Saturday, April 09, 2016

Trump v. Cruz.... Not so Fast!

Cruz bears a remarkable resemblance to the last great demagogue in American politics, including a disdain for truth, facts, and the United States Constitution (that's "Tail Gunner" Joe McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, who, after terrorizing innocent Americans, in and out of government, was eventually taken down in 1954 by a CBS expose by Edward R. Murrow in his "See it Now" program, featured in the 2005 George Clooney movie, "Good Night and Good Luck.")

For those who are looking for a "savior" to stop Donald Trump's quest for the Republican nomination and the presidency, think twice before hitching your wagon to Ted Cruz. The differences between them are night and day- and not to the benefit of Cruz. Trump is bombastic, narcissistic, thoughtless, a misogynist, rude, crude, and incurious. Trump just wants to be president because he likes the attention. He has no agenda and couldn't identify a single policy proposal he would enact if elected- other than a vague and impossible promise to build a large wall on our southern border and somehow make the people he wants to keep out pay for it. (Never mind that net immigration from Mexico is now below zero- more go back there than come here, and the vast majority of illegal immigrants within our borders entered the country legally, then overstayed their visas. A problem which no wall would solve, no matter how tall.)

Cruz, on the other hand is an excellent orator- although his dramatic pauses (a debate technique) get old pretty quickly, who has a specific agenda he would do everything in his power to enact if elected. He would do everything possible to degrade or destroy virtually every governmental program that helps the least of us- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food stamps. He would have a litmus test for federal judges that would allow only those with a disdain for the First Amendment's Establishment Clause (which protects minority religions from having Congress establish a national religion) to be seated on the bench. In effect, Cruz wants his version of Sharia law enacted- only instead of favoring Islam, it would cater to a fundamentalist Christian outlook on the world. He would derail any attempts to forestall the global climate and water crisis looming over America and the rest of the world. And in foreign policy, if he meant what he said about turning desert sand into glass- there is only one weapon in our arsenal that is capable of raising sand to that temperature, and it has been used only twice in our nation's history, both times in Japan in August of 1945.

In short, America, the Constitution, our civil liberties, and the rest of the world would have a far better chance of surviving a Trump presidency than a Cruz Administration.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

21st CENTURY "CONSERVATIVES" LIVE IN A FACT FREE WORLD

So I saw this on a person's Facebook timeline: "Obamacare has failed our nation. We, as Americans, deserve a new patient-centered and market-driven solution. It’s time for Americans to choose their healthcare. Join me if you agree."

And I have to ask: what is the problem with people's brains- their analytical ability- that they can come to a conclusion based on.... propaganda instead of facts? Is the Health Care Reform Act of 2009 the best possible method of providing coverage to Americans previously not covered by insurance? Of course not. A single payer plan, a public option, an expansion of Medicare (or Medicaid). Any would be preferable. However, has the HCA failed? Not by any statistical measure I've seen. For instance, every report I've seen has reported that there are an additional 10 or 20 million covered who didn't have health insurance before 2010. And Gallup reported the percentage of uninsured adults declined dramatically. "According to Gallup the uninsured rate was 11.9% for the 18 – 65 demographic in the 1st quarter of 2015, down from a high of 18% in 2013. By the second quarter of 2015 the uninsured rate fell to 11.4%" http://obamacarefacts.com/sign-ups/obamacare-enrollment-numbers/

But some people won't believe the facts that are right in front of them- either anecdotally from their friends, or statistically from the media-- other than Fox News, of course. Their "pundits," and top Republican officials in the House and Senate, and every Republican presidential candidate except John Kasich (a Republican governor compassionate and intelligent enough to accept the Federal funding from the HCA to expand Medicaid rolls in Ohio) have decried the HCA (which they call Obama Care) and claimed it is an awful failure; an abomination, as it were.

Here was a report from the land of fantasy that slammed Kasich for living in the land of reality: "Americans for Prosperity (AFP), one of the largest conservative activist groups in the United States, held their annual “Defending the American Dream Summit” in Columbus, Ohio, this week, but the state’s Republican Governor John Kasich was not invited.

Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare—a move that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled was optional and up to state discretion—is a sore subject for fiscal conservatives and led to him being, not just left out of an event held in his backyard, but attacked by several of the event’s speakers, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and AFP President Tim Phillips." http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/08/23/john-kasichs-obamacare-medicaid-expansion-slammed-at-ohio-afp-event/

But the real question, again, is why? Why do the so called "conservatives" (who don't want to conserve anything- not the land, not oil, not the oceans, not civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights- other than the 2nd Amendment) have to not only deny reality- but claim that in their world, it is the opposite of reality. From vaccinations, to flouridation (from the old John Birch society- the original climate deniers/science deniers), to global climate change, to the effects of tax cuts on the economy, to the effects of deficit spending on inflation (wrong every single time the last 36 years, since the era of Reagan), to the desirability of having a federal law that would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or putting life time caps on benefits that would leave sick children outside the tent of coverage for serious illnesses- why claim that these are all bad things, or the opposite of what is happening. What is wrong with the brains of these people, and why do otherwise intelligent people (I put Rush Limbaugh in that category, along with Paul Ryan) try to foist these falsehoods on the dullards and ignoramuses who make up their flock? I just don't get it. What's in it for them? How tough would it be for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to say: the HCA is working, but not well, and we can make it better (by adding a public option, for instance, instead of all of these separate market places- just let people purchase Medicare at cost, for gosh sakes)? If anyone has an answer, pass it along and enlighten me.


Here's another question: how is it that the media lets them get away with the fact free statements about how they need to "repeal and replace" the HCA? Will someone from the main stream media please ask the next Republican who mouths that absurdity: "Well, sir (or m'am), your political party controlled both the presidency and one or both houses of Congress from 1981 through 1993, and 2001 through 2009. Name one bill that was passed and put on a Republican president's desk that would have expanded the number of Americans covered by Health insurance?" And if the bloviator claims that the "Medical Savings Accounts" would have accomplished that, then ask: "how do people making less than $50,000 a year put enough money in a Medical Savings Account to cover their sick child who needs an operation and hospitalization that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars? Aren't MSA's only for the very rich to avoid taxes?"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Killing us softly.... no, loudly, with these guns....


Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said: you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

An example of an opinion is that having unrestricted access to guns is a good thing. A fact is that there are numerous countries- Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, and so forth, which have very strict gun control laws, yet have not seen increases in violent crime, and have a gun death rate one one thousandth- or lower, than ours. That's a fact- and nothing any 2nd amendment defender says can change it. It is possible to severely limit and restrict long guns, eliminate all hand guns for civilians (only law enforcement and military), yet not lose one iota of freedom or security.

Here are some statistics: in 2014, total deaths from firearms in Japan: 6. That is so statistically insignificant in a country of 127 million people, that the number per 100,000 is effectively zero. In Australia, a very freedom loving (and free wheeling) country of about 24 million, originally founded as a transport country (convicts and the detritus of England-- ) the total was 226 in 2012, the most recent year I could find in a quick internet search. That comes to less than 1 in 100,000.

The stats also break down by suicide, accident, and homicide, although not by stranger homicide versus domestic or "friends." I would wager that most homicides by firearm are not the kind that would involve self defense against a burglar or a carjacker. In Australia, the rate per 100,000 for homicide is .11, but suicides are 6 times higher at .62 per 100,000 (that's a decimal point- so we are still talking way less than one.

And the rate per 100,000 in the United States? More than 10 times higher- in a country of over 300 million, annual firearm deaths are over 33,000 (about 10.5 per 100,000).

The fact is that firearm deaths can easily be reduced by outlawing hand guns completely, and requiring that only adults without criminal histories and with a certificate of firearm safety course be permitted to own long guns. And we can register those. Will criminals still have guns? Yes, of course. But the truth is, the myth of the good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun is just that- a myth.

Why is it a myth? Because we are the most gun loving and owning country in the world, yet of the civilized countries, we far and away lead them in firearm related deaths- suicide, accident, and homicide combined.

And no amount of good guys with guns will ever reduce- not even by one death- the day to day tragedies of 2 and 3 and 4 year olds playing with guns and shooting someone else or themselves.

So if your opinion is that you like guns, or you like to hunt, or you think that unfettered individual gun ownership or unrestricted access to guns is positive or a good thing, no one can take that opinion away from you. But if your opinion is that the U.S. is safer from firearm deaths to innocents (suicides, children, victims of domestic violence, accidents) than we would be with strict gun control, then your "opinion" is factually mistaken, based on the factual experiences of civilized countries that have strict gun control.

We have mass shootings here almost weekly, and we wring our hands and do nothing. We should take heed of Australia, which reacted to their 1996 mass shooting tragedy by imposing strict gun control- and it was a conservative prime minister who led the way. Aren't we at least as capable as Australia-- or Japan, or the United Kingdom- in stopping gun deaths while retaining our freedom and our security? I would hope so.

Monday, September 07, 2015

My FaceBook letter to Georgia's Democratic Chair, Rebecca Dehart


The last President who was not ashamed to be a "liberal" Democrat


Miss. Dehart:

My inbox seems to be filling up with e-mails from you- but the problem I have is that the Democratic Party- in Georgia, and nationally- simply refuses to learn from mistakes. I ran for public office in 2004, and I did so on a specific platform of practical solutions to real problems: getting us out of Iraq, reforming the health care system-- the financing part-- in general and medical malpractice cases in particular, restoring civil rights, and so on. My observation, having campaigned around the State in 2004, was that the Democrats were afraid to say the word "liberal" and worse, were letting Republicans define them, and never vice versa. More often that not Democrats ran trying to be Republican lite (Jim Marshall and John Barrow ran campaigns that were right down the center of Republican platform principles). I was on debate platforms and forums with a number of candidates, both Republican and Democrat; I sat next to Johnny Isakson at one due to alphabetic seating- he ended up winning the race, which was highly predictable, because we fielded the worst possible candidate, and it was pretty hard to tell the Democratic candidate from the Republican in most races. So, my suggestion to you, and to the party: #1: don't be afraid of who you are and what you stand for. Michelle Nunn actually refused to run the word "Democrat" in her primary ads, and failed to show up for almost every primary debate, including one I moderated in Albany at ASU. #2 run competitive races in every Congressional district and every State house and senate race. Recruit and groom potential candidates for the next election. #3 pay attention to what you did when you lose and don't repeat mistakes. Have an institutional memory on what worked and what failed miserably. If we are going to lose, let's at least lose not being afraid of who we are and what we believe.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"LIBERAL" IS NOT A DIRTY WORD



Benjamin Franklin, not a Christian, answered a questioner about his religious beliefs thusly: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble."


In the wake of two Supreme Court decisions generally characterized as favoring the "left" or "progressives," one interpreting a statute (the 2010 Health Care Reform Act) and the other on gay marriage expanding the reach of the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is instructive to look back a bit at our nation's history to see where these decisions fall on the fault line of political ideology.

Since the founding of this country, the great events have almost always been forged by persons whom we in modern times would have no trouble distinguishing as "liberals." In 1776, it was "liberal" to espouse throwing off the yoke of monarchy in exchange for representative democratically elected government. The "conservatives" of the day were the Tories loyal to the British Crown, many of whom ended up emigrating to Canada when they lost the war.

And since then, throughout our nation's history, every major advance was because of an argument, a debate, a court case, won by "liberals," and every time, the self styled "conservatives" were on the wrong side of moral right and the wrong side of history, which inevitably traveled on the path of increased freedom and increased inclusion.

In 1787, the "liberals" forged a new Constitution for the infant republic. Many liberal ideas were included: a ban on "ex post facto" laws which had allowed governments to criminalize and punish past behavior, and a ban on "bills of attainder" which punished the descendants of criminals (both in Section 9 of Article I). And, most relevant to modern discourse, a ban on the establishment of religion (the First Amendment, in 1791) and on "religious tests" for holding public office. No government could require any candidate for public office to espouse any particular religion- or even a belief in a deity: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" is in Article VI of the Constitution. 228 years later, as we approach a presidential election, the vast majority of those self styled "conservatives" seeking the Republican nomination can't or won't admit that the Constitution bars their attempts to use the powers of the federal government to impose what they think is "God's will" or their Biblical interpretations of law on the American people.

By 1860, the liberal party in America was the then brand new (six years old) Republican Party, which wanted radical change, to wit: the eradication of slavery (or, more accurately, a beginning to its end by curtailing its expansion into the new Western territories destined to become States). The "conservatives" sided with the South, to preserve the "peculiar institution" which had existed for hundreds of years. The Democratic Party nominated a "conservative," Stephen Arnold Douglas, a supporter of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision in the United States Supreme Court which held that not only was Dred Scott not freed by moving to a free state, but went far beyond the issue before the Court to rule that no African slave or descendent of a slave could ever be a citizen of the United States. Douglas won the South but lost the election, thus igniting the Civil War. In 1860, shortly after the election, South Carolina, the first state to secede, put out a written statement of its reasons, led by the refusal of Northern States to enforce fugitive slave laws to return runaway slaves to their masters.

The 1865 argument in the Congress over the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to permanently abolish slavery was won by the "liberals," as the movie Lincoln, based on a portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, portrayed. The conservatives who opposed the 13th Amendment used many of the same arguments-- appeals to "States' rights"-- made in modern times to oppose the expansion of civil rights, including voting rights, the rights of women, and the rights of gay people.

In 1920 women came to the fore with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which banned discrimination in voting on account of sex. Thirty-four years later, in 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling outlawed racial discrimination in public schools and reversed the 1896 "separate but equal" doctrine of the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson. Ten years after Brown, in 1964 and 1965, the Republicans and Democrats had somewhat reverted to their 1860 roles, as Southern Democrats opposed Lyndon Johnson's historic Civil Rights legislation (ending discrimination in employment, accommodations, and voting) and many Republicans joined with the non-Southern Democrats to pass those momentous pieces of legislation.

In 1965 Ronald Reagan- Republican, father of the modern "conservative movement," and future California Governor and President- foretold the end of America as we knew it if Medicare was passed into law; he predicted we'd end up with a "socialist dictatorship" if the law passed, (it did and we didn't). The 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights laws driven through Congress by President Lyndon Johnson were opposed by bigots traveling under the fig leaf of the Constitution. The pernicious phrase "State's Rights" along with the concepts of "nullification" (that States could reject federal laws and portions of the Constitution with which they disagreed) and secession had come to life early in the history of our country, most notably by South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun circa 1830.

The phrase "State's rights" resonated with bigots in the 1960's and the Southern Senators, along with Republican allies such as Barry Goldwater, fought the landmark legislation. Fortunately for America, the "liberals" won those political and court battles, giving us legal bans on government and private discrimination on account of race, gender, religion, and national origin in voting, employment, accommodations, and housing by the end of the 1960's.

"States' rights" reared its ugly head again in 1980 with the kickoff of Ronald Reagan's campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the location of the infamous murders of three civil rights activists, Andrew Goodman, Michael Chaney and James Schwerner in 1964 by members of the KKK supported by the local Nashoba County law enforcement, including the Sheriff. At the Neshoba County Fair on August 3, 1980, Ronald Reagan's speech included the dog whistle phrase "I believe in states' rights" as part of the bedrock of his belief system. He won the Southern states, a continuation of their moving to the Republican column ever since Barry Goldwater, the 1964 losing nominee, opposed the 1964 Civil Rights legislation propounded by Democrat Lyndon Johnson. Reagan's election and his nomination of "conservative" federal judges and Supreme Court justices such as Antonin Scalia was intended to set back the civil rights advances of the 1960's. However, not all of Reagan's appointees toed his line, most notably Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, the latter of whom authored the June 26, 2015 landmark decision on gay marriage.


So why is it that for the past 35 years, since Reagan was elected president, that "liberal" is somehow a dirty word that most politicians- even many Democrats (who prefer "centrist" or "progressive" or "realist" or "pragmatic") flee at any cost?

Probably because propaganda works. In George Orwell's 1949 book Nineteen Eighty-four, the government propaganda machine could turn words into their opposites: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." All of these word reversals and the deliberate distortions of fact and rewriting of American history by Fox News, right wing radio, the Tea Party, and Republican media machines have created a significant minority of not just ignorant but misinformed viewers and listeners. Ignorance can be cured- especially if the ignorant realize they have a lack of knowledge or understanding of an issue and a sincere desire to become informed. But people who are rigid, right wing, and misinformed-- who have been told over and over that our founding fathers were Christians who created a "Christian nation," that global climate change is a hoax, that The Affordable Care Act is a job-destroying law that drives up costs of medical care and takes away the right to choose one's doctor, that gay marriage somehow threatens marriages of heterosexuals or infringes on the rights of bakers (!) and religious congregations, that President Obama is a Kenyan born Socialist who hates America, that he's a tyrant overriding the rule of law with executive orders, that he's a weak President unwilling to stand up to Iran and who pulled out of Iraq-- will cling to their beliefs, no matter how self contradictory or how little they are based in fact. Ironically, the powerful media types who purvey misinformation also regularly attack the "liberal, mainstream media," another fiction created by their bloviators in chief.

And it is the cowardice of those in the media and in politics who know better but who lack convictions or any semblance of pride or courage that allows it to continue. It's time for our top mainstream media and for our nation's leaders, from the President on down, to embrace a word that describes the core beliefs of a majority of those Americans who live in the real world: liberal.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Liberal" v. "Conservative"

"Jane, you ignorant slut!" (for all those who remember Saturday Night Live in the early days, or who saw this clip on their anniversary show).

Recently I discovered in my mailbox, ensconced inside my copy of "Liberal Opinion" Week newspaper/magazine, a copy of a similar publication called "Conservative Chronicle" which was supposed to have been separately mailed to a resident of a nearby county in Georgia. Somewhat curious, I read some of the articles from the old reliable conservative pundits (George Will, Thomas Sowell, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Phyllis Schlafly, Cal Thomas, and so forth). What I found was what might be expected: they shed more heat than light on the subjects. The value of the Liberal Opinion Week, in my mind, is that there aren't any knee jerk apologists on the so called left (what used to be the center) who will ignore or spin facts to fit their predisposed viewpoint or agenda. In other words: I can get valuable information and insight that might conflict with my current views on a subject and might change my mind. Conservative minds don't work that way: they want an echo chamber that will give them what they already perceive as reality, and won't rock their boats. In other words, we don't have two equal and opposite sides in the debates between self styled "conservatives" -- who, in my opinion, don't want to conserve anything except wealth in the hands that already have it- and so called "liberals," who are more attuned to reality and who can change their minds when the facts warrant it.

But that's just my opinion. Feel free to challenge it. With facts and examples.

Here's the letter I wrote when I sent Mr. XXXX his copies of the Conservative Chronicle:

Dear Mr. XXXX:

Enclosed are two copies of “Conservative Chronicle” which were inadvertently mailed to my address along with my copies of “Liberal Opinion.” I apologize for the delay in sending these to you, as I wanted to take the opportunity to read what the commentators who label themselves as “conservative” had to say on the same topics as the pundits who are published in the Liberal Opinion.

I have to admit that I was hoping for some perspective. What I found was that the Conservative Chronicle published stories which were neither fair nor balanced, but rather than providing information or insight they pandered to the predispositions of their readers.

For your edification I’m enclosing a copy of the Liberal Opinion which contained some of the commentators’ responses to the Rudy Guliani’s remarks that President Obama does not “love America” and “... wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” The commentators in the Liberal Opinion were more focused on what prompted the comments by Guliana (not what was in President Obama’s background, but what was Guliani’s problem that he felt impelled to make these comments that didn’t appear to be related to any recent conduct or act of the President, but were more designed to get him back into the spotlight). They also focused on the fact that there is a group of Americans who want to divide this country- what Sarah Palin was trying to do when she referred to in the 2008 campaign to “real America” versus the rest of us.

The divide may be racial, religious, and or ethnic (White, Anglo-Saxon heterosexual Protestants are obviously their preferred group), and their ability to stoke the fires of bigotry, fear, and hatred is what makes the political climate in this country so inhospitable to reasoned political discourse. The so called “conservative” commentators appeared to be focused on President Obama’s background- a subject that was thoroughly aired 7 years ago during the primaries and general election. Old news, in other words. I didn’t see any of them who appeared to realize that the whole idea of condemning a person who is critical of his country as being unpatriotic is itself unpatriotic- that the famous quote “my country, right or wrong,” was only part of the quote, as the entire quote puts it in proper context: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

I hope that you can gain some perspective from the commentators who have what I perceive as open minds, the ability to receive facts that conflict with their opinions without discarding, ignoring, or disbelieving them, and that this will enable you to be better informed as to current events and the politics surrounding them.

If you ever find yourself in Albany, feel free to call and I’ll be happy to treat you to lunch and to listen to your opinions on the matters of the day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

LOSING ELECTIONS

Pardon the Interruption has Role Play as a regular feature where Tony or Mike pretend to be someone else and answer questions as if they are that person- just as Democratic candidates do every election season, pretending to be just like their Republican opponents, only less so. Not a winning strategy so far. When will they learn?

Why are Democratic incumbents arrant cowards? They are like a professional football team that goes into a prevent defense immediately after the opening kickoff, afraid to dare anything at any time that might conceivably offend the hard core right wing voters who would never vote for them anyway. What would have been so hard about running on the undeniable advances of the Health Care Reform Act- ending the life time cap on insurance benefits, denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to stay on their parents' plans up to age 26? Why not just run as who you are? Liberal, progressive, forward thinking, logical- not crazy, hateful or greedy. Oh well, maybe in two or four or six or 20 more years they will get it. Meanwhile, the rest of us are stuck with the results of their refusal to run as themselves.