Archive

December 8th

No one should be surprised by the pandering to the Republican Jewish Coalition

    Politicians pander. They dredge up memories, adopt inflections and do other things that show the audience they know, understand or can relate to the audience. That's what they do. And, as gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington on Thursday showed, it can be a painful display of stereotyping.

    "Morning Joe" presented a gasp-worthy compilation today. Donald Trump dabbled in the Jews-and-money cliche. "You're not going to support me because I don't want your money," he said. The Big Apple billionaire also said, "I'm a negotiator, like you folks. . . . Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room?"

    Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, who I'd forgotten is still chasing 1-percent support in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, strained credulity when he said, "Last night I was watching 'Schindler's List.'" What, "Fiddler on the Roof" wasn't available on Netflix? C'mon, man.

    But my reaction to what Ohio Gov. John Kasich said can be described only in the language of social media: O.o

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No More Thoughts and Prayers

    We never had enough time to rationalize, in the uniquely American way, why that middle-aged white man killed a cop, a mother of two and an Iraq War veteran in Colorado Springs, when the latest slaughter of human life intruded. He was — what, pro-life? Screaming something about “baby parts” while he unloaded in a Planned Parenthood clinic?

    Slow down, slow down, the mind wants to say — one absurd mass murder at a time. They all “make sense,” eventually. Don’t they?

    In Colorado Springs, the man arrested in the killings, Robert L. Dear Jr., fit a profile. Here was another bearded introvert who lived at the edge of modernity, his head stuffed full of hate and half-truths. “He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic,” his ex-wife wrote in a court document. “He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.” And of course, he had a semi-automatic rifle to go with his delusions.

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Again, and Again, and Again!

    What does it take for them to get the message? I refer to the continuing efforts by the Republicans to kill the Affordable Care Act particularly focusing on those sections regarding women's health care. In short, they are still after Planned Parenthood.

    In a flash as another mass shooting occurred in this nation, my emphasis went from the attacks on women's healthcare to the nation's tolerance of guns. Here we have to add lots of Democrats. Of course the subjects (guns and healthcare) are not very far apart in that many of the gun attacks are on Planned Parenthood facilities, staffs and clients. Adding insult to injury is that all too often the claimed motive is saving lives.

    At this point, so far as is known there is no such claim in Wednesday's horror. We have no idea what prompted the unspeakable in San Bernadino, California. We do know it is the most damaging in terms of deaths since Sandyhook. Again: What does it take for this nation to get the message?

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Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial

    Future historians — if there are any future historians — will almost surely say that the most important thing happening in the world during December 2015 was the climate talks in Paris. True, nothing agreed to in Paris will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem of global warming. But the talks could mark a turning point, the beginning of the kind of international action needed to avert catastrophe.

    Then again, they might not; we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party.

    OK, I know the reaction of many readers: How partisan! How over the top! But what I said is, in fact, the obvious truth. And the inability of our news media, our pundits and our political establishment in general to face up to that truth is an important contributing factor to the danger we face.

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December 6th

U.S. boots inevitably touch ground again in the Middle East

    Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's report to the House Armed Services Committee that 200 U.S. Special Operations Forces will be dispatched to spearhead the fight against the Islamic State further erodes President Obama's assurance that no more "boots on the ground" would be committed to the Middle East battlefield.

    Carter used the customary euphemisms to introduce new combat-ready troops to launch and supervise military engagements against the terrorists, also known as ISIL or ISIS. But from what he said, it was clear that elaborate plans are in the works to sharpen American fighting and intelligence-gathering efforts under whatever name.

    He told the committee: "We're good at intelligence; we're good at mobility; we're good at surprise. We have the long reach that no one else has. ... It puts everybody on notice in Syria that you don't know at night who is coming in the window. And that's the sensation that we want all of ISIL's leadership and followers to have."

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Another drop in a bucket of blood

    The common denominator in mass shootings is the use of firearms. Variables such as political ideology, religious fervor and mental illness are motivating factors, but death comes from the gun.

    Until our society recognizes that simple truth, the list of place names that recently added Colorado Springs and San Bernardino will have no end.

    I don't know which is more obscene, the fact that deadly shooting rampages have become almost routine or the way we so quickly seek to make each incident follow a familiar script.

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Why the United Auto Workers ships jobs abroad

    Does the labor movement favor or oppose outsourcing? It seems a silly question, given the AFL-CIO's vociferous opposition to the free-trade agreements and tax breaks that, the labor federation argues, abet the flight of good-paying manufacturing jobs abroad.

    What makes the question non-silly is this: The United Auto Workers has just negotiated and ratified collective bargaining agreements with U.S. automakers, the foreseeable and, to some extent, intended effect of which is to facilitate shifting jobs to Mexico.

    It's a case study in the difference between labor's political rhetoric, which is all about working-class solidarity, and collective bargaining, which is all about self-interest.

    Detroit has come back from the 2009 recession, big-time: with total vehicle sales hitting 16.4 million, profits in 2014 reached $6.5 billion for General Motors, $6.3 billion for Ford and$4.1 billion for Fiat Chrysler (before interest and taxes).

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What's the connection between the Baltimore riots and the Affordable Care Act?

    December is the month in which many people enrolled in "Obamacare" must reassess and renew their plans. As they do so, it's a good time to evaluate the politics and economics behind those health-care costs.

    Hospitals and health care keep cities employed. Take away hospital and medical care jobs, and you are removing one of the engines of economic hope for urban areas. But the need to add jobs is directly at odds with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s commitment to-well, to affordable health care.

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We're ignoring the real gun problem

    On Thursday, President Barack Obama spoke briefly to the press about yesterday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, and he began by noting: "So many Americans sometimes feel as if there's nothing we can do about it." But what's the "it" we're talking about here? Is it just our spectacular and never-ending run of mass shootings?

    Because if it is, we're on the lesser of our gun problems. I'll explain why in a moment, but here's a bit more of what Obama had to say:

    "It's going to be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we're making it a little harder for them to do it, because right now it's just too easy. And we're going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder - not impossible, but harder - for individuals to get access to weapons."

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Trump wasn't a textbook demagogue, until now

    In the 17th century, poet John Milton called it a "goblin word" - a sobriquet so low that it was reserved for only the most insidious of rabble-rousers - yet in the last few months, any number of observers, from GOP presidential also-ran Rick Perry to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, from the Economist to, most recently, The New York Times, have crossed a rhetorical line in our politics by calling Donald Trump out as a "demagogue."

    Until recently, I've resisted it. As the author of "Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies," I have been asked countless times in recent years whether Trump is a demagogue, and have always responded - indeed, thought - that he was not. Clearly, though, with his escalating effrontery toward the American creed, he is now.

    This is not a matter of mere semantics. In the same way that precision should be used when issuing a terror alert, the term demagogue, properly applied, should be a tocsin of democracy - deployed judiciously and ringing loudly to foretell a singular menace to our republic.

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