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Presidential Debate #1

Dempsey and Firpo by George Bellows 1924The first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is now history. For liberals – or, for that matter, lovers of common sense – it wasn’t a pretty sight. The governor was at ease and vigorous, he spoke fluently and insisted on delivering his message; the president appeared withdrawn and at times even passive, he often spoke hesitantly, and when he answered an attack from Romney – and it was Romney who had the air of a man moving swiftly forward – his answers were often fragmentary and allusive. In a strange way, he even looked smaller, thinner, a man of less weight.

Romney was the man asserting his view of things and his smartly delivered assertions carried the day. Consider their disagreement on taxes. Romney announced that he wasn’t going to raise takes on anybody (on the contrary: he would cut individual income tax rates by 20 percent) and that his tax plan wouldn’t add to the deficit. Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy so they would be paying about as much as they did during the Clinton years. Obama said that Romney’s tax plan was a 5 trillion dollar tax cut which would either enlarge the national debt or, on the other hand, require an increase in taxes on the middle class. (more…)

Working vs. Mooching

The following essay was written by Terry Karney and posted on LiveJournal where he appears as Pecunium.  It’s longer than our usual posts and well worth the length. For the larger context of this post, we provide a link back to the source at the end of this article.

Mitt Romney- photo by James CurrieMitt Romney calls me a slave to dependency, because I get a check every month to compensate for the 80 percent disability rating I’ve got from the VA, from health problems acquired in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I also have a job. I don’t make enough at it to pay income tax, but I do pay more on the money I earn in a year than he does on the money he just collects. I also pay a lot more of my income getting to and from work than he would; if he had a job.

So how did Mitt Romney get to the place he’s in now, the place that lets him spend years working up to running for president. The place he stands in when he tells me I’m a lazy bum, dependent on the gov’t, and that he’s not even going to try to convince me to vote for him, because I am too in love with being a slacker who sucks on the gov’t teat?

According to him, and his wife, he earned every penny of it.

“I could have stayed in Detroit like him and gotten pulled up in a car company. I went off on my own. I didn’t inherit money from my parents. What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way.”

He says he earned it. He did, sort of.

“They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income.
“It was tiny. And I didn’t have money to carpet the floor. But you can get remnants, samples, so I glued them together, all different colors. It looked awful, but it was carpeting.
“We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job.” (more…)

Purifying the Voter Rolls in Florida

Florida state flagThere are 11,583,367 registered voters in Florida. That’s according to the Florida Division of Elections. Of that total, 41 percent are registered Democrats, 36 percent are Republicans, 3 percent are listed with marginal parties, and 21 percent with no party affiliation at all. That adds up to 101 percent, but those are the figures published on the Division of Election’s web site so we may as well take them as satisfying close to reality.

Last year, officials in Florida, eagerly investigating voter fraud, announced they had found 180,000 noncitizens on the voter registration rolls. Wow! That’s a whopping 1.55 percent. And,  as the Florida officials like to say, there should be zero percent voter fraud. Actually, upon comparing the names of these suspected fraudulent voters with a federal immigration database, the number of noncitizens registered to vote turns out to be in the hundreds, not thousands. And now those hundreds are under review.

Christ Cate, from the Florida secretary of state’s office, said, “We’ve already identified 209, and we know firsthand from the 2000 election, how important even one vote can be in an election.” We’ve done the math and 209 noncitizen voters out of 11,583,367 is .0018 percent. I guess we can’t say Wow! about that number. Yes, we do remember that Florida election of 2000, but .0018 percent is really very, very, very small. (more…)

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Romney, Mitt - photo by Gage SkidmoreMitt Romney’s recent attacks on President Barack Obama have started us wondering how many different kinds of liars there are. On September 11th, the US embassy in Cairo learned that a video mocking Mohamed had been produced in this country and was circulating globally, inflaming anti-American sentiment in Egypt. The video was being promoted by pastor Terry Jones, the same egocentric religious bigot who asserted his free-speech rights by threatening to burn 200 Korans in an anti-Muslim ceremony.

So the American embassy in Cairo issued this statement:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

That’s the statement that Mitt Romney says is an apology.  The statement was posted online by the embassy, the people on the spot who knew best what was happening, and wasn’t  passed on by people  in Washington. It was an attempt by our people in Cairo to cool the situation on the ground in Cairo. (more…)

Republican Ryan’s Health Plan

Paul Ryan, the Republican’s vice presidential candidate has a plan for Medicare.He laid out the specifics months ago when he was Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsnin, House Budge Committee, VP candidate 2012.known chiefly as the articulate congressman from Wisconsin and, more importantly, the bold chairman of the House Budge Committee. Ryan’s plan for Medicare won’t affect citizens who are 55 years old or older. Many of them would be financially crushed it if did. But Ryan’s plan would change Medicare for the enormous majority currently under 55.

Ryan’s plan is as up front and straight forward as the man himself. He would change the government’s health insurance plan for seniors so that instead of having Medicare pay the medical bills, the government would give the elderly a fixed amount of money to use in buying their own health insurance. In other words, it would do away with Medicare as we know it and substitute a voucher plan. And if the amount of the voucher isn’t enough to pay for the nice peace-of-mind plan  you want, you’ll have to pay the difference or take the crummier, less expensive insurance. (more…)

Oliver Wendell Holmes & Obama Care

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Yes, you remember now, Holmes was a Supreme Court justice — but that was several decades ago, maybe a century ago, right? Just to refresh your memory, Oliver Wendell Holmes was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, when he retired at age 90. He’s one of the most widely cited Supreme Court justices. He often said that judges decide first and then look for the laws and precedents that will justify their decisions. He wasn’t being witty or making light conversation. In his very first law review article, written in 1870, he said, “It is the merit of the common law that it decides the case first and determines the principle afterwards.”

That may strike you as exactly the reverse of what should happen. But nothing that Holmes came across in his long life as a lawyer and judge made him change his mind. Indeed, he once told his fellow supreme court justices that he could take any established principle they wished to cite and he could use it to uphold or reverse any decision. Holmes may have spoken or written in ways that startle us, but by and large he was right in his view of how judges decide. Or how we all decide, for that matter.

You’ve noticed that Supreme Court decisions are generally not unanimous. Judging whether or not a law is constitutional requires that the justice interpret the Constitution. And — Surprise! — interpretations differ. Yes, old Oliver Wendell Holmes was right. Decide the case first and determine the principle afterwards.

We do need a national health insurance plan. Even Chief Justice John Roberts saw that right away. The reasoning came later, fashioned rather like a corkscrew, but it got the job done. We applaud the Chief Justice.


Assassination and the 14th Amendment

Drones and targeted killings are discussed on editorial pages every day. But has the discussion been as targeted as the killings? Our colleague Jack Slack doesn’t think so. Here’s his take on the way these issues are being talked about:

America’s use of drones is in the news nowadays. And when it comes to discussing those small, unmanned aircraft, the focus is often on the virtually inevitable killing of innocent civilians near the actual target — collateral damage, as it’s called. But in fact, drones are way down the list when it comes to collateral damage. Using cluster bombs or a single 2,000 pound bomb against the typical drone target would kill many more innocent civilians.

America’s policy of “targeted killings” — called “assassination” by its critics — is also in the news. Drones are used for many purposes, but their use for targeted killings in the Afghan border region of Pakistan and in Yemen has led to heated opinions on the editorial pages of newspapers. The discussion often centers on the permissibility of assassinating members of al Qaeda and/or any other terrorist group, and whether the president or upper echelon leadership have had a “proper” review of the decision before assassinating people,

The proper topic of discussion should be whether it is constitutional to assassinate anyone. In other words does the U.S. Constitution provide due process to “all persons” under its jurisdiction? Or is the right to due process (habeas corpus) guaranteed only to citizens of the United States?

Section 9  U.S. Constitution reads: “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” That means when Rebellion or Invasion endangers public safety, then habeas can be suspended.   The U.S. Civil War was rebellion, terrorists are not invaders, nor revolutionaries. They are international criminals, not unlike the Mafia.

The 14th Amendment reads: …”No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The creators of the 14th Amendment were obviously well aware of the use of the words citizens and persons.

Aliens are entitled to constitutional protections. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution apply to aliens residing within the United States. As such, the courts guarantee aliens the right to due process of law and equal protection of the laws. Courts have generally construed the Fourth Amendment as applicable to aliens as well.  If a person exists under U.S. jurisdiction he is entitled to constitutional protections weather he is a citizen, legal or illegal alien.

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume.”

 —Jack Slack

GOP, Lies and Audio Tape

You probably know that after the Supreme Court hearing about the health care law, the Republican National Committee released a video with what sounded like an honest audio recording of part of that hearing. And you probably know it wasn’t an honest audio. The Republican National Committee had manipulated the audio to make it sound as if the government’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli, was nervous and stumbling, because he was having a hard time making the case for the government’s health care plan.

Why did the Republican National Committee lie that way? After all, only the most partisan Democrats would claim the government came off well in that hearing. Verrilli certianly did his job well, but any objective listener would have to say that the conservative justices appeared very dubious about the law and the more middle-of-the-road justices seemed pretty skeptical of it.  It wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration.

George Romney’s first video attacking President Barack Obama also was a bare-faced lie. Romney’s campaign associates frankly admitted that they used Obama’s words when he was quoting one of his opponents, but they  attributed the sentiments to Obama. They  said they were merely making a political point. Apparently, that made it all right.  (We have a post on that, but please don’t get distracted.)

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee has said that the GOP ad about health care and the Supreme Court uses multiple audio bites and runs them together to make it sound as if the Solicitor General is having a hard time defending the law. “Our goal was to make the point of what a hard sell Obamacare is,” Spicer told the Associated Press.  Oh, good, that explains the lying.

Rush Limbaugh Apologizes (the sequel)

Rush Limbaugh has issued a second apology for his mud-slinging assault on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Or, actually, he’s simply said that his first apology was sincere. His first apology was an apology for a slip of the tongue. It didn’t sound sincere, because he never retracted his assessment of her as a slut and a prostitute who ought to video tape her sexual encounters and display them on the internet. He appears to be making this second apology because sponsors are continuing to withdraw their advertising dollars  from his show.

This second apology took a half hour of air time on Limbaugh’s radio show; the transcript of it on his show’s web site is over 2,200 words long. The vast bulk of the statement is an attack on his “enemies,” those he characterizes as socialist liberals, including President Obama, the Democratic Party, the liberal media, and the administration’s health care program, most specifically it’s policy on insurance and birth control.

Here’s Limbaugh’s apology for calling Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute and asking that she videotape her sexual encounters and show then on the internet:

I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her.  I do not think she is either of those two words.  I did not think last week that she is either of those two words.

 Rush Limbaugh’s apologies can be found on his radio show’s website.

Rush Limbaugh and His “Apology”

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Recently, Rush Limbaugh threw verbal mud at a Georgetown law student who, in testimony to a group of Democrats, expressed her views in the controversy between Catholic church officials and the Obama administration’s birth control policy. Limbaugh misstated both the law student’s statements and the Obama administration’s policy, then he launched his attack, calling her a slut, a prostitute who demanded that tax payers pay her so she could enjoy sex. Limbaugh asked that she provide taxpayers with online videos of her sexual encounters in exchange for their tax dollars.

After some of his radio show sponsors withdrew their support, Rush Limbaugh issued an  “apology” to the young woman. The statement contains 192 words, of which 55 are apologetic. You’ll notice that he apologizes only for choosing the wrong words in what he alone characterizes as an attempt to be humorous.   It was not an attempt to be humorous.

It’s shamefully easy to sit back and let Rush Limbaugh make a jackass of  himself, but his “apology” is worth reading just to get a sense of how his mind works and his extraordinary vanity — by the end of this statement he apologizes for creating a national stir! When he says I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities, he uses  “social activities”  to  mean sexual intercourse. Mr. Limbaugh frames women’s contraception entirely and exclusively  in terms of recreational sex. Furthermore, in this instance,  it’s insurance companies and their policy holders, not taxpayers, who pay for birth control pills. Here’s Rush Limbaugh in his own words:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

More Notes

Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.