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Archive → March, 2012

It’s Time to Restrict the Power of the Supreme Court!

By Tony Petramonico — Buddy Caldwell, the Attorney General of the state of Louisiana spoke this week on the steps of the Supreme Court, saying that he trusted the healthcare of the American people in the hands of the U.S. government more than he trusted it in the hands of the insurance companies.  Sounds like he had personal experience with a friend or relative having serious health issues.  That’s generally all it takes for people to see and understand this  issue a little more clearly.

But I have greater concerns than that.  As contentious, plodding, ineffective and dysfuncti0nal as Congress has clearly been during most of the recent sessions, I trust the Congress and the President to make laws and form policy for the American people way more than I now trust the Supreme Court to do it.   In fact, I don’t trust the five conservatives on the Supreme Court at all.  The pretense that they are just and impartial arbiters of complex and contentious legal issues in the judicial system has been exposed as just that — a pretense.  And most recently, several of the conservatives have even abandoned the pretense and revealed themselves for what they are: ideologues participating in an extra-legal power grab for conservatives,  using the judicial branch of government as their cover. I am okay with people with different ideologies and viewpoints arguing their positions and am comparatively comfortable with the results of those arguments manifesting themselves in a final, considered, well-argued point of view — and vote — even if it goes against my preferences.

But to hear Scalia, Aliota, and Roberts talk the non-sense of broccoli, cell-phones, and ringing their hands about “over-reach” when they themselves are by far the biggest perpetrators of judicial activism and over-reach of power and authority in American politics and government today.

And there sits Clarence Thomas – and his wife.  She has been such a tireless cheerleader for the anti-Affordable Care Act forces, not as a matter of  ideology or principle, but  for money – that she is controversial in her own right, irrespective of the Supreme Court.  But for Thomas to sit there, saying nothing (which is probably prudent, in this instance), without recusing himself   — in what is glaringly obvious to us all a  conflict of interest of  major dimensions, is not only arrogant and injudicious, but shameful  — and it tarnishes not only his personal honor and integrity, but casts deserved doubt upon the integrity and impartiality of the entire Supreme Court.     He does not deserve the trust, nor the respect of the American people. And maybe the court at large doesn’t either.

And the saddest part of all is that you get the sense the Thomas’s are just out there money-grubbing.   They are getting theirs while the getting is good, and may the 30 million Americans without health insurance just go hang!  Sad and shameful, indeed!

 

Justices Scalia and Roberts Worry About the Power of Congress?

By Frank Glenn – Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern in the Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act this week about the proper role, and ultimately, about the power of government.  “If the government can do this, what else can it not do?” he asked.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts added, consternedly, “All bets are off.”

Well, hey, guys.  The rest of us across America have bigger concerns than that!

The Affordable Care Act was passed by the 435 members of the House of Representatives of the United States, both Democrats and Republicans, and  by the the 100 member U.S. Senate, and then signed into law by Barack Obama, the President of the United States, duly elected by tens of millions of voters.  That’s the way government here in the U.S. works.

The real question, your Honorables,  is what business is it  of the Supreme Court to over-rule Congress and the President, anyway.  Why should  five un-elected, ideological, right wing,  political appointees to the Supreme Court, several of which were appointed by an illegal, illegitimate President who was in turn illegally appointed by the Supreme Court after the 2000 election,  in contradiction of the actual popular vote count in Florida

If five right wing, un-enelected political hacks in the Supreme Court, can over-rule the Congress of the United States and the President, all duly elected as their representatives in government by the American people, “what else can they not do.”  And yes, Chief Justice Roberts, “All bets are off”.

I mean, really.  First, if the Supreme Court can effect a bloodless coup, over-ruling the demonstrable preference of the American electorate in 2000 to appoint their political “home-boy”  to the office of President, ignoring a hundred years of legal precedent in which the Supreme Court did not meddle  in state election law or the election process of individual states, including not over-ruling a state Supreme Court on in-state elections issues and cases. Even the justices, themselves, acknowleged as much, admitting that the decision was so unprecedented and so unconscionable,  that they admonished  future courts and case law litigators to please ignore what they had done and please not consider it a precedent.  Why not?  Because it, as a  precedent  was so “un-justice-like” and so without basis in case law and jurisprudence.

Second, in the Citizens United case the justices re-wrote the question that was before them, which was essentially the issue of whether or not a propaganda film demonizing Hilary Clinton could be released a certain number of days before the elections of 2008 as the law stated, expanding it to the question of whether or not corporations, because they were people, could have the money they spent in elections limited or restricted in any way.  They concluded that money was free speech and therefore money spent in elections by corporations could not be limited in the same way that freedom of speech could not be limited,  as it states in the constitution.

For the conservative justices on the Supreme Court to claim to be worried about the “over-reach” of government is a little like an “ax-murderering serial killer”  lamenting the loss of civility in polite society — and  wishing for a kinder, gentler world to live in.   It’s just the empty words of hollow men — vapid — and disingenuous.  To sum up:  You pricks are ridiculous!  And shameful!

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Louisiana GOP Attorney General Caldwell Calls for Single Payer Health Care!

By Frank Glenn – In a startling move for a GOP Attorney General who filed suit against the Affordable Care Act for the state of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court this week, saying that we should get ride of ObamaCare and implement a single-payer health cafe system.  He also said that he did not trust the insurance companies to be solely in charge of providing health care.  He said he trusted the government to provide health care more than insurance companies and that he thought we should have a medicare-like system for the whole country.  Wow!

When you think of a red state Attorney General suing the government over the Affordable Care Act, you don’t usually expect him to call it too favorable and beneficial to insurance companies, and that he thinks we should get the insurance companies out of the health care for Americans and put it in the hands of the more trusted United States government.  Best new Republican in the world, Buddy Caldwell!

A 67% Marginal Tax Rate Could Reduce Deficit $4 Trillion over 10 Years!

By Frank  GlennDespite the perpetual screaming of the “tax me a nickle” and it will kill the economy crowd, recent highly credible studies indicate that we could raise the marginal tax rate from 35% to 65% without hurting the economy or interfering with the exotic vacation plans for the super-rich.  They will get by.

Not only did employment grow rapidly when the Clinton Administration raised the marginal tax rate from $35 to 39%, but the economy boomed and the good times rolled.  Anti-thetically, under George W. Bush, we cut taxes and the job growth was anemic, almost non-existent, and by the time he was done the economy had not only faltered but was in free fall, heading for collapse.

So the old saws of “cutting taxes stimulates the economy and produces job growth” vs. “tax increases clobber both”  is not only no longer widely accepted, but in fact has been proven to be false.  The facts appear to be, in fact, just the opposite.  Higher taxes result in more money re-invested in business in equipment, employees, and diversification of, innovation in, or just plain increase in production and production efficiency.

A  study published last November by Mr. Saez and Peter Diamond, the economics Nobel laureate from M.I.T., and summarized in the NYTimes this week, had the biggest impact on the conventional wisdom.  Their study showed that marginal tax rates could be raised to 76% without decreasing general revenues and without hurting economic growth, if we eliminated  tax loopholes and ineffective tax credits, reducing incentives to hide, shelter, evade or delay paying taxes by wealthy individuals and corporations. The effect, the report said, would be to raise an additional $4 trillion dollars for the General Fund, which could be used to reduce the deficit, if desired.  The report further posited that the marginal tax rate could be raised from 35% to 48% and the effect would be positive even if the current tax loopholes and tax credits were left in place.

The truth exposed in the report, empirically, that raising the tax rate on the super rich does not effect economic growth to any significant degree.  Most of what the rich do with their discretionary income does not generate economic growth.  So if the rich reduced how much they worked, or altered their spending habits in response to higher tax rates, the economy would not be negatively impacted.

So, the question now remains.  If raising the marginal tax rate won’t increase unemployment, and it won’t slow the economy down, what is the reason, then, that we shouldn’t ask the rich and super rich to pay a little bit more — to do their fair share to help balance the federal budget and reduce the deficit?  I can’t wait to hear what they have to say in response to that report and this question?

 

 

 

 

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Give the Kids Hoodies – And Guns?

By Tony Petramonico — In view of the fact that it has been more than a month now and the state of Florida still can not figure out whether or not a crime has been committed in the Trayvon Martin case, I recommend we immediately submit legislation for a new law in Florida called the “Self-Defense Against the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law”.

This would be a law in which an armed “neighborhood watch captain” packing a gun  pursuing an unarmed teenager with a bag of skittles returning from a “‘Qwik-Shop” run for his little brother, would be cause for us to open our apartment door and open fire on George Zimmerman, not because he looked suspicious but simply because he was carrying a gun — and guns — as we found out in the Trayvon Martin case — can kill people!

In the interim, though, while the legislation is pending, give your kid a loaded gun with the safety off and plenty of bullets whenever they leave the house wearing a hoodie.  Tell them that if a “non-black” person  follows them slowly in their SUV, and then gets out of the SUV to pursue them on foot when they deliberately alter their route so the stalker can’t follow them in the SUV any longer — tell them to drop down on one knee and shoot to kill the instant the pursuer’s foot hits the ground, and tell them to keep shooting until the gun is empty or the perpetrator is dead.  If the pursuer keeps coming, tell them to reload and keep firing until the stalker is dead.

Yes, it would be messy.  Your kid may have to go into hiding for a few days — or move, temporarily.  You may have to leak stories to the press saying that he/she  mentors little white kids in their spare time .  Friends, neighbors and casual acquaintances from work or school may have to be trotted out to proclaim that if there is anything your kid is not, it is that he/she is not racist, is not a trouble maker, and is just a security minded, good samaritan black kid — out doing the all-american thing.

Oh, yes… and the kid may have to hit himself with something, draw a little blood, claim to have a broken nose, and allege that he felt threatened, was suspicious of the guy, and in fact was actually frontally assaulted by the guy, and then the kid shot him — in self-defense.

Evidence from the crime scene may have to be destroyed, ignored, or misplaced.  The state attorney may have to intervene and declare that a dead body and a smoking pistol in this particular case are not enough evidence of wrong doing to press charges or make any arrests. Somebody somewhere might have to make a phone call, you know.

You may even have to release information that George Zimmerman once spit on a girl in second grade, and that he kicked at a stray dog but missed once on a school picnic.   You may have to leak a story to the press that a friend of George’s older brother once knew a guy that was  alleged to have smoked marijuana before. Or maybe the neighborhood watch captain once peed on a little old lady in tennis shoe’s rose bush there in the neighborhood.  You may have to reveal to the world that George was suspended once for being disrespectful to a teacher at school.  Two days. And that he was actually suspended more than once.  Thuggish!  Clearly.  And two other things.  Reveal that he once put a dead mouse in a female schoolmate’s wall locker, making her throw up  a little bit in her mouth when she found it.

And a few schoolmates may have to go on national television and tell the American public emphatically that there is no evidence that your kid ever killed anybody before — in his/her whole life.  That you have always been a real good guy — except for the 49 times you called 911 reporting a strange white kid 7-9 years old in the subdivision –oh, yeah, there was that time you punched a policeman at a street fight downtown.

Yeah.  It would be a bitch.  Lots of hassle. Press people and paparazzi everywhere.  The beauty of it is that as a society, instead of spending way too much time and money going out to action movies, we could all live “Waterworld” and “Beyond ThunderDome” all day every day in our own neighborhoods across the country!

There is a point to all this, though. The point is that however bad it turned out , one thing would be certain — Trayvon Martin would still be alive — and George Zimmerman would  be dead.  RIP.  Take your pick,  hoody parents.

Supreme Court Reputation Hangs in Balance!

By Robert Sexton — We have already seen a Supreme Court that intervened in and stopped a state election count in Florida in 2000.  And when they ruled on it, they disavowed that it represented law that should ever be a legal precedent in similar circumstances in the future (which is the very nature of case law) . They knew that as law — it was just crap!

What they were doing and they knew it, was they were picking a President because we had played the joke on ourselves of letting them think they could decide Florida’s election for the people of Florida and the rest of us, even though all the precedents on state elections matters said the Supreme Court should never intervene in a state election.

We have seen a court that told the litigants in the Citizens United case that they did not want to hear the case they brought before the court, but wanted to hear instead whether of not corporations were people and money was free speech. The “activist” Supreme Court justices sent them away and told them to bring back a case reflecting the questions that they wanted to “make” law on. And the litigants did.  They did not rule on a law, they made up a law that they wished Congress had passed and then ruled favorably on it – after making it up in the first place.

And now, after hearing six hours or so of arguments, mostly nine justices on one Solicitor General, they will sneak off to the darkened chambers out of sight or sound of the American people — and potentially over-rule the President, the Congress, and the 100’s of millions of people who voted in 2008 by declaring ObamaCare unconstitutional.

These people are not representative members of government.  They are political appointees in a time of very polarized government, and in the case of the conservatives, most of them are ideological partisan political hacks with compromised integrity, and have no interest in fairness, democracy, or the issue of healthcare for millions of Americans.  The are simply going to ignore precedent, pick the law they want, interpret the case as dealing with what they want it to be dealing with, deal with it and make a partisan decision that has no basis in precedent, law nuances,  fact — or fairness for the American people.  This is one of the greatest miscarriages of democracy in court history.  If the Supreme Court rules against the mandate and the Affordable Care Act, it will be the end of the last good chance Americans ever had to get affordable healthcare.  But the bigger question is, if this bill,  after all the acrimony and debate,  and the  time, and political theater and drama and polarization — the bill that resulted in a compromise between the President and members of both parties in the House and the Senate is simply cast aside by five unelected American political hacks — what bill  benefiting the 99% of Americans who aren’t rich could ever pass?  How would the  Supreme Court warrant our trust and respect — and how can Americans who are not wealthy ever expect to receive justice and fairness from their government?

 

 

GOP Can’t Stop Give-Aways to Rich!

By Bifford Caulfield — It boggles the mind how the Republican party can just keep trotting out laws, proposals and ideas that give tax cuts to rich people who don’t need it (and probably do not deserve it) and keep trying to reduce the national debt or balance the budget by forcing hardship, inadequate healthcare and loss of opportunity upon the middle class, working poor, the disabled, children, the elderly —  the most vulnerable of our society.

It’s almost as if they are saying, “if I can pander to the rich and powerful enough to just get elected, then all I have to do is run around and do their dirty work for them all day long every day and I will be popular with them and they will give me enough campaign money and help so that  I can stay in office and have this cushy life”.

“And, if I lose an election, I can run out and be their house-boy or house-girl and they will pay me a lots of money to do their bidding, and for all those laws I voted for,  helping them make even more money,  without paying their fair share in taxes.  Plus I can hang out with them, go to their parties, fly around with them on their corporate jets  s0metimes, and be kind of a ‘near-celebrity’  like they are,  because they are rich, and people will think that I am one of them because I hang around with them.”  These so-called politicians are shallow — and transparent.

They are shameful and disgraceful.  When will the voters in the United States wake up and say:  “You know what?  We’re Americans and we deserve better than this?”

 

Defense Contractors: From Killing Machines to Life-Enabling World Leaders!

By Frank  Glenn — President Ike Eisenhower, when he was preparing to leave office as far back as 1960 warned us of the tremendous power and influence of what he called the “military industrial complex”.  I not only see signs that this phenomenon is continuing but there is plenty of evidence that it, and the problem, is growing.

Well, if it is true that the defense establishment is just toopowerful for all three branches of government to say “no” to, then let’s take advantage of that vast power and technology.

Why doesn’t the Defense Department, under instructions from the President and Secretary of Defense, start putting out bids for high-tech teaching and training simulators.  Instead of spending millions and billions on flight simulators to teach our young people to fly stealth bombers of destruction and murder, why don’t we have the defense contractors build Medical simulators that train our young people to be brain surgeons and heart doctors.  Instead of having our best and brightest scientists, physicists, and engineers build weapons of destruction, why don’t we give them “cost-plus” contracts to build multibillion dollar education training tools and technologies.  Why isn’t every child that is born given its own education simulator to stimulate, train, and develop young minds intellectually, and promised free education for life.

Instead of hiring 170,000 paid mercenaries (this is how many we reputedly still have in Afghanistan) from authoritarian or failed state countries all over the world earning $200,000 in salary per year to stalk, shoot, maim and murder citizens of other countries, why don’t we bring them home, or keep the money at home to for our own people, and train them and pay them $200,000 per year to be world class teachers for our children.  And pay the defense contractors that they are contracted through, so they will make money and therefore won’t  kill the plan.

Instead of spending $800 billion per year on a military establishment to provide our “national defense”, which is code for “protect the oil and oil shipping routes”, why don’t we spend that $800 billion annual  “national defense” money developing alternative energy sources and facilities on domestic soil.  Let’s give multibillion dollar contracts to defense establishment corporations to build electric cars that can cross the United States and back on one charge. Install solar panels on every house and business in America.  Produce wind towers and micro water turbines. Let’s subsidize small organic farms, so that when we have moved all the factories making cheap consumer goods out of the country we can  still have an energetic, self-sufficient, “healthy”  population that is largely in control of its destiny and living interesting,  fulfilling, sustainable lives.

The fascinating thing is that it would take no more money, just spending what we already spend a little differently, a little more intelligently.  Instead of a killing, war machine.  We would have an education, teaching and full domestic employment machine.  Let Defense Contactors re-build the infra-structure of America instead of the largest military base or embassy in the world in some other country.

Defense Contractors could become Education Contractors.  Instead of hiding their shame and hiring PR firms to re-frame the “killing machines” they manufacture as a lofty “national defense” sentries, they could be genuinely proud of the contribution they make to a prosperous, well-educated, peaceful country– and world.

If they must make money, and they are so powerful that we cannot stop them from influencing government to make decisions that make them money, let’s let them make money doing good things and build a better future instead of building things to coerce or kill people with.

You probably wouldn’t even need a law passed by Congress.  DOD could just start putting out no-bid contracts for education and alternative energy technology.  The President could just implement it with an executive order — or Defense Department directive.

Instead of “weapons into plow-shears”, we could have “killing machines in to life-enabling machines”.

Think of all the people this would take.  Think of all the American people that would be involved.  Think of all the good paying, fulfilling, respectable  jobs the American people would have.  And think of how proud we could be! As Americans – as citizens of the world.

 

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Let’s Take $600 Billion of the Military Budget and Provide Free Education to American Children!

By Peter Le ForceCan you imagine what a smart, innovative, energetic, dynamic country we would have if we took about two-thirds of the Department of Defense budget, around $600 billion annually, and provided every child, woman, and man who had the ability and the inclination a free college or specialty training education.

The politicians keep talking in hushed voices about the “national defense”, like having a bloated military is the really responsible, adult thing to do.   That’s ridiculous!  There’s no greater national defense concern for a country  than the education of it’s people  — especially the young.  Instead we entrap them into life-long student loan debt — and then give corporations incentives to close job-producing factories here and move them abroad.  How Cruel!

And if we don’t educate our citizens, we won’t have to worry about national defense anymore because we will no longer have a country that any outsider would think is worth having!