Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 27, 2010

         The World Series starts today.  It's an event I always look forward to, but I won't enjoy it as much because all the games this year are at night.
     I know, the TV ratings are better at night.  People can watch comfortable at home instead of clustering around a set in the shop or the office, hoping the boss isn't watching you watch the game.  I know.
     But the game Abner Doubleday invented more than a century ago was a game played outdoors in the sunshine.  The grass was green, the sky was blue, the beer was golden, not some other shade of
fluorescent.  I miss all that.
    Pretty easy to figure out whom to root for this year of course.  The Texas Rangers, an expansion team, has never won a Series, never even been in one until now.  The Giants can look back to their New York glory days and remember wins.  So I'm for the Rangers, even
though my own team, the ridiculous Chicago Cubs, hasn't even been in a Series since before the Rangers were born.
     So I hope you win, Texas.  Just wish you'd play one in the sunshine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October 25, 2010

      In January of this year the Supreme Court ruled 5--4 that government may not bar political spending by corporations in candidate elections.  That has had a huge effect on the midterms now underway.
     The New York Times reported this week, "The anonymously funded conservative groups that have played such a critical role this campaign year are starting a carefully coordinated final push to deliver control of Congress to Republicans, shifting money among some 80 House races they are monitoring day by day."
     I don't know whether corporations ought to be allowed to give money to campaigns. But if they are, surely that money ought to be identified as to source.  Candidate A ought to be able to be accused of taking money from the Wacko Works, Inc. just as money you I give to campaigns comes with our names attached.  And maybe corporations should only be able to give as much as individuals, or something like that.
     I am no expert on campaign finance law, which is complex, but surely the anonymous millions this year have made the system look worse and smell worse.
     Come on, Supremes, how about a change of heart?   

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 24, 2010

     British Prime Minister David Cameron took a brave step this past week, announcing that his coalition government (he's a Conservative working with the Social Democrats) would move boldly to reduce its staggering budget deficit.  Yes, staggering;  it's 11.4%
the size of the overall economy, but no, not so different from ours at 8.9% of the U.S. economy.
      What the Brits are going to do is (gasp, shudder!) raise taxes and cut public spending.  Cut?  Yes.  Retirement benefits will start later.  Thousands
of government jobs will be eliminated.  Subsidies to things like the BBC will shrink.  Some taxes will go up.
     David Broder, in the Washington Post, writes that British friends of his say Cameron can only do this because he heads a coalition government and wonders whether President Obama, if the Republicans make big gains in the midterm elections, might try to do the same thing.
     I hope so.  I hope he does something.  So far, our only response to a very serious and worsening fiscal mess seems to be prayer.  I'm not at all sure than anybody is listening.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October 20, 2010

     Listen up, voters!  The important off-year election is just days away.  Except maybe it isn't.  Isn't important, that is.
     I'm a retired reporter, so I've not been out this year talking to voters and candidates.  The consensus among those who have seems to be that the Republicans may well win control of the House and perhaps of the Senate too.  Will that matter much?
     It will certainly discourage President Obama from introducing major new legislation during the second two years of his term.  If he does introduce such proposals, he'll have a harder time getting a Republican Congress to approve them.
     Will it have any effect on the major laws passed during his first two years?  Probably not.  There's been
some talk about repealing the health care bill.  Very, very tough. Sure, a Republican Congress could vote for repeal-assuming they could get around the Senate rules which make it difficult for that body to do anything at all.  But then President Obama could veto their repeal.  It takes a two-thirds majority vote in both House and Senate to override a presidential veto. 
Republicans are very unlikely to have majorities that big.
     So health care, at least, is probably here to stay.

October 19, 2010

      When I was covering the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Army was mostly draftees. They went to the war for a year.  Occasionally you met a career soldier on a second tour, but that was unusual.
    Now we have an all volunteer Army, which means soldiers go to war (pick one; we have two--45,000 soldiers still in Iraq and, of course, Afghanistan) for longer.  Men and women serve three, four, sometimes even five tours in the war zones.  This has consequences.  High stress is one of them.
    Politics Daily, quoting an internal Army investigation, reports that more soldiers are dying by drug overdose, accident, murder and suicide than in combat.  Suicide, the report says, is now "the third-leading cause of death for soldiers...Simply stated, we are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy."  No one, Politics Daily says, suggests that stress is the only cause, but the Army's Vice Chief of Staff, General Peter Charelli, acknowledges that the problems are "troubling."
     This civilian sees two solutions:  one, restore the draft, which I can't imagine Congress doing;  two, end the wars.  Give peace a chance, as those Vietnam protesters used to chant.  Let's hope.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 18, 2010

     This election season--the vote's just weeks away--is a good time, surely, to celebrate freedom of the press.

     Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller's campaign didn't see it that way the other day.  Private security guards working for his campaign arrested and handcuffed a reporter for the Alaska Dispatch, an online news site, who was trying to question the candidate.
     The reporter, Tony Hopfinger, followed candidate Miller down a hallway trying to ask a question about Miller's time as a government lawyer in Fairbanks last year.  Miller did not answer, having said earlier that he would no longer speak about has past work experience or his personal life.  Now there's a new approach to running for office!
     Hopfinger said he got wrapped up in a pro-Miller crowd and some guards as he followed the candidate.  Then a guard grabbed him.  "He throws me up against the wall. He handcuffsme."  Hopfinger also said the guards took his video camera and when they gave it back later the contents had been erased.
     The owner of the security firm
said Hopfinger was technically trespassing because the Miller campaign had rented a room for its town meeting, which it considered a private event. 
Another first, maybe--a private campaign for public office.
     We reporters used to sing a little song--I think it was back during the Nixon years or thereabouts.  The chorus went, "The lying press deceives/ the lying press deceives/ Beat the Press and Mace the Nation/ the lying press deceives.
     Guess things don't change much - at least not in the eyes of the Miller .

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 14, 2010

Commentators have been noting that the Republicans this year have nominated some unusual and unusually conservative candidates.  Good.  Maybe that will liven things up.
     My favorite, of course, is Christine O'Donnell, the Republican candidate for Joe Biden's old Senate seat in Delaware.  She's the one who's been running a TV ad which begins, "I am not a witch."  But just imagine if she were and if she won.
     There we are on the Senate floor.  Majority Leader (assuming he gets reelected) Harry Reid of Nevada rebukes O'Donnell over some point of procedure.  She whips out a wand, there's a flash of light and suddenly Reid is transformed into a frog.  He'd make a good frog, don't you think - hopping about the Chamber, croaking for order?
     But wow!  Imagine the blizzard of publicity!  The Senate could start charging for seats in the Visitors Gallery.  Fifty bucks a head at least, I think.  People would line up.  C-Span ratings would soar.  They could start charging too.  A profit-making Senate--now there's a government reform worth having.
     I know, I know, she's behind in the polls and probably won't win.  An old, retired reporter has to dream. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 12, 2010

      In this election campaign, the hits just keep on coming.  A couple of weeks ago we had an ad for
a Senate candidate in Delaware that began with her telling the camera, "I am not a witch."  Okay, but does that make you a senator?
     Now comes the Republican candidate for governor of New York, Carl Paladino, who told a crowd Sunday, "I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family and I don't want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option--it isn't."  In the text, but undelivered, was "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."
     Speaking of his opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Paladino said, "Mr. Cuomo took is daughters to a Gay Pride parade.  Is that normal?  Would you do it?...I don't think it's proper for them to go there and watch a couple of grown men grinding against each other...It's disgusting."
     Strong talk which, of course, rumbled across the state.  On Monday, unsurprisingly, Paladino said he is not anti-gay and would appoint gays in his administration.  There are, of course, many gays in New York and, like other New Yorkers, they vote.  Good luck, Mr. Paladino.
     Don't they have some kind of stupidity test these guys should have to pass before they can run?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 7, 2010

     I've never seen a political TV ad which began with a U.S. Senate candidate saying, "I am not a witch."  I'll bet you haven't either, but if we go to Delaware, we probably can.
     She is, of course, Christine O'Donnell, the Republican candidate in Delaware.  It all started when she said she had "dabbled into" witchcraft, whatever that means.  Then there was some quote about a date on a "Satanic altar," but I don't quite understand that either.  Her ad also says that along with not being a witch, "I'm you."  Well, no--younger, prettier and a woman.  She is against masturbation, which she once compared to adultery.  I thought it took two to adulterate, but what do I know.  She's also against Hare Krishna. I'm not sure why.  I'm also not sure how she writes her list of things she's against.
     Everyone at first thought she was a preposterous candidate, but that's changed. Since she won the GOP primary, she's raised, the state's largest newspaper says, 2.7 million dollars.  Small state, Delaware.  Big bucks.  The Democrats also have a candidate--it's Joe Biden's old seat, after all.  But I think he's a pretty average guy. Maybe they could get him to resign and nominate a warlock.
     Now wouldn't that be a bewitching race to watch?  

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010

     I love the  Sports Section of the paper--full of happy endings and sad ones--stories that seem, unlike those about, say, Congress, to have a point and end.
    Sunday football:  During the NFL offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles traded 11-year veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. The two teams played yesterday in Philadelphia. The Philly fans, often rowdy, gave McNabb a standing ovation.  He led the Skins to a 17-12 victory over the hometown Eagles.  So McNabb, of course, gets the last word.  "Everybody makes mistakes in life," McNabb said after the game, "and they (the Eagles) made one last year."  Well, yes.  Point  taken.
     Then I read about baseball.

The MLB season ended yesterday.  I know, I know. That's only the regular  season, the playoffs haven't started yet.  But if you root, as I feebly do, for the hapless--hopeless--I never know which to use--Chicago Cubs, the regular season is all there ever is.  They finished next to last in their division, sixteen games out of first place. Their manager, I think I read somewhere, said he'd hoped they'd do a little better. 

I can't imagine why.
     The Cubs--lovable losers, Chicago sportswriters sometimes call them, but who loves losers--last won the National League pennant in 1945, losing the World Series to, I believe, the Detroit Tigers. They last won the Series in 1908, 102 years ago.  Now that's a losing streak.
     The poet Alexander Pope once wrote,  "Hope springs eternal in the human breast."  But not if you're a Cubs fan, sir.  Not then. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October 1, 2010

     This is a vile story.
     The Washington Post reported yesterday about Shirley Phelps-Roper and her family who show up at the military funerals of U.S. soldiers to praise God for killing them. "Thank God for dead soldiers" is one common sign.  The group's message is that America's tolerance of homosexuality has angered God.
     This is offensive, of course.  The question is, is it protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution,
which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press...."  Does that language protect even speech as offensive as this?
     A man named Albert Snyder, whose
son's funeral was disrupted by these protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, sued.  A Baltimore jury ruled that Westboro had to pay Snyder 10 million dollars.  The judge cut the amount in half.  But then a three judge panel for the 4th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the judgment, calling the Phelps protest "distasteful and repugnant" butprotected by the First Amendment.
     The Supreme Court will now have to decide.   As an absolutist about the Constitution, I'm with the Court.  What do you think?   

September 30; 2010

     Wilfred Owen, a British poet who saw combat in
 World War I had it about right when he wrote: "If  you could hear at every jolt the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted longs/...My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory/ The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum ast/ Pro patria mori." Which is Latin for "It is sweet and proper/ To die for one's country.
     Maybe it's sweet when the war is good but we don't seem to have many of those anymore. What we do have, increasingly, is  not just servicemen being killed by the enemy by young Americans in the military killing themselves.
     The New Yirk Times had a story this week, :Four
 suicides in a week take a toll on Ft. Hood. Well, I should think so!. Ft. Hood, in Texas, is the largest base in the United States. So far this year, it  has had 14 confirmed suicides; six others are believed to have killed  themselves, but the cases haven't been decided yet. The previous higfh was in 2008, whenb 14 soldiers killed themselves.
    The Times quotes the Center for Disease Control says that works out to about four ntimes the national avaerage.
     It's understandable. When I covered Vietnam back
 in thr 1960s, most draftees did a one year tour there.
Now, with a smaller professional army, soldiers go back to thye war zone   for four tours, sometimes five. Sick to death of it? Sure they are.
     One solution would be to revive the draft. I'd  probably vote for it, but would Congress? I doubt it. The other solution is to  get out of these dumb wars. Let's.