Saturday, May 16, 2015

The death penalty

When it comes to opposition to the death penalty, I can't improve on this brief article by noted blogger "digby" concerning the death sentence given to Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
I cannot say I'm surprised that Tsarnaev got the death penalty.  After all, everyone on that Boston jury was pro-capital punishment.  It's hard to imagine that people who think capital punishment is a moral act would feel that this case, of all cases, didn't fit the criteria.  It was baked in the cake from the beginning.

I just wish I understood why anyone thinks that killing someone you have in custody makes any moral sense. I guess it's just simple revenge, not much more advanced than the crudest tribal retribution. For all of our legal rituals, we haven't come very far.

I just don't believe in it under any circumstances. Even for this guy. For anyone. How can more death be the right thing to do?
Yes it was a heinous act.  That's not the point.   What, except revenge, is to be gained by snuffing out another life?

Is killing for revenge ever a moral act?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Jeb finally figures out the answer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Too late. He's already become a joke.

On his fourth . . . or was it the fifth ? . . . try, Jeb finally got the answer right.  

He finally managed to utter these words:  "Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged.  I would have not gone into Iraq," 

Nothing he can do now will fix it.  At this point, he seems more like a mediocre actor who can't learn his lines for the play.   When he finally gets it right, it's too late.   He just seems like a buffoon.


National companies with the best reputations

This is from the blog 24/7 Wall St.

The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient rates the reputations of the nation's "most recognizable companies. . . .  based on six components:  emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, workplace environment, social responsibility, and financial performance."

Here are the companies with the best reputations:
10.   Google
  9.   Apple
  8.   Publix Supermarkets
  7.   L. L. Bean
  6.   Kraft Foods
  5.   Johnson & Johnson
  4.   Costco
  3.   Samsung
  2.   Amazon
  1.   Wegmans Food Markets

And the companies rated the worst:
10.   Bank of America
  9.   Charter Communications
  8.   Comcast
  7.   Koch Industries
  6.   Sears Holdings Corporation
  5.   Halliburton
  4.   Monsanto
  3.   Dish Network
  2.   AIG (insurance)
  1.   Goldman Sachs (investment firm)

Why is this significant, aside from simple interest in ratings and polls?   Perhaps because it says something about our values and how we balance profit against the human factor.

Notice that the six components used in the ratings are heavily weighted toward the human factor (emotional appeal, services, vision, environment, social responsibility = 5 factors) while only one has to do with financial performance.

The thing is that some of the top 10 also are immensely profitable (Google, Apple, Amazon and perhaps others).    The point:   Being a good corporate citizen is also good for business.

But then what do we say about Koch Industries?   #7 worst, but they also donate huge sums of money to medical research and the arts.

Think about it.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rubio shines as Jeb Bush flops

Marco Rubio was asked the same question put to Jeb Bush:   Knowing all that we now know, would you have authorized the war in Iraq?

According to Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post: 
"With the dexterity of an acrobat, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) found a way to do what his mentor and likely rival for the White House, Jeb Bush, did not: reconcile his support for the Iraq invasion with the political inconvenience of appearing to support an unpopular war. . . 

“'Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President [George W.] Bush would not have been in favor of it,' Rubio said following a major foreign policy speech at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York." 
Yes, of course, he had the benefit of time to prepare his answer after the grand misstep of his mentor.   But Bush also had the same time and circumstance to prepare his later explanation.  And he also flubbed that.


Maybe this is the real question Jeb was anxious to avoid when he flubbed his answer about Iraq

Looking beyond Jeb Bush's disastrous handling of the question about authorizing the Iraq war from a political standpoint, there is also the matter of letting the Bush administration off the hook by invoking "faulty intelligence" that resulted in "mistakes made."   Here's what Jason Linkins had to say in his Huffington Post article:

"Of course, as Judd Legum points out over at ThinkProgress, all of this overlooks a central fact about the run-up to the Iraq War:   It's actually too charitable by half to write off the disastrous military misadventure as a failure of intelligence.  It's much more accurate to say that the George W. Bush administration misused or ignored intelligence. Per Legum: 
A bipartisan, if contentious, report of the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the George W. Bush administration “repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent"  The report documented numerous statements made by the Bush administration to justify the war that were not supported by intelligence.      

Mike McConnell, the Director Of National Intelligence under George W. Bush from 2007 to 2009, found the administration "set up a whole new interpretation because they didn’t like the answers” the intelligence community was giving them.  Inside the Pentagon, an effort was led by Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith to “reinterpret information” provided to them by intelligence. It was Feith’s group that produced and promoted “false links between Iraq and al Qaeda.”  
"But whether Jeb Bush's answer was a misstep, a mis-hear or a glorious glossing over of the past, the bottom line is that -- like I said before! -- the best answer to Kelly's original question was simply 'No.' Alas!"
*   *   *
So here's my new theory.   It isn't just Jeb's political ineptness.   I'm thinking that he and Dubya have had a little talk since he first tried to distance himself.   And Jeb has been persuaded that it could be very damaging to Dubya (and hence to Jeb himself) for people to start poking around again into the decision to invade Iraq.   So best to just emphasize solidarity and loyalty and hope it goes away.

Here's where the ineptness comes in.    Jeb was so anxiously torn, realizing how perilous this could be to both brothers' legacies, that he literally couldn't think straight.   And he flubbed his lines -- only making it many times worse.

You think people aren't going to follow up on this?   Jeb is toast, and the sooner he bows out the better it will be for Dubya.    Kiss it good-bye, Jeb.   Your slacker brother really did ruin it for you.   But you wouldn't have made it anyway.   You're just not that good a politician.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jeb Bush's ineptness as a candidate

Political lore fifteen years ago had it that Jeb Bush is the talented politician in the Bush family.   He was the intellectual one and the serious one who should have been president, the one whose chances were ruined by the ineptitude of that young slacker, Dubya.

Despite expectations, times change;   and the powers that be decided that maybe the well wasn't poisoned after all, that Jeb still had a chance to be president.   So here we are, with Jeb as the presumptive establishment candidate for the Republican nomination.

The trouble is that he's blowing it.    Surprise, surprise !!   At first, his missteps and inept utterings were chalked up to his being rusty as a candidate, having last run for office some 13 years ago.   But he doesn't seem to be improving much.  In fact, he's beginning to remind me of the oops-prone Rick Perry.

In one week, he shamelessly pandered to the hard-core religious right . . . and then fumbled a question that should have been anticipated with a clear answer ready

First, the pandering.   Raking in tons of money from the Republican establishment, and favoring immigration reform, he pretty much had the center-right crowd sewed up.   It was the far right he had to court.   So they managed to score an invitation for Jeb to give the commencement address at Liberty University, the religious school founded by the late Rev.  Jerry Falwell.

[I'm putting aside the shocking partisanship of Jeb's address to the graduating class.   Commencement speechs are supposed to be inspirational or, for politicians, at least extol the soaring ideals that inspire their work for the people -- not partisan attacks on their opponents.   But that's another example of Jeb's ineptitude -- and that of his campaign managers.]

In this address, Jeb attacked Obama for "failing to preserve religious freedom" and condemned "federal authorities" for "demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience."

Of course, that is utter nonsense, and Jeb knows it is.   But it's the kind of red meat that makes the far right salivate.   Jeb's problem is that Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee already have that market sewed up (forget it, Bobby Jindal;   you haven't got a chance, so stop making a fool of yourself;   you just aren't believable as a bible-thumper).

No, Jeb's strong point was being the establishment candidate, not winning over the right-wing.   The multiple right-wingers cancel each other out.   Jeb needs to worry more about being a competent candidate so that he can beat Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.

That's where he is failing -- flubbing the delicate tight-rope act of dealing with the legacy Dubya left him.

So far, Jeb has (1) named a whole host of Dubya's foreign policy advisers (including Paul Wolfowitz) to his own roster of foreign policy advisers;  (2) declared "I am my own man"supposedly to ease fears about #1;  and then confounded it by saying (3) that brother George is the person he listens to most for advice on Israel and the MiddleEast.

That obfuscation would not be fatal, even though it seems more tactical damage control than strategic planning.   But then, coming on top of that, his inept answer to Fox News host Megyn Kelly may very well derail the golden boy's path to success.  If he's not prepared by now to know how he's going to handle his brother's legacy, it's probably too late.  Here's the exchange:
KELLY: On the subject of Iraq. . . .  Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?
BUSH: I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.
KELLY: You don't think it was a mistake?
BUSH: In retrospect the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. And in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first. And the Iraqis, in this incredibly insecure environment, turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families. By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush. Yes, I mean, so just for the news flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.
Liberal pundits had a field day, of course.   But none was so outspoken as conservative radio host Laura Ingraham:
"You can't still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you. . . .  Hillary wouldn't authorize the war now, if she knew what she knows now. . . .  You have to have someone who says, 'look, I'm a Republican but I'm not an idiot! I'm not stupid! . . . I learn from the past and I improve myself.'"
The only way Jeb's answer makes any sense at all is that he was answering a different question:   whether -- given the same information known in 2003 -- he would have authorized the invasion.   That's obviously what he was answering;  but it's not what Kelly asked.

But that explanation is not good enough.   This is a question that should have been anticipated, should have been ready on the tip of his tongue.  The fact that he was anticipating a different question and wasn't facile enough to shift his thinking is a bad sign.   A serious presidential candidate has to be sharp enough to respond in the moment and not just spout rehearsed answers.

Frankly, I have never been favorably impressed by Jeb Bush as a worthy opponent.   He may have the least objectionable policy positions of the 20-odd potential GOP candidates;  but, as a thinker and a speaker, he is not the best and brightest that they have to offer.   And that's not a very high bar, even though the field is better than four years ago.


Two days later:   Now that the question has been clarified for him, Jeb still can't bring himself to say a simple "no," that he would not go to war, knowing what we know now.  Even with friendly host Sean Hannity on Fox News, he waffled and obfuscated.   He refused to take a clear stand "because that's a hypothetical . . . I don't know what the answer would have been."    If this is the best he can do, with two days to figure out an answer, he might as well hang it up now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Warren-Obama fight over TPP

ShrinkRap concentrates on certain issues (politics, social justice, gay rights, voting rights, economic inequality) and not others (international trade agreements, for example).   Hence, I do not understand the details of President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership, and I am growing increasingly uncomfortable that two of my favorite Democrats are feuding over the TPP.

Elizabeth Warren keeps hammering Obama about trying to force Congress to give him fast-track authority over this and other trade agreements -- meaning that they would have to vote on proposals without amendments.

According to Warren, he is asking them to give him this blanket authority before they know the details of what is in the TPP.   Obama counters that anyone in Congress can read the bill.   Yes, says Warren, but we can't take notes or discuss what we've read.

So, why the secrecy? asks Warren.   And so do I.    I can understand not wanting to have the details hashed over in public media during the negotiating process.    But it sounds to me like Obama is asking to lock Congress' hands to yes/no votes before they know what they might ever be asked to vote on.

Obama keeps saying that Warren has her facts wrong -- But he does not say what she's wrong about or show how she is wrong.

What I found so unsettling is that I have always trusted Obama, but now I'm beginning to have my doubts.   If this were a Republican president asking the same thing, I would be outraged.

So I ask again:    What is it you are not willing to explain, Mr. President?   Just tell us enough so that we have reason to trust you that there is a rational explanation;  otherwise the doubts about some scheme to benefit special interests, rather than the American people, will only grow -- even though it is you, Mr. President.


Monday, May 11, 2015

For "old-timers" -- reruns of "Murder, She Wrote"

It started with "Downton Abbey," my binge-watching of television series.   And then I branched out to Netflex and its trove of tv series -- "House of Cards," "Scandal," "Newsroom," "The Forsyth Saga," "Royal Pains," "Breaking Bad" (although I abandoned that one half-way through when the violence got too gruesome for me).    Add in "Rosemary and Thyme," "Last Tango in Halifax," "Grand Hotel;" and you see why I don't get much else done.

So far, I'm resisting "West Wing," simply because there are so many episodes -- at least until I either finish or break myself of the habit of clicking on "just one more" murder for Angela Lansbury to solve on "Murder, She Wrote."

One of the fun things about this 1980's series is seeing some great actors from the past playing older people in guest roles for one episode.   Besides the delightful star Angela Lansbury herself in every episode, I've recently seen Van Heflin, June Allyson, Jean Peters, Eddie Albert, Sonia Braga, Dinah Shore, Juliet Prouse, Evelyn Keyes, Gloria DeHaven, June Havoc, Jane Powell, Cornell Wilde, Roddy McDowell, Kathryn Grayson, Brad Dourif, Janet Leigh, Eli Wallach, Shirley Jones, Robert Vaughan, Elliot Gould, and many more that you'd have to be a senior citizen to recognize.

And then there are some younger actors who got a brief gig on the way up.   Long before Bill Mahar became a comedic talk show host, he did some acting in "Murder, She Wrote."   In season 5, he played a long-haired, sleazy public relations rep for the equally sleazy and murderous Roddy McDowell's mystery writer.   In season 6, he has a part as a con artist and murder suspect.

"Murder, She Wrote" is not great television;   it can't hold a candle to the British detective series.    But it's light fun, especially with these cameo appearances by actors I grew up seeing in movies of the 1940's and 50's.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Interesting results from new opinion poll

A wide-ranging April 2015 opinion poll, done by Hart Research Associates for NBC/WSJ, showed these results, among others:

What is your opinion of:
                                                   +          -        net +/-%
Barack Obama                   47        40          7
Democratic Party             38         36         2
Hillary Clinton                   42        42          0
Marco Rubio                      22        23         -1
Scott Walker                      15        17          -2
Republican Party             30        43       -13
Jeb Bush                               23        36      -13
Ted Cruz                                7        32        -15
Tea Party Movement      20        42       -22

Are you --  (A) enthusiastic, (B) comfortable, (C) have some reservations, (D) uncomfortable, (E) not sure -- about a person running for president who is:

                                                    A       B       C        D        E
Gay or lesbian                      13     48     18      19       2
   compare in 2006               5     38     19      34       4

Evangelical Christian        12     40     24     20      4
   compare in 2006               7     34     28     28      5

No college degree                 5     30     30     23     2

A leader of Tea Party           3     30     22     29     6

Not a politician and has        9     21     34     35     1
no previous elected
experience in government

If the Supreme Court decides that gays have a constitutional right to marriage, in effect, legalizing gay marriage throughout the country, would you:

Favor -- feel strongly             44
Favor -- not feel strongly     14
Oppose -- feel strongly          29
Oppose -- not feel strongly    8
Not sure                                        5

These selected results show some interesting comparisons:

1.   The two Democrats and their party all have favorable ratings above 40%, while none of the Republicans or their party rises above 30% favorable rating, and all Republicans have negative net favorable/unfavorable ratings.

2.  Those polled have more positive feelings about having a gay/lesbian president (61%) than about having a president who is:  (1) an evangelical Christian (52%), (2) someone without a college degree (35%), (3) a Tea Party leader (33), or (4) someone who has not held public office (30%).

3.  On making gay marriage legal, the combined "favor" votes outnumber the combined "oppose" votes 58% to 37%.

This opinion poll questioned 1000 adults in telephone interviews.