Friday, October 11, 2013

A hostage crisis?

Why are some people referring to the current government shutdown and debt ceiling talks as a hostage situation rather than typical political negotiations where two sides make some compromises in order move forward? Isn't that just overheated rhetoric?

Well, it is certainly heated rhetoric,  but it's not far off the mark. In a setting of good faith negotiations, both sides have to make concessions, ie. give up some of the things that they want, to reach a compromise. Republicans aren't offering any actual concessions though. They're saying "give us what we want or we'll blow up the economy". Make no mistake, while the shutdown is bad enough, what would really wreck the economy is not raising the debt ceiling. The GOP caucus, excluding a few of their craziest members, don't actually want to push the US government into debt default, so they're not making any concession at all if they agree to raise the debt ceiling. They're just playing a high stakes game of chicken.

Agreeing to Republican demands with regards to the Affordable Care Act would set a terrible precedent. It would mean that any time the nation approaches the debt ceiling, any and every law already on the books is up for grabs. The laws wouldn't even have to be confined to budget issues. It could just as easily be "do what we want on this foreign policy issue" or "change this environmental regulation law" or anything else in exchange for not ruining the economy.

As for the ACA, it's already a compromise law that includes, among other things, over 100 Republican amendments and no public option (which most Democrats wanted in there). It passed the House and the Senate, was signed into law by the President, and was upheld by the Supreme Court. To now allow the House to in effect unilaterally change it -- so they won't blow up the economy -- would be a terrible abuse of the government's system of checks and balances. Why have the Senate and the President involved in lawmaking at all if the House can later simply extort both to get whatever changes they want made to existing laws?

We have a hostage situation.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stop fighting birth control

John Boehner this week:

House Speaker John Boehner this week called the mandate "an unambiguous attack on religious freedom" in a rare House floor speech and vowed legislative action to reverse it.

"If the president does not reverse the attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must," Boehner said. "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand."

Translation of Boehner's words: "I'm a pandering ass who uses ridiculous hyperbole while pathetically grandstanding to blast everything Democrats do." Shut up, John.

Then there's this guy, who's demanding on behalf of Catholic bishops that the contraceptive requirement be removed entirely, not just given an exception for church businesses -- Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by the mandate."

You're damn right you'd be covered, as you should be! Do you know how screwed up our laws would be if every private business owner could claim religious exception to laws they didn't like? Take your backwards, anti women views and shove them.

I'm so sick of this regressive bullshit. Welcome to the 21st century, same as the 19th century.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Whiling away the hours

The words of one of my college professors from 15+ years ago came to mind just now. "Are we just whiling away the hours until we die?"

It seems to me that life is meant to be enjoyed, but sometimes short term pleasure, something that's amusing for awhile, leaves nothing. Is it worth it because "a moment enjoyed is not wasted" as a popular video gaming website likes to say? Perhaps.

Yet what did I gain out of several years in my 20s when I was practically addicted to online role-playing games? I usually enjoyed it, but on the other hand, I don't spend much time telling people about all those great times we had back then staring at a computer screen. Mind you, it's no worse than many other activities people do to fill their time. Plenty of people go home and stare at the television screen for hours every night.

"Moderation in everything" also comes to mind. Then again, some people become truly great at something by doing it obsessively and they seem to like it that way.

Amusing Ourselves to Death. Great book title. "Kill the spirit, sell the flesh, we amuse ourselves to death." Words from a song by Bill Mallonee.

No answers... just musings...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Youth on Wall St

For the many young people spearheading protests on Wall St. and now in many other cities:


Your energy can be the engine for change.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Money Rules

If there was any silver lining in the disastrous Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United case, the case that opened the floodgates for unlimited individual and corporate donations to political action committees, it was that who donated and how much they donated had to be disclosed.

Tonight Stephen Colbert humorously, yet depressingly for those of us who still give a damn about good government, demonstrated how those donations can be rendered completely anonymous. Bonus: It's sooooo easy. Start with the SuperPAC such as Karl Rove's American Progress, an organization that must disclose all donations given to it. Then simply add a shell corporation under a legal designation called 501(c)(4). Rove's shell corporation is called Crossroads GPS. The corporation can take unlimited anonymous donations from individuals and corporations, then spend the money directly on "issue-oriented" political advertisements, OR give the to the SuperPAC. All the SuperPAC has to disclose is that it received the money from the shell corporation, thus completely shielding all contributors.

To show how easy the process is, Colbert created a shell corporation to gather anonymous donations, creatively named Anonymous Shell Corporation, to go with his already created SuperPAC.

Monday, August 08, 2011

S&P credit downgrade proving insignificant

Interestingly, S&P's credit downgrade of US debt is not looking like near the disaster many expected.

The headlines today are full of declarations that stocks are falling because S&P downgraded US debt from AAA to AA+. These headlines are simply wrong. The stock market is not a measure of investor confidence in the US's ability to repay its debt. The interest rate the nation must offer on its treasury bonds to attract buyers is that measure. If investors have less confidence in our nation's ability to repay its debt, that interest rate will rise.

The exact opposite is happening. Interest rates on US treasury bonds fell today. People are selling stocks and buying US treasury bonds, still considered the safest place in the world to keep money.

Of greater concern to investors is the Euro-zone economic crisis that's showing no signs of letting up. Of greater concern to the US economy as a whole is the continuing high joblessness and underemployment rates as well as the stagnant growth rate.

By the way, why are we listening to credit rating agencies like S&P? They completely destroyed their credibility by being a major cause of the 2008 financial collapse. They gave AAA rating after AAA rating to the mortgage backed securities that were pure, toxic garbage. They handed out these absurdly high ratings because they were competing with one another for income from the very banks that were selling the mortgage securities and paying the rating agencies to rate them. They're corrupt profit mongers with no credibility. The S&P gave Lehman Brothers an A rating right up to the month of its bankruptcy. They're morons. Krugman has more today on this topic.

Speaking of government spending and deficits during a bad economy, we've been here before and massive budget cuts is not the answer. Facing criticism of high deficits, FDR slashed his New Deal programs in 1937. The unemployment rate had dropped from well over 20% to 14% in the prior few years. In a matter of months after he slashed the New Deal programs, it was back up to 19%. After about a year, FDR realized his error and worked to restore the program funding. The result? The recovery began anew.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Harry Reid's debt ceiling bill is very similar to Boehner's bill before the latter's most recent idiotic revisions made at the behest of the moronic teabaggers in Congress. Reid gives Republicans almost everything they wanted. Nevertheless, all 43 Republicans in the Senate have signed a letter, released on Saturday, saying they will not vote for a Democratic plan to raise the debt limit.

Letter I've sent to Senator Dick Lugar, which I'm sure won't do any good:

"Reuter's today: "All 43 Republicans in the Senate have signed a letter, released on Saturday, saying they will not vote for a Democratic plan to raise the debt limit."

Why? Harry Reid's bill gives the GOP almost everything they wanted. It is quite close to Boehner's bill before his most recent revisions made at the behest of the radical, economically ignorant tea party backed House members. I had some hope for the Senate, but your latest foolish actions have destroyed it. Your party is willing to drive the country off a cliff.

Why is the GOP utterly unwilling to compromise? Raising the debt ceiling shouldn't even be up for debate. The money is already committed and you know it. The US government has agreed to pay. Not doing so means a default and that would be catastrophic. Those who think otherwise are stunningly ignorant. Stop this ridiculous game of chicken and get a compromise bill.

Poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans want a bill that combines spending cuts with revenue increases. Harry Reid took even modest tax increases and tax loop hole closure off the table in an attempt to get GOP votes. You've still refused.

Meanwhile the GOP controlled House is pushing a terrible, extremist bill that will never pass the Senate and will not be signed by the president. What a waste of time! Also, ask most any economist how smart a balanced budget amendment would be. It's a horrible idea.

Despite some policy disagreements, I once had great respect for you, Senator Lugar. No longer. Your actions in lockstep with the rest of the GOP senators absolutely disgust me. Think of the country's well-being and get your house in order. The nation can't afford the increasingly far right wing insanity that now dominates the once reasonable GOP."