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The framers respected majority rule … January 4, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in 2012 elections, Financial Reform, Obama, Politics.
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… and built a government around it, one that has served us extremely well over our 230-odd years. They were careful to not design their government with slavish adherence to this rule,  building in numerous checks and balances on power — among branches, within branches and with frequent elections to reflect changing public sentiments.

Over time,  both the Senate and House arrived at rules, procedures and courtesies that allowed the machinery of government to move, with a very healthy respect for minority opinion and stature. This all came together to form a government that moved slowly, with consideration and conservation — by design.

The filibuster for centuries was the Death Star — the ultimate weapon for a minority in Congress to employ to draw a very firm line in the sand on a matter not routine, a matter that went to the very core of principle.

Of late, that weapon has become a tool used by the minority in Congress to impose its will on the nation, on matters large and small, petty and of portent. It no longer relates to principle, except by extension from a minor matter down a very long tortuous logic chain to a “principal” such as a question of the relative strength of government overall, perhaps, or of methodology.

It has been used to usurp majority rule and, with intent, to bring the functioning of duly elected government to a halt.

Today the President said: “Enough.” He went ahead and used his recess appointment power to install Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a much-needed agency enacted into law in 2009.

Republicans who opposed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2009 lost that vote to a healthy majority after many compromises were incorporated into the bill to accommodate the minority’s views. What initially was proposed as a separate, standalone agency was moved within the Treasury Department — a concession to those who feared it could become a rogue operating on its own, with its own budget and no oversight by people with sufficient respect for the needs of lenders, be they banks, near-banks or the many non-bank actors making payday loans.

Some Republicans see no need at all for an agency acting to require fair, open and honest lending — and debt instruments a common person can understand. They have attempted for more than a year to overturn the majority verdict on this bureau with stalemate, backed by the threat of filibuster on any and all nominees to head this lawfully established agency. They lacked the votes to alter the enabling legislation, so they dug in their heels and refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the matter.

Now in nine months, the voters will listen to candidates for Congress, and all are welcome to discuss the merits of the law establishing this agency, any and all flaws in its establishment and propose any and all remedies. Perhaps their arguments will be telling and help win the election of a majority of like-thinkers to the House and the Senate — and perhaps even the White House.

At that point, they would be a majority backed by a clear vote and able to adopt a bill altering the current law. That’s how the Constitution set things up to work.

The minority view on a matter is not ignored or trampled. But the majority will holds sway until a new majority is elected and alters course.

A great many of the Republicans in Congress — and the voices over the air who urge them on — have worked now for more than a year to subvert the system that the Constitution established, many of them resorting to a suggestion that the vote of 2010 that granted the GOP a majority in the House came with a mantle anointing all of their views as blessed by a national majority.

Not so. Not so because the Founders were wise enough to not frame their government as a reflection of Parliament, to temper their democracy with systems that required the passage of considerable time to enable a majority voice to emerge fully formed, discussed and tempered.

The majority still rules in this nation and today the President spoke very forcefully in defense of that Constitutional concept — one the GOP with its long-running obstructionism has degraded to the detriment of the nation.

Voters who have watched this tyranny of a minority within a minority should mind the larger lesson: If this is how this party behaves with a share of power — with complete disrespect for majority rule — how do you think it would conduct business with majority power?

Clearly, the cadre sent to D.C. in 2010 have no respect whatever for any opinion other than their own, making them a danger to the nation and its people.

 

Not to belittle the good folks in Iowa … January 3, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in 2012 elections, Politics.
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… but then again, most of them will not budge from their homes tonight to join in what kicks off the presidential nomination season, follows the spending of a huge fortune — but boils down to very little.

A few tens of thousands, at the very most, of the most fringe Republicans will caucus to declare an initial preference from a field of people who have for three months shown that, even collectively, they have no clear plan for addressing the core issues facing the nation. None.

They have mouthed slogans sure to rally the activists, pulled a seeming series of “tax reform” rabbits from a thoughtless shared hat bereft of vetting, and told us over and over and over again what they are against.   They have similarly told us over and over again whose fault simply everything is: anyone drawing a cent from any federal government program or payroll, anyone enforcing laws to protect our air, our water and our investments from unbridled bottom-line-only morals in the suites of corporations owned by who-knows-who, and anyone who thinks the government has any role in rebuilding this nation’s future.

Tonight’s choosing could very well drive the Republican Party further toward an even more radical departure from the shared core policies of both parties in the last decade that built a dominant nation. And that would be a shame, for their are a great many Republicans who know better — much better — and whose contributions are sorely needed.

They must speak up — and recapture the Grand Old Party from the destructive forces that offer no creative vision. Only smoking ruins.

 

Should you make the Earth move … January 1, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in Energy, Environment, Justice, Politics.
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… you should need to explain to the rest of US why this is a good thing, what it might mean in all regards and how you plan to compensate US should your actions do real harm.

That’s all I’m saying when it comes to the 4.0 earthquake yesterday near Youngtown, Ohio, with clear circumstantial evidence that the tumbler was triggered by deep underground pressure applied near a fault line by fracking fluids injected by a company seeking oil. You can read about it here.

Nothing proven yet, and the company has paused injections to allow for an investigation. All good, rational community-minded responses.

The thing is, this is not an isolated phenomenon. It’s a coincidence that has cropped up many times down in the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas region where fracking is commonplace.  It’s also logical, since the concept of fracking is designed to pressure deep shale to “crack” and release natural gases to be recovered. It follows that such pressure applied in a poor location could cause other pressure “adjustments” — like shifts along fault lines, known and not known.

This is NOT an argument for banning fracking as a gas extraction method. Given the current economy and need for this fuel, such a conclusion would be knee-jerk and unsound.

But it does underscore in a huge way the stakes all of US have in what happens to that rock tens of thousands of feet below our feet. In addition to the petrochemicals and gas trapped there are things like water supplies — and the underpinnings of our communities. There is no inherent “right” to the riches down there, although our laws allow for the leasing of the privilege to gather it up. Along  with that comes the inherent responsibility to do that responsibly — meaning, with responsibility for all the results of that activity.

A simple rule applies: If you break it, you’ve bought it. No blanket waivers of liabilities to the rest of US.

That’s what the discussion of “fracking” needs to concentrate on: Holding people doing that fracking to full responsibility to the rest of US for any and all damage done in the process — to drinking water, to surface waters with any waste fluids and to anything on top should you cause things like earthquakes.

And not with some years-later claim on some multi-layered corporate shell long stripped of any resources to draw on for damages. Up front, with bonds or clear assets set in reserve to compensate. That will add to the cost, of course. But that is a legitimate cost of doing such business, just as it is in many other endeavors. This industry should not be sheltered from that cost — meaning: subsidized because the risk is offloaded to US.

This is another case where we should simply say no to profits being 100% privatized, while the risks and fallout costs are shifted to US — the public, be we just 100 people who rely on aquifers for water, or tens of thousands who rely on the Earth’s crust for our lives.

I don’t know where all the lines are. Reasonable people can draw them. But they will only be counted as “reasonable” if they  acknowledge their responsibility — to the community.

That’s not “the government” talking. It’s the nation.

 

A new year’s resolve … January 1, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings, Politics.
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… would be to be here — and speak — each day. To not allow sloth or the rest of living to intrude on what — detractors aside — must be a voice speaking to common sense, if not always arriving there.

So — onward.

Well, wasn’t that special? November 21, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings.
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We all might wonder exactly what all went on behind those closed doors down in the swamp while the Reds and the Blues wasted everybody’s time before coming out today to cry “uncle” and head home for the drumsticks and the pie.

Could have been Jacks or Better. Maybe Charades. Maybe they all just put their feet up once the cameras left and watched Beavis and Butthead reruns. Not something I’m real curious about, come to think of it.

You really didn’t expect anything else would come of it. You kind of had a sense when they set the whole thing up that it wasn’t going to work. But if you’re like me, you’re kind of glad that they did it all because the whole crowd down there ended up as just mildly annoying background noise for a few months, leaving us with a remnant of summer and a decent fall without worrying about stuff falling out of the sky and crushing … well something.

Maybe your 401(k).

Maybe another slice of your equity.

Maybe your hopes that the factory down the road would see brighter days ahead and make more refrigerators and need an extra hand.

Maybe your notion that the last dance to the brink, and the “collateral damage” to millions of people, businesses and hopes, was enough to convince these people that the goal was a solution, not a stalemate until a winner-take-all cage match a year from now.

No, that wasn’t just a goal.

That was their job.

So how come this all ends up with the Hatfields and the McCoys shlumping to the microphones to bleat the Alma Maters and do so with such … satisfaction?

They failed. And since when is that OK?

Make them go back in. In the same suits, the same dresses, the same damned underwear. Make Harry and Nancy and John and Mitch go in too. Make them sleep there. Wheel in a PortaPotty.  Send In Chinese. Pipe in some BeeGees.

Tell them the heat goes down 1 degree each day.

And while they are in there, stop all the checks. To senators, to representatives, to staff.

Just don’t let them come back out. Not without an agreement.

We’re the boss.

Tell them to get back in that room and do their job — to be a Congress, not a collection of banner-waving fools doing their level best, it seems, to crush any chance we all have of rebuilding this nation.

It’s their job.

‘Let them eat peanut butter’ November 20, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings, Politics, Wall Street.
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… is the word from the Wall Street Journal, arguably the tippie-top of  the “mainstream” media voices considering our world from the perspective of the people running it.

And I am struck by the absolute contrast in two pieces the fine folks at RealClearPolitics led me to this morning. One is Peggy Noonan, and this thoughtful and deeply constructive piece from an adviser to the last president before the current president. The other is today’s sampling from one James Taranto, a commentary that is more a straight play to the cheap seats and a cry into the storm with toes as deeply sunken into the pre-K sand as those he mocks from within a Bank of America branch in San Francisco. (more…)

I do know how to fix this … November 9, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Politics.
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…you know, that nationwide test of the Emergency Warning System today that was supposed to get the word out about … something or other .. through every broadcast station.

Well, according to this report, it didn’t work — exactly. Some radio stations and some TV stations didn’t get the  memo, it seems.

Easy to fix, really.

Hire Sarah Palin and have her tweet it or shoot it out through her e-mail list.

Every TV and radio outlet in the nation is sure to not only see it, but go right into Breaking News mode with it.

Not a problem.

Bah, humbug! ‘Xmas tree tax’ is what’s wrong, people November 9, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings, Politics.
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First of all, the Obama Administration is not proposing a 15-cent tax on your Christmas Tree, as the marketers of political claptrap would have you believe.

As this straight-arrow Associated Press account will tell you, it’s all part of an Ag Dept standing operation. The National Christmas Tree Association  has been asking for three years for authority to require of its members who grow trees a 15-cent-per-tree assessment to pay for a national campaign promoting the purchase of natural, piney smelling, needle-shedding things to hang your ornaments from. It reeks a little of using Uncle Sam to strong-arm the farmers who don’t want the campaign, but that’s another issue.

The standing program was used for the “Got Milk’ campaign the dairy industry mounted, the ‘Other White Meat’ program’ the pig industry got going and 16 others. The growers want an ad campaign to battle the people like WalMart who sell imported aritificial Christmas trees they make from oil. These latter folks also sell little aerosol cans made in Mexico that let you spray scent to make these things smell like “real” trees.

But the Heritage Foundation, which I guess has annointed itself the protector of stuff made outside of this country for people to buy to celebrate an American tradition, got all hot and bothered that the poor consumer would have to fork over $35.15 this year for a tree — if they were buying a real one — from the tree stand that bought the trees from the farmer who grew the trees whose trade organization wants to collect 15 cents a tree from the farmer to try to save his dying business. If you follow.

The Heritage Foundation, all in the spirit of Christmas and stuff, sees this as a readymade missile to file at President Obama — you remember him — that (really a Muslim) guy in the White House who has nothing better to do than dream up a “tax” on Christmas, he being all hellbent on stamping out that little annoyance along with Chevrolet (oh, sorry. He saved Chevy), Apple Pie and, well, freedom itself.

So this fine defender of all our freedoms — this Heritage Foundation — gets everyone all lathered up against the plan the thousands of U.S. farmers came up with to impose a fee upon themselves to pay for advertising to try to talk us all back into buying real trees grown on American soil, instead of  phony ones that look crappier every year made in Thailand by machines that pour plastic refined from oil bought maybe from Malaysia into molds and so forth.

In this Christmasy spirit,  this Heritage Foundation slips up our chimney with — the Big Lie. Just what we all wanted in our holiday stocking — a big, stinky, rotting fish of a campaign that probably is going to overwhelm all that piney spray the kids are sure to have gotten ahold of by now.

And the paid repeaters of partisan crapola blog this to living death until the USDA puts the whole thing on hold. But not before the Houston Chronicle concludes:

Obama backs off on plan to destroy Christmas

Oh Mama! My favorite part of this whole dog-chases-tail pile of baloney?

These two guys in the AP story, after all the facts in the matter were laid out:

Conservative critics were unbowed. David Addington, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and now a vice president at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said in a post on the think tank’s website that the money coming into the federal government constitutes a tax.

“The American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government,” Addington said.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., piled on.

“This new tax is a smack in the face to each and every American who celebrates Christmas, and may be the best example to date of President Obama’s obsession with taxing and regulating hard-working American families,” he said.

Now Addington is substituting his opinion about the current state of the Christmas tree’s image — he thinks it needs no help — with that of the farmers who are growing the things, selling fewer and fewer each year and want to ante up 15 cents a tree for advertising they dream up to try to talk us back out into the freezing cold every December instead of picking a tree in a heated store while sucking down some giveaway cider.

I’m dumb, but I’m guessing the tree farmer guys were going to take the 15 cents a tree out of their end, if for no other reason than to not have to lug around a big sack of quarters and nickels and dimes  to make change, a process that surely would require them to take off their gloves a hundred times a night in the 20 degree cold. Not having to do that would be worth 15 cents a tree out of my end.  I’m guessing Addington never had to make change in the freezing figgging cold.

Then there’s this Scalise guy from some district down in Louisiana that’s probably pumping the oil that’s going to Thailand to make the phony trees, and he’s taking the whole argument up to a presidential “obsession” with taxing everything up to and including the tinsel, the tinker toys and the toy soldiers.

They both know what they are pushing out is a pile of that same ingredient the reindeer leave in the gutter while they’re waiting for the Fat Guy to glom down another couple of cookies and milk.

They know its crapola. Yet they still cling to the line, no matter how absolutely ridiculous they sound.

Hey nimrods — here’s my thought for the day. We all have a choice, given the current deck out there. And for the sake of argument, I’m going to give you the Obama Christmas Tree tax hoax for a moment.

So here’s the choice:

1 — I pay the 15 cent tax Obama wants to foist on us all to help out a couple thousand struggling farmers and my tree costs $35.15 forever.

2 — Or I get to pay the 9% NATIONAL SALES TAX your front-running alternative Herman Cain is proposing and my tree  costs me  $38.15.

I’m gonna go with the Christmas-hating Obama plan and use the money I save on a Pez dispenser.

And maybe wonder just how big an idiot you think I am when I roll into the voting booth in 11 months, because this kind of conniving, con jobbery is what’s wrong dudes.

Try addressing a real problem, honestly, with a solution where the math would get by Miss Ponder in Grade 3 . I don’t think you’ve got the tools, sport.

And I’m tired of your lies — and your ham-handed manipulations.

Worse yet, I’m telling Santa!

Time to get a really big washer … November 8, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Justice, Politics.
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… and fix this stupid faucet that keeps dribbling out this same corrosive “trickle” of failed, counterproductive policy.

Trickle-down won’t work because those who already have way, way more than they need won’t do it. They’ll take the tax break — and sit on it. Or invest it where growth looks good and steady over the next five years — in companies and enterprises in markets growing rapidly and consistently.

Which isn’t here.

Because the mass of the population is deleveraging out from under the debris left by the Crash of 2008. And real wages are down and have been for a decade and will be for another decade.

Why? Because even though GDP is back to the level last seen before the crash of 2008, and even though corporate profits are headed for a record this year, none of that has been shared with labor — that means the mass of workers who somehow held onto their jobs and threw their shoulders into the wheel to produce the GDP bounceback and profit bounceback.

Just about all of the recovery went to stock buybacks, restored and bolstered dividends, mergers (that cost jobs) and richer executive compensation, immediate and deferred.

None of that recovery largesse trickled down much past the executive washroom. And I’m not talking unions. I’m talking white-collar wimpos who tell themselves are getting somewhere and that their hard work and sacrifice in the last three years will be rewarded. When?

And the people upstairs who made the decisions about how to divide the corporate gains from the recovery are the very same people the GOP expects to rekindle the domestic economy with a rush to — do exactly what? Invest in exactly what? The next Wall Street bubble maybe. If Goldman or Citi or John Paulson can suck them into the next doomed CDO.

It hasn’t happened in the years since the Bush tax cuts. But still the GOP heads in the Super-Committee offer up a “revenue plan” that includes (if you trust this sourced account from Reuters):

—  Limiting the mortgage tax deduction for second homes, and some other upper-income perks, which would bring in about $250 billion over 10 years.

— In return for not only keeping the Bush tax cuts, but taking the whole upper end rate — which would rise to 39.5 percent if the cuts expire — down to 28 percent, which is what the bulk of the rapidly vanishing middle class pays. No price tag on that baby, but it surely swamps the vacation home deduction.

Not only does the math in that “deal” not produce progress toward whacking a deficit, it further enriches the top end in an era where simply every analysis shows the middle is the group that took the relative haymaker in the recession, benefitted the least from the market and economy rebound fueled by the government stimulus that largely caused the deficit to explode,  and which has absolutely no discretionary spending room left to rekindle the economy with any sort of robust DEMAND FOR GOODS AND SERVICES from our underutilized factories and worker pool.

And why, I ask, must I go to Reuters to learn of this proposal? I guess the Americn media was pretty full up today with Joe Paterno, Michael Jackson’s doctor, Lindsey Lohan in Playboy and whatever other gossip passed for news.

Sigh.

OK, Ms. Palin. Peek out your window at global warming November 8, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings.
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She’s among the deniers, you see, and her state is about to be hit with a storm described as being of “epic” dimensions.

Mainly because the sea ice that normally softens the blow isn’t there because. Well, because it melted. Here’s Rueters:

The storm, moving inland from the Aleutian Islands, was expected to bring hurricane-force winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour, heavy snowfall, widespread coastal flooding and severe erosion to most of Alaska’s west coast, the National Weather Service warned. 

“History tells that the sea ice helps subdue the storm surge,” said Andy Brown, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Anchorage. “With no sea ice there, we could see the full brunt of that 6- to 9-foot storm surge.”

Arctic sea ice this year reached the second-lowest coverage since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

So when the predicted hurricane-force winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour, heavy snowfall, widespread coastal flooding and severe erosion rolls in with the 6-9-foot storm surge, hang tight baby!

I hope you and every one of your neighbors makes it through unscathed with a great story to tell.  Because the rest of us could really use your energy and faith to help save this great creation from the wrath of future storms such as this.

 Truly. Be safe.