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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.

‘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…)

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. 
 

Thank you Keith January 21, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Communications, hope, Justice, Politics.
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for raising your voice, though there were times it topped the wall to my ears.

But right or wrong, you spoke for truth … and against the pretty narrative, the brazen grab, the bald-faced bulbous lie.

And too many just take the money and cower.

And above all else, I always got the sense that you felt that you could be wrong. As we all are on occasion.

So rest up for a bit and see and hear and taste and feel the world. Then tell us all again sometime how it all boils down to your mind.

We’ll be waiting.

Yes, let’s put Goldman back in charge December 4, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Environment, Justice, Politics, U.S. Budget, Wall Street.
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I’ve been listening very very closely to all the reform talk down in the Swamp, emerging only with confusion.

One group – the bright Red one – rails against an end to what always was limited tax relief for the top 1 percent or 2 percent of earners, now casting any act to not extend this relief as a move that would sap the slow 3 percent recovery we are in the midst of. Can’t take that $80-$100 billion a year out of circulation in what they continue to say is a “recession,” even though the economy stopped receding and started proceeding four quarters ago.

They know that. But they lie because it’s convenient for the narrative.

This group, then, does a wonderful spin with full gainer, and demands an end to extended unemployment benefits and an immediate return to 2008 spending levels, reigning in such stimulus-intended measures as broadened Medicaid coverage, boosted university research grants, various individual tax credits designed to spur household spending on energy efficiency upgrades. This, if put into effect, would take at least $100 billion in spending by individuals out of the economy – spending on doctors, medicines, researcher salaries and equipment purchases and all those things all those people scraping by need to buy. You know, rent, milk, bread, gasoline, spaghetti sauce, mostly from small businesses, if that matters (actually, the Wal-Marts are counting on taking that “market share” pretty soon, so it doesn’t long term).

Somehow, the Red team doesn’t think this will in any way slow down the economic expansion, though study after study show without dispute that the poor and unemployed and even the middle class university research assistant have a much higher propensity to spend than does the individual or couple making $250,000 and up. So if you are going to pull $100 billion out of the economy – and either way you are doing that – and your true intention is to not hurt the recovery, you draw from the top, not the bottom, of the take-home ladder, because the subtraction of spending multiplied down the line is less.

(more…)

We need to see a lot more of this November 25, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Politics.
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Tom DeLay. Guilty of felony crimes, punishable by time in prison.

He didn’t rob a bank, assault a neighbor, abuse a child. He saw a law he didn’t like, determined he would find a way to do what it outlawed and — in complete contempt of the rule of law and of We the People who put it in place — used his position of public trust to twist the democratic system to favor himself and his followers. He subverted the system we hold dear.

Oh he did that in a relatively small way. And maybe the money he manipulated unlawfully made no difference in the voting. Maybe his cause and the people fighting for it are angels sent to do just that. Not mine to judge all that.

But he broke the law, intentionally. And that is NOT politics as usual. That is a shard in a scrap heap of immorality, injustice and base corruption of souls that permeates our nation’s capital to this day, deeply encrusts our capital markets and commerce and eats away a little more each day at the greatness of our democratic experiment.

Deficits are a problem. Unemployment and slow growth are a problem. Costly inefficient healthcare is a problem. Unproductive and violent citizens are a problem.

But fixing the moral mess must be Job 1. Because if we do not address the lawlessness — the fraud, the theft, the arrogant abuse of position — nothing lasting and just can be done with anything we tackle no matter how earnest our efforts are. The rot will eat away at those fixes also, in time.

A lot of this involves long and expensive investigations, prosecutions and pursuit of appeals to make the point again and again in realm after realm that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to live, to earn, to govern. And there are real and somewhat immediate consequences for breaking the law. Without this type of deterrence, justice will submit to power and liberty is at risk.

But a lot of this falls to us, also. We cannot abide people who act in this manner, who scoff at laws and make their own rules. Not when they hold an opposite political view — and most importantly not when they share our view and seek to carry a banner we follow.

No manner how smooth, no matter how glib, no matter how gifted they seem, if their soul is thusly corrupted by arrogance, pride and lust for power, they must be cast aside. For within our ranks — Red, Blue or in that vast sea in between — there are far better hands for the task, far better tunics to pin our hopes upon.

We must just say ‘no’ to the dishonest ones, if we are to fix what needs fixing.

Serious business for the infantile November 20, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Greed, Politics, U.S. Budget, Wall Street.
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Exactly when did these two guys — Simpson in particular — become the ultimate in Wise Men?

And from this piece, there seems to be a whole lot of chortling going on over the potential ruination of the U.S. economy if their particular strategy for reducing the deficit — and radically overhauling the entire tax code with little assessment of impact — is not swallowed pretty much whole. Get this:

“I can’t wait for the bloodbath in April,” Simpson said, relishing the prospect of political turmoil. “When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ‘em a piece of meat, real meat” in the form of spending cuts. “And boy, the bloodbath will be extraordinary,” he said.

Extraordinary indeed. It’s all a game to him too — the graying, dottering Fox can’t wait for the Hen House to catch fire.

Shameful.