Friday, December 31, 2010

Enjoy your health care reform ... while you can.

Sunday – the first day of the New Year – is also the first day for two important provisions of the new health care reform law.

The first change will start to close the infamous donut hole in prescription drug plans. When you suddenly discover that the drug you’ve been paying $42 a month for will now will cost $197 a month until the end of the year … welcome to the donut hole!

But the second change is the biggie. It will require insurance companies to pay out no less than 80 percent of the money they take in from premiums on actual health care costs. As of Monday morning, overhead, profit, salaries and those multi-million dollar bonuses for executives will all have to come out of the remaining 20 percent.

The plain, unvarnished truth: any insurance company that hasn’t already been meeting that 80:20 ratio has been screwing its customers.

And these two provisions are part of the law that Republicans in Congress will try to repeal.

Friday, December 24, 2010

There are liars, damn liars, and Pawlenty of them.

I've been bothered – well, OK, infuriated – over the past several years by how political “spin” has deteriorated into deliberate lies and distortions. It’s deplorable whatever the source, Democrat or Republican, but without question the great preponderance is coming from the right.

One example of far too many: The Republican politicians and media (Fox “News”) persistently referring to health care reform as “the “government take-over of our health care system”. Utter nonsense!

Now comes Tim Pawlenty, the out-going Republican governor of Minnesota who wants to be his party’s presidential nominee in 2012. To that end, he has started bashing President Obama for, among other things, increasing the size of the federal government while (cue the crocodile tears) "the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs."

New York Time columnist Paul Krugman points out, that there are actually fewer permanent federal jobs since Obama was elected. The increase Pawlenty refers to was due to the temporary hiring of census workers by the federal government. The census is, of course mandated by the Constitution.

In other words, Pawlenty has deliberately distorted turth to create an impression he knows to be untrue ... and of course we can count on Fox “News” and their right-wing blowhards to pick it up and perpetuate it.

Somehow, these liars need to be called out and rejected. In an ideal world, that should be a bi-partisan effort. And wouldn’t that be a heart-warming way to start the New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dumb like a Fox.

A recent survey conducted by the University of Maryland has determined that people who watch Fox News are far more likely than the rest of us to believe statements about current events that are demonstrably false.

Well … duh!

Take for example, the following statement:

Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit.

Fox viewers – 31% more than viewers and readers of other media outlets – believe that statement to be true.

Here’s another one:

Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring.

Thirty percent more Fox viewers thought that was a true statement compared to the rest of us.

And – proving once and for all that people who watch Fox are there for ammunition, not information – 31 percent more Fox viewers agree that “it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States”.

Predictably, Fox News has reacted to this story. Their spokesman trashed the University of Maryland. That, too, was predictable.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

John Kyl Defends the Faith Against Infidel Harry Reid

Senator John Kyl, Republican from Arizona, has accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of “disrespecting” Christians.

My goodness! What has Harry done now? Questioned the divinity of Jesus? Challenged the veracity of the Bible? Well, not exactly. In fact, not hardly. Senator Reid, it seems, has had the temerity to say the Senate should meet and continue to do its business during the week between Christmas and January 4th when the session formally concludes.

Here’s what Kyl said: "It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out, frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff."

Memo to Senator Kyl: Christmas is on Saturday this year. Most folks will be going back to work the following Monday. Why shouldn't you?

Memo to the rest of us: How in the world are Democrats supposed to find common ground … work out rational bi-partisan solutions to complex problems … with arrogant, sanctimonious fools like John Kyl?


Saturday, December 4, 2010

And the Rich Get Really, Really, REALLY Richer.

We should all be aware of – if not actually concerned about – the growing gap between the very rich and all the rest of us. How big is the gap? Consider:

Three years ago, the top one percent of income earners in the country made more money than the bottom 50 percent.

Today, the top one percent makes more money than the bottom 90 percent … assuming it’s possible to grasp the concept of 90% being the bottom of anything.

And remember: this has nothing to do with total wealth. This refers only to annual incomes.

So how in the name of anything that’s fair, reasonable or rational, can the Republicans be demanding that the Bush tax cuts – which were a major factor in our current deficit problems – be kept in place for that top one percent?

They can’t.

But they still do.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And the Bid Is ... NO TRUMP!

Donald Trump is thinking about running for president. Yes, he really is ... and if there was ever proof of the man's monumental ego, this is certainly it. And, as if we needed further proof of the man's duplicity, he is actually affecting modesty over the idea. Now that's actually funny.

What isn't so funny? The results of an ongoing CNN poll where, at last count, something like 17 percent of those responding say they would support his candidacy. Somehow, in the minds of a large number of people within this muddled, ignorant, frightened and lazy electorate of ours, celebrity has come to equal competence.

As a garrulous old English teacher of mine was wont to say when confronted with some particularly egregious lack of scholarship, "It is to weep."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

All Hat, No Cattle

The Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is about to take over as titular head of the Republican Governors Association.

This is the same outfit that recently poured a million dollars – yes, literally! – into Hawaii media in an effort to prevent Democrat Neil Abercrombie from becoming our governor. To no avail. Abercrombie crushed his Republican opponent, Duke Aiona, by 17 percentage points.

And this same Rick Perry has, on more than one occasion, said that if the federal gummint doesn’t stop trying to tell the states what to do, secession could become a serious option. Yes, he really did.

It's tempting to simply dismiss Perry as a fool and a buffoon. On the other hand, he is very likely an accurate representation of much of his constituency. After all, the elected Texas School Board has voted to include creationism along with evolution as part of the curriculum in public schools. Not content with that, the board has also instructed textbook publishers to minimize the role of that notorious liberal, Thomas Jefferson, in their history texts and start including more info on some of the more conservative founding fathers. No specific names leap immediately to mind, but I'm sure the School Board will tell us who they are.

Actually, now that I think about it, secession is starting to look like an attractive option.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Heading North to Polar Bear Country by Hudson Bay

The ride from Winnipeg up to Churchill on Hudson Bay – some 1050 miles and almost due north – takes almost two days. We left Winnipeg at noon on a Sunday and arrived in Churchill the following Tuesday morning.

First impression of the scenery along the way -- pretty bleak, mostly flat terrain with scrubby trees that got shorter and shorter the farther north we went. Still it was interesting, and certainly different, as we passed through little towns between long stretches of wilderness that was frequently broken up by streams and small lakes crusting over with ice, most of which were dominated by domed beaver lodges.

VIA Rail train # 693 rattled along at a respectable speed for the first day, but by the following afternoon would occasionally slow to a crawl over stretched of track where the roadbed was spongy because of the permafrost ground softening.

Nevertheless, we arrived right on schedule, bright and early on the second morning. Well, not “bright” exactly, since the sun never appeared through the sodden low overcast that and it wasn’t until well after 8:30 that the darkness had fully lifted.

The warmth came the moment I stepped in Bluesky Bed & Sled, a bed and breakfast establishment run by Jenafor Azure. This is their busiest time with guests coming and going on a daily basis and Jenafor’s mother, known only as “Grandma” to guests throughout their stays, had come from Alberta the week before to pitch in.

For the balance of the morning I wandered around town a bit, then drove over to the Churchill Northern Studies Center about 20 kilometers away to chat with Mike Goodyear, the executive director. More on that meeting in a few days.

Tomorrow I’ll watch Jenafor’s husband, Gerald, hook up his dog team and take visitors and guests on a wild ride in a dog cart, and the following day I’ll be on a tundra buggy out in the surrounding countryside in search of polar bears … which is why all us shivering tourists are here in the first place.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give that man a big ... hand!

The latest Kukai-Nui Award, given periodically to a politician who is unafraid to put party before country, goes to the Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is right up front about where the Republican Party's priorities lie:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Atta-boy, Mitch … polish up that American flag lapel pin and take a bow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

James MacArthur, 1937-2010

I posted the following on my other blog, but thought it worth repeating here.

I turned on the computer this morning here in Winnipeg and came across a news item reporting the death of actor James MacArthur. Years ago, during all those years when Hawaii 5-0 was being shot in and around Honolulu, I got to know Jimmy. His wife and mine were friends and we all hung out a bit together.

I had just started a small advertising agency and one of our clients was a very small bank. Just two branches. Nevertheless they had aspirations for expansion and we decided to produce a couple of 30-second television spots. I approached Jimmy to see if he would appear as the bank’s spokesman in the commercials. He agreed, as a personal favor to me, of course – he certainly didn’t need the money – and he showed up spot on time early one Saturday morning when the two branches were closed and we could do our production without disrupting things.

We shot one commercial at the downtown branch of the bank that morning, and moved on to the other branch that afternoon. Through it all, Jimmy MacArthur cheerfully endured all the re-takes and other delays for sound checks and lighting changes, apologized when he fluffed a line and chatted amiably with the crew during the catered lunch. He was, in a word, the consummate professional and a joy to be around.

We finally finished shooting at 3:30 that afternoon, and his wife came to pick him up. That’s when I learned that Jimmy had been skiing in Colorado the week before and, thanks to some bad weather throughout that whole area, had only arrived back in Honolulu at 5:00 that very morning. He had had just enough time to run home, shower and shave, and get to the bank for the filming of our two insignificant little commercials.

Ever since, whenever I read about the petulant, selfish, thoughtless behavior of some of these prima donnas in sports or theater or business, I think of James Gordon MacArthur … who shames them all.

Aloha, Jimmy.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mea Culpas, past and future

My apologies for the lack of posts over these past weeks. I have been preoccupied with my efforts on behalf of my long-time friend Neil Abercrombie, who -- as all Hawaii knows -- is the Democratic Party's nominee for governor of Hawaii.

Furthermore, it’s also likely that there will be only a few posts for the next several weeks, too. I will be leaving Tuesday for an extended trip to the mainland ... first to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the semi-annual board meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

From there, I'll head to Toronto to catch VIA Rail's premier train # 1, the Canadian, which runs three times a week in each direction between Toronto and Vancouver, BC.

I'll be leaving the Canadian in Winnipeg and taking another VIA train almost 1100 miles north to the little town of Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay. Polar bears spend the winter out on the ice hunting seals and this time of year these magnificent creatures come into the area waiting for the bay to freeze over.

From there it will be back to Winnipeg and resuming the trans-continental ride on the next train # 1 to Vancouver. I'll connect there with Amtrak for the trip to Seattle and on down to Los Angeles for the flight back home to Maui.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Tea Party Goes on the Defensive … Sort of.

Today’s Maui News included a vociferous defense of the Tea Party movement from a regular contributor to the letters column. Here’s my problem with this so-called movement: The only “solution” they have for the immense and complex problems facing our country is smaller government and lower taxes. They offer no proposals to deal with poverty, homelessness, unemployment, out-of-control healthcare costs, home foreclosures, and on and on. Why is that?
Possibly it’s because, as surveys show, Tea Party members are overwhelmingly white, middle-to-upper class, and – this is the part that astonishes me – educated. In other words, most Tea Party people aren’t facing any of the problems that millions of ordinary Americans must struggle with every day. They just keep on yammering about “getting their country back” and demanding lower taxes.

The Tea Party, the letter-writer assures us, is not racist and isn’t against civil rights. Well, maybe. But, from everything I see and hear, these folks are something almost as bad: they’re selfish.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If you can’t be right, be wrong at the top of your voice!

Have you noticed? These Tea Party “activists” yell and holler and demonstrate, but never offer any solutions to the problems we’re facing.

Thousands of bridges around the country are old and could be unsafe. Should we fix them?

No, no, no! Smaller government! Lower taxes! Close the borders!

Millions are still out of work. Can’t we have more programs to …

Smaller government! Lower taxes! Close the borders!

But what about the homeless people who literally freeze to death on city streets in the winter?

Smaller government! Lower taxes! Close the borders!

OK, but can’t we do something for inner-city kids who …

Smaller government! Lower taxes! Close the borders!

But … but …

Smaller government! Lower taxes! Close the borders!

* sigh *


Thursday, September 9, 2010

What the Hell Are We Thinking?

All the pundits continue to forecast doom for the Democrats in the November elections. Truthfully, I don’t get it. Can it really be possible that the American people are going to return the Republicans to power?

These are the very same politicians who (a) voted against the stimulus bill, who (b) happily took credit for any stimulus money that funded projects in their district, who (c) now say the stimulus program didn’t work, who (d) blame Obama for unemployment and who (e) say we should return them to power because they will oppose any more stimulus programs.

These are the very same politicians who (a) de-regulated the banking industry, which then embarked on reckless investment strategies bringing the financial world to near collapse, who (b) objected to Obama and the Democrats tightening regulations on the banks and who (c) are now asking us to return them to power so they can (d) once again de-regulate the banking industry.

These are the very same politicians who (a) passed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2001 and 2003, and who (b) wrote into the law that those tax cuts would expire at the end of this year, and who (c) watched their tax cuts result in a huge federal budget deficit, and who (d) have reneged on that deal and want the tax cuts to be continued, and who (e) are now accusing Democrats who want to let the tax cuts expire of raising your taxes.

And by the way, “your taxes” only means your taxes if your family earns a quarter-of-a-million dollars a year.

These are the people who are going to be voted back into power??

We are - alas - a nation of morons.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Why Aren't More People Really Angry About This?

A month ago, the Hawaii Venture Capital Association held a forum at which they listened to presentations by the leading candidates for governor. Several days later, they endorsed Neil Abercrombie.

A few days ago, Mufi Hannemann was endorsed by the Venture Capital Association of Hawaii, which has suddenly popped up out of nowhere. Puzzled by the suspiciously similar names, a couple of alert reporters discovered that this “organization” has a grand total of 10 members, all of whom now admit to being Mufi supporters.

This is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to confuse and deceive the voters. And, once again, the Hannemann people manage to keep a straight face while saying they had absolutely nothing to do with this fraud.

What should bother us most about this foolishness is that Mufi and his brain trust are flaunting their contempt for the electorate. These bozos really think we're stupid!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And Jesus Wept.

There is a heated political campaign going on here in Hawaii and a local “Christian” organization, the Hawaii Family Forum, has started running radio spots telling “Christians” why they should not vote for Neil Abercrombie for governor. The commercial says that if Neil is elected governor he will sign same-sex marriage into law and it further says that – horrors! – Neil has no personal religious affiliation.

First, how HFF knows what Neil’s personal spiritual beliefs may or may not be, they do not say. No matter, it’s still arrogance and bigotry.

Second, with respect to same-sex marriage, HFF conveniently neglects to say that some years back Hawaii voters passed an amendment to the State Constitution defining “marriage” as being between a man and a woman. So you see, as governor, Neil couldn’t possibly bring about same-sex marriage because our state constitution doesn’t permit it. So that statement by HFF is simply a lie.

Neil Abercrombie is a kind, decent, intelligent man who has given almost 40 years of his life to public service, including the past 20 years as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives. I am proud to call him a friend and, given the chance, he will make a truly excellent governor. To declare him unfit for public office using arguments that are bigoted, arrogant and based on a lie is most decidedly un-Christian. And that, in my book, means the people running Hawaii Family Forum are not only liars, but hypocrites as well.

And as to those folks who hear that crap and will swallow and follow? Well, that's probably why their “Christian” leaders refer to them as “sheep”.

Life in Ha'iku, Maui, Is Not Easy!

I spent most of the morning yesterday hard at work weeding ... this photo, taken surreptitiously by my wife, should not be taken as evidence to the contrary. The mountain in the background is 10,000-foot Haleakala, Maui's dormant volcano.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Confirming What We Have Always Known …

The News Corporation, parent company of Fox News, just made a one million dollar contribution to the Republican Governors Association.

These guys have recently been buying TV time here in Hawaii, by the way ... presumably to air spots promoting Duke Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor. The RGA also ran spots supporting Republican Charles Djou in the recent special election for Congress.

Got that? The owners of Fox News are giving money to a political arm of the Republican Party which, in turn, buys time on Fox stations to support Republican candidates. Cutting to the chase: Fox News is using their air to elect Republicans.

Oh ... but wait .. we already knew that, didn't we!

Think about that the next time you hear one of the Fox news readers utter the words “fair and balanced”.

And here’s a great line about Fox News that I heard recently: People watch Fox for ammunition, not information.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why In the World Do They Do It?

I haven’t posted here for quite a while and I’m not really sure why. Well, for one thing I was away for a bit over a week. First to Oakland for take in three games between the Red Sox and the A’s, then an overnight train ride on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to Seattle, and three more games there – the Sox vs. the Mariners.

But that’s not much of an excuse. I’ve just been putting it off, for days now. Really, the problem is that I’ve become disheartened at the way the country seems to be drifting back to the right. What a bunch of wimps we are! Things are not going well, so instead of rolling up the sleeves and dealing with the problems, we bitch and whine and complain ... and look for someone to blame

Typical, isn’t it. God knows, we can’t be bothered to dig into all these knotty issues to figure out who’s really at fault. We just decide it’s whoever happens to be in office at the moment … and these days, that mostly means the Democrats.

And Obama, too, of course. Poor guy! He’s been in office for – what is it? – nineteen months, and he hasn’t managed to solve several of the biggest messes in anyone’s memory. So we’re down on him, too.

And just look at the headlines and check out the web sites that are politically oriented. The campaigns are nastier than ever. Decent men and women, who have had the courage to run for office, are vilified and subjected to the worst kind of personal attacks -- their professional accomplishments belittled, their public record distorted and their private lives invaded.

Still, they keep coming. Amazing, isn’t it. And – actually – it’s reason for some hope.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Solving Our Problems Is Easy … But Almost Impossible

If you’re a progressive or liberal or Democrat or whatever we’re calling ourselves these days, advancing our agenda is not easy. Essentially, it means appealing to the selfless, generous nature of people -- asking our fellow citizens to dig down a bit more to pay for a transit system they might not use, or music classes in the public schools for someone else’s kids, or more social workers to help people they don’t know.

Republicans, on the other hand, have a much easier sell because their appeal is to the lesser human qualities: greed and selfishness, among others. It doesn’t matter where you rank on the affluence scale, they say your taxes are too high and you deserve a tax cut. If a politician has the guts to propose a modest tax increase, no matter how valid the purpose, the Republican attack machine swings into action and, almost every time, he or she is defeated.

The Republicans are now vigorously opposing any effort that would allow the infamous Bush $1.1 trillion tax cuts to expire. Any Democrat who votes to let those tax cuts lapse – as was stipulated in the Republican-sponsored law when it was passed – will be accused of “raising your taxes” in the next election.

In the meantime, and for lack of funding, we have allowed our country’s infrastructure to become woefully outdated and even dangerous. Hundreds of bridges in this country are structurally unsafe; our electrical grid is stretched to capacity, and vulnerable to cyber attack; compared to every other developed country, our passenger rail system is a joke. And – oh, yes – almost 36 million Americans, more than a third children, are living in poverty.

The shameful aspect to all this is that we can fix these things. Or at least bring about dramatic improvement. But there’s a catch: it will take some tax increases. For most people, the “sacrifice” would hardly be noticeable. For the many millions who are by any standard rich, it could mean giving up a $200 dinner at a fancy restaurant one night a month.

Democrats say that for the good of the country you should be willing to do that; Republicans say someone else is to blame for these problems and you shouldn’t have to do that. It’s a cynical and dishonest tactic, but much of the time it works. And that is a disgrace for which about half the people in this country must take the blame.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Choice Republican Comments on the BP Oil Spill

You have to wonder where the Republican Party funds theses clowns.

Rand Paul, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, referring to Obama’s tough talk about BP: "This sort of, you know 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."

Michelle Bachman, the absolutely loony Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, who constantly rails and wails about the horrors of socialism in the U.S., suggested that the government should “commandeer” privately owned boats to “deal with that oil plume as it was coming up to the water.” Huh??

Sara Palin, half-term Republican governor of Alaska and John McCain’s running mate tweeted the following:

Extreme Greenies:see now why we push"drill,baby,drill"of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?"

Actually, Sara, when you were shrieking “Drill, baby, drill” during the campaign, you included off-shore drilling. Remember? No, of course you don’t.

Haley Barbour, Republican governor of Mississippi, has said numerous times that the media is over-reacting the the oil spill and has said that it "isn't anything like Exxon Valdez." He’s right about that, of course. This one is many times worse.

But Rep. Joe Barton, Republican from Texas, takes the cake. At a congressional hearing, this bozo actually apologized to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward:

"I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown. … I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize."

You think these characters are off-base and off-the-wall? What about the people who vote for them?


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where Do The Republicans Find These Loonies?

The Republicans in Nevada have picked a lolo* named Sharron Angle as their nominee to oppose Harry Reid in the race for the U.S. Senate.

Harry Reid is hardly Mr. Excitement, but this lady is a serious nut case. Want an example? Here's what she said during a recent radio interview:

"If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

The Second Amendment, of course, refers to the right of citizens to bear arms.

This woman also wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare ... positions which she says are non-negotiable.

What to know what's really scary? She's actually leading Harry Reid in polls by something like 10 percentage points.

* lolo = crazy

Friday, June 4, 2010

There Must Be Something in the Water.

What is it with South Carolina anyway?

Republican Governor Mark Sanford said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when, in fact, he was shacked up with his mistress in Argentina.

Then there was Congressman Joe Wilson, also a Republican, who shouted out "You lie!" at President Obama during the State of the Union speech.

The latest disgrace comes from this good il' boy, South Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts. (Yes, he, too, is a Republican.) In speaking of gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who is an ethnic Indian (that is, Indian as opposed to Native American), Knotts made this sickening comment:

“We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion."

Nikki Haley is, by the way, a Republican.

Not everyone in South Carolina a bigot. Knotts remark has prompted someone to run against him in the upcoming Republican primary.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Right Way … and the Really Wrong Way

I was just going over my notes from a recent train trip and came across an out-of-context scribble on one of the pages:

“Blog: Elected judges = crazy!”

I jotted that note just after the train passed a big billboard somewhere along the way … a county sheriff was campaigning for an elected position as a judge. The campaign theme was “He’ll Lock ‘Em Up!!” The more the merrier, I guess.

Unfortunately, the deciding factor in that race will have little to do with which bozo is qualified … where he went to law school and how much legal experience he has (if any). It will pretty much come down to which candidate raises the most money. And doesn’t that raise some interesting issues! Now you’ve got politician-judges who owe favors to people who helped them get elected.

We’ve got our fair share of political weirdness here in Hawaii, but this is one area where we got it right. We have a nine-member Judicial Selection Commission and only four of the nine can be lawyers. When there’s a vacancy, the Commission submits a list of approved candidates to the governor – not more than six names – who must make the appointment from that short-list.

In all my years in Hawaii, I can’t remember one time when there’s been a serious question of incompetence or scandal or conflict in our judiciary. There can be flaws in any system, and I’m sure ours isn’t perfect … but it sure as hell is better than having judges run for the office.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Picture Tells You All You Need to Know

The recent flap over comments made by Rand Paul underscores the fact that the Tea Party folks can pretty much be consigned to one of two categories: the willfully ignorant and the inflexible idealogue.

But isn't it delightful watching the Republican poobahs struggling to figure out how to keep the Tea Party votes, but sorta-kinda-halfway disavow the Tea Party ideas!

Of course, "having it both ways" is the basic Republican approach to politics anyway ... as in voting against the stimulus program, but taking credit for getting the money that funds needed projects in their districts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Around and around and around we go ...

Well, the Democrats tried again ... looking for a compromise that would make a bill to provide $40 million for science research acceptable to Republicans.

Once again Republicans tacked on the ridiculous pornography amendment (see previous post).And once again enough Democrats caved to kill the measure.

What is it with the Democrats, anyway? These guys just don't get it. There is no point looking for bipartisanship. When it comes to anything the Obama Administration proposes, the Republicans in Congress WILL ... NOT ... COOPERATE.

Hey ... isn't this the same bunch who campaigned in 2008 on the theme "Country First"?


Friday, May 14, 2010

For Republicans, political priorities trump principles.

So there was this bill coming up in Congress that would provide federal funding for scientific research, and for more jobs in math and science education. What’s not to like about that?

Nothing … except the Grand Obstructionist Party decided to kill it.

Since they didn't have the votes, how they did it is interesting, not to mention instructive: They attached an amendment to the bill that would prohibit the firing of any federal government employee who watched pornography during working hours.

Get it? Any Democrat voting for the bill, with that amendment included, would be voting in favor of allowing federal employees to look at porn. And you can imagine the attack ads that would mysteriously appear when those Democrats run for re-election this Fall.

Anyway, the Republicans voted against the bill, of course, and they were joined by more than a hundred Democrats who didn’t have the courage to face all those attack ads. And the bill failed.

So the smug Republicans have won. And scientific research and would-be math and science teachers have paid the price.

The next time we hear those Republican politicians spouting off about how much they love this country, let’s try to remember that it’s all bullshit. What they care about more than anything else is screwing Obama and the Democrats so they can win elections.

They … have … no … shame.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You really have to hand it to the Republicans.

The Democrats introduce a financial reform bill which, among many other things, prohibits the use of tax dollars to bail out banks.

The Republicans loudly object because, they say, the Democrats' bill allows the use of tax dollars to bail out banks.

Then the Republicans introduce their own bill which, they say, prohibits the use of tax dollars to bail out banks.

As my almost-three-year-old granddaughter said when she couldn’t get some pieces of avocado onto her fork, “Slippery little guys, aren’t they!”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'll Be Away for Two Weeks

I'm off in a few hours to attend the annual NARP directors' meeting in Washington, DC.

NARP is the National Association of Railroad Passengers and is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advocates for a national system of more and better passenger trains of all kinds.

I'll have my laptop and may find time for an occasional post and will be back home on May 6th.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hedging Their Bets

Over the past year or so, we’ve been hearing about “hedge funds” and, I confess, I have had no real idea what they were all about. So I asked a financial advisor and got a lengthy and involved answer. Nevertheless, it distilled down to this.

A hedge fund is like a mutual fund, comprised of a number of investments … with one main difference: they are very high risk, but offer very high rewards. Basically, hedge funds are designed for the very, very, very wealthy … people who can affords to risk millions in the hope of making even more millions.

Hedge fund managers are the people who buy and sell within their respective funds. The good ones make many millions of dollars for their investors.

And they get paid very well indeed. How well?

In 2009, which was a crappy year for the vast majority of working Americans, the top 25 hedge fund managers were paid an average of about one billion dollars each. That’s billion with a “B” and that’s for one year’s work. How’s this for a contrast: A rough calculation indicates that much money would pay for 50,000 new teachers for ten years.

And all 41 Senate Republicans say they are going to vote against the financial reform package.

What a disgrace.


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ideology Stays In Tact, No Matter What

Let's see ... the economy of the entire globe came close to going into the dumper and everyone agrees that it was greedy Wall Street bosses taking crazy risks that played the major role in the near-disaster.

So the Obama Administration introduces a bill to implement new rules and regulations, along with closer scrutiny by the federal government.

And the Republicans, after first demanding a bi-partisan approach to any new legislation, are once again united in opposing the proposed new law. All 41 senators -- every last mother's son of 'em -- will vote against the bill.

I am not surprised to see the Republicans knee-jerking in opposition to whatever Obama proposes. And it will be delicious watching Republican rising in defense of the Wall Street moguls ... the same bozos who took all those millions in bonuses. But I am continuously astonished that rank-and-file Republicans aren't starting to feel humiliated and deeply embarassed over these selfish and cynical partisan tactics.

What the hell happened to "Country First", folks??

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Well ... OK ... I Guess You Got Me.

No wonder we don't seem to be convincing any of these people!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mine Disaster Raises Important Questions

The loss of 29 lives in a West Virginia coal mine has focused attention on two important issues.

The first is mine safety, of course. That issue has been brought into focus by the news that the mine operator, Massey Energy, has previously been cited many hundreds of times for safety violations. Mine owner, Don Blankenship, clearly doesn’t give a damn – as a practical matter, because paying the fine for most violations is cheaper than fixing the problem, and as an ideological matter, because Blankenship is a red-white-and-blue Tea Party member ... anti-gubmint, anti-union rants at rallies, church socials and bar-mitzvahs a speciality.

The second issue is the right of a miner to join a union. Blankenship has often bragged that he got the union kicked out of his company. It’s easy to guess why. Without the protection of a union contract, how many miners working for a guy like Don Blankenship would be willing to make an official complaint about a safety violation? Right. No one … certainly not anyone who wanted to keep his job.

We can only wonder how many of those 29 coalminers would still be alive if they had been in a union.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Doing Their Best to Create a Successful Disaster

The far-right crazies like Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and Glenn Beck of Fox 'News' think the 2010 Census is an insidious plot and are urging people not to comply by refusing to fill out most of the information asked for on the census forms.

Bachmann has warned people not to report the number of family members in the household because she’s afraid the government will use that information to round people up and throw them into concentration camps. (Yes, she really did … and you’re right: she’s completely batty.)

Of course, the Census is used by the federal government – and state and local governments, too – to determine how much funding should go to towns and cities and counties and states. Or how many police are needed. Or if a new fire station is warranted. So the people who believe Bachmann or Beck and do as they ask could end up short-changing their own communities. But there’s another wonderful irony to this lunacy because information gathered by the Census is also used to determine if the population of a district has grown enough to warrant an additional state senator or member of Congress.

And, since these loonies are invariably Republicans (with an occasional Libertarian thrown in), guess which political party stands to lose out if any significant number of people do what these ding-bats are asking!

Right! And if that isn’t justice, I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Be Afraid! Be Very, Very Afraid!

Some startling numbers have come from a Harris Poll taken the other day, the "lowlights" of which I shall give you here:

* 67% of Republicans think Barack Obama is a socialist.
* 57% of Republicans think he's a Muslim.
* 45% of Republicans think he was NOT born in the United States.
* 38% of Republicans think Obama is doing many of the things that Hitler did.
* 24% of Republicans think Barack Obama could be the anti-Christ.

Personally, I'd guess it would be more accurate to say that this is what these people WANT to think. I mean, such a large percentage of Republican voters couldn't possibly be that ignorant, could they!

Could they??


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thankfully, this too shall pass.

There’s a piece in today’s New York Times by Charles M. Blow, a semi-regular columnist. It’s about the Tea Party movement and the ridiculous people who drive it. I found it both funny and reassuring, and have pulled out a couple of excerpts.

First, the funny:

"A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy."

And now, referring to the results of a recent poll, the reassuring:

"[Tea Party members are] disproportionately white, evangelical Christian and 'less educated ... than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack.' This at a time when the country is becoming more diverse … less doctrinally dogmatic, and college enrollment is through the roof. The Tea Party, my friends, is not the future." [Emphasis is mine.]

Friday, March 26, 2010

When you call me that, SMILE!

Over the past dozen years or so, Republicans have managed to turn the term “liberal” into a pejorative. So we liberals began calling ourselves “progressives” instead. Undaunted and ever ready to spend their time on such vital matters, the Republicans are now busily turning that word into a negative.

Republicans like John Boehner enjoy referring to the “Democrat Party.” It’s Democratic Party, of course, but I guess they do it just to piss us off. (Boehner is going to a lot of unnecessary trouble; he pisses me off before he even opens his mouth.)

Then there’s the issue of abortion. If you agree with the Republicans, you’re “pro-life.” If you don’t, they say you are “pro-abortion.”

This is a lot more insidious and is a deliberate misrepresentation. No one is pro-abortion! Everyone would like to see fewer and fewer abortions. What we do believe is that the decision should be left to the woman, which makes us "pro-choice".

The latest Republican ploy is to label the health care reforms as “ObamaCare” in the hope that the new reforms will prove to be unpopular and a negative for the president. Of course, if the reforms are successful, they’ll start trumpeting the fact that some 145 components to the new law were Republican ideas … prompting the rest of us to say, “But, in that case, how come you voted against it?” And every last miserable one of them did.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So … Do we detect a pattern here?

Republicans voted against a woman’s right to vote.

Republicans voted against Lend Lease, which sent ships and weapons to England when they were fighting the Nazis … alone.

Republicans voted against the Marshall Plan, which sent aid to a devastated Europe after World War 2 and is now credited with preventing a Communist take-over.

Republicans voted against Social Security.

Republicans voted against Medicare.

Republicans voted against the Clean Air Act.

Republicans voted against the Clean Water Act.

And now 100% of Republicans in the House and the Senate have voted against health care reform.

How’s that for a consistently lousy track record!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quote of the Day from the Would-Be President

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year.”

- John McCain

And exactly how will that be different from the past 18 months, John?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When is a shack not a shack?

During her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin declined to lend her name in support of a fellow politician who was running for re-election. Why? Because the guy hadn’t paid some back taxes and she just couldn’t endorse someone who hadn’t met his civic responsibility.

Well, it turns out the Palins own a piece of property they’ve been using as a weekend retreat for years. They’ve been paying property tax on the land, but that li’l ol’ dinky shack out there? Why, it isn’t worth anything. So Sarah and Todd have been reporting a zero value on the structure.

But someone in the real property tax office for the borough of Matanuska-Susitna actually went out to take a look at the place and – whoops! – he appraised the house at almost $100,000.

I haven’t come across any comment from ex-governor Palin yet. She’s no doubt trying to figure out how to claim this is all President Obama’s fault.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Frankly, My Dears, He Doesn’t Give a Damn.

People who care about such mundane things as a Supreme Court that is above politics are distressed about Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Count Justice Clarence Thomas.

This woman, who’s been publicly involved in the extreme right wing Tea Party movement, has now founded – not simply joined, but founded -- a lobbying organization that will use it’s web site to organize people around core conservative principles.

It seems to me that when someone is elevated to the highest court in our land, he or she would, at the very least, try to avoid the appearance of political partisanship. Justice Thomas, who carries a log-size chip on his shoulder, clearly doesn’t care.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

These guys just have no shame at all!

The Republicans have been running TV and radio spots against health care reform in which two claims are being made that are outright lies.

First, that the bill would mean a “government take-over of our health care system.” That is absolute nonsense.

And second that it would mean a tax increase on American families. Well, that’s true as long as you realize that the tax increase would apply only to families earning more than several hundred thousand dollars a year.

We’re also continuing to hear all the blather about this being a “march toward socialism.”

Good heavens … where do you suppose these Republican politicians get the idea that it's OK to scare the hell out of people with lies that are presented as facts?

How about from the Republican Party’s very own playbook that outlines their recommended campaign strategy?

It seems that a copy of this presentation was inadvertently left behind at a campaign committee meeting at a Florida resort and picked up by one of the hotel staff, who turned over to someone in the Democratic Party. Oops!

On page 29, it lists the best approaches for generating cash from small contributors. Item Number One: “Fear.”

And what do the Republican fund raisers think is an effective technique to use on potential large contributors? “Tchochkes,” which is a Yiddish expression defined as “an inexpensive showy trinket.” How’s that for showing respect and appreciation for the people who make your political campaigns possible!
When are rank-and-file Republicans going to get the picture? The people running your party think you’re stupid. Or they hold you in contempt. Or both.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Let the Sun Shine In ... But Not Everywhere.

Hawaii state law requires that all decision-making by public officials be done in the open … and for the record. Few will deny that transparency in government is a good thing, but there are times and circumstances when the law makes life difficult for lawmakers. Three members of the Maui County Council, for example, would be in violation of the law if they happen to run into each other in the Home Depot parking lot and end up discussing a pending vote.

The law specifically includes votes taken by elected officials and, again, few would deny that citizens have the right to know how their Council member voted on a zoning matter or some other piece of business.

The Hawaii State Legislature, however, has exempted itself from the Sunshine Law and in some cases when key decisions are made, the votes are unrecorded. Most recently, that was the case when a bill to permit civil unions for same-sex couples was shelved indefinitely. And there have been others. In every case, it’s taking legislators off the hook for a controversial vote that would provide fodder for an opponent in the next election.

Shame on you, folks! By definition, these controversial issues are important to a lot of people. They deserve to know where you stand. As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

One Plus One Equals ... Looney-Tunes!

How’s this for tortured logic (no pun intended) ...

When someone is found guilty of a crime, a judge is the only person legally permitted to dish out punishment.

A prison guard is not a judge.

Therefore, if a prison guard beats the living crap out of a prisoner for no reason, he cannot be found guilty of violating the Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Is there any other way of describing that rationale than completely and hopelessly wacky? Of course not! But don’t tell me … tell Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Why don't we see how these two arrogant, cold-hearted bastards handle being waterboarded by a prison guard.

No … wait … I’ll volunteer for that detail.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Way Beyond Outrage

I confess I have used it all up – the outrage, I mean – and now each new glimpse into the psyche of today’s Republican Party just gives me another little spasm of nausea.

The latest comes from John McCain’s senate colleague from Arizona, John Kyl, who – for reasons almost beyond comprehension – rose to the defense of Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, who – (there goes another spasm) – had single-handedly held up a one-month extension of unemployment benefits to several million out-of-work Americans.

In defending Bunning, Kyl offered everyone a look at his own personal view of unemployment benefits which, he says, don’t create jobs and “if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

Good heavens! Do we really want to deliberately deny benefits to the vast majority in order to be sure the small percentage of abusers aren’t cheating the system? That means screwing the many so the few won’t screw us. How’s that for enlightened public policy!

You know why Democrats have a tougher sell with so many of these issues? It's what has become the simple, fundamental difference between the two political parties: Democrats appeal to the better instincts of people, including sacrifice and generosity, while Republicans are appealing to baser instincts like selfishness and fear.

Abe Lincoln would be ashamed of his party today.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adding to My List of “Wish-I’d-Said Its”

Reading a blog by Paul Krugman of the New York Times yesterday, I came across an absolutely wonderful description of a right-wing ideologue. It was applied to Dick Armey, the former Republican congressman from Texas and, at the time, majority leader in the House. Armey was, and still is, remembered for boorish behavior.

At any rate, Armey was once described by Ezra Klein, columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, as “ … a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”

Damn! Why can’t I come up with stuff like that?