Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 28, 2011

     Okay, the president has released his long-form birth certificate which, like the shorter version released earlier, says that he was born in Hawaii.  The New York Times called it "a profoundly low and disturbing moment in American political life."  Agreed, but will it end the flap?  Hell no, we all know better than that.
     The Times also called the controversy "a baseless attack with heavy racial undertones." I guess that's true, but it doesn't really explain it.  Jesse Jackson ran for office and nobody ever suggested he wasn't American born and bred.
     I think it's that he's different from most of us.  He's an intellectual, reads serious books.  Most of us settle for beer and a football game.  He speaks our language better than most of us, and that scares some of us too.  The birthers, I think, are scared of him because he's really different.  They're not even sure he was born in Kenya;  they think it might have been Mars.
     Okay.  But he's been a decent president.  We're getting out of Iraq, I think.  We're still stuck in  Afghanistan, of course, and now we're messing about in Libya.  I can't understand that, just can't.  The economy's puttering along.  I can remember when it's been better, but I can also remember when it's been worse.  So I don't really care where he came from.  I think he's doing okay.
     Let's hear it for the Martian!  Four more years!  Now there's a slogan.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011

     "'Bye, 'bye, Miss American sky, / Drove my shuttle to the levy, but the levy was dry...."  or something like that.  The American program of manned space flights is ending. 
     The Obamas will be going to the Kennedy Space Center this week to sit with injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as she watches her husband, Navy Captain Mark Kelly, pilot Endeavor toward the International Space Station.  It's the next to last American flight;  the last one is planned for June.  Once upon a time, there were plans for rockets, the Ares I and Constellation, to succeed those now in use.  Those plans have been cancelled.  An American may occasionally hitch a ride into space, on a Russian space craft, but that's it.
     I remember when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon.  I was covering the story for CBS News at the Manned Spacecraft Center just outside Houston.  If you'd asked the masses of NASA employees and reporters who were there that day, do you think we'll go on to Mars, I suspect every hand in the place would have gone up.  We were all wrong, of course.  We won't be going--not anytime soon anyway.  Armstrong spoke of his walk then as "one small step for a man, a giant leap for all mankind."  Okay, but we never leapt again.
     It's a hard choice, of course.  America is deeply in debt.  Presidents must choose--try to feed the hungry, help the poor, or roam the planets.  No easy answers, that's for sure.  Feeding the hungry, helping the poor should come first but, oh my, I'd have loved watching a Mars landing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 22, 2011

     The latest New York Times/CBS News poll says we Americans are in a down mood these days, the most pessimistic we've been since President Obama's first two months in office when the Great Recession (if the Times capitalizes it, that must be right) was still officially alive.
     The number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month, the survey says, which is a very quick shift indeed in public opinion.
     Congress is divided now, of course;  Republicans control the House, Democrats the Senate. 75% of those polled disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.  But 57% disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the economy--not great news for a man who presumably will seek reelection next year.  72% did support the president's suggestion to end tax cuts for households making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.  About three-quarters of those polled agree with the prez that the federal government should provide health care for the elderly, while 56% think it should help the poor.
     Still, the poll found a small majority agreeing with Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wisc) that we should change Medicare from a program that pays doctors and hospitals to one that helps elderly patients pay for private plans.
     Confusing numbers, but mostly gloomy.  Personally, I'm feeling pretty good right now but that's probably because my baseball team, the ever-hapless Chicago Cubs, is playing .500 ball right now.  In a couple of weeks, after they've lost, say, ten straight, I'll probably join the ranks of the gloomy too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011

     Back in 1968 when Democrat Hubert Humphrey was running for president, a popular anti-Humphrey slogan was, "Dump the Hump!"   Mean?  Sure--he didn't have a hump--but hey, that's politics.  This year rhyme may return to the campaign.  This time, of course, it would be "Dump the Trump!"
     Well, why not?  He's old enough, 64, rich enough--it's a very expensive thing to do--and, as far as I can tell, perfectly unqualified.  This is a man who questions whether Barack Obama was really born in this country, even though the President's Hawaiian birth certificate has often been shown.  Well, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, the old saying goes.  He's changing his positions to appeal, it seems, to the conservative base--once pro-choice, now pro-life, same switch on gay marriage.  And let's not forget he has "a great relationship with the blacks."  Still, I've seen more than one poll showing him running with the front of the GOP pack.
     Is he qualified?  That, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  I'm old enough to remember that a lot of people thought Harry Truman was unqualified when he took office after Franklin Roosevelt died.  But he made some huge decisions:  dropped the atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II; led the United States into NATO, into the United Nations, into the post-war world.  And, among other things, he integrated the U.S armed forces.  Looks pretty qualified nowadays.
     So who knows?  If The Donald, as they call him (I've never known why) wants to jump in, let him.  If you win, Mr, Trump, shout and jump.  If you lose, just take your lump and your bump.  Lots of fun rhymes here.  That never hurts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011

*Editorial from his publisher:  We want you to live for many more presidential elections, not just 2012**
     I'm an old guy--codger, geezer, whatever--but I really want to live Iong enough to see how the 2012 election turns out.  It just might be a doozie.
     That's not because the Republicans already have some gangbuster candidate who might knock Barack Obama out of the White House.  One such may exist, but I haven't spotted him or her yet.
     No, it's because the two major parties now differ so sharply on what government should and shouldn't do that we could have a real election about what kind of a country we want America to be.  For example:  House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R. Wis.) has issued a spending proposal that passed his committee on a straight party-line vote, 22-16.
     So long, Medicare, as we know it.  Ryan's plan would phase out the government run, fee-for-service program.  New seniors, instead, would get vouchers that would help them buy private health insurance.  It would repeal the health care law's requirement for people to have health insurance.  Ryan's plan would not reduce health care costs, just shift them from the government to us.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2022, the average portion of total Medicare spending borne by seniors would rise from 30% to 61%.  Ready for that?
     I don't know how much of this Congress would pass or the President approve.  I don't know if the voters would be for it or against it.
     But hey!  A real debate!  Might be kind of fun.   

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7, 2011

   They can still stall some more, of course.  But if they do shut the government down, will it be total?  No.  No one plans to lock away all the hydrogen bombs, so if some bag guy attacks us, we can attack back.  But will we notice the shutdown?  Oh, yes.
     Here in Washington, the Washington Monument would close.  So would parks and museums and Ford's theatre.  The Capitol would close, I suppose.  Congress might go home or sulk quietly in its homes here.  The rule is that non-essential federal employees would stay home.  That's maybe 800,000 people nationwide.  But how do we decide who's essential?  That's not clear. And what proud parent wants to look at the kids over breakfast and say, "I'm not essential, guys. I'm staying home today." 
     So it's a mess.  The Washington Post warns, "...the nation's capital may soon be in the grips of something akin to a vast nicotine fit.  Tens of thousands of federal workers deemed nonessential will be forced to give up their Blackberrys."  Pretty tough stuff.
     I have an idea, though.  Why don't we just declare the Congress nonessential, send them home and keep spending the money on everything else?  They're the bozos who couldn't pass a budget, right?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6, 2010

     A New York Times editorial yesterday reminds us of something we're doing wrong. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 terrorists were going to be tried in a New York City courtroom;  that is, of course, the city where they committed their crimes.  Attorney General Eric Holder now says no, they'll be tried by a military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  In a foreign country?  Why on earth do that?
     Well, a lot off scare talk, for one thing.  Would other terrorists attack and try to free the prisoners.  Would New York be safe during the trial?   Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office said at one point security might cost a billion (yes, that's a "b") bucks.    Almost certainly a gross exaggeration.  And then Congress voted against spending any money to move the prisoners from Guantanamo, where they are being held, to anyplace else.
     Bummer.  America always looks its best, I think, when we do the right thing out in public for all the world to see.  The trial should be in New York, with twelve New Yorkers deciding the prisoners' guilt or innocence.  The city's police, with Army help if it's needed, couldn't protect the courtroom?  You're kidding me.
    Open justice, openly arrived at.  Come on, government--rethink this one. Please. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011

    President Barack Obama officially launched his reelection campaign today. Realists will of course note that it really started the day he took the oath of office in January, 2009, or perhaps the day he actually won the job, in November, 2008. But hey, you have to have an official starting day.
     How's he doing?  He inherited two wars.  We seem to be getting out of Iraq, though we are certainly not out yet.  We're still in Afghanistan.  (Will anybody who remembers exactly why we went into either please let me know?)  And we're bombing in Libya, though the president says we won't be sending ground troops.  This is progress?  Hard to say.
     The economy is better than it was, with unemployment down to 8.8% this month.  I'm old enough to remember when 4.5 or 5% was normal.  Again--progress?  I guess, but compared to what?
    So, who might his competition be?  Well, there's former Governor Mitt Romney, who went on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car, from which position it later peed down the rear window? There are Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman whose rhetoric sometimes makes them sound like visitors from another planet.  There's Tim Pawlenty, but nobody knows who he is yet. And then there is Newt Gingrich, but too many people know who he is.  Let's not forget that unsuccessful Senate candidate, Christine O'Donnell, whose campaign TV ad began, "I am not a witch." Maybe she'd run and still not be a witch.  Could Obama top that?
     Who knows?  For political junkies like me it promises lots of fun and laughter over the over the next twenty months or something.  Yes, it really will last that long.  Enjoy.