Tag Archives: national politics

The US Senate Decides Guns are More Important than People

18 Apr

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Courtesy Marquil at Empirewire.com

Do you think that the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an unrestricted right to bear arms?

Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee the right of paranoid schizophrenics or clinically diagnosed psychopaths to bear arms?

Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee a toddler’s right to bear arms?

Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee the right of felons to bear arms?

Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee the right to own a tank? A drone? A rocket-propelled grenade launcher?

None of the above are rhetorical questions. I’m absolutely serious. 

Does anything in the Constitution guarantee my right – your right – not to be shot? How about the kids from Sandy Hook or the moviegoers in Aurora?

Do you think that the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution is also absolute and unrestricted in any way? You’d be wrong. There are plenty of government restrictions on speech that have been ruled constitutional. You’re not allowed to incite a riot or libel someone, for instance.

And so it is that, although 90% of Americans support universal background checks for dealer and gun show sales, the United States Senate Wednesday night was unable to defeat a Republican-led filibuster of the Manchin-Toomey Amendment. Drafted by a conservative Republican and a conservative Democrat, the amendment would have implemented background checks to prevent homicidal maniacs and felons from legally obtaining guns.

This new gun control initiative was brought about in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, where 20 little boys and girls were mowed down by a lunatic. One of the biggest efforts was to close the gun show loophole, to make sure that those sales are subject to the same background checks that retail sales undergo. Yesterday on Facebook, people argued to me that implementation of this statute would not have prevented Sandy Hook. But that’s a disingenuous argument – it’s too late for that, and you can’t retroactively prevent anything. I brought up that Australia and the UK implemented stringent gun control in response to their school massacres, and have seen none since. Someone brought up a shooting of 12 in Cumbria that took place in 2010 – the first mass shooting in the UK since the 1996 Dunblane massacre. In the US, we have mass shootings much, much more frequently than that, and we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. After Dunblane, the UK effectively banned handguns.

This is what I have to say about your gun and your gun rights.

England and Wales see .7 gun homicides for every 100,000 people. Scotland has no data. Australia has .14 homicides per 100,000 of population. Canada sees .51 homicides per 100,000 people. By contrast, the United States has 3 gun homicides per 100,000 people. That doesn’t count accidental deaths and suicides. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, and close to 50% of the small arms. Access to guns and ammo are not at risk or adversely affected.

From TPM,

The legislation, written by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), was the centerpiece of gun control efforts in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shootings. It was supposed to be the breakthrough that led to the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. But it only picked up a few senators and hardened the opposition of many. A last-ditch effort by Democrats to win over skeptical senators by offering new concessions fell apart late Tuesday.

About nine out of 10 Americans support universal background checks, according to polls. The failed vote reflects the enduring power of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the bill and threatened to target lawmakers who voted in its favor.

“Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate,” the NRA’s top lobbyist Chris Cox said in a statement issued immediately after the vote. “As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.”

Centrist senators who were courted eventually revealed their opposition to the proposal this week, making it all but clear by Wednesday that it lacked the votes to pass. Opponents voiced gripes ranging from an alleged infringement on Second Amendment rights to the more far-reaching — and inaccurate — claim that the legislation would set up a national gun registry.

So, the NRA defeated the will of 90% of the people, and prevented a vote from being held on the amendment. The United States congress cannot pass a law without 60% of the Senate, and that’s not how our system is supposed to work. Of course, in 1999 – after Columbine – the NRA supported universal background checks. What’s changed? Why must 90% of America succumb to the will of a small lobby representing a small number of people?

A lunatic shoots up a school, and the Senate filibusters a reasonable and constitutional gun control bill drafted by two conservatives.

I think that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords said it best,

Moments ago, the U.S. Senate decided to do the unthinkable about gun violence — nothing at all. Over two years ago, when I was shot point-blank in the head, the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. Four months ago, 20 first-graders lost their lives in a brutal attack on their school, and the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. It’s clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate.

 

The American Right, Atwater, and the Southern Strategy

14 Nov

President Obama’s re-election has made some people on the right go absolutely crazy. Right-wing websites and listservs are replete with cries of “America RIP”, and gosh-darn it, these people are such strong tea party patriots that they’re resorting to the most patriotic thing they can think of, now that they’ve lost a competitive race in a democratic election. 

They want to secede from the Union

European-style socialism is even encroaching this weekend on our motorsports, as Formula 1 races in Texas; Texas this weekend. (Rooting for Alonso is a safe bet).  But for those of you who may still be surprised by the outcome of the election – an outcome that only surprised people who had rejected mathematics, science, statistical probability, and evidenceyou can now be well distracted by a scandal involving the military, sex, and an abuse of the surveillance state we’ve grown and expanded since a bunch of Saudis on tourist visas blew up 3,000 Americans. 

The overreaction in the fascist corner of the national Republican Party’s shrinking, overwhelmingly white tent, is a temper tantrum of a party in crisis.

Remember Dick Morris?  The former Clinton aide, prostitute toe-licker, and Fox News “analyst” famously predicted on October 31, 2012 that Mitt Romney was really ahead and would win the election in a “landslide”. Right away, the Morris Law;  “whatever Dick Morris says is the exact opposite of reality” couldn’t have been more starkly on display. 

Watch the latest video at <a href=”http://video.foxnews.com”>video.foxnews.com</a>

The idea that people watch a “news” channel that employs this fraud named “Dick Morris” is astonishing. The fact that he’s employed at all is amazing. But never fear, Dick Morris didn’t predict a Romney landslide because he’s wrong about everything, you guys. 

No, Dick Morris predicted the Romney landslide because he was lying. It was, as they say, math he made up as a Republican to make the Romney people feel better about themselves. He was the Republican Stu Smalley. Feelings. 

Sean [Hannity, naturally], I hope people aren’t mad at me about it… I spoke about what I believed and I think that there was a period of time when the Romney campaign was falling apart, people were not optimistic, nobody thought there was a chance of victory and I felt that it was my duty at that point to go out and say what I said. And at the time that I said it, I believe I was right.

I’m glad Republicans watching their confirmation bias station have people like Dick Morris to lie to them to make them all feel better about themselves. If the opposition wants to keep itself in an ignorant bubble of dumb Limbaugh talking point regurgitation, the Democratic Party will continue to win elections by merely promoting policies based on ideas and fact. 

As a final note, in the last week we’ve witnessed an utter implosion of the Karl Rove myth. As it turns out, “Bush’s brain” wasn’t, and if he was the wonk in that bunch, it’s no wonder the country was the victim of such utter governmental malpractice for eight long years. Some are calling the grassroots Republican outrage at Rove a “civil war”. Just over 1% of the money Rove’s “American Crossroads” SuperPAC spent during the last election cycle went to actually win a race. The people who contributed to that worse-than-a-Ponzi scheme are none too pleased. If something is going poorly for Karl Rove, this is good for America. 

But Rove is a piker; an illegitimate heir to the Republican strategy to win the South and demagogue against the “other” was best explained by Ronald Reagan’s own evil genius, Lee Atwater. 

Atwater is famous for having outlined the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” which that party has used since the 70s to sound racist dog-whistles and win in the conservative South – a South which had rejected Republicans ever since the Civil War. Lincoln, you’ll recall, was a Republican. The Southern Strategy exists even today, as people blame Obama’s victory on minorities “takers” who “want stuff”. Read more here, but the infamous Atwater quote goes as follows

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The Nation explains that, for years Republicans have bristled at that quote, hoping/claiming that it was made up. For the first time in history, the 42-minute audio of the Atwater interview from which that passage is pulled, is now online and available for you to hear. It has been found by the same fellow who earlier posted Romney’s 47% quip – James Carter IV.  

As the Republican Party searches for ways to re-invent itself, and as it complains about its electoral failure with non-white, non-male voters, it might want to consider not systematically spreading hate against those groups through its dog-whistle racism and its talk about “legitimate rape”. When the Republican Party becomes a post-Atwater entity, the country will hopefully be better off. 

The Gitmo Self-Delusion

23 Nov

The recent acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, now absolved African embassy bomber, on 284 of 285 counts of terrorism and conspiracy charges has caused much consternation among military-commission-promoters and torture-haters. Some of the hand wringing has also undoubtedly come from the Obama Administration itself, privately rethinking their misguided, altruistic plan to conduct civilian trials. Attorney General Eric Holder has called failure “not an option” in the process of trying terrorism suspects, currently held at the still-open Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Acquittal on 99.6% of charges sounds like failure to me. But why hold the trails at all if the outcome must be pre-ordained? We are so busy trying to live up our American ideals of “justice” and “fairness” that we have twisted ourselves into a rhetorical pretzel.

The entire trial process, civilian or military, is a self-imposed and self-created sham – we have painted ourselves into a legal corner and can’t see the way out. A fresh look at the entire counter-terrorism fight is required to see how far off the path we have gone. Gitmo policy, under two administrations, has diverged from objective reality long ago.

It is the fundamental duty of all thinking conservatives to first see the world as it is, with all its warts and inadequacies, not the world as they wish it would be. Liberals and libertarians serve those useful roles, imagining opposing fantasy lands of equality based upon societal largesse or individual grit. Meanwhile, in the pragmatic mud, the conservative is left to deal the actual matters at hand. And in the case of Gitmo, particularly, we need to remove the veil of our self-delusion.

The incarceration of nearly every inmate at Gitmo is an unhappy accident, not the result of deliberate policy. If I am an AK-47 toting, card carrying member of the Taliban or Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq, and I am the target of American forces, there are one of several fates awaiting me. Gitmo is the least likely, and least desirable.

Most likely, I will be shot dead or blown to pieces by a Mk-82 JDAM or Hellfire missile. No one will read me my rights. No one will charge me with a crime. Based upon my actions, associates, geographic location or suspicions of a nineteen year old kid, my life will be taken by a split second judgment. That’s called war.

If I am somehow captured by American or NATO forces, I will probably be taken into custody and held by Iraqis or Afghans. While in such custody, I may be fed and I may be beaten. I may be charged with a crime and tried, but standards of evidence in such trials are very spotty. Iraqi courts in particular rely very heavily on personal testimony and photographs, as if Photoshop had never been invented. As every American soldier carries a digital camera, a couple pictures at the point of detention, and the testimony of an Iraqi soldier or policeman is all that is required for substantial sentences. Every so often, in both countries, tribal relations pull favors, and large quantities of young men are just released, out the front door of the prison. After months of jailing, I may end up back on the battlefield.

If I am a High Value Target, and I have been captured by the Americans in the last seven years, I am held by them and not the local forces, in jails within the borders of American bases. Such jails are rarely discussed, and are the military’s solution to the Gitmo problem. If the prisoners are never transferred outside of the country, no one seems to care.

But if I am not shot or captured in any of the above scenarios, and was detained in the early days of the war in October or November of 2001, when Afghan jails and courts did not exist, then I was probably flown to Guantanamo Bay. Many of those prisoners did not warrant the special treatment, as is evidenced by the fact that out of 800 some total detainees, only two hundred-ish are leftOf course, 20% of those released have returned to their old ways. No matter – most held in Iraq and Afghanistan and then later released did so as well. 

Most of the 800 original Gitmo detainees were accidents. They were lucky not to get shot, but unlucky enough to be taken prisoner and deemed important. They were never read their rights, because they were captured by soldiers on a battlefield. They were interrogated in pleasant and unpleasant ways because a trial was never considered. Torture need not to have occurred for their confessions to be inadmissible. Evidence was never collected in anticipation of future legal proceedings. The thought of a civilian court is a moral absurdity promulgated later.

Shoehorning these detainees into our civilian courts, pushing to introduce misbegotten confessions and materials with no chain of evidence, reduces the legitimacy of said courts with little gain from the undermining. It is our choice to enter into this charade. A frequent criticism of the Bush Administration is that when the only tool they were willing to use was a hammer (the military), then everything starts to look like a nail. Fair enough. But to take the analogy further, this administration has fallen in love with its own set of tools, regardless of the job. If we use a chisel when a saw is needed, don’t fault the chisel, nor the job that required a saw. The job didn’t get done, but that does not make the job too hard nor the chisel useless. We simply need to pick up the saw and get to work.

The saw that the Obama Administration is avoiding is a pragmatic solution for the Gitmo problem. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should last as long as the naval base lasts. Release all detainees but the very worst: the Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds and Ramzi Bin al Shibhs. This should reduce the prisoner count to 50 or less. If the prisoners were picked up by the FBI (like KSM) and due process was followed, then try them. Future high ranking Al Qaeda operatives should be taken in this way, if at all possible, and they should be the only new prisoners at Gitmo. For the existing prisoners, if due process was not followed, and I fault no federal agent or military member for that, then never try them, and hold them until Al Qaeda and the current form of violent Islamist fundamentalism ceases to exist. If this includes KSM, then fine. Don’t put on a show. Don’t apologize. Never release them. We don’t “owe it” to anyone to hold a fake, pre-ordained trial, and it does not reduce our moral standing in the world to hold a prisoner of war until the war is over.

For the current detainees that aren’t the worst of the worst, send them back to the country that they came from. One salient fact lost in most debates about Gitmo is that many countries won’t accept their own citizens. No matter – fly them to a military base in the country they came from (Afghanistan, Iraq), walk them to the front gate and let them out. Only continued self-delusion keeps us from taking this simple step – as noted previously, if they were never shipped to Gitmo in the first place, we would  have happily released them years ago, and no one would know or care (the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan included).

If you are truly concerned about such hardened terrorists (after years of incarceration) taking up their old life again, put a CIA GPS transmitter in their neck and watch where they go. Once they enter a group of other suspected terrorists, kill them, like we do nearly every day in Pakistan with hardly a word of debate.

National Poll Reality Check

20 May

Using the Pollster.com Trendline of all polls, this is a pretty solid representation of where America is at on current issues of import, party identification, policy, and candidates.  Just thought it would be cool to do a semi-regular check of the national sentiment and open it up for discussion.

2010 National Congressional Ballot – This poll is essentially an approval rating of the two parties in Congress.  It’s a good pre-cursor towards national mood and direction of the general voting electorate.

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National Job Approval Rating, President Barack Obama – Seems to be trending upwards

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National Job Approval Rating, President Barack Obama, Economy – Isolating the way people view his managing of the national economy

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Favorable Rating, President Barack Obama – A little different than job approval as it more directly measures the President’s popularity with the voters

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National Party Identification – Independents are trending downward as they normally do as we approach a national election season.

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An interesting picture of developing sentiment.

The Libertarian Mob

14 May

The libertarian mob...

Welcome to the new populism, centered on the politics of “leave me alone”…

A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.

Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a more concise interpretation of the libertarian movement in America.  Sure, there are certainly exceptions to the above, some true believers, some not, but the point is that the Tea Party movement is a coalescing of divergent ideologies under the umbrella of selfishness.  A romantic embrace of willful ignorance and purposeful stupidity as well as a rejection of collectivism.  These aren’t the Cato libertarians, these are the people who are read the paraphrased headlines from the Cato Institute by their local petty talk show tyrant…who is most likely an under-educated closet case with a fear complex.

Today’s conservatives prefer the company of anti-intellectuals who know how to exploit nonintellectuals, as Sarah Palin does so masterfully. The dumbing-down they have long lamented in our schools they are now bringing to our politics, and they will drag everyone and everything along with them. As David Frum, one of the remaining lucid conservatives, has written to his wayward comrades, “When you argue stupid, you campaign stupid. When you campaign stupid, you win stupid. And when you win stupid, you govern stupid.”

The irony of it all is that this movement is being gamed as a collective by a collective which seeks to achieve a political end.  The upper echelons of the “conservative movement” foment the anger of this movement to achieve greater political influence (FreedomWorks), empower agendas (right wing politicians) and achieve profits in the media (Fox News/Murdoch/Ailes).

The conservative media did not create the Tea Party movement and do not direct it; nobody does. But the movement’s rapid growth and popularity are unthinkable without the demagogues’ new ability to tell isolated individuals worried about their futures what they want to hear and put them in direct contact with one another, bypassing the parties and other mediating institutions our democracy depends on. When the new Jacobins turn on their televisions they do not tune in to the PBS News Hour or C-Span to hear economists and congressmen debate the effectiveness of financial regulations or health care reform. They look for shows that laud their common sense, then recite to them the libertarian credo that Fox emblazons on its home page nearly every day: YOU DECIDE.

I agree with the author that this iteration of the tea party movement will not have a seismic effect on the 2010 elections, but I do think the philosophy of this movement will only grow in strength into other areas of our lives and continue to manifest itself in our politics…at least until enough baby boomers die to water down the effect of this movement.

Now an angry group of Americans wants to be freer still—free from government agencies that protect their health, wealth, and well-being; free from problems and policies too difficult to understand; free from parties and coalitions; free from experts who think they know better than they do; free from politicians who don’t talk or look like they do (and Barack Obama certainly doesn’t). They want to say what they have to say without fear of contradiction, and then hear someone on television tell them they’re right. They don’t want the rule of the people, though that’s what they say. They want to be people without rules—and, who knows, they may succeed.

That sort of uninformed and angry rejection of “E pluribus unum” is a danger to the republic.  And it is serious.

The Coffee Party

2 Mar

Do you think the recipe for the tea party movement is a collection of insane dummies with a dash of racism, christianism, xenophobia and generic fear of intellectuals mixed in?  Yeah, me too.

Do you still think there is a need for a participatory movement in America to hold politicians accountable and increase the civic discourse on issues of import?  Yeah, me too.

Welcome to The Coffee Party.

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The Mission: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

Can a movement based on the idea of cooperation, sensible and rational discourse, and bipartisan politeness have an effect on national policy?  I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.  The group is growing quickly through Facebook and other social networks and chapters are sprouting up all over the country.

There doesn’t appear to be a Buffalo Chapter just yet, perhaps one will soon emerge.  I’ll help anyone who wants to take the reins and start a chapter.

In the time of the American Revolution, if a man ordered tea, he was a Tory. If he ordered coffee, he was a Patriot.

Stuff You Should Care About

11 Nov

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This is a bit of a dumping ground for stories I think are important and deserve your attention.  I’ll keep a running list of these stories in the sidebar of this site under the Headline “Your Daily Homework”.  I’m not giving you the full backstory on each of these, just links that I hope you’ll follow.  Also, if you have something to add to any of these stories, please post the links and I’ll add them or write a longer piece on what you’ve provided.

Blackwater and The Mercenary Military

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist and author who has spent several years documenting the privatization of the American military and what that means for the future of our combat forces and ability to fight.  His latest story highlights a bribery scandal of epic proportions involving Blackwater officials and the Iraqi Government.

The mercenary firm Blackwater has become a symbol of the utter lawlessness and criminality that permeates the privatised wing of the US war machine. The company’s operatives have shot dead scores of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, while former employees allege in sworn statements that Blackwater’s owner Erik Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe”, and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life”. Five Blackwater employees will stand trial in federal court in the US on charges that they slaughtered 14 innocent Iraqis, while a sixth Blackwater operative has already pleaded guilty. The company faces allegations of illicit weapons-smuggling and tax evasion, and is being sued for war crimes. The private army is under fire. And yet, despite all the action, none of the legal bullets has – to date – landed a serious blow.

Institutionalized Torture and Who We Are Becoming As A Nation

Glenn Greenwald tells the story of Maher Arar, a Canadian and Syrian who was tortured through America’s policy of rendition.

In 2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then (d) was “rendered” — despite his pleas that he would be tortured — to Syria, to be interrogated and tortured.  He remained in Syria for the next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured.  Everyone acknowledges that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of nothing.

The story that we sanction and commit torture has been told and sadly fails to inspire indignation amongst the chattering class nor the general populace.  However, the shocking aspect of this story isn’t necessarily what happened (even though it’s horrific), it’s that our courts are refusing to scrutinize the actions of the government.

In January, 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister publicly apologized to Arar for the role Canada played in these events, and the Canadian government paid him $9 million in compensation.  That was preceded by a full investigation by Canadian authorities and the public disclosure of a detailed report which concluded “categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada.”  By stark and very revealing contrast, the U.S. Government has never admitted any wrongdoing or even spoken publicly about what it did; to the contrary, it repeatedly insisted that courts were barred from examining the conduct of government officials because what we did to Arar involves “state secrets” and because courts should not interfere in the actions of the Executive where national security is involved.

Yesterday, the Second Circuit — by a vote of 7-4 —  agreed with the government and dismissed Arar’s case in its entirety.  It held that even if the government violated Arar’s Constitutional rights as well as statutes banning participation in torture, he still has no right to sue for what was done to him.  Why?  Because “providing a damages remedy against senior officials who implement an extraordinary rendition policy would enmesh the courts ineluctably in an assessment of the validity of the rationale of that policy and its implementation in this particular case, matters that directly affect significant diplomatic and national security concerns” (p. 39).  In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want in the national security context — even violate the law and purposely cause someone to be tortured — and courts should honor and defer to their actions by refusing to scrutinize them.

If you’re interested in the details as to how the United States sent this innocent man to Syria to be tortured, you can read it here.  You can also read the details of his treatment while rendered by clicking here.  He was kept in a six foot whole, unfed, naked, urinated upon and beaten with electrical cables.  What did they get from him?  Nothing, he was innocent.  Detained due to false confessions given by other prisoners in exchange for an end to their torture.  All done in your name, for the security of America.

Senator Bernie Sanders Introduces the “Too Big To Fail?  Too Big To Exist!” Bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a very sensible bill into the Senate the other day, essentially saying that if a bank is to big to fail, (“any entity that has grown so large that its failure would have a catastrophic effect on the stability of either the financial system or the United States economy without substantial Government assistance.”) it needs to be identified by the Treasury Secretary and broken up into smaller corporations.  We all hate bailouts, right?  Both lefties and righties agree that bailouts are bullshit.  So, let’s do something about it.

Glass-Steagall

And while we’re at it, how about we go ahead and listen to Paul Volcker and re-institute the Glass-Steagall Act which kept commercial and investment banks separate.  Repealing Glass-Steagall in 1999 was a primary precursor to the huge economic collapse we just experienced.

“The banks are there to serve the public,” Mr. Volcker said, “and that is what they should concentrate on. These other activities create conflicts of interest. They create risks, and if you try to control the risks with supervision, that just creates friction and difficulties” and ultimately fails.

The only viable solution, in the Volcker view, is to break up the giants. JPMorgan Chase would have to give up the trading operations acquired from Bear Stearns. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch would go back to being separate companies. Goldman Sachs could no longer be a bank holding company.

In the Volcker resurrection of Glass-Steagall, commercial banks would take deposits, manage the nation’s payments system, make standard loans and even trade securities for their customers — just not for themselves. The government, in return, would rescue banks that fail.

On the other side of the wall, investment houses would be free to buy and sell securities for their own accounts, borrowing to leverage these trades and thus multiplying the profits, and the risks.

The bill was enacted shortly after the Great Depression began and helped maintain sanity in the banking sector until 1999.  The largest economic downturn since that Great Depression began shortly after it’s repeal.  Coincidence?  Not really.

The Right Wing In American Politics

As I discussed last week, the right wing is regionalizing and religifying in the runup to the 2010 and 2012 elections.  No politician represents the growth of the stupid in American politics like Sarah Palin.  At a speaking engagement in Wisconsin, Palin banned all recording devices, but one guy sneaked in an audio recorder.  Palin spent a lot of time talking about the “change” that Obama has brought and how that “change” doesn’t represent “real” American values.  As an anecdote, she points out that our new American coins no longer say “In God We Trust” on the front or back.  She was troubled by the fact that our national motto was moved to the edge of the coin and was no longer as visible as it once was.  She wondered who would make a decision like that.  Well, Crazypants McGee clearly didn’t do her research as it was the 2005 GOP Congress and President Bush who made that decision, not Obama.

Two things on this; (1) “In God We Trust” was adopted as our national motto during the McCarthy Red Scare.  The motto was originally “E Pluribus Unum”. or “Out Of Many, One”…too collectivist and socialist-y for today, I would imagine.  (2) Palin defines herself not by the issues she advocates or the positions she holds, but rather by her enemies.  She connects with people left behind by corporatism and capitalism by making it seem as if she is just as persecuted and left behind as they.  To them, she seems a regular person who reflects their values and is fighting against the machine that seemingly ridicules their uneducated and faith-based existence.  As America grows less educated and more angry by the year, Palin becomes a very dangerous politician and a very troubling threat to those of us who value intellectual analysis and thoughtful policy in our governmental leaders.

Sarah Palin, Hypocrite

6 Jul

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On Friday, Sarah Palin provided us with one of the oddest political moments since the Richard Nixon “Checkers” speech when she hurriedly announced her resignation as Governor of Alaska.  In a blizzard of disconnected thoughts, incomplete clauses and stuttering repetition, Palin essentially told us that she’s running for higher office.  Or not.  The core reason for her resignation seems to be that the national media has been critical of her every move and have examined her odd lies, mistruths and seeming lack of understanding about national politics.  Also, don’t get her started on those pesky bloggers!  Somehow, resigning from office halfway through her term is a solution to that problem.

However, back in March of 2008 Palin spoke at a Newsweek Women & Leadership Event in Los Angeles at which she had some pretty forceful criticism of Hillary Clinton and her constant complaining about the way the media treated her.  Let’s go to the tape.

Here’s the transcript from that discussion.

NEWSWEEK: Sarah Palin, you are a Republican and a conservative one at that. It’s unlikely that you and Hillary would agree on too many issues. But, yet, as a woman, chief executive—someone who’s been through the grinder—when you look at the coverage and you listen to the conversations, what do you see?

Sarah Palin: Fair or unfair—and I do think that it’s a more concentrated criticism that Hillary gets on so many fronts; I think that’s unfortunate. But fair or unfair, I think she does herself a disservice to even mention it, really. You have to plow through that and know what you’re getting into. I say this with all due respect to Hillary Clinton and to her experience and to her passion for changing the status quo. But when I hear a statement like that coming from a women candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or a sharper microscope put on her, I think, man, that doesn’t do us any good. Women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country, I don’t think it bodes well for her, a statement like that. Because, again, fair or not fair it is there. I think it’s reality and it’s a given, people just accept that she’s going to be under a sharper microscope. So be it. Work harder, prove to yourself to an even greater degree that you’re capable, that you’re going to be the best candidate. That’s what she wants us to believe at this point. So it bothers me a little bit to hear her bring that attention to herself on that level.

I wonder if it bothers her to hear herself whining about the critical eye of the media?  Probably not.  As I said a few months ago, Sarah Palin is the leading public example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.