Monday, February 28, 2011

Dig a Little Deeper

The Wisconsin union rights debacle has raised a few eyebrows among the electoral-numbers crowd. Wisconsin has a fairly unique recall process for sitting elected officials, making eight Republican state senators vulnerable to a recall immediately:
(a) The qualified electors of the state, of any county, city, village, or town, of any congressional, legislative, judicial, town sanitary, or school district, or of any prosecutorial unit may petition for the recall of any incumbent elective official by filing a petition with the same official or agency with whom nomination papers or declarations of candidacy for the office are filed demanding the recall of the officeholder.

(b) Except as provided in par. (c), a petition for recall of an officer shall be signed by electors equal to at least 25% of the vote cast for the office of governor at the last election within the same district or territory as that of the officeholder being recalled. . . .

(s) No petition for recall of an officer may be offered for filing prior to the expiration of one year after commencement of the term of office for which the officer is elected.
(Excerpted by ThinkProgress)

The Swing State Project went one step further, creating a table of all WI state senators who could be recalled if constituents collected just north of 15,000 signatures in their districts. As usual, a fairly thoughtful exercise from SSP. The table includes each vulnerable senator's win margin in 2008. SSP goes on to highlight Dan Kapanke, the state senator who challenged incumbent US House Rep Ron Kind (WI-03) and lost in 2010. SSP notes that Kapanke only won his district in 2008 by 3%.

SSP concludes that Kapanke is perhaps the lowest hanging fruit for a recall effort, but there's a crucial data source that SSP has totally ignored: how Kapanke faired in his state senate district in 2010. While Kapanke had been an incumbent in 2008, it was only his first campaign as a sitting senator, and perhaps his campaign was not fully versed on using the resources of an incumbent. He also may have become more popular during his high profile campaign against Ron Kind. It's kind of hard to guess. On the other hand, the data is readily available:

It turns out that in the 2010 congressional race, Dan Kapanke lost his own state Senate district by almost 5,000 votes.

Rhetoric of Confrontation

There's a bit of an update on that violent rhetoric that pundits have been on the lookout for since the Tucson massacre. Two stories are surfacing today. The first is out of New Hampshire, where a local Democrat encouraged union members to "get bloody" in defense of their rights to organize. Right wing media outlets are pushing this story as an example of violence. Left wing blogs are ablaze with an Indiana Deputy Attorney General who urged police to "use live ammunition" against protestors in Wisconsin. He has since resigned.

Capuano's remarks arguably acknowledged the history of struggle in the labor movement. Establishing American unions cost workers and their families their lives. The unions were built on a foundation of blood, it is true, but it was largely the blood of unionized workers. When someone says "get bloody" it takes a bit of a guilty conscience to automatically assume the speaker intends to shed others' blood. There is nothing inherently violent in "getting bloody" except the expectation that the other side of the equation are willing to spill worker blood, not a far reach of the imagination considering the history of strike-busting in the midwest. Capuano's "get bloody" remark is not distinguishable from the "roll up our sleeves and get dirty" metaphor.

Madison's chief of police was activetly worried by Scott Walker consideration of using violence as a tool against union members. The thuggishness expressed by Walker's consideration of planting "troublemakers" on his call with "David Koch" is much more troubling. The additional cheer leading for violence coming from the Indiana Republican establishment is absolutely inappropriate. The professional Right is in the middle of a campaign to blur the line between calling for violence and calling for shared sacrifice. It certainly is chilling to then hear them turn around and urge their version of sacrifice. The simplistic conclusion here is that Democrats believe in the value of voluntary sacrifice; Republicans would prefer to put others on the altar and force them to give their lives.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Newt Gingrich Rooting For Obama Impeachment

And so am I! The strongest demonstrated method for boosting a President's popularity is having a far-right House of Representatives act on articles of impeachment. Mr. Gingrich is trotting out impeachment rhetoric because the Department of Justice has decided that the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act is indefensible. Bill Clinton's approval ratings actually improved as a result of Republican impeachment efforts.

The net gain in approval ratings demonstrates that more Americans sympathized with President Clinton about the absurd abuse he suffered at the hands of Newt Gingrich than were put off by the lying and philandering (which was both intuitively and empirically a large group). Many Democrats still haven't 'forgiven' Clinton for the scandal, but were forced to support him in that period because of the obvious vitriol of the Republican.

Since President Obama's 'sin' according to Newt Gingrich was fulfilling a campaign promise to weaken DOMA, one could hardly imagine a more favorable issue of impeachment for the President.

Krauthammer Announces End of Democracy

Charles Krauthammer is a fascinating commentator. Usually he's at his best when he proclaims that nuclear war is just around the corner if American military hegemony isn't preserved. These paranoid parades of terribles are at least entertaining and at best offer high school debaters excellent human extinction impacts. His typical content is also why no one takes him seriously except for the neo-conservative class. His column today, "Rubicon is a river in Wisconsin" is a rare example of real insight on the politics of union-busting Republicans:
Led by famously progressive Wisconsin - Scott Walker at the state level and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan at the congressional level - a new generation of Republicans has looked at the debt and is crossing the Rubicon. Recklessly principled, they are putting the question to the nation: Are we a serious people?
The comparison to Julius Caesar is striking. When General Caesar decided to take his army into the fields outside of Rome, he was breaking a long tradition of democratic (if oligarchic) rule. The threat of force against his political opponents was clear and disturbing. No other general had ever passed south of the Rubicon with an army under his control. Julius Caesar's move effectively ended democracy in Rome, establishing the Roman empire.

I personally would not have made the argument that taking away bargaining rights for workers would be such a cathartic break from American democracy. Yet this is exactly the hope that Krauthammer espouses.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Koch On Line One #WIunion

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made a bit of a fumble today, answering a prank call from a gonzo journalist claiming to be David Koch, one of the infamous libertarian sugar daddies. The Koch brothers are heavily involved in the Wisconsin labor dispute, opening a lobbying office in Madison today to support stripping bargaining rights away from public sector workers. Ezra Klein highlights Scott Walker's big political problem here:
But if the transcript of the conversation is unexceptional, the fact of it is lethal. The state's Democratic senators can't get Walker on the phone, but someone can call the governor's front desk, identify themselves as David Koch, and then speak with both the governor and his chief of staff? That's where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration, and why so many in Wisconsin are reluctant to see the only major interest group representing workers taken out of the game.

The critique many conservatives have made of public-sector unions is that they both negotiate with and fund politicians. It's a conflict of interest. Well, so too do corporations, and wealthy individuals. That's why Murphy -- posing as Koch -- was able to get through to Walker so quickly. And it shows what Walker is really interested in here: He is not opposed, in principle, to powerful interest groups having the ear of the politicians they depend on, and who depend on them. He just wants those interest groups to be the conservative interest groups that fund him, and that he depends on.
The Walker administration wanted a debate over whether "special interest groups" should have a certain level of influence in the political debate. Now that the public knows Walker's willingness to have his ear bent by a more poweful special interest, the debate must shift to which interest groups deserve special training. As I posted on Monday, there is no principled reason to treat unions and corporations differently when it comes to political speech and the power to effect political change. Even the Citizens United opinion acknowledges the similarity. Walker will now have to articulate a distinction that is either contrary to the fairly conservative opinion espoused by the Supreme Court, or explain his preference for the Kochs over the citizens of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Facebook Terms of Use Violation- @SarahPalinUSA

Sarah Palin's massive new media empire is facing closer scrutiny with the pre-publication leak of a former aide's memeoir. Wonkette picked up on a second facebook page controlled by Sarah Palin, a violation of Facebook terms of use:
Maintaining multiple accounts, regardless of the purpose, is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. If you already have a personal account, then we cannot allow you to create business accounts for any reason. You can manage all the Pages and Socials Ads that you create on your personal account.
One would think that Sarah Palin's followers and extensive pull in the traditional and rightwing media outlets would be enough power for her, but here she is resorting to an illegitimate doubling of her capacity to influence the social media world with a second account. A normal person only needs one facebook account, but Sarah Palin thinks that she deserves special treatment.

This position is totally consistent with Palin's support for the Citizens United decision, which essentially provided additional political speech power to wealthy investors that is unavailable to 98% of Americans. The Republican notion that the wealthy, or powerful deserve special protections is logically extended in this instance to the social world. Facebook explicitly prohibits this type of activity, yet Palin feels that she is entitled to her second account. While the powerful have carefully ensconced the legitimacy of their disproportionate access to political speech in constitutional discourse (equating campaign expenditures to political speech), Sarah Palin's facebook violation displays the selfishness and elitism behind the Republican idea that their voices deserve more volume than yours.

The Koch Brothers have a type of distributed speech multiplier

Thune Is Out

Senator John Thune just announced he would not run for President in 2012, narrowing the list of skilled Republican politicians from the midwest running for President to exactly zero.

This gives lackluster Tim Pawlenty some extra oxygen, potentially giving him a freer hand in Iowa, a media market that is highly cross pollinated with Minnesota news. In a field in which Huckabee doesn't run (and Caucus-going Republicans don't like their other options i.e. Mitt Romney), Thune's absence is certainly a shot in the arm to Pawlenty's campaign, giving him an early hope for national news coverage. I can't wait for the first Des Moines Register poll, which usually sets the perception of the field.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Telling Sentence #WIunion

There's a phrase that is repeated at the top of the explanatory paragraphs in every news article I'm seeing on the Wisconsin worker-busting bill:
Wisconsin’s financial problems are not as dire as those of many other states.
This truth underlies the entire story of Walker's budget, which for all his rhetoric about shared sacrifice--cuts taxes for the wealthiest Wisconsinites. This budget fight and additional attack on workers' right to organize is a war of choice. Governor Walker is pushing a nakedly ideological agenda that has very little to do with Wisconsin's financial situation. As the NYTimes notes,
The effort to weaken bargaining rights for public-sector unions was particularly divisive, with some people questioning the need to tackle such a fundamental issue to solve the state’s budget problems.
The pragmatic political calculus is clear: destroying unions won't do much for any state's bottom line, but it is certainly designed to have a predictable partisan effect on the ballot box:
Nancy MacLean, a labor historian at Duke University, said eliminating unions would do to the Democratic Party what getting rid of socially conservative churches would do to Republicans. She called unions "the most important mass membership, get-out-the vote wing of the Democratic Party."

"It's stunning partisan calculation on the governor's part, and really ugly," she said.

Union Rights- #WIunion

Ezra Klein actually reads Scott Walker's union bill, which is something some commentators might consider doing. The union-busting components of the bill are an existential threat to unions in Wisconsin and signal a long campaign of chipping away rights of workers to bargain for wages and conditions. Since the attack specifically targets public educators, it's worth remembering that there are currently five states that do not allow their teachers to unionize. They rank 44th, 47th, 48th, 49th, and 50th on college admissions test scores.

But I digress. The bill raises an obvious constitutional political rights question: if the same measures were proposed to apply to corporations, would the legislation be viable? Corporations and labor unions are mirror images of each other, organizing capital and labor, respectively, to more efficiently extract concessions of one another in negotiations. Let's consider this one prong of the attack:
And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year.
Essentially Scott Walker's bill expunges the public teacher union every year, requiring workers to expend their time and energy reunizing instead of operating within an established institution. The corporate analogy would be a forced acquisition of all company stock followed by an IPO, an extraordinarily stressful and costly period for the corporation and shareholders alike. Would Republicans consider this a constitutional bill, or would it infringe on a protected economic right?

Oliver Wendell Holmes had it right in his Lochner dissent:
"The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics... the constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of citizen to the state or laissez faire" (Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 75 (1905).
Nor was the New Deal or the right to organize enacted into the Constitution when the Supreme Court recanted its opposition to national control of the economy; rather, they backed away from its opposition to Roosevelt's new policy direction. Economic relations will always be subject to new political regulations, but one aspect of Walker's bill suggests there is something deeply unfair, and possibly justiciably unfair:
You may think Walker's proposal is a good idea or a bad idea. But that's what it does. And it's telling that he's exempting the unions that supported him and is trying to obscure his plan's specifics behind misleading language about what unions can still bargain for and misleading rhetoric about the state's budget.
Of course, public corruption can't be struck down merely by court order; the state of Wisconsin would have to prosecute Walker. The Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, is also a Republican, so don't hold your breath for justice in the Badger state.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

American Dreamin'

A comment caught my eye this weekend on Paul Krguman's blog post "Eat the Rich" on which I already commented. It evokes a theme in the modern liberal-conservative split on the conception of nationhood. The meat of the comment, from a Minnesotan going by "Dan" is as follows, beginning with a quote from Krugman's piece:
"let’s cut that, because the damage to the nation from malnourishment is a problem for future politicians."

No, Paul, it's a problem for the malnourished individuals, not the responsible individuals who aren't sheeple or cattle and simply know how to eat right, save for retirement, avoid living in flooded hurricane magnet locations. Quit trying to socialize problems that are problems of individuals, and not of society as a whole.
The conservative world view is fairly easy to sum up: individuals are solely respnsible for their destiny.

Just for the moment, let's grant this premise: responsible adults, essentially meaning ones free of mental health problems, shape their own ends. This fails to explain why society should not be concerned with providing nutritional assistance to families with young children, as WIC does. Malnutrition is not a matter of diet for the vast majority of people who suffer from it, but from a lack of available food. Children are particularly susceptible to malnutrition because their bodies are developing. They are also dependent on their families for food. If a family cannot afford food, the child will be malnourished (barring stealing in order to feed the child). WIC prevents malnourishment in children. Malnourishment during development can have lifetime consequences for physical development, hamstringing brain, organ, or limb development. Problems in development create problems down the road for the child.

Is it in society's interest to protect its children from malnourishment? Though Dan would have us believe that this is a normative question, it hardly is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Recession Ends for Me

I'm off to my first day of non-temporary employment since 2008, with the hiatus mostly due to school. I have in no way found my ideal job, and as such I'll still be looking for more rewarding opportunities. However, I have dramatically improved my standing in the labor market considering I now have a known, well-compensated alternative to taking the next job that I find. It's an important benefit of having a job, one that many economists don't model explicitly.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Issue with Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman published a pithy blog post on the New York Times site looking at some of the Republicans' proposed cuts to public goods funding:
WIC 1008 million
Food for Peace 544 million
NOAA 450 million
NASA 579 million
Energy efficiency and renewable energy 899
Science 1111 million
Nuclear nonproliferation 648 million
Federal buildings fund 1653 million
Homeland security administration 489 million FEMA, various, around 1.2 billion
EPA clean water and drinking water about 1.8 billion
Community health centers 1.3 billion
Centers for disease control 900 million
These are deep cuts but not ones that will reduce the deficit. They cut effective programs to the bone without reducing overall government spending by an appreciable amount. Even worse, the money that one takes out of these programs will not be saved by the American taxpayer because the public will have to sink their own money into accommodating for the loss of the public good.

Explaining the value of these programs would be an excellent use of a NYTimes blog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fatah Calls for Elections

President Abbas has called for elections in the near term. Palestinians will have a chance at a democratically controlled future again, if Hamas lets them. The PLO controls the West Bank while Hamas retains power in the Gaza Strip.

Of course, Hamas faces the Sadrite conundrum in the upcoming balloting: if you boycott the election, you lose. Hamas did pretty well in the local elections of 2006, giving them a legitimate power base from which to seize Gaza and delve the territories into a civil war. Hamas, if it performs public polling (unlikely), might have discovered it has something to fear in upcoming elections. More simply, elections introduce the possibility of a loss for Hamas, and why take the risk when no other force can dislodge them from leadership of Palestine's most densely populated territory?

By attempting to capture the democratic spirit and place Hamas on the authoritarian side of the ledger, Abbas is showing a modicum of shrewdness. On the other hand, the recent embarrassing disclosures about negotiations with Israel (i.e. the PLO is attempting to negotiate even as Israel isn't doing much to reciprocate) could make Fatah unpopular. I haven't seen much reporting about Palestinian politics recently; no youth movement seems to be springing up, so the cast of characters remains the not-Hamas Fatah vs Hamas to any unversed American observer. So far, there have merely been reports that Palestinians in the West Bank cheered the victory of the Egyptian Tahrir movement. That is a far cry from developing the mobilizing capability required to dislodge the autocratic players.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Head Fake

You have to wonder what Mubarak and Suleiman were thinking with the speech tonight, incensing protesters and definitely turning world opinion against the regime. The debacle did inspire the comparison to the incompetent, ever-failing Bluth family.

Look What Memeorandum Dragged In

Usually I'd be simply be surprised at the unnecessary meanness with which Palin attacked Santorum. I mean, really? Neanderthal? Is she appealing to the wordy fifth grader vote with that insult? It's a stupid thing to do strategically, even if her only strategy is to be in the news every single news cycle. Nobody likes a bully, and Palin is letting all of her supporters know that that is exactly what she is.

On the other hand, perhaps the insult is apt considering Santorum's linked taste in TV. I imagine that the only people who watch Palin's live-action Bullwinkle each week are either rabid Palin fans or rabid Palin detractors. Nothing else could justify the 22 minutes each week (assuming DVR). Santorum is obviously neither, so perhaps Palin has pegged a third category of her viewers.

The scattershot malice on display from the Palin camp certainly explains how a person might make US Weekly's mistake, believing that Sarah Palin would savage the singer of the National Anthem at the superbowl. The comments, which US Weekly attributed to Palin included calling Aguilera, "A demanding beauty queen who is clearly in over her head." The whole story was ripped from a satirical site.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Craigslist Sex Scandal (NSFW)

Apparently you shouldn't believe everything you read on craigslist. A married GOP Congressman from upstate New York was busted for sending topless pictures of himself in response to craigslist posts in the "Women Seeking Men" section. Mr. Lee described himself as "divorced," a "lobbyist", and a "fit fun classy guy." Since the photos and message have surfaced, Christopher Lee (NY - 26) has resigned.

Ironically, Lee might become a lobbyist, joining the ranks of the former lobbied-turned-lobbyists. His wife is also ostensibly shocked by the craigslist trolling behavior. So as far as fibbing about his marital status and profession, perhaps he isn't lying; maybe the message is from the future.

Of course, the big question going forward is whether craigslist will post one of its fraud alert warnings in on its DC personal site: BEWARE OF USERS CLAIMING NOT TO BE CONGRESSMEN.

Update: There is a truly sad dimension to this story. The woman was seeking men who don't "look like toads." Perhaps she should have specified men who actually aren't toads.

Climate Change as Public Nuisance

In case you missed it, the New York Times summarized the Supreme Court case on climate change as a public nuisance, oral argument scheduled for April 19th. Several states and conservation outfits have sued carbon-intensive utilities under federal common law alleging that the companies are behaving as a public

There are a variety of hurdles to the lawsuit. Paramount among these is the contention that by creating the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, Congres has preempted the judiciary's authority to hear environmental cases. Before the passage of the afore mentioned statutes, environmental regulation was largely fashioned by the courts in an ad hoc process. Plaintiffs would prove that a polluter was damaging their land and sue (private nuisance). In cases of wide-spread damage, public officials might initiate suit for the good of the community (public nuisance). The common law provided for relief fashioned for the two parties before the judge, who possessed a wide array of tools to mitigate, enjoin, or compensate the parties as eh or she saw fit. Plaintiffs would be able to recover damages directly from the polluters, allowing the injured party to rectify specific harms. Because pollution became so widespread and a cause for national concern with the publication of Silent Spring (Rachel Carson, 1962). While environmental regulation proceeded in a piecemeal fashion, the public demanded an active federal agency to prevent environmental abuses, protect endangered species, and restore spoiled land for public use. Federal environmental regulations originated in an attempt to augment and standardize existing the pollution control regime both among the states and the courts.

The states are often called the laboratories of democracy, but the courts are less often credited as the petri dishes of policy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Burned Your Bridges? Ford the River

Heath Shuler (D-NC) is in the news today complaining that Blue Dogs have 'no communication' with the Democratic leadership in the House. In essence, Blue Dogs are theoretically frozen out of the strategizing and planning process for the minority party. Blue Dog house members notoriously delayed the stimulus project and loaded pork pet projects into major bills last Congress, and a half of them lost their seats in November's election. They fared far worse than other Democrats in the election.

Of course, Shuler's complaint isn't exactly true:
A Democratic source also pointed to efforts by Pelosi and the party leadership to give centrists in the House greater access to the levers of power. Shuler and several other Blue Dogs were named to the Steering Committee, and members of the coalition were given larger roles in leadership. (Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) was named a chief deputy whip, and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) was given responsibility for messaging on the budget.)

Pelosi's also had personal conversations, over the phone or in-person, with 15 of the 26 members of the Blue Dog bloc during the recent congressional break, per that Democratic source. There's also regular contact between Pelosi and other leadership staff and members of the Blue Dog staff.
You would think that his complaint would have merit; after all, Shuler attempted to dislodge Nancy Pelosi as the minority leader in December, gaining a few dozen votes, mostly from blue dog and conservative Democrats.

After burning a major bridge with the leadership in challenging Pelosi, Shuler is out in the cold, but the Blue Dogs aren't. Let's just hope that if Shuler does try to get across the river by fording, he will lose an oxen. It already looks like the leadership has been poaching some of his travelling party.

Dictator Worship

No news on Superbowl Sunday in America, including the much-heralded but little-viewed O'Reilly interview with President Obama.

On the other hand, we get this tidbit of vaguely unhinged Palin worship, admiringly declaring "This is what an iron fist in a velvet glove looks like." It's a weird moment. Iron fists are the last things that leaders should possess in a democracy. Democratic leaders neither rely on the threat nor exercise of force in order to create change. Politics is the alternative to force, instead using persuasion to forge consensus around national policy and setting a majoritarian direction.

If this is what Palin-worshipers see in their Tsarina, perhaps it's why only 3 out of every ten Americans approve of Sarah Palin. Americans do not need a leader to singlehandedly return them to greatness because American greatness has always been the story of small successes in the aggregate, fueling national progress. America does not need a dictator, so why would a mainstream Conservative blog pine for one?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Revolutionary Demands

Much of the coverage of the Egyptian and Tunisian protest movements have revolved around phrases such as "protestors' demands." The government must acquiesce to this platform in order to end the unrest. Alternatively, the government must provide some alternative to the status quo that fulfills some of this platform, creating a negotiation framework, which has the tendency to preserve the existing power structure.

The problem with this approach for both sides of the have/have-not divide is that fulfillment of a specific set of demands is likely not to achieve lasting stability. The typical phrase in Marxism is the "Deepening of the Revolution," the profusion of demands which create a more perfect world as the proletariat gets more expertise in designing their ideal conditions. This description has not ever been sufficient on the level of actual protest movements, however. It merely describes a change in narrative that is told about the protest. The revolution does not deepen; instead, the nature of revolution reveals itself to onlookers, the existing order, and revolutionaries themselves.

Consider today's news from Tunisia: police shot two rioters after the local chief of police slapped a woman. It would be idiotic to claim that the Tunisian revolution has been concerned with this specific police force or a particular emphasis on protecting women from police brutality. Instead, much of the narrative has focused on economic conditions and national political stagnation. Riots emanating from police misconduct could be cast in the light of a desire for democratic oversight of institutionalized force in Tunisian society, but I don't think that a protestor on the street would provide that answer or would have given that answer last month.

Nor is this reaction in Tunisia a new force in the protests, something now being added to the mix. I think that instead of looking at protestor demands as an explicit platform, we should expect underserved, brutalized people to agree with James Baldwin's description of the black American demand for civil rights in Fifth Avenue, Uptown:
One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.

Negroes want to be treated like men: a perfectly straightforward statement, containing only seven words. People who have mastered Kant, Hegel, Shakespeare, Marx, Freud, and the bible find this statement utterly impenetrable. The idea seems to threaten profound, barely conscious assumptions. A kind of panic paralyzes their features, as though they found themselves trapped on the edge of a steep place.
There, and we've described a project without appealing only to western liberal universalizing ideals.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sarah Palin Prepares To Take On The Internet

Sarah Palin's never-ending quest to make money and bash heads is preparing to hit the internet, or so it would seem. The Palin family's attorney unsuccessfully filed for trademarks on the names of both Bristol Palin and Sarah Palin. The trademark applications were rejected because the filing failed to include proof of consent by Bristol or Sarah Palin.

Palin might be seeking some protection of her name on the internet. Whereas her right to interfere with other published works is more assured under libel law, the internet is a harder medium to enjoin. In 2005, Morgan Freeman was forced to file for a trademark in order to remove a website from using his name as a domain to collect commercial traffic. The listed purposes for the Palins' trademarks are:
For Sarah Palin's application, there are two classes of commercial service for which her name would be a registered trademark. One is for "information about political elections" and "providing a website featuring information about political issues." The second is for "educational and entertainment services ... providing motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values."

The "Bristol Palin" application is for "educational and entertainment services, namely, providing motivational speaking services in the field of life choices."
As "motivating" I'm sure Bristol's life choices are, I'm sure this has much more to do with Sarah Palin wanting to tie her "enemies" up in legal wrangling whenever they mention her or her daughter. As far as Sarah Palin goes, as long as she remains in a political realm, her trademark will be trumped by free speech concerns, unless of course a partisan Republican hack is hearing the case (e.g. Judge Vinson). The necessity of allowing an unfettered debate revolving around political figures trumps the trademark protections. This augurs a permanent exit from the actual political stage and one firmly entrenched in the Republican media money-making realm.

As a quick comparison, "Barack Obama," "Mitt Romney," "Mike Huckabee," "Newt Gingrich," and even "Glenn Beck" appear to not be trademarked.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Health Care Liberty: Republican Acts Against Women

Instead of improving the American health care system, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell joined the Republican House leadership in an attempt to take innumerable steps backwards. The repeal-the-Affordable-Care-Act bill would, had it passed, have allowed insurers to discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions by refusing to offer them health insurance, taken away subsidies for businesses to pay for employee health care, and reduced competition.

Republicans have couched their attack on the Affordable Care Act in terms of 'liberty,' claiming a general link between government regulation and reduced individuals' freedoms. It's a pretty nonsensical position, considering things like sewer regulations increase citizens' quality of life enough to provide for additional opportunities for liberty. 'Liberty' is not a zero-sum game with Government taking up oxygen for individuals' liberty. The position that Republicans espouse in their HR3 bill belies their commitment to preserving health care consumer liberty.

HR3 is a plan to radically constrain the set of health care options that insurance companies can present to customers. The Affordable Care Act provides credits to small businesses and individuals who would otherwise have trouble purchasing health insurance. Health insurance corporations will design their plans to cater to attract the maximum amount of federal credits to capture the largest possible share of the market. Any restrictions on plans will form the floor for the options available to consumers.

The Affordable Care Act is structured such that the Department of Health and Human Services will design these minimums that the industry will likely adopt. The DHHS is, after all, staffed with career civil servants and experts. The staff of DHHS with guidance from political appointees has more expertise than Congress, can craft policies that are not purely motivated by partisan politics, and is invested in creating a sustainable health care system. The institution is more capable of making the rules of the road for the American health care system than Congress.

The regulations that DHHS puts in place will be designed to reduce stress on the federal bureaucracy and increase the value of insurance plans. The floor standard for insurance that an individual will have to purchase is one that provides comprehensive coverage.

HR3 attempts to limit the options available to consumers by removing taxpayer subsidies for insurance plans if they offer coverage for abortions. The result is that coverage for abortions will be nonstandard in health insurance, possibly being priced into the "Cadillac health insurance plans" that are subject to an additional excise tax. Republicans are replacing a subsidy for health insurance with a tax for comprehensive coverage that covers women's health.

If you're a woman in America, the Republican Congressional leadership wants to make your health care more expensive.