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.