CategoryPolitics

Constantly Disappointed

For the past 5-6 years, I think we have been constantly living in a sense of disappointment. Perhaps the big financial crash scarred us and made us skeptical of everything around us even when things started to finally look up. The social media tools of quick feedback and need to comment on every issue you hear about often relied more on negativism. The tweets that bash people or make condescending puns tend to get retweeted more and hence subsequently get tweeted more. I’ve been guilty of this but over time, I realized the constant barrage of negativity around me. Part of the reason I stopped blogging as frequently was also because most of the posts we read during the heydays of blogging involved critical analysis, more often not constructive. So I decided to make a conscious effort of not doing that. The IIPM saga also hardened the cynic in me that nothing ever changes.

Among all the things we are constantly disappointed with, I think Obama’s presidency has to rank right at the top. More often than not, the right’s implication that he was considered a messiah by the left rings true. Things he never said or promised are often attributed to him e.g. ending all wars and waging none. What is easily forgotten that he in fact supported right until he got elected, the “good” war in Afghanistan. The drone warfare as illegitimate as it sounds is done with the complicity of the Pakistani and Yemeni governments (hence you don’t see drone strikes in Germany or India) and often result in a far fewer accidental civilian deaths. This is in no way a defense of the drone strikes. It should be subject to Congressional oversight and all legalities of conducting such strikes should be tested by the federal if not the Supreme Court; checks-n-balances and all that jazz.

However, this post tries to focus on the latest disappointment in the Obama presidency. I may often come across as an Obama apologist but this charge often comes from people who are more than willing to overlook the consequences of having the other side in charge [1] The rollout for Obamacare hasn’t been exactly smooth and the primary website where people can enroll has suffered from numerous technical glitches. If you use the relative scale, ten years ago, we couldn’t find WMDs that we were told existed before we invaded a Middle East country that cost thousands of American lives and countless civilian lives. Today, we have a slow website that can and is being fixed.

Obama clearly erred when he promised that no one would lose their existing insurance plans although such plans clearly are not up to the mark. He should’ve apologized and he did [2]. It’s like letting people drive around in cars without seat belts and unusually low emissions standards. The insurance companies have been conning people into a sense of complacency by offering junk plans and denying people benefits when it came time to pay for healthcare. How bad are these plans? Here’s one example:

Under her current junk plan, she would probably receive no more than a few hundred dollars of benefits for doctor visits and drugs. It wouldn’t cover her surgery, her chemotherapy, her many expensive medications, or the repeated diagnostic tests she’d likely require. She would end up with probably $119,000 of unpaid medical bills. With the Humana plan [from Healthcare.gov), those bills top out at $6,300 a year, no matter what.

The law addresses such plans but yup, Obama should’ve qualified his statements which I admit don’t make for good soundbites in a fast-paced media world of today. I’m no health policy wonk but the least the White House can do right now, is to let those people keep their plans (grandfathered-in) for the next three years but prevent insurance companies from offering them to new customers. The Landrieu Bill in the Senate, I believe fixes this while requiring insurance companies to also offer the higher priced alternatives and showing the additional benefits offered under them. But then, in my opinion, this would be the wrong policy choice. The overall negative impact is far worse than having to eat crow and admit you misspoke or lied earlier. But then again, there’s the reality to consider:

The other issue is that of the slow and sometimes non-responsive website. I believe that it won’t be fixed in time before the end of this month and while that is unacceptable, penalties if you don’t get insurance don’t kick in until March 31, 2014. Latest numbers suggested that nearly 500,000 have at least filled out an application but have not bought a plan. I guess they are waiting until they have to since coverage will not begin until Jan 1, 2014 anyway. But it’s a far cry from the single digit enrollments that media reported happened on the first day.

On the other side, I can totally relate with the problems experienced in launching a website that will contain information from multiple sources and be useful to all. Because I’ve been doing exactly that for the past few months. However, my task was a millionth times as small as the Healthcare.gov website but it gave me an in-depth understanding of how state procurement even for technical services worked and I suppose the federal one is even more convoluted. The state agency originally tasked with contracting out the development was restricted in the choice of vendors it could seek out. It could, by law, only select from the vendors in its database and the program manager had nothing to go by in the list apart from names of the vendors and she had to pick ten at random without even knowing if they were capable of developing what we wanted. Clearly this was a sub-optimal solution so the process of contracting a vendor fell to our office and we could reach out to many more people, lay out specific requirements, and eventually select a private development company after an exhaustive search that included an on-site demonstration.

In our example, we had to design the system such that it could accept data from four different data systems from our sites and yet be flexible enough to handle additional fields that we could factor in for research. People often told us one thing about their systems and the data they had and it turned out to be completely different when they eventually delivered the data. Luckily we could go back and redesign the interface to handle such inconsistencies. From what I understand, the Healthcare.gov directly connects to 50 state exchanges that have been developed independent of each other and may be subject to different requirements. To top it, it contained health data so was subject to HIPAA regulations that made it doubly complicated. Further, this development and testing was happening just as the other party was willing to shut down the government in order to defund the law that administered this venture. It would have been a massive surprise if everything worked perfectly from the start.

So as much as disappointed we want to be in our state of affairs, it’s always useful to place things in context and view it relatively. Of course, we should complain but to argue that we would be better off than what we are doing right now just makes me dismiss you entirely. Changes to the status quo may hamper one party’s political future but to use that to convince the otherwise-sensible among us that we are doomed is downright evil. And it’s sad that people are willing to outrightly dismiss the efforts rather than rolling up their sleeves and saying, ok lets fix this thing and get it going.

Footnotes:
  1. They say, politics is about choosing between the lesser of the two evils so your choice is always relative. You have to constantly think about, ok, I don’t like this guy but then whom would I rather have in his place? []
  2. Remember when Bush apologized for the Iraq war? Yeah, neither can I []

Futile Efforts: Immigration Reform

There was much hope and optimism for a comprehensive immigration reform after Mitt Romney got romped in the Presidential elections. Republicans including the usual nut jobs like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly were coming to terms with the fact that they might have to reach out to the Hispanics. So the sense of hope for a solution wasn’t misplaced. But I was always a bit skeptical since the bill that tried to eliminate per-country quota died in the Senate, thanks to Chuck Grassley’s hold.

After months of negotiating and amendments, the Senate finally passed a bill that addressed most of the concerns from the perspective of skilled immigrants and the undocumented immigrants. It passed with a 67-23 vote that counts as overwhelmingly bipartisan in these frustrating times. All 23 No votes however came from Republicans. The bill then moved to the House that has a Republican majority. The House right now is practically defunct with even the usually bipartisan Farm Bill failing a vote. A bill to repeal Obamacare has been voted on 37 times and so have other bills on abortion and gay marriage. However, due to some strange machinations in the background, the Republicans now feel that they no longer have to court the Hispanic vote but in fact have to only convince more whites to vote for them. How is that a genuine long-term strategy is beyond me. Not all whites are racist conservative ideologues. Heck, even gay marriage enjoys majority support now across all race and ethnicities. In fact, even among the GOP representatives in the House, nearly 50% support immigration reform.

So why will the immigration bill fail if nearly all Democrats who hold 201 votes and 50% of Republicans who hold 234 votes support the bill? By simple math, that makes up nearly 300 votes and you need only 218 to pass a bill. Well, in a rational and logical democracy that would be the case. Not in a dysfunctional chaos that is now the U.S. Congress for whom denying Obama any legislative progress or modicum of governing is the goal. The bill will only get a vote if the Speaker brings it to the floor and he says, he won’t bring it to the floor unless a majority of Republicans support it. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. He invokes a bizzarro rule called the Hastert Rule that is some kinda unwritten rule that a bill should have the majority of the majority party in favor.

If you really want to trace back the origin of the rot, it is not just the irrational hatred for Obama but the political process that makes such hatred potent. Gerrymandering, or using your party’s whims on redrawing the Congressional Districts is mostly to blame for this impasse. Any student of political science will tell you that the primary goal of an elected official is not to influence public policy or public service but simply to get reelected. Even the ones with noble intentions offer this excuse that in order to do good work, they’ve to be first reelected. Soon that goal becomes and end in itself. Congressmen smartly redraw the Congressional boundaries to ensure their victory so as not to rely on voters whims. Nearly 85% of Congressmen are elected from such districts. It’s only the other 15% that result in any turnover so you can imagine most Congressmen have lived in Washington forever. When you redraw the districts to suit your purpose, you can safely exclude people from other races and ethnicities that you know will not vote for you. You can then safely bash them and say the most racist things without any consequence. There are districts that are 95% white and with as much segregation that exists in this country, it is nearly impossible to exclude minorities unless you draw boundaries that shamelessly exclude them.

Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this though. It doesn’t help to have a black or Hispanic-dominated districts because of course, the Congressman will protect their interest. The real skill in politics should be striking a balance and looking after the interests of all people in your constituency. So in terms of this immigration bill, you have Congressmen like Louie Gohmert from Texas and Peter King from Iowa saying the most outrageously racist things but they don’t have to fear any electoral consequences because they come from dominant white and conservative districts that in fact, like them saying such things. Add up such Congressmen and they make up enough to create noise to derail sensible bipartisan legislation. And guess what, this gerrymandering is perfectly legal and constitutional.

Even god cannot help this country in face of such tiring circumstances.

Liberal Media

The most brilliant strategy employed by conservatives in recent times can be encapsulated in two words – liberal media. These two words when uttered by themselves are enough to rile up the base and explain away all inconsistencies or even factual errors. The idea is rooted in the mentality that conservatives are victims that are not given their due or their interests not represented by a media that is inherently liberal [1].

So what makes them liberal? Well, it turns out that, most people involved in the media trade are or at least used to be liberal or vote liberal so ergo, the media is liberal. This line of thought assumes that a person’s political behavior or beliefs naturally influences that person’s professional work even if it is proven time and time again that it is not the case. Professionals are called that because they are trained to separate their personal beliefs from the work they do. No doctor is going to refuse treatment to a conservative patient because he is liberal, no liberal fireman will delay putting out the fires in homes where conservatives live, and nor will a liberal hair stylist refuse to cut the hair of a person who wears a McCain/Palin button. So why do conservatives fear that the media people who might vote liberal lean liberal in their profession?

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Footnotes:
  1. I’m using the terms liberals and conservatives here to represent the average politician of either beliefs. Things may have been much better in the recent past or may be better in the near future but as things stand, this is closer to the truth, in my opinion. []

Opposition? What opposition?

Putting a price on carbon, however, is a concept the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress indefinitely postponed all the way back in 2009. Such a step would have imposed costs on voters, and in bad economic times, the politicians flinched [emphasis mine].

[Source: National Post]

President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline based on environmental concerns. While I agree with Frum’s basic point that putting a price on carbon-based fuels will offer disincentives to the consumer helping us move away from fossil fuels. But the hypocrisy in the above excerpted quote is glaring. So the Democrats and the Obama administration punted on the decision to implement cap-n-trade in 2009. Just as the government offers subsidies to encourage use of a particular technology (solar, wind, etc.), it also taxes the technology it prefers the public doesn’t use. In fact, I prefer the latter to the former because it lets the market free to decide on the alternative rather than the government deciding what we should be using. By taxing, it sends a signal that it prefers we rather not use carbon-based fuels and if we are really partial to such fuels, we wouldn’t mind forking out extra for our preference.

Gee, I wonder which other party in Congress at the time vehemently opposed such a legislation. The ‘politicians’ flinched because the other party painted the legislation as business-killing when it was merely proposing a market solution to the oil addiction problem. If the consumers so love oil-based products, they would continue paying the slightly higher prices and not seek alternatives, right? However, it is the generally accepted notion that when a legislation fails, the opposing party that caused it to fail is never mentioned.

Turning the Corner?

The December jobs report is good news. Very good news. Payrolls increased by 200,000 — and the growth was spread relatively evenly across the economy. Retail added 28,000 jobs. Manufacturing added 23,000 jobs. Transportation and warehousing added 50,000 jobs — 43,000 of them in the “couriers and messenging” subcategory, which suggests some of those gains are temporary holiday hires. Health care added 23,000 jobs. Food services added 24,000. Mining added 7,000 jobs. The only payrolls that shrunk in December were government payrolls: we lost another 12,000 public-sector jobs.

The December numbers also give us an opportunity to step back and look at 2011 as a whole. The economy gained 1.9 million private-sector jobs and lost 280,000 public-sector jobs. The unemployment rate dropped from 9 percent to 8.5 percent.

[Source: The Washington Post]

This news definitely comes as a relief to all of us; even the ones without a job yet as it gives them hope that the U.S. economy might be turning a corner. Obviously, do not underestimate the GOP’s resolve to screw things up or to dampen the spirits because a lousy economy is their best chance at regaining the presidency. I hope the American public is at least smart enough to see past this charade and obvious attempts to halt all efforts that might seem to be helping the economy. The chart below [source: The Washington Post] is a friendly reminder to efforts at painting this president as a big government socialist when in fact on his watch nearly quarter million public-sector jobs were cut.

Jobs public private 2011

However, if you step back a little and plot this chart over the past four years to include the final Bush year, we gain a little more perspective. The bottom of the barrel in this graph is December-January 2009 where things were looking desperate. George Bush in spite of his conservative leanings still offered the biggest bailout in history but this current crop of conservatives are to the right of Bush so imagine the plight if one of them takes office. We just might see a classic sine curve. By then, things might be too late.

Jobs growth in last four years

[source; red are the Bush years and blue are the Obama years]. I hope every American sees these two graphs before they vote in November. Ultimately, they’ll get the government they deserve.

Update: For even a better perspective on the lag in recovery, check out the following graph that shows the severity of the recession we are/were in. The improvement is steady but slow. However, as Jim Tankersley at the Atlantic warns, this growth can be disrupted due to any tumultuous news such as an U.S.-Iran confrontation. However, 2011 has been quite a rocky year and that did not stem the improvement so we can hope.

Recoverygraph banner CR

Iowa is irrelevant again…for the next three years

The Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nominee concluded last night with Mitt ‘flip-flop’ Romney beating Rick ‘anal seepage’ Santorum by a mere 8 votes. And believe it or not, Mitt Romney after spending nearly 2 years in Iowa (technically he has been campaigning since 2007) managed to win 6 votes less than what he did in 2008 when he lost to McCain. He only managed to win 25% of the vote. So only 1 in 4 GOP Iowans think he should be the Republican nominee.

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Fourteen Magic Words

…that can increase voter turnout by over ten percentage points.

The gimmick of the experiment is that it harnesses humans’ natural belief in essentialism (see, for example, reference 14 in the link above), the idea that being “a voter” is more essential than being a person who happened to vote.

As Bryan et al. put it, “people may be more likely to vote when voting is represented as an expression of self—as symbolic of a person’s fundamental character—rather than as simply a behavior.” [emphasis mine]

[Source: The Monkey Cage; Original PDF paper]

Although it is just one study but interesting finding in terms of voter behavior. This is especially significant given the latest brouhaha in India over the futility of voting. Anna Hazare supporters argued for practices beyond voting which is not necessarily wrong but to give up voting rights entirely actually makes things worse. Nitin Pai has argued excellently on how India Against Corruption (IAC) can actually strengthen Indian democracy by endorsing candidates that they perceive as clean. More information and more frequent participation in the political process can only make voting something to look forward to. The Indian voters have repeatedly demonstrated their sharp political awareness by throwing out corrupt and inefficient governments regardless of slick advertising campaigns.

I consider Indian voters at least as smart if not smarter than their American counterparts. Money plays a big part in both democracies but that ought not to dissuade us from exercising our basic right. There is no rule that stops you from further engaging with your government politically after you vote. I may disagree on your methods but I will never consider your actions wrong.

The Non-Power of Words

If even a professional follower of political rhetoric like Westen never realized basic, repeated themes of Obama’s speeches and remarks, how could presidential rhetoric — sorry, “storytelling” — be anywhere near as important as he claims? The clear reality is that Americans pay hardly any attention to what presidents say, and what little they take in, they forget almost immediately. Even Drew Westen.

[Source: Drew Westen’s Nonsense | The New Republic] This essay by Jonathan Chait was in response to Drew Westen’s much-circulated op-ed in the NY Times on the Left’s disappointment with Obama. The falsehoods aside, it underscores the American fascination with the seemingly all-powerful executive when it is anything but. The executive’s power was severely curtailed after the Nixon debacle and although Bush tried to bring it back, it ended up being the reason why people hated him so much. People are often obsessed with the idea of a benevolent dictatorship or at least someone who agrees with their worldview. Republicans have no problem when a Republican President signs executive orders but scream tyranny and bemoan Congressional oversight if a Democratic President does so. On the other side, Democrats hated Bush because he often acted unilaterally without consulting them but now insist that Obama act the same way.

As Chait points out, people pointing fingers at Obama for not getting things done fast enough fail to see the various blocking mechanisms that the American Constitution has put into place. E.g. the filibuster that has been used by Republicans on almost every issue however minor so much so that now it regularly needs a 60+ majority to get anything passed in Congress before it reaches his desk. To put things into perspective, the gay marriage legislation in NY state would’ve never passed had it been for a similar filibuster at the state level. To complicate matters, now it is a Republican House that refuses to compromise let alone in good faith and often holds the threat of bringing about the collapse of the world financial markets on our heads. Remember the executive order shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison? Well, the Senate voted 98-0 to disallow moving any prisoners to the U.S. mainland. Is the U.S. also expected to outsource its terror suspects?

The bully pulpit isn’t that unless a bully wields that position. In fact, Kurt Anderson writing at the NY Times this week pointed out that Obama’s failing is that he does not make a convincing ‘madman’. You know things have reached a dismal level when we have to compete to see who makes a better madman. Liberals in America often suffer from this contradiction that they want a reasonable, logical, and intellectual candidate who in reality acts like the candidate the Republicans would nominate. If liberals really want a hard-ass in the White House, they better not pretend otherwise during election time. Otherwise the Republicans and Democrats ought to give up the pretense of liking a democratic process and instead opt for a monarchy that they fought to get rid off. At least then we’ll have the royal wedding to obsesses over instead of some jaded reality stars.

Bone-Headed Immigration Policies

Meanwhile, entrepreneurship is booming in countries that compete with us. And more than half a million doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers in the U.S. are stuck in “immigration limbo”. They are on temporary work visas and are waiting for permanent-resident visas, which are in extremely short supply. These workers can’t start companies, justify buying houses, or grow deep roots in their communities. Once they get in line for a visa, they can’t even accept a promotion or change jobs. They could be required to leave the U.S. immediately—without notice—if their employer lays them off.  Rather than live in constant fear and stagnate in their careers, many are returning home.

[Source: Why Silicon Valley Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Returning Home]Vivek Wadhwa writing at TechCrunch highlight the singularly important issue that is denting America’s competitiveness yet every Congressman in Washington is obsessed with abortion! Except for this report on Nightly News, the mainstream media seems to be clueless as well as America seems be completely ignorant of this impending crisis toward loss of competitiveness.

I have seen and talked to several people who are in the same boat and stuck in the limbo of long Green Card lines with their current employers whether they are happy or not watching their non-Indian or non-Chinese colleagues climb their career ladders swiftly. This uncertainty not only affects people but also the country as people’s intellectual abilities are often not allocated to their most productive use, economically speaking. In fact, one of the bizarre regulations even restricts the employees from working beyond 40 hours for employers other than those who are sponsoring their H1-B visas. So any kind of startup business or employment an immigrant might wish to pursue in their free time hence adding to the economy and the tax payroll is expressly forbidden and can be considered a violation of their immigration status.

When Thomas Friedman coined the phrase, “The world is flat” or Fareed Zakaria talked about the Post-American World, they not only took aim at America’s clueless at this changing nature of the world economy but also highlighted the growing competitiveness of other nations. These nations in Europe and Asia are smartly tapping into the frustrations of immigrants in America and doing their best to attract them to their borders. Yet with increasing incidences of such ‘reverse brain drain’, American government seems unaware of global realities and instead of focusing on reforming legal immigration, it focuses on exploiting the politics involved in illegal immigration. Earlier America had the standard of life and effectiveness of its government to make those on the fence lean toward its side but other countries including erstwhile developing ones like India and China are fast catching up making the decision to go back much easier.

The question remains, when will America wake up to the realities of the changed economic order and when it does, will it be too late?

Coloring Red or Blue

A wonderful time-lapse chloropeth map of changing political affiliations in the United States. Note the dominance of blue during the 30-40s and sudden reddening in the late 60s post-Civil Rights Act. More on the maps and methodology.

Compassionate Conservatism?

I recently asked my friends’ little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President of the United States . Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there. So I asked her, “If you were President, what would be the first thing you would do?” She replied, “I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.” Her parents beamed.

“Wow…what a worthy goal,” I told her. “But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my driveway, and I’ll pay you $50. Then I’ll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.”

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?”

I said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.” Her parents still aren’t speaking to me.

[Source: FROM A LISTENER: – Nealz Nuze on boortz.com]

I found this link among Google Reader’s Popular links. The comments on the link easily find holes in this apparently fictional story. But the mere fact that this link proved to be popular shows the current nature of discourse in the United States. When it isn’t about prejudice or discriminating against minorities, the dialogue is focused on such naive interpretation of economic incentives. Both positions – liberal and conservative – are rooted in ideology that doesn’t recognize the true nature of the issue. Giving food and houses to all homeless people compared to asking why homeless people aren’t working to earn a livelihood skirts almost all issues related to homelessness and merely uses them as props to further their narrow ideology. At least the liberal position is espoused by a child albeit supported by her parents (heck, your parents didn’t say a word when you say you wanted to join the circus as a little kid).

One two-term Republican president used the plank of compassionate conservatism adroitly to fool an electorate when in fact, his base still considers empathy as a sign of weakness. The issue of homelessness isn’t really even about empathy but rather a question for misplaced priorities on treating mental illness especially for returning veterans which most of the homeless are. Talking about supporting the troops is easy; doing it is another matter.

For Indian-American pols, the "What are you?" test

"Indian-Americans, the fastest growing Asian group in the United States, make up a little over three million of the country’s population. But only two — Jindal and Dalip Singh Saund, A Democrat who represented a California district from 1957 to 1963 — have ever served in Congress. This year, though, there are an unprecedented six Indian-American candidates, all Democrats, are running for the House. And with Jindal and Haley generating national attention, the prominence of Indian-American politicians has never been greater.

And while one might assume that cultural conformity would be more important to Republicans, given the party’s conservative, tradition-minded base, Indian-American Democratic candidates can be just as quick to prove their American assimilation to voters."

Although American Jews in politics never fail to burnish their Israeli connections, Indian-American pols especially in the Republican Party try to run as far from India as possible.

[Link to For Indian-American pols, the "What are you?" test]

Disposable Miranda Rights

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Thanks to the hajaar crime drama shows on American television, almost everyone, U.S. citizen or not, is aware of the Miranda warning. It underscored the importance of due process as granted by the Fifth and the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is merely one aspect of the U.S. law and order system that makes America what it is. No one is above the law and you will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The process of prosecution is just as important as meting out of justice for the crime committed. The process can seem frustrating in light of heinous crime where guilt is beyond doubt but it keeps in check power of the police and the government which is easily susceptible to abuse.

Thus it is suprising that the party that allegedly supports the Tea Party Movement which is based on protesting the government’s reach into our daily lives can be so conflicting over these basic rights. The conflict arises over reading the Miranda rights to the alleged Times Square bomber, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan. Republicans ranging from the crazy wingnut Rep.Peter Kind to the so-called ‘maverick moderate’, Sen.John McCain have voiced their opposition to reading the Miranda Rights to a U.S. citizen and Sen.Joe Lieberman goes to the extent of proposing stripping him of his citizenship so the rights can be denied (imagine the precedent it may set). In a hell-freezes-over moment, Glenn Beck emerged as the voice of reason when he said, “[Shahzad] has all the rights under the Constitution. We don’t shred the Constitution when it is popular. We do the right thing.” The heads of Fox & Friends just exploded hearing this muttering, what the heck did just happen? If the Miranda warning can be excluded and individuals stripped off their citizenship for terrorist attempts then why not exclude them in crimes involving molestation of kids or rapes or even selling drugs? Can the citizenship be stripped only from naturalized citizens or is every citizen fair game?

The irony was that on the day this was being debated, the Indian courts in a rare display of speedy justice convicted Kasab, the sole gunman from 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai making an American blog say this:

Screen shot 2010-05-04 at 9.42.58 AM.PNG

I never thought I would see the day when the Indian judiciary would be held up as an example against the American one. So pigs can fly.

Update: There is in fact a ‘public safety exception’ to the Miranda warning which makes McCain and King’s mumblings even more bizarre:

Law enforcement officials can invoke a public safety exception and delay reading a suspect his rights to get information that would save lives. In Shahzad’s case, the FBI invoked the public safety exception. The agency called in its crack interrogation team, asked Shahzad questions with no Miranda warning, and reaped what the FBI says was “valuable intelligence and evidence.” Then Shahzad was read his rights. And lo and behold, he waived them and kept talking [source].

Using Literacy as a Racist Code Word

In his speech Thursday to attendees [Tea Party Convention], former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo invoked the loaded pre-civil rights era buzzword, saying that President Barack Obama was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

[Source: Raw Story] Wait! I thought a lack of “literacy test” was how Bush, a certified C-grade student got re-elected. But then Tancredo tells me “illiterate” people often vote for law professors. By the way, read the full story to understand how racists like Tancredo use code words like ‘literacy’ to mask their hate. And this is the guy who failed to get a single delegate…at the Republican Convention. He couldn’t even fill the room at a Tea Party Convention.

The Scary Republican Base

When I am asked to define my political leanings, I often say, I’m a moderate and when asked to elaborate (because frankly, being a moderate depends on the times you live in) I say fiscal conservative and social liberal. At least in the United States, these two characteristics define the two major political parties with the Republicans claiming to be fiscally conservative and Democrats claiming to be socially liberal. Now at least in the fiscal sense, we have seen neither party can be appropriately called conservative. Democrats have had their pet spending projects and Republicans not only dare not touch Medicare and Social Security but in fact tend to inflate (Medicare Part D) its already-large share in the budget.

The other characteristic somewhat differentiates the two parties and that’s why I tend to often support the Democrats. Why? Because, as any Congress voter in India will tell you, the other side is batshit insane. Some may say, the people that make up the Republican base are not crazy but its leaders are. They are the ones who define the agenda by pandering to a lunatic fringe just to garner some publicity case in point, Michelle Bachmann. But then what if the leaders are indeed preaching to the choir that is xenophobic and ignorant to begin with?

That is why this poll conducted by Daily Kos/Research 2000 surveying Republicans only is scary and exemplifies why I could never identify with such people. This past election showed us that Republicans in fact do not constitute half of the American population irrespective of the fact that there are only two political parties. So these self-identified Republicans may in fact only represent say, 20% of the total population. Nevertheless, the views of the supporters of a major political party in the United States is something to be wary of. You should scroll through all the responses but sample some responses and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Now for Republicans, no longer is it necessary to bug your opponent’s office and lie about it or have an intern blow you and then lie about it to impeach a President. All you have to do is be black and labeled a socialist (63%) to be impeached (39%). In fact, more Republicans want him impeached than not. And Obama has been in office for like what, little over a year. These are going to be four long years for these poor souls. I mention the black part not because I want to stir racial emotions but because 31% believe Obama is a racist who hates white people. Yup, the biracial kid who had a white mom and was raised by his white grandparents hates his people. Heck, 36% of them don’t even believe he was born in the U.S. and 22% more are unsure and 55% are not sure if ACORN helped steal his election. The really scary part – 53% of Republicans believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama. Yup, the same one who couldn’t tell us what she read.

Talking about social and civil liberties, forget gay marriage (77% disapprove), these Republicans don’t even want gays to receive state or federal benefits (68%), not teach in public schools (73%), and not serve in the military (55%). The Republicans don’t even want (59%) the illegal immigrant who are willing to pay a fine and learn English to continue living in the country. I’m not sure what they want to do to them; rounding them up and sending them packing is not only unrealistic but fiscally irrational. The response that takes the cake is when asked if public schools students should be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world, 77% said yes. Nearly 67% believe that only Jesus shows the way to heaven and these same people talk about Islam offering the unhinged solution to salvation.

No wonder you have reason to be afraid if such irrational thought is pervasive among a significant section of the population. I hope better sense prevails and these folks never get to elect anyone to national office.