Thursday, February 28, 2013

So here it comes, I guess...

Along with other, more serious misdeeds, Phil Gramm can take credit for bringing the term "sequestration" into the Federal vocabulary.  It appeared in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings legislation of 1985, and you can search that on your own.

The people most likely to be hurt by the current sequestration are employees of the federal government, employees of federal government contractors, state workers supported by federal funding, and local government employees tossed aside to offset the loss of federal/state funding.  The banks, of course, will be fine.  The Dow is back up over 14,000 today, despite sequestration, chaos in Italy, and a hell of a lot of international stupidity.  I guess everybody knows the genuine elite (a group a hell of  lot smaller than the top 1%) will be protected.

Jack Lew was approved today for Secretary of the Treasury.  Like Bernie Sanders, I wonder if we'll ever have a Treasury Secretary with no connection to Robert Rubin or Citibank.  Let's face it — both parties are in the pockets of big finance.  If they weren't, we'd have seen the revocation of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which was the Clinton Administration bill that ended Glass-Steagall.

Damn it, Phil and Wendy Gramm, you are evil!  Well, maybe stupid rather than evil, but I'm going with evil.  Unlike certain Republican members of the House, I'm pretty sure you knew what you were doing.  You made a hell of a lot of money on your advancement of right wing ideology, and I haven't heard a word about how you're using it to help "all boats rise."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Crisis Fatigue

I guess I ought to say something about the sequester, but I'm not entirely sure why.  According to various polling groups, most Americans are not paying a hell of a lot of attention.  More than anything, that seems to be due to crisis fatigue.  Americans have approached the edges of too many cliffs in recent years, and seem most inclined to close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears, and sing, "Lah lah lah lah lah I can't hear you!"

40% of those who might be paying attention, according to the pollsters, think we just should go over the cliff and see if we bounce.  The economists say we won't bounce, but might not leave too deep a dent behind.  The biggest losers are likely to be defense contractors, so a lot of liberals don't much care.  A lot of conservatives just want less government, and they're not too particular about how it happens.  The fact that sequestration was designed to be stupid and mutually destructive to both parties apparently has been forgotten.

Then there are the politics.  It looks like more people will blame Republicans than Democrats for whatever damage is done, but the truth is that the battle was lost by the Democrats in 2010 — when Republican candidates won over so many state legislatures and control over redistricting.  Far too many of those Republican House seats are far too safe now, and will be until 2020.  Maybe, had Obama been less of a "compromise seeker" and more of a populist, that wouldn't have happened.

You can't "postdict" the past any better than you can predict the future.  All we can say right now is that most Americans are sick of it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wish List

The State of the Union address is always a wish list.  Presidents get some of what they wish for, but most of their wishes go unanswered.

There were two item's on Obama's list that I consider especially important, but I have powerful doubts about getting them past Republicans in the House.  The first is raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour, and indexing it to inflation so struggling to get future increases through Congress becomes unnecessary.

The second is universal preschool, which has just about as much chance of happening any time soon as a carbon tax, which we also need very badly.  Preschool is the most powerful way to improve the lives of the poor, because children who attend preschool do better throughout their lives.  They enter elementary school with the social and intellectual skills they need to succeed; they are more likely to go to college, and less likely to go to jail.

Needless to say, universal preschool will be expensive, and will result in Republicans hopping around and yelping, "Free market!  Free market!"  Also, since it is a program that won't bear fruit for decades, it will be easy for deficit hawks to attack.  Nevertheless, it would pay for itself in less crime, greater economic productivity, and fewer people relying on government assistance down the road.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bye Bye Benedict

I certainly was surprised to hear of the Pope's impending abdication, but shall reserve judgement until I find out who will be his replacement.  He certainly set a good example for other gerontocrats, and I hope many of them follow his example, beginning with Silvio Berlusconi and John McCain.  Both of them, of late, have been more trouble than they're worth.

I never cared for Ratzinger who, as leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul (whose primary theology seemed to consist of anti-Communism and anti-anything-else-vaguely-resembling-Communism), led the pogrom against the Liberation Theologists, especially in Latin America.  Read the history, and it looks incontrovertibly pro-fascist.

Benedict was better at persecuting Catholic socialist priests than at stopping pedophile priests from diddling altar boys.  Jesus, you might recall, was a socialist, not a pedophile.  Also, when Benedict retires to a monastery inside Vatican City, he'll be out of reach of those who want to know what he knows about kiddie diddling.  Well, he may not know a hell of a lot — top level executives seldom do — but he has to know something.

One might hope the College of Cardinals will select a new Pope just a little more liberal than John Paul or Benedict, but don't count on it.  John Paul and Benedict left the College of Cardinals pretty much the same way George W left the United States Supreme Court — weighed down with conservatives.  If they skip over the front-runners, and pick an African Pope — and a lot of developing world Catholics are holding their breaths hoping for that — you can bet that African Pope will be even more conservative than any of the Europeans in the running.  They execute homosexuals in much of Africa.

The Italians (who are a lot less religious than they are Catholic) really would hate that — or, at least, their calcio (soccer) fans would hate it, judging by all the recent racist rhetoric about Mario Balotelli and a couple of Muslim drafts.  I suspect the Süden Deutsch also will be less than thrilled.

Those of us in the civilized world (wherever the hell we are) should not expect much. After we're all dead, our progeny or our progeny's progeny's progeny may be able to look back on what happened — if they're allowed.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gay Boy Scouts

There always have been gays in the Boy Scouts, beginning with founder and Boer War hero, Lord Baden-Powell.  I remember a court case from, perhaps, the eighties, where some teen was outed and thereby denied his Eagle Scout award.  His big problem, of course, was that he was outed.

So, the big problem with the Boy Scouts, for gay boys and leaders, is that they just can't come out.  Okay, Boy Scouts, do you want them in or out of the closet?  (My guess is that they'd prefer their gays remained inside.)

Now the National Council has postponed the decision for a few more months, but the problem won't get any easier — and the problem, needless to say, is money.  Whatever Scouting's decision, it will lose sponsors and donors, even though the plan was to weasel through by letting individual sponsoring institutions decide.

There will be corporate and institutional donors that will not want to be perceived as supporting an institution that permits discrimination (and it probably was pressure from such groups that started the current controversy); then, there are all those churches that sponsor individual troops, who insist on discrimination.

Did you know that every Mormon boy is enrolled in the Boy Scouts?  Mormons are very big on "God and Country."  Maybe the Church of Latter Day Saints should just start financing the Scouting movement on its own.  It's rich enough.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why only the SECOND amendment?

Second Amendment absolutists are out in force these days, insisting that the Constitution gives citizens the right to unrestricted ownership of any goddamned gun that makes the most money for the gun industry.  What the hell.  As I've noted before, I don't think any private citizen has to have a hand gun, and if all the super-popular Glocks disappeared tomorrow, it would be a great day for the USofA.

What I'm wondering about today, though, is why only the second amendment gets such special treatment.  Why not the first, or the fourth, or the sixth, or the eighth?  (Probably, you don have a clue what the sixth or the eighth  are about.  We former social studies teachers probably were less effective than we might have liked.)

In case you have forgotten what the fourth was about, it's the one on search and seizure — that is, the right to privacy.  Our President, in case you had not noticed, not only has supported the infringements on our rights in the Patriot Act, but expanded them.  If you really want online anonymity, for example, your best bet now is the Tor Project.  Is the whole thing run by the CIA or the FBI?  I don't think so, but who the hell knows?

The sixth amendment is trial by jury — speedy and public.  Ask the leftover Yemenis at Guantanamo how that right is holding up for them.  Ask the American citizens executed by drone strikes overseas.  The eighth amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment, figures in here too.  Obama says torture is a thing of the past, but he won't prosecute any former torturers because it's all top secret, so who knows?

Oh, and by the way, FREE BRADLEY MANNING!