Monday, October 12, 2015

The 7.9% Solution

On the yet-again looming federal shutdown and national debt standoff


The U.S. House and Senate comprise 535 members. 42 divided by 535 = roughly 7.9%

The "House Freedom Caucus" consists of ~42 right-wing House of Representatives zealots who have announced that they explicitly intend to shut the federal government down and default on the national debt if "necessary" next month in order to extort their way to their radical goals of things like defunding Planned Parenthood (and eliminating womens' reproductive rights more broadly) and trying yet again to kill "Obamacare" (and whatever else they don't like). They are now melodramatically obstructing the GOP effort to replace John Boehner as House Speaker, demanding that any successor share THEIR extremist minority view 100%.
The narcissistic chutzpah of these people is rich. They call themselves "principled." The salient "principle," though, is one of a my-way-or-the-highway absolutism. Indeed, they openly argue that political "compromise" is the cardinal Dirty Word, one they simply will not brook. There's a word for this. That word is not "democracy."
Let's be very clear here: While "defunding" and transiently shutting down the government by failing to pass budget legislation is a political act within the bounds of tripartite government (notwithstanding its inanity), intentionally defaulting on the public debt is a separate and explicit Constitutional violation of legislative branch members' Oaths of office -- notwithstanding the GOP extremists' conflating attempt to glom it all together. to wit,

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment declares that "the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned." Section 5 subsequently states that the Congress has the sole responsibility over this question.

More broadly, as set forth in Article I, Sections 7 and 8, only Congress has the authority to appropriate funds and levy taxes. They can appropriate funds by raising taxes and/or borrowing from the private credit markets in the name of the nation. If they choose the latter, they are required to see to it that payment is always honored, even should that mean raising taxes or cutting other program expenditures. Neither the President not the Supreme Court has any Constitutional authority here. Should honoring the public debt require a presidential veto override, so be it. Muster the requisite votes. Should it require taking out "poison pill" provisions in order to pass debt service legislation, so be it. Those are among the legitimate mechanics of governance, in this case devolving to the Congress and no other entity.

The "poison pill" demands of the "House Freedom Caucus" in this public debt matter are simply extortion. There is no other word for it. Extortion is a crime. That it is now being perpetrated under cover of elected office makes it no less so.

Google "House Freedom Caucus." There's a Wiki page right at the top of the search results. These 42 domestic political terrorists all have names and contact info. You can bet they'll be hearing from me. All of them.

You think defaulting on the federal debt won't affect you? You fucking better think again. You have a 401k or IRA? Those are the first places you'll see the adverse effects. They will neither be trivial nor short-lived.

Interest rates would go up significantly across the board (with the inflationary upshot that would ensue), and unemployment will again worsen as the effects ripple out. The debilitating worldwide economic effects will dog us for years.

Last time I checked, 7.9% did not constitute majority rule. Last time I checked, defaulting on the national debt was still a violation of the Constitution by those sworn to uphold it, by those who have the only Constitutional authority to deal with it lawfully.

You should be acutely pissed by these preening, disingenuous derelictions. You should take action. This is not a joke.

There. I fixed their Twitter logo.

ONE OF MY SUBSEQUENT FACEBOOK COMMENTS

I know that a lot of this is just "who will blink first?" brinksmanship, but this time there is an element outright nihilism here. But, again, whatever you think about Planned Parenthood, using it as a weapon with the threat of default is extortion, pure and simple. If we want to defund Planned Parenthood (or any other federal program), that is entirely within the legitimate purview of Congress. But honoring the national debt is not a topic for horsetrading. That's not just my opinion, it's the plain text reading of the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

Monday, September 7, 2015

"FIVE UNELECTED JUDGES"

 “FIVE UNELECTED JUDGES” and the spectre of “HITLER’S DEATH CHAMBERS"

I am always amused (albeit rather irascibly so) by the maudlin Irony-Free Zone spectacle of “social conservative” Wingnuttia, with their legions of Perpetually Indignant news camera-loving lawyers racing off to the courts at the drop of a bigot’s bleat or besmirched Bible verse, their fine leather valises bulging at the clasps with myriad War and Peace-length amicus “briefs” purporting to drill down into the ostensibly inscrutable import of the placement of a comma, or the presence of the conjunctive “and,” or the plain text meaning of a Constitutional clause or expression of "legislative intent."

Two summary observations: [1] It necessarily follows that doing so validates the due process legitimacy of the Judiciary as a component of lawful governance. All part of the “checks and balances” system we otherwise take pains to laud when it suits us.

In an adult world, you don’t get to come out to the press conference mics in the wake of an adverse decision to pound the lectern and stammer on poignantly about the “Judicial Tyranny” of X number of "Unelected Judges,” adolescently invoking the apparition of Adolf for icing on the toxic red herring rhetorical cake for inflammatory, dog-whistling media effect.

You win some, you lose some. Deal with it. Libeling the judiciary via the Hitler Card is not dealing with it.

[2] Notwithstanding that it’s tiresome to have to keep pointing this out, ours is predominantly a federated “representative democracy” — a “republic.” We do not, in the main, govern by the plebiscite du jour. We elect and appoint people to vote and govern in our proxy, with concomitant provisions for their removal from office should they fail us egregiously. You can in fact “throw the bums out” should the need and sufficient body politic impetus obtain.

Moreover, as it pertains to those having been “appointed” to their offices — specifically our federal jurists apropos of this argument, they too have typically been vetted via multistage recursive majority vote proceedings, all the way from local bar association nominating committees to state bars to the ABA and finally, to Senate Judiciary Committees, ultimately culminating in the majority confirmation vote of a full Senate. Once confirmed and sworn, our jurists go on to decide and rule by (proxy) majority vote.

That this basic element of iterative majority-rule representative democracy escapes the gullible and willing prey of the demagogue and the political grifter in no way nullifies its lawful propriety and necessity. People need to grow up. You head to court, by that act you are making the statement that the court is legit. You don’t get to disavow that affirmation post hoc when a venue-specific lawful majority outcome is not to your liking.

Notice how the complaint is always voiced against "Five Unelected Judges." Not "nine." Opprobrium only goes to those who vote in ways you don't like.

UPDATE

From a Fox News segment in which Fox legal analysts wholeheartedly derided the claims made by the "Liberty Counsel" attorneys regarding their now-jailed-for-Contempt Kentucky marriage equality scofflaw client Kim Davis.

When you've even lost Fox, you know your schtick has no merit.

With respect to the controlling SCOTUS merits of the Kim Davis debacle:

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
GIL GARCETTI, et al., PETITIONERS v. RICHARD
CEBALLOS
[May 30, 2006] 
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.
It is well settled that “a State cannot condition public employment on a basis that infringes the employee’s constitutionally protected interest in freedom of expression.” Connick v. Myers, 461 U. S. 138, 142 (1983) . The question presented by the instant case is whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties...

When a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom. See, e.g., Waters v. Churchill, 511 U. S. 661, 671 (1994) (plurality opinion) (“[T]he government as employer indeed has far broader powers than does the government as sovereign”). Government employers, like private employers, need a significant degree of control over their employees’ words and actions; without it, there would be little chance for the efficient provision of public services. Cf. Connick, supra, at 143 (“[G]overnment offices could not function if every employment decision became a constitutional matter”). Public employees, moreover, often occupy trusted positions in society. When they speak out, they can express views that contravene governmental policies or impair the proper performance of governmental functions.
 

At the same time, the Court has recognized that a citizen who works for the government is nonetheless a citizen. The First Amendment limits the ability of a public employer to leverage the employment relationship to restrict, incidentally or intentionally, the liberties employees enjoy in their capacities as private citizens. See Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U. S. 593, 597 (1972) . So long as employees are speaking as citizens about matters of public concern, they must face only those speech restrictions that are necessary for their employers to operate efficiently and effectively. See, e.g., Connick, supra, at 147 (“Our responsibility is to ensure that citizens are not deprived of fundamental rights by virtue of working for the government”)...
 

Ceballos did not act as a citizen when he went about conducting his daily professional activities, such as supervising attorneys, investigating charges, and preparing filings. In the same way he did not speak as a citizen by writing a memo that addressed the proper disposition of a pending criminal case. When he went to work and performed the tasks he was paid to perform, Ceballos acted as a government employee. The fact that his duties sometimes required him to speak or write does not mean his supervisors were prohibited from evaluating his performance...

We reject ... the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties. Our precedents do not support the existence of a constitutional cause of action behind every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.
"We reject the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties."
The lawful and proper discipline here is incarceration until the offender decides to no longer be in Contempt. She holds the cell door key in her own hands.

CODA

Kim Davis is campaign and marketing a tool of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (above, left) and lawyer Mat Staver (above, right) of the 501(c)(3) "charitable non-profit" "Liberty Counsel." Staver appeared onstage with Huckabee on Sept 8th at Davis's jail release party during which Huckabee explicitly promoted his candidacy. That is a direct violation of IRS 501(c)(3) restrictions. That it used the conflated cover of Liberty Counsel's "pro bono legal services" accorded the anti-marriage equality scofflaw Kim Davis matters not one whit.

Liberty Counsel is located in Orlando, FL. Its two lawyer Principals are Staver (Chairman) and his wife Anita (President). They call their neat-o little family business a "Christian Ministry."

From their "About Us" web page:

"Recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization, this Christian ministry is funded by tax-deductible donations from concerned individuals, churches, businesses, foundations and other organizations."

Last year they paid themselves $317,087 in direct compensation (plus expenses, we can be sure). Of the roughly $4.1 million in gross revenue (from "contributions and grants"), they list about $1.3 million in "salaries and benefits," and ~$2.5 million in "other expenses. They list a number of "independent contractors" to to whom they paid about $1.6 million. I will be looking into whether they have any financial stake in those.

Under wholly-owned "related tax-exempt organizations on their 2014 Form 990 " they list six organizations; two more 501(c)(3)'s, three 501(c)(4)'s and a 527 PAC. They also list three directly and wholly controlled "trusts."

This is a money laundromat.

cc: Internal Revenue Service

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THIS IS CLASSY

Anita Staver. The Twitter avatar of Liberty Counsel President and wife of Founder and Chairman Mat Staver. How tasteful and  "Christian."

From the Wiki:
Liberty Counsel is headed by attorney Mathew D. Staver, who founded the legal ministry with his wife, Anita, in 1989 and currently serves as president. A close partnership exists between Liberty University, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Liberty Counsel; Staver served as Liberty University's law school dean from 2006 to 2014. In 2004, Liberty Counsel became affiliated with Liberty University/Falwell Ministries and Liberty Counsel opened an office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia...
Liberty Counsel supports barring people from the military on the basis of "homosexual activity." Liberty Counsel opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers. The organization further opposes 'the addition of "sexual orientation," "gender identity" or similar provisions' to hate crimes legislation. In 2005 the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Liberty Counsel as one of twelve groups comprising an "anti-gay crusade" and in April 2014 added the Liberty Counsel to its list of active anti-gay hate groups. Liberty Counsel also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay people.
501(c)(3). A "charity."
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Monday, August 31, 2015

On Donald Trump®

"Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are...

Why is there so much bullshit? Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great. Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled—whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others—to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world…

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality, and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “antirealist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself."


Frankfurt, Harry G. (2009-01-10). On Bullshit (pp. 60-66). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
"The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."
Mr. Trump has attracted the nominal support of millions of frustrated, angry people for whom logical consistency, adherence to facts (and the difficulties involved in accurately discerning them), and acknowledgement of the complexities of life amid a world population of some seven billion contending people are simply irrelevant relative to their feelings of being left behind by our duplicitous, rapacious Elites. His brash confidence, putative "sincerity," and visible, garish evidence of "success" are all that matter.

Leadership expert Michael Maccoby:
No one pushes Trump around, and no insult goes unanswered. He fights back. He is not cautious or fearful of offending a critic or any of America’s adversaries. In this, Trump has a personality type that’s common to the charismatic leaders who emerge in times of turmoil and uncertainty, when people are ready to follow a strong leader who promises to lead them to greatness. Sigmund Freud called people with this personality type “normal narcissists” and he described them as independent and not vulnerable to intimidation, also noting that they have a large amount of aggressive energy and a bias for action. Freud included himself in this group and saw these narcissists as driven to lead and to change the world. Such narcissists can be very charming, and indeed, research has shown most of us like to follow narcissists.
An interesting, albeit troubling year awaits. The current front-runner in the GOP Primary season finds it mature, appropriate, and apparently effective thus far to obsessively use social media and the fawning mainstream media to publicly and crudely lambaste his political opponents and anyone else who dares criticize him, in unabashed adolescent fashion -- deploying the full arsenal of juvie epithets comprising his rhetorical bandiolier. He wears his lecherous misogyny proudly, and never passes up an opportunity to extol himself and his "wealth," while dismissively blowing off those who point up his myriad hypocrisies, inconsistencies, logical contradictions, and outright lies.

He continues to get away with all of it. An interesting year awaits, indeed.
"Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature."
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