Under Their Scheme

Please don’t sue me, Disney. I just wanted to warn people about the dangers of what the Republicans are trying to do, and I thought a catchy little tune might help. This also happens to be one of my all-time favorite Disney songs.

Under Their Scheme
Original words and music “Under The Sea” by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, 1989
Additional lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider, 2011

Sebastian (spoken): Ariel, listen to me. The Ayn Rand world is a mess
Life under their scheme is deader than anything you’d want out there

(singing) The sequence is always greener, in somebody’s else’s take
You dream about growing up there, but that is a big mistake
Just look how their view confounds you, they scare you and want you poor
Such powerful things astound you, what good is they working for?

Under their scheme, under their scheme
Medicare’s deader, not getting better, take it from me Continue reading

Mitt Romney – Moral Mendacity or Memory Failure?

During Monday night’s Republican presidential debate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was asked a question about what role FEMA should play in disaster relief and whether or not more should be done by the states themselves.

CNN’s JOHN KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

His response was not only confusing, but apparently in direct contradiction to the way he governed Massachusetts.

GOV MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Okay, there are a few problems with this response. First, why is it that Republicans always feel that the private sector can do the government’s job “better”? Exactly what do they mean by that? Notice that John King just lets that slide without asking for any explanation. This is just another example of how the mainstream media that covers politics practices precious little journalism in favor of just letting politicians say whatever the hell they want unchallenged. The only thing that makes any sense to me is that when a Republican claims that the private sector can do something “better” than the federal government, they mean “more profitably.” Of course, the government is not supposed to be doing things “profitably,” they are supposed to do things as thoroughly as possible. They are supposed to serve as many people as possible, not serve some of the people and still have money leftover. if you do that, then you haven’t done your job of serving the People. Government exists to serve the People, not the Private Sector.

Second is the false idea that the states can do everything better than the federal government can. Not so. It’s true that not all one-size-fits-all solutions will work in every state, but that does not mean we have to abandon all federal support. It’s not an either-or choice – either the federal government does things everywhere or it does things nowhere. This is just the same old “States’ Rights” argument from the party that thinks we’re operating under the Articles of Confederation and not the US Constitution. We tried giving the states more autonomy and the results were disastrous. The Founders the republicans love to revere knew this and decided to do things differently.

But the thing that struck me most was Romney’s apparent immorality. He claims that it is “immoral” to “rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids.” Well, Mitt, if you believe that, then why are you a Republican? Republicans bear the most responsibility for our huge national debt. You were governor of Massachusetts during the Bush Administration when our country ran huge deficits. You said in the debate that borrowing more money to provide disaster relief was “immoral.” Was it immoral when you did it? Flooding and severe winter storms have been a problem for your state, and you accepted federal aid for it in 2004, 2005 (and with your state’s Congressional delegation helping), big-time in 2006 (see here, too), and again in 2007. There may be other examples, but I found those after a brief search of the internets. Was it moral for you to ask the federal government to borrow money to help your state with disaster relief back then?

You also claim that the states can do things better than the federal government, but you also expressed support for an idea floated by the Bush Administration in the wake of their disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina to have the Pentagon (a very federal agency) take the lead in responding to catastrophic disasters.

There is almost no support among the nation’s governors for President Bush’s suggestion that the Pentagon could take the lead in responding to catastrophic natural disasters, a USA TODAY survey has found.

Of the 38 governors who responded to a request for reaction to Bush’s comments, only two backed the idea: Republicans Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

Looks like both you and your fellow Republican “T-Paw” got some ‘splainin’ to do, Mitt.

Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain

The FBI Forgets the Fourth

I seriously have to wonder just what it means to some people to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The FBI has decided to update its operations manual, which they like to call the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, (last updated under the previous Attorney General, Michael Mukasey), and for being such good guardians of the Constitution, they decided to let themselves have more power to abuse and ignore it.

According to the New York Times, the FBI will be allowing its agents “more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.”

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

The FBI General Counsel, Valerie E. Caproni, said that steps were taken to fix the problem with National Security Letters and that the problem would not recur. But unless their fix involved eliminating their use altogether, I do not see how they would be constitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The proposed changes may seem minor but they are insidious.

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.

Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.

In other words, they don’t want to get a warrant to search your company’s databases because it would take too long. But if they found something they could use, they could open the assessment later and then use it. I always thought that was something they liked to call “fruit of a poisoned tree.” Information illegally obtained cannot be the basis for obtaining more information legally. (I invite any lawyers out there to correct me where I am wrong. I’m a grown boy, I can take it.)

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

Again, they want to conduct warrant-less searches in the interests of time and then claim that what they found was legal afterwards. The United States Constitution requires that all persons working for the government take an oath to support and defend it. That includes the Fourth Amendment which reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I truly do not understand how what the FBI is prepared to allow themselves to do does not violate that Amendment. Do you?

(Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain)

Republicans Who Hate Women

Today on Meet The Press, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum tried, once again, to prove he’s the furthest one out on the right when it comes to abortion. Ignoring both constitutional precedent as well as common sense logic, Santorum made the claim that human life begins at conception and that any doctor who performs an abortion should face criminal charges. He stated that the woman involved should face no charges, but offered no explanation for this contradiction. And it is a contradiction because no doctor can perform an abortion without a woman being involved. (Unless we’re talking about test tube babies, but that would complicate things beyond the ability of people like Santorum to understand.)

Santorum has a history of getting facts wrong in support of his ill-conceived position on abortion. In a debate with Sen. Bob Casey during his last run for his Senate seat in 2006 (Casey won), Santorum said using the so-called “morning-after pill” is the exact same thing as abortion if it is taken “after the egg has been fertilized.” This is wrong because conception actually takes several days and the morning-after pill won’t work if the woman is already pregnant.

Santorum is also forgetting Justice Clarence Thomas’ famous confirmation hearings in which Sen. Patrick Leahy asked the nominee, “Does a fetus have rights under the Constitution.” After giving it a few seconds’ thought, Thomas correctly answered, “No.” The Constitution applies to persons who are actually born, and no amount of stretching what it says can lead one to believe it applies to people who haven’t been born yet. (For example, of what nation would a person who hasn’t been born yet be a citizen?)

One also has to question how someone can call themselves “pro-life” and still support the use of capital punishment. There is no consistency in this line of thinking, so their constant assault on a woman’s right to choose can only be construed as anti-women.

Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain.

This Is NOT a Sex Scandal

Over at ThinkProgress, in a message for Rep. Anthony Weiner Matt Yglesias described the twitter photo controversy as a “sex scandal.” I say it is no such thing.

If you look at the picture, you can see no genitalia of any kind. What you can see is what appears to be a pair of men’s briefs with some kind of bulge in them. But you cannot see what is causing the bulge which, for all you know, may just be a banana strategically placed there. In fact, it is unclear if it is even a pair of briefs on a human as opposed to on a mannequin. (If you want to take another look, you can see it here) The fact of the matter is that there is no penis in that picture, erect or otherwise.

Anyone who thinks they are looking at a penis is only imagining that they are seeing a penis. They are seeing no such thing. So for them to think that it is a “lewd” photo is just describing something in their own imaginations. And I don’t feel it is right that Rep. Weiner must defend himself against what people are imagining they are seeing. Yes, he didn’t do himself any favors by casting doubt over whether or not it is a picture of himself, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that there is nothing lewd in that picture at all. The only lewdness is in people’s imaginations.

A few years ago my late mother-in-law once looked at my size 13 shoes and said, “My, what big feet you have.” And I, being the playful type, said, “Yeah, but that’s just a myth.” To which she replied, “Oh, don’t be so fresh.” I had to tell her, “I didn’t say anything, you imagined that!” And that is exactly what’s going on here. Anybody who thinks that was a lewd photo are denouncing what they imagine they are seeing. It is not a sex scandal when there is no sex involved and people are upset over what they imagine they are seeing.

(Updated) DADT vote in the Senate — REPEALED!!

UPDATE:  With a vote of 65 to 31, the odious policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been REPEALED.  All service members will now serve their country completely honorably.  This is a great day in America!

On this historic day, December 18, 2010, having gotten past the intransigent Senate filibuster of EVERYTHING, the odious policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will come up for a vote.

A little background first. Prior to President Reagan, the policy had been that “homosexual conduct was inconsistent with military standards.” It was okay to be gay provided you didn’t do anything that was gay. Under Reagan, this was changed to “Homosexuality is inconsistent with military standards.” Now you couldn’t even be gay even if you were celibate your entire term of service. (There was actually a Senator who, during the DADT debate hearings, thought that it would be impossible for gay people to be celibate for four years. This same Senator was once married to Elizabeth Taylor. Go figure.)

The current policy concerning homosexuality in the military can be found here. Rep Patrick Murphy’s bill ( found here ) would not so much repeal DADT, but repeals Section 654 entirely. In other words, there would be no policy at all concerning gays serving in the military. There are already military rules against public displays of affection in uniform, and that would not change. So the idea that gays will start making out while in uniform is just plain wrong. They wouldn’t make out in uniform any more than straight people would. Passage of this law would repeal the “Policy concerning homosexuality in the armed forces.” Which would mean that being gay would not be an issue in and of itself.

Please join us in the comments section and watch the vote with us here.

The Cut That Isn’t a Cut

As you may have heard, President Barack Obama and the Republicans (who, oddly enough, are not, technically, in power yet), have struck a deal extending the Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy (their official name) for another two years. In return for these tax “cuts”, the Republicans have agreed to extend unemployment benefits for currently unemployed people for another thirteen months along with a few other helpful things for the poor. The stage has been set to make this a campaign issue for 2012. Do you support extending tax “cuts” for millionaires and billionaires who don’t need them? Or do you finally agree that rich people do not use their tax savings to create jobs? But is anybody really going to be paying less in taxes because of this? Not necessarily.

In Washington, DC, and only in Washington, DC, a “cut” is merely a Continue reading