A whole different world

As more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet, or if they are doing okay, saving money in case their situation worsens, they are looking at the cost of items.

Some are looking at cutting back on costs, maybe renting movies, or using Netflix, then going to a movie theater.  Maybe looking at store brands versus name brands.  Those are small, but significant savings over time that many Americans are looking at these days.

That is average Americans, what about those with a little more wealth available to them?  Well it looks like the Ensign clan has paid $96,000 to Cynthia Hampton’s family.  You may remember that she had an affair with Senator John Ensign.

In April 2008, Senator John Ensign’s parents each made gifts to Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton, and two of their children in the form of a check totaling $96,000. Each gift was limited to $12,000. The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts.

The first thing that struck me was that his parent’s paid his mistress, but then I realized that they probably paid the gifts to shield Senator Ensign from scrutiny.

So back to the cost of things, well in Nevada a family of four is consider to be at the federal poverty level if they make $22,050 a year.  Yet this family of four received gifts that totalled $96,000 or 435% of the poverty level, not bad for a gift.  That isn’t counting any work that either parent did during the year, that was just a gift!

This brings me back to American families of more average means, you know the ones that can’t afford to throw almost 6 figures to a family who you committed adultery with, so I am going to look at autoworkers.  Why, well Senator Ensign thinks the UAW (unions=bad) workers made too much.

As Ensign sees it, the root of the problem with the Big Three lies in the labor contracts that prevent the companies from being competitive with the foreign companies that build cars in the United States with nonunion labor.

Ensign repeatedly points to the $70 hourly labor costs at the Big Three, compared with $30 paid by companies that do not use unionized labor.

According to CBS it isn’t really $70/hour, but  $28/hour or about $60,000 for working on a line for a year.

Let’s start with the fact that it’s not $70 per hour in wages. According to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automative Research–who was my primary source for the figures you are about to read–average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007. That works out to a little less than $60,000 a year in gross income–hardly outrageous, particularly when you consider the physical demands of automobile assembly work and the skills most workers must acquire over the course of their careers.

So not only does he get his facts wrong, after all union busting is the real purpose of his efforts to oppose the bailout.  But really, even if it was $70/hour, or about $150,000 a year, that is for working for a year, not a gift to cover up a marital dalliance. 

Now you may ask yourself what also costs $96,000, not just paying off your mistress’ family, but something that most of us could understand a little better (that isn’t a house purchase which is closest most of us will get to that price tag).  Well we learned that Norm Coleman’s campaign had to pay some of Senator Al Franken’s costs in the contested Senate battle and the amount worked out to be about the same.

In the last chapter of a stinging loss to now-Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota’s Republican Party has sent the Democrat almost $96,000 to cover lawsuit costs.

Now if you want to be crude, you could say that both Ensign and Coleman got screwed, but Ensign got to have intimate relations with someone in the process, and kept his Senate seat.  So maybe he had the better deal of it.



Charles Krauthammer is blind to his irony

Charles Krauthammer’s May 29, 2009 column is full of irony, but I am not sure that he sees it.

The sum of his criticism of Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor to be the next supreme court justice is this:

Since the 2008 election, people have been asking what conservatism stands for. Well, if nothing else, it stands unequivocally against justice as empathy — and unequivocally for the principle of blind justice.

So that is pretty clear, justice should be blind, it should look only at the law, not the situation of the defendants or plantiffs.

So why does he start out his column painting a sympathetic picture of Frank Ricci, a plantiff?

Sonia Sotomayor has a classic American story. So does Frank Ricci.

Ricci is a New Haven firefighter stationed seven blocks from where Sotomayor went to law school (Yale). Raised in blue-collar Wallingford, Conn., Ricci struggled as a C and D student in public schools ill-prepared to address his serious learning disabilities. Nonetheless he persevered, becoming a junior firefighter and Connecticut’s youngest certified EMT.

After studying fire science at a community college, he became a New Haven “truckie,” the guy who puts up ladders and breaks holes in burning buildings. When his department announced exams for promotions, he spent $1,000 on books, quit his second job so he could study eight to 13 hours a day and, because of his dyslexia, hired someone to read him the material.

He placed sixth on the lieutenant’s exam, which qualified him for promotion. Except that the exams were thrown out by the city, and all promotions denied, because no blacks had scored high enough to be promoted.

Seriously, if irony was water, Charles Krauthammer would have waterboarded himself here.  We shouldn’t be deciding cases on empathy, but hey you should look at this guy Frank Ricci and be empathetic to the obstacles he has overcome.  If Krauthammer really wanted to take on the issue of that case, he could have used his column-inches more wisely and explored the idea of throwing out the promotions because of the lack of diversity of those who passed the lieutenant’s exam, rather than a empathy building exercise.

And then there is some more irony, but this a multiple column irony, in this same column, Krauthammer says that empathy’s proper place is not on the bench but in other branches of government. 

Empathy is a vital virtue to be exercised in private life — through charity, respect and loving kindness — and in the legislative life of a society where the consequences of any law matter greatly, which is why income taxes are progressive and safety nets are built for the poor and disadvantaged.

But back on April 3, 2009, his column contained this gem,

Obama has far different ambitions. His goal is to rewrite the American social compact, to recast the relationship between government and citizen. He wants government to narrow the nation’s income and anxiety gaps. Soak the rich for reasons of revenue and justice. Nationalize health care and federalize education to grant all citizens of all classes the freedom from anxiety about health care and college that the rich enjoy. And fund this vast new social safety net through the cash cow of a disguised carbon tax.

Obama is a leveler. He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission.

Fairness through leveling is the essence of Obamaism. (Asked by Charlie Gibson during a campaign debate about his support for raising capital gains taxes — even if they caused a net revenue loss to the government — Obama stuck to the tax hike “for purposes of fairness.”) The elements are highly progressive taxation, federalized health care and higher education, and revenue-producing energy controls. But first he must deal with the sideshows. They could sink the economy and poison his public support before he gets to enact his real agenda.

Now in all fairness to Krauthammer, Obama is no longer in the legislative branch, but in the executive branch.  And he didn’t say that empathy belongs in the executive branch, but he didn’t say it must be excluded from it, like it must from the judicial branch.  So it could be a wash on the branch of government issue.

But yet, his April 3rd column made him seem like he was against progressive taxation, or at least extreme versions of it, and not that big a fan of the social safety net, at least looking like nationalized health care and more affordable access to higher education.

I guess that isn’t really irony so much as rampant hypocrisy, in one column railing against progressive taxation and social safety net programs, and then praising them as part of the empathy that exists in the legislative life.  That is often par for course for the highly paid talking heads that dominate the group-think inside the beltway, that often think that we don’t check what they wrote before.


Jesse Helms is dead

As we are not supposed to say anything bad about those who have passed on, I will rely on reminding you of his character by his own actions as commented on in the Wall Street Journal Opinion pages.

Mr. Helms has also made his views on race clear through a series of merely symbolic actions. Soon after a Senate vote on the Confederate flag insignia, Mr. Helms ran into then-Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun of Illinois, who is black, in a capitol elevator. Mr. Helms turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and said, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.” He then proceeded to sing the song about the good life during slavery.

That is the kind of man that passed on yesterday.


Republicans trying to limit marriage

By bring forward a Constitutional Amendment to limit marriage to that between a man and a woman.  Not all that surprising.  But when you look at the cosponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 43, it gets more interesting.

Two of the more notorious Senators in the current Congress, Larry Craig (R-ID) and David Vitter (R-LA) are cosponsors.  My hope is that the author of this is so hard up for sponsors he is looking past some of their recent history, which can’t help make the case for the sanctity of marriage.

First there is Larry Craig who was busted for soliciting sex in a men’s bathroom in Minneapolis.  Maybe this is overcompensating or trying to show his anti-gay credentials, what ever the case, he was going to plead guilty to the charge.

Sen. Larry Craig said he “overreacted and made a poor decision” in pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after his June arrest following an incident in a Minneapolis, Minnesota, airport bathroom.

Tuesday, in his first public statement on the arrest, the Idaho Republican said he did nothing “inappropriate.”

“Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been,” said Craig, who has aligned himself with conservative groups who oppose gay rights.

Most importantly we got this wonderful video out of the whole story.

Now while I am guessing that Larry Craig is staying in the closet because pressure from his community and political party, which is sad, the hypocrisy is shared by his colleague from Louisiana.

David Vitter’s number was found on the DC Madam’s phone list records, and he apologized to God and his wife.

“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter, 46, said in a statement, which his spokesman, Joel DiGrado, confirmed to the Associated Press.

“Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter continued. “Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there — with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”

So soliciting sex from men (when you are a man) in airport bathrooms or soliciting prostitutes provide you with enough morality hypocrisy to prevent same sex couples from getting married in front of family, friends, and god.

From my world view, let us ignore the hypocrites and embrace these great couples!

Equal rights for all!  Be proud this weekend!!