Saturday, September 26, 2015

John Boehner resigns as House Speaker

When John Boehner became the leader of the Republican caucus in the House, first as minority leader (2007) and then as majority leader and Speaker of the House (2011), he was clearly identified as part of the Republican establishment.

When the Tea Party crowd came in the 2010 election, they gave Republicans a majority;  but they did not give their loyalty to their leader.    Instead, they have fought him every step of the way -- and they have been able to thwart him again and again.

There is a group of 30 to 40 ultra-conservative House Republicans who planned to challenge Beohner's leadership, which would be a big disruptive process and possibly his loss of the Speakership.

Boehner says now that he had planned to resign at the end of 2014, handing over the job to his second in command Eric Cantor.   But then Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary, so Boehner stayed on.

But he's clearly had enough personally, in addition to facing rebellion on the issues and a challenge for the Speaker's chair coming up.    So, now that he has experienced his dream of bringing the pope to address congress on his watch, he decided this was the time to leave.

It will also save the party from a bruising internal fight at a time when Republicans hope to retake the White House in 2016.    In essence, Boehner traded his position and political future to stop the tea party group from shutting down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood.   They have now said they will not oppose a separate vote apart from the necessary-pass deficit ceiling extension.

This may also be the end of the Republican party.

Sen. Harry Reid's response:  "By ousting a good man like Speaker Boehner -- someone who understood the art of compromise -- the party of Eisenhower and Reagen is no more.


How many of us are realizing that Boehner, the man we are talking about, is currently the second in line to succeed to the presidency.   We tend to forget that the Speaker of the House would become president if the president and vice-president were both unable to serve.  And now they are totally unprepared  to put forth someone capable of this awesome responsibility.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope Francis is a remarkable man

The remarkable Pope Francis became the first Roman Catholic pope ever to address the U. S. Congress.  And what an address it was !!   It was both radical and full of the humility he always shows.   As if to underline the latter, following his address, he skipped the traditional lunch with political leaders to break bread with the homeless in a nearby church.

Francis built his message around the Golden Rule, especially in relation to the refugee crisis and immigration in general:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  And he called for a higher definition of politics, based on that Golden Rule:
"If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort."
Except for indirect allusions to abortion and gay marriage (which he didn't actually mention by name) his message could have been endorsed by a progressive politician -- which Bernie Sanders lost no time in pointing out in a letter to supporters.

Francis is telling the billionaires that we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the poor, the sick, and the dispossessed who cannot find jobs.   He is saying there is something higher in life than greed and social injustice.   He is asking us to create a new society where the economy works for all, not just those with wealth and power.

Already the conservative politicians are nit-picking over this and that.   For at least one day, I want to just let this good man's moral vision and humility be untrammeled and untainted by smaller minds and hearts.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Don't let Jeb! rewrite his brother's history

Jeb! too tried to spin . . . his brother's legacy.   It started in Debate #2 with Donald Trump's assertion that George W. Bush's "disastrous" presidency brought us Barack Obama. 

Jeb! had this one tucked away, just waiting to toss it out.  Drawing himself up to full height (to show he's the tallest of the 11), he said

"As it relates to my brother, there's one thing I know for sure: He kept us safe."

We can argue about that, Jeb !

1.  In August 2001, the president's daily intelligence briefing warned of a major terrorist attack on the U.S. as something that could be looming.   Bush was on vacation, along with his National Security adviser Condi Rice.   Apparently no one paid any attention to the warning.  So, Jeb !, are we just to assume that 9/11 didn't count?

2.  After lots of backlash to his debate boast, Jeb ! has begun amending his line to say "He kept us safe after 9/11."

3.  But did he?    More Americans died in Afghanistan and Iraq by far than died on 9/11.

4.  Did his unqualified appointee to head FEMA keep New Orleans' poor people safe from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina?

And we could go on.    Let's just remind Jeb ! that he promised he would "be my own man."    And yet his big moment in that debate was a dubious boast about his brother's presidency.

Donald Trump knew just how to maneuver Jeb ! into that one.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hillary Clinton opposes Keystone pipeline

Hillary Clinton has announced her opposition to the controversial Keystone oil pipeline, saying that we should be focusing on combating climate change and renewable energy sources, like solar panels.   She set as a goal for her second term as president having "enough clean power to run all the homes in America."

Bernie Sanders praised Clinton for oppowing the pipeline -- and he pointed out that he had vigorously opposed to the pipeline from the beginning.  "Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet."


Scott Walker is not a national leader; he got out because he was a failed candidate.

Come on . . . every politician is entitled to spin the facts to try to make himself look better.   Right?     Of course.

But we also have the right not to buy it.   Case in point:    Scott Walker's exit strategy.   Rather than admit that he bombed, sinking from front-runner expected to win Iowa easily to less than 1% in the latest CNN poll, Walker painted himself as a chosen leader to fix what's wrong with this primary race:   there are just too many candidates, so the non-Trump vote gets sliced into little bits.

So Walker says he has been called to lead the way to downsize the crowded stage.

That falls in the definition of leadership as someone who figures out which way the crowd is heading . . . and runs to get at the front of the parade.

The fact is, Scott Walker was not ready for the national stage, and he may never be.  He just didn't know very much about world affairs, and he was pathetically inept at covering up how little he knew.

The next debate stage will not be so crowded -- not because of Walker's leading the lemmings off the cliff, but because the debate organizers are done with the big 10 . . . . or 11.   Rumor has it that (1) there will not be a "kiddy table" next time;   and (2) the main stage may be limited to eight.

So it seems pretty clear that Walker would not be in the next debate at all -- and that would be a humiliating end for him.  

So, thanks for your offer, Gov. Walker.   But it's really not necessary to pretend that God has called you to lead the way off stage.    Just go quietly, please.   If you can take Huckabee and Cruz and Jindal and Christie along with you, so much the better.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Scott Walker exits 2016 race -- with one of the weirdest explanations ever

Scott Walker's latest CNN poll numbers were less than 1%.   And here's his explanation for leaving the race.

"The Bible is full of stories about people who are called to be leaders in unusual ways. Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message will rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately."

Hmmm.    Is he writing material for Saturday Night Live?


Added Later:   Walker later made it a little clearer what he meant.   There are too many candidates dividing the vote.   He's volunteering to leave the race and hopes to lead others to do the same, so that the anti-Trump vote will concentrate in fewer candidates and have a chance to overtake him in the polls.     Walker's way of spinning this as being "called to lead" was just as awkward as the rest of his tin-eared campaign.

Why we need a national health care system -- people's health should not be hostage to profiteers

To start with, a national health care service -- like expanding Medicare to cover everyone -- would eliminate much of the administrative costs and bring health care costs down.   But that's an old story.    Here is the latest outrage, having to do with profiteering on the lives of sick people.

Story compiled by Dartagnon of Daily Kos:
There is a life-threatening parasitic infection, for which there is an effective, standard treatment, a 62 year old drug called Daraprim.   It used to cost $13.50 per tablet.   Yes, that's pretty expensive to start with.

But then in August, a former hedge-fund manager bought up the rights to the drug for a start-up drug company.   He immediately raised the price of a tablet from $13.50 to $750.00 per tablet.

That adds up to an annual cost for the treatment to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  What's the justification?    The drug has been in use for 62 years.   No added costs involved.  Martin Shkreli, the new owner of this company just raised the price because he can.

That's what happens when you turn over what should be in the hands of humanitarians -- health care -- to people whose only motive is profit.   Mr. Shkreli has previously tried to manipulate the price of drugs by lobbying the FDA not to approve drugs made by companies whose stock he was trying to influence.  He has acknowledged that his company stands to earn tens or even hundreds of millions from the increased price of Daraprim.

Daraprin is primarily used to treat malaria, as well as toxoplasmosis, a secondary parasite that often infects the brains of people with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients.   It's not just that treatment costs for those patients will be affected;   insurance companies that have to pay the bills will increase their premiums on everyone.

The Daily Kos article continues:
"Ultimately, the problem really isn't Mr. Shkreli.  He's just a shark doing what sharks do. The problem is that when vital drug treatments and health care are consigned to the whims of the "free market," people like Shkreli are equally free to charge whatever they want to vulnerable patients by claiming, as here, that the distribution is small enough to warrant "specialty status" for such drugs." 
Shkreli claims that the higher cost is necessary for his company to develop new and better treatments.   Infectious disease specialists disagreed.   Daraprim is effective, side effects are manageable, and there is no crying need for newer treatment.

And my argument is that, even if there were a need, why should current patients bear the costs of research for new drugs?   Isn't that a public health problem that should be addressed by government?


Monday, September 21, 2015

Post-debate #2 poll -- Fiorino leaps to second place

In a CNN/ORC poll conducted September 17-19 and released on Sunday, Carly Fiorino has leaped into second place with 15%, second only to Donald Trump, who has dropped to 24%.

Carson dropped to 3rd place with 14% followed by Rubio, who has risen to 4th with 11%.   Jeb Bush continues to languish in single digits at 9% for 5th place, followed by Cruz and Huckabee at 6%, Paul at 4%, Christie at 3%, Kasich at 2%, and Santorum at 1%.

Scott Walker, once right up at the top, did not even get 1% this time;  neither did Graham, Jindal, and Pataki.

Caveat:   It's still September 2015, not 2016.


What's in a name? Quite a lot, as a matter of fact.

Ariel Edwards-Levy, reported this for Huffington Post:    An investigative polling study of 1000 Americans showed that who a policy position is attributed to has a lot to do with whether they agree with the statement.

Edwards-Levy writes that "People tend, reasonably, to rely on partisan cues -- if a politician they support is in favor of a bill, they're likely to think it's a good idea, or vice versa.

"Although most Republicans say they strongly disagree with Democrats on health care, Iran and affirmative action, fewer than a quarter of Republicans strongly disagreed when those positions were presented as Trump's.  Democrats, a majority of whom said they strongly agreed with their party on health care, were less supportive when Trump was the one endorsing the policy. . . .  

"Still, associating a particular politician with a certain position wasn't enough for people to abandon their most deeply held convictions. Protecting Social Security, for instance, is an overwhelmingly popular idea, whether it's being proposed by Clinton or by Trump."

*   *   *
And that doesn't begin to address the problem when pollsters carefully choose the wording of questions designed to get certain answers for partisan purposes.   My conclusion:   Pay attention to who is doing the polling -- and take all polls with a couple of grains of salt -- especially 14 months ahead of the election.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Obama nominates a gay man as Army Secretary. . . And, predictably, Mike Huckabee crawled out from under his anti-gay rock to insult them both

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">The president plans to nominate Eric Fanning (above) as Army secretary.</span>
Photo of Eric Fanning from the White House

President Obama has nominated Eric Fanning, a gay man, to be the next Secretary of the Army.   He is highly qualified, having long served in various staff positions on the House Armed Services Committee and the Department of Defense, including Undersecretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and currently as Acting Under Secretary of the Army.   He has also worked in the White House as Associate Director of Political Affairs.

I don't doubt that the president had positive reasons for wanting to nominate the first openly gay person as the civilian head of a service branch.   So what?  As long as he is qualified -- and he certainly is.  It rounds out Obama's admirable record of ending anti-gay discrimination in the federal government -- which includes the U. S. Army that Fanning would now oversee.

I wish that was the end of the story and that Fanning's nomination would sail through senate confirmation.   Perhaps it will.   They already confirmed him once for Undersecretary of the Air Force.

But Mike Huckabee had to hurl his insults to pander to his narrow-minded constituency, since riling up the religious rights is his only strategy in his failing political race.   He's tied for 8th place at 4% in the last Quinnipiac poll.  Naturally the Huckster jumps at a microphone and implies that Obama nominated Fanning only because he is gay, saying:

"Obama is so obsessed with pandering to liberal interest groups he's nominated an openly gay civilian to run the Army. Homosexuality is not a job qualification. The U.S. military is designed to keep Americans safe and complete combat missions, not conduct social experiments."

According to political editor Sam Levine, the Army doesn't seem to share Huckabee's concerns.  Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Fanning "one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servants.”

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet said:  “I can’t think of any civilian with more experience with the services, having served in senior positions in all three.  He understands all of their unique cultures and processes.”

Phil Carter, a  senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and an Iraq war veteran said:  “My sense is that the Army is over this and has been over it for some time.  The Army cares whether you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight.”

It's time for Mike Huckabee and his ilk to get over it too.   In 2015, his comments reflect badly on himself, not on Eric Fanning or Barack Obama.