09. October 2018 · Comments Off on Viral Memes and the Distortion of Left and Right · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture

Have a look at this ugly but viral meme…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve probably all seen this before… I know I have – enough to where I feel compelled to explain a few things for the sake of preserving our language and our national sanity…

First of all, let me just say that no one should be educating themselves with memes… This one in particular is a sock puppet denial of a traditional perspective. Which isn’t so much a problem in itself until you start using it to bash people who identify with the left because those people are using the traditional perspective not this viral nonsense.

The fact is, your teacher had it right (at least in the traditional sense) but they probably failed to explain it, so I’ll do that now. The big thing to note is that it’s not a question of how much government… It’s a question of how much representation. The sentiment on the left is that everyone should be represented, where on the right there is always a push to exclude people from representation. In fact, it’s the harsh exclusion of non-Aryan people that puts the Nazis on the hard right.

If you’re not so sure about this, here’s a fail-safe litmus test you can do with respect to a person’s attitude toward diversity. See how they feel about Jews, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, atheists, homosexuals, immigrants or transgenders, for instance. If a person’s politics feature any kind of resentment or repression toward any of these unfamiliar demographics, it’s almost a guarantee that they identify with the right. Go ahead and try it. It’s pretty easy and of course the amount of government has nothing to do with that. In fact it can be argued that Republicans have created more government than Democrats as indicated by the massive debts the government incurs under Republican management. And when it’s the people who identify with the right that are trying to pass laws to exclude gay people from marriage or empower law enforcement to coral immigrants, it’s hard to imagine them as advocates of little government and big freedom.

So, I suppose I need to address the fact that the Nazis were socialists. Fine, but lets also remember that during the end of the Weimar Republic when the Nazis were rising to power though a democratic process, every opposition party in Germany was also socialist, if not communist. Bear in mind, this was the 1930’s when socialism was extremely popular among the working classes. Even in the U.S. it was difficult for any political faction to gain any traction without some homage to socialism. So it’s dishonest (or ignorant) to cite socialism as a difference when it was much more of a constant. The more significant difference was indeed the militant repression of non-Aryan people and again, that’s what puts the Nazis clearly on the right.

Another point to make about this idiot meme is that the top part erroneously implies that the left is more “liberal” while the right is more “conservative”. The terms, “liberal” and “conservative” refer specifically to the attitudes regarding change, not ideology. Whether or not one side is more liberal or conservative than the other depends on context, which is why the alignment is different in so many other countries. Some political analysts are pointing out that in today’s context, at least in America, the Democrats are actually more conservative than what we are currently calling the alt-right. No where is this more obvious than the alt-right’s attack on Democrats for supposedly defending the “deep state”. In this context, the alt-right is the liberal, even radical side. We can also look back on history and find the first Republicans referred to themselves as “Radical Republicans”.

 

 

 

 

 

26. July 2018 · Comments Off on The Unconstitutional Trump · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S.Constitution has proved to be a law, contrary to the actions of the most recent Republican presidents.

For instance, George W Bush suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus as applied to suspected terrorists picked up in various locations throughout the world. What does Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution say about this?

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:
2: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

So to remain “constitutional” the Bush Administration would have had to qualify the terrorist suspects as threats to public safety, which may have been an easy argument to make on the momentum of their “terrorists versus the world” narrative, but there was no clear recognition of any invasion or rebellion, which the Constitution makes very clear, is the context that matters.

But whether a president is constitutional or not seems to matter less to the Republican side of the increasing divide between Americans.

Today, we have another example as Trump continues to profit from his hotels, even encouraging foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotel in Washington DC. What does Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution say about this?

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:

8: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

So for Trump to remain “constitutional”, Congress will need to provide consent for Trump to profit from the foreign dignitaries that stay in his hotel. Until this happens, Trump will be exposed to the charge of violating the Constitution and indeed it appears the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia are doing just that.

The Trump Administration has appealed to the courts with the assertion that the profits come from an exchange of services provided and therefore cannot be counted as a “present”, “Emolument”, “office” or “title”. But while the profits are clearly not a present, or an office or a title, the question remains as to whether they qualify as an emolument.

The Trump Administration has approached the courts with the assertion that “emolument” means “gift”. Of course that would suggest redundancy in the language of the Constitution since another word for “gift” is “present” which is already included in the clause. But let’s break out the dictionary…

An emolument is defined by Webster-Merriam as:

1. the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites
2. archaic: advantage

The first definition is clearly not the equivalent of “gift” but rather a description of “returns”… which is another word for “profit”.

The second definition is as broad as they come… “advantage”. It can certainly be said that Trump gains economic advantage when foreign dignitaries choose to stay at his hotel… unless the hotel room and all it’s services are provided to such dignitaries free of charge and even then the question would remain, would Trump’s business gain advantages in the form of historic significance and/or reputation? Fortunately, we don’t have to split that hair because the foreign dignitaries did NOT get free service, the foreign states that sent their diplomats paid Trump’s business for services.

And just in case anyone gets pedantic about Merriam-Webster’s “archaic” qualifier, it must be understood that Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution WAS written over two centuries ago.

Indeed, In his opinion, Judge Peter Messitte of the US District Court of Maryland sided with Maryland and Washington, DC’s definition of emolument as an “advantage.”

We know by now that the Trump administration isn’t one to accept the opinions of others, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they appeal to a higher court but it would be a shock to Americans if the highest courts capitulate to what I’m just going to call a ridiculous notion that an emolument can only be defined as a gift.

One more thing to point out about this particular clause is the emphasis on breadth of meaning… If you look at the language, you will notice the repeated use of the word “ANY” and the phrase “ANY kind WHATEVER”. This is not the language of narrow specifics; this is the emphatic language of inclusion… “No advantages of ANY KIND!!!!”

This is further enforced by the very purpose of the clause… to prevent Presidents from being tempted with foreign provided motives which can arrive in many forms, hence the use of a broadly defined word like emolument.

Violating the Constitution worked out OK for Bush because no one stepped up to actually prosecute him; probably because doing so would have been be a political risk given how little the American people know about obscure legal terms cloaked in Latin and how consumed they were about the “threat of terrorism”.

In contrast, I don’t see how Trump’s violation can possibly be construed as a matter of public safety or anything other than a personal gain. Trump may have to rely on the cult-like obsessions of the rabid-right to come out of this one. As long as he continues to attack liberals he can score points with liberal-haters and so long as these liberal-haters come close to 25% of the American people, there is a gaming chance that Trump will stay on top… Maybe with a little help from the Russians.

27. May 2018 · Comments Off on Mandatory Arbitration and the Supreme Court Decision · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

 

Some of you may have heard slight mutterings in the media regarding the recent Supreme Court decision that allows private companies to force their workers to sign mandatory arbitration agreements. It sounds pretty boring. Let me rephrase: The Supreme Court just gave private companies the power to treat their workers anyway way they want without any regard for federal, state or local laws.

The court decision was applied to three separate cases, all of which involved similar arguments where an employer violated state or federal labor laws. At least two of the cases involved an employers refusal to pay overtime as required by state laws. You would think this would be any easy one… If the law says they have to pay, they have to pay, right?

However, in all three cases, the employers simply refused to comply with these laws. OK, so this is where the employee takes the dispute to court, right?

Well in all three cases, the workers had signed arbitration agreements which according to the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 means that the employees have to duke it out with their employers in private arbitration. That basically means the employee and the employer sit down to work out a “deal”. Of course the employer always has the leverage, like… “do you want to keep your job?”. Without the protection of the law, they really don’t have any other leverage.

In 1935 this had become such a pressing problem that Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act, which provided the worker with the right to collectively arbitrate. In other words, in answer to that question about keeping a job the worker can now say, “do you want to keep producing?” Collective arbitration is what made the U.S. such a great place to work. You didn’t even need government regulation because entire crews can bargain with their employers on an equal footing.

But in recent years, some companies have started adding a clause to their arbitration agreements saying that workers can only arbitrate as individuals, not collectively. But isn’t that a violation of the National Labor Relations Act? Why, yes it is but underpaying workers is also a violation of law so why would this be any different? The challenge is finding a way to enforce the laws and to do that you have to take it to court, but wait… they CAN’T take it to court because of the arbitration agreement.

So in 2018, the four liberal members of the Supreme Court, while judging appeals, tried to make the case that the provision in the National Labor Relations Act to allow collective arbitration supersedes FAA’s command to enforce arbitration agreements. This was essentially the only path back to any kind of leverage a worker might have.

But the majority opinion, led by Neil Gorsuch, stated that the NLRA only provided the right to collectively bargain, not to supersede the FAA. The contention is that this interpretation is too literal, which does make sense… Think about it, Congress in 1935 obviously didn’t take in to consideration the possibility that a company would simply write a clause in their arbitration agreements that puts them beyond the reach of very law they were enacting.

Nevertheless, all three cases were decided on a soft argument that because 77 years passed from the enactment of the NLRA to the first case where it was used to challenge the FAA, the legitimacy of the challenge is “doubtful”. The conservatives took the “when in doubt go with what is clear” option, saying that the FAA clearly forces arbitration, with no option to appeal. Then they took a quick lean on the “don’t legislate from the bench” argument, even admitting that while the decision may not result in the best policy, a different decision would require a different law.

So from a technical stand point, I can understand the decision but from a moral stand point it’s pretty disappointing, especially given how “arguable” the decision is and how significant the impact will be.

06. May 2018 · Comments Off on The “Political” Resistance to Being Nice · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture

In recent years, a war over social justice as been raging in the IT industry and one battleground in this war appears to be the codes of conduct that organizations sometimes ask their workers to comply with.

Business Insider just published an article describing one skirmish in particular.

This story tells of a contributor to the LLVM project who left because he had a political conflict with their new code of conduct. And the way I see it, the article also illustrates how people just need to get a grip. There’s nothing wrong with a code of conduct that sets the expectation that people will be nice to each other unless they have a personal problem with being nice, in which case… Who need’s them?

Sometimes, dissenters appeal to the moral grounds of freedom and find fault with trying to force people to be accepting, but that seems a bit over the top to me, especially compared to the long-standing existence of other policies like dress-codes that are no less intrusive yet receive comparatively little blow-back. Indeed, complaining about having to be nice to others is no more ridiculous than complaining that you can’t come to work in your pajamas. Both policies do in fact obstruct your total freedom, but so does the simple act of sharing a world with others.

Often times, the opposition to a code of conduct is really about something else. Rafael Avila de Espindola, for instance, is described in the article as the developer who left the LLVM project due to his personal conflict with the project’s new code of conduct but when you look at his reasoning, as he explained them, we can see that he is more generally pissed off what he calls the “Social INjustice Movement”.

(full story here)

The little play on words… ‘seems common vernacular among those who have been harboring extreme political hangups. Indeed, according to Avila, “the last drop” was the association LLVM was establishing with an organization called Outreachy (I want to talk about that name, but I won’t), that offers paid internships to people in groups that are considered to be underrepresented. Avila describes them as “an organization that openly discriminates based on sex and ancestry”.

Well, of course they do… When the industry in general discriminates one way based on sex and ancestry, a common response is to counter with discrimination the other way based on the sex and ancestry. Condemning them for doing so is no less ridiculous than condemning someone for using violence to defend himself against violence. At least in my opinion.

And it’s then it’s LLVM’s job to interview the candidate interns and further discriminate based on experience, ability and willingness.

I can’t even begin to imagine how to gauge the benefits and consequences of countering one type of discrimination with another type of discrimination but we don’t need to… and that’s pretty much my point. The association with Outreachy has nothing to do with the code of conduct Avila was refusing to accept; for him, the code of conduct is probably more a symbolic representation of the social justice movement as a whole, which I guess is OK on some level but not so much when you’re actually making false accusations.

Avila very clearly stated that through the code of conduct “the community tries to welcome people of all ‘political belief’. Except those whose political belief mean that they don’t agree with the code of conduct.”

Which would be what? The political belief that we shouldn’t expect people to be nice to each other?

Here’s the code of conduct that Avila has such contention with.

  • be friendly and patient
  • be welcoming
  • be considerate
  • be respectful
  • be careful in the words that you choose and be kind to others
  • when we disagree, try to understand why.

Seriously Raphael?

27. September 2017 · Comments Off on Answer to Carl Tuckerson’s Question: Why Do Protesters Use the Flag to Make Their Point? · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture

Every so often I tune into Fox News to get their perspective on things. And so last Monday I saw Carl Tuckerson posing a question to a guest (a lawyer who supports the NFL players and their right to protest). Here’s the question (paraphrased)

If they want to protest, why not write a letter or gather in a park..? Why do they have to use the flag?

Well, here’s an answer…

The reason why these athletes have chosen the flag and the anthem is because the stadium is their platform, so…

1. There’s lots of people there to watch superstars
2. The athletes ARE the superstars
3. There’s a flag and anthem tradition
4. There’s national media coverage

These athletes recognize the flag and the anthem as the most important of these things, as most Americans do, BECAUSE, just like us, they have been taught to honor the flag and the anthem. So they use quiet and respectful gestures to draw attention to racial inequality and police brutality while the anthem gives context to the gestures.

There is nothing irreverent about quietly taking a knee. For thousands of years people have dropped a knee before a king or an altar as a gesture of reverence and appeal. And it’s appropriate because their protest *IS* an appeal to the American people and our constitutional system. That isn’t represented by the audience of football fans or the crowd around them… Our republic is represented by that flag and the anthem that brings our attention to it.

So please Carl, don’t cheapen the flag by turning it into a political device. Instead, validate the honor of the flag by considering the grievances of the citizens kneeling before it.

NFL player takes a reverent knee

06. May 2016 · Comments Off on Double Standards and an Argument Against Minimum Wage · Categories: Economics, Politics, Social/Culture · Tags:

While searching for arguments against minimum wage I found this article by Tim Worstall published by Forbes. It’s about 1100 words that essentially says one thing… that minimum wage is immoral. I gotta say, I was pretty disappointed in the explanation. I was expecting some creative interpretation of scripture or something but all he actually said was this…

“As I say, there’s nothing wrong with the basic position, that people should have enough to eat. But given that it is us, collectively, who are making this decision then it should again be us, collectively, who are willing to pay for our moral position.”

So he’s basically saying that if the American democracy demands a minimum wage for the American worker, the “moral” thing for the American democracy to do is pay it themselves. Do you see how ridiculous that is? No? Well, let’s apply this sense of morals to the concept of a supply-chain and see how much sense it makes… I added a diagram to try an make this clear as possible…

supplychain&advocacy

When a supplier up the chain increases the price of a component, he doesn’t offer to pay the difference just because he increased the price. The supplier is expecting the downstream consumer to either pay the price or find another supplier but according to Tim Worstall’s argument, this is immoral. There really is no reason why a democracy or a union that supplies labor should be subject to a different set of rules (other than to isolate the issue in rhetorical packing material that won’t break these eggshell arguments against minimum wage). If it’s immoral for an organization that provides labor, such as a union or democracy, to make such a demand without paying for it themselves then it’s also immoral for upstream suppliers to demand a price for their products and services without paying for it themselves. According to this moral perspective the suppliers should either buy their own products and give them to consumers for free or they should let consumers pay whatever they want for the supplies.

So why the double-standard? Or maybe I should be asking if they even realize it *is* a double-standard. I’ve had this discussion before and a typical response is to say that democracies and labor unions don’t provide labor… laborers do. Well, that’s like saying McDonald’s doesn’t serve hamburgers, their employees do. In other words, it’s a pointless distinction that only serves to reveal how shackled up our perceptions can be. The only reason why we don’t think of a democracy as a supplier of labor is that we aren’t accustomed to seeing it presented that way. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. Besides the discussion is about upstream polices that affect downstream cost, not the merits of individual workers. Again, let’s have a look at the picture.

As we can see a factory can decide the price of it’s own product based on the cost of production and related business. Likewise, a supplier can decide the price of it’s own product for the same reasons. A labor force also has associated costs, such as food, education and healthcare but the only entity in the picture that actually deals with all these things is our democracy. So, it makes sense that our democracy would advocate a fair price to cover the costs. That’s what minimum wage is.

06. September 2014 · Comments Off on The War of Zion · Categories: Politics, Religion, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

Only a few days after the end of hostilities in Gaza, the Zionist-controlled Israeli government  boldly claims another 1000 acres of land in the West Bank.  In other words, they are taking land that belonged to Palestinian families for generations and telling them to get out so they can build “Jewish” settlements for any Jew in the world that wants to live there.

Would that not be a fundamental equivalent to what perhaps Texas would experience if a large group of foreign people united by a religious claim that God gave them the right to take over Texas came in and told the Texans to leave so they can build settlements for anyone else in the world that wants to live there, as long as they belong to their religion? Would we expect the Texans to bow down without a fight? What if those foreigners were so well connected to the hegemonic superpower that they are always guaranteed to overpower whatever the Texans can throw back?  I’m not making this up folks. I’m just changing names.

So in other words, the Zionists, who insist God gave them the title deed to the Levant, are continuing to feed the blow back, which is what the attacks on Israel is… blow black. Inspired by hatred yes, but hatred that itself is encouraged by aggressive Zionist behavior. By this, I am not suggesting that we validate terrorism, I am suggesting that the Zionists stop encouraging it. Land grabs and class structures that take from the Arabs and give to the Jews continue to give Palestinians very compelling reasons to hate them. And if the pattern continues, the more extreme reactions among Palestinians will come to violence and the State of Israel will put on the same act they always do… that THEY are the one’s being attacked first.

The more perspectives I add to the meta, the more I am convinced that the history of modern Israel is not so much a history of frequent multiweek wars… but one long continuous war that started with the Zionist migration of Jews to Palestine around the turn of the 20th century, up to this very moment. What historians try to describe as wars between Israel and it’s enemies are actually battles. Israel is still occupying territories gained in battle in 1967. They also gained territory through a highly unusual example of international diplomacy in 1949 and of course even before that when the Jewish National Fund was gaining territory through hostile economics. Each of these gains were acts of aggression upon the families and communities being conquered. The belligerents are the same, the reasons are the same and the struggle never actually stops, it just deescalates to police actions.

This recent claim to nearly 1000 acres is just a continuation of the aggression, hidden behind the stage curtains of “official peace”. When the more defiant Palestinians manage to scrape up enough battery to throw a punch, Israel will respond with routine air-strikes and THEN the media will call it a war.

So next time Hamas “comes out of the blue” with another offense like launching rockets or kidnapping soldiers, try thinking how it might also be described as yet another counter-attack in an ongoing war that hasn’t stopped in the last 100 years. Something else this perspective reveals is that the aggressions started before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947, so I think it would be more accurate to describe the driving force of belligerence as the Zionist movement. This extends the possibility that the State of Israel CAN exist without trespass, if the Zionist influences are disengaged.

I think it’s also important to point out that although the Zionist movement claims connections with Judaism it is not a complete representation of the the Jewish people, in fact there is a solid group of Jews that oppose Zionism as an aberration of the faith. Orthodox Jews have organized a political group called the True Torah Jews that denounces the Zionist movement and it’s agressions. In fact these Jews insist that the State of Israel is “diametrically opposed” to the teachings of Judaism. Other Israeli Jews have organized a political group called Peace Now. This group favors compromise and a two-state solution. My hope is that these Jewish activists, the liberals seeking peace and harmony and the conservatives pointing to the discrepancies between the Torah and what the Zionists are doing, will some day, some how get through to a LOT of very thick headed people that Zionism and it’s 100-year war against the Palestinians really isn’t cool.

 

23. January 2014 · Comments Off on Ten Core Beliefs of the Tea Party… And My Response to All of Them · Categories: Economics, Politics, Social/Culture · Tags:

There are some obvious things about the Tea Party such as their opposition to taxes and to Obama and their paranoia about socialism of all things. The discussions that I’ve had so far with actual Tea Party supporters however never get past the slogans. When I push for more depth they tend to get defensive. So, I turned to their web sites where I found the “Ten Core Beliefs of the Modern-Day Tea Party”. So now I am at least able to understand the official core beliefs of this movement. Here are my responses to each of them, starting with the preamble…



Preamble: The Tea Party Movement is an all-inclusive American grassroots movement with the belief that everyone is created equal and deserves an equal opportunity to thrive in these United States where they may “pursue life, liberty and happiness” as stated in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

When you have millions of dollars funneling into the movement from the top 1% it’s hard to call it a grassroots movement, but otherwise it does seem to be organized on some level in a grassroots sort of way. The of the statement is nice… pretty much the same thing all the rest of the parties are saying.

OK, here’s the ten core beliefs…

1. Eliminate Excessive Taxes – Excessively high taxes are a burden for those exercising their personal liberty to work hard and prosper as afforded by the Constitution. A fiscally responsible government protects the freedom of its citizens to enjoy the fruits of their own labor without interference from a government that has exceeded its necessary size, scope and reach into the lives of its citizens.

So my first question is… How do we determine what excessive is? This isn’t a stupid question. If anyone in the Tea Party actually took the time to figure this out, they would probably realize quickly that it’s not such an easy question to answer, especially since every penny taken by the IRS is funding something that is viewed as critical to someone. As far as I can tell, determining what is “excessive” is basically the same thing as determining which Americans to cut off. I’ve heard a lot of opinions from various Americans about this and it’s usually a matter of targeting “someone else”. This works fine for the self-obsessed that think the common good means them. So much for “all-inclusive”.

2. Eliminate the National Debt – By implementing fiscally conservative policies at all levels of government, progress can be made toward eliminating the U.S. National Debt. Massive increases in the National Debt have created and continue to create a huge burden for the next generation of Americans, thus imperiling the country’s short-term and long-term economic health and prosperity.

I basically agree with this stance on the national debt. So do most Americans it seems. I’m not sure what they mean by fiscally conservative policies though. If they are referring to the fiscal policies of the GOP then they’re on the WRONG track. So far there have been two main types of spending polices… “Pay as you go”, which is typically what the Democrats adhere to. They spend a lot, so they tax a lot, which infuriates people. The other category is “Pay later”, which is typically what the Republicans go with, where they DON’T tax people… (yet). Instead, they borrow from the Fed and use the money to pay for their spending, which is just as much if not more than what the Democrats spend but this way, they don’t have to tax the people, so the spending isn’t noticed and the Republicans can win elections on their low-tax policy. The only drawback to this is a deficit which accumulates into a national debt.

So… on very basic level… How do the geniuses in the Tea Party expect to “eliminate” the national debt AND “excessive taxes? I can only think of one way… Cut spending down to where both is possible, but that introduces a whole new problem, the fact that government spending has become such an integral part of our economic system, both on the supply side (i.e., defense industry) and on the consumer side. To bring spending down to the level where we can pay off our national debt AND cut taxes would be slitting the throat of our economy. We can always look and see how well the austerity programs in Europe are going… Greece, Ireland… Yeah – cutting their government spending is working out REAL well for them 😉


3. Eliminate Deficit Spending – All deficit spending must be eliminated immediately. We insist that government representatives at all levels maintain a fiscally responsible budget and balance the books as would be expected of any American business.

Good idea. Thing is… we already DO expect government representatives at all levels to maintain a fiscally responsible budget and to balance the books. The Republicans expect this, the Democrats expect this, we ALL expect this. The problem is that the representatives don’t always do what their constituents expect. That certainly doesn’t make their fiscal irresponsibility a tenet of their party but it DOES prove that you have to do more than “expect” you’re representatives to behave.

What I find interesting is the reference to American business – as if we hold business to a higher standard. As if the private sector wasn’t already many times worse than the government when it comes to deficit spending and accumulated debt. Our national debt (created by government deficit spending) is currently at around $16 trillion. The way the Tea Party reacts you would think it’s the end of the world. But they seem oblivious to the fact that our private sector debt is at about $38 trillion. They also seem to have no idea that our national debt isn’t as bad now (100% of GDP) as it was at the end of WW2 (120% of GDP) and the fact that instead of freaking out about the debt, Democrats AND Republicans at that time calmly SPENT their way out of the debt by investing in our industries, which boosted productivity and created the boom that was the 1950’s.


4. Protect Free Markets – America’s free enterprise system allows businesses to thrive as they compete in the open marketplace and strive toward ever better services and products. Allowing free markets to prosper unfettered by government interference is what propelled this country to greatness with an enduring belief in the industriousness and innovations of the populace.

Protect free markets? Isn’t this an oxymoron? Isn’t protectionism the antithesis of a free market? Seriously, the elephant in the room is the fact that there is no such thing as a free market …and there never has been. What we have are markets that are all guided by rules and all these rules translate to market advantages for some and disadvantages for others. The common approach for the disadvantaged is to try and change or eliminate the rules and a common battle cry for their efforts is the free market. It’s an appeal to a broader ideal in an effort to pass off their personal ambitions, which they advertise as a valiant crusade toward freedom for all. One of the oldest tricks in the book.

This core belief is the single most critical issue I have with the Tea Party AND the Libertarians and here’s why…

1. I’ve been following the expansion of international trade agreements for the past 20 years and the resulting battlefront between international investors and sovereign governments. The international investors have taken the banner of “free markets” as their own in this battle, giving their victories names like the North American FREE Trade Agreement and the Greater Arab FREE Trade Agreement.

2. Every so-called “free trade” agreement is actually a set of rules and limitations that regulate the market in a way that favors the international investors and limits the ability of local governments to protect their local business communities.

3. I don’t actually have a problem with the benefits these agreements provide, my problem is with the consequential disadvantages to the people of compliant nations and the fact that they can no longer appeal to their own governments for protection.

This second issue is the reason why I don’t think supporters of the Tea Party really put much thought into this, because the free market movement as it currently exists is nothing less than a full frontal assault on their own 10th core belief.

5. Abide by the Constitution of the United States – The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and must be adhered to without exception at all levels of government. This includes the Bill of Rights and other Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and their provisions designed to protect states’ rights and individual liberties.

Again, how is this unique to the Tea Party? The Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians… they ALL support the U.S.Constitution. It’s the one thing this country has that unifies us all. Almost every government oath taken requires one to uphold and protect the Constitution. The disputes among citizens are never about whether or not we should abide by the Constitution… the disputes always arise from differing interpretations of the Constitution when applied to laws and actions. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this belief and I’m glad to see it included but it certainly doesn’t set the Tea Party aside. All I can say here is welcome Tea Party to the same thing everyone else is saying.

6. Promote Civic Responsibility – Citizen involvement at the grassroots level allows the voice of the American people to be heard and directs the political behaviors of our representatives at both the local and national level so they, in turn, may be most effective in working to preserve the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of this country’s citizens.

I agree with this one, I mean it *IS* basic democracy 101 folks. When I hear people say the U.S. is NOT a democracy, the only truth I see in their statement is that people aren’t involving themselves in the process and that’s a personal choice not the core belief of ANY political party in our system.

7. Reduce the Overall Size of Government – A bloated bureaucracy creates wasteful spending that plagues our government. Reducing the overall size, scope and reach of government at both local and national levels will help to eliminate inefficiencies that result in deficit spending which adds to our country’s debt.

OK, this is another one that I’m just going to call too simple minded to be any good to anyone. I have one word for you…  Ratios! Why on earth people can’t figure this one out is beyond me, but it’s not that complicated. To be represented you need a healthy ratio of representatives to citizens. How many parents do you hear screaming that there are too many teachers? How many times do you hear people saying there are too many police officers? In both cases people seem to be acutely aware that there needs to be a healthy ratio of teachers to students, police officers to residents. So why is this logic completely eliminated from our view on the size of government?

I suggest having a look at the web site for an organization called Thirty-Thousand.org I am not associated in anyway with this organization, but I do appreciate their insight on the matter and I think anyone who thinks reducing the size of government is an actual answer should consider their view. The objective of this organization is described on their web site as…

The primary purpose of Thirty-Thousand.org is to conduct research on, and increase awareness of, the degradation of representative democracy in the United States resulting from Congress’ longstanding practice of limiting the number of congressional districts despite the continuing growth in the nation’s population.

Here’s an interesting passage from their website, that may appeal to the conservatives out there who think we should return to a society as envisioned by our founding fathers…

The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended that the total population of Congressional districts never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. Currently, the average population size of the districts is nearly 700,000 and, consequently, the principle of proportionally equitable representation has been abandoned.

They are referring to the original draft of the Bill of Rights which contained not 10 but 12 amendments. Only the last 10 amendments were ratified. The original first amendment is where this idea that the total population of Congressional districts should never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. That amendment was short one state on being ratified. For the skeptics here’s a way to see for yourself – (excepted from usgovinfo.about.com)

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives in Washington, DC, you can view the original government copy of the Bill of Rights as sent to the then 11 states for ratification in 1789. What might surprise you is that the original Bill of Rights contains 12 – not 10 — amendments.

I’m not necessarily saying that we should increase the size of government to match the population… in fact I am more inclined to suggest we break the union up into smaller governments. Bottom line here… we have a huge government because we have a huge population. Want a smaller government? Then here are your choices… accept less representation or consider the ratio.


8. Believe in the People – The American people, given their guaranteed freedoms, will thrive in a democratic, capitalist environment which allows individuals to strive toward ever greater achievements, innovations and the efficient production of needed and valued goods and services.

The Constitution stuck with basic universal principles; it did not specify religion, nor economic model. This eighth core belief however is very obviously promoting one economic model. Capitalism. I think capitalism is a viable economic option it excels in fast moving industries like consumer electronics and commodities but our system is a hybrid system with a fair amount of socialism baked in and there’s a reason for that. Over the years the American people have found areas where strict capitalism doesn’t necessarily offer people the best option, usually areas where compassion and human judgement serves better. Capitalism has no such compassion, no sense of judgement and and for most things like consumer products that’s fine but sometimes the best option for a human being is not a profitable one. The danger that I sense here is that there are business people out there that are pushing for a strictly capitalist system so that profits can be made even at the expense of human interest and the Tea Party has all the earmarks of a vehicle to make that happen.


9. Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics – American politics is burdened by big money from lobbyists and special interests with an undue influence on the peoples’ representatives. The Tea Party movement is seen as a threat to the entrenched political parties and thus is the continual target of smear campaigns and misrepresentation of its ideals. We choose not to respond to these attacks except to strongly and explicitly disavow any and all hate speech, any and all violence as well as insinuations of violence, and any and all extreme and fringe elements that bring discredit to the Tea Party Movement. We are a peaceful movement and respect other’s opinions and views even though they do not agree with our own. We stand by the Tea Party beliefs and goals and choose to focus our energies on ensuring that our government representatives do the same.

1. Ironic how a movement funded by big money from lobbyists is such a critic of big money from lobbyists.
2. I was going to say a lot more about this somewhat whiny tenet, but I think the underlying message is a good one – at least in principal, so I’ll leave it at that.

10. Maintain Local Independence – The strength and resilience of a grassroots movement is the ability of citizens at the local level to determine their own platforms, agendas and priorities free of an overriding central leadership. Exercising the clearly stated message of the Tea Party movement by its nature involves discourse about which policies and candidates best hold to our stated principles, and these various opinions should flourish and evolve at the local level.

The Anti-Federalist in me wants to high five the Tea Party for this tenet, but the realist in me can’t ignore the contradictions. I’ve already stated the conflict of interest between this core belief and the fourth core belief but I can’t stress it enough because while you’re protesting the overriding central leadership in the Federal government, you are bowing down to the overriding central leadership of the free-trade movement, which overrides the Federal government and is arguably the primary road to a one-world government.

So… in summary… I understand the frustrations of the Tea Party supporters. I also agree with what I think are the ultimate hopes and dreams of the Tea Party such as self-determination but I am not impressed with what I can only describe as a half-baked set of principals that only makes sense when you put the big money sponsors into the picture at which point it becomes clear (at least in my mind) that the Tea Party is a rhetorical and manipulative trick played on the frustrations and political ignorance of good people.

 

05. July 2012 · Comments Off on Newsmax Tries to Smear the ACA with Subjective Polls · Categories: Economics, Politics, Social/Culture · Tags:

Newsmax.com, a very busy propaganda machine, recently issued another “urgent” survey… Should Obamacare Be Repealed?. The poll consists of several “yes or no” questions one of which is this… “Should Congress restore $500 billion in Medicare benefits for seniors that the Obama plan cut?” The problem with this question is that the Obama plan doesn’t cut $500 billion in Medicare benefits. So, neither answer is appropriate; “Yes, Congress should restore the $500 billion that was never taken in the first place”, or “No, Congress should not restore the $500 billion that was never taken in the first place.”

There can only be two possible explanations for this giant lie, which I have yet to discern, either Newsmax is staffed with complete morons, or they are intentionally trying to mislead their readers. The question itself is based on a lie propagated by several conservative leaders including Mitt Romney, in which $500 billion in estimated cost savings achieved by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), (or “Obamacare” for those conservatives who refuse to utter the official name of the law) is intentionally misrepresented as a $500 cut in benefits. Perhaps the so-called fiscal conservatives who typically cut budgets to save money don’t actually understand the concept of saving money through cost-effective improvements?

Anyone can check any of the fact-checking sites available and they will see a full explanation for themselves. PolitiFact.com and the Washington Post just to list two.

ABC News explains that the lie stems from a memo written by Richard Foster, chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) that claims the ACA will “cut Medicare by more than $500 billion” but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also make it clear that spending on these programs will continue to increase. What the ignored context of Richard Fosters memo was making clear was that the provisions of the ACA will slow that growth down by an estimated $500 billion.

According to the CMS and the Kaiser Family Foundation that estimated $500 billion in savings will come from crackdowns on the insurance industry, specifically, over-payments and fraud, over the next ten years. So it’s misleading when Newsmax polls it’s readers, asking if they think $500 billion in Medicare cuts should be restored. In light of the truth, what that question is really asking is if we should overrule the ACA and let the insurance companies rip us off for another $500 billion.

19. May 2012 · Comments Off on DOMA : Legalizing Bigotry · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

Recently, there has been some outrage over the House Republican’s allocation of tax money to hire private law firms to uphold the Defense Of Marriage Act in court after the Department of Justice announced it will no longer do so. The DOJ has indicated that it will continue to enforce the rule but that it will no longer defend it in court per the administration’s recent recognition of it’s unconstitutional nature.

I suspect that Obama’s bold statement about gay marriage is nevertheless a safe bet going into the election season because the polls are indicating a substantial rise in public support for gay marriage, probably resulting from a greater level of awareness on the issue. The ignorance that discrimination so often depends on is clearly loosing ground despite the recent victories for bigotry in states like NC where education levels across the population are still relatively low. Nation-wide, for the first time since Clinton signed DOMA, the majority of American voters are supporting marriage rights for same-sex couples.

This rise in awareness is also leading to unbalanced arguments in the court room where it’s becoming far too easy to slam discriminatory laws for being unconstitutional and now with the DOJ pulling away, House Republicans are seeking legal services from outside the government… using tax money, to help win discriminatory arguments in court. The amount being allocated seems to be unclear. The sites of outrage are saying $1.5 million but in following the links to a copy of the actual contract, it appears that’s a cap not a bill. Pelosi has asked Boehner repeatedly how much but so far he has remained evasive (of course).

Personally, I don’t have any feelings either way about homosexuality. It doesn’t affect me personally so I’m not going to get all hung up on it, but I do have strong feelings about equality. And I do have strong feelings about Republicans that can bitch about liberals spending money on “stupid” stuff but have no problem spending money on bigotry, which is about the stupidest thing you can ever spend money on.