Tagged: Democrats

The Great Recession and self-inflicted wounds

Losers

In sports, all great competitors know that they have a choice, even when confronted with daunting, insurmountable odds. They can lay down and let the larger, stronger opponent run up the score. Or they can find a way to compete, to make a game of it. A good loss is a dignified way to show what you are made of, that you have grit, attitude and brass, and you aren’t to be trifled with, even in defeat…

The financial crisis delivered a significant blow to the economic well-being of the U. S,, indeed, the world. There were two responses to this challenge, one of a great competitor, and one of a pathetic loser. The response to the threat of overwhelming defeat is instructive, not only for its policy implications, but for how we as individuals should respond to challenges that seem hopeless.

Consider the policy makers of the Federal Reserve, terrified as they were of the entire system collapsing. Regardless of your views of the impact of the Fed — and I was an early critic — one must grudgingly admire their determined and innovative responses. Consider not what they did but their attitude and creativity when confronted with what appeared to be an insurmountable challenge: They stepped up their game big time. If they were going to lose this battle, they were going to go down fighting.

They threw away the rule book. The new liquidity facilities were certainly never envisioned 100 years ago on Jekyll Island, where the Fed was born. But that didn’t stop them…

Now let’s turn the discussion to losing and failure, which means it’s time to consider the collection of incompetents we call the U.S. Congress. Rarely has so much stupidity and malfeasance been assembled in a single room at one time.

When we look at the weak sectors of the economy…it should be obvious that our national economic wounds are mostly self-inflicted.

The drag from federal government usually is a simple and obvious fix. During a recession and recovery, spending should rise and the Fed should make credit less expensive.

Except in this cycle. Before you start telling me about beliefs and ideology and the deficit, all one needs to do is compare federal spending during the 2001 recession cycle, with a Republican controlling the White House and a split Congress, to the present cycle. Apparently, the importance of reducing deficits and having a smaller government only applies when the GOP doesn’t control the White House…

The bottom line is that as a nation, and mainly because of Congress, we haven’t risen to the challenges we face. There has been little intelligence, no creativity, negligible cooperation, and an epic failure of civic responsibility.

There is plenty of blame to spread around, but not in equal measures to both parties. The Democrats have been timid and short-sighted in their approach. The Republicans have been all of that, but much, much worse. No wonder independents are the fastest-growing political affiliation, especially among the young. Count me as one among them, a former liberal Republican from the Northeast, embarrassed by what happened to the party of Lincoln.

Congress is a national embarrassment. That sentence is one we all have believed at one time or another to be true. But the sentence I never imagined I would ever write is this: Thank goodness for the Federal Reserve.

Barry Ritholtz is my favorite Recovering Republican.

Though he didn’t expand on the concept, that definition is easily the largest sector of expansion among those now listed as Independents when it comes to voter registration in these United States. And that, my friends, is one of the best reasons to scrap the out-of-date process we use for political primaries. The California model of open primary with the top two finishers getting a run-off is what we deserve. Comparable to what exists in much of the democratic world – and also allowing candidates independent of the two decrepit old parties.

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Religious fundamentalists more likely to be Republican

God-said-it-believe-it

Voters in the United States who describe themselves as “very religious” are still more likely to gravitate to the Republican Party, a Gallup poll has suggested.

Gallup found some differences among racial and ethnic groups. Black people are overwhelmingly Democratic, and religious ties make no difference in their party leanings. Republicans are a minority among Asians and Hispanics of all degrees of religious observance, but the very religious are somewhat more likely to be Republican.

About 41 percent of U.S. adults attend church at least once a week and say religion is important in their daily lives, Gallup said. Among that group, 49 percent of respondents described themselves as Republican or leaning that way, 11 percent as independents and 36 percent as Democrats or Democratic leaners.

Among very religious whites, 64 percent said they are Republican…

Only 29 percent of the non-religious are Republicans

One of my favorite parallel instances of apocrypha is the one-liner favored by conehead friends of mine who work in the National Labs: “94% of scientists are atheists – the rest are Republicans”.

Har.

Bill in Congress to guarantee right to contraception – who will try to stop it?

GOP-war-against-women

Democrats in Congress said Tuesday that they had developed legislation to override the Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The bill would ensure that women have access to insurance coverage for birth control even if they work for businesses that have religious objections.

The bill, put together in consultation with the Obama administration, would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive health services, under the Affordable Care Act.

The measure could be on the Senate floor as early as next week, Senate Democrats said. House Democrats are developing a companion bill, but it faces long odds in the House, which is controlled by Republicans. Speaker John A. Boehner described the Hobby Lobby decision last week as “a victory for religious freedom.”

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who led efforts by Senate Democrats to respond to the ruling, said: “Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business. Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”

Ms. Murray wrote her proposal with Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado.

Ms. Murray’s bill criticizes the court’s majority opinion and declares that “employers may not discriminate against their female employees” in the coverage of preventive health services.

To this end, it says that an employer “shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. This requirement, it says, shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Someday the role our original constitution played in leading separation of church and state throughout the world will once again be recognized back where it started. Right here in the Heart of the Free World.

More or less, eh?

Republican State Senator speaks out about his party’s voter suppression


Embarrassed by Republican corruption

We were treated to a rare moment of candor last week when a Republican legislator expressed a sense of shame about his party’s blatant voter suppression tactics. Wisconsin state senator Dale Schultz appeared on the radio program The Devil’s Advocate last Wednesday to talk about Republican efforts to limit the hours available for early voting in the state.

Not surprisingly, Schultz is a lame duck that doesn’t need to worry about getting reelected nor pandering to the Republican’s resentful, fearful, and misinformed white base.

The lawmaker said, “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.” He was the lone Republican to oppose the bill, which ultimately passed. After very accurately calling voter fraud “mythology”, he then went on to say:

“It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud.

“The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.”

Every now and then I joke about my cynicism; but, I walked away from white-bread America sixty years ago because of the hypocrisy, bigotry and corruption common to so much of social life in this nation. The excuse accepted by politicians, then, was the Cold War and McCarthyism, the excuse for their cowardice and inaction.

But, today, we’re washed in the hypocrisy, the abundant waste of a liberal government that accepts all the lies and garbage of a conservative government. The Democrats – with whatever power they’ve had over the past six years – were just as cowardly as the Truman government. Campaigning for a National Health Service and then fighting for halfway measures that guarantee continued and unneeded profits for the insurance industry is another example of corruption selling out America’s working families.

The incredible waste of money and effort that shells out billions of dollars to combat the existence of a pitiful number of terrorists scattered about the globe is characteristic of a dying imperial nation – more like 19th Century England than the 21st Century United States.

Our education policy under a liberal Harvard Constitutionalist is no less corrupt and futile than the advocacy of that “education president” who spent his college career at Yale stuffing drugs up his nose.

Cynicism isn’t required to comprehend how often and how thoroughly the American middle class has been sold out by our political saviors – of both parties. All we are left with is voting against the evil of two lessers. When we’re allowed to vote.

Feds finally roll over for a study of cannabis as PTSD treatment

medical marijuana

The U.S. government has signed off on a long-delayed study looking at marijuana as a treatment for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, a development that drug researchers are hailing as a major shift in U.S. policy.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ decision surprised marijuana advocates who have struggled for decades to secure federal approval for research into the drug’s medical uses.

The proposal from the University of Arizona was long ago cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, but researchers had been unable to purchase marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The agency’s Mississippi research farm is the only federally-sanctioned source of the drug.

In a letter last week, HHS cleared the purchase of medical marijuana by the studies’ chief financial backer, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which supports medical research and legalization of marijuana and other drugs.

MAPS has been working for over 22 years to start marijuana drug development research, and this is the first time we’ve been granted permission to purchase marijuana from NIDA,” the Boston-based group said in a statement…

Which serves to reinforce the fact that it doesn’t matter whether we have a conservative or liberal government in Washington, DC. Both are constituted of cowards who fear science almost as much as they fear the ignorance of voters who assure their power and petty lordships. They follow, ignoring every opportunity to lead.

Political times change and that’s what changes policies and protocols. The brave men and women who rejected the jive War on Drugs and fought for real change for decades have moved the public far enough to allow opportunist politicians to join the struggle for a sane drugs policy. Or at least put their pedicured toes into the water.

While more than 1 million Americans take medical marijuana — usually for chronic pain — rigorous medical research into the drug’s effects has been limited, in part due to federal restrictions.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under the federal government’s Controlled Substance Act. That means the drug is considered a high-risk for abuse with no accepted medical applications.

Most politicians know better. Most bureaucrats know better. The folks who deserve the credit for this tiny advance are the doctors and stoners, scientists and honest advocates who built a successful political movement strong enough to overcome the two gangs of political hacks we are allowed to vote for.

Apple anger over NSA hacking ain’t alone

Tim Cook pissed off

If Walmart or McDonald’s began describing the Obama Administration as an unconstitutional threat to the privacy of its customers, it would be front page/holy-cow news…But that’s what is happening in Silicon Valley right now, with America’s biggest tech companies.

The most interesting two words in Apple’s official statement today on the news that the NSA can put spyware on 100% of Apple’s products, including the iPhone, are these: “malicious hackers.”

The company said it was unaware of the NSA’s hacking program, called “DROPOUTJEEP,” and that it was working to end the breach. But note that Apple’s statement went out of its way to portray the U.S. government as a security threat:

We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.

Apple isn’t alone in its ire against the NSA. Most people think that the major tech companies — Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. — have been pussycats in terms of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program. In fact there is a bunch of evidence that they hate it, and were unaware of its full extent. Here’s what was said by Microsoft, which has been the most aggressive in publicly expressing its anger about domestic spying, from our coverage earlier this month:

… government snooping potentially now constitutes an ‘advanced persistent threat,’ alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks…We all want to live in a world that is safe and secure, but we also want to live in a country that is protected by the Constitution…

“The anger in the tech business about the NSA’s spying is wide and deep.” And I doubt any change in Administration, who’s in the White House, who is in charge of either house of Congress, will make significant difference. The best Americans in any portion of our tech industry have learned the lesson that American dissidents learned long ago.

You can’t trust either flavor of establishment politicians any further than you can throw them uphill into a heavy wind. Yes, there are courageous individuals who dissent from status quo “Patriot Acts”. You’ll probably never need to take off your shoes to count them all.

Fewer than half of Republicans believe in evolution

Fewer U.S. Republicans believe in evolution now than five years ago, with a Pew Research poll finding an 11 percentage point drop…43 percent of Republican respondents said they believe humans have evolved over time, a drop from 54 percent in 2009, a Pew release said Monday.

Sixty-seven percent of Democratic respondents said they believe in evolution, a rise of 3 percent from 2009.

Not a surprise. Why would anyone – even a conservative – with a bit of science education and understanding stay in a political party dominated nowadays by religious nutballs and economic ostriches?

Party differences remained even when factors such as the racial and ethnic composition, and religious and educational background of the political groups were taken into account, the Pew researchers said.

“It’s an intriguing finding that is suggestive of greater polarization,” Cary Funk of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project and Social & Demographic Trends project told NBC News.

Fits the standard one-liner among coneheads I know who work at a nearby national laboratory, e.g., 94% of scientists are atheists. The other 6% are Republicans.

8 Congressional Democrats busted at Washington sit-in

Eight congressional Democrats were arrested Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol while demonstrating for immigration law reform.

Those arrested included Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a leading figure in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois — along with Joe Crowley of New York, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Al Green of Texas.

They were part of a larger group conducting a sit-in to block a street in the front of the Capitol…

The arrests came as thousands of protesters took part in the “Camino Americano: March for Immigration Reform” rally on the National Mall, even though the open-area national park is closed due to the federal government shutdown…

The bill closely matches a comprehensive bipartisan bill the Senate passed in June that includes a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11.7 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. The House bill had no Republican sponsors…

The National Park Service, which administers the mall, agreed to let the event take place under First Amendment privileges…The First Amendment says Congress can make no law abridging free speech, peaceful assembly or an appeal to government to redress grievances.

The mall is intended to be the pre-eminent national civic space for public gatherings because it is considered the place where constitutional rights of speech and peaceful assembly find their fullest expression, a mall foundation statement says.

Bravo! Nice to see a small portion of our elected representatives willing to engage non-violent protest against injustice. Lots more photos over here.

Any Freedom Fighters from the NRA or the Tea Party take part? Oh.

U.S. phonies up the FISA Court program to investigate Americans for potentially criminal activities

2ushe84.jpg

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”

Tell me again how Obama and the Dems care more about due process than the scumbags in the Tea Party/Republican Party. I just bought a new pair of rubber boots and I’m prepared to break them in walking through a farmyard full of crap.

This whole process is indefensible and unconstitutional. Yes, the lack of standards were laid down by Bush and Cheney and Democrats are perfectly willing describe what thugs they were – selling the Patriot Act as defense against terrorism and then letting it be used for everything from schoolyard gangs to tax challenges. Obama and his flunkies revamped all that to add “legalness” and now it’s supposed to be OK.

Here we are facing the same process used to legitimize illicit law practices in the name of the War on Terror – courtesy of the FISA Court and the NSA, this time.. Inexcusable, unforgivable and should be overturned by any elected federal officials with principles and a backbone.