Monthly Archives: May 2013

Why Samuel Adams Matters Today

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And no, it is not because his name is on the great beer brewed by the Boston Lager Company.

Samuel Adams actually was not a very good brewer back in the day and probably lost more money borrowed from his wealthy dad than he ever made in any venture he undertook.

But he was a darned good writer and was able to catch the revolutionary spirit about as well as Thomas Paine or Benjamin Franklin or anyone else back in the day.

For his senior thesis at a small community college back then known as Harvard, Sam Adams wrote on this question: “Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved?” Continue reading

On the Record

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In the good old days when there were rules and there were people who knew the rules, and they taught the rules to new people, who then followed the rules there were basically three levels of discussion between reporters and sources: 1) On the Record  2)  On Background  3) Off the Record

This is a good topic for discussion because the Attorney General of these United States, Eric Holder, is participating in an Obama Administration-wide charm offensive with the national media in an effort to try and get back to what President Obama considers to be the normal state of affairs: The press fawning over his every word, and every deed.

Unless you have been in Malawi or Zambia for the past few months you know that scandals are cascading over this White House like a storm surge over Carolina barrier islands.

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Don’t Focus on Only Scandal

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Can they walk and chew gum at the same time?

That will be the question for congressional Republicans as they navigate the next year and a half before the 2014 elections.

The scandals that have dogged the Obama administration at the beginning of its second term have presented the House GOP with a seemingly golden opportunity. But all that glitters is not gold, and the temptation to put all of the political eggs in the scandal basket might be overwhelming but should be resisted.

The conservative advocacy group Heritage Action has sent a warning letter to congressional Republicans telling them to stop walking toward legislative accomplishments and focus only on chewing up the administration on the scandal front.

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Obama on the Ropes

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing like Grandma Moses painted: Sooooo very sweet.

Well, that’s over. So as Bette Davis (as Margo Channing) said in “All About Eve” in 1950: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night”

The IRS is going to be the death of the Obama Administration. NOBODY LIKES THE IRS. I’m not saying all IRS employees are bad people, but neither are all meter maids bad people – we just don’t like to see them sniffing around our stuff.

Actually the IRS is not Obama’s biggest strategic problem.

James Rosen is. Continue reading

Patriotism Done on the Cheap

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I thought Sebastian Junger put it pretty well in yesterday’s Washington Post.

“The growing cultural gap between American society and our military is dangerous and unhealthy. The sense that war belongs exclusively to the soldiers and generals may be one of the most destructive expressions of this gap. Both sides are to blame. I know many soldiers who don’t want to be called heroes — a grotesquely misused word — or told that they did their duty; some don’t want to be thanked. Soldiers know all too well how much killing — mostly of civilians — goes on in war. Congratulations make them feel that people back home have no idea what happens when a human body encounters the machinery of war.”

I have been thinking a lot about war, patriotism, and how we express support for our troops. I suppose that is only fitting, being this was Memorial Day weekend, which is not only the traditional start of summer, but also the holiday set aside to remember the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate price in fighting foreign wars. Continue reading

Youth Sports’ Bright Spots, Dark Shadows


Valeria Portillo celebrated her 15th birthday this year by the bedside of her father, Ricardo, who was in a coma in a Salt Lake City, Utah hospital. They were supposed to be in Disneyland celebrating.

A few days later, on May 4, Ricardo died of head injuries he received at the hand of a 17-year-old youth league soccer player who didn’t like the penalty referee Portillo called on him.

I can’t imagine what Ricardo’s family is going through, how tragic it must be to lose a father and husband, friend and mentor to such a senseless act. The local community held a memorial service for him and people there praised him as a dedicated and giving human being. There hasn’t been any news about the young man who caused Ricardo’s death. Too bad. If there were; if the coverage of the tragedy were as drawn out as O.J. Simpson’s, it may have helped spur some positive change in the rules governing bad behavior. Continue reading

The War Bike


There’s a butterfly scar on my left knee that I refer to as my war injury. It’s the legacy of a spectacular crash into a metal telephone pole support, while riding what my sisters and I fondly called “The War Bike.”

The War Bike had been my mother’s childhood transportation in the years following World War II. The wobbly, ox-blood frame had big, fat tires (not the chic beach bike tires of today) and an ungainly basket on the handlebars. Think of bobby-socked British school children riding along a country road in the 40’s. My legs were just a touch too short to sit down comfortably, so I spent a lot of time standing up and pumping the pedals. Riding it felt a little like piloting an ocean liner.  Continue reading

Tom Ridge

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The official portrait of the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was unveiled yesterday at the Department headquarters on Nebraska Avenue, in Washington, DC. Tom Ridge left that post in 2005 and it is now 2013 but that is, as we say here, close enough for government work.

DHS was conceived out of the emotional, as well as the physical rubble of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Ridge was the Governor of Pennsylvania at the time and went to Shanksville, the site of the wreckage of Flight 93. As Mayors and Governors and Presidents do, he gave solace to the people of his state and to the first responders responsible for investigating and cleaning up the site.

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Misdirected Call for Bigger Government

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Sometimes the private sector does it to itself. That’s what makes Washington such a confounding place to do business.

Purists like to talk about how the government shouldn’t get involved picking winners and losers.

It is a nice thought. But making that nice thought reality is not always possible.

From outside the beltway, it looks so simple. Those damn politicians, who think they are holier than thou, get their sense of glory by regulating the poor old business sector, an innocent bystander that would act efficiently if only the government would stay out of their business. Continue reading

Getting to the Bottom of Benghazi


President Barack Obama has dismissed it as a political circus. Senator John McCain thinks it is a cover-up. Rep. Jason Chaffetz raises the spectre of impeachment.

Somewhere between a political circus and an impeachable offense is the truth about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Lybia, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.

The truth, of course, is seldom an absolute. That’s especially the case in politics where opinions legitimately differ, recall is never total, and facts and circumstances can generate more interpretations, descriptions, analyses, and conclusions than there are facts and circumstances.

We will never know exactly what happened in Benghazi, but we do know that four good people died there. We have reason to believe their deaths may have been prevented. We certainly don’t want their sacrifices to have been in vain. Continue reading

It’s Getting Weird

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I think it is kind of weird that a high official in the Internal Revenue Service decided to take the 5th Amendment to avoid answering questions of a Senate Committee investigating IRS political shenanigans.

The 5th Amendment says: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Continue reading

Republicans Victims of Mass Hypnosis?


Recently, after days of fasting and contemplation (well, to be truthful, just as I was finishing  my second glass of chardonnay last evening), I had a revelation: contrary to firmly-held beliefs among Republicans, President Obama is not a socialist or a Kenyan or a Chicago pol with a bogus college degree, or even much of a doctrinaire left-winger.

He is, instead, a skilled hypnotist.

We all know what effect he has  had on his many cultists in the news media: glazed eyes, instant obedience to his suggestions, loss of inhibitions leading to a total abandonment of professional standards and ethics, and a kind of goofy grin like the one we find on the face of Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine fame.

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We Need a Rainy Day Fund

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What happened in Moore, Oklahoma was terrible, just terrible. What will likely happen in Washington as a response will be just as bad, in its own way.

The tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburb devastated that little community, killed small children, destroyed a school, and otherwise reaked havoc on a bunch of Americans.

We have seen this before.

Tornadoes have ravaged small towns in Missouri and Alabama, and a hurricane destroyed a large swath of New Jersey and devastated a New York suburb.

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There, There.


As the Obama administration crumbles like an old Ritz Cracker, the Democrats are trying to save it by claiming there’s no there there, and that all the troubles are caused – in one case literally, in the others figuratively — by a few low level bureaucrats in Cincinnati.

And none of them are caused by Barack Obama.

I think they’re right.

I don’t think Obama is, or ever has been, a causative agent in the events of his life. I think he is a tool, a talented one in certain ways, but lazy in the extreme and not ever in charge. Once he was Bill Ayers tool. Now he’s propped up and sent out to his Continue reading

It’s Not the Crime, It’s the Cover-Up

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The three scandals currently on the table are: Benghazi, the IRS targeting conservative taxpayers, and the Department of Justice looking at the phone records of Associated Press reporters.

There is an old saying in Washington: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up” that does the damage.

The Nixon Administration attempted to dismiss the June 17, 1972 break-in of Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex as “a third rate burglary” which it more-or-less was.

1972 was an election year and despite the wailing of Democrats about the seriousness of the campaign probably having ordered the break-in, Nixon beat Democratic Senator George McGovern 49 states to one that Fall. Continue reading

Another Run at Obamacare

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So, amid the myriad of scandals that currently occupy DC elite, the House of Representatives worked late into the night to vote once again to repeal Obamacare.

The press played this as another partisan attempt to poke at the President, a waste of time, a waste of effort, a waste of money. The bill wasn’t going to go anywhere in the Senate, so why would House Republicans do this for the 37th time?

I think there are several good reasons.

First, this is a revenue bill, and should the Senate want to go to conference on a revenue bill, this gives them a vehicle to do that. Continue reading

Dr. Livingstone, I…

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From Livingstone, Zambia for the ONE Campaign

Don’t email me. It’s Livingstone with an “e.” And the guy who found Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 was Henry Stanley from the New York Herald.

We are ending our week-long visit to Africa here, having spent the last two days in the Zambian capital of Lusaka.

One of the places we visited was the U.S. embassy where we chatted with Ambassador Mark Storella. He has been very active in his nearly three years here in the area of health care generally and HIV/AIDS in particular. Continue reading

The Whipping Boy

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According to Wikipedia: “A whipping boy was a young boy who was assigned to a young prince and was punished when the prince misbehaved or fell behind in his schooling. Whipping boys were established in the English court during the monarchies of the 15th century and 16th centuries. They were created because of the idea of the divine right of kings, which stated that kings were appointed by God, and implied that no one but the king was worthy of punishing the king’s son. Since the king was rarely around to punish his son when necessary, tutors to the young prince found it extremely difficult to enforce rules or learning.” Continue reading

Obama, King Henry II, the Power of Suggestion


As we reach the end of Phase One of the IRS scandals, the  situation looks roughly like this (I say roughly because things change quickly): a bi-partisan majority condemns the IRS, and President Obama has stated his own condemnation. The White House, through spokesman Jay Carney, says that neither the President nor any White House official knew anything about the persecution of conservatives while it was going on. The IRS  says the wrongdoing was not partisan in nature, but the result of carelessness, incompetence, and lack of supervision by superiors.

I think that last point is going to be key to Phase Two, when investigations start to take place. If indeed this possible (and I think very  probable) violation of civil rights was not directed by administration officials, then what we have here (so goes the argument), awful as it is, cannot be blamed on the administration or specifically on the President. Continue reading

Stop the Impeachment Chatter

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When I worked for the Hammer, I told him point-blank it was unwise for him to lead the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

I explained to him that even if we could pass an impeachment resolution out of the House, a conviction would fail in the Senate because that required a two-thirds vote, and if he led the impeachment drive, it would automatically become a partisan event, making a conviction impossible.

Tom DeLay thanked me for my thoughts and said in no uncertain terms that Clinton’s actions were a moral stain on the Presidency and that he had to be made accountable. Continue reading