October 09, 2015

Teh stupidz burns! Hillary is allegedly more progressive than Bernie

I don't know if Stephen Stromberg is a secret Clintonista, or if instead he's just a hack newspaper writer who, by the Peter Principle (in big play at all times inside the Beltway) became an editorial writer for the Washington Post. His bio/homepage at the Post indicates, at a minimum, he's no further left than Hillary Clinton, if even that far.

In either case, he's written a hack newspaper column claiming Hillary Clinton is actually more progressive than Bernie Sanders. Yep, that's right.

Here's Stromberg's logic. Or, rather, "logic." Sanders recently (links in Stromberg's column) called for making college free for all, along with expanding Social Security, and also trying to get us something called "national health care."

Hillary Clinton seemed to have a zinger when she said, "I am not in favor of making college free for Donald Trump's kids."

Instead, she proved herself to once again be nothing more than Just.Another.Politician, of the normal opportunistic breed.

Any universal program is, well, "universal"!

You can't offer national health care without giving it to The Donald's kids, or The Donald, just like, in Britain, Sir Richard Branson is eligible to use all care of the National Health Service.

And, even beyond expanding Social Security to an idea getting at least small bits of traction from a few libertarians as well as left-liberals, you can't replace the Earned Income Tax Credit with guaranteed annual income unless it's guaranteed to all.

But, a sidebar at this point. I asked a rhetorical question at the start.

Stromberg showed that he butters his bread with pure Arkansas schmeer when he said:
Sanders' platform isn't visionary, it's dull.
He lauds Clinton for wanting to means-test college, which leads back to the main issue. Related: Should we means-test expanded Social Security?

Well, we do ... at a certain point, some SS income is taxable.

The real way you means-test college, and how you pay for this is, of course, a more progressive income tax. That includes taxing investment income as ... well, as income, something Hillary Clinton would never support in her life. (Don't forget big bond trader Jackson Stephens was her and hubby's top political friend in Arkansas, which also gives the lie to Slickster's 1993 wailing that he was just learning his budget was "hostage to the bond market.")

Now, there are legit objections to Sanders' idea.

The biggest is that he does little to talk about reining in the spiraling of college, which is exceeded only by the spiraling cost of health care. Since the modern university has become a neoliberal big business, Sanders does need to address this.

He needs to address the "education inflation," also known as "credentialing," where a college degree is required by many, many jobs that don't need it. He needs to figure out other ways to rein in college costs.

He also needs to address health care costs, which Dear Leader's Obamacare has done little to rein in. And, no, electronic patient records don't do that. I don't want to pound tax dollars down our current rathole, Obamacare or national health care.

A better, big-club cost control is my idea of nationalizing the whole system.

That said, Stromberg is right that Sanders is dull in one way.

If Bernie is an actual socialist (which he's really not), he needs to roll the dice on the third one, and propose replacing the earned income tax credit with a guaranteed annual income.

I don't care if The Donald's kids, or The Donald, get national health care, as long as I do, and an adequately progressive tax rate funds it. (And we have those cost controls.)

I don't care if chez Trump gets a guaranteed annual income, of $25,000 or whatever, as long as I do, and an adequately progressive tax rate funds it.

Speaking of, and to smack down Stromberg yet again — maybe Sanders hasn't fully said how he'll fund all of this, but Clinton has said even less about funding her proposals.

Finally, Stromberg lives up to living inside the Beltway, and being an apparent Clitonista, with this straw man:
But even assuming his expansion of the state doesn’t open significant new opportunities for wasteful special interest rent-seeking and rule-bending, there’s still no excuse for poorly targeted policy.

The reality is that targeted, rather than universal, programs, create "rent-seeking" for swarming fly-hordes of lobbyists, drawn to the honey, or shit, of Washington loopholes. 

The first link in that pull quote? It talks about the "gummint" often running poorly. Well, the conservative troika of "waste, fraud and abuse" abounds in the private sector. Just ask Carly Fiorina. Or Google her record at H-P, if she won't tell you. Just look at four-time bankruptcy winner Trump.

As for the increased taxation cutting off funding for other things? Well, Stromberg's partially right, there. Bernie needs to stop whoring after F-35s, and cut military spending more.

October 08, 2015

Supersessionism and Constitutional originalism

I recently wrote an essay for the new philosophy and social sciences online magazine, The Electric Agora, headed by Dan Kaufman and Dan Tippens, about parallels between Constitutional originalism and religious, especially Christian, fundamentalism.

On second request for rewriting, in part to get shorter length and tighter focus they wanted, and in part because they didn't see it as an actual parallel, I think, I whacked out what I wrote about parallels in supersessionism, and further cuts were made after that.

Christian supersessionism, of course, is the idea that Judaism is a "lesser" religion in some way, shape, or form, as Christianity has now fulfilled it, or superseded it. And, on the textual side, the New Testament has fulfilled the prophecies and superseded the mandates of the Old Testament.

I do think a similar parallel exists, namely in the relationship between the Constitution (New Testament) and the sometimes overly-maligned Articles of Confederation (Old Testament).

And, because I think this "follows," I am running the whacked part of that essay here.

Beyond that, Joseph Ellis is wrong about the metaphysics behind the Articles of Confederation.

That leads to another parallel between types of fundamentalisms, or originalisms. Where more than one sacred text is involved, how do they relate to one another?

Dan Kaufman has written about Christian supersessionism, which is in part based on the issue of relations of some texts to others.

Rather than seeing the New Testament as one possibility for an organic evolution from the Tanakh/Old Testament, it supersedes it. Here again, we have a parallel.

This one partially involves the Declaration of Independence, but also takes in the first governing document of America’s original 13 United States.

The parallel is clear. Rather than seeing the Constitution as one possibility for an organic evolution from the Articles of Confederation, it supersedes it, under Constitutional fundamentalism.

For that, too, we have to start with the Declaration of Independence, per its text.

First, the Declaration starts:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, 
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands... (14)

All of that indicates that the Declaration's authors and ratifiers saw themselves as representing one nation. An inchoate and loosely connected one, yes, but one nation.

The last paragraph refers again to "united States of America." Again, loosely connected, perhaps, but one nation.

Ellis talks elsewhere about Jefferson and Adams as ambassadors. He ignores that they were ambassadors of the "united States of America, in General Congress, assembled," and not of Virginia, Massachusetts, etc.

Indeed, I can make half an argument that the Articles of Confederation were half a step backward from this.

So, what’s at stake in all of this?

This ultimately is more than an academic discussion of Constitutional interpretation. Rather, it’s a mindset that affects other aspects of American political philosophy — and larger American political science.

Religious and Constitutional fundamentalism have definite parallels. And, while not all Constitutional fundamentalists are Christian ones (including traditionalist Catholics here), or vice versa, many are. And, in the likes of Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis, we can even see them intertwine.  And, not just at the level of federal courts vs. state officials. State agencies, to take this back to Constitutional fundamentalism, like Texas’ State Board of Education in its choice of history textbooks for the state’s schools, are driven by both types of fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism, per what I noted about “Type 2 heresies,” heresies toward people, although also possible in “Type 1 heresies,” also involves hagiography.  It’s hagiography that lies behind American exceptionalism.

These issues are also non-academic outside of the United States. With the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union and other geopolitical changes that have opened more countries of the world to considering democratic institutions, the full background of the version of democratic institutions the United States has to offer must be considered.

Here Hume, in his thoughts on the British constitution in his opus, “The History of England,” is not fully right. Even the most revolutionary-seeming changes in government have at least a pinch of the evolutionary about them. And, interpreting governments, their texts, and their history in an evolutionary fashion is one antidote against fundamentalist, or originalist, mistakes.

The third main issue, or strategic move, of Ellis is to essentially dismiss the whole mindset behind Lincoln's "fourscore and seven years" at Gettysburg, rather than noting that that was a deliberate stake in the ground — an assertion that, contra Ellis, the United States did begin in 1776. This let Lincoln reframe the issue of slavery.

It also, although Lincoln did not go as far as a William Lloyd Garrison, let him at least obliquely criticize Constitutional fundamentalism. As I noted, as embodied by people such as Chief Justice Taney, Constitutional fundamentalism was indeed around at this time.

October 07, 2015

The Biden candidacy leak and Clinton hatred

First, yes, such a thing as Clinton hatred exists, and not just among wingnuts.

Maureen Dowd
One primary residence it occupies is 620 Eighth Avenue in New York City, where, since 1992 (if not earlier), a bottled redhead op-ed columnist has maintained an intense hatred for All Things Clinton.

As lined out in detail by Politico, Joe Biden became, in essence, "his own leaker" to the New York Times about his possible presidential campaign. And, that bottled redhead, Maureen Dowd, took the bait and ran.

Per Politico and others noting this might undercut the image of Biden's emotional authenticity, I thought at the time of the leak that Biden's angling for the presidency was a bit creepy, on using emotions over his son's dying. Now, there's this add-on. The general public may not take note, but Democratic insiders will. This is starting to sound like the 1998 plagiarizer Biden. (And, as for me? This makes me, if anything, less likely to vote for Biden than Clinton. Not that I'll be voting for either one any time soon, either in Dem primaries or the general.)

Beyond that, not just in leaking in general, but in going straight to Dowd, Biden knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that Dowd bats vaguely liberal, is at "the paper of record," and has a lot of Democratic inside baseball followers. It was quite coldly calculating. Hell, maybe the dying Beau suggested it, Joe?

But, let's go back to MoJo Dowd.

As for her? The venom oozes. Here’s a sample:
Two controlling superstars with mutable hair and militant fans, married to two magnetic superstars who can make a gazillion an hour for flashing their faces and who have been known to stir up trouble. 
A pair of team captains craving a championship doing something surreptitious that they never needed to do to win. 
It turns out Tom Brady and Hillary Clinton have more in common than you would think.
This reminds me of a girls’ high school PE locker room fight, where the women fight more viciously than the men ever would.

Then, there’s the political bank shot that follows:
Many Democrats fret that she seems more impatient than hungry, more cautious than charismatic. They are increasingly concerned that, aside from the very liberal Bernie Sanders, who could be approaching his ceiling in the early states, there is no backup if something blows up.
We can’t have Bernie … so who?

She says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been asked … and passed.

She them moves on from him to casually name drop the Vice President of the United States.

I seriously think the only thing that will satisfy her is the death of Bill and Hillary Clinton, or at least Hillary. Given that Biden, as Senate Judiciary chairman, made a total hash of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, somewhat throwing Anita Hill, and totally throwing other would-be but uncalled witnesses, under the bus, to do Biden a solid is anti-feminist.

As for Joe Biden? He's a lawyer; he knows the legal disbarment from using the unimpeachable words of a dying man, which is exactly why he included Beau's alleged "stop the Clintons at all costs" comments.

Note that I said "alleged." Beau Biden was a dying man, now dead; he can't be impeached or cross-examined to ask if he actually said that. Convenient, no?

For that matter, and to riff on Maureen Dowd, how much does Joe himself dislike the Clintons? Even if he doesn't run, he's stuck a nice shiv in the backs of both, and his hint of running put at least some Clinton fundraising on hold.

I'm sure he has no especial love for Bernie Sanders, but he could be hoping this helps Martin O'Malley.

October 06, 2015

Bernie, Hillary and guns; #BerningTheFeel on a gun nut?

With the first Democratic presidential debate just a week away, momentum could shift from Bernie Sanders to .... to Hillary Clinton!

Why? It's a one-word answer: "guns."

The most recent mass shooting in Oregon has left Sanders vulnerable.

As documented here before, Sanders is ... well, IMO, he's a gun nut. Pure and simple. He voted against the Brady Bill and he voted in favor of immunizing gun makers from suits. Neither of these is a borderline issue. And favors loaded guns in National Parks.

(Update, Jan. 17, 2016: Sanders now says he would support overturning that law. That said, his caveat for small gun sellers is a fig leaf just as it's always been, and his claimed 2005 — and ongoing — opposition to child gun locks is tone-deaf, indeed. He could have supported a no-immunity bill with child locks as part of that bill. Beyond that, announcing this the day of the third Democratic presidential debate you're being Just.Another.Politician.

Here's the nut grafs:
Campaign aides said the decision was not a flip-flop, arguing that Sanders backed the 2005 law in part because of provisions that require child safety locks on guns and ban armor-piercing ammunition. 
"Those were important provisions that I did support," Sanders said in a statement.
 Umm, nice try, nice fail, at the caveating. And, actually, this makes things even worse.)

NBC, with a news roundup, notes that Clinton could have other favorable tailwinds after the Oct. 13 initial debate. The House's Benghazi committee, with would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy having already screwed its political pooch, meets later in October. With McCarthy's statement in mind, Clinton could be hitting softballs.

Clinton herself is letting the media do the labeling of Sanders, even as she the summer proposed new gun regulations. That includes the gun makers' liability issue.

The WaPost, meanwhile, reminds us that Sanders has a 24-year legislative history. He may have other votes, besides the ones above on guns, that Clinton will dredge up.

(On the other hand, Clinton's vote in favor of the Iraq War, which is at least tentatively linked to the current morass in Syria, leaves her 8-year Senate record also open. This is why governors often run for president in modern times.)

Sanders has shown himself a bit curmudgeonly in 1-person appearances; if cornered and provoked in debate, he could be very curmudgeonly. That may be in part due to him being the oldest declared candidate in a semi-geriatric Democratic field. (And, should JoePa Biden run, Sanders is more than a year older than him.)

Speaking of? Already this summer, I thought Biden's angling for the presidency was a bit creepy, on using emotions over his son's dying. Now, in that roundup link, NBC says that Biden was his own leaker to Maureen Dowd, lined out in detail by Politico. The general public may not take note, but Democratic insiders will. This is starting to sound like the 1998 plagiarizer Biden.

As for that debate? To be honest, I could see Sanders "pulling a Howard Dean." And, per friend Perry, if Hillary Clinton can stay 10 percent as newly loosened up as on Saturday Night Live from here on out, she could be a winner. (However, a NYT steno suggests that the same old Hillary will show up.)

October 05, 2015

#TPP — one reason a #wingnut replacing Boehner as Speaker might be nice

Left-neoliberals, and even a few supposed non-neoliberals, along with right-neoliberals, are doing huzzahs and handsprings over a group of Pacific Rim nations OKing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The deal as drafted supposedly addresses an earlier concern that China could back-door auto parts through South Korea. Let's see on that.

It still seems toothless, like previous such agreements, on labor rights, environmental rights, human rights and currency issues. (Well, currency wasn't quite such an issue with NAFTA or WTO, but is now, even if China's not part of the TPP. It's got a special track to join, and currency will be a worry with it.)

Why do I actually salute a possible wingnut replacing John Boehner as speaker of the House?

First, the Religious Right portion of wingnuts have, on paper at least, been concerned about human rights.

Second, many wingnuts have, in general, been skeptical about China's rise to power.

So, I must disagree with the likes of Chris Tomlinson.

First, this may, or may not, force China to "play by U.S. rules."

Second, even if it does force that, they're neoliberal rules which scoff at organized labor, don't protect the environment, and ignore human rights.

This is clearly the case with environmental issues. TPP, like NAFTA, as Canada has done, allows for various government lawsuits against the environmental regulations of other countries. Per the link, yes, it's possible that Paris climate talks will negotiate around that, but, if you really expect that to be the case, I have an unpolluted river in China to sell you.

Maybe the defunding or de-investment drive will gain momentum. It eventually did with South Africa, but South Africa is a lot smaller than the US, let alone the whole neoliberalized "West."

Third, we don't know all that it says! Kind of "fun," for the neoliberal insiders, to tout what they hide. "Fun" for neolib outsiders to tout "free trade" on blind faith, I guess.

Whether any or all of this is enough to derail the TPP in Congress or not, I don't know. Donald Trump's opposition may help.

Maybe a coalition of wingnuts and Bernie Sanders-led true liberals can kill this, assuming it needs killing. I don't hold my breath, though.

Speaking of opposition, let's see Hillary Clinton be a squish on this issue.

TX Progressives talk state polls, #climatechange, local elections, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance is happy to feel a little fall in the air , and that postseason baseball is here, as it brings you this week's roundup. You're reminded that the words are "Go Cards." It's also OK to root for one of Texas' two entrants.

Off the Kuff highlights a new poll showing a gap between what the people of Texas believe and what their government stands for.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos is grateful to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for revealing his Party's false prophets.  She is also grateful a Republican Presidential candidate's whopper about an abortion that did not happen is exposed.

SocraticGadfly cleans up the climate change trash that Erica Greider threw all over the ground.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme has had it with Republicans who treat workers like so much used tissue paper.

The Harris County Green Party endorsed four Democrats in Houston municipal elections, bypassing the only announced Green member who who was declared, in At Large 3.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says there's a story about that, but he's not telling it.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits notes that statewide judicial candidates no longer have to get petition signatures from each appellate district. He also has an excellent piece  on why the War on Drugs is NOT the primary reason for our massive increase in incarceration.

Tamara Tabo has some helpful hints for the Gaslamp and other (allegedly) racist nightclubs.

Lone Star Ma went pink in support of Planned Parenthood.

The TSTA Blog warns about bullies.

Eric Berger explains what the discovery of water on Mars means for the future of space exploration.

Both Egberto Willies and Millard Fillmore's Bathtub noted the Texas mother who read in her child's textbook that slavery had been redefined as immigration, and got the publisher to agree to revise it.

Why The Donald will fade

In a word: "Iowa."

In two words: "Religious Right."

In two more words: "Local organization."

(He's already fading a bit, though not much, as the poll makes clear; my argument is that he will fade even more.)

The two phrases are both important in Iowa, the first just on the GOP side, the second on both parties' plates.

Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee illustrate the former, from previous campaigns, especially Santorum.

Jimmy Carter is the exemplar of the second. Without the Iowa caucuses, and his local-level groundwork, he doesn't win in 1976, possibly.

The Donald's campaign, from what's publicly apparent, at least, strikes me as a very top-down big business type structure. Not geared for Iowa, but we'll see.

It seems to me that local caucus meetings will get either him, or ground-level representatives into making politically contradictory statements down the line.

And, despite some of his current appeal to tea party types, he's NOT a Religious Right type. In fact, his description of taking communion makes him sound like he's intermittently religiously observant.

If he can stay in the top three in Iowa, he might do well in New Hampshire, which allows crossover voting. But, he'll then struggle in Nevada and bomb in South Carolina.

As to who benefits, assuming I'm correct? I have no idea; Trump's constituency doesn't fit more professionalized definitions of who today's GOP is. Tea partiers who like him obviously haven't read his stance on social issues, if that's of importance to them.

Trump is saying he's in to win, and disavows notions that he'll cut and run if he starts sinking. Yeah, sure. Steve Forbes likely said something similar 20-plus years ago.