Entries Tagged as 'Politics'

As Kagan Joins, Federal Courts’ Roles Rise In Importance

by Ron Elving

This weekend, Elena Kagan was sworn into the elite club of 112 who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The moment was duly noted across all news media, in large part because Kagan is just the fourth woman in the club.

But journalists also pounce on new appointments to the High Court in part to correct our perennial neglect of the judicial system. By far the preponderance of political journalism spilling out of Washington is devoted to the White House and Capitol Hill. As a rule, we pay attention to the courts when they interfere with something the other branches are trying to do.

This summer, federal judges have once again been horning in on issues of great interest and high stakes. Gay marriage. Immigration. The health care law. The post-BP moratorium on deepwater drilling. Each of these decisions will be reviewed by federal courts of appeal and ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But for that reason alone they will be generating news, inflaming public opinion and determining the direction of our politics, economics and culture.

Although most of the federal judiciary labors in lofty obscurity, at moments such as these one man or woman in a black robe can make an incalculable difference. Governors and senators and others in public life can only dream of such moments of influence.

Consider that on one day last week, one federal judge in San Francisco issued an opinion that invalidated the best known voter initiative of recent years: Proposition 8 on the 2008 California ballot, which overturned the state’s recognition of gay marriage.

Presenting extensive findings of fact from the trial before him, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker noted that defenders of Proposition 8 had scarcely attempted to refute these findings. In fact, the Prop 8 defense in its entirety was so cursory as to suggest its attorneys scarcely thought the trial court level was important. Their eye was on the friendlier venues of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if liberals and libertarians were heartened by Walker, they were equally gratified one week earlier by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who kicked out the key pillars of an Arizona law attempting to crack down on illegal immigration. Bolton found fault in that law’s provisions allowing state and local officials to question the immigration status of people they deemed suspicious — for whatever reason. The requirement that residents who ran afoul of such suspicion produce papers proving their immigration status was also spiked by the judge.

Bolton, like Walker, knew well how every word she put to paper would be scrutinized, analyzed and politicized. No doubt the same could be said for other judges bringing a more conservative viewpoint to bear on equally significant issues in recent days.

First of these was federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman of Houston, who spiked the administration’s six-month moratorium on oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration may well have thought the argument for shutting down new explorations in the Gulf was open and shut in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. But if the shutdown was a no-brainer for environmentalists and industry critics, business folks in the Gulf states seemed to see it primarily as a short-term job killer and a long-term cloud over the economic future of the region.

Liberals were swift to note that Judge Feldman had a portfolio of stock holdings in the oil and gas sector, one that might well suffer in the event of a long-term slowdown in Gulf energy production. They also noted that the relevant federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, was dominated by judges with business interests much like Feldman’s.

But the judge’s ruling stands, and is likely to stand longer than the Obama administration stands behind its six-month moratorium.

Similarly, in the same week as the Prop 8 ruling, supporters of the Obama health care law were incensed that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond had approved Virginia’s standing to sue the federal government over the enforcement of provisions in that law. Defenders of the new health law had hoped that Hudson might uphold the historic principle of federal pre-eminence, a central issue since the founding of the Republic.

Many have noted the symbolic power of having this challenge emanate from Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the 1860s and the epicenter of “massive resistance” to the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in the 1950s. State’s rights may be a heading in a history textbook for some parts of the country, but they remain a mainstay of current events in the South.

Talk of nullification — the asserted right of states to ignore federal laws as they choose — has re-emerged as President Obama has pursued an activist agenda. In Texas and Tennessee, candidates for statewide office have allowed references to secession to enter their campaign vocabularies.

While no one expects another Civil War, we are clearly heading into the most significant round of state-federal confrontations we have seen since the 1960s. And that struggle has already been joined in courtrooms around the country, where it will largely be fought.

Small wonder then that Republicans in the Senate have made resistance to the judicial nominees of the new president such a salient element of their mission in these past 18 months.

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

But as the number of Democrats in the Senate shrinks in the November election, those who remain will need to reconsider what means are necessary to install their president’s choices in the increasingly powerful job of judge.

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-21 02:00:48.

Have to start keeping an eye on my neighbors…

Only 24 July 2010 Greg Brown, Jr (son of the Santa Rosa County Property Assessor Greg Brown) and his wife Jennifer Brown were caught on surveillance video removing his opponent’s campaign signs in the Florida State District 1 Representative race Doug Broxson.

Because of previous incidents of vandalism, video surveillance was shot by Jason Broxon (the candidate’s son) on property in Holt Florida owned by Don Dewrell.

Doug Broxson’s campaign manager, Kevin Brown (not related to Greg Brown), delivered copies of the tape to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department and the Pensacola News Journal.

Greg Brown insists that he and his wife did nothing wrong by removing Broxson’s signs from property owned by a Brown campaign supporter.

Brown said he saw his opponent’s signs on the vacant lot after leaving a political rally in Jay on Saturday night, and said that the owner of the land had previously agreed that Brown’s would be the only District 1 candidate allowed to place signage on his property.

I personally have a few issues with Brown’s statements.  Jay (Santa Rosa County, FL) is immediately North of our neighborhood (Brown and his wife live just down the street from me), and Holt (Okaloosa County, FL) is no where near any reasonable route from Jay to Milton — in fact, you’d have to go pretty far out of your way (Hwy 87 goes from just East of Jay to within a mile of their house; Holt would be a 25 mile or so detour — on a 10 mile drive)… so to me, there’s something missing in what he said.

Also, apparently Doug Broxson didn’t get the memo that he wasn’t authorized to post signage on that property (and it may well have been posted on the public right of way, it’s hard to tell the distance from the road in the video)… and the “conversation” between Greg and his wife makes the whole episode seem a little suspect; but regardless, it seems very suspect for a candidate to remove another candidate’s signs — clearly we’re not dealing with the sharpest tool in the shed (actually I’ve never met Greg Brown, Jr — but any candidate that puts himself in a potentially compromising situation like this might not be my first choice for making decisions that effect my livelihood).

Anyway, you can find a great many write ups on this with a quick search (you can use the search box to the right if you like).

Bottom line, maybe I need to move putting up my surveillance cameras around my property a little higher on the list — I might not live in as safe a neighborhood as I thought.

Originally posted 2010-08-11 02:00:23.

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.

US Health Care Reform

Today US President Barrack Obama is supposed to deliver a revised plan to overhaul US Health care… but yesterday Warren Buffet hit the nail on the head while speaking on CNC he said the country’s out-of-control health care costs — at US $2.3 trillion a year and growing — are like “a tapeworm eating at our economic body.”

Mr Buffet underscored that he would support overhaul legislation proposed by the US Senate, but that he would prefer existing proposals be scrapped in favor of a new plan targeted at addressing costs.

“What we have now is untenable over time,” said Mr. Buffett, noting the U.S. health-care system eats up about 17% of the country’s economic output, compared with about 10% for Canada and many other countries. “I believe in insuring more people. But I don’t believe in insuring more people until you attack the cost aspect of this. And there is no reason for us to be spending 17% or thereabouts when many other developed countries are spending, we’ll say, 9 or 10%. They have more beds, they have more nurses, they have more doctors, they even have more consultations by far.”

The major obstacles to any real reform would be the power health care lobbyists (representing pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, doctors, and other health care related entities) as well as the American public.

Without reform, the cost of U.S. health care — already the most expensive in the world — is forecast to jump to around 25% of the US economic output by 2025.

My feeling is that since the Democrats couldn’t come up with a plan that they could all get behind when they had control of the House, Senate, and Presidency it’s extremely unlikely that they can build bi-partisan support for much of any real reform now.

American politics is always a shining example that change isn’t always progress.

Originally posted 2010-03-04 02:00:40.

What taxpayers want

There is a good read on CNN.com by Lou Zickar entitled What taxpayers want (yes, I leveraged the title), it’s very well written and compelling; but I think it fails to be totally upfront and honest about the problem and is overtly politically spun.

You see, taxpayers also happen to be the electorate… so what they want they express by voting in each election and determining who goes to Washington (as well as their local and state seats of government) to make decisions — and since by-far-and-large voters have sent the same people back to Washington in some cases for nearly 60 years, taxpayers need look no further than the nearest mirror to see where the problem is.

If you vote for the same person election after election who has contributed to the problems, then you are getting exactly what you’ve ask for, and thus what you must want… if you want change, start at the ballot box.

But, realistically — I don’t see this happening.

America has become the home of the content, and the land of entitlement… entitlement which starts at the top and stretch to the very roots of society; and no one is willing to give up their “special” dispensations, but expect everyone else to do so.

Change is easy, and every individual is a part of it — all you have to do is send a real message to your elected officials, send them all home (for good).


What taxpayers want by Lou Sickar on CNN.com

Originally posted 2011-08-21 02:00:23.

Angry Voters

Hey, I’m at the front of the line of people thinking it’s time for a change — and it’s time to throw out everyone we’ve elected and try someone and something new…

BUT

Someone needs to be the voice of reason here… just because we’re pissed (or as it was put)

…made as hell and not going to take it any longer…

That doesn’t mean we should be looking to angry leaders to solve our problems.

Yes, we should be looking for people who are fed up with those who have come before them; but leaders need a level head, they need to lead with reason not wrath.

Say yes to the growing anti-incumbent fervor that’s growing; but be very careful about aligning yourself with angry people who want power.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 02:00:31.

Liberal? Conservative?

I’m really neither or perhaps both…

I’m extremely conservative when it come to fiscal matters; far more conservative apparently than anyone who get’s elected to government office.  My belief is a country must run it’s finances like an individual has to — you have to pay for what you get, which means you have to make hard choices.

I’m extremely liberal when it comes to social matters; I understand, and appreciate the cost to society of not providing assistance and programs which break the cycle of poverty.  I believe that it’s the responsibility of those who have benefited from our society to help those who have failed to achieve (not quite a Socialist view, but certainly the philosophy of from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs is a guideline for growth).

The problems in this country are deep routed, and there really are no quick fixes; however, there are certainly things that need to be done sooner than later to put us on the road to fixing the ills of this country.

The first, and most important thing, is to get rid of career politicians who serve no one’s interest except their own.

The second is to make long term investments in infrastructure — and I’m not talking about just roads, dams, etc… I’m talking about education, social services… everything that makes life sustainable.

The third it to get rid of special interest influence.

The list of things to do is virtually endless; but if we can achieve those on the top of the list in the next decade I believe we’ll start seeing major improvement… but we have to figure out why we’re where we are, and what has gone wrong — because it will go wrong again.

My BLOG posts are all over the map — but they represent me and my life… remember, anyone worth knowing is complicated.

Originally posted 2010-11-04 02:00:20.

Taxing Non-Profit

The red ink on the balance sheets of many state and local governments seems to be causing them to re-think the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations.

There seems to be every thing from legal/administrative challenges to organizations non-profit status to requests to non-profit organizations for tax “donations”.  Some localities are considering totally revoking non-profit exemptions, and others are simply creating hidden fees for services that are not exempt-able.

Clearly we as American’s need to re-think the non-profit tax exempt status totally.

Personally I think tax exemption for an organization should work more like “homestead exemption” — that they can be allocated a given amount of tax credit by each of their “supporters”.

Consider a system where every American is allocated a non-profit tax exemption that they can transfer to any organization (or split between organizations) that they desire; or choose not to… this gives each non-profit the ability to have a tax exemption proportional to their supporters.

What this prevents is large non-profit organizations (including faith based organization) from operating for-profit businesses or holding large tracts of real estate on which no tax is paid… but for modest non-profit organizations there would likely be minimal tax impact…

I personally believe that organizations that help society should be encouraged and supported – but organizations that simply try and evade taxes should not force the general public to support them.

Take a hard look at non-profits; ask how much of every dollar provided to them actually is delivered to the cause it is to help; ask how many employees are supported by the organization and whether their salaries are comparable those employed by for profit; and ask the same of the administrators of non-profit and who well they are compensated…

Originally posted 2010-05-27 02:00:45.

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
FY2008

FY2009
FY2009

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

Unhealthy lies and the truth about health care reform

On 18 August 2009 John Groom published an article on CreativeLoafing that might give you a little more perspective on the health care reform battle.  It’s dated, but still very relevant.

The article starts off…

For weeks, health insurance companies, Republican political operatives and politicians, and their media cheerleaders have thrown a thick blanket of lies over the national debate of health care reform. By now you’ve heard the one about how Obama is going to pull the plug on your granny. Maybe you also heard that illegal immigrants would soon be enjoying free health care on your dime. Or that new health care policies would be a bonanza for abortion clinics.

Most of the screamers we’ve seen at health care town hall meetings are obviously, at best, very uninformed about details of proposed reforms. What you may not know is that those uninformed views are largely the result of a deliberate, cynical campaign of outright, blatant dishonesty the likes of which this reporter hasn’t seen in nearly 40 years of following politics. Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein summed up the risk the GOP is taking with its current tactics: “By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.”

For the complete article see: Unhealthy lies and the truth about health care reform.

Remember, question everything.

Originally posted 2009-12-29 01:00:56.