Thursday, December 23, 2010

Red Herring- Too Big To Fail

Some have argued that a failure of the 2010 Congress was its  failure to break up the big six "too-big-to-fail" banks.

The issue isn't "too big to fail."  That is a red herring in the analysis of our banking system problems..

The issue is the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the "rescue" of the commercial banks of the 1990's by allowing them to merge with investment banks.

In the 30s, we broke them up into 2 industries (1) low risk, low return commercial banks, to handle "the people's money/savings" - money we need and can't put at risk;  and (2) high risk high reward investment firms to handle investment money - money folks and companies are willing to put at risk and can afford to loose.

From the 70s through the 1990s, the incursion of other, unregulated industries into the profitable lines of the commercial banks made them relatively unprofitable, return-on-investment-wise.

Traditionally, central banks (like the Federal Reserve) have promoted commercial bank system efficiency and confidence by standing as the "lender of last resort."  Not "too big to fail" but "too important to fail."  (That role  had never been invoked through at least the 1980's, but the possibility served to promote the commercial banking system.)

When commercial banks became relatively unprofitable in the 90's, their "rescue" by allowing them to merge with high risk banks, while extending the role of "lender of last resort" to the investments banks was madly short-sighted.

Don't be distracted by the idea of "too big to fail." 

Recognize that we need (1) profitable but safe commercial banks (which also provide the incredibly important global payments systems and import/export finacing) and (2) separate high risk high reward investment banks for those who have some money they can afford to put at risk.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Forest and The Trees

Listening to a political discussion  carried on NPR this morning, I noticed the analysis of various subjects - the trees - seemed to lose sight of some overall concepts - the forest.

The conservative panelist justified the rejection of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 on the grounds that "we need to pay for it" and the bill didn't do so.

Moments later, he defended tax cuts because, well, just because, so far as I could tell. 

If one steps back to view the fiscal and moral forest, the current GOP position seems to be that we have to "pay our way" in meeting our moral obligations to help those in need, and at the same time they argue that we have to cut back on our ability to do so.

Is the supposed need to "pay our way" the real justification for the Republican Party's rejection of the bill?

"Pay our way."  How many people borrow to buy a house?  A car?  Pay college tuition?  Buy that big screen TV.

That is all "good" economics (borrow our way)  because it serves business - aka mammon.

Should we borrow to help those in need?  The answer of too many these days is not only "No" but "Hell no!"

One current GOP idea is that the nation should manage its finances the same way a family does.

How many families in modern America don't borrow for both important and frivolous reasons?

Not to suggest that helping the poor is a frivolous undertaking.  Christ certainly didn't think so.  And He didn't put conditions on who he helped.








In addition, note that the goals and financial obligations of a family unit are very different that of a government.

How many families would adopt the "mission statement" of the US Constitution as their family credo:

"To form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Is the supposed need to "pay our way" the real justification for the Republican Party's rejection of the bill?

Perhaps Stephen Colbert indirectly provided the answer when he said:

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we have got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FoxNews Bears False Witness

On Monday, 12/13, FoxNews presented an editorial excoriating "the Senate" for failing to bring the 'James Zadroga 911 Health and Compensation Act' to the floor for a vote.

The Fox editorialist announced that "Shame .Embarrassment. Outrage. Anger. All are proper reactions to the conduct of our Senators who will now find one excuse after another to explain away the fact that they have turned their back on American heroes"

Fox didn't mention that the bill didn't make it to the floor because of a Republican filibuster.  It didn't identify the Republicans as those deserving  the "shame, embarrassment and outrage"

To criticize the GOP would violate Fox's apparent "the GOP is always right" position. 

On the other hand, by attacking the Senate as a whole.  Fox fulfilled the long standing right wing anarchistic view that "government is the problem," as pronounced by President Reagan in his first inaugural address 


By suppressing the fact of who was responsible, FoxNews was spreading false reports, also known as bearing false witness, which is condemned by the 10 commandments.  Perhaps Fox should have those commandments displayed in its news rooms.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bi-partisanship Dance Step and Metaphors

Dear President Obama:

Re: Bi-partisanship

It takes two to tango - but when one partner is only looking to tangle, it ain't a dance anymore!


Or, another metaphor:  the republicans have switched the road signs around and taken down the barrier where the bi-partisan bridge has been washed out.

Or another: Don't forget, Wiley Coyote never caught on, but he was just a cartoon character.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Disrespect

The Republicans have expressed reluctance to meet with President Obama because he "dissed them" last year.  (Apparently, his cogently expressing a different opinion and vision is considered disrespectful to some Republicans.)

The Republicans are complaining about him dissing them?

That party of "You Lie?" the party of Sarah Palin's bullying sarcasm?  The party which kowtows to Beck and Limbaugh?  The party of unceasing lies about him?

The party of whom Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said “I just find it deplorable that some people on my end of the aisle want to find everything wrong and nothing right about the man as a man"?

They are complaining about expressions of disrespect?

And the country isn’t roaring with laughter?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Checks and Balances and Free Enterprise

Corporations have done many fine things, they have developed many fine products and improved the quality of life in many ways, and they deserve credit and recognition for these accomplishments

But the driving corporate motive of profits for a select few is a  non-starter when it comes to serving all of We the people of the United States.

 
What have we seen when the concepts of "free enterprise" and a shackled government have dominated our economy and country?
  • The "Robber Barons" and rapacious monopolies as the industrial revolution kicked into high gear after the Civil War;
  • Exploitation of workers, including child workers, in sweat shops with no provisions for their health and safety.  (In the US 100 years ago; in the third world today);
  • A meat industry 100 years ago which produced and got rich on unsanitary meat.  (And a food industry today which can neither promise nor deliver safe and healthy food);
  • Triangle Shirt Waist Factory tragedies where hundreds of workers were incinerated because workers weren't entitled to safe working conditions.  (Today: the Upper Big Branch Mine collapse, the 47 killed in the Xingdong Number Two Mine disaster in China, etc);
  • An economy of rich and poor, with a scant middle class.  (After a century of progressive economics and a blossoming middle class, we are seeing the middle class rapidly disappear in the face of Reaganomics and right wing economics);
  • A couple of centuries of repeated series of banking failures and panics about every 15-20 years; put on hold during effective use of the New Deal banking regulatory scheme, revived with the crash of 2007-8 following the Reagan to Bush II's evisceration of effective banking regulations);
  • A country in which many of our legislators were bought and sold by those with the money (also in modern revival);
  • A country where the elderly and the sick and the dispossessed had no safety net.
  • Toxic waste dumps, A Great Lake which was near dead, vast "islands" of waste clogging our oceans, a climate on the edge of changing all of life as we know it.
  • Millions of jobs outsourced to foreign countries at the huge economic and societal cost to our country.

Unrestrained govrnment is bad, but so is unrestrained "mammon," AKA unrestrained commerce and corporatism.

Our country and economy do best when we have balance - when we have checks and balances on the centers of power.

Our votes are a check and balance on government.

Where are the checks and balances on "free enterprise" and the giant corporations which use that concept to seek profits for a few among us at the expense of people, the environment and basic justice?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Which Dem for President in 2012?

Subsequent to this Post, President Obama has denied that he is caving to Republican demands that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest be extended.

Subsequent to that subsequent update, he caved.

It seems to me that anyone who claims to be fighting deficits and yet is in favor of tax cuts is really just interested in gutting our government.

Remember, those tax cuts were enacted when tax revenues were high enough to generate a surplus - and Republicans felt tax cuts were more important that paying down the deficit.


Dear President Obama.

You failure to fight for the reinstatement of the higher tax rate for the richest convinced me that my working for your election in 2008 - (knocking on doors, working the phone banks as a volunteer) and voting for you - were misguided. Your election has not resulted in any apparent concerted attempt to achieve the change I and so many others had hoped for and which you lead us to believe you represented.


This latest capitulation simply continues the trend of increasing disappointment.

Fight, darn it. Don't roll over and say "gee, this is the best we can do." You haven't even tried.

Are you really the president of the United States?

Sadly, I ask because your actions and inactions belie that alleged fact,

And sadly, I am pretty darned sure I actively campaign for _anyone_ who opposes you for the 2012 Democratic nomination.

With immeasurable disappointment

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jesus, Sulphur and International Law. A Parable for Oklahoma

Long long ago, in land far, far away, a prince, son of The King, sent his 12 followers on a quest, telling them:
“Go to the lost sheep of this land and proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Do really good stuff for people.
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.  Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodomville and Gomorrahburg on the day of judgment than for that town which has denied its hospitality to you..
“You see, long ago, Sodomville would greet travelers and strangers with threats of mayhem, and my Dad really taught them good that He meant it when he commanded them,  ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ 
"Remember, the people of that town violated His commandment and His code of hospitality, and they were done unto by His raining down burning sulfur, killing them all."

The commandment to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was one of the very first of international laws.

Oklahoma has now forbidden its courts from considering international law in deliberating on how to best do justice.

And Oklahomans seem to be, well, less then welcoming to the Muslim’s among them.

If Oklahoma law is supreme, I guess the people of Oklahoma don’t have to worry about that international law involving doing unto others.

If, however, the law of the Lord is supreme, perhaps Oklahomans should consider joining Abraham and splitting for Zoar before the next rain comes.  (They say Zoar, Ohio is lovely this time of year.....  )

As Doc Luke told us, “Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.  Remember Scripture, and beware the fox, who ruins the vineyards.


Many areas of American law embody the idea of “freedom of contract.”   In consensual matters, we have long promoted the idea that the parties should have the liberty to decide what law should govern their interactions.

Oklahoma has struck a mighty blow against the American concepts of freedom and liberty.

Not to say their whistling past the graveyard of the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" concept.

Thus endeth the lesson....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bet the Farm Or Nurture It?

Bottom line: stability of our financial and commercial markets has costs, "free enterprise" promotes avoiding such costs and thus inherently does not provide stability.

We all know that the return on an investment will reflect the degree of risk: high risk, higher potential returns.

We often forget that (i) reducing risk costs money (which reduces the return on investment), and (ii) our system needs oases of low risk.

Today's financial institutions ("aka "banks" aka "Wall Street") can chose whether to make relatively low risk and low return corporate loans or to make high risk high return speculative investments (such as in the secondary mortgage markets and derivatives markets.)

When bonuses are based on high returns, and stock prices reflecting "return on assets," is it any wonder that bankers now prefer to bet the farm rather then nurture the farm?

Especially when the government will pick up the tab? 

The current financial system in the US is designed to have repeated failures and either (i) government bailouts or (ii) economic depressions.

Something has to change.

After the Great Depression's banking crisis, we divided banking into two basic categories: commercial banks - which take deposits make loans to people and corporations; and investment banks - which accept investment money and re-invest it in various vehicles.

Commercial banks were required to be low risk because the government guaranteed their deposits; investment banks were allowed to take whatever risks they wanted because there were no guarantees to those who used them to channel their investment funds.

(Commercial banks also have had the "unspoken" guarantee" of likely support in cases of financial crisis from the Fed as "lender of last resort."  Bankers and economists have long known that failure of any bank of significant size carries systemic risk, and one of the roles of central banks is provide stability to the banking system by reducing the chances of bank failures thus reducing risk in the system.)

To ensure the low risk nature of commercial banks, the regulatory system imposed certain compliance and economic costs on commercial banks: reserve requirements and, starting in the late 80s capital adequacy requirements (which assess the riskiness in a banks portfolio and set minimum capital requirements based on the overall risk profile of a bank's portfolio.)  These are known as "safety and soundness" requirements
In the 80s and 90s, commercial banks were losing loan market share to non-regulated entities to the extent that commercial banks were becoming non-viable as economic entities.

Stability of the banking system is not a free lunch - of course there are costs of regulations, but those costs provide benefits.

Given the anti-government anti-regulatory political environment of the times when commercial bank profits were slumping (because of "financial disintermediation"), there was simply no way that "safety and soundness" requirements could be placed on the non-bank lending competitors.

Thus, to restore commercial viability for commercial banks, in the 90s the separation between commercial banks and investment banks, the Glass-Stegall Act was essentially gutted, but without imposing "safety and soundness" requirements needed (i) as the quid pro quo for federal guarantees and (ii) to promote systemic stability.

It as the evisceration of the regulatory structure which allowed banks to make high risk decisions and loss big time.

We need to find a way to restore profitability to commercial lending, and not simply make it easier and more lucrative to swing a bank's portfolio to high risk ventures.

Bottom line: stability of our financial and commercial markets has costs, "free enterprise" promotes avoiding such costs and thus inherently does not provide stability.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Where Are The Jobs?

Gosh darn it! Where are the Jobs, Mr President?

Heck, President Reagan took office during a recession, and after a year and a half....

Ah, er, the unemployment rate was still rising.

Sorry Mr President, I guess I've been a tad too impatient....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Does The First Amendment Mean Separation of Church and State

I had a discussion the other day with a conservative who insisted that the Constitution does not provide for the “separation of church and state” because those exact words are not in the Constitution.

I asked him what the First Amendment’s religion clause actually says.

He didn't know the exact language, (see below) but asserted variously that it means (i) the government can’t make you follow a particular religion and (ii) the government can’t tax churches and (iii) the government can’t create a church.

I pointed out that none of those words appear in the Constitution either, so, by his logic (that the First Amendment doesn’t call for a separation of church and state because it doesn’t use those words) then it wouldn’t call for his propositions either because it doesn't use the words he used.

My logic fell on deaf ears, even when I pointed out the description of the First Amendment as providing for a “separation of church and state” came from Thomas Jefferson, one the most influential of the “Founding Fathers.” (See also, this Wikipedia article.)

Ah well.

When you stop to consider it, the idea that the explanation that (aka explication, or, in legal terminology, 'construction of') the First Amendment can’t mean it calls for a “separation of church and state” because it doesn’t use those exact words displays, to me, a fundamental misunderstanding of what an explanation can and can’t possibly be. (Or perhaps just a failure to think through what the argument actually is.)

By definition, an explanation has to use words other than the exact words used.

If you insist that an explanation has to be identical with the clause itself, you are left with:

The phrase in the First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” means that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Which is, of course, no explanation at all, our knowledge and understand remains unexpanded.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mr. President You Represent We the People

Dear Mr. President:

I urge, indeed beseech you, the President of 'we the people' to veto the "Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act."

I know you aren't a liberal, but if you want to advance the interests of the Democratic Party and enhance our chances in this upcoming election, you will use this opportunity to publicly denounce this effort to make it easier for the banks to harm people.

If the banks had hitherto evidenced good faith and fair dealing, it would be one thing.

They haven't, and the burden of proof should be on them before throwing families out on the street.

Respectfully,

Government and Corporations and Choices

Corporations are now beginning to use their accumulated excess cash (yes, they've been getting richer these days while huge numbers of people are suffering) to buy back shares.

That's a good thing for a company - boosts its earnings per share ratio which Wall Street likes, which boosts its stock price (which typically also boosts the bonuses of the corporate executives.)

I don't have a problem, per se, when a corporation pursues it's goals - corporations have done a lot of good things over the decades.

But this use of accumulated corporate funds doesn't do much for we the people of the United States; we need a strong government to represent our goals and address our needs, not those of the corporate world.

It is claimed that the current “uncertainty" is why corporations aren’t using the money they have accumulated while the economy has struggled investing in hiring or infra-structure.

Governance of our country can’t be timid, though, especially in times of trials and in the face of “uncertainty” and and during a period of a drastic reduction of “the public welfare.” (Promotion of the general welfare was one of the six essential purposes the founding fathers declared when creating our government.)

The central goal and focus of a corporation, however, is to maximize shareholder profits. That’s all well and good

That central focus should not be prevail (openly or by stealth) in setting effective public policies or for running our government.

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution on behalf of “we the people.” Lincoln taught us that the United States is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Excessive corporate political power simply does not promote such a vision of what the United
States is or is supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Best Run States v Worst Run States

Last month, we saw that the 'Blue States' tend to have higher median incomes than the 'Red States.' Which doesn't prove they have better governance, but which is, I believe, suggestive.

The Wall Street Journal just published a list of "The Best and Worst Run States In America: A Survey of All Fifty"

I figured it would be interesting to see how that list breaks down by Red State v Blue State v "Purple State" (Wikipedia: "A purple state refers to a swing state where both Democratic and Republican candidates receive strong support without an overwhelming majority of support for either party.")

Here it is:

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Disheartnening View of the Electorate

My Field Trip: Repub v. Dems - And Some MoveOn-ers

Tonight I stopped by a Toledo High School where senate candidates Rob Portman(Rep) and Lee Fisher (Dem) were holding a debate.

I visited with the demonstrators/sign holders out front.

Wearing a blue blazer, wrinkled light cargo pants, and a casual stripped shirt, I first approached the Portman supporters - a group of perhaps 30.

I loudly announced that I was ready to stand with anyone who could recite the preamble to the Constitution, or tell me the six broad goals for government contained in it.

After several minutes, in which a few people asked why anyone should know what was in it, and a self-proclaimed law student announced that there was no need to know the Constitution, one fellow finally came up and quickly recited it. He didn’t seem to be able to actually discuss the significance of those six points.

One fellow suggested that only Tea Party people are interested in the Constitution!

All in all, the Republicans were somewhat befuddled and mildly suspicious, but overall a pleasent enough group.

I then crossed the road to the Fisher supporters, asking the same question.

They were definitely belligerent, and maintained their hostile attitude even after I affirmed I’m a democrat and will be voting for their guy.

All in all, the dems were jerks (or at least the outspoken few.)

I then went to the MoveOn folks. They had mounted a conceptual “protest,” pretending to be corporate high rollers buying the Republican candidate. Cute concept, perhaps, but they were clueless as to why the press folks didn’t approach them.

Altogether, none of the people I spoke with elevated my opinion of the electorate.

If I had to choose a group to hang out with, the MoveOn-ers were kind of like puppy dogs, or maybe deer caught in the headlights- pretty nice, but.... The Republicans were the most engaged on various issues (although they seemed to believe that issues they raised with me could bee answered with a simple, black/white analysis- and they really didn’t like my answer, such as on the union card check question they posed, that I could see good arguments for both sides of the issue. And I really hope the one guy’s idea that the details of Constitution are unimportant isn’t widely held, although that seemed to be the consensus view over on that side.

I simply can’t see myself bending a friendly elbow with the democrats who were there; they apparently jumped to the conclusion that because I was wearing a blazer I am a Republican, even after I explicitly stated my affiliation they maintained their hostile stance.

Bottom line, God bless America - please. As a democracy, we need all of the help we can get....

Art 10 Congressional Powers And Tenthers

Re the “Tenthers”

So called “tenthers” are arguing these days that a range of laws and programs passed by Congress over the centuries are unconstitutional violations ofthe Tenth Amendment (technically known as "Article X" of the Constitution.

The 10th Amendment provides:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

A typical argument is that there is “no specific power in the constitution for Congress to adopt a ‘this’ program [such as Social Security]” and they point to the enumerated powers in Article II.

They gloss over three things:

First, Article X does not say “not specifically delegated to the United States....”

Second; Article II, as drafted and adopted by the “founding fathers [and mothers .... I’ll betcha there was lots of espousal ‘discussion’ around the kitchen table and some nights on the couch , about the draft Constitution] has a “here you guy, boys, go on out and play” clause in Section 8,

"The Congress shall have Power.... 18: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States....”

That is a specific delegation of a general, non-enumerated power to Congress.

Anyone who has actually worked on drafting a law has struggled with the issue of how “general” or how “specific” any particular provision should be.

Too general and you fail to provide necessary guidance to people (the “void for vagueness” doctrine) or not only open the barn doors, but tear the whole thing down as an enclosure; too specific and the law may not achieve the full desired effect, especially as conditions in a society change.

The FF/Ms knew of this balancing act: they avoided “too general” by tying the ‘necessary and proper’ clause to the powers granted by the Constitution, they avoided the too narrow a Constitution by including this general clause.

Third point: The “tenthers ignore the final provision in Article X:

“The powers not delegated to the United States ... are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

How do “the people” exercise the powers “reserved? to them?”

The people can only exercise their power through their vote: by electing officials based on the vision of government and the programs they propose.

So, even Article I doesn't directly reach some program, the "reserved to the people" clause in Article 10 confers that power by the people exercising the vote.

There is, of course, a legitimate question as to how broad the powers of Congress (and the Executive) should be.

But Article X is not a sound basis on which to reach the conclusion that the powers are narrowly limited to only the powers specifically mention in Article I [Congress] (and Article II [the Executive])

[On Edit] See, also my more recent blog discussion of where the Federalist Papers explicitly reject this restrictive "tenther" reading)


Bonus point: If you are a “tenther,” you have to be opposed to immigration quotas - the Constitution does not confer any power to regulate immigration.

Section 8.4, does confer on congress the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” but naturalization is not immigration - immigrants might seek to become citizens, which is what naturalization is, but “moving here” is not the same thing as “becoming a citizen here.

Is the US a Democracy or a Republic?

Is the US a democracy or a republic?

“Yes.”

Some people think a ‘democracy’ and a ‘republic’ are somehow different, and that calling the US a democracy is wrong.

One person I know who makes that claim cites:

"The American Ideal of 1776: The Twelve Basic American Principles" by Hamilton Abert Long
http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/AmericanIdeal/aspects/demrep.html

This claimed position (based on a political argument, not on a lexicographic analysis) seems to be making the right wing rounds in justifying the obstructionism by Republicans in the US Senate of the will of the majority as expressed in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

"We aren’t a democracy and it is wrong to say 'majority rules'” is the argument justifying the current anti-government, anti-democracy right wing politics.


Are the two terms necessarily identical? Not necessarily.

Is the US both a democracy and a republic?

Yes it is. At least if you use dictionaries and the work of lexicographers,

For example:
“Democracy:
“A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
“A form of government whose head of state is not a monarch; ‘the head of state in a republic is usually a president’"
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

“A republic is a form of government in which the citizens choose their leaders and the people (or at least a part of its people) have an impact on its government. The word "republic" is derived from the Latin phrase res publica, which can be translated as ‘a public affair’".
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic

“re·pub·lic
“ /r??p?bl?k/ Show Spelled[ri-puhb-lik]
“–noun
“1. a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.
“2. any body of persons viewed as a commonwealth.
“3. a state in which the head of government is not a monarch or other hereditary head of state.”
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/republic

“Main Entry: re·pub·lic
“Pronunciation: \ri-?p?-blik\
“Function: noun
“Etymology: French république, from Middle French republique, from Latin respublica, from res thing, wealth + publica, feminine of publicus public — more at real, public
“Date: 1604
“1 a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government
“b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government”
http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict/republic

= = = = = = = = =
Definitions of democracy:

“The political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives
“* a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
“* majority rule: the doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding on the whole group”
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

“de·moc·ra·cy”
“–noun, plural -cies.
“1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/democracy

“Definition of DEMOCRACY
“1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy?show=0&t=1286193280

= = = = =
“Democracy:
“Synonyms: democratic system, democratic state, democratic organization, representative form of government, republic, parliamentary government”
http://encarta.msn.com/thesaurus_561570752/democracy.html

“Main Entry: democracy
“Synonyms:
“... republic....” [from a very long, very widely spread list],
http://freethesaurus.net/s.php?q=democracy

= = = =
Synonyms:

“republic (n)
“Synonyms: state, nation, democracy”
http://encarta.msn.com/thesaurus_561585989/republic.html

“Synonyms, Thesaurus & Antonyms of 'republic'
“1. (noun) democracy, republic, commonwealth
“a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
“Synonyms: nation, republic, majority rule, country, state, body politic, res publica, commonwealth, land, democracy
“2. (noun) republic
“a form of government whose head of state is not a monarch
“Synonyms: democracy, commonwealth”
http://www.synonyms.net/synonym/republic

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's Take Back Our Government

Per government reporting figures collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, from 1998 to 2010 (through July 26, 2010) a total of $28,572,805,552 ($28.58 billion) has been spent on lobbying at the Federal government level.

$23,873,803,363 ($23.87 billion, which is 83.5% of all lobbying) of that was by corporations.

$417,436,640 ($0.42 billion, which is 1.5% of all lobbying) came from labor unions.

(The remaining $4.7 billion, 16.,4%, came from sources which are not easily characterized as to goals or economic interests.)


If that money was paid in $100 dollar bills, over those 12 ½ years, corporations have pushed over a 163.2 mile high pile of $100 dollar bills, 57 times as high as the 2.9 mile high pile supplied by unions

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm Not Whining Mr Vice President

Whining? You think we’re Whining?

I’m sorry Mr Vice President, I must have misheard you; I thought you said we liberals and progressives are whining.

Someone needs to get his ears checked. Maybe some waxy buildup?

We’ve been shouting, Mr Vice President. LOUDLY. We’ve tried to do so with the respectful tones appropriate for writing to you guys - maybe you’ve been so busy ignoring the hateful insults from the right that you just haven’t heard us.

Here’s a tip: we’re used to the hateful attacks from the right wing extremists; attacks from our own party’s leaders just don’t make us feel too enthusiastic.

I’ve voted in every presidential election since 1972; at the presidential level, I’ve voted for the Democratic candidate in each of them.

I thought I was voting for a Democratic candidate in 2008. I actually worked my butt off for you guys, door knocking and manning the telephone banks and arguing on-line and off.

I knew President Obama wasn’t a liberal, despite what some said. Unfortunately, I mistook him for a Democrat.

With all due respect, Democrats don’t kick the crap our of the autoworker union (who have been making concessions for years to do their part in saving the auto-industry) and then turn around and let Wall Street walk all over them. (Another analogy involving soap and looking for Wall Street showers to drop it in shall remain unspoken for the sake of the children present....)

I follow politics pretty closely. You guys have let the right wing crap all over you and all over the Democratic Party and liberals.

And now you expect us to develop some enthusiasm because....? You expect us to think “gee, if we just keep this election from being a rout, the administration will start standing up to the bullies and work to promote the core values of the Democratic Party?”

With all due respect, Mr. Vice President, we aren’t whining and we aren’t stupid.

Maybe if you guys spend October standing up for the time honored Democratic vision of America cherished by us, maybe, just maybe, we’ll decide there is a chance you’ll stand-up to the bullies.

I’ll hold my breath, but not for too long.

Of the People, By the People, For the People - Remember that Line?

The White House has signalled that in replacing Larry Summers as director of the National Economic Council, it wants to appoint a corporate, preferably Wall Street honcho, to send a signal that Obama really does like Wall Street.

Dear Mr President: How about sending a message to the American People that Wall Street has to be held accountable for the wide spread misery and economic ruin it has caused?

How about sending a message to the American people that you agree with Abraham Lincoln: this country is "of the people, by the people and for the people."

Ever since the development of corporations and corporate power following the Civil War, corporations have done many fine things for our economy.

Corporations exist to serve their shareholders. By law, that is what they are supposed to do and that is perfectly fine.

They do not exist and are not intended, however, to serve 'We the people of the United States.' Their goal is to maximize profits for their shareholders, their purpose is not to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." [Preamble, US Constitution.]

Corporations do many fine things. But dictating public policy and controlling the governance of the United States is not among the things they do well.

Let corporations do what they are good at, but remember: there is no 'inc' in "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dear President Obama.... That smile was the straw ....

Dear President Obama:

At your Town Hall Meeting yesterday, September 20, as woman in the audience announced that “Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration...” a huge smile spread across your face.

What the heck were you thinking?

She is far from alone. Many of my friends who worked hard to get you elected feel the same way.

And you thought it was funny? Or were you nervously acknowledging the uncomfortable truth?

At this point, after 18 months of your bowing to the radical right and putting the interests of the Wall Street above those of the rest of America, that smile, even if of discomfort, demonstrates to me that you have not served the people who voted for you.

I believe that smile was the straw which has broken my back: I am now beyond exhaustion. I now sadly believe you are unfit for the office to which we elected you.

Please resign and turn over the presidency to Joe Biden.

Resignedly yours,

rjw

NW Ohio

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Following the States' Relative Economic Successes

How do the states with conservative economic policies size up?

Matt Yglesias at ThinkProgress.org made an interesting observation the other day:
"why [are we] supposed to believe that conservative ideas will produce prosperity when the portions of the country most governed by conservative ideas tend to be least-prosperous"?
http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2010/09/postal-policy-in-the-csa/
A friend contested that idea, so I decided to test his assertion for myself by identifying per capita income on a Red State/Blue State map.

(Note first that I believe there is absolutely no correlation between income and a person's value, especially a state's per capita income and the value of any person in that state.)

And of course, there were more blue states than red states in 2008, so some of the blue states had to be below the median per capita state income.

Interestingly, there were only 2 red states above the median (Alaska - thanks oil resources) and Georgia. (Valuable peaches? Atlanta?)

Other than those 2,
all of the red states were below the median per capita income.

As Matt asked, do we really want the economic ideas and practices of the lowest economic performing states to set our national economic principles and practices?

In this map, yellow type is for below the median, black is for above the median: I believe the correlations of red state/yellow type and of blue state/black type is instructive:


Friday, August 13, 2010

Mr Gibbs, You don't get it

Per one of the news channels: "Gibbs was airing the White House's long-term frustration over what they consider to be unreasonable criticism from the left. For example, they still find it hard to believe that the president defied the odds -- after a century of effort by health reformers -- by passing health care reform, and some on the left still focus on the failure to pass single-payer, or least a public option."

We're happy you all achieved what you did, we're disappointed that you didn't even try for a single payer system.

When you start negotiating from the middle, you aren't going to end up there.

And there are a plethora of issues where the President seems to buy into the idea that private corporations are well suited to the task of leading public governance.

They aren't - Corporations can do great stuff, running a country isn't one of them.

There is no "inc" in "We the People" or "of the people, by the people and for the people."

Dear President Obama - Please Reset Your Direction

Dear President Obama:

Yesterday you sent me an email and asked me, as a supporter of yours in the past, to commit to vote this fall.

I would be happy to commit to vote, but only if you, as president, will (i) commit to the principles of the Democratic party and (ii) commit to fighting for those principles and against the corporatism to which you have been far too accommodating.

There is no "inc" in "We the People" or "of the people, by the people for the people."


Corporations do many fine things. As an attorney and constitutional scholar, however, you of all people should understand that the goals of maximizing profits for a small private group of shareholders is a completely different set of values than those needed to run our government.

Corporate goals are, quite properly, private goals; they are ill-fitted to the public concerns of government.

"Of the people, by he people, for the people;" not "of the shareholders, by the employees, for the shareholders."

I beseech you: join with President Lincoln's resolve that " that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

By the way, I am a liberal, but I am not of "the professional left." Whoever is advising you to show such disrespect to erstwhile supporters (who wish to continue to support you but see little reason to do so) is serving you badly.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Take Back Our Government -Again!

Corporations are essential to our economy and have done many fine things.

But, by law, a corporation is "Of the shareholders, by the employees, for the shareholders."

It strikes me as strange that anyone would think that such a legally mandated focus on one group of people would lead to good public governance for all of the people.

There is no "inc" in "We the People" or in "Of the people, by the people and for the people."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Take Back Our Government!

Yes! Let's Take Back Our Government!

Lincoln might have used ink writing the Gettysburg Address, but there is no "inc" in "Of the People, by the people, and for the people."


© 2010 rjw.progressive@gmail.com
You read it here first!!!
I hereby grant a royalty free use for the first 10,000,000 people to use this phrase!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Quick Note

I need to get these charts up for a political discussion on FB

This chart shows the public sector and private sector percentages of the sub-prime mortgage securitization market in 2003 and 2006
















And this next chart shows the total growth in the sub-prime mortgage securitization markets from 2003 and 2006 and the percentage growth of the public sector and the private sector.




Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is American Exceptionalism Exceptional?




"My dog is better than your dog." (Canine exceptionalism) *

"My elementary school is the best one in town." (Elementary exceptionalism.)

"My high school is the best one in the state." (Wilsonian "Rah rah rah, be true to your school" exceptionalism, Brian style)

My state is the best in the country. (State exceptionalism)

My college's football team can beat up your college's football team. (Gridiron exceptionalism)

My fraternity is better than your fraternity. (Greek exceptionalism?)


I love my country, and I celebrate that we have done many great things in this world, not the least of which are creating modern democratic governance, as well as, usually, trying to improve it and us.

But I simply cannot take the next exceptionalism step (to the nationalist level) and still look myself (or my dog ) in the mirror....

Your mileage may vary

===================

* This is the first line of Tom Paxton's "My Dog Is Bigger Than Your Dog" Lyrics I suspect this reading of his song is where Paxton was going in those early days of his career.

Amazingly (?), there is no YouTube of him performing it. (I heard him in concert a few decades ago lamenting that he had sold the rights to a pet food company - maybe that's why.)

In lieu of that, a fantastic video of Tom on the rare Pete Seeger TV show: Ramblin' Boy



Friday, July 2, 2010

Why the Revolution?

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, let us not forget that the Declaration of Independence listed 27 reasons for splitting from England.

Only one was about taxation, and that was a complaint about imposing taxes on us without representation. (I.e., without having a vote.)

Most of the others were about the abrogation of the rights of the people (not of business and commerce) to control our own destinies through the offices of our government.

Should We Always Stick to Original Intent?

From everything I have read, our FF's were deeply opposed to the US maintaining a standing army. see, e.g.,
  • Federalist Papers 8, 24, 25, 26, 29, 41 (and maybe more, I stopped word searching there) ). see also
  • See also 'Freedom Daily'
  • “A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen” James Madison
And yet those who proclaim "original intent" as the only measure of our national life don't decry standing armies, or announce any acceptance that a changing world necessitates leaving "original intent" behind when appropriate.

The same changing world, IMO, necessitates leaving other aspects of "original intent:" what worked in an agrarian, barter economy world, is as inapplicable to today's world as relying on the several states' militias would be today

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Original Intent Regarding "Original Intent"

Some people believe we have to follow the "original intent" of the Founding Fathers ("FF's.")

'However, the FF's never addressed "original intent' or specified that it be the standard for construing the Constitution.

Since the we do not know the FF's "original intent" on the doctrine of "original intent," if we want to follow "original intent" we cannot invoke that doctrine because it didn't exist.

Yeah, a bit of a twister....

"The statement below is true"

"The statement above is false."

By the way, what does "original intent" mean when referring to the actions of the 55 people at the Constitutional Convention, and the couple of thousand who voted for (and against) adopting it?

Discussing the "intent" of a large group of people is a polite fiction, not an objective fact.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deficit Reduction or Jobs?

For job growth and a reinvigorated economy, demand for good and services has to go up. Demand for goods and services requires that money (or credit) be available to purchase.

If we "fight" the deficit by cutting government spending, the amount of money available to create demand will drop.

Decreased sales and income will result in lower tax revenues for the government, which increases the likelihood of more deficits.

This is the path to job losses and even higher deficits

If we concentrate on increasing the number of jobs, income goes up, demand goes up, even more jobs are created from that rising demand, and tax revenues for the government go up, decreasing the likelihood of more deficits.

This is the path to job growth and lower deficits, long erm.

So we have a choice -

1: Cut spending now, decrease demand for goods and services, causing unemployment to go up. Maybe deficits go down from the decreased spending, but maybe they go up from the decreased tax revenues.

Bottom line: decreased economic activity likely to spiral down.

2: Increase spending for a short period, increase jobs, increase demand creating more jobs, and increase tax revenues. Deficits will go up short term from the increased spending, but then deficits will go down from the increased tax revenues.

Bottom line: increased economic activity, increased jobs and an economy spiraling up.

The option: deficit cutting, is a loser; one, deficit spending, is a winner.


In our farming community (still a major part of our economy) farmers borrow money in the spring to buy seeds, plant them, and tend the crops. That's deficit spending. They harvest the crops in the fall, pay off the loans (eliminating the deficit from the prior spring) and make a profit.

No farmer borrowing - aka deficit spending - no seeds, no crops, no income, no profit for the farmer.


Can Corporations Create higher demand and more jobs in a down economy?

A corporation's first and primary duty is to make profits for its shareholders. Over the past century as corporations have become the dominant means of doing business, their pursuit of profits has led to the creation of many products of immense valu, and many joibs for our country and society.

But because of that primary goal of making profits, and because of the legal requirements for corporations, corporations do not have an obligation or duty to serve the public interest or to stimulate demand for products through hiring, that just isn't what they do.

In a slumped economy, few or no businesses are going to diminish profitability by creating jobs to increase demand - their economic self-interest counsels against taking such risk. (In its early days, Ford did this by paying workers significantly above the then current market rates - Henry Ford understood that more pay meant more workers could afford to buy his products, and that more product sold meant higher profits.)

Over the past year overall corporate profits have soared, and increased worker productivity has meant little hiring has been needed: rising private sector profits have met the economic self-interest of corporations without any significant hiring.

The job fairy is nowhere in sight, and corporations will not, for good reason, kick start hiring.

There Is Only One Possible Source for Increased Demand

There is only one possibility for increasing demand to strengthen the economy: the federal government. State and local governments are strapped for cash and many have to meet balanced budget rules, in fact they have had to cut way back on spending, under-cutting demand for goods and services and thus cutting back th need for new job creation.

By injecting money into the economy , and increasing demand for goods and services, right now the government is the only player which can prime the pumps of commerce and get demand for products flowing again.

Public sector pump priming will mean another shot of short term deficit growth, but increased economic activities will result in increased profits and increased personal income which will result in increased tax revenues. Increased tax revenues will eliminate the need for additional deficit spending for this sector of the economy, and could well lead to reduction in overall debt, as we saw in the 1990's.

Bottom Line: Either
  • cut government spending and reduce economic activity, reduce revenues, reduce jobs, and spiral into the ground
  • or increase government spending, stimulate economic activity, increase reveunes, increase jobs, and spiral towards the sky
Not a tough choice.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Proud Father

My daughter, who will graduated by OSU tomorrow in International Studies, gave this talk today at the reception for the students majoring in IS.

I am not only immensely proud of her, I believe she, and her theme, illustrate the thrust of this blog: "If you're going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind."
==============

When I was young, every morning as I left the house my dad would say to me, “Be good! Learn a lot! And make the world a better place!”

Oh dad. Did you realize how much I would take that to heart?

I’m basically every parents [sic - she should know that is a possessive ] dream child- I came to college with no idea what I wanted to do, kicked around a million ideas, cried, whined, stressed my parents out and finally decided on an intangible liberal arts degree so that I could save the world by living in Africa.

Like I said - A parents dream come true.

But really, my parents have always been so supportive of me becoming who I am and doing what I love- even if that didn’t mean becoming a lawyer or making it big in the medical world and instead majoring in International Development with minors in Religious studies and women’s studies…

I actually got involved with International development issues after watching a very compelling documentary called “invisible Children”. It focused on the longest running war in Uganda Africa and the rebel army that was terrorizing the region, particularly by abducting children from their homes and forcing them to fight. My heart was immediately captured by this story, and I began to learn more about the Invisible Children organization. As I learned more and more about the situation, I settled on International Studies with a focus on Development as my major. I wasn’t particularly sure where this would lead me in my life, but I definitely knew that I wanted to save the world and I definitely knew that probably meant I should start in Africa.

I decided, at a ripe young age of 18, that there was no better time than the present. I googled my little heart out, looking for organizations to volunteer with and found one that looked pretty legit- Cross Cultural Solutions. I signed up with a friend, and despite mom’s terror as the day approached, I was eager to go abroad and experience this world saving thing first hand.

The first night of my arrival in Ghana was an interesting one. Our driver, Richie, corralled my friend and I into an old van with about 4 other Americans, or “yevus” as the ghanains say, and we set off on our 2 hour trek to the homebase we were staying at. About an hour into the trip, he pulled off to the side of the road for some reason, or maybe for no reason at all, you never really know in the developing world. My new found friends and I decided to explore and be extremely daring - by looking for a bathroom. We went first to a small lit up building that ended up being a bar and had no luck. We tracked down Richie and somehow communicated to him that we needed to go to the bathroom. It was pitch black outside and as we walked I just followed the sound of Richie’s voice. Seconds later, my entire body was burning and I quickly realized that I had walked into a 6 foot deep cement ditch. I only really remember yelling “im ok!” and my friends reaching into the hole and pulling me out. I was terrified. There I was, in Africa, falling in holes and bleeding all over the place, which is not advised by many before your first trip to the developing world. My face was pretty beat up and I had quite a few scrapes, but I made it to the home base. After some confusion about whether or not I would call my parents (who probably would have immediately boarded a plane and flown to Ghana) the program leaders bandaged me up and off I went.


My first night in Ghana was horrifying. My mother, who I adore greatly, has instilled in me a healthy dose of paranoia, so I stayed up late worrying about a concussion and diseases infecting my body. Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep that night.

Fast forward through the rest of my college years. I spent 9 months interning with Invisible Children, the non profit I mentioned earlier, living in a van and traveling the country. I spent many nights on the floors of the kindest strangers turned friends you’ll ever meet and watched as high school and college kids raised over a million dollars in 100 days for schools in Uganda. I spent 2 summers in Alabama working at a summer camp and developing an authentic southern accent and learning all about how kids, no matter how big or small, get it. They get that life is good and real and fun and sometimes it takes lying in the grass and chasing lightning bugs to learn it. I studied abroad in the Dominican Republic and attempted Spanish (and failed miserably), met friends I will have for the rest of my life and got to know many Dominicans who I will never forget. I learned to merengue and learned to live on Caribbean time and realized that love and humanity knows no language barrier, even when it’s me whose speaking the awful Spanish.

And I spent months here, at Ohio State. I studied under so many wonderful professors in this department and others. I learned about food security and development strategies and economics and microfinance and the institutions of development. I argued about genetically modified crops and national security and whether or not its “third world” or “developing world” or what.

Mostly I learned that passion runs deep. Mostly I learned that the people I was learning from were the people that were making a difference.

And when I got overwhelmed and didn’t know where to turn or how to make this GEC count for that or how to squeeze in Poli Sci 541 or another economics course, there was Karlene to work her magic. I can’t tell you how many times Karlene took me into her office at the end of a day of so many demanding students, fed me a coke zero and told me to calm down and stop worrying so much about B pluses and whether or not I was being perfect enough. She would type up a storm, print off a degree audit, add up all the credit hours and within 5 minutes have about 10 different ways I could graduate with 390 different focuses and minors. She would then run me out to the front of the office, hand me 22 fliers about what I could do after I graduated and off I would go, knowing that I could conquer the world as long as I had Karlene Foster on my side.


It was these many experiences in college that really led me to where I am today- it was the people, the places, the love that I experienced as I traveled – and occasionally stayed put- that really had the greatest effects on me.

In my life, International Studies wasn’t just a major but truly a way to learn about the world. After my quite unsuccessful interaction with economics (Claudio Gonzales Vega, you are a phenomenal professor, but I still don’t really get it) and the realization I don’t necessarily want to do development work I had to examine my choice of majors. With that examination I realized that this was the perfect major for me, regardless of whether or not I do development work.

After I fell in the hole in Africa, I spent 3 amazing weeks working with kids in Ghana. The people in the program took incredible care of me and didn’t let me fall in any more holes. I quickly learned the true humanity of those people that I was spending my time with. I learned that bleeding in Africa is really no different than bleeding anywhere else in the world. I learned that the kids in Ghana are just like the kids here. I learned that people everywhere have a whole lot to offer. But most importantly I learned that I could not, in fact, save the world.

Those lessons come full circle. My Ohio State education leaves me well equipped to take on this big scary world, despite the economy.

Next year I am going to be working with Americorps. Americorps is a service organization that places people in a large variety of positions, from tutoring disadvantaged youth to building affordable housing to providing disaster response. Americorps VISTA is a program within Americorps. I will spend one year working at Birmingham Southern College in the Bunting Center, their service learning center. We will help get students involved with community service, work with professors to implement service learning in their classrooms and build sustainable partnerships with local nonprofits. I will be dirt poor butttt I get benefits and a nice education award at the end of the year.

That dreaded question of “What are you doing after you graduate” is only dreaded if we, as college kids, limit our possibilities. Americorps isn’t necessarily a development program. BUT it is a chance to implement all of the things I learned during my college years. In between all of the truly valuable information about integrated economies and democracy structures I learned about people. I learned about what the world really looks like. I learned how to care and have compassion and – most importantly – I learned that I don’t even want to save the world, just change it alongside the many other wonderful people who are also striving to do so. Americorps is a phenomenal opportunity for me to do just that. There are so many opportunities out there for us to use our education. We just have to be willing to try it out! Live and let live.

So, my friends, as my dad always said, Be Good! Learn a lot! And make the world a better place!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sample Letters To The Editor #4 - The Necessity of Effective Government.

I am posting a series of "letters to the editor" designed to try to change the focus of political questions and discussions. Humbly {G} I offer these to all as models

Feel free to copy (and edit them) for your own locations/papers. (Please add a comment to this blog entry, or email me at rjw.progreesive@gmail.com if you use one.)

I believe a significant short coming of Democratic politics is the failure to affect the focus and language of political discussion. I'm aiming to make the letters succinct with easy to grasp concepts.
==========================


The Necessity of Effective Government.

No one believes in or wants "big government."

Many folks have been convinced that government is "too big:" they have caught media attention with their anti-government position: "Government isn't the solution; government is the problem."

We are in the middle of a massive environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and it turns out that over the past decade regulations on oil drilling were rolled back and what remained haven't been fully enforced.

In 2008 and 2009 our economy was on the brink of disaster because regulations on banks and finance had been rolled back and what regulations remained weren't fully enforced.

No one can deny that corporations and large scale commerce have done incredible good for our society, but without effective checks and balances on their power, we have seen that they are also capable of incredible destruction.

And no one can that when government is "too big" our country may suffer, but when government is stripped of essential powers it is rendered ineffective and our country also suffers.

I believe the events of the past two decades years has demonstrated the importance of effective government and the essential need for effective checks and balances on large corporate and commercial interests.

The primary purpose of corporations is to pursue profits for shareholders. The general good they do for society is secondary.

The primary purpose of our government is "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

I believe it is as misguided to pronounce "government is bad" as it is to pronounce "big business is bad."

Effective commerce and effective government are best achieved when (1) both are empowered to fulfill their purposes, and (2) there are checks and balances on the power of both.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sample Letters to the Editor #3 -Our Constitution, "Strict Construction," and Justice

I am posting a series of "letters to the editor" designed to try to change the focus of political questions and discussions. Humbly {G} I offer them to all as models

Feel free to copy (and edit them) for your own locations. (Please add a comment to this blog entry, or email me at rjw.progreesive@gmail.com if you use one.)

I believe a significant short coming of Democratic politics is the failure to affect the focus and language of political discussion. I'm aiming to make the letters succinct with easy to grasp concepts.

Today's:

======================================
To The Editor:

Our Constitution, "Strict Construction," and Justice

Throughout the history of Anglo-American law, there have been periods when we insist on strict interpretation and application of laws and of procedures in the courts. In such periods, justice may be and is sometimes frustrated simply because a party has not followed some exacting, complex dance step, or is denied a right because of some obscure provision of law. In such periods, proper "i" dotting and "t" crossing sadly sets the standard for the courts and for "justice."
In such periods, some folks try to reduce the law to the playyard simplicity of "calling balls and strikes." In the real world, life is far more complex than nine innings on a grassy field, and the law needs to recognize the complexity of human interactions.

These periods of strict construction alternate with those when our society emphasizes justice by the courts, and recognizes that role of judges: is to judge. We ask "does the failure to dot an 'i' lead to an injustice for one party or the other? Does rigorous insistence on 't' crossing lead to just results?"

We are slipping from a period of focusing on justice and with strident calls to refocus on "Strict Construction," "Original Intent," and sanctified and elevated "t" crossing.

Application of true "Strict Construction" standard would defeat the central concept of checks and balances in our government, because the Supreme Court (and other levels of our courts) would not be allowed to hear any constitutional challenges to laws. The Constitution does not confer any such power on the Courts and they did not have it until the Supreme Court created law in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. The power of federal courts to hear constitutional cases is: judge-made law. And that power of judges to make law was embraced by the founding fathers

As monied interests have become close to all powerful in lobbying for, drafting and passing legislation which protects those very interests, the din calling for "strict construction" rises, and the attempts to strip of judges' of their power to exercise their judgement increase, with the result that we are distracted from the central and essential role of our courts: to do justice.

Shakespeare taught us in the 'Merchant of Venice' that, were the court in Venice to invoke "strict construction," justice would not be served. (Ironically, Portia, disguised as a judge, does justice through the extreme "strict construction" of ruling that the lender may take a pound of flesh in payment of a loan in default, per the contract, but because the contract does not provide for taking any blood, the lended may take only a pound of flesh, and not spill a drop of blood, frustrating the "original intent" of the parties but delivering true justice.

Worshiping dried ink on dusty pages and straining the quality of justice by forcing a result which ignores juctice in our courts does not serve our best interests.

PORTIA: The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 184–187

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sample Letters To The Editor #2 - Effective Checks & Balances

Note: I am planning a series of "letters to the editor" designed to try to change the focus of political questions and discussions. Humbly {G} I offer them to all as models

Feel free to copy (and edit them) for your own locations. (Please add a comment to this blog entry, or email me at rjw.progreesive@gmail.com if you use one.)

I believe a significant short coming of Democratic politics is the failure to affect the focus and language of political discussion. I'm aiming to make the letters succinct with easy to grasp concepts.


======
To The Editor:

We Need Effective Checks and Balances

"Oh, They built the ship Titanic,
That sailed the ocean blue,
And they thought they had a ship,
That the water would never go through"
Trad.

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast."
Alexander Pope


Reasonable people can disagree as to how much industry and commerce should be regulated.

For the past 30 years or so, the anti-regulatory ideology has been firmly in control.

Two years ago, the largely deregulated banking industry almost took our country's economy down.

Today, the size and impact of the Gulf oil spill is yet to be known, but we do know isn't going to be minor.

Oil drilling has been accorded a large degree of "voluntary self-regulation" in lieu of legally binding regulation, and has enjoyed permissive attitude from Republican appointed regulators:

"Until now, serious spills [have been] rare. [We thought] Catastrophic accidents had been relegated to history by such gear as “blowout preventers” designed to shut off wells when pressures get out of control.

Blowout valves are the last line of defense. The federal Minerals Management Service (MMS), which regulates offshore oil and gas production has been so confident of this system that it exempted BP from filing an environmental-impact statement."

The MMS commissioned has studied creative ways to cope with massive well blowouts but has never implemented them. It promulgated rules but allowed the oil industry to obey them on a voluntary basis.

(See, Http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aHElyJ.bKpsw&pos=10)

It is becoming ever more clear that the regulatory pendulum has to swing back from the decades of the laissez faire, hands off posture promoted (through multiple millions in lobbyist spending) by large commercial interests.

Our Founding Fathers gave us the system of checks and balances on the then-existing centers of power in our nation: the three branches of government. There was no big business then.

I believe we our nation was founded on the principle of checks and balances, and we need effective checks and balances to prevent damaging excesses by powerful groups which have arisen long after the drafters of the Constitution laid down their pens.

Sincerely
xxx

==============

Sample Letters to the Editor #1- Jobs

I am planning a series of "letters to the editor" designed to try to change the focus of political questions and discussions. Humbly {G} I offer them to all as models

Feel free to copy (and edit them) for your own locations. (Please add a comment to this blog entry, or email me at rjw.progreesive@gmail.com if you use one.)

I believe a significant short coming of Democratic politics is the failure to affect the focus and language of political discussion. I'm aiming to make the letters succinct with easy to grasp concepts.

Today's (which I sent to the Toledo Blade in Ohio)

======================================
To The Editor:

Where Are The Jobs? Who Makes the Hiring Decisions?


Unemployment is still pretty high as of early May, 2010. Unemployment peaked at 10.1% in October 2009, but is still high at 9.9%.

The Federal government has spent a lot, billions, to stimulate the economy, channeling those billions through the private sector to execute the many projects covered by the Stimulus Act.

The government can encourage hiring, it can help create opportunities for job growth, but it is the private sector which decides when to hire workers and how many to hire.

Over that past year, corporate profits have gone up, spectacularly in some industries, and worker productivity (how much work companies get out of their employees) has risen more than any other year since 1963.

But unemployment remains stubbornly high.

One can understand that businesses are reluctant to hire. But corporate America (which has contributed to so much in our lives) seems to have forgotten the lesson first taught by Henry Ford: hire and pay workers enough so they can afford to buy the products produced by our economy.

So, where are the jobs? All we can do is ask American businesses for an answer: they are responsible for making the hiring decisions.

Sincerely,

==============================

Attention Fact Checkers: My sources:

Productivity: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-06/productivity-of-u-s-workers-rises-more-than-forecast-update2-.htm

Profits: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-07/u-s-stock-futures-gain-on-bigger-than-forecast-jobs-growth.html

National unemployment: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/08/business/economy/08jobs.html

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Where are the jobs?

Dang.... Where are the jobs?

Unemployment is still pretty high as of early May, 2010.(New figures are due out tomorrow.) Unemployment peaked at 10.1% in October 2009, but is still high at 9.7% as reported in early March.

Is this the federal government's fault? Obama's fault?

It seems to ne that if Obama were really a 'socialist,' they high unemployment rate would be the government's, his, fault, since in 'socialism' the government would be doing the hiring ... not unlike the depression era Works Progress Administration which directly employed millions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_Progress_Administration.

But in today's world and with Obama's government, it is the private sector which does the hiring; most of the stimulus money is being channeled through projects being done by private sector companies.

Not much/enough hiring going on? Maybe we should ask the private sector: "why aren't you hiring?"

The answer? Partly, at least, it is that worker productivity has soared, and productivity is the amount of production a company gets out of each employee.

"Efficiency advanced 6.3 percent over the past four quarters, the biggest 12-month increase since 1962. Labor costs fell more than projected." http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-06/productivity-of-u-s-workers-rises-more-than-forecast-update2-.html

Government can create conditions conducive for job growth; it can stimulate the economy; but, without much direct government hiring (socialism), the government doesn't create jobs, the private sector is responsible for whether there is job growth.

And the unemployment rate will remain high until the private sector realizes that the more people there are at work, the higher the demand there will be for their products. (Think Henry Ford who paid high wages so his workers could create demand for the products they made.)

Are you out of work? Ask the companies why they aren't hiring, even with all sorts of positive stimulus from the federal government.

(Unless you're a newly out of work teacher or other state or local worker -- the folks to ask are those who insist that all tax cuts are always good, apparently forgetting that you simply don't get what you don't pay for.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

WWJD

The question "what would Jesus do?" was first made famous at the start of the 20th century in a book called 'In His Steps' in which a church's members (well some) decide to actually try to follow Jesus' teachings.*

The phrase had a revival a few years ago, of course, and one still hears it from time to time.

I'm far from a religious scholar, and I'll admit my eyes glaze over in some of the Epistles, but I'm pretty sure that when he encountered need Jesus never said: "Sounds tough. I'll pray for you, have a nice day."


======================
* BTW, the book was pretty harsh on businesses and business practices and, in general, fealty to mammon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Celebrate Citizens United!

Citizens' United and Judicial Activism

Many are rightfully concerned about the likely effects of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

But one aspect of the case bears celebration and being loudly championed. This Supreme Court was an explicitly activist court, expressly announcing that, when circumstances are appropriate, it is free to overrule long standing precedents and repeated congressional actions and to make new law.

And, especially for individuals, judicial activism is (usually) good! It has been a part of our legal system since long before we gained independence, and the founding fathers embraced it.

“Judicial Activism” is just another name for “the common law at work.”

There are times when judicial activism has forged new law which in turn has very much advanced the needs of our society and individual rights and values.

When we allow courts to act and make new law, we provide an avenue for rights to be secured and respected where the executive and legislative branches have failed to, or been unable to act.


Two examples:

First: At the beginning of the industrial revolution in England, the economy was shifting from a barter based economy to a cash based economy. A cash based society needs a lot more cash (and credit) than a barter based economy

The sovereign and the legislature were, as they tend to be, slow to recognize the need for additional cash or effective merchant based credit.

Merchants responded by creating (potentially) negotiable instruments. Checks, promissory notes, drafts, acceptances.

But without a uniform set of rules for such instruments, their utility was limited.

Along came Lord Mansfield and his fellow "activist" judges. Consulting with merchants, they made up the rules for negotiable instruments, helping in that way to pave the road of the economic expansion made possible by the technology of the industrial revolution.


Second: In the early 1900's, as the automotive industry was getting underway, the then established rule of law for contracts (established by centuries of judicial decisions, and not by legislation) was that one had to be “in privity of contract” with some one to hold them responsible for injuries incurred because of 'mistakes' by one of the contracting parties.

In about 1915, The Donald C. MacPherson, was injured when one of the wooden wheels of his automobile crumbled. Buick Motor Company had manufactured the vehicle It was conceded that the defective wheel could have been discovered by Buick upon inspection. The defendant, Buick, denied liability because the plaintiff had purchased the automobile from a dealer, not directly from the defendant: because MacPherson and Buick were not in “privity of contract.”

The appeals court essentially discarded the rule of “privity of contract” and MacPherson won.

Consider how popular automobiles would have been if they were perceived as dangerous AND that buyers would have no recourse against manufacturing defects. Consider how safe our automobiles would be if manufacturers (and their subcontractors) were not responsible for any defects?

But isn't judicial activism giving too much power to the courts?

Consider the recent case of Kelo v. New London, the eminent domain case in Connecticut.

Regardless of what you think of the merits of that case, the public and legislative responses were swift and sure: many states enacted laws ensuring that the result of Kelo would not occur in their states.

A swift and sure “over ruling” of the decision in that case.

In fact, in all cases (except constitutional cases) legislatures can and often do “over rule” the courts through legislation.

And even in constitutional cases, there is the possibility of constitutional amendment. (BTW, we usually hear about constitutional cases because of their importance, but they are a small fraction of cases heard by courts.

As a general rule, judicial activism advances “liberal” values and beliefs, given that monied interests sometimes (often) control the passage of legislation to accomplish the same thing.

And regardless of their politics, judges (usually) seek to do justice.

So celebrate Citizens United: work to reverse it's effects if you will, but celebrate it and loudly proclaim the positive aspect of this Supreme Court overtly embracing so called “Judicial Activism” - the process whereby even the lone individual can accomplish through the courts what vested interests can block in the legislatures.
=================================================

See also my posts from last April and May:



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My comments in response to an OFA member survey how how "we" can best advance Obama's agenda:

QUOTE
I have grave reservations about President Obama's agenda and approach - he has frozen out the liberal voice of the party and has catered to the right wing noise machine.

OFA should be a voice of and advocate for liberalism - not a "yes man" for whatever position President Obama appeasingly accepts as it is foisted on him from the extreme right.

I knew he wasn't a liberal when I voted for him, so my disappointment is tempered, but I have growing disenchantment with his increasing acceptance of conservative positions.

In 2010, I will support liberals. I will oppose appeasers and LINOs.

Please tell President Obama that we need >>Real Change<< - not the crap we've seen so far.

I believe his poll numbers are dropping because he has abandoned those who supported him.

30 years of right wing anarchistic chanting that "Government is the problem" and "free enterprise is the solution" was proven wrong headed in 2009.

It is Obama's job to tell the American people that deregulation and the credo that "free enterprise" is always best" caused the financial collapse and to push to reinstate real regulation of the financial industry.

And please tell him that his alliances with Goldman Sachs is extremely disturbing to those who haven't dropped the soap in the showers of every sector of the financial industries.


Best regards and with real hope for real change that I can believe in....
END QUOTE