Posts tagged ‘conservative’

In Other News…

The news channels I watch, mostly CNN and MSNBC have a fix on the VIIC (Village Idiot-in-Charge).  The lies and inconsistencies are starting to cascade so I thought I would turn to other news while the VIIC is in Saudi Arabia and Israel.  I mean, what harm could he possibly do there?  Obviously we need to sell them more arms to keep our war machine happy, but does anyone  then wonder why peace is so hard over there?  I just hope when he goes to Israel he doesn’t try to plant an American flag at the Wailing Wall.

So my first thought is on driverless trucking of the very near future.  As I drove back from Monterey yesterday on I-5, it occurred to me that there is so much trucking traffic that the drive could be described as cruising between truck passing zones.  Truck passing zones are those places where one truck must pass the other and for the next seven or eight miles they block both lanes as one creeps by the other.  So what happens on our two lane interstates when massive lines of trucks, driverless, chug along, I assume in the right lane actually doing the speed limit, so that the only available lane for travel is the left lane (pretty much as it is now)?  I would think we would need a massive building project to add another lane so that traffic is not totally controlled by trucks as it is now.

My second thought is the new study of the Antarctica ice sheet.  Did you know that it contains 60% of the fresh water on the earth and if it completely melted it would raise sea level by 160′.  Did you know it is melting much faster that we thought so what does that do to our predictions of a foot or two in the next 50 years?  Scientists are studying what is happening there so they can make better predictions.  Meanwhile our government under the VIIC and idiot minions are removing scientific data from websites so we won’t know what is coming until it is up to our…

On MSNBC, WTF.  First they bring in Greta to attract maybe more conservative listeners, but her bias is so pronounced conservative that she has a hard time processing all the stuff coming out about the VIIC and tries to make excuses. Chris Mathews processes information like it was still the 1990s, and Chris Hayes tries to present both sides to be fair and balanced when there is only one side. I switch over to CNN which seems more realistically in the hunt.  Now I hear they want to move Lawrence out of his prime time spot so they can give Brian William’s a better time slot. Lawrence is not having it.  Lawrence and Rachel are the heart of intelligent and thoughtful coverage.  Brian Williams’ coverage is fawning and lacks a there, there.  So we are again what, trying to dumb down news so we can dumb down America and make conservative palatable for idled brains?   Goodbye MSNBC if you pull that one off.

Finally, just a thought about the special counsel.  He, like the FBI, will be doing his investigation in the back room.  We still need to continue to dig in the committees if the Republicans will let them.  Last night it was reported that there were 18 more contacts with the VIICs campaign than earlier reporting.  You know there are recordings of those conversations somewhere.  How long does this take?  We the people need to see the truth, the earlier the better.  And as Bernie Sanders reminded us yesterday, focusing on the VIIC as Hillary did in the campaign as unfit to serve, does not provide an alternate path that most voters who don’t read this blog really care about.  It is still, was, and eternally about the economy.  Democrats have to pay attention and attack Republicans for their ideological necrophilia:  passionate love for the dead, ineffective political ideas. America needs options.

Oh, and one final back to the news of the day:  Joe Lieberman for FBI.  Yuck!  My first thought was the VIIC picked someone who was a member of the Senate Club, like Sessions, who would get a free pass.  No smell check required. Apparently that is not the case thankfully.  Why keep putting these old politicos in these positions and expect that anything will change?  Aren’t there professional/non-political people in either the Justice Department (think of all the U.S. Attorneys) or the FBI?  Lieberman is another political hack with a political agenda.  I wonder what those people who voted for change, think about this.  Oh, wait, they don’t think.

Scalia

My last words on this nut ball.  While everyone is genuflecting at the great jurist he was, all I could see was a person who saddled us with a very static and unrealistic way of interpreting the Constitution to push his very conservative agenda.  As a  NYT editorial pointed out this morning:

After three decades of Justice Scalia’s exuberant behavior on and off the bench and his multitude of public appearances, which earned him the moniker “Rock Star of One First Street,” justices are no longer cloistered. They are now perceived as politicians in judicial robes.

This perception as “politicians in judicial robes” is part of what is wrong with America today.  It is a perception that institutions are not fair and destroys our belief in them and he led the charge.  So what was this “great” judicial legacy he expouses:

Justice Scalia’s most important legacy will be his “originalism” and “textualism” theory that judges should decide cases according to the “public meaning” of the words in the Constitution or its Amendments as understood by the American people in the state constitutional ratifying conventions. He frequently lectured his colleagues against using a “living” or “evolving” interpretation of the Constitution, something he termed “idiotic.” He argued, “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution. The problem with a living Constitution in a word is that somebody has to decide how it grows and when it is that new rights are – you know — come forth. And that’s an enormous responsibility in a democracy to place upon nine lawyers, or even 30 lawyers.” For him, the Constitution was static, unchanging and enduring, and should only be changed by the voters through the amendment process.

Now in one sense you can see the logic in this.  Read the Constitution as a static document and if problems result, get the Congress to do their job.  And like all simple logic, it is sadly flawed.  For instance, the 2nd amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Okay except we don’t have militias any more so do we still get to stockpile weapons.  Yes according to Anthony Scalia.  What about abortion?  It was even possible (safely) back in those days, so is choice a natural right?  Again since the constitution did not specifically address it, then not according to Anthony Scalia, and that is ignoring his Catholic prejudices that he could use this judicial philosophy to support.

His judicial philosophy was nonsense.  The Founders read Locke, Hume, Locke, John Stuart Mill, to name a few.  It was about basic principles of human behavior and government, not specific rules to follow (oh, how conservative and ideological, like a literal reading of the Bible).  The Constitution laid out our basic principles and it is a living document because those don’t change with time even though the events they weigh on do.  So yes interpretation is required in light of what we know today, not static views from the 18th century.

Think about this: Issues and cases don’t reach the Supreme Court unless there is a strong difference of opinion.  So it is unlikely that Congress would even be able to act on it to change the Consitution.  And more importantly, more likely to act if the Supreme Court makes a highly unpopular decision.  We turn to the court not as a rule reader, but to interpret the intent of a living document, not a dead one.  Justice Scalia used his rigid interpretation, hidden behind a wall of judicial restraint, to be an activist judge that pushed his ideological agenda and tarnished the court and America.  Let us never forget Bush versus Gore.

Was he smart, brilliant, and outspoken?  Yes.  But he is part and parcel of the divided America we see today where the respect for our highest institutions are crumbling.  That is what this brilliant jurist brought us. Or as the Onion put it, Justice Scalia dead following 30 year battle with social progress.  Brilliance wasted.

The Most Important Election of Our Lives

I know, I know.  You hear this all the time.  Then the next one is the most important.  But I think something has changed, and that would be the rate of change.  If we don’t respond quickly to it, we will then be controlled by it.  I think in many ways we conduct policy and learn from our mistakes like it is the 1940’s.  

We seem to think politics and global economic shifts move in slow arcs and we can slowly adapt to them, except they don’t anymore.  Political and economic changes and the lessons derived from them move at lightening speed.  Watching the Supreme Court debate gay marriage was a prime example.  These people truly were living back in the 40s.

There have been astounding changes in the world and in our perception of the problem.  Take the killing of Freddy Gray as the lastest example of policies (Get tough on Crime, Stop and Frisk, Three Strikes) that are failing and we are too slow to see it and make the appropriate adjustments.  It is only when crisis finally hits that we stagger around looking for someone to blame and asking what happened.  

Our economy is wallowing because we have yet to respond to the reality that the policies that we have put in place that we thought would encourage the “job creators” to create jobs and lift all boats, has instead transfered most of the countries wealth to the few, without the requisite jobs and sharing in that wealth.  In the Middle East we can’t seem to learn the lesson that we can’t fight their wars for them.  We continued to prop up regimes that promote values antithetical to our own because they are seen as the less of two evils, thinking it is being practical, and yet in the end, we are seen as the problem (by propping them and their oppressive policies up). 

My point is simply that as the world rapidly changes around us and our policies and approaches need to adjust appropriately, what we see is old ideas that have failed repackaged and reapplied in a futile attempt to hold on to the past.  The nations general lackadaisical approach to global warming is a massive example of ignoring a problem until the problem can no longer be solved, just mitigated.  That is why the next election is so important.  Things are going to evolve so quickly after 2016 that recovery may not be possible.

So who should we be electing?  Here is Paul Krugman’s discription of the type of candidates we should be looking for:

You see, you shouldn’t care whether a candidate is someone you’d like to have a beer with. Nor should you care about politicians’ sex lives, or even their spending habits unless they involve clear corruption. No, what you should really look for, in a world that keeps throwing nasty surprises at us, is intellectual integrity: the willingness to face facts even if they’re at odds with one’s preconceptions, the willingness to admit mistakes and change course.

Do you see a trend here?  What both Paul and I are describing is the anti-conservative.  Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of conservative:

reluctant to accept change: in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs, and against abrupt change. of conservatism: relating to, characteristic of, or displaying conservatism. cautious and on low side: cautiously moderate and therefore often less than the final outcome.

If we want to begin to push America to be back on the leading edge of evolving and progressive countries, then conservatives would be your choice for failure.  Again lets look at the police violence on black men that is coming to the forefront of our news.  In all the incidents prior to Baltimore it took at the minimum 107 days to investigate what was obvious.  In Baltimore it took less than two weeks to decide to indict.  Of course what we saw in the other jurisdictions was purposeful foot dragging including seating a grand jury, to do nothing.  You either have conservatives satisfied with the status quo, or progressives who see a problem and want change.

Will our media respond to these obvious values our next leaders need to possess?  Are you kidding me?  24/7 news lives on the exposure of the minutia that fills the time slot like their sex appeal, style, charisma, friends, everything that is really irrelevant to choosing the next successful leader.  I actually think George Bush is a nice guy and I would like to have a beer with him, but he sucked as President.

So we approach 2016 and the two parties political positions could not be more starkly different.  Both party’s positions you can sum them up very simpley:  The Republicans want the status quo and the Democrats want to change.  And if you followed anything I have written above, the status quo will relegate us to the dust bin of history.  We have moved right since Ronald Reagan and now the changed required is massive.  If we fail to measure up to the challenges of the future, learning from our mistakes and changing policy to reflect that flearning, history will simply say about us, nice try America.

Counterintuitive

Thomas Edsall in an Op-Ed yesterday in the NYT put forward some data I really did not want to believe.  Here are his main points:

With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans convinced that health care is a right shrank from a majority to a minority.  … In 2006, by a margin of more than two to one, 69-28, those surveyed by Gallup said that the federal government should guarantee health care coverage for all citizens of the United States. By late 2014, however, Gallup found that this percentage had fallen 24 points to 45 percent, while the percentage of respondents who said health care is not a federal responsibility nearly doubled to 52 percent. … The Kaiser survey found strong opposition, 64-35, to the individual mandate requiring that everyone purchase health coverage. In contrast, a majority of respondents, 60-38, supported the employer mandate that requires companies with 100 or more workers to provide health insurance.

In addition, he found that as economic inequality increases, the nation becomes more conservative:

Luttig compares public attitudes with inequality trends and reports that his data show that:  “Both the absolute level and the changing structure of inequality have largely been a force promoting conservatism, not increasing support for redistribution as theoretically expected.”

Even worse for Democrats, the Saez paper [Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at Berkeley] found that “information about inequality also makes respondents trust government less,” decreasing “by nearly twenty percent the share of respondents who ‘trust government’ most of the time:”  Hence, emphasizing the severity of a social or economic problem appears to undercut respondents’ willingness to trust the government to fix it — the existence of the problem could act as evidence of the government’s limited capacity to improve outcomes.

Yikes!  So what does this say about Progressive Democrats like myself who argue the issue will be economic inequality?  Well let me take these two ideas one at a time and show how they could be totally misleading.  First healthcare.

Since 2009, Obamacare has been pummeled by the Republicans with never-ending false claims on raising rates and loss of low-cost plans.  Include into that the false claims of lack of choice, government interference in physician choices, and arguments over abortion care, and what you have is basically a total misunderstanding of the success of the plan.  So there is a false perception of government’s ability to provide healthcare insurance.  This is evidence by the real government provided system we call Medicare and no one wants that to go away and most Americans perceive that as their right.

This misunderstanding is further evidenced by the illogical conclusion to support the employer mandate and not support the individual mandate for providing healthcare insurance.  The employer mandate has systemic problems including loss of wage increases to cover growing medical cost, competitiveness of our companies against world companies, the smaller pool of healthy subscribers to cover the cost of the sick, and employer defined coverage or what they won’t cover (See Hobby Lobby).  On the individual mandate, how does one expect a health insurance program to work if the pool of subscribers is limited?  It is shared risk and the larger the share pool, the lower the costs.  If Americans like the no denial for pre-existing conditions, how do they think this gets paid for?

My point healthcare issues is very simple.  Republicans have been very successful at tarnishing the program with false claims and that perception persists.  For almost 7 years we have been inundated with repeal Obamacare claims that it is destroying our economy and raising costs, and although the data is opposite, the perception persists.  Secondly, most people are covered now (over 90%) and they “have got theirs”.  What may upset this applecart is if the Republicans get their way and repeal it.  Without the individual mandate and the required coverages within the plan, healthcare will be significantly degraded while costs soar.  What Democrats need to do is change the perception, not run away from issue because the public is misinformed and being illogical.

Okay, the second point is that as economic inequality increases, the nation becomes more conservative.  I think what they mean here is that citizens have less faith that their government can solve this problem, “… the existence of the problem could act as evidence of the government’s limited capacity to improve outcomes.”   Now think about this.  Government has created this problem with policies that favor the wealthy from a favored tax rate on capital gains to subsidies for favored corporations.  Secondly, the Republicans have done everything in their power to make government ineffective, with the massive use of the filibuster to failure to act on legislation favored by the majority of Americans in the House.  So once again we are dealing with a perception, not the reality.  In the vein of government’s ability to redistribute wealth, how do you do this if you don’t reform the tax code?  That would be government action.

So if you think about this, I think the conclusion of this editorial,

The findings of the Saez group are consistent with Luttig’s. Taken together, they suggest that even if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate in 2016, largely on the basis of favorable demographic trends, the party will confront serious hurdles if it attempts to deliver material support to working men and women and the very poor. Redistribution is in trouble, and that is likely to tie American politics in knots for many years to come.

is wrong, very wrong.  It is a failure in logic to confuse cause with effects.  People feel Obamacare is flawed, and are happier with employer plans because they have been mislead.  The same can be said of ineffective government.  Those are the effects, the cause being Republican misinformation and obstruction.  What needs to be done is to get out the facts.  For healthcare, Democrats have never fought the fight.  They shrunk from it in 2014 and the paid dearly.  How they fight this is to educate the voter on what they have, and what would Republican proposals do to their coverage.  They have to expose Republican lies to change minds. They have to show how governors of states that refused the Medicaid program killed people to turn around the idea that healthcare is not a right.  They have to come out swinging, not once again sneaking away from their core beliefs in the belief that half measures with pull them throughwhen the polls scare them.

On the inequality issue, this will be the real issue in the next election, and Democrats must convince voters that they really will do something about ineffectual government by a coherent plan to attack it.  Attack Republicans on where they have made government ineffectual and how their policies increase inequality.  Dancing around this issue with very moderate proposals is what made people feel that government cannot solve these problems.  So there has to be specific policies that you can fight for that will help.  Start with raising the minimum wage and show how that reduces food stamps.  Point out that trickle down, and the government policies that support it, do not work, did not worked, and will not work, and talk about fairer tax policies that balance the load for a well financed government that invests in tomorrow.

My point is very simple.  The first reading of this op-ed is very depressing and you think, OMG, Republicans are winning, maybe Democrats need to rethink their strategy for 2016, but it is the wrong conclusion.  Republicans have been winning with a policy of obstruction and destruction.  Then they have been successful at transferring the perception of government dysfunction to both sides of the aisle.  That serves their needs.  But the perception is not only counterintuitive, it is illogical.  Instead of confusing what really ails the country with the perception of the voters, Democrats have to come out fighting for the real solutions to real problems and show how the Republican approach has made things worse. If the Republicans win and then the country falters badly, unless you have offered an alternative, you are just like the other guy.

A Libertarian, Conservative, Progressive Smashup

If you are pure anything, I think you are probably a fruit loop. Life is not pure anything. It is a smashup. Said another way, good ideas don’t come from one place and good policy will be a smashup. Or as Buddha once said, look to the middle way. Let me give you an example.

I was reading about how the United States in trade talks was looking to water down a requirement that let other countries put large tariffs on tobacco. The article noted that this would limit other countries abilities to limit tobacco use and that over the last century 100 million people have died from smoking related diseases and is estimated to be 1 billion in the next 100 years. It is not something we should be encouraging. Now to my smashup.

I think if people want to smoke, they can anywhere they like (Libertarian). But that anywhere can’t be anywhere where I might have to inhale their second hand smoke and put my life at risk (Progressive). And that includes all public places including walking outside in publicly frequented spaces. I want my freedom to be free of tobacco spoke (Libertarian). Oh, and I think people should be responsible for their actions so I don’t think the cost of my health care policy should be impacted by their bad choices (Conservative). So I think smokers should have to pay for their impact to all our insurance polices. Yeah, a real smashup, but that about captures it.

Not recognizing that life is a smashup is what brings us stupid policy or partisan politics. Now this is not a both sides do it, because the Democrats have shown they are willing to cross many lines, while Republicans would rather die. Look at how Conservatives look at the poor. They apply the principle that you must take responsibility for your lives, but don’t recognize that in many cases, they have not taken responsibility for their decisions that keeps the poor, poor, or the advantages they have had that the poor did not. The world is not a level playing field as they like to dream.

Libertarians love freedom, but fail to recognize that the only people free today are those that have enough money to exercise their freedom. In our world today, money is freedom and I don’t think that is what they had in mind. They want the freedom to do as they please, but when their neighbor does what he pleases and it impacts their freedom, they want action from government.

Progressives like to see the world as a more interrelated place where many of our problems are a result of an unlevel playing field and they see government as the best way to level it. But without the Conservative’s belief in responsibility for your own actions, this can get out of control. Without the libertarian belief in freedom, rules can get too burdensome. Once the playing field is level, you really are responsible for your actions, and too many rules can become a hinderance to our prosperity unless they are careful crafted. And yes, in many instances the marketplace is the best innovator, but fails at long term planning.

So life really is a smashup and we need to get use to it. Instead of being trapped into our ideology or trying to see life as we want to, we need to see it as it really is and be flexible in our response. Oh, I know. What was I thinking?

The Center

Both Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman wrote about something that really bugs me and that is the press’s reference to the “center” as though it were some meaningful and practical political position. From Paul Krugman:

So what do journalists mean when they talk about centrism? Today the term “centrist” is used for things like Simpson-Bowles, which are both desperately unpopular and impossible to enact as legislation. Meanwhile, extremely popular ideas, like breaking up big banks and raising taxes on high incomes, are treated as somehow radical.

This is not a helpful form of political analysis, and is all the worse because its unreasonable assumptions are kept implicit.

The whole discussion was generated by an article in the NYT by Jonathan Martin called Some Democrats Look to Push Party Away From Center (I referenced it yesterday). Ezra concludes with this:

Martin’s article doesn’t define “the center.” But it’s not the center of public opinion. It’s more a reference to an amorphous Washington consensus. Insofar as that concept ever made sense, the idea was that it’s the legislative center, the zone of compromise where things can actually get done. But even that concept has begun to break down in recent years, as that Washington center — what you might call the “Simpson-Bowles center” — no longer holds any weight in Congress.

When you’re judging policy, “good” and “bad” are descriptions that make sense. So are “popular” and “unpopular,” and “likely to pass” and “no chance.” But “the center”? It’s time to retire that one, or at least come up with a more rigorous definition of what we mean when we use it.

I would think Ezra missed the most important characterization, effective or not. Sadly we know whether many policies will or will not work, regardless of what politicians claim, yet the press seems to ignore the data for characterizations like popular or likely to pass. Sometimes you have to focus on what won’t pass because it will be the only thing that will work. I think that is what President Obama is doing on the economy so he can change the framework of thinking in Washington to make things that work possible in the future. As a general rule, if Republicans want it, it won’t work for most of us and is an attempt to hang on to the status quo. See the attack on voting rights in Texas and North Carolina.