Friday, April 01, 2011

How about a Fourth Party

Senate Republicans are growing impatient with the stalemate over 2011 funding levels and want to save their political capital for a debate on the debt limit and entitlement reform.

But they must contend with a bloc of House conservatives who want an unqualified budget victory over President Obama.

For these die-hard conservatives, anything less than slashing $61 billion in spending and cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, the EPA and NPR would be a capitulation.

Senior Republican lawmakers, however, say they need to preserve their political juice for the fight over the debt limit and entitlement reform, which is more important.

They note that discretionary spending accounts for only 12 percent of the federal budget and that Congress needs to address the explosive issue of entitlement reform to achieve meaningful deficit reduction.

“There’s a sense that we don’t want to use too much of our political capital on last year’s budget battle,” said a senior Republican senator. “We just introduced our balanced budget amendment and we want to focus on that, the debt limit and the budget for 2012.

“People want to move on,” said the lawmaker.

“All of us want to make real reductions over the next six months, but we’re much more concerned about real reductions in the debt over the next 60 years,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Republican conference.

There’s a growing sense among Senate Republicans that their leaders won’t be able to win much more in concessions from the Obama administration in talks over a funding measure covering only the remainder of the fiscal year.

“Now we’re talking about some billions of dollars, our major goal is to deal with saving trillions of dollars over the next 60 years,” Alexander said. “We care about the next six months, we’re most interested in the next 60 years when it comes to debt reduction.”

President Obama’s team has already agreed to cut $33 billion from the 2011 budget, setting spending levels for the year at $74 billion less than what the administration initially proposed.

“I would like to see us cut more out, but it’s very hard to find it without causing cardiac arrest in a lot of people,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“I do agree the debt ceiling is the more important battle at this point,” said Hatch.

Some Republicans wonder whether it’s worth the political price to insist on the full $61 billion in cuts when that’s only a small fraction of the $1.6 trillion deficit projected for this year.

“I don’t think the administration will do much better than it’s done,” Hatch said of concessions from the White House.

He said the administration and Democrats will “blow whatever reduction we have out of proportion,” costing the GOP political energy that can be used to slow the soaring rate of entitlement spending.

Entitlement spending makes up the bulk of the federal budget.

About 20 percent of the federal budget in 2010, or $708 billion, paid for Social Security, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program accounted for 21 percent of $753 billion of last year’s budget.

Safety-net programs such as the refundable portion of the earned-income tax and child tax credits comprised another 14 percent, or $482 billion.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, said $33 billion in cuts would have little impact on the deficit.

“If we were going to have a $1.65 trillion deficit this years, that means we’ll have a $1.62 trillion deficit. To me that’s a meaningless cut,” Paul said.

Paul said GOP colleagues have not told him they think it’s time to wrap up the debate over 2011 spending levels.

Senate Republicans increasingly think it’s time to turn to the higher priority of curbing the cost growth of entitlement programs.

One senior GOP senator said, “The real battle for us is the long-term debt.”

Republicans say they’ll have crucial leverage to push for entitlement reforms when Obama asks Congress to increase the debt ceiling sometime between April 15 and May 31.

They will call for a vote on the balanced budget amendment capping government spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product before allowing a vote on the debt-limit increase.

Senate Republicans worry, however, that it might not be as well-positioned to push for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid reform if they get bogged down for much longer in a bruising battle with Obama over 2011 spending levels.

But GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol are also sensitive to the backlash they might receive from Tea Party-affiliated conservatives if they back off from the $61 billion in cuts passed by the House at the beginning of this year.

About 150 to 200 Tea Party activists held a rally across Constitution Avenue from the Capitol Thursday afternoon to press GOP leaders not to give ground in talks over spending levels for the rest of this year.

A Democratic source briefed on the negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said GOP leaders are wary of striking a deal while Tea Party activists are revved up.

Boehner has downplayed reports of a tentative deal with the White House and Senate Democrats to set 2011 spending cuts at $33 billion.

He told House Republican freshmen Thursday afternoon that he has not agreed to a final spending number. He also emphasized he is not looking to shut the government down to win the debate.

“The majority of the conversation was about how we are not going to shut down the government,” Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) said of the meeting with Boehner.

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said Thursday a spending deal is at hand but warned that Tea Party activists could derail it.

“Today, Speaker Boehner said, ‘Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.’ That is a fair and reasonable position to take, he need not publicly confirm the $33 billion number, but as long as both sides keep their heads down and keep working, a deal is in sight,” Schumer said. “We’re right on the doorstep.”

Poor babies, held up by guys who want a victory over Obama. I'm sure few people bothered to run for Senator as a Republican in order to have a victory over Obama.

If the GOP isn't bound by the promises it chooses to make, why trust it? If everybody knows it will cave rather than endure two or three weeks of arguing, how is it going to deliver anything?

Apparently the Senate hasn't heard that the GOP is on double secret probation. It's going to learn the hard way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

En Passant

The melody and the chords were worked up in a November 1983 War Tour sound check in Hawaii and completed in Windmill Lane Studios during The Unforgettable Fire recording sessions.[1][2] The guitar part is subtly varied through each verse, chorus, and melody, such that no riff is exactly repeated.[2]

The song had been intended to be about Ronald Reagan's pride in America's military power but after the lyricist Bono had been influenced by Stephen B. Oates's book Let The Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a biography of Malcolm X. these caused him to ponder the different sides of the civil rights campaigns, the violent and the non-violent.[1] In subsequent years, Bono has expressed his dissatisfaction with the lyrics, which he describes, along with another Unforgettable Fire song "Bad", as being "left as simple sketches". He says he was swayed by The Edge and producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who played down the need to develop the lyrics as they thought their impressionistic nature would give added forcefulness to the song's feeling, particularly when heard by non-English speakers.[3]

"I looked at how glorious that song was and thought: 'What the fuck is that all about?' It's just a load of vowel sounds ganging up on a great man. It is emotionally very articulate - if you didn't speak English."
—Bono , U2 by U2[4]

Somehow, I don't think the author of

Rah rah ah ah ah
Roma roma ma
Gaga ooh la la
Want your bad romance

has that level of introspection.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Rot Spreads Outward

"[N]ow, “under heightened scrutiny” since the 2nd circuit court asked for the administration to defend its position given lack of precedent, Holder wrote, the government’s ability to defend the law can no longer be made by “advancing hypothetical rationales, independent of the legislative record, as it has done in circuits where precedent mandates application of rational basis review. Instead, the United States can defend Section 3 only by invoking Congress’ actual justifications for the law.”
That legislative record, Holder wrote, “contains discussion and debate that undermines any defense under heightened scrutiny. The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” - Attorney General Eric Holder

This is entirely logical given the premises of what Justice Scalia calls "the homosexual agenda": the idea that the Constitution as written already guarantees the legitimacy and normalization of homosexuality, and the problem is just making everybody obey that without the hassle of winning elections.

Of course, it would be news to the Radical Republicans that they legalized gay marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment and its Equal Protection Clause. It would be news to most Americans since then, too: on three separate occasions in the 20th century, 3/4ths of the states agreed the Equal Protection Clause was so narrow, it did not guarantee the vote to women, residents of the District of Columbia, and 18-year-olds. That's fact, because each time that percentage of the states ratified a specific, separate amendment to the Constitution to provide that guarantee. Somewhere since the Court has ignored the Law, and decided the Equal Protection Clause forbids any distinction, unless, the motives are sufficiently, uh, pure.

Pure, meaning secular and not religious.

"It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Court in Bowers was making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives. These considerations do not answer the question before us, however. The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law." LAWRENCE V. TEXAS (02-102)

Can we dispense with the malarkey? This was not enacted in 1868, or 1919, or 1965, or 1973. It is a most recent misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, by unelected judges, and does not have the moral force of the 14th Amendment behind it. 3/4ths of the states did NOT legitimate homosexual behavior, now or ever.

To demonstrate the insanity of our Law as it now stands: It would be impossible for Eric Holder to prosecute the members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, on the theory that they were bribed by the Vatican to vote for the legislation. It would be impossible because the Supreme Court has held that a criminal court and jury cannot investigate the motives behind an individual Congressman's vote. Congress, as a group of individuals, enjoys immunity from that sort of judicial probe.

But if the Supreme Court thinks each Congressman voted for the Defense of Marriage Act because it agreed with the Vatican that homosexuality was a disordered act -- the Law is void.

As Justice Scalia noted in his dissent to Roemer v Evans:

"The Court's opinion contains grim, disapproving hints that Coloradans have been guilty of "animus" or "animosity" toward homosexuality, as though that has been established as Unamerican. Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings. But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible - murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals - and could exhibit even "animus" toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of "animus" at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct, the same sort of moral disapproval that produced the centuries-old criminal laws that we held constitutional in Bowers...

"It is not within our constitutional tradition to enact laws of this sort. Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance." Ante, at 11-12.

As I have noted above, this is proved false every time a state law prohibiting or disfavoring certain conduct is passed, because such a law prevents the adversely affected group whether drug addicts, or smokers, or gun owners, or motorcyclists - from changing the policy thus established in "each of [the] parts" of the State."

But what separates homosexual conduct from drug abuse, smoking, or polygamy? What legitimate state interests allow regulation of those behaviors - despite the open-ended misapplication of the Equal Protection Clause?

Authority likes it. That's all. Arbitrary decisions by those who occupy the institutions of government. Some guys are on the Supreme Court, and they want the Law writ their way, and all contrary law to wither on the vine, POOF 200 years of law is void. Some guy is Attorney General under a liberal President, and he'd rather the DOMA Act went away, POOF it will not be defended.

It is this endorsement of arbitrary power by right of occupancy, that is the dangerous rot that is spreading. Homosexuality is not going to bring down the Republic. Empowering the Court and the President to smother laws passed by state legislatures and Congress, in the name of Freedom, is unsustainable tyranny.