Saturday, May 19, 2012

And another big boost !!!

Today, the Board of the NAACP voted 
to endorse marriage equality.

This is a 64 member board (if all voted) and only two opposed it.

This is almost as big as President Obama's endorsement.   It follows in the tradition of the NAACP's standing for equal rights for all people, as in this statement from the group:
"The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the 'political, education, social and economic equality' of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment."
This is particularly significant however because, in the African-Amercan religious communities, opposition to homosexuality is very strong, based on Biblical objections.

Part of the surprising reactions to Obama's endorsement, however, have been a number of the black religious leaders who said they didn't agree but it was not a deal-breaker.  They would still vote for his re-election.

This NAACP endorsement should help shore up that kind of support from this important community.

And it's one more step toward this becoming a non-issue within the next decade.  It might not take that long, especially if the November voters reject candidates from the extreme right.  That's more likely to happen in national elections than local ones, where state laws are made.

But equality will come.  It's a matter of time, and the speed is picking up . . . remarkably.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Obama and gay marriage stance

Obama's support for marriage between same-sex partners has been surprisingly momentous.  Surprising because it has long been obvious that his spin about "evolving" has been a thin facade that obviously meant:  "I'm waiting for the right time to announce this."

So it surprised me -- as it did gay, conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan -- how emotionally stirring it was to have the President of the United States give his public endorsement to gay marriage.

Equally surprising has been the relatively mild response from the conservative camp.  Even some Republicans have been jumping on the bandwagon and saying that conservatives should support it too -- as the conservative position (see my May 12 blog, Really Remarkable Republican advice).   Of course, the right fringe and a lot of the preachers are ranting and saying it will rile up their people.

But, all in all, the conservative response has been less than we suspected, especially from politicians other than the most conservative ones.

Today, conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer writes about this -- not to condemn the decision but to say that Obama has boxed himself in.   He goes on to point out that the president made two arguments that are contradictory.

1.  Obama said that he personally supports gay marriage rights but would leave it to the states to make their own decisions for their state.

2.  Krauthammer then points out that Obama also said that marriage equality is a civil right.

So, he asks, how can you reconcile the two?   If it's a civil right, how can you leave it up to the states?

I hate to find myself in agreement with Krauthammer, but this time I do.   I think those are contradictory.  I have never understood why something as basic and ubiquitous as marriage should be subject to individual state decisions, rather than one decision affecting all U. S. citizens alike.

My solution is simple:   make it a national decision;  don't leave it to the states.   I suspect that Obama might also agree with that, but put in the 'states' rights' clause for political purposes.

Given the importance of his statement, I think we can forgive him this bit of continued political expediency.   After all, he's got an election to win so he can continue trying to save us from total Republican rule.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The corruption of our political process

Two new pieces of information, and an older outrage:

1.  First, the older.     When the case "Citizens United" reached the Supreme Court of the U. S., it was a narrow argument about a specific case:   whether a private group could air a critical film about Hillary Clinton during the height of the 2008 presidential primary campaign.   Previous law would have restricted such airings in the 30 days prior to the election.

The conservative majority of SCOTUS, in a bit of judicial activism apparently led by the Chief Justice John Roberts himself, expanded the case to a broad, landmark ruling that treated corporations as individual persons with regard to free speech rights.   And now, we're seeing the disasterous results:  the power of SuperPacs that allow wealthy groups, or billionaire individuals, as well as corporations, to wield undue influence in our electoral process.    And we are just beginning to see how bad this can be and what mega-funds are being spent this way.

2.  Second:  Now the New York Times has released information it obtained about the advertising plan that has been devised by a group of "high profile Republican strategists" who are hoping to have it funded by conservastive billionaire, Joe Ricketts, with the explicit purpose of painting Barack Obama as secretly planning to implement the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "liberation theology" -- which they misinterpret as a hate-white campaign.

The $10 million advertising plan calls for hiring as spokesman in the ads "an extremely literate, conservative African-American who will argue that Obama misled the nation in presenting himself as "a metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."   The proposal also states that the plan will show how “president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.”   This would be a four-hour, multi-media blitz (newspaper, billboard, TVads) during the Democratic convention in Charlotte, when maximum attention would be focused on it.

The Times goes on to say that Mr. Ricketts is considering several proposals and has not yet decided but that he does intend to spend a large sum of money to defeat Obama.   He reportedly believes that John McCain made a mistake in not capitalizing on the Jeremiah Wright connection in 2008.

3.  Third:   Although not directly political, it involves the influence of money in our governmental process and the recent shocking investment loss by JPMorgan Chase bank, which today is being upped to an estimated $3 billion and may go higher.

The news that was shocking, to me, but it's not new to those in the know:   The CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, not only lobbied Washington to weaken regulations, he also sits on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank -- and thus is in a high position himself for directly influencing decisions about bank regulations.

How can this not be an outrageous conflict of interest?   The fox guarding the hen house?

The only smidgen of optimism I can see in all this is that Democracy (such as it is in the U. S. in the 21st Century) still must be pretty powerful if it even partially survives in the face of such capitalistic amorality.

Let me say it boldly:   I think Capitalism, in its unadulterated "free market" form that Republicans want, is both unchristian and undemocratic.

That our democracy survives in its attenuated form is a tribute to democracy itself and to its ideals of equality, freedom, and fairness.   Capitalism, when unregulated, works against those ideals.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Krugman on JPMorgan and the need for regulation

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is clearly on the more liberal end of economists;  but he makes sense to me, along with Stiglitz and Volkner.   Here's what he writes in his column today about the debacle of JPMorgan Chase bank's loss of $2 billion in some bad investments that involved manipulating debt rather than investing in making useful things.

Krugman begins by talking about JPM's CEO, Jamie Dimon, who in the past was one of the bankers who argued strongly against more bank regulations, saying that bankers know how to run their own banks and don't need the government looking over their shoulders and regulating what they are allowed to do.
So there’s a large heap of poetic justice — and a major policy lesson — in JPMorgan’s shock announcement that it somehow managed to lose $2 billion in a failed bit of financial wheeling-dealing. . . .

[Bank officers] make money-losing mistakes all the time. That in itself is no reason for the government to get involved. But banks are special, because the risks they take are borne, in large part, by taxpayers and the economy as a whole. . . .
So what can be done? In the 1930s, after the mother of all banking panics, we arrived at a workable solution, involving both guarantees and oversight. On one side, the scope for panic was limited via government-backed deposit insurance; on the other, banks were subject to regulations intended to keep them from abusing the privileged status they derived from deposit insurance, which is in effect a government guarantee of their debts. Most notably, banks with government-guaranteed deposits weren’t allowed to engage in the often risky speculation characteristic of investment banks like Lehman Brothers.

This system gave us half a century of relative financial stability. Eventually, however, the lessons of history were forgotten.
Laws governing banking regulations were overturned or weakened, and once again banks were allowed to take on ever-greater risks with their assets.   Newer forms of banking arose that were not covered by government guarantees.  The recession of 2008 convinced many that we needed to restore the controls that had been overturned, those safeguards that protected us from the old vulnerabities.

Because he had steered JPM rather successfully through the recent recession without needing government bailout, CEO Jamie Dimon became an effective spokesman for the banking industry's fight against restoring those regulations, or at least watering them down and creating loopholes.
He has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the so-called Volcker Rule, which would prevent banks with government-guaranteed deposits from engaging in “proprietary trading,” basically speculating with depositors’ money. Just trust us, the JPMorgan chief has in effect been saying; everything’s under control.
But it wasn't.  What JPMorgan did was apparently make a huge, risky bet on the safety of corporate debt.
The key point is not that the bet went bad; it is that institutions playing a key role in the financial system have no business making such bets, least of all when those institutions are backed by taxpayer guarantees. . . . 

But the truth is that we’ve just seen an object demonstration of why Wall Street does, in fact, need to be regulated.
Now will they listen?    Probably the Wall Streeters won't;  they'll just look for better ways to spin such losses and resolve to be more careful next time.    What about the politicians?   There's still too much money flowing into campaign war chests from Wall Street to have much effective reform pass Congress, at least in this election year.

But at least the problem seems to be getting clearer and clearer -- for anyone who will listen to the likes of Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz -- both of whom have won the Nobel Prize in Economics.  We should listen to them.