Sunday, August 10, 2014

If Pat Robertson Keeps Talking Like This ...

... even I may start to like him.  Take a look.

Why Don't I Watch Sunday Talk Shows?

Well, not to answer a question with a question, but why should I listen to these people beat up Obama on the subject of Iraq, while ignoring the role that they played, in collaboration with these two, for creating the whole damn mess in the first place?

If I had to use the Sunday talk shows as the basis for making an evaluation, I would say this nation is seriously screwed.  But, for many reasons that have nothing to do with Sunday talk shows.  I don't think we are.  At least not yet.

I Wish There Were More Ball Players Like You, Mr. Gwynn

And more fans, and people too.  R.I.P., sir.

There ARE Simple Solutions To At Least Some Of Our Problems

Synergistic ones, too.  Here's one way to create jobs and reduce the waste caused by plastic bottles.

Why Giving Power To Conservatives Makes No Sense In A Democracy

Because democracy requires deal-making, and today's conservatives can't do that.

Go For It, Mr. FitzGerald!

So John Kasich thinks Ohio can afford to roll clean energy back?  Don't let him do it!  Ohio, and American can't afford it.  And, if you pursue this, we all may be better off for it.

The Cost of "Faithfully Executing" The Laws

This article from today's New York Times gave me food for thought on a lot of fronts.  Not the least of which is the statement that balancing the federal budget without new revenues would require $5 trillion of cuts over the next decade.  There's a lot that could be written just about that subject, and I suspect I will do so at this time next week.  There's also the fact that the Republican Senators quoted in the article, as well as the author of the article itself, gave me the feeling of being just a bit premature in their assessment of whether or not they will have a majority to do some of the things they mention.  But again, I'm content to discuss that later.

But the citing of the budget figures gave me a little thought about House Republicans and their insistence that President Obama must be absolutely perfect in taking care to faithfully execute all of the laws of the United States.  This insistence is the reason that there's been so much talk about impeachment (and make no mistake:  they are the ones who have initiated that talk).

The problem with this, of course, is that, sooner or later in the world we all wake up in, their faithful execution rhetoric has to collide with their austerity rhetoric, in much the same way that, during the Bush years, their tax-cutting rhetoric ultimately collided with their war-on-terror rhetoric.  Whether you want the government to give everyone health care, or clean up all of the terror hot spots, you can't escape the fact that government costs money.  The single biggest problem over the past 35 years with Republican politics, and therefore with American politics, is that the GOP has done everything possible to repeal, run away from, or otherwise ignore that fact.  That is one reason, by the way, that you should waste no time listening to Republican complaints about the national debt:  they are its architects.

And that forces me to ask the question:  how much does the imperfect execution of our laws depend on the austerity budgeting.  At the very least, plenty.  And that shouldn't be surprising.  When the GOP took over the House in 2010, its members admitted that imperfect execution was the real point.  Starve the beast, and shrink it down to size.  They didn't care about trying to change the laws to matched the budgeting.  And, with the calls for impeachment, you can now see why.  It sets up the win-win scenario of shrinking government and blaming Obama for the fact that things aren't working the way they should be.

Small wonder, then, that some people have responded to John Boehner's plans to sue Obama by suggesting that we, the people, sue Congress.  A laudable goal, but, ultimately, a futile one; any court would just tell us that our constitutional remedy is the next election.  And they're right.

But what about an alternative?  What about putting together a cost estimate for the faithful execution of our laws, and submitting that, if not to Congress, then to the court of public opinion?  Along with ways to pay for it, like closing corporate loopholes and slashing corporate subsidies?  What about making that the election-year vehicle, from an issue standpoint (along with too-big-to-fail banks), that gets us our constitutional remedy.

Somebody good at crunching numbers should do this.  And I mean right now.  And then the rest of us should whack Republicans over their heads with it from now until Election Day.  Personally, I'd love to help make this happen.  How about you?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why Aren't "Too Big To Fail" Banks The Number One Election Issue?

Here we go again--maybe.  In fact, if history teaches us anything, very likely.  Even after the near-crash of 2008, even after major financial reform legislation was passed back before Congress was partially hijacked by lunatics, even when public opinion is clearly not on the side of another Wall Street bailout, Wall Street appears to be setting itself up for--well, potentially, another bailout.

How is this even possible?  How can this country's major financial institutions have learned absolutely nothing from recent history?  Or have they?

What they have learned is that socialism works, so long as it's socialism for those who don't need it, and so long as you can convince the people who do need it that they don't, after all.  And this is possible because (a) Republicans in government believe nothing about capitalism except the name, and (b) the core of their supporters believe in everything else about it.

During the Bush years, Washington was like Santa Claus to corporate America.  Tax cuts, deregulation, military spending--it was a conservative cornucopia that seemed endless.  Except for the fact that it wasn't, because of an ancient formula, one that conservatives are fond of citing to liberals:  when spending exceeds income, bankruptcy results.  It didn't help matters, of course, that the captains of the financial sector, free of any obligations except to greed, decided to "invest" in securities so untethered from reality as to effectively turn stock markets into casinos.

If capitalism has any morality at all, it is the morality of failure.  According to classic capitalistic theory, the markets punish those who do not invest and spend their money productively.  But classic capitalism exists only in theory.  Real capitalism involves investing and spending money to "buy out" anyone and anything that might oppose you--including big government.  So it should have surprised no one that, when Wall Street was near collapse, it turned to the government it had helped to buy, and asked for a great big dose of socialism, on the grounds that the entire country would suffer greatly if capitalists were actually punished for their failures.  And the Bush Administration, with the shameful cooperation of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, gave it to them.  By doing so, they effectively ended the Age of Capitalism, and ushered in the Age of Socialism.  Now, the only real debate is about how much socialism, and for whom.

In spite of this bald-faced hypocrisy, Republicans went back to their supporters after the bailouts, and after the Democratic blowout of 2008, and warned of the dangers of big government, ready to pick the people's pockets blind if given half a chance.  And their supporters, being more inclined to believe the easy lie rather than think their way to hard truths, bought it.  They overlooked the bailouts, focused on the alleged evils of Obamacare, and gave Republicans the opportunity to shut Washington down for going-on four years, lest any of the socialism given to the 1% be shared with the rest of us.

Only now, Obamacare has been shown not to be evil, and even to be practical.  As has the stimulus, another alleged big-government boondoggle.  People are beginning, slowly but surely, to understand that big government is sometimes necessary, and helps to create a level playing field that gives everyone a chance to build the lives they want to lead.  Despite that fact, there is a real danger that the lunatics' control of Congress could become complete in a few months--and the small but real gains of the past six years could be destroyed.  The Democrats desperately need an issue that can pull together voters from both sides of our political divide and illustrates the essential need for a strong Federal government on behalf of the people.

What should that issue be?  I believe that it should be reinstatement of the Banking Act of 1933, more commonly known by the name of its sponsors, the Glass-Steagall Act.  The senseless repeal of the Act in the latter days of the Clinton Administration led to the creation of "too-big-to-fail" banks and their casino practices, by allowing commercial and investment banks to merge and destroying safe havens for investor capital.  Public awareness of the destructive nature of Glass-Steagall's repeal has grown over the years and cut across party lines

The potential to create a huge coalition around this issue is right there, hanging in front of the Democrats.  This is not to say that other issues, such as immigration, should not be at the forefront of this fall's campaign.
But reinstatement of Glass-Steagall is a cause that could truly become bipartisan, and help set the state for another era of progressive accomplishment. 

The only thing that stands in the way of this is the dependence of national Democrats on Wall Street money.  Can that be overcome?  Maybe.  It's up to you to get involved and make them pay attention to the people they should be serving.  That is the only way that socialism is going to have a chance to work for 100% of us, instead of 1%.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

If We Can Afford To Put Them In Harm's Way ...

... we can afford to do whatever's necessary to take care of them.  You're wrong, Senator Sessions.

And, did I mention, despicable?

Time To Stop Assuming All Regulations Need To Be Rolled Back

Tracy Morgan would probably agree, unfortunately.  Bad timing indeed, Senator Collins.

So Much For The Rule Of Law In Virginia

What kind of political party hypocritically talks about impeaching Obama to "uphold the rule of law," while breaking the rule of law in Virginia to stop the expansion of Medicaid?

The no-longer-so-Grand Old Party, that's what kind.  Shades of Watergate!

Too Late, Republicans, He's Already A 100% Success

And here's the proof.

Cutting Carbon Pays For Itself.

The results in nine states can't be wrong.

What Does The History Of European City-States Teach Us?

It teaches us the dangers of letting an economic elite gain control of our politics.  Take a look.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ray Rice: Let The Punishment Fit The Crime

So Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens' star running back, is going to take a two-game vacation as a punishment from the National Football League for an act of domestic violence involving his then-fiancee and now-wife.  And Roger Goodell, the league's commissioner, is arguing in public that this punishment is proportionate to other disciplinary actions taken previously by the league for similar incidents.

One is forced to wonder about the NFL's sense of proportionality, given the fact that it has handed out more severe sanctions for drug use, a crime with arguably fewer victims than domestic assault.  One is forced to wonder how seriously the league takes the issue of violence in general, given its checkered career of treating injured current and former players with less than optimum concern and care.  And finally, given the image-conscious efforts the NFL has attempted in the area of women's issues (breast cancer specifically), one is forced to wonder if it can tell the difference between promoting a cause and actually doing something about it.

Because, as far as I'm concerned, and notwithstanding what the criminal justice system may do in regard to this matter, the NFL's punishment does not fit the crime of which Ray Rice stands accused.

In the United States, professional football is more than the most popular sport.  It is the social and cultural event that brings together men in larger numbers than any other event.  It takes them away from their wives and children, promotes the consumption of alcohol, and glorifies a level of physical contact that would, for most of us, be disabling at best.  No, I'm not arguing for a ban on the sport.  I am, however, arguing that it helps indirectly to promote an atmosphere in which violence can be seen as acceptable--or worse.  And the conflict between Ray Rice and his wife serves to illustrate that point more powerfully than any words of mine can.  After all, it is not an isolated case, as even Goodell's defense of his sanction illustrates.

What would I do, if I were in Goodell's position?  I'm a Ravens fan, but I care more about safety for women than I do about my team.  I would sit Rice for a year.  That's right.  A year.  And I would require him to donate his salary to local shelters of victims of domestic violence.  And I would require the NFL to match that sum with a donation to shelters across the country.  As disproportionally as the Ravens would be affected by this on the field, it would make them and every franchise in the league sit up and take seriously the violence the sport helps to promote.  And, in all fairness, a franchise such as the Ravens, which has had a large number of players in trouble with the law, would perhaps benefit from some disproportionate pain.

I think that men, in general, are guilty of being less than human in their treatment of women as human beings.  It's time for male-centric organizations like the NFL to make a real difference in changing things for the better.  Talk is cheap.  Let's work to create a better playing field for everyone.

And, if you're of a praying disposition, pray for the Rices.  They may need all the help they can get.