Archive for June 2014

HobbyLobby

Probably the worst Supreme Court Ruling in the history of this country. They have put religion back in charge of making decisions about our welfare. Say goodbye to the Enlightenment. Women, at this point have you figured out that conservative think you are chattel? Isn’t religion great? Hope family owned businesses aren’t against inoculations or blood transfusions. Gee if they think AIDS is a sin could they be against preventative measures? 5-4 tells you what you need to know. Get out and vote before conservatives take us back to the dark ages.

Best Quote of the Day

In an article discussing the risks ISIS has taken to declare the Caliphate state established and demand all Muslims were religiously obligated to swear loyalty to the new Caliph Ibrahim (name they have given to it), Jim Berger in an article called, ISIS Risks Everything to Declare a Caliphate, tells us:

The prospect of a U.S. military intervention, most likely in the form of air strikes, was already problematic. While there are many who understandably favor hitting ISIS in order to deny it control of territory in Iraq, such a strike would bestow on ISIS the one thing it has until now been unable to definitively claim—legitimacy. A potential new line of jihadist argument then emerges: The caliphate was restored, but it was directly destroyed by the United States.

… U.S. strikes could also subvert the trend in recent years toward the localization of jihadist conflicts or unite the currently splintered jihadist movement against the U.S. as its primary enemy once more, with ISIS subsequently holding a central position in a unified global struggle.

Or as I have said many times, back away from this whole mess as quickly as possible.

The Economics of Stupid

I am off to a consulting gig so blogging may be spotty. But I read two things today that connected the dots for those of us not too disconnected with reality. The first was an editorial about Chris Christie and his manipulation of state and federal funds to continue his no tax dogma (Gov. Christie’s Money Trail). I have been surprised that moderate Republicans can’t seem to figure out what a charlatan he is. Now that he is trying to re-enter the public scene and rehabilitate his image you get moderate Republicans making comments like he has still got it, and he would be a formidable candidate. They are in deep denial about their Party and the candidate himself.

Basically, he is crashing the New Jersey economy and driving the government into debt. Instead of paying for the needed infrastructure improvements, he cancelled a mostly federally financed and badly needed tunnel project to relieve traffic flow from New Jersey to New York, and then stole the funds to fix a state bridge. He is being investigated for that one as I write. Recently, “New Jersey’s bond rating took another hit when Mr. Christie, facing a big budget shortfall, rejected the usual remedies — cutting costs, borrowing money or raising taxes — and instead cut state contributions to the public employees’ pension fund. ” And you can bet he will be out crusading that these “over generous” pension funds are bankrupting the state. Actually he already is, crusading and bankrupting the state.

Meanwhile Paul Krugman took a serious look at Kansas where Governor Brownback in a effort to create a conservative nirvana, has cut taxes in what is the largest percentage of cuts ever enacted in a state and the Kansas economy is lagging. Paul points out that this is the failed supply side economic theory that has been discredited across the board, but is still in play with conservatives:

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people. … But how can you justify enriching the already wealthy while making life harder for those struggling to get by? The answer is, you need an economic theory claiming that such a policy is the key to prosperity for all. So supply-side economics fills a need backed by lots of money, and the fact that it keeps failing doesn’t matter.

The lesson here is that conservatives are not interested in data or reality. They believe what they believe because they need to and sadly many Americans still fall for snake oil salesmen. There is no free ride and you get what you pay for. If we want a strong economy and a modern country then we have to invest in it, and we have to pay the taxes that fund it. It really is that simple.

The Tea Party/Republican Party Actually Hates Democracy

There is a contract that we all implicitly agree to in our democracy, with the caveat of the bill of rights, we all agree to be governed by the majority. The prime example is that if the majority elects a president from the other party, he is still our president. When George Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court (the count later showed he did not win Florida), we all went along with it because it is our system, and Al Gore graciously conceded defeat.

But look at what is happening today. There is a lot of opposition to President Obama because he is President Obama. The leader of the Republican Senate told his fellow Republicans that their number one goal was to make him a one term president. Policies that were Republican policies were opposed and rejected because President Obama proposed them. The latest is the Mississippi election where the Tea Party candidate cries fowl because in a legally contested election (open primary), he lost. Some of those people who could vote, voted against him.

We have heard the cries of “take back our government” and seen armed militia oppose a legal seizure authorized by the courts out in Nevada. The Senate through the use of the filibuster has blocked the will of the majority. The Republican majority in House blocks things the majority of Americans want, like raising the minimum wage and reforming immigration. The House Republican majority, because of gerrymandering no longer represents the way the majority of Americans voted. Looking at vote totals in the 2012 election, there were 1.17 million more votes cast for Democrats than Republicans, yet the House is controlled by the Republicans.

Meanwhile out in the states we see Republicans attempting to further limit voting rights by disenfranchising voters through reduced polling hours, limited absentee voting, voter ID laws, and relocation of polls to make voting harder for those who might vote against them. Not only have they gerrymandered districts to be uncompetitive and skew the popular vote, but they are actively trying to change the way electoral votes are counted in Red states to further favor Republican candidates and again skew the popular vote.

If you really want to know what is wrong with America, it is because we have voided our implicit contract that for the good of the country, we will abide by majority rule. We now have a party that is intolerant of majority rule, demands to get its way, and if it doesn’t, brings government to its knees by shutting it down. Look around you. The evidence is for all to see.

Just Your Sunday Morning Thought

Let’s see, we can seek $500 million to arm rebels (which rebels?) in Syria, and the President seeks, ” more than $2 billion in new funds to control the surge of illegal Central American migrants at the South Texas border, and to grant broader powers for immigration officials to speed deportations of children caught crossing without their parents, White House officials said on Saturday,” but we can’t seek funds for major reinvestments in our own country?

It is truly sad when the only thing we can get money for is wars and immigrants. Welcome to the Tea Party controlled government. Invest in guns and fencing materials. What has happened to us?

Two More Thoughts on the Supreme Court Rulings Today

Now that I think about it, I am really angry at the women on the Supreme Court for not understanding how free speech must be balanced with intimidation and safety. Then I wonder if they made a deal on HobbyLobby? We’ll give you a limited ruling on buffer zones and you don’t make the biggest mistake in history and find that an employer can decide your health benefits. Meanwhile I want to see if anyone will join me in a law suit contesting the buffer zone around the Supreme Court. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander, right?

On the recess appointment ruling, did they ever question what “in session” means? One guy with a gavel? Note also that their ruling makes government even more dysfunctional because the pressure is off to come to agreement before they adjourn. There is a quick fix. The Senate could change their rules and define “in session” to be something meaningful and end all this nonsense. Otherwise the majority party in the Senate (assuming they don’t change the rules again on the filibuster) could block an opposition Party’s nominations indefinitely, making government useless. Well more useless than it is now.

Supreme Court Rulings

Well women, you may be intimidated going to a perfectly legal medical procedure. I am sorry, this is not free speech and the ruling does not address the root problem which is violent intimidation. Do not women have the right not to have someone in their face? The buffer zone came from just such intimidating behavior, and yet the Supreme Court looked at this as having a quiet conversation. Do these people live in the real world? I guess the only response is for people who support these women’s right to choose to escort them in and confront the confronters.

On the Recess appointments, the Republicans may rue the day they did this (assuming there is ever again a Republican President). But the real problem is a very broken Senate and of course, obstructionist Republicans. Time to end the filibuster once and for all. Again, the Supreme Court took the easy road and limited the Presidents power without addressing the real problem, but in this case, there was no way they could. It is the rules of the Senate that is the problem and it is time Democrats sucked it up and fixed them.

The one thing I worry about is with the ruling on the President’s power, the door is now open to impeachment and the crazies will take it. Here is the President trying to find any way he can to appoint people to run the government and the Republicans doing whatever they can to make him fail, so now they want to impeach him. Our government is no longer functional. Oh, and Republicans are evil.

I Told You So

Apparently Syria has entered the Iraq conflict bombing some ISIS position in Iraq. Let’s see, we have Iranians providing drones, equipment and men, Syria using air power to strike ISIS positions, and we now have our own drones and advisors in there. Oh and Sunnis in Baghdad are now afraid that living in the walled enclaves traps them and makes them vulnerable to Shiite Militias. Whose side are we on? Back away very quickly. I think I told you so.

Empathy

One my constant themes in this blog is the lack of empathy that is part and parcel of the conservative mind. The whole, “They deserve their fate, I worked hard and I deserve what I have” ideology is based upon that simple lack of empathy. Many people work hard, but it is not a level playing field, but their lack of empathy allows them to deny that simple fact.

Well along comes one of my favorite columnists, Linda Greenhouse, explaining the Supreme Courts 9-0 ruling saying you need a search warrant to search a cell phone:

I had planned to conclude my discussion of the court and the search cases with a mention of “empathy,” the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, so often missing from the Supreme Court’s criminal law decisions but perhaps on display here. But on reflection, it’s not really empathy. The justices are walking in their own shoes. The ringing cellphone could be theirs — or ours.

It’s funny because I had the same thought yesterday when I heard the ruling. I said to she who must never be mentioned here, “No surprise here. Justices have cell phones too.” Actually I said some Justices don’t want us to find out they have been looking at porn on their cellphones, but the other statement sounds more insightful.

Mississippi Voting

I have a little problem with open primaries, at least the way they are conducted in Mississippi. Should people who in the end are not going to vote for someone in the November election be able to affect who is running against their candidate.  In other words, it is purported that blacks got out and pushed Thad Cochran over the top.  But in November, I assume, they will vote for the Democrat.  Now in a state like Mississippi where the representative will most surely be a Republican one could argue that this allows them to at least impact how bad their representation is.

But I would argue that it may start a whole war of getting out the vote of the opposition in a primary to impact the November elections.  Shouldn’t the representative of the party represent who the majority of that party thought was best?  California operates a system that gets around this by saying the top two, regardless of party go on to the November election.  If you want your candidate to be on the November ballot, you had better vote for them in the primary.  It also takes extremism out of the election as you have to appeal to a larger audience.   Just thinking out loud.