Jun 30, 2014

SCOTUS Decides Hobby Lobby Has Right To Determine Employees' Religious Beliefs

The defenders of Hobby Lobby's decision to withhold contraception coverage to their employees claim that the government can not force Hobby Lobby's owners to pay for contraception which is against their religious beliefs and that Hobby Lobby isn't forbidding employees from purchasing contraception with their cash compensation (just barring it from the compensation in the form of health insurance). Today's decision ignores the fungibility of compensation and the right of the employee to utilize their compensation within their own religious or philosophical beliefs, and that the employers' religious beliefs supersedes that of their employees and extends the employers' beliefs to wherever their employees compensation is spent. Best not to work for or be customer to any business that holds the belief of medical science is the devils work, since they can continue to get tax rebate for providing health care while refusing to pay for insurance premiums. Hobby Lobby's central motivation had nothing to do with contraception as Mother Jones pointed out earlier this year, that their retirement funds included pharmaceutical companies that produce the same contraceptive products that claiming are against their absolute religious beliefs. As if their religious beliefs were optional when dividends were involved but immutable when their employees chose to utilize that aspect of health services. The employer is given the right in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision to make the most personal intimate decisions on behalf of their employees as if their personal decisions not to use Viagra or some convoluted religious rationale to be opposed to Lenscrafters could then be extended to their employees, because otherwise they would be harmed. The employer or the spouse of the employer still is not being forced to take contraception themselves, but the choice and liberty of individuals use contraception as part of their health care services are having their freedom infringed upon since they can no longer make the health care decisions with advice from their doctor.

The argument that the employer should not be compensate employees with health care services they have an issue with could be easily resolved by the employer not supplying health insurance at all (while forgoing the tax benefits) and letting the employees enter the health care exchange markets for their insurance.But then Hobby Lobby owners won't be able to impose their decisions on their employees, and their religious convictions are opposed to letting individuals chose for themselves how to lead their lives outside of work?

To claim that Hobby Lobby has right to impose their beliefs on their employees is contrafactual just it is farcical to claim that the employees have a religious "freedom" to impose on the owners to use specific health care services with the profits obtained from the labor from the employees. The employer isn't harmed from the employee spending their earned compensation (either cash, healthcare, paid time off, etc) as they see fit, even if it is for contraception or paid-time off used to be drunk and hungover it has no effect on the payer of that compensation. SCOTUS in the 5-4 decision and siding with a business that was seeking premium subsidies but on their own terms were to be extended universally the employees of Hobby Lobby would be entitled to impose their religious beliefs that the owner would have to give away his possessions as Jesus Christ commanded, and just as Hobby Lobby continues to collect dividends contraception producing companies, the employees would be allowed to keep their own possessions.

The Faith-Based Economists Are Hoping For Dire Results And Collapse of Full Faith And Credit Of America

EndOfAmerica.com? HighlyDoubtIt.com!

Chicken Littles of the financial markets claim that they have secret knowledge that tomorrow is going to be the beginning of an economic collapse of the American economy and the U.S. dollar. This is the financial equivalent to the religious fundamentalists that were equally assure of the rapture back on May 21st 2011 and will be shown to be equally disassociated from reality.  At the heart of the concern is that Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), that seeks out to tax the foreign investments of American citizens greater than $50,000 that are currently in foreign tax havens. The fear is that the IRS attempting to extract taxes from tax havens with American clients will cause capital flight from the investments priced in American dollars and cause international financial firms and governments to no longer hold the American dollar as a reserve currency, though that outcome may become a reality in the future it won't be due to the implementation of FATCA. There is data set of Chinese government attempting to corner the market on gold, silver and other rare metals to back their yuan, while the same individuals will decry any attempt by the U.S. government to take any intervention into the American economy, as if we should take our lead from an authoritarian socialist government but do so without any government action. Or what these Chicken Littles would likely prefer, let the tax avoiders that are affected by FATCA continue to welch on the obligations of paying what Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said were the dues of civilization.

The ill-conceived solution to the non-existent calamity? Buy gold bullion, buy gold coins, buy gold futures. Yes we should return the American economy to the gold standard where those that have already accumulated vast fortunes are protected from inflationary effect of fiat monetary policy and those that had the misfortune to depend solely on their own labor as a means of economic enrichment will be in a race to the bottom to attain the crumbs of those that have the gold. To clamour for the bad old days of a gold standard or even bi-metalism is an exercise in historically ignorance. To voluntarily place ourselves back onto a cross of gold will not be to the benefit of the masses, but only expedite the concentration of wealth that is considered a positive outcome in the minds of the predeterministic economic outlook of the libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists, for they operate under the rubric that if you don't already have money then you certainly don't deserve even subsistence standard of living. 

Pointing towards contradictory data points such as for-profit companies are far better stock purchases than that of state owned operations like Petrobras (Brazil), Gazprom (Russia),  or China National Gold Group Corporation while professing that BRICS countries will abandon the American dollar as a reserve currency; it is mutually exclusive that the American economy bolstered by the largest and least restrained corporations somehow is being abandoned by developing countries because of lack of value and inflationary monetary policy that the dollar is to be deemed worthless, while state controlled enterprises are at the same time too valuable and valueless making those countries delink from the 800 pound economic gorrilla which the U.S. is. American economy having the least regulations. The American government retracting it's obligations to continue market sustainability as well as consumer protections has the response from the 'free marketeers' it not enough. The catch-22 from the 'free marketeers' is that when the economy fails, it will be rationalized as the economy still has too much regulation no matter how little regulation is enumerated or enforced (laws on the books not being enforced by SEC is a assumed result by market makers on Wall Street).

So tomorrow there will be an absence of calamity (except for the millionaires that owe millions in taxes, with their nest egg hidden off-shore), and continue calls for elimination government defense against the concentration of wealth. I didn't even need to look into my crystal ball for that prediction.

Jun 19, 2014

I Endorse Zephyr Teachout For Governor, Tim Wu for Lt Gov In The Democratic Primary

“I believe in democracy,” Ms. Teachout said, “not donors.”

People aren't happy with "concentration in the media industries and tech industry into political strength," Wu says.

These are the sentiments that will never come out the mouth of Governor Cuomo and the reason why Cuomo should not have received the WFP endorsement and should not receive Democrats vote in the upcoming September primary. Concentration of wealth, influence and political power is an anathema to our constitutional republic and our democratic institutions. On the right side of the aisle, there is feigning of outrage that the government is overreaching with regards to economic intervention but calls for unilateral restraint in the side of the least powerful. On the left side of the aisle, there is a predetermination of who gets the benefits of the government action but since it is not equally implemented it is intrinsically unjust metered out. Zephyr Teachout, admittedly by herself, is an underdog in the campaign to be governor it should not disqualify whether or not one is too vote for her. The prognosticators that assumed Eric Cantor's primary was a foregone conclusion were proven wrong, and I hope that Ms. Teachout and Mr. Wu will overcome poor odds and claims that it is quixotic to even attempt but our democracy is all that more stronger the more opinions that are expressed and the more ideologically diverse our candidates for public office are.

Even she does win the primary, she would then need to run a three way race against Rob Astorino and Andrew Cuomo yet again but the Governor would be depending on the Independent and WFP line.    

Jun 18, 2014

Washington DC's NFL Team Loses Trademark Of Offensive Racial Epitaph

United States Patent and Trademark Office today cancelled NFL Washington, D.C. franchise's trademark for its offensive team name. The term originates from referring to Native Americans being scalped, and Europeans colonists and Western settlers being paid for the "redskin" to ensure  that the Native Americans really were killed, yet Dan Snyder still has his supporters  as seen with this screen shot of my Facebook feed:

So it apparently is beyond the pale  for the Federal government to stop maintaining trademarks that are thoroughly offensive to the people that are supposedly honored by the name (at least to team owner Snyder); while satirizing Dan Snyder's agouche attempt to squelch the offensive name controversy by Stephen Colbert by starting the Ching-Chong-Ding-Dong Foundation to Help Asian Americans got the far right hashtag activists to #CancelColbert, because it was offensive but the reference to Native American scalps as your football team is somehow perfectly honorably which is perplexing to say the least. In the case of those that believe any government is too much government then they should be arguing for the disbandment of the Patent and Trademark Office altogether, but instead this real instance of obtuse willful ignorance simply calls for Dan Snyder to stick to his racist team name. If the NFL broadcasters chose to only refer to the team as Washington Football team and used TV magic to cover the logo on the field similar to how they cover part of the field with yellow line for the 1st down, then isn't that within their rights as business owners or does Dan Snyder's racism somehow trump ESPN's desire to retain respectability?

The original post gives a list of other team names that may be offensive to segments of society-- the problem being that names are not offending Vikings, nor non-Vikings, Cowboys nor non-Cowboys, gold diggers nor non-gold diggers, Sauk tribal members nor non-Sauk tribal members, Canadians actual take pride as Canucks the same way Americans take pride as Yankees. Native Americans after being victim of genocide and largest land theft in history get the benefit of the doubt if they say they take offense to the term 'redskins' then it is offensive, because it would fair for them to seek out damages that the American government dealt to their ancestors or even themselves since until the 1970s they were adopting away Native American children to be placed with white families.

I like watching football, I played football in highschool, I was present for the incident that caused the removal of highschool mascot to be removed. At the time I thought it was innocuous that the name of the team was plainsmen with a logo from stock clipart showing Native American warrior in profile with a tomahawk (I only know that is was stock clipart because Jamestown, NY's high school mascot was the Red Raiders used the exact same logo) and that Native-American Mr. Stone-Romero took offense to something that had nothing to do with his race. The logo as offensive as I can now see it being, did not hold any special place to the school's teams as it had gradually been phased out in favor of simply being called Shen, and having 'Shen' replace the logo on every uniform. Black face is offensive to African-Americans, they are the ones that determine whether or not they are offended. Jews get to determine whether epitaphs of hooked noses and pais are offensive. Assemblyman Dov Hikind gets to call out being offended that  John Galliano wore hasidic costume, but Mr. Hikind doesn't get to determine whether or not wearing blackface was offensive to African-Americans. Dan Snyder doesn't get to chose whether or not the term 'redskin' is beyond the pale, the people that are Native Americans get to be the final arbiter of offense.

The central problem is that historical tolerance of racist iconography and memes, are being willful ignored as anything that needs to be corrected. Like telling an 80 year old racist that the n-word is not used in polite conversation, the old racist may react but when I was a kid I said it all the time; offenses that was tolerated in the past are no longer being tolerated.  I could be wrong about a lot of things that I currently believe, but that I'm open and if shown reason to change I hope that I would. It is scary that no matter the facts that are presented that there will still be people that will hold on to this antiquated way of thinking.

Just to restate the obvious, Native Americans own the term 'redskin' since they earned it with the blood of their ancestors, they are the final arbiters of whether or not it is used by a petty-uber-wealthy-team owner who wants to splash the term around while grown men play a game. 

Jun 13, 2014

Should liberals vote for Rob Astorino?

There's been a lot of buzz recently about New York's next race for governor, and speculation about whether a progressive challenger will run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Here's how The New York Times described what's going on:1
    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has won significant support from traditionally Republican constituencies, including business executives who like his tax cuts and Wall Street financiers delighted with his support of charter schools. But this courtship has come at a price: As he begins his bid for a second term, he is struggling to hold on to support from the left wing of his own party.

We want to know where New York MoveOn members stand. This isn't a formal endorsement vote—just a statewide membership survey to get a sense of what New York MoveOn members are thinking as a potential race shapes up.
Do you think a progressive candidate should run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year?
    Yes, I want to see a progressive challenger to Andrew Cuomo.
    No, I support Andrew Cuomo.
After we tally the responses, we'll report back to MoveOn members across the state and share them with the media—so they know what progressives are thinking as the gubernatorial election gets under way. 
 -MoveOn.org Email Subject: New York Member Survey: Progressive challenger for Gov. Cuomo? (May 27th, 2014)

Gov. Cuomo pushed through tax cuts for the super rich, repealed taxes on banks, and slashed funding for local schools -- all ideas Republicans really like.
It's no wonder there's been speculation about whether a true progressive will challenge him in the race for governor.
The New York Times: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has won significant support from traditionally Republican constituencies, including business executives who like his tax cuts and Wall Street financiers delighted with his support of charter schools. But this courtship has come at a price: As he begins his bid for a second term, he is struggling to hold on to support from the left wing of his own party.
We want to know where our New York members stand.
Do you think a progressive candidate should run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year?
We'll report back to you and share the results with the media -- so they know what progressives are thinking as New York's gubernatorial election gets under way.
Thanks for being a bold progressive.
-Bold Progressive's Email Subject: New York survey re: Cuomo (May 28th, 2014)

This Saturday night, Working Families Party State Committee members from across New York will gather in Albany to make one of the most important decisions we have ever faced.
Should we support Governor Andrew Cuomo's re-election or endorse a progressive challenger?
I’ve been with the Working Families Party for 15 years and know firsthand that the power of our organization comes directly from empowering supporters like you to make important decisions and take meaningful action.
That’s why it’s so important our State Committee Members hear from you before they make this important decision.
Let us know if you believe the Working Families Party should endorse Governor Cuomo’s re-election or endorse a progressive challenger to run against him.
While Gov. Cuomo deserves credit for winning marriage equality and passing gun reform, many New Yorkers are frustrated with his tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations and dramatic cuts to education.1
Since we last wrote about this race, another poll came out showing over 22% of New Yorkers would support a Working Families Party alternative this November — within the margin of error of Republican Rob Astorino’s 24%.
But before this decision is made, we wanted to reach out again to see what you thought our next step should be. Share your thoughts here:
We’ll be in touch over the next few days to keep you up-to-date on the latest news and information about this decision.
Thank you for making your voice heard,
-Working Families Party's Email Subject: Endorse or challenge Andrew Cuomo? (May 29th, 2014)

The proceeding three emails, were a selection of progressive organizations seeking feedback on whether or not Cuomo should receive each organization's support and especially whether or not a WFP should back Cuomo for re-election. They each allude to significant opposition within the self-identified liberal/progressive movement that Cuomo innately faces. WFP state convention occurred, and with lots of arm twisting by Mayor DeBlasio and his aides, the nomination was delivered to Corporatist-Centrist Democrat Cuomo.

The following emails I received in response to the Cuomo nomination by the WFP:


Last night, we secured a major win. Not for the Working Families Party, not for Governor Andrew Cuomo, but for the working families of the state of New York.
Faced with a challenge from Zephyr Teachout -– a Working Families Democrat if there ever was one -- for the Working Families Party endorsement, Gov. Cuomo declared for the first time that he will join the effort to secure a Democratic-Working Families majority.
We have disagreed a lot with the Governor's economic and education policies over the last four years. On many issues, he has not governed as a progressive. But we do agree with the platform he committed to fighting for last night, which will help transform the lives of millions of people, and even set the stage for still further gains:
    *passing comprehensive public financing of elections to fight the influence of big-money in our democracy
   * passing the Dream Act, so all New Yorkers can access higher education
    *decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, so we can stop jailing our youth, especially young people of color
    *passing the full 10-point Women's Equality Agenda, to protect and ensure women's equality
    *raising New York's minimum wage to $10.10/hour, indexed to inflation, and allowing cities and counties to raise wages 30% higher than the state level
    *increasing the state's investment in community schools to improve educational opportunities in high-need districts. But the Governor still fell far short of what's needed -- we need to comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court order and fully fund our schools.
The Governor's pledge to fight for this vision of New York is why the WFP State Committee voted last night to endorse Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York. 

Now, the hard work begins. We will hold the Governor accountable to his commitment, but we'll need your help. Can we count on you?

Yes, count me in. I will work to hold Governor Cuomo to the promise he made for a more progressive New York. 
-Working Families Party Email Subject: Our commitment to New York (June 1st, 2014)

Progressives won a big victory in New York last weekend. The Working Families Party forced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to drop his support for Republican control of the State Senate and made him commit to a populist agenda to fight income inequality. In return they agreed to back him for a second term.
Gov. Cuomo didn't want to do it. We forced his hand. Our survey of New York DFA members last week found 82% of those who responded said they would back a progressive challenger to Gov. Cuomo.
We shared those numbers with the Working Families Party, helping give them confidence to support a challenger if Gov. Cuomo didn't meet their terms. It also showed Gov. Cuomo that we were serious about a challenge, forcing him to commit to a progressive agenda.
DFA was willing to back a progressive challenger in order to hold Gov. Cuomo accountable and to push him to the left. His agreement to support the Working Families Party agenda validates that strategy. But it's not the end of the story. DFA members are going to hold Gov. Cuomo to his promises. We will not let him backslide. We will not let him side with Wall Street and the rich. 
Democracy for America Email Subject: How Andrew Cuomo caved to progressives (June 6th, 2014)

Dear New York MoveOn member, 
Recently, we shared survey results with the media showing that 73% of responding MoveOn members in New York State want to see a progressive challenger to Gov. Cuomo.
Here are some highlights of Gov. Cuomo's commitment to progressives:1
  • Support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and letting localities across New York—including New York City—set their own higher wages up to more than $13/hour
  • Support for the Dream Act 
  • Support for passing the full 10-point Women's Equality Agenda
  • Support for decriminalization of marijuana
  • Support for public financing of elections
  • Commitment to working to elect a Democratic State Senate to turn these proposals into law, and a demand for the so-called Independent Democratic Caucus lawmakers to return to the Democratic Party
As with all political agreements, we can't take anything for granted, and follow-through will depend on two things: 1) Democrats must win the State Senate in November, and 2) there needs to be meaningful accountability to make sure Gov. Cuomo delivers on the agreement.
That's where all of us come in: Together with allies, we're helping form a Cuomo Accountability Team to make sure Gov. Cuomo knows progressives are watching closely and demanding follow-through on the commitments he has made.
Will you sign up for the Cuomo Accountability Team to make sure promises turn into action? Click here to join:

Here's an update: In order to win the endorsement of the Working Families Party—and faced with pressure from MoveOn members, law professor Zephyr Teachout, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, DFA, and other allies across New York—Governor Cuomo agreed to support a set of demands that progressives been making for years. 
 -MoveOn.org Email Subject: Update re Gov. Cuomo (June 13th, 2014)

Each of the emails after the WFP convention claimed victory and asked for donations (links to donation pages removed), but they also acknowledged that exact goal before the WFP convention (having an alternative progressive challenger to Gov. Cuomo) was wildly popular. There is such a thing as 'moving the goal posts' but this not 'moving the goal posts' but instead deciding there was never goal posts but if there were goal posts they were really popular goal posts if they ever existed. I know I stretched the analogy a bit far, but metaphysical twisting of logic to pull out a win from Cuomo eliminating any viable progressive challenger is equally a stretch.

Which brings me to the point that my title alludes to, if the progressive activists that were excited about a possible challenge to Cuomo (since he was characterized in May as a Republican Lite, but in June a strong fighter for the Liberal cause), couldn't they ensure that 4 years down the road that unseating a Astorino Governorship with a real progressive be better than handing over all progressive credibility to a Republican Lite Cuomo who have the WFP nomination as trophy of the Big Liberal Game Hunter when he runs for president in 2016? Should the 73%-82% of participants in the poll that wants a real progressive to challenge to Cuomo be better served by holding their nose and voting for Astorino rather than holding their nose and voting for Cuomo? Astorino, even if 200,000 people agreed with me and voted against Cuomo for the betterment of the Progressive movement, wouldn't win the governorship; but it would send a loud message to all those Democratic elected officials that presume they have to kowtow to the opposition's base because the Tea Party won't go along with compromise, that the Progressives are tired of being the only side that gives anything in political negotiations. That 200,000 vote number I'm using is a significant number only in that is the number of votes, if withheld from the WFP, would cause the WFP to lose their ballot access and have to wait 4 years to get it back. The requirement of 50,000 votes for governor on a party's line, and in 2010 WFP recieved less than 250,000. Even if somehow Astorino did win and Cuomo kept to his promise to beat both Independent Democratic Conference State Senators and poachable GOP state senators' seats, it would be assuredly better to have both houses safely held by real Democrats than the Potemkin village setup where the Republicans hold the majority and play bad cop to Cuomo's good cop.

Progressives lost when Cuomo received the WFP nomination, and the Progressive panhandling organizations (DFA, MoveOn.org, Bold Progressives, WFP, etc) irrespective of whatever the outcome turned out to be was going to ask for money to get "real progressive change." We've got big mountain to climb if we are going to get challenger Bob to defeat Cuomo! But there was no challenger so we get instead: Cuomo has really let us down, but if you give money now that will show him to change his ways and keep the promises that he begrudgingly made under duress. What is the difference, I don't think even the Progressive panhandlers know or care. 

The likeliest of the good scenarios is that the WFP losses it's ballot access it is narrow race (I'm indifferent to whether or not Cuomo wins re-election), with the narrative that would get widely reported is that the left were too unhappy with it's lone choice voted for protest write-in candidate or Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins getting a surprising segment of the vote.

Jun 12, 2014

Cantor Loses To Tea Party Candidate: Not Holding Breath For The End Of Crony Capitalism

Eric Cantor stepping down from Republican House leadership is being reported as sending shockwaves through political halls of power, I believe that it is actually not an indicative of things to come but rather a lagging indicator that the GOP's purity test is has the party on a trajectory to obliviation. When elected officials that are willing to compromise about anything are thrown out of the party, such as Arlen Spectre and Bob Bennett, there can be no debate or civil discourse between the parties. As the logjam becomes semi permanant, the voters will continually seek to 'throw the bums out' and as the primaries veer off to a more and more untenable obstruction for obstruction sake position the moderates that were thrown out of the party would either join the Democrats or start their own moderate party like the Likud party in Israel.

Starting a third party with centrist inclination while the Democratic party veering back to a populist left position would be best for the nation, having gradients of political policy among the three parties would give more choice to the electorate for having their voice represented while at the same time dissuade an absolutist purity of ideology due to an alternative viable option in the general election. Though that scenario would be best for the electorate and democracy, the more likely outcome is the lip service paid in campaigns against status quo crony-capitalism hegemony but govern to the whims of Big Business so that every election both Republican and Democratic politicians claim to be the savior of Main Street and bash the elite until they are sworn into office. For example, Barack "Change" Obama who repeatedly stated that you can keep sending the same people into office and expect different results-- then goes hires Clinton's old economic team and Bush's Military-Industrial-Complex team to carry out exactly the same policies.

To rebut the Chief Justice of Supreme Court in his McCutcheon decision, but it is absolutely within the role of government to fix the apparatus of democracy and whether the elected representatives decide that the fix is providing transparency of campaign contributions or restricting only constituents to contribute to campaigns or some sort of public financing of campaigns, to keep our democracy strong and transform an out-of-touch Majority Leader losing an election from shock to expected outcome we need to tackle this as an problem that needs a solution.

Jun 10, 2014

Yet Another School Shooting: Gun Rights Advocates Share Blame For Permissive Gun Culture

About once a week mass shootings have been occurring across the country, but only our country because every other developed nation on the planet has solved this issue limiting access to firearms. The gun rights advocates claim some sort twisted divine right to always be able to be violent and have efficient implements to do so. I characterize it as 'twisted' because why would G-d grant a right to destroy G-d's own creation to  G-d's individual's creation?

There is no theological internal logic to a right to implements of pure intrinsic violence, if we are to hold that our shared creator is benevolent and good. Yet we have so called "Christian" churches handing out guns for first time attendees, the same people claim that teachings of Jesus Christ are the only way to salvation which is includes "those who live by the sword die by the sword" believe that eternal life is living by the gun. The only solution for this cultural abomination is that of a drastic cultural change that will no longer tolerate implements that can exclusively be used for violent purposes.

The people of faith claiming allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth, should be the source of this societal transformation but I will not hold my breath for this logical awakening.

"Either We Win The War, Or Be Tried For War Crimes" Vietnam Era Sec. of Defense Robert MacNamara reflecting on the WWII Bombings of Japan

Admiral Mike Rogers, NSA director

Freshly minted Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers, told a conference held by Bloomberg that the accusations the NSA was using facial recognition widely along with access to driver license photos because such activity is not legal and "We do not do this on some unilateral basis against U.S. citizens." Acknowledging the activity would illegal is huge, especially taken with the track record of his predecessor General Alexander and his boss Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. That the facial recognition could be used with photos from each state's , commonwealth's and the District of Columbia's department of motor vehicles, is a collusion of the security state and the civil bureaucracy that beyond the pale. What is very likely a work around is that outside vendors such as Booz, Allen Hamilton currently headed Michael Hayden (former Director of National Intelligence) utilize commercial databases that access the states' photos and through such an intermediary Adml. Mike Rogers' statement becomes accurate and lawful while continues to be deceptive to the exactly the people that pays his salary and are the only threat that could possible be neutralized with mass surveillance: the American public with legitimate criticisms.

If legal questions arose regarding how the surveillance operated, and they were obtusely in the unlawful and unconstitutional side of things, then it would behove everyone that took part in that criminality to obfuscate exactly what was done regardless of the effectiveness of the illegal actions taken. The Senate Intelligence Committee has oversight over the Central Intelligence Agency, who ran the "enhanced interrogation" that according to the former interrogators were unfruitful in providing any intelligence, so in the Intelligence Committee's oversight duty they are responsible for bringing accountability the CIA. If the CIA, or assets working on their behest, may have committed crimes with regards to torturing prisoners then they have all the incentive in the world to obfuscate and obstruct anyone from discovering and then prosecuting those crimes; Back in February, the staffers of the Intelligence Committee were doing just that while the CIA allegedly was destroying evidence when the staffers removed documents that were classified but threatened to be destroyed. The NSA has the same motivation to obfuscate and block accountability regarding surveillance that is directly an affront to the 4th Amendment- but more so in that the claims that these practices were effective when they were not effective in ferreting out and thereby preventing mass casualty events and explosives such as the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013 and the Times Square Armed Forces Recruitment Center Bombing in 2008 (intentionally set when no casualties would occur). Was mass surveillance effective to prevent crimes, or even discover foreign intelligence then Edward Snowden would have been discovered when he initially reached out in December 2012 or the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army would not have been in doubt with unambiguous intelligence.

Like the quote from the title of this post, the surveillance state needs to win this war or be tried for their crimes, the only difference is their enemy they are fighting a war against is the American public. 

Jun 9, 2014

Las Vegas Mass Shooting: Poltical Entitlement + Guns = Random Acts of Violence

Most recent mass shooting perpetrators' profile picture, dressed up as Batman villains the Joker and Harley Quinn 

Jared and Amanda Miller yesterday morning shot and killed two Las Vegas police officers (aka good guys with guns) then proceeded to charge into a Walmart and shoot to death a customer before committing suicide. The couple expressed radical tendencies to their neighbors and had a proliferate collection of white-supremacy literature and pamphlets in their home. They, according to police reports, were not involved with any larger anti-government or white supremacist movement but made it widely known that was their personally held belief. The motivation for the mass shooting has been attributed to their desire to overthrow the government and that they saw police as an oppressive and illegitimate force.

Their actions are not that of merely a married couple that were prone to violence, but the cultural environment that is permissive if not wholly encouraging jumping to the conclusion that gun violence is acceptable and justifiable response to anything that hasn't met personal expectations. Anarch-Capitalists will often refer to the mass violence committed by the state, the most damning being the threat of violence of imprisonment for failure to pay taxes, always reserve the divinely given right to access weapons and to remain a violent threat towards the government. The paradox that the evil act of systemically implementing a threat of violence (again the threat of imprisonment) while comprehending that freedom can only exist if they have the ability to threaten violence in response to living in a Utopia. The cultural changes that need to be made that even the slightest and least serious claim threat of violence to those hold differing political views should be shamed by those who wish for a more verdant world (ex. Rush Limbaugh's demand to exterminate all liberals except for 2 in each university to be kept as exhibit of why liberals needed to be exterminated... I wish I could think of left-wing examples but even the radicals like Code Pink and PETA demand Republicans be prosecuted or that legislation be enacted to end cruelty towards animals there hasn't left-wing associated political violence since the Weathermen of the 1970s). Political violence whether it be the Millers of the Las Vegas shooting or Hutaree Militia who were foiled by sharing their plans before they could carry out their plan for random acts of gun violence towards police officers. We need to ask the following questions, why does any individual need carbine semi-automatic rifles? If the only answer is that the 2nd Amendment says no law should infringe on the people's right to bear arms, then does the U.S. signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty make it unenforceable due it's unconstitutional nature? Wasn't the rationale given by the Bush administration to invade Iraq (as dubious as it was even at the time) affront to the divine right to possess weapons that is supposedly enshrined in the 2nd Amendment?

My personal belief is that within a civilized society, there is no "right" to violent barbarism nor any implement. One need not legislate away this fetish to have weapons but we can move culture to shun firearms and those that are deluded themselves they need these objects like toddlers crying for their blankies.

Jun 4, 2014

Seattle Raise Minimum Wage to $15; Plutocrats Pull Their Hair Out That Consumers Will Have More Purchasing Power In Northwest Washington State

Seattle becomes the nation's leader in minimum wage Monday when they set the minimum wage to $15 (incrementally increased over next three years) nearly doubling the the Federal minimum wage and increasing the state minimum of $9.36, which is a 60% increase for the lowest paid workers. Small business employers such as Subway franchisee David Jones complain that he would have increase prices of his sandwiches by a dollar, nearly a 20% price increase; the implication being that his workers getting a 60% increase will require him to raise prices 20% to maintain his profit margin. Seattle's Clarion hotel claims that this will ensure rates will increase 10% to avoid large number of layoffs but instead only minor layoffs will occur; the implication being that they would have immediately hire far more than they actually need if they could pay the employees wages below what could sustain a subsistence living standard. The criticism of pushing local minimum wage has largely been based upon harming employment levels, but that ignores all economic analysis since Card & Kruger that in 1992 overturned the conventional wisdom that mandatory increase in labor costs would have a negative effect and shed jobs due to the increase of costs. Why that conventional wisdom seems intuitive, but does not bare itself out in reality, is that it assumes the perspective of the employer as the central decision maker in a local economy when in reality the aggregate of the consumers/employees has a larger effect on demand than the parochial concerns of the overly vaunted entrepreneur.

Even the uber-individualists of Reason.com, fail to include the employee's individual choice to demand higher wages as a liberty that should be respected. Only those that have already shown themselves to be the select elected, as in the theological Calvinist use of the term, can have their liberty defended by the libertarians while those not elected by not being graced by the invisible hand of the market should suffer with their station in life without complaint nor question. The employer can't bear to see a top marginal tax rate anywhere near the Laffer Curve, but the lowly minimum wage worker should not demand his/her fair cut for being industrious through his/her labor? That paradox that those who already have money beyond what they could reasonably spend in a lifetime would somehow have no further incentive if they were to minimize even an iota of luxurious living, but those that are barely getting by can have no financial cushion or they would no longer be incentivized to work (ignoring the incentive of continuation of said employment slightly above a subsistence wage).

Here is a hypothetical to exemplify this economic argument: if we were to have three individuals with different incomes a hedge fund manager with income of $100 million per annum, a insurance claims adjuster earning $50,000 per annum and a fast food worker getting paid $20,000 per annum (assuming Washington state minimum wage of $9.36/hour 40 hours a week, 52 weeks allowing for $600 worth of overtime pay). If we then were to increase the income of all our hypothetical earners by 60% of their income, would their economic activity differ and would that economic activity be beneficial to the rest of the economy? The minimum wage worker going from $20,000 to $32,000 can now put away savings for the inevitable rainy day AND viably climb into the middle-class becoming a more active consumer purchasing more products and services including local businesses such as restaurants. The insurance claims adjuster going from $50,000 to $80,000 can now purchase a newer car from the local dealer more often, go on family vacation (though economic benefits are transferred to wherever they travel, it would be reciprocal were the increase be nationally implemented rather than locally), and the additional funds would also allow the employee to be a little more risk-tolerant and possibly begin to invest along with a slight increase to his/her savings for retirement. Then we have the hedge fund manager earning a $100 million a year, having nearly unlimited purchasing power so increasing income would have no noticeable effect on personal consumer choices, leaving the only effect to what investment the multi-millionaire makes. If the hedge fund manager decided to start a labor intensive enterprise that required (at least down the road after it grew) a large number of employees that would beneficial to the greater part of the economy, but the return-on-investments (ROI) on such ventures are notoriously low which is why the financial industry has been growing as regulations and taxes on investments have evaporated over the last 30 years ensuring the high ROI with the least depency on labor. With the hypothetical income increases for anyone that are already keenly aware of their own economic limitations, any increase will almost entirely go to more consumption creating a demand in the consumer market while having a multiplier effect across the masses whose financial status has improved; conversely those that have nearly limitless purchasing power will not change their economic activity in any way that will increase demand in the economy and very likely would not increase employment in any way.

To argue that if the employer was free to hire the lowest possible wages while also free to set the highest possible prices to attain the most profit is not to the betterment of even those employers in the long term, as the employees getting squeezed on both ends will be resentful of those financially comfortable while they struggle. The counter argument would be that the masses of consumers given a greater purchasing power will cause more money chasing the same amount of product and service, though inflationary, benefits all working members of the economy and encourages consumption while rewarding income from work over passive income from investments which in the near term is the optimum scenario for our economy.

Those that despise the minimum wage has little to do benefitting the many, rather it has to do with that it doesn't exclusively benefit the few preordained economic victors. This can be seen in the plutocratic perspective that cheer for the immediate benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy, and their finger wagging towards immediately benefitting the lowest paid employees. Representative democracy exerting the will of the vast majority, those that are (or have in the recent past) getting paid at or near the minimum wage are seen as far too selfish which is the exclusive domain of those that have become accustomed to economic and political domination that claim their own selfish is a virtue and a vice for everyone else. Thanks alot Dagny Taggert!



Jun 3, 2014

Zephyr Teachout for New York State Governor

The following is an email I sent to Zephyr Teachout yesterday after Cuomo's allies denied her the WFP endorsement and thereby denied the state a viable liberal alternative to Cuomoccio who has balked at every turn regarding progressive economic policy.

Subject:I implore you to run for Governor in the Dem, WFP primaries and as an Independent 
Ms. Zephyr Teachout, 
I know that a stranger emailing you to ask you to run for Governor of New York state is quite the non-sequitur, but New Yorkers like myself need you to be our next governor. New York state is the birthplace of expanding civil liberties from suffragettes of Seneca Falls to LGBTQ equality rights activists of Stonewall; religious freedom under Flushing Remonstrance and the freedom of the press of the Zenger case shows that New York State is home to those that challenge the conventional wisdom even before the American Revolution; Governors have a tradition of bucking the status quo and being muscular in intervening on behalf of the little guy whether it be DeWitt Clinton, Al Smith, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We need you as New York's next governor.
Though I admit I could be incorrect about this, you could collect 175 signatures of WFP enrolled voters and force a primary against Cuomo on the WFP line while also running on the Democratic line after collecting 15,000 signatures. Also to assure that you appear on the November ballot collect 15,000 signatures of voters in August to run as an independent candidate.
I have included my resume that shows my extensive experience in electoral campaigns especially here in New York. I first became aware of you as a volunteer for Howard Dean, though you are only first becoming aware of me, I have been aware of the good work you have done for more than a decade. I hope to be able to help you become the next governor of New York and look forward to hearing a response in the very near future.

Jun 2, 2014

Working Families Party: Like the Party's Name Constantly Being Duped By Elected Officials For the Sake of Uber Wealthy

This past weekend the Working Families Party (WFP) held their convention to endorse state wide office seekers and provide access to their fusion ballot line (candidates in New York are allowed to appear on multiple parties' ballot lines, when I ran for Clifton Park Town Council I was on both the Democratic and WFP ballot lines). Typically this is a mundane affair, but in recent weeks and months public polls (Quinnipiac and Siena) showed that an unnamed WFP candidate would take 20% or more support in the general election pulling down Cuomo from astronomically high margin of victory to a mere plurality. This is response to Cuomo's triangulation in a state that gets pejoratively put down for it's liberal tendencies despite the fact to the past 30 years that have shown right-wing plutocratic policy has been deleterious to Middle-American family but the conventional wisdom in the halls of power continues to hold that those that were successful in business or the progeny of those successful in business has special knowledge and wisdom when discussing how communities or nations should be organized (surprise they put themselves on top). 

We have seen on a national level in the previous 5 years Obama being elected on the electoral promises that you can't expect change by sending the same people to elected office and that he was going to change the game and not just play it better which in the wake of the Great Recession sounded intuitive-- then proceeded to carry out policy exactly in line with his predecessors; we have seen on the state level 4 years ago Andrew Cuomo was chosen as the Obama's preferred candidate and won election against far right-wing Tea Party backed Carl Paladino-- what could have easily been a clear repudiation of that mindset was instead taken by Cuomo as needing to given excessive deference to the point of view that he was instrumental  to ensuring GOP control of the State Senate relinquishing a vestigial and repudiated world view to be remain as an opposition for the sake of opposition; we have seen on the city level that Bill DeBlasio's being elected on an electoral promise to end domination of the economic elitism and raise up those in outerboroughs that have been dismissed, through policies like stop and frisk that routinely harassed young men and teens of color like his own son-- what might have been expected had the Mayor followed the intentions of the electorated that just hired him would be an immediate suspension of stop and frisks, what we got was hiring Bill Bratton who initiated the program under Rudy Giulliani.  What we might have also expected that the universal  pre-k that was promised to be funded by those earning more than $500,000 a year in the city that just chose him in large part because they wanted to see those that earned a disproportionate income while never receiving their justified comeuppance from their role in the 
creation of the Great Recession was bamboozled by the governor with a promise of temporary revenues from other parts of the budget (ie. promised matching funds for campaign finance) that could be yanked away at the whim of Cuomo or any other future governor rather than permanent source of revenue to ensure a permanent universal pre-k.

I provide this background not as to make a case as to how consistent elected officials' hypocrisy is but show how the institutionalization of policy making is directly in rebuttal to the will of the people. A minor party like the WFP would be expected to not ever be able to bring enough sway to anything about this situation, and with the eroding union membership the establishment left should be powerless to anything about this trajectory; and yet the WFP along with SEIU 1199, SEIU 32BJ, RWDSU, and Hotel Trades Union have made a concerted effort in getting the electoral promises to be more and more left of center. With WFP's endorsement of Cuomo at the behest of Bill DeBlasio and his top political aide Emma Wolfe (former Political Director at WFP) has commited a critical blow to the progressive/liberal movement. Though the promises continue to be leftward leaning, the delivery of those promises are never to come to fruition. The elected officials decided to pantomime shared beliefs with those self identify as left-wing and those that are activists, but when it comes down to brass tacks they are the Washington Generals to the right-wing plutocrats' Harlem Globetrotters; all the effort to show that they are attempting to win policy implementation but the game is rigged and the end results are already decided against the will of the governed. If the it is inevitable that the WFP will collapse, then they might as well flip the bird to those are decimating the party as they go out the door rather than being courteous and deferential to those will see to it the party no longer exists. The 40% of the state committee that voted to endorse Fordham Law Professor and campaign aide to Howard Dean, Zephyr Teachout might have had this in mind, it is a shame that she did not win the endorsement. I will likely vote for her as write-in candidate both in the primary (if there is one) and the general election.

Why would true believers still volunteer for WFP candidates when they refuse to withhold support after it has been demonstrated those elected officials dismiss demands of the activists the moment they are elected? Why would anyone continue to contribute money to the WFP of that money is going to be spent on candidates that are never to be held accountable, and actually work against WFP states goals? If Cuomo's unspoken threat that if the WFP were to withhold their endorsement would be that he would persuade the unions that supply much needed resources to the WFP to withdraw from the WFP altogether, then what good is endorsing an overt backstabber who has no loyalty nor any shared principle? Cuomo was central to the collapse of the Liberal Party when it was too late to get his name off their ballot in his 2002 aborted run for Governor, Cuomo withdrew from the Governor's race which ensured the Liberal Party wouldn't receive enough votes to retain ballot access, so it is well within Cuomo's modus oprendi to follow a 'Scorched Earth' policy in regards to his allies, but oddly not his opponents (at least not conservative opponents). If Bill DeBlasio knows that he will not receive full hearted support from Cuomo (as demonstrated by Cuomo killing any guaranteed revenue for universal pre-k) why work so hard to ensure attain the ballot line of third party if not squelch real progressive change?
If Cuomo thinks that a winning presidential strategy is to deride the left's most vocal activists, I'm not sure who's votes he's expecting to win in the primary, but I know it is not mine!