Marco Rubio – Old Wine in New Bottles (5 Reasons)

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Marco Rubio may have a fresh face and uplifting tone, but his ideas are as stale as two week old French bread.  I do recognize his genuine efforts to focus on the positive and avoid mudslinging.  Therefore, I have no intention of attacking his character.  However, I find his policy agenda so abhorrent that I will show no restraint in attacking his ideas.  Despite Rubio’s youth, positive tone, and handsome face; he is simply a repackaging of tired, Bush era GOP policies – he is old wine in new bottles.  Here are five examples of recycled GOP policies:

5.   Rubio supports Oil Subsidies. Years ago, there was a debate over possibly ending the $4 billion a year our government uses to subsidize big oil companies.  Only two principled Republicans voted to end this corporate welfare, Rubio was not one of them.*  I sent Rubio a letter requesting that he support an end to this corporate welfare.  He responded with a lengthy letter.  Maybe two sentences explained that he would not end oil subsidies due to rising gas costs, and then nearly two pages were devoted to Obama bashing.  Sorry Rubio, bashing Obama doesn’t make you a conservative, nor erase your big government agenda.

4.   Inconsistent on Medicare funding, consistent on partisanship. Like most Senate Republicans, Rubio denounces Obamacare because it cuts Medicare funding, yet supports the Ryan plan that practically has the same effect.  So in other words, it’s not a “cut” when Republicans do it.  We really do need to control the costs of Medicare, and both parties seem to realize that.  I just wish they’d work together instead of slinging mud over a policy that is controversial, yet they both agree upon.

3.   Civil liberties take a back seat to “national security”. Rubio was one off the staunchest supporters of the NDAA of 2012, which allowed the Executive branch (that is, Obama and Eric Holder) to arrest and indefinitely detain those they regard as terrorists, or associates thereof; without a trial.  Rubio attempts to defend himself here, but if you read the bill (Sec. 1021 on p. 265 if you follow the link), you’ll see that it could allow far more than Rubio claims.  This appalling disregard for our Bill of Rights was bad enough.  His fellow Senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, at least attempted to amend the NDAA of 2012, by placing a time limit on said detention, but Rubio opposed that also.  Rubio is a supporter of this, the (un)Patriot Act, and all such post-9/11 efforts to use fear to erode our civil liberties.

2.   Supports special tax breaks for Wall Street. Like most establishment Republicans, Rubio sings Reagan’s praises while supporting a tax plan that goes against the very principle of Reagan’s tax reforms.  In 1986, Reagan passed a brilliant tax reform package that forced Wall Street to pay the same tax rate as everyone else by making the so-called “Capital Gains” tax rate (the special rate for Wall Street) the same as the regular income tax rate.  Rubio, however, like most Republicans, including the flagrant hypocrite Rush Limbaugh (Hey, I didn’t say I wouldn’t attack Limbaugh’s character), claims that “Capital Gains” taxes are a “double tax” and should be eliminated.  In other words, if you work for your money, you pay taxes under Rubio’s plan, but if you make your money on “capital gains”, such as in the Stock Market, you pay no taxes.  Currently, Wall Street pays a marginal rate of 20% (before exemptions) while regular income earners at the highest bracket pay 39% (also before exemptions).  This is what constitutes fairness in GOPonomics.  What?  Are you jealous of Wall Street’s success?  But they’re the job creators!

1.     Rubio is just another neocon too willing to start more wars. Like Bush, like Chaney, McCain, Graham, etc. Marco Rubio thinks frequent meddling in other countries is good for them and for us.  He is in denial about the failure in Iraq as you can see here, he supported arming the rebels in Syria, which is partly responsible for the emergence of ISIS, he seems to think we should now be fighting ISIS while poking Iran at the same time, even though Iran is doing a better job of combating ISIS than we are.  If Rubio were to become president, we’d just have more expensive, destabilizing wars; often creating more problems than we solve.  If we’d never invaded Iraq in the first place, if we’d stayed out of Syria, we’d have caught bin Laden long ago and there’d be no ISIS.

Rick Perry has claimed, for example, that we could have stopped ISIS if only we had done more to stop Asaad.  HELLO?!  Asaad is fighting AGAINST ISIS!  Rubio would never say something so stupid, yet his policies are the same.  However, Rubio is able to inspire without making a fool of himself….and that is why he is dangerous.  If they were all like Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, we’d be better off.  But Rubio is actually taken seriously.

As my followers know, I’m a Paul supporter.  And it’s not like I agree with him on everything (He unfortunately also opposed ending oil subsidies).  But looking at the big picture, Rand Paul brings fresh ideas both to the Republicans and to libertarians.  Mostly important, he brings fresh ideas to the country as a whole.  Rubio, however, is just more of the same in a handsome young package – he is old wine in new bottles.

*On this, I’d like to express my gratitude for Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe for putting principles before party on the oil subsidies issue.

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Rand Paul’s dangerous flirtation with “Judicial Activism”

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I would write a blogpost refuting a statement by the very man I’m endorsing for President.  Rand Paul hasn’t lost any of my respect due to this, I simply think he is in error.  He’s allowed the left to mislead him with their often flimsy definition of judicial activism, which pretty much amounts to “using the judicial process to overturn bad laws”.  If “bad laws” are unconstitutional, then it is the Supreme Court’s job to overturn them.  Judicial activism is when these judges start abusing that power to push their own agenda, no matter how well intended that agenda may be.  Legislators, that is, Congress is there to pass good policies.  The Judicial branch, headed by the Supreme Court, is only there to ensure that these laws adhere to the Constitution.  So, I’d like to address each of Paul’s examples of where he thinks he’s supporting judicial activism.  Some of these really do fit the definition of activism, but others are simply proper use of judicial review, that is, to overturn unconstitutional laws or statutes.  (Note that I will quote the parts of the Constitution used in full at the bottom.)

  1. Lochner vs. New York – This ruling in 1905, a 5-4 decision, concluded that the right to enter a contract was implicit in the 14th It specifically overturned some early labor laws in the NY, limiting bakers to 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week.  I’ll agree with Rand Paul to the extent that this was judicial activism.  I’ve read the 14th Amendment thoroughly, and fail to see how it guarantees unlimited, unregulated individual contracts.  With that said, I see nothing wrong with such a law, but I do agree that it is an example of judicial activism and the kind that Rand Paul would support.
  2. “The New Deal” – This is a broad category of many laws passed during the Roosevelt era, and difficult to refute for that reason. Some of them probably were unconstitutional, and others not.  My position is that Congress has the authority to create programs such as Social Security, for it is consistent with the General Welfare clause of Article I, Sec. 8.  If Rand Paul is like his father, and believes Social Security to be unconstitutional, then overturning it would not be judicial activism.  It would simply be the proper use of judicial review.
  3. “State bans on birth control” – This is a tough one. I personally am a strong supporter of birth control rights.  As an advocate of judicial restraint, I’m hesitant to overturn state laws on this (though I’d certainly oppose Federal laws).  I could see how this would be consistent with the rather vague 9th Amendment, however, and would not consider it an abuse of judicial power to overturn state bans on birth control based on the 9th.  Birth control is a very personal decision, and unlike with abortion, the dispute over human life doesn’t enter the equation.  I can see how this would be one of those “others [rights] retained by the people”.
  4. “Obamacare” – here I completely agree with Rand Paul’s policy position, but completely disagree with his assertion that it would be “judicial activism” to overturn it. Obamacare is clearly unconstitutional as it requires people to purchase a product, effectively punishing inaction.  As there is no constitutional justification for this, we default to the 10th amendment, and leave it to “the states, respectively, or the people”.  Rand Paul is right to want to overturn Obamacare, but this would be well within the authority of the Supreme Court, and certainly not any type of judicial activism.
  5. Brown v. Board of Education – this is the ruling that ended segregation of public schools on the basis of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause. Like Paul, I agree that segregation needed to be overturned, and I’m glad that it was.  Unlike Paul, and unlike many Civil Rights leaders, I do not see this as judicial activism.  This is perfectly consistent with the original intent of the 14th Amendment, ratified after the abolition of slavery to ensure equal protection under the law to all citizens, with the intention aimed at the time towards former slaves.  Surely that includes the right to the same educational opportunities as whites.

So in conclusion, while I agree with some and not others of Rand’s positions, I completely disagree with his definition of “judicial activism”.  Judicial abuse of power is a very dangerous trend.  If 9 unelected judges who serve for life can overturn laws at their whims, they have become a panel of oligarchs.  And to my libertarian friends, just like I tell liberals, remember…if they can overturn laws you don’t like, they can also overturn laws you do like.  Do you really want 9 unelected judges who serve for life to have that much power?

From the US Constitution, word for word:

14th Amendment (Section 1) – All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

9th Amendment – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article I, Section 8 (first clause) – The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

10th Amendment – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Another of my posts on judicial activism:

Top 5 Christmas Songs…and one more

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My musical tastes have always been eclectic, and I hope you enjoy my picks for my favorite Christmas songs…and one more.  All links will open in a new window, so you can keep this up while you listen/watch.

5.   Last Christmas – Ariana Grande

I have no idea why I like this version so much lately, I just do.  I like the way she has the fugue in the background to an already good song (the original was by some group called Wham).

4.   God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings – BNL & Sarah McLaughlin

I’ve always liked this as a hymn, and this country-ish version has been echoing through my head lately.  I was really surprised to see Sarah McLaughlin!  I would have expected a country singer, but she does this very well.  Enjoy!

3.  Oh Holy Night – Pavarotti

I love Pavarotti, God rest his generous soul!  This version is solidly operatic, exactly what you’d expect from the great Pavarotti!

2.   Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys

Definitely the most fun Christmas song, and its pure Beach Boys.  They didn’t alter their style at all.  You’ve got everything from the usual higher pitch singers blending in perfect harmony, to the low contrast that comes in with “Christmas comes this time each year” – my favorite part.

1.   Christmas Time –  The Darkness

My all-time favorite Christmas song!  This version is the music video, which really adds to it.  This band is, as the name suggests, a typical dark toned heavy metal band, but you’ll get none of that here.  The song does have some sadness to it but…well, just wait and see.  It’s beautiful!

And one more…

Christmas Time – Christina Aguilera

I’m not a huge fan of Christina Aguilera, but she is very talented when she wants to be.  She really did an excellent job here, from the Fa la la las, to the end.  The harpsichord was a nice tough too.  Well, I’m tempted to go into a rant about how she wastes her talents, but nah.  It’s Christmas!  I didn’t put this in my official top 5 list, but I just wanted to add it in because it has also been echoing through my head lately.

Small Talk – Top 5 Most Annoying Workplace Cliches

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You don’t actually want to know how I’m doing, and I don’t actually want to know the details of your life as you’re passing by.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or don’t care about you.  It’s just that we can’t have a serious conversation in the next two minutes, and I don’t care to spend two minutes reciting meaningless pleasantries.  All we’re really saying to each other is, “I acknowledge your existence” and “I acknowledge your existence, too”.

So, without further ado, here is my top five list of annoying workplace conversational clichés, in descending order from least to most annoying.

5.  “Working hard, or hardly working?” This was a little funny the first time I heard it, 20 years ago!  Now it’s just dumb.

4.  “Thank goodness it’s Friday!” For one thing, not everyone is lucky enough to have a Mon – Fri schedule these days.  Besides, is work really so bad that you count the minutes until it’s over?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t do jobs that I hate.  Don’t get me wrong, I like time off, but I don’t get any pleasure by pretending that every waking moment of work is utter agony and that going home will be like getting out of prison after a 20 year sentence.

3.  “Don’t work too hard.” If I have a lot to do, I’ll probably work harder.  If not, I won’t work so hard.  But these 4 words have been repeated for so many decades now that they’ve lost all meaning.  I think they were intended to be a joke towards someone who has an easy job.

2.  “How was your weekend?” Unless you actually want to sit down and talk about our weekends, don’t ask.  I have no interest in saying “it was fine,” and then asking you the same question just so that you can give a similar response.  I once had an interesting coworker who told me of his weekends fishing, camping, or ghost hunting.  Now that, I’ll gladly ask about.

  1.  You – “How’s it going?” Me – “Fine”  You – “Well, I’m glad that you’re fine”.  When people ask how I’m doing, I just say “fine” and leave it at that.  I’m not going to follow that with “And how are you doing?” just to hear you also say “fine”.  It’s not to be inconsiderate, but let’s be honest, you didn’t actually care how I was doing either did you?

Have any of you reading this ever tried to actually tell someone how you’re doing when they ask?  You’ll likely find they quickly exit the conversation, as they had little interest to begin with.  So I for one see no reason we can’t just say, “good morning” and “good morning”, and leave it at that.  I once worked in a building with a man who didn’t even do that.  He just nodded.  When I was trained, my coworkers told me “Oh he’s a nice man, he just isn’t much for small talk”.  For them, his morning head nod was awkward, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air.  Is there a more efficient way to acknowledge someone’s existence than with a simple head nod?  Working with him was far more pleasant than working with most people, who mean well, but really just wear my patience with superficial small talk.

Interesting Links for further thought:

Interesting article on small talk as it relates to happiness

As annoying as is small talk, this article makes a case for why it is important

An amusing blog post by someone who fears succumbing to work place small talk

Being Green – Regardless of “Global Warming”

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I honestly do not know if global warming is caused by pollution, or is part of a natural climate cycle that will eventually shift to global cooling.  I keep hearing this statistic “97% of climate scientists” believe pollution causes global warming.  That sounds scary.  However, I’ve spent enough time in academia to know that a “consensus” can develop, corner an entire field of study, and turn out to be wrong.  It’s certainly possible that “climate science” is dominated by global warming dogmatists who quickly dismiss skepticism of what they think should be a scientific law.  I am learning, however, that a growing number of respectable scientists in related fields, not specifically “climate scientists” are growing skeptical.  I’m not even going to attempt to answer the question in this blog post, but rather I will give virtually irrefutable arguments for why we should care about the environment with or without man-made global warming.

Let’s go with a top 5 list:

5.         Green technology can be more cost-effective…in time.  As oil, coal, etc. become increasingly scarce, and prices increase, our economy will need alternative sources of energy to avoid an economic depression.  Imagine if gas prices quadrupled, and electricity costs doubled?  Companies would have to raise prices on goods just to cover their overhead, and this would drastically decrease sales, and…well you see where that is going.  With more research, sources such as wind turbines, solar, and hydro are becoming less expensive.  We’re even looking into harnessing those heat traps called parking lots to turn that heat into energy!  We should encourage research and innovation for our economic future, as well as the next reasons as follows.

4.         Landfills take up space, and are hard to clean.  Plastic can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, meaning that all those plastic bottles and bags in our landfills aren’t going away for a long time.  As our population grows, we are running out of space for landfills, not to mention wasting the resources used to make plastic and other such materials.  This is why we should recycle, at least plastic and metal.  This will result in less space in landfills, and more efficient use of limited resources.

3.         We all drink water, and most of us eat fish.  Anytime a company or individual pollutes the ocean, lakes, rivers, etc. it affects us all.  I never understand my libertarian friends who criticize government efforts to reduce pollution such as this.  What gives you the right to pollute the water I drink?  Or the seafood I consume?

2.         We all breath air.  What gives anyone the right to pollute the air that we all breath?  At least with water, you could filter it, distill it, etc. and you don’t necessarily need seafood to survive.  But air?  We would suffocate without it!  The more we pollute the air, the more we hurt our overall health.  Why should I get lung cancer just because you think you have a right to spew filthy carbon into the air we all breath, just because the source is your own private property?

1.         We can’t make more oil, and we can’t make more coal.  These are “fossil fuels” taken from the earth that cannot be replaced.  In theory, once we use up all the oil…it’s gone.  It won’t be quite that bad because oil prices will likely spike so high before that happens that we’d have to switch to other sources by then.  With that said, do we want energy prices to suddenly spike, or would we rather start making the transition now while we can still do so comfortably?  Oil in particular has other uses, such as in making plastic, polyester, and much more.  Why burn it up on gas guzzlers now when we already have more fuel efficient vehicles?  I don’t care what you say…if you drive some big gas guzzler just for image, and have no practical use for it, you are selfish.  If you need a truck because you mow lawns and have lots of equipment, fine.  But don’t go driving a huge truck that gets 10 miles on the gallon just because it makes you feel like a “real man”!  Grow a pair and get a car!

In conclusion, it frustrates me to no end when environmentalists harp “global warming theory”, while opponents scoff at it.  When there are much more sensible arguments right under your nose, why go with the one that’s questionable?  To my green friends, get a grip!  Raise your game!

Top 5 Most Incompetent Republican attacks on “Obamacare”

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It’s sad when I, a Democrat (sort of) have to show Republicans how to fight their own battles.  From the very beginning of this debate over healthcare reform, I’ve been disgusted at the cheap and counterproductive attacks by mainstream Republicans on “Obamacare”.  Not because I support “Obamacare”.  I’m actually very much opposed to this, and would love for the Republicans to have formed a competent opposition.  But they failed miserably, and continue to do so.  I would therefore like to make a list of the top 5 most incompetent and counter-productive lines of attack by Republicans on “Obamacare”.

5.         Warning that this will create a new “entitlement” and a new dependent class.  I’ll admit this is not totally absurd.  However, like it or not, Americans love their entitlements, yes, even the “tea party” crowd.  Most Americans are not going to be persuaded to oppose a bill that they believe will help them to better afford healthcare.  With that said, this is NOT an entitlement, and if anything, the Republicans’ misrepresentation of this bill actually shifted public opinion in favor of it.

4.         Recent efforts to claim that it’s failing (not enough enrollment)  This completely contradicts #5 above!  You can’t have it both ways.  If you’re going to complain that this will create a large underclass of dependent health subsidy recipients, don’t also complain that not enough people are taking part in this!  There can’t be too many people, and not enough people, all at the same time!

3.         The poor health insurance companies What were they thinking?!  I don’t hear this one so much lately, but when this was still working its way through Congress, Republicans whined of how the poor insurance companies were being demonized and how they would not be able to meet the demands of “Obamacare”.

2.         Personal Fear Tactics  Whether the death panels, or Uncle Sam with a stethoscope, these claims really just made Republicans look foolish.  Furthermore, that had nothing to do with what this bill was really about – health insurance.  Even though we call it “healthcare reform”, it really has little direct effect on the actual doctors and hospitals in providing care.  It does strongly affect how they are paid, however.

1.         The Red Card!  Did it ever occur to these blistering idiots that denouncing Obamacare as “socialism”, or “government take-over of healthcare” would only make it more popular?  Don’t they realize that the potential opposition from the left, mainly progressives and even genuine socialists, are more likely to support this if they think it IS socialism?  It had the effect of reverse psychology.  By calling it “socialism”, they ensured that every Democrat who may have opposed it would rally behind it.

I could also add that Republicans took their time offering any kind of alternative, but instead, I’m going to offer the Republicans an alternative in their PR strategy.  Listen up you GOP-heads.  Here’s how it’s done.

Obamacare is the worst possible way to reform health care in this country.  It forces ordinary Americans to buy insurance from a private, for-profit company, and makes little to no effort to ensure that these private companies will actually provide health insurance that is affordable.  If health insurance is expensive now, imagine how much more expensive it will be when these greedy health insurance companies know that Americans must buy it, or else!  The last thing we should do is further empower the health insurance industry.  When Obama tells you that he’s putting you, the patient, in the driver seat, he’s telling a bold face lie.  You’re not in the driver seat.  Your elected government is not in the driver’s seat.  Nor is your doctor, or the nurses, or even the CEO’s of the hospitals.  No!  A greedy CEO of a health insurance company is in the driver seat, and the only way to kick him out is to pay more taxes!

There, you FOX news addicted, red bating, incompetent “party of no”.  That’s how it’s done.  And if you had taken that line, I guarantee, a good chunk of the Democratic Progressive Caucus would have joined you in opposition.  I know they’re strange bed-fellows, but hey, it would have worked.  But thanks to your tired Cold War leftovers, we’re stuck with “Obamacare” now.

P.S. and one more thing, stop calling everything you are against “socialism”.