Dear GOP: Boehner quit you, not the other way around

"Goodbye, nut jobs!" -What John Boehner quite possibly could be thinking right now. (Photo Credit: Associated Press)

“Goodbye, nut jobs!” -What John Boehner quite possibly could be thinking right now. (Photo Credit: Associated Press)

Alright, the headline is slightly misleading, since outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, didn’t actually quit the Republican Party, but his surprising resignation, nonchalant attitude at his press conference, and subsequent trashing of fellow Republicans and conservative groups, like Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, seemed to indicate a man who could no longer stand what’s become of his beloved party. The Republicans are in disarray, helped by a huge swing to the far right, allowing fringe elements to infect the party at almost every level, leaving establishment members like Boehner little choice by to take a lifeboat to safety.

Boehner isn’t the first high-profile Republican to essentially jump ship in recent years. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell–a lifelong Republican–famously endorsed President Obama not once, but twice, and chastises his party (he still considers himself a Republican) often on television. Longtime Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switched parties not long after Obama’s election, and others are sure to follow. Not all will take the same or similar routes pursued by moderates like Powell or Specter, but Boehner is not the first and nor will he be the last big Republican name to call it a day.

Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Capitalism

Merriam-Webster defines “capitalism” thusly:

“An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”

Let’s be crystal-clear about this.  Capitalism is an economic system.  It’s not a religious creed, a system of government, a political party or a way of life.  With a variety of tweaks and alterations it’s an economic system that has served the US pretty well, most of the time.

Capitalism is enshrined neither in the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution (Go ahead, take a look).  For that matter, I’m reasonably certain Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, et al, would have a hard time recognizing 21st-century America’s economic system.  They were all businessmen of one sort or another  but the sort of businesses they ran (with varying degrees of success) would bear little resemblance to the likes of Bank of America, Monsanto or Enron.

There are giants of the American political mythos who would recognize leviathans like the ones listed above:  Teddy Roosevelt would recognize them as exactly the sort of trusts he built his reputation busting.  His cousin Franklin built his reputation rebuilding the American economy after corporations like these created that little fiasco known as the Great Depression.

I’m not here to try to convince you that capitalism is bad.  I don’t believe it is.  To the contrary, I believe it’s an ingenious system that, when efficiently regulated, has created tremendous wealth and a fine standard of living.  Handled with care, capitalism incentivizes citizens in a free society to optimize the use of their, well, their capital, to make their communities – their world a better place.

See what I did there?  It’s not the economic system that matters.  It’s the citizens in the free society that matter.  The people.  The economic system – in this case, capitalism – is a tool.  An important tool, but a tool nonetheless.

You’ve heard the old maxim that if the only tool you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail?  I think that’s at the root of some of our current problems as a nation.  We’ve allowed capitalism to become synonymous with Americanism.  We’ve allowed some people with vested interests to convince us that the greatest measure of America’s health is the Dow Jones Index, not the actual health of We The People.

But we have evidence that capitalism isn’t the only economic tool in our collective belt.  We’ve used limited versions of socialism since 1776, and we continue to do so.  When we’ve been most successful as a nation (see the FDR reference above, as well as Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System and Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon’s NASA) we’ve been unafraid to mix healthy doses of socialism with capitalism and created all sorts of interesting hybrid systems.

When we allow capitalism to be fetishized to the degree it is now and the degree it was in the 1880’s and 1920’s, bad things happen to the citizens, and our free society is at a high risk.

The key, the thing that makes capitalism work for us as opposed to making us work for it, the thing that makes it a tool instead of a way of life, is the tweaks and the alterations.  When we handle it with care and use it efficiently – as with any tool – capitalism makes the job easier.  And the job is making life better for every American.  When we worship at the altar of the (deeply misunderstood) Invisible Hand, capitalism works like an out of control reaping machine or an unshielded nuclear core:  It chews people up and makes them sick.

Isn’t it about time we decided to focus on the job at hand, and that we’d better start using every tool in the toolbox to get it right?

In the News…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  – U. S. Constitution, First Amendment

The past few weeks have been interesting, to say the least.  For me, they have been thought-provoking.  Not being a professional journalist, I admit to only a cursory knowledge of protocol concerning the media and national security.  Current events have cured me of that.

The Associated Press and Fox News scandals are huge.  This is not like Umbrella-gate, which was ridiculous.  Even the IRS intrusion takes a back seat to this debacle.  The intrusion into the rights of the media to gather and report important information should concern us all.  Not because we finally have some conspiracy to pin on Obama, but because it is a possible infringement of rights.

Whenever there is a clash between an administration and the media, “national security” is at stake.  While national security has no official definition, we believe it to mean the protection and safety of our citizens and our secrets.  This safety is secured through economic, political, diplomatic, and military power.  In essence, each administration is allowed the freedom to determine what places “it” at risk.

So, let’s take on the Fox scandal first.  The national security in this case involved North Korea, and its plan to respond to U.N. sanctions with more nuclear tests.  The CIA, allegedly, learned this information from a source within North Korea.  James Rosen’s (Fox News contributor) story was reported online the same day that the top-secret report was revealed to a small group within the intelligence community.  Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a government advisor, was among that small group.  The FBI used security badge data, phone records, and email exchanges to tie the two men together.  The pair spoke/met on several occasions, even going so far as to use code names.  Kim was charged, in 2010, with disclosing national defense information.  Rosen, while not charged, has been labeled a “co-conspirator”.

This case is disturbing.  While I am no fan of Fox news, the labeling of Rosen as a co-conspirator is unacceptable.   The nature of a reporter’s job is to uncover information (whether a current administration likes it or not) and report it.  Rosen conspired to do nothing, but his job.  My issue here is with the administration.  When a trusted advisor chose to leak top-secret information, the Justice department should have dealt solely with him.  Rosen was well within his rights, as a reporter, to “solicit” information.  The ownership belongs to Kim.  My issue is not so much the investigation, but the attack on Rosen for reporting the news provided to him.

The AP story is a little more complex.  With the help of foreign intelligence agencies, an undercover informant infiltrated the leadership of al-Qaeda. “The spy in question infiltrated AQAP, retrieved its latest non-metalic underwear bomb and delivered it to U.S. authorities”.  Our government had hoped to be led to Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the bomb’s creator.  Officials claimed that the opportunity was destroyed and the informant was compromised when the story of the foiled plot was reported.  There are reports that AP sat on the story, for days, at the request of the CIA.  Once given clearance, the story ran.

This case disturbs me, as well, but for an entirely different reason.  For me, it is not open and shut.  True, the AP story never revealed the name of the informant, like Cheney’s office outed Valerie Plame.  But, it is possible that an opportunity to locate and/or capture al-Asiri was lost.  It appears as though John Brennan’s (then counter-terrorism advisor) “inside control” comments propelled the story and revealed the more intimate details of the plot.  If security was at risk, an explanation of how should have been provided, and the source of the leak addressed.

I am bothered that the MSM has become a way to turn a profit, making whistleblowers like Julian Assange necessary.  Security leaks are not new, and in fact, have become quite necessary.  Without unofficial accounts, we might be woefully uninformed, as conventional media has become more sensationalism than facts.  However, I am uncomfortable with the surveillance of media, by any administration.  I am equally uncomfortable with the public’s feeling of entitlement where news is concerned.  Around the clock news has encouraged this mentality.

This is a time to question.  Do we have a right to know all?  And, if we do, how soon should we learn it?  What constitutes a national security threat?  And, in cases where applicable, should a member of the press be held accountable for taking what was given?  How far are we willing to go in the name of fighting terrorism?  What is an appropriate balance between security and liberty?

Any administration using national security as justification for surveillance warrants investigation.  In the wake of 9/11, fear introduced us to warrantless wire taps, restrictions of individual rights, and unconstitutional imprisonment.  Rights of the people vs national security is a delicate balance.  We expect our rights to be uncontested.  Yet, we expect our government to keep us as safe.

Keeping our citizens safe is not an implied duty.  Our constitution gives that power to the government.  That being said, our constitution gives us power, as well.  The actions of the last two administrations set a dangerous precedent moving forward.  We have accepted infringement too many times in the past, without question, because we were afraid.   So, we must question.

And, we must DEMAND answers.

State of Your State

( . . . well, at 15 out of 50 . . . )

Arizona: transgendered people can’t use the bathroom of the gender they identify with; they have to use the bathroom that they were “born” as.

Florida: Bong Ban?

Georgia is thirsty.

Kentucky might be hurt it’s not receiving the attention regarding religious freedom that North Carolina must be enjoying is.

Maryland. Sigh.

C’mon, Missouri. REALLY?

This is not bipartisanship, New York.

North Dakota: Our population is growing! Woo-hoo! Oh, but one of the highest incidences of rape in the country. Let’s ban abortion! Yay!

Tennessee: Let’s punish the poor! No. We can do better. Let’s punish poor with children! If your child doesn’t do well in school, we’ll just cut their family’s support

What’s threatening in Texas.

Pretty sure this violates Facebook’s EULA, Washington State.

Honorable Mention:
Hang in there, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.