Thursday, May 31, 2012

I don't mind Romney being a conservative. I mind him being a liar.

I love some conservatives--starting with my spouse of 30 years. I attend a very conservative church with her, and thus have known many conservatives for decades.

As a group they are personally honest and forthright. (As are the liberals I know, for that matter.) My spouse is almost physically incapable of telling a lie.

Yet my conservative friends all staunchly support Mitt Romney, who, unlike the conservatives I know, is a serial liar, a knowing liar, a liar about important things, and a liar who constantly impeaches the President's personal character, violating the Ten Commandments rule "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

I am not talking about matters of opinion or differences in political philosophy. Nor am I claiming that President Obama always tells the truth. He does not, as is true of most successful politicians, I am claiming that the sheer volume and severity of Romney's lie-a-thon is an order of magnitude worse and support this claim. They ding both regularly, and both are intelligent men who know better--and Romney is waaay out in front.

I'm also not talking about what their surrogates and allies say. I'm talking about what Romney and Obama themselves say. And I'm talking about what Romney continues to say even when he's been refuted. He appears to be constitutionally incapable of admitting his mistakes. This makes him morally inferior to even John Edwards, who today took the blame for his personal failings.

Today Rachel Maddow, who conservatives despise because she mocks them (just as they despise Lawrence O'Donnell because he rails against them...well, actually they despise anyone who disagrees with them--even fellow conservatives who fail to toe the Tea Party line) Rachel Maddow pointed out that Romney's own website still includes his first campaign ad, which directly lied by quoting President Obama as saying something he flat out didn't say by editing a speech in which Obama quoted John McCain--editing it to make it seem like Obama was saying himself what he was quoting.

This was disproven the day the ad came out. Yet it's still up there, unchanged, and Romney states that he stands by everything he's said--something like a claim of Papal infallibility.

And today Mitt Romney stood in front of Solyndra's shuttered doors and stated the baldfaced lie that President Obama has been awarding aid to friends and family to Solyndra and other companies. This repeats a lie a right wing author/demagogue made which had been debunked before this day, definitively. Romney is also sidestepping the fact that, as Maddow points out, Romney awarded millions of dollars in contracts to high tech startups (some of which failed like Solyndra) when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

To top it off, he also stated that he sent his goons to an Obama campaign event to drown out speaker David Axelrod with constant loud chanting and blowing vuvuzuela (the South African one-note horn that bedevils soccer matches).

In every case Romney's defense is the non sequitur "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." He has been heckled by liberals but Obama has never sent a goon squad to drown him out.

I don't accept the excuse that this is all just politics and what do I expect--they're all liars. That's simple-minded. There are big differences here. Don't let conservatives off the hook when they start spouting bromides about politics all being a dirty business.

What this all tells me is that Romney is not actually a conservative. He doesn't behave in the morally upstanding manner the conservatives I know do. And he doesn't seem to believe in the conservative cause, because if he did he'd tell the truth and not resort to constant lying.

He's a liar. It's not just what he does. It's who he is. I bet he's honest with personal friends and family, and just compartmentalizes his public behavior, excusing it with some kind of it's all a big game analogy in his head. Not, I hope, telling himself that the end justifies the means. Because I've been listening to Mormons in church nearly every Sunday for 27 years, and they've consistently said the exact opposite. Which also means he isn't a Mormon. At least not when it comes to politics.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Job creator" was never in Mitt Romney's job description

"Job creator" isn't part of the job description or even mission statement or board of directors' evaluations of any CEO of any for-profit corporation.

CEOs may create jobs; they also may destroy them. It's just as accurate (or inaccurate) to call corporate CEOs "job destroyers" as it is to call them "job creators." By the standards used to evaluate a CEO, whether they do either is irrelevant. What they're supposed to do is create profit for shareholders. I can assure you that no CEO in history who has failed to create profit will justify his position to the board of directors by saying that he created jobs in the face of not creating profit.

And if you look at where new jobs come from, don't look to the Fortune 500. They've been the source of net job loss in this country for many years--their job creation is going on in China, or the Philippines, Thailand etc.

The actual job creators of American jobs are in smaller businesses.

And only a tiny percentage of them are the millionaires and billionaires whose oxes would be gored by an Obama re-election.

Businessman Mitt Romney certainly created profits for himself and his company. Jobwise he created some in some companies, destroyed some in others. If you look back over his reports to Bain stakeholders I doubt you'll find any references to job creation. Actually CEOs often brag about their ruthlessness.

The fictional movie "Up in the air" dramatizes this. It is fictional, of course, and borders on parody in places. But in its essence it's true to life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Was Reverend Wright wrong?

Republican propagandists adore Reverend Wright, who famously said "...God damn America," with the implication that he said it with Barack Obama sitting in the congregation, grinning and giving the Rev a big thumbs-up at this remark while concocting his plan to gain the Presidency and destroy America.

And the Republican rank and file obediently follow the lead of the Ministry of Propaganda. It never occurs to them to wonder why an ex-Marine who served his country honorably might come to feel this way.

Moreover, if anyone dares to try to understand why the good Reverend might feel that way, such a person is an America-hater too and thus needn't be listened to. 

It's a tidy universe they live in. One in which America is the America of those sentimental 1930s MGM movies where everyone knew their place--where Mr. Moto's Negro assistant was scared of ghosts and Scarlett O'Hara's Negro maid was devoted to Massa's needs. 

Those movies never showed what happened to a Negro man who might try to vote in any Southern state. Nor did they show the countless legal restrictions on blacks, along with the less legal ones, and not just in the deep South.

Laws against blacks marrying whites weren't declared unconstitutional until Reverend White was 26 years old. 

I grew up in that America myself, in a community that had zero black residents, going to public schools that were all-white except for one Asian guy in our high school. 

I remember seeing a 1941 movie by an acclaimed director (Preston Sturges) in which a small-town sheriff praises someone by saying "That was mighty white of you," a common Southern phrase of the day.

As was the saying "If you're white, you're all right. If you're brown, stick around. If you're black--step back."

That's the America Reverend Wright was born into and grew up in. 

But it wasn't like all the countries where such discrimination was an accepted part of the culture. America always espoused loftier ideals. America was the land of equality--of equal opportunity, the truest meritocracy in the history of mankind.

Reverend Wright was intelligent and charismatic (look up his Wikipedia entry to see just how). He knew first-hand about the crevasse between our ideals and his reality. True, he didn't grow up in the segregated South, so his experience wasn't as intense as it could have been. But it was enough.

It was also enough for any American who didn't look and act like the people in those idealized movies. Cripples. Mental defectives. Homosexuals. Orientals. Indians. Indians (the other kind). Unusually smart people (outside the magnet schools of the biggest cities). Jews (hard to imagine discrimination against Jews today but it was actually intense). White immigrants who weren't Anglo & spoke with a strong accent. 

And "career girls." Sandra Day O'Connor graduated from a prestigious law school with honors but no law firm would offer her anything but a typing job.

So when Reverend Wright rails against his nation and we recoil at his railing--we need to take a moment to consider his America and not just ours. 

And also remember that Barack Obama's cultural blackness was acquired as an adult. He grew up in a white family, lived in Indonesia, Hawaii, no real black community experience. In some ways he felt like a shell. 

I'm sure that had a part in his marrying someone with an authentic black American life experience, and going to a large mostly black church officiated by an authentic American black pastor--one whose life and many plaudits reveals a man who doesn't hate America...but who does hate the disparity he experienced in his life between American ideals and American reality.

Explaining is not the same thing as excusing. Equating the two is what demagogues do to suppress debate. So I'm not excusing Reverend Wright's Angry Old Black Man schtick by trying to understand how he got there. 

I am condemning condemning Reverend Wright's wrongs thoughtlessly. Which is exactly what nearly all of the Republican rank and file are doing, at the behest of the GOP's Ministry of Propaganda, whose spinmeisters know better but are not burdened with a conscience, apparently.

Friday, May 18, 2012

President Obama wants to reduce starvation in Afirca

Today's eco-pornography came in the form of an innocuous interview on PBS News with Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAid Administrator--backed by speechifying by his boss, the President.

Not once today did anyone--speechifiers or reporters--say the Forbidden Word: overpopulation.

Instead the good Dr. Shah talked about land not currently being farmed as wasted--as if the natural environment, the rain forests, the savannahs, the hillsides--were are worthless unless they were stripped of their natural cover, all the indigenous animals killed off, and the shallow soils instead planted with crops or used for grazing by cattle.

Suppose all Dr. Shah's and the Pessident's recommendations are followed, and followed swiftly? Without population control the greater productivity (and attendant wildlife extermination) will just be absorbed by those 8-child families that are typical for Africa.

Not the the Republicans are anything but hopeless about confronting this issue either.

This is where PBS does show reporter bias. The guy interviewing Dr. Shah only tossed him softballs, and never challenged his dismissal of the natural environment, much less his avoidance of the necessity of birth control.

And you wonder why some regard the human race as a malignant disease the Earth has caught. But even if you agree with Dr. Shah (and I suppose President Obama) that it's just fine to destroy the planet's natural environment rather than ask anyone to have fewer babies--we will catch up with our agricultural productivity.

Africa's soils are thin and rainfall is decreasing. The Sahara Desert is expanding rapidly. Cattle grazing is producing desertification, among other things. Slash and burn agriculture is destroying rain forests and only results in a few crop cycles before the land's fertility is exhausted.

Without population control every single other palliative measure will fail. But no one in a position of authority, regardless of party affiliation, will stand up for the planet or for humanity's future.

We are the creature that fouls its own nest.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When did the deficit become America's biggest problem?

This can be pinpointed: the deficit became America's biggest problem on the afternoon of January 20, 2009.

Before the moment--in the eyes of the Republican Party, its think tanks, its pundits, its talk show hosts, and everyone who voted for George Bush II in 2004--the deficit was no big woop. Remember what the #2 ranking Republican official said in the years when two wars and the biggest Valentine-made-o-money gift to the Richest Americans in a century was made?

But on January 20, 2009, a Democratic President was sworn in (or on the next day if you want to be a stickler about it)--and was handed the multi-trillion-dollar tab for the previous eight years. Then and only then did the deficit miraculously become a problem.

This isn't just ancient history, though the Republican Ministry of Propaganda would make it so. It means that on January 20, 2013, when/if President Romney is sworn in, the deficit won't cease to matter--it will remain a huge issue when it comes to taking from the poor--but it will cease to matter when it comes to giving to the rich.

None of this says anything one way or another about what sorts of stewards of the economy a Democratic House+Senate+Executive would be be.

But that's not in the offing. Our November choice will be between a Republican-controlled Congress and Judiciary in either case plus a Democratic President or a Republican president.

And the Republican contender has already promised a deficit-packed future.

He says the opposite, of course. Republican contenders always do, don't they? But he endorses the Ryan Budget without reservations. Look at any reputable economist's analysis of that budget--not the ones done by the Party's hirelings. Cuts to the social safety net alone won't start to close the gap. And even more tax cuts for the richest will increase it in fact. Both parties must sacrifice things that party holds dear, and neither party has proven able to fact this truth when they were in power across the board.

Presidents can't make laws. But they can veto them. An Obama second term would be a term of the veto pen, and given the Republican Party's fiscal profligacy, and given Romney's promise to be Congress's poodle, only an Obama second term gives us a prayer of reducing the deficit. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Repbublicans are for Freedom and the Constitution...right?

These are the most common tropes you hear from Republicans--from the politicians and the pundits and then from the rank and file: Freedom and the Constitution--followed quickly by them accusing Democrats of being for the Nanny State and thus against Freedom...and for ignoring the actual words and original intent of the Constitution.

This is funny.

In 1776 the conservatives of the day were loyal to the Crown, of course. Tories. If they participated in the fighting, it was on the side of the Redcoats. They considered the Articles of Confederation and its successor the Constitution to be rebel documents of no worth.

Yet now they deck themselves out in the Revolutionaries' military garb and rave about how wonderful the Constitution is. They're attaching themselves to the side of history that won, not the one they were on.

And the Freedom they talk about--when you look at how that noble talk plays out in legislative detail--is the freedom of the rich to do whatever they please with the rest of us, without the constraints of government regulation or oversight. Defined that way, freedom for the rich is slavery for the rest.

But conservatives see it as freedom for themselves because they think they are like the rich, just not yet, not quite. They think the rich share their culture and their values. This is self-flattering and kind of sad as well. But most of all, and this is truly odd, they define freedom as lack of responsibility: "Nobody tells me what to do." This is the way a five year old boy defines freedom.

Of course the rich don't need government protection. They're perfectly capable of protecting themselves in their gated, guarded enclaves, and in their business actions, buttressed by phalanxes of lawyers. But they won't have total freedom until our protections from them are removed--until we're naked and defenseless. And that's the Republican dream,which about half the country shares.

After all, what are police departments (and the FBI, and the SEC, and the IRS etc.) but creeping Socialism?

In the antebellum South, the house slaves would ape the manners and attitudes of Massa, and hold themselves superior to the field slaves out in their huts. And as slaves they were better treated...slaves.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Romney wasn't a high school bully

I know a lot about high school bullies, because I was "different" and thus got a lot of attention from such people. Romney doesn't fit the mold for the sort of bullies I got to know a lot more about than I ever wanted to know.

However, Romney does fit the mold of someone who's a real Alpha Male, a leader, and in particular a conservative leader. He wasn't tormenting the homosexual boy--there's no sign that he physically hurt him--Romney was simply enforcing conformity to the values he believes are universal American values, which didn't include boys wearing what Romney and his buddies saw as effeminate hairdos.

And he was demonstrating his leadership skills in organizing a posse to go out and enforce this conformity--much like the morals police of Iran and Saudi Arabia do in their countries, as when Saudi morals police prevented firemen from entering a burning girls' dormitory to save the girls from a fire which wound up killing over a dozen of them.

But that was preferable to have male firemen seeing the girls not covered by burkas.

It's ironic that the most anti-Muslim Americans are the ones who are most like them.

As for Romney's bullying incident, I've seen conservatives denying it ever happened, or, alternately, claiming that what we did back in high school doesn't matter.

I shouldn't have to detail things you could do in high school that would matter now, so it's not a categorical matter-of-no-concern. The question is whether the incident in question matters today. If it happened, which I think it did from what I've read, some conservatives will secretly admire him for it, for the reasons I've detailed here.

And they can deny he's a bully because it really doesn't fit the mold of the typical bully, who isn't interested so much in enforcing social conformity as in using someone's "difference" as a pretext for expressing his sadism--his desire to be important and to matter to others by harming them and making them fear him.

They can sense that this doesn't describe Romney. Even his ruthless destruction of political rivals (usually through surrogates while he smiles and acts all reasonable-like) shows no signs of his taking pleasure at the destruction. He's just clearing obstacles to his God-given right to rule us.

It's also worth noting that morals police in some Islamic countries also regard themselves as moral, honorable people, working to help build an ideal socieity--one in which everyone toes the line.

An article in Slate about Romney's own Morals Police incident added something interesting: in a comparable circumstance, George W. Bush stood up for the different-looking guy. You can see it here.

That's doubly interesting. One, it gives some credence to Bush II actually being a Compassionate Conservative in some ways. Two, it says something nice about a conservative. I haven't read many articles in conservative magazines that say something nice about a liberal.

And it does highlight something unusually heartless about Romney. No, that's not it. He's obviously a nice guy to those within his inner circle. Perhaps it's that his personal priority stack puts Order on top, much as I get the impression it does for Supreme Court Justices Alito, Thomas and Scalia. That certainly isn't evil, and it's not stupid either. It's just a worldview that craves a reality much like Main Street in Disneyland--clean, smiling, orderly, everything in its place...and no one getting out of line in any way....

every hair in place.

Now here's a little irony: in Mormon theology, Satan is envisioned as a control freak whose original goal--before the war with God that got him booted from Haven--was to build an utterly orderly Earth in which no one would sin, ever, in the slightest, because he'd be a sort of omnipresent Morals Police who'd grab every hand lifted in anger, making the world a smiling, pleasant place.

Just one where no one but Satan would have free will.

So the first Mormon with a shot a becoming President of the United States seems to have an interesting role model drawn from his own religion...

Disclaimer: I'm not criticizing the Mormon faith here. I'm only pointing out a curious resonance between Mitt Romney and his religion's Bête Noire.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Conservatives' main issues aren't conservative issues

Consider the word "conservative." It comes from the verb "to conserve." It means being slow to adopt new, untried ideas/practices. It means valuing our traditions highly. It means being level-headed and practical, not hot-headed and theoretical.

That doesn't mean it was "liberal" to declare war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor--in that case our hand was forced. Likewise it wasn't "liberal" to end WWII with a new weapon, given the extraordinary circumstances of that moment.

Now consider the conservative hot-button issues in play today:

1. Homosexual marriage

 Certainly there is no tradition of homosexual marriage in America (or anywhere else to my knowledge).
However, there is also no such thing as "the gay lifestyle" as the term is bandied about in conservative circles, because homosexuality is not a choice. It's something you're born with. There is no scientific evidence to indicate otherwise. As the large-scale research study reported on in the 1979 book "Love and Limerance" (1979) found, though a small of minority of people engage in sex with both sexes, people only fall in love with people of one gender. So no one is bi-romantic, so to speak.

This means that the percentage of people who are homosexual neither increases nor decreases according to how much the so-called "gay lifestyle" is accepted or sanctioned.

So "gay marriage," whether it's legal or not, is a blip statistically, because so few people are born homosexual--probably less than 2% of the population. The children of conservatives who are not born homosexual will not become homosexual even if they're taught by homosexual teachers preaching homosexuality throughout their schooling, even if your neighbors are all homosexual couples. The children raised by homosexual couples are no more likely to become homosexual than anyone else's children.

So it just doesn't matter, one way or another, in any practical, conservative terms.The energy expended on this issue is ridiculous in denotatively conservative terms. That is, it's a major distraction from genuine conservative issues like the national debt.

2. Gun control

In 1776 it took at least half a minute to reload a gun unless it had two barrels. Accuracy was iffy at any real distance--especially with anything but rifles, and rifles with yard-long barrels at that. Even the Civil War, 85 years later, was largely fought with muskets.

This means that modern weaponry has a level of power, accuracy and volume of fire utterly unknown to the people who wrote the Constitution, including the Second Amendment.

So the Right's fanatical support for virtually unrestricted modern handguns and rifles is anything but conservative. It represents a radical experiment, promoted not so much by the NRA as by the gun manufacturers who keep in the shadows but who utterly control and direct the NRA.

3. Abortion

The Bible says nothing about abortion. In fact, the Bible only mentions that babies don't get any rights as people until they've survived 30 days out of the womb--very practical in ancient times. So while the technology needed to do safe, practical family planning--from contraception to abortion--is relatively is opposition to it.

So it wouldn't be conservative to instantly embrace abortion rights--but is also isn't conservative to invent a level of humanity that fertilized eggs don't have, or of misinterpreting sonograms to imagine that fetuses are little men and women, contrary to all scientific evidence about fetal development.

In fact this extreme reaction to abortion is less conservative than it is, well, ..reactionary. Which you might describe as conservatism morphing into a mixture of panic and rage.

It's not conservative to get into a froth--even over things that are important to you.

4. Science

Partisans of every stripe treat truth instrumentally, depending on whether it advances or retards their agenda. Liberals, for example, deny science when it comes to things like overpopulation and race, and (in Europe especially) genetically modified foods, and also nuclear power (new smaller-sized reactors represent a miniscule fraction of the risk of the big Fukushima-scale ones). People who call themselves conservatives do the same over overpopulation and environmentalism and man-caused global warming in particular.

Not that they should be all-out tree-huggers, but it has become a right wing reflex to just automatically take the side of Exxon Corporation and the Koch Brothers--no coincidence, given the efforts they've made to accomplish just that. It's amazing to see people who call themselves conservative oppose conservation, and in doing so to completely dismiss the validity of science and scientists. Or to think they can treat science on an a la carte basis.

It's the resurgence of an unapologetic, confrontational anti-intellectualism that shows how uneducated at least half the country is.

And to the point of this essay, it's hardly conservative to reject out of hand conclusions that scientists have spent many years of research and analysis and peer debate to arrive at. It seems that in today's conservative (self-described) movement, business and religious authorities are accepted credulously, while academic authorities would be lucky to be treated with skepticism instead of contemptuous dismissal wrapped in accusations of "liberal bias" and a worldwide conspiracy to cook the date to get grant money.

It's the kind of reaction I'd expect from English villagers in the Middle Ages, not modern Americans.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What makes the Tea Party tick?

CSPAN's Book TV --which you probably watch if you're over 60--had a pair of sociologists on last weekend who had done a study and a book about local Tea Party activists. You can read about it on Amazon here.

The researchers struck me as being objective and thorough. And they added that they liked the people they met personally. So their conclusions didn't reflect any personal animus.

Here's what they found:

1. Tea Partiers are all anti-Federal government, anti-federal deficit, anti-taxes.

2. They mostly run small businesses themselves, and they like businessmen--very much including wealthy corporate businessmen, who they think of as small businessmen like themselves, only who made it big. 

2. Around 2/3 are Evangelical Protestant Christians; the rest are non-fervent. This is an internal schism, with the fervent Christians considering the somewhat more secular ones (who are also more urban & more educated) as being practically RINOs.

3. They're nearly all middle-aged and older whites.

4. Groups they dislike openly:
    a. Young people in general, who they consider lazy ingrates, entitled, disrespectful of traditional American culture and values, and disrespectful of their elders.
        So they greet all the talk about cutting student loan rates with hostility.
    b. Muslims. Not just Salafist and Wahhabist fundamentalist extremists, but all Muslims.
    c. College Professors, who they consider out of touch, infecting their children with loony pie in the sky social ideas--and also teaching their children disrespect for traditional American culture and values. This has a whiff of Town  & Gown antipathies from back in the day.
    d. Illegal immigrants--particularly from Mexico and parts south
    e. Legal immigrants--particularly ones from non-Anglo countries like Mexico and parts south
        --In general they have the same view of immigration that Mexican law does: that it should be prohibited where the numbers and cultural makeup of the immigrants would change the character of society.
    f. Homosexuals.
    g. Atheists.
    h. Democrats, who they see as the party of young people, Muslims, college professors, illegal immigrants, and legal immigrants--in short, anyone except for middle aged and older Anglo whites.
    i. ObamaCare--although they like its provisions when asked about them individually and when they aren't identified as part of ObamaCare, and although many Tea Party types are on MediCare and are collecting Social Security, and know these are government programs. But they believe they paid for them, while the groups listed above are freeloaders who are just mooching off them.
    j. Anyone who supports abortion rights. They don't see it as a women's rights issue, because they see fertilized eggs as little men and women whose rights completely override those of the hominid baby bags they're inside of.
    k. Liberals.
     l. Environmentalists.
    m. Overpopulation Jeremiadists like me.

5. Groups they dislike implicitly:
     a. Blacks. Even in meetings where they don't think outsiders are present, nearly all Tea Party types won't talk about this openly, and Tea Party leaders--both grassroots and self-appointed ones working for the Angry Billionaires' Club and GOP operatives--hotly deny that there's the slightest whiff of racial animus in the Tea Party.
        Their feelings are rather nuanced. If a black were the Republican presidential candidate and a white were the Democratic one, they'd vote for the black, and mostly without hesitation. In the pre-1970 Old South, they'd talk about "our Colored folk" affectionately if paternalistically, contrasting them with the "uppity Negroes" who'd been "influenced by outsiders." But if someone espouses values the Tea Party types don't like, and that someone is black, like Obama (actually half black, but even the President doesn't call himself mulatto or mixed race), they'll get an extra dose of opprobrium, all of it attributed to policy stuff though.
    b. Members of religions that are not evangelical Christian, to the degree that the religion differs from evangelical Protestantism. Though they seem inclined to give Catholics who are Anglos a pass due to the abortion issue. Many of them do not consider the Mormon religion to be a Christian religion.

They'll still vote for Romney, in part because they believe President Obama is not a Christian, due to Reverend Wright's infamous condemnation of America from the pulpit, which they in turn condemn without regard to the life experiences Reverend Wright had had that led him to that oratorical moment. The fact of Romney's LDS faith had dampened their enthusiasm for him. It won't keep them from voting for him but it might keep some from campaigning for hims as enthusiastically as they would have for, say, Wealthy Lobbyist Sentorum.

In short, Tea Party types are Anglo-American tribalists, who feel embattled at every turn, who focus on economic issues in public by and large because that's the only way they can have unity within their ranks, but a majority of them expect politicians they help elect to pass and enforce socially conservative laws--against abortion and homosexuals for example. In practice this is what has happened--often ahead of taking action on economic issues. So to a degree the third of Tea Party types who aren't ardent social conservatives are being duped.

So are independents who vote for Tea Party-affiliated candidates in hopes of getting elected politicians who will  "mind the store" and focus on economic issues. Instead they've gotten anti-abortion jihadis.

Liberals, by the way, have the same problem when they elect candidates who then focus on causes they can't do anything about--like my local and very liberal city council spending hours on a resolution to urge the President of the United States to add a Department of Peace to his cabinet instead of acting on local issues--issue they could actually do something about.

And just as Tea Partiers have zero empathy for the Occupy movement and Democrats / Liberals in general, in my experience the reverse holds true as well, with many, many liberals not giving Tea Partiers any credit, not acknowledging that they could be responding to real problems, even if they disagree with the Tea Partiers' solutions.

The Tea Party movement is both an authentic grassroots movement and an example of AstroTurf pseudo-populism. that is, corporate special interests have been quick to adopt/co-opt the Tea Party movement and Fox News has worked tireless to organize Tea Partiers and give them a platform--as long as and to the degree that it will help elect Republicans who will vote the way Grover Norquist and his paymasters want them to vote. This doesn't mean the Tea Partiers were just sitting in their homes watching reruns of Lawrence Welk before this. And it doesn't mean they've all been co-opted successfully. It does mean that the effort is being made by well-paid operatives, and that it has had a degree of success.

And at the same time Liberal politicians have helped by campaigning on the behalf of citizens of other countries who are here illegally, on the behalf of granting special favors to every ethnic /racial group in this country except for Anglos, and on the behalf of public employees, even the ones who are compensated far better than their private sector counterparts.

Because of that, efforts Democratic politicians made to appeal to Anglo blue-collar populism are wasted effort mostly, because those pols aren't willing to change their stances on those issues, which are key ones for Tea Partiers.

And it leaves Democratic-leaning independents like me frustrated. We understand where the Tea partiers are coming from. They have an authentic Anglo-American culture, and it is being changed substantially by immigration from Mexico in particular, due to the huge numbers and the peasant demographics of those immigrants. Many public employees have been getting too much for their work. And it's long past ime for special legislative favors for anyone who isn't an Anglo to end.

At the same time the Tea Partiers hostility to the environment, to science, to highly educated people, to other ethnic groups, and above all to their eager embrace of precisely the people who have created their economic problems, all turn off independents like me. Their lack of skepticism towards their ostensible friends in high places, coupled with their rigid opposition towards anyone and anything they think is outside their tribe, make them perfect tools in the hands of the corporatists.

Just one more example of how tribalism is really the worst political problem of our era--and the most intractable.



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Today I've been watching the Republican Ministry of Propaganda doing their best to Swift Boat the President. This is the permanent Republican campaign strategy for races at all levels: identify the Democratic opponent's strongest virtues and try to negate them with a well-funded blitzkrieg campaign. They always do this, so it's no surprise that they're doing it now--especially since the Democrats had the effrontery to point out that Candidate Romney had stated that he wouldn't go after Bin Ladin.

No one forced Romney to say that. Now he's trying to pretend he didn't. Or at the least that President Obama has no right to bring it up.

This from the party that diverted an aircraft carrier from its homecoming--and the reuniting of its 5,000+ crewmen with their loved ones--in order to provide--at taxpayer expense--a campaign visit to the carrier with President Bush II tricked out in naval aviation gear and landing on the carrier (as a passenger), then making a speech exulting in our victory in Iraq, backed by a giant Mission Accomplished banner hung on the carrier's superstructure, lest any dolts watching might miss the point.

Of course the real issue is that the pollsters tell us a solid majority of Americans trust President Obama to manage our foreign policy far more than they do Governor Romney.

And the Democrats' ad coupled Romney's preference to abandon the hunt for Bin Ladin with his willingness for Detroit to go bankrupt.

Now Romney did mean "managed bankruptcy" when he said "let Detroit go bankrupt" but Romney's solution would still have resulted in General Motors and Chrysler being liquidated, because no one but the U.S. government was willing to pony up the cash needed to keep them alive, and Romney was against the government bailing them out.

The fact that President Obama's solution did the union workers a favor at the expense of bondholders--contrary to bankruptcy law--is something conservatives can argue, but it's beside the key point: Romney would have left America with one major auto company; Obama left us with three.

There's a link between Romney's disinterest in finding Bin Ladin and in rescuing Detroit: in both cases he takes a business investor's pure spreadsheet-based viewpoint. He didn't see the ROI in either case (Return on Investment).

I get the impression that larger issues are kind of invisible to Romney. He's never shown an interest in foreign affairs or in the world of ideas. He is indeed a businessman. And there's nothing wrong with that. But he doesn't seem to be anything else.

If that's so, then his presidency will be a Republican dream come true: a fiscal conservative who's more than happy to let Grover Norquist's Congress pass him bills to rubber stamp, regardless of content. I predict that if he gains the White House and the Republicans retain control over the House and their veto over the Senate doing anything, Romney will never veto a bill sent to him by the GOP--he won't even threaten to veto one.  He is nothing if not eager to please Republicans. And, like Bush II, completely indifferent to the approximately 50% of the country that won't be voting for him.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Romney's foreign policy naievité

Romney said he wouldn't have tracked down Bin Ladin before he said he would have. He said ordering the raid--deep within the territory of a sovereign nation and a putative ally as well--was a no-brainer. He said that "even Jimmy Carter would have done it." Jimmy Carter, a former naval officer who served with distinction and personal bravery (in the aftermath of a nuclear reactor meltdown), and who ordered a raid just as daring as the one President Obama ordered, but which tragically failed.

All of this betrays not just ignorance of the complexities of decisions like the one President Obama made a year ago, but also the casual contempt many Republican tribalists show for anything any Democrat ever did or was. And turning the attempt to rescue our diplomatic staff from Iran's Islamofascists into a laugh line was contemptible. This by someone who complained that President Obama was making political hay out of killing Bin Ladin.

But I can understand Romney's distress. The Republican brand is founded upon the notion that Republican presidents are brave in war while Democrats are weak and indecisive. (Which is also why Romney alludes to the President's "apology tour" after taking office, while he was trying to somehow deal with the damage President Bush did to America's interests abroad during the mini-Dark Age of his presidency.)

Pretty much everything Romney has said about foreign affairs has been childishly chest-beating and simplistic. Not to mention letting it be known that as president he'd simply let Benjamin Netanyahu dictate our Mideast policy. Being a friend of Israel does not equate with doing that. Many would argue just the opposite, in fact. Though constantly saber-rattling at Iran does raise the price of gas, which helps his election chances.

So would Romney have made the same decision as President Obama. What he said without the genius of hindsight is that he wouldn't have okayed the hard work of many people that even made the decision possible, and he still seems oblivious to the fact that we didn't know for sure that he was there, or how well he'd be defended, or whether we should have just sent in a cruise missile--which was Bob Gates' recommendation.

When voting for president, far above the particularities of partisan politics, we have to ask ourselves whether the guy gets it--understands how profoundly difficult the job is. This dwarfs the difficulty of business decisions where fortunes may be at stake but rarely lives...and a nation's future.

We don't have to guess at how President Obama would do if we part the veil of partisanship and look at what he's actually done--had those Somali pirates killed; had Bin Ladin killed; had most of Al Qaeda's top leadership killed via UAV; did as much as could be done in Afghanistan, and in all cases did what he said he'd do. Anyone who calls this guy "weak and indecisive" is leading a rich fantasy life.

I'm not saying he always does everything right--just that he takes the job seriously and is as much of a proper Commander in Chief as any president we've had since Eisenhower. Probably more.