Friday, October 20, 2017


Regulations is a dirty word for Republicans, (nearly) all Republicans.

What is a regulation?  A regulation is no more than a law that affects corporations and other artificial entities rather than individual human beings.  A law constrains or compels the behavior of individual human beings whereas a regulation constrains or compels the behavior of corporations and other artificial entities.

Then what’s the fuss?  Republicans believe that corporations will police themselves and behave honorably without regulation, without rules crafted by the government.  They believe that complying with regulations costs businesses money better spent on serving the needs of consumers.  This is undoubtedly true much of the time, but it is not true all of the time.  We have laws against murder not because most people would commit the act, but because a few will.  We don’t believe that a law will necessarily prevent all people from committing murder, but we do believe that we should punish someone who does commit murder.  Even if the law fails to prevent other murders.  We have standards of right and wrong, and sometimes it is in society’s interest to impose its will on everyone.  Sometimes.  By a law, by a regulation.

Surely there are regulations that do more harm than good.  Sometimes they harm a corporation at the expense of a public good.  The harm and the good ought to be weighed to see what outweighs what.  Sometimes a regulation harms some corporations at the expense of doing good for other corporations.  Large corporations are often the real sponsor for some awful regulations that do them good while doing harm to potential competitors, especially new or small competitors.  As long as we are not a real democracy, money will always rule.  Sometimes there are regulations that no longer serve anyone, or serve a few who don’t need the help; sometimes a regulation just does harm.  We should repeal those regulations, of course.

As in so many of my posts, people are swayed by slogans rather than spending brain power thinking about the question.  The word itself – regulations – has become a slogan; Republicans salivate when they hear the word, and Democrats cringe.  The solution, of course, is hard; we have to think about it, we must think about each regulation to see if it deserves to survive.  And we need to think about innovations and decide if they need a little regulation.  A state without regulation is a state without laws.  Some Libertarians think this is a good idea, but they don’t live in the real world.

In a working democracy, those who favor a regulation should be forced to debate those who oppose it, and in public.  If the people don’t weigh in on what they find true and just, money will do that job for them.  In a democracy, the people get the government that they deserve!

P.S.  There is a real sense where regulations are what Republicans claim: when they are unnecessarily burdensome.  Not when they prohibit some unlawful act, but when they compel compliance, especially paperwork.  The graphic above makes the case quite well, with ... slogans.  Government regulations originated in a world where government wanted to constrain bad corporate behavior.  Today, much regulation is just generates ... unfinished...  But, again, we should not condemn all regulation; we need to know what it is before we pass judgment.

not ready for primetime.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Václav Havel's Speech to U.S. Congress

Jeff Flake mentions this speech in his new book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.  I think it warrants being re-printed and read.
Dear Mr. President, dear senators and members of the House, ladies and gentlemen:
My advisers advised me to speak on this important occasion in Czech. I don't know why. Perhaps they wanted you to enjoy the sweet sounds of my mother tongue.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

White Collar Crime

Think Equifax and Wells Fargo.

Millions of American people were compromised, tens or hundreds of thousands were inconvenienced, and thousands were damaged beyond repair.

When a poor man steals an apple from a grocery stand, he earns himself a month in prison.  When an addict gets caught with the goods (cocaine, marijuana), in some states he is locked up and they throw away the key.  When a corporate big shot gets caught in a national scandal affecting millions of people, he may resign, but he still receives his golden parachute and he doesn’t forfeit any of his ill-gotten wealth.  And he never goes to prison (two Enron officials excepted).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas Shooting

I’ll be brief.

One more massacre on American soil, committed by a crazy man with an automatic weapon.  But he may not have been crazy until he went crazy (we don’t know his story yet).

The Second Amendment reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Many Constitutional “experts” like to disregard the first thirteen words, a dependent clause.  I am NOT arguing that the people should NOT have the right of armed self-defense (against a neighbor, not a foreign military power), but I am

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Repeal and Replace

Repeal and Replace (especially replace) has proved so damn difficult, nay impossible, for a really simple reason.   Because, if ever Republicans had wanted to provide “health care for all,” they would have designed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA, aka Obamacare.  And I say this not merely because Obama liked to say that it was a copy of Massachusetts’ Romney Care, but because Obamacare is really Republican thinking.

Does any real Democrat like Obamacare?  No, only elected Democrats in Washington, DC and they have their reasons.  REAL Democrats all prefer Single-Payer Medicare-for-All.  The government is the insurer, not private industry.  And everyone is covered and paid for by the taxes we pay.  Simple.  But not Republican thinking.  No, Obamacare’s true beneficiaries are private health insurance companies and Big Pharma; what a Republican Congress and White House would have designed.

It is the nature of politics that if the Democrats in power legislate Republican thinking, that particular Republican thinking changes its label to Democratic thinking.  Real students of politics, like yours truly, have always to keep on our toes for how one policy and another switches labels for no damn good reason other than … well … politics!

Good Luck to the Republicans, figuring how to replace what they would have designed themselves, with something even more … Republican.  The best they can do is to accept some Democratic thinking, call it their own – and re-label it Republican!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

On Capital Punishment

As a truly independent thinker, I tend to come down on the side of liberalism more often than on the side of conservatism because the conservative side often seems rigid and uncompromising whereas the liberal side seems more flexible and tolerant.  For example, abortion: conservatives say no abortion from the moment of conception, not three months into a pregnancy, not a week, not a day, not ten minutes, but the exact moment of conception.  I recognize that if a soul is born in that instant then it must be protected from that instant.  Nevertheless, …   Another example, capital punishment.  Conservatives approve it while liberals do not (for the most part).  There is something pretty absolute and final about a death sentence.  I recognize that they believe in an-eye-for-an-eye justice but once again, it is pretty intolerant.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tax Reform

As I am not running for office, I can tell the truth: we need to collect more tax revenue.  Why?  So that our National Debt doesn’t reach Mars before we do.  No politician ever won an election saying that he wants to raise your taxes, even though it is what we must do (and in your mind, if not your heart, you know I speak the truth).  But I am not running for office.  So, here goes nothing.

It is the case that in the last 15 years, the federal government has run deficits, not surpluses, in every year.  It is the case that in the last 47 years, the federal government has run deficits in all but 4 years (so, 91% of the time).  It is the case that since 1952, in the last 64 years, the federal government has run deficits in all but 7 of those years (so, 89% of the time).  We are addicted to deficits because we don’t want to pay for what we want to have, but we never elect anyone who wants to raise our taxes so that we could pay for what we want.