Saturday, November 22, 2014

Obama's bold immigration action infuriates GOP. They yelled, made some threats . . . and then went home to eat turkey

President Obama's speech announcing the executive action on immigration was just about perfect.    It was a bold, concise, outline of a vision that listed his planned action without a lot of details to quibble over.  Then the president told Republicans what they can do if they don't like it:
He pointed out that a bipartisan bill passed the Senate 15 months ago, and it probably has the votes to pass in the House too.   But John Boehner refuses to bring it up for a vote   So the president is taking what executive action he legally can to exercise the long-established  "prosecutorial discretion" in whom to deport.

None of the Republican arguments or bluster can hold up to scrutiny.   Ronald Reagen and George Bush did the same thing.    The action includes more border security but the core of it is simply about who gets protection from deportation.   It does not create any law or violate any law.   The action can be reversed by the next president.

That's what he did for the people.    Here's what he did to the Republicans.   He painted them into a corner, he called their bluff, and he left them no good option.

If they now try to defund the action, that won't really work.   It costs money to deport, not so much to decide not to deport.   Besides they will be paying fines which will cover much of the costs that are incurred.

They can take it to court -- but what is their case?    Not much -- besides some sound bites.  Even conservative lawyers for the Federalist Society concede that Obama has the legal right to do this.   The immigration act gives the administration leeway in deportation decisions.

If they try to take this away from 5 million people -- what are they going to do?   Suddenly deport 5 million people?   That would be political suicide for them, as well as impossible practically.  It takes about $12,500 to deport each person.  So to deport all 7 million here without documents, would cost taxpayers $87.5 billion.   In addition, we would lose the taxes they have been paying, the jobs they have been doing.

Impeach the president?    Of course some of the loud-mouths are calling for this -- or even putting Obama in jail.    They can impeach in the House, but it takes 2/3 vote of the Senate to convict.    That's not going to happen.

Boehner says this unilateral action "poisoned the well" for any further cooperation on a bill.  That's really ludicrous.   Republicans poinsoned the well on day 1 of the Obama administration by pledging to work against him in every way -- unless he came around to their way.   Then they would call that cooperation.

So what can they do other than stamp their feet, make big blustery noises -- and go home to eat turkey?   Liberals on msnbc pointed out that FoxNews has already stopped talking about it.    If all you can do is make empty claims of what you will do -- and you either can't do it or it wouldn't work -- then it just makes you look bad.    They are stymied . . . and furious.

Obama's timing has almost completely blotted out the Republican wins in the Nov. 4 election, as far as news and message advantage are concerned.

Meanwhile, President Obama suddenly seems on fire politically.   Maybe if he had done this before the election, that might have turned out differently.


Friday, November 21, 2014

My mind is boggled

Yeah, I knew about the spacecraft that landed on the comet -- and it seemed just one more of what we're used to in our exploration of space, starting with the moon landing 45 years ago.   What used to seem like a miracle is now just another ordinary achievement of science and technology.  Read the headline, skim the article.   Ho, hum.

But then I did read a little more about this little Philea lander that's about the size of a washing machine, we're told.    About how, without gravity on the comet, it's had trouble staying put and keeping its solar panels turned toward the sun, with the result that its batteries ran out.

What stunned me and boggled my mind were these facts:

1.  This is all happening 300,000 million miles from earth.

2.  It took the mothership, Rosetta, ten years just to get there.

3.  The comet is traveling in its orbit around the sun at more than 40,000 miles an hour.

4.  Data from drilling into the comet's surface will be transmitted and analyzed by scientists back in Darmstadt, Germany with the hope of learning more about the mysteries of the universe.

5.  I don't know what form -- some sort of radio signal, I suppose -- will actually travel back those 300,000 million miles in a form that can yield useful information?    How can that be?

Now I am back in the boggled-mind world of miracles and futuristic fantasies.   The miracles of modern science and technology so far surpass the advances we have made in human sciences and ethical policies -- that boggles my mind too.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our wonderful American values (?)

Buffalo, NY, a city that knows how to handle snow, is buried under an uncharacteristic heavy snowfall.   In some places, it's said that the accumulation is up to 6 feet.   People are literally unable to their doors open;   some house walls are collapsing under the weight.

Good old American ingenuity comes through, however.    The Buffalo Bill's NFL team is organizing a massive snow shoveling.    To help clear roads for traffic?    Encouragement to shovel a path to your neighbor's front door?    To get help to the elderly widow across the street?

Naah.   Nothing like that.    They're asking people to come help clear snow out of the football stadium so Sunday's game can go on.

I guess that defines America, huh?    Football above all?   Forget the widow.   Forget the concussions.    We love us some football, don't we?

Not me.


Here's a radical thought about the midterm election

There's been a lot of ink spilled and a lot of teeth gnashed over the poor turnout in the recent midterm elections.

Everyone bemoans the difficulty of getting people to come out to vote when there is no presidential race.    Barack Obama will bring them out, but without him . . . 

What if it wasn't just the person of Barack Obama missing on November 4th?   What about the fact that his ideas and his policies weren't much in evidence either?

What if courageous Democratic candidates had come out swinging, campaigning loudly for the continued success of Obamacare, for immediate immigration reform, for more stimulus spending on infrastructure to create jobs and get the economy working for the middle and working classes, for climate change action -- and against the madness of restrictive abortion rights laws that result in clinics having to close?

Instead, most of them ran away from the president, tried wanly to find a way to distance themselves without actually denouncing him and his progressive policies. 

Some did support some of the issues, of course, especially minimum wage.  But they usually did it without giving credit to the president.   What if they had run forthrightly as Obama Democrats?

Perhaps a lot of Democratic voters might have felt that was worth getting out to vote for.

Why do we cow so easily and concede the message-war to the Republicans?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On foxes and henhouses and such

We've already gnashed our teeth over the fact that "global warming hoax" Sen. Dan Inhofe (R-OK) will now be in charge of the Environment and Public Works Committee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), another nay-sayer, will be in charge of a subcommtitee on Science and Technology.

Now comes the news that the senator who wants the U. S. Postal Service to enter bankruptcy will be the one to assume the committee that oversees that service.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, Republicans have managed to continue their practice of having only "white guys" in charge of committees.   Out of 23 committee chair appointees, they are batting 22 to 1 -- and that one token woman chair is in charge of the House Committee on Administration, essentially a House-keeping function.

The only bright spot -- and believe me it is A Very Bright Spot -- is that Sen. Darrell Issa (R-CA) will no longer chair the Governmental Oversight Committee that can investigate anything it wants to in the adminitration.   That's almost worth anything else, all by itself to get rid of Issa's meanness.  This is the man who cut off the microphone of his ranking Democratic member when he didn't like what he was saying.


"Americans support progressive ideas" -- AJC letter

Letter writer Larry J. Pett of Atlanta makes an excellent point in a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor in Tuesday's paper.

It points up the disconnect between the candidates voters elect and the voters' opinions on the issues.    Victorious Republicans of course think that their big win at the ballot box gives them a mandate to force their policies on the president and the Democrats.    And they are acting indignant that President Obama is not just falling in line with them.

Here's how Mr. Pett puts it:
"Since the midterm elections, Republican leaders have urged the president to 'do what the American people want' rather than take executive actions to initiate long-needed remedies.

"However, numerous opinion polls suggest that American people want reasonable gun-control measures.   By wide margins, they want to raise the minimum wage.  A majority wants to pass legislation that permits undocumented aliens (particularly children) to attain a form of citizenship (not full citizenship) that allows them to remain in the U.S. and raise their families without fear of deportation.  A majority . . . believes the U.S. should take the threat of climate change seriously and do something to reduce or at least control carbon emissions.

"Exactly what is it that the Republican leadership thinks the president wants to do that the American people don't want?

"Larry J. Pett, Atlanta"
Couldn't have said it better myself, Mr. Pett.   Thanks.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

After winning a very confused election, what then?

George Packer, writing in the November 24, 2014 issue of The New Yorker paints a picture of the Repubilcan Party, now having won big in the election, that reminds me of the question about the dog chasing a car:    What does he plan to do if he catches it?

Packer notes the paradoxical outcome:
" . . . The Party that has spent the past six years doing everything in its power to prevent the President from stimulating growth, boosting wages, improving infrastructure, controlling health-care costs, and regulating Wall Street was rewarded with clear majorities in both houses. The only prize left is the big one in 2016.

"Republican leaders, determined to prove that they can build as well as destroy, have made a mighty effort not to seem high on victory. . . .  Cory Gardner, the Senator-elect from Colorado, warned, 'If Republicans don’t prove that we can govern with maturity, that we can govern with competence, we’ll see the same kind of results two years from now, except it will be a wave going back a different direction.'

"There are reasons to be skeptical that the Party has really turned a corner on its chronic obstructionism. Within ten days of the election, McConnell was sounding like himself again. After China and the United States announced common goals for reducing greenhouse gases, he accused Obama of sending 'a signal that he has no intention of moving toward the middle' . . . .  The House Speaker, John Boehner, concurred: 'The President intends to double down on his job-crushing policies no matter how devastating the impact' . . . ."
Packer then points out that the next chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee will likely be James Inhofe (R-OK) who has called global warming a "hoax."   Ted Cruz (R-TX) is in line to head the subcommittee on Science and Space.   Packer concludes that they are "determined to prevent or undo any executive action by Obama on greenhouse gases, as well as on immigration reform."
". . . Most of these proposals are marginal enough to betray a tactical mind-set: the purpose is not to address important issues but to corner the President with bipartisan votes and improve the G.O.P.’s image ahead of 2016.

"In a post-election editorial, the conservative National Review dismissed the whole idea that congressional Republicans need to mature, arguing that the “desire to prove Republicans can governwill only divide the Party between its establishment and its extremists, play into the hands of opponents in the Democratic Party and the media, and perhaps even persuade voters to keep government divided by electing a Democratic President in 2016. The editorial urged the Republican leadership to dedicate itself to one goal: winning the White House . . . . You can hear the voice of the Party’s enablers: why sober up now that the bad behavior is paying off? . . .

"[It] doesn’t mean that the Party has moved toward the center. Instead, it has learned how to muffle its extremism. . . .  But building a Republican Party that can entertain ideas and pass laws with far-reaching answers to the country’s problems is harder than winning an election. It might even take losing another one."
The dog has caught the car . . . . Now what is it going to do with it?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Is Ted Cruz really dumb, or is he a political sociopath?

 Ted Cruz managed to get through Harvard Law School, so he can't very well be dumb.   But he sure does seem like it some times.    Or is he just playing dumb to rev up his political base of dumb people?   And would that make him a sociopath, causing great harm to this country without any sense of wrong-doing and remorse?

Either way, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) put him in his place yesterday in an interview with Candy Crawley on CNN's "State of the Union."

In this case, the former comedian and Saturday Night Live star outshines the Harvard Law grad . . . by a country mile or two.

According to Franken, Cruz just "doesn't understand" what net neutrality is.   In a Washington Post op-ed, Cruz has called net neutrality "Obamacare for the internet" because, according to him, "it would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered.”

That is totally falseNet neutrality is what we've had ever since the internet came into existence.   What is being proposed now by content providers would change that.  The push for net neutrality is to keep it the way it has always been.

Franken explained -- and let's hope someone tells Cruz this -- that "Obamacare was a government program that fixed something, that changed things.  [Net neutrality] is about reclassifying something so it stays the same. This would keep things exactly the same that they've been.”


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Precedent for presidential action on immigration

Republicans have got their knickers in a knot over President Obama's determination to use his executive powers to delay the deportation of undocumented immigrants.   His point is that Congress has had ample opportunity to act on the issue, and he is not going to wait while they continue to do nothing.   He urges the House to pass the bipartisan bill already passed by the Senate.   

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is livid.  "The audacity of this president to think he can completely destroy the rule of law with the stroke of a pen is unfathomable to me.   It is unconstitutional, it is cynical, and it violates the will of the American people."

Steve King is not known for his restraint -- or for his accuracy.   The American people do in fact support immigration reform, including just the sort of result that the president aims for.

Let it be known now that Steve King is not known for his knowledge of history either.

Both Presidents Ronald Reagen and George H. W. Bush used executive power to prevent deportations when Congress failed to act.


Texas Medicaid

The Texas legislature authorized, and Gov. Rick Perry appointed, the 15 person Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency.   The board examined the state of health care in Texas and concluded that rate of uninsured Texans was unacceptable.

The board is recommending that Texas expand Medicaid under Obamacare, which would cover more than 1 million uninsured people in the state.   Their report also stated, "We're trying to take the politics out of it."

Unfortunately, that's not possible.    The board has no power other than to recommend.  It's up to the state legislature -- and that means politics.

But at least they cannot completely gloss over the fact that their own board makes the very sensible recommendation, and they will be choosing to ignore it.