Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I have updated my blogroll, adding a few new names to the Liberal Side, and a bit of clean up on the conservative side...had to delete a few blogs that haven't posted in months. OpenMinded Republican, where are you?! Also, I deleted a few that refuse to respond intelligently without insults or ad hominem, (Mike's America, I'm calling you out)...

If anyone feels like they should be added, let me know.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Distrust of the Federal Government

The Distrust of the Federal Government, a cause currently being championed by the right, has begun reaching critical mass. With the tea parties, 9/12 marches, and bloggers blaming all the worlds' ills on the Federal Government in general, and Obama specifically, something was bound to happen.

And happen it did, with the murder of Bill Sparkman, a Federal Census Bureau field worker, who was found strung up in a remote section of the National Forest in Kentucky, with the word "Fed" written on his chest.

Currently, people like Glen Beck are trying to fan the revolutionary flames, with his quoting of obscure provisions of the US Constitution, mis-interpreting what the founding fathers intended in States vs. Federal power, taking portions of our history and lamenting a golden age and laws that were in actuality not about States rights, but about continuing slavery indefinately. The founding fathers disagreed amongst themselves whether power should be centralized in the Federal Government or in the States, and they never specified which. We decided to mix them when we went to war with the South, prohibiting them from secession in order to keep the Union strong, which is why we won World Wars I and II, not to mention the Cold War. We wouldn't have been able to win any of them had we been a fractured nation of State-Countries with nothing more than a Federal Mail service for the president to preside over.

I only forsee more of this in the current political climate. While the anti-government sentiment is currently being sown by the Republican Right, it wasn't too long ago it was the Democratic Left when Bush was in office. Both sides are guilty, and both sides forget their own atrocities when the other is in office. The PATRIOT act, Gtmo, wiretapping, and extraordinary rendition are quickly forgotten by the right, while the left forgets it was Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall, and it is them that currently is printing trillions of dollars to stop a recession and reinflate the bubble that burst last year.

This has got to stop. The Federal Government, for the most part, does what it is supposed to do. Looks out for the common good. It overreaches at times, and that's why we have checks and balances. But labelling someone as treasonous because they support one party or another is ridiculous, and it needs to stop. Otherwise, more people are going to get strung up on trees.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dept. of Justice tightening "State Secrets"

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department will continue Bush administration attempts to block certain lawsuits by claiming they threaten state secrets, but the agency announced Wednesday it will try to curb the use of such claims in the future.
Attorney General Eric Holder said he and a group of Justice Department lawyers will personally review such claims.
During the Bush administration, the so-called state secrets privilege was invoked to quash lawsuits filed by people claiming they had been tortured or illegally wiretapped.
The Bush administration argued in those cases -- and the Obama administration still argues in a few cases alive in the courts -- that the lawsuits must be dismissed because evidence in the case would harm national security.
In a statement, Holder said the new policy ''sets out clear procedures that will provide greater accountability and ensure the state secrets privilege is invoked only when necessary and in the narrowest way possible.''
The administration's move could quell efforts in Congress to pass a law curbing the use of state secrets claims.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Wednesday's announcement, but added he remains ''especially concerned'' that the government should be required to show significant evidence to a judge when seeking to assert the privilege, and said he hoped the Obama administration would work with Congress to establish such a requirement.
Under the new approach spelled out by Holder, an agency trying to hide such information would have to convince the attorney general and a panel of Justice Department lawyers that its release would compromise national security.
In the past, such government claims of state secrecy required a lower standard of proof that the information was dangerous, as well as the approval of fewer officials.
The Justice Department press release said the government will also submit evidence to a judge to buttress its claims of state secrets, but Holder's actual legal memo to department lawyers makes no mention of sharing information with judges.
That has been a highly contentious issue in previous state secrets cases.
Asked why Holder's memo does not instruct government lawyers to share evidence with judges, Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the new policy will be conveyed internally.
The Bush administration was criticized for invoking state secrets claims in lawsuits challenging post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism programs, and the incoming Obama administration had promised a thorough review of such claims.
Yet in conducting its review, the Obama administration has continued to assert the privilege in all the current cases.
In one lawsuit brought by a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, government lawyers changed their reasoning for invoking the state secrets privilege, but are still asserting it.
The judge in that case ridiculed the effort as two-faced.
''The government's new refrain is heads you lose, tails we win,'' U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in a recent decision, which was overturned on appeal.


Two things I put emphasis on. First: Obama is a hypocrite. As Tao says, Obama really isn't much different from Bush on most major issues. Iraq withdrawal timetable? Bush's. The Afghanistan war? Bush's. The Bailouts? A continuation of Bush's. Guantanamo Bay? Kept it open, just like Bush did. States Secrets? Just like Bush.

Really, Obama is the democrat version of G.W.B.

Second: In our Federal Government, we have always had checks and balances. States Secrets should be no different. Otherwise, the Executive Branch can (and did) just use it to cover their backsides. We need a judge to review the evidence and decide whether or not it is actually sensitive. If not, then proceed with the case. If it is sensitive, throw the case out. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Call Obama's bluff

I read an interesting commentary this morning over at CNN by Gloria Borger. In it, she says the GOP should "call Obama's bluff" on bipartisanship. He says he wants a BiPartisan bill, and both sides say they agree on around 80% of the bill, so why not draft up their own bill on the 80% they agree on? The GOP would look like heroes, and they would be calling Obama's bluff, essentially forcing him to cave.

The GOP's bill should get rid of the mandatory coverage thing. That's stupid, just as comparing it to auto insurance. You are only required to carry auto insurance coverage for your car if you own and drive it, and you only nare required to carry liability insurance. There really isn't a valid comparison to be found here.

The GOP bill should keep other parts of the Senate's bill, such as barring insurance companies from dropping a policyholder in the event of illness as long as that person had paid the premium in full. That should be illegal.

It also should bar insurance companies from refusing to pay for procedures if the policyholder has paid. I know this one from experience: my sister's doctor recommended an MRI because of my sister's dizzyness and chronic earraches. The insurance company denied the claim, saying an MRI was "experimental." My parents paid for it anyway, massively increasing their debt. Good thing they paid for it. The MRI found a life-threatening condition just in time to get her treatment. If they had not, she would have died months ago. And that is unacceptable.

In the current bill there are other things the GOP should keep, such as making it illegal for insurers to have annual caps or lifetime limits. If you pay your premium, the insurance companies need to provide the service you paid for. Period.

There are other things in the new bill unveiled today that the GOP should keep, while they throw out other things that cannot be agreed upon. Call the President's bluff. Stop acting partisan, and do what is best for us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Supply Side/Reaganomics/Trickle Down: Does it really work?

My friend Josh and I have a sort of perpetual debate going about the theory of "supply side" economics and whether or not it worked. Neither one of us specialized in Economics, but both of us work in the financial sector (he is an accountant, I am in banking). He contends that it works, and I argue that it did not, as we have been using supply side economics in roughly 20 of the last 30 years.

This post is my attempt at trying to understand supply-side economics.

Basically, supply-side economics supporters claimed that by cutting taxes on the top earners in our society that tax revenues would increase, as well as "trickle-down" to the general populace because the top earners are the ones that create jobs. In essence, supply-side economics cuts taxes to the top earners in order to increase supply, since our society runs on supply and demand.

Proponents used the Laffer Curve to theorize that in order to maximize federal revenue one couldn't go too low with tax rates, nor too high. This is true. But Reagan and his financial advisors (and every following Republican President that has used this since) misunderstood the Laffer Curve, thinking that every tax cut would increase revenue. But that is simply not true. If you decrease taxes too much, revenue goes down. Basically, tax rates were far higher during the Kennedy administration than they are now (50-60% vs. today's 35-40% for top-tier earners). They were cut, and revenues went up. But that was the maximization. It already happened in those days. Reaganomics worked for Reagan. But that was the highest part of the Laffer Curve. Continuing to cut, as Bush 43 did, led to our problems today. But this is just the Federal Revenue side of this.

On the public side of this, or the "trickle-down" side, which contends that increasing the revenues for the highest earners will trickle down into the pockets of even the poorest. The rich business owner will gain more in money, invest more of it into his company, hire more workers, raise wages, and the middle class will earn more, which goes to the Starbucks and McDonalds and to the companies that employ the lower class, and they too will get hired more and increased wages. Sounds great, doesn't it? But it doesn't work out that way in reality. Business owners have always looked for the bottom line. But unlike the '80s, when Reagan employed Reaganomics, when it was better for the bottom line to hire American workers and raise wages to keep them happier at your company rather than the competition's, now it has become cheaper to outsource. "Trickle-down" now longer works. It has become "trickle out."

Keynesian economics, however, advocate the laffer curve as well, but with a better understanding. They too advocate cutting taxes, but to the middle and lower class. This frees up more money in the classes that spend their money more freely. Money circulates more. The tax base increases, thereby increasing tax revenues. On the public side, Keynesian economics, a "mixed economy," is better described as "trickle-up." Sometimes, private enterprises screw it up for the macro-economics of a country, as we saw in last year's meltdown.

Keynesian economics utilizes the private sector pre-dominately, but realizes that once in awhile, the private sector needs guidance from the government and public sector. This is theory that saved us from the Great Depression and brought in the Golden Age of Capitalism (1945-1970). Keynesian economics is still capitalism, folks. It just uses the government to make sure that the economy "trickles-up" instead of down, which works better. It isn't the middle class that outsources. It is the upper-class. I'd take "trickle up" over "trickle out" any day.

Let me know if I missed anything. Again, this is just my non-economist's view of macro-economics.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9/9/09: Beattles, Palin

Today, the Beattles Remastered has been released. I haven't yet picked up my copy, but I will be soon. Here's a review from CNN:

The newly remastered Beatles box sets are a treat for a casual fan and a dream come true for die-hards.

The mono set may be revelatory for some, but even the box of stereo albums -- the best-known versions and the primary sales focus -- is a step up from the 22-year-old original CD releases.
Need proof?

Check out "Lovely Rita," from 1967's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
The shimmering guitar intro, followed by Paul McCartney's soaring "Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh," the bouncy bass line and John Lennon and George Harrison's smirky backing vocals, offers delicious ear candy that doesn't rot your teeth.

Many other audible delights emerge to the surface more often than they did in the prehistoric days of vinyl and cassette because of the remastering.

Harrison's surprisingly cheerful-sounding sitar that mimics Lennon's melody in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," from 1965's "Rubber Soul," is much crisper.

Ringo Starr's rat-tat-tat drumming muscle on "Rain," from 1966, sounds brand new. The multitracked harmonies of "Because," from 1969's "Abbey Road," shimmer.

The remastering work likewise subtly expands the band's sound from its earlier days, a time when overdubs and studio tricks were kept to a minimum.

Listening to the band's debut album, 1963's "Please Please Me" (mostly recorded in a one-day session), it all but feels like being in the musty studio watching them perform these songs.
Lennon's sore-throated screaming (literally and figuratively) on the album's finale, "Twist and Shout," has never sounded more sandpapery -- and that's meant as a compliment.

Other full-throttle rockers, like the whoop-it-up Motown cover "Money (That's What I Want)" (from 1963's "With the Beatles") and Sir Paul's one-take vocal explosion on Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" (1964), also shake the walls.

If you want to know what it was like to see the Beatles perform in the Cavern Club during their pre-fame days, play these songs at a very high volume. Just make sure your neighbors don't mind.
For fans who have been bombarded with these songs countless times, there's something new as well.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

And in political news, Palin is still holding on to her "death panels" ridiculousness. If she still believes it, she's a fool. If not, she's a liar. Either way, I'm glad she isn't in the white house. We have enough of both already there.

"Is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats'
proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by-dare I say it-death panels?" she writes. "Establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many Americans."

So, because paranoia rang true for many Americans it makes it true? Not really, Sarah.

I really hope we have a better candidate in 2012 than her.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama indoctrinating schoolchildren

...or not. Susannah, over at Get the Big Idea, posted on this. Obama, on Tuesday, September 8th, which will be the first day of school for most of the country's schoolchildren, will be delivering an address over the internet that most schools will be broadcasting into every classroom.

In Susannah's post, she likens this to the "Hitler Youth," and in her comments links to a video where children were pledging their undying support to Hitler in Nazi Germany. She says she will be pulling her children out of school due to this "unprecedented 'Presidential address' to the captive audience of our nation's school children." She has said she will be pulling her children out of school, which is her right, but is a little ridiculous. I normally wouldn't say anything, but she correctly points out that "hundreds of thousands of other parents across the nation" are doing the same, and she says it is because "Our country’s current political climate has produced unparalleled Government control in our society, and has raised to high alert suspicions of socialist motivations (& worse). In such a climate, for the President to deliver an unprecedented “address” to every child in the nation’s public schools..."

Susannah isn't alone in her hysteria. That's why it is scary. I'm seeing so much hysteria on both sides right now...the left saying the right wants to kill Obama, the right saying the left and Obama want to round them up and put them in concentration camps...enough!

The hysteria has to stop. Susannah, I do respect you, but you are just as guilty as the left in falling into hysteria about the opposition's President.

This address isn't socialistic, nor is it unprecedented.

On the U.S. Department of Education Web site Secretary Arne Duncan wrote that the speech was about "the importance of education."

"The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning," Duncan wrote. "He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens."
President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation's students in a televised speech during school hours in 1991. ''I can't understand for the life of me what's so great about being stupid,'' Bush said, according to news reports from the time. He told students to ''block out the kids who think it's not cool to be smart'' and ''work harder, learn more.''

Democrats at the time criticized the speech. "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students," said Richard Gephardt, then the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives.

Republican Newt Gingrich defended Bush's speech, though. "Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?" Gingrich said at the time. "It was done at a nonpolitical site and was beamed to a nonpolitical audience. . . . They wanted to reach the maximum audience with the maximum effect to improve education."

Everyone needs to calm down.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mexico's war on drugs escalating.

While living in Mexico last year, I got to see a little of this firsthand. During independence day last september, while I was watching fireworks in Cuernavaca, the drug cartels threw grenades into the crowd in Michoacan, killing and injuring dozens of people there just to celebrate and watch the fireworks.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) -- Gunmen shot and killed 17 patients and wounded two others in a drug rehabilitation center in northern Mexico late Wednesday, the mayor of Ciudad Juarez said Thursday.

Police gather at the rehab facility where 17 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, late Wednesday.

Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said authorities believe a rival drug gang attacked the men at the El Aviane rehab facility.

"At the very least, it was one organized crime group thinking that another group was operating in that place," Reyes told CNN.

Wednesday night's shootings, he said, are similar to an attack at a drug facility in March that left 20 patients dead.

A Mexican civic group said last week that Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, had the most slayings per capita in 2008 of any city in the world.

More than 1,420 people have been killed in Juarez this year, Reyes told CNN on Monday. About 1,600 people were killed in Juarez in 2008, Reyes said.

The latest Juarez killings came on the same day that gunmen shot dead the No. 2 security official and three others in Michoacan, the home state of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Jose Manuel Revuelta Lopez, the deputy public safety secretary of Mexico's Michoacan state, was killed in a shootout that also claimed the lives of two of his bodyguards and a bystander caught in the crossfire, said Jesus Humberto Adame Ortiz, spokesman for the state.
Revuelta was leaving his office at 5:15 p.m. in the state capital, Morelia, when the shooting occurred, Adame said.

An unprecedented wave of violence has washed over Mexico since Calderon declared war on drug cartels shortly after coming into office in December 2006. More than 11,000 people have since died, about 1,000 of them police.

The offensive against the government has been especially fierce in Michoacan.
In July, La Familia Michoacana drug cartel was accused of assaults in a half-dozen cities across the state and of torturing and killing 12 off-duty federal agents and dumping their bodies on a remote road. That violence was thought to have been retaliation for the arrest of a La Familia leader.

In Juarez, much of the violence is being committed by the rival Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels, which are fighting for lucrative routes into the United States as well as local street sales, Reyes said.

The deportations of thousands of Mexicans who have served time in U.S. jails into Ciudad Juarez are adding a deadly ingredient to an already volatile state of security, he said.
In the past 45 days, 10 percent of those killed in Juarez had been deported from the United States in the past two years, Reyes said.

"We don't have the statistics to know if they were criminals from the United States or not," he told CNN. "We know they were deported from the U.S. Most of them come from U.S. jails. They end up in the city of Juarez, and that's a problem generated for us, but also for the United States."

Most deportees are simply Mexicans who crossed the border illegally, but some hardened criminals get involved with the gangs, which have networks in the United States, Reyes said.
According to a report released last week by the Mexican Citizens Council for Public Security watchdog group, Juarez had an estimated rate of 130 killings per 100,000 people. The city has a population of around 1.5 million.

By comparison, the homicide rate in New Orleans, Louisiana, the deadliest city in the United States in 2008, was 64 homicides per 100,000 residents, based on preliminary FBI figures.

Honestly, I think this is another reason we need to tighten up our borders. We do not need this to spill over into the US. It's easier to keep it out than to stop it later. While we do that, we need to help Calderon end it there so it doesn't further escalate and spill over. This is something previously only seen in South America, but it has spread further and further north and cannot be ignored any longer.