Entries Tagged as 'Politics'

#MeToo

I’ll open by underscoring this is my personal opinion.

I’ve read and watched a number of individuals come forward about being sexually harassed in the past — and I think that’s a great travesty that people would take advantage of another based on their position, social status, wealth, or power — but let’s wake up here… that is how the world has operated (and we’ve all turned blind eyes for years, decades, millenniums), so let’s ratchet down the (false) indignation and work for a newer world order where harassment is a thing of the past.

I see this as an issue were we need not only looks at who did what — but when it was done.

Yes, the standards 10, 20, 30, 40, 50… years ago were very different than it is today.  And the way things were done might be appalling by today’s standards, but none the less that’s how they were done and we all knew it (don’t even try to pretend you thought all those stories of the “casting couch” and “sexitaries” was just locker-room banter… you knew it was true, and simply chose to do nothing about it).

Here on MLK day I’ve decided to share my thoughts — though let’s not pretend like MLK was a saint… he too was a sinner. He too (seemingly) had issues with equal rights for all (you didn’t hear him mention women, you didn’t hear him mention races other than white and black, you didn’t hear him mention gays).  The one thing Dr King did do: he opened up dialog which started to move this country forward from a long period of stagnation.

My feeling is actions which happened many years ago need to be looked at in the light of the prevailing time… those people need to be admonished at minimum, but if they didn’t cross what was the norm at the time that needs to be the end of it.  We just need to make sure that we update our image of the past and those personalities to include that they failed to treat everyone with the respect they deserved, and failed to take a stand to end harassment.

However, when similar things are happening now, or within the past several years — that’s different.  Clearly these events are transgressions that go far beyond the accepted norms.  Not only do we need to admonish these individuals, but we need to take action to insure that they and the industries they are in change.  That change needs to occur sooner, not later.

Should they be fired — yes — if they don’t have the courage and integrity to resign.

But should individuals who committed transgressions many, many years back when times were different be fired — that’s a little more complex; we need to look at the individual now, appraise what changes have been made to their life, and if they are still that same person.  If they are — then they’re out; however, if they’ve made change… we can give them a little time under the microscope before we make our final decision.

I’m all for zero tolerance, but zero tolerance never seems to be that (just check when the local school’s sports hero crosses the zero tolerance line, there always seems to be tolerance for at least a second chance — so something else we need to be honest with ourselves about — rarely do we really have zero tolerance, it’s just a catch phrase).

Personally I abhor harassment of any kind, I abhor those who feel they are better than others and can get away with it, I abhor those who help hide it and punish the victims… but this is a problem where we have to start to resolve today, and not get carried away with witch-hunt after witch-hunt of “dark” figures from out past.

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

FY2007
FY2007

FY2008
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FY2009
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Originally posted 2010-10-02 02:00:45.

Economic Stimulus

It amazes me how the United States Government can make simple things so complicated… and that it always seems that laws to benefit the greater good cannot be passed without benefiting special interests.

I say this is a very simple thing to handle.

The House and Senate need to approve an appropriation bill which allocates a given amount of money to an economic stimulus effort.  With that they can define the types of spending (broadly) that are acceptable.  Further, they can designate that government entities (federal, state, local, etc) can submit a request to a panel composed of four Representatives (two Republican, two Democrat), two Senators (one Republican, one Democrat), and the Vice President to review and approve.

Further, they could specify that each and very request must be for a single project; well specified with goals and measurable objectives.  That each and every proposal submitted must be acted on within ninety days, and that all actions and meeting of the committee must be open to the public (and news media, complete with cameras and microphones).

Congress could allocate more funding to the program as needed, or elect to stop funding it at any point in the future (but couldn’t pull back funds once granted).

Additional there should be a requirement on any entity that receives funds that they will abide by the letter of Federal law in allocating work which is wholly or partially paid for by the funds, and that any failure to use the funds as specified will require repayment with interest.

Look here, in a few hundred words I’ve outlined a framework that is totally transparent, highly adaptable, and fully accountable…

The whole problem is that we’ve changed nothing in Washington.  While I believe that Barrack Obama wants to change the way government governs, most of the individuals in Washington only wish to benefit themselves.

We gave Barrack Obama an overwhelming charter to change America for the better, and if each and everyone of us doesn’t stand up now and tell our Representatives and Senators that they are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely.

One thing is for sure, things will change — we will either choose to make the changes, or the changes will be the result of social and economic upheaval.  But if we’re going to have the choice, it has to be soon.

Originally posted 2009-02-08 01:00:01.

One Nation Under…

Most Americans seem unaware that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the phrase “one nation under God”.   Our fore fathers, while religious, believed in the separation of church and state; and made it a guiding principle of this nation that there would be no state or state supported religion.  They believed that each and every individual should be able to make the choice of what beliefs that they would hold sacred, to choose their religious affiliation, or to choose to be free from religious affiliations.

Much as George W Bush capitalized on American fears to push through the Patriot Act (which should be considered one of the least patriotic things ever pushed on the American people by the US Government), the “Communist Threat” (and hunt) were used in the 1950s to change the Pledge of Allegiance to add “under God” as well as add “In God We Trust” to our currency to delineate the popularized differences between the “godless communists” and the “god fearing” people of the West.

As an American I am incensed by these charades where our politicians use popularized movements to take America further from it’s founding principles.

I say, let’s look back to our founding principles and resume the course originally set.  Time for the Patriot Act to be repealed, time for the Pledge of Allegiance to cleaned of it’s religious overtones, and time for our currency to follow the guidelines of separation of church and state.

Originally posted 2010-02-27 01:00:44.

Fair Use

The fact that the US Copyright Laws are in a major need of an overhaul isn’t something that only the masses of ordinary users understand; but to some extent John McCain is also painfully aware.

A little back ground.

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, John McCain launched a number of political advertisements on YouTube, many of those advertisements used copyrighted material (for which he had not obtained a use license for).  Those advertisements were pulled from YouTube to comply with US Copyright Law (not the McCain had much choice — YouTube was required to pull the advertisements under the DMCA — an act which McCain supported).

In mid October 2008 McCain suggested to YouTube in a letter that “VIPs” shouldn’t be bound by the same fair use rules as others.

What can you expect from an elitist… he only sees the problem for himself, not for the general public.  A man with eleven homes and thirteen cars and uncounted wealth simply doesn’t feel he can afford to pay for the use of copyrighted material when the use of that material has obvious and substantial personal gains for himself, but it’s fine that a minimum wage mother should have to pay for the use of an old tune in the background of her child’s birthday video.

When put like that it’s easy to understand why member of Congress have one of the best health care plans in the world (for life) but they don’t feel the average American should have much choice.

Or perhaps we should consider TSA treatment of the average American who is subjected to searches and harassment and humiliation while members of Congress bypass the entire process.

Wait I digress.

Maybe, though, on copyright, we’ll have a little more luck holding politicians to the exact same standards that you and I must be accountable to.

Something more akin to one of the results of the confirmation hearing for Judge Robert Bork.  It resulted in the passage of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (because our member of Congress were afraid their video rental records might be revealed to the public — not because they were worried about you and me).

There are permitted uses of copyright material which do not require any license payments; it may not be required to completely scrape the existing laws; all we may well need is the statement added that when an individual is not likely to substantially profit through the use of the material, it is covered under fair use.

US Copyright Office – Fair Use

Originally posted 2010-01-20 01:00:37.

Double the losses — triple the bad service

I’m talking about the United States Postal Service — and I’m being kind on “triple the bad service”.

The Postal Service has reported net losses totaling $8.5 billion in the fiscal year ending 30 Sep 2010 — compared to a $3.8 billion loss the previous year.

The Postal Service blames the recession and the continuing growth of e-mail.

I would say the losses are more likely caused by an archaic “business” that if it weren’t for cellular carriers would have the absolute worst customer service known to mankind.

Maybe, just maybe if they increased the rate they charged for distributing all that junk mail that no one wanted; actually levied fines against companies that violated anti-pandering orders; and restructured to provide better service using fewer hands they could balance their budget.

After all, when the Postal Service looses money we don’t pass a bill like TARP to help them — we just write them a check.

Originally posted 2010-11-27 02:00:53.

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable
By Christopher Wolf, CNN
22 September 2010

Senate Republicans successful in blocking the repeal Tuesday of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s discriminatory policy on gays and lesbians in the military, obviously did not read or simply chose to ignore a California federal judge’s ruling several weeks ago that the policy violates fundamental constitutional rights.

Given the opportunity to undo the bigotry that was written into law 17 years ago, the senators chose not to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which voted in May to repeal the law. Instead the Senate opted to pander to socially conservative voters. For now, at least, the law remains on the books.

But the march to repeal or invalidation must and will resume. The unfairness and wastefulness of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been demonstrated repeatedly.

Twelve years ago I handled a case that by itself showed the absurdity and mean-spirited nature of the law. In 1998, I represented a highly decorated 17-year veteran of the United States Navy who had served honorably and continuously since he was 19 years old.

Out of the blue, the Navy decided to kick him out of the service because he was gay, and not based on anything he did as a sailor. (I was called into the case the night before the discharge was to take effect.)

At the time of the Navy’s decision to discharge him, he was the senior-most enlisted man aboard the United States nuclear submarine USS Chicago, the sole source of income for his mother and nearing retirement eligibility.

The “offense” triggering the Navy’s witch hunt was an e-mail the sailor had sent from his AOL account seeking donations of toys for the children of his shipmates at Christmas. (His AOL username made the Navy officials suspect the sailor might be gay, but nothing in the contents of the e-mail or anything else in the sailor’s behavior in the service justified what the Navy did.)

The Navy decided to go on a “search and destroy” mission against the service member (those are the words of the judge hearing the case), when it asked AOL to get information about the sailor to confirm he was gay.

Then-Judge Stanley Sporkin–formerly general counsel of the SEC and CIA, so no bleeding heart liberal — found that the Navy had violated federal electronic privacy law by demanding information from AOL to make its case against the sailor, and that it had violated the strictures of the “don’t ask” part of the military policy on gay and lesbian service members. He stopped the Navy from throwing out a distinguished service member in light of its illegal activity.

The case made news at the time. The decision was a courageous one and against the conventional wisdom that Congress had accommodated gays and lesbians just fine with “don’t ask, don’t tell” and it was not up to civilians to tell the military how to operate.

Sporkin wrote in his opinion that “It is self-evident that a person’s sexual orientation does not affect that individual’s performance in the workplace. At this point in history, our society should not be deprived of the many accomplishments provided by the people who happen to be gay.”

He said the court “cannot understand why the Navy would seek to discharge an officer who has served his country in a distinguished manner just because he might be gay” and that the case “vividly underscores the folly of a policy that systematically excludes a whole class of persons who have served this country proudly and in the highest tradition of excellence.”

He acknowledged that the case specifically did not reach any of the constitutional issues underscoring the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy, but he felt compelled to note that “the defenses mounted against gays in the military have been tried before in our nation’s history — against blacks and women.” Sporkin concluded: “Surely, it is time to move beyond this vestige of discrimination and misconception of gay men and women.”

Twelve years later, a successor of Sporkin’s on the federal bench in California decided just that — that it is time to eliminate discrimination, as a matter of constitutional law. In the meantime, scores of qualified and committed service members have been ousted based solely on a policy whose foundation is unconstitutional bigotry.

They did not have a Sporkin to take up their cause of justice. They will never get their careers back, or purge the trauma of being labeled second-class citizens, and neither will our country be able to recover their valuable lost service.

Although the Senate stopped repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in its tracks yesterday, the California ruling will work its way through the appellate process. In the end, this will turn around and the day will come when gay and lesbian service members and their allies can say we were right all along, and just as in the days of segregation, the country was wrong.

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable on CNN

Originally posted 2010-09-25 02:00:31.

50 Years of Progress

Clay Bennett
Chattanooga Times Free Press

Originally posted 2013-12-26 08:00:56.

Gettysburg

Thursday 19 November 1863, then President Abraham Lincoln was part of a ceremony to dedicated part of the battlefield on which the battle considered the turning point of the American Civil War took place from 1-3 July 1863 (significant because it was the first battle Confederate General Robert E Lee lost).

On that date President Abraham Lincoln (scheduled to be but a minor speaker) delivered by far his best remember speech, and possibly one of the best speeches ever delivered – The Gettysburg Address.

The Gettysburg Address was Lincoln’s attempt to explain why the American Civil War was important, and why preserving one nation was essential.  Lincoln; however, when much further in his short speech and attempt to clarify (or some say re-define) the precepts of the Declaration of Independence and promote a society where all men are equal (he likely didn’t include women in that view, that expansion of equality would have to wait several more decades).

Today most respect and revere Lincoln as one of the greatest leaders the United State has every had.

Just keep in mind; that the party of Lincoln no longer represents Lincoln’s beliefs.

Originally posted 2010-11-19 02:00:35.

It’s not our fault we went bankrupt…

I wasn’t sure it it was a new daytime sitcom or a hearing when former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld delivered his 1680 work prepared testimony.

Lehman was a strong company that had corrected it’s problems:

In retrospect, there is no question we made some poorly timed business decisions and investments, but we addressed those mistakes and got ourselves back to a strong equity position … There is nothing about this profile that would indicate a bankrupt company.

The market and the public were wrong to lose confidence in Lehman:

Lehman’s demise was caused by uncontrollable market forces and the incorrect perception and accompanying rumors that Lehman did not have sufficient capital to support its investments.

The government was at fault for not banning naked short selling or allowing Lehman to convert to a bank holding company or let it take deposits:

Each of those requests was denied at the time. Tellingly, though, each measure was later implemented in some form for other investment banks during the days and weeks following Lehman’s bankruptcy filing.

Lehman was the victim:

This loss of confidence, although unjustified and irrational, became a self-fulfilling prophecy and culminated in a classic run on the bank starting on September 10, 2008, that then led Lehman to file for bankruptcy four days later, in the early morning hours of September 15.

For more comedy (without my satire — and please don’t think I’m serious about anything I’ve written in this post) see the links below; and don’t laugh too hard.

Dick Fuld
Repo 105
Lehman bankruptcy attorney
New York Fed general counsel

Originally posted 2010-09-02 02:00:11.