Saturday, February 9, 2013

Colliding rights

This letter to the New York Times (2-8-13) from Robert Jaeger is worth reprinting in full:

"To the editors,
"When the right to bear arms collides with the right not to be killed, why do the guns always win When rights collide, we usually compromise After the terrorist attacks of 2001, the right to privacy collided with the right to safety.   So we compromised.  Now, after multiple gun-related massacres, the right to bear arms is colliding with the right to safety.  But the gun extremists won't compromise.

     "How did the right to bear arms become the one right that never compromises?"
That is so elegant;  so very, very true.

Thank you, Mr. Jaeger.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Karl Rove is done

Veteran journalist and HuffPost columnist Howard Fineman wrote a blog yesterday saying that "Karl Rove is done."  Reminding us that Rove began his political operative career in 1972 with a run for president of the College Republicans.  He learned the art of dirty tricks from the master Lee Atwater, who was his campaign manager.

Fineman said that Rove was never a movement conservative.  "He was a geeky outsider who longed for the power and money and connections that he thought would be available to him in politics in general and as a Nixon acolyte in particular."   He later gained political clout in Texas and then masterminded George W. Bush to the White House and beyond. 

But now, it seems, Karl Rove's poor track record in the 2012 election has done him in.  Though he has just launched a new PAC dedicated to defeating radical conservative primary candidates who will win the nominations but can't win in the general election.  Fineman added that Rove is "a master tactician but a poor judge of horseflesh."

Fineman says that the current war within the Republican party may eventually lead to its revival, but "it won't be Rove, or one of his clients, who is able to end it. He's done."

This opinion is shared by 2012 GOP hopeful John Huntsman, who today said in an interview:   "I think he's kind of yesterday's ballgame," referring to Karl Rove and his new SuperPAC.

Ahhh, it's music to my ears.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Putting it in perspective

At a rally of anti-immigration protesters in Arizona, a Native American man lent some perspective.   Yelling at them and their signs, he said:
"You're all illegalWe didn't invite none of you here.  We're the only Native Americans here."
Yes, and didn't President Obama say the same thing in his inaugural address, when speaking of needed immigration reform?
"Unless you’re one of the first Americans, Native Americans, you came from somewhere else – somebody brought you."
Why doesn't that sink in?


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Paul Krugman is right

Paul Krugman and fellow Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz have been saying for years that austerity and focusing on deficits actually do harm in an economy such as our present one.

I have no trouble understanding that -- it's all about needing to create jobs and thus increasing buying power for the people, which then leads to increased production and more jobs.   But few people in our government seem to understand this.  I think President Obama does, but he has felt constrained by what he thinks he can get conservatives to accept.   Or perhaps he had the wrong advisers and just couldn't sell the idea.

Now the Congressional Budget Office has issued a report that says deficit reduction measures have stymied the recovery.  And yet politicians, mostly Republicans but also some Democrats, continue to call for austerity.

And this is despite the bad results in Europe where they've gone into severe austerity measures.

The CBO report cites fiscal tightening, such as the expiration of the 2% cut in Social Security payroll tax and reductions in federal spending, as leading to slowed economic growth.
". . .  subdued economic growth will limit businesses' need to hire additional workers, thereby causing the unemployment rate to stay near 8 percent this year."
What we need instead, as Krugman and Stiglitz keep trying to tell us, are a robust jobs programs and governmental spending to stimulate growth.   Providing jobs and other measures that give people more buying power is the way to stimulate the economy, not the reverse.

Why is this so hard to understand?


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Paul Braun for GOP senate nomination

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss has announced he will not run for re-election in 2014.   Among others who are signalling a run, Rep. Tom Price is likely to run and would be considered the strongest GOP candidate, and therefore the most dangerous candidate for the liberal cause.   But this week, Rep. Paul Braun has let it be known that he plans to run.

Paul Braun is the infamous Georgia congressman representing the district the include Athens.  Yes, that Paul Braun.   One whom the GOP leadership picked to be a member of the House Science committee and who is now infamous for his belief that the idea of evolution is "straight from the pits of hell."

So let's get behind Braun.   He would be the easiest candidate for a Democrat to beat.  We could retake one senate seat for Georgia and break the deadlock the Republicans have on all state-wide elected office holders.

Besides having views that could only appeal to the wacko-fringe of conservatism, Braun is pretty stupid and easy to lampoon.   For example, in last year's election, he was running unopposed in his Athens district.   Yet he had a big billboard up in Sandersvile.

Now you could say that it's good to keep his image before the voters, even if he had no opposition.   But, folks, Sandersville is not even in Paul Braun's district.  Nobody living in Sandersville could possibly vote for him.  They have a different congressman.

StupidYep.   So that's why we need to have Paul Braun be the GOP nominee.


PS:  Now the question is?   Can he run for his own seat in the House and also run for Senate?  I would have said no, but Paul Ryan was re-elected to the House in the same race he was on the ticket as Vice President.   Remains to be clarified.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lobbying influence

On Jan. 26 I wrote in "A few thoughts" about someone slipping into the "fiscal cliff" bill at the last minute a paragraph that gave a certain drug company another two years of high profits through extending the time in which Medicare is prevented from negotiating for lower prices.   The company is Amgen and the drug is used in kidney dialysis -- and apparently it is very expensive, at least as long as Amgen has the exclusive rights to make and sell it to Medicare.

Now Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Max Baucus (D-MT) have come forward to defend the inclusion (but the secrecy?).

Hatch's reasoning:   Rural doctors might not be able to handle dialysis if they are not able to get the drug and thus rural patients would suffer.

Oh, come on.   Nobody is saying that Amgen can no longer make and sell the drug.  The idea is for Medicare to be able to negotiate a lower price -- and potentially save $500 million over the next two years.  All that would change is Amgen's profit.

Of course, Amgen would like to be able to continue without having to negotiate a price or face competition from generic versions.   They're saying no one else will be able to make it, so doctors will have to substitute something else and may not know how to use the substitute safely.    Hatch implies that Amgen would just quit making the drug rather than settle for a lower profit.   Not likely.

This, folks, is why our medical bills are so high and why Medicare and drug costs are hurting our economy.   The pharmaceuticals are making a killing -- and they generously reward politicians who give them an advantage -- like Hatch and Baucus, both of whom sit high on the Senate Finance Committee and both have received big cash contributions from Amgen.  In addition, two former Baucus staff members now lobby for Amgen.

Hatch weeps falsely for the rural dialysis patients;  it's the taxpayers that both these greedy senators ought to be worrying about.  But why should they worry?   Hatch just got re-elected, and Baucus is retiring.   I hope their consciences keep them awake at night.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Oscars

Take heed, those who decide the nominations for Oscars:  Snub a deserving favorite at your peril.

Ben Affleck is the case in point.   His incredibly good film 'Argo" is a break-through triple-threat for him.  He played three roles:  co-producer, director, and star.   The film was nominated for a best picture Oscar and six others awards, but Afleck was, quite surprisingly, not nominated for best director.

He has now won best director awards from several other groups, including the Directors' Guild and the Golden Globes, which also gave it the Best Picture award.

Since "Argo" is nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture, my guess is that the snub of Afleck as best director will give it an extra slight edge to win best picture award.  I'm suggesting there might be a slight inclination to make it up to Affleck for the snub to give him the best picture award in a close vote.

That's not to say it doesn't deserve best picture anyway, although my favorite would be "Lincoln," because it is just the type of movie that somehow bespeaks the grandest achievement in a way that "Argo" doesn't, in my opionion.

But I would not be heart-broken if "Argo" wins -- and would even cheer a bit as I usually do when a deserving underdog comes out on top.    And the directors division of the Academy,  who chose to leave him out of it's best director list, clearly turned Afleck into the underdog.


One (weak) cheer for NRA's Wayne LaPierre

One feeble cheer for NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre.   Not that I support anything he says, but he is the most effective weapon we have at this moment to turn semi-reasonable people into a reasonable position on gun control.

His statements are so patently false, his reasoning so utterly unreasonable, that it makes their case look worse every time he opens his mouth on TV.

Today, on FoxNews -- we couldn't have picked a better venue -- LaPierre claimed that the president wanted armed security for his own children but opposed it for others.   Wallace pointed out that the president's children face a larger threat than most.

LaPierre: "Tell that to the people at Newtown."

Chris Wallace:  "Do you really think that the president's children are the same kind of target as every schoolchild in America? . . .  It's ridiculous, and you know it, sir."

He also claimed that Obama is going to "take your guns" and establish a universal gun registry.   I still don't understand why that's so terrible.   Don't we have a universal registry of people with licenses to drive cars -- or at least state-wide registries that are accessible by other government agencies?   What's so bad about that?

Later LaPierre claimed, "If you limit the American public's access to semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive."   He didn't explain how semi-automatic guns are necessary for survival."

So one feeble cheer to keep LaPierre talking and making non-sense.   Maybe his own NRA members will realize he is not representing them or their best interests.