Friday, December 14, 2012

American Slaughter

This is the blackest day for America in this decade.  The slaughter of innocents is testimony to our collective inanity and insanity.  That we produce such horrific weapons is bad enough, that young adults or even boys and girls use them against each other in war zones is worse.  But the worst is permitting them to be used against helpless children in our own communities.

Nothing else correlates with gun violence than the laxity of gun control laws.  Days ago Michigan passed newly lax laws to permit concealed weapons in schools, dormitories and sporting events.  And today those who voted for those laws demanded that the governor sign them, as their response to the slaughter in Connecticut.  It is this deification of guns that is the most insane.  Guns will solve every problem.  What problem did these guns solve?

It is long past time that this insanity is addressed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Brink Too Far

UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn from consideration for Secretary of State, and most reporters say that Senator John Kerry is now almost certain to be nominated and approved by the Senate.

President Obama is meeting with Rice on Friday afternoon, at which time it would be most appropriate to announce that she will be his White House National Security advisor in his second term. 

Personally I doubted she would be appointed Secretary of State.  She obviously has the credentials, the intelligence, the experience and the contacts.  But she is the public face of the U.S. abroad and sadly that face cannot smile, at least not convincingly.

I fully sympathize.  I can't either anymore.  But in terms of ceremony and confidence, the job requires somebody who has the look and the political skills.  Secretary Clinton is a perfect example.  Sure, the job has had its share of stiffs in the past, but this is a different world.  The way Susan Rice was hounded from the nomination was despicable and dishonorable.   But maybe she wasn't right for that public part of the job.  I don't really know, of course.  But that's how it looks from a distance.

Nevertheless, she is a brilliant, capable woman, and President Obama should bring her to the White House--and stick it in the eye of the GOPer critics.

Now a little credit for not making a single rice pun.

I heard several voices on TV suggesting that not nominating her after defending her so passionately makes President Obama appear weak.   We'll see what they say after tomorrow.  And we'll see what they are saying after the fiscal cliff nonsense is over, and in particular after the congressional GOPers take refuge in their delusional "leverage" by threatening not to approve the required rise in the debt ceiling. 

When defending Ambassador Rice, President Obama said that if he decided she were the best for the job, he would nominate her no matter what her GOPer critics said.  But on the debt ceiling he was not at all conditional: he said "I will not play that game" over the debt ceiling, adding that he would stop negotiating with GOPers on budget etc. if they even suggested that the debt ceiling vote was on the table.

Apparently GOPers were not as sure as I was what he meant, because they are still talking about doing it.  Ezra Klein spells it out:
"Whatever House Republicans might think, the White House is all steel when it comes to the debt ceiling. Their position is simple, and it’s typically delivered in the tone of voice that Bruce Willis reserves for talking to terrorists: They’re happy to raise the debt ceiling on their own, as would be the case under their proposal to take authority for the debt ceiling away from Congress. But if Congress rejects that offer, then the debt ceiling is Congress’s problem, and the White House will not help.

The Obama administration is utterly steadfast on this point: They will not suffer a repeat of 2011, when they conducted negotiations over whether the United States should default. If Republicans go over the cliff and try to open up talks for raising the debt ceiling, the White House will not hold a meeting, they will not return a phone call, they will not look at the e-mails. They will move to an entirely public strategy, rallying voters and the business community against the GOP’s repeated brinksmanship." 

It would be unfortunate if GOPers saw their disgusting political character assassination as a success, and an indication that President Obama doesn't mean what he says on the debt ceiling.   This is December 2012/January 2013,  not any other time or circumstances.  Taking the world economy hostage is not going to be a successful strategy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


We're getting close to the Mayan calendar apocalypse date (which is either 12/21 or 12/23, depending on...something.)  But today's is the date that may really be freaking people out.

Sure, for some it's a great day to get married, gamble, hold a benefit concert, or ascend into a higher consciousness.  But beneath the shininess, isn't there something ominous?

Why?  I'm guessing it's because it will the last of its kind for a long while. With the possible exception of some of the infants among us, it's the last of our lifetime.

As I've mentioned, there were repeated digits in the 20th century--I even recall 6/6/66 being noted on the Huntley-Brinkley Report.  The exact repetition of three dates however hadn't happened in my lifetime until the 21st century, when we had a bunch: 1/1/1, 2/2/2 etc.  But this is the last one.  After this, the numeral of the year outruns the 12 month cycle.  So there will be slant-rhyme dates like 12/21/12, 3/1/13, 1/4/14 or 5/15/15.  An even closer symmetry won't happen until 2/22/22, and it gets more distant after that (there will be no 3/33/33, unless our calendar runs out.)  It won't get to the pure repetition until the 22nd century. 

So what does it mean?  I can't recall anything memorable about those previous dates. It's all basically artificial: not just the notation (the full date, after all, is 12.12.2012, which is close but not a full repetition --12.12.2112 comes closer ) but just the fairly arbitrary dating system, a relatively recent calendar in its details and its wide acceptance.  Nevertheless, this one may be "the luckiest day of the year" for some, but for others it may also add a little to the general apocalyptic anxiety that seems to be the unconscious undertow of our present.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012


What political speculation there is--and there's as usual too much--is about 2016.  Will Hillary run?  Should she? Can anyone defeat her? 

But by that time it may not matter in substantive ways.  What has become increasingly clear in the first weeks after the 2012 election is that we are still in the dark power of 2010.  The dreaded off-year election (as it's called, because it isn't a presidential year) when a comparative handful of voters even show up, and yet those who did in 2010 empowered those who are still busy destroying the future.

Yes, part of the devastating effect was due to it being a census and therefore reapportionment year, and so GOPer state houses could rig congressional elections according to party, which is why the GOP retained control of the House even though Democratic candidates got more votes, and under the redistricting of 2008, would have won it back.  So we may be living with those effects for a long time.

But it was the dramatic takeovers in governorships and state legislatures, largely fueled by big money unleashed for the first time by the Citizens United decision of the GOPer Court.  The mildest thing about the resulting stranglehold on state governments in many states was that it quickly became very extreme, and its extremism was coordinated from state to state.

The worst of it we see most dramatically right now in Michigan, where Governor Snyder and the lame duck legislature has suddenly rammed through a union-busting law (with a provision apparently preventing it from being overturned by voters) with blinding speed, without advance notice or the usual hearings or debate, really in a matter of hours on an otherwise ordinary Thursday.  Taking away union rights in Michigan is a breathtaking step, and this is being done without public support--the latest poll shows all of 6% of Michigan citizens support it.

Snyder could sign this into law on Tuesday, ignoring the warnings of political chaos that could result.  Demonstrations are ongoing and are likely to be massive Tuesday. These people are being silenced as a result of elections.  (Hitler too, it must not be forgotten, was elected, at first.)  There could be no more graphic lesson of the need to organize and vote in 2014. 

For this totalitarian blitzkrieg is only the latest iron fist of autocracy to take off the glove in Michigan.  There are entire cities now ruled by a state-appointed dictator, superseding all elected officials.  Funny how those folks afraid of nonexistent interference by the UN are silent on the very real dictatorships in Michigan.

The voter suppression laws, the anti-choice and anti-health laws, all of that, all coming from the states. They all are intrusive, autocratic (even if Theocratic) attempts that take away rights and freedoms.  In states like PA and Ohio, the fracking-happy state governments are helping to destroy communities and the environment.  Many of those governors and many of the legislatures must face the voters in 2014.  All it will take to ruin the last years of the Obama presidency plus the next one will be voters not paying attention again in 2014.

It's going to be hard enough even if they are.  Michigan couldn't pass a strong pro-union initiative, and Wisconsin returned their legislature to GOPer rule in the big Dem year of 2012.  But if voters don't return sanity to their state capitals in 2014, 2016 may be nothing much but show biz.