Shifting Politics: Perhaps Texas can be redeemed, afterall

I love Texas! I love horses, wide open prairies, cowboy lore, beef, The Alamo and Texas Instruments. San Antonio and the area around El Paso is way cool. I especially love the independent spirit of limited government politics.

I’m not too keen on an economy that is still tied to fossil fuels, but I get it. Texas, Oaklahoma and Pennsylvania were the spigot of a carbon-based industrial revolution. The economy grew up hand-in-hand with the automobile and natural gas piped directly into homes, businesses and powerplants all over the country. It was a time before we became dependent on foreign nations. It was a time before we learned about greenhouse gas and a fragile environment. Gradually, even Texans are accepting the science of man’s relationship with nature—educating children, motivating citizens and retraining thousands of workers.

But seriously. What’s not to love?

Well, for one, there is an undercurrent of rural xenophobia. At least that’s what I have heard. To be honest, I have yet to meet a Texan that does not appreciate Mexico and the contributions of Mexican Americans—even during an extended house hunting trip deep in the heart of Texas, I sensed generous and tolerant citizens. If hate is brewing, it is still buried deep below the surface.

The Demographics

Outside of large cities, much of Texas is a single-party state. And the party is not mainstream Republican. At least not the Republicans that anyone over 40 was taught to respect. You know—the one that stood for limited taxation, but still understood the need for a safety net. The one where neighbor loved neighbor and religion was a personal conviction; not peddled with the conviction of superiority. It certainly is not the party that I once called home—the one that represents shared goals of limited government, personal freedom and modest checks & balances on the redistribution of wealth.

Something happened on the road from Regan to Palin to Trump. The modern evolution of rural, red Republicans is a bastardized version of party politics, alternatively known as Tea Party or Trumpians. It is characterized by head-in-sand intolerance, hate and xenophobia. Its lies are not accompanied by shame nor even awareness. It spews forth misogyny and it changes position with the fears and intolerance of donors. And the biggest alarm: It injects a bible into our democratic system of pluralistic governance. Is that the basis of a democracy? When has that formula ever worked?!

Fortunately, this is beginning to change—and the change is spearheaded by MJ Hegar who is running against Tea Party Congressman John R. Carter, man without a clue. This video is sheer genius! Perhaps Texas will move away from hate and find its footing.

As you watch the video below, consider that Air Force Major Mary Jennings Hegar is a search and rescue pilot who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. After her helicopter was hit by enemy fire, she continued her rescue mission. She crashed on that mission while returning Taliban fire. She won the Purple Heart and a distinguished flying cross with valor. When she was denied ground combat service because she is a woman, she sued the Pentagon and won.

If you are Republican, try to overlook that Hager is running as a Democrat. In the end, it’s not about party. Parties mash disparate issues into a ‘platform’ and punish candidates for statements or deeds outside their red lines. They are incompatible with independent thinkers who consider the common good (i.e. the collective needs of all constituents). They don’t tolerate officials who vote their conscience.

Reflect, instead, on Hegar’s message. She is tolerant, inclusive, compassionate and willing to continue working for a country that constantly tries to shut doors in her face.

Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent, MJ Hegar is my kind of woman!

Sequestration Standoff Solution

Regular readers know that we here at AWildDuck have a love-hate relationship with the US president. We endorsed him in the November election, but we had some blunt and critical reservations. Of course, bluntness is our trademark style, but in this case, we explained a schism in ethos that reduces the effectiveness of the American president.

Mr. Obama rivals Bill Clinton in his command of foreign policy. He has an innate understanding of democracy, law and homeland security. He is an ethical man with good ideas about helping to elevate those who cannot help themselves. But he lacks a fundamental belief in free market economics. He is suspicious of wealth—and for some reason, he thinks that someone earning 100 times as much as another individual should pay far more than 100 times as much in taxes after you deduct basic living costs for both individuals. Although supporters refute the “socialist” label that is tossed from the right, it is not completely unjustified. Recall how Obama railed against corporate ‘fat cats’ who fly on corporate jets. Obama feels that it is not sufficient to build a safety net for the poor, he has a mission of doing it by soaking the rich.

No compromise: Obama wants higher taxes on high earners

Of course, the problem is that there is not enough wealth in the 1% to address the hole that we have dug. More importantly, he fails to accept the basic premise of capital in-centives. Did he miss a principle taught in every first-year economics class in the free world? Time for a refresher. If you slept through that class, here is the Cliff Notes version: If we punish individuals who build business, employ the middle class and already pay the lion’s share of taxes, then these individuals will build empires elsewhere.

So, since we really do like Mr. Obama, what is a Wild Duck to do?

In the build up to possible Sequestration (America’s newest fiscal cliff), we believe the solution is for Republicans to let the budget ax fall where it may. Don’t compromise on letting the White House legislate ever higher disproportionate tax tiers. That plan is not only divisive, it is a path of economic suicide. It can only lead to capital flight.

Today, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, John Boehner explains that the idea for automatic and across the board budget cuts originated with the White House, but we dispute that looming cuts were designed solely to force bipartisanship and scare legislators into crafting a more palatable plan. Nonsense! Sudden and drastic cuts are necessary to demonstrate to our creditors that we understand our obligations. We cannot continue to renege on debts and fleece our own grandchildren, by continuing to spend beyond our means.

As we go to press, sequestration is 10 days away. In a speech tonight (Feb 19, 2013), Mr. Obama stood before a gaggle of first responders, insisting that the indiscriminate cuts mandated by sequestration would result in layoff of thousands of safety personnel, teachers, airport security and flight controllers, and result in the cancellation of the Head Start program and urgently needed upgrades to an aircraft carrier.

Analysts say that Obama has the high ground. They say that if economic malaise ensues, Republican legislators will be held accountable. We agree. That’s because he is not only an ethical man, he is poised and articulate. And of course, as Republicans often complain, he is extending his campaign mode instead of offering to compromise with legislators.

So, with apologies to Jonathan Swift, we wish to proffer our own modest proposal. An idea on how Republicans can seize the high ground without giving in: We humbly suggest that Republicans announce a press conference immediately. “Hello, America…We understand that indiscriminate cuts would cripple the economy and penalize the needy. We will compromise. We cannot stand by and watch senseless cuts, and so we offer to work with the president on sensible cuts.” Since we cannot seem to agree on taxes, we will work hand-in-hand with the president to reduce the deficit by prioritizing the cuts that are mandated.

If sequestration targets indiscriminately, allow Obama to discriminate.

Indiscriminate cuts disastrous?  So, discriminate, Mr. Obama.

Of course, we are in the midst of a crisis, so we won’t limit our cuts to obvious waste. We will make the tough choices and target all those programs that the president never mentions in his popular stump speeches. Hmm-m-m. Where to start? How about you, Mr. President? Any ideas?

This position, will remind Americans that while the president points to the calamity that accompanies cuts to teachers, firefighters, air traffic controllers and battleships, he never cites the other end of his list. What programs can be eliminated or cut way back?. It’s easy to denounce pork and graft, but where will the real belt-tightening begin? Since the wealth of the 1% doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, this is a discussion that really needs to be vetted. And very soon.

Let’s be clear: We support President Obama. In most of his pursuits and methods, he has our admiration and endorsement. But it’s time that this Harvard Law student gain macro-economic perspective. We think that an offer to let the president take the lead in slashing the budget will turn the conversation and take the wind out of his argument that the deficit can be addressed by soaking the wealthy.

Try as he might, nothing the president can do will soak the wealthy. It is not realistic. It will only move the wealth out of the United States, along with the jobs, the technology, the Nobel Prizes and the economic gains that follow it.

As we go to press, it’s reassuring to see The Wall Street Journal agrees that mandated cuts driven by a firm deadline may not be a bad thing. But this is not exactly our point. In our opinion, they needn’t be across-the-board.

— Ellery Davies is editor of AWildDuck. Once in awhile,
he returns to his roots and becomes a political pundit.

Simple Law – Unintended consequence!

James MadisonJames Madison was U.S. president from March 1809 until early 1817. But in 1789—twenty years before he became president—he proposed an amendment to a republic that was barely 13 years old.

He never saw his proposal pass. In fact, it was 203 years before it was ratified by the 38th state of a larger 50-state union. That was 1992. The proposal might have languished in obscurity for even more centuries, had a college student not realized that it could still be ratified. In 1982, he started a grass roots movement and the consti-tution was amended 10 years later. Today, twenty-one years after it became a law, it is still the most recent amendment to the constitution. So, what does it say?

It says “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened,” In other words, a sitting Congress can’t change its pay while it is in session. It can only change the salary of the next Congress or Senate.

us_constitutionNow, here’s the unintended consequence: Last week, GOP leaders crafted a new law that links congressional pay to the budget debate. If Congress can-not agree on a 2014 budget by April 15 (in the next 3 months), then their pay shall be withheld.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well not really, because it also says that in exchange, congress shall suspend the debt ceiling. Here at AWildDuck, we believe that this is would be terribly irresponsible. Seriously, guys & gals: The buck has to stop somewhere…We can’t kick this can forever!

But, speak of kicking the can, here is the real kicker: The new law is probably illegal, because of the 27th amendment. Remember that one? Congress cannot change its pay. That includes, it would seem, deferral, escrow, withholding, what have you!

I wonder if James Madison had just a glimmer of his influence on lawmakers 224 years hence. D’ya think? Nah! But it sure would be fun to go back and show him.

Read more about it at our source, the National Constitution Center.

Did US voters elect a Wingnut to Congress?

To our friends in America—For just a moment, put aside the coming presidential election. Rise above politics, skin color and debate polish. Focus, instead, on this question: Exactly how does a guy like Paul Broun get elected to your national congress? As these Palinesque characters proliferate in your high offices, the esteem and importance of America in world affairs gradually erodes. Do the views of this man represent what they teach children in your country?—Your adult voters apparently agree with his position on science and technology. By God! It’s the devil’s work…

U.S. Congressman (GA-R), Paul Broun, is a trained medical doctor and serves on the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Recently he spoke at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. He told his audience that the Earth is about 9,000 years old, and that the Big Bang Theory and Evolution are “lies from the pit of hell”.

Let’s assume that constituents elected an individual who represents the religion of the majority. But most adults are reasonable to basic truths. They understand that religion and science needn’t be interpreted as contradictions. One is a set of moral constructs backed by customs, ethics and a long history of tradition. The other is a gradually improving knowledge of the universe, through the analysis of evidence, specifically, the observation of measurable properties and laws. Even if we let the unbalanced religious interpretation go, how can the citizens of Georgia appoint such an ignoramus to the United States House Committee on Science, Space and Technology? Do you suppose that it baffles elementary school students In Europe and Asia. It certainly baffles my 11 year old daughter. She is incredulous. Wake up Americans! It’s not like Congressman Broun hides his whacked out beliefs. Ignorance is displayed with pride on his sleeve. The problem isn’t his devotion to scripture. It’s the empty-headed, literal interpretation.

Congressman Paul Broun on  Evolution, Embryology & Big Bang Theory:
“These are lies from the pit of hell”  [Full speech: 47 minutes]

The first 24 minutes of the congressman’s speech are about his great hunting prowess. Europeans might overlook the Yahoo factor…After all, he is an American and he is speaking at a sportsman’s banquet. But then, as he begins to speak about his religious re-birth, he explains that modern science is filled with lies. To bolster this arguments, he emphasizes that he is a medical doctor and a scientist. Clearly, he has no clue what is a scientist. How disappointing that Broun chose to serve in congress rather than preach on a street corner. His neandrathal view raises doubts that he can serve citizens who don’t share his head-in-the-sand, southern, born again revelation. He certainly doesn’t represent non-Christians in his district and cannot possibly lend substance or credibility to his role on a legislative body for Science, Space and Technology.

In the above video, he boasts of his credentials as a scientist, and explains that “evolution, embryology, and big bang theory are all lies from the pit of hell.” (Geez!) He also says that the Bible is the “manufacturer’s handbook” and that as Congressman he holds the Holy Bible as a directive for all of his votes and decisions in Washington.

This is precisely the type of nut case that Bill Nye refers to in this video: Creationism is not appropriate for children:

Bill says to adults:

“If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that is completely inconsistent with everything that we observe in the universe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it, because we need them! We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff and solve problems.”

It is sad that the phenomenon of confusing religion and science is unique to the United States. The rest of the world is devoid of whack jobs like Congressman Broun, with the possible exception of Muslim regions under Taliban and Al Qaeda influence.

Ellery Davies, freelance columnist and editor of AWildDuck, focuses on the intersection of technology, politics, law, privacy and social phenomena. He is a frequent contributor to Yahoo, Amazon, Engadget and The Wall Street Journal.