Showing posts with label Palm Beach Post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palm Beach Post. Show all posts

Monday, July 2, 2018

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

How about by Presidential Executive Order?  Or just behavior?

I’m still recoiling from the murders of five employees of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis including a feature reporter, Rob Hiaasen.  Hiaasen’s career began at the Palm Beach Post, our local paper.  We all feel a personal connection. Writers there remember him and one, Howard Goodman, has written the definitive article on the incident: The targeting of journalists has to end

As Representative Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said on CNN “This president plays with fire. He has deliberately demonized the press and journalists. To call them the enemy of the people is a remarkable statement from the head of our government. And that puts every journalist at risk. Now, he didn’t do what happened yesterday in Annapolis, but he certainly helped create a climate … where it’s fair game to go after the press. And where does that end? And that’s what I worry about, that sooner or later it leads to this kind of tragedy.”

This is essentially reiterated in Goodman’s article:  “No one has inflamed the present atmosphere more than he, this man who occupies the highest office in our land. He has set a tone which he feeds at every rally and almost every day on Twitter.”

“I am not blaming him for Thursday’s tragedy in Annapolis. But I do charge him with injecting a sense of hatred into the soul of this nation that journalists do not deserve and which — in a country with more guns than people — may all too easily turn into bloodshed.”

However, is it no wonder?  Consider what has come before:

"Never forget. The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy. Professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it."  -- Richard Nixon to his national security adviser Henry Kissinger in a taped 1972 Oval Office conversation

“I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” --- Donald J. Trump

“The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work. You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”   --- Stephen Bannon

And the award for the most disingenuous goes to Kellyanne Conway:  “You [the press] always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”

We have looked and found the heart of darkness.

This is where the lines converge, a 2nd amendment run amuck and the perpetual debasing of the 1st amendment, lambasting the press.  Until we can get our priorities straight, expect more gun violence and subsequent “thoughts and prayers.”

Journalists must be protected.

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate, one in February and the other in May.  The Journalist Protection Act would make it a federal crime of certain attacks on those reporting the news. They’ve merely been “referred to committees on the Judiciary”:

Sponsor:              Rep. Swalwell, Eric [D-CA-15] (Introduced 02/05/2018)
Committees:      House - Judiciary
Latest Action:    House - 02/05/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Sponsor:              Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT] (Introduced 05/24/2018)
Committees:      Senate - Judiciary
Latest Action:    Senate - 05/24/2018 Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Which will pass first, this Act or a Trump appointment to the Supreme Court?  As our 1st amendment is undermined, and any action on the banning assault weapons unlikely, what kind of a nation are we becoming?

For an answer, the cautionary words of Mahatma Gandhi, captured in art by Jani Leinonen, “Your Beliefs” ---

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump Ennui

It is bad enough that he is omnipresent like a Cheshire cat on the airways, on line, wherever you turn, but to have him as a “neighbor” as well is pure overload.  I suppose he misses the gold-plated Mar-a-Lago and the opportunity to play on his own golf courses in the sun.  More likely, it is the procession which draws him here, the parade of pomp and preparation, and his brand being brandished.

Days in advance our local newspaper breathlessly announces his highness’ arrival, expectantly and cautionary as it causes total disruption in the area.  This coming visit involves Chinese President XI and his entourage who will be staying at the Eau Palm Beach which used to have the more hotel-like name of Ritz Carlton.  I once stayed there for a big corporate conference myself.  It’s palatial, but I suppose Trump’s Mar-a-Lago gives it a good run for its money.  So you can catch Xi at the Eau. 

Palm Beach County – and in particular Palm Beach itself – will be a traffic nightmare.  Thus far the expense of these numerous Trump visits is borne by the County.  Trump makes a big deal of donating his $78k quarterly salary to the US National Parks Dept, while cutting its parent Department of the Interior’s budget by $2 billion.  According to my math, it’ll take him more than 6,000 years of donating his salary to make up the difference.  Maybe I have an extra zero someplace, or missed a zero as it seems like a VERY long time but if he lasts 6,000 years in office, all the more power to him. It could happen as everything he does is amazing, big time, etc.

He refuses to pick up Palm Beach County’s expense of guarding him so he can play golf in the sunshine.  Perhaps the County’s officials should read “his” Art of the Deal and walk away from the table, go protect yourself, Donald.  It might be the only way they/we can get reimbursement for those expenses.  But the County officials like to delude themselves that as Trump’s visits put Palm Beach County in the limelight that will increase tourism and thus drive tax revenue.  Do you want to visit PBC because Trump is frequently here?  I guess Washington DC’s tourism is on the wane as the star is rarely there on weekends.

I can’t imagine why the Chinese delegation agreed to meet at Mar-a-Lago where Trump can flaunt his ego.  After all, there are very weighty issues to be discussed. Where does one get the idea that these can be easily discussed while teeing off on a golf course?  Why not stay in the White House where there is a bowling alley?  They can discuss the issues while joking about Trump’s 7-10 split.  Trump is a good golfer (my neighbor is one of his pros) and he probably wants to play games he can easily win.  Look at me!

This egomaniacal inexperienced President is now toying with one of the most serious international issues of his presidency, the growing threat of North Korea.  Making statements like, we’ll go it alone if China doesn’t act or Tillerson’s inexplicable dropping of the mike simply saying “the United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment," does not exactly inspire confidence.  We’re talking nuclear war here, folks, not jobs for coal-miners.  Not that the latter is unimportant but that is in an industry that is dying because of alternative energy supplies, including natural gas.  It’s going the way horse-drawn carriages when the automobile became dominant.  Focus on the right stuff!

The first 100 days are not yet over but it already seems like 1,000.  There are so many issues that keep me restless at night, day, whenever, the Syrian humanitarian crisis, the impending Korean disaster, decimating environmental budgets and regulations,  the gas lighting of fake news, Russia’s possible interference with the election and the general vulnerability that the Internet and social media create, the continuing inability of Congress to function, the callous consequences of misguided immigration and refugee proposals, impracticable building of a wall in the middle of the Rio Grande river while our Infrastructure is falling apart, tax reform which will inevitably favor the rich including the removal of the inheritance tax, unrealistic border taxes (and extremely difficult to articulate and manage), and I can go on and on, but what’s the sense? 

At mid-term elections I will cast my one vote, if we last that long – given the consequences of the ischemic seizure of our entire governing process and the self-serving dilettantes now at the tiller.  I’ve written often about DJT even though I mightily try to ignore him, my resolve weak due to ongoing embarrassment for our nation and, now, just plain fear. I write as a form of catharsis. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Supreme Decisions

PAC ads are now running ceaselessly.  How many times have we heard that hushed voice, solemn in its accusatory tone, “In 2008, Barack Obama said, ‘We can’t mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt.’ Now he’s adding $4 billion in debt every day, borrowing from China for his spending. Every second, growing our debt faster than our economy, Tell Obama, stop the spending.” 

Last week the Supreme Court made two major decisions, the really BIG one -- perhaps in part to ensure the Court's integrity as an non-partisan institution --  was to uphold the Affordable Care Act, but in a less publicized one it also declined to reconsider the Citizens United decision that has led to viral PAC advertising by corporations and wealthy individuals.  Montana had challenged the decision by contending its century-old Corrupt Practices Act might be applied to PAC advertising in state and local elections. Not so, said the Supreme Court:  let the PAC advertising flow, with all its inherent sound bites and vapid fury!

And concerning the Supreme Court's courageous decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act , our local Palm Beach Post columnist/humorist, Frank Cerabino, wrote a wonderful satire   In this age of posturing over substance, he shows how it could be used as a political harangue from any viewpoint, merely by twisting a few words in each sentence.  I quote the beginning paragraphs, but the full text can be found at the link here.

"My Dear Fellow American:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s (historic / activist) decision to uphold (the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare) is but a temporary (victory / setback) in our long fight ( for access to health care / against government intrusion ) in (America / the marketplace.)

The law that the Supreme Court upheld on Thursday will mean that scores of (uninsured / reluctant ) Americans will be (covered / forced) in a system that provides the kind of (care / costs) that the rest of the (civilized / Socialistic) countries of the world already (enjoy / are saddled with).

(Unfortunately / Fortunately), the Supreme Court’s decision won’t be the last word on this (triumph / travesty) of justice. There are already (sinister forces / courageous voices) who are prepared to take this battle to Congress, which can (subvert / stop) the health care law through (vindictive / corrective) legislative action."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Message?

At the end of this post is a link to a syndicated Op Ed piece by Cal Thomas, of Fox News fame, published today in our local paper, the Palm Beach Post. It is unimaginable that any real newspaper would publish this, a supposedly feel good Christmas message with the poor taste of using Christopher Hitchens' death and his atheistic beliefs as some kind of a parable. Pity poor sanctimonious Cal Thomas. He would have been annihilated by Hitchens in any kind of debate but decided to "take him on" after his death. Obviously Thomas lives by the Christian dictum, "the one who saves a soul from hell saves this soul and his own as well,” but spare us the lecture. Save your own soul some other way, and all of those extremists in any religion, for their unmitigated gall in proselytizing, or worse, committing wholesale violence throughout history in the name of religion.

No sense getting into a point by point examination of Thomas' "evidence" as he references The Bible as his authority in almost every other paragraph. How can anyone take issue with that proof?

But I will say this. Arguing that an act of kindness by an atheist (or maybe even by a non-Christian?) is not as "good" as one performed by a religious person because "the very notion of 'good' must have a definition and a definer" (i.e. God, according to Jesus) is the height of superciliousness. One cannot perform "good" acts if one is not religious?

Cal must be such a "good" Christian as evidenced by his compassion for people such as Hitchens: "there is no joy in the death of one who had faith that God does not exist." Isn't that nice? But, then his Christmas message: "Hitchens now knows the truth and that can only be the worst possible news for him." Burning in hell, is that what you mean?

If people want to believe in an organized religion, no problem, but keep it out of my face and out of politics as well. If this kind of religious mania was not so endemic, probably Hitchens would not have felt compelled to spend part of his brilliant journalistic career on the topic. His confrontational atheism was in reaction to having to suffer proselytizers such as Thomas, who piously takes Hitchens to a religious whipping post while pretending to be a journalist....

Hitchens, death of an atheist

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bill Gross Redux

As I’ve noted in some prior blog entries, Bill Gross, the world’s preeminent bond manager from PIMCO, also happens to be an excellent writer. I read his monthly comments as much for their style and wit, as I do for their content. His piece this month Don't Care, although primarily about the sovereign debt crisis, seques into the topic using the experience we’ve all had, the vapidity of cocktail conversation, the inherent disinterest of people in other people, coming to the conclusion that “the careful discrimination between sovereign credits is becoming more than casual cocktail conversation. A deficiency of global aggregate demand and the potential impotency of policymakers to close the gap are evolving into a life or death outcome for the weakest sovereigns, with consequences for credit and asset markets worldwide.”

But I am not going to discuss sovereign debt here (perhaps the most serious one ultimately being our own) but, instead, the experience he so eloquently and hilariously describes as the blather of the social gathering. He even incorporates a graph entitled the “Cocktail Party Empathy Chart,” the X-axis being “Seconds Into The Conversation” and the Y-axis being “How Much I Really Care About What You Are Saying.” As one might imagine, there is a diagonally dropping line from ten to zero in about ninety seconds.

Although Gross covers the five topics such conversations normally wander off to, I’ll use his general observation as my own seque into a very recent experience relating to my last entry , in which I said I was happy to see the preview performance of American Buffalo as it gave me an opportunity to form my own opinion of the production. Since then, three professionally written reviews have appeared, one in the Palm Beach Post which was positive but, I thought, could have been more enthusiastic and two unconditionally excellent reviews, one in The New Times, Broward/Palm Beach and the other from Skip Sheffield’s blog.

We were at a social gathering recently and someone asked whether anyone had seen this new production of American Buffalo so I began to glowingly describe the production and was interrupted by the comment that the Palm Beach Post didn’t seem to be overly enthusiastic. Exactly my point I began to say, and before I could expand upon that it was pretty clear to me this person was more interested in talking about something else relating to one of those five “unbearable minute-and-a-half” topics, not really wanting a thoughtful reply. On Bill Gross’ X/Y graph, I hardly lasted the 90 seconds!

But why should this be a surprise? We don’t even listen to each other on the bigger issues. Look at the recent hyped meeting on healthcare between the President and leaders of Congress, each party pushing its own agenda, preening for their constituents in the all-day televised meeting. Hey, it makes no difference whether we will bankrupt the nation, as long as I look good! Who cares what the other has to say?

But I digress. Thanks, Bill Gross, for reminding us that we need to listen to each other, although I guess he might agree it all seems pretty hopeless.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obama’s First Year

Yesterday’s Palm Beach Post carried an outstanding editorial, putting Obama’s first year into perspective, and I sent a letter to the editor yesterday as well. The timing of each was particularly apt as the editorial appeared the day after Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, a clear wake up call, and my letter pointed out the need to listen more to Paul Volcker if we are going to achieve some real financial reforms and, eureka, today I learned that Obama is going to finally back some of Volcker’s ideas. At long last!

The Post editorial, A clear-eyed look at Obama's first year in office makes many excellent points:
* [He faced] not just an economy on the verge of the deepest recession in 70 years but unrealistically high expectations

* [Although he has had varying degrees of success,] he has stuck to the agenda he touted as a candidate

* The GOP strategy from the start has been to oppose and deceive…Given recent poll numbers Republicans seem to be succeeding with their strategy of opposition and an appeal to ignorance or short memories. Republicans invoke Ronald Reagan. But the Reagan tax cuts — which had bipartisan support — passed Congress in July 1981, and unemployment kept rising for 18 months. It was 7.2 percent when Mr. Reagan took office and peaked at 10.8 percent, the postwar high, before coming down.

* The worst aspect of the last year has been the spillover of illegitimate criticism from the campaign. It is the criticism — most of it on the Internet and talk TV and radio — that attacks Barack Obama as less of a person, less of a patriot and thus undeserving of the presidency….Out of this rage comes the bizarre call to "take back our country" from where it supposedly has drifted in just 365 days.

* We’d like to take back the country, too, but we'd like to take it back from a media/political culture that lives only in the moment

* The problems that Mr. Obama inherited were caused by Democrats and Republicans, Wall Streeters and Main Streeters. If some Americans just are waking up to the fact that we're spending beyond our means, their previous silence makes them partners in crime. It was fanciful to think that Barack Obama could change in one year the Washington that for decades has resisted institutional change. It also is ridiculous to think that somehow he has ruined the country in one year. We are back from the brink of one disaster but far from real economic recovery.

* Mr. Obama deserves decent marks, but he can do a lot better. That's what new presidents have the rest of their term to accomplish. An impatient America must wait longer to truly judge Barack Obama.

My January 20 letter in response follows. If it appears in the newspaper, it will be in a truncated form, so here is the full-blown version…

To the Editor:

How appropriate that your excellent editorial should appear the day after Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. How sadly ironic, and ominous, that Ted Kennedy’s seat should go to one who opposes the very programs his predecessor would have supported.
Your editorial sprinkles some reality dust on the whole matter, reminding us that even though we, and especially the Republicans, have deified Reagan, he too had first year shortcomings not unlike President Obama. And how quickly we forget (or the media helps us forget) that today’s economic and foreign policy problems are ones the present administration mostly inherited. And as you say, we are all complicit in the matter. Only a few years ago many Americans thought they were living the good life, using their homes as piggy banks to finance excess. We were once a nation which once relied on the production of real things, but became focused on “paper asset” appreciation.

Nonetheless, the clarion call of the Massachusetts election does underscore some serious weaknesses of the Obama administration, most notably, in my opinion, the failure to achieve real banking reform. Yes, we needed first to rescue the entire financial system, but we continue to sacrifice Main Street at the altar of Wall Street and people are angry. Who truly believes the economic crisis is solved rather than being merely postponed? This issue becomes conflated with others like healthcare, the anger simply spilling over from one to the other.

Interestingly, Obama had enlisted Paul Volcker, who helped rescue our financial system in the early 1980’s, in his campaign and once elected exiled him to the minor post of chairman of the newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He has been calling for sweeping banking reform measures such as bringing back some of the best points of the Glass-Steagall Act separating investment and commercial banking, arguing that the best way to avoid “too big to fail” is make them so they are not too big and consigning riskier financial activities to hedge funds to which society could say: "If you fail, fail. I'm not going to help you. Your stock is gone, creditors are at risk, but no one else is affected."

Instead, the Obama administration has engaged in political rhetoric on this issue, like taxing banks and criticizing bank bonuses (although indeed they are outrageous). We need a new economic morality and that is what the Obama administration has failed to address, certainly deserving as high a priority as healthcare, and has failed to heed Paul Volcker’s sage-like advice.

On a more serene note….