Monday, July 30, 2012

Women Voters And Planned Parenthood

     A new Obama campaign ad here in Florida is getting a lot of air time and a lot of reaction.

 It's an ad in which  Mitt Romney says what he would do about Planned Parenthood if elected.  He says he "would get rid of Planned Parenthood". 

It's a move that the Republican Presidential candidate says is a necessary part of trimming federal government expenditures.  As a converted pro lifer, Romney also opposes Planned Parenthood due to its involvement with legal abortions.

That's disturbing news to a lot of women voters   Opposition to abortion is one thing, but opposition to Planned Parenthood is something else.  There are  Floridians who are pro life, but are aware of the good work done by Planned Parenthood for countless numbers of women.

Assisting women with safe, well counseled abortions is only a small part of the work done by Planned Parenthood.   Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screenings are services that are performed much more often.

And one of the major areas of service provided by planned parenthood is birth control, and that fact begs a question.

How can Mitt Romney and other pro lifers not see that encouraging and assisting with birth control reduces unintended pregnancies, and therefore, reduces the number of abortions?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sandra Day O'Connor And The Subject Of Civics

         Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has retired from the bench, but not from public service. 

At 82, the first woman appointed to the high court is still active and relevant on the national stage.  Her work deciding cases of national importance has been replaced by a new labor of love--something that places a conservative lady on this left-leaning blogger's list of favorite  American heroes.

Sandra Day O('Connor has been speaking this week about a cause I've held dear since high school days.   That would be, in the least, continued inclusion, and better still,, expansion of the teaching of civics in our nation's schools.

  Her words echo those of C.C. Kraus, a teacher who spoke of the importance of civics and left on me a lasting impression.

In this ongoing period of technological revolution, and government budget shortfalls, social studies, in general, and civics, in particular, have taken a hit to the point that they are now nearly non-existent in many a public school curriculum.

Following a quarter of a century on the Supreme Court, and then  three years as a caregiver for a terminally-ill husband afflicted with Alzheimer's, Sandra Day O'Connor founded in 2009 a nonprofit organization named iCivics. 

Its mission is to provide schools with free materials about civics and make students more familiar with government.   Three areas of educational need that are timely, and therefore stressed in this election year are the Constitution,  Presidential elections, and how and why our government is structured.

To emphasize the importance of, and the need for the teaching of civics, Sandra Day O'Connor reminds audiences of a recent study showing that less than one third of eighth-graders know what the Declaration of Independence is all about..

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Mitt The Twit"? -- Ouch, That Hurts!

       "Do Us Proud" I urged Mitt Romney in yesterday's blog.

I closed out the column by saying, "as Mitt Romney travels abroad this week, all of us, regardless of (political) party, should wish him well".  I still feel that way, and I sincerely hope the rest of his week long tour of England, Poland, and Israel goes better than his first day.

As a Presidential candidate, who could be our Commander In Chief, and the leader of the free world less than six months from now, Mitt Romney, at this point in time, represents all of America as he travels abroad.  And what he says and does reflects on all of us.

That's why it is embarrassing and painful for all Americans when less than 24 hours into the Romney trip, a London newspaper, The Sun, streams and screams the headline, "Mitt The Twit".  Other British media outlets were equally critical, and, arguably, unnecessarily cruel.

What makes such disrespectful British treatment of an American Presidential candidate embarrassing and painful, instead of invoking anger, is the plain truth that Mitt Romney invited the abuse being hurled his way.

His questioning of London's readiness for the Olympics is reason enough for the negative reaction, but for me, two other less mentioned blunders were self-inflicted wounds that are of a more serious nature--and will be long lasting.

It is incomprehensible that neither Mitt Romney nor anyone else in his entourage knew that it is a strict and absolute no-no to divulge having visited with MI6--the British Secret Intelligence Service that is the equivalent of our CIA. 

And just as inexcusable is arriving for a talk with the British opposition leader without knowing his name.   Unable to address by name, Ed Miliband--a man who could one day be the British Prime Minister--and forced instead to say "Mr. Leader", Mitt Romney presented a picure that was far from Presidential.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romney's Position On Abortion Is Fair Game

     Yesterday's blog was about a new  political ad with a message that is positive--a rarity this election year.

The ad put out by the Obama reelection team simply calls attention to a choice voters have this November.   The ad briefly states the way the incumbent President and his challenger, Mitt Romney would go about improving the economy if elected.

The President's road to a stronger economy and prosperity would begin with help for our struggling middle class; while Romney's route would begin with further benefits for our wealthiest citizens.  The ultimate goal of both candidates is a stronger economy, and a better life for all Americans.

This morning, a neighbor agreed with me that this particular Obama campaign ad is a welcome change from the political poison regularly foisted on us by both parties; but my neighbor called my attention to another Obama ad that is running at the same time here in Florida, where we live.

It's an ad which my neighbor believes is proof that "the Obama people are still running negative ads".   The ad in question reminds Floridians that Mitt Romney has vowed to work for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.  And the ad is a further reminder that Mitt Romney has said he will work to shut down Planned Parenthood.

Revealing or calling attention to a candidate's stated positions on the issues of the day does not constitute negative campaigning.  The ad my neighbor was talking about is in no way an attack ad.

Romney's position on abortion and Planned Parenthood is something women, especially those who are pro-choice, need to take into consideration; just as those who are pro-life, need to know the President's position on divisive issues.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paterno's Passing Was A Blessing In Disguise

     Last January, when iconic Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away,  the official cause of death was said to be a lung problem; but it was thought by many that the real cause of death was a broken heart.  Both the official and the theoretical cause of death may be true.  

Millions of people mourned Paterno's passing, but in retrospect, they should have welcomed as timely the coach's death.   It was a blessing in disguise.

Imagine the life Joe Paterno would be facing had he survived.  After 61 years at Penn State--46 of those years as head footballl coach--he was suddenly fired,  and forced into an unwanted retirement.

He would have lived the rest of his life in disgrace amid revelations that he knew about, but did nothing about the heinous crimes of his longtime assistant, Jerry Sandusky.

Joe Paterno would be looking at legal action against him that could have been both criminal and civil.
And he would be witness to the ruination of his reputation and his legacy-- which will probably include removal of the statue of his likeness outside the stadium where he spent a half century building one of America's most successful football programs.

It would all be a fate worse than death.  Joe Paterno's passing was a merciful end to a once great man.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

About Romney's Unsolvable Tax Return Problem

     The pressure is on from friend and foe alike for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns.  But the soon-to-be Republican candidate for President has defiantly declined to do so.

He has made public only his tax return for 2010, along with a promise to provide his return for 2011 when it is filed.  That's it, says the former Massachusetts Governor.   Two years.  No more.  No way.  Case closed.

It is possible that leading voices from his own party could eventually force Romney into reversing his position.  But it would take something tantamount to the GOP powers-that-be encouraging delegate defection that would open the door to someone else at the convention.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney will not release more returns--perhaps that's because in his mind he can not,  he dare not.  He may have a dilemma in that his tax returns problem is one that is unsolvable.

I believe it is the returns for 2008 and 2009 that may present an unsolvable problem.  Earlier returns most likely show nothing sinister--simply more evidence of immense income and wealth, and a tax rate lower than that which most Americans pay.  

It is important to note, that in the summer of 2008, before any one  knew how far south the economy would go, and how bad the recession would be--Romney was eager to pass along to GOP Presidential candidate John McCain 23 years worth of tax returns   This extensive disclosure was necessary because Romney was being vetted as a possible running mate for McCain.  .  

But later in 2008 and 2009 came unforeseen economic conditions that may have necessitated drastic action by super rich Americans such as Romney.    Those 2008 and 2009 returns cover the worst years of the sudden financial collapse and the great recession. 

It would be interesting, and perhaps very revealing, to see how Mitt Romney handled his personal finances at that time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

GOP's Obamacare Claims Debunked By USA Today

     There must surely have been weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth yesterday at Romney campaign headquarters.

The USA Today gave the GOP, and all other Americans, its findings straight and forthwith:  "Few pay more in health care law".  That bold Tuesday headline confirms for Mr. and Mrs. Average American what lawmakers and other politicians, including Republicans, have long known.

And the front page lead story is an investigative report that is in agreement with earlier findings by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.  Director Donald Morron has said that the impact on middle-income America "is on average going to be very small".   The bulk of the cost will be paid by corporations and the super rich.

Republicans have been falsely claiming to ad nauseam--whenever and wherever a podium, or microphone, or TV camera gives them access to the electorate--that The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, will be paid for in great part by the middle class. 

In actuality, however, only a  small percentage of our citizens will pay more because of the new health care law.  Most of those who will pay more are Americans who can afford health care insurance, but choose not to have it.

Those who could, but don't buy insurance will then be assessed a penalty by the IRS to help cover any future medical bills they incur but can not pay.  Those folks, and only those folks, will be assessed a penalty--call it a tax if you will.

Based on the findings of the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and the USA Today, White House economist Jason Furman was correct in declaring that,  "The Affordable Care Act is the largest health care tax cut in history", and "it will provide a significant net tax cut for middle-class families".

So when Republican leaders, or their presumptive Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, say that the cost of Obamacare will hit hard the middle class, it's  loud-mouthed bluster--and pure unadulterated baloney.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Why Behind Romney's Financial Stall

         Yesterday's blog about Mitt Romney's inexplicable stall in releasing his tax returns, and in discussing his questionable financial dealings, brought quick and critical response from a Romney supporter.

I shouldn't use the word inexplicable, because I believe there is a logical explanation for what the presumptive Republican nominee is doing--or rather what he is not doing.

My critic, and many a political pundit, see it as no big deal if Romney delays release of tax returns and defers questions about his handling of personal finances until a later date.    As long as he does it before the election, they say, his actions are okay with them, and should be, also, for all those who are hollering foul.

But the timing of Romney's eventual compliance with demands for disclosure can be an important, perhaps deciding factor in what looks now to be a very close Presidential election.  And that very real possibility is a likely explanation for the Romney stall.

Release his records now, and answer those prying, personal questions now, and Mitt Romney gives the press, the pundits, and the public, nearly four months to examine and digest the information.  And if nothing else, that information will further define Romney as a very wealthy man who pays a much lower tax rate than most Americans, and who has taken advantage of tax breaks and loopholes that most Americans oppose.

Then there is the "what if".  What if there is something hidden until now that could do serious damage to the Romney image--something that might turn off voters.

History shows that a serious problem, with attendant bad press, is less damaging and costs fewer votes for a Presidential candidate when the revelation comes just before election day.  For even though the media jumps on the story, there isn't sufficient time for the bad news to adversely affect the election as much as if the same bad news had come out earlier in the campaign.

Just prior to election day, 2000, a longstanding lie by George W. Bush was contradicted by the truth.  It came too late, however, to cause the soon-to-be President serious damage.  Bush had repeatedly gone on record as having never been arrested or convicted of a crime, when, in actuality, he had incurred a D.U.I. years earlier in Maine.

The best example of damning news that came too late to adversely affect a Presidential candidate is the Watergate scandal which became a big story just before Richard Nixon won a second term in1972.

Although the Watergate break-ins occurred in May and June, 1972, the burglars were not even indicted until September,  and the extent of Richard Nixon's involvement was not known until well after the election.   If, however, more attention had been given to the breaking story earlier on, needless to say the landslide victory by Nixon would have probably gone the other way.

These examples of Presidential candidate misdeeds-- revealed too late to impact an election--are good reason to press Mitt Romney to make full financial disclosure now.   If he has nothing to hide, then he, and voters, will feel at ease.

A continuation of stalling tactics, however, will be a reminder of something Richard Nixon (in)famously said, "Americans need to know if their President is a crook".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Memo To Mitt -- Show Us The Money

     Okay, Mitt.  So you're honest.  At least, reasonably, and relatively honest.  And for all we know, you are a good man.  Your track record for philanthropy says you are a generous man.  You are most certainly a good family man.

So why then, Mitt, won't you show us the money?   Don't we, whom you are asking for our votes, have the right to know what's with that Swiss bank account, and that Bermuda deal, and those Cayman Islands transactions?

Show us the money.  How much.  Where it is.  Why it's offshore and not in U.S. financial institutions.
What the tax returns you're withholding reveal.

You want us to believe in you, to trust you, to make you our Commander In Chief.  But before we elect you our 45th President of these United States, there is that one thing we must ask of you.

Show us the money.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Will Baseball Ever Again Be Our National Pastime?

     Football, we are told, is now our most popular team sport.  And attendance figures and television ratings would seem to add credence to that thinking.

But something I witnessed yesterday makes me wonder if baseball might be making a comeback, might be about to reclaim its place as our national pastime.

The Sunday morning news shows are for discussion and debate of the hot topics and vital issues of the day--and that usually means politics and current events.

But there they were yesterday--ABC's This Week, and CBS's Face The Nation giving a sizable segment of their programs to baseball.  I can't recall that many Sunday morning minutes being given to any sport or sporting event--and that includes Super Bowl and March madness time.

The reason for the baseball coverage is this season's resurgence of a sport so many of us identify with--a sport many of us grew up with.

There are teams--Pittsburgh and Washington are prime examples--that have been longtime losers, but are suddenly competitive again.  My Pirates have emerged from two decades of losing seasons to lead the National League in wins at the All-Star break.

And there are new players, fresh faces--many in their early 20s--whose exploits--without the aid of performance enhancing drugs--who are helping us get over the confusing, shameful steroid era.

Attendance is way up--an average of 31,000 fans per game, and Americans are once again checking daily for scores and standings.

Baseball, in addition to its storied history, has something going for it that football doesn't.  It's something columnist George Will calls "everydayness".  Unlike football, which makes us wait a week between games, baseball gives us a game almost every day.

So will baseball ever again be acknowledged as our national pastime?

I hope so.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

About Contraception -- And Common Sense

     The currently hot topic of contraception should be discussed independent of the divisive issue that is abortion.

Contraception is, pure and simply, the prevention of a pregnancy,  while abortion is the termination of a pregnancy.    Therefore, common sense tells most people that contraception is, on the whole, a good thing, in that it can prevent unwanted pregnancies that all too often result in misery for mother and child.

There are those of influence and power in Catholic circles who believe that all contraception is a bad thing.  Their opinion is based on the belief that nothing should prevent the creation of new life.

They have become more vocal of late--in large part to espouse criticism of the Melinda Gates plan to  provide 120 million women worldwide with family planning, in general, and contraception, in particular.

Melinda Gates is undertaking this ambitious project under the auspices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband.  She is one of the world's wealthiest women, and one of its most generous philanthropists.

Melinda Gates is of the Catholic faith, but she is showing something that her Catholic critics seem to lack--common sense.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What Happened & What Didn't Happen July 4, 1776

     For all but one of our nation's 237 years, this day--July 4--has been set aside to celebrate our independence.  That one day that was different was the very first Independence Day.

That day, July 4, 1776,  the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia,  adopted the Declaration of Independence that had been written by Thomas Jefferson, with the help of a committee that included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.  But there was no official or public celebrating that day.

It was four days later, July 8, when what we now refer to as the Liberty Bell rang out from the tower of Independence Hall to summon the citizenry to hear, and to celebrate, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

All other activities concerning independence occurred on days other than July 4.  It was June 28, 1776, when Jefferson presented his draft to the Congress.   And the key vote in favor of independence--the vote that put us on a road of no return--actually took place July 2, 1776.

Contrary to public presumption, the 56 men who courageously affixed their signatures to the document did not all do so at the same time.  In fact the last man to sign did not do so until January, 1777.  The names of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were not made public for six months out of fear for their safety.

It seems incredible to this history buff that it was not until 1941 that Independence Day became a national holidy.  It remains our only summer holiday that has not been changed to a Monday to create a long holiday weekend.   

One of the most interesting facts about Independence Day is that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who co-authored the Declaration of Independence, and who both became President, died the very same day, July 4, 1826--fifty years to the day after the first "4th of July".

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Supreme Court Ups Obamacare Approval Rating

          Before Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that upheld legislation officially known as The Affordable Care Act--but better known among politicians, pundits, and voters as Obamacare--the landmark health care law had dismal approval ratings.

But the five to four high court decision that keeps The Affordable Care Act the law of the land has changed overnight the way many Americans view Obamacare.  A sudden surge in its popularity now shows 46 percent of Americans approving, and a like number of Americans--46 percent--disapproving.

Important to note is the fact that details of a Gallup poll show that some of those disapproving of the law actually like Obamacare, but don't think it goes far enough--don't think it's liberal enough.

Also of interest, and importance, is how independent voters feel; and they now approve of Obamacare by a 45 to 42 margin.  And as for GOP announced intentions to try to repeal The Affordable Care Act, only 31 percent of those polled by Gallup after the Supreme Court ruling favor repealing the law in its entirety.