Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Republican Debate: Who Knew? We Don't Need No Friggin Government!

It wasn't as entertaining as prior debates, even with Becky Quick moderating, and she's both cute and bright, so you figure it should have been a winner, but it was pretty tame, comparatively speaking.

I had forgotten Chris Christie was still running. He got off one good shot, telling a questioner that "Even in New Jersey, that's rude." Which was cute because it said that he was aware most people not from New Jersey think people from New Jersey are crass, like the housewives of New Jersey and the Sopranos.  I forget what the question was, or the answer for that matter, but every answer tonight was actually the same answer: Government is BAD! Federal government anyway. If you are a governor (Christie, Bush, Kasich) then state government is good, but Washington, D.C. is bad. 

This means, according to Dr. Carson,  Medicare is bad, because it's federal government and you could do much better with $12,000 than give it to Medicare, because, after all, that $12,000 could cover maybe three days in the hospital. Didn't quite follow that, or anything else he said, except, Washington,DC and government is BAD.

Carly Fiorino also thinks government is bad and has no business in the retirement funding business. In fact, government is bad business, or bad for business or just BAD. She doesn't like Washington, DC much, which hardly distinguishes her from the other candidate, but she is the woman and was wearing a bright dress, red or blue, I forget. But government is BAD. I remember her saying that.

Mike Huckabee had a swell idea: All we have to do to fix Medicare and Healthcare in this country is simply cure four diseases--and here he holds up his hand and counts them off on his fingers- 1. Alzheimer's (thumb), 2. cancer (index finger) , 3. diabetes (middle finger) and 4. heart disease (fourth finger)  and our medical costs evaporate. 

Like what we did with polio. Know how much we spent on polio this year in America? Zero. Well, if you don't count the vaccines, but that's a quibble, and Donald Trump will be the first to say vaccines cause autism. (Or maybe that was Michele Bachmann who was the first to say that, or the woman from the parking lot who told her,  but Mr. Trump was no worse than number 3.) 

But I digress. I really liked Mr. Huckabee's idea. Just cure those four diseases, well those four families of diseases, and we are on easy street as far as Medicare is concerned.  

Now, if I can just get Dr. Tony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health on the phone and ask him why he never thought of that.  Such a simple plan. And nobody denied it, not a single man or woman on that stage or among the moderators. Great idea! So glad I tuned in tonight.

Rand Paul says we don't really need or want Medicare or Social Security, which are BAD because they are federal government programs, but for those who currently depend on these programs (those slackers), we can continue them, as long as we raise the ages of participation and make people with comfortable incomes ineligible. 

He wants a government so small he cannot see it, he says. Didn't he used to say he wanted a government so small he could drown it in his bathtub?  Must have thought that sounded too hostile, which is okay to be in a Republican debate, but they were all working on sounding less truculent  tonight.

Marco Rubio said Hillary was caught in a lie in those 11 hours of testimony. She told her family the attack at Benghazi was an Al Qaeda attack but then said something else later, or something. I didn't quite follow. Are we still talking about Benghazi? Oh, actually, no, I got that wrong. Mr. Rubio was using that as an example of how "the media" conspires against noble Republicans to misrepresent the truth, and the media said Hillary had performed well at the hearings, when in fact she had been caught in a lie. About Benghazi. Benghazi? Really?

But my favorite was Mr. Trump. He is so blissfully vague. How would he solve the impending Medicare and Social Security apocalypse?  He would just grow the economy, and make everything better and start winning again, and get people rich, everyone, without the government, and he'd hire all the Hispanics to work for him or other private companies would, and everything will be just so great again, America, that is.  Immigration is an easy thing to fix: Everyone will just have to be legal and we will make the system so fair and successful that we will be winning again.  

I especially liked his idea about building a 1000 mile wall along the Mexican border and the best part is he'll get the Mexicans to pay for it. Why hasn't anybody else thought of that? He said if the Chinese could build a 32,000 mile wall, then we could build a 1,000 mile wall. He did not say that if he had been around when the Chinese were building that wall, he'd have got Genghis Khan to pay for it. He didn't have to say that because we all know that's true.

I think I'm quoting him accurately. 

And Ted Cruz spoke up about Washington, DC and how bad it is. I'd almost forgotten he was running. But you know, of all the candidates, he struck me as being the most Halloween appropriate. Something about his face. Just really scary.  The other guys you can look at and sort of laugh, but that Ted Cruz, yikes. 

I feel much better after the Republicans explain things.  Before the debate things like the economy, big banks, the role of the Federal Reserve, ideas about protecting the finances of social security, what to do about education loans, how to correct income inequality and the skewed distribution of wealth, climate change, the need for energy,  what to do about the coal miners, threats to the environment all seem so complex.  But after two hours,  I realized how very simple it all is: Just kill government, the federal government and all those problems disappear. It's like Ronald Reagan used to say: Government is not the solution; It's the problem.

I really miss the Gipper. He made things so simple. And Heaven knows, the national debt and the budget deficits and the economy did so well under him. 

But think of what happened with Clinton, Bill Clinton. Sure he balanced the budget and cleaned up welfare but he also got Don't Ask Don't Tell, passed the Defense of Marriage act and he had very poor taste in young women. 

It wasn't his fault though. He thought Don't Ask Don't Tell was supposed to apply to White House interns.  He got confused. 

Actually, I think I may be confused. Tonight is Wednesday, right? If it were Saturday, then I'd know why I found myself laughing and thinking, "Oh, this can't be for real," because then I'd know I had been watching Saturday Night Live all along. 

But it's  not Saturday and anyway not even Saturday Night Live could lampoon the folks on that stage tonight. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Select Committee Dumbs It Down

Uh, What's So Funny? I Don't Get It.

Apparently, I was not the only one to notice Martha Roby's line of questioning when she attempted to demonstrate how uncaring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been by asking about when Ms. Clinton walked out of her office at the State Department, the night of Benghazi, who she had left behind. 

"Was so and so still there, when you walked out?" 
And when Ms. Clinton said it was likely so and so was still there, but she could not remember specifically who stayed, but pretty much the entire staff was still there when she left.

 Ms. Roby was not appeased, asking about each one by name, as if each name was another nail in the coffin of Ms. Clinton's reputation. "Was Ms. Mills still there, when you left?"
"Well, yes, since she was one of the staff, I imagine she was still there."
"Was Ms. Jones still there?"
And so on, like that.

Very much the prosecutor, setting the trap for the defendant.

You fled the scene of the crime! 
Leaving your loyal abandoned workers behind you! 
The workers, the underlings you abandoned, just as you abandoned Ambassador Stevens (to whom you never even gave your cell phone number). 
Oh, the callousness!

And then, the coup de grace
"When you went home, did you spend the night alone?" 
"Did I spend the night alone?" Hillary repeated. "Yes."
"The whole night? Alone?"

Wait, did she just ask me who I slept with?

This took a moment to sink in, but when it did, Ms. Clinton saw the absurdity and laughed. Did this bimbo Congresswoman just ask me if I went home to a lover? In a Congressional hearing?  

They talked the whole night through!

If I had, would she expect me to say, "Well, yes, now that you ask, and I have wondered why nobody else has asked, after all this time, through all these hearings:  I spent the night in bed with General Petraeus, and he was very good indeed. We talked about Paula, and how the young women can be fun, but they just don't seem to be able to keep their mouths shut. No discretion, those youngsters. Tend to brag a lot to their friends and get jealous and possessive. No, wait, was it Petraeus that night or Brad Pitt? I'll have to check my diary. Did you know I kept a diary?"

Let's just send in a plane full o f  heroes. That's sounds good.

But if Ms. Roby was simply a simpleton, then the prize for sleaze went to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who at least gets points for craftiness, as he amiably allowed he didn't give a hang about the emails, but then he did want to ask about the guys who wanted to organize a rescue flight which the Secretary had thwarted; he set up the fact that a team of non State Department Americans had set up an airplane trip to Benghazi, but Secretary Clinton did not give her okay.

 Ms. Clinton had  previously testified they were sending a State Department team but there "was not a State Department person on that plane."  

Well, true enough, Ms. Clinton pointed out, but that was an unarmed expedition Mr. Westmoreland was talking about and Ms. Clinton had scrambled some actual armed people who would be more likely be be effective and less likely to get killed. 

Really, from under what rock did these members of Congress crawl?  
Does the state of Alabama not have a better woman to send to Congress than the dim witted Ms. Roby?  I'm not sure where Mr. Westmoreland is from, but just looking at that guy, he makes Richard Nixon look as wholesome as  Howdy Doody. 

NOTE TO MR. WESTMORELAND: If your party had not sequestered funds for embassy security, or if Congress had taken that $20 million this Congressional committee spent on  investigating Ms. Clinton, and spent it instead on building stronger walls and more security for State Department facilities in dangerous places, maybe Mr. Stevens would be alive today.

Republican Rogues' Gallery

What is that animal on her head?
Representative Susan Brooks really thought she had Hillary Clinton:  She had this tall pile of paper which she said was the stack of emails Hillary Clinton had sent about Benghazi or something before a certain date and then a tiny stack which was what she had sent after that date, which, she said showed very clearly how Secretary Clinton had simply stopped thinking about her exposed Ambassador in Benghazi, because she stopped emailing about Benghazi.  

Ms. Clinton responded emails were a poor measure of her concern about Benghazi because the State Department actually deals mostly in secure diplomatic cables, secure phone lines, personal conversations and a whole set of lines of communications which had not been piled on the Congresswoman's desk, thus demonstrating Ms. Clinton actually knows what she is talking about when it comes to how the State Department functions, unlike Ms. Brooks, who is not really interested in details like that. 

Undeterred, Ms. Brooks asked whether Secretary Clinton had given Ambassador Stevens her personal email, her home phone number, her personal cell phone, Bill's cell phone, or had him over for tea at her house.  Well, no, Ms. Clinton had to admit, that's not the way she communicated with the 270 ambassadors she had to deal with, although every ambassador has a fail safe direct cable to State and this gets bumped up to her as dangers arise. 

Ms. Brooks announced Secretary Clinton ignored Ambassador Stevens as he was fighting for his life because the Secretary didn't care about her Ambassador or any of her people, as you could clearly see from those two stacks of paper and from the fact she had never given him her personal email, her cell phone number, or ever had him over to dinner. How inaccessible can you get. Just build a wall between you and every ambassador in the line of fire! In fact, building a wall is a Republican specialty. Republicans like walls, when they are built across the Mexican border, but they abhor them when built around Ms. Clinton.

Ms. Brooks was just outraged at the callous indifference so plainly manifest in the imperious Secretary Clinton, who even now, before the committee had not shed a single tear for the Ambassador while Ms. Brooks burned with righteous indignation at the abandonment of a brave American sent into the fray and left for dead by his faithless Secretary of State. Indignation quavered in the Congress woman's voice, just thinking about those two stacks of paper on her desk.

They wouldn't let me wear my wrestling singlet to the hearing

Next up was representative Jimmy Jordan, who does not wear a jacket but always appears in his shirtsleeves, just to remind everybody he was once a  NCAA wrestling champion, which was the biggest accomplishment in his life, and surely is a big deal. Personally, I would have liked to see him in his wrestling singlet, the one he wore when he won the championship, but there is a dress code in the House of Representatives and you can only push that so far and a tie with the singlet would have looked a bit off putting. 
Mr. Jordan  leaned forward with a pasted on "Gottcha" leer pointing out all the discrepancies between things she had said in March and things she said in August, something about saying she had not sent any classified information in her emails then saying she hadn't sent any information "marked classified." This seemed to be an important distinction in Mr. Jordan's mind. 
I didn't quite follow all this because I was thinking if anybody ever pointed out all the discrepancies between what I said this morning and what I said this afternoon,  it would probably fill a stack of papers which would be higher than both stacks Ms. Brooks had on her desk combined.
Mr. Jordan is a pugnacious questioner. Who can forget his interrogation of the head of Planned Parenthood about why she did or did not apologize for something after those videos surfaced. Mr. Jordan is strongly antiabortion and if he could just shoot a single leg take down on some of those abortion doctors, he could settle this whole issue mano-a-mano. He is particularly manly when questioning women, because he wears only shirt sleeves, so they can get the musky aroma of his testosterone drifting across the hearing room toward them. That really unsettles them. You can just see them shifting in their chairs.

It was curious however, that nobody ever seemed to have an issue with what was said in those stacks of emails, which, apparently, none of these Republicans has ever read.
Ms. Clinton pointed out the system of designating what is "classified" in the government security systems is quite complicated and arcane and she had not to her knowledge or, to this date, to anyone else's knowledge violated security with her emails or in any other way.  Again, she knew more about State secrets than her interrogator.

Look Ma! I can rip paper!

The least appetizing of this trio, however, has to be Peter Roskam, who used some of his personal injury lawyer skills to dramatically illustrate just how little Secretary Clinton cared about all the frantic emails and faxes coming from the abandoned Ambassador at Benghazi, by holding up a piece of paper and saying, "This is the fax from the Ambassador and this is how you handled it!" And with that, he ripped the paper in half, from top to bottom. 
 What moment of high drama! What a brilliant move in the halls of Congress. Oh, a letter from the Ambassador, a cry for help, ripped in half!  This is sure to make Fox News and maybe even CBS or NBC.  It's one of those moments sure to be seared into the memory of the electorate.

I could really use a Starbucks latte about now. 

Secretary Clinton had not listened, was inaccessible, went home from the Department of State, leaving her dismayed, hard working staff leaderless, after hearing of the death of her Ambassador,  the night of Benghazi. The ambassador was dead and she did not organize a wake, or sit shiva or do any of the things people do for the dead. Gone home... 

Gone home,  to...whom?  Was she leaving because she had a late night assignation planned?

Tune in for the next episode when  Congresswoman Martha Roby asks Secretary Clinton if Ms. Clinton spent the night....ALONE!

"As the World of the State Department Turns," will go on and on, longer than "General Hospital" or any soap opera ever.

Or just read about it on the front page of the National Enquirer, available at your supermarket counter later today!!!
Really, can we not do better with the hair?

But really, we have to work on that hair ladies and gentlemen. From Ms. Brooks to Ms. Roby to Mr. Roskam to, especially, Mr. Gowdy, we really have an array of frightful coifs. 
 The Tea Party wears wigs. Think about it.
He played in a high school band

But he's all grown up now!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

So, Hillary: Did you spend the night alone, or with your lover?

Hillary Clinton had many good moments during the 2 hours I watched tonight.
So did Elijah Cummings and most of the 5 Democrats on the Committee, but for my money, Hillary's best moment came with one of the Republican women, Martha Roby,  leading her through a series of questions in the staccato  tones you'd use for interrogating some really vile perpetrator, but the whole thing was supposed to show how arrogant and uncaring Hillary was because she left the State Department the night of the Benghazi blow up, and she left her staff behind. So this Republican Congress woman is asking her name by name which of her staff was still in the office when Hillary left, to show that while all her staffers were so concerned and still on the job, Hillary just waltzed out of the office and went home. Home to her secure phone, where she talked to the President and a number of other relevant people and did not get to bed until 3 AM and got up again around 5 AM. 

Ms. Roby: "So, were you alone?"
Ms. Clinton: "Was I alone?"
Ms. Roby: "Did you spend the night at home alone?"
Ms. Clinton: "Yes."
Ms. Roby: "The whole night?"

Hillary spontaneously starts to laugh.

"Well, I don't see what's so funny," her interrogator fumes.

Well, I did. I bet a lot of people in the room saw what was funny. She was asking Hillary if she spent the night, or what two hours of it she had left,  alone. Did she have a lover at home? Was Bill there? Did she have sex while Benghazi burned?

Hillary, now 9 hours into the show, is a little punchy. 
You want to know if I went home to a lover?  You are actually asking me that? 
The whole idea just tickled her.

Oh, yeah. It was pay back time for Bill, you know. All those women he had. Well, I just chose Benghazi night for a little fun and frolic.

Eventually, she got control and answered, "Yes, I was alone," shaking her head.

The Congresswoman, thick as a brick and dumb as a stick,  was still flustered, still not seeing how ridiculous she looked. 

Really, there is no chance for bipartisanship, for cooperation with the other side, for statesmanship, for any sort of actual governance as long as the stupid parts of America send such stupid people to Congress. 

They are simply too stupid to govern, too stupid to talk to, to stupid to take seriously.

Trey Gowdy: Twit Personified


Twit: n. A stupid or foolish person. 

(See Accompanying Photo)

When the new edition of the dictionary is published, Congressman Gowdy's picture will be right there, next to "twit," I am reasonably certain. No better clarification of the word comes to mind, except perhaps for Mo Brooks or any of the Tea Party "Freedom Caucus," of Congressional Republicans.

One must admit, there was entertainment value to watching Eljah Cummings (D-MD) take Mr. Gowdy apart with help from his friends. When Mr. Gowdy got to raging on about the impropriety of Ms. Clinton receiving emails with advice from a Mr. Blumenthal, who is not a State Department employee--Heaven forbid Ms. Clinton should seek advice from thinkers who are not on the government payroll--Mr. Cummings suggested Mr. Gowdy release the entire transcript of Mr. Blumenthal's testimony, "for the world to see," which caused Mr. Gowdy to erupt in a fury. 

Apparently, Mr. Bluenthal's testimony is embarrassing to the Republican members of the committee and the very mention of  releasing his testimony provoked a frothing, sputtering response from Mr. Gowdy, who pointed out all he was interested in was Ms. Clinton's email correspondence with Mr. Blumenthal, not Mr. Blumenthal's testimony about what those emails meant. 

Gowdy, being the man with the gavel, abruptly and from left field, adjourned the committee, presumably for lunch. 

If ever there was an illustration of the aphorism: The worst thing for a bad product is good advertising, Mr. Gowdy and his committee provide  it.

The most alarming thing about Mr. Gowdy:  173,000 people in South Carolina voted for him in his last election. Can you imagine what those people must be like? 


Give 'Em Hell, Hillary

I'm from Alabama. 

Next to these guys, I'm looking better.

"In the end it is not the words of your enemies, you will remember but the silence of your friends."
"The vicious racists, the governor of Alabama, the words nullification and interposition dripping from his lips."

--Martin Luther King

Thus spake Martin Luther King, the man who turned the tactic of turning the other cheek into a political weapon, a tool for change.
Still, he did not shrink from the word "enemies" when it was an accurate description of his adversaries. 
When anyone departs from attacking your ideas and shifts to attacks on your character, your competence, your motivations then he has shifted from being your opponent to your enemy.

If you can go out for a beer after the hearing and laugh together, then you have a loyal opposition.

Can you imagine Mo Brooks inviting Hillary for a beer, in a spirit of collegiality?
Hard as it is to believe, Antonin Scalia goes to the opera with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. These two are not enemies but opponents opposed across a passionately felt philosophical divide. 

For any Republican, now a member of a radicalized, far Right Tea Party Republican Party to feign umbrage at Ms. Clinton for naming Republicans as "enemies" is the height of hypocrisy.   You slap her in the face and then are outraged when she spits in your eye.

What's more difficult to take is Joe Biden scolding her for having more balls than he has.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Are Republicans "Enemies?"

She Calls A Spade a Spade

The concept of a "loyal opposition" is a slippery thing. From the founding of the American republic, the level of vituperation in American political discourse has been staggering, but only during one era, that leading up to the Civil War did it become evident the opposition was "disloyal."  

Can an American political opponent be considered an "enemy" if he remains loyal to the republic?  That depends how you define "enemy" of course, but one definition must surely include stepping over the line where you questions your opponent's character, loyalty to the country, morality or character rather than policies and positions. Simply put, when you make it personal, you are an enemy by most common understandings of the word.

So if a Republican Congressman or operative or employee says:
1. Hillary Clinton is a lesbian, when in fact this is not true that might be the act of an enemy. As C.J. Craig in a "West Wing" episode says, when she is asked to deny that she is a lesbian:"So now I'm asked to deny something I do not think is a bad thing, to say that I'm not that not bad thing." Family Research Council President, and Republican, Troy Perkins said "rumors swirl" about Clinton's own sexual orientation. So he has crossed the line into the personal, attack or not, he got personal. He's a Republican and he's an enemy.

2. "Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring permanent darkness of deceit and despair, forced upon the American people to endure." That's the NRA's Wayne LaPierre.   He also accused her of causing the death of White House aide Vince Foster, found dead along the Potomac and said Hillary Clinton was the center of many "scandals." An enemy, qualified in full. And a Republican whose organization supports Republicans and intimidates Democrats.

3. Bill O'Reilly, Republican said a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean "if you're a Christian or a white male in America, it's open season on you."

4. Hillary is "the Wicked Witch on the Left," (Larry Klayman, Republican), embodies the "hideousness factor" (Don Feder, Republican with the World Congress of Families).

5. A TV commercial shows the grave of Ambassador Stevens, killed at Benghazi and does not say, but portrays her as something between a facilitator and an accomplice to the crime. 

6."I think the awful way Hillary Clinton treated the mother of a Benghazi victim went too far" said Dan Backer, a Republican from "Stop Hillary,"  referring to Republican allegations the mother of a dead American said, "they have treated me like dirt and have not told me anything."  

So, can we forgive Hillary Clinton if she thinks Republicans have treated her as the enemy? 

You be the judge.

Say It Ain't So, Joe: Not Ready for Prime Time

So, you had to expect it: You knew Hillary was going to take flack for naming "Republicans" as her enemies, rather than say, "Some Republicans" or "Tea Party Republicans," but you might not have expected the first volley to come from her own party--But there was Joe Biden getting all folksy saying "You don't call the other team enemies."

Yes you do, when they have behaved as enemies. 

These guys are not "the other team."

Just read post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Donald: Lost in the Details

The Donald, Short on Specifics

One of the most embarrassing moments I had as a third year medical student was  on the Neurology rotation when they sent in to see a delightful 69 year old man whose wife had brought him in and deposited him on the Neurology ward saying he was demented, would lose his shoes and blame her for hiding them, could no longer drive to the store, etc.

He was a charming man, full of the blarney, funny, a great story teller and when the Chief Resident asked for my evaluation I told her he was as sharp as you or me; his wife must be just trying to get rid of him.

The Chief Res, a wispy young woman, took me to his bedside and asked him about his vacation, which he had returned from a week ago.
"Oh, it was just beautiful.  Really, just so nice. Even at my age, you can enjoy a holiday.

"Oh?" she asked. "Where did you go?" 
"The most beautiful place. Sun off the water. Sunsets like you see in postcards."
"Oh? A lake? The ocean?"
"The water was just so gorgeous, turned all pink in the glow."
As she persisted, it was clear he had no idea whether it was the lake or the beach, or what the names of his children were or how many days they had spent or who had come along. When she drilled down to the details, you could see his answers were devoid of specific content, and were all carefully designed to include no details others could deny or correct.

I had the same feeling this morning  as I listened to some CNN journalist/bimbo interview Donald Trump. This lady was clearly selected for her looks, not her journalistic talent and I found myself  screaming at the television: Ask him for specifics!!!

She asked about Trump's assertion, made at a rally in South Carolina, that President Obama is "Thinking about signing an executive order to come and take away your guns." 

How did Mr. Trump know what Mr. Obama was thinking? Had he talked to Mr. Obama? Had he heard this from a reliable source, like Mr. Obaman's press secretary?

"Well, people are saying it," Mr. Trump said. "It's in the newspapers. People have told me." Which newspaers? What articles in what newspapers? What specific person is saying Mr. Obama is contemplating taking away your guns?  Names, dates, places please. The bimbo asked for none of this. She was cute, though. Just not very smart.

This is such an eerie echo of Michele Bachmann's source of information, about the woman in the parking lot who told her a friend's daughter got autism from a tetanus vaccine.

Is it not curious Mr. Trump would know what Mr. Obama is thinking about when that thought is the very thing so many of Mr. Trumps supporters have always suspected: They are coming to get my guns!  Those black helicopters. They want to disarm me!

Of course, if you believe Ben Carson, they want to disarm you because they know if the Jews in Nazi Germany had shot guns, deer rifles, Glocks or even attack rifles, they could never have been rounded up and carted off to concentration camps.  As Dr. Carson must know, when Jews actually got their hands on some guns in the Warsaw Ghetto, they were able to resist--for a week or two--until the SS rolled up a few howitzers and blasted the Jews right into oblivion. These Jews with guns, it must be admitted, did not die in concentration camps. They were splattered over the rubble in the ghetto. So they died happy and proud.

But back to Mr. Trump.

"I'm for the Second Amendment," Mr. Trump informed us. "I don't know how the President thinks he can get away with this." Well, Maybe Mr. Trump does know, as he suggested--Mr. Obama thought he could get away with signing an executive order allowing for a flood of immigrant rapists to cross the Rio Grande, so it's just one in a long line of Mr. Obama's plans for ruin for this country. What specific executive order is Mr. Trump talking about?

In fact, the longer I listened to Mr. Trump the more he reminded me of that guy on the Neurology ward, all generalities, all determinedly non specific, no hard details, nothing that could be checked. Someone told me, don't ask who.  I've heard it.  It's in the newspapers. You could look it up. It's just so amazing. We will win so much, you'll get bored with winning. 

He resonates with the 49% of the Republican party which does not ask for details because, well, truly, they are pretty vague on details themselves.

Mr. Trump did talk  about one specific case,  a case of  a 69 year old woman (un-named), a veteran who was raped and murdered by an illegal alien, in San Francisco. Well, there's a set of details. You could look it up. But is this a specific case from which we are safe to extrapolate?  If you can find a case of say, a white policeman murdering an innocent black man, should we conclude we should fire all the white policemen?   When he does use a specific story, he leaps from the specific to the general conclusion in a way which defines prejudice. All those immigrants flooding across the border, raping and murdering. We ought to build a wall. Round 'em all up. "I was attacked for saying this; now everyone is agreeing with me."

Really? Who is agreeing?

As Chris Cumo pointed out, after the Donald had signed off,  the vast majority of illegal immigrants in this country have come in legally, and overstayed Visas.  I would have liked to hear at least some numbers, any numbers, even bogus numbers about that. but more, I would have liked to hear him ask Mr. Trump about that. But three CNN anchors sat there with flustered smiles, never pressing him for specifics. The "Morning Express" is too express to stop and ask the important question. No local stops. Might slow us down. 

Thus does our free but commercial press fail us.  Maybe the news organizations should try hiring people for their brains rather than their looks.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mo Better Brooks: Republican Hero of the Day

Mo Brooks wins my nomination for the Most Inspiring Republican of the Day (MIRD or Merde, as the French would say). Somebody rated him only the 75th most conservative in Congress, which must be something of a slap in the face  for a representative from the 5th District of Alabama, to be told there are 74 members of Congress more conservative than he is.

Famous for identifying the "War on Whites," which is a scheme concocted  by Mr. Barack Obama in 2008. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and now Mr. Brooks, all discovering undeclared, sneaky wars which might have escaped our notice, were it not for the vigilance of the Right: the war on Christmas, the war on Terror, the war on Drugs. These Tea Party types just find wars under every haystack.

Apparently, Mr. Brooks uncovered the secret memo from Mr. Obama and dutifully exposed the nefarious plot:

: "Well, this is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party... And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It's part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, creed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things."  (Wikipedia)

"All those kinds of things,"  that's Alabama for "and all like that," just to cover anything he couldn't think of at the time, which, you know, is bad. 

Mr. Brooks wants to send all the illegal immigrants home, or at least just get rid of them somehow.

But today he wins special distinction because he wants to impeach Hillary Clinton. It may be Mr. Brooks has not heard that Ms. Clinton has not yet been elected, not to mention nominated. But if she is, day one, Mr. Brooks will introduce a resolution of impeachment  because of her ill behavior related to emails or something related to putting Americans at risk at Benghazi or somewhere in Libya--the details are cloudy but the general principle is hard core.  This would be a historic move: impeaching a President for offenses committed before she ever reached office--retroactive high crimes and misdemeanors. If that doesn't work, he might try "conspiracy" to commit HC&M, because, you know, she must have thought about it. 

Mr. Brooks opposes stem cell research, abortion, Ombama care, Social Security (which he says people ought to be able to convert to investments of their own choosing, because you know the average citizen of North Alabama is way smarter about money than those liberal bureaucrats in Washington) and, although nobody seems to have asked him, you just know this has to be a man who fears fluoridated water.

He also would like to call out all the "socialists" in Congress who he knows are skulking about but he cannot yet identify specifically. 

As is true of many Southern Republicans who rail against socialism and government regulation and the heavy hand of government, (that federal government which first swept down into Alabama with Sherman, Grant, Hooker, Sheridan and all those nasty invaders,) the federal government, it turns out,  is the largest employer in Congressman Brooks's district. 

Before 1933, the Northern Alabama counties were characteristically poor, white and rural. The Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) arrival changed much of that, slowly transforming the demographic towards technical and engineering employees. The second major project was the space and rocketry programs includingRedstone Arsenal in Huntsville where the first large U.S. Ballistic missiles were developed. Additionally, NASA built the Marshall Space Flight Center in the Huntsville-Decatur area during the 1960s. In the late 1950s Northern Alabama came to be dominated by the high-tech and engineering industries, a trend which has continued up to the present. In recent years, the United Launch Alliance has located its research center in Decatur. As a result, Huntsville has become the second largest and fastest growing metropolitan area in Alabama.(Wikipedia)

So Rep. Brooks's  constituents have been suckling at the teat of the federal government avariciously for decades, while sending to Congress their man to complain about out of control federal spending. The Tennessee Valley Authority! Wasn't that a plot by that Socialist, Franklin Delano Roosevelt to electrify rural areas or something? Wasn't that part of the pinko, commie New Deal plot?

Apparently, all federal spending is bad, except what the government spends in Alabama. If socialism is a form of centralized government which provides the income and support for its citizens, there is likely no more socialistic society in the United States than the 5th Alabama district, where the centralized, socialist,  federal government is the largest employer. 

No wonder Mr. Brooks is sensitive about socialism. 

And he's the first to tell you:  All this spending and borrowing is sending us straight to bankruptcy, except when it happens in Alabama, mostly in the 5th District.

And this is a college educated man, who is making this argument:  He graduated with high honors from Duke University, something Duke will eventually have to answer for. 

To his credit, he thinks we should have pulled out of Afghanistan the day after we killed Osama Bin Laden, which, I am guessing, he credits to the heroic Navy Seals who acted despite  withering interference of that ultimate of federal government officials, President Obama. 

I'm now searching for who the 74th most conservative member of Congress might be. Ought to be a doozy. If he is half as interesting as Mr. Brooks, it will be well worth the time to listen to what he has to say.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why Should New Hampshire Go First?

Hampton, NH 

Finally reached the point in "West Wing" where Jimmy Smits gets to New Hampshire, as he starts his campaign to be President. He is immediately confronted with an 8 year old quote, when he said what so many others have said: New Hampshire is about as unrepresentative of the rest of the country as any state can be; why should our elections, our choice of candidates emanate from here? The state is overwhelmingly white. It's biggest "city" is Manchester, little more than a recovering mill town. It is legal to walk on to  any property in the state, including private yards, as long as you have a gun and can claim to be hunting, unless the property has "no hunting" signs posted. You can shoot across any road in New Hampshire (save eight specifically named exception--including I-95) if you are shooting at a deer on the other side. There is no income tax and no sales tax and the biggest newspaper is the Manchester Union Leader, made famous by the reactionary William Loeb.

Of course, this creates good moments of dramatic tension, as the much offended New Hampshire voters react to this Hispanic from Texas telling them they are irrelevant and possibly anomalous. 

I have not yet seen how this plays out, how Aaron Sorkin resolves this, but that doesn't stop me from fantasizing about how I'd like to see it play out.

Smits complains he is wasting his time sitting in living rooms with these whitebread citizens, when all he wants to do is give speeches to big arenas about big ideas, like the idea the federal government should focus on and guide a restructuring of American education, beginning with lengthening the school year from 180 to 240 days (as Japan and Russia have done) and eliminating tenure and security for school teachers.

Ice Pond, NH

The first couple he meets resists both ideas: The man says he was educated well with the 180 day school year and his wife says her sister is a school teacher and she is underpaid but at least she doesn't have to meet a quarterly earnings report, so that keeps her in the profession.

Smits begins to answer the question but never says what I'd love to hear him say, which would address, in stages the two big questions here:
1/ What is the value of retail politics as opposed to wholesale politics?
2/ What about our educational system makes it a federal concern and a national priority?

Plaice Cove, Hampton, NH

The answer to the first is to show how the candidate, who thinks he knows the answers is changed when he has to defend his ideas one on one, as you might with your tutor at Oxford. In Washington, if "West Wing"  is correct, politicians engage in constant debates with their staff and with their colleagues about issues like education, but the direction and perspective is always "what will win?"  In New Hampshire, the voter does not care whether or not he is representative. He cares about how a new idea will work in his own life. 

If I were writing "WW," Smits would be told the expedient of counting the number of days in class may be an easy metric, but it is meaningless unless the time in class can be shown to be better, educationally, than the time in the hammock during the summer, when kids of a certain socioeconomic status actually learn a great deal, arguably more than they learn in class during the school year. 
Winnacunnet Street, Hampton

Personally, I read Huckleberry Finn, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Little Women, A Stillness at Appomattox and many others, swinging in the hammock by Lake Winnipesaukee.  I didn't realize I was learning anything. It was pure pleasure, but for reasons I did not understand at the time, my parents never bothered me to do chores when they saw me immersed in these books.  My friends learned how to change a carburetor or to wire a room during summer breaks. A lot of learning went on, I would submit, outside the classroom. 

Of course, I imagine, some kids spent their summers selling drugs on street corners and dodging bullets and would have been better off in school. But some lucky rich kids accompanied their parents to Rome, London, Lisbon, Berlin. Some toured Auschwitz or the Louvre, or saw Ann Frank's house in Amsterdam. They were not wasting their time, educationally.

As for the idea of eliminating dead wood among the ranks of teachers, Smits reassured the wife that her sister would do better once tenure was eliminated because good teachers would be rewarded. Why protect all those dullards who seek teaching positions because they are secure, and then just bide time until retirement, protected from ever having to improve or to really challenge their students?

I certainly saw teachers in the distressed schools of Washington, D.C. and even in the affluent and blessed schools of Bethesda, Maryland who fit the description of "those who cannot do, teach." These were the adults teaching and judging our children and it was a testimony to the power and effectiveness of highly motivated families that these kids managed to learn and achieve despite their public school teachers, rather than because of them. 

President Obama's idea, that we can judge the effectiveness of teachers by the performance of their students on standardized exams is very likely wrong, especially in current practice. What the performance of the students reflects has less to do with the effectiveness of their teachers than it has to do with the drive of their parents. 

The Walt Whitman High school in Bethesda, Maryland has for 50 years sent 95% of it's graduates to college, 40 out of 500 graduates to Ivy League Schools, another 60 to Duke, Stanford, Swartmore and that ilk, with mean SAT scores above that of  the freshman classes at most Ivy League schools. Ruthless competition, tiger moms and dads, the place made the Bronx High School of Science look like Romper Room.  Faculties changed over this period and, from all reports, the faculties which passed through the school over that time had its stars, but, for the most part, was decidedly mediocre. Few of Whitman's teachers had degrees from schools as prestigious as the schools where their students were headed. (Not that the brand name on your diploma means that much, but when you are talking about academics, it may be relevant.)  

North Hampton, Along Rout 1A

But, in President Obama's scheme, the teachers at Whitman would have been highly rewarded for the success of their students, where the teachers across the District Line at Wilson High School would have been fired. And the fact is, Wilson HS had many very fine, dedicated, imaginative teachers, who had to deal with kids from broken families where just getting the kid out of the door in the morning was a success, and nobody did much homework when they got home. The teachers at Whitman could have gone on a three year sabbatical  and their students would have done just fine, scored high on their SAT's and aced every other standardized measure. Their parents were paying for Kaplan SAT prep courses and tutors. 

If all that could be thrown at the Jimmy Smits character, then the value of having his ideas challenged and the change it wrought in him would be fun to see.

And he might say that even though the New Hampshire voters lack diversity, they make up for that in engagement and thoughtfulness.  Better to have a white bread electorate who really care about politics and public policy, who talk about it at the hardware store, the Dunkin Donuts, and the dump than a diverse group of voters in Texas who care more about Friday night football and NASCAR.

New Hampshire voters understand that 180 days of school in 1965 might have been fine before the economy went global, but now it's a different world and economies which depend on factories may be left behind by economies which thrive on programming and innovation. 
Exeter, NH

In 1957 the world changed for American kids. The Russians stunned the world by putting a Sputnik satellite into space. Some Americans scoffed at this as a "stunt" of no practical significance. What good were satellites? The Russians still could not build automobiles or pave roads. 

Can you imagine our world today without Satellites and all that flowed from them:  GPS and the internet? 

Government policies in the United States changed on a dime, after Sputnik. The Soviets were pumping out more engineers and scientists every year than we were and science curriculum and faculties at universities doing scientific research were the beneficiaries.  That Sputnik was the best thing that had happened to American education that century. 
Beach Bungalows, North Hampton, NH

There is no such headline today, but politicians, as they tread through the snows of New Hampshire can make their case town hall by town hall and get the conversation started. Hard to do that in a diverse and more populous state like Maryland or Pennsylvania or Texas.  A state like New Hampshire can be the laboratory for national ideas.

Politicians cannot justify taking time off for a year at Oxford thinking critically about policy, but they can justify the Rhodes scholarship surrogate which is the experience of defending their ideas to the skeptical, admittedly homogeneous, rooted, irascible, polite, subversive, engaged citizens of New Hampshire.