After a long vacation away from the computer much of the time there are some things that require comment.
The Zimmerman trial in the shooting of Martin. Saying that the verdict is probably correct under Florida law says more about the law in Florida than about whether the verdict is just. The fact that Florida allows self defense claims to stand when the shooter started the incident flies in the face of hundreds of years of common law and violates all the moral foundations (e.g. Judeo-Christian teachings) of American justice. As such, that part of Florida law is indefensible and means the verdict is unjust.
Did racism play a part in the incident and in the trial?
Yes in the sense that fear, or dislike, of “the other,” which is very common, plays a role in a lot of decisions. But not the overt, blatant, institutional racism some people seem to feel is the only form of racism. The most pernicious forms of racism are subtle because those are the hardest to eliminate and too often are ignored or denied by those engaged in them. (Look up Representative Issa and his exchange with the ranking Democrat on his committee.)
The IRS pseudo-scandal continues, but with more information it becomes less a scandal and more a communication failure or merely delays caused by excessive workloads.
Immigration reform misses a big point, there is a decreasing number of people anywhere who are willing to work the harvest. It is not just Americans who don’t want that job, it is everyone. And in the fairly near future, there will not be enough people under any condition for the current methods. Chavez wanted farm jobs to be real jobs, not poorly paid and one step above serf.
But through it all, the real issue remains jobs and stimulating the economy. The market was scared by the statement that the economy is showing signs of growth so the Fed may start to ease up on stimulus. Maybe if a growth budget could pass Congress it wouldn’t matter.
Donald Rumsfeld, who brought us the disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan is giving out grades to presidents. The D- to Bush was very much the result of listening to Rumsfeld in the first place, so Rumsfeld essentially gave himself a failing grade. This makes the F he give Obama look like sour grapes — Obama didn’t continue Rumsfeld’s disasters so he gets a worse grade.
Give me a break. Rumsfeld is one of the last people to be judging the jobs of political figures. This is a lot like asking Madoff to judge investment advisors.
What is the greatest scandal reported these past few weeks?
Is it the number of organizations that get tax exempt status under 401(c)4 that should not?
How many of the put-upon TeaParty groups are not primarily political in nature? (Not primarily political is the requirement under 401(c)4.)
Is it the, called hacking in any other setting, actions of the Bloomberg reporters to snoop on users of Bloomberg equipment? (Systems that cost thousands a year, these should be at least as secure as a phone.)
Or is it the rampant sexual assaults in the US military?
I’ll vote for the last one.
The response to sexual assault and harassment in the military should be swift and sure — first demotion in rank and immediate discharge. Any hesitation by superior officiers, they should be demoted and discharged. No questions, no delay, no more discussion. Criminal proceedings can come after these actions.
Congressional action is slow these days since the House and usually the Senate Republicans do not want to allow anything to be accomplished as long as Obama is President. So, something different.
Privatization of the Post Office has been suggested. Unfortunately this would force us to rely on the high prices and poor service of delivery services like USP. A few points to remember — the lowest rates from UPS are for delivery to the local post office with final deliver from the USPS since it is the cheaper alternative. Illustrating once again that privatization is not a means to save money, but a means to pad the paychecks of management.
Second, UPS is generally unreliable and unresponsive to problems. Oh, your signature required package was left on the front porch. Oops. Yeah right. Most likely the front porch of the delivery driver.
Last week there were two major explosive events — the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the explosion in West, TX. From a personal perspective, both of these hit home since I spent time in Boston and my ancestors lived near West.
The news coverage of Boston was, as expected, heavy. The coverage of West has been very secondary. Partly because it got lost in the shuffle of breaking events in Boston. But, in terms of danger to Americans and in terms of actual actions that will mitigate the danger, the story from West is far more important.
It is becoming clear that part of the cause of the disaster in West is the lax controls put on businesses in anti-government (i.e. anti-OSHA) states such as Texas. No inspections, no concern about quantities of explosive material by the owner or or local fire department (volunteer fire departments do not usually have inspectors or require fire permits). No wonder Texas ranks high on places to do business. But how does it rank on places to actually work?
The story isn’t that the Senate failed, it is that Senate Republicans blocked passage. Don’t blame the institution, blame the individuals responsible.
Senate (and House) Democrats have less to fear from a NRA backlash since the hard core NRA voter would not vote for them no matter how they vote on gun control. But the Republicans have even less to fear from the NRA since very few voters are so tied to that one issue that this will change their vote. Their election is tied more to the unyielding stance on tax increases than to gun control. Voting for controls may generate a lot of noise, but it causes very few voters to change their vote (especially when the opponent agrees with gun control).
It is time for the 80% who claim to want background checks (and other changes) to vote that way, rather than ignoring that stand and only voting for lower taxes for the rich.
The basic truth is that the NRA is less interested in the full Second Amendment and more interested in imposing its will on the rest of America.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
What do unregulated guns have to do with an amendment designed for regulation and state security?
One point the NRA has been pushing is forbidding those suffering from mental problems from buying guns. Paranoia is a mental illness. So all the paranoid Second Amendment kooks should, by the NRA’s own claims, be forbidden from owning guns.
Better yet, let us actually abide by the Second Amendment and enforce the Regulated Militia that it calls for.
CNN has an interesting graphic on top tax rates and income levels for various countries (Western Europe, Asia, and others). Generally, the US is in the middle (the chart is for combined state and federal, but does not seem to deal with Social Security payroll taxes) for top tax rates, but near the top end for when the top rate starts.
What is the relevance of the top rate?
When the income level for the top rate is far above the median income, the relevance for most is none. Indeed, the real comparison would be to compute the expected tax for a given income level. As an example, a low tax rate state such as Oklahoma reaches the top rate very quickly (essentially a flat tax state) and a high tax rate state such as California reaches it at a much higher income level. Thus for most (90% or more) tax payers, California is a lower tax state than Oklahoma.
About 10 years ago, I asked the question:
- Are you more worried about Iraq using chemical weapons on US troops or that there are no such weapons?
The actions of the Bush administration indicated they only considered the first part a possibility. But even then it was fairly clear that there were no such weapons. It was apparent from the news reports of the period.
Today the real question is why today we bother listening to the promoters of WMD 10 years ago? They were wrong then and are still wrong today. In political punditry, being wrong does not reduce your audience — it may actually increase it.