Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama's anti-Reagan voice

I finally got a chance to watch Obama's inaugural address (I've been out of town on business).  I thought it was a good presentation of his basic beliefs and desires and approach to his presidency.  There is no doubt but that it is a solid declaration of today's liberalism, in much the same way that Reagan spoke clearly of his conservative beliefs and desires and approach to his presidency.  Obama made a clean break from the old Reagan era with a pretty clean expression of his philosophy.

Reagan spoke out for the freeing of the individual and against the constrictions of an overbearing government.  Obama spoke out for focusing the constructive powers of the government to assist and improve the lives of its individuals.

Obama spoke of the power of working together as opposed to insisting that each must do all that is needed alone.  He spoke of the beneficial role that a national government can do to lift the country and its people into a better life.  He offered America's embrace of women, minorities, gays, and immigrants.  

Mostly, what I noticed is that Obama got his voice back.  The voice of Obama on the campaign trail of 2008 pretty much disappeared in his first term.  It looks to me like he has re-grounded himself in his basic beliefs and reasons for his political career. 

Reagan was a move away from over-reliance on government and toward individual responsibility and opportunity. I still believe that was the needed move for the country at that time.  Reagan said that the government was the problem, not the solution.

Obama is a move away from over-reliance on individual capabilities and toward government support and empowerment.  Obama says the government is a necessary part of the solutions, and we can't do it alone.  I believe that Obama's message is the needed move for the country at this time. 

If the Republicans get stuck in avid opposition and attempt a return to Reaganism, I believe that they will more and more marginalize themselves because their solutions are for an obsolete time.  The world of today is not the over-regulated, over-taxed, over-protected world that Reagan changed.  It is time for the Republicans to realize that they don't have to make the Reagan changes to America, Reagan already did that.  

It is now time for the Obama changes to be implemented as a response to an under-regultated, under-taxed, under-protected world left to him by the Reagan legacy.  

This should be a pretty interesting next four years.  I look forward to it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New York passes a law against spray guns, with tougher health care standards

New York has just passed a gun and mental health bill that seems to make a lot of sense to me.  New York is a liberal state, dominated by a huge city, of course, so it is the place most likely to be for limiting the kinds of weapons that are legal.

Apparently, the new gun laws include outlawing assault weapons, broadening the definition of assault weapons, banning semi-automatic weapons with detachable magazines “and one military-style feature" (whatever that means), banning any gun magazine that can hold over 7 rounds, requiring background checks of gun buyers and ammunition buyers, automated alerts to law enforcement of high-volume purchases, background checks for “most private gun sales”, and a statewide gun-registration data base.  (I would hope there will eventually be a nationwide gun-registration data base)

To me, these laws do not violate an individual’s second amendment rights.  I believe in the second amendment, but I do not believe that the second amendment authorizes the citizenry to be armed with military weapons of mass killing.  Guns – yes - bazookas, tanks, grenades, flame throwers, anti-aircraft weapons, and spray guns – no.

I used to be opposed to most gun control. The two main arguments that used to be persuasive to me about gun control were:  first, outlawing spray guns will have no effect on what weapons the criminals will use, and second, individuals need spray guns to protect them against a tyrannical government.

These arguments no longer are persuasive to me.

First, concerning the inability of laws to keep spray guns out of the hands of the criminals.  So, what?  If only criminals have spray guns, they clearly identify themselves by their weapons and should be guaranteed a minimum of 25 years to life just for the fact of possessing such weapons, especially if used in the commission of a crime.  The best way to clear the streets of hardened criminals is to clearly identify them by their behavior, and if using a spray gun becomes a definition of criminal behavior, that becomes sufficient evidence for extreme incarceration, regardless of the rest of the charges and evidence of the crime involved.  The "Three Strikes" laws tried to get the hard core criminals off the streets; spray gun laws could do that very thing. Plus, citizens that think they stand a chance with their spray guns against practiced criminals with their spray guns are living in a fantasy world of macho bravado reinforced by watching movies where smart and tough good guys mow down dozens of dumb and incompetent bad guys.

Second, concerning needing spray guns to protect yourself against a tyrannical government out to get you.  This seems to me to be paranoia more than anything else.   There is a very strange, very paranoid strand of thought amongst the right wing extremes that the U.S. government is evil and tyrannical and that individuals need to arm themselves to the teeth to defend themselves.  First, the government isn't evil or tyrannical in America, even if they do some things that some individuals don't like. What is the fear? that Obama's jack booted military are going to come pounding on your door at 2 AM and force you to sign up for a government sanctioned health care insurance plan?  And besides, if the government of the United States actually decides to come after you, your only defense is to be the government of Russia or Germany, and even they eventually were conquered. A spray gun isn't going to help.

I say the most likely scenarios for law abiding citizens with spray guns are that civilians will hesitate for just a moment before pulling the trigger (and be  shot out of self defense by the bad guy looking at the barrel of a spray gun), or civilians will act irrationally and impulsively in a fit of rage and use the spray guns against loved ones, friends, neighbors, people they hate, and strangers that send them off, i.e. the citizens become the bad guys just long enough to destroy others and themselves.

Just as importantly, New York also is instituting new laws regarding mental illness and guns, including requiring mental health professionals to report those they believe to be a dangerous to mental health officials, expanding “Kendra’s Law” empowering judges to order mentally ill patients to seek outpatient treatment (too bad they didn’t go the next step and allow judges to order violently mentally ill patients to be institutionalized for inpatient treatment).

The weapons industry will object, of course, because apparently sales are their only objectives in life.  Sad lives, indeed, it seems to me.

The mental health professionals will object out of fear of losing clients who would fear being turned in for violent proclivities.

These laws won’t stop all the crazy people from getting spray guns and massacring children and other innocents.  So what?  These laws will reduce the ease and likelihood of these pathetic events happening.  These laws can  improve the situation. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The new Ike?

Obama's latest cabinet choices are giving us a pretty clear indication of his vision for his second term. Kerry for Secretary of State shows a low key approach with a lot of private diplomacy, without a lot of headlines and grandstanding.  Hagel as Secretary of Defense shows a desire to cut back military excess and a commitment to be very reluctant to send troops into battle. Brennan at the CIA shows he wants to return that agency back into a more intelligence focused power with less paramilitary force. And Lew as Secretary of the Treasury pretty well keeps the status quo in the financial system with no intent for major reforms.

No-drama-Obama is stepping forward. The more extreme conservatives will fight him as hard as they can, of course, but under what circumstances wouldn't they?  I expect that their biggest fight will be against Hagel because they oppose any reduction in military spending. But, the irony is that Hagel's hero is the great Republican president, Eisenhower, who dramatically reduced the size of the military against fierce opposition from the generals, who did not scare Ike, and who did everything in his power to prevent the sending of troops off to wars, which he knew from deep personal experience never work out as planned.

It seems to me that Obama's approach in his upcoming term is very much like Ike's - increase back door diplomacy, limit military dominance over foreign policy, and do his best not to rock the economic ship.

Sounds something like Ike's America. We could do a lot worse.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Majority of the Majority rule broken in the House of Representatives

The good news is that both the Senate and the House voted to raise taxes and avoid the catastrophic fiscal cliff that was threatening the economy.  The stock market showed its relief by jumping over 300 points.  

The better news is that House Speaker Boehner put the vote to the floor of the House by breaking the "majority of the majority" unwritten rule, that is, he put it up for the entire House to vote even though the majority of Republicans opposed it.  Only 85 of 240 Republicans voted to raise the needed taxes.  The House voted 257 to 167 in favor of the bill, and it passed easily.

Breaking the dictatorial, uncompromising fanaticism of the Rigid Right was a big step toward a functioning government.

Now, we need to have our government do some serious work on spending cuts, including the preposterously bloated military budget as well as obvious Social Security and Medicare reforms, such as later retirement ages and means' testing.

We still have an overwhelming and dangerous deficit in this country, and it has always been obvious to me that we have to both raise taxes and cut spending.  The tax raising happened a little bit, more would have been better as far as I'm concerned, I think that taxes on everyone should go up a couple of percentage points, but that may be a fight for a later day.  So, more cutting and taxing should be in the future, but I'm happy with this modest but essential victory for common sense government that happened today.

In the best of all worlds, gerrymandering reform will sweep through the states and take away the power of politicians to create bizarrely shaped districts that guarantee safe seats for House members, which results in ever more extreme versions of Republicans and Democrats who end up not even existing on the same planet let alone existing in a deliberative body designed to find compromise, make deals, and stumble clumsily toward creating legislation and governing the country. Democrats got more total votes than Republicans in the recent 2012 election, but the gerrymandering still gave the Republicans control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin.  Something is wrong with that picture.

In the even better of all worlds, the voters of this country will finally realize that we can't demand a Rolls Royce government and be willing to only pay for a Ford Fiesta government.