Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010

      I wrote yesterday about a poll showing an anti-incumbent mood among the voters. There's another unusual factor at work this year--some candidates are switching parties. Florida's Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who's running for the Senate this year, is expected to do so as an independent because polls show him trailing a more conservative Republican in the primary.  John McCain, in Arizona, faces a more conservative Republican in that state's primary.  Could he go independent if he loses? Sure, why not--well-known, former presidential candidate and all that.      There's precedent.  Joe Lieberman of Connecticut lost his Democratic primary last time out.  As an independent, he won the election.  He's now in his fourth term .      But there's a danger for Republicans in all this.  The primary winner is likely to be the more conservative candidate--the Republicans are, after all, the more conservative party.  But in a general election, a more centrist candidate might do better.  If I were a Floridian and thought Crist had done a good job as governor, I'd probably vote for him whatever party label was attached to his name.  Same with McCain in Arizona.      The Republicans may well gain some seats, though.  Delaware Democrats thought they had  a good chance to hold Joe Biden's seat if his son Beau had run for it, but he didn't.  Republican Mike Castle, a Congressman and former governor, is now the favorite.      Well, as noted before, it should be a fun fall.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 28, 2010

      A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Americans are fed up with Congress.  Less than a third of the voters sampled say they are likely to support their incumbent Congressman in November.  The discontent crosses party lines, ideologies, whatever.      Less than a quarter of independents and only three in ten Republicans are leaning towards backing an incumbent in November.  Democrats, who control the House and Senate, are evenly divided on the question.     So, bad news for the Dems, with all those incumbents?  Well, not exactly.  When asked which party do you trust to do a better job of coping with the main problems the country faces, 46% said the Democrats (down from 56 in December 2008), 32% said Republicans (up from 23% in '08) and 18% said neither (up from 15 in that earlier survey).      President Obama?  Mixed reviews.  Voters think he's doing a better job than the Congressional Republicans handling the economy, health-care reform and the budget deficit.  Do they actually approve of what he's doing?  Not exactly. They split evenly on approving or disapproving his handling of the economy and health care;  they disapprove of his handling of the deficit but blame his predecessor, George W. Bush, more for it.      What does it all mean?  Hard to say except that the voters are truly grumpy and it should be an interesting election in November.         
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

        The British are having an election next week and I can hardly wait.  They've done it American style this time with TV debates (two already, one to come) among the leaders of the three main parties--Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the governing Labor Party, Tory (Conservative) leader David Cameron and the smaller Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg.      He's been the star of the shows so far.  A recent poll shows the Conservatives with 33%, the Liberal Democrats with 29 and Labor with 28.  Can't get much closer than that.  If no party gets a majority--and with poll numbers like those that certainly seems probable--there'll need to be some sort of coalition government.      The likeliest coalition, because they're both left of center, would be between Labor (furthest left) and the Liberal Democrats. Their leader, Clegg, said this week that he could ally with either of the other parties but, if Labor ran third, a coalition with it would probably depend on Brown's stepping down as Prime Minister.  The London papers loved it;  Brown, presumably, did not.  Cameron, meanwhile, has reached out to voters who have "idealism and progressive deals hardwired into their DNA."  I have no idea what that means.      But you've got to admit it all sounds like good nasty fun.  Suppose we could have a third party?  The Know-Nothings, maybe?  We did once and they got some votes, too.     
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 20, 2010

      Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who's been a presidential candidate for his party, is facing a tough Senate reelection campaign this year against a conservative Tea Party type named J.D. Hayworth, a former congressman and radio talk show host. Conservative?  He voted against an anti-immigration bill which would have barred religious charities from aiding illegals because he thought it was too soft.  He has accused President Obama of "identity theft," which I think is a reference to the untrue charge that Obama wasn't born in the United States.  And on gay marriage, according to the Washington Post:  "I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse."  Yes, conservative.      McCain has faults too, of course.  He has a famously hot temper which he doesn't always control, for instance.  But compared to Hayworth?  Aw, c'mon.      Still, what's going on in Arizona may reflect the national mood.  A new Pew Research Center poll reports that just 22% of Americans say they can trust their government all or most of the time.  Only 19% say they are "basically content" with government;  56% say they are "frustrated" and 21% say they are "angry."  The survey says Americans have negative views of lots of things--banks, Congress, the national news media.  Positive views?  Colleges, churches, small businesses.      I don't know exactly what this means or how permanent this pessimism/despair may be.  Most of our problems--our two wars, for instance--go back to George W. Bush not Obama.  But if the poll is right--and there's no reason to think it isn't--it should be a fascinating November.  
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21, 2010

        Good news!  I'm still a second-class citizen.  Yes, that's the good news.      Unlike first-class American citizens, I don't have a voting representative in Congress.  The Constitution says the states will choose the members of Congress and the District isn't a state, it's a district--or a colony, you call it.      This week the House considered what it called a compromise.  It would have granted D.C. a voting Congressman in exchange for repealing most of the District's gun laws. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate to Congress, said the compromise would have barred the District from prohibiting concealed or openly carried guns.  No thanks, Congress.  It was only last month that four teenagers were shot dead on a D.C. street, and that's with the gun control laws we now have.         D.C. City Council Chairman Leonard Gray said, "'I've got to look people in the face, and when they look back at me, I want them to respect me.  I honestly believe they will not respect me when they hear I traded their safety for a vote in Congress.      Well said, Mr. Gray.  This second-class citizen wholeheartedly agrees.  
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15, 2010

       The Washington Post reports today that Congressional leaders intend to revive a District of Columbia voting rights bill, coupling it with an amendment that would eliminate most of this city's gun control laws.  Terrible idea, guys.  Please stop.      The District is a colony, of course.  Real Americans live in states and elect congressmen and senators.  We don't.  We are allowed to vote for president every four years, and we have an elected local government--mayor and city council, but that's it.  Oh--we have a non-voting delegate to Congress, but since she can't vote, she's powerless, just a lobbyist for D.C.      Now they're talking about giving us a real congressman, while taking away the gun control laws our city council voted for?  Forget it.  D.C. once had a near total ban on hand gun ownership.  The Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional--correctly, if I understand the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  But our remaining gun laws, while strict, are, as far as I know, legal.  And Congress wants to just strike them down?  Nah. Thanks very much, but nah.      I've lived in this voteless colony for forty years now.  I'm used to it.  And I'd like to keep our gun laws.  We have no power, of course.  We are a colony.  But please, Congress, leave us alone on this
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April 14, 2010

         I want to go to London.      The British have an election next month--May 6th, I think it is.  For the first time in their history they're going to have televised debates--three of them--among the leaders of the three major parties--Labour, in power now, the Tories (Conservatives) and the Liberal Democrats.        They'll be good at this because their leaders, unlike ours, are in the House of Commons and undergo tough questioning from the opposition parties--it's called Question Time--on a regular basis.  They are, in other words, in practice, used to give-and-take.        I still remember, years and years ago, when an opposition MP named Palings (which, by the way, is a Brit word for fenceposts) called the Prime Minister of the day (I think it was Harold Macmillan) a "dirty dog."  Macmillan paused for maybe a second and a half and then answered, "The Honorable Member has called me a dirty dog.  Remind the Honorable Member of what dogs do to palings.", which is, of course, to pee on them. The House roared.  The opposition MP sat down.      Well, I can't wait.  Maybe the BBC will televise them.  We can only hope.     
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Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12, 2010

    Picking April's Fool is seldom easy but in what's left of this month it's hard to see anybody beating out Virginia's newly elected Republican governor Robert McDonnell.
     McDonnell first surfaced as a contender last week when he issued a proclamation that April would be Confederate History Month in the state.  The proclamation included no reference to slavery.  This, of course, is like issuing a statement about World War II without ever mentioning Hitler.  All sorts of people objected, including President Obama and former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, both of whom happen to be black.  McDonnell later apologized and rewrote the proclamation, which proves, at least, that he reads his mail.
     Now he has ruled that non-violent felons can't simple have their voting rights restored when they are released from prison but must write an essay outlining their contributions to society since their release.  The governor may not be old enough to remember, but I am, the dark days when Southern states routinely denied blacks the right to vote.  They had many methods--you had to pay a poll tax here, cops beat you if you tried to register there.  In some states you had to write an essay or some such thing about the right to vote.
     Blacks went to segregated schools which were worse than the white ones, of course.  But even if Thomas Jefferson had written their essays they'd have failed.  The object was simply to keep the electoral rolls lily white.
     Most states let felons vote once they've been released.  Only Virginia and Kentucky require the governor to approve restoration of voting rights.  In Virginia felons convicted of non-violent crimes can apply to have their rights restored by filling out a one-page form.  No essay.
     Come on, Governor.  This is the Commonwealth of Virginia, not the state university, not even Jim Crow University.  No essays, please.  

The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. Get busy.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9, 2010

      Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who's served nine terms in the House, won't be running for reelection this year, a victim of the abortion fight that erupted as Congress debated the recently-passed health care bill.      The critics who've succeeded in forcing him out are the anti-abortion groups, which is ironic because Mr. Stupak himself is anti-abortion, a leader of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus.  Apparently, he's just not anti enough.  He was stripped of a pro-life award after the bill passed.      What happened?  Well, President Obama, seeking House votes for the bill, offered a compromise--an executive order outlining the prohibitions against the use of federal funds for abortions, prohibitions which seem strict to me. But they weren't enough for the pro-life groups and they vowed to unseat Stupak.  Now they have.      The Republican National Committee gloated, "Red Alert:  Former pro-life Democrat throws in the towel rather than running on health care sellout."  The Democrats had no immediate comment but the New York Times quotes on official as saying the party doesn't have a strong candidate in the district, which is in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.      It's a tough business sometimes.       
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 6, 2010

     The British announced today, April 6th, that they are having a national election next month on May 6th.  They always do it that way--national campaigns are a month long.  I am always full of envy.
     Republicans who might run against Barack Obama in 2012--governors like Tom Pawlenty or Mitt Romney--an ex-gov, to be fair--are, I assume, already raising money and signing on key people in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.  It's still early in 2010.   Iowans will probably caucus in January, 2012, though perhaps late in 2011 if some other state tries to vote ahead of them.  Then New Hampshire votes, followed by the rest of the primaries with the general election in November.  Eleven months.  The actual campaign, of course, is more like a year and a half. "What does your dad do for a living, Johnny?"  "He runs for president."  Well, just about.
     I can remember an exhausted George McGovern one night snapping at some heckler in some airport--out of range of cameras, "Kiss my ass."  Why not?  We were all that tired.
     The Brits don't have a president, of course.  They elect 650 members of the House of Commons and the MPs then elect a prime minister.  If no one party has a majority, chaos and/or coalitions are possible.  The Labour Party has held power, under PMs Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown, for thirteen years--a streak comparable to Franklin Roosevelt's here.  The Conservatives (Tories) are ahead in the polls, but will need a big swing to win.  There's a third major party, the Liberal Democrats, and nationalists from Scotland and northern Ireland hold a few seats.
     Who'll win?  I have no idea.  But in a month--one month--we'll all know.  Ain't that grand? 

The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. Get busy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

April 5, 2010

     Dear President Karzai, I notice you're flailing against the United States more and more these days:something over the weekend about whether our troops in your country were an invasion or a help. Then the New York Times quotes a member of your Parliament today as hearing you say, "If you and the international community pressures me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban."  Now there's a thought.  Or then there is your promising tribal leaders you'd launch no military operations in their area without their approval.  Who's in charge these days anyway?  History may offer some help here.  Oliver Cromwell, a 17th century English politician, once famously dismissed the Long Parliament (which had been sitting for some years) with the words, "You have sat here too long for any good you may have done.  Stand not upon the order of your going.  In the name of God, go!"  They went. It worked for Cromwell, who ruled untroubled for several more years before dying, if I remember correctly, of malaria.  So maybe if you said something like that to President Obama, he'd pull our troops out.  It might be worth a try. I'd be all for leaving myself.  I don't know, of course, what would happen to you if we left... ...or much care. Sincerely, Bruce Morton 
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 3, 2010

       Rudyard Kipling wrote, "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains/ And the women come out to clean up the remains/ Just roll on your rifle and blow out your brains/ And go to your god like a soldier."  He was writing, of course, about Britain's ultimately unsuccessful effort to colonize Afghanistan.  Some generations later, the Soviets failed too.  And now are we?  I think so. 

     Afghani President Hamid Karzai attacked the West, including the United States this week.  He rejected accusations that his government--widely regarded as among the world's most corrupt--was involved in election fraud.  "There is no doubt that the fraud was very widespread," Karzai said, "but this fraud was not committed by Afghans--it was committed by foreigners."  This, mind you, coming from the guy who won.  As for the American and other NATO troops fighting for his government, he said, "There is a thin curtain between invasion and cooperation...."      Okay, Mr. President, I get it.  We've been in Afghanistan for eight years.  More than a thousand of us have died there.  Enough?  You bet.  Bob Herbert in today's New York Times, recalls the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's speech on April 4, 1967, urging the United States to leave Vietnam instead if increasing its commitment "in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support."  Good call then.  And now.      As they used to shout in all those Vietnam protest marches, "Out now."
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1, 2010

       I like hoops, college more than the NBA, so I always pay some attention to the NCAA tournament.  This year's Final Four are more than usually interesting.      There is, of course, the once and future champion, Duke.   Under coach Mike Krzyzewski they have won something like 866 games and, I read somewhere, a dozen trips to the Final Four.  He's sixty-three, so he's not finished yet either.  In the middle are West Virginia's Bob Huggins, 56, with 670 wins and Tom Izzo of Michigan State, 55, with 364 wins.      But the stunner is Butler's Brad Stevens, a thirty-three year old who has won 89 games, 33 of them this year.  Oh, and twenty-four straight.  Stevens started out as a marketing associate with a pharmaceutical company, but he left that job ten years ago because he wanted to coach.  I guess he knew how.  Butler is a small school, 3900 students located north of Indianapolis.  Now it's a basketball legend too.      I don't know who you'll be rooting for this weekend, but I'm for the new guys. Go, Bulldogs!  Oh, yes, that's their nickname
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