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Next President

You know what? For our next President, no matter which party… don’t send me a businessman, don’t send me a lawyer, don’t send me an actor. Those are three people from whom (for varying reasons – respectively personal enrichment, ability to spin the hell out of things, and ability to recite pre-scripted lines) I can’t possibly be sure of hearing the truth.

Send me a teacher. That person will know how to manage near impossible tasks while making it look easy, settle internal squabbles with grace, and accomplish their objectives even when their budgets are under heavy squeeze.

Send me a nurse. That person will know how to look at the entirety of a situation and gauge its status quickly, to make hard life-and-death decisions under pressure, to lead with compassion layered over steel layered over more compassion.

Send me a small farmer. That person has what it takes to work their socks off day in, day out, making adjustments as conditions change, standing up to big business when they need to, and managing all manner of all-too-finite resources.

Please. For the love of everything holy. Send me that President.

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It seems that perhaps we won’t always have Paris after all.

I cannot see the logic in the United States pulling out of the Paris agreement; no matter how much of it we might believe to be anthropogenic, climate change is a real thing, and it’s a thing that is to some degree within our power to address.

At the risk of somehow being a pinko egghead commie socialist about this, surely we have a responsibility to put this issue above some of our domestic concerns. Surely even Donald Trump can see that rising global temperatures and rising sea levels pose a massive risk, not in some far-off brown-skinned country but right here at home?

The few votes you might sway in coal country by doing this, and the profits made by your buddies in the fossil fuel industry, won’t do you much good once Mar-A-Lago is underwater. Wake up and smell the covfefe, Donald.

On Public Service

Note to every politician in any office, regardless of party:

Your duty is not to your campaign contributors or to any lobbying firm. As soon as you take it as such, you have failed your office.

Your duty is not even to your party. As soon as you put party above people, you have failed your office.

Your duty is to your constituents. To the improvement of their lives and livelihoods. To your constituents, and only to your constituents.

All of them.

Even the female ones.

The black ones.

The gay ones.

The disabled ones.

The transgender ones.

The poor ones.

The ones who didn’t vote for you and who you know won’t vote for you next time either.

All of them.

The day you forget that is the day you disgrace that office.

By now it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. But rather than putting up yet another pro-Bernie post, I’d like to put a discussion topic out there for everyone’s consideration.
 
The estimated combined annual cost of Sanders’ single-payer health care plan and his tuition-free college plan is, by any estimation, substantial. Between the two, it’s about one and a half trillion dollars. (!)
 
But let’s compare that against current expenditures. The 2015 federal budget, between mandatory and discretionary spending, provides for just over a trillion in Medicare and health spending, and a further fifty billion in tertiary education (college-level) spending.
 
So we’re already spending 70% of what Sanders is proposing.
 
Sanders further proposes to levy a tax of “a fraction of a percent” on Wall Street speculation, which he believes would bring in revenue of seventy-five billion. A fraction of a percent doesn’t seem unduly onerous to me, and that gets us to 75% of goal.
 
What he suggests in order to defray the health care costs are a personal income-based tax of 2.2%, which is substantially less than most households currently pay for insurance, deductibles and the like, and a business tax of 6.2% of the employees’ income – again, substantially lower than what most employers are currently paying to their benefits providers. These two tax increases are estimated to generate eight hundred and thirty billion dollars in revenue.
 
That brings us to 130% of that goal – fully paid for and then some, and saves money for businesses, workers and students alike into the bargain. That seems pretty good to me, and the benefit of a healthier and better-educated populace seems like an obvious choice at that point.
 
Sooooo… since I will admit that I am by no means an economist, I would like to see a conversation *WITHOUT partisan rhetoric, please*, in which someone explains to me why this scenario is apparently so undesirable to so many.

Filling Scalia’s Seat

So… I’ve seen a lot of this discussion over whether President Obama should be the one to nominate the next Supreme Court justice, some saying that he should let the next President do it, some dusting off Kennedy as an example, etc. etc.
 
So I went back and looked at my handy-dandy pocket-sized copy of the Constitution, given to me at a semi-creepy hot dog joint in Plattsburgh NY.
 
It says that the President ‘shall nominate’ new justices. Not ‘shall have the power to nominate, save when the exercise of same should present a political inconvenience’. It says that he ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint’.
 
The President has the power to make a recess appointment right this minute, filling that seat with anyone he wants for the next ten months. Instead, he is waiting until such a time as he can not only exercise his Constitutional obligation, but also allow the Senate to exercise theirs. But he absolutely should nominate. The Constitution demands that of him.
 
Quite frankly, I don’t know that I would have given that much power away to that particular group of obstructionist arseholes, many of whom have already explicitly stated that they will simply refuse President Obama’s nominees on principle rather than bothering to consider them on their merits.
 
One of the most admired minds ever to sit on the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, was nominated in the final year of a presidential term. The guy had enemies, for sure, as did the President who nominated him. The nomination was bitterly contested, both sides fought tooth and nail for their viewpoint, but it would have been unthinkable to merely refuse the nomination – and so they considered him, and he was ultimately confirmed, and America is better off for his opinions on freedom of speech, the right to privacy and a host of other matters.
 
One would think that the current crop of Senators would want to uphold their own obligations, and engage in a real debate over a nominee’s merits. But maybe they just don’t have the balls.
After a few weeks in a mystical den somewhere in deepest darkest west central Pennsylvania, a groundhog is imbued with certain magical talents which enable it to see future weather patterns.
 
Unfortunately, the effect of the sun’s juxtaposition with Pennsylvania interferes with the enchantment, since as we all know, any remotely decent enchantments are most powerful under cover of night. By casting his own shadow, the groundhog can recapture enough of the magic to predict a long winter, but when the spring is set to come early, the enchantment fades, and he doesn’t have to cast a shadow. Which is helpful, since as a general rule, groundhogs don’t like throwing shade any more than humans do, and if the winter is ending soon, the groundhog can switch to his regular job as a woodchuck, and get back to chucking wood at a generally unknown rate and quantity.
 
Technically, the enchantment could work on any mammal of the family Sciuridae, but squirrels and chipmunks simply don’t have the memory span to remember the spells, and thus it falls to marmot-kind to undertake this noble responsibility.

Hell is getting pretty cold

Those of you who know me well will be aware that I am no fan of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, typically finding him my ideological polar opposite. As such, when he and I agree on anything at all, there is probably some truth in it.

To quote from his opinion in District Of Columbia v. Heller:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.

The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms … the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.'”

Also:

“We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the (government) a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns.”

I have written a lot about guns these past few days, for obvious reasons, and have just about exhausted myself on the subject at this point. However, I would like to sign off with the idea that if even Justice Scalia, an arch-conservative constitutional scholar if ever there was one, believes there is room for reasonable limitations on the Second Amendment, there probably is.