Sunday, December 29, 2013

End of an Era-Final Post to Fare and Fowl Blog

I wanted to be in touch with all of Red Balaban's friends and contacts to let you
know there will be no more Fare and Fowl entries to follow. Dad passed away
at 9am est this morning.  His last days were peaceful.
He'd been in the hospital for a week and we  knew he was fading, but we also
expected at any moment for him to come out of it and start demanding to be
let out of the hospital immediately.

We are making arrangements.  We will be having a funeral in the on Sunday January 5th in West Haven or New Haven, followed up with a, yet to be determined, memorial celebration.  We
would like to know who among you would be interested in an invitation to

Both events will be held in or near West Haven, Ct.

Please respond to this (Red's email that I will be monitoring) or my email at or call Micki(my mom, Red's wife) at 203-934-5186.

Thank you for reading and following this blog.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Friends and Frenemies

Some of you may may be wondering about the absence of my letters. The fact is I've been quite ill the past month. With what? I could answer "take your pick" or "congestive heart and kidney problems." My GP would be more apt to answer in more moralistic terms. From my point of view I'd be tickled to be able to vote in the 2016 elections.

Leonard "Red" Balaban

(note-Leonard is home from the hospital and recovering.  He finally got back on the computer and put this together for his friends and readers.  Please feel free to send him an email to see how he's doing. )

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Not Again

Yes, I’m afraid it’s more about the Affordable Care Act. After all that’s the big news these days, unless you’re fixated on George Zimmerman’s latest escapades, so here’s the latest on what I, and some of the public may have  learned since my last version.

Barack Obama was not lying when he said that people could keep their insurers and doctors if the ACA became law.Whatever policies were in place when the law was passed, even if they had sky high deductibles and extra limits to the people and conditions covered, were grandfathered from having to meet the higher standards set by the ACA. Of course premiums can change, insurers can terminate policies or simply go out of business and doctors can retire or die. But that’s always been par for the course.

The only policies subject to cancellation were written during the three years after the law was passed and before it took effect that didn’t meet or weren’t modified to meet minimum ACA standards. Obama has just extended the deadline for compliance an additional year. Surely insurers worth their salt knew that these contracts had a limited life and had an obligation to inform their prospective clients all of whom may not have read the “small print” in the law, although given the direct stake of consumers in this legislation the small print is deceptively bold.

While some of the holders of these inferior policies have been duped by unscrupulous insurers I strongly suspect many of the “victims” are plants, the more pathetic the anecdotes the better. Some of them are ringers. I saw two of these poster boys in business suits on Fox, where else, pleading personal hardship who were later identified on MSNBC, where else, as corporate executives.

Republican spin masters have been referring to this scenario as “Obama’s Katrina,” a bit of a stretch to equate a malfunctioning website and deadly storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Then too this president’s has yet to say to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius, “Katy, you’re doing one heckuva job.”





Saturday, November 16, 2013


One of several mistakes in making the Affordable Health Care Act or “Obamacare” law was that even now too few people are informed of its details. In commenting on it we can only speak of what we know or believe we know. To my knowledge this law by itself has not and cannot order the cancellation of a single policy. Only the insurance companies and policy holders can do this. Sub-par policies in existence before the law was passed have been grandfathered while policies written in the three years since, including those now mandated by ACA, must meet minimum standards. This is the cause of many of the cancellations now making news. Has the government set unreasonably high qualifications? This is a question that might be raised by the insurance companies. Their silence on this subject should be noted.
A typical right wing response to the issue would be to invoke the free market as a guide to what consumers should get for their money. But there is another consideration here. The cheaper the policy the less the coverage, with considerably higher deductibles and more exceptions for customers and ailments. This may be all that poorer people can afford yet they are the ones most vulnerable to these limits to their coverage. Those who need comprehensive coverage the most can afford it the least.
The per capita cost of our health care is by far the world’s highest yet the results are worse than nations that provide universal health care. The discrepancy is that our national health care doesn’t begin until a person reaches the age of sixty five. A lot of people die before that age and many more develop conditions that preventive medicine would have cured or lessened had they been treated before becoming eligible for government sponsored health care. It is common sense that the cost of treating Medicare beneficiaries would be considerably less had their conditions had been tended to earlier.
Unmitigated self-interest is just that. I can think of no part of our complex society in which it is more reprehensible than caring for the sick.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mimimum But No Cover

I recently emailed the New Haven Register saying that while I agreed with its editorial that Obama had not been 100% square with us I had something to add. Specifically, inasmuch as Congress, the President and the Supreme Court have concluded that mandated health insurance was within federal purview, it is incumbent on the government to require that this insurance meet some reasonable minimum standard. I equated this with auto emission controls in which state government can force consumers to change cars if they decline to have theirs brought up to minimum requirements.

Obama can be faulted for not mentioning that mandated health care must be part of a plan that meets minimum standards. Sub-par policies are grandfathered. But the insurers are prohibited from issuing new policies in effect forcing them out of business. I suppose he could be guilty of a half-white lie.* I would also argue that it was done to pass legislation that was clearly in the national interest. I wonder how St. Peter would balance the two.

Opposition attempts to sabotage “Obamcare” have been disingenuous. Pricier policies are being peddled by insurance companies under the threat of even more expensive plans after the law kicks in on Jan. 1, yet available new policies, which affect about 3% of the population, are expected to be the same if not cheaper. A friend who is the widow of an IBM employee, is quite pleased with her new policy. But since she is a devout Republican I expect this to be temporary. It’s easy to understand the opposition to this law by much of the medical complex beginning with insurance companies. But one would think that corporations like IBM would be glad to be relieved of the expense of administering these policies.

There’s very little of Marquis de Queensberry influence in American politics. Still there have to be some limits. Most people have standards to which they adhere. Relatively few condone murder. These standards vary with individuals and groups and have been declining steadily, too fast as I see it. To this unabashed partisan, at any given time the ethical bar both political parties have set for themselves is much lower for Republicans.


*My apologies to those who consider this politically incorrect. But I just couldn’t resist it.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

GOP Priority

Shortly after the last presidential election a friend, whom I consider reasonably intelligent but unsophisticated politically, told me that he voted for Romney because “the other guy has had four years and hasn’t fixed things.” While there may be a grain of logic here it ignores a major part of the picture. This is the same line of reasoning that elected Hitler. Yes, he was elected.
Of course it’s quite a stretch to equate a vote for Romney with a vote for Hitler. The common line of reasoning here also led to the election of FDR a year earlier, an outcome that most of us view favorably. Germans had suffered much more after the fifteen years that followed the Great War than we had after just four years of the Great Depression. For this reason it seems obvious that today’s Republican Party has a motive, if it desires, to drive this nation closer to the conditions that created the Third Reich, at least as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House.
To view the Republicans Party as a monolith is an over simplification. The establishment, which contains a majority of the current leadership, is driven by an insatiable desire for wealth. It is the home of whatever rationality exists in the party. The base, which provides an indispensable portion of votes, is driven by a combination of religious fervor, racism, xenophobia and a propensity for hatred in general. It’s hard to imagine how these people would govern together. The only thing they share is an intense dislike of Democrats; the establishment for their trying to regulate its thievery and the base for what it considers cultural depravity.
For both the first order of business is taking over the nation and soon, before they become extinct. This goal is not out of reach. They’ve held a narrow but secure control of the judiciary since 1991 when Poppa Bush engineered the replacement of Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas. They’ve developed gerrymandering to a state of the arts level which has given them the House for another seven years and, as I’ve mentioned, could set the stage to steal the presidency at the state level next year by changing Electoral College vote counting.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” “a stitch in time saves nine” “better to be safe than sorry. Choose your metaphor.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hoist By One's Own Petard

In 2008 there was no question how incipient Tea Partiers, the future backbone of the Republican base, would react to the election of our first president of color. A quality ranging from dislike to hatred of the “other” is in their makeup. The reaction of the establishment was less predictable. We don’t know if Mitch McConnell is a racist or just a snob. But we do know now that when it came to treating Barack Obama as president he and his professional ilk behaved as both.

The various devices used by the birthers are common knowledge. Those used by the leadership haven’t been as obvious. They denied formal courtesies to a Democratic president traditionally extended to Democratic colleagues. Republicans in Congress from the start managed to find requests for social or political meetings inconvenient. He was shouted at from the floor of Congress.

Given this setting what could have been more up their alley than the Affordable Health Care Act? This subject has been a burr in the saddle of presidents since Teddy Roosevelt. Bill Clinton’s influence was shredded by it. No issue was as badly mishandled by Obama as the Clinton’s did this one. The disaster of 2010 may have been worsened by Obama’s health care legislation. But it is now law.

Naturally the immediate Republican response was to affix the president’s name to it, hence “Obamacare.” Amy Holmes, a right wing wag, mentioned it numerous times in a soliloquy on the Bill Maher show when the word “it” would have sufficed nicely, in the process saying less at greater length.
Now, like it or not and I suspect not, they have “Obamacare.” It was passed in both Houses of Congress, signed by the president and supported legally by a Supreme Court majority. In common parlance they will now have to refer to it as such, although some of the folks in three cornered hats might have found that affordable health care is too many syllables to remember.

At the beginning of the year Republicans were outraged by almost every entitlement that didn’t benefit their establishment. Now they’ve shut down the government and are threatening default unless Congressional Democrats and the president agree to repeal just the one law to which they have given his name.

If there is the life after death, as many of these people profess to believe, the perfect fate for those who fail the heavenly entrance test would be to spend eternity repeating the words “President Barack Obama.”

Monday, September 30, 2013

Your Vote Please

A few months ago I fell for the Republican line about their “reaching out” for the African American and other minority votes and wrote a serious letter debunking their plan. In retrospect the whole thing was an act. I don’t think even Republicans have that kind of chutzpah. A major political party works openly to create obstacles to voting, financial and otherwise, that diminish the participation of the less affluent who tend to be people of color who vote for the opposing party. They then approach the very people they’ve been trying to disenfranchise and say, in effect, “If you are able to, please vote for us so we can make it harder for you to vote the next time.”

I started this effort as an attempt at humor, but this is as far as I can go in that direction because after all, we’re dealing with preserving a semblance of representative government, sometimes known as democracy. The game as played under our current rules is in the process of marginalizing and possibly eliminating the Republican Party as it now stands because the national complexion is growing steadily darker. That party’s only hope for survival is to change the rules, in the long run drastically.

Selective voter suppression is only one of several ways of doing this. It would be perfectly legal and not without precedent for Republican state legislators in swing states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to apportion their delegates to the Electoral College by Congressional Districts as is now done in Maine and Nebraska. Conducted nationally this system would have elected Mitt Romney president, given the gerrymandering following the 2010 elections. There was open talk by some Republican Governors recently of doing just this which was quickly put to rest when cooler heads realized it could only work as a surprise if kept secret until after the 2014 mid-term state elections. Don’t expect to hear more about it till then unless Democrats treat the next mid-terms more seriously than they did the last.

This country cannot survive as anything resembling a democracy if these people, as they are now constituted, produce the kind of government their long term survival demands. There’s no trusting the morals of this Republican Party’s Wall Street establishment or the sanity of its Tea Party base.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Number Two

The second of the Ten Commandments opens with, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I the Lord am your God………”

It’s obvious that guns would qualify as such an idol, most gun butts having been literally carved. And it’s my view that some of the more avid gun worshippers who claim to be observers  of a Judeo Christian faith are in in fact worshiping guns to a greater degree than the deity of their choice. Certainly few of them would admit it. But I hear more intense passion for unregulated and hence unlimited gun possession coming from missionary types than I do enthusiasm for their Lord. I suppose Christians could argue that the Ten Commandments are Old Testament stuff.

They proudly think of and refer to themselves as Conservatives, strict constructionists and the like. They are helped in this by the five of nine Supreme Court Justices having ruled that the words “well-regulated militia,” with which the writers opened the Second Amendment, were irrelevant.

OK. When I was about twelve I fired a BB gun at a sprinkler, it ricocheted and glanced harmlessly off my mother’s arm. That was the end of the BB gun for me. Now I call that conservative! People now proudly calling themselves conservative have made possession of guns free choice in public places, like bars where you always have the calming influence of alcohol. Is there something wrong with this picture?

It can be easily argued that a twelve year old boy is not mature enough to be entrusted with even something as small as a BB gun which can under certain circumstances inflict physical damage. Thank God, and our guns, that we have a group of responsible adults running the show now.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I’ve been asked on several occasions recently what my take is on the situation in Syria, about which I didn’t consider myself sufficiently informed at the time. But the passage of time and more information can be a big help, except to some of the more enthusiastic Tea Party members. I had no strong opinion on the subject then and still have some ambivalence because the arguments on both sides seemed quite reasonable, even Rand Paul’s.

Enough has been heard publicly so I’ll briefly summarize the arguments. The president and his people feel that an international treaty, agreed on by enough nations including the United States to constitute a quorum, should be honored. To allow this blatant violation to take place without reprisal, would amount to tacit approval of the use of chemical weapons. The most convincing of several opposing arguments concerns the possible ramifications, including an international war of unknown dimensions. Based on political Ideology the Congressional response to the president’s request is unpredictable. One could conclude that making wars is in the Republican DNA had it not been isolationist before World War II. Maybe they just considered Hitler a lesser threat than Stalin. On the other hand it’s hard to imagine them supporting anything that might help Obama politically.

In Groucho Marx’s words I’m now against it, “it” being unilateral action against Syria. I’m skeptical about this nation’s concern over the use of chemical weapons. Ronald Reagan knew that Iraq was using them against Iran during their 1980s war. But that was OK because we were with Saddam on that one. But then in the buildup to the First Gulf War we were told that Saddam was “gassing his own people,” as if he considered the Kurds his people. Later we learned the war was all about the sovereignty of Kuwait and the commodity that went with it. But most important is that Barack Obama’s claim that any action he might take would be enforcing “world” law rings hollow when one considers that only we would be doing the enforcing.

Either Way the international law in question will be effectively null and void. And punishing the slaughterer of 1400 people by damaging his nation’s ability to wage war is not exactly an eye for an eye. It looks to me as if regime change is the only sure fire solution. Now don’t say it can’t be done. Just remember Granada!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Fifteenth Amendment

The following is the text of the Fifteenth Amendment. (1) “The right of citizens of the United States [to vote] shall not be denied orabridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” and (2) “That Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” I italicized abridged, “to reduce in scope: minimize,” because it covers situations where people can vote, but with greater difficulty, financial or otherwise. As I see it section one by itself, properly exercised, should cover it all and section two as simply a “right on guys” to Congress to encourage it to enforce the law.*

The phrase Jim Crow attests to the fact that the Constitution by itself wasn’t sufficient so in 1964 Congress did what it been empowered to do for a century and passed its own legislation. That wasn’t working either so in 1991 it designated nine states that were simultaneously violating both a Constitutional amendment and an act of Congress, for scrutiny of any proposed changes in pertinent legislation.

Things went along fairly well until this year when the Supreme Court, at the request of the states in question, ruled that this scrutiny was no longer necessary. This was proved a major miscalculation in a matter of days when these states began rewriting voting rules that would never have passed muster previously.

I see the importance of this matter as extending beyond these outlaw states to the entire nation in electing candidates for federal positions, not only to proposed revisions, but to the rules as they now stand. There is nothing more essential to representative government than the integrity of its voting system.

This deck is already stacked against citizens of lesser means. Witness the inverse relationship between wealth and time spent waiting to vote. To lose at cards with a stacked deck is to be cheated. But this game is not being played with smoke and mirrors. If we lose this one it will be to bullies doing what bullies do best.


*I suspect there are Republican legal “scholars” who would claim it meant that further Congressional approval was required. But then Republicans are known to be a bit contrary.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Food Stamps

Hooray! Republicans have found themselves a real live food stamp cheat. No phony like Reagan’s palpably fictitious welfare queen, this guy seems like the real thing, thoroughly unlikable, possibly a product of Central Casting. But then we didn’t expect these guys to pick a pleasant scoundrel.

The main purpose of this effort staged by Fox is to show that the undeserving are receiving a major portion of food stamps. This guy sneering at the camera does an excellent impression of undeserving. He may be only one person, but a million like him wouldn’t surprise me. As part of forty seven million food stamp recipients would they justify punishing the other forty six million? If not how large a percentage of miscreants do Republicans consider enough, a mystery in light of their creative sense of proportion? Remember the fellow who said that Benghazi was our worst tragedy since 9/11?

A second purpose of the program is to expose the do-gooders proselytizing people unaware of their eligibility for food stamps. What a terrible thing, advising people that they are entitled to benefits of which they are unaware. TV commercials commonly do this sort of thing. But snitching on the government by private citizens informing others that it is holding benefits due them, well that’s un-American.

We also hear the continued harping that it’s in the national interest that shame should come with accepting food stamps. Ah the warm side of Republican thinking! I’m certain many of these people already feel built in shame on their own for being on the dole, particularly former tax paying citizens who have been done in by the economy.

There is a built in degree of waste and fraud in all government programs to which the Pavlovian response from the right would be that government programs are inherently inefficient. My riposte would be to ask, as an example, why Medicare insures people at considerably lower cost than the private sector.

There’s such an abundance of conflicting electronic “information” these days that it requires a healthy dose of skepticism to separate the wheat from the chaff. If we believed all of it our politics would slide back to the days of Pony Express and government by anecdote.





Monday, July 15, 2013

What Else?

I’m glad the Zimmerman trial is over. Now we can learn what else is happening in the world. It’s not that the trial was unimportant, but that I knew the ending to the story. There was no way he was going to be, or should be, convicted beyond a reasonable doubt of second degree murder for a shooting that took place during a fight. A guilty verdict would have made pariahs of the six jurors who rendered it in Seminole County and well beyond. This says something of a trial by a jury of one’s peers. I say that if justice is a concern these peers should come from diverse parts of the country. This point is demonstrated precisely by the trials of Rodney King’s beating by local police and of O.J. Simpson, whose trial was a mirror image of Zimmerman’s. I’d say that in this case the prosecution left something to be desired. At times I suspect the second degree murder charge was to make it harder for any kind of conviction.

My feeling about the trial doesn’t mean that I believe justice was done. An armed man who violates police orders by getting out of his car, leading directly to the fatal shooting by that man of another, clearly deserves incarceration.

The trial is now history. But it should raise again the perennial question of who enforces our laws. As I understand it amateurs have a legitimate role in vigilance although Zimmerman clearly violated its limits. But the purview of pulling triggers belongs exclusively to professionals who have been trained for the job. Putting one’s hand on a rock, looking to the sky and saying “I am a cop” doesn’t qualify. Had this propriety been observed in Sanford the killing would never have taken place.

As Zimmerman said in the last words of his cell phone call to the police, “they always get away.” It looks as if this also applies to deluded racists like himself.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Who Goes There?

Given what is known now about the George Zimmerman case I believe he is guilty of the racially inspired murder of Trayvon Martin. He was an armed aggressor stalking an unarmed person without any justifiable cause. If anyone was standing his ground it was Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman ignored police instructions to remain in his car. He was a man looking for trouble. Nevertheless if I were a juror I’d probably vote to acquit. The fact that there was a fight just before the shooting opens the door for “beyond a reasonable doubt” against the serious charge of second degree murder.

My greatest concern is the consequences, whatever the verdict, neither of which bodes well. We’ve seen inner city reaction to adjudication of Rodney King’s beating which was limited to Los Angeles and the assassination of Martin Luther King which went national. In this case I fear that reaction to acquittal would more closely resemble the latter. The consequences of a conviction, while less predictable, are potentially as ominous.

Given the inter-racial nature of the event, it may seem that we are dealing with race, which to an extent we are. But of equal importance in the longer run is the place of vigilantism in this country. It involves militias, guns and the thinking that goes with them. There’s no mystery how this issue will play out along political lines. Days after the event Fox was soliciting donations for Zimmerman’s defense in a trial more than a year away. This was not for his benefit.

There are many gated communities in this country and their occupants have a legitimate concern for their security, in many cases the reason for living there.  But there was no legitimacy to Zimmerman’s behavior prior to the confrontation.

An acquittal would just postpone an inevitable showdown. My hope is for a guilty verdict for something less than second degree murder. As I see it legitimate law enforcement is the purview of only authorized people. We know that some of them are less than perfect. For this reason it makes no sense to entrust these life or death jobs to people who are even further from perfect.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who's In Charge Here?

Who are the most influential spokespeople within the Democratic Party? I can only think of one, Barack Obama. We are a relatively diverse bunch that only knows what we hear or read, so we aren’t privy to much of what happens behind closed doors. But as microphones go the president has a loud one.

It’s much easier with Republicans where three names leap out, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and Rupert Murdoch. The Fat Man is listened to by so many of the faithful for three hours a day that no Republican with serious ambitions dares criticize his most atrocious statements. Norquist demands a “no new tax” pledge from candidates that has been taken by all but a handful of current party members in both Houses of Congress. He considers elimination of deductions and subsidies as tax increases, although I doubt that he thinks of Medicaid as such. Murdoch, through Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and other sources of “information” specializes in turning fiction into fact beneficial to the right wing in general.

One thing these three men have in common is that none has served elective office nor, as far as I know ever tried. Yet here they are telling people who have been elected how to vote, indirectly in Murdoch’s case.  

What this says about the nation has provided material for many books. What it says about the Republican Party leads to the inescapable conclusion that many of its members if challenged would respond with old GOP warhorse, “They all do it.”

No Virginia they don’t. To my knowledge it’s now unacceptable for lobbyists to sit next to Congressmen while in session and examine the text of proposed legislation before a vote is cast. In any case the pioneers of this practice were Republicans in the wake of the Gingrich Revolution.

The words spoken by Lincoln at Gettysburg, ”government of the people, by the people, for the people” may apply in some manner today, but differently to our two major political parties. If voter suppression efforts by Republicans say anything they are thinking of fewer people. By allowing private citizens to publicly give marching orders to their elected officials they are clearly thinking of the wrong people.



Friday, June 21, 2013

Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

It warmed the cockles of my heart to hear Bill Maher take Ronald Reagan apart in the finale of his June 7 show. He opened by taking issue with Bob Dole’s saying that Ronald Reagan himself couldn’t make it today as a Republican. Hogwash! In Maher’s words “He wrote the Tea Party playbook on every issue of consequence.” “Ronald Reagan was anti-government, union busting, race baiting, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, who cut rich people’s taxes in half, had an incurable case of military industrial complex and said Medicare was socialism that would destroy our freedom.”
This is Tea Party “logic” almost verbatim. But its current adherents are speaking it in anger and often fury, occasionally brandishing weapons to show they mean business. Reagan on the other hand knew that many voters saw him as the radical right winger he was, so he put his Hollywood experience to use by gently crooning lyrics that would have been X rated if sung by Barry Goldwater 16 years earlier.
Of course Reagan wasn’t elected on charm alone. He was lucky in having an unpopular incumbent as his first opponent. It’s should be mentioned that possibly the biggest of Jimmy Carter’s problems was, in my opinion, exacerbated by private citizens comprising Reagan’s campaign making foreign policy with another nation, Iran during the hostage crisis. This is commonly known as treason.
The world of politics is directly affected by and can’t be fully judged without considering the time in which events take place. Nixon is lauded by many of his fans as some sort of enlightened bi-partisan for having signed clean water legislation, an idea that would be out of the question for a Republican with presidential ambitions today. Even George Bush never suggested some of the things that this crop of Congressional Republicans has. Does that qualify him as a moderate?
As to “Ronrico,” as I used to refer to our 40th president, I disagree with my friends on the left who criticize Barack Obama for calling him a transformative president. He was certainly that and in a big way. So was a World War 1 German corporal named Schicklgruber.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

History Lesson

Republicans, who have been aiming their guns at Barack Obama for the past four plus years are now aiming them at Hillary Clinton, his heir apparent. They must be finding it harder to beat up on a white woman that a man of color, judging by a recent right wing electronic missive I received through a third party.

It cites six presumably damaging quotations from her that are by themselves rather innocuous, except by Tea Party standards. These patriots might find the first, “we’re going to take things away from you for the common good” more than a little dicey, not knowing that this is precisely what happens every time a tax is raised or a benefit reduced. Whatever the context in which she spoke rather bluntly, it had to be in support of a larger point or I’m overestimating her acumen.

From this point on their case against her falls apart. “It’s time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few……and replace it with shared responsibility.” Isn’t shared responsibility pretty much what is expected of a democracy? I’m curious as to how or if Republicans would argue otherwise publicly.

“We have to build a political consensus and that requires people to give up a little bit of their own in order to create this common ground.” This sounds mighty like JFK’s “Ask not” words spoken at his inauguration, not during his campaign.

“I think it’s time to send a clear message to what has become the most profitable sector in the economy that they are being watched.” The only people that would disagree are those who are, or are deserving of, being watched.

Whatever the effect of this piece comes from the format, a multiple choice quiz to “see how much history you know.” The choices for answers to the first question are Karl Marx, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and “None of the above.” Naturally “None of the above” is always the correct answer and always happens to be Madame Clinton. If she says anything that Joseph Stalin or Karl Marx might have said, that makes them all fellow travelers. How about “it’s a nice day”

The others with whom she must keep company on this “history” quiz are (2) Lenin, Mussolini and Idi Amin, (3) Nikita “Khrushev,” (if the writer won’t look up the correct spelling why should I?) Joseph Goebbels and Boris Yeltzen, (4) Mao Tse Dung, Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong Il, (5) Karl Marx, (what again?) Lenin and Molotov and (6) Pinochet, Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. I’m terribly disappointed that the writer omitted two of my favorites in this hall of fame, George Steinbrenner and Donald Trump.


Friday, May 31, 2013

State of the States…or a Word to the Wise

I can’t remember an election, general or mid-term, that someone didn’t say would be the most important in our history and I’m certain next year’s will be the same. 

But there is a serious difference this time in the dramatically increased importance of state elections. Not all of them of course! What happens in Massachusetts and Texas is predictable. But control of governorships and state legislatures in six states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia and Florida could affect America for years to come, and not for the better.

It’s common knowledge that Republican governors in these states, with sympathetic legislatures, were considering reapportioning the state’s votes in the Electoral College by Congressional Districts rather than popular vote. This is perfectly legal and is he law in Maine and Nebraska. But had it been the process last year Mitt Romney would be president today.

One of these governors, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, publicly flirted with the idea before speaking against it. Of course he finally publicly rejected it. Why tell the world what you’re planning nearly two years before an election in which the seats of state legislators whose votes are needed will be at risk? There’s little public support for a state electoral college to add to the already unpopular federal version.

 I think and hope Republicans screwed up by mentioning the subject so early.  Governors in three of these six states were more circumspect during their election campaigns, saying nothing about their drastic plans for labor. This should not be forgotten!

This ugly possibility is a direct consequence of the Tea Party inspired Republican landslide in 2010. Being a census year the Congressional maps of the states became etched in stone for ten years. As I see it the repeal of the Bush tax cuts should have been put to the Senate then, not two years later. The decision was made by party leaders in that body. But I strongly suspect the president was influential, preferring to postpone the issue until his reelection year.

Granted my opinion is debatable.  A presidential election trumps all others and Democrats might have lost both if they’d done as I’d hoped. But having been warned now there’s no excuse now for them not to make this a major issue in next year’s state elections. A word to the wise should be sufficient.


Monday, May 27, 2013


Among the “scandals” plaguing the Obama administration the one that interests me at the moment concerns the scrutiny given applications from right wing “Social Service” organizations for tax exempt status. A logical place to start is with the rules, or law if you prefer, as written by Congress in 1954. It states that for an organization to be eligible for tax exemption it must be “not organized for profit but operated exclusively(italics mine) for promotion of Social Welfare.” This rule is still on the books. In 1959 the IRS, on no authority other than its own, changed the wording of the practice, not the law, from “exclusively” to “primarily.”

A change from zero tolerance to a theoretical 49% makes it harder for the IRS inspectors to monitor this requirement which involves more than a random selection of audits. Some groups are statistically more likely to cheat than others. Outfits with letterheads including the words “Tea Party” and Patriot” are suspect, particularly when they debut in an election year. These are mostly small operations. Serious righties like Karl Rove use non-committal letterheads like “Crossroads.” Words like “minority rights” or “choice” would also draw red flags. But either there are fewer of them, or lefties are more subtle.

This unique IRS interpretation has been with us for more than half a century and wasn’t as much of a problem until Citizens United. Now corporations as “people” also qualify for this tax exemption, so the agency’s work load has increased considerably while Congress has cut its budget.

Whoever is to blame for what has happened, the solution is obvious. Simply enforce the law as it stands. No legislation is needed and no potential filibuster stands in the way. Many Americans, possibly a majority, oppose public financing of political campaigns. Something on the order of “what, my tax money being spent to pay for these crooks’ elections” is common parlance. Yet this is precisely what is happening with as much as 49% of many “charitable” donations and more in some cases. These organizations cannot be primarily and legallylegitimate unless they are runexclusively for social service.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Michelle Bachman was being pursued by a gaggle of reporters asking about the most recent misadventure in her struggle with logic. Most politicians in these situations are silent. But Ms. Bachman shouted “Benghazi” several times. Apparently like many other Republicans, she felt that the mere mention of this city has something of a Pearl Harbor, Maine or Alamo feel to it. Then there is “shazam” for captain Marvel readers.

Some full throated Republican Congressman was all over TV news recently claiming that this event was the worst thing that has happened to this country since9/11. Even If one overlooks the competition for this honor from intervening events, like say the Iraq war, isn’t it a bit hyperbolic to equate the death of four Americans doing government service in a country engaged in a civil war with that of nearly three thousand people at their jobs in downtown Manhattan? As I recall there was some property damage too.

It’s no secret that the target is Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the time and now a likely presidential candidate in 2016. Benghazi wasn’t a big issue before the last election. Was her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice better informed about security at our far flung diplomatic posts? Apparently not since the occurrence of these incidents was more frequent while she was serving under Bush. Her qualifications for State were evidently enhanced by having been National Security Adviser on 9/11, for which she and her boss accepted no responsibility as Hillary has for Benghazi.

We have a lot of people around the world representing our interests, not all of which coincide with the interests of a good part of the native populations. Our people know that there is additional risk in many of these jobs. Were our ambassador not among them, the murder of four diplomatic workers in the Middle East would normally have been stuff for a slow news day.

However I must confess feeling that information released by the Obama administration was something less than forthcoming. Granted, with a presidential election less than two months away, any incumbent administration would do its best to divert an investigation into something potentially damaging. I’m embarrassed at having to resort to “they all do it,” a Republican battle cry that has served the party well in all its scandals since Watergate. What makes this case different is a lack of proportion, for example the numbers 4 and 3000.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

That Toddlin' Town

It’s been two years since I took a shot at the business of privatizing functions and facilities that could be subject to public, or government purview. At that time I mentioned that metered parking in Chicago, run by a corporation from an Arab Emirate State, was $4.00 an hour. Today it’s $6.50. My conclusion, then as now, is that while gouging the public should be frowned on, it’s better done by the city. There’s always an outside chance that some of the swag will find its way into municipal coffers.

Of course Chicago’s metered parking is a drop in the bucket of privatization. Daddy Warbucks types have been trying for decades to privatize anything they can get their hands on. The list is long. Some, like electricity, have been theirs for quite awhile. Others like education are still a gleam in the eye.

One of the most egregious cases is private control of prisons which is still in a state of flux. 31 States and the District of Columbia now have 154 privately run prisons. It shouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes insight to see what’s wrong with this picture. One of our fastest growing industries, like the others, benefits from high volume. Rumor has it that Judges have been and can be bought. Got it?

The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate, five times that of the United Kingdom. How can “the greatest nation in the world” have by far the largest percentage of miscreants? Are we a nation with more than our share of bad people? Or is our judicial system bent on punishing more of its citizens? I’d put my money on the latter.

A major share of our prison population consists of people arrested for marijuana possession. The absurdity of this “crime” was comically evident in the description of the younger Boston bomber as being one of the “regular guys” in school because he smoked grass with them. The legal status quo is obviously financed by money from corporate run prisons. A disproportionally large part of those incarcerated are younger, lower income people from ethnic minorities who will face life with felonies and jail time on their resumes, the direct result of judicial decisions that happen to coincide with the financial interests of privately owned corporations. The obvious result is perpetuation of an underclass which may be precisely what these people want.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fish Story

About twenty years ago on an overnight fishing trip I met two New York State Troopers with whom I engaged in a long and pleasant conversation. They sounded very much like Democrats until the subject of gun control came up and I learned that they were NRA members and were against the pertinent issue of the day, which might have been the assault weapons ban. They freely acknowledged that the law in question was sound and that their opposition was based solely on that old “the next thing you know” business.

This phenomenon of logic is in now in full bloom although I consider its current advocates, as a group, several notches beneath the state troopers. “They’re going to confiscate our guns” is the fairy tale being spread. It’s anybody’s guess whether even a background check can clear Congress and yet some people are worried about their guns being seized.

The NRA people are working hard to make this point. A video they produced, and of course edited, showed interviews of several New Orleans residents describing the heavy handed seizure of their guns during Katrina. There are a few things unconvincing about the production. This stuff is eight years old. Hasn’t something like this been “documented” since? If either federal, state or local governments had a plan to seize the city’s private weaponry they could have enforced it in better weather. Most revealing is that all the “information” came from the people whose guns had been seized. The NRA leaves us guessing at the reason they were being taken. In such a disaster it’s easy to think of circumstances in which people, including gun owners, might act something less than rationally.

There are more guns in fewer households today. It follows that fewer people have more guns, quite a bit more than necessary to handle an intruder or two. If we are to believe some of the more committed owners, the purpose of this hoarding is to defend themselves against the government, the federal government that plans to take their weapons. The unsuccessful 2010 Nevada Senatorial candidate specified “Second Amendment remedies” as a solution for what one feels ails the nation. To my knowledge no Republican member of Congress, for whom these people tend to vote, has gone this far. Still the natives are getting restless and, in the case of some of the hotter heads are publicly warning, you could say threatening, the United States Government.

There was a time when just having been friendly with a former member of a political party that recommended overthrowing the government was cause for penalties ranging from loss of a job to imprisonment. This movement came from the political right, the same direction as those who are now threatening to “defend” themselves from the government, a statement closer to treason than anything coming from the mouths of fellow travelers. I wonder how those state troopers feel about all his.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quickie on Boston

I consider myself as concerned as the next person about what has just happened In Boston, but not enough to spend the day watching TV to hear what is yet to be known, like who did it. The known details of the event are interesting, but only to a point. With my set muted here are two captions that attracted my attention.
One was that terrorism was believed to be involved. No kidding! Does anyone think that this could have been a childish prank? Of course the word “terrorism” is expected to conjure up visions of Osama Bin Laden types. In what way were Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City different?
The other caption led to an unrelated strictly personal thought related to an event half a century ago, that read the FBI was going to head the investigation. Fair enough! But my immediate thought was that it didn’t do a crackerjack job in JFK’s assassination. Could J. Edgar Hoover, who remained FBI head until his death ten years later, have been complicit in the event? This is a question for consideration that may not be new to everyone as it was to me, not an answer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's In a Word?

After years of complaining that environmentalists are not liberals and that “job creators” who defile the environment are not conservatives, I’ve come to accept having been tilting at windmills. I was about to give up my gallant stand against the misuse of the word “entitlement” until reading Hendrik Hertzbergs’s article in the April 8 New Yorker. Evidently the first usage of the word in its current context is as recent as Ronald Reagan’s presidency and was novel enough at the time to require quotation marks. Daniel Patrick Moynihan didn’t think much of it, calling it “semantic infiltration.” But the Great Communicator has prevailed until now, specifically denigrating social programs of which he disapproved.

His targets were most notably Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but only Medicaid fits this description. It is a benefit, like police and military protection to which citizens are entitled even though they may not have paid a penny toward the system. Medicaid might have been one of those unspecified loopholes Romney had in mind eliminating, a loophole for poor people to get free health care.

Social Security and Medicare are literally insurance policies paid for, like it or not, by the beneficiaries. Whether a person is insured by government through deductions from wages or pays for insurance privately, he or she is still purchasing insurance. Why is only one such transaction considered an entitlement?

For its first eighty years Social Security took in so much more than it paid that its trust fund is currently one of the government’s major creditors. It is expected to start costing the government money in twenty years. Should people who contributed to past surpluses now be expected to accept reduced benefits in advance of a legitimate need, to help people of wealth retain their current tax status?

Medicare is costing the government money today. We have the most expensive per capita health system of industrialized nations and yet are well down the list in almost every category. We’re simply not getting our money’s worth. I heard on NPR that the lion’s share of people with heavy offshore investments are not financiers like Romney, but from the medical complex. My prime suspects are hospital administrators. Yes they have their share of freebies. But their numbers pale before the size of known overcharges. “Non-profit,” a euphemism for tax exempt, doesn’t limit salaries of administrators.

If one accepts Mr. Hertzberg’s conclusion that the accepted meaning of entitlement is not yet etched in stone let me take a stab at it and suggest that it describes more than food stamps. It also can be fairly said of something into which many fortunate people are born, people like Mitt Romney and the Kennedys.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Whole Truth

On Wednesday I looked forward eagerly, perhaps a bit anxiously, to Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC that night. The previous night Asa Hutchinson, former Arkansas Republican Congressman now heading an NRA task force, was his guest. When asked how he felt working with Wayne LaPierre, head NRA honcho, who said that if Obama is elected “you and I will lose more on the election battlefield than our nation has lost in any battle, any time anywhere” Hutchinson replied “I don’t trust your recitation of his statements.” O’Donnell’s response was slightly equivocal. In saying “that’s been on this program before” he was in effect allowing that his statement might be based solely on information his staff had given him.

I felt that the situation demanded a more specific response ASAP, specifically the next night, either proving, clarifying or retracting his statement. I was delighted on hearing that night that these were the precise words of a letter LaPierre had written to the NRA members during the campaign.

This exchange is a microcosm of our national debate between left and right. It may be something of an over simplification to use gun control as a gauge of one’s political persuasion. There are exceptions. But as it pertains to Fox and MSNBC it’s right on the money.

Would any of the Fox hosts give a qualified first response under these circumstances as O’Donnell did, even to something that was an outright lie? I doubt that someone challenging any of its “facts” would ever be a guest on one of its programs. Lies, however implausible, are trumpeted simply in hopes of being overheard and repeated as facts. For this reason I plead guilty to not watching that station to “hear the other side.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Reaching Out"

As most of us know by now the Republicans are trying to “reach out” to minority groups that have been voting increasingly Democratic in the last few presidential elections. They refer to them as minorities, true enough of blacks, gays and Hispanics, but hardly of women. This reaching out consists of saying nice things about them and having party luminaries at their important events. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was a recent spokesman for this approach, saying that he was tired being a member of the “stupid party,” an unabashed gesture of contrition.

With one exception. While he was speaking, his party’s representatives in the state legislature were trying to replace the state income tax with a sales tax increase. It doesn’t require much knowledge to know that income taxes are paid by the rich and sales taxes by consumers.

If one makes the reasonable assumption that Jindal’s speech is a microcosm of his party’s handling of the problem, this approach boils down to “listen to what we say, ignore what we do.” There’s an obvious conflict in Republicans asking blacks for votes they are simultaneously trying to suppress. Put bluntly “we don’t want to let you vote. But if you do, be sure to vote for us.” If they want more Hispanic votes they’ll have to ignore the Tea Party and show an open mind on immigration. If they want support from gays they’ll first have to cease opposition to gay marriage. The votes of poor folks will require some serious penance.

Reaching out for the women’s vote is also quite a stretch. However one regards abortion, there is a substantial number of women, enough to swing elections, who strongly prefer a Roe v Wade world. A larger number often prefer contraception to pregnancy. I find it hard to consider something that can only be seen through a microscope as human life, eventually maybe, but not at the moment. Equal pay for equal work? There are two ways to do this, lower the salaries of the “overpaid,” presumably men, which isn’t about to happen, or raise the pay of women which would add to the expense of doing business, and we can’t have that now can we?

As I see it the Republican Party, both leadership and membership, doesn’t have arms long enough or anything resembling the will, to reach the people whom it has managed to increasingly offend in recent years. There is little if any chance of its winning the game of majority rule, sometimes known as democracy. Its only hope lies in changing the game.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


The percentage of homes with guns in this country is at a record low and sales have been brisk, particularly after recent mass shootings so it follows that more guns are now being owned by fewer people. Gun owners, even some of the more gung ho advocates, can’t be painted with one brush. But many of the extreme spokesmen who manage to get the press claim to be arming themselves to resist a federal government, which for openers intends to take away their guns.

Surely some of these people must know better and are saying it for the team. Even after Newtown, gun control Congressmen have been unable to reinstate the assault weapons ban that had been law for ten years before it expired in 2004. And yet some day they may be able to seize guns from citizens??

In my opinion what binds stereotypical gun worshipers is that they are at heart bullies. Many gun fanatics know that they’ll never need a gun that fires one hundred clips without reloading. It’s just nice to be able to show the folks who say you shouldn’t be able do something that you could if you wanted.  

I’ll go a step further with this bully business and say that based on recent performance the same can be said of Republicans. I cite the intentional overt snubbing of the President by prominent party Congressman. This may be the only thing that the Tea Party people and the establishment have in common because apart from that they live in different financial worlds. The party’s resistance to gun control has less to do with conviction than votes. I believe that this has until now been a successful way of their showing who really calls the shots, despite being a minority of both the electorate and the elected. 
As one who was sent to military school in March of seventh grade, I was prime material for bullies. As a prep school senior I was one in my own right, although of a lesser sort. Bullying is natural to much of our juvenile nature. What youngsters do is one thing. But what they do as supposedly mature arbiters of what determines a nation’s laws and its direction as a world power is another matter entirely.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Tattles

The identification of the person who recorded Romney’s 47% statement marks the second time in recent years that an obscure citizen with no direct political influence may have directly altered history. George W. Bush would probably never have become president if Gore had run a slightly better campaign. One more state, any state, would have done the job. But he was overly concerned with proving to voters that he would never do to Tipper what Bill had done to Hillary. This scenario couldn’t have happened without someone playing the role of Monica Lewinsky. That’s about the end of the similarity between her and Scott Prouty, the person who we’ve just learned made the Romney tape.

Ms. Lewinsky was an essential part of the impeachment of President Clinton, in which her testimony, very personal to both, was essential to the success of an unprecedented partisan impeachment investigation. If perjury over marital fidelity is cause for dismissal from office, pretty much the way this sort of thing often has to be done, to what standard should other presidents be held, such as lying us into a major war?

But I digress. Mr. Prouty is a registered Independent who says he tends to vote Democratic. I concede the possibility that he may be more partisan than that. But he did nothing with his recording device that wasn’t being done openly by numerous guests, except that he didn’t pay fifty grand for the blue plate special.

Of course these two morality plays would never have taken place without the leading characters, Clinton and Romney. Strictly speaking both stories are tragedies, although barely so in Romney’s case and only because he did show definite signs of being human. The degree of tragedy depends on how much the leading character loses. By that measure Clinton’s story wins the award hands down.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nothing But The Truth

Mitt Romney made an appearance last week on Fox, where else, and when asked about his 47% statement responded “I didn’t express myself as I wished I would have. You know, when you speak in private, you don’t spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and—and it could come out wrong and be used.” [against you]

I‘ll buy that except for the twisting and distorting part. Simply quoting him was sufficient. We can even hear his voice. But then he went on to say “What I said is not what I believe.” No Mitt no! You have that part in reverse. What one says to fellow travelers in presumed privacy is much closer to what one believes than the contents of a prepared speech.

This man perfectly fits the stereotype of today’s establishment Republicans. They talk differently to the public than they do to each other. I’ve heard stories from musicians who have worked Bohemian Grove, a Northern California retreat for upscale men, about what is said in unrecorded privacy. One quote, which I mentioned previously, is “you don’t (delete) your friends, you (delete) John Q. Public.” However misguided we lefties may be, we do talk to each other almost entirely in terms of what we feel is right or wrong, fair or unfair.

Americans are not quick studies. Look how long it took us to learn about smoking. Seeing friends we’ve known for years with cigarettes in their hands slowly dying did the trick. We’ve been much slower with guns. That may be because most of us don’t react as strongly to the deaths of people we’ve never known.

Will we ever learn what Romney has spelled out so for us so specifically? He was speaking unabashedly to people who paid fifty grand a head, within earshot of others whose presence he ignored and about whom he was bragging of not being “concerned.” Ah how fate plays tricks. Wouldn’t you know that there was at least one of those forty seven percenters on the premises about whom Mitt should have been concerned, very concerned!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Perpetuation of Racial Entitlement

It’s now widely known that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has referred to the 1965 Voting Rights Act as the “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Most of the resulting indignation has come from the word “racial” and I’ll have something to say about that. I can’t figure how “perpetuation” fits the case. But I find the notion that the right to vote is an entitlement very interesting.

I don’t believe the signers of the Constitution felt this way when they assigned themselves that right. As founders of a new nation they were simply assuming what was theirs. Yes they were picky in dispensing it, limiting it to land owning white males. But eventually the nation, with rules set up by this document, extended it to the point that women, heavens even women, were granted the right. How and when in did this right become an entitlement?

A Supreme Court Justice should know the difference. It’s small comfort to think that Scalia may actually believe what he says. In either case he has no business on the Supreme Court. His comment has KKK written all over it. If I have my history right, by 1920 when women were given the right to vote, some black men had been voting for years. Does Scalia think of women’s suffrage as “gender entitlement?”

The reason for this controversy is a legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Republicans, who figure to gain mightily if the Court strikes down the law, have maintained a discreet silence. The decision belongs wholly to the Court, not public opinion. But we know who’ll be celebrating if the law is struck down.

Like Mitt Romney's 47%, Scalia's words of choice speak the proverbial thousand. I have this fantasy that has five justice in white robes, contrasting nicely with the black worn by the other four. The real fun comes when they learn that each of them only gets three fifths of a vote.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Defense! Defense!

I’ve been toying with writing about Chuck Hagel’s nomination as head the Defense Department (once known as the War Department) with some uncertainty. His rejection by the Senate would have precluded treating the matter lightly. Now that he’s been confirmed the subject is fair game.

Had the plot ended tragically Republicans would have provided the comic relief. Since it turned out to be all comedy these guys were the whole show. John McCain asked Hagel if he stood by his statement that the “surge,” (once known as reinforcements) and the Iraq War were our worst mistakes since Vietnam. McCain seems to believe that the success of the whole operation rested on that of the surge. Pressed repeatedly for a yes or no, Hagel could have recanted and admitted that as bad actions go the surge didn’t hold a candle to the war itself. It simply involved more casualties and more resources than otherwise, but in a shorter time. Of course that would have spoiled all the fun that followed.

The star of the show was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas serving his first month in office. If this performance is any indication the next six years could be very entertaining. He repeatedly asked questions of the “do you still beat your wife” nature, requiring Hagel’s denial of things of which he’d never been accused, like belonging to “Friends of Hamas,” a non-existent group conjured up by a humor blog. To those of us who remember Joe McCarthy, Mr. Cruz tactics are reminiscent, and even more far-fetched, if that’s possible. Remember, there really had been a Communist Party in America, we were in a cold war with the Soviet Union, a hot one in Korea, and he had the tacit backing of his party’s establishment. All in all “Tail Gunner Joe”” had the wind at his back while Ted Cruz is running right into it.

This man’s antics bring to mind the other Senator from the Lone Star State which is now represented in that body by two major league doozies, John Cornyn being the other. When Democrats filibustered a few of W’s more extreme judicial appointments (Yes, both parties do it) Cornyn blamed our judicial system for the murder of one Chicago judge, and the mother of a second by losers in two court cases.* In other words these murders were justified, presumably by obstructionist Senate Democrats.

I am of two minds over Texas Governor Rick Perry’s talk about his state’s secession. My ambivalence on this subject also coupled with the thought that there might one day be some serious revisionist thinking involving the Mexican War.

*Has anybody noticed the allusions to Chicago as the Mecca of crime, by partisans of you know which party, since you know who became president?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

To Vote or Not to Vote

Political propriety has it as gospel that high voter turnout is a good thing. Of course there are heretics. But most of them know enough to keep their thoughts to themselves and execute them through their actions. I’m referring specifically to today’s Republicans. It’s no secret that they’ve been trying to prevent or discourage voting by folks who aren’t up in the chips and vote heavily Democratic, in six major swing states carried by Obama in the last two elections. The techniques involved make it difficult to establish identity or to make them wait hours in line to vote, an obstacle not common to affluent voting flirted districts. While their motive is clear they owe the public something a bit more subtle. Let me help them. They could say that many of these people lack sufficient knowledge or, as I’m sure they feel, that they don’t pay a large enough portion of our taxes for the privilege of voting. Instead they’ve settled on a real doozy, voter fraud.

The irrelevance of this logic is that fraudulent voting has not been a problem unless one considers .00000018% of total votes cast as such. Figure out the zeros if you like. Most errors are unintentional such as voting in the wrong precinct. But even if this were a problem a longer voting period would have no effect other than giving the authorities more time to inspect the legitimacy of individual votes.

The stage for this chicanery was set by the heavy turnout of Tea Party types in the otherwise sparsely attended 2010 midterm elections and could be greatly exacerbated next year. I’m encouraged by signs that Democrats are aware of the situation in Congress this time.

But even success at the federal level won’t protect them from what may well be their Achilles heel, state government. This is where after the 2014 elections, the voting processes of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia, and probably the president-elect in 2016 will be determined. It could involve less Washington D.C. and more Harrisburg Columbus, Lansing, Madison, Richmond and Tallahassee.

Republicans let the cat out of the bag when the newly elected governors and legislatures openly flirted with the idea of awarding their states’ electoral votes on the basis of Congressional representation, a process that would have made Romney president. All but one have claimed to have lost interest. The idea is widely unpopular and these governors and state legislatures are up for reelection next year so it makes sense to play rope a dope until after the election and then do what they please. None of the governors elected in 2010 who are now engaged in a crusade against labor said a word on the subject when they were running for office.

Savvy Republicans know from the demographics that the game of majority rule is one they’ll lose, sooner rather than later as I see it. The solution is simple. Just change the rules of the game.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Primary Problems

In my last letter I mentioned having a warm spot in my heart for the legendary smoke filled rooms. After giving the matter some thought I’ve concluded that I could make a pretty strong case for them. Yes, I’d be saying that rather than the public or “the people” selecting a party’s candidates the choice would be made by politicians, some of whom have been known to seek the counsel of “job creators.” I’m not committing myself on the subject. But here’s sort of how my argument would go.

Take the last Republican presidential candidate. Please! (A little attempt at humor might be helpful.) Supporters of the wild and wooly types who fell by the wayside claim that their men would have run a better race than Romney. Nonsense! There is some limit to party loyalty even in traditionally red states. That’s why we now have Democratic Senators in Indiana and Missouri.

As a lifelong Democrat I must admit that Republican conflict warms the cockles of my heart. Their problem today is the need to pacify the warmongers whose vitriol discourages more moderate, and consequently more electable candidates. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie come to mind as well as John Huntsman who learned the lesson from experience.

Then there’s the tradition, not exclusive to Republicans, of primary voters choosing the next in line. In addition to Romney, Bob Dole and Walter Mondale come to mind. As a Democrat I found Al Gore’s nomination particularly upsetting. It’s my opinion that Bill Bradley would have wiped the floor with W. A swing of two or more percent in New Hampshire primary might well have changed history.

The selection of George McGovern as the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee represents the worst corruption of this system yet. Contrary to what some historians say, the Democratic Party did not move to the left. It was pushed there by CREEP, the committee to reelect Nixon. The “dirty tricks” by this group, well chronicled in the Senate Watergate hearings, sabotaged the candidacies of the more moderate and hence more electable Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey. It was also acknowledged that would be Nixon donors during the primary season were told to send their money to McGovern.

Examples can be found, for better or worse, for major political decisions made behind closed doors. One of them gave us Warren Harding. Another brought to the world stage an obscure Missouri Senator named Harry Truman. My feelings are more or less the antithesis of Johnny Mercer’s lyrics. I have trouble anticipating the positive and eliminating the negative, but no problem messing with Mister In Between.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


A few months ago I conjectured that the day may come when Republicans will rue having enlisted the aid of “these ruffians.” [The Tea Party] That day may have come with the last election. The partnership had been working well. Tea Party people voted en mass in the usually low turnout 2010 midterms and gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives and, what may be more important, control of governorships and legislatures in several major swing states that voted for Barack Obama in both elections. Like Faust they’d received their desired worldly pleasures, for two years anyhow although unlimited knowledge seems to be on back order. Now they’re having to pay the devil,

This is the second time in my memory that Republicans have suffered a similar collapse, the 1964 Goldwater campaign being the other. They got a break then from the left when Vietnam War protestors and the ghetto rioters muddied the water. This time around the threat of civil disobedience seems to be from the right. Party Pooh-Bahs like Karl Rove, Eric Kantor and Bobby Jindal have been making speeches to remake the party image, a neat trick when you’re simultaneously sticking your audience with the tab.

What makes the job even harder this time is that the Goldwater supporters who shouted down Nelson Rockefeller at the convention look like choir boys compared to people hoarding ammunition for the declared purpose of resisting the government. Their purported fear is that their guns will be taken away. But with folks carrying that much heat it’s only natural to wonder if something else might tick them off. They don’t seem overly fond of the president.

Their intentions may not be as bad as they seem. But their manners leave something to be desired. And manners mean a lot. Ronald Reagan’s crooning that “government is not the solution it’s the problem” is more seditious than Goldwater shouting about extremism and moderation, at least to this observer.

A major part of their hell comes from a primary system by which candidates of both parties are chosen. There’s no preventing voters from registering with the political party and voting for the candidates of their choice. If this system results in the nomination of fire eaters then that’s the way the kookies crumble.* I’m sure the party brass is working diligently for a solution. I must confess to a warm spot in my heart for those smoke filled rooms.

I have no guess what will develop and no suggestions. The two party system doesn’t seem to be working very well. Could it be that the time has come to bring back the Whigs?

*A quote from Claire Booth Luce after the 1964 election.