Whither Italy?

Posted February 27, 2013 on 9:49 pm | In the category Europe, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Italy is the third-largest economic power in Europe, and controls what is surely one of the most spectacular  geographical spaces in existence. It has at least two  of the world’s most splendid cities – Venice and Rome can’t be denied that, and who would exclude Florence – and it has a dominant place in the development of western art, and a very prominent one in literature art, and culture in general.  So what the hell  is going on as it appeared to be finally climbing out of a disastrous interlude and instead chooses to sink further  into a buffoonish and ever-deepening ing morass of self-destructive behaviour.    Now it is of course true that in the miserable European performances that culminated in World War Two, other countries outdid Italy in barbarous behaviour.  Germany leads that pack, but also is the one that has taken the most serious consequences of such thuggish national behaviour to heart and is anything but a clownish vulgar society these days.  But that can’t be said of its splendidly-endowed southern neighbour Italy, which  seems intent in proving that democracy is a political system ill-equipped to deal with serious problems, both of an economic and moral nature.

How else explain that an election that was supposed to finally finish off a corrupt and thuggish political generation offering bizarre governmental behaviour, and come up with one offering some stability and rational decision-making at the top should result in a potential  coalition run by a professional clown and another comic who was assumed to be a washed-up political and moral one?   And yet that is what they came up with, the people who spoke through their votes.  It is one thing for Icelanders to vote into power a true clown  as the mayor of Reykjavik in order to show their disdain for a simple-minded government that set into motion an economic fiasco.  (He turned out to be a pretty good mayor). But it is quite another to offer power to two  clowns to  take control of a relatively major economic and even military power, one working from an actual  circus background and the other from a circus government that he had indeed formed as acircus of a government.  These two working together  have no chance to rescue a collapsing economy and even social framework by bringing in laws to confront chaos.  These guys thrive on the comedy of chaos.  So keep posted annd see what happens when Italians will be forced to vote yet again.  Better luck next time..

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What’s the Matter with Maine?

Posted February 25, 2013 on 9:45 pm | In the category Healthcare, Politics, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” — Herman Melville

The short response to the question above is: Governor Paul LePage and the members of Maine’s Tea Party. They personify the political dynamics in Maine that led to the election of a governor who is now doing serious long-term damage to not only the people of the state. but also to the political culture of the state.

Lepage’s 2010 election was the result of the support of Maine’s Tea Party and, Maine’s historic pride in being strongly ‘independent.’ LePage garnered less than 40% of the vote in his election but since the majority of the vote was split between Independent and Democratic candidates, it was enough. So the people of Maine have a governor, elected by 38% of the voters, who is committed to an “ideology” created by Tea Party fanatics who have a slim grip on cause and effect reality and a demonstrated non-existent learning curve.

Among LePage’s antics:

  • removing  serious historic works of art depicting workers from the states Department of Labor building because of a written complaint from a “secret admirer” and complaints from unnamed business owners. Among the inflammatory works was one portraying Rosie the Riveter;
  • promising that when elected he would “tell Obama to go to hell” ;
  • hiring his wet-between-the-ears 22 year-old daughter to a $41,000 job with $15,000 worth of benefits AND a $10,000 housing allowance while she lived in the Governor’s mansion;
    hiring his brother-in-law to a $68,000 state job;
  • resisting the banning of BPA in baby bottle and other plastic containers because heating up plastic bottles only causes it to “give off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards…”
  • pushing legislation that would allow public funding of religious schools despite state constitutional issues;
  • and, offending many with his characterization of the Supreme Court decision to allow the Affordable Care Act to proceed as a decision that “has made America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the I.R.S.”;

He did a sort-of apology for the use of the term “Gestapo”

According to a recent report in the Boson Globe, he has joined those Republican governors who refuse to accept federal funding for an expansion of Medicaid; an expansion that would provide medical care to a significant number of uninsured citizens of Maine. This most recent step by LePage plays to his base of Tea Party fanatics in a state in which – unlike most states – unemployment is growing.

LePage’s leadership has resulted in Maine’s ranking last among all states in personal income growth and – again, according to the Globe – Maine’s median income is less than $48,000 and 27% of the state’s residents are already enrolled in Medicaid – compared to the national average of 20%.

The Globe provided examples of those who will lose benefits due to LePage’s actions and it is not pretty. The victims are the usual mix of the elderly, the uninsured seriously ill who cannot afford insurance, the working poor, etc. .

So one result of the Maine commitment to its treasured image of being populated by “rugged Independents,” is a political system that has allowed only 38% of the population to elect a Governor of tremendous mediocrity – even crass stupidity. It is their democracy and they can cherish it, but they will pay for this in many ways that will show up in very human terms while the Tea Party continues to work against their fellow citizens.

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The Slandering of Chuck Hagel

Posted February 17, 2013 on 11:33 pm | In the category Iran, Iraq, Israel, McCain, Politics, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

The United States Senate, once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body”, has become a stage for narcissistic Republican poseurs and clowns. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on former Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense has produced one of the most embarrassing episodes in the ongoing saga of the dumbing down of the Republican Party.

The rookie, Deb Fisher, a Sarah Palin pal from Nebraska who finds Hagel; “too extreme – far to the left of Obama” – whatever that means.. (Her refusal to refer to “President” Obama a pathetic reminder of her connections to the Nebraska Tea Party). That Hagel had the good sense to endorse her opponent, Bob Kerrey, in her election campaign apparently fueled her ire but so what? This is about the Secretary of Defense not about Fisher’s feelings.

Noted global warming denier and biblical scholar Senator James Inhofe (R from Oklahoma) found that Hagel was an “appeaser” without specifying why other than to refer to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Minister describing Hagel as someone with whom they might be able to talk.

Noted Chicken Hawk Saxby Chambliss, Republican Senator from Georgia and previously a slanderer of Senator Tammy Baldwin who had lost both legs piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq, found that Hagel’s commitment to the concept of international negotiation was really simply a commitment to “appeasement” – again, whatever that means.

Senate newcomer and Tea Party pet Ted Cruz of Texas decided to become the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy, raising the suspicion that Hagel has been paid by enemies of the United States for speeches, questioning the patriotism of a battlefield decorated marine with a mythical list hidden away in his pocket.

But the main attractions in the early hearings – before Inhofe and Cruz pushed the process over the Crazy Cliff – were Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Noted poor loserJohn McCain got all red-faced with anger when Hagel refused to concede that McCain had been right in his support of the Iraq War “surge”, the grand strategy that delayed the inevitable U.S. withdrawal from a war that almost no one ended up supporting. His emotional, post-adolescent demand that Hagel agree that McCain was right and Hagel wrong on the surge was a sad display by a once admired Senator known now chiefly for his unwillingness to accept that he lost an election.

As for Senator Graham, what can be said about his obsession that Hagel is soft on support for Israel, or that he once said “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, I’m not an Israeli Senator I’m a US Senator, this pressure makes us do dumb things at times”? Or that he is somehow responsible for telling us what went wrong with Benghazi?

It is depressing enough to see a major political party sink into a cesspool of gratuitous innuendo verging on slander without watching the national press serve as a largely unquestioning conduit of cheap shots, distortions and outright lies. Where is Edward R. Murrow when we need him?

How long will we have to avoid the Sunday talk shows as they wheel in McCain so they can help him lick his wounds from a defeat that is now 5 years old? Or watch the likes of Dick Gregory sidle up to Lindsey Graham without calling him on what has become a bizarre personal vendetta against one of the few Republican Senators to have had the good sense and political courage to admit that President George W. Bush’s Iraq war turned out to be a bad idea, poorly implemented.

As for the soft on Israel charge? Do we elect Senators to act in the national interests of the United States or of Israel? When they come in conflict – which they occasionally do – can we have an adult conversation in the press – as they do in the Israeli press? Or do we continue to put up with a national press unable or unwilling to consider the real implications of blindly following the lead of a foreign leader like Benjamin Netanyahu?

As the Republican Party moves toward reconsidering their “message” after a serious defeat at the polls last November, will they finally – at long last – have the decency to accept that President Obama is indeed the President and that the American people expect them to behave with respect to the office and to the national interest?

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