Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Decision in Ferguson

November 25, 2014

I am not surprised by the decision of  the grand jury in Ferguson not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. The possibility always existed that the grand jury would not find sufficient evidence that Officer Wilson had actually committed a crime and as more facts about this case emerged, I believed that it was less and less likely that Wilson would be indicted. Sadly, I am also not surprised that there is rioting in Ferguson as a result of this decision. I think the media has acted irresponsibly in this case, encouraging unrest and not reporting facts that tended to refute their initial narrative of an innocent young man gunned down in the street by a racist cop. Had they done their job properly, perhaps people in Ferguson, and elsewhere, would have better realized that an indictment was not very likely.

I do not know if the grand jury made the correct decision. Since I have not examined the sort of evidence and testimony they have, it would be presumptuous for me to second guess them. I think this holds true for nearly everyone who is commenting on this case. I think that many people who have commented on this case do not understand properly just what the grand jury has done. The purpose of a grand jury is to examine evidence and determine if criminal charges should be brought against an individual. In most cases, grand juries vote to bring criminal charges. Not delivering any indictments is fairly rare. This is because in most cases prosecutors do not bring a case before a grand jury unless they believe there is at least enough evidence to begin criminal proceedings. The fact that this grand jury declined to bring charges against Officer Wilson might indicate a very weak case indeed. There also seems to be a strange reluctance to bring charges against police officers, which might apply in this case. Whatever the reason, a trial, while satisfying the professional agitators, would have been a waste of time and money for everyone.

Now, since the purpose of a grand jury is to determine whether a crime has been committed, all this particular grand jury has decided is that there does not exist sufficient evidence that Officer Darren Wilson has committed a crime. It may well be that Officer Wilson acted inappropriately in shooting Michael Brown. The relations between the police and the community of Ferguson may be troubled. Race relations in America may not be what they should be. None of that was relevant to the proceedings of the grand jury. Their only concern was whether Officer Wilson had committed any crimes. They decided that he had not.

There seems to be an idea with some people that Officer Wilson should have been indicted because the police in Ferguson had behaved badly or African Americans have been oppressed in the past and in the present. The idea seems to be to offer up somebody, anybody as a scapegoat to atone for the sins of the community or perhaps for the great cause of Social Justice. This sentiment is not founded in the concept of justice under the rule of law. This is the mentality of the lynch mob. This is the sort of thinking we need to avoid.

As for the rioting, I wish the people involved would consider that they are not helping matters. They are working to destroy their community and blighting the lives of the majority of residents who would just as soon live in peace. The rioters are criminals taking advantage of a bad situation to better themselves. Something similar could be said for the parasites preparing to descend on the hapless community.

Game Over for the Planet

November 19, 2014

Here is another message I just received from Moveon.org.

Dear MoveOn member,

In just hours, the Senate will vote on whether to push forward the Keystone XL pipeline—a disastrous and dangerous proposal that would, in the words of leading climate scientists and environmentalists, be “game over for the planet.”1

Either the Senate will send President Obama a Keystone pipeline bill TODAY—and we will need him to promise to veto it; or the Democrats will defeat the measure by one vote, which means that in just seven weeks, a new Republican majority will send him the pipeline—and we’ll need him to veto it in January.

Either way, President Obama is our last line of defense. So we’re joining with allies to mobilize grassroots support demanding that the president commit to vetoing the pipeline bill—today or early next year.

Will you chip in $3 to help stop the Keystone XL pipeline—and to push Democrats and President Obama to be bold in the fights ahead?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

We’ve already begun fighting back. We’re helping organize rallies outside wavering senators’ offices. We’re mobilizing calls to senators. And we’re providing organizers on the ground with access to MoveOn tools and connections to MoveOn members.  

We’re mobilizing because this is a hugely important fight on its own—and it’ll set the stage for the next two years.

When the Republicans take control of the Senate in January, we can expect a rush of right-wing, anti-climate, anti-science bills: a rollback of President Obama’s efforts to regulate carbon, bills to undermine his climate change agreement with China, and bills that give rein to the extractive practices of frackers, Big Coal, and Big Oil.

Following the midterms, some Democrats are feeling nervous—and they are hearing from the usual chorus of consultants and pundits who advise them that the way to win is to be more like Republicans. This is the kind of horrible advice that lost many Democrats their election—yet conservative Democrats continue to listen! And they won’t stop unless they feel sustained, passionate pressure from their grassroots base—the folks who they need to inspire in order to win future elections.

Will you chip in $3 to help us make sure Democrats stop the Keystone XL pipeline, stop listening to big oil and bad consultants, and fight for progressive values?

Yes, I’ll chip in to help stop Keystone XL and fight for progressive values.

This fight isn’t just a preamble to other environmental attacks—it foreshadows the large range of issues that the right-wing Republican leadership intends to tackle. We’ll face similar assaults on health care, women’s rights, equality, decent wages, Social Security, and civil rights.

In fight after fight, Republicans will push forward a radical agenda and then attempt to pick off a few Democrats to give them the supermajority they need, as well as the veneer of “bipartisanship.”

The only way to preserve affordable health care, see humane reforms in our immigration policy, ensure women make their own decisions about their health, and fully invest in Social Security is to make sure Democrats stand strong. And when the Democrats in the Senate falter, it will come to President Obama to be bold in the use of his veto pen.

Following the midterms, many Democrats are nervous. It’s our job to make them realize that the path to a stronger America, and to future electoral victories, isn’t through caving in—it’s through standing up for our shared values.

Whatever happens in the Senate today, we know one thing for sure: We’re going to need to be stubborn, strong, and stiff-spined for the next two years.

Can you chip in $3 to help us defeat the Keystone pipeline—and prepare for the fights ahead?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

Thanks for all you do.

Anna, Jo, Brian, Corinne, and the rest of the team

Are they serious? According to the geologists, this planet has been in existence for 4.57 billion years. In that time it has survived collision with an object the size of Mars, creating the Moon many other asteroid strikes including the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, whatever caused the extinction of ninety-five percent of all life at the end of the Permian Era, ice ages, climate changes, and who knows what else; only to be finally destroyed by a single pipeline.

The trouble I have with the Greens, besides their bullying and obvious lust for power, is that they seem to have some idea that the Earth has existed in a delicate, stable equilibrium from the beginning and that now Man has arrived to upset the balance. I think they get their ideas about nature from Bambi. The truth is that the Earth has changed drastically over the eons, in terms of climate, atmospheric content and even geography. For instance, during the Mesozoic Era (the Age of Dinosaurs), the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have been as much as five times present levels, even without the nefarious activities of carbon polluters, causing a warmer Earth. Somehow life on the planet survived and even flourished. We have had ice ages over the last several millennia in which the glaciers extended not far north from where I am sitting, but the worst ice age, the glaciers extended almost to the equator. The only thing constant in the history of the Earth is that it is a dynamic, ever changing system. Even if everything the worst alarmists say about climate change were true, it would not mean the end for the planet. We might make ourselves very uncomfortable, perhaps even extinct, but the Earth will survive anything we could possibly do to it.

I should add that Canada is going to develop the tar sands regardless  of what we decide. If we don’t want the Keystone pipeline extended, they can just as easily sell the crude oil to China. I wonder which is a safer method of transporting oil, a pipeline or tankers. I should also add that if there is one thing needed to accomplish the goals Moveon.org says it wants, it would be a robust American economy powered by the recent surge in the energy industry. Rich countries with growing economies can afford to worry about decent wages and equal rights. Poorer countries mired in economic stagnation have to worry about surviving.

Obama Being Bold

November 18, 2014

I got an e-mail from Moveon.org praising Obama for going ahead with his progressive policies, even though the majority of the voters indicated that they do not like such policies. Remember, the voters did not give the Republicans a historic victory because they have developed a great love for Mitch McConnell or John Boehner. They hated what Obama and the Democrats have been doing. Anyway, here is the message.

Dear MoveOn member,

After the midterm election, many of us wondered: How would President Obama respond?

So far, we’ve been happily surprised. As The New York Times reports, “Mr. Obama has flexed his muscles on immigration, climate change and the Internet, demonstrating that he still aspires to enact sweeping policies that could help define his legacy.”1

These are welcome moves. It appears the President is setting his own course instead of listening to corporate lobbyists and consultants. As I told the Times, “The president has seen what happens when he doesn’t step forward and Democrats don’t inspire the public or their base—we win on the issues, but lose at the polls—so we can’t do worse. Let’s try being bold.2

Click here to sign a thank-you card to the president for his actions and rhetoric since the midterms—and urge him to keep being bold.

There have been other promising signs from national Democrats this past week. Most excitingly: Senator Elizabeth Warren gained a leadership position in the Senate Democratic Caucus. From championing student loan reform to reining in Wall Street, Warren is one of the most passionate and effective voices for the little guy (and gal). Having her in leadership is a huge deal.

But there’s no getting around it: The president will be the last line of defense in the next two years, as the Republican-controlled Senate and House muscle through bad bills on a range of fronts. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to make bad deals with obstructionists and extremists like Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz.

For the next two years, President Obama will have the power to deliver real change—if he has the confidence to follow through with executive actions on issues like immigration reform and climate change, and to stand up to the radical right.

So we need to show support when the president does the right thing—and then push hard to make sure he follows through.

Click here to add your name to the card we’ll send the president. The card reads:

Dear Mr. President,Thank you.

Since the midterm election, you’ve indicated that you’re willing to show real leadership on tackling climate change, protecting a free and open Internet, and reforming immigration—pushing for bold steps in areas where Congress has failed to act.

You’re not alone: Americans from all walks of life want and need you to follow through, and do even more. We need you to use the power of the presidency to make meaningful change on these and other critical issues—like expanding access to health care, pushing for a diplomatic solution to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, raising wages, and building an economy that works for all of us, to name a few.

We urge you to act boldly, and promise to stand with you when you fight for all of us in the months ahead. (And yes, we’ll let you know when we disagree, too!) 

We’ll send President Obama this card, with the names of all the MoveOn members who have signed it—and a personal comment if you want to add one—so he knows that when he stands up for progressive values, we’ve got his back.

Add your name to the card—thank President Obama, urge him to be bold, and be a part of the movement to propel our shared agenda.

The president is showing the grit that inspired us to elect him. We need to get his back when he stands strong—and keep the heat on through the fights ahead.

Thanks for all you do.

–Anna, Alejandro, Nick, Justin K., and the rest of the team

They want him to go full Bourbon and double down on the very policies that lost him control of Congress. If I were more cynical, I would sign that card and do everything I could to encourage President Obama to pursue unpopular policies sure to be a millstone around the necks of every Democrat in 2016, Maybe we can have another tsunami. But, I am not that cynical. The country would be far better off if President Obama worked within the confines of the constitution and tried to meet the opposition halfway than if he tried to rule by decree. Trying to shove unwanted policies down the throats of the voters,, breaking the system in the meantime will only make things difficult for all of us.

king-Obama-2

He might lose his head.

 

 

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

November 15, 2014

That was a book written by Al Franken back in 1996, obviously to show he possessed the maturity needed to become a US Senator. This title is the personal opinion of Frankin’s. There are many who might disagree with the opinion that Rush Limbaugh is an idiot, including Mr. Limbaugh but the question of whether Rush Limbaugh is or is not an idiot is not one that is readily decided by any observations and cannot really be determined to be objectively true or false. On the other hand, the statement that Rush Limbaugh is in favor of sexual assault or rape is a statement that can be determined to be true or false based on Rush Limbaugh’s own statements. This is not simply a personal opinion. If someone takes Rush’s words out of context to make the accusation that he believes that sexual assault is acceptable behavior, they are making a statement that is false and potentially damaging to Rush Limbaugh’s reputation. If someone makes the statement, knowing it to be false,with the intention to cause damage to Rush Limbaugh, that is defamation and Rush Limbaugh can take legal action against them.

This is not just a hypothetical case. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee really did make such statements in a campaign to have advertisers boycott Rush Limbaugh’s show and Rush Limbaugh is really considering legal action against them. Here is the story from the Daily Caller.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh has threatened to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for defamation, The Daily Caller has learned.

Limbaugh retained the services of lawyer Patty Glaser and demanded that the DCCC “preserve all records in anticipation of a lawsuit for defamation and interference” after the Democratic Party group led a campaign against Limbaugh based on out-of-context statements the host made about sexual assault. Limbaugh’s legal team delivered a letter to DCCC representatives Monday informing them of the legal threat. Limbaugh has also demanded a public retraction and apology.

The Limbaugh team is currently proceeding from the standpoint of litigating and has not yet made a decision as to whether the DCCC could make any concessions at this point to prevent the lawsuit.

The DCCC “has intentionally disseminated demonstrably false statements concerning Rush Limbaugh in a concerted effort to harm Mr. Limbaugh, and with reckless disregard for the resulting impact to small businesses across America that choose to advertise on his radio program” according to the GlaserWeil law firm’s letter to the DCCC, which was obtained by TheDC. “Mr. Limbaugh clearly, unambiguously, and emphatically condemned the notion that ‘no’ means ‘yes.’”

“Let’s be clear: Rush Limbaugh is advocating for the tolerance of rape” the DCCC stated in a September fundraising email after Limbaugh mocked Ohio State’s new mandatory sexual consent guidelines. (RELATED: Democrats Attack Rush Limbaugh On Way To November Loss)

Limbaugh’s team said that the DCCC’s campaign against Limbaugh provides grounds for a defamation case, based on legal precedent.

“The DCCC may believe it to be immune from liability by quoting words, taken out of context. This is untrue,” Glaser said. “There is significant on point precedent in the 9th Circuit for holding an organization responsible for falsifying meaning through selective quoting. In Price v. Stossel, the court held that, if a party accurately quotes ‘a statement actually made by a public figure, but presents the statement in a misleading context, thereby changing the viewer’s understanding of the speaker’s words,’ that constitutes defamation.”

I don’t much care for litigation of any sort, but I hope Rush Limbaugh goes ahead with this lawsuit. The progressives have shown over and over that telling the truth is simply not an action they value very highly. If slander is useful to gain power and destroy their opponents, they have no trouble with slander. Maybe legal action will teach them better.

The Election of 1828

November 10, 2014

The election of 1828 was a rematch between the two major candidates of 1824, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Jackson believed, with good reason, that he had been cheated out of the presidency in the last election and he was eager for revenge. For his part, Adams had not had a particularly successful presidency in part because of the irregularities of his election and the continuing hostility of Jackson’s supporters. Adams couldn’t imagine that a man like Jackson could possibly be competent to be president.

But you mustn’t think that this contest was nothing more than a personal quarrel between the two candidates. This election was nothing less than an epic struggle to determine who would rule the new republic, a small moneyed elite based in the East or the sovereign people, as least according to Jackson’s supporters. Adams’s people viewed it as a battled for control between rule the respectable stakeholders in the country and rule by an ignorant mob. The United States was becoming more democratic. In the election of 1828 only two states, Delaware and South Carolina still had their state legislatures choose their electors. Everywhere else, the Electors were chosen by popular vote.

The second party system was still developing and both candidates were theoretically of the same party. There were no caucuses this time. King Caucus was finished. The two candidates were nominated by state legislatures and special conventions. Vice President John C. Calhoun opted to run with Andrew Jackson so John Quincy Adams selected his Secretary of the Treasury, Richard Rush as his running mate.

As President, Adams had favored a more centralized government with protective tariffs to promote industry, a national bank, and federal support for internal improvements such as building roads and canals. Adams also believed that the federal government should promote education and science. In this, he was, perhaps, ahead of his time. Many of his countrymen did not see any use for such frivolities. Adams did come across as rather too intellectual for many Americans at the time, who valued the practical wisdom of a man like Jackson.

It was a little harder to determine what policies Jackson favored since he didn’t have much to say, at first. In general, he seemed to prefer a more decentralised Union with a smaller government closer to the people. Jackson tended to oppose using the federal government to sponsor internal improvements, believing this to be mostly a duty of the states, though he did agree to using surplus federal revenue to help the states fund such improvements. He believed the government should live within its means and not borrow. He passionately opposed the idea of a national bank.

If Jackson was a little vague on the policies he preferred, he was not at all uncertain about the means to win elections and obtain office. He understood that the key to success in politics was organization. Jackson did not share his opponent’s, and the founding fathers’, disdain for political parties. He believed that parties were essential to preserving democratic rule and liberty. Immediately after the election of 1824, Jackson and his supporters began to build up a party organization to oppose Adams in Congress and prepare the way for Jackson’s campaign in 1828. This party organization was first called simply the “Friends of Jackson”but before long they began referring to themselves as the Democratic Party. Thus was formed one of the two great parties that have dominated American politics.

This new Democratic party began promoting Jackson’s cause with partisan newspapers, parades, rallies and all the paraphernalia of what came to be American presidential campaigns. They referred to Jackson, the war hero, as Old Hickory and carried around hickory sticks. They made much of the corrupt bargain that had placed Adams in the White House against the will of the people.  Jackson was a man of the people against those East Coast Elites championed by Adams, another emerging theme in American politics. Jackson was not as educated as Adams, who knew his Greek and Latin, but he had the practical common sense of the common man. It might be fair to say that Jackson was the first truly American politician.

John Quincy Adams and his supporters tried to fight back. They overcame their dislike of parties and organized themselves into the “National Republicans“. They had their own newspapers, parades, rallies, etc, but somehow they couldn’t match the enthusiasm of Jackson’s supporters. They relentlessly attacked Jackson’s character and supposed wartime heroics. Six men who Jackson had had hanged for desertion were transformed into martyrs who had served their time and only wanted to go home. Jackson was said to have indulged in gambling, cock fighting, slave trading, drunkenness, theft, lying and even murder. Jackson’s mother was a prostitute brought over to America by British soldiers. Once again the  irregularities of Andrew Jackson’s marriage to his wife, Rachel, were brought up, and Anti-Jackson newspapers referred to them as a “convicted adulteress and her paramour husband”. Rachel Jackson died soon after the election and Andrew Jackson was convinced that these slurs had killed her. He never forgave his enemies for that.

The election was not a close one. Jackson received 642,553 popular votes (55.9%) and 178 electoral votes. Adams got 500,897 popular votes (43.7%) and 83 electoral votes. Jackson swept the nation except for New England, Maryland, Delaware,and New Jersey which went to Adams. New York’s Electors were split 20 to 16 in favor of Jackson.

The Election of 1828

The Election of 1828

 

Andrew Jackson got to be president, but there is no need to feel sorry for John Quincy Adams. He went on to have a distinguished career in the House of Representatives where, among other things, he fought the good fight against slavery.

Going Bourbon

November 7, 2014

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the exile of Napoleon in 1815, the victorious allies decided to restore the Bourbons to the throne of France. They didn’t last very long. Somehow, neither brother of the executed Louis XVI ever stopped to wonder why the French people had  begun the French Revolution. The restored monarchy was supposed to be a constitutional monarchy but the last two Bourbons insisted on ruling as absolute monarchs and enacted the same sorts of policies that had gotten them overthrown the first time. By 1830, the French had had enough. Charles X was obliged to abdicate and leave the country. Years later, in 1871, after the disaster of the Franco-Prussian War and the overthrow of Louis Napoleon III (the famous Napoleon’s nephew), the French were once again called to create a new government. There was some talk of restoring the Bourbons. They sent emissaries to Charles X’s grandson Henry who responded that he would be delighted to come back to France and be king, as long as they forgot all that silly talk about constitutions and the rights of man. The French had had their fill of autocratic kings and emperors and opted to create the Third Republic. Talleyrand said that the Bourbons had “learned nothing and forgotten nothing”. It didn’t occur to them that they ought to change with the times.

Mark Levin warned that President Obama might go “full Mussolini” after the election, but I think there might be a danger of his going full Bourbon, doubling down on the sort of policies that have caused such enormous losses for the Democrats in 2010 and 2014, especially if he follows the advice that Katrina vanden Heuvel gave in this article in The Nation.

If I were advising the White House right now, I would encourage President Obama to take advantage of the end of this year’s election cycle—the next fifty or so days—to immediately try to change the subject, in a big way.

The Obama administration should act right away to use its executive powers to take steps to deal with long-ignored issues that need to be dealt with for the good of the nation.

This cannot be done quietly. To change the media narrative, issues acted upon will have to be controversial enough to dominate the news. President Obama should embrace good progressive public policy while expecting—indeed, hoping for—a massive outcry from the wing-nut section of the GOP.

Controversy is not the enemy here. And issue clarity—or issue polarization—can be helpful, if the administration seizes the initiative and chooses public policy issues on which to fight.

The president should go big right now, undertaking a quick series of high-profile executive actions on issues that the Republican House has not acted upon, and will never pass. President Obama should be very visible, with photo ops and speeches and social media and grassroots backup and appearances on Between Two Ferns, moving hard and fast from one executive action to the next.

Here are a few suggestions. (And I’m sure people as smart as John Podesta and David Axelrod can think of a couple more.) Whatever is decided, act big—and act fast.

Why not draw the line in the sand this week?

She then gives a list of issues Obama should act upon, with  basically the same sort of policies that caused the catastrophic losses for the Democrats this week.

1. Start with serious immigration reform. Announce a serious executive action, to make up for the fact that Beltway Republicans will not act on this critical issue.

Go to the South Valley of Texas and/or the Arizona border, and make appearances with some of the little girls and boys who are trying to come to the United States to avoid their dangerous, hard-scrabble lives in Honduras and Guatemala.

Pick a fight with Rick Perry and/or Jan Brewer, if need be, and be glad that you’re in a high-profile fight with them. Let the right-wing come unglued—which they will!—and don’t back down when Steve King and Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin start calling for impeachment. Not only will the wing nuts threaten impeachment over perfectly legal executive actions, and their actions dominate the airwaves, it will turn off independents and moderates, and create a no-win situation that leaves most of the Republican presidential candidates twisting in the wind. (Remember: they can’t get sixty-seven pro-impeachment votes in the Senate, any more than they could when Bill Clinton was impeached—and the foolish, overwrought attacks on Clinton helped clarify to most Americans that the GOP was the big problem in DC.)

Americans hate the idea of amnesty for illegal immigrants. They hate politicians who try to grant amnesty for illegal immigrants. This is one issue that really, really hurt the Democrats this election cycle. Americans do not hate the idea of amnesty because we are a bunch of racists. We welcome legal immigrants. The trouble with amnesty is that most Americans do not believe that someone who cuts ahead in line should be rewarded for their behavior. It seems unfair to the people who filled out all the paperwork and waited patiently in line. If the Republicans decide to impeach Obama over this, it will not be a repeat of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Obama’s supporters will not be able to dismiss this as a matter of personal peccadilloes. This will be a president trying to push policies by executive order that the majority of the American people reject. I think that even a few Senate Democrats might go along with taking some action to stop Obama from granting amnesty through executive order, even if to save their party from another defeat.

2. For the next two years, do everything you can to create a climate legacy that will stand the test of time—a legacy that will look better and better as the decades go by, and the atmosphere heats up more and more.

Cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline before the right wing can draw a breath after your immigration actions. Then, Mr. President, elevate climate change as an issue, the way you took on healthcare reform (only without bothering to try to pass anything through John Boehner’s House).

Meet with China and India on climate issues, before the next round of global climate meetings. Set aside big chunks of public land and ocean, and hold photo ops in spectacular natural settings as you do so—very few executive acts are so popular with most of the public.

Host a national teach-in with real climate scientists, on C-Span, and use it to drive a nail in the coffin of the fake, corporate-funded, “climate denial” science.

Pull together a meeting of coastal mayors to talk about what “resilience” steps to take to prepare for the next Superstorm Sandy—this is not only necessary, it’s a good way to raise the issue of needed infrastructure spending.

Take the climate disruption issue head-on, and make it part of the Obama legacy. No previous leaders have met the challenge of global warming, a threat that affects both national and world security. President Obama could be the first to take it on. Future generations will thank him.

Global Warming/Climate Change is at the bottom of issues the American people are worried about right now. If President Obama follows this advice he will be easily caricatured as a President bent on destroying the US economy. I should add that China and India are not going to cooperate in destroying their own economies and condemn their people to perpetual poverty just so Obama can have a climate legacy.

4. Go up to the edge of normalizing relations with Cuba. Send Attorney General Eric Holder down to Havana to work out the details.

I understand that current law prevents a president from fully normalizing relations with Cuba, but there are a series of executive actions that a president could take that would weaken the embargo, increase American prestige in this hemisphere, and help stabilize working relationships with Cuba on a series of bilateral issues.

Even better, President Obama can take these executive actions just before the entire hemisphere meets at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in May, actions that will enhance his reputation—and America’s reputation—across Latin America.

What happened to 3? This isn’t really a bad idea and we should be prepared for a post-Castro Cuba. I don’t think there are many Americans concerned with Cuba right now.

5. Use changing national attitudes on marijuana to weaken the wasteful and ineffective war on drugs. Better yet, use presidential executive power to weaken our harsh and racist criminal injustice system.

Reclassify marijuana as a less-dangerous drug. Commute sentences of nonviolent pot prisoners (a disproportionate number of them young African-Americans!).

Appoint a blue-ribbon presidential commission on drug reform and criminal justice reform, with a mandate to report back quickly on issues from marijuana legalization to curbing police brutality to eliminating three-strikes-and-you’re-out policies to reforming harsh sentencing to ending the militarization and weaponization of local and state police departments to stop and frisk to racial profiling.

Again not an altogether bad idea, but this really should be a state and local affair. There is no reason the President couldn’t work with Congress on this issue, except, of course, that Obama doesn’t play well with others.

6. Nominate Tom Harkin to the Federal Reserve Board.

Why?

7. In the proud tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, issue a Good Jobs Executive Order that would reward companies that pay their workers a living wage, allow them a voice at the workplace without having to go on strike, adhere to federal workplace safety and fair labor standards and limit the pay of their chief executives to some reasonable ratio to that of their average workers.

The companies most likely to be rewarded would be those with connections in Washington. Just what we need, more crony capitalism.

8. Nominate a diverse set of progressives to fill every judicial vacancy at every level, and then make this a huge national throwdown fight when they are not approved. Given the poor public view of the runaway, activist, Citizens United–tainted Supreme Court, judges could become one of the big issues of the 2016 campaign.

I bet it would become a big issue, Obama stacking the courts with extreme progressive ideologues to fundamentally change the country even after his term ends. One of the reasons so many people are coming to dislike this president and progressives generally is their view that the constitution is more of a guideline than an actual set of rules for the government.

I think that it could rightly be said of Katrina vandel Heuvel that like the Bourbons, she has learned nothing and forgotten nothing about the experience of the recent election. Let’s hope that Obama, unlike the Bourbons can learn from experience.

Maybe we will.

Maybe we will.

 

 

The Great Tsunami of 2014

November 5, 2014

I expected the Republicans to make some gains yesterday, the opposing party usually does in midterm elections. In my more optimistic moments, I even considered the possibility that there would be a Republican wave. This didn’t seem too unlikely considering the unpopularity of President Obama at the moment. My optimism was tempered by the knowledge that the GOP has an uncanny knack for screwing up elections at the last moment. Still, a wave seemed possible. I never expected what actually happened, a complete rout of the Democrats. This was not just a wave but a tsunami.

Here are some numbers. The Republicans gained at least seven seats in the Senate gaining the majority. Previously, the Democrats held 55 seats to the Republican’s 45 but now the ratio is 52 Republicans and  45 Democrats. The race in Alaska has not been called yet and there will have to be a runoff in Louisiana. Also, in Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner has apparently won reelection in a close race but his opponent Ed Gillespie has not conceded and there may be a recount. There is then the possibility of the Republicans picking up three more seats in the Senate.  In the House of Representatives the Republicans  gained 12 seats expanding their majority from 233 Republicans to 199 Democrats to 244 Republicans to 180 Democrats. This is the largest majority the Republicans have had in the House of Representatives since 1946.

 

On the state level, the Republicans have increased the number of Republican governors by two. Previously there were 29 Republican governors and 21 Democrats. Now there will be 31 Republicans and 17 Democrats. The Republicans made impressive gains in state legislatures. Of the 98 chambers, two per state (except for Nebraska which has a non-partisan and unicameral legislature), the Republicans controlled 59. Now they will control 67 chambers and in no fewer than 24 states the Republicans will control both the state legislature and the Governor’s mansion. This is the best they have done since the 1920s.Winning control of  state governments is even more significant than the federal government since most of the real “action” in law making still takes place at the state level. The national media, based in New York and Washington tends to over emphasise the importance of Washington D C and does a real disservice by tending to neglect the actions of state governments.

Mere numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Republicans made serious inroads into what should have been safe Democratic territory. There are new Republican governors in Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland. All of Arkansas’s seats in the House of Representatives are held by  Republicans for the first time in 141 years. There seem to be more Black Republicans this year. Mia Love from Utah was the first Black Republican woman in the House and Tim Scott was the first Black  from South Carolina to be elected to the Senate since the Reconstruction era. Also from South Carolina, the Indian Republican Nicki Haley was reelected. Republicans also made gains with the Hispanic vote. Perhaps the idea that the Republican Party is doomed to irrelevance because of demographics should be reexamined.Need I remind the reader that Alan West, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz are all Republican heroes despite not being White?

Well it was an amazing election, perhaps even a historical one, but I hope the Republicans don’t blow it over the next two years. They should keep in mind that 2016 could be just as bad for them as 2014 was good. In the meantime, while gloating is unseemly and I certainly shouldn’t do it, I hope I can be forgiven for enjoying what is best in life, just a little.

 

There was a lot of lamentation of Democratic women, and men, last night.

Obama is Not Mussolini

October 27, 2014

We really need to stop comparing American politicians to dictators. No one in contemporary American politics, including President Obama is anything like Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini and making such comparisons is not only ridiculous, but a disgrace to the memory of those who have suffered under real dictators. What brings this on is a recent statement by Mark Levin that Obama will go “full Mussolini” after the upcoming election. I understand what Mark Levin means. Faced with a hostile Congress controlled by the Republicans, it is likely that Obama will make extensive use of executive orders to enact the policies he wants. He does not have to face another election so he need not concern himself with the political consequences of his actions. He could very well attempt to complete the fundamental transformation of this country in the last half of his second term.

 


A young Mussolini in his early years in power.

Not Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But, taking all of that into consideration, Barack Obama will still not be Benito Mussolini. Mussolini gained control of Italy by force and he aspired to have total control over the country. He really was a dictator and there were no formal checks or balances on the power he could wield in Italy. Mussolini never really had the sort of control that Hitler had in Germany or the Communists in Russia or China, partly because the Italians are less given to marching in ranks than others and partly because he had to contend with the Roman Catholic Church and the Italian monarchy. Still, for eighteen years, Mussolini controlled the destiny of Italy. No matter how many executive orders he writes, Barack Obama will not have that kind of control over the United States. Italy was a one party state under Mussolini. We still have two opposing parties here, as well as a mostly free press and freedom of speech, for now. If anything, it is likely that the next two years will prove to be intensely frustrating for Obama. He will be a lame duck. After six years, the people will be tired of him and ready to move on. The 2016 election will attract more and more of the nation’s attention and of Obama’s popularity continues to drop, the candidates may prefer not to be seen with him. I predict he will be playing a lot more golf over the next two years.

 

English: Cropped version of File:Official port...

Not Benito Mussolini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

Dying at 75

October 13, 2014

Ezekiel Emanuel has written a somewhat controversial piece in The Atlantic on his hopes to die at the age of seventy-five. He doesn’t hope to be able to live to that age. He hopes he won’t live much past it.

Seventy-five.

That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

This preference drives my daughters crazy. It drives my brothers crazy. My loving friends think I am crazy. They think that I can’t mean what I say; that I haven’t thought clearly about this, because there is so much in the world to see and do. To convince me of my errors, they enumerate the myriad people I know who are over 75 and doing quite well. They are certain that as I get closer to 75, I will push the desired age back to 80, then 85, maybe even 90.

I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

 

He does not intent to commit suicide on his seventy-fifth birthday, to be sure.

Let me be clear about my wish. I’m neither asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening my life. Today I am, as far as my physician and I know, very healthy, with no chronic illness. I just climbed Kilimanjaro with two of my nephews. So I am not talking about bargaining with God to live to 75 because I have a terminal illness. Nor am I talking about waking up one morning 18 years from now and ending my life through euthanasia or suicide. Since the 1990s, I have actively opposed legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. People who want to die in one of these ways tend to suffer not from unremitting pain but from depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control. The people they leave behind inevitably feel they have somehow failed. The answer to these symptoms is not ending a life but getting help. I have long argued that we should focus on giving all terminally ill people a good, compassionate death—not euthanasia or assisted suicide for a tiny minority.

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.

He will not take any active means to extend his life any further.

Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either. Today, when the doctor recommends a test or treatment, especially one that will extend our lives, it becomes incumbent upon us to give a good reason why we don’t want it. The momentum of medicine and family means we will almost invariably get it.

I must say that I am at least somewhat sympathetic to this point of view. Anyone who has ever watched a loved one growing older into senescence and decay must wonder if longevity is really something to be desired. What good is it to live to be ninety if the last decade is spent chronically ill and miserable? There is also something unseemly and even futile about this quest we have to live ever longer. We cannot be immortal. No matter how healthy our lives, we will die eventually.

If I eat the right sorts of foods and get the right amount of exercise, perhaps I will live to be eighty rather than seventy. So what? Compared to eternity, ten or twenty years is an infinitesimal amount of time. If I ate a diet of bean curd, perhaps I might live to be one hundred. What good is that if I am miserable every day because I am eating food I hate? Of course, I am being a fool. Living in a healthy body is more pleasant than living in an unhealthy body. But, then this is a matter of quality of live as opposed to quantity of life.

For a Christian, it is especially unseemly to cling to this life. We believe, in theory, that this life is only a prelude to a greater life to come. Why cling to the shadow when we can have the substance? Perhaps our attitude should be that of Pope Pius IX on his deathbed. When told that people around the world were praying for his recovery, he jokingly rebuked his advisors saying, “Why do you want to stop me from going to Heaven?”. Why are we determined to stay out of Heaven? Many other religions have similar views.

I don’t quite agree with Ezekiel Emanuel’s position, all the same. For one thing, I do not have the authority to choose the time of my death any more than I had to choose the time of my birth. It is common to say that this is “my body” or “my life”, but it really isn’t. None of us created ourselves. It would take a PhD in several fields to even begin to understand the processes that keep us alive. If any of us were given conscious control of every biological and chemical reaction in our bodies, we would die within seconds. Properly speaking, my body and my life belongs to the One who made them.

Perhaps Mr. Emanuel might agree with me, although I have no idea what his religious views are. As I noted, he does not plan to actively seek death.

This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.) After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.

Surely there is something to be said for this attitude. Yet again, I do not quite agree with him. I do not and cannot know what my ultimate fate will be and it seems presumptuous to decide that after a certain age I am finished. For all I know the plan might be for me to live to ninety-five in reasonably good health. It would be foolish not to take reasonable steps to keep myself well. If one must accept Mr. Emanuel’s reasoning, surely a consideration of overall health and quality of life is a better basis for deciding when to stop getting checkups, etc, than an arbitrarily chosen age. In any case, I will simply take what comes.

Ezekiel Emanuel states that he is opposed to euthanasia or physician assisted suicide, and I see no reason to doubt his word. He does not even recommend that every one agree to his ideas.

Again, let me be clear: I am not saying that those who want to live as long as possible are unethical or wrong. I am certainly not scorning or dismissing people who want to live on despite their physical and mental limitations. I’m not even trying to convince anyone I’m right. Indeed, I often advise people in this age group on how to get the best medical care available in the United States for their ailments. That is their choice, and I want to support them.

And I am not advocating 75 as the official statistic of a complete, good life in order to save resources, ration health care, or address public-policy issues arising from the increases in life expectancy. What I am trying to do is delineate my views for a good life and make my friends and others think about how they want to live as they grow older. I want them to think of an alternative to succumbing to that slow constriction of activities and aspirations imperceptibly imposed by aging. Are we to embrace the “American immortal” or my “75 and no more” view?

He wants medical research to focus on better treatments for the diseases of old age rather than simply prolonging life or extending the process of dying. But, does he not see that he is actually making some very good arguments for euthanasia? He spends the middle part of his article noting that creativity tends to decline with age, even when there is no dementia. The minds of the elderly no longer work as well, just as their bodies no longer function as well.

Even if we aren’t demented, our mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older. Age-associated declines in mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, and problem-solving are well established. Conversely, distractibility increases. We cannot focus and stay with a project as well as we could when we were young. As we move slower with age, we also think slower.

It is not just mental slowing. We literally lose our creativity. About a decade ago, I began working with a prominent health economist who was about to turn 80. Our collaboration was incredibly productive. We published numerous papers that influenced the evolving debates around health-care reform. My colleague is brilliant and continues to be a major contributor, and he celebrated his 90th birthday this year. But he is an outlier—a very rare individual.

American immortals operate on the assumption that they will be precisely such outliers. But the fact is that by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us. Einstein famously said, “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.” He was extreme in his assessment. And wrong. Dean Keith Simonton, at the University of California at Davis, a luminary among researchers on age and creativity, synthesized numerous studies to demonstrate a typical age-creativity curve: creativity rises rapidly as a career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline. There are some, but not huge, variations among disciplines. Currently, the average age at which Nobel Prize–winning physicists make their discovery—not get the prize—is 48. Theoretical chemists and physicists make their major contribution slightly earlier than empirical researchers do. Similarly, poets tend to peak earlier than novelists do. Simonton’s own study of classical composers shows that the typical composer writes his first major work at age 26, peaks at about age 40 with both his best work and maximum output, and then declines, writing his last significant musical composition at 52. (All the composers studied were male.)

Perhaps he does not intend it, but this is dangerously close to valuing individuals not as human beings created in the image of God but on a utilitarian basis according to what they can be expected to contribute to society. If we are going in that direction, we might as well open up the death panels right now. We had also better be honest enough to admit that most of us are not going to contribute very much to the arts and sciences and might be fair game for such a panel at any age.

As for me, I will take whatever comes

 

 

I wonder if a lot of the conservatives who written about his article have actually read it.

Obama Ready to Declare Martial Law

October 6, 2014

I criticize and make fun of the hysterical emails I get from liberal groups, so it seems only fair that I should criticize and make fun of the hysterical emails I get from conservatives. I actually have less patience with idiocy from conservatives since they ought to know better. I expect conservatives to be at least somewhat more rational and sensible than liberals, though we do have our idiots on our team.

Anyway, here is an email I recently received.

Dear Fellow Patriot,

Our country is in trouble. We need you.

President Obama and the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington care more about power, wealth and their own selfish desires than they do about our country and its citizens.
The Washington Establishment has created the worst recession since the Great Depression … cut $700 Billion from Medicare under Obamacare … destroyed our privacy rights by spying on every phone call, email and fax communication … endangered our Constitutional rights under the First, Second, Fourth, and other amendments…and much more. They’ve even threatened to nationalize whole industries by Executive Order alone.

And there’s something else. On Friday, March 16, 2012 America ceased being a Republic and became a dictatorship in one swipe of a pen. That dark day Obama committed the boldest assault on America since the Revolutionary War—while Americans weren’t looking.

Barack Hussein Obama quietly gave himself the power to impose Martial Law, bypassing both the Constitution and Congress through Executive Order.

Executive Order No. 13603—Obama’s National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order—gives Barack Hussein Obama unprecedented power to bring about socialism in America and create a regime so powerful, so vile, it is Soviet-like in nature.

Martial Law can and will happen whenever he chooses. It may happen one fateful night while we sleep—he can manufacture a crisis to make it happen.

And when it does, we will find ourselves waking up to a complete police state and news that Obama has declared himself supreme dictator over all the land.

This is very serious my fellow Patriot.

How can we stop this power grab destined to tear the heart out of America, leaving us with little but the clothes on our backs?

For starters, I’m writing to urge you to donate today so we can DERAIL OBAMA’S EXECUTIVE ORDER TO IMPLEMENT MARTIAL LAW!

As a full-fledged, active member of the Tea Party I fully support this movement.

Please, there’s no time to wait. Please make a contribution to the Tea Party in support of their efforts to fight government tyranny.

The Tea Party represents the best, perhaps the only, hope for our nation.

We have to stand up and fight this shocking power grab. If we do not, we’re destined for Martial Law.

Obama’s Executive Order “National Defense Preparedness” No. 13603 gives Obama a free pass to unrestricted, unprecedented power held only by those deemed “dictator.”

This Executive Order allows Obama to hijack our country, run roughshod over Congress and stick it to Patriots. It’s a frightening abuse of power that must be stopped—that’s why we need you to support the Tea Party with a donation without delay.

It goes on and on but is basically a plea for money, with dire consequences if Obama is allowed to get away with his nefarious plan.  The only really important part of this message is the reference to Executive Order 13603, which apparently allows President Obama to declare martial law and suspend the constitution.

President Barack Obama signs the executive ord...

President Barack Obama signs the executive order declaring himself Maximum Leader and Grand Poobah.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Executive Order allows Obama to hijack our country, run roughshod over Congress and stick it to Patriots. It’s a frightening abuse of power that must be stopped—that’s why we need you to support the Tea Party with a donation without delay.

This is a violent assault on our personal liberty, privacy rights and the rule-of-law. I’d like to give you a few examples of what this means to you, to me, our children, grandchildren and loved ones.

With the stroke of his pen Obama gave himself the power to:

✔   Bailout any person or company he wants
✔   Break existing labor contracts
✔   Cut back health care for citizens
✔   Fix food prices
✔   Force the production of electric cars
✔   Halt consumer production and replace it with government work
✔   Increase airfares
✔   Raise gas prices to any level
✔   Reduce our pay and dictate pay scales to employers

There’s so much more, too. Don’t you see? This is Obama’s communist utopia—the dreams of his father. Those dreams were meant to kill capitalism, create a society of “fair share” and income equality no matter whether or not you are deserving of it or whether you earned it. Patriots, this is oppression at its worst.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Is any of it true? Well, there really is an Executive Order 13603 and the language of the order might lend itself to the interpretation above, but this isn’t something that Barack Obama came up with. According to snopes.com, this executive order is nothing more than an update of similar orders issued by President Clinton, which was an update of previous such orders.

On 16 March 2012, President Barack Obama issued an executive order (EO) covering National Defense Resources Preparedness, prompting Congresswoman Kay Granger to pen the (since-removed) missive quoted above. Despite claims that the executive order provided the President with unprecedented new powers such as declaring martial law, seizing private property, implementing the rationing of food, gasoline, and drugs, restarting peacetime conscription, and nationalizing America industry, merely by declaring a national emergency, the National Defense Resources Preparedness EO issued by President Obama was simply a minor updating of a similar order issued by President Bill Clinton in 1994 (which itself had decades-old predecessors) and amended several times since.

If you think that snopes.com has a liberal bias, they cite a post from the conservative blog hotair.com.

We’re getting a lot of e-mail this weekend about an executive order issued on Friday afternoon by President Obama titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness.”  While the timing of the EO is curious — why send it out on a Friday afternoon when an administration is usually trying to sneak bad news past the media? — the general impact of it is negligible.  This EO simply updates another EO (12919) that had been in place since June 1994, and amended several times since.

Why the update?  If one takes a look at EO 12919, the big change is in the Cabinet itself.  In 1994, we didn’t have a Department of Homeland Security, for instance, and some of these functions would naturally fall to DHS.  In EO 12919, the FEMA director had those responsibilities, and the biggest change between the two is the removal of several references to FEMA (ten in all).   Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of changes between the two EOs, which looks mainly like boilerplate.

In fact, that’s almost entirely what it is.  The original EO dealing with national defense resources preparedness was issued in 1939 (EO 8248) according to the National Archives.  It has been superseded a number of times, starting in 1951 by nearly every President through Bill Clinton, and amended twice by George W. Bush.

Barack Obama may be arrogant, and the timing of this release might have looked a little strange, but this is really nothing to worry about at all.

So basically, this is nothing more than a routine update of a policy that was put into place at the beginning of the Cold War to ensure that the government could still function if the Russians nuked us. And, if you look at the date of the posts at snopes and hot air, you will notice that this particular rumor has been going around since 2012. If President Obama is really planning to make himself a dictator, he is taking his time about it.

Frantic messages about martial law like this one only distract from the real dangers to our freedom. I don’t think the danger to our liberties is that President Barack Obama is going to announce that he is a dictator tomorrow morning. It is the precedents he is setting that worry me, this steady increase of the power of the presidency and the federal bureaucracy at the expense of our elected representatives. President Obama didn’t begin this process. It has been a bipartisan effort. Even our history books are part of it. Have you ever noticed that it is the presidents who increased the powers of their office that get the most praise from historians, whether the circumstances warranted extraordinary action or not. Presidents who minded their own business and let the country run itself are forgotten or derided as do-nothings.

What I fear, is that this process will continue until eventually we end up with something like an elected dictator, a Caesar ruling over us. A ruler who governs arbitrarily and is himself above any law or restraint. This is the real danger, and being one that grows very gradually, over the decades, and is reinforced by the natural human desire to look to a Leader, is one that is a lot more difficult to fight against than the fantasies of martial law invoked by this email.


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