Archive for the ‘Hypocrisy’ Category
A syllogism is a formal logical argument, a structure for reasoning that has existed since Artistotle. From two premises the syllogism permits you to draw an inference or conclusion.
Major premise: All humans are mortal.
Minor premise: All Greeks are humans.
Conclusion: All Greeks are mortal.
Current events nicely demonstrate the syllogism:
Major premise: The sequester massively screwed up FAA flight controller operations, creating air travel chaos
Minor premise: Congress wants to travel home for recess.
Conclusion: Congress will fix the impact of the sequester on flight controllers.
Of course, the syllogism may demonstrate some other conclusions as well, among them that Congress consists of a bunch of selfish, navel-gazing bastards. Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post asks why Washington cares more about flight delays than the 12 million unemployed citizens. A single syllogism answers the question.
But that’s the thing about logic. Once you start using logic, you can’t be sure where it will lead.
Which may be one of the reasons Congress, and especially the U.S. House, stays so far away from it.
Science fiction critic Alexei Panshin wrote that everyone should have a crackpot theory they adhere to, just so they have something interesting to talk about.
But Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly member Lance Roberts has taken Panshin’s suggestion way too far.
Roberts admires and quotes – at length – the writings of Rousas John Rushdoony. He regularly posts quotations from Rushdoony’s foundation, the Chalcedon Foundation.
And the late Rev. Rushdoony – he died in 2001 – was a piece of work, even by WC’s cynical standards. Here’s a sampling of Rushdoony’s views.
Revisions to Criminal Law.
Rushdoony supported the reinstatement of the the Old Testaement law’s penal sanctions. Under such a system, the list of crimes which carried a death sentence would include homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one’s virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry or apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, kidnapping, rape, and bearing false witness in a capital case. Rushdoony told Bill Moyers in 1988, ”The Bible identifies 15 crimes against the family worthy of the death penalty. Abortion is treason against the family and deserves the death penalty. Adultery is treason to the family; adulterers should be put to death. Homosexuality is treason to the family, and it too, is worthy of death.” (R.J. Rushdoony, to Bill Moyers on television. From a PBS Home Video: God and Politics: On Earth as it is in Heaven, 1988.)
Imposition of Theocracy.
Rushdoony wrote, wrote that “the heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state … Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.” He elsewhere said that “Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristocracy,” and characterized democracy as “the great love of the failures and cowards of life.”
The creation mandate was precisely the requirement that man subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it. There is not one word of Scripture to indicate or imply that this mandate ever was revoked. There is every word of Scripture to declare that this mandate must and shall be fulfilled. Those who attempt to break it shall themselves be broken. (Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 1973, p.14)
In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions as though no differences existed.” (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 294.)
in the Chalcedon Report issue 252 (1986) - ”The divorce problem will be solved in a society under God’s law because any spouse guilty of capital crimes (adultery, homosexuality, Sabbath desecration, etc.) would be swiftly executed, thus freeing the other part to remarry…. Parents would be required to bring their incorrigible children before the judge and, if convicted, have them stoned to death.” Note: Rushdoony was himself divorced.
Rushdoony defended southern slavery as an improvement over African-American’s treatment in Africa. And he intended to reimpose slavery here. Rushdoony’s belief that slavery should be re-introduced as an alternative to prison sentences is well known. “Punishment for non-capital crimes generally involves whipping or restitution in the form of indentured servitude or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks while prisoners were awaiting sentencing.
WC could go on a long time outlining Rushnoody’s plans for a racist, slave-owning, Holocaust-denying theocracy. Rushnoody and his followers are the antithesis of everything that America represents. The Constitution that folks like Assembly member Roberts swore to uphold is utterly opposed to Rushnoody and his ideas.
If all of this religious bigotry seems eerily familiar, try substituting “Ayatollah” for “Rushdoony” and you’ll see more than a passing resemblance. The religions are nearly interchangeable; almost irrelevant. What’s apparent is the willingness to inflict their religious world view on everyone, and kill any who disagree as heretics, blasphemers and idolaters.
WC won’t presume to speak for anyone else, but it’s not what he is looking for in a Borough Assembly member.
Unlike Mark Sanford, WC has actually hiked a chunk of the Appalachian Trail. You know, boot soles on the dirt, as opposed to pretending to hike to cover up dirt. WC hiked the stretch through the Great Smokies National Park during a spring break from law school, fighting off black bears, while discovering poison ivy (From bare branches! Who knew?) and dry counties (No beer? What?).
Governor Mark Sanford, by contrast, used the Appalachian Trail as an excuse to dodge off to Argentina for a foreign affair. On the State of South Carolina’s dime.
Sanford dodged impeachment, served out the rest of his term as governor and went to work for Fox News. Ignominy seems to be a job requirement there. Oh, and became divorced from his wife and the mother of his four children, Jenny Sanford, and engaged to the foreign affair.
Well, he’s back. The utter self-absorption of the man passes understanding. He is now officially the Republican nominee for the U.S. House from the 1st District of South Carolina. Yes, that’s the seat he held before becoming Governor of South Carolina. His campaign is all about
spin empathy and forgiveness. (“It’s only really in our brokenness that we really begin to understand each other.”)
Sometimes, you really have to wonder if democracy is that great an idea. Sanford is the guy who wrote a book called The Trust Committed to Me. Copies are available from Amazon for just $0.01 if you have a taste for irony and a strong stomach.
UPDATE: Danny Hayes has a nice article over on WonkBlog on the long tradition of scandal-ridden politicians and later electoral success.
There are two essays in Saturday’s papers that each, in their own way, demonstrate the surreality of modern day Alaska government.
Former Attorney General John Havelock is one of WC’s heroes. In his essay in the Anchorage Daily News, he writes of the looming fiscal cliff facing Alaska, and the utter unwillingness of the Legislature to either curtail capital spending or impose additional sources of revenue, to make Alaskans, as opposed to their nonrenewable resources, pay their own way.
Alaska remains the only state in the United States that has no statewide citizen tax. No income tax, no statewide property or sales tax; we live on coupons clipped from the limited nonrenewable petroleum extracted from the ground. Like the proverbial drunken sailor on shore leave, we’ve been spending that resource as if there is no tomorrow. Havelock estimates that “tomorrow” – the day when the resource revenue and the painfully generated cash reserves are gone – is probably seven to twelve years away. As you reflect on that fact, consider that the voters approved a half-billion dollar general obligation bond for a serious of dubious projects in the last general election. The bond will require annual payments of $37-38 million a year for the next 20 years.
Claus-M Naske, emeritus professor of history at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has an equally interesting essay in the News-Miner. He addresses the kerfuffle over Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D., Fairbanks) making faces during the sham debates over the oil tax give away. Naske, as a historian, points out that the Alaska Legislature has a long history of allowing itself to be bought by the resource-extracting industry. Only the price has varied.
Bill Allen was able to create the Corrupt Old Bastards Club, trading in legislator’s votes like pork futures, for a few tens of thousands of dollars. Prof. Naske reminds us that lobbyists for the salmon-packing industry were able to lobby for minimal taxes on their resource-extraction industry by – wait for it – threatening to leave Alaska, taking their jobs with them. Or the legendary “Big Jim” Fozzard, who obtained an exemption from the Territory’s already minimal mining tax in return for a few cases of liquor. The late Ernest Gruening’s excellent history of Alaska, The State of Alaska, is especially enlightening about the same Alaska House that Rep. Pete Higgins (R., Jim Holm) called “sacred.”
WC doesn’t want to offend the Second Oldest Profession, but the Alaska Legislature, for a hundred years, has sold itself like cheap whores. It’s an indisputable historic fact. And Rep. Higgins, the guy with that stupid fur thing on his face, during a debate in which the Alaska House is whoring itself again, criticizes Rep. Kawasaki for sticking out his tongue?
If you think that “surreal” is too strong a word, consider that the Captain Zero’s oil tax giveaway passed the state senate because two employees of Big Oil thought it was okay to vote in favor of the biggest tax break to their employers in Alaska history. They insist it is “legal.”
WC has always thought that “legal” was the minimum standard. WC has always thought public servants should be held to a higher standard. Obviously, WC was wrong. Obviously, matters of decorum are far more important than whoring to the resource extraction industry.
WC declines to apologize for his confusion.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has issued its quadrennial Report Card on America’s Infrastructure. It makes grim reading; overall, the United States gets a grade of D+ on its job of maintaining the infrastructure in the country: the dams, bridges, waterways, electrical grids, schools and other public construction we need to succeed and prosper.
Between now and 2020, ASCE projects we need $3.6 trillion in public funds to make the necessary repairs and replacements. Pre-sequester, we’d budgeted just $2.0 trillion. It’s likely less now.
|Inland Waterways & Marine Ports
|Hazardous & Solid Waste
|Public Parks & Recreation
|Yearly Investment Needed||$454||$253||$201|
You’d think that the collapse of an interstate highway bridge in the middle of Minneapolis-St. Paul would have sounded some kind of alarm. You’d have been wrong.
Of course, the Teabagger-dominated U.S. House is committed to fiscal austerity, no matter the price. They claim the budget deficit must be reduced “for the benefit of our children.” As Paul Krugman and others have pointed out, they used to claim it was to avert a fiscal crisis, but the fiscal crisis, despite all that Neocon earnestness, has stubbornly refused to happen. So the message has changed to “protecting the legacy for our children.”
But there is more than one kind of legacy. One kind involves collapsing bridges, catastrophic dam failures and mouldering school buildings. That legacy involves digging a hole from which the economy may never recover. A path to third world status. The other involves a fiscal deficit.
Can we be perfectly clear about this? The Republican Party is placing shabby, failed politics ahead of the long-term health of the national infrastructure and, in the near term, the long-term health of the economy and the nation. And they want to call it “protecting our children’s legacy.” And yet people still vote for these clowns.
If you haven’t read WC’s earlier post on the feral cat issue, you’ll want to do so before reading further.
WC got more overwrought email on this post than on any issue since the Palinistas took umbrage at WC’s review of her “autobiography.”
National Audubon Society President David Yarnold has posted a blog piece announcing writer Ted Williams’s column in their magazine will be reinstated. Mr. Yarnold’s piece suffers from dizzying PR spin and the kind of statements that make a thinking reader laugh out loud. There’s this gem, for example:
I recognize the suspension of Ted’s column caused a fair amount of consternation among some of Audubon’s most loyal supporters. Understandably, some of that concern came from admiration for Ted.
May WC translate this for you? “Our major donors were outraged.”
WC was sufficiently annoyed to post a comment in response, which is set out here in full. WC has added links for your convenience.
Oh, please, spare me.
Audubon overreacted to the cat crazies’ distorted reading of Ted Williams’ op-ed piece. Audubon’s donor community did not take kindly to Audubon’s panicked reaction. Now Audubon is engaged in damage control and is frantically spinning the facts.
And one of those facts is that Audubon does NOT have a meaningful position on feral cat control, even as it admits that feral cats are a critical threat to the birds and biodiversity that Audubon exists to protect. Mr. Yarnold’s description of Audubon’s “policy” is damning. Audubon’s caving to the cat crazies is completely consistent with its spineless, toothless “policy.”
It’s great that Ted Williams’ column will return to the magazine. But until the underlying issue, possibly the greatest threat to North American birds, is meaningfully addressed, 4,700 North American birds will continue to die every minute of every hour of every year as a consequence of predation by feral cats. 4,700 birds will be killed by feral cats while you read this comment.
We don’t do the wild birds we love any favors by “making nice” on this issue. Audubon should serve its mission and adopt a meaningful, effective policy on feral cats. And then implement it.
Just for the record, WC has a cat. A 14-year old tabby, Willow. She stays indoors. And she does just fine.
If you have a cogent argument against euthanizing feral cats, have the courage of your convictions and set it out in a comment. Be prepared to explain why cats should be treated differently than feral dogs, hogs and, for that matter, boa constrictors: all are introduced, alien species who are ravaging the environment. Be prepared to explain away 4,700 birds killed by feral cats every minute, of every hour, of every day. No more whiny email accusing WC of hating cats. Instead, rebut through logic, evidence and science Dr. Brian Monk’s column.
What? 4,700? It’s 2.5 billion birds / 365 days / 24 hours / 60 minutes. Do the math.
It’s impossible to gather into one blog post all the idiocy from all of the Neocons, Teabaggers and nut jobs at CPAC and elsewhere. All WC can do is touch on some of the
highlights lowlights examples:
Think Progress documented 30-year-old Scott Terry of North Carolina, who asked whether Republicans could endorse races remaining separate but equal. The presenter, a K. Carl Smith of the Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by describing a letter from Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master. Mr. Terry responded, “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Mr. Terry’s statement. After the exchange, Mr. Terry muttered, “Why can’t we just have segregation?”
The audience cheered and applauded. WC knew that the Teabaggers wanted to turn back the clock. WC didn’t think they wanted to turn it back to 1850.
The Republican Party recently released a self-analysis undertaken in the wake of The Mitt’s defeat in November. Think Progress called it an “autopsy” but WC thinks that’s premature. The GOP is still kicking. Amongst all the blather, the self-analysis called for the Party “in fact and deed be welcoming and inclusive.” Report, page 8, Recommendation 3. The next day the Republican-controlled Arkansas Legislature adopted a law requiring a photo ID from voters. Doh.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R, KKK) has introduced an amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill that would permanently deny even lawful immigrants any federal benefits, including health care benefits. Senator Sessions must have skipped over the “welcoming and inclusive” part, too.
After a careful review of the Republican’s Report, WC cannot find any recommendation that Republicans stop lying. Too bad. Because Rep. Michele “Crazy Eyes” Bachman (R. Minn) was merely lying again and not engaging in outright sabotage of the Republican Big Plan when she claimed Obamacare will soon be “literally killing people.” WC is pretty sure she wasn’t talking about herself and her fellow Neocons, who can’t let go of the three year-old, SCOTUS-endorsed law.
That’s why we’re here because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that. Let’s love people, let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can.
As Think Progress notes:
While the main coverage expansion provisions will go into effect in 2014, the ACA has so far saved seniors over $6 billion on prescription drugs, reduced administrative overhead, deterred private insurers from requesting double digit premium increases, kept millions of young people on their parents’ health care plans, and provided 34.1 million people with Medicare preventive services without additional cost-sharing.
Moments after calling for the complete repeal of a law that will extend health care coverage to 30 million Americans, Bachmann claimed that her belief in Christ inspires her to care “for the least of those who are in our midst.”
There is no law requiring politicians to be consistent. Nor is there a law forbidding them from being religious hypocrites. But WC does expect them to make sense, and tell the truth. The voters in the 6th District of Minnesota have some ‘splaining to do.
But from these few examples, WC thinks we can conclude that it is very, very hard for elephants to learn new tricks. They remain stuck in the early Reagan years – well, except for the ones who want to revert to the 1850s. And with the bellicose, uncompromising and anarchic Teabaggers hanging around the fringes of the GOP, and the Christianist core and its treatment of gays as anathema, it’s hard to see how the GOP digs itself out of its current hole.
Which is just fine with WC. These folks are responsible for a substantial portion of the problems facing the country today. Up to and including sequestration. They shouldn’t be trusted with any more power than they have.
But still, this is ugly.
The National Audubon Society‘s stated mission is “To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.” Note the “natural ecosystems” and the “focusing on birds.” Audubon is all about birds and bird habitat.
There is nothing natural about house cats. They are an introduced species. And feral house cats are decimating songbird populations across North America. There are tens of millions of feral cats in the United States. That’s not a typo. Population estimates published by feral cat advocacy groups seem to range between 60-100 million cats. If you extrapolate published work done in individual states, science estimates at least 1.7 billion songbirds – that’s billion with a “b” – are killed each year by cats, divided more or less equally between feral cats and pets that their owners allow to go outdoors.
Add that feral cats lead miserable lives, diseased and malnourished, and prey for coyotes, Great-horned Owls and other suburb-habituated native predators.
So why not extirpate the feral cats, at least? In a phrase, the cat crazies. Feral cats have their human defenders. And they are noisy, shrill and blindly devoted to the protection of feral cats. To quote Rob Drieslein at Outdoor News, WC isn’t going to debate the damage that feral cats inflict on the environment.
Outdoors users, naturalists, and bird watchers know it, Audubon knows it, and state and federal natural resources agencies know it. Feral cat colony proponents know it, too; they just don’t give a damn. Arguing this black-and-white topic with a free-ranging cat advocate is akin to debating Darwin with an evolution denier or the carcinogenic properties of cigarettes with a tobacco-industry lobbyist.
WC wants to be clear about this: the positions of cat crazies are scientifically indefensible.
What passes for a moderate cat crazy will argue in favor of “Trap, Neuter and Release,” TNR, a program which captures feral cats, neuters them, and then releases them back to the outdoors. Of course, the problem is feral cats preying upon native species. TNR doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, it enables it. For WC, TNR demonstrates the cat crazies really are crazy.
But this post isn’t about cat crazies. It’s about spineless national environmental organizations who collapse like wet kleenex when attacked by the cat crazies.
Ted Williams is an outstanding nature writer. For 33 years, he has written about the threats confronting natural ecosystems in the U.S. Although National Audubon Society won’t admit it now, for years he
has had been Editor at Large of Audubon Magazine and has had a regular column in it. He has been a tireless advocate for healthy natural ecosystems and for the songbirds that inhabit them.
Williams recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Orlando Sentinel, in response to an earlier op-ed piece by a cat crazy. In it, he advocated poisoning the supersized colonies of feral cats that infest Florida. Here’s Williams’ explanation of what followed:
The Audubon Facebook post pretty much tells the story. Not much I can add except to point out that I undertook the op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel at Audubon’s suggestion and for no pay because its Florida staff was too busy to respond to an op-ed touting trap, neuter, and release of feral cats. I was trying to help, but obviously failed.
The feral cat community seized upon a reference I’d made to Tylenol, a cat poison unregistered for feral cat control. The sentences, quickly struck by the Orlando Sentinel on the online version (there was no print version) because of comments from feral cat support groups, read as follows: ‘There are two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR. One is Tylenol (the human pain medication) – a completely selective feral-cat poison. But the TNR lobby has blocked its registration for this use.’
Lethal control of feral cats is widely and legally undertaken by state and federal wildlife managers to protect imperiled birds and mammals. But because poisons like Tylenol are not registered, control is largely ineffective. Cats have to be trapped, and they quickly learn to avoid traps. This, as the recently released Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute study revealed, is why each year in the U.S. somewhere between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion wild mammals are killed by feral and free-ranging cats. I think that’s too bad.
At any rate, a group called Alley Cat Allies fired off a release to its members and other feral cat support groups urging that they write Audubon demanding my immediate dismissal because I had ‘published a major newspaper editorial calling on the public to kill millions of cats by poisoning them with Tylenol.’ This untruth went ebola viral, and Audubon received literally thousands of emails from feral cat advocates demanding that I be fired. The result is the Audubon Facebook post you have seen.
While I’m of course disappointed in Audubon’s response, I recognize that I’m a seller of copy and Audubon is a buyer and that it has a perfect right to do business with anyone it pleases.
Williams was thrown under the bus by National Audubon because of a letter writing campaign by the cat crazies. Williams is a lot kinder and more generous about it than WC would be in his situation. But National Audubon caved to the cat crazies. National Audubon clearly didn’t bother to read Williams’ op-ed piece; if they had, they would have known the cat crazies were grossly misinterpreting what Williams said. And National Audubon, which claims to champion science, caved to the anti-science of the cat crazies.
How can National Audubon claim to be an effective advocate for the environment when it caves to a fringe group like the cat crazies? What will it do in a real fight? What will it do when the science isn’t completely clear? Who will it throw under the bus then?
WC won’t presume to speak for his readers. But WC will be adjusting his charitable donations this year. At least until National Audubon’s actions bear some consistency to its avowed mission. At least until National Audubon can grow a spine.
*Window-killed Swainson’s Thrush and Willow, an indoors-only housecat in a staged photo used by Mrs. WC for a presentation.
[An earlier version of this post paraphrased Rob Dreislein and failed to credit it. WC regrets the error.]
Yes, geology and economics in the same week. No, it’s not something WC would do in the deep of winter. Cold AND dark AND economics would be too cruel. But it’s bright and sunny, and if it isn’t spring yet, at least you can believe in the possibility of spring again. So economics it is.
Paul Ryan (R, WI) has released another House budget
insult proposal, which once again goes far beyond the alleged deficit crisis and seeks to undo essentially all of President Obama’s painfully won legislation. But the claimed need for Rep. Ryan’s proposed law is the Big, Bad Deficit™. You have to wonder how serious Rep. Ryan is about the Big, Bad Deficit™ when he also proposes to cut the tax rate on high end taxpayers by a breath-taking 14.6%, to 25%. But let’s pass on that piece of hypocrisy – at least for this blog post – and examine the premise instead. How bad is the Big, Bad Deficit™?
During a recession like the one President Bush created, federal income tax revenue to the Feds declines with the reduction in output and income. Folks have lower income and therefore pay lower taxes. Businesses have lower profits, so those taxes go down. Fewer goods are shipped, so there are fewer gallons of fuel sold and fuel tax revenues decline. As the economy shrinks, so does federal revenue. By contrast, some federal outlays to pay unemployment insurance benefits, for example, increase. More folks are out of work. The reductions in taxes and increases in some kinds of expenses are known in economics as “automatic stabilizers.” They bolster economic activity during downturns. But they also temporarily increase the federal budget deficit.
When the economy emerges from the recession, then real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) moves up closer to the maximum sustainable output of the economy (called the potential GDP). Tax revenues automatically rise and outlays for things like unemployment insurance automatically fall. Under those circumstances, automatic stabilizers offer a smaller boost to economic activity or even slow its growth. The effects of these automatic stabilizers are in addition to the economic impact of any legislative changes in tax and spending policies.
It’s the job of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to worry about stuff like this. The CBO uses statistical tools to determine the impact of automatic stabilizers on the Big, Bad Deficit™. The CBO has a proven track record of accuracy and reliability, at least over the short term, across the last twelve years or so. Here’s the CBO’s projection:
According to CBO’s projections under current law, the contribution of automatic stabilizers to the federal budget deficit, measured as a share of potential GDP, will rise slightly in fiscal year 2013, to 2.5 percent. That contribution accounts for about half of the estimated deficit this year. The contribution will remain at 2.5 percent of potential GDP in 2014, accounting for roughly three-quarters of the projected deficit next year.
CBO expects that the budgetary effects of automatic stabilizers will remain large because of the continued weakness in the economy, which is caused in part by the fiscal tightening that is occurring in calendar year 2013 under current law. That tightening includes the reduction in federal spending resulting from the sequestration that went into effect on March 1; the expiration of the payroll tax cut that was in place in 2011 and 2012; and the increase in tax rates on income above certain thresholds starting in 2013.
After 2014, the projected effect of automatic stabilizers on the budget deficit shrinks steadily, dropping to 0.2 percent of potential GDP in 2017 and about zero in 2018. In 2018 and beyond, CBO projects that output will equal its potential, so the automatic stabilizers will have essentially no effect on the budget.
WC will translate this statement for the benefit of readers: The CBO thinks sequestration will significantly hurt the economic recovery. Hurt it badly enough to increase the impact of automatic stabilizers on the deficit. The CBO thinks that sequestration will delay the economic recovery by two years. But beginning in 2015, absent more damnfoolishness by the House Republicans, the economy will again recover, the automatic stabilizers’ impact on the deficit will diminish, and will cease to have any impact at all by 2018.
Another thing the CBO does is try to estimate the budget deficit apart form the cyclical changes in the economy. The CBO tries to filter out the recessions and booms, with attendant impacts from the automatic stabilizers. Here’s the conclusion:
Under current law, CBO projects, the budget deficit without automatic stabilizers will equal 2.5 percent of potential GDP in fiscal year 2013, down from 4.3 percent in 2012 and even larger values in 2009 through 2011. About two-thirds of the drop between 2012 and 2013 results from a projected rise in revenues stemming from the increases in tax rates and other factors apart from automatic stabilizers. The other third reflects mostly a decline in discretionary outlays.
After 2013, the projected budget deficit without automatic stabilizers falls to 1.0 percent of potential GDP in 2014 and 0.4 percent in 2015.
Let’s be clear about this. If it were not for the Neocon intransigence on sequestration, in 2015 there would be no budget deficit. There would be no further increase in the national debt. The Neocons’ refusal to be rational on sequestration is adding years of additional misery to a substantial number of Americans. For no good reason.
In addition to the other Neocon agendas embedded in Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal, he proposes an American equivalent of Eurozone austerity. It’s a recipe for disaster. You don’t have to have a doctorate in economics to see the vicious cycle: austerity means more automatic stabilizers, which means a bigger deficit, which means more austerity, a cycle that loops until a nation’s economy is road kill. If you don’t believe WC, study the first years of the Great Depression. Or, if you want more modern examples, look across the Atlantic at present-day Greece or Spain.
Ryan’s “new” budget proposal aggravates that vicious cycle still further, of course, by proposing a mammoth tax cut for the rich, for no sound reason except they are the Neocons’ major campaign donors. And replacing Medicare with a voucher system, undoing the most cost-effective form of health care in the United States.
What’s the Neocon goal? Austerity is a proven failure. Is the aim to prolong the recession in order to give the Neocons leverage in the 2016 election? Oh, wait, that’s a proven failure, too. There was an election. In 2012. Ryan and his vicious economic plans were rejected by the voters. Are the Neocons dancing on the strings of their billionaire campaign donors? Seriously, what’s the goal here? Rep. Ryan is supposed to be smart guy. What’s smart about Neocon tactics since the first Tuesday in November?
This isn’t a budget. It’s a political manifesto. A rejected political manifesto. Surely the Neocons can do better.
Ex-Congressman Bob Ney (R., Ohio) has a new book out in which he calls House Speaker John Beohner “a bit lazy” and “a man who was all about winning and money. He was a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life–golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol.” Keep in mind that Ney pled to felonies out of the Abramoff scandal, so you have to consider the source. Still, his description of the deal he claims to have cut with Boehner sounds absolutely true to type.
Then there’s Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt (R), the ranking Republican member of the state House Transportation Committee, who thinks that bicyclists produce more carbon dioxide than automobiles do. Er… No. The European Cyclists Federation puts CO2 emissions from biking at about 10 times less than driving a car (PDF), even after accounting for the emissions required to make the bike and emissions linked to grow, package and ship the food the rider eats to power the bicycle. Plainly, Rep. Orcutt wasn’t selected for his ability to think logically.
A week after the State of South Carolina argued in the U.S. Supreme Court that any need for the Voting Rights Act had long since passed in the modern South, a black, openly gay mayoral candidate in Clarksdale, Mississippi was murdered, beaten, dragged and burned and possibly dragged behind an automobile to a horrible, excruciating death. There has been an arrest, and the suspect is black, but still. Modest props to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (R., Mississippi) for asking the FBI to get involved.
At the 2011 Women’s World Cup, North Korea’s soccer team claimed that positive doping tests resulted from musk deer gland therapy used to treat players who had been struck by lightning. The explanation was not as convincing as it was inventive, and North Korea was banned from the next World Cup. But it’s slightly more credible than your average Republican politician.
WC will selflessly offer serious, substantive advice to the Republic Party. Why? Because it’s just too painful to watch. The poor thing needs help, if only to avoid having the Republican-led U.S. House drag the country into another recession.
Everyone who has read a self-help book knows the process. The first step to problem-solving is to identify the problem. The second step is to address the problem in a mature, competent way. And the third step is to take action to prevent the problem from recurring.
Step 1 – Identifying the Problem.
When was the last time you heard the Republicans mention the previous president? Acting as if there was no George W. Bush administration is a kind of bizarre denial. It’s pretty obvious why the GOP pretends Bush/Cheney didn’t happen. Here’s a partial list.
- The worst national security lapse since Pearl Harbor (9/11) despite being warned explicitly in advance.
- Two unfunded land wars in Asia.
- In the case of the invasion of Iraq, either a war based on an intentional lie or the most staggering intelligence failure in American history
- A huge cut in the U.S. income tax at the time of those two unfunded, multi-billion dollar wars
- An unfunded new Medicare prescription medicine mandate
- Deregulation of the housing finance industry, leading to the worst economic disaster since 1929.
- Unilateral abandonment of U.S. compliance with the Geneva Accords, government-sponsored torture and a host of war crimes.
Remember, WC said this was just a partial list. But, yeah, there was this very lengthy and very embarrassing series of utter failures by a guy who was a Republican. But the problem isn’t that a Republican president committed this horrifying series of blunders.
The problem is that the Republican Party won’t come to grips with that reality. The Republican Party pretends the 8-year Bush Administration didn’t happen. It’s an astonishing kind of group denial. If it happened in an individual that person might be diagnosed as neurotic.
Step 2 – Dealing with the Problem.
The Republican Party refuses to admit the problem exists, let alone that it is a problem or that the Party needs to deal with the horrifying mistakes of its former titular head. So you get embarrassing spectacles like Senator John McCain (R, AZ) accusing Charles Hagel, nominee for Secretary of Defense, when he says the Iraq War arose from faulty intelligence. Instead of attempting to defend the decision to go to war in Iraq, McCain accused Hagel of attacking the soldiers who had fought and died there. Because, you see, it wasn’t a Republican president who made the decision to send soldiers there. That guy doesn’t exist.
And you have the GOP challenging reform of financial regulation because it will “hurt the country competitively,” because the Great Recession wasn’t triggered by the failure to adequately regulate the financial sector. Because, you know, there was no failure to adequately regulate the financial sector because Bush-Cheney didn’t happen. The Great Recession is the fault of President Obama, or a Democratic Congress, because Bush-Cheney didn’t exist.
The over-stated, over-hyped “debt crisis,” the very tired horse the GOP has long since ridden into the ground, into shambling zombie-hood, is entirely the fault of President Obama because, you know, Bush-Cheney never happened.
It’s all a weird kind of denial. Andrew Sullivan has his proposed cure:
Someone in the GOP needs to take Bush-Cheney apart, to show how they created the debt crisis we are in, by throwing away a surplus on unaffordable tax cuts, launching two unfunded wars, and one new unfunded entitlement. They need to take on the war crimes that has deeply undermined the soul of the United States. They need to note the catastrophic negligence that gave us the worst national security lapse since Pearl Harbor (9/11) despite being warned explicitly in advance, accept weak and false intelligence to launch a war they were too incompetent to fight or win, sat back as one of the worst hurricanes all but took out a major city, and was so negligent in bank regulation that we ended up with Lehman and all that subsequently took place.
These were not minor errors. They were catastrophic misjudgments which took an era of peace, surplus and prosperity and replaced it with a dystopia of massive debt, a lawless executive branch, two unwinnable wars, and a record of war crimes that had their source in the very Oval Office.
When will the Republicans hold themselves accountable for the things that have persuaded so many that this bunch of fanatics and deniers are unfit for government? When will they speak of Bush and Cheney and repudiate them?
WC thinks Sullivan’s treatment will happen the same day the Senator Imhofe introduces a carbon tax, which will be the same day Rep. Broun proposes a national holiday for Charles Darwin.
Some Republican needs to work up the courage to say, “Our party made grievous mistakes. We’ve moved beyond them. We’ve learned from them. Here’s how.” A group of Republicans needs to hold Congressional hearings on, at a minimum, how we got into the war in Iraq and the treatment of “detainees” by the United States. That should include the torture, the “extraordinary rendition” – outsourcing our torture – and the murder of prisoners in Guantanamo and elsewhere.
Under Bush-Cheney, the U.S. abandoned not just Republican values of conservatism and constitutionalism; it abandoned American ideals. The Republican Party has some soul-searching to do if it wants to reclaim those values and ideals.
Step 3: Preventing a Recurrence.
It’s easy to prevent a recurrence: don’t elect arrogant Republicans who think their immediate goals are more important than the Constitution. But WC is here to help the Republicans, at least this once, so let’s recast the solution this way: Republicans should ask themselves, and answer honestly: “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is to benefit anyone other than the country as a whole, they shouldn’t do it. If it’s for a lobbyist, a big campaign contributor, or their own kid, they shouldn’t do it. If it is for some platform item that reflects a special interest, they shouldn’t do it. If it benefits any of those folks, even incidentally, they should ask themselves if the benefit to the country as a whole is great enough to engage in self-dealing. And generally answer “No.”
Note this test works for Democrats, liberals, conservatives, progressives and Randites, too. It doesn’t work for Teabaggers, because they seem to be incapable of logical thinking.
Because when our elected officials take the oath of office, they swear to defend the Constitution, not their constituents. They swear to uphold the United Stats, not line the pockets of their family, friends and campaign contributors.
WC will now relax in the happy glow of service, utterly confident his advice will be totally ignored.
Through the determination of Rep. Ed Markey (D, MA), the many problems with the other Shell Oil Arctic drill rig, the Noble Discoverer, are now public. It’s quite a punchlist. Here’s some of the more alarming bits:
1. Objective evidence revealed systematic failure and lack of main engine preventive maintenance, which caused loss of main propulsion and exhaust system explosion. Company audit records were not available, crewmember was not familiar with Ship Safety Management System (SMS). Internal SMS audit required and external recommended. (SOLAS 74 Amend 2009 CE IX/3 & 5, ISM Code Part A/6.2)
2. Observed multiple fire screen doors throughout accommodation spaces that would not self-close. Stairways that penetrate more than a single deck should be surrounded by “A” class divisions & protected by self-closing doors at all levels. (IMO MODU Code1979 9.2.3)
3. Observed multiple fire screen doors throughout accommodation spaces that would not self-close. Stairways which penetrate only a single deck should be protected at least at one level by “A” or “B” Class divisions and self-closing doors so as to limit the rapid spread of fire from one deck to another. (IMO MODU Code 1979 9.2.3)
4. Main engine piston cooling water is contaminated with sludge and oil. Crew skims the oil off with a ladle & bucket during rounds. Main engine ops manual states failure of the telescopic tube packing will cause dirty piston cooling water. Provide Recognized Organization report indicating current procedure/design is adequate for the service intended and reduces danger to persons. (IMO MODU Code 1979 4.1.3)
. . . . .
6. Exhaust system back-fires on regular basis. Chief engineer suspects this is due to change to exhaust system in order to accommodate helicopter deck installation. As a result of back-fires (one of which resulted in a stack fire recently), main propulsion machinery and all auxiliary machinery essential to the propulsion and safety of the unit may be compromised. (IMO MODU Code 1979 7.1.3)
7. Current propulsion arrangement does not result in sufficient speed at sea to safely maneuver in all expected conditions without tow assistance. Recognized Organization to provide report attesting to satisfactory propulsion arrangement during transit mode of operation. Report shall include analysis of safe operation of unit in transit condition in the most severe environmental conditions expected over a 50-year period.
. . . . .
10. Discovered fuel oil settling tank converted by crew to a bilge water decanting tank. Modifications included installation of steam piping, steam coil in tank and piping connected to/from bilge water system. Modification was installed without sanction of the Administration. Provide documentation from Recognized Organization of approval and update International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificates. (MARPOL 73/78 2011 CE Annex I/6.4.2)
11. Vessel experienced abnormal propeller shaft vibration on November 22, 2012, requiring main engine shutdown and dead ship tow to Port of Seward. Coast Guard inspection revealed vessel also experienced vibration on November 6, 2012, while en route the Port of Dutch Harbor. Design should not cause undue stress in the machinery operating ranges. (IMO MODU Code 1979 7.1.4)
. . . . .
13. Observed oil soaked structural fire protection insulation in way of exhaust where it transitions to vertical and extending to the lube oil tank. Minimum fire integrity of bulkheads should be as prescribed in table 3 (A-60). (IMO MODU Code 1979 184.108.40.206)
. . . . .
16. Observed multiple dead end wires and improper wire splices throughout main engine room. Electrical installations should be such that the safety of personnel and unit from electrical hazards will be assured. (IMO MODU Code1979 220.127.116.11)
Think about the categories of problems here: “systematic failure and lack of main engine preventive maintenance” causing loss of propulsion and an explosion. Fire doors that won’t self-close in emergencies. Engine piston cooling water contaminated by oil, which the crew skims off with a ladle and bucket. An exhaust system that “back-fires on regular basis” as a result of a design flaw in conversion. Unauthorized crew modifications to critical equipment. “Oil soaked structural fire protection insulation.”
This is criminal misconduct by Shell. We know pretty well how this pattern of conduct ends. In fact, there’s a trial just under way in New Orleans involving the same kind of conduct. Reportedly, the U.S. Department of Justice is already investigating the conditions aboard to Noble Discoverer.
Shell has repeatedly boasted of spending more than $4 billion in preparing for safe Arctic drilling. Not on the evidence.
Drilling the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas is a frightening idea. Shell drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas is a terrifying idea. It doesn’t look like it is going to resume in 2013.
Here’s a better idea. Stop it now. Permanently.
In some ways, WC shouldn’t be picking on Rep. Paul Broun (R., GA). After all, there is vast, unplumbed ignorance in the Alaska Legislature. WC doesn’t have to go all the way to the 10th District of Georgia to find it. But Congressman Broun not only is in a position to do more harm than any member of the Alaska Legislature; he’s a licensed medical doctor and by training and testing, demonstrably knows better than the errant nonsense he spouts. A few examples.
Slate reported Paul Broun claimed after the President’s State of the Union address that “There are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns.” Wrong. According to FBI data, 8,583 people were murdered with firearms in 2011. Only 496 people were killed by blunt objects, a category that includes not just hammers and baseball bats but crowbars, rocks, paving stones, statuettes, and electric guitars. Not just wrong, but stupidly, egregiously wrong.
Congressman Broun also claims the Earth is 9,000 years old. Our blue planet is 4.54 billion years old, or more than 500,000 times older than Broun believes it to be. As a physician, albeit a general practitioner, Broun presumably was exposed to nuclear medicine in medical school. Radioactive particle decay should be well within his intellectual grasp. But apparently not.
As WC reported earlier, during his 2012 campaign, video leaked of the congressman explaining to a group of sportsmen gathered at a Georgia church that evolution and the big bang theory were “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”
Broun voted against climate change legislation in June 2010, calling the entire concept of man-made global warming a conspiracy perpetuated by certain members of the scientific community. As Paul Krugman noted at the time,
I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
And now this buffoon, this pious hypocrite, this poltroon, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, seeking the seat of retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss. To this point, he’s the only declared candidate. Are the voters of the state of Georgia dumb enough to vote for this … politician? Are the voters of Georgia as dumb as the voters in Georgia’s 10th District?
WC got an email recently from a reader who complained WC was “picking on” the Catholic Church. On the contrary, WC hasn’t given it half the thrashing it deserves.
Set aside, for the moment, 50 years of pederasty. Set aside, too, 50 years of covering up, enabling and denying those frightful crimes against children.
We need to fire up the Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine and re-visit the late 1960s. WC subscribed, then, to a great books series published in paperback by, of all folks, Time, Inc. WC recognizes now, if he did not then, that all of the books were outside of copyright, so Time didn’t have to pay royalties. Which makes it sound a whole lot more like the Time we know and loath. But WC digresses.
One of the first books in the series was Giorgio de Santillana’s terrific The Crime of Galileo, which examined with care how one of the first great scientists and pillars of the reformation came to be charged with heresy and ended his days under close house arrest. Let’s just say that the Catholic Church didn’t cover itself with glory. For the crime of writing the Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, Galileo’s pointed and “blasphemous” argument for heliocentricity, the Inquisition fully intended to torture Galileo to death. Galileo observed, he looked, and saw that Aristotle and the Church were wrong, that the earth orbited the sun. The Church threatened to kill him if he didn’t recant. So he did.
WC hardly blames Galileo. The difference between martyrdom and great science is this: perhaps the best reason we have to believe in miracles is that people are prepared to die for them. But the best reason to believe, for example, in the moons of Jupiter is that no one has to be prepared to die for them in order for them to be real.
All this comes to mind because WC recently read Thomas F. Mayer’s terrific The Trial of Galileo. It didn’t rock WC the way Crime did, but it’s still a brilliant retelling of Galileo’s trial and the conduct that led up to it. And Mayer notes Galileo to this day, has not been pardoned by the Church.
Mayer reports that on February 15, 1990, in a speech delivered at the Sapienza University of Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger (that’s right, Pope Benedict XVI) cited some current views on the Galileo affair as forming what he called “a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age, of science and technology goes today.” Some of the views he cited were those of the philosopher Paul Feyerabend, whom he quoted as saying,
The Church at the time of Galileo kept much more closely to reason than did Galileo himself, and she took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s teaching too. Her verdict against Galileo was rational and just and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune.
So Ratzinger thought it was okay for the Church to persecute Galileo for telling the truth about the universe. Ratzinger would correct that terrible miscarriage of justice only because if it was “politically opportune.”
On October 31, 1992, the late Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the Catholic Church tribunal that judged the scientific positions of Galileo Galilei, as the result of a study conducted by the Pontifical Council for Culture. In March 2008 the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Nicola Cabibbo, announced a plan to honour Galileo by erecting a statue of him inside the Vatican walls. In December of the same year, during events to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s earliest telescopic observations, Pope Benedict XVI praised his contributions to astronomy. A month later, however, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Gianfranco Ravasi, revealed that the plan to erect a statue of Galileo in the grounds of the Vatican had been suspended. And so it remains.
The Church, even today, has not admitted error. Regret, but not error. Perhaps that would compromise papal inerrancy. And the Church can’t have that. Ratzinger, apparently, doesn’t even think there is anything for which the Church ought to apologize.
The trial of Galileo is far from the Church’s only crime committed in its effort cling to power, or even its worst. But it is one that was utterly wrong, then and now, for which the Church, even today, cannot bring itself to apologize.
Which is more than enough for WC.
Marco Rubio, reportedly the best the Republican Party has to offer, offered up a sea of deception in his response to the President’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. Little Lies, Big Lies, Straw Men fallacies. WC asks his readers to take their anti-nausea medicine as we wade into a rank selection.
1. Climate Change
Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.) dismissed the idea that the U.S. government could do anything to combat climate change
The government can’t change the weather. We can pass a bunch of laws that will destroy our economy, but it isn’t going to change the weather. Because, for example, there are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point — China, India, all these countries that are still growing. They’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.
China and India, in fact, have cap-and-trade systems to control emissions, while the U.S. does not. A proposed system for the U.S. passed the then-Democratic-controlled House in 2010, while it died in the Senate. China is, of course, the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide, but it also has a population over four times the United States. Per capita, we’re still the champs. And because someone else isn’t doing anything, we shouldn’t either? How utterly selfish have Republicans gotten?
Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine breaks down the reasoning behind climate change for Rubio:
1. The government has a bunch of rules that control how much coal, oil, and whatnot gets burned. 2. The more greenhouse gasses we burn, the warmer the climate gets. It’s science. 3. The warmer the climate gets, the more frequently we have extreme weather events. This is also science.
Rubio’s climate change skepticism is not newfound. He said earlier this month that he has heard “reasonable debate” about whether climate change is man-made. In fact, a study, published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, surveyed 1,372 climate researchers and found that 97 to 98 percent of them agree that climate change is anthropogenic.
Utterly selfish, stupidly wrong and morally repugnant.
Quoting Sen. Rubio again:
This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.
Paul Krugman punks Rubio’s claims:
OK, leave on one side the caricature of Obama, with the usual mirror-image fallacy (we want smaller government, therefore liberals just want bigger government, never mind what it does); there we go with the “Barney Frank did it” story. Deregulation, the explosive growth of virtually unregulated shadow banking, lax lending standards by loan originators who sold their loans off as soon as they were made, had nothing to do with it — it was all the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie, and Freddie.
Look, this is one of the most thoroughly researched topics out there, and every piece of the government-did-it thesis has been refuted; see Mike Konczal for a summary. No, the CRA wasn’t responsible for the epidemic of bad lending; no, Fannie and Freddie didn’t cause the housing bubble; no, the “high-risk” loans of the GSEs weren’t remotely as risky as subprime.
This really isn’t about the GSEs, it’s about the BSEs — the Blame Someone Else crowd. Faced with overwhelming, catastrophic evidence that their faith in unregulated financial markets was wrong, they have responded by rewriting history to defend their prejudices.
Sen. Rubio seems to have drunk a far more dangerous Koolaid and not just an awful lot of water. He and his teabagger buddies are now committed to the belief that their pre-crisis non-regulation doctrine was perfect, that there are no lessons we can take from the worst financial crisis in three generations except that the banking industry should have even less regulation. If Sen. Rubio gets into power, you know he’ll test that theory by giving his banker campaign donors a chance to do it again.
3. Just a Home Boy
Sen. Rubio boasted,
Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.
He’s a Not-Romney, you see. Just one house, in a middle-class neighborhood. A regular guy.
According to the Miami New Times, that would be West Miami. In fact, this regular-joe’s claim to the middle class is a lie, too. In fact, his home is on the market. The asking price? $675,000.
This probably qualifies as a brazen lie. You talk about your one-of-the-boys home in a nationally televised speech when 1) you are actively trying to leave that working-class neighborhood and 2) you stand to make more than a half-million bucks when you sell your digs. Oh, and the Miami New Times has some dirt on how he acquired the house. Not pretty, and another example of why we need the government regulation Prof. Krugman talked about.
WC is already over the 750 word limit that he tries not to exceed. Besides, WC is a little nauseated by disgust, even if his readers may be made of sterner stuff. So we’ll stop the shoveling there, even if WC has a lot of dirt left.
But we’ll end on this note: this is reportedly the best the Republican Party has to offer. This is the guy with new ideas. This is the guy on the cover of Time magazine.
Pope Benedict XVI, nee Joseph Ratzinger, has announced he will step down as supreme leader of the 1 billion members of the Catholic Church. Oddly, WC, just the other night, working through a book of the late Christopher Hitchens’ essays, came across this piece from 2010:
Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture.
The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism!
Hitchens was famously an atheist, and spoke hundreds of times in defense of atheism. Invariably and without exception, the defenders of religion, including Catholicism, would tell Hitch that without a belief in supernatural authority he would have no basis for his morality. This from a Catholic Church that deals in absolute certainties when it comes to the utter condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses the Catholic Church declares there is no forgiveness. But when the question turns to be the rape and torture of defenseless children, suddenly every kind of equivocation, lie and excuse-making are invoked.
What can you say of a church that finds so much latitude for crimes so disgusting that no morally normal person can even think of it without shuddering?
Well, you can say the same church did its best to hide the rape and torture from the secular authorities. The appalling Cardinal Sean Brady, the spiritual leader of the Catholics of Ireland, forced the child victims of his priests to sign secrecy oaths to prevent them from testifying against their rapists and torturers. Why was Catholic leadership, including Cardinal Ratzinger, so fearful of secular justice? Did they fear it might be less indifferent, less pliable than their private priestly investigations? Did the Catholic hierarchy, pretenders to the very highest standards of morality, fear the criminal laws, the very minimum standards of morality? If that’s the case, what’s left of the shabby, half-baked argument that people can’t understand simple morality without the divine, Catholic warrant?
What, you want specific examples? Hitch again:
In 2002, I happened to be on Hardball With Chris Matthews, discussing what the then attorney general of Massachusetts, Thomas Reilly, had termed a massive cover-up by the church of crimes against children by more than a thousand priests.
I asked, why is the man who is prima facie responsible, Cardinal Bernard Law, not being questioned by the forces of law and order? Why is the church allowed to be judge in its own case and enabled in effect to run private courts where gross and evil offenders end up being “forgiven”?
This point must have hung in the air a bit, and perhaps lodged in Cardinal Law’s own mind, because in December of that year he left Boston just hours before state troopers arrived with a subpoena seeking his grand-jury testimony. Where did he go? To Rome, where he later voted in the election of Pope Benedict XVI and now presides over the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as several Vatican subcommittees.
For WC, the Catholic Church passed the point of no return when the Vatican officially became a hideout for a man who was a fugitive from justice. By sheltering a protector and enabler of child molesters at its very heart, the Vatican has clutched the cancer of child-molesting horror to its bosom. Obviously, Cardinal Law could not have made his escape or been given asylum without the approval of the then Pope John Paul II and his most trusted deputy in the matter of child-rape damage control, then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
So the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI? Too little, too late. And for the wrong reasons. Just another religious hypocrite.
Nothing to see here. move along.
The Boy Scout Law goes something like this: A Scout will be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous,Kind, Obedient, Thrifty, Cheerful, Brave, Clean and Reverent.
Under intense pressure from the gay community on one side and homophobes on the other, the Boy Scouts of America said today it “needed more time for consultations” before deciding whether to move away from its homophobic policy of excluding gays as scouts or adult leaders.
So much for “Brave.”
This blog post is dedicated to State Senator Peter Micciche, who may be challenged by the ethics part but has mastered the idiot concepts perfectly.
State Senator Peter Micciche is an employee of Conoco Philips, one of the Big Three oil companies in Alaska. He’s in management: the superintendent of a facility in Soldotna. And a shareholder in the company. There’s nothing wrong with that. WC has even worked for oil companies. However, the Senator has a “substantial economic interest” in the oil industry. We know that because the legislature – you know, that place to which Senator Micciche was elected – has defined the phrase for us. It happens where a person:
is a natural person and will be directly and substantially affected financially by a legislative, administrative, or political action in a way that is greater than the effect on a substantial class of persons to which the person belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry, or region.
Senator Micchiche will be affected – benefited – as an oil industry employee and shareholder in a way that the general workforce of Alaska will not. Admittedly, it’s not as clear as we’d all like, because the Legislature is nearly as bad at writing ethics laws as Senator Micchiche is at following them.
Because even the watered-down, hopelessly vague legislative ethics laws prohibit the Senator from voting, and presumably serving on committees as well, where he has such a “substantial economic interest.”
[A] legislator may not vote on a question if the legislator has an equity or ownership interest in a business, investment, real property, lease, or other enterprise if the interest is substantial and the effect on that interest of the action to be voted on is greater than the effect on a substantial class of persons to which the legislator belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry, or region.
Yet the media report that the Senator will be on the Senate Resources Committee and the Vice Chair of the subcommittee that writes Captain Zero’s new and improved tax break law for Big Oil. Conoco Philips must be very, very happy.
The rest of Alaskans? Not so much.
The patent ethics violation has been brought to the Senator’s attention. He attempted to wiggle out using two excuses. First, he tried to rely upon a 2008 legislative ethics opinion, Advisory Op. 2008-01. The committee found that then-Representative Kevin Meyer didn’t have a conflict because he didn’t have equity in the company, wasn’t in management and there was no appearance of impropriety. Senator Micchiche does have an equity interest, is involved in management and there is a strong appearance of impropriety. So that excuse doesn’t even pass the red face test.
The second excuse he offers is the claim “They’ve also had representatives that are attorneys for unions that sit on (the) Labor and Commerce (Committee).” Later in an ADN interview the Senator said he was referring to Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage. But Senator Wielechowski has refused to accept positions on Labor and Commerce because he is ethical and it is a conflict of interest. Oops.
To WC’s knowledge, Alaska law doesn’t give citizens the right to enforce ethics rules involving legislators. After all, we can’t have citizens telling their elected representatives what to do. But this stinks. The Republicans are already devolving into their own version of the Corrupt Old Bastards Club. All we need is for someone to order the hats.
WC paid no attention to the news while birding in Costa Rica the last two weeks. So he’s had some catching up to do. Here’s a snarky report to show WC’s nearly up to date:
State Representative Lindsey Holmes (
D R, Anchorage) changed her spots and her parties, giving a whole new definition to the term “integrity” that was such a prominent part of her platform. WC sure hopes she doesn’t spend all 30 pieces of silver in one place.
And speaking of traitorous idiots, there’s House Speaker Mike Chenault (R, Back Side of the Moon) (who needs to stop putting off the adenoid surgery). He has introduced HB 69, purporting to make it a crime for federal agents to enforce federal firearms laws in Alaska. The lessons of history are lost on this buffoon. So is his oath of office. He swore to uphold the Constitution. He lives in a republic. It is painful and embarrassing to see an Alaskan acting like Lester Maddox, pulling out the same old tired states’ rights arguments that were rejected the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago.
The Shell drill rig Kulluk remains taxably floating in Kiliuk Bay, three weeks after near-disaster off Kodiak Island. If, as reported, the Kulluk was moved from Dutch Harbor to evade state property taxes, the decision will go down in the Annals of Really Stupid Ideas. Is there anyone not on Shell’s payroll who still thinks this outfit can be trusted with parking meter change, let alone the safety of the Arctic marine environment?
There. See? Just 250 words. Okay, a little over the top. But then, so’s the news.
I think we’re going over the cliff. It’s pretty clear to me they made a political calculation. This offer doesn’t remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy. It raises $1.6 trillion on job creators that will destroy the economy and there are no spending controls.
- Lindsey Graham, 0n CBS’s “Face the Nation,” December 2, 2012
There are so many lies and half-truths in Graham’s statement that it’s a marvel the zit on his nose in this Reuters photo is so small. You’d expect it would be larger than his nose, blocking his vision. Perhaps the photo was taken before he popped the whopper on national television.
Any blog post that rebutted all the fibs in that single paragraph would be tediously long. After all, it earned the Senator the Washington Post‘s coveted Three Pinocchios Award. But WC will dissect a few of Graham’s Big Lies in a doubtless futile effort to keep the conversation honest.
Dear Senator Graham:
On “Face the Nation” last month, you said that the then-current discussions on solutions to the “fiscal cliff” didn’t “remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy.” As you know, Senator, they aren’t “entitlements” and there is no threat of “imminent bankruptcy.” You are indulging in neocon Big Lies again.
Medicare and Social Security are both insurance programs. They are only “entitlements” in the sense that any contractual obligation entitles a person to performance. By your reasoning, the hefty salary you are paid by American taxpayers is an “entitlement.” WC and his fellow citizens pay premiums their entire working lives for the modest benefits that Social Security and Medicare provide. It’s insulting and dishonest to call the programs “entitlements.”
Medicaid isn’t an entitlement; it’s governmental prudence. Or do you and your fellow neocons intend to turn away health coverage for those who cannot afford it? Isn’t it clear that denying minimal health care to those who need it is contrary to everything America stands for? Because if we don’t turn them away, Americans will pay. Either in a somewhat sensible program like Medicare, or in the form of higher rates for themselves as the hospitals and clinics shift the cost of those who cannot pay. There are only three options: Medicaid, or something very like it; forced subsidization as insurers and medical providers pass the costs of treating the poor on to the rest of us; or turning the poor away at the health care door.
You call them “entitlements” because the term mischaracterizes what they really are in a way that you think is advantageous to you and your fellow neocons. It’s a trick straight out of the Newt Gingrich lexicon. It’s a ploy. It’s an attempt to make cuts seem inevitable, rather than a hard political choice. It’s an attempt to make treating the elderly badly a virtuous deed.
Nor is social security in imminent danger of bankruptcy. It’s fully funded, under existing contributions and existing benefits, through 2023. At least ten years. Imminent is the fiscal cliff. Imminent is the pending borrowing limit. A decade is forever. And there is a known, easily implemented solution to the social security funding shortfall: remove the limits on social security contributions by the wealthy. You claim to oppose it because it is a “tax increase” but your real objection is that it’s a easy fix to your non-crisis.
Medicare is fully funded through 2024. No imminent threat of bankruptcy there, either. And that’s just one part of the overall Medicare system. Congress has eleven years to act. As if there was anyone in Congress who can think and plan eleven years into the future.
So WC would appreciate it if you could stop the political showboating, including your vote against the interim compromise on the morning of January 1 and deal with issues like a statesman. Or at least use the truth instead of lies, false alarms and Newtisms. Call it a New Years Resolution.
Or that zit on your nose is only going to get bigger.