Sunday, January 27, 2013

Garry Wills looks with sadness on the American South


Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and historian Garry Wills loves the American South where he was born and where both sides of his family called home.

Wills looks with real sadness on the South's self inflicted self destruction,
But the current South is willing to cut off its own nose to show contempt for the government. Governor Rick Scott of Florida turned down more than $2 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail system in Florida that would have created jobs and millions of dollars in revenues, just to show he was independent of the hated federal government. In this mood, his forebears would have turned down TVA. People across the South are going even farther than Scott, begging to secede again from the Union....No one needs better health care more than the South, but it fights it off so long as Obama is offering it, its governors turning down funds for Medicaid. This is a region that rejects sex education, though its rate of teenage pregnancies is double and in places triple that of New England. It fights federal help with education, preferring to inoculate its children against science by denying evolution.

No part of the country will suffer the effects of global warming earlier or with more devastation than the South, yet its politicians resist measures to curb carbon emissions and deny the very existence of climate change—sending it to the dungeon with evolution and biblical errancy. One doesn’t need much imagination to see the South with lowered or swollen waters in its rivers and ports, raging kudzu, swarming mosquitos, and record-breaking high temperatures, still telling itself that global-warming talk is just a liberal conspiracy. But it just digs deeper in denial. The South has decided to be defeated and dumb.
The American South's penchant for ignorant self destruction predates the Civil War, and while in the recent past things appeared to be getting better, as Wills points out, it's now getting worse. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The GOP Electoral College plan would undermine democracy

So says Larry Saboto at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.  They asked Alan Abramwitz from Emory University to examine the proposal being pushed by RNC Chair Reince Priebus to award electoral college votes based upon Congressional districts.  Professor Abramwitz found that because of gerrymandered Congressional districts, the plan pushed by Herr Priebus would allow Republicans to win the White House even has they lose the popular vote by many million votes. 

Under Herr Priebus plan, even as Mitt Romney lost the popular vote by 5 million votes, he would have won the White House with 11 more electoral votes than those awarded to Barack Obama.

Calling Priebus plan "a corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will,"Professor Saboto sees the Republican party is a death spiral,
Republicans face a choice that can best be characterized by personalizing it. A healthy, optimistic party is Reaganesque, convinced that it can win the future by embracing it, and by making a positive case for its philosophy and candidates to all Americans. A party in decline is Nixonian and fears the future; it sees enemies everywhere, feels overwhelmed by electoral trends, and thinks it can win only by cheating, by subverting the system and stacking the deck in its favor. Whose presidency was more successful, Reagan’s or Nixon’s? Which man made the Republican brand more appealing?
That pretty much sums it up. Priebus talks minority outreach, but he is convinced the GOP cannot win the White House as long as majority rule selects the President.

Contrast how far the Chairman of the Republican Party is willing to go with Harry Reid's refusal to reform filibuster in the Senate? It's no wonder the American people see Democrats as feckless losers.

Republicans Come Up With A New Way To Punish Rape Victims

Via The National Memo,
New Mexico’s House Bill 206 would make it a third-degree felony to abort a child conceived as the result of rape. A woman who didn’t want to conceive her rapist’s baby would be guilty of “tampering with evidence.”

The crime would carry a punishment of up to three years in prison and could implicate the doctor or anyone helps the rape victim secure an abortion.
The bills author, Republican State Rep Cathrynn Brown says the purpose of the bill is to punish sex offenders by not allowing them to destroy the evidence of their crime. “New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders,” said Brown. “By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”

And so the Days Without an Offensive Rape Remark counter is reset to zero. 

Is it structurally impossible for GOP to attract minorities?

That is the point Michael Tomasky makes. The rank and file GOP is sufficiently racist, Tomasky argues, to make any meaningful outreach to non-whites impossible.
The bottom line is about the base. The GOP base consists of white people who are terrified of losing their skin privilege in Barack Obama’s America. Even if Priebus and a few other Republicans are sincere in their efforts, the minute they start to take steps that are anything but symbolic and that are aimed specifically at trying to win over blacks or Latinos, the base will howl to the moon. I suppose it’s possible that two or three generations from now, which means 30 to 50 years, white Republicans who grew up in our multicultural era will have different attitudes. But even that is a fairly big question mark—there are always going to be vast sections of the country where the population will be 90 or more percent white.

Changing all this can’t be done with some buzzwords and slogans. It is going to be a deeply painful and contentious process for the GOP. I’d say it will be amusing for the rest of us, but it will inject enough poison into the body politic to make it not much fun for anyone.
Tomasky is quick to point out that not all conservatives are racist, and we all know this to be the case. But, Tomasky notes, "If you find yourself at a table with five conservatives and try to break the ice with a watermelon joke, you’re very likely to get somewhere between two and three laughs."

Tomasky is on to something.  The success of the so-called Rockefeller Republicans has had the ironic effect of moving both parties rightward such that now Democratic leadership occupies the space once filled by moderate Republicans leaving only the wacko right for Republicans.   I like pointing out to conservative friends that both Clinton and Obama are to the right of Nixon (the father of the EPA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and just look at Nixon's proposal for comprehensive health insurance).  Imagine if Obama made a trip to Tehran ala Nixon's trip to China?

It is going to take at least another generation to modernize the GOP.  But that doesn't mean they can't win the White House (although GOP Chair Herr Priebus believes his party can no longer win the national popular vote).  Eventually, voters will become sufficiently frustrated with the status quo to just vote for the other person for a change. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Text and video of Obama's Second Inaugural Address

Here is President Obama's second Inaugural Address as delivered. Below is the text as prepared for delivery.



Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Inaugural Address

Monday, January 21, 2013

Washington, DC

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are na├»ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Assault Weapons Common Sense

What does it say about America in 2013 when the comedian makes more sense than elected Republican politician?

Watch Jon Stewart nail this issue.