political convention

political convention

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rand Paul, the 'Libertarian-ish' senator

Usually called a libertarian by the media, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said recently he thought a better description would be “libertarian-ish” because he is also a Republican.

The libertarian hate-government ideology is hopelessly out of place in a complex and diverse modern society. But its more thoughtful believers are sometimes right on questions of fundamental freedoms such as speech, religion and personal liberty.  So how does Rand Paul rate on the “ish” part of his self-description? Not very well it turns out. Below, for example, is Senator Paul’s position on abortion from his official website, www.paul.senate.gov. [Sanctity of Life].  On this issue, Senator Paul has no problem with big government intruding into the lives of individual citizens. Analysis added by LaughingStockNation. 

●I am 100% pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. It is the duty of our government to protect this life as a right guaranteed under the Constitution.

Consequences:  In addition to abortion, birth control methods that impede the fertilization of a human egg, such as “the pill,” could be outlawed if Senator Paul’s ideas became law.  A fertilized egg possesses “personhood,” according to the senator’s view, and conception happens at the behest of God.  Using government to impose this religious belief on those who disagree violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

●I strongly oppose any federal funding of abortion and will attempt to stop the flow of tax dollars to groups who perform or advocate for abortion.

Consequences: A non-profit group that merely advocates on behalf of a woman’s right to have an abortion could lose its tax exempt status and contributions to the organization would no longer be tax deductible. In addition, groups like Planned Parenthood that provide vital pre-natal care to thousands of women will be excluded from any kind of government grants or funding. Punishing an organization simply because of advocacy violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

●I believe we may be able to save millions of lives in the near future by allowing states to pass their own anti-abortion laws. If states were able to do so, I sincerely believe many -- including Kentucky -- would do so tomorrow, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Consequences:  Conservative state legislatures across the country will be able to use their governmental powers to force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term no matter the circumstances of conception or the woman’s wishes.

 I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.

Consequences:  Such a law violates the Constitutional principle of separation of powers and would stand little chance of being upheld by the courts. If, however, Senator Paul’s proposal was passed by Congress, signed by the President and sustained in court, it would prevent citizens from exercising one of their most fundamental rights—going to court to challenge injustice and the improper exercise of government power.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wilhelm and Bush, Jocose to a Fault

In her book “The War that Ended Peace” about the causes of World War I, historian Margaret MacMillan describes German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II as a man who tried hard in public to seem forceful and decisive but in private was insecure and often childlike.
Part of Wilhelm’s contradictory nature was his tendency to be jocose, as he was once described by the French ambassador to Berlin. He liked practical jokes and other attempts at humor, some of which were more cruel than funny. He compelled a group of husky soldiers to dress up as women and found the spectacle hilarious. On another occasion, he cajoled his army chief of staff into dancing dressed in a tutu and feather hat. The poor man died of a heart attack during the performance.

MacMillan says the Kaiser was inattentive to duty and impulsive and bellicose in foreign affairs. While Wilhelm was not the sole cause of World War I, he was one of the primary instigators, abetted by a personality that oscillated  between insecurity, indifference, and nationalistic pugnacity.

When George W. Bush was president it became evident that he shared some of the Kaiser's predilections for jocosity. At the G8 summit in 2006 he came up behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and briefly massaged her shoulders. Merkel reacted as if set upon by the Boston Strangler. 
More recently at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Library, Bush quipped that "former presidents compare their libraries the way other men may compare their, well…” 
Like the Kaiser, Bush was antagonistic to other countries, including allies. He also began a war and prematurely celebrated victory thousands of miles from the battlefield while wearing a military uniform. The Kaiser favored military uniforms and, like Bush, never went into battle himself.   


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Paul Krugman calls it the Trahison Des Nerds: Betrayal by Economists

Paul Krugman ,New York Times columnist and Princeton economics professor, came up with an amusing description of economists who tell the rich and powerful what they want to hear (NY Times 5/2/14).  He thinks such people are engaged in the Trahison des nerds. Even though they should know better, they write analyses that support the conservative fiction that slashing government spending will help the economy grow by boosting fiscal confidence. Trahison is the French word for betrayal or treachery.  French philosopher Julien Benda may have used the construction first when he titled his 1927 book, “La Trahison Des Clercs.” It described how German and French intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries became apologists for warmongering, nationalism and racism (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/). Also in 1927 René Magritte named one of his most famous paintings, “La Trahison des Images.” It shows what looks like a pipe, but a caption reads "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (this is not a pipe). The point Magritte seems to be making is that images are constructs that betray our perceptions.  The painting isn’t a pipe. It’s an image painted on a flat surface with lines, arcs, and colors that the observer chooses to imagine as a pipe. As semanticist Alfred Korzybski noted, the map is not the territory.  Krugman’s choice of the word nerd to describe the treacherous economists he has in mind isn’t very hard to understand.  It’s the columnist having fun by choosing to infantilize his wayward colleagues.

Supreme Court Approves Prayer at Government Meetings: A Small Southern Town Responds

Transcript of the meeting of the Littletown, Mississippi water commission.

Chairman:  The meeting of the board of commissioners of the Littletown, Mississippi water district is called to order.  As usual we'll begin our meeting with a prayer and Rev. Smith of the Littletown  Baptist Church is our regular prayer leader. Well, he’s kind of the only show in town (laughter).  Now, the Supreme Court tells us that it’s OK to pray before our meetings but we can’t have the same preacher from the same church every time. That makes it look like we’re pushing just one religion. Well, there’s only one church in town (more laughter). But we do have these Iraqi immigrants living out by the air base. There’s a group of them here tonight. They want the commission to approve repairs to the old water pipes going out their way.  They also brought their shaman…ah…imam  with them.  Mr. Hussein.  He’s going to give us a prayer. Now the way I think this works is that you all remove your shoes and kneel on the floor facing east.  Oh, all you gals will have to move to the back of the room (Loud shouting and general hubbub). Order, order. The Supreme Court didn’t say you had stay and listen. The meeting’s adjourned. Mr. Hussein go ahead and do your thing.  We’ll all be back next week when Rev. Smith will give us a proper prayer. No. There won’t be any action tonight on those busted pipes. 

Letter published in the New York Times, May 7, 2014
To the Editor:
It always seems that the very same people (and justices) who believe that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct have no trouble meddling with the First. I have no doubt that if our country’s founders could see the unending string of tragedies resulting from a dogmatic interpretation of the Second Amendment and the repeated trashing of the First, they would make some changes to the Bill of Rights.The Second Amendment would be dumped and replaced with the following: “Please reread the First Amendment!”
Lincolndale, N.Y., May 6, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

California Voter Misguidance

By now registered voters in California should have received the official state election guide for the June primary.  However, if you’re looking for information about most major candidates for statewide office, you won’t find it in this strange document.  You won’t even find a clearly labeled list of who’s running. 

What the guide does include are campaign statements from more than a score of candidates running for governor, attorney general and other important statewide offices.  Most of these people are political unknowns and have virtually no chance of winning.  There are also a few who do have broad name recognition but not because they have distinguished themselves as office holders or leaders.  One, for example, is Orly Taitz, who identifies herself as a lawyer, dentist, and former real estate agent.  Taitz, who was born in the Soviet Union, is best known for her campaign to remove President Obama from office because she believes he was born in Kenya and is controlled by the Chicago mafia. Clearly she has the kind of keen legal mind that qualifies her to be state attorney general, which is the office she’s running for.

                                                                         Orly Taitz

Why does Taitz merit a paragraph in the voter guide and not Kamala Harris, the widely respected incumbent?  The reason is a wacko scheme passed by California voters designed to curb campaign expenditure excesses. Couple that with a new open primary law and you have a recipe for electoral confusion.   

So here’s the picture:  The campaign expenditure law requires candidates to declare whether or not they will comply with certain spending limits.  If they accept the limits they become eligible to buy space in the voter guide for their campaign statements and also get an asterisk by their name.  Those who don’t agree are on their own and don’t get an asterisk.  Major candidates and incumbents, of course, can usually raise significant amounts of money so they don’t typically volunteer to limit expenditures.  
The problem is that under the new open primary system there are no longer separate primaries for each party. All candidates for an office are lumped together on the ballot.  However, the voter guide, one of the tools people use to decide how to vote, not only bans campaign statements by candidates who've declined expenditure limits, it doesn’t even prominently list all the contenders. For example, you might want to look in the guide to check whether Jerry Brown, the incumbent governor, is running again.  He is, but because he doesn’t have a paragraph in the guide, it takes a concerted effort to find the answer.  The only place Brown’s name appears is at the bottom of page 22 in the list that identifies who has or hasn’t volunteered for spending limits.
You might say it’s just tough luck if Brown wants to spend more money than the limit and forego a paragraph in the voter guide.  However, the tough luck actually goes to voters who want to know, among other things, how many people are running for a particular office and what their names and party affiliations are. This is the kind of information that isn't provided in the television spots "rich" candidates like Brown can afford by choosing not to limit their expenditures.