Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Mishegas

·         34% of Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim.  I am not surprised because 60% of Americans believe the Bible literally.

·         So far this year Congress has sent a whopping 54 bills to the President including 14 that rename post offices, 9 to approve real estate transactions, and 6 to renew existing laws making this Congress one of the least productive ever.

·         15% of Boy Scout membership are Mormons.  Do you think that explains it’s homophobic stance?  By the way the membership in the BSA has fallen from 4.8million to 2.7 million over the last 40 years.

·         According to the New York Times, at the same time a grand jury was hearing evidence in the Jerry Sandusky case, Joe Paterno negotiated a $5.5milllion contract.

·         In 2005 only 4% of Republicans held an unfavorable opinion of Chief Justice Roberts.  Following the ACA ruling that number has spiked to 44%. 

·         Nearly 6 million American adults will not be allowed to vote this November because they are convicted felons.  Does it make sense to take away a constitutional right for being convicted of a crime?

·         According to 196 or 0.000063% gaudily rich people have donated more than 80% of the SuperPAC money.  This a Republic?

·         In the 1970’s 68% of Americans held either a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in churches or organized religions.  Today that number is down to 44%.  I guess raping children and trying to cover it up will shake the confidence of many.

·         Liz Cheney lives in Virginia but wants to run for senator from Wyoming which is why she is ass kissing Sarah Palin and the Tea Party crowd.  Shame doesn’t fall far from the tree.

·         Waiting for Chick-fil-A to make Anita Bryant its new spokesperson.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Digganalysis of Romney's 59 Point Plan: Part III Trade Policy

In Part III of the Digganalysis of Mitt Romney’s 59 point plan we will take a look at the former Salt Lake City Olympic Savior’s thoughts on trade policy.  In a nutshell: Free trade good, China bad.  Romney spends most of this section attacking President Obama’s record on dealing with China and the lack of free  trade agreements.  Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, the facts do not back up his assertions. 

Once again, this document is written in the third person, quotes and italics are words taken directly from the Romney plan.

·         “President Obama has also singularly failed in handling commercial relations with China.”  Mr. Romney is either delusional  and/or lying.  The Obama administration has successfully argued and WON six rulings at the WTO in 3.5 years.  That’s twice as many as the Bush administration did in 8 years.  A seventh case has been submitted regarding auto tariffs. But instead of dealing in facts, Romney has adopted the Donald Trump (“China is raping us”) bloviating approach and has issued veiled threats of economic war with China.  Does China have corrupt trading practices?  Absolutely.  But the likes of Romney who espouse the great free market and reject the role of government want the same government to step in and fight.  I fully endorse the notion of a strong government role in trade discussions, but US multinationals who decide to business in China know the rules, if they don’t shame on them for failing to conduct proper due diligence.

·         “Entirely fake Apple Stores operate openly in Chinese cities.  It is hard to be more brazen than that.”   Does US Intellectually property get ripped off in China?  Absolutely.  Is the problem exacerbated by the companies themselves?  Yes indeed.  The Apple supply chain is so dependent on one company, the contract manufacturer Foxconn, in China that knock off products are easy to develop.  American companies know this is the biggest risk in China, but they still CHOOSE to do so due to the lower costs of goods sold (COGS)and the fact that no US manufacturing company is willing to make the necessary investment to do what Foxconn has done.  Oh and the only reason Foxconn agreed to build the massive factories in China was guarantees from the Chinese government.

·         “President Obama’s delay in submitting the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea agreements to Congress for implementation has already inflicted injury on our GDP and job market.”  This is classic Romney and GOP tactics of throwing out a statement without any data.  Ok Mitt, please quantify what the delay cost us?  While you’re at it, please quantify the impacts of the delay to negotiate better terms.  Fact is, the agreements are in place, no thanks to House obstructionism.

·         “American presidents should be invested with Trade Promotion Authority that gives them the power to conclude trade agreements and submit them for up-or-down votes in Congress.”  Poor Mitt, still thinks being president is like being a CEO.  Just because you say so, doesn’t make it happen.  Perhaps he’s watched Yul Brynner in Ten Commandments a few too many times: “So let it be written, so let it be done.”   This is just another example of Romney projecting executive power that is not granted in the Constitution.  In this case he basically he believes he can set aside congressional rules to expedite his agenda.

·         “A president invested with Trade Promotion Authority could explore the possibility of agreements with dynamic economies such as Brazil and India.”  Actually governor, you do not need Trade Promotion Authority to start any trade discussions, just ask Presidents Bush and Obama who have established trade agreements with the countries you mention.  Though I wonder if the ‘severely conservative’ Mitt Romney would enter a trade agreement with Brazil.  A country that just approved the admittance of the socialist Venezuela into the South American Mercosur trading block that is dominated by tariffs and pro-union sentiments.

·         “If China fails to move quickly to bring its currency to fair value, the Department of the Treasury in a Romney administration will designate China as a currency manipulator.”  In reality the Chinese Yuan has been appreciating for several years including 2011 where, against the dollar, it increased by 5%.  Of course, export driven economies like China’s will always be protective of its currency.  But for the U.S. to call another nation a currency manipulator would be pure hypocrisy.  Two rounds of Quantitative Easing and near zero interest rates have devalued the dollar against just about every global currency.  It is why nations like Brazil have been so vocal about the weakness of the dollar and in turn throw up protectionist trade barriers to imports.

So what we have from Governor Romney is a lot of tough talk about what he will do to China were he to become president.  Tough talk from a candidate usually results in little action if elected.  Why?  China is now our third leading export market and the largest foreign holder of our debt.  This means we are tightly connected with China and belligerence from a so-called business expert is alarming.  Perhaps Romney has spent too much time with Trump. 

Clearly Mr. Romney put a lot of tough talk in his trade policy to win over conservatives from the Perry-Gingrich-Bachmann-Santorum camps.  It is a lot of rhetoric with no substance behind it or as Gingrich might say a bunch of imported pious bologna. 

Next in Part IV we will tackle Romney’s Energy Policy.  Here’s a spoiler: it includes drilling EVERYWHERE!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Digganalysis of Romney's 59 Point Plan: Part II Regulatory Policy

In part II of analyzing Mr. Romney’s 59 point plan, we will analyze and comment on his regulatory policy.  Short version: regulations bad, industry good.  The general theme is that anything that stops business from exploiting the public or ravaging the planet is onerous and must be eradicated.  Romney goes on to push for cost benefit analysis on every regulation before it is approved.  Sounds great, but how do you calculate the benefit of air quality 100 years from now?  What is the cost to healthcare when our drinking water is contaminated?   You get the picture. 

The quotes and italics are the actual words from the Romney plan and the plan uses Romney in the third person (“Jimmy likes Elaine”).

·         “The Obama administration’s war on carbon dioxide – what Time magazine has called “the most far-reaching environmental regulatory scheme in American history”.  Fact is every industrial nation from Australia to Canada and from America to Belgium all have ‘schemes’ to cut carbon dioxide.  In fact over the last five years America has recorded a decline in greenhouse gas emissions totaling 450MILLION tons, the biggest in the world.  Is it due to excessive regulation?  No it is due to the emergence of natural gas.   Further, the attack on coal has nothing to do with carbon dioxide.  The Clean Air Act addresses emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and mercury NOT carbon dioxide.

·         “Regulatory costs need to be treated like the very real costs they are. Yes implementing and complying to regulations can be costly.  So can Wall Street bailouts, Great Recessions, super fund site clean ups, mine collapses, oil rig explosions and spills, poisoned water, contaminated food supplies, toxic air… get the point?  Long term analysis of costs and cost avoidance are legitimate aspects of a cost-benefit analysis, but to read this plan, one would think that regulations offer no benefits.

·         “On his first day he (Romney)in office, he will issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers for all 50 states.  And the right calls President Obama an overreaching tyrant?  Does this mean that the individual counties in Massachusetts should have been granted waivers from Romneycare?  Seriously, this is a ploy by a candidate who can’t run from his past; his past as the father of universal healthcare.  For the record, the Obama administration has granted waivers to states, like Romney’s Massachusetts, that have established compliant alternative plans to the Affordable Care Act.

·         “The government’s response was to layer on new regulations and invent new bureaucracies that do not address the underlying causes of a crisis driven by the over-leveraging of our financial institutions and our homeowners.”  Romney takes the Wall Street stance that the share of the blame is equally spread between homeowners and banks, and in the process fails to address the lax securities regulation, the government sponsored entities of Freddie and Fannie.  Higher capital reserves and tighter lending standards were the no-brainers.  The real work involved shining light on the secretive derivatives markets where bad mortgages became mortgage backed securities, and MBS became toxic CDO’s and CDS.  The CFTC with its expanded powers will provide the necessary oversight in the futures, credit card, and derivatives market.  Still think we are over-regulated?  The ongoing LIBOR scandal, JP Morgan Enron-like energy fixing, and the recent fines against Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are further evidence that the markets cannot regulate themselves.

·         “Romney will seek to amend the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to ensure that cost is taken properly into account at every stage in the regulatory process.”   Fair enough.  Will the long term costs and effects of greenhouse gases, contaminated aquifers, and mercury be considered?  Yes reasonable assessment of regulations that consider severity, detection, and likelihood is sound policy.  The difference is Romney and his ilk are prone to consider only the costs to business, not the costs to society and the environment.

·         “As president, Mitt Romney will pursue reforms that respect the federal-state balance of powers in our court system while creating a legal environment conducive to economic growth.”   Mr. Romney seems to forget, or never believed, that the courts are the last bastion for Joe Citizen to get justice.  The Republican mantra of tort reform is a red herring and this business of state versus federal courts is nothing but misdirection.  Corporations through the ALEC organization have bought the executive and legislative branches, leaving the judicial avenue as the last path for citizens to seek and obtain fairness, justice, and yes, a pound of flesh when warranted.

No surprise that Romney is taking a pro-business perspective. What is disappointing that he has taken such an instant gratification approach to problems at the expense of long term considerations.  Oh yeah, he’s a politician and a businessman.  Romney’s regulatory approach is short sighted and filled with imaginary boogeyman in the form of the EPA, SEC, HHS, and FDA.  I’m no tree hugging envirowarrior, but a citizen who believes business doesn’t deserve a preferential treatment over this nation’s citizens and ecology.

Up next Trade Policy and the Great Satan China.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Digganalysis of Romney's 59 Point Plan: Part I Tax Policy

Having listened to Romney and his team of surrogates talk about his 59 point plan for turning around the economy, I decided I had to delve into it with an open mind, not really.  Before going into the details, let me share some general comments about the plan:

·         Neither the CBO nor the Joint Tax Committee could score the plan because it lacked sufficient detail.

·         The Tax Policy Center estimated the plan would give the richest 0.1% a $725,000 tax cut while forcing families making <$30,000 to pay more.  Most middle class families would get an $810 reduction in taxes.  It also would increase the deficit to 5% of GDP from the current 3.1% while adding $3Trillion to the debt over a decade.

·          Romney defended his “plan” by saying it couldn’t be scored because he intentionally left out the details.  That makes it more like a collection of ideas and less like a plan.  For a man who was an astute business man and was heralded for his business planning acumen, his lack of a full-fledged plan is alarming.

·         Romney doesn’t specifically say how he will offset the decrease in tax revenue.  One thing for sure, he will not include the bloated defense budget.

·         The plan is written in the third person (George likes his chicken spicy) so quotes are actually lifted from the plan.

Tax Policy

·         “The goals that president Bush pursued in bringing rates down to their current level to spur economic growth, encourage savings and investment, and help struggling Americans make ends meet – are just as important today as they were a decade ago. Letting them lapse, as President Obama promises to do in 2012, is a step precisely in the wrong direction.”  Sounds great except it’s not true.  President Obama is keeping taxes low for 98% of Americans, the 2% who will see their taxes increase neither spur economic growth nor are they struggling.  Tax cuts did not encourage savings and investment, if they did why did personal savings rate fall dramatically under the Bush era?

·         “Mitt Romney will seek to make permanent the lower tax rates for investment income put in place by President Bush.”  Clearly that gives Swiss Mitt something to yodel about as he will pocket more coin while keeping his personal tax rate at <15%. 

·         “As president, Romney will seek to eliminate taxation on capital gains, dividends, and interest for any taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of under $200,000 helping Americans to prepare for retirement and enjoy the freedom that accompanies financial security.  This would encourage more Americans to save and to invest for the long-term.” Sounds great, of course he offers no offset and this smacks of a Social Security privatization scheme.  Besides, most Americans are barely getting by and are not dependent on investment income as part of their financial portfolio. 

·         “Washington’s problem is not too little revenue, but rather too much spending.”  A classic CONservative argument that exemplifies the sad state of the Republican Party.  Romney, like the rest of the clown car candidates would not accept a deal that includes $1 of tax increases for $10 of spending cuts.  This tells me that Romney is not serious about deficit reduction

·         “Right now, with a top marginal rate of 35%, it vies for the developed world’s highest, placing our companies – indeed, our entire country- at a competitive disadvantage.”  Where to begin.  Firstly, President Obama has also stated his desire to reduce marginal corporate tax rates.  The difference is the president actually outlined how he will lower the marginal rates by closing specific loopholes while Romney offers no details.  Why are details important?  America’s 35% corporate tax rate is, next to Japan, the highest in the world and this rate is often cited as the reason why corporations ship jobs overseas. But what of the effective tax rate, the rate companies really pay was significantly lower? Here are some effective tax rates for some US companies: General Electric: 3.6%, Merck: 12.5%, H-P: 20%, J&J: 22%, Wal-Mart: 33.6%, CVS Caremark: 38.8%.  Why the wide range of rates across this small sample? Simply, loopholes and tax credits. High tech industrial giant GE benefits from tax breaks from R&D tax credits and new rules about depreciation expense for capital investment. While unfortunate consumer retail companies like Wal-Mart and CVS do not have access to these loopholes. So, what do you think the odds are that GE, its lobbyists, and bought and sold Congressmen will push for tax code changes that could result in them paying higher corporate taxes because if the rates get lowered the loopholes get closed and the tax breaks get eliminated? And for that other great idea I hear from Republicans about allowing American multinational companies to repatriate their dollars from overseas via a tax holiday, because that will lead to job growth. Are you serious? It was tried in 2004 and the Republican controlled Congress and Republican President and they had the sick sense of humor to call it the American Jobs Creation Act. Yeah, the AJCA didn’t create jobs, but it did provide a nice windfall for shareholders.

·         “The truth is, as Mitt Romney likes to say ‘corporations are people.’ They represent human beings acting cooperatively to be economically productive.  Each dollar earned by a corporation is a dollar that ultimately flows on one form or another to employees or to shareholders.”  By flowing to employees does Romney mean to the executives who’s compensation?  According to the Economic Policy Institute in 1965 CEO’s pay was 20X that of regular employees and by 2011 that ratio had grown to 231X.  Corporations aren’t people but they consist of people and according to Romney some are more equal than others.

Summing up the Romney tax plan is simple: he is wants to create $trillions of tax cuts for the rich and a little for everybody else.  Worst of all, he doesn’t offer any legitimate details as to how the nation can afford this.  This reminds me of school kids running for student council president and promising extra tater tots and all day recess without any way of getting it approved.  This is a pathetic plan by a man running for President of the United States, a man claiming to be a business genius, a man who offers everything but can deliver nothing.

In our next installment we will take a look at Romney’s regulatory plan.  Prepare to be unimpressed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Random Thoughts Opinions Observations

How important is the November presidential election?  Justices Ginsburg, Scalia, and Kennedy all turn 80 during the next presidential administration.  Yeah it’s big!

Is Germany trying to ban circumcision? A regional court in Cologne said it was illegal.  The twisted part is the court is trying to protect Jewish kids from heinous experimentation like that was performed by the Nazis; now it seems the German courts are trying to protect Jewish babies from their parents.  In another twist, Muslims are claiming this isn’t anti-Semitism, but an assault on the Islamic tradition as well.  With all the dickheads in the world, we need this debate now?

According to the NY Times, the U.S. has spent $25Billion on the war on drugs and the price for a gram of cocaine has dropped 16% since 2001.

John Boehner on the 31st House vote to repeal Obamacare  “We want to show people we are resolved to get rid of this.”  Too bad you don’t have the same resolve to create jobs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, cell phone carries processed 1.3million governmental requests for information on cell phone users locations, text messages, and calls.  Thank you Patriot Act.

In a new ABC poll, 75% of voters who plan on voting for President Obama  say they are doing so in support of him versus against his opponent.  Just 37% of likely Romney voters say they are voting for him, while 59% say they are voting against the President.  While hate can be a great motivator, on election day I would rather have my support come from people who with me versus against the other guy.

The full impact of the LIBOR scandal will not be felt for many months.  And when more banks are implicated, expect more indictments, more executives stepping down, and the further collapse of public trust (if that is even possible following 2008).  I expect Republicans will stay say that the market can self-regulate and government regulation is burdensome.

According to the Washington Post, in 2009 Americans paid the lowest tax rate, 17.4%, in 30 years and compared to 19.9% in 2007.  The 30 year average is 21%.  So much for the TEA party claims of burdensome taxes and so much for Republican claims low taxes rates creating jobs.

Congressman Ben Quayle in his primary battle with David Schweikert  has new campaign signs featuring his wife and child. Nice photo, bad Congressman.

Mike Teets, Republican member of the Hardy County Commission (West Virginia), is concerned that President Obama may be a Muslim, faked the killing of Osama bin Laden and is secretly working with him, and he may be gay.  Glad to see the people of West Virginia have advanced so far from the Hatfields and McCoys days.

While neither softball nor baseball are Olympic sports, dancing horses will be part of the 2012 Olympics and golf gets added in 2016.  Might was well brink back ballroom dancing and solo synchronized swimming.

Americans need to understand that regime change is messy, and that if anyone thinks establishing a democracy is as simple as adding water to a powder concentrate they forget our own fragile history.  Our long standing Republic was severed and reestablished 70+ years after its origin. To think Libya, Egypt, Iraq, or Syria will overcome centuries of ethnic, tribal, and racial divide after an election or two is na├»ve.  This will be messy for years to come.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The truth about Romney's $106million

The media made a lot of noise about Mitt Romney’s big June of campaign donations where his campaign was able to outraise the Obama campaign $106M to $71M.  What the U.S. media failed to do, after all they had to contend with the Tom/Katie break up,  was dig a little deeper into the numbers. Here is a quick breakdown:

·         98% of President Obama’s June donations were for $250 or less.  94% for Olympic organizer and government bail-out recipient Mitt Romney.

·         The average amount of a donation to President Obama’s campaign was $52.  The average for Swiss Mitt’s campaign was $190.

·         $84million (out of $106million)of Governor Etch-A-Sketch’s take came from donations averaging $2,400.

·         80% of the donations to the King of Bain’s campaign came from just 6% of the total count of donations.

·         Only 11% of the donations to the Rafalca for 1st Horse Campaign came from people donating <$200 whereas 41% of President Obama’s donations were for <$200.

·         706,000 people donated to President Obama’s campaign versus only 560,000 donors to the Romney campaign

What does tell us?  Here are some conclusions:

·         Romney’s base, if that’s what you want to call it, is almost exclusively coming from big time wealthy investors.  Not a broad base, more like a leaning tower.

·         President Obama’s base is much broader and diversified.

·         The surge in Romney’s fund raising correlates to him vanquishing his Republican opponents.

As Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation points out “Romney’s problem is that he has been raising money from big donors and they are maxing out, and eventually he’s going to run out of rich guys.  Obama relies on small donors and he will be able to go back to them for $10 or $25 all the way to the end.”

Perhaps the real story is that Romney is indeed the candidate of the 1% and President Obama is the candidate of the 99%.  After all money talks.

Monday, July 9, 2012

American Idle Thoughts

If I had to choose between Mitt on a jet ski or a great white?  I’ll take the great white.

McDonalds: an official sponsor of the London Olympics

Being for lower tax rates and debt reduction is like being for deep fried food and supporting the war on obesity.

I need to submit two years of tax returns to get  a mortgage, why is it so outlandish to see Romney’s tax returns?

I go swimming with a cigar.  Yes I am aware of the contradiction

If you can’t understand how the confederate flag may offend someone you have less social awareness than an amoeba.

I secretly (I guess not anymore) wish I could be on the air and say what Jeff Daniels said during the 1st and 3rd episodes of The Newsroom.

What do Republicans hate more: jobs or abortion?

On November 7th will Mitch McConnell declare his goal is to limit Barack Obama to a two term President?

I loved Moonrise Kingdom.  No explosions, time travel, aliens, super heroes, car chases, etc.  Yep good ole acting, writing, and directing.

Mitt Romney is a self-wealth creator, not a job creator.

I think Pedro fielded tougher questions from the press than Romney.

Chief Justice Roberts declares the ACA constitutional and suddenly the law becomes more popular.  I hope he doesn’t disclose he likes the Jersey Shore.

Some people are more willing to accept angels with wings than climate change.

Is being a Fox News Contributor the modern day Faustian bargain?

Why do today and Wednesday suck?  They are the only days of the year when there are no major professional sports games being played in the U.S.

Michele Bachmann is worried that recuing our current stock of 5,000 nuclear weapons is a risk to our national security.  From who?

Romney called the unconstitutional Arizona anti-immigration law the model for the country.  Did I miss the media maelstrom about that?

ABC launched Good Afternoon America this week.  Yes because Americans need more fluff to dull their senses further.

Mitt Romney’s 59 point plan will create $5Trillion in debt by 2015.  Funny I don’t here George Will criticizing that plan.

That is all.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Diggapedia: Weekend Wrap-Up

·         While watching the ABC Sunday Night News, I noted the following commercials:  Nexium, Advil (2x), Arriva (talking diabetes meter), Shingles, One A Day Women’s Vitamins, Enbrel for psoriatic arthritis, Citracal, Centrum, and AARP (2x).  Hmm I wonder to what demographic they are catering.   Who would have guessed that watching the news could make you a hypochondriac?

·         Sticking with pharmaceuticals and marketing, here is a short list of pharmaceutical companies and the Department of Justice fines they have faced (still think the market can self-regulate?):

o   GSK – July 2012: $3billion

o   Pfizer – Sep 2009: $2.3billion

o   Abbott Laboratories – May 2012: $1.5billion

o   Eli Lilly – Jan 2009: $1.4billion

o   Merck – Nov 2011: $1.0billion

o   AstraZeneca – Apr 2010: $0.5billion

·         America spends as much on defense as the next 14 nations combined, a whopping $711billion.  Globally, the U.S. is considered hands down the most powerful, militarily speaking, country in the world.  According to the WHO, the U.S. spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country in the world.  Also according to the WHO, the U.S. ranks 37th in quality of healthcare, just behind Costa Rica and just ahead of Slovenia.  Clearly we need to turn healthcare over to the Department of Defense so we can spend the most, but at least be number one.

·         The need to mix religion with science is a great human rationalization.  Case in point the much ballyhooed Higgs boson aka God particle debate. In reality in 1993 the famed American physicist Leon Lederman, frustrated by his inability to locate the Higgs boson called the particle the “goddamn particle”.  However his publisher didn’t think it would be a good idea and changed the name to “god particle” to help his client’s book sales.  I wish Christopher Hitchens was still with us as I expect his commentary would be nasty and biting.

·         On June 18th, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded Texas A&M University a $176million grant as part of a biodefense center to shore up our nation’s ability to develop and deploy vaccines.  The idea that the anti-federal government anti-science anti-healthcare State of Texas accepted the grant shows you that money talks and Tea Party bullshit walks.

·         According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 3.4million job openings on the last business day in April.  Additionally, according to the June BLS report there are 12.7million people unemployed.  So why haven’t these 12.7million been able to secure the 3.4million openings? Is it due insufficient training or education?  Lack of mobility? Or perhaps the job openings aren’t real?  That’s right, what if the job openings are simply a big business ruse?  After all there have been 3million job openings for a year now.  Something isn’t adding up.

·         And then there’s Herman Cain: “Look at it this way, if America had not become independent, slaves might still be slaves.”  Attention male version of Palin, Britain abolished slavery in 1833, 32 years before the Emancipation proclamation.  Try reading a history book.

·         Not to be outdone by Crazy Cain, washed up rocker Ted Nugent came up with this beauty: “Because our legislative, judicial and executive branches of government hold the 10th Amendment in contempt, I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War. Our Founding Fathers’ concept of limited government is dead.” Two things come to mind, Nugent is saying we’d be better off without the 14th Amendment and better off with slavery.  Secondly, for Nugent to have any idea what the Founding Fathers were thinking or would be thinking today is presumptuous and preposterous.

·         And to top it all off an Alabama pastor Reverend Mel Lewis and his Christian Identity Ministries scheduled a 3-day, “whites only” conference. The Christian Reverend argues that his white followers are the “chosen race” and says the American right to practice religion should be given to them as it is to others. To think I thought in this day and age I thought the only ones holding “whites only” events was JCPenney.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A scary trip inside the minds of Republican Congressmen

On July 5th, the brilliant Michele Bachmann tweeted Republicans introduced hundreds of bills that would reduce health care costs, unlike #Obamacare.  She included a link to a list of 219 Health Care Bills proposed by the Republican Study Committee.  The problem with Bachmann’s tweet is most of the bills on the list had nothing to do with reducing healthcare costs (shocking, right?). In fact while some called for government action on significant health and wellness issues, many were thinly veiled or overt evangelical-driven policy pronouncements. 

The list included a handful of measures directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish programs to study Down syndrome, autism, hypertension, and prostate cancer.  Noble and progressive ideas but hardly what I call healthcare costs reducing.   Dozens of bills address the needs of veterans and their families.  Once again very noble and progressive, but for every dollar spent on veterans affairs is a dollar not spent on active troops and weapons.  If I can figure that out, I am sure those brilliant Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen did too.  Right?

But I save this space for the truly ridiculous bills (italics are my words) 

·         Rep. Paul Brown (R-GA) – H.R. 212: Sanctity of Human Life Act. The bill declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and is the person’s paramount and most fundamental right; each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and Congress, each state, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories have the authority to protect all human lives. By denying healthcare to millions?

·         Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) – H.R. 217: Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act.  This bill prohibits the federal government from funding family planning grants to any provider that performs abortions.  Psst already have it, it’s called the Hyde Amendment.

·         Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) – H.R. 314: The Medical Liability Procedural Reform Act of 2011.  The bill provides grants to several states for the development, implementation, and evaluation of health care tribunals.  A health care tribunal is a trial court or administrative tribunal whose sole function is to adjudicate disputes over injuries allegedly caused by health care providers. More bureaucracy to protect defendants and limit plaintiffs because juries cannot be trusted.

·          Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA): H.R. 358: The Protect Life Act: This legislation prohibits funding for abortion and abortion coverage under Obamacare.  See Above.

·         Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) – H.R. 374: Life at Conception Act.  This legislation declares that life begins at conception and the right to life is guaranteed by the Constitution.  Get him a copy of Roe v. Wade.

·         Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) – H.R. 593: Taxpayer Conscience Protection Act of 2011.  This bill requires states to publish and report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services how Medicaid dollars are being used at abortion providers.  Sounds like big government to me.

·         Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) – H.R. 663: Save Our States Act.  This bills delays the implementation of Obamacare until the Supreme Court of the United States determines the constituionality of the individual mandate.  Don’t you love the title?  Well it did and you lost.

·         Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA)- H.R. 1010: This bill directs the Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of the legal actions challenging the unconstitutionality of Obamacare.  It did.  You lost.

·         Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) – H.R. 1185: Constitutional Protection Act of 2011: This bill delays the implementation of Obamacare until after the issue of constitutionality has been settled in the courts.  When he wasn’t on his Eric Holder witch hunt Issa had time to pay someone to right this.  Well it did and you lost.

·         Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) – H.R. 816 Provider Shield Act of 2011. This bill prevents Obamacare form establishing health care provider standards of care in medical malpractice or medical product liability cases.  Yeah because the industry is so good at self-regulating.

·         Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) – H.R. 896: Medical Justice Act of 2011: This bill would reform the medical justice system to curb frivolous lawsuits against doctors and providers.  Medical malpractice costs amount to ~2-3% of total healthcare costs.

·         Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) – H.R. 1179: respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011.  The bill amends Obamacare to allow healthcare plans and their providers the right to not cover and provide service for drugs or treatment that violates their moral or religious views.  Who decides what is moral?

·         Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) – H.R. 2092.  This bill repeals the Obamacare’s 10% excise tax on indoor tanning services.  Hmmm someone has a crush on Snookie.

·         Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) – H.R. 2737: Katlynn Noggle Federal Life Insurance Equity Act.  This bill ensures that stillborn children can be covered under life insurance. This one is a little macabre.

·         Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) – H.R. 2874: Abstinence Education Reallocation Act of 2011. Thi sbill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide competitive grants to both private and public entities for sexual risk avoidance education for students and parents.  Programs focused on students aged 12-19 are given a priority and are based on specific criteria such as teaching the benefits of abstinence and waiting until marriage.  More small government?

·         Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) – H.R. 3130: Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. This bill requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion before consenting to having the abortion.  I didn’t realize unnecessary medical procedures were sources for cost savings.

And my favorite:

·         Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) – H.R. 3541: Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011. This bill prohibits sex-selection abortion and race-selection abortion and ensures the mother isn’t coerced into such a decision.  Didn’t realize we were living in China.

So while millions of Americans are without jobs, these Republicans spent their time drafting, debating, and voting on hundreds of partisan bills, many of which represent the greatest intrusion into private lives.  Despite a few well meaning bills, this is sad, funny, and despicable.  A failure of leadership and a failure elected officials to serves their constituents. 

On the plus side.  I love Michele Bachmann for providing me this nifty list.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

WWFFT : What Would Founding Fathers Think?

On this Independence Day, 236 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed by some very brave men in steamy Philadelphia, I wonder what some of those men would think about the great American experiment today.  Setting aside the obvious impressions of the technological marvels, medical breakthroughs, skyscraping metropolises, ubiquitous fast food joints, and Snooki, I imagine they would have mixed emotions in what the country has become.  (Technology aside, I bet Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and others such as Hamilton, Madison and Paine would be the most brilliant and best bloggers).

I think our Founding Fathers would initially be shocked not so much but what we’ve become, but that the United States of America still exists.  These men were well aware of the fragility of the Republic as well as the fact that democracies were not known for long shell lives.  They clearly understood the extreme diametrically opposed factions were held together with a threadbare series of compromises that could server, and in fact did, at any time.  Yes, they would marvel that the United States of America was alive, but they wouldn’t shocked by what it had become.  Because they saw the greatness of the potential and knew if it could stick together it become the most powerful and wealthiest nation on earth.

It is important to understand that the Founding Fathers while homogenous by race and gender, were far from so politically. The spats between Hamilton and Adams and Jefferson are legendary and well documented.  That being said, I believe all would be shocked initially at the size and scope of the federal government.  The number of laws, regulations, and taxes would shock even staunch Federalists like Hamilton.  But the size of the government wouldn’t be the only shock.  The size of the armed forces and security apparatus, the money spent on foreign wars and espionage, and the global entanglements we have found ourselves mired in would be distressing.  Washington had warned about such foreign intrigue: “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.”  And while American imperialism and global reach was burgeoning in the beginning of the 19th century these actions such as the Barbary Wars were mainly focused on protecting US trade interests.  Today our actions can be seen and justified not just in protecting shipping lanes through our massive navy, but in the machinations of political intrigue in the form of government overthrows, regime destabilization, and propping up dictators.  Yes, I imagine the same men who risked their lives to throw off the yolk of tyranny would be disappointed to see their descendants and custodians of what they had entrusted prop up the similar hegemonies and subjugations around the globe.

Likewise, these men who were so opposed to monarchies and unlimited power in the hands of the few, would be outraged in the power of the presidency. While the Constitution carefully calls out certain executive powers, the intent was to keep the office of the President in check via Congress.  Democrat and Republican administrations alike have further expanded the power to include waging war (what is limited war?) and execute foreign nationals on suspicion alone. 

But I think the Founders would be more alarmed about domestic matters.  They would be abhorred by the presence of religion in government, the incessant need for politicians, and elected officials to articulate their faith in God, and when the frequency of  attending church is more important than fiscal policy.  While many on the right will argue that the Founders were Christian men and wanted to establish a Christian nation, there is no evidence to support that claim.  In fact it is quite clear to Federalists and Democrat-Republicans like Jefferson that religion was fine in the public square but not in policy.  While many were slave owners, they also realized that slavery would never be permanent and while the laws of the land took centuries to right the wrongs, these would men would no doubt view this evolution in policy, public opinion, and thought to be natural.  The denial of rights based on sexuality, race, gender, age, etc. would be abhorrent to these men centuries after the Declaration of Independence.  But if that’s the case, why didn’t they do something about it then?  Sign of the times, the need to keep the union together, and ignorance.  I would go as far as to say these men would ask why is the government involved in defining marriage and monitoring what happens in people’s homes.  Yes they would not support government expansion in the market, but they would absolutely loathe and detest the role of government as social watchdog.

Can you imagine the same men who fought for representation and elected government witnessing the voter suppression being carried out in some states? The denial of the vote, the one thing these men risked their lives and the lives of likeminded thousands would be unacceptable.  But most of all, I think the Massachusetts Bay Colony Patriots they would be pissed that these clowns today clall themselves the Tea Party.

Yes they would marvel that the expansion of America on this continent from sea to shining sea.  It’s destiny defined and delivered.  Not perfect, but alive and vibrant.

Oh, and I think they’d be happy to see that Vice Presidents and Secretaries of the Treasury were no longer engaged in duels.