Sunday, May 29, 2011

"but the top earners pay most of the taxes today--so you shouldn't raise their rates"

Every time anyone brings up the T word, Republican shills promptly quote the bogus statistic that the rich pay most of the taxes now, so how dare you propose socialist income redistribution?

First, they don't--you only get that stat by only considering the federal income tax--not state and local taxes, and not all those little items that are withheld from workers' paychecks. When you put everything together it turns out that most Americans pay a similar % of taxes. That is, we actually have a flat tax--we just get it from sleight of hand and loopholes and of course the corporate gains tax that lets billionaires pay lower taxes than their secretaries.

Second, they pay "so much" taxes because they have grabbed so much of America's economic output for themselves. From the end of WWII into the 1970s, big corporation CEOs got about 20X what their peons earned. Now it's over 400X--unlike that of any other rich country, but similar to countries like Mexico and Russia.

That's the "income redistribution" and "class war" that has been going on since Reagan's presidency.

Lastly, the Republican's tax theology is supported by bullhorning. For example, today on Fox News Sunday they had a Democratic and Republican junior Congressman on debate taxation. Fair enough. Only the moderator allowed the the Republican Congressman to constantly interrupt and talk over the Democratic Congressman, sometimes even double-teaming her.

So Anti-Tax Theology  is reinforced in the public forums by rhetorical dirty tricks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who plays the race card?

I was listening to one of the right wing radio stations in our area this morning and they were going on--and on, and on--about how Chris Mathews had said Newt Gingrich was a racist for calling Obama our first "food stamp president"--and how ridiculous and contemptible Chris Matthews was for saying that.

Well, Matthews was right--and BTW he didn't call Gingrich a racist per se but made a more nuanced statement about Gingrich playing a coded race card. However, even though he was right, so-called Liberals do play the race card wrongly every day--especially when they brand as "racist" anyone who dares to complain about illegal immigration.

This is a situation where two wrongs make two wrongs.

So-called Conservatives have been making coded racist statements ever since they found it unproductive to make uncoded racist statements, sometime back in the late 1960s--early 1970s. White Southern pols would say in their stump speeches "Y'all know whut ah stayund foah." And the audience did.

But the coded speech has a backup, which is to feign outrage if someone interprets the coded speech as conveying a racist message. Apparently Conservatives believe there is no such thing as innuendo. They live in a hard, bright, clear black and white world where you are totally not racist unless you say "I believe Negroes are inferior to Whites." Short of that, when you talk about welfare mothers and food stamp presidents and imply that Obama got into Harvard because of affirmative action not because he's smart and hard working and that he must have been born in Kenya and all the rest of that stuff--well, no racism can possibly be implied here.

And that too has a backup, which the general public never sees--which is the aggressive campaign the Right Wing Noise Machine mounts against anyone in the mainstream media who accuses any right wing pol or pundit of racism. Right wing websites marshal the troops, and the offending media outlet gets a torrent of letters and phone calls and emails to the offender, his boss, the advertising manager of the medium, and the advertisers/sponsors as well. This doesn't always work, but it does so often that many media figures privately admit they're daunted by it, and walk on eggshells around issues like accusing so-called Conservatives of coded race-baiting.

Meanwhile so-called Liberals race-bait anyone who opposes illegal immigration and various social welfare programs, along with inner city schools. And they do tend to have the sympathy of mainstream reporters, who generally vote Democrat themselves. Special interest groups with racial agendas--most notably The Race, an organization promoting advantages for people who regard themselves as Mexicans--play the race card daily.

Even media that steer clear of editorializing outside the editorial pages can be found advocating for the Leftists side when racial issues become involved. That's why so-called Liberals abandoned talking about overpopulation, from the 1970s onward.

The main difference between partisans of Right and Left is that the ones on the Right has a much bigger bullhorn, thanks to the billionaire class being on that side.

So--both sides play the race card incessantly; and both use it to shortcircuit debate by using race-baiting in personal attacks instead of dealing with the facts and logic involved in the actual issue.

Scoffing at the very idea that any so-called Conservative could possibly have any racial motives is just one part of this unsavory stew.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why independents who don't love Obama should vote for him in 2012

Suppose the GOP manages to cough up a non-crazed candidate--someone like Mitt Romney, or Mitch Daniels. And say you're interested in fiscally responsible government.
Moreover, let's say you agree with the punditocracy that the GOP will cement its control of the House Representatives and will also get not just a majority in the Senate but a filibuster-proof majority.

If all of these things still seems likely in November of 2012, you should vote for Obama, for the simple reason that the Republican Party has proven repeatedly that it spends like a drunken sailor when it's in power across the board--and only Obama can keep the GOP from doing exactly what it did in the Bush era: actually increase the size of government and government spending and put it all on the national credit card.

They say this time it's different. And the wife-beater claims this time time it's different if she's just take him back. But the siren call of lobbyists offering a cushy future for retired Congressmen if they just cut special deals for the lobbyists' special interests is still there--in fact, since the Supreme Court nuked the dam that controlled campaign spending, lobbyists will have even more power than they did.

What Republican president will be able to veto his own party's bills? None that have a prayer of getting nominated.

Meanwhile none of Obama's legislative initiatives will be enacted--of that you can be 100% sure. Because the GOP hates him with a visceral fury you might not even be aware of unless you watch Fox News--as I do regularly--or listen to the AM radio political talk shows. I'm sure their biggest regret is Obama's marital fidelity--so unlike the wayward ways of so many Republican congressmen (and several presidential aspirants as well). There will be no Monica Lewinskys in Obama's life that they can use as a pretext to impeach him. So he'll be there--if you vote him a second term--to play the role of the corporate CFO, keeping the megalomaniacs in Sales, Marketing, Manufacturing etc. from going nuts on the company dime.

Even if you want a hyper-conservative Supreme Court like we have now, a second Obama term won't change that, because the conservative majority is relatively young and healthy. The only Supremes likely to retire or die are the less conservative minority, and replacing those won't be a game-changer--especially since the coming Republican Senate will block any nominations that even slightly left of center. They might even block any nominations he makes period, as they've been doing with so many presidential appointments.

Because of the nature of the electoral system, the coming Congressional majority may well not represent a majority of Americans--remember, Idaho gets just as many Senators as Texas, and the Electoral College gives one Montana Republicans the same voting power as four California Democrats. So Obama may be all that stands between minority rule and us.

Moreover, even if you're big on states' rights, remember that the Republican Party has no respect for states' rights as a principle--only in specific areas that advantage it. So even there you'll probably get more actual states' rights from a divided federal government than from a monolithic Republican one.

The one thing you'll get from a monolithic Republican government in 2012 is the repeal of healthcare reform--in fact they might be able to override a presidential veto on such a repeal anyway--which will be replaced by the past status quo of the past 100 years.

And then there's Social Security, which is solvent on the books for the next 40 years--all the government has to do is return the monies it "borrowed" from the Social Security trust fund, as it is legally required to do. Here again a monolithic Republican government will do everything it can to repeal Social Security and privatize it. The rank and file may thwart it, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Lastly, the GOP is now, to a remarkable extent, a captive of radicals who are so in love with their ideology that they don't care what the consequences are. This happened during the Iraq reconstruction, when the people sent there to administer the country were chosen strictly for their ideological credentials, with disastrous results. The current stated willingness of the GOP members in Congress to not raise the debt ceiling is a case in point. The worldwide consequences of defaulting on our legal obligations would cause a worldwide crisis, with one result being America losing its position as the center and the bedrock of the world economy. Yet you have a remarkable number of Congressmen saying they don't care.

You could argue that the Democrats are being equally mulish, refusing to cut two trillion dollars in Federal spending as the price of GOP cooperation. But wait'll you see the country we get if we're forced to do that.

So I put it to you that Obama is the most small-c conservative choice for President in 2012, given the coming Republican big majority Congress.

PS--that big majority is to a striking degree the product of the GOP promoting baldfaced lies by the dozens, amplified by a billion dollar propaganda campaign. There are legitimate differences between the parties, but they aren't the basis of the current GOP gains. Look at and and see.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Vaccines cause autism! Cellphone towers cause cancer! Nuclear powerplants kill people!

Today Fox News is touting a story that the Federal government has been handing out huge rewards to families whose kids got vaccinated, then became autistic.

Parents who believe this kind of witch doctor medical conspiracy theorizing are using this fact to "prove" that vaccines cause autism. Rational people are using it to prove that the federal government is succumbing to sob stories with vast handouts of other people's (yours and my) tax dollars.

If I drink a glass or orange juice, then get a heart attack, it doesn't "prove" that orange juice causes heart attacks. Kids get vaccinated before signs of autism become obvious. Yet again people are connecting the dots--only the dots aren't actually connected.

Isn't it strange for conservatives to hate the federal government?

Conservatives are our Tories. They revere law and order, authority, orderliness, respect for tradition. So you'd think, being the closet monarchists they are, that Conservatives would adore the majesty and puissance of our Federal Government.

They usually say well, it's the state governments they revere, but whenever they gain control of the federal government they invariably work to expand its authority over our lives--running roughshod over "States Rights" in the process--in all those areas social conservatives care about--homosexuality, abortion, gun rights yada yada.

So the question remains--whence this hatred of the Federal Government. What group of American conservatives has such an intense grievance against our Federal Government that it overrides their respect for authority?

Southern Whites, that's who. For many of them, the Federal Government is still seen as a foreign occupying force, much as Iraqi Shiites might look upon American troops in Baghdad.

Especially since the South won the Civil War after one of their own assassinated Lincoln and he was replaced with a Southerner who hated Reconstruction. The South was able to replace slavery with virtual serfdom until the late 1960s--so it was only in the 1970s that the Union actually won the Civil War. Meaning the wounds are fresh, and the gutter triumphalism of the rap culture rubs salt in those wounds daily, despite the balm (for Southern Whites) of putting so many Black males in prison that it has practically become a rite of passage for a significant portion of American black males.

This, finally, makes sense of the apparent paradox of Conservative hatred of Federal gummint.

This also makes the Libertarian stance (the Soviets confiscated Ayn Rand's parents' lands, therefore all government is evil) nothing more than convenient window dressing for the real reasons most anti-Federal government Conservatives harbor. It gives them ideological cover. Then they don't have to talk about Blacks.

At the recent Fox News Presidential Debate in South Carolina, the winner of the debate among the audience and the South Carolinan focus group was a Black libertarian businessman. And no wonder. The 1% of American Blacks who are Republican are treasured by Southern Whites, because they give them plausible deniability for their racism.

The Antebellum South had its House Negroes--Blacks who got to dress nicely and live near Massa and his family instead of living in dirt floor shacks with the field hands.

If the shoe fits...

And who gives these Southern revanchists their giant bullhorn in the media?

The other group that hates the federal government: billionaires. For them as a group, every cent the Feds spend on social services is stealing from them to give to the undeserving poor. And every federal regulation is seen as an attempt to enslave them. So they're delighted to give their fake thinktanks and sock puppet pundits marching orders to provide ideological cover for their Southern voters.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who killed Bin Ladin?

Last Sunday Navy commandos snuck into Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Badin in the expensive home he'd been living in a few miles from Pakistan's capital.

This gave rise to dueling headlines.

The Democratic headline: Obama as Commander In Chief orders successful raid on Bin Ladin's hideout, gets the man responsible for 9/11.

The Republican headline: George Bush as Commander In Chief gets Bin Ladin through policies he set in place and which were continued by the Democrat president who succeeded him.

The Libertarian headline: Bin Ladin's dead. Let's immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq, Europe, Japan, and anywhere else we have bases abroad.

The Tea Party headline: Obama the Foreigner botches description of Navy raid that killed Bin Ladin, proving once more that he's an incompetent bungler.

Peacenik (Euro and American) headline: Imperialist American president orders invasion of sovereign country and the murder of an alleged criminal, proving once more America's disregard for rule of law.

Pakistani headline: same as above, plus "and proving that Pakistan's civilian government are Stooges of the West."

Indian headline: Pakistan's promotion of terrorism demonstrated once more by discovery that it was harboring world's worst terrorist.

Afghan headline: Same.

Chinese headline: there is no headline, because no Chinese were killed by Bin Ladin, so it doesn't matter.

Russian headline: Bumbling American imperialists lose helicopter while violating a sovereign nation's territory.

Brit headline: Obama nails Bin Ladin. Brits give Obama heartfelt thanks. 

Arab headline: noble defender of Muslims martyred by Americans in their war on Islam; Americans also invaded a Muslim country in doing so [note that many Muslims were relieved that we killed him--but they're not the ones who usually get to write the headlines]

What Lara Logan's gang rape at the hands of 200 Egyptians means

Women in Egypt--from devout Muslim women shrouded from heat to toe to Western women in Western garb, young and old, have been complaining for many years about their appalling treatment at the hands of Egyptian men on the street. Individual complaints to the police are useless. Complaints on behalf of the women are equally useless, met either with bland denials or claims that the women in question were only Western women dressed like--from the Egyptian viewpoint--prostitutes. A recent study revealed, however, that veiled women got sexually harassed/assualted just like Western-dressed women.

Such behavior isn't unknown in the West. Gang rapes occur, at the hands of football teams (recently, in my area), or half a dozen black loiterers near a high school dance (also recently in my area), or the Central Park jogger in NYC, at the hands of several dozen blacks. The Jodie Foster movie "Accused" retells the true story of a party girl gang-raped by Portuguese-Americans in New England. With a little research you can find gang rapes by every major American ethnic group's members.

But I don't recall reading about a women being sexually assaulted by a mob of over 200 men in a public area in a city--ever in our history. Nor do I recall reading about such a thing in Europe, or in Japan.

I have heard about women getting touched/fondled in Japanese trains and busses and on the streets in Italy and Greece and suchlike.

All of which is to say that it's not a black and white situation--but the Arab world does appear to be in a class by itself when it comes to treating women like objects.

Lara Logan--despite the 40 minute sexual assault she suffered in Cairo--probably can't say "Arab society treats women like things." Note that I didn't say it was misogynistic--that would mean the men hate the women. That doesn't seem to be the case. More that women are simply treated the way American sociopaths treat everyone.

So it's no wonder Arab society has such strict rules about not wanting women in one's own household to go out and about by themselves. If I lived in an Arabl country I'd feel that way myself--because Arab men represent such a clear and present danger to women who aren't guarded by a phalanx of family members.

Islamic Sharia law forbids gang-raping women, to be sure, but it also enshrines treating women as lesser creatures than men--for example, via the rules of testimony in court, in which a man's word counts for more than a woman's word.

Of course Arab society isn't the only one that treats women like property. And we shouldn't forget that women have had the vote in America for less than a century. OTOH a century ago women may not have had the vote but the didn't risk being gang-raped on the street by hundreds of male citizens either.

Arabs would hotly deny the idea that Arabs themselves see men as brutes menacing all women who aren't being actively protected by others--their apologists say that women need to be protected from themselves. That's certainly the rationale behind female genital mutilation--done to many millions of Muslim girls in Africa (including Egypt). But individual Arabs surely realize how much Arab male attitudes and behavior endanger women.

I don't think any of this has much to do with Arab-Western "clash of civilizations." It's a feature of Arab society--one of the things that marks it as backwards, having much more in common with rural Indian, sub-Saharan African and Chinese societies than with modern Western ones.

Though even those areas don't gang-rape women in public by large crowds of men as far as I know. Nor is "honor murder" of one's own children remotely as common.

None of these are universals. 200 men gang-raped Laura Logan--but many other Egyptian men surely wouldn't have done so in the same circumstances. But while such behavior isn't universal in Arab countries--it's much more common there.

That's my point and my indictment.