It isn't easy to develop an intelligent view on the debate about Iran without stumbling into the tall weeds.
One of the magic numbers is 225. Another is 19.75. If Iran had 225 kilograms of Uranium enriched to a level of 19.75 percent, it could make a nuclear weapon. A year ago, the Institute for Science and International Security (pdf) was warning that Iran could, with some effort, produce just enough enriched uranium for a weapon by this year.
So there is some concern. Iran's leadership expressed unfriendly enough intentions toward Israel to make nuclear weapons something we ought to keep out of fanatic hands. As far as I know, the NRA has not expressed an opinion. I'm not sure I want to know whether outlawing nuclear weapons would mean only outlaws would have them. But then, I also want to keep assault rifles away from grade school kids, so what do I know?
Not every nuclear facility can produce that level of enrichment. In fact, as long as plutonium is not involved, everyone seems pretty sure mushroom clouds will not be possible.
But Iran has a reactor in Arak that can produce plutonium as a byproduct. This level of concern is technically known as yikes!
The United States and about every ally put a lot of sanctions into effect a few years ago. This has pretty much decimated the Iranian economy.
Iran's old President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seemed to have a bad case of tourette syndrome when it came to Israel. His hobby was shaking his fist and making ambiguous threats. "When I said they should be destroyed, I wasn't saying that WE were thinking of doing that." He never said that, but every other day something close to that would streak across the heavens. As long as his fists would never hold weapons grade nuclear material, he was just a nuisance. "Good old Mahmoud. What a character!" But nobody wanted him to get close to what glows in the dark, therefore the sanctions.
The new President is Hassan Rouhani. Hassan doesn't shake fists. He shakes hands. He campaigned on a platform of finding a way out of sanctions.
Those sanctions are pretty tough. Assets seized, bank accounts frozen, supplies cut off, boycotts of oil, and so on. Oil is a big deal. It's the main thing Iran produces that can get income into the country.
Talks have been going on for a while. Iran wants to continue a nuclear program to produce electricity. That would free up oil for export and get more income in. They agree to pull away from any plutonium, and to promise not to enrich any uranium to weapons grade levels. And they agree to enough inspectors to make sure they don't cheat.
The United States and its allies seem okay with that, at least enough to end some sanctions and release some bank accounts for medical and other emergency-type supplies. An end to other sanctions and asset seizures would not happen until those promises are kept and verified.
Does all of that make for a good deal? I dunno. Deciding that is what we elect Presidents and hire Secretaries of State to determine. Lots of experts are on hand.
The main argument against any agreement, as it is articulated in the press, is that we are dealing with Iran. Remember Ayatollah Khomeini? How about those hostages?
How should we trust people who kidnap diplomats?
The answer is we don't. We don't make arms treaties, nuclear or otherwise, with those we trust. We made treaties with the old Soviet Union back during the cold war. And we set up verification systems because we didn't trust them. They didn't trust us either, that's because they were paranoid. How could anyone not trust President Nixon?
But we don't make such treaties with Great Britain or Canada. That's because we trust them. No need for treaties between friends.
If we are not willing to lift any sanctions in exchange for anything at all, then Iran has no reason for giving up on weapons development. Things are bad if they develop weapons. Things are bad if they don't. No difference.
Lack of trust is not a reason to oppose a treaty. It is the only reason to have a treaty. Whether there is a treaty should depend on whether each step is positive, whether there is enough in sanctions left to force progress, and whether there is enough verification so they can't cheat.
Most of us lack the knowledge to guess whether a prospective agreement with Iran will be a good deal. More specifically, you could fit what I know of nuclear science into a mosquito and still have room for all the compassion in the heart of Dick Cheney.
But I can sometimes recognize a really bad argument. Lack of trust is one of the dumbest.
21 years ago, Gary Wills wrote what remains the definitive examination of the Gettysburg Address.
From the magazine The Atlantic:
The crowd departed with a new thing in its ideological luggage, the new Constitution Lincoln had substituted for the one they had brought there with them. They walked off from those curving graves on the hillside, under a changed sky, into a different America. Lincoln had revolutionized the Revolution, giving people a new past to live with that would change their future indefinitely...
- Gary Wills, The Words That Remade America, June 1992
The Social Security program is facing serious problems. At some point, the fund will run out of money. Estimates vary. 2023, 2021, 2040 something. One economist says the date is ... well ... now.
Republican legislators have a plan for dealing with it. Representative Paul Ryan has put forward another plan. It is politically risky. It involves reducing costs.
Ryan and his colleagues should be commended for their courage. Not every politician would be willing to tell retirees that their benefits will be slashed.
At the Budget Conference Committee last month, Representative Ryan outlined Republican concerns.
Ten thousand baby-boomers are retiring every day. Health-care costs are rising. Medicare and Social Security are going broke. The Congressional Budget Office says if we don’t act, we’ll have a debt crisis. And if that happens, the most vulnerable will suffer first and worst. This debt weighs down our economy even today. But right now, we’re not doing much about it. We can’t kick the can down the road anymore. We’ve got to get a handle on our debt—now.
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), October 30, 2013
One way to meet the shortfall is for us to pay for it. But Representative Ryan points out that enough is enough. "And from my perspective, taking more from hardworking families just isn’t the answer. I know my Republican colleagues feel the same way."
The elderly will simply have to realize that their free ride is over. They will have to sacrifice. There are ways to accomplish this. They boil down to two. The age of eligibility can be raised. It's 67 now, for full benefits. Or benefits can be cut. As Paul Ryan has pointed out in the past, it is time for seniors to begin to act unselfishly for the benefit of all.
Over the long term, the problem can be met by increasing revenues another way. "The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy. We need to write a tax code that encourages economic growth-not stifles it." This means tax cuts for job creators.
So cutting back on benefits for senior citizens and cutting taxes for the wealthy will save Social Security.
Social Security went for many decades without this crisis. So how did this happen to us now?
Some point to increases in life expectancy. That is good news with unhappy financial consequence, right? Well, not really. In fact, most of the increase in life expectancy comes from reducing infant mortality. For seniors, the rise in life expectancy is modest. So life expectancy is not the problem. It is part of the answer. In twenty or twenty five years, those infants will be contributing to the Social Security fund.
Actually, Paul Ryan is onto something when he ascribes the problem to baby-boomers. In almost every demographic chart of age groups, we see a gigantic moving bulge beginning right after World War II, when lusty members of the greatest generation came home from defeating the Nazis and immediately produced babies. The 1950s were filled with millions of Beavers and Wallys. Cleavers were everywhere.
That giant bulge looks like a python having swallowed some prey, not an entirely comfortable Rorschach response, but there it is. The thing about that sort of bulge is that it has a beginning and an end. The baby boomer issue is temporary.
The dramatic description of Social Security running out can lead to draconian solutions to a short term problem.
Analogies will be the death of our economy. Bumper sticker economic theories are the province of deficit scolds. "Government should tighten its belt like families have to when times are tough." In fact, economists have learned over the past 80 years that deficits are a very good thing during hard economic times, as long as the money are repaid during times of prosperity. Kind of like the Clinton surplus.
But here is an analogy that might be more useful to describe a short term problem. Imagine your family car breaks down. Well, you have to get a new one so you can get to work. But your spouse throws a fit. If we buy a car every week, we'll go broke. We have to stop it right now. No cars! Period.
There are a couple of solutions for projected Social Security shortfall. One uses a simple fact. The Social Security payroll tax next year will only be paid for the first $117,000 of income. That pretty much is all of the income for most of us. If you make a higher amount, you still max out on paying taxes on the first $117,000.
If we raise that level by a substantial amount, and increase the future benefit accordingly, the bulge in benefits is overcome by a bulge in income. Problem solved.
The issue would also be solved by immediately increasing the number of workers. Life expectancy for infants will take too long. So how can we increase the number of working people? If you're thinking immigration you might conclude that a lot of our problems might disappear by taking less of a horse's south end approach to other people.
Problem solved. Again.
Immigration also tends to grow the economy.
So. Let's review, shall we?
The problem is a short term problem caused by a demographic bulge that will eventually disappear.
The problem could be solved by increasing the income level covered by Social Security.
- The problem could also be solved by increasing immigration, with a happy side effect of boosting the economy.
So why all the controversy?
It could be those facts are outside the view of conservatives who are in jerry rigged control of the House of Representatives. It's possible.
We must discourage cynicism. So it pains me to have to say this.
It could also be that slashing benefits for the elderly while cutting taxes for the wealthy are not the pathway to a goal. They are the goal.
Why can't this work?
I want to be clear not to endorse this. And it's definitely not a replacement for HealthCare.gov. But a few guys out in San Francisco have put together something called thehealthsherpa.com, which really quickly tells you what policies are available in your area, what subsidies you are entitled to based on your income and who to call or what site to go to buy the actual coverage.
- More -
Public Information to the Public: Find Your Health Plan Now
Why is this not a larger part of the solution?
From CNBC, back in July:
Call it Obamacare 2.0.
The federal government has signed five landmark deals that set the stage for major Web insurance markeplaces to enroll potentially millions of people in Obamacare, CNBC learned late Wednesday.
Those deals, experts have said, could dramatically boost enrollment in those marketplaces and help keep premium costs low
- More -
Cheney on Clinton, Benghazi - "What difference does it make" (2:24) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Tritely Trite Thoughts about the Amazing Richard Cohen (8:26) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
New Data and the Need to Push Employment Up (6:20) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
9:00 AM, November 17, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,|
|We chant and we sing.|
|We seek in repetition|
|what is beyond our ability to comprehend.|
|Holy, Holy, Holy.|
|We look for a healing hand|
|in a world with too much pain,|
|where grief and injustice divide us.|
|In the burdens we carry,|
|when our own faith is tested,|
|we share in the suffering of Jesus,|
|and we do not walk alone.|
|We carry to the world a vision.|
|The storms within us will be stilled,|
|the hardship around us will be healed,|
|and we will be a part of that healing.|
|We sing of God's Holiness,.|
|and we heal in his name.|
Found on Line:
sung by Libera
from Norbury, in South London
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite writes from a ringside seat at the fifty yard line of his television screen as Chris Hayes takes on a spokeperson for a bogus research group funded by an industry group. They produce objective sounding research against minimum wage increases. I saw the segment and I was impressed. How do you battle a lobbyist whose broadcast tactics are to shout down the questioner and filibuster the questions? One way is to repeat the same unanswered question a few times as the guy continues to shout. I usually don't like shoutfests. I happened to catch this one. It was actually kind of fun.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, has a few things to tell Dick Cheney about becoming human. My reaction is here. I admire Cheney's performance. His movements seem so lifelike. Not at all like a soulless machine.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster sees a large number of voters wanting political independence and a miniscule number actually voting that way in the NYC election. Nancy suggests reasons for the contradiction.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for A Plain Blog about Politics, watches as Democrats vote for a bill aimed against Obamacare. Jonathan suggests there is less than meets the eye, that Democrats are not abandoning ACA.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot takes us to Gettysburg as a controversial President redefines what America means. Tim has been taking us through the Civil War week by week one hundred and fifty years later. He takes events out of dusty books and brings them alive. The largely underestimated speech, delivered on November 19, began a national journey from the dream of states rights to one of individual rights.
Why do we have to do this, Sir? is leading a tenth year class again. A student wonders whether Roman Catholics still exist. Education does not always happen from the top down. Teachers in the toughest classes are the greatest heroes.
- Infidel 753 considers theories about a clash of civilizations and concludes that the real divide concerning religion and freedom happens within each country.
The young man was about to become a father. His wife, pregnant as anything, sat near the front as he played guitar in our little praise band at worship. I would occasionally share music with him. I play no instrument, having only the talent necessary to carry a tune.
A word here, a glimpse there, a conversation overheard, participation in planning for worship, inspired me. Knowing him got me to make some attempt to live up to my faith.
"He doesn't remind me of myself at that age," I later told my doctor. "He reminds me of the me I still wish I had been." The doctor and I were arguing about a medical procedure that, if it did not shorten my life, would almost certainly impair my health.
The announcement to the congregation had been stunning to me. This unassuming, very young, husband and soon-to-be father, would be on dialysis if he did not find a compatible kidney. I suppose I'm a little ashamed at how long I had to think about it. Others were making inquiries and acting to donate before I had reached a decision.
I got the forms. It's pretty easy in this day of developing technology. They emailed them to me in a pdf attachment. But the nurse on the telephone told me what to expect. I would not be a suitable donor. It wasn't age, although I am an old man by some young standards. It was health. I was seen as a sick old man.
I filled out the papers anyway and sent them in. Then I went to my doctor. He gently explained to me why I had been rejected, why I would always be rejected. I did not exactly lie to my medical friend. It was simply not the entire truth. The young man did remind me of the impossible standard I had never met. But there was more.
By age, appearance, general demeanor, the voice, even his spouse. The couple, about to embrace the role of parents, were very much like what I imagined my own parents to have been as I was about to enter the world. I was raised by kids.
I sometimes tell folks that I have known in my lifetime perhaps five truly great men. Three of them were my dad.
To my doctor, I left out the part about my parents. But what I did tell him gave him pause. The argument ended and we began huddling over how to present a case to medical authorities.
Their answer of NO went to HELL No. But I pursued it. Everybody has a boss.
Then, a second announcement ended the campaign. A donor had been found. It was, in some wild throw of the cosmic dice, his step-mother. She had turned out to be completely compatible.
It was not the only time worship has played a part in some quiet bit of uncertainty. When our young Marine was to return from Afghanistan, the exact schedule was indefinite. We would not know until he was out of the country. Internet messages stopped suddenly, just as word came of an attack on his base. As days passed with no word, I prayed that he would be alive and well. It was hard not to think of those whose lives had ended.
Please Lord, not him.
It came to me that there was a terrible aspect to my worried conversations with God. I was a little chagrined at my hope that tragedy would strike some other Marine, that some other family would become entangled in a flood of grief. Asked for a status, I told the congregation of the horrible zero-sum part of waiting just outside of war.
Even now, I wonder about those other families, and the sort of aching relief when he came back to us.
I thought of my worries over the life and death of others as I listened to former Vice President Cheney describe the spiritual aspect of the extension of his life after a heart transplant. The donor was, of course, unknown to him. Did he ever wonder about the tragedy that had given him life? Did he ever think about the person whose death had replaced his?
I have no way of knowing if I would devote any thought to someone who died if, in dying, they saved me. The question would have some additional meaning to most Christians who contemplate the cross. The emotional impact of the crucifixion involves the breathtaking demonstration that any of God's children is worth dying for, and that life is worth living.
Vice President Cheney seems unburdened by such concerns.
I want to consider context. After all, I join those critical of this one-man one-time force behind Bush administration policy for his recent distortions of Hillary Clinton's words. He pretty much accused the former Secretary of State of simply not caring that four Americans had died in a terrorist attack in Benghazi.
In fact, Secretary Clinton, in her obvious pain, grief, and anger, suggested that those deaths were more important than idle political speculation about what motivated the attackers. Questions about whether they had planned an attack or, while walking down the street, had been suddenly inspired were of secondary importance. "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
And "What difference, at this point, does it make?" is all Vice President Cheney cares to recall. How dare she not care?
In his own context, Vice President Cheney did acknowledge that tragedy had accompanied what he described as a euphoria at coming out of surgery alive. "For the family of the donor, they’d just been [through] some terrible tragedy, they’d lost a family member."
One small step for a glimmer of humanity. In fact, what he says is a "generic" feeling of gratitude toward donors in general is combined with a lack of care or even thought about the one donor whose death saved him:
The way I think of it from a psychological standpoint is that it’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart. And I always thank the donor, generically thank donors, for the gift that I’ve been given, but I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.
- Vice President Dick Cheney, with Larry King, aired November 14, 2013
It kind of fits, actually. This is the fellow who accidentally shot a friend in the face, then graciously accepted an apology from the wounded man. "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week."
Still, it is jarring to hear Vice Presidential non-feelings about the donor. "I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person."
After all, what difference, at this point, does it make?
This really doesn't take much explanation. Vice President Cheney suggests that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not care that her friend and three others were killed in the Benghazi attack.
I think the Benghazi thing is one of the great — it’s not just an embarrassment, it’s a tragedy, because we lost four people that night. And what I always recall is her testimony saying, "What difference does it make?" And the fact of the matter is it makes a huge difference.
- Former Vice President Richard Cheney, interviewed by Politico, October 25, 2013
Responding impatiently at repetitive questions about whether later statements were accurate, what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said:
With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans?
What difference, at this point, does it make?
It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 23, 2013
Moments later, she emphasized that priority again.
But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 23, 2013
Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.
- Richard Cohen, Washington Post, November 11, 2013
Some things are so obviously wrong it is almost impossible to respond without lapsing into cliche. More creative souls than I have responded with - well - creativity. I am left with moth-eaten platitudes.
Hunter, at the Daily Kos, begins his scathing, white hot and funny, review with "Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has for a very long time now existed as sort of an editorial cosmic dare." Now why can't I think of stuff like that?
Cohen seems to write in a long, continuous, effort to seek some common ground with truly reprehensible folk. Kind of like the dad in some long ago sitcom I saw as a child of the 60s. Or was it as a subteen in the 50s? The guy tries to show a few local Rebel-Without-a-Cause type leather jacketed toughs that he can relate, that he is someone they can really talk to, cool to cool, so to speak. "Hey," he says loudly, pointing to himself:
"Hey, I'm hep."
When the Bush White House got mad at the spouse of a secret CIA operative, they declared her fair game and outed her. They revealed her identity and exposed to potential harm every foreign source she had developed. Vice President Cheney's aide lied to authorities about what he knew and ended up sentenced to jail. Cohen went all hand fluttering at the prospective punishment. Officials should not lie to grand juries, he wrote, but neither should they "be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics."
Yeah others may think exposing spies and those who walk with them is the stuff of something more than politics, dark or otherwise, but we must reach out for a balanced approach.
Hey, conservatives! I'm hep.
After Trayvon Martin was killed, Cohen acknowledged that the youngster had been profiled, killed because of his race, something we should note was partially denied by the gunman. Cohen expressed cautious sympathy for the killer. Black males are known to be a dangerous breed, after all, and Cohen could "understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize." The "uniform" was the hoodie the teenager was wearing as he carried candy and sodas to his dad's home, but Cohen bloodied the water a bit in a subsequent interview with a reference to that other uniform. It should not, in retrospect, be considered racism to have suspected the young man of being a danger because he was black.
"What I'm trying to deal with is, I'm trying to remove this fear from racism. I don't think it's racism to say, 'this person looks like a menace,'" he explained. "Now, a menace in another part of the country could be a white guy wearing a wife-beater under-shirt. Or, if you're a black guy in the South and you come around the corner and you see a member of the Klu Klux Klan."
- Richard Cohen, interviewed by Politico, July 16, 2013
"I don't think it's racism to say, 'this person looks like a menace'." It's hard to contemplate that without wondering if Cohen perhaps fell asleep in mid-sentence, then awoke and completed it by accident. Assuming a youngster is of sufficient danger to pursue with a firearm simply because of the color of his skin is pretty much a definitive picture of racism. It is what suspicious minds think might have happened, what accusers think did happen, and what defenders of the killer specifically deny. Cohen is no captive of common definition. He believes it happened that way, but that it was not racism?
Hey conservatives, you hear me? I'm hep.
In other efforts, he has described his own belated, but very quick, journey on the issue of slavery. It turns out that slavery was not the theoretically wrong but somewhat benign peculiar institution, with often contented slaves and kindly masters. He now knows slavery was really really bad. He learned this from a movie he saw.
We all should pray that Michael Medved and Pat Buchanan would, please Lord, go to more cinema events.
Tommy Christopher anticipates what may come: "Stay tuned for Richard Cohen’s next column, about how Birth of a Nation went kinda easy on the Ku Klux Klan."
Now why can't I think of stuff like that?
And now, the man who would be conciliator tries yet again to reach across the chasm to the coldhearted folk he believes to be on the other side. His column is an attempt to understand and sympathize with those whose beliefs are ... well ... unfortunate. He explains why Iowa will be an unfriendly place for New Jersey Governor Chris Christy to begin his anticipated journey to the Presidency. It is an afterthought of sorts that provokes the wrath of those who will not hear his message as he intends it to be heard.
Richard Cohen protests the verdict that has become viral: that his approach reveals something about his own attitudes. He speaks to Katherine Fung and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post.
"I didn't write one line, I wrote a column," Cohen said. "The column is about Tea Party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held."
- Richard Cohen, interviewed by the Huffington Post, November 12, 2013
Indeed, the part about an interracial marriage is a bit of a side journey, a rest stop on the way to speculation about a Christie run for the gold. And he is writing about the attitudes of others.
It is painful to point out, because it is so agonizingly trite, that Poor Richard's Almanac now includes something more of himself than he realizes. And when I write something that even I know to be so obvious it is insipid, I actually lose sleep. Ruins the entire next day. But here goes.
"Today’s GOP is not racist," he says. No, not racist. Just "deeply troubled" by, among other things, an interracial marriage. With interracial children.
I wonder if the most conservative Republicans react as some did to Mitt Romney's assurances that he was "severely conservative." It was seen as an outsider's caricature of conservatives, how a non-conservative might imagine conservatism: that they consider themselves and their philosophy as "severe."
How to say this without being trite? Can't be done. Let's hackney at it.
I know a few conservatives. It is possible they shield me from some thoughts, as a profane neighbor might be circumspect around the Preacher's kids. But I think they would be "deeply troubled" at being told they are "deeply troubled" about interracial marriage. The allegation would "deeply trouble" them as in enrage them to a fury. Remember, this is the some-of-my-best-friends-are-Preacher's-kids crowd. Racism is to be denied, denied, even when it stares back from the abyss.
I'm getting trite enough to gather mildew.
The part that is not about conservatives, not about Republicans, not about anything but Richard Cohen, is that he considers someone who is deeply troubled at the existence of bi-racial children to be non-racist.
Terminal trite. Watered down gin, mixed with vinegar. Still, it has to be done.
That Richard Cohen imagines that the conventional view involves "a gag reflex" at the mere contemplation of a white man and a black woman in love says less about conventional views than about ...
Aw hell, you already know how this ends.
Video and brief transcript
from Dan Amira, New York Magazine:
The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there's more competition, there's less tort reform threat, there's less trajectory of the cost increases, and those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It's the far left. It's President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care.
- Sarah Palin, on Today Show, November 11, 2013
At last. A fair summary of the Republican Health Care alternative.
It took a while for the video to make the rounds. A Republican Assemblyman from Nevada told a room of supporters that he would vote for slavery if that is what his constituents wanted.
A couple of weeks ago, as the news went viral, state officials of both parties condemned the statement. Slavery? Are we really relitigating slavery?
The point the Assemblyman was making is central to a built in tension in representative democracy. To what extent is he, as an an elected official, obligated to follow the wishes of those who elected him? How far does conscience and morality play a role?
The position Assemblyman Jim Wheeler was taking was at the very end of the curve: anyone elected to a position of responsibility must follow the wishes of constituents with exactitude. "I'd have to hold my nose and I'd have to bite my tongue and they'd probably have to hold a gun to my head," but he would follow that simple ethic.
To a lesser extent, the conflict within the Republican party is about that ethic.
Moderates want to expand acceptability of conservatism by appealing to a broader electorate. They want conservatism, embodied as it is in themselves, to win at the ballot box. The are moderate only in the tactics they are willing to use, and in their willingness to negotiate with those they see as the enemy. On basic values, there is very little compromise in the Republican Party.
Those committed to the movement alone want principle followed with fidelity. They see any compromise as the moral equivalent of making comfortable deals with slavery. Within their narrow view of the world, they have a point. On some issues, compromise simply is not a moral option.
That is not to say that Democrats are never faced with a similar tension. It is, after all, a built in struggle, an essential part of self-government.
For Democrats, the tension has less to do with social values. Gay rights, voting rights, commitment to a social safety net, an obligation to commitments made to veterans, retirees, to the future of economic underpinnings, to the general welfare are all issues that have a common core. Political leaders and those who vote for them have a shared consensus. Tactics are not, for the most part, subject to dispute.
The esoteric parts of policy are a different matter. Hand wringing over how to fit economic reality on a bumper sticker has resulted in policy that seems politically centered. It is in this area that we have little choice but to assign research and understanding to those we hire to represent us. And they have an obligation to educate themselves and apply the results intelligently.
The bumper sticker says that government should tighten budgets in hard times, just as a family does. And, to some extent, Democrats have made moves in that direction. Deficit scolds have dominated public debate. Politicians respond to what makes sense to constituents. That is a bad move economically and politically.
The economic reality is a tough fit for car bumpers. Deficits are healthy during harsh economic times. Balance should be achieved during times of prosperity.
In Europe, the austerity movement has been severe. In the United States, an appeal to economic needs has relied on compassion. Austerity has been more moderate here.
The recent research summit of the International Monetary Fund produced what the actual data, measurements and causality, tell us is the verdict that reality has rendered. The major study (pdf) that pretty much stunned the assembly had some really bad news:
Austerity has not only hurt each economy that has tried it during economic downturn. It has hurt future capacity for economic growth.
The harm to economy has been widely known and was pretty much expected. Balanced government budgets during hard times is a really dumb idea. Deficits are good until economies are healthy and running a full capacity. That when we should pay back those deficits.
That was the approach that produced a good economy during the Clinton presidency. Deficits produced a good economy. A good economy produced a surplus. The administration wanted to use the surplus to pay down the debt.
Sadly, the opposite strategy was introduced by President Bush. Nothing was paid back during good times. The surplus disappeared in tax cuts. As bad times came, Republicans have advocated austerity. Democrats have gone along - moderately, of course.
The Obama administration began by introducing a massive stimulus. Democrats pushed for a more moderate approach. Bumper sticker economics had to be accommodated. So a more moderate stimulus was adopted. Later, a moderate austerity became policy.
The new study, sponsored by and submitted to the IMF, contained the bad news. The economy of Europe, and the global economy, had been hard hit by austerity moves. This was expected. Austerity during hard times hurts any economy and most citizens who are unlucky enough to depend on those economies. Economy recovers, but does not recover to capacity, in the face of austerity.
What was stunning was that economic capacity itself has been going down as a result of austerity. The future ability to grow has reduced. This has affected the United States as well. Not as much harm was done here, but our future ability to grow has been hurt.
One of several ironies abound. Those politicians seeking a safe middle ground, an economic policy calculated to be less alarming to voters, put themselves in more political risk. Off year elections are the most vulnerable times. The backdrop for the 2010 Tea Party success was economic recovery hampered by policy moderation. Unemployment was the key.
Americans do have opinions about the type of drill that might produce a quarter inch hole. But in the end, they are less interested the drill than in the quarter inch hole.
The politically smart move for Democrats was and is maximum employment policies, before that maximum gets even lower.
One to One to One on the Approaching Republican Demise (8:12) - Click for Podcast
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Obama Overreach - Why Republicans Hate Obamacare (5:53) - Click for Podcast
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9:00 AM, November 10, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|We know we are sinners.|
|But God tells us we are not the sin.|
|And we share forgiveness|
|with those living in guilt.|
|We do what we know is wrong.|
|But a quiet voice whispers.|
|We are not the wrong we do.|
|And we share the good news.|
|We are weak. We are not the weakness.|
|We come up short. We are not the shortcoming.|
|We make mistakes. We are not God’s mistake.|
|God loves us for what we are –|
|We are his creation.|
|We are as lost and hungry children.|
|We invite the lost and the hungry to walk with us.|
|For we have heard where there is food,|
|and a way home.|
Found on Line:
Neville Peter at
Avondale Memorial Church
April 13, 2013
Infidel 753 is cautiously happy, with the accent on cautious about Democratic victories in Virginia. My take is a little more upbeat, but I think the reaction to Virginia is more significant than the election that provokes the reaction.
The Heathen Republican revisits blogging life (Yayyy!!!) with a featherweight bit of wisdom via a pithy quote about blaming Republicans for a prospective future failure of Obamacare. The argument both anticipate failure and fails to discern a distinction between expressing opposition and the Republican campaign against healthcare. Shutdown, anyone? No? Well then, how about a little default?
A viewer tells Fox News his heart wrenching story. He will die of cancer because of Obamacare. But Tommy Christopher of Mediaite comes to the rescue wielding the magic sword of accurate information. He deconstructs the Fox interview. Seems the poor fellow has been an innocent victim of misinformation. He doesn't have to die after all.
Max's Dad begins and ends with less than thoroughly gentle words for those of our elected officials who are opponents of gay rights, but he is happy that the Senate has passed an anti-discrimination bill.
- Mad Mike's America quotes speculation about psychopathy, which 10 professions are composed of the most psychopaths and which 10 have the least.