Politics

Nixon/Trump or, How 2016 is NOT 1968

I read the text of this yesterday after reading the leaked text of Trump's speech. I've been fascinated by the comparison many have made of this summer to 1968.

That's hyperbole in the worst sense. 100's of cities ended up with riots in 1968 and campuses across the country were overtaken by their students as the populace literally went to war with each other over the war they were fighting abroad.

2016 is not 1968. We've got our problems, but we've come farther and are safer now than anyone in 1968 could have possibly imagined. That doesn't mean the work is finished. But it also makes it hard for me to believe that Richard Nixon, a man shamed out of the office of President, a harsh, calculating, and abrasive man even to those he called ally, Tricky Dick himself talked about "law and order" in 1968 as Trump did last night. But even a half century ago, even from Nixon, those words were surrounded with more sense, more conciliation towards the opposition, more tact and basic human decency (including specifically calling out and dismissing the racist "dog-whistle" connotations of the "law and order" campaign.

Basically, I'm saying this. If you make Nixon look reasonable and tender-hearted, maybe you should never ever get to be President, of your book club, your homeowners association, your company and definitely not the United States of America. God bless us, every one. And may be "bless" Donald's little heart all the way back to reality TV.

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aD5rgDpQqc&w=640&h=480]

Some Pondering on the Question of Edward Snowden

After seeing a meme of Ron Paul discussing the Snowden situation on Facebook today, I started this conversation:I'm interested to hear your take on Snowden's recent actions. Especially the recent admissions that his entire intention in getting the job was to gain access to secrets in order to release them.

He did the American people a great service by exposing the extent to which we're all under surveillance. But, his comments and admissions to other world governments, his choices for refuge and the fact that all of this was premeditated has me second guessing his status as a "hero".

It's an impossible situation to be in, no doubt, and I don't presume to know how I would act or who I might look to for help if I was in it, but then again, I never set out to find my government's secrets and release them. I'd like to think that in a world in which I'd made such a decision for myself, it would have been made with the knowledge that my life was forfeit and that the only importance was the release of the information and the validity with which the American people held it once I released it.

Getting in bed with Russia and China, and talking about how this was all planned from the beginning are not ways to get the average American to view you as anything more than a spy.

Having said all of that, just because the circumstances look "fishy" doesn't mean that Snowden is, in fact, a "spy". Tough stuff, interested to see what the Administration says about it (the petition to pardon has reached the threshold for the White House to issue an official response).

Freedom of Speech is Not a Freedom from Repercussions

Fred Phelps is a despicable human being. As Americans, we are (we're told) more divided politically, socially (economically?) than ever, but we pretty much all agree on that one.Fred Phelps is a despicable human being.

So, why do we suffer him to exist? For reasons. It's Freedom related for those too busy to click through (It's the Bill of Rights). Fred Phelps has (as an American Citizen) the Freedom of Speech, and the Freedom of Religion for that matter, both in the first Amendment. And he exercises them like nobody else!

But the fact that he believes that all homosexuality is damnable, and that anyone that doesn't decry it in the same way he does is a "f---enabler" and therefore damnable as well doesn't mean that we get to lock him up. The fact that he takes his "faith" and uses it as justification for trampling on funerals, weddings, public tragedies and anything else he thinks will get him noticed doesn't mean that we get to lock him up, or shut him up.

And as Fred Clark has pointed out so well before, that all makes Fred Phelps a great example of why conservative leaders are full of hot air.

No one is going to make you like homosexuals. Or marijuana. Or socialized medicine. Or any of the other horsemen of the apocalypse that you're sure my generation is bringing down upon us. You can hate gay people your whole life, (just like you might still dislike and mistrust black people), but we're all going to stop acting like it's okay for you to say those things in public.

The Founding Fathers gave us the Freedom of Speech (although it only applied at the time to white, property-owning men), but they didn't even give themselves the Freedom from Repercussion. That's what the opponents of Marriage Equality are asking for. They want to be free to continue saying terrible untrue things about homosexuals. They want to continue to be mean in the public square and to have the media and the public not mind. They don't want to take their homophobia "subtle" like they've been forced to take their racism.

And tough. That's what I have to say about that.

Tesla Selling Direct Unfair, Auto Industry Kickbacks Totally Fair

This is bullspit. Pure, unadulterated bullspit. North Carolina is moving to ban the sale of automobiles directly from the manufacturer. The proposed legislation doesn't mention Tesla by name, but it's obviously aimed at them.There are lots of examples of this type of bill around the country, all of them supported (and in most cases directly written) by Automobile Dealers Associations, or you know the people that Tesla's new business model might eventually put out of a job.

Its sponsor is state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson, who has said the goal is to prevent unfair competition between manufacturers and dealers. What makes it “unfair competition” as opposed to plain-old “competition”—something Republicans are typically inclined to favor—is not entirely clear. After all, North Carolina doesn’t seem to have a problem with Apple selling its computers online or via its own Apple Stores.

The Dealers Association pleads for the wellbeing of the Little League team and the local YMCA, as if those entities would stop be desirable sponsorship opportunities for other businesses, but this is all about self-preservation. The "unfair competition" is that the auto industry knows it's business model is outdated and it's products are facing an entirely new arena of competitors as technology invades the automobile.

God knows the Dems are terrible at this sort of double-speak on their core issues. Lots of environmentalists pols have looked the other way when the donation check is large enough from some corporate entity, but this is the sort of thing that has happened a lot recently on the Right as concerns the Free Market and Civil Liberties that just drives me up the wall.

If you want fair and free competition in the market place, then don't buddy up to existing businesses at the expense of the next wave of economic growth. The electric vehicle, driverless cars and the new manufacturing techniques that companies like Tesla are pioneering can be the fuel that revitalizes the American economy, but not if both parties are busy stamping out the embers to "preserve" current struggling businesses.

Why Apple Added Debt, Why It's Not My Business, Why It Bothers Me Anyway

So, Apple has begun the process of taking on a fairly massive amount of corporate debt.If you actually go and read the article, it'll explain fairly plainly why the company is doing this (even though they have literally more cash than they can deal with, and just last week announced a plan to buy back more stock and increase dividends moving forward). The short answer is this:

  • interest rates are at insanely, historically low levels
  • MOST of Apple's massive cash stack is overseas and would be taxed fairly heavily if repatriated
  • Wall Street appreciates that Apple makes more money in every business it's in than it's competitors combined, but not enough to appropriately value their stock.
  • Taking on this debt and then pumping the cash back to investors with buy-backs and dividends makes Wall Street happy.
  • Apparently.

Again, the article states it all with facts and the appropriate terminology, but those bullet points get you the gist of the thing.

Here's why it's none of my business. I don't own Apple stock. Not a single share. In fact (brace yourself) I don't own a single share of any stock! Although, I am about to try to buy into both Facebook and Tesla, if you were looking for a little inside scoop. I like Apple's gadgets, but that massive cash pile means that they will continue to make them, their stock price doesn't matter a hill of beans to mean, and neither should this debt, right?

Well, here's why it bothers me anyway. Why can't we just agree that a system that punishes a company for success and efficient spending is a bad system? Why can't we agree that an American company should have to pay taxes to the American government on its earnings, even those overseas, but maybe also agree that the current tax rates on those overseas earnings are a little high and anti-competitive if we want to KEEP those American companies? Fix it. Don't bend over backwards, performing some arithmetic black magic that smells like corporate money laundering just because the system is broken.

If you break you foot, and don't let it heal properly, you'll eventually be able to walk, but the leg (and the rest of your body with it) will contort to compensate for the injury. Over time, you'll develop other physical abnormalities and spinal problems as your body rebuilds itself around your injury.

That's what we've done with Wall Street and the banking system. We've rebuilt the system, full of spinal abnormalities and deformities to compensate for the breaks in the system rather than have the necessary operations.

Or at least it seems that way to the guy who keeps thinking about buying stock.

 

Call Me Commie

I don’t want your kids, but I want them to live in safe neighborhoods. I want them to learn in enriching and dynamic classrooms. I want them to be healthy and well and free from fear. I want them to grow up to agree or disagree with me or with you and to have all the freedom and tools they need to express what they believe.And no hateful thing that you say to me or about me will ever change that I want those things for your children.

Melissa Harris-Perry defends herself well from the critiques of Beck and Limbaugh.

Call me Commie, but I'm with Melissa!

Something Blue: Reason No. 197 the Dems are Winning

Did you hear my big news? If not, go Check it out, short-form or long-form, right after you read this.

What we’ve said to the girls is, if you guys ever decide to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo. — President Barack Obama

Stop for a moment and imagine hearing Romney say that? Or even John McCain (particularly the stodgy old bastard he's become since his defeat to Obama). It's pretty hard, isn't it? But it is probably the sort of thing you think if you have kids and aren't an insane fundamentalist who's looking to disown their children for heathenism.

Are you likely to follow through when your kid comes home from Spring Break or their summer internship with a tribal band or Tweety Bird on their shoulder or maybe a very tasteful song lyric/cross combo (I still love mine)? Probably not. And neither is the first couple, but it's the kind of thing good parents say. The kind of thing, human beings say.

The Republican Party, increasingly sounds inhuman, not just inhumane.

Something Borrowed: Squashed on Boston Bombing and Chickens Roosting

Did you hear my big news? If not, go Check it out, short-form or long-form, right after you read this.

An American teenager and his messed-up older brother built some bombs and killed people. This is not a rational response to empathizing with victims of U.S. wars. This is an excuse. When you’re defective enough, any excuse will do.

Just one good bit from a great post (there are few that aren't great) from Squashed. Please, do yourself a service and read the whole thing (and pretty much everything on his site for that matter).

One of the worst things about the 24 hour news cycle and the cable networks insular nature is that it gives us great footing to make these kinds of leaps in logic to fit our previously held opinions or beliefs.

A Muslim kid and his brother set bombs in Boston? Must be in retaliation to unpopular and immoral foreign policy.

A Muslim kid and his brother set bombs in Boston? Just another example of how violent and unreasonable THOSE people are.

See? It all depends on which preconceived notion you bring to the news.

Ugh. This entire story has me disgusted. I'm sad for the people who were injured or killed in Boston, and their families grieving or recuperating with them. I'm angry for the rush to toss out hundreds of years of established legal precedent because this guy is a "terrorist" nevermind that we get to redefine that word whenever it suits us. I'm sad for two young men who decided to throw their own lives away and change irreparably so many others in the process.

I'm all for limiting the American Military and especially for limiting military activism overseas, but jumping to the conclusion that these two brothers are another face of Al Qaeda or even Islamic extremism with the evidence we've seen so far is stretching it to say the least.

Remember the lesson of CNN reporting the arrest a day or two early, keep your opinion to yourself until it's backed up by real facts, not just your own suppositions.

Richard Land's Frontal Lobe

20130409-234822.jpgThe Republicans got their asses kicked in the last election. Some of them think that's because young people tend to be more socially liberal.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, apparently thinks it's because our noodles aren't done baking yet.

I would say that these young voters' frontal lobes aren't fully developed yet, that's why they have parents and that's why they have their elders.

To Mr. Land, I would say

These old conservative leaders' frontal lobes are partially in decay. That's why church enrollment continues to drop and that's why the Republican Party continues to lose elections.

Today's Reason to Hate Bobby Jindal: Jindal vs. Librarians

cdn-media.nationaljournal.comI hate Bobby Jindal. And that's saying something, because I don't hate many people. Mostly I hate him because I used to buy into his rhetoric. I supported Jindal in at least two Gubernatorial campaigns. It's one of the things I'm most regretful of in my life. Why?

Because he is running my state into the ground (when it was already in a pretty much permanent state of disarray). Here's a recent Jindal proposal, if you live in the state of Louisiana go read this.

If you don't (or, if you're unconvinced that my "urgent read" is the same as your "urgent read" I'll give you the best part.

The proposal would:

• Not require school systems to participate in a school accreditation program every five years and receive a certification classification

• No longer require certification of teachers

• Allow for the elimination of the positions of school counselors, physical education teachers and school librarians

And my favorite:

• Do away with the requirement of taking roll for virtual (course choice) classes, thereby eliminating any assurance of a student’s attending the course

Which would end up giving us this problem:

Apparently the discretion for awarding course credit is totally in the hands of the providers and they have every incentive to do so because they get paid in full as soon as they say the student has completed the course. So the provider can be paid and the student can get credit for a course when he may not have received adequate instruction.

The idea is that it gives authority and flexibility to local school districts, but what it does is gut standards, funding and personnel. Of course, this is really not a problem for the kinds of people Jindal interacts with or cares about.

I live in Lincoln Parish. One of the most prosperous parishes in Louisiana and generally highly ranked in per-capita income for a county nationwide. Our schools will probably be fine, because rich people live here (even if I'm not one of them) and they won't let their town fall apart too badly. But most of my state is not so lucky. A tremendous number of the students in this state live below or near the poverty level. A number of our parishes are among the poorest communities in America. Hunger, poverty, basic medical care, even infrastructure and transportation in rural areas of the state are real issues, not just things from our past.

Bobby Jindal does not care about the people of Louisiana. He is lining the pockets of his corporate overlords and patting the backs of his party leaders to continue in his maniacal scramble for power.

If I've gotten you all fired up, I'd suggest checking out this great letter from a Louisiana teacher that outlines even more of Jindal and his administration's misdoings.

There's today's reason to hate Bobby Jindal. 2015 and the ejection of his keister from the Governor's mansion cannot come soon enough.

Washington Should Worry About Education, Infrastructure and Health Care

Washington Should Worry About Education, Infrastructure and Health CareCompletely agree. The current fight in congress is about two groups of power-hungry idealogues arguing over theoretical economic policies. In the meantime, our schools are falling behind, our bridges and roads are falling apart and medical care as a percentage of our GDP continues to spiral up.

When I'm in an accident, I tend to patch the places that are bleeding before the places that are infected. Both are important, I understand, but if I lose too much blood, I'll never be conscious to apply the medicine. Our country needs triage not tribal bickering.

From My Blog: March 19, 2008 "Five Years in Iraq: One Idiot's Selfish Opinion"

5 years ago today, I wrote about my thoughts on the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq war.I was embarrassed a bit to read this post. I was SO much more conservative 5 years ago, it's hard to read it as the same person. In reality I wasn't nearly as conservative as I thought I was, I'd just never been forced to face my real feelings on most of the political questions of the day.

Here's the beginning of my swing from conservatism and much like Ohio Senator Rob Portman, it took a personal cost for me to realize the error of our ways.

As we sat in the grass in front of the Theatre building, my best friend, Richard, told me about his plan to go into the Army and why it was the exact right thing to do.

I had been more than a supporter of the Iraq war (and really everything Bush did internationally) until this sudden, and completely unexpected personal cost was attached to that support. I tried to talk him out of it, but even then I maintained support for the war. It didn't happen overnight, but eventually Richard's involvement caused me to question as the conflict continued.

The point is I’ve been thinking about our Vital National Interests. What is worth the loss of American lives? Historically speaking, the American Revolution was obviously worth the loss of life we sustained. The men who died on those battlefields were ensuring their (and their descendants) ability to make a life for themselves free of the rule of others. The Civil War was worthy two-fold, to preserve the Union created by the Revolutionary War and to end the question of slavery for all time. WWII was fought to rid the world of two terrible regimes (although we left one pretty bad one lying around). But what about Iraq? What are we fighting for now?

It's a fascinating glimpse into me half a decade ago. Selfish little conservative bugger. I love Richard, I'm so proud he served his country and I'm even more glad he made it home alive and in one piece as so many haven't.

This April 20th, Honeybun and I are having an engagement party and shower, but we'll also be celebrating the end of Richard's commitment to the American Armed service.  An exciting milestone for him and his family, and one of relief for me. Selfish little liberal bugger. It was realizing how much I cared about Richard 5 years ago and how much an unjustified military action was costing me and mine that finally made me begin to think about others in a real way. I shamed Rob Portman and the GOP for waiting until it cost them personally to care about Gay rights, or women, or whatever civil rights issue they're completely disregarding tomorrow. But I was guilty of it too.

The GOP and the Crisis of Empathy

no-empathy-for-people-like-_thumb[4]Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former potential VP candidate and Romney surrogate, has come out in support of Marriage Equality. That's awesome. What's a little less awesome is that it took an actual personal cost for Portman to discover what lots of us have already. That the laws of the land should be applied equally and love isn't as limited as our imaginations. Portman's son came out to his parents in 2011 and:

“It allowed me to think of this from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have – to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,”

Sen. Portman's son, Will, tweeted that he was

“Especially proud of my dad today,”

And I am too. But why in so many of these recent Republican reconsideration stories is it a personal relationship that is finally the tipping point? Where is the empathy? Why does it take a family member's suffering (or potential suffering) to bring these conservative leaders around? I don't begin to understand why there's so little empathy in the GOP. But I do know what that lack of empathy will cost them. An entire generation of voters, and if they don't find their empathy soon, it will spell the end of their party altogether. Look at the racial and gender breakdown of support in the last election. It's true that voters tend to get older and more affluent over time (which tends to lead to more conservative voting) but voters don't get more Caucasian or more male. The electorate will include more minorities that aren't just mostly voting for Democrats, but overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. You can parade the Rubio's and Cruz' around all you want to but when they're saying things like this:

“Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot,”

as Rubio did on Thursday, it's clear that while you've added color to the party, the GOP can keep the big shiny "No Empathy Added" sticker on the label.

Sen. Landrieu Shows How Alone Gov. Jindal Really Is

A recent Families USA report estimates the expansion would bring 15,600 new jobs to our state by 2016 and $1.8 billion in additional economic activity for 2016 alone. Figures like these are why governors across the country are saying yes to expanding health coverage for their people.

But not our governor. That quote is from Mary Landrieu's takedown of Bobby Jindal and his lack of progress on Medicaid in Louisiana.

I stood in my new driveway Sunday night cursing Governor Jindal with my mother (a life-long educator) and my fiance (an educator). I (and these ladies) supported Jindal in his bid(s) for our State House but it'll be a cold day in hell when I give him another vote for anything. Jindal has put party politics and his imagined and desired political future in that party ahead of the desires, wishes and needs of the people of his state. When that happens, it's time to throw the bums out. Mr. Jindal, we can't throw you out soon enough.

Republicans lost the election but they still shape what’s debated in Washington — the federal budget deficit and so-called “fiscal responsibility.”

Robert Reich highlighting one of the many confusing things about the current American Political landscape, while specifically discussing Paul Ryan's new budget proposal. The GOP got CREAMED last election, yet the Dems still let them control the entire tenor and direction of government. Frustrating.

The Basis for My Shift From Conservatism

I've been trying to put my finger on exactly what it was that triggered my shift from a fairly strong conservative political mindset to, what I'm finding to be, a pretty liberal one now.And it comes down to this:

Based on my knowledge of the world, its history, its peoples, its current climate, I see no way forward for mankind except together.

So necessary are other people in my view of the equation, that I'll gladly sacrifice a portion of my own and, yes, even a portion of my descendants' so that those less fortunate could stand closer to equal footing.

I can't fix this imbalance on my own, so I am for sane government policy that helps us spread the burden.

And yes, 20 year old Joel would have said that's Communism. 30 year old Joel says it's common sense.

Wall Street and the World Series of Poker

I played Texas Hold 'Em for about four years. Just for fun. Never more than $25 or $50 at a time. I loved the game. The strategies, calculations, personal performance, as well as the camaraderie of the table and game atmosphere.There was a moment, apparently, just before the game became the mainstream success that it is now (with poker shows all over television and tournaments in ever casino) but after it had been exposed to the mainstream audience (through ESPN primarily) that there was a lot of money to be made at small poker tables all over the country. Smart guys, who had good poker faces, willpower, and concentration could make a living playing poker.

The exposure brought on by ESPN and everything that followed flooded the tables across the country with amateurs. People who didn't understand or even care about the strategies of the game, they just thought it looked cool to push the chips to the middle and call "All in."

Suddenly, it was difficult to make an honest dollar at the tables. When you've got a massive amount of chaos brought to the table, it makes consistent and reasonable gambles less likely to succeed. Much less likely, in fact. Of course, for the best poker players, this doesn't really matter. They make money selling "secrets" to the numbskulls, and actually play only in big money stakes tables where true neophytes won't enter, or can't.

The stock market looks a lot like the poker game to me over the last few decades. This comparison came into stark contrast recently when I read Mark Cuban's remarks on the market. Once upon a time, you could buy shares a company that you believed in. One that made good products or provided quality services and one that you believed had positive future prospects. This stock would grow in value over time, often paying a cash dividend to you. It would also enable you to vote on the company business decisions and help protect your investment that way.

Then somewhere along the way that changed. Because the value of a company or its products seems to have very little to do with the value of the company's stock now. It has more to do with the ebb and flow of options, calls, shorts and longs. Money managers and stock brokers moving billions and making millions for their trouble. It's all computerized and automated and the average Joe looking to make a good business bet with his disposable income (or more importantly his retirement funds) doesn't have much of a chance, because he doesn't even get invited to the game, let alone get informed of the updated rules.

Of course, like poker, the really good players (like Mark Cuban) can still play and make money, because they've got the funds to play at the high stakes tables where the rules are posted clearly. Cuban has the billions to move, shaking loose the millions. But for those of us looking for the $1/$5 table, we'll keep filling the house's coffers.

Rand Paul's Proposal for the Sequester

Rand Paul's Proposal for the SequesterI've had a real issue with some of Rand's movements since his father's campaign was so completely disrespected by the GOP, and I ALWAYS doubt the Heritage Foundation's $ estimates, but at least here's a proposal that wouldn't cause anymore layoffs. In an economic climate as fragile as ours is, we literally cannot afford the layoffs.

Kudos to Rand for stepping up with an idea. Here's a starting point, folks, let's get to work and get solutions, not just temporary stop gaps.

Robert Reich on Showdown Fatigue

Others have bought the Republican-Fox News lies that the deficit is our biggest economic problem, and government spending is to blame. So a massive, abrupt, and indiscriminate cut in spending seems okay.It’s not okay. It will hurt the most vulnerable members of our society, and much of the middle class.

Robert Reich isn't always right, but he's quite right here. There's another showdown coming between the "Stall everything that isn't about stopping Gay Marriage" Republicans and the President. If I was going to nickname him, it would probably have something to do with cow-towing to the Republicans even though the polls are in his favor, or desperately wanting everyone else to like him. Whatever you want to call the two parties here, it's a serious issue. The deficit should and could be lowered, but gutting domestic spending and aid to the lower and middle class is not the way to go about it.

Our economy has barely even begun to recover and this would set us back farther than most people imagine.