Friday, January 28, 2011

What all of us should ask of all political parties

President Obama's State of the Union address was followed by two Republican responses, one from what purports to be mainstream Republicans, the other from the Tea Party.

Of course these speeches differed in political philosophy. But--they also differed in truthfulness.

Both and did fact checks on the three speeches. The President's was not totally truthful. It contained some spin, some best-case assumptions, some flat out wishful thinking. But the opposing speeches simply lied, according to the two fact-checking organization I went to--both of which have not hesitated to call out any and all national Democratic leaders on factual misstatement/spin.

The many Republicans I know tend, as a group, to be honest personally. Honest and trustworthy. Yet whenever I point out to them that their party's leaders are serial, mass liars, they defend the leaders and the lies, and impeach the trustworthiness of the avowedly nonpartrisan fact-checking organizations that say the Republican leaders are lying.

It's like Ray, a nice guy who's never touched a gun or hit anyone, but who drives the getaway car in a bank robbery where a guard was killed.

It the eyes of the law, that makes Ray a murderer.

Likewise, in their defense of lying liars and their lies, that makes my honest, trustworthy Republican friends liars as well.

This is not one sided. Anyone who says Obama said nothing but the truth in his speech would be an accessory to spinning and exaggeration at the very least.

And I have caught Democrats from the President on down in lies and rhetorical fallacies.

When I say as much to my Republican friends they say that the Democrats' lies are nation-threatening catastrophies, while those of the Republicans are necessary because the Democrats control the mainstream media and if the other side gets in the ring with brass knucks you need 'em too.

This is doubly false--first, the national media are controlled by for-profit corporations, which means that the national media are guided above all by ratings and sales figures--and as a consequence the national media has if anythiung been reduced to simply reporting what Democrat and Republican leaders claim rather than actually telling us who's lying and who's truthing. There's a little but not much.

It is an indisputable fact that the number of investigative reporters working for national media has dwindled over the past few decades, as corporate holding companies have discovered that they make more profit with fewer reporters assigned to basically turning political press releases into he said she said articles, while the rest of the medium devotes itself to Angelina Jolie, Michael Vick, crime and traffic accident reports, and puppies trapped in wells

I have certainly seen bias in reporting--especially as regards illegal immigration--but the overall amount is wildly exaggerated by Republicans.

It's like comparing some pickpockets with Bonnie and Clyde.

And the three State of the Union addresses exemplify this, with one side exaggerating a bit and indulging in some wishful thinking, while the other side opts for an emotionally compelling narrative that is factually incorrect (the nice way to say "lying") from one end to the other.

When did it become a part of being a conservative to lie all the time? Or to be honest personally but support public lying all the time? How is that conservative?

What I ask of any party is that it tell the truth and be true to its own principles. Personally I think any nation does best if its politics is an ongoing three-way dialogue between people who are liberal, in the basic, dictionary sense of the term, conservative, likewise, and centrist, likewise.

But you can't have a debate with someone who's lying about the facts you're arguing about. You have to get on the same page factually before you can argue. If you say the Antarctic ice cap is melting, as reported by scientists working there, and your opponent says no it isn't and them scientist guys are lying because they're part of a worldwide conspiracy of leftist scientists, you aren't going to have a debate--just a shouting match. And Republicans are very good at shouting--the red-faced, spittle-flying, choleric rage style of shouting iin particular.

And another key factor is angrily denouncing the Democrats for lying, to put them on their back foot, to make the conversation about Republicans claiming Democrats are lying and Democrats defending themselves, instead of dealing with whatever issue is at hand--and which any objective fact checking will say the Republicans are lying about.

If you watch TV debates you'll see that they do this by flying into an instant rage if a Democrat says anything critical of anything Republican. The Republican starts shouting and won't even let the Democrat finish his sentence, and the moderator is usually too cowed by these bully boy tactics to intervene. So in a debate the Republican usually gets most of the airtime, with the Democratic part consisting of half-sentences interrupted by Republican tirades. Voiced anger is a great tool for silencing people.

Here Republicans usually point to the shameful tactics of college leftists in silencing right wing speakers on campus. This complain is correct, and it's one of many examples why Democrats have to disavow their Sister Souljahs if they want any credibility themselves.

The Congressional Budget Office has been praised by the Republicans as objective, hard-headed, and financially trustworthy by Republicans--when it suited them. But what was said in the Republicans' State of the Union speeches contradicted what the CBO said. So now they say the CBO is just someone's opinion.

That's the sort of cherrypicking of facts that George Bush II did for eight years nonstop. It hasn't changed in his absence, so it's not a trait of him personally--it's a trait of the current Republican Party.

The last election showed that lying consistently, in ways that pander to people's fears and selfishness, in ways that link all the individual lies into a lying but internally consistent narrative, with enormous financial backing that floods the media with your lies, can win elections decisively. So we can't expect the lying to stop any time soon. We'll just have to see whether the Democrats can stand up to such a blitzkreig of coordinated lying.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let's have a national high school diploma

The main result of "No child left behind" has been schools faking kids' test results and reorienting the curriculum around teaching to the test. How about this instead:

A national high school graduation exam. Take it and you get a national diploma for graduating high school, if your local school says you kept your seat warm enough days to qualify. But the national diploma says what your grade level accomplishment actually was in each major academic area, as a result of that test. So the schools can teach whatever they want, and they can give their own diplomas however they wish, but the national diploma tells colleges and employers what they're actually getting.

It should require that you show an understand of how old the Earth and the universe is and how we evolved from one celled microorganisms over the last 3.7 billion years BTW.

Questions for gun fans

As far as I can tell, not one gun-o-phile speaking in public recently has said anything about what sorts of gun regulations they do think are a good idea, and which they'd vote for, given the chance.

If you mention the whole text of the 2nd Amendment instead of just the parts the gun crowd likes, you get tortured "reasoning" that boils down to saying "Well, we don't have militias any more but the obvious intent of the Founders was that EVERYONE GETS TO HAVE GUNS."

In other words, the text of the Constitution needs to be interpreted in light of modern circumstances.

Meaning there are no originalists in gun-fan foxholes.

Even the current far-Right Supreme Court majority said guns could be regulated, just as the 2nd Amendment requires.

So--tell me--what gun regulations do you folks advocate--regulations that you feel properly balance the individual rights you obsess about exactly as much as the far Left does--with our collective responsibilities to each other?

Here are some possibilities:

1. Gun registration--a complete audit trait that can be shared between all government agencies, resting on top of a biometric ID database for every individual who's an American citizen or is physically residing within our borders.

2. Making unlicensed exporting of firearms/ammo a felony if it isn't already.

3. Forbidding possession of firearms by anyone determined to be mentally unstable, even if they haven't committed a crime (yet). This would depend on that universal ID biometric database keeping a dossier on everyone.

4. Banning private possession of military weapons/ammo--anything capable of automatic fire, anything with a magazine larger than 10 rounds, any add-on magazines with larger capacity.

More specifically,
a. How about 50 cal. machine guns set to fire single shots, with primo sniper scope mounted--like what master sniper Carlos Hathcock used in 'Nam?

b. High capacity magazines. Good for self defense against SWAT squads. And why might you want self defense against SWAT squads? Face it--to be able to defend yourself against a massive assault you'd need Claymores, a rooftop machine gun nest, etc. Society can't survive when individuals are so armed.

c. RPGs (Rifle-Propelled Grenade launcherss). I just want to hear a gun guy admit that RPGs, while "arms" that can be "born," represent too much firepower for society to allow individuals to bear.

d. Hand grenades.

e. Automatic rifles (BARs, SAWs etc.).

f. Dum-bum bullets (designed to kill people by kind of exploding inside a body).

I could go on--but feel free to suggest your own regulations. Or your argument to repeal the 2nd Amendment to remove the requirement that arms be regulated.

Lastly, and on that thought, if you had a chance to repeal and replace the 2nd Amendment with a new one, how would you word it?

GOP war on logic vs. Dem war on logic

Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed piece titled "The war on logic" where he talked about the illogic of the Republican attacks on health care reform (and confirmed by and My response (#149 on the article's comment thread):

Speaking as an Eisenhower Republican--hence as someone who will have nothing to do with today's so-called "Republican Party"--I have to agree with Professor Krugman as far as he goes.

However, he rarely touches on the ways in which the Democratic Party conducts its own guerrilla war on logic, to wit:

1. The belief that race and ethnicity trump economics--that the son of a wealthy black doctor deserves more of a helping hand than the daughter of a poor Southern white sharecropper--that a judge can fine someone guilty of a "hate crime" more than someone who did exactly the same thing to someone who isn't a "victim of color."

2. The belief that citizens of other countries living here illegally deserve a helping hand at the expense of American citizens (unless those citizens are the children of citizens of other countries living here illegally). This belief devalues the concept of nationhood and of citizenship, as well as devaluing the societies these interlopers came from.

It also rests firmly on the totally illogical assumption that there's no such thing as overpopulation--that America has an infinite human carrying capacity, as well as the countries who are outsourcing their overpopulation problems to us, first and foremost Mexico.

3. The belief that government employees deserve more total compensation and more job security than those doing comparable work in the private sector. This imbalance may be overstated by Republicans, but one local newspaper publishes the pay of all employees of local cities, and in city after city it's obvious that there is a substantial differential--and one that is tied to a pension time bomb that's going to consume more and more of these governments' assets and abilities to provide services to their taxpayers. The outrage of the City of Bell's kleptocracy won't be the last to emerge from the shadows.

4. The belief that someone who can't speak enough English to read a ballot deserves citizenship and the franchise.

5. The belief that Republican namecalling (socialist, jobkiller, totalitarian, traitor, fascist etc.) is heinous, while Democratic namecalling (no-nothing, racist (automatically assumed when any white accuses any "person of color" of anything), fascist, nativist, anti-immigrant (when someone is actually anti-illegal immigrant) etc.) is simply just and accurate.

6. The phobic reaction to nuclear power, even when the ecological cost of the fossil fuel alternative is becoming catastrophic, coupled with a refusal to accept the fact that Yucca Mountain in Nevada is where American nuclear waste should go, Nevada NIMBYs notwithstanding.

7. The use of logical fallacies in speeches. For example, when now-President Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he said in a speech I heard that since we can't deport 12 million illegals, we must "bring them out of the shadows" and ultimately give them citizenship. But no one is proposing deporting them--they're proposing denying social services to them wherever possible, using ID checks like E-Verify to deny them legal work in this country, and other measures to make it economically unsustainable to stay here. Obama knew this was the actual alternative--he's no dummy--and I'm certain he knows what the false choice fallacy is--yet he chose to use this as a form of reasonable-sounding demagoguery.

8. Creative accounting. Neither Democrats nor Republicans talk about money in a way that anyone versed in GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) would accept. Both parties are forever doing things that would get any private company downgraded by honest analysts, audited within an inch of their lives, and sometimes facing criminal charges. Both parties traffic in rosy dreams alternative with false horror stories, depending on circumstance.

9. The belief that our winner take all electoral college system makes sense. This has nothing to do with the wildly disproportionate voting of (mainly Republican) small states' citizens vs. those of large (mainly Democratic) states. It has to do with the fact that nothing prevents us from sending Electors to the Electoral College in proportion to the vote in that state, instead of stiffing the minority--Democrat or Republican--even if it got 49% of the vote. Of course doing this on a state by state basis would advantage one party, but not if all states adopted it. And then instead of every President being picked by the voters of a handful of swing states, everyone in both parties would get their votes counted. That's the only logical thing to do, and both parties refuse to get off the dime.

10. Complicity in the continuing trade embargo of Cuba, while getting in bed with China, whose human rights violations dwarf those of Cuba. Not to mention our good friend Saudi Arabia. We have no consistent correlation between our foreign policy and the human rights status of other countries.

We'll never make headway with the Republicans' war on logic until we end our own.

How about that GOP health care reform plan? Which is (drumroll)...nada

Rather than trust what politicians say they'll do when they're in power, I trust what they actually do when they're actually in power.

The Republicans were actually in power--in control of both branches of Congress, the judiciary, and the executive branch--for six years. Plus control of Congress for six years before that, of the executive for two years after that, and of the judiciary for the foreseeable future.

During the six years they held sway over all, here's what they did to change our health care system: nothing. Except to engineer a massive unfunded giveaway to big pharma, of course.

So although I can think of better health care systems than the one the Democrats passed, this mild reform sure beats the Republicans' actual alternative: nothing. And no changes in our health care system is financially unsustainable, as economists of every stripe will tell you.
So I don't believe the Republicans' promises to reform health care better--not because I can read their minds, or because I don't like them, or because I object to their political philosophy. I don't believe them because they taught me not to when they were in power.

So our only choice is the Democrats' reform as is, or nothing if the Republicans regain control of all three branches of government, or some minor bipartisan tweaks under the current divided government.

One more think that reduces the Republicans' credibility--again without any comment on their stated party's political principles--is that reputable fact-checking organizations like and have demonstrated repeatedly that the Democrats tell fibs about their plan while the Republicans tell ginormous whoppers about theirs--and about the Democrats' plan.

Republican friends tell me those factchecking sites must be in the pay of the Democrats. If they are the Democrats aren't getting their money's worth, because they rap the Democrats' knuckles constantly. There are no angels on this playing field. But the Republicans are far worse.

Their prevarication about the Congressional Budget Office is one outstanding symptom. Every time the CBO gives an analysis the GOP likes they quote it as gospel. Every time the CBO goes the other way they dismiss it. While the factchecking sites give the CBO a strong endorsement hedged with some cavils.

I consider myself an Eisenhower Republican, which means there's no place for me in today's Republican Party, so this liberal Republican had to become a conservative Democrat.

And for me the health care reform issue is just one more example of how the Republican Party cashed in its principles for tribal advantage--most egregiously by preaching atomism--that we have no responsibility for anyone else, and no one has responsibility for us, and anything else is socialism.

This is not how responsible people behave. Believing that we need to have each other's back isn't \"European socialism.\" It's a value that was preached on the American frontier by our ancestors.
Look at the values shown in the new film version of \"True Grit.\" Back then, \"government\" was the only thing standing between an honest citizen and the criminals who longed for lawless times where the gang with the most guns called the shots (so to speak). Little Mattie Ross stood for law and order and for social responsibility. Not the State running your life. Just making it safe enough for you got get to run your life.

While today's Republican Party--particularly in its stand against any real health care reform--stands for the morality of a selfish six year old boy who doesn't like to be told what to do, and calls nobody getting to tell you what to do \"freedom.\"

Real adults define freedom very differently. And those of us who get sick and can't get health care because of this philosophy of, well, selfishism, will find that their freedom just got taken away from them.

Lssons of somali piracy: time for UAV carriers!

An underlying issue the Somali pirate situation highlights is the fact that there's a growing sector of behavior that's more than criminal but less than war--or, to put it more practically, behavior that local law enforcement authorities can't handle (spectacularly true in terms of Somalia's "government"), but which our conventional warfighting military is overkill for.

And then the legalistic type keep duking it out with the shoot on sight types over these issues, trying to cram them into the good old boxes (crime / war).

We've got the "unlawful combatant" category but it hasn't kept this "old box" debate from continuing. Nothing will, I suppose. Nevertheless this is a problem all advanced countries have to deal with, since it includes terrorism by non-state actors.

And it remains fuzzy because states may sponsor non-state actors. And then you can get state-sponsored non-state actors who are practically a state, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, or who may not always do what the state sponsor wants them to do, as with Hamas in Gaza.

The Somali piracy situation, then, provides a way to tackle this larger issue by acknowledging that the old crime/war categories aren't sufficient any more. Law enforcement authorities in East Africa aren't remotely up to dealing with this situation, and helping them by advanced nation navies capturing a few of the pirates hasn't done anything about the situation as a whole--that is, it hasn't reduced the number of ships being taken and crews kidnapped and held for ransom. Especially since the shipping lines have always paid the ransoms except for the tiny number of ships that have been retaken by advanced navies.

But the advanced navy vessels, crews and training haven't worked either. The targets aren't concentrated enough to leverage these navies' firepower, and no one's up for invading the pirates' nests on land. And the different navies' vessels aren't operating under a coordinated central command structure. So it comes across as very ad hoc, without the capability to actually blockade the coasts or to reliably find pirates at sea, operating across such a huge volume of ocean. So despite capturing a few pirates (like the pinheads who fired on one of these naval vessels mistakenly), the Western naval response has been a failure, judged by the number of vessels/crews captured and ransoms paid.

Hence my own proposal, which combines new technology (UAVs and UAV carriers) with new law (empowering our vessels' commanders to call the shots--literally--at sea, including in a country's territorial waters if that country is unable to patrol its own waters.

We can, as some here advocate, basically shrug our shoulders, say well, our decimated merchant marine isn't really involved here anyhoo, so not our prob.

Or we can use this to advance international law and assymetrical warfare tools and techniques so that we're better equipped legally, technologically and tactically to deal with situations that fall in the crack between crime and war.

The part that's hardest for civilized country dwellers is the need to kill the pirates on sight, once they're determined to be pirates--which, as I've said, isn't hard once you're using the right surveillance technology. But you have to kill them because we (neither America alone nor the UN nor the various navies with ships deployed there) are unable to capture them cost effectively. To do that we'd have to flood the area with warships, which ain't gonna happen.

UAVs can find them but they can't capture them. They can, however, combine surveillance drones with kill vehicles to stop the piracy cost effectively.

And lest anyone bring this up, no, my solution does nothing about the problem of Somalia being a failed state that has come more and more under the control of an Islamofascist organization.

Nor does it solve the qualms of those who quail at the idea of killing people who have not, generally, killed their captives.

Philosophically that pits two groups against each other: those who put individual human rights at the top of their priority stack--generally political liberals--against those who put social order at the top of theirs--generally conservatives.

I don't belong to either faction, but rather to the pragmatic middle--who doesn't want to spend the vast fortune that would be required for a complete Law & Order solution, but who also doesn't value the lives of the pirates over their threat to civilized law & order over a very large span of ocean and a lot of land as well.

I think the human rights prioritizers are inclined to side with the shipping companies and just say the status quo is acceptable, given that people (people who are not the ones proposing this) haven't been killed or tortured--just deprived of liberty and peace of mind for an average of half a year to 3/4 of a year as I recall.

They need to speak to the challenge that their devotion to individual rights appears to be limited to the rights of pirates at the expense of the rights of sailors.

Lastly, as I said before, all situations like this have a political dimention. And there will be an uproar from the US=Great Shaitan crowd as soon as we start killing pirates, who are pretty much all Muslims. That's one reason why, besides simple justice, I advocate patrolling for illegal fishermen and waste dumpers as well as for pirates.

When gun nuts ensure that nuts can have guns, we get Tuscon

I'm listening to a debate between a former Texas legislator and a gun control advocate.

Turns out the solution for all shootings is guns in all hands--give the nuts guns, no problemo, as long as everyone else is armed as well. I'm not exaggerating. That's the NRA position, expressed by this former state legislator. Their Paradise on Earth is everyone carrying semi-automatic weapons except for  felons and those formally adjudicated to be nuts by the current extremely restrictive rules that obtain in such situations.

These people say stuff like this with a straight face. I'd have thought they'd all have moved to Iraq by now, where every household, it seems, has an AK-47 at arm's reach.

But Iraq and similar places have demonstrated that even when everyone can have guns, thugs and nuts still rule the streets.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How come college grads aren't smarter?

You'd think it's axiomatic that a college education mandates training in critical thinking, but in my experience it doesn't. Many people treat college as a meal ticket, getting the training they need for a particular line of work, and taking as little as possible in anything else (those pesky general education requirements), with such courses generally teaching sets of facts.

Of course many people get a liberal arts education not as a meal ticket to a specific profession but as what they imagine to be a general education. However, such people often show a general disdain for science, preferring things with lots of affect--emotional content, in other words--and the amassing of factual knowledge, which only requires storage, as opposed to things that require processing.

My long experience with liberal arts college graduates (not to mention those who never matriculated) is that they're generally deficient in critical thinking training.

I'd also cite the fact that academic tenure can lead to situational narcissism, which can lead to professors indoctrinating students rather than actually teaching them--and to not supporting a general, mandated curriculum that fosters critical thinking, preferring to simply try to get more for their department.

I'd also criticize science faculties for disdaining their own general ed "survey" courses--that is, for only caring about majors in their field and professors who are leaders in their field (i.e. "published") instead of valuing and hiring teachers who are good at instruction in general and at communicating the critical elements of their field to nonmajors in particular.

So everyone unconsciously conspires to dump generation after generation of liberal arts BAs who can't actually think out onto the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overpopulation: where Right and Left agree on denying

The New York Times has a newish online blog called Dot Earth
 It currently is displaying a discussion about how we shouldn't tell "women of color" to have fewer babies, because, dude, it's, like, totally Western Imperialist to say that to them.

My response:

Well, reading this exchange certainly was a relief to me. It turns out the Earth apparently has an infinite supply of potable water, arable land, and seafood. For a while there I was worried.

And talk about political amity! Here's one issue where the Left and Right agree completely: there is no overpopulation problem.

The Left says so because numerically most of that supposed overpopulation is "people of color" (as opposed to us albinos), therefore overpopulation is racist, therefore there is no overpopulation, because ideology trumps reality.

The Right says so because if there's overpopulation abortion would have to be legal. Besides, the Earth doesn't matter in the slightest, since we'll all be spending 99.9999999999999999999999% of eternity in heaven or hell. So all that actually matters is the Bible, which bans abortions (OK it doesn't, but it must anyway).

And besides, everything looks fine. Those porous aquifers collapsing all over the world, never to return? Well, you can't see them so they aren't there. Nearly irreversible desertification around the world (Madagascar has cut down 80% of its trees in the last 40 years; Haiti, 97%)? Hey, desert is beautiful too.

One billion of the world's population going to sleep desperately hungry every night? Just a matter of food distribution. China's one child law? Terrible. China should be like India, where starving families saw off one of each child's limbs to make them more effective beggars. Or Cambodia, where starving families sell their daughters to brothels, where they rarely survive past their 20s. But here in my affluent California suburb there's none of that. Nobody around me has ever gone hungry one day in their life. Therefore there's no problem.

And fish stocks collapsing? Trawling and bomb fishing and mangrove swamp-destroying shrimp farming? I can't see underwater, so that's not happening either.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

But isn't it nice to see the Right and Left holding hands, singing "Kum ba ya" ?

No it's not. Remember the guy near the top of this thread who said America is underpopulated? I've flown over this country many times, and I've seen the vast empty spaces. I've also driven over them. Guess why they're empty?

No water.

Remember when we dammed the Colorado? That promptly destroyed Mexican agriculture in the Colorado delta. It will never come back, either, because of salt water intrusion into the water table. But Las Vegas has fountains, and today's Phoenix exists solely because of what we did to the Colorado.

But few among even the educated sorts who read New York Times comment threads can face the fact that the world's overpopulation crisis is so extreme that China's one child law should be adopted worldwide across the board. Immediately. Though even if we weren't expanding at the rate of over 140 people a minute--even it we stayed at 7 billion--we're making vastly unsustainable use of the world's resources, borrowing from the future every time we turn on our water pumps and scrape another seafloor into wet desert and chop down every tree from horizon to horizon for firewood.

But the great thing about borrowing is that you can get away with it for a while. You might even be able to sock your kids with the bill if you play your cards right.

But your great-grandchildren will curse your memory. Which is pretty ironic, considering all the self-adoring moralistic preening the Left and the Right do constantly.

It doesn't help that the average American liberal arts BA got that BA without learning how to think analytically--how to compensate for the optimistic skew built into our brains for evolutionary reasons that worked great for 100,000 years and now is killing us on the installment plan (hint: if not for that skew Las Vegas would be a gas station with a Stop-N-Shop beside a two lane highway).

But this is all such a buzz kill. Not to worry, though. I just saw a conference on CSPAN where a guy from the American Heritage Foundation gloated over the "fact" that Malthus had been "proven" totally wrong, along with Paul Erlich and other unAmericans like him.

But then I've only traveled in 17 countries (and scuba dived in half of them), and studied population ecology off and on for half a century. But more importantly, I was raised by dreamers who never let reality stand in their way. They taught me the hard way how reality, ultimately, doesn't care in the slightest whether you face it squarely or not. All of humanity's magical thinking won't save it when the bill comes due.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why you can't convince global warming deniers

I came across a long comment thread on that was a running battle between anthropogenic climate change (AGW) acceptors and deniers. It was pretty much the same as all similar threads everywhere., You can read it here.  And you can read the response I posted to that thread here:

There are two fundamental types of misunderstanding in this thread:

1. Science deniers (and make no mistake--AGW deniers are all science deniers) honestly don't understand why their individual observations and opinions don't trump the consensus of the world's scientists, as documented by TruthSeeker in his Dec. 31, 2010 8:55 AM PST post.l

2. Science accepters don't understand why their lengthy, detailed, scientific postings fail to convince the science deniers.

I can explain both.

1. Science deniers don't get it because our species' minds evolved with a number of irrational "skews" built in as heuristics--one of which is irrational self-trust. This is the primitive trait these science deniers are exhibiting. And which, for example, President Bush II exhibited by his own admission that he "went with his gut" in the face of knowledgeable information to the contrary, time after time. A related heuristic is a skewed perception of statistical probability--we think it favors us more than it does. Hence Las Vegas.

These skews helped our species for our first 100,000 years on this planet because it enabled the tribe's warriors to go into battle with each warrior believing that he'd survive, even when the odds were stacked against him.

Plus our instincts evolved in a radically different environment--one in which one person could pretty much learn everything there was to know (in the understanding of people then). And if anyone got too cocky, living in close quarters with a few dozen other people your whole life kept anyone from getting too far out there on a mental limb. That is, people got constant feedback from reality and fellow tribesmen, keeping divergent ideas in check. But now people can isolate themselves from countervailing information, dwelling in an Intrernet community that reinforces their skewed ideas, with no reality check such as what our hunting and gathering forbears had (i.e. wrong theories about reality produced starvation/death; now they do much less often). People read only right wing books or only left wing books if they read political books, by and large. They only listen to like-minded media.

And they venture forth into open forums like this, not for feedback, but Only to attack. For them this is exactly like a raid on an enemy tribe. They don't come here to information or even to argue. They come to count coup.

Remember, 20,000 years ago when our minds more or less stopped evolving, one of these science deniers, despite his intellectual limitations, could be a valuable member of the tribe, since he really could know what was needed to be known--food-finding tactics, how to fight in a raid, courtship practices, whatever form of magical beliefs the tribe had, etc.

Now these people are lost, like paper boats in a maelstrom. Even those of us with high IQs can only know a tiny portion of what the human race knows. We expect people with IQs of 100 to vote about complex governmental and scientific issues when their understand of such stuff is at a 6th grade level.

Even the liberal arts BA in this bunch, often with IQs in the 120s or even higher, know more or less nothing about scientific method and are close to innumerate. They dozed through their undergrad science survey classes, which generally asked little more of them than to memorize some facts long enough to take a test and pass it--after which they flush their caches. Yet their BAs give them the delusion that they're competent to talk about science when they so often simply aren't.

I'm not saying you need to be a scientist to talk about science. I'm a sociology BA myself with only precalculus under my belt. But I understand scientific method and have subscribed to Scientific American for decades in order to keep up. In my experience very few liberal arts BAs do even this, while retaining their ancient self-confidence about their ability to understand their environment.

And running under all these discussions is testosterone poisoning. From the science deniers' viewpoint, accepting scientific refutation of their cartoonish beliefs would be the equivalent of being gelded. You're wielding scissors, trying to emasculate them, from their perspective. Is it any wonder they react so primitively?

The human race hasn't evolved far enough to cope with the amount of information and information processing skills needed to make educated judgments about public policy, and the average person cannot and never will accept his inadequacy. It goes against his instincts (no longer adaptive for this environment), it goes against his hormonal drives, and it goes against his human pride.

And our cold, relentless logic and barely concealed scorn for them doesn't make it any easier for them to accept the truth. They never learned that science is far from polite. The scientific community tears the weaker ideas to bloody shreds, along with any who cling to them.

Consider how often you hear the plea to keep "an open mind" about their crackpot theories--they have no idea what the war of ideas is like in the scientific community.

2. Science accepters generally don't know enough about anthropology to realize what I just said. They come to these forums to reason, so they reason that the others came for that reason as well. But it's irrational to treat everyone as if they're rational. If you want to read more about this, try "Inevitable Illusions: How mistakes of reason rule our minds" by MIT cognitive psychologist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini.

I've visited innumerable forums like this, and time after time after time after time ad nauseum, scientifically trained people will every battle and lose every war, because they fail to understand that the science deniers aren't actually making arguments. They're parroting stuff fed them by intellectual traitors paid by the sorts of knuckle-dragging billionaires who fund the Discovery Institute and its ilk.

So not only do they not understand what they're saying, they don't understand your answers. Nothing is processed in the cerebral cortex--all the processing goes on in the amygdala, in which everything you say is dismissed as enemy tricks, everything they say is enshrined as Holy Writ, and then their brain gets a flush of endorphins as a reward for rationalizing away everything you just said to them.

That's why your explanations don't work on them. And because they're so profoundly threatened by them, these primitives are often willing to go down in flames rather than surrender--to die, or to doom their loved ones to death by their denial and their wrong-headedness.

Maybe our Founding Fathers were right--that you needed to be a person of some substance in order to vote. People should have to pass a basic exam at least, roughly comparable to a high school-leve understanding of civics and science.

Fat chance.

Republican Party declares war on hippos

Every year, hippopotamuses kill more people in Africa than any other animal. This has come to the attention of the Republican Party, which has declared that as a consequence hippopotamuses are filthy, evil monsters that must be arrested and given long prison sentences.

OK, they haven't. But they have heaped similar abuse on the crazy man who shot dozens of people in Tuscon recently. This makes exactly as much sense as decrying hippos. Hippos didn't decide to be evil. They are what they are. We must protect ourselves against their propensity for killing us, to be sure. Likewise we must protect ourselves from violent crazy people.

That does not mean trying them for crimes they commit, any more than we should try a pit bull for killing someone. We determine whether the pit bull did it, and if it did, we execute it humanely. With a dangerous crazy person we don't have to kill him, but we certainly shouldn't let him run around loose.

Yet the Republicans believe we should respect crazy people's free will even though it isn't free, then punish them for crimes they "decide" to commit. The crazy Tuscon shooter planned his crime ahead of time. So by Republican standards he isn't crazy. Yet it's obvious that he is crazy.

The Republicans' answer is that if we don't convict him of a crime and imprison him for life without parole or execute him, the liberals will let him loose to kill again.

And that's how we've wound up with nearly a third of our prison population comprising crazy people, dumped in with all the sane inmates, to be either cruelly exploited and/or to lash out unpredictably, endangering other prisoners and guards.

But despite the fact that he planned his assault, the Tuscon shooter isn't a criminal--any more than a hippo is. Both are dangerous creatures who lack a normal human's ability to engage with the world morally.

Republicans will then say that the Tuscon shooter's many run-ins with others provided a basis for involuntary commitment, and the local legal authorities fell down on the job in not doing so.

But at the same time Republicans (and Democrats) will insist that we can't lock up someone until they've committed a crime. This is ridiculous. We don't wait for a hippo to attack to do something to protect ourselves from it, because we know hippos are dangerous. And while most crazy people aren't dangerous, the dangerous ones reveal their nature long before they commit a major crime--just as the Tuscon shooter did.

And the parents of such dangerous crazy people almost all tell long stories of how they tried to get the local government/law enforcement agencies to do something, almost invariably to no avail.

And Republicans will say it's not the government's job to take care of crazy people--it's their families' responsibility. Especially most of them believe that bad parenting drove the crazy people crazy, when it's almost invariably a brain chemistry disorder.

But today's Republican Party is no longer the party of social responsibility. Each of us is an atom, entirely responsible for his or her life's journey, for better or for worse. I owe society nothing, and society is obliged to leave me alone until or unless I break the law.

I believe the abuse politicians heap on the head of the Tuscon shooter is an attempt to shirk government responsibility for institutionalizing crazy people. The abuse implies that the 'Tuscon shooter is a moral creature, when it's obvious that his disordered mind doesn't understand morality.

When a particular bear loses its fear of people and starts threatening them we euthanize the bear. By the same token I'm not opposed to euthanizing dangerous crazy people, though giving them a prefrontal lobotomy will render them harmless--as will the proper drugs (but many, many crazy people refuse all medication and won't swallow pills, so drugs are only feasible if injected regularly, which requires permanent institutionalization. Your choice.

We need to overcome Republicans' tightwadism and social irresponsibility--along with Democrats' ideological belief that all crazy people can be cured--and reinstitute nuthouses, including special ones for the criminally insane, and remove all crazy people from the criminal injustice system--not to wander the streets howling at the moon, but to be watched over responsibly by society in a setting that prevents from threatening public order and personal safety.

And the vilification of dangerous crazy people denies all of this. Every time someone vilifies the Tuscon shooter they're making the implicit claim that the criminal justice system is the place for anyone who commits a crime, regardless of sanity.

Just as anyone who criticizes calling him "crazy" or a "head case" is also denying reality."Crazy" is a perfectly good word, and it this case it is exactly correct. Just as calling him a "monster" is false--or calling him "differently mentally enabled"or any such euphemism.

Can those who do good in order to reap a heavenly reward be called "moral" ?

Ideological Christians often claim that atheists can't be trusted because they have no reason to be moral.

This is a common trope. It's one of the arguments they use to justify the fact that no avowed atheist can get elected to national office across most of the country, and certainly not the presidency.

But morality evolved, along with the more obvious physical aspect of our being. A well-written book describes how this probably came about: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. He also wrote a book on how God evolved, so to speak: The Evolution of God (Back Bay Readers' Pick).

Actually it's easy to describe atheistic morality.

First, it's the only morality that's actually moral. Religious people are working for a reward. How is that moral? They're just playing the game. Do this and that and you get heaven as a reward. How is this different from paying kids to get good grades? It's entirely extrinsic. Selfish.

So-called atheists realize that this life is all there is, so they find it infinitely precious. They also realize that if they're wicked they can't be happy, because of the heuristics built into the human mind--heuristics that we can't eliminate. Lots of people do evil, of course--including innumerable people who claim they do that evil in the name of God. But in my long life I've never met anyone who was happy who also mistreated others. Such people, regardless of their riches (if any) live in a private hell, utterly isolated.

So I tell religious people--prove to me that you're moral, because on the face of it just looks as though your acts of charity are nothing more than looking out for #1.

With the added kicker that people who are focused on the "next life" that they imagine they'll have often give this life short shrift.

That's how you get Catholics placidly propagating, even when the world now holds at least five times as many people as it can carry without environmental degradation--i.e. making the world less and less able to carry future generations. Especially since some of that degradation is permanent, including the mass extinction now going on and the collapse of porous aquifers worldwide.

So along the lines of the path to Hell being lined with good intentions, even religious people who do have actual love for others in their hearts and not just the smug self-satisfaction of the Pharisees are destroying the Earth with their "kindness."

It's not the so-called atheists who have to defend their claims to goodness. Quite the opposite.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A centrist assessment of the Tuscon massacre

I'm guessing 40-50% of the public is centrist, with the rest divided between Left and Right, with a bit more on the Right out of that slice of the pie. I think there have been some legitimate polls on how people identify themselves and it turned out that way.

However, such results skew right due to the relentless, well-financed right wing propaganda campaign aimed at people who are less educated and/or more likely to see the world in black/white terms. People always claim they arrive at their political views through personal reflection--they they parrot the best-financed talking points they've heard in the media that week.

The case of the Tuscon shooting is a good litmus test. Right and Left wingers each blame the other side 100%. Yet to me it was clearly a confluence of both sides' worst traits.

The Left decided no one's insane. Just "differently mentally enabled." Plus a near-pathological fixation on individual rights, courtesy of us still reacting reflexively to the Nazis and the Communists, means we can't institutionalize plainly crazy people until they commit a crime--and then we put them in prison, because...

The Right decided no one's insane either. Just "good" or "evil." So if a plainly crazy person kills someone it's because they sat down one morning and decided to be evil. The prison guard unions favor this approach strongly, of course, and they're the most right wing union in American.

Plus the Right decided to throw all the crazy people out on the street, because then they'll straighten up and fly right and get a job and a home with a picket fence (in between bouts of howling at the moon). Besides, it's so-shul-ism to take care of crazy people. That's what their families are for. Or their churches. Or neighbors.

That doesn't happen, of course, so they just roam around using the bushes for their toilets until they break a law. That's why nearly a third of prisoners in America are actually crazy.

So the Tuscon shooter was out loose due to a for-different-reasons conspiracy of Left and Right.

But if we changed the laws so that you could lock up crazy people before they commit a crime, both the Right and Left would go into a fury, with lawsuits ensuing, because both extremes are fanatics about individual rights--not about individual responsibility, even though both pay lip service to the latter...just not in practice.

And then there was the matter of the semi-automatic the Tuscon shooter used--with the optional 30 round clip. There have been a fair number of assassinations in American history. But nearly all the attempts and successes were of just one man until modern times. Now a Colonel Hassan or a Tuscon Shooter can mow down a crowd before they're stopped because the new weaponry fires so quickly and with so much "stopping power." Here it's purely the fault of the Right. The 2nd Amendment, from an originalist perspective, guarantees all state militia members the right to carry a flintlock that takes a minute to reload each time you fire it. Everything else is modern interpretation. Currently the interpretation is that individuals don't get to carry shoulder-mounted Stingers that can shoot down a 747, or a machine gun, or a bazooka, but I don't see why not if they can have a Glock semiautomatic that can kill or wound dozens of people in seconds, even in the hands of an insane person.

Nor could an armed Representative Giffords have defended herself unless she had her own Glock in her hand, loaded and cocked, and was conducting her sidewalk session in a state of military readiness--the kind of hyperalertness people with PTSD have. The problem with the "let's all have guns" NRA response is that it fails to address the problem of the shooter who doesn't care what happens to him.

So that's all the Right's fault, but the Left put him on the street and defended his right to be out loose and crazy. So they both put the Tuscon shooter in play.

So--what if we propose a national biometric ID system? The Right and the Left would both hate that, but such a system might well be able to accumulate data points about inscreasingly crazy people like the Tuscon shooter, so that with enough accumulated "crazy points" he could be taken in and put on a psychiatric hold, deemed unable to function in society, and institutionalized.

Challenge your Right and Left wing friends to endorse such a system and see how they howl.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Are Right Wingers responible for the massacre in Tuscon?

[I had to revise this after it became clear that Representative Giffords wasn't targeted by the Tuscon shooter because she was a Democrat, probably.]

Republicans like Senator Kyle of Arizona are saying the Tuscon shooter was crazy so Republicans are not responsible. It has nothing to do with politics.

This is the art of plausible deniability. No Republican pol or commentator said "Murder Representative Giffords! Here's where she'll be on Saturday! Go kill her!"

They're right. No one said that. The Right is also right about the shooter being crazy as a bedbug.

Moreover, the Left has had a significant role in letting so many crazy people out among us, and for making it so blasted difficult to get someone institutionalized, and to keep them institutionalized..

Nevertheless, the Right still bears its share of responsibility for the shooter's killing spree in Tuscon, even though it most likely wasn't politically motivated--just as Republican politicians and pundits hotly insist that their share of blame for this incident is exactly zero--that in fact it's the result of Democratic policies if anything other than just random tragedy.

I find this ideological shirking of responsibility to be proof that Republican claims to being the Party of Responsibility are ludicrous. The GOP consistently denies any culpability for anything that goes wrong, from wars to local policies. They claim 100% correctness in all things. Ideologues of every stripe tend to do this, of course, but since the GOP purged itself of most of its moderates, this sort of party tribalism has become rampant.

Let's consider major factors in the Tuscon shooting:

1. Decades ago Republican cost-cutters and Democratic do-gooders closed the insane asylums as part of tearing up the social safety net to save money, and because crazy people are just "differently mentally enabled" and that every single human being can be saved through rational, loving care. That it's not too late for anyone. I call this one a 50-50 split in blame overall.

And remember the Right doesn't believe in mental illness. It's all Good and Evil, and so-called crazy people just decided one day to be evil. Republican DAs always argue against insanity defenses, which is why the prisons have so many nuts incarcerated there--between a quarter and a third by estimates I've seen. The prisons are our new insane asylums, the consequence being that each of them was allowed to harm others before being incarcerated, and none of them are getting treated. Just being made even crazier.

This shooter was plainly crazy. Everyone who was around him knew it. But today you can't have anyone involuntarily committed unless they've already done something horrible. Even then it's hard, and more likely that they'll just go straight into the criminal "justice" system--with the enthusiastic support of the most Republican of government employee organizations: the prison guard unions.

The idea was that local communities would take care of their own nut jobs. This has not happened by and large. The nut jobs are on the street until they do something illegal, then they're in jail. That's what we've got now. Which means a lot of crimes are being committed (including murder) by people who should never have had a chance to do so.

The close-the-nuthouses movement was spurred by abundant abuses in that system, plus the fact that people were sometimes getting relatives committed to get their assets. We threw out the baby with the bathwater, however. We need a national nuthouse system with that thing Republicans hate so much: government oversight and regulation.

Here's how to apportion blame for this one: see who spearheads fixing this problem. I don't know who that will be. The Republicans will have to support spending tax dollars to do this, and the Democrats will have to admit that their do-gooder reforms have failed. If neither side takes the lead in fixing this my 50-50 judgment stands.

2. The Republicans have made sure that nuts like this shooter can get guns easily--and powerful guns at that, with large magazines, whole prime purpose is killing people. The shooter had bought a 9mm Glock with an extra-large magazine. Few hunt game with handguns. I know from personal experience that it's really hard to anything at a distance without a rifle, even if you are a good shot.

Today you can't even track gun ownership--the law prevents it. And you don't need to go through a background check. Just buy at a gun show. A significant percentage of Mexican drug cartel weaponry is bought here and smuggled there because it's so much harder to buy firearms there.

The Republican Party proudly claims responsibility for the current state of our gun laws, and for the fact that this nation is awash in firearms--far more than any other rich country. Maybe more than the rest put together. Yet they ferociously oppose doing anything to track who got what where and when; to make sure nuts can't get guns; to make sure civilians can't get more powerful weapons than beat cops carry.

So here I agree with the GOP: it's 95% responsible for the Tuscon shooter having his Glock.

3. The guy was crazy for sure, but this shooting spree would only have been "senseless" if he'd walked out of his house and started shooting randomly. But he didn't. He bought the firearm he wanted quite a while ago. He didn't just grab a kitchen knife out of the drawer. He planned to attack this conngresswoman, not just anyone. In this case it wasn't about her politics, just as the nut who shot Reagan apparently just wanted to shoot someone famous in order to impress Jodie Foster (who probably doesn't even like guys, as it happens). But in many, many other cases the motivation has been both crazy and political. Ted Kozinsky, the Unabomber, could be described as leftist, meeting at the crazy zenith with beyond far rightist Timothy McVeigh. The Atlanta bomber was another far right milita antigovernment nut.
So even when the  reasoning was crazy, it's often political crazy reasoning--not "senseless. "

At the same time I'd prematurely concluded that because the Tuscon shooter targeted a congresswoman that it was a political shooting. It still might have been to some degree, but in this case it seems a lot more crazy and a lot less political. However, he still might have been feeding off the general antigovernment shtick I'll talk about later.

4. The Republican Party has made a science of dancing around just this side of law and logic.
For example, George Bush the Second got the vast majority of his followers to believe Saddam Hussein had had a part in planning 9/11. Yet Bush never said "Saddam Hussein had a part in the 9/11 attack." Instead he just juxtaposed "Saddam Hussein" and "9/11." Whenever he mentioned the one he mentioned the other. And since the average Republican uses associative reasoning instead of analytic reasoning, that was enough to do the trick.

Same here. Sarah Palin uses firearms/hunting metaphors to describe what her followers should do about Democratic politicians. But she was just joking, right?

Try joking about having a bomb while you're in flight on an airliner. Apocalyptic political rhetoric is comparable--comparable to yelling Fire! in a crowded theater.

But you can be sure that even if the line gets redrawn, wherever it is the Republican noise machine will dance right up to it. Because enraged citizens vote more than calm ones, and they vote more reliably as well.

Plus it fits the MO of pickpockets--one member of the team distracts the mark while the other does the actual pocket-picking. But the Republicans one better--it's as if once the mark discovers that his pocket has been picked, he blames the cop who was trying to protect him, and says if only there were fewer cops he'd be "freer."


Today the Wall Street Journal published a fiery denunciation of Democratic blame-mongering about this incident, written by law professor and popular conservative pundit Glenn Reynolds.

Both Reynolds and the GOP may think they've won this round since the shooter appears not to have cared that Giffords was a Democrat.

But in defending themselves they have made it out as if no speech of any sort has any effect on anyone's violent behavior. Of course this means they have to stop complaining about anything any Democrat says that might otherwise be considered incitement to violence--and there were some very intemperate remarks made about Bush II by the Left, as we all know. Even including some assassination talk, along with the chimerical claim that no Democrat opposed this--a bit of the creative historymaking Republicans are so fond of, like the stories from his movies that Reagan told as if they'd really happened.

AntiDemocrat speech probably didn't penetrate the Tuscon shooter's scrambled brains, but that's just one data point. Claiming that we don't have to take responsibility for anything we say--all the while calling Democrats' speech libelous (why should they take responsibility for what they say either?)--that's seriously off the wall.

The Army shrink who murdered all those people was obviously affected by Jihadist ranting, just as he was obviously also crazy, though not as dissociated as the Tuscon shooter. Ditto the London bombers, who may have been sane, actually. Many suicide bombers who failed have been analyzed and found sane. But rather crazy or rather sane, people are affected by incitement speech. And Republicans do blame others for incitement speech--as long as it's someone else inciting someone else.

So Professor Reynolds is being a hypocrite. And that's a shame. I'd thought he was one of the reasonable ones. Instead he just helped circle the wagons.

5. The billionaires who bankroll the Far Right have no use for most government services and so regard them as a waste of "their" money; and they actively hate government regulation of their activities. So they've financed a decades-long campaign aimed at getting people to ignore the good government does them and to look at it the same way the billionaires by and large do. And of course the Democratic Party is the Party of Government, so this ire is focused on the Democratic side, because even though the Republicans grow government too, they don't do so in the area of regulating businesses and exposing rich tax cheats.

So the Tea Party attacks on the Representative who got shot by the nut took existing anti-government "hate reservoirs" in the minds of indoctrinated Republicans and aimed it at this representative recently, aided and abetted by national Republican money, because they thought they could defeat her in the last election (which they nearly did). Even though as is true of all Democrats who win in majority-Republican districts, Giffords is a conservative Democrat as well as one who was known for her moderate language.

No one can tell yet whether all this antigovernment ranting lodged in the Tusdcon shooters' poor excuse for a mind somewhere. But it couldn't have helped. And it has formed a part of others' actions--most notably Timothy McVeigh's--which the Republicans also proudly disclaimed any responsibility for. None whatsoever.

Bottom line: Crazy Guy was crazy all right--but far from random. He targeted a politician, and that wasn't random at all. He'd been thinking about her for years. And while the Republican Party didn't shoot Representative Giffords, it tried to put antigovernment ideas in Crazy Guy's head, whether it worked in this case or not, and made it easy for him to get the gun he shot her with, and left him to roam loose on the streets (along with Democratic do-gooders), and reinforced the "Giffords is the cause of all your problems" message day after day after day, being delivered to a mind that was and is incapable of rationally processing information--again, whether the shooter's mind did process that in some way no one knows, but we do know the demonizing rhetoric was certainly out there for anyone to pick up on.

And the fact that the Republicans from top to bottom almost unanimously refuse to accept the slightest smidgen of responsibility for this act means they have no plans to change their gutter tactics.
And this is the party that proudly and loudly claims sole possession of the moral high ground--and of the principle of taking responsibility for your actions.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Should the Constitution be read aloud at the beginning of every session of Congress?

The House's new Republican majority decided to honor the Constitution by mandating that it be read aloud, beginning to end, as the first order of business of the session.

The Left generally derided this as idolatry, as well as pointing out that it cost taxpayers over a million dollars to do so while more and more Americans unwillingly joined the "99 week" club in which your unemployment payments run out after 99 weeks.

They also pointed out that the reading was of a sanitized version of the Constitution, with all the parts revised or deleted later through amendment deleted.

The Right claimed this was pragmatically obvious--that the purpose of the reading was to remind congressmen of the parts that are still germane, to keep in mind as they craft new legislation.

The Left replied that we also needed to remind congressmen that the Founding Fathers weren't perfect, and that omitting the parts later amended/deleted contributed to the presumption that every word they wrote is sacred and no future amendments should be considered.

Centrists like me note that there are a number of features of the Constitution that the Right want changed--such as the use of the 14th Amendment to give citizenship to babies born here even when their parents are here illegally. Doing so wasn't the intent of the 14 Amendment's framers--they were just trying to keep Southern states from disenfranchising ex-slaves and their offspring.

I say that they should have read the whole thing. The parts still extant are useful to guide legislation--and so are the deleted parts, reminding us to treat the Founding Fathers with respect but not reverence.

But here's the kicker. All those flagwaving Republicans who insisted on this public display of conspicuous patriotism? Most of them left the chambers long before this reading was over. By the end only 42 Representatives were left--and that proves what a hollow exercise this was.

I would have been impressed if they'd all stuck around 'till the last dog was hung, so to speak. But they split instead, thus validating the Democrats' contention that this was just another waste of taxpayer money and a diversion from the Republicans' stated goal of focusing like a laser on getting Americans employed again.

Instead it showed that they have a laserlike focus, all right, but it's not on helping Americans who are out of work--it's on bringing back the Bush years of Republican control of all three branches and the fiscal responsibility that ensued.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

How is the Republican Party leadership like a standard Hollywood horror movie?

                                                              -    -    -
In a standard Hollywood horror movie, the directors' primary goal is to isolate the good guys--or at least the non-monsters--so the monstrous guy/creature can pick them off one by one. So, while everyone is the audience is silently yelling at the screen "Don't go down to the basement alone!!!!" ...sure enough, Sally goes down to the basement alone...and gets picked off. Followed by Joe in the Attic, and Martha in the garden in the dark, and Mike in the deserted corridor, and so forth.

That's just how the Republican Party leadership works--it gets Americans to go down the hallway alone.

It has convinced over half the country that government is the problem--that, if left to its own devices, giant corporations will create jobs (and so they will--in China), and, unfettered by those villainous government regulators, wealth will spring out all over the place and shower down upon the worthy.

If has also convinced a majority of Americans that the experience of the rest of the world with unfettered corporate forces is irrelevant. That the practices of the Republican Party in the 1950s and 60sd is irrelevant--even though it represented a time of unparalleled egalitarianism and business growth and very high taxes on very high profits.

And it has also convinced a majority of the American people that all regulation is over-regulation. That only other people get sick. That all government benefits go to people who aren't white Anglos, while all tax burdens come from white Anglos. That the highly successful efforts of big business to shift all risk and environmental costs of their operations to taxpayers--is just good business, and that expecting businesses to shoulder the actual expenses of their operations is so-shul-ism.

They want us to go down that corridor alone.