Last night, I posted what I believed to be an innocuous (though admittedly negative) tweet about conservatives. I wrote "This Independence Day, we should pause and reflect that in 1776, conservatives wore red coats and would have hanged the founders of America." Shortly thereafter, a gentleman named Ryan Hamilton replied, "false. Conservatives were rallying around Edmond Burke to protect traditional rights from royal infringement."

After exchanging a few cordial tweets, I proposed making my argument in a blog post to which he could reply. I thought this better than trying to debate via 140 character tweets. He agreed, and so now I write.

Since the days when I first taught political and social philosophy, I have admired Edmond Burke, and my first instinct was to argue that he was not a conservative, but a classical liberal. However, Burke ws so good and his reasoning so balanced that for more than 2000 years, both conservatives and liberals have sought to claim him (which I believe illustrates that in more tolerant times, the labels weren't nearly as polarizing as they are today.) Furthermore, I doubt that a hyper-intellectualized parsing of the historical evolution of the labels "conservative" and "liberal" would do anything but put unfortunate readers to sleep (I'm already nodding off just thinking about it). So how can I justify my assertion that today's Tea Party conservatives are the ideological descendants of those American colonists who backed King George and denounced the patriots?

Although today's Tea Party presumably named itself after the Boston Tea Party, the original was a protest against a tea tax, imposed by the British Parliament, without the consent of the colonists, for the benefit of British trading corporations. Today's Tea Party protests taxation, but the taxes to which they object are imposed by their own elected representatives (albeit not the ones they voted for, but they do get to vote), and the taxes to which they object the most are the ones used for the benefit of the poorest of the poor. The bulk of government expenditures today do, in fact, benefit corporations and the richest of the rich, but today's Tea Party seems to applaud transfer payments from the 99% to the 1%.

In 1776, the government of George III took wealth from the colonists, without their consent, and transferred it to London based corporations that grew fat and rich from the labor of the colonials. Those who objected to this practice rebelled and were called Patriots; those who approved, supported the Crown, Today, those who object to the ongoing transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to corporations, banks and brokerage houses are called "Progressives" or "Liberals". Those who support the continuation and expansion of transfer payments to the very rich call themselves "Conservatives". This is why I believe that the spiritual ancestors of today's conservatives would have worn red coats and called for the blood of our founding fathers.

In reading History, I find there are times and circumstances which compel me to agree with the judgment of those calling themselves conservatives. But whether or not I agree with what they had to say, for the most part, conservatives throughout history have been honorable men and women who loved their countries. I cannot say the same for today's "Program Conservatives". Their leaders are nothing but thugs and shills for greedy billionaires who want an ever bigger share of the pie. 

I don't really know whether it is more appropriate to call Edmond Burke a conservative or a liberal of the 18th century, but I believe that if he were alive today, he would align himself with the progressives. And so I stand by my claim that in 1776, the conservatives (had there been Tea Party Program Conservatives in 1776) would have worn red coats and would gladly have hanged our founding fathers.   

Tomorrow, June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States will let the rest of us in on it's secret, the fate of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Although I have to admit that my opinion of how the Justices will rule is no better than anyone else's, as a statistician and retired attorney, I really would like to make my predictions publicly. If I am right, I am an astute analyst and brilliant political prognosticator; if I am wrong . . . then  I suppose I could delete this post and pretend it never happened . . . but I won't. So here are my thoughts on S.C.O.T.U.S. and the A.C.A.

Legal Opinion: I personally believe the ACA is constitutional and should be upheld. The most controversial component, the individual mandate, is no different than the mandate that we all contribute to social security or from the state laws requiring that we purchase automobile insurance. And so, if the case were to be decided on strictly legal grounds, it would almost certainly be upheld. (18 of 21 legal experts surveyed agree). Unfortunately, several of the Justices are more inclned to rule based on partisan politics, and so the legal arguments are more or less irrelevant

Practical Analysis: Of the nine Justices, the most predictable is Antonin Scalia. He always rules based on his extreme right-wing ideology and never worries about the law, logic or precedent. I predict that he will vote against A.C.A. Justice Samuel Alito (sometimes called Scalito for his almost absolute deference to Scalia, will follow suite. To round out the tea party triumvirate, Justice Clarence Thomas (who hasn't had an original thought since he's been on the bench) will do whatever Justice Scalia tells him to do. Hence, we have three almost sure votes to overturn A.C.A.

On the other side of the issue, we have Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. In my opinion, they will follow the Constitution and vote to uphold the law, even though the tea party will say they are knee-jerk liberals. Since I am a private citizen, I am allowed to have a bias and so I agree with the position of the righteous four.

This leaves two swing votes, Justice Anthony Kenneday and Chief Justice John Roberts. Justice Kennedy sometimes votes with the liberal justices, but more often, at least of late, with the conservatives. Chief Justice Roberts is conservative and usually sides with the three, but generally tries to apply the constitution, and if he can't swallow the illogic of Scalia, Alito and Thomas, sometimes breaks ranks. Judging from their past records, I would guess that at least one of them will vote to strike down the individual mandate, and I would give a 50/50 chance that both will. However, I think it very unlikely that both will strike down the entire A.C.A.

So I guess that concludes my prediction: I believe there is a 50/50 chance that the individual mandate will be upheld/struck down and a very small chance that the entire A.C.A. will be scrapped. But most likely, most of the A.C.A. will be upheld. I know, I hedged my bets with odds, I am both a statistician and a lawyer after all. 
On Monday, the United States Supreme Court overturned most of S.B.1070, an Arizona law targeting undocumented aliens. Although I wish the Court had struck down the entire Act, for the most part, S.C.O.T.U.S.did a pretty good job on this decision. However, in reading his dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a tirade against President Obama and on a number of matters completely unrelated to the matter before the Court. As a retired attorney, I was appalled at Justice Scalia's complete lack of professionalism and total disregard for the standards of judicial conduct,In this instance, Mr Scalia (I choose to deny him the judicial honorific where it is undeserved) exhibited a total lack of class and an even greater lack of good judgment. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life. Nonetheless, this does not give them license to through partisan temper tantrums in public.

On Thursday, the Court will release its decision on the Affordable Care Act, and I have no doubt which way Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas will vote. I totally disagree with their partisan bias, but I am more concerned that Clarence Thomas is voting at all. On the SB 1070 issue, Justice Kagan had the good grace to recuse herself from the case because she had worked on it as President Obama's Solicitor General. However, Justice Thomas has an even more serious conflict of interest . . . his wife has earned more than $150,000 from a lobbying group opposing A.C.A. In response to demands that Thomas recuse himself, conservatives have demanded that Justice Kagan recuse herself because she was appointed by President Obama. The circumstances of the two Justices are hardly comparable. Clarence Thomas' family profited handsomely from opposing the health care law. He should not be allowed to sit in judgment of its constitutionality And yet once again, a conservative Supreme Court Justice puts himself above ethics and propriety, because having a lifetime appointment, he can get away with it.

The conservatives on the Court are out of control. They seem to think they are above the law. In doing so, they are destroying the confidence of Americans in one of our  

It's nice to know that Twitter has become so powerful. It might even give progressives a way to counter some of the huge donations the right-wing PACs are getting from millionaires and corporations. But now that we know that the power is there, what do we do with it? I don't know that debating endlessly with RWNJs is a profitable use of time (except, perhaps for the amusement value), and trading pro-Obama and anti-Romney tweets with one another may fire up the base, but I'm not sure it expands it. This election won't be decided by the progressive base and it won't be decided by the RWNJs. It will be decided by the independents, and the only way to sway them with the power of Twitter is to get them tweeing and to get them following reliable sources of information. Easily said, but not so easily done. Any ideas? If you know any independents, get them to tweet.
So the news media is now reporting that Twitter is as powerful as the news. If it is true, I am glad, since it gives us all a real voice. However, if it is true, I also fear that the 1% will try to overwhelm us with meaningless Twaddle (pointless Tweets). Will they pay shills to undermine what legitimate and passionate activists have achieved?

That Twitter has become powerful is wonderful. To prevent that power from being subverted, we must remain vigilent. But I have faith in my fellow Tweeters, and I have faith that all of the billions the 1% is spending to silence us will be in vain. I am ever the optimist.

This morning, I ran into a Republican friend of mine (yes, I have a few Republican friends) and posed to him the question of my last post, "Where are the jobs?" He acknowledged that corporate profits are up and that the JOB CREATOR class is not sufferring the way the rest of us are, but his response was, "Why should they invest and create jobs so long as (President) Obama is in office?" Excuse me? Are the Republicans deliberately keeping the unemployment rate high and the economy in recession just to make President Obama look bad? I've thought this was the case since the day the President took office, but I am amazed that rank and file Republicans admit to it without embarrassment.

If the Republican party is deliberately undermining the American economy for partisan, political reasons (and I believe that they are), then they are guily of treason and should be prosecuted. They are economic terrorists, plain and simple.

First of all, I want to say that I got the idea for this post from a young lady with the handle @Path2Enlightenment on Twitter. It was her insight, not mine, but it was so good I had to elaborate.

The Republicans seem to be attacking President Obama on a daily basis for slow job growth. They ignore the fact that the last Republican administration presided over a precipitous drop in employment (their memories are woefully short) and insist that they could do better.But wait . . . it is a central tenet of right-wing slash & cut economics that except for cutting taxes on the rich, putting money in the hands of "JOB CREATORS" there is nothing the government can do to create jobs . . . but wait, President Obama compromised and extended the billionaire tax breaks, and although much of the country is struggling, corporations and the 1% are not. It may not have been the best choice of words, but President Obama was right when he said that the private sector was doing fine . . . at least the people who OWN the private sector . . . they're rolling in profits. So here's my question . . . If the JOB CREATORS can produce job growth, if only we let them amass more and more millions, and since we have, in fact, watched them amass not only millions, but billions while the rest of us struggle, then where are all the jobs the JOB CREATORS are supposed to be creating? Banks are hoarding obscene amounts of money. Bankers are receiving obscene salaries and bonuses. The Republicans refuse to let Mr. Obama create jobs with his jobs bill. And yet, the JOB CREATORS sit back, hoard their wealth, but create no jobs.

The rhetoric of the right is full of holes.
In discussing the recession, I keep hearing an argument that I call the "Household Budget Analogy," cited  as justifications for the Republican obsession with cutting budgets. In essence, the analogy likens our national economy to the domestic budget of a single household. When times are good, the argument goes, a household can enjoy the good times. When times are bad, we all have to tighten our belts and live within our means. By analogy, when times are bad for the country, we should tighten our collective belts, cut the deficit, live within our means, wait for the recovery to come and all will be well with the world.

The analogy is very homey and easy to swallow, but as persuasive as it may be, 1) it's only an analogy and 2) the analogy is based on a myth.

Even at the individual household level, when times get rough, we don't just tighten our belts, reduce our spending and wait for things to get better. Instead, most of us roll up our sleeves, assess our alternatives and look for ways to make things better. Sometimes, that means working harder and sometimes it means taking on debt to get through the rough patch. But, we rarely say, "I dont have the money so I won't feed and clothe my children," and it certainly doesn't mean that we happily embrace homelessness. Many children (far too many) go hungry many of our citizens are homeless, but few go down that road voluntarily. 

On the national level, austerity economics is not just wrong, it is insanity.It is particularly insane when our elected officials put corporate profits and tax breaks for billionaires before educating our children and keeping our streets safe.

So how should the "Household Budget Analogy" really go? When times are bad, we do whatever it takes to take care of our families . . . to feed and clothe our children and to keep a roof over their heads. To keep them in school so that they will have a future and to keep them safe from harm. By analogy, when times are hard for us as a nation, we should make sure that the poorest of our citizens are fed and housed. We should make sure that our schools stay open and that they are adequately funded. We should make sure that our streets are safe. That's what we do at a household level, and that's what we should do as a nation.


    My name is Richard Bullock. I practiced law in Illinois until I retired and moved to the southwest in 2002. I currently teach mathematics in Bullhead City, AZ and live with my wife (also a teacher) in Laughlin, NV.


    July 2012
    June 2012