Scalia Scowls – Take Notice

The Supreme Court has released a number of opinions, and it’s been a tough week for conservatives. Most of the focus has been on the big political fights – federal subsidy for state “Obamacare” exchanges was upheld and marriage equity is the law of the land in all fifty states. It was the latter that gave us the most blistering dissent from Justice Scalia:

“A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote in one of the more coherent statements in his dissent.

But another ruling, striking down part of the Federal “Three Strikes” law, illustrates judicial activism even more clearly. All of this begs the question as to where Scalia’s logic was in the “Citizens United” ruling in 2012 that declared corporations to be people, too. There is judicial activism, yes, but it’s more about filling in the gaps left by years of a completely dysfunctional Congress. Someone has to be the adults – even one branch of government has to endure Scalia’s sometimes childish ranting.

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A New Democratic Platform

Robert Reich is a great leader in the Democratic Party.  After serving as Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997 he became a fixture in thoughtful magazines, speeches, and talk shows.  He is currently a Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UCal, Berkeley.

Reich has recently collaborated with moveon.org to create a series of short videos describing “The Big Picture” – things which need to be done to transform our economy into a more dynamic, fair, and productive new economy for a post-depression world.  Taken together, I believe these make up a new platform for the Democratic Party which must be a central organizing piece for the elections in 2016.

Whether or not you agree with Reich, he and this platform are a force to be reckoned with.

Since I have yet to see them presented together in one place as a coherent work, I have taken the liberty of doing so myself.  Each item is presented here with the title as a link to the original post on Reich’s blog, with the short video above it.  Please follow the links for more information in Reich’s own words.

Initially, this project was billed as “Ten Ideas to Save the Economy”.  There are now 12 videos in the series, branching out a bit into political reform.  If there are more they will be added later.

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TPP: A Slow Death?

Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. It sounds like a great idea on the surface of it – lower trade barriers and require trade partners to improve working conditions in developing nations. There’s only one problem with it – no one knows what it is. That’s partly due to it being negotiated in secret and partly due to the fact that the negotiations are not done.

But many are against it for a wide array of reasons that span left and right. On the right, there is a good chance the sovereignty of the US will be diminished based on treaty obligations that, based on discussion, reach very far. On the left there seems to be yet another assault on good US jobs. And that secrecy? There are rumors that it will remain secret long after the treaty is passed.

It’s time to take a step back and sort out what TPP is and what is actually true about it.

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A New Generation’s Time

“A person who is not a liberal in their youth has no heart, but a person who is not a conservative by middle age has no brain.”
Attributions and variations attributed to many people, including Disraeli, Churchill, and Burke

Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t given much of a chance to become president by anyone, including his supporters. He isn’t photogenic and he isn’t a charismatic orator. But he has an appeal among many voters, particularly those with less than a third his 73 years of life. How did this come about, and why are so many people dissatisfied with the nominee apparent, Sec. Clinton?

The answer appears to come in the definition of what we call “generations” – a concept that actually has more to do with the economic and social climate someone is born into and nothing to do with their parents. This may tell us something about the rate of social change we can expect in the next few years, too, as this depression finally ends and opportunities open up for young people.

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Winds of Change Blow Both Ways

The election in the UK produced a surprising result – one not even remotely called by all the polls taken right up to polling day, 7 May. How could they miss it? It’s always possible that the polls were simply wrong, but it’s more likely that something changed deep in the guts of the electorate as they went in to vote. Is Britain really that conservative? No, people probably don’t like PM Cameron any more now than they did before. Can we learn something from this?

Perhaps we can. But we might be able to learn more from the provincial election in Alberta that produced a surprising win for the very left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) in a conservative stronghold. This huge shift came on like an Alberta Clipper off the North Pole, but it was caught by pollsters just before the election. And both of these recent election may apply because, as we noted before, the developed world is suffering from the same chill everywhere – buffeted by change, voters are demanding stability and strong new leadership.

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Rue, Brittania

The election is coming up, and boy is it getting crazy. Not the US election – there’s still a year and a half of nonsense to endure before that. I’m talking about the UK House of Commons election on 7 May. It will certainly test the limits of their parliamentary system, probably moving it into a more funkadelic system in the process.

I had to, I love that joke. Somebody’s gotta bring da funk.

The problem is the UK is more divided along fundamental lines than it has been in a very long time. Given the large number of parties that are likely to achieve seats (12) the election will almost certainly solve nothing, only marking the start of tortured negotiations that will last for three weeks. They’d like to have a government by the annual Queen’s Speech on 27 May, so there is a deadline, but it will be hard to meet.

It’s worth watching in the US if for no other reason than the turmoil they are experiencing is similar to ours, expressed very differently in a different system.

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A Holiday, Together

Happy Tax Day! If it doesn’t feel like a holiday, consider this – you are obliged to count up all your blessings from the previous year and spend time doing something you don’t entirely understand or enjoy all that much. If you’ve really procrastinated, like me, you may have to take off work. But if you haven’t filed yet, here is your last minute advice from Barataria: stop screwing around on the internet and file already!

This is an even more special day than your typical holiday because Tax Day means one thing to Americans everywhere – we all get to complain. Bitterly and constantly. Rather than whine about the amount of taxes, however, it seems more appropriate to take note of the incredibly complicated and expensive way we go about collecting the money that is necessary to run a government. It costs between $160 and $234 billion just to prepare the paperwork, or about as much as the feds collect in corporate taxes.

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