I Guess I’m Not as Conservative As I Think – Part I

January 22, 2010

  I’m at a loss for all of the big news that has happened this week.  If you take a step back,  Scott Brown’s win really is monumental and is what is I perceive to be a watershed event for 2010.   Just look at what has happened in a couple of days. 

1) Scott Brown was amazingly elected.

2) The President’s  signature agenda item of a health care is dead in its current form, potentially even relegated to the back burner depending upon the posture Democrats take in the coming weeks.

 3) The utter chaos and infighting that has erupted within the ranks on the left.

4) The President has hardened his stance against the big banks.  

5) Questions of reconfirming Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

  There is no way I can’t comment about the above fallout from the Scott Brown victory.  Interestingly, this has created a need for politicians on the left to move to a populist stance and switch from focusing on health care to focusing on bank regulation/punishment.  The President himself has been talking about measures to effectively tax the big banks for their hand in the financial crisis.  Now he’s upped his rhetoric and looks to put them even further through the wringer because it fits the populist message.   Congress is heaping on if they toss Bernanke out on his ass.  Mark my words, markets will roil.

I say go for it.  Send the market a message.  Stick it to Wall Street and then break it off.  Its time for Main Street to have a place at the table too.

  Make the banks literally have to pay for their illicit ways.  Make them pay for all the debt the US Government has had to directly take on plus interest, for the collateral damage it has caused.  Pass the tax that the President proposes, but but go further.  Make it larger than .15% and make it permanent.  Then, re-enact the Glass-Steagall Act.  Finally, enforce the Sherman and Clayton Acts and break these banks up.  We don’t need any more new laws, we have enough already.  Simply enforce the ones we’ve got.

   The argument against all this proactive action?  The banks will just pass it on to consumers.  The ubiquitous ‘they’  (those guys keep getting mentioned in my blog) realize that it is okay to make the guilty corporations pay for their transgressions, but they say we shouldn’t because the banks will simply pass the cost on to their customers. ‘ They’ also say that the action will cause the best minds in the industry to flee these corporations and go elsewhere; making US markets less competitive.   For those that flee, I say ‘good-riddance’.  We don’t need their creative-financing our my economy to begin with.  We see how well that worked out…  Secondly, don’t give these ‘best minds’ anywhere to go.  Work with the international community (most notably the U.K.)  to enact similar laws in their countries so it is an even playing field and the chicanery dies once and for all.  Lastly, and most importantly, just write into the new tax specific wording and enforcement that states that the costs cannot be passed on to the consumer.  Audit these  now much smaller banks every quarter with a fine-tooth comb.  They won’t be able to pass the costs on.

Now was it that hard?  I wish we could let the market be freer so government did not have to play such a role, but such is not the case.  Hence, the government’s role needs to be effective and defined.  I’m not for more regulation, but I am for justice and the enforcement of good laws because they are unfortunately needed.   Glass-Steagal is one of those.  I don’t oppose government and the rule-of-law.  I just oppose inefficient government, bad laws, and injustice.   I believe that every American can support that.

 – G.S.

P.S. – there is more in Part II.  Take a break, get some water, stretch, and I’ll see you below.


I Guess I’m Not As Conservative As I Think – Part II

January 22, 2010

   Despite Scott Brown’s election, which was a huge political event here in the US; a decision made by the Supreme Court this week is actually even bigger news.  It is a huge boon to the rights of corporations as artificial persons.  Artificial people you ask?  Yes, and I am not talking about robots or androids.  Since a footnote in the 14th Amendment and then subsequent sets of precedent-setting court decisions, corporations have enjoyed the same rights as US to even include 1st Amendment rights.  You can read a good ‘HowStuffWorks’ article below that contains everything you need to know to get you up to speed.

http://money.howstuffworks.com/corporation-person.htm

   So this week, the Supreme Court ruled that barring corporations from contributing in certain ways to in an election campaign impinges on the corporation’s 1st Amendment rights and is hence illegal.   The decision overturns years of precedent and says that along certain guidelines, corporations can contribute money in support/detraction of a candidate.   What this means is that while they still can’t contribute but so much direct ‘soft money’ directly to a campaign, they can do things like spend as much as they want buying their own ad time on behalf of an opponent.

  Just think about this.  Corporations and unions who have millions (and sometimes billions) of disposable dollars can campaign on behalf of any official that they want.  If they like someone, they can advertise, endorse, etc on their behalf to help get the person elected.  If they don’t like someone, they can conversely advertise against them or throw money behind the support of the opponent.  Does that sound like a gross conflict of special interests in campaigns and the democratic process?  This court ruling overturned a century of court precedent and law and basically kills campaign finance reform. 

I was well amused by the following comment by KWATSON in a reaction to this article at WorldMag.com

http://online.worldmag.com/2010/01/22/corporations-have-first-amendment-rights/

KWATSON wrote:

Dear Congressman X,

  We here at Mega-Too-Big-To-Fail-Bank would like you to reconsider the legislation to tighten regulations intended to keep us from operating like giant casinos. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders to maximize profit; therefore we are reducing our bonus pool from $10 billion to $9 billion  in order to have a billion dollar fund to run advertisements against anyone who dares to mandate we stop acting like drunken sailors with other people’s money.

Please forward this to every lawmaker, Thank you.

DO YOU HONESTLY DOUBT THAT THE SENTIMENT IN THE COMMENT IS SPOT-ON!?!

   My fellow conservative friends argue that corporations legally have the same rights as people.  They argue that if the voters are numb enough to not think for themselves and believe every ad they see on tv, then so be it – it is legally allowed by the bounds of the law.  No offense, America, but I do not have too much faith in us right now.  We have repeatedly elected non-representative representatives who are already beholden to special interest.  How is that going to get better when you give the special interests even more power?  Poeple will listen to those ads and vote more corporate lackeys into office. 

   This is a dark day and for once, I side with the liberals on this one.  I support The Constitution and The Founder’s intent behind its drafting.  I also support personal freedoms.  Corporations despite their legal definitions are not people.  Through precedent, a fortuitous footnote, and their inherent money and power (read influence); corporations now have the same rights as you and I. 

    The founders explicitly distrusted institutions – to include standing armies, an overly strong central government, and specifically, corporations.  Distrust of corporations is best shown from the onerous activities and taxes the colonies had to endure under companies like British East India Company; which wielded a lot of power in the English Empire.  It was the Microsoft or Exxon-Mobile of its day.  It is their tea that our forefathers threw in the Boston Harbor because while they were being taxed on that tea, they had no representative in parlaiment to oppose the taxes.  That is where ‘no taxation without representation’ comes from.

 So, I ask again –  How do you think The Founders would feel about this decision?

Regarding this case, in her dissenting remarks, Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg sarcastically but rightly commented: “A corporation is not endowed by its Creator with inalienable rights.”

There is a lot of truth in that statement.  Remember, this same Supreme Court in 1857 made the Dred Scott Decision and you see how well that turned out 4 years later…

– G.S.


A Shot Across The Bow…But For Republicans As Well.

January 20, 2010

After Scott Brown won,  I watched the talking heads of the liberal media outlets display much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  As I was scouring the internet looking for more legitimate coverage than MSNBC and Fox, I read this quote in the NYTimes (of all places) that for me, summed up Scott Brown’s amazing win in just one line.

 ‘it is no longer a message of hope and change, but reform or die’.

I also scoured the Post, WSJ, and Globe looking for a full article to refer people to rather than just a sound-bite.  I almost didn’t find what I wanted…thank you uncredited editorial-writer-guy.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/19/AR2010011903743.html

Pretty powerful stuff, but Tuesday night’s election results are indeed powerful. I warn my fellow conservatives though, don’t take this as a tea-bagging mandate (chuckle).  That quote above applies to you too.  Remember, good government is about meeting in the middle and compromise.  The Founding Fathers designed it that way so that we curbed the worst of our own tendencies.  That requires two opinions – and while I may not agree at all with those who push progressive agendas, they have as much a right to the table as I do.  The end result of such debate is government that The People can live with, not just government that I want. 

In my opinion, that is the message that Scott Brown pushed and is what won him the election.  Yes, yes, health-care was a part, but really every sordid aspect of the health-care debate is just a symptom of the larger disease of bad government.

That then my friends is why Independents (note: not ‘Republicans’) were so important to this election.  Only 15% of registered voters in Massachusetts are Republican.  I can sympathize because I too feel that the Republican message is off and this is why the many center-right voters don’t identify with the party; bei it there in Massachusetts or increasingly across the country as well.  I’m one of them.  I think this is a microcosm of larger sentiment in the country and Republicans need a healthy dose of introspection almost as much as the Democrats now obvioiusly need it.

 Take note bad government, this is a firm shot across the bow. If you don’t get the message, you will see a legitimate rise of a 3rd centrist party that will throw the bums out on both sides of the aisle. 

Of the People, By the People, and For the People.

– G.S.


Conflict of Interest? – You Betcha

January 11, 2010

Upon opening the Washington Post today was this interesting article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/10/AR2010011002793.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

  It is about Rep. John Dingell (D – Michigan, 15th District) and his clear conflict of interest with special interests.  As it so happens those special interests employ his wife.  With the 15th district being in Michigan, then it probably doesn’t surprise you that it includes Detroit and that the special interests are indeed from the auto industry.

The first thing I want to call out is how the author glazes over how the two met.  His wife, 27 years his younger, met him back in ’81 when he was 55.  That means she was 28.  What middle-aged guy going on elderly doesn’t talk to the 28 year old sitting next to him?  Its BS he talked to her because she was nervous to fly

  She was hot in her day.  End of story.   The picture in the Post makes Mrs. Dingell look attractive for a lady today in her 50’s.  He rocks a wheelchair and looks like a guy in his 80s. 

I digress, but I know male behavior – you can’t kid me.

  SOOOO…..his wife, 27th years his younger (not sure if I can call him a letcher or raise my eye-brows at his ‘virility’) is the gand-daughter of a prominent auto executive and has made her career in and about Detroit.  It doesn’t really matter if she worked directly for GM or was a hired consultant, we know where her loyalties lie and where her paycheck comes from.

  The thing that gets me about the article is that I see both sides of the dilemma.  On one hand, we know the guy is getting his re-election coffers filled by the special interests groups to begin with.  That part of me really doesn’t care if his wife works for the industry or not.  He’s going to represent business and constituents (and their jobs) in the best way he knows how so he can get re-elected.  It is no surprise then that those same groups contribute to get him re-elected.  In our current Congress, without knowing a lot about the guy, I can take the anonymous but instinctual swipe that the special interests do indeed have his ear.

  On the other hand, the purist part of me clearly sees the conflict of interest and shouldn’t excuse this kind of relationship, wether I know its futile to rage against the machine or not.  But it really worth the fight?  There’s little I can do right now to change the system.

  So what is one to do?  In short, change the self-serving attitude of Congress by voting them out and replacing them with statesmen, not politicians.

  The article talks (and I wish it would have been more) about the self-governing rules that Congressmen put on themselves to decide if something is ethical.  That is the real sticking point.  There can be a healthy debate on if the Dingells business and politics clash.  The author went over it quite a bit.  What I care about is the self-regulation.  It is abhorently low.  Let me give you some examples.

1)  The article mentioned how Congressmen’s ownership of stocks has skyrocketed.  Why? LEGAL  Insider information!  Its illegal for traders on Wall Street to take their inside corporate knowledge and act on in before the market knows it.  As we have seen, Congress is heavily subsidized by special interests.  Theyalso have a lot of dealings with corporate America.  The connections, hearings, fund-raisers, etc all give them ample opportunity to get information and LEGALLY act upon it.  There is a study floating out there (I heard about it on NPR) that shows Congressmen’s investments aberrantly outperform the market.  The only explanation is insider trading…but wait, it isn’t illegal for them…so why not?

If it isn’t ethical for Wall Street insiders, why is it ethical then for Beltway insiders?

2) The 27th Amendment.  

 “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

The most recent amendment to our Constitution doesn’t say Congress can’t vote itself a pay raise, it just says they have to wait until the next election.  I say that’s pretty weak. 

3) The still get their cost of living adjustment (COLA) too.  So, when I don’t get a cost of living adjustment and senior citizens on social security don’t get one because of the crappy economy, you would expect that Congress doens’t get one either.

Wrong – they are getting an extra $4,700 this year.  That is roughly a 2.8% pay raise. 

4) Congress voted in 1989 to pass a law that said unless Congress votes to not give themselves a COLA, they get one AUTOMATICALLY.  That measure died in committee this time around.  Surprise!

5) Rep. Charlie Rangel (D, NY – 15th) gets away with tax evasion.  Enough said.

  So, when it comes to money and conflicts of interest, Congress is rife with them.  However, unlike other officials, they are the sole deciders of what is ethical or not.   Mrs. Dingell took a huge hit on her GM stock prices because she was afraid to sell for fear of it being seen as using her unique position to her advantage.  I believe she didn’t act because she knew it would be far worse to be seen as using her position to get access to the fact that GM was going under.  She and her husband wouldn’t have been able to get away with it – and they were right.

  My last and final point to this article is that this type of action and mentality is on both sides of the aisle.  Republican groups and Congressmen have the gall to point the finger at Dingell when they themselves are just as guilty of similar conflict.

Everyone always acts so shocked when some scandal breaks on the news cycle about some lousy politician letting their family and constituents down.  Why are we so surprised anymore?  What indiscretions and crimes are going on right now that we don’t know about?  What about the ones that never get caught?  When you get used to having power and getting what you want, it tends to go to your head.  People honestly believe they are above the law and that they can get away with ‘it’.  Just ask Eliot Spitzer or Richard Nixon how well that works out.

Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lets take that power back one voter at a time.  Spread the word that we’re watching.

– G.S.


The Terrorists Win When You Are Scared

January 5, 2010

  Ever think about the term ‘terrorist’?  Its an interesting noun.  Basically, someone who evokes terror.  As I have said before, everything that I rage against in our society can basically be boiled down to having motivations rooted in fear or consumption.  The terrorists win when people are scared enough to let government waste time and make knee-jerk decisions for threats that only make things (in this case air travel) that much more a pain, expensive, and infringing upon our freedoms. 

   Ann Applebaum wrote a good opinion piece in the Washington Post about this topic. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/04/AR2010010402719.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

All of it is good, but her last paragraph is fantastic:

 “Imagine if the TSA’s vast budget were dedicated to the creation of a cutting-edge computer network that could have made security officers in Amsterdam instantly aware of the warning from the Detroit bombing suspect’s father. Imagine that, instead of relying on full-body X-ray scanners or long-haul flight-blanket deprivation, we had highly paid and trained consular officers in places such as Nigeria. Even then security would not be perfect (and I’m not sure that airborne terrorism is even the worst thing we have to worry about). But it would make sense to have a smaller, less expensive and less wasteful system. It would make sense to have a system based on real risks and priorities, instead of the stories featured on cable news. It would make sense to fight the next battle, for once, instead of the last one. “Sense,” though, is not the criterion by which public money is spent in this country — and hasn’t been for a long time.”

  Amen sister, Amen.   Our general, unthinking response to this stuff is terribly inadequate and reactive.  It won’t solve the next problem while wasting our money at the same time.  Al Qaeda all the other terror groups are smart enough to know our weaknesses, even when they shouldn’t be there.

 When I go to the airport  and see my tax dollars standing around by the legions playing grab ass in their ill-fitting, bright blue shirts, I get pissed.  Shoveling more money to these guys (which represent all that is wrong about government and bureaucracy)  isn’t going to make us safer.

 And my friends wonder why I have high blood-pressure….

  – G.S.