Lindsay Graham wants a real fight, for the presidency and over there…

April 28, 2015

Lindsay Graham wants to be president. He also is itching to go to war in Syria and Iraq and keep up the good fight in Afghanistan. He claims the only way to keep the terrorists from coming to the USA is to fight them over there.

I think we’ve heard that one before.

Graham, a Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina, says he is more than 90 percent certain he will officially declare his candidacy for the presidency.

I heard Graham say all of this on a video. I don’t know what the event was but it seemed something staged for him to make his pronouncements and he was almost literally bubbling all over in his enthusiasm for getting it all out. He seemed to take a quick deep breath and let the seemingly pre-scripted words, talking points if you will, flow at the cue of an announcer throwing him softballs.

Now admittedly this kind of talk does give me some excitement. I mean, really, I like to hear someone speak up for the USA and put it on the line. Wishy-washy never did do much for me. But then again, one has to regain one’s composure and think things out. I mean if you wish for war you will surely get it. I know we are in effect at war already, and what he may be saying is what I preach all the time: once you make a decision to fight, do it, and do it to win. It seems victory is something either forgotten or unattainable these days.

In all seriousness, while I admire his spirit, and he does seem to have a kind of smooth but firm Southern voice that is pleasing to the ear, I think he might be one to steer clear of. He might be just a smoother more articulate version of George W. Bush.

Bush, the guardsman who never went to war and is said to have missed his meetings, was quite the warrior upon gaining the presidency.

Graham is a colonel in the Air National Guard. He has served in the active military, the Air Force, during Desert Storm, but not overseas. He served stateside as a …. lawyer.

I imagine he’ll be a fine addition to the race for 2016. Fun to listen to that smooth rendition of Southern twang.

Maybe he could be our secret weapon against the terrorists. Yeah, we’ll sic a lawyer on them. Tie ’em up in court.

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An act for the cameras in Baltimore rioting says it all…

April 28, 2015

UPDATE: (4-28-15):

An impromptu act for the camera in Baltimore shown in a video on the New York Times site kind of encapsulates it all about the rioting, looting, and arson overnight. A young black man stands atop a burned out car (a police car? not sure) and takes a swig of beer from a can and then dumps the rest out and says: “This beer is for Freddie Gray”… (actually it sounded to me in the video like he was saying “Buddy Gray”). What had begun as peaceful demonstrations turned into a full-scale orgy of violence. The National Guard was called in and reports were this morning that things were relatively quiet. But part of my point in this total post is that even though there is obviously a terrible problem between black people and the police in this nation, and although it calls for action now, not later, scenes like these may well tend to harden the attitude of non-black people in the nation. Part or all of the 1960s and 1970s law and order movement was the result of the urban riots of the era. Three Strikes laws in which someone who might have had one serious run-in with the law and then maybe a couple of minor ones or relatively minor, like the famous one where the last strike against a guy was that he stole a pizza, sent an awful lot of people to prison.

Oh, I suppose the violence is a strong statement and will inject some fear among the law-abiding and defenseless, but it also enrages some or at the very least causes some to simply shake their heads and try disassociate themselves with all that and move on.

There indeed needs to be justice in Baltimore and elsewhere. The perpetrators of violence need to be dealt with and at the same time those who use the cover of the police uniform to deny civil rights need to be dealt with. As I say later here we don’t know all the facts about the Freddie Gray incident, but the appearance is that he was mishandled by the police and as a result he died. Black lives matter. All lives matter, even of those of people who for some reason have a run-in with the law or who are under suspicion of doing something wrong.

And it occurs to me here that the little act for the camera I alluded to is an example of how what we used to call broadcast journalism but I guess will just now call video journalism might influence events — where the act of coverage becomes a shaper of real action. It was apparent from the whole video that the guy saw the camera and decided to do a little show. For he began to speak and someone said get on top of the car (I don’t think it was the photographer but from the crowd). Might some of the violence be urged on for the show quality? I don’t mean journalists intentionally do this, but the crowds see the cameras and use them to make a statement. I in no way would want to limit journalism. We need to know what is going on. Just an observation.

 

My original post follows:

Once again the lawless take advantage of a human tragedy and use it as an excuse to inflict violence, and I guess maybe let off steam about frustrations, and to rob and destroy private and public property. This time in Baltimore, Md.

Some of it is reportedly instigated by normally rival street gangs who have joined forces.

(Even LA police on the West Coast were bracing for trouble from the threat of street gangs going after cops.)

They pay no heed to the family of Freddie Gray, the man who died in police custody under mysterious circumstances, who have urged peace and have expressed dismay over the violence and have condemned it.

Now of course this is all over the ongoing rash of publicized incidents of black people suffering over encounters with mostly white police officers.  So yes, there is a reason for frustration. But I think rioting and looting will only hurt the cause.

I know there are a lot of thugs out there and they come in all races, but beyond that I do not understand how anyone would think lawlessness will stop lawlessness.

I’m a white person and I guess I have it good so some will say I just don’t get it, I don’t feel the pain, the stigma, the hopelessness of being a person of color.

I try.

I lived as a child and then a teenager and moved into adulthood in the 50s and 60s, in the time of race riots — burn baby burn. Fortunately for me I was not anywhere near all that. I watched it on television in the safety of my own home in my own peaceful neighborhood.

So yeah, there is a problem. Not everyone lives in such serenity. And not everyone is fortunate to grow up in secure and intact households where there is a history of employment and no worry about discrimination. And I have been doing some reading lately that is beginning to convince me that our nation’s long history of racial discrimination, and we’re talking primarily against blacks (most of whom have ancestors brought over here as slaves), and how it has left an indelible mark on the succeeding generations.

Too many wind up on the wrong side of the law, from minor things to not so minor things, and a disproportionate share wind up in prison. In this atmosphere there is too much fear, too much disrespect, and way too much bitterness toward the law, which is more often than not represented by white police officers. Why mostly white police officers? Departments say they can’t get enough blacks who want to be connected to the despised police.

(In all of this, even successful black people complain of being harassed by police, stopped for no reason at all, and being treated with disrespect.)

But no one is helped and so many are hurt by the senseless violence.

Those who have grievances would do better to move through politics. While we hear reports and suggestions that the movement to deny the franchise to blacks is alive and well in many areas, overall most of all of that is gone.

But police forces everywhere need to become active, or pro-active as people like to say, in an all-out effort to make their departments resemble their own communities and to have citizen oversight, and to weed out bad cops.

We don’t know what happened in Baltimore, that is we don’t know how Freddie Gray met his death or why and we need to find out.

But the violence is counterproductive.

People all over the nation see this on their televisions and computers and smartphones. They assess things, and they vote.

How do you think that affects the attitude of people who may be skeptical for the need for change?

Justice will only be served by peaceful demonstrations and lawful political pressure, and of course the court system.

P.s.

Gleaning the news of all of this I see that people looted stores, simply pulling up in their cars at a mall and taking what they wanted and leaving, and that a pharmacy was torched. So now their fellow citizens could be without some stores if the powers that be feel it’s not a good neighborhood for them, and what about the poor folks who need medicine?

I do feel sorry for the law-abiding citizens of color who have to live there and suffer by association with those who have no respect for civil order. I imagine that they are often intimidated by them.


Scott Walker offers old-time religion — what else?

April 27, 2015

So I guess someone to watch in the way-too-early 2016 presidential election is Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the public employee union buster (well that is almost all I know of him) and apparently favored boy of the wealthy far-right political money donors the Koch Brothers.

So I just read an article that tells of how religious he is — what a devoted Christian he is, the son of a preacher, having delivered sermons himself.

Well nice for him. I can hardly hold that against him, but I think I would be more interested in his views on public policy issues. I also worry about people who are too out there with their religion, especially if they are in politics. It might get in the way of promoting the First Amendment guarantee of both freedom of religion (I think evangelicals think that means freedom for their brand of Christianity to rule) and in my way of looking at it, freedom from religion.

But I’m sure as time goes by we’ll hear his views. But like as is the case with most candidates, we have to separate what they are apparently saying for election and what they really appear to think by their their actual history concerning public issues and legislation.

But getting back to the union-busting thing. I for one am neither pro nor anti-union, except when it comes to public employee unions I cast a jaundiced eye sometimes. You see, I think public employment and private employment are two different worlds.

When you work for the public you are working for the citizens as a whole and any labor actions are not just actions against a private employer that do not necessarily directly affect the populace as a whole, they are ones that get in the way of citizen-directed government.

When a public employee union threatens to cut off citizen services for more money, as an example, they are denying the public of their right to have services from the very government they finance.

But of course government workers, be they public school teachers or road workers, or whomever, have a right to fair pay and working conditions, and any redress of workplace grievances that might commonly come up (and we want both good and happy employees working for us). But they are in a special position since they serve the public interest. So to offset all that, their pay tends to be fairly good and job security better than in the private sector. I realize that when we are talking about local government there is a wide variation, but in general…

But public employee unions tend to want their cake and eat it too. They not only demand the traditional job security they want pay as good as and usually or often much higher than the private sector.

Anyone of course who reads this realizes that is only my view. I am not up on pay things these days. But once upon a time I was a small town newspaper reporter. I was privy to what kind of salaries these folks down at the courthouse pulled down. Let me tell you, their wages were much higher than the local standard in private employment, and to top that they had much better job security. And they had political heft because their public employee union represented a voting block that any prospective elected county supervisor would have to court to win office.

But in general I am neither pro nor anti-union, to include public employee unions.

I began this post writing about Gov. Walker. He is one to watch. It has been written that some see him as one who could draw support from the Tea Party and the evangelicals in the Republican party and then maybe present himself as a plausible choice to the wider party.

That old-time religion might be good for the soul, but I have a feeling he’ll need more than that to please the wider public.

 

 

 


To fight too many wars not to win or to fight too many to win…

April 26, 2015

Sometimes I read something and think — Wow! Amen! I could not have said it better — this writer is right on. Or at least he makes an awful good case and excellent observations.

Ross Douthat in the New York Times tells us about how on the one hand president Obama has us in a bunch of wars where the object seems not to win but to keep the enemies at bay and our friends, such as they are, in power, and on the other hand Republican presidential hopefuls, with maybe one exception, would have us in too many wars with the object of going all out (or at least they can criticize until they had to make the decision and see our limits).

But he says all this much better than I could. So I give you a link. It might not work, but you can check it out on your own in the NYT under the headline of Too Many Viennas:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/opinion/sunday/ross-douthat-a-case-of-too-many-viennas.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region

 

 

 

 


Natural disasters, remote-control wars, public transit to a car show…

April 25, 2015

BLOGGER’S NOTE: (4-27-15) The news from Nepal gets worse by the hour with the death toll from the quake and aftershocks there at 3,800 and counting as I update this. I’m not going to keep updating here but I felt if I leave this post up I should at least explain that in the first paragraph here I say I essentially skipped over the news here on first reading the first day, and then of course felt guilty. And as the reality of the tragedy there sinks in I feel a sense of helplessness and realize Mother Nature is in control at all times. I am glad the United States is sending aid. I’m part (small part) of the U.S., so I guess in my small way I am helping…

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Not much time to blog today — I have my real job to attend to, but I just saw the headline and read the first several paragraphs about an earthquake in Nepal that has killed some 700 people (UPDATE: Now on Sunday the count is more than 2,200). I skipped over the story at first, and felt kind of guilty about that. I mean it seems terrible natural disasters are always happening in those far-off places. Of course we have our own here too.

I also have only been skimming the stories about our drone strikes in far-off places — you know where we go after terrorists and in the process kill innocent civilians — but not to worry, that’s over there (I’m being sarcastic). In the latest one we killed our own people who were hostages (and now to clarify my original post: one American and one Italian).

In war, terrible things happen — there is collateral damage as they say. But why are we in this constant state of war? And can we now go anywhere in the world and just off people because, you know, ever since George W. Bush initiated the war on terror we are at war everywhere and all the time it seems? There seems to be an open question as to the legality of all of this.

Ironically, Barack Obama originally campaigned as a kind of peace candidate and now he has W beat out as far as waging war all over the place. Interestingly neither one of these guys actually served in the military (not that such is a requirement for the civilian commander-in-chief of the armed forces, nor should it be I guess). Yeah I know, W was in the Air National Guard, was it? But reportedly he failed to show up most of the time.

And this is kind of chilling: I was listening to some kind of discussion on the radio and this tidbit was offered. In the future our military will not be using manned fighter jets or bombers — it appears in the future (and not too distant) it will be basically all remote control (drones and remote-controlled fighter jets).

We could fight anywhere and anytime from the comfort of an air-conditioned room in Nevada.

And now totally unrelated to all of that there is this:

Where I live we have this yearly 1950s/60s car show — it’s going on right now. They have a parade and various events around town I guess. I did watch the parade once a few years ago. I was able to walk to it, being as it was just down the street. But parking has been a problem, especially at the final event I think. I have recalled seeing cars parked up and down the freeway ramps and of course police out directing traffic. Well I am not at all involved in any of it this year, but I noticed on the web that spectators are being urged to leave their personal vehicles at home and take local transit. Now that is ironic, the car culture being urged to park their cars and take the bus. This is not the urban Bay Area (we’re four hours from it), this is not public transit country, even though we have it, such as it is. This is big-pickup country. So is this a new trend? I don’t know.

If I had the time and interest I could simply walk down to that car show. Lucky me. Actually I did one year (not the parade I attended, but the final show). I walked some distance and when I got there they wanted money so I walked back. I mean I used to sit on my front porch as a kid in a valley town across the street from the local high school and watched the real authentic American Graffiti show as it happened. Been there, done that.

And I have to get ready for work, which today, unless something unexpected happens, and we hope that is not the case, I will spend 99 percent of my time sitting on my posterior and holding a steering wheel, and maybe listening to Spanish on the radio or one of my Spanish language CDs — trying to learn that lingo better since it is so useful out in the trucking world, and in Spain where I travelled last year. And it’s just fun.

And for you English-only people, hey I’m with you — as far as official language in the good old US of A, English should be it. But that does not mean one cannot or should not expand his or her horizons.

Gotta go….


Hillary might need to take a page from Nixon and do a Checkers speech…

April 24, 2015

It wasn’t bribery, just a pet for his children, Nixon said in his famous Checker’s speech.

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Hillary Clinton might need to make a Nixonian-style Checker’s speech to save her campaign for president.

She needs to come clean (if she can) or at least put out a believable version of the facts surrounding the flow of money into the Clinton charities and the Clinton personal fortune and the appearance of favors or bribery while she served as secretary of state, and of course while her husband was (as he always will be) a former president of the U.S.

Mitt Romney (who has already taken himself out of the running this time) said plainly: “It looks like bribery”. And that was the obvious observation anyone might have.

The only response so far from the Clinton campaign is that all of this is just part of a smear campaign from the other side (Republicans). And Hillary herself likes to observe that the Republican candidates seem to be too focused on attacking her but not so much on laying out a vision of what they would do in office. Probably so, but still, we need an explanation Mrs. Clinton.

It does not help Hillary that she wiped out emails during her tenure as secretary of state that by law and/or accepted practice she was supposed to save for the public record. It also does not help that she apparently broke a pledge to the Obama administration on full disclosure of transactions by her charity and family that involved contracts or approvals by the U.S. government.

I know she has super-expensive campaign experts, but I would tell her for free: just buy some air time and explain all of this now and then move on and hope for the best.

Way back in the 1950s then vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon, who apparently was not exactly loved by Presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower anyway, was in danger of being dumped from the election ticket over a slush fund Nixon supporters reportedly set up for him (gifts as a form of bribery).

Nixon went on television and gave the performance of his life, proclaiming at one point that the only gift he received was a little dog for his children his youngest daughter named Checkers — and vowed the family would keep the dog. He was so humble — who could not believe him? Who could not have empathy? (It’s available on YouTube — warning: it’s long).

If Richard Nixon could pull it off, surely Hillary could.

P.s.

In the interests of time I have taken to leaving out background on some things, such as the current charity scandal involving the Clintons — I mean you can read all of that elsewhere. It’s in the news. I only hope that by doing so I am not guilty of spreading false stories that develop a life of their own like gossip.

Also, I have to make this observation: Even if what the Clintons have done is legal and there is no smoking gun as far as out-and-out bribery (in other words nothing to prove it in court), it’s the appearance of a lack of ethics that seems to me that is almost or actually is just as wrong. It’s hard for ethical people to make it in politics I guess.


We don’t need limits on campaign finance but we do need full disclosure…

April 22, 2015

I am thinking that there is little use to set limits on the amount of money that can be donated to a candidate or his (or her) campaign in U.S. politics. I do believe there should be full disclosure, however. And that would include money spent by Political Action Committees, called PACs, who may ostensibly be putting out material not necessarily directed in favor of one candidate, or party (but of course they are).

But to worry that those with money can control the message is understandable but somehow a waste of time. Of course people with money can buy a lot of time on the internet and television and print media.

But nothing prevents citizens from being objective and sorting through news reports and analyses and campaign material, that is keeping informed and making up their own minds — well nothing but the citizenry’s own tendency toward apathy and personal bias and the quality of the mainstream media.

The only practical control on the news media is the consumer of news. Hopefully people will gravitate toward sources that seem to present all sides of an issue rather than playing to a particular bias in a certain demographic niche.

There is little way to control the so-called news media via government, nor should there be, in a system that guarantees a free press and freedom of speech in general.

I was thinking about this after listening to my favorite right-wing talk show (well the only one I can stomach) in which the host was lamenting the problem that politics is run by the fat cats with all the money. I don’t know if he was just playing some form of Devil’s advocate or what. I mean I think formerly he would have brushed aside such concern. For does not the right wing usually support the free flow of money in politics without restraint? But the tone of this right-wing talk show has been becoming somewhat more moderate for a while.

Probably I need a new analogy — the one I am going to present having been used here more than once — but a few years back a man named Michael Huffington, a very rich, but little known to the wider public man, tried to essentially buy a U.S. Senate seat in California with millions of his own dollars. He lost, but I just had to make a correction. He lost only by a narrow margin. So yeah, money is a problem. Kind of a work in progress here. In my original draft I wrote that he lost “big time”, but in reality the much more political-experienced and well-known incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein won, but it was a narrow victory, with the vote count drawn out. And that was in 1994 — a little more than a few years ago (my how time flies). So probably in a way I have disproved my own point to a degree. Money almost did buy him a seat. There were some hot button issues at the time that were giving Republicans an advantage — Huffington was the Republican and Feinstein the Democrat.

But of course when we get to something like the presidential election big money definitely has the upper hand, to say the least, the current figure to elect a president being something approaching a billion dollars. So in that sense big money does seem to control who we have to choose from.

However, the idea that anyone can grow up to be president is a false one anyway. For one thing we would not want just anyone to be president. For another how would we choose from a field of every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who put themselves up as a candidate?

We have to have a sorting process.

Once upon a time political parties were the main sorter of all of this. They would winnow out the field in a grand convention, complete with backroom deals in smoke-filled rooms. And in the end, the voters were presented with the candidates, and in our federal, non-parliamentary system, our leader is virtually always a member of one of our only two major political parties, the Republicans or Democrats.

But in opening up what had been essentially a closed system, we now force candidates to campaign more directly to the voters in a plethora of primary elections, straw polls, and  baby kissing and hot dog eating events.

Rather than trying to garner favor with party bosses, candidates run independent campaigns they must finance themselves.

The only possible way the individual voter who is not a fat cat could hope to have more say than just his or her single vote once a slate is presented would be for the voter to get involved with party politics or some other grass roots efforts.

This kind of local politics still exists in some areas of the nation, not so much where I live.

But that is really the only way I would think.

But an informed electorate has a better chance of keeping things on the up and up and getting leaders it needs. But a large part of keeping informed is effort by individuals themselves.

If you can’t be bothered in your busy life then perhaps you deserve what you get.

P.s.

Yes, money to a large extent does control politics and I did not offer any real solution here, just ways to at least deal with the problem.