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Democrats go for another bunt single

A couple of days ago I noted that Hillary Clinton was prepared to make the relatively trivial issue of paid leave the centerpiece of her campaign, that being yet another example of the Democrats propensity to try to bunt their way on base. To extend the analogy (or is it metaphor?), if you know the ump is going to call you out anyway, you might as well swing for the fences.

So, in the words of St. Ronald, “[here] they go again”:

WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are uniting around a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Within the next several days, Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate committee that deals with labor issues, plans to introduce a bill to increase the minimum wage, in steps, from its current level of $7.25 to $12 by 2020.

The measure has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress in the near future, but it is the latest indication of Democrats’ rising ambitions for lifting the wage floor, an issue with considerable popular support in an era of increasing income inequality. The party is determined to elevate the issue in next year’s congressional and presidential elections.

via The New York Times

So, with full knowledge that the ump will call them out, the Democrats go for the bunt. It is widely acknowledged that a $15.00 per hour minimum wage would be equivalent to the minimum wage of the late 60s, when you could actually live on the minimum wage. Why, pray tell, are the Democrats pushing for a minimum wage that is still woefully inadequate? If you’re looking for political advantage, push for what people ought to get, not what you might get by way of compromise if you were dealing with rational people, which you are not in any event. The Republicans throw red meat at their base; the Democrats throw cold turkey.

When can we start digging?

Elizabeth Warren says that the Trans Pacific Partnership “trade” pact is a bad deal, but Obama says she’s wrong”“

“I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this,” he said.
“I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” Obama added. “And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”

via Daily Kos

What an odd thing to say, considering Obama won’t let us dig. So far, the only facts we’ve been privy to are those that have leaked through sources like Wikileaks. The entire strategy of the proponents is to keep everyone, including Congress, in the dark until the very last moment, at which time Congress must vote the deal up or down without having a chance to “dig into the facts” to figure out what they’re voting on.

Typical

Look’s like the broad outlines of Hillary’s campaign to free the middle class are coming into focus:

One of Hillary Clinton’s new senior policy advisers, Ann O’Leary, is giving the clearest signal yet that Clinton plans to make the right to take paid time off from work—after child birth or to care for a newborn or perhaps an ailing relative—a central feature of her campaign.

via Daily Kos

Don’t get me wrong. Paid leave is a very nice thing. But the sad fact is that it’s nibbling around the edges of what ails us, and the focus on this relatively trivial issue is all too typical of the Democrats. While the Republicans wage holy war on behalf of those good old 15th Century values, we offer paid leave. I’m sure there are people that will get so energized by the prospect of paid leave that they’ll come out and vote for Democrats when they otherwise wouldn’t have voted at all. I’d put the number of such people at up to four per state. Amazingly, that might not be enough to take back the House.

The problem, particularly for Hillary, is that too many Democrats are in bed with the folks that should be their targets, the “malefactors of great wealth” to which the last decent Republican president referred, and the guys of whom his cousin said: “They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

The entire speech from which that quote is taken is well worth reading, and it wouldn’t hurt if some of our Democrats riffed off it. Consider this, which could be written today:

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Consider the last paragraph especially. The truth today is that organized money is an organized mob. Giving the plebs paid leave is a meaningless gesture so long as the mobsters are allowed free rein to divert our money into their own pockets. Paid leave would be nice, but it wont fundamentally change anything, but for Hillary, that’s probably a feature and not a bug.

How to stop voter suppression

Daily Kos directed me to this article at the Nation, in which John Nichols, of that illustrious publication, proposes that we enshrine the right to vote in the Constitution. The proposed text of the Amendment:

“SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.

“SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”

A constitutional amendment of this sort will never pass, as I’m sure Nichols knows. The 13th through 15th Amendments were only ratified by the Southern states because doing so was the price of re-entering the Union (and Mississippi avoided ratifying the 13th until a few years ago). Moreover, the Amendment as written wouldn’t work, due to Section 2. Congress already, for instance, has the power to overturn the Supreme Court’s lawless neutering of the Voting Rights Act, but it hasn’t and it won’t.

But, since we’re in the realm of fantasy here, let me suggest the proper way to go about this. This is not original with me, by the way. I got it from General Sherman, though I can’t find a link to verify my recollection from my reading many years ago. I don’t recall that he mentioned the three fifths rule, but his suggestion for guaranteeing the right to vote to Southern blacks represented something of an inversion of that rule. He proposed that representation in Congress (as well, of course, as electoral votes), be allocated by the number of registered voters rather than the number of people. I think that’s how he put it, but I’d go further. Representation should be determined by the number of people who actually vote in Presidential election years. If a state wants to suppress the vote, it would pay by reduced clout in Congress and a reduced role in the Presidential election. Such an amendment would give states a positive incentive to encourage everyone to vote and to make it easy to vote. Sure, there might be ways to game this system, but you could game it out beforehand and prevent the more obvious sort of stuff. While we’re at it, might as well put something in there about gerrymandering.

John Larson makes a very good Social Security proposal

It appears that the Democrats have finally caught on once again to the fact that Social Security is a popular program and that it is a good idea to be perceived as its defender and expander. I say once again because there was a time when they ran quite effectively against the threat, real or imagined, that the Republicans would repeal the program. I love John Larson’s proposal:

•Modestly increase benefits for all recipients (by 2 percent).

•Raise the tax threshold for benefits from $25,000 for an individual and $32,000 for couples to $50,000 and $100,000 respectively, effectively cutting taxes for 11 million seniors.

•Improve cost-of-living adjustments and set the new minimum at 25 percent above the poverty line, so that low-income workers do not have to retire into poverty.

He would pay for these improvements and otherwise stabilize the fund by:

•Gradually phasing in a 1.2 percent increase in the contribution rate, which is now 6.2 percent, between 2018 and 2041.

•Asking more of the wealthy. Now payroll taxes aren’t collected on incomes over $118,000. Mr. Larson’s bill applies the payroll tax to incomes over $400,000 as well, the top 0.4 percent of wage earners.

Mr. Larson said in an interview that his bill, which has dozens of co-sponsors, has been reviewed by Social Security’s chief actuary, who said it will keep the fund solvent for 75 years.

via The Hartford Courant

The editorial in the Courant from which this is taken is a generally good one, although it endorses the sky is falling rhetoric of the right, the whole point of which is to get us to destroy Social Security now in order to prevent it from failing later. We actually have plenty of time to deal with Social Security’s finances, though it wouldn’t hurt to do something now. But, assuming we do nothing about either climate change or Social Security before 2033 (when it is estimated benefits will have to be cut if Social Security’s finances are not adjusted), our failure on the Social Security front will seem like small beer. Somehow, the same folks who tell us we must deal with Social Security yesterday are perfectly happy with waiting until a far off tomorrow to deal with a threat that grows greater with every day it is ignored.

But, getting back to Social Security, Larson’s proposal makes a lot of sense. It won’t pass in this Congress, but if the Democrats keep hammering away they’ll get something like it through one day.

Hillary starts a conversation

When I first saw this video, I thought it was an official Hillary video:

YouTube Preview Image

But, watching it again, I see the final disclaimer. Nonetheless, it is almost inconceivable that Hillary had nothing to do with this, given the voiceover.

So, my  first reaction was that it was either the most cynical campaign commercial in history or a really great thing, given all the wonderful things that Hillary seems to be advocating here.

My problem is that, like Hillary, I’m a lawyer, and what I’m hearing is very possibly lawyer speak, which one uses when one wants to appear to have said one thing, while preserving one’s ability to deny any such thing. 

For what is Hillary promising here? Answer: a conversation.

I know that I’ve been a party to thousands of conversations in which I’ve exchanged political views with others. I am always willing to change my position should my interlocutor convince me he or she is right and I am wrong, though of course that’s never happened. The amazing thing is that the deluded people with whom I have these conversations rarely if ever change their opinions despite the unaswerable arguments that I have made. 

So, at the end of our conversation with Hillary, what will be the result. We will vote for her, of course, given the alternative. And while she converses with us many of us might become very enthusiastic and work our asses off to get her elected, just as we did for the not-so-bold Obama. But the proof of the pudding will come on January 21, 2016 when we find out whether Hillary has been at all persuaded that the future lies in boldness or with Wall Street. 

I haven’t lost hope, though that word is now highly suspect. It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any Shepard Fairey posters featuring that word in this campaign. Maybe she’s returning to her roots. Maybe she can put all her sympathy for those poor folk on Wall Street behind her  Maybe she really will advocate for the types of things mentioned in this ad. 

Just don’t count on it.

Cal Thomas catches us in the act

Cal Thomas has caught us out. We manipulated the Indiana Republican Party into passing a law encouraging bigotry, and then took advantage of them when they fell into our clever trap:

The uproar about Indiana’s law was political theater. It is also a trap set by the Left, which Republicans risk falling into. It works this way: Find a Republican state (Gov. Pence is a Republican and the legislature is overwhelmingly Republican); pick an issue you can twist to your political advantage — and Republicans’ disadvantage; enlist the help of a gay-friendly media; threaten a boycott of the state by prominent individuals and businesses; use this issue in the next presidential campaign to brand Republicans as racists, bigots and homophobes.

via The New London Day

We are so evil. Why would anyone seriously think that Republicans are racists, bigots, or homophobes. Most of them don’t have a racist or homophobic bone in their bodies. Just ask them, they’ll tell you. They just play racists and homophobes to please their base. It’s just politics. Cal understands this. Why don’t we liberals?

Easter comes to Our Lady of Sorrows

I have mentioned in the past that I learned everything one need know about religion and the Catholic Church (a redundancy, since the Catholic Church is the one true church) at Our Lady of Sorrows School grammar school in Hartford, Connecticut. This institution of lower learning is no more; there has been some progress in the past 50 or so years, but the affiliated church lives on. My wife forwarded a link to me about the church this morning:

More than a dozen parishioners from Our Lady of Sorrows Church played the roles of soldiers and Jesus disciples during their annual Stations of the Cross procession Friday. The Roman Catholic Church on New Park Ave. has been performing the ritual on Good Friday for decades.

via The Hartford Courant (Emphasis added)

Okay, first off, what bums be out about this is the fact that this event has been going on for decades, but it was not happening when I had the good fortune to spend my Sundays fantasizing about this or that while the priest droned on performing his magic tricks, not to mention part of my Fridays shepherded to the church by the nuns so I could confess my sins to what I now realize was probably a very bored priest. That decades is seriously depressing. I console myself with the thought that, at least technically, the term could refer to a mere twenty years.

Anyway, the article includes a slide show, and I have to say that the guy playing Jesus looks the part.

So, if next year you’re bored on Good Friday, take a trip to Our Lady of Sorrows Church (yes, it’s really called that) and watch Jesus trudge toward Calvary. When he’s finished, he ends up here, where he learns a valuable lesson, which I must reprise, as it is an Easter Time tradition (I’m actually a day late) here at this humble blog.

And, for your viewing enjoyment, another version. This song has staying power:

Legal Acumen

Who knows, maybe this is Steve Beshear’s way of taking a fall:

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration is arguing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage isn’t discriminatory because it applies to straight people, too.

“Kentucky’s marriage laws treat homosexuals and heterosexuals the same and are facially neutral. Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law,” the Democratic governor said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court on March 27.

via The Huffington Post

I like it. It’s one of those kinds of statements that immediately strikes you as making no sense at all, but it’s mind bogglingly hard to say why. A bit like grappling with Zeno’s paradox. In fact, I suggest someone go to the Supreme Court and try to re-open the Hobby Lobby case, for would not the above logic apply with equal force, to wit:

Obamacare treats the religious and non-religious the same and is facially neutral. Corporations and other employers, whether religious or non-religious, are obliged to provide insurance coverage to their employees that includes birth control, and corporations and other employers, whether religious or non-religious, cannot provide insurance that does not include birth control.

No, it’s not the same. Mine actually makes way more sense. Anyway, hats off to Beshear’s lawyers. It takes a lot of damn gall to put something like that in a brief, so give them credit for a certain form of courage. And who knows, given that they’re making the argument to people like Scalia, Thomas and Alito, that tortured logic may become the law of the land.

Student strikes, modern edition

We need more of this:

Calling themselves the ‘‘Corinthian 100’’ — named for the troubled Corinthian Colleges, Inc., which operated Everest College, Heald College, and WyoTech before agreeing last summer to sell or close its 100-plus campuses — about 100 current and former students are refusing to pay back their loans, according to the Debt Collective group behind the strike.

They met Tuesday with officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent government agency that has asked the courts to grant relief to Corinthian students who collectively have taken out more than $500 million in private student loans.

The Education Department is the group’s primary target, because they want the department to discharge their loans. A senior department official is scheduled to attend the meeting.

via Boston Globe

Their common complaint is that the education they got was worthless, and the Education Department had every reason to know that was so when it enabled Corinthian. How likely is it, however, that a Department headed by Arne Duncan would recognize that “for-profit educational institution” is an oxymoron.

There is an easy fix to this problem. Stop subsidizing for-profit schools. If they want to go into the business, fine. (Well, not really fine) They have no god given right to a subsidy. Unfortunately, this country doesn’t do easy fixes. They too often involve diverting the flow of money away from the pockets of the rich, and we wouldn’t want that.