The Moderate Voice http://themoderatevoice.com An Internet hub with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, indies, centrists, moderates, and right Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:50:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Obama ‘Turns the Nuclear Cheek’ To Vladimir Putin (Libero Quotidiano, Italy) http://themoderatevoice.com/193697/obama-turns-the-nuclear-cheek-to-vladimir-putin-libero-quotidiano-italy/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193697/obama-turns-the-nuclear-cheek-to-vladimir-putin-libero-quotidiano-italy/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:41:07 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193697 putin-obama-handshake-caption_pic

Why did President Obama decide last week, in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, to cut the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal four years earlier than required under the 2010 NEW Start Treaty? For Italy’s Libero Quotidiano, columnist Glauco Maggi writes that not only are most E.U. leaders on Putin’s side, but President Obama ‘is a left-wing ideologue, a slave to a pacifism divorced from reality, who knows only how to surrender to the bad faith of his opponents.’

For Libero Quotidiano, Glauco Maggi starts out his broadside against President Obama this way:

Obama turns the other cheek to Putin, announcing a voluntary reduction in U.S. nuclear missiles, which even the Russians didn’t expect. The “outlaw” Vladimir, who has already forcibly pried Crimea away from Ukraine without it costing him more than a few ridiculous travel restrictions on his officials, needs only to observe the prevarications of the American administration, shilly-shallying about what to do. Even mild-mannered John Kerry, a “veteran” of his own personal war when he was a young regretful soldier (in favor of Vietnam and against America), couldn’t help but notice that there are “Russian agitators in eastern Ukraine” who are infiltrators from Moscow, and that the 50,000 Russian troops massed along the border aren’t on a sightseeing trip, but are preparing for something big.

 

Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the secretary of state accused Moscow of infiltrating Ukraine with agitators, which he called “an illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilize a sovereign state and create a contrived crisis with paid operatives across an international boundary.”

 

That is, they use local ethnic Russians, who are not threatened by the rest of the population, as a justification for phase two of its invasion. Kerry sees and says the right things, even if his analysis fails to answer the question of what American will do if, after Crimea, the Russians cross the border. Moreover, Obama has made it abundantly clear to Putin that Ukraine is not “foremost in his mind,” and that he will surely not lift a finger on a military level, even if all of Ukraine falls to Moscow. Rather, he will launch some additional diplomatic and economic propaganda, introduce some additional sanctions, promise to sell natural gas to Europe (in two years or so), and in the meantime, the situation will “crystallize.” The way it did in regions of Georgia taken by Putin in 2008. As it did in Assad’s Syria after Obama’s pathetic threat of U.S. air raids ended with surrender to Putin, plenipotentiary of “Syrian chemical disarmament,” which will never be completely achieved.

 

Europeans, of course, are happy not to have precipitated the crisis in Kiev between Washington and Moscow. E.U. governments are closer to the American government in words (because there isn’t a Republican in the White House at the moment), and formally they are NATO allies, but given their portfolio of interests, almost all of E.U. leaders stand by Putin’s side, even if it was left to his friend Silvio Berlusconi, and his business partner, the former Socialist German Chancellor Helmut Schroeder, to say so explicitly. So without Western pressure to take serious action on the Ukraine crisis, Obama is only too happy to dedicate his time to income inequality, the minimum wage, salary discrepancies between men and women, as well as telling lies about Obamacare.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR ITALIAN, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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To Beat Putin, West Needs Armor, Not Empathy (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany) http://themoderatevoice.com/193695/to-beat-putin-west-needs-armor-not-empathy-frankfurter-allgemeine-zeitung-germany/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193695/to-beat-putin-west-needs-armor-not-empathy-frankfurter-allgemeine-zeitung-germany/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:28:09 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193695 ukraine-disarm-soldier-caption_pic

Does historical fear explain German ‘understanding’ for Vladimir Putin’s behavior in Ukraine? For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, columnist Volker Zastrow challenges the idea that Moscow is justifiably indignant after NATO broke its promise not to expand NATO, and warns that hand-wringing and ‘false empathy’ will do nothing to address the security problem Russia represents. According to Zastrow, only dramatically greater military spending will do that.

For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Volker Zastrow attacks ‘false empathy’ for Russia, and lays bare Germany’s raw fear of war that he believes now threatens the West:

Since Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and the Black Sea Peninsula via an illegal referendum and military force, Germany has once again been swarming with Russia sympathizers. Since then, statements about how right Putin was and that the West drove him to it have been frequently made in Germany. The E.U. and the West are to blame for Putin’s political aggression. One really must be contorted into knots to believe this, especially since at first glance, it is obviously wrong. Yet like houseflies, such ideas are flying in through the open window, the latest being when Stern Magazine published the allegation that the West had promised Gorbachev that NATO wouldn’t expand if his empire fell apart. This was reprinted everywhere as if proven historical fact. This is simply nonsense.

 

Have we in Germany forgotten that not long ago, the Federal Republic’s membership in the Western military alliance was the biggest obstacle to reunification? At the time, the SPD [Social Democratic Party] brought a touch of Stalin, so to speak, back into play: We thought out loud about whether a unified, alliance-free Germany could be created, as the Soviet dictator suggested in 1952. The Social Democrats were no strangers to such considerations, and since the seventies were quite inclined toward the idea of neutrality. This was called the “second phase of political détente.” During the eighties, there was even a trend toward neutrality among national conservatives. So why not pay the price for reunification that we wanted anyway and once and for all, get out of the East-West conflict and be bloc-free?

 

But reunification came the way it came, because Gorbachev did what he did – and what many hardly thought possible: He accepted the expansion of NATO. Because of this, Magnus Enzensberger considered him among the “heroes of retreat.” On a more basic level, one can say that Gorbachev was a realist. He was aware of how exhausted and weak his country was. So the whole of Germany became part of NATO – and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Now in Germany, however, a quarter of a century later, a legend is taking hold that the Russians had been promised something quite different. Why is that? Do Germans love the Russians so much that for Crimea, they would rewrite their own history?

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR GERMAN, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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The Real Threat http://themoderatevoice.com/193690/the-real-threat/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193690/the-real-threat/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:29:03 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193690 hqdefault (4)

The events at the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada and the horrible killings in Kansas City have once again reminded us of the threat posed by right wing extremists in the United states. But are they a greater threat than the Islamic terrorists?  Peter Bergen thinks so: 

In fact, since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11. (The total includes the latest shootings in Kansas, which are being classified as a hate crime).

By contrast, terrorists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology have killed 23 people in the United States since 9/11.

The numbers speak for them selves.   Now while no one has been killed at Cliven Bundy’s ranch stand off I don’t see it ending well. Bundy has made it clear that he does not consider the Federal Government to be legitimate.  I would appear that he and his followers are willing to die for their cause, not unlike suicide bombers.  The Federal Government can’t let him get away with it.  Most of the other ranchers in the area pay their grazing fees to the BLM – Bundy has not paid his since 1993 and owes over a million dollars.  That’s how this all started, the BLM went in to seize his cattle for non-payment.  Cliven Bundy is a right wing anarchist and should be treated as such.

But still he has become a hero to many Republican politicians, right wing talkers and FOX news.  This should be reason enough for advertisers to take their  ads off of FOX.

Yes the extreme right wing is a greater threat than Islamic terrorists in this country but any attempt to say so brings howls from many Republicans and the right wing media complex.

Note: a good run down of the various right wing killings can be found here.

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Please Take A Moment To Meet Ashol-Pan http://themoderatevoice.com/193660/please-take-a-moment-to-meet-ashol-pan/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193660/please-take-a-moment-to-meet-ashol-pan/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:26:53 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193660 article-2589789-1C92D2D000000578-526_964x675
The next time you’re feeling chuff about that backyard barbeque you put together all by your lonesome, breaking 250 in league bowling, or that honor roll student child who you’re convinced is destined for an Ivy League school, please pause for a moment and take a brief trip to the other side of the planet to meet a girl by the name of Ashol-Pan.

Ashol-Pan is a Kazakh who lives in western Mongolia. She may never go to a barbeque, let alone bowl or attend college, but at the tender age of 13 has harnessed an extraordinary force of nature, a huge golden eagle she uses for hunting foxes and hares in the Altai mountain range.

Learn more here about Ashol-Pan, who has become celebrated for an otherwise male activity many centuries old. Understand that it is not the photography of Asher Svidensky that is so incredible (it is extraordinary) but Ashol-Pan’s accomplishment. And perhaps consider how comparatively mundane your sheltered existence is.

Photograph by Asher Svidensky

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Bill O’Reilly: Conservatives won’t watch Stephen Colbert on the ‘Late Show’ http://themoderatevoice.com/193693/bill-oreilly-conservatives-wont-watch-stephen-colbert-on-the-late-show/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193693/bill-oreilly-conservatives-wont-watch-stephen-colbert-on-the-late-show/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:59:42 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/193693/bill-oreilly-conservatives-wont-watch-stephen-colbert-on-the-late-show/
Bill O’Reilly: Conservatives won’t watch Stephen Colbert on the ‘Late Show’ (via NJ.com)

The conservative campaign against Stephen Colbert is just getting started. Days after radio host Rush Limbaugh described David Letterman’s replacement as a threat to “traditional American values,” Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has predicted conservatives…



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Kyle White To Be Awarded Medal Of Honor http://themoderatevoice.com/193689/kyle-white-to-be-awarded-medal-of-honor/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193689/kyle-white-to-be-awarded-medal-of-honor/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:11:58 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193689 ghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhfg

Once again I think we are all humbled

From the Army Times article

Spc. Kyle White’s platoon leader was dead, as was a Marine sergeant tasked with advising Afghan soldiers. A fellow paratrooper was wounded, and at least three others were missing.

White, already dazed from an explosion, repeatedly ran the gauntlet of enemy fire to get to the wounded and fallen. When the shooting stopped and night fell, White, who was barely 20 years old, cared for his wounded brother, called in steady radio reports, directed security and guided in close-air support until the medevac birds were able to come and evacuate the wounded and the dead.

For his actions more than six years ago, on Nov. 8, 2007, White will receive the Medal of Honor, the White House announced Tuesday.

White said President Obama informed him about the Medal of Honor on Feb. 10. It was a short phone call, he said, and much of it is a blur.

“It still feels surreal,” White told Army Times, shortly after getting the call. “I know it’s coming and it’s happening, but I don’t really know how you’re supposed to feel. I didn’t have much to say except, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’

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Ezra Klein on Obamacare http://themoderatevoice.com/193550/ezra-klein-on-obamacare/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193550/ezra-klein-on-obamacare/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:41:29 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193550 shutterstock_165673976

Ezra Klein comments on Obamacare Derangement Syndrome on Vox.

 

Today, the right struggles with Obamacare Derangement Syndrome: the acute inability to see Obamacare as anything but a catastrophic failure that the American people will soon reject. For those suffering from ODS, all bad Obamacare news is good news, and all good Obamacare news is spin. In this world, delays of minor provisions in the law prove that the entire structure is collapsing, while surges of millions of people enrolling in insurance don’t prove anything at all.

 

ODS has kept Republicans from updating their mental model of how Obamacare is doing. To them, the law’s disastrous rollout proved that it was doomed. The fact that it recovered beyond anyone’s expectations — literally, not a single analyst or policymaker I spoke to in December thought it credible that the exchanges would sign up 7 million by April, much less 7.5 million — hasn’t made much of an impression.

 

There are still many good critiques to make of Obamacare. But Republicans don’t want to critique Obamacare. They want to stop it. Repeal it. They want to make it the hill big-government liberalism dies upon. And those in the party who know better continue to be cowed by those in the party who don’t. So long as Ted Cruz is going to New Hampshire promising that Obamacare can be stopped, no Republican can step before the faithful and outline a plan for how it can be tweaked.

 

The irony of this is that Obamacare’s successes are, in many cases, conservatism’s successes. The individual mandate is a conservative idea — and it’s working. Liberals were skeptical that private insurers would compete on price even absent a public option — but they are. High-deductible health plans are a longtime conservative solution for health costs — and Obamacare is spreading them far and wide. But conservatives can’t take credit for any of this, much less build on it.

 

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

http://thesensiblecentercom.blogspot.com/2014/04/ezea-klein-on-obamacare.html

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The Prophecy of Obama http://themoderatevoice.com/193661/the-prophecy-of-obama/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193661/the-prophecy-of-obama/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:00:41 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193661 President Obama can certainly be blamed for a number of things, and questioned for his views and actions as chief executive. But does he have anything to do with the, “Blood Moon,” which was a total lunar eclipse in the early hours of Tuesday morning? Of course not.

Referring to President Obama’s criticism of Congressional gridlock, stating he has, “a pen and a phone,” and is willing to take executive action, World Net Daily (wnd.com) makes a connection. God, asserts Mark Blitz, is warning us and he is using something more powerful than a pen and a phone.

There are many who believe a deal between Palestine and Israel is contrary to Biblical history and the will of God. By meddling in these affairs, we upset Him.

And, of course, this is a quick remark on Barack Obama’s supposed arrogance. Many far-right Conservatives and evangelical christians often mention how the President thinks he is better than others and embodies a Messiah complex, placing him above God and his aforementioned will.

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N Is For Nature http://themoderatevoice.com/193669/n-is-for-nature/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193669/n-is-for-nature/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:38:13 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193669 Very early Monday morning I found myself standing in my backyard looking up in the sky as the moon gradually vanished and then turned blood red.

I was texting about it with a friend and sent the comment “Nature is Awesome”.

And as I reflected on that idea today it occurred to me how often we take nature for granted. All of the beauty that surrounds us every day. The incredibly complex ecosystem that is necessary for all of that beauty to exist (and indeed for us to be there to watch).

With that thought in mind I share a few images for your enjoyment, and for your reflection.

Please feel free to share your own

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nature 2

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nature 5nature 6

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Cartoon: Putin on the Blitz (Guest Cartoonist) http://themoderatevoice.com/193677/cartoon-putin-on-the-blitz-guest-cartoonist/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193677/cartoon-putin-on-the-blitz-guest-cartoonist/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:23:18 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193677 Putin on the Blitz
by Mike Peters

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OF RELATED INTEREST:

--The cost of Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine
Stephen Harper attacks Putin on Ukraine to burnish legacy: Walkom
U.S. giving Putin green light in Ukraine?
Putin warns Merkel of civil war in Ukraine
Will Putin Fall Victim to One of History’s Classic Blunders?
Ukraine PM says country ‘at war’ as pro-Russian militias storm police station in Gorlivka

Mike Peters is recognized as one of our nation’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist. His favorite expression “WHAT A HOOT” certainly sums up his outlook on his life and work which are inexorably entwined. Mike’s warm, easygoing and zany demeanor is evidence that his personality matches his creative talents. As so eloquently phrased by a colleague — “Mike is the Peter Pan of the cartooning world; he’s boyishly charming, good with a rapier and doesn’t spend a lot of time on the ground. And he doesn’t seem to want to grow up”.

The Comic Strip Mother Goose & Grimm appears in over 800 newspapers worldwide and consistently places in the top 10 most popular ratings. Licensees distribute Grimmy products all over the world, and the Grimmy TV show continues to air in several countries. Mother Goose & Grimm is included in the Toon Lagoon theme park at Universal Studios that opened in July 1999.

This copyrighted cartoon is licensed to be run on TMV and is from his website. Reproduction elsewhere is strictly prohibited.

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Fall of the House of Bush? http://themoderatevoice.com/193667/fall-of-the-house-of-bush/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193667/fall-of-the-house-of-bush/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:11:43 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193667 John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune

John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune

Are hard-line Republican conservatives about to implement their own version of political entitlement reform? Are we now witnessing the beginning of the fall of the House of Bush?

If Edgar Allen Poe were alive and writing political analysis, it might make a nice story.

Only a few weeks ago reports said influential Republicans were trying to draft former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush into the 2016 Presidential nomination race. The big moneymen (correctly) feared New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was irreparably damaged national political goods. The reason: “Bridgegate,” which partially replaced Christie’s straight-talking Jersey ‘tude persona with the image (correctly or otherwise) of a bullying, power-abusing, cover-you-know-what politician.

Enter pressures on Jeb Bush to run and signs that Bush was seriously dipping his toe into the Republican Presidential waters, despite the party’s strong rightward current. He immediately got bitten by elephant-fish piranhas.

When he left office in 2007 he was considered a mainstream conservative Republican, but the kind of conservatives who walked away from his father George H.W. Bush now increasingly control — and define — his party. His father infuriated conservatives in 1990 when he reached across the aisle and worked with Congressional Democrats to raise taxes despite his famous Peggy Noonan-written 1988 Republican convention line: “Read my lips: No new taxes!”

Jeb recently infuriated conservatives when he said illegal immigrants came to the U.S. in “an act of love.” Conservatives in New Hampshire later booed at the mention of his name. Some Senators warned The Hill of “Bush fatigue.” But those pushing Bush would risk that rather than having Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul head their party’s ticket.

Paul scares the bejesus out of many establishment and conservative Republicans due to his “soft… isolationist” libertarian positions on foreign policy and defense. Blogger Martin Longman writes that there’s a bipartisan movement to short-circuit Paul, and warns that Democrats shouldn’t be deluded by him.

“So, yes, powerful status quo forces are going to try to marginalize and disappear Rand Paul, each for their own reasons. But you should expect progressives to join in the chorus, for a different reason. Rand Paul is encroaching on our turf in certain areas (meaning that we, in effect, agree him in some areas), but we do not see him as someone we can work with constructively. Perhaps we could work with him on some issues if he were to remain a U.S. Senator, but as a presidential candidate, it is his differences not his similarities that are the top concern.”

According to some reports, various Republican moneybags haven’t given up on Christie. Look for billionaire Sheldon Adelson to give big bucks to anyone but Paul because many Jews don’t consider him or his father Ron friends of Israel — or even of Jews.

Still, there is that Bush name, which isn’t the elephant in the room, but IS the room. Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a New Yorker piece headlined “Poll: Majority of Americans would support Jeb Bush painting.” Its key paragraph: “According to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, seventy-four per cent of those surveyed ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement: ‘Jeb Bush painting would be a really good thing for the United States and also for the rest of the world.’”

Subtext: not another Bush!

So welcome to the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination sweepstakes where you’ll likely see a series of “Anyone But” campaigns: Anyone But Ted Cruz, Anyone But Rand Paul, and Anyone But Jeb Bush. That George W. Bush’s more moderate, inclusive, bigger-tent seeking brother should be included in the Anyone But category shows you how the once sturdy noblesse oblige House of Bush has deteriorated since GWB almost ran it into the ground.

Having a famous name doesn’t help if many don’t want to be associated with the name — or want to forget the name.

Is the House of Bush ready to be condemned? Not yet, but for it to sell it’ll need some convincing repairs to pass conservative primary inspectors, and appeal to the current national market.

Otherwise, get ready to watch the career-ending wrecking ball hit.


Copyright 2014 Joe Gandelman. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

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Religion in a Dignitarian World http://themoderatevoice.com/193658/religion-in-a-dignitarian-world/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193658/religion-in-a-dignitarian-world/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:37:39 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193658 This is the seventeenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 11: RELIGION IN A DIGNITARIAN WORLD

If there is no God, Not everything is permitted to Man. He is still his brother’s keeper And he is not permitted to sadden his brother, By saying that there is no God. –Czeslaw Milosz, Polish Nobel laureate in literature

This century will be defined by a debate that will run through the remainder of its decades: religion versus science. Religion will lose. –John McLaughlin, American talk show host

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. –Meister Eckhart, thirteenth-century German mystic

Religion is at once humanity’s consolation and its divider. As individuals, we turn to religion for solace. The concept of the soul invests our existence with a kind of transcendence and helps us cope with the harsh reality that, as Thomas Hobbes famously wrote, life is often “nasty, brutish, and short.” The idea of God not only serves as a repository for all we do not yet understand–and there will always be plenty of that–but also provides us with a certain dignity. For that reason alone, religion cannot be omitted in discussing a dignitarian world.

Religion: Dignifier of Humankind

Religions the world over teach the sanctity of human dignity. Theistic religions go further and proclaim the existence of a personal, caring God. Given the supreme importance of dignity and our own spotty record when it comes to according it to each other, it’s the rare person who, when all worldly options seemed exhausted, has not wished for divine intervention. In extremis, even skeptics are apt to question, if not suspend, their disbelief. Under dire circumstances, they, too, are prone to hope, if not pray, for some sort of suprahuman or supernatural source of respect. As the “dignifier of last resort,” God comforts us through all the stages on life’s way.

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But despite, or perhaps because of, its place of privilege in the human heart, religion has also been the root of much conflict. It has divided individuals, groups, and entire cultures one from another, and has been invoked as a rationale for violence and war.

These diametrically opposed uses of religion–to confirm the dignity of those who share the faith while sanctioning indignity toward people of a different faith or no faith at all–have led to a polarization of attitudes regarding its role in society. Its potential to trigger debate and sow discord–not only between religion and science but more significantly among the various religions–has a long history that continues into the present. Some observers are even warning that religious conflict may escalate into a “clash of civilizations.”

It is impossible to picture a dignitarian world in which these divisive struggles are not resolved. The model-building perspective illuminates the complementarities of the conservative and progressive positions in politics. On the international front, it suggests a better game than war. How might it help assuage the contentiousness that has for so long been associated with religion?

Religion and Science

In previous chapters I’ve used quotations as pithy summaries of complex ideas. The McLaughlin epigraph at the head of this chapter serves a different purpose. Like much punditry, it’s a provocation. Sorting out what’s right and what’s wrong about the prediction of this onetime Jesuit priest will help us identify the vital role that religion has to play in a dignitarian society.

When religion embraces a particular nature model, it usually does so fixedly. As a consequence, when science moves on to a new model, as it invariably does, religion is left advocating outdated beliefs. That’s the position in which the Catholic Church found itself in 1600 in defending Ptolemy’s earth-centered model of the solar system against the sun-centered Copernican one. It’s the situation in which supporters of creationism–and its offspring, intelligent design–find themselves today.

Religion is not likely to win an argument with contemporary science by championing an earlier science model. Many religious leaders know this and cheerfully cede the business of modeling nature to scientists. Neither they nor the scientists who study these matters, many of whom are themselves people of faith, see any contradiction between the perennial wisdom embodied in the world’s religions and, say, Darwin’s theory of evolution, the geological theory of plate tectonics, or the Big Bang theory of the cosmos. For example, Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”

That any of the scientific theories mentioned just above could, in principle, be incorrect or incomplete is taken for granted by the scientific world even though, as of today, there is no evidence that contradicts them unambiguously. Darwin’s theory of evolution, Newton’s laws of motion, and quantum theory are, of course, “just theories.”But each of them is an extremely useful and accurate one. Applied within their domains of validity, they all work well. No society can fully avail itself of modern technology without the guidance provided by these models.

As long as religion doesn’t take positions on nature models, it can avoid ending up stranded with a set of obsolete convictions, and find itself defending an old nature model against a new, improved one. If that’s what McLaughlin meant, he’s right, but he isn’t telling us anything Galileo didn’t know.

Religion and Values

Just as religion finds itself challenging science when it identifies with particular nature models, so, too, when it enters the realm of values and politics, must it expect to compete for hearts and minds with evolving social and political models. Here the case is not as clear-cut as with nature models because it is typically much harder to demonstrate the superiority of a new social or political model than it is of a new nature model. The evidence is often ambiguous, even contradictory, partly because intangible personal preferences play a much larger role. As everyone who has argued politics is aware, the “facts” cited by partisans in support of their policy choices are often as debatable as the policies themselves.

Like nature models, political and social models are shaped by human experience, and as experience accumulates, models by necessity change. Religious models could, in principle, keep pace, but generally they tend to lag behind the emerging social consensus. Why? Because the morals espoused by religion have usually proven their worth over very long periods of time. Hence, the first impulse is to insist that behaviors that contradict these ethical models be forced into conformity with them.

This conservative stance not only avoids risk but also affirms the power of the presiding authorities, just as the church’s opposition to the Copernican model did.

The fact that tradition is often, but not infallibly, right goes to the essence of the eternal wrangling that has long divided empirical and ecclesiastical teachings. Resolving this schism will close an open wound that must be healed in order to firmly ground a dignitarian society. What is now traditional was not always so. To see inherited values as absolute truths handed down from on high fails to recognize that they earned their stripes in competition with alternative precepts that lost out. It’s important to acknowledge that millions of lives were sacrificed to establish the values we now live by. The bloodiest wars, however horrible, often played a part in forging our human identity and its many cultural variations.

In this view the term “moral” does not gain its legitimacy as “received wisdom” set forth in holy writ or passed down from divine to human hands. Rather, it is a prescriptive model based on close observation, intuition, and extrapolation. Prophets like Moses, Buddha, Lao-tzu, Mo-tzu, Jesus, Muhammad, Sankara, and others are seen as extraordinarily perceptive philosophers with an uncanny knack for the long view (in particular, for discerning behaviors that foster long-term social equilibrium). Then and now, moral precepts can be understood to be grounded in an empirical knowledge of cause and effect.

Take, for example, the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” It is not hard to imagine that witnesses to tit-for-tat cycles of revenge murders concluded that “not killing” was the way to avoid deadly multi-generational feuds and that someone–in this case, Moses–enshrined this realization for others and posterity. From a model-building perspective, it’s plausible that all the Ten Commandments were assembled from the combined wisdom of a number of people.

Drawing on the oral and written history of past and present generations and bearing close witness to their own psychodynamics, they realized that certain individual behaviors ran counter to personal stability or group solidarity, leaving oneself or one’s community vulnerable to exploitation and domination. They labeled these practices “immoral,” anticipating that over time economic, psychological, social, and political forces would bring about either their elimination or the decline and disappearance of individuals or groups who countenanced them.

These nuggets of moral genius, and many others of comparable significance, are recorded in the world’s holy books. Distilled and refined through the ages, they constitute the ethical foundation of society. If somehow they were to disappear and we had to start over,we would, by trial and error and with much bloodshed, gradually rediscover them from scratch (think of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies). They are neither arbitrary nor is it mandatory to attribute them to revelation, though one is perfectly free to do so if one wishes.But we may equally suspect they were unearthed in the same way we discover everything else–through an arduous process of inquiry and testing. Having demonstrated their worth, they were then elevated to special status in a process similar to that which results in the formulation and promulgation of scientific models.

Understanding morality as evidence-based amounts to tracing general behavioral guidelines back to a complex set of empirical observations. Once we have done so, a given moral precept can stand as shorthand for the whole body of observations and reasoning that lies underneath. The ethical formulations of religion represent an accumulation of such proverbial phrases, which function as reminders and guides. As with all models, these are not infallible. Further scrutiny can lead to their modification. More often, however, additional experience validates them. Exceptions have long been allowed to “Thou shalt not kill”–for example, capital punishment and warfare. But Moses may yet have the last word. As we move into the twenty-first century, the global trend to abolish capital punishment is unmistakable and the pressure to eliminate war is mounting. It’s not even out of the question that someday–as we develop alternative sources of protein–we’ll decide that this ancient commandment applies not only to our fellow human beings but to the animal kingdom as well.

Religion is the chief repository of the time-tested wisdom of the ages, the preeminent teacher of precepts that have acquired the mantle of tradition. But as every reformer knows, tradition has its downside. Old moral codes can stifle progress by strangling in the crib inklings of a better world. While the heavy hand of custom saves us from our worst, it too often seems to keep us from our best.

Together, tradition and precedent, sometimes fortified with assertions of infallibility, constitute a high hurdle that any new social or political model must clear. A case in point was the twentieth-century shift in the prevailing societal consensus on issues like race, gender, marriage, divorce, and sex. Only after decades of debate and strife did new values displace older ones. Where religious doctrine failed to adjust, the public gradually stopped paying it much attention. This has likely been a factor in the precipitous decline, since World War II, of church attendance in much of Europe. Over the long term, people increasingly looked not to their church, synagogue, or mosque for their views on how to live and how to vote, but rather to culture and politics.

As the distillation of centuries of learning, religion has much to offer the modern world. But when it attaches itself rigidly to certain social or political models it eventually loses relevance in those domains because models of any stripe that are not allowed to evolve are invariably abandoned. To summarize, McLaughlin’s prediction that religion will lose out to science by century’s end is right in the trivial sense–already recognized by many religious leaders–that science typically espouses newer, better nature models than does religion.

Similarly, when religion allies itself with a partisan political doctrine–no matter if it’s left or right–it weds itself to the values of a particular time. That is what churchmen who supported Nazism did when they invoked their religious beliefs to further the state’s nationalistic and anti-Semitic agenda. It is what religious supporters of segregation did in the American South. And it is what defenders of genital cutting are doing today. Political models and cultural values are evolving rapidly, and whenever religion aligns itself with partisan social models it can’t expect to retain its hold over the young, on whom the weight of tradition falls far more lightly. To chain theology to the ship of state is to go down with it when it sinks.

What does this perspective suggest regarding the current debate about same-sex marriage? In the end, the matter will be decided not by the victory of one or another interpretation of scripture, but by reference to emerging social values, very much in the way the disagreements over slavery, and a century later, over segregation,were decided.As it became clear that second-class citizenship was indefensible, attempts to justify these practices through religion were abandoned, and instead, religious values were enlisted on behalf of emancipation and desegregation.

On the other hand, if either science or politics believes it will succeed in marginalizing religion, it is mistaken. Religion is vulnerable when it encroaches on others’ turf, but not when it sticks to its home ground, which is the self and its transformation.

Religion and the Self

It would be a mistake to conclude that a drop in church attendance means that interest in spiritual matters is diminishing.Despite the public’s lack of fidelity to various nature and social models embraced by religion, it still holds a very special place in a great many hearts. Why is this?

When it comes to knowing the self and mapping its transformations, nothing holds a candle to religious models. The only competitors in the Western canon are to be found in literary classics such as those by Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Melville, and Dostoevsky, whose works serve as handmaidens to the world’s holy books.

Examples of religious insight into the nature of the self and of the creative model-building process can be found in all the religious traditions. I’ll cite just two here, drawn from Christianity and Hinduism, respectively–the doctrines of “resurrection” and “reincarnation.” As applied to the physical body, these tenets are arguable. Nonbelievers reject them outright and even some believers take them metaphorically, not literally. But as applied to the model-building process, they are profound and powerful.

Models must “die to be reborn,” none more dramatically than our self models. We who live by them, identify with them, and sometimes cannot separate our persona from a particular, familiar one, may well experience the disintegration of a self model as a kind of death. The struggle to come to terms with the loss of a partner or child, or with a sudden change in our status or health, can feel like what St. John of the Cross described as a “dark night of the soul.”

From the model-building perspective, resurrection and reincarnation are evocative descriptions of the metamorphoses of identity that most of us experience over the course of a lifetime. Yes, the process occurs within one’s lifetime rather than connecting one life span to another. But where can we find more luminous and consoling guidance for making life’s most hazardous journeys than in the Bible, Talmud, Koran, Upanishads, and Sutras? That the core teachings in these books provide the most accurate guide to inner transformation is the reason they are deemed holy.

During those perilous passages wherein one self dissolves and another crystallizes in its place, we are at maximum vulnerability, like a crab molting its shell. When an old self begins to disappear, our defenses are down, and our dignity at high risk. At times the community we normally depend on to shore up our self-respect, even the fellowship of friends and family, can fail us, and we may find ourselves utterly alone.

When others deny our dignity, religion upholds it. For many, the idea of a personal god assures them that even in the darkest of times, when they may feel bereft of human support, they are valued, respected, and loved. This accounts for the relatively greater commitment to religion among peoples whose survival is precarious as well as for the common phenomenon of conversion during a life crisis.

Granted, individual priests, rabbis, roshis, and mullahs have sometimes failed to respect the dignity of those to whom they minister, adherents to other faiths, or of nonbelievers. But in their essential teachings, every religion testifies to the inviolable, sacred dignity of humankind, at all times and under all circumstances.

Religion is the tool of tools when it comes to becoming a new somebody. It combines art, literature, and theater in the context of communal fellowship to effectively transmit truths about the self and its transformation that are vital to maintaining our balance and creativity. No other body of knowledge offers more relevant and resonant teachings on what is one of humanity’s most precious faculties–the intimate, intricate process of building models of ourselves. For this reason, the role of religion in a dignitarian culture is secure.

The Eye of God

Through an open skylight over my bed, I can see the phases of the moon, the stars, an occasional plane, and at dawn, soaring birds. A few sparrows have flown inside and soon found their way out again. Now and then a squirrel peeks over the edge. But apart from these locals, I do not feel seen as I spy on the cosmos.

On cold winter nights I sometimes imagine that I’ve drifted out the aperture and am floating in the near-absolute zero temperatures of empty space. In that subarctic infinitude, the earth is an igloo and we are all Eskimos. If other beings exist, we seem beyond their reach and they beyond ours. In any case, my thoughts go not to aliens but to the stars and the lifeless emptiness holding them.

Peering into its infinitude, I have no sense that the universe returns my gaze. Its eye is cold, if not blind. See someone seeing you and you exist. Look long enough into a fathomless void and you begin to ask, “Who am I? What am I doing here? Does anyone out there care?” My lifetime an instant, my body a speck, myself unremarked. The universe seems uncaring, the cosmic indifference of infinite space a blow to my dignity.

But then the old saying that “God helps those who help themselves” pops into my head. And President Kennedy’s variant thereof: “Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” If instead of gazing outward, we turn our attention inward, we discover that the universe does indeed have a heart–in fact, it has lots of them. They are beating in our breasts.

Any inventory of the cosmos that omits human beings is like a survey of the body that overlooks the brain. In evolving the human mind, the universe has fashioned an instrument of self-understanding and empathy. We are that instrument, and since we are part of the cosmos, we err if we judge it to lack kindness, love, and compassion. If we believe the universe is heartless, it’s because we do not love.

But what if the impersonal forces that extinguished the dinosaurs should hurl a comet at us? There’s a crucial difference between that time and now. The demise of the dinosaurs made room for the appearance of mammals and thus for Homo sapiens. In the sixty-five million years since the dinosaurs vanished, there evolved a creature possessed of sophisticated model-building skills. If we use our talents wisely, they will enable us to avoid all manner of potential catastrophes–those of our own making as well as hurtling asteroids with our names on them.

The passage to a dignitarian world will take time, and it will not always be smooth. We have yet to lift a billion people out of poverty, social injustices still abound, and each year millions of children die from malnutrition and preventable diseases. But despair is unwarranted.

The universe cares as much as we do. It has a heart–our very own. We are at once compassionate beings and model builders, the questing knights of Arthurian legend. In that eternal pursuit lies the imperishable dignity of humankind.

[Robert W. Fuller is a former president of Oberlin College, and the author of Belonging: A Memoir and The Rowan Tree: A Novel, which explore the role of dignity in interpersonal and institutional relationships. The Rowan Tree is currently free on Kindle.]

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Coverage Of The Success of Obamacare And Debunking Republican Lies http://themoderatevoice.com/193656/coverage-of-the-success-of-obamacare-and-debunking-republican-lies/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193656/coverage-of-the-success-of-obamacare-and-debunking-republican-lies/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:10:03 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193656 Obamacare Winning

Reading liberal versus conservative columnists give entirely different views of the Affordable Care Act. Liberals have been writing about its success while conservatives continue to spread misinformation. Here’s a few examples of liberal views on the topic (which are the fact-based articles):

Tim Dickenson of Rolling Stone (source for the above graphic) writes that Obamacare is working. (Thanks to SteveK for the link.) Instead of the fake conservative horror stories, he linked to stories which show how the Affordable Care Act is helping people. He described the successes, and pointed out that “Republican Party sabotage has also impeded enrollment.” Rather than back away from calling a lie a lie as many journalists will, Dickenson directly addressed Republican lies as lies as he debunked them:

GOP LIE No. 1: THE NUMBERS DON’T MEAN ANYTHING
Over the course of the open-enrollment period, Republicans labored to argue that Obamacare did far less good than advertised because an estimated 4.7 million Americans received letters in the fall warning that their current policies could not be renewed, as they failed to comply with new coverage requirements. They point to these “cancellations” to argue that few of the folks being counted as ACA enrollees previously lacked insurance.

There are three glaring flaws to this argument. First: Many if not most of those whose plans were canceled were automatically transferred into similar policies that complied with the new law. One of the nation’s largest for-profit insurers told House investigators that it had issued fewer than 2,000 outright cancellations.

Second: Through executive orders, Obama gave roughly half of those who received a letter – 2.35 million – the chance to stay in their existing coverage. CBO estimates suggest that just 1.5 million actually continued in their grandfathered plans, as many could find cheaper and/or better coverage on a subsidized exchange or qualify for Medicaid. It’s telling that the Michigan leukemia patient featured in Koch-funded ads intended to convey the horror of these cancellations has found a compliant poicy on the exchange that still covers her oncologist and cut her monthly premium in half.

Giving the Republican argument every benefit of the doubt, this would leave a potential pool of about 3 million people who changed, rather than gained, insurance. This leads to the third flaw in the argument: Obamacare sign-ups were always going to include millions of people who already had insurance. In its latest estimate, the CBO showed just two-thirds (4 million of 6 million) of exchange enrollments coming from people who were previously uncovered. And the limited hard data available from the states suggests the CBO is closer to the mark than the GOP: In New York, nearly 60 percent of buyers were previously uninsured. In Kentucky, it’s even higher: 75 percent.

GOP LIE No. 2: THEY HAVEN’T PAID THEIR PREMIUMS YET
GOP critics point out that the administration hasn’t tracked how many enrollees are actually paying their insurance bills. The complaint about transparency is fair, but the concern is misplaced. Figures from state exchanges and insurers themselves show that between 80 and 95 percent of enrollees are paying their bills.

GOP LIE No. 3: OBAMACARE WILL COLLAPSE UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT
One legitimate concern as Obamacare ramped up was that it could enter a “death spiral.” This would happen if the number of older, sicker people on the exchanges far outnumbered the young and the healthy. Premiums would spike, year over year, with each increase driving more healthy folks out of the pool – making the exchange unsustainable. While reaching 7 million enrollees is a huge win politically, it doesn’t ensure Obamacare’s viability as an insurance program. “I do think there’s too much focus on the overall number,” Karen Ignagni, a top insurance-industry lobbyist, told reporters. What matters far more, she said, is the insurance pools’ “distribution of healthy to unhealthy.”

The administration wanted 18- to 34-year-olds to make up nearly 40 percent of enrollees. By March, however, only 25 percent of the mix was under 35. That sounds dire. Yet even pools with just 25 percent of younger people would not create a tailspin, forcing premiums to rise by just 2.4 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Additionally, the convoluted structure of Obamacare eliminates systemic risk. Even the 27 states that relied entirely on the federal exchange will end up with state-specific insurance pools. What this means is that if a death spiral were to develop in, say, Ohio, that failure would not pull down neighboring states. What’s more, safeguards within the ACA mean states don’t have to get the mix right in Year One. For the first three years, ACA has shock absorbers to prevent premium spikes in states with problematic pools. Over that same period, the penalties for not buying insurance step up – which should drive younger, healthier people into the market, balancing the risk profile. We lack hard data to get a clear picture of all state pools. But private insurers are sending optimistic signals to investors that all is well. Case in point: Insurance giant WellPoint just raised its earnings forecast.

GOP LIE No. 4: “OBAMACARE IS THE NUMBER-ONE JOB KILLER IN AMERICA”
That’s what Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told a Tea Party convention in Dallas last summer. Since then, the GOP has been making two ACA-connected job-loss claims, both demonstrably false. First, they twisted a February CBO report to claim that Obamacare will cause 2.5 million Americans to lose their jobs. What the CBO actually found is that Americans will be able to work a little less thanks to lower health-care costs, voluntarily scaling back work hours between 1.5 and 2 percent through 2024, or the output of 2.5 million full-time workers. The other GOP lie is that Obamacare is causing employers – who will be responsible for insuring employees who work more than 30 hours a week – to either scale back the hours of full-time employees or hire only part-time workers. This, too, is hogwash. While the share of part-time employment remains historically high, it has actually been in decline since 2010, when Obama­care became law.

I have discussed many of the above points, with links to the evidence, in previous posts on health care reform.

I was also happy to see that he concluded with the same opinion I have expressed that Democrats must take the offensive on health care:

House Republicans have learned the hard way that even nibbling around the edges of Obamacare can backfire. In February, the GOP pushed a bill to tweak the mandate that businesses offer health care to all employees working more than 30 hours. Switching to the GOP’s preferred 40-hour standard, it turns out, would add $74 billion to the deficit by 2024 and cause nearly 1 million Americans to lose coverage. That’s the kind of move that would play right into Democratic hands. Says Greenberg, “Democrats do very well when they hit back at Republicans on what people lose.”

Until recently, Greenberg had been advising Democrats to move beyond Obamacare and turn to bread-and-butter issues like jobs and the minimum wage. “The strongest attack on Republicans,” he says, “is that they’re obsessed with Obamacare instead of critical issues like dealing with the economy.” But his new poll has Greenberg rethinking that counsel. “Until now, this is an issue where the intensity has been on the other side,” he says. But defending Obamacare, he adds, has emerged as “a values argument for our base.” Greenberg now believes Democrats “ought to lean much more strongly” to campaign on the virtues of Obamacare as a means of boosting progressive turnout. “Not apologizing for Obamacare and embracing it actually wins the argument nationally,” he says. “And it produces much more engagement of Democratic voters. That’s a critical thing in off-year elections.”

Eugene Robinson also wrote about the success of Obamacare:

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, despite all the problems with the HealthCare.gov Web site launch, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017, the year Obama leaves office, the CBO predicts that an additional 14 million uninsured will have managed to get coverage .

Why was the Affordable Care Act so desperately needed? Because without it, 54 million Americans would currently have no health insurance. Within three years, according to the CBO, Obamacare will have slashed the problem nearly in half.

We should do better, and perhaps someday we will. Most industrialized countries have some kind of single-payer system offering truly universal coverage. But if you have to work within the framework of the existing U.S. health-care system — which involves private health insurance companies and fee-for-service care — the Affordable Care Act reforms are a tremendous advance.

Many Republican critics of Obamacare know, but refuse to acknowledge, that the reforms are here to stay. Does the GOP propose to let insurance companies deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, as they could before the ACA? Does the party want to reimpose lifetime caps on the amount an insurer will pay? Tell young adults they can no longer be covered under their parents’ policies?

He concluded by also recommending that Democratic candidates take advantage of the success of Obamacare:

To do well in the fall, Democrats have to infuse their most loyal voters with similar enthusiasm. The success of Obamacare will help. Already, polls are showing upticks in support for embattled Democratic incumbent senators in Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska. Democrats control their own destiny in November: If they can get their voters to the polls, they’ll win.

In the long run, no matter what happens in the election, I’m more convinced than ever that the Affordable Care Act will be seen as landmark legislation. With minimal immediate impact, the ACA does two tremendously important things.

First, it shifts the incentive structure in the health-care industry in ways that promise to hold down rising costs. And second, it establishes the principle that health care should be considered a right, not a privilege.

Of course it’s not perfect. It’s a thing of beauty anyway. We have liftoff. It’s working.

Paul Krugman described Obamacare as the unknown ideal:

The current state of public opinion on health reform is really peculiar. If you’ve been following the issue at all closely, you know that the Affordable Care Act is one of the great comeback stories of public policy: after a terrible start, it has dramatically exceeded expectations. But hardly anyone seems to know that.

He blamed Fox and Rush Limbaugh for all the misinformation they have spread, the Obama administration for doing a “lackluster job so far in getting the word out,” and “a persistent anti-ACA tilt in news coverage.” He pointed out how factual stories on the success of Obamacare are often buried in the back pages of newspapers.

Cross posted from Liberal Values

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Hubris is reason for U.S. foreign policy failures (Guest Voice) http://themoderatevoice.com/193653/hubris-is-reason-for-u-s-foreign-policy-failures-guest-voice/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193653/hubris-is-reason-for-u-s-foreign-policy-failures-guest-voice/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:18:08 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193653 shutterstock_172349597 (3)

Hubris is reason for U.S. foreign policy failures
By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It is tempting to simply list all the ways the Obama administration — particularly Secretaries Kerry and Hagel — has been wrong on foreign and defense policy. After all, Russia/Ukraine, Syria, Iran, China, and Israel/Palestinians are nothing to sneeze at. But finding a common thread among the mistakes might be the beginning of a corrective policy — if not by this administration, then perhaps by Congress or the next administration.

The common thread is hubris, the supreme confidence that what you think is what everyone thinks — they’re just waiting for you to show up. Hubris is the natural state of affairs in the faculty lounges of major universities and, most likely, in the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body,” in which the president, Hagel, Biden, Clinton, and Kerry all served. A subdivision of hubris is the conceit that words equal action; that what is said is what is done. It is a subdivision because if you think there is no political or economic or social disagreement, then everyone must just be waiting for you to perorate.

Secretary of State Kerry called Vladimir Putin’s restoration of Crimea to the status of Russian territory, “19th Century thinking in the 21st century,” while Putin pocketed Crimea and considers cutting off the gas flow through Ukraine to Europe. He is, apparently, unoffended by a reference to the Tsars he considers Russian patriots.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tried empathy, authorizing release of the details of U.S. cyber warfare doctrine to China in a bid to win similar cooperation from Beijing. So far, China has not reciprocated. Bill Gertz wrote in The Washington Times, “Instead of pressing the Chinese to curb cyberattacks, the defense secretary said the Pentagon has sought to ‘be more open about our cyber capabilities, including our approach of restraint’…for the first time ever, the Pentagon provided Chinese officials with a briefing on U.S. doctrine on cyber capabilities. Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said, ‘The purpose of this briefing was to increase transparency of one another’s military cyber activities and intentions.’”

Transparency appears to have been the policy of only one side.

Empathy didn’t work with Iran, either.

At the UN General Assembly last year, President Obama ascribed motives and goals to the Iranian regime that mirror American motives and goals, assuaged what he said were their concerns, and promised what he thought was a better future. “I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

But if Iran doesn’t believe we have “mutual interests” and instead seeks a future in which the Islamic Republic is the hegemonic Gulf power and the United States is banished, the nuclear program is not an “issue” to be “resolved,” but a means toward a considered end — an Iranian end.

Secretary Kerry claimed the P5+1 deal signed in November with Iran would provide greater transparency and a longer breakout time from nuclear capability to nuclear weapons. He crowed on Politico‘s “State of the Union” program, “I believe that from this day, Israel is safer. We are going to expand the amount of time in which (Iran) can break out… have insights to their program that we didn’t have before. Israel, if you didn’t have these things, would be seeing Iran to continue on a daily basis to narrow the breakdown (sic) time.”

He also said sanctions on Iran would be lifted only by a “tiny portion,” which would be “very limited, temporary and reversible… So believe me, when I say this relief is limited and reversible, I mean it.”

Just words. Since then the Iranians have announced their defense capabilities will not be subject to negotiation (including the Parchin Plant that the West believes is nuclear weapons related) and that Iran will never give up its nuclear program. In addition, Kerry told a Senate hearing this week that Iran now has the ability to produce fissile material for a nuclear bomb in two months.”I think it’s public knowledge today that we’re operating with a time period for a so-called ‘break-out’ of about two months. That’s been in the public domain.”

And as for sanctions, our allies are cashing in on the newly opened Iranian gravy train — including still-embargoed dual-use technology — and American companies are doing the same. The Treasury Department gave Boeing and GE permission to sell aircraft parts to the Islamic Republic to service 18 planes sold before the Revolution. That may not sound impressive, but it bears noting that the first part of the Syrian sanctions lifted by President Obama in 2009 included aircraft parts. By the time the sanctions were reinstated in 2010, Assad’s planes were flying. “Barrel bombs” were the result.

This raises the whole, “Assad is a reformer,” conversation, promoted by Secretary of State Clinton when Kerry was still a senator. The assumption was that Assad wanted the benefits of association with the West more than he wanted to crush dissent. When she determined that her words had no impact on Assad, Mrs. Clinton turned them on the Syrian people, “When are they going to start pulling the props out from under this illegitimate regime?”

Nearly 200,000 dead, use of chemical weapons, and 2 million refugees later, the U.S. still has no Syria policy beyond words. Manuel Roig-Franzia used a lot of words in a panegyric to Samantha Power in The Washington Post. “Power, 43, is saddled with unusually high expectations… In one of her early acts after becoming ambassador in August, she delivered a high-profile speech arguing for limited airstrikes in Syria. The strikes never happened… ‘I’m sure for some who counted on me to end the war in Syria within my first semester here,” she says one afternoon at her office, pausing to chuckle, “I’m sure I’ve disappointed.’”

The chuckle, and a self-reference as the “genocide chick” aren’t funny, but they make clear the difference between the talk-is-action world of universities and think tanks, and the real world in which people die, even after convening a “Genocide Prevention Board.”

And finally, the Palestinians. The administration assumed that Palestinian goal was an independent country. Palestinian objections to the permanence and legitimacy of Israel, to Israel controlling Jerusalem and to giving up the so-called “right of return” could be overcome with money and political favors. Imagine how surprised Secretary Kerry and President Obama were when Mahmoud Abbas came to Washington and told the President “no” three times while seated in the Oval Office.

Try as he might to leave the impression that Israel scuttled the talks, it is clear that Kerry was so taken with the importance of his plan for Middle East peace that he never entertained the possibility that one of his interlocutors had different goals. That is the definition of hubris, and explains not only how wrong the administration has been, but also why.

Shoshana Bryen is senior policy director of the Jewish Policy Center. This column is cross-posted from San Diego Jewish World. Bryen may be contacted via shoshana.bryen@sdjewishworld.com

graphic via shutterstock.com

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Illinois Gray A Flamboyant Character With Many Historic Ties, Including JFK http://themoderatevoice.com/193336/illinois-gray-a-flamboyant-character-with-many-historic-footnotesincluding-jfk/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193336/illinois-gray-a-flamboyant-character-with-many-historic-footnotesincluding-jfk/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:03:32 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193336 Historic Quote: “He would threaten me during intimate moments telling me to do this or that or “I’ll kick your teeth in. But you know, I’d much rather be having fun in the bedroom instead of doing all this talking in the living room.” Elizabeth Ray to a People Magazine reporter referring to her sexual relationship with Wayne Hays.

When I’m not putting my political prognostications on paper, my writing is all about political characters. People, sometimes larger than life, with great stories and tidbits that will keep folks, if not crying, than certainly laughing and perhaps sharing them over the dinner table.

Illinois Congressman Kenneth Gray’s career would certainly invite laughs. Not that he has anything to be ashamed of, for his life is one of honor. But his background made him among the most colorful characters in Congress at the time and a true footnote in more than one area of major Congressional history, laws, and Presidential figures. It also reveals that history may turned out a little bit different had an assassin’s bullet not intervened.

Let’s start with Ken Gray the man because that in itself is a storyteller’s dream. Before going to Congress at age 30, Gray had been a used car dealer, an airport owner, pilot, auctioneer, and magician who would later own an antique museum. The latter two would often make him a highly sought after host at Washington DC charity events (he appeared on the show, “To Tell The Truth”).

On Capitol Hill, Gray was, to put it mildly, ubiquitous. A press release a few years ago announcing the bestowing of an honor on Gray two decades after he left office summed him up in a sentence. He “was known for his flamboyant wardrobe, humor, amicability, and a fierce passion for bring federal funds to southern Illinois.” Gray would be legend for wearing polka-dot bow ties and a profile noted “his Elvis style pompadour hairdo became (his) trademark.” In fact, his taste in clothing was lavish. He could be seen in pink sport coats, a two-tone dress shirt, bow tie and black slacks while driving around in Cadillacs, at least one of which was pink. That same profile points out that “one Washington veteran recalls him, wearing a tuxedo featuring flickering flash-light bulbs in the lapels.”

Gray acknowledged he was different from most members but, to hear him tell it, that was his whole purpose. Years later, he told the Southern, “When I went to Congress, everyone was wearing undertaker suits. Since this was ‘the people’s House,’ I decided we should look and act like regular people.”
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Wiki

His eccentricities often gave House leaders an excuse to fill the normally tedious routine business of presiding over the chamber with Gray. Even his lifestyle was his own. While in Washington, he lived on a 50 foot house boat, the “Roll Call.” Gray contended he didn’t have a lot of money thought at least one Washington journalist, the respected Evans and Novak, cited a column that Gray was using his campaign treasury to finance his clothes and living, a practice that was completely legal.

And Gray can boast of another link to history. He recounts how he swung Illinois behind Kennedy, whom he says “everybody knows (was) my favorite president.” This was the convention season when JFK’s nomination was far from foregone. But Gray enlisted Otto Kerner and Paul Douglas, then a Gubernatorial candidate to stump for the Massachusetts Senator. In the fall, Kennedy would come to Illinois. Gray said he has “a 1917 auto, the year Kennedy was born. That’s the automobile he rode in when he came to Marion and Harrisburg during his 1960 campaign.” The election results that fall would prove every vote was crucial, even in regions of the country where Kennedy was not especially popular (southern Illinois was a long ways from the Daley machine of Chicago).

paige

Ken Gray’s 1918 Paige Lot 633 car (manufactured 11/13/17) that Kennedy rode in on visit to southern Illinois in 1960

But Gray’s Camelot connection would extend far deeper than with almost anyone else. He would spend many evenings swapping jokes with the President on the White House lawn but also had a relationship that took a more serious direction.

Gray said Kennedy dispatched him to Cuba to reassure Castro that the new administrations had no bad intentions toward him. But the new President didn’t view that as mutual. He said “John had told me he was suspicious that harm would come to him from that source” and Gray in fact believes the assassination was part of a conspiracy.
Early in his term, Kennedy would ask him to sponsor the legislation that would put the wings in motion to put a man on the moon. He did but as Gray said later, “He never got to see it happen.” But Gray, along with close Kennedy friend and Gray House colleague Torbert MacDonald, babysat Caroline and JFK Jr in the weeks following their President’s assassination, relieving Bobby when he had to get back to the office (a plane was flown to fetch him from Illinois). And Gray later revealed what only a few close associates knew: that Kennedy had planned for Gray to replace him in the White House.

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ronwade.freeservers.com

Last year, Gray penned a letter to Caroline Kennedy to reintroduce himself. In the letter, he revealed, “Your dad asked me to run for president after his two terms would have expired. The Constitution only allows two terms for a president and he was not fond of Lyndon Johnson and wanted me to succeed him….He wanted me to be a candidate because he knew we shared the same ideology.” He said he didn’t reveal it sooner because of “fears of self-preservation.”

In another bit of history, Gray was the first person to hire the infamous Elizabeth Ray, the infamous secretary who couldn’t type but who would later go on to service House Administration Committee Chair Wayne Hays in other ways. Gray had little or no knowledge of that but in a bizarre twist to the saga, Ray claimed after Gray left office that she performed sexual favors to who’s who of Washington during parties along Gray’s boat. Gray said he hadn’t seen Ray since she had left his staff four years earlier and the story was all but disproven.

Gray’s district was at the southernmost point of Illinois many points of which, it’s been noted, are closer to Mississippi than Chicago. That meant politically and culturally, it had more in common with its neighbor to the south, Kentucky, than much of the rest of Illinois. But despite the fact that it scorned the national Democratic Party, George McGovern actually ran a point better than his nationwide showing, managing 40%. Indeed, the large student population of the Carbondale campus of the University of Illinois made Jackson County the only one of the 102 (including Cook) that McGovern would carry.

Gray’s service to his country began in World War II when he was stationed in Africa, France, and Italy. His 12 years prior to Congress saw him own a business, Gray’s Motors as well as a small airstrip in Benton, Illinois. He had a number of performance engagements including the Strand Theater.

Gray first came to Congress in 1954 as Democrats were retaking the House. He unseated Congressman Cecil “Runt” Bishop with 53% and became the youngest member to take his seat that session. Despite the fact that he would stay in Congress for 20 years prior to his first retirement, he topped 60%) only twice – in 1964 and 1970. Republicans charged at him in 1958 but ultimately was hurt by President Eisenhower’s veto of a rural development bill. But one asset, along from his larger-than life personality, was his airplane. Gray would use it to fly to events all over the district which he’d credit for seeing more people.

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thehawkeye.com

Gray’s most important committee assignment was Public Works where he could dole out more for his small-town, and in some cases economically impoverished district. By 1973, he was number five on the committee and chaired the subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds. Throughout his tenure, he became known as the “Prince of Pork,” many of which he won by “wheeling and dealing.” Gray estimated a hand in 4,000 projects worth $7 billion for southern Illinois. He defended the regionally lucrative coal industry explaining it “fed his folks,” and would stir audiences by proclaiming, “There is no way we’re writing off coal. But he also made a major mark nationally.

Gray was one of the original sponsors of the Interstate Highway System. But he soon discovered that little of the roads would go through southern Illinois. So he “put in 1,000 miles more,” and that would become I-24. I-57 also came to fruition that year. By the time President Eisenhower signed the bill into law, Gray was in his first term. and he still has the pen he used to do so (“It is the only one he used”). He guestimates his office took care of 1.2 million constituent requests. The Illinois Expressway from mile post zero to post 106 was renamed for Gray. By the time he was done, he secured funding for Rend Lake, a prison, post offices, and many other endeavors.

When critics called the money Gray secured wasteful, he was unapologetic. In particular, the Southern Illinoisan gave him a run for his rhetoric. He would often repeat how the paper calls him “the king of Pork.” He’d respond by bellowing, “And by GOD I am.” Another time he put on a horses voice and yelled, “I say neigh.” But reciting the infrastructure his “pork” had brought to the region, Gray said proudly, “If that is pork, pass me the plate because I’ll take another heaping serving.”

Because the district was not hospitable territory for national Democrats, Gray made sure his voting record was near the center. He opposed busing and supported school prayer. He hedged a bit on open housing, opposing the measure in 1966, voting to send the bill to a House/Senate conference committee in ’68 only to oppose final passage. But he was solidly aligned with labor and opposed the Cambodia bombing.

By late 1973, Gray had a minor heart ailment and decided to call it a career after 20 years (unbeknownst to many, health had prompted him to consider calling it quits as early as 1962). He was succeeded by Simon but stayed in the Washington area as a consultant. Eventually, surgery corrected his heart ailment and eventually, Gray decided he wanted back in the political game.
As a result of his hiatus, both his predecessor and successor would be future Senator Paul Simon.

His opportunity came when Simon decided to challenge Charles Percy for the Senate in 1984. He had a little bit more difficulty than he imagined. In the primary, State Senator Kenneth Buzbee sought to use the “Prince of Pork,” mantra against him, calling his form of “wheeling and dealing out of date.” Buzbee also sought to rehash Elizabeth Ray but to no avail. Gray won 55% at which time he quoted Jackie Gleason by saying, “How sweet it is.”

But he had to get past the general election and in Randy Patchett, his challenge was unexpectedly stiff. For starters, the party was fractured as Buzbee did not endorse Gray until late. Gray eschewed modern techniques such as a campaign organization and commercials, instead preferring, as “Congressional Quarterly” called, “the handshaking, backslapping flamboyance of an earlier era.” inviting folks to visit his museum. That may have been a mistake. Patchett was not particularly known but as Stare’s Attorney, proved fairly articulate. And while Simon’s coattails were strong, so were Reagan’s.

In the end, Gray won his old job back by fewer than 1,200 votes. The 1982 redistricting which had moved Democratic pockets from the venerable Mel Price’s district to help Simon after his own near loss in 1980 clearly brought him over the finish line (it nearly dragged the aging Price down in ’86).

Patchett didn’t concede until December but would return for a second engagement in 1986. This time, Ronald Reagan did an appearance for Patchett. Meanwhile, Gray continued his advocacy of bringing projects back to the district and benefited from his effort to relocate some air traffic from St. Louis to Scott Air Force Base in Belleville. Still, he was concerned enough about the challenge that for the first time in his career, he asked the Democratic Congressional Committee for assistance. But the Democratic disunity of two years earlier had dissipated and Gray won 53-47%.

Gray’s most important achievement may have come in his last year in Congress when Gray secured $1 billion to replace Dams 52 and 53 on the Ohio River. It became known as the Olmsted Dam project.

Gray’s health was again becoming a factor and he decided to retire once more in 1988. But he couldn’t stay away from public policy. Aside from serving on the board of the Rand Lake, he has worked on rural health needs.

Ed Smith, a former labor leader and President of Ullico, Inc. spoke of Gray’s legacy. “No one created more jobs for people who could raise their families, here, and it is fitting that we honor him for his hard work.”

For much of his political life, Gray had a museum to house all of the memorabilia that he had spent a lifetime compiling (including a walking cane given to him by Harry Truman at a ‘48 campaign event Gray was auctioning). He told the Southern in 2003, “People have been good to me. I wanted to give something back. I don’t have a lot of money, so I look at this as, what do you call it, in-kind services.” But by 2008, Gray was hosting one final auction; a sale of the material.“I don’t mind telling you, I cried a bit. It is bittersweet for me. Bitter because I’m having to give up a collection of memories. I put a lot of inspiration and perspiration into this place. But sweet from the standpoint that all the people who helped support me will now have a chance to come buy their favorite item from the museum.” He pledged to donate the money to charity. And a few years ago, Gray had his hair permed.

As for the car Kennedy rode in. “People don’t believe it, but the car was in storage for about 30 years. I put a battery in it, and it started right up. Ninety-two years after it was made – American made.”

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Taking the reins at the airstrip once more (photo by Steve Matzker)

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the dailyamerican.com

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Your Papers Please http://themoderatevoice.com/193635/youre-papers-please/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193635/youre-papers-please/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:00:11 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193635 1389.5 Holocaust AWhen I was growing up in the 50s “Your’e Papers Please” was a phrase used to warn us about tyrannical governments.  We have decided in the United States that we now need  a “Your Papers Please” society, aka photo ID.  You can’t open a bank account, fly or take a train without a photo ID.  Many states are now requiring photo ID to vote.

Now I’m not going to question that we may now need a “Your Papers Please” society but if that’s the case they should be free or at least cheap and should be easy to get.  To get one you need a copy of your birth certificate which if you don’t have it already can cost up to $50.  In addition if your name has changed through marriage you need a copy of your marriage certificate which if you can find it can also cost you money.  Here in my state the only place you can get a photo ID is at the Department of Motor Vehicles which are located for people who drive and few and far between.  Where I live now getting to the nearest DMV office would be a 30 to 40 dollar cab ride.  We need to simplify the process of getting the papers and have more locations to do it.  There are more places I can apply for a passport than get a state photo ID.

End of rant!

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New CBO Report Projects The Affordable Care Act Will Cover More People And Cost Less Than Previously Projected http://themoderatevoice.com/193632/new-cbo-report-projects-the-affordable-care-act-will-cover-more-people-and-cost-less-than-previously-projected/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193632/new-cbo-report-projects-the-affordable-care-act-will-cover-more-people-and-cost-less-than-previously-projected/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:58:19 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193632 CBO Affordable Care Act Revised Cost

A new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Affordable Care Act  increase the number of people covered, help reduce the deficit, and will cost $104 billion less than previous forecasts::

Relative to their previous projections made in February 2014, CBO and JCT now estimate that the ACA’s coverage provisions will result in lower net costs to the federal government: The agencies currently project a net cost of $36 billion for 2014, $5 billion less than the previous projection for the year; and $1,383 billion for the 2015–2024 period, $104 billion less than the previous projections

Here is the update regarding projections of number of nonelderly people covered (with the elderly already having coverage under Medicare):

CBO and JCT estimate that the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA will increase the proportion of the nonelderly population with insurance from roughly 80 percent in the absence of the ACA to about 84 percent in 2014 and to about 89 percent in 2016 and beyond (see Table 2). CBO and JCT project that 12 million more nonelderly people will have health insurance in 2014 than would have had it in the absence of the ACA. They also project that 19 million more people will be insured in 2015, 25 million more will be insured in 2016, and 26 million more will be insured each year from 2017through 2024 than would have been the case without the ACA.

Projections for the cost of the Affordable Care Act have been reduced due to a combination of factors including less money being spent on subsidies than projected. The report also found that premiums are lower than expected and the CBO does not project a significant increase in premiums in 2015. They project that premiums will increase by about $100 for silver plans in 2015 and subsequently project annual increases of 6 percent per year. There have often been double digit increases in premiums in the individual market in the past.

One reason for premiums being lower than previously projected by the CBO is that more people are purchasing plans with greater restrictions than the CBO had previously predicted. For the benefit of the vast majority of the country who, despite all the attention the topic has received only represent a small percentage of the entire country, here is a brief explanation of the choices available. Plans offered differ based upon how high the deductible and co-pays are, with those having lower out of pocket expenses having higher premiums. Some insurance companies also offer different plans in each category which differ based upon how restrictive they are. For example, I had the choice of a few Blue Cross plans. The most expensive (which I purchased) offers access to all physicians who accept Blue Cross and is the traditional non-HMO insurance plan. There were also less expensive plans offered which correspond with the HMO products they have available. They cost less but also restrict which doctors can be seen, and typically pay out less. The least expensive option was a new plan which, while sold under the Blue Cross name, is actually run by a local hospital network and (with some exceptions) restricts coverage to doctors and hospitals in their network.

In the past, employers have had comparable choices to offer to their employees. There has been a push back as many people have been unhappy with the restrictions from HMO’s . While some employers have continued to offer more restrictive HMO plans, many others have changed to more expensive but less restrictive plans.

The CBO originally projected that insurance purchased through the exchange would mirror the employer plans. I do not find it all surprising that instead there were greater sales of the more restrictive plans. Those new to insurance coverage would not have had bad experiences with restrictive HMO’s. Many people who were denied insurance in the past were happy to have any coverage. As they were paying out of their own pocket, even if receiving subsidies, it is also to be expected that consumers would purchase the less expensive HMO plans unless they have experienced reasons to purchase the more expensive and less restrictive plans.

Some see this as evidence that the Affordable Care Act has been more successful then it actually has been in cutting expenses. It is likely that over time there will be more people who will choose a plan without the HMO restrictions. The CBO does predict that “the differences between employment based plans and exchange plans will narrow as exchange enrollment increases. That pattern will put upward pressure on exchange premiums over the next couple of years, although CBO and JCT anticipate that the plans’ characteristics will stabilize after 2016.” Again, their projections are for a 6 percent annual increase, which still remains less than has often been seen in the past. This includes increases due to expected consumer demands for less restrictive policies but the CBO is not able to code potential decreases in costs from future improvements in cost control, leaving hope that the increases might be less than this.

Update: Coverage Of The Success of Obamacare And Debunking Republican Lies

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Tea Party Challenger Says Boehner Suffers ‘Electile Dysfunction’ (VIDEO) http://themoderatevoice.com/193630/tea-party-challenger-says-boehner-suffers-electile-dysfunction-video/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193630/tea-party-challenger-says-boehner-suffers-electile-dysfunction-video/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:02:51 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193630 Behind the Ad: Did someone say “boner”?
by Richard K. Barry

Who: The J.D. Winteregg campaign.

Where: Ohio’s 8th Congressional District – web ad.

What’s going on: Mr. Winteregg is a Tea Party-backed candidate running agains House Speaker John Boehner (R). Just because someone had to, Winteregg produced an ad positioning himself as the answer to “electile dysfunction.” Get it. Electile. Oh, my.

In a parody of all those commercials for what Charlie Sheen in Two and Half Men calls boner pills, couples are seen drinking out of Winteregg mugs and generally looking as silly as the people in the real commercials.

In the event you can’t access YouTube, some of the copy goes like this:

Sometimes when a politician has been in D.C. for too long, it goes to his head, and he just can’t seem to get the job done… Used on a daily basis, Winteregg in Congress will help you every time the moment is right — to have your voice heard at the federal level… When using Winteregg, it’s important to note that the borders will be secured, Second Amendment rights protected, ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood will be defunded, and common sense will be used in solving the nation’s problems.

And then:

The narrator says that signs of electile dysfunction include “extreme skin discoloration,” a reference to Boehner’s infamous tanned skin, “the inability to punch oneself out of a wet paper bag, or maintain a spine in the face of liberal opposition.”

Finally, because acting like a fourteen-year-old boy never gets old, the narrator warns, “[i]f you have a Boehner lasting more than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention.”

For the record, John Boehner got 84 percent in the 2013 primary in the Ohio 8th, which also happens to be the most Republican district in the state. So, this Boehner is lasting a bit longer (sorry).

Grade: Okay, it’s kinda cute. Unfortunately some of the copy brushes up against a bit unnecessary meanness which damages the cuteness, but, other than that, whatever. Mr. Winteregg and friends can have their chuckle. This is probably the last time any of us will hear his name in this election cycle or any other. Having said that, we’re talking about him today. B-

Richard K. Barry is Associate Editor of The Reaction. This is cross-posted from that wwebsite.

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Show Me the Money http://themoderatevoice.com/193628/show-me-the-money-3/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193628/show-me-the-money-3/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:46:20 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193628 corporate_corru_1312986138What are the conservative justices on the Supreme Court thinking? First Citizens United and now the McCutcheon ruling. Do they honestly believe that wealthy people’s ability to spend money should be equated with free speech? Don’t they realize the unfair advantage this provides to affluent individuals who have more money to spend on political issues, whether it’s through Super PACs or direct contributions to parties and candidates? Or perhaps the justices don’t care about the advantage they are giving to wealthy citizens in our society, believing that those with greater capital deserve to have a greater say in the direction our so-called democracy takes.

Remember that the justices on the Supreme Court have not been elected by American citizens, but have been nominated by different presidents and confirmed by the Senate. With the split in the Supreme Court vote of 5-4 in both Citizens United and the McCutcheon ruling, it is interesting to note that those justices who equated money with free speech and voted in favor of the rulings were all nominated for the Court by Republican presidents. Justice Roberts and Alito were nominated by the second President Bush, Scalia and Kennedy by Reagan, and Thomas by the first President Bush. The dissenting justices in both Citizens United and the McCutcheon ruling were all nominated for the Court by Democratic presidents.

This split in the voting tells us something important about Supreme Court rulings? Decisions are not necessarily being made on the basis of precedents or law, but on the basis of politics. The justices on the court nominated by Republican presidents have provided the Republican Party and its candidates with two major victories by changing the way campaign financing will be handled, allowing those with more money to speak with a louder voice. These justices appear to be motivated by finding ways to help the affluent control the political process in America. And it strains credulity to accept that the justices did not have politics in mind when they made their rulings regarding campaign financing.

The Supreme Court is an anomaly in what is supposed to be American democracy. With the justices appointed to the bench for life and not answerable for their decisions to any other political body, they have become increasingly autocratic and driven by politics in their rulings. If this were not true, one would expect more decisions with political overtones to be supported by a mixture of Republican and Democratic appointees to the Court, instead the decisions being strongly partisan and decided in a straight party line.

Even though the Founding Fathers wanted the Supreme Court justices removed from political pressures by having life time appointments “during good behavior” and not answerable to any organization with oversight powers, this is clearly not working in today’s world where the Court’s decisions are politically motivated. One way to incrementally change this would be by having Supreme Court justices and other federal court justices appointed to specific terms in office. Probably a lengthy term of ten or fifteen years would be reasonable, as that would keep political pressures somewhat at bay. However, before being reappointed to the courts, the justices would have to have the support of the president and the Senate at that time, making it more likely that his or her decisions would be less politically driven, as the presidency or control of the Senate could reside in the hands of a different political party. Thus to get reappointed, the justice would probably have had to follow a more centrist track rather than adhering to partisan dogma in his or her decisions.

It is also possible that many justices would not be reappointed when their terms were completed and that there would be much greater turnover on the Supreme and other federal courts. This increased turnover and having a greater number of justices serve on the courts would be a positive step, as the chances for more varied decisions and less partisanship would increase.

Citizens United and the McCutcheon decision are now on the books injecting more money into the political process and giving the affluent a greater say in American politics. While this could be erased in the future by a different make-up of the Supreme Court, a constitutional amendment restricting contributions for campaign financing would be a better way to go, even though the current Court would view this as limiting free speech. Should wealth be the determining factor in promoting ideas and policies in political campaigns?

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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A victory lap for Obamacare http://themoderatevoice.com/193626/193626/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193626/193626/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:05:47 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193626
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WASHINGTON — It’s all over but the shouting: Obamacare is working.

All the naysaying in the world can’t drown out mounting evidence that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, is a real success. Republican candidates running this fall on an anti-Obamacare platform will have to divert voters’ attention from the facts, which tell an increasingly positive story.

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, despite all the problems with the HealthCare.gov website launch, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017 — the year Obama leaves office — the CBO predicts that an additional 14 million uninsured will have managed to get coverage.

Why was the Affordable Care Act so desperately needed? Because without it, 54 million Americans would presently have no health insurance. Within three years, according to the CBO, Obamacare will have slashed the problem nearly in half.

We should do better, and perhaps someday we will. Most industrialized countries have some kind of single-payer system offering truly universal coverage. But if you have to work within the framework of the existing U.S. health care system — which involves private health insurance companies and fee-for-service care — the Affordable Care Act reforms are a tremendous advance.

Many Republican critics of Obamacare know, but refuse to acknowledge, that the reforms are here to stay. Does the GOP propose to let insurance companies deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, as they could before the ACA? Does the party want to reimpose lifetime caps on the amount an insurer will pay? Tell young adults they can no longer be covered under their parents’ policies?

I didn’t think so.

More likely, Republicans will continue to mumble vaguely about “private-sector incentives” and “consumer choice” — without acknowledging that the ACA reforms offer plenty of both. And the GOP will continue to bray about “big government health care,” which is an out-and-out lie.

Obamacare, to the contrary, will leave the present system basically intact. The CBO predicts that a decade from now, the great majority of non-elderly Americans will still obtain health insurance through their employers — an estimated 159 million, as opposed to 166 million if Obamacare never existed. Only about 25 million people are expected to get coverage through the federal and state health insurance exchanges. Even this coverage, mind you, will be provided by private health insurance companies, not the government.

So, to recap: The Affordable Care Act is a cautiously designed set of reforms whose impact on most people is approximately zero. It is well on the way toward its goal of providing coverage to the uninsured.

Given all the good news — including the fact that 7.5 million people have now signed up for insurance through the state and federal exchanges, more than projected — you’d think that Republicans might start looking for another issue to run on in the fall. But you’d be wrong.

There is no sign that GOP strategists intend to let facts get in the way of their story. After spending so much time and effort trying to make “Obamacare” a synonym for “bogeyman,” Republicans have no graceful way to acknowledge that the program is actually a success.

All the apocalyptic end-of-freedom rhetoric that we continue to hear from the far right sounds increasingly ridiculous to moderate voters who have no strong party allegiance. But the GOP’s activist base continues to respond with campaign donations and raring-to-go enthusiasm — factors that can make the difference in a midterm election when moderate voters often stay home.

To do well in the fall, Democrats have to infuse their most loyal voters with similar enthusiasm. The success of Obamacare will help. Already, polls are showing upticks in support for embattled Democratic incumbent senators in Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska. Democrats control their own destiny in November: If they can get their voters to the polls, they’ll win.

In the long run, no matter what happens in the election, I’m more convinced than ever that the Affordable Care Act will be seen as landmark legislation. With minimal immediate impact, the ACA does two tremendously important things.

First, it shifts the incentive structure in the health care industry in ways that promise to hold down rising costs. And second, it establishes the principle that health care should be considered a right, not a privilege.

Of course it’s not perfect. It’s a thing of beauty anyway. We have liftoff. It’s working.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com. (c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

NOTE: This column was up on TMV for a while with E.J. Dionne’s byline. We regret the error.

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M Is For Modest http://themoderatevoice.com/193592/m-is-for-music/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193592/m-is-for-music/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:05:05 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193592 [oi-89up89uh

Modesty is not something that we usually associate with politicians, and especially not with Presidents. But that is a term which applies to some, including two of my favorites: Harry Truman and Gerald Ford.

In looking at their lives and their Presidencies it is interesting to consider the many similarities.

As suggested by the title of this post, neither man wanted to be President. Harry Truman was quite happy as a Senator and had no desire to advance further. Indeed he strongly fought against being nominated for Vice President during the 1944 campaign. Gerald Ford’s only ambition was to be Speaker of the House and by 1973 he’d decided that goal wasn’t going to happen and had planned to retire in 1977.

If you look at the two men one year before they became President neither seems a likely candidate. In April 1944 Truman was a Senator while in August 1973 Ford was a member of the House. Both had achieved success, Truman was one of the better known members of the Senate (thanks in large part to the Truman committee) and For was House minority leader. But few looked at either as being likely for a national ticket. Yet one year later they were President.

As President both came to power in difficult times and had to make difficult decisions. Truman came to power in the ending days of World War Two and was faced with the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb while Ford came to power after possibly the worst Constitutional crisis in US History and had to decide what to do about Nixon. Truman then had to face the beginnings of the Cold War, the Berlin Crisis and the Korean War. Ford faced a series of major domestic and international events ranging from the collapse of Southeast Asia to an economic slump at home.

At the time both men made decisions that were very unpopular. Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon led to a 25 point drop in his popularity while the events in China and Korea made Truman very unpopular with a large segment of the country. Yet today both men are greatly admired for making decisions that most now recognize as correct.

Upon leaving the Presidency, both men remained humble and kept out of the spotlight as much as possible.

Today I think it is worth reflecting on how lucky we were to have these men lead the country when they did.

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We Knew It Was Going To Happen http://themoderatevoice.com/193622/we-knew-it-was-going-to-happen/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193622/we-knew-it-was-going-to-happen/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 03:07:58 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193622 Wal-Mart (2)

After the United States and for that matter the World real estate collapsed the Chinese kept building to keep their economy growing.  The result was entire new cities where no body lived and empty apartments and retail space.  Many, including me, knew this was not sustainable.  Well now it’s happening:

China Property Collapse Has Begun

Nothing is going right for Hangzhou at this moment. Walmart will be closing its Zhaohui store in that city on April 23 as a part of its overall plan to dump marginal locations—about 9% of the total—in China.

Thanks to the world’s largest retailer, another large block of space in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, will go on the market at a time when there is generally too much supply. The problem is especially pronounced in the city’s premium office market. Hangzhou’s Grade A office buildings at the end of 2013 had, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, an average occupancy rate of 30%.

The real weakness, however, is Hangzhou’s residential sector. The cause is simple: massive overbuilding. Sara Hsu of the State University of New York at New Paltz writes that Hangzhou faces “burgeoning swaths of empty apartment units.

And it’s not unlike what happened years ago in the US and Europe:

The real estate market in Hangzhou looks like it has just passed an inflection point. It is not so much that fundamentals have deteriorated—they have been weak for some time—as that people’s mentality has changed.

China has many other problems they must address not the least of which is their lethal air pollution which is worse than anything we saw in Los Angeles  at it’s worse.  The Chinese also have much agriculture land that can no longer be used because of pollution.  The increase in the cost of bunker oil continues to make Chinese products less competitive.

The Chinese economic miracle was always going to be a short term thing and it looks like the party is winding down.

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Wash Post, Guardian share Pulitzer for NSA coverage http://themoderatevoice.com/193619/wash-post-guardian-share-pulitzer-for-nsa-coverage/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193619/wash-post-guardian-share-pulitzer-for-nsa-coverage/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:55:01 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193619
Wash Post, Guardian share Pulitzer for NSA coverage (via AFP)

The Guardian and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer Prize Monday for reporting on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed a global surveillance network monitoring millions of Americans and foreigners. The…



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Science Skeptics (Cartoon) http://themoderatevoice.com/193617/science-skeptics-cartoon/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193617/science-skeptics-cartoon/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:41:23 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193617 Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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Wisconsin state Republicans to vote on secession from Union http://themoderatevoice.com/193613/wisconsin-state-republicans-to-vote-on-secession-from-union/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193613/wisconsin-state-republicans-to-vote-on-secession-from-union/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 18:23:25 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193613 Rod (1)

The Republican Party’s biggest obstacle to winning big is the Republican Party. In terms of optics, most Americans eyes will open wide when they read that a state Republican Party is going to vote on whether to secede from the union. Presumably that means the right to leave the union when a different party is in control. Why leave when you have things your way? But here’s a news story that won’t help the GOP image, no matter what the outcome:

To secede or not to secede.

That will be the question for Wisconsin Republicans at next month’s convention.

Earlier this month, the party’s Resolutions Committee voted in favor of a proposal that says the state party “supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.”

A version of the so-called “state sovereignty” resolution was first OK’d last month by one of the state GOP’s eight regional caucuses as an assertion of the state’s 10th Amendment rights. The measure also calls for ending all mandates that go “beyond the scope of the constitutionally delegated powers of the federal government.”

Top Republican officials hoped to kill the fringe proposal during a meeting of the resolutions panel at the Hyatt Hotel in Milwaukee on April 5. Instead, the committee made a few edits to the resolution and adopted it on a split vote.

Now, the matter will go for final approval to the delegates attending the state Republican Party’s convention in Milwaukee on May 2-4.

Gov. Scott Walker, the leader of the state party, distanced himself from the resolution last week.

“I don’t think that one aligns with where most Republican officials are in the state of Wisconsin — certainly not with me,” Walker said at a press event on Friday.

The governor said Republicans and Democrats have both had their share of unconventional resolutions over the years. It’s important to realize, he added, that no single candidate will be perfectly aligned with all of the party’s policy statements.

It’s another huge embarrassment for the GOP and a disservice to all the truly thoughtful people who are Republicans but don’t talk about leaving the union, and may not worship at the Church of Rush Limbaugh. I agree with Doug Mataconis:

Leaving aside the historical irony of a state Republican Party potentially endorsing the idea of secession or the fact this is happening north of the Mason-Dixon line, things like this are just another example of how extremist elements within a political organization can end up doing things that embarrass the organization. I anticipate that the state party will ensure that the resolution fails at the convention next month, but the fact that they even will be voting on it means that the media is going to be paying unwanted attention to stupid things, that can’t help the image of the party as a whole. At some point, one thinks, Republicans will start to learn this lesson.

It may take losing a few elections, or winning far less than anticipated.

And it sounds as if some Republicans are feverishly working on that.

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Alleged “Heartland Killer” Frazier Glenn Miller’s Long Resume of Hate http://themoderatevoice.com/193608/alleged-heartland-killer-frazier-glenn-millers-long-resume-of-hate/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193608/alleged-heartland-killer-frazier-glenn-millers-long-resume-of-hate/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:53:20 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193608 You Tube photo

You Tube photo

Sometimes during a seemingly senseless shooting, when the shooter’s identity becomes known people come out of the woodwork saying, “How could this happen? He seemed like a quiet type.” Not so with accused “Heatland Killer” Frazier Glenn Miller, who The Daily Beast’s John Avlon and Caitlen Dickson note has a long — truly huge — record in the hate biz. As the subheadline on their must-read-in-full-piece notes: “The man accused of shooting three at Jewish centers in Kansas has a long résumé as a neo-Nazi and KKK grand wizard who once created a points system for murder.”

What “better” person to shoot into two Jewish community centers, kill three people (two of them a churchgoing grandfather and his teenage grandson), and yell “Heil Hitler!” one day before the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover? Here are a few excerpts from The Daily Beast’s Post, which needs to be read in its entirety:

The sole suspect in a shooting that left three dead at two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City on Sunday is a former Ku Klux Klan “grand dragon,” neo-Nazi, and ex-con named Frazier Glenn Miller….

….Miller, who also uses the alias Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., has an extensive résumé of hate. A former Green Beret who served in Vietnam, he embraced white supremacy in the 1970s, first joining the National States’ Rights Party and then the National Socialist Party of America—the Nazis.

According to his considerable dossier on the SPLC website Miller was forced to retire from the military due to his extremist connections. He bought a farm in Angier, North Carolina, where he formed the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1980. He preferred wearing fatigues to the traditional Klan robe and recruited active-duty soldiers to conduct paramilitary-style training, aggressively seeking publicity and taking inspiration from Hitler, as he described in his autobiography: “I would try to emulate Hitler’s methods of attracting members and supporters…I placed great emphasis on staging marches and rallies. It had been successful with Hitler.” His stated goal was to create an all-white “Carolina Free State.”

Miller’s dark ambitions with the Carolina Knights hit a legal obstacle when the Southern Poverty Law Center successfully sued him and his organization and received a consent decree requiring that they stop all intimidation against African-Americans and paramilitary activity. In 1985, Miller formed the White Patriot Party, ostensibly trying to move into the political sphere, but he was convicted of criminal contempt a year later for purchasing weapons and explosives to fund an insurgency to create a “White Southland.” He was sentenced to a year in prison but went underground while out on bond. He mailed supporters—whom he called “Aryan warriors of The Order”—establishing a point system for each murder: “Niggers (1), White race traitors (10), Jews (10), Judges (50) Morris Seligman Dees (888).” Dees is the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After the FBI tear-gassed Miller and four Klansman out of a mobile home loaded with weapons and explosives in Springfield, Missouri, Miller served three years in federal penitentiary, reducing his sentence in a plea deal by testifying against 14 other white supremacists.

He flopped in his tries at elective office, The Daily Beast reports. But he got his 15 minutes of widespread fame — literally:

His 2010 Senate campaign—for which his slogan was “It’s the Jews, Stupid”—landed him an interview on The Howard Stern Show. In response to Stern’s quip that Miller was the most “honest politician” in America because he made his beliefs crystal clear, Miller replied that U.S. politicians “are all a bunch of whores for Israel, they’re all corrupt to the core, and they’re all traitors to America.” Miller prominently displays a link to the interview on his low-budget website, Whty.org, dedicated to white supremacy and anti-Semitism, including photos of Klan rallies and extensive screeds about the Jewish control of the media.

There’s a lot more so read it in full.

NOTE: Avlon wrote a definitive book in 2010 about “wingnuts” and extremist groups of the left and right. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

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A program conservatives should love http://themoderatevoice.com/193606/a-program-conservatives-should-love/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193606/a-program-conservatives-should-love/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:24:21 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193606 WASHINGTON — We are at a point where we will soon have vicious ideological debates over motherhood and apple pie.
americorps_logo (1)

Don’t laugh. If we can agree on anything across our philosophical divides, surely we can support efforts to promote voluntary service by our fellow citizens and to strengthen our nation’s extraordinary network of civic and religious charities.

This shared set of commitments led to one of the few bipartisan initiatives of President Obama’s time in office. On April 21, it will be five years since the president signed the Serve America Act, the final product of one of Congress’ most creative odd couples. Over and over, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy found ways to legislate together. The law aimed at authorizing 250,000 service slots by 2017 was the unlikely duo’s capstone project before Kennedy’s death.

At a very modest cost to government — those who serve essentially get living expenses and some scholarship assistance later — AmeriCorps gives mostly young Americans a chance to spend a year helping communities and those in need while also nurturing thousands of organizations across the country. Senior Corps provides Americans over 55 a chance to serve, too.

AmeriCorps sent out its first volunteers 20 years ago this fall. Since then, over 800,000 Americans have participated in the program. By giving life to this great venture in generosity, our government did something that taxpayers, regardless of party, can be proud of.

One politician who speaks often about the importance of civil society groups is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan rightly talks about the “vast middle ground between government and the individual,” and of empowering “community organizations to improve people’s lives.”

Yet Ryan’s new budget comes out against apple pie. It zeroes out AmeriCorps. Poof. Gone.

Rather than denouncing Ryan for this, I would urge him instead to take a second look on the basis of his own principles and realize the opportunity he has. The best move for someone who loves the activities of the nonprofits as much as Ryan says he does is to try to trump the president.

Obama’s budget proposes $1.05 billion to finance 114,000 AmeriCorps positions, a net increase of more than 30,000. It’s good that Obama and Senate Democrats have worked to keep the program funded in the face of House Republican resistance. But even the number Obama proposes amounts to just over half of the 200,000 spots for 2014 that Hatch and Kennedy envisioned in their original bill.

It’s not as if young people don’t want to serve. AmeriCorps had 580,000 applications for 80,000 openings, Teach for America 55,000 applications for 6,000 slots. Alan Khazei, co-chair of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute that promotes national service, points to the 16 percent unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds. Service, he argues, is a gateway. It can lead to “employment opportunities and help young Americans develop important job skills for their future careers.”

If Ryan isn’t convinced yet, he should talk to Wendy Spencer, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. He’d have a lot in common politically with Spencer, a Republican. She worked in the private sector, for a local Chamber of Commerce and a United Way, and held positions in Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration in Florida. She headed the state’s Commission on Volunteerism for the last three Republican governors.

Spencer has been inventive at a time of tough budgets. At the end of March, she announced a partnership with Citi Foundation and the Points of Light Institute involving $10 million in private financing to engage 25,000 low-income young Americans to lead volunteer service projects even as they get mentoring and training from Citi employees.

Encouraged by Obama, federal agencies are using AmeriCorps volunteers in new ways. FEMA Corps, for example, can deploy 1,600 volunteers in disaster relief emergencies while the School Turnaround corps has used hundreds of volunteers in repairing troubled schools.

Spencer views the federal service programs as a “trifecta.” The organizations receiving AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members see their capacity enhanced as full-time volunteers leverage the work of thousands more. And, of course, the participants themselves benefit, as do the people they serve.

If you wish, Mr. Ryan, you can let the president get all the credit for saving this worthy endeavor and for fostering innovation. Or you can go him one better by expanding it. You could use AmeriCorps as a model for a practical, locally oriented, conservative approach to government. Because that’s exactly what it is.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne. (c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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Were Russian jets trying to provoke U.S. Navy destroyer? http://themoderatevoice.com/193604/were-russian-jet-trying-to-provoke-u-s-navy-destroyer/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193604/were-russian-jet-trying-to-provoke-u-s-navy-destroyer/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:04:46 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193604
Tom Janssen, The Netherlands

Tom Janssen, The Netherlands

If a Russian jet flies in provocative way over a U.S. Navy destroyer that might be an accident. But if two Russian jets fly over a U.S. Navy destroyer several times, that is a pattern — and a seemingly provocative event. That’s what just occurred in the Western Black Sea and it raises the question: are we back to the old brinkmanship days?

Two Russian fighter jets made “provocative” moves near a U.S. Navy destroyer in the western Black Sea on Saturday morning, a Pentagon official said Monday.

The Su-24 jets were unarmed, though one made “numerous close-range, low-altitude passes” near the USS Donald Cook, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said.
Warren would not specify how close the Russian fighter got to the U.S destroyer but said, “It was close enough to be provocative and unprofessional.”

The jet made as many as 12 passes by the ship, but did not pass over its deck, Warren said. The Associated Press said the jet came within 1,000 yards of the destroyer.

That is extremely close.

The USS Donald Cook, which arrived in the Black Sea last week, made several attempts to contact the pilots with no response. The episode lasted 90 minutes, Warren said.

Warren would not specify whether sailors onboard went to their battle stations, but he added that the Cook “remains prepared to defend herself.”

NBC News:

Military officials say it appears the plane was not armed with any aerial bombs, but the actions were still in violation of several international protocols.

While military officials consider the incident “provocative and unprofessional,” they say the encounter ended without incident.

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Rise of the right: Cross-Atlantic extremism (Guest Voice) http://themoderatevoice.com/193601/rise-of-the-right-cross-atlantic-extremism-guest-voice/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193601/rise-of-the-right-cross-atlantic-extremism-guest-voice/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:46:54 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193601
Rise of the right: Cross-Atlantic extremism (via The Economist)

I HAVE long had a sneaking suspicion that Tea Party voters and eurosceptics are more or less the same sorts of people, born on different sides of the Atlantic. Both are traditionalist movements driven by economic anxiety and mistrust of centralised…



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Dmitry Kiselyov: Russia Has Taken West’s Place as Beacon of Free Expression (Izvestia, Russsia) http://themoderatevoice.com/193594/dmitry-kiselyov-russia-has-taken-wests-place-as-beacon-of-free-expression-izvestia-russsia/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193594/dmitry-kiselyov-russia-has-taken-wests-place-as-beacon-of-free-expression-izvestia-russsia/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:30:38 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193594 KISELYOV-profile-caption_pic

Have the United States and Europe shown that they have a diminishing commitment to free expression, whereas Russia has an increasingly greater such commitment? In this interview with Izvestia, Dmitry Kiselyov, one of the titans of Russia’s state media and man with Vladimir Putin’s ear, reacts to critics that call him anti-gay, attacks sanctions against him as an attack on all journalists, and defends Russia’s state media as no better or worse than Western news agencies who he says also have a propagandist agenda.

From Izvestia, Here are a few of the more notable exchanges from the 4,000 word interview:

IZVESTIA: You are the only journalist to be targeted by sanctions. Does that make you the Yuri Gagarin of modern journalism? Did you expect this?

 

DMITRY KISELYOV: This applies to all journalists. In my memory, this is the first time international sanctions have been imposed against a journalist. I’m just a journalist X [an ordinary journalist]. It is telling that Europe has initiated such sanctions, which reflect a blatant disregard for the freedom of speech said to be so dear to E.U. officials, and which create a dangerous and disturbing precedent. In fact, this is a betrayal of European values. If this precedent is normalized, and if the journalistic community in Europe, America, or any other country, fails to respond, it would mean that journalists consider this legitimate. To say that we no longer need freedom of speech or believe it is a core value, represents a major turning point in Western civilization. Moreover, the E.U. is not alone. It has the backing of the Norwegian Storting [Parliament].

 

IZVESTIA: If the United States and E.U. don’t in fact understand the reality, and yet the list includes powerful statesmen, perhaps someone advised them on who the candidates for blacklisting should be – which included you?

 

DMITRY KISELYOV: I know who exactly advised them. [opposition activists] Sergei Parkhomenko and Alexei Navalny created these lists. They don’t hide it. But if Europe is going to rely on the opinions of a vanishing minority in Russia, it will find it difficult to form informed decisions in this world, especially when it comes to Russia. There are many issues in the world that will be difficult to resolve without Russia’s participation, including on questions of war and peace in different regions.

 

Such behavior on the part of the West borders on schizophrenia. There’s that word again. Schizophrenia is when consciousness is split into two parallel worlds, drawing in secondary signs and secondary factors. When we follow the opinions of insignificant people, and even cultivate and inflate their opinions, we are entering a hall of crooked mirrors.

 

In my opinion, the great powers that form the backbone of the E.U. cannot afford this, because their status demands a certain level of responsibility. Otherwise they get themselves into absurd situations that eventually harm their own nationals. What does freedom of expression in European countries mean, now that they have imposed sanctions on a journalist? Will they legalize taboos or put limits on the work of journalists? If they adopt a such a position toward a foreign journalist, why not apply the same standards within the E.U.?

 

IZVESTIA: A journalist who works for state media is automatically branded a “propagandist.” Your show’s ratings are high and everyone has an opinion about you. Are you the leading propagandist?

 

DMITRY KISELYOV: Vladimir Putin appointed me director general of a new international information agency, Rossiya Segodnya. Sanctions against me and the agency have been imposed during a period of reorganization, when Rossiya Segodnya hasn’t yet had the capacity to do propaganda. We hadn’t introduced any new brands, while our main product, the English, French and Spanish news wires, appeared only on April 1, after the sanctions were announced.

 

So could one say that the sanctions are preventive? Are they meant to discourage me from producing propaganda? The fact is that all Western news agencies impose their own point of view. Take Reuters or the Associated Press. Both are in fact propaganda agencies. They shape the dominant narrative and talk of what their audiences ought to think. They interpret history, the present and future, and try to lay out a system of values, ideological positions, and a political agenda.

 

IZVESTIA: Can it be that these countries were annoyed by your statement about burning or burying the hearts of gay people killed in traffic accidents?

 

DMITRY KISELYOV: But this is a complete betrayal of freedom of speech. As for gays, I have a very clear position. Gay culture certainly has a right to exist in Russia, and it does de facto exist. Yet it is a minority culture, and that is all it will ever be. A minority culture should not be imposed on the majority, especially not through aggressive propaganda. I don’t believe that this non-traditional sexual orientation is a disease. I’m not even saying it is outside physiological norms. But it is certainly outside accepted social practices, and for me this is a strongly held belief. Each country has the right to define its own social norms. We have a social norm – the traditional family. The Russian government is obliged to encourage this social norm, because it is crucial to society. A family means children. Russia is experiencing a demographic crisis. To support the spread of gay culture in Russia is the equivalent of self-elimination. That is what they propose. But do we have to agree?

 

IZVESTIA: Do you thinks this is being imposed on use?

 

DMITRY KISELYOV: Yes – and it is something absolutely alien to us. The examples are legion. For instance, my line about burning the hearts of gays is now being used as a hostile meme. Alright, let the critics continue their attacks. I won’t take back on what I said, but let me clarify what I meant.

 

One needs to understand the context. I was being deliberately provocative. It was a controlled flame that I used to ignite a discussion. I was after a dramatic conflict of opinion; it was part of the script. The discussion focused on plans to introduce fines for promoting non-traditional sexual relations among adolescents – in effect for molestation. One has to understand that since gay people cannot reproduce among themselves, they have to recruit new members into their ranks. Gay pride parades are aimed at luring new members – everyone marching in bright feathers and laughing to show how much fun it is to be gay. However, the reality of being gay is very different.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR RUSSIAN, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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L Is For Laughter http://themoderatevoice.com/193590/l-is-for-laughter/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193590/l-is-for-laughter/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:57:52 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193590 yes-minister-150x150.jpg

From time to time we all need to have a good laugh, especially in times like these. One of my favorites programs (or perhaps I should say programmes) is the absolutely brilliant BBC series Yes Minister and it’s successor, Yes Prime Minister.

For those not familiar with the programs, they follow the trials of a UK government minister named James Hacker as he works hard to accomplish change and reform. At the same time his chief aide, Sir Humphrey Appleby works just as hard to prevent him from succeeding.

On the surface it is a story of the fact that the bureaucracy really runs the show while the elected officials are mere figureheads. But in depth it is a brilliant political satire that many former government officials have called much more of a documentary than a satire.

The show enjoyed a wide fan base, including then real world PM Thatcher who not only watched the show but actually appeared in a skit with the cast members.

In one episode Sir Humphrey explains to his protege why it is important for the civil service to run the show and why the people in charge of government aren’t qualified to do it for real. He points out that there are only 600 or so seats in Parliament and that this means you only need 300 to form a government

Of those 300, about 100 are too old to serve, about 100 are too young, which leaves 100 or so people to fill 100 or so positions, and thus qualifications have nothing to do with it. I’m not sure if this is how we fill positions in our government but it makes as much sense as any other explanation.

Here are a few clips to enjoy, though I urge everyone to go out and rent/buy the DVD’s and watch the whole brilliant series.

On foreign policy (in this case for the UK, but fits just as well for the USA)

Click here to view the embedded video.

On diplomacy

Click here to view the embedded video.

On how to get the result you want

Click here to view the embedded video.

On how polls work

Click here to view the embedded video.

Enjoy the clips folks. Both series are available on DVD.

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Ex-KKK Grand Dragon Frazier Glenn Miller ID’d as Kansas Jewish Center Shooter http://themoderatevoice.com/193597/ex-kkk-grand-dragon-frazier-glenn-miller-idd-as-kansas-jewish-center-shooter/ http://themoderatevoice.com/193597/ex-kkk-grand-dragon-frazier-glenn-miller-idd-as-kansas-jewish-center-shooter/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 03:37:51 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=193597
Ex-KKK Grand Dragon Frazier Glenn Miller ID'd as Kansas Jewish Center Shooter

Ex-KKK Grand Dragon Frazier Glenn Miller ID’d as Kansas Jewish Center Shooter (Credit: Twitter)


The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom shooting suspect as former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon Frazier Glenn Miller (Frazier Glenn Cross), 73, of Aurora, Mo.  He was arrested for the murders of Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, as well as an unidentified female. A 14-year-old boy is listed in critical condition.

Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, of Aurora, Mo., was arrested today for the murder of three people at two separate Jewish Community Centers in Overland Park, Kan. Miller, who was arrested using the alias Frazier Glenn Cross, has been in the movement nearly his entire life. Miller is the former “grand dragon” of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which he founded and ran in the 1980s before being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans. Source: SPLC

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has released the booking report for Frazier Glenn Cross (Frazier Glenn Miller). He was charged with premeditated murder in the 1st degree and is being held at the detention center in Olathe. He is expected to make his first court appearance on Monday at 1:30 p.m., according to jail records.

This was cross-posted from The Hinterland Gazette.

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