Monday, December 24, 2012

Greed, The Grinch and Ebeneezer

The forces of greed, corruption and obstinacy have a firm grip on our body politic in Washington, and all this fiddling while Rome burns is doing nothing to advance the cause of the Commonweal. Indeed, it is tearing apart the very fabric of our constitutional curtain, showing the stage behind it that has been left  bare and bereft of bold men with big ideas, but occupied instead by little men with greedy self serving limitations. The spirit which is the darkest among us is holding sway, and Mighty Mouse is no where to be seen yet to save the day.
     How did we come to this point? How did we let the darkest side prevail? Why have we weakened our bolder , nobler selves so much that we have given way to the Darth Vaders in our body politic to dominate the day?
    We thought we had voted again for hope, and at least some change, and the truth is , we did. But the Captains Queeg who are manning the Congesssional ship of state have refused to let go of the wheel, and have opted instead to head for the nearest iceberg.
    We have survived Mayan Aramageddon, but not the  four horsemen of our self inflicted apocalypse : greed, corruption, obstinacy and power lust. It has become such a spectacle that the spokesman for one of most well heeled and powerfully monied lobbying organizations, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, has even publicly embraced the idea that to do do away with gun violence, all we need is more guns! Armed guards at every schoolhouse gate. That's the answer!
    The Faustian bargain that has been struck here is one of historic proportion. Money has so dictated our politics that the Lobbysist Lords like LaPierre, and Grover Norquist won't allow their Congressional minions to vote on either sensible gun regulations or a fairer system of taxation.  Ebeneezer Scrooge and  The Grinch have forged an alliance with the Dark side, and Obie Wan Kenobi is no where to be found.
    What's really wrong? To paraphrase a gritty old Cajun pol, " It's the money, Stupid!" How can we be so blind? Until we get the money out of politics, we have little future to look forward to . We will flounder and fulminate ourselves along the craggy cliffs of the abyss as long as we let greed and avarice rule our roost.
  Maybe we just have to let all the tax cuts expire, and all the budget cuts go into effect before we can awaken ourselves from the nightmarish scenario that has taken center stage in Washington . Before we can collectively cry "Out, out damn spot!" From politics, let money be gone, and principle return! Tis the only way to truly re-ennoble ourselves, and to awaken the American spirit of common purpose and goodwill . Away from us ye Jacob Marleys! The angels of a better spirit await.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Custer,  Bluster,  and diminished luster

As the old saying goes, "Denial is a river in Egypt", and the Republicans  are still somewhere between the Gaza Strip and Benghazi in their river of deep denial.
      They would have you believe that Mitt Romney lost because he was not a  good enough snake oil salesmen. It apparently does not matter to them that the snake oil he was selling was more like cyanide for the middle class than castor oil, which is always good for what ails you. The voters refused to drink the Kool Aid.
    In the end, as it turns out, the American people were just not as stupid as the Republicans thought. They couldn't be bought. They couldn't be bamboozled, and they would not let their votes be suppressed. They showed up when it really mattered, and it did matter. Elections always matter. They also have consequences.
     We have seen the great wealth of this country be disproportionately husbanded by those at the top of the scale in ways that are reminiscent of the old Robber baron days. One joke making the rounds is that the CEO of Hostess twinkies calls a final meeting with the union boss and one representative worker. There are a dozen Twinkies  on the table. The CEO walks off with 11 of the twinkies and says to the employee, " You'd better watch out for that union guy, or he'll eat most of your twinkie".
     There are the greedy pizza barons who live in multi million dollar mega mansions, but are threatening to lay off their employees if they have to invest 12 cents per pizza of their profit in employee health care. There are the coal barons who are laying off their miners because they didn't work hard enough to produce , not coal, but votes, for the one percenter agenda.
     It is reminiscent of the slaveholder mentality which caused us to take up arms against one another to defend the right of some men to enslave others in pursuit of profit. Has our civil war never really ended? What's wrong with this picture? Who is painting our political landscape?
     The answer is not surprising. It is the small cadre of omnipotent oligarchs who place their greed above the good of the planet and their fellow human beings. They have tried to buy their way into the think tanks and the universities to manipulate the national agenda, and to deny anything or anyone who stands in the way of their unbridled self aggrandizement and hubristic hegemony. They have sprinkled the fairy dust of social issues among the great unwashed to insure that people vote against their own economic issues. They have tried to manipulate the numbers of those who vote, so that their agenda is vouchsafed for their undemocratic plutocratic dominance.
     They have failed to achieve success on the national level, but they have achieved some degree of success in manipulating the Congress and many state legislatures to champion their causes. They have done so by rigging the bidding process and drawing the lines of The Congressional and state legislative districts in such a way as to insure their success. They have further undermined democracy by opening up the flood gates of political bribery, ala Citizens "Un-United". They are acting like the Joker in a Batman movie sequel, and there seems to be no stopping point. It is a far flung and semi successful conspiratorial effort to bend the will of the majority to advance their cause, and the real joke is that they have done so while invoking the concept of liberty and justice for all. That is the ultimate irony, and the joke is on us.
     Give me you tired, your poor, your weary, your befuddled masses, and we shall manipulate them to our advantage, and crush any hopes they might have to climb the socioeconomic ladder. Their philosophy is ' I've got mine the hell with you, and if you try to climb up into this boat on that rope ladder, I'll Step on your fingers". The other side's philosophy is more like " I've got mine, how can I help you get yours"!
     The American people are not stupid.  They have made their choice. It is now up to the losers to show some grace and some common sense, and to remember that there are still many more things that bind us together than divide us. The American dream still beckons for us all. Clearly, we need to trim the budget, and pay down the deficit as well. The solvency solution is broader than just raising taxes on the well to do. But, If the Custer-like last stand of a defeated Republican agenda really is to hold out against tax hikes for the top two per cent of the country, the moral bankruptcy of that position will end up bankrupting us all. Lord have mercy. We deserve better than that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

  Challenge lies in finding way to meet in middle

PITTSBURG, Kan. — To secede or not secede should not be the question. Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the indignity of losing an election, without much recourse for the next four years, or to just throw in the towel, or move to Canada is not the reality of choice we citizens face.

The real challenge lies in finding ways to meet in the middle and avoid driving off the cliff like Thelma and Louise.

I am old. I have actually lived through and voted in 11 presidential elections. Sometimes I have been happy about the results, and sometimes I have been sad. As I told my students, sometimes you are the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. Elections have winners and losers (usually), and elections do have consequences. Majority rule does indeed mean majority rule.

Sometimes I have even been downright indignant about the result, as in 2000, when I felt that the real winner of the contest was denied the right to take office by a Supreme Court 5-4 intervention that was unprecedented, unwarranted and, I think, ultimately unwise.

But I never threatened to secede from the union. It took me nearly a year to accept the leadership of the presidential annointee of 2000, and only when our nation was challenged in a direct and unimaginable way on Sept. 11 did I rally, emotionally, behind our politically appointed president. But rally I did. So did many of my fellow doubting Thomases who questioned the ascendancy of George W. Bush. For better or for worse, he was the only president we had, and I had to learn to accept that fact. Whether he achieved office as a result of electile dysfunction or mendacious manipulation of the electoral process was no longer the issue. There was reason to unite, and go forward. Just as there is today.

At least today there is no doubt about the result of the election, no doubt about the result. It is clear who won, with a solid majority, albeit not a landslide. Most elections are never decided by landslide votes; they are more often a 50-plus to 49-minus situation. The difference in this last election involved more than 3.5 million popular votes, and 126 electoral votes. In the end, it wasn’t even close. No need for a recount. No hanging chads, No butterfly ballots. No court manipulation of the results. There was a clear winner.

In terms of coming to grips with the enormities of the challenges we as a nation face, the longer we kick the can down the road, the more perilous becomes our predicament. Failing to address and solve the issues — of entitlement reform, tax reform, climate change, energy independence and educational backsliding — will have far-reaching consequences for the hegemony of our great nation. We will either continue to lead or slide into the status of a back-bencher wannabe country whose best times are past and whose future is unsecured. That is the choice we face.

Much of the energy of the opposition party for the past four years has been focused on denying the legitimacy of the re-elected leader we have. The strategy was to hope he would fail and to trip up his efforts to succeed at every turn, even if it resulted in tripping up the country itself, temporarily. Help was on the way (they thought). Well, it didn’t happen, and we now have the same president for the next four years, and it’s time for the opposition to suck it up and deal, and live to fight another day. We all need to take a deep breath and not waste time on silly things like threatening to secede.

There are even some citizens on the other side of the spectrum who would be happy to see the red states of the former confederacy and cow country just go away. They are just as wrong as their secession-threatening brethren. In the end, we are still “E Pluribus unum,” one from many. Let’s just remember that. Our partisan thorns will surely resurface four years hence, but for now, in the immortal words of Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blinded by partisan hubris

     The highlight of election night for me was when Karl Rove, an on-air host for Fox TV, publicly challenged the decision of the Fox News analysts that President Barack Obama had won Ohio, and thus the election.
     Not so quick! Rove even got one of his co-anchors to lead the charge against the Fox News decision desk. They were, in effect, demanding a recount.
If nothing else, this points out the dangers of trying to serve two masters. Rove was posing as a pundit, but acting as a partisan — and a  partisan who was totally, especially financially, invested in a Republican victory.
     His two super PAC s — American Crossroads, and the dark super PAC Crossroads GPS, the one where we never get to find out where the money came from — spent upward of $300 million on organizing and on buying ads, mostly for naught.
Perhaps that is why Karl could not see the forest for the trees. He was blinded by the light of his own partisan hubris.
     He was shell-shocked to see the reality of losing that was staring him in the face. The reality that he, Karl Rove, boy genius and Bush's brain, was wrong. Not just wrong, but profoundly and completely wrong in his assessment of the state of the campaign, and the election.
The indelible image of the Wicked Witch of the West comes to mind: "I'm melting! I'm melting!"
Or perhaps an even better analogy would be that of the Great Wizard of Oz trying to crank away behind his velvet curtain, saying, "The great and powerful Oz has spoken!" while all the while Toto was nipping at his heels, and pulling back the curtain for all to see the Great Wizard in his diminished glory.
     Face the facts, Karl. Obama now owns the presidential megaphone for the next four years. If he plays his cards and utilizes his bully pulpit right, he could be every bit as much a transformational figure in American politics as was Ronald Reagan.
     Tuesday night, on national TV, the time had come for Rove to face his moment of truth —the truth of his failure and its enormous consequences. Yet he just couldn't do it, and his reluctance to accept the reality of the moment apparently helped to delay Mitt Romney's concession speech.
Ultimately, sanity prevailed. Romney conceded, and eloquently so. The need to heal the nation and move forward trumped Rove's clinging to his charts and his convictions, while reality was knocking ever more loudly at his front door.
     America has indeed arrived at Karl Rove's Crossroads. The American people have chosen a road diverging in the woods. That, at last, has made all the difference.
Time to move past your own crossroads, Karl, and get on with the business of fixing the future of the body politic in this great country.
Forward! Not backward, and not sideways. Forward.
     As Lee Iacocca so famously put it, "Time to lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way."
Move over, Karl. The train has left the station, and you are no longer on board.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wrongway Corrigan/Brownback

Who is Douglas Corrigan, and what does he have to do with Sam Brownback? Corrigan earned the  nickname "Wrongway Corrigan" when he flew his single engine plane solo over the Atlantic in 1938, after filing a flight plan to go from New York to Los Angeles.. This was before radar. He claimed that he had a broken compass, and that's why he flew for 28 hours in the wrong direction, crossing the Atlantic ocean instead of the American continent.

     He was heralded by a depression weary American population for his “wrong way” flight, and even feted with ticker tape parades in New York and Chicago. Truth be known, he simply lied about it. He had  been denied the right by aviation authorities to cross the Atlantic in his single engine plane because aviation officials deemed it unsafe to fly. They told him he couldn’t do it, so he figured a way around them, leaving in the pre- dawn hours from Long Island, and heading out to sea. Despite his filed flight plan, which said he was heading west…he headed east.  He actually developed a leak in his gas tank while flying, which caused gas to spill into the cockpit, so  he poked a hole in the cockpit  floor to let the gas drip out to the ocean below,  instead of accumulating and causing an explosion.  In short  he knew what he was doing,, and he was hell bent for leather to do it.       So ,  Why the comparison?  Governor Sam Brownback and Wrong way  Corrigan have a lot in common. Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead!  And so it is with Governor Sam Brownback.

     When historians come to judge the Kansas Governor's stewardship at the helm of state, it may be written of him that,  like  Corrigan,  he was a fierce pilot who flew his plane  with lots of guts and gusto, but in the wrong direction.  They both thought they were aiming correctly.   While the initial result for Corrigan was a ticker tape parade,  he became an historical footnote,  and poster child for bullheaded reversity.  Corrigan was literally flying blind  across the Atlantic. He could not see out of the front of the plane because of the gas tanks that obfuscated his vision, but that didn’t matter, because they fueled his journey, and buoyed his grit and determination to do what no one else, save Lindbergh, had ever done. And so it is with Sam Brownback.  Anyone who is standing in the way of his vision of a Kansas without an Income tax, which he believes will reverse the fortunes of and bolster the economy of the state, is to be ignored, or to be end run arounded.

     Corrigan’s zealotry for  crossing the Atlantic in a plane that was not ever fit to do so, earned him initial public plaudits but eventual  retrospective ridicule. The end result for Brownback may be similar, in that he may be feted at  conservative conventions in Wichita and  Topeka for now, but he may be  less than revered by future historians.  Unfortunately, the real consequences of his studied actions may be to set Kansas back for decades, instead of propelling it forward to economic hegemony.  So convinced is he of the rectitude of trickledownomics that he has literally bet the ranch, his entire state, on it.  True zealots like him never fade away. They are either vaulted to the forefront by virtue of the success of their wild and speculative ways, or catapulted to the dung heap of history by the odiferous scents of their failed gambits that won't go away. Their  ideas may die, but the scent of their experiments hang ‘round for a long, long time. And so it may be with Brownback. He will either be lionized by future generations as a hero, or considered a bum who messed up Kansas' entire governmental and educational structure.

I hope it is the former, but my bet is on the latter.

So, move over "Wrong Way Corrigan"… Governor Sam Brownback is about to outdistance you in the Guinness Book of foolhardy records.  The problem is, the joke may be on Kansas,  and it’s people.

Friday, September 14, 2012

 Facts Matter..Ads shouldn't

The number of new jobs created last month again disappoints. And, yes, there is a reason for this disappointment.

Who to blame? President Barack Obama?
How about blaming the Republicans in Congress?

They continue to refuse to pass Obama's jobs bill which would have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The bill would build roads and bridges that are badly needed, and create enough jobs to bring the unemployment rate down by a full percentage point.

But wait. We can't have that before the election, so the Republicans are just saying no — and then criticizing the President for not creating jobs fast enough.
Gotcha! The way to play the game is to stick your foot out and trip your opponent, and then blame him for falling down.
Will the American people buy this bullying tactic and reward the Republican opposition for their obstructionism? Only if they don't connect the dots as a result of a great fog machine being sent into overdrive by unlimited Super PAC advertising, fueled by the donations of an oligarchic group of billionaires.

How can Mitt Romney's campaign be so dismissive of the truth? The answer is that it has the money to help defy the truth.
The fog will be so thick with 30-second negative advertising spots that by November, most Americans — at least those living in the swing states like Missouri, where I teach — will be crying, "I want my TV back!" The barrage of ads will be nearly unbearable.

Still, before you fling open the shutters and say you're mad as hell, and can't take it anymore, just take a deep breath, and join me in this vow: "I refuse to allow any 30-second TV ad to affect my judgment. I will pay attention only to the debates, to the news, and to the fact checkers."
Facts really do matter, despite what Mitt Romney's pollster Neil Newhouse says to the contrary.
If people ignore these Super PAC and partisan ads entirely, from both sides, and vote based upon the merits of the positions taken by both parties, we will all be better off. The platforms of the two major national parties are pretty clear in terms of the choices they are offering the American people. Read the platforms, stay informed on the issues through the news, and vote accordingly. You can make intelligent choices in so doing, and vote your own value system.

Tell these Super Pacs, enough already! I won't be bought. I am not as stupid as you think.
I think. I actually do think. And considering the magnitude of the issues this country faces, thinking before voting is critical to the preservation of our democracy. Thomas Jefferson perhaps said it best:
"A people who believe they can be both free and ignorant, believe that which never has been, and never can be."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

     The Edge of the Waters

When I was growing up and taking citizenship classes in school, we were always taught that "Politics stops at the water's edge", and that "We only have one President at a time".

      I guess all of that went out the window on Wednesday morning when Mitt Romney, with less than cautious abandonment, dove into the precarious political waters of middle eastern uncertainty to heap scorn on the President of the United States at a time when unity of purpose , resolve, and response, would have made much more sense.

      Clearly, for whatever reason, Mitt Romney jumped the gun to inject himself into an ongoing crisis, when prudence would have dictated that he hold his fire, and shut his mouth, in the face of the death of an American diplomat, at least until the dust settles, and it becomes clear what has happened, and is still happening.

       Romney sounded almost as if he were the pseudo President, speaking in a manner as if he represented America, and attempting to undercut the credibility of our one and only President at a time when standing together in the face of attacks against our embassies and our personnel should be soundly, and roundly condemned. He is not elected to any office, and has no right to speak on behalf of the American people. He is simply a candidate for office. Nothing more...nothing less. Nor does  he "represent" us, or anyone, at least not yet, and with this type of performance, hopefully he never will.

      This move by Romney is nothing short of a knee jerk reaction, and a bone headed attempt to cash in and capitalize on a very volatile situation which should call for a demonstration of American resolve, and unity in the face of a common enemy: Intolerance, ignorance, and extremism in the guise of religious zealotry.

      If Romney had simply said, "We stand by the President and Secretary of State in this hour of peril, and are united in support of their efforts to see that justice is done, and that American values will be protected and defended." it would have better served him. Instead, he showed himself to be much smaller a man than his opponent, the President of the United States.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Presiden's acceptance speech.

Ok. Obama was poised, proud, confident, in charge, and in command. The Republicans will say he was cocky. Maybe he was a bit, but after four years of disrespect, doubt and just dumb and delusional pummeling by his Republican opposition, can you blame him for saying, "Hey, i'm in charge, we're turning the. corner, so don't go soft on me now. Let's finish what we started. I know how to do this job. And I get it. I am one of you. " 
     I think he set the right tone. He did a good, if not great job, and the convention, all of the speakers, and the entire cast of characters in Charlotte was more compelling, more telling, more convincing than the crowd in Tampa...and more real. I always knew who I was voting for this year. Now I know why!

Friday, August 31, 2012

 Dirty Harry meets the GOP

     Crazy old man takes the stage at the Republican Convention and talks angrily to an empty chair, just before Mitt Romney gives the speech of his life . What gives?

     Whoever was in charge of timing and scheduling at the RNC convention flunked badly. The night before they followed a brilliant speech by the candidate's wife with an in your face angry fat guy Governor from New Jersey who was all self absorbed and less complementary of the candidate than he should have been. Can you say, "Get the hook?"

     There were moments when the Republicans actually did shine. Ann Romney's wonderful and inspirational talk was one of those moments. Blue as the blood in my veins may be, I could be persuaded to vote for her. Problem is, she's not running. She seems to me , as the mother of five fine sons who raised them with a loving but largely absent father, to be the real hockey mom we can all respect. Sadly, this was not the case for most of the other supporting cast of characters and bloviators.

     Mitt Romney's most inspirational moment for me came when he said about President Obama's election that we as Americans, himself included, wanted him to succeed. The problem is , his Vice Presidential partner Paul Ryan, and the other head honchos in the Republican Congress did not. They were plotting immediately to chart a course that would insure Obama could not solve America's problems, for if he did, his re-election would be assured, so they decided to just say everything, all the time . Total non-cooperation on their part elevated politics over governing , and they even drove the Chevy almost to the levy during the debt crisis debate, playing chicken with the American people. They largely achieved their objective.  Our credit rating even got downgraded. Whatever happened to the old  golden rule of politics, "First, do no harm"? Sadly, for America, it went out the window on day one of Obama's Presidency.

     So, Obama did not totally succeed, and the jobless number remains high.  He did some good things, like saving the auto industry and millions of jobs, but unemployment  would be lower if they had just voted for a jobs bill that would have fixed and built roads and bridges.  They refused to do so, knowing Obama would be given credit, so they just sat on their hands and will continue to do so until the election is over. There is no letting up to their no-ism.  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan politically outsmarted, indeed,  ukered the President with their negative trump cards of filibusters and no votes.

     The problem for Obama was that he was initially naive. He didn't fully understand that they were just playing him along, and that at the last minute, they would again pull the plug on any broad solution to the debt crisis, or the Medicare funding problems, or a bill giving better health care coverage to millions of uncovered Americans. They chose to walk away from the table and curse the darkness. They played Obama for a chump, and sadly he mostly went along, trying desperately to find common ground, where there was none to be found.  He was continually surprised when they teased him, entreated him, and then just slammed the door in his face. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

     Obama may have finally learned his lesson, and is starting to fight back. The only question is, will it be too little, too late, or can he save the day for himself and the country. Will he be Mighty Mouse, or Mickey Mouse. That is the question.

      Mitt Romney as Popeye the Sailor man actually does have a chance of knocking Obama out of his Executive chair. I guess it all depends on how much spinach Obama eats between now and the Democratic convention. If it were up to me, I'd take the arugula off the White House menu, and feature a little more red meat .  Obama will need all the testosterone he can muster to beat back this bunch in November.

     We shall see if he can play the role of the man of steel, or just crumple under the weight of the unrelenting Republican mega funded juggernaut. Hopefully he will rise to the occasion and save the day for America. Hopefully. That's still the key word. Hope. Fortunately, it springs eternal.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh My Akin Breakin' Heartland

I have just returned to Missouri from a pleasant summer in upstate New York. I teach part time here in the heartland. It was very hot all summer in Missouri. The temperatures are just beginning to settle down to near normal levels, and then, boom! The political world is lit up like a bonfire as a result of what one Missouri congressman said, and what a Kansas Congressman did. One dipped into the unholy waters of the Abortion/Rape debate, and the other, a Freshman Republican Congressman from Kansas went skinny dipping in the Holy Sea of Galilee.
Just when you think this year’s political campaign season could not get any worse, or any weirder, it does.   Enter Reps. Kevin Yoder and Todd Akin.
      There’s something about Missouri. It is where the country usually pivots. And courtesy of Akin’s foot-in-mouth disease, we now have another pivotal moment from Missouri that could be an epiphany or just plain apocryphal for the chances of Republican ascendancy come November.
Congressman Akin just won the nomination for the Senate from Missouri. He is running against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, whose chances of re-election, until now, had been rather dim. Akin actually said that women who are raped can effectively will away a pregnancy, so there is no need to allow a woman who is a victim of “legitimate rape” — as opposed to illegitimate rape? — to choose to abort such a resultant pregnancy. In essence, he theorized that somehow you can’t get pregnant unless you enjoyed the rape.The sad thing is, he apparently meant it.
OK, since you can pray away the gay, why can’t you also pray away the day you got raped? Maybe he meant that the power of positive thinking can cause you to self-abort? Who knows?
     Most Americans, including me, firmly believe in the power of prayer, and positive intention, but this comment takes it to a whole different dimension.
     Akin could be the 51st vote that would give Republicans control of the Senate. He is from the western suburbs of St. Louis — and the Michele Bachmann school of religiosity in politics. He was trained as a divinity student and later became an engineer. Politics, however, and the strong support of Tea Party type Conservatives in Missouri, have allowed him to take the national stage in a way that is not entirely flattering to Missouri. His statement, or misstatement as he calls it, was front-page national political news, but was buried on Page 6 of Monday’s Joplin Globe.
I guess it is a sad thing for the Republican Party that he is from Missouri, and he showed us.
He showed us what prominent Republican strategist Craig Shirley said is true. Shirley said that the Republicans are becoming the party of “intoxication, intolerance and idiocy.” If top Republicans are saying that, just imagine what the Democrats might say.
And GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is closely allied with this guy. Their stances on most issues are very similar. Ryan and Akin both serve on the Ways and Means Committee together, and have jointly sponsored legislation which would prohibit abortion, except in the case of “forcible” rape, as if rape of any kind (other than statutory) is consensual. As President Obama said correctly, “Rape is rape!”

Congressman  Yoder is from the western suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., (which suburbs happen to be in Kansas). He and a bunch of other Freshmen Republican frat boy types went for an ale begotten moonlight  swim on a junket to the sea of Galilee. Yoder , apparently the boldest of the allegedly boozed up bunch, admits that he actually stripped off all his clothes to skinny dip where Jesus so famously walked on water. Alas, there are no calls from the National Republican leadership for his ouster. Why is that?

     He demonstrated a different kind of forgivable stupidity than his cohort Congressman Akin. Akin's mistake was to wade into the waters of a debate about abortion that Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and others want to avoid. Akin, though fully clothed at the time of his verbal gaffe, just waded into the wrong waterway. He would have been better off to dive head first into the Red Sea in his BVD's as part of a stunt on The Jackass TV program. That would be forgivable, but blowing the cover of the anti -women agenda of the GOP, and potentially losing to Claire McCaskill, and losing a Republican controlled Senate as a result,  is just inexcusable. Besides,  Congressman Yoder doesn't even have a Democratic opponent.
     I guess it boils down to this: Jesus forgives sinning skinny dippers, but women whose rights  have been  scorned by the GOP will remember  Akin- like jackasses like Elephants do. They will never forget.

So Congressman Yoder survives, and Congressman Akin is mortally wounded, but soldiers on.  What to make of this conondrum?

How does Paul Ryan set himself free from Akin?
The answer is, he can’t. Yoder can stay, but Akin has to go, or Ryan becomes a huger liability for Romney than he already is.  And so far, he shows no signs of going. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Kansas and Missouri show us again what is really going on. Woe are we. And woe unto the GOP...big time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Show me!

In the immortal words of Tom  Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire------- "Show me the money" ! In the less immortal words of Sen.  Harry Reid to Mitt Romney, •Show me your tax returns!" to that, Mr. Romney responded on Fox News' Sean Hannity show, "Harry Reid had better put up or shut up! " whoa Nelly! What's going on here with this war of words? Who is Trumping whom here?
     When the Birthers kept shouting for Barack Obama's birth certificate, and he kept dodging release of the actual document, Sean Hannity and others of his ilk adopted the "Show me position" when it came to the question of whether Obama was really born in Hawaii . Ultimately, Obama caved, and released his birth certificate. End of story? Not completely. The doubting Thomases like Donald Trump remain, but to those among us who are still sane , after this already long dragged out campaign, that was proof enough.
     So back to taxes. If Mitt Romney would just release ten years of his tax returns like his father ( who was the first to do so) did, that would be the end of it. Claiming, as his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom did that " He paid 100 per cent of any taxes owed" will just not cut it. What if there were no taxes owed? What if his losses exceeded his gains, aided by channeling money to offshore Cayman Island accounts, or putting the pea, albeit legally, under some other shell?What if he didn't owe anything for ten years? 100% of nothing is still nothing. Does it depend on what Romney's definition of is, is?
    Now, to his rescue rides John McCain, the former Republican Presidential candidate whose thorough vetting of Romney in 2008 (including reviewing of twelve years of his tax returns)  resulted in his not choosing Romney, told the Wall St. Journal  that Romney's returns were 100% legal. Oh, that should end it! Truth is, you can be 100% legal, and still pay no taxes for certain years. After all, that's why God made tax lawyers and tax loopholes. And as for McCain's thorough vetting of Vice Presidential candidate...there is a two word response ...Sarah Palin.

Some smart businessmen legally avoid paying taxes much of the time.
 They do so by taking advantage of legal loopholes in the tax code that require them only to pay what is legally due Uncle Sam, and not one penny more! Those guys are heralded in the business community for their money making genius. The fact is though, they just don't run for President. When you run for President, you should have nothing to hide. Just ask John Edwards or Gary Hart about that. If you do have something big to hide, somehow, it eventually comes out, temerity and hubris  not withstanding.
   So, sorry Mitt. I'm from Missouri. Show me! Nothing short of a real ease of your tax returns will end this debate, and if there is something to hide, you shouldn't be running for President in the first place. If there is truly nothing to hide, then just release the returns. It's that simple. Show me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Job Creators

Job Creators  The monthly jobs report is out again, and the picture is not entirely rosy.   Private sector employment is at least gaining jobs instead of losing them, but with only 80,000 jobs added , and an unemployment rate remaining at 8.2%,  the thorns are getting in the way of the roses.  There are signs of progress, but there are  continued signs of economic sluggishness, due in part to the uncertain European financial situation.  So, the Economic forecast sounds like an Irish weather report... "Showers, with sunny spells. " .             Job growth is occurring, but the pace  is painfully slow. So, what to do, what to do?      How do we  insure steady job creation? How do we pull ourselves out of the ditch we landed in after the excesses of the last decade?          Politically speaking, two roads are diverging in the wood here, and which path we choose to travel down in the next four years will indeed make all the difference.  We can choose trickle down, or trickle up.  Or,  blend the two and choose trickle both ways.   But to assume that tax cuts alone for the wealthiest among us will insure prosperity for the vast middle class is a presumption that is based more on hooey than hard facts.        As the words of the song from the musical “Cabaret” go, “Money makes the world go ‘round.”. We all know that. But, the fact that you may have lots of money does not automatically make you a "Job Creator". Some people with lots of money do in fact create jobs, that is true, but it is more due to their entrepreneurial spirit and sense of adventure, and taking of risks,  that jobs are produced, as opposed to what tax rate they may be paying or not paying.        And on the issue of whether this should be a topic of political discussion, a frank discussion about what Private Equity firms like Bain Capital do, and do not do, is not an anti-capitalist, anti American spirit debate, and anyone who would characterize it as such is seriously misguided.        Money is actually a big deal, and there are some who have money who merely hoard it, like Scrooge McDuck, and wallow in the benefits money can bring. There is no automatic job creator factor attached to wealth, as people like Frank Lutz, the Republican word strategist would have you believe. Substituting the term "Job Creator" every time you want to say" rich person" not only fails to shrink the economic divide in this country, it furthers a myth that can only serve the interests of the money hoarders and the excessively greedy.     Wouldn't it be lovely if those in the "have" category adopted as their mantra, "I've got mine, how can I help you get yours?", instead of, "I've got mine, to hell with you, and stop trying to climb aboard  my boat or I'll stomp on your fingers as you climb up that rope ladder".     Protecting the rights of the rich to get richer is part of the American psyche., just as much as insuring the rights of the poor  to get progressively poorer. We all believe that one day, we too could win the lottery, or become Queen for a day on one of those daytime TV shows. As the advertisement for the NY Lottery says, " never know...a dollar and a dream!" and who among us would want to pay 30% of their lottery winnings to the government?    But who do you see in the convenience store lining up for lottery tickets? Surely, it is not where the affluent "Job creators" among us go. Who do you see at the plethora of casinos that have sprung like mushrooms  all over the country? It's not that rich guy Thurston Howell III ,and his wife, from Gilligan's island, as much as it is grandmothers on Social Security and people with various disabilities, often smoking up a storm on their way to hitting the big jackpot. Hey, we all have to dream!     But to not engage in a discussion about what works and what doesn't in a capitalist society, and how to prevent excesses at the margin, and wild speculative risk taking by money managers who then run to the government to be bailed out of the pitfalls of their own misguided financial judgments would be foolhardy indeed. It is a conversation we need to have. So let’s talk.             As for the disappointing jobs report, there are four more monthly reports to come before the election.   And , as Mitt Romney once said, "It takes a while to turn things around". Hope springs eternal. Seating the sunny spots amid the showers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jabberwocky let me get this straight. Obamacare isn't a penalty, it's a tax, and therefore legal, but Romneycare is not a tax, it's just a penalty? I see. And matter is anti-matter, and protons are neutrons, and black is white, and night is day. Now I get it! Mitt Romney is the Mad Hatter disguised as a candidate for President, and the Jabberwocky is his bible. He might as well just say it all at once, and be done with it. "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. ". There!

At least most Americans can understand that concept. Romney might as well be giving lectures on the "Higgs Boson" particle, as explaining his position on the Affordable Health Care Act. We really need a gifted translator to cipher through all of this doublespeak.

I guess the bottom line for Romney is that Truth doesn't matter, but the perception of it does. Go figure that one out. And while you're at it, maybe someone can explain how Romney really saved the auto industry by opposing the governments rescue of it a couple of years back too. Maybe it's just that a Ford is really a Chevy, and a Hudson Hornet is actually a Studebaker, and cars run on gas that doesn't come from oil. He might as well be selling us Edsels.

Methinks Romney has been listening to Frank Luntz, the Republican wordsmith sorcerer ,too much, or else he has been sniffing glue. Either way, Romney's view of things is like Alice Through the Looking glass on steroids.

Let's also remember that this is the same guy who said "Corporations are people,too, my friend", and contraception is perfectly ok unless you are using it to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Maybe it all just depends on your definition of what is , is. Did anyone actually have sex with that woman? Crystal clear, isn't it? Didn't this same guy also say, "I stand by my statement---whatever it was"?

I guess the ultimate question is whether all of this matters come November.Truth is, no matter what Romney says, the Obama haters will still vote for the Elephant in the room, even if he is the Emperor who would wear no clothes. But there may still just be a tiny fraction of our population, say the 10 per cent independent thinking faction, who might actually be paying attention to what is being said, be persuaded by the facts not the frivolous fulminating that passes for campaigning for office, and adjust their votes accordingly. After all, they are the group that will give the swing states their swing. Hope does spring eternal, and maybe they will be the ones who ultimately save us from going collectively down the rabbit hole of electoral history.

In the meantime, welcome to The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, posing as the 2102 Presidential Election campaign.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This year's presidential election is likely to be decided in about eight states, mostly in the Midwest. I've spent the last year and a half teaching American government in one of them.
I've taught at Missouri Southern State University, a small college in Joplin. I tell my students that while I am from New York, I am from the southwest Missouri part of New York. Politically and demographically, the culture of rural upstate new York is not unlike southwest Missouri. My students are from the same place as Harry Truman.
The Midwest is  a place where tribal-type loyalties persist and where churches abound. It is not quite Norman Rockwell anymore, but there are a lot of Andy Griffith and Aunt Bee types still around. The culture is not unlike the rural parts of New York.
There is also the same kind of resilience that is evident after tornadoes and other disasters. The community barn-raising mentality is still very much alive and well in places like Missouri.
Look at how quickly Joplin, Mo., has been and is being rebuilt after last year's devastating F-5 tornado. Its rise from the ashes has been remarkable and its progress much faster than the more sluggish pace of resurrection of post-Katrina New Orleans. Maybe it's the spirit of self-reliance that is really on display here. Midwesterners are more apt to rescue themselves than they are to wait for their rescuers.
There is a pervasive feeling of community consciousness and pride that is on display in the Friday night high school football games, and the Saturday morning pancake breakfasts. In the Midwest, the culture of small-town America still exists.
A guy like Bill Clinton from small-town Arkansas, or Harry Truman from small-town Missouri, understood that culture well, and could tap into it. A guy like Barack Obama, born in Hawaii and trained as a Chicago community organizer, has a little tougher time relating to it.
Harry Truman played well in the heartland because he was from the heartland. He understood it. He was genuine. They don't much cotton to phonies in places like Missouri.
No amount of dressing up and puffing up will ever change who a candidate essentially is. The slickness and slipperiness of Mitt Romney will ultimately cause him to self-deport, I think.
But if President Obama persists in being true to his values, true to his tribe, and true to himself, he will regain his footing and ultimately triumph. It doesn't matter if your tribe is from Oahu, South Chicago or Southwest Missouri. Your tribe is your tribe. Your loyalty is your loyalty. Being real always trumps being disingenuous.
The problem with President Obama is Professor Obama. He must learn to avoid equivocation and professorial diatribes examining all sides of every issue. As smart as he is, the Midwestern electorate is not happy to be lectured to, nor pandered to. They will listen, however, if you say what you mean and mean what you say.
Obama must stop channelling his inner Adlai Stevenson, and start channelling his inner Harry Truman. He has to, as Harry would say, not "Give 'em hell." but "Tell the truth, and they'll think it's hell."
He has to call his opponents out on their obstructionist strategy. Instead of criticizing Congress generically as an institution, he must pin the tail on the non-donkeys who are doing all the braying but none of the real work. He needs to call out the real obstructionists for who they are, the Do-Nothing Republican Congress, because it is only the Republicans who are blocking his every effort to revive the economy, to their own political advantage, and to the disadvantage of the country. Harry Truman had no problem doing that and it enabled him to come back from the politically dead and win the 1948 election.
When then-Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles was being written off for re-election in 1994, and the odds favored upstart Jeb Bush, he walked out of a Miami television studio on a Sunday morning, saying "The He Coon walks by the light of day!"
The Miami political punditry pronounced him bizarre, but the down-home Floridians from the Panhandle knew exactly what he meant. Enough is enough, Chiles was saying, "I am the governor of this state and I am not putting up with this anymore! I'm outta here!"
Chiles carried the Panhandle and the rest of Florida to win re-election.
The lesson? Be who you are. Don't play footsie with your implacable foes and then think that your tribe will still adore you. Stay true to yourself and your core philosophy.
When you do, you can appeal to people from the Midwestern swing states, and live to see a second term. If not, it could be hello, President Romney, welcome to Missouri!
The choice is Obama's — President, or professor.
Personally, I kind of like President Obama, especially when he really knows who he is, and what he stands for. So will Missourians and other Midwesterners who need to not only like him, but vote for him.
Show me, Mr. President. That is a winning strategy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

President Obama will be delivering the valedictory speech today at Joplin High School. If I were writing his speech for him, here's what I would have him say....

 One year ago, here in Joplin, Mo., you folks felt a fury of nature that unleashed unwarranted and wanton destruction and death . It all happened in the blink of an eye, and then it was over, and you were left to face the consequences of nature's fury. You buried your dead. You grieved their loss, and you determined to rise and rebuild in the memory of those who had fallen, and you have done, and are continuing to do just that. It is amazing to see how life can change on a dime, and secure worlds can be turned into chaos with barely a moments notice. As we travel forward on life's pathways, these are often the challenges we face. Disaster, grief, despair, momentary hopelessness..are all a part of life's lessons. The important thing to do is to learn those lessons, as you have, and then, to move forward. Life's greatest lesson is perhaps to never ever quit, no matter what adversity comes your way. We must rise to the challenge that confronts us. You here in Joplin understand that.     And you are not alone, because you see, Joplin has become   a metaphor for America. It is being rebuilt, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. The storm that decimated Joplin , and ripped the heart of the community asunder was the kind of storm that comes along every fifty years. Our financial storm of 2009 and 2010 was not unlike the Joplin tornado, our financial markets were collapsing, our housing market took its deepest plunge in history, and our auto industry nearly folded. We didn't take it lying down, we responded.      In government , you essentially have two choices . Don't just stand there, do something, or don't just do something stand there. We chose to act act to save the auto industry when a free market approach would have meant its certain demise, and today, I can report to you that the American Auto industry is back, and thriving! That comeback is nothing less than miraculous.  Kind of like the Walgreen pharmacy on Rangeline. It was virtually in ruins, but it stayed open, and was rebuilt brick by brick, and is today thriving again .      When I assumed office three years ago , an economic disaster of major proportion was happening and decisive action was needed to bring us back from the brink of the financial abyss. Together, we took those steps, and it has made all the difference, just as together, you took steps to bring back Joplin, and your efforts are abundantly evident today.      Make no mistake, Joplin is not quite there yet, and neither is America, but there is no turning back from what , together we have learned. We can't move forward by moving backward. We can't resurrect a community or a nation by sitting idly by, and waiting for market forces to correct the situation as some have advocated.  Recovery, as you understand here in Joplin,  Missouri , recovery.... happens when you boldly face your challenges, and move determinedly forward, not cower and retreat. You don't get out of a hole until you stop digging. And you don't get out of a hole   by retreating to the policies that put you in the hole to begin with. You folks in Joplin understand that.     We need to harness the spirit of Joplin to refit America, and with your help, and with your can do spirit and never never quit mentality as our model, we will do just that!      So, thank you Joplin, you have shown us the way! As Joplin rises from the ashes of a natural calamity, so too will America rise from the ashes of a self induced and man made calamity which has shaken the very foundations of our free enterprise system.  As you graduate today, and walk out of these high school halls with confidence and optimism, you will find an America that needs your strength, your hope, and your vision for a better tomorrow.  Let's move forward Joplin. And let's move forward America!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Marriage or Smarriage?

Marriage or Smarriage?     Words matter. And,  in the debate over marriage equality, words really, really matter.  I grew up Catholic. So, I am used to hearing the  phrase, "In the eyes of the church....".        And truthfully, in the eyes of the church, same sex couples will never be sanctioned let alone sanctified. Marriage is a sacrament, in the eyes of the Church, and that's ok! Some couples I know were first married by a Justice of the Peace, and later re-married “in the eyes of the church” by a clergyman.  So there are really two kinds of marriage already..religious marriage, and civil marriage.  We can have both, and they are not mutually exclusive.  Religious marriage  carries with it a civil status recognized by the state which alters the rights of the individuals who partake in it.  Civil marriage does not confer any sacramental benefits or status on the participants in the eyes of the church. But, while one may be a blessing, the other is not a curse.  Maybe it is all in how we describe it.       Are words the problem? Because if the problem lies simply in the words we use to describe it.... maybe we just need to give it a different name.      How about “Marriage”  (Heterosexual marriage) and “Smarriage “( same sex marriage) .  I use that example, tongue in cheek,  in discussing the issue with my college aged students.  If it is all about what we call it..why not just call it something different?  Same sex couples who are “smarried” could call their spouses “smusbands” or “swives”... If that is all we are arguing about, maybe that would solve the problem.         You don't have to celebrate someone else's marital status.  You don’t have to throw confetti, or go to the reception.  You need only respect it,  just as you would respect the rights all other citizens have under law.  Gay people are not seeking sacramental solace, or  religious approbation.  They are simply seeking tolerance, respect for their rights, and respect for how they choose to conduct their civil relationships.  Nothing more..nothing less.  This is not an assault on traditional marriage, and anyone who characterizes it as that is truly either misinformed or attempting to mislead.         It would be foolish to argue that someone supporting the sport of Soccer is advocating an end to the game of Football. The fight is over civil marriage, not religious marriage. You can't legislate a change in religious ideology. That would be wrong. Mandating contraceptive coverage by religious employers whose ideology rejects it is wrong.The critics of the Obama administration who said that regulation went too far were right.  As a result, Obama’s administration retreated, and reached a compromise.  So too is compromise possible on the issue of Marriage equality.  But unlike ardent ideologues, we must be wiling to compromise.      Religiosity simply has no place in the legislative world, and legislative mandates have no place in the world of religion. You have the right in this country to be religiously intolerant. You do not have the right to be civilly intolerant of rights which are guaranteed all Americans by the United States Constitution. It's as simple as that!                We just need to realize and respect the fact that in the eyes of the law, same sex couples should be treated no differently than interracial couples currently are when it comes to being accorded basic constitutional rights. ( Interracial couples were banned from marrying before 1967 - In Loving v. Virginia,  the USSC changed that) Current laws banning same sex marriage will no doubt eventually meet the same fate as laws banning interracial marriage.  It is an issue on which many Americans, like the President, are “evolving”.  History is not on the side of reversing the current sociological trend.  The more people get to know the human side of the issue, the less intolerant they become.  Former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s view on the subject is but a  example.  Because he has been affected personally, he sees it differently.  So will many more Americans as time progresses.      And, as for the President’s recent statement about the right of same sex individuals to marry...What did Obama really say? He said he supports equal rights. What's wrong with that?  When is the last time a President of the United States was criticized for advocating equality....  other than Barack Obama?  Come to think of it... the answer would be Abraham Lincoln...and we all know how that turned out.      Here’s hoping for a less drastic resolution of this current controversy.  If using different words will do is at least worth a try. -- 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

We're not in Kansas anymore!

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

    Kansas , it would appear, is becoming the poster child for "electile dysfunction" when it comes to redrawing political district boundaries. It's not, as one might first suspect,  a good old fashioned donnybrook between  Democrats and  Republicans.  It is a fight to the death between the Regular Republicans and the Destructionist Republicans.  It’s GOP vs. GDP (Grand Old Party versus Grand Destructionist Party).

    What has brought about a  state of political impasse is a fight between two kinds of Republicans . It is the right versus the far right. The tension is between the traditional  conservative 'Just say no" (politely) Republicans, and the "Just say hell no" and tear down the building while we're at it "Destructionist" wing of the Republican party.  I say” Destructionist” because, among other goals, they want to repeal the Kansas Personal Income tax, and create a new system which they tout as fairer, but which will result in more money flowing to the top one percent.  They also want to radically re-alter Kansas’ Social safety net.  To do so, they must remove the more recalcitrant of their Republican brethren, who are more main stream than destructionist. .  Woe unto those Republicans who stand for fairness and just distribution of the tax burden amongst the citizenry.  So , war it is!

    There is another way of looking at it.  The Kansas re-districting brouhaha is, at minimum,  a testament to the need for real reform in the way re-districting is accomplished every ten years. Many states have moved away from political gerrymandering to independent re-districting panels which perform the task the way it should be performed, without regard to preserving the hegemony of the incumbent. As long as the politicians are in charge of the decennial re-districting process, it will continue to be a game of who can best rig the system to their own advantage. It is akin to a syndicate of crime bosses dividing up their territories. When the political Cosa Nostra is in command of the process, the result is a continuing grip on the configuration of governmental districts that gives an edge to incumbency, and tips the scales heavily against change.  If allowed to persist, as it has in many states, it results ultimately in the stratification of our legislative districts which reduces competitiveness, and delivers but an illusion of democracy, not the real thing.

   In theory, we as a people have the ability to change the entire House of Representatives every two years, as all 435 seats are up for election.  The problem is that only about 100 of the 435 districts are actually competitive. Three fourths of them have been rigged...drawn so as to protect the incumbents on both sides of the aisle.

    In 335 Congressional Districts, if there is no change by way of defeat of incumbents in primary elections, there is no meaningful election. The system has been designed to avoid what the Founding Fathers viewed as the biennial opportunity of the electorate to weigh in on the state of the country. The illusion of an election is all that is left.

    Hopefully, the continued failure of Kansas' Legislature to achieve a consensus will open the door for the courts to do what the politicians failed to do...draw the lines fairly, freely, and in a way that makes sense geographically, demographically, and democratically.  Just as the excesses of the Pendergast machine in 1940 brought about the Missouri Court Plan in our neighbor state to the east (which selects Appellate judges on the basis of merit, not politics), so too can the impasse in the Kansas Legislature on re-districting lead to a reform of the way Kansas draws its political boundaries in the future. 
     The embarrassment that is the current Kansas State Legislature could give way to real reform if we seize the moment to bring about the change that is obviously greatly needed. As the old saying goes,  “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste!” . If only Kansans were allowed the rights of Initiative and referendum, we could say let the petitioning for a  new way to re-district Kansas begin!   Would that it were so.  Just imagine if we could move from Destructivist Republicanism, to Constructive change.  A better, brighter,  political future for all, could be  just over the Kansas Rainbow.  Clearly, with the way the Legislature is currently being configured, we are just not in Kansas anymore. The winds we really need are tornadoes of change in our governmental structure. How about it Toto?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Obama's   " Love Child "

Obamacare is the love child of a forced marriage of ideas produced by a partisanly divided and dysfunctional Congress that no one really wants to completely defend.
It came about as a result of a strained union of Democratic principles with Republican ideology, and the end result is something that few will fully embrace. Even the godfather of this health care concept, Mitt Romney, has run away from his own prodigy. No wonder Obama is hard pressed, or at least politically reticent, to defend his "signature achievement."
It's the kind of law nobody  really wants to put a signature on. Now that it is being seriously challenged before the Supreme Court, the President seems to have gone into a full-blown defense mode. It may be too late to save it, but it is still not too late to defend it, and the principles for which it stands.
There may be no public option, but there is a public mandate to buy private insurance. That originally Republican idea seems to be what is now bothering the law's detractors the most. It would appear that they were for it before they were against it. There are some good things in it, too.
For instance, there will be a lot fewer freeloaders in the system. College kids get to stay on their parents insurance longer, which is good if they don't have a decent job. And the prohibition about excluding people with pre-existing conditions is universally applauded.
The problem with the defense of the act is, as the sometimes speechless and stuttering Solicitor General Donald Verrilli demonstrated, it is hard to defend. It is hard to explain, and it is hard to fully embrace what is essentially a bastard-like concept.
In agreeing to hear this case, the Supreme Court has created its own conundrum It is lamentable that its constitutionally challenged core is being reviewed by a conservative court that is contemptuous of compromise, and didactic in its view of the central issues of the day. The court is as divided and politicized as the country. At a time when we desperately need the sage guidance of a strong and independent judicial umpire, we are left with a bunch of biased referees whose calls are constantly being colored by their own political predilections. They all seem to have become "Scaliafied".
By most legal accounts, its constitutional roots in the Commerce Clause are firmly planted, unless you are a doubting Thomas like Clarence and the company he keeps.
The current court has exercised little, if any, judicial restraint when it comes to deciding hot button issues. To wit: Bush vs. Gore, and Citizens United, where the court deliberately weighed in on matters that hindsight may have dictated they weigh out on.
The result has been a Supreme Court that has lost its judicial lustre, and try as he may to button up the more boisterous comments of his brethren, Chief Justice John Roberts can't force the judicial genie back into its bottle. The curtain has been drawn back, and the veil of impartiality has been ripped asunder, and the justices have been disrobed by their own dogmatic doggerel.
As former Justice John Paul Stevens opined in his Bush vs. Gore dissent, "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of the presidential election (of 2000), the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in this court, as the impartial guardian of the rule of law."
It would be an understatement to say that the court's ruling will be of great interest and of national import. Whether it chooses to avoid exercising the ultimate veto of a partially flawed but much needed reform to our health care system also will speak to this country's hopes for a future of governance by law — and not just by politicians, who happen to wear black robes.
The whole country is waiting and watching.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Etch-A-Sketch Candidate

There is something to be said about the vicissitudes of Presidential campaigns.  Even though the current one has seen obscene gobs of money spewed forth by Super Pacs to merely denigrate the opposing side, it has proved helpful in getting to the heart of the matter by showing us the true character of the current would be Republican nominees.  After umpteen debates and dozens of “misquoted, misstatements”, a pattern is clearly visible.  The American people are able to see through the smoke screens conjured up by the political consultants, and view the candidates for who they really are. It is not a pretty picture.
     Mitt Romney, a/k/a the “etch- a- sketch” flip flopper , has been done in for the general election by his own General, top campaign aide  Eric Fehrnstrom,  who compared the primary positions Romney has had to take to the positions he will need to pivot to in the general election to an “etch a sketch” process. He said “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again!” The result? The red bordered metallic erasable tablet manufacturer's stock shot up 200%, while Romney's stock as a credible candidate plummeted.  Mitt Romney has taken flip flopping and etch- a -sketchery to new heights!
     His Republican primary opponent Rick Santorum, whose own views on such issues as abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are etched instead in stone tablets handed down to him on some remote Pennsylvania mountain,  has now said that he would even prefer a continuation of the Obama Presidency to having the “Etch-a- Sketch Presidency” of Mitt Romney. 
     Wow! Did he really say that? Has it come to this? If the Romney train is finally leaving the station on the tracks of inevitably, who will be at the campaign's final destination to greet him when and if it arrives?  If not  Santorum, will it be just Jeb Bush?
     Perhaps the only crowd to greet him will  be the enthusiastic stock holders of the Etch- a- Sketch company.  There are pitifully few others to cheer him on,  excepting the most avid Obama haters. These are the folks who would conceivably back Lucifer himself, were he to chastise, cajole and challenge Obama in a red meat sort of way.  But wait, their candidate would be the cheerful Mr. Newt Gingrich.., and his train seems to have left the tracks somewhere west of Georgia.  So even they might not show up at the end of the tracks.
      Suffice it to say that Washington’s Union Station will be mostly empty  on the day Romney arrives as the eventual Republican nominee. Why?  Because he has continually traded principle for political pivoting,  consistency for chicanery and bald faced about facery for the truth. No amount of Super Pac money will ever be able to hide the two , three, or four faces of Romney that the campaign has allowed us to see.  He huffed and he puffed and he blew his own house down.  There is no putting this Humpty Dumpty back together again. The jig is up.
    In fact, maybe we should just  move up the date of the Presidential campaign to September,  and get the agony over with.  Why spend umpteen millions more on negative ads between now and November, when the choice will be clear by the end of August.  Maybe September would be a good time to put aside the partisan divide, and start to rebuild our national consensus.  Of course, that can’t happen, but at least we know that by the time the November election does come, we can choose to spring forward, not fall back.  It will seem good to have it all over, and have a real chance to begin to put the country back together, again.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Silence is deafening!


The silence is deafening. The silence of the Republican Presidential candidates in the face of Rush Limbaugh's latest misanthropic diatribe about contraception and a Georgetown female law student's testimony before Congress . Rush Limbaugh labeled her a "slut' for wanting free contraceptive coverage. According to Limbaugh, " if she wants to get paid for having sex she is a prostitute", and she should videotape and share her sexcapades so Rush and his cigar chomping confreres could at least watch.

What? Did he actually say that on a nationally syndicated radio show that is on the public airwaves? That is pretty creepy, not to mention, over the top. The last time this kind of thing happened it was " Imus in the Morrning" who became a casualty of his own loose lips which sunk his broadcasting ship. Talking about "Nappy hoes" with kinky hair was considered beyond the pale, and Don Imus had to go. So does Rush.

There was a time when it was unthinkable that a radio personality could engage in such vituperative doggerel and get away with it. Pre 1987, back in the "Happy Days" of 1947-1987 when the FCC's Fairness Doctrine existed, such conduct would have been unthinkable. With all the retro like rhetoric coming from the Republican Presidential candidates about family values and the good old days, nary a one has advocated a return to the Fairness Doctrine. That was the national policy which required broadcast stations to balance their political commentary by offering responsible spokesmen for opposite points of view to be given airways access to counter and/or balance comments that could be viewed as one sided. That policy is no more. It was done in by Ronald Regan and his political minions , and it ushered in the likes of Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh's and Michael Savage and Keith Olberman. Some say the quality of our political dialogue went to hell in a hand basket with the repeal of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine. It has given license to political debate which is not fact centered or civil, but comes down to a "Your mother wears combat boots" approach.

It was the Danish political philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who said. "If you label me, then you can dismiss me". If you're not a "ditto head" or a "Great American", it is Limbaugh or Hannity who controls the kill switch on the microphone, not some dispassionate moderator. Daytime talk radio has become a cesspool of political invective, political labeling, and political demagoguery of unparalleled proportion. If ever there were an argument to be made about restoring civility in our political dialogue, and a return to the Doctrine which required fairness and balance on the public airwaves, this is it.

I am a firm believer in Free Speech and the First Amendment rights of all citizens, but as the courts have long held, there can and should be time manner and place restrictions in the exercise of that freedom. You can't yell fire in a crowded theatre, and your ought not be able to defame other citizens caustically and with impunity on the public airwaves. Such
drivel may be suitable for Internet podcasts, but not for the public airwaves.

When I was a young man, I was a disc jockey on a local radio station. One day I had to fill in as moderator of a local talk show called " Open Mike". I will never forget the owner of the station, Cliff Harris, coming into the control room flailing his arms at me and mouthing for me to " go to a commercial" while I was on air. I did, and he laid me out in lavender for giving my opinion on a subject to a caller. The hot controversy at the time was whether the city should adopt a dog leash law, and I had my opinions on the subject. So did the caller with whom I was disagreeing on the air. He said " you are the moderator...moderator.. Do you understand me? Your opinion does not matter, it is the public opinion that does!" I will never forget the fire in his eyes and his tone of voice in correcting my errant ways. Too bad Cliff Harris isn't still around to do the same thing to Rush Limbaugh today! He certainly deserves a comeuppance for his over the top remarks. Can you step up to the plate and call out the bully 'Messrs. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul? Who will be the first to say to him as Joseph Welch did to Senator Joe Mc Carthy , " Enough! At long last, have you no decency , sir?" We are all waiting and watching.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A milestone or a millstone birthday?

On Turning 65.....some reflections.

It has been along time coming, but I am now officially a Medicare recipient. That happens on the first day of the month when you turn 65.
I actually attained that milestone yesterday. It has been quite a ride so far, and I'm.struggling to remain in the saddle, even if the ride is getting a little bumpier.
Along the way, I have been extremely fortunate, and extremelyunfortunate as well. There have been good times and bad, and lots of in between.
I have survived cancer (melanoma). I had an emergency appendectomy at 63, and I am still going strong, able to not only sit up and take nourishment, but healthy enough to walk fast, if not run, still dance ( a little slower)., exercise, travel, read, write, smile at life, sip a little wine, and laugh loudly at the ridiculousness of much of it.
I have also been unfortunate. I lost my wife, my best friend and love of my life in her early fifties. That leaves a huge hole in your heart that you can never really close . You just cover it, and try to move on. But it's always there. We were fortunate to have had four wonderful daughters who continue her quest and embody her spirit. For that. I am most grateful.
Balancing between happiness and heartache is always a challenge. But the most important thing I have learned along the way , as my late wife used to say, is to " Keep a happy heart". I think that is the key...maintaining a sense of the ridiculous, and trying to see the humor in the human predicament.
I find myself waxing on about the past, and eagerly sharing the stories of my life ( of which there are many).
I am grateful that ( for the most part) I can remember them, and for having a new group of recruits each semester to share them with. That's one of the great things about teaching...your kids have already heard all your stories, but your new students have not! I love teaching as a retirement avocation. Let's face it... I love to entertain, enlighten, and even intrigue, and I love an audience.
That's what keeps me vital, and hopefully undull.
I particularly like to muse about the
Life's lessons I have learned, and to share the little aphorisms that I have
absorbed along the way. My favorite one is "Hope springs eternal! ...( in the human breast).
My second favorite is "Be sure you're right, and then go ahead" ... Davy Crockett. ( My Davy Crocket pocket knife is a little rusty, but still one of my most prized possessions. )
And... My third favorite is "Don't sweat the small stuff!". Worrying only produces more woe, so embrace the philosophy of "Que sera, sera..". What will be , will be!
Thank you Fess Parker and thank you Doris Day! You have greatly.molded my life. But as much as I love to look backward, to the Howdy Doody and leave it to Beaver the Happy Days of early rock 'n roll, to the hippy happy sixties, the squirrely 70's , the productive 80's , the responsible 90's... I really enjoyed the reflective
00's, and am eagerly sailing through the 2010's., I love to look forward as well. Each new day is a blessing.
Time may no longer be on my side., but as the old Ann Murray song goes... "Time...don't run out on me!"
I want to keep my
plane flying, even as life's runways grow shorter. I always did like takeoffs better than landings.
The wheatfields of Kansas are starting to green up. The Hills of the Finger Lakes are covered in snowy white. The hair on my head is finally getting a little bit white, and the celebration of all things green is almost in sight. It's been a great, a happy, and a powerful journey so far, and I am enriched by all those whose paths I have crossed, and who have crossed my path along the way. I am especially grateful for those who have walked along that path with me, and sometimes guided me back when I got detoured. Thank you all so much for being part of my life. I am many times blessed!
And lastly, If life is like a big ice skating pond, and you never know when the ice is going to give way underneath you, the only thing to do is "Keep on skatin' " !

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our unpersuadeable relatives

How to argue politics with your redneck relatives...or not.

My brother in law is an avid Obama hater. I made the mistake of engaging him in a policy debate over tax reform. After several volleys, and me continually confronting him with the facts, he finally said, "I don't care about the facts! Obama is just wrong! Ok?

Don't confuse me with the facts... you're spoiling my theory! Well if you don't care about the facts, why am I bothering to debate with you in the first place when your final line of attack will be not fact based or rooted in reality. It will be along the lines of "your mother wears combat boots!" It will be personal and ad hominem argumentation, because the facts do not support your position.

There is an old law school adage. .."When the facts are on your side. pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law, When nothing is on your side, pound the table. " That's what Nikita Kruschev did at the UN. He literally took his shoe off and pounded the table with it! Well, look what happened to the USSR along the way. It wound up in the dust bin of history. Table pounding only gets you so far. We will bury you? Yeah right!

So, lesson learned. When you want to argue with your redneck friends and relatives, first, ask them to just ignore those "nattering nabobs of negativity" on daytime talk radio. Ask them to at least listen to the President for once. Listen to him. Just listen.

He makes sense, that President Obama. He does not make sense, that Mitt Romney. He can't even get his jargon right..."Severely conservative?"
What does that say about how , in his heart of hearts, he actually views Conservatism!

Let the Bush tax cuts expire? "That's not class warfare. That's just common sense"...Obama.
He has the ability and the willingness to tweak and fix things... Not just take a dogmatic approach. That's the essence of leadership. He's finally got a grip.

For example...the way he's beginning to define the debate. Take the issue of tax fairness. He is no longer willing to cede the stage to their agenda. and the Republicans have been reduced to name calling. The worst President ever, etc. ...the job killer...etc.

In the final analysis, the genius of our democracy has been the ability of the American public to see through the smokescreen, and to make sense of it all. The American electorate is the ultimate jury, and while they are occasionally swayed by the passion of the moment, it is a dispassionate analysis of the facts, and the search for truth, justice, and the American way which is their ultimate measuring stick . It is just that, at times, the smoke screen becomes so thick, it can cloud their reasoning, but when, and if the thick smoke settles, the American people will see through the fog of pure politics, and will do the right thing. Trust the voters. When all seems lost in a cacophony of the voters to figure it out, and they will.

So , to the 1/3 of the electorate who are not persuaded by the facts , I say, God bless you! I choose not to argue with you. It matters not because your mind is made up, and you are unpersuadable.There is another old adage. "never get in a wrestling match with a pig. The pig will squeal, slip away, and enjoy it, and you"ll just wind up with mud all over you".
I am not going to waste my time.

To the one third who agree with me, I say thanks. Hang in there.

To that middle one third, who will listen to reason, who are fair minded, and just want to do the right thing...hear my plea!

It is that portion of the electorate to whom the President must speak His mantra must be "Let me persuade you with the facts. Let me appeal to your passion for common sense solutions to our problems. Let me engage and enlighten you" . If he does, and if he speaks in a direct, clear, and common sense way...if he truly channels Harry Truman , not Adlai Stevenson, in the final analysis,, all will be well.

Keep your language simple, clear, concise, and direct, Mr. President. Keep saying things like " If everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody plays by the same rules, then everybody will get their fair share. " That is the American way.

Thank you, Mr. President . Keep talking truth to the American people. The curmudgeons will think it's hell. But we, the people, will know the difference. And our unpersuadable relatives? Oh well, we’ll love them anyway!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Of Demons and Dragons

As the old saying goes, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Assuming that to be true, , the question then becomes, what does mega money do to politics?, i.e. mega money in the form of undisclosed million dollar donations to SuperPacs, which are supposedly independent of political candidates. Will such an infusion of cash to mega money pacs sour that mother’s milk, and sound the death knell for our American political system as we know it?

The challenge we face involves the kind of money which is rooted in a form of Sorcery, trying to cast magical spells over an unsuspecting electorate. Under the Super pac system, we never really know who is churning and turning the wheels behind the powerful veneer of that great and glorious wizard of mass media, advertising. For all we know, “Citizens for a brighter tomorrow” could be funded by the American Association of Witches, Wizards and Warlocks. Their true identity is inscrutable. They poison the process, and diminish voter participation,. They succeed in denigrating an opponent to such an extent that survival is almost impossible after being “carpet bombed” by their Super Pac ad blitzkreig. Negative campaign ads work. Sadly, but inevitably, this will lead us to government not of , by, and for the people, but government of , by, and for the Oligarchs.

Oligarchy. I know. It sounds a bit queer. Like a mythical word from a bygone era...Oligarchy...a governmental system run by a small group of very rich men who manipulate the electoral process to their own ends, and whose agenda , not the agenda of the American electorate, predominates. We are clearly on the road to Oligarchy, if we aren’t there already.

It is as if we have been taken over by a group of powerful dragons whose mystical monied manipulation of the common folk is undertaken by the fire breathing force of mammon which has become their archer. If a small group of billionaires can buy our elections, our democracy is at an end. We will be left with the illusion of a democratic system which is in fact controlled by the masters of the SuperPac world, whose hegemony will be unbridled, and whose dominance of the political system will be complete.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the USSC has paved the way for this tragic scenario with it's rulings in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, which hold , inter alia, that money is equivalent to free speech and that corporations are people whose political voice cannot be shackled by restraint on the gross expenditure of money to further whatever corporate goals they champion.

It is a sinister and unparalleled perversion of our political system, and it cannot go unchallenged. The highest court in this country is directly responsible for this travesty, and only that court can save us from the fate which they have consigned us to. A constitutional amendment might be the long term solution, but we can't wait that long to face the demons that this decision has unleashed. Immediate action , and intervention by the courts is necessary to stop this dragon like behemoth before it fissures and cracks the very foundation of the Commonweal.

It is pure folly to think that these Super Pacs are independent of the Presidential campaigns. It is clear that their actions are highly connected and any Prosecutor worth half a grain of salt could get to the bottom of this charade with a few subpoenas and a Grand Jury empanelment. Why wait until after the election? Why not act now,? What magic can we summon to slay these demons before their dastardly deeds are done, and we are subservient to their every whim?

How can we unmask them for what they are, and seek to enjoin their expenditures as violative of not only the spirit and intent of the law, but it's actual prohibitions as well? The courts are the answer. If we have to get an expedited hearing before the Supreme Court on the legality of such Mega Money Super Pacs as constituted, prior to the election, so be it. Our system has moved quickly before to decide momentous issues in a matter of weeks , instead of months and years. In support of that argument, I need only cite one case.... Bush v Gore 2000 !

An expedited investigation is not only justified, but duly warranted by the dire straits our democratic system finds itself in. Who will step up to the plate, to save the Republic? Will you answer the call AG Eric Holder, or leave it to one of the state AG's like Bo Biden or Eric Schneiderman? Someone needs to slay this dragon soon before the Oligarchic trolls hold sway and have it entirely their way. It’s just that simple.

What say you Attorneys General? There is precious little time to waste.