Pam's Points: On rhetoric, power grabs and justice shelved

Pam's Points: On rhetoric, power grabs and justice shelved

February 25th, 2014 in Opinion Times

President Barack Obama

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Imperial kings of misinformation

Enough already with all the right-wing babble about Barack Obama's "imperial" presidency.

The wing-nut rhetoric would make you think Obama is as much a dictator as recently ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. But it's just more hate labels. Anyone delusional enough to think the claims are correct should raise their hand and move to Ukraine. In addition to Ukraine's street fighting, residents' per capita economic output there is only about $7,300, even adjusted for the lower cost of living. That compares to about $51,700 in the United States. Ukraine ranks 137th worldwide, behind El Salvador, Namibia and Guyana.

What has prompted the sudden right-wing chirping over "lawless" Obama? Answer: The GOP's own inability to work together even in its own party, let alone in Congress and with a president. After all, who shut down the government? The GOP. Which party's personality is increasingly anti-government? The fractured and reeling GOP.

In his State of the Union address recently, Obama promised a year of action to overcome the nation's stalemate. With his "pen and phone" he already has led the way on rebuilding the middle class, advancing immigration reform and combating climate change. He did this by executive orders to raise the minimum wage for U.S. contract employees, to defer deportations of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to this country by their parents, and to strengthen regulations on carbon emissions at power plants.

With the GOP harping about the poor roll-out of the "flawed" Affordable Care Act, he extended deadlines to make transitions easier for enrollees and employers. He plans to create a new, government-backed private retirement savings plan (called the MyRA), and speed up implementation of a previously announced program to connect schools to wireless broadband.

After the speech, the GOP called his actions "small potatoes," but with Americans increasingly warming to having affordable health insurance [Chattanooga has some of the cheapest health care exchange rates in the country], and a slowly improving economy, right-wingers now are resorting to claims of "imperialism," "lawlessness" and rants that the president "can't be trusted."

Well, cry into your approval ratings, right-wingers. Obama, 45 percent; Congress, 12 percent. Guess that leaves the right-wingers no recourse but to spew disinformation.

Women raped by "systemic failure"

Could there be a more blatant signal that women don't matter than the pervasive backlog of untested rape kits in Tennessee and across the country?

Of course, women do matter, but one wouldn't deduce that from a backlog so old that victims such as Memphis resident Meaghan Ybos waited nearly 10 years for the evidence in her case to be analyzed -- and it finally was tested only after the 27-year-old woman drew police attention to similarities in her own rape at age 16 to new publicized cases.

"We had a systemic failure here," said Memphis Mayor AC Wharton.

What an understatement.

But Memphis, with more than 12,000 untested rape kits going back to the 1980s, isn't alone. Estimates indicate at least 400,000 rape kits have remained untested for years nationwide. So far Tennessee is among 17 states with proposals that range from requiring law enforcement agencies to inventory their kits to analyzing them in a certain amount of time.

Proposals are talk. How about some real action?

Tennessee GOP power grab

A proposed bill on the state Senate calendar this week would give the state Legislature unprecedented power over the state attorney general. The power play would allow state senators and representatives to direct the attorney general to take up or drop lawsuits.

That could mean a conflict over the separation of powers among the state's legislative, judicial and executive branches.

Bill sponsors say the move would bring the attorney general one step closer to public accountability. He or she now is appointed by state Supreme Court justices, who are appointed by the governor. That system has worked well enough in this state for 100 years and has brought the state AG's office very high ratings among experts.

Bill opponents call the effort a short-sighted "power play" that would serve only to politicize the office, which now is charged simply with handling issues and cases as they relate to law -- not the political whim of the day.