Saturday, May 3, 2014

". . . the wisdom to choose correctly."

Friend Rodney Hunter sent this quote from Woody Allen, which he thought of in connection with Georgia's new "guns everywhere" law that Governor Deal signed this week.
"More than any other time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinctionLet us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
Woody Allen may not have the best credentials as a moral leader, but he does know how to turn a pithy phrase that packs a lot of meaning.


Seniors spoil GOP guv's search for Obamacare horror stories

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is running for re-election.   He recently visited a senior center to chat with them about the new health care law -- hoping to pick up some "horror stories" about Obamacare.

Instead, what he got was overwhelming support for the Affordable Care Act.   One resident told him he was "completely satisfied" with the new health care law;  and he questioned Scott's assertion that Obamacare is cutting Medicare funds.   Even if it does,the man said, it would be justified.   "I can't expect . . . to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut."

Another resident said she didn't have any complaints about it and cited her son's previous inability to get coverage because of pre-existing heart problems.   Now he has health insurance.   Only one senior of the 20 in this meeting had any complaint at all.   

So Scott didn't get what he wanted.   And that's true all across the country.   Virtually every one of the horror stories that have been bandied about, mostly by Fox News, have proven to be false or misconstrued.

But the American people are increasingly getting what they need -- and the vast majority realize it and are in favor of the ACA.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Issa is at it, again . . . again

A week ago (4/24) I wrote about the waste of taxpayer money and the incivility with which Darrell Issa (R-CA) treats his senior colleague on the House Government Oversight Committee.    His obsessions with finding and/or creating Democratic scandals is rivaled only by the late Joe McCarthy himself.

Issa latest tactic -- still obsessing about Benghazi, trying to create a scandal out of that -- is to have some retired Army General come before the committee as a star witness and testify about what might have, could have, should have been done to prevent the deaths of our personnel.    That's the way Issa does things:   partial truths, innuendos, selected leaks of misleading information, and retired military "experts" eager for the spotlight.   Then Issa presents all this unholy mix of half truth and distorted snippets of truth as The Truth -- and then cries Scandal !!!!

This time, A  FELLOW  REPUBLICAN  HAS  CALLED  FOUL.   Within hours of the general's testimony before Issa's committee, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) challenged the general's testimony, pointing out that he did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the [Behghazi] attack, not did he offer specific  courses of action [that were] not taken."

In other words, Rep. Issa, you have to realize this:  A fellow House colleague, who is also from California, and also a Republican -- and who also chairs the powerful House Armed Services Committee -- has shot down your star witness in your show (mis)trial. 

That's a pretty strong slap in your face, Darrell Issa.   Time to wake up and realize you've gone too far, and your fellow GOP colleagues may not tolerate it much longer.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The face of anti-Obamacare

Louie Gohmert
Yes, folks.   This is what the face of anti-Obamacare looks like.    Those die-hard souls who are so adamant that the Affordable Care Act is an abomination that facts don't matter, public opinion polls don't matter -- it has become an obsession.

Here we literally have the face of the anti-Obamacare craze:   Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) who, unlike some of his colleagues who claim that Obamacare will fall of its own weight, preaches that it must be killed.

“And some of our friends say, ‘We don’t have to worry about Obamacare, it will fall of its own weight.’ No, it doesn’t. . . .  Socialism and communism fall of their own weight because, as Margaret Thatcher said, you run out of other people’s money. . . .  [But] socialized medicine never falls of its own weight because you put people on lists and they die waiting to get the treatment and care. So you don’t go broke.”
I'm not quite sure I can follow his line of thought, but that's his argument for why we can't just sit back and wait for Obamacare to die.    He seems to acknowledge that it isn't going to fail.   Does that mean it will work?

Is his real argument that we have to kill it because it will work?   I think so.

And that is what is happening.   The difference is that some of us think that is a very good thing -- and that some day we'll see the wisdom of going the next step and saving lots of money by evolving to a single pay system that we should have had 100 years ago if Teddy Roosevelt had his way.


Clinton speaks to 7,000 Methodist women about faith and good works

If I had any doubts before that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016, this convinces me.   She gave a very personal speech about her own religious background and faith to thousands of women gathered last weekend for the United Methodist Women's Assembly in Lousivill, KY. 

Now, she might or might not have accepted this invitation anyway.   But how better to lay the groundwork for running against a Republican opponent who is, at the very least, going to need to court the evangelical vote?

But what it did beyond seeking votes from these women, in my opinion, is to signal that Hillary is taking seriously the lesson she learned in New Hampshire in 2008:   that she wins people's hearts when she lets people see into her own heart.   After a crushing loss to Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, she spoke from her heart in an impromptu interview in New Hampshire, even letting a few tears well up in her eyes.

Her chief strategist Mark Penn had been telling her that people cared more about the substance of her policies and arguments;  he seemed not to understand the human side of politics.    He was eventually dropped from the campaign over some conflict of interest thing.   But many people were worried that Hillary would turn to him again to help with her 2016 campaign.

Taking this stance with the Methodist women says to me that she won't make that mistake.   This is not what Mark Penn would have her doing.   But it's what she needs to do.   If she can let the warm, human side show and stand along side her policy wonkishness -- she will be unbeatable.

And while I'm on a Hillary-for-President theme, let me say that the best thing that could have happened to her was the loss to Obama in 2008.    She is much much better prepared now than she was then;   and she won't have to deal with the two wars and the economic disaster that he inherited.    No, it's not a progressive utopia by any means.    But we are in a recovery rather than going into a tailspin.   It will be a much begin a presidency in 2017 than in 2009 -- one obvious reason is that she will be following a Barack Obama presidency rather than a George W. Bush/Dick Cheney mess.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wisconsin judge considers the real world

Too often it seems that the conservative majority of the U. S. Supreme Court ignores the real world in their decisions.   By that, I mean that they often seem cavalier in ignoring the consequences of their decisions.

For examples, consider Citizens United and its distorting effects on the democratic process;   or gutting of sections of the Civil Rights Act that has resulted in dozens of states passing draconian voter restriction laws.

Now a federal judge in Wisconsin has struck down their voter ID law on the grounds that, although SCOTUS' 2008 ruling acknowledged the states' interest in preventing voter fraud, the Wisconsin case before her simply did not show any evidence of their being actual voter fraud that voter ID laws would have prevented.

In effect, Judge Lynn Adelman said 'you're seeking a remedy to a problem that does not exist' and your requested remedy does grave disservice to law-abiding voters.

Brava, Judge Adelman.   That is exactly what she should have done.  More judges should follow her lead and make this the precedent for such cases.


Innocents on death row -- and beyond

News yesterday of a horribly botched execution in Oklahoma brought the question of capital punishment back into the forefront.   In this case, a planned three-drug, sequential injection went awry, presumably because the fluids didn't get into his vein, so he wound up writhing in apparent pain for about 20 minutes before dying of a heart attack.   So much for our modern "humane" methods;  maybe the guillotine and the electric chair were quicker and therefore more humane.

That, however, is only the introduction to the main story I want to highlight, which has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.   It adds to reasons for thinking the death penalty should be abolished in the 32 states and federal jurisdictions that still have it.  

A group at the University of Michigan Law School reviewed the outcomes of 7,482 death sentences from 1973 to 2004.   Of that group, 117 (1.6%) were exonerated, i.e. were found to be innocent and released.

But the authors concluded, based on other statistics, that with enough time and money to investigate, at least 4.1% would have been found innocent.   They then figured that during this period more than 200 additional ones were probably innocent.

Not all of them were executed.   Many who appealed their convictions had their sentences reduced to life in prison.   One conclusion from this study is that, once a condemned prisoner is taken off death row, efforts to prove innocence are less likely to be pursued and they spend the rest of their lives in jail.

Think about it !    One in 25 people given a death sentence is innocent.   But only about 1/3 of them are released.   The other 2/3 of these innocent people are either executed or spend the rest of their lives in prison.

That should not be acceptable in a civilized society.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

So, there, Vladimir !!

Secretary of State John Kerry made more news in his talks with the Trilateral Commission.  In a private conversation, he revealed that U. S. intelligence sources have intercepted recordings of spies and operatives inside East Ukraine taking orders from someone in Moscow.   This would seem to prove what has been suspected, that Putin's Russia is actively destabilizing the region in order to justify his actions in taking over parts of Ukraine.

Kerry also said that some of them are the same people that were in Georgia and in Crimea destabilizing the situations there.

So, Vladimir Putin seems to have been caught red-handed.    What's next?


Tough talk from Kerry about Israeli-Palestinian peace impasse

Secretary of State John Kerry startled the political establishment and likely angered the Israelis when he told a group of world leaders at the Trilateral Commission last Friday that Israel risks becoming "an apartheid state" if there is no peaceful settlement that can lead to a two state solution.  

This, of course, is a reference to the horrible state of racial separation and cruelty in South Africa prior to 1994, when the first democratic elections were held and Nelson Mandela became president.   Does the term appropriately apply to the Israel-Palestine situation?   I have long felt so, as has Jimmy Carter.

Kerry used the 1998 Rome Statute definition of apartheid"[I]nhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Most people accept as a fact now that there must be a two-state solution;  otherwise either Palestinians will continue to be under the domination of Israel without an equal voice in governance or else they will become the majority and it will no longer be a Jewish state.

As former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack once said:   "
As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.   If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
Nevertheless, many Israelis and their supporters are outraged at Kerry's use of the term.  In fact, Kerry was blunt about both sides, saying on the one hand that, if there is no peace deal, there are likely to be further terrorist attacks on Israel from the Palestinian side.   People grow so frustrated with their lot in life that they begin to take other choices and go to dark places they’ve been before, which forces confrontation,” he said.

On the other hand, Kerry also said:  “There is a fundamental confrontation and it is over settlements. Fourteen thousand new settlement units announced since we began negotiations. It’s very difficult for any leader to deal under that cloud.”

Kerry's impatience showed in his concluding remark, that he was considering laying out a U.S. plan for peaceful settlemen and saying:  ‘Here it is, folks. This is what it looks like. Take it or leave it.”


Monday, April 28, 2014

"an idea whose time has come . . ." #4 -- everybody's talking about it

Everybody, from Paul Krugman to Pope Francis, is talking about the new focus on economic inequality triggered by Piketty's book.    The New York Times hasn't missed a day without something about it, and Paul Krugman has devoted several recent columns to the subject.   And then there are the conservatives, who are busy finding fault with the book but without really being able to refute it's data or logic.

On Friday, Krugman wrote this:
"What's really new . . . is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, that insistence that we're living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved. . . .

"But how do you make that defense if the rich derive much of ther income not from the work they do but from the assets they own?   And what if great wealth comes increasingly not from enterprise but from inheritance?"
He goes on to say that, in two decades of debate about inequality, he has "yet to see conservative "experts" manage to dispute the numbers without tripping over their own intellectual shoelaces."    And then, with a touch of irony:  "Why, it's almost as if the facts are fundamentally not on their side. "    Instead, they resort to hinting that anyone who takes the other side is suspect of socialist leanings.

And then there was the pope.   After a busy day yesterday presiding over the canonization of two very different popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, and thus straddling a divide between social issues and church organization, Pope Francis managed to get off a tweet on the subject of inequality:
"Inequality is the root of social evil."
So, I would say this puts the pope solidly behind the current tidal wave of seeing inequality as bad for society.    Doesn't this then sort of confirm my saying this is an idea whose time has come?    Shouldn't the Democrats ride the crest of the wave and make this the core campaign issue?


Poll gives evidence of a shift in support for the Affordable Care Act

We've been predicting that Republicans have miscalculated in pinning their campaign strategy almost solely on getting rid of "Obamacare" and that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) will become an asset rather than a liability by November.

Now some evidence is beginning to back that up.  Here's just one of many positive signs in a poll released today, from a Huffington Post article by political commentator Sam Stein:
In Republican districts that are the most likely to flip to Democratic control in the 2014 elections, the shift of opinion toward the Affordable Care Act is equally pronounced. Fifty-four percent of respondents from those districts now support implementing and fixing the law versus 40 percent who support repealing and replacing it. In December, those numbers were 48 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
If that trend of shifting attitudes continues -- and why wouldn't it, as more and more people see the benefits of their new insurance and realize that this is the Obamacare they've been told again and again that they should hate -- then it can only be good news for Democrats come November.


PS:   This info was just added:   Polls in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina show a similar strong preference for fixing Obamacare over repealing it.  And in those states, 2/3 of voters report having seen ads attacking Obamacare, while only 1/3 report seeing ads supporting it.    So, despite the negative ads and their misinformation, there is still a preference for keeping it and fixing it over repealing it.