Saturday, March 28, 2009

Woman hit, beaten, raped. And nobody even bothered to call it in

This is a pretty disturbing story: In broad daylight on a heavily traveled highway in Massachusetts, a woman was run into from behind, beaten, knocked unconscious and sexually assaulted, and no one bothered to call it in.

A woman was viciously attacked in broad daylight Friday afternoon on a heavily traveled road, while other drivers passed by without stopping.

The woman, in her mid-40s, was knocked unconscious, brutalized and sexually assaulted after pulling over on Route 28 in Middleborough after a fender bender, police said.

The attack, which began about 4:30 p.m., lasted for more than 10 minutes. "She was definitely violently assaulted," said Middleborough police Lt. Charles Armanetti....

When police arrived, the man and his car were gone, and the woman was found unconscious. She was revived and taken to a nearby hospital.

Armanetti said they received only one 911 call from a driver who stopped to help after the man had left.

Now, I can understand why someone might not want to directly confront the attacker (though given the nature of the assault I'd like to think that most people would have anyway) but what is really apalling is that today, almost everyone has a cell phone, and in ten minutes of heavy traffic (probably scores of vehicles) no one even bothered to call it in.

You know, just this week here in Arizona, Dale Hausner, one of the 'serial shooter' suspects was convicted and sentenced to death. Among his victims was a man named Nathanial Shoffner. Shoffner was not originally slated by Hausner for death. But he was murdered after he intervened to prevent Hausner from shooting a stray dog and Hausner decided relieve his murderous lust by shooting Shoffner instead. Which shows that trying to stop a dangerous character in the act can certainly be dangerous itself. But the alternative-- to call 911-- is easy, safe and should be a no-brainer.

But at least Shoffner tried, and saved a dog-- and for that he deserves more respect than the entire traffic flow of route 28 in Middleborough, Massachusetts who couldn't be bothered to save a human being. It is a sad day when dozens of people see a violent crime and not one of them is even bothered to take out their cell phone and make a call. And because of it another very dangerous character is now on the loose.

Madonna and Child-- the sequel

Once again, I have to say that I am in the unusual position of siding with Madonna and question 'human rights groups' who claim she should not be adopting a child from Malawi.

Three years ago I wrote two posts, the first Madonna and Child in which I wrote about the fact that I felt it was a good thing that she had adopted a son in Malawi, and the second Madonna and Child--maybe a tragedy in which I wrote,

some things have happened during the past week. The main one is that the father of the child, who last week had been fine with the adoption, now is insisting that he was fooled or misled into signing his son over to Madonna. He says that he was told that she would only raise the child for him and then send his son home after he had been brought up by Madonna. For her part, Madonna has said that she never actually met the father (he confirms this) but did not take the child until she was assured that he had consented to the adoption. She also believes that one reason he has changed his position is because of all the media attention beginning on day one (which I believe may well be the case).

That was eventually worked out and the father did in fact agree to it-- he is however still in contact, which is probably the best outcome for the child. Frankly, if this child gets the best education that I'm sure Madonna can buy for him he will be in a much stronger position someday to help the people of Malawi if he wants to than he would be if he were sent back to the orphanage he was in.

Now, Madonna wants to adopt a second child (this one a girl) from the same orphanage in Malawi. And once again 'human rights groups' (specifically the charity, 'Save the Children U.K.) are criticizing her for it.

LONDON (AP) -- A British charity has urged singer Madonna to reconsider reported plans to adopt another child from the impoverished African nation of Malawi.

Save the Children UK spokesman Dominic Nutt urged the singer Saturday to "please think twice" before going through with the adoption.

He says he cannot comment directly on Madonna's plans but says adoptions in such contexts are often inappropriate and unnecessary.

Nutt says children are best cared for by their extended families.

Incidentally, E! Online seems to know more about the child than Mr. Nutt does:

Her name is Mercy James from Mchinji Home of Hope orphanage. She has no father and mother—they both died. We finished the assessment yesterday in readiness for the courts next week," a spokesman for the Ministry of Gender and Child Development told Reuters.

First point: If they are best cared for by their extended families then why is this girl in an orphanage?

Second point: After the controversy from two years ago, I am certain that Madonna has made darn sure that the girl's family consented-- in other words they were not planning to raise her themselves.

Third point: Children in an orphanage in Malawi face a very uncertain future, which includes a substantial chance that they will not live to adulthood. This is an 'innappropriate' circumstance for adoption?

Fourth point: I doubt if Mr. Nutt complains when Malawian parents (whether living in Malawi or abroad) adopt Malawian children. So do I perceive some kind of cultural bias here, perhaps even so severe that the imperativeness of not having a Malawian child exposed to the corrupting influence of an American celebrity in London is even worth the risk of the child's opportunity to escape poverty and perhaps even the risk of her life (see the third point above)?

If Mr. Nutt has evidence that there is any kind of bribery or coercion involved or that the child has been taken unwillingly from a family, then present that evidence. Lacking any such evidence (and if you read his statement it seems he does lack it) my advice for Mr. Nutt and other 'charities' is to perform their primary task. Even without the two children that Madonna (assuming this one goes though as planned) will have adopted, there are still thousands of other children languishing in orphanges in Malawi and other underdeveloped countries who need care, and who knows, maybe even someone who will adopt them, love them and provide a home and a future for them.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

GOP alternative budget is a joke.

After being criticized for just blindly opposing the President's budget without offering any alternatives, the House GOP today came out with an outline for an alternative budget.

Well, sort of. At a capitol hill press conference minority leader John Boehner presented the Republican budget alternative. Their 'budget blueprint' is eighteen pages mostly of platitudes and talking points with unspecified proposals to cut wasteful spending and cut the size of the government (no hard numbers or programs where spending would be cut.) Cutting government spending is a little like ending hunger or creating a permanent peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians-- it's easy to talk about but much harder when you have to figure out how to do it-- so hard that nobody seems to be able to figure out a way (certainly not house Republicans, who ran the place for six years with a President who signed everything they sent up and responded by passing budgets that featured explosive growth in government spending.)

They say they are working on the details. OK, we will see exactly what they propose to cut and by how much.

They are proposing some tax incentives to insurance companies and other entities to expand access to healthcare. Ho-hum. The same kind of do-nothing approach that didn't do anything about healthcare during the past decade and a half.

The only hard number they offered was this one: Another massive tax cut, cutting the marginal tax rate to 10% for anyone earning up to $100,000 and 25% above that. Remember of course that the Bush tax cut only cut the top rate from 39.5% to 35%-- so this proposal appears to be at least twice as large as the Bush tax cut. Now, remember that the Bush tax cut cost $1.3 trillion. So just off the cuff, I'm guessing (even assuming no inflation) that this one would cost well above $2 trillion, in fact probably closer to $3 trillion. And this is from the crew who just last week said we couldn't afford the Obama budget which they claim will cost $1.9 trillion. How do they plan to reconcile the fact that their tax cut alone looks like it will add more to the national debt than they claim Obama's plan will add? Oh yeah, it's those unspecific and unnamed spending cuts.

Yeah, I'm convinced. I'm convinced that the Republicans still don't have a plan.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toxic assets from China

First it was the lead in paint on toys. Lead based paint has been illegal in the United States for years because it can cause lead poisoning which can lead to among other things blindness and mental retardation in children, but that didn't stop a lot of Chinese factories from using lead based paint in toys. Lead paints are noted for their bright, new-looking colors. Apparently it was all about appearance, trying to get people to buy a product rather than the risks consumers might be subjected to.

Then it was the melamine which first showed up in pet food, resulting in the deaths of thousands of animals in the U.S. Later, melamine was found in some hard candy sold in the U.S. but it was in China itself that the most tragic stories were told concerning melamine. Apparently baby formula made with melamine looks nice and healthy, with a vigorous luster. But that luster concealed the death that lurked inside. The melamine damaged or destroyed the kidneys of thousands of children who drank the formula and several of them died. Worse, the Chinese government concealed the scandal and kept it out of the news for months while more children drank the tainted formula and died. Finally, they were forced to do something, and a handful of low level food executives were found guilty and sentenced to death. But if you believe that the handful put on public trial and convicted were responsible for the whole thing then you probably don't think that Donald Rumsfeld had anything to do with Abu Graib either.

Now, we are hearing about strontium sulfide in drywall that originates in China. It's not about the appearance, to be sure, since you usually don't see your drywall unless someone knocks a hole in the wall, but the drywall can be hazardous in at least two ways. The first is that it can give off gases when heated that corrode copper wiring. That in turn could cause a short and start a fire. The other is that the gases have been blamed for headaches and other ailments.

My issue is this: In the United States we have a lot of regulations for what can and can't be used in various products and almost all of those regulations have their foundation in hard science that is designed to ensure the safety of products that we use in our homes every day. In American factories those regulations are strictly enforced and their violation can lead to fines, jail time or the shutdown of entire companies (like the peanut company that was responsible for the recent salmonella outbreak and has since been forced to shut down.) Those regulations may be a bureaucratic mess for some businesses but they are written with a very clear directive-- that the basic safety of the consumer is the first and foremost concern.

In China, the same regulations either do not exist or they are not enforced. Sure, there was apparently a law somewhere that they used to convict the melamine scapegoats but they had been doing it for years with no consequence so if the law was there then someone had to make a conscious decision to either ignore it or choose not to look very closely to see if regulations were being followed. I might add that I don't know if it played a role in this case, but communism has not stamped out the centuries old tradition of bribery, especially in rural China.

Supposedly the stuff we import from other countries meets U.S. standards, but considering that even today we can't even inspect three percent of the cargo that comes into U.S. ports for things like nukes or biological weapons, I think it's safe to say that the percentage that get a chemical analysis for purposes of verifying product safety is something like zero (in fact it probably is zero.) Wait until people start showing up with symptoms, then they will investigate and order a recall.

There are still some countries whose labels I might be inclined to trust. But with this latest episode, I'd say that's strike three on China. I will try and avoid all Chinese made goods until I'm sure they've made the reforms necessary to ensure that their products are as safe as those made in the U.S., and then prove they can maintain those standards for a good long time.

Chinese made goods may cost less than American made ones, but my health and my families' health is too important to gamble on a few pennies saved at the store.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What will conservatives do if the stimulus works?

This is now becoming President Obama's economy. The stimulus funds are now being poured into the economy, billions of stimulus dollars are being spent by state and local governments to pay people to do jobs in their communities that need to be done, and this week tens of millions of workers are going to start seeing federal stimulus dollars show up in their paychecks. It is the very model of Keynsian economic theory: when people are not spending their money in the private sector, massive government spending replaces it and provides the spark to re-ignite a sputtering or failing economy.

And don't look now but:

Walgreens today became just the latest American company to announce that expected profits will exceed expectations.

February retail sales picked up at the end of the month and were not as bad as expected.

After federal aid went to the banks and the stimulus bill passed mortgage applications increased and now we find that new housing starts jumped 22% in February. March may be even better.

Although prices have dropped by 15% since last year, we find out today that existing home sales have suddenly spiked upward 5%.

New jobless claims, after accelerating downward for months, have now stabilized over the past month at about 650,000. Still bad, but no longer getting worse.

Ford, the only U.S. automaker which did not receive bailout funds, announced this morning that it will even buy back some of its own debt.

There is still plenty of bad news out there, but my question is this:

Having invested so heavily in the failure of the Obama stimulus plan, what will the Obama-haters do if it works?

Already some are backtracking. As I mentioned on a post about a week ago, my Republican Senator Jon Kyl, who as minority whip worked as hard as he could to organize a filibuster to stop the stimulus, is now trying to fool his constituents into giving him some of the credit for it. Yeah, that's taking a position on principle.

But the record is clear. Republicans, dittoheads, conservatives, and many others hitched their wagons to the position, clearly articulated by Rush Limbaugh, that "I hope he fails."

Fine, take that position. And it is still early, it may be that at the end of the day the stimulus and subsequent government spending won't be enough to save the economy. But if it does work, then don't be like Senator Kyl and try to make people forget that you worked to prevent it.

Obama administration stumbles on veterans healthcare-- but in the process demonstrates that government run health care works better than private care

This is the first time I think I've made a post in which I publically disagree with something proposed by the Obama administration. But there is a subtext which is worth pointing out as well.

The administration, after receiving a lot of flack from the American Legion and other veterans groups backed down from a proposal that they made that veterans who receive serious war wounds should use private health insurance to pay for the cost of ongoing care and treatment for those wounds. The plan, which would be an extension of a Bush administration plan that now forces veterans to rely on private insurance to pay for the treatment of non-war related illnesses and injuries, would significantly have reduced the role of the Federal Government in providing health care for veterans.

The administration had said that the government would save $540 million by the plan, but without pointing out that by shifting the burden of treatment to private insurers, those insurers would in turn have to recover their costs by boosting premiums, from their premium-payers, namely the veterans themselves.

I for one am glad that the administration has backed down on this. If anyone deserves to have the cost of their treatment paid for in full by the Federal government it is the veterans who have left limbs, eyes and other body parts strewn on battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

There is an interesting subtext here however. Given a choice between government provided and paid health care, or health care paid for by private insurance, this group of Americans didn't just prefer, but in fact demanded, the government-run and paid version.

That's not to say that there isn't a place for private health insurance within our health care system, but if a conservative organization (and the American Legion certainly is that) is ready to go all out to try and preserve government health care for their members so they wouldn't have to depend on private insurance, then maybe it isn't so bad after all, now is it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Mexico makes the right call. The State should not have the authority to kill anybody.

Two stories in a row from New Mexico, where I used to live.

Today Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill ending the death penalty in that state. And here is a shocker-- the Governor's office over the past two days received over 8,000 contacts urging him to sign the bill and fewer than 3,000 telling him to keep the death penatly.

Other states that have no death penalty include Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Supreme Court found that New York's death penalty statute was unconstitutional in 2004 and since then several attempts to put a new law on the books have been unsuccessful.

Providing security is a proper role of the state (and prisons help to do that) but I applaud this law because what we've seen is over 100 people who spent time on death row exonerated, often due to DNA testing or other technology that wasn't available at the time (or in some cases just by old fashioned gumshoe detective work; in Illinois Anthony Porter, who once came within two hours of execution was cleared after a class of Northwestern University Law Students tracked down the real murderer and proved that he, not Porter, was guilty.)

Given this number of flaws in the system, we have to ask ourselves very bluntly whether we want state governments that have already made scores of mistakes in capital murder cases to be in the business of killing people at all.

When the government has the authority to kill anybody, there is a chance that they will botch the job and not kill the right people.

And simple ineptitude is the benign scenario when this happens....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thirteen women murdered and killer still at large. Media ignores story.

My sister Miriam, who lives in New Mexico sent me the following guest post:

Time Magazine finally has a short story about it this week.

But have you heard anywhere else about the fact that 13 bodies have been found buried in the mesa west of Albuquerque, near where a new development was being started? A woman walking her dog discovered the first skeleton back in early February, and since then crews have unearthed 12 more, including a skeleton of woman carrying a fetus. All of the victims are female, and the killings appear to have happened about 5 years ago, in 2004. Only 3 of the 13 have been identified, and there is no lead on who the killer may have been.

Why isn't an undentified serial killer headline news? The American appetite for sensational news would seem to beg for this to be a top story, but the only news about this string of murders had been from local news outlets (including an insightful commentary from a local independent publication.) CNN, ABC, the AP – the national news outlets – have only had occasional second-teir mention; a ticker at the bottom of the screen mentioned it for a day or two, and then it dissapeared, despite the fact that bodies continued to be discovered for several weeks. Web sites with mention are few and far between.

I think this story is not high priority for a reason, and that reasons shows that our country is far from the enlightened, fair-minded populace that we hoped the election of Barak Obama would help reveal. The first young woman's body was identified as a “prostitute and a drug-user.” The next 2 who have been identified also had a history of prostitution. So, that's the issue – apparently if a young girl is troubled and finds herself earning money in way not sanctioned by society (although obviously serving a business need successfully enough to be the “world's oldest profession”) she is a throw-away. Her murder doesn't matter. Violence against women- even when it results in murder – wasn't reason enough to raise this to the national conciousness. Indeed, even after the Albuquerque police department received reports several years ago about a number of missing women (someone out there DID love them after all), apparently the effort needed to find and stop the killer was not a high priorty. As NM Representative Linda Lopez (D-ABQ) eloquently stated on March 12 (in a story also reported only in the independent media) “the police have characterized the dead women not as victims of crime, but as criminals themselves.” Lopez, to her great credit, brought attention to the issue at a session of the State Legistlature by bringing a “State Memorial” (SM 85) which takes the both the press and the police to task for their treatment of the crimes. Her symbolic Memoral states:

WHEREAS, the women whose remains have been identified in the west mesa mass grave site have been depicted by both the police and many members of the media not as victims of violence and crime, but rather as criminals themselves; and

WHEREAS, the labeling of these victims creates an atmosphere of ambivalence with regard to the crimes that have been perpetrated against them, while also denying their humanity and their role in our communities as daughters, mothers, sisters,
cousins, nieces and granddaughters; …

The Memorial goes on to note the significance of the issue of poverty and violence against women in New Mexico, which she notes has the third-highest domestic violence rate in the country.

Representative Lopez's Memorial is right on target, but it is unlikely to raise the horrific nature of the event beyond state borders, despite the fact the very lack of attention being paid by the national press indicates this is much more than a local issue. If 13 middle-class soccer moms were killed and buried for 5 years without notice, the revealation would overtake the press for weeks, silencing all other issues with the media frenzy. That, of course, is the other end of the spectrum, but this story does at least deserve the respect of bringing issues of violence toward women – and a potential serial killer on the loose – the attention they legitimately deserve.

I would add that my sister is right about the double standard applied to women. We've seen the media obsess for months about the disappearance or murder of a single 'good' girl (like Natalie Holloway or Lacey Peterson) but they don't care if something happens to a 'bad' girl (they get to define who is 'good' and who is 'bad,' according to their own definition of morality of course.)

The conduct of the police here bears a disturbing resemblance to another case I once blogged on, in which a rape victim was arrested and the investigation into the rape closed all because she once had a juvenile arrest warrant that was years old). The job of the police is to solve the crime. It is not to be the judge and jury, and certainly not to prioritize solving the crime according to their view of the worthiness of the victim to receive their help.

Jon Kyl trying to fool people into giving him credit for the stimulus bill

This is the letter I got this weekend from Senator Jon Kyl:

Dear Mr. Blake:

I am sorry to hear about how the most recent state budget problems have affected Arizona's public schools.

As you know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1) provided, among other things, stabilization funds to aid state budgets. Arizona is expected to receive over $1 billion in these funds....

Incidentally, the bill he refers to is the formal name of the stimulus bill.

Now, if I didn't know better, I'd believe after reading the letter that Jon Kyl (as a member of my congressional delegation) had been involved with helping procure these funds. He certainly is all too happy to send out this letter to people (even Democrats like myself) who have expressed an opinion about state budget cuts.

Only, had Jon Kyl gotten his way this would not have happened. As a key member of the Senate, he tried to pry the funds for states out of the bill, and when he couldn't do that he tried as minority whip in the Senate to maintain a filibuster (at which he was unsuccessful when three of his Republican colleagues ignored him and negotiated a deal with Democrats.) At the time Senator Kyl was sharply critical of all of that.

But now that the stimulus funds are reaching the states, and starting to do what they were designed to do (just yesterday the state highway department gave the green light to begin work on $350 million in highway projects that will be paid for with stimulus funds, and incidentally creating and saving thousands of jobs in the process) he is sending out a letter which makes no mention of his opposition to the bill, and designed to make readers think he actually deserves a share of the credit!!

Now there is a politician who stands on... well, he's a politician, all right.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Back when Michael Steele, who once had a reputation as a moderate was elected as the chair of the RNC, I predicted that one of two things would happen, and then settled on the second as being the more likely.

The first possibility would be that he would actually try to lead the GOP in the direction that it needs to go-- to stop heading straight over the cliff of failed conservatism and irrelevance and move the party back towards a relevant position in American policy-making by supporting candidates who were willing to break with party orthodoxy. In this vision Steele would have the courage to take bold and perhaps unpopular, but necessary positions that would make the Republican party more appealing to Americans who have been repelled by the narrow focus of the party fixated on tax cuts and a twentieth century social agenda that is increasingly stale and outdated. In other words, it was my hope that Michael Steele, the man who in 2006 as a candidate for Governor of Maryland described the 'scarlet letter R' next to his name on the ballot, would understand the problems facing the modern GOP and have the boldness to take on the establishment in the party.

The second possiblity, which I predicted was that he would put all that aside and kowtow to the party komissariat and become just another conservative mouthpiece.

Well, it certainly was not the first possiblity, I was right about that (unfortunately). If anyone has any doubts about that, see his recent kissing up where he paid tribute to Rush Limbaugh and apologized profusely for saying that what Limbaugh says on the air is often 'ugly and incendiary.' So much for any hope that Micheal Steele will actually provide any steel to the GOP.

But now, he's also made one gaffe too many, and let his inner moderate come out-- not in the controlled and deliberate manner that would have served the GOP well, but in an accidental slip of the tongue that he had to take back right away. Michael Steele said in a Feb. 24th interview with GQ that abortion is an 'individual choice,' and that he therefore opposes a Constitutional amendment to ban it.

He quickly reversed himself and said that in fact he does favor such an amendment in a statement he issued today.

But already the hotheads in the GOP are all over him for it, and some are demanding his resignation. Failed Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who has appointed himself the guardian of all things socially conservative, threated that because of Steele's comments the party stands to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support. The fact that the reason the GOP is in the shape it is now is because of the members it's already lost that Huckabee has no plans to get back notwithstanding, the message is clear, that Steele is hurting the party.

Here is the sad thing: I actually believe that Michael Steele probably does believe that what Limbaugh says is ugly, and that abortion is an individual choice. He said those things because he believes them. But he has not the strength of conviction he would need to stand behind those statements, i.e. to stand up to the powers inside the Republican Party, and so he is in no man's land-- trying to be another GOP mouthpiece but not quite as suited for it as someone who actually believes what they are saying.

So in the end he is neither the leader the GOP needs nor the illusion of a leader the GOP wants.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Republican legislator says what he REALLY thinks

Hat tip to Tedski at Rum, Romanism and Rebellion

We don't just have Republicans here in Arizona.

We have some real wackos, like they do everywhere but here the wackos often reach enough of a critical mass to control the legislature.

We've got Russell Pearce, who has focused on the notion that if we can just make life in America so unpleasant for undocumented workers that an impoverished central American village seems like a nicer place then they will all go home.

We've got Ron Gould, who proudly flies a confederate flag in front of his home, and whose constituents are forced to go to other legislators to seek funding for even the msot basic infrastructure improvements because he also proudly refuses to seek funding for anything (Gould also walked out during a speech by a Governor of his own party the moment she even hinted that a temporary tax increase might be necessary given the enormity of the state budgetary hole.)

I could keep going, but then the list might get way too long.

I have to give the award for candor and openness though to state Senator Jack Harper. He wrote the following missive which was published in the Arizona Capitol Times:

I do not speak for the entire Republican caucus, and certainly not the minority party, but I hope to summarize this with a broad view of what to expect in the next budget for the under-employed or over-expectant.

If you are relying on any services from the state that are not mandated by the federal government, I advise you that those services may end June 30, 2009.

If you have children that require expensive experimental treatment or therapy that is not provided by the federal government, I advise that the state will not have the money for it after June 30.

If you have been laid off from your job and are not willing to take a job that is available, unemployment benefits, food stamps and AHCCCS for health care are going to fall short of what you could make by being employed.

Arizona will not follow the country into socialism. If you feel you need greater assistance and are not able to move to another state, please turn to your local churches and give them the opportunity to show their generosity and love.

Yeah, can't you just feel the generosity and love emanating from Jack Harper? Most places he'd be considered a member of the lunatic fringe, but in Arizona he is called, Mr. Chairman. Yikes!

Monday, March 09, 2009

The new GOP symbol: the vulture.

Last week, Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky had to apologize after predicting the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So then Rush Limbaugh predicted that the health care bill now making its way through the Senate will be called, "the Ted Kennedy memorial health care bill."

Excuse me, but both Justice Ginsburg and Senator Kennedy are very much alive, thank you. It is true that they are both battling very dangerous forms of cancer, but with advances in medicine but with advances in medicine it is no longer true that a diagnosis of a brain tumor or pancreatic cancer means a certain and quick death sentence.

At the very least, you'd hope these folks on the right would cool their heels a bit. It's probably asking too much to expect them to have the decorum to not be talking about someone's death while they are still alive but the ease that they seem to have in talking about it makes me wonder whether they are hoping for Justice Ginsburg and Senator Kennedy to die soon.

It certainly reminds me of how a couple of years ago when South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson suffered from a ruptured blood vessel in his brain, within hours right wing news outlets were flooded with pundits reminding us that South Dakota has a Republican governor who would have picked his replacement. Which would have been true, in fact, except for one little detail-- Senator Johnson recovered from his stroke and was just re-elected to the Senate last year. He now has a clean bill of health.

It's bad enough when the GOP calls out the attack dogs, but please at least keep the vultures at home in a cage.

Don Bivens offers to debate Randy Pullen

During the party meeting this weekend, Don Bivens challenged state Republican chair Randy Pullen to a series of debates.

The Arizona Republic didn't mention that, and neither did some other blogs.

But I'd be all for it, especially if they were held around the state. Candidates debate all the time but often those debates are only held near the election, they tend to focus on specific duties associate with that office and sometimes the candidates don't lay out very much and stay with safe, rehearsed answers for fear of making a gaffe that will be widely reported on. I believe a debate between party chairs would be more likely to be free flowing since neither of them is personally a candidate for another office.

So I wonder if Randy Pullen is up to a debate, or if he is afraid of having to defend the kind of crap that his office holders are up to in a setting where he might be called on it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Right becoming unhinged, comparing Barack Obama to Stalin

I can't say I'm surprised.

President Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy back to what they were under Bill Clinton (during which the 'job-producing class' did in fact use the money they had left after paying their taxes to produce 20 million jobs). He wants to make sure that affordable private (read that again, private) health insurance is available to all Americans, and he wants to begin moving us towards green energy that will do less to poison the planet.

And what is the reaction on the part of conservatives?

Well, they've begun comparing Obama with some of history's most brutal communist despots. No, I'm not making this up. They are calling up their favorite bogeyman, namely a murderous communist dictator from more than a half century ago.

Last weekend at CPAC, the annual conservative conference, Rush Limbaugh (whether he is the leader of the GOP or not is irrelevant-- nobody else is) said,

“So here we have two systems. We have socialism, collectivism, Stalin, whatever you want to call it, versus capitalism.”

Not to be outdone, former Arkansas Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said of Obama's agenda,

"Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but a Union of American Socialist Republics is being born".


Let's stop and remember what the U.S.S.R. under Stalin was. It was a nightmarishly perverse dictatorship where tens of millions of people were murdered out of political expediency. Millions more were arbitrarily rounded up and sent to slave labor camps, where they remained often for the rest of their lives. There was no such thing as private property at all-- quibbling about marginal tax rates didn't happen in the U.S.S.R because there was only one tax rate-- 100%, and it applied to everybody. Only one man-- Josef Stalin-- had a vote, and what he said was the absolute law.

The most memorable innovation by Stalin and his syncophants was the "midnight trial." If someone was suspected of a crime-- or worse, of dissent-- they might be taken from their homes in the middle of the night, accused of some crime they had no knowlege of, stand trial in a kangaroo court and be found guilty and sentenced to death with the sentence carried out immediately, often within an hour from start to finish. By the time the sun rose the next morning they would be buried miles away in an unmarked grave and their apartment would be occupied by someone who to all outward appearances had been living there for a long time (though if anyone came by looking for the now non-existent previous occupant that someone might be added to a list for some future midnight trial.)

This is what the right is accusing Barack Obama of trying to turn America into. Because he wants to commit the 'unpardonable crime' of letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire on schedule in 2011.

For the countless millions who perished under the monstrosity of Soviet communism, to compare their experiences to those privileged people who are upset because their marginal tax rate is going back up to what it was a few years ago is an outrage. Such a comparison cheapens and diminishes the horror of what happened during one of the darkest periods in human history and is an insult and an injustice to their memory.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Skeptical about the Governor's tax plan

It appears that Governor Jan Brewer, realizing the deep, deep hole that we've gotten into here in Arizona is asking for a special election to hike taxes.

Ignoring that the problem is as bad as it is largely because of many years of consecutive tax cuts (which she voted for, as a member of the legislature in the 1990s) and the effective disabling of the control mechanism for raising them in an emergency by the passage of the 'supermajority bill' for tax hikes (mostly by people who have since been term-limited out and now don't have to deal with the consequences of their foolishness,) there are a number of problems with her current proposal.

Obviously with a three billion dollar hole in the budget blasted by a combination of the present severe national recession and Arizona's overdependence on the sales tax which has dropped precipitously in the recession, something major needs to be done. If it isn't we are likely to see more teacher layoffs and larger class sizes, closures or restrictions on state services and universities closing campuses (which ironically will probably fit their decreased enrollment as a result of the doubling or near doubling of tuition within a few years.)

Brewer's proposal would do two things. The first would be a temporary sales tax hike. In other words, the most regressive type of tax in order to fix the budget hole. Even more ironically, they are still talking about a permanent repeal of the statewide business property tax. This tax has funded education for years but in 2006, when the economy was only at the point of developing a mild sniffle, the legislature and the then-Governor agreed to give the businesses a three year tax holiday. It is due to end this year. But the claim that the business owners are making that its return would be a tax increase is absurd. If they put an item on sale for two weeks and then two weeks later after the sale ends and the price returns to what it was before the sale they would laugh in the face of anyone who came in and accused them of raising their prices. But that is precisely what they are claiming about the fact that the tax cut they got is due to end on schedule. But it is downright insulting for them to push for this tax cut when we the consumers are being asked to raise our own taxes because the state doesn't have any money.

The second thing that Governor's proposal would do would be to allow the legislature to get their hands on dedicated taxes. Those are taxes which have been allocated by voter initiatives.

It is the second of those which disturbs me the most. As a voter I voted to tax myself to fund children's healthcare precisely because I didn't expect this legislature to fund it adequately themselves. I don't want them to take the money I chose to contribute to this and other dedicated taxes and use it to plug holes in the state budget so they can simultaneously give their friends another tax cut.

I'm willing to wait and see exactly what this proposal says but I'm certainly not ready to endorse this as a means to fix the state budget. Whether I do back it eventually or not will largely depend on what they do with the statewide property tax. If they make the tax cut for businesses permament, then it will probably be too much for me to swallow when they turn around and tell me they need to raid children's health care to pay for education.
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