Monday, October 18, 2010

Foreclosure Fraud: The Next Threat to the US Economy

Last night (Sunday Oct. 17) I had the pleasure of taking an extended segment on Progressive Blend Radio to discuss some of the issues that are going on regarding the latest crack of thunder in the real estate market. The courts have discovered the tip of what they will eventually discover is an incomprehensibly large iceberg mountain of fraud in their currently open cases, and that discovery should lead to even bigger icebergs of fraud in the entire industry at every level for at least the past ten years and possibly longer.

In a half hour of very rapid discourse on my part, I covered only the most immediate problems in the system. But there's much more to it which I hope to be able to discuss further on the station or maybe even write about here at some point. In the meantime, please check out the podcast for the show, which was the first half of the third hour for the Oct. 17, 2010 show. If it's not directly linkable at the PBR podcast box below, go to the station website and look for the podcast for The More Me Show for that day and hour.

Those of you who are regular readers or listeners to anything I have to say on such things will know I am no doomer and go to great lengths to seek rational explanations for seemingly intractable problems. But this one is big stuff and could bring us back over the edge of financial collapse for the major banks if the whole thing unravels before any controls or solutions are put in place. Stay tuned and keep your wits about you boys and girls, this ride may stat to get bumpier again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Neglect and Distraction

I have spent the entire summer posting nothing here and that reality has not gone unnoticed by your author. So much has happened since the few days before the BP oil spill (the last time I posted) that I've been too busy following it all to gather together the larger thoughts I try to pull together on this blog. That's no excuse. I'm working on regularizing personal scheduling and minimizing distractions so that I can get back to posting here more often. Getting more commentary from a wider variety of commenters would help but that's still not an excuse. I don't write for self-glorification or it would obviously happen more often.

Anyway, just wish me luck...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Moment For Something Big

Presidents usually reserve Oval Office addresses for something big or important. Tomorrow night I have a feeling we may finally get one of these from my friend Barry. I've been waiting for it ever since he gave his speech on race relations from Philadelphia during the campaign for the Democratic nomination. I've had hints of it here and there but he since taking office, he's been a rather cautious operator despite the seemingly big things that he's accomplished. None of them, the stimulus, health care, the Cairo speech, Afghanistan, have all felt somehow obvious or merely middling to me. No bold strokes in a dangerous era when bold strokes of a sort might be warranted (as opposed to those of the former resident which, Afghanistan at the time aside, rarely seemed necessary for all the macho bravado).

But after watching the northern Gulf of Mexico gradually turn to the color of a really good gumbo, I think we may be in for a genuinely bold move. I think we may be about to see a rallying cry and serious effort to change our nation's ways in the realm of energy production and use. As an oilman, I often thought GWB after 9/11 would have made the perfect character to have a sort of Nixon in China moment as the right guy to really understand oil while at the same time recognizing how important it was for the US to begin weaning from the oil teat, particularly as it related to importing from the middle east. But then I remembered that for the most part, GWB didn't understand anything so it could never have happened.

So here we have the worst environmental disaster in US history unfolding daily before out eyes not but a few weeks after Barry declared that oil drilling was pretty safe. We see some new footage every day as the devastation spreads further along the coast and wonder how far it will go and when the gusher will finally be stopped. We see a company in charge that effectively lied about the amount spewing and controlled the information so well that the administration failed utterly to recognize the lies. The result of that failure was incredible delay in preparing for inevitable landfall of oil on the one hand, and enabling the imposition of the still questionable tactic of spraying thousands of gallons of an untested dispersant in the oil as it spewed from the depths to keep it from ever reaching the surface; and hence land as well as our eyeballs. Now we wait while the reality sets in that from the beginning, only relief wells have a chance of stopping the gusher and that it will be mid-August or so at the earliest before we see if they work. If any problems intersecting with the 7 inch pipe at approximately 18,000 feet below sea level crop up (and gee what are the chances of THAT at this point?) we could be seeing Christmas as a worst case scenario for an end to the gusher. Keep in mind as well, that the relief wells are subject to the same risks that this initial well was subject to.

So the Something Big. First, the moratorium on new deep drilling will be extended until some new technologies are in place. The existing wells will be restarted under the condition that relief wells are started now until ready for emergencies. A similar rule was only recently and inexplicably watered down for deep water operations in Canada. Next, oil companies will need to invest directly in R&D for new technologies to protect against and deal with accidents of the sort we now see in the Gulf. Why? Because since we've sat on our fat asses for 30 years as a nation following the warning we received (from the Oval Office) from that pill of a president Jimmy Carter in 1977, we have greatly increased our oil usage while doing almost nothing to make it a more efficient method of generating energy or less damaging to the environment. For now, we have to continue drilling in the Gulf because it is the only viable source for our own oil in any useful quantity, but it HAS to be safer.

39% of our energy comes from petroleum. Of that, 60% is now imported. This means about 25% of our oil-based energy comes from overseas. Much of it from places filled with people who don't like us and want to harm us. We use a lot of energy to live the way we do. We use 25% of the world's energy, have 22% of the world's GDP and 5% of the world's population. We are hardworking, rich, and wasteful. We use almost twice the energy per person in the US as in Japan and Germany. And we use about 20 times more energy per person as those up and coming economic powerhouses, India and China. We have the ability to do what we have done so often in the past century, lead the world in something important.

We need to get away from the foreign oil teat specifically and all oil in general. I look for Barry to declare an effective equivalent to JFK's New Frontier, a challenge that may seem impossible for Americans, or anyone for that matter to do. Make massive investments in currently non-existent technologies. These will be in all sorts of diversified renewables and cleaner energy producers together with building the infrastructure to bring the supply from the generating source. And there will be more nuclear facilities, but these still take many many years to build.

This is not an easy task and it's complicated by the fact that we have waited til well beyond crisis range to start a serious discussion about it. Jimmy Carter exhorted us to get control of our energy habit before it got control of us. We didn't listen. I hope that after tomorrow's speech, the energy will be on the side of changing our ways once and for all.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gravitar Lives on Facebook!!

In order to reach more folks more immediately I created a site on Facebook. Just look up "Gravitar Profundus" and hit the "like" button. Whether you agree or disagree with the shorter posts that will appear there, I hope you actually do like it and will please comment freely when there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Giving Them All the Rope They Need

I've never thought that Barry was a progressive activist. I read The Audacity of Hope and saw in it the approach of a measured, thoughtful lawyer/politician who had studied American social and political history pretty deeply. His successful political campaigns featured unbelievable acts of self-destruction on the part of nearly all of his opponents, and other than that, some tasty rhetoric on his part. In practice, he seemed always a pragmatist when it came to getting things done and relied mostly on the behavior of his colleagues and adversaries to determine where he would eventually land. Unprincipled as it sounds, it's practical politics and regardless of the fawning appreciation of the non-Fox mainstream media and DailyKos left during the campaign, he never behaved as anything other than a politician slightly left of center of where Bill Clinton ever was, which was only nominally left of center.

I suspect that in a different environment he'd be further left than he has acted while in office but that is simply not where we are today. We have been in a gradually rightward political shift ever since Reagan came to office. Much of the shift has been in the rhetoric rather in the actual policy because during much of this period, we still had oldline liberals in Congress capable of fending off the noise coming from the right. But because of the unusual ability of the Rove-led GWBush political machine to force the GOP congress to toe the presidential line, things took a fairly wild swing during that administration.

It's not normal for Congress and the President to work together as well as it did during the GWB years. Our Constitutional system of checks and balances was designed to assure that a certain degree of human ego would inevitably lead the members of the branches of government to jealously cling to every shred of power and influence that could be gathered. In practical terms this means one branch refusing to go along with what the other wants without a substantial degree of give and take and compromise.

In today's American government, we have a generational shift in the White House but we are still living with the Congressional detritus of the previous political generation. In other words, Congress is heavily laden with loud-mouthed rightwing Repubelicans who think they still represent a majority of opinion in this country while the Democrats fail to behave as if they actually represent the majority. For a pragmatically minded President, a very young and generally inexperienced one at that, this is not fertile land for growing a progressive program; even with the current extreme economic conditions he was bequeathed. So what's a dude to do?

Barry laid out some goals and pretty much let the congressional democrats create the roadmap to get there. The result is that at each and every point: stimulus, healthcare, banking regulation, environmental/energy policy, we end up with heavily watered down versions of what one would expect for such programs following the apparent sea-changed represented by Barry's ascension to the White House. This is because the still-existing democrats in congress have never had the stones to play hardball against their bloviationary colleagues to the right.

Accordingly, Barry has been in no position to force himself on Congress the way Rove and Bush did, so he's essentially gotten the best deals available and taken the credit for it, while congressional democrats get faulted for being pussies and the repubes get trashed by their own teabagging base for caving to the dems (as if there was any choice when in the minority). What does this all mean??

It means that Barry's tactics have essentially given all of Congress enough rope to hang themselves in the upcoming midterm elections. Barry himself is still wildly popular and his goals are as well (and yes, above 50% popularity this deep into a first term is defined in American politics as wildly popular). He gets popped now and again for not playing hardball, but ultimately congress gets blamed for how it all turns out -- intransigent, corporate-owned, out-of-touch buffoons that they can be.

It means that come the second half of his first term, when he has to crank it up for his own re-election, we are likely to see a congress with a lot of new faces, many of which are more likely to go to the further ends of their policy rhetoric than we've had for quite some time. But the dems will still hold sway and Barry and the slightly more left of centers, are likely to have their way.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Putting My Mouth Where My Money Is

A lot of what passes for punditry here can seem rather abstract or remote from daily existence. I try to keep things tangible but it doesn't always work. Tonight, however, things couldn't have been more direct for me as far as politics and real life. As close as my own front door.

I just came in, at about 12:15 in the morning, from a local city commission meeting that started at 6pm. The issue at hand involved the proposed rezoning and land use of a golf course, one of which's holes is effectively an extension of my front yard. My kids play there daily after the last round of duffers pass through.

Like so many other businesses, golf as a business is not doing well these days (it is here that I will refrain from digressing into a George Carlin rant about golf courses and the land they waste). The owners of the course, longstanding and respected members of and employers in the community that I live, came up with a plan to close the lesser of the two courses in town, the one I live across from, in order to get financing to refurbish the main course on the other side of the main road. A decent enough plan under the circumstances. But sale of the individual course was not possible so they applied to have the land rezoned for a new use. The new use was primarily for residential construction. Without getting to the obvious details, folks in range of the course were outraged that new development was on the table in this era of extreme hardship and excess in the housing market. And I didn't want a new row of townhouses built a hundred feet away from my door over the course of the next several years.

I've never been to a city commission meeting and I didn't expect much. But after running a little late I came around the corner to see the city hall mobbed. But not entirely with the red shirt-wearing fellow protesters of the plan. No, there seemed to be many more people there in green shirts saying YES to the plan. I got a sinking feeling. It was a great deal for the company but my home value, already slashed in half since the peak in 2005, would likely take another ten percent hit the moment the plan was approved. Green space around here is a rare commodity and private land or not, the communities had a stake in keeping it that way.

The company's attorney gave an excellent presentation that made lots of good points about what to do with a piece of "defunct" green space. But suddenly one of the neighborhoods came through with an attorney representing our side and slice by slice proceeded to take down the previously unchallenged plan. Then the public comments came in, at which time, most of the green shirted folks suddenly disappeared. But those who remained became more real to me. They weren't paid shills for a corporate behemoth. They were the employees of a large but locally run family operation, and over 60 of them stood a good chance of losing their jobs if the plan failed.

I had a prepared statement for when my turn came along. It was a bit folksy, a bit sarcastic, and a bit analytical (just like this-a-here blogitty thang), but I was among the last to speak and I'd realized that most of my analytical points had been covered extremely well by our attorney. And it was closing in on 11:30 by then. After talking briefly with one of my neighbors, I hit on a change of approach. I still didn't come close to thinking there were any good reasons to approving this development plan, but I did realize that, regardless of the truth of the owner's claims of poverty, there were at least 60 people sitting there with me who would be hit hard by a losing decision. That was how I addressed the commission. In short, business is tough, but home values are tougher. Hard as it might be these days, folks who lose jobs can go anywhere to find another one. I can't move my house.

Surely my ego played a role, but the reporter from the local paper didn't run up to anyone to get their name except mine. If she runs my statement then I'll post a link as a post-script.

Suffice to say, going in, I thought this entire process was pretty well in the tank for the golf course owner long ago. He has genuinely solid and long connections to the town, and despite the 500 or so homeowners directly affected, this is a town of 60,000 in a region where development has always been the answer to all social ills. But we had to try.

Would ya believe it,,,, we WON!!! Unanimously at that. It really felt like democracy in action and a set of elected officials who appeared to change their minds over the course of the night. And finally, as happy as I was for myself and my neighbors, I feel for the employees of the golf course, a few of whom I caught choking back some sobs. And a strange thing,,, a feeling of community, not just with my neighbors, but with the folks who lost too. Some of them have worked at that course much of their adult lives. What I hope is that I and my neighbors can continue to work together to maintain what now seems like it will be one really big extended park, and be sure we can take care of it for ourselves, our kids, our city, and hopefully employ the folks who have always worked that space and kept it looking good. We were on opposite sides of a contentious issue. Now we must work together for all of us. Can we? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Brief Word About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I have never been a fan of Bibi Netanyahu. He has always struck me as a smarmy used car salesman who isn't as smart as he's made out to be. And I've never been a fan of Israel's expansionist behavior. Israel occupies a precarious place in the world's psyche. Few outside of loons like Ahmadinejad argue with the existence of Israel on the basis of the Holocaust and the prior couple thousand years of Jewish history. But most of that bad experience came about as a result of European Christians not middle eastern Arabs. Before the 20th century, Arabs for the most part, and certainly relative to Europeans, coexisted with Jews whenever they have been in proximity with each other. Look at the years of Muslim occupation of Spain before 1492 for evidence of that fact. The common refrain "you can't just wish away 2000 years of Arab-Jewish conflict" is an absolute fallacy.

The result of European history towards the Jews, ending with the Holocaust, finally shamed the British to take a piece of its share of the moribund Ottoman Empire and cede it to the State of Israel in 1948. But that piece of land had been lobbied for by European Jews since the last quarter of the 1800s, not just the few years after WWII. And rather than the small sliver of a country that is officially Israel today, the first Zionists wanted twice that amount of land, specifically everything that is argued over today: Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights. The reasons for that territorial desire was simple and practical: access to the sea, defensive protection, but most importantly, because the West Bank contains the Jordan Valley -- the water. The region is a desert and the Israelis have made the desert bloom, but they did so by sucking out all the available water from underground. And without direct access to the Jordan Valley, it's gonna dry up in the near future. Hence the need for the land, not because God said so, but because to continue to exist and support the population, it needs water.

The other factor to consider is that because of how it was formed, Israel is essentially a European colony and brought with it all the usual problems and attitudes of a European colonial culture, much of which is not typical of Jewish culture. Most significantly racism, and a virus-like need to gobble any and all natural resources it can get.

Israel has two options: accommodate the reality of a native population, but one that greatly outstrips it in terms of birthrate, thereby requiring permanent second class status for Arabs if Israel is to retain a Jewish identity; or have a two state solution which prevents access to the water Israel needs to maintain it's literal ability to sustain itself. Both solutions presume the natives will finally recognize Israel as a fait accompli and stop trying to simply eliminate the place as a country and retake the territory.

Because of money and military hardware, the US is the only reason Israel continues to exist. In an earlier era it would have been treated as a vassal state but that isn't how we do things today. The result is that Bibi can get away with the insult perpetrated last week on VP Biden by announcing a huge construction project in E. Jerusalem in the midst of a so-called building "freeze".

But the Palestinians, never ones to ignore an opportunity to screw up a chance to get the world on its side, is responding by possibly beginning another Intifada. Between the Palestinians and Israelis, it would be hard to find two better matched peoples capable of legitimately playing the victim card.

The trouble now is that since the US has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, any action against Israel could easily bleed into violence against American military targets in the region. So instead of getting the relatively moderate leaders of the Palestinian west bank to the negotiating table, the hardliners of Hamas will end up taking the day again and it will remain War All The Time in the middle east, but in a much more threatening manner for the US as opposed to just "US interests." Hamas are terrorists with a tinge of legitimacy, and Bibi is no one I would ever let sell me a car.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

GOP: The Party of Nero

For over 30 years we have watched while a political party took the reigns of power by declaring the best government is that government which governs least. The notion took hold by virtue of twisted mythologies, blatant lies, interminable fear-mongering, subtle race-baiting, adolescent machismo, cowboy inanities, bad history, bad economic theory, bad corporate structure, bad foreign policy, bad math, bad science, no respect for the labor that actually built this country, stalinist tactics, purism in religion, absurd utopian conceptions of human behavior, suspicion of excellence, rejection of debate, refusal to compromise, and dividing to conquer. For over 30 years they have refused to address a staggering array of problems which, in their time, could have been handled had they engaged the drive and ingenuity of the American people. But they failed to do so because they were leaders who failed to lead all the while proclaiming how well they were leading. For over 30 years they had plenty they could have done but instead did nothing. All the while, they gave it away with a smirk as if this nation was some monstrous garage sale disgorging trinkets to the poor neighbors. They did not govern as that which governs least. They have governed as that which does not govern at all. For over 30 years the GOP has not been simply The Party of No. They have been The Party of Nero, fiddling away while our country turned to shit before our very eyes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Preview of the Healthcare Summit

Early signs regarding how the impending Healthcare Summit between Barry and the Repubes don't suggest that there will be a meeting of the minds. The jobs bill notwithstanding, I suspect we'll be witness to the final bell on bipartisanship. And I think, when it happens, it will look something like this: Summit Preview

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eric Cantor Wastes His Breath

Apparently a serious move is afoot to get a health care bill through congress which will include a public option and be passed via reconciliation, therefore requiring only 50 votes (plus the VP as tie breaker). Don't get me wrong, activists on the left have argued for such an approach since the first floundering last summer. Now the dems in the senate who are realizing that failure on the issue may be worse than the compromised stasis they've already bumbled into are waking up to that fact. And Barry's people in the White House too, have gotten the cojones bug and may be actually crafting some legislation to promote. Such a series of moves will get the job done and do so in a much more progressive manner than what was already coming out of the process.

Republican boy wonder Eric Cantor has declared that such action by the administration and congressional democrats will assure the end of any attempts at bipartisanship. Who is this guy threatening? The repubes have done nothing in a bipartisan manner since January 20, 2009. Before they can say there is no chance, they have to show there is one. I'm kind of at a loss as to why anyone pays attention to such blather at this point other than for the simple manner of showing the completely "opposite" point of view on an issue. This is to be distinguished from an "opposing" point of view, which suggests there is content in the view.

The election of '08 was a resounding statement to do things differently. Barry, being a lawyer and politician at heart, is interested in process. That explains his focus on bipartisanship because it suggests a fair airing of all views and inclusion in some form for all of them. But the people, being bottom line oriented, are interested in results. The dems in congress, who knows what they're interested in at this point? But it's sounding like maybe, just maybe they're all starting to wake up to the reality that they don't have a loyal opposition to deal with.

Since John Tower's and Robert Bork's smearings by the dems in the 80s, the Gingrich revolution in '94, the ongoing evisceration of Clinton in the late 90s, and the jackboot discipline of Rove in the aughts, the US congress has become less and less responsive to the needs of American society and ever more insular. It may be a fully broken institution which has no institutional knowledge of how to accomplish important functions anymore. This, more than any other, may be the most dangerous reality to develop in American politics since the Civil War. The devastation wrought by that conflict required a century of healing with scars that remain still. I fear the consequences of further rancor of the sort. We can be a mighty nasty people when unglued. And Elmer is skurrying for the hills by my view.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Iran: What Are We Waiting For?

No don't worry, I'm not about to go all Cheney on you. Military action in Iran by us or by Israel is not possible. The targets are too deep, too numerous, and probably not all identified. We can't accomplish our goals that way, and we never could have even had we done something back when Cheney was calling the shots. All that we would do is ruin the ongoing opposition movement which, though certainly not a liberal one by western standards, certainly would be by Iranian standards.

The so-called "crippling sanctions" against the regime and particularly geared towards the Revolutionary Guard should be engaged immediately without further delay. No muslim state in the region would object since the Shiite Persian regime stands as a threat to all Sunni Arab regimes to the west. Afghanistan and Pakistan are largely irrelevant. Only China and Russia could object but doing so would simply expose them for the rogue nations that they may be trying to avoid becoming (well China anyway, the Russians don't generally care much as they have their own oil but just like sticking it to the west and the US in particular for not somehow preventing the Russian slide into a crime ridden alcoholic haze in the post-cold war era).

Strange bedfellows could be made from such an arrangement, especially if it succeeds enough to instigate some manner of Iranian lashing out before they actually manage to enrich enough useful weapons grade uranium. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Syria anyone?

What do we have to lose by trying???

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Myth of Liberal Big Gov Love

In a corollary to the critique of the Supreme Court's recent decision that corporate campaign cash is unfettered free speech, I pose a notion for all which I hope will utterly reorient everyone's attitude towards left of center thinking. America was born of a fairly uniform belief that government cannot be trusted for much and should therefore remain as limited and unintrusive as manageable. For the most part, NONE OF US ARE BIG FANS OF GOVERNMENT OF ANY SIZE. I believe Americans tend to be anarchists at heart, wanting to abide by our own rules confident in the notion that we are decent enough folks in general to know how to treat each other with at least a minimum amount of respect and desire to get what we need without stepping on the needs of others. Please note that this is how we see ourselves individually, not that we actually behave that way all of the time. But I digress.

Folks on the right love to tar us left-of-centers as having big-government desires as solutions to all problems, real or perceived until, inevitably, the word socialist gets thrown around. Sorry but it just isn't so. The only reason there is any such thing as big government in this country in the first place is because of the threat to liberty posed by big business. Without big business, there would be little need for unions, minimum wage laws, workplace condition laws, immigration laws, child labor laws, environmental regulations, mandated product quality standards, and all of the bureaucracies which came into existence in order to enforce all of these rules.

Why is that? Very simply, if businesses stay small, there are many more of them available to serve the public and as a result to compete for the public's attention and affection. They have to compete! Big businesses don't compete much. They eat the competition, then can abuse their employees and their clientèle in order to simply produce their product as cheaply and efficiently as possible in the singular pursuit of profits and absolutely nothing more. Eventually, as happened in this country starting in the 1880s, something has to be done about them.

When businesses get too big they can begin to prey on the public. They become a nuisance or worse, which must be controlled. But at that point no individuals can do anything about their power. A giant corporation is a giant collective source of capital (money), power, and influence. The only institution, which at least theoretically has the ability to push back against such power is a government powerful enough to enforce rules against such entities. This is how government got so big in this country and this is why liberals get tarred with it as an epithet -- because before the liberals promoted big government, the "conservatives" but really just the repubelican party, bought in fully to the seduction of big business and the money that came along with it.

If big businesses are exceedingly difficult to create and maintain, there will be no need for a big government to protect the public against them. By necessity (or actually the lack of necessity) the big government will begin to shrink. The phrase "too big to fail" should be a concept which exists only in the lecture halls at university business schools and economics departments as nothing more than an efficiency exercise.

If you love capitalism like I do, then hate big business. Big business is the destructive force of capitalism like cancer is a destructive force of the body. It is part of the body gone haywire and left uncontrolled will destroy that which keeps it alive. A body without cancer needs no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. A body politic without enormous businesses needs no big government to oversee and regulate it.

End corporate personhood, break up all big businesses, encourage real competition by making a playing field where there are actually different businesses to compete with each other, not glop together for singular aims. Do that, and the money will be in the hands of the people, not in the pockets of oligarchs and plutocrats. True democracy, true liberty.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Put Up Or Shut Up

A long long time ago it seems, I suspected my friend Barry of being the best poker player I'd ever seen. If tomorrow night's State of the Union isn't the ultimate call on legislative branch, then we may be witnessing the resurrection of Herbert Hoover. It is what the repubes have been calling for and surely now that they would be getting they will refuse to claim ownership just as they say Barry has refused to claim ownership of the mess he inherited and by their standards, has contributed to in grand fashion. On the other hand, this could also be a mighty dare to the Democrats who have failed utterly to congeal around their savior for the benefit of their president, their party, their jobs, and certainly their constituents. They have had all the power they've needed to enact the measures promised by candidate Barry but they squandered it utterly. They still have the power since as has been observed, the GOP never needed 60 senate votes to do anything.

I struggle with the historical reality that 1st year presidents don't generally do very well but the inability of Barry and his team to get the wheels of government moving in a generally forward direction is disheartening. It's not uncommon for initial cabinet members to be swept away. It may be a bit early for that by past standards but, starting with Geithner, it could be time for such a cleansing.

As a politics junkie I usually look forward to the State of the Union address. I suffer through the anchors and their crowing at the pomp and majesty because I truly don't give a rip about that crap. I want some content. Right now I'm more concerned than ever and I more or less will be happy if at the end of Barry's portion I'm just not disgusted. My confidence is waning. How long will it be in the speech lead-ups until a bunch of pundits declare in unison "he needs to hit a home run/score a touchdown (hail mary pass)"?

As someone who was pivotal in getting this blog off the ground often said to me, "UGH!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Money Talks

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That's the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution boys and girls.

I'll need to keep this brief because it's late and I have other things to do.

Freedom of speech in this country has been defined to relate most significantly to political speech by persons. Since we are a representative republic, supporting a political candidate or officeholder is a substitute for one's own political speech. Therefore, donating money to a politician of one's choice has also been determined to be protected speech. In short, cash equals speech. At least one pundit criticized that conclusion by suggesting that by that logic, bribery should then be protected. But that is patently absurd because bribery is direct corruption which takes place out of sight behind closed doors. Like lobbying.

You got something to say, someone to support, someone you want to give money to? Fine thing Mr. America, declare it to the whole country out loud and in round figures.

Here's the thing though - long ago, for reasons that are not entirely consistent with the usual methods of interpreting law, corporations were defined as persons under the constitution. Ever since politicians have attempted to control or limit how and how much cash is used by corporations in the political process. Today the Supreme Court declared all such methods invalid. In other words, as the 1st amendment states, NO MEANS NO. Congress can't limit what a person (in this case, a corporate person) spends to support a candidate for political office.

This sounds horrible and commentators are already decrying the latest smash to the foundations of the country. They may be right about the end result, but in typical fashion, for the wrong reasons. This decision, under current constitutional interpretations, is completely correct. The problem isn't that corps are now allowed to throw millions (maybe for Exxon, billions) into a political campaign. The problem is that they can do so because they are considered persons under the law. Corporations are therefore entitled to all rights of persons. Isn't that absurd??

If you want the stranglehold of big business and the corrupting effects it has on governance to go away, don't whine about this particular decision - it is actually good that this situation is not parsed out as an exception which will only muddy the legal waters when some other little distinction needs to be made - focus on the cause of the problem. The cause here is that something not alive, yet which may theoretically never die, has all the rights and privileges of the living.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Silver Lining

Since the 60 vote Democratic supermajority was tossed into the grave with Ted Kennedy last night, it has looked more than a little frustrating for us left of center folk. But now that the ire has ebbed a bit (or at least I have let mine so flow), I have had a few moments of mental time to consider how the new situation can still work to the benefit of the Left. And what it seems to me at the moment is that the loss in Massachusetts last night may actually work to the benefit of the left rather than hurt it.

Simply stated, the Dems can now act like a party of the left instead of kowtowing to faux dems like Lieberman and Ben Nelson (for the record, I understand why Nelson behaves as he does, coming from Nebraska, but Lieberman still has no excuse other than to eternally torment the party that nearly made him Vice President but for his ineffective campaigning).

The 7 or 8 moderates in the party can now be treated like any wavering mods that were in the GOP the past 15 years. Either they join in or get hammered in primaries next election cycle. And Lieberman can finally be shitcanned altogether as he ought to be.

Supermajorities have been rather uncommon in American political history and the system was designed for it to be difficult. Nevertheless, things get done. While the dems had 60, nothing got done. Maybe this loss is a blessing in disguise. Let's hope so.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Did Obama Really Win the Presidency?

Seriously folks, if the dems in Massachusetts couldn't hold Ted Kennedy's seat, how did they manage to win the White House or their still significant majorities in both houses of Congress. It seems we're back to the way things were before Barry won in '08.

The question now is whether the dems in Congress have the balls to get healthcare passed in any of the remaining methods available to them without 60 votes once Sen. Brown (R-Mass) is sworn in. Personally I like the one that has them get the compromise done and voted on before he has to be sworn in according to Massachusetts law. I believe that brings it to about Jan. 29.

You got 10 days folks. Can you do it?

Jon Stewart observed that the Repubelicans never had 60 in the Senate yet they did absolutely anything they wanted. Why??