Archive for December, 2009

A New Year’s wish for more good jobs

The holiday phone calls didn’t yield much in the way of glad tidings. Most of us are hale and hearty — or at least ambulatory. But I was struck by how many friends and extended family members have been hit by the hacking blades of the Great Recession, with its layoffs, foreclosures and bankruptcies.

A cousin told me her son, a college grad, had been laid off. He’s just one of several young adults I know whose early experience with the job market has been marked by lay-offs, cutbacks, shortened hours and smaller paychecks. News of an acquaintance I hadn’t heard from in years included her husband’s futile, year-long quest for work. Other friends reported that they’d found jobs, at last, but were earning less.

I’ve grown use to the mind-numbing news reports of double-digit unemployment, a “jobless” recovery and “structural” difficulties that suggest well-paying jobs may be slow to appear. Still, I was taken aback by the personal accounts from people I know, proud folks who don’t …

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Be it resolved: No more New Year’s resolutions

Here is the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept, from a column I wrote in December 2004:

I’m making only one New Year’s resolution this year: I will make no New Year’s resolutions. I have finally resolved that New Year’s resolutions only frustrate me since I never keep them.
Oh, I’ve tried.
Take the resolution about being more organized — one that I’ve been making every other year for three decades. I’ve bought calendars; I’ve read books on time management; I have several early versions of personal data assistants in a drawer somewhere. (The instruction books were so intimidating I never learned to program them.)
The simple fact is that I’m disorganized by personality; only a brain transplant would change that essential part of my nature. So those who know me well have learned to call me to remind me of appointments (yes, I keep appointments in my calendar, but I can’t remember to look at it), to step over the clutter that inevitably falls off the edge of my desk and …

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More GOP hypocrisy on terrorism

Would the republic be better off if Democrats behaved more like Republicans — if Democrats were mean, vicious hypocrites willing to do or say anything for partisan gain? Probably not. But I’d sure feel better if Democrats had half the meanness that Republicans do.

This headline from Politico says it all:

President Obama takes the heat President Bush did not

Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of Sept. 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.

That stands in sharp contrast to the withering criticism President Barack Obama has received from Republicans and some in the …

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Contributing to peace on earth through CARE

In his powerful and eloquent Nobel Prize lecture, President Obama, exploring the chasm between our hopes for peace and the reality of war, exhorted his audience to continue striving for a just and peaceful world.

“. . . We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their fundamental faith in human progress — that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey. . .

“Let us reach for the world that ought to be. . .”, the president said.

Obama’s speech was inspiring but short on details for those of us who don’t control the levers of state. How do we “reach for the world that ought to be” in an era of airplane bombers with explosives in their underwear or shoes? What can the average citizen do to help bring about peace on earth and goodwill to all men …

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When a father reports his son, no need to profile

For reasons that have never been entirely clear, conservatives hate something they call “political correctness” and are eager to profile persons based on their race or religion. That’s not only morally wrong, but it’s also stupid. It wouldn’t work to prevent terrorist attacks.

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, has been taking to the airwaves complaining that “political correctness” has led to terrorist attacks under the Obama administration. According to TPM,

King is one of several figures to appear on Fox News over the weekend and rail against the “political correctness” that they say has led to incidents like the Fort Hood shootings, and most recently, the attempted attack on Flight 253.

The terrorist watch list already has more than 500,000 names on it — which is part of the problem. That makes it ineffective. No way can our security apparatus keep on eye on 500,000 people. How many names would it have if we started …

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Tom Ridge is wrong about terror suspect

As the partisan responses to the alleged Nigerian terrorist continue, Tom Ridge — he of the hyped terror alerts — declared that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab doesn’t deserve the legal rights provided under the U.S. Constitution.
On CNN’s Larry King Live, Ridge said:

“I take a look at this individual who has been charged criminally, does that mean he gets his Miranda warnings? The only information we get is if he volunteers it?” Ridge said. “He’s not a citizen of this country. He’s a terrorist, and I don’t think he deserves the full range of protections of our criminal justice system embodied in the Constitution of the United States.”

Why is Ridge afraid of allowing Abdulmutallab to have constitutional protections? There was a plane full of witnesses to his terrorism; he was caught fire-handed, so to speak.

Besides, affording the protections of our Bill of Rights to suspects such as Abdulmutallab reminds moderate Muslims — such as Abdulmutallab’s father — that the U.S. practices …

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U.S. Senate is undemocratic, dysfunctional

Most Americans are under the impression that Congress is governed by a set of rules that adhere closely to what they learned in their high school civics classes, including the basic principle of majority governance. Voters may remember something about obscure parliamentary procedures and secretive rules that skirt democratic values, but they still believe that the majority rules.

They’re wrong.

High school civics texts are no more useful in telling students how the U.S. Congress works — especially the Senate — than my old high school copy of J. Edgar Hoover’s “A Study of Communism” would be in telling kids about Eastern Europe. It’s possible that the Senate was once a rarified — and dignified — institution of thoughtful debate and polite dissent, but it’s now a deeply dysfunctional chamber where grandstanding rules and obstruction is a high art form.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) clarified the GOP’s guiding philosophy back in July, when declared derailing health care reform his …

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Leftists are wrong: Health care bill is worth passing

Howard Dean and plenty of other good liberals are so angry at the way health care reform legislation has been watered down that they are arguing that the legislation isn’t worth passing. I can understand their disappointment. I can also understand their anger at all the compromises that have been made in order to draw the support of moderates, like Joe Lieberman, who turn around and spit on the process, anyway.

But they’re wrong about the bill not being worth passage. It would still improve the lives of millions of Americans who don’t have access to health care. Ronald Brownstein of The National Journal has an excellent post pointing out why Dean and his ilk are wrong:

Maybe one reason former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and so much of the digital Left can so casually dismiss the Senate health care reform bill is that they operate in an environment where so few people need to worry about access to insurance.

The 2004 presidential campaign that propelled Dean to national prominence …

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Obama has no influence in Copenhagen

Obama shed some of his famous cool in Copenhagen, blasting China and other big polluters for their failure to act, according to Politico:

“I have to be honest, as the world watches us… I think our ability to take collective action is doubt and it hangs in the balance,” Obama told the CO-15 plenary session as hope for anything more than a vague political agreement faded.

“The time for talk is over, this is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward. We can do that and everyone who is in this room will be part of an historic endeavor or we can choose delay,” he said, predicting: “We will back here making the same stale arguments, year after year, perhaps decade after decade, all until the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.”

He added: “The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart… We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years.”

But Obama wasn’t in a position to excoriate …

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What kind of prayer is that?

I grew up Baptist in Alabama, surrounded by ultra-conservatives whose religious beliefs were quite different from mine. Southern Baptists split with their northern counterparts because the southerners believed that God condoned slavery. White southern church-goers were also likely to oppose full citizenship for black Americans, using the Bible as backup for their beliefs.

Despite all that, I’m still surprised to hear that an ultra-conservative religious group, the Family Research Council Action PAC,  held a video “prayercast” to pray that God will defeat health care legislation. You’re kidding, right?

An estimated 40,000 people die in this country every year because they don’t have access to health care. The Senate’s health care bill takes very little away from anybody while providing access to health insurance to millions more Americans. So, in the Christmas season, which celebrates the birth of Christ (supposedly), these jokers want God not to make life any easier for …

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