About That Fiscal Cliff…

November 29, 2012

When I was a kid, I used to play a game with myself by walking around the house with a vanity mirror held in front of me, face up.  I’d look down at the mirror and see the ceiling above me, but projected downward.  By looking at the mirror as I walked, it seemed as if I were constantly on the verge of stepping off into the void – fun!

Yep, that cliff we hear about endlessly is not the real thing: it’s a manufactured illusion.  Just yesterday, I had the misfortune to catch a sound-bite of a Republican congressman jabbering on about “unsustainable deficits,” and the need for “spending cuts to protect our bond rates.”  You could read Paul Krugman almost at random to have that notion destroyed:  the so-called bond vigilantes have been predicting Armageddon for years, and it just never happens.  And I have a folder full of clippings about the deficit and the doom that awaits us, which also never happens.  I guess the deficit is sustainable, at least for quite a while.  (Oh, we did run a surplus for a few years, but that was under Clinton, so it doesn’t count, and Bush took care of it.)

Frequently, we hear that “we just cannot afford our current entitlement programs.”    Uh…strange.  So, these programs provide valuable, even essential services and support for millions of Americans, so we just have to cut back, right?  Good health care is just too damn costly, by gosh!  We’ll make do, some of us, without it.  In the most wealthy country on the globe.  Where wealth is more concentrated among a few than ever before.  And they’d like to keep it that way.

It’s really quite simple.

Accept all changes in document…

January 7, 2011

US Constitution Manuscript - Preamble and Article I

I was tickled to hear that the Constitution was being read in the House under the Republican’s leadership, a nod to their Tea Party backers.  Great, let’s get back to sources!  And who would read Article I, Section 2, and how would it be read?  I’ve bold faced the really interesting part.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

There it is in black and white, the counting of slaves as 3/5 of a person, part of the Great Compromise that brought the slave states on board to ratify the Constitution and balanced the power of the states with a bicameral legislature, not to mention the fact that it was at the root of cataclysmic events in U.S. history. 

Well, according to the NYTimes article, an edited version was read that removed all text that was invalidated by later amendments, as well as the amendments themselves!  How’s that for history down the Memory Hole!  I guess that the congressmen and women are so used to tracking changes in documents with word processors – add edits and accept all changes, show Final without markup – that it makes sense to them.

O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!

June 29, 2009


Ophelia’s exclamation was about Hamlet, but it could have been about Paul Krugman’s latest column.  In it, he waxes positively hysterical about global warming, states that those who don’t accept the hypothesis are “deniers” committing treason against the future generations, and warns that civilization is in peril.  The reader who posted the first comment on the NYTimes website, remarked cogently, after quoting him:

…What you saw [on the floor of the House], instead, were people who have no interest in the truth…

Paul, the tragedy in all of this is that this applies to almost all of the folks on both sides of the debate – including you.

Amen to that.  Krug doesn’t present any evidence, any arguments – he just rants and raves as if the pillar of all-consuming fire is approaching on the horizon.  I share his opinion of most Republican congressmen, but just running a computer model doesn’t make you right.  Is he in thrall to the delusions of his fellow Princeton prof, Michael Oppenheimer?  I never thought I’d see him descend to the same puerile level as Thomas Friedman, but I guess he’s joined that club.  Drunk the Kool Aid, as some remarked.

He did a great service to the nation with his critiques of the Bush gang while so many others were swallowing their lies and looking the other way from their gross incompetence, so…sad, sad, sad.

Live, from Wall Street!

September 30, 2008

I took a little walk down to Wall Street, USA at lunch just now.  I actually went into Federal Hall for the first time.  (That’s George Washington on the steps, the Stock Exchange in the background.)  I hadn’t known that the building was erected some 40 years after GW’s first innaugaral.  The original structure wasn’t so imposing.

The scene there was frenetic.  Of course, tourists are always in abundance in NYC these days, what with the dollar being so low, but the television cameras were out in force.  I had to fight my way past a crowd gathered to here the latest pronouncement from the Oracle…er, update from the trading floor.  An historic time, this, and liable to more deeply change the country than 9/11 I would say.  That threat came from without – now, as the saying goes, the enemy is us.

David Brooks, with his finger in his ear to take the nation’s pulse, is fit to be tied as he decries the Republican “nihilists.”  He can’t believe that they are acting as though it is 1984 and the “enemy” is socialism or “Mondale liberalism.”  (It’s always 1984 somewhere!) Well, soi disant conservatives on the right tend to be out of touch with history, Dave.  They yearn for the golden days of 1884!  The Republican elephant is splintering into its constituent parts:  Palin-ite religious paleo-conservatives; Wall Street money men; and strict captialist libertarians, similar to what were called in the 19th century, horrorible to say,…liberals!

The hub hub makes me think of the last days of the ancien regime.  Hope it doesn’t get to that!  History is happening right before me – real people, milling around, wondering what’s going on – hanging on the words of the suits emerging from the temples of Mammon.  Surely, many of them must be thinking, “All those words of the politicians…what do they mean?  This whole system, it’s just made of people!  It’s not rocket science, it’s not the weather.  Some people wanted to get very rich in a very easy way, and now they’re terrified.  Of course they want us to bail them out.”

Just Say No

April 25, 2005

Now we are treated to a fine discussion of the ‘nuclear option’ in the US Senate, i.e., the possibility that the Republican majority will change the rules of business, and outlaw filibusters in judicial confirmation hearings. After all, we can’t let a tiny majority of the people frustrate the legitimate wishes of the elected majority, can we?Or can we? The filibuster is a curious rule that is peculiar to the United States government, and to the Senate. The House got rid of a similar institution long ago. Our government has a concern for minority rights built right into its foundation, from the Great Compromise that gave us the House and the Senate, and onward. The filibuster itself has a bad image because its most famous use was to stall legislation to redress the wrongs of Jim Crow during the civil rights movement of the late 50s and the 60s. Southern Democrats (the south was always Democratic – Lincoln was a Republican!) used it to great effect against the Voting Rights act, etc. I guess that conservative Republicans thought that was okay.

Well, face it, the filibuster is nasty and rather distasteful. Use it carefully, because you know your opponent can and will use it when they feel their back is to the wall. In a parliamentary government, I guess a Vote of No Confidence would end the impasse, but we have our own system, and parliaments have their own problems.

Regarding the current “crisis,” I have to say that it appears to me that if the filibuster rule is to be eliminated, it should be eliminated for legislation, not judicial confirmations. After all, can’t we allow the minority to frustrate the will of the majority in the case of individual judges? Can’t the country live with that? And legislation, which affects the nation as a whole, can be repealed – not the tenure of judges. So if the filibuster is to be prohibited, I’d say it should be disallowed for legislative fights and preserved for confirmations.

The fact of the matter is that the Democrats have been far more amenable to GWB’s appointments than the Republicans were to Clinton’s – that’s a documented fact. I see no reason why they should give in when he tries to appoint a handful of unqualified or extremist judges to important positions for life.