Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scorched Earth

I consider the “fiscal cliff” scenario as merely a dress rehearsal for the big drama over the debt ceiling which, unlike a nuclear threat, lacks the deterrent of mutually assured destruction. The preceding is the first part of a short letter I sent to the N.Y. Times. It's pertinent to the following narrative that begins with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that his party’s first priority was to make Barack Obama a one term president. While he should be applauded for candor so scarce these days, particularly among Republicans, on balance I see the statement as having been detrimental to his party’s interests.

The damage came from saying out loud, in as many words that he, as a Republican, would rather the nation suffer than his party lose in the next election. Yes, I’m certain that there have been Democrats who shared this sort of thinking under Republican presidents. But no high ranking official that I know of has ever put the thought so bluntly and, in my opinion tactlessly.

The election’s smoke has cleared and McConnell’s party lost big time. The economy is making a modest but tangible recovery, which exacerbates Republican woes that are being continually increased by attrition. Some of the benefits of the much maligned “Obamacare” will be felt for the first time in 2014 where he GOP had relegated them with the expectation of their newly elected president overseeing the law’s repeal.

The economy is not the only consideration in our politics. But to the extent that it improves Republicans prospects decline, so what incentive do they have to pass laws that benefit the nation? Since more of the public now blames them for our current problems they are likely to receive the onus for normal misfortunes in the near future.

Under these circumstances Republican brass may feel the need for a humdinger of a disaster. The complete collapse of our financial system as a consequence of national default would be just that. In all likelihood the consequences would dwarf those of the Great Depression. My concern over this possibility was expressed in the last part of my letter to the Times. People of influence are involved whose efforts are based on the expectation that they will lead to a lesser America of which they will own a greater part.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Turning Worm

A reply from a recipient of my letter on gun violence reads as follows:

“I’ve been flummoxed by the argument that this is the fault of evil people, not a gun issue. Do all these massacres then mean the U.S. has more evil people than other countries? Because if it isn’t the guns that make the difference, that’s the only alternative.”

My answer, in the current fashion of avoiding the words yes and no, was that this is the apparent conclusion of the gun people. But I think this missed the heart of the question which is whether our homicide rate is as high as it is because Americans are more disposed to killing each other or because our regulations on lethal weapons and their possession are too lenient. The answer has to be one or, as I believe, some of both.

Are we more prone than other developed nations to self genocide? Our love of guns suggests that we are. While it can be argued that the hoarding of lethal weapons is just a natural consequence of a greater need for them, this rejoinder by itself only supports the premise.

Our lack of proper control of these weapons and their scope is so obvious that an adult should not have to explain it to other adults, maybe to children. We regulate cars and drivers that can kill unintentionally more closely than guns that are designed specifically for that purpose. Being able to fire a hundred rounds without reloading is not necessary to protect one’s home from a brigand or two, only from regiments.

And some of them may be thinking in terms of regiments, considering the way they’re accumulating ammunition. With every mass murder, sales of guns take off. These types hate government, not all government, just the government they didn’t vote for. We’ve always had sore losers. But they’re more dangerous armed to the teeth. Some of those who didn’t vote for this government are even threatening secession by their states.* Lots of luck guys. This business was deep sixed some time ago at a place called Appomattox.

I don’t mean to imply that all of these people are know-nothings, subversives or gun manufacturers. Many are from the “the next thing you know” school. On its face such thinking is wrong. The next thing you know should not be at issue. On the other hand, as a practical matter even if they lower the clip capacity from 100 to 30 rounds which I favor, I for one would still be all for lowering it further.

Many gun people might agree with much of what’s been written here. They may just think that these considerations are outweighed by the sanctity of the Second Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court. They are wrong, but so were isolationists before World War II and that didn’t make them all fascists. Most of them recanted on December 7, 1941. There’s just a chance that Newtown will be something of a Twenty First Century Pearl Harbor.

*If at first you don’t secede…………….

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Sure! The mass murderer of the month might have strangled all those kids if the adults stayed out of it and the kids waited their turn. Enough has been said since Friday about the need for stricter gun control, with which I concur, so I’ll try to keep the argument simple. We have insufficient regulation of who should be allowed to possess lethal weapons and that no one, other than authorized individuals, has a legitimate need for guns that fire multiple rounds of ammunition without having to reload.

I take issue with the core of the opposing argument by those of NRA mentality who claim that the nation would be safer if more people were armed. They argue that the killer in Newtown could have been stopped if the teacher had a gun handy, preferably in a holster I assume. This logic would require a proficiency in marksmanship that would disqualify a number of otherwise capable teachers. After all, a slight miss could result in the death of a student. Even experienced shooters need to exercise judgment in these situations. Pistols are not very accurate at longer distances.

I’ve had one experience that might have theoretically justified having a gun when my wife and I were robbed at gunpoint at our house in St. Maarten. If there had been one in the house I don’t think excusing myself to use the bathroom would have worked. I wouldn’t even have wanted one in my hand because I’ve seen too many movies with gunfights in which somebody gets killed and in real life it could have been me. Considering the material goods at stake I didn’t like the odds. My chance of winning might have been fifty-fifty were it not for a lack of experience at this sort of thing. Then there’s always the possibility of both of us losing.

We should know by now that, in addition to run of the mill thieves, the world has an abundance of demented people and America has its share of both. Granted, that even the strictest controls will not prevent access of every one of them to weapons for purposes other than hunting. But if “per capita” is a valid form of measurement, we are first or last, depending on one’s perspective, among other industrialized nations with their stricter controls.

I’m more hopeful than ever that enough Americans will see the light on the use of guns to make a difference. Until now we’ve shown ourselves to be slow
learners. More people were killed at Virginia Tech than Newtown, yet the slaughter of college age students apparently didn’t hit home as hard as what happened to young children on Friday. The names of the children killed will never make history books. But with a little luck their tragedy would put proper perspective on the intent of the Second Amendment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Etched In Stone

The possible return from the Bush tax cuts to the Clinton rates for affluent Americans is the most talked about domestic item of the day. I’ve already had something to say on the subject, but there’s more. Let’s start by understanding a rule of the game which most people who’ll read this know, but some otherwise informed people to whom I‘ve spoken don’t. If the higher marginal rate starts at $250,000 only the income over that is taxed at a rate 4.9% higher. OK let’s call it five. If our “small businessman” makes $260,000 profit he pays $490 more in tax, only on the extra ten Gs

I’d like to make a point demonstrated by my father during his tenure as President of Paramount Pictures from 1936 t0 1964.* In the early 1950s he was so angered by what he considered a confiscatory rate on top personal income, something over 90%, that one year he returned a major portion of his salary to Paramount. During this whole period he maintained a life style that most people would consider luxurious. He evidently got by as usual on the income taxed at a lower rate plus what hadn’t been returned to the company.

I seriously doubt that he would have protested a top rate of 39.6%. But this is incidental to the fact that the tax at issue was then, as it is today, based on personal income, not on corporate profits. He didn’t decide that Paramount would make fewer pictures and in the process hire fewer people. He lacked the personal financial incentive, and most important the ethical prerogative. Yet here are the movers of big business claiming that if their personal taxes go up a trifle their corporate enterprises will be forced to reduce production and presumably profits.

This is not only disproportionate and dishonest, but a violation of their obligation to shareholders. Because higher ups are peeved at the government taking a little more of their personal wealth, it would mean  that working stiffs with a few shares of the corporation’s stock, many of them forty seven percenters with 401 Ks, would also have to get by with less. A corporate executive is an amployee To even threaten such action is at best questionable.

Only a minority of Republican voters participate in this charade. Still it’s this minority who benefit at the bank from all the votes, regardless of motive. This is today’s quintessential Republican Party at work. Us card carrying Democrats have been saying this for years. But no one could have stated our case more convincingly than Mitt Romney. I believe that a significant number of once unaligned voters will remember that the man who specified the 47% was a Republican long after they’ve forgotten that he was a stiff bumbling candidate. This is one sketch that’s etched in stone.

* To keep his job in perspective, this was a time when what are now called CEOs received a salary about forty times their average employee. Today the number is four hundred.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Welcome Stranger

Since reaching voting age in 1952 I have seen a few elections that left no doubt as to which party was the winner, in Congress and the presidency when both were at stake. One of them took place that year. Riding Ike’s coattails Republicans took the whole ball of wax, with the exception of losing Henry Cabot Lodge’s Senate seat to a young fellow named John Kennedy. The next watershed year was 1964 when Lyndon Johnson was elected by the largest percentage in history and carried with him enough Congressional votes to pass Medicare and Civil rights legislation. 1980 brought us Ronald Reagan, a Republican Senate and a casino mentality to the economy that persists to this day. “The Gipper” left his party armed with the image of a “welfare queen” and “strapping young buck,” helping Gingrich in his 1994 “contract with America” that regained much of the lost ground Bill Clinton had recovered. The intervals between these four elections were twelve, sixteen and twelve years respectively.

For those who haven’t noticed, every election since 2006 has been of this sea change variety, with major Democratic gains in 2006, 2008 and this year, interrupted by the Tea Party conquest in 2010. It has clearly been a more volatile electorate for the past six years than the preceding fifty four. I don’t know what this augurs, but as a registered Democrat I’m of course pleased that we are three for four, particularly so about the fourth.

I think we can expect a more liberal approach to immigration by Republicans. The restrictive policies that the honchos allowed in the party platform this year were a sop to the Tea Party which cost them dearly. This issue was not a party favorite to begin with. It was none other than W who advocated easing immigration restrictions, either out of “compassionate conservatism” or a fondness for cheap labor, take your pick. In either case this is a mistake the establishment won’t make again. Remember Romney in a debate accusing Texas Governor Perry of being lax on immigration? As a personification of things Republican the man was lying through his teeth.

There may be much to be read into the recent election about the long term place of the Republican Party in American politics. But I’ll abstain for the time being because I’m a bit gun shy about making forecasts. When I confidently predicted that the party establishment would force Todd Akin out of the Missouri Senate race my crystal ball was in the repair shop. But you should eventually anticipate hearing from me on this subject because I’m expecting it back any year now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Deep Throat Redux

By now I think most of us, including those too young to have lived through Watergate, know that “Deep Throat” was the appellation given by Woodward and Bernstein to the then anonymous source of the multiple scandals surrounding the “third rate burglary” that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. This was a secret held by these journalists for more than thirty years until Mark Felt, a man lower on the totem pole than most of us suspected, revealed his role. This has been confirmed by Woodward and Bernstein.

We now have a Twenty First Century parallel in the person who recorded the famous 47% speech to a group of fifty grand a plate guests at a campaign dinner in Boca Raton, Fla. Ironically both Romney and Nixon were done in by electronics. We know that the recording was unearthed by James Earl Carter III, grandson of the former president, in what I consider a textbook example of poetic justice, and made public by David Corn, a reporter for Mother Jones Magazine. The identity of the person who installed the recording device is not known.

Obviously this person was not one of the guests and probably an employee at the establishment where the speech was made who didn’t see eye to eye with the assemblage. It’s a good bet that he, assuming the perpetrator was male, was one of the “minority” Romney said would never vote for him.

I can think of at least for one reason why Mark Felt kept his Deep Throat identity a secret until he was ninety one and I bet you can too. The same circumstances apply to our new super patriot. Where Deep Throat laid a trail directing others to Nixon’s hideout, this guy led us by the hand directly to Romney himself. There he is, talking to his gang and saying that he is “not concerned” with nearly half the people he is asking to elect him president.

Romney has been fairly accused of taking opposing positions, occasionally in the same day. But I say there is a real Mitt and you heard him in Boca Raton talking to the hoity toity, not posing as a “moderate” governor speaking to the hoi polloi of Massachusetts. When people, particularly politicians, say conflicting things to friends and the public you know which one to believe.

We may never know who our hero is. Like Mr. Felt he may have cause to feel constrained from coming out until he’s old enough not to give a damn. What a shame not to be able to honor him in some way. At least Felt could take pride in hearing the mention of Deep Throat. I think it fitting and proper that we give this guy a moniker as long as he chooses anonymity. The best I can come up with is “Deep Mike.” But I suppose in keeping with tradition of Woodward and Bernstein the choice should be left to the person most likely to know his identity and a hero in his own right, James Earl Carter III.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tax Me Not

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one” he days enthusiastically. “I’m in it and I think you should be too.” Would your reply possibly be this? “Well it all depends what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If taxes are too high I would rather leave my money in my savings account, earning a quarter of one percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.

The preceding is part of an op-ed piece in Monday’s N.Y. Times by Warren Buffet. I wrote something along this line in a recent letter, but not as coherently. The corollary to the obvious answer is that the moneyed people who answer otherwise are bluffing, although it’s not out of the question that some might act differently in a fit of pique, to prove a point or both.

As Mr. Buffet shows, no discussion of this subject is complete without mentioning Grover Norquist. He is a man who has never been elected to public office, but with the authority over many who have, by forcing virtually all Republicans running for Congress to take an oath to never vote to raise a tax or remove a tax deduction.

While his name has wider recognition today than most Congressmen, I predict that it’s a matter of time before it will be little more than a footnote of historical trivia. Because of their adherence to what he espouses Republicans have just received a shellacking at the polls, something which they don’t take lightly. Several have already traded their Norquist devil’s outfit for dress suits and more will surely follow. But they’ll be adorning the same people.

While I question the judgment of Congressmen who vote as Mr. Norquist’s insists, I wouldn’t question their character if they were to publicly disavow their votes’ direct connection to his edict. It may be inaccurate to paint Republicans with one brush, less so now than a few years ago. But of those who subscribe to the party’s stated platform it can be said that in one sense they choose, as they urge others, to give their souls to their God in exchange for what they claim is eternal salvation. By the same measurement it can be said that they have willingly pledged any semblance of integrity to Grover Norquist in hopes of a seat in Congress.

Addendum: For those who choose to read it I’m sending separately Mr. Buffet’s entire article.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Condaleeza(to the tune of Mona Lisa)

Apparently I was assuming too much in expecting everyone on my list to know that the business about Condoleeza Rice was tongue in cheek. For one she was National Security Adviser, that’s right, National Security Adviser, on 9/11, or September 11, 2001 as I delicately worded it. Right off the bat she’s not doing very well. In certain nations people fall on their swords for such as this. A duck hunting trip with Dick Cheney would have been a nice gesture on her part.

And then there’s her warning about the “mushroom cloud” we’d risk if we didn’t invade Iraq. This may be the source of misunderstanding. In highlighting the text to copy I missed part of the last two words leaving a confusing “mu” and omitting “shroom cloud.” I see this as an Achilles heel sort of thing. It’s forgivable for her to be wrong, but not when it lends credence to one of our worst national blunders in memory. This my verbose way of saying there’s no way I’d like to see her as Secretary of State. On the other hand it gives me an excuse to write requiring a minimum of thought.

Friday, November 23, 2012


When I first heard the news from Benghazi on NPR, absent any commentary, my take was simply that given the scope of our international activity, this sort of thing was bound to happen. Two months of voluminous commentary have done nothing to change my thinking.

It was predictable that Republicans would try to make as much as they could out of it. No matter that the same people who lauded the administration that presided over the murder of nearly three thousand Americans at work in New York City are livid about the four who were killed at our consulate in Libya. These people have as much trouble with math as they do with science. 

What I find particularly silly is their objection to the possibility of Susan Rice as Secretary of State because of her belated announcement that the perpetrators were terrorists. It’s no secret that there are lots of people in the world who don’t like us, particularly that part of the world. Whether the killings were a response to a hate film produced by a holy-roller preacher or an al Qaeda plot is important, but only to the professionals in charge of national security who should know ASAP. The public can stand a few days wait. Whatever Ms Rice revealed was declassified information that her superiors, which include the president, permitted. I’ll grant that the Barack Obama organization may have thought better than to release this information the week before what was expected to be a close election. But then these people are not dummies.

I started this letter with no opinion as to who Barack Obama should nominate as Secretary of State. My guess is that after the ruckus made by John McCain and Lindsay Graham, two Republican “moderates,” he may have no choice but to nominate Ms Rice. Having just won an election with something to spare, he may feel compelled to meet this first challenge head on.

However I’ve now come to the conclusion that the person for the job is that other Rice, Condoleeza. She’s already had four years experience at State and knows all about terrorism. Remember she was National Security Adviser on September 11, 2001. And lest we forget, it was her warning that helped give us the incentive to invade Iraq and escape Saddam Hussein’s dreaded mushroom cloud.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Grand New Party?

While both our political parties always want to win elections the Republicans wanted this one in the worst way, which is pretty much how they lost it. They had several matters of importance at stake, a large investment in cutting edge voter suppression for one. If this ever passes muster there’s no telling where it would end, possibly in the Third World. Much of the party’s base was hell bent on preventing the reelection of a president of color. Once was bad enough. The campaign was dangling bald faced lies that would have died an instant death if there were a polemic equivalent to the Bureau of Weights and Measures.

But their biggest concern was and is that Barack Obama, absent the pressures of reelection, might lower the boom on the people and institutions responsible for our current problems. The establishment, for whose benefit the party is run, has one consuming motive and that is flexing its “conservative” credentials by conserving Wall Street in at least its present condition.

Republican prospects looked good. The economy was at best shaky, their base appeared more energized than the Democrats’, their usual monetary advantage was magnified by Citizens United and the president was perfectly cast for his part. They even had Donald Trump’s support and yet the people who bet on politics as they would on the Super Bowl always had Obama favored in the neighborhood of 75%.

Beside obvious demographic problems today’s Republican Party consists of a widely disparate establishment and base. They have little in common other than a dislike of Democrats. They don’t seem to have much to say to each other. Safe Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri were lost by candidates expressing unique definitions of rape, which had to have damaged the national ticket. It seems they’d have been warned that loose lips on cultural issues like this make it harder to keep those top end Bush tax cuts.

A plausible equivalence can be made between Republicans today and 1964 when John Birch types bulldozed their way to nominating Barry Goldwater. While they did regain the presidency in the next election a lot had happened in the intervening four years to shake things up; expansion of the Vietnam War, two major assassinations and customary pathetic left wing civil disobedience. Nixon was elected on a “law and order” platform as a perceived moderate, notwithstanding my view of him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a judgment that was validated by Watergate.

So where will the Republican Party go from here? Will they continue as they have been? I’ll grant that the establishment’s economics are arguable in theory, barely in my opinion. But when encapsulated with the cultural views of the base, for which science is a matter of opinion, the whole narrative evaporates before our very eyes. If I were a marriage counselor I’d recommend divorce ASAP.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dodging a Bullet

First among my many thoughts regarding this election is that we dodged a bullet with more clearance than expected. One potential catastrophe we averted involves the composition of the Supreme Court. Two of our four guys have some mileage and are likely to be replaced in the next four years. Then there’s the Affordable Health Care Act, slang for Obamacare. Some of its modest benefits were postponed, at Republican insistence, until 2014 so the public would never know what it had missed when the new president signed its repeal. I also find it heartening that the effects of Citizens United seem to be subject to the law of diminishing returns. The president’s crew did a superlative job as it did four years ago, even going as far as to prepare a concession speech just in case, something that his opponent neglected. Maybe he didn’t realize that 47% were the people voting for him

Republican incivility has increased drastically in the last four years, coinciding with the debut of the Tea Party which coincided with Obama’s inauguration. As I’ve mentioned, these primitives are receiving short shrift from the partnership. The “job creators” like Romney and his surrogates couldn’t care less about abortion. A few words here and there spoken with a reasonable facsimile of conviction are all that’s necessary. This is not to say that the deal comes at no expense to the party establishment. Its cost was evident in the election. As I see it the scenario is almost literally Faustian.

Where the Republican Party goes from here is anybody’s guess. Mine is that insulting Obama will be phased out. They’ve already played the race card without much success. But I expect them to remain merciless when it comes to his agenda. They’ve been behaving as if any new law benefiting the nation was detrimental to their chances in this year’s election. I can’t see that anything has changed regarding 2016.

Some Republicans are blaming their loss on Sandy and it’s obvious that its consequences worked to Obama’s advantage. If one accepts the premise that a hurricane is an act of God then I guess it follows that God is a Democrat.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quick Watson

When Carl Reiner asked Mel Brooks, “the Two Thousand Year Old Man,” what the principle means of transportation was in his day, he answered “fear” and went on to say that a person could run pretty fast when chased by a lion. From this perspective it’s inconsistent that voter turnout by the Democratic base is expected to be less than it was four years ago. OK, hope has a nicer ring to it than fear. I also concede that much, if not most of what we’d hoped for with the election of this president remains unfulfilled, in some cases not even attempted. But considering the alternative in this election, hope should be relegated to the back burner. At least until Wednesday!

If the Republican Party comes out of this election with the presidency, we can worry about more than what it openly advocates. Their numbers are decreasing from attrition and demographics so they’ll have to do something, shall we say unorthodox, to compensate politically. The Mitt Romneys and their even wealthier clones are not about to give up accumulating wealth. It’s an addiction. As elections go they really want to win this one and they’ve made quite an effort to suppress the votes of those who don’t see things their way. Whatever it takes to make their kind of electorate will likely become the order of the day. Remember white male landowners were good enough for the Founding Fathers.

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” was good advice for the nation from FDR on March 4, 1933. But it applies to very few Americans, say about one percent, on November 6, 2012.

Addendum: My preceding letter was supposed to be the last before the election. I threw this one together tonight in a greater hurry than usual. On another matter I suggest that contrary to prevailing wisdom Obama could win the popular vote, but lose in the Electoral College.

Friday, November 2, 2012


This is probably the last of these opinion pieces until after the election. We’ve had a hurricane in these parts that has distracted us a bit. My wife and I have had a few minor inconveniences one of which is the loss of TV. This deprives us of the insight from some bright minds, but may be a blessing in disguise. As a sports fan, when it comes to the 9th inning or two minute warning I’m much more concerned with what’s happening on the field in close games than the commentary from the TV booth. Polls come closest to being our only view of the playing field. As to what effect an “act of God” is having on the election, the prevailing wisdom that I get from the Times is that Obama is benefitting. In any event the storm has made a pretty good case for federal government.

I’ll conclude this effort briefly by mentioning one of several reasons why I’m voting for Barack Obama, which by itself is no surprise. There’s no questioning that he has obligations to interests antithetical to those of the nation. That’s the nature of the beast that is our political system. Every president in recent history has compromised to a degree, but none have faced the pressure that this president has, particularly now with the monumental consequences of Citizens United. To fairly compare him with the alternative, one has to keep a sense of proportion, the lack of which has been a main weapon and soft underbelly of much, if not most of Republican polemics. To any unbiased observer there would be no doubt that the candidate of the Republican Party is obligated to more and bigger money hoarders, of whom he is one, than Barack Obama.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Vote

In a CNN appearance shortly before the 1994 Congressional elections Mary Matalin correctly predicted the Republican sweep of both Houses of Congress because her party’s voters were well organized. When the host asked if that meant a low turnout would favor her party she gave an answer evocative of the l930s song, “No No a Thousand Times No.” The sanctity of voting was such that she chose not to publicly acknowledge the obvious fact that what was not good for the nation was good for her party, a situation that persists to this day.

But my how political protocol regarding voting has changed in just eighteen years! Newly elected Tea Party type Republican governors and state legislatures have unabashedly passed laws that selectively diminish voter turnout. Among other things they involve stricter, in some cases virtually impossible ID requirements or curtailing early voting, both of which make it harder for poorer and many older voters who tend to vote Democratic. Most of these laws have been declared unconstitutional by the courts, at least for this election.

The pretext is alleged large scale voter fraud. This has been a pet Republican project for some time in spite of the fact that supporting evidence is non-existent. David Iglesias, New Mexico’s U.S. Attorney General, was fired by Bush’s Justice Department for not pushing it hard enough. In Congressional testimony he said that he had no case. Removing absentee ballot boxes from county court houses on election night, as was done in Florida in 2000, is a much more efficient way to steal votes than by impersonating other voters one at a time..

Any way you slice it the thrust of the Republican Party’s efforts is to inhibit the right to vote, which by their measure evidently ranks somewhere beneath the right to own an assault weapon. Whatever their grain of logic lies in the three cornered hats some of their more enthusiastic members like to wear. After all it was the hallowed Founding Fathers who limited voting rights to white male landowners. Since they had it right the first time why did they allow for those damned amendments? Well, maybe ten was OK, or better yet two.

I close this by reluctantly suggesting that you imagine what this country would be like with these folks in control. It’s nearly certain that should they win it all this time they’ll be running the country for more than four years. My reluctance comes from a wish not to spoil your day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The following was emailed by David Siegel, owner of Westgate Resorts, to 7,000 employees.

“If any new taxes are levied on me or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company…Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

To keep this from sounding worse than it is, let’s give Mr. Siegal the wiggle room to which he is entitled. He didn’t say he was going to fire people if Obama is reelected, only if new taxes are levied on him or his company. Of course letting the upper end of the Bush tax cuts expire does qualify as a new tax on him.

This isn’t quite “vote for Romney or else.” But it certainly could be taken as such by any of the 7,000 recipients of these missives. I suspect there might be legal ramifications and if so I hope they’re pursued. But my first thought is of the effect on the employees. Their votes may be confidential. But after receiving this message they’ll probably be very careful of what they say around the water cooler. You never know who’s listening. Some true believers won’t have to change a hair. But what of those of any political persuasion who simply don’t like this heavy handed way of dealing with their right to vote? They can’t even complain about this for the same reason. Given the tone of the message we can rule out paranoia. I’m not making a prediction here, just mentioning what has to be happening now.

In ways this approach verges on McCarthyism and in some ways is even worse. Then it had a lot to do with who belonged to various suspect groups. What’s involved now is  literally and directly freedom of speech! Many of the victims then were show business people of greater financial means than the people who make the beds in these resorts. The prosecutors then at least claimed, with varying degrees of inaccuracy, to be working in the national interest. Mr. Siegal is by his own words acting in his own interest.

This is happening during the administration of a Democratic president whose party holds a majority in one House of Congress. Imagine having a president for whose election these tactics have been used with a Congress controlled by his party. Of course there’s always the Supreme Court.

Getting back to Mr. Siegel, here’s a question I’d like to put to him. If his top personal tax rate rises from 35% to 39% he says he’ll reduce the size of his business. This business provides him personal income, therefore by reducing it this income would be even less than it would have been even after the tax increase.. It doesn’t sound all that bad, at least not to me. He’s an extremely wealthy man who owns “Versailles,” the biggest new house in the nation. I wouldn’t blame him for easing up a little at his age. Would he be satisfied getting by with a little less? Not bloody likely!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rewriting History

The following is part of an email I received from a right wing friend.

“What gets me worse is how Bill [Clinton] dismantled the requirements to buy houses (no money down and no resources) and Bush put up with it.”

My but these people are picky about their history, nearly as much as their science! They don’t think they’re rewriting it because in their view history has yet to be written. You see the whole housing bubble was started by Clinton. He felt that that more home ownership would cause voters to think more like Democrats than Republicans, just like privatizing Social Security. Poor old W just had to suffer with this for another eight years.

Among these folks are those who believe that we should have and could have won the Vietnam War, despite the fact that after we’d given up and lost it the “domino theory,” on which the whole effort was based, turned out to be something of an overstatement. I suspect that at this moment there may be elves in the Republican brain trust trying to write a story to justify invading Iraq. One of them might even be Mrs. Clarence Thomas. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last on this subject.

Our two greatest economic disasters in the past hundred years took place at the crest of long periods of Laissez Faire economy. Yet we have people, proclaimed as experts, who believe that less supervision is the answer to our current problems in an economy that already has less than at any time in thirty years. Yes that thirty years!

I don’t preclude the possibility that our guys may have dabbled with history to support a point here or there. If they did Mrs. Thomas would probably know. But if anybody is keeping score I’m certain they’re well ahead of us in this department. I close my case with Ann Coulter who believes that Senator Joseph McCarthy was a great patriot.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Debate (Dehook, Deline, Desinker)

After dismissing thoughts of suicide over the presidential debate I did a Rip Van Winkle for a couple of days, no newspapers and no TV. Since my return I’ve managed to gather a few thoughts on the subject.

The debate itself was mostly a replay of that old economic battleground, Keynesian versus Laissez Faire. While the subject is relevant to how each man might perform as president the major part of the discussion was void of specifics on how either would manage the economy for the next four years. The exchange might be informative in an economics class, but hardly to a majority of voters.

Within these limits Romney was the clear and, more important, popular winner. He was critical, but not disdainful of his opponent. While Obama was speaking he looked at him directly with that frozen smile. In the same role Obama was looking at anything except his opponent. This demeanor didn’t help John McCain’s cause four years ago in what seemed to be an attempt to put Obama in his place. Worse yet was Al Gore’s incessant groaning while W was speaking. I’d have thought Obama team would have figured this one out given how sharp it was the last time around. This oversight may decide who the next president will be.

I attribute the lack of substance in the debate itself to moderator Jim Lehrer. The situation required more than theoretical questions. I understand his concern over seeming partisan by asking for a comment on Romney’s 47% statement. But being on record as not being “concerned” with nearly half of the nation is as relevant as any question that was asked. That it was not a public statement, but one made in presumed privacy to selected supporters who paid $50,000 to each hear him, only adds to its importance. Contrast Lehrer’s timidity with Bernard Shaw’s question to Michael Dukakis in 1988 as to how he would reconcile his opposition to the death penalty with the possibility of his wife being raped and murdered. He might as well have added by Willie Horton.

It will be sad, tragic and until recently barely credible if this event leads to the election of this wooden man whose words and actions personify his class, which is driven largely by billionaires whose worst fear is becoming mere millionaires. Pulling this one off without unsolicited help from Barack Obama and Jim Lehrer would have put him in a league with Merlin, Houdini and Rasputin.

Friday, October 5, 2012

To Your Health

My last mailing consisted of a copy of a letter sent to the New Have Register in which I mentioned the “possibility” that our health care is “over-priced.” This isn’t my first letter that has been rejected by the Register, but I don’t think it was the quality of writing when compared to some of my letters that have been printed there. My strong suspicion is that the editorial department is afraid of offending the medical community.

This hasn’t been the case with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, two of the four groups that comprise our health care system. They have been excoriated by voices in the media including the Register. Why are hospitals and doctors, the other two components, treated with such deference?*

In the case of hospitals, I’ve mentioned a friend whose insurance company was charged $2,000 for an hour in the recovery room following a colonoscopy. Even if half the cost of this “service” was to compensate for freebies in the ER, a thousand would still be excessive. In 2005 I was denied release from a hospital until I’d signed a waiver for refusing a pacemaker that an outside cardiologist later assured me was unnecessary. This leads to the question of why hospitals have stopped admitting personal physicians to check on their patients. The cost of medical care, hospitalization in particular, has risen well above inflation. I doubt that the labor and materials required cost that much more, certainly not enough to justify these prices.  

My most recent of several experiences with “questionable” charges by doctors was a $2,200 bill for a blood test and reading by a hematologist, a process that took fifteen minutes from beginning to end. It’s my understanding that price fixing is the rule in medical procedures, with occasional discounts as doctors see fit, and I think that’s proper. A system that encourages people to look for cheaper doctors leaves a lot to be desired. But if medical expenses are too high it follows that these fixed prices might also be. I find reports that some doctors are refusing to treat patients at Medicare prices disturbing and revealing, another example of the pervasive “everyone for himself” attitude.  

I have no specific solution to suggest. But to me an inescapable conclusion is that the price of health care makes a stronger argument for more government rather than less.

* To complete the picture I should acknowledge the existence of indirect beneficiaries of our insurance money. Start with lobbyists and work up from there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Letter to the Editor New Haven Register

It’s the prevailing wisdom of many sensible people that since Medicare is losing money more will eventually have to be contributed to the system, less received from it or a combination of the two. This may be an inescapable conclusion unless one considers the possibility that our health care is overpriced. We have the highest per capita cost of any nation yet we are well down the list in results, such as life expectancy. Granted we are paying for care for the uninsured. But there are numerical limits to this line of reasoning. Take a look at what your insurance company is paying for your health care and decide for yourself if that limit is being exceeded

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fact and Friction

“Fact checkers come to this with their own set of facts and beliefs and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers’ Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.”

A tip of the hat to Mr. Newhouse and his candor! I could never have described Republican indifference to fact as convincingly as he has demonstrated it. I agree that these folks come with their own set of beliefs. But they’re Democrats and they see things a little differently. You have to expect them to get a little contrary now and then.

But it’s another cup of tea having “their own set of facts.” I’m put in mind of a New Jersey local political radio commercial years ago, in which the candidate, who happened to be a Republican, warned voters not to be taken in by his opponent’s “false facts.” Can there be two incompatible facts on a specific subject? Can the earth be round and flat?

Fact checking by both political parties is nothing new. Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has worked in this capacity for years doing extra-curricular work digging up dirt on Democrats when there are no facts to check. I’d argue that we’d all be better off if statements were checked for accuracy before we heard them, an “ounce of prevention” sort of thing.

Fact checkers by definition check facts. To publicly declare that you won’t let your party’s campaign be dictated by their findings, reduced to its essentials, is declaring freedom to lie, a transgression comparable to claiming that science is irrelevant. Neither political party has a monopoly on spreading misinformation. But I am a partisan who thinks Republicans are guilty of it more often and more egregiously than Democrats. It gives me great satisfaction to hear one of them coming so clean publicly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Political Incivility

In my last letter I referred to the “speech” Romney made in Boca Raton. But the “forty seven percent” business took place later in his answer to a question from a member of a $50,000 a plate audience. The questions themselves give an even clearer picture of the core thinking of these people. Certainly Democrats say things behind closed doors that would be damaging if they were made public. But there is a proportional difference in degree, forty seven to one as a rough estimate. We know that James Carter III, grandson of the former president, procured the recording. But the original source is unknown at this writing. It’s a reasonable guess that it might be one of that forty seven percent in question who likely makes less annually than the price of the dinner.

These words are prima facie evidence of “class warfare” of which Republicans commonly accuse Democrats. As I’ve mentioned, using a different metaphor, any warfare is like a tango, it takes two. Class warfare is nothing new. It goes back at least as far as recorded history.

The language spoken by Romney in presumed privacy was pure Wall Street which doesn’t translate all that well. The other Republicans, many of whom carry the Tea Party banner, are mostly Archie Bunker types and Evangelicals. They are not as circumspect and tend to let it all hang out. An illuminating moment was at a party presidential debate when the audience broke into wild applause at the mention of Rick Perry’s Texas having the nation’s highest death penalty rate. I’m against the death penalty for my own reasons, but I know people who disagree with me who can make an arguable case, who would never demean themselves this manner.

Political incivility is hardly new to this country. There have been Congressional fist fights, canings and I believe a shooting or two. But the differences there were more personal than ideological. Demonizing entire classes of people is a relatively new development.

As I see it this incivility was started by Ronald Reagan. Nixon was more a megalomaniac than an ideologue.  He signed measures into law that are blasphemous by today’s right wing standards. Gerald Ford quietly vetoed egalitarian legislation from a Democratic Congress. The “Great Communicator” was able to stigmatize an entire race of Americans with fairy tales about a “welfare queen in her Cadillac” cashing benefits acquired under several aliases and a “strapping young buck” buying T bone steaks with food stamps.

This line of “reasoning” was picked up by the whole party. It was at the heart of the 1994 “Republican Revolution” led by Newt Gingrich. It was undoubtedly enough to push W over the top in his two elections and was used by the Tea Party to great effect in 2010. But the African American population in the last census was 12.6%, well short of the 47% Romney has taken on. The Republican Party’s eyes may be too big for its stomach.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just Between Us

Mitt Romney’s speech to big time donors in Boca Raton is now being analyzed by media minds six ways to Sunday. My synopsis has him saying “there are 47% who are with him, [Obama]” who, because they pay no income tax, are basically schnorrers.* I guess this sort of thing limits the efforts of some of the wealthier remaining 53% to save the economy by playing the old derivative game.

What I haven’t heard mentioned, and can’t understand, is why a major party presidential nominee wouldn’t know better than to publicly shoot from the lip, even to an audience of true believers. George Allen’s “macaca” moment should have been adequate warning that there might be someone with a recording device lurking in the vicinity.

Of greater concern is the way these people talk to each other in what they presume, in this case mistakenly, to be privacy. They don’t mess with this right/wrong or fair/unfair business as we on the left do, perhaps naively. A musician I know working a party at Bohemian Grove, a northern California retreat for upscale men, quoted one of the group speaking of a hostile takeover by one member of a fellow member's corporation. “You don’t (expletive) a friend, you (expletive) John Q. Public.” At least there’s loyalty, even among thieves.

Another item buried in this news cycle, but perhaps equally revealing, is Romney’s ABC interview in which he defined middle class income as from $200 thousand to $250 thousand these figures being in the top ten percent nationally. In his defense he did add “or less” in a barely audible voice that sounded mighty like an afterthought. If he hadn’t I might have put in for some of the filthy lucre he says is floating around for the less affluent. He might have eventually had to say something like this in defense of his position on retaining the Bush tax cuts, although specificity is not his forte. But I thought he would have tried to avoid these specifics as long as he could, until after the election if possible. People like me have been shouting about just this for years. How considerate of him to spell it out so definitively!  

Mitt Romney has been criticized for a lack of conviction. His off the cuff address in Boca Raton, particularly his tone in the audio, belie this criticism. He has some strong convictions that, to the extent they are known should doom his candidacy. If he is elected president it can be said that this is a case of carrying our version of democracy too far.

*Of course he didn’t use this word. But it summarizes and condenses his words nicely. “Hooray for Captain Spalding, the African explorer.” (Groucho Marx in “Animal Crackers”)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Last Hurrah

To repeat something I mentioned recently, I can’t remember a presidential election that wasn’t being called “the most important in our history.” Count me in on this one. This is the second time in my life that the radical right has made a serious bid for the White House, if you consider Goldwater’s try in 1964 serious. When it comes to pure comedy the current crop may be giving Goldwater’s bunch a run for the money. What makes this one different and more dangerous is the fact that Romney, at this late date, still has a reasonable chance of winning. That’s because more Americans are willing to accept as fact that extremism in defense of liberty is not a vice. This may be OK, but only if we agree on where defense of liberty begins and, more important, where it ends.

This election looked very good for the Republicans on paper. Citizens United, selective voter suppression, public perception of Obama’s handling of the economy and the fact that he is hated by many for reasons not altogether political is a good starting point. They have been engaging in far right rhetoric to accommodate Tea Party types with the expectation of winning. In doing so many of them have publicly taken stands that are against their beliefs, most significant being their candidate for president. If they can’t pull it off this way the Republican establishment, for whose benefit the party is run, will not make this mistake again. What happens next is anybody’s guess. It could be the last hurrah for a marginalized Tea Party with rearrangement of our entire political structure, not necessarily a bad development as I see it.

If Romney is elected it would be only a matter of time for the rabble to realize that there was never anything in it for them. Tea Partiers may learn, too late, who their enemies are. Republicans, through newly elected governors, are now trying to in effect remove poorer voters from the electorate. If they become further empowered I don’t think they’d have qualms about doing the same to former allies, by less subtle means if necessary.

And they might well become necessary. America has never experienced as minuscule a minority ruling class that would be comprised almost completely of beneficiaries of stated Republican intentions. The only way this hegemony could be preserved would require actions never before seen in this country and make us for sure the greatest nation in the world, the Third World.

Monday, September 10, 2012

On the Other Hand

If I were assigned the unenviable task of trying to make a rational case for Mitt Romney’s election it would go something like this;

“After four years the nation is not appreciably better financially than when Obama took office. This may be the result of an intransigent disciplined Republican opposition committed solely to his defeat. But in an emergency the financial well being of the nation trumps democracy as it’s supposed to work. If the past is prologue Romney will have a more compliant Congress to enact his agenda. There’s no reason to think that Obama will be more successful with Congressional Republicans than he was in his first two years with a Democratic House and a Senate, filibuster proof until Ted Kennedy’s death after a hundred and thirty three days. It may not be nice for corporations to refrain from investing available money that would create jobs because it would help Obama. But that would change to some degree if Romney is elected. To the extent that Republicans have control of the nation they’ll have some interest in working for it rather than against it as they have since Obama became president. It may not be pretty, but that’s the way it is.”

Remember, this is just an exercise. The specifics of Romney’s agenda, that a sympathetic Congress would be likely to enact, are by themselves grounds to knock the whole argument into a cocked hat. As a strictly practical matter they would be voting for a candidate who advocates expanding the fiscal policies of a man whose presidency is held in such regard that his name was barely mentioned at his party’s convention. But there are unaffiliated pragmatic voters who may be susceptible to my feeble attempt at logic. I hope enough of them give further thought to the consequences.

In a deeper sense these people would be selling the nation’s soul and the well being of younger Americans on the premise of little more than a hunch, that the next four years will be better for themselves. It’s sort of Hansel and Gretelish, enough food for two but not for four. It’s all quite simple. For the past thirty years the disparity of wealth has been growing with financial support from an already rich minority. A major step was taken in just one day by the Citizens United decision. To paraphrase an old song, Republicans and their nominee want to help the rich to continue getting richer while the poor are having children, that are becoming more expensive to raise and particularly to educate to their potential.

It’s inaccurate to paint all extremely wealthy people with the same brush, Warren Buffet being a case in point. But a majority is inexorably devoted to becoming even wealthier. Should they control both the executive and legislative branches of government, resulting from an election where the lines are as clearly drawn as this one, with many poorer voters disenfranchised, there’s no telling where they’ll stop. It’s not fear mongering to suggest that some sort of serfdom could be in our future. Right wing “historians" take note. This is something for which the early Americans known as “settlers” would never have settled.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Threat To Far

County Judge Tom Head, the top elected official in Lubbock, Texas, recently had this to say about the consequences of Obama’s reelection; “He is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N. OK, what’s going to happen when that happens? I’m thinking worst case scenario and civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war, maybe. And we’re not talking just a few riots and demonstrations. We’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.” (Italics mine)

Among other things his statement cries out for derisive humor, the allusion to Lexington and Concord being the juiciest part, and I’ve been kicking this approach around, but without much success. I thought about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman competing for the part of Molly Pitcher, the invasion coming through Mexico with help from illegal aliens and the difficulty of saying “I surrender” in Bulgarian. On the whole I wasn’t living up to the subject’s potential.

Then I received a phone call from a friend who was planning to vote for Obama, but as a Second Amendment devotee was alarmed by his alleged plan to have our gun control laws dictated and enforced by that same bad old U.N. This was my “eureka” moment. Some nut cake from Texas has the U.N. invading the country. Cooler right wing heads prevail because this is too preposterous for anyone minimally rational, so they tone down the story to serve as material for NRA pep rallies.

All this was done in just a week and not by word of mouth. “One if by land, two if by sea” is so Eighteenth Century. It couldn’t have come from the mass media, being too far-fetched for even Fox “News” or the National Enquirer. The obvious source of this fiction is those “pass it on” emails that I’ve been ranting about lately.

What is particularly incongruous about these messages is that Barack Obama, who has now been president for nearly four years, is being accused of outlandish plans that are completely out of character. His opponent, at this point a relative stranger, is known to openly favor expanding the regressive tax cuts that have served our economy so well for the past ten years and a Medicare system that limits future beneficiaries to $6,000 a year. Whether it’s called a voucher system is beside the point.

What seriously concerns me is the last eight words, “take up arms and get rid of the guy.” Mr. Head is referring to the President of the United States. This is something that would normally attract FBI attention. Wherever the line restricting freedom of speech is this man has crossed it. I’ll finish with a rhetorical question. How would previous Justice Departments have responded?  OK, add an “if.” The question is still rhetorical.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Big Bad Wolf

The words from the mouths of Romney and Ryan, along with those of other leading Republicans have reached a low point in that party’s history and, as I see it, that of the nation. The sort of right wing extremists so prevalent today made a rag tag bid for the White House in 1964 with Barry Goldwater. But his campaign was unprepared and untimely, coming less than a year after Kennedy’s assassination. When Goldwater and his movement were so soundly thrashed, the Republican Party beat a strategic retreat to a facsimile of moderation, and settled for getting on base rather than hitting home runs.*

We’re hearing now of positions taken by Nixon, Reagan and even W. that are liberal by today’s standards. Nixon may have been severely ethically challenged, but he waged his war with stealth, none of this in your face stuff. Overtly he signed “liberal” environmental legislation which would be blasphemy in current Republican circles. Reagan, because of his general likability, could take bolder steps, dismantling of much of the Depression inspired New Deal financial precautions. But like other Republican presidents he was limited to what he could get away with at the time. W. didn’t have the organization of the Tea Party so he too made concessions from party orthodoxy that wouldn’t sit well with the current crop of bandits.

I see these three pioneers of the right in the same league as the current crop of malefactors. They started a national movement that continues unabated to this day. But I don’t believe the nation has gone as far in this direction as most people think, particularly the median, that diminishing numerical center of the electorate. The big difference is in the intensity and strength of the extremes, and here is where the left always loses. The radicals of the 1960s, the Weathermen and Black Panthers, behaved like clowns, leading to the election of Richard Nixon who promised to restore “law and order.” The other guys are pros by comparison. Look at what they did in the House. The Tea Party is still making news, but where has Occupy Wall Street been lately?

I believe most prominent Republicans would acknowledge that the party and platform are further to the right than at any time in recent history. They embody the spirit of Goldwater who praised extremism and condemned moderation in unspecified circumstances. Like thinkers are perilously close to taking over the administrative and legislative branches of government and already control the judicial.

“They all do it” or “they’re all crooks” are phrases in my opinion most often spoken by Republicans and why not? It saves them the trouble of reasoning. I hope those without political preferences realize the “wolf” that many have been crying, by calling every election “the most important in our history,” is at the door this time.

*I couldn’t resist this metaphor. It was cornetist Bobby Hackett’s advice to a rhythm section, of which I was a member that had just seriously rushed the tempo of the preceding song.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And We Can Prove It

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” These are the words of Todd Akin’s controversial statement proclaiming a rape victim’s ability to will away pregnancy. He has apologized saying that he spoke the wrong words in the wrong way. Balderdash! He said the wrong thing. I’m quite certain he’ll drop out of the race. People like him generally have a price for their service, and his service is in great demand now from people who can afford it. The longer he hangs on the higher the price until the point of diminishing returns which apparently hasn’t been reached.

Technically he has some wiggle room. “It seems to me from what I understand from doctors” is hardly “telling it like it is.” But even if he hadn’t heard from the first doctor, I’m certain that Republicans would produce some who would back him all the way if it were in the party’s interest. This would be bad policy for them now: perhaps in a few years.

For whatever controversial subject Republicans advocate they can produce “experts” to validate their point. A skimpy minority, but who’s counting? This year’s weather has produced extremes unprecedented in the history of official weather reporting and unofficial narrative. The fact that carbon emissions are higher than ever is just another of their famous coincidences for which they have climatologists to “prove.”  I strongly suspect that institutions of “higher learning,” bearing the name of well known televangelists are prominent in the resumes of the authorities cited.

When it comes to the all important economy Republicans have outdone themselves. Extant reputed authorities on this subject are being avoided. Living economists are a fickle lot. Look what happened with David Stockman who was chosen by Ronald Reagan to make the case for supply side economics. Deceased economists’ judgments often become vulnerable to subsequent history.

So who better than the latest proclaimed voice of authority in all that is Republican economic theory than a deceased novelist? He, she in this case, can’t change her mind and what she has written can’t be factually challenged because novelists are by definition writers of fiction, which brings us to the point of this letter, Republican logic in general and Todd Akin’s specifically.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Third World

When John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate my immediate thought was that his campaign, running even with Barack Obama’s at the time, was in trouble. I didn’t know, as his people did, that the economy would tank before the election. The choice was a Hail Mary pass in hope of winning votes of dirty old men and disgruntled Hillary supporters.

I felt the same about the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate. On the surface it makes no sense. It does figure to energize the base, the Democratic base. The Ryan Budget, which Romney has yet to disavow, is layered with Marie Antoinette’s fingerprints, the most controversial being the end to “Medicare as we know it.” $6,000 per year for life for medical expenses, even adjusted for inflation, is a frightening prospect.

But like McCain’s people, Romney’s advisors may know something that we don’t, in this case fortuitous for them, specifically the potential effect of new voter suppression laws. Our system as of 2004 was less than perfect in this respect. Voters in several of Ohio’s biggest cities had to wait until 4:00 AM, many leaving without voting. Had John Kerry won that state, which he lost narrowly, he would have been president. In a true democracy there would be one voting booth for every given number of registered voters.

Republican state legislatures and governors elected in 2010 have passed laws which, if not judicially rescinded between now and the election, will dwarf this inequity. Voter ID laws to prevent non-existent voting fraud have been passed in several major swing states. A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday ruled this legal there.  

Laws shortening the early voting time have been passed in Ohio, for all but the military and veterans. When Democrats complained that this blatantly partisan law should be discarded for everyone, they were accused of showing disrespect for the military. This landmark of chutzpah was exceeded when the legislature voted to wave the law in districts that tended to vote Republican. This last was abandoned, probably because it was so blatantly Third World that it would have cost the Republicans votes nationally once it became widely known.

But it shows the lengths to which Republicans will go if permitted and raises the question of what they might do at the last minute when most votes are cast. By choosing Paul Ryan they seem to be saying that this is all out war and that they intend to take no prisoners. I deeply hope that my suspicions are not justified because Third World tactics elicit Third World responses. Whatever our faults as a nation now, we would not be left with America as we’ve known it.