Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NOVEMBER 27, 2012

        The year is almost over.  Many of us are thinking about holiday gifts. Congress, of course, is thinking about taxes.
     Some tax cuts are due to expire at year's end.
 Congress would probably like to extend them, but the national debt really is enormous.  Tax cuts, of course, would make it worsethat's the "fiscal cliff" we keep reading about. And this Congress, like the new one we just elected, is not the best for swift, efficient decision-making.

     Such a government would have one party in charge.
 We don't.  The Democrats have the White House and the Senate;  the Republicans have the House.  It will be the same when the new crowd meets.

     Still, Congress often muddles through.
 I think--can't prove, just think--they'll do it again.  Stumble around very close to the edge of the fiscal cliff, just not fall over it.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fwd: NOVEMBER 26, 2012

     The Washington Post runs an ombudsman column every week defending the paper.  This week's is about a front-page photo they ran November 15th of a man crying as he holds the shroud-wrapped body of his 11-month-old son killed by a bomb strike in Gaza.  

It is a strong picture.  It could make you cry.     The man is Palestinian, the column notes.  The bomb was Israeli.  The column says, correctly in my view, that that is almost beside the point.  But the Post says it got of criticism calling the photo biased.  Why no grieving Israelis?  

The Post notes that no such photo existed.  No Israeli civilians had been killed in Gaza, the paper says, in more than a year    

 True?  I don't know, but that's beside the point too.     The point is wars suck.  They kill people on all sides of whatever the quarrel is about.  Wars suck.  We just don't seem able to stop them.      




Friday, November 23, 2012

NOVEMBER 22, 2012

     When I came to Washington half a century or so ago, one of the first phrases I heard was, "good enough for government work."  It was a putdown, not kindly meant. Now a survey in the Washington Post reports that federal employees themselves are less satisfied with their jobs than they used to be, that their morale is sinking.

      The survey was posted by the government's Office of Personnel Management.  The survey had been done every two years. Th
Is is the first time it's been done annually,

     Pay is
part of it.  Just 22% said those who do a good job are paid accordingly.  It varies from agency to agency.  59% of employees at the National Archives were happy compared to 74% at NASA.

     And it probably won't get better.
 I can't think of any Congressman who campaigned in favor of increasing government salaries, can you?



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NOVEMBER 21, 2012

Many have things to be thankful for this season. President Obama can be thankful he won.  So can Vice President Biden.  So can the Democrats who won in the Senate.  The Republicans won the House, but that's one out of three.  A little thanks but an emphasis on grumpiness, maybe.

There's an interesting question about the Republicans.
 They campaigned hard for the new, very conservative GOP--kill the Obama health plan, vouchers for Medicare, whatever--substiantial cuts in the size and cost of government.  But the election results didn't show much change for or against the ideas.  I don't think Americans want these changes, but maybe they just want more time to think about them.

Young people of both parties can perk up and start organizing.  Obama can't run again.  Romney surely won't be the Republican choice.   

The  Iowa caucuses--remember the tedium--are just over
four years away. Go get 'em!


NOVEMBER 20, 2012

     Columnist Richard Cohen had the Petraeus story about right in the Washington Post last week.  "This is her matter," he writes, "and her husband's--and not ours. He betrayed her, not his country...Now get back to work."

     That can't happen, of course.
 He resigned.  But should he have had to?

     A lot of things in life are personal
.  If you cheat at cards at the office bridge club, that a a good reason to drop you from the club, but not to fire you. Your work is presumably unaffected.  If you lie about your work, that might justify firing.  If you complain about food at work, that wouldn't.  Not relevant again.

     Accodrng to news reports, Petraeus was a very good top spy. Cheating on his wife probably hasn't affected that.
 So why fire him?  Expel him from his church, perhaps, but let him keep his job?

     Worth thinking about?

Monday, November 12, 2012

NOVEMBER 12, 2012

     It's over, of course.  Obama won
.  Now the debate is why?

There are several reasons, I suppose.  First, the country has gotten better lately--not wonderful, but better.  The ecomony is somewhat improved in some places but still worrisome.  Employment is up some--again, not swell, but better.  The Democrats had a better case to make in November than they would have in, say, July.

     Another reason
the Republicans--not all, of course, but many of the more thoughtful ones--ran on a fairly coherent philosophy--the federal government is too big and must shrink, both in size and in the money it spends.  Examplespeople talked about killing the health care bill and about replacing Medicare with a voucher system.  The government would spend less;  recipients would get less.

    It wasn
't a specific plan.  There were differences in degree, in detail.  We don't know how a specific plan would have fared.  But the election suggests, I think, that Americans don't want a smaller government that cuts their taxes but gives them fewer services.

     I think we said "No
."  Those who disagree have four more years now to change our minds.  Start your engines, again. 


NOVEMBER 11, 2012

     It's called Veterans Day now, but once it had a name that was full of history--Armistice Day.  It marked, with some cerermony, the end if the longest and bloodiest war mankind had ever known back then--November 11th--the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, people used say.

     World War I was a different war, using quaint old versions of weapons--tanks and airplanes, which had greatly changed by the time the next and even bloodier war--II, not I, came along just under thirty years later.  And we're still not out of the habit--58,000 Americans died in Vietnam, a much smaller war, some thirty years after WWII.  The total number of dead Americans in the Afghan war is not yet known.  That war, the dying there has yet to end.

"All we are saying," the Vietnam War protestors used to chant, "is give peace a chance."  Must be tough. We haven't done it yet.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

NOVEMBER 8, 2012

     The Washington Post story speaks of a small courtroom at a base in Washington state.  An Army staff sergeant named Robert Bales is charged with shooting and killing sixteen Afghan civilians last March.

     I don't know anything about the incident, but it reminds me strongly about a couple of trials I covered during Vietnam, or the massacre of unarmed civilians at a place called My Lai.  The number of civilians was unclear, but everyone agreed they were unarmed.  Men?  The lawyers would ask?  Women?  Children?  Babies?  The witnesses always said yes.  Some of the men refused to fire.  Most did not.  Lt. William Calley, the platoon commander, said, "They were all the enemy to me. They were all to be destroyed."  And they were, of course

     Calley was court martialed and convicted.  President Nixon gave him some sort of pardon and he vanished into civilian life.

     We'll have to see what happens to Sgt. Bales.  Whatever does, the stories remind us of a simple truth:  war is hell.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NOVEMBER 7, 2012

     Four more years?  Well, the voters said, why ever not?

     There are always some results that stand out.
 One yesterday was the defeat of the Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, Richard Murdock, who said among other things that a pregnancy resulting from rape was "something God intended." The seat had been held by moderate Republican Richard Lugar, who retired Senator Claire McCaskell (D-MO) held onto her seat, beating Todd Akin who shared his bizarre understanding of female biology in cases of "legitimate rape."

      In a more general sense, though, the result seemed to be a rejection of a philosophy which a number of young conservatives have been pushing.
 It calls for major cuts in the size of the federal government and what it spends.  Backers of this approach talk of killing "Obamacare," the president's healthcare bill.  They talk of replacing medicare with a voucher system.  No signs of great voter enthusiasm for that, though.

      In fact, of course, not much changed.
 Democrat Obama is still president;  the Senate, still Democratic;  the House, still Republican.  Since passing legislation requires the approval of all three, the chances for big new legislation seem modest at best.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

By this evening, or this night, we'll know.  For good or ill?  That depends, of course, on whom you ask.  "Tomorrow," Mitt Romney is quoted as saying yesterday, "we begin a better tomorrow."  That's if you voted for him and he won, of course.  Or could you argue...well, you could but he wouldn't.

President Obama campaigned, among other places, in Iowa where he scored his first big upset in 2008, beating Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he then named Secretary of State.

It's a heck of a system.  I used to enjoy seeing the various parts of the country, though I never learned to love the plane.  Mrs Clinton by now must have enough free miles to vacation on Mars.

Anyway, well done all.  We'll be back tomorrow to congratulate the winner.




Monday, November 5, 2012

NOVEMBER 5, 2012

     The day before The Day.  Close, they all say, and maybe it is.  Exit polls will offer early hints.  If those polls--asking people after they've voted how they voted--are lopsided--Romney 58, Obama 42, say, the experts will probably call the state for Romney.  If the margin is close--two or three points, the experts will probably label it Too Close to Call until more real votes have been counted.  States' electoral votes go winner-take-all.  Whoever gets the most popular votes gets all the electoral votes.

      It matters.  Romney has come to stand for the radical wing of the Republican Party.  His running mate, Congressman Ryan, is one of its prime spokesmen.  If they win, look for proposals to dismantle Medicare, for instance, replace it with a voucher system, maybe.  Social Security might be changed as well.  Romney has promised to get rid of "Obamacare" completely.

     To do this big stuff, of course, Mitt Romney would have to win the presidency;  the GOP would have to win the House, which it controls now, and the Senate, which the Democrats do.

     Big stuff.  Whomever you choose, vote.  Please, please vote.  It matters.




Sunday, November 4, 2012

NOVEMBER 4, 2012

Pretty close now, just a couple of days, and the American people will, as they always do, elect their leader.

The system's worked pretty well through our history;  there must be something about elected leaders.  There are the winners, of course--Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt (Franklin) and so on.  And there are the so-so ones--John Tyler, say, or Franklin Pierce.  And there's even the unelected one--yes, we had one of those too.

You have to go back to Richard Nixon, a trouble-prone Republcan defeated by John Kennedy in 1960, but a winner in 1968 over Hubert Humphrey.  Nixon's term was troubled.  His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, turned out to be a crook and had to resign.  Nixon chose as his replacemernt the Republican leader in the House, Gerald Ford of Michigan.  The House and Senate confirmed the appointnent, as the law required, but there was no election. 

Things went from bad to worse for Nixon--workers for his reelection campaign breaking into Democratic headquarters and so on.  In the end, Nixon had to resign to avoid impeachment. Vice President Ford, unelected, took over and reassured the country with one memorable line:  "Our long national nightmare is over."

And it was.  Ford, most of us thought, was a pretty good president, though the country turned to a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, in 1976.