The evil that led to the death of JFK is among us today…

June 14, 2016

Another world, another time. I ran across a clip of President Kennedy (JFK) talking about Social Security and the need for a national health care program. He was so easy to listen to, so eloquent without being stilted or dense in wordage. And he was a rich kid and maybe a bit like FDR, who some called a “traitor to his class”. He talked of looking out for “working people” who did not want a hand out, just some assistance. He gently mocked the men of business who said a minimum wage would wipe them out and destroy the self-reliance of working people.

I was only a freshman in high school when JFK was assassinated, but I remember him.

On this clip, listen to his reference about the men in straw hats and canes (how quaint).

Kennedy might be thought of as a liberal in today’s politics but I think he more accurately would be described as “progressive”.  At one time there were progressive Republicans, in fact, if memory serves me correctly, it was the Republicans who had the original progressives. Think of Teddy Roosevelt.

Whatever. JFK was not perfect, and he made major errors — the Bay of Pigs comes to mind (although it was set into motion by the previous Republican administration).

But he stood up to the Soviet Union in Cuba and he forced two Southern Governors to step aside when they tried to bodily prevent black students from entering publicly-funded universities.

He was cool under fire. He did not engage in bombast. And yet he could be forceful. He had the gift of charm that worked with women and men. Well, not completely: unfortunately, in his push for civil rights he faced a recalcitrant congress. Back in his day there were still segregationists in the Democratic Party (they would later move to the Republican Party when LBJ pushed through civil rights legislation. The party of Lincoln, who freed the slaves, became the modern party that tried to keep the descendants of slaves down).

Today’s Republican presumptive nominee for president is a rich man who claims to be beholding to no one. Whether that is true or not, he seems mainly to be concerned about himself, about his brand as a tough guy, who insults who he pleases, dispenses with manners, and encourages divisions in society and violence that can go with it. And he is not a bit eloquent and his message is always a bit unclear (except for the hate and violence part) or short on details and subject to change, literally from one minute to the next.

We just don’t have politicians like JFK today.

I’m not sure how he would fare in today’s atmosphere. In fact, today’s atmosphere is a lot like the hate-filled atmosphere in Dallas, Tex, where JFK met his end.

(That is not to say that there were not gracious and civil-minded people in Dallas — admirers and the curious crowded the streets to see him and were horrified when they either saw what happened or got the news, but the hate mongers had their effect then and seem to now.)

Oh, and one more thing. All those chicken hawks who talk tough militarily, who never served themselves, seem so small standing in the shadow of JFK who served as a skipper of a PT boat in the South Pacific in World War II, and rescued men of his own crew after enemy action.

 

 

 


Freeze spending, reduce mortgage payments…

October 8, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The big news to me out of the so-called debate in Nashville Tuesday night was that John McCain might call for an across the board spending freeze if the financial crisis warranted, and that he also announced a sketchy proposal for buying up home loans and renegotiating them at their diminished value. He claimed it was his own personal idea’ with the indication that this would be separate from the just-passed $700 billion bailout bill.

On the other hand, although he vowed to give health care equal priority to other pressing problems, he made it clear he does not believe in government involvement in health care. So, I don’t know what he really means there. Well, actually I do know. He means status quo. If you can afford it, you get it, if not you don’t, unless you have zero dollars and then you might get in on an existing government program (although McCain apparently does not believe in such programs). McCain proposes a tax credit for health care and then wants to tax employer health plans (that is Obama’s version of what McCain offers. McCain does not clearly explain the tax part).

Fact checking aside, it was what I would consider a tie but it is clear that Barack Obama sees government as an agent for people in general, while McCain, well I’m not sure what he thinks government’s obligation is, except perhaps to fight war. He does call for energy independence and other programs, but does not want to raise taxes (taxes seem kind of necessary to fund things) and calls for the mostly unspecified cuts in spending. He did mention that there is waste in the defense budget that he would cut (he has said that before).

The instant polls indicate that Obama won the debate. I saw it more as a tie, but thought most of the time Obama expressed more direct concern for individuals. McCain’s direct mortgage rescue might be an exception.

As far as foreign policy, I felt it was a wash. I just don’t see a major difference, except that McCain is a little more insistent that some sort of victory (something he does not define) be attained in Iraq. Since we occupied the country, I am not sure what more we can do, except keep occupying it and hope that the violence subsides over time or turn it over as soon as possible to the Iraqis. Both want to press on in Afghanistan.

The candidates were asked at least twice what the $700 Billion Wall Street bailout does for the people (as opposed to Wall Street investment bankers). Neither one of them answered. At least I did not catch an answer (the transcript will be available soon on the web, I’m sure).

Tom Brokaw asked each candidate to prioritize their actions on health, energy, and entitlement reform to include Social Security. Obama said he would call for a 10-year program to gain energy independence just as JFK initiated the moon landing program, which was accomplished in less than a decade. He ranked health care as number two and then listed education (not on the questioner’s list, I thought).

McCain said he’d do everything at once. But he also suggested that Social Security would have to be cut (and if I got that incorrect, I’ll admit in after I read the transcript, but that is what he seemed to say. He may have been suggesting that unless something is done, the fund will run out). Later he said that he felt the Social Security funding problem could be resolved via bi-partisan study and negotiation as done during the Reagan administration. He said a special commission would probably be needed to resolve the medicare funding issue, which he called “tougher.”

I was impressed that McCain claimed that he was concerned for the environment and said that he has disagreed with the Bush administration on the issue (and I think he might find he disagrees with his vice presidential candidate too).

McCain supports nuclear power.

I did not hear Obama say he supports nuclear. He does call for increased efforts on alternative energy, using the moon-shot approach, as I already mentioned.

And really what more useful can I say. You have to have watched the debate and/or read the transcript on the web.

McCain as usual tried to portray Obama as too inexperienced in foreign affairs and military matters, but Obama stood his ground and demonstrated that he is up on the issues.

There were no major breakthrough proposals or answers concerning how to solve the nation’s financial crisis.

P.s. In my last blog I rewrote the lead and said that I would not vote for anyone who would not give a specific answer. Well both candidates fudged a little. I may have to go back on that – don’t know.


White boy looks toward Barack Obama…

September 7, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

In my last blog, this white boy wrote that it almost made him feel guilty to not pledge his vote for John McCain.

Another way of looking at this whole thing is that maybe it’s just the Democrats’ turn in the White House.

We are in a recession and probably going into a modern day and somewhat softer version (we can only hope) of The Great Depression and are bogged down in Middle Eastern conflict and powerless to react to the Russians in Georgia or anywhere else. And what if the Chinese decided to turn on us? What if they called our loans? (And by the by, the government is taking over two major home loan giants and the latest I heard is that while U.S. stockholders will lose, China, holding “preferred stock”, will not. We can thank both major parties for this mess, I’m sure.)

While John McCain claims he is going to change things in his own party (fight big spending and end corruption), that seems highly unlikely when you really look at it, especially when he has toted the party line 90 percent or more of the time, helping to run up the highest budget deficit in history (he did co-author McCain-Feingold, but so what?). I do imagine, though, he has some intra-party scores to settle (his version of reform). 

With all the mess, why would a majority of the voters want to renew the eight-year Republican hold on the White House? Could the Democrats really do worse? No answer necessary.

And if you’re looking for government to be more responsive to individuals and not just be the toady of big business and the enabler of outsourcing of American jobs, then you have to vote Democrat, not a guarantee, but really the only chance. McCain has said we have to go with the “global economy” which is code for capital go where the labor is cheapest and forget about allegiance to your own country and those who gave their blood for you. McCain does offer some vague notion of retraining the workforce – probably to work at McDonalds or Walmart. And anyway, not everyone is cut out to be a computer programer, or high tech, if that’s what he has in mind. And how stable is a society in which the workforce has to constantly retrain for jobs? As different as our society is today than say, the 1960s or 70s, you will find that most of the conventional jobs (not all) are still in demand, but often the demand is for cheaper foreign labor or the demand is in nations who still consider producing actual products a worthwhile endeavor.

And while I’m at this rant, and while I am not a union member, what is the difference between unions, which seek to control and protect labor, and trade associations or cartels or monopolies, which control availability of the product? Weren’t the craftsmen of ancient civilizations who formed guilds really independent businessmen, controlling the price and availability of their products, and weren’t these guilds the forerunners of unions?

We move on. Need health insurance? McCain has some vague suggestion about improving the private offerings. I can tell you that if you are ill and can’t work and can’t keep up with the cost of private insurance and find that to get on Medicare or other such programs you have a two-year waiting period, McCain offers nothing for you. And that free market choice might well be useless if your income is not high enough. But we just couldn’t cover everyone like all other western democracies do. No, hold on die-hard capitalists. I know there is no such thing as “free” health care, but there is such a thing as shared costs. Even capitalists cooperate with each other in consortiums to purchase things such as fuel. Some family farmers, good capitalists that they are, actually market their crops through, dare I say, “cooperatives,” and of course dutifully vote no on any social program to help farm workers or other disadvantaged folks (not all do this, but that has been the Farm Bureau recommendation through the years).

As much as the electorate has kind of wanted but also resisted universal health care, any suggestion that folks give up or lose any of their Social Security benefits is met with solid resistance. Messing with Social Security is an election loser, just ask all those Republicans kicked out of congress last election.

And I and anyone else who writes or blogs should have called out the Republicans, to include Sarah Palin and McCain, on their claim that Barack Obama does not believe in defending the USA. Nowhere have I heard or read (except in Republican rhetoric) that Obama or the Democrats as a whole do not want to defend America. I think Obama questions the rationale of going into Iraq, but also realizes that it is a done deal, and is now trying to find a practicable way to extricate ourselves.

McCain also wants to extricate us from there, but not before we have scored victory, but he has not defined what that victory is (although I suppose the implication is a stable, pro-U.S. government and an end to violence there, and who could argue with that? – we’re still waiting and the casualties mount). He was strangely silent about Afghanistan in his acceptance speech. Obama wants to put more emphasis on Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden hung out and even go into Pakistan if need be to get bin Laden. For some strange reason the Bush administration gave up on hunting him, even though going after him is what started our current involvement in the Mid East debacle in the first place. Maybe they want bin Laden to stay out there as a symbol of why we need to be in perpetual war. It’s nice to have a war that makes money for contractors and creates obligations that rival funds that otherwise might go to social programs that are anathema to Republican philosophy. Those billions of dollars would be better spent on a moon shot program by the government to create true energy independence. Had we already achieved that, we would not be embroiled in Middle East wars today, I am sure. I say again, it’s all about oil.

 I certainly do not want to disparage the efforts of our military in Iraq (or Afghanistan). In fact, I am reading an interesting book, “The Strongest Tribe,” which has accounts of bravery betrayed and makes my blood boil. But I have to take issue with that constant unthinking throw away line the Republicans and other war enthusiasts use: “they’re fighting for our freedom.” We have a professional, non-conscript military, fighting for its country and being paid to do so. I will grant that there is always a presumption that when our military fights it is in the name of freedom. But in this instance it seems that it is a volunteer force fighting on the orders of its employer, the U.S. government. Fighting for freedom has become kind of an abstract and feel good and morale building concept. I would only concede that in some indirect fashion it is felt that our struggle does something to strengthen our hand in world power and thereby help us preserve our own way of life. But it’s a mean world and when you go that direction, you give in to the argument for eternal war.

In Iraq today we cannot really say why we are there for we have had many theories in that regard, to include: we were enforcing UN sanctions, even though the UN did not authorize us to. The Bush administration has also said we are trying to help the Iraqis establish democracy. I don’t recall them asking us to and I wonder why that would be our job anyway. And I wonder why Bush originally chided Bill Clinton over attempts at “nation building” and said he, Bush, was against “nation building.” And in a big lie to top any Nazi propaganda, Bush has claimed that we are fighting in response to 9/11, even though there is no known connection between Iraq and 9/11 (something we truth seekers get tired of explaining to deaf ears). He and his supporters have also claimed that it was a pre-emptive strike because Saddam Hussein was holding and/or creating “weapons of mass destruction.” Strangely there has never been any evidence gathered on this. Are we to go to war with any nation or in any place where someone has a suspicion that someone or some group is plotting to attack us? We would be in perpetual war – and that notion of perpetual war has been recognized as necessary by Bush and Co. many times. Again, perpetual war gives an excuse to cancel funding for social programs and an excuse for those with an authoritarian bent (which the Republicans seem to be) to implement the police state – wire tapping without warrant, arrest and search and seizure without warrant, torture. I know, only the bad people have to worry. If you believe that you have not been reading the news or your history.

I think if one listens closely, even allowing for the usual rhetoric, the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, does not just spew out the old line dogma. He seems like a person with a fresh approach who can reason and comprise between factions to get things done. His record is thin, but we certainly have heard him talk.

And, really, after it is all said and done, does McCain give us anything more than talk? Aside from his military adventure, what is so positive about his record?

We grant him his heroism at the hands of his North Vietnamese torturers, but we are looking for a president, not an action hero (we have a phony Republican action hero as governor in California, and he has not made any more headway than his Democratic predecessor).

We are looking for a new approach. Even he, McCain, has called for change.

So, we have an old Republican (who has supported at least 90 percent of the Bush policies, despite his claim to be a “maverick”), and a young Democrat with a fresh approach.

Do we go with a record of failure, or try a new approach?

And after the fun and smiles and wisecracking is over, do we really want this 44-year old cheerleader who is Sarah Palin to be our president, due to a quirk of fate?

I don’t discount Palin’s ability to become a major force in politics – she might even be the ticket for a McCain victory, as strange and weird as it seems. But from what I have heard her say and from what I have read so far, I definitely don’t like her ideas and methods. I would also think she needs more experience on the national stage.

She scoffs at science, doesn’t believe in global warming, does not seem to be concerned about the environment, and is not terribly concerned about personal liberties. She reportedly inquired about having certain books banned at a public library when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. But my does she have spunk. And perhaps on some issues and causes, I would agree with her – I don’t know what – and would be glad to have her fighting for me.

But I’d rather see her get more experience and more time to prove herself. She is probably what the Republican Party Needs. New life, new blood.

The race is still extremely close.

Somehow, I think it is the Democrats’ turn.

Let’s see, the last time we had a Democrat in the White House we had relative peace, a robust economy, and a budget surplus and were on our way to paying off the national debt.

Is there something wrong with that?

 

P.S. I find it strange that folks like Sarah Palin, the mother of a special needs child, would say that she would fight for help for parents of special needs children, but opposes universal health care. So she has her insurance, so we don’t need to have universal coverage. But she thinks the government should help her and others so situated with their problems. Social programs for us, not for you, she says. And she probably doesn’t see the irony or hypocrisy either.


A little frustration on the line…

July 3, 2008

(copyright)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The frustration is building. I’ve been dealing with computer glitches, telephone problems, the bureaucracy, and my own ineptness and impatience for the past several days.

I’m the kind of person who has no patience for things that don’t work. There are very few things I can fix on my own and even if I could I wouldn’t want to spend my time fixing them. I want to get on with things.

And to pile on to my computer and phone woes, I hear on the television that the good news is that some hostages have been rescued in Columbia. The bad news to me is that they have an ongoing problem with drug cartels and insurgencies down there and we help them to the tune of billions of dollars because, I guess, we feel guilty because a lot of their problems revolve around the drug trade and the U.S. is the biggest market for that illicit trade.

All my life I have heard people lament – and so have I lamented – that we spend all this money on other countries but neglect our own. Come to think of it, I have never heard an answer to the question of why we do that.

All those billions we spend on foreign aid, military adventures, and drug fighting outside our own borders could pay for health care for everyone, good roads, energy research, and top rate education for all.

Oh, I know the enlightened ones will say it is not that easy, that we have to help and influence the rest of the world – wrong!

No, the founding fathers were right, even though they lived in a world far different that the one we know today. They thought we could mind our own business, be industrious, and create our own free and happy society right here. Sure they knew we would want to have commerce with the rest of the world. And somewhere along the way they had to send the Marines to Tripoli to deal with pirates that were interfering with that commerce, but the idea is that we would let the rest of the world do what they do and would go about our own lives.

“Charity begins at home,” is the old saying, and I believe that is a good one.

I had originally had a column written – all but some final editing – about the fact that I was not excited about voting for either of the main contenders for president, McCain or Obama. But thanks to a computer glitch (that probably is my fault because I never learn every detail about how to work things) I had trouble retrieving that column out of my Word Perfect file (although it is still there and I probably will rescue it later).

I’m wandering, but back to the phone problem. It’s been three days, I think, and our phones here have been intermittently not working – mostly in the mornings. Have to use the cell phone to call for repair. And of course you have to go through about then minutes or more pressing buttons and speaking to a computer as they route you in a nearly endless circle. And if you press the wrong number along the way or if the computer does not understand your voice response, you really do get stuck in an endless circle. I did get to speak to a real person yesterday. She was polite and so was I. But come to think of it, she was rather vague. No repair person contacted me. The computer told me today that the problem had been fixed. Well, I was calling on my cell phone because it had not been fixed. When I got to a real person today, I was not as polite. Anyway, we’re still waiting today.

The DSL for the computer seems to be working, but maybe not quite as fast as it should be. And I did something wrong when I turned off the computer last night, I think, because I am having a hard time retrieving files and this darn machine is threatening to eat up the novel I have been writing.

The problem with the bureaucracy I referred to earlier is really not mine, but that of someone I know well, whom I will not identify so I won’t invade his privacy. He is trying to rent an apartment and is having to run all over to get credit info and bank statements. Went to one branch bank and they could not help. Had to go to another branch where they knew what they were doing. Also had to go to the Social Security office. I guess there was no problem with the bureaucracy there, but this person, who has been a life-long hard worker, noticed that there were a lot of young people in there with nose and ear rings inquiring about checks. That is a cause for further frustration among the working crowd. That may be a reason that Democrats have had such problems getting elected until recently. Rightly or wrongly, that party has been tagged as the one who gives money it takes from the workers and hands it over to the non-workers. I don’t say that such is accurate, I just contend that this is the impression one gets. Of course the truth is that both parties take from all of us and hand it over to fat cat special interests and foreign countries.

Actually, I should mention here that I have had some dealings recently with government bureaucracy and have been pleasantly surprised at how helpful they have been. On the other hand, since being diagnosed with cancer a little over a year ago, I have had many dealings with private health insurance and I have been exasperated (as has been my wife, who does most of the work on this). That is a whole different subject that merits a well thought out column or blog, and if I can get my thoughts together, I will work on that.

Well, I’ve gone far enough on this for today. Strangely enough, despite my frustration, I am generally one happy person. I am happy to be alive on God’s earth. I just wish I could do something about the problems of which I write, instead of just pointing them out. I have written – or actually e-mailed – my elected representatives and no matter what I say, I get nice thank-you-for-your-interest replies back.

You’re welcome.