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Archive for July, 2009

Et Tu, Barack?

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Soon after last fall’s election, I was at a Drinking Liberally session and said to someone there that if the left feels betrayed, Obama will be a one term President. I had no idea the betrayal could come so quickly.

If there is no strong public option in whatever health care plan is passed, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party will be dead to me. I feel so strongly about this not just because there are Americans suffering needlessly from the effed up health care we have now, but because economic recovery would be weaker without a system that works for all.

The U.S. spends twice as much as any other industrialized country on health care, and has worse and declining outcomes. How stupid does the Democratic Party have to be not to beat that drum on an hourly basis?

I could excuse and forgive failure, but it looks right now as though Obama is giving up and allowing the right wing (phony) Dems to destroy meaningful reform. Let the Democrats offer a bill that is worthwhile. If it is defeated by a coalition of GOP and Blue Dogs (and Senate equivalents) so be it. Keep fighting until you win, but always know what you are fighting for. It is better to do the right thing and lose than to win by doing the wrong thing.

And no, neither Clinton would be doing any better with Health Care than Obama is right now. If it was a cause either of them believed in they would have fought for it when they had the power. In fact, I am pretty sure that if HRC were president, the Begalas and Carvilles of the mealy mouthed Democratic center would have even more influence and the result re health care would be just as bad.

If the Democrats cannot get this one right, it will have declared itself terminally dysfunctional and deserving of euthanasia. At that point I would be interested in a strongly progressive party. Yes, I know that would help the fascist Republicans, but they get what they want now.

If the Democrats cannot get this one right, it will have declared itself terminally dysfunctional and deserving of euthanasia. At that point I would be interested in a strongly progressive party. Yes, I know that would help the fascist Republicans in the short term, but they get what they want now, when everyone hates them.

Written by slothropia

July 28th, 2009 at 10:07 am

400 Mayors, Police Chiefs Group Oppose Conceal Carry

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Regular visitors to this blog (all three of you) will remember that I recently posted the text of a letter to the Peoria Journal Star I wrote concerning a proposal of Mayor Jim Ardis (of Peoria) that his city be a test site for an Illinois conceal and carry law. On June 28, the PJ Star printed my letter with the last line deleted. The last paragraph reads as follows:

I just wish that advocates for conceal carry laws would have the intellectual honesty to look at all the data, not just the studies that support their point of view. Maybe the media should look at some of this research as well, so that a reasonable and well informed debate on this issue could finally occur.

The deleted sentence is in bold. My point was that the media (in particular the Journal Star) is not presenting the evidence in support of either of the two sides of this argument. If there is evidence showing that such laws do in fact reduce crime, I have yet to see it other than John Lott’s discredited studies.

In the Sunday, July 19 print edition of the paper, there is a story with Ryan Ori’s byline and the headline “Police say concealed-carry law would deter criminals”. The specific police quoted in the piece are Peoria Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard, Bartonville Police Chief Brian Fengel, Peoria Heights Police Chief Dustin Sutton, East Peoria Police Chief Ed Papis and Peoria police Officer Troy Skaggs, president of the Peoria Police Benevolent Union.

Perhaps the headline would be more accurate if it referred to “local police” rather than implying that all police everywhere are in favor of conceal carry laws.

Right now, Republicans in Congress, joined by some Democrats, are trying to pass a federal conceal and carry law:

The latest measure, offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), has far greater reach. Offered Monday as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, it would allow people to carry concealed firearms across state lines, provided they “have a valid permit or if, under their state of residence . . . are entitled to do so.”

The amendment is opposed by 400 mayors, including New York’s Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and Boston’s Thomas M. Menino (D), who outlined their objections in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). They noted that at least 31 states prohibit alcohol abusers from obtaining concealed-carry permits; at least 35 states bar people convicted of certain misdemeanors from becoming gun owners; and at least 31 states require people to complete gun-safety programs before securing a weapons permit.

I assume Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria is not among the 400.

This amendment is also opposed by at least one organization representing law enforcement officials:

Already groups opposed to the amendment have begun running ads and penning letters to lawmakers urging a “No” vote. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who has long fought gun groups, tomorrow is planning to launch his retaliation at a press conference. “Trumping state laws to allow concealed weapons to be carried by almost anybody in any state is an egregious threat to communities all across the country,” he told us today. “This amendment is just another attempt by the gun lobby to put its radical agenda ahead of safety and security in our communities.” His office released a letter from the International Association of Chiefs of Police opposing the legislation, claiming that it might override different state laws that limit who can carry a concealed weapon. He also released a letter from the mayors of more than 400 cities and towns that claims the Thune “concealed-carry amendment” would infringe on state laws.

In a related development, the Violence Policy Center has released a study showing that “Concealed handgun permit holders killed at least seven police officers and 44 private citizens in 31 incidents during the period May 2007 through April 2009 according to a new study released today by the VPC.”

In his PJ Star article, Ori writes “Concealed-carry opponents point to instances of breakdowns in which unqualified or unstable people attain the right to carry a gun, and proponents cite statistics showing reductions in certain types of crimes in the years after approving concealed-carry legislation.”

The VPC study addresses the conceal carry opponents’ concern Ori refers to. Regarding the statistics argument, I would like to know where these studies exist that show conceal and carry to reduce crime. Again, I have not seen or heard of any other than John Lott’s discredited abuse of data.

To repeat, the corporate (or traditional) media is failing to do its job by not presenting the information citizens need to make sound judgments on matters of public policy. This is just as true regarding the health care debate as the endless argument over guns.

I oppose conceal carry laws, largely because I am concerned about the kind of society we are building with such laws. The NRA and gun advocates generally seem to want everyone to carry firearms everywhere and all the time. How does a civil society survive such paranoia?

Written by slothropia

July 21st, 2009 at 11:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Losing My Hope for Hope and Change

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Almost six months on the job finds the President still getting mostly good grades from the U.S. electorate and in many ways Obama is doing well. In partisan political terms, he is driving the right wing nuts, and they have become completely and suicidally clueless. Hardly a day goes by without a high profile Republican embarrassing him or her self and the GOP. Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin (and Todd too), John Ensign and the list grows daily.

But the Democrats and Obama have run into their own rough patches and despite GOP weakness, victory is not assured in either the mid term elections or the 2012 presidential race. If the US left (such as it is) feels betrayed, the Democrats could have unexpected difficulties in the Congressional election next year and Obama could end up with one failed term. In fact, at this point, I would be willing to vote against Obama in the 2012 primary. And my vote in the midterms is conditional upon passage of a health care reform package with a “strong public option”. I really want single payer, but will accept the public option. Anything less and I will not vote Democratic again for the foreseeable future. And no, I will never vote for any Republican, nor for any anti choice candidate of any party.

I understand why Republicans want to block any meaningful health care reform. The Republican party exists to serve the wealthy and corporations. But Democrats like Baucus, Ben Nelson or Landrieu who accept insurance company bribes to work against the interests of their constituents are shameless toads. I do not how they sleep at night or what they see in the mirror.

More about health care below, but to return to the administrations overall efforts, let us stipulate that the Obama agenda includes the following priorities:
1. The economy
2. Health care reform
3. Energy and climate change
4. National security and diplomacy (Iraq and Afghanistan included)

Here is how I would grade the Obama Administration on each of these portfolios after six months in office:

The Economy: C-
The Vice president said recently that the Administration underestimated the severity of the recession (or Depression) and so did not make the stimulus package strong enough. Now Obama says a second stimulus is not needed IOW Krugman was right. And there’s the problem. It is not as if good advice was not available. It was but Obama chose to ignore it. Robert Reich, Nouriel Roubini and Paul Krugman are still around to remind the president that this is not an ordinary recession. We are living through some kind of economic crisis that should be addressed as such. Instead, Obama now says a second stimulus is not needed. Is he trying to lose my vote? Is he trying to be Hoover or FDR?

RE the banking and finance system, too much Geitner and Summers. The foreclosure crisis is probably going to get worse. Congress missed a chance to mitigate by refusing to pass the cram down legislation. Thanks Blue Dogs and Senate “moderates”. And now Obama wants the left to be nice to the Blue Dogs, Republicrats or ConservaDems (as Maddow calls them) even though they are either opposed to a public option in health care. Fat chance.

Come to think, a C in this subject is pretty damn generous.

Health Care – Incomplete
Again, my support for the President and congressional Democrats are contingent on the passage of health care reform with a strong public option. Obama has been vague about what he wants an expects from Congress on this. I don’t know if anyone in the White House knows how destructive was Rahm’s trial balloon about co-ops v public option. I hope he knows what he is doing.

Energy and climate change – Incomplete
Incomplete because the cap and trade bill is not out of the Senate yet so we don’t know what kind of sausage the final product will be.

National security and diplomacy (Iraq and Afghanistan included) – C+
This, IMO, is the area in which Obama and his team have performed most effectively. Some of the left argne critical of the Administration because the exit from Iraq will take a little longer than Obama promised during the campaign. I am not concerned about that. I will be concerned though if the withdrawal from Iraq turnes out to be incomplete.

In my view, Obama has done well on most areas of foreign relations. His reserve during the Iran post election crisis has served the U.S. well. His fence building eith the Muslim world will eventually pay handsome dividends.

The big problem that drags this grade down is Afghanistan. It looks to me that Obama is repeating one of Bushes early problems in Iraq; there is no clear strategy. When is the Afghanistan mission to be considered accomplished? What is the exit strategy? How much blood and treasure is to be expended on such a nebulous project?

No doubt there are other less visible projects and priorities, like reforming the federal bureaucracy, cleaning up the Justice Department and Pentagon procurement. Presumably human rights are somewhere in the mix but the foot dragging on don’t ask don’t tell and DOMA, and the continuation of Bush II policies re FISA and detention of suspected Islamic militants have created doubts on that score. Transparency was also promised but not yet fully delivered. I would like to see AG Holder seriously investigate Bush/Cheney crimes, but I can’t hold my breath that long.

Again, my support for any Democrat, from Obama on down, is predicated on the successful passage of an adequate health care reform package. The House bill is encouraging as is the Senate bill passed by the HELP committee. I am not completely happy with either, but they are a step in the right direction.

Now to await the final sausage.

Written by slothropia

July 15th, 2009 at 10:03 am