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Archive for August, 2012

Amazing

Update: video imbed didn’t work because someone broke the internets again, link should work now though

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It is now official that there will be no prosecutions of anyone for torture. 

The single biggest failing of this administration has been it’s baffling refusal to hold anyone accountable. From torture (entirely) to massive, systemic financial fraud (mostly), the people that destroyed our nation’s credibility, integrity, and economy have been largely able to simply wipe their hands and walk away. The lesson from all of this is that if you are in a position of power, whether at a “too big to fail” bank or in the CIA, and you fail utterly and spectacularly, you will face no consequences. Indeed, you will likely be rewarded either directly or with a cushy consulting / speaking gig, or both. 

But we don’t help regular folks whose only crime was taking out a loan a bit too large to buy a house a bit too large. We don’t allow people to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. We don’t give these people even a little help, because moral hazard. 

Readers will find it rather clear what my choice is in this election, but Obama is making that choice a difficult one with moves like this. Its maddening.

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An Open Letter

Dear Republicans,

You are cordially invited to join us in the real world. A debate centered around actual facts will be held, with an election to follow. Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP by November.

Sincerely,

Everyone with a functioning brain and a shred of self respect.

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Who Built That?

I keep seeing republicans saying that jobs can only be created by businesses in the private sector, while dems foolishly believe that the government creates jobs!

One of the people that tried to sell this line, via a cringe inducing series of Facebook posts on how awesome Paul Ryan is, was a government employee, so that was kinda funny. But go back and look at the jobs data. The number of federal employees increases under Bush, and decreases under Obama!

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Romney’s campaign is based on lies. Not truth bending or stretching, but total verifiable falsehoods. His two most effective campaign arcs have been “you didn’t build that” and the idea that the President has removed work requirements from welfare.

That these lies are so successful pisses me off. But that’s not the worst part! No the worst part is their habit of blaming Obama for the things they have done. The debt ceiling debacle? Obama’s fault! The debt itself? Obama’s fault! Failure of Bowles Simpson? Obama’s fault! Really, Obama is going to take your Medicare! Really, its the gays persecuting the good Christians by wanting to get married!

But back in the real world, the debt ceiling fight happened because republicans refused to give an inch, the largest drivers of debt are Bush era policies, the BS commission failed because not enough people voted for it (Paul Ryan among those voting against its recommendations), Paul Ryan proposes the exact same Medicare cuts, and on the last point just fuck you. That last point is one of the most offensive things I’ve encountered thus far in this campaign. It’s vile.

Lying in politics is one thing. But the entire basis of the campaign? These people have taken it to a new level. It’s disgusting.

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This is part 2 of my thoughts on the GOP platform. Part 1 is here

The second part of the GOP platform is entitled We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government. It opens:

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation, however, is fair game. In fact, the rest of this particular plank makes clear that the GOP doesn’t actually believe a word of that. They start out early, appealing to racist fears that Barack Obama is going to impose Sharia Law, or the black people equivalent of it, or something like that. I don’t the hell know, they wrote this, not me:
As a matter of principle, we oppose the creation of any new race-based governments within the United States.
So there you go. Now let’s start the fun:
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
Wow! Hear that, gay people? Your marriages constitute an existential threat to our society. Pretty impressive. Do I need to point out that the definition of marriage has changed many, many times? That it has not existed in its present form “for thousands of years in virtually every civilization”?
We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
 Of course you do.
The Republican Party, born in opposition to the denial of liberty, stands for the rights of individuals, families, faith communities, institutions – and of the States which are their instruments of self government.
…how do you square this with the above? You just can’t.
I’m going to skip the bit about the preserving the electoral college and preventing voter fraud because really it just boils down to “Voter ID is KICKASS!”
Now, on to the first amendment! This section makes me want to scream and throw things, its truly astounding. They open by quoting Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, citing it as evidence that religious belief should be used as the foundation of public policy! But in that document, Jefferson acknowledges:
that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry
Jefferson further acknowledges:
that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous falacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own
Jefferson is concerned here that “the civil magistrate” (ie the government) will extend his religious opinions into policy, thus forcing them on others. He argued for precisely the opposite of this platform! He would later write, in a letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
And so originates the phrase. After using Jefferson as an excuse to talk about how awesome the Boy Scouts are for their gay bashing, the GOP gives us this:

We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights.

In what way does allowing a gay couple to marry violate the rights of “advocates of traditional marriage”? They would still be allowed to marry traditionally. They would remain married. Nothing at all would change! Thomas Jefferson, who I will continue to quote as this plank seems entirely based on an absurd twisting of his views, stated:

But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

This is directly applicable. A gay marriage has exactly zero impact on any other marriage! Not allowing the gay couple to marry, however, does actively deny them their rights. This is just purely an alternate reality. It is the most asshole-ish statement I have yet seen in a prepared document so far during this election. It reeks of bigotry, fear, resentment, and hatred. It has no place in this country, and certainly not in it’s government.

Moving right along, the GOP mentions briefly the fourth ammendment:

Affirming “the right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” we support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders. All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.

This I very much agree with. I truly hope they actually believe it! If so, they could show that by proposing repeal of the PATRIOT act. I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath. I also agree with the proposal, in the section on the fifth amendment, that seeks to ensure adequate compensation in the case that private property is taken “for a compelling public use”. I should state that I know very little about this issue, but I can foresee the devil being in the details as to what constitutes “compelling”.

Next, while discussing a constitutional amendment to define life as beginning at conception (and hence banning all abortions), they state:

We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

But recall just a few pages earlier, and quoted above:

A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary

So keep this in mind. An “activist judiciary” only refers to judges with whom you disagree. Speaking of activist judges:

The symbol of our constitutional unity, to which we all pledge allegiance, is the flag of the United States of America. By whatever legislative method is most feasible, Old Glory should be given legal protection against desecration. We condemn decisions by activist judges to deny children the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety, including “Under God,” in public schools and encourage States to promote the pledge.

So flag burning, which I would argue constitutes free speech, should be outlawed. How does that square with the section on freedom of speech?

we oppose governmental censorship of speech through the so-called Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes, free speech zones, or other forms of “political correctness” on campus.

How can you simultaneously oppose the “enforcement of political correctness” and support the banning of flag burning? This is just yet another example, much like the activist judges, of a principle applied only to those things with which the GOP agrees.

The GOP professes a reverence for the constitution and for the founding fathers. And yet, when it comes time to demonstrate those things, they fail utterly. They apply the constitution only in situations where it supports their views, and freely disregard it when it is no longer convenient. To show their reverence for the founders, they twist their words into the polar opposite of their originally intended meaning.

This platform isn’t a responsible set of governing philosophies and policy proposals, its a Christianist manifesto.

That’s all for Part 2. Energy, Agriculture, and The Environment is up next. Maybe tomorrow.

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I’ve been reading through the republican platform, and its become clear that this is not a document based in the real world. This isn’t exactly surprising, but here are some of the things that jumped out at me.

First of all, Republicans propose to “simplify the tax code” which typically means eliminating deductions. They propose an across the board 20% reduction in rates, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts! They claim to be able to do this in a revenue neutral manner, but such a massive reduction in revenue would mean tremendous cuts in spending, which just aint gonna happen. We’ve been over this before. 

Then, we get this:

Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering benevolence and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation, and donations to them should continue to be tax deductible.

I actually agree with that, I just would like to point out that there, right off the bat, is a deduction that can’t be eliminated. And so the quest for revenue neutrality gets a bit harder. 

Up next:

In any restructuring of federal taxation, to guard against hypertaxation of the American people, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.

Hypertaxation! Wow, that’s one hell of a word! Its terrifying! Never mind, of course, the fact that tax rates are currently at their lowest point in 60 years. Also, good luck making the elimination of income tax revenue neutral.

Naturally, now that we’ve covered the part where we eliminate federal revenue, we get to the Very Serious part about the debt:

Over the last three and a half years, while cutting the defense budget, the current Administration has added an additional $5.3 trillion to the national debt—now approximately $16 trillion, the largest amount in U.S. history.

First off, the defense budget. It should be cut! But the Republicans certainly won’t do that. Keep that in mind, for later. The important part here, though, is the con they’re trying to pull. Notice the part I bolded. It’s important to only consider that time frame, because if you extend it back to, lets say around January 2001, then you’ll see where the real debt came from.Tax cuts and two unfunded wars! So remember kids, debt is bad, mmkay? Unless it’s Republican debt, in which case its freedom, markets, and responsibility. So what would the Republicans propose to do about debt? This:

We can preempt the debt explosion. Backed by a Republican Senate and House, our next President will propose immediate reductions in federal spending, as a down payment on the much larger task of long-range fiscal control. We suggest a tripartite test for every federal activity. First, is it within the constitutional scope of the federal government? Second, is it effective and absolutely necessary? And third, is it sufficiently important to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it?

OK, that all sounds perfectly reasonable. So reasonable, in fact, that I submit to you that we already do this. First, we have an independent judiciary with the power to strike down laws that violate this part of the test. Second, we have the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution. See part one. Third, we have a democratically elected congress that answers this question by voting on things. 

Against those standards we will measure programs from international population control to California’s federally subsidized high-speed train to nowhere, and terminate programs that don’t measure up.

Wait what? What the hell is “international population control”? Are we doing it? Are we debt financing it? Just… huh? OK, moving right along, the federal budget process:

Republican Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to reform the budget process to make it more transparent and accountable, in particular by voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, following the lead of 33 States which have put that restraint into their own constitutions. We call for a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions for only war and national emergencies, and imposing a cap limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.

Two things. First, the super majority to raise taxes idea has been tried, in California, and it has had disastrous consequences on the state’s fiscal health. Secondly, limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP is monumentally stupid, not to mention completely arbitrary. Times and situations change, and limiting our spending based on (in part) how much George Washington spent needlessly hobbles our ability to react to those changes. Although, it would probably wind up being meaningless anyway. If congress decides it wants to spend eleventy bajillion dollars to clone velociraptors to patrol the Arizona border, they would just say the spending is in response to the national emergency of a lack of Jurassic border patrol agents. All that being said, I can get behind the idea that if we’re going to fight wars, we should raise taxes to pay for them. Then we would do it less. I’m not saying that idea should be constitutionally enshrined, just that its a practice we should be following. 

Up next, Ron Paul gets his plank. Audit the Fed! I could be OK with this, provided the point of the audit would actually be increasing transparency and not just a partisan fishing expedition looking to dig up dirt. Given the actions of this party in the recent past, I find that condition unlikely to be met. 

At the beginning of this post, I said that this was a document not based in the real world. Well, now we’ve arrived at the paragraph from which I drew that conclusion:

Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. The commission advised against such a move. Now, three decades later, as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we propose a similar commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar.

OK, so when His Majesty arrived on the scene, we had double digit inflation. This fact necessitated a commission to study a return to the gold standard. They thought it was a bad idea. But now, seeing as how we’re back to double digit inflation, we need to pick this back up!  But wait! We aren’t experiencing double digit inflation. We are experiencing 2% inflation. I suppose, if you really want to see two digits, I could type that as 2.0% inflation. Look, this is simple. Despite all the running around screaming with our hair on fire silliness we’ve been hearing for years about the horror of inflation which will be unleashed on us at any moment, it simply has not happened. Inflation is low, and it is stable.

The next section is on infrastructure, but I’m not going to bother excerpting it because the massive tax cuts and ramped up defense spending mean there won’t be any money there. Also on the “not going to bother” list: China. Simply put, Republicans suggest we call them names, and fart in their general direction. We should also engage in more union busting.

This concludes part 1. Next up in part 2, the constitution.

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