Partisanship, Who Needs It?

Partisanship, Who Needs It?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Slipping into Capitalism

The Washington Post reports:

Faced with the smothering inefficiencies of a state-run economy and unable to feed his people without massive imports of food, Cuban leader Raúl Castro has put his faith in compatriots like Esther Fuentes and his little farm out in the sticks.

If Cuba is searching for its New New Man, then Fuentes might be him. The Cuban government, in its most dramatic reform since Castro took over for his ailing older brother Fidel three years ago, is offering private farmers such as Fuentes the use of fallow state lands to grow crops -- for a profit.

Quite a change for the island nation. Of course the rhetoric must be applied to justify this:

Raúl Castro prefers to call it "a new socialist model."

The "new socialist model" can be summed up in two words...... profit motive.

What brought this on?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of subsidies from Moscow and Eastern Europe, Cuba abandoned its huge farms devoted to sugar cane -- and that land was quickly taken over by marabu, a tenacious, thorny weed that now covers vast tracts of Cuba the way kudzu blankets the American South.

Guess they decided that its actually better to allow some capitalism than let the land sit useless under their previous policies. But what do the people of Cuba think:

Fuentes pointed to his new fields of sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, cassava and beans. He's also growing flowers to sell. Chickens were running around, and trees bore monster avocados. The future looks better.

"This is big change," he said. "Everyone wants in."

How far will it go? Who knows but one academic has an idea for them:

"If they really wanted to solve their problem, they could solve it in a minute, with the stroke of a pen," by allowing private ownership and free markets, said José Alvarez, a professor emeritus and authority on Cuban agriculture at the University of Florida.

Is Cuba likely to turn into a capitalist state? Not likely, but they are begging to face at least the reality that the profit motive will help them to feed their people.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Don't buy healthcare? pay $25,000. can't afford the fine? spend a year in jail.

Policio reports:

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.
Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it "Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold.

Two thoughts occur to me.

First, not everyone will have an easy time scraping up the money to pay, although I know some assistance is planned to be made available.

Secondly, if they can't pay $1,900 what are the chances they can pay $25,000, can our overcrowded penal system handle the increased traffic? Should people who couldn't afford to pay be grouped with thieves, drug dealers, and worse?

To me this type of penalty makes this less appealing than a fully paid public option (as much as I oppose that). What they should do instead in my option, if they must do this at all, is to freely cover everyone with catastrophic insurance and let individuals buy their own other than catastrophic insurance on the proposed markets without threat of legal penalty but with any assistance having the cost of the catastrophic coverage taken out of it. Fining and imprisoning people for not buying into health care strikes me as against the principles of our nation.

Its time for Justice in Honduras

The Congressional Reasearch Service (CRS) has released a new report on the ousting of former President Manuel Zelaya.

Among its findings:

Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

However, removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct
violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution, and apparently this action is currently under investigation by the Honduran authorities.50

So his removal from the Presidency was Constitutional, but his removal from the country was not.

Yet the Obama administration has still failed to recognize the government of Honduras is the rightful legal government of the Country, and the administration has cut aid by $30 million and threatened to cut another $200 million. This is about 2% of the Honduran GDP.

Furthermore the Washington Examiner reports:

Do the facts matter? Fat chance. The administration is standing by its "coup" charge and 10 days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went so far as to sanction the country's independent judiciary. The U.S. won't say why, but its clear the court's sin is rejecting a U.S.-backed proposal to restore Mr. Zelaya to power.

The upshot is that the U.S. is trying to force Honduras to violate its own constitution and is also using its international political heft to try to interfere with the country's independent judiciary.

Hondurans are worried about what this pressure is doing to their country. Mr. Zelaya's violent supporters are emboldened by the U.S. position. They deface some homes and shops with graffiti and throw stones and home-made bombs into others, and whenever the police try to stop them, they howl about their "human rights."

But it may be that Americans should be even more concerned about the heavy-handedness, without legal justification, emanating from the executive branch in Washington. What does it say about Mr. Obama's respect for the separation of powers that he would instruct Mrs. Clinton to punish an independent court because it did not issue the ruling he wanted?

Its time the Obama administration correct its failed position, and show a respect for the Rule of Law in other nations and their independent judiciaries.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama's transparancy problem

When President Obama was campaigning for the Presidency,government transparancy was one of his rallying cries. His speeches were full of such gems as:

"When there is a bill that ends up on my desk as a president, you the public will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing.”

"To achieve health care reform, "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process."

" "No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration."
Now you might ask, what has that last one have to do with transparancy, so I'll explain. On January 8, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama nominated lobbyist William Lynn as his Deputy Secretary of Defense. Objections were of course raised but lynn ended up being given a waiver by the administration and confirmed by the Senate. However other lobbyists followed and received their own wavers, some of whom were appointments not requiring Senate approval. Some other appointments don't even require waivers just "recusals" where the former lobbyist just voluntarily excuses himself from areas that he once lobbied for. But without the confirmation process little is know about the appointments, and even who all of them are. According to Polifact:
* Recusals appear to have even less documentation than waivers. We have yet to see a recusal "order," despite having asked the White House for them. We know there are at least two recusals; there may be more. We're not sure how recusals specifically differ from waivers because the White House has said little about the policy.

* The White House is not prompt about releasing the waivers. For two nominees who didn't require Senate approval, waivers were released weeks after they were signed and after the people took their positions. These two waivers were also substantially less detailed than the waiver issued for Lynn.

We haven't seen anything to make us change our ruling. But there's been a new development: Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa recently sent a letter asking for accountability about the recusals and waivers. (Grassley is one of four senators who voted against the nomination of William Lynn as a deputy secretary for defense; Lynn was a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon.)

Grassley has asked Robert Cusick, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, to require the Obama administration to release all waivers and recusals as they are issued and post the documentation to the Internet. Grassley said Cusick has that authority under the Ethics in Government Act.

Well, so much for transpaancy on that. I could go into his appointment of over 30 "Czars" but I think the point has already been made, now to the other items.

That healthcare reform on C-Span pledge, well it just never happened.

Of course the Presidnet spins this in this way:

Not one has bought this line except for his most ardent cheerleaders.

Sources as varied as Salon, The Huffington Post,CNBC, Air America, Slate,The National Review, Glenn Greenwald, etc. are all critical of the backroom deals the Obama administration made. Where was C-Span then?

Now on to the first item mentioned, the 5 day pledge. The Cato institute details the lack of compliance with this promise back in April.

Of the eleven bills President Obama has signed, only six have been posted on None have been posted for a full five days after presentment from Congress.

Several times the White House has posted a bill while it remains in Congress, attempting to satisfy the five-day rule. But this doesn’t give the public an opportunity to review the final legislation – especially any last minute amendments. Versions of the children’s health insurance legislation, the omnibus spending bill, and the omnibus public land management bill were linked to from while making their ways through Congress, but not posted in final form.

In some areas Obama has actually moved forward on transparency, but sometimes only due due to political pressure. For example the releasing of White House logs, which were in answer to lawsuits by watchdog groups and court rulings. Even after release the logs aren't easily acessable for previous periods before the turnaround and detailed requests for time and visitors must be made before the information is released, hardly transparant.

It seems to me that the way to transparancy in the Executive branch is still via watchdogs, investigative reporting by the media, and lawsuits. On its own, the Obama administration does not seem very transparent at all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Someone give David Brooks a Dictionary

I think he might need one

People without social emotions like empathy are not objective decision-makers.


5. not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.

6. intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.

"Empathy" is just an excuse for judges not to uphold the law. Empathy is a good quality for a legislator tasked with writing and ammending the law, but not something I want to see in judges tasked with upholding to law in an imopartial manner.

Justice should be blind, we don't need to lift her blindfold.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Torture debate

Conservative radio host Eric Mancow admits waterboarding is torture

Video here.

Well that settles that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Amazing Beauty

Susan Boyle

Click the above link, trust me you do not wanna miss this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama administration throws Dodd under the bus to try to save its own hide.

Gleeen Greenwald covers this pathetic turn of events.

But it was Tim Geithner and Larry Summers who openly criticized Dodd's proposal at the time and insisted that those limitations should apply only to future compensation contracts, not ones that already existed. The exemption for already existing compensation agreements -- the exact provision that is now protecting the AIG bonus payments -- was inserted at the White House's insistence and over Dodd's objections. But now that a political scandal has erupted over these payments, the White House is trying to deflect blame from itself and heap it all on Chris Dodd by claiming that it was Dodd who was responsible for that exemption.

The only point here is that what the White House and many journalists are claiming simply did not happen. They're just inventing a false history in order to blame the politically hapless Dodd for what Geithner and Summers did.

Pretty shameful. So this is what Hope and Change look like?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Action Americans Need

My response to
this Obama editorial

Are there things in the Stimulas package that benefit from being implimented ASAP? Yes there are. Are there things in the package that could benefit from a longer term debate, analysis and adjustment? Yes there are those as well. So why are we being given this "weapons of mass destruction, must act now" rhetoric? What should be done is to divide this gargantuan bill into two workable parts, one that addresses the immediate that can quickly be acted upon without the need to debate the longer term issues of the remainder. Many of these areas have wider bipartisan support and can be pushed though quickly, leaving the rest for a more detailed evaluation. Given the price tag on this monster of a bill, we really cannot afford to have a do over and care needs to be taken and we should not rush through what need not be rushed. We need to take care of the immediate and not throw in partisan wish lists out of fear of not acting quickly enough. Only a division of the bill is likely to achieve this.

The President can play a constructive role and show true leadership by recognizing and dividing the short and longer term necessities and this will allow him to address more bipartisan concerns than writing editorials in the Washington Post trying to hammer in a mantra of "Now is the time", "Now is the time", "Now is the time"....... Sorry, but for much of this package Now is not the time, for some of it, there will never be a time for it. We need clear thinking, time to consider, and the pooling of various information, knowledge and opinions on those parts that aren't of immediate impact which make up a majority of the legislation. We don't need the politics of fear, we had enough of that, we want a change of that, not a continuation under a new banner. Obama's article was entitled "The Action Americans Need", well the real Action American's Need, is a level headed leadership that isn't afraid of a reasoned debate and wont rush to a paniced decision when it need not do so. We need the President to seperate this bill to address both the concern for quick action on some fronts, and the need for wiser and more thought out action on others. We need leadership not a stump speech.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Shoddy Scholarship?

A friend of mine on a political forum (although I'm not sure he thinks of me the same way since we often disagree with passion, but nonetheless a pretty good guy I think) posted this:

"A more factual synopsis of the Reagan presidency might read like this: That Reagan was a transformative figure in American history, but his real revolution was one of public-relations-meets-politics and not one of policy. He combined his small-town heartland upbringing with a skill for story-telling that was honed on the back lots of Hollywood into a personal narrative that resonated with a majority of voters, but only after it tapped into something darker, which was white middle class resentment of 1960s unrest.

His story arc did become more optimistic and peaked at just the right moment, when Americans were tired of the “malaise” of the Jimmy Carter years and wanted someone who promised to make the nation feel good about itself again. But his positive legacy as president today hangs on events that most historians say were to some great measure out of his control: An economic recovery that was inevitable, especially when world oil prices returned to normal levels, and an end to the Cold War that was more driven by internal events in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe than Americans want to acknowledge.

His 1981 tax cut was followed quickly by tax hikes that you rarely hear about, and Reagan’s real lasting achievement on that front was slashing marginal rates for the wealthy – even as rising payroll taxes socked the working class. His promise to shrink government was uttered so many time that many acolytes believe it really happened, but in fact Reagan expanded the federal payroll, added a new cabinet post, and created a huge debt that ultimately tripped up his handpicked successor, George H.W. Bush. What he did shrink was government regulation and oversight -- linked to a series of unfortunate events from the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of the late 2000s."

Now I've seen it from both the left and the right, an effort to go after political "icons" of the other side, thats fine and dandy but you really should be able to offer up something better than shoddy arguments if you wish to do so with acclaim from more than guys on your own side of the political aisle. Now I admit, this is just a snippet from Will Bunch and his book Tear Down this Myth, but I have to wonder at his scholarly abilities with such statements. Kinda reminds me of Ann Coulter with all the bias just minus the outrageousness.

Take the bit on taxes and the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which I think is part of what you are referring to. Reagan did indeed sign it agreeing to raise taxes, but, he did so with a stipulation you make have forgotten about, that for every $1 of additional taxes, that government reduce spending by $3. Now that is a Conservative ideal.

Also on that link note the table and the totals. 4 year average of the net effect on tax revenues as a per centage of GDP -0.95 I'd call that a tax reduction. This expression as a % of GDP eliminates distortions due to inflation, total federal reciepts, and real economic growth.

Now lets take that new cabinet position mentioned:

Guess he's is referring to the cabinet level office of Director of the National Drug Control Policy when he signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988

While Reagan was definately for an aggessive approach to the drug issue, Reagan wasn't a big fan of the idea of the big government aspects.

Reagan's secretary of health and human services, stressed education and rehabilitation, an approach often taken by Democrats. William J. Bennett, a conservative who served as Reagan's Secretary of Education, argued for greater military involvement in stemming the influx of drugs. He also urged Reagan to appoint a drug czar, but the president opposed it on grounds that it would necessitate more "big government."

You have to also remember that that same legislation allowed for the death penalty for drug kingpins, definately a conservate item. Somehow I don't see Reagan signing this bill as a show of him being un Conservative. What I do see, is shoddy scholarship. If some average guy like me can put some quick holes in this guys argument without much effort, can't expect his work to be worth much time.

These examples really point to him acting in a non Conservative way, they are examples of him acting in a moderate way to get Conservative items in that he felt important and doing so by working with a democratic Congress to do so. When the opposition is in power in the Congress there are limits on what items of your own agenda you can get through, and there are only certainways to introduce them that will be sucessful, Reagan understood that well, and used them.

But, like I said, perhpas I'm wrong and the liberal blogosphere and forum posters are just choosing to post a particularly bad excerpt, and the rest of his work might be stellar. Well, maybe but until I see something with more promise of serious scholarship than this, I think I'll pass on this guys writing. But Hey if your a liberal and like being part of the choir being preached to, by all means run out and buy a copy, you will likely enjoy a partisan show, even if factually challeged.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nation Tribes and Nation States

A very interesting piece.

Paradigm Shift: The US Foreign and Security Policies in Flux

US policies used to be, and still nominally is, Nation-State centric. Everything the United States does has to be channeled through states and official governments. For example, we know that terrorists reside in, say, Sudan. However, we can't just go in and grab them. We have to petition the Sudanese government for extradition, even though the Sudanese government does not have that much control over the terrorists. Once the terrorists get the wind of an impending extradition, they can use bribes and their contacts in the government to get out of Sudan. And there's nothing we can do about it [except the CIA].

One useful way to think about this shift is on the question of sovereignty: We used to be on the "Theory of Sovereignty", that we assumed every government had full sovereignty, even if reality conflicts with that claim. Now we will operate on "the Test of Sovereignty", where we only acknowledge your sovereignty after you have demonstrated it credibly. To use a dated example, we will acknowledge Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor only if Indonesia can exercise its sovereign powers over East Timor.