Saturday, May 30, 2009

Justice Nominee Sotomayor

By DogGone (guest writer),

President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court has been accused of being a racist, a reverse racist, a bigot, stupid; probably by now, far worse. The accusations are based on a single quotation from Sotomayor's 2001 speech, "A Latina Judge's Voice", presented at the Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Memorial Lecture. The purpose of this lecture series was "to perpetuate the Judge's abiding commitment to the development of law promoting equality and justice for all people. Judge Sotomayor has been one of a number of distinguished individuals who have been invited to be a speaker.

Reading Ms. Sotomayor's speech in its entirety, it is far less reasonable to present her as a racist (or reverse racist) or a bigot. The whole text is widely available on the internet to be read, by those who have an interest either in the topic, or in fundamental fairness. I was favorably impressed by the precision Ms. Sotomayor brought to her topic; she was not making vague general comments about the numbers of women, and the numbers of people of color or minority ethnicity in powerful judicial positions, she had a very clear understanding of the timeline of those positions, and where more or less progress had been made.

The controversial remark that has been the basis of the bigotry claims is "Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." What is not addressed here is that it is in response to a quote variously attributed to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor or Justice Coyle, that "a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases." The essence of Judge Sotomayor's speech is to examine if this is a correct assumption, given the relatively small numbers over a brief period of time where women and minorities of race or ethnicity have had an impact. The full title of the seminar where Judge Sotomayor was speaking was ""Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation,"

The "struggle for representation" is the crux, the notion that representation is not a political idea unique to issues of taxation. It goes to the very heart of our concept of equality before the law, of being judged by our peers from the bench as well as by juries. Currently our judges are not usually representative of our demographics, in the proportion of men to women, or in the different backgrounds, race or ethnicity. Why should we care if our judges are more representational of our citizens? What difference does it make whether we have decisions made by a group composed entirely of old white men, or old white men with one or two white women in the mix, and one older person of color?

Looking at the history of some of the decisions by the Supreme Court, over time, provides the answers. For example, an excerpt from the language of the Dredd Scott decision, Dredd Scott v. Sanford, 1857 that slaves, African Americans, some who were actually bi-racial or multi-racial, were described as:"beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

The court further argued, as a reason for not granting Scott the rights of a free man:

"It would give to persons of the negro race, ...the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, ...the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went." That decision was never legally overturned, but rather superseded by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, which resulted in citizenship regardless of race, a change to the original provisions of our Constitution. The decisions of our Supreme Court have not always been correct; neither are the provisions of our Constitution always perfect because they were written by the founding fathers of this country. Would having a more diverse composition of our Supreme Court guarantee us only correct, right rulings? Of course not, but it may, arguably, provide a greater variety of opinions to form and inform those decisions. It is to Judge Sotomayor's credit that in her very selectively quoted speech, what is not quoted as widely is the attempts at analysis to determine what differences women and people more racially diverse or ethnically diverse has had on our legal system and the pattern of legal decisions. Her expressed concern is for any difference to be a positive one for this country, and its citizens, by being thoughtful and critical of changes. She acknowledges the decisions, such as the legal decision that ended segregation, as having come from nine older white male justices. There is nothing in this speech to indicate that Sotomayor is a bigot or "reverse bigot" who is prejudiced against either men or Caucasians. There is no threat here; attempts to portray one, to create fear, is intentionally deceptive and manipulative.

As a lifelong resident of Minnesota, I was delighted to see that Judge Sotomayor singled out for mention our state Supreme Court, for having had for a period of time not only one woman justice, but more women than men, the only state to do so. We here in Minnesota should be proud of that fact. But more than presenting a laundry list of demographic statistics, Judge Sotomayer presented her own introspective thoughts on how we incorporate our differences, and when we should try not to be influenced by them, and the degree to which we can set aside those formative influences. Similar comments have been made by Supreme Court Justices in the past, including current sitting Supreme Court judges.

These ideas are not unique to Sotomayor; there are a number of influential jurists who have contributed to the concept of legal realism; some trace the legal philosophy all the way back to Oliver Wendell Holmes, and it has roots in Scandinavian legal thinking as well. Addressing ideas, including her own candid introspection, on the philosophy that individual qualities are involved in administering justice hardly makes Sotomayer a racist. I would argue that facing head on one's own possible prejudices, and evaluating their effect, is an exercise in great personal honesty; a greater honesty than many of Judge Sotomayer's critics have attempted in their accusations.

It would be a refreshing development if, in the course of Judge Sotomayer's confirmation hearing, we experience not only a discussion of her speech at the "Raising the Bar" seminar, but if we can raise the bar of political criticism to a higher level of intellectual integrity. As a Minnesotan, I can only speculate on the role our contested senate race might have on Sotomayor's confirmation vote. Our one Senator, Senator Klobuchar, sits on the Judiciary Committee. I can only hope that our contribution is as positive as our record for the Minnesota State Supreme Court.

(From Penigma: My thanks to DogGone for a well-researched, artfully argued, and elegantly persuasive presentation of the facts in play, both motivating President Obama to nominate Judge Sotomayor, and exposing the mendacity and shallow-thinking of the extreme right in attacking her in this way).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An indictment

I've been pondering how to write this post for a few days and I'm still not sure how it will come out, but here goes (since I promised someone I'd do it).

Paul Krugman argued in his book "Concience of a Liberal" that discourse in American politics has become so polarized because the country took a radical shift to the right starting in about 1979, but perhaps as early as 1976, in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo, Vietnam, and later the Iran hostage crisis. The American pscyhe had been bruised, and we wanted a revival of American pride - the kind of pride we felt as kids during the 50's and 60's, the kind of pride our parents and grandparents (depending upon your age) rightfully earned and enjoyed. Krugman's primary point was that the issues of Iran, oil prices, fear of Soviet domination, rather than issues of nationalism, patriotism, even racism, were the cause of the current 'great divide' in American politics. The issues were the horse, and the ideology the cart.

I don't agree with Krugman, even though I believe he is the finest editorial writer in the country today (as his Nobel prize in economics tends to reflect a capacity for synthisizing ideas quite well).

Krugman's underlying assertion is that civility was easier in the 60's and 70's because the differences between Republicans and Democrats was essentially smalll, but as the country moved right, the divide grew wider, and the rancor grew deeper.

I fundamentally find flaw with that assertion on a couple of levels - first, the flame-spewing element of concservatism, the likes of W.F. Buckley, Jerry Falwell, and Rush Limbaugh, didn't start out as kind-hearted change agents in the 70's, nor were Buckley or Barry Goldwater easy going seekers of a new way in the 1960's. They preached visceral change, but they also preached contempt and derision for anyone who disagreed. They were the re-emergence of the red-scare crowd from the McCarthy era. While they sought change, what they truly were looking for, it seems, was control, and an ability to shape America in an image of their making which left no room for dissent, even in the 60's.

Second, the Democratic and Republican parties of today are FAR, FAR closer in conduct today than they were in the 1970's and 1960's. The Democrats have followed the Republicans on this rightward march - they are friends of corporations to an extent never dreamed of by business leaders in the 1950's, and have abandoned (for all intents and purposes) organized labor as a dinosaur incapable of delivering either meaningful votes or election funds. There is little to distinguish one from the other - both are for sale with a capital S.

So why then is there such rancor?

I think it comes from the whole reason conservatism is what conservatism is. The genesis rancor in nearly ANY difference in opinion (not just conservatism) is a belief that "I'm right, and what I'm right about is obvious. It's not complex, it's common sense, and if you can't see it, there must be something wrong with you." In it's positive incarnation conservatism is the ideal that an individual should be responsible for virtually all aspects of his/her life and actions (when we're talking little 'c' conservatism). That ideal is admirable and can be little argued with. While circumstances of birth and especially upbringing have some mitigating impacts, nothing excuses conduct. People of poor birth are often more noble than those of the highest (more often in my opinion), people of a rough childhood have achieved great things, while those like Ted Bundy (as I recall brought up in a stable home) do unspeakable evil. Yet, clearly, the averages have shown being bought up in a harmful environment trends toward great harm. Liberals argue that such circumstances should have some weight in deciding the fate of those who do wrong, incorrect liberals argue it should excuse some of the wrong, and conservatives often argue that it should hold no weight, after all, the mantra goes, "I had a rough childhood and you don't see me shooting people."

That is, in my belief, the start of the issue. Much of our opinion about the world we tend to frame in our own personal experience. Those who are conservative, it seems, then seem to take the next step, and believe the world should behave by that same experience. This simple ideal (of personal accountability), has been used to damn the world not understood, compassion is not part of the equation, and neither is a desire to seek understanding.

The problem and source of the political divide, to me it seems, is that the ideal of personal accountability has been coopted. Those who note the simple human reaction that people should earn there own way have used that reaction to pervert the idealt, both by people who simply wanted to use it to justify on-going racism in the south (blacks needed to simply be 'responsible' rather than look to the government to cure society's ills - like rampant, institutional racism in the 1950's South) - and conservatism was adopted by people who meant what they said (about responsibility), but wouldn't or couldn't live up to the puritanical ideals much of what the likes of Goldwater pushed but people like Gingrich, Bush (W), Limbaugh, Haggerty, Swaggert, Bakker, and a host of others proved was a standard of conduct (or personal accountability) that even Christ recognized was beyond the capability of the vast majority of humanity. In short, we (and they) have found since the time of Goldwater (when according to Krugan political debate was far more civil) that many conservatives had feet of clay

What we further saw was that, in fact many really didn't even care that their leaders had foibles. Some of the time such flaws were written off as flaws of a carnal nature, or they were flaws of 'boys being boys' and so on (of course Bill Clinton's flaws, those couldn't be ignored, after all he LIED - no matter that Bush and Cheney lied repeatedly about far more important and impactful things) he LIED about sex in court, and he was an adulter (no matter that so was Gingrich, or Bakker, or Swaggert) - actually of course it was that Clinton wasn't one of them.

And that's the first, best example of the nature of incivility. Flaws of other, especially the flaws of the minority population and as well, and more importantly those who defended minorities, weren't ok. They were attacked by the right in vociferous terms, even in the 50's and 60's - liberals, civil rights advocates and the like were called 'Godless', traitors, unAmerican, communists, etc.. in a stream of epithets that weren't intended to foster debate, but instead to foster fear, resentment, derision and ultimately hatred and contempt. The phraseology of the likes of Falwell in the 60's was simplistic braggadocio and exageration - it vilified those who embraced fair treatment and the end of segregation as godless 'n&&&er lovers'. Even Ronald Reagan in 1960 claimed that segregation (in housing) was the right of the homeowner and anyone who disagreed was anti-American.

William F. Buckley, the progenitor of the conservative magazine "The National Review", is often thought of as the Father/Godfather of (new) Conservatism. Buckley wrote a scathingly racist peice in the late 1940's. He was roundly attacked, even by those within his own party. His reaction was to warn his followers, those who embraced his aristocratic views about people of means vs. the rest of the population was that they must find a new way to express themselves. They might feel privately one way, but needed to find more palatable terms to express it and gain followers. Buckley was an important figure in developing the terms and speech of conservatism which Goldwater played upon.

All of which leads me to conclude that conservatism, while grounded in at least one fine ideal, was truly the horse (not the cart) of the current political divide. The driver of change was really the ideologically, not the issues. Conservatism is, and was in the 1950's and 1960's, rooted in contempt for your political opponent. The issue is about recognizing the supremacy of the American (white) way of life - or certainly was for southern (and northern affluent) conservatives. Political party isn't the question - many Democrats of the south were far more conservative than their northern "peers", but this unwavering, visceral and frequently violent belief in their 'way' was the genesis of change. It lead to opposition to Social Security, to Medicare, to unemployment insurance, to general assistance welfare, to head start, to Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC). When the wealthy conservatives of the north found allies in the racist conservatives of the south, they were happy to embrace issues (like opposition to the voting rights act) which brought them votes, and with it, the power to undo the New Deal.

The opposition of both (north and south) was 'supposedly' about disliking big government, but that was really code used by the propogandists for disliking both taxes (on the rich in the north) and any attempt to 'prop up' welfare 'mammas' (as Reagan quipped)- as a sop to a still-racist south. Opposition to government has been steeped in coded racial undertone since. After all, if their parents could survive the Great Depression, why couldn't some lazy person (aka lazy black) go out and get a job?

The divide, therefore, isn't about issues, it is purely about ethno-centric views of right vs. wrong, about us vs. them, about judgementalism in it's purest and most obvious form. The issues are merely the foil, and what is so galling, so striking is that those who wrap themselves fatuously in our flag, do so while casting down the primary ethic of the bible, namely to love thy neighbor - the Samaritan, the Gentile (i.e. the white guys among others), because while different, it is such differences that God intended for us to cease judging. And so, I disagree with Krugman, a man I profoundly admire. He is wrong, the issues, the movement of the country far to the right did not create the rancor, nor has the disagreement and despair of the left at this rightward march, but rather it was that hate-speech, that intolerant voice which brooked no criticism and welcomed no debate. The hate-speech of the right pre-dated such movement of issues - instead it was about dragging the country as far to the right (on issues) based upon a far-right philosophy - a philosophy that their way of life was best, and best applied to all. It was obvious, and there was no need or room for discussion past a very basic, paternalistic level. The rancor was the inevitable outcome between those who disliked that which was different, and the people who either were different or stood up for them. One-sided, staged issues where no reasonable discussion could conceivably occur is not the path of someone seeking to love their neighbor, and it is most certainly not American. The America I believe accepted our differences and melded them into a shining example of racial and religious tolerance. However, the main point is still this, it was the ideology of the far right that created this political divide, not issues, not the left. They have been unwilling since their start to discuss differences, and instead seek code-speak to hide their profound hatred of all things different from themselves. Above all, it is an indictment of their faith, they have sought to differentiate and divide, and they have succeeded. Their houses of God do not welcome all - in fact, they may well shoot you in one if you disagree.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nancy Pelosi should be investigated

and right after doing so, or at the same time, they can investigate:

  • Karl Rove
  • Richard Armitage
  • L. Paul Bremer
  • Paul Wolfowitz
  • Tom Delay
  • Dick Armey
  • Haley Barbour
  • Dick Cheney
  • George Walker Bush

I'm fully in favor of exposing those in Congress and the Administration who supported torture, who failed to object when they should have, who used water-boarding to coerce captives to say things which were politically expedient and/or desirable for the drumbeat for war. I think those people who endorsed illegatlity should go to jail, no matter what their party.

And that makes me profoundly different, it is what makes most liberals profoundly different, from Republicans. Republicans want Pelosi investigated, are beating their chests and crying "foul" over her possible support of torture, even though they wholeheartedly support torturing people, would object with every fiber of their being to any Republican being investigated much less being held accountable for torture. They purely want the political "win" over Pelosi, a win on something, or an accusation of something they absolutely do not think was wrong.

And that is what is wrong, not Pelosi. They could care less what Pelosi actually does - they just want the investigation because it suits their purposes at the moment, to which I say, "I agree! Let the investigations commence!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When does liberty die? The day we allow it...

to become the enemy of security... or so it would appear we have decided.

It used to be that we felt that part of securing our liberty was being a free and open society. It also used to be that we felt that being the "Shining City on the Hill," meant we stood for something, we wanted to be the best and strongest example of justice, fairness, openness and freedom. There was a fairly famous case of an MIT student (if memory serves) writing a plan/blueprint for a nuclear device (in the mid-1970's). Initially, the FBI, or NSA, or DSA and/or some apparatus of the government decided to go after the student, they demanded to know where he'd gotten his information, and how dare he publish such a thing (insert exasperated gasp here).

His answer was that he'd gotten the information from publicly available sources, at the library, in magazines, in trade journals. etc.. So whatever agency it was, backed off on the "You breached security" position. It then condemned the guy for publishing, but he simply replied that he provided it as a research paper for his school, the school put it in public space. The paper was pulled down by the school - but the furor died down. This was considered a classic case of what the price and benefits are of living in a free society, sometimes things you might rather keep secret are available, but better that than squelching the free exchange of ideas, the open expression of dissent, and the discovery of uncomfortable truths.

In another example, there was a reasonably famous Soviet spy who said that gaining information about the west didn't require much espionage, "All you have to do is read the paper." - that used to be a badge of honor for free societies, we were different from the Soviets or Communist Chinese because we EMBRACED our openness, not in spite of it.

We seem to have travelled far from there. During the Reagan years, the President's men (John Poindexter, Bill Casey and Oliver North) moved to undermine the ability of an unfriendly Congress to check the power of the President by de-funding the President's actions - a perfectly legitimate act of Congress, and a perfectly improper act of sedition by men sworn to uphold the Constitution first and foremost.

We have made it much worse, though, in the past 8 plus years (i.e. since 2001) including yesterday's decision by President Obama to squelch photos and stories of abuse by CIA and Army interrogators of prisoners held by us.

Under Bush - as craven a Presidency to be sure as has ever disgraced our history - people like Dick Cheney, Condolezza Rice and Alberto Gonzalez gave cover, after the fact, to abuses they endorsed. Abuses which were not the last stage of interogation when all other methods had failed, and abuses which were not at the time they started approved by Counsel - even the putrescent Counsel which the WH used. The justification they are now using is that, "It worked." I've already written about the fact that a. Torture never was said not to get information, so that's a strawman and I won't go into it further here than is necessary, but some of it is necessary to put into context this reply.

Torture, as Jesse Ventura said to Larry King two nights ago (on water-boarding), will get you to say that you are Brittany Spears, it will get you to say anything. I met a man, named Gerald Jenecho (if memory serves), when I was in Naval ROTC in 1983 - he was the current Captain of the Battleship Iowa. He had served in Vietnam, had been captured, and spent 8 years as a POW in North Vietnam at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was hung by rope strung under his armpits, with his hands tied behind his back, for days on end. The pain, for those of you who know some physiology, was understandably excruciating - for those of you who may not, you have many nerve endings in your armpits, and so such a position was very painful and enormously effective - and his comment in the speech he gave to my class was simply this, "Under Torture, you will divulge information, what you chose to divulge, however, we learned, can be lies. Artfully crafted lies, lies which if you were found out to be lying would cost you, perhaps your life, but lies." It would have been legal under the Gonzalez memorandum, to use this same technique at Gitmo - as it didn't 'rise to the same level of pain as death or losing a limb."

However, my point is water-boarding may have worked to get some useful information, but it undoubtedly also got us a bunch of lies which compromised both whatever we got from the prisoner and, for that matter, other prisoners because lies would contradict what another prisoner might have truthfully told us - AND took much, much longer than other methods - gaining much less information while doing so. So, in fact, it didn't work - but that's not really EVER been the question.

The question, the point, the issue, is exactly what Obama brought up yesterday. Disclosing our conduct will lead to a damaged reputation of the United States in the world, with moderates, with moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike, it will endanger our troops, it will put lie to our past attempts to bring to justice criminal regimes (and the criminals within them) for human rights violations - and so, it's a lose-lose situation, it sucks, but per President Obama, that's the situation.

However, as bad as that sounds, Obama is wrong.

In the long run, bringing our own people to justice shows that we believe in the rule of law, exposing our excesses helps, not hurts, the chances that this will not be repeated - it will damage our reputation, but it can also be used to enhance it. We have the chance to say, "A free society does not hide from the truth. A free society punishes wrong-doers, and lives up to the ideals it stands for. Being a shining city on the hill means shining a bright beacon on the dark corners of the world, even if that dark corner is in your own back yard." While it might expose our troops to injustice, we will have the moral fortitude and standing to say, "Yes, it happened, and you know what, those people were punished and their conduct condemned. We didn't hide from the truth, we confronted it - now do the same yourself." In short, we disarm people like Bin Laden by proving we in fact are better than the lies he tells. If we hide behind a risk of 'security breach' we become no better than the regimes of Idi Amin, or Pol Pot, or Mao, which we roundly repudiated for torturing their citizens and lying about it or covering it up. If on the other hand, we confront it, then we show, much like the story of Harold "Breaker" Morant, that we stand for the better part of man, we don't succumb to fear when we are afraid.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An Ethical Question

I spent a few hours arguing with one of the brightest people I know about philosophy.

The question was simple - if you could save 1,000 lives by taking one innocent one, would you, and if you would, why is it ethical?

The question arises from the question I was asked by Divad, specifically, are there EVER any circumstances where, effectively, the ends justifies the means - is Khant ever in error?

To me, there are two answers, I'll give you mine and his.

My answer was this, if there will be a loss of life regardless, better that it be one, than 999 more. The concept is essentially that you must do the least amount of harm - the least harm is saving 999 lives. This is not Benthamite philosophy, i.e. put the points on a scale, but rather, as harm is unavoidable, do the least possible.

My friend's argument, which I am hard-pressed to rebut is that even then, you cannot take an inoocent life, to do so, is to effectively say that you can act dishonorably to achieve an honorable end. Further, that it leads to value judgements which are the root of things like torture, Abu Ghraib, Mai Lai, etc.. Effectively, his point is, every bad act - with the exception of those taken by psychopaths, is done 'for the greater good.' Finally, if the situation is random (meaning, if I could save 1000 people from a flood, but to do so one person would have to die because I had to blow up a bridge to create a dam, and had not time to get that person off of the bridge), well, that's one thing - no coercion, but if I was instead being coerced - then my action is my choice only to decide whether to be party to a murder - as the person who would otherwise kill 1000 people if I didn't kill 1 - THEY were at fault, they were the chooser of life or death for 1000, not me. I was only choosing to be party to the death or life of one person.

The question's answer I feel lies in part in the situation - is it a force majeur event for which I'm choosing to save the most possible and also it lies in the idea of liberty over life - I don't know the answer, but would be intrigued to hear your theories.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer opined in a column published on Sunday by the StarTribune that:

"Principles are fine, but.."

With the but being that sometimes you have to make hard choices to keep the country safe.

This simpleton jingoism of 'The ends justify the means" logic is pretty well what has been used to carry out most of the more horrific acts in history, not the least of which was our internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. An act roundly repudiated now, including by the likes of people like Krauthammer.

The thing is though, that's not the full reply - the full reply goes on:

First, that torture simply gets us LESS not more, useful information, so that frankly, it compromised national security, it did NOT keep us safe(r), if anything it endangered our safety further.

Second, it wasn't the last act of desperation, it was the first act taken. It was done to show (vicariously) that we could be 'tough.'

Third, it endangers our citizens and soldiers - to no good use or purpose.

Fourth, the ends NEVER, ever justify the means. The word he should have used is 'ethics' are fine, but.. and then we'd all see that the whacked-out right has stood for, and still stands for, ethics of convenience. This wasn't about protecting the country, anything but, it was about hubris, vengeance, ethno-centric arrogance, and plain old mendacity.

In short, Krauthammer couldn't possibly be more wrong. This hurt our security.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Credit Worthy

I like Keith Ellison. I liked him when I met him before his election in 2006. He is a politician, he said what we wanted to hear at a party at Sam Kaplan's home, but it was clear he was passionate, articulate, and for that matter, believed in what he said when he spoke about core principals of compassion, hard-work, decency and integrity.

He is the only Muslim in Congress, and I'm proud I worked for his campaign, and I'm proud to continue to support him. So, fair warning, I like Keith Ellison and I give him immense credit for authoring the 'Credit Card Bill of Rights.'

Recently, my current credit card issuer, a company we'll call "Craptastical One", sent me a letter. "Due to the tough economic times", it said, it was effectively doubling my interest rate from 9.9% to 17.9%, on a card I've held for 14 years with them.

Now, I have a credit card debt equal to about 4% of my gross income, it used to be higher. I also have missed one payment in 23 years of having credit, that was due to a dispute, and a dispute I had resolved in my favor and was removed from my history. Other than that, I've never, ever missed any payment and have ALWAYS paid more, usually FAR more, than the minimum, on any bill from any credit issuer, Sears, Best Buy, etc.. and of course, always paid in full the scheduled amounts due on my car loans, home loans, phone bills, etc... Oh, it's not that I didn't miss a utility bill every great once in a while (maybe 4 or 5 times in 23 years), but of course, I then paid the full amount off, and such was a miss of oversight, not commission.

As a result, my credit rating is pretty strong (my Fair Issac score or FICO is above 800). With Craptastical One, I've paid them, year in and year out, on time, and any late payment of a utility bill of course never affected my credit score as it never was worthy of such notice. So my credit score is pretty well pristine as pristine can be. I also am NOT someone who pays off bills in full, something credit card issuers don't like.

So, I was pretty surprised.

Then, I read an article that said that credit card issuers were going after good credit people who they felt might have the ability to pay more, as evidenced by a couple of factors. One being that they started paying down substantially their current credit card debt. As I'd paid off about 30% of my debt in the past 6 months, I thought, "yeah, that might be it." I also thought, "Well, you also just got a new house with a higher payment, so who knows?"

The point is, I have good credit, very good credit I believe. I also have a solid job that pays me well enough. Why did this happen?

The Republicans opposed Keith Ellison's bill to restrict arbitrary escalation in rates, cryptic reasoning behind such actions, and double-cycle counting. They contend that it will restrict credit to good credit customers, that it will not allow them to offer lower interest rates - something (formerly) known as 'risk based pricing,' but I tell you, that model no longer exists. Credit card companies are going after their best customers, their 'good credit customers' not with lower pricing, but with higher - because, well, they can. They can because it IS a bad time for our economy, and so they feel they can get away with it. There isn't any regard for the credit worthiness of the customer, in fact, the more credit worthy, the more likely you are (it seems) to be hit with an increase.

I contacted Craptastical One and asked if ANYTHING I had done prompted this increase. I was told "Nope, it's just that the market right now is poor, and we felt we needed to respond." "Poor?," I said, "You can get funds for .25% - Fed Fund Target, or .12-.20% if you use the Discount Rate and get the loan from another FI. You're making 20% plus on your average debt, and getting more money to loan is almost FREE!!. Good God, you people have NO shame."

So, unlike what the Republicans say, this isn't about offering risk based pricing. I find it rather offensive that they always seem to come back to the argument that 'We're better than the bad people, and they get what they deserve," kinds of arguments where if you only don't screw up (ever), you'll be fine. But in this case, it is the exact people who don't screw up who are getting screwed. Reps Bachmann and Kline probably even know this, there was certainly ample testimony in Congress about the fact that it was good credit customers who are getting hit, but they still voted against it. The reason of course is that they get massive contributions from credit issuers, whereas Rep Ellison, he gets his contributions mostly from people like me, pretty-average Joe, the consumer. Doubtless Ellison gets his share of contributions from companies too, doubtless Kline and Bachmann get some from ordinary folks as well, but when judging people, actions (such as votes) speak louder than words. In this case, the consumer is getting screwed, there was NO need for this increase, yet of course - they did it anyway. They did it because people like Bachmann gave them the green light by taking no action in the past against this kind of thing. It is time that light turned red.