Saturday, June 23, 2012


The jury has spoken:    
guilty on 45 of the 48 counts of sexual abuse of young boys.

Famed football coach Jerry Sandusky stuck to his claim of innocence;  his wife said she never saw or heard anything inappropriate.    Other coaches testified that it was common practice for men and boys to shower together in the locker room.  His lawyer claimed it was a grand conspiracy and said the prosecution had not produced any physical evidence.

But the moving testimony of the young men who were repeatedly sexually abused proved more convincing.

 After the jury had already begun deliberations, the story broke that one of the Sanduskys adopted sons had also claimed to have been sexually abused by him.   Like the others, he had been one of the underprivileged boys that Sandusky took under his wing in his Second Mile charity;  but this one became a foster child and later was adopted by the Sanduskys.   He had talked with the prosecutors and was willing to testify;  but they did not call him as a witness, so it's possible they found his story not credible.

There are no heroes here.   Even the young assistant coach, who reported seeing Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower, failed to act to stop it.   He went home, confused, to talk to his father about what to do.   And waited until the next day to inform the authorities at Penn State -- even then not notifying the police.

Those authorities at Penn State did not take action, except to forbid Sandusky from bringing boys from his Second Mile charity to the campus.  In other words -- just don't do it in our back yard.   Even though he had been accused before, and even though there was a secret file being kept on Sandusky -- even with that new accusation, they did not act.

Like the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, they were more concerned with protecting the adults than the children.

Not only did they not act, the school authorities engaged in a cover-up to protect the vaunted athletic program and its coaches.   Ultimately the conver-up failed.   It became public and the police began to investigate.  Now, heads have rolled.  The president of the university had to resign;  legendary Coach Joe Panterno was fired in midseason and has since died of cancer.   The Athletic Director was charged with perjury.

There are no heroes -- only victims and those who failed to protect the victims.   Sexual abuse of young people, most especially by those they trust, can be a devastating psychological trauma that destroys lives.   The boys or girls often blame themselves and experience deep shame along with a sense of having been betrayed and violated.   Perhaps the most devastating aspects is the killing of trust and the undermining of self worth.

Justice has been done.   But nobody should be happy about this.   It will not wipe out the pain, the damage, the memories.   But at least the boys, now men, have been heard and believed.   That is a start.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Nate Silver is more optimistic

Well, this makes me feel a little bit better.   Nate Silver reads the political tea leaves better than anybody, and he's more optimistic

He does it by giving differential weight to each poll based on it's record of reliability and on how recently the poll was taken;  then he averages a number of polls, figuring in each poll's differential weight.

As of today, he gives Obama a 62.7% chance of winning, Romney 37.3%.   He awards all of the electoral votes rather than designating some as swing states.  So on electoral votes, he gives Obama 290.2 and Romney 247.8 (270 needed to win -- or rather 269.1, since some states apportion their electoral votes, so it's anything over 1/2 of 538 or 269).

Anyway -- now we can have a happier Friday night.


Now I'm getting worried

Recently I have been touting the electoral map predictions that showed Obama with a decided lead in electoral votes -- he had the required 270 votes if he only took the states in which he has a lead of at least 4% in the polls, without winning any of the battleground states.   Forget about the popular vote;  it's not what elects our president.

Just two weeks ago, Romney would have had to win every one of the battleground states (those in which neither candidate has as much as a 4% lead in the polls) AND he would have had to take one or two states in which Obama currently has more than a 4% lead.

Now that has suddenly changed as Wisconsin and Michigan have shifted into battleground status with Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and Iowa.   Obama still leads in the electoral count, but not by such a comfortable margin.

That started me feeling less confident about the race, but it was an article in the New York Times that prompted this blog about how the Republicans are winning the battle for framing the message -- in this instance it is the health care reform debate.

They're winning the message war, because they've become expert at distortions and outright lies, and they've got the money and the media megaphones to put their message out there and keep drilling it in day and night.   The Democrats seem flatfooted and tongue-tied.  They are losing the message war, and they're going to lose the money war -- and I'm getting really worried.

Examples are cited where people claim, for instance, that they are opposed to Obama's health care reform for this or that reason -- and their reason is either a false belief about the reform law, or else it is something that would actually benefit these very same people;  and they don't realize they're opposing their own best interests.

It's the same with economic policy.  It's become quite clear, both in Europe and in our own economy, that austerity in a time of such recession, is a losing strategy.  Look at Greece and Spain.   But that's what the Republicans are preaching -- and they frame it as reducing the deficit.  People say, "Yes, we have to reduce the deficit.  Obama is spending us into oblivion."

But that's just the opposite of what most economists say we need in a time of high unemployment.  Cutting government spending is keeping the joblessness high, because federal assistance to states has been cut -- meaning laying off teachers, police, and fire fighters, and others.  So it's the wrong way to go.    Why can't the Democrats get that message out there?   And get people to believe it?

We could beat their money advantage -- as vast as it is -- if we could just cut through their wrong message and get people to listen to the right message.

I'm not sure it's going to happen.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ignorant Republicans

Remember those surveys that showed that people who watch FoxNews are less well-informed than people who do not follow any news sources?

Here's some more confirmation from a YouGov survey of 1000 individuals on their knowledge and attitudes about current events, with special emphasis on foreign policy.   Among the findings:

1.  62.9% of Republicans believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded them in 2003.

2.  55.6% of Republicans have always believed that Obama was born in another country.   Another 8% used to believe that he was born in the U. S. but now believe he was born in another country.   That's 63.6% who believe the Obama is not eligible to be president.

Note:   Almost 1 in 3 Republicans are grossly misinformed on these two issues that have been massively discussed for years in the public media.

And now we're in a political campaign where hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads will spew out misinformation.   What a farce.   What a tragedy for our country.

There used to be a saying referring to "The best government money can buy" in reference to lobbying and high-level bribing.   I think this should be changed to "The worst government money can buy."


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SCOTUS and health care reform

Anticipation is running at a fever pitch, knowing that the Supreme Court's decision on Obama's Affordable Health Care Act is due any day now.

Both sides are planning what to do if it's upheld (Republicans) or if it's declared unconstitutional (Democrats).

What do the people want?   An AP/Gfk poll shows that, if SCOTUS strikes it down, 77% of Americans want the president and Congress to starting working on a new bill right away.   Only 19% prefer what we have now.

Of course, that doesn't mean 77% support the Obama bill.   Many Republicans want some sort of reform, but not his plan.

We should not get complacent with these numbers.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What the GOP needs is a little love

What's the matter with Republicans?    They seem deficient in what some would refer to as "Christian" love -- but that's usurping a vital emotion by one religious group.   What they mean, of course, is the example of Jesus' unselfish, even self-sacrificing, love for others, in particular those less fortunate or able to take care of themselves.

I can certainly make the argument that the Democrats' policies seem more in synch with this than do the Republicans.    However, I also know Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and secular humanists who have this same kind of altruistic, often sacrificial love for fellow beings.   So Christianity does not have an exclusive franchise on this expression of love.

These were thoughts that ran through my head when I saw the headline of an article from the (actually it was in the daily "Emory in the News" alert I receive because an Emory professor had commented on the article).   Here's the headline:
"Debating Love's Impact on the GOP"
Well, despite my lofty musings that followed, the article is about the fact that the Republicans have nominated a black woman to run against the white Democratic opponent.  Her name is Mia Love, and the article is all about whether she can attract more black voters to the mostly white GOP.  Finding black voters in Utah might not be the most efficient use of a candidacy, however, I would think.   Why not try in a state with a few more potential recruits?

Oh, well.   The thoughts about the differences in the political parties' policies were already there.  This was just an excuse to bring them up again.

And to be fair to my more thoughtful, moderate Republican friends -- they're not necessarily less generous and compassionate;  they have different ideas about the role of government in solving the problems of the people.   But then I think that's a rationalization for an underlying greed and harsh defender of individualism.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Scalia's faux "originalism"

Antonin Scalia famously claims to interpret the Constitution according to what the authors meant at the time they wrote it.   And he seems to "know" what they meant.

It's not the first time his actions have belied that claim, but his latest flip flop is in the spotlight, because it involves the eagerly awaited/dreaded decision about the constitutionality of Obama's health care reform act.

To try to summarize briefly, the justification of the universal mandate to purchase health insurance lies in the interpretation of the interstate commerce clause.   The Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, but the Court has split on the interpretation of what constitutes interstate commerce.

Modern cases cite the Wickard v. Filburn case of 1942, in which the Court decided that the federal government could regulate a farmer's growth of wheat for his own consumption because it would affect interstate commerce (presumably the price of wheat).

Further, in 2005 Justice Scalia cited this case as legal precedent for the majority opinion he wrote for a case involving the federal government's right to overrule the state law in California involving growing marijuahna for medicinal purposes.

Now, just prior to the decision about the health care reform act being announced, Scalia has released his new book in which he states that the 1942 case (which he cited as support of his 2005 majority opinion) was wrongly decided.

The clear implication here is that Scalia has changed his position because it does not fit with his wish to vote against Obama's mandate.   He would have to reverse himself in order to do that.   So that's what he has done -- just before the Court releases its decision.  Remember, during oral arguments of the case, Scalia sarcastically asked:   if the government can force you to buy insurance, can it force you to buy brocolli?

Well, now.   UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler has written this:
This is typical Scalia. He respects precedents when they fit his conservative ideology and disregards them when they don’t. He claims that history should guide judges. But nothing about the history of the commerce clause has changed. What’s changed is the political implications of the commerce clause. When its being invoked for law and order conservatives, he favors Wickard. When invoked by liberals to support healthcare reform, he thinks Wickard is bad law. Once again, we see that Scalia’s originalism is a charade.
Hear !!  Hear !!    In my opinion, Scalia is a big bag of arrogance -- 
smug, self-important, and utterly unsuited for the highest court 
in the land.


Fanciful solution?

Washington Post's E. J. Dionne proposes a solution to the vast outpouring of billionaires' money into Republican SuperPACs.   I'm not sure if even he thinks this might come to pass, or if he's just spinning fairy tales of what could solve the current crisis, where it appears that conservative billionaires are set to try to buy this election.

The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Karl Rove's fund raising group are said to be planning collectively to put some $67 billion into the 2012 races -- both presidential and congressional.  And they have much better chances of influencing the smaller races and taking control of the legislative branches.

Dionne's solution?    Get a group of billionaires and millionaires to pool their resources and pledge to match them dollar for dollar.   If the others give a billion to conservative candidates, they will give a billion to their opponents.

Dionne also says the the only long range solution is a constitutional amendment to change the way campaigns are financed.  But that can't happen in time for 2012.   However, this could work.   The other side would be less likely to shell out the money if they knew it wouldn't gain them an advantage.

If only.    Well, while we're being fanciful, let's wish that Citizens United hadn't happened.  And for some pie in the sky . . . and world peace, while we're wishing.