Archive for February 2014

Another Whites of Their Eyes Moment

The Republicans filibustered increasing benefits to veterans today because they say we can’t afford it. We can go to war on the credit card, but when the people who fought it need help, well go pound sand. These are the folks that said they would support the troops come hell or high water. Apparently having to pay for your commitments is way worse than hell or high water. Yes Virginia, they are evil. What a joke John McCain and Lindsey Graham have become. Well that would be the whole Republican Party. I wonder how many of them pay $19/month to help wounded warriors?

Another Love Letter to Abby Huntsman

Oh Abby, you are so cute when you are all wound up trying to prove your point that we just need to work together and Republicans are normal. But honestly, we have to quit meeting like this, me sending you these love letters pointing out that you are living in La La Land. People are starting to talk and soon she who must never be mentioned here might read my blog and find out about our relationship.

I am referring to your gushing over President Obama’s effort to help young black men, which is really a good thing, how this is a bipartisan effort with both Republicans and Democrats supporting this initiative, and this is just what Americans want from their politicians, all working together to solve problems. I think you are blinded by the light and I don’t think we are working together here. So let’s review.

If it is bipartisan thing, how come the Republican Party of today has tried to cut all support to programs that help these people? Many are from single parent households and depend on Medicaid and Food Stamps, but these programs are evil and make people dependent according to your party.

Oh, and let’s not forget how they have voted to keep women barefoot and pregnant trying to deny them access to birth control and abortion. Or Mitt Romney’s (your hero) 47% comment that wasn’t misspeak, but open hostility to the poor. And where is the money coming from? From donations, not from Republicans in Congress who won’t spend a dime to help these people, but will give away money by the boat load in tax cuts to the wealthy. Hey maybe they will hire some of these kids in that flow down that is fantasy also!

And let’s look at the “bipartisan” Republicans that were there: Executives from some of the nation’s largest companies joined the president, along with Magic Johnson, the retired basketball superstar, and Gen. Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state. Didn’t Colin vote for Obama last time and his party disdains him? Wasn’t it these same business leaders that had to add pressure in Arizona to get them to do the right thing? Do we think Magic thinks we ought to reduce access to the polls?

It is so sad Abby to see you blinded by the light of your Republicanism, what use to be, not what is. The Party you so want to cling to is now all moderate Democrats. In the meantime your pandering to the false equivalency argument (both sides need to compromise) is just enabling the Tea Party to hold on to power. Come on girl, you have a good brain, set yourself free. And if you do, then I won’t have to write you these letters anymore and she who must not be mentioned here won’t find out about us and our ongoing relationship.

So Many Things and Yet Nothing Ever Changes

Where to start? Apparently President Obama has yet to seize the initiative on appointing justices after the reform of the filibuster and the people most upset about his appointments are Democrats. This is probably another example of the center has moved so far to the right that President Obama thinks he is being moderate when he is actually playing the Republican’s game (NYT). It is also another example of how out of touch with reality people who live within the Beltway are.

Thailand continues to amaze me and should worry everyone (NYT). The haves are upset with the have-nots because they control the polls and are preventing elections to prevent an outcome they can’t live with. Oh those crazy Asians. But then if you step back and think about Republicans, terrified of losing their fat white man edge, they are doing exactly the same thing in trying to disenfranchise voters through voter ID laws and limiting access to the polls. To a lot of people (those that got theirs and don’t want to share) democracy and the will of the majority of people is a very scary thing.

The Republicans have actually released a plan to revise the tax code that according to many knowledgable pundits, is workable, with fixes (Dean Baker). So I tried to work my way through it and what I found was that it was a simplification, but it is still tinkering with our overly complex income based tax system (and the amazing accounting system required to track all our income). What I can’t understand is why we are trying to fix a broken system and not just throw it away in favor of a system that taxes consumption like most other countries with a simple income tax to adjust for disparities (the poor spend more of their income than the rich so their tax rate would be unfair).

Meanwhile in irrational land (Idaho) apparently the state legislature is about to pass a bill to allow students to carry weapons. Now one could launch on the insaneness of this, but thanks to Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State University, it was all said in one of the funniest ironic pieces I have ever read: When May I Shoot a Student? I guess there are two points here. One about the inane stupidity of more guns somehow making us safer, and the other, that humor best demonstrates our follies.

One last thing from the Roosevelt Institute, with the deficit coming down, will the economy go with it? The conservatives have sold us the policy that the deficit is causing all our economic problems, yet the usual suspects, high interest rates and inflation haven’t happened. So the confidence fairy was invented that said that businesses simply won’t expand because they lack confidence in the economy. This is a supply argument. If businesses make more things, people will buy them. It also is lacking any data to support it. When businesses are surveyed (as opposed to anecdotal conversations) they report that demand is weak. Simply stated, people don’t have expendable income to buy things.

But we got sold on the austerity thing and it is holding us back. And while the deficit is coming down, there are no jobs. Many of us argue that the real way out of the deficit is growth, not austerity. With an expanding economy, tax revenues increase and as a percent of GDP, the deficit becomes less. That is how we reduced our debt after WWII. Will anyone listen? I doubt it. The Beltway is stuck in 1990’s groupthink and that includes our present administration. On the other hand, we have tried austerity and it didn’t work, why don’t we try investing in our future? Oh, I forgot. Republicans and an overly timid President.

Thursday Morning

I am wondering if Jan Brewer did the “right ” thing by vetoing the gay discrimination bill that could have been used to discriminate against anyone. By right, I mean did she recognize that the bill was fundamentally against everything we Americans stand for in the name of religious freedom, or was she and the Chamber of Commerce just afraid they would lose business, and it really is all about the money? They will just wait for another day when we aren’t looking.

The other day I got a great email (The Baseline Scenario from James Kwak on savings. Apparently, several think tanks supported by financial institutions are trying to get Americans to save more (so they can use your money to make money). And as James points out, savings isn’t bad, but we fail to recognize reality:

I’m all for living within your means and saving for retirement and all that. But it’s a myth to say, as America Saves does on its home page, “Once you start saving, it gets easier and easier and before you know it, you’re on your way to making your dreams a reality.” The underlying problems are stagnant real incomes for most people, rising costs (in real terms) for education and health care, increasing financial risk due to the withdrawal of the safety net, and increased longevity (good in some ways, but bad if incomes aren’t rising and you want to retire at 65). That’s why households are showing up at age 64 with less in retirement savings than they had just last decade. And why, if you feel like you’re not saving enough, it’s probably not your fault.

It is also why increasing social security is so important because the other two legs of the retirement stool, savings and pensions, are going away. Sooner or later you would think people could connect the dots on why good paying jobs are so important instead of rushing to the bottom like in Tennessee.

Paul Krugman made a really good point about why we have all this data to show us what we ought to be doing and why it is useless on the echo chamber that is Washington utilizing an article by Dan Drezner in Politico:

One of the Beltway tribe’s greatest strengths is also one of its greatest weaknesses: groupthink. As I noted before, a Beltway consensus actually counts for something in the world of international policymaking. That does not mean that this consensus emerges from any solid analysis, however. For example, a hidden cause of the enthusiasm for austerity in Washington that crested in 2010 was the consensus among foreign policy pundits that U.S. debt was spiraling out of control, rendering Washington vulnerable to foreign holders of U.S. Treasuries. This groupthink formed at the same time that the budget deficit as a percentage of output was shrinking at the fastest rate in American history. By the time the consensus had emerged, however, the change in the facts didn’t matter. Since the principal activity of Beltway folk is to talk to each other, the result is a feedback loop of confirmation bias that eventually leads to epistemic closure.

And that also explains why everyone where I live is conservative and believes in nonsense. The don’t read and spend their lives talking to others will the same nonsense masquerading as facts.

Finally, there is an article in the NYT that says that a survey shows that even with the rift in the Republican Party, they have the edge in 2014 among independents. I wonder who they are surveying and if the world is changing so fast, that the movement away from the failed ideas of the Republican Party has not been sensed by the Beltway media. James Blow, in an editorial, makes the case that millennials (those ages 18 to 33) are totally turned off by the latest anti-gay bashing of the Republican Party and that may speak to a shift in political loyalty. All I can say is I hope so. But they still have to vote and real question is will they.

Afghanistan

As noted in the press today, if President Karzai won’t sign an agreement with the U.S., then we must plan for a withdrawal. President Obama is looking to the next President to make an agreement, but delays will reduce the force that is left there. Here is the quote from the article that got my attention:

“The preponderance of opinion across the government is that some reasonable post-2014 presence in Afghanistan is necessary to lock in our very hard-fought gains,” Michelle Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, said in an interview.

Gee, sounds like Vietnam before that fell apart. I will not argue that there were not hard-fought battles and honorable service, but gains? What did we gain there? Are no women losing their rights as I write this? The billions in construction is being left behind to a culture that cannot maintain it, and the situation with the Taliban is unchanged.

It is beyond me why we can’t say we achieved our goals, the fate of the Afghanistanians is in their own hands and get out of there. We did our best to nation build, but until they as a people want to live in a modern world, we are pissing into the wind. Yes John McCain and Lindsay Graham, it is time to cut and run.

The Problem with the Press

In my last blog I chronicled some of the misconceptions the conservatives have up here and how it is reported in the press.  I took the reporter to task on the reporting and below is the chain of emails.  It tells you all that is wrong with reporting today and why many conservatives are voting against their own best interests:

On Feb 25, 2014, at 9:28 AM, Stephen Lightner wrote:

I can only summize that you reported accurately what was said in your Feb 24 article since I was not there and had I been, probably would have been lynched.  What was  a gross failure of the reporting was to not fact check any of the nonsense being uttered there.  News is not just reporting what politicians and some of their more misguided followers say, but to inform the readers about what are the real facts.  All this article did was repeat falsehoods which when repeated enough become believable to the gullible and then they vote against their own best interests.  Much of the claims made can be easily fact checked and you failed to do that.  That is not reporting.  Or maybe it is and that is why we have become the dumbed down nation.

On Feb 25, 2014, at 9:33 AM, Reporter from the Democrat wrote:
I’d suggest that if you find his facts to be in error, that you write a letter to the editor with what you think are the facts.
On Feb 25, 2014, at 9:40 AM, Stephen Lightner wrote:
And we can continue the he said/she said forever instead of the news media doing its job.  I would be drowned out in a sea of anti-intellectual mobs.
Need I say anymore.  I probably will write a letter but first I have some identity theft issues to resolve, work in the vineyard, and work out.  It’s too bad that the press can’t seem so do their job and expect us to do it for them.
 

On the Home Front or Why I Think I Will Leave El Dorado County

From the local newspaper,The Mountain Democrat, which some of us refer to as the Mountain Republican:

Why hasn’t Obama been impeached? Is the federal government out of control?

Those were just some of the questions fielded by Congressman Tom McClintock at a town hall meeting he held on Feb. 19 with about 150 angry and frustrated constituents.

Asked prior to the meeting why some of them had come, Somerset resident Jack Fraim said, “Im here to find out why we’re not getting rid of Boehner. Why pass a deficit increase with no strings attached? And when are we going to impeach the president?”

Chris Sarns of Placerville said…”Most people also don’t know a third skyscraper went down on 9/11. It has since been shown (probably on loony tunes TV) that Building 7, a 47-floor skyscraper collapsed at free fall for 100 feet which pretty much proves controlled demolition…”

Then there were the usual lies about Obamacare, trumpeting the number of times they have tried to repeal it, the lie about lazy Americans just sitting at home getting fat on food stamps, Obama exploding the deficit, and while not brought up, this is the epicenter of global warming as a government plot. It was the ignorant and blind, informing each other of their ignorance and blindness. This is not an America to be proud of. Get me out of here.

The Right to Refuse Service and Deeply Held Beliefs

Chris Hayes framed the argument well last night when he describe how we liberals admire someone who stands up for deeply held beliefs and yet the proposed law in Arizona would allow discrimination and bigotry to prevail in the market place. And that is the critical distinction, the market place, the public square.

Religious rights are not being trampled if you are allowed to hold onto your beliefs in your personal life. If you believe gay marriage is wrong, don’t marry a gay, and the state won’t force you. But when you enter the melting pot of public life, the marketplace, there are multiple religious beliefs and in the marketplace, the public square so to speak, the state enforces tolerance, not your right to be intolerant. Otherwise it becomes a war of whose religion is the right one and then we find ourselves right back in the days of religious wars before the Enlightenment.

It is grossly disingenuous to imply, as some in the Arizona legislature did, that this law was to protect religious freedom, and the bigotry was an unintended consequence. Or, “Opps, we had no idea.” In the debate before the law was enacted, these consequences were clearly enunciated. But there is a good side here, and that is that this uproar exposes the false argument about religious freedom.

Rand Paul made a similar argument on Rachel Maddow several years ago about his belief that the forced integration of businesses interfered with the open market place and was an abuse of government power. In both cases what is going on is an attempt to use government (or prevent government from interfering) in the practice of intolerance. Under the guise of religious freedom, what we really have is a law that forces citizens to be tolerant of the intolerant. It is everything the Founders were trying to prevent when they wrote the constitution and said, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”

I don’t think under the “free exercise thereof” they saw it being used as a tool to discriminate and wield power over others which is exactly what these laws are all about. So we are back to the melting pot that is the United States and the many religious beliefs that make up that public square. So I will finish the quote in the Constitution for them:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others.

We can believe what we want to believe and make those appropriate choices in our personal lives and the government will respect and protect that right, but once you enter the public square, the rights of all have to be respected.

Or said more directly, quit trying to force your religion down the throat of the rest of us through the power of law. It is almost (actually precisely) as though they have zero understanding of what freedom and Constitution really stand for or what the Founders were trying to do. In the name of religious freedom, they are trying to stifle the freedom of others. It is unAmerican.

More Damn Lies

Kay Bailey Hutchison (ex-R Senator from Texas) was on Joy Reid’s new show and she told another whooper that reflects the Republican line of lies. The discussion was on getting the economy going and what the President could do and Kay gave us this:

The problem with the economy is that regulations are holding back business. We need to reduce regulations so that businesses can start hiring.

Tell that to the people of West Virginia who are still questionng whether their drinking water is drinkable, or the people of North Carolina who suffered the biggest spill of coal sludge in our history. Oh, and while we are on coal, tell that to the families of those minors killed in Utah and West Virginia.

But why is it a giant lie? Because the data says just the opposite and she should know that, but doesn’t want to believe it. So she spews out not misconceptions, but lies. It is kind of scary when her compatriots, the people in charge of the House, have the wrong answer to our problems so all we will get from them is more disasters, not jobs unless your idea of a good job is minimum wage mopping up toxic spills.

But there is another way to look at this and this is common sense. Let’s say I own a pizzeria. Now new regulations to control pollution have been put into effect and if I expand, I have to upgrade my ovens and venting system. Business is fine so I do not want the additional costs. But if demand spikes and I need more capacity, well then it is a little back of the envelope computation to show that the investment in new equipment is well worth the increased revenue.

And this is the crux of the problem with Republicans. They don’t understand that the problem is demand and that jobs have to come first. So the good old boys in Red States work closely with business to get rid of those pesky regulations and then you find out that clean water is one hell of a lot more precious than coal and the guys who are getting rich off it.

Lies and Damn Lies

One has to wonder what a party has to offer to the country when its entire policy approach is to lie about the other parties policies and outcomes. That is where the Republican Party is today. Oh, you can argue that they really believe their lies or that there are always two sides to an argument, except that is just another damn lie. To wit:

  • Why do Republicans have to make us believe the stimulus failed? The CBO, you know that organization the Republicans are quoting on the loss of 500,000 jobs if the minimum wage is passed, pointed out that the stimulus saved millions of jobs, and prevented quite possibly a depression. Most reputable economists will tell you the same thing.
  • Why do they lie about Obamacare? We hear all the horror stories about how it is hurting people, and then when we fact check the stories they turn out to be bogus? Why do they hate a Republican approach to healthcare? Why have they rejected Medicare that may cost the lives of upward of 27,000 people in 2014?
  • Why do they lie about global warming? We hear from them every day that the issue is still much debated in science when it isn’t. Why when the melting of the ice cap is now obvious do they say climate change is natural, but man had no part when the science is settled?
  • Why do they keep making claims about a runaway debt when the deficit is coming down at record levels? They claim that government spending is out of control when governments are shrinking? Once again reputable economists (those whose research does not depend on funding from conservative think tanks) tell us that we are cutting too fast and hurting the economy so why do they try to make us think spending is out of control?
  • Why do they tell us that cutting taxes is the only solution to creating a booming economy when the lessons from the Bush Tax cuts is that it created no jobs and just made the rich richer?
  • Why do they keep telling us that we have to cut benefits to Social Security to control the deficit when Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit?
  • Why do they tell us that the safety net just makes people dependent on government when the data shows that during the last recession it kept millions of people out of poverty and gave them a helping hand back to full employment? SNAP feeds primarily children and the elderly yet it has to go. And we should note this was in a great recession that was caused by the rich financial sector being reckless that has not been held accountable while Republicans try to blame it on government.
  • Why do they keep throwing up border security as a roadblock to immigration reform when the net immigration has been negative? Why do they claim to want to reduce our debt but fail to recognize the economic benefits of passing immigration reform? Why do they lie about the money the CBO says Obamacare will save the federal government?
  • In fact, why do Republicans tell us they love freedom and the Constitution when they continue to pass laws to restrict a women’s choice and fail to pass laws ensuring equal earning potential and freedom from domestic violence? Why do they demand that we be tolerant of their intolerance toward gays* and anyone who doesn’t look like them? Why are they restricting voting through reduced polling place operating hours and voter ID laws claiming massive voter fraud, when there is none?

Well the reasons are myriad but primarily because they are frightened little selfish people who are afraid of change and losing their place at the top of the pyramid. But they are damn lies, lies that are blatant and the real question we have to ask is why our media treats them as different points of view instead of damn lies, and why we tolerate Republicans in our midst anymore? They are damaging our country, limiting the future of our children, and our tolerance of their lies is enabling them. Sure your neighbor is nice, but just misinformed and votes Republican. That neighbor is destroying what made America great. Let’s quit enabling them.

*Maybe there is hope:  A pizzeria has turned the tables on these nutcases and has asserted its right not to serve legislators who vote to allow refusal of service to gays on religious grounds.  What goes around, comes around.