Saturday, October 27, 2012

Racism: Plain and Simple

A few of my close friends have chided me about discussing the concept of racism in the presidential contest.  Because I have a desire to portray myself as an objective thinker, one who thinks and writes and draws conclusions about real world events realistically (an oxymoron if ever there was one), I have learned to bite my tongue, metaphorically, to the occasional rants of the rabid Repubs who themselves don’t hesitate to use the ‘n’ word when referring to the president of our country.  I hesitate to call them on it, or use these incidents as examples, of the all-pervasive racism that permeates  current presidential politics because other Repubs shriek that it is me being unfair, that most Repubs don’t think about this issue or let it affect their thinking.  It is with this brief background that I was delighted that I was to have the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with the man who is the national director of the staged media event that people like to call the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, Mr. John Sununu.

“Frankly,” Sununu told me, “when you take a look at Donald Trump, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring Mitt Romney”

“What reason would that be?” I responded.
“Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being the potential President of the United States, I applaud the Donald for standing with him.”
Before I ask my next question of Sununu, I pause and think. I’m sure Donald Trump will be positively brimming with gratitude for, and basking in the limelight that his endorsement of Romney will bring him. I’ll throw a question Sununu’s way to make sure that the public understands completely the reasoning behind the essence of the Romney campaign.  After all, if the man managing the campaign can’t fill in the dots for us, who can?  So I "shucked and jived" on to my next question, “Is it fair, in accordance with your logic, for me to assume that you also support Romney because both of you are white?
Sununu glared at me with that same ‘deer in the head lamps’ look that has been so prevalent on Romney’s face when he is asked about his personal tax returns, or how 5 trillion dollars in tax cuts plus 2 trillion dollars more in military spending will reduce the deficit, or why he is against the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  Nearly a minute went by before he answered.

“No,” he said.  “That type of thinking only applies to blacks.”

Just saying . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To My Republican Friends

During the Republican convention in Tampa, Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster, said,  “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Over the course of his presidential campaign, Romney has refused to describe what measures he will take to reduce the deficit other than it will be “government spending.”  Except, in the same breath, he says he will increase military spending by two trillion dollars annually.  Obama came into office and the deficit was eleven trillion dollars at the time, a figure about which no rushboian Republican was concerned.  Obama’s budgets added a little more than one trillion dollars each of the four years to the deficit. If current levels of government spending were to stay the same, but the military budget increased another two trillion dollars, the deficit each year would be three trillion dollars.  Romney says he will reduce the deficit, but refuses to say how.  He says that he will lower taxes 20% across the board, but doesn’t tell us how that will reduce the deficit.  In a candid moment, he said he doesn’t care about the 47% of people who he thinks they think they’re victims, i.e. the veterans, military, those on social security, children, etc. but he does say he will not cut education costs.  I am no fact-checker and I am certainly not an economist, but I can do simple arithmetic.  I also do not believe in the tooth fairy, nor do I believe, as Romney suggests, that magicians can pull rabbits out of hats.  I think we are entitled to know what he plans for us if he is elected.  We already know that he has secrets in his own financial setup he is unwilling to share with us and his unwillingness to do so means that he knows it would demonstrate that the elite wealthy have tax advantages far beyond what us ordinary mortals enjoy.  Finally, and I have wanted to say this for a long time but I wanted to avoid hurting the feelings of the many pro-Romney Republican friends I have, I just cannot understand how so many smart people can be fooled into thinking that Romney, i.e. Bush Jr. on steroids, will make things better for the people of the United States.  Some of the more obvious detractors just cannot get away from the black thing.  They need to hate Obama. More than 40% of Republicans think he is an Islamist and I can understand why they would vote for Romney even though I think they are demented.  I can also understand why fat cat republicans who live in gated communities would vote for Romney.  Their mantra is ‘the rich get rich and the poor get poorer.’  But the rest of you fine people, I just don’t get it. 

Just saying . . .

OMG: This is Scary Stuff

Halloween is a few days away, but the scariest things to happen in the United States this year have already happened.  A Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Indiana, a Mr. Mourdoch, said yesterday right out in public that “when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Another Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, a Mr. Akins, recently said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  It should be noted that Akins is already a representative in Congress and along with veep candidate, Paul Ryan, tried to introduce a bill in congress that distinguished between forcible and non-forcipble rape.  No, I am not making this stuff up. In the Republican platform passed at the national convention, the plan that presumably will be the operative working document for any Republican elected this year, abortion would be prohibited even it occurred as a result of incest or (forcible) rape.  I get the same shivers up my spine when I read and think about this stuff as I did when I first read about the Salem witch trials.  For convenience sake, I went to Wikipedia for a short description of the events that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts between Feb. 1692 and May, 1693. 
After someone concluded that a loss, illness or death had been caused by witchcraft, the accuser entered a complaint against the alleged witch with the local magistrates.
"If the complaint was deemed credible, the magistrates had the person arrested and brought in for a public examination, essentially an interrogation, where the magistrates pressed the accused to confess.
"If the magistrates at this local level were satisfied that the complaint was well-founded, the prisoner was handed over to be dealt with by a superior court. In 1692, the magistrates opted to wait for the arrival of the new charter and governor, who would establish a Court of Oyer and Terminer to handle these cases.
"The next step, at the superior court level, was to summon witnesses before a grand jury.
"A person could be indicted on charges of afflicting with witchcraft, or for making an unlawful covenant with the Devil. Once indicted, the defendant went to trial, sometimes on the same day, as in the case of the first person indicted and tried on June 2, Bridget Bishop, who was executed on June 10, 1692.
"There were four execution dates, with one person executed on June 10, 1692, five executed on July 19, 1692 (Sarah GoodRebecca NurseSusannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe & Sarah Wildes),another five executed on August 19, 1692 (Martha CarrierJohn WillardGeorge BurroughsGeorge Jacobs, Sr. and John Proctor), and eight on September 22, 1692 (Mary EasteyMartha CoreyAnn Pudeator, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott).”
Coming back to the present, how short of a leap is it between thinking that a pregnancy occurring because of rape is God’s will, that a pregnancy that does occur from a legitimate rape is because there is something inherently defective or evil in the woman being raped (i.e., the modern equivalent of being a witch), and that if abortion is illegal under all conditions, including rape, the woman must be charged and prosecuted?
This is scary stuff indeed.  I am thinking that our founding forefathers must have clearly understood the need to separate religion from government when they drafted our Constitution. 
Just saying . . .

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

George and Mitt

October 15, 2012
GEORGE AND MITT: Like Father, Like Son? Not quite
By Walt De Vries
From 1961 through 1967, Walter De Vries served George Romney as a campaign strategist during Romney’s terms as Michigan governor; heading campaign research and strategy for three campaigns and as executive assistant in the office of the governor. He is co-author, with Lance Tarrance, of the “Ticket Splitters,” a ground-breaking look at the behavior of independent voters. He also was the founder of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership.
Like after the first debate, sometime after the second debate with President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, one of Romney’s surrogates and spin-misters or Mitt himself, will harken to Romney’s father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney to reinforce an aura of integrity around the GOP candidate.
After the first debate it was wife Ann who said that Mitt had written “Dad” on paper he had at the lectern. Mrs. Romney, described as choking up during a post-debate interview with CNN, said it signified that Mitt respected what his father “taught me and what kind of person you are and I’m going to honor that.”
While that might make for some good post-debate spin, perhaps exploitation of his late father’s memory and dramatic television, the conduct of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is a far cry from the kind of campaign and conduct, as a public servant, I saw during the seven years I worked in George Romney’s campaigns and served him as governor.
There are some similarities – and they are admirable. Both men’s lives are characterized by energy and hard work. They both have been faithful to their religion, the primacy of family and ability to sell what he believes. Both were exempt from military service – George during World War II when he was Managing Director of the Automotive Council for War Production; and Mitt with draft exemptions as a student and Mormon missionary in France
But it is Mitt’s behavior during this presidential campaign that is distinguishing – and not those of his father at all. Since 2005, when he first decided to seek the presidency, his political posture and positions have shifted in erratic and startling ways, to the right, to the middle, to the right and shifting still.
George Romney’s strength as a politician and public officeholder was his ability and determination to develop and hold consistent policy positions over his life. While it seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal – or an election. George Romney’s constant mantra to those in and around his campaigns and his gubernatorial staff: “As you campaign, so shall you govern.”
When George Romney launched his first campaign for governor, facing an entrenched Democratic machine with strong labor backing, he determined he’d reach out to independent voters – those who voted for Democrats and Republicans – ticket-splitters. For George, how you campaigned really mattered. How you communicated with voters, the positions you took, the persons on your campaign staff, and those you took contributions from, were an extension of the candidate’s personality.
George Romney reached out to voters in union halls and factory gates, a rare venue for GOP candidates back then and still now. He refused to engage in personal attacks and kept his campaigns issue-based.
Mitt Romney and the people around him see campaigns as television marketing and voters as targets to be manipulated. Voters, they believe, make up their minds late and will be swayed with saturation television advertising. The campaign managers seek – daily it seems – for a magic bullet to force on the electorate that will move undecided and weak voters to Romney. Policy papers, positions are rare and short on content and meaning.
I’ve tried to track Mitt Romney’s shifts – some 180 degrees others 360 -- on key issues during the campaign. I’ve stopped at 30: abortion, stem-cell research; climate change and global warming; campaign finance; and equal pay for women are just a few.
George Romney was a political risk-taker. He fought for a new Michigan constitution that was narrowly approved, overhauled the administrative structure of the executive branch in Michigan and battled repeatedly for an income tax. His campaigns were uphill – particularly in 1964 when he faced the Lyndon Johnson national landslide. In that year he increased his plurality while the rest of the GOP ticket was crushed.
“As you campaign, so shall you govern.” That lesson from father to son, seems to be lost in the win-at-any-cost fog of politics in the 21st century.
## # 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Another Victory for a Drug Company Wrongdoer

So far, 35 people in six states – Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana – have contracted fungal meningitis, and five of them have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All had received steroid shots for back pain, a highly common treatment.
In an alarming indication the outbreak could get a lot bigger, Massachusetts health officials said the pharmacy involved, the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., has recalled three lots consisting of a total of 17,676 single-dose vials of the steroid, preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate.
An unknown number of those vials reached 75 clinics and other facilities in 23 states between July and September, federal health officials said. Several hundred of the vials, maybe more, have been returned unused, one Massachusetts official said.

In Michigan, one can only hope that none of the materials reached here because our Republican state legislature decreed in 1995 that anything approved by the Food and Drug Administration is safe as a matter of law and, thus, there can be no suits against  a manufacturer.

Just Saying . . .

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Round One for the Mittster, but the Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet

What I saw last night resembled the first round of a prizefight where a challenger takes on the champion by coming out with a flurry of blows aimed anywhere and everywhere, including a few low blows here and there.  The president’s response was akin to the champion’s buttoning down and covering up the vital parts, i.e., weathering the storm, until the challenger’s blows diminish in intensity and start failing in their purpose by the process of ineffectuality (I think I just made this word up, kind of like Romney’s claim that he wasn’t going to reduce taxes on the rich.)  This is the first in a series of debates, and with a "win" Romney will now be forced to elaborate on his claims. Possibly crass, but the first debate was foreplay. 

It will be interesting, therefore, to observe what happens in rounds two and three of this prizefight.  The challenger has laid bare his proposals which, if anyone was listening, sounded exactly like Obama’s proposals.  “I will give you everything in Obamacare except that I won’t call it Obamacare.” “I will take care of the middle class.” “I  believe in education and will fund it appropriately.”  “No tax cuts for the rich?”  Really?

The right wing will awaken to the realization that Romney threw  the Tea Party and his veep candidate, the fair-haired chairman of the budget committee, under the bus last night in yet another shake of the etch-a-sketch.  The reason Romney sounded more reasonable than usual was that he sounded like a Democrat.

Just saying . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

President Obama and Civil Discourse

I have listened to all of the disparaging comments about our current president with amazement.   As I have said in the past, I belong to golf clubs in Michigan and Florida.  The overwhelming majority of my fellow members at these clubs are conservative anti-Obama, some anti-Obama racist-hater types, Republicans.  Several of the readers of this blog are conservative, but still engage in a meaningful dialogue with civility.  This current writing has, therefore, two objectives; to thank these conservative friends for willingly engaging in discussions with me that are both fruitful and productive and to realistically discuss the four years of Obama’s first term.  
I must admit that I was a little starry-eyed about Obama as he began his first term of the presidency in 2009, but there have been some bumps in the road since then.  Let me discuss what I perceive to be his major shortcomings.   He doesn’t know how to negotiate properly.   He has violated basic principles of negotiating techniques in his rookie-like eagerness to get things done and/or appease the opposition.  As an example, Negotiating 101 says that one never, never negotiates against oneself.  A corollary of that principle is to never accept the first offer that is made by the opposition.  Our president has consistently violated these principles in caving into the variety of extremist Tea Party demands.  Additionally, I am concerned about Obama’s continuation of policies set under Bush insofar as the blatant and unnecessary disregard for our individual constitutional rights.  As I understand the current law, the president has the authority to hold any citizen of the United States without judicial recourse if it is suspected that the individual is acting against the safety of the U.S.  The potential for abuse of this authority is obvious.  As a lawyer and constitutional scholar, Obama should be ashamed of himself for embracing this authority. 

On the other hand, it took nothing short of political brilliance to become the first African-American elected president of the United States.  It took serious political and leadership skills to pass health-care reform that had been blocked for 100 years after being proposed over that time by Republican and Democrat presidents alike.   It took sheer brilliance and leadership skills, as well as great courage in the face of nasty vocal opposition, to avert a catastrophic depression.  Obama has provided an average tax cut of $3,600 to middle class Americans. He has fought to preserve middle class jobs by, among other things, rescuing the auto industry saving one million jobs.  Even Bill Kristol, an inveterate conservative has admitted that Obama "did pretty well" in turning around the economic meltdown that occurred under Bush, Jr.
Obama has extracted the United States from a costly and unnecessary war (Iraq) and set a date for departure from Afghanistan.  He has adopted a low-cost means to kill terrorists (drone attacks) and rid America of the specter of Osama bin Laden.  He has restrained Israel from attacking Iran and thus preventing a disastrous third Western war in the mid-East since 9/11.  Through the brilliant selection of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state he has sought ways to work with Russia and China, put European allies in lead roles in Libya; and generally looked not to hard power but American soft power reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt’s  “speak softly, but carry a big stick” approach.
Are there other things he should have done?  Sure, but the no-compromise position of Republicans have literally shut down any meaningful progress in other areas.   All in all, the accomplishments of Obama in his first term are impressive and important. 
Just saying . . .