Saturday, June 30, 2012

John Roberts - Bush Was Right, Obama Was Wrong

          Overnight, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts added to his legacy in a way that will assure widespread and longlasting remembrance.

   His surprising-to-many deciding vote to uphold the health care law known as The Affordable Care Act has suddenly elevated his place in history.   His non-political position and vote assured Americans of a national health care plan that had been sought, to no avail, for 100 years.

 In the process, he set aside his conservative reservations about the wisdom of the law. and rendered an opinion, and cast his vote, based solely on the constitutionality of the law.

 And by so doing, he showed that the high court is not--as feared by many--permanently polarized, with rulings made along party lines.  His action should dramatically improve the 44 percent approval rating that the American people currently give the Supreme Court. 

Whatever your political persuasion, it should be a welcome revelation to know that this presently presiding, and 17th, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, is a man of independent thought who recognizes that the high court's job is not to make or reshape any law, but only to rule on the constitutionality of that law.

And it should therefore be all the more comforting to know that such a man--a relatively young man at age 57--may well be our Chief Justice for the next quarter century, or longer.

When asked how he would like for the Roberts Court to be remembered, the Chief Justice said that he would like it to be remembered "for protecting equal justice under the law".  He added that "there is no better legacy you can ask for".

History will certainly judge John Roberts more fairly than many members of his own Republican party, who--because of his heath care opinion--have labeled him a coward and a traitor.

In response, John Roberts has displayed something else that Americans are sure to like about their Chief Justice--a sense of humor.  In a play on words, the New York Daily News has called him "the court jester".

Roberts commented that right wing reaction to his opinion has him looking for "a safe hideout", for an "impregnable fortress".  The truth is the Chief Justice was already committed to an out-of-the-way place before the health care ruling, and will spend a portion of the high court's three-month "off season" on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean.

There has been a lot of irony in the happenings of government and politics lately, and the Supreme Court health care ruling is no exception.

It is a Republican President, George W. Bush, who is responsible for John Roberts being on the high court, and being the Chief Justice.  Republicans are presently very unhappy with John Roberts, one of their own, for the opinion he rendered on The Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, a beneficiary of Roberts' action, is our Democratic President Barack Obama, whose landmark health care legislation was upheld because of John Roberts opinion and vote.

Back in 2005,  when Republican President Goerge W,. Bush sent John Roberts' name to the Senate for confirmation, then Democratic U.S. Senator Barack Obama was one of only 22 Senators to vote against confirmation--which was overwhelmingly approved 78 to 22.

It seems to me that on this occasion, Obama was wrong, and Bush was right.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In The Huffington Post..........

     Readers may be interested in my column posted Thursday, June 28, in the Huffington Post,
      "Where Do The Homeless Get Those Fancy Clothes?"

Best,    Bill

CNN's (Un)Reliable Sources

     CNN produces an excellent,  long running Sunday morning program called "Reliable Sources", which analyzes the work of the media the previous week.

I'm wondering, come next Sunday,  how host Howard Kurtz will treat CNN's unreliable handling today of the Supreme Court ruling on The Affordable Care Act.

CNN usually does as good a job as any, and a better job than most other television and cable networks in covering special news events.  However, Thursday's announcement of the high court's decision on the controversial health care law was badly botched.

Looking to scoop other media outlets, CNN mistakenly announced that the Supreme Court had declared the individual mandate portion of the law unconstitutional.  Reporter Kate Baldwin then furthered her misinformation by predicting that the entire law was being struck down.

Shortly thereafter, Baldwin did a 180--telling viewers she had been wrong and that the mandate, and all but one other provision of the law had been upheld by a five to four vote.  She had not waited to hear, or read, all of Chief Justice John Roberts' words.  She momentarily forgot something from journamism 101--getting it first is not nearly as important as getting it right.

The mistake was magnified by the facts that the law has been a divisive issue for the more than two years since its passage, and that millions upon millions of viewers were eagerly awaitig the ruling.

Imagine the emotional roller coaster ride that both proponents, and opponents of the law must have experienced,  as bitter disappointment turned to euphoria--or vice versa.

But jumping the gun with misinformation isn't the only reason that CNN is red-faced with embarrassment today.  Chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin got it all wrong, and had to admit that he is "eating crow" today.

Toobin said back in March that the case for The Affordable Care Act, as argued by the Obama administration before the Supreme Court,  was akin to a train wreck  He emphatically predicted that the entire law would be declared unconstitutional.   And then, yesterday, Toobin doubled down--saying that he was still certain that the law would be struck down.

Thursday was just a bad day for a good network.  In spite of the aforementioned difficulties, the overall CNN coverage was enlightening.    The news network's more interesting moments included the reminder of somethig ironic about the Chief Justice casting the swing, or deciding vote for upholding The Affordable Care Act.

As a Democratic U.S. Senator, Barack Obama voted against the confirmation of conservative Republican John Roberts for the high court..  Thursday, it was conservative Chief Justice John Roberts who upheld Democratic President Barack Obama's landmark health care law.

Monday, June 25, 2012

About The Supreme Court's Immigration Vote

     No, this column is not about the specifics of the Arizona immigration law that the Supreme Court ruled on today.  Neither is it to argue for or against the part of the law that was upheld, or the parts that were struck down.

You probably know the specifics and the arguments by now, and if you don't, you will have lots of help getting up to speed through the endless flow of information and commentary that will emanate from the media from this day on through the foreseeable future.

No, this column is not about the subject of the vote, but rather about the unusual way the voting went.  And by unusual, I mean the five to three vote that was not--for one of the very few times in recent memory--cast along party lines.

The vote was a welcome relief from the five to four party line tallies we've become used to.  Chief Justice Roberts and "swing man" Justice Kennedy voted with the liberals on the high court to produce the majority.

It's good to know that the Supreme Court has not yet become permanently polarized, and that the Justices can still display independent thinking and decision making.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good Sportsmanship Is Alive And Well

          Coaches as a whole in professional sports haven't  exactly been the epitome of good sportsmanship lately.  In fact,  all too much news emenating from the world of sports has been about poor sportsmanship--much of it focusing on the actions of coaches.

The dubious distinction of having the most blatant examples of poor sportsmanship involving coaches should probably go to professional football.  Bill Belicheck and his staff gave us spygate, which was a violation of fair play whereby opposing signals were stolen.

More recently, a coach--the defensive coordinator last year for the New Orleans Saints--was suspended by the National Football League for an entire season for putting a bounty on opposing players.  Injure, or otherwise put an opposing player out of the game, and be rewarded with cold, hard cash.

But, thankfully, despite such infamous tales as these, good sportsmanship is alive and well.  Proof positive is something that happened near the end of the deciding game in the National Basketball Association "Finals" last Thursday evening.

The Miami Heat were up big over the Oklahoma City Thunder with time running out and the victory was theirs.  The Heat had won the NBA Championship.  The Thunder were about to go home broken-hearted.

Scotty Brooks, the Oklahoma City Thunder coach called one last, unnecessary time out.  It was too late for strategy, too late for words of encouragement.  But Scotty had something else in mind.

First, he told his players to hold their heads up.  They had given their all.  They had fought the good flight.

Then, the ABC TV cameraman, who had intruded into the huddle, moved his focus from player to player, while the coach made eye contact with his team and added, "One last thing, guys.  After this game we are all going to walk over and shake their hands and acknowledge them as champions.  They beat us fair and square".  And twice more,  the coach stressed to his frustrated players, "They beat us fair and square".

A few minutes later, there they were, the losers hugging the winners; the winners consoling the losers.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's Flag Day, Folks!

     Yep, here we are-- another Flag Day--and as it has been for all too many years now, most Americans have taken little notice.

Many are seemingly unaware that such a thing as Flag Day even exists.  Look anywhere, and everywhere, and sadly see that the American flag is no more in evidence this June 14 than any other day of the year.  And that nationwide display of indifference begs a couple of questions.

Why should we care about a day that honors a symbol?  What makes this a special day of remembrance?

Well, to begin with, Old Glory has been around longer than the nation it  represents.  A Continental Congress passed a resolution on June 14, 1777, that made the Stars and Stripes the official emblem of a fledgling democracy not yet officially authorized or recognized.  The flag was then, and still is today, our national symbol of unity.

For more than two centuries, the flag of these United States has sparked and rekindled a surge of patriotism. 

While watching that flag fly high over a battle early in our history,  Francis Scott Key felt the devotion and emotion that empowered him to put pen to paper and give us our national anthem.

Near the end of World War II, a photograph of Marines victoriously raising the flag on Iwo Jima  gave us an iconic image that will inspire Americans for all time.

And after the horrific attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, another picture captured the raising of our flag above the rubble--raising our spirits and reinforcing our resolve.

This is, indeed, a special day, and it should be treated as such.   The Star-spangled Banner shoul be waving today everywhere in this land of the free, in this home of the brave. 



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Grover Norquist -- Public Enemy Number One

     For two centuries, and some twenty years more, these United States of America have flourished under a two-party form of governance   And overall,  that system has worked quite well.

But now, there are those--the most infamous of which is a "gentleman" named Grover Norquist--who seem hell-bent on imposing far-right ideology to the point of having a non-compromising,    "my way or the highway",  dominant and dictatorial party that rides and rules over any and all opposition.

Norquist is he of "the no tax pledge", which has been signed by the vast majority of Republican leaders, legislators, and candidates.  That number includes the presumptive GOP Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.  The pledge is a promise to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes.

In promoting his pledge, Grover Norquist is promoting gridlock.  He is encouraging a non-compromising position that would make it impossible for elected officials to conduct the people's business.

 A return to the reasonable, and economically successful tax rates of the recent past is imperative ASAP.  A return to the rates of the Clinton Presidency would be a just, and very wise move.

In recent days, we are finally beginning to hear vociferous opposition to Norquist's  "pledge".  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is leading the charge to reconsider the hard-line, no tax increase approach.

He is stressing the need to return to that point in time when conservative Republicans were also reasonable, rationale Republicans.  He mentions his father, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, as prime examples.

In these troubled times, a non-compromising position is the last thing our government needs.  That's why Grover Norquist qualifies as public enemy number one.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Obesity Battle Is Looking Winnable

          Slowly, but surely, the campaign to end smoking in America is succeeding.  And now, the battle to turn the tide on obesity is also looking winnable.

The decision by The Walt Disney Company to ban advertising for junk food throughout the giant corporation's various enterprises has been called "a game changer" by  Michelle Obama,  who has made obesity awareness her number one priority as First Lady.  This major move by Disney is especially commendable, since it will mean a significant reduction in advertising revenue.

This breaking news  follows New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announced intention to outlaw the sale of super sized sugary drinks in eating establishments.   While passage of such a law faces an uphill climb, the attendant publicity is sure to make the public more aware of the adverse effect of too much sugar, and it could reduce somewhat the overall consumption of sugary drinks.  

The First Lady's well-publicized efforts to combat obesity, especially among children, are beginning to show results, as people likel Bloomberg, and companies like Disney, join the fight.

A column a few weeks back provided proof positive of the deadly results of obesity.  The state of Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the nation.  Mississippi also--coincidentally?--has the shortest life expectancy in the nation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Which Is Really The Party Of "Failed Policies"?

     During this Presidential election year, the GOP is using the words "failed policies" to describe President Obama's first term in office.

It's a politically understandable, but premature charge.  The incumbent Commander In Chief has occupied the White House only three years plus, and it is too early, and totally unfair at this point in time to label his first term "a failed Presidency".

It is not too early, however, to label the eight years of George W. Bush a failed Presidency.  And it's not just his horrific blunder in rushing us into war in Iraq.  George W. is responsible for other failed policies, and one of those has an anniversary this week.  Eleven years ago this Thursday-- June 7, 2001--the second President Bush signed into law the first of what we have come to know as the Bush tax cuts.

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act became the law of the land out of fear. The economy was slowing down at the time and it was thought by some economists and lawmakers that tax cuts were advisable.

But the tax cuts were not intended to be permanent, and therefore a "sunset" clause was inserted in the legislation so as to have the tax cuts expire in 2010.

Less than five months earlier, the Clinton Presidency had ended with bipartisan- produced back-to-back years of balanced budgets, and with a surplus--accomplishments that now are almost beyond comprehension.

The Bush tax cuts never did bring about the boom times that its supporters predicted, and America slipped into a recession in 2007/2008. The prediction in 2001that the tax cuts would resolve the national debt by 2010 now sounds like something from Fantasy Island.

The criticism of the Bush tax cuts, however, is not just for their failure.  There's also the question of their fairness--or lack thereof. Those who have benefited the most--by far-- are those who least need the help, the super rich.

The drop in the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35%, and the elimination of the federal tax on large estates are just two of the provisions that gave "relief" to the wealthiest among us.  The idea that we need to coddle the "job creators" is debunked by the fact that the Bush tax cuts didn't produce the jobs the Republicans had predicted.

The debate over the Bush tax breaks rages on. When they were due to expire  at the end of 2010, supporters threatened to shut down the government--refusing to approve a federal budget unless the tax breaks for the wealthy were extended. Supporters won the game of chicken, and the tax breaks were extended for an additional two years.

And now, in spite of the slow economic recovery, and worries over the national debt, there is a Republican plan--the Paul Ryan plan--that calls for further tax breaks for the wealthy, and calls for a continuation of something that is unfair, and more important, doesn't work.

So, which is the party of "failed policies"? 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welcome Words Of Wisdom From Jeb Bush

     Bush bashers won't like reading this, but I believe that it is highly likely that a Bush, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, will be the Republican nominee for President in 2016 if Mitt Romney and the GOP lose in 2012.

Jeb Bush remains highly popular in the ever critical swing state of Florida, and he already has the backing of a number of key party leaders.  He has to be considered a front runner at this point in time.

That's why everything Jeb Bush says now is worth noting.  And that's why something he said this week should be considered welcome words of wisdom.

Jeb, the brother of one former President, and the son of another, gently rebuked controversial right winger Grover Norquist.

 Mr. Norquist is not an elected representative of the people, but he is a highly influential politician, who is famous--or is it infamous--for soliciting , and sometimes extorting, pledges from candidates and elected officials that they will not raise taxes.  Those pledges are, in large part, responsible for the gridlock in Congress. 

Jeb Bush indicated that he is, and will remain a reasonable Republican who will not be locked into a non-compromising position by someone like extremist Grover Norquist.

 Three times Jeb Bush has run for public office.  Three times he was asked to sign the "no raising of taxes" pledge.  And three times, he declined.

Jeb Bush is correct in saying to his fellow Republicans that to sign a pledge to Grover Norquist is to "outsource your prnciples and convictions".