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Of Politics, Sports and Sex

OK, so there won't be a LOT on here about sex, but tell the truth, that's most of the reason you entered this site, right? So, I'll slip some things in from time to time just to keep you coming...back.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

BPS (Boring Political Stuff) Alert (sorry)

These are all so good and so spot-on, I'm just going to combine these all into one post since there is so much good stuff here:

From George Will (!): Proponents of capital punishment are losing the debate. "Nebraska is not a nest of liberals. Yet on Wednesday its 49-member unicameral legislature passed a bill abolishing the death penalty 32 to 15. ... First, the power to inflict death cloaks government with a majesty and pretense of infallibility discordant with conservatism. Second, when capital punishment is inflicted, it cannot later be corrected because of new evidence, so a capital punishment regime must be administered with extraordinary competence. It is, however, a government program. Since 1973, more than 140 people sentenced to death have been acquitted of their crimes (sometimes by DNA evidence), had the charges against them dismissed by prosecutors or have been pardoned based on evidence of innocence." The Washington Post.

From The Atlantic: Policymakers knew at the time that Iraq wasn't a threat and the invasion would be risky. "No one ever again—not a news person nor a civilian, not an American nor one from anyplace else—should waste another second asking, 'Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?' ... Leaders don’t make decisions on the basis of 'what we know now' retrospectively. They have to weigh evidence based on 'what we knew then,' in real time. ... The 'knowing what we know' question presumes that the Bush Administration and the U.S. public were in the role of impartial jurors, or good-faith strategic decision-makers, who while carefully weighing the evidence were (unfortunately) pushed toward a decision to invade, because the best-available information at the time indicated that there was an imminent WMD threat. That view is entirely false."

In Bloomberg today: A report concluded years ago that the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence officers' conclusions. "That report, from June 2008, found that President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and others used information from the intelligence community in public statements about Iraq but routinely glossed over uncertainties, some of which were significant. ... Administration officials’ statements about the link had no basis in analysts’ conclusions, while officials' repeated insinuations that Iraq would give terrorists WMDs to attack the U.S. actually 'were contradicted by the available intelligence.' The report also addressed the administration’s rosy predictions about postwar Iraq. ... Before the war, the intelligence community actually believed that '[e]stablishing a stable democratic government in postwar Iraq would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge.' "

"After more than a decade bearing the political burden of Iraq, Republicans are making a dogged effort to shed it by arguing that the Islamic State’s gruesome ascent is a symptom of Obama’s foreign policy, rather than a byproduct of the 2003 invasion they once championed. ... The rapid move to shift responsibility is at the core of the GOP’s plan to define 2016 as a foreign-policy election. Anxious about demographic trends and the leftward drift of the electorate on social issues, many Republicans hope to seize on global unrest and offer voters a steady hand."
-- "At the least, it is an attempt to have Iraq seen as a shared failure, begun by a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Congress but inherited and fumbled by Democrats." (Washington Post)

In Vox today: Hillary Rodham Clinton has a plan to help small bankers. "Being for small business in American politics is like having a favorable attitude toward Mom or apple pie. But campaigning in Iowa this week, Hillary Clinton's thus-far policy-light campaign rolled out the germ of a small-business idea that has big implications: the federal government should help smaller businesses by showing more favorable treatment to small banks. ... The specific claim that the health of the community banking sector is critical for small businesses is a piece of longstanding conventional wisdom within the small business community, a point of pride for community bankers, and backed up by a fair amount of expert analysis. It is not, however, a point of universal agreement. ... Of course, a separate question is whether a financial model that disproportionately benefits smaller companies is good for the country overall."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Brush with Greatness II - James Earl Carter

Eighteen years ago, when I was between jobs, I read in the newspaper, probably the Phila. Daily News, about an upcoming Volunteerism Summit to be held in a dicey part of North Philly, where volunteers would be asked to clean up pre-designated parts of the city for an afternoon.

I’d like to say that I just signed up to be helpful since I had a lot of free time on my hands, and I’m pretty sure that was an element of my decision to get involved, but included in the story was the news that President Clinton would be there as well, so I decided that this might be a good chance for me to spend some quality time with one of the greatest Presidents in this Nation’s history.

As it turned out, President Clinton wasn’t the only dignitary to attend. Arriving early, I was about 10-15 yards from the outdoor stage, where President Bill Clinton and wife, Hillary; President Jimmy Carter and wife, Rosalyn; President George H.W. Bush and (I think) his wife Barbara Bush; General Colin Powell; Nancy Reagan; and Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper stood on April 27, 1997 at Marcus Foster Stadium.

(Links here or just Google “Presidents' Summit for America's Future”)
Once the hour or so of speechifying was finished, we were all sent to our pre-set assignments based on the color of the t-shirts we’d been handed upon our entry. I rode my assigned bus until they told us to get off, just 50 or so yards down the street from where I saw a large media crowd gathered around one particular work group.
Despite the protestations of an organizer who insisted, fruitlessly, that I stay with my group, I jogged up to the other group to see who the fuss was about.
And there being interviewed on CNN was my favorite all-time President, or if he wasn’t already, he has been ever since that day, Jimmy Carter.
And pushy wangler that I am, by mid-afternoon, I was literally elbow-to-elbow with the (ex-) President, painting an old building. Not surprisingly, my mind raced with things to ask him about, but I came up blank, except when he asked me my opinion on whether we should paint over one particularly artistic 3’ by 3’ area of colorful graffiti. After discussing the options, I demurred in my reply, but unsurprisingly, President Carter chose to paint around it, not wanting to whitewash, so to speak, a local child’s expression of artistry.
Later, we were given box lunches, and I ate on a stoop of a building there with Roslyn and Jimmy, who were constantly asked to pose for photos (pre-selfie days). True to his reputation, President Carter obliged each request though my two clear memories of that interlude were:
1 – When those making the requests were young males, he would pose and then go sit back down to eat. When they were attractive young college-age girls, he gave them all the time they desired, with Roslyn smiling and rolling her eyes as she watched.
2 – When the organizers asked us to finish our lunches to get back to work, and there were still people who wanted to chat and get pictures with the 73-year old President, he reminded them that we were all there to work, and he picked up his gloves and rake and got back to cleaning out an area strewn with trash.
A few years later, I went back to the site to see whether the graffiti was still there, and if the area was still as clean as we’d left it. The entire building the President and I had painted was gone…demolished with no tangible evidence of its existence, unlike the strong memories I have of that day that I hope will never leave me.