Sunday, February 23, 2014

We Are Taking a Break

The more this Forum publishes, the worse the world gets, so we're going to stop for a while and see if that won't make things better.

No, we're not optimistic either.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Massive Economic Damage From California Draught Will Spread Across the Country

Republican Plan – Do Nothing or Make it Worse, Your Choice

Those who do not farm in California’s Central Valley probably think they are ok, that their economic well being will not be affected if that area continues to suffer from the devastating draught in that area.  They are wrong.

California Farming

Yes the residents will be among the hardest hit.

Less than a month ago, Mr. Sumner and other experts estimated that 300,000 acres of rich farmland in the region would go unplanted. Now, he has nearly doubled that estimate.
“I haven’t learned anything yet that tells me it is less severe than we might have hoped,” he said.
The drought could translate into an $11 billion loss in annual state revenue from agriculture, according to the California Farm Water Coalition, an industry advocacy group. And in the Central Valley, where farming and food processing provide nearly 40 percent of all jobs, the most acute pain is most likely to be felt among low-level employees, who scrape by with seasonal work.

But unless you are someone who does not purchase food, well, you will also see economic harm.

As for relief, the options are limited and of course Republicans are not helping, as usual.

But with Republicans in the House pushing instead for an overhaul of environmental protections of the delta, there are few immediate solutions in sight for the Central Valley, a massive stretch of land in the middle of the state that provides nearly half of the nation’s produce. State officials have already said that they will not be able to offer any water to the farmers through California’s vast network of canals. And federal officials are expected to announce that their web of reservoirs will not provide any water this year either, leaving thousands of farmers to rely exclusively on private wells.

And no, no one can say that this is the result of global warming, of excessive dumping of carbon into the atmosphere, of mismanagement of the environment.  But gosh, doesn’t it sort of lean that way?  And doesn’t it mean that maybe, just maybe doing something about climate change other than calling it a liberal plot for government to take over the world just might help?  This is critical, do any of us want to see the effects of Rush Limbaugh not getting enough to eat?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Arkansas Republicans Show Their Dislike of Health Care Act by Denying Health Care to 87,000 Low Income Citizens

While Maintaining State Paid for Health Care for Republican Legislators

Arkansas is a conservative state and it is also a state with a lot of relatively low income individuals.  So the fact that the federal government would pay for expansion of Medicaid and provide health care/insurance for thousands should have been welcome news.  But Republicans blocked that so the state sought and won approval to use the expansion funds to pay for insurance for those individuals in the private health care insurance market.

Not so fast. 

The Arkansas House failed Tuesday to renew the state’s compromise Medicaid expansion plan, leaving in limbo a program heralded as a model for Republican-leaning states to implement the federal health overhaul. The 100-member chamber fell five votes short of the 75 needed to reauthorize the “private option,” in which the state is using federal Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for 87,000 low-income residents. The program was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid enrollment under the federal health law. 

Here is the rationale of Republicans who are stopping this.

Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, however, said the vote would allow the state to show its opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Bruce could not be reached for further comment because he was busy utilizing his state supported health care.

Proof Positive Conservative Republicans Are Not the Only Crazies in Kansas – Democratic Legislator Wants to Make It Legal to Beat Kids

Is It Something in the Water Out There?

Kansas, which used to be the home of good old fashioned decent, help-your-neighbor family values men and women has lately become the bastion of all that is wrong in America politics.  The state has put ultra radical conservatives in charge and they are systematically wrecking state finances, education and the like.

But Republicans are not the only irrational home wreckers in the state.  A Democratic legislator wants to allow beating children.

This week, a Democratic lawmaker from Wichita introduced a measure that would amend Kansas law to allow parents, teachers and other adults to avoid child abuse investigations or prosecutions after they wallop children hard enough to leave bruises or red marks.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Rep. Gail Finney, a 54-year-old mother of three grown sons, is hoping to “restore parental rights” and “protect parents who spank their children from being charged with child abuse.”

If Finney’s amendment to current law is accepted — a dubious proposition — acceptable corporal punishment would be defined as “up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child and any such reasonable physical force on the child as may be necessary to hold, restrain or control the child in the course of maintaining authority over the child, acknowledging that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result.”

Yes, just reading this bring a gag reflex to every decent person.  And the wonderment of just what kind of person would propose such a thing.  Kansas, you can do better, you can do a lot better, and we are pretty sure you couldn’t do worse than Rep. Finney.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Of Course the Right Wing Koch Brothers Use Actors to Pretend They Are Real People in Their Anti-Health Care Reform Act Ads

Why Show the Truth When Lying is Easier

The unrelenting attack against Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana in her re-election campaign by unlimited funding from folks like the Koch Brothers features ads of Louisiana citizens complaining of their health insurance costs and cancellation as a result of the ACA. 

The ad shows a number of people, who appear to be Louisianans, opening their mail to find a letter stating that their health care policy has been cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act.

“Due to the Affordable Care Act, your monthly premium has increased,” a voice-over says in the ad as a man in a rural neighborhood opens a cancellation letter and looks at his young daughter standing next to him. “No longer covered, due to the Affordable Care Act.”

Or maybe these are not citizens.

But the people in the emotion-evoking ad are not Louisianans at all; they are paid actors.

Landrieu’s support for the Affordable Care Act is a major sticking point in what promises to be a tough reelection campaign for the three-term senator. And her campaign is taking issue with the ad, characterizing its use of actors as “misleading” and “low.”

“Hiring professional actors to impersonate Louisiana families is low even for the billionaire Koch brothers,” Friends of Mary Landrieu Campaign Manager Adam Sullivan told ABC News. “If the Koch brothers had even a shred of credibility before launching their latest misleading ad campaign against Sen. Landrieu, they’ve surely lost it now.”

So are the infamous Koch Brothers and their stooges embarrassed by all this, of course not.

Americans for Prosperity is not backing down from the ad, with spokesman Levi Russell telling ABC News that it’s no secret that the people in the ad are actors.

“I think the viewing public is savvy enough to distinguish between someone giving a personal story and something that is emblematic,” Russell said when reached on the phone. “And we make it very clear when someone is giving a personal testimonial.”

Russell said the ad, in contrast to a “personal testimonial ad” that would use the story of a real voter, is “cinematic” and meant to be a “representative of Americans from all walks of life.”

After all, when one is using the wealth of billionaires to work to deny basic health care to millions of low income people, using paid actors to pretend they are real people is just chump change.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Purchasing Power and Consumption of Goods and Service by the Middle Class Is Not Increasing

Lack of Growth in Middle America is the Major Deterrent to a Strong Recovery

Data Confirms What Was Largely Suspected

Whenever reasonable people argue that the government must adopt policy to improve economic opportunity for middle income Americans and to develop policies that will direct the increases in economic incomes towards middle income Americans conservatives of all stripe cry “socialism” or “communism” or “income redistribution” or “class warfare”.  But the truth of the matter is that income growth in middle income families is a critical component of creating economic growth for everyone.

Now new data is confirming that the Great Recession was largely a great recession only for lower and middle income families.  The wealthy did quite well.

More at the Top

The top 5 percent of earners accounted for almost 40 percent of personal consumption expenditures in 2012, up from 27 percent in 1992. Largely driven by this increase, consumption among the top 20 percent grew to more than 60 percent over the same period. 

As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

The result of course is that businesses which cater to the wealthy are doing great and that businesses that did not cater to the wealth that can change their practices are doing so.

In response to the upward shift in spending, PricewaterhouseCoopers clients like big stores and restaurants are chasing richer customers with a wider offering of high-end goods and services, or focusing on rock-bottom prices to attract the expanding ranks of penny-pinching consumers.

“As a retailer or restaurant chain, if you’re not at the really high level or the low level, that’s a tough place to be,” Mr. Maxwell said. “You don’t want to be stuck in the middle.”

Does this matter?  Well yes, if one is employed by the large retailers like Sears, J. C. Penney or even Target and Wal-Mart that are not in the luxury goods businesses.  Here’s what is happening with their customer base.

In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995, the researchers found.

Even more striking, the current recovery has been driven almost entirely by the upper crust, according to Mr. Fazzari and Mr. Cynamon. Since 2009, the year the recession ended, inflation-adjusted spending by this top echelon has risen 17 percent, compared with just 1 percent among the bottom 95 percent.

More broadly, about 90 percent of the overall increase in inflation-adjusted consumption between 2009 and 2012 was generated by the top 20 percent of households in terms of income, according to the study, which was sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a research group in New York.

And as the retail giants slowly sink (Sears is already on a death watch, they just don’t know it) so does the potential growth in the economy.

But the wealthy don’t really care, do they?  They got theirs, they are getting more and if they can just get a few more tax cuts then to hell with everyone else.  And if the economy tanks again, well no problem.  It didnt' tank for them last time and given current governmental policies, both Democrat and Republican it won't tank for them in the future.  So who cares?

Republicans Set Out Their Nominating Rules for 2016 –

So Here is How The Election Plays Out

Even though the 2014 midterm elections are nine months away, after Republicans set rules for the 2016 contest it is now pretty clear how it is going to proceed.

The package, which cleared the 168-member committee with just nine dissenting votes, left Iowa and New Hampshire in the traditional roles of first caucus and first primary, followed by South Carolina and Nevada nominating contests, all in February. Other states are allowed to hold their primaries and caucuses starting on March 1.

After the first two weeks in March, states can hold winner-take-all elections, which will deliver large troves of delegates and are intended to yield a prospective nominee early in the process. States that violate the new rules would forfeit most of their delegates and alternates to the national convention.

So here is what is going to happen.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will win the Iowa caucuses by a huge margin. This is because of the legacy of his father’s organization and the outright craziness of Iowa Republicans. In New Hampshire the establishment forces will rally around NJ Gov. Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wo is the default establishment candidate if they run, and Mr. Paul will finish a respectable second.  In South Carolina Mr. Paul will have another big win, setting up the Florida primary for the deciding factor.

In Florida the race will be between Mr. Paul, favorite son Sen. Marco Rubio, favorite son Jeb Bush and if he runs,  the favorite of the northeast transplants Mr. Christie.  The betting here, Mr. Paul ekes out a victory, the race is over and Rand Paul becomes the de facto Republican nominee.

Sorry to spoil the suspense, we just though you would want to know.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Few Comments on Arenda Wright Allen, The Judge Who Struck Down Virginia’s Ban on Marriage Equality

She Get’s OuR Vote for Supreme Court Justice (No, Don’t Write In, Yes We Know We Don’t Have One)

The federal judge who ruled that Virginia’s ban on same sex marriage, much like its previous ban on inter-racial marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment because there is no rational basis for the ban is quite a person.

Her background is that of an individual who is deeply religious and one with a long career as a legal officer in the navy, experience as a prosecutor and as a public defender.  And no, no Harvard or Yale education here.

Two aspects of a Washington Post story about her stand out.  The first one involved an individual convicted of exploiting a child for sexual purposes who claimed he needed religion not jail. 

Wright Allen seemed to show little empathy for a man convicted in a child-pornography case. The man, who had been accused of luring underage girls into making lurid videos, told the judge that he didn’t need jail. “All I need is the Lord, some good Christian fellowship and my family,” he said.

Given her background one might have expected leniency here.  One would be wrong.

Wright Allen gave him 30 years.

“You mentioned wanting Christian fellowship. You can have that while you’re in BOP [the Federal Bureau of Prisons],” Wright Allen said, according to the Daily Press newspaper in Virginia.

The other interesting thing is the reaction of a radical conservative legislator in Virginia.

The ruling prompted Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), co-author of the ban, to call for the judge’s impeachment.

“Legislating through the courts against the will of the people is lawless disregard for our representative form of government,” Marshall said in a speech on the House of Delegates floor.

As noted in the article and elsewhere like Slate, 32 judges in 18 decisions have all reached the same conclusion as Judge Wright Allen.  No one has reached the opposite conclusion.  Does Del. Marshall wish to impeach the entire federal and state judiciary?

And of course the ignorance of Del. Marshall here shines brightly, mainly that the Virginia Assembly cannot impeach a federal judge.  But this man is probably too ignorant to care about his ignorance.

Despite cries of victory the marriage equality battle is not yet won.  There are at least four Supreme Court Justices who would vote to not only bar marriage equality but who would also vote to deny any rights to gay and lesbian couples, to prohibit their actions, to put them in jail for being gay and lesbians and probably to allow the states to torture them should they wish to do so (although to be fair Justices Thomas and Scalia would probably say they were personally opposed to torturing gay and lesbians but that the people of a state had the right to vote to do so should they so choose and that the Court should not let the personal view of individual Justices who opposed such torture over-rule the law.) 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Observations While Waiting for the Winter Olympics and the Winter Weather to End – Both Are Intolerable

But At Least the Olympics Could Have Been Prevented

While at one time there may have been  a justification for the Olympic Games, today they are just another excess, another source of entertainment, another diversion of resources from productive to unproductive uses.  So here are other things.

  1. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reported earned $44 million last year from making the NFL extremely profitable.  Did we mention the NFL is a tax exempt organization?

  1. In Minnesota the Democratic Governor is enjoying very high approval ratings.  This is in spite (or maybe because ) of a tax increase on wealthy citizens and approval of gay marriage. 

  1. With Jeb Bush dithering on whether or not to run for President the establishment types in the Republican Party are turning to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  Thanks public employee unions for raising his profile by your disastrous recall campaign.

  1. Will the U. S. allow Comcast and Time Warner Cable to merge and create a huge cable/entertainment company.  Of course, what’s the problem.  Those who accuse the Obama Administration of being anti-business don’t know the facts.  Those who accuse the Obama Administration of being anti-consumer do know the facts.

  1. Paul Krugman points everyone to economist Greg Mankiw who defends the compensation of the 1%.  According to Mankiw they deserve it for the great job they do in allocating capital resources to productive uses.  Yeah, those financial geniuses who were the major cause of the Great Recession. 

  1. The most hated Republican in Washington is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, that is most hated by other Republicans. 

  1. John McCain can’t understand why sending aid to anti-American zealots in the Syrian civil war would be harmful.  He points the U. S. role in Iraq as an example.  Really, we are not making this up.

  1. Sen. Mike Lee (R, Ut) has blasted the President for delaying implementation of parts of health care reform.  Sen. Lee is an ardent opponent of the reform and fought to delay implementation.
    So exactly why he is opposed to the President delaying implementation is a mystery only Sen. Lee can solve, or not.  And apparently the news media which reports this sort of thing has forgotten that delaying implementation of health care reform was a major Republican policy initiative, at least until the President actually did it.

  1. On gay marriage Mitt Romney has said "It's going to take a long, long time to determine whether having gay marriage will make it less likely for kids to be raised in settings where there's a mom and a dad,".  Exactly how and why that would come about is not clear, not evident and not even logical.  Just another example of why even the harshest critics of Pres. Obama are not saying the country would have been better off with Mitt.

  1. In Georgia the gun nuts want to make it okay for persons to bring their guns to the airport.  Gosh, what could go wrong there, nothing bad has ever happened with guns and air travel before.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Equality 18, Bigotry 0 as Virginia’s Rule Against Same Sex Marriage is Rule Unconstitutional

And the Sorry, Worthless Reaction of Conservatives

A federal judge in Virginia ruled the way every court has ruled since the Supreme Court ruled in Windsor that same sex couples legally married in state that recognizes marriage must be recognized as married by the federal government.  That judge joined 17 other court ruling in determining that there was no rational basis, no reason other than hatred and prejudice for a state to ban same sex marriage. 

That’s right, there have been 18 ruling and all 18 have been against the bigotry and hatred of conservatives. So who exactly is on the wrong side here, the bigots or the 32 individual judges in these decisions of all political positions appointed by President of all the different philosophies?  

 The conservative reaction in Virginia was not unexpected, but still disappointing.

The ruling prompted Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), co-author of the ban, to call for the judge’s impeachment in a speech on the House floor.
“Legislating through the courts against the will of the people is lawless disregard for our representative form of government,” Marshall said.
Del. Thomas “Tommy” C. Wright Jr. (R-Lunenburg) rose on the House floor as well to declare that marriage was created for “the purpose of procreation.”
“Legislatures can pass the laws they want to. Judges can make the rules they want to. The law of God will stand,” he said to applause and a whistle from the Republican side.
The disappointment of course is that, is this the best the opposition can do?  Really are they so completely out of coherent arguments for their position that they cannot even muster the pretense of supporting their opposition to marriage equality with even a tiny bit of rationale?

But okay Del. Tommy Wright, here’s a deal.  Let the same sex couples enter into loving, productive satisfying marriages (and divorces) and they will be happy to deal with the consequences in the after life.  The question of course though, what about your bigotry and hatred Del. Wright, are you prepared to deal with the consequences in the afterlife if you are judged? 

Tom Perkins, Billionaire Who Compared Taxing the 1% to the Nazi Attack on Jews Issues and Apology

In Which He Says He is Not Sorry


A few weeks ago, before the storm of the century, or at least the storm of the month trapped everyone inside for like a day the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by someone named Tom Perkins.  Mr. Perkins was horrified that anyone would criticize billionaires whom the critics felt paid less in taxes than they should have.  Mr. Perkins took this basic political argument and strongly hinted that it was akin to the Nazi attacks on Jewish business on what has become known as Krystallnacht (the shattering of the glass windows of Jewish owned businesses).

Now Mr. Perkins is entitled to say what he thinks, and quite frankly everyone should be glad that he has honestly stated what many if not most of his fellow plutocrats believe, that taxing them is akin to being Nazis.  And until now no comment was needed as others had nicely exposed this man for what he is.  But according to this report in Politico Mr. Perkins is apologizing for his remarks.

Again, Perkins apologized for using the word “Kristallnacht” in his Wall Street Journal comparison of the 1 percent to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, but maintained that the parallel still holds.

“I spilled a little more blood than I planned. But I’m not sorry I did it,” he said.

Now we are not certain how the statement “I’m not sorry I did it” qualifies as an apology but in the spirit of things on behalf of all of the people who have called Mr. Perkins a terrible, awful, nasty person we apologize and will say we are not sorry they did it.

There, everyone feel better?

One other point.  In the same comments Mr. Perkins apparently called for everyone to get the number of votes to be equal to what they paid in taxes.  Pay a million dollars in taxes, your vote counts for a million votes.  This upset a lot of people who failed to understand that Mr. Perkins was making a joke, making fun of them by showing how they are unable to separate out the serious from the silly.  So our messge to our liberal friends is "get a sense of humor".  Just because the otherside is dour doesn't mean you have to be so also.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What is it That Conservatives Hate About America? Well Free Speech For One

Free Speech Means They Get to Speak, You Don’t

The contrast between what conservatives say and how they act is on the center stage in North Carolina where a Federal Appeals court has ruled that no, the state of North Carolina cannot allow just one side of the abortion rights debate to be on the license plates.

What Tar Heel Residents really need to do is choose a more rational legislature

The ruling is the third time one of the Republican-led General assembly’s anti-abortion laws has been struck down over the past three years.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in a 3-0 opinion written by Judge James Wynn of North Carolina.
“Chief amongst the evils the First Amendment prohibits are government ‘restrictions distinguishing among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others,’” Wynn wrote, quoting an unrelated U.S. Supreme Court decision. “In this case, North Carolina seeks to do just that: privilege speech on one side of the hotly debated issue — reproductive choice — while silencing opposing voices.”

Personally we fail to understand why it is that anti-abortion rights groups, or any advocacy group for that matter feel that by having their positon advertised on a license plate will change anyone’s views.  Do they really think that someone driving down the road who is an ardent abortion rights supporter will see a license plate that says ‘choose life’ and so completely change their views?

Are they that stupid?  Well, . . .

Friday, February 14, 2014

Republicans in Tennessee Lose All Pretense of Not Using Government to Extort Citizens – Threaten Economic Harm is Auto Plant Unionized

The Disgusting and the Despicable – That’s Republican Attitudes Towards Basic Employee Rights

Update:  In a relatively close vote the VW workers voted against forming a union.  This may have been due to the embedded dislike of unions in the area or the economic intimidation of government.  The benefit here is that Republicans who espouse keeping government from interfering in business activity have been exposed for the hypcrites they are.

The right of workers in America to unionize was gained after a long and sometimes bloody fight.  Those opposed to unionization saw no reason not to use government, and sometimes government troops and government inspired and supported violence to put down the union movement.  But in America we cherish rights, including the right to organize.  So now workers have the right to vote to be represented by a union.  It seems like basic democracy in action.

But Republicans hate unions, hate the fact that labor has a voice.  And so with an upcoming vote in Tennessee on whether or not to unionize a VW plant, Republicans in high government positions have flat out told the workers that if they exercise their basic right to vote in a union government will punish them with harm to the local economy.

State Senator Bo Watson, who represents a suburb of Chattanooga, warned on Monday that if VW’s workers voted to embrace the U.A.W., the Republican-controlled Legislature might vote against approving future incentives to help the plant expand.
“The members of the Tennessee Senate will not view unionization as in the best interest of Tennessee,” Mr. Watson said at a news conference. He added that a pro-U.A.W. vote would make it “exponentially more challenging” for the legislature to approve future subsidies.
A loss of such incentives, industry analysts say, could persuade Volkswagen to award production of a new S.U.V. to its plant in Mexico instead of to the Chattanooga plant, which currently assembles the Passat.

And no this is not the ranting of a crazed local radical, it is a position supported by the Republican Senator and Governor.

At a news conference on Tuesday, United States Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga and a Republican, also called on VW employees to reject the union. He called it “a Detroit-based organization” whose key to survival was to organize plants in the South. . . .

Concerned that a U.A.W. victory would hurt Tennessee’s business climate, Gov. Bill Haslam has warned that auto parts suppliers might decide against locating in Chattanooga because they might not want to set up near a unionized VW plant.

And one interesting aspect of the issue is that the employer is on the side of, well on the side of democracy and worker’s rights.

“Our works councils are key to our success and productivity,” said Frank Fischer, Volkswagen Chattanooga’s chief executive and chairman. “It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world. Our plant in Chattanooga has the opportunity to create a uniquely American works council, in which the company would be able to work cooperatively with our employees and ultimately their union representatives, if the employees decide they wish to be represented by a union.”

This is in large part because in Germany companies see workers as an asset, as partners, as men and women who are integral to the operations and profitability of the company.  In Germany the labor force is heavily unionized and the economy is extremely successful. 

Of course for Republicans that is a terrible situation, and if the economy has to suffer so that they can get their way on unions, too bad.  After all, none of the government officials fighting basic decency and democracy are in any danger of losing their fantastic government jobs.

And what about conservative principles that say government should stay out of business matters in the private sector, that if a company and its workers want to enter into an arrangement that is satisfactory to both parties government has no role?  Like all conservative principles they melt in the face of the heat of hypocrisy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tennessee’s Republican Governor Takes a Big Step Forward Towards Supporting Education and Economic Growth in America

But Just Wait Until His Fellow Republicans Hear About This

A big difference between Republican legislators and Republican Governors is that Governors must actually govern, while legislators simply pontificate.  This explains why Republican members of Congress and of state legislators say and do and vote for a bunch of loony ideas.  The ideas almost never get implemented, and if they do there are a bunch of other loony legislators to blame so the blame is diluted.

But Governors must actually do things.  So in many states, even states that are rock ribbed Republican, once in office the Governors do sometimes support good policies.  (Okay, not people like Rick Perry of Texas, but he is a southerner and the rules are as strong there).  Case in point is the position taken by Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Haslam, who supports universal public education going beyond high school and continuing through two years of community college.

Public colleges have sharply raised their prices since the 1990s in the face of declining state support, but a plan by Tennessee’s governor to make two years of community college and technical school free for all students represents a striking reversal of that trend.

Tennessee would be the only state in the country to charge no tuition or fees to incoming students under the proposal by Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, which policy analysts called a big step toward a better-educated work force.
“This is the best idea to boost participation in higher education in a generation,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a major association of public and private colleges.

Mr. Haslam made it the centerpiece of his State of the State address on Monday, calling for two years of free schooling for state residents with high school diplomas or equivalency degrees, without regard to academic credentials or financial need. The change requires approval by the state legislature, whose leaders reacted favorably to the idea.

It is hard to find a better idea in government these days, and hard to find one that is more likely to be opposed by hard line conservatives.  Right now a high school education is an entitlement, everyone in America is entitled to a free public education through the 12th grade.  That entitlement itself is hated by conservatives, after all it’s not in the Constitution and is being paid for by taxpayers.  The idea of adding 2 more years to the entitlement must surely drive them bonkers.

But for the rest of the population, the sane and rational group this is a fantastic concept.  Congrats Gov. Haslam, you have our vote. 

Memo To Local Governments That Make Massive Giveaways to Businesses – They Will Up and Leave

Pittsburgh Learns the Hard Way with US Air

Given the quality of the flights on US Air that airline is not one that any locality wants to attract.  But Pittsburgh did and in order to have US Air treat Pittsburgh as a hub local and state government made a massive investment in the Pittsburgh Airport.

Pittsburgh once was one of the biggest hubs in US Airways' route network, with the current airport built as a popular and state-of-the-art facility built largely to accommodate US Airways' needs.
The Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh picks up on that theme, writing:
"Allegheny County officials borrowed more than $900 million to build Pittsburgh International Airport in the early 1990s, largely to US Airways' specifications, but two bankruptcies in the early 2000s prompted the airline to close its hub, slash more than 500 daily flights, and gut a workforce that surpassed 12,000. Today it hovers around 1,800."

So now what is happening?  Oh, this

US Airways footprint in Pittsburgh continues to shrink.
That latest came when US Airways announced last week that it will close its 6-year old flight operations center in Pittsburgh. US Airways is making the move as part of its merger consolidation with American Airlines, which already has a flight operations center near its Dallas/Fort Worth headquarters.
US Airways says most of the 600 employees at the Pittsburgh center will be given the option to relocate to Texas, though it acknowledged it doesn't expect all of them to do so. Those who chose not to go will be given a severance package, spokesman Todd Lehmacher tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And everybody should remember that this merger was blessed by the Feds, looking out for everyone and trying to help the economy. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Noted Communist Shirley Temple Dies – Undermined American Value in the 1930’s by Dancing with An African American

A Different Take on the News

Whenever one is tempted to regard Conservatism as a serious and realistic political philosophy one should be reminded of this story about the late Shirley Temple Black.

1. The U.S. government thought she might be a communist. When she was 10.

View image on Twitter
Most people in FDR's administration thought accusations that Shirley Temple was a Communist leader in Hollywood an opportunity for jokes more than worry. As an article in the Milwaukee Journal in December 1938 states, under the subhed "The Shirley Temple Communist Episode,"
Then came the Shirley Temple episode, wherein Witness J.B. Matthews, former national chairman of the American League for Peace and Democracy, testified communistic organs were using famous people as decoys. Among these, he said, was Shirley Temple.
"They've found dangerous Communists in Hollywood, led by little Shirley Temple," guffawed Secretary Ickes.
"Perhaps it was fortunate that Shirley Temple was born an American," tee-heed Mme. Secretary Perkins.
"They're trying to hamstring and discredit the investigation," yelled Dies. But there does seem to be general agreement now that the committee's early work was pretty shoddy.
Four years earlier, the people who pulled the strings in Hollywood got Temple -- 5 years old --  to endorse a candidate running against well-known socialist Upton Sinclair, making the accusations of communism even odder. As recounted in the Australian Financial Review:
Hollywood entered the electoral process in earnest during the 1934 California gubernatorial race in which avowed socialist Upton Sinclair was running for the Democratic Party under the slogan "End Poverty In California". His commitment to wealth redistribution terrified Hollywood moguls who mobilised their studios and actors to defeat him. America's darling, Shirley Temple, sat on the knee of Republican Governor Frank Merriam and said that if she had a vote she would be "sticking with the boss".
Greg Mitchell, who wrote a book about the Sinclair campaign, adds, "And so a lifetime as a key Republican was set by, or for, Shirley Temple. When she ran for Congress in 1967, her campaign managers, the legendary team of Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, were the same pair who helped thwart Upton Sinclair in 1934."

Phoenix Becomes First City in Nation to End Homelessness Amongst Veterans

Saluting a Conservative State and a Conservative City

Arizona could be called the birthing place of the post war American conservative movement.  In the 1950’s Senator Barry Goldwater of that state became a leading national conservative voice, and his attempt at the Presidency in 1964, while unsuccessful encouraged conservative to become far more active in national politics.  This culminated with the elections of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

The basis of modern conservatism is dislike, distrust and hatred of government, and policy menu that attempts to destroy, defund or de-legitimize every aspect of government.  So it is heartening, indeed gratifying to see that in the heart of conservative country the government of the state of Arizona and the city of Phoenix have ended homelessness with respect to veterans.

John Hankins, right, who repaired intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Air Force, played chess with William Godwin as Gary Workman watched. All three veterans were considered chronically homeless but are now living in Victory Place, an apartment complex in Phoenix. 
Samantha Sais for The New York Times

In 2011, by a city count, there were 222 chronically homeless veterans here, a vulnerable, hard-to-reach population of mostly middle-age men, virtually all battling some type of physical or mental ailment along with substance abuse. Federal and city officials acknowledged that was not an exact number, but it is widely regarded as the best measure of the veteran population.

Last month, the last 41 members of that group were placed in temporary housing. Shane Groen, a director at the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, one of the city’s partners in the program, said the goal was to have them all in permanent housing by Feb. 14.

Wow, congratulations to Phoenix.  And yes, thanks for showing that government programs can work, are needed and cannot be replaced by the private sector.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Battle Over Civil War Monument in Florida Shows Why the Issue of Racial Prejudice Still Exists

The Confederacy Legacy Lobby – Defending the Indefensible

For almost all of us the Civil War is not and has not been a major issue in our lifetime.  It is an interesting and incredibly impactful historical event, one that still reverberates in today’s political issues, but as far as the Civil War itself is concerned, the issues in that fight were settled long ago.

But some people, men and women who for some unfathomable reason believe that the Civil War was a majestic enterprise of the South, the War is not over.  And in a state park in Florida the die hard defenders of southern honor are still at it.  The issue, whether or not to put a memorial to the Union troops in a battlefield park.

Union forces lost the Battle of Olustee on Feb. 20, 1864. The battlefield in North Florida is now home to one of the largest Civil War re-enactments in the Southeast. Kurz & Allison lithograph, via Florida Photographic Collection

Last year, nearly a century and a half after the Battle of Olustee, the Florida chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War made a request to the state parks department. It asked for permission to place an obelisk to honor Union soldiers (who lost the battle on Feb. 20, 1864) inside the three-acreOlustee Battlefield Historic State Park, the same patch of land that holds three monuments commemorating Confederate soldiers.

Okay, a simple enough request.  There were already three monuments in the part to Confederate soldiers.  But even acknowledging Union bravery and casualties was too much for the Confederate supporting diehards.

Last month, opposition to the monument exploded during a state parks workshop in nearby Lake City. Before a crowd packed into a school auditorium, a black advocate for the Confederacy (from out of state) waved a Confederate flag. Confederate supporters rose quickly to their feet and belted out “Dixie.” Speaker after speaker denounced the Union proposal.

“There are some, apparently, who consider this to be a lengthy truce and believe that the war is still going on,” said Mr. Custer, known as Buck.

The Confederate demands were clear. The Union monument could be built anywhere in the federal park, just not on the original three-acre state park where the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected their obelisk in 1912. “We are not opposed to the monument at all; we are opposed to the location, and here is why — it’s like any other historical building,” said James S. Davis, 66, the Florida division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “You put something brand new in there and it destroys the significance of it.”

And in the leadership of the opposition,

Reinforcements were drafted, namely State Representative Dennis Baxley, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Gosh, a Republican leading the fight to glorify the cause of the South, who saw that coming?

There is a lot of controversy about the Civil War, but one thing that is agreed upon is that it was a war fought to end slavery and preserve the Union.  Those who support the Southern heritage aspect of this should remember they are fighting to honor those who fought to destroy the United States and perpetuate slavery.  Maybe they ought to think about that before the next time they say and do something stupid. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bankruptcy in America – Poverty Stricken Greg Owens Has Just $400.00 in Checking and $400.00 in Savings

And We Find a Great Example of One of Mitt Romney’s ‘Takers’

The New York Times has the sad and pathetic story of Mr. Greg Owens.

. . . on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Owens filed for personal bankruptcy.

According to his petition, he had $400 in his checking account and $400 in savings. He lives in a rental apartment at 151st Street and Broadway. He owns clothing he estimated was worth $900 and his only jewelry is a Concord watch, which he described as “broken.”

Oh dear, another poor and destitute, uneducated and unemployed worker in America.  Not so fast.

The silver-haired, distinguished-looking Mr. Owens would seem the embodiment of a successful Wall Street lawyer. A graduate of Denison University and Vanderbilt Law School, Mr. Owens moved to New York City and was named a partner at the then old-line law firm of Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood, and after a merger, at Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Today, Mr. Owens, 55, is a partner at an even more eminent global law firm, White & Case. A partnership there or any of the major firms collectively known as “Big Law” was long regarded as the brass ring of the profession, a virtual guarantee of lifelong prosperity and job security.

It turns out the poor man just cannot get by on an annual salary of $355,000 a year.  And of course he would rather stiff his creditors than touch his rather massive retirement account.

Mr. Owens has been well paid by most standards, but not compared with top partners at major firms, who make in the millions. (Mr. Pierce was guaranteed $8 million a year at Dewey & LeBoeuf.) When Mr. Owens first became a partner at Dewey, Ballantine, he made about $250,000, in line with other new partners. At Dewey & LeBoeuf, his income peaked at over $500,000 during the flush years before the financial crisis. In 2012, he made $351,000, and last year, while at White & Case, he made $356,500. He listed his current monthly income as $31,500, or $375,000 a year. And he has just over $1 million in retirement accounts that are protected from creditors in bankruptcy.

And his legal specialty, mergers and acquisition where presumably one must know at least a little about finance.  But apparently not.

It turns out that some of Mr. Owens’ problem is not entirely of his own making.

The bulk of his potential liabilities stem from claims related to the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. Even stripping those away, his financial circumstances seem dire. Legal fees from a divorce depleted his savings and resulted in a settlement under which he pays his former wife a steep $10,517 a month in alimony and support for their 11-year-old son.

That’s right, some judge has decided that his wife and son are entitled to $10,500 a month in income in order to ‘live’.  And they probably think they are entitled to more, after all that’s probably a lot less than their friends have.  Yep Mitt Romney, the Owens’s family, the embodiment of a sense of entitlement in America.  Too bad you weren’t able to feature them in your speeches and commercials.

George Will is Ecstatic Over Legal Challenges to Health Care Reform – Just Giddy at the Thought of Taking Health Care Away From Millions

It’s Why He Fits Into the Conservative Mainstream

The egregious columnist for the Washington Post, George Will writes about the legal challenge to health care reform and it is not hard to read the glee in his tone at the possibility that a legal technicality may upend part of the law.

Scott Pruitt
 and some kindred spirits might accelerate the ACA’s collapse by blocking another of the Obama administration’s lawless uses of the Internal Revenue Service. Pruitt was elected Oklahoma’s attorney general by promising to defend states’ prerogatives against federal encroachment, and today he and some properly litigious people elsewhere are defending a state prerogative that the ACA explicitly created. If they succeed, the ACA’s disintegration will accelerate.

The problem is that one reading of the law is that insurance subsidies may only be available with state run exchanges, and Republicans in many states blocked creating those exchanges because, well because they saw their role in government as preventing people from getting low cost health insurance and access to health care.  So the law has a fallback position, namely Federally created exchanges.

It is not clear that the restrictive interpretation of the ruling will prevail, and it is largely a result of sloppy drafting by the Obama folks, proving once again how terrible these people are at the actual practice of governing.  Mr. Will seems to think health care reform will die if this part of the law is found to be unworkable.  But what is more likely  to happen is anger and resentment against Republicans. 

The reason for this is that while a majority may not like the health care reform law, after a while tens of millions of people will have health care insurance and taking that away from those people is not going to be politically popular.  It will of course take decades before Republicans give up on their opposition.  After all it was only yesterday that they accepted Social Security. The fight to kill Medicare and replace it with an unworkable plan that places the cost of health care on the elderly and impoverishes them, that is the system we had before Medicare, is still alive and will be so for decades.  Like the factions in the Balkans, they never forget, never forgive and forever live in the glorious past.

As for Mr. Will, who undoubtedly has great health care and great insurance, well, let’s just let him bask in his hope of denying that to others.  It may be that is all he lives for.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

An Opinion Piece in the NYT by Simon Critchley Exposes the Concept of Certainty in Opposition to Intelligence and Intellectual Integrity

And Indirectly Why Ideologues Are Almost Always Wrong

While the following concept is not original with this Forum, it is central to the thesis of this Forum.  That concept is this, that one of the best, if not the best measure of intellect is the degree of uncertainty with which one holds one’s views.  The more certain one is that he or she is absolutely correct, the less thoughtful, the less studious and the less intellectually honest is that person.

In an opinion piece in the New York Time, Simon Critchley illustrates this concept as well as it can be done.  He is writing about a landmark public television show of 40 years ago, a show where scientist Jacob Bronowski examined man and evolution and culture.  Here is Mr. Critchley’s take after watching a section on Mr. Bronowski confronting the Holocaust in which he lost much of his family.

The play of tolerance opposes the principle of monstrous certainty that is endemic to fascism and, sadly, not just fascism but all the various faces of fundamentalism. When we think we have certainty, when we aspire to the knowledge of the gods, then Auschwitz can happen and can repeat itself. Arguably, it has repeated itself in the genocidal certainties of past decades.

The pursuit of scientific knowledge is as personal an act as lifting a paintbrush or writing a poem, and they are both profoundly human. If the human condition is defined by limitedness, then this is a glorious fact because it is a moral limitedness rooted in a faith in the power of the imagination, our sense of responsibility and our acceptance of our fallibility. We always have to acknowledge that we might be mistaken. When we forget that, then we forget ourselves and the worst can happen.

While this applies to fundamentalists and activists of all stripes, think about how applicable this is to conservatives.  Think about Rush Limbaugh as an example, a commentator who brooks no uncertainty, that he and he alone is the source of truth and that never ever can what he think be contradicted.  As a result he is constantly and consistently wrong and morally and intellectually offensive.

Now there are those who may seek to turn this against the allies of modern science.  They may ask, doesn’t the principle that all is uncertain mean that one does not have to believe in evolution, that one  could believe that God does not want couples to use contraception, that lowering taxes on the wealthy pays for itself, etc.  But the answer to that is simple, show us the data.

If someone believes that Noah’s flood created the Grand Canyon about 8,000 years ago, fine, show us the evidence and refute our evidence.  If someone believes that cutting taxes on the wealthy increases tax revenues fine, produce the models and the research.  If someone believes that creating further deprivation among the low income groups will stimulate those groups and help them leave poverty, great, just prove it or at least demonstrate how that has worked in the past.  If someone believes that increasing the monetary base always leads to inflation, explain why that didn’t happen in 2008-13.

The great failure of conservatives is their refusal to place their view under the microscope of science and logic and analysis and their refusal to change their beliefs when knowledge and information contradict those beliefs.  As holders of beliefs based on faith rather than intellect, they fail any test of truth.  And the sad part, this failure takes millions with them.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Update to the Curtis Reeves Story – The Man in Florida Who Shot and Killed a Fellow Movie Goer for Texting the Babysitter Before the Movie Started

Just an Outstanding Guy

At a bail hearing for Curtis Reeves, Jr., a Florida man about whom there is no question that he pulled his gun and killed a man in the movies who was texting before the picture started, his attorney said this.

Curtis Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, argued there's no need for him to put up assets for bail, saying he is a lifelong resident and married for 46 years as well as a decorated law enforcement officer.
"He has never had a shooting as a law enforcement officer is his entire career," Escobar said. "This is an individual of personal responsibility, an individual of integrity. He is a churchgoing man. There is absolutely no reason to believe Mr. Reeves is a danger to anyone in this community and any other community."
He also said the enhanced video shows Reeves was hit by a hand and a cell phone.
"This is not a throwing popcorn case only," he said. "This is throwing a deadly missile case."

And no, there is no evidence that the attorney broke down into hysterical laughter as he was saying it.  And who knew that cell phone's were a deadly missile case? Will they now fall under the gun lobby protection. (And no, there is no visual evidence or witnesses that anything other than maybe popcorn was thrown.  Of course throwing popcorn at someone verbally accosting a movie goer is a capital offense.)

So apparently in Florida a person of “personal responsibility” and “an individual of integrity” is characterized as someone who takes a gun to a movie and kills another patron.  And that is certainly no reason to believe he is a danger to anyone, after all he goes to church on Sunday (kills on Monday?)

The judge in the case has denied bail. So at least part of Florida is not insane.  This is great news, because this is Florida and Mr. Reeves may well be acquitted, with a jury blaming his victim for daring to go to the movies with his wife at the same time as Mr. Reeves went to the movies with his wife. So by denying bail this murderer will have served at least some time in jail. And of course this is really the victim's fault, he was unarmed and anyone who goes unarmed to a movie certainly deserves to be killed.

The mistake Mr. Reeves made of course was not shooting an African American teenager.  In that case he would have been a hero to conservatives and the gun lobby.  And if that person had been wearing a hoodie, well Mr. Reeves would be free to go on Fox News and be acclaimed a paragon of virtue.