If He Were a White Man…

I can’t help wondering how President Obama would be treated if he were white. I know being a Democrat in the White House - regardless of color – is no picnic. Republicans do everything they can to make your life miserable. But being a black President is something else.

I doubt the House of Representatives would vote to sue the President if he were white. Not even Nixon faced that kind of insult.

And the lawsuit is so absurd! The Republicans are suing President Obama for delaying a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which they voted to repeal about 50 times.

I doubt the case will get anywhere in the judicial system. It’s just another empty gesture meant to belittle President Obama.

But I am sure Republicans won’t let that deter them. If they win control of Congress in November, they are going to impeach the President.

How unfair is that? He has committed no crime. Indeed, he has done an amazing job, considering.

True, he hasn’t delivered everything he promised. But consider the Congress he has had to work with.  This Congress is the least productive in history – by far. Republicans in the House and Senate have done nothing but attack the President’s agenda, blocking every useful piece of legislation he has proposed and sabotaging his appointments.

Yet President Obama has managed to do a lot despite the toxic environment in which he has had to operate.

He has revived an economy scuttled by Bush and his pals, created millions of jobs, introduced a program to provide affordable health care for all Americans, sought - often successfully –  justice for minorities of all kinds, provided protection for undocumented immigrants brought to America as children, and kept America out of war in a world gone mad.

Think of what he could have achieved if he had a reasonable Congress to work with!

I know there are myriad reasons for the hatred and ridicule he and his family have had to face. (And you have to admire the grace and dignity with which they have endured their ordeal.) But come on, surely there’s a racial element involved?

I wonder how it would have been if Barack Obama were a white man. Don’t you?

Click for more on the lawsuit.

Click for President Obama’s accomplishments.

 

With Friends Like These…

Yaalon

 

I keep hearing that Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, but if the Israelis are among the best friends Uncle Sam has, he is in deep trouble. The Israelis are currently heaping derision on the heads of US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama for one thing.

Criticizing Kerry’s efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the neighboring Palestinians, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (above) declared:

American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.

And former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon went on CNN to call Kerry’s peace proposal “an insult.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli media are stoking the fire. Articles in Haaretz and Yediot Ahronot described Kerry as either a fool or “an ally of Hamas and other radical forces in the Middle East.”

And several publications recently ran a fictional transcript of a confrontational phone call that supposedly took place between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I wonder if it’s time to review America’s “close alliance” with Israel.

It’s obviously a one-way relationship. America sends money and provides military support; Israel responds with scorn and derision, while wreaking havoc on its neighbors.

Yes, I know, America is home to many Israeli supporters who wield enormous political power. But is it right for any one group to exert so much influence on a country that it becomes a liability to the country as a whole?

For supporting Israel’s ongoing rampage in Gaza would irreparably damage America’s international standing.

The world is aghast at the savagery in Gaza. Israel is beginning to look like a rogue nation.

Hamas may be terrorists but it is the Israeli army that is committing terrorism today. America cannot condone the wholesale massacre of innocent women and children, whatever the provocation might be.

But Israel is obviously not going to be deterred. It is ratcheting up its military offensive in Gaza, intent on wiping out Hamas even if it means decimating the civilian population.

Israel has been provoked. No question. Hamas is a blight. Again no question.

But it is not acceptable to butcher untold numbers of innocent civilians in response to the Palestinian provocation.

The butchery must stop. Or America must openly disavow the policies of Israel’s current leadership.

 

The Bug Man’s Story

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Joe the Bug Man comes once a month to poison the myriad pests that bug us here in Central Florida. He’s a stocky, opinionated fellow, who has worked hard all his life and doesn’t see why his taxes should pay for other people to lay about and do nothing except have more and more kids, etc., etc.

Joe’s brother Rick used to be our bug man, but Rick, who is diabetic, had surgery to remove a part of one foot so he gets disability now and Joe got his customer list (with us on it).

One of Joe’s pet peeves is the fact that Rick collects disability when he could do any number of jobs  with less than a full complement of feet, toes and so on. Never mind that Joe has profited from Rick’s decision to quit working. Joe has his portable toilet business and any number of other things to keep him busy. He really didn’t need Rick’s customer list.

Joe just doesn’t think it’s fair for people to take handouts if they are able to work. He thinks that kind of thing ruins a country. Of course, he doesn’t mind signing up for health insurance under Obamacare. He couldn’t get insurance before because he’s overweight – a pre-existing condition according to the insurance companies.

But that’s different.  What makes Joe mad is the way some people game the system, driving from food bank to food bank, for example, to stock up on free stuff. The way he sees it, they shouldn’t be getting free food if they can afford a car.

Joe is the type of guy who would make any Republican pundit proud. His dad taught him that he had to work for anything he wanted, and he is passing that philosophy on to his kids.

“My kids don’t come to me to ask for money,” Joe brags. “They ask what they can do to earn it.”

On his most recent visit, Joe told us a tragic story about his dad. Apparently, Joe said, his dad had lost interest in life. He’d done everything he wanted to do, seen everything he wanted to see, been everywhere he wanted to go… Life just had nothing more to offer.

So he stopped eating and lost a hundred pounds in just a few weeks. His kidneys failed and he died.

As you might imagine, Joe was really broken up about it. After all, his dad was only 70 years old.

Joe’s sad story made me think about Luther and Esther, our friends who spent their lives in the Salvation Army, serving all over America and in many parts of the world.  Luther and his first wife, Jewel, had 63 years together and when she died, he married their long-time friend, Esther. Luther was 89, Esther was in her early 80s.

They had seven great years together, traveling all over and continuing to do God’s work as they saw it. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the pictures they brought back, including one of them standing on the Great Wall of China.

Luther’s gone now. But Esther is carrying on. She helped organize a sale to raise money for the poor just the other day.

I don’t know what the moral of these two stories is, but I suspect it has something to do with the way our philosophies shape our lives.

Click for more on Luther.

 

Stand up and Fight!

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So New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is under suspicion and it looks as if his hands are dirty. Is nobody to be trusted? I would expect this kind of thing from a Republican but this man is (was?) a shining star in the Democratic Party, son of a political giant, a fearless crusader against corruption, a viable future  candidate for President.

Now, it seems he’s just another dirty politician.

Sigh.

Is democracy inevitably dirty? If people are easily tempted, wouldn’t a government of, by and for the people reflect their imperfection?

I guess so.

So does that give us leave to abandon the effort, to shrug our shoulders and walk away from the process as so many young Americans are doing?

Of course not.

My generation would call it a cop out.

And speaking of cop outs, here’s a classic example – Joe Klein’s centrist party.  Klein is sick of party politics and “ideology.” He wants the calm center to rule in America.

One step toward this Utopian dream would be switching to something like California’s new Jungle Primary system, which sends the two top vote getters to a runoff, regardless of party affiliation.

Yeah, I know. But they do some strange things in California.

I am a long-time admirer of Klein’s journalism in Time Magazine, but he’s lost me with this centrist party thing.

I would much rather battle the crazies in the Tea Party any day than a bunch of wishy-washy “moderates” playing a political version of “Father Knows Best.” At least with the Tea Party, I know what I’m up against. With the “centrists,” progressives like me would be left shadow boxing while the calm centrists preserve the status quo. Hope and change would be an impossible dream.

The system we have now is far from perfect. In many cases, the worst kind of human beings end up representing us. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

The bad eggs are often exposed. The good guys sometimes win.

But, remember, it’s up to us – the people – to make the system work. We have to fight for what we believe in. And, in a society, where money talks loud and clear, we have to reach into our pockets and help pay the piper. We don’t have the kind of loot the Koch Brothers have of course, but there are a lot more of us and, as they say in Jamaica, “one-one coco fill basket.”

So millennials – or whatever they call your generation – stop whining and shrugging your shoulders, join in the fray. You can’t win if you don’t fight.

Click for the Cuomo scandal.

Click for Cuomo’s bio.

Click for more on the centrist movement.

 

Just the Horrible Facts

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The following excerpt from an AP news report today should need no comment. Surely, the facts speak for themselves:

Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside, Palestinian officials said, as Israel pressed forward with its 17-day war against the territory’s Hamas rulers.

The U.N. said the strike occurred as staff members were trying to arrange a humanitarian pause in the hostilities so they could evacuate the civilians from the compound in the northern town of Beit Hanoun…

Kamel al-Kafarne, who was in the school, said that the U.N. was putting people on buses when three tank shells hit.

“We were about to get out of the school, then they hit the school. They kept on shelling it,” he said.

It is not prudent to criticize the Israelis. Any sign of sympathy with the Palestinians can bring a ferocious backlash. I’m sure you remember how actress Vanessa Redgrave was reviled for critiizing Israel in the 1970s.

But in the name of all that’s holy, how can this kind of mass murder be justified?

How long will Israel be permitted to massacre women and children in the conflict with Hamas? If all it takes is closing some tunnels and taking out those absurdly ineffective rocket launchers, where is the need for such savage slaughter?

This kind of butchery cannot be condoned in a civilized world – no matter what may have provoked it.

If Iran deserves to be punished economically, if Russia deserves to be punished economically, why should Israel escape sanctions?

How can John Kerry in conscience passively “negotiate” while all this is going on? In his place, I would tell the Israelis to cease and desist or lose every penny they get from the US.

With the butchery in abeyance, the world community should make it plain to both sides that any resumption of violence will be met with the harshest possible economic penalties.

In a saner environment, Israel might be persuaded to end the blockade imprisoning the residents of Gaza and moderate the draconian policies that inflict such misery on the Palestinian population. Hamas would then have no excuse for shelling Israel, and the Palestinians would have no reason to support Hamas.

Click for the news story.

Click for a detailed account.

Click for more on the conflict.

Click for US aid to Israel.

 

What You Don’t Know

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There’s an old saying that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Of course that’s nonsense. What we don’t know could make us placid zombies in a world where nearly all media is falling under the control of a few giant corporations.

I bet you didn’t know until now that Rupert Murdoch was making a $76 billion offer to buy Time Warner.

The news leaked out only because Comcast (owner of NBC Universal) is trying to buy Time Warner Cable (which was spun off from Time Warner Inc., the company Murdoch’is targeting) and AT&T is gobbling up DirecTV, and those deals are undergoing review by the agency that’s supposed to be regulating the industry.

Yes, I know, who can be expected to get their heads around these mega deals? So much information, such convoluted arrangements… It’s enough to make any normal person dizzy.

Let’s see … You know that Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News. But did you know that Time Warner owns CNN?

Murdoch’s bid was rejected but you can bet he will keep trying. He is not the kind who takes no for an answer.

If he succeeds, Murdoch would control a vast entertainment and information conglomerate, including Warner Bros, producers of the Harry Potter and Batman movies; 21st Century Fox’s X-Men and Avatar; and Time Warner’s lucrative cable channels, including HBO, home of Game of Thrones, Cinemax and Fox’s FX, as well as Fox News and the Fox broadcast network.

The 83-year-old Australian-born media mogul and political propagandist already owns the Wall Street Journal and is showing interest in the Tribune newspapers (which owns the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun). And that’s only the American slice of his empire. He also controls an array of newspapers and TV stations in Britain and Australia.

Murdoch would reportedly be prepared to sell CNN to appease the regulators, but sell to whom? Who else has that kind of money? Disney? Viacom? CBS? And would the regulators let Viacom or CBS have CNN when billionaire Sumner Redstone holds a controlling stake in both Viacom and CBS?

Also, the regulators might balk at Disney, which already owns ABC and ESPN.

Anyone who wants – and can afford – CNN would probably be in the same league as Fox and Comcast. As media companies merge, fewer and fewer options exist.

Click for more on Murdoch.

Click for the merger’s impact.

Click for who would buy CNN

 

Where Are the Good Guys?

rebels

 

I wonder how John Kerry is doing these days. I know I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. He has taken over as US Secretary of State at a weird time. I have never been so confused about world affairs as I am at this moment.

So many atrocities and so few sensible explanations.

Tell me, why is Israel invading the Gaza strip – again? Can’t they massacre enough Palestinians with their missiles and bombs?

Is this how their criminal justice system works – hundreds of innocent people – including women and children – blown up to avenge the murder of three Israeli teenagers? Not to mention burning that poor Palestinian kid to death?

On the other side of the coin, why is Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately in the direction of Israel with little hope of hitting anyone or anything of military significance? Don’t they know they’re just making the Israelis more furious and vengeful?

Then there’s the Ukrainian disaster. Kerry must really be scratching his head over that one.

Why did the International Republican Institute and other shadowy American organizations foment unrest in the Ukraine and get that country’s democratically elected president thrown out? What good has come of it?

And what does Vladimir Putin hope to achieve by reinventing the Soviet Union? Isn’t one definition of madness doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result? Hey, Vladimir! The Soviet Union already had its day and blew it. What makes you think a second try will have better success?

And what makes you think those drunken bums calling each other “Excellency” would be able to sustain a pro-Russian government in the Ukraine even if the rebellion succeeds? Can they even read and write? They don’t look as if they can. Not on TV anyway.

They shot down a civilian airliner by mistake for Heaven’s sake. How is that for criminal incompetence?

Was there ever a more senseless tragedy? Hundreds of families left to mourn their loved ones because some goofball had access to a highly sophisticated surface-to-air missile launcher.

Has everyone lost it?

How about this solution to the whole sorry mess. Instead of building a wall along the Mexican border, how about building one separating Russia, the Ukraine and the Mideast from the rest of the world?

I know I’m being silly. That would be way too costly for one thing. But the current mess could prove cripplingly expensive, too. And much more dangerous.

Click for news on the downed airliner.

Click for background on the Ukraine.

Click for the latest on Gaza.

 

The Obamacare Shocker

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I suppose Obamacare was too tempting a target to resist, but it looks as if the Republicans will regret pinning their election hopes on attacking the new health care law.

It turns out that millions of Americans are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, while millions have been left without coverage because their states refused to expand Medicaid under the new law.

Twenty-six states that have fallen under Republican control rejected the Affordable Care Act’s provision to expand Medicaid.  And their defiance is having a disastrous impact on the poor – and on hospitals obliged to provide emergency care for them. Some hospitals have closed and others are in danger of closing.

Medicaid expansion provides coverage for low-income patients, reducing the burden hospitals face from providing free indigent care. And the new law cuts back on federal payments the hospitals used to receive to compensate them for this mandatory requirement.

Here’s how a CNN op-ed piece explained the situation:

When the Affordable Care Act was originally passed, subsidies to hospitals with large uninsured “charity care” populations were cut, figuring that the expansion of Medicaid under the law would replace this funding. But then the Supreme Court ruled that states could decide whether to expand Medicaid or not. Half the states have said they will not extend Medicaid or are putting off deciding. These are states mostly controlled by Republican governors, state legislatures, or both.

By rejecting Medicaid expansion, the red states are leaving hospitals to provide for patients who have no health coverage while the federal subsidies the hospitals used to get  are cut back.

George Washington University researchers estimated recently that 518 health centers in red states will lose $555 million this year because their uninsured patients won’t get federally subsidized coverage. Meanwhile, the 582 health centers in states expanding Medicaid can expect to gain about $2 billion in funding.

The new law’s effect on the economy is also proving a positive for Democrats. Attacked as a “job killer,” Obamacare has generated about a million jobs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The massive right-wing propaganda crusade  has poisoned public opinion against Obamacare . But apparently, reality is setting in nationwide as the law’s benefits become apparent and its rejection by red states inflicts suffering on millions.

Approval of the health care reforms is rising. A recent Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll found that some 47 percent of American adults support Obamacare, and 47 percent are opposed.

This is a significant improvement from the newspaper’s March poll, which showed 51 percent opposed and only 40 percent in favor.

It’s beginning to look as if  President Obama’s signature legislative achievement will prove to be an asset to Democratic candidates in November – instead of the liability that many of them dreaded so much.

Click for hospitals in peril.

Click for the indigent care mandate.

 

The Centrist Myth

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Judging from the polls, most people consider themselves “moderates.” In their minds, they occupy the sensible center, neither too far left nor too far right. And I bet they have no idea what they’re talking about.

I have news for them. There is no sensible center. You’re either right or wrong.

Where is the center between robbing a bank and  not robbing a bank? How do you compromise between beating up an old lady and taking her lunch money and letting her go about her business in peace?

It’s obvious to me that Republican policies are just plain wrong.

It is wrong to siphon the nation’s wealth to the top 1 percent and choke off aid to poor families. It is wrong to foment conflict in faraway places so that arms manufacturers can become ever more wealthy. It is wrong to  use medieval mythology to deprive women and minorities of their civil rights.

That’s why Americans need Elizabeth Warren.

She does not pretend to be in the center. She is on the side of justice and decency. And she doesn’t care who knows it.

Senator Warren’s populist message is finding an audience across America. She is smart enough to figure out how the elites are taking ordinary Americans  to the cleaners, and she is brave enough to tell the story from the rooftops.

She is also tough enough to be able to fix it.

Of course, when you take black-and-white positions, you will find a lot of people who disagree with you on this or that. And she concedes these disagreements exist. But she dismisses them as less important than the main issue: Americans are being robbed and should do something about it.

Do what? Elect more politicians who will not compromise with the looters.

It’s a message that’s resonating across the land. And we might see the effect in November’s elections – and beyond.

Click for more on Sen. Warren’s message.

Click for progressives turning to Warren.

Click for more on progressives in the Democratic Party.

 

Post Office Banks? Why Not?

When I was a boy in Jamaica, I used to get a blank sheet at the Post Office and fill it up one by one whenever I had a penny to spare to buy a stamp. When the sheet was full, I turned it in at the post office and had the total amount of the stamps added to my little deposit book. It was the way we children saved for expenses like Christmas and birthday presents.

I don’t know if they still have that in Jamaica, but I think it’s a wonderful idea.

Of course Republicans like Congressman Darrell Issa are appalled at such proletarian ideas. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which oversees the Postal Service, dismissed a proposal to allow US post offices to provide banking services. He called the suggestion “unacceptable” and a “massive expansion” of government power.”

What got the congressman’s shorts in a knot? The competition that the existing banking system would face, of course. As I’m sure you know, the Republican Party is dedicated to protecting the privileges of bankers and other elite special interests. And they can count on generous campaign contributions in return.

Issa complained that:

The Postal Service pays no federal, state, or local taxes, is exempt from most state and local laws, and is implicitly backed by the taxpayer in the event of bankruptcy. With these inherent advantages over the private sector, allowing USPS to expand into broad new arenas, such as the financial service industry, would be unacceptable and represent a massive expansion of the power of government.

Issa was responding to a proposal from the Postal Service’s inspector general that included offering a range of financial services.

The post office is lumbered with an unfair system that forces it to put up millions in advance on its employee pension plan.  Making that system more reasonable would probably be enough to stem the current flow of red ink.

But the last thing Issa and his ilk want is to keep the post office viable. They want to privatize mail services – another hand-out to their millionaire buddies.

You can see why they would object to any plan – however sensible – to get the mail service in the black.

Despite fierce opposition by Issa and his pals in the banking community, however, the proposal refuses to go away. An article in Salon.com this morning reports that Vicki Kennedy (photo above), a nominee for an existing vacancy on the Postal Service Board of Governors, made this comment during recent nomination hearings:

I think it … important to look at the possibility of expanding into related business lines.

The article notes that Mrs. Kennedy (Ted’s widow) is a Democratic nominee, and adds that with existing vacancies on the board of governors, the President has an opportunity to reverse the Republican majority. At least one other Democratic nominee also expressed positive interest in the inspector general’s proposal.

The article also cites studies that indicate strong public support for the idea. And with a network of 35,000 locations throughout America, post office banking would be especially welcome in rural America, the article added.

The idea certainly seems worth considering but I doubt such reforms are possible as long as Issa and his Republican colleagues control the House of Representatives. The fist step to any progress in America is kicking them out in November.

Then, Congress can seriously consider ways of making the Post Office profitable. Freeing the service from its onerous pension obligations should be a top priority. And the banking idea should also get serious consideration.

Click for the Salon.com article.

Click for more on the post office’s problems.