5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/12/15)

  • United States’ defense spending is still pretty ridiculous.  The United States spends over four times as much in its defense budget as its nearest rival, China.  In fact, its budget comes close to matching that of its 14th closest rivals put together.”  Just imagine where the U.S. could be in terms of truly important areas like education if we just cut that budget in half and spent the money on improving schools or infrastructure or shoring up Social Security for good.  But I guess it’s good that we can use our absurd military spending to stabilize places around the world like in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen and help keep the antiquated idea of monarchy alive and strong in places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  Yay, America!
  • France sold the Egyptian government military equipment.  24 Rafale fighter jets along with other supplies amounting to over $5 billion will be headed to the government that came to power in a not-a-coup military coup.  While the Egyptian government is seemingly making some strides toward logic, it’s probably far too early to start selling them equipment that they may decide to use on say, I don’t know, their own people.  But, like the U.S. military industrial complex, when you have a bunch of war equipment burning a hole in your pocket, gotta find somewhere to sell it no matter how immoral.
  • U.S. crime rate continues to fall and it’s not because we are throwing more people in jail and prison than every other country on the planet.  A new report offers no definitive explanation as to the reason for the continued decline of crime but does state that mass incarceration is not the culprit.  And the incredible decrease should continually be noted since many people believe the opposite due to the way the media sensationalizes crime:

Between 1991 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined by more than 50 percent, according to FBI figures. During the same time frame, property crime fell by 46 percent.

  • Droughts in the U.S. are going to get a lot worse despite how bad they have already been in recent years.  Quite a bit to digest in the article but the key reality is this: droughts will start lasting for decades, not years, because of man-made climate change.  In other words, things are super great now in places like California and Texas compared to what they will be in the future if nothing drastic is done to avert the crisis.  At least there aren’t any climate change-deniers in power in Texas because that would just be crazy…  Speaking of Texas-style crazy…
  • On gay marriage, insane right-winger Ted Cruz morphs into…a moderate democrat?!  It’s true as the last-ditch effort before the nationwide legalizing of gay marriage coming in June is to apparently try to pass a bill calling for states’ rights on the issue.  Saying it should be left up to the states to decide is basically the exact argument many Democratic politicians were making 10 years ago when they were too cowardly to just stand up for what was right (I’m looking at you, former presidential candidate Kerry).  On a side note, the language Cruz and his ilk use on the issue is both ridiculous and vicious.  He states his bill will “safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens” (emphasis added).  This suggests “traditional marriage” will simply cease to exist if gay marriage is ever allowed, which has already proven to be clearly untrue and is just a ranting from a madman.

Republican Obstructionism So Bad, Even Trent Lott Saying It’s Out of Control

Sometimes, things get so bad you just have to laugh.

Former Republican Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, had some interesting advice for incoming Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and what he thinks about the obstructionists in the current Republican party.  The quote speaks for itself:

“The leadership is going to have to find a way to deal sternly with some of these members…. I wouldn’t put up with some of the stuff that they’re doing,” said Lott. He characterized last year’s partial government shutdown – spearheaded by tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – as a “fraud.”

And they’ve been hard at work at hardly working.  There have been more cloture motions filed in the 2013-2014 Congress, 227, than all Congresses from 1917-1980 combined, 218, according to the Senate’s website.

The great irony here is Lott lost his leadership position for praising the hypocritical racist, Strom Thurmond, a Senator famous for carrying out the longest filibuster in history because he wanted segregation to continue so badly.  You might think Lott would be a big fan of the record amount of filibusters the Republican Party has used in recent years.  Guess not.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh at the crazy.

Countering the Right: Ridiculous Ted Cruz Op-ed on Campaign Finance and Free Speech

Ted Cruz is one of those psychotically far right-wingers that just spews so much absurdity from his lips that it’s hard to keep up sometimes.

The Senator and apparent presidential hopeful published an op-ed in the WSJ yesterday attacking Sen. Tom Udall’s proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding the potential (not actual) regulation of money in campaigns.  To say that he took some liberties in describing the amendment and what it does or could do is an understatement.

First off, he certainly had a lot to say…with the exception of a glaring omission: any mention or addressing of the idea that money in politics and campaigns can corrupt in any way.  Or the idea that Americans actually want campaign finance to be restricted according to polls.  He points out the amendment has little chance of passing and it takes three-fourths of state legislatures to pass while omitting the reality that 79% of the public want limits on campaign donations and expenditures, according to a Gallup poll last yearA CBS News poll from last month found similar results.  Also in the Gallup poll, 50% would support government financed campaigns, yet another of Cruz’s omissions.

It should also be noted that the entire op-ed is simply a scare tactic of what could happen resulting from the amendment, not what the amendment is actually asking for or what, in reality, will happen.  It’s reminiscent of the far right’s scare tactics of what could happen if African-Americans get the right to vote, if the LGBT community is given equal rights, or if the Affordable Care Act becomes law, all of which proved their predictions were pretty much dead wrong.

Let’s address some of his contentions directly:

For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money…If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.

He is contending that money equals speech and, on the surface, this seems reasonable.  The problem, of course, is this ignores the truth in America that he who has the most money has the loudest speech, which is clearly not what was intended by the First Amendment.  Its intention was to give equality of speech and making sure that even the lowliest of voices could still be heard, a complete impossibility in today’s world where money, not speech, is king.  In fact, you could really change his last sentence there to, “If you don’t prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.”  (His word “effective” should be particularly noted.)

As for the idea that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Citizens United because corporations have no First Amendment rights, that too is demonstrably false. The New York Times is a corporation. The television network NBC is a corporation. Book publisher Simon & Schuster is a corporation. Paramount Pictures is a corporation. Nobody would reasonably argue that Congress could restrict what they say—or what money they spend distributing their views, books or movies—merely because they are not individual persons. (Emphasis added)

It’s brilliant on Cruz’s part to use press and media in this description as it skews the reader’s view into thinking the government would be looking over their shoulders and telling them what to say.  He wouldn’t dare use corporations like Enron, BP, or Halliburton in that sentence since it would give people a different perspective.  The reality of the amendment is that it would not restrict what the press can say but how much a person or corporation can spend during a campaign saying it, something the public clearly wants according to the polls.  In other words, it would be an attempt to balance equality of speech.

Then Cruz produces a list of things that could be deemed constitutional if the amendment were adopted, some of which are just completely ridiculous.  He actually contends that the government “could criminalize pastors making efforts to get their parishioners to vote”, as if anyone would ever support any law that criminalized people for asking others to remember to vote.

What has to be remembered is that these laws would have to be made by Congress (ideally with the popular support of the public) and signed by the president in order for any of his absurd predictions to come true.  And if you look at his list of what ifs, you might notice that not one actually includes a scenario involving a restriction on an actual corporation, which is something the public clearly wants.

Campaign finance reform is something the public clearly wants.  Ted Cruz’s views are something the public clearly doesn’t.

Gerrymandering: Cause of Washington Polariazation?

Ted Cruz with supporters after winning the Texas Republican Senate primaryI’ve been blaming the recent political polarization across the Washington spectrum on gerrymandering/redistricting lately, but now I must rethink my position.

In this interesting piece in The Guardian by Harry J. Enten, he argues, with good data, that the states, themselves, are becoming more polarized. He uses the example of Sen. Ted Cruz’s election as a good example.

Read Here.