Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Drinking the Flavor-Aid on Medicare

I have to hand it to the GOP - its control of its members is awe-inspiring.  Just an hour ago, 42 Senators voted for the Ryan Budget, which ends Medicare.  Oh, and Rand Paul, the newly minted Senator from Kentucky voted against the budget because it wasn't draconian enough.  So, 43 of the 47 U.S. Senators from the Republican Party are on record supporting the repeal of Medicare.

That's insane.  Just yesterday, Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, became a new Congresswoman in a Republican District based on the Medicare issue.  Oh, and the margin wasn't even close.  Poll after poll shows the American people really, really, really concerned about Medicare.  From what I could tell from the protesters outside my office building (where Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have their offices as well), many of the Tea Party protesters had signs that said "Hands Off My Medicare."  Now the GOP wants to end Medicare?

And that's the difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party - Democrats would jump ship in such conditions, whereas Republicans would not.  Why the hell would Republicans jump into the frying pan?  I think it has to do with the Republican base, who have become more and more powerful over the years.

The more I look back at the Bush Administration, the more I have come to realize that Bush completely defanged the Republican Party establishment.  All the Party grown-ups have either left the building, or lost all credibility because of TARP, etc.  There's no one left to say, "Guys, this is a phenomenally dumb idea, and we'll get killed for it."  Gingrich tried, but in usual Gingrich fashion, did it too late, and too publicly.

Well, enjoy the flavor-aid* fellas, I hope it goes done easily.

*The Jonestown folks drank Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grading the Contendahs: 2012 GOP Pres Candidates (Part 2)

Well, its been an interesting-ish time in American Presidential politics.  Trump flirted with running, and then dropped out after getting schooled by Obama (seriously, there's no other way to put it.  Obama released his long-form birth certificate, ripped Trump a new one at the WH Correspondent's Dinner, and then had Osama bin Laden shot in the face), Mitch Daniels is out, and the GOP Presidential hopefuls are looking either dull or crazy.  Hell, I almost forgot about Huckabee deciding against a run.  So, I'm not particularly concerned about this crop of candidates, but that could change (see 1992).

Which is to say that Obama is beatable, but the GOP has to find the right kind of candidate to beat him.  One of my greatest concerns is that Obama, as a centrist (and he really is a centrist), can get outflanked by a populist candidate like Huckabee who would move to his left on some issues - Wall Street reform - and move to Obama's right on other issues like abortion.  I've seen it done at a mayoral level when Dick Murphy simultaneously moved to the right and the left of Ron Roberts, handily beating him.  But I don't know if anyone has the ability to pull it off.

With that said, here are my reviews of the contenders thus far:

Mitt Romney: The Mittster came in second in the last go around, and if the GOP had the same rules as the Democrats, he would've won the nomination over McCain.  He's telegenic, has lots of money to burn, and is willing to work his ass off for it.  But, everyone knows Romney, and most voters don't like him.  They don't dislike him, but they don't like him.  Plus, he's Mormon, and he was the architect for Obamacare.  So, even though he's the frontrunner, his support is weak. 

Tim Pawlenty: We've seen plenty of Pawlenty (thank you, don't forget to tip your waitress) and quite frankly, he's left no impression.  And just like Romney, everyone knows who he is, and they're still not buying what he's selling. 

John Huntsman: I have to admit, Huntsman scares me a bit.  He was an ambassador for Obama, but he's got that conservative, but not so conservative that he looks crazy on TV thing going for him.  I don't know if the GOP primary voters will go for it, but he could be very dangerous in a general election.

Newt Gingrich: Um, wow.  Gingrich is a total and complete mess of a person and a candidate.  If he were to take the nomination, he would have no chance of beating Obama.  None. 

Rick Santorum: Another total mess of a candidate. Next.

Sarah Palin, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann: Sex and race aside, they are all the same candidate, speaking to the same crowds.  All but Palin are crazy, but have a rabid following in the Tea Party.  But, let's face it, against Obama, each one of these candidates will get crushed.  The GOP elites know this and are doing their damnedest to kill their campaigns early.  Palin will be the easiest to nudge out, but Cain and Bachmann are true believers. But that said, I don't see the primary voters going with either Cain or Bachmann.

The Dark Horses: I don't see any dark horses out there for the GOP right now.  Jeb Bush is, well, a Bush; Perry has major problems in his own state, Jindal is too young (and too not-white), etc.  The cupboard is relatively bare at this point.

Anyone with thoughts to the contrary?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pedophile Priests: The Wrong Question

Today, the Catholic Church (actually, the U.S. Bishops) released the results of a study on pedophilia in the priesthood, and came to a weird conclusion.  Pedophilia was caused by the '60's man.  The '60's.  Or rather, the social turmoil of the 1960's created stress, which lead priests to rape children - mostly boys because boys were more available.

Um. . .no.  Pedophile priests didn't abuse kids because of the social turmoil of the 1960's, they did it because they were pedophiles.  And why did pedophiles join the priesthood? Well, for the same reason why bank robbers rob banks - because that's where the money (or, in this case, access to children) is.  Every profession that has access to children - teachers, coaches, children's ministers (in Protestant churches), clowns, daycare workers and priests - has its share of pedophiles because these professions give pedophiles access to children.  And most pedophiles would prefer to gather their victims quietly than to kidnap kids off the streets.

In other words, it was inevitable that some priests would be pedophiles.  But in most instances, when it is discovered that a daycare worker, for instance, has been molesting children, the daycare worker is reported to the police, removed from contact with kids, and the daycare worker is not left in a position to harm children. Not so with priests - they were left in positions of power over children for, in some cases, decades. 

Now, in some respects, the study is correct.  The social turmoil of the 1960's and 1970's may have had an effect. As fewer and fewer young men joined the priesthood, the Church tried to protect itself by keeping as many priests as it could, abusers included.  Why else would bishops continually send pedophile priests back into situations where they could abuse children rather than send them off to a monastery?  Ultimately, the shortage of priests was the problem, not social turmoil. 

It is noted that the number of cases of sexual abuse by priests has dropped in the past thirty years, and that's a good thing.  That may be the case that the bishops now view abuse cases differently and are more proactive, or that parents are less likely to leave their kids alone with anyone, including a priest.  But ultimately, that won't solve the problem of shortage of priests, which caused this problem, not the 1960's.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Back from Vacation Blogging. . .

Wow, its been almost a month since my last blog post.  I almost can't believe it.  On the other hand, that's the joy of vacation - you get out of your head for awhile.  For the record, I went to Miami and St. Petersburg, helped catch a 400+lb. Goliath Grouper (my contributions were minimal, but existent), and generally had a good time.  I even did stuff, which I had no intention of doing.  So, this has been the first chance, and inclination to blog at all. So without further ado. . .

Birthers, Birthers:  Hmm. . .do they really exist after Obama produced his long-form birth certificate?  Birtherism always struck me as being a proxy for the obvious - that Obama is a black guy with a Muslim-sounding name.  It is a direct attack on his legitimacy as President.  Obvious racism is generally despised, so to hide the racism, people would couch their language as doubting Obama's place of birth.  Still, it should be no surprise that the long form birth certificate confirmed what we knew.  I knew the whole thing was much ado about nothing when it was discovered that there were two birth announcements in Hawaiian papers published shortly after Obama's birth.  Of course, producing a long-form birth certificate won't make Obama any whiter, or give him a less Muslim-sounding name, but it does expose birthers as kooks and racists.

Popping a Cap in Osama bin Laden's Ass: Or rather, a double tap to the head.  In college, I had the privilege of meeting a SEAL Team 6 member (totally legit too - the guy's picture was in "Black Belt" Magazine).  We were in "The Matchmaker" together and while we rehearsed, the guy told all of us 18-22 year old kids how to take a human being apart like a cheap watch.  My best description in two words: AWWWWEEESOMMEE!!!!!* Anyway, offing Osama was a huge, huge coup for the President, and shows that there's some hope we can get out of Iraq and Afghanistan sometime soon.  Oh, and was the killing legal? Probably, and we'll never know for sure.

Weird Things in Iran: President Ahmadinejad's staff, including his Chief of Staff, have been charged with sorcery. . .yes, like Harry Potter.  Now, granted, sorcery would help explain how Ahmadinejad was elected by such a large margin in the last election (bud-dum), but the arrests also indicate a fracture between the President and Supreme Leader, and that's very interesting.  There's no question, Khamenei put his ass on the line for Ahmadinejad during the presidential election, and in face of obvious voter fraud.  And if the conservative elites fight amongst themselves. . .well, interesting things will happen. 

Pakistani and American Relations: Of anything out there that scares me, the deterioration of US-Pakistani relations does the most.  Its looking pretty clear that Pakistan, or some elements of its military and/or intelligence network were helping Al Qaeda.  There's no way, Osama bin Laden could've lived within the same town as Pakistan's chief military academy for six years without someone figuring it out.  And to now prevent access to bin Laden's wives. . .wow.  Of course, the problem with Pakistan is that it has nukes, and so pressing the issue is problematic, at best.  And by problematic, I mean, "potentially starting a war between the U.S., Pakistan, India and China, all of whom have nukes."  Let's tread very, very carefully, please.

On a personal note:

David L. Holmes, one of my religion professors at William & Mary is retiring.  While Prof. Holmes certainly would not appreciate some of the language used on this blog (for instance, I just wrote "blog" instead of "online journal"), I loved the classes I took with him. In part, Professor Holmes looked like a college professor should look - glasses, balding hair, jacket with suede patches, and sounded like Garrison Keeler, but more than his looks or how he sounded, Professor Holmes had the caring and the humanity that meant the world to me. 

I know that the human mind leads us to remember the good times, and forget the bad, but I remember thinking while in his classes that this is what a college class should be.  In the antique and wonderful halls of the Wren Building, smelling of old wood, the sun shining through the windows, hearing Professor Holmes lead a discussion on Ordinary People, or teaching us about the Reformation was a pure joy.  I worked hard in his classes, not just because the curriculum was difficult, but also because I wanted to impress him.  While I strongly disagree with his taste in whiskey - gleaned from my friend Ben, who was his boarder during my Senior year (rye, ick) - I will remember him, and the lessons he taught me, always.**

*Yes, I am aware that AWWWWEEESOMMEE is one, poorly spelled, word.

**Well, most of his lessons.  I have a feeling Professor Holmes would read this blog and gasp at the poor grammar.  I probably need to reread Shrunk & White, but slowly, as it is a rich as pecan pie.