Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gotta Act NOW!

We're being told we have to fix Social Security RIGHT NOW! "It's Broke!"

When you look at the facts, though, right now it has a surplus. In 20 plus some years, if we don't make some changes to fix it, it'll only be able to pay out something like 78% of it's obligations.


Let's see, 27 years ago.... in 1984.... when I was just a sprout...

Yeah, right, we have to act "RIGHT NOW."

It occurs to me: I used to work for some big banks and one of my hats was guarding against con men trying to diddle them as part of their brokered funds schemes (Think 'Nigeria emails' before email arived on the scene.) I even worked with the FBI on some cases.

Once, I was telling a young agent new to the white collar crime beat about how the brokered funds scams worked and how the con men tried to get banks involved. I mentioned that a hallmark of these cons was the pressure to "act now, right now" ["Before you have a chance to think about it.]"

The FBI agent responded that they use the same technique in counter-espionage in turning agents.

Gee, "Act Now!"

You don't think today's GOP is trying to pull a fast one, do you? Con us into abandoning our society;s needs so they promote corporate profitability?

(Maybe we can fix SS with the hidden Nigerian bank deposits the GOP candidates have in some Swiss banks...?)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Economic Wrong Turn

The Republican Party has traditionally promoted corporations and commerce as a way for the country to grow economically. Some 50 years ago, the chairman of GM announced "What is good for GM is good for the country."

I personally don't completely agree, but many reasonable people believe that to be true. And it may well have been largely true in the pre-global economy of the 1950s.

About 235 years ago, Adam Smith, the father of economics and of capitalism, taught us that a necessary element of creating and building national wealth is to promote and maintain domestic production - to stop importing goods from abroad. (England had put the same restrictions on Scotland as it had on the colonies and they faced the same issue.)

We no longer promote domestic production, and, especially, "our" corporations no longer do so; not when their self-interest dictates chasing cheap labor and moving production overseas.

To the extent that a corporation's profits are maximized by moving manufacturing overseas to get a competitive advantage from cheap labor, that corporation's self-interest no longer promotes the wealth of our nation. I believe we should resist accommodating corporate self-interests which are no longer aligned with our national interests.

In following and promoting corporate interests as the large corporations turned from national entities to being to an international foundation, we as a nation have taken a very wrong turn.

Perhaps this is why today's GOP has become so inadvertently unfocused and, to some, even a bit crazed.

I believe Republicans are truly patriotic - they love our country. I disagree with how one best manifests love for country, but I also believe there is no one fixed way to do so.

I suspect that thoughtful people on the right subconsciously understand that the self-interest of today's international corporations in today's global economy does not and cannot promote our national self-interest, our national economy or our national security.

And that conflict between (i) their natural patriotism and (ii) their subconscious realization that automatic support of large corporations which no longer serve American interests is what makes today's GOP policies so "schizophrenic," so cognitively dissonant.

I believe that if we restore a truly traditional values of economics as put forth by Adam Smith, his "invisible hand" will steer us back to the road of national wealth, health and security.

[On Edit]

This TEDxAustin Robyn O'Brien lecture on our food supply and maximization of corporate profits with the attendant effects on our society is thought-provoking:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Courts Gone Wild

Bottom line: We are seeing conservative courts undermine our legal system in their pursuit of political ends instead of a pursuit of justice.

It occurs to me that the recent Wisconsin case, Wisconsin v.
Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald, Ellis, Suder and La Follette, , on the legitimacy of the public union busting legislation, and the Citizens United case in the US Supreme Court share an alarming example of judicial overreach and abuse of our legal system for political purposes.

Two bedrock principles of our legal system:

First: Trial courts determine what the facts are and they make the initial rulings of law.

Our appeals system is almost entirely limited to review of the legal holdings - appellate courts do not "retry" the facts and liticants can't appeal the trial court's factual findings (except in extraordinary circumstances.) Appellate courts use the facts as developed on the record by the trial court. Trial courts are good at determining facts, appeals courts are supposed to be limited to ruling on legal issues.

Second: Appellate courts only review the issues brought to them; issues "preserved on the record" for appeal. This is to promote judicial efficiency and economy and limit courts from overreaching their mandate and discrediting themselves.

In this Wisconsin case, it seems that the Wisconsin Supreme Court majority didn't decide the appeal from the court below and didn't restrict itself to the developed record.

Instead, it cobbled together a process of "original jurisdiction" to avoid being restricted to the well developed and fully aired factual record.

In other words, this court avoided one of the central principles of our hierarchal legal system so that it could make up its own factual record and achieve the result it wanted. (See, Abrahamson, C.J., dissent at para 96, as well as the dissent of Judge Crooks starting at para 130)

In a similar display of judicial arrogance, in Citizens United, the US Supreme Court violated that other central tenant of our jurisprudence: appeals courts limit themselves to the issues preserved for appeal.

In Citizens United, when the case first made it to the Supreme Court, the appeal did not include the issues which the court ultimately ruled on. But the Robert's court sent the litigants back to brief and present another issue entirely. One that hadn't been preserved for appeal, but which the Roberts' majority had decided it wanted to make law on.*

These two cases are glaring examples of high level two courts manipulating the system and ignoring bedrock principles of judicial review so as to reach a political end.

And _that_ is the real tragedy of the modern, right wing embrace of overtly politically driven courts.

More and more people believe the courts are nothing but political juggernauts.

And that is just one more example of right wing anarchism: "Government is the problem."

What kind of "traditional value," which "conservative principle" calls for unrelenting attacks on the very structure of our government?

= = = =
* I am not arguing against judicial activism: in properly limited role, judicial activism has been played a central and important role in the development of our laws.

I am arguing that when high courts don't follow the most basic and important rules and they pursue political results instead of pursuing justice, our country suffers. Deeply

See these pervious blogs on judicial activism and related issues:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sources of the Deficit

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the following factors are what have contributed to the current deficit and what will be contributing to the budget deficit projected for 2019.

Maybe if we see the causes, we can come up with some realistic fixes which don't just try to dismantle our government?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Breaking News Mr President

You're reading it here first: President Obama is going to lose in 2012.

The GOP has consistently out maneuvered him in framing the message of the day and he is always a couple of steps behind them.

He has pizzed off his base and won't have the ground game he had in 2008.

He has, to a large extent,* dropped the ball on creating jobs and has made GOP policies, which really don't work, his own.

The only thing he has going for him is whether independents and moderates will pick up on how extreme whoever the GOP candidate is, and the GOP is really good at creating smoke screens.

No more hope for me, and the only change I've seen is the President changing into a Republican.

= = = =
* On edit.

After doing some hard looking at the numbers, his record on jobs isn't terrible, and we are wll ahead of where we were when he took office, but I believe he lost his focus on job growth and that if he had kept it as a current important issue, and if he had effectively communicated about the issue, the situation would be better than it is.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

GOP Fiscal Realism

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has proposed cutting Medicaid eligibility from the current maximum income of $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three.

Let's try a little family budget reality check. A typical family budget looks like this:

Housing 36%
Food 13%
Auto 12%
Insurance 5%
Debts 5%
Entertainment 6%
Clothing 5%
Savings 5%
Medical/Dental 4%
Miscellaneous 5%
School/Child Care 6%
Investments 5%

Well, we sure don't want poor folks getting any entertainment, and I think we infer that their savings and investment accounts are on hiatus. And Misc? They sure don't deserve any "miscellaneous."

So here's their Monthly Budget

Annual Monthly
$5,317 $443.08
Housing 36% $159.51/month
Yep, there are a lot of $160 apartments available in NJ. Might be tough for this family to scratch together the security deposit, though
Food 13% $57.60/month
2 dollars a day for 3 folks.
Auto 12% $53.17/month
There's a lot of gas for you, not to mention payments, insurance, maintenance, etc. Let's see: at $3.75/gallon, they can burn through 14 gallons a month, Assuming their junker gets 15 mpg, they get to joy ride for about 7 miles a day.
Insurance 5% $22.15/month
Clothing 5% $22.15/month
$7.38 a person. I'm thinking a pack of whitey tighties per person per month at Walmart
School/Child care 6% $26.59/month
Medical/Dental 4% $17.72/month $5.90 per person a month. There's a lot of health care for you.

And the Republicans want us to think that they know what they're talking about when it comes to finances and fiscal reality?

Sample Letter State Senator SB5

For what it's worth, this is a sample letter to my Ohio State Senator regarding Republican attempts to by-pass the strong effort to put SB to a voter referendum by putting its provisions into the state budget (which cannot be subjected to a voter referendum:

Feel free to copy and paste and edit as you please:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dear Senator [See below for determining who your senator is and how to contact him or her],

It is my understanding that there are current efforts to include provisions from SB 5 in the State Budget.

I urge you to reject those efforts.

Given the strong volunteer voter efforts to put SB to a voter referendum, to put SB provisions into the budget would be a disreputable effort to bypass the likely express will of the voters.

In addition, to do so would be to violate a pledge made by Republicans last fall to the American people.

In the Republican Party's "Pledge to America" you all* promised:

"Advance Legislative Issues One at a Time
"We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with “must-pass” legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time."

Pledge To America, page 33 (page 35 in the online .pdf format version.)

For those two reasons, I believe integrity dictates resisting attempts to insert SB 5's provisions into the budget.



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* The Pledge was issued by the Republican National Committee on behalf of all Republicans - in the public's view, that Pledge spoke for all Republicans - not just Congressional Republicans. I believe all Republicans, including at the state level, are are either bound by the Pledge or must overtly reject its provisions.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you're unsure who your senator is, you can find out at (And you can use the map at to get your district number)

Email addresses and phone numbers are at:

Or call the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-282-0253