A Nerd Girl's Perspective

My Thoughts on News, Politics, Food, Crafting, Geek Culture, Sociology, and Much More —— Courtney C Horne

Tag: politics

Beyond the 47-percent-esque Comment: What it felt like at David Vitter’s town hall.

Recently I went to a David Vitter town hall meeting on a personal mission to video the whole thing. You never know when a politician is going to say something crazy or terrible so it seems like that is a good thing to do. And sure enough Vitter said something terrible. Plus, best I could tell, I was the only non staff member videoing when he did.

He said that people who support the affordable care act,”the other side” in his words, are people who “get something for nothing.” It was eerily reminiscent of the 47% comment from Romney and I wasn’t the only one who reached that conclusion. Mother Jones decided to run the video I shot of it. 

While I think that is certainly the most newsworthy minute of the town hall, the whole thing was a surreal experience and you can watch the whole video if you are interested.

(Because of limited technical resources, I used ustream to shoot the video- archiving every few minutes during pauses or applause so as to make sure I didn’t lose much video if my phone failed. As a result there are some weird cuts in the video with roughly 3-5 seconds gone at each one. There is also three minutes missing where my phone did freak out. Luckily the method I was using meant that I only lost that 3 minutes)

If I was to sum of how the room felt, I think I would say that it was a bit like being stuck inside Rush Limbaugh’s brain.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Remark on Constitutional Phrasing

So there are some people out there who insist that the constitution should be taken at its exact 200+ year old phrasing. They say there is no interpretation necessary.

Some of these people like to loudly complain about the fact that they can not own things like a rocket launcher or a machine gun. They love to point out the “shall not be infringed” part of the second amendment. They say that any ban on any weapon no matter what it is infringes. Some of them would loudly declare that they should be able to have a fully armed tank as long as they can afford it. Yes someone has told me with a straight face that they believe the constitution grants them the right to own a fully armed tank. They weren’t kidding. They weren’t exaggerating. They actually believed this and I am pretty sure I didn’t meet the only anomaly.

So let’s look at the text. There are actually two versions, the one passed by congress and the one ratified by the states. They read:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

&

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

So some capitalization and punctuation varies but the text is the same. And it does include the phrase “shall not be infringed.” I give the literal wording folks that. Those words are there. But you know what words aren’t there??

Buy and sell. It says keep and bear. But it says nothing about the right to buy and sell. Nothing about the right to import or to engage in interstate commerce related to it. In fact, a hyper-literal reading would not prevent congress from banning all imports of firearms and banning all firearm interstate commerce. You can keep and bear the guns you have and any you can get in your state but beyond that, oh well.

Congress isn’t going to do this because it understands that you have to interpret the constitution. It understands that keep and bear inherently also relates to buying and selling even though the founders didn’t deem to include that in their phrasing. And it also understands that the founders couldn’t have anticipated tanks, rocket launchers, or machine guns or normal people wanting to own them.

And so looking at wording as if it is literal perfection as written- well it just doesn’t make sense. It falls apart to easy on a close inspection.

 

A Revision on a Theory

I have commonly spoken about my 100 year theory in American politics.  In a nutshell, the GOP commits a slow political suicide, the democrats drift further to the right, and something new emerges to the left.

Well I have a revision. I think now I may call this my 50 year theory- in light of recent events.

Read the rest of this entry »

Open Letter to Gov. Cuomo

Governor Cuomo,

You want to run for president in 2016. Don’t act coy. We all know you are going to run. And if neither Clinton or Biden runs, things don’t look bad for you in current polling. So let me give you a piece of advice on strategy.

Don’t pick a fight with Anthony Weiner. When I read your “shame on us” remark... all I could think was “oh dear god, that was stupid.” You can call it a joke, but the damage is done already- you can’t unsay it.

And Anthony Weiner isn’t know for his calm-level headed behavior. Right now, he isn’t very powerful. A disgraced former congressman. He still has some power thanks to his considerable influence with in parts of the democratic party, but that is nothing compared to the potential.

If he wins the mayor race, Weiner will become a very, very powerful man. In fact, he will be a considerable more powerful man than he was prior to his resignation from congress. And if he decides to hold a grudge, possibly a powerful enough man to derail your presidential primary efforts. He could make your life hard as governor and damage your chances that way or he could use the huge influence of being a mayor of a city with more people than many states to derail you. Either way, you could get hurt badly, and that is before his wife gets involved.

Huma Abedin is a power player in her own right. With her close relationship with the Clintons, she could potentially hold sway in the primary. Or in the case of a Hillary nomination, she could nudge your name lower down the VP list. I am assuming here that she wants her husband to become mayor, but I am guessing that is a pretty safe assumption.

So what can you do now that you have likely pissed off someone who could potentially become very powerful in very short order? Well, I think it is time to make nice. Apologize to Weiner for the remark personally. Plus, make some sort of public statement about the remark being a joke in poor judgement and that of course you support the democratic candidate for mayor as chosen by the primary- including if that candidate is Weiner.

Or not. I mean it is up to you. But you have a presidential primary campaign to think about and not having a powerful, renowned hot head in your party pissed off at you, well that is probably the safer choice.

Up to you though.

A Political Strategy Nerd

P.S. No jokes about his name either- that won’t help you salvage the relationship any.

 

House Ways and Means Meeting Results:

The bills to kill income tax without revenue replacement are dead. 

I am sure they will come back to haunt us again in 2015 (taxes are an odd years only matter), but for the moment the state is only going to be dealing with our current cuts to health care and education and not extremely amplified ones. 

Is the GOP even really trying to win?

I was watching the footage of Rand Paul bombing at Howard University. It was a terrible speech conceptually. To get up on stage and assert that African Americans would vote Republican if they knew history better is both condescending and ridiculous. It ignores history from the last 50 years. It ignores the GOP southern strategy. To say, well we had the first black congressman during reconstruction- you should ignore all the racist ads and campaign strategies we produced in the last 50 years- well that is just idiotic. It isn’t fooling anyone. And his visit was the GOP’s insane effort to reach minority voters. They sent a guy who is famous for expressing a negative view of the civil rights act to speak at a historically black university!

Between that and GOP politicians using the term “wetback,” while the party claims to be engaged in Hispanic outreach, I am left wondering, is the GOP really even trying?

If you were trying to win elections outside the red gerrymandered states you control, would you propose personhood laws that would make some oral contraceptives a crime?

If you really cared about winning, would you block universal background checks for firearms? That’s a policy that 90% of Americans like- hardly anything polls that high. I doubt ice cream even polls that high.

If you wanted to win presidential elections, would you punish popular politicians who are willing to work with the other side? They didn’t invite Chris Christie to CPAC for daring to work closely with the President to deal with the natural disaster that devastated his state.

Is this the behavior of a group that really wants to win elections? I am not sure is.

What would be their goal if it isn’t to win elections?

Cash.

A lot of people make a lot of money off political campaigns. A WHOLE LOT of money.

And Sheldon Adelson proves that you can make a lot of money without winning. He threw a tremendous amount of cash at Newt’s obviously sinking ship in the primary. You don’t have to have a prayer’s chance of winning to get money thrown at you.

And in fact, winning may not get you more money but rather less. Fear of those scary scary liberals who might (but probably won’t) raise capital gains taxes can pull a lot of money out of the kind of people who can afford to make 10 million dollar donations. Plus that money goes to the ill-monitored PACs rather than actual campaigns. And PACs can make people running them very rich.

That fear subsides when the GOP wins. There could easily be more money in losing. I mean, otherwise, why would the GOP have run Mitt Romney?

Could Bobby Jindal’s Tax Swap Plan Have Been a Distraction All Along?

Bobby Jindal’s tax plan to swap state income and corporate taxes for a higher and expanded sales tax is dead.

So dead that even he acknowledges it. Of course, moments after he acknowledges the death of his plan, he gets into bed with a different plan.

The new option for Jindal? Any one of the several bills in the Louisiana Legislature this session which would kill the state income tax without replacing the revenue at all. These bills are dangerous because the cuts cost by the revenue loss could be drastic and damaging.

They also don’t look nearly as worrisome as they should look because they are coming on the heels of the Jindal plan.

Which makes me stop and think.. Did he even want his “revenue neutral” (numerous sources doubted that his plan could really be neutral) tax swap to pass?

Or was he angling to make these bills with their huge revenue losses look better by comparison?

Opposition to the tax swap was coming from all sides. Catholic Bishops. Business Groups. Progressive Activists.

In fact, the tax swap plan seemed to be tailor made to have something for everyone to hate. The poor would likely pay more taxes under the plan. Businesses would have to start taxing additional services.  An unclear rebate system and the loss of the income tax credit reward could have lost the local entertainment industry success.

After that hate fest, any other plan will have trouble generating as much concern or attention.

So maybe if one of the income tax elimination bills passes Jindal will have gotten what he wanted all along. I have no way of knowing for sure (and maybe I am watching too much of the plotting heavy House of Cards) but stranger things have happened.

Jindal’s Tax Swap is Dead- Bad Tax Policy Lives On

On April 8th, before a joint session of the state legislature, Jindal acknowledged the death of his plan to eliminate state income and corporate taxes and replace them with higher state sales taxes which taxes a broad range of services not currently subject to sales tax. He said that he wasn’t taking his ball and going home, which to be honest, sounds exactly like what someone who was about to pout like mad would say.

However, the bad tax policy in Louisiana didn’t die alongside Jindal’s tax plan (and presidential ambitions). Rather the bad policy persists through a number of bills to eliminate the state income tax with absolutely no revenue replacement. At least Jindal’s horrible plan pretended to be revenue neutral. The various bills that Jindal spoke with favorability about during his speech haven’t even put forth the effort to look like they won’t drastically cut state revenue.

What happens if one of these bills passes? Our already incredibly under-funded state becomes even more so. As a state, we are already facing cuts to education and drastic closures of state hospitals. The sorts of cuts we could face with that sort of revenue loss would make our state sink to the bottom of a multitude of lists of states on quality of life, health care, education, public services, services for the elderly and poor, roads, etc.

A friend pointed out that a bill like this passing could easily mean the death of the TOPS program (which provides scholarships to public universities in Louisiana to encourage our high school students both to go to college and to stay in state to do it- and which has benefited the states higher education rates) due to lack of funding.

I shudder to think of what other vitally important programs could face their end because of this bad tax policy and drastic revenue loss.

States Really Want to Arrest ATF Agents

Several states have proposed laws to make it illegal to enforce new federal gun laws in their states. A quick search found proposals in Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Wyoming, Missouri and Louisiana (House Bill 5 here). Some of the laws would make enforcement of such laws a felony. Many of the laws call for imprisonment of the agent responsible for enforcement of the law. 

In Louisiana, the law prohibits even the enforcement of any new registration requirement. 

I can’t help but think that the NRA or another very republican lobbying group is sending a letter to state legislators telling them to submit these laws. The laws- if passed- are sure to face constitutional challenges which will cost the states money (money Louisiana really can’t spare). It doesn’t really hurt whatever group is organizing this effort though that the states will end up with huge court costs. They just want to scare congress away from even establishing a registration system or doing something as minor as banning high capacity magazines by making a bunch of noise from state legislatures. 

Not Ratifying the 24th Amendment & Being Named in The Voting Rights Act- These Two Things Seem To Go Together

The 24th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits poll taxes- which had been easy way to disenfranchise poor and especially minority voters. It met it’s ratification requirement of 38 states in 1964.

Four States ratified later on: Virginia in 1977, North Carolina in 1989, Alabama in 2002, and Texas in 2009.

Mississippi voted specifically to reject the amendment in 1962.

Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming have all still not ratified the amendment.

Looking at the voting rights act, which is now facing a supreme court challenge, it seems that most of the states heavily effected by pre-clearance requirements (ones where either the whole state or a huge amount of the counties) are also states that either ratified the 24th late, rejected it entirely or still haven’t ratified it.

Can we really believe that Mississippi rejected getting rid of poll taxes, never took any action to change that, and yet has no tendency to engage in behavior that disenfranchises voters?

If states want to claim they have changed their disenfranchising ways, maybe they could start by all ratifying the 24th amendment.

Or they could try their hand with a court where one of the justices had the gall to call the voting rights act a racial entitlement.

My preference? I think that all the states should have to seek approval for major changes to the way they conduct voting, not just the ones on the voting right act’s list. States that aren’t on the pre-approval list have been illustrating how good they are at disenfranchising the poor.

Ratification of the 19th Amendment

So the fact that Mississippi just ratified the 13th amendment has been all over the news recently. I was looking up some stuff about the 19th amendment (women’s suffrage!) because on the 100th anniversary of ratification I think there should be a bunch of events and I am going to start pestering people now, seven years in advance.

In the course of looking it up I came across the dates that some of our states finally bothered to ratify it. And it’s pathetic.

Florida 1969

South Carolina 1969

Georgia 1970

Louisiana 1970

North Carolina 1971

and… Mississippi 1984 

A new announcement coming

A new announcement coming

The rolling jubilee program (organized by strike debt- an occupy offshoot) is buying medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgiving it. In December, they sent out forgiveness notices for $100k worth of debt which cost them only $5k. In a couple weeks, they will be making another announcement, likely of their newest debt forgiveness package. 

My 100 Year US Political Theory

I have a loose-broad strokes theory of the next 100 years or so in American politics. I have told a bunch of people my theory in person but I hadn’t bothered to put it into text. I decided after going over it again today that it was time to put it down in writing. Here goes.

1- The republican party commits a slow suicide. They don’t broaden their base. They go further into the far right fundamentalist land until they can no longer win a national election and they start to lose congressional races and eventually at the state level as well. They become so marginalized as to be a fringe group.

2- As this is happening to the GOP, the democratic party moves to the right and takes on a shape something vaguely like the sane libertarians (think Gary Johnson not Ron Paul). They pick up the people who are leaving the GOP because of their crazy stance on social policies. As a result of their move to the right, they upset and alienate the progressive caucus.

3- Something new emerges to the left and becomes the party that the democrats fight for national control with as the republican party essentially ceases to exists. Probably something similar to France’s socialist party.

The alternative is that either the libertarian party gains traction or they seize control of the GOP and then the democrats shift back to the left. However given the democrats slow drift to the right over the last couple decades and the GOP’s inability to change on social issues to be part of the modern world, I think my theory is more likely than that alternative.

Jindal’s Tax Plan- A way to kill retail stores and jobs

Jindal wants to get rid of income and corporate taxes in Louisiana and make up the difference with an increased sales tax- not a hefty property tax which is what Texas replaces their income taxes with. (and likely more cuts to things like battered women’s shelters and hospice care, both have faced drastic cuts under his administration already)

This is clearly a regressive-reverse robin hood plan. It would severely increase the portion of their income the poor and middle class pay in state taxes while severely decreasing the portion of their income the wealthy pay. Essentially it is taking from the poor and middle class to offer huge tax cuts to the wealthy.

But that isn’t all!

This plan a. won’t raise enough revenue to make up the difference and b. will drastically hurt all local retail businesses because of one simple thing… amazon. The poorest people in Louisiana (who will be most harmed by this plan) won’t be able to use the web giant as easily to get around the tax increase. They are less likely to have stable internet access and the $79 a year to buy prime and make amazon almost as convenient as a store would be a whole lot to them. The middle class on the other hand…

Tons of families in Louisiana are likely to turn to Amazon for their non perishable shopping needs, even nonperishable food is sold through the site now. I don’t think that people will be thinking of it as a plan to cheat the system, to evade taxation. Rather I suspect that families who exist pay check to pay check in our very poor state will simply see it as the way they can get by. The way they can make ends meet.

After all, the working poor and lower middle class in the state pay little to no state income tax. They will not be keeping more income to substitute for the extra cost at the register which will pay for the rich to be able to have the extra income to buy a boat or another car…

As a result of the likely great web migration of purchasing, retail stores will suffer. Some may close. People will lose jobs. Less tax revenue will come in and more cuts will happen to our already underfunded education and health care system. The pathetic state infrastructure will make many companies think twice before they locate in a state with terrible education and rapidly decaying roads. Essentially a very small class of wealthy will benefit while the state suffers.

The plan is regressive, bad for the poor, and quite frankly bad for the state all together.

And sadly it has fooled a ton of middle class people who just hear no income tax and stop listening before the part where they will pay hefty sales taxes to replace the revenue once got from the income tax on the well off.

I am starting to think..

that I was correct when I theorized Chris Christie would leave the republican party. 

He wasn’t invited to CPAC which is like the GOP prom.

And he is accepting the medicare expansion from the affordable care act.  Which is a lot like buying a billboard saying he knows he isn’t going to be the republican 2016 presidential nominee.

Now, will he go into independent land or just flip all the way. My money is on independent if he plans to be a talking tv head and a complete flip if he wants to stay in public office.

The GOP has made it clear he isn’t party of their cool kid CPAC crowd. Just a matter of time before he ditches them back.