Friday, December 23, 2011

Saturnalia Wish List 2011

Io Saturnalia!

In this time of winter solstice and festive good cheer...  I'm still out-of-work, still job-hunting, still coping with writer's block the size of Wisconsin, and coping with the recent loss of a beloved pet cat... Poor Page...

In this grey mood on a grey day, I realize I haven't yet sent Saturn my Saturnalia Wish List.  I know this is a tad rushed, but here goes:

  1. Wishing for a full-time job as a librarian assisting people with research needs;
  2. Wishing for an election primary that ends with the Republicans putting up for 2012 the WORST possible Far Right Wingnut candidate... whadda ya mean, Gingrich is slipping in the polls?  Anyway, a GOP candidate so reviled by the moderate and independent voters that massive turnout for Democrats overturn the GOP-controlled House and keeps Obama in the White House for another four years;
  3. Wishing that the superhero movies scheduled for 2012 don't suck;
  4. Wishing that Mayans return to our world and carve out a replacement calendar so that the doomsayers ranting about Dec. 22, 2012 being the END OF ALL TIME will shut it (dudes, it's the end of the fourth or fifth Mayan calendar: it just means there's no Mayans left to carve out another one!).

There, I hope this helps, O Saturn, in determining just how wacky the next year is gonna be.

Can I get a Io Saturnalia from you seven readers?

EDIT: I TOTALLY FORGOT THIS!  My bad, Saturn, there's one more thing this Unitarian Pagan is hoping fer...

Wishing for the new MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic!  Oh man, the chance to play a Jedi Knight again... ooooooooooooh yeah...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

As Fox-Not-News' War On Saturnalia Continues Unabated

...I mean, seriously, I can't find any Greco-Roman pagans who even know what Saturnalia is, for Athena's sake...

I just wanted to make this observation about the ongoing disaster that is the GOP 2012 Primary race.  All the insane debates, the rise and fall of various wingnut candidates all because Mitt Romney is a flavor most primary voters didn't like the last time he ran in 2008...  I mean, we've gone from Trump to Bachmann to Perry to Cain and now Gingrich of all people is in the lead in Iowa and even now Gingrich's lead may be slipping to where Ron Paul is surging...  All of this, all of the crazy going on, it made me realize this:

Doesn't the 2012 Republican primary race look and feel EXACTLY like Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year decathlon?

I know, I know.  This is awfully Classist of me to wage such bitter, savage rage against a select group of idiots who can't realize their grandstanding on the debate stages highlight exactly how elitist, out-of-touch, and flat-out insane they really are.

And I honestly do not encourage this year's grouping of Upper Class Twits uh Republican Presidential candidates from shooting themselves in order to win the Upper Class Twit award uh the Republican nomination.  Mostly because it would be a waste of bullets when a humiliating Electoral College result (I mean, at this rate the Republican candidate will get only South Carolina, Texas, and Idaho this November) would be more satisfying.

Now I understand why Huckabee and Christie and Daniels refused to sign up this round.

Having typed this, I just want to say to all Greco-Roman pagans out there Io Saturnalia!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

As the GOP Primaries Race Toward Destruction...

It's pretty much turned into a two-horse race.

It's a race between Mitt Romney.

And with whomever the Teabagger wingnut division of the GOP likes instead of Romney.

Currently that is, shockingly, Herman Cain.  Which kind of caught me off-guard because Cain's resume was one lacking in campaigning history, campaigning skills, campaigning savvy.  Something he still demonstrates even today.

But a lot of it had to do with how each of the Far Right wingnut candidates - Santorum, Bachmann, Newt, Paul, and then Perry - just flamed out too quickly or never had a serious chance.

I originally thought Bachmann had the wingnut vote all to herself.  But somehow Bachmann failed to win over her own crowd, leaving room for Perry to sneak in and steal her theocon base.  When Bachmann tried to sell a plan where as President she'd cut gas prices down to $2, she lost everyone (seriously, if a President had that kind of power, why didn't Dubya use it back in 2007 when the gas prices went to $5-$6?).

And then it was Perry as "the Savior" candidate (saving the Far Right from Mitt, that is).  But then Perry faltered when it came time for him to do something he'd NEVER DONE BEFORE: Debate.  He came across as more incoherent than Dubya ever did: Considering Perry has to overcome the impression of him being a Dubya clone when a majority of the electorate still hates the Bush The Lesser Years, that was pretty much that.

Newt Gingrich had run a sloppy, lazy campaign from the get-go.  Whatever wunderboy qualities he "had" back in the 1990s (which were overinflated anyway), he doesn't have anymore.  And on the matter of "Family Values" he's a proven hypocrite: all it will take is Bill Clinton making an ad saying "Hey, this boy was committing adultery when he tried impeaching me for adultery!" and Newt will be finished.

Ron Paul has his devoted followers, sure, but like any libertarian cult idol he's only of interest to fellow libertarians, who by the by ARE NOT THE MAJORITY EVEN IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

And I'm pretty sure Santorum never had a snowball's chance in the Flames of Perdition to begin with.

So why not Romney?  Well, I've mentioned it before: Mitt has an electoral history he can't openly support (a health care plan that Obama duplicated for Obamacare); Mitt has a terrible history of flip-flopping so much he could work with Cirque Du Soleil; and Mitt is Mormon in an evangelical-led party that views his religion as a cult.

So it's become a race of Mitt vs. Not-Mitt: simply because Mitt is the party establishment's preferred choice (he's rich, he knows how to campaign, he's not scary to the moderate and independent bases), but he's not the preferred choice for the Far Right voting base that dominates the primary system.

This is where Cain re-enters the stage.  Because what happened a few weeks back, when Cain offered up a simplified flat-tax plan he called "9-9-9".  While the commentators, economists, and sane people reviewed the plan's basic details, they quickly determined it was a tax plan that would 1) make the federal deficit worse and 2) kill the economy.  But for the voting base of the GOP - the Teabagger crowd, the ones who can't cope with concepts larger than what can fit a bumper sticker - that plan struck a chord.  Mostly because it was a plan.  Who cares if it worked?  Cain got his surge by doing something the other candidates hadn't done, and because he was the first to propose a flat-tax plan that could fit a bumper sticker, he's getting all the attention now.

Even though Cain himself has changed the "9-9-9" plan to appease the critics (into something more horrific).  Even though Cain doesn't even know how his tax plan really works.  And even though Cain is now the subject of an erupting scandal surrounding a past history of sexual harassment when he worked for a lobbying firm.

Just try to remember: the "sane" ones in the GOP - Huckabee, Daniels, Christie - stayed out of this race even though they could knock Mitt off the podium inside of 10 seconds.  It's because they know they'd have to cope with the Not-Mitt wingnut candidate as well: and the wingnut base of the GOP is behind the steering wheel, not Karl Rove or the campaign managers.

You know, they say you watch time moving faster as you get older.  But I swear these election cycles are putting the brakes on...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Current Political Mood

I'm just not inclined to think much about politics these days.

Even with the sudden uptick in the Occupy Wall Street news - and the Far Right blowback to something that can successfully counter their Teabagger movement - for some reason I'm neither thrilled nor contemplative.

There's still a lot of protesting and military action going on in the Middle East for example.  Meh.

There's the economic meltdown in Europe still happening in slow motion.  Meh.

There's the anti-voting BS the Republicans are attempting at the state level to suppress minorities, the poor, and college-age voters.  Meh.

Just not feeling connected to the world at the moment, that's all.

Too much outrage burn-out?  Too much stress coping with unemployment?  Dunno...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Repost of A Remembrance

I posted this back in 2009.  This is the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11.

I was at the main library in downtown Ft. Lauderdale meeting with other librarians in the tech lab (computers) departments. The library was switching to a new email system (groupwise) and they wanted us to perform the in-house training. Meeting started at 9 am. One of my coworkers was late, coming in and saying there was news a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers...
...When we finished the meeting, we left the classroom and walked out into the foyer area and up the escalator to the library’s main floor. They had dragged out a TV on a cart and was trying to get a signal. For some reason, TV reception was lousy in that building, and they didn’t have cable connection. I saw an old boss of mine who was also at the library for a meeting and approached her, asking what was going on. “Oh my God,” she told me. “There was another plane hitting the other World Trade Center tower.”
It took a few seconds. It took a few seconds to realize that one plane was an accident. Two planes, one right after the other… hitting each tower…
I knew then it meant war...

Not much has changed since 2009.  Except that our fighting in Iraq is lessened now that our military and political presence there has dropped.  The fighting in Afghanistan has increased, mostly through an attempt to finish the nine and a half years we've been there trying to keep the allies of Bin Laden from regaining power there.

A lot has changed since 2001, but most of it is due to political partisan BS that isn't appropriate to note during this somber moment.  The one thing I can note is that Bin Laden is dead, answering for his part in the attacks ten years ago among some of the other sins he'd committed the years before.  It may have been a bloody justice without the courtroom, but this was a man who admitted to his part and sought to commit more acts of war to prove himself mighty rather than decent.  It was a bloody justice but it was done.

We are as a nation today opening memorials at the ground of the World Trade Center, and near Shanksville PA.  There will be remembrances and muted celebrations across the country today.  There isn't much more to do other than mourn the dead and build again...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What I Want To Hear From Obama On His Jobs Speech

Obama is set to appear tonight before a Joint Session of Congress to present a plan for doing something about the horrendous unemployment numbers that are miring our economy in the most prolonged recession this nation's ever seen (it's getting into Depression-type numbers, which is never good).

These are some of the things I'd like to hear Obama say:

"There is growing evidence that businesses and corporations are intentionally overlooking the long-term unemployed.  They are refusing to hire anyone who's been out of work longer than six months.  Even if that unemployed candidate has years of relevant experience.  This is wrong.  This is unacceptable.  It is prolonging our nation's economic woes by creating and expanding our unemployed population and putting more of a burden on our nation's social safety net already facing tight budget restrictions.  This is creating a self-fulfilling belief that the long-term unemployed are unemployable because, well, you're keeping them that way.  We need to look at this as discriminatory hiring practices, and we need to enforce hiring laws to tell corporations they need to hire more people who have been out of work for longer than six months, for longer than a year, for longer than two years.  Hire the long-term unemployed first before even thinking about hiring people who already have a job.  If we catch you hiring people who already have employment over people who've been begging and praying for work for years, we will fine your sorry corporate HR asses so much you'd think filing for bankruptcy will be cheaper."

"The vast long-term unemployed WANT to work.  They want to make something of their lives.  They want to earn a paycheck so they can feed their own families and pay for that roof over their heads.  There's not a one of them who prefers sitting at home doing nothing and earning unemployment benefits that barely covers the cost of weekly groceries or rent.  If any of you politicians even THINK of accusing the long-term unemployed as drug abusers or welfare queens, I will personally escort you to your district's or state's unemployment offices and have you sit there for six months so you can see how hard-pressed and desperate the unemployed REALLY ARE to find any work."

"That said.  FUCK YOU JIM DEMINT.  FUCK YOU AND YOUR BULLSHIT FANTASIES ABOUT THE UNEMPLOYED BEING LAZY."  (NOTE: Yes, I want Obama to say this.  After the Joe Wilson "You Lie" crap, why pretend civility is a part of Congress anymore?)

"There is no evidence that cutting taxes creates jobs.  There is no evidence that cutting regulations creates jobs.  What we do know is that cutting taxes INCREASES the federal deficits to unsustainable levels.  What we do know is that cutting regulations or ignoring regulations to make profits leads to increased pollution, unsafe work areas, and people dying.  So to my Republicans opponents: STOP SHILLING TAX CUTS AND DEREGULATION AS JOB-CREATORS.  You're selling snake oil, you fuckers."

"What we need in this country is another WPA.  We need to get construction jobs up and running.  We need to repair bridges and roads that haven't been fixed or upgraded in 40 years.  We need to repair and upgrade nuclear reactors that are 20 years past their expiration date, and yes while nuclear reactors carry enormous risk our energy needs rely on them right now, so we need to upgrade them to newer safer models than the old-style reactors from 40 years ago that aren't as safe against earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.  We need to replace schools older than 20 years, make them compatible with today's technologies, so we can start teaching our children on the tools of today and tomorrow.  We need to get people working: for every one person who was hired back during the WPA of the 1930s, that job created two other jobs in response."

"All we need is a construction-jobs program that hires people across this nation.  The WPA of the 1930s hired 8 million people.  We don't need to go that big.  We can hire 4 million people, and if one WPA job creates two more that can translate up to 12 million Americans getting jobs, cutting more than half of our unemployment numbers right there.  IT WORKED BEFORE AND IT CAN WORK AGAIN."

"And we can pay for this new WPA.  We can look at our budgets and make the adjustments needed to make budget room for this jobs program.  We can eliminate some of the tax credits on billionaires that won't hurt their wallets but will pay back into this jobs programs FOR ALL AMERICANS to benefit.  IT WORKED BEFORE AND IT CAN WORK AGAIN."

"Our nation's economy is struggling.  We can't ignore that.  One of the two reasons our economy is struggling is because we lack the jobs to hire the unemployed.  We can solve that with a jobs bill.  But we can't ignore the other reason our economy is struggling, and that is the household debt our citizens are fighting.  And the largest form of household debt are mortgages.  Too many families are struggling at too-low incomes paying off mortgages on houses whose values have gone underwater.  Our housing industry is facing another series of destructive foreclosures and abandoned properties.  Each foreclosure lowers the property values of everyone else's homes surrounding them.  This is making it hard for people to sell their homes if they have to move to new jobs.  This is making it hard for people to pay off their mortgages, period.  And this is shuffling their debts from one thing to another like their overdrawn credit cards or unpaid college loans.  Above all, paying off all this debt is making it impossible for our citizens to pay for anything else like products and services that would boost our consumer-driven economy.  We need to look into resolving some of these debt issues.  Instead of bailing out banks, bail out the mortgage holders.  Help them pay off their mortgages to where their homes are no longer underwater.  Help pay off their mortgages so none of them fall into foreclosure.  By helping them, we free up the banks overwhelmed with foreclosures to begin making safe loans that can stabilize our housing market."

"And again, I cannot stress this enough, FUCK YOU JIM DEMINT.  FUCK YOU SIDEWAYS WITH A CHAINSAW."

"Thank you, God Bless to all the families across our nation, God Bless the United States of America."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Red Letter Day

August 30, 2011.  I just want to make this official.

Getting a haircut this afternoon for a job fair in Tampa tomorrow, and I noticed that the double-crown at the top of my head is showing more skin than hair.

I have every reason to believe I am finally going bald.  It may take years to fully see the damage done, but I am officially having a mid-life crisis.  Or I would be having one, if I had a life...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Because It's August 20, You Get This

An update to the Republican Primary field for the 2012 Presidential Run!

(What.  I did my homage to Woodstock already.  Stop begging for mercy...)

I previously listed what was in April an already crowded field of wanna-bes and coulda-beens.  Since then, the marquee name of Donald Trump fell flat on his ass when he obsessed too much with Obama's birth certificate and flamed out after the one-two punch of getting mocked at the Correspondents Dinner and having Bin Laden's death overshadow his shtick.  As for Daniels and Huckabee, I was right about Daniels deciding to stay out... and shocked that Huckabee decided to stay out as well (considering the polls had him as the one constant threat to Obama).  It seems that both of them are smarter than they look...  Palin never announced either, but has developed this annoying habit of showing up at caucuses and announcements in some odd attempt to steal the spotlight.

With regards to the primaries, the only major development since April has been the addition of one more major name to the candidate list, one that had been floated earlier but not taken too seriously... until the last two weeks, during which the new candidate burst onto the scene and taken the early momentum (even away from the current pack leaders Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann).  So, to update you all to the terrors that await us:

Rick Perry - Governor, Texas
Positives: Has a long political career, and has a national profile of sorts being the governor of one of the largest states in the Union.  His political and personal (religious) beliefs are shared by the voting base of the Republicans, and especially the Tea Partier faction.  In terms of getting the voting interest of the party base, he outshines the likes of Bachmann and definitely trounces Romney.  If he stays on-message and avoids screw-ups, Perry could win the primary portion of the 2012 contest.
Negatives: While his emergence last week for the Ames Iowa Straw Caucus created a lot of positive feedback from the base, most of the party leadership pushed back (especially the likes of Karl Rove, who hit Perry unapologetically in ways he never attacked Bachmann or Palin), and he's not the savior candidate (New Jersey's Christie still has that mojo) the elites were hoping for.  In a field crowded with Far Right reactionary religious types, Perry isn't helping in the long term when it will come time to appeal to moderate and independent voters who are turned off by Social Conservatism.  Especially considering Perry just finished being the headlining politician at a Prayer Fest.  Perry's political ideas - for example, crippling the Supreme Court, eliminating the direct vote for U.S. Senators, and amendments to outlaw gay marriage and abortion - will be toxic come October-November '12.  While Perry's a two-term governor, his first election was in a four-way race where he won only 39 percent of the popular vote: not exactly a ringing endorsement from 61 percent of his own state (if Perry won in 2010, it's because he was in Texas and for some godawful reason they stopped voting Democrat in that state).  And all of this pales to the biggest problem Perry has: he's a Social Conservative governor from the state of Texas who's primary platform is "faith-based government, tax-cut, and deregulate".  Sound familiar?  I'll give you a clue: one of Perry's supporters called him "(George W.) Bush On Steroids".
Perry is going to be running with the national perception that he is essentially following in Dubya's footsteps.  It doesn't help that Perry (along with the rest of the Republican field) is going to run on the idea that Obama has been worse to America than Bush the Lesser was.  And worse, that Bush's agenda - massive tax cuts, massive business deregulation, massive incompetence - was all good.
Chances: Chances of winning the primary cycle?  Oddly enough, not so good.  While he's got the current vibe of "Savior/White Knight" since he's the latest flavor for the media to drool over, Perry's coming in with some disadvantages: the Party leadership prefers someone else, and all the other candidates - especially Romney and Bachmann, his major opponents - have been getting things in place for months and have a huge head start in fund-raising, ground troops, and political backing.  Perry's best chances depend on Romney failing to win over the Deep South and Religious Right (who still have a bias against Mormons), and on Bachmann doing something crazier than usual and flaming out before the primaries hit Florida.  But if Perry does win the nomination?  ...Remember what I said about "all Obama has to do against Jeb Bush is morph a photo of him into his brother George and Jeb is finished?"  Perry is in the same boat because he has the same background as Dubya, and the same disregards...

You might notice that in my April listing of primary candidates, I didn't include two who are in it as of now: Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman (there are others, but these two are honestly the more serious candidates).  However, I'm not going into greater detail for either one because:
1) consider "To Google Santorum".  Yes, To Google is a verb (can't wait for the Latin translation).  And if you Google Santorum as a search term, you may run into something akin to "Two Girls One Cup."  And no, I am NOT going into further detail than that.  Santorum's been a national joke for years.
2) consider that Huntsman is A) formerly employed by Obama as an Ambassador to China, B) Mormon like Romney, and C) reasonably sane in supporting evolution and climate change science, and you've basically got a candidate who doesn't have a snowball's chance in drought-ravaged Southwest U.S.

As for the Democrats' situation?  While Obama has been and still is polling negatively for some time, most of that is due to an upset and unhappy Far Left base that's been abandoned during the struggles over the Debt Ceiling fiasco.  Like it or not, the Party will come back to their incumbent... especially if the Republicans succeed in nominating a Social Con like Bachmann or Perry.

As of right now, who's GOP nomination is it to lose?  I gotta go with Bachmann: she's got momentum, solid backing by enough in the Far Right base, and is crazy enough to stay with it until the convention.  To be honest this is wide open: it all depends on if the remaining moderate base of the GOP turns out to support Romney (who has the best appeal to moderates, if any).

We'll see by South Carolina.  That tends to be the breaking point for GOP campaigns.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's Time For Another Woodstock Post

For some reason, the YouTube I found for this time doesn't have an embed option.  Ah well, here's Country Joe McDonald!

What the hell, here's an embed.  It's Not Safe For Families and God-Fearing Baptists.  God-Loving Baptists hopefully will have a sense o' humor about it.

So how was your summer?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Balanced Budget Amendment Is a Bad Idea

As an amendment-suggesting blog, sooner or later I gotta write about this.  Especially since the House Republicans are obsessed with pushing this amendment idea during the recent "Let's Kill The Government And Blame It On Obama" negotiations.

The amendment is their old ideological card, The Balanced Budget Amendment.  The title makes it sound so sweet and simple, that the objective is to make the government balance their books every fiscal year.  Problem is in the details.

The current form, aka Cut Cap And Balance Act, requires that there be an amendment that spells out requirement of a balanced budget; imposes a spending cap of 18 percent percentage of Gross Domestic Product; and requires a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress to pass any tax hike.

The first part requiring the balanced budget seems simple but it's not.  One of the rules of government spending that was set centuries ago by Alexander Hamilton himself was that government needed to run on a certain level of debt that can be structured to force government to function towards collecting revenue and paying off portions of debt.  As long as the government operated with full faith and credit (that at some level it can pay off debts as needed), the system should work.  And the deal is, for roughly 200 years that system did work.  The problem came when the anti-tax proponents got in charge and started cutting off regular methods of revenue-gathering (i.e., taxes), forcing the government to borrow more than it had ever done before.  Under these anti-taxers, who promised that cutting taxes would magically generate more revenue because lesser taxation would create more income (it didn't by the by.  It just generated more income that was taxed less if at all), the national debt and massive annual deficits got worse.  But the problem still exists: without other revenue, the government is going to have to borrow and operate with unbalanced budgets.  Suddenly forcing the government to balance the books is going to create more havoc and chaos than ever before, and force future generations to pay for the damage done by this generation that would pass this amendment and then run for cover.

The second part of the amendment idea is even worse: it places a specific cap number percentage on how much government can work with.  GDP is Gross Domestic Product, the market value of all final goods and services produced by a nation... basically how much that nation is worth.  The United States is roughly $14.7 TRILLION as of 2010.  This amendment would cap government spending to 18 percent of that, which is... (breaks out calculator) ...I get $2.6 Trillion based on the 2010 numbers.  Now, the U.S. budget spending for 2010 was... $3.5 Trillion.  You get about $900 Billion you gotta shave off the 2010 numbers.  That's not something you can sneeze at in one year's budget.  And that's the problem you get with a specific cap number like 18 percent.  That gets to be a harsh cap, especially when it depends on an outside value (GDP) that doesn't remain constant, and in times of recession does not constantly go up in value.

The third part is the most unfair: it forces a supermajority to vote for any tax increase.  Ever.  We're talking about government voting habits now.  When you make something next to impossible to vote for, you essentially make it meaningless to even try for it.  The opposite has its own problem.  The amendment does not to make it harder to vote for tax cuts, meaning that in a system where Path Of Least Resistance is the norm you're making it more likely that elected officials will vote for tax cuts more than anything else.  This part of the amendment makes it next to impossible for government to create ANY kind of revenue system to keep its coffers even half-full.  Considering that government pays for, oh, our national defense, our parks, our national highway and rail and airway networks that businesses use to ship goods and perform services, our farm subsidies, a ton of corporate tax credits and subsidies, money that goes to the STATES to pay for such things as schools, clean water and air, state roads and bridges, and a few other things... well, this is going to force the federal government to borrow even more debt to pay the bills. 

Lemme link to Ezra Klein on this one (snippage for space, go read the whole thing):

This isn’t just a Balanced Budget Amendment. It also includes a provision saying that tax increases would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress — so, it includes a provision making it harder to balance the budget — and another saying that total spending couldn’t exceed 18 percent of GDP. No allowances are made for recessions, though allowances are made for wars. Not a single year of the Bush administration would qualify as constitutional under this amendment. Nor would a single year of the Reagan administration. The Clinton administration would’ve had exactly two years in which it wasn’t in violation.
Read that again: Every single Senate Republican has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would’ve made Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy unconstitutional. That’s how far to the right the modern GOP has swung. But the problem isn’t simply that the proposed amendment is extreme. It’s also unworkable.  ...This amendment includes no provisions for recessions, meaning that when the economy contracted, the government would have to contract as well. That is to say, we’re still not out of one of the deepest recessions in American history, and every Senate Republican has co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to make future recessions worse. It’s just breathtaking.  A world in which this amendment is added to the Constitution is a world in which America effectively becomes California. It’s a world where the procedural impediments to passing budgets and raising revenues are so immense that effective fiscal management is essentially impossible; it’s a world where we can’t make public investments or sustain the safety net; it’s a world where recessions are much worse than they currently are and the government has to do more of its work off-budget through regulation and gimmickry. I would like to say something positive about this proposal, say there’s some silver lining here. But there isn’t. This is economic demagoguery, and nothing more. It’s so unrealistic that it would’ve ruled all but two of the last 30 years unconstitutional, which means it’s so unrealistic that there has not yet been a Republican president who has proven it can be done.
One more caveat: the Republicans who push this balanced budget proposal never really seem to push for it very hard when their party has control of the White House.  And when they've also got Congress under their belt, they spend like drunken teenagers with their parents' credit cards.  But when there's a Democrat like Clinton or Obama running the executive branch, all of a sudden a BALANCED BUDGET IS A DAMN NECESSITY.

The Balanced Budget Amendment does nothing but force the federal government to either borrow like mad or drown itself in Grover Norquist's bathtub.  Either way, the nation is screwed.

There are better amendment ideas out there.  This one is a disaster.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Things May Change

For starters, my libertarian older brother may have a freak-out in about two weeks...

For another, you people in Maryland may have a crazy Floridian driver on your roadways pretty soon...

And lastly... damn, are ALL apartments in MD this expensive?!  I'm calling the Property Appraisers office, the land in Maryland is too rich for my blood.  How do you college students cope with off-campus living?  I swear...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blog Entry 300. The Amendments We Need. For Real.

It's taken some time for me to re-post, and a lot of it is due to a few factors - including job hunting - but above all the fact that this is my 300th post on this blog.

And for all the political ranting and raving I do here, I had a purpose for creating this blog in the first place: to promote Constitutional Amendment ideas in the hope that they can be discussed, ragged on, sniped, dismissed, and ultimately ignored by the blogosphere as a whole once the storm died down.


So I spent some time thinking over "Well, okay, what are the top Amendment proposals I have that I really want Americans to promote in order to end government gridlock, media stupidity, wingnut madness, and create a Utopian nation that I'd considered hypocritical because I know that Utopias are a collective pipe dream?"

I decided my 300th post should be the Top Ten list of Amendment ideas that I really really REALLY think should get consideration from the Bottom on up to the Top.

I ended up with Twelve.  My bad.

And so, Copied/Pastied from my word processor, here is:

The Ten – Make That Eleven, Hold on Twelve – Amendments We Really Seriously Need To Save This Nation

The President of the United States, and the people who serve at the pleasure of the President, are not above the law.
Members of Congress, and the people who serve Congress, are not above the law.
The Justices of the Supreme Court, and the people who serve in the Judiciary, are not above the law.
The system of checks and balances between the three branches of federal government shall be maintained at all times.
NOTE: This is my "Fuck You" to Richard Nixon and to anyone following his dark path by taking the Unitary Executive theory of allowing the President to do whatever the hell he/she wants.  But as I thought it over, I felt it constrained the President at the expense of the other two branches of government, so I included them as well.

Lying is not Protected Speech.
Any elected official, or person working for the federal government, found making false statements regarding laws, policies, government research, public polling, or historical facts will be suspended from duty pending investigation. If found that the person made any false statement while aware of the facts, that person will be removed from public service, and barred from all government employment and election.
NOTE: This is my "Fuck You" to every liar I've railed against on this blog.  If you follow the lies tag to this article, you might pull up the other times I've argued how lying in the political forum has poisoned our discourse and is hurting our nation's ability to get the wrong things made right again.  Breitbart Delendus Est.

Federal government shall regulate business and finance to ensure the protection of employees from unsafe or unhealthy workplaces, the protection of customers from fraud, and the protection of the nation's communities from large-scale accidents.
NOTE: Regulations exist for a reason: TO PROTECT PEOPLE.  This needs to get spelled out in the Constitution itself.

The power to wage war or any military action shall be held by the President as Commander-in-Chief. The power to call for war, to fund any war effort, and to oversee any military action shall be held by Congress.
If circumstance requires the President to act immediately on a military action outside of Congressional approval, the President is required to limit such military action to thirty days. The President must appear before a full session of both houses of Congress within three days of initiating the military action to explain to Congress what transpired, why action was needed, and if such action raises to the need for Congress to declare war.
After the required presentation before Congress, the President is required to inform the appropriate Senate committee of the military's assessment for action, and the short-term plans that the military has for carrying out successful operations within another three days. A long-term military plan including any occupation of foreign territory and oversight of any nation-building must be presented to that Senate committee within thirty days only if Congress does vote for war. Any objective that requires occupation and nation-building requires a declaration of war by Congress.
Congress has the right to vote for war which can be deemed ended once established objectives are achieved, or can vote to extend the military action for up to ninety days depending on the military situation. Congress cannot vote for military action extension more than twice: if action must continue Congress should vote for war or not.
The House of Representatives has the right to oversee expenditures committed during the military action or war effort to ensure there is no fraud, embezzlement or theft of funds.
The Senate has the right to oversee military conduct of the military action or war effort, and to receive regular updates from the President on the war's progress and ongoing military assessment.
Congress is require to raise funds through a war tax to pay for the military action or war effort as needed.
NOTE: We have a War Powers Act as law, but people have been noticing the past few wars - Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya - that the President hasn't completely asked Congress for full-out War, just military actions.  But this has led to horrendous and mismanaged occupations that include massive loss of funds and massive loss of civilian life.  Not to mention increased burdens on our military and our overall budget.  Obama's failures to fully keep Congress informed or show any sign of accountability over military action in Libya is troubling.  Every part of this amendment idea is to reinforce the checks and balances between the Executive and Legislative, to force Congress to take a more proactive role in the oversight of our war efforts.

The right of any person held by authorities of federal, state, or local jurisdiction to petition for a writ of habeas corpus will not be suspended under any circumstance, even in time of war.
Any person detained by the military can apply for prisoner of war status and receive legal protections as such, and be released from custody once Congress confirms the war has ended. A person not applicable for prisoner of war status must be tried fairly for any criminal acts that made that person a danger to the safety of our nation's citizenry within a court of law and within reasonable time.
The federal government has the right to retain a person they have basic evidence shows to be a clear danger to the safety of our nation's citizenry, until such time as can be proven in open court that person is no longer a threat or has served out the conditions of a prison sentence issued by the Judiciary.
NOTE: The abuses committed under the PATRIOT Act and committed with regards to prisoners taken during the War On Terror led to this amendment.  The century-old argument over who has the right to suspend habeas - President or Congress - should be answered by this amendment: None do.  This basic legal right is the basis for all legal protection for citizens.  Without habeas, any of us could be held without legal reason.  Abuse of rights would be rampant.  So habeas stays in effect, no matter what.

If the Senate refuses to advise and consent the President on Executive and Judicial nominations to serve the federal government, the President can fill ALL such vacancies however the President sees fit during that term of office.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to EVERY Senator that has used a Secret Hold to obstruct any nomination before the Senate.  Because of this, half the Judicial system is void of judges, our courts are backlogged, and it's becoming enough of a crisis that even the Chief Justice - normally sitting above the fray - is crying out for it to end.  Not to mention the number of job vacancies at the Executive office that haven't been filled in the last three years!  This is getting out of control.  If a Senator doesn't like a nominee, the Senator can always vote NO.

All professions of employment are required at the national level to create and oversee a code of ethics for professional behavior of those who work in said profession, and has the ability to decertify anyone in that profession who fails that code of ethics on a repeating basis.
NOTE: While there will be screams and protests that government shouldn't meddle or regulate, the fact of the matter is our entire business and industry system has issues with a lack of accountability and ethical oversight.  There ARE organizations at the national level for a lot of professions - usually unions or associations - but few of them have any authority to enforce a code of behavior.  Mostly doctors and lawyers and plumbers (I think, I'm not sure about plumbers), but because doctors and lawyers tend to be most vulnerable to liability issues.  But I'm thinking it's time every profession has a system of accountability - teachers, librarians, truck drivers, boat builders, food processors, stock brokers, journalists, jugglers, interior designers, bankers, bakers, dog trainers, people trainers, what have you - to try and clean up a lot of the mess that a decade (or three) of unethical behavior by certain groups - bankers, stock brokers and journalists especially - has led us to.  But if I go after bankers and journalists, might as well include everyone else.  No favors.  Gotta be cruel.

The States must uphold equal and fair access to public education as a right to the states' residents and their children.
The States cannot endorse one religious belief over another within the states' public education system. And the states cannot endorse religion where it would interfere with the study of the sciences.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to every Intelligent Design con artist and Creationist bullshitter out there.  Not to mention the Prayer In School crowd who never understood the Founders' intent of Separation of Church And State.  There's a place for God: it's called Church.  The only praying at school should be the week before final exams.  /rimshot
EDIT: This is also a "Fuck You" to every Governor or State lege that's pushing to privatize our school systems.  There's no evidence that privatization improves learning experience for kids and teens, and yet these bozos keep pushing things like vouchers and charter schools as miracle cures.  This also ties into the Prayer In School crowd because vouchers and privatization helps private religious schools more than existing public schools.

All persons petitioning the federal government as representative to a group or corporate entity can only lobby for that group / entity after undergoing a basic background check that can be accessed by the public upon request.
All persons working as a lobbying or petitioning representative must recuse themselves if they have direct personal dealings with any member of the office of government that the group / entity is petitioning.
Any person working for the federal government as elected official, civil servant, employee of elected official, or military service is barred from working as a lobbyist or petitioner equal to the amount of time that person worked for the federal government.
Any person or corporate entity of foreign nationality must petition or lobby the United States government through their nation's embassy. They are barred from any financial contribution to a campaign or attempt to petition government through a third party.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to every politician and high-ranking official who exits the public sector to take a lobbyist job ten minutes later at three times the salary and without the ethical oversight (although Amendment Idea Seven. might help with that).  Lobbying as a whole has become a multi-billion dollar industry all its own, and because of legal loopholes and First Amendment abuse that industry is rife with corruption.  Look, people do have a right to petition government, but not at the expense of pork-barrel waste, lopsided legislation that favors a single issue over all others, or one company or industry at the expense of other companies or industries that just don't have the insider connections to make Congress and President do their dances.  Even more terrifying is how foreign governments and foreign-owned companies hire lobbyists to directly petition our government for them: the threat of foreign influence on our government isn't a threat, it's happening on a daily basis.

The right of the nation's citizenry to access government documentation at the federal, state and local level shall be maintained. Classification of documents can only apply to matters of national security such as military and defense, treaty negotiations with foreign governments, active criminal investigations that involve undercover work, and any such materials that a court of law determines to be of sensitive issue.
NOTE: It's called Sunshine Laws here in Florida.  And even with the Sunshine in place, our state government goes out of its way to hide meetings, cover up documentation, and avoid accountability at all costs.  At the federal level, it's worse: anybody with a "Classified" stamp and a black ink marker can hide a document or black out entire pages of information to where even Senators can't read them.  The lack of oversight and accountability is shocking.  The wake-up call for me was when Cheney held meetings with energy corporation CEOs to plot out energy policy, and when asked about it declared it was all "national security".  We still have no idea what was really discussed, except that afterward our nation's energy needs got more expensive...  We need to get rid of the excuse of "national security" for nearly everything our government does: our leaders and policy enforcers need to answer for what they do.

Any legislative bill reaching the floor of either the House or the Senate must be certified within three business days by all elected officials that plan on voting for that legislation.
The certification requires the Representative or Senator to sign an oath confirming they have read the legislation up for vote and are aware of the basic elements of that bill. If the Representative or Senator refuses to certify, that person cannot vote Yes or No on the bill, only Present.
The bill cannot be amended nor receive attachments or riders during the certification period. The legislation can only be amended after the vote if there is a need to clean up the language or fix a clerical error within the print. If the bill requires additional work it must be taken off the floor and sent back to the appropriate committee for review and re-work.
If the bill requires more than three days for review, the certification can be extended up to fifteen business days. Any scheduled vacation or recess will be delayed to allow those fifteen business days for Representatives or Senators to review and certify before taking the vote.
NOTE: This is an idea that's been floated before by others more experienced and better-known.  Given the size and complexity of some of the bills reaching the floors of Congress, there's been revelations that a good number of our elected officials don't even know what are IN those bills to begin with.  Something like this amendment can ensure that our elected officials at least read enough of the bill to know what's in it.  And it should prevent a lot of last-minute rider attachments and poison pills that turn some bills into boondoggles and disasters.

If Congress requires a balanced budget, the balancing of the budget shall involve cutting expenditures AND raising revenues through taxation.
All taxes at the federal level must be progressive by design.
Any state requiring that any tax hike or raising of revenue use a supermajority vote to pass, then that state must also require that any tax cut or reduction of revenue require that same supermajority to pass as well.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to every tax-cut obsessive out there.  TAX CUTS DON'T WORK.  And tax cuts to the rich - which is what the tax-cut crowd REALLY wants - REALLY DON'T WORK.  And government exists for a reason: to create and uphold laws, and provide government services that will ensure the safety and well-being of the citizenry.  This is especially for California that's stuck with that supermajority requirement for raising taxes, while the cutting of taxes can get a simple majority vote.  And whenever there is a path of least resistence, our elected officials will take it, which is why California is as screwed as it is.  Make tax-cutting as hard as tax-raising, and at least things will be fair.

So.  There you have it.  Yes.  It's that crazy.  ;-)

And now, to the future.  The purpose of this blog was originally about proposing amendment ideas, but it quickly fell into the trap of "blogging whatever makes me happy or angry at that moment".  So the thing I'm thinking about is: changing the title and focus of this political blog.  Any suggestions from my seven readers (and to my bro Eric, no snarkery about it.  I get enough of that from Phil...).

Monday, May 23, 2011

How The Month Of May Slipped Away, And Other Thoughts

It seemed like there was one crazy thing after another since the last time I posted.  The shooting of Bin Laden.  The aftermath of Obama's long form certificate finally getting released.  The aftermath of tornadoes in Alabama.  Massive flooding on the Mississippi, the worst in 20 years.  The ongoing Arab Spring uprisings now embroiling Libya and Syria and Yemen.  The ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan.  Canada voting Conservatives back into power even though the last Conservative government LIED to everyone.  The Republican Party here in the U.S. struggling to find a viable primary candidate while the likes of Romney, Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain make the party leadership weep.  The Paul Ryan plan to privatize AND gut Medicare (as well as gut Medicaid) while granting 4 TRILLION in tax cuts to businesses and the rich somehow riling up enough voters to where a special election in New York may get a Democrat elected in a gerrymandered conservative district.  Everybody waiting - and laughing - about yet another Rapture claim happening on May 21.  Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga shredding SNL for about the first near-perfect night since the "More Cowbell" skit.

And oh, my personal disaster of unemployment and job hunting in a state with double-digit jobless numbers and little growth in the near future.

As you can see, there's been a lot on my mind and regarding my opinions over the past month: I couldn't focus on a single damn thing.

The other thing bothering me was that this was going to be Post 299 of this blog.  The next blog entry is Numero 300: a decent anniversary number if ever their was one.  And it's coming at a time where I'm mulling over whether or not to keep this going.

Let's be honest: traffic here is minor at best.  The responses to my entries are equally meager.  The most I ever get are when I blogged specifically about Florida amendment proposals, at which point I got a few interested blog readers.  But past that...  I think part of it is due to how I've got the Comments section lined up.  I have to where you need to login with an ID of some kind: it's this way to reduce Spam traffic (I got so many Chinese spammers on my other blog it got sickening).  But that seems to scare off anyone who wants to show up to blog anonymously (cowards, I call you: provide a name or working links and then you'll back the courage of your convictions) or with relative ease.

I've been asking about Wordpress, although the mechanics of that service is way different than  I've wondered about options for comments here, but I'm not seeing many alternatives.  If there's another online free blog service with easy Comment options, I'm listening.  Just post a Comment here... and... and... sigh.  Email me at p.warten AT and let me know.  Cool. Gratz.

Now, for my 300th post:  I'm thinking an re-invigorated list of Amendment ideas for people to mock...

Monday, April 25, 2011

What I Hate About Libertarianism (If I Haven't Touched On This Already)

Yup.  That was my older brother commenting on my political blog a few entries back.

I need to mention this to you, bro: posting as Anonymous puts you down amongst the spammer heathens.  Put your name to your comments or not at all.

And so, in honor of my older brother finding my political blog, this one goes out to you.

What I Hate About Libertarianism.  (NOTE: This was edited the following day for some misspells and grammar, and for additional points to be made.  Carry on.).

Primarily: it's an -Ism.  With that, I'm on the side of Ferris Bueller:
Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off of people.

The point being, any -Ism is at face value a risky thing.  It's a creed or ideology that requires you to accept its tenets wholeheartedly as absolutes, and views any variation or deviation from those tenets as heresy.  And the problem with thinking in absolutes is that not everything fits those absolutes: there are always exceptions, anomalies, people or events that don't fit easily into the hypotheses, axioms and theories that make up an Ism.

There are a slew of Isms in the political ideology spectrum.  Liberalism and Conservatism, obviously.  Socialism and Communism and Capitalism covering the economic aspects.  Variations of religious theocracy.  Hell, there's a whole list of Isms in philosophy.

So why does libertarianism get special mention as an Ism I hate?

Because somehow in this nation, there's this whole fetish in the mainstream media of viewing libertarianism as a viable alternative to the existing dominant Isms of conservatism and liberalism.  Even though libertarianism hasn't really been fully tested and proven to work - and that the elements of libertarianism (applied by conservatives who simply love the anti-government tenets that underscore libertarianism... and ignore the rest) that have been tried haven't exactly impressed.

Other issues I have with libertarianism is that its obsession with personal liberty and reduction of government bureaucracy end up with the same equation of getting rid of government regulations and laws that were put in place to protect individuals and families in the first place.  David Frum, writing about why he figured out that maybe just maybe a welfare state had its reasons for existing, quoted G.K. Chesterton (some snippage for flow of reading):

G.K. Chesterton once wrote that we should never tear down a fence until we knew why it had been built. In the calamity after 2008, we rediscovered why the fences of the old social insurance state had been built... Speaking only personally, I cannot take seriously the idea that the worst thing that has happened in the past three years is that government got bigger. Or that money was borrowed. Or that the number of people on food stamps and unemployment insurance and Medicaid increased. The worst thing was that tens of millions of Americans – and not only Americans – were plunged into unemployment, foreclosure, poverty. If food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Medicaid mitigated those disasters, then two cheers for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid... Which does not mean that I have become suddenly indifferent to the growth of government. Not at all... Yet that same conservative sensibility is also properly distrustful of the fantasy that society can be remade according to a preconceived plan... 

Frum writes earlier in that essay about how he viewed his once-hardline stance on what he thought was his conservative-libertarianism: that there would be trade-offs between liberty and social safety, and that the people making the decisions would have some honor in what they did:

Some of the terms of that trade were honored. From 1983 through 2008, the US enjoyed a quarter-century of economic expansion, punctuated by only two relatively mild recessions. In the late 1980s, the country was hit by the savings & loan crisis, the worst financial crisis to that point since the 1930s – and although the S&L crisis did deliver a blow, the country rapidly recovered and came up smiling. New industries were born, new jobs created on an epic scale, incomes did improve, and the urban poor were drawn into the working economy... But of course, other terms of the trade were not honored... Especially after 2000, incomes did not much improve for middle-class Americans. The promise of macroeconomic stability proved a mirage: America and the world were hit in 2008 by the sharpest and widest financial crisis since the 1930s. Conservatives do not like to hear it, but the crisis originated in the malfunctioning of an under-regulated financial sector, not in government overspending or government over-generosity to less affluent homebuyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bad actors, yes, but they could not have capsized the world economy by themselves. It took Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and — maybe above all — Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s to do that.

Frum's article, and other articles he'd written over the past few years, highlight a person who's spent long hours thinking and writing his political beliefs into a coherent philosophy... only to find that the absolutes he counted on fell apart once the complexities and harshness of the real world intervened.

Earlier I wrote about how libertarianism's focus on gutting regulations and laws was a reason I'm not a fan of this Ism.  That's because as a student of history I can recall eras of human history where we didn't have many rules or regulations that protected workers and consumers and other individuals from harm. Has no one read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair?  Anyone ever read up the reasons why Teddy Roosevelt went after the trusts?  Can I just point out that this is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire?

Regulations exist for a reason: TO PROTECT PEOPLE.  To make sure that the innocent are not harmed or made sick or forced to work to death or driven into poverty because of other people's greed and mismanagement of our markets.  There's a reason these fences were built, and libertarians don't seem to notice or care.  Because their Ism insists that personal freedom supersedes the community's need for safety and common service.

Without government regulations we'd have airplanes crashing every other week instead of every other year.  Without government regulations we'd have salmonella in all the food, just not from a peanut corporation with a horrible health record.  Without OSHA we'd have more workplace accidents and deaths.

For all the hassles and complaints about the costs of regulations and the costs of fines and the costs of this and that, they pale in comparison to the costs of businesses destroying themselves by poisoning their customers or burning down their buildings and killing their workers.  People seem to forget that 100 years ago your can of meat had a 50/50 chance of killing you, either because the meat was toxic or the label wrapping the can was toxic.  Or that the can itself would probably explode.  We live in a safer world today... and people forget that it's due to those regulations put in place before we were born.  (EDIT: I'd like to add how the libertarian free-market crowd believes that Regulation can be replaced by "Enlightened Self-Interest".  I'd also like to highlight that Enlightened Self-Interest means nothing compared to Greed when most of our economic overlords had a choice between either).

I think my rant started at one point, and dove toward another, but both of them cover the same issue at hand: Why I Hate Libertarianism.  And I'd like to get back to my earlier argument about how the Ism aspect of libertarianism is that it's an ideology that deals in absolutes.  Because my final argument against libertarianism is how it insists that its vision of the world could create a better cleaner happier loving world.  In short, libertarians are what I call Utopians (Utopianists is apparently not a word).

I studied literary utopias in my freshman year at University of Florida back in 1988.  It was a bit of an eye-opener.  Not only covering More's Utopia (the Trope Namer as it were), the class also covered Butler's Erewhon, Bellamy's Looking Backward (a forgotten text today but a major bestseller in the 19th Century: it was so prevalent that its critics wrote "sequels" denouncing the original's themes), and one other that I can't recall (although Bacon's New Atlantis seems familiar).  And the one thing I took from the class was: Utopias don't work.

Each Utopia I read about highlighted the writer's already-established biases about human behavior and what could be changed or fixed to make humanity "improve".  But as the professor noted with all the "response" books that sprung up after each Utopian novel, each of those Utopian writers would either ignore a human trait - Greed, Arrogance, Ignorance, Ineptitude, Fear, Lust, Wrath, etc. - or underplay how damaging those traits could derail a society.  Usually on the hand-wave premise that "well, it will work because people will WANT it to work."  Even the "response" books to Looking Backward tried to create their own visions of utopia to counter Bellamy's vision... and those critics created flawed worlds as well.

And it wasn't just novels: the class also examined real-life attempts at creating Utopian communities here in the United States.  Places like New Harmony.  There was Oneida (yes, the silverware guys). You might have heard of Fruitlands: it's the one founded (and failed) under the leadership of Louisa May Alcott's father.  It's why Alcott wrote and published Little Women and its sequels, to regain the family's finances.  A lot of these Utopian communities failed because their founders believed they could overcome certain human traits... and couldn't.  The attempts at real-life Utopias either fell apart because of the fatal flaw their founders overlooked and wouldn't confront... or because they changed their rules - like the Mormons, for the most part - in order to continue existing.

And so every time I look at Libertarianism - and as much as I see in Communism and Socialism and Liberalism and Conservatism and a ton of other Isms - I see a Utopian ideology, one that's obsessed with its Absolute view of perfecting society that can't really ever be perfected, refusing to compromise on either the big issues or the little details... and expecting to receive adulation and acceptance all because of its' purity of vision.

Even Pragmatism has its flaws.  Yeah.  Dude.  I went there.  Deal with it.

I expect a retort from my brother whenever he finds the time.  And this time, bro, put your name to it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Thing Bothering Me About Job Hunting

Other than the fact that my librarian background simply doesn't fit in too well with about 78 percent of the job market...

What bothers me is that *I* have to go to the employers for their job openings.  Offering my resume, typing in application forms, begging for interviews.  The problem is, each employer has their own requirements/requests for resumes... and different means of typing in application forms.  It gets frustrating that I gotta waste an hour or two tweaking each resume submission, or typing in a brand new application form.

Why can't we reverse the process?  Have all job search engines work the other way?  Have the human resources department come looking for US, based on our one standardized resume, no applications to fill, just come to us and take a quick look and see if we pass the preliminary before calling us for an interview?

I mean, THEY know what they're looking for.  The HR people can spot and keyword search within reason, and narrow the searches down and get us on the phone pronto.  Why have 100,000 unqualified people overwhelm a Human Resources office with half-assed resumes for one job, when the HR people can search a resume database, whittle it down to 5-10 people they like, and go from there?

Better still, at job fairs, sit the unemployed people down at a table, have our resumes displayed in front of us, and have the HR people walk by us and window-shop, pointing out "How much for that librarian in the window?" before taking us home for work and feeding?

Sigh.  It's been two years plus doing this.  We need a change of employment methods.  This current method, it just ain't working for me and 17 million other people...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How Rick Scott Is Faring Among Other Floridians

I mean, you all have a pretty good idea where I stand considering the MEDICARE FRAUD...

But the media is picking up on other Floridians souring: especially Republicans!

"People are just disgusted with the way that Scott is only advocating for corporations and doing nothing for the people who live here and work hard," said Ricci. "And there are Republicans from all across the state who have decided to drop out of the party, because they can't stay in a party that is Rick Scott's party. From everything from the special deal for corporations to attacking unions, and there are corporations that pay no taxes -- all of this combined has just been too much for many of these lifelong Republicans to stomach."

The article opens with a Republican firefighter posting publicly on Facebook that he'd gone this past Wednesday to the local elections office to switch his party affiliation from Republican to Independent (welcome to the club).

This can actually get to be a big problem.  Parties use their voter registration polls to create their mailing lists, phone lists, donations lists, etc.  I can confirm as an Independent meself these last six years that I don't get the phone calls and mailbox stuffers that my parents (still registered Republicans) get every election cycle.  What this means is that smaller membership leaves fewer people the GOP can count on to 1) give donations (not so bad, considering the Republicans can rely on deep pocket CEOs), and 2) help with campaigns and Get The Vote Out efforts (which actually does hurt: as the crowds get smaller, even the conservative media talking heads are gonna notice).

Worse for the GOP, the people abandoning ship are NOT the so-called RINOs: the old-style Moderates that fled ages ago.  And here's the real problem.  The ones getting driven out now are guys and gals just like that Orlando firefighter: pro-gun, pro-life, and would otherwise be hating on Democrats like always.  But not now.  The ones fleeing the Republicans NOW used to be as solid a reliable vote for Republican throughout modern history. But because the current Republican leadership has gotten so batshit crazy, so anti-worker, so anti-Medicare and anti-Medicaid and anti-Social Security, and so pro-corporate tax cut... whatever is left of a sensible base for the party isn't going to be there now.

Voter registration for Republicans are already kind of low: Now the GOP is going to get stuck with just the uber-rich terrified of ZOMG SOCIALISM, and the ignorant dwindling masses obsessing over Obama's birth certificate.  I'm trying to find the latest statistics on voter registration nationwide: the last time I checked, there were already MORE registered Independents than Republicans (with Democrats still in the majority: this is why GET THE VOTE OUT EFFORTS ARE SO IMPORTANT, GUYS...).  So far I'm finding the 2004 numbers, which has 72 million Democrats, 55 million Republicans, and 42 million Independents.  The voter identification in 2009 had it by percentages, with 39 percent ID'ing as Democrats, 35 percent Independent, and 29 percent Republican...

What am I saying here?  My point is: the current game-plan of the Republican Party - killing unions at the state level, cutting social safety nets like Medicare and Medicaid at the federal level - is alienating far too many people too quickly.  Voter identification with Republicans will suffer, as more registered voters decide being in the party isn't worth the aggravation.  Fewer voters mean the only ones left are the obvious nut cases, reveling in the fact they have a fully-funded party (with a media network hard-wired to back them no matter what) of their own to run.

Primaries are clearly going to get worse because the Far Right can win those and then go on to lose the general elections: the relatively sane voters backing relatively sane candidates are disappearing, leaving wingnuts who will back wingnut candidates that will not appeal to the at-large voters (think Sharon Angle, or Christine O'Donnell).  And while some of those wingnut candidates won in 2010 (a down-cycle election), the chances of those wingnuts winning in a Presidential election cycle like 2012 - when voter turnout cycles upward - dimishes.  Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" Scott only won because 5,000 Democrats and/or Independent voters who would hate fraudsters didn't show up to vote.  In 2012, more voters = better odds of saner voter totals. 

Because of Rick Scott... because of the severity of Rick Scott's agenda, something even enough Republicans in the state legislature are starting to oppose... there's more and more Republican voters fleeing the party here in Florida.  And Florida is a battleground state: the numbers slightly favor the Democrats here even though - thanks to gerrymandering and the 2010 down-cycle election - they don't dominate the state government.  I don't see a slew of Democrats heading to the elections office to change party status because of Obama or Sen. Nelson or anything like that.  I'm only seeing Republicans leaving because of Rick Scott.

And Rick Scott is exactly who the wingnuts want.  While the rest of us don't.  Where will that leave the Republicans in 2012... or 2014, if Scott lasts that long...?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Personal Reaction to Obama's Speech

1) Obama did seem to go out of his way to shred Paul Ryan's tax-cut, social-service-cut budget proposal for 2012.  Which in my mind was the right thing to do.  Ryan's budget is not brave: it panders HARD to the Far Right's need to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, and it attempts to add even MORE tax breaks to corporations already swimming in massive profit margins (just how much a burden are the taxes on them anymore?).

2) Obama still played the game being played in the Beltway (and owned by the Far Right): the idea that cutting the deficit is paramount, and not the need to focus on job creation (which could add to the deficits in the short term, but should reduce said deficits in the long term).  So as a result, the possibility of more austerity measures (which ARE NOT WORKING in the European countries already playing this game) are there.

What the hell happened to discredit Keynesian economic policies at this time?  There's no way the Austrian or Chicago schools of thought should remain this dominant, and you'd think after the massive catastrophes of the 2000s that the libertarians would be even more discredited than Keynesians.

3) I was not at all surprised that the Republicans and their media enablers and brown-nosers dismissed Obama's speech, or accused him of making "personal attacks" (which in Ryan's case could be truth).  Outside of admitting he was born on Krypton and then resigning the Presidency to return to complete his Jedi training on Dagobah with Master Yoda, there is nothing Obama can do to convince the teabagger Far Right wingnuts (I know, redundancies) of anything.

4) The speech reads well, and Obama did a decent job presenting it.  Most important, Obama seems to be drawing a line in the sand here: that he will not accept any further extensions of the Bush tax cuts for the extremely wealthy (the top two percent, the ones earning millions of dollars), for example.  For the most part, this is Obama's opening salvo for his re-election campaign.  But it's also a promise he made on camera and one he's going to have to stick to for the far left base - and the Democratic Party in general - to hang their hat on.  It's kind of his Bush the Elder "Read My Lips" moment: if he fails to live up to the promise, if the Republican House gets him to back down again on what Obama promised this week, then Obama's support (which is decent but not overwhelming) fades.

And there's already two major battles just this year alone: the debt ceiling vote due in May/June and the Paul Ryan budget showdown.  The budget issue is the easier of the two: The Democratic-led Senate is in decent position to insist on stopping the more harsh elements of the Ryan plan from passing the whole Congress.  But the debt ceiling vote is different altogether: it can fail in the House if enough Republicans (and even some psycho Democrats) vote against raising the ceiling, and the whole system collapses.  There's more at stake with the debt ceiling, more possibility that the House GOP will hold it hostage to negotiate for everything they want (including pony rides at the circus!).  And even though Obama is calling on Democrats to insist on a "Clean" bill for the debt ceiling (meaning no deals with Republicans who will try to add their pet projects to it), this is too scary a situation to be playing chicken with the global economy.

The trick is making damn sure the Republicans swerve first.  It's doable, especially since the latest vote on the overdue 2011 budget still couldn't pass with enough Republican votes (meaning Boehner is facing a sizable faction revolt... the same faction that's eager to vote against that debt ceiling...)

Obama's given his speech.  He's made a good number of promises.  But now he's got to live up to them...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things I Want To Hear From Obama During This Afternoon's Speech

I originally posted this at Ta-Nehisi's house.  Hope he doesn't mind.

"If we want to be serious about reducing the deficits and reducing our debt, we NEED to look at how our government gets its revenues."

"We need to raise the taxes on those who can afford it: the millionaires and billionaires who still profited during these last three years of hardship while the middle class struggled to stay out of poverty. Not to raise such taxes as a putative measure, but to ensure that every American is paying their fair share into fixing our financial problems."

"We need to begin closing tax loopholes for corporations. Especially any tax loophole that benefits too few companies at the expense of the nation. And especially any loophole that does not hamper or prevent corporations from generating honest profit."

"Also, you all should really buy a copy of Paul Wartenberg's ebook. He needs the moneys. And some of the stories in that collection are pretty funny. Word."

"Also, I strongly suggest that every American hugs a puppy or kitten today. If you're allergic, perhaps a Pokemon action figure."

"One last thing. I wasn't born in Hawaii. I was born on the planet Krypton, sent here by my true father Marlon Brando to... wait, I already did this joke, didn't I?"

To dream the impossible dream...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As The Post Count Reaches 300, Planning Ahead

For starters, what to do with the 300th Post...?

Oooh, I know.  MORE AMENDMENT IDEAS.  :-)

That's one of the reasons I started this blog.

In the meanwhile, we get this.

It's been nearly two weeks since Gov. Rick Scott exploited his vague emergency power to force unconscionable cuts of up to 40 percent in reimbursement rates for those who serve the state's developmentally disabled. The governor claimed Tuesday he had no choice because the Agency for Persons with Disabilities was running a $174 million deficit. But Scott chose to appease his tea party base rather than work with lawmakers to stave off potentially life-altering and debilitating changes in services for up to 33,000 of Florida's most vulnerable citizens. Now Republican legislative leaders should follow through on promises to find a way to cover the deficit and not cut off thousands of Floridians who have nowhere else to turn for help.

I still blame 2.5 million Floridian voters who put Rick "CUT YOU UP" Scott in charge of the state.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Emily L. Hauser Was Impressed

She had posted an article awhile back about the "disappointed Democratic base" (snippage to provide context: also, go read her blog AND BOOKMARK IT):

The simple truth is that President Obama has advanced more progressive causes than any President since FDR (not least: health care reform). He ran for the job knowing it would be challenging, and then the job got exponentially harder before he even took office. He is genuinely loathed and feared by millions of Americans — whose fears and loathing are daily ginned up and fortified by people who make their living off of making the President’s job as difficult as humanly possible — and the opposition party has not, as far as I can tell, enjoyed a single day of responsible legislative behavior since he stepped into the Oval Office.
In short: Obama is attempting to do an extraordinarily difficult job under even more extraordinarily difficult circumstances...
...And after eight years of the Bush Administration’s scorched earth policies and contempt for both reason and the American people, I remain grateful that we have a President who acts like an adult, and treats the American people as adults. He’s not perfect — but Obama is pretty good...

Well, I had added a response to her comments, throwing out my opinion as a frustrated ex-Republican-turned-Independent voter about how the Democrats need to recognize that while Obama hasn't been perfect (on the issue of torture, he's been dreadful), he's still 50 times better than the Republican alternatives, and that the Democrats should focus less on sniping their own party leaders and focus more on Getting Out The Vote to win elections...

Well, Emily liked my comment.  She went and posted it as a blog entry on her main page.  And... there's been responses to it too... even on Twitter.  Ouch.

So, if there's anyone coming here to this blog to see what Emily sees in me... well, welcome to the Wartenberg madhouse.  Say hi to Tehya the Pretty Kitty and Page the Silly Kitty.  Cookies are over there, cokes in the fridge, I'll be over in the corner fuming about Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" for another two-three months before the arrest warrants on Scott are due...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Budget Brinkmanship

While the GOOD news of the government NOT getting shutdown this past Friday evening is that, well, the entire country is not collapsing, it's overshadowing the facts that there are still a lot of BAD news this nation has to deal with.  And it's not even about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are gonna get hurt by the fact there's $80 billion of social services and aid no longer out there...

For starters, this game of brinkmanship with the nation's economy is not over.  We still have two other key budget issues ahead: the annual (or possibly bi-monthly) need for Congress to vote itself the power to raise the debt ceiling; and the looming fight over Paul Ryan's psychotic budget proposal for 2012 AKA Death To The Social Safety Net And Everlasting Life To Perpetual National Debt.

The immediate crisis is over the debt ceiling.  It's ostensibly supposed to mark the amount that the government can't borrow money.  In practice it keeps getting raised because the government needs the flexibility of borrowing money in order to pay the bills.  A good reason for that is because the government is less eager to find other revenue sources (SUCH AS TAXES) to be able to, you know, PAY FOR SH-T.

The first part of the problem is that the debt ceiling keeps going up.  Government can't trust itself to rein in its own spending - even the massive slash of $80 billion from the spending budget won't dent it - and so they keep finding themselves pushing the cap higher.  This becomes an even bigger problem because the Small Government Libertarians and (and their Teabagger poseurs who ride on the reputation of "fiscal responsibility") view it as Big Government excess.  And they want to vote against raising the debt ceiling again... which has to be done before July of this year.

And here's the biggest problem of all: if the libertarian/Teabagger contingent in Congress has their way - and it's possible - and they vote to stop raising the debt ceiling by July... that next sound you hear will be THE ENTIRE GLOBAL ECONOMY CRASHING TO A HALT.

This is serious.  If the debt ceiling is capped, it forces the creditors that have been lending the U.S. any money to start calling in their loans... their ENTIRE loans, not just monthly payments or something.  This means multinational banks, foreign governments, and others I haven't thought of for this list can declare the U.S. in default.  If that happens, things like Treasury bonds would lose value I think...  The next thing that could happen is that the U.S., in order to raise funds to pay those bills, would call in OUR loans to other nations borrowing from us, and cause the same financial crisis in their governments.  It would be a cascade effect: every nation scrambling to get their financial houses in order... and a lot of them CAN'T because they've been massively borrowing money as well.  And this isn't even going into how this would affect the private sectors: commodities markets will freak out; trade could get affected by sudden tariff increases or with governments unable to purchase goods; and global stock markets would crash as the faith in governments to maintain fiscal stability disappears, as things like government bonds lose value, etc.  (NOTE: I am not an economist, I am not entirely sure what WILL happen if this occurs.  All I do know is, based on how the economists dread this, it's Explode-The-Planet-BAD).

Now, this is the worst-case-scenario.  The good news about this is, even the Republicans are not this batshit crazy to pull that stunt... mostly.  The party leadership surely isn't: Boehner openly opposes the cap effort; Republican Senators clearly oppose it, and the Far Right media have mostly spoken against any move to cap the debt ceiling.

The bad news to that is, there may be enough Republican House representatives who ARE batshit crazy enough to go against their own party leadership on this one.  Because they are true Teabaggers who are clearly upset with the whole idea of Big Government and who think this is a way to bring it all down.  Or worse...

We're now in an era of Budget Brinkmanship: the idea that one side (say, Republicans) has to force things to the edge of a cliff of impending doom in order to get what they want.  It works especially well when the opposing party (The Democrats) genuinely believe in compromise in order to get things done, and who also fear being on the wrong side of anything (say, being on the side for tax increases, because Democrats really believe Mondale got creamed in the 1984 elections because of the tax issue... instead of Mondale being a weak campaigner going against a populist President...).  You saw it here with the shutdown crisis: rather than risk the calamity of an economic disaster of a gov't shutdown, Obama and Reid were willing to give up tons of spending for social services while the Republicans "promised" not to go after particular hot-topic services like Planned Parenthood.

What could well happen with the debt ceiling debate that's impending is that the Far Right in the House will push for an extremist position in exchange for their vote on letting the debt ceiling go up.  The extremist stuff could be another attempt to push a pro-life agenda on a nation that's not even interested in the abortion debate anymore.  Or it could be something else that would be disastrous for a majority of Americans, something the Democrats could abide parting with if it meant saving the global economy.  The Democrats, after a show in public of being outraged, would well concede the matter in the belief that 1) it will save the world and 2) the voters will forgive the Dems on the matter and blame the Republicans for their bullshit agenda come the next election cycle.  And the Far Right could well win another serious conflict, much to the chagrin of the American public.

But there's only so many times you can push someone to the brink.  At some point, the Democrats are going to have to wake up to the fact that there's little left they can surrender to the Republicans.  The debt ceiling debate could be one bridge too far: Obama, Reid, and the other Democratic leaders may figure to themselves "Screw it.  The Republicans are threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless we give them EVERYTHING they want?  They wouldn't do it.  They wouldn't DARE push the shiny red button of global destruction like that.  If the vote came up, there's every chance they'll waver.  So let's not give them anything THIS TIME.  Let's see if the Republicans REALLY ARE crazy enough to kill the economy..."

On something as deadly serious as the debt ceiling (even considering how singularly small the vote looks on paper), the Democrats could grow a spine.  They could say, "Let's vote," and then have the Dems all vote quickly FOR the debt ceiling to go up, and let the Republicans stew as they start realizing that if enough of them vote AGAINST the debt ceiling going up it will be all on the Republicans' heads...

It's a tricky game, isn't it, of "Let's Blow Up The World."  At some point, the only winning move is not to play...