ALASKA NOT AFRAID TO BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS

By Andrew O’Brien

Sarah Palin is the most famous Alaskan in America. It’s not even close. She is a woman who would have you believe that she, much like her adopted state, built herself out of nothing, without the help of a wealthy benefactor or sinister, generous caretaker. It is the narrative of her political life, one that has seen her rise quickly onto the national scene without much of a clue of what she is talking about.

She is also one of the new breed of conservative-libertarian Tea Partiers, fed up with the spending policies of the federal government which allegedly poses an undue burden on the wallets of each American by taxing them to the bone and spending frivolously on silly ventures like health care and unemployment insurance. The cost is more harmful than productive, they argue. America is losing its way.

Here, they are right. Americans are being unduly taxed without receiving proper benefits. Not those that live in Alaska, however.

Alaskans, meet the federal government, your loathsome sugar daddy. It is the one thing you cannot stand, but also the one you cannot live without.

Alaskan state lawmaker Carl Gatto sees the irony here. He’s a Republican state lawmaker who, though clearly aware of the lopsided financing (for every dollar given to the federal government for highway taxes, Alaska received $5.76), still believes the federal government is holding Alaska back.

From the New York Times:

“I’ve introduced legislation to roll back the federal government,” he says. “They don’t have solutions; they just have taxes.”

But…

Mr. Gatto, 72 and wiry, smiles and shakes his head: “I’ll give the federal government credit: they sure give us a ton of money. For every $1 we give them in taxes for highways, they give us back $5.76.”

He points to a newly graded and federally financed highway, stretching toward distant spruce trees. “Man, beautiful, right?”

Hell yeah, man – nothing like a stretch of asphalt highway to bring out the beauty of the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Mr. Gatto’s 180-degree turn from political righteousness to practical appreciation is the defining dichotomy of just how this Alaskan resolves his mixed feelings towards receiving government funds and choosing to go without.

Alaskans tend to live with their contradictions in these recessionary times. No place benefits more from federal largess than this state, where the Republican governor decries “intrusive” Obama administration policies, officials sue to overturn the health care legislation and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, voted against the stimulus bill.

Although its unemployment rate sits at just 7.9 percent, about two percentage points below the national rate, Alaska has received $3,145 per capita in federal stimulus dollars as of May, the most in the nation, according to figures compiled by Pro Publica, an investigative Web site. Nevada, by contrast, has an unemployment rate north of 14 percent and has received $1,034 per capita in recovery aid. Florida’s jobless rate is 11.4 percent, and the state has obtained $914 per capita.

(more…)

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Published in: on August 18, 2010 at 11:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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Prop 8 Decision Cannot Be Appealed?

via TMV:

Ever since long before Judge Vaughn issued his now-famous decision striking down California’s Prop 8 (and by extension of its logic, also striking down all state and federal anti-gay marriage statutes), it has been universally assumed that his decision would be only the first round in a process that would inevitably end at the Supreme Court.

That assumption could be wrong.  The case might already be over, because the proponents could lack standing to appeal.

I was skeptical when I read the headline, but the two cases cited by the appellees seem dead on point to me.

Justice Ginsburg wrote: “An intervenor cannot step into the shoes of the original party unless the intervenor independently fulfills the requirements of Article III.”

Prop 8 was a referendum, not a statute passed by the legislature.  The proponents of Prop 8 were therefore not the defendants, the state of California (personified by Gov. Schwarzeneggar) was.  And the state of California chose not to defend the case at trial and certainly has no intention of appealing Judge Vaughn’s decision.  Prop 8 proponents were intervenors, allowed by Judge Vaughn to stand in the stead of the state at trial.  That was a discretionary act by the judge and the higher courts are not bound to continue to honor it on appeal.  Thus, at the point that the state of California chooses not to appeal, Prop 8 proponents may have no legal basis to continue the case.  In order to continue, they would have to show that they were personally damaged by the Judge’s decision, which may be difficult.

It is possible that Prop 8 proponents could have standing on the basis that Vaughn’s overturning of their ballot initiative is a harm to their rights to enact valid changes to the law by ballot.  Alternatively, they could concoct standing for a new case by creating a new ballot initiative which would be rejected by the Secretary of State on the basis of Judge Vaughn’s decision, creating a new issue for a new case and a new appeal (after a very swift trial court decision) with no standing problem (since they now would be original parties, not intervenors).

Whatever the outcome, however, this turns out to be a risky argument for the appellees to make, as it risks dramatically limiting the reach of their victory:

On the one hand, that would be fortunate for those who want to marry in California.  On the other hand, it means that Judge Walker’s decision remains merely a trial court ruling and order, with no precedential authority beyond the state of California.  For those who think that Walker’s very persuasive decision can survive appellate review, this may seem like a lost opportunity to achieve a regional (9th Circuit) or nationwide precedent that could then be used to attack similar amendments in more than 30 states.

At the end of the day, this very clever legal argument might be too clever by half, as it transforms a sweeping legal victory to a much smaller one.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Real Benedict XVI

Andrew Sullivan writes:

We now know that this Pope was personally involved in enabling the rape of children rather than confronting criminal priests during his time as an archbishop in Munich. We know that while he had jurisdiction as head of the CDF, child-rapists were often allowed to carry on their crimes, and the most powerful rapist, abuser and cultist, Marcial Maciel, was abetted in his behavior. We know also that Benedict has seemed to try to get a grip on the problem as Pope, while never actually relenting on his own authority or the church’s own sense of its own immunity from legal or criminal investigation. And we had, for example, his stirring letter to the Irish bishops about the appalling legacy of child abuse, torture and cruelty perpetrated for decades by men and women abusing the power of their religious office.

In this mixed legacy, we now find this. Two bishops in Ireland tendered their resignations to the Vatican in the wake of the ground-breaking and earth-moving Murphy report on church abuse. The Pope has now refused to accept their resignations……..

And it continues, the wonderful world of religion and hypocrisy.

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

A gay couple’s take on marriage equality and their choice

via Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic:

A reader writes:

On a daily basis, we are asked the same question by friends and foes alike: “What the hell are y’all doing in Arkansas?”  And our answer is plain and simple: Because this is our home.  This is where we belong.  And when we start a family, we want our children to enjoy the richness of a childhood filled with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  But unless those darned “activist judges” on the federal bench step in, planning for our future will continue to be an endless game of absurd tradeoffs and unsatisfying options.

Living in Arkansas, my husband and I have a perspective on the “marriage equality should be driven solely by state legislatures” argument that is surely shared by many gay couples in the Bible Belt and elsewhere.  Our state is a good 20 years away from majority approval of same sex marriage, and we know that as long as we live in Arkansas, we do so as two single, cohabiting men in the eyes of the state.  Therefore, we are faced with an impossible choice: (a) live alone, with no support system, in a state that recognizes our marriage, or (b) live in Arkansas, where we are offered zero protections as a couple, but we enjoy the love and support of our family and friends.  For heterosexual couples in all 50 states, Home = Security.  For same sex couples in 45 states, it is more like Home vs. Security.

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Google-Verizon Pact: It Gets Worse

via Huffington Post

Real Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers can’t discriminate between different kinds of online content and applications. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. It’s what makes sure the next Google, out there in a garage somewhere, has just as good a chance as any giant corporate behemoth to find its audience and thrive online.

What Google and Verizon are proposing is fake Net Neutrality. You can read their framework for yourself here or go here to see Google twisting itself in knots about this suddenly “thorny issue.” But here are the basics of what the two companies are proposing:

1. Under their proposal, there would be no Net Neutrality on wireless networks — meaning anything goes, from blocking websites and applications to pay-for-priority treatment.

2. Their proposed standard for “non-discrimination” on wired networks is so weak that actions like Comcast’s widely denounced blocking of BitTorrent would be allowed.

3. The deal would let ISPs like Verizon — instead of Internet users like you — decide which applications deserve the best quality of service. That’s not the way the Internet has ever worked, and it threatens to close the door on tomorrow’s innovative applications. (If RealPlayer had been favored a few years ago, would we ever have gotten YouTube?)

4. The deal would allow ISPs to effectively split the Internet into “two pipes” — one of which would be reserved for “managed services,” a pay-for-play platform for content and applications. This is the proverbial toll road on the information superhighway, a fast lane reserved for the select few, while the rest of us are stuck on the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

5. The pact proposes to turn the Federal Communications Commission into a toothless watchdog, left fruitlessly chasing consumer complaints but unable to make rules of its own. Instead, it would leave it up to unaccountable (and almost surely industry-controlled) third parties to decide what the rules should be.

If there’s a silver lining in this whole fiasco it’s that, last I checked anyway, it wasn’t up to Google and Verizon to write the rules. That’s why we have Congress and the FCC.

The question is;will congress and the FCC fall in line, as government always does, with the big corporations? God I hope not.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Rep. Dennis Kucinich Seeks to Ban Assassinations of US Citizens

Jeremy Scahill of the Nation Magazine writes;

Targeted killings are not a new Obama administration policy. Beginning three days after his swearing in, President Obama has authorized scores of lethal drone strikes, including against specific individuals, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, surpassing the Bush era numbers. The elite Joint Special Operations Command maintains a list of individuals, including US citizens, which it is authorized to assassinate. In January, Dana Priest reported in the Washington Post that the CIA had US citizens on an assassination list, but the Post later ran a correction stating that only JSOC had “a target list that includes several Americans.” The policy of the CIA targeting al-Awlaki, a US citizen, for assassination, therefore, appeared to be a new development, at least in terms of public awareness of approved government assassinations.

Due process ring a bell? Apparently not.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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THE DIGITAL SURVEILLANCE STATE: VAST, SECRET, AND DANGEROUS

Glenn Greenwald continues his impressive analysis of our National Security State. Before I go on, you can read Greenwald’s analysis here–you just have to search around. Trust me, the posts pertaining to the National Security State will surely stand out to you. Anyways here is some of what Greenwald wrote for the Cato Unbound Blog;

In sum, the picture that emerges from the Post series is that we have a Secret Government of 854,000 people, so vast and so secret that nobody knows what it does or what it is. That there is a virtually complete government/corporate merger when it comes to the National Security and Surveillance State is indisputable: “Private firms have become so thoroughly entwined with the government’s most sensitive activities that without them important military and intelligence missions would have to cease or would be jeopardized.”

As little oversight as Surveillance State officials have, corporate officials engaged in these activities have even less. Relying upon profit-driven industry for the intelligence community’s “core mission” is to ensure that we have Endless War and an always-expanding Surveillance State. After all, the very people providing us with the “intelligence” that we use to make decisions are the ones who are duty-bound to keep this Endless War and Surveillance Machine alive and expanding because, as the Post put it, they are “obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest.” The Surveillance State thus provides its own fuel and own rationale to ensure its endless expansion, all while resisting any efforts to impose transparency or accountability on it.

And as we acquiesce to more and more sacrifices of our privacy to the omnipotent Surveillance State, it builds the wall of secrecy behind which it operates higher and more impenetrable, which means it constantly knows more about the actions of citizens, while citizens constantly know less about it. We chirp endlessly about the Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Democrats and Republicans, but this is the Real U.S. Government: a massive Surveillance State functioning in darkness, beyond elections and parties, so secret, vast and powerful that it evades the control or knowledge of any one person or even any organization.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Health Reform Works

A presentation of why we NEEDED health reform.

Health Reform Works (slideshow)

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How to get efficient health care

Via Will Wilkinson

Prices, prices, prices, prices.

What Hayek had in mind was a competitive market in risk-rated insurance and a competitive market in medical services. No price controlsLet the markets rip. Mandate a certain minimum level of insurance coverage. If you’re uninsurable or can’t afford a policy, then the state pitches in. I’m fairly certain that his idea was nowhere in the neighborhood of making Aetna a quasi-governmental mechanism for redistribution.

Singapore, I think, has the closest thing to the sort of system Hayek had in mind. Among wealthy countries, it spends the smallest percentage of GDP on health care, and it gets about the best results. You know what that’s called? Efficiency. How do you get it? Competitive markets with freely moving prices under the rule of law! It’s the sort of thing you’re in favor of if you want everybody to have access to really good health care and money to spend on things other than health care.

My thoughts on health care/insurance have always been; no one should be without health insurance; no one should be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition;if someone has being paying a premium insurance companies cannot deny them when that consumer needs it the most;if some can’t afford insurance they should be given a tax subsidy;increase competition by removing the anti-trust law to break up the monopolies and implement a public-insurance plane;move away from employer mandated insurance so individuals can have a hands on approach;bring everyone into the risk-pool with an individual mandate;pay doctors for quality of care not quantity;create incentives for those insured to stay healthy;preventive care;create health insurance exchanges for consumers of insurance to shop around for what is best for them.

I could continue but I think you get the point. To read about health care, and the recent health care reform bill read Ezra Klein of the Washington Post.

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Silly controversy over the downtown mosque

Will Wilkinson has a great description of the controversy in New York over the mosque being built near the World Trade Center. Wilkinson writes:

The silly controversy over the downtown mosque is excellent evidence that the conservative movement has become obsessed to the point of derangement with a right-wing version of identity politics that sees everything through the lens of the assumption that American identity is under seige. The modus operandi of the populist right is patriotic semiotics gone wild. 9/11 was a Great Awakening and Ground Zero is a sacred scar representing the sacrifice of those thousands who died in fire in order to shake the rest of us into recognition of the great existential threat to the American Way of Life. To refuse to resist the placement of a mosque next to the grave of those martyred in the Great Awakening is to fail to have heard the call, to fail to understand the battle now underway, to complacently acquiesce to the forces slowly transforming America into something else, into something unAmerican, a place for some other kind of people, a place not worth fighting for. It is to, as they say, “let the terrorists win.”

What Bloomberg has said reveals the utter zaniness of right identity politics. The sanctity of private property and religious liberty are of course essential elements of the traditional American creed. But to actually apply these principles misses the point. For a conservative movement marinating in metaphor, the security of property and the freedom of conscience are just two of many elements that make up who we are, not disembodied rules to be algorithmically honored with no regard to the semiotic context. For the cult of Americanocity, the primary purpose of politics is to preserve and assert imagined American identity against those imagined forces that are imagined to undermine it. I suspect that Bloomberg’s appeal to property and religious liberty will appear to many as a shady, lawyerly attempt to assert the American creed against the interests of American identity. But all he will have accomplished for these folks is to reveal which side he’s really on.

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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