Friday, January 20, 2012

Reason and Common Sense

Reason and Common Sense

This quote from the philosopher Georges Santayana is usually misstated. What Santayana wrote in “Reason and Common Sense” was: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 If you have followed the presidential primaries to date, it’s obvious that none of the Republican candidates are followers of Santayana. Thus far, the various candidates have called to:

 Impose of a 9% tax on all income and sales items,
or Reduce the federal income tax rate on income over $200,000

Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency

Eliminate various regulations on businesses

Allow young workers to drop out of the Social Security system and to use the money however they want

Stop involvement in any wars internationally and,
Reduce the US. defense to a small military force and the Anti-Ballistic Missile system

Ban the sale of birth control pills and devices and,

Prevent all abortions, even when the life of the expectant mother is in danger

End food stamps and other forms of assistance to the poor

Force children of illegal aliens to work at menial jobs or face deportation

And all candidates have stated their belief that nearly all federal government functions can be better performed in the private sector.

There are very good reasons to not do each of the above and none of the above. What’s forgotten were the reasons these agencies, programs and laws were created. Of the above, most of the Republican candidates have called for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of those candidates, some have tried to hide the real reason for the abolition as disbelief in the science of climate change. Some others have not tried to hide the real reason to stop restrictions on their business benefactors on creating air pollution, despoiling the environment, causing earthquakes through using fracking in coal mining and dumping toxic wastes into rivers and streams. The EPA could be abolished or absorbed into another agency if big businesses would stop polluting. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen..

One of the most egregious examples of corporate pollution was General Electric’s (GE) dumping 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) into the Housatonic River from 1947 to 1977. (for a detailed explanation about PCB’s and the damage they cause, see General Electric, stalled cleaning up the pollution, finally settling with the EPA and the Department of Justice in 1998 to pay $200 million for the river cleanup. And this was not the worst that GE did - in 1983, 64 inmates in a Walla Walla Washington prison had their scrotum and testes exposed to radiation to determine its effects on reproductive organs. The inmates were not advised about the risks of cancers. (Source:

General Electric is the primary or secondary cause of 78 Superfund cleanup sites. GE designed the nuclear reactors involved in the recent Fukushima meltdowns. GE was repeatedly advised, starting in 1975, that there were safety issues in design of these plants. General Electric doesn’t always bring good things to light.

The candidates’ continuous complaint how “government regulations”, especially the new Afforfable Care Act, are burdening U.S. businesses with extensive expenses and making businesses not competitive in international business is a canard. The McClatchy Newspaper Syndicate did an extensive survey of small businesses throughout the U.S. small businesses, defined by the Small Business Administration, a constant complainer about government regulation, as 500 to 1500 employees or less, represent 65% of all employment.

McClatchy’s survey found that small businesses do not consider government regulations burdensome and onerous, lack of business (aggregate economic demand) is the primary concern. Monthly surveys by the National Federation of Independent Business show that small business concerns about regulation are lower today than they were in the 1990s when the economy was booming.

The Obama administration is the cause of less than 5% of all current federal government regulations. It is large corporations, those now allowed to spend at will on political advertising, political action groups, and other direct and indirect forms of candidate support as a result of the ill-advised Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, who are the vociferous complainers about the costs of government regulation. Large corporations are also most in need to be restrained by government regulation for the protection of us all. Perhaps these corporations could better spend this money on buying new capital equipment, hiring back laid-off employees or implementing environmental protection safeguards.

What is sorely lacking and needed in the 2012 political campaigns is a reasoned and common sense discussion about the role of federal, state and local government in the conduct of everyday life. Before every discussion, saying Santayana’s maxim should be required. Let’s not repeat, or try to undo, the past, but use what was learned to discuss and decide how to best benefit the future. Reason and common sense are what we should look for first in choosing our next President.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Class Warfare

Class Warfare

By Michael Maynard
January 12, 2012

“I think it's about envy. I think it's about class warfare.” Mitt Romney on “The Today Show.” responding to Matt Lauer’s question the concerns of anyone about the increasingly inequal distribution of wealth in the U.S. "I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent... you've opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of 'one nation under God.'" ... "I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,"

Willard Mitt Romney has a problem being in touch with “the common man”. In his case, he is completely out of touch with the underlying reasons why the Occupy protest movement spread rapidly and about the growing anger and resentment about the increasing inequality of wealth in the United States. Since he is a member of the 1%, Romney should be defensive about how he developed his extensive fortune.

(According to a Pew Research study) “In 2009, 47 percent of respondents said there were "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between the rich and poor. In 2011, 66 percent saw the same, possibly signaling that the "We are the 99 percent" rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street has had an impact. The ongoing economic recession also may have magnified class differences as income inequality has risen, continuing a trend occurring in American society since at least the 1970s.” (Source - The Huffington Post “Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report”)

The Great Recession and its impact upon middle and lower class families should rightly be the primary topic of the 2012 Presidential campaign. Of course, how to reignite the economy needs to be discussed in public. The exchange of ideas about job creation and increased investment in the United States to create more permanent high-paying manufacturing and skilled jobs, not more lower paying service sector and temporary jobs, should be the central issue. Mitt Romney should be leading this discussion since he is stating that his business expertise and experience are why he should become President.

Are his self-professed expertise and experience really reasons to vote for him? . During his tenure as a venture capitalist, Bain Capital most of the investments made were in retail or service companies, such as Staples, The Sports Authority and Artisan Entertainment. No creating good jobs at higher wages there.

Bain Capital switched to high risk investments, leveraged buyouts, in which the “investment” is really debt, using the company’s assets as collateral. The only fundamental difference between leveraged buyouts and home mortgages are the number of zeroes and the interest percent involved. Often, massive layoffs occurred after the investment was made. Bain Capital claimed to have an 113% percent return on investment, but that high rate of return was made on only a few of its investments. Some of the highest were a 3400% return on Calumet Coach and a 1600% return on the Gartner Group. Both Calumet and Gartner are service companies. I strongly doubt that any of the Occupy movement protesters were investors in these companies.

Was Romney being defensive about his one term as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007? He’s already backed away from his largest achievement ensuring health insurance coverage for all citizens. He did inherit a budget gap of $3 billion dollars, created during the terms of the three previous Republican Massachusetts governors: William Weld, Paul Celluci and Jane Swift. Job growth increased at a 1.3 percent rate during Romney's term in office, ranking Massachusetts 47th out of 50 states during that time.

The state of Massachusetts raised $501 million in new income in the first year of the fee increase program, more than any other state in the nation that year (New York was second with $367 million. Nine other states raised fees and fines by more than $100 million). There were increases in 88 different new or existing fees, including fees to get a marriage license, renew a driver's license, legally possess a gun, recording the sale of a house upon closing, and from Children's Medical Security Program co-pays and premiums, the program for low-income families.. Romney also approved $128 million in tax changes such as sales tax from purchases on the Internet, and raised another $181 million in additional business taxes in the next two years. The total of increased taxes on businesses was $308 million per year.

However, the primary reduction in Massachusetts debt was from capital gains tax revenue caused by a previously enacted capital gains tax increase, lowering the deficit by $1.3 billion. So the real debt reduction was from higher taxes on the 1%. A lot of pain was inflected on the wallets of the 99%, needlessly.

As a management consultant, venture capitalist and governor, Mitt Romney’s policies, investments and programs did not produce jobs, especially not good jobs at higher wages. Those policies and programs are very similar to the ones proposed by his other Republican primary competitors. We all know by now the definition of insanity. There are no sane reason to believe that those economic results would change if any of them became President.

The class warfare would continue on, unabated.

No wonder he’s so defensive.

Monday, January 09, 2012


by Michael Maynard
January 9, 2012

"When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, 'Thank you, Lord.'"

Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow upon seeing his wide receiver running for the winning touchdown in a first round playoff victory over the favored Pittsburgh Steelers.

Unless you’ve been living in a medically induced coma or have been fending off the advances of guys named Abdul in a Turkish prison for the past 4 months, you must be aware of the sports and cultural phenomenon named Tim Tebow and his ever present expression of his Christian beliefs. Adding to Tebow’s religious legend is that he has led his football team to six straight come from behind victories. Yesterday, his team was tied at the end of 4 quarters and scored in overtime to win. Tebowing has become part of the vernacular - “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” (Source: However, if Tim Tebow looked the same, said similar things, acted the same, but was Muslim, would there be the same cultural interest? Of course not.

There is no question that Tebow is sincere in his beliefs. He has spent time and money doing good works, such as his planned building of a children’s hospital in the Philippines. He remains calm and unflustered by all criticism of his public displays of faith and frequent questioning about his beliefs. While his overall abilities to become a successful National Football League quarterback long-term remain questionable, his teammates like him, seem energized by his physical style of play and are not bothered by all the media attention he receives. He’s a throwback to the clean-cut image of professional athlete in an era of steroids, sex and illegal payoff scandals. Most people would love for him to be their son or marry their daughter.

Not me.

Being a Catholic from the Northeast, I am uncomfortable with the public displays and constant expressions of personal faith. Tebow, even though he is also a Christian, doesn’t represent me or my religious beliefs. I believe you show your being a follower of Christ by your actions and deeds, not by your verbal statements. I am even more uncomfortable with the insertion of religion in governmental affairs, especially being used as a criterion for selecting a presidential candidate. The last openly religious president was Jimmy Carter was not a success, even though most of the problems that occurred on his term in office were beyond his control. It wasn’t discussed during his time in office, but I’ve wondered how much of his problems in the Middle East were caused by mistrust of his Christian beliefs by the Islamic mullahs.

The current Republican primaries so far have been influenced less by the policy positions of the candidates and more by the religiosity of the candidates. Former governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are considered suspect by the right-wing evangelicals because they are Mormons. Newt Gingrich has tried to reform his image as a ruthless self-promoter and craven womanizer by his conversion to Catholicism. And then there is radical Catholic former senator Rick Santorum.

“I’ve survived the challenges so far by the daily grace that comes from God. . . . I offer a public thanks to God.’’ Rick Santorum after his second place result in the Iowa caucuses.

Santorum, who was soundly defeated in his 2006 campaign to be reelected U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, 58.6% to 41.3% by Democrat Bob Casey, and has not held public office since, has become the favorite of the conservative right wing because of his opposition to “libertarian” social values and programs, especially those regarding woman’s sexuality and reproductive rights. Santorum is against all forms of contraception and abortion, including the use of abortion to save the life of the woman during difficult births or pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, despite his wife’s near death during birth. His views to limit the scope of federal government are so extreme, other Senators called him “Senator Slash”.He also sought to modify the “No Child Left Behind” laws to require intelligent design to be taught in public schools as part of science classes.

It is his views on homosexuals that have caused the most controversy. He has argued that “the extended right to privacy ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut did not exist in the United States Constitution and that laws should exist against polygamy, adultery, sodomy, and other actions "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family". Santorum said those actions were harmful to society, saying, "Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman.... In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality".Santorum later said that he did not intend to equate homosexuality with incest and pedophilia, but rather as a critique of the specific legal position that the right to privacy prevents the government from regulating consensual acts among adults (such as bigamy, incest, etc.). (Source - Wikipedia “Rick Santorum”).

Since Tebowing is part of the vernacular, so should Santorism - Expressing hateful and ignorant social and political views and beliefs infringing on the lives of others.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Greater Divide

The Greater Divide
by Michael Maynard
January 4, 2012

The political and current affairs punditry has tried over time to convince us that there are two Americas:

Male Establishment vs. Females
White vs. Black
North vs. South
White vs. Black vs Brown (Hispanic)
Christians vs. Heathens
Hippies vs. Squares
Mods vs. The Establishment
Republicans vs. Democrats
Red States vs. Blue States
Conservatism vs. Liberalism
and most recently, The 1% vs. the 99%

All epic cultural divisions. All remain unresolved. But, the 2012 Presidential election process is showing that we’re becoming increasingly fragmented as a nation as a result of the non-resolution of these divisions. At the core, the question really is “What kind of nation are we?”.

Do we, like most other industrial nations, provide a social safety net? Or do we let the poor and the disfranchised fend for themselves?

Do we continue to act as the world’s “policeman”? Or do we become isolationist and let the rest of the world deal with their own issues, such as mass killings and starvation?

Do we insist that all social behavior must follow an unspecified Judeo-Christian ideal? Or do we recognize and embrace cultural, gender and religious diversity?

Do we turn to the federal government to resolve gross injustices and irreconcilable disputes? Or leave it up to the individuals to resolve, by any means necessary?

Do we continue to embrace the idea of “send us your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses” and we will provide them a home and opportunity? Or turn them away because we “can’t afford” them anymore?

Do only the rich rule or do we have a government representative of people from all walks of life - “of the people, by the people and for the people”?

Do we still embrace the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or is this only available to those who can afford them?

The 2012 primary process and federal government election is about all of the above. The candidates involved represent both sides of the issues above.

I am a social progressive, a political liberal, and a member of the 99%. I truly resent being told how I should live my life by those whose live their lives no better, or in some cases, much worse.

I am a Christian, but I also embrace other religions. All paths lead to our creator.

I am the grandson of an Italian immigrant who left his life behind to come to the land of opportunity and freedom. I want others who want this opportunity to come to our country and be part of strength, our cultural melting pot. I am willing to contribute my time, effort and money to help those who cannot help themselves or trying to do so. And I’m proud to be part of the country that does this willingly.

But I am not part of the hatefulness that is creeping throughout our country. Shoot the Mexicans who are trying to enter the country illegally. Deport them because they are taking jobs away from "real Americans". Deny women the right to control their reproductive organs and go back to the days of the coat hanger wielder in the alley. Force women back to being barefoot and pregnant. Let the poor and the elderly fend for themselves. Keep a greater, but small, percentage of income to spend by eliminating Social Security - the social safety net so many depend upon.

No, I don’t belong to that country and I don’t want to. It’s my right to leave and I will, when I can no longer tolerate living in the moral dictatorship that we easily can become. The teachings of Christ, Buddha and Mohammed guide me on how to live my life, not bombastic, sanctimonious politicians.

There is a greater divide in this country than there ever has been before because of an epidemic of intolerance and greed. When you vote in November, it may well become a choice of which side you’re on.