Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saclia: diningenuous or politically clueless?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is either being disingenuous or he is the most politically clueless man in Washington.

He was asked by an audience member at a speech whether the Supreme Court has become more political.   He answered that it is not political at all.   Acknowledging that the court has five members appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democratic presidents.

"But that doesn't mean they make decisions based on politics.   They are nominated by a political president, but they are selected for their judicial philosophy -- and then they vote according to that judicial philosophy.   Politics has nothing to do with it."   [That may be slightly paraphrased;  I'm quoting from memory.]

And then he gilded the lily by expanding the question about politics to his seemingly favorite topic of whether decisions are influenced by subjectivity.   He wouldn't use that term, because he denies there is any, but he exudes his subjectivity all over the place every time he speaks.  How can it not influence his decisions?

As he has before, he trotted out his defense of his opposition to eliminating sodomy laws (he's equally opposed to marriage equality).   "If we can't have moral feelings about sodomy, how can we have moral feelings about murder?"

This was being discussed by three bright, young commentators on HuffingtonPost video.  All seemed to support marriage equality, but one took the side of Scalia, explaining that he was talking about a behavior (sodomy), not an identity.   So, you may not agree that it is bad and should be illegal, but it does seem to be equating two things that are both behaviors that people have moral feelings about.

NO !!   NO !!   They missed the point.   Murder is not considered a heinous crime because people have strong moral feelings about it (although most do).  It is a crime because it deprives someone else of his most basic right to life.    Homosexual behavior, gay identity, and marriage equality, all between consenting adults, have absolutely nothing to do with depriving someone else of any rights.

So Scalia's reasoning is completely false on that count.   As to saying politics has nothing to do with the court's decisions, he has also demonstrated that he thinks emotions and relationships have nothing to do with decisions either:   he is completely clueless to his own demonstrable subjectivity

Otherwise, he would have recused himself from the case that involved Vice President Cheney's meetings with energy executives shortly after (Scalia) rode with the Vice President on Air Force 2 to go hunting.   And that's only one small example.   We could also sight all the opinions he writes that drip with sarcasm for the opposing arguments and, often, his opposing colleagues on the court.  

Pure legal reasoning?    I think not.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Follow-up on Nelson, GA and its gun law

A couple of days ago I wrote about the little town of Nelson, GA which has passed a law that every household must have a gun.   I raised questions of logic about why a place that calls itself safer than Mayberry (the safest places in the world) would think it needed more protection in the form of guns.

In yesterday's AJC, political writer Jim Galloway gave a plausible explanation that has nothing to do with safety -- and a lot to do with putting your little pinpoint on the map.

Galloway cites the example of Kennesaw, GA, which passed a similar law back in the 1980's.  They even intentionally wrote their law with so many exemptions that it actually covered no one.   There was never a reason to enforce the law, because it didn't apply to any actual residents.   He even cites the person charged with writing all these exemptions into the law -- the son of the city attorney, who was at the time a third year law student.

How much the notoriety was responsible, but this occurred just on the wave of economic boom that swept Cobb County, and the publicity probably steered a lot of development Kennesaw's way.

Likewise, the Nelson law contains a clause that exempts anyone who objects to owning a gun.  Galloway also cites the grand-daddy of this ploy:   Dayton, Tennessee, city of the Scopes "Monkey Trial," in which a high school teacher was tried for teaching evolution.   The trial involved a famous debate between famed lawyer Clarence Darrow and sometime presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.

The whole thing was a set-up -- done with the school teacher's consent and cooperation to have the trial.   What did Dayton, TN get out of it?

For one thing, they now have a conservative college, Bryan College, as well as vast name recognition world wide.    Is this what the people of Nelson have in mind?


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Obama's budget proposal

Many liberals and progressives are outraged that President Obama is proposing cuts in Social Security and Medicare.   I'm not so sure these proposals are a bad idea, but others think that these programs should be sacrosanct.  (Just as much as Republicans want tax hikes to be completely off the table.)

The Social Security cuts are in the form of changing how the cost of living increase is figured.   As of now, it is based on the actual increase in cost of living if people continue to live without making any changes in what they buy.  The proposal, called the "chained CPI" works like this:   if the cost of beef goes up, instead of automatically assuming that people will continue to buy beef at the higher prices, the chained CPI figures what people actually do:   often they will substitute a cheaper food, like chicken or pork.   Or they might be a cheaper car.   Or shop for clothes at Target instead of Macy's.

Is that so bad?   Personally, I would prefer they found savings by slowly increasing the age of eligibility by a year or two and by increaseing the income level that is taxed for social security benefits.

The cuts to Medicare do not reduce benefits to patients.   In part they come from making it more possible to substitute generic drugs, which can save huge amounts of money.  Of course, the pharmaceutical companies oppose this.  Other changes have to do with how much reimbursement providers get and cutting fraud.

So -- it's debatable, I think, as to how bad these things are.

The real point, though, is that this is at least in part a negotiating ploy with the Republicans.  It calls their bluff -- because Obama is adamant that these cuts will not be included unless they are part of an overall package that raises revenues as well.   If they turn away from this, in order to cling to their "no new tax" pledge, this will further paint them as intransigent.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Safer than Mayberry

Last week, the tiny town of Nelson, GA made world headlines by passing a law that every household must have a gun.   They don't intend to enforce the law;  it's just a statement, and they claim that it will keep the town safe.

A spokesman claims that Nelson is "safer than Mayberry" of the old tv series which claimed the title for "the safest place in the world."  

So why does such a safe place need to be so heavily armed?    The implication is that it's guns that keep them safe -- but they're already claiming to be safer than the "safest place in the world."   So what's the point?   Take the safest place on earth, introduce guns, and make it even safer?  

The irony is that in the fictional TV show "Mayberry," it was not guns that kept the peace.   The sheriff did not carry a gun.   The only armed official was the deputy sheriff, the hapless Barney Fife.  He did carry a gun -- but was allowed to have only one bullet, and he had to keep it in his shirt pocket.

Never mind.   All the hoopla has put Nelson on the map, and probably will attract some folks bent on proving them wrong.   So, if I had to bet, I would take odds that the death by guns in Nelson will go UP, regardless of what happens to the crime rate.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Guns in our everyday lives

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (better known on ShrinkRap as Aunt Minnie) and several others including Rand Paul intend to filibuster even a debate on the Senate floor of gun control legislation.   That's right:  they do not even want to allow a debate.

Meanwhile, gun violence and gun accidents go on.   On Saturday, a deputy sheriff in Tennessee was showing off his gun collection to family members.  His wife and nephew came into the room;  the 4 year old boy grabbed a gun and pulled the trigger, killing the deputy's wife.

And two days later, in an unrelated incident, another 4 year old boy shot and killed a 6 year old neighbor boy.

Of course, the proposed gun control laws would not have prevented these accidents.  But they do show the pervasive presence of guns in our lives, and the casual attitude toward guns that must change.   If not now, when?   And what greater motive will we ever have?


PS:   A question for the deputy sheriff:   Why did you have a LOADED gun in this collection you were showing off to family?

Paul Braun opened his mouth again

Rep. Paul Braun, congressman and wannabe-senator from Georgia, has opened his mouth again;  and, predictably, something stupid came out.    Is it ignorance or a studied pose?   I think it's ignorance, despite his medical degree.   Who could think up such idiotic commentary?

Here's the latest.   He's fulminating against ObamaCare (naturally), especially its paying for (as he alleges, incorrectly) sex-change surgery.

"I don't want to pay for a sex-change operation.   I don't want one.  I like being a boy."

Well, bully for you Bully Boy.   You don't have to have one.

But, by the same logic:  because you don't have cancer, health insurance should not cover cancer.   Or diabetes unless you have diabetes.

Sex-change surgery is not for those who have a whim about being different  It's only for those whose every fiber of their being tells them they're in the wrong kind of body.   Just try to imagine liking to be a boy, as Rep. Braun does, and suddenly being told that your genetic makeup says you're really a girl.    Wouldn't you still want to keep on being a boy?   It's like that.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

So, is Hillary going to run?

We probably won't have an announcement for at least another year -- maybe after the 2014 election -- but people do read tea leaves and much more reliable signs, like making speeches, setting up committees to raise money, writing books, and keeping her name in the news.

Heck, Hillary didn't even take 3 months off to rest up from her grueling almost-a-million miles traveled as Secretary of State.    This week she launched her schedule of speeches, focusing especially on global women's conferences, where she is regarded as a saint.   She also signed a lucrative contract to write a book about her time at State.   Chelsea is giving interviews and saying how confident she is about her mother's future.   Former Clinton campaign manager James Carville is in hypomanic mode about the prospects.

Moreover, as Maureen Dowd points out:   she has a new hairdo.  (Only another woman could say that without being called sexist.)

It must be like catnip to a tiger to have the king-makers and voters begging you to run, to be leading the best the other team can muster in the polls, and to think that you could lead your party to put the first woman in the Oval Office to succeed the first African-American behind that desk.

All I ask is that she stay as far as possible away from Mark Penn, who ran her dysfunctional 2008 campaign;  pick someone who learned from the masters who ran Obama's team.