simply express their beliefs that it was effective.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Finally . . . ! ! !

Newt Gingrich announced that he will be suspending his campaign as of May 1.

Seems that the Cosmic Ego finally ran up against reality that even he could recognize -- his mounting campaign debt, donors deserting, and voters just ignoring him.

Romney beat him 2:1 in Delaware, the state where Gingrich campaigned hard and long and recently claimed that his win there would revitalize his campaign.

No.  No.   No.   Newt.   You were not wanted, and eventually "attention must be paid" to what the voters say.   Even you.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

GA law and Gov. Deal are wrong

This is based on reporting by Arthur Delaney on Huffington Post.

Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal singed into law a requirement that welfare applicants pay for and pass a drug test in order to be eligible for benefits.   Deal's office released a statement saying that Florida's experience with a similar law reduced its welfare applicant pool by 48% and saved the state $1.8 million.

Not so, according to this article.  Deal based his assertion on bad research by a conservative think tank in Florida, the Foundation for Government Accountability.

In fact, this assertion is contradicted by the state government's own evaluation of its law.  And it is simply not true.    The law took effect in July 2011, and in October a judge suspended the law with an injunction.  During that time 4,086 applicants were drug tested.   Only 2.6% tested positive, most for marijuana.  This compares to the general population where over 8% test positive for drugs.

So, that's the first point.   Welfare applicants tested positive at less the 1/3 the rate of the general population.

Further, from a report by the Florida Department of Children and Families:

"Florida's caseload had been declining consistently since December 2010. . . .  On applying the previous rate of decline to a projection of the July-September 2011 caseload and factoring in the drug testing denials, we found that the projected caseload would have been lower than the actual caseload. Therefore we saw no dampening effect on the caseload for the one quarter (July-September) covered for this report."
Let me just emphasize this point.   Assuming the pre-existing rate of declining applications continued during the three month period when drug tests were required, there would have been even fewer applicants than there actually were.

That's the second point:  there's no truth at all in saying that the drug test reduced the number of applicants by 48%.  In fact, it was the opposite -- if it had any effect at all.

So now Georgia has this worse-than-useless law on its books, which will require poor people to pay for a drug test they can't afford so they can get welfare assistance they really need.

And it's all based on lies.   Gov. Deal either doesn't know it or doesn't care.  It just sounds like red meat to the "blame the poor" crowd, and that's apparently what counts.


Monday, April 23, 2012

"Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are?"

"Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are?"    That's the opening line in Paul Krugman's New York Times opinion piece today.

He cited the latest blatant example of Romney's twisting the facts to accuse Obama of everything that's wrong with the economy.   If you are totally naive and unquestioning, you might swallow it all.  But, Krugman has more faith in the American people than that.

Romney was visiting a closed drywall factory in Ohio, and he tried to portray it as the symbol of Obama's failed economic policies.

But the inconvenient fact is that the drywall factory closed while George W. Bush was president.    Yes, Romney admits, but it would have reopened by now except for Obama's failed policies.

Romney constantly talks about job losses under Obama's administration.   Krugman responds:
"Yet all of the net job loss [during Obama's term] took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration’s policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don’t remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall.

"How does the campaign deal with people who point out the awkward reality that all of the “Obama” job losses took place before any Obama policies had taken effect? The fallback argument — which was rolled out when reporters asked about the factory closure — is that even though Mr. Obama inherited a deeply troubled economy, he should have fixed it by now. That factory is still closed, said a Romney adviser, because of the failure of Obama policies “to really get this economy going again.”

"Actually, that factory would probably still be closed even if the economy had done better — drywall is mainly used in new houses, and while the economy may be coming back, the Bush-era housing bubble isn’t."
Krugman goes on to say that Romney doesn't want to remind people of the failure of the Bush policies, because what he is advocating himself is essentially a return to those same policies.

In addition, Krugman points out, much of the job loss also has to do with massive layoffs of teachers and other state and local government employees -- and the worst of those losses have been in states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors.

In contrast, the private sector has recovered almost all of the job losses experienced during those first few months of the Obama administration.

Bottom line:   Krugman makes the case that Obama has done better with the economy than George W. Bush did and than the Republicans in control of state and local governments have done.

Now the job is to get this corrected message out there to the voters.   Obama and the Democrats have a lot of remedial work to do to correct all these distortions and lies that Republicans have been peddling -- with a pretty cooperative media, thus far.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Collapse of the far right

Well, perhaps "collapse" is an exaggeration.   But it seems that the days of Tea Party supremacy are over, not only over in the Republican party and the primary campaign, but in much of our civic life.   They were just too extreme.

Sure, they keep passing far right wing legislation in the House, which then dies in the Senate or else with Obama's veto threat.  And look what happened to Michele Bachmann, who used to flaunt herself as being head of the House Tea Party Caucus.   She's now in a fight to retain her seat in the House and is left with a big debt from her silly presidential campaign.

Here are some other signs of the decline:

The latest indication of that is what's happened with Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who became the hero of the Tea Party crowd for his vehement pursuit of illegal aliens and his defiance of the federal government.

John Dougherty writes from Phoenix for the Huffington Post:
"With fresh calls for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to face a federal criminal trial, many are predicting the end of his controversial career. What few people realize outside metropolitan Phoenix is how much Arpaio’s world has already fallen apart around him.

"One-by-one, Arpaio’s closest allies have been forced from power or severed support, leaving the combative 79-year-old sheriff seeking his sixth term increasingly isolated and vulnerable as emboldened foes sharpen their attacks.

"The latest Arpaio political supporter to fall is former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas, who was disbarred April 10 for engaging in unethical conduct to intimidate and smear his and Arpaio’s political adversaries. . . . the [Arizona Supreme Court] opinion made it crystal clear that his unethical and allegedly illegal conduct was the result of his “unholy collaboration” with Arpaio  . .  to use their law enforcement powers to retaliate against critics."
A federal grand jury has been investigating Arpaio for three years for allegedly abusing his power to go after his opponents.   Many are expecting a federal indictment of Arpaio in the near future.

Further, his closest ally in the state legislature lost a recall election recently, along with the state senate president who spearheaded the passing of Arizona's controversial immigration law.  The latter had once been Arpaio's deputy, and they worked closely together.

A prominent Phoenix attorney, who requested the federal civil rights investigation, said:  “We are witnessing the end of the Joe Show. . . .  I believe he will be indicted within the next 30 days.”

On top of this, Jan Brewer, the controversial Arizona governor -- who has rarely missed an opportunity to display her right-wing credentials -- has just vetoed a bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried into government buildings.

Maybe the worst of the craziness is about over.