Archive for February, 2011
Yesterday, February 27, was a day where the nation lost two significant public figures, one who had no desire to be, and one who was in the headlines for many years.
Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, which he entered at age 16 in 1917, passed away within a month after his 110th birthday. He sought no fame, but testified before Congress last year for a World War I Memorial on the level of the Vietnam, Korean, and World War II Memorials already on the Washington Mall, to honor veterans of those wars.
Buckles never actually came close to war duty itself, being at least 30 miles from the war trenches in France, but he came to represent the nearly five million Americans who served in World War I, and the two million who actually went off to the war front.
He became nationally known in 2007, when he was named grand marshal of the National Memorial Day parade in Washington, DC. He also was a guest at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day 2007 for a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. He also was honored by Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon, and met with President George W. Bush at the White House in 2008.
He was a prisoner of war in the Philippines in World War II, due to his work for a shipping company in Manila, and the seizure of that country by the Japanese, surviving 38 months of harsh imprisonment and finally freed by an American rescue mission.
Buckles will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with a traditional white marble headstone, the last living memory of the Great War, the war to end all wars, which did no such thing, regrettably.
Also passing away was a famous baseball slugger, Duke Snider of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, one of the favorite players of the author as a child growing up in New York City, and being a fan of “dem Bums”!
Snider had to compete with Willie Mays of the New York Giants and Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees as a center fielder, and was often thought to be just number three when compared to them, but to many, he was simply “the Duke”!
Snider had 40 or more home runs five straight years, something not achieved by Mays or Mantle. He helped the Dodgers to win their only World Series in Brooklyn in 1955, and was seen as the super star of the team, even as compared to Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, and Carl Erskine, among others.
Snider managed to hit 407 home runs lifetime, batted .300 or better seven times, had a lifetime batting average of .295, and had over 2,000 hits, and was among the leaders in runs batted in numerous times.
With his death, the last significant player on the old Brooklyn Dodgers has passed away, age 84, and makes the Dodgers truly a part of history, just as much as Frank Buckles’s death marks the true end of World War I for America!
This is a sad time for those who realize how history has truly taken over, not only with Buckles and Snider, but also last month with the death of Sargent Shriver, marking the true end of the Kennedy Presidency and its entrance into history, much the same as the First World War and the Brooklyn Dodgers!
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has been seen as a insignificant factor in the Republican Presidential race, having far less voter recognition than his potential major opponents–Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Rick Santorum.
But several things have occurred which improve his chances of being a serious candidate:
Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana and Senator John Thune of South Dakota, both regional Midwestern potential candidates, decided not to run for President, giving him a boost in Iowa, the first measure of party support on February 6, 2012.
Rumors are flying that Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin may not run for President, due to the lucrative positions they have with Fox News Channel, plus other money making activities for Palin.
All of the other major Presidential possibilities, and even some of the minor ones, have “skeletons in the closet”, major negatives that can hurt them, such as:
Mitt Romney–He is seen as having promoted a health care plan in Massachusetts similar to what President Obama was able to achieve nationally in 2010. Also, he is seen by many as secretly a northeastern liberal in his background, and being a Mormon hurts him with evangelical Christians. Plus he had one go around already and lost to John McCain.
Mike Huckabee–He has had one go around already, is seen as a big spender during his years as Governor of Arkansas, and may not want to give up the lucrative income he has recently enjoyed for the first time in his life. Plus he seems concerned with the costs of running for President against President Obama, who will probably have a billion dollar campaign fund.
Sarah Palin–She has not developed a real set of plans to run, may not want to give up her lucrative income to run, and is actually not running well in many polls, since she is seen as shallow, and more of a cult figure than a serious Presidential possibility.
Newt Gingrich–He has a lot of personal life scandals in his past, has not been in public office for 14 years by 2012, and is very divisive in his rhetoric, making him less appealing to many who think of him as a “flame thrower”.
Haley Barbour–He has made major blunders with his lack of understanding and miscues about the civil rights movement in his home state of Mississippi in the 1960s, plus the question exists whether someone from the deep South can appeal to the nation at large.
Rick Santorum–He has the problem of a massive Senate defeat for reelection in 2006, and his being best remembered for his “man-dog” statement in opposing gay rights and gay marriage. He is not taken very seriously as a Presidential candidate by anyone in top leadership of the GOP.
Other candidates also have major problems if they decide to run.
Jon Huntsman–He has a background as a moderate in the party, which is not a plus. Plus he was Barack Obama’s Ambassador to China, which could be harmful, and being a Mormon, as Romney is, is probably a major minus as well.
Michele Bachmann–The Congresswoman from Minnesota may appeal to the Tea Party and could be a rival of fellow Minnesotan Pawlenty, but it is hard to imagine that her loose mouth and extremist image would give her a serious chance for the nomination. Plus being a Congresswoman is a difficult challenge for the Presidency, as only one Congressman (James Garfield) ever went directly to the Presidency, and he was dead by assassination six months into his term in 1881.
Ron Paul–He has his followers, and has won the CPAC straw poll twice in a row, but to imagine a libertarian in his late 70s who has tried before for the nomination, and been ridiculed by all others in the party who have run for President, to go on to the nomination is a tremendous long shot, hard to conceive.
Donald Trump–The billionaire businessman is pretty obnoxious and a publicity seeker, and were he to run, his anti Chinese rhetoric and basic belligerence on foreign policy issues would make him a dangerous choice for the Presidency, and since he is not a lovable character personally, it is hard to imagine him going all the way to the nomination.
The above analysis does not mean that none of them can be the nominee, but by comparison , Tim Pawlenty has a real chance to emerge, based on the following factors.
He is from the heartland of the Midwest, the battleground for 2012, and with Mike Pence and John Thune out of the race, that is a boost for Pawlenty.
He first gained notice with John McCain’s campaign for President in 2008, and was on the short list for Vice President, but with McCain’s defeat, it actually was better that he did not win the VP nomination.
Pawlenty is a strong evangelical Christian, and has gained a lot of support from social conservatives and the Tea Party as a result.
He has had real executive experience as Governor of Minnesota for two terms and a total of eight years.
He has been promoted as a candidate with fewer problems, issues, and “skeletons in the closet”, by conservative George Will and MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell, giving him, therefore, a bit of a boomlet for the Presidency.
Pawlenty comes across well on television, as a photogenic personality and well spoken, and even at times having a good sense of humor, when he said at the CPAC convention that he had no doubts of Barack Obama’s citizenship, but thought what he believed in sometimes might make one think he was from “outer space!”
This is not an endorsement by this author of Pawlenty by any means, as he strongly prefers Barack Obama to win reelection, but simply a statement that Pawlenty may be the surprise of 2012, and should not be ignored.
Having said that, the author still feels that the best candidate that the GOP could run, overall, would be Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman, but again, Tim Pawlenty will probably be an important part of the equation at the end!
One hundred years ago, on March 25, 1911, 146 workers, mostly female, were killed in the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, spurring the beginning of labor reforms.
Promotion of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and other unions moved ahead after this tragedy, and finally, in the 1930s under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, organized labor finally received recognition as an equal in collective bargaining.
By the 1960s and 1970s, about one third of all workers were in labor unions, and the middle class grew in size and prosperity as never before.
But starting with the 1981 Air Traffic Controllers Strike under President Ronald Reagan, where all the strikers were fired, leaving the nation in a dangerous, reckless situation regarding air safety, unions rapidly declined, and now are as low as 6-9 percent of the population, much of it public workers unions. Many states have become “right to work” states, or states that have worked against unionization, particularly in the South and Mountain West.
Now Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Chris Christie in New Jersey, Rick Scott in Florida, and other Republican Governors are declaring war on public service unions, and this may be the turning point where the collective bargaining rights of 1935 are lost in 2011 and beyond, and just on the centennial of the horrible tragedy of the Triangle fire coming up in a few weeks.
Before that complete collapse of labor rights occurs, one can watch a documentary on PBS on Monday night, relating the terrible events of the Triangle Fire, and that event’s centennial should make us reflect on how far we have come and how far backward we seem to be headed!
Have we learned from history, or are we again ignoring history in the name of “bully” Governors who speak for the Koch Brothers and other extremely wealthy corporate interests, who do not give a damn about the rest of America in their mad dash to obscene profits and greed?
Texas and Arizona are leading the charge in promoting the idea of allowing guns on college campuses to prevent against threats to students and professors, as most infamous in the Virginia Tech massacre of 2006, but also present in other circumstances and incidents over the years.
Anyone over the age of 21 could carry a gun on campus under the Arizona proposal. How would one enforce this, when one considers that the majority of college students are under 21? And how does this save professors and students from a crazed gunman?
Does it not in fact promote the danger of any student unhappy with a grade, or angry at his girlfriend because of a dispute, or just anyone depressed and stressed, from opening up on fellow students and professors?
Would not the extreme rarity of a Virginia Tech event be worsened by exchanges of gunfire within a classroom or in a student lounge, as crossfire could lead to more people being harmed than otherwise? Are we not overreacting to a occasional tragic event, which could better be prevented by having strict gun control laws to prevent unstable people from having the ability to purchase a gun at a Walmart or other place similar, as Jared Loughner did in Tucson, Arizona before shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killing six victims and wounding twelve people?
By this logic being promoted, then all high school students and teachers and administrators should have weapons on their person so as to prevent another high school massacre as at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado!
Utah is the only state to allow guns on all college campuses, but with the likelihood of Texas and Arizona joining them, the reality is that there will be more tragic shootings and deaths, not fewer.
But this is the gun lobby at its most extreme, and the nation is moving toward more violence, not less, in a country already with the highest death rate from guns in the world!
Rush Limbaugh, the much overweight and pill popping radio talk show host, has been on a rampage lately in criticizing First Lady Michelle Obama for advocating good nutritional habits. He has also criticized her figure, comparing her to a beauty contest contestant who would be at least 20 years younger!
He and other conservatives have stated that her advocacy is interfering with family control over their children, and pushing for government intervention through “food police”!
They also contend that Michelle Obama is a hypocrite, as hamburgers and fries were served at the White House Super Bowl Party, and ribs were consumed by her and her daughters on a skiing vacation in Vail, Colorado.
Why is it that if someone wishes to promote good habits among children, who in larger numbers than ever before are overweight and liable to have diabetes someday, is seen as engaged in a conspiracy? Why is it bad to advocate proper eating when so many parents do not realize the importance of that factor in the bringing up of their children? And why is it that an occasional straying from ideal food habits is not seen as perfectly normal, as long as it is occasional in nature?
It is preposterous that conservatives have to attack something like this, when a half century ago, John F. Kennedy could advocate physical fitness, and no one protested that it was interference by government.
Every First Lady takes on a cause, and this one for nutritional eating is something that in the long run will be applauded, no matter what Rush Limbaugh does to criticize it at this time in history! What pettiness and demagoguery on the part of someone who has no limit to his own hypocrisy! And yes, Rush, you NEED to lose weight, eat better, and stay away from your addiction to prescription medicine!
The death of Russell Peterson, a major figure in the environmental movement after having worked with the DuPont Chemical Corporation as a research scientist for 26 years, deserves attention.
Peterson died a few days ago at age 94, and anyone concerned about the environment must applaud his transformation from a research scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry who worked for the one of the most prominent corporations which helped to undermine the environment in the process of doing business, the DuPont Chemical Corporation, to a environmental leader who fought DuPont and the Shell Oil Company, among others, who resisted any intervention by government on their business and industrial practices.
A one term Governor of Delaware as a Republican, Peterson promoted protection of the state’s coastline from industrial development, including a Shell Oil Company refinery, and utilized a lapel button which declared “To Hell With Shell”!
This activity led to Peterson’s appointment by President Richard Nixon as chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, which he kept under President Gerald Ford. Peterson worked to protect the ozone layer of the atmosphere, and the phaseout of freon, a DuPont product.
Peterson promoted the publication of environmental impact statements and drew our attention to the environment like few other people had been able to do.
Peterson became head of the National Audubon Society from 1979-1985 and fought the environmental decline under President Ronald Reagan. He reacted to Reagan’s statement that his society was trying to make the White House a “bird’s nest” by stating that the White House under Reagan was already a “cuckoo’s nest”!
Peterson fought not just for protection of wildlife, but also for population control measures, consideration of energy issues, dealing with the dangers of toxic chemicals, and promotion of films on the environment and adaptation of an environmental curriculum for elementary school students. He also became involved in the protection of birds, and concern about the biological threat presented by nuclear war.
Imagine this: here was a man who developed Dacron polyester fiber and nylon carpet yarn while working for DuPont, and yet he became a reform Governor, possibly the best Governor in Delaware history, and grew to appreciate that industry must be regulated in the public interest to save our environment.
So with his death, one of the greatest public figures on environmental issues has left us with a great legacy to pursue!
Arizona, the state of the near assassination of Gabrielle Giffords due to its loose regulation of who can purchase guns; the state denying 96 citizens, who need transplants, of any assistance because of budget cuts, but giving tax breaks to corporations; the state of discriminatory legislation against Latinos and Hispanics that is now being contested in the federal courts; now is adding to its horrible image as the equivalent of Mississippi in the 1960s, despite Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s belief that his state was a paragon of virtue in its treatment of African Americans in that decade!
Governor Jan Brewer, a person who evades explanation and responsibility for her wretched administration of the state government, is expected to sign new discriminatory legislation against illegal immigrants within the state, which is being considered by the Arizona legislature.
Under the proposed and likely legislation, illegal immigrants would not be allowed to drive within state boundaries, enroll their children in schools or receive most public benefits. Additionally, their children would have special birth certificates that make it clear they are not considered to be Arizona citizens.
School officials would have to ask for proof of citizenship for students, and hospitals would have to ask for papers of citizenship for those receiving non emergency care.
Also, no licenses would be given to illegal immigrants, including marriage licenses. And if one person in a family was an illegal immigrant, then a family could be evicted from public housing units. Additionally, if caught driving a car in the state boundaries, an illegal immigrant would face 30 days in jail and lose ownership of the car.
These laws are obviously unconstitutional, but the promoters of them hope the Supreme Court, unduly influenced by conservative business interests including the Koch Brothers, might continue their practice of acting in a manner which makes one wonder as to their qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court due to conflict of interest.
These new proposed laws would challenge basic freedoms and rights, which Arizona fails to understand is guaranteed to all who live in the United States, not just citizens.
Arizona citizens, who are decent people and do not promote hatred and prejudice as government policy, are embarrassed and upset as what the Arizona legislature is about to do only adds to that state being seen as a pariah and a disgrace!
And, by the way, if all illegal immigrants were somehow forced out of the state, the effect economically on Arizona would be massive, and the public relations damage done to Arizona’s image already will not be overcome any time soon, if ever!
How quickly people forget what happens if the government, which we all take for granted, was to “shut down”!
Of course, the defense of the United States continues, and air traffic controllers still are on the job, but in so many ways, the country and its citizens suffer if the government runs out of money and cannot come up with a compromise budget bill to support government expenditures.
In 1995, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in Congress forced a government shutdown, which went on for two weeks, and ended up with President Bill Clinton winning the public relations battle, and going on to win a second term, and seeing the Republican party lose seats in the Congress, as a result.
But the memory of Americans is very limited as to what a government shutdown actually entails.
Here are the facts:
Health care–disease monitoring, clinical research, and toxic waste cleanup came to a halt.
Law Enforcement–delays in applications being processed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; delay in delinquent child support cases; cancellation in recruitment and testing of federal law enforcement officials, including border control and immigration officials.
Parks, Museums and Monuments–seven million tourists to 386 National Park Service sites prevented by closures; 2 million visitors to national museums and monuments also prevented by shutdowns; effect on local communities economically due to these closures.
Visas and Passports–20-30 thousand visa applications by foreigners unprocessed every day; 200,00 applications for passports delayed; tourist industries and airlines suffered millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Veterans Services–health, welfare, finance and travel cut back dramatically.
Federal Contractors–lost revenue in the millions of dollars, and many people furloughed without a pay check.
A shutdown would affect the American economy at a delicate moment, while in 1995, the economy was flourishing, and still the shutdown had a deleterious effect, and left a sour taste in many people’s mouths!
How can a government shut down? Only when its leader are so irresponsible as Newt Gingrich and the Republicans were then, and even worse, as John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders are today, at a time when economic growth and stability should be the priority, but is obviously not the case.
To avoid a shutdown will probably require a miracle, and the Republican Party will again acquire the image as the anti government party, which yet wishes to govern!
Hopefully, the American people will turn on the party which is promoting suffering and mean spirit as their answer to the economic collapse caused by their party under President George W. Bush!
Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who lost his race to Ron Johnson in 2010, after Johnson spent a good part of his personal fortune and utilized corporate contributions as well to defeat Feingold, is now on a new crusade against the corporate influence that defeated him after 18 productive years in the Senate.
Feingold was considered the biggest loss for the progressive movement in America in 2010, and is well remembered for his strong principles while in office.
He has now formed a Political Action Committee, Progressives United, which is out to promote the end of corporate influence on politics, by overcoming the effects of the Citizens United Supreme Court case of January 2010, which totally corrupted the political campaigns last year, and led to the gaining of 63 seats by the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Feingold, who had worked with John McCain on campaign finance reform, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United Case, has made it clear that he will not accept “soft money” or unlimited contributions for his PAC.
The goal is to overturn the Supreme Court decision eventually, and meanwhile offer support to progressive candidates, and hold the media and elected officials accountable on the goals of the PAC.
Feingold refused to accept outside spending on his campaigns, and unfortunately lost, as a result, but he made it clear that the Citizens United Case is bringing back the Gilded Age “on steroids”!
The battle for democracy in the future is centered around the struggle against the powerful corporate world, which is out to enrich itself at the expense of the citizens of this country, with the concept of greed and selfishness seemingly having no limit.
So all progressive and liberal thinkers and activists should support Senator Feingold in his quest to fight corporate influence through Progressives United!