Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Death Penalty Update

Maryland and New Hampshire both seem poised to repeal the Death Penalty.

New Hampshire has never executed anyone under its current Death Penalty statute and Maryland hasn’t had an execution or death sentence since 2005. If both states repeal the Death Penalty it will bring the number of states without a Death Penalty up to 19. In the Northeast 7 out of 8 states would be without a Death Penalty leaving only Pennsylvania blocking the Northeast Region from becoming Death Penalty free.

In the United Nations 110 countries voted in favor of a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions as a step toward the abolition of the Death Penalty. Supporting nations included all of the European Union nations, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. There were 39 countries opposed to the resolution including the United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe. Thirty-six countries abstained.

Allow me to suggest that the US and Japan might want to look around at the company they’re keeping on this issue.

There have been 40 executions to date compared to 43 in 2011 and 46 in 2012. Fifteen of those executions have been in Texas, six were in Mississippi and Oklahoma and Arizona had five each.

There have been 1,317 executions in the US since executions resumed in 1976. 1,077 of those executions have been in the South, 155 have been in the Midwest, 81 have been in the West and 4, all so-called volunteers, have been in the Northeast. Texas alone has had 491 executions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cory Booker and Food Stamps

Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark and has challenged one of those right wing types that think people on public assistance are living a life of luxury to exist for one week on food stamps and he’ll do the same.

I suspect the challenged will disappear into the ether but Cory will have made his point.

Booker may well be the reason why Chris Christie will forgo running for re-election as governor of New Jersey to focus on the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Why you ask? Because Christie may have a better chance of getting the Republican nomination than he has of beating Booker.

Unless there are some really nasty skeletons in Booker’s closet that we don’t know about, the 43 year-old will be governor in 2013 or 2017 and a major player in the Democratic Party for president probably in 2024. He might make an interesting vice presidential candidate in 2016.

Of course I’m assuming Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2016. I have no idea what the Republicans are going to do in 2016.

I figure the short list at the moment consists of Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindel, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

Rubio would be attractive because of his Hispanic background and because he’s from Florida. The problem is his experience is questionable. Then again, so was Barack Obama’s. If Rubio was smart he’d consider bolting the Republican Party and become a Democrat.

Perry is governor of a large safely Red state and has solid conservative credentials. He just can’t seem to avoid sticking both feet in his mouth at every opportunity.

Christie is Christie and can appeal to a broad base. I’d never count him out but he can be abrasive and that could grow old in a long campaign.

I think Jindel runs into trouble fast because (1) the economy in Louisiana sucks and (2) his school voucher program is going to come under all sorts of fire that will turn off independents.

As for Santorum, the Republican elite is simply not that stupid.

Of course four years is a long time so who knows what may happen on both sides of the aisle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel and Hamas

Things seem to be falling apart in the Gaza strip with Hamas firing rockets and Israel countering with air and naval strikes. The Israeli’s are calling up reserves in case a ground assault becomes necessary.

In the meantime the Egyptian Prime Minister has visited Gaza and is making noises supporting Hamas. He really has no other choice so it’s hard to gauge how far Egypt is willing to go.

This is the sort of situation that can easily spin out of control into all out war.

I hate to be selfish, but we really didn’t need this distraction with the Fiscal Cliff looming dead ahead.

As I’ve said in the past I really don’t have a horse in this race. Israel’s cozying up to the lunatic fringe in the US leaves me cold. The friend of my enemy is in a precarious position as far as my affections are concerned.

On the other hand I have no particular reason to admire Hamas; a group that straps bombs on teenagers and sends them on suicide missions with false promises of paradise.

It would be nice if the UN could figure out a way to calm things down. I would prefer Obama focus on fiscal issues at the moment.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

$1.6 Trillion in New Taxes?

The games have begun. Countering the Republican’s ridiculous opening position that any solution to the Fiscal Cliff must include a tax rate reduction, the President has taken an equally ridiculous opening position that proposes $1.6 trillion in new corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy over the next decade.

That’s simply not going to happen and he knows it. Or, at least, I hope he knows it.

This is an opening gambit. Boehner and the Republicans have previously offered about $800 billion in new taxes and a restructuring of the tax code. Obama clearly wants more but then he’s going to have to pony up some additional cuts.

Hopefully he already has those in his back pocket.

This is going to be a game of chicken. Two machos staring at each other about two inches apart each waiting for the other to blink.

Obama is in the stronger position but Democrats are traditionally wimps in fiscal confrontations so I’m betting the Republicans will do a lot better than then they should.

Keep the numbers $1 trillion in tax restructuring and $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade in the back of your head. That’s where I’m betting we end up.

Either that or we’re going right over the cliff. I can make you a good deal on a parachute? Especially designed for the Fiscal Cliff. Personally packed by Ross Perot. No ripcord.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We is gonna secede!

Good, cool, no problem. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Don’t bother to write because we just don’t care about you.

And they call themselves Patriots.

You could try and hold your breath until you turn blue that might help.

The maturity of the Republican Party base is breathtaking isn’t it?

The Fiscal Cliff

Ok, the election is over and now we can focus on the so-called Fiscal Cliff.

The cliff is a series of things that are scheduled to happen on January 1, 2013 including expiration of tax cuts and automatic spending reductions. Tax cuts that will expire include all of the Bush tax cuts, the payroll tax deductions and the tax cuts made as part of the stimulus package in 2009.

The CBO estimates the total impact at about $670 billion dollars. Most financial analysts do not believe that the still fragile economy could absorb that sort of shock. They expect stock prices to plummet, unemployment to jump back up to near 10% and the economy to nose dive into a recession, or worse, in the first half of 2013.

The Republicans have already taken the position that any agreement to head off the Fiscal Cliff must include a reduction in tax rates especially for the wealthiest citizens.

Now, I’m not sure going off the cliff is a real good idea, but I know when someone wants to play chicken. If I were Obama I’d look Boehner right in the eye and say “if that’s your position, I’ll see you at the bottom of the cliff.”

I’d also make it crystal clear to the American public that it’s the Republican intransience that's sending us off that cliff even if the message doesn’t stick and it probably won’t. I’d then sit back and enjoy the ride because it’s going to be a wild one.

At least when all is said and done we’ll know where we are and can start putting things back together. Or, maybe not. Perhaps this is the event that leads to the apocalypse and the end of civilization as we know it. A downward economic death spiral from which there is no recovery until billions have perished and we’re reduced to an agrarian society.

If that’s what the Republicans want to risk, so be it. I’m just so tired of their bullshit.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

They Really Expected to Win

McCain knew he was going to lose. In the final days of his campaign he spent more time trying to undo the damage his choice of Sarah Palin and allowing the rhetoric to skew sharply to the right had done to American unity. He did this because John McCain is a man of integrity.

But, apparently from what I’m reading, Romney and his folks really thought they were going to win and win big. This wasn’t just a “keep a happy face on” sort of strategy they really thought they were going to have a big night.

Some of the Right Wing wackos, including Glenn Beck and Tony Perkins, were apparently expecting a big night as well and organized specials to commemorate the victory.

How could this happen when every objective analysis indicated a close race but an Obama edge. The final Intrade odds were 70-30 and the European market had it like 90-10. Nate Silver also ended up with a final 90% probability that Obama would win.

Bad information? Bad analysis of the available information?

I suspect it’s not that easy.

Psychological study after psychological study indicates that Conservatives, and especially Authoritarian Followers, cannot differentiate between belief versus knowledge and opinion versus fact.

That being the case I can understand the confusion of the faithful. But I had always pegged Romney as a Social Dominator who didn’t give a crap about the cause. He was just willing to do whatever it took to access the power of the presidency. Since Authoritarian Followers are relatively easy to control, Social Dominators tend to gravitate to that group and in this country the vast majority of Authoritarian Followers are Right Wing Conservatives.

I’d like to gloat about all of this, and I will be enjoying the gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness over the next couple of months, but I know politics is a fickle mistress and sometime in the not too distant future the Left might be the ones asking “how did this happen?”

In the long run Liberalism always wins. There may be setbacks from time to time but ultimately people realize that if you restrict the rights of someone else your own rights are in jeopardy. The argument comes in figuring out what those “rights” are. If you think about it, that’s what we’re fighting about.

The “rights” currently being fought over include gay marriage, abortion access, gun ownership, religious expression, including prayer in the schools, teaching Creationism, crosses on public land and God in the motto and pledge, and the right not to be forced to do something such as buy health insurance.

I find it interesting that sometimes the Left is trying to broaden rights and sometimes it’s trying to restrict them and the Right is doing the exact same thing. It all depends on the “right” being fought over.

There are subtleties in all these battles and skirmishes can occur in the strangest places as I’m sure Chick-Fil-A and Home Depot can tell you.

We can’t even “agree to disagree.” We have to come to some sort of compromise. You know, come up with a solution that pisses everyone off and sets the stage for the next round of fighting.

In the meantime Florida is still up for grabs but Obama is still leading by about 47,000 votes and Washington appears poised to approve gay marriage which would make it a 4-0 sweep. The Democrats have also picked up two more Senate seats giving them 53 plus the two Independents that caucus with the Democrats for a total of 55 seats. Not a filibuster proof majority but a solid majority. The House is still the problem but Boehner is making all the right noises. Maybe he’s thinking about making a 2016 run?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election 2012

Overall it was a bad day for the forces of darkness.

I’m happy that my pessimism about the presidential election was unfounded and it took Obama only an extra 45 minutes to clinch 2012 over 2008. Ohio provided the votes that put him over the top.

At last count the Electoral College total was Obama 303 and Romney 206 with Florida’s 29 votes still up in the air. The popular vote stood at Obama 59.6 million and Romney 57 million so the Right Wing numb nuts can’t claim minority president status. It’s not exactly an overwhelming mandate but it will have to do for now.

The House stays with the Republicans 231-191 with 3 seats still undecided. Unfortunately Michelle Bachmann managed to win a close race. Oh well, you can’t have everything. I’m also stuck with Scott Garrett for another two years but I can live with that.

The Senate will stay with the Democrats 51-45 with two independents and two seats still undecided. Democrats Menendez won in New Jersey 58-40 over Kyrillos, Murphy easily beat McMahon in Connecticut 55-43, Warren beat Brown in Massachusetts 54-46 and Gillibrand utterly destroyed Long in New York 72-27.

No longer can gay marriage opponents say gay marriage has never won a popular vote. It won in Maine 53-47 and in Maryland 52-48. In Minnesota they rejected an amendment to ban same sex marriage 51-48. In Washington the votes are still being tallied but approval of gay marriage leads 52-48 with 51% of the votes counted.

That’s at least 3 out of 4 and a very possible clear 4-0 sweep. The gay marriage dialogue now changes forever. Hopefully this will open the flood gates.

There were other disappointments though. California defeated a proposal to ban the death penalty by a vote of 53-47. Three states, Alabama, Montana and Wyoming, voted to limit the Health Care Law either by making it illegal to force people to buy insurance or preventing the setting up of insurance exchanges. Florida rejected a similar amendment. It should be interesting to see how this plays out as the Health Care Law rolls out.

Speaking of Florida rejecting amendments, the legislature in Florida loaded up the ballot with 11 lengthy and confusing amendments some of which were near and dear to a conservative’s heart including one which would eliminate the Blaine Amendment which makes it illegal to fund religious schools.

The voters in Florida rejected all but three and I agree with those three which provided property tax relief to veterans, poor senior citizens and the spouses of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Amendments rejected included the previously mentioned attempt to allow funding of religious schools, an amendment which would have given the legislature more power over state courts, a ban on abortion funding and a state revenue cap.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Where's the Gas?

I couldn't find any gas station open yesterday evening and I blew some looking for an open station. That leaves me facing Wednesday morning to get gas or I can't go to work.

I checked eight stations last night and every one of them was closed with "No Gas" signs. I would have been happy to wait in line. I couldn't find a line to wait in.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Gas Crunch

Getting gasoline is still a bit of a problem.

Two many stations simply have no gas. Until stations get supplied things are going to be a bit iffy.

It's unclear whether the odd and even rationing is actually helping. It may simply just have shifted who is in line when.

I'm odd so my days are today, Wednesday and Friday this week. I can't wait until Friday and Wednesday might be cutting it close so, even though I really don't need gas, I'll have to see if I can rustle some up today after the gym.

There's the problem. The time between refills is compressing. Normally I would wait until at least Thursday and possibly even Friday morning before stopping for gas. Instead I'm looking on Monday.

Thoughts on the Eve of Election 2012

I had some optimism four years ago. I don’t have any of that today.

From what I can see the Republicans will hold the House, the Democrats should hold the Senate and, even if they don’t, neither party can achieve a filibuster proof majority.

As for the presidential race, Obama appears to have come back a bit and should be considered the favorite but a Romney victory wouldn’t shock me. It’s going to be close. It’s not even clear it will be resolved Tuesday. It may well extend into Wednesday and perhaps beyond.

The problem is no matter who wins, I don’t see any resolution to the current gridlock in Washington. Perhaps Obama being in his last term might loosen things up and, then again, it may not.

The country is polarized and in many cases for the wrong reasons and often based upon inaccurate information. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

On the gay marriage front there are four major contests. In Maine they’re trying to restore gay marriage and in Maryland and Washington they’re trying to defend it. It Minnesota they’re trying to get an amendment to the state constitution declaring marriage as between one man and one woman approved.

The polls on all of these questions are all over the map possibly because different pollsters ask the question different ways. I am cautiously optimistic that gay marriage will win in two of Maine, Maryland and Washington. It doesn’t look good in Minnesota so a 2-2 split could be the result.

Losses in all four places would be an unmitigated disaster. Victory in all four places would change the conversation permanently. Four wins is highly unlikely but I can dream.

In New Jersey Bob Menendez, a Democrat, should win re-election to the senate. In my home district Scott Garrett, a Republican, should win re-election easily.

Of course none of this helps me find any gasoline.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Holy crap did we get clobbered!

This is an absolute mess. I went to work Monday figuring I'd have to take Tuesday off. Well, I got that right. What I hadn't figured on is no power at the labs Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as well. We're still awaiting word about Monday.

I've home from work for four and a half days since they closed the place down Monday afternoon.

Power was out for three days by me. My daughter still has it out by her and a tree fell on her house. Let's not even talk about the gasoline fiasco.

Still, these are relatively minor annoyances, expensive, but still minor. There are over a hundred people dead and not that far from me the Hackensack River ended up in people's living rooms, boats crashed onto porches and at least two houses ended up in the middle of route 35.

Ever see a roller coaster in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? That's where the one in Seaside Heights ended up.

I will give Christie credit. He did seem on top of the situation but it took Cuomo in New York to start leaning on the power companies and taking measures in the gas nonsense. Christie at least had the good sense to follow suit.

The election is Tuesday and if the storm damage keeps anyone from the polls, you can be sure it won't be Republicans.

Obama appears to have gained some ground back so I'm not as pessimistic as I was a while back. I think it's going to be a cat fight. I'll be surprised if the thing is resolved Tuesday night. I'm thinking easily into Wednesday and maybe beyond.