All posts by shekenne

Mississipi–Still Number One

Every once in a while, I worry that voters in Mississippi will grow up, maybe read something other than the bible, and join the 21st Century. That would be really bad for Indiana, since in so many categories, Mississippi  is all that stands between Hoosiers and utter ignominy.

Silly me–I shouldn’t have worried.

Here’s an upcoming ballot initiative from the Magnolia state:

The State of Mississippi hereby acknowledges the fact of her identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens. The acknowledgments hereby secured shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Um–hate to tell you this, Mississippi voters, but saying this language shouldn’t be “construed” as violating the Bill of Rights would be a lot like saying that if I fatally shoot you, that shouldn’t be “construed” as murder.

“Principally Christian and quintessentially Southern….”

Too many Hoosier lawmakers would feel right at home.

The GOP, Andy Borowitz and Immigration

Predictably, Congressional Republicans and their faux constitutionalist echo chamber are screaming that the President’s recent immigration order exceeded his authority.

It didn’t.

Congress has given the Executive branch wide discretion over deportation priorities and as both conservative and liberal legal authorities have confirmed, the President  is exercising that discretion in a manner consistent with Congressionally-endorsed policies such as family unification. As legal scholar Walter Dellinger pointed out:

There are 11.3 million people in the United States who, for one reason or another, are deportable. The largest number that can be deported in any year under the resources provided by Congress is somewhere around 400,000. Congress has recognized this and in 6 U.S.C. 202 (5) it has directed the secretary of homeland security to establish “national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.” In the action announced tonight, the secretary has done just that, and the president has approved.

In other words, Congress has never supplied funding sufficient to deport more than a small number of the undocumented, and the President–every President–has been given the discretion to decide who among those living here illegally should be targeted. And every President has exercised that discretion. As a comment on Andrew Sullivan’s blog put it,

As there is an existing, bipartisan agreement that some 96.5% of the undocumented population will be allowed to remain here (i.e., the “how many” question), Obama’s executive action asks only: which undocumented immigrants should populate the 400,000 who are deported?

The question is not whether Obama should increase the number of undocumented immigrants (he isn’t), but whether he should apply severely limited resources in a targeted fashion (e.g., new arrivals, criminals, etc.) or indiscriminately (e.g., a law abiding mother of a U.S. citizen-child)? And, is Obama plausibly “tearing up the Constitution” if he deports the only number of people he can (about 400,000), but prioritizes who should be deported within such Congressionally imposed constraints?

The answer to that question is self-evident. The GOP should be embarrassed to be making the hysterical, ahistorical and factually-inaccurate assertions that are currently filling the airwaves–but this isn’t your father’s GOP and in case you haven’t noticed, this particular President is  (in the eyes of the Republican base) by definition illegitimate.

Sometimes, when logic and fair play are clearly not going to carry the day, satire is all we have left. (I’m laughing because otherwise, I’ll cry.)  Andy Borowitz has been on a roll lately, and with respect to our current kerfuffle over the President’s immigration Executive Action, he has hit a home run/touchdown/nerve. I’m quoting the whole thing, because it’s just too good–and too true– to truncate:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his party’s long-awaited plan on immigration on Wednesday, telling reporters, “We must make America somewhere no one wants to live.”

Appearing with House Speaker John Boehner, McConnell said that, in contrast to President Obama’s “Band-Aid fixes,” the Republican plan would address “the root cause of immigration, which is that the United States is, for the most part, habitable.”

“For years, immigrants have looked to America as a place where their standard of living was bound to improve,” McConnell said. “We’re going to change that.”

Boehner said that the Republicans’ plan would reduce or eliminate “immigration magnets,” such as the social safety net, public education, clean air, and drinkable water.

The Speaker added that the plan would also include the repeal of Obamacare, calling healthcare “catnip for immigrants.”

Attempting, perhaps, to tamp down excitement about the plan, McConnell warned that turning America into a dystopian hellhole that repels immigrants “won’t happen overnight.”

“Our crumbling infrastructure and soaring gun violence are a good start, but much work still needs to be done,” he said. “When Americans start leaving the country, we’ll know that we’re on the right track.”

In closing, the two congressional leaders expressed pride in the immigration plan, noting that Republicans had been working to make it possible for the past thirty years.

As McConnell would say, “A-Yup.”

I Guess Facts Are Just a Matter of Opinion…

The things I learn at Juanita Jean’s (the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon)! Juanita Jean writes from Texas, a state that is definitely in a league of its own (for which I am incredibly grateful…), so no matter how crazy any given story seems, you just know it’s true.

I am pleased to report, however, that even the most ridiculous agencies in the Great State of Texas evidently have their limits. As Juanita writes,

The Truth in Texas Textbooks Coalition (formerly known as the Let’s All Drool Consortium) has submitted 469 pages identifying more than 1,500 “factual errors, omission of facts, half-truths and agenda biases” in proposed materials. The material was submitted a month after public comments ended on proposed changes to Texas textbooks.

Among its objections: A passage on coal mining should say it has “minimal effect on the environment”; a chapter on Spanish colonization of Latin America should point out the “continuous discrimination and oppression practiced by the native American peoples on each other”; and a statement that Shariah law requires religious tolerance of non-Muslims should be removed.

You will be gratified to learn that the Texas Board of Education–long an embarrassment–did not look kindly on these proposed changes. Not because they are ridiculous, but because they weren’t offered in a timely manner.

When you are creating an alternate reality in Texas, you really do need to do so in accordance with the official timetable.

Predatory Municipal Finance

Every once in a while, I come across a study that “connects dots”–that makes previously disparate bits of information tell a new and different story.

I had one of these “aha” moments when I came across a Roosevelt Institute report titled “Dirty Deals: How Wall Street’s Predatory Deals Hurt Taxpayers and What We Can Do About It.”

According to the report, Wall Street and several major financial corporations have “engaged in a systemic effort to suppress taxes.” My first reaction to this was disbelief–not because I harbor any illusions about the business practices of Wall Street, but because I didn’t understand why they’d bother to lobby for generalized tax cuts. What would motivate such efforts? What’s in it for them?

Here’s the missing piece: when it is difficult for cities and states to fund even basic public services–let alone ambitious but necessary projects– out of tax revenues, banks can take advantage of that situation by offering state and local governments “creative” (albeit predatory) municipal financing “deals.”

Predatory financing deals prey upon the weaknesses of borrowers, are characterized by high costs and high risks, are typically overly complex, and are often designed to fail.

Ironically, the money that flows to Wall Street and its partners in these transactions often ends up costing taxpayers more than they’d pay by way of a responsible tax rate imposed by elected officials–and elected officials are accountable to voters in ways that Wall Street wheeler-dealers are not. (The report notes that taxpayers “do trillions of dollars of business with Wall Street every year.)

We have a perfect example of the way this works right here and now: Indianapolis’ proposed Justice Center. I’m in favor of the project, but as I’ve noted previously, I’m extremely leery of the “creative” and highly privatized way in which the city proposes to finance it. The terms “high costs,” “high risks”, and “overly complex” certainly seem apt.

The predatory practices highlighted in the Roosevelt report are made possible by voters’ stubborn belief in a free lunch. We want public services, but we don’t like paying for them.  So “creative” politicians work with Wall Street to give us “creative financing” that allows us to pretend we’re getting a bargain.

It’s easy to con people who lie to themselves.

 

Short-Term, Long-Term

A post-election article from the Houston Chronicle begins with a provocative projection that will comfort people depressed about the midterms:

Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.(emphasis mine)

The article follows this declaration with a matter-of-fact rundown of the electoral college votes–where they are and what a winner will need. His bottom line:

The next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math.

The key to understanding that paragraph (not to mention our toxic political environment),  is “What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with GOP primary voters”….

As the article convincingly demonstrates, the crazies who appeal to the GOP’s current base  are winning in bright red, frequently gerrymandered, mostly rural districts. The problem is, those crazies have now become the (embarrassing) face of the Republican party nationally–making it impossible for the party to win national elections.

We ought not take too much comfort from that.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again–this country needs two adult, sane political parties. Right now, the GOP is controlled by a base that is neither adult nor sane. Unless the remaining Republican grown-ups (whose ranks are thinning) can reassert control, there will be no rational “loyal opposition” to keep Democrats focused and honest, no healthy competition to ensure that all ideas get thoroughly vetted, and no place to go–no alternative to vote for– for the disaffected.

America needs a rational GOP. We had one once, and I miss it.