CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

Chris Christie versus Rand Paul — quick, make some popcorn!

Well, could this possibly get any better? Two politicians who represent varying degrees of reprehensibility going after each other. I suppose on a reprehensibility index of 1 to 10, with 10 being more douchebaggy than anyone else in American politics (let’s keep this a small dataset), Paul is at 10, right up there with James Inhofe, and Christie would be what, a six? Five? Hard to say. I’m going to naturally be more sympathetic to a Jersey guy like Christie than a cracker like Paul. Even though Paul was right about drones, he’s wrong about just about everything else. And it was hard not to feel for Christie when he looked just slammed by the devastation of the Jersey shore, as if Sandy had it in for him personally. Only people like Paul, who were born without that gene that gives the rest of us empathy, could, and would, criticize Christie for his gratitude to Obama for helping out. (Of course, we now know that that group of senators whose empathy count is in negative numbers runs to a larger number than we expected.) But still, Christie himself can be a huge jerk, and enjoys being a bully. So he’s a five or six. Compared to Darrell Issa, he’s a prince, but still.

So now they’re going after each other. This is obviously about 2016 positioning and pre-emptive attacks. Paul has decided to get ahead of Christie with the Tea Party crowd—not hard, they don’t like Christie much anyway. But the Sandy comments really got to Christie. And his response was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Because he did what I would do (and have done, more times than I can count): he went after the fact that Kentucky is a taker state, big time, and New Jersey is a giver state. As far as I’m concerned, Christie didn’t push this hard enough. No one does, though.

For those who are new to this (or my other) blog, here’s the deal (and some of us have written about this more than once): Some states get back more in federal money than they pay in federal income tax. We call these taker states. Some states get back less than they pay. We call these giver (or donor) states. Make up your own labels. And there are several organizations that track this—the Tax Foundation is probably the best known, but it’s hardly alone. About one third of the stated subsidize the other two thirds. And, as it runs out, there’s a red/blue split as well. You will not be surprised to learn that most of the giver states are blue states, and the majority of the taker states are red states. You can already see where this is going—and we’ve gone there.

Let’s just point out that Christie started the most current round, but it has some historical precedent, as The National Memo informs us:

Back in June, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took a not-widely-noticed potshot at New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, over his “not very conservative” choice of holding an unnecessary special election.

Apparently the governor was stewing for weeks because last week, he had no qualms about calling the junior senator from Kentucky “dangerous.”

Here’s what Christie came back with:

“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said on Thursday at a Republican forum in Aspen, Colorado. “You can name any number of people and [Paul is] one of them,” he said.

“These esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have,” he continued.

Then what happened? Well, over to Paul:

“The people who want to criticize me and call me names, they are precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending,” Paul said at an event in Franklin, Kentucky, according to CNN affiliate WKRN-TV.

“They are ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme all my Sandy money now.’ Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not allowing enough money be left over for national defense.”

Whoa. So Christie popped back with this gem:

“So if Senator Paul wants to start looking at where he’s going to cut spending to afford defense, maybe he should start looking at cutting the pork barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky, at $1.51 for every $1.00 and not look at New Jersey, where we get $0.61 for every $1.00,” Christie said, noting his state pays out more than every federal dollar it receives. “So maybe Senator Paul could — could, you know, deal with that when he’s trying to deal with the reduction of spending on the federal side. But I doubt he would, because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so that they can get reelected.”

Paul has responded by calling Christie “The King of Bacon.” Whew, that’s quite a swipe. Then he added this deep thought, as quoted in Time:

“Why would he want to pick a fight with the one guy who has the chance to grow the party by appealing to the youth and appealing to people who would like to see a more moderate and less aggressive foreign policy,” he added.

Jeez. I don’t think any further comment is necessary after that.

Anyway, this goes on, and will continue, since it’s emblematic of the struggle that now is dividing the Republican Party. I have to admit that I don’t necessarily disagree with Paul’s interest in a bit less international action—the Republican Party track record there is miserable, obviously, and one can, presumably, share Paul’s alarm at Lindsey Graham’s enthusiasm for bombing the shit out of Iran on virtually any pretext. On the other hand, Paul is in most respects insane, and the idea of him holding any elected office whatsoever is genuinely frightening. Christie is at least demonstrably human at times, although he does his best to act like a jerk.

No, my interest here is that, for the first time I my memory, a major US politician has raised the issue of states subsidizing other states. We’ve been tracking this phenomenon for some time now—I first blogged about way back in 2004, probably before anyone else got a hold of it, and it’s nice to see the world catching up. It’s everywhere now, although I’m constantly surprised that people still don’t know this—Paul Ryan, for example, although I no longer am surprised at what Paul Ryan doesn’t know.

As I commented back in 2004,

What does this tell us? Well, that Red states generally take money from Blue states. But don’t Red states elect mainly Republicans, who want lower taxes? Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean that these people don’t know a good deal when they see one. It also tells us that red states are deadbeats. They either can’t or won’t pay their bills, and rely on the hated Federal government, and the deeply loathed Blue states, to accomplish this straightforward task.

So it’s nice to see at least one politician talking about this. I hope we’ll get more. It is a real political issue, pretty fundamental to the future of the country. How much longer will the givers keep subsidizing a bunch of takers who want to trash the government—except for their share, of course. And I damn well want to see Elizabeth Warren and Fred Durbin start going after Lindsey Graham and Jeff Sessions over this. And I absolutely want to see Chris Christie stomp Rand Paul into the mud. And then sit on him.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

Party-pooping White House doesn’t think states should secede

Well, this is certainly disappointing. All those people who signed all those petitions for secession on the White House website are going to be like soooo annoyed. I mean, what’s the point of petitioning for secession rights for South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana if White House is just going to blow you off? I even signed the one for Texas, and I don‘t even live there. Here’s the White House response. Notice that it’s full of namby-pamby happy talk about getting engaged and working together to solve our problems. What’s that all about? And where was Mississippi while this was going on? Someone slipped up there.

Meanwhile, the lead story in The New York Times for much of the day today was about the soaring rate of gun sales in America since Obama’s re-election, driven by the usual tin-foil hat paranoia that Obama’s black helicopters are going to break down your front door and take away everyone’s slingshots or something. Why will I not be surprised if it turns out that these soaring gun sales come from those states that want to, you know, secede? Just saying. It’s not like they’re not already armed to the teeth, but you never know. Honestly, if you want to take your semi-automatic hunting rifles and go home, don’t let us stop you. Wait, it’s the White House that’s stopping you. Where’s Mitt Romney when you need him?

Honestly, you have to laugh. People really thought that a petition to the White House to let South Carolina secede would lead to…what, exactly? Secession? And then what? The state with one of the lowest literacy rates and highest violent crime rates in the United States is somehow going to manage to surive as an independent country? On what? Abandoned military bases?  We’ve been over this ground before. It won’t work—those states, with the possible exception of Texas and Florida, are all dirt poor, and can’t possibly afford to support themselves. The amount of magical thinking here is astonishing, but we should be used to that there days. What do these places have going for them aside from college football and right to work laws? I suppose they could set up a football league to rival the NFL, but I suspect it would look more like the CFL. Still, points for trying.

Oh, and you know what else? The White House won’t support construction of the Death Star either. Something about “The Administration does not support blowing up planets,” and it costing about $850,000,000,000,000,000. Typical of the Democrats to wuss out. Thank god Paul Ryan is already looking presidential.

Update (January 16)–The White House, obviously fed up with having to treat crap like this seriously, has raised the signature threshold from 25,000 to 100,000 for a response.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

Secession: it’s fun to talk about, but is it actually plausible?

Ever since FOX called Ohio for Obama last Tuesday night (touching off a near-hysterical conniption from Karl Rove), talk of secession has been rampant. Groups in all 50 states have started petitions aimed at leaving the Union, with Texas (predictably) reaching the minimum threshold of signatures first.

We’ve written about secession here at S&R a good bit, with Frank Balsinger’s piece the other day (“Want to secede? Are you really sure about that?“) being the most recent. I think the general sentiment among the staff is that the people carping the loudest about leaving really haven’t thought things all the way through: the states where we find the most anti-Union sentiment tend to be the states that receive more in Federal outlays than they contribute in tax revenues (“taker” states), and they’re also home to some of the most irrationally rabid anti-taxation sentiment in the nation. It’s easy to envision how a new country built around these dynamics might find itself in dire economic straits rather quickly. Some of us have also admitted that we think we’d be okay with a partition, and I went so far as to write a three-part series hypothetically considering some of the logistical challenges surrounding the proposed divorce.

Normally, it would be easy enough to dismiss petitioning as the work of fringe cranks, because in nearly all cases that’s precisely what’s going on. Now, though, there’s a new factor to ponder. In short, the secessionists have caught the fancy of the media. Google “secession.” It’s a little mind-boggling, to be honest. And if the last decade has taught us anything, it should be that no idea, no ideology, no delusion is so extreme that the mainstream press cannot haul it ranting and lathering into the Overton Window. Obama is a Kenyan, after all. And a Muslim. And despite being objectively to the right of Richard Nixon, a socialist. Climate disruption is a liberal plot. Now, as Dave Johnson explains, we have the tried-and-true Shock Doctrine approach being employed to create a fiscal cliff “crisis” that is pure manufactroversy. The terror is being aided and abetted by a corporate media that either a) doesn’t understand how it’s being played, b) is actively complicit in the disinformation campaign, or c) doesn’t care one way or another, so long as it’s good for ratings.

When ridiculous ideas are presented to normal people, those people tend to laugh, shake their heads and ease away, careful not to make any sudden moves. But the repetition of ridiculous ideas over an extended period of time, especially by large media agencies with a measure of presumed credibility (and the “experts” they invite on to discuss “serious” issues), though, exerts a corrosive effect on rationality. I wonder if, given enough time and cash, you could create a “public debate” over whether gravity is a fact or merely a “theory.”

The sheer volume of noise we’re hearing right now about secession perhaps makes you wonder: is it possible that the cranks and their corporate enablers could turn this into a real concern?

The coherent answer (for the moment, at least) is no. The media thrives on decibel level, and a few overstimulated wack jobs can make a great deal of noise. But actual secession isn’t about how loud the screaming is, it’s about how many voting adults are screaming. I have no problem believing that a statewide referendum on whether or not to secede could garner 27% of the vote; as noted recently, any analysis of the US population is safe enough assuming that percentage of the population is certifiably insane. Deep in Takerstatestan, you might nudge that number up above 30%. 50%, though, is hard to imagine, even in places like Texas or South Carolina.

A woman I know, a Texan with more than her share of well-placed friends and acquaintances, once laughed at the idea that Texas would ever secede. There’ll be plenty of bluster amongst certain testosterone-soaked segments of the population, but the ladies who run the moneyed homes will put a quick and certain stop to it as soon as it threatens cotillion season. (If this strikes you as a tad sexist, bear in mind that I’m just paraphrasing the words of a thoroughly progressive woman.)

It’s also worth noting that the howling secessionist contingent so far contains no real established leaders (that I’m aware of). Prominent GOP governors are having none of it (including Rick Perry, who not all that long ago certainly seemed willing to entertain the idea). Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who’s been acting remarkably lucid of late, called the whole thing “silly.”

Even Justice Anotnin Scalia, who’s as wide-right as they come, says it’s a non-starter:

“I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court,” Scalia wrote. “To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”

In other words, if you want to secede, it looks like your options are limited to either moving to another country or taking the somewhat more permanent route opted for by Key West resident Henry Hamilton, may he rest in peace. History tells us that all great empires fracture in the end, and I’d be surprised to see the US still in one piece in, say, 50 years. But for now, as badly as the Deep South and I would love to be rid of each other, it looks like we’re stuck in the same boat.

None of this should keep you from enjoying the political media theater, though.

Want to secede? Are you really sure about that?

Viva la revolutionSomehow secession seems to be all the rage of late. I don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong. I can understand not liking it when your candidate doesn’t win. I can understand not liking it when a candidate you really dislike (for whatever reason, however serious or silly) wins instead. But secession? Really?

Forget for a moment that those calling for secession seem incredibly likely to be of the same subset of America that called anyone who questioned President Bush, a wartime president, unpatriotic. Like it or not, President Obama is a wartime president. I’m sure they’ve connected the dots for the sake of consistency and fairness.

Forget for a moment how pro-democracy would-be secessionists appear to be…as long as their teams wins, however marginally.

Forget all that. That road only leads to unfortunate characterizations and divisiveness. The same kind of divisiveness that has 80,000 Texans and others from around the country clamoring for secession. Besides, it was a Founding Father that said we need the occasional revolution, right?

I’m sure the appeal of it must be amazing to someone who thinks it’s a good idea. Since I’m not one of them, I fail to see it. Off the top of my head, here’s a few little problems with secession that I don’t think the secession enthusiasts have thoroughly considered. Maybe I’m mistaken.

Let’s assume these angry Americans succeed. Well, succeed in convincing a sufficient percentage of their state populations that secession is a good idea, that is. I know, I know, we’re entering the realm of fantasy here, but bear with me. Let’s assume the issue makes it to the statehouse (or statehouses, plural). Let’s assume state legislatures make the big vote. Let’s assume the governor (or governors) support it. Let’s make believe…

What will a seceding state’s first order of business be? Have the secessionists thought that far ahead? I’m assuming, for the sake of brevity, that some kind of new constitutional convention for each state will be in order, some manner of establishing home rule. These things take a little time to hammer out. I should hope that while they consider the matter of a new constitution, assuming that’s the road they take, they’ll consider how to structure their new government in a way that won’t fail them like democracy did. That, in itself, would be well worth watching.

I should hope they would take into consideration what kind of military force they would build. An all-volunteer standing army? A military with ranks supported by a draft? Who will be the commander in chief? The generals, admirals, and other high-ranking officers? I’m sure that a state seriously considering secession must have a dream team in mind, replete with diplomats and even an intelligence agency or three.

So, if we’ve made it this far, there’s a constitutional convention, comprising delegates (selected how, exactly?) debating how best to raise the military force necessary to defend their new interests. Maybe they settle on volunteer vs. draft and do drum up a dream team to lead them. Where will they be based? What will they wear? How will they be provisioned? How armed? How trained?

How funded?

Oh, funding. Maybe, like our Founding Fathers, Founding Fathers (rebels or freedom fighters, you decide) will pony up their personal wealth. Enjoy speculating about which wealthy capitalists will do that. Surely they’ll have plenty of US funds to draw on, right? Unfrozen US funds? No? Oh, there is that, isn’t there? Good thing there’s gold bugs with tons and tons of bullion just waiting to start their own gold-backed currency by way of an unregulated state banking establishment who will be willing to fund the war on credit.

War? Now hold on a blessed second. Who said anything about war? People want to peacefully secede, right? Or not. Either way, consider this. Up to the day before secession, the Union counted among its national assets assets within the borders of the seceding state. Upon secession, the Union will just be nice and let the seceding state take those resources, right? Certainly, the Drone Strike President won’t even contemplate using force, covert or otherwise, to secure those assets!

And speaking of assets, let’s consider those for a moment. Our lucky secessionist will hail from a territory that has abundant agricultural resources, including fresh water that won’t require complicated treaty arrangements for it to not be dammed up before it gets there. They’ll have ample mineral resources. Ample energy resources. A sufficient manufacturing base ready to be tooled up, first for war, then for reconstruction after they prevail. I should hope so. Otherwise the seceding territory will have to have those items imported. Maybe the Union will kindly export food, raw materials, and manufactured goods to the new Free Territory, even during hostilities. If not, maybe a US ally will. Clearly there won’t be any sanctions, right? After all, the US doesn’t have a history of imposing crippling sanctions anywhere, does it?

Luckily, there are other nations in the world beside US allies. Maybe Venuzuela will come to the rescue with oil. Maybe China will gladly invest in Territorial natural resources, as they do in developing nations, to fund this little holiday from the US. Nevermind that they will fully expect a monopoly over those resources and have a history of bringing in their own personnel. Maybe Iran will share its alleged developing nuclear arms technology. Or maybe Kim Jong-un will supply a nuke or three, if only for giggles.

Assume all these conditions and their prerequisites are met. I’m sure I’ve forgotten most of the things a seceding state needs to do in order to become a successful nation. After all, I haven’t really put much thought into it. Exporters are beating the door down to provide the budding new Free Territory with goods and services that it can’t produce itself. They’ll have no trouble getting those resources to the Territory, right? I mean, it’s got coastline that won’t be blockaded, or New Freedomstan will have a navy capable of taking out any one of the US fleets? No? Good thing there’s air transport. Certainly the US won’t establish a no-fly zone that would prevent such deliveries. No? *whew* That leaves roads for the fortunate land-locked New Freedomstan. Good thing the roads into and out of the territory won’t be shut down from the other side!

So. There we have it. By the same miracle that endows the Ryan plan with budgetary sense, New Freedomstan has seceded, successfully, established itself as a nation, prevailed through superior force, and can now engage freely in the world marketplace because there aren’t any sanctions. The UN will welcome New Freedomstan with open arms, not that NF really cares. To hell with the UN! Who needs a seat at the table while the rest of the world negotiates everything?

Congratulations, New Freedomstan. You will have arrived on the world scene and can get down to brass tacks once all of your funding isn’t directed to just getting your feet on the ground. You can establish an educational system sufficient to your national goals. Or not. You can establish a health care system that will meet the needs of your population. Or not. You can build your infrastructure to satisfy your every need. There will be peace across the land. Only the right religions will be part of the social fabric (which specific denominations remains to be seen). Men will stop raping because only virtuous women will be part of New Freedomstan. There will be no more out-of-wedlock births. Abortions just won’t be needed, so why even bother outlawing them? Divorce will be against law because of the sanctity of marriage. And all of this will be supported entirely by goodwill because, after all, there won’t be any taxes. No taxes, no need to worry about who has to pay, and how much. Your free market will be unfettered. Monopolies will develop and naturally return to their altruistic ways.

That just leaves getting rid of all those pesky minorities and immigrants. Decisions, decisions. Pogroms? Genocide? Forced sterilization? Slavery?

Congratulations and good luck on your promising future. Your best days are ahead! When you get a passport, I would encourage you to visit our humble nation. We’ve got a lot to offer the adventurous tourist.

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Image credit:  Clip art courtesy of openclipart.org.

Poll: how much of the vote would Obama win if he were white?

If you read Wufnik’s secession piece yesterday, you may have noticed that the inevitable cropped up in the comments: racism. You can’t talk about secessionist impulses anywhere – Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Quebec – without the subject of the US intruding, and that tends to mean the South. As in, the South in which I grew up (as did some of my fellow scrogues).

As Wufnik notes, there are all kinds of reasons why a group of people might want out of the nation they’re in, whether it’s language or historical culture or religion or resources or economics or whatever. But in the US South, it’s about one issue and one issue only: racism. If you want to argue that racism is not rampant in the South, either you’re trolling or you’re willfully self-deluding because you hate facing the bald facts or maybe you’re just not bright enough to be in a conversation with educated people.

No, racism doesn’t exist only in the South. No, not everyone who votes for Mitt Romney does so because they’re racist. And no, not all Southerners are racists. But the phenomenon is unarguably more ubiquitous there, especially once you get beyond the boundaries of larger cities. It doesn’t really matter, though: if you’re paying attention, you can’t help noticing a powerful correlation between racism and the relative redness of the electorate in a given state, can you?

Wufnik allows that if Obama wins re-election the right is going to pitch a full-on nukular galloping hissy fit (as opposed to the more reasoned, respectful, collaborative approach we’ve seen since 2008). (Despite the fact that some polls are calling it neck and neck, I do expect the president to pull it out. I’m not a hardcore quant demographer, but Nate Silver’s analysis seems coherent enough, and he’s saying it’s about a 73% chance of an Obama win). He’s probably right. I’m having a hard time imagining how much worse the racist right can get without actually donning white hoods and burning a cross on the White House lawn, but we’ll see, won’t we?

In any event, this all got me to thinking about a basic question. Consider the GOP approach, from their positively Byzantine assault on women to their willingness to openly lie about anything and everything to their reactionary theocratic rhetoric to … well, you’ve been watching, so you’ve heard the same barking asshaberdashery that the rest of us have. In a remotely sane world – that is, one in which candidates and ideas were intelligently evaluated on their merits alone – this batshit brigade couldn’t pull more than 15% of the popular vote if they were running uncontested. And yet, here they are, poised to score nearly half the popular vote for president and probably maintain control of the House. Why is that, I wonder?

So here’s the question: what would the polls look like if Barack Obama were white. (100% white, I mean.)

Instead of letting that hang there like a rhetorical question, let’s actually do a poll.

Feel free to add comments, if you like.

Secession—it’s all the rage

If Barack Obama wins a second term in the White House, Frank Rich has suggested, the Right is going to go absolutely nuts. I suspect Rich is correct—we haven’t seen anything like the rage that will consume the Right, who have up to now convinced themselves that the polls are skewed or something. There will considerable denial, and then another lurch to the right. Larison has this spot on as well, as do any other number of commentators. As a result, we can expect secession fever to ratchet up. We’ve gone over this a number of times on this blog—S&R have provided a number of posts on the fact that while we might regard it as desirable that a bunch of the country wants to leave to start their own Baptist Republic, the problem is they just can’t afford to go it alone—they rely too much on a federal gravy train. So we’re probably struck with them for the time being.

Misery loves company, however. The US South is not the only place in the world these days contemplating Secession. In fact, it’s probably not even the most vocal about it either. Continue reading

It's time for America to get a divorce

Part one of a series.

This past week AlterNet published an interview with Chuck Thompson, author of Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern SecessionIn brief, Thompson argues that the United States has become two very different countries (or perhaps that it was always two very different countries) and that perhaps the time has come to shake hands and go our separate ways.

Thompson makes a compelling argument. Secession is a subject we here at S&R have engaged in the past, primarily within the context of the inequitable distribution of tax revenues (donor states vs. taker states), and it’s perhaps telling that so many of the smartest people I know – rational, clear-headed, educated, progressive-minded, deliberate thinkers all – are more than willing to entertain the idea. Sure, there are plenty of logistical concerns to be considered, but make no mistake – the “South’s gonna do it agin” crowd isn’t the only segment of the population that would be okay parting ways. Continue reading

Journalism Accomplished: why aren't news organizations telling the whole truth in Wisconsin and why aren't the state's conservatives demanding secession?

I tend to avoid programs produced by major network news divisions like I would the galloping herpes, but I do occasionally tune into CBS Sunday Morning. In its better moments, Charles Osgood helms a tranquil, reflective magazine foregrounding the people, places and things that define what’s best about American culture. At its worst, of course, it’s just another fair and balanced mainstream media medicine show, with a comment from Ben Stein.

This morning we got a frustrating dose of worst, as the producers decided to have a look at what’s happening in Wisconsin. Continue reading

Getting our facts straight

“Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven’t?” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asks. “No. That’s a moral hazard that we are not interested in creating.” – Fox News Blog

This nonsense has prompted a pretty good comment over at The Agonist, worth reading. That’s not the point, though. The point is that Paul Ryan obviously knows nothing. This is not a surprise, since he’s now the great white hope of Republican financial acumen. If this is an example of what Ryan brings to the table, the chance of anything reasonable happening the next two years is even dimmer than we thought. The man is as dumb as a sack of hammers.
Continue reading

California should secede from the Union: a semi-modest proposal

The Republic of NevorewashiforniaYou may have heard that the State of California is facing a monster deficit. Figures bounce around a bit, but most estimates have the shortfall at or near $28 billion, and the mess has Gov. Jerry Brown pondering Armageddon: enough posturing and arguing – he seems prepared to let the citizenry see how it feels about the reality of shutting it all down. Don’t want to pay for schools? Cool – we won’t have any.

One sympathizes with the people of the Golden State. They do contribute more in federal taxes than any other state, and the ideology of our times has us all convinced that paying taxes is the same thing as flushing perfectly good cash down the toilet. Continue reading

More sloppy thinking about secession

Chris Hedges, normally a pretty bright guy, has a puff piece about some nice, thoughtful secessionists over at Truthdig. As always, the comments are entertainment enough in their own right, and are worth a look (although only one commentator seems familiar with the data from the Tax Foundation, which even Hedges doesn’t cite). Like other secessionist pieces we have commented on in the past, there’s an air of unreality here, as if we’ve fallen into some parallel universe where actions don’t have consequences. It’s an interesting piece nonetheless, because it’s unusual among this kind of reporting to actually engage in some of the logical, indeed, unarguable, rationales for secession. But it’s the wrong solution for the problem that the intellectual secessionists like Thomas Naylor and Kirpatrick Sale want to address. And it turns into an attempt to give an intellectual veneer to a very ugly phenomenon, although I suspect that was not Hedges’ intention.
Continue reading

Secession: a rough beast whose hour has come round at last?

I’d like to begin by showing you a picture and asking you what you see.

Good. With that in mind, have a look at this one and tell me what you see. Continue reading

"States Rights" runs ahead of reason, once again

This morning the New York Times carries as its lead story something with this headline: States’ Rights Is Rallying Cry of Resistance for Lawmakers. And the article is replete with examples of state lawmakers passing measures that would, in theory, limit the reach of the federal government. So, just to repeat the examples that The Times leads with (having done our work for us already):

Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a Republican, signed a bill into law on Friday declaring that the federal regulation of firearms is invalid if a weapon is made and used in South Dakota.

On Thursday, Wyoming’s governor, Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, signed a similar bill for that state. The same day, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives approved a resolution that Oklahomans should be able to vote on a state constitutional amendment allowing them to opt out of the federal health care overhaul.

In Utah, lawmakers embraced states’ rights with a vengeance in the final days of the legislative session last week. One measure said Congress and the federal government could not carry out health care reform, not in Utah anyway, without approval of the Legislature. Another bill declared state authority to take federal lands under the eminent domain process. A resolution asserted the “inviolable sovereignty of the State of Utah under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.”

The Times article points out that legal and constitutional scholars are pretty much of the view that this is mostly a bunch of hot air. But that doesn’t seem to be deterring state lawmakers from shouting a lot. Continue reading

Choose one: Bang ( ) Whimper ( )

A couple of weeks ago Slate did an entertaining if occasionally dopey series on how America might end. Frankly, SF authors have done a much better job on this theme, and it’s a bit disappointing that Josh Levin, who authored the series, spent most of his time interviewing academics and think-tank nerds and reasonable-sounding secessionists rather than speculative writers who have thought seriously about this—-because many of the commentators that he does quote don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Sadly, this tends to weaken what would have otherwise been a pretty thought-provoking series.

A case in point is  How is America Going to End? Who’s most likely to secede? It’s kind of an interesting piece, I guess, but not nearly as interesting as it could have been. This is mainly because Levin spends virtually no time talking to the loonybirds on the hard right. Rather, he spends much of his time talking about possible natural fragmentations along ethnicity, or along geography, or along one of the metrics used by Joel Garreau in his Nine Nations of North America way back in 1981. Continue reading