Mad Mike's America takes us to Texas. The fact that the state purchases textbooks in a mostly unified bulk buy gives extremists who dominate the process a huge national influence. Publishers usually try to avoid one text for the Texas right wing and another for more rational parts of the country. The issue now is creation "science"..
Conservative Julian Sanchez doesn't much care for the NSA practice of looking into sexually oriented online searches by radicalizing Muslims. Thought seems to be that this information can be used to discredit them. It does seem similar to practices by a blackmailing FBI director from a few decades ago, doesn't it?
This seems never to end. Conservatives are outraged that President Obama has closed the US embassy to the Vatican in retaliation to Catholic concerns about Obamacare. Rumproast looks into the outrage and a few facts conservatives overlook. Like, the embassy wasn't closed, just moved. And the Vatican had no problem with it. And the entire plan was begun during the Bush administration.
Democrats put out a few brief facts that anyone can use when some drunken Fox viewing relative launches a Thanksgiving dinner rant about Obamacare. So, naturally, conservative James Wigderson rants about countering rants. Seems the administration is imposing healthcare discussions onto Thanksgiving. My own practiced response to such discussions is along the lines of "I've given this a great deal of thought and my opinion is we ought to talk about something else." Here is one reason, although the context is different.
Fox News is also irritated at Democratic efforts to impose on Thanksgiving. So News Corpse does a little homework and discovers that Fox itself has been promoting ways to verbally assault liberal relatives around the dinner table. Difference is Fox encourages a less civil approach.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite finds a dozen folks who can be thankful for Obamacare this season, and suggests they are far, far, far more numerous than over-reported folks who lose their coverage. Tommy has also taken on the tiresome task of actually researching those who say they lost coverage, since mainstream reporting seems to come up a little short on due diligence.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, tears into yet another conservative who thinks the presentation of slavery in history books is unbalanced. Popular opinion doesn't take into account the good points of slavery.
- Infidel 753 educates us in lay terms about the Iran nuclear deal. My reaction to one major opposition point is here. Elections have consequences - in Iran.
Sent by an alert reader:
This past Sunday a Morman bishop in Utah had a makeup artist turn him into an unrecognizable ugly looking homeless man to see how his congregation would react when he walked into the church. At least 5 of them asked him to leave. Lots of guilty feeling people when they found out who the homeless man really was. The bishop said he turned himself into a modern day parable. All I can say is "Jesus wept".
Found on line from Associated Press via Minneapolis Star Tribune:
TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Members of a Mormon congregation in a Salt Lake City suburb encountered someone they thought was a homeless man at church on Sunday. What they did not know was the man was a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At least five people asked David Musselman to leave the church property in Taylorsville, some gave him money and most were indifferent.
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My twenty years or so in computer programming may make me an elderly nerd. It doesn't make me an expert on all things IT. I lost count a long time ago of the number of folks who have asked me about one computer issue or another. I couldn't help them.
For one thing, information technology covers a lot of territory. I know somewhat less than nothing about what actually makes a computer operate. Very few programmers would be able to tell you much about the inner workings of hardware. I usually refer those whose PCs have been enveloped in some trauma to my loved one, who is A-Plus certified and a bit of a hardware genius.
Beyond that, the number of computer languages is a Tower of Babel, likely to fall on anyone who thinks they know even a fraction of everything.
Once, I was assigned to make some needed adjustments to a voice response system for a client company. Calls were not being routed fast enough to the right person. Menus were inadequate and callers were not being offered a quick way to an operator if they couldn't find their way through. I was warned that an unpleasant sales employee, a self-styled expert, liked to harass computer techs. I was promised there would be no problem if I was rude to the fellow, since everyone there considered him a bit of a jerk.
Sure enough, a guy swaggered on over while I was untangling previous work so I could solve whatever ailed their system. He began loudly berating my company, their choice of system platforms, the languages they used, the dumb technical people - like me - they would send to make adjustments. For a while, I just kept working. But he kept getting louder. People looked up from their desks at the commotion.
Finally, I looked up. "Come on over," I said. "Let me show you something." He sauntered over to the work station. I pointed to the screen. "This blinking light is what we call ..." I slowed down and slowly enunciated, "... the cursor." I explained that the cursor told us where in the system of files we were looking. I began to explain what files were and how directories were organized.
He got fidgety and finally could stand it no longer. He interrupted me. "You don't need to tell me all that! I happen to be kind of an expert in computers." The number of onlookers had multiplied by then. Some of them looked a little uncomfortable at the behavior of the loudmouth.
I feigned embarrassment. "On gosh, I'm sorry. I hope you realize there's absolutely nothing you've said that would have led me to believe that." The office broke into cheers.
There is still some internet related programming I haven't forgotten. But I know more back end data related stuff.
I have to confess I was kind of surprised at the initial debacle of Obamacare. The website was, apparently, ill-constructed. The volume was greater than expected, not so much because of the instant popularity of the program, but because of the number of states, governed by Republicans, that turned down incentives for setting up their own enrollment systems. Stress testing on the federal system was apparently inadequate.
From what I have read, the geniuses who ran the information systems providing strategic data to the 2012 Obama campaign - I do wish I had been part of THAT - were kept from participating in setting up Obamacare. Appearance of impropriety was the fear, I'd guess.
Too bad. Those who are willing to think Obama is a hybrid of Bozo the Clown and Attila the Hun don't hesitate to accuse Bozo the Hun of corruption, with evidence they themselves pretty much invent.
The newest CNN poll seems to indicate that Obamacare is very unpopular, unless you look more closely. About 40 percent like the new law just fine. 58 percent are opposed to Obamacare. So that's bad for Obamacare, right?
But 14 percent who say they don't like it also say it's because it doesn't go far enough. Grouping those who hate Obamacare in with those who say there isn't enough Obamacare in Obamacare seems a little off base. If you do the right thing and add those who say it should do more with those who like it the way it is, you're at 54 percent. By some coincidence, that 54 percent happens to match the number who think the technical problems will eventually get worked out.
Younger, more technologically experienced people are the most optimistic about the web problems. Just 25 percent of younger voters have doubts about the technology.
For me, the real news is the debate itself. Various myths about Obamacare have begun fading. Death panels are widely ridiculed. Those who care enough about deficits to pay attention know that the program improves health care while reducing costs. Budget deficits will be lowered by the law.
In the good old days, Republicans opposed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for largely philosophical reasons. The debate was about the legitimate role of government in ensuring reasonable care for the common good. Heady stuff.
After getting past the silly interpretations we've been hearing since President Obama adopted Mitt Romney's program from Massachusetts, we have now arrived at the end point.
Scandals surrounding Benghazi, IRS, and various bureaucratic inevitabilities have been examined and exhausted and appear to be Republican contrivances. Investigations into Obamacare are conducted by people who blink with non-comprehension at the news that comment lines exist.
Republicans are pinning all of their hopes on the continuing failure of a website. Their latest accusation is that President Obama is inadequately technical.
Let's begin with Rush Limbaugh, because ... why not?
Let’s say, let’s take 10 people in a room and they’re a group. And the room is made up of six men and four women. OK? The group has a rule that the men cannot rape the women. The group also has a rule that says any rule that will be changed must require six votes, of the 10, to change the rule.
- Rush Limbaugh, November 22, 2013
Well, that was interesting.
Actually, Rush was making a point. His thought experiment had to do with the recent change to the filibuster rule of the United States Senate. That was the rule that used to be invoked whenever a few Senators felt so strongly about an issue, where the majority was against them, that they were willing to keep any vote from happening.
Mostly, in the past, that happened whenever the topic was some law against segregation, or even against the custom in some sections of the country of decorating tree limbs with black folks who might want to do something outrageous, like vote - or drink from the wrong water fountain.
The rule allowed any Senator to talk endlessly, holding up Senate business, unless a lot more than a majority of Senators voted to end debate and vote on whatever it was. Well, that's what it used to mean. A while back, Senators decided on a couple of changes.
The first was the number of Senators needed to end a filibuster was reduced. For a long, long time it was 67 votes. But in 1975, a proposal to change the rule to 60 votes was introduced. Naturally, it was filibustered.
Nelson Rockefeller was Vice President in 1975. He kept refusing to recognize Senators who wanted to filibuster against changing the filibuster rule. When he was challenged on it, he read from the Senate rules. "It says right here in the precedents of the Senate, 'The Chair may decline to respond; the chair may decline to answer a parliamentary inquiry.'" So Senators brought up points of order and motions to table other motions to table. It was a horrible tangle.
Finally, a deal was reached. A filibuster could be stopped by 60 votes. Yay! In return, Vice President Rockefeller apologized to the Senate for being such a jerk as to violate hallowed customs in order to make it easier to pass civil rights laws. Sorry about that.
Senators also did something they thought was brilliant. If a Senator wanted to filibuster, they would move on to the next item, bypassing any actual talking. That way, other Senate business could be conducted without waiting for obstructing Senators to get tired of standing.
That also made it really convenient to conduct a filibuster. Think of it as a sort of microwave of obstruction. Saves everyone from having to perform all that institutional cooking. "I announce my intention to talk endlessly for many hours about this bill that the majority wants to pass." - "No need for all that, Senator. We'll just move on to something else." - "Okay. In that case, I'll sit around and enjoy a cigar."
When President Obama took office, Republicans met just after the Inaugural Address to decide how to destroy him. No kidding. That's what they did.
They began filibustering pretty much everything more important than naming Post Offices. Democrats retaliated with harsh looks and furtive gestures. Amazingly, Republicans were undeterred.
So Democrats got tough. They threatened to "go nuclear" and end the filibuster. Republicans said that was scary and promised only to filibuster if they ever got really really mad. So Democrats, impressed by this new, reasonable approach, said okay and told everyone that Senate tradition had been preserved. They did briefly wonder why Republicans were giggling joyfully and highfiving.
Then, Republicans announced they would refuse to confirm any judges to one of the District Courts no matter who was nominated. Just because.
They explained that they were not breaking their word, because they had had their fingers crossed plus they were really really mad about pretty much everything.
So Democrats decided, at long last, to end the filibuster. HaHaHa, just kidding.
They would end the filibuster for any and all administrative judicial appointments. HaHaHa, got you again.
They didn't end filibusters for ALL judicial appointments. Only those not having to do with the Supreme Court. Pretty tough, these Democrats.
So conservatives are hopping mad. . . Okay, that part is pretty much same as before. They remain hopping mad.
Rush does have a recurring obsession with all things sexual: calling individual women sluts, suggesting that those who use birth control (except for aspirin) are prostitutes, apparently thinking that contraceptive prescriptions must be increased with more sexual activity, wondering if there is a Planned Parenthood conspiracy to reduce effectiveness of morning-after pills for women wearing more than size 2 clothes. That sort of thing.
If you can get past that, he does have a point about majoritarianism. Some things should be opposed regardless of whether a majority is in favor. Things about basic rights.
For example, voting rights should be safeguarded, even if most folks are okay with making it harder for minorities to vote. Gay rights should not be circumvented, even in locations where most people are anti-gay. If a majority of voters in my neighborhood decide that everyone must contribute to religion, I would be opposed, even if the funding would flow to the house of worship I attend. A Nevada assemblyman kicked up some dust by telling supporters that he would vote for slavery if his constituents wanted it.
Point is, or should be, that basic rights are inalienable. The rights can be abridged. They can be voted down, shouted down, put down by majority vote, or oppressed by the sheer force of bigotry. But they are still rights, even as they are violated.
"You know what? We're going to change the rule. Now all we need is five." And well, "you can't do that." "Yes we are. We're the majority. We're changing the rule."
- Rush Limbaugh, November 22, 2013
Freedom from rape is a basic right. Obstructing pretty much everything that requires Senate action is not.
Now, if Rush Limbaugh could find it in his heart to apply his anti-majoritarian logic to gay rights, we might get somewhere.
Sometimes words simply fail.
Applying modern balanced ethics of journalism to slavery, conservative John Derbyshire expresses his fair-to-both-sides analysis:
And I’ve no doubt there was such a thing as Abolitionist Porn. It would have been surprising if there wasn’t. Whenever there’s a deep and long-standing difference between two sets of social principles, a genre of lurid tales will come up in one camp, denigrating the other.
For example: Back when England was bumptiously Protestant, there was Anti-Catholic Porn: Try the lip-smacking description of two Catholic clerics—a monk and a bishop—being hanged in Chapter 26 of Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!
Slavery is more irksome to some than to others; and freedom can be irksome, too.
- John Derbyshire, writing for VDare, November 20, 2013
A month before last year's election, employment numbers began to improve. There was a lot of talk that the reason for the drop was the number of people taking part time work. Initial data seemed to back that up.
A few on the ragged edge of conservatism saw it as a conspiracy.
Jack Welch tweeted:
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers.
Several months later, the tone was softer, but the message was the same. This time, the job distortion was not so much a conspiracy as the result of subconscious desires and unintentional actions.
When the government unions and the government employees are in subjective jobs, no matter how decent the people are — let's assume they are all perfect — their biases have to come through.
Even now, Rick Santelli maintains the jobs report back then might still be a fake:
You know, there's a lot of reports out that the census group that's involved in phone surveys, which are part of the household survey, which determines the unemployment rate, well, some of those may have been fake.
I never saw the point. If some voter somewhere cast a vote based on the monthly report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it would have been a phenomenon of rarity. People are influenced by the economy. But voting is based on personal experience and direct contact.
All the spin in the world won't affect how people view their economic condition or that of friends and relatives. "Uncle Harry just lost his job, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the rate of unemployment just went down by 3/10's of 1 percent. I think I'll vote for the Democrat."
The conservative theory of skewed polling never made a lot of sense to me. I did not see how voters would be swayed by those polls. "Vote for me because polling data indicates you will vote for me." I don't see it. In fact, all that conservative effort seems to have hurt Republicans. The Mitt Romney campaign made strategic decisions on the basis of inaccurate information.
The latest news that spin can't spin for long is Obamacare.
Most folks don't see any change in their insurance. All we're seeing now is news stories about people forced to give up coverage they want to keep. Initially, those who looked behind the news all thought those stories were an exaggerated account of 3 percent of the population. Now that actual numbers are being surveyed, it looks like the stories are actually an exaggerated account involving 6/10 of 1 percent of the population.
But not many are looking through the tall weeds. The most visible evidence, the Obamacare website, is the object of late night jokes.
All the huff-and-puff about Obamacare has an effect now.
It won't in a few months.
If the Obamacare site is up and working, and people are shopping about because they have to, and they end up saving money on a better deal, all the stories and spin in the opposite direction will be swept away. In fact, some with group coverage are already getting refunds.
If the Obamacare site is still a bust, and people can't even get to a better deal, all the stories and spin in favor of Obamacare will look kind of foolish.
The dice are rolling, the coin is in the air, door number one is already chosen, the national decision has been made.
Predictions will not matter. What actually happens will.
So maybe all that's left is to wait and see?
This should have been satire.
It really should have been.
Contrast the understated way disagreement is voiced by a business owner and his victimized employee with multiple instances of video-taped harassment by police authorities.
One of the renegade officers is named Sergeant Dunaske. It would have been a tip off if there had been someone involved named Don Tell.
Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.
He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.
Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.
Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.
Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.
But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.
So how can he be trespassing when he works there?
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Mythbusters unintentionally explain Republican attempts at rebranding without any changes in policy.
9:00 AM, November 24, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|We are tempted by what divides us.|
|We hear that we are valued|
|because of who we are,|
|or what we do, or what we have.|
|We are told that we are blessed,|
|and that those living in desperation|
|are unworthy of blessing.|
|But we listen to an inner voice of spirit,|
|whispering to us that we are loved for no reason|
|but that we are the creation of a loving God.|
|We express our gratitude in worship,|
|and we pray that the voice that speaks to us|
|might speak through us, in action and in words.|
|The fire within us has a glow|
|that can help light the world|
|with a new expression of an ancient message.|
|That God’s gentle acceptance surrounds you,|
|that you were worth dying for|
|long before you were born.|
|In a world of pain and anger,|
|God's work must be our work as well.|
Found on Line:
For the Fruit of All Creation
Brother Alphonsus Mary
Little Brothers of Carmel
Mad Mike's America reacts to the fight for more Christian entitlement as a Christian objects to a store putting the Bible in with fiction. The objector, whoever she is, remains my sister in Christ. Sometimes family can be embarrassing. Must we really demand that others treat our faith as established truth or face our wrath? Are we later to act surprised when Christianity is regarded as a mighty fortress of intolerance?
Conservative James Wigderson objects to Obamacare. He objects to changes to Obamacare on cancelation of old policies. It's undemocratic. He insists President Obama should put any changes through the Senate and the House. Last night, it occurred to me that if President Obama were to follow that advice, House Republicans would probably cooperate and put in any fixes needed to make the law work better. Then I woke up.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for A Plain Blog about Politics, has been cautiously optimistic that Republicans, despite their angry bluster, will not blow up the Senate in retaliation for Democrats restricting the filibuster. He offers a small bit of evidence in a non-incident right after the nuclear option was passed.
Rightward ideologues are weirded that the Senate cut back on some filibusters. Rumproast is amazed at their amazement. An explanation of what has changed and why, along with what remains the same, is in order. Rumproast provides that lesson.
At News Corpse, Mark finds it jarring that the Fox website features items that rely on the extremist group, World Net Daily. Mark traces the chain back to a WND personality, a birther, who uses as his evidence a series of old articles written by ... well ... himself.
The concussive violence of football, the long term damage to players, was never in the national consciousness in those days. Back when I was a kid, such thoughts never intruded. We had no idea.
There is something about football crowds. I'm not sure exactly what it is. But if most of us were blindfolded and put into the middle of a crowd at a professional game, we'd be able to tell if it was football or some other sport. The raucousness of the crowd, maybe? The yelling of the vendors? The play-by-play enthusiasm? Hard to say what the rhythm is, exactly, but it is unmistakable.
The Redskins vs Eagles game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia had been billed as a big deal. The stadium itself seemed like the setting for it. It was the oldest stadium in the country. The Eagles had been there only a few years.
By the time the coin was tossed that Sunday, there were over 60,000 fans in the stadium. But, on that Sunday, you would not have recognized the sound as happening during a football event. In fact, there was an eerie silence during the entire game.
A 25 yard pass from Jurgensen to Brown provided some hope for the home team. Yet, even during the breakaway run for the goal, the entire stadium was still. No cheering. No reaction. The vendors selling hotdogs and drinks worked without any of the normal shouting. Money and food were wordlessly exchanged.
The Redskins won the game. The home team lost. Nobody seemed to notice. It was as if 60,000 people had simultaneously lost their voices.
The same strange silence was reported from every stadium in which a professional game was played. There were 7 games in all that Sunday. Each one played out before a silent, sullen crowd. Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, everywhere the same. The Cardinals narrowly beat the Giants in New York. Nobody reacted. The New York crowd seemed more interested in the National Anthem than in the game.
It is hard to give a sense of those days to anyone who did not experience the times in which we lived. That Sunday, two days after the assassination, provides only small anecdotal illustration. It was a choking sort of grief.
In those days of the Cold War, the terror of nuclear conflict combined with fear and loathing toward the Soviet empire. The domino theory of international Communist conquest was considered an established fact, with debate reserved for the dangerously naive. As President Kennedy called for personal vigor, office personnel, secretaries, clerks, and managers, actually worked overtime just to feel they were contributing to the national effort.
Civil Rights was a noble struggle against evil itself, and segregationists were a national embarrassment.
It has been described as a time of innocence, with innocence lost on that bloody Friday in 1963. But it was more than that. It was less an innocence than a sense of national purpose that seems almost childlike from today's jaded weariness. There is a sadness in many of us at the loss of that purpose, now seen through cynical eyes as something other than what we experienced then.
The carping was as severe as it is now. Pamphlets were distributed in Dallas that day with a photograph of the visiting President and the words: "Wanted For Treason!" The antecedents of Tea Party-ism existed in Birchers. Racism was evident in KKK sympathizers. Violence was met by peaceful demonstration.
A very large proportion of Americans thought that reasonable balance required a stand somewhere "between the two extremes." Yes, voting rights and safety of black citizens in the south were considered one of the extremes.
John F. Kennedy was on a national wave. But he did more than ride that wave. He seemed to those who wanted to join the effort, as having channeled and directed it into a mighty force for progress. The country was deeply flawed, but America was working, growing, toward national redemption, leading the world on a similar path.
I was very young back then. I remember adults joining children in public sorrow, men and women crying unashamed. I remember a sort of communion of grief. It was as if we were, briefly, an extended family.
I had nightmares through my teenaged years. My imagination tells me I was not alone.
Today, the President we knew back then was not simply a reflection of an innocent country in innocent times. Partly because of his youth, his leadership, the way he spoke the words he gave to us, he, and we, were something more.
Not so much an innocent country in innocent times.
We were an inspired nation in inspired times.
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.