Saturday, November 28, 2009

1.6 Op-ed

My 1.6 Op-ed is now online: http://bit.ly/5olmx2

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chaffetz, the President & Israel

Jason Chaffetz tweeted the following on September 23, 2009:

I am outraged by the President's comments at the U.N. His approach to the Israel-Palestinian situation is wrong on many fronts.
President wants discussions "without preconditions." I disagree. We should always stand tall for Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Also, the President's characterization that Israel should "end the occupation that began in 1967" is offensive and wrong.
I was a little confused by this.

Ya see, Chaffetz said "I disagree. We should always stand tall for Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state."

But President Obama specifically called for "a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis."

Where's the disagreement?

Chaffetz then says that the President is wrong to call the Israeli occupation of land it annexed (and is not legally Israeli territory) an occupation.

But the President isn't wrong. The crux of the modern conflict between Israel and Palestine has been the Israeli-occupied territories. It's called an occupation because that's what it is.

Chaffetz is obviously disagreeing with the President for the sake of being disagreeable (and to get his name in the news again) while simultaneously making himself and the state he represents look like an uninformed horse's ###.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Supercapitalism by Robert B. Reich

I've often said that the free market can always be counted on to do what's profitable but what's profitable isn't always what's right.

Dr. Reich's examination of how Democratic Capitalism has been pushed aside by Supercapitalism illustrates my point better than I ever could. Of course he has dedicated his life to the subjects of economics, politics and society. The subtitle of the book is "The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life."

Reich discusses the circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of organizaed labor in the United States, the role that Oligopolies played in the American and world economy during the period he calls "The Not Quite Golden Age" (1950s-1970s) and the dichotomy that exists in the minds of Americans as consumers/investors and citizens who shop at Wal-Mart to get the best deals on products manufactured overseas by American-based companies who then go home and lament the downtrodden status of the American worker and the suffering of main streets and mom and pop businesses across the country.

Another fascinating point made is the anthropomorphism of corporations that has resulted in a false belief held by the public that companies are just like people and subsequent legislation that treats them as such. Corporations can be sued, taxed and accused of having agendas when, in reality, they are just "legal fictions," bundles of contracts and collectives of shareholders and employees. How often have we referred to corporations as having evil intent, "Wal-Mart hates unions," "Microsoft is a monopolist." Companies don't have intent. They can't hate or love. But by treating them as people, the executives that operate those corporations start to assume that said corporations are entitled to rights and representation in government and Supercapitalism has enabled them to buy that representation through lobbying and corporate donations to political campaigns. Divorcing ourselves from this fallacy of corporate sentience is the first step in dismantling that influence that business has over our government. Only by doing that can government get back to representing the interests of the people instead of implementing legislation designed to work for the economic advantage of big business. Summed up simply, our leaders in government seem to have forgotten that rights are guaranteed to people not corporations. Reich also makes an excellent case for eliminating the corporate income tax and replacing it with taxes withheld from shareholder dividends. Let the stockholders pay taxes on the income corporations earn on their behalf, the way the law works now, corporations simply pass their taxes onto the consumer.

This is just one of many excellent examples that Reich gives in his book about how democracy can come out from under the weight of corporate influence so that all Americans can eventually benefit from the positive aspects of Supercapitalism that we now enjoy, great deals as consumers and higher returns as investors while not compromising the greater good that can only be made possible through democracy that is unencumbered by corporate influence.

Fresh Air from WHYY - Robert Reich Looks Askance at 'Supercapitalism' - 9/11/2007 - "Fresh Air"

NPR.org's Book Tour - Robert Reich Issues a Warning in 'Supercapitalism' - 10/02/07

Official page at Random House

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Letter to the Editor - JasonWatch.org

Dear Editor,

I’ve been closely following Jason Chaffetz’ as Congressman for District 3. I admired his choice to sleep in his office when in D.C. I liked that he kept in touch with his constituents through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I’m impressed with his commitment to fiscal discipline. At first he seemed like a good guy to have in office. Then I got a fear mongering e-mail from him about a “Cap-and-Trade Tax.” I did some research and found out it was full of lies, distortions and insinuations. I watched his videos. Some are informative but others are just as much political hot air as we ever got from Chris Cannon. I started to fact-check the things that he sends out to his constituents and I was very uncomfortable with the amount of disinformation he was spreading, much of it he gets directly from his party leadership. He also isn’t very forthcoming when it comes to providing sources for some of the things he says. I’ve managed to find these sources on my own only to discover that information has been taken out of context or lifted from outdated or even discredited documents. Of course much of his “research” is done for him by the Republican party, which is just as disappointing because instead of getting information for himself, he just passes the buck. Most people don’t go to these lengths to make sure that their Congressmen is being straight with them and that’s too bad. There are many people in District 3 who take Chaffetz at his word and have no idea that sometimes he’s misleading him. Not being one to sit idly by when someone tries to pull a fast one on me, I took it upon myself to start a web site to keep track of Chaffetz’ actions and statements as Congressman: www.JasonWatch.org. Out of fairness, I offer him both praise for the good things that he does do and criticism for when he falls short. So far, the good outnumbers the bad and I hope it stays that way. I’ve also included a message board on the site that’s open to the public so they can share their praise and criticism of their Congressman as well. I follow Mr. Chaffetz’ twitter feed, subscribe to his videos and, until recently, he and I were “friends” on Facebook. When I first watched his videos on YouTube, I left comments on them. Usually to point out a fact he might not have considered or to give him some friendly critique. His response was to disable the comments feature on his channel. This disappointed me. A Congressman needs to be open to criticism and the views of those he is elected to represent. I thought he made up for this on his Facebook page where people are free to post topics and discuss them. Chaffetz decided to remove me from that forum because of the “frequency” of my comments. Frankly, I just don’t think he liked what I had to say.

-Joe Puente
Sanpete, Utah

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Angle "On Facebook" (and Jason Chaffetz)

The irony is not lost on me that this isn't exactly a short response to Jason's complaints about the "quantity" of my comments. Yeah, it's a bout 9 1/2 minutes long... but worth every second! ;-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Buy One Anyway

The Birthright Citizenship Act is Unconstitutional

Congressman Jason Chaffetz is cosponsoring a bill called “The Birthright Citizenship Act” (H.R.1868) which could amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by not granting citizenship to anyone born in the United States unless at least one parent is a U.S. citizen or national, a lawfully admitted or resident alien or is an alien serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: "ALL persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." According to the Constitution, one's birthright as a citizen is not defined by the citizenship status of one’s parents. Denying citizenship to someone "born... in the United States" under the circumstances outlined above, would require a Constitutional amendment. The aim of this bill is to punish natural born American citizens for the crimes of their parents and in the land of “Justice for all,” I can think of few things that are more UN-American. Chaffetz’ cosponsorship is especially disappointing as he has been a strong proponent of abiding by the Constitution in regard to his work with the census and Congressional oversight of the District of Columbia. To endorse legislation as clearly unconstitutional as this is blatantly hypocritical. A lot of the furor against illegal immigrants is disproportionately aimed at those from Mexico and other Latin-American countries, not because of their numbers but because of their obvious ethnicity. Legislation such as this, while possessing a filigree of concern for the rights of American workers and accessibility to public resources by U.S. citizens, is fundamentally motivated by the racism that continues to exist in this country. One needn’t wear a swastika or a white robe to be influenced by endemic prejudice. The election of an African-American President, the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Connecticut firemen denied promotions on racial grounds and a backlash of bigoted resentment pent-up after years of political correctness and affirmative action have brought this country to a fragile point in its development as a cultural melting-pot. Just as a stretched elastic band will recoil to its slack position when cut, I fear a recoil in this country to racial attitudes of the past and bills like H.R.1868 is suggestive of such attitudes. To those who would claim to be unfairly characterized by referring to their “many friends who are (insert ethnicity here),” I would like to point out that it is possible to be a white, English speaking illegal immigrant to the United States but I'm willing to bet that if anyone were to try and round up all the illegals no one would pay attention to an impoverished Canadian even if he approached an INS agent saying, "I'm an illegal alien too, eh! Let me on the truck!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

'Save our CEOs' Teaser for Michael Moore's New Film Hits Theaters!

Yes, I'm a Michael Moore fan. No, I don't agree with everything he says. But he's a pretty damned good filmmaker.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And it begins...

Well, I did it. I've launched JasonWatch.org.

Check it out at http://www.jasonwatch.org/.

Your online destination for kudos and critique of Congressman Jason Chaffetz

Because somebody has to do it!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chaffetz Continues to Mislead his Constituents

Well, Jason’s at it again. He has sent out a letter in which he criticizes the stimulus package for being both too big and ineffective. He also claims that “The President projected that his stimulus package would prevent the unemployment rate from exceeding 8%.” (emphasis added)


Oh, did he? Actually, no, he didn’t. At least I haven’t been able to find a direct quote from the President or anyone on his staff to that effect. Just third party hearsay from the blogosphere (by the way, blogs are not usually credible sources of information as they are largely used to express opinion that may or may not be based on actual facts). If any readers can find me a direct quote from a credible and verifiable source, I’d really appreciate it. Now, what did the President say?


Well, before the President even took the oath of office his transition team acknowledged that unemployment was expected to exceed 8% in 2009. Chaffetz also refers to the President’s banchmarks, offering only a link to a bitmap image on his own web site--really, Jason? A bitmap? What do you think this is, the ‘80s?--instead of the charts that are readily available from the Office of Management and Budget which rather optimistically predicted a 2009 unemployment rate of 8.1%. It should also be noted that these estimates were made back in January prior to the economic outlook getting more and more pessimistic in subsequent months, which the President's economic staff has acknowledged all along. Now one tenth of a percent may not seem like that big of a deal but in an age where accurate information is only a few mouse-clicks away, no one, especially a U.S. Congressman, can afford to distort information by even the smallest of margins. 


Chaffetz goes on to say of his bitmap, "the following graph shows that the President was claiming that the impact of the stimulus package would be immediate."  


First of all, I'm pretty sure that the President never claimed, in words or graphics, that the impact of the stimulus bill would be immediate. Second, where did Jason get this graph (which he also refers to as "the report") anyway? There is nothing in the image to indicate its source and the document itself is only named "stimulus graph.bmp" which tells us even less. Now, I'm sure that Jason is counting on his constituents to just take him at his word and not question his statements, numbers or motives but what he didn't count on was the fact that I live in his district, subscribe to his e-mail list and don't trust anyone. So, as usual, I did a little homework.


It turns out that the graph is from a report titled "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" (emphasis added) released on January 10 and prepared in part by Christina Romer, Chair Nominee Designate, at the time, of the then President-elect's Council of Economic Advisors. Not only does this report, and the graphic contained in it, predate the Obama administration by at least 10 days, it was written over a month before anyone even knew what the final details of the stimulus package would be. And the statistics used in it were most likely based on economic forecasts from the last quarter of 2008, when we were only just realizing that we were even in a recession. During the following month the language and fiscal details of the stimulus bill went through so many changes and adjustments that the data and the graph presented in that January 10 report were rendered completely inapplicable to the final legislation.


It's like blaming an author because the movie based on his best-selling novel has a different ending from the book. Most novelists are left out of the production loop once their work has been optioned by a movie studio. The same thing happens when the President proposes legislation to Congress. He has little if any control over how the final legislation is going to turn out even if the Legislative Branch is dominated by the same party.


As for Chaffetz' insistence that the stimulus package is both too big and ineffective, there are some reputable economists, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich,  who think that the stimulus package is too small to be effective. As I have said in a previous post on "The Anglə,"(4:39) this is because the authors of the stimulus legislation kept making compromises at the request of Republican members of Congress in the interest of bipartisanship and GOP support of the stimulus when it came time for the final vote. After all that compromise, most Republicans, including Chaffetz, voted against it anyway.


Ya know, one of these days all of his lying and political bullshit is going to come back and bite Chaffetz right in his Republican ass and I plan on being there when it happens.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Starbucks' Health Care Policy Is Sickening

Seeing stories like this makes me grateful for the crappy healthcare I get through the V.A. Because at least I've got SOMETHING.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Can Liberals and Conservatives be Fairly Compared to Socialists and Fascists?

I read a blog post about "Liberalism" recently that erupted into a short thread of name-calling and insults along the lines of "Which is better? Liberalism or Conservatism?" The definitions offered of each were as broad as they were biased.

I've been thinking about this dichotomy in political thought for a while and was motivated by this exchange to finally put my observations and thoughts in writing. So, here goes.

First of all, American-Conservatism and American-Liberalism are not the same as conservatism and liberalism as it's known and practiced in other parts of the world. Most notably Europe.

Also, the political spectrum is much more complex than the idea of a line segment with a center and right & left ends. We like to think of Conservatives and Liberals as coming together in the middle on principles that they both embrace. The blog & related thread mentioned above had each side accusing the other of not respecting cherished American principles. The fact is, both American-Conservatism and American-Liberalism stand for Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, personal liberty, equal opportunity, etc. Those are American values and neither the "left" nor the "right" can claim them as solely their own.

What we need to understand is that the primary differences between Liberal and Conservative ideas of freedom, equality and opportunity can't be fairly represented by that left/right line segment because a distinction has to be made between Personal freedom and Economic freedom.

If we give each of those aspects their own left/right spectrum then we get a clearer representation of where Conservatives and Liberals stand on those two different yet connected measurements. David Nolan, who founded the Libertarian Party in 1971, placed these two scales not parallel to each other but perpendicular to each other creating a political plane as apposed to a political spectrum. There are also a number of political compasses floating around. Nolan's model, however, is basic and apropos to my thesis.

If you try and cram economic and personal liberty on the same scale you don't just get conflicts between the Conservative and Liberal schools of thought, you get inconsistencies and ideological paradoxes within each of those schools.

On a political plane which Nolan put forth in a diagram that's now called "The Nolan Chart" it's easier to see where Conservatives and Liberals are alike and where they differ. On the Personal freedom axis of the Nolan Chart, both American-Liberalism and American-Conservatism are on the side of greater freedom. On the Economic freedom axis, American-Conservatism leans toward more economic freedom and American-Liberalism leans toward less economic freedom. Where a great deal of the confusion in American politics comes from is the misguided notion that one's philosophy regarding economics is directly aligned with their philosophy on personal liberty. This is not always the case. That's why we're seeing Republicans trying to label Democrats as Socialists because, unfortunately, a lot of Americans will confuse Socialism with Communism--a philosophy based on taking away both personal and economic freedom. Modern Socialism and Civil Liberties are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

During the Bush Administration ('01-'09), it was popular amongst liberals to associate Republicans and other conservatives with Nazis and fascism. This had more to do with a blurring of the line between patriotism and nationalism in Republican rhetoric, concerns about undermining civil rights through legislation such as the USA PATRIOT ACT as well as the prosecution of a perpetual "War on Terrorism" than any relationship between American-Conservative values and those of the Nazi party. The GOP's willingness to become a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration, out of party loyalty, certainly didn't help to curtail that image.

While it can be argued that American-Liberalism, vis-à-vis its economic philosophy, when taken to an extreme would lead to socialism (which, in reality, probably wouldn't happen under the U.S. Constitution), its a bit more of a semantic stretch to say that American-Conservatism, taken to its extreme, would lead to Fascism. On the personal freedom axis, Fascism--by its very definition--is hostile toward the very concept of individual liberty. It also rejects capitalism in favor of "Corporatism" which essentially creates government mandated monopolies to exert control over the economy. It's not quite economic socialism but it certainly flies in the face of what any self-respecting American Conservative would call their core values. By the way, while history clearly says otherwise, the Nazis did not consider themselves fascists. 

Even Nolan was guilty of oversimplifying American political theory arguing that American-Liberalism advocated only personal freedom and American-Conservatism advocated only economic freedom while claiming that Libertarianism was the only political philosophy that advocated both. In that respect, Libertarianism--at least on a superficial level--has more in common with traditional conservatism than it might care to admit.

Practically speaking, Liberalism and Conservatism in the United States do not occupy opposite ends of the economic axis. If anything, they both find themselves on the side of economic freedom with one (Liberalism) leaning more toward the center than the other in that traditionally the "Left" advocates government regulation and the "Right" prefers to loosen government oversight. But both Liberals and Conservatives can't deny the generally successful model of free-market Capitalism and its social benefits. The United States government presently finds itself reevaluating the role that it plays in the economy with a possible shift toward more regulation in the finance sector as well as exploring options that it can take to try and fix problems with the healthcare system. Even the infusion of public capital into the finance and automotive industries can, at best, be called "Lemon Socialism" and are not intended to be permanent situations. But even if sweeping legislation is put into place to address all of those issues, the result would not be "American Socialism." The U.S. economy will continue to operate under the rules of Capitalism. Innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit aren't going to fizzle and die; we just may find ourselves with a more regulated economy. This may slow economic growth but simultaneously reduce the risk of market collapses and prevent artificial bubbles from getting a foothold, let alone growing out of control, and subsequently bursting. These measures will also soften the blow of future recessions--which are inevitable as they are simply part of the free market economic cycle--and hopefully keep us from experiencing deep recessions like the one we're experiencing now--or mini depression as some are calling it.

All of this will also result in a major cultural shift for many Americans. I think we're going to come out of this a more pragmatic culture. There'll be less "Keeping up with the Joneses" and more consideration for what's practical and needed over what's ostentatious and simply wanted. This will also affect American political culture where concerns about the "Extremes" of political philosophies may wind up being purely academic.

Of course, in the words of Dennis Miller, "That's just my opinion. I could be wrong."


Sources:

n.b. when dealing with specific facts and figures, I try my best to turn to official sources such as major news outlets, government web sites and published articles in reputable periodicals and journals. When it comes to broader topics like political philosophies or complex issues that draw on numerous sources (like the USA PATRIOT Act), I'll refer the reader to a relevant and vetted Wikipedia article.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) Extols the Luxuries of the Gitmo Life

Free medical care, good food, classes, gardening. I find it amusing how many Guantanamo defenders talk about how good the terrorists have it in the detention camps.

Are they forgetting that these people have been accused of committing some of the worst crimes imaginable? But instead of trying them in court, where if found guilty they'll either be incarcerated in a REAL prison or sentenced to death, we're taking better care of them than Osama Bin Laden did. All he could offer them was a cold corner of a cave to sleep in and a promise of 72 virgins that may or may not be awaiting them after they blow themselves up in an Afghan market.

But it makes an eery sort of sense. The Republicans WANT to take good care of their precious detainees. They fill a very important role in the Republican Psychodrama that is their national agenda. They are the face of the enemy. The Terrorists in Guantanamo are the Emmanuel Goldsteins to the GOP's Big Brother. Keep them out of the U.S. and perpetually awaiting trial and they retain that air of danger the Right Wing is counting on to scare the country into giving them back the power they enjoyed in the years immediately following 9/11.

To bad they don't realize that most of us have stopped buying their fear mongering.

http://www.momoy.com/2007/03/11/guantanamo-detainees-allowed-to-garden/

Monday, May 18, 2009

And the Award for Biggest Balls in Congress Goes To...

GOP Representative John Duncan of Tennessee is sponsoring legislation to curb "irresponsible" federal spending. It aims to do this by limiting government spending to a specific percentage of GDP as well as making it difficult for congress to even consider legislation that might cause spending to exceed that limit.

Of course, the rule in Washington being "Do as I say, not as I do," Duncan comes to the defense of this own earmarks to the tune of $178,000,000. His reasoning?

"If the money is going to be spent, I thought it was only fair for my district and East Tennessee to get its share. If I refused to ask for any federal money at all, that money is just going to go to New York or California or one of the nation's biggest cities. I don't want my people to be left out. I wish we were spending a whole lot less up here than we're having to spend."

Oh, they HAVE to spend it. What a convenient way to shift reponsibility to the imaginary person that's holding a gun to their heads and forcing them to spend money that they don't want to.

One word: Bullshit.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Matthews, Buchanan, O'Donnell Agree America Is A Socialist Nation

An interesting little tête-à-tête considering my thoughts on the subject as stated on "The Anglə."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjElAwc5R3g

Friday, May 15, 2009

Civilian Contractors Have the Water in Iraq, Aren't Sharing

First it was up-armored humvees, personal armor, communications equipment. You'd think they'd at least have plenty of water to drink.

I remember watching a news report during Desert Shield showing how careful the military was to make sure the troops stayed hydrated.

Today, it's an afterthought.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Heubener" and Utah Politics

I recently watched Thomas F. Rogers’ play “Heubener,” the story of a young Mormon Elder in wartime Germany whose Branch President tries desperately to reconcile his faith with his citizenship citing the 12th Article of Faith of the LDS Church, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” However, he also tries to reconcile his beliefs with the dogma of the ruling Nazi party.

This attempt at reconciliation, in Rogers’ own words, “serves as the philosophical crux of the play,” which struck close to home for me in that I’ve seen in our own community, and by extension Utah politics in general, attempts by faithful Mormons to reconcile doctrine with political rhetoric. This attitude even has Mormons questioning each other’s morality and worthiness based on their political leanings despite statements issued by the Church that “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.”

It’s my hope, since we are currently between elections, that these observations will not be arbitrarily dismissed like so much political hot air. It seems that in our two party system––no matter how much the parties claim to be open to differing views––when it comes time to vote, all members of a party are expected to tow the line in accordance with the views of the party leadership (often representing the most extreme ends of the political spectrum). Such attitudes make the efforts of moderates futile.

When any one party is in control of government for an extended period of time, I’m reminded of Lord Acton’s caveat that “Power... corrupt[s] and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In our federal government we can recall major shifts of power in Congress to check the Executive branch mid-term; most notably 1994 and 2006. But what of Utah’s political climate in which, despite a state constitution that was modeled on the Federal one, has effectively become a one-party system over the last generation largely by appealing to Mormons by implying that their party is more righteous than others? How many Utah candidates include their LDS Missions on their resumes? All this flies in the face of established Doctrine: “We do not believe it just to MINGLE religious influence with civil government...” (D&C 134:9) (emphasis added) While the Church encourages its members to participate in all aspects of government from voting to running for office, even participation in political parties, it still places a great deal of emphasis on members thinking for themselves when casting their votes. “...vote for and actively support those YOU believe will most nearly carry out YOUR ideas of good government.” (emphasis added) I think Mormons would be better served by not allying themselves with any political party. An unaffiliated voter, either in the voting booth or on the floor of a legislative body, is freer to vote their conscience and would not feel politically pressured to “tow the line.”