Saturday, December 14, 2013

Strange to be on the same side with Newt

One thing I seem to be in agreement with Newt Gingrich on:   Nelson Mandela.   Last week, Newt had said some respectful and admiring things about Mandela.   In 1986, when President Reagen vetoed the anti-apartheid sanctions, Newt was among those in Congress who over-rode that veto.

So he was not being his usual inconsistent, flip-flopping self when he praised Mandela as "one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime."  The far right soon began slamming him for praising "a commie murderer."

Newt responded to those critics in an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday.
". . .  Mandela was faced with a vicious apartheid regime that eliminated rights for blacks and gave them no hope for the future. . . .  a regime that used secret police, prisons and military force to crush efforts seeking freedom for blacks.

"What would you have done, faced with that crushing government?

"Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.

"After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.

"As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny.  We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army's dictatorial assault on our freedom.
. . . "I would ask [Mandela's] critics: . . . if you had been imprisoned for 27 years, . . . how do you think you would have emerged?   Would you have been angry?

"Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison as an astonishingly wise, patient, and compassionate person.

"He called for reconciliation among the races.  He invited his prison guard to sit in the front row at his inauguration as president.   In effect he said to the entire country, "If I can forgive the man who imprisoned me, surely you can forgive your neighbors." . . . 

"Before you criticize him, ask yourself, what would you have done in his circumstances?"
Good for you, Newt.


Friday, December 13, 2013

He got away with it . . . again

Announcement was made today that charges have been dismissed against George Zimmerman in the latest domestic violence dispute (see this blog "Will they revoke Zimmerman's gun permit NOW?" on Nov 18, 2013).

The answer to the question is No.   The girlfriend decided not to press charges, and the police authorities said there was not enough evidence of a crime to make a conviction likely.

So . . . the killer of Trayvon Martin walks free again . . . with his guns.


A close call on security

Dozens of heads of state, including President Obama, were on the podium during the memorial celebration for Nelson Mandela.   You would imagine that security would be extraordinarily tight.   What a risk to have that much of the world's power so all vulnerable at the same time.   You would think it would be a terrorist's dream.

Fortunately, nothing happened.  But here's an obvious security gap that brings up the thought:   What if it had been someone bent on creating global chaos?

During the three hour ceremony, a man supposedly doing sign language interpretation was standing three feet from the speakers at the podium, including Obama.    It soon became obvious to the television audience that the man's gestures were not in sign language.   They seemed more random,  ritualistic even.   ASL readers began tweeting in that this was gibberish.

An investigation is being done into how he was hired and whether he was vetted.   So far no one seems able to find the company through which he was hired.    But the man himself has given an interview with the Associated Press.    He says that he suffers from schizophrenia, is on medication, and that during the ceremony he was hallucinating, thinking that angels were entering the stadium.   He also says that he has episodes of violence "a lot," although he declined to give details.    He has apologized.  After viewing a videotape of the event, he says he does not remember any of it.

Whew ! !    If vetting of people to be that close to world leaders was so lax, we now realize how vulnerable the world was during that ceremony.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remarkable look-alikes

Twice recently, I have seen a picture of judicial nominee Nina Pillard, Obama's nominee to the D. C. federal circuit court -- and thought it was a picture of Michelle Nunn, candidate for senator from Georgia.    See for yourself.

Nina Pillard

Michelle Nunn
About Michelle Nunn 


Finding the negative

President Obama gave a powerful 20 minute eulogy for Nelson Mandela at the memorial celebration in South Africa.
"It took a man like Madiba [Mandela's tribal name, used affectionately by his people] to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well;  to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you;  to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.  He changed laws, but he also changed hearts."
But leave it to the angry right-wing, the anti-Obama fringe and their media megaphones to play up what they considered grave mistakes.    It only proves that they learned nothing from the life example of Nelson Mandela.

One was shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro.    Sen. John McCain seemed incredulous:  "Why would he do that?   Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler."   FoxNews couldn't stop showing the clip and yapping about it.  Ted Cruz, who was attending as part of the congressional delegation, walked out during Castro's speech.

The other was the non-infamous "selfie" picture being snapped by the smiling trio of Obama and the Danish and British Prime Ministers.   Michelle Obama is seated next to them, looking off in the other direction with a serious expression on her face.   Much was made of their "inappropriate" conduct at so serious an event.   The Daily Mail even wrote:  "It seems that the frosty faced First Lady was so unimpressed with her husband's behavior that she eventually put an end to the fun."

Not true, says the photographer who snapped the picture of this light-hearted trio making the selfie.   First, he says that they were completely in synch with mood of the crowd, many of whom were laughing, dancing, and clapping.  It was a joyous celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela, not a "funeral" as the scolds would have it.

And then the photographer said Michelle's "stern" look was just a momentary thing [not even looking that way, perhaps at something else].   "A few seconds later she was joking with those around her, including her husband.

Why are we so fascinated with "catching" public figures "misbehaving" or making mistakes?  I understand why the media hype it -- it sells.   But why do we buy it so avidly?   That is the question.

The sad thing is that these two stories got more news time than the wonderful speech that Obama gave.

The even sadder thing is that these critics (McCain included) apparently have learned nothing from Nelson Mandela.   He would be the first to reach out to Castro (in fact there is a picture of him embracing Castro) to make peace;  to find ways for reconciliation after hostilities have ended.   In fact, Castro supported Mandela in his efforts to undo apartheid, while the U. S. opposed him in many ways.

Case rested.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A fundamental difference

Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor in President Clinton's cabinet, Robert Reich, drew a succinct distinction between Republicans and Democrats with regard to government assistance in this jobless recovery.  This was on MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hayes" in a discussion about extending unemployment insurance:

Republicans believe that the way to create jobs is to give assistance to corporations, which will then invest in new equipment and hire new workers.

Democrats believe that the way to create jobs is to give assistance to people, both in the forms of tax cuts, subsidies, and unemployment benefits;  and through policies that stimulate job growth, such as infrastructure construction projects, subsidies to local governments for hiring teachers, first responders, etc.

Another way of putting it:   put money in the pockets of those who will spend it, thus creating demand, thus boosting production.   Everybody wins. 

Reich makes the point, as has Paul Krugman repeatedly, that we are not in an economic slowdown because of a lack of products to sellwe're in a slowdown because of a lack of demand for products -- because people do not have money to buy things.

So simply prodding companies to hire new workers, when they have no customers, is not the solution.   But Republicans cling to the notion, despite the facts and the logic.   Rand Paul either does not understand this -- or else he is being willfully dishonest to push a political ideology.


Is there no consequence for such misuse of taxpayer money?

Rachel Maddow has reported on an act by Rep. Darrell Issa and his Committee on Government Oversight that is so outrageous.    There should be some recompense for such political perfidy, but short of being voted out of office at the next election I don't know what it could be.  No chance for impeachment in a Republican majority House.

  We need an oversight committee for the Oversight Committee.   Regardless of your opinion about the ACA, no hearing should systematically eliminate one whole side of a controversy.

Here's the story.    Issa does not like the Affordable Care Act, and he is doing everything in his power to undermine it -- or to kill it, if he can.    His committee is holding what they call Field Hearings.   The whole committee goes on a field trip to various places around the country and holds hearings

So far, they've had them in North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona.   They invite people who have had a negative effect from Obamacare to come and testify.   People who might have some positive experience to report are excluded.    They only want to hear the bad stuff.

Now that word is getting around, people are showing up and protesting.   Issa has been forced to take note of the protests.   But instead of inviting some of them to testify at the hearings, he has suggested that they can send him an email.

This of course is all at the taxpayer's expense.    Ferrying a whole committee to distant parts of the country for the hearings -- which will produce a report that cannot have any objectivity.

What a waste of money, what a distortion of the truth.    And this is just one of the constant ways in which Darrell Issa tries to undermine the Obama administration. 


Monday, December 9, 2013

More Republican incoherence

It is hard to get someone to look at facts when those facts contradict their faith beliefs or their political ideology.    Perhaps we Democrats do it too, and I'm just blinded by my own world view cum political ideology.   But I don't really think that.    Democrats may be resistant to changing their ideas;  but their ideas are more often, to begin with, based on evidence and common sense.

Studies have shown that extended unemployment benefits do not discourage people seeking work.  But that doesn't stop Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from declaring otherwise.   Speaking against extending the unemployment insurance program on FoxNews Sunday, he argued that it would be a disservice to those very unemployed people.
"I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers. . . .  When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy."
That argument might make more sense if it came from someone who supports a vigorous job stimulus program to create sufficient job opportunity -- or if it came at a time of low unemployment.   But when you have 1.3 million long term unemployed people with little job opportunity available to them, what do you expect them to do?

Paul apparently doesn't care, or else he just denies that it is a problem.   His non-sequiter answer is:   "You get out of a recession by encouraging employment, not encouraging unemployment."

By "encouraging employment" I don't think he meant providing jobs and training;   I think he meant removing any help that would make unemployment easier to endure.   Paul apparently equates that with free-loading rather than subsistence support.

No, Sen. Paul.   You get out of a recession by government spending that stimulates job creation so that people can find jobs and earn enough money to buy the stuff and create more demand.

Fortunately, not even all of Sen. Paul's Republican colleagues agree with him, and there is some bipartisan support for extending the benefits.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

The arrogant, entitled Cheneys

Liz Cheney and her family made news a couple of weeks ago when she came out against gay marriage -- and her sister in law, who is legally married to Liz's lesbian sister Mary, responded with a Facebook tweet saying it was insulting to their family.   She also tweeted that it was puzzling, since Liz had been supportive of their relationship and family, including spending holidays with their children.   Mary got into it too, saying that she and Liz haven't spoken since last summer and that they wouldn't be getting together at Christmas this year.

Now Liz and Daddy Dick are upping the ante of arrogance, in addition to trying to paint Mary and her wife as the bad guys for making a fuss in the middle of Liz's political campaign.   In a tv interview, Dick regretted that "attacks have been made" against Liz;  and he said, with just the slightest curl of lip, that they had always tried to "deal with" this "within the family."

That family quarrel is but a sidelight, however, in this "arrogance" thing.    Howard Fineman, speaking on MSNBC Wednesday night said the arrogance is "breath-taking."

Here's the thing:  Liz grew up and has spent her entire adult life in the Washington, D.C. area, living in a Virginia suburb, and working in various capacities for the federal government.    She seems to think she's can just waltz in to Wyoming, buy a house and say she lives there, apply for a fishing license, travel around the state shaking hands, trade on the family name, and walk off with a victory prize that she feels entitled to

But Wyoming voters -- relatively few in number -- like their politicians to be folks they know and feel comfortable with. The current senator -- whom Liz is trying to unseat -- is Mike Enzi, a nice guy seeking his fourth term in the U. S. Senate.   He has one of the most conservative voting records and highest approval rating from his constituents -- but Liz is trying to out flank him on the right and portraying him as part of the Washington crowd (as if she and her Daddy are not).

But arrogance seeped over into ridiculous this week.   Seems this Liz-come-lately to the Wyoming political world has formed a SuperPac to raise money for her campaign, called . . .  guess what:  "Cowboy PAC."    But the Cowboy PAC fund-raiser is going to be held in one of the most posh Italian restaurants in Washington, D.C.  The invitation list is made up of wealthy donors to the ultimate insider Republicans -- essentially it's Daddy's money friends.

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that a major trait of Republican campaign strategy is incoherence.   Liz starts way behind in home-town appeal, trying to unseat a man of the people by pretending to be one of them too;  but really everybody knows she's not.  And she proves it by holding her fund-raiser in D. C. with establishment fat cats.    How's that going to play back home, guys?

And Dick Cheney had the unmittigated gall to go on tv and criticize Mike Enzi for getting too much of his campaign money from "Washington establishment donors."

Surely the Wyoming voters won't fall for this malarkey.  Even from someone named Cheney.