Monday, November 22, 2010

Getting ready for President Palin

Consider Sarah Palin (AKA Governor Quitter von Alaska)'s most amazing accomplishment: she has managed to make President Bush II look like an intellectual by comparison. She's clever without being smart--just as Obama is smart without being clever.

So if she's so, um, underqualified for the biggest job on Earth, why do some very smart, very wealthy people like her for Prez? It has to do with something employers have long noticed (as well as viewers of American Idol): the more mediocre someone is, the higher an opinion they have of themselves. Smart workers tend to be very self-critical, while those most likely to be laid off rate themselves God's Gift to their employer.

And people whose self-esteem vastly exceeds their actual merit are the easiest people to manipulate.

Palin's cheerinbg section--almost uniformly members of the majority of Americans with IQs of 100 or less--aren't worried about her lack of intelligence because she's just like them, only more articulate (in her own hick way), and they know that they know how to run the country better than those innelekshuls do.

Thus she fits the corporate elite's second prerequisite for the job--she may be electable. Someone's devotion to your cause doesn't matter if they can't get the gig, after all.

So, like Bush, she'll think she's The Decider.

And as far as social issues are concerned she will be.

They'll let her pursue her far right social agenda (like anti-abortionism) all she pleases. Doesn't cost them a cent. Meanwhile the nice, apparently sycophantic folks whispering in her ear will make sure the corporate welfare gravy train keeps on a' rollin' while she plays President.

Always look for the hand stuck up the sock of the sock puppet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mas on immigration

I got a counterargument for the last entry, which you can read in the Comments there. My answer was too long for Comments, so I put it here:

1. Biometric ID: as i said, the time it's most likely to be adopted is in the wake of a catastrophic Islamofascist attack or something comparable.

Think of the widely publicized crimes that give rise to draconian legislation like Jessica's Law and all the other laws with some victim's name in front. Or California's 3 Strikes law.

So it's when the objectors will sound like near traitors who are "soft on terrorism" that it'll be most possible to get biometric ID.

And remember, no one predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall. I'm not saying biometric ID is inevitable or even likely--but it's not impossible, and it's so useful I feel compelled to thump the tub for it.

Also, other countries are trying it, and their success or failure will change the equation as well.

2. Catholic perfidy:

The only third world country I know of with its birthrate under control is peasant China (as opposed to middle class China, which is in many ways another country--as is also true in India).

Catholics and others rail constantly against China's One Child policy, but it's the only thing that works in third world countries. In the rich world, people tend to use the technology regardless of what churches say.

However, even in America it's nearly impossible to get an abortion if you aren't fairly affluent across wide swaths of the country. For example, there's only one abortion clinic in Mississippi--in the whole state--and anyone trying to use it must run a gauntlet of chanting, intimidating protestors.

This is the Catholic Church's fault. Some 19th century pope decided that abortion was wrong--despite the total absence of biblical support for such an idea--and the Church Universal successfully peddled the idea to American Fundamentalists by the 1920s.

Third world Muslims, Christians, Hindus and other have high birthrates. What distinguishes the Catholic Church's contribution to this ecological disaster is its aggressive, top-down, highly successful propaganda campaign enlisting the machinery of the State to enforce its peculiarly non-Christian version of Christianity.

No other religion has so many commanded by so few.

It's easy to discount this if you're a middle class American. You can meet lots of Catholics who, even if they go to Mass regularly, take an a la carte approach to their religion's dictates--including its claim of papal infallibility.

It's not that most of them are marching with placards. They simply go about their business, blithely reshaping their religion in a much milder form of personal practice.

This is also true of most other religions in America--adherents tend to mellow out the harsher stuff.

But outside America's educated urban areas it's another story--and even moreso in the third world.

There the Catholic Church's political engagement and mindlock on uneducated adherents is staggering. Only the evangelicals have been able to put much of a dent in it, but they share the Catholic's ecocidal attitude toward abortion, though not, thank heavens (so to speak) condoms.

There is no comparable head of the Muslim or Hindu faiths. Thus you'll get ingnorant African Muslim clerics responsible for the resurgence of polio there, but that didn't come from Mecca.

So my particular brief against the Catholic Church centers on its political activism and efficacy combined with the most backward view of birth control of any religion on Earth. Condoms are murder? Really?

3. Blocking illegals' access to social services.

This would only be possible with biometric ID AND with a major economic downturn, such that people felt like the aid for them was being taken out of American mouths.

So the longer this recession goes on the more pressure will build to take care of our own first.

However, the other part of the equation--blocking access to jobs--has broad popular support, despite some right wing opposition to e-Verify from Libertarians whose secular religion opposes all forms of government control (thus enabling corporate control) over our lives.

And in fact you can get majorities opposing most social services for illegals in most states. The problem is the opposition to this opposition by both parties.

So, as with biometric ID, this area's equations will change if/when our society gets really stressed.

And here again I'm not hearing the arguments I make--we have to pound on the plain fact that there is no job magnet sufficient to tear most Mexicans away from home and hearth--it's Mexican overpopulation that's pushing them up here.

So our foreign aid to Mexico should be in the form of free family planning clinics throughout rural Mexico.

I know, fat chance. Had to be said though.

It all does seem like long odds. The game is worth the candle though (whatever that means).

Immigration response followup

One reader (Sean) raised some questions about the immigration essay below. I thought it was worth addressing them here rather than in Comments:

1. Biometric ID--useless to bring up because it'll never be adopted. So "I feel that using this as an arguing point as a cure to illegal immigration is like arguing for the invention of cold fusion to solve pollution."

A: There's a humongous difference between cold fusion and biometric ID: the former is not possible with current technology (and probably never will be, for that matter); while biometric ID is not only possible, but is being adopted in other countries today.

Second, security experts seem to agree that sooner or later Islamofascists will succeed in carrying out another 9/11-scale or larger attack in this country. Biometric ID is the only way we can track everyone here, so while it's much more important for immigration control in the larger scheme of things, adopting is in the aftermath of a second 9/11 is more likely.

Third, Americans are in denial about the extent to which we're already being tracked--how many databases we're on today. The only people not on these databases are illegal aliens. It's possible that honest citizens will eventually wake up to the fact that the privacy enjoyed by our forbears in the 18th century is gone whether we get biometric ID or not, and today the only people whose privacy is actually being protected by not having biometric ID are criminals.

However, the far right has been fomenting antigovernment paranoia--at the behest of their billionaire patrons--for so long that it would be well nigh impossible to give up on this, even though it harms their constituents. This is just another example of how so many politicians serve their paymasters first and voters last.

And of course left wing demagogues also foment antigovernment paranoia, spurred on by people who belong to groups that have been the target of government plots against them in the past--especially blacks and Jews, whose ancestors had legitimate complaints.

Which leads to my fourth reason for championing biometric ID: it allows you to confront partisans with their own hypocrisy. I once lost the more or less friendship of a far right conspiracy theory type (we'd met scuba diving) when I pointed out to him that by opposing biometric ID he was supporting illegal immigration, since nothing less will stop it.

Right wingers are constantly prattling about how we need Law Und Order--yet they balk when doing just that actually includes them. It's hypocritical and worth pointing out to them when you're discussing politics with them.

And with left wingers it's a perfect example of the saying "A cat who's sat on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again--but he'll never sit on a warm one either." That is, the fact that the ancestors of many leftists suffered from government persecution doesn't mean that all governments always persecute everyone who's in any kind of minority. They're fighting shadows of the past.

And you can also point out to each that they sound just like the other--there's nothing a right winger likes less is being told he sounds just like a Lib-er-ul--and vice-versa.

BTW biometric ID doesn't require an ID card with a fingerprint that you'd have to keep track of. For example, for years Fujitsu has been marketing a palm reader. You hold your hand over it and it reads the unique, un-fake-able pattern of veins inside the palm of your hand. Link the reader to a database in the cloud and you've got something you could have in every police car, at the counter of every hospital and Dept. of Motor Vehicles office etc.

Lastly, I have to believe that at least some of the opposition to biometric ID stems from ignorance and letting its opponents frame the debate. So the more that sane people bring it up and champion it, the more likely it is of being adopted someday.

After all, e-Verify is in use today on a limited basis, in the face of ferocious opposition by Tea Party types and ACLU types--people I call privacy delusionists--and biometric ID is just an extension of e-Verify.

2. Blaming the Catholic Church for Mexican overpopulation. "Accusing the Catholic church of causing Mexicans to breed like rabbits isn't nearly as easy as accusing scientists and doctors for cultivating an environment where people don't die as quickly."

A. It's true that technology advances made population explosions possible. But that technology is even more available in the more advanced countries, from Japan to France to Russia--and in those countries middle class people aren't having huge families, by and large. And yes, some of them are Catholic--including France of course--but in these countries the Catholic Church is hanging on by its fingernails, with the majority of its nominal adherents not following its leader's dictates--particularly where birth control/abortion are concerned.

That's true in this country. The only sizeable group of Catholics in America who follow the church's dictates are Latinos--legal and illegal. The Catholic Church in North America has become rapidly latinized, in exact proportion to the dropping average educational level of adherent.

Mexico's small middle class doesn't follow church dictates either--hence Mexico City legalizing abortion.

So what you need is uneducated people with access to modern medical technology--and the Catholic Church telling them condoms are murder. That's the toxic combo you get in Latin America (and Haiti, for that matter).

For example, last year in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo a 12 year old girl whose stepfather had raped and impregnated her was forced to carry the fetus to term at the insistence of the Catholic Church officials there.

That's typical where the Catholic Church dominates.

Islam is just as bad, in general. Muslim countries are famous for gigantic families--which fact give Israelis heartburn every day.

But our illegal immigration problem isn't with Muslims--as it is in Europe--it's with devout Catholic Mexican (and some Salvadorean and Guatemalan) peasants with less than an American high school education moving here in droves, illegally (and legally too in large numbers, due to our culturally suicidal legal immigration policies).

If Mexico weren't Catholic it would still have had a population explosion, though I'm guessing not as big as it's been. And the Catholic Church in Latin America has gotten laws passed that general ban abortion, condoms, the pill--everything you can use to stop procreation, along with a church-dominated government that actively interferes with any kind of family planning (any kind that works), even where some forms of birth control are nominally legal.

As a consequence Mexico's population has exploded from 20 million in 1940 to over 100 million in 2000, and is continuing to explode. Moreover, that explosion is occurring disproportionately among the poverty-stricken bottom half of Mexico's demographics.

Today technology makes it possible to have vast numbers of babies--but also to not have any babies, if people so wish and the law allows. Technology is as good and as evil as a hammer--it depends on what people choose to do with it.

And the Catholic Church, which has trended rightward over the last several decades, has chosen to ignore the dire effects of its policies on this planet.

So I do blame the Church and not the technology the Church uses selectively to pursue its unintentionally ecocidal goals.

3. "Repatriation isn't easy." Actually repatriation is a snap. You don't have to round up illegals who aren't committing felonies. You just have to make it impossible for them to make a living here and to access the social welfare system. Then many will leave the same way they came--on their own hook.

A. It's true that both parties are terrified of the swelling Latino vote. But it's equally true that a solid majority of Americans are dead set against any kind of amnesty--not just crusty old Republican men, but a substantial portion of Democrats (like me) as well. That's why the Republican leadership's attempt to pass an amnesty "reform" that Bush vowed he'd sign never got to him--the voter reaction was so powerful they didn't dare.

I agree that no one should be "living in the shadows." But I argue that the solution is to eliminate the shadows--with e-Verify to start with--and to try to get our very right wing Supreme Court majority to agree that the 14th Amendment doesn't cover the offspring of illegals (personally I think the Constitution's language does legalize them, but the Court's right wing majority is so activist and so indifferent to stare decisis that they might go for such a ruling).

The trick is to keep banking of the Republican leadership to listen to its constituents' powerful feelings on this topic, and for Democrats like me to confront the internal contradictions between Democratic Party founding principles and its hypocrisy in trying to help citizens of other countries grad the American Dream that they're taking away from their own Democratic constituents (including Latino Americans) in doing so.

Always work on making people live by the values they themselves espouse. I can argue for shutting out illegals from both a Democratic and Republican perspective.

And that's the take-away. Whoever you talk with, tell them why their own values mandate opposing illegal immigration. As long as they believe in nations, and in a nation's first obligation being to its own citizens, you can make this argument.

Especially in a massive, drawn-out recession with no end in sight and the worst-hit being the working class Americans whose earning power has been sapped by competition from citizens of other countries.

A job given to an illegal is a job shipped abroad.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Illegal immigration and tne NYTimes editorial board

The NYTimes' Sunday editorial "Immigration hardball" lamented how the incoming Republican House of Representatives were going to deal with illegal immigration.

My response:

This editorial regards it as self evident that we should give American citizenship to perhaps 13 million citizens of other countries—mainly Mexico—who are residing here illegally. It doesn’t even bother to make a case for this, substituting adjectives for arguments.

Such is the partisan divide these days, with both sides unable to actually argue their points, preferring to spend all their time with those who already agree with them.

Yet many American centrists—you know, the people who decide elections with their votes—don’t take either side’s positions as self evident. The partisans of right and left surely must know this, but still they persist in talking past us, using tautologies like heroin addicts use needles.

Consider illegal immigration. It’s hard to count the unspoken assumptions in this editorial...there are so many. The first is that American per se doesn’t exist. We don’t have a national, cultural, or linguistic identity to be honored and preserved. Every other nation’s culture is to be honored and preserved, mind you. Just not ours. And if one of those other nation’s cultures is swamping ours across the American Southwest—well, tough. It seems we have no right to protest, and we’re hotly denounced if we do. Chants of “Si se puede” greet our asking what would the Mexican government do if a million Americans moved to, say, Guadelajara, demanding Mexican citizenship, demanding that Mexicans learn to speak English, marching in large protests, waving American flags.

Actually I know what would happen, because Mexican law forbids immigration that would alter Mexico’s culture and demographics substantially. And what’s wrong with that? Mexico has a distinctive culture. I’ve studied it at the Universidad Autonima de México in Mexico City. Mexico has a right and a duty to its people to preserve its culture and language. And believe me, most Mexicans have no affection for our culture. Unlike every other nationality that comes here, Mexicans who immigrate to America don’t believe that’s what they’re doing. They believe they’re just moving to another part of Mexico that America is occupying illegally. That’s why they call it the reconquista.

So most of them don’t want to become American. They’ll take citizenship if they can get it, for the economic advantages, but when they’re asked to renounce all allegiance to other countries, they’re mostly lying. Look at the pretty liberal Pew surveys of American citizens of Mexican origin. A majority of such citizens refer to themselves as Mexican. Not Mexican-American, and certainly not as American. Just Mexican.

Of course if you take the transnational view that borders are passé, why not? I’ve seen Anglo Americans who share Mexicans’ dislike for America gloating on newspaper forums about the coming demographic takeover of America—for the time when Anglos will become a minority here. It can’t come too soon for these people.

And you wonder why Tea Party types regard liberals as The Enemy?

So when you look at the results of the last election and then look at this editorial, you should see the connection. I’m a Democrat who voted for Obama and will again, and want national healthcare, and want the corporatists who nearly wrecked our economy jailed for fraud whenever possible. But Democrats are driving working class Americans into the GOP’s corrupt embrace with things like its official immigration policy.

Here in California, Mexicans with American citizenship will be in the majority in a few decades if not sooner. I’ve seen the effects of such a massive demographic shift in a way that the NYTimes editorial board, sitting in their aerie in New York City, cannot experience. In NYC you have a lot of cultures. But what if NYC was majority Mexican like LA now is? What if the most popular TV station in NYC only broadcast in Spanish (no subtitles either, of course)? What if the children of Mexico’s least educated cohort dragged NY schools down into 49th place in America?

Would the NYT editorial board sing a different tune then?

The NYT is America’s newspaper—even moreso than USA Today. Time to start acting like it.

BTW—one of the biggest ironies about the immigration issue is that liberals and conservatives are united in opposing the one thing that would solve the problem of all these illegals “hiding in the shadows”—by eliminating the shadows. That is a national biometric database. It’s technically feasible now. Implementing it would enable us, for the first time, to actually know who’s here, and where, and from where.

And it would enable America to decide who comes here, instead of leaving that decision up to the policymakers of other countries. And for us to quit acting as the safety valve for Mexico’s overpopulation crisis (from 20 million people in 1940 to over 100 million in 2000). And stop the Catholic Church’s ecocidal family planning policies from controlling ours.

Next time please take the other side seriously, NYT.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arguing with Tea Partiers

If you read political comment threads about global warming, you'll see they prove that Tea Party types can learn scientific terms--in exactly the same way as a mynah bird does.

That's why they cling to fabrications like the East Anglia stuff. Just because they can say the words doesn't mean they have the slightest understanding of what they mean.

The truth is that they're scared people who have been propagandized into believing all their insecurities are the fault of Lib-er-uls.

So when you debunk their ideas, they don't hear the debunking--they hear that you're attacking their tribe.

See, their fears are justified. They have been shafted. The inflation-adjusted incomes of most (aside from the richest) Americans has stagnated ever since Ronald Reagan spearheaded the move to take from the 95% and give it to the 5%. Moving plants abroad has kicked the slats out of their communities and their lives. The morphing of Wall Street from a service providing capital to manufacturers into a cabal of financial manipulators has destroyed their 401Ks. Their wives now have to work, which galls them.

And the Democrats haven't just made themselves into their enemy because the billionaires' sock puppets told them so. The Democrats have told them that every culture on Earth is precious--except for theirs; that every race and religion on Earth is precious--except for theirs. It has told them that their culture, race and traditions are evil things whose destruction by the shifting demographics of uncontrolled immigration is to be celebrated.

And to add insult to injury, they've discovered that their counterparts in government work make substantially more than they do--and that the public employee unions (apart from the very Republican prison guard union) generally fund Democratic pols enough to win their fealty.

Moreover, the Republicans look and talk like public, at least. While the Democrats often don't. Hence the claptrap about Obama being a furriner from a furrin place with a furrin religion. Of course that's nonsense--but it accurately reflects their feelings of dislocation in their own country.

So we smart liberal--type people have a problem with both these Tea Party types and with ourselves. And unfortunately the sins of our side are more visible and obvious than the sins of the Republicans.

We do ballots in 15 languages. They do default credit swaps. Now try to explain both things to a guy with a high school education. See what I mean?

The Republicans commit their sins in the dark. The Democrats do their in broad daylight.

We do have common ground with the Tea Party types--we've been shafted just like they have.

It's probably impossible to reason with the ones whose minds are set. Most of them at least. But we have to try, don't we?

So start by agreeing that they have indeed been shafted, by both parties, albeit in ways they don't understand as far as the Republican shafting is concerned.

Just don't get your hopes up. As Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out well over a century ago, the Achilles heel of American democracy is rampant anti-intellectualism.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why I'm torn

Here are my oversimplified bumper sticker slogans summarizing my ambivalence about the two parties:

Republican: Billions for Billionaires
Democrat: America for Mexicans

Third party anyone?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to balance the budget using conservative principles

Here's a solution no one is proposing: adopt the Republican tax code that was in use during the Eisenhower presidency--a time of dynamic industrial growth, infrastructure building and social equity under one of the best Republican presidents ever. And he got the country a balanced budget--balanced in large part by relatively high tax levels--especially on the very rich, with a top rate of 91%.

So let's all praise the virtues of conservatism and the Republican Party, and respecting tradition and proven practices: reinstate the Eisenhower tax code.

I'd love to hear what Boehner, Palin, Mitchell and Limbaugh--the heads of today's \"Republican\" party--would have to say in a debate with a real Republican like General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, unlike those clowns, was a real conservative in the actual, traditional sense of the term.

Tax Breaks for Billionaires

Billionaires are hurting! They aren't feeling the love they got from the White House for eight years. It's upping their therapists' bills.

So be sure to let your congressman know we taxpayers are dying to hand over $700 billion of our tax dollars to America's billionaires so their feelings won't be hurt--and so they'll create new jobs in India and China so their kids can afford a Lamborghini while they're in college.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One man, one vote? Not in the United States

I got this response to my last post, in which I claimed that the Republican Party has a structural advantage in elections, given the nature of the Electoral College--which no other democracy on Earth has. He said:

12 of the 13 smallest states (3-4 electoral votes) are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections. Six regularly vote Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota),, and six regularly vote Democratic (Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC) in presidential elections.

I suppose this is supposed to refute my claim. And for all I know this is the sort of refutation promoted in the right wing blogosphere.

However it only shows how much trouble most people have understanding statistics--especially when it isn't a black and white story. The reader's statement may be true as far as it goes but it doesn't change the fact that it takes more than one Democratic voter, on average, to counter the vote of one Republican voter.

What propagandists do is take advantage of humans' "confirmation bias" where we start with a conclusion then cherry pick the facts--or accept fake facts from people who claim they're members of our tribe--and then arrive at our foregone conclusion.

And this is a prime example.

I went to Wikipedia and looked up their entries on the states, and on which are red, blue, and purple (swing states), based on the results of the last several presidential elections.

Here's what I found:

All the red states, taken together, have a total population of 109 million people distributed across 22 states.

All the blue states, taken together, have a total population of 150 million people distributed across 21 states.

All the purple (swing) states, taken together, have a total population of 48 million people.

The averrage Republican state has a population of 4.9 million people, while the average Democratic state has a population of 7.1 million people (and the swing states average 6.9 million people).

That's a humongous imbalance. Yet Republicans win presidential elections, because the Electoral College favors them. all else being equal. This is due to the fact that the small states get more electors per citizen than the big states get. And it's not a small difference. A Montana Republican's vote counts for more than three California Democrats' votes.

Here's the raw data, with the states ranked in order of just how thoroughly they are in one camp or the other--thus Utah is the reddest state and Massachusetts the bluest (even though it sent a Republican to the Senate recently):

Red states--ranked by degree of "redness"

state name (redness) population

rank / size (in millions)

Blue states

Purple states

[sorry this doesn't appear as the
table I'd created--formatting issues
with Google I guess for those who
don't speak fluent HTML at least]

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

3rd pty political spending punches above its weight

All campaign dollars are not the same. You know how at the end of every candidate's ad there's that bit where he says "I'm X and I approve this ad."

Well, he doesn't need to do that for 3rd party ads. So if they lie he can claim clean hands.

So the 3rd pty ads the Supremes set free--and free to fly in secret--punch far above their weight, mostly because they can hit below the belt, and also because they can pretend to come from citizens' grassroots organizations.

BTW that freedom to spend in secret doesn't apply to union-sponsored ads. Advantage Republicans.

Of course all three left wing billionaires in America are now free to contribute in secret as well. But we all know they're waaaay outnumbered by right wing billionaires. Again, advantage Republican.

And we also know that on average one Republican vote counts for more than one Democrat vote because a preponderance of small states are solidly Republican, and the Electoral College gives them extra votes. For example, one Montanan's vote equals more than three Californians' votes when it comes to electing presidents. Yet again, advantage Republican.

Plus all those small states send exactly the same number of senators the Congress as the large states. Thus the Republican Senate majority from 2000-2006 represented many millions fewer voters than the Democratic Senate minority.

And even when the Republicans are in the minority, the advantage continues, because Senate rules let the minority block the majority in most areas unless the majority can muster a super-majority. That's how they've blocked so many Obama appointees, even nonpartisan ones, in hopes of making his presidency fail--regardless of the cost to effective government for these years.

And yet again, advantage Republican.

The Founding Fathers didn't write the Senate rules, but they did create the Electoral College--though not for any reasons that are true today, except to reflect the compromise needed to get the original 13 colonies to surrender their separate sovereignty to a national government. Nor did political parties even exist when the Founding Fathers launched our country. So perhaps it's just coincidence that the Republican Party, from secret billionaires' contributions to Senate obstructionism, has so much more representation in government than its actual number of voters represent.

And maybe that's why Democrat-controlled states send their tax dollars to Washington, which then sends a disproportionate amount of those monies to Republican states--you know, to the people who so resent having to pay taxes. Every single Blue state is a net donor state, while every single Republican one is a net recipient state.

So I expect the first thing the Party of States' Rights and Lower Taxes to do when the House of Representatives passes to Republican control is to pass a law mandating that each state get no more back from the federal government than its tax dollars can pay for.

If not, I'm afraid I'm going to have to call it the Party of Tax Cheats and Welfare Queens.

Of course they won't, because that would mean paying more than lip service to the principles they espouse--and their ruggedly individualistic, anti-tax, states-rights-loving constituents have no problem with stealing from the Blue states--making them hypocrites as big as the officals they've elected.

Honestly, all I ask of Democrats and Republicans is that both sides live by their principles, even when it doesn't advantage them tactically, and that both fly the Stars and Strips above their party's flag.

Too much to ask?

Does the election affect immigration?

Conservative NYTimes columnist David Brooks wrote an op ed piece titled "The Crossroads Nation: From Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century to President Obama’s new foundation, the next American century is often described vaguely. Here’s why."

And here's my comment (#98):

A key issue here, as Mr. Brooks noted, is immigration. Since fundamentalists have ruined education in rural America and liberals have ruined it in urban areas (through sacrificing all ghetto kids because they won't triage urban schools), we don't have enough educated students ourselves.

So we need immigrants, and I suspect Mr. Brooks means the same thing by that as I do--not someone's senile uncle brought here through "family reunification" and not the legalization of millions of semiliterate peasants from parts south.

I mean people like friends of mine here in Silicon Valley, from, for example, Bealrus (two BAs in software engineering), the former East Germany (PhD in physics), China (software engineer at Google), India (software engineering manager at Oracle), Russia (math degree), Bulgaria (marketing at a high tech startup), Rwanda (PhD in math), the Phillipines (two doctors working as nurses), and more. And that's just from my personal circle of acquaintances.

They all knew that they could come here and become Americans. Few other countries would let them assimilate (Australia, the UK, maybe NZ, maybe Ireland--what is it about Anglo society, huh?). But arguably the most accepting of all is America.

Yet they all had to jump through flaming hoops to get here, and wait a long time even before that. That's nuts. These are the ones we want and need.

I don't want unskilled immigrants. We have over 25% unemployment of domestic unskilled labor. Unskilled illegals have driven American blue collar wages into the ditch.

I don't want the current system of legal immigration in which two thirds are "family reunification" instead of the people we really need (let immediate families come IF the breadwinner can win enough bread to support them--but nothing past nuclear families).

I don't want the current system in which we enable people to get fabulous educations, then ship them back--often when they want to stay.

And I don't want to legalize anyone who's here illegally; nor do I want them in the shadows--so use e-Verify to eliminate the shadows, while making legal immigration for skilled workers a whole lot easier. Some illegals are great people with good skills. OK, let's do their home countries a favor by sending those back, while upholding the rule of law here, and getting rid of the ones who wouldn't be an asset to America even if they were legal.

Ultimately we're going to have to adopt a universal biometric ID system. That will eliminate the few shadows e-Verify leaves in place.

And if we've streamlined our immigration system, illegals with skills we actually need can apply from and in their home countries, and wait in line like everyone else.

Now the question is, is either party willing to risk the wrath of 2/3 of Latino immigrants with citizenship in order to fix our immigration system? Or will both be as spineless as they've been so far, leaving immigration overall a big fat mess?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Obama doesn't get it, I fear; but what he doesn't get has nothing to do with what the GOP says he doesn't get

It is irrational to treat people as if they are rational. We all intuitively believe everyone else is like us—thus smart people make the mistake of thinking others think like them, and mediocre minds make the same mistake. I went to blue-collar public schools, where the other kids assumed I was cheating on tests because they couldn’t imagine intelligence. It appears that Obama cannot imagine stupidity.

Though of course the Republicans’ leaders aren’t stupid. Just completely divorced from love of country. It’s the bulk of their followers who are. I read their comments in NYT comment threads, and the “up is down,” “black is white” statements made with utter sincerity are breathtaking.

Obama also fails to comprehend emotional reality. That the election was more about tribe than economics. That people will vote against their material self interest consistently—if you get them thinking tribally.

A compromiser’s skillset is useless against a foe who has no intention of compromising—just of using negotiations to run out the clock. The Chinese are like this. Ditto the Republican leadership.

I should add that, win or lose, the Democratic leadership continues to do everything in its power to make white working stiffs vote Republican, because they've embraced ethnic/racial advocacy instead of principles. And because they continue to coddle public employee organizations, which voters perceive as disproportionately ethnic.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No one's mentioned this either

This election demonstrates, once more, that there's no connection between personal and public morality.

I'm not advocating anything here but honest politics that serves the citizens and the country, regardless of where you stand on the conservative--liberal spectrum.

Consider: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Oskar Schindler, and innumerable other benefactors of humanity all cheated on their wives. Yet they did more good for more people than a churchfull of pious, godly folk.

Consider: George Bush II and innumerable others conducted politics in and from the gutter--yet Bush II, after a certain point, became a devoted husband and father. And I'm sure there are tobacco company executives who were equally good family men, while being slo-mo mass murderers at work.

And now consider this: I know a lot of Republicans, courtesy of attending a very conservative Christian church regularly. I've known some of them for over 20 years, and most of them are men and women of great personal honor--folks you could trust with your last dollar.

They rejoiced in this recent election that put what they imagine to be their party, enshrining their values of honesty, hard work, and responsibility, back into power--at least in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Yet their party did not win this election through an honest presentation of conservative principles.

Instead it was won not just by lying, but by the foulest politics, fueled by the largest amount of secret money applied to one election in the history of the Republic.

I am most assuredly not criticizing conservatism. This has nothing to do with conservatism. It has to do with lying on a gargantuan scale, in ways that pander to people's fears and animosities, with a divisive aftermath that will plague American politics for decades.

This has been verified by pretty reputable fact-checking organizations like Pulitzer Prize-winning and of which never hesitate to let Democrats and their allies have it with both barrels when they lie or distort the truth. Maybe they aren't always totally unbiased. but they're generally very, very good at what they do, and very nonpartisan. Add to the the Congressional Budget Office and mainstream newspapers.

Of course when I bring this up to my Republican friends they imply that, basically, any organization that criticizes anything any Republican does must be Lib-er-ul under their nonpartisan stance.

But that's just tribalism and good old human denial talking. Surely they must realize that they who pride themselves in their personal honesty--and who are, indeed, personally honest--are now rejoicing with nary a doubt or criticism in a victory gained not by fair means but by foul ones. They'll also claim that the Democrats did dirty deeds too, and they'll yammer about George Soros and The Unions. But even if they did cheat--and of course they did--they're such small potatoes, and their financial sources are so out in the open, that it's like comparing some high school baseball team with the New York Yankees.

It would take a book to detail what a colossal, coordinated attack was just completed on America's most fundamental institutions. But why duplicate what those fact-checking organizations have done? Read them yourself if you don't believe me.

And then come back and consider my point here: my Republican friends and yours have now associated themselves with a political organization that's no better than the ones you'll find in many a third world country. They've sacrificed their personal honor for victory.

For shame.

About that vote

The GOP won big not just because Republicans voted in droves--I'm not sure the Republican turnout was any bigger than before. But the Democratic turnout was way lower than before.

This wasn't just because the American Left thought Obama was a crypto-Republican (though they do, which is screamingly funny given that the average Republican thinks he's a socialist).

The main factor was the effectiveness of the Republican Ministry of Propaganda at dissuading Democrats from voting.

I'm not talking about robocalls giving the wrong date for voting. it's subtler than that. Instead, their propaganda--absent effectively crafted and financed Democratic responses--got a lot of Democrats to lose faith and stay home.

That's the beauty of character assassination. Many people vote on emotional grounds, not policy grounds. So if you can convince them that the Prez isn't a nice guy you'd like to have over for dinner, you win.

They painted Obama as intellectual, as a snob, as distant. They never once gave him the slightest credit for his unimpeachable family life, and Obama wasn't willing to expose his family to the limelight to make the point. And the painting went on and is going on nonstop. If a thousand voices tell you something eventually it comes to sound like common knowledge.

If they'd attacked his policies that's one thing. But attacking his character works for both goosing the base and dissuading the middle. On the surface the middle rejects the wilder claims against him--but Reverend Wright many thousands of times has his "Damn America" clip run?

So as you look at the media and the pundits and the fake think tanks and the ads and the whisper campaigns and the chain emails and the posters and all the rest--remember that every opponent's vote you suppress is exactly as good as every supporter's vote you gain.

And you'll rarely see the targeted stuff. We all see the general attacks. But the Republicans have perfected niche marking. If you live in coal country you get the anti-environment attacks. If you're in fundamentalist turf you get the "He's not a Christian" attacks. If you're a plumber in Peoria you might get an attack or a push poll or some such geared to plumbers in Peoria. The beauty of the Internet and computerized robocalls and emails is that you can slice and dice in a way that wasn't imaginable a few decades ago.

So any one person only sees the tip of the iceberg that goes out to the general public.

Never think you're seeing it all, or that you're seeing the dirtiest stuff. That's reserved for the whisper campaigns. But as you see what you do see, think about its crafting for both base-goosing and opponent-discouraging.

Side note: one of the best camoflages for real conspiracies is all the ridiculous fake conspiracy theorizing that floods the blogosphere. But as they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get ya.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

We're all above average

Here are a few factoids that help explain the mid-term elections--and which the pundits haven't mentioned:

#1: Recently I heard about a study showing that the worst employees almost always rate themselves as superior ones, while the best tend to be very self-critical.

#2: If you watch American Idol, America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance or similar programs, one thing they all have in common is the number of people who show up for auditions who have not just no talent--they have what you'd have to call "anti-talent"--yet who absolutely believe they're God's Gift to the Arts. Interviewed after the Simon Cowells have told them they suck massively, they stoutly maintain that the judge(s) know nothing.

#3: I visited Las Vegas recently. It's full of huge, fabulously expensive casinos, paid for by hordes of visitors, each of whom believes he will leave Las Vegas with his pockets stuffed with Benjamins.

#4: When I taught high school in a largely blue-collar semi-rural school district, I was stunned to discover that most of the students believed they already knew everything that was useful or necessary to know, and that the sole utility of school for them was as a place to socialize with their peers. As a corollary, I found that their belief in stuff like astrology was rampant and credulous, while any scientific claims were met by general scoffing and impossibly high standards of proof.

#4: Sociobiologists believe that human beings constantly overestimate their own skills and chances because it's good for the species for them to do so--even if such delusions have disastrous personal consequences. Warriors go into battle believing the bullet has the next guy's name on it. If they were realistic they'd run.

All this gets us an election in which people with no knowledge or understanding of economics all acted as if they were experts--that what they knew about balancing a checkbook was sufficient to know what the nation needed.

The Republicans' strategists understand mediocre people's intuitive overevaluation of their understanding, constantly telling them they knew more than those Democrat eggheads.

A perfect example is the balancing a checkbook analogy. In fact nearly every large business got there by going into debt. For that matter, nearly every middle class family is in debt because they bought their home on credit, not with cash.

Of course it's insane to go into debt to buy luxuries, or to gamble at the nearest Indian casino. But going into debt rationally is exactly what the word "investment" means. We buy a house on time--not too expensive a house, mind you--because it's a good investment. We shoudln't buy a luxury car on time because that's a bad investment.

So to say that government must always avoid deficit spending is a principle that doesn't work for business or for families.

And it's not what people mean, anyway. What they mean is this: "Deficits don't matter (to quote Vice President Cheney) as long as it's for things I like, spent on people I like. While no amount of money, deficit or not, should be spent on things or people I don't like. Democrats take money from white people and spend it on colored (black and Mexican) people and foreigners. Obamacare is free medical care for blacks and Mexicans taken from whites, so it's bad. The bailout was for rich people, who aren't as bad as blacks and Mexicans because they look like me, but it's still bad. Republicans are my tribe. Democrats are a different tribe trying to conquer my tribe, so they aren't just bad--they're enemies."

Good economists have conceded that all theories and predictions based on market and business leaders being rational fail. Economics only gains predictive power when it takes into account human foibles.

Ditto elections. So, as I keep saying, it's not about the economy. It's not not about the economy either, but almost nothing that was said by the Republicans and their minions and their masters was factual.

Go back to those business analogies. A big company gets in trouble. Its stock plummets. Sales tank. That happened at Chrysler, for example, largely because Chrysler cars look sexy but aren't reliable. In the crisis such a company should keep a tight lid on executive compensation and make sure to week out employee dead wood. But it also needs to spend--with borrowed money--on improving its product, and then on communicating how improved its products are. It can pay for that deficit spending when times are better. But if it doesn't spend then, times won't get better.

And then in good times it needs to reign in unnecessary spending (such as lavish manager compensation) so that it has a fat war chest for the bad times.

The Republicans have it exactly backwards--when the good times roll they spend like drunken sailors. Then in a bust they want to turn off the spigots.

That serves no one's interests but that of those who are insulated from suffering in the bad times--think CEOs with golden parachutes--and who have--and see--no need for a social safety net.

And the Republican Party and its faithful adherents always advocate policies that agree completely with the interests of the CEO/investor class. Purely by coincidence, of course.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuesday, Tuesday. Now what?

The NYTimes did an editoral about the choices facing the victorious Congressional Republicans, and what Democrats need to do now. My comment:

Neither this editorial nor the comments so far get to the heart of the matter: the Republican Party has reconstituted itself as a tribe.

Tribe trumps party. There's an Arab saying: "me against my brother; me and my brother against my neighbor; me and my neighbor against the stranger." Members of the Republican tribe see the Democratic Party, top to bottom, as "The Stranger." And they're willing to sacrifice to defeat The Stranger, and get their country back.

The GOP's campaign to turn this into a tribal conflict was aided greatly--though unwittingly--by the Democrats. Time after time after time, from the 1960s to now, the Democratic Party has demanded that white American blue collar workers atone for their ancestors' sins by giving everyone else special favors--in effect, letting them cut in line ahead of Joe Lunchbox.

Affirmative action, polylingual ballots, government employees enjoying vastly greater security and compensation than their private sector counterparts, bending over backwards to accommodate citizens of other countries residing here illegally, demanding that communities abandon traditional Anglo cultural markers like the Nativity scene in front of the courthouse--and of course, every single one of these things rubbed in Joe Lunchbox's face by Fox News, Rush, Savage et al, shouting imprecations on the radio 24x7 for decades now.

All the pundits agree that this election was about the economy. Nonsense. That's the reason people gave, but 80% of voters have jobs and homes they're not about to lose. Most people use their powers of reason to wrap plausible-sounding reasons around emotional decisions. "Why'd you buy that red Beemer convertible?" "Great resale value." Yeah, right.

The Republican Party is in bed with rich people who look like what Joe Lunchbox would like to be (and never will). The Democrats are in bed with every socioethnic minority who look and sound like what Joe Lunchbox doesn't want to be.

Every time Joe Lunchbox phones a business help line or a government help line and hears "Si quiere hablar en Español, empuje numero tres," he feels like a stranger in his own country. Every time he hits the Search button on his car radio and, if he's in the Southwest, a third of the stations don't broadcast in English, he feels like a stranger in his own country. Ditto when Fox News gleefully broadcasts the latest "Gay Pride Parade" footage, or photos of a publicly funded art exhibit featuring a crucifix dipped in a jar of urine.

I'm neither justifying nor criticizing either side of all these cultural debates. I am pointing out that the sense of cultural dislocation for about half of Americans is profound--and completely mystifying to most urbanites who, like me, live comfortably in highly multicultural surroundings. But I speak more than one language, have traveled in 17 countries, and have a degree in sociology. Joe Lunchbox may have never left the country--perhaps not even his state--and wasn't taught evolution in his high school (it isn't taught in rural America; did you know that?).

And every time he complains--even a little--about any of this stuff, all any Democratic pol or voter will say is to accuse him of being a "racist," a "know-nothing," a "hater," a "xenophobe," a "homophobe," and suchlike. Democrats do not acknowledge that he has any rights whatsoever to his own language and culture in his own country.

I voted for Obama and will again. But even I was appalled when, during his campaign for president, he said we have to "bring undocumented workers" "out of the shadows" because it would be too expensive and inhumane to try to find and deport them all.

That was a false choice argument, and he knew it. No one but a few wack jobs have even proposed such a thing. Most who oppose illegal immigration simply want E-Verify universally applied--to eliminate those shadows.

And the point here is that Joe Lunchbox, hearing Obama say that, smelled something fishy. He couldn't identity that as a false choice argument. But he could tell he was being lied to.

So yes, Joe Lunchbox will be ill-served by the Republicans he just voted into office. But if my fellow Democrats think it was just because of Republican dirty tricks (which were legion, admittedly) and the recession--then they are doomed to lose the next election as well.

The Democrats don't have to become socially regressive. But they do have to show a little respect for the people whose votes they need to survive outside their educated, urban enclaves. --to show that they understand how they've come to feel like strangers in their own land. And to adopt policies that show a little of the cultural sensitivity to Anglos that has been lavished on everyone else.

[This comment was highlighted by the NYT; it's #185 in the comments after the editorial.]

Monday, November 1, 2010

Money can and can't buy elections

Here in California, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has spent many, many millions of dollars in her quest for office--vastly more than her opponent. Yet she'll probably lose, as did Arianna Huffington's wealthy then-husband some years before.

On the other hand, a giant coal company bought itself a West Virginia Supreme Court judge who then voted in that company's favor in a case that had been pending.

You can find abundant examples of cases where money did get someone elected, and many others where lots of money failed to do so.

The Freakonomics guy claims money achieves tiny advantages in elections--way disproportionate to the amount spent. However, even if that's true, in a close election a tiny advantage produces exactly the same win as a giant one. Remember the congressional election in the state of Washington that was won by a few hundred votes out of millions cast?

So--what's the answer overall?

The frustrating answer, I believe, is that money talks but it has to be spent wisely and it can't overthrow settled opinions in most cases.

Thus you could spend a billion on the next Senate seat election in Alabama and you still won't elect a Green Party candidate. Likewise a Tea Party type won't win in a statewide California election.

But that's the boundary of the envelope. Within that boundary, money speaks. And don't delude yourself into thinking that it's just those campaign ads you see on TV, along with the glossy fliers you get in the mail. Huge--by the standards of those who aren't billionaires--amounts of money have been poured into creating and maintaining a squadron of fake think tanks (fake because they start with their conclusions, which always serve the interests of the billionaires), ownership of the AM talk radio world, and one network (Fox News) wholly dedicated to promoting Republican interests--up to and including employing Republican politicians when they aren't in office and donating millions to Republican political campaigns.

There's also a dirty tricks infrastructure which sometimes obvious--as in the Swift Boat campaign that defeated Kerry's presidential run--and sometimes sub rosa--as in the whisper campaign to convince Republican voters in the 2000 North Carolina primary that McCain had adopted a Negro baby he'd fathered--which succeeded in defeating McCain's presidential run so Bush could win.

One other hidden aspect of big money in campaigns is that it's easier to lie, and the Republican noise machine routine promulgations jaw-dropping whoppers. But when you have a thousand talk show hosts and think tankers and politicians all saying the same set of lies using the same emotionally charged language each week, it's easy to believe the lies. And by the time responsible journalists have done the spadework needed to debunk the lies of the week, a new set of lies is spawned, burying the truthtellers in an avalanche of propoganda.

And while you're perfectly free to buy your own airtime to oppose this "wall of sound"...they're perfectly free to spend, literally, billions, drowning the unions' ad buys, try as they might.

Plus when union money is used in politics, they're required to reveal it--whereas the Supreme Court's Far Right Five have enabled billionaires to fund their campaigns in total secrecy, even though the Supremes' Citizens United ruling said just the opposite. But it hasn't worked out that way.

So, within certain limits, money wins elections.

Not all agree of course. I listened to Fox News programs this afternoon as they gloated over their coming victory, constantly touting the fact that public opinion favored them. And never--not once--mentioning the role of the billionaires' money in creating and shaping that opinion.

Because in the Fox News universe public opinion is formed by tens of millions of voters reading all the bills in Congress and making informed judgments about the effect of those bills on their own lives and those of their loved ones. In the Fox-0-verse there is no such thing as right wing propaganda fueled by billions of billionaires' dollars.

Lastly, the role of vast monies and vast lies in this election becomes even more ironic given that most Republican voters will not benefit from "their" victory--just the reverse, in fact. And this victory will come from well-financed lies, not from an honest debate of the actual issues. Yet I believe the average rank and file Republican voter is personally honest.

So--how can such honest people rejoice at winning through a tsunami of lies?

That's the power of primitive tribalism. Honesty is reserved for one's tribe. For everyone else--anything goes. That's the kind of morality the human race practiced a million years ago. I guess that makes it conservative to preserve such ancient ways today.

You can't win an argument with a partisan

You can't win an argument with a partisan--left or right--because their reasons aren't their real reasons, even when they believe them to be consciously. When you attack their spoken reasons, then, what actually happens is that they identify you as a member of an enemy tribe, who must be defeated. Research has shown that refutation of even crazy stuff like Obama being a Muslim agent achieves nothing.

It's not all hopeless, though. Both sides have valid points. The trick is to acknowledge and validate those. That may get you out of the "enemy tribe" category in their heads. And give you a chance to redirect their valid concerns to different targets.

You also have to acknowledge your own party's screw-ups, even though this will trigger your own tribal desires to defend-your-side-at-all-costs.

And you can get through their defenses with ploys they don't expect.

For example, this election is going to be a disaster for Republicans. Since the Republican Party is p0ised to win big, you'll sound like a left wing loon by saying this. But then you say that of course the Republican Party--fueled by secret money funneled into nonprofits that aren't supposed to engage in politics but do anyway--will win big. But that just means that Republican voters are voting the foxes back to take charge of the henhouse.

The point to make here is that the GOP is run by con artists who have almost nothing in common with Republican voters, and who hold them in contempt, just as Jack Abramoff held his Indian clients in contempt. You also have to acknowledge the Democratic voters face a similar problem, but that we have to choose between these alternatives, and it's the GOP that has proven, time after time after time, to be even more fiscally irresponsible and less devoted to the very freedoms they yammer about in public.

Lastly, you can try to enlist them in supporting nonpartisan reform measures like nonpartisan redistricting, proportional electoral college representation nationwide, and voter contribution source transparency.