Carly Fiorina: Blood on Her Hands

Posted December 2, 2015 on 10:10 pm | In the category abortion, Carly Fiorina, Politics, Republican Party | by Jeff

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.– C. Fiorina

So, when does a politician’s lie mean more than just the ordinary pumping up of one’s persona? Well, maybe when said politician starts to promote lies about others – lies intended to destroy their humanity. And then those lies contribute to a culture – an environment – that produces false reasons to lash out. Carly Fiorina’s easily disproved lies abut Planned Parenthood fit that category. It started at a debate with a bizarre tale of a video of an alive baby flailing its arms while its brain was harvested by Planned Parenthood. A video that does not exist. It takes some fairly big balls to make up such a story and then double down on it – which she did in later interviews. It puts her in the Goebbels category – Uberprograndischesturmfuhrer for the Monster.

So okay, she has illusions of grandeur. Okay, she wants to be President – or maybe Vice. So she is willing to do whatever is necessary to gather a few Iowa votes in two months – and even fewer in New Hampshire. What in God’s name motivates someone to lie in such a way to further infect an already diseased culture; in such a way to contribute to the motivation of the likes of a mad man in Colorado Springs to take his gun to Planned Parenthood and start shooting up the place? How shallow can a person be? How utterly debauched? Just watch.

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Words Fail: The Republicans Try to Debate

Posted November 4, 2015 on 11:24 pm | In the category Politics, Press, Republican Party | by Jeff

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser(s). Socrates

There has been much mindless toing and froing among the literati and iliterati about the GOP debate that was interrupted – some say ruined – by actual questions directed at the participants. Some say the questions were “snarky”; others that they were – “gotcha” questions (a la Sarah Palin). Then there were some who said they did not really matter since none of the candidates answered any of the questions asked, choosing instead to launch unarmed missiles at the questioners. This has led to an opportunity for the mainstream media to cut off its collective balls and run. which to a large extent they have done.

GOP candidates want to be treated with a respect they have not earned but might actually earn if they found the courage to answer directly and honestly questions. And if they are offended by the questions to answer them anyway. Anyone who watched the Benghazi hearings saw a lesson in intelligence and intellectual courage and patience in the face of some of the stupidest questions anyone could come up with. Seems like Ms. Clinton provided a lesson in grace under pressure while the Republican candidates have provided a lesson in cowardice in the face of facts.

So given that the Republican candidates could stop being whining crybabies and put on their big boy (or girl) pants and answer some semi-tough questions, what about the press? Do your job: report on them, call them out, do not let them get away with their fatuous BS, and defend whatever integrity you have retained. Let Faux News carry their debates and then simply report on them – honestly and toughly.

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A Home Run from Justin Trudeau

Posted October 22, 2015 on 11:17 pm | In the category Canada, Politics | by Mackenzie Brothers

Why it seems just yesterday that Canada’s premier Prime Minister of the Twentieth Century, Pierre Trudeau,  managed to produce two sons on different Christmas Days and the country watched the first of them, Justin, turn into an adventurous young man (just like his Dad) who would travel widely, live for quite awhile in beautiful Vancouver, where he taught English and theatre at a local school, and enter politics as an MP from a francophone riding in Montréal.  He certainly went far beyond what was expected of him in  his first campaign as the leader of the Liberal Party, which in the last decade has been declared dead in the water by many political experts, as it slipped into third place in the last election, and seemed to be following middle-of the r0ad liberal parties in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia  and elsewhere into oblivion, squeezed out in the face of competition between right wing and left wing parties with more profiled platforms.  In the last election, Michael Ignatieff, surely the most prominent intellectual running for headhonchoship of a country lately proved completely incapable of putting his  ideas across to the general public, and the Liberal Party was reduced in Quebec to a small rump representation in anglophone parts of Montreal and in British Columbia to two Vancouver ridings.  Times were tough.

Enter Justin, who, as it turned out, at the very least has a way with a crowd that hasn’t been seen in Canada since the days of Pierre, although some would suggest that Brian Mulroney, who was asked by Nancy Reagan to give the eulogy for Ronald (imagine that these days when the President of the United States has spent 7 hours in 7 years in his neighbouring largest trading partner. This time the Liberals sent a young man with a big old name out into the ring.  He was mocked and branded by the ruling Conservatives as a lightweight who should try again in a decade or two.  When he responded by challenging the largest Conservative politician in Ottawa, an aboriginal Senator, to a boxing match, he was warned to not risk his body on such a dangerous mission and then promptly knocked the Senator out in the first round.  When the Conservatives cleverly said that they’d consider him to have overachieved if he showed up at the first national debate in long pants, he kept his short pants on long enough  to lead a bevy of reporters up the classic Grouse Grind mountain challenge in Vancouver, leaving almost all of them gasping for breath in his wake.  Youth and athleticism does, as it turns out, have its charms.  In the debate, he proved to be at least the equal of his two perfectly intelligent rivals, one from the right and one from the left.  In short he had the opportunity to display in the longest campaign in Canadian history (8 weeks!, as Amurcans might note as they suffer through the torture of 2 year-long campaigns)  that he not only had the physical stamina of his father, who could throw a canoe up on his shoulders and paddle through whitewater rapids in his sixties.  He also seemed to have   at least a reasonable percentage of the brain power of Dad.  The jury is still out on this, but many have pointed out that  Papa  had the smarts to fill his cabinet with the best experts in the most important areas of national concern, something which  the outgoing Prime Minister failed to do in spades.   In his first conversation with Obama, Trudeau informed Obama  that Canada would recall its fighter jets from the US-led mission in Iraq and Syria, so he is listening to a different drummer than the outgoing regime was.

So the next months will be very interesting as the second-largest  country in the world is fronted by a young very attractive leader who will at the very least put a new tone on relations with his own people and other heads of state, and Canadians are hoping that that new tone will distinguish Canada’s return to its long-held former position as a reliable, independent, tolerant and sensible middle power.

 

 

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The Press, Facts and Reality

Posted September 24, 2015 on 11:01 am | In the category Election, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Uncategorized | by Jeff

In about 13 months the U.S. will have elected a new president. That is a long time away, but already it is not going well, with a Republican field of fact-resistant candidates and a Democrat field led by a candidate with a couple of self inflicted wounds. There is no useful purpose running through a list of candidates that until recently included a governor under indictment, another governor  looking at possible indictment,  a third who dropped out after his poll numbers disappeared, a couple of religious hustlers – one protestant, one catholic –  a woman campaigning on a record of running a major U.S.company into the ground, a Southern governor who has destroyed his state’s education and health programs to kiss down to the GOP base, a former Lehman Bros. operative running on – yes! – economic expertise, a brain surgeon with zero political experience, and a narcissistic TV loudmouth.

Some initially saw the GOP race as an entertainment but with all candidates given a degree of credibility strange things can happen. And the press tends to provide that credibility to practically any candidate, regardless of their tenuous grasp of reality.

It is easy to criticize the press. While no one is innocent, culpability does vary from source to source. It is silly to complain about Fox News – serious news is not what they do. They are a propaganda machine and they feed the beast and are good at it. MSNBC serves a similar function for the left, with the important exception that people like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (an actual journalist) maintain an attachment to facts and reality.

But what about the “serious” “objective” press, like the Washington Post, the NY Times and subscriber supported PBS Newshour? Would a serious press treat Trump seriously? Well, as it turns out – yes. His poll numbers are up therefore he gets an if not free, at least reduced fare, ride. Is there any reason to report that when Trump says we need to remove 11 million people from the U.S. he is suggesting an impossibility? Is there any reason when reporting that Carly Fiorina wants to defund Planned Parenthood because she claims to have viewed a video of alive babies being slaughtered by PP  not to mention that no such video exists? Are climate change deniers entitled to a free ride away from scientific fact? Candidates’ statements typically are reported without filters of facts partly because it contributes to the narrative of political campaigns as horseraces and allows journalists to produce words without doing the real work of journalism.

Monday is “politics night” on the PBS Newshour and last Monday their panel discussed the current GOP race and with a wink wink here, and a wink wink there, they disposed of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s removal from the race without discussing his real policy and personal deficiencies, which are considerable. It was the horserace – he could not raise enough money they said – well, there might be a reason for that and maybe that could be discussed. Stories like Walker’s claim that he is saving Wisconsin’s education system by cutting the state’s premier University’s budget and spending the money instead on a basketball arena, and Carly Fiorina’s manufactured story on Planned Parenthood are reported without comment. Overall too many journalists seem to believe that they are not to call a lie a lie when the liar is an”important” politician. And in the name of “balance” they seem too often to be able to find someone able to make up facts to denigrate Planned Parenthood or deny climate change.

PBS Newshour does a fine job when they bring in real expert analysts but they have a tendency to head toward the on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that face offs, sometimes providing opposing party politicians air time to exhibit what is frequently an appalling lack of substance, apparently aimed at pleasing their bases. Newspapers are improving their approach to analysis by opening opportunities for experts to write focussed oped pieces that frequently serve as correctives to developing myths. We would all  benefit from more of this and less timid acceptance of all that comes out of a politician’s mouth.

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Vladimir Putin: Leadership Redefined

Posted December 26, 2014 on 11:34 pm | In the category Obama, Politics, Press, Russia, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

“We don’t need tough guys. We need wise guys. We’ve tried tough guys, and it always ends in tears. Tough guys you know right away because they’re never scared of a fight. Wise guys you only know in retrospect, when you remember that they quietly walked away from the fight that now has the tough guy in a hospital.” Adam Gopnik, The NewYorker Magazine

As 2014 winds down we find the two Putins – the Russian Vladimir and Turkish President -Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – struggling to maintain their images of power, strength and competence. I’ll save Erdogan for a later posting, but for the Russian Putin the struggle has become increasingly difficult. This is in spite of the admiration expressed by the likes of America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, former Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers and Fox News TV evangelist, Mike Huckabee. In fact,reviewing the past year or two, commentators from both respected and semi-respected media outlets have nourished the fantasies of the right wing by questioning Obama’s manhood while praising Putin’s bare chested virility. This has included analysts from beltway think tanks, the editorial board of the once great Washington Post and, of some note, the NYTimes’ columnist Maureen Dowd, who has consistently whined that Obama is not an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie character. Honoring Putin’s heroic posturing following his takeover of the Crimea, Rogers said that “Putin played chess” while Obama played marbles; Giuliani commented that Putin defined “leadership” while poor Obama spent too much time “thinking”. As for erstwhile presidential candidate and Fox News analyst, Mike Huckabee, he said “I know the only time that Vladimir Putin shivers is when he takes his shirt off in a cold Russian winter”, as opposed to poor old thoughtful Obama. Other notable comments on Putin’s manly leadership included these from some of America’s finest blowhards:

  1. “Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everyone’s eyes roll, including mine,” noted war lover Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  2. “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” Former Alaska Gov. and heartbeat away from the presidency VP candidate, Sarah Palin said. “They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
  3. “This is Putin running rings about us. There’s no question what’s going on here, is Vladimir Putin is reassembling the Soviet Union,” said conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
  4. “The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement,” Fox’s (noted psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer said. “What he’s saying is, we’re not really going to do anything.”
  5. “For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality,” wrote the once great Washington Post’s editorial board.
  6. “President Obama’s attempt to seek peace through apologetic diplomacy while defunding and dismantling our military has failed. Today, our enemies don’t fear us and our allies no longer respect us,” Senator and noted climate change denier Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.
  7. “The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) “If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.”

So here we are some months after Obama did not get involved in a war in Ukraine and Putin is watching helplessly as the Russian economy goes in the toilet, and realizes belatedly that Obama’s sanctions combined with the drop in oil prices has pushed Russia into a catastrophic recession. He is forcing Russian companies to sell dollars in a hopeless attempt to strengthen the Russian ruble and the Central bank has increased its interest rate to 16% ensuring a disastrous 2015 for Russia’s economy. Perhaps Putin is now asking himself how he will pay the high costs of maintaining the Crimea as a vital part of his new Russian empire. American commentators seem puzzled by the success of Obama’s foreign policy moves that have placed a premium on avoiding direct American military involvement, invoking diplomacy over confrontation and waging economic war via sanctions over sending Americans to defend other countries’ interests. While many in American politics and the press have conveniently forgotten the lessons of America’s disastrous 2003 Iraq invasion, almost automatically seeking ways for American military might to be utilized, Obama has continued to resist the temptation to send American troops into foreign battles that do not threaten our vital national interests.

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THE 2014 REPUBLICAN “SUCCESS”

Posted November 9, 2014 on 12:05 pm | In the category Economy, Election, Obama, Politics, Press, Supreme Court, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The Republican “long game” of demonizing the President which began immediately after Barak Obama was elected president in 2008 has finally crossed the finish line. Vowing to do anything to destroy Obama’s presidency, the Republicans and their Tea Party sub-contractor began the process of character assassination that culminated in this week’s midterm elections. The strategy put the political future of the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner ahead of the needs of the country and therefore out of necessity had to ignore anything positive that might attach itself to the Obama presidency.

It is not surprising that much of the press largely played along with the story line, broadcasting Boehner and McConnell’s daily banalities after having given credibility to political hacks like Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and pizza maker Herman Cain in 2012.

But hapless Democratic candidates were complicit in their own downfall by running away from Obama and simply ignoring anything positive in his record.

When Obama’s presidency began the United States was a living horror show, largely produced by Republicans. The country had wasted up to $3 trillion on a war fought over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist; it had allowed investment banks to run wild while bringing the American economy to its knees; the American stock market lost 54% of its value in the 2007-08 crash; unemployment soared to over 10% and thousands of homeowners lost their homes through foreclosure – or by simply walking away from suddenly wildly overvalued property. President George Bush’s last budget – for FY 2009 had a deficit of $1,412 billion. After six years of the Obama presidency the annual budget deficit ($483 Bn) is less than a third of Bush’s last deficit, unemployment is at a rate less than half of the 2009 rate, the stock market is at record highs, the housing market has largely recovered, housing foreclosures are at historic lows and the American economy has recovered better than any other Western country’s.

So why have the Democrats suffered such a huge loss?

MONEY: When the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people and that their money is a form of free speech an already lopsided election funding process became a game of craps played with loaded dice. It has become almost impossible to gauge the amount of money spent on elections but one estimate is that some $4B was spent on the 2014 midterms. Anyone trapped in front of a TV in October must have believed that they were faced with voting for either a swine or a hog.

SUPREME COURT: the U.S. Supreme Court has managed to play a powerful (and perhaps inappropriate) role in politics with its Citizens-United decision opening up funding of election campaigns to corporations and unions, and has decided that protection of voting rights is no longer needed despite the efforts of Republicans to make voting more difficult by requiring photo IDs at the polls despite virtually no evidence of voter fraud in the past.

THE PRESS: The American mainstream press has always been susceptible to the temptations of closeness to power, giving us what amounts to a courtier press. The Sunday talk shows wheel out the same tired lineup week after week: John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Peggy Noonan, Reince Priebus, etc. and they become insider clubs with little difference between the reporters and the politicians. Print journalists have become an endangered species and cable news stations are uniformly tedious – even stupid – , pumping up non stories like the so-called ebola threat and refusing to do the hard work of journalism.

DEMOCRATS’ INEPTITUDE: The Democrats seem to have drunk the Republicans kool aid. They ran away from Obama’s (and their own) accomplishments, refused to defend the Affordable Care Act, never developed a positive message, ignored the positive economic record of Obama’s administration, and did not force the Republicans to defend economic policies that have favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class. They allowed the Republicans to determine and control the narrative and refused to risk losing on Democratic party principles. Turns out they could hardly have done worse and could at least have looked at themselves in the mirror the day after the election had they stood strongly for something positive.

OBAMA’S PASSIVITY AND ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: The President’s noted rational approach to governing could only work if it was supported by energy or, better yet, passion – for what he is trying to accomplish. His inability- perhaps unwillingness – to sell the Affordable Care Act to his clients (all of us) is an example of a failure of politics. The ACA has been vilified by the Republicans largely by their lying about it. Death panels, free abortions, increased deficits, etc. ad nauseum. The administration never fought back effectively and in fact, by losing control over the development of the ACA website, created a nightmare for themselves – to say nothing of the people who tried to sign up for health insurance. The apparent unwillingness to play the hard politics that end up being a necessary part of the job contributed to giving the Republicans control of the narrative for the election.

VOTERS’ GENERALiZABLE ANGER: Americans are understandably pissed off. They saw their lives seriously disrupted by the recession of 2008-9, then saw bankers bailed out with taxpayers’ money, bank executives raking in record multimillion dollar rewards for incompetence while they were losing their jobs and homes. The rich do indeed get richer and the poor do indeed suck wind. So they looked around and – helped enormously by Republican money and ads demonizing Obama – decided to blame the President. Is that stupid? well yeah. Is it unexpected? well no. The hard work of figuring out what actually happened in the absence of a strong and honest press turns out to be beyond the capabilities of the American people. Or at least – so it seems.

So we come to the future and as our friend Leonard Cohen says, “I have seen the future brother: and it is murder”. And so it will be: possibly death to health care for all, more insane U.S.wars in places with little or no relation to our national interest; greater wealth to the oligarchs; less for the poor; no hope for immigrants; and a fundamental national commitment to all that works agains the interests of the vast majority of the American people. It is our democracy. Love it. Embrace it. Or work to change it.

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AMERICA’S GREAT EBOLA SCARE

Posted October 22, 2014 on 11:32 am | In the category Ebola, Election, Healthcare, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Arriving in Boston from Tanzania last Friday I was welcomed into a country caught in deep fright over a disease that had killed just one person in America – a visitor from Liberia who went to the emergency room of a Dallas hospital when he developed ebola symptoms. For whatever reason, the hospital staff misdiagnosed him, sent him home and a few days later he was back with a full blown case of a disease that killed him. It is apparent that an earlier correct diagnosis would have increased his chances, but of course, mistakes do happen.

We had spent nearly three weeks in Africa and ebola had come up in conversation exactly once. People understood that Tanzania, located in East Africa, was some 4-5000 miles from the epicenter of the ebola outbreak and also understood that it was almost impossible to become infected without coming into contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids. So Tanzanians were informed, behaving responsibly and showed no sign of panic. So just why is America in a frenzy over a disease that has been successfully treated in several American hospitals, has to date killed one person in the country and which has led medical authorities to take very aggressive quarantine steps for any person (or dog) that came into even casual contact with the patient or with the two hospital staff who unwittingly became infected while treating him.

I suppose there are many possible causes of the panic, but three factors seem especially relevant. First is basic ignorance and an unwillingness to learn about the disease by simply reading responsible press reports or listening to the many medical experts who have addressed the issue on radio and tv. Second is the predictably poor performance of much of the press in reporting on the disease, all too frequently emphasizing the dramatic nature of the many deaths in West African countries that have extremely poor medical systems. A third reason – and the one that is almost scandalous in its self-serving irresponsibility – is the use of the issue in the political campaigns for next month’s midterm elections.

Republicans and America’s courtier press have managed to blame President Obama for everything from the civil war in Syria to the failed democracy in Libya, to the corruption in Ukraine, to the failed democracy in Egypt, ad infinitum. Too much of the press carries these rants with a straight face and enough of the people buy it to give it legs. So, we now have Americans hiding under their beds to escape a disease that is largely restricted to the African continent while our Republican leaders (sic) blame Obama for not stopping a disease that basically does not exist in America. Meanwhile a teacher in Maine is put on leave because he flew on a plane that previously had carried a woman that once upon a time had come into contact with the Liberian patient. Three Oklahoma students returned from a trip to Ethiopia, where there are no reported cases of ebola, and have been refused entry into school. Syracuse University barred a Washington Post reporter from a conference because he had done some reporting from Liberia; he had been cleared of any signs of ebola. A Mississippi school had been closed because its principle had been to Zambia, an African country thousands of miles from the West Africa ebola outbreak. A Southwest Airlines flight captain in Orlando called in authorities to remove a person from the plane because he had been in West Africa in late August (the incubation rate is 21 days and he proved to be healthy).

Last night Massachusetts has-been Scott Brown, who has moved to New Hampshire to run against Senator Jeanne Shaheen, joined a Republican national chorus and devoted a large part of a debate appearance to criticizing President Obama (and by implication Senator Shaheen) for not closing our borders to anyone coming from West Africa. The fact that that is a policy that no responsible health professional supports and that it is functionally not possible to accomplish did not deter Brown from trying to scare the bejesus out of the good folk in New Hampshire. Let’s hope the “live free or die” New Hampsherites come out from under their beds and send Brown home to Massachusetts.

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Race, Obama and the Deferred Dream

Posted September 1, 2014 on 10:52 am | In the category Obama, Politics, Press, Racism, Uncategorized | by Jeff

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                                     W.B. Yeats

Reading comments of readers of daily newspapers and reading or hearing the ongoing barrage of criticism and blame laid on the President by his political foes has led many who should know better to believe that President Obama is a human disaster, laying waste to the America we learned about in grade school. Listening to Obama’s supporters could lead us to the conclusion that he is too good to be true and that his political enemies are ignorant louts. Both sides can claim some evidence to support their views, but to get sucked into the mire of so-called analysis by our press pundits is to get lost in a maze of untruths, half-truths, facts, non-facts, beltway bullshit and sheer hate speech.

This is not to conclude that Obama has been a knight in shining armor; clearly he has not. But let’s review some of what he and we have had to put up with for six years:

* the idiotic nonsense of his country of birth with calls for his birth certificate continuing still some five years after it was produced;
* the absurd claims that he was a secret Muslim intent on bringing us sharia law;
* the public insults hurled at his wife for promoting healthy eating;
* criticism linking him to every failed democracy in the world, with John McCain leading a bitter vendetta against the man who defeated him in 2008;
* and, of course, the subtle and not so subtle, racist comments directed at him and his family. It is this factor that has mostly been an elephant on the table,    mostly ignored or simply pretended that the issue does not exist.

A good measure of where the U.S. is in its movement toward genuine racial equality is not so much the recent events in Ferguson Missouri, but rather the way in which the country has responded. A young, black teenager is gunned down with six shots by a white policeman. The teenager’s body is left in the street for over 4 hours without so much as a sheet over it. The police wait a few days and then finally release the policeman’s name, simultaneously beginning to slur the teenager with a video of him pushing a clerk in a convenience store. For many this was enough of a reason to execute the young man. The riots that followed were all too predictable as was the overreaction of the white police, which included arresting journalists, bringing in an ARMY TANK for God’s sake, shooting rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, and threatening law-abiding citizens participating in their constitutional right to protest. The NY Times did not help by publishing a front page story about the victim saying he “was no angel” and listing his many crimes – occasionally smoking marijuana, drinking beer underage, jostling a neighbor once – crimes that are consistent with growing up in America – white or black, and perhaps a reminder that none of us are “angels”.

So what has been the response? Well, it varied of course and mostly in predictable ways. There was the initial gnashing of teeth in most of the press with the notable exception of Fox News – an exception also predictable. Then over time the slurring of the victim, the calls for peace in the street, the calling of a grand jury investigation, the burial of the victim, and then back to a sense of normality which means that nothing much is likely to change. Although there is some public concern over their local police forces turning into military machines, dedicated to keeping the people under control rather than protecting them. We shall see where that goes.

But perhaps the best measure of where W.B. Yeats’ “worst…full of passionate intensity” have ended up is that a few weeks after the event, nearly $500,000 had been raised (some by the KKK) for the defense of a so far not even charged white policeman who managed to put 6 bullets in an unarmed black teenager. This spontaneous outpouring of support is as good a measure as any of where we are in our crawl toward racial equality. The money quote in the fund-raising for the officer came from one contributor who said: “We’ll all see this in the end that it was a good shooting. You know, it was a good kill.”

All of this keeps the issue of race on the table when thinking about Obama’s performance as President and the cost to America of continuing to avoid fully addressing the problems facing black Americans. Americans were justifiably proud of their willingness to vote an African American to the presidency – twice. Now they need to do the really hard work of persuading the rest of the country of the need for mutual respect and of the common interest in renewing the nation’s efforts to finally, at long last, put racism in its past. The effort needs a new beginning.

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Hucksters and Suckers: The Politics of Healthcare in America

Posted November 20, 2013 on 10:13 am | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Tea Party | by Jeff

For over four years we have been barraged with misinformation, disinformation, lies, and misrepresentations by the Republican party, its politicians and media hacks that has apparently convinced many Americans that a national attempt to bring down costs of health care AND to make it available to all is a bad thing.

America has the most expensive health care system in the Western world, with per capita costs 25 to 300% higher than other Western democracies’ plans. While one might assume that we get better results, one would be mistaken. Bloomberg News did a ranking of national Healthcare systems using data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health organization and the Hong Kong Dept, of Health (for Asian data). For any American who has bothered to look at facts beyond the political game shows played on their local TVs, the results are not surprising. The U.S. spends over $8500 per capita on health care; this is almost 4 times what Israel spends; almost 8 times what Hong Kong spends, almost three times what Italy spends, etc. See the chart at Bloomberg News.

There is no country that spends more but there is a boatload of countries that while spending less, get equal or even better results. The statistics for all of this are readily available to both American voters AND their congressional representatives and Senators. Bloomberg News’ study ranked the U.S. at 46th among nations for the effectiveness of their healthcare system. Among the countries ahead of them in the rankings were all the Western European countries, most of the advanced Asian countries, and some surprises that included Libya(!), Israel, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the list goes on. Every part of the world except most of Africa (beyond Libya) is represented. It is – and continues to be – for the U.S., a national disgrace.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – dubbed “Obamacare” by Republican and Tea Party hacks, is an approach to a problem that was clearly out of control. Costs were becoming prohibitive, significant parts of the population were unable to obtain affordable insurance, people with chronic, serious diseases were unable to get insurance, people that got sick soon found themselves dropped by their insurance companies and medical expenses became the most frequent driver of personal bankruptcies.

In this context the Republican party has spent the past four years lying about the ACA, promoting scare stories about its content, insulting in almost racist terms the President who initiated the plan, – in short doing everything possible to make the plan fail while presenting NO alternative plan. It has been a criminal – even traitorous – approach abetted by all Republicans, even those so-called guardians of moderation like Susan Collins of Maine. The lies have been obvious, easy to disprove by simple fact-checking, but abetted by a supine press willing to pass on the nonsense and lies without vetting or comment. The press should be ashamed for treating an issue of such fundamental importance to the public good as a crass political game.

This could not happen without a population too lazy and/or too stupid to seek and care about the truth, and a political party that has no interest in governing the country for the good of the country.. We are a country of hucksters and suckers.

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America’s Road to Oligarchy

Posted November 12, 2013 on 12:11 pm | In the category Chris Christie, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clintom, Politics, Press, Supreme Court, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Chris Christie was all over the Sunday talk shows and the national press/media after his re-election as Governor of New Jersey, supposedly all but ensuring his nomination – or anointment – as Republican nominee for President in 2016. Time Magazine went so far as to put him on the cover under the oh-so-clever title: “The Elephant in the Room”. Then a piece in the New Republic comes along pursuing the possibility of Elizabeth Warren capsizing the USS Hillary in the race for the Democratic nomination. But, it seems to me to be waaay premature to be worrying about the candidates for 2016; too much can happen between now and then and in some ways the 2014 congressional elections may be more important, especially for domestic policies.

While Christie will have his detractors – both within and outside the Republican party – Clinton and Warren would likely be presented as polarizing figures. But it seems that any candidate for the Democratic party inevitably becomes a polarizing figure because the system  is broken.

We are a country moving in an almost inexorable way toward oligarchy with the help of the current Supreme Court, people like the Koch brothers, major financial institutions and international corporations.  While Bill Clinton was able to raise a lot of money from Wall Street his presidency was under the most vicious kind of attack from day one of his presidency, with the complicity of a mediocre press and a well-financed right-wing hate machine. The same has happened to Obama and would most certainly also happen to Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren.

The combination of an electorate unable to identify their own interests let alone vote for them, a courtier press unable to extricate itself from the ordinary thinking that dominates political discussion in America, the corrupting influence of money and the breakdown of Americans’ commitment to the common good has led to a broken country. Warren understands this and her candidacy would be welcome simply to get some very basic political issues on the table. But first, let’s see if the Democratic Party can figure out how to win back the House of Representatives in 2014. Not that I am especially hopeful.

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