Friday, July 29, 2011

A Cautionary Tale for GOP & Tea Party: Minnesotans Blame State GOP 2-1 for State Shutdown

Looking at the piece of shit legislation that just passed the House, one really has to wonder what kind of drugs are the Republicans on to think that even the most right leaning independent isn't going to blame them for the economic downturn that is now nearly inevitable as a result of the Tea Baggers posturing and playing games with people lives and the financial future of our nation.

If you think this is just partisan rhetoric, just take a look at the latest poll out of the State of Minnesota. By a margin of more than 2-1, Minnesotans blame the Republican controlled Legislature for the recent government shutdown more than they blame Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, according to a poll taken this week by the highly acclaimed journalism website MinnPost.

Perhaps the MinnPost poll's most revealing information was that the state's key swing voting block, Minnesotans with no strong party identification, the independents, strongly favored the Democrat's balanced approach 72 per cent to 22 percent who favored no new taxes and just a minuscule 2 percent for no spending cuts.

The message to Orange Man and the chinless wonder is clear, beware my friend, beware!

Whoop T Doo: Boehner Bill Passes House, DOA in the Sentate

In perhaps the greatest act of political posturing and futility in U.S. history, House Republicans pass a ridiculous bill which is DOA in the Senate.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How We Got To The Brink of Financial Disaster

Amidst all the finger pointing and hyperbole going on in D.C. these days, it is helpful to take a deep breath and a step back from the abyss, and review how we got to the brink of financial disaster.

Just to remind my forgetful Republican friends, the road to financial ruin started with the huge tax cuts passed under the early days of the George W. Bush administration. From a high of $236 billion surplus in fiscal year 2000 to $127 billion when Clinton left office prognosticators had depicted a rosy scenario of surplus for as “far as the eye could see”. As you can see from the above graphic, progressive tax policies work. Oh to be able to return to the days of the Clinton Administration

So what in the hell happened? In short, Republican economic and tax policies. Add to that two unfunded wars and you get to the mess we are in today. "But what about all the Obama stimulus?" A necessary evil which worked to pull us back from the brink of economic collapse in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Besides, at least some of the stimulus went to the middle and working classes for things like extended unemployment insurance. To all my conservative friends who call that type of spending a waste: "...there by the grace of God go you" unless of course you can weather a lay off. Just go out and try finding another job today before shooting off your big yaps!

My brother was good enough to enlighten me with perhaps the best summary of where we are today, as a nation, financially: Elizabeth Drew's excellent article "What Were They Thinking"

As Elizabeth Drew so eloquently and accurately stated in her article:

"...The Republicans displayed a recklessness that should have disqualified them from being taken seriously. Any deal that was reached would contain substantial cuts in the coming fiscal year—too soon, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the head of the Congressional Budget Office Doug Elmendorf have recently warned.

The antitax dogma of the Republican Party is strongly rooted in mythology. The theory that tax cuts create jobs has been discredited by the results of George Bush’s tax policies. The Republicans cling to the myth that “small business” owners are the “job creators,” and so they oppose proposals to eliminate the Bush rate cuts for even those earning over $250,000. But relatively few small business owners earn $250,000—in fact, fewer than 3 percent of the 20 million people who file business income on their personal tax forms (the 1040s) earn that much.

Finally, the antitax position of many conservatives would seem to be illogical, since they also hate deficits: but their real aim is to reduce or eliminate federal programs. They call efforts to redistribute wealth “socialism,” but have no problem redistributing from the poor and middle class to the wealthy through taxes, as set forth in Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which the House approved on April 15. Under the Ryan plan, the taxes of the richest one percent of Americans would be cut in half, while taxes would be raised on most of the middle class. People earning over $1 million would be taxed at a lower effective rate than the middle class..."


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just Say No: To Politicians Who Sign Pledges

As the public's attitude toward politicians and politics in general has grown over recent years from one of hope to ambivalence and eventually to the current attitude of utter disdain, there is a widespread belief among the majority of independent minded voters that the parties are equally to blame. While in some respects this is only logical. There are two dominant parties and as the old saying goes, "it takes two to tango".

Now, while this may be true when it comes to dancing or fighting, unfortunately when it comes to politics, this is not necessarily true. The recent anecdotal evidence from the upper Midwest states of Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as the current standoff in Washington D.C. lends credence to my hypothesis that something has fundamentally changed politics as usual in this country over the last couple of generations.

I trace the origins of the problem back to the mid-1970's when evangelical Christians set their sights on taking over the Republican Party. The first hint of trouble was the "I Found It" bumper stickers that started to appear on cars. The next sign of the coming political Apocalypse was the shotgun marriage of the evangelical Christians lead by Jerry Falwell and his so-called Moral Majority (which in actuality were neither) and Ronald Reagan, a divorced movie star who neglected his own children, did not even attend church and negotiated with the enemy while running for President in order to get elected. Never mind the fact that he defeated one of the most decent men to ever hold the office, Jimmy Carter, an actual Christian who lived the precepts of his religion, not the phony Gospel of Prosperity of the Rev. Falwells and their ilk.

The administration of President Alzheimer and Mommy Dearest will mostly be remembered for running up the largest deficits in U.S. history up until that time, thanks largely to a bogus, three card Monty con game of an economic policy called supply side and the trickle down theory. Under the trickle down theory, by cutting taxes on the wealthy, we were promised that pennies would fall out of the pockets of wealthy Americans and trickle down their pant legs to the middle and working classes. Well something was and has been trickling down upon the heads of Americans ever since but it is yellow, liquid and has an acrid smell.

Couple this with union busting and the all out war on the American middle and working classes was well under way. Before leaving office Reagan was to commit truly impeachable offenses such as treason and other high crimes and misdemeanors in his scheme to sell arms and spare parts to the most evil regime of our time, the Islamic dictatorship in Iran and funnel the profits, in clear violation of U.S. law to the Contra Rebels of Nicaragua, a group which was murdering priests and an archbishop as well as raping U.S. nuns before killing them. Remember what Reagan called these brutish thugs? "The moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers". That statement makes Michele Bachmann look like a professor emeritus in history.

Next up was George Herbert Walker Bush, the last of a dying breed of moderate, competent Republicans. I have to admit, I have mostly admiration for the elder Bush. Highly competent, former head of the CIA, ambassador to the U.N. and China, he truly understood the power and wisdom of multilateralism and was uniquely qualified to rally the world against Saddam in the first Gulf War. Not only did he get other Arab countries to fight by our side, he got countries that did not contribute troops, like Germany and Japan, to kick in monetarily, resulting in a $5 Billion surplus. As great as his leadership in the first Gulf War was, perhaps his greatest legacy was having the courage to stand up and speak out against Reaganomics for what it was: "Voo Doo Economics".

In what will undoubtedly go down as his greatest moment and perhaps the last act of bipartisan courage shown by a Republican politician, he stood up to the know-nothings of his own party and went back on his pledge of "No new taxes" and did the right thing, setting the groundwork for the Clinton Administration's unparalleled years of economic prosperity. Unfortunately, this, like most lessons from history, are lost on today's Republicans.

So remember Americans, any fool politician can keep a pledge for their own political gain to the detriment of the country. But it takes a politician with real moral courage to stand up to his own party and do the right thing for the good of all Americans. Unfortunately there are no more Republicans from the Greatest Generation left in politics for the Democrats to work with. Not only is this a loss for the Republican Party , but a loss for America as well.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony Acquittal Stirs Memories of Guevara Case: Prosecutorial Arrogance Run Amuck

I try to avoid tabloid news whenever possible. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had never heard of Casey Anthony or of the murder case involving the death of her young child. As a criminal defense attorney for over 24 years, the last thing I want is to be reminded of is work on my time off.

Unfortunately the corporate media news networks would rather bombard Americans with tabloid-style, sensationalistic coverage of two-bit tragedies, white trash murder cases and other sad, but inconsequential matters, then cover matters of national significance. Therefore I could not help but be caught up in the hysteria that was the public's interest in the Anthony verdict today. Not because of the outcome. I had predicted it.

No, I am not a savant. All I needed to form my prediction was to hear the network news summaries of the prosecution's case, hear excerpts from the prosecutor's summation and see the clip of the arrogant, evil, fool of a prosecutor laughing out loud during the defense counsel's summation to know where this thing was headed.

You see, when prosecutors loose all perspective, when they become assured of the righteousness of their cause, when they loose their own humanity in the vilification of the defendant, they deserve to lose. Justice is not about the righteousness of a prosecutor or the alleged evilness of a defendant, it is about truth and it is about the victim. Sometimes the prosecution has to be patient for the truth to emerge. Sometimes the truth takes a long time. That is why there is no statute of limitations on murder. However fools and the self-righteous are often not patient.

The Anthony acquittal may cause Minnesotans to remember a murder case occurring in Dakota County approximately 18 years ago. A young child by the name of Corrine Erstad was the victim of a grisly murder. But just like the Anthony case in Florida, the prosecutor in Corrine's case was an overreaching, arrogant, self-righteous fool of a County Attorney by the name of James Backstrom. Just like the prosecutor in the Anthony case, the Erstad case became all about the prosecutor and his righteousness. Instead of waiting for a solid case to emerge, the always arrogant Backstrom pushed ahead with a weak case with one eye on re-election to predictable results. I have a colleague who owes his career to the arrogance and impatience that is Jim Backstrom.

Many years later Minnesota Public Radio did a story on Backstrom, a journalistic light weight, retrospective piece on the bully's career. In the article, the reporter noted that "... Erstad's photo shares a place on the same book shelf as the one of Backstrom's mother. " What the article should have said that in front of the shelf was a full length mirror because the arrogant, overreaching County Attorney never did change his ways or really take stock of his conduct or if he did it never showed.

May the Anthony and Guevara cases be a warning to the Backstroms of the world and may God grant them the wisdom to change their ways.

Friday, July 1, 2011

MN Govt Shutdown: We Only Have Ourselves to Blame

The fiscal problems facing the State of Minnesota which culminated early this morning with the shutdown of state government is a direct result of Minnesotans electing politicians who signed pledges. In a republican form of government, the people elect politicians to represent their interests, leaving it up to each individual politician to use his or her own best judgment on any particular issue.

However, dating back several election cycles now, the Taxpayers League and other right wing extremist organizations have extorted loyalty oaths in the form of pledges not to raise taxes, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the exigencies, no matter what the crisis. The end result: gridlock and government shutdown.

Much like a child holding its breath to get his or her own way, the Republican controlled Minnesota Legislature, just like Minnesota's former Governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty, before it, abdicated their solemn duty to act in the best interest of all Minnesotans and allowed their hands to be tied for the sake of a ridiculously simplistic pledge of no new taxes.

Nevermind the fact that the state was one of only a few states in the entire country which had not raised the state's share of gasoline taxes, which taxes are dedicated to the upkeep of the state's roads and bridges. The end result of such Timfoolery has been a deteriorating and decrepit surface transportation system and most tragically the collapse of the 35W bridge and resulting loss of life.

Politics is what it is and that is the art of compromise. When we, the body electorate, choose to elect politicians who come into office with their hands tied, unable to exercise sound judgment due to the extortionate pledges they signed in order to get elected, we only have ourselves to blame.